Monday, August 30, 2021

Saved by a K.I.S.S.?

One of my problems with the American Civil War is that there is so much information readily available!  From modern historians' interpretations and reinterpretations, the experience of reenactors trying things, to official reports, memoirs and so on, not to mention a plethora of wargame rules, the wargamer has a lot of  grist for his mental mill. 

The trick is to find the right balance between detail, game decisions, chaos, simplicity, available resources of time, space and mental energy,  and fluctuating personal preference for the target audience. When there is a committee of 3 making the final decisions (yes that would be the old 'me, myself and I') it can take a lot of time to settle things, especially when test games are a few every couple of years rather than one or two a week!

Anyway, I have a set of rules that I've been reasonably satisfied with but the player is having to deal with too many layers of command with results that don't really reflect the historic failures, never mind the occasional blunders!  The larger games also take too much time and energy, due in part to too many repetitive die rolls and fiddly bits, so that larger games often start to drag. So far, every effort to fix these issues have ended with a game that was too simple, too dice driven then "general" driven, wasn't quick after all, or just lacked flavour. But..."Nil desperandum", that's our motto!

The new rules at play.

This time I managed to convince myself to make a few compromises of an Old School fashion to try to keep the general flow that I like while dropping or simplifying some of the game processes, especially some of the command control ones. 

I have several times gone the most common route these days of using the brigade as the basic unit but its no good. I like my regiments! Many of mine are still generic but more and more have built a history for themselves over the years and I like the feel of that. So, this time I am dropping the Brigadiers and having the regiments controlled by the Division commanders with the Brigadiers doing their work without being noticed. The regiments are all the same size and the numbers won't match historical orbats but it OS style, its about the over all feel while still aiming for a reasonable 'feel' to the game even if 6 units of set strength turn out to be representing 14 of varying strengths in 3 brigades. 

The Corps Commander (or Army commander in some of the smaller Western campaigns) represents the player so I place him on table to represent me, look pretty, and to theoretically decide what he wants his Division commanders to do. From the late '80's on I was a strong proponent of command control rules to limit or affect what a player could do but eventually, comparing the sorts of outcomes and mistakes etc provided by pretty much  every command control system I have seen or tried, it seems to me that the extreme errors and omissions that they inflict, usually based more on a die roll than the situation, not only happen far too frequently compared to history,  but are almost never as bad as many decisions that the average player inflicts upon himself in a game without command rules!  What I am limiting myself to then is a simple "out of command" roll for regiments the player wants to move when they are not within 4 hexes and line of sight of a Commander.  

I did think about adding more friction by reviving my old favourite, dicing for move distances, that I've so often used over the last 30 years but in a full ACW game, its not unusual to find 45 to 60 "units" on my table. That's a lot of time spent rolling dice for little impact, so I'm leaving it lie dormant. The hexes make it almost impossible to do fiddly, tricksy stuff anyway.

So, now the troops can move and shoot quickly and efficiently, the player is in charge and able to make his own mistakes and the combat system is old and well worn. Let the game resume!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

You Know Those Games When The Dice Just Won't Cooperate?

Well.......the heat has abated but a few days ago I somehow managed to sprain a wrist. Every time it starts to feel better, I manage to offend it again.....twice while sleeping!!  Still, it is just "a flesh wound" so I played a turn or two one handed but it got me thinking about whether or not I really need to roll so many dice, so often, with so little effect, or to litter the table with little dice to mark cumulative "hits". Not really, not if the nostalgia isn't satisfying any more, there are plenty of other options. 

  Maybe with some adjustments to the rules.......or a whole new set less fiddly and aiming at a slightly higher level......maybe borrowing from my one off Gettsyburg rules from 2014......

Hmm...... one turn played as the rules were scribbled down..... so far seems promising for a practical game in an afternoon. There might even be room to paint up a few more of the reserves in the cupboard. Maybe I will get everyone out tomorrow........ 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Hot Fight Interrupted

When the temperature in my games room hit 30°C yesterday, I  called a truce.

We all knew this bit was coming right?

I 'm still waiting, but the forecast is encouraging.

Monday, August 23, 2021

All Quiet On The Blutomac

It was a lazy August day after a few quiet months, but things were about to change. The Union army was on the march!

Already the entire Second Division was concentrated at the White Bridge over the Blutomac River, with the First Division marching hard to join them while only one Rebel Brigade had been identified as defending the bridge.

What could go wrong? 

Battle looms.

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Canadian Wargamer Podcast

It's a cool August day with rain pouring down, a perfect morning to listen to the latest  Canadian Wargamer podcast. 

I'm not a podcast person by nature or habit but I will confess to enjoy enjoying this fairly new podcast: The Canadian Wargamer  by  Mike (of The Madre Padre's Wargames blog ) and James (of the Rabbits in my Basement blog) and their guests such as Bob Murch, well known sculptor behind various ranges like Pulp, Flint and Feather and more and Curt  of the Analogue Painting Challenge which has inspired many a beautifully painted figure around the world, not to mention coaxing some to expand their possibilities and options.  

Hopefully listening to this podcast this won't start a trend for me, quite apart from the embarrassing urge to interrupt my computer to join the conversation, I have enough trouble finding hobby time or paying attention to two things at once.

Anyway, have a listen to hear a bit on the hobby in the wilds of "Great White North" : The Canadian Wargamer podcast

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Every bit counts

Another week with too many calls on my time but, bit by bit, I finished the new additions to Helgin's bodyguard. 

What's next?

4cm Elastolin figures, 4 of them being conversions or repairs.

Well, I  just ordered the new Prince August SYW light troops moulds. I don't need SYW light troops but the kasket heads will allow me to convert the old Wild Geese into 1789 Austrians, the Grenz figures will make great freikorps, and the firing Jaeger bodies will be useful for both emigres and Rev War French once provided with bicornes, roundhats or helmets.

But they won't be here soon.

On the other hand, I am finally reading Fox's The Commotion Time: Tudor Rebellion in the West, 1549 which I bought myself for my birthday last year. I  think I'm going to need more Bills and Bows and guns.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fortunes of War

Its been "one of those" weeks. Apart from the heat wave and an unexpected family get-together, there was the plugged kitchen sink,.... correction, there STILL IS the plugged kitchen sink.. and then there was....well, anyway, I managed to play the game, 12 of 15 possible turns played over 4 days in about 7 separate quick sessions of maybe 10 minutes on average.  

The French have moved aggressively to control both ends of the bridge but it has cost them. The first cavalry clashes went slightly in the Imperial's favour but they aren't any closer to attacking the bridge. 

The rules were again an experimentally tweaked Rough Wooing. Apart from being stripped down a bit with some unsupportable chrome plucked out, I decided to give armour saves another chance. Well, the rules were better for being stripped down a bit more but the armour saves were a bloody nuisance and more or less inappropriate given that most stands represented a few score men wearing different amounts of armour. and using various weapons.  I like the old concept well enough with single figures in a skirmish or semi-skirmish game but less so in this sort of game. Any saving throw in this situation has to be pretty generic and might as well be a die modifier instead to save time and avoid contradictory dice.

The French pike block has managed to hold their more numerous opponents but they are being surrounded. French casualties continue to mount and it looks like it will soon be over. 

Beyond that, this game, designed to be quick and easy was a bit too quick. It is hard to estimate the total playing since it was a but here, a bit there and none of it recorded but I think the total playing time may have been about an hour or a little more and the game nearly ended on about turn 7 due to unbalanced dice. Setting the scenario up took almost as long. One issue is that the casualty rates were too high leading to stands dying too quickly. 
However, with the French commander down, Minou took command and by staring hard at the saving throw dice,  swung the battle. The French suddenly made armour save after armour save while the Imperial troops dropped like naked flies. All of a sudden, it was over. The Imperials had to fall back.  

So will there be a rematch once the tweaks are made? Ask me after I've dealt with the plumbing!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Just a roll, just a roll, Just a roll on your drum

"Just a roll, just a roll
 And the war has begun"

- Sloth: Fairport Convention

Turn 3: The French have advanced aggressively with their infantry split to cover both ends of the bridge and all of his cavalry on the near bank. The Imperial commander has launched his cavalry over the river apart from a few mounted arquebusiers on his right flank and these have fired the first shots.

But...... it hasn't gotten far. 

Charge and counter-charge saw the French cavalry thrown back but losses were heavy on both sides.


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

We Interupt This Battle For A Battle

This morning was damp and grey so I decided on a scenario, selected the troops and set the table. But by then, it was warm and sunny and yard and garden duties called.

By the time I knocked off, it was hot and everyone else was outside so......

Yup  I broke out one of my small, gridded cloths, and my 1/72nd fantasy figures, then headed out.

I decided to just go with my Gathering of Hosts rules, no special magical or fantasy bits, and no scenario, just 6 units aside on random terrain. 

The Sea People had their King with his armoured bodyguard, 4 other warbands and a unit of archers while the Woodsfolk had 1 Chieftain in a chariot with runners, 2 light infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 archer. They didn't have a hope.

Luckily they didn't need hope. After a short but brutal fight, they outflanked the Sea People and managed to break them just before they reached their own breakpoint.

If there is rain tomorrow,  then this one will get its turn.

Yes it is. A timeless classic.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021


Apparently the four stands of cavalry that I added to my 16thC armies last year, have not yet been exposed to the rattle of dice, the confusion and the joy or pain of battlegaming.

Orders have been issued to  correct this oversight at the first opportunity.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

One Done

 Here we see the newly promoted Lieutenant Leadbrane at the head of his old company. Only took him 90 years of service and the loss of an arm and a head but he got there.

He still has a hollow body but with his new promotion, his head is solid through and through. I'm not sure why Britain's put a pale green over stripe on the Argyle & Sutherland kilts, surely the facings, the white hackle, and the grey sporran would have distinguished them from the Black Watch but it does jazz them up a little.  I've given up try to match the shade of scarlet used by W Britain back then though.

I should probably repaint the poor privates, but not this week. At least they are ready to appear on table if called.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

On The Workbench

It was a good day for working outside but after an hour my knee was complaining  loudly though silently so l gave in and retired inside to my painting desk. 

This 40mm Elastolin Saxon was a conversion done last year. I had taken a broken Roman Centurion and added a head, arm, and shield from one of the remaining gold plastic vikings that I bought nearly 20 years, ($10 for 100 of them). However, I screwed up that conversion: the head was too small for the body and was cut at the top of the neck while I had previously taken the Centurion's head at the base of the helmet neck guard (in other words right down to the shoulders). The result looked like the converted figure had a shrunken head and no neck. It bugged me every time I looked at it so I finally decided to bite the bullet and replace the head. This time, I took a head from a slightly bigger broken figure and cut the neck close to the body. I think the result looks more like a bodyguard or minor noble and less like a freak and so was well worth the minor effort.  

Next up was to add another Huscarl to Helgin's household, one that fit in better with the others. I started with a broken Viking chief (see a spare one of these on the conversion's shield side.and added some fur texture to his tunic.  This time I took the helmet and spear arm from a spare running viking (like the one on the new figure's spear side) and yet another gold shield (like the one in the background), then added a wire spear. Now he needs some paint.  

Lastly, when I bought a deceased gentleman's collection from his widow a number of years ago, one of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders had lost his head, rifle and most of his chest. (That is actually a green stripe on the kilt, not a yellow one.) I started to convert him into an officer but only started. He's been glaring at me for close to two decades and since I am satisfied that I've finished experimenting, it seemed like a good time to refresh the Argyle's which meant finishing him. The head came off one of my Black Watch who rebadged to the Gordon's and now wears a pith helmet, the arm is homecast from one of the Casting's moulds. The repair work isn't my best ever and I need to tidy the neck before painting at the very least, but once he's painted up he'll do.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Stay Away From My Cows!

The Adventures of Prince Micheal: Episode 23: "Stay Away From My Cows!"

No sooner had Prince Micheal recovered the wounds he had suffered during the last convoy escort fight, than he was called to action again. The enemy was on his way to sack another village.

The arrows began to fly as the Saxons approached the abatis on the bridge and Helgin led his Hearthguard in a fierce charge 

An overview: the fight at the bridge was long and bloody  as the Saxons strove to cross the abatis and force the British back. On the upper right Dearg Mor has just arrived with a troop of his mounted raiders supported by archers and slingers. 

"Stay away from my cows"
Note the Widow Augusta 
at the road junction. She had inherited the village when her husband had been slain, and she was determined that no "filthy Heathen" would take her farm's cattle. She would play her part before the day was over, even though she'd been forced to give up her late husband's sword.

At last! Many of the Hearthguard were dead or wounded but Helgin and those warriors who could still fight were across the abatis. One more push! 

Across the river though, it was all over. Dearg Mohr had ridden over the young squire in charge of getting the herd and wagons to safety and headed directly for the Widow. Deftly dodging him, she clocked him with a cudgel, leaving his stunned body to be dragged away by his men. At almost the same moment, one of Micheal's warriors brought down his standard bearer. The remaining Picts grabbed their Chieftain's stunned body and headed back to their hills. 

Seizing the moment, Prince Micheal called for his remaining men to follow and led a fierce charge which swept the Saxons back over the bridge. Lightly wounded, with his Pictish allies fleeing the field. Helgin waved his men back. Time to save those wounded that could be saved and live to reive another day.   

Notes; Figures are mostly repainted and/or converted Elastolin 4cm plastic figures. The rules are the latest version of my house rules for them "Stout Hearts and Willing Swords".

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Saxons Are Coming!

The Devil is loose!

When word was received that Helgin was leading a raid into the lands of the Britons north of the wall, Prince Michael was dispatched to warn the people and to hold the bridge over the Blue Taip River while they gathered their goods and moved towards safety.

Odd that Dearg Mhor and his Picts haven't joined in......

Monday, August 2, 2021

Cometh The Hour

 Cometh the Hero!

Coming soon to a blog near you!