Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Recruits Continue To Answer The Call

 Three more cavalrymen ready for paint.

I am wavering between 4 or 6 figure cavalry units so have decided to paint up 12 Mamlukes so that I can do either 3x4  or 2x6 figure units. After all, this is going to be just an exotic sideshow, a few little skirmishes...right?

Sunday, May 29, 2022

One Done

Seven more to go! 

2 Frenchmen, 1 Mamluke, what are the odds?

Like all my French Rev 40's, not proper 'toy soldier' style but glossy but with a little bit of shading. Not a replication of any particular style other than my own but perhaps a subconscious bit of 'homage' to  both toy soldiers and to some 70's glossy wargame figures. .   

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Hurry Up and Wait

 The plan for today was to finish painting my proto-Mamluke but suddenly things came together to make it a good day for casting, so .....

With a bit of work, I finally got one of the slashing pose with a full length sabre. The other chap, whose horse is now rearing will either beg a sabre hand from somewhere else or get a lance. One of the galloping swordsmen who had a short sabre is going to end up firing a pistol. 

I also did some test figures while I was at it.  

I hunted down my lancer and gave the mould a good wash and scrub. To my surprise I didn't need a big struggle to get a decent casting. I also had another go at a cowboy shooting a rifle while galloping, but its not quite there yet. Size and pose wise, the figure will mix well with the lancer and  Prussian hussar to make a second unit of Mamluke cavalry. I found my old Turk mould and it still works, though with a little extra flash, so there's another potential unit. The new Grenz  figure is there  for conversion to Albanian infantry, one day.

But first I have to finish the first Mamluke and then his new friends. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

A bit here, a bit there

 Been a busy couple of days but I've managed a few minutes here and there.

Tomorrow is a day off, mostly, and I should be able to finish my prototype Mamluke on Saturday as well as having another go at casting some more conversion fodder. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

We're Going To Need More Cavalry

Here's my first prototype Mamluke conversion:

Prince August Hussar before and after. Painting is now in ptogress.

I was planning to do these with a sabre but so far I have yet to coax a full one out of the mould. Luckily there are a lot of paintings of Mamlukes wielding light lances both underhand and overhand, as well as others firing pistols.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Quick and Dirty but....


The first company has answered the call.

I decided to go with a standard colour coat but various coloured trousers and sleeves. I haven't decided yet  how I want to finish the bases on my 1790's units so I've just painted them brown for now. I also need to come up with a design for the flag, so for now, they fight under an invisible banner!

There is actually a bit of shading on these but I was in a hurry and the light wasn't great. 

Hopefully, I'll get a prototype troop of mounted Mamlukes done on the weekend and with a few volunteer stand-ins, can play a small game. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Recruits Have Poured In

Actually, they were poured a couple of years ago, but are just now being armed and dressed.

Homecast original Turkish infantry to fight the French.

The unprimed figure is there as an example of the original casting from nearly 20 years ago with his too thin bow. The shield and quiver were separate and the intention was to do some as archers, some with arquebus and others with shield and scimitar or spear. The three painted figures in the back were all that were painted and they have now been updated with muskets apart from the chap with sword and buckler.

I'm still undecided as to how uniform to make them. Obviously they are all dressed alike (having come from the same mould) but the colours might vary or I might give them uniform coats or do them all in blue trousers for ease in sorting should I do a second unit. Opinions on the question welcomed.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Now Mahmud, Now's Your Time!

The 1790's West Indies game played last week was the sort of level of game that I had had in mind for my 40mm French Revolution games, low level actions between small forces. (What would have been called a skirmish back then, rather then the sort of 1:1 semi-role playing games that get called Skirmish games these days.)   Somehow, old habits had been starting to drag me back towards conventional wargame scenarios with battalions of men. Saved! and in the nick of time. 

The game also reminded me of one another setting that was an itch waiting to be scratched, Napoleon in Egypt. I had had my 15mm Turkish army and a few bags of 15mm Minifig French in Egypt castings but they never got painted and all are gone. Well, I'm not going to try and refight the Siege of Acre in 40mm but I would be quite happy to table an attack on an oasis or perhaps an attack on a smaller fortified port, complete with a landing party of sailors and marines, led by a young Midshipman or Lieutenant......  

These were some of my earliest sculpting and casting efforts, better as a learning experience than anything else, but they may finally get a chance to hit the table.

I had sculpted and cast an exploratory 40mm Turkish figure some 20 years ago for an early 16thC Landsknechts vs Turks game but it had a lot of problems and the whole thing was going to be be way too much work for too few games and it never got off the ground. A small, low level, Napoleon in Egypt, toy soldier game though, that I think I can do now. Work has started on replacing mis-cast bows with muskets for at least one unit of the old figures while I eye the PA Rosmach French Hussars as a basis for some Mamluke type cavalry and some 17thC Polish infantry and gunners as potential to be modified to some sort of toy Turkish irregulars! 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Its A Jungle Out There

Saturday being a glorious day with no obligations, I couldn't resist giving some of the lads an outing in the sun. By sheer intention I had mowed the bit of side yard slope that I used for two games last Spring the day before so it was just a matter of picking the lucky lads who would get out. So far I've stuck to 54's outside but the 40's aren't that much smaller and I had just the right bunch ready to go.

Belmont Island, West Indies, (don't bother checking your maps) sometime in the 1790's. Hired Jaegers scouting ahead of a British column, spy on a supposedly secret French base. 

Over the winter I've had time to think about where my French Rev. forces are headed and decided that I had slid into the rut of "battles" without noticing it, whereas the original plan had been more of a skirmish/semiskirmish (depending on one's definition of skirmish) game. So. it's been "Heigh-ho and back we go". The standard unit is once again an 8 man company but I don't have the patience for card activation by unit or any fussy stuff, so the original "With MacDuff to the Frontier" was out but there was no need to invent anything new so I just scribbled down some quick basic rules and started thinking about a quick and easy outdoor scenario.  Having taken a closer look at the mown battle area, and thought about the available troops, I decided on a British column sent to capture a French base that has been built in the jungle to support a new army of freed slaves.

As the column approached the French base, the troops begin to deploy off the 'road',  into the undergrowth, and creep closer. 

The French sentries were alert and opened fire before the deployment was complete but the attack pressed forward while French troops were soon spilling out of their barracks and forming up. The battle was on!  

An assault by the De Brouille Regiment was thrown back but the Black Watch was at hand. 

The Riflemen had proved most useful in weakening the French fire line despite their breastwork while the assaults by the emigre's had resulted in heavy casualties on either side. The first assault by the Highlanders had been held, just, but  the second go went over the wall and the French morale collapsed. The York Hussars were set loose to round up or disperse the remaining French.

For the curious, here's the "Back of a Postcard" rules I scribbled down. All measurements were done with one of my sticks with coloured bands. I think the one I grabbed had 60mm bands but they might have been 2" or 3", doesn't really matter. 

Ross's new Back of a Postcard version of A Whiff of Dice

Initiative & Game length: Draw 15 cards, turn 1 over at the start of each turn when the last card is played the game is over. Red: British go 1st, Black: French go 1st, Joker=The turn is over, draw next card. 

Sequence: 1st player units move or shoot, both sides resolve melee then 2nd player does the same. If one side loses its general, the player with a general decides who goes first each turn regardless of colour.

Move: Deployed Infantry: 2 lengths, Skirmishers or Infantry in Column: 3 lengths, Cavalry: 4 lengths. 

Terrain: Infantry lose 1 length to move through jungle or cross an obstacle. Cavalry and artillery may not move through jungle, cost 2 lengths to cross obstacle. Road negates terrain for column. 

Shooting: Muskets: Range 2 lengths 1d@2 figures, 5,6 hits.  Artillery: Canister: Range 3 3d@gun. 5,6 hits. Shot: Range 6 2d@gun  4,5,6 hits.  +1 if Rifles or Canister, -1 if difficult target (enemy in cover, skirmishers, or cavalry)

Melee: Infantry: 1d@2, Rifles 1d@3, Cavalry 1d each; 4,5,6 hits,  -1 vs cover. Side taking most hits retreats full move.

Commander: Once per turn may join unit which takes a hit and roll 1d. 5,6=hit cancelled or if in melee 1 may be inflicted on enemy, 2,3,4 no effect, 1 Commander is wounded and removed. (See initiative)

Morale: Unit losing over 1/2 figures retreats. (pick 'em up) 'Army' losing over 1/2 units concedes game unless overruled by scenario. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Newport Noodle: An illustrated Report From the Front Lines

An illustrated eye witness report! 

"It was on Friday the 13th of May when we finally reached Sawmill village again. An unlucky day they say, should have known we'd be meeting Lannigan's ragged bunch there. We had Lucky MacDuff at our head though so we weren't worried."

"The Mounted Rifles had galloped ahead and arrived just in time to see off the Canary Caps."

"The enemy cavalry like to see themselves like Cavaliers of Olde but our Rifles are clever modern lads, they slipped away before they could be skewered then doubled back to the village, hopped off their horses and nicely cut off the enemy's line of retreat and the advance of his infantry!" (A timely flip of initiative.)

"Well, our rifles and artillery soon finished off the enemy's cavalry while the Highlanders grabbed the Eastern section of town but I'm afraid the Rebel's Irishmen infantry can be a bit crazy when it comes to a bit of a Barney and our riders were soon back in the saddle and at a safe distance while the Irish started preparing that section of town for a fight. " 

"The fighting was hot and heavy along the whole line now and too close for the artillery to separate friend from foe so they entered into a long range duel, hilltop to hilltop. I think the smoke must have been blowing into the Redcaps eyes though for our lads were busting them up as quick as you please and hardly receiving even a near miss in return." 

"The fighting had been fierce and bloody on the Eastern flank and we could see the enemy Zouaves break and run, ignoring Brigadier Stuart as he rode amongst them, calling on them helplessly to "Rally for God's sake and for your Freedom!". When we looked back towards our Highlanders though, our hearts sank. The colours were no long waving on high, worse the last of the enemy infantry seemed to be gathering themselves for a rush."

"But you don't capture a Highland standard that easily. Before the enemy could muster themselves to rush the buildings, our whole force was in action. Our artillery redoubled their fire, silencing the enemy guns. On the Western flank, the Mounted Rifles remounted and tried to panic the enemy by making a flanking move but they were soon driven back by a sharp fire.  B company of the Highlanders poured out of their buildings, supported by the Rifles while the battered regulars fellback to take their place holding the centre of town. The enemy wasn't going to take even one section of town without a fight!"  (Another lucky flip of initiative on turn 15 of 15 )

"The fight was short and bloody. As the Greybacks started to break they were joined by Colonel Stuart waving his hat and calling on the men to "Rally for Freedom's Sake!" until a bullet knocked him off his horse.  The battle was over and the village securely in the hands of the Dominion's soldiers."

Friday, May 13, 2022

They Came On In The Old Way

 At last! The urgent chores are done and I had time to reflect on the various aborted or dismissed games over the last week or more, and my various attempts to "fix" the rules. At last I recognized two dangerous traits that were supposed to have been banished but have been sabotaging my efforts. 

I swapped out a few units to make it easier to identify which game a given picture was from. 

To over simplify things, one of those meant that my stated goal, to have simple rules that reflected the results of the opposing general's skill and judgement rather than the minutiae of unit tactics and so on, kept reverting to fiddly bits, tactical formations, drills, etc.. This was due in part to subconscious 70's influences reflecting making me want to show "how" something was done rather than just showing "what" was the result was of the attempt to carry out orders. It was when I was introduced to Joe Morschauser's book by Rob Dean around 2001/2(ish) that this alternate approach first grabbed my serious attention.

Another obstacle was an inherited, or at least, an early ingrained, trait of being cautious and avoiding risk. A little bit of randomness was OK but predictability with only a little variation was better, regardless of how boring it was. So I often hedged my bets, avoiding extreme variations in possible combat results and so on. I blame my early exposure to those old WRG 3rd ed  Ancients rules where the difference between two average dice were used to reduce variation and casualties were inflicted in gradients of 1/20th of a figure!   At 18, it made Charge! or Featherstone look improbably, and worrisome-ly, wild and unpredictable! (Which was the point I suspect, given those authors experience.)   

Anyway, having stripped out many or at least 'tuned' most of the rules that had been making some games, dull and indecisive, I had a most enjoyable, and occasionally nail biting, game today. It was one of those games where the pace was quick and the player choices at least as important than the dice, and the advantage swayed back and forth until victory was confirmed on the last throw of the dice on the bottom end of the 15th turn of a 15 turn game.  

I'll post an actual battle report with more pictures for Sunday morning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Complicating the Obvious

I'm still kicking folks, but when Spring and good weather coincide, my hobby time always suffers, especially game playing time. However, I finally managed to recognize the very obvious  cause of the sudden problems I was having with Square Brigadier games on the new 5" grid.  

The problems in the first two games were largely caused by congestion leading to choke points. I ended up fiddling madly with the rules to try and find a way around the issue without asking why I suddenly had so many choke points.  Last week I set up the old CS Grant standard, Sawmill Village and for the first time in nearly 40 years of playing it, using various rules in various periods and scales,  it didn't work either! 

Because of the layout, even one house prevented any movement on any of the roads passing through the town but also allowed a 2 houses vs 1 house melee.

This was especially annoying because the rules had worked well with the revived 1840's game. The rules were the same apart from muskets instead of rifles so it HAD to be something else. In all cases, I had copied the terrain from map to table as faithfully as possible..........ahhhhh-ha!.....One Hour Wargames have super simplified terrain, usually on an almost empty table. Thinking back to Blasthof Bridge, I had actually enlarged on the very scanty terrain on the table, causing bottlenecks where there had been none in the original. On the CS Grant scenarios, I had copied the maps for a 5'x7' table onto my 4'x5' table as faithfully as I could given the grid. This used to work on non-gridded tables with small figures since the unit footprints remained similar in proportion to the table. On the gridded table however, it swelled the relevant area taken up by each terrain feature. The adjacent enemy rules further increased this distortion so that the game bogged down largely into a series of house to house multi-unit multi-square firefights! 

It finally occurred to me that I might have been better to have followed Thomas's example and kept the main idea behind the scenario but adjust and simplify the terrain features to match the rules and unit footprints.. 

The new town now has fewer houses but takes up the same room. This allows the road to be a separate terrain feature so you that you can't melee from house to  house but have to come out on the street to try to push the other guy out of his stronghold.

Come sun or rain, I'll be playing the scenario tomorrow with a once more restored set of traditional Square Brigadier rules. 


Friday, May 6, 2022

There'll be a short delay....

 Sunshine! Warm(ish) sunshine and....... a longggggg  list of outside chores to be done. Not to mention some tweaking and testing of the Square Brigadier into just the right size and shape for my 54's in the age of breach loading rifles.

Might be a few days before I can post anything like a proper battle report but hopefully I can slip in some tidbits.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

An Old Chestnut

Since it was primarily for the 54's that I went up from a 4" grid, I figured that I'd best give them a go on the 5" one. There's nothing like an old reliable chestnut of a scenario for testing things and over the last 40+ years, I've played this one countless times and in every period and scale that I've gamed with.  

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Preservation of the Aim

Once my rather impractical, nostalgic, detour ended in failure (again),  I turned back to an older, simpler, yet more effective early version of the rules as a guide. It's been hard sometimes to let go of expectations formed over the decades before Rob Dean introduced me to Joe Morschauser's rules and philosophy, but whenever I manage to do it, it always gets me closer to my goal. 

That goal is to have a simple, fast play system that will let me set up and play a small simple, yet interesting and sometimes challenging  scenario, in not much more than an hour, without losing the capability to play larger, more complex scenarios with more troops, lasting several hours, using the same armies and rules. I spent a little time going back over some of my older Morschauser inspired rules, but I got there.

Fierce fighting for the bridge.

I kept the same OHW scenario (#19 ) but used just 6 units aside and the 5" grid that I've been working on. The units themselves were the slightly larger ones that I had been preparing before the nostalgia for the old 3 stand, 18 man units grabbed me.  It all worked like a charm. I managed 15 turns in an hour with several turns of fortune in a game which hung in the balance to the very last turn. Next up I need to set up a more complex scenario with twice the number of units and see how that goes. Won't happen this week though. 

Turn 7,  all units are now on table and free to act. 

In the background, the 2nd Infantry have finally charged across the bridge.

The Wolf Regiment has seized the ford so that the attackers now control both crossing points. If they can keep that hold they will win but Larsen's Lancers have just routed the Blue Lancers after several charges.

At the start of Turn 15, Blue holds both objectives and Red's army is only 1 hit from breaking but their commander wins the initiative. Against the odds, the Brooklyn Fusiliers storm the bridge, throw back Blue's 2nd Infantry, and regain the crossing. Closer to the camera, Larsen's Lancers, 1 hit away from breaking, charge the irregular skirmishers, riding them down then pursuing into the Wolf Regiment, breaking it as well, all without taking that single hit. Suddenly Blue has lost both crossings and has now lost over 1/2 their units which means they must give up the game! 

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory for Blue.

The draft of the basic rules can be seen here: The Square Brigadier 2022.

Beware The Jungle

It can be a Scary place! 

Steady on John, I'm sure you don't actually have a huge man eating spider on your back!

For a test game, I decided to go with a scenario that is becoming a bit of a standard for me. Using a scenario that has worked several times and never failed makes it easier to tell if the rules are causing problems. It probably wasn't a good thing for me to look back at so many games from the 15 to 20 years ago though. I felt so nostalgic for the old, 18 figure, 3 stand units (see header photo) that I decided to try something that had been tickling my mind. Years ago I had subdivided  each of my 6" squares into 4x3" squares so that I could use the big squares with the 54's and the smaller ones with the 40's, and an urge to try it again came over me. 

Turn 6: The flanking force of Foreign Volunteers has just marched on the table. 

So it was that the 6 scenario units became 12 small units. I also increased the hits per unit like I did for the War of 1812 games. At least I didn't physically subdivide the big squares because, oddly enough, the result was a game that involved a lot more tedious indecisive die rolling and small moves, just like most of those previous games. Sighhh, at least I don't have to wonder any more and no harm was done to the grid since I stifled the urge to physically mark the smaller squares on the board. 
Turn 15: By the skin of their teeth and the final die roll, the Foreign Volunteers have turned a Draw into a victory by seizing the bridge as well as the Ford.

So, the units have been reshuffled back into 12 man battalions like they were 2 days ago, each filling a 5" grid square. The rules have been re-streamlined to make for faster, more decisive games, like the original Square Brigadier games.  

All set to go. 6 units per side, each of 12 infantry, 4 cavalry or light infantry or a gun and crew, and 1 per square. This should allow me to play a One Hour Wargame in an hour!