EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Weak Flank: A Game Report

It was late on that December morning when the morning fog lifted to reveal a Rosish army  bearing down, not from the East as expected but from the South!
Alerted by a sputter of musket fire from the light troops guarding the flank, there was just time for the Old Brigade to wheel two battalions and the attached battery to face the enemy before the storm broke. 
The Foreign Brigade was slow to respond to orders but General de St Lambert had the Maritime Alliance army in place before the Rosish cavalry could exploit their surprise.

It appeared that the Rosish general was not expecting such a swift reaction and the battle settled into a lengthy long range firefight. Eventually the Queen's brigade could take it no longer and fell back behind the Pandours. This seems to have stirred the Rosish general who sent the King's Carabineers to force a path around the far flank only to be repulsed by Fitzjames' Horse. 
The Pandours had as hard a time as the Queen's Brigade but eventually the fire of the Rosish artillery, Chasseurs and infantry told. The Alliance artillery was silenced and fell back but the veterans of the First Infantry stood their ground to the bitter end.

If the Rosish infantry fell bravely without effect, their artillery and skirmisher fire swept the field. The Maritime gunners bravely poured their cannister upon the enemy infantry, holding them back but the enemy guns poured shot upon them and as their guns began to fall silent, the Yellow Hussars dashed up the hill, over running the last gun in B battery and forcing the Second infantry to fall back to the woods. The flank  appeared open and the Chasseurs, unable to brush aside the Volunteers guarding the extreme flank, began creeping up the hill until the  redcoats of the Nordmark Naval Regiment appeared and, despite a hail of cannister and well aimed musket fire, cleared the hill at the point of their bayonets.

The sun was setting low  as this short December day drew near to evening and still the heights were denied to the Rosish forces. There was just time for one more assault by the tired Rosish infantry but it too was repulsed by the survivors of the First Brigade aided by the fire of the right hand battalion of patient Foreign Brigade.

It was with relief that the Alliance forces watched the Rosish forces fallback covered by their remaining light troops.  



Friday, December 15, 2017

Ready or Not Here They Come

Time to get my newly based troops into action.
As the morning mist lifts....
The scenario is Weak Flank from CS Grant's Programmed Scenario.

Haven't quite committed the particular rules to paper or digital device but basically  Hearts of Tin. I'm playing around with yet another attempt to  implement a simple Orders system. Something like:

1. Brigades and Detached units are assumed to be on "Hold" orders unless ordered otherwise. Orders will be persistent until carried out.

Order change.  Roll 1 die for each order change. -2 if no General is present.
 Hold succeeds on 2+, Move on 3+ Attack on a 4+ unless already Prepared in which case Attack succeeds on 2+. A result of 2 or 3 on attack order converts to Prepare to Attack.
*errata: +1 if General is in contact with Brigadier, -1 if not within line of sight of General or if beyond 3 feet as the adc travels or if the General is in contact with another Brigadier.

2. Hold orders basically mean stay where you are but defend your position intelligently and  change facing/formation, shuffle battalions etc within that spirit.

3. Move orders mean get from here to there (that is the order will normally include a destination), deploy as makes sense but no attacks.

4. Attack means move towards indicated position/enemy and, well, attack!

Infantry & Cavalry units are 3 stands except artillery and Light Infantry are 2 stands.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rampant Thoughts

I've decided to post my thoughts on Dragon Rampant here. One play test is not much to go on but very few of the mechanisms are original, instead it is a clever blend of Old School and  Current Fad with an original twist or two.

I'm only going to give a very brief overview of how the rules work, there's lots about them on the net already.  The play is normally igougo with one of those  "first activation failure ends your turn" rules which are used in many contemporary British rule sets. This one has a nice twist in that failed rally tests and failed uncontrolled charge test failures  don't end your turn. When a unit is activated it carries out all of its actions including shooting and charge resolution. There are no continued melees.

Combat and shooting is unit vs unit so units can be composed of singles, multiple bases or even a single base. Combat goes the handfuls of dice route with hits modified by armour then morale if any hits are scored. Basic units have basic stats but these can be modified in various ways when building your army.

 My comments fall into three basic categories, "Like it", "Don't like it", "Hmm"

 The Good:
A1. The system is very flexible and encourages a narrative approach. Units are defined by the effect they have in battle, not by what they look like, so, if you can spin a story and pay the points then you can make your army anyway you like.  For example, when I started assembling Hordes of the Things armies from old figures a few years ago, I made a base with a witch calling up a dense mist or fog from which is emerging a nearly naked, painted barbarian warrior. The rules had one category that worked but it had very limited uses. Here I had an option to pay to make him invisible until he attacks. Sounded perfect until I read closer and found that it only protected him from shooting, great vs some armies maybe. Instead I could have used the magical mist as the equivalent to "shiny armour" to make him harder to hit, if I hadn't run out of points! My old prePB range, nearly naked, tattooed, Minifig Pictish archers, kneeling with their tartan cloaks pulled over their head  on the other hand, fitted the "Scout" class to a tee!

A2. Quick and easy. It should be easy to teach at a convention and a series of unit cards or a one page Cheat sheet with rules and army list and a 5 minute intro should be enough to get players going.

A3. Dicey! The combat results would be easy to predict if dice were dependable but the handfuls being thrown mean that, like in Charge!, low probability results can almost never be ruled out so even a "sure thing" can go south. However, it also means that most combats will tend towards the expected result if there is a large advantage on one side. Keeps everyone on their toes while encouraging sound tactics.

A4. Clever. The unit stats and special magic etc attributes are well thought out and once learned will do a good job of encouraging troop types to be used in an appropriate way for their type.

The Bad!

B1. I HATE first failure ends the turn activation systems. From a theoretical point of view they do a piss poor job of recreating how historical armies are run and commanded. From a practical point of view, I have played too many games of this system where one side went turn after turn without being able to do anything. It wasn't fun for either side and in most of these cases it was against friends I only rarely get to play against.  In one case we got smart, reset the table and played Charge! which saved the day. In my play test my prejudice was immediately aroused when after 4 turns only 2 units had been able to move, both sides combined, but luckily it got better.

I don't like activation rules at any level any more (I used to in the 90's) but they are part of the system. If playing on my own I would be tempted to have the activation failure only affect that unit. If every unit failed their test well that would feel like a magical curse. At a convention  I might resort to giving each player a limited number of Activation cards which could each be used once to over turn a failed activation. (Blessings of Danu or something)

B2. No Command function. Yup, the commander doesn't even affect the activation rolls. They do have a cheerleader  function though which is to say they give a minor morale bonus to nearby units.

Hmm.
C1. Massed Battle lines are prohibited. No unit may come within 3" of an enemy unless charging. I'm OK with that, but also, no unit may come within 3" of a friendly unit. What!?? Yup, you may NOT form a cohesive battle line. Not only is it awkward to implement in play (I cut out a little 3" square no-go forcefield template but even it was hard to use.) but flies in the face of usual shield wall or phalanx fantasy battle formations. I suspect that it was designed to avoid having to write a rule saying all charges are one unit vs one unit and so on but it weird and requires a bigger table for a small force than would otherwise be needed.  Anyway, my Scottish schiltrons had to be formed somewhat like Republican Roman legions in chequerboard formation. It would probably be less noticeable if using 40mm units on a 4" or 6" frontage.   Anyway, in a fantasy game its not really a big deal but it would bug me in an historical setting.

C2. No flanks or rear. Or to put it another way, its as easy to charge or shoot at a target behind your left flank as it is to do so at a target to your front. Presumably the low level of the game means the individuals can turn quickly and without worry for formation but given the trouble most units have in walking straight forward without chewing gum, its just as well they can automatically spin about like tops when charged.

C3. Points systems! I used to love playing with these but these days I hates 'em and loves 'em all at once! This is not a theoretical objection, but is based purely around the amount of time I wasted trying to get the exact right point score while best capturing my vision of the various units.

C4. The Theoretical Scale. Yeah, who cares but  its supposed to be 1:1. Since bowshot is only 18", which would suggest about 1" to 10 yards at least, this suggests a scale of at least 5, if not 10, men per figure for humans making an infantry unit something like 60 to 120 men or a very reasonable small company. But groups of 12 spearmen, forming a defensive shieldwall? Really? OK back to who cares what the theoretical scale is, just play the game and think about the storyline.

Will I use them for my Prince Valiant game? Maybe, probably. Will I use them at home apart from training for Huzzah? Not likely. Would I play them with friends who wanted to? Sure. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hold the Bridge!

Tuesday's game was Crossing Point from CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios. We divided the army point values by 50 to get the number of Portable Wargame SP's per army then used the suggested lists as a guide.

We made one change in the rules, we shortened Infantry musket fire to two hexes. Light infantry remained at 3. This seems to have allowed them to better perform their harassing task and made them less prone to having to engage in firefights with superior numbers as their only tactic. 
The enemy appears!
I drew the Defender again  and took the Allied army since I could fill much of the roster with troops I had painted. I ended up with a force of 2 medium cavalry, 4 infantry, 2 light infantry and 2 artillery (plus my commander). A total of 30 pts (We each took a free commander). My job was to deny a river crossing to Ron. (Exhaustion pt of 10)

That made Ron the attacker with the Austrians. He chose a list with 1 light cavalry, 1 medium cavalry, 1 light infantry, 10 infantry and 2 guns for 49 pts. (Exhaustion of 16) Then he had to roll to see if he marched on using one road or two. Luckily for me he rolled up 1 entry point. His mission was to establish a substantial bridgehead on my side of the river.

We set a time limit of 15 turns.
As my 2nd battery is wiped out by counter battery fire, I wave my hat at the Austrian commander who can be seen waving back from his position hear the enemy artillery. (Oh for toy soldiers with move-able arms!)
Ron is not usually an impetus commander and he decided to deploy all of his army before making any serious attacks. In this case however, having to arrive by one road meant that the game was half over before he was in position and he had been so busy avoiding unnecessary casualties that he hadn't inflicted many either and the river was still between us, the primary defences still intact. 

Once deployed, he pressed forward, pausing to silence my guns so they couldn't enfilade his infantry but that took time too and my light infantry had moved into position to snipe at a range where they were safe from return fire. 

At this point it became obvious that he had made an error in laying  out the terrain, the folds in the river were far too deep, making the approaches to the bridge too narrow and too enfiladed. None the less it was what he faced.

Now I am a fan of de Saxe and Suvarov and given the narrow space and short time, I'd have massed my infantry and gone in with the bayonet, full speed, packing my units in two deep to prevent the forward ones from retreating.  Might have been a bloody but glorious defeat or I might have pushed him back and forced my way over the bridges. We'll never know.

What Ron tried was a slow advancing fire fight, making sure that all units could retreat if needed. Unfortunately, due to the narrow frontage and the fact that I could enfilade him from across the river, my units ended up inflicting twice as many hits as they received despite being outnumbered 2:1.
Worse than that for Ron, the fight took a very long time with little to show for it.

A dash at the other bridge by his cavalry had some success but each time a counter attack drove him back. 

The battle winds down. My counter attack against the near bridge has resulted in both sides falling back but he has yet to cross a bridge let alone establish a bridgehead.
(The coloured chips mark units that have acted this turn as an aide-memoir.)
At last when time was up neither army was exhausted but he was 3 SP's away and I was at 4. I only needed to hold however and in that bottle neck he needed a lot of time and he didn't appear to have enough SP's to allow him to push across the bridge even if we'd had more turns to play.

After the  game we took the big loop out of the river and Ron may just play it over again solo. I'm quite content with the victory as it was.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why I haven't finished the DR report yet.

Too busy playing the Portable 7YW!

Hold the bridge!
More tomorrow.