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.

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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Now Posted on GOH

The narrative version of today's test game is now up on Gathering of Hosts. A more technical post with OB's, scenario info  etc will follow there and comments on the rules either here or there. TBD

Warning: The battle report is not for the serious of heart.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Its Not My Fault!

Its only 5 months until Huzzah!
The Earl of Cowcross.
Rob and I have started talking about the  multiplayer 1/72 Dragon Rampant game he will be running at Huzzah.  I will be assisting to GM the game so I decided that I'd better get a copy and bone up.
Dragon Rampart about to be tried.
25mm Garrison, Minifig,  Ral Partha, Revenge and Prince August  miniatures.
It also occurred to me that it might be a good thing if I could make the rules work for my Prince Valiant game as well. Its a popular set so will possibly attract more players, I won't need to keep two sets of medieval skirmish rules in my head during the convention and I won't have to spend the time and mental effort developing a set and then have to learn both over the next few months. That will give me more time for painting and working on the scenario for my game and terrain not to mention more time for other games. Time for a learning trial game.

The armies laid out are from my Gathering of Hosts blog and a report on the test game will be posted there in a day or so.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tradition is Strong

Well, I tried. I started with my old French units which had never been mounted on washers. Soon each 20 figure unit had been reduced to 12 figures with the stragglers mingling in search of new partners with which to form new battalions.

It was a rather sad sight really, more than 15 years of tradition banished by the heartless economies of officials.

Just an old softie, that's me.

They won't fit properly on the grid but I'll still have room for some new units, conversion back to Charge! will be easier should I ever need it, and I have been contemplating dropping down to a 4'x4' everyday table with an extension to 4'x8' anyway. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

100 Years Ago Today- The Haxifax Explosion

Halifax Before
Picture from Wiki

On the 6th of December 1917 the SS Mont Blanc, loaded with TNT, Pitric Acid, Benzole and Gun Cotton, collided with the SS Emo at the narrowest part of Halifax harbour. The resulting explosion was the largest man made explosion prior to Hiroshima

After. (Picture from Wiki article)
"Over 1,600 people were killed instantly and 9,000 were injured, more than 300 of whom later died.[24] Every building within a 2.6-kilometre (1.6 mi) radius, over 12,000 in total, was destroyed or badly damaged. The shock waves were felt 200 km away. "  (Extract from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Explosion

Nature with its usual sense of humour dumped 40 cm of snow on the city the next day as relief efforts were getting into high gear.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Unwatched Pot

When we last saw my Prince August 18thC figures I was excited but deadlocked and put them away to simmer in the background until I found a satisfactory solution. Well, six months later, they have come to a boil.
Flagged and based for Battles.
There were three key issues:

a) I want each part of my collection of toy soldiers to provide a different gaming experience and to be used.

b) I wish like crazy that Prince August had done almost anything other than more Tricorne troops, but I wish to support them buy buying and using their new range of moulds anyway.

c) I wish to maintain a Prince August contingent for Charge! games with the HAWKS but don't have room on my table at home, or a need  at conventions, for more than what I already have so it doesn't really make much sense to me to just keep adding more of the same to my Charge! collection hoping that once or twice in my life I might once again get to use more than a fraction of them all at once.

The Raid on St. Michel game 3 from Cold Wars 2010

My next idea was to use the new figures for Seven Years War in North American games but there is just too little difference other than uniforms between musket era games in North America from 1755 to 1814 to justify the duplication with my War of 1812 collection.

However, one of the things I lack now that my 15mm French Revolution armies are gone, is the ability to stage Horse & Musket era pitched battles involving a substantial proportion of said Horse. Once the new cavalry figures come out, hopefully this year, the Prince August figures are my best source of figures to fill that gap but it can't be done to my taste on my existing table using full Charge! organization and 1" wide bases.

The alternative that I had been thinking of was to go off grid and field each Charge! Company/Squadron as a battalion/regiment under a new set of rules. This would allow them to remain available for Charge! games while providing something slightly different from any of my other games. This was the option that I successfully tested in June.

An enjoyable Hearts of Tin game in June
However,  the last game at Ron's has been in my mind. The units were small and the table not crowded but it still felt more like a battle than a skirmish and reminded me of my old 15mm games.
Chubby Minifig 25mm figures on Hexon terrain. 
Well, the semi-flat Prince August figures are taller but not broader than 25mm Minifigs and the same number  of infantry and cavalry figures can fit in a 4" grid area and allow me to  pack enough units on my table to offer myself a different feeling game.

Over the last 2 days I've been comparing the pros and cons of the two options and what the difference would be in the probable feel of the games and in the shelf & table space requirements per figure. It was a hard decision, heart over mind, but I've decided to go for more smaller units on the grid rather than fewer larger units off grid.

So now, a new set of rules to develop!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Fortunate Unfortunate Oversight.

There are limits to how many times one can play a simple scenario over and over again. I did do a quick run through with the first draft of the revised Prince Valiant rules and they worked ok but a bit too fast and simple for such small forces. I decided to try the Armour Save version which allows more nuances and made one or two other tweaks but could not face another run through of the rearguard.

A quick flip through scenarios suitable for  the existing river suggested "An Unfortunate Oversight" in which the attacker sneaks over a ford while the defender is massed around the only bridge. 

"Release me and Rome shall acknowledge you as King of all the tribes from here to Portlandia and pay you a wagon full of gold."
The Romans had 1 unit of armoured Roman cavalry with bows, a unit of archers and a unit of armoured infantry while their Armorican allies had a unit of armoured shock cavalry and two units of infantry. All of these were massed around a village just off camera.

The Huns had 2 units of Hunnish horse archers and a unit of foot archers. Their Rugii allies  had a unit of Elite Shock infantry, a unit of infantry and a unit of archers. 

Somewhere around turn 4. The Hun cavalry has surrounded the Romans on the hill but the table is too small and one unit has been caught by an initiative flip and routed off table by the Roman cavalry. 
It was a quick game with several turns of fortune and a nail biter finish. A really satisfying straight up game using these rules would need  larger forces and a more complex scenario but that was rather the point. 

For a multi-player, 3-4 hour convention game on a table twice this size with more than twice the forces, most being independent with several being nonaligned, all with secret individual victory conditions, I want simple, easy to grasp combat rules so players can focus on the rest.  I need to polish the writing a bit and write out some of the assumptions but these will do. In any event the players will only have a one page summary and a verbal briefing  to guide them and I trust my co-GM's judgement should things crop up mid-game. 

The current version of these 2 page Castle Dangerous rules can be accessed here.
Several turns later: its all a bit of a bloody mess. The Hun King was slain early on in single combat against the Armorican Duke who was in turn slain by the King of the Rugii several turns later.  What is left of the Allied infantry is surrounded on the hill but the remnants of the Roman cavalry are rushing back to the rescue. The Rugii however are tough and inspired by their King and it all ends as seen in the first picture. 
Five months and change to go. The next step is to muster the painted troops, organize units under the new system, form 8 contingents each with a character leader and and assess what needs doing in terms of basing, repairs, painting touch up for some of the recruits (often a wash of burnt umber will do but...), and probably addition and conversion of new recruits from the unpainted kit supply. I know I have enough for 3 units per player but would prefer to provide 4 if I can.

I also want to find a way to id units to help players, armour or hair/helmet style, shield colours etc but if all else fails a colour swatch on the bottom of the base. Oh and add the siege bits since the setting involves the Huns and their allies besieging a castle.

While doing the practical bits,  I also need to come up with names for the 8 factions and the characters for each as well as a back story, individual victory conditions and background and so on as well as table layout. (Not that I'll be able to blog that stuff till late May.) The only time I designed and ran a game of this sort as primary GM was over 12 years ago and I spent most of my time worrying what to do if I only had 3 or 4 players show up for an 8 player, 8 am Saturday morning game and none  of my time planning to cope with 16 players. Luckily it all worked out with 8 teams of 2 friends each.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Prepare To Come About!

After much thought about rules, I remembered that my toy soldier collection was supposed to be about quick, simple games not about getting into details of command control and small unit tactics.  The table was supposed to have been cleared already but hadn't been, so I played the scenario again using my standard Tin Army rules without hasty modification and they worked just fine.

While debating what scenario to play next, I remembered the need to resume preparation for Huzzah, so I cleared away the old toy soldiers.
Romans in hot pursuit of a Barbarian raiding party.

The "Prince Valiant and the Siege of Castle Dangerous" game that I am planning is supposed to be a  chaotic, multi-player, no fixed sides, personal victory conditions only, sort of game.  I have decided that it would be best run using very simple combat and movement rules so that players can focus on the rest. With this in mind I have written a sketchy draft of a simple set of rules drawing heavily from the Gathering of Hosts but based on units of single figures not on elements.

Since the table STILL hasn't been cleared, I reset with the Elastolins in anticipation of a test game in the near future.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Seven Years Bad Luck

On Thursday Ron and I tried out a Seven Years Portable War Variant. (Our 1st Portable Wargame test game was actually played in this unsupported period in 2011. See 6 Sides of Death )
Minifig Horse Grenadiers, which I painted for Ron a few years ago, going into their first battle.
Ron suggested that we start with the Ancient rules since they had light & heavy cavalry and infantry as well as artillery however he also suggested that we face the hex angles to give the game a more linear feel. This would give each unit 2 front hexes, 2 flank and 2 rear and meant battle lines were needed to protect units. It worked like a charm.

Turn 2, on the next turn the Hessians in the town wuld spring an ambush by opening fire.
We did make a few other minor changes midgame as we came across anomalies.

One was to disallow artillery fire over head on the flat as being not only technically problematic, apart possibly from howitzers, but also contrary to customary artillery deployment at the time.

Another was was to change the -1 combat modifier for  light troops in woods (the only units allowed in) which is in the ancient rules for the +1 for troops  in woods which is used in the 19thC & 20thC  rules. This was partly in view of the success of light troops in woods in actions such as Fontenoy not to mention North America but also because 2 opposing light units in woods were incapable of inflicting hits on each other since they started with 5,6 to hit then subtracted  -1 for being in woods and -1 for the enemy being in cover!   (Bob, if you are reading this, can you explain the thinking behind the -1 for ancient light troops and Barbarians fighting from woods? )

Turn 6ish?. The Austrian army is deployed and pressing forward (The Austrian right wing of Cavalry and  infantry is off screen). My reserves are still hidden in dead ground but it is early days. 
My plan was to display my artillery supported by a few infantry on the ridge on one side of the pass with some troops in hidden ambush positions on either flank and a reserve of cavalry and infantry in deadground behind the middle of the pass. My General commanded 2 guns, 3 heavy cavalry (1 elite), 5 infantry (1 elite) and 2 light infantry. (45 SP/EP of 15)

Ron had a seemingly endless horde of bullet proof troops.

My plan was to do as much damage as possible while allowing myself to be pushed back to my main position, holding the cavalry for a counter-attack if I saw an opening. As far as I could see Ron's plan was to deploy while testing my positions and then advance minimizing  his own casualties, making use of his numbers and taking no risks unless it became necessary near the end.

Turn 9/10ish? Both sides' battle lines are deployed. I have fallen back to my primary position across the narrowest part of the pass and remain fairly confident that I can hold till dark.
It appears that I made several serious miscalculations but the big one was assuming that given average die rolls, the distribution of SP loss and Recoil results would be fairly even given the 50/50 results chart. They were even except that while my smaller army inflicted mostly recoils, it suffered mostly SP losses!

The net result of this was that I was forced to launch my cavalry counter attack earlier than planned or lose the ability to do so at all as I rapidly approached  my Exhaustion Point while Ron's army arrived at the crucial point fresh and had been scarcely slowed by having individual units recoiled. 

If the dice results had been reversed my plan might have worked but it is a desperate plan that relies on dice!

Turn 13. My army is exhausted and Ron has blown a huge whole through my line. There was nothing to do but retreat the 2 battalions on my left and surrender the surrounded ones on my right.

Once again, the way the EP works makes reserves next to useless for a small army unless committed near the start of the battle or unless the army can avoid taking damage at all.

My mind has been pondering things such as dividing an army into Brigades or Divisions, each with their own Exhaustion Point so that a Reserve can be kept but on the other hand if my troops had been pushed back more often early on instead of losing SP's, then my Reserve cavalry would not have been forced to attack early  or not at all.

An all out attack on the head of Ron's army as he deployed (like his in the last game)  would have given me a much  better chance of inflicting enough damage to exhaust his army before it made it through the gap  as long as some of my units remained alive near the end.

I'm not sure how well a Fabian plan of not contesting his advance across the first 2/3 of the table other than by showing ambushes and retreating before contact would have worked. His rear elements were barely slowed as it was and possibly the battle would have started in earnest with my troops fresh on the last position, roughly around the same time as my army was teetering on the verge of exhaustion.  That also might have worked.

More playing is required!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Musings and a story in pictures;

One of my current aims is to have each of my collections provide a different sort of gaming experience. This is a relatively new aim for me and sometimes I have to remind myself.
The left hand Canadian column consisting of 4 companies of Highlanders supported by a gun were soon over the ford and hot on the tails of the Fenians but on the right, The Victoria Rifles, GG Foot Guards and 2 companies of elite Scots Guards supported by a troop of Hussars and the GG Bodyguard were stalled as the 19th Ohio (Irish Republican Volunteers) threw back attack after attack.

In younger days I dreamt of having a relatively constant ground and figure scale across periods and sizes of battles so one could see the difference in army size and deployment and weapon ranges. Not really practical for most of us but I still like the idea of small battles making smaller games with ground scale being constant-ish across periods though not necessarily figure scales.

On the left, the Buffalo Regiment, ensconced in a wood, are now holding up the advance of the Highlanders but at last, at great cost, the Scots Guards have cleared the way for the right hand column. 
My original plan was to use the same square grid rules I've been using for my 40mm late 19th/20thC Atlantica games but not only did it not feel different but they didn't 'feel' quite right.  Something about the figures and the background called out for something different.

I started by looking at more detail as befitting a lower level of action but that wasn't it. Eventually I realized that the big shiny toys, while happy on the grid, just wanted something with a more traditional wargaming 'feel' (what ever that is). After various mid-game changes and experiments (and a narrow, unrecorded Fenian victory) I decided to do a new set of rules from scratch and replay the scenario.

So, this game was played with a hasty hash of some old ideas experimented with last year and the year before and some of my usual things. 
As the sun sinks the battered Anglo-Canadian force closes in on the Fenian position. If the Fenians can hold the mouth of the pass till nightfall, they will be able to slip through and regroup and the campaign will go on.
I also decided that since I was planning to have all units on a hex grid face the angles thus having 2 front hexes, 2 rear and 2 flank, that I should stick with that and have units face the junction of 2 adjacent squares. (When ever I remembered!)

Since incomplete re-basing led to many single figures, the temptation  to remove figures and reduce unit's combat effectiveness with each hit was VERY strong but the historical casualty levels were so low that I forced myself to resist. Once I get the basing finished it'll be easier.

It all worked well but given the low level of the action and the visual impact I think I'm going to lengthen the ranges and give it all another good going over now that I think I understand the sort of thing I'm looking for, and maybe test some of the alternative proposals a bit more. 

On turn 14 Red pondered whether to pour in one more turn of artillery or rifle fire or go for it with the bayonet. The bayonet it was and the move was rewarded by handfuls of 5.6's. A pursuit by the Hussars routed the last remnant and the hill was secured. Out of curiosity I flipped the last card: Joker! - there was no turn 15, hesitation would have meant defeat! (phew!)
It also occured to me that I should play some more full table games or I might end up reducing my table to 4' x 4' and using the extra floor space for something else!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Retreating Around the Enemy

In keeping with my mini-campaign hopes I decided that the next game should be some form of rearguard action as the Fenian forces fall back towards the border. It was at this  point that I realized that they had been attacking from the East in the last game so I decided to shift the axis 90 degrees and see how the offset squares feel when going along the grain rather than against it.

So here they are retreating south, across the Yamaska and towards Iron Hill. 
Run! Run for the Hills! The Redcoats are coming!
Please don't bother google mapping to see if the geography is accurate in any but the broadest sense of Iron Hill  being between the Yamaska and the US Border, the terrain is straight out of One Hour Wargames, Scenario 20 . (See Incident at Rocky Top Hill from 2016) .

The rugged high ground at the southern edge is actually off table as is the barely visible Major Denison with the Anglo-Canadian forces.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Six Sided Squares: Test of Battle

Yes, Yes I know, geometrically speaking, squares cannot have 6 sides, however functionally these ones do since they share boundaries with 6 other squares and to cut to the chase, they worked like a charm!

The Governor General's Bodyguard and Foot Guards rushing forward for their first taste of battle!
The scenario was "Melee" from Thomas's One Hour Wargames. Essentially Red is trying to hold a vital hill while both armies rush reinforcements to the battle.

The battle rages as reinforcements continue to arrive.
By and large I was quite satisfied with how the rules had worked for the action at Brioche but rather than use them with a few tweaks for the offset squares I wanted to try out some alternate ideas.  In essence it was a case of not  yet being fully convinced that  some of the changes adopted in the last two years were really the best approach for this campaign setting. 

Basically there were three main issues:
  • a) Should I go back to rolling for "orders" with an order being required for a group of units to move rather than only testing to allow isolated or leaderless units to move? 
  • b) Should some form of regimental integrity be included and should I revert to having companies losing combat capability as they take hits, or stick with having them fight at full effect until destroyed with the only attrition effect being at a higher level as gaps appear in the line? 
  • c) Should I revert to having more dice per unit, allowing for quicker, more dramatic not say drastic combat results?
Turn 6 of 15, Both sides are fully on table and Red is feeling pretty comfortable.
I decided to try the alternate possibilities and by game's end decided that the rules used in the last game were better in every respect and will be reinstated with adjustments for arc of fire etc. That includes reducing units back to 1 die for firing and 2 for melee, having units fight at full effect until removed, reverting to 3 figure cavalry and sharpshooter infantry units, ignoring any role for 2 figure half company bases other than showing road columns, and allowing all groups with a Commander attached to move automatically. The attrition matter will be handled by my well tested method of having companies grouped into "Brigades" with a Commander and allowing these Brigades to become 'exhausted' by unit losses and thus unable to shoot or advance towards the enemy. The "army" will only be exhausted when all of the brigades are exhausted.  

Case closed.

Several turns later and Red is not happy at all! With General and gun captured and cavalry repulsed, things were looking shaky although a spectacular round of fire has shattered Blue's infantry on the plain.
I've got a pretty good idea about how I want to work the matters of facing and arcs of fire but putting it in writing and having it make sense to others is going to be a challenge.  There may need to be diagrams and I'll probably break a few conventions.

Turn 12 and a combined counter attack by the  Governor General's Bodyguard and the 5th Royal Scots has consolidated Red's control of the hill and broken Blue's morale.
So for this week, Papal Zouaves, basing, a written copy of the rules and another game.

Well, one needs to push oneself a little now and then!

A moment of glory and satisfying debut for Major Denison and the Governor General's Bodyguard.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Odd numbered files two paces forwarddddd MARCH!

I had just about talked myself into treating myself to a nice, attractive, practical, professional, hex mat from Hotz Artworks this fall and even had funds earmarked. Then the Prince August 7YW artillery sets came out and I needed some additional 54mm guns and oh dear, the warchest was empty again and those damned diagonals were still there gnawing at my mind.

Well they "ain't no more"!

I didn't set out to do offset squares. My back up plan was to draw hexes using the Archduke's scheme of starting with offset rectangles of particular dimensions and then then adding the angles. Not being a wiz at either math or accurate measuring, I none the less calculated that I would need rectangles of 4" x 3 15/32nds" and had already worked out that I could start by shifting the Northern and Southern edges of each square in alternate North/South rows 2" South. I was about a quarter of the way done when I realized that since I wasn't in the slightest concerned about inequity in speed  but only with getting rid of corners while increasing the number of directions in which a unit could travel, I should give offset squares a go. That way I only had 1/2 the east-west dividing lines to redraw/mask and I'd be done. More than that my existing hills could easily be made to fit and still be flexible with minimal work.  Two hours later and the board is ready for a trial game.

Now as to that other little matter, I am used to silly little things like receipts and statements going astray over the course of a tax year but a toy soldier head going absent over a mere 19 years is a different matter!

All present and accounted for Sir!
 It took almost 10 minutes of searching in day light before the culprit was found consorting with a collection of 40mm heads. Then I had to find a trumpet, something I didn't actually have back then. Oh look, that Hussar didn't originally have a trumpet, I wonder where it came from, they are over strength anyway and won't be able to take everyone into the field...

"Order from the Minister of Defence in Ottawa Colonel, the Princess Louise Hussars are to surrender that trumpet to the Governor General's Body Guard." 

"Yes I realize you are a New Brunswick Regiment and the Bodyguard are an Ontario Regiment but we're all Canadian now and in matters of defence, orders from the Federal government take precedence and trumpets are even scarcer than rifles right now." 

Friday, November 17, 2017

When the Kath's away.

This week promises to be cold and wet and my wife has abandoned me to go to a dog show so I anticipate a teeny bit extra hobby time. My plan is to spent Saturday getting figures and table ready and making another attempt at rewriting the rules slightly to better express the ideas in my head for this particular collection.

There is so much to do to bring the Canadian and fictional Fenian forces to battle readiness that I decided to start with my Zulu War forces. The 58th Foot has now had 2 figures added to bring them up to two regulation companies, each of 4 figures.

The 58th Ft are now ready for action.
Next up are a troop of the Governor General's Bodyguard. I ordered one 4 figure Big Wars' unit of these from Soldierpac in 1998 (I gave him the code numbers I wanted and he immediately guessed that I was doing the GGBG not some British Dragoon Regiment - he knew his stuff and his client base!) and began assembly but got interrupted by a good deal on Britain's Crimean Light Brigade and then by plastic 54mm figures. I resumed assembly today so they haven't had to wait 2 full decades.
Governor General's Bodyguard (in waiting).
The trooper who was ordered to become a trumpeter seems to have lost his head though. A preliminary  sweep of the sorts of places where off duty, un-assembled, troopers like to hangout failed to locate the missing head and I am considering my options which include, buying a new head, making one, using a forage cap or, simply adopting the 3 figure cavalry squadron (like my US Cavalry and the largest cavalry unit that will fit in a 4" hex) as standard instead of going with 2 'troops' or units each of 2 figures like my 17th Lancers. I'll do a more intensive search before I make a decision.

That leaves Sunday for a game, hopefully the first game of a mini-mini-campaign.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

1934 Film Look at Canada in the Great War

Thanks to Rob from the Captain's blog for this.

Published on Nov 3, 2015
This film is a heritage item from Library and Archives Canada and is only available in English.

This film was the first feature length documentary film with sound to be made in Canada. The production team compiled the film throughout the world and from Canadian cameramen who followed troops through training and into combat. Simulated battle scenes are also included. Part 1 - The story of Canadian military participation in WWI. A review is made of the major incidents that lead to declarations of war. Leading personalities are shown. Recruitment and training of soldiers takes place. Part 2 - The Battles of Mons, Ypres, the Somme, and Vimy Ridge. Part 3 - The Battle of Passchendaele. Sequences on the Royal Flying Corps in action on land and in the air. Dominion Day 1918 festivities among Canadian Armed Forces personnel at the front line near Vimy Ridge are captured on camera. End of the war celebrations and commemorations are shown. Exceptional material includes: Princess Patricia dedicating the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment at Lansdowne Park, August 23, 1914; the sinking of the Szent Istvan, an Austro-Hungarian battleship, where sailors look like ants heaped up on one side and then jump into the sea; new military technology; war ruins and refugees; the American entry into the war; an observation balloon going up in flames; and Canadian railway troops building tracks. Canadian troops hold an Athletic Field Day on Dominion Day 1918; Canadian troops extinguish fires at Cambrai; the Prince of Wales in military uniform surrounded by other officers; soldiers in trenches, in marching formation, cheer news of the end of the war; funeral procession of nurses watch soldiers carry the coffins of nurses killed in an air raid of a hospital in France, May 1918. Officers salute the open grave. The Canadian troupe, The Dumbells, perform before Canadian troops on Dominion Day 1918.

Source: Library and Archives Canada. Veterans Affairs Canada fonds, 1976-0222, IDC 115789.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Challenges and Choices

"This should be quick and easy....."

Well the first company of the Governor General's Foot Guards is now ready for duty but it wasn't quite as quick and easy as I expected.

The GGFG was raised in 1872 so basically missed the Fenian Raids unlike the older, but less senior, Canadian Grenadier Guards. They did, however, send a company to fight in the North West Rebellion. Of course none of this factual stuff need affect their deployment on the wargames table and since there  are only three Canadian Regiments that wear bearskin caps, of course they are in!

The Governor General's Foot Guards c 1885
(+ Scots Guard and antique Coldstream Guard). The GGFG were linked with the Coldstream Guards so wear a red hackle but on the left. 
The first challenge I had to meet was my impatience. The last toy soldiers I painted had been quite amenable to paint despite my having run out of the matte acrylic varnish that I used to mix with white or light grey paint to seal and prime the figures before painting. Usually I have no problem when I leave the varnish out but these lads  had a rougher surface texture than I expected, possibly due to weather & humidity when casting or something contaminating the alloy. In any event, the paint would brush on ok but then suddenly as it dried there would be a gap or an exposed bit would rub off. Anyway, several coats later, with breaks to allow extra drying time, they are done. 

The next challenge was that I am not yet used to the real Toy Soldier look. The Scots Guard in the picture was painted c1998 and has a simple version of the 1860's cuff and lace trim and some subtle shading (now lost under gloss). He originally  had a  matte finish as well. Beside him is an antique Coldstream Guard with the little round blue cuffs that Britain's used, even in full dress. I had hauled him out for an example along with a few illustrated toy soldier books and found myself pondering just how far I want to go with this revived Toy Soldier fantasy? Do I want to try to make them accurate replicas of antique soldiers, make them glossy but accurate models, or somewhere in between. 

 I've decided to compromise and go for a very simple painting which will evoke the originals but without being pedantic about the antique look.  (Might just go back and add the proper cuffs....)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Committing the Plan to Memory

Not human memory, that's as fleeting as it gets these days, digital memory, as in my blog.

After a week of poking about, contemplating exotic enemies, and reviewing present means and past unfinished business, I'm relieved to realize I don't need to start a new 54mm Toy Soldier campaign just yet. The three in hand will keep me busy for a year or two yet if not longer.

Last year I dithered a bit over  grid, unit size and army size but have now tested enough options that I am happy to settle on 4" hexes (or squares in the interim) and 4 figure infantry companies with 3 figure cavalry squadrons.

So the Campaigns in hand:

First and least is the "Portable Zulu War with Guest Stars". The Gordon Highlanders should not be there, especially not dressed for Tel el Kebir. Maybe one day they'll take me to Egypt but for now they'll do their duty wherever I send them. I have 4 infantry companies in sun helmets and 2 cavalry squadrons so for most games will have to include troops in less tropical dress for most scenarios but the glossy antique toy soldier creed allows that. The Zulus are in more than adequate numbers.

Practising for Huzzah last winter.

Second is the "Cyprus Hills" or "Northwest" Campaign. In the short term, I just need to add some Metis and terrain and tidy up a few units. Eventually I might want to add more troops in Riel Rebellion campaign dress including mounted scouts but I'm in no hurry.

The game that hooked me two years ago.

Third and largest is the "Defended Border" Campaign or what if the Fenians had been more like what the public imagination pictured? To put it another way, this is the perfect opportunity  for my " imagine if my Grandfather had fought a Red vs Blue wargame campaign with off the shelf boxes of toy soldiers" campaign. I now have lots of moulds for soldiers in long trousers and minimal equipment which are ripe for conversion to old toy style Civil War troops as well as Fort Henry Guards. I picture this campaign being ripe to eventually have enough troops for full CS Grant and Asquith scenarios with 18 or 20 units a side.

From the game fought last Canada Day.

While I was casting Guardsmen yesterday, I grabbed my Zouave mold and cast up a company of them as well. There  are plenty of Britain's Zouave & Turko sets to choose from for uniforms and I'll probably do some of the traditional blue with red trousers of the New York Zouaves but given the Fictional-Fenian context, I am tempted to paint some up as Papal Zouaves in grey such as were raised in Montreal to fight for the Pope.

Alfred Laroque, Papal Zouave, Montreal, QC, 1868
from the McCord Museum site.

I could even call them "Les Fils des Patriotes", sons of the 1837-39 rebels from Lower Canada who have joined with the Fenians.  After all, if using one's imagination, it doesn't do to rein it in too tightly.