EXCERPT 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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Plans and Contact

"They" do say that the one never survives the other for long.

The first of several gratuitous shots of Toy Soldiers in battle.
I did play the game in the teaser shots with a handful of 6 figure units on each side. Of course, I tweaked the rules to suit having fewer but larger units. The resulting game was pretty good with an 11th hour victory but I was too busy playing to remember to take pictures. Worse, it brought my mind back to my uncertainties about  certain aspects of the then current version of my Tin Army/Square Brigadier rules which I've been honing for my WW1 game.

There was only one real option then, reset and play a game with my standard organization and rules. The shorter ranges and so on of an 1870's game would have some effect on the feel but already armies were fighting primarily with firing lines and supports so the game mechanics would remain relevant.

Game 2. Back to normal, let the game begin again! 
The resulting half a game was OK BUT all of my concerns showed up. Basically rules that were supposed to help bring out the feel of units having trouble advancing under fire while making the players feel like they were in charge and not just trying to survive the dice were driving the game off track. I realized part way through that as a player my attention was focused on company commander decisions, not Brigadier/Force Commander ones and that the rules supposedly designed to encourage typical brigade formations and tactics were resulting in some very questionable game tactics.

Gratuitous shot from game 2 or maybe 3...

I knew the basics of the rules were sound  so it had to be the combined effect of misdirected intent and the particular implementation of various sub-rules that I have been fiddling with. Several hours later I had a revised version of the rules, sufficiently more Tin Army than Square Brigadier and for the same reason that the two both exist.

In essence the re-revised rules removed various low level tactical choices such as "go pinned or suck it up and press on" from the player and automated them, leaving the player to fight his whole force rather than focusing too much on individual units in isolation. I also followed the old Tin Army versions and again removed the old Square Brigadier rally rules while at the same time stopping the risk of a unit being quickly swept away by long range fire. (Close range fighting, say under 150 yards, is as deadly as ever.) This is enhanced by the retention of a modified support rule to reflect the stress placed on the value of support in so many low level battle accounts.

As hoped, the third game flowed better, the armies maintained battalion formations because they worked, not because they had to. As player I had fewer unit level decisions to make and this kept my eye on the over all battle while keeping me constantly scared!

Game 3.  From tied but on the cusp of a US victory on turn 12 of 15 to sudden US collapse followed by a Canadian victory on turn 14. 

Of course, whether this is all in my head or not will have to wait for the next multi-player game.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Another day, Another River Crossing

At last, the books for my wife's grooming shop are done and our tax stuff (technical term there) submitted with 2 weeks to go!  Time to play.
I still have some figure painting, terrain construction and play testing to do for  Huzzah but I just wanted to play a simple game, no strings attached. So, I broke open One Hour  Wargames and selected a River Crossing scenario that I don't remember playing. (Note: I may have played it but since I don't remember without checking its close enough.)  Then I turned to my shelves to pick a period and armies: 54mm traditional toy soldiers or 40mm semi-flat 18th C?

Or maybe one game of each.......
Somewhere in the Red River Valley. 
Well, its all set up but... I'm out of time! Tomorrow then.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Veterans Clash in the Valley

Wargame Armies and projects come and the go but sometimes they come back!  So it was with Paul's 25mm Minifig ECW army  which he painted in the 1970's. As it happens, they not only came back to him after the demise of our friend Joseph a few years ago, but they came with extra units from various sources including a contingent of Scots both painted and unpainted.

When the quarterly public Table Top Gaming day came up in Kingston in the Annapolis Valley, Paul volunteered to get them table ready if I provided rules and a scenario. Jeff with his much more recent 28mm ECW hordes, which he uses with either Baroque or Victory Without Quarter, was unavailable so I decided to write a one page, quick play set suitable for the occasion.

After much sorting and rebasing to a common standard, Paul was able to field 11 regiments of Pike and Shot, each 18 strong, 1 unit of 12 highlanders, 9 squadrons of cavalry including 1 of cuirassiers, 2 of Scots and 2 of dragoons, each 6 strong, and 6 guns. I still had one unit of Scots pike, 2 of highlanders and a squadron of cavalry. Paul had 2 mounted Generals and I had 2 left over cavalrymen which were quickly promoted. Another commander per army would have been useful.

Given the mix of troops available I decided to go with a scenario inspired by some of Montrose's victories and secretly added 2 more units of medieval Highlanders without mentioning it to Paul.

The Covenanters rush onto the table hoping to sweep away the tiny holding force before it could be reinforced.
In order to set the scene properly I found myself obliged to brief Paul and Martin with what they were supposed to believe  which is that their rapid approach march had surprised the enemy and that they would be reinforced  as the game went on so speed was of the essence. Their deployment was an area 1 foot deep and two feet wide centred on the road.

The truth, of course, was that those reinforcements were already on table, lurking in ambush on the flanks.

Paul puts on his Battle Face.
It took a little longer than I had hoped for us to get sorted out and started but eventually we got there. 

Paul commanded the left of the  Covenant force with the bulk of the infantry and artillery while Martin took the left with most of the cavalry.

Brent, not worried at all by the apparent 3:1 odds.
Brent was given command of the on table portion of the Royalists. While I had the luxury of beginning as a non-playing GM, at least until some of Martin's Dragoons stumbled into a stray unit of Highlanders lurking in some woods.

The red dots mark 'out of command' units that must make an initiative roll before moving.
Since Martin decided to send his cavalry sweeping around the flank, it didn't take long to find the lurking Highlanders. I figured that would give the whole thing away but apparently it didn't. It did slow down that flank though and twice the Highlanders managed to catch a unit in flank as it tried to march past the wood. 

The Scots cavalry get impatient
As Brent watched the flood of cavalry approaching his sole unit, he decided to launch a preemptive strike. He had a theoretical shock bonus on the initial round but the dice were not kind to him.

Confusion reigns!
One of my units of Highlanders had been inspired to support our cavalry by charging into the flank of another enemy cavalry unit and they fared much better. Luckily, the Dragoons resisted the urge to intervene (failed initiative) while the Highlanders swiftly fell back to cover and resumed sniping.
The battle rages across the table. 
On the other side of the field I watched the enemy continue to rush everyone forward without throwing out a flank guard. I'm still not sure why I initially flung only one unit of Highlanders into the open flank but it was very nearly a disastrous decision. Luck was with me however and eventually the enemy broke, leaving my two units to spend most of the rest of the game trying to rally sufficiently to resume the attack. 
The Crunch approaches!
Thus far the Royalist forces had given slightly better than they had taken but the day was yet young and the Covenant forces had pressed on, sublimely indifferent to the any threat to their flanks. Now they were about to assail the main position with more than 2:1 odds, infantry in front and cavalry to the flank.  The battle was a long way from decided.

ALAS! At this point in the game, Brent had to leave and the cameraman got involved in heavy hand to hand fighting all along the line.

In short the assaults on the ridge were held, both against the infantry to the front and the cavalry to the flank. Casualties were heavy on both sides though and the Royalist infantry were very glad to see their cavalry reserve rolling up over the hill on their left flank and into the flank  of the attacking enemy supported by a final swarm of Highlanders.

My old Valdurian Horse still has it!
When the end came, it came swiftly.  The sole unit of Covenant Horse on their right had been prepared for an attack over the hill and put up a fight but were eventually swarmed by Highlanders as well as the cavalry.

The pikemen in the centre however had been hotly engaged in a firefight to the front when the Royalist cavalry not only hit them in flank but rolled up on the dice and went through them like a hot knife. As the Royalist foot  began to advance down off the hill, the whole Covenant centre started to break.

The left wing  Covenant foot attempted to turn and move to reinforce the centre but the Dragoons again refused to come forward and cover their open flank and again my Highlanders could not restrain themselves.

The whole army dissolved in rout.
Late in the day the Covenant right and centre broke and the battle was suddenly over. The Royalist army had suffered terribly though and one more turn might have seen them break before the flank attack could have the desired effect.
So ended the first wargame for Paul's revived Minifig ECW armies but it won't be the last.

It took us about a little over an hour to  get organized, chat about this and that, set up the table and sort the troops. The game itself took about three hours to play about 10 of 15 possible turns and was close and hard fought. As a bonus we just may have enticed a suitable recruit to join us in a future game or two.

All in all a Saturday well spent!