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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seeking Contrast

Part of me likes the idea of a basic universal framework for miniatures games. Sysems like the Command and Colours series of games. The upside is that it becomes easy to remember how things work and common base sizes and mechanisms allow easy sharing of a tabletop and terrain. especially if you are using a grid and building armies from scratch.

The major downside is that the rules can start to get too vanilla and lacking in flavour if one isn't clever enough and the incentive to do multiple periods declines if all the games are similar in overall feel. There can also be issues with getting old armies to conform.

I'm pondering the question again for all my collections, looking for the best way to differentiate them and give each one a distinct feel and a reason to exist. A toy soldier game, a quick, easy to set up in a small space, play and take down game, an all day game, a wargame to refight historical battles, maybe a low level skirmish game and so on.

Early stages of testing revived rules and scenario.


In the meantime, or perhaps in the spirit, I am spending much time at the moment working on the 16th Century Anglo-French wargame that Rob and I will be co-hosting at Huzzah in May. but that will be covered on my Gathering of Hosts blog.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Uhoh! Shouldn't ha' done that!

I finally got to watching the 1938 Post-WWI North West Indian Frontier movie "The Drum" on Youtube.
The Relief Force struggles to get there in time.
(Archive Footage from 2014)

By halfway​ through I was reminiscing about old MacDuff Colonial skirmishes with single figures, by the end I was trying to figure out what to use for "Natives" since the Scruby 40mm Colonials haven't reappeared,......must go lie down in a dark room until I feel  better.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Van-Portable Wargame

Ron and I played another Colonial Portable Wargame today.
A call to arms from Minaret instead of a call to prayer! 

The scenario this week was the first Initiative scenario from Asquith and Grant's Scenarios for All Ages (the Red Book).  The attacker (randomly selected) has to march on and seize crossings over both rivers. The defender who gets dribbles of reinforcements has to prevent any crossings, a very hard task though a draw is very possible with the right combination of luck and skill.
Overview as cavalry race back with orders for the reserves to hurry forward.

Ron had originally set this up for Sudden Death using strength points with a total of 13 (12?) units attacking 9 but raising the Exhaustion levels but after a discussion we decided to double the number units to 18 vs 26 (or maybe 24) and use sudden death.
The Elite status of the Hadendowah allowed them to survive three repulsed charges.

Three hours later we had  played some 15 or 16 turns full of nervous tension and swings in advantage. It would be interesting to play with fewer units using the strength points for unit destruction but with army exhaustion based on lost units. That would have allowed the garrison in the town to give up SPs to avoid retreating thus increasing the odds that reinforcements would arrive early enough to seriously contest the first bridge but it would mean fewer miniatures on table unless we really packed the hexes. It might well have had less tension on each die roll though!
Its over. The Mahdist force is exhausted by its losses and incapable of further attacks on the British bridgeheads.

Ron's last reinforcements never came off the shelf, the slip of paper listing them just marched up the road as a reserve! They did their job though Ron lost almost as many units as I did but didn't reach exhaustion due to his larger force.

All in all, the set up may not be easily portable, but it was a cracking good game!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Portable Ridge

Last Sunday I followed up the Square Brigadier game with several repeats using the Portable Wargame as part of my preparation for Huzzah!.
I'm not going to go over them in detail but just make a few observations about all of the games including the SB game and rules.

The 17th Lancers have now been updated with pith helmets and 1879 uniforms. I was tempted to repaint the horses as Chestnuts but left them as is for old times sake


 These, like my US cavalry, are converted from the Britain's Light Brigade that I was lucky enough to buy from Stuart Asquith around the turn of the century. They were the mainspring of my 54mm Colonial games and helped convert me to using glossy Toy Soldiers. Since my Crimean plans never got far I decided to convert them rather than let them go.
Since I had enjoyed the Sudden Death game at Ron's but was worried that my intended 6 unit OB would not be enough for a decent game, I started there. The game took about 25 minutes to play 5 out 15 turns which was a little quick but not bad for a walk up and try it event. It wasn't terribly satisfying though and I felt that a few more units might be needed to add some depth. I couldn't shake the feeling that the Sudden Death version reduces the player's tactical options and devalues reserves.

I decided to reset and try the standard roster system now that I realized that the exhaustion point was 1/3rd SPs rather than 1/2 units as I had wrongly played it in my favourite of the Zulu games. The game lasted about 9 or 10 turns and close to 40 minutes but it ended with only 1 unit destroyed and the nearly intact Canadians (unit wise) standing staring at the victory objective, daring the Yanks to come out from behind the hill and fight. It wasn't bad but it wasn't really satisfying either.

With the Canadians exhausted by long range fire then forced off the hill by an American counter attack, the Americans decline to step over the crest and be shot at. Since an exhausted force cannot attack, Game Over!

Since the best game yet had been the Zulu War game that used the standard Strength Points to determine when units got removed but wrongly based exhaustion on 50% of units destroyed, I reset and played again using that variation.

This time the game went 14 out of 15 turns after various turns of fortune with the Canadians hanging on desperately to a foothold on the hill which would have been a draw and the Americans only avoiding their own exhaustion point by pulling back badly damaged units until need brought them back in a risky but successful bid to clear the Canadians off the hill for a victory.

About half way through the third game. An American flanking counter attack combined with a pinning force is proving hard to deal with as casualties mount.

This mix of units being destroyed by Strength Point loss but Exhaustion being determined  by % unit losses isn't official but it produces the most enjoyable games for me since it allows players to make more "Command decisions" such as to choose to risk trading SPs to hold ground or to conserve strength by using reserves to replace frontline units that have taken heavy losses and also allows players to engage in more than one or two stiff fights so that is how I will run the games at Huzzah after explaining the published mechanisms.

As far the Square Brigadier, it (unsurprisingly) remains my game of choice for my small games at home. It has however taken a step back, away from Tin Army heresies and closer to its roots.

The Tin Army will continue on towards being a more convention battle game, essentially a gridded version of Hearts of Tin but the SB will remain more constrained and designed only for small stylized games, essentially my equivalent to Thomas' One Hour Wargame and doubtless often drawing on his collection of minimalist scenarios. I'm partway through updating the latest War of 1812 draft into a final 1812 to 1885 (non-European) version. Thankfully no new ideas or rules will be introduced, just a few intrusions purged and much (hopefully) clarity and completeness added in both Basic and Optional Advanced rules.

Could take awhile.

Next, time, back to the 16th Century.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Battle of Lookout Ridge

The following is an excerpt from an anonymous journal thought to have been penned by an officer in the Hochelaga Fusiliers who participated in the little known Cyprus Hills Expedition.
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The first shots are fired as the Canadians advance into range.
....as we approached the ridge the order came to deploy into a single line with no reserves. "A" battery formed on the left of the infantry, the lancers of the NorthWest Constabulary formed on the far right. When all was in order the bugles rang out and we started forward.

Every once in a while we caught a brief glimpse of a rapidly moving figure on the crest but it was hard to tell how many were there and what there intentions were. As we neared the foot of the hill though the skyline erupted in smoke and a positive hail of bullets rained down on us.  Quickly the gunners opened up driving back a taggle of ragamuffins from their right flank. All along the line the boys advanced, fired a volley then fixed bayonets and drove the enemy off the crest with a cheer. The sight from the top soon sobered us up though.
The Canadians seize the ridge as American reinforcements appear.
From the top of the ridge we could see the enemy we had driven back but also a force twice their numbers rapidly marching towards us, complete with artillery. We lay down on the crest and opened up on the enemy before us while behind us the guns limbered up and rushed to the right passing the Lancers who were galloping towards our open left.
The American force is stubborn under fire and deadly accurate but their General is having trouble coordinating an attack on the ridge. 
The American fire was deadly. Our Colonel went down as we hit the crest and many other good men were helped back down the slope to be bandaged but we held firm and they seemed unwilling to get too close. Seeing their flank open the Lancers rode forward and launched a rash attack. The Americans quickly turned and shot down the half of them. Recoiling they tried again and again, until none were left in the saddle. Perhaps mounted Riflemen would have been more useful in modern war.
The American counter attack has stalled under heavy fire and the need to deal with the flanking cavalry.
At last after two gruelling hours of intense fire, the Americans seemed on the point of launching an assault.  As we braced ourselves, Colonel Marten himself rode up and called out " Fusiliers! Lets see these buggers off. Fix bayonets and follow me!" He spurred down the hill and rising up, we followed cheering. It was too much for the Fenian rabble in front of us and they turned tail and ran.

With their flank wide open and half their companies scattered to the winds or limping to the rear, the Yankee regulars had little choice but to fall back as well. It was over.
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The end.
Note: these pictures are of a recreation of this engagement fought out with 54mm figures and the Square Brigadier Rules. The Blue and Red dots indicate where stands or Officers were removed. More discussion of the tabletop battle to follow.