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, June 24, 2017

Volleys in the Valley

This past week has been as slow hobbywise as the lack of posts suggests, however, I perked up today.
  This morning I finished painting the last 1/3 of my new Red coated, allied Northern Maritime regiment which has a vague resemblance to Lally's Irish.  This afternoon I nipped down to Kentville to join in a 6 player Epic Battle Cry Bull Run game.
Jeff's 15mm ACW on his homemade hex mat.
There are no formations in Battle Cry but that didn't stop me.
Fast and bloody. The details of the rules may seem questionable at times but the result today was close enough to historical and it was fun.
Longtime friend and fellow Atlantic Simulation Society member Paul in official Blue Shirt which was mandated dress for the two of us today, and Jeff of the Armchair Commander blog

The question now is "Will my new Red regiment see any Elephants on Sunday?". I certainly hope so!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

One for the Gaffer

OK so I'm not technically a Dad, but I look after a pack of hounds as well as a couple of cats and a bird, soooo...... I took some time for a quick Father's Day game.

Despite my best camera instincts, this shot is surprisingly true to the actual colours on the table.

My original idea was to do a big MacDuff game but there were other things (chore type things) and I didn't want to mess with any campaign backstories. I also didn't feel like playing MacDuff which is a different matter. 

Anyway, the lads from Faraway and Oberhilse are always up for a brawl. Since the OHW wargame scenario was still 3/4 set up, I just went with that, with a terrain tweak, and improvised rules as I went, sort of a retro-single figure version of Hearts of Tin: variable moves, turn initiative, detached unit command roll, firing by individuals, and a return to a morale roll for under strength units.  
Mid game. One attack on the house has been repulsed, the next will succeed but too little too late at too high a price.
Pity there were no War Correspondents present.
It all kinda worked pretty well and entertained me. I occasionally missed  the grid for measuring but enjoyed the flexibility of no grid. 

Lots to think about.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Meanwhile, bubbling away in the back ground.

After a thorough examination of various organizational and rules options for this upcoming campaign, I have decided that the optimal choice is to conform with my existing Charge! units and work the rules and scenarios around that organization.
A skirmish from 2012 (click for report)
I envisage most games being skirmishes, like the most recent game , and the "Anything to Declare"  New Year's Eve 2012 game (shown above), with around six units and detachments  per side, with the occasional pitched battle game, like the 2012 Wentworth Pass game (shown below). having double or even triple that.

The Battle of Wentworth Pass from 2912.

To be more specific, each of my Charge! Regiments which are formed by two 19 figure "Companies" plus an HQ group will form a "Brigade" with two 18 figure "Battalions" plus an HQ  including the colours and drummers. I will also allow small detachments for garrisons, wagon escorts and the like. For light infantry, I plan to add three command figures to each Charge! company and field them as two nine figure detachments. These are of course paper strengths.

The Old King's Brigade, 15 year veterans of many a stricken tabletop,  using temporary movement trays. 
With an organization and level of scenario in hand I turned back to revisit rules options. After much rereading of old battle reports and old rules and much pondering about the desired "feel" for this campaign I have forced myself to narrow it down to two choices:
  • Use Lawford and Young's "Charge!" 
  • Update the 20th Anniversary edition of "With MacDuff to The Frontier" to include explicit "Skirmish" and "Battle" options as I was considering in 2014. 
Luckily, since these rules will both work with my organization and basing, the choice may be made game by game  according to my mood and the scenario.

Flexibility is good.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From There to Here

It has long been obvious that, as in most things in life, when painting miniatures I tend to follow my instinct without much discipline or attention to various schools of technique. I'm usually happy with the results but I'm sometimes at a loss to explain what my "technique" is.

If caught off guard I might mutter something about Old School but having recently gone back to check some old school books, well, it isn't really, but its not Middle or New school either. Its just.. "what I do".  So, I decided today to  have a "look-see" in an attempt to trace the roots and to take a few shots of today's batch.

Sound Assembly!

My first step was to look through several of my early wargaming books. There, right at the beginning of my wargaming life, was Don Featherstone's 'Battles With Model Soldiers' which taught me to glue a bunch of figures to a stick, something I still do most of the time, as well as teaching me what Jack Scruby called "sloppy undercoat, careful over coat", which is to say, slop on the main colour being more concerned with not missing any spots than with straying over the line. The next colour will take care of the edges when it is carefully applied to the smaller area.

Then I have a vague memory of a Heritage/Hinchliffe catalogue painting guide in the mid-70's which recommended an overall dark wash. I no longer have the catalogue and don't remember exactly what it recommended but it was shortly after my one trip to the UK where I'd had a chance to see Peter Gilder's Huns in action and it was the start of a long habit of burnt umber washes as the last step before varnishing.

But that's about it for wargaming influences. I can remember being impressed by my friend Eric Ritchie's painting 25mm ancients by a series of washes over white, but that's a technique that doesn't allow errors and I'm all about errors and do-overs, so I never got far with it. Similarly I tried black under coat and building up solid colours to build depth in the 80's but though I was happy enough with a few characters and a few units in both 15mm and 25mm, I found the process tedious  and the end product still felt dark to me no matter how bright the highlights might be. I went back to my old ways.

Sloppy main colour over white craft acrylic paint used as primer. 
However,  I was a painter and a converter of Model Soldiers for display before I was a wargamer.

I still have my battered copy of Peter Blum's "Model Soldier Manual" from the early 70's. Although I haven't looked at the booklet much in decades, that's because the basics were well absorbed. While I don't attempt the sort of detail that a teen age me attempted on 54's, and don't do as much shading and highlighting as I used to do even 10 years ago, the basics of my technique are all  there, white undercoat, base colours then shading blended in .

Awaiting the shading process but my brand of stripped down glossy toy solderish style will only include some shading on the flesh, around the belts, the folds and under sides of arms etc of the coat and small clothes.
I'm told that a well pointed brush is essential to a good paint job and from my limited experience with pointy brushes I'm sure it's true but, alas,  I wreck them  too quickly to find out for sure. So this 1 brush did everything except the white under coat.

The final influence was much more recent but just as important, Shep Paine's "Making and Painting Scale Figures".  At least it feels very recent but it would appear that 25 or so years have slipped past since I picked up a copy. How did that happen?

Anyway, there was nothing really new about painting in it really, it was from his sculpting tips that I learned the most. He did have several observations on shading that went a level up from Peter Blum and he commented on the advantages of separate washes for different parts of Wargame figures instead of a single dark wash. As he points out it is a quick technique so doing several doesn't take up a lot more time but it really improves the look when wash style shading ties in with the colour being shaded. He was right. So, for this lot the flesh was shaded with a very thin flesh + burnt sienna, the coat with a red+burnt umber, etc. Not washes though, these craft paints don't run well enough without an additive so I use older techniques of applying a dark shade then adding a bit of water and running the edges out a bit to blend them in with the base.

Shaded, glossed, and fallen in with the first batch of recruits. 
Last but not least, one of the best tips I ever got came about 20 years ago from Al Fisher on the Yahoo Littlewars group: "Don't look at where your brush has been, look at where it is going".
It sounds odd but I've been taught the same thing in drawing with a pencil. In other words, if you are looking at your  brush tip, its too late, its already there and left paint behind. If you look a little bit ahead of the brush to where you want it to go and trust yourself, your hand and eye will guide the brush from where it is to where you want it to go leaving a line behind it, just where you wanted it and less halting and wavy that if you'd been  looking at it. But you need to keep moving your focus point as the brush moves until you reach the end.  I still catch myself NOT doing it and have to correct myself.

Never to late to learn and experiment.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


At last I managed to take a brush to some of the new Prince August SYW French. They are delightful little models!

I had intended to do a  straight glossy toy soldier look, block colours, no shading etc  but the sculpting was too crisp to get the right look easily so I compromised on a little bit of shading, not too much and no highlights, then the gloss. Sort of vaguely Old School but not quite, sort of like my games. Anyway, I like 'em and am looking forward to painting more.

Wild Geese!.
Recruits for Lally's Irish Regiment drill on the lakeshore.
After hours spent combing books and the net and once again lamenting my MIA Lace Wars volumes, I decided to start painting red and green and then decide if they would be a fictional unit based on Polish War of Succession Saxon or Danish or would be Irish. It didn't take long for old habits to kick in (though not my old eyesight -they were 1/2 done before I realized I had grabbed several grenadier heads with mustaches OOps! Oh well!) and since my original NQSYW units were all painted for Fontenoy I just went ahead and painted them Lally's.

As a bonus I was reminded that during the 7YW, a 2nd battalion of Lally's was raised for service in India..hmmm....
A closer view.
Anyhow, I also got a start today on a map of the seas and lands North and East of Rosmark. Progress continues and enthusiasm mounts!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ninety Minute MacDuff and Some Pondering

Yesterday as I was clearing the table the idea popped into my head that I should give MacDuff a go at a One Hour Wargame scenario and that I should try an 1860's "Colonial" game.  I haven't gotten around to building my planned colonial native forces yet but I scrounged enough of the Brethren  of the coast to give it a go.

Roughly 1/2 way through and the final units are just entering the board while the Green Tigers have repulsed the first two rushes by mobs of swordsmen leaving a rather vulnerable salient. As long as the first card goes to the Queen it should be all right..... 
The scenario (whose number I would have to look up) was a surprise attack by the Queen's troops to seize a bridge. Both sides had a stream of reinforcements rushing to the field of battle. As is my custom I rolled twice on the 3 chart rather than once on the 6 chart. The Queen fielded 3 Infantry units with rifles, 1 unit of Light Infantry with rifles, 1 Naval gun and a unit of Lancers. The Brethren had 3 units of massed irregulars with melee weapons and a handful of muskets, 2 units of light infantry with rifles and a gun.

The Brethren obviously had a chip on their shoulder about being ripped off their bases then left to moulder on the shelf for months because they rolled like fiends while the red coats were a bit rusty to be kind.  The game lasted a bit over an hour, maybe 90 minutes (It was interupted by various things as chores and supper.) and was OK. Yes, just OK, in part because I had trouble getting a handle on the narrative and what exactly these units represented, partly because I rubbed up against several of the grey areas such as group moves where I had gotten no farther than deciding that they needed some more thought and improvement and partly because of the disjointed nature of the card initiative by unit without some sort of leader+group cohesion rule.

Still, it was OK with some tense  moments, some good and some bad luck, some tactical errors being punished and some but not all bold risks paying off.  Once again the Black Fox maintained his reputation as a bold and successful leader.

The 3rd rush, with the Black Fox in the thick of it has cracked the centre and it was all downhill from there. I don't think Larsen's Lancers have ever had an unluckier day. 
However, what this game did was bump me into spending yet more time thinking about what I was trying to achieve and revisiting various appropriate historical actions of the very small to small size to picture what they would look like as MacDuff scenarios.  The games have convinced me that the rules need to be expanded again and a lot more explanations and examples added. I also need to translate the sort of impromptu decisions I tend to make mid-game into distinct, clear, written rules.

That sounds like a lot of work and led to two more questions: "Are these going to be the rules that I would most want to use or the rules I use because I wrote them?" and "If I put that much work into them including scenarios, sample translations of historical actions into wargame units, notes  on my philosophy and so, should I then capitalize  on the work by going the self publishing route?".

The first question is as yet unanswered beyond thinking that if they would not be my first choice without radical changes, this may not be the best use of my time. The second question depends in part on this being a set of rules I believe in and want to use myself and but also on looking into copyright issues since they were originally published in the Courier.

In truth though I tend to prefer playing games at a slightly higher level than MacDuff was theoretically designed for  and which play faster. That's why I originally wrote Morschauser Meets MacDuff, which became Hearts of Tin,  and I've found myself thinking about those rules during both of the last games. A battle like Crysler's Farm or La Belle Famille (Niagara) is supposed to be pushing the high end for a MacDuff game but should be a small to average Hearts of Tin game. It is possible that MacDuff should be left pretty much as is and I should focus on a "final" polished version of Hearts of Tin.
I'm going to have to brush off one of the old versions of Hearts of Tin (HofT) and try a NQSYW game with them before I go much further.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Plot and Plan Thicken

Not only did this game help me to decide some rules questions, it also helped me make some campaign  decisions.

A standard NQSYW Charge! infantry company is 16 privates, an officer, a sergeant and a drummer or 19 figures while a standard MacDuff infantry unit is between 8 and 12 figures although a full Charge! company would work if I was using smaller figures or a bigger table.  It occurred to me that by adding 1 extra officer per company each of my Charge! companies could provide 2 MacDuff companies of 10 figures. Each of my 2 company NQSYW regiments could thus provide a full 4 company MacDuff Regiment.

Thus it was that for the first go round with the scenario, the one in the teaser, each side had one battalion with 3 or 4 companies on a single card as well as individual light and artillery companies each on their own card. It was a pretty good game despite some rules blips that had to be settled, but as so often before when playing this sort of game, I occasionally got  confused about when a company was a unit and when a group of companies was a unit. Past attempts to not only write this up in a clear concise manner but to also apply the rules evenly during games has always been an issue. That is why I eventually gave in and dropped the battalion rules until the 20th Anniversary loomed.

Early in the dress rehearsal. 

So I reset and replayed the scenario with 12 figure units, each on their own card. The first game had been good but the second one was better. This was the game that I chose for the battle report.  But how did that organization compare to historical battles of the right size?

 I hit the books looking at historical scenarios of the right size such as Belle Famille (Niagara), Crysler's Farm and others. Sure enough, the evidence supports a tendency for detachments to be made before  a battle rather than during it and they don't usually rejoin during a game. More than that it seems not uncommon in small battles for battalions to be split before the battle while several small detachments might be combined. Excellent, the ground scale indicates that each of my companies really represents 2 or 3 real ones anyway. Anniversary edition or not, that whole multi-level unit thing can be dropped in favour of variable sized units.    I may end up losing the special Colour Party rules or at least modifying them.

Mid-game the lancers charged over the bridge breaking the Picquet which was down to nearly 1/2 strength but declined to pursue into the fresh Grenadiers.

BUT, how will this mesh with my NQSYW organization? Well, I could still go with 10 man companies if 19 is too big  but the more I think about it, I'm not likely to ever need to haul all of my NQSYW units to a convention game and the next one is probably at least 2 or 3 years anyway. So I will just paint 12 man MacDuff units now, probably in pairs, and worry about it later should the occasion arise.

The whole convention topic then led me to think about whether I would ever want to take a scenario set in this fictional campaign setting to a convention or would  I rather take it as a fictional scenario in an historical setting? I'd been looking at Danish and Saxon uniforms as a basis for a non-British army in red but since many of my NQSYW units are actually painted as historical units, the thought struck me that I might as well keep on doing it and leave my options open.

A push over the stream by a two companies of Pandours highlighted the question of whether or not the two companies counted as 1 unit or two for being broken. In the end the attack took so many hits it didn't matter and a last ditch charge by the 4 remaining lancers failed to retrieve the day.

So, the die is cast, the first unit from the new French moulds will be painted as the Swiss regiment Karrer from the Louisburg garrison as originally planned. The first unit of a new party to the war, the Maritime League, an alliance of minor trading states. (or not, a change from red and blue might be nice.)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Battle of Newlanding: War comes to the Colonies

What follows is an extract from MacDuff's "Illustrated History of the First Furland War" .

Once the picquet on the bridge opened fire on the approaching Chasseurs, any hope vanished for a peaceful resolution to the confrontation between the Duchy's mercenary garrison and the King's Advance Guard.
"It was on the 6th of June that Colonel Konrad led his Pandours out of the North Pass and appeared just south of the little port of Newlanding. The settlement at Newlanding is small and only the presence of a small Duchy fort gave any hint of the outport's importance. It is the only seaport East of the Hye Mountains and west of the Great Marsh. The port is connected by road both to the North Pass which leads to Rosmark during the eight months of the year when the pass is clear of snow and to the villages scattered throughout the interior of Furland. The Colonel's orders were to seize and hold or destroy the bridge over the Blough Taip* to prevent all trade not licensed by the King."

*Note: Many large streams and small rivers in Furland are called Taips by the settlers. It is derived from the native term Tae Ap or fast running water.

Unable to stand the combined fire of the Pandours and Konrad's artillery, the bridge picquet fell back as the relief companies arrived.
"As reinforcements rushed forward, a bloody firefight developed with heavy losses on both sides. The King's Pandours seemed to be made of sterner stuff than their Irish mercenary opponents and time after time their companies reformed after heavy losses and returned to the fight. "

In the face of a fierce fire from the Irish Grenadiers, supported by local volunteers, the Pandours begin to waver.
"Finally Colonel Konrad stirred himself. He sent his lancers over the Taip to flank the stubborn Irish Grenadiers and led his last reserve forward for an all out assault. "

Victory hangs in the balance.

"The Lancers dashed across the Taip at a gallop but were met with a hail of roundshot from the fort's artillery and a volley from the rallied piquets and were driven back. Under a hail of fire from the Grenadiers and Volunteers, the Second Company of Pandours began to waver and Colonel Konrad had to rush to their head and hold them to their work with oaths and coarse words amidst a cloud of smoke."

"The steadest volley of the battle then erupted from the two remaining Pandour companies and the Grenadiers broke and ran. A round or two from the gun was sufficient to send the remaining Picquets flying back to the fort while the volunteers ran back to get their families and valuables on board ship."

With the bridge destroyed the Pandours fall back.
"Judging his remaining force insufficient to take the fort or silence the guns and uncertain of what enemy reinforcements might arrive by sea, the Colonel ordered his men to break down the bridge which they did under a desultory canon fire. With that done he retired to the crossroad and made camp."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Imagineering is hard work

A rainy Saturday? Perfect. Time to let MacDuff out for some exercise, just have to pick a scenario and grab some units. Now, no more Acadia, this will be using my Rosmark troops against...ahh.....hmmmm..uhhh...oh. The planning hasn't got that far yet. Hmmm.

After rejecting various scenarios and since I was tired and fuzzy headed, I decided to nip out to the shed to cast up some of the new PA French and then do some painting instead of playing a game. Once I had enough figures for two MacDuff companies, I started thinking about uniform colours, choice of hat styles and campaign factions. Which side are these going to be on now? Will they be regulars or militia?

Bright Harbour on a June Afternoon.
(What is up with this f@$#@Samsung? I may have to try to teach myself how to use the manual camera settings on it.

Wargaming in a known setting is so easy. You've got a selection of units from known opponents,  just plunk 'em down and this little skirmish won't affect known history. But with a not yet defined campaign where you're not even sure who is fighting who let alone what their uniforms are, well that's a different matter. Every skirmish and battle to date has affected and shaped how the backstory has developed and its all on record and so will all future battles.

Some days it does seem as if I like to make life difficult for myself. Keeps it interesting though.

After a considerable period of pondering uniform colours and hat and coat styles as well as my stock of moulds and planned, possible future purchases, I decided this all needed more thought and planning.

So far, all the Rosmark Wars of Succession games have been fought using my normal Rosmark units on both sides. Going ahead I would like to develop a distinct style for each opposing faction without negating any of the reported facts to date if possible.

There are three possibilities that I am considering:

a) Have all native troops on both sides continue to use French styles with mercenaries and allies in foreign styles and with a mix of coat colours on both sides.

b) Reconcile the Maritime Duchies with Rosmark and invent a new enemy in distinct uniforms.

c) Return all the original Rosmark (French) units to the King leaving only the 2 units of brown coated militia which used the old PA Rossbach generic musketeer figures with open coat and some cavalry and gunners, then add new Maritime Provinces units from new Austrian and Prussian moulds reinforced by British should they appear.

So I turned back to the table and started pushing terrain and ideas around until....

Pandours! Sound the alarm!

Somewhere East of the great Hye Mountains, a detachment of the mercenary Irish Regiment, still in the pay of the Maritime Provinces, form the garrison of a fort guarding a Maritime Province trading post.

All is quiet until a column of the King's Pandours appears from the road running West through the mountain passes to Rosmark. Rosmark is at peace, what does this mean?

The long roll sounds and the garrison turns to.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wargaming in the Middle Ages

There is nothing like a Wargaming Convention to get mind and spirit moving and get one excited to get moving on something.
OK Not that sort of Middle Age.

Its also a good reminder that while I'm not one of the younger gamers out there, I'm not the one of oldest either and there is good reason to anticipate a decade or two more of wargaming to come. Time to get serious about dealling with Wargamer's Middle Age Spread.

So, the plan is more expansion and contraction, more of less as it were. The urge to do all the not 'done right yet' things and to plan on doing everything has weakened yet again while the urge to get deeper into a few of the unrealized campaigns has gotten stronger.

Between Fall In! and Huzzah!, I've regained my interest in low level engagements and after playing on a bigger table at home and even bigger ones at the conventions, as well as playing on smaller tables, I've also gained an added interest in non-gridded games on smaller surfaces.

Here is what I plan to work on over the next six or so months.

1) I'm not really a tricorne fan but I do love the Prince August semi-flats and they are, all in all, if you mix ranges as I do, the most complete range of moulds in 40mm. Its also, unintentionally, become one of my larger figure collections and I'm still adding molds and figures so I want to use it. I can also feel an urgent desire to stop talking about fictional campaigns and do some! So, despite a gulity feeling that I really OUGHT to be doing something historical  from Nova Scotia's history, last winter's planned campaign set in the wild coast lands to the North and East of Rosmark is going ahead. Look for wooden forts, wooden ships and wild irregulars in fur caps  as well as Rosmark and Duchy regulars, local militia and possibly even foreign allies from the lands beyond the forests, oh, and a map!
But, don't look for big pitched battles. This will be a war of skirmishes and small expeditions. Charge! is the set of rules for NQSYW battles but for my private sub campaign I will be spending a lot of effort over the next two months to polish the 20th Anniversary Edition of With MacDuff to the Frontier and plan to use them on this frontier.

2)   I have also been itching to do some more Prince Michael games, or something equivalent and to get deeper into that campaign setting but I'm stymied with too many choices  of figures in different periods and scales. Again I am cutting some cords. I didn't set out to build an Elastolin Roman army, they just came with other stuff and since I still have a thing for the Eagle of the Ninth and Sword at Sunset as well as Prince Valiant I painted them up, just like I started painting the 25mm Sassinid army I never built in college. In both cases my head isn't really there and they have stalled and stalled me in indecision (guilt is too strong a word) I've had some fun with what I've painted up but it feels like yesterday and I will be making an effort to re-home both of those with any funds being directed back into what is left. I will keep two 25mm DBA/HOTT/Impetus sized Scots and English armies. That will get me back to where I was with the 40mm Five Winds project with Medieval, early and late, Barbarian, and Eastern hordes to work with. The rules will be twitched into a variant of Rough Wooing but I need to work more on rules for characters and the use of single stand units in skirmishes. The latter thought  worried me but looking back over the Prince Michael adventures where all figures were singles, I don't see that having the groups of minions on bases would be much different than having them bunched together as units of single based figures, except possibly, when it comes to the occasional photo op.

3) The ACW in 1/72nd. Nothing big here except that this  is likely to remain my only full sized horse and musket battle collection and so I can relax and leave the current 3 stand units. It is coming off the grid though and will carry the Hearts of Tin banner now that I've tried the various options to see how they each feel. This'll give the closest feel to an OSW type wargame.   I don't actually expect to do much with this lot this year but its place is now known.

4) Now don't panic. All the 19thC Square Brigadier/Portable Wargame figures in various 40mm and 54mm collections aren't suddenly disappearing. Its just that whether or not I get the itch to paint up a few more figures, I can pluck 2 armies and have a game going with about 10 minutes notice so there's nothing that needs to be done right now and I'm not planning any background development or campaigns this year.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Huzzah 2017 Part Two

Saturday morning was to have been a morning for wandering about looking at games, chatting and so on but... one of the HAWKS who was scheduled to run a game Saturday morning had had to cancel so our table was empty in a full venue. I decided to set up an unscheduled  Portable Wargame session and nabbed one of the Sunday signees as well as Rob and gave the Zulus an outing. It seems the Zulu miniatures were unable to pass on any of the experience gained during the play tests and superior technology won out in each round. The last one was close however.

See Rob's blog for more pictures of the Pike and Shot game and the Portable Wargame.  ( sharpbrush.blogspot.ca )
and also Jeff's blog. (armchaircommander.blogspot.ca)

After a quick lunch on the run it was time for some American Old School Wargaming with Joe Linares and George Nafziger's Pas de Charge! from 1977. Joe had gamed with George back in the day and had acquired his collection of Hinton Hunts.

Little figures, big battalions and brain exercising arithmetic.

The game was based on the battle of Verona/Caldiero but boiled down to fit the table size and time available. Once again there was a good group of gamers on both sides of the table and some tense moments with some failed high probability and successful low probability rolls keeping everyone on their toes.  The combat rules involved a little bit of simple arithmatic like (no of figures x (2d10+factors)/200) sort  or say (34 muskets * 73) etc. We did a fair amount of rounding and guestimating on the corner of the table I was on but I noticed a few smartphones with calculater apps appearing on the far corner of the table). Despite that the rules were easy to grasp and played quickly.

The battle lines are drawn c Turn 3 or 4.
Alas these pictures are the best my cellphone could do in that light, the rest were even worse.

I commanded the Austrian Advance Guard, the only troops on table at the start. I placed my gun on a small knoll in the middle with infantry on either side and Uhlans guarding my open left. 

My Uhlans did very well, not running away until the enemy got close. My Grenzers did some what better, trading fire for several turns and not running away until charged by four French battalions. Even then they had the presence of mind to successfully make the narrow chance shot at the enemy General as they ran. The French then failed three fairly easy morale checks one after the other leaving one disordered battalion to charge my lone gun.

This gun was my Premiere Etoile of the game. It drew first blood in the game, helped drive back the first French infantry probe,  routed an opposing gun as it unlimbered and then with my personal figure at its head, stared calmly at the mob of French infantry rushing uphill at them. As the crisis approached they passed a difficult morale check and then  unleashed the most deadly possible shower of canister into the French attack sending the mob running back down the hill. 

Since the opposing forces had fought to a messy draw on the far side of the table and time was up, that battery was key at our holding the vital road exit. At least until the French regrouped  but that would be another game. Its a pity one can't really take credit for lucky rolling but I will claim some for choosing a solid position and not letting myself be drawn out of it and for not retiring prematurely in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.  Luckily the overall Austrian Commander was one of the better sort who used his reserves well and supported his subordinates.

Anyway, I'm not tempted to go back to rules needing constant arithmetic and much counting of noses but I had a good time and it did get me thinking about slightly more tactical detail in low level games.

My HOTT army in battle as I stare befuddled and rather bare headed at a ruler trying to remember how many cm=100 paces.
Propaganda shot by Rob, stolen from his blog.
Saturday evening was a much needed bit of relaxation and real food and the annual chance to catch up on life outside wargaming with Rob and Irene. We followed that up with a game of 1/72nd Hordes of the Things. I found that the previous 4 days and a few sips of a very nice Shipyard Ale (They support Huzzah so if you see one grab it and support them. One of the tastier American beers actually (sorry).) were getting to me and I was having a hard time thinking clearly but that in itself may have helped as did not being one of Rob's usual opponents. That is to say I made rather different tactical choices than his usual opponents make making me a little harder to predict. I was also still lucky but a victory first time out for a wargame army is always sweet. (Future opponents please note that buying me dinner does not guarantee you a victory) 

One of Sunday's big events the 25/28mm North West Frontier game.

Sunday morning and the last gaming session followed in its time. Already many people had cleared out but the room was by no means empty. I was up early(ish) and had two Portable Wargame tables set up.

Eric, another HAWK, loses Hook's Farm to the Americans Blue Army.
On one table I had the squared cloth and a choice of 54mm armies: Hook's Farm with Red vs Blue or Zulus vs British on the same terrain minus buildings.

On the other table I had a 3" gridded Hotz mat with the choice of 1/72nd Russian Civil War or Boer War.
Red and White fight over control of a small village.
I was too busy briefing players and answering questions to keep records of how many games were played or of any coherent details but I think there were about 7 games played by 6 new players. In every case the players picked up the rules quite simply though it took a few games to start picking up some of the tactical subtleties. Most of the games were fairly evenly fought where both players had equal experience and all were fast. Everyone who played seemed to have enjoyed the game and a few asked about where to get a copy since it seemed to fill a niche for them.

The 54's were quite popular with passer's by and with the players. (Only 1 game was played with the 1/72nd setup).

Another photo stolen from Rob's blog (see above).
For those who excuse off-scale minis please not that while Rob is noticeably taller than me in pictures, his head is roughly the same size.  
And then it was over, just a long ride back, another short visit with family, a planned tooth extraction a day or so  after I got back and so on. In other words, back to real life. Sighhhhh.

Its going to be a very busy domestic month ahead but there will be more wargaming blog posts appearing here regardless, just not about Rough Wooing, Zulus or Portable Wargaming, not right away at least. Time to get back to those new Prince August moulds I think and possibly some skirmish-y games.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Huzzah 2017 Part 1

Ignoring the first 1,000 km of driving, the weekend began Thursday night when we arrived at our first destination to find our hostess in a bit of a stew. Being a novice at wargaming and figure painting Julie had bravely volunteered to paint a contingent of Pathan's for Sunday's big NW Frontier game. Now her painting experience had focused on single pieces like this: ............

(Hmm this photo looked crisper on my smartphone)

........not on rapid batch painting of two dozen 25mm Pathan's. The basic colours were laid in but time was running out! Luckily, veteran painters were now on hand and soon 6 people, 2 of whom had never before put brush to figure, had been pressed into service and coached and by the time pizza arrived a band of warlike Pathans was ready for action. Not only did they look pretty good individually, they also looked cohesive and when put down on the table on Sunday morning they charged fiercely and broke a unit of Sepoys!

The Hasty Tribe charges!

We finished off the evening with a 4 person + GM, fantasy, person-to-person, arena sort of skirmish. This isn't usually my kind of thing but I sorted through the available characters and selected a Ranger who was reasonably fast and proficient with both bow and sword. I then did my best to persuade various Barbarians and Fighters that I was fast enough that if I didn't manage to turn them into pin cushions they might collapse from boredom and fatigue  while trying to catch me and be easy prey for whoever  else was left. Whether the threat of boredom worked or they felt sorry for me, the other 3 fought until just 1 badly wounded, exhausted barbarian was left to stagger towards me and a few arrows settled the question. Alas no pictures were taken.

The convention itself started on Friday and Gary and I were there bright and early as was Rob who had driven up the 1,000 km from Maryland the day before. This gave Rob and I the chance to grab an empty table and go through a very small game to bring him up to speed on our Rough Wooing rules which I had, of course, tweaked since the last game some years ago.

If we'd been familiar with the units and rules the cards could have been pulled off to the side but it was handy to have them with the units. Luckily the 54mm figures were not lost amongst the clutter of stat cards and leader chits. 

We then took part in a 54mm "Very Civile Actions" ECW skirmish. In keeping with my experience throughout the weekend I found myself playing with a great group of people which was enough to render the game a pleasure to take part in. My character was mortally wounded while heroically leading the defence of a house blocking access to the critical crossroad which was a satisfying end. I rather suspect we were in trouble if the game had gone on much longer but perhaps not, in any event we were still holding after three hours and that had never seemed inevitable. And... no, I am not tempted to adopt the rules. They worked ok but not my style.
What initially seemed like a climatic charge turned into a bit of a stand off as the troopers fired their pistols over the cannon at the pikes. 

Friday night Rob and I hosted our Rough Wooing game. The scenario was the same one I had soloed and had hosted at Kentville, just bigger with more figures. The test games had done their job and the scenario played out to a conclusion after a tight game.

For those who missed those posts, the scenario was adapted from Stuart Asquith's Solo Wargaming. Two opposing forces have met at a road junction, both having orders to place a garrison in the town while exiting two Regiments off the far end of the table by road. Ron provided all but one of the French units as well as a stand of English Demi-lancers from his suitably converted Meisterzinn homecasts while I provided the rest of the troops.

The Advance Guard cavalry clash as the Landsknechts provided by the Emperor march on.
The French had the better plan, or perhaps I should say, based purely on observation, the French had a plan. They sent their advance guard cavalry backed by a unit of pikes to slow the English, sent their light infantry to seize the town and sent the heavy cavalry and a second unit of pikes to bypass the fighting and get off. Alas the French nobles appeared reluctant to miss the fighting and consistently rolled as low as possible for movement distances and the pikemen had no room to go past them. The Englishmen and their German mercenaries threw themselves on the old foe and there was much heavy fighting with many casualties on both sides before the English remembered the victory conditions.

An overview a little later. Just before I forgot to keep taking pictures.
Midway through the game the opposing Imperial and French pikemen settled into a push of pike amidst a swirl of archers and arquebusiers on the fringe and the focus of players and spectators was inevitably drawn towards that point until both sides remembered that the outcome had minimal effect on victory.

English billmen and archers stormed the town in bitter street fighting which wrecked both regiments. Behind the infantry both armies' remaining cavalry galloped towards the exit, or in the case of the French Gensdarmes slowly walked their horses while stopping to polish their armour, have a cup of wine.............. However, eventually the horsemen on both sides reached the decision point and in a confused series of melees where the French did some of the best and worst rolling of the game, the French cavalry was broken. That left the English with two regiments of not quite shaken cavalry ready to march off and while neither side held the town, the English still had 2 regiments in the fight including a fresh one against a single French unit and the French conceded rather than expend more whitemetal in hope of a draw.
I'm not sure how I managed this split exposure but the bottom portion is close to right. The upper, or French, unit is one of Rob's. The rest are part of my motley crew. 

After that it was time for bed and oddly it is again. Part two will cover Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Huzzah 2017: Day 3 Heading Home

Well Huzzah 2017 is over.

Once again a great event, well staged and hosted by the Maine Wargamers. Thanks to a combination of good  health,  good weather,  good friends and good fellow gamers, one of the most enjoyable conventions for me in years which is saying a lot.

1 of 7 Portable Wargames played in 3 different  periods and 2 scales.
Tonight I am ensconced at my my sister's  with hopes of getting home  tomorrow.  On Wednesday or Thursday I will hopefully  write an illustrated report of the convention or at least what I can still remember of it!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Huzzah 2017 Day 2 Teaser

Another good day!

Pas de Charge and Hinton Hunt, from the Nafzinger collection.

Huzzah2017 Day 1 Teaser

Day 1 is done. 1 game played and 1 GM'd. Both with a great bunch of gamers and both good games.

Time for bed!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

and they're off!

Amazingly compactly  packed and organized compared to my usual. A bit unsettling really.


More as we go.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

D-3 Pre-Packing Checks

Its the usual May crunch, trying to get yard work and gardening done when the weather is good while trying to get everything ready and tested for Huzzah.
Blue vs Red
One of my checks was to re-read what I had included in the description for the event listing. Friday night's 16thC game: OK, Sunday Morning's Portable Wargame tutorial..ah what? various options, yeah, including "Toy Soldier" ..(right! crap, haven't finished basing the Blue troops)... "or try my Square Brigadier.." (What! Double Crap, did I say that? Which version?)

So, thankfully a bit of sunshine did not equate to warm today so apart from a short, shivery, spell of pushing the roto tiller around one corner of the veggie patch I set up the Travelling Mat and deployed the newly rebased Red and Blue armies along with a few dual purpose Zulu War units and sat down to produce a Quick Reference sheet for the Portable Wargame. Luckily that was on my list for after the convention anyway.

Rather than wade through a dozen of the latest trial versions and variations, I sat down and typed what came to mind, pushed a few stands around and then updated them as events in the game prompted me to remember various decisions made recently like once again banishing hit removal because it makes the game drag on, and returning once again to d6 group orders. Then I updated the QRS and played a game through to confirm  that this was all on track with my post game thoughts after the last game.  The new Quick Reference for the Square Brigadier (1870's) is now available here.

On Monday the serious packing begins!

Thursday, May 11, 2017


A week and a Wake Up till Huzzah. It's time for some of those last minute  things.

Plastic Soldier Co Yankees painted by me for Ron a few years back.

Well OK I  wasn't  thinking of the 20mm hexed adaptation of Bolt Action that Ron and I played on Monday  or watching this great 1943 movie featuring the  RCN, real corvettes, shots of Halifax and rather realistic shots of life and storms at sea. (Based on my admittedly limited and much later experience in rather larger destroyers. The Sweepers we did navigation training in rarely went far from land.)

BUT, today I did finally start rebasing enough 54mm American Federal troops and a few Guards in Bearskins to allow for a Red vs Blue toy soldier option for my Portable Wargame 'walk up and try it' sessions at Huzzah. Should be able to try them out on the weekend before packing.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Long Ridge, Short Report

My apologies to anyone expecting a thorough battle report. The game was as much about exploring rules for what is a relatively new style of wargaming for me as anything else and once the game was done my blogging time was mostly spent editing rules. Tomorrow I am off to Halifax for a visit and game with Ron so a hasty report it is!
Featherstone's Division of Rebs hits the weak Yankee left flank.

The main ideas behind this game and set of rules were:
a) to give me an ACW game that was different from everything else I was doing rather than being a variation,
b) to allow me to fight all or part of various historical actions as well as fictional battles of similar size in an afternoon,
c) to allow me to use my existing collection on my current table with a minimum of work and reorganization
d) to give me another non-gridded game for balance. (and, I am embarrassed to admit, to avoid appearing trendy as much as possible!)

Mid game. The Zouaves have arrived in the nick of time to shore up the centre but the Reb left wing has flanked the Yankee right and is pressing hard while the Yankee left is crumbling. 
Having sorted through the painted and based figures I arranged a very slight numerical advantage for the Confederates. General Kinch's corp consisted of 3 divisions each of 3 brigades and 2 batteries. (More like 12 gun artillery battalions probably). The Federals defended a line of hills with 3 Divisions, 2 with 3 Brigades and a battery, 1 with 2 Brigades and a battery and a Corps artillery battery. Some units on both sides started off table by a random process.  The basic flow of the battle is summarized in the pictures.

The view from the other flank.
I stopped once or twice to make changes to details or to the play sequence, partly to improve the flow and simplify/speed the game and partly to enforce letting go of inappropriately low detail. For example, the player is supposed to be the corps commander so limbering batteries should be someone else's concern and need not be shown, only the result.

One of the advantages of going off grid was that I could fall back on an old, simple and highly effect method of introducing the effect of "friction", which is to say dice based movement. In this case a simple 2d6 roll read in inches for infantry and artillery with Commanders having the ability to join one unit per turn to boost it by adding another die. Nothing like riding madly to spur on a Brigade that rolled 3 on 2 dice only to roll a 1 for your boot. Oops perhaps more cool analysis next time and less yelling!

At the moment the rules, which are available free here: Plastic Army of the Potomac,  are a brief basic summary and by the time I flush them out and add in the extras, engineering, amphibious ops, supplies and hospitals and so on they'll probably end up about twice as long. They are in effect though its not necessarily obviousl, an re-imagining of Hearts of Tin at a higher level and borrowing many ideas from past versions.     

The end. The Federal left division routed two turns ago and now the centre has followed. The right is still holding but must retreat before it is surrounded and crushed. General Kinch has won the day. 

Time for bed. The ACW in 1/72nd will return.