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, October 14, 2017

No Animals Were Injured

It was the King's County Tabletop Game Fall Game Day in Kingston NS today so I took the opportunity to run 40mm Elastolin Late Roman vs Barbarian game using Mildly Modified Medieval Mayhem rules.

The game was played for the fun of a game with friends,  but also to give me some practice for my upcoming Huzzah game which will be a larger multi-faction affair.  
Martin, Mike & Paul early on. The cards in the river mark sections that have been checked for fords but not yet revealed to the enemy. Face cards were fords, a Joker indicated a difficult ford. A short ode please for the brave Saxon warriors swept away....
This game was a 3 sided border skirmish in Northern Britain. Roman, Saxon and Pict all had different victory conditions.  The Romans had to evict all non-Romans from the Roman side of the river while minimizing losses. The Saxons had to establish a bridgehead , minimize losses and get rid of as many Romans as possible regardless of who did it. The Picts were out to bring home some beef on the hoof while minimizing losses.

Bonus points were earned by having your Commander engage in an heroic duel with an enemy Commander.

One of my little modifications was to give each player one die which could be used once to reroll a die for his commander including to reroll an enemy impact die on him. Two were used in the game, one failed, the other helped the Roman commander survive the first fatal blow against him........

The Climactic Moment.
As his Saxon allies waver, Dearg Mor finally lays low Count Martinus
(who stays down this time)
The short version is that we enjoyed the game. It took about 3 hours to play, had some ups and downs in fortune and the winner remained in doubt right up to the end. All in all then, it worked.

However,  the rules were designed for a narrow set of parameters with the intent of being able to read everything off the table as in looking at the table and being able to see what was what. That worked well with the 100 Years context with only a handful of figure types so that it was easy to tell knight from man-at-arms from archer and no units, just retinues.

In this game, with smaller, more fanciful, figures and about a dozen variations of troop type and 4 levels of morale, it was much harder for players to recognize who was what. It also felt odd to me for Roman infantry to drift from unit to unit and so on. The skirmishers and horse archers sort of worked without any special rules but at the same time they didn't really feel 'right'.

I'm also concerned because even with only 3 players I found myself taking rules  shortcuts and being very liberal as to what I allowed in order to keep the game flowing. I have no idea how Rob manages to keep so many single combats flowing with 6 or 8 players. I suspect this may be where having fewer troop types helps?

The end.
The Saxons are clinging to a bridgehead but have lost 50% including their Earl, and will no longer advance. The Romans have failed to evict the invaders and have lost their Count and nearly 1/2 their men. The Picts haven't captured any cows but songs will be written about Dearg Mor's victorious duel with the Count and only one warrior was lost so it was a good day for them. Besides they have to pass the 1/2 empty Saxon camp on their way home, might be a few surplus cows there now...... 

Anyway, my conclusions are that the Mayhem system could work OK for my game, but I would like something which flows faster, less time spent on combat resolution and identifiable units which stay together with separate characters.  Something like what I used  for a 54mm  Prince Valiant game at Cold Wars about 14 or so  years ago.

Needs some thought.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Over Two Years in the Making

Bit of trivia for the day. It seems the bugler who sounded the Charge for the Light Brigade at Balaklava was named William Brittain. Not the same spelling as the famous maker of Toy Soldiers but close enough to elicit a "Hunh! How about that.".
Oerberg Republican Constabulary galloping towards their assigned bases.

Just got to cut one more base and mount these lads up. I did some digging back through old posts and it seems they've been in the "to be done" pile since at least March of 2015. Practically new then!

I had a mental image of how they should look but couldn't quite remember what sparked it. The Blue and khaki smacked of Teddy Roosvelt and his Rough Riders so I looked them up and close but not quite right. Eventually I remembered a B&W lithograph in my old faithful, pages falling out old,  Boer War book. Sure  enough there they were, illustrations of the British South Africa Mounted Police, in action during the Matabele War  and Jameson's Raid. I must have imagined the colours at the time based on the B&W shading where the shirts were darker. As far as I can tell it is roughly right though in younger years I might have made an attempt to roll the sleeves up and open the neck.

Anyway eight had been bought to provide Mounted Police and ordinary Commandos for Oerberg so they've ended up in the right place.

Dismounted O.R.C's to follow along with non-uniformed Oerbergers ere too long.

Monday, October 9, 2017

What I meant to say.....

It didn't take long for me to realize that I had not been clear in my last post that I was celebrating having solved a longstanding puzzle to do with the background and history of the fictional world that I initially started work on nearly 20 years ago. However, I was too busy casting figures, modifying maps and imagineering (as Bill Protz says) to post again yesterday.

Thank you all for the well meant, and appreciated, suggestions.
Atlantican Guides. Grey sheepskin cap with red bag, black coat.  Zinnbrigade conversion.
(Any fleeting to resemblance to the winter uniform we wore at Military College in the '70's is merely nostalgic.) 

Meanwhile, I've been busy casting and converting some new units.

Sometime this month I will post an updated map and background page on the, so far, largely unknown northern half of Atlantica.  That will lead in turn to the real start of planning and preparing for the series of wars that started in 1895.

Hopefully, I will also write some more posts about my experience of imagining and developing a fictional background. I was  a little surprised that I've actually written very little on the idea of it since 2011! For a teeny bit more on the idea and some issues see the following 2011 posts:

Uncovering the history of places that never were.

More on discovering imaginary peoples

The original development c 2000 of what became known as Atlantica was documented on my old webpage: With MacDuff on the Web. One day I should recover the files from disk while (if) I still can.

Oerberg Republican Constabulary.Scruby ACW on Zinnbrigade horses.
Blue shirts, drab hats and pants.

But in the mean time, there are troops to paint!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

So where is he going with this then?

For a number of years now I've been trying and failing to get  a "Colonial" campaign going within the context of the shiny Toy Soldier Island of Atlantica. I've started on a couple of what seemed like good ideas which have all stalled.

There seem to have two major sorts of obstacle. The first comes when I just can't seem to get motivated to work on the sort of figures that fill out what seems like a good option.

The second comes when there  is some sort of clash between what I get from my reading about the original history and what I want from my games. For example, the Boer War appeals but the range of credible scenarios is very limited and one has to either accept the limitations or leave the inspiration far behind. Neither option is attractive in cases where both matter.
There is one sort of troops that I originally wanted to fit into Atlantica but later  erased as a different backstory developed, almost against my will. That was Cossacks! I also wanted to sort of Afghan-ish mountain tribes and some hint of an Indian Mutiny sort of 'thing' where trained native troops rebelled. All of this was of course to be set around the middle of the 19th Century and WWI was not on the radar. 

As the time frame moved forward I came up with a vague blend of ideas blending Boer War, and Mexican revolution themes. These ideas could work but then a chance discovery did me in and sent me right back to long ago to old dreams of Cossacks, trains and machine guns.  

At the time I was looking at Canadian involvement in WW1 and also reading what I could find about the various non-European campaigns when I came across Colonel Dunster's diary from the Baku expedition. The what? Where is Baku and why were British trops there, let alone a handful of Canadians? Well, its in the Caucasus and they were there to train soldiers, including Armenians, to fight the Turks. I might  have let it go but at the time there was talk of a Canadian expedition to the region to train Armenian soldiers 100 years later.

Now, I have no intention or interest in setting up an historical campaign in this twisted, multi-faction setting that involved not only the British vs the Turks during WW1 and the Russian Civil War but also a host of bitter racial and religious factions with all the bloodshed and cruelty that tends to unleash. 

However, its alien enough to me that I'm happy to invent my own fake-history and  I've always had a 'thing' for Cossacks and for hardy mountain tribesmen, and WWI and for armoured cars, trains, and .... well. Have a look at this Australian War Memorial movie. The B&W clip should start at a significant point with a certain piece of equipment which is painted a very light  grey  which is fairly close to the tropical uniforms and the surrounding terrain.  

Baku Armoured Car Clip

The whole clip is well worth watching though. Surprisingly  there are other videos on the Caucasus in WW1, not surprising most are not in English though often dubbed or subtitled. 

Meanwhile planning of forces is going hand to hand on work rolling the backstory back to when there were supposed to be free range Cossacks or Circassians in what has since become known as Atlantica. The shift to the
South Atantic has helped.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Preparing for the Fall Campaigning Season

"Yes, I know that I approved the order,  Willoughby, but still, I mean, it IS rather a bright yellow don't you think?"

"Never mind, it is very modern after all and as you say, in the Fall, the ripe grain fields can be quite yellow.   Should do very nicely. Well done........Now, explain to me again why you had them paint little targets on the side?."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Once More Unto the Bridge!

After a bit of experimenting with possible alternates, I jotted down some brief rules notes and reset the table.
Turn 2. One company of British skirmishers has been driven back by NY Riflemen and a chance card has halted the 104th but otherwise, things are going smoothly.
This time the fort was defended by a 2 company battalion of Miitia aided by an independent company of Riflemen. The reinforcement consisted of a 4 company battalion of Regulars and another company of riflemen all under the recovered General Wavey.

The British were now deployed as 2 separate companies of skirmishers, 1 each  of indians and sedentary militia skirmishers, a 6 pounder and the 5 company strong 104th Foot.

Each company was represented by 4 figures and could take 4 hits. For formed battalions, 1 company is removed for each 4 hits. Each company fights with 1 die  except artillery which get 2. A unit taking hits equal to the number of stands left after applying hits checks morale. Isolated units need to roll to move.
Near the end of the game. All is yet to play for but the British appear to have the upper hand.
The turns clicked over so quickly I forgot to take pictures.

The Indians quickly crossed over the river  and then refused to move for most of the rest of the game until finally they rushed forward, took 1 hit and fled back into the woods. Between control checks, 1 shot and a morale test they managed 10 x 1's and 2's out of 11 die rolls!

The British skirmishers eventually managed to gang up on the riflemen and see them off while the gun and militia slowly picked off the garrison until they could take no more and on turn 14 they decamped.

That left the clash of the regulars, 4 companies vs 5. At this point, I'd like to launch an official complaint. In both games I used the same dice for both sides and in both games the smaller American force outshot the British one! Hrmmph!

Anyway as the two forces battled it out the larger size of the British battalion kept it in the fight but then about turn 13, the 104th appeared to reel under a particularly heavy US volley so Col. St. George pushed forward into the ranks, took a deep breathe and was shot from the saddle.  The 104th didn't retreat but they refused to move forward and occupy the empty blockhouse. Leaving General Wavey the chance to re-occupy with the brave but battered regulars on the last turn of the game thus saving the day for American honour.

Same scenario, roughly the same small forces but this time instead of a slow, 2 hour game that was over on turn 10 of 15, I had a quick paced game lasting about 45 minutes with several turns of fortune and a squeeker of a last minute win.

It was the sort of game where one forgets to stop and take pictures.

The poor Brits though! Out of 15 Initiative cards there were 6 face cards drawn. Two red jacks allowing the US to freeze the 104th twice on their approach march, 2 jokers meaning there ended up only being 13 turns instead of 15, a black King allowing an American unit to both move and fire and a black Ace with a chance of Gen Wavey being hit by stray bullet which he survived. Bloody cards are almost as biased as the dice!

When I get the scribbled notes written up I will post them but there are figures to work on too!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Double Crossing.

It was cold, damp and breezy yesterday.  Not good weather for house painting or many other things but just fine weather for  playing with toy soldiers.

"Pour it on Boys!"
(Irregular Mtd Officer, Scruby Infantry, original homecast foot officers and militia, Prince August Indians when they appear. All 40mm except 42mm Irregular and Prince August figs))
I confess to having been reluctant to turn to MacDuff and bothered that this should be the case but I persevered since this is exactly the sort of game that it was designed for. Since  I didn't feel like running back and forth around the table I skipped the 1 card per unit/formation activation approach in favour of drawing for initiative. That was probably a mistake as was splitting the light companies into smaller units.
The game begins. The British mission is to seize and destroy the blockhouse and bridge.
The Americans  began with a company of militia in the blockhouse supported by a detachment of riflemen (1/2 company). The rest of the riflemen and 2 companies of Regulars, led by General Wavey, are just marching on  from the far corner of the table.

Closer to the camera, Colonel St.George is leading the 4 companies of the 104th foot, supported by a 6 pounder and 3 half-companies of Indians and militia, to take the blockhouse and destroy the bridge.

A scale of 1 figure = 5 men would have been appropriate for this sort of action, giving forces of 160 men vs 230 men, but the ground scale is at roughly 1"=10 yards meaning those numbers should really be doubled to 320 vs 460 making the engagement a bit larger than one would expect.

Numbers matter but sometimes the numbers on the dice matter more than the number of figures! 
Having decided not to try to batter down the blockhouse with a 6 pounder, the various skirmishers were detailed to see off the enemy riflemen on the flanks or at least keep them occupied while the 104th formed line and advanced straight at 'em.

The completely biased dice helped prolong things as the deadly American shooting balanced their inferior numbers for a while. Once their General went down though and the British finally started levelling their volleys better, the American Regulars were forced to retire with heavy losses. The British were then able to capture the blockhouse with the bayonet with time to spare.

So, a very small but two hour long game taking up barely 2/3 of the available turns. Despite some frustrations from the variable length moves and a few tense or frustrating moments of combat when the dice seemed to be playing favourites, on the whole, the game was OK  but not more. It wasn't the sort of game to inspire me to paint or play more of the same.

At last the American Regulars have had enough and Colonel St. George leads his tired men in a charge on the blockhouse. Just as well he did lead them in person or they'd not have made it.

The game reminded of all the things that I don't like about Solo MacDuff. One rolls an awful lot of dice, and spends a lot of time running back and forth around the table while the game takes a (relatively) long time to play with too much rolling of dice and too little thinking. The large number of dice also means usually average results despite the occasional upset. Most of these things fade away with two or more players as you are only rolling 1/2 the dice and have to try to figure out what your opponent is thinking as well as worrying about which unit will activate next.

It took a lot of reflection and some idle pushing of figures about and considering of options to sort things out. Basically, it isn't a matter of me needing to "fix" a set of rules that weren't designed to fill my current desire or of me "having" to try to reconstruct historical small actions as accurately as I can, scales and all. It's a matter of me allowing myself to play games of toy soldiers set in an historical rather than a fictional setting.

The Square Brigadier has proven a good choice for that sort of game for larger battles where a formed battalion will fit in one square but for lower level skirmishes I have yet to settle on a satisfactory rule to handle multi-square (or hex) battalions though treating adjacent 'companies' as separate, supporting units is probably the most practical approach if not fully satisfactory.

However, before the "Grid", and the  "Square Brigadier" or the "Portable Wargame", there was Hearts of Tin which was not grid based. I've been looking for a chance to re-incorporate these rules into my arsenal and this could be it!

Reset the table! Places everyone! 

Next post. Game two!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Skirmish at MacDuff's Crossing (Teaser)

Its trees you need really, when you think about it. For Napoleonic wargames you need a Waterloo Farmhouse, for 18th and early 19th Century wargames set in Eastern Canada, you need trees.

For a small battle you need at least one tree per soldier and twice that would be better. For a skirmish you ought to have three to five trees per model soldier. I'm nowhere close to even 1 per soldier for a skirmish. I need to at least double my collection of trees. For Lower Canada I really should add some White Birches and Maples too, and then have them in Autumn colours like I did for my 1997 Chateauguay game. I'm ok with  going into winter quarters though and skipping the snow clad bare branch look.
Somewhere near the Quebec/Vermont border during the Autumn of 1812. (Just before the leaves change.....)
Anyway, enough troops have been shuffled back into their original 8 figure companies and based accordingly to have a small game. To save table space and headaches I've based them two figures per 30mmx30mm stand rather than individually on 25mm wide washers. Should have thought of that years ago. I'll still need some casualty caps but not as many as with the larger multi-figure stands. I've left the skirmisher only figures on washers though.

Might be a few days before I get a chance to play but the table looks better than it did covered in heaps of old, leftover castings and spare bits, books, scribbled notes and the shambles of three armies being taken apart and reorganized.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sitrep 1812

After a few false starts where I found myself subconsciously circling back to where I was, I spent a day or two rereading relevant bits of various memoirs and reviewing about a dozen small engagements or skirmishes.

That got me back on track  and made it clear that I was actually talking about MacDuff with "companies" as the basic units and scale of 1" to 10 yards and a figure scale of 1 figure to 10 men.
(In otherwords, I reached the same conclusions as I did in 1998 and 2005).

Two companies of the TBDth Infantry, with  new red facings, a fresh coat of gloss and brand, spanking, new bases, assault a small settlement.

In order to fit the figures into that figure/ground scale, and be stable, I have to mount them 2 to a 30mm wide base. Oddly enough,  this is the same basing and organization I selected for my late 19th/early 20th century armies, albeit for different reasons.

Having settled on scales and rules, I will be quite happy to violate the scales when converting historical actions into games for my collection. Some very small, but interesting, historical skirmishes, may be done 1:5 while most of the bigger battles along the Canadian border can be handled at 1:15.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Action in the Pass

Its been a busy week but today I squeezed in a small Bolt Action game at Ron's, 54mm in Tunisia.
My Recce patrol runs into a Jerry patrol in a pass through some rugged hills.

It was a fun little game but I've rarely seen such a hard to read, poorly written set of rules that can require flipping through 2-4 sections in 2 books to find some very simple, basic, rules buried in a mass of trite trivial narrative in various places.

Losses have been heavy but our plucky lads have given more than they've taken. I feel a counter attack coming on. If we can just hold it... 
I still don't know if I like them once I get past the frustration. Some aspects work well, others just seem odd compared to my reading or against past expectation and habit (which obviously may comfortable rather than right) and seem to lead to unlikely tactics and too many fight to the last man situations. None the less, it was good to get the 54's back on the table and the game was fun and reached a definite conclusion after 4 hours. (Over 1/2 of which time was probably spent leafing through the books or discussing the possible intended meanings of what was found.)

It seems I have developed  a preference for rule books that seek to explain how the rules work rather than trying to entertain.

It was nip and tuck at times but while the Jerries poured in astounding quantities of very accurate fire, our blokes just wouldn't lie down and die. One of their 1/2 tracks did reverse off table at high speed shortly before the end though so I guess the Jerry mucky-mucks will know that we hold the pass.
An update on the War of 1812 in a day or so.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Man Interupted

Strike while the Tin is hot!

Isn't  that what they  say? Well, same thing but different as the idiom would have it. Anyway I have begun, and begun by resurrcting a dusty, abandoned and half forgotten project.

Can't remember when I started this chap, might be over 10 years ago but I found the body and have resumed work. He now has a head with noticeable nose, a flintlock, etc but still needs a right foot and bit of general tidying up and finishing.  
Since last summer, the remaining War of 1812 collection has been tagged to be reduced to a small, Battle in a Box, gridded game, but that wasn't where it started. It was just over 20 years ago that I first dabbled my toes in 54mm gaming and my chosen subject was small actions of the War of 1812, initially centred on the Western campaigns. This was just before the deluge of new plastic soldiers  for adults, so conversions were de rigueur. ( and also back to my roots!).

54mm Variations: L->R: Quebec Sedentary Militia, original Accurate ACW, US 1812.
The outside fellows appeared at Chateauguay, Cold Wars 1998, the first public MacDuff game.
The wargaming side of 54's got a big boost when Pete Panzeri put out a call on r.g.m.h. for 54mm figures that could be used in his La Haye Sainte game at Cold Wars 2007.
My Marx Canadian (ie Mexican) Militia playing KGL manning the sandpit in the foreground, while beyond them, my US regulars, led by a Hoeffler General, are playing Belgians against battalions of their fellow BMC Mexicans used by Pete as French.

So it was that about 100 of my 54mm British, Canadian and American troops played the role of KGL and Dutch-Belgians in public and I met new friends and enough 54mm enthusiasts to set me on my current path and eventually resulted in the Little Wars Yahoo group. It was also the weekend where I met Rob Dean and didn't close a deal on some original 1/32nd Airfix Russians, still in the box. (Still have them if anyone is interested.) It was of course Rob who later diverted me into 40mm and homecasting but that's another story.

Tricky business trying to copy old glossy prints that weren't the best when new.
A 54mm 1812 "get the convoy to the fort" game with Rob & sons en route to (or from?) Louisburg in 1999.
    This is the fort that was cut up to make the current Fort MacDuff.
When I downsized to 40mm I initially stayed with low level actions with the occasional small battle. It was when I decided to re-home the chunkier, detailed half of my 1812 collection to focus on the smaller, shiny toy look and also came to the decision that I needed to cut back on periods and figures, that I decided that 1812 could be relegated to a portable, quick, battle-in-a-box. I wonder if I was just reluctant to resume painting 1812 figures?

Luckily, just in time, along came various blog posts and videos that whetted my appetite to paint  and field some tight packed battalions. My 18thC semi-flats would have served, but only if I dropped NQSYW conventions and tight based them en masse with 20ish man battalions. Putting all that out of my mind, I decided to start rehabiliting some 1812 troops who had been converted to 1839 uniforms.

With that aim I went rifling through the spares boxes for some of the round hats and 1812 US shakos that I had made and cast in 1805.  I found some, but also found a forgotten, unfinished, 1812 US infantry master. Hmm...just needs a head and some finishing up..hmm...I have a head....I also have a gallon of rtv on its way....shame not to use him....  and so it was that the decision was quickly but thoughtfully made to resurrect the original 1812 project aimed initially at the 1812/1813 raids, ambushes and small battles along the frontier from the Richelieu to to Lake Erie but with the option to expand into the 1814 and/or the western campaigns as well.

After some deliberation and checking of table space, ranges and troop numbers versus various historical battles and skirmishes I have settled on a theoretical base scale of 1 inch to 20 yards (or 1 grid square = 80 yards) and 1 figure to 20 men.

With a standard wargame line infantry battalion being 18 figures on a 6" frontage  but possibly being 24 or 12 figures in some scenarios, and my grid being of 4" squares, it won't be a conventional gridded game after all. However, if I can't make the grid work for me for measuring at least, then I can always resort to my measuring sticks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The last two months have been a bit frustrating. Although I have managed a reasonable number of games and sorted a few things in my mind, I have been making very little progress on filling out orders of battle, writing up back stories or managing a mini-campaign or even a couple of battles in a row in the same war.  There is a long, boring list of non-hobby related  things that have interfered and the next 2 month aren't likely to be much better as I move farther into the fall/pre-winter outside Must-do list. Still, there is more to it and indecision as to which way to jump is playing a role.

I think its time to have a look at what needs to be done, look at the issues and obstacles and decide on priorities and a plan.

For those who'd like something more interesting that me waffling, here are some video's to watch.

 Brian's Toy Soldier Collecting blog has links to videos showing Britain's toy soldiers being made in 1949 and  in 1965. After watching them,  I found myself watching a 3 part  Russian look into the history of toy soldiers (dubbed in English) that I had seen once sometime (years?) ago.  
Watching this video left me with a burning desire to cast and paint more soldiers!

OK back to my planning. Chronologically, the top 4 candidates for some focused attention this fall are:

A.Prince Micheal. The big thing here is to be ready to take an 8 player game to Huzzah in May. The three main things are: to settle the details of the scenario, assess the requirements for figures and terrain, and identify and rectify any deficiencies. I'm fairly confident that this only needs a week or three of winter leisure to polish up, mostly a matter of some basing and some paint enhancement on some second hand figures.

B. NQSYW. I have a vague consensus with myself on organization and rules but all that needs to be sharpened. Then there are uniform decisions, decisions on refurbishing old units, back stories, and on and on. I don't want this to languish nor do I wish to rush it, especially not the wrong way. I think another game within the next few weeks then put it off till the weather  turns cold and then see about ordering some new guns and settling down to planning followed by execution.

C. War of 1812. This limited scope collection is bugging me because it is almost but not quite ready.  It seems silly to start with the one that I am least likely to want to campaign in but it would be good to have a small, complete, Canadian history, 40mm, game, ready to go.  All presentable and proper like.

It also wouldn't take much. A few dozen existing figures to touch up or rebase, perhaps 50 or 60 new homecast figures, some finishing of bases. It would just seem smart to get it out of the way to reduce the clutter and distraction.

D. The Great War.    This has my eye at the moment and is really where I want to spend the most time next year but there is a lot of work to be done to get me to where I want to be and I don't want to rush into production until I know what I need. There is a need for several new figures to be sculpted and cast and there are some issues around obtaining artillery and mg's to be resolved which may mean finding either funding or a spark of cleverness, not to mention the need for mountains. In short there is a lot of planning and work to be done.

I confess, this has been complicated and escalated by the possibility that if I arrange to have sufficient historical figures for an historical 1912 Caucasus game then I might be able to take said game to Huzzah should it happen that they decide that the 100th Anniversary of the last year of WWI would be a fitting theme. Not THAT important but it would be nice to be in step for once, well, sort of in step.

Actually now that I have written it down. The 1812 stuff makes sense as it needs almost no planning, just doing. Planning on other things can theoretically proceed in the background.

Could be brought home by Christmas if I settle to it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Reculer Pour Mieux Sauter

For a number of years now (too many) I have been slowly working towards reducing the numbers of armies and campaigns represented on my shelves in order to make time and space for the chosen few. As part of this process, in 2014, I embarked on an entirely new collection (I know, I know), essentially a Centennial, Shiny, Homecast, Toy Soldier, Not Quite World War One  (NQWW1).  It got off to a great start but I soon found that I needed to make new masters and moulds to continue much farther but had run out of materials and budget.

Instead of pushing ahead anyway and making do, I decided to switch focus to work on other things until I was ready. As I grew near to despairing that the time would ever come, things suddenly came together while I wasn't looking. I have new green stuff, I have a a gallon of good liquid rtv en route, I still have the desire and best of all, I have a plan!

"The one on the left, I think." ... "Yes sir, just the thing we need!"

The book they are looking at is Henry Harris's "Model Soldiers", my entry drug. 
The other was given to my mum by her dad, a reservist recalled to the RHA in 1914. 
Some young kid seems to have flipped through the pictures too often. 

Now, it pains me to say that part of the deal with myself is that I will drop various stalled or played out campaigns and collections and either reduce them to a small "game in a  box" or re-purpose the figures even where this means stripping, re-converting and  re-painting. It also means that once again, I will have to "correct" certain details of the fictional history of Northern Atlantica (the "Colonial" half) but that will be for a separate post. Suffice it to say that there are likely to be some sheep skin caps and maybe the occasional small turban, fez or other cap.

Its time to get back to:

Three years gone by and still not over the mountain yet!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Wood of Tears

Tuesday Morning.

The sun rises over St. Margaret's Bay as the tide moves in. If I had swivelled 90 degrees, due south  towards the narrow mouth of the bay, and if the world was flat, I could have taken a picture of Bermuda roughly 1,250 km away.   

Civil Wars in 1/72nd plastic became an accidental theme for the weekend as I broke open my Portable Russian Civil War carrying case. I do have my own rules but the portability just cried out for Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame.

Red artillerymen await the order to open fire while the Generals breakfast together. 
The basic playing field was a Hotz Desert Mat with 3" hexes and dabs and sprays of green paint. Having,  somehow, not brought the log cabins for the scenario I planned to play, I just threw a low ridge line with scattered woods to one side and dealt out two balanced armies, each of 15 units plus a general, for an encounter game. Both sides would begin off table with the goal of seizing and holding the ridge. The exhaustion level was set to 8 for each side and simple elimination was agreed upon. All units were average.

The armies, whose composition was heavily influenced by the contents of the boxes they came in as well as by the failure to equip the large numbers of recruits in holding camps, were composed of:
General with staff, 5 cavalry, 6 infantry, 2 field guns, 2 MG (one of White's being a Tchanka) and 1 machine gun armed Armoured Car or Light Tank. An insufficient number of limbers were treated as window dressing.
Game 1. The Red army swiftly seizes the ridge line before the White's have even arrived on the field. and it waits, and waits, and...
 I don't particularly like dice activation systems since there is no way to avoid the chance of infinite rolls of '1' in a row so we opted for the solo card draw. Not having brought 2 decks of cards we just extended the range to two higher and two lower and used the two Jokers. The first game saw 3 Red cards then a Joker, which allowed me to grab the ridge before Rob moved a finger. That was then followed by a seemingly endless stream of high Black cards interspersed with Jokers. At that point I suggest we ditch one of the Jokers since the pack was small and things went a bit more smoothly with me being able to get off a shot or two before the game ended. 8 vs 2 was the score in Rob's favour.

Each coloured ring marks a lost unit from that army.  In the background a hint of red marks what Rob later christened the 'Wood of Tears'. 
 The day was young and the game fast so we reset and this time the cards behaved normally with occasional short runs but basically balanced. The game played out very differently with Rob's tank cutting a  swathe through my left flank cavalry then running amok amongst my guns. Only the courage of the dedicated patriotic gunners which inspired them to keep retiring their guns rather than running saved the day. At last more Red Cavalry galloped up and finished off the isolated tank. Losses were fairly close at 6 a side until a dashing Red assault tipped them over the edge. It didn't end the game though and has his shells crashed down on my troops I feared a draw but when counter battery fire, directed by General Ross himself, finally smashed the last White field gun, it was all over. They couldn't advance and were out of range of the ridge which I occupied. A narrow win but my one win of the weekend!

Game 2. A Red victory! Urrah!
(The red discs indicate that enemy artillery has ranged in on that hex.)
 At this point Paul stepped in as Red commander. Rob, already seasoned in the rules, handled him very roughly at start, aided by his ally, the sequence deck, but Paul doesn't give up easily nor do card runs last forever and soon the game was being very hotly contested.  In the end Rob's third victory of the weekend was stoutly contested but a victory none the less.

The terrain was laid out by instinct for balance rather than deeply planned but the right most wood, lying across the centre line turned out to be a key position for a flank march covered from direct enemy artillery fire. By the end of the third game some 9 or 10 infantry units had died trying to take or hold this little grove:
The Wood of Tears.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Veterans in Action

Earlier this week I made the trip due south to the Atlantic coast at St. Margaret's Bay  for two days of jawing and gaming (etc...) with Rob (Captain's Bog) and Paul, two friends I first met and gamed with on my 3 month posting to HMCS Ottawa in 1977.

It seemed only right that I bring along my 20mm ACW since Rob was the friend who had passed me the accumulated hoard of ACW figures by several anonymous Halifax gamers which had been passed around in search of a home for who knows how long.

The rules were a quickly drawn up non-gridded version of the last gridded ACW game I played. There were a few oopsies where I had missed something but over all I think it worked. A nice hexmat would have been good though.

The scenario was  .....'inspired by'.. or perhaps "a rough translation of" the Bridgehead Breakout from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames, using what I had to hand in my travel kit.  By a non-coincidence, I have vague recollections of a multi-player 15mm original F&F  version of the game at a Game Day at Dalhousie back in the early 90's which featured my and Rob's Confederates against Ron's Yankees (I think Doug Burrell and possibly others contributed troops as well, it was over 25 years ago!).

The game begins with Rob launching a quick and unreasonably  successful attack on a stone wall which had marked the Yankee front line.
With Rob in command of the Rebs, Paul was conscripted as Yankee commander while I, as playing GM, took one of 4 Yankee brigades (That's me with the Zouaves comin' o'er the bridge )

With all that settled the fighting began.

Paul getting to grips with the measuring baton. 

Paul and I had a rough plan, Rob it would appear had a better one. In addition, the old Maxim held true that fortune favoured the bold. His weak left flank quickly attacked and hemmed in the right hand Yankee bridgehead. It took us the whole game to recover our start line.

Charge after charge was thrown back by the Rebs but at last we managed to get enough troops over the bridge to drive off his cavalry wing, flank the infantry at the wall and slowly force them back.
On the other flank Paul put up a stubborn fight but a grand battery on a hill managed to blow huge holes in the Blue line as a grey tide surged forward once and again, and again, until, after a desperate struggle, that bridgehead was crushed.

Even Cesar's Zouaves were unable to take the wall after two bloody charges. At this point, my own personal figured had been lying wounded at the foot of the wall for some hours!

By the very strictest letter of the victory condition we could have argued for a draw since we still held a portion of the bridgehead but since we had failed to take any of the high ground, had lost 1/2 of the bridgehead and one of the bridges and had suffered heavier losses, we readily awarded a victory to Rob.

It was time for supper and a switch from wargaming as Paul's wife joined us so I will end here and leave the Portable Russian Civil Wargame for the next post.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Battle of Whitebridge


The following dispatch has been received from our correspondent  on the North East Frontier.

Brooklyn, 9 Sep 1867.  On Friday, the 8th, I learned that General Milne was hastening to Whitebridge to oversee the recall of a substantial portion of Colonel Otter's Column from their posts along the Little Blue River and decided to accompany him to the front.   There appeared to be little indication of Blue activity in the North East. The main army, including troops from both Oberhilse and her nominally independent ally Hougal, was reported to be gathering in the centre.

The garrison in Whitebridge consisted of five companies of infantry drawn from the Belmont Rifles, Victoria Rifles and the York Volunteers, supported by one squadron of the Queen's Lancers and one from the Kapelle Mounted Rifles who had been sent back from the Oerberg Frontier as the threat of renewed war with Oberhilse grew. A train which was on its way to collect the infantry was rumoured to be carrying a Naval Landing party with one of the new Gatling Guns to reinforce the defences.
The troops scheduled to rejoin the main army were already fallen in by the Station when the Blue guns suddenly galloped into sight, deployed, and opened fire.
The red coated companies of the Belmont Rifles were already fallen in, waiting by the station, and the train was in view when Blue's advance elements appeared and a battery opened fire on the town. With great steadiness the Victoria's supported by the York Volunteers returned the enemy's fire.

A courier soon arrived with an order for the Belmont's to commence boarding and depart as soon as possible. This order was greeted with a murmur of dismay but it was obeyed even though a second column of Blue troops had now appeared some distance south of the town.

The Belmont Rifles depart to re-enforce the main army.
While Blue's infantry kept up a hot fire on the town, the Blue Guards could be seen slogging across the ford and forming in the woods.

At last the Guard Lancers, resplendent in their gold laced, blue hussar tunics and fur caps,  emerged from the woods and trotted forward. Lowering their lances, they charged forward, routing the Queen's Lancers and then driving back the Mounted Rifles. It was a magnificent spectacle despite the  unfortunate defeat of  our  brave men.

General Milne himself was forced to rally our horsemen in person while ordering the Gatling to deploy and cover the gap.

Modern warfare, the Gatling routs a company of the Blue Guards.
What a contrast in traditional and modern warfare. The age old clash of lance and sword followed by the chatter of the Gatling as it cut swathes through the ranks of the Blue Guards, driving them back in disorder.

Stubborn fighting as Blue regroups and attacks again.
The Blue Guards are not easily thwarted however and the attack was renewed time and again while only the intervention of General Milne at the head of the now dismounted Kappele Mounted Rifles saved the Gatling from a flanking attack from the Guard Lancers.

As Blue's infantry was forced back all along the line, Blue's gunners took up the duel, forcing the Gatling to retire with heavy losses.

Blue's General took advantage of this to finally launch his infantry over the bridge. If only the Gatling​ had been entrenched at the head of the bridge, how could any troops force the bridge against such firepower?

Recognizing the value of the Gatling, and never forgetting the need for reinforcements for the main army, General Milne ordered the Gatling to fallback, escorted by the Mounted Rifles, and march to the main army.

As the sun sinks, the fighting in the town rages.
With the thinning of Red's ranks and the absence of the Gatling, Blue intensified their assaults on the town from both sides of the river. Again and again Blue was hurled back but eventually numbers told and house by house the Victoria's were forced out.

Gathering the tired survivors, General Milne put himself at their head and led them forward with the bayonet in a desperate counter charge. Alas, a bullet found the brave General and those young Riflemen lifted him back onto his horse and retreated.
'B' company of the Victoria Rifles escorts the wounded General Milne to safety.
So, in the end, the sun sank on a bloody and hard fought field as the dishearted young soldiers retreated carrying their brave leader while their comrades rushed sling the rails to join the main army and perhaps earn fresh laurels.

Behind them the bloodied Blue soldiers regrouped and began to dig in. Was this attack a distraction or is this where the main thrust of a new offensive.

Friday, September 8, 2017



Word has been received from our correspondent  accompanying the Blue River Frontier Force that earlier today elements of the Army of the Republic of Oberhilse launched an attack on Her Majesty's forces at the town of Whitebridge.
The Belmont Rifles entrain with orders to rejoin the main army.
Details to follow!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Odds Were Against Us

Some times the dice just seem to pick favourites.

But then sometimes a wargame General just seems to invite the Dice Gods to punish a poor plan.

Trying to storm a town by rushing over a bridge was always going to be a risky undertaking but Red's rolling four 5's and 6's on 6 shooting dice against Blue's first attack, followed by 4 more on 4 melee dice on the next turn against the next unit was a hard start for poor Blue! 
This game was the Double Holding Action Scenario from Thomas's One Hour Wargame. It is  (I think) the first time I have played this scenario. 

Red (the Royal Faraway Army), was tasked with holding the town and sending 1/2 of his force off table by road between turns 4 and 12. Blue ( the Army of the Republic of Oberhilse), had to either take the town or get 1/3 of his force off the same road exit by turn 15. Unbeknownst to Red, Blue's forces have found a ford. 

Red fielded 2 cavalry, 2 light infantry, 5 infantry, 1 mg and 1 artillery (counts double for reinforcement points). Oddly enough, Blue fielded exactly the same units since that was what was painted and based, the actual Blue rather than Drab units being in the midst of a reorganization.  I fielded 2 infantry or cavalry units or one gun for each OHW unit thus maintaining  the proportional frontages relative to the size of the table, essentially 2x4" grid squares scaling to 6" on a OHW table. (There was some extraneous manoeuvre room beyond the flanks. )
Turn 3 and Red has already starting moving units off table to reinforce the main army.
Blue's attempt to storm the town right away was probably a bad idea and depended for success on some combination of getting a flip in the initiative at just the right moment  and having Red rolling no more than average while Blue rolled better. Not a great plan upon reflection and in fact the flip went in Red's favour, their dice were HOT and Blue's dice ICY cold. By the end of turn 3 Red had suffered 1 hit and Blue had effectively lost 3 out of his 5 infantry units. (The two that didn't rout  spent 12 turns rallying without ever being ready to renew the attack!)

The game plan shifted to the alternate plan, block the road and/or sneak guys off, flank attack over the ford. By the time the force was across and in position to attack it was turn 12 and Red had already moved his units off table but not before Red's artillery routed a unit of Blue's Uhlans . A gallant charge by Blue's Hussars wiped out two rifle units before proceeding off table towards the main army but that was it.  With the best will in the world there were not enough units in position to exit. A pincer attack on the town was the last hope. A hope quickly withered by rifle fire with each pincer losing a unit for no gain.

It was over. A clear Red victory after a bloody hour for Blue.

Turn 14 of 15 and its over. Red has sent the requisite reinforcements off on schedule and still holds the town while only losing 2 out of 11 companies while Blue has only managed 1/4 of his requested reinforcements and no longer has time to fulfill either victory condition even Red wasn't there.  
There wasn't quite enough game to hang a good story on it but it was a fun hour none the less and I may well have another go in a few days whether with same or different forces or even a different period.

It felt good to be back on the 4" grid with room to maneuver.

The rules were a slightly updated version of my 2015, early 20thC, version of the Square Brigadier called  The Tin Army.