EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Noteworthy Centennial

Happy 100th Birthday to the late Don Featherstone! (The link will take you to the wiki page where you can learn more about Don if he is unfamiliar to you.)

(Thank you Man of Tin! for the notice and tribute on your blog!  which alerted me to the occasion.)

A sight to inspire a lifetime of figure conversions!
It was at some point during the winter of 1970/71 that I spotted a copy of Battles With Model Soldiers on the shelf at W. Smith's in Montreal and was lost.... or perhaps was found.

Although he provided the rules for my first wargames, by 1973 I'd been nabbed by WRG and was off looking for a different sort of wargame for a few decades. However, by then, he had already gotten me hooked on two vital aspects of our hobby and in life really.

The first was to build on the foundation laid by Henry Harris and to confirm me as a lifelong converter of toy/model soldiers. How long did I spend identifying just what was done to which Airfix figures in the photo above and trying to figure out just how it was done?

One of the shots of mysterious, magical, metal figures that one couldn't buy in shops where I lived! 

The second is reflected in the header to this blog. He helped instill in me an appreciation for the value of doing my own research, making up my own mind and modifying rules to suit or even writing my own rules. The real importance of this though was that Doc Ruddy, my mentor at college, built on that foundation as well as my Dad's example to lead me to take the same attitude to life in general. Blessings on all three men!

I never really understood why he had so many pictures of unpainted Airfix figures in the book when he obviously had so many other painted figures, but I DID understand that one day I would pit British in khaki shorts backed by an armoured car against North West Frontier tribesmen.
This just may be the year!

But in particular, on this 100th anniversary of the birth of Don Featherstone, thank you Don for the inspiration that led to hours and years of pleasure and learning and friendships .

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tuning the Scenario

Having added some of the missing units and de-tweaked the rules a little, I decided that it was time to tweak the scenario and play another solo test. If that works then I can take a break to play something else while I paint a few more figures and work on terrain.

This is essentially the same layout as originally planned but with a few adjustments. The most important is that the allied front line has been moved back and the depth of the German deployment area increased. I have also awarded victory points for the rear woods on the far flank and the farm on the near side as well as for the central hill and each block of the town as before.

Perhaps most importantly, the higher infantry movement rates and ability to move and fire with a penalty to both have been restored so that the Germans have more chance of actually reaching the main town with time to attack it.

In addition to now having the always planned 4th battalion of German infantry I have decided to backtrack on my decision to split up the regimental MG company and will instead field it as a pure MG stand with an extra die but not capable of firing and moving or of assaulting.

Now to see what, if any, difference the tweaking makes to the game.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Portable Speed Bump

With winter winding down, I made the trek in to Ron's yesterday for our first game of the year. We had yet to try the WWII Advanced Portable Wargame so we decided to give it a go.

When I arrived the scene was set for France 1940 using the Two Sides of A River scenario from CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios.

About 4 turns in, its pretty clear to me that I am not equipped to halt the Blitzkrieg in this open country. Ron however, was still worried about how to get past the woods to my rear.
Boiling down the scenario forces and translating them into SP's  I ended up with roughly a reinforced infantry battalion with 4 infantry, and 1 each MG, Mortar, light ATG and Carrier (Scout Car) units backed by 2 25lb Field Guns and a pair of French Char B tanks. Ron had a gazillion Pzr II, 35T and Pzr III tanks backed by some infantry in halftracks and a Stuka.

It was rapidly evident that we had a complete mismatch between our expectations, the scenario layout and what the rules are designed for.

Our first clue was when I discovered that the 5 mile range of the 25 pdrs translated to a mere 8 hexes  and rather than being able to cover most of the board as I was used to in past games, they could barely fire across the river. That meant I had to move them, a 3 turn process to move even 2 hexes. I think I manged to fire twice all game. If I had checked that before deploying I would have deployed one on either side not that it would have helped much.

The second issue was when we tried to figure out how to classify the tanks. The Char B was obviously heavy and the PZRII light so we made the 35T's and PzrIII Medium. All well and good but since the rules don't cater for varying levels of armour protection, only range, it was soon clear that the 20mm guns on the PzrII's were able to shoot up the supposedly near impermeable armour of the Char B at their maximum range of 3 hexes. Since heavy tanks can't fire and move, it was easy for the enemy to close and shoot the Char B's to pieces with them hardly getting a shot off. We really missed having separation between offensive and defensive capabilities for tanks. Using Elite and Poor attributes might have helped if I'd thought of it before the game but I'd have been happier using the house modification that I adopted when testing the rules last year (See portable-wargame-review).

We also got a bit confused once the Stuka started to fire its machine guns which led Ron to want to fire the machine guns on his tanks at my infantry rather than using their small calibre anti-tank guns. This seemed reasonable, though not covered, but when Ron pointed out that the rules said the airplane got 3 dice per MG he wanted the same for his tanks but I flatly drew the line there. (More on the air rules below )

The whole level of the game is at a higher level than we are used to and we hadn't  made nearly enough mental adjustments or adapted the scenario properly to fit the rules.

Anyway, it was still an enjoyable game and far from one sided though it was over in about 8 out of 15 turns when my forces became exhausted and he had a clear path around my flank.

We turned our hand to a quick air to air game. It was fast and fun but was almost Reallllly fast. Luckily, just as we were starting I noticed that while the air rules state that planes roll 3 dice per MG, the examples show them rolling 1 per MG. I suspect that the 3 dice rule was an error and we followed the example instead. This was lucky for his Stuka as I was only rolled 4 dice per attack not 12 when my fighter got his Stuka in his sights. Even I couldn't have avoided hitting him with that many dice.

The sun was in my eyes, that's my story.
Anyway, a fun day out. Now back to the Great War.