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

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

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Sunday, 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

Lally-gaggling

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.