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, 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.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Long Ridge: The Setup

Having decided last year that I wanted to make some changes to my ACW games, I  spent some pleasant hours today reviewing and tweaking organizations and rules. I also looked at several feet of shiny new fences and then put them away again to be assembled and painted another day.

Featherstone's is the first Reb Division on the field.
One of my conclusions was that my ACW games would be better game-wise if I had fewer but larger units. Initially I was thinking larger regiments but, after  reviewing various options I decided to settle on brigades as units to make it easier to have larger wargame units and still fight small historical actions or significant pieces of big battles. This and my war of 1812 collection will be the only remaining periods where I can do that. The rest are all designed for petite guerre scenarios.

After several false starts I settled on standard brigades of 6 stands or around 1500 men. (36 figure brigades or very roughly 40:1.) That's a bit smaller than what I had in mind but  it fits the existing figures, my goals and the table.

The game below actually has a last minute tweak to rearrange the Union Divisions into a larger number of 4 stand Brigades but I think I'll undo that and use "standard" brigades on both sides until I'm happy that the new system will work. I can start adjusting to actual numbers later if I want though there are some advantages to standard units from a scenario design point of view.
Overview of the setup.
The scenario itself is just an adhoc attack/defence game with the Rebs having slightly more men. (VERY slightly). Basically, I threw out a hill line, put some woods in likely places, and did the same with some roads, divided up the available figures and  then diced for how many brigades in each army are still marching to the table and how many are in each sector of the battlefield. The opposing Corps commanders can take it from there. 
Waiting Patiently.
It'll be a restless night in camp tonight.

Gunsmoke or the Mists of Time

My older brother took this picture. Who knew he was old enough to have been at Waterloo?

RHA battery in action.

Or perhaps  its photo of some of my Airfix figures taken in the early 70's?  It all seems so  long ago now That its hard to be precise about these things.

Meanwhile, in the present, I should be getting ready for Huzzah, playing another solo Rough Wooing game or honing my Portable  Wargame knowledge and scenarios but.......I need a break from all that.

Once I get the table cleared I think I'll  break out my 1/72 ACW "boys" and do something more traditional. Probably set up today  and play tomorrow.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Abscess Without Leave

Things have been busy here, just not much time or energy for wargaming and painting. Having a recurrence of a tooth abscess hasn't really helped much.  I have, however, managed to dab some paint on another dozen or so Esci Brits to bring my 1/72nd Boer War Brits up to 10 units for my Petite Portable Wargame  demonstration for Huzzah.

Were 1/72nd figures always so small?

The 24th foot on the left were painted c1984.
The 58th on the right was speed painted a few days a go.
 Luckily, without my glasses on, the most obvious difference is the lack of the bright white lace on the 58th's new service frocks. The lack of shading, sloppy belts and skipped details are less visible from three feet away in dim light with dim eyes.   I have also noted that a few touch ups where painted flaked, a coat of varnish and 3 decades of weathering has obliterated most of the original shading so the old figures blend right in.
Two Portable companies of Rifles and two of 58th Foot.
 I'm hoping for rain on the weekend so that I can maybe squeak a game in.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Could get a little Hott in Southern Maine in May

My annual trek south to a wargaming convention isn't just about the convention. Its also a chance to visit with co-host Rob Dean  (sharpbrush.blogspot.ca), have some extended chats, some planning sessions and hopefully play a face to face game or two to supplement our occasional  remote games  using either Hangout or Skype. As it happens Rob and sons have been building and playing with some 1/72nd HOTT armies mounted on 60mm wide bases for some time now. Since the rules don't really care what you put on a HOTT base as long as its representative, the 1/72nd figures let your units look slightly more like, well, units. OK so 6 or 8 figures instead of 3 or 4 doesn't sound like much but it works for me.

Since I had a motley crew of painted 1/72 figures, mostly Celtic and fictional Viking types in need of a reason to exist, and since 1/72nd figures are easy to transport and its not hard to find a corner to play HOTT in, I decided to base up a HOTT army and challenge Rob (and Norman, junkyardplanet.blogspot.ca, if he's coming this year.) to a game at Huzzah.
The Cauldron of Rebirth, and a Horde of born again warriors.
Note the glazed stares, the rigid poses and the rising dead warrior.
I was trying to think of what to do with the single wounded Airfix Briton, make him a Sneaker perhaps, playing dead until the enemy passes then rising to try some dastardly attack? Seemed like a lot to put on one lone wounded guy. I moved on to other things and happened to stand a bunch of the Airfix axemen alongside some Orion Vikings and was suddenly struck by the stunned look and wooden movement as they all lofted some weapon and waddled forward, all shieldless and unarmoured. Couldn't help but think "Zombies" !  That made me think again of the wounded guy sitting there, looking like he was about to get back up! Ok, sounded like a Horde stand to me. But what brought them back?

In College I read a Yearling series fantasy tale called the Black Cauldren, I forget the details but the idea has stayed with me. I was already assembling a Cleric team to use up some viking women with dagger and drinking horn and some of the non-combatant Britons and was wondering what to do with an excess Viking chief in Bearskin headdress with sword and arm raised to the sky. Well, I had a vague memory of having a Cauldron somewhere.....and there we were. A Priest supported by acolytes of some sort, a pagan standard bearer, some kneeling guardsmen, and a cauldron with a warrior just emerging from its murky depths.
1 Cleric (3 AP), 1 Horde (1 AP)

Wild barbarian cavalry, tribesmen and archers
The next lot were easy. For nostalgia's sake I had painted up some Ancient Briton's when Hat re-released them. The originals had been included in the earliest Valdurian armies until I went Minifig.
I rebased one stand of Italeri cavalry and here we have the Hillmen allies.
1 Rider, 1 Warband, 1 Shooter (6 AP)
Meg the Mighty, and his little friends too.
I didn't want to go with a straight human army but didn't have much to choose from in 1/72nd. The Revel Saxons included copies of various Elastolin figures such as form my current Gathering of Hosts armies. It amused me to take one of the 40's who is chopping downwards and mount him as a Giant backed by a few normal humans from the same range of Elastolin poses.  (hmm must remember to give him a dark wash and touch up the metal)

Another section of those Orion Vikings were copied from Marx vikings, both the 54mm soft plastic ones and the painted hard plastic ones issued in 60mm as Warriors of the World and in 25mm in the Knights and Vikings set I had (best Christmas present EVER). A couple of archers and running spearmen, copies of my old favourites, backed by an Elastolin copy and voila, Shooters!  
Giant (4AP), Shooter (2AP)


There were several good Chieftain poses in the Orion Viking box but I've always had a soft spot for the Vercingatorix like Airfix "guy".  I had made an armoured viking standard bearer when I painted these guys some 15 years ago so it was just a matter of adding 6 more armoured vikings and I had a General and his Hearthguard. After trying to sort the rest, I gave up, reversed course, and did as thorough a mix of Marx and Elastolin copies and original Revel and Orion figures as I could to make 3 more stands of infantry. They look a little wild so I probably ought to call them Warband, but....... I wanted to use the Airfix guys as the lighter, faster, woods fighting guys and these for the main shieldwall battle line, rather like my earliest Valdurian army. So Blades? or Warband? or both?  Deferred Decision but it would probably be best if they were all the same in any given game.
4 Blades or Warbands (8 AP)

Total: 11 stands, 24 AP

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Test of Arms

My very first wargames were not set in the ancient period, it wasn't until a visit home for Christmas 1972 that I first pitted a new box of Airfix Romans against an equally new box of Ancient Britons. Ever since then ancient/medieval wargaming has been one of my primary wargaming interests though somewhat receding of late. So when Bob Cordery mentioned that he was developing an Ancient Portable Wargame, I volunteered to read over and play test the current draft. Since they are still in development I won't be sharing a lot about the proto-rules or the feedback that I will be sending Bob, just a few general impressions and a quick look at my first test game.
Duke Imonsay deploys his army with his Valdurian allies atop a hill on his right flank.
The rules are essentially a variant of the original Portable Wargame sharing as many rules and mechanisms as possible which makes it easier to move back and forth between period for those like me that dabble in several. The biggest difference comes from the characteristics of the available unit types backed by additional special unit characteristics for a handful of historical troop types.  This approach allows Bob to cover the basics of over a thousand years of warfare in a simple but effective manner but leaves the rules feeling fairly generic. Luckily it is easy to use the unit special rule idea to add appropriate flavour for specific campaigns.

The basic troop types are light infantry and light cavalry, fast with the ability to shoot 2 squares with bow or javelin, heavy infantry and heavy cavalry slower but with a melee bonus, and various traditional specialist units such as elephants, chariots and artillery.  One of the specialist troop types that I was tempted to try was Gallic or German tribesmen who are fast but weak though they can sometimes claim a charge bonus. However, not only would I have needed to stop and base up a few more units but my Viking barbarians are more shield wall types so generic heavy infantry it was.

An overview of the opposing battlelines at the start.
Since I have divested myself of all my 25mm and 54mm ancient armies, apart from some Sassinid Persians and some medieval Scots, I turned to my 40mm Elastolin collection of Huns, Vikings and Romans for what could be seen as a comic book Rome vs Barbarians battle or as part of my fictional, not to say Fantasy campaign world. Any resemblance to a real battle, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

On one side was the Northern Confederation (aka the Barbarians) under King Preisages who commanded 4 heavy cavalry, 5 light cavalry, 3 light infantry and  7 heavy infantry totalling 59 strength points. (I didn't count either general for any purpose for this game.)

Facing them, in defence, were the Border Guards under Count Imonsay with 4 light cavalry, 1 light infantry and 9 heavy infantry assisted by an allied Valdurian contingent of 3 heavy cavalry and 1 light infantry totalling 59 strength points.

An army losing 1/3 of its strength points becomes exhausted and is unable to act aggressively. After several attempts, I'm still pretty vague about how aggressive one can be, shooting seems pretty aggressive to me but is apparently ok as is attacking an enemy who is already adjacent to you when you are activated.   To make it easier to track, I counted out 20 casualty rings for each side (white for the Romans who were assumed to have medical teams to bandage the wounded, red for the bloody Barbarians.) and when they were all issued, that side was exhausted.

Midway through the battle the opposing infantry is engaged in an indecisive scrum with the lines heaving back and forth with the Confederation light cavalry puts pressure on the Count's left wing.
The game began with the  "Barbarian" (the original Valdurian chronicler's prejudice, not mine) horse archers rushing forward to attempt to turn and then crush the Count's left while their shield wall advanced steadily. On the far side of the battle a few barbarian skirmishers came forward to attempt to drive in the Valdurian archers and try to draw their heavy cavalry off the hill.

The game went on with the battle lines pushing and shoving each other forward and back without a breakthrough on either side. The light cavalry held out better than I expected, inflicting few hits but being recoiled more often than losing strength points. (Dice!!) The Count finally decided to throw the Valdurian heavy cavalry forward to disperse the enemy skirmishers and turn the enemy flank.

Alas, the Valdurian Companions, the elite shock troops of the army, were barely able to nudge one small company of enemy skirmishers back off the hill and the attack stalled. On the left, numbers eventually told and the Count's light cavalry started to get cornered and pressed up against the reserves and the recoiling main line and as the second light cavalry unit was eliminated the army became exhausted.

At this point the Barbarians were also only a few points away from being exhausted even though they had not lost a single unit. Rather than risk going over the threshold the King pulled back all of his troops out of contact and outside bow range of the one remaining Valdurian archer and then his horse archers began shooting apart the Count's left flank. As unit after unit was removed the Count had no choice but to signal a general retreat.

The Valdurians still hold their hill but their cavalry has been unable to ride over the skirmishers in front of them, The main battle lines hold but the Count's left flank has collapsed and it is now a matter of retreating before the wild barbarian riders completely swamp the centre and slaughter them to a man. 

On the whole the rules did what they were designed to do. They achieved a believable over all result which could easily have been reversed and by and large the troop types worked. The failure of the heavy cavalry to sweep away the handful of untrained peasant skirmishers in open ground was troublesome despite moderately unlucky dice. The heavy cavalry had a small melee advantage over the skirmishers but it was so small that a minor wobble in probabilities was all it took for the skirmishers to more than hold their own even when flanked.  Possibly a Poor rating for the skirmishers to distinguish them from well armed, well trained professionals would have helped.

The push and shove of the infantry scrum felt right for these armies and the light infantry was about right against other infantry. The light cavalry worked better than I expected given that they have to move into heavy infantry charge reach to shoot. I'm still not convinced that Crassus could be destroyed by Parthians under these rules but possibly if the Parthians were counted as Elite, Horse Archers as well as Cataphracts and the Romans downgraded to ordinary heavy infantry. In any event I must fudge something to try that match up.

Although the rules worked fairly well and the game was enjoyable it lacked a certain amount of tension for me since everything is very incremental. A slow grinding fight sounds right for opposing infantry lines but less so for light troops and cavalry and there is no chance of anything else. It also still feels odd to me that my army could be exhausted without losing a single unit but that it will never collapse in rout like so many ancient armies but that may be largely an expectation formed by habit.

I also noticed something else rather interesting. Old habits die hard and in this game like the previous Zulu ones, I kept forgetting that units adjacent to an enemy do not have to initiate melee on their own turn, especially when they have already taken hits and are fighting against an enemy to their flank! Must make myself a reminder on a QRS.

Another old habit was formed by decades of having separate movement and melee phases in a score of different rules sets. I often forgot to resolve combats until all were done or did some and forgot others. Again a note and a closer attention to process would soon cure these old habits.

Anyway, I will be sending off more detailed technical comments to Bob and start planning another test battle. I would like to see an elephant in action and try the artillery rules as well.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rough Wooing in the Valley

Yesterday I packed up troops and terrain and made the 45 minute trip to Kentville to the Table Top Games day where I set up a version of the game that Rob Dean and I will be running  at Huzzah in Portland next month. The scenario was the same Stuart Asquith one that I played twice earlier this month. The goal for both sides is to garrison the town and exit a force off the far end of the table by road.

The French march on as the game gets underway.
The stand-in Scots barely glimpsed to the left are technically off table at this point.
 Since I didn't have Rob's troops or terrain I fudged things with what I had on hand, throwing in some Scots and so on. I was hoping to have at least four of the lads show up for the duration but life intervenes and some couldn't stay for the whole game while others couldn't come at all. However, I managed to pressgang a passing gamer  who paused by the table for a few seconds too long. He (Greg? Garry? Damn I am bad at names...) turned into an agreeable companion and an able commander for the English (hopefully we'll be able to entice him to join us for more games) and so we had at least four players at one point and two players for long enough for me to get a good feel for the rules and scenario which would have been enough to declare the event a success. Better yet though, Martin was able to stay an extra hour or so and put up with me filling in as both GM and player for the last hour to reach a reasonable conclusion after about three and a half hours in all.

I didn't have room for all the troops to start on table nor did I have a spare side table so please visualize the troops lined up along the board edges  as actually marching down the roads from off table. 
The English were fast off the mark and very aggressive. Their forlorn hope managed to drive off their French equivalent and bottle up the main French force for a good while. A unit of Landsknechts in English pay made their way through the open woods aided by good movement dice and By the time they fell back and rejoined the main English force, nearly half the French infantry had been drawn off to face them. Thanks to the sacrifice of the Forlorn Hope, English archers had already made it to the town while their cavalry and more infantry were well on the way to bypassing it on their way to the exit.

Battle is joined.
The pictures got foggier as the battle went on. I'd like to think this was the effect of gun smoke and the angle of the sun shining into a dark room but I suspect a trip to the snack table for a handful of chips (
crisps for those from the Old Country) may have had an inadvertent, but deleterious, effect on my smartphone lens.
The French had two choices at this point, try to race the English to the exit, a long shot, or try to catch them from behind, crush the rear guard and force the main body to turn back or lose the town. Their General chose the latter. The card sequence and dice had helped the English at first but these things rarely last and the French were able to drive into the middle of the English army. When the large block of Swiss rolled into a small group of Billmen, French expectations were high. Eleven dice for 5 or 6.....0 hits! 4 English dice for 4,5,6 came back  with  3 hits!  A stand off and tied melee since the French took fewer hits than they had stands but not what was expected! (the Swiss mercenaries in 1544 were not quite up to their fathers' reputation.) The English billmen pulled back and let the archers and artillery pound the pikes. A combination of card sequencing, an opportune/inopportune turn ending Joker and more high movement dice allowed the Landsknechts in English pay to run up in time to hit the French in the flank as the bills rushed back in from the front.   The Scots avenged  them and broke the Germans but this left the French General with one slightly worn pike unit and a few stands of heavy cavalry with no swordsmen or halberdiers and very few arquebusiers to storm the town while the English still had two formidible regiments of bills and bows backed by cavalry. There had been some rather tense moments for the English though and the French attack could well have changed the outcome.

Gratuitous shot of the English as their advance guard of light horse, bowmen and sword and buckler men prepares to deploy and go into action early on. 
I won't speak for the players but as GM and rules writer I was pleased at how the game went. This was the first outing for the buffed up rules which have not been out much in the last decade. During this period I have tortured them in various ways to try and get a smoother, faster game without losing too much of the original flavour. In that time they took several false trails but have come back close to where they began but streamlined a little in organization, stripped of some fiddly-ness, and with a few small twists such as the inclusion of a few Chance cards.

Dusk sets in. A couple of turns before the end. The opposing cavalry are manoeuvring to gain an advantage, speed vs weight. Beyond the town the English Landsknechts are about to crash into the obviously second rate Swiss hired by the French.
The game also gave me a chance to spot a few order of battle weaknesses with the French being weaker than intended in firepower and in troops able to take and hold a town (no job for pikemen). All things easily fixed for May. Another lesson of the test is that I need to clarify what is a an acceptable garrison  and what makes a sufficient force leaving the table. I think I will also force Shaken "Regiments" to leave the table rather than having restricted options. These things will help keep the game length inside the convention time limit and make it easier to call it at the end.

Bring on Huzzah!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bit of a Mess Really

If the shortage of blog posts recently suggests that I've not had much time for wargaming this week, well its actually more like I haven't had much time for wargaming this last week.
Hurry you lot, onto those bases, green up and get ready to board the transports!
Now not much is not none but there has been no actual wargaming, nor any new units added.

There is a game coming up tomorrow though and I have managed a quick reference sheet for     the buffed up and reborn Rough Wooing 16thC rules
(If you're new to the internet Click back there on the coloured hyper links see the QRS and rules.)

I've also managed to finally rebase the last of my Scots from thin-ish card to regulation thick-ish masonite, not the fancy laser cut ones with bevelled edges, I had to saw these up frommold salvaged wallboard. I also made an hour to speed paint a few more Elastolins to round out my pike and shot forces to 22 pike and  10 shot.  Hopefully in the morning I'll have time to finish dry brushing the new bases and pack it all up for transport and be on the road a little after noon.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

One Done

I now have my 54mm portable playing field done.

Somedays I just can't get sufficient light for my smart phone.
In life it is actually possible to see the grid lines.

The cloth itself is the reverse of a Hotz hex mat with some paint dabbed on and over painted with gridlines. Due to a ......clerical error, aka brain fart, this mat has a grid of 15x11 3" squares instead of the intended 15x12 squares. Don't ask! I was planning to slip hills under the grid but the flocked hills from my original but warped portable board match well enough in texture and colour that I will use them.

The other 1/2 of the mat will be used hex side up for Russian Civil War games so that both can be on offer at the same time.

I did a quick test of a new scenario, hopefully better for a learning game. Eight British stands with Commander are tasked with holding a hill line for 12 turns against 18 stands of Zulus. To help them out the British are classed as "Disciplined" (ie Elite) while the Zulus are classed as "Brave" as in would rather die than retreat (ie Poor). A Sudden Death game was nerve wracking but very fast ending in a close game with a clear British victory. A game using the basic strength point rules lasted considerable longer but lacked tension until near the end where it looked like the British might eke out a draw. It was only after the game that I realized that I had screwed up and made the British melee every unit that they were in contact with on their own turn forgetting that this was optional. Oops might have turned the game to a British victory.

However, the Portable Game is going away for a couple of weeks now while I work on the main event, the Friday Night 16thC game that Rob and I will be co-hosting. We could run it tomorrow if we had to but apart from fixing up some broken figures and hopefully adding a few more and fine tuning a series of Orders of Battle depending on how many (if any!) players sign up, I need to make a quick reference rules summary to hand out so that is Job One in time for a multi-player local test game next Saturday.

Archive shot of an earlier solo test game.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Getting Back To The 14 Square Wood

Its been a busy few days but I grabbed a minute to cut some bases, dab some paint on them and glue a bit of shrubbery around the edge.
Woods with trees....

Each block is divided into either two or four 3" squares. There is a line of bushes along one outside edge of each quadrant to make it easy to slide bases of 54mm troops in but still make it obvious that this is some sort of terrain piece. The trees have been left loose to make it easier to pack and to accommodate the placement of troops during a game.

....and without trees.
The squares are only indicated by brown areas but its easy to see which quadrant units are in.
Next big chore is to make a matching portable ground cloth to take to Huzzah!.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Just Out of Refit

Amongst the collection of Veteran Britain's I acquired some years ago was a contingent of a dozen or so sailors. I had promised to cherish and enjoy them so for years was reluctant to refinish them but really, what sailor wants to appear for inspection, or battle, in rags? So, having started with the Gordon's I progressed to the Royal Navy.

The Landing Party of the HMS Belmont. Lt.Cdr Burrell is stationed with the rocket battery while Lt. Howie leads the riflemen. (Hmm from this angle these guys look a bit Herbie-ish.)
Oh yes, the rocket is a cut down one from Barzso's New Orleans set.
I decided to start with enough for the game at hand, the rocket battery and a stand of riflemen. That would leave me some figures to crew the gunboat whose plans have not yet been approved and enough for a second stand of riflemen in future. More importantly that left me original figures to use as a guide when painting. Except for the officers so I decided to take close ups for reference before stripping the paint.

I've never been a big Stripper. Too impatient and my wife is extremely sensitive to chemicals but I found a product called Natura Safe Strip which is non-toxic, low odour,  environmentally friendly and fast acting. Brush it on and 30 minutes later the enamel was ready to be brushed/rubbed/washed off. My newer acrylics took about 45 minutes. Sometimes a 2nd coat on tough spots is needed but I didn't care if there were a few spots here and there under a toy soldier finish, I just like to see the hidden detail emerge from under the thick glossy enamel after 90 years.  I think I'll be ready to do more stripping in future!

Three broken figures become one repaired and one brand new figure.
Providing a crewman for the rocket was a puzzler at first, I really didn't want to start carving up
perfectly good, scarce figures. After some poking and thinking I came up with a running sailor with a broken rifle, another broken off his stand at the ankle and one of many kneeling guards with a broken rifle. A few minutes with a saw, some stripping, some putty and glue and the still running sailor had a new arm with full rifle and I had a kneeling crewman.

Couldn't resist finishing the job today. The paint job isn't a perfect match, sometime mixing the acrylics on hand could only come close to matching the original colour after 90 years of fading and sometimes I chose to add something (like painting the bayonet scabbards) but its close enough to please me.

I did get one surprise though. The men all have light red-brown hair but the officers have black beards. As I started to paint I thought...no..surely not.... so I looked at the picture taken from behind and YUP red hair, black beard! They've been on my shelf all this century and I never noticed? I suppose that means it works but not on my ship! One officer got black hair and beard, the other burnt sienna. I set him down on the desk and OMG it was Doug!  (A wargaming friend  from my Navy Days and after.)  Doug was a career officer, Naval Engineer with a background in astro-physics  and an interest in Space so the rocket battery seemed like a reasonable place to put his 1879 counterpart.  (Sure as hell wasn't going to let him near my cavalry but that's another story!)  Maybe a 54mm hot air balloon should follow.

At any rate the refurbishing has been a great deal of fun and they can now appear on public display as a credit to their ship.