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, November 18, 2017

Odd numbered files two paces forwarddddd MARCH!

I had just about talked myself into treating myself to a nice, attractive, practical, professional, hex mat from Hotz Artworks this fall and even had funds earmarked. Then the Prince August 7YW artillery sets came out and I needed some additional 54mm guns and oh dear, the warchest was empty again and those damned diagonals were still there gnawing at my mind.

Well they "ain't no more"!

I didn't set out to do offset squares. My back up plan was to draw hexes using the Archduke's scheme of starting with offset rectangles of particular dimensions and then then adding the angles. Not being a wiz at either math or accurate measuring, I none the less calculated that I would need rectangles of 4" x 3 15/32nds" and had already worked out that I could start by shifting the Northern and Southern edges of each square in alternate North/South rows 2" South. I was about a quarter of the way done when I realized that since I wasn't in the slightest concerned about inequity in speed  but only with getting rid of corners while increasing the number of directions in which a unit could travel, I should give offset squares a go. That way I only had 1/2 the east-west dividing lines to redraw/mask and I'd be done. More than that my existing hills could easily be made to fit and still be flexible with minimal work.  Two hours later and the board is ready for a trial game.

Now as to that other little matter, I am used to silly little things like receipts and statements going astray over the course of a tax year but a toy soldier head going absent over a mere 19 years is a different matter!

All present and accounted for Sir!
 It took almost 10 minutes of searching in day light before the culprit was found consorting with a collection of 40mm heads. Then I had to find a trumpet, something I didn't actually have back then. Oh look, that Hussar didn't originally have a trumpet, I wonder where it came from, they are over strength anyway and won't be able to take everyone into the field...

"Order from the Minister of Defence in Ottawa Colonel, the Princess Louise Hussars are to surrender that trumpet to the Governor General's Body Guard." 

"Yes I realize you are a New Brunswick Regiment and the Bodyguard are an Ontario Regiment but we're all Canadian now and in matters of defence, orders from the Federal government take precedence and trumpets are even scarcer than rifles right now." 




Friday, November 17, 2017

When the Kath's away.

This week promises to be cold and wet and my wife has abandoned me to go to a dog show so I anticipate a teeny bit extra hobby time. My plan is to spent Saturday getting figures and table ready and making another attempt at rewriting the rules slightly to better express the ideas in my head for this particular collection.

There is so much to do to bring the Canadian and fictional Fenian forces to battle readiness that I decided to start with my Zulu War forces. The 58th Foot has now had 2 figures added to bring them up to two regulation companies, each of 4 figures.

The 58th Ft are now ready for action.
Next up are a troop of the Governor General's Bodyguard. I ordered one 4 figure Big Wars' unit of these from Soldierpac in 1998 (I gave him the code numbers I wanted and he immediately guessed that I was doing the GGBG not some British Dragoon Regiment - he knew his stuff and his client base!) and began assembly but got interrupted by a good deal on Britain's Crimean Light Brigade and then by plastic 54mm figures. I resumed assembly today so they haven't had to wait 2 full decades.
Governor General's Bodyguard (in waiting).
The trooper who was ordered to become a trumpeter seems to have lost his head though. A preliminary  sweep of the sorts of places where off duty, un-assembled, troopers like to hangout failed to locate the missing head and I am considering my options which include, buying a new head, making one, using a forage cap or, simply adopting the 3 figure cavalry squadron (like my US Cavalry and the largest cavalry unit that will fit in a 4" hex) as standard instead of going with 2 'troops' or units each of 2 figures like my 17th Lancers. I'll do a more intensive search before I make a decision.

That leaves Sunday for a game, hopefully the first game of a mini-mini-campaign.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

1934 Film Look at Canada in the Great War

Thanks to Rob from the Captain's blog for this.



Published on Nov 3, 2015
This film is a heritage item from Library and Archives Canada and is only available in English.

This film was the first feature length documentary film with sound to be made in Canada. The production team compiled the film throughout the world and from Canadian cameramen who followed troops through training and into combat. Simulated battle scenes are also included. Part 1 - The story of Canadian military participation in WWI. A review is made of the major incidents that lead to declarations of war. Leading personalities are shown. Recruitment and training of soldiers takes place. Part 2 - The Battles of Mons, Ypres, the Somme, and Vimy Ridge. Part 3 - The Battle of Passchendaele. Sequences on the Royal Flying Corps in action on land and in the air. Dominion Day 1918 festivities among Canadian Armed Forces personnel at the front line near Vimy Ridge are captured on camera. End of the war celebrations and commemorations are shown. Exceptional material includes: Princess Patricia dedicating the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment at Lansdowne Park, August 23, 1914; the sinking of the Szent Istvan, an Austro-Hungarian battleship, where sailors look like ants heaped up on one side and then jump into the sea; new military technology; war ruins and refugees; the American entry into the war; an observation balloon going up in flames; and Canadian railway troops building tracks. Canadian troops hold an Athletic Field Day on Dominion Day 1918; Canadian troops extinguish fires at Cambrai; the Prince of Wales in military uniform surrounded by other officers; soldiers in trenches, in marching formation, cheer news of the end of the war; funeral procession of nurses watch soldiers carry the coffins of nurses killed in an air raid of a hospital in France, May 1918. Officers salute the open grave. The Canadian troupe, The Dumbells, perform before Canadian troops on Dominion Day 1918.

Source: Library and Archives Canada. Veterans Affairs Canada fonds, 1976-0222, IDC 115789.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Challenges and Choices

"This should be quick and easy....."

Well the first company of the Governor General's Foot Guards is now ready for duty but it wasn't quite as quick and easy as I expected.

The GGFG was raised in 1872 so basically missed the Fenian Raids unlike the older, but less senior, Canadian Grenadier Guards. They did, however, send a company to fight in the North West Rebellion. Of course none of this factual stuff need affect their deployment on the wargames table and since there  are only three Canadian Regiments that wear bearskin caps, of course they are in!

The Governor General's Foot Guards c 1885
(+ Scots Guard and antique Coldstream Guard). The GGFG were linked with the Coldstream Guards so wear a red hackle but on the left. 
The first challenge I had to meet was my impatience. The last toy soldiers I painted had been quite amenable to paint despite my having run out of the matte acrylic varnish that I used to mix with white or light grey paint to seal and prime the figures before painting. Usually I have no problem when I leave the varnish out but these lads  had a rougher surface texture than I expected, possibly due to weather & humidity when casting or something contaminating the alloy. In any event, the paint would brush on ok but then suddenly as it dried there would be a gap or an exposed bit would rub off. Anyway, several coats later, with breaks to allow extra drying time, they are done. 

The next challenge was that I am not yet used to the real Toy Soldier look. The Scots Guard in the picture was painted c1998 and has a simple version of the 1860's cuff and lace trim and some subtle shading (now lost under gloss). He originally  had a  matte finish as well. Beside him is an antique Coldstream Guard with the little round blue cuffs that Britain's used, even in full dress. I had hauled him out for an example along with a few illustrated toy soldier books and found myself pondering just how far I want to go with this revived Toy Soldier fantasy? Do I want to try to make them accurate replicas of antique soldiers, make them glossy but accurate models, or somewhere in between. 

 I've decided to compromise and go for a very simple painting which will evoke the originals but without being pedantic about the antique look.  (Might just go back and add the proper cuffs....)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Committing the Plan to Memory


Not human memory, that's as fleeting as it gets these days, digital memory, as in my blog.

After a week of poking about, contemplating exotic enemies, and reviewing present means and past unfinished business, I'm relieved to realize I don't need to start a new 54mm Toy Soldier campaign just yet. The three in hand will keep me busy for a year or two yet if not longer.

Last year I dithered a bit over  grid, unit size and army size but have now tested enough options that I am happy to settle on 4" hexes (or squares in the interim) and 4 figure infantry companies with 3 figure cavalry squadrons.

So the Campaigns in hand:

First and least is the "Portable Zulu War with Guest Stars". The Gordon Highlanders should not be there, especially not dressed for Tel el Kebir. Maybe one day they'll take me to Egypt but for now they'll do their duty wherever I send them. I have 4 infantry companies in sun helmets and 2 cavalry squadrons so for most games will have to include troops in less tropical dress for most scenarios but the glossy antique toy soldier creed allows that. The Zulus are in more than adequate numbers.

Practising for Huzzah last winter.

Second is the "Cyprus Hills" or "Northwest" Campaign. In the short term, I just need to add some Metis and terrain and tidy up a few units. Eventually I might want to add more troops in Riel Rebellion campaign dress including mounted scouts but I'm in no hurry.

The game that hooked me two years ago.

Third and largest is the "Defended Border" Campaign or what if the Fenians had been more like what the public imagination pictured? To put it another way, this is the perfect opportunity  for my " imagine if my Grandfather had fought a Red vs Blue wargame campaign with off the shelf boxes of toy soldiers" campaign. I now have lots of moulds for soldiers in long trousers and minimal equipment which are ripe for conversion to old toy style Civil War troops as well as Fort Henry Guards. I picture this campaign being ripe to eventually have enough troops for full CS Grant and Asquith scenarios with 18 or 20 units a side.

From the game fought last Canada Day.

While I was casting Guardsmen yesterday, I grabbed my Zouave mold and cast up a company of them as well. There  are plenty of Britain's Zouave & Turko sets to choose from for uniforms and I'll probably do some of the traditional blue with red trousers of the New York Zouaves but given the Fictional-Fenian context, I am tempted to paint some up as Papal Zouaves in grey such as were raised in Montreal to fight for the Pope.

Alfred Laroque, Papal Zouave, Montreal, QC, 1868
from the McCord Museum site.

I could even call them "Les Fils des Patriotes", sons of the 1837-39 rebels from Lower Canada who have joined with the Fenians.  After all, if using one's imagination, it doesn't do to rein it in too tightly.

Lest We Forget

I never met my Uncle Angus, my father's older brother. Like dad he served in the Royal Canadian Signal Corps during WWII. Unlike dad, he didn't come home.

He is not forgotten.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Recruits in Training

Just as I was contemplating the 'order' to expand my 54 mm armies, and pondering whether or not to buy another of the Coldstream Guards mold from Miniature Molds, John from Wargame Hermit Blog mentioned that he was looking for homes for some of his plastic figures and old molds.
Double Time!
In the picture he posted I saw a stack of red moulds. Miniature Molds is the only company I know that uses red rubber in their molds so I got in touch. I was expecting a couple of molds but to my joy and amazement yesterday, a big, heavy box arrived choc a bloc full. Christmas in November!

THANK YOU JOHN!

Today I tested a number of the molds and here is the first 4 man company entering training. I don't actually need hundred's more Guardsmen but a few more won't hurt and a few simple headswaps will allow me to recruit some line infantry and add some Britains-ish  regiments to the opposing Blue army.

They made some odd choices when choosing the molds. For example, there is an ordinary marching guardsman with a separate arm with a  shouldered axe.  You need a set of spare arms to give him a rifle. Including the axe in the spare arm set would have made more sense to me. About 1/2 the figures are in gaiters and have pouches and equipment, the rest are in trousers and no pouches. Luckily during the Fenian Raids and in the Northwest Rebellion, most militia would have worn trousers, as would the enemy, but regulars might have worn the new leggings so both will be of use and the leggings are definitely wanted for Colonial campaigns.

I'm definitely going to need another shelf.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Arms Race


Ever since I decided to allow myself to revive my 54mm late 19thC gaming I've had a small but important quandry. The only suitable artillery I have are two antique Britain's field guns. I love them but periodic searches for more have failed to turn any up, or rather very few available and none within my means. Where could I get more suitable, affordable guns?

Picture of an on sale 7 pdr from the AIP website.
Well, I have found three sources. Miniature Molds/Castings have a mold for an ACW Parrot which is not right but acceptable. It was tempting but there are now two manufactures of plastic Colonial British guns: Armies in Plastic and Expeditionary Force. The latter looks superb but the AIP gun also looks pretty good and I liked their Napoleonic guns which saw service with my 1812 and 1837 armies.

The matter was clinched tonight when I discovered that AIP has a big sale on their website so two 7 pounders  have been ordered along with a gatling  and a camel mounted screw gun. The crew figures, as nice as they are, will be surplus to requirements since the AIP style, just doesn't mix well with the vintage toy soldiers. (which is why I no longer have any of the 100's I painted and gamed with early this century.)

Now I just have to settle on a Foe. I think I do enough US-Canada stuff and am contemplating investigating the career of the Son of the Emir of Wadi Foulyam.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Roman is a Groanin'

Ron and I had another go at a Portable Ancient Wargame today.

The Scenario was Broken Ground from Programmed Scenarios. Ron with 30 SP of Gauls was defending a hill line. I was attacking with 45 SP of Romans.  I suggested that we use a turn limit for the game and suggested my usual  15 card initiative deck with Black indicating that the Gauls go first that turn, Red indicating Romans go first. If a Joker turned up the turn was over. When the deck was done, the game was over.

This gave the Romans 15 turns to have undisputed control of ALL of the hills behind the Gallic start line.


1/2 way through the game. The Romans, whom the omens (die roll) advised not to bother scouting since the Gauls would obviously be sitting on the hill line, were somewhat taken aback to be attacked by the Gauls before they had even  marched on and deployed!

Seeing that I had flubbed the die roll to be allowed to deploy on table and given the Gauls low value in defence, Ron decided to launch a preemptive strike. Thank goodness that his combat dice weren't better and that once my cohorts started arriving to reinforce my light troops, they had above average dice! 

A lengthy seesaw battle began which ended with the Gauls being exhausted but the Romans still being stalled. However gaps were appearing and finally I managed to coax some of my light units to roll a double move and exploit an involuntary gap just as I finally drove Ron to his Exhaustion Point. He was pretty much forced to retreat posthaste with me hot on his heels, hoping for an initiative flip to let me catch him. Didn't happen and the clock was quickly running out.

Once back near the hills, Ron was forced to turn and face first my cavalry and light troops and then my panting Legionaires. At last on turn 15 I had at least 1 unit on each hill but Ron still had 3 units defending as well as one with General attached blocking one of the passes.


I managed to eliminate 2 units but only pushed back the 3rd. So there I was, on the brink of exhaustion and not in undisputed control of the high ground.  A Gallic victory.

3 hours went by in the blink of an eye as the turns seemed to fly by while the advantage slipped back and forth with me trying to break through or go around Ron's line and the terrain while he kept shifting to keep his line and zones of control (ie adjacent hexes) intact and block me while whittling me down. Victory hung in the balance right up to the very last die roll!
(Sorry for the lack of pictures, I was too engrossed in the action to remmber.)

Sometimes the obvious, cautious tactical choice isn't  the most effective one! His plan was risky but paid off.

Another great game!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Battle of Brioche

The following is another excerpt from the anonymous journal reporting the  Cyprus Hills Expedition.

________________________________________

"It was a cold, cloudy day as we deployed and advanced on Brioche. The orders had come for each  battalion to deploy two companies in the front and leave two supporting companies far to the rear under cover.

The Constabulary scouted ahead while the Highlanders, Maritimers and Sharpshooters were on the left with orders to take the Indian camp. The first line of Fusiliers was on the right with orders to watch the woods and support the gun. The gun itself opened the ball by firing on the rifle pits surrounding the Trading Post."

The First Assault. Rally Men! Push On!
"From my position with the reserves I had a grand view of the affair. The companies on the left went at the rifle pits with the bayonet, cheering loudly but a hail of fire drove them back. Undaunted they rushed forward again and again till the Prairie was covered in scarlet patches. It was an inspiring but sickening  sight."

"Suddenly, the woods erupted in smoke and Fusiliers began to fall. As our lads returned fire blindly or manoeuvred to better positions, small groups of enemy warriors ran forward around our flank, crouching low, dashing from tussock to hollow, shooting quickly then disappearing only to reappear yards away. Our men were soon pinned down under a cross fire. Even the gallant gun crew were under fire but despite losses they continued to pound the main enemy position."

"A gallant charge by the Lancers drove the enemy back briefly but across the field our men were pinned down and the blood spilled seemed to have been in vain. Suddenly a bugle rang out! 'Withdraw' then 'Supports Forward' ! We rose and moved forward, determined to finish what our friends had begun at such cost. "

Fall Back! Forward the Reserves!
(ed. See notes)
"As we rushed forward to firing positions the noise  rose louder and louder. The gunners had come forward again and were pounding the trading post mercilessly. To our right, we could hear a piper blowing followed by loud cheers. The firing rose to a crescendo then suddenly died away. Glancing over my shoulder I could see someone waving the red ensign from the old farmstead. We were in! Huzzah for the Highlanders! Huzzah for the Farmers and Lumberjacks from New Brunswick! "

One more push boys!

"There was no time to celebrate though. The sun was sinking low and the enemy in the woods seemed as firm and elusive as ever. We could hear the thunder of hooves behind as the Lancers swept around to sweep the Indians from our flank and drive them back. Alas the Indians shot true and men and horses went down in droves. Alas the Gallant Six."

"Again I heard the pounding of hooves but just a galloper not another troop of horse. 'All in! Advance on the trading post with all speed while guarding your flank. The gun will move on its own'."
"The camp is ours! Reform! Advance!"
"Across the open space we could see the Yorks forming up outside the town with Douglas at their head.  'Fix Bayonets! Charge!'  Like furies they doubled across the fields. Bullets rang out not only from the pits but from the edge of the woods  and we rushed to cover them from that quarter."

"From our position we could see the Metis and Indians starting to slip away down a little hollow a few at a time, some mounted, some leading heavily laden carts but with bullets singing around our ears there was no time to stop and consider the matter."

"A final burst of fire another round of cheers and our boys were in amongst the rifle pits! There were a few final parting shots then all along the line the enemy faded away into the deepening gloom of a November evening. We'd done it!"

We're in!
"The excitement of the day was diminished somewhat by the news that the enemy had had just time to slip away with our d.....d dinners! and our RUM! To think, if we'd been just 15 minutes sooner... Oh well. It was real soldiering and we can be proud of our bravery under fire as we tend our many wounded and our dead. Thank God that the latter were fewer than we had feared."

The Reckoning at Widow MacPherson's Storehouse.
"Its nae ma fault yer honour that ye took so long and that bloody priest smashed yer tuns o' demon rum, those that your bloody big guns didn't blow up, nor that hungry men took yer beef and biscuits fer their wee hungry bairns. Ye and the Gentlemen in Ottawa maun pay what ye owe me all the same as I hae stored it for ye and ye must pay for the damage to this house of mine but I'll gie ye a good deal on some sacks of dried peas  I hae in a safe place, since ye've come so far and will be hungry."

Brioche: Technical Details



This game was based on One Hour Wargames Scenario 15 Fortified Defence. Red has 15 turns to capture both fortified "towns".

Forces are roughly equal but Red has the option to reset once per game. When he does he clears off  all of his and his whole force appears on the board edge again to try to finish the game.

Black had 12 Native riflemen (dismounted Irregular Cavalry mostly) with 2 Leaders.

Red had a General, 1 cavalry, 1 sharpshooter, 6 infantry, 1 fieldgun.

The rules were the Tin Army

Report to follow.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Incident at Brioche

As Winter approached, General Douglas decided to march the Cyprus Hills Column to the trading post at Brioche to collect the stockpile of supplies that were supposed to be waiting there. 

As the column approached Brioche, scouts came galloping back signalling enemy in sight. They reported that Metis and Indian Warriors could be seen barricading the trading post and digging rifle pits.

"Well boys, looks  like Pere Corbeau has your rum and biscuits. Lets go get them back!"


Thursday, November 2, 2017

As You Were!

This morning I was poking about and planning when I happened to look back at some older posts on the subject of wargaming in the breechloader era, posts such as  The-tin-army-steps-back-and-digs-in

"WHACK" (sound of palm smacking forehead)

I had decided in January to allow myself to expand my 54mm Toy Soldier collection again and let it take exclusive occupation of the late 19thC which is why the existing 40's for the same period were officially transferred to the early 20thC campaigns.

How do I forget these things so quickly?

From the Archives.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

(UPDATED) Rainy Day Games and their Consequences.

Monday was a windy, rainy, day and the table was all set ..... obviously it was time for another game.
Blue's Lancers rally back in disorder after a clash with Red Dragoons. (Game 2b)
The first step as to decide what to play. I still had an urge for Old School Shiny and bright red coats. I was tempted to stick with 54mm but I'd would 'kinda' like to get away from the Canada-US thing but at the same time I'm not sure exactly where else to go with what I have and don't want to duplicate Atlantica.  Needs some more thought or possibly less thought. Anyway, having mentioned Atlantica.........
Game 2a. Same terrain, different armies, different rules.
I rolled up 1870's Square Brigadier armies using the OHW lists giving Red 2 Cavalry and 4 infantry. (Technically 3 infantry plus either a skirmisher or zouave unit but I kept forgetting to give the Rifles their sharpshooter bonus.) Blue got a gun, 1 cavalry and 4 infantry.

The game worked OK but wasn't particularly interesting as it quickly bogged down in house to house fighting and it didn't feel quite right for the period. In theory the support rules should allow a group of adjacent "companies" to feel like 'battalion" but they don't, especially since the rules don't differentiate between a company of the same battalion or any adjacent friend. Works OK for the 20th C where companies were larger and spread out, being forced to some degree to act as separate units tactically  while being coordinated by battalion or brigade HQ. It didn't quite look and feel right here though and never quite seems to for this sub-period.

That was only part of it though. I went back and looked at the scenario again and realized that I had screwed up the translation of map and forces to the table. The scenario was designed for  a 36"x36" table with about a 6", maybe 9" wide town in the middle and 6 units each of a 6" (recommended) or 4" frontage. I had increased the table to 48"x48" with an 8"x8" town and reduced the unit foot print to 4".  Instead of being able to hold 1 unit or 1/6 of an 'army', my town could absorb 4 or 2/3 of an 'army'. Ah. When I tried this with my War of 1812 troops a year ago, I had doubled the number of units to compensate.

The linear problem was really the same one as had bothered me with the War of 1812 using 40mm figures and the same easy solution suggested itself. Skip the grid and break out Hearts of Tin. I was going to leave the game till another day but, you know, it was still cold and wet out and ...........
Game 2b. The unit footprints have been enlarged. 

The game had much more of the look and feel that had been in my mind. Of course, since the rules have not yet been updated and these troops have been resisting the orders to conform to 20thC standards and so the infantry were using two different basing systems, the game was a bit loosey-goosey at times, but it still felt right and worked.

One example of the indecision was whether the typical 1870's/80's deployment as a heavy skirmish line for firing with supports and reserves to the rear was better represented by a single line or double line since I had rejected my old way of doing it with a firing line spread out in front  with supports in column 6" to 12" behind them. Looked good but was a pain to track in action especially in armies without distinct regimental uniforms.

Note: (After more a more thorough post game review of both theory and practice, the "2 ranks with 3 companies per standard battalion, each with 4 bases of 2  figures" solution has won out despite the fact that this is consistent with my 1812 armies and my 20thC armies will use the same 2 figure stands albeit with only 2 of them per Square Brigadier company.)

Anyway, the game worked well with larger units and more of the action took place outside the town. Red had some disturbingly low die rolls and eventually both armies were exhausted but clinging to at least a quarter of the town so when the dogs signalled that dinner time had rolled around with three turns left to go, I called it a draw.

It would seem that the 1870's/80's is back in 40mm and I need to expand my list of active collections/"periods" back up from 9 to 12, refurbish and complete the troops, and finish the update to Hearts of Tin. I'll add all that to "The List".

SEE NEXT POST FOR UPDATE!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Solo Saturday Skirmish

There is something delightful about a Saturday with no obligations or commitments.  I decided it was time for a solo game. It seemed like a month or more since the last one but its actually only been 3 1/2 weeks  and 3 weeks with no game at all prior to Thusday's game! Not usual for me these days.

I had an urge to get my 54mm Britain's out but fresh from reading Bob Kettle's 1/72nd Cold War battle report, and the Archduke's 1/72 Western Desert Portable Wargame Sittingbad, it was on my mind that I had yet to try the Advanced Mid-20thC PW. I decided to grab One Hour Wargaming and my 1/72 Cold War forces and have a quick game.

An hour later I had my table cleared of the various bits of junk that seem to creep on it if left alone. An hour after that I had a scenario and forces selected and the game laid out. Finally I drew a card, looked at the table and thought "Nope! Not enough tiny little guys to get me interested."

Hmmm. "More troops?" Not what I had in mind.
"AHA!" Its been over 4 years since they've been out but I still have a box of Khaki 54's and a few tanks and guns in the back of the cupboard! Big enough to see and mid-20thC. Done!

The Red Patch Rebels clash with the Royal Green Helmets.

I had had an urge to do Sawmill Village but wanted something less familiar so I flipped open  OHW Wargaming to a random page and got: #16 Advance Guard. OK inspired by a PanzerBlitz scenario but essentially Not Quite Sawmill Village. Call it fate.

I didn't have a background for this conflict so I sorted out my Airfix and Atlantic WWII Canadians from the various Herald and Crescent figures, rolled up forces then divided the equipment. By the end of the game I had identified the Not-Canadians with their Red 1st Div Patches as some sort of Socialist Republican rebels leaving the 1950's guys to be the loyal defenders of the Duke of Somewhere's Commonwealth.

The Green Helmets had a CO, 3 infantry companies supported by a mortar, a Sherman and an SP Recoilless Rifle. The Red Patches had a CO, 4 infantry companies, a B.A.T and a Sherman. To claim victory one side would have to have sole possession of the town at the end of 15 turns. Both sides had an Exhaustion Point of 9.
The fighting rages near the 1/2 way point.
Before too long, both sides had rushed infantry into the town and they were locked in combat. In no time everyone was pinned. They couldn't move away or assault so all they could do is stick their heads up blaze away needing 6's to hit then duck back down. Then the Red Patch commander had the bright idea of outflanking a unit of pinned Green Helmets in the town and pushing them out of the town with an assault. It didn't work too well, they missed and were soon pinned down in the open by RR rifle and tank fire and wiped out in a few turns.  The Socialist tank followed in short order. Added to the losses in town the Socialist troops were exhausted by turn 10 but clung to their positions in town while the BAT did its best to remove the threat from enemy armour whenever they came in range.
Things look grim for the Socialists.
For most of the game the Ducal mortar had been pounding the town to little effect until the Socialists sent over a flag of truce to point out that they were in contravention of the rules of war which stated that Mortars could fire over adjacent infantry which were spotting for them but didn't say that they could fire over one town block to hit another.  The mortars had to pack up and shift to the flank but it didn't help their aim much after all.

Finally, as the clock started to wind down, every Ducal unit that wasn't pinned or destroyed was sent forward to try to get a line of fire on the last houseful of Red Patches. The BAT soon took care of that though and the Ducal losses also brought them to Exhaustion.  Only one Red Patch remained in town and only one turn to remove him by fire alone from the mortar and one battered company of infantry.
So close to a draw! With the last die roll of the game a 6 cut down the last Red Patch in town, leaving the town in the hands of the remnants of one pinned Green Helmet company.
So ended a close and absorbing game. There are still a few rules I need to get straight in my head or need to make a house ruling on. For example, a pinned unit cannot move, but can it change facing? For that matter, I seem to recall doing infantry drills for all around defence when on exercise and don't quite see why an infantry unit can't adopt such an all around posture if it doesn't move, at very least if it is defending a town block.

I was surprised to finally notice mid-game that the rule for infantry fire at tanks says they cannot "destroy" them, not that they can't inflict any hits at all.  Given the 1950's setting allowing them some AT defence at 2 squares seems reasonable. 

The other main thing I need to double check, then make my mind up on, is the effect of a retreat result on a pinned unit. I understand that a pinned unit cannot move voluntarily  although it seems odd that tanks can't withdraw under fire even though they are not exactly "hitting the dirt!"  Part way through the game I decided to double check the rule saying that pinned units can't be pushed by a retreat result   but suddenly couldn't find it. I'll need to look again more carefully (Update: found it! Its up front not in the 20thC rules themselves) but am leaning towards adopting a house rule saying that a Pinned unit may not move voluntarily but will obey a retreat result if otherwise able to. This will avoid the several situations I encountered where adjacent opposing units were both pinned meaning neither could retreat or rally until one of them was destroyed. It doesn't sit right with me that retreat, even under cover, would never be an option once you take a hit when close to the enemy so allowing an involuntary retreat seems like a good compromise. In addition, this rule makes Elite troops no better than Militia once they are pinned while adjacent. If I keep to the no retreat rule I'll have to borrow the basic game option of asjusting SP's up 1 for Elite's and down 1 for Militia.

In any event, I think I need to tidy these lads and their friends up and see about some new equipment  and a proper back story. To paraphrase MacArthur: "They shall return!".




Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ancient Hexes

At last! A game! A good game!
The Setup.
Ron had been planning another attempt to convert DBA3 to hexes but I countered with the Portable Ancient Wargame. The scenario was Hill Line Defence from Programmed Scenarios. I drew Gauls and Defend. Sigh.... I'd much rather have rolled "Defend with the Romans" or "Attack with the Gauls" but Omens are Omens.

I spread my 9 units out, hoping to have the speed to concentrate once I could identify the Roman's main thrust. Ron concentrated his 11 units in the centre, but initially threatening both my flanks with light troops. As he slowly closed he finally shifted his line of cohorts to his right and rapidly struck the hill on my left.

I was outnumbered in units and missile power but even more so in exhaustion points and was unable to make much use of my barbarian charge bonus while defending. My best hope seemed to be to try to slip past his flank to try to distract him while attacking some of his weaker units and to launch a preemptive charge to use my barbarian charge bonus to inflict losses and to gain retreat room for myself.

Alas, between being a little slow to commit and some unfortunate initiative flips my plan did not quite work and the main battle saw the Gauls in a fairly passive defensive mode on the edge of the hill while my flanking manouver had minor impact.

Mid-game. The Romans have pushed onto the hill and my diversionary flank attack has stalled but all is not yet lost. 
A unit of Roman cavalry managed to push through my line but despite driving it back against the table edge, I just could not get the final hit which would destroy it so it persisted in being a major obstacle to a controlled withdrawal.

Relentlessly the main line of Roman infantry pressed forward, pushing me off the left hand hill as I reached my exhaustion point of 12.  Technically, according to the scenario victory conditions, the game was a draw at this point but Ron had only lost 7 out of 15 exhaustion points  and without a time limit I had no doubt that he could surround and destroy me before I could exhaust him  and even if I did, his ballista and slingers  could eventually  finish the job so I conceded. 

The exhausted Gauls have been pushed off the largest hill and concede.
This was our first test of the published version of the Ancient Portable Wargame and provided just the sort game we were looking for with simple rules with no "gotcha" tactics. The dice had their effect at times but I can't blame my defeat on them!

We did come up with a few minor house rules.

The main one was to enhance the  rules for breaking contact. They say that a unit can not move adjacent to the front of another enemy unit but may move adjacent to the flank/rear of an enemy. We added that it may not attack that unit that turn if they do and banned a unit from moving away then circling around to finish the move in contact with the flank of the unit it had disengaged from.

We also decided to modify the shooting arc to a straight 120 degree arc on the hexfield. This was just to make it easier to trace the arc of fire, especially for the ballista.

Lastly we rules that if a General was attacked on his own, he could not fight back in close combat and did not stop units from moving on but was not automatically killed either.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Interlude

When you live in a 160 year old wood frame house, its pretty much inevitable that there will be periodic repairs and maintenance and some of those have been keeping me too busy for hobby stuff this week.

I'm almost done the current job but in the meantime here's a musical interlude, a song about the legendary Brian Boru by the near legendry Alan Stivell.




Friday, October 20, 2017

Mobilization Contiues

The first four Oerberg Riders have had their clothing and equipment updated. Dismounted Riders will follow then the other halves of these two squadrons.



I was going to put in before & after pictures but umh, well,  apparently, despite having appeared in many battle report photos, only one or two have had their portraits done. Oh well, what's done is done.

Anyway,  when I originally decided to go for the Shiny Toy Soldier look 10 years ago, this is more the look I wanted. At the time though, I had somehow managed to convince myself that my table was too small for anything but musket era battles in 40mm, hence the choice of the 1840's. 
The Constabulary has now acquired a PomPom gun crew who have retired from Oberhilse service and  light blue trousers and donned tan ones to fight for Oerberg. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Meanwhile, back on the workdesk

Just before interrupting myself for last Saturday's game set in.........what is the current accepted term for Twightlight years of the Roman Empire? Anyway, I was about to start updating some more old figures.
Oerberg Militia preparing for battle.
These lads were recruited almost a decade ago (in my pre-blog 'MacDuff on the Web' days) as a unit of Irregular mounted rifle unit, for my aborted Oregon War. The figures are Scruby ACW cavalry, in shell jackets, most wearing slouch hats. I took advantage of the original alt-history setting to borrow inspiration from various attractive uniforms from the 1840's ranging from Cape Mounted Rifles  to Texas Rangers.

Since I have decided to jettison the 1840's I now need these favourite figures to blend into an early 20thC setting so I have set to with my renewed store of Greenstuff to lengthen jackets and add ammunition bandoleers.

A lick of paint and varnish plus some regulation 2 man bases and there will be 2 stands of Oerberg citizen soldiers from two different units. I need to replace a couple of broken horses before I update the next 4 figures.

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!