How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Poodle attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Sunday, April 23, 2017


*Shipping at cost and by agreement. local pickup OK. 
*Reply in the COMMENTS section with a way to get in touch.

My War of Spanish Succession project: the perfect horse and musket period!
Infantry is still on par with cavalry. I don't know why people think Napoleonics is balanced - infantry in good order stomp cavalry...and ditto that for the 7YW. Anyway, great figs, great plastics, and good books. I was looking into "The First Peninsula War" i.e. the campaign in Spain, as an interesting place to game.

Wargames Factory mint boxes: All New On Sprue
4 boxes WSS Infantry each - 36 figs [total is 144 infantry], $25 each
2 Boxes WSS Cavalry each 12 cavalry [24 total], $22 each
2 Boxes WSS Artillery each - 2 Guns, 8 Crew, 2 mounted senior officers – on horseback
[Guns may be assembled as either 12 pounders or 8 pounders]
[total is 4 guns, 16 crew, 4 mounted senior officers]  $22 each

Starter Army: 2 boxes infantry, 1 cavalry and one artillery - $85!!!

All have many options as to how you make them – with the many extra heads and gear, you can make nearly any regiment of the war.

These were out of print from Wargames Factory. They’ve now been picked up by Warglord games, but at a substantial price increase OR with fewer figures [Infantry down to 24 figs instead of 32 figs]. Check out their website and compare. Even the Warstore can’t beat the price of this auction! You’re saving $15-40 even before considering shipping.

This items are also up at eBay, so there's about a week of waiting on them.

All Boxes front:

All Boxes back:

Infantry Boxes front:

Infantry Boxes back:

Cavalry Boxes front:
Cavalry Boxes back:

Artillery Boxes front:

Cavalry Boxes back:

More Skirmish - A Night Action by Yorktown

OK, so these are in fact American Revolution figures, and yes, they are 54mm toy soldiers that are literally borrowed from a 7yo - but more on that later. Still, the rules are basically the same, and altho the period is much advanced, these are a totally RAW series of two playtests. More playtests and the rules - as best as I could understand them - are in previous posts HERE.

EDIT:  There's a lot of Horse'n Musket posts for these skirmish rules HERE

Today I'm using these toy soldiers b/c that's the project we're working on - skirmish gaming with toy soldiers in the NW Frontier, 1880-ish. But, because the work on the rules was previously done here with GW figs - both classic Warhammer and LOTR film - I figured this is the best place to follow up on more work with these rules.

The intent was to explore both how it looks and how it plays in a small space. For day-to-day gaming, I personally don't have a lot of space altho I can expand from the 4x3' table in my office to the 8x3' table in the dining room, fighting down the length. Also, I've been considering the turn sequence and mechanics quite a bit, and as is now my custom, decided I absolutely had to play the game RAW, since I've eaten so much humble pie tinkering with NT rules in the past. Note that this does not make me apologetic for my critique that key rule mechanics - including ones mentioned in the rules themselves - are insufficiently explained. But more on that later.

Today, the rules are RAW and the figs are 54mm toys from a plastic bag at the Cowpens battlefield. Let's see what we think of both, eh?

Yes, the battle is - once again - Scenario #12: An Unfortunate Oversight from Neil Thomas' excellent "One-Hour Wargames" book. Not only was it already set up, but it is a pretty challenging maneuver scenario that I've now played so many times I'm quite aware of the key decisions a player needs to make, so doesn't intrude into the evaluation process. I could've used #4 or #8 just as well, both attacks on a hill - but it's not set up. All I changed was to add a lot more scenery, per the rules, "Remember to use lots of terrain" on p. 117. As always, lots of very specific guidelines here for the player, British-style!

In any event, here is the setup for what I envision as "A Night Action by Yorktown". The British are making a sortie against their beseigers - the goal is to carry the hill, spike the mortar, blow the powder, and retreat to the lines. Musket range is 16", foot move is 6", troop quality is Levy shoot and pass morale on a 5+, have 2 Hits and roll one Melee dice. Each quality higher - Average, Elite, Hero - adds '1' or 1 dice to the number, so the Hero has a 2+ 5 Hits and 4 melee dice. The wood is dense and the trees just mark it. I consider LoS to be from the edge, or 6" if crossing one side of the wood. The rest of the terrain counts in game terms as it looks.

Americans stretch from the town to the hill, the most direct route. Brits are taking the flank route, crossing at a ford they discovered nearby and which the Cunning Colonists know nothing about...

For such an action, we have a picked force of grenadiers [below] clothed in, well, red, Red RED! The rules say forces of 55 points, but I've 49 here, with 6 Elite Grenadiers [3 advancing with bayonets leveled, 2 fixing bayonet, and 1 firing] led by a Hero Sergeant [hustling forward] and an Elite officer [looking, as you'd expect, like he was trying to remember where his sherry decanter is], all with muskets except the officer has pistol / sword. Apologies to the gentry, but after all, the Lt. purchased his commission while the Sgt EARNED his. Still, I think I'm being fair that even a new officer in the Grenadiers would pick up that Elite attitude. Perhaps he was the lead in Rackets in debter's prison, or something.

Below, the much larger - and poorer - Rebel force. Elite officer, mounted with pistol, and 8 Average light infantry [probably Hessian Fusilier figs, but whatever] with musket.

And on the objective hill, below, a siege mortar that is disturbing the Duke of Cornwallis' letters home to his sick wife - can't have that, can we? While they may be great gunners, here they are 4 Levy with Musket, led by an Average gun commander with sword / pistol.

Altogether the Americans make a force of 51 points, with 14 figures. Probably should've rid myself of one gunner, at two points [1 for Levy foot, 1 for a musket]. If they lose, the Brits can claim the odds were stacked against them, somewhat, eh?

Below, the setup. Americans must be within 12" of the town. They opt for half in the town, half behind in cover behind the slight hill, with the officer ready to lead the Quick Response Force from the rear. 

Below, Brits stacked up all at the ford to the right. I'm saying that the stream is rough so costs double to move through, or 3" a turn.Plan is to zip through the field using the hedge as cover, gain the small hill to right, and from there mount an attack on the objective after tearing up the Rebel force. Let's see how it unfolds - there's a bottle of sack in it for the winner! Leading off is the Hero Sgt with 5 Grenadiers. Tailing is the officer with his bodyguard, a Grenadier with aspirations.

Turn 3 below. The Brits are in the field, but the Yanks are forming up. The Race for the Hedge has resulted in a 2-2 tie for cover. Unfortunately, the majority of the force is in the field, on a moonlit night, with the Yank officer dashing to cut them off.

Turn 4, below. A hot action is occurring across the hedge - both have cover. The flanking force is in difficulty from the gunners' musket fire on the hill, but they did put 3 Hits on the Yank officer, causing him to take cover behind the rise. One Grenadier has 3 Hits, only 1 left, but casualties are light.

Turn 5, an ugly night action flares by the hedge gap, with bayonet thrusts through the branches and even the Grenadiers taking some Hits, albeit taking a couple of lives in the process. Below a successful melee defense holds the hedge for now.

Below, Brit Turn 5. The flanking force determinedly advances, while also trying to support their blocking force with a shot or two. Still, not looking good, with Rebels everywhere and Grenadiers taking Hits. Dice lined up show the Brits winning a melee with a high dice of '6' v. '4' for Yanks. The yellow '4' causes 2 Hits from the bayonet thrusts of the desperate Grenadier. The "roll many dice, win with highest single roll" is a quick mechanic that produces both probability and variation, works well if you're OK with your occasional bad roll.

Below, Yank Turn 5. counter-attack leads to victory against the odds. Yank '5' beats 6 dice of two Grenadiers - Bloody Lucky Yank! Grenadier goes down as the yellow '5' results in two more Hits on him, for 4 total, enough to take out even a Grenadier.

British Turn 6. Firing upon the Yank commander and one soldier leads to no hits. Did they buy their ammo from a Philadelphia Quaker? Hmmm....

Yank Turn 6. More help arrives, and they take out some more Grenadiers with Fire.

British Turn 7. Unloaded and under pressure? CHAAAAARGE! Over the top they go. Nice thing about Charging is you get to pick your fights.

Scads of dice later and the Yank commander goes down with 6 hits, only 4 needed to kill him, anyway.

Still, the counter-attack hurts. Grenadiers are going down and most of the survivors have Hits at this point. They are at or over 50% with 3 of 8 left, so have to check morale.

And all pass except the Hero Sgt! He rolls a '1' and takes off. Still, he has 4 out of 5 Hits, so if he's 80% dead, shouldn't we cut him some slack? Still, no mention in dispatches for him!

Well, to get into the eval, I should start by saying these are a very serviceable set of rules, with some very clean shoot, melee and morale mechanics. The IGO-UGO isn't too trying since you do have the opportunity to save an Action and "Ambush" on the opponent's turn. This uses the "make the opposing player stop while you react" mechanic, which I loath and detest, as it leads to so much broken ploys. I much prefer a "react upon the completion of an enemy Action" from MP's "Starship Troopers" [an ill-handled, excellent game]. In the excitement, I mostly forgot about the Ambush mechanic, and I nearly forgot about Force Morale, as well.

These are a solid set of rules that need a bit of fleshing out but any gamer with some experience, or who's willing to ask around, should be able to tweak them without completely hashing them up.

Cover / Deep Cover tactic is confusing, but very interesting.  Cover works how you think, giving the figure in cover a 4+ save on 1d6. Deep cover gives the figure a second d6 for a 4+ save, in effect, doubling his chance to save. But, using Deep Cover gives a Target Figure of that Figure's Fire a bonus d6 save, so if it's in the open it gets a 1d6 for 4+ save, and if in cover 2d6. If both are in Deep Cover, they can't fire, presumably b/c they've no LoS.

How this works is a bit vague - it just says that "Figures may choose to be in Partial or Deep Cover. Units [sic - Figures?] in deep cover enjoy greater protection, but their firing effectiveness is limited. Units in Deep Cover are denoted by laying them down on the table."  The last implies to me that they're "getting down" as well as being in cover, so are limiting their LoS. How they do this is not explained - seems like at any Fire Action, one has to pick which one you're doing, and it would last until your next Activation.

In Melee, a figure in Deep Cover still just gets the one saving dice, not two - the second is only for firing. I do like this because if everyone is fighting in the deep woods French and Indian War style, then there should be a lot fewer shooting Hits, and the fight becomes a scattered series of melees in rough terrain with some confusion. Unfortunately, I didn't have quite enough terrain set up for that, so really playtesting that mechanic will have to wait. Also, it seems to me that sometimes the "Deep Cover" should be forced upon soldiers not just voluntary.

I like the fact that muskets shoot every other turn, and have to be reloaded. This could be combined with Deep Cover so that Reload = Deep Cover automatically. There are very realistic choices about taking time to reload, charge, advance, retreat, fire, that give the game great feel for a very simple rule.

Overall, a solid game, albeit with a scenario grabbed from elsewhere, and equal forces by points that seem a bit tough on a small, elite force. Clearly, another playtest is in order to get into this!

As for the figures, I did enjoy the size, which was quite startlingly big! My terrain doesn't quite cut it, but that can be remedied. Despite some pronounced mold lines, they look OK, and with some cleaning would paint up just fine. As there aren't many needed for a 1:1 figure to man ratio, in addition to which each man is a "unit" unto himself, some time cleaning them up wouldn't be as bad as say cleaning up 50 25mm figures for a big unit of Gauls or something.

Overall, a positive experience and a positive impression!

Some rules tweaks upon which I've taken notes:
- Work on type and nature of Actions. As these will be for NW Frontier, I can eliminate some of the odd weapons [like Crossbows] and even repeaters if not revolvers. At present, Repeaters / Revolvers allow two shots a turn or a split Action of 1/2 Move and 1 Shot.
- add a generic Action for a success doing anything from throwing to climbing, dis/mounting, whatever. 
- clarify the Cover / Deep Cover mechanic. It seems obvious to me that if figures can choose one or the other, and it mainly affects how they fire and are fired upon, then the key moment for them to choose is when they Fire, and they have to stay in that Cover type until their next activation. Perhaps the clearest way to do this is to say that they "go prone", which would also give them 1d6 Save in "open" terrain, in essence a bonus d6 instead of just enhancing the Cover save. Also, there should be times when this is forced upon a figure, not just always being voluntary.

Lots to think about!

Monday, January 23, 2017

MDF Bases by VP Sales

I was looking around for bases, and wasn't sure I wanted to go with Corsec as it's a special order item, altho I like dealing with Corsec and have no problem recommending them. 

Did an internet search and stumbled across a series of base auctions by VP Sales. They were in batches of 10 for $2.50, plus a modest shipping fee. While VP didn't have exactly what I wanted, I asked via eBay message if he could make them, got prompt reply, and decided to give it a go. All went quick except that I messed up my shopping cart and then Christmas intervened [and I would certainly not fault anyone for slow service on that day!] and I felt stupid.

In any event, I got 60 custom bases in 3mm laser-cut MDF:
50 square bases, 1.5" @ $15
10 rectangular bases, 2x3" @$3.50
Combined shipping from KY 41042 was $5.00 for USPS 1st Class, 12 oz package.
Total price was $23.50, or 40 cents a base, payment was by Paypal.

Quality is just fine, and they exactly match up with my Corsec bases, so no accuracy problems here. They were shipped in a box with peanuts, no breakage.

Unless someone has a much better deal of which they know, I'll be ordering from VP again. VP Sales info:
[EDIT -Corrected] Website is HERE
eBay ID: showcaseterrain1

I'll be using these for my skirmishing 40mm ECW trials, and other big fig skirmish games [more on this very soon, trials are already underway!]. Not only do they reduce damage to figures, but I've decided that square bases are the way to go as it is easy to measure facing / sides off the corners.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Wargaming: An Introduction" - ACW rules playtest

Got together with veteran gamer - and Army veteran - to push around some of his 15mm lead and see what he thought about the rules. It's always good to get a fresh view on game rules when you've been at them for a while. Here, I sent them on ahead, and John diligently read them, putting him in a very small minority of gamers!

We used Scenario #11, "Surprise Attack" from "One-Hour Wargames", a classic that I've played many times and which has some clear-cut decisions to be made with which I'm familiar. This means that mere poor decisions or unfamiliarity will have less of a impact on what is really a test of the rules rather than the scenario or even victory. previous visitors will recall that I used it several times to playtest my "minimal changes" set of the OHW rules for Horse and Musket, HERE. 

John provided a full force in the W:AI rules, so the Union had 8 infantry, 3 guns and 2 cavalry, while the Confederacy had 6 infantry, 2 gun and 2 cavalry. We used the modified charts I had, and also rolled for leaders, as I stole the General rules from the Napoleonic rules in W:AI also. I of course rolled the usual weirdness, and ended up with 3 Elite and 3 Militia infantry, but got 2 elite cavalry. Union had a more representative spread of Average and Militia, but I think there was one Elite infantry. Guns were 2 Napoleons and a Rifle for Union, 1 6lb and 1 Napoleon for the Rebs.

I chose to take this force on the defensive, or the Red team. John had extra punch and I figured that meant the offensive. The Defender in Scenario #11 starts with only 1/3 of his force at start, with 1/3 entering turn 3 and the last 1/3 entering turn 9 - and it's a LONG wait for the last 1/3 on turn 9! I know this from experience...Scenario map and such below:

And John's lovely board, below - seen from the Reb viewpoint. The yellow lines are of course the road, the fenced farm to right center is the impassible bog, the left fenced farm is a wood [I didn't want to change the table and it all worked]. 

I set up the Rebs between the two terrain features per the rules. John put his guns in the center with a brigade of foot on either side. He started with Cavalry on the wings, then crossed the right cavalry over to join the left one. His guns are firing through the center gap. I'm sidling over to the 'woods' where I plan to contest his advance and also hide from his dramatic superiority in guns. My 6lb has so little impact that I decide to hide it behind the woods instead! This was mainly due to bad dice rolling. His left cavalry are obviously heading around my right flank. 

My main error was to forget that we're supposed to be on a 3' board, but with all the distractions of running the rules, I didn't realize for a few turns that John was actually 5' away from me! I gave him a 6" free move to get closer on turn 3 or so.

A few turns later, we were fighting right in the woods, below. The mass at the top of the woods is three Union regiments in double lines, faced by one Elite Reb. Behind is the preceding Elite Reb, that had been holding the edge but lost a stand and bolted. The Yanks were right behind, so I couldn't rally them and had to move back again, while I re-positioned my support unit. To the right is another Reb facing 3 close Yanks, one incoming Yank behind which are the guns. I did make one Yank scamper in the fight at the top edge of the woods, but I doubt the ability of the one infantry to hold off all those Yanks.

Still, they are buying some time, and my three Militia infantry are forming up at the objective, the crossroads behind them.

Here we get into the nitty-gritty of rules testing, below. John fully expected to be able to "mass" his infantry, 3-1, against mine in the woods, charging the whole bunch at me. However, the rules might not allow this. If you use the 19th C. rule set interpretation, then it's one charging Unit per side [front, rear, both flanks]. If you second-guess the language of W:AI, it may only be one charging Unit per Unit, not even one per side! I chose to go with the 19th C. rules for now. This and the order of phases makes it difficult for units to pour in support fire since the charging friend would block their fire as charges / moves precede fire. I have to say I really don't care for Move-Fire-Melee, but Brits seem to love it!

Still, John has his Yanks all on the Front side. That means that he can roll to charge each one, until one passes, and then put that one in Contact. The others will not be able to fire or charge. Or he can instead fire all three units, pretty likely causing a morale check. If nothing else, in a turn or two he'll win the battle of attrition, most likely.

NT clearly leans into the - very historical, granted - concept that regiments would choose to fire until the enemy appeared to waver, then would go in with cold steel. My experience is that gamers like to charge way too quickly, using math to bully their way forwards. However, even if one successfully passes the morale check to charge, the defender gets to fire, and then there's morale if a stand is lost, and nothing better than an even melee if they don't lose a stand and don't have to check. So a 50-50 to win the melee. 

Some well-read gamers would say that even a 50-50 going in without weakening the defender with fire is too generous. I agree with that historical assumption. Interestingly, in game mechanics, the combination of all units being the same size, and all firing and meleeing the same [3+ per attacking stand to get a hit, a defending stand is lost at 4 hits] results in a net 50-50 chance, if you go in Fresh, and if you pass your original morale roll to charge at all. 

Contrast this with Simplicity in Practice, which has no morale roll to charge, but gives a solid advantage to the defender if the attacker doesn't have an edge in Disorder Points. The bottom line is that NT is trying to force gamers to either weaken the enemy with firepower and then charge, or take a chance at going in at odds of 50-50 at best, perhaps worse depending on supporting fire. Overall I'm fine with the concept, just wondering if the execution in game mechanics can be more nuanced without a lot of complexity.

Meanwhile, to my right [below] the Union cavalry are contesting my arriving reinforcements, two Elite cavalry and a Napoleon, with their two regiments of grocery store clerks [average cavalry]. Some humor was made at their expense expressing a confidence I did not have - with my back to the board edge, I was looking at losing any Unit that was forced to retreat - so "fake it 'til you make it" for the Rebs! 

Fortunately, the bottom Yank cavalry doesn't make its charge roll. Unfortunately, Rush's Lancers do, and we're now in melee. Fortunately, the Rebs win the melee by one Hit, despite rolling badly - the Yanks rolled worse! They retreat a move, I move after them to get away from the board edge. Below, on my turn I charged the other Yank cavalry. I - believe - I managed to fight my way from the board edge there, also. In any event, the Rebel reinforcements get on and stay on the board by the skin of their teeth.

The Yanks close in on the woods below. While definitely attriting the defense, they are not getting closer to taking the crossroads and victory. The Reb in the back with a 3-1 formation rallied back its stand, so we're doing OK holding on in the woods. The choice to attack heavily there struck me as a bit too close to the Chew House decision in the Battle of Germantown, but on the other hand John's successfully pinned my Elite infantry in the woods. Only problem is he can't force a quick decision there.

Did discover a small rules glitch here - to avoid people easily picking on flanks covered by friendly infantry, I phrased the Line of Sight rules to make it difficult to get a shot as I measure LoS from an attacker's front center to the center of any side [front, rear, either flank side] that is in LoS. But the short range of these rules and the shortened LoS in the woods meant that I have to allow the distance to be drawn to the closest side, even if it is a flank protected by a friendly Unit. Or, I can scrap the Protected Flank rule for fire but not charges, or scrap it completely. This doesn't matter much since there is no Enfilade bonus in these rules. Decisions, decisions...

A bit to the right, the Yanks spread out against my Militia - just as well, since they only pass a morale roll on a '6'! I manage to shoot off a stand, but my right flank needs the VMI cadets to get there fast!

Below, the concentrated fire in the woods drives back one Yank unit, easing the pressure a bit. Still, there's 4-3 odds there. The main problem as I see it is that altho I've three units, there's only a frontage of 8 stands as I'm getting pressed in - if the Yanks spread out a bit, they'd get about 12-8 on my two front Units in stands.

Below the woods, my VMI have moved up, while my left Militia was able to charge into a gap made by a retreating Yank! This is very good, since they're holding the crossroads and, well, they're not very good troops!

At this point, we had to call it. the game took a bit of time since we had some great conversations, and some of them were even about the game! My host is an interesting dude, I can tell you that for certain.
  This was an excellent playtest b/c it brought up several rules issues. The major one is the classic "concentration of force". NT has some mechanics that make it quite difficult to do so by several units on a unit or two that are either part of a continuous line or have secure flanks. It should be noted that both the Napoleonic and ACW W:AI rule sets allow  three Units to charge an isolated Unit with open flanks [one each on the Front and both Flanks], which should easily and quickly drive off the defender, unless the attacker has just awful HtH rolls.

I checked the Napoleonic rules, and those also do not say how many Units are allowed to charge a defending Unit. However, both the Ancients and the Pike and Shot rules specifically say "the two antagonists will fight in the hand to hand phase " and "a unit may turn to face an attacker on its flank as long as it is not in melee towards its front". 

So is seems I'm likely wrong about using the 19th C. rules mechanic which limits charges to one per side, four total, with the Napoleonic and ACW rules. Overall, I'm leaning towards allowing more than one Unit to charge a single side in both these sets of rules. The ACW rules already have the morale check, which will limit the ability of attacking units to gang up in melee. The Napoleonic rules do not have a morale check, and I'm wondering how the famous British line are supposed to hold off 2-3 charging French in column, but I'll have to ask Steve at "Sound Officer's Call" about that.

EDIT: SOC Steve sent me a pic of NT's Napoleonic Wargaming book, and it is also one Unit per face of the charge. This leaves me at:
* Wargaming: An Introduction [2005] - Ancient / Pike and Shot mention two Units, with the possibility of one on the front and another on the flank / rear side.
* Ancient & Medieval Wargaming [2008] - says the same as above.
* Napoleonic Wargaming [2009] - specifically says up to one Unit per defender's side.
* Wargaming 19th C. Europe [2012] - also specifically says one attacking unit per side of defending Unit.
All the above use the same 4-base Unit and sequential casualty mechanic, so I consider them to all inform each other.
**One-Hour Wargames [2014] of those rule sets of the nine that allow melee contact  they all specify one unit per side, OR only one unit [cavaly] charging one target per turn.
At this point, I am now flipping back from my above comment, and running with Dale's opinion I saw on my pal's post that "NT assumes one unit per side, whether he says it or not."  That is probably because units are identical in size in his rules if they can charge - only artillery are narrower, so that makes me think that he assumes that Units pretty much take up each other's frontage on the charge, and perhaps we should move them into full edge to edge contact, as well.

Overall, I'm realizing that one little tinkering - allowing Units to deploy in two ranks - can have plenty of unforeseen consequences. Here, it allows people to concentrate multiple Units within the same frontage as a unit in line, apparently not NT's intent. As ACW commanders didn't usually deploy in that formation for fighting, I may have brought this upon myself as NT says that all the Units are to be four bases fighting in a 1-base deep line. However, it won't solve the problem for Napoleonics as they are definitely allowed to fight in a column!

Wish NT answered emails!

Overall, the questions I came up with are:

  1. Ditch Protected Flank?
  2. Enfilade for Guns?
  3. Allow multiple charges?
  4. Mounted cavalry should easily charge mounted cavalry...and skirmishers, I think.
  5. longer retreat movements? or at least from Melee?
  6. Spreading fire over a continuous line.

I'm leaning towards Yes, Yes but only at a steep angle, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. All quite small changes, except for #3. They do add to the complexity a bit, but not much. For newbies, I think the One-Hour Wargames rules are the way to go, at this point, anyway.

So much thanks to John, who was both a gracious host and had some real insight into both history and game mechanics.  Just goes to show that for every draft, you need several playtests, and a couple with sympathetic gaming veterans!

Monday, January 9, 2017

With a Rebel Yell...

...they cried, "Charge, charge charge!" [with apologies to Billy Idol]

OK, so I wanted to see if the scenario would work on the flip side, and if the smaller 5-Unit CSA force could take on the 7-Unit USA force. As a reminder, last post the forces were:
CSA: 2 Eeager / 2 Steady Infantry, 1 6lb Gun
USA: 4 Steady / 1 Reluctant Infantry, 1 12lb Napoleon and 1 3" Rifle Gun.

This time, I wanted to change things up a bit, and it probably wasn't the best idea. I put one Eager CSA Infantry and the General against the town, which had a Steady USA Infantry in it. After a moment's pondering, I moved the USA General into the town, also, as the rest of the force was just maneuvering without threat of action soon.

The USA plan was to put one Steady Infantry in the town, the Guns between the hill objective and town, and move the rest of the infantry onto the hill with the Steady in the front and the Reluctant in reserve.

The CSA plan was to seize the town, breaking the Steady USA Infantry in it, threaten the Guns, and support the main attack by one Eager and two Steady Infantry, supported by fire from the 6lb Gun which hid in the angle of the town edge from the Union Guns.

Interestingly, this made it close for both sides. While the CSA Unit did ford and threaten the town, poor rolling had them retreating shot down to 1 base. The over-confident USA General decided to threaten the CSA Infantry and nearby 6lb Gun, which lost them two bases and sent them packing back over the river. As the battle progressed, I had to pull out the Union Infantry anyway due to the aggression of the CSA assault.

The CSA attack on the hill had some good planning and rolling, and forced the USA to the brink of defeat. I made good decisions with the friction issues of the morale rolls, and at the below point it could go either way after CSA Turn 17. The USA General got whacked in the midst of the hill struggle, and two of his Infantry had reatreated and were clustered up in column of divisions in the middle.

There were some CSA concerns however, mainly that the USA had shifted their Guns to fire upon the CSA Gun and it was taking Hits, and also the top-most CSA Infantry, the Eager one, had just retreated and had a permanent Hit. However, if the Union blew its next fire rolls and the CSA held in there, I envisioned the USA right flank to collapse and the hill to become untenable:

Unfortunately, it was not to be. On USA Turn 17, they caused another CSA retreat and were re-positioning their guns to blast the Rebel line, and I didn't see any way to counter that as the CSA Gun had been knocked out. They also had few Hits on their Units that would provoke a Morale Check in the next turn or two, while the bottom CSA Infantry had 3 Hits and only a 5+ chance to pass that check.

Overall, this was a corker of a re-play, and I think I made a mistake in trying to take the town from a Steady USA Infantry Unit, and in positioning my CSA guns, who should've instead lead the crossing.

In any event, this was a satisfying game that played pretty quick, and I was able to finish my notes on little changes to make for the rules. I will post these soon. They contain simple rules for Smoothbore Muskets, 6lb Guns, Sharpshooters, Mounted Infantry, and more, and make me realize that these rules will also be just fine for the AmRev, also!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wargaming: An Introduction - ACW Rules AAR #2

Well, at this point, the oversight is reaching culpable proportions to outright negligence and dereliction of duty! How many times and in how many periods can someone neglect to guard a flanking ford?? Well, with a few plays of this in 25mm Feudal Knights HERE and one in the ACW previously HERE, perhaps this should be titled "The Return of the Son of 'An Unfortunate Oversight' Rides Again"?

OK, a reminder for new readers that this is a playtest of the W:AI ACW rules [here a bit modified] using a scenario from the excellent "One-Hour Wargames" book, #12, an unfortunate Oversight, which features an attacker discovering a flanking ford to avoid a bloody contested crossing at a town/bridge - classic stuff! Follow the above links for the previous ACW game and some plays of it with my Feudal Rules, themselves a spin on NT's Medieval OHW rules.

Of course, this outing originated in my excitement and pleasure with the "Wargaming: An Introduction" ACW rules combined with no interest in switching up the terrain. Also, I've found that re-playing scenarios while testing rules gives a better and faster evaluation of them. The rules themselves provided a great first game but had a couple of things I didn't like.  So after much serious consideration of Neil Thomas' approach and ideas, and a couple of aborted starts, I've now played this test and have very few complaints. Game was lots of fun, great historical feel and played in a reasonable amount of time [especially considering that I was taking pics and making some notes] around 90 minutes. 

So here you can see some of my tweaks to these enjoyable and quite realistic set of ACW rules - just a little bit really, and many stolen from the Napoleonic rules in the same book - and my retaining both the core design and spirit of the rules, I Hope. Also, I wanted to test the full set of rules, so diced for two half-armies for 1862-3. I did a previous outing and rolled well for the Union and poorly for the Confederates, so had 2 x Militia and 2 x Average fighting 2 Elite, 2 Average and a Militia. That ended in a pretty quick rout, but I had some problems with my rule modifications, too. 

One thing to note is that I put in some simple rules for Infantry formations, shown below. I have a simple, full line made up of two 3x1.5" bases. This represents most of the regiment up front, firing, and fires a full four dice, one for each stand in the game terms, but mine count as two stands for each base. The other formation is a double-rank line. This represents some companies kept back either as additional reserves or to fit into a space, or to represent a maneuvering column of divisions - my reading has showed this was a common formation for regiments in reserve. This fires with only 2 dice as it represents only two bases up front with the other two bases in a second rank - they can't fire altho they count for melee.

Also shown below is the 3x3" base I use for guns. I figure in scale they always occupy less width and more depth due to the caissons, limbers, etc.

It should also be noted that I've changed the names of Unit quality: I've classed them as Eager, Steady, and Reluctant [rather than Elite, Average and Militia] which I feel more accurately describes the period soldiers.

Below, the CSA force as I rolled it; two Steady Infantry left, a 6lb Gun [same as 12lb Napoleon but hits on 5+ instead of 4+], two Eager Infantry [with flags], and an Eager General [gives +1 morale modifier, has 12" move, killed if he's used and a natural '1' is rolled - he's then replaced on a 4+ during the Rally Phase, but counts as a loss for victory conditions].

Below, the USA force as I rolled it; a Reluctant Infantry left [no flag], two sections of Guns behind [black 3" Rifles left, brass 12lb Napoleons right], four Steady Infantry with flags, and the General also rolled Eager, so both sides have good leadership today!

CSA Setup below. One Steady infantry in town, everyone else dashing to hold the hill [which is after all the victory condition]. Plan is to hold the hill with two Eager Infantry backed up by a Steady, and the 6lb Gun. I figure the lighter gun will be more effective defending the objective as it gets two dice at 8" for canister instead of the one dice for ball.

USA setup below. The four Steady Infantry are going to cross at the ford, flank the defenders and take the hill. The Reluctant Infantry will make a nuisance of itself by the town. If the CSA pull out of the town, they can cross. If they don't, they're still keeping a superior Infantry Unit busy - not bad for a worn-out regiment!

Progress by Turn 5.The USA has crossed the ford and are well on their way to attack the hill. The CSA has finished occupying the hill. Their Gun can fire on the advancing Bluebellies, and two Eager Infantry are up front who I hope will blunt the attack. Behind is a Steady Infantry in column, which leaves space for Units to retreat around it. With my extending the Gun ranges, the odd Hit is being inflicted upon the CSA infantry. 
This has been made more difficult now that I made a rule saying that Foot who neither move nor fire get a 4+ save for cover v. Guns firing ball - they are prone or otherwise hiding. This makes for some interesting choices - under fire, you pick your time to move carefully since you lose that 4+ save - I like it!

USA decisions being made: I decided to attack on a straight vertical front, which will partially flank the hill, and would force the CSA to conform in their defense to avoid that. However, if they line up opposite, my USA guns will get more, longer, and easier fire upon their line. Haven't decided what is best, yet.

Turn 11 below. Well, I definitely learned the best way to handle Guns - shoot up Infantry with 2-3 Hits, but don't go for that 4th Hit and they can't rally the lost stand back! So you want to spread your Hits around and make up for the defender getting that first shot off. I ended up withdrawing one of the Eager Infantry and replacing them with the Steady, who's now hotly engaged with advancing Yankees. The bottom of the USA line held back so as not to interfere with their Guns. I realized I positioned them too far right, and the Guns will need to shift left for a turn or two in order to have the Line of Sight they need. Many Units have a couple of Hits, but no stands lost [red dice] or permanently lost [black dice]. New rule is that if a Unit loses 2-3 stands, they can't rally better than one stand lost - worked great!

Turn 11 in town. The CSA has decided they need their Infantry to threaten the bottom of the advancing Yankee line. Playing this out against the threatening Reluctant Infantry will probably be tricky.

Turn 14 below. Well, I should've taken some detailed shots between, but I've been pressed for time. I got my USA in line and advanced, with one re-positioning of the CSA to receive them. I felt like I did the best I could for both sides. As the USA closed, the CSA 6lb Gun went on an impressive missing streak, so I decided to try the charge rules, assuming the worst would happen but hey, at least I'd have tried them, right? Funny how dice work tho'...the USA passed their morale to charge thanks to the General [rolled the needed 4+] and closed to contact [no conforming here]. In Melee Phase, the CSA defensive fire was two clean misses, like a 1 and a 2! With no Morale Check forced by the ineffective canister dice, the USA take the Guns! [Steve from Sound Officer's Call will be jealous my first Charge was a success...] Advancing into the gap is the reserve Eager Infantry.

Below the Glorious Gun Charge, good dice and Gun support resulted in the USA forcing back the center CSA Steady Infantry which has two Hits. The Steady Infantry from the town are providing much-needed support, but overall the USA is gaining ground. Things don't look good on the hill with the USA having a firepower edge if not an edge in quality.

Turn 15 - debacle for the CSA. Those last couple of Hits the USA needed force morale checks that everyone fails, clearing the hill during the USA turn. In the CSA turn, they fail both Rally rolls. I forgot to kill their General I was so excited about the decisive turn of events!  The USA make all their rallies and form up, and their slight edge becomes significant. I'm uncertain the CSA can win at this point, but one never knows - with human error and hot dice...

Note that in the South end, the CSA is forced to withdraw a little as the town is being taken by the Reluctant USA Infantry, and I don't want them flanked due to the retreating hill force.

Turn 20 and end, below. Well, the luck didn't turn, and the CSA Units while rallying a bit have permanent hits and slim chance to take back the hill. They forced a retreat upon the town Infantry but will lose their center infantry. Theoretically, this game could continue but I don't see the two reasonably healthy North CSA Units able to make a difference when their right flank is going to lose an infantry and be outnumbered 2 or 3-1, plus the Guns.

Whew, a really fun and tense game! Came in a just over 90 minutes with camera work.

I felt like I had a good plan well executed by both sides. I made an error with the USA Guns deployment, but made the most of their positioning to put a few hits on most of the CSA Units, giving the advancing Feds a chance for firepower parity in their attack - seems like a perfectly useful and historical use of gun support to me.

While the CSA had a significant quality advantage, their poor Gun dice and the amazing, heroic charge of one Union regiment cracked open their position. I still thought they'd hold it, but then their dice failed the most important units on the hill. I managed both sides retreats and rallies just fine, and I don't believe either side was significantly affected by poor decisions on my part. 

This is how I believe a wargame should go - given a balanced scenario and sound play on both sides, the dice will likely decide.

My changes worked well, and i'll need to note the little adjustments made to work with the 2-base system I use [where each base represents two of NT's bases]. I may or may not keep this when I actually paint up and base the figs, but it's good to try it all out before actually gluing them down.

And speaking of bases, my lase-cut bases from VP Sales arrived today, also!

Anyway, I'll be doing another post soon about my modifications of the rules, but I'm going to do one last play where I switch the sides keeping the forces just as is, and see if the CSA can get back their sacred honor!