How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

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

Saturday, April 30, 2022

American Civil War: It's "Epic" now!

Epic v. Kallistra Comparison

Was able to quickly sell off all my 6mm ACW figures - I had to, they were just too small to see or deal with for me! After struggling with various optical enhancements:
I gave up and eventually listed them on Fb where I was pleased to find someone who was glad to have them.

Still, the ACW is near and dear - and I like it at the regiment / battalion level.  I wanted a look that gave the impression of a long line with lots of Soldiers, but was larger than 6mm.  I was very interested in Old Glory 15s, which look perfectly animated for this period.  I also closely looked at Old Glory 10mm, which appeared to be quick to paint up and yet still look right despite the blocks.

A gaming pal told me about the new Warlord Epic scale [somewhere around 13mm or True 15mm, or...something], I did some research and found the starter box at a discounter for... $108.00, so it was a no-brainer!  Also, the plastics snap into bases and I can playtest while I am painting, which was a big bonus. I quickly bought it!

But, I'm picky about a lot of things I like on the table, so I just had to expand the offerings with Kallistra's "12mm / 1:144" figures from here [CLICK].  They appeared to match up well to the uncertain scale of Warlord Epic.  This allowed me to get skirmishers, cavalry, more gun variety, limbers, wagons, etc. Things I needed for both game mechanics and appearance.

Box arrives - couldn't resist spending a few bucks on flag sheets, they are just too useful!  Amazingly, the simple packing survived altho just barely.  They should up their game in this respect!

Comparison shots:  Kallistra gunners v. Epic: Kallistra are a big "bigger" and Epic are a bit taller and are slender. Overall, while the style is different, on the table there will be very little difference to the eye - especially at 2-3 foot gaming range!
Above, the Kallistra wheels are the right type [16-spoke] and only *slightly* smaller. The gun is the same 12 pound Napoleon, and the barrel is definitely smaller while the carriage is a bit smaller and more slender and otherwise close.  Once painted, I'll see which guns will stand in for what types.

Below, closeup of the Artillery.  The plastics are very cleanly sculpted and executed, the Kallistra have more texture and wrinkles in the uniform cloth. This may differentiate them more from Epic to the eye than any size issue.

The Cavalry. Pictured are Kallistra 12mm / 1:144, Epic, and 15mm Rank and File Prussian Cavalry from here [CLICK].  The difference here is quite pronounced.  As cavalry can take up a lot of space on the game table, it is my thought that I prefer the smaller Kallistra.  How do they look next to the infantry?
Another shot - you can see that the Epic are almost as big as the 15mm fig, definitely between the Kallistra 12mm / 1:144 and the Rank and File 15mm.

Below, how does Kallistra compare to Kallistra? Certainly, the height is right - the cavalry are significantly taller. My thought is that the horse is a bit short and doesn't have quite as much bulk.  I'm fine with this as they are more likely to be pony nags than cuirassier steeds in real life!  The Army was notorious for inconsistent horse purchasing.  Ultimately, they are intended to mostly serve as mounted infantry, so as long as the horse can keep up the pace, it is good enough.

Same comparison with Epic in between.  The stands are not quite right, the Epic is a bit heightened by 1-2mm thanks to the stand v. the cast base of the Kallistra.
This is a better shot - all cast/molded bases are about equal. The Epic has less bulk [and less gear] than the Union infantryman, but both are close in height and obviously shorter than the Union cavalryman.

Overall, I am very happy with the project.  Altho the Kallistra set me back $315, the Epic "cast of thousands] provides a crazy number of 60mm stands, 120 to be exact!  In my world, that translates to about 40 units!  The Kallistra flesh things out just a bit with infantry [Zouaves, Heavy Artillery infantry unit] some gun variety, and most important, the full cavalry option [mounted, dismounted with skirmishers] and skirmishers in general.

The big question now is how will they paint up?  My goal with 10mm is that it be a lot faster than 15 or 25mm painting, and obviously less expensive, while still obtaining the look I want on the table.

I'm hoping this is correct, we'll just have to see!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Post-Beaumont Playtesting, p.5: Mechanics, Tactics

As you design or puzzle out a game, you have to line troops up and try out basic mechanics.  This example is a straightforward Brigade v. Brigade attack, two regiments of three battalions each, with some nominal support units affecting tactical decisions, e.g. two batteries of Krupp guns, some jagers in a town.

The game mechanic - or real-life tactic - being tested here is how to handle an attack by an opponent that outranges you. In the Franco-Prussian War, the Prussians had to solve the problem of their Dreyse "needle-gun" being outranged by the French Chassepot. 

In the below example, six French battalions [two regiments] are advancing against six Prussian Battalions [also two regiments] who are defending a town. The town is held by a few companies of Jagers, with support from two batteries of Krupp guns. The Jagers have a max range of 9" and the battalions a max range of 6". The French battalions have a max range of 9", thus heavily outranging the only unit that can effectively respond to their fire. 

As denoted by the dark green felt, the French have chosen to use a covered approach through the woods out of line of sight of the Krupp batteries.  
Shown above are the 6" and 9" distances of the Prussian Units: this leaves a 3" range band where the French are in range, and the only Prussian units that can respond are the Artillery and the Jagers. As these have only about half the firepower of the three leading French battalions, eventually the French will force a decision in their favor altho the combined firepower of the two Krupp Batteries and the Jagers is greater than the top-most French battalion by itself.  The French could choose to sacrifice that battalion, but instead choose another course of action.

Below, the French move up a unit of their light infantry, which can effectively threaten the batteries, forcing them to engage the light infantry instead of supporting the defense of the town.

Given this situation, we can see that the French have mitigated the Prussian defense plan through cover and concealment, and with a support unit of their own. 

The Prussians, with their inferior range, have a few obvious options:
  1. Use Terrain so as to reduce the effect of incoming Fire,
  2. Rely on support units that are NOT outranged to engage the enemy.
  3. Close with the French,
  4. Withdraw
But, as can be seen, there is no terrain to mitigate the French battalion's firepower; also, the Prussian support units were insufficient to drive off three battalions and have been countered by an opposing French support unit. 

The only good news is that the Prussians are not within the 9" of the woods that would give the French continued cover as they engage the Prussians. So keep this in mind when you are fighting against a covered approach - either occupy it yourself, or start within line of sight and fire range so you can cover it with sufficient firepower to deter attack!
The French continue their attack plan by moving out of the woods into range - they are still out of range of all Prussians except one jager company in the town. 
Withdrawal is not an option, so the Prussians immediately move up to close into their 6" shooting range before the French can fully deploy into line.
For this one [French] Player Turn, the French have deployed into line and will have a 2-1 Firepower advantage. Such is life.
On Prussian Player Turn 2, the Prussians deploy and the exchange of Fire will be even.

As I was playtesting mechanics, I stayed very close to average dice rolls, so Fire and Saves and Morale Checks were pretty average numbers. In French Player Turn 3, they managed to outnumber a Prussian Battalion in bases, charge and just barely weather the Fire and drive back the Prussians. Fortunately, the Prussians have properly deployed a second line and the French battalion is now facing a fresh Prussian one.
Fire between the two sides is generally attriting everyone.
Prussian Player Turn 3, they charge with their Fresh battalion and drive back the French breakthrough.
The Prussians Pursue the French, taking up a position in the main line of battle.
Turn 4, the French advance a supporting battalion from their second line into the gap where the Ligne battalion charged then was counter-charged and fled.

The status quo of two even battle lines has been maintained, with both sides having 5 Units in the fight, and 1 unit rallying / reforming in the rear.

I was very satisfied with how my mechanics worked - they are closely based upon Neil Thomas' "Wargaming 19th Century Europe" rules, which are the best developed of his "4-Base" system of rules that started with Simplicity in Practice [which is actually half-baked, but free].

The key thing to remember is that in real life, troops density was about double what Wargamers normally put on the table. All lines would have about half the force up front and another half behind, ready to support the first line. This should translate to an attrition battle with very close results if both players are playing equally well [or poorly] and the victory conditions are fair.  I'm fine with this!

To summarize, neither in real life history, nor on the table top, is outranging the opposing Infantry with your Infantry a decisive advantage. It typically means in game terms that for one turn, the side with shorter-ranged weapons has to advance into their range band [unless the side with longer-ranged weapons is in a situation where they have to assault, in which case there is nearly zero advantage to having a longer-ranged weapon!].  Thus there should be no problem fighting Dreyse v. Chassepot, Springfield v. Smoothbore ACW, Enfield v. Smoothbore Crimea, etc.

Tactically, the side with the inferior range, has to:
  1. Use Terrain so as to reduce the effect of incoming Fire, e.g. defilade.
  2. Prevent an attacker from using terrain to engage them with an even bigger advantage: firing out of their range from cover and / or concealment!
  3. Use support units NOT outranged to engage the enemy, e.g. artillery and rifle armed units, jagers, etc.
  4. Maneuver into firing range of the enemy infantry.
  5. Counter-attack with second line supports - these will be well within range right off the line.
  6. Withdraw - this is an option in certain scenarios.  Cover from one's Artillery and light infantry will be helpful in this instance, just like in 3 above.
Hopefully, this little tactical posting will help wargamers, both players and scenario designing hosts, to realize that just because the forces are a bit asymmetric it doesn't really matter and you can have a fair fight. Generally speaking, it is more interesting to have a fight with asymmetric forces than identical sides, altho both can be fun battles.

Friday, April 8, 2022

My "A Gentleman's War" Project, P.1

I've been knocking around the idea of an AGW project for a while. It's been hard to figure out what is the perfect period for such a stylish set of rules! My requirements are:
  1. Large figs with simple shiny paint: 40mm to 54mm preferably.
  2. A war that one struggles to take seriously
  3. Alternately, a "what-if" war; somehow, I prefer a "what-if" to an Imagi-nation war. It's odd, but while I love the Imagi-nation work of others, for me, it just doesn't work...if they're sorta Prussians, then why not just be Prussians??
  4. Given the nature of the war, the people and units must be ripe for humor. If COL Balderdash and SGT Whiskers can't march upon a field against Gen. Rimskey-Kutitoff and Prince Putinov, then why bother?
  5. There needs to be enough Figures that I like to motivate the painting.
Given the nature of the requirements, I came up with a few ideas that caught my interest:
  • The War of 1812
  • The Belgian War of Independence, 1830
  • The American Civil War, 1850
  • The Crimean War, 1853-6
  • The Invasion of Belgium, 1890-ish: precursor to WWI

THE WAR OF 1812


Pros:
  • Particularly silly war as few even understand why it was fought
  • British are Napoleonics; Americans similar
  • Figures in 40mm from Sash and Saber
  • Figures in 54mm are plentiful: mostly plastic Napoleonics; best are Armies in Plastic, which has Naps and 1812, Indians, ACW in kepi for French, and Crimean War cavalry!
  • Lovely crazy expensive plastics from Singapore
  • Shorter Range than ACW
  • No one games war of 1812, so would be "different"
  • Easy access to resources here in USA, including visiting Battlefields in Maryland and US - Canadian border
  • Much of the generalship was so poor, it begs for satire and whiskey
  • Several boardgame options
  • Comes with interesting naval actions that really matter
Cons:
  • Historically, hardly any cavalry actions
  • Did I say there's hardly any cavalry actions?
Overall, this is a great choice!

THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, 1860 OR 1850
This has a lot of potential, and is an favorite period all over, but especially in the USA. Also has interesting gaming potential as a "What if" on a smaller scale in the 1850s - the war came close to breaking out during a few crises.

Pros:
  • Figures in 40mm from Sash and Saber
  • Figures in 42mm from Spencer Smith
  • Figures in 54mm are plentiful: plastic ACW is everywhere; best are Armies in Plastic
  • Variety in weapons and Ranges: smoothbore carbines to breechloading repeaters, smooth bore 6lb cannons to 20lb rifled Parrots
  • Easy access to resources here in USA, including visiting Battlefields in Pennsylvania and Maryland
  • Some of the generalship was so poor, it begs for satire and whiskey
  • Infinite boardgame options, tons [literally] of books, a number of movies
Cons:
  • Not a very silly war because of slavery; politically loaded perhaps
  • Everyone games the ACW and has an opinion about it
  • Historical uniforms have variety but usually lack panache [except militia companies]
Altho I did look into the other options listed above, I decided to go the simplest route, and put in some quick orders through Armies in Plastic and Michigan Toy Soldier Company where I found additional bits and some nice Cavalry.

Below, the first order arrived fairly quickly from Armies in Plastic.

Nice variety of figs. There are some "generally the same" poses, such as firing and loading, or running and marching, but still variety within the pose style.

Rebels with a gun. Of course, they could be Union, Also.

Rebel firing line.


Four different shooters. One dude has his kepi backwards to see better - hilarious!

They take up about 8-12" on the table - depends on your basing style.

Sorted as a Kepi unit - could be Union, of course. Nice firing line!

This could be a firing line out west - all slouch hats.

Defending Richmond? Petersburg?


With clapboard house in the background, and fortifications in foreground.
Same, with cannon entrenched.
By the Dawn's Early Light? No, it's the Twilight's Last Gleaming.

Closeup of house: has room for several figs on porch!
another angle - the officer has exited to see what the shooting is about!


The union fellows. Iron Brigade in hats. Energetically charging. In the background, some Rebels are sneaking into a house on their flank!?

Nice variety here, also, both Firing and Running poses.


Looking a lot more blue in the flash - they are actually darker.

Closeup with cannon and crew - very nice figs. Firing line looks great, also.
overhead shot...

And both sides in opposition. At 6 feet, pretty discernable figures!  Eye-catching spectacle could look great at a convention game.
Forward! Looks like some just prefer shooting, however...

This is a nice force!  The big question is painting them up. They are sorta fun to play with as-is, and might make a good example of what you can do with minimal effort to have fun wargaming. Lots to think about going forward!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Post-Beaumont Playtesting, p.3: Mars-la-Tour

The fine-tuning continues and I am pleased with progress. I even figured out how to clean the heads on the printer thanks to a YouTube video - this helps with printing clean drafts. Each draft becomes a fresh look at the rules and the little changes that make things go smoother, and hopefully more historically.

Fortunately, I am on limited duty as I recover from a surgery to fix a few things that went wrong with the old frame - if I was a car, I'd be an antique! I have been able to spend regular time at the game table, albeit wearing a brace, and also spending some time reading Bruce Weigle's "1870", Roger de Mauri's memoir "The Franco-Prussian War" [edited by BG Peter Young, no less...] and Brent Nosworthy's "The Bloody Crucible of Courage" because Bruce Weigle says we should in his bibliography; and yes, a little red wine, also.

This time I repeated the forward deployment and the flank attack options of the original scenario framework; I felt like I had learned a few things for both sides that I wanted to play out. I liked the Prussian selection of forces: both Cavalry and one Skirmisher, the latter to seize the small but important central wood.
Table South above, and table North below.
The French force has both Ligne Infantry and the Guard Voltigeurs [Skirmishers] seizing the large woods as an avenue of approach against the two North towns, and the important central town. Marching against the central town are two Guard Infantry, one Cavalry, and both Artillery batteries - classed as "smoothbores" altho one is a Mitrailleuse. Again, I don't know where the flank march will enter, or for certain the Turn.

Turn 1, the Forward Deployment and faster Operational Movement [my idea] get the Prussians situated at Table center quickly. The only real estate that is owned by the French is the Bois du Nord, which is key terrain for them.

Turn 3. The Prussians have a strong central position, but are limited due to the Flank March - if they get too ambitious, they will be too spread out to support themselves properly. This is OK since four of the towns form a compact wedge just to Table South and West, and they can contest at least one other.
Table North, the Prussians pull back a bit, anticipating the arrival of French flankers at any moment! The Voltigeurs engage the Prussian Jagers who are protecting the Krupp batteries.

Turn 4. Both forces are engaged at longer small arms range - indecisive usually. The Prussians are firming up their defense of the four towns they need for a win!
French Turn 5. Preparatory Fire against the central town occurs from both chassepot and smoothbore Artillery. 
And then the Flanking Force arrives from the North! Hussars, a Ligne battalion and the Mitrailleuse. Despite Prussian preparation, it is awkward to receive guests at this hour and from this angle...
Prussian Turn 5, their Jagers depart the field, having lost a base and failing their Morale Check. The French Ligne are advancing with the Voltigeurs to their right.
In what can only be described as a poor showing, the French Hussars rout from the field! Looks like it'll be up to the PBI as usual. Fortunately, the Ligne Battalion and the Mitrailleuse are already in a good position to deal with the dragoons on their way towards victory conditions further south.
After a few more Turns, it was clear that the few Prussian Infantry were not going to be able to handle multiple avenues of attack and hold on to all four towns. As the battle was winding down and starting to get a bit "gamey" due to the units being very spread out, I called it a day for the Prussians.

My main issue with the scenario system is that with only 10 Units a side, and only up to 6 being Infantry, things can get very spread out. It is hard to concentrate force anywhere, and the historical approach of supports won't really work. Altho I think that the book's scenario system works well in presenting some ways to throw a game on the table, the following grains of salt should be sprinkled:

1) The table is large enough that it really needs almost double the number of Infantry, so 8-12 per side.
2) Whichever side has the most Infantry Units should automatically be the attacker.
3) Use the Events for ideas, but be prepared for them to overwhelm a good game - plan ahead to tone them down so that if 3 Units are lost in traffic, you might change it to 1-2, and then that smaller force automatically is the defender and gets the Forward Deployment to compensate, for example.
4) Use the historical "bathtubbed" scenarios for ideas, either steal the map or the entire scenario - there are some interesting challenges.
5) Some of the historical special rules are a bit over the top. They may need to be put to the "common sense" test and modified.

I hope that has been helpful for readers of this blog and owners of this book!

*********************************************************************************************

Moving right along...
The culmination of the playtesting will be the bathtubbed version of Mars-la-Tour from Neil Thomas' "Wargaming 19th Century Europe". Scenario systems are all well and good, but let's get back to history! 

The scaling is interesting when compared to the full-sized scenario in "1870". 
The below is from the wonderful and highly recommended set of rules and guide to the period by 19th Century European warfare guru Bruce Weigle:
This has about four French Corps engaging two Prussian, more or less. The table is about 5' x 9', so if played without any scale-down, I could only fit in Vionville to Rezonville and south to Bois de Gaumont or so with a 3x4' table that's in my office. Which would be a nice battle, anyway.

Neil Thomas takes this corps-level action and reduces it to about a dozen units a side, about a division and a brigade! Below is NT's game table:
This is for a 3'x4' table. The French have about a 2:1 advantage in the best Unit in the game, Infantry battalions. They get significant reinforcements from point A at table North. The Prussians get a few reinforcements at C and D, about half as much. Victory is to the French if they clear the road from Rezonville to Mars-la-Tour a pretty demanding victory condition. The key to this is Vionville and its adjacent woods. Of secondary interest is Tronville which is close enough to the road to need to be cleared. 

Overall, this is a pretty typical "clear the path/road" scenario. I would re-phrase the victory condition to read that the attacker must clear the road of Fire from infantry weapons; this would necessitate a 6" corridor against Prussians, and a 9" corridor against defending French if one flipped the scenario. 

The single most unusual special rule for this scenario is that all French Units move and fire at half effect, except for 1-3 diced each French Player Turn. This is to represent the indecisiveness of the French commander Marshal Bazaine. While I am OK with the snail-pace of movement [some armies are notoriously slow to maneuver including the Austrians and the Russians] I have a problem with the firing at half effect. NT justifies it by saying that they are conserving ammunition. 

My rules have a modified Player Turn which gives more nuance by separating Close Combat from the Fire and Maneuver phases. Ergo for my purposes, I will only prohibit French Units from charging or entering Prussian Close Combat range unless they are one of the diced units.

Below, after a few turns, the French have [slowly] advanced. As they outrange the Prussians, simply moving them within 9" is enough to challenge the Prussian defensive line [do they take Hits without replying and wait the clock out?]. My solution was to advance the Prussian Infantry into their 6" range, so they could fully engage the French line, but not into the Close Combat Range. Still, it ended with the loss of a Prussian Infantry and a couple of Krupp batteries. One Prussian Infantry had to hide out of Line of Sight behind the town - they jumped back in when the French were in their range of 6", and lasted quite a long time.
The French Infantry develop a strong attack on the town and woods at center. One Krupp battery has been shot down by long-range chassepot fire, and an Infantry battalion had to bravely threaten the French left to slow their advance.

Prussian forces needed a boost about halfway thru - I tossed a few extra units onto the reinforcement schedule. Then, I advanced von Bredow's cuirassiers to give the French Hussars a chance to redeem themselves after the previous battle.
And this time they did quite well, beating back the Elite and heavier Cuirassiers! These pass morale and fall back a few inches. 

Again, the French hussars beat back the cuirassiers, who are disorderly but plucky. Above them the Prussian dragoons are advancing upon a unit of Voltigeurs - Skirmishers - in the hope of wiping them out and then charging the damaged French Ligne Infantry battalion behind it. That would really help their defense, and it is statistically possible as both French units are a bit weak.

The Dragoons in the top left corner managed to - barely - destroy the skirmishing Guard Voltigeurs. They turned to present as many threats as possible to as many French as possible. Meanwhile, the Cuirassiers lost 3-1 but pass morale to Fall Back in an orderly manner.
But, the French Hussars pursue them and the Cuirassiers lose melee again, then  fail morale. They rout from the field...
...and the Hussars turn to face the Prussian dragoons behind them, as well as the flank of the Prussian Jagers. 
"Take that von Bredow! May this Death Ride be your last!"
Now the Dragoons are unable to attack the French line, as they could end up with their rear facing the Hussars if they lose.

Flush with victory, the French Hussars charge the dragoons - odds favor the dragoons. BUT! They beat them also, 3-2, and the dragoons fail morale with the black '3'. This leaves them in a weakened state and a bad position.

At table center, the French have a wonderful base of fire built up, and a Ligne unit about to charge into the woods to clear them. The Prussian Infantry re-occupied the town when the French were within 6", which is their Range.
This operation is successful, and the French Infantry envelop the woods and seize the town. The Prussians still hold one more that needs to be cleared, however.
Guard, Ligne, and Voltigeurs advance!
At center, a strong French force is preparing to launch the next phase of the clearing operation. In the back left/top, the French reinforcements are s-l-o-w-l-y advancing onto the table. I need the few diced full moves in the battle area.
This Prussian General deserves special mention - he was Hit a couple times rallying Prussian Infantry, but kept returning to the field [needed a '6'!].

After a few more turns, it is clear that the Prussians are "kaput!" The careful use of French Cavalry charges and Infantry counter-attacks have broken up the last Prussian defense and the town has not only fallen but is secure from counter-attack as the last Prussian Infantry have been destroyed and it is Turn 14.

Over in the central area, the French have cleared the woods and the town and are closing in on the last surviving Prussian Infantry.

An interesting battle, but one that seems easy for the French to win, despite the slow advance. They have the numbers and all the French player needs to do is get into chassepot range and the Prussians have a difficult choice to make. If the French also fired at half effect, I don't think it would be much of a game at all, and would probably allow more French units to dice up to full fighting capability.

The victory conditions as they stand demand that the Prussian force be nearly wiped out, as it isn't very hard to keep a couple of units able to interdict the road through Fire. This is the main challenge to the French, but I think they have the turns to do it.

Hope you have enjoyed this look at the Wargaming 19th Century Europe book by Neil Thomas, and have a better appreciation for its strengths and weaknesses. Overall, I'd say that this and the Napoleonics book are the culmination of his 4-base horse and musket rules that began with Simplicity in Practice, progressed through Wargaming: An Introduction, and then resulted in these two books.