Not a restful day … but not an unproductive one

Today has been a day for doing domestic cleaning chores. My wife and I have taken down and changed (or washed) all the curtains, and I have cleaned all the windows and window frames. Other than a short break for lunch, this has taken us most of the day … but now it is done and won’t need to be done again for some time to come.

Although I don’t like having to do these sorts of chores, they do give me time to think, and that is always a good thing to be able to do. What has occupied my mind for most of the day has been trying to find a solution to a problem with my latest version of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules. As they stand at the moment, they work … and work well for what I want. That said, I think that now that I have modified the rules to allow firing, the rules relating to Machine Gun Units are not quite right.

In the original rules Machine Gun Units – along with Infantry and Cavalry – could only fight enemy Units that were in adjacent squares/hexes. In these circumstances Machine Gun Units were very deadly (They had a Battle Power of 6, and to destroy an enemy Unit they had to throw a D6 die and get a score that was equal to or less than their Battle Power; this meant that in almost all circumstances they would ‘destroy’ an enemy Unit. Infantry and Cavalry had Battle Powers of 5 and were therefore not assured of a victory in the same circumstances). Now that Infantry and Cavalry can fire up to 3 hexes, the Machine Gun Units have lost their ‘edge’ except when fighting against enemy Units in adjacent hexes.

I have been pondering the various solutions that I could use. These include:

  • Allowing Machine Gun Units to throw two or three D6 dice when they fire (This would certainly restore their ‘edge’, but as all the other rules mechanisms use single D6 dice, this would make them ‘out of step’ with design philosophy Morschauser espoused in his rules)
  • Giving Machine Gun Units a longer firing range, which would enable them to fire at approaching enemy Units more than once before they came into hex-to-hex contact (This would be a simple solution, but would give Machine Gun Units quite a long ‘reach’, and may require the Artillery ranges to also be increased)
  • Reverting to the original system for resolving ‘Battles’, but allowing them to take place at a distance rather than between Units in adjacent squares/hexes (This would restore the now missing ‘edge’, but would make Machine Gun Units more deadly than before, which just generates another set of game design problems; in addition, it would mean that an Infantry Unit that is being fired at by a Machine Gun Unit could ‘destroy’ the Machine Gun Unit even though its own fire would not reach the Machine Gun Unit!)

These possible solutions have been whizzing around in my head for most of the day, and I have tried to examine all the options in detail before I opt for my preferred solution. What that will be is – as yet – undecided.

A day of rest … well, not quite!

After Sunday’s somewhat long blog entry, I thought that I would take things a bit easy today … how wrong I was!

The day started with a shopping expedition to buy all sorts of odds and ends that we need this week. I then did a reconciliation between my company’s accounts and the latest bank statement that the Royal Mail had delivered whilst we were out, and prepared the annual accounts so that I can send them to the accountants later this week.

After lunch I then tried to spend some time reviewing the play-test battle I fought on Sunday, and to note down any minor changes that might need to be made … but my wife’s computer started playing up and I ended up trying to fix it. After two hours of sweat and swearing, I used the tried and tested solution espoused by IT professionals across the world; I switched it off and walked away from it. Needless to say, after an hour or so being switched off, the computer worked perfectly well after its ‘rest’.

I then watched the opening overs of the Gloucestershire vs. Essex forty-over cricket match on Sky Sports, but my viewing was interrupted by a series on unsolicited telephone calls – mostly from overseas call centres – and in the end I gave up trying to follow what was happening.

After dinner this evening my wife and I watched a couple of television programmes, but at about 10.00pm my wife announced that she thought it would be a good idea if we used the carpet cleaner to shampoo the carpets in the rooms we use most often. Her logic is impeccable; if we do it at night, it will dry whilst we are asleep, and we will be able to walk on clean, dry carpets in the morning. Unfortunately it took us nearly two hours to do, with the result that I am now writing Monday’s blog entry early on Tuesday morning!

Perhaps I will have a rest tomorrow … but somehow I don’t think I will!

A Most un-Civil Little War

The following battle was fought to test my latest version of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargame rules. It is worth noting that the Militia Units all have lower Combat Powers than the Regular Units they are facing, and this will affect their ability to fight at close quarters.

Internal political dissent has been an ongoing problem in Westland, one of Morschauserland’s near neighbours. Recently this has escalated into a full-blown civil war, with the majority of the Regular Army supporting the right-wing Republican Party whilst the Militia has declared for the left-wing Constitutional Party.

So far most of the fighting has been local skirmishes between the supporters of the two opposing sides, but the Regular Army has gathered together a brigade-strength formation which it intends to be the vanguard of the main attack upon the capital. The Militia have managed to scrape together a force that their leadership hopes will delay the advance of the Regular Army long enough for a larger Militia force to be gathered around the capital to defend it. The Militia force has dug-in across the most obvious line of advance the regular Army will use.

The Regular Amy’s formation includes:

  • 3 Infantry Battalions (each with 2 Rifle and 1 Machine Gun Company)
  • An Artillery Battery
  • A Separate Machine Gun Company
  • A Command Company

The Militia has:

  • An Infantry Battalion (with 4 Rifle Companies)
  • A Machine Gun Battalion (with 3 Machine Gun Companies)
  • An Artillery Battery
  • A Command Company

Turn 1
As neither side’s artillery is in range, both sides throw a D6 die to see who will move first. The Regular’s throw 6 and the Militia throw 3; hence the Regulars move first.

The Commander of the Regulars realises that a frontal assault on dug-in troops – even Militia ones – will be very costly in terms of men and material, and although he knows that he has to act swiftly, he also knows that he has to conserve as much of his strength for the forthcoming attack on the capital. He therefore decides to move one of his Infantry Battalions (supported by the Artillery Battery and the Separate machine Gun Company) forward so that it appears to be threatening the centre of the Militia position whilst he moves the bulk of his force around the right-hand side of the Militia position.

The Militia Commander knows that his men are quite capable of defending a fixed position, but that they are incapable of fighting Regular troops in a more fluid. mobile battle. He therefore opts to keep all his troops where they are.

Turn 2
As neither side’s artillery is still not in range, both sides throw a D6 die to see who will move first. The Regular’s throw 6 and the Militia throw 4; hence the Regulars move first again.

Whilst he halts the movement of his units in the centre, the Regular Commander orders his other two Infantry battalions to continue their flanking march. He is sure that the terrain makes it impossible for the Commander of the Militia force to see this movement … and he is right!

The Militia Commander is not yet aware of the danger that is developing on his left-hand flank, and orders his men to stay put and to hold their fire. He knows that the longer he can keep the Regulars at bay, the greater the force that his superiors will be able to gather to defend the capital.

Turn 3
Again, both side’s artillery is still out of range, and therefore they both throw a D6 die to see who will move first this turn. The Regular’s throw 5 and the Militia throw 4; the Regulars move first again for the third turn running.

This turn follows the same pattern as the previous one; the Regulars continue to advance of their right whilst staying where they are in the centre, and the Militia hunker down in their trenches and wait for events to unfold.

From his commanding position on top of the hill in the centre of his defences, the Militia Commander has, however, now seen the leading Infantry Company of the Regular forces that are moving towards his left-hand flank. He ponders what to do in response, as he thinks that they are currently out of range of his Artillery Battery.

Turn 4
Much to his annoyance, the Militia Commander realises that his Artillery Battery is unable to fire at the developing threat on the left flank. Likewise the Regular Artillery is also just out of range of the Militia units in their trenches, and they too do not fire.

Both sides throw D6 dice to see who will move first. The Regulars throw a 6 and the Militia throw a 3. Yet again the Regulars move first!

The Regular troops continue their advance on their right, apparently oblivious to the fact that they have been seen …

… but the Militia Commander decides to throw caution to the wind and orders one of his Infantry Companies out of its trenches to counter the threat to his left-flank.

However the flag signals he has made to the relevant Infantry Company (N.B. the Militia have not yet been equipped with field telephones and have to rely on flag signals and written messages sent by runner) have attracted the attention of the Regular Artillery Battery, who now realise that the Militia Commander’s position is just in range.

Turn 5
The Regular Artillery Battery opens fire on the position occupied by the Militia Commander. They throw a D6 die to determine if the shells land in the right hex (a score of 2 means that they don’t!), and a further D6 die throw (of 3) indicates that the shells actually land in an empty hex at the base of the hill the Militia Commander is standing on.

Realising that some of the Regular troops in the centre must be in range of his own artillery, the Militia Commander orders then to open fire on the nearest Regular Infantry Company. A D6 die score of 2 means that the shells miss, and the second D6 die throw (a 1) determines that the shells actually land in the hex behind the target.

D6 dice are thrown to determine which side will move first during this turn, and the Regular’s throw of 2 is less than the Militia throw (a 6), which means that for the first time in this battle the Militia will move first!

The Militia Commander makes not changes to the disposition of the bulk of his troops, who remain in their trenches whilst the detached Infantry Company continues to move forward on the left flank to block the advancing Regulars.

The Commander of the Regular forces now orders the troop in the centre to begin their advance, as he hopes that this will now divert the attention of the Militia from the threat that is beginning to develop of their left flank.

Turn 6
This turn begins with an exchange of artillery fire. The Regular Artillery battery concentrates its fire on the Machine Gun Company in the trenches to its right, and D6 dice scores of 1 and 3 results in the shells missing their target and landing in an empty hex in front of the trenches.

The Militia Artillery battery retaliates by firing at the Regular Artillery Battery, and score of 2 and 3 mean that the shells also miss their intended target and land in an empty hex in the middle of the advancing Regular forces!

D6 dice are then thrown to see which side will move first; the Regulars throw 3 and the Militia throw 6, which means that the Militia will move first again this turn.

The detached Militia Infantry Company moves into the small wood on the left flank, and from there they see the leading Regular Infantry Company. Without hesitation they open fire on it. A D6 die score of 2 destroys the Regular Infantry Unit! First blood goes to the Militia!

The Regular response is immediate. The leading Infantry Battalion on the right moves forward and, supported by fire from an Infantry Company of the second Battalion, engages the single Militia Infantry Company that is in the woods. D6 dice scores of 4, 5, and 1 result in the Militia Company being wiped out.

In the meantime, the Regular troops in the centre continue their advance towards the Militia trench lines. They are now in range of the Militia troops in the centre, and open fire on them. The Regular Infantry Battalion’s Machine Gun Company and left-hand Infantry Company fire at the Militia Machine Gun Company, but D6 dice scores of 1 and 3 mean that the Militia Unit is unscathed. The right-hand Infantry Company fires at the Militia Command Company, but its D6 die score of 5 means that it does no damage to the target.

Turn 7
Both sides use their artillery to batter their opponents. The Militia Artillery Battery again fires at the Regular Artillery Battery, but D6 dice scores of 2 and 3 again result in the shells missing their target and causing no collateral damage.

The Regular Artillery Battery engages in counter-battery fire, but its D6 dice scores of 4 and 4 are also ‘misses’.

The D6 dice are thrown yet again to determine who will move first this turn, and the Regulars throw a 5. In response the Militia throw a 1, and this means that the Regulars will move first.

The Commander of the Regular forces decides to seize the opportunity that moving first will give him and orders all his troops to advance as quickly as possible.

In the centre, the right-hand Regular Infantry Company fires at the Militia Machine Gun Company that is to its front. A D6 dies score of 1 means that they miss the target, but the Regular Machine Gun Company destroys the Militia Machine Gun Company when it fires at it … and throws a D6 die score of 6!

The left-hand Regular Infantry Company then fires at the Militia Command Company. Its D6 die score is 3, and the fire has had no effect. At the same time the Regular Separate Machine Gun Company fires at the Militia Machine Gun Company that is positioned near the Command Company on the hill. Its D6 die score of 4 is sufficient to wipe out the Militia Machine Gun Company.

The situation for the Militia forces has changed dramatically in a very short time. They have now lost all but one of their Machine Gun Companies and a quarter of their Infantry Companies. Prudence would suggest that they should withdraw before they are overrun … but the orders say ‘Fight to the last man!’ The Militia Commander orders the units in his right-hand trenches to move as quickly as possible towards the left to counter the threat that is rapidly developing there. At the same time, his remaining troops fire at the advancing Regulars.

The only Militia Infantry Company in the left-hand trenches now fires at the Regular Infantry Battalion’s Machine Gun Company, and its D6 die score of 6 results in the target’s destruction.

Turn 8
The battle is now reaching its climax, and both sides know that whatever happens next will be crucial.

The Militia and Regular Artillery Batteries fire at each other. The Militia throw a 3 on their D6 die, which means that they miss their target. Their second throw score is 4, and the shells land harmlessly in front of the Regular Artillery Battery. The latter’s fire also misses its target (they throw a score of 2 on their D6 die) but its shells land in a hex that is occupied by a Militia Infantry Company. A third D6 die throw is made … and its core of 4 means that the Infantry Company is destroyed!

The D6 dice are thrown to determine which side will move first, and the Regulars throw a 2 and the Militia throw a 4; this means that the Militia will be able to move (and fire) first.

The Militia Commander is fast running out of options, and all he can do is move down from the hill to support the Infantry Company that is in the left-hand trenches whilst the remaining Militia Infantry Company and Militia Machine Gun Company move from the right flank towards the left.

The Militia Infantry Company that is in the trenches fires at the nearest Regular Infantry Company, and the D6 die score of 2 means that the Regular Infantry Company is destroyed.

The Commander of the Regular forces reacts to the loss of this Infanty Company by halting the advance in the centre whilst urging the flanking force to move forward as quickly as possible.

They do so with alacrity, and the Commander of the Militia troops realises that his flank has been turned, and that he has very little left to counter-attack with.

Turn 9
For the third turn running, the artillery of both sides fire at each other. The Regular Artillery battery throws a 1, and therefore misses its target. Its second D6 die score is 2, and its shells land in an unoccupied hex that is adjacent to both the Militia Command Company and the remaining Militia Machine Gun Company.

The Militia Artillery Battery’s D6 die score of 1 means that it misses its target, and its second throw of 5 means that its shells land in an empty hex that is adjacent to the Regular Command Company!

The Regulars throw a 4 on their D6 die to see if they will move first this turn, and the D6 die throw of 3 made by the Militia means that they will.

The Regular troops that have turned the Militia’s flank now advance and the leading two companies (an Infantry Company and a Machine Gun Company) fire at the Militia Infantry Company that is in the trenches. Their D6 dice scores are 5 and 4, with the result that the Militia Infantry Company is wiped out.

At this point the Commander of the Militia forces knows that he can do no more. Despite his order to ‘Fight to the last man!’ he knows that all this will result in is a massacre of his remaining troops. After ordering his gunners to spike their guns, he orders his troops to retreat. He hopes that he has managed to delay the Regulars long enough for other Militia troops to arrive in the capital so that they can defend it. If he has, his Court Martial may only result in his demotion; if not, he will probably have an appointment with a firing squad.

I am a bit odd … but at least I know that I am!

In the film MAGNUM FORCE, Inspector Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) utters the immortal line: ‘A man’s got to know his limitations!’
I think that I know some of mine … and one of them is keeping a printed record of my blog.

I know that this sounds a bit odd, but despite all the wonders of electronic media, I still like paper. I like to read books, newspapers, and magazines. I own (and use) a Filofax. I enjoy being able to sit in a comfortable chair or in bed and read … and despite the advances that have been made with things like electronic organisers, PDAs, iPhones, iPads, and EBooks, in my opinion they are just not as easy or enjoyable to use as good old paper-based media. Hence my reason for keeping a printed version of my blog.

Pretty well ever since I started keeping this blog I have copied and pasted the text and images into a document every couple of days. Once the document – which I call my Blog Diary – reaches forty pages long, I print it off in colour, store it in a display folder, and start a new document. To date I have printed twenty volumes (I printed the twentieth off today) and in total I have written almost 195,000 words.

You might think that I am a bit odd … but at least I know that I am!

Game stopped play

Be warned … if you do not understand cricket, the rest of this blog entry will not make much sense.

When I got up this morning I had every intention of play-testing my latest version of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules after lunch … and then I sat down to watch the fourth day of the Test Match between England and Pakistan.

Now in our house cricket is a bit of an obsession. Both my wife and I played cricket at school, and it is an interest that we continue to share. We love to watch the game in all its formats: Five-day Test Matches, One Day Internationals, County matches, and T20.

Both my wife and I watched almost every ball of the morning session, and after lunch we were transfixed by the game. It looked as if Pakistan should get the required runs without too much trouble … and then England started to get wickets. It reached a point where the Pakistanis only had to get 16 runs to win, but had already lost 6 wickets, and then they seemed to lose the ability to score. England’s bowlers closed the game right down, and the Pakistani batsmen just could not seem to find any gaps. For what seemed like an age (about thirty minutes, in fact!) the Pakistanis could not score runs and England could not take wickets. Everything seemed to hang in the balance … and then the Pakistanis found a couple of gaps in the field and scored two boundaries.

In the end Pakistan won by 4 wickets; this means that if they win the next game in the series, the series will end as a draw.

Roll on Thursday 26th August, when the next Test Match starts at Lord’s!

Back to the ‘Frontier’!

Now that I have finished transcribing Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE and have sent off the draft to the publisher, I have been able to return to developing Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ rules so that Units other than Artillery Units can fire at each other.

I had already sketched out some ideas on paper, and I am in the process of amending my copy of the ‘Frontier’ rules to incorporate the following:

  • ‘Battle’ has been replaced by the term ‘Close Combat’
  • ‘Firing’ has been added to the Turn Sequence (It comes after ‘Movement’ and before ‘Close Combat’ [formerly ‘Battle’].)
  • ‘Firing’ rules have been added (These are based on the existing ‘Artillery’ rules as I saw no reason to have two different systems for resolving fire combat in the same set of rules. This is very much in line with my desire to always keep things simple! The only major differences are that non-artillery fire is either ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ [it cannot land in the ‘wrong’ hex] and that units that are behind cover are regarded as being fired at ‘indirectly’; this removes the need to include additional rules for the effect of cover or to have ‘saving throws’.)
  • The firing range of Artillery has been increased

Once these draft rules are ready, I hope to try them out in a play-test.

Scanning images: Update

I used the scanning method I outlined yesterday (i.e. a slightly higher resolution and as colour (rather than monochrome) images) .. and it worked a treat! So much so, that I was able to add the scanned images to the draft text of Joseph Morschauser’s book that I have been transcribing, and I have sent it off to the publisher for them to give it the ‘once over’. I still have more to add to the draft, but the bulk of it is now done.

The problem I had with the scanner settings can be illustrated by the following two images. The first was done as a monochrome image …

… and the second was scanned as a colour image.

As you can see, the second image is of a somewhat better quality than the first. And before anyone makes a comment … I know that the second image is not of an outstanding quality, but the original photograph that I scanned was not of a very high quality in the first place.