Generic Wargame Armies

I am going to start this blog entry by making one thing very clear; I am not – and never have been – an absolute purist when it comes to my wargame armies. This is not to say that I don’t take pride in trying to make my wargame armies look reasonably accurate, but I try not to take it to extremes.

An example of the extreme viewpoint is illustrated by a wargamer of my acquaintance who refused to buy a particular figure from a manufacturer (I think that it was a Prussian Napoleonic Fusilier of 1815) because the 15mm-scale figure was wearing an item of uniform that was supposed to have been withdrawn from service two or three years earlier. This seemed a bit extreme to me, and when I asked whether or not obsolete items of uniform might have still been in service even though they were supposed to have been withdrawn, I was subjected to a long diatribe about the need for absolute accuracy. To that wargamer wargame figures in accurate uniforms were essential for their enjoyment of the hobby.

I do think accuracy is important … up to a point. For example I would not expect to see Pzkpfw V Panther tanks rolling across the French countryside in 1940, but I would not be desperately upset if I saw a 1945 model of a Pzkpfw V Panther tank on the tabletop during a re-fight of the Battle of Kursk. (I know that there are quite a few wargamers who – having read this far – are now foaming at the mouth and giving serious consideration to tarring and feathering me at the first opportunity that arises!)

In my little world my wargame figures represent what I want them to represent, and as long as they are vaguely correct when seen from about three feet away, I am happy. This has meant that I have been able to use my collection to fight a variety of battles from periods and wars that would otherwise have required me to paint a lot more figures than I would ever have been able – or inclined – to do.

Military fashion has been of great help to me in this. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars – and to some extent during it – every nation seemed to copy each other’s uniforms. Only the colours used were markedly different, although dark blue does seem to have been used by a lot of countries. By the middle of the nineteenth century French military fashion set the trends, and almost every nation – with the exception of Prussia and those countries that followed their lead – was dressed in similar uniforms. After the Franco-German War of 1870-71 the trend moved away from French military fashion and more towards Prussian/German styles.

The growth of colonial warfare also led to greater uniformity, and by 1900 most countries had colonial armies that were clothed in brown/khaki uniforms when on active service. Even the uniforms worn within Europe became drabber, with only the French – and the countries that followed their military fashions – retaining any significant colour in their field uniforms. Even their colonial opponents tended to wear similar clothing to each other, and my North West Frontier tribesmen – who wear an off-white tunic and trousers with a white or coloured turban – have seen service as Mahdist riflemen and Turkish irregulars.

By the end of the First World War most of the Allied countries were wearing drab-coloured uniforms, and they set the trend for the next twenty years or so. A figure in French uniform (i.e. Adrian helmet and long overcoat or tunic) can be used to represent French, Belgian, Polish, Russian, Yugoslav, Greek, Romanian, and Italian troops without difficulty (only the colour of the uniform might vary from country to country), whilst a figure in British uniform (i.e. British-style steel helmet and tunic) can be used to represent British, US, and Portuguese troops. Even figures in German steel helmets present opportunities for wargamers who are not uniform purists, and could be used to represent German, Polish, Finnish, Irish, and Chinese troops.

This is by no means a definitive list, and it strikes me that if other wargamers took my less purist attitude to the uniforms their wargame armies wear they could get a lot of use out of them.

Advertisements

Pushing even more toy soldiers about on the tabletop

I decided to make a few changes for my next play-test of my card-driven unit activation system … but they were all to do with the location of the ‘battle’ and the two participants. I decided that I would set up a meeting engagement between two similar sized opponents (in this case the Nuevo Ricans and the San Theodorans) in the desert that forms part of the border between these two bellicose countries.

For this play-test I reverted to my original card-driven unit activation system. I allocated both sides appropriately coloured playing cards with values 1, 2, 3, and 4 from two packs of playing cards, and added two Jokers to the pack. The pack was thoroughly shuffled and placed face down. The top playing card was then turned over, and the side whose colour was on that card was allowed to activate up to the same number of units as the value of the card.

The rules used were a slightly modified version of MEMOIR ’44.


ScenarioA small exploration team from one of the major American oil companies has been working in the desert border region between Nuevo Rico and San Theodoros … and has found what they think might be oil-bearing rock. As a result both nations have claimed the desert as their own, and are determined to enforce their respective claims with a military presence in the area. Nuevo Rica and San Theodoros have sent small expeditionary forces into the desert to look for sources of water and to set up military posts.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Nuevo Rican Forces (Black)

  • 2 x Infantry Units
  • 1 x Armoured Unit
  • 1 x Artillery Unit
  • 1 x Aircraft Unit (This will appear when the second Joker is turned over)

San Theodoran Forces (Red)

  • 4 x Infantry Units
  • 1 x Artillery Unit

The BattleThe sequence of playing cards turned over was as follows:

  • Red 1, Black 3, Red 4, Red 3, Black 1, Black 3, Black 2, Black 3

The situation after eight unit activation cards had been turned over.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.

  • Black 1, Red 2, Red 3, Red 2, Red 3, Red 1, Black 2, Red 2

The situation after sixteen unit activation cards had been turned over.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.

  • Joker: The pack was re-shuffled.
  • Black 4, Red 2, Black 1, Red 4, Red 3, Black 1, Red 4, Red 3

The situation after twenty four unit activation cards had been turned over.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.

  • Joker: The pack was re-shuffled and the Nuevo Rican Aircraft Unit became available.
  • Red 2, Black 3

The arrival of the Nuevo Rican Aircraft Unit was devastating. Its first attack destroyed a San Theodoran Infantry Unit.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.

  • Red 4, Black 4

The Nuevo Rican Aircraft Unit’s second attack wiped out the remaining crew member of the San Theodoran Artillery Unit.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.

At this point I decided that neither side was going to win the battle. The Nuevo Rican’s had managed to push back the San Theodorans at great cost, thanks mainly to the effectiveness of their Armour and Aircraft Units. The San Theodorans had inflicted a serious defeat on the Nuevo Rican Infantry Units and would have seized the border desert area had it not been for the Nuevo Rican Armoured and Aircraft Units.


ConclusionsI was much happier using this version of the card-driven unit activation system, and I think that I will continue to use it in future. The result of the battle was far more even than I had expected, although the arrival of the Nuevo Rican Aircraft Unit did ensure that the San Theodorans were not going to win.

The battle took about thirty minutes to fight, including taking the photographs. This means that I can fight several small battles during an afternoon or evening and still have plenty of time to record what happened as I go along. This is what I had hoped to achieve … and I am very pleased with the result.


Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 377

The postman delivered the latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine yesterday afternoon, and I from what I have read so far, this looks as if this month’s issue is going to be a good one.

The articles included in this issue are:

  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Getting into a paddy: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts: All you need from architecture to apes by John Treadaway
  • ‘Twixt crescent and cross: SAGA scenarios based on the Alexiad by Matt Morgan
  • The bridges at Monocacy: Alternative ACW railroad action by Robin Miles
  • Wargames photography: Master your digital camera or phone: part 1 by Henry Hyde
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Re-conquering Gaul: Simple ancients campaigning by Jim Webster
  • The importance of magazines: One man’s love affair with battle for Wargamers by Jonathan Aird
  • Bovington 2014: A room full of tanks by John Treadaway
  • The trader’s survival kit: Tongue-in-cheek comments from behind the stall by Helena Nash
  • The Chechen War 1994: Gaming a difficult war by Dave Tuck and Malc Johnson
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer
  • Recce

Some metal 1:1200th-scale model ironclads

Some years ago I had the opportunity to buy some metal 1:1200th-scale model ironclads at a very reasonable price … so I bought them. The ships were:

HMS Inflexible

HMS Victoria

Two Brandenburg-class German pre-dreadnought battleships

I repainted these two models as the paintwork was in poor condition, and it has always been my intention that they would represent the Turkish Heireddin Barbarossa (ex-Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm) and Torgud Reis (ex-Weissenburg).

As yet none of these models has taken part in a wargame, but hopefully they will do one day.


Out of the Shed: 1:1200th-scale model warship kits

The crates I took out of the now-defunct shed are still providing me with lots of surprises, and the latest was the discovery of a large number of unmade 1:1200th-scale model warships.

Besides a lot of other kits (more of which will feature in a forthcoming blog entry), I found the following model warships in the crate:

  • 4 x Revell Miniships Roma-class Battleships
  • 9 x Revell Miniships HMS King George V-class Battleships
  • 1 x Airfix HMS Ark Royal-class Aircraft Carrier
  • 2 x Airfix HMS Suffolk-class Heavy Cruisers
  • 3 x Eaglewall HMS Norfolk-class Heavy Cruisers
  • 2 x Lindberg USS Houston-class Light Cruisers
  • 8 x Airfix HMS Cossack-class Destroyers

I already have several unmade kits of some of the warships listed above, and this means that I could easily indulge my desire to build significantly large fleets of warships for Fletcher Pratt naval wargames … should I so desire it.


Pushing some more toy soldiers about on the tabletop

After the recent play-test of my card-driven unit activation system, and in the light of some of the suggestions and comments I received, I decided to re-fight the scenario using modified versions of the system.


First play-test: Twin pack approach

  • I allocated both sides (Red and Black) appropriately coloured playing cards with values 2, 3, and 4 from two packs of playing cards.
  • I sorted the cards into a Red pile and a Black pile, added a Joker to each pile, and then shuffled the piles separately.
  • I placed the piles of playing cards face down and used a D6 to determine which side turned over a playing card first.
  • Each side then alternated turning over the top playing card of their pile and activated the number of units indicated by the value of the card
  • This continued until a Joker was turned over, at which point both piles of playing cards were re-shuffled.

Red ‘won’ the dice throw and turned their top card over first. The sequence of playing cards turned over was as follows:

  • Red 3, Black 4, Red 4, Black 2, Red 3, Black 3, Red 4, Black 2, Joker

The situation of both side’s Units at the point when the first Joker was turned over.

  • Red 4, Black 3, Red 4, Black 2, Red 3, Black 2, Red 2, Black 3, Red 2, Black 3, Red 4, Black 4, Joker

The situation of both side’s Units at the point when the second Joker was turned over.

At this point I decided to end the battle.

In some ways this was a more satisfactory way in which to use the card-driven unit activation system BUT I felt that it was just a bit too predictable for use in a solo context. I knew that whatever Red did, Black would have the opportunity to counter it because they would turn over the next playing card and be able to activate some units. I can see this working well in a conventional face-to-face wargame as a means of making the traditional IGOUGO system a bit unpredictable, but I think that it does not work as well in a solo wargame.


Second play-test: The asymmetric card value approach

  • I allocated Red appropriately-coloured playing cards with values 2, 3, and 4 from two packs of playing cards and Black appropriately-coloured playing cards with values 1, 2, and 3 from two packs of playing cards.
  • I sorted the cards into a single pile, added two Jokers to the pile, and then shuffled the pile.
  • I placed the pile of playing cards face down and turned over the top playing card of the pile; the side whose playing card was turned over activated the number of units indicated by the value of the card.
  • This continued until a Joker was turned over, at which point the pile of playing cards was re-shuffled.

The sequence of playing cards turned over was as follows:

  • Black 1, Joker
  • Red 2, Black 2, Black 2, Red 3, Black 3, Red 3, Joker

The situation of both side’s Units at the point when the second Joker was turned over.

  • Black 3, Black 2, Red 2, Red 4, Black 2, Black 3, Black 1, Red 4, Red 3, Red 2

At this point all of the Morschauserland Units had been wiped out and the battle ended.

The situation at the point when the battle ended.

I felt that this worked far better than the previous variant as it had an increased level of unpredictability due to the possibility that the sides could get a ‘string’ or ‘run’ of cards. I want to have this sort of unpredictability in my solo wargames, but I suspect that it might not be something that would work as well in a conventional face-to-face wargame. I felt that the use of asymmetric playing card values also worked well, and created problems for the ‘weaker’ side that the use of balanced playing card values did not generate.


ConclusionsAfter these two additional play-tests I feel that the card-driven unit activation system produces the sort of unpredictable wargames that I want to fight. It may not be perfect, but it is simple. It also has a flexibility that enables it to be tailored to meet the specific needs of a scenario. There are no conventional ‘turns’, and the absence of IGOUGO unit activation in the second of today’s play-tests made the wargame feel as if it seamlessly flowed along.

I want to mount some further play-tests of the asymmetric variant of the card-driven unit activation system … but already I feel that this is a simple and useful mechanism that I will probably incorporate into any future wargame rules that I design.


Pushing some toy soldiers about on the tabletop

After doing all the recent thinking and experimenting (well, a bit of both anyway), I decided that the best way to test the new card-driven unit activation system was to get some toys soldiers and terrain out, set up a scenario, and to give it a go.

To keep things a simple as possible I set myself the following parameters:

  1. To use the movement and combat rules from MEMOIR ’44
  2. To set up the terrain so that was nine hexes wide by ten hexes deep (i.e. slightly longer than it was wide)
  3. To use no more than a dozen or so units in total
  4. To use only playing cards with a value of 2, 3, or 4 (this should give an average of 3 unit ‘activations’ per card)
  5. To use a single Joker

For a scenario I turned to the perennial conflict between Morschauserland and Eastland.


ScenarioTension has been rising along the disputed border between Morschauserland and Eastland. Stories that increased numbers of Eastland troops have been gathering near the border have reached the ears of the Morschauserland Ministry of War, and the Minister has ordered increased vigilance in the border area. Defences have been manned by well-equipped troops who have orders to prevent any Eastland incursions.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Morschauserland Forces (Black):

  • 2 x Infantry Units with Machine Guns
  • 1 x Artillery Unit
  • 1 x Armoured Unit (This will appear when the first Joker is turned over)

Eastland Forces (Red):

  • 2 x Infantry Units
  • 2 x Infantry Units with Machine Guns
  • 1 x Infantry Unit with Anti-tank Guns
  • 1 x Artillery Unit
  • 2 x Armoured Units

The BattleBlack 4: Morschauserland: No units activated.

Black 4: Morschauserland: No units activated.

Red 3: Eastland: Two Armoured Units and an Infantry Unit with Machine Gun advanced towards the Morschauserland positions.

Red 4: Eastland: The two Armoured Units continued to advance towards the nearest Morschauserland position and an Infantry Unit and Artillery Unit moved up in support.

The two Armoured Units opened fire on the Morschauserland Infantry Unit with Machine Gun in front of them …

… and wiped out half of the Morschauserland Unit.

Red 4: Eastland: The two Armoured Units continued to advance towards the nearest Morschauserland position and a further Infantry Unit moved up in support. The Artillery Unit fired at the Morschauserland Infantry Unit that was directly in front of them … but their gunfire had no effect.

The gunfire from the two Armoured Units was much more effective …

… and the Morschauserland Infantry Unit with Machine Guns was destroyed.

Black 4: Morschauserland: No units activated.

Red 3: Eastland: The two Armoured advanced towards the Morschauserland Artillery Unit’s position and the Artillery Unit moved forward to reduce the range at which it had to fire.

The two Armoured Units opened fire on the Morschauserland Artillery Unit …

… and killed half of the Unit’s manpower.

Black 4: Morschauserland: The Artillery Unit now engaged one of the Eastland Armoured Units …

… and forced it to fall back.

Black 3: Morschauserland: The Artillery Unit now engaged the other Eastland Armoured Unit …

… and reduced it to two-thirds of its original strength.

Black 3: Morschauserland: Buoyed up by this success, the Artillery Unit engaged the Eastland Armoured Unit for a second time …

… and destroyed it!

Joker: The playing cards were shuffled anew and the Morschauserland Armoured Unit became available.

Red 3: Eastland: The remaining Infantry Units (one with a machine Gun and one with an Anti-tank Gun) moved into the battle area …

… and the Artillery Unit moved forward yet again to reduce the range at which it had to fire.

Red 3: Eastland: The remaining Armoured Unit moved forward and fired at the Morschauserland Artillery Unit, but its gunfire was ineffective.

The Artillery Unit also engaged the Morschauserland Artillery Unit, also without effect.

The Infantry Unit with Anti-tank Gun advanced and fired at the last remaining Morschauserland Infantry with Machine Gun unit, but its gunfire was similarly ineffective.

Black 4: Morschauserland: The arrival of the Armoured Unit marked the turning point in the battle. It fired at the Eastland Armoured Unit …

… and inflicted damage equivalent to two-thirds of its original strength.

Not to be outdone, the Artillery Unit also fired at the Eastland Armoured Unit …

… and knocked it out!

On the other flank of the Morschauserland defences, the Infantry with Machine Gun Unit fired at the Eastland Infantry with Anti-tank Gun Unit … but inflicted no casualties.

Black 3: Morschauserland: The Infantry with Machine Gun Unit fired again at the Eastland Infantry with Anti-tank Gun Unit …

… and this time they caused a casualty …

… as well as forcing them to retire.

The Armoured Unit pressed forward and engaged the Eastland Artillery Unit, …

… causing it to suffer 50% casualties as well as forcing it to retreat.

Black 2: Morschauserland: The Armoured Unit fired yet again at the Eastland Artillery Unit … and destroyed it.

Black 2: Morschauserland: Pressing home it advantage, the Armoured Unit engaged the nearby Eastland Infantry Unit …

… which suffered a casualty.

Black 4: Morschauserland: The Armoured Unit continued to fire at the Eastland Infantry Unit …

… causing it a further casualty as well as forcing it to retreat.

Joker: At this point I decided that the battle was close to ending. The Morschauserlanders had stopped the Eastland incursion, but were unable to exploit their success. The Eastlanders were in a position to push forward, but without Armoured support they felt that the possibility of victory was not assured.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Both sides decided to withdraw to their initial positions, and the tensions along the border eased very slightly.


ConclusionsI was very pleased with the way this card-driven unit activation system worked. The action on the tabletop seemed to flow much better than it would have done with a traditional IGOUGO system, and not knowing whether one side or the other would be able to develop an attack before their opponents could respond added just enough uncertainty to events to make it interesting. The effect one side getting a ‘string’ of unit activations can be seen in this play-test.

I think that this system has lots of potential, and I hope to run some further tests in the very near future.