Colonial inspiration!

I have been fumbling about for some inspiration for my first tabletop battle in some time … and then I came across some pictures that I had used in a blog entry that I wrote quite some time ago.

The pictures are of one of Joseph Morschauser’s wargames, and they were featured in his book HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE. From the description in an article about his wargame that Joseph Morschauser sent to Donald Featherstone, and which the latter published in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER: No.66 (September 1967), they appear to show an attack by British troops on the Great Wall of Morobad, which surrounded the city of that name.

These photographs have given me an idea for a scenario, and I hope to use it for my forthcoming wargame.

Red Flags and Iron Crosses

Yesterday I happened to be looking back at the first few blog entries that I wrote. They were about the set of World War II rules that I was then developing … RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES: TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED.

Re-reading about my various play-tests, I realised that they were a better set of rules than I remembered them being. Perhaps I ought to give them another try sometime soon? In the meantime, here are some of the photographs I used to illustrate those early blog entries.

For those of you who like to know a bit more about the models etc. that I used, they were:

  • Terrain: Hexon II
  • Trees: Cheap model railways trees that I based after adding additional flock to the foliage
  • Buildings: N-gauge Hornby model railway buildings
  • Walls/Entrenchments: Hovels
  • Aircraft: Pre-painted models issued with a magazine part-work
  • Tanks: Corgi pre-painted models
  • Vehicle: Matchbox plastic kit
  • Artillery: Skytrex
  • Figures: Various manufacturers including Raventhorpe, Tumbling Dice, Skytrex, and Britannia

Going round and round … and getting nowhere

Over the past few weeks I have felt a general lethargy and lack of enthusiasm for almost everything … including wargaming. It may be a result of the change in the season or it may be the fact that I seem to have had a persistent and bothersome head cold for several weeks. Whatever the cause, I have just not felt much like wargaming.

Looking back over my blog entries, I realised that since COW2014 I have only fought three battles … and they were short, solo actions to test a game mechanism. Is this a sign that my disinclination to fight wargames has been around even longer than I realised?

I don’t know … but I suspect that it might.

One thing that I have been trying to do – without much success – is to revise my PORTABLE WARGAME rules … but each time that I have tried, I seem to be making them more rather than less complicated.

At times like these I find that the best thing to do is to look at the work of the ‘Old Masters’ of wargaming for inspiration. (The ‘Old Masters’ I am referring to include Donald Featherstone, Joseph Morschauser, Peter Young, Charles Grant, Terry Wise, Charles Wesencraft, and Lionel Tarr.) I have been doing just that … and it has helped to raise my spirits somewhat.

One thing that has particularly claimed my interest – yet again – is Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ rules. In an article he wrote in 1967 he describes using these rules with his famous Roster System, and having re-read what he wrote several times, I think that it points a way forward for me. What is more, it has given me the feeling that I want to try them out … and if it cures my lethargy, so much the better!

Painting figures: Another experiment … and some related thoughts

Since returning from our recent cruise I have been experimenting with the use of cheap acrylic craft paints to paint figures … and I am very pleased with the results.

Other than the primer, the following figure was painted using nothing but acrylic craft paint.

I decided not to use Nut Brown India Ink to ‘shade’ the figure … and I don’t think the figure looks any the worse for it … as the following comparison shows.

I am now thinking about using this simple technique to paint some more 20mm-scale figures.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign project … and I began to come to the following conclusions.

  • I was going to have to ‘bath-tub’ the whole thing if I was ever going to be able to stop it becoming a monster … and that was a compromise that I was unsure about making.
  • In order to stop the cost of the project from escalating to a level I could not justify, I was going to use as much of what I already had in terms of figures and vehicles rather than start from scratch.

In the end I decided that realistically I was unlikely to ever fulfil my dreams of a full-blown Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign, and that I had to rethink the whole thing.

At this point in my thinking I was reading through some of my old blog entries, particularly the play-test battles that I fought between Morschauserland and Eastland … and it made me wonder if I should consider rejigging the whole thing along similar imagi-nation lines. The pluses in favour of this are:

  • I already have an imagi-world with suitable imagi-nations. (This would enable me to avoid the ethical conundrum I would otherwise have to face regarding whether or not to wargame the politically/racially-motivated excesses committed by both sides during the real war.)
  • I would not be restricted to using specific model vehicles, aircraft, ships, figures, and even uniforms for my imagi-world version of the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War. (I recently ‘found’ a large number of Spanish Civil War figures that I could use for smaller allied contingents and/or militia.)
  • I could use one or more of the sets of wargame rules that I already have to hand including:

The negatives are:

  • That I doubt that I could find a regular opponent to control one of the two sides … but as most of my wargaming is done solo, this is not a major consideration.
  • That it might not be seen as ‘proper’ wargaming by some people within the hobby … but I have been around long enough not to worry too much about what those sort of people think any more.

I am not fully committed to this course of action as yet … but the more I think about it, the more attractive it becomes.

A play-test … of sorts!

I have finally managed to set up and fight a small play-test battle using my Itchy and Scratchy rules … for which I MUST find a better name as soon as possible!

After some deliberation I decided to use a scenario based on that used in ‘Game Number Three’ in the ‘Three Basic Battles’ chapter of Donald Featherstone’s BATTLES WITH MODEL SOLDIERS. I used a wooden chessboard (bought in John Lewis) for my gridded battlefield (as well as some masking tape, a Hovels wall, and a couple of individually-based trees) and figures from my copy of Eagle Games’ THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR boxed wargame. Both sides had two Infantry units, a Cavalry unit, an Artillery unit, and a General.

The starting positions were as follows:

Turn 1
The Confederates won the dice throw and moved first. As none of their units were in firing range of the Union forces, no combat took place.

The Union troops then moved.

As the Union Artillery unit was in range of the Confederate Infantry unit that was behind the wall, it opened fire on the Confederate. The dice scores were 5 and 6, which meant that they did not hit the Confederate unit.

Turn 2
The Union side won the dice throw to see which side moved and fired first. Their units moved forward and opened fire on any Confederate units that were in range.

The right-hand union Infantry unit threw 5, 1, and 1 (and thus caused no casualties) and the artillery unit threw 6, 4, 3, and 2 (also causing no casualties).

In reply the Confederates moved their Cavalry unit forward and attacked the left-hand Union Infantry unit. It threw 5, 4, 3, and 1 and inflicted no casualties.

The Confederate Infantry unit that was not behind the wall fired with the Union Infantry unit directly in front of it, but its dices scores were only 6 and 1 and therefore caused no casualties.

Turn 3
The Union won the initiative dice throw again and moved first. the Union Cavalry unit moved onto the flank of the Confederate Infantry unit that was not behind the wall, and its dice scores of 6, 6, 5, and 1 destroyed one of the Infantry units Strength Points.

The same Confederate infantry unit was then attacked by the right-hand Union Infantry unit, whose dice scores of 6, 6, 3, 2, and 2 destroyed yet another Confederate Strength Point.

The Union Artillery unit then fired at the Confederate Cavalry unit … and its dice scores of 6, 5, 4, 2, 2, and 1 destroyed one of the Cavalry unit’s Strength Points.

The left-hand Union Infantry unit also engaged the Confederate Cavalry unit, and scored 4, 3, 3, and 2 … thus destroyed yet another of the Cavalry Unit’s Strength Points.

It was now the turn of the Confederates to fight back, and despite its 50% losses the Infantry unit that was not behind the wall attempted to drive off the Union Cavalry unit that was on its flank. Unfortunately its dices scores were 6, 5, 1, and 1, and it therefore caused no casualties.

The same was not true for the Confederate Infantry unit that was behind the wall. They fired at the nearby Union Infantry unit, and their dices scores (5, 5, 2, 2, and 1) were enough to destroy one of the Union Infantry unit’s Strength Points.

The Confederate Artillery unit engaged in some counter-battery fire against its opposite number … and its dice scores (1 and 1) were enough to ensure the destruction of one of the Union Artillery unit’s Strength Points.

Confederate Cavalry then attacked the Union Infantry unit that they had been fighting since Turn 2. Despite its depleted strength, the Confederate Cavalry unit’s dice scores of 6, 4, and 4 destroyed one of the Union Infantry unit’s Strength Points.

Turn 4
This was likely to be the crucial turn of the battle. Both sides had lost Strength Points (the Union had lost 3 Strength Points, and the Confederates 4 Strength Points) and it was possible that one of them would reach their Exhaustion Level (the loss of 7 Strength Points) very soon.

The Confederates won the initiative … and their General moved over to support the Confederate Infantry unit that was being attacked on two sides.

This Confederate Infantry unit then attacked the Union Infantry unit to its front, and its dice scores of 6, 6, 3, 3, and 1 destroyed one of the Union unit’s Strength Points.

The Confederate Artillery unit fired again at its opposite number … and its dice scores (2, 1, 1, and 1) ensured the Union Artillery unit’s destruction!

The Confederate Infantry unit that was behind the wall fired at the nearby Union Infantry unit, but its dice scores were 6, 3, 2, and 1, and these failed to cause any casualties.

The same was not true for the Confederate cavalry unit, which threw dice scores of 4, 4, and 3. These inflicted the loss of a Strength Point on the Union Infantry unit it was fighting.

At this point the Union had lost 6 Strength Points, and only had to lose one more before reaching their Exhaustion Level.

It was the Union side’s turn to move and fight, and they started with an attack by their Cavalry unit on the Confederate Infantry unit that was supported by the Confederate General. Their dice scores were 6, 5, and 1 … and they failed to inflict any casualties on the Confederates.

The right-hand Union Infantry unit was somewhat more successful, and the support of their General obviously swung things in their favour. Their dice scores were 6, 5, 5, 3, and 2, thus inflicting the loss of a Strength Point on the Confederate unit they were fighting.

The left-hand Union Infantry unit was far less successful, and its dice scores of 6, 5, 4, and 1 failed to destroy the Confederate Cavalry unit.

Turn 5
Both sides were dangerously close to their Exhaustion Levels and it was likely that the winner of the initiative would win the overall battle.

The Union won the initiative and immediately went on the attack. Their Cavalry unit attacked the remains of the Confederate Infantry unit that was being supported by the Confederate General … but their dice scores of 6, 4, and 2 meant that they caused the Confederate Infantry no loss of Strength Points.

The right-hand Union Infantry unit was much more successful, and its dice scores of 6, 6, 6, 4, and 4 would have destroyed two Confederate Infantry Strength Points … had the Confederate Infantry unit had more than one to lose. As it was, the Confederate Infantry unit was destroyed, but the Confederate General escaped unscathed.

On the other side of the battlefield the Union Infantry unit continued its fight with the Confederate Cavalry unit … and its dice scores of 3, 3, 3, and 4 were enough to ensure the destruction of the Cavalry unit’s final Strength Point.

At this point in the battle the Confederates had reached their Exhaustion Level and were incapable of further offensive movement … BUT they still had not fought this turn and now did so.

Firstly their unscathed General moved back to support the Confederate Infantry unit that was still behind the wall.

His support proved decisive as the Confederate Infantry unit’s dice scores were devastating. They scored 6, 6, 3, 1, and 1 … thus causing the Union Infantry unit to lose a Strength Point AND destroying the Union General!

The Union side had now also reached their Exhaustion Level … and the Confederate Artillery unit still had not fired. When it did it scored 5, 2, 2, and 1, and thus had no effect upon the remnants of the left-hand Union Infantry unit.

The battle was now over. Both sides were exhausted, but the Confederates must be adjudged to have won as the Union side had lost more Strength Points than the Confederates AND lost their General.

The rules work … and Archduke Piccolo‘s D6 dice combat system was very easy to use …

BUT one area of the rules jarred with me almost from the start of the play-test, and that was the inability of units that were being attacked by enemy units in adjacent grid areas to fight back until it was their turn. There was also no means by which an attacking or defending unit could ‘drive off’ an enemy unit that was in an adjacent grid area.

Rectifying this will require a bit of thought, but I do have one or two ideas that I want to think about before committing them to paper. Once I have done so I will write a blog entry that includes an updated draft of the rules.

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 366

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in the post yesterday, but I only managed to look through it this morning.

The articles included in this issue are:

  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Are these huts just crepe?: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts: Lifting the lid on scenery by John Treadaway
  • Stop thief!: An exercise in pursuit by Daniel Mersey
  • The Wild West (According to Hollywood …) by Leslie Tipping
  • Command challenge: Encounter at Plattdorf by Henry Hyde
  • Tealight ironclads: Simple ships for naval games by Rob Young
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Suleiman’s ‘Stalingrad’: The Great Siege of Malta 1565 by Gary Mitchell
  • Last post for the toy soldier general: A tribute to Donald Featherstone, 1918 – 2013 by Chris Scott and Charles Grant
  • Wiener Planspielregeln: Combined Arms Wargaming 1940 – 1970: Part 1 by Franz Ehart
  • At play with Crooked Dice: Bonding with the SpyFi masterminds by John Treadaway
  • Recce
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde

The tribute to Donald Featherstone is an excellent summary of his life and work, and is the best obituary about him that I have read to date.

From a personal point-of-view the article about the Wiener Planspielregeln is particularly interesting, especially as the original rules were written back in 1957 and in total isolation from what was happening in the English-speaking world of wargaming.

Donald Featherstone’s ‘Battles with Model Soldiers’

As a result of Donald Featherstone’s recent death have I spent some time looking through his BATTLES WITH MODEL SOLDIERS. It was originally published in 1970, and I currently own a copy of the 1984 edition. (I passed my copy of the 1970 edition on to another wargamer quite a few years ago.)

Re-reading the book I realised how much it was a development of Donald Featherstone’s WAR GAMES, and that the World War II rules are a mixture of elements of both Donald’s and Lionel Tarr’s rules.

I suspect that BATTLES WITH MODEL SOLDIERS is not as highly regarded by quite a few Featherstone fans as it could and should be. In support of this contention it is interesting to note that it is NOT included amongst the list of books that John Curry has reissued as part of his History of Wargaming project.