My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finished reading some AWI books

I finally finished reading With Bayonets and With Zeal Only and A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens and I must say: if you want a look at the true tactical level of AWI warfare, you must read those books. You may not agree with them (I have no reason not to, but some say they are revisionist), but they get down to the powder and smoke.

With Bayonets and With Zeal Only: This book lays the foundation that although the British were known as a firepower-oriented army in Europe, due to the nature of the American terrain and how the Patriots (the author always refers to them as "rebels") exploited it, the British switched to shock tactics and open order. This book goes into great detail about maneuvering, firing, bayonet charges, and finally looks at the battles the British won and lost, and the real effects of each. (Hint: the victories were largely "hollow" at best and the losses disastrous).

A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens: First off, Cowpens is my favorite battle in the AWI. I had read some of Babits' work on the web, but had never read the complete book. All of my readings of Cowpens largely came from other books on the Southern campaign, where it got a treatment of several pages, but most of the discussion centered around the aftermath.

This book is awesome. It is what I was hoping for on some of the other periods I read about. Here Babits has broken down the battle into phases and describes, in meticulous detail, every aspect of it that he could find or figure out. There are estimated casualty rates at each phase and how that affected redeployment. There are marching rates and estimated time it took to cross a section of the battlefield, and thus how much fire they could take.

What was shocking to me - and something I had not read in any other source - was that Morgan had placed the Militia line on a reverse slope of a rise and this is why the militia fire was both highly destructive, and so short (i.e. only one of five companies was able to get off a second shot, all the others only got off one). It also goes into great detail about some elements of the battle that were previously confusing (Tarleton's comment about Newmarsh having to post his officers causing a delay, the circumstances of the militia reforming and coming back into battle, how the 71st started to flank the Continentals yet ended up flanked itself, Howard wheeling back the Continental line, etc.).

All in all a great book that I simply blitzed through as it is exactly the type of material I love. Both books are highly recommended.

Needless to say, they are having an effect on how I want to game the AWI now. Some of those ideas will be coming out in following posts.

Battlelore

Slight switch today (I'll get back to AWI soon): talking about Days of Wonder's/Fantasy Flight Games' Battlelore (BL). This is another Richard Borg design that has a lot in common with Command & Colors: Ancients (CCA). However, there are a few subtle changes that I think makes BL superior to CCA.
  1. Battle Back: This is the same mechanism as in CCA, however you only get to do it under certain circumstances. By exploiting when a unit can and cannot Battle Back, you can chip away at the enemy with increased safety.
  2. Support: If a unit has friendly units in two of the adjacent hexes, it is considered supported, and thus is Bold in morale. Being Bold allows you to ignore one Retreat more than you normally would and it allows you to Battle Back.
The Support rule is really the key. By keeping a solid line, you can ensure everyone gets to Battle Back when attacked (assuming they don't retreat or are killed, of course). However, if you can force a retreat in the middle of the line, you get the effect of breaking the Support in the middle. This provides an effective representation of a breakthrough. Also, rolling up the flanks actually works if the end of the line does not have proper Support. Finally, cavalry have to think a little before charging off alone or pursuing, as they do so without other units available to provide Support.

I am working my way through the scenarios again, thinking about a campaign game so I can link the battles together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

HOTT Sneakers and HOTR Update

Had to chuckle with this blog title.

Sneakers in HOTT: Sneakers are 3 AP elements that basically assassinate Generals and capture Strongholds. I have excluded them from HOTR as I did not see a need for them. However, the more I read the more I realize that there is a place for them.

Many of the contemporary writers indicated how barbaric the Americans were (not just the Patriot side, by the way) because they had no compunction against shooting the enemy officers, to include the Generals. Because that is essentially the function of a Sneaker, I started thinking that every time I read a reference to "riflemen" shooting the enemy commander, I would allow that side a "Sharpshooter" element that was essentially a Sneaker.

HOTR Update: Fellow Fanaticus member Ragnar pointed out that I did not have a combat outcome for Light Infantry. Now HOTR does (it is the same line as Rifles and Mounted Partisans).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Updates to HOTR and HOTR Scenarios

I've updated the main HOTR notes and the HOTR scenarios.

Grasshoppers: This is a new element type representing 3 pounder (Grasshopper) artillery. It has a 2 AP cost, fires like a HOTT Shooter, and moves at the speed of Shock Infantry.

I created this element as I was finding too many historical skirmishes and battles that had 3 pounder guns present, but because of the 3 AP cost for artillery, I had to match it with purchasing a 1 AP element like Militia or Bushwhackers. Generally that is not a problem for the Patriot side, but for the British, I sometimes had to fudge. So, it made sense to create a lightweight artillery element and cost it at 2 AP, removing the need to fudge.

Darkness: I've added rules for fighting in darkness. This allows me to use some of the night attack and dawn attack skirmishes and battles.

Dawn Breaks: I've added rules for determining when dawn breaks, thus nullifying the darkness rules.

Originally, all of these rules were in the Scenarios document and now they are pulled out and in the HOTR Notes document.

Finally, I've added some basing options and suggestions. Militia should be more like Horde and Shock Infantry and Line Infantry should be more like Blades and Spears in their basing.

Friday, October 09, 2009

New HOTR Scenario - Heron Bridge

I decided to stay up late and finish the work on the Heron Bridge scenario (see links above). I will playtest it later, but for now it looks pretty good. I've added a suggested map (the first), along with rules to represent the effects of darkness, surprise attacks, and dawn breaking.

Heron Bridge

I am currently going through Nothing but Blood and Slaught - The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas - Volume Three 1781 by Patrick O'Kelley pulling out the skirmishes and battles and making them into HOTR scenarios. (See links above for more information.) When I ran upon the skirmish Heron Bridge (Jan 30, 1781), it game a description of the area as:
The position consisted of a bridge with a narrow causeway at one end. A deep marsh a quarter of a mile wide was located beside the hill that the militia had camped on.
From that basic description I started to try and define what the board would look like. The problem was, I could not envision it. Although I have tried using Google Maps for American Revolutionary battles in the past, with little success, I decided to try once more. The first clue was:
The combined forces fortified a position at Heron Bridge, ten miles northeast of Wilmington...
Of course, looking at Wilmington today, it has sprawled much farther than it was in 1781, so ten miles from Wilmington then is likely within the city today.

I decided to use search for Heron Bridge on Google and found several pieces on the skirmishes there - there were actually several, and the bridge played an important role in resupply to Cornwallis' army. The more I found, the more intrigued I was about this little-known aspect of Revolutionary War history. Google Books is such an amazing wargaming resource, as is Google itself.

I guess this is why I like wargaming so much: it feeds my interest in history. I am still working on the scenario, and when I am done I hope its' game value is worthy of the effort that went into researching it. For now, I am still trying to draw a map that has some semblance of what it might have looked like in 1781 (it is near where Interstate 40 crosses the Northeast (Cape Fear) River), but now I have a much better idea of not just the terrain, but why the skirmish was fought in the first place.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New HOTR Scenario

Time to go to bed... %)

I added a new scenario to the HOTR Scenarios document (see link at the top of the blog): Georgetown, SC. This is a "what if" scenario as what really happened was the Loyalists hid in their bunker while they let their (unpopular) commander get captured by the Patriots. The Patriots, seeing the strength of the defenses, and with no battering rams or scaling ladders, decided to withdraw.

Not a very fun scenario, so the brick redoubt is toned down in order to force the Loyalists to fight.

Enjoy!

More Work on HOTR

Just a quick update. I've added the HOTR rules and some HOTR scenarios to my area on Google Documents. The links are at the top of the blog (along with our gaming group's Yahoo forum).

If you looked at the HOTR rules in the last few hours :) the HOTR scenarios there now are basically the same, but formatted better, and with a few more options. I will continue to plow through the Nothing but Blood and Slaughter volumes, extracting battles and skirmishes for the scenarios document.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

First HOTR Game

I played my first game of Heroes of the Revolution (HOTR), AWI battles using Hordes of the Things (HOTT). Basically I used all of the items indicated in the last blog post.

What I Liked: The militia coming back to "life" was funny. On one hand you might say you don't like the result; it gives militia too much staying power. On the other hand, it allows you to ignore militia casualties as long as you spend the PIPs bringing them back to life. In historical terms I can see that as similar to Daniel Morgan rallying the militia at Cowpens and then bringing them back into the battle. Overall, I liked it.

I also liked the differences between Shock and Line Infantry. The latter, if in two ranks, has the same combat factors as the former, but if it is destroyed, two elements go. You can lower the loss by taking not double-ranking them. This produces a similar effect I was trying to achieve with my Close, Open, and Extended Orders with DB-AWI, but with less complications.

What I Did Not Like: Really only one thing: Light Infantry not used in a Shock Infantry role was ill defined. My new rules (see the link at the top of the blog in the Links section) create a new troop type similar to Shooters in stats, but without the Distant Shooting capability.

Oh yes, the Patriots got their butts handed to them, but it was still a really interesting game.

New Rules
I wrote up the changes to HOTT for HOTR and posted them on the web. I would like to hear what you think. Unlike DB-AWI, I am not going to write up a full set of rules, so if you want to try them you are going to have to have HOTT.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Heroes of the Revolution

So, the new set of AWI rules are based on Hordes of the Things (HOTT), so I can see the variant being named Heroes of the Revolution (HOTR). (Actually, this was the name of a set of AWI rules I wrote earlier, based on the Warrior Heroes game system.)

Here is how I see the AWI troops being translated:

Forts, Redoubts, and Trenches: A Stronghold. Personally I do not like a stronghold appearing in every game on the defender's side, so I would include it only on a special scenario.

Hero: A HOTT Hero. I see this as heroic figures like Daniel Morgan at Cowpens, Benedict Arnold (only when on the Patriot side), Banastre Tarleton (but not at Cowpens or later), Johann Ewald, etc.

Artillery: An Artillery element. Nothing to change there. It can only fire on your bound, and only if you did not move.

Light Dragoons: A Riders element.

Shock Infantry: A Blades element. In this period shock infantry would be grenadiers, guards, fusiliers, highlanders, and (formed) light infantry. Elite Continentals, especially light infantry, would also qualify for the Patriot side.

Line Infantry: A Spears element. This would include most Germans, French, British, Continental, and Patriot State Line troops. The rear rank support represents a second supporting line behind the first, not a column.

Rifles: A Shooter element. This would apply to long rifle units (Patriot and Loyalist), German Jagers, and [sigh] Ferguson's Rifles.

Militia: A Hordes element. This fits well in that it allows the militia to run away and return (by redeploying lost Hordes), as was seen at Cowpens, for example.

Bushwhackers: A Land Lurker element. This represents the partisans - Patriot and Loyalist - and Indian raiders that lied in wait and ambushed the enemy. Their ability to leave the battlefield and return in another terrain piece fits well with the motif.

Warbands: A Warband element. This could be Indian warbands, but could also represent whites disguised as Indians in frontier raids, North Carolina Highlander broadswordsmen, and even some of the Over-the-Mountain Men.

Partisans: A Beasts element. The higher speed and ability to move through bad going represents those partisans and Over-the-Mountain-Men that were mounted, could quickly mount and dismount, and fire and reload while mounted and on the move.

Let me know what you think. I will try and get a game going and detail it in the blog.

Flames of War and (Re-)Learning the Basics

Okay, so I admit it. I have mostly been playing Memoir '44 and Flames of War of late, and that is one reason why I have not played any AWI of late. Just played a FOW game last night - US Armored Rifle (450 points) versus German Grenadier (340 points), both late war - and it was an interesting little game. I learned a lot.

My opponent was the US and he was attacking. We were playing a modified form of Hold the Line (no Ambush or Reserves) and we had a small board (4' deep by 3' wide). It was interesting because I assumed he would attack one way - what seemed logical to me - and he attacked another.

As I say, it was a real learning experience because he would not dismount his infantry (he wanted to retain his mobility in order to get to the objectives) and I ended up coming out of the foxholes to assault his half-tracks (largely because I had no other way of stopping him).

All in all an interesting little game. It reminds me of when I was young and trying to learn how to play Column, Line, and Square (CLS) Napoleonics well. My friend, who was a really good player (i.e. he beat me all the time), showed me the secret to playing games like this: you start with a simple force - a unit or two - and attack a single terrain feature with a single unit defending. Sounds like a boring game, and to be honest a steady diet of it would be, but his point was that if you could not figure out how to win this basic tactical set piece, you would only do worse when you had six or more units with all of the different types (infantry, artillery, and cavalry or armor) and a whole board of terrain features to deal with.

And my friend was right. A battle is really composed of these simple, interconnected tactical set pieces. Sure, sometimes the tactical situation is my unit attacks yours, but for one or two turns I get support from another unit from afar, but for the most part it is these simple tactical battles. If you don't know how to approach a platoon of infantry dug in with your infantry in half-tracks, or conversely how to defend with that dug in infantry, having armor, artillery, air, anti-air, anti-armor, transport, etc. elements will only add to your confusion. You will ultimately play worse.

So, what did I learn? For starters, I saw the odds that an infantry platoon without anti-tank weapons has against even half-tracks with just rifles and MGs. On the other hand, I saw that half-tracks cannot simply drive through the infantry with impunity: those grenades (assault) really hurt.

I hope to do more of those scenarios - and maybe some write-ups - in the future. One thing is for sure: you need completely different scenarios for "battles" that small. The standard FOW scenarios assume you are using 1500 points and have at least four platoons.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").