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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

American War of Independence Wargaming

Today Don and I played a game using the American War of Independence Wargaming (AWIW) rules, which are a variant of Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming (NW) rules. I posted a blog entry about these rules a couple of days ago. You can also download the rules using the link in my Links section.

Sorry, no pictures. I was using unpainted figures temporarily glued to bases as, to be honest, I wasn't really sure I would like the rules. So I did not want to commit to basing. As it turns out, these rules use DBx-compatible basing, so I can probably use them for most rules (other than British Grenadier).

The Armies

The British army was composed of the following eight units:

  • British Grenadiers (Infantry (Musket), Elite)
  • British Lights (Skirmisher (Musket), Elite)
  • Germans Jagers (Skirmisher (German Rifle, No Bayonets), Average)
  • British Foot (Infantry (Musket), Average) x 5
The Patriot army was composed of the following eight units:

  • Delaware Continentals (Infantry (Musket), Elite)
  • Patriot Rifles (Skirmisher (Long Rifle, No Bayonets), Green)
  • Continental Light Dragoons (Cavalry (Carbine), Average)
  • Patriot Militia (Infantry (Musket, No Bayonets), Green) x 2
  • State Line (Infantry (Musket), Average) x 3
As you can see, there is a significant quality difference between the British and the Patriots. I wasn't really sure whether having even sides was going to work, but I really just wanted to exercise the troops and the rules. Don was the British (he loves being the attacker - always - even when he is the defender).

The Terrain

I would to show you a map, but to be honest I had a kid throwing terrain out, so I could not replicate it even if I tried. Suffice it to say that there was a LOT of terrain out there, but not so much that units could not maneuver. Mostly there were crops blocking line of sight (visibility restricted to 2" through, unless the firer or target is at the edge). This really only came into play by restricting some stands from firing; usually only one stand per unit could not fire.

There was a road from the right half of the British baseline leading off to the right corner of the opposite board edge. On the British left half of the board there was a steep, narrow hill that ran parallel to the line of march. This counted as rough ground (1/2 movement rate) and gave you an uphill advantage in hand-to-hand combat. All other terrain was not particularly significant.

The Deployment

As the Patriots were defending, they setup first. I deployed in two lines with the first line composed of all the militia and one State Line unit, with the rifles on the far left (British right). The other two State Line and the sole Continental unit were in column poised at gaps between the front-line units. The Continental Light Dragoons were on the far right flank, hoping to draw off a unit from the battle line. The Patriots had four units on each half.

The British opted to place five units on the right half of the board, three of which were in column on the road, ready to take advantage of the faster movement (+1 BW per turn). The German Jagers were on the far right (opposite the Patriot rifles) and the Grenadiers were at the head of the road column. In the center were the British Lights (skirmishers) and on the left were two British Footin column.

The Early Game

The British started off by pushing the columns to both flanks, making for a double envelopment. However, the only unit holding their center was the British Lights (skirmishers). The Patriots pushed their units to the flanks, but not as far out. This allowed the Patriots to form a exterior line on their left, allowing me to pit my four units against three of the five British units (they started become entangled on one another). Given the longer range of the American Long Rifle and that the Grenadiers charged in full bore against one of the militia units, it was shot to pieces very quickly.

On the opposite flank the Continental Light Dragoons took a circuitous route and quickly threatened the rear of the two British Foot units, forcing them out of column prematurely.

The Middle Game

The British Grenadiers were the first to go, but not before forcing a militia unit to retreat. Unfortunately, the militia passed their morale, so no real harm was done. That allowed the Patriots to focus two units on the British Lights in the center, while two took on the front British on the right (the Continental cavalry having drawn off the other British foot unit). On the Patriot left, the British still could not extend their lines, so they were firing with two units while being fired upon by three. Eventually this volume of fire told and another British unit cracked.

With the Continental Light Dragoons successfully drawing off 1/2 of the British left flank, I decided to test the cavalry melee rules. (No really, I intentionally made a stupid move. Really.) The cavalry charged into a fresh infantry unit frontally and the rules gave the result they should have: the cavalry were shot to pieces and the resulting hand-to-hand had them bouncing off in retreat. As the cavalry ended up with a single stand remaining (I lost one stand to fire and melee, one to the morale of losing a stand, and one to retreating from hand-to-hand, AND has three hits on it to boot!), the British smelled blood and pursued the cavalry to shoot it down. They headed for the woods, leaving the infantry in their dust.

All of this left the British distracted enough that the other British Foot on that flank started falling to the fire from the Patriot State Line unit. As it was occupied, the Delaware Continentals pushed through a corn field and flanked the British. Just as the State Line was finished off, the Delawares let out a mighty Whoop and charged into the flank of the British, wiping them to the last.

The End Game

The Patriot left flank saw the rifles slowly pulling back so they could put fire on the remaining close order infantry units (the skirmishing fire between the two rifle units had drawn very little blood), allowing them to break the charge of the British. (The Patriots only won two hand-to-hand combats in the whole game and one of those was a flank attack with 2:1 odds.) With the destruction of the British Lights in the center (it was enveloped by two units) and the last of the British Foot on the Patriot left, the battle was over. Many of the Patriot units were mauled, but only one militia unit had been lost.

Summary

This was the first time I played any of Neil Thomas' rules and I was not disappointed. I liked the speed of the game. Cavalry have an appropriately long move (although I boosted it for column, so that may be an aberration). The game is definitely decisive within two hours, which to me is good. Longer than DBA, but not too long that you can't get two games in if you plan.

Here were some of the noted items:

  • A skirmisher saving roll of 5-6 worked well. Infantry in loose order still out shoot skirmishers, so I am not sure that I should not simply state skirmishers are always considered in cover and thus always gets a 4-6 saving roll.
  • Fire has an attrition effect. Morale is what kills you. I guess Napoleon said it best with Morale is to physical as three is to one. (Or something like that.) These rules definitely reflect that. You might put 2-3 hits on a unit in a turn of fire, but morale can drop a unit by a stand (four hits) with a single die roll. That is what makes this game decisive. It will also make it hard to play the Patriots and win given that they almost universally have worse morale, yet NW does not allow for quantity to come into play.
  • Hand-to-hand is not always more decisive. With a hit on 4-6, this is only as good as close order infantry and is worse than loose order infantry. So, where is the advantage? Mainly when the British close up and charge. They will get two dice per base while the Patriots in loose order will only get one.
  • One possible British game tactic to simulate the real Fire and Charge tactic the British used is to have the British move up quickly in loose order to within 1 BW, then change formation to close order and charge. This would give them speed coming in and the closing of order giving them extra dice in melee would represent firing at short range then going in with the bayonet. I need to add a rule for allowing that. Now, whether it should be a general rule or a special British rule...
  • Terrain seems like it needs to have more effect on the game.
Now that I have some excess painted figures to base, I can start basing them for these rules. I like them. I may morph them into some unrecognizable state, but this looks like the direction to take. I can model the effects that I read about in With Zeal and With Bayonets Only.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Washington's Army

I bought Peter Pig's Washington's Army rules and so far I am ... disappointed. I guess it is my own fault. Everyone on the RFCM forum said it was like Bloody Barons and some other rules, all of which I don't have and have never seen played or tried, so I should have asked more questions before purchase. (Actually, I am sure I would have bought in anyway.)

So what's wrong? I still haven't finished the rules, but a few things leap out:

  • Still reading, but it seems to assume that all Patriot militia did not have bayonets, nor were trained in their use anyway. Any decent reading of the Southern campaign would reveal that much of the militia had years of experience, some as Continentals, some as State Line, some against the Indians.
  • British and Continental line infantry cannot use loose order - which may mean something different to them than it does to me - but this means neither can perform "loose files and an American scramble", which seems strange.
  • It uses a Warmaster-like unit activation system. The one element of Warmaster that I did not like and that is the one they used. Worse still, it is a more complex version.
  • The basing scheme makes units look ugly. I was worried about going two ranks with American War of Independence Wargaming (AWIW), but a four rank line just doesn't cut it for me.
I will keep reading and reporting. After all, maybe these things are fine for someone else.

As a side note, my first two Peter Pig rule purchases were Square Bashing and Conquerors and Kings. My last two were Washington's Army and Poor Bloody Infantry and I must say that these last two a decidedly different - and more complex - than the first two. Who knows? Some day I may actually play a game with one of them. (The only reason I haven't played a game with Conquerors and Kings is that I have DBA sized units and armies.)

AWI Rules

I've gotten the basics down for a new set of American War of Independence Wargaming (AWIW) rules, this time based on Neil Thomas' Napoleonics Wargaming (NW) rules. They still need to be playtested - I am basing up some unpainted AWI figures for the interim - so you might see some battle reports. But, don't expect any pictures as I rarely take pictures of playtest games using unpainted figures!

The rules feature:

  • Measurements in units scaled to your troops.
  • Representing close order and loose order with the same set of figures.
  • AWI-style Skirmishers.
  • Indians.
  • Three weights of Artillery: Light (3 pdrs), Medium (6 pdrs), and Heavy (12+ pdrs).
  • Artillery's lack of mobility on the battlefield.
  • More terrain types, especially linear obstacles.
  • Added the Column formation for Cavalry and Skirmishers, not just Infantry. This allowed for refinement of terrain rules and made the lack of interpenetration rules less of a problem.
There were some fundamental mechanics that I changed from NW that will change how the game plays.

  • Scale is considered much smaller. It is hard to judge what scale a unit represents in NW, but my belief it is a regiment/brigade. In 
  • Columns are shallower. All column formations in AWIW are equivalent to the Column of Route in NW, but are formed using the formation for Attack Column.
  • Skirmishers have three formations rather than one. This makes maneuvering units around one another possible (but slow).
  • Cavalry have two formations rather than one, for the same reason as above.
  • Column speeds have increased slightly, but getting shot at or meleed while in Column is a bad thing, so this forces columns only to be used behind the lines, which is as it should be in this period.
  • Line infantry in loose order can move relatively fast - as fast as skirmishers - but they still have maneuver problems. This still results in two turns of fire at incoming infantry, so the basic mechanic has not changed.
  • Skirmishers and Indians move like lights in Ancient and Medieval Wargaming (AMW), possibly even more flexibly, but still have to maintain "formation".
  • Changes of formation are basically slower.
  • Lighter artillery is allowed a "prolong" move when unlimbered. This is necessary as no artillery can limber back up once unlimbered. This represents the civilian drivers moving the horse teams to the rear once the guns have been deployed, and their reluctance to return to the battle until after the bullets have stopped flying.
  • Saving rolls are given to Skirmishers and Indians to represent their formation's lack of density as a basic defense. It also evens out a firefight between Infantry and Skirmishers.
  • Patriots always lose ties in hand-to-hand unless defending cover.
  • Not having bayonets really hurts.
There are a few more things I might play with, such as the British infantry's notorious lack of ability to use woods as cover. The main thing I want to see from playtest is whether the British have enough of a compelling reason to move rapidly into hand-to-hand. If you try out the rules, let me know what your playtesting reveals.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

AWI using Neil Thomas' Wargaming: An Introduction

I mentioned previously wanting to try AWI gaming using Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming rules, well Chuck and his club have apparently gamed the AWI using Mr. Thomas' other book Wargaming: An Introduction. You can find the modifications to the rules (PDF link) over on his blog.

Wargaming: An Introduction is the one book of Mr. Thomas' that I do not have, so I am not really sure what modifications in Chuck's file are due to the simplified rules used as a baseline as opposed to being changes he and his club implemented.

Although it is a fine start, and I am a self-confessed rules tweaker, I cannot help but make my own mark. Rather than start from the same book, I am going to use Napoleonic Wargaming as the basis. Those blog entries will be coming down the pike. As stated in the past, my thinking is heavily influenced by Matthew Spring's With Zeal and With Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America 1775-1783. Although I have some quibbles with the book those are generally covered in Lawrence Babits' A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens.

More coming...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

AWI using Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming

So, I tried DBA-HX for the AWI and both DBA and HOTT as the basis for AWI variants, and I was never really quite satisfied. I had some fun games, to be sure, but something just did not quite click.

I recently bought the new Peter Pig Washington's Army and I can already tell you it is not striking a chord with me. I don't know why, maybe because the units just do not look right (four figure bases in two ranks). I'll keep reading them - I hear they have some good ideas I may want to pinch - but they do not seem to match what I consider the ideal, which is to say how it is written in With Zeal and With Bayonets Only.

I finished reading Neal Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming and I rather like it. I still have not played a game with it, but I intend to. To start, I am simply going to use four singly-based infantry figures to represent each unit. I'll have to adjust the distances, of course, but as it will all be proportional, it should give me a feel for how the rules work. If I like the way it plays, I'll probably start basing units - or building movement trays - for the system. I have plenty of 40mm by 20mm bases to use.

The only thing I have to figure out is how to get the period flavor in, like Mr. Thomas does with his special rules. I also have to develop army lists. In the beginning I will simply use an all-infantry force - always possible in the AWI - so I don't have to deal with how to represent cavalry right off of the bat.

The areas that I want to model are:

  • With Zeal and With Bayonets Only: The tendency for the British to advance rapidly to close range (50 yards), deliver one volley and then charge.
  • Open Order versus Closed Order: The British and American loose formations, which allowed for rapid movement over broken ground and changing formation, versus the slower, plodding movement of the French and Germans.
  • American Scramble: The tendency for the Patriots to retire from bayonet charges. Of course, these retiring movements can sometimes turn into routs...
Still mulling over how to do it. I will probably play one game using the Napoleonic Wargaming rules generically, in order to get a feel, before adding the flavor.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bad Pickles did me in

Seriously bad pickles. Laid me up all weekend with food poisoning. So, why is this "blog-worthy"? Because I did not get to game a single thing this weekend. At the very least I wanted to try Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming using AWI figures, and squeeze in a game of Toy Soldiers by Malcom McCallum. But no.

Not like the pickles are done with me either...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rules Review - Toy Soldiers

Malcolm McCallum wrote some rules called Toy Soldiers that can be found on his web site. I found out about them in a TMP thread asking: "Are there any Napoleonic Rules out there that are scaled to 'real time'. Where each volley is resolved individually, turns are about one minute each, and the actual time needed to complete a maneuver is built into the rules?"

The rules everyone else suggested were Chef de Battailon, which I have played solo and take a real commitment, and Bruce Quarries Napoleonic rules that were published in the (orange) Airfix Guide magazine (and which I have been looking for a copy of - I keep missing it on eBay). However, Malcom's response was: "If you are interested in the game of chicken aspect, you might find some value in looking at the incomplete (and tentatively abandoned) rules that I was writing where the game focussed [sic] exactly on that, making the closing of battalions in battle like a wagering system where players would have to gauge the courage of their men and the courage of their opponents, with hidden dice results. Again, not a wholly successful attempt but you might find soem fun tinkering with them."

The "game of chicken aspect sounded intriguing, especially as I had no idea what it really meant, so I bit and downloaded the rules. Since then I've written Malcom once for clarification and as I will likely have a game using them soon, will be asking for more. I will try them with my 15mm American War of Independence figures (the singly-based ones).

So, what did I like about the rules enough to give them a read, a review, and a spot in the gaming queue?
  • Although he uses dice to represent disorder levels and stress (hits), in addition to base removal, these factors give you a rice granularity in representing the deterioration of a unit. Generally I do not like markers, especially using dice where the number is key. Dice are designed to roll from face to face, so I expect using them as markers will cause errors as they are knocked about, left behind after a move and so on. Not sure how to fix that...
  • The command and control system gauges how difficult it is to command given the level of chaos surrounding the commander. This again is reflected as a number from 1 to 6 (and therefore uses a die as a marker), but it provides an easy counting mechanism that takes out the luck of the PIP roll or the Command roll.
  • Force selection is interesting in that it allows a unit to "trade" units for terrain. Put simply, each scenario played calls for each side being allowed a certain number of selections. The selection list includes units, terrain, game modifiers, and unit modifiers. I have never seen this idea before and, if the weights of the choices are balanced, could provide for some interesting pick-up scenarios. I look forward to play-testing it out.
  • A stand destroyed is not necessarily out of the game; it is only an indication that it is currently ineffective. A commander can return stands to the game (zombie grenadiers, anyone?) in lieu of spending his attention elsewhere.
  • Much of what a player will be doing is recovering from disorder and stress, much like the rules Loose Files and American Scramble are described as playing. This means after a disorder move through terrain or after a firefight a unit will have to recover its order, dress ranks, bring up the stragglers, etc. This may be a bookkeeping nightmare, something I will find out when I try it, but it sounds like "it ought to be".
  • "Threat" from the enemy can cause as many problems as enemy action, much like the rules Huzzah!, but less abstract, so outmaneuvering your opponent's position has multiple benefits. Ultimately, that means the game should be one of maneuver, or at least where maneuver is rewarded, and not simply a die-rolling contest where one only maneuvers until you are at the point where you can throw as many dice as possible and then stop maneuvering.
  • Firing is interesting, as it is a multi-step process, but not in the same way as Warhammer-based rules. You roll to see if your volley is effective. If so, it has a minor effect (adds disorder) but also forces the target to save against a greater effect (stress/hits). What is also different is that the roll to "hit" is largely unmodified, so inflicting disorder is a common result. It is the "save" that is modified, which is different from many games (as the author is quick to point out).
  • The charge is where the "game of chicken" reference comes in. As many of us have read, the bayonet did not generally inflict wounds in this period, but inflict terror (i.e. cause morale checks). The chicken is where the charging unit sees if it can break the morale of the defenders before their own morale breaks. The author refers to hidden die rolls and such, but I think that is an unnecessary mechanic, but I will have to verify. Needless to say, the charge mechanics are the very core reason why the rules were developed, I think, as the most work went into this section. I look forward to trying them out.
  • Skirmishers are not abstracted away. These are a part of the parent unit that are deployed, recalled, and recovered. In this regard, they feel Napoleonic. I may have to adjust for the AWI.
I look forward to doing a game and finding out which of these "features" are actually a benefit and which are a pain.

As I've received three other sets of books with wargaming rules recently, I may have more reviews. I purchased Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming, Donald Featherstone's War Games, and Joe Morschauser's How to Play War Games in Miniature. I also have Peter Pig's Poor Bloody Infantry and Washington's Army on the way, along with Warhammer Ancient Battles.

Being a rules junkie is a hard life.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

DBA "Solo" Campaign Over

Well, the DBA solo campaign is over and it was a smashing success, if I do say so myself. The campaign was no longer solo by the end, Ira was running the Thessalians and Spartans, but I found out what I needed to. Campaigns gamed the way they are written in DBA are not intended to run a long time; they are meant to get to a conclusion in a day or weekend.

The "problem" is that it is too easy to get your army creamed in a battle, and then you are either knocked out of the campaign for the rest of the year until you can recruit or you are knocked out when someone comes to hit you while you are down. Again, that is the intent; they are trying to get to a conclusion fast and it succeeds well in that regard.

More ideas later on the new two-player campaign that Ira and I are starting, centered around the Second Punic War.

Wooden Warriors Blog

I've started a new blog - Wooden Warriors - in order to document my sojourn into designing, creating, painting, and gaming with wooden model soldiers.

Had I stuck with paper soldiers, I probably would have started a separate blog for it, so I could keep the activity separate. As it is, I found the Yahoo forum Wargaming on a Budget and it struck a chord with me. Rather than repeat the story hear, should you care you can read about my history with wooden model soldiers in the first entry of the blog.

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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").