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.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Magnetic Paint

More appropriately: magnetically receptive paint. That was my latest experiment. I read about magnetic paint on The Miniatures Page where someone was using it and painting the bottoms of cardboard boxes to use for soldier storage. So, I had to go out and get some to try it.

I bought Rustoleum's version and gave it a try. I followed the directions painting a thin coat on, letting it dry, then painting another. No luck. Added a third and still no luck. The magnets that I use just weren't strong enough to stick, so I set aside the paint and the plastic storage tubs.

Well, it has started getting really hot here in Arizona (100°F days) so I decided to give it one more go. This time I poured a thick coat - something it tells you not to do - and let it bake in the sun. Success! It is thick enough for the magnetic to react to and the sun baked it hard in a reasonable amount of time.

I now have a storage system of shallow plastic boxes with clips to hold on the lid, which fit nicely into shoulder carry bags and each box's bottom coated in magnetic paint. All of my troops (in the future) will use 3mm thick Litko Aero laser-cut plywood bases with magnetic sheet glued to the bottom. Each box can typically store two small DBA armies or one larger DBA army.

I'm still looking for a storage box for my 40mm Napoleonics, as they are so much larger than my 15mm troops that their bayonets and plumes rise above the tops of the storage boxes. Don't want them too tall, however.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Charging in Napoleonic Wars

There have been several interesting discussions on the Ancient and Medieval Wargaming Group forum on Yahoo, where the rules in all of Neil Thomas' books are discussed. One poster recently pointed out that Neil's rule about charging is a replacement for the typical rules found in Horse & Musket rules where the charger checks morale to see if they close and then the defender checks to see if they stand. Neil's rules do away with that mechanic. I won't go over the entire discussion - join the group if you want to read it and other great discussions on Neil's rules - but what was interesting was the poster's comment that you can only charge smaller units than yourself. (Size being determined by the number of bases in the unit.) I had apparently read the rule wrong as smaller or equal to.

This presents some problems for my American War of Independence Wargaming (AWIW) rules as there are a lot of historical examples of smaller units charging equal or larger units. This leads me to ponder three points:

  1. The number of men represented by a unit of Elite troops may be less than the number of men represented by a unit of Levy (Green, in AWIW) troops. So, a unit of four bases may represent 250 Guards (Elite troops) or 350 Regulars (Average troops), or 450 militia (Levy/Green troops).
  2. The morale of the troop may need to come into play so that smaller Elite units can charge equal or larger units of lower quality.
  3. There needs to be a special rule granted to the armies that historically consistently were able to charge despite being outnumbered.
Any of these methods, or some combination of them, might solve the problem of how the rules can reflect historical events. For example, I have studied the Battle of the Cowpens and am now studying the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and both are full of examples of smaller units charging larger units. Without using one or more of the considerations above, the British would not be able to charge the first line in Guilford Courthouse as the Patriot militia units were larger by far than the British units.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time to do Guilford Courthouse

I think Guilford Courthouse will be my next AWI project. I've got AWI figures off to the painters, so that's a good start.

I'll be using the American War of Independence Wargaming variant of Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming rules for this one - still the best 'feel' to my mind, so far. The "problem" is that the rules really expect eight units per side, or at the very least an even number of units per side. How to deal with that?

Guilford Courthouse is an interesting, maybe even strange, battle. To my mind Greene tried to replicate Morgan's success at Cowpens in more ways than one, but fell short (in more ways than one). First, he tried the same 'three lines of troops deployment', but ended up with three isolated lines.

This makes for an interesting experiment: what if you fought Guilford Courthouse not as a single battle, but as three separate, but connected fights? The first fight consists largely of the North Carolina militia against the British. Their goal in the game series, much like it was in the historical battle, is to wear down the advancing British troops. Give them two good volleys and retire. The second fight consists of the Virginian militia against the British. Again, the Patriots goal is to wear the British down. Finally, the third fight is the Continentals against the British.

Several changes to the rules are necessary to make this work, such as a method for having casualties from one fight have to carry over in some fashion to the next.

This poses some questions of its own. Should a unit's historical performance in the battle override its performance in the war (i.e. the 2nd Maryland routing when the Guards appeared)? Should a scenario replicate the special events that occurred or should it be left to a die roll, or even to the player to choose? Should you replicate bad decisions or let the players use hindsight to avoid them?

Maybe I'll pose these on TMP and see what develops there.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Movement Adjustments to AWIW

Some interesting conversations going on over at the Yahoo group for Neil Thomas' rules. I started a couple of polls, John Acar has posted some ideas about using DBA armies for the Ancients and Medieval Wargaming (AMW) rules, a Vassal module for AMW has been posted (also by John), and there is a new post about using the Napoleonic Wargaming (NW) rules for the Crimean War.

I've been thinking a bit about the test game with the American War of Independence (AWIW) rules, and some possible changes. I think movement was too fast. The basis for the changes to the speeds from NW was that infantry in line would remain at 2 base widths (BW). My goal was to show that American and British troops marched faster than German and French troops, as was often written about in contemporary diaries and journals. The problem is that in order to make a difference between loose order movement and column, you need to increase the speed of columns from that in NW.

If you go back to the source and try to discern why the Americans and British were faster than the Germans and French, you get the following logic:

  • Terrain in North American was heavier than what was generally found in Continental Europe.
  • Terrain slows a unit down by disrupting its formation.
  • When a unit's formation was disrupted enough, it would 'dress the line' in order to recover from the disorder.
  • Units with more space between files tended to suffer less from disruption by terrain.
  • Units with fewer files tended to suffer less from disruption by terrain.
  • The less disruption suffered, the less frequently the unit had to stop and dress the line. The fewer stops, the faster the march.
Putting all this another way, perhaps the approach to be taken is that the units do not march faster by formation, but that terrain has less impact on loose files or fewer files. Clearly, NW models the unit dressing the line by reducing movement, i.e. the more frequently a unit would have to dress the line, the slower its effective speed would be. As a line must dress more frequently than a column, its speed is slower. As a line moves through woods, it must dress even more frequently than in the open, so again its movement is slower still.

So, the question goes to whether a loose order line should have the same speed as a column in AWIW. I'll start by examining why an AWI unit uses a column:

  • Unlike the Napoleonic, and later, period columns were not generally used for assault, but for pre-battle deployment.
  • Columns allow you to maneuver around terrain.
  • Columns allow you to take advantage of roads.
  • Columns allow the passage of units.
On the other hand, a 2 rank, loose order line allows a unit to:

  • Maneuver through terrain with less impact than close order.
  • Maintain better firepower, compared to a column.
  • Maintain acceptable shock power.
I am considering setting both column and loose order line to 3 BW movement, having both affected by terrain basically the same (save for road giving a benefit only to columns), and having the difference be in their combat power.

I can also see in reviewing the rules that I need to define terrain better, in terms of the effect on movement, line of sight, fire, and hand-to-hand combat. More on that later.

Drop a comment or an email if you have any thoughts.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Confessions of a Rules Lawyer

Phil Barker recently published a blurb that was discussed on The Miniatures Page about the new version of DBMM (2.0) and one of the points that he made was that this version was to tighten up the rules because of the rules lawyers. Specifically he said:

"... but reading through from start to finish has reminded me of what a lot of words are there just to confirm that doing the obvious thing is in fact correct in the eyes of rule lawyers."

Neil Thomas, in his book Napoleonic Wargaming and in a recent article in Battlegames magazine, also comes down on rules lawyers. Here is his rant in Napoleonic Wargaming:

"A final difficulty with complex rules stems from the perceived necessity of catering for a particular segment of their potential public. Specifically, those wargamers who play an active role in organized competitions. ... Catering for competitive wargamers can have its problems, however. Although there are many very friendly and easy going gamers on the competition circuit, it is also true that some players want to win at all costs. These individuals have an unfortunate reputation for fielding armies with an unrealistically high proportion of elite troops, and also for exploiting every conceivable loophole in the rules - no matter how absurd the resultant troop maneuvers are. Such people are are often referred to as 'rules lawyers', and make insufferable opponents who are best avoided."


So, here I am confessing that I am a rules lawyer. No, not the insufferable kind Neil refers to, nor the kind that can't see the obvious that Phil laments about. I am the kind that see the rules for what they are - a game - and point out when the game doesn't always work because the rules designer failed to be precise.

One of the recent discussions about DBA spoke of how it was not really designed for competitive play and anothers' counter was that it was definitely designed for competitive play because the language Phil used - that people always complain about - was specifically precise. Competitive play requires precise rules. Not necessarily complex rules, as Neil implies competitive rules must be, but precise rules. The rules of Chess are precise, after centuries of playtesting and revision,  largely I am sure because of 'rules lawyers'.

A lot of this came about because of my AWI game using Napoleonic Wargaming as the basis, and because of a disagreement about the rules for Column, Line, and Square. The game left a few questions about how the mechanics worked, how they were executed. I know the intent of Neil is for you to work it out amongst yourselves in a gentlemanly fashion. Sounds nice and all, but some people want a complete set of rules. Wanting precision does not make you a rules lawyer, at least not by his description, it makes you a consumer. When you buy rules, you aren't really expecting to find a book of ideas or a toolkit; you expect rules. It is like buying that Christmas present and not seeing the label 'Some Assembly Required'.

I know most people's version of a rules lawyer is someone who is obnoxious about his exploiting the rules. They aren't rules lawyers, they are simply obnoxious. Rules lawyers make games more precise and therefore make competitions possible. You really think you could run a serious competition using some of the rules from Grant, Featherstone, Bath, or Young?

Well, enough of this rant. Time to get back to tightening the American War of Independence Wargaming rules.

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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").