EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Sunday, July 23, 2017

19thC Command Module for Hearts of Tin

Under the premise "Strike while the iron is hot" I passed some time today sitting under a patio umbrella on a hot summer's afternoon, contemplating command rules for my ACW games.

Kinch's Charge sets out 4 years ago.

I've tried  various familiar techniques such as activation rolls or charts, card draws, command  point rolls, command radius, written orders, mapped movement and more and they all had something to contribute but yet didn't quite do it. They reduced player control but usually felt "game-y"  and often did a poor job of both modelling how things were done and reproducing typical historical battlefield behaviour. Even worse they often absorbed so much time and mental energy that the focus shifted from the battle to the game mechanics.

Colonel Lawford and Brigadier Young, who both had considerable experience of command in battle with all that entails, relied on a combination of simultaneous written orders and highly variable combat results to represent the uncertainty of battle. I'm not sure that either my reading or my life experience gives me a solid basis for saying they were wrong, especially at the battle rather than skirmish level. Certainly the Charge! games I have played in or run have seen some of the most unexpected command failures, errors and omissions as well as some notable moments of recognizing and seizing sudden opportunities that I have seen (not to mention misleading the enemy). Unfortunately the system does not lend itself well to solo games with 40 units on the table.

The impromptu ACW game that I played in May relied on variable length moves at Brigade level with provision for Division Commanders to try to push people a little. Overall I liked the effect but I want to go back to regiments as units and basically adapt my old Hearts of Tin rules.

Gratuitous copy of a picture from last summer's ACW game.

Before going On Grid I used to use variable length moves and I am going to go back there as well as using a turn initiative card deck with chance cards. Each regiment or formed brigade will roll its movement dice and complete its move before the next one rolls.

Here are a couple of the command ideas that I am contemplating.

a) Brigade move. Two or more regiments formed into a Brigade line or column with Brigadier attached will roll once for movement of the whole line which must then move together.

b) Generals have a short range at which they can boost the movement of one, two or three individual regiments by adding a die depending on their ability. These dice may alternately be used to boost morale or combat performance if not used to boost movement. Choices!

c) Getting a brigade formed up requires the guide regiment to stand still.

d) Once  a brigade is engaged (however that is defined, 3" for close combat but perhaps rifle range for command control purposes)  it should be difficult to coordinate a voluntary disengagement or a pursuit. If engaged at the start of a turn any retirement moves must be one regiment at a time and the unit must move the full amount rolled but may roll just 1 die if desired. If pursuing each regiment rolls and moves one at a time and must move the full amount as above unless storming a fortified position.

e) Generals who get involved in any way inside the engagement zone must be at risk somehow and there should be a delay before a replacement takes over.

Cobb's Farm from 2012. A game where the old C&C rules played their part. 

That's as far as I've gotten. The next step is to dig out an old version, check them over, adjust and try it all out.

Something New Played - 20mm Punic Wars!

On Saturday I joined 2 friends for a 20mm Ancients game using Sword & Spear. I cut my teeth on 20mm Ancients but its been a long time since I've seen a table full of them.

Newline metal and various plastic miniatures.
(and an old Garrison representing me)
This was my first exposure to the Sword & Spear rules. Like most rules, they had somethings that I liked and some that I was less keen on. As a game I had no quibbles at all. They are designed to keep both players actively engaged at all times and succeed well. One game is not enough to properly judge but in broad terms they did seem to encourage broadly historical deployments and battle plans. Most importantly it was a fun and engaged afternoon of social gaming.

My one quibble, and it may be that I've  missed some subtleties, is that, like most ancients rules, there was no feel of the primitive nature of most armies command control mechanisms or of rigidity and importance of battle lines/phalanxes. Yes, there were 'beyond command radius' penalties and a very limited group move option when not attacking, but I suspect that it would be hard to do a good reenactment of an historical battle without a lot of voluntary fudging. A rather timely reminder since I'm about to back up and refresh my own Shock era rules which, frankly, would deserve the same criticism.

Overview just before the first Shock.

Its a good thing that assembling the sort of well ordered, well painted armies that our host provided takes a lot of work because the sight of them was almost enough to give me an urge to go back there and do it right this time!  Obviously time to get the lads in Blue and Grey out to scratch the 20mm itch!

For more pictures and a report on the actual battle please see Jeff's Armchair Commander blog.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Time for a change

Well, I've reached an impasse with my Prince August collection and the new campaign.

I replayed the scenario with Charge! as written. It was an ok game but only lasted 5 turns so not many decisions to make. For reference, on an 6×4 table artillery could  fire 6 feet and cavalry charge 2 feet. My 2/3 strength infantry units were almost 2 ft wide and the Rosmark force only had 5 units including the battery of artillery.

Rather than continuing to spin my wheels over decisions about  rules, organisation and basing,  or make a hasty decision that I know is wrong, I'm just going to bring my  NQSYW Rosmark units up to scratch for now. This will involve bringing my "away' army at least up to proper establishment over the next year with a consistent style and with all cripples  and misfits pensioned off and replaced.  I can still draw detachments for fighting the occasional skirmish so nothing is lost. I'll delay any other decision until the British are released.

In the meantime, its time to get something different on both my painting desk and my gaming table .

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Different vs Better

Mid-summer is not the best season for testing wargame rules here, especially not with games designed to happily last a few hours. Its just too damned hot in my games room from around 10 until 6 and there are too many other things needing to be done. But after several days of one or two turns a day I'm done.
About 4 turns in. Reinforcements have arrived and been deployed on both sides and a bold cavalry charge has cleared off 1 unit of Rosmark light infantry. The big gun (which is the primary target for Rosish forces) has been manhandled out of the entrenchment and aimed at the enemy.  
The game was enjoyable in parts and frustrating in parts as I tried to sort out what I want from the game. This would be easier if I was starting from scratch but then I wouldn't be "here" if I were. (I'd be casting troops  in Shakos and gluing them on multi-figure stands)

Several things became abundantly clear however. The first, already known,  is that changing several key rule mechanisms several times during a game makes it  next to impossible to asses the game as a whole even while allowing a good comparison of the "feel" of each approach. The second, also known, is that while some mechanisms don't work, others are merely a choice between two valid approaches which deliver a different "feel" to the game.

A slightly earlier overview of the armies deploying.  
At times I wondered if I should just give up and play Charge! or seperate the two projects entirely but a large part of me wants this sort of rules for these figures and this campaign  and I want it to work on this table and without losing my compatibility for those joint convention games so the die is cast.

Late in the day the Grey Squadron of the Yellow Hussars are broken by an exceptionally stubborn bunch of Wild Geese.  Its a little hard to see but the Pandours brushed aside the Veteran militia without even breaking step. Only a halt by the Cautious Pandour Brigadier prolonged the game to 10 turns.
Luckily the game felt just right at points so I'm on the right road. A bit of history, a bit of storytelling and a bit of toy soldiering.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

MacDuff Meets Morschauser Again!

Well, I  tried but it never even made it to the tabletop.

It has long seemed to me that the number of times  that an attack was halted or a defence quickly broken by a single  long range volley or two are so rare or so low a percentage that they are best not catered to unless  using very complex rules. My efforts  yesterday were listing heavily towards complex to the point where their  character was lost.

A Skirmish for a Summer Sunday 

First I fell back on the 2015 version which only tested if below 50% but was still having trouble getting the balance right and found myself harking back to Morschauser's three inch melee zone which nicely  differentiated  between attrition by long ranged fire  and sudden death by close combat whether by volleys at 3" or my cold steel.

Then I found myself reviewing reasons  why I couldn't go there with a renewed MacDuff shorn of its rallying figures. They basically boiled  down to "because".

So it is that the game I have laid out is likely to feel more like an individual figure version of Morschauser Meets MacDuff than anything else. (Note: MMM was the precursor to Hearts of Tin)

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Little More Featherstone Mr. MacDuff

Having had time to reflect on it, there will not be an "as close as possible to the original" 20th Anniversary Edition of MacDuff. Instead there will be a proper edition developed from the games played in 2014/15.  The type of scenario I want  to play hasn't changed but some of my ideas on mechanics  have. (Its not you, its me....)

More of this sort of thing is what I want.
(Game from last year)

One of the original concepts for MacDuff was that, like Lawford and Young's Charge!, there would be no separate reaction  tests  to determine how troops would respond to receiving casualties. If defeated in melee or below 1/2 strength you retreated. Of course I watered that down by allowing units to attempt to rally hits, essentially a delayed saving throw of sorts although I didn't see it that way but rather as a process of regrouping.

In 2014/15 I experimented successfully with replacing the rally rules by simple morale rules based on some of the ones in Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers. It worked game-wise and had roughly the same effect with much less time and effort.

I'm still thinking about it but something like this:

"Test if receiving at least 25% casualties from shooting.

4,5,6 Steady. Unit obeys orders
1,2,3 Wavering. Infantry halt in disorder and return fire if eligible, artillery is silenced for a turn, mounted cavalry retreat.
0 Rout. The unit breaks and is removed.

+1@ if Elite, joined by Commander,
-1 Militia
-2 @ Below 1/2 strength."

In the meantime the last 8 figures for the Rosmark Provincials are on my painting desk.

Archive footage from a MacDuff game from 2012.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Awkward Squad

These lads have just been recruited into the First Provincial Regiment of Rosmark. Unlike the Household Regiments which are largely recruited from abroad, the Provincial regiments are raised in each province and provide garrisons for its fortresses and towns as well as providing troops to assist Customs Officers and Magistrates. They even provide a service battalion for the King's field army if called upon in time of war but traditionally only for service in Rosmark.
Rosmark First Provincial Regiment in training.

Every now and then a new unit just seems to struggle into existence.  The trouble with these lads goes back to the accidental order of an Austrian infantry mould when I had meant to order the Hungarian one. In order to make use of it I decided  to raise a Rosmark Provincial regiment. I also decided  to use the Russian tricorne head which is clean shaven with a nice pointy tricorne but of course, once I got busy casting I forgot why I had pulled out the Russian mould......

The moulds poured well with few faults but once I started cleaning up the castings, I found an uneven number of poses amongst the good figures. I'll have to even it up with the last batch.

Then I primed them and noticed the mustaches. Oh dear. So I scraped the faces and reprimed, not perfect but I was in a hurry to get started painting, hoping to finish before I went away for the weekend. Things just continued from there with all the sorts of little errors and difficulties, awkward angles, missed bits, stray brush strokes etc that can occur. Anyway I ended up putting them aside until I got back and finished them today.

Not exactly my best work ever but they'll serve. Now to cast 6 more with the right mix of poses to have a 16 man unit with rear rank supporting arms and front rank charging.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Work in Progress

Barely begin and a long way to go but here is the current state of my NQSYW map.

Simple pen on paper, a process that I'm quite enjoying.

One of the next steps is to figure out the scale and decide on the level of detail. (As in just how big is Rosmark anywsy?)

It looks like I will have to do blown up local maps if I  decide to make actual campaign moves rather than using it for general background, but, first things first.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Battle in the Cornfield

Happy July 4 to my friends and neighbours who live South  of the Border.
Waves of Yankees attacking through a cornfield
OK, sorry folks, this is fake news.

I was tempted  but  the danger that I would  squish the Squash etc behind  me was too great. One of these days  though, I 'll go outside on some freshly mown grass, get down on my knees and play.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Year Eight

Well here it is, another 4th of July, seven years since my heart attack and still ticking. I get a bit more embarrassed by the fuss each year but then I hear that the folks south of the border are again organizing  parades and concerts and making a holiday of it so I  ought to be able to manage a blog post at least.

In honour of the 4th of July here are some ACW troops defending a Musket Miniatures Rock and Wood fence.
I assembled and painted it up over the 2nd & 3rd.

This last year has been a good one by and large but an odd one. I think the last time that I passed a year with so few stressors and changes was probably when I was 11. Still, we managed and I'd be up for a repeat.

Gaming-wise it has been much the same, a bit of consolidation including small expansions of existing collections  and I expect that to continue with at least  one "proper" campaign.

The Musket Miniatures fence before painting but after assembly. I quite like them but at roughly CAD$1 an inch I won't be covering my table with them. Wouldn't mind some corners though, and another section.

However, I think the 25mm fantasy/medievals are coming back. The 40mm version was ok but while a good imagination should be able to merge the variety​ of periods that my collection of Elastolins includes, the mix is insufficient to produce coherent armies for battles without a lot of work, work I don't want to do right now. I also miss Prince Michael so I will revert to the original​ plan with a 40mm Elastolin Heroic Dark Age skirmish setting with single figures and a Medieval Fantasy 25mm battle collection. The longbowmen, pikemen and plate armoured knights will then remain dedicated to the 16thC Rough Wooing collection. I currently have an excess of Prince Valiant Elastolins so will consider looking for a new home for a few of the quadruplicates.

The Earl of Cowcross. (Garrison 25mm)

So that's about it steady as it goes until ambushed. But...maybe, just maybe, this might be the year I get my room tidied up, cupboards and shelves organized, finish getting existing units onto matching bases, fix up my battered terrain and add to it?

Yah, probably not, but I did finally paint up a stone wall for my ACW guys!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Defended Border

There I was, a rainy Canada Day holiday, what was there to do but play a patriotically themed wargame and what's more patriotic than defending your border against your neighbours?

So, Eighteen Sixty-Something, somewhere in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
The 5th Royal Highlanders arrive to support the Princess Louise Hussars.
<<Disclaimer>> OK, for those new to my blog, we are playing fast and loose with history, the Canadian Black Watch were still Light Infantry in shakos and there was no invasion by US army units etc, etc. Its a game with toy soldiers.

The table, minus buildings and troops was still up from last game so I decided to just tweak it and play a straight encounter with the armies  entering on one or both of two roads based on die rolls.

My Chromebook is in the shop and anyway I haven't finished the revision of Hearts of Tin so I just winged the rules based on instinct and memory.

A wider view of the table as the armies march on.
The US was able to muster 10 stands of infantry which I divided into 5 "units", 2 stands of cavalry, a gun and a stand of sharpshooters along with 3 Commanders so I matched it with Canadians and got to it. The infantry could take 4 hits per stand, the rest 3. A "Brigade" losing 1/2 of its stands would have to test each turn that it took hits: 4,5,6 carry on, 1,2,3 fallback. An army losing 1/2 stands must retreat.

The side controlling the crossroad at the end of 15 turns would win.
Initial honours are fairly even. 
An early charge on the Hussars by US cavalry supported by artillery fire inflicted the first stand lost but since both sides had to rally back the Canadian infantry filled the gap and started to shoot up the unsupported battery. As more units arrived the fighting spread and developed into a prolonged firefight with neither side seeing an opening for a decisive assault.
Midgame, just before the US commander realizes that one of his units has appeared yet. (Oops)
By turn 8 the Canadians were having the worst of it and our correspondent was starting to wonder on the tone for a report on a Canada Day defeat. The day was not over yet though.

The Canadians focused their fire on the American gun and drove it back. ( or drove it back, it depends on whether or not a version of the Give Ground rule from the Square Brigadier  is adopted. ) They then pulled back from a salient in the center and focussed on the American right. Fortuna smiled on their dice and frowned on the invaders to keep the averages level. Stand after stand of Boys in Blue fell and  the American commander was unwilling to pull back from a firefight which should have been equal and unable to think of any daring manouver to retrieve the situation elsewhere. Finally on turn 13 the Yankee line collapsed and they were forced to retreat. The final tally had been 7 stands lost vs 5 so a near run thing.

Work on the rules will continue whem my Chromebook comes home or I buy a bigger tablet. I'm not sure which to hope for.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Another Slice of Cake Please

Just one of those busy, unfocussed, weeks but I've been thinking "What next?".

I have the urge to focus a bit so I can not only get some  progress done on the maps and back stories of my campaigns and improve and expand  the related terrain and get all the troops gussied up and looking sharp, but also tidy up the room and shelves. This implies cutting back on painting and gaming to find time and  reducing the collections make room for neatness.  Lets call this "Having the Cake".

Too much glare on these converted and refurbished 54mm Highlanders.
BUT..... I also have the urge to do more! Play some bigger games, get to some of those put-off-till-later things and play some different sorts of game. This then would be "Eating the Cake".

In the meantime I noticed a stand of 54's that had been primed before Huzzah but not painted so I did that today and thought about making some guys in turbans to go with them. Oh well.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

First Blood

There is nothing like having the troops hit the tabletop to help sort things out.

I've been a little under the weather  health-wise over the last week as well as having lots of yardwork to do so I didn't manage to finish painting the last batch of new figures until yesterday morning and didn't manage to play a game. However, I did manage to  look at some (a LOT actually) of my old blog posts, mostly battle reports  and rules ideas (a LOT of posts), as well as revisiting some old books while pondering just what sort of games I want to play.

The Nordmark Naval Regiment marches onto its first battlefield. 

The answer was some fast flowing Old School games with a handful of battalions and squadrons. Something Tabletop Teaser-ish with more "General" than 'Sergeant Major" and with most of the friction coming from the enemy, the combat dice and the player's mistakes.  That confirmed my earlier decision to break out Hearts of Tin (HofT).

I was momentarily perplexed by how Charge! companies of 19 infantry, 15 light infantry or 9 cavalry would fit HofT but eventually remembered that my French units were originally based 6 infantry or 3 cavalry or light infantry to a 60mm square base for the initial version of HofT. It was about 10 years ago now that I ripped them off their multi-figure stands and put them on washers or flexsteel bases to go onto magnetic stands. Patient lads! Anyway, that leaves me with an unused drummer for each infantry unit but I have an idea......

Having realized  that I'm in the mood for some traditional Old School type games I decided to do a straight encounter between opposing forces each having a Cavalry squadron, a light infantry battalion, 3 infantry battalions and a gun.
Turn 4. The Maritime Federation gets there first with the most thanks in part to a chance card which stalled the Rosmark road column for a turn. 
 Each side was able to bring on one unit per turn with a goal of controlling the town at nightfall. The game ended after 15 turns or if one side was forced to retreat by losing over 1/2 of its stands.

The Maritime Federation got the jump and aided by chance cards, occupied the town and then just had to repulse a series of attacks until just before dark when  Rosmark's casualties forced the Rosish general to order a retreat.

My new regiment, christened the Nordmark Naval Regiment, was steady in its first fight and repulsed several attacks, taking a casualty in the course of extended bombardment, musketry and fierce hand to hand fighting. Yes, "a" single casualty, lucky with dice apparently.

There were several fierce cavalry charges, much shooting and several assaults but the Rosmark forces never came close to evicting the Federation from the town and suffered three times the casualties. On turn 13 of 15, with Rosish forces on the brink of morale failure, I called it.

Not only was it an auspicious start for the Maritime Regiment, it was also just the sort of game I had in mind, the kind that makes me look forward to playing more including the occasional big one. I'm starting to think again about cutting my table down to 4x5 again and getting a second board of the same size so I can set up a 5x8 for special occasions.
Mid-game as the Queen's Foreigners prepare to assault. I was having real lighting issues and gave up trying to get use-able pictures of the rest.
Before you ask, No, I don't have a written version of the rules, I went by memory and improvised when needed.
However, if I'd had a postcard:

Improvised Rules
I used a card deck for initiative (Red Federation/Black Rosmark) with the usual chance cards included. Units not within 12" of the General had to test when activated.
Movement was 12" if column or light infantry, 6" in line, 18" for cavalry. 1/2 move to change formation etc. Light infantry may move and shoot.
All units except artillery were 3 stands strong and able to take hits equal to the figures (3 or 6). Firing was 1 die per stand for infantry with a range of 12", 2 for artillery with a range of 36". 6's hit troops in cover, 5,6 hit cavalry, artillery and skirmishers in the open, 4,5,6 hit line infantry in the open.
Melee and close range firefights (3") gave line infantry and cavalry 2 dice with both sides fighting and cavalry adding +1 per die if charging. A side in melee that took more hits than inflicted and at least 1 per stand  had to retreat in disorder and spend a turn reforming.

I need to get working on those magnetic stands, writing a good copy of the rules, working on the maps, backstory, personalities, and..oh my.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Volleys in the Valley

This past week has been as slow hobbywise as the lack of posts suggests, however, I perked up today.
  This morning I finished painting the last 1/3 of my new Red coated, allied Northern Maritime regiment which has a vague resemblance to Lally's Irish.  This afternoon I nipped down to Kentville to join in a 6 player Epic Battle Cry Bull Run game.
Jeff's 15mm ACW on his homemade hex mat.
There are no formations in Battle Cry but that didn't stop me.
Fast and bloody. The details of the rules may seem questionable at times but the result today was close enough to historical and it was fun.
Longtime friend and fellow Atlantic Simulation Society member Paul in official Blue Shirt which was mandated dress for the two of us today, and Jeff of the Armchair Commander blog

The question now is "Will my new Red regiment see any Elephants on Sunday?". I certainly hope so!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

One for the Gaffer

OK so I'm not technically a Dad, but I look after a pack of hounds as well as a couple of cats and a bird, soooo...... I took some time for a quick Father's Day game.

Despite my best camera instincts, this shot is surprisingly true to the actual colours on the table.

My original idea was to do a big MacDuff game but there were other things (chore type things) and I didn't want to mess with any campaign backstories. I also didn't feel like playing MacDuff which is a different matter. 

Anyway, the lads from Faraway and Oberhilse are always up for a brawl. Since the OHW wargame scenario was still 3/4 set up, I just went with that, with a terrain tweak, and improvised rules as I went, sort of a retro-single figure version of Hearts of Tin: variable moves, turn initiative, detached unit command roll, firing by individuals, and a return to a morale roll for under strength units.  
Mid game. One attack on the house has been repulsed, the next will succeed but too little too late at too high a price.
Pity there were no War Correspondents present.
It all kinda worked pretty well and entertained me. I occasionally missed  the grid for measuring but enjoyed the flexibility of no grid. 

Lots to think about.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Meanwhile, bubbling away in the back ground.

After a thorough examination of various organizational and rules options for this upcoming campaign, I have decided that the optimal choice is to conform with my existing Charge! units and work the rules and scenarios around that organization.
A skirmish from 2012 (click for report)
I envisage most games being skirmishes, like the most recent game , and the "Anything to Declare"  New Year's Eve 2012 game (shown above), with around six units and detachments  per side, with the occasional pitched battle game, like the 2012 Wentworth Pass game (shown below). having double or even triple that.

The Battle of Wentworth Pass from 2912.

To be more specific, each of my Charge! Regiments which are formed by two 19 figure "Companies" plus an HQ group will form a "Brigade" with two 18 figure "Battalions" plus an HQ  including the colours and drummers. I will also allow small detachments for garrisons, wagon escorts and the like. For light infantry, I plan to add three command figures to each Charge! company and field them as two nine figure detachments. These are of course paper strengths.

The Old King's Brigade, 15 year veterans of many a stricken tabletop,  using temporary movement trays. 
With an organization and level of scenario in hand I turned back to revisit rules options. After much rereading of old battle reports and old rules and much pondering about the desired "feel" for this campaign I have forced myself to narrow it down to two choices:
  • Use Lawford and Young's "Charge!" 
  • Update the 20th Anniversary edition of "With MacDuff to The Frontier" to include explicit "Skirmish" and "Battle" options as I was considering in 2014. 
Luckily, since these rules will both work with my organization and basing, the choice may be made game by game  according to my mood and the scenario.

Flexibility is good.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From There to Here

It has long been obvious that, as in most things in life, when painting miniatures I tend to follow my instinct without much discipline or attention to various schools of technique. I'm usually happy with the results but I'm sometimes at a loss to explain what my "technique" is.

If caught off guard I might mutter something about Old School but having recently gone back to check some old school books, well, it isn't really, but its not Middle or New school either. Its just.. "what I do".  So, I decided today to  have a "look-see" in an attempt to trace the roots and to take a few shots of today's batch.

Sound Assembly!

My first step was to look through several of my early wargaming books. There, right at the beginning of my wargaming life, was Don Featherstone's 'Battles With Model Soldiers' which taught me to glue a bunch of figures to a stick, something I still do most of the time, as well as teaching me what Jack Scruby called "sloppy undercoat, careful over coat", which is to say, slop on the main colour being more concerned with not missing any spots than with straying over the line. The next colour will take care of the edges when it is carefully applied to the smaller area.

Then I have a vague memory of a Heritage/Hinchliffe catalogue painting guide in the mid-70's which recommended an overall dark wash. I no longer have the catalogue and don't remember exactly what it recommended but it was shortly after my one trip to the UK where I'd had a chance to see Peter Gilder's Huns in action and it was the start of a long habit of burnt umber washes as the last step before varnishing.

But that's about it for wargaming influences. I can remember being impressed by my friend Eric Ritchie's painting 25mm ancients by a series of washes over white, but that's a technique that doesn't allow errors and I'm all about errors and do-overs, so I never got far with it. Similarly I tried black under coat and building up solid colours to build depth in the 80's but though I was happy enough with a few characters and a few units in both 15mm and 25mm, I found the process tedious  and the end product still felt dark to me no matter how bright the highlights might be. I went back to my old ways.

Sloppy main colour over white craft acrylic paint used as primer. 
However,  I was a painter and a converter of Model Soldiers for display before I was a wargamer.

I still have my battered copy of Peter Blum's "Model Soldier Manual" from the early 70's. Although I haven't looked at the booklet much in decades, that's because the basics were well absorbed. While I don't attempt the sort of detail that a teen age me attempted on 54's, and don't do as much shading and highlighting as I used to do even 10 years ago, the basics of my technique are all  there, white undercoat, base colours then shading blended in .

Awaiting the shading process but my brand of stripped down glossy toy solderish style will only include some shading on the flesh, around the belts, the folds and under sides of arms etc of the coat and small clothes.
I'm told that a well pointed brush is essential to a good paint job and from my limited experience with pointy brushes I'm sure it's true but, alas,  I wreck them  too quickly to find out for sure. So this 1 brush did everything except the white under coat.

The final influence was much more recent but just as important, Shep Paine's "Making and Painting Scale Figures".  At least it feels very recent but it would appear that 25 or so years have slipped past since I picked up a copy. How did that happen?

Anyway, there was nothing really new about painting in it really, it was from his sculpting tips that I learned the most. He did have several observations on shading that went a level up from Peter Blum and he commented on the advantages of separate washes for different parts of Wargame figures instead of a single dark wash. As he points out it is a quick technique so doing several doesn't take up a lot more time but it really improves the look when wash style shading ties in with the colour being shaded. He was right. So, for this lot the flesh was shaded with a very thin flesh + burnt sienna, the coat with a red+burnt umber, etc. Not washes though, these craft paints don't run well enough without an additive so I use older techniques of applying a dark shade then adding a bit of water and running the edges out a bit to blend them in with the base.

Shaded, glossed, and fallen in with the first batch of recruits. 
Last but not least, one of the best tips I ever got came about 20 years ago from Al Fisher on the Yahoo Littlewars group: "Don't look at where your brush has been, look at where it is going".
It sounds odd but I've been taught the same thing in drawing with a pencil. In other words, if you are looking at your  brush tip, its too late, its already there and left paint behind. If you look a little bit ahead of the brush to where you want it to go and trust yourself, your hand and eye will guide the brush from where it is to where you want it to go leaving a line behind it, just where you wanted it and less halting and wavy that if you'd been  looking at it. But you need to keep moving your focus point as the brush moves until you reach the end.  I still catch myself NOT doing it and have to correct myself.

Never to late to learn and experiment.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


At last I managed to take a brush to some of the new Prince August SYW French. They are delightful little models!

I had intended to do a  straight glossy toy soldier look, block colours, no shading etc  but the sculpting was too crisp to get the right look easily so I compromised on a little bit of shading, not too much and no highlights, then the gloss. Sort of vaguely Old School but not quite, sort of like my games. Anyway, I like 'em and am looking forward to painting more.

Wild Geese!.
Recruits for Lally's Irish Regiment drill on the lakeshore.
After hours spent combing books and the net and once again lamenting my MIA Lace Wars volumes, I decided to start painting red and green and then decide if they would be a fictional unit based on Polish War of Succession Saxon or Danish or would be Irish. It didn't take long for old habits to kick in (though not my old eyesight -they were 1/2 done before I realized I had grabbed several grenadier heads with mustaches OOps! Oh well!) and since my original NQSYW units were all painted for Fontenoy I just went ahead and painted them Lally's.

As a bonus I was reminded that during the 7YW, a 2nd battalion of Lally's was raised for service in India..hmmm....
A closer view.
Anyhow, I also got a start today on a map of the seas and lands North and East of Rosmark. Progress continues and enthusiasm mounts!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ninety Minute MacDuff and Some Pondering

Yesterday as I was clearing the table the idea popped into my head that I should give MacDuff a go at a One Hour Wargame scenario and that I should try an 1860's "Colonial" game.  I haven't gotten around to building my planned colonial native forces yet but I scrounged enough of the Brethren  of the coast to give it a go.

Roughly 1/2 way through and the final units are just entering the board while the Green Tigers have repulsed the first two rushes by mobs of swordsmen leaving a rather vulnerable salient. As long as the first card goes to the Queen it should be all right..... 
The scenario (whose number I would have to look up) was a surprise attack by the Queen's troops to seize a bridge. Both sides had a stream of reinforcements rushing to the field of battle. As is my custom I rolled twice on the 3 chart rather than once on the 6 chart. The Queen fielded 3 Infantry units with rifles, 1 unit of Light Infantry with rifles, 1 Naval gun and a unit of Lancers. The Brethren had 3 units of massed irregulars with melee weapons and a handful of muskets, 2 units of light infantry with rifles and a gun.

The Brethren obviously had a chip on their shoulder about being ripped off their bases then left to moulder on the shelf for months because they rolled like fiends while the red coats were a bit rusty to be kind.  The game lasted a bit over an hour, maybe 90 minutes (It was interupted by various things as chores and supper.) and was OK. Yes, just OK, in part because I had trouble getting a handle on the narrative and what exactly these units represented, partly because I rubbed up against several of the grey areas such as group moves where I had gotten no farther than deciding that they needed some more thought and improvement and partly because of the disjointed nature of the card initiative by unit without some sort of leader+group cohesion rule.

Still, it was OK with some tense  moments, some good and some bad luck, some tactical errors being punished and some but not all bold risks paying off.  Once again the Black Fox maintained his reputation as a bold and successful leader.

The 3rd rush, with the Black Fox in the thick of it has cracked the centre and it was all downhill from there. I don't think Larsen's Lancers have ever had an unluckier day. 
However, what this game did was bump me into spending yet more time thinking about what I was trying to achieve and revisiting various appropriate historical actions of the very small to small size to picture what they would look like as MacDuff scenarios.  The games have convinced me that the rules need to be expanded again and a lot more explanations and examples added. I also need to translate the sort of impromptu decisions I tend to make mid-game into distinct, clear, written rules.

That sounds like a lot of work and led to two more questions: "Are these going to be the rules that I would most want to use or the rules I use because I wrote them?" and "If I put that much work into them including scenarios, sample translations of historical actions into wargame units, notes  on my philosophy and so, should I then capitalize  on the work by going the self publishing route?".

The first question is as yet unanswered beyond thinking that if they would not be my first choice without radical changes, this may not be the best use of my time. The second question depends in part on this being a set of rules I believe in and want to use myself and but also on looking into copyright issues since they were originally published in the Courier.

In truth though I tend to prefer playing games at a slightly higher level than MacDuff was theoretically designed for  and which play faster. That's why I originally wrote Morschauser Meets MacDuff, which became Hearts of Tin,  and I've found myself thinking about those rules during both of the last games. A battle like Crysler's Farm or La Belle Famille (Niagara) is supposed to be pushing the high end for a MacDuff game but should be a small to average Hearts of Tin game. It is possible that MacDuff should be left pretty much as is and I should focus on a "final" polished version of Hearts of Tin.
I'm going to have to brush off one of the old versions of Hearts of Tin (HofT) and try a NQSYW game with them before I go much further.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Plot and Plan Thicken

Not only did this game help me to decide some rules questions, it also helped me make some campaign  decisions.

A standard NQSYW Charge! infantry company is 16 privates, an officer, a sergeant and a drummer or 19 figures while a standard MacDuff infantry unit is between 8 and 12 figures although a full Charge! company would work if I was using smaller figures or a bigger table.  It occurred to me that by adding 1 extra officer per company each of my Charge! companies could provide 2 MacDuff companies of 10 figures. Each of my 2 company NQSYW regiments could thus provide a full 4 company MacDuff Regiment.

Thus it was that for the first go round with the scenario, the one in the teaser, each side had one battalion with 3 or 4 companies on a single card as well as individual light and artillery companies each on their own card. It was a pretty good game despite some rules blips that had to be settled, but as so often before when playing this sort of game, I occasionally got  confused about when a company was a unit and when a group of companies was a unit. Past attempts to not only write this up in a clear concise manner but to also apply the rules evenly during games has always been an issue. That is why I eventually gave in and dropped the battalion rules until the 20th Anniversary loomed.

Early in the dress rehearsal. 

So I reset and replayed the scenario with 12 figure units, each on their own card. The first game had been good but the second one was better. This was the game that I chose for the battle report.  But how did that organization compare to historical battles of the right size?

 I hit the books looking at historical scenarios of the right size such as Belle Famille (Niagara), Crysler's Farm and others. Sure enough, the evidence supports a tendency for detachments to be made before  a battle rather than during it and they don't usually rejoin during a game. More than that it seems not uncommon in small battles for battalions to be split before the battle while several small detachments might be combined. Excellent, the ground scale indicates that each of my companies really represents 2 or 3 real ones anyway. Anniversary edition or not, that whole multi-level unit thing can be dropped in favour of variable sized units.    I may end up losing the special Colour Party rules or at least modifying them.

Mid-game the lancers charged over the bridge breaking the Picquet which was down to nearly 1/2 strength but declined to pursue into the fresh Grenadiers.

BUT, how will this mesh with my NQSYW organization? Well, I could still go with 10 man companies if 19 is too big  but the more I think about it, I'm not likely to ever need to haul all of my NQSYW units to a convention game and the next one is probably at least 2 or 3 years anyway. So I will just paint 12 man MacDuff units now, probably in pairs, and worry about it later should the occasion arise.

The whole convention topic then led me to think about whether I would ever want to take a scenario set in this fictional campaign setting to a convention or would  I rather take it as a fictional scenario in an historical setting? I'd been looking at Danish and Saxon uniforms as a basis for a non-British army in red but since many of my NQSYW units are actually painted as historical units, the thought struck me that I might as well keep on doing it and leave my options open.

A push over the stream by a two companies of Pandours highlighted the question of whether or not the two companies counted as 1 unit or two for being broken. In the end the attack took so many hits it didn't matter and a last ditch charge by the 4 remaining lancers failed to retrieve the day.

So, the die is cast, the first unit from the new French moulds will be painted as the Swiss regiment Karrer from the Louisburg garrison as originally planned. The first unit of a new party to the war, the Maritime League, an alliance of minor trading states. (or not, a change from red and blue might be nice.)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Battle of Newlanding: War comes to the Colonies

What follows is an extract from MacDuff's "Illustrated History of the First Furland War" .

Once the picquet on the bridge opened fire on the approaching Chasseurs, any hope vanished for a peaceful resolution to the confrontation between the Duchy's mercenary garrison and the King's Advance Guard.
"It was on the 6th of June that Colonel Konrad led his Pandours out of the North Pass and appeared just south of the little port of Newlanding. The settlement at Newlanding is small and only the presence of a small Duchy fort gave any hint of the outport's importance. It is the only seaport East of the Hye Mountains and west of the Great Marsh. The port is connected by road both to the North Pass which leads to Rosmark during the eight months of the year when the pass is clear of snow and to the villages scattered throughout the interior of Furland. The Colonel's orders were to seize and hold or destroy the bridge over the Blough Taip* to prevent all trade not licensed by the King."

*Note: Many large streams and small rivers in Furland are called Taips by the settlers. It is derived from the native term Tae Ap or fast running water.

Unable to stand the combined fire of the Pandours and Konrad's artillery, the bridge picquet fell back as the relief companies arrived.
"As reinforcements rushed forward, a bloody firefight developed with heavy losses on both sides. The King's Pandours seemed to be made of sterner stuff than their Irish mercenary opponents and time after time their companies reformed after heavy losses and returned to the fight. "

In the face of a fierce fire from the Irish Grenadiers, supported by local volunteers, the Pandours begin to waver.
"Finally Colonel Konrad stirred himself. He sent his lancers over the Taip to flank the stubborn Irish Grenadiers and led his last reserve forward for an all out assault. "

Victory hangs in the balance.

"The Lancers dashed across the Taip at a gallop but were met with a hail of roundshot from the fort's artillery and a volley from the rallied piquets and were driven back. Under a hail of fire from the Grenadiers and Volunteers, the Second Company of Pandours began to waver and Colonel Konrad had to rush to their head and hold them to their work with oaths and coarse words amidst a cloud of smoke."

"The steadest volley of the battle then erupted from the two remaining Pandour companies and the Grenadiers broke and ran. A round or two from the gun was sufficient to send the remaining Picquets flying back to the fort while the volunteers ran back to get their families and valuables on board ship."

With the bridge destroyed the Pandours fall back.
"Judging his remaining force insufficient to take the fort or silence the guns and uncertain of what enemy reinforcements might arrive by sea, the Colonel ordered his men to break down the bridge which they did under a desultory canon fire. With that done he retired to the crossroad and made camp."