Wargame Thoughts and Commentary
General Wargaming

The Road To Metz Is Closed!

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From the Citadel of Metz looking toward The distant Rhine and Approaching Prussians!

Our group's latest Die Fighting II wargame was an FPW scenario I have been working on for the last six months. We have played it twice now, once back in January, which resulted in a crushing Prussian win and two weeks ago, which ended up quite the reverse!

SET UP

It is a very stylized scenario. It is played down the length of my 12 foot long wargame table, with the Prussians starting at the far wall, which represents the Rhine river, and then moving down the table with the ultimate goal being the investment of the Fortifications of Metz. The route from the Rhine requires crossing a heavily forested area with a deep stream, getting past a small village, and then crossing a ridgeline with light forests, before a final river crossing unto the plains of the Metz works. The burden is entirely upon the Prussians, which given their rating advantages, marvelous Krupps artillery, and command advantages, should be doable. The French must simply stop the progress of the Germanic host and prevent the investment of the Fort.

The fort need not be taken, merely surrounded.

The OOB for both armies forces may be found, along with all ratings in a folder in the Files section of the Yahoo! Repique Rules site. The folder also contains added folders and a reprint of special rules in play for the game.

The Prussian force is made up of 33 units consisting of infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Eight units are Crack including nearly half of their batteries. Their command is quite good with the CinC rated superior, two subcommands are Very Dependable, and one is average. They all enter at the Rhine (wall edge).

The French Force is a mixed bag of 32 units, again of all arms, but only six are crack. Their artillery is outranged and of lower quality. Their only advantage is the superb range and effect of the Chassepot compared to the Prussian Needlegun. The French Commander is Timid, and one of the commands is rated Foolhardy. The other two commands are average, and Douay has a Very Dependable force. The French start with Bazaine the CinC and De Cissy's force in Metz, and they may not leave prior to the roll of a diminishing D6 roll ( 6 on the first turn, 5-6, on the second, 4-5-6 on the third turn, etc.)

The other two commands may deploy anywhere south of the first river. (in the first play of the scenario they could not deploy beyond the hills at mid-table. Because of the decisive result of that game, this was changed. It may have been too generous).

The only other change from the first attempt at the scenario was to make the first river line much more wooded. This, too, was a reaction to the first game, and may have, again, been too generous.

The village was all Class III. The woods and river lines were class II. Hasty earthworks on the ridgeline would be rolled for as needed.

The new Proximity Rules were introduced, as was the increased die rolls for a 4 hour game as suggested in the March 20 update to customers.

The French force had a Lose Phase card added to their deck. This would be removed upon appearance if a diminishing 6 roll were made. The Prussians had a Command Brilliance card that would be a permanent part of their Phase deck.

The Game Play

The French Command Player showed a very good eye for ground and an understanding of his one good advantage, the Chassepot, and established a line EXACTLY within chassepot range of the river and wood line to their front. His deployment ran from Douay's excellent command join the open fields to the East of the village, through the village, which offered cover to some of his weaker units, and then incorporated the small hill, which gave him the Position Magnifique, of which the French were so fond. They were all deployed and ready for combat. A small force, primarily of cavalry, was kept back at the ridge line as a mobile reserve against any rupture of the line and as protection from any immediate rifle or artillery fire. DeCissy's's force, along with Bazaine, was in Metz awaiting the alarm to move.

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(Top #1) French Left Douay's forces in line supported by artillery and Mittraileuse (Bottom #2 )French Right Under Colbert. Note massed guns on hill also dense woods.

The Prussian command was less focused on its approach. It was decided that the Gruenwiller command would advance directly upon the enemy, crossing the river and woods and falling upon the French toothier front. Von Stumpel with his Prussians and Baden troops would do the same to the West of the road. No attack would proceed over the bridge until the first French line had retired when the cavalry would use that route. The assumption was to lead with the artillery, and then use superior command and good troops to overrun the initial French position. This was to prove wishful thinking.

On the first turn, The French generally stood pat. They rolled to see if Bazaine and De Cissy would leave Metz, and failed. They then contented themselves in rolling for their 4R card and adding dice to their buckets. Since they could not expect to distribute the CinC's dice during the game without a considerable delay due to the separation of Bazaine from the bulk of his command, they took special efforts to distribute all of Bazaine's dice to Douay and Colbert prior to play.

The Prussians began their advance from the Rhine with both Infantry Moves and Cavalry move cards appearing, They had a 4R card early in their turn. But no Officer move or Artillery move card appeared so neither guns or command (and their dice) appeared. In an important oversight, they had not distributed their CinC dice to sub-commands prior to play as their supply of dice, at that time appeared more than sufficient. They did get a Command brilliance card in the first turn which they chose to represent an Officer move card. This allowed several commander to enter the field.

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Prussian Infantry and cavalry enter the field headed for the first river line

The Second Turn

On the second turn, the French again stood pat-secure in their positions. They rolled for the Metz force to activate, but, again, failed. They rolled on a 4R card and bolstered their command dice for all units. They received a Lose Phase card, but, as they were doing nothing, caused little difference to their turn.

The Prussians again surged forward into the wood line on the near bank of the river. Again, they had both Infantry and Cavalry moves cards, a useless specialized action, and a 4R Card. NO artillery move, and NO Officer Action card! They were surging forward, but lacked sufficient command control, and the artillery was still absent! The doctrine of Guns Forward was being frustrated by some unknown delay to the rear. The wrong road taken? A mix-up in the order of march? Who knew?

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The Prussian advance to the river line. Note the lack of command and Guns!


The Third Turn

Again the French stood fast in their defensive lines, but on this turn they made the roll for Metz and Bazaine and DeCissy began marching to the front in the far distance. They, again, lost a phase, but also rolled to remove the card from future use in the deck. All in all, a good turn for the French as they awaited the oncoming Prussians.

The Prussians finally got an Artillery Move, AND another Command Brilliance card which they also called an artillery move. This allowed their artillery to appear and finally get to the front. However, they were limbered, and avoiding the bridge crossing, which would expose them to crushing close range fire from the village, they were faced with transiting the wood and river line-no easy task for artillery and limbers! Still no Officer Action card, but the 4R card appeared allowing reinforcement of the Resource dice. Nevertheless, absent command and with late arriving guns, the Prussian Force continued determinedly forward!

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(Top )Gruenwiller and Von Stumpel's forces invest forest line. Note guns arrived! Prussians view of the French beyond the river. Artillery has no line of fire!

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Bazaine on the march from Metz!

Fourth Turn

This is where the Prussians made a number of grave errors! It took a full move to clear the woods and river, and get themselves securely in the wood line on the far bank. This was very frustrating, as had been the lack of command presence in this sector! The River and trees precluded the artillery from deploying, and blocked any LOS for fire, so the premier weapon of the Prussians was negated, as was their superiority in command! Rather than waiting to sort out the command issues, and securing some position for the artillery to support an attack., the impatient Prussian players based on their observation of past Prussian tactical superiority in troop quality and tactical prowess( use of the Zug formation) launched an immediate attack on the right of their line. Withe the appearance of another Infantry action card, The Prussian troops swept out across the plain toward the waiting French with their superior Chassepot and Mitrailleuse! The crack of the French rifles and the staccato stutter of the Mitraillese raked the Prussian attack.

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The Action was quite closely, and quickly, decided, but the Prussians ultimately were thrown back from the French Line and sent reeling back into the woods. At this time, the seemingly unlimited Prussian red dice in Gruenwiller's command were exhausted and the Prussians accepted defeat. They would try to regroup and attack on the morrow. The French were quite pleased with their tactical victory!

Tactical Notes

This outcome was a result of MANY Prussian misjudgments, and some savvy French tactical planning.

The French had maximized their strength with the placement of their troops to sweep the ground to their front with Chassepot and Mittraileuse fire and by placing their units at exactly maximum Chassepot range from the forest. This left the Prussians with the choice of either staying in the woods, or an all out charge to close. The inferiority of the Needlegun, especially in range,was accented by the French deployment. The French had also reckoned that the artiillery could be brought under concentrated fire if it tried to deploy outside the wood, and before it could fire.

The Prussians made a whole range of errors. They did not distribute any of Moltke's command dice prior to play, which they could have done freely, and could have used to bolster their eventual attack. They chose to attack before they received further dice on a 4R card in the turn of the attack. They failed to use the Command Brilliance card to advance their commanders which led to a short supply of command dice at the critical point. Instead they called it an artillery action card, which, while advancing the guns which had been tardy to the action, was of little use in the terrain of the battle. They could have used the officer dice from a nearby commander, especially Moltke! Finally, they let impatience destroy their plans. By attacking prior to figuring out a way to adequately deploy their superior artillery, and failing to get commanders forward or distribute Moltke's cache of command dice, they would have needed some extraordinary die rolls to win the action on the right. They didn't get them. To lose a battle with superior commanders, superior troops, and Krupps guns requires more than a few mistakes, and a French Commander that uses his force very well! This reminded me of the attack by the Prussian Guards at Gravelotte-St. Privat, or the Mance ravine!

Game and Scenario Notes

I have been trying to tweak this scenario over two playing sessions now, and will try a third go soon. I will remove a few of the woods on the first river line, as it proved a much too rugged barrier. I will also move the village back another foot from the bridgehead. Other than that, I think it is getting close to being well structured scenario. One more test will confirm this, I hope.

The experience of the game also led me to conclude that the Proximity Rule should be slightly amended for simplicity and game play. Instead of three zones, Over 20"-10-20"-under 10", I will be amending it to two zones-Over 20" being no red dice required and a straight substitution of green dice, and under 20" being as in normal rules requiring 1-2 red dice.

I also noted that the added Green die rule and extra initial rolls for a somewhat longer game, worked just fine.

I am also toying with an optional "extended" game rule that will allow an army to continue when a command goes "empty", but, of course, none of their actions will have any red dice added, as there are none available. (Duh!) The units in their command will be disorganized until a 4R card allows new dice to be generated or transferred from the CinC. Upon new dice being acquired any units in the command that are disorganized from dice loss will automatically become ordered, as opposed to those units that are disorganized from combat, that is, those that have a black die. The commander of any command that has lost all dice in their bucket will lose 1 command die for the remainder of the game.

All of this will be formalized in a new update emailing to customers to be sent this week.

All in all, a good game with a clean finish. As the Prussian Commander I was very embarrassed by my mistakes. I guess I just don't have a German temperament! The French Commander, Greg Rold, has been given a small chateau on the Loire for his efforts. Louis Napoleon refers to Rold as "Monsieur Je-sais tout!"



Malplaquet Redux-Still Hardfought!

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On Saturday, the 30th of May, our gaming group gathered to refight the bloodiest of the Marlburian battles, Malplaquet. This battle, though technically a win for Britain and its allies, was a very near thing, with the Allied losses nearly three times that of the French. In fact, The commander of the French, Marshall Villars, wrote to Louis that one more such victory would be the end of Marlborough. The losses and minimal gains from the battle, coupled with a political change in the English government and court, soon found Marlborough back in England relieved of his command and treated with distain by his countrymen.

Marshall Villars went on to further successes, primarily in Flanders, and was viewed by the French as the finest commander of the WSS. He and his co-commander, Boufflers, were certainly of a higher caliber than the Allies had faced in the preceding battles of the Marlborough Quartet; Blenheim, Ramillies, and Oudenarde. Villars was a true fighting general, being badly wounded leading his troops from the front in this battle. Boufflers, the wise old veteran, was superb in his assumption of command late in the battle, and extricated the French Army from a tight situation, and effectively forestalled any pursuit.

As in many of the engagements Flanders against Marlborough, the French were outnumbered in men and guns on the battlefield, but VIllars had skillfully maneuvered his army into a strong position, reinforced by earthworks and redans, for a defensive stand. He anchored his flanks on the forests of Sart/Blangies on the left, and Lainieres on his right. The center was held by his best units of the Maison Rouge. The only possible mistake was in sending a considerable amount of his cavalry to guard other points along the forested front lines. He was at a disadvantage in all arms. He also deployed the cavalry in such a way as they could only be used once the infantry line was breached.

Marlborough, as was his fashion, attacked! He concentrated allied forces under Eugene, led by Schulemberg and Lottum, to take the foremost works to the right center, while he had Orkney prepared to assault the center. The Dutch under the Prince of Orange were prepared to assault the heavy works on the French right. They were to take grievous loss , but gain great honor in this attack. Meanwhile a smaller force on the extreme right of the Allied line, under General Withers, worked their way through the woods to flank the French Left. Historically, this force drew off a lot of the French reserve from the center to counter the threat. Marlborough then attacked the center strongly and followed with a determined Dutch attack on the French Right.

Throughout battle the threat to the French left drew the attention of Villars ( and was where he was wounded) and sucked in the reserve, so the center and right flank attacks were hard to stop. The French made an orderly retreat. The reports vary, but the Allies lost in excess of 20,000 troops, which was the highest of the War, while the French lost 7-10,000 troops.

The Game Setup

Terrain- I used maps from Fortescue's "History of The British Army Vol. 1," Chandlers's "Marlborough's as Military Commander", and James Falkner's "Marlborough's Wars" to set the battlefield terrain. They all varied a bit , so I "averaged" their terrain and the extent of that terrain. I judged the woods of Blangiers and Sart to be Class II woods (1s and 2s don't count for movement or combat) and the Lanieres wood to be a more dense class III. The French earthworks were mostly Class II in the advanced post in the Sart wood, and across the center, but sturdier Class III on each flank. The structures at La Folie were Class II. The streams on the left flank were Class II, against movement only. The rest of the ground was deemed open ground with little effect on movement or combat.

Troops- I positioned the troops roughly as per historical accounts with the Dutch (including the Guard te Voet) on the allied Left, Orkney and Lottum more toward the center, and the bulk of Eugene's forces to the right center with Wither's flanking force on the far right. I tried to find appropriate troops such as Prussians in Lottum's Force, The Dutch Guard on the Right and the Maison Rouge Guard Infantry in the French Center to match the historical deployment.

Command- The Allied forces were placed under Orange on the left in command of the Dutch forces, Orkney in the center command; the bulk of the British Forces, Marlborough was located with Orkney. On the Allied Right was Eugene's forces, mostly Austrian, with a few Danes and English in Wither's Force. There were two special commanders, Withers and Lottum, that could add 1 die to any unit under their command-but Withers could only add to cavalry forces in his command, and Lottum only to infantry. They were not used to generate dice on 4R cards, but were restored on every 4R card for use in movement, combat or to rally of their stipulated forces.

The French Command was of a much higher quality than in preceding battles with both Villars and Boufflers being 5s! The other two commanders were a more usual 3.

Both OOB's covering this game may be found in the File section of the Yahoo! site in the Malplaquet AAR folder.

Cards and Dice rolls and Usage-The Phase Decks were standard, as was the process of doing initiative and play. We used the new rules ( see Update "Command and Proximity Guidance,Version 1 dated March 20th 2015) for 4R Dice roll, where the CinC got three and Sub-commanders two initial rolls, prior to play, and one green free die added to rolls thereafter. We used Proximity Movement rules from the same update. We also used the Australian Variant on Command dice, where any number may be sent, but only the high die counts in the totals.

Special Rules- The two special commanders and 4R roll adjustments noted above.

We also had two very special rules tailored to actual occurrences from the actual battle:

The Withers command of horse and foot was placed on the road on the extreme right of the Allied position about a move or so from the La Folie, but it really wasn't there, and would only appear when the allies secretly rolled a 1 or 2 on a D6, when an Officer Action Card was turned. This would add a lot of tension to both sides as the French saw the figures on the table, but hesitated for two turns to advance and take La Folie because it took awhile to note that they weren't doing anything, even when they probably should've. This simulated the hesitancy of command, and the growing fear of the weakness of the exposed flank. The Allies, conversely, could not count on exactly when that threat could be maximized.


Also, on the French Right the French had a light battery that was actually on the field next to the far right redoubt, but in the real battle was not seen by the Dutch until they were almost upon it, as it was hidden by a fold of ground. It had devastating effects when it opened up on the very surprised Dutch. I replicated this by telling the French that there was a battery there which would only be seen by the enemy when they were 12" from it, or they opened fire, when it would be placed on the field. (One of the advantages of people being less versed about the WSS battles than other engagements such as waterloo or Gettysburg, is this sort of historical surprise can truly be replicated.)

Initial Deplyment from the French RightView from Allied Right

The initial Deployments from the viewpoint of the French Right Flank (Top) The initial deployments from the British Right Flank View. (Bottom)

The Player's
- It should be noted that two of the players: The French Left Flank Commander (Goesbriand) and the Player playing both Villlars, the CinC, and Boufflers, were new to the rules and inexperienced. The Allied central Commander-playing Marlborough and Orkney is our best single player.

The Game Play

No sooner did the game begin than the French Left Wing Commander (Goesbriand) began shifting his reserve made up of a mix of Infantry and cavalry to bolster the extreme left as he feared an attack through La Folie. Five battalions of Infantry and four regiments of horse and dragoons began moving from the left center behind the Salient in column to redeploy along the stream below La Folie and to secure the bridge over the stream. He poised the Royal Dragoons at the bridge where they might cross and secure La Folie. This also supported the infantry line that ran along the stream below the Sart Forest.

Rush to the Left

The Allies lost no time in attacking the salient that stuck out from the Sart Forest. Lottum's Prussians Advanced on the earthworks supported by the fire of the Prussian light battery. That forward position was held by the La Reine Regiment and the Regiment Clare (Irish). The latter was elite and crack!


The Salient
The Salient: La Reine (front) and Clare


However, The perfectly coordinated attack by the platoon firing Prussians and the accuracy of their artillery, soon resolved the issue in the Allies favor, throwing La Reine back in disorder and routing Regiment Clare with a well placed flank fire. The salient fell and left a considerable hole in the French Line-filled , for the moment by a Bavarian light battery and the Rosen-Allemande Chevau-leger, supported by the Mousquetaires du Roi, resplendent on their Gray horses. The Tallard Regiment also hastened forward to fill the gap.

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Clare running from the salient while Prussian Volleys ring out behind them.

The French noted that Withers flanking force was not advancing. This seemed strange. But in a leap of courage the Royal Dragoons galloped forward and seized La Folie. The town was very run down and the well was dry, and no other beverages were to be found, somewhat deflating their enthusiasm over the capture. ( The village was a 4 dice objective, but the total roll was an incredibly low 9 resource dice gained!) Still no response from Wither's command! This was very odd and worrying to Goesbriand. He moved even more troops to the left.

Royal Dragoons take La Folie
The Dragoons du Roi take La Folie!



Meanwhile, elsewhere on the field, Orkney's British stepped off to the attack, supporting the initial advances of Lottum to their right. They looked impressive in their serried lines of red and colorful banners!

The British and Prussian force begins its AttackThe British Center Attack advances on the Frenc  lines



The pressure of this attack, was immense upon the French, and so a die burning to-and-fro began on the French left flank. Troops that had been headed to bolster the flank were turned about and rerouted to the developing crisis below the salient. The command stand for this flank began moving back toward the center as well. Goesbriand was burning a lot of dice and should have started requesting additional resources from Villars. He did not. Likewise, Villars should've been more involved with BOTH the Left flank and Boufflers in the center, but, he, too seemed overwhelmed with the extent of the attack and made a brief attempt to head to the left to get closer to the action, But then the Dutch assailed the French right under D'Artagnan.

The Dutch Advance!

The Dutch attack was very deliberate and slow, but with the Dutch Guards leading, very threatening. This was added to by a flanking maneuver by a force of Bothmer's Dragoons through the Lanieres woods. This was checkmated by D'Artagnan with his Listerois Dragoons who met the enemy at the stream in the woods and the rest of the battle was spent by both forces taking pot-shots from the brush, but no one venturing to cross the stream under fire. D'Artagnan seemed unflustered by this attack and felt sure he could hold them off, especially when the unseen gun arrived!

The Standoff in the Langieres Wood


The French left was also coming under increased pressure. British Dragoons has filtered through the wood, supported by some Austrian Line units, and were taking pot-shots at the French earthworks as well.


Pepper's Dragoons Advance on the Royal Italians!
Pepper's and Hay's Dragoons moving forward to fire on the Royal Italiens


To add insult to injury, it was at this moment that Wither's force finally arrived. He immediately invested La Folie with the Dragoons du Roi trapped inside, and spread his force out along the river to fire upon and engage the Bavarians on the left.

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The center was heating again with the Dutch overrunning two batteries, and confronting the Garde Francaises in their works! The British closed in a beautiful sweep of infantry. Again, Villars seemed mesmerized by the attack, and, even the veteran commander of the Center, Boufllers, did little more than respond unit by unit to the enemy's attacks. No one was looking at the big picture or trying to form a concerted plan of defense! (No dice had been sent by Villars from his Command bucket for two 4R cards! Goesbriand was desperately low on dice, but said nothing to Villars. Both were very far apart even for Villars, a 5 rated commander, so sending dice was problematical)

The Center Attack Comes Home
The British-Dutch center attack strikes home!


At that moment the word rang out from the left flank that that command was out of Dice!!! The French inserted a Concede card in their deck and retired, but , as in the real battle, the British were in no mood to pursue as their attacks had cost more than a few dice as well!


Tactical Analysis

The French had earthworks, two 5 rated commanders, and due to the layout of objective markers being predominately on the French side, the allies were forced to attack. True they were outnumbered, but most of that was in horse and guns which the terrain and deployments greatly reduced in usefulness. The horse couldn't be brought to bear until the infantry battle was won, and guns are far more useful on defense than offense in this period because of their limited mobility.

The French lost because of two factors:

1. The key players on their side were inexperienced and didn't keep tabs on their resource dice. Goesbriand needed to more forcefully apprise his commander of his lack of dice, which he lost rapidly once Withers got untracked, and he began dancing back and forth between fighting on the left and plugging the breach created by the Prussians. His vacillations spent dice to no good purpose.

2. The inexperienced player manning both Villars and Boufflers was totally distracted and swamped by the task of prioritizing his commitments. He never decided firmly where Villars was to be, and never assigned his command dice over the last two 4R cards! Boufflers did an admirable job with the simple task of defending works, but the Villars player never seemed to understand that it was his job to get command resources to his subordinates and form and stick to a plan.

By way of information: At the games end, Goesbriand had no dice (precipitating the Concede loss), Boufflers had 23, and D'Artagnan had 31. Villars had 70 Dice! In the Allied Forces, Eugene/Withers had 35, Orkney/Lottum, in the center, had 65, and Orange and his Dutch, had a mere 17 (accounting for their hesitant advance). Marlborough, as CinC, had 25 in his bucket at game's end.

It is worth noting that the French with one bucket empty, had only 18 fewer dice, BUT 70 of their dice were of no use to the fighting forces or sub-commands! They were undistributed in the CinC's bucket!

To paraphrase Olivier's filmed Hamlet, " This was a tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind!"

The ultimate rule of command. DO something! Make a decision! Worse than a bad decision is none at all!

Conclusions

The game played smoothly and well, with six players playing a total of over 52 units with over 550 28mm foot figures, 152 mounted figures, 10 guns with over 50 crew-not to mention powder wagons, General's Carriages, and Louis XIVs Wine wagon! From beginning to end just about 4 hrs. Everyone agreed this was a great scenario.

Rules and Play critique.

The added rules were:

'Australian Rules' for using Yellow Dice-Worked very well.
Proximity Rules for red Dice expenditure- was a great success and will be standard.
The new 4R card rules from the March 20th email- These worked just as expected in all ways.
The "Hidden" gun-worked well. It is an example of added creative rules that DFII accepts so readily. This can allow conformance to historical accounts in a very original fashion.
The rules for "special" commanders was another seamless and easy way to reflect history. In this case, Lottum's expert handling of his attack on the salient, and Withers well executed flanking maneuver.
Wither's threat without "Truly Being There" and the delayed arrival, added suspense for both sides, and it took the French a bit figure out that the figures really weren't there yet, thus delaying their capture of La Folie.

Next

I am really growing fond of recreating historical battles and plan to do Oudenarde next, and I'm intending a whole series smaller Spanish battles using my less used Spanish figures, and my new Portuguese. I'll be adding some Catalan Hapsburg Spanish as well. Can't wait to get Berwick in command! For those new to this Blog, Ramillies was done earlier this year in March, and the AAR may be found here in the 2015 archive. There is also a battle report on Waterloo as if fought 100 years earlier by Marlborough in the 2013 archive.

Building Armies: A Fifty Year Perspective

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There are few great advantages to growing older, but one of them is experience, and recognizing mistakes-and being wise enough to not repeat them. As long as one avoids being too much of a "I told you so!" critic of people as you see them repeating many of your earlier mistakes, and have the grace to allow them to make their own choices, one can share one's experiences and perhaps save some few people the pain and cost of certain recurring bad decisions.

One of the things that acts as a restraint on the growth of the wargaming hobby is the cost of entry. Whether a historical wargamer's attempt to create a napoleonic army fit for the Emperor, or building a fantasy army, those figures, their stands, banners, and terrain, cost money, and then they have to be painted-which is going to take a bit of time, or cost additional sums to have painted. This is not a hobby for instant gratification! No matter how you cut it, your entry into the hobby will cost several hundred dollars and weeks, perhaps months of time. The cost and the time is further multiplied by bad decisions that many a hobbyist has made as they plan and assemble their armies. More than a few would-be wargamers end up having spent their hundreds of dollars, and spent months of time, only to have a useless force that they are no longer interested in, and a LOT of unpainted figures that they will try to sell to recoup much of their investment. Even long term gamers often have more of their investment OFF the table in their original bags than on the table in play!

The first mistake is not settling on a FEW periods and, instead, trying to have something in each period. Even worse is following the next "trendy" period or strange off-shoot every time they show up rather than finishing periods you have already started. There is an argument for having forces in a few watershed periods-say early and late Horse and Musket; Some form of modern, and maybe some well provided for era of the ancient or medieval/renaissance wars. But trying for every period is only going to lead to one of two results: A smattering of half-finished armies, or a number of miniature armies that are too small to illustrate a true army and have too many figures to use in skirmish rules. These small armies also don't allow for much variety as there's not much you can cover in 12-16 units that is very representative of the 50,000 plus armies of most periods.

This attitude also leads to a "next shiny thing" syndrome where the gamer paints a little of this and a little of that and it doesn't add up. Sure, you have the Guard Grenadiers, and the flashy Carabiniers or Mousquetiers, but come up short in the line units, and everything ends up in the wrong proportions. This not helped much by army lists or historical orgs, as the gamer's priorities are seldom on the ordinary and somehow the showy, special units always get painted first. If the gamer is also building armies in several periods, this is even more magnified as he distributes his attentions over the periods-and never does get back to finishing the "ordinary" units.

Trust me, limit your attentions to a very few periods, but flesh them out in detail and completeness. Build LARGE armies that reflect the make-up and appearance of their armies, not only in proportions, but numbers. When you get them reasonably developed, you'll really have something of value, not only to yourself but others, instead of a mish-mosh of fragments. It also offers the opportunity to create the support elements and diorama vignettes that can add so much to the tables appearance. You actually have time to add little done units to the tabletop beyond just the usual suspects that appear on every tabletop in the hobby. The unique, unusual and one-of-a-kind detail piece is the icing on the cake of a complete, and large, army. This may be a carriage, some form of wagon or engineering equipment, a HQ scene, or a Siege Train. They may not have a direct role on the game action, but their presence will add a LOT to the color of the game, and along with the terrain, add much to the diorama and illusion of the game.

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I might also suggest that you don't make the mistake of joining a certain period because it's so popular in your area, or among your current group of friends. You must care about your area of concentration and be motivated by your strong interest. Just doing Napoleonics or ACW because the other guys are doing it is not a good enough reason or motivation. If your interest is the Franco-Prussian, War of Spanish Succession, or AWI, then do that. Generally, you can always sit in on a game using other gamer's figures, while you build in your particular area of interest. Trust me, the world will not run out of Napoleonic , WWII,or ACW wargamers, and by setting off in a new direction you will add to the hobby's variety and local gaming options.

There is one caveat, if you strike off in a period apart from the local group; You must build both sides. This may cost more, and take a bit more time to get to critical mass, but it will, in the long run, be the better answer. People move, groups break up, you may move to another city, state, or country. The only way to insure that your investment in figures and gaming is protected is to be independent of other's whims, and the twists and turns of local game groups.

This, in my mind also applies to issues of figure scale. If you are building both sides you may select the scale you feel best suits your period and personal tastes. I chose 10mm for my Franco Prussian as I want to have the impression of large armies fighting on the corps level. Even with my 4X12 foot table, I felt the number of units I wanted in play required 10mm figures. The Prussians are generally pretty monochrome-even with a touch of Bavarians and hussars- so not much in the uniform area there, but in smaller scales the French Imperial outfits really don't show to their best, but 10mm (or 15mm) does allow for some detail. If I were doing skirmish or even battalion level actions, I would certainly go to 28s. To the contrary, ACW and later wars, including WWII, offer few arguments for anything much larger than 10s or 15s-unless you are really caught up in detailing armor.

For my favorite period, the WSS, I can't imagine anything smaller than 28s. The uniforms of the WSS, SYW, AWI, and Napoleonic period are simply too striking and colorful to not want to capture it in a good sized figure. I would also maintain that the intrinsic value of an army done in 28s will always be worth more in later resale (if only by your widow) than any other scale. Aesthetically, 28s are, in the horse and musket era, always more desirable and easier to sell. In fact, even non-gamers will appreciate these larger figures in a way that they would never react to 15s,10s, or smaller. Along the way I've sold several armies and the 28s always sold more quickly, and brought a better price (and a higher percentage of initial investment) than smaller scales.

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It should also be noted that, in most cases, the investment in figures in all scales does not vary much. The usual course of action by gamers in 15s, 10s, or 6s is to simply put more figures into a unit-capitalizing on their cost savings by adding mass. So instead of 12-18 28s, the 15s are units of 16-24, and the 10s are 30 or more to a unit. It is not uncommon for armies made in smaller scales to have more units to boot. The gamer feels he saving a lot more than he truly is in the smaller scales.

There are exceptions, If you are doing very large scale actions with many units that need to fit on a reasonably sized table, or if you only have access to small 4x6 foot gaming spaces, or intend to maintain the per figure savings by organizing units with the same number of figures as larger scales, or live in circumstances where space and money are strongly delimited-then smaller scales or skirmish rules will be the answer, and all other considerations are moot.

However, all things being equal-you'll never lose by choosing 28s as your scale. I would also encourage you, if you lack the skill or time, to get the figures painted to the highest quality you can afford. You will find, just as in many other products such as jewels, cars, and art, that you'll always get more back out of an investment in quality than if you settle for just OK. You'll also have the enjoyment of using really elegant materials while you own them. If you are going to pay for quality figures, it makes no sense to paint them in a crude and slap-dash manner. This also argues to avoid the occasional "group projects" where everyone paints dozens of figures in a rush to meet a deadline game at some show. The game is often a disappointment, and looking at the pathetically painted figures afterwards will only remind you of that fact.

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Always buy the best castings available. You are only going to buy them once so why pay for anything less than the best? Better figures always paint up better, and are more impressive when finished. Do your research and seek out the best figures for your purposes. Now, you can have an aesthetic goal for an old-time look and decide that certain figures suit your plan even though they are less detailed, or not as well animated as more modern castings-I think of Willies, Spencer Smith, or even (gasp) Scruby's in this regard, but other than some design purpose such as this, go for the best you can. Always be on the look-out for lines that have unique posing, unusual special figures, or an unusual variety of posing within a type that allow your army units be each have their own personality and unique look-even when the uniforms are identical.

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Flag your units in all periods where this is correct. They add a great deal of color and distinctiveness. Detail them out as much as possible with ferrules, cravats, and tassels. Flag Dude, Maverick, and Flags of War have great selections of standards in all periods. If possible, and historically correct, use more than one standard. Two Standards really make for a impressive visual impact. Mu infantry units generally have the King's Color and the Colonel's. I also decided to use a heroic style in my standards, opting, in many cases for a slightly larger than scale standard (10-15%) in the interest of really making them pop-out on the table.

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Finally, Pay a bit of attention to mounting the units with a proper amount of terraining. Make sure the bases are thick enough that the units may be handled using the bases rather than constantly handling the figures. Label the units on the HQ stand so that they have a visible, but not obtrusive, identity and are not treated as some generic unit, but one with a history and traditions! Let them add to their history in your games!

For examples of much of the above, please use the button on this website to go to the Yahoo! site and click on the photos section under albums for WSS troops over 116 photos of my admittedly large WSS forces are shown, as well as photos of my FPW 10s in another album .

Remember, these are just my opinions, but they are the result of 50 years of being in this hobby, which doesn't make them right, but does mean they have a firm and extensive basis!






General Sherlock Holmes

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One of the aspects of war-games that I personally enjoy, but is rarely commented upon, is the joy of solving the puzzle. People are used to solving many other forms of puzzle games, such as the solution of a crossword puzzle, the deciphering of a code or rebus, the final pieces placed in a jigsaw puzzle, or figuring out the best play of a card in almost any multiplayer card game-poker, cribbage, or whist.

War-games, especially the best of them in my opinion, have some aspects of solving a puzzle. You look at the field of play, note the terrain, the pieces in play, estimate the motives and nature of your opponent, and form a plan to win a battle. Many aspects of the puzzle are unknown and must be, to use Sherlockian terminology, deduced. What is that enemy unit worth? What is the best line of attack? How do I best utilize the rules of the game to my advantage? The evidence (clues) are assembled, and the solution to the puzzle is winning the wargame. Some people do this better than others.

In war, that is exactly the skill of the best generals. They seldom know the location, type, or capabilities of every piece in play, particularly the enemy pieces. They sometimes, particularly in transitional periods of warfare, don't really know all the "rules", which is why bad generals are often accused of fighting the last war-the one whose rules they do know! What they are required to do is discover the best ways to use their units, given the terrain, and the rules that ARE in play. They must SOLVE the puzzle.

This is frequently not required in war-games. In fact, some rules writers go to great lengths to avoid asking this of players. Everything is transparent. Most factors are completely known. Terrain effect is extremely predictable. Turn sequence is fixed. Morale breakpoints are known to all. Not to ask too much of the gamers, the writers then give them plentiful hints on play, often to the extent of providing an extensive play-through of the rules, with strong suggestions on play. This is the equivalent of giving a general a drones-eye view of the battle field, a 100% accurate OOB for all forces, including the enemy, and a trip into the future to see how the current "rules of war" should be best played.

In truth, this is probably good business, as it makes even the dullest gamer "smarter." No surprises. No need to think about things, its all quite self evident, and VERY obvious. The only thing left to account for is the plain dumb luck of dice rolls. A loss is then easily ascribed to bad fortune, not bad planning.

However, it takes the gamer and the game much farther from any passing similarities to actual command in war. Why do certain generals win and others lose? Education? Nope, intelligence has a role, but many a military school graduate has been outshone by some precocious leader from outside the system. Luck? Certainly that plays a role, but there is some truth that good generals make their own luck. Technology? Certainly, though through much of the horse and musket period the technology was essentially identical. Doctrine? Yes, though if any war lasted for more than a couple of years the doctrinal difference generally soon disappeared as the loser began to copy the winning pattern of "play." No, it all too often boils down to which general was a better puzzle or problem solver. Which leader or leaders saw the situation more clearly and formulated a solution to the battle before them, better, faster, and more cleverly than their opponent.

Marlborough, Villars, Maurice, Washington, Napoleon, Wellington, Grant all share this amazing capacity for solving the puzzle strategically, operationally, and tactically.

In our own group, there is one player that absolutely gets the interactions and hardly ever loses. (That isn't me!) There are a couple of players whose luck always seems to be bad, and defeat is a common outcome. They play the game, but haven't yet seen the answers. One of our gamers seems to have a reasonable grasp on the WSS solution, but was absolutely crushed in a recent FPW game when he tried the same solutions with very different problems. He failed to see that it was not the same puzzle.


In one of my latest blog postings, "E=MC2+DFII", I quoted a list from Einstein for solving problems-Number 10 was especially meaningful to me. " Learn the rules, and then play better!"
It is a dicta that I strongly encourage for new DFII players to explore. DFII is not a game where things are self-evident. Oh, it's a very simple game in terms of mechanics, but the interaction of those rules, and the implications of play are not obvious. The game rewards repeat plays and growing experience and perception of the best way to solve the DFII "puzzle." This requires a bit of patience and not assuming that your initial effort reflects the game, when it is well played. You must solve the puzzle. It is worth the effort, I guarantee you!

You must also grasp that the solution may be indirect and not simply discovering a sure pattern. On that note, I leave you with my favorite exchange between Holmes and Col. Ross from "The Mystery of the Silver Blaze':

" Is there any other point to which you wold wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

" The dog did nothing in the night-time."

" That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Have fun, think about puzzle-solving, and I recommend reading Sherlock Holmes very highly. He would have been a very good general.

E=MC2 + DF2 Happy

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Well, after a month or more of DVD mailings, rule discussions on the Yahoo! Forum, and working on new directions for DFII, I finally realized that January was coming to a close, and I had not posted a blog entry in the month! I am very proud of my record now of 20 months of at least one posting, and most months two or three postings, on rule design, hobby crafting, history, and Repique Rule publication. So here's January's posting, and I hope to post several in February.


Albert Einstein contributed more to Physics than anyone since Newton, and fundamentally changed how science sees and describes the universe, but he failed in attempting his last great life's goal and that was the Unified Field Theory that linked all of his observations about Relativity, Time and electromagnetism into one unified and elegant theory. This unified Theory of Everything (now a movie title about Steven Hawking) has remained the goal of every great physicist and mathematician and has led to many discoveries, new theories of matter and a galaxy of new terms, such as the Higgs-Boson, String Theory, and the pervasive Dark Matter. However, no unified theory has yet been proposed-though the search for it has yielded much new knowledge and inspired modern science.

When it is discovered it will undoubtedly be what scientists and mathematicians call an elegant solution. What is an elegant solution? See: http://www.quora.com/What-makes-a-mathematical-proof-elegant

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This search for some elegance is one of the central things I was seeking in the design of Die Fighting and Die Fighting II. I attempted to do this by unifying procedures and concepts throughout the game. It was the source of making ALL procedures, whether movement, fire combat, melee combat, and to a great degree rally all use the same process centered on the Free Dice Table to decide outcomes. It allows all the variables for actions to be placed on a single page table that uses a common cross-referencing of added dice or re-rolls vs. specific factors that influence that given action, whether moving, being the attacker or defender, or attempting to rally. Unlike many games which propose a different mechanic for moving a unit, and then different mechanics and tables for fire and melee, and yet another for rallies; DFII uses one mechanic and one table.

This concept is extended to the effect of terrain on movement and combat, where a simple common process of simply treating any die rolls of the terrain class or lower as not counting toward the total (No 1s,2s. or 3s count for movement or combat in a Class II wood, for instance). If you know the class of a terrain, then you know exactly how to deal with its effect on moving or any form of combat-no need to check a table or rules. Its always consistent and the same for all processes.

Instead of stipulating a different procedure for a lot of deployment procedures, maneuvers, or certain disrupting activities such as mounting or dismounting mounted units, entering or leaving a structure, voluntary retreats, or interpenetrating a unit, I opted to group them under The Rules of Six, again, a unifying concept that is consistent and easily remembered. No tables, no endless varieties of process, just a simple unifying concept.

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All of this works because of an underlying commonality of dice usage for all procedures, which provides the variable outcomes. There are those that will maintain that they can calculate the exact time that events took in battle, and a system such as DFII cannot connect to these "real" times. This I believe may be the MOST unrealistic view on war and battles that can be held. Certainly one finds little support for this in Clausewitz, or in the battle narratives from participants, or from historians from Fortescue to Keegan. If there is one fact about battle that is paramount is that, other than in the broadest ranges, no event was as surely predictable, as certain in duration, or as firmly calculable in result, as many war-games and wargamers seem to want them to be. Nor can the people who follow this conceptual course prove their case, as exceptions, variability, and the unforeseen result, lurk throughout warfare. Far better to simply admit the obvious and deal with it as a firm factor in war-games. DFII does.


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This search for consistency, elegance, and unifying processes also forms the basis for the stipulated victory conditions in DFII. They are clearly stated. Have two commands go empty at any time during play and you have been routed! If one command goes empty and remains so at the end of a turn, you have been decisively defeated, and if you disengage by using the Concede card you have suffered a narrow defeat. The last by either point values or in campaigns can allow the player to fight another day and with honor. No quibbling, debates after the game, or equivocal endings. There is even the case of the agreed upon draw that may be set by scenario design by the game master.

My goal is to continue to explore this whole concept of a unified design with consistent and integrated mechanics further with DFII as I play more over time and receive more reports from gamers playing the game elsewhere. The same similar approach in mechanics and rule integration will be pursued in Die Marching, and I hope the two sets together will magnify, extend, and improve the nature and outcome of battles on the table-top. A campaign certainly will make concessions and refusals of battle a more effective strategy and one that most war-games seldom consider. I am also intent on exploring many new ways to deal with rule books and rule writing as I have done with DFII with video and slideshows and topic specific PDFs, replacing the weighty rule book. I promise that I will not incorporate any Einstenian Physics into the rules, nor will I think them more than they are a simple diversion and fun way to play with history.

But, above all, a search for elegance , simplicity, and playability is the best of possible goals. I also recommend rule #10 below,to all gamers learning a new rule set, as well as life:


EmilysQuotes.Com-life-lessons-advice-wisdom-intelligent-Albert-Einstein-inspirational

Next?

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So what next for Repique Rules? Some things are pretty easy to predict, and others will be a mix of my customer’s requests and my whims.

Firstly, I will, of course, have the Die Marching campaign rules in mind. Die Marching actually preceded Die Fighting in the planning stage, but was then given a lower priority until Die Fighting was fully developed into Die Fighting II. There was an added delay as the new publishing method was worked through and a number of issues concerning doing a multi-media rule set were resolved. I am pretty satisfied with the current state of DFII, and am now planning to move on to the completion of Die Marching.

Die Marching will be closely integrated with the DFII system, including the use of the four colored dice, and will reflect a number of mechanics that will be very familiar to Die Fighting II players. It, too, will be done in multi-media format, and will be made available either singly or as part of a two-disk set with Die Fighting II. My target for shooting and editing is Summer 2015 with and early Fall 2015 release. The system will be more than just a battle generator, but will involve true strategic planning and movement. I hope to make an umpire strictly optional, and aim for a game that provides real reasons for battles and results that have both tactical and strategic consequences. It will minimize the usual "one big battle and the campaign is over" curse of many systems, and will allow for quick generation of scratch battles, and even imagi-nation applications. It will be multi period and centered on the Horse and Musket period.

However, this Spring I’m going to publish a couple of DFII add-ons. A professionally designed, high quality, set of phase cards. One set is a blue themed deck, and the other is a red themed deck. They will be of the highest quality and in a Tarot sized card format. I am also going to do deluxe officer decks for DFII for use with the card draw method of officer assignment. These will be like baseball cards, but with Stats, bios, personality quirks, and the Good day, Average, Day, Bad Day ratings mentioned in the Officer Rating PDF. The initial periods will be the WSS, SYW, Napoleonic, and ACW. I would also like to do FPW, AWI, and French Revolution over time. The initial sets will be out before Historicon 2015.

I am also working on a Spanish Civil War through 1942 WWII application of the DF system. Yes, tanks and planes!

I will be exploring a Die Flying (WWI) application. This at the request of Chris Caudill

I am considering a quasi-skirmish application aimed primarily at the AWI-especially 40mm figures.

But all of the latter items are "In The Future" and will only be concentrated on when the Card Decks and Die Marching are completed.

A Little Amuse-Bouche

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Whew! This project has been very challenging from beginning to end, and the last week was no exception. Packing up all those orders and getting them to the postoffice and mailed was a major task! (Note to self: NEVER let a mailing of Pre-publication orders coincide with the first week of holiday mailing!)

Just as every other step along the way, it got solved, and it feels good to have the rules, as different as they are, and as different as the publication method most certainly is, on the way to your perusal and reaction. I feel like the writer of a broadway musical must feel when the curtain goes up on opening night!

I, again, thank you all for taking a chance on this unique ruleset and its unusual packaging.

Speaking of the package, it is,as described in all my previous postings, a pretty extensive amount of materials for a mailing weight of 1.7 oz.! Truly an amazing amount of easily accessible info in a small package.

However, you know my penchant for adding something not mentioned. In the original edition of Die Fighting I included two cards that were never previously mentioned-Creative X factor, and the Concede! card. The former has been lightly used, but Concede became more important over the development of DFII. Well I’ve added four new cards to the Printable Phase Card PDF for DFII. What are they and why were they added?

Die Fighting II has an unusually large capacity for expansion of game players-essentially unlimited-except for figure, players and dice, but not the rules or game play. There is much more to be developed over time, I am sure, but I think people will be very pleased with its ability to do a large game. But as I was nearing the end of packaging the design, and well after all videotaping and editing was done, I did begin to reflect on an aspect of wargaming I had not given as much consideration to-Solo Gaming! It’s the antipodes of the large convention game experience, but an amazingly large number of wargamers game by themselves either from circumstance or choice.

Die Fighting II has all the attributes of many games that use cards for either activation or sequencing (two different things) in that the solo gamer can shuffle the opponent’s deck and not be too sure of what’s in that deck in DFII, or the exact sequence, giving him some challenges even when the other side is being played by the deck. But, it’s still through him, and some gamers will just not play the other side with as must gusto as their side, and may actually “Cheat” a little in trying to anticipate the deck’s content and probable next actions. (Not you, of course). So I thought these four cards up as a way to salt the pool of potential cards that will be used to choose the actual phase deck as explained in DFII. If they make the final phase deck for turn they add another level of challenges for the gamer, that should increase their enjoyment of the game. Three of the cards would be added to the “Dummy” player’s potential deck pool, but one (Lose Turn) would be placed in the solo players card pool.

However, It occurred to me after they were added to the sheets that these same cards could be added by very specific scenario demands, or historical justification, to standard multi-player game, but I would be very careful in their use in a regular game, and very specific on their justification and how many times they are used.

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They are: Match Phase, where whatever phase card the “enemy” (you) have showing from their last phase, the “dummy” side gets for its card. Exchange Phases, where both armies act on the other army’s card! Add Phase, where upon turning this card the Dummy player would have a card drawn at random and unseen from the pile of cards that were not selected for the phase deck and act on it in ADDITION to the next card in their deck!!, and, finally, Lose Phase, on turning this card the card play immediately moves on to the next enemy (Dummy) phase bypassing the solo gamer’s phase (this would be placed in the solo player’s potential card deck!).

I think this will make the solo version of DFII a pretty fun and appealing wargame!

We’ll talk more when the packet arrives!



Thanksgiving Needs a Saving Roll!

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Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S.- a rather strange holiday where no gifts are given, religious aspects are peripheral, people routinely overeat, and political arguments are many as diverse family members assemble. There is the consumption of a turkey, a lot of alcohol, and a fascination with violent sport. I think it can be said that the bulk of the thanksgiving offered on that day is directed at being thankful it will soon be over!

That being said, I find myself very thankful for a number of good friends and fellow wargamers.

First of all, the core crew of gamers and playtesters. Terry Shockey, Chris Caudill, John Mumby, Ed Meyers and Greg Rold have been there for almost all games, and experiments with Zouave II and DFII. Absolutely essential to the development of these games. Great company to boot! Thank You, guys, you’re the best!

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Chris Caudill, John Mumby, Fred Avner, Adolfo Laurenti, Iain Black,
Terry Shockey, Ed Meyers, Greg Rold, Bob Jones

There are good guys that have traveled from afar to attend games, Getzcon, and this year’s video production of DFII. Fred Avner, Iain Black, Ray Levesque, Pat McGuire and Adolfo Laurenti have spent time and treasure to attend games and the August “Special” events. They have added a great deal of fun and insights to our games and the development of DFII. Thank You.

There are those that have yet to visit Chez Jones but have been long time supporters of my designs such as Peter Anderson, Tony Hawkins, Ian Johnston Gow, and Darren Webber. Many a suggestion came from this group, particularly from Tony Hawkins and the group in Norfolk. Thanks to you as well.

But I would also like to thank three friends that have each shared the trials and the tribulations of designing war-games, shared their creativity and insights freely, and provided good friendship and irreplaceable support over the years. Their intelligence and shared conversations has been, and is, the greatest enjoyment I receive in wargaming. They are:


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Jim Getz (L.) and Brent Oman (R.) at Getzcon

Jim Getz, I have known jim for over 40 years, and in that time he has been a sounding board for my many “strange” ideas, a voice of reason when wargaming’s penchant for silly pettiness would rear its ugly head, and wise counsel on many a rule set development. He’s the best measure of a good friend, and he’s even forgiven me for naming a convention after him! Thanks, Jim, for many decades of shared friendship and great memories.

Brent Oman, who I have known for 20 years, and was just a kid when we started to develop Piquet. His sharp mind and keen sense of simplicity and directness served Piquet well, and has led to his excellent Field of Battle designs. We were a productive pair “Back in the Day”, and he continues to be a source of many ideas and insights as we play reciprocal “Home and Away” games of FOB and DF at our respective houses. I look forward to our continuing friendship. Thank You, Brent.


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Sam Mustafa astounded at the size of a 28mm figure!

Finally, a much more recent friend, Sam Mustafa, has provided a constant example of productivity, great design, and a penchant for always trying something new, which I like to think is a shared trait between us. In a hobby that sometimes puts too much emphasis on the same old-same old, and the “Tried and True” I have always admired his willingness to strike out in new directions, and put his ideas into tangible, published, rules. (For a current look at his efforts, see: http://www.sammustafa.com/honour/2014/11/blucher-podcast-number-1/ )

Add these traits to the fact he is an actual practicing ( and employed) historian, and you can readily see why I always look forward to discussing design with him, and comparing notes on the pragmatic issues of publication. Thank You, Sam.

All of this is a testament to the fact that it is the human interaction and relationships that make this hobby so much fun, not solely the games and the soon forgotten losses and victories.

Yahoo! Silliness

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This is to let you know that the link to the Yahoo! forum on this site has been changed to the “New” addresses that Yahoo! arbitrarily dumped on everyone last night. If you cannot reach the forum on the old bookmark, you can go there using the new link here for the Forum Page. Refresh your browser and make sure the button on the main page to the left reads “Forum Page” (the old one did no).

You will be redirected to the Yahoo! site with the correct address. Bookmark that and you are fine. I have no idea exactly what Yahoo! did with their latest “fix”, but it certainly was a bit of bother!

The Battle of Curasso AAR and DFII

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On July 19th the usual suspects (minus Terry and John who ran off to Historicon) played a somewhat smaller Die Fighting! battle, primarily to test some final touches for DFII. We wanted to nail down the sequence details, test new officer ratios and its effect on the officer driven red resource dice generation, and test the final tweak to combat mechanics using black dice.

The battlefield was kept relatively simple with a single town, a few Class II hills and Class III forests, a few objective markers using a new method of die generation for the army that takes it, and the forces were reduced from the last game. OOBs for the two armies may be found at the Yahoo! Site in the Files section in folder labeled The Battle of Curasso.

There was a hill on the Allied Left-French Right.

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A small village (Curasso) in the center.
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A small hill on the French left, which they occupied in a refused flank formation, and wood on the Allied right flank that the Austrian-Prussian Allied forces deployed to the right of in a compact formation.

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But before recounting the Battle, a little background on the rules used and the thinking of the commanders prior to deployment.

The Rules and the Tactical Thoughts of the Commanders.

This game was essentially used to test again several key changes and new concepts for Die Fighting II.

1. A new card phase sequencing procedure that will eliminate “card counting” (“Ahhh!” His remaining card must be the Reload, Rally, and Restore Card!&rdquoWinking and also add some tension to play.

2. Further testing of the new Officer Leadership Dice method of generating resource dice. This had been tested in our previous engagements in June, but we wanted to confirm those findings. This also involved new officer command stand ratios and limitations.

3. Further Testing of the new Black Die combat resolution procedures used in our previous two games.

4. Testing of the game resolution procedures, with some tweaks in response to a few minor issues that were raised.

All four areas were closely looked at and the general consensus was that it really brought the game together, increased tension and interest in decision making, and provided generally simpler and more dramatic outcomes that everyone enjoyed.

The new card sequencing method is very simple and easy to implement. The new phase decks will be made up of 12 potential cards for each side. The cards the numbers of each are: Specialized Actions (1 card), Officer Actions (1 Card), Cavalry Action (2 Cards), Infantry Actions (2 Cards), Artillery Action (1 Card), Rally, Restore, Reload, and Retreat (1 Card), The Creative X Factor (1 Card), Concede (1 Card), and two new cards - Brilliant Command Moment (1 Card), and Command Focus (1 Card). That is a total of 12 possible cards.

All the cards retain their same definitions from Die Fighting, except for The Rally, Restore, Reload, and Retreat card, which is used similarly, except that Retreat is added. Any unit that has a black die or dice, and is unrallied, will roll the black dice attached to that unit and retreat that distance from the enemy and toward the board edge.

The new cards will be defined in Die Fighting II.

Using just the eight basic cards-removing Creative X factor, Concede, and the two new cards- the gamers each shuffle their decks, and remove two cards which are set aside unseen. The remaining six cards are the phase deck for each side. Note that both sides decks will likely be different, not just in sequence, but in deck make-up! Your army may have double moves for infantry or Cavalry, but nothing for Artillery, Officers, or even more difficult, no RRRR card! You will never know the exact capacity for actions for your side or the enemy’s-even down to the last card!

This is an excellent change for DF, but may require one option I’ll mention in the AAR.

The use of Officer Dice as the initial generation of Resource dice for each command was adapted somewhat from the last game. We allowed each Officer to roll his Command dice twice prior to play-EXCEPT for the CinC who got a single roll. These rolls allowed a command to place the total rolled in red dice in their command’s bucket. Prior to battle the CinC could distribute his dice to any or all of his sub commander’s buckets as he chose, or he could hold onto as many as he desired.
Thereafter, the commanders would roll on the RRRR card and replenish their Resource Dice by that total. The CinC would also roll, but could only distribute the dice on an RRRR card, and by using the the same procedure as distributing command dice-hoping to roll a higher number of pips that the inches that separated him from the command stand he wished to aid. It worked flawlessly.

The black dice procedures completely replaced those in the rule book. The core concept was that if you lost a combat roll by more than 6 pips (which you could “buy down&rdquoWinking then you were forced to retreat in disorder 6” PLUS the roll of whatever Black dice were attached to that unit. You were again open to retreat on the next RRRR card. This is a very neat rule change and will be standard in DFII.

The game resolution rules were the final development of changes that started many games ago. In essence, if any command suffers a loss to one of its units that it cannot pay from its stock because it is out of Red resource dice, then all units in that command are considered disordered, and may only use whatever Green Dice they are entitled to on the Free Dice Table, and any Yellow Command dice that are sent to roll against any further combat attacks of any sort. They may not advance upon or initiate any form of combat upon the enemy. They may only defend. They may retreat using any Green dice, Command Dice, and black dice for distance. This must be directly away from the enemy and toward a board edge.

If during the turn, an RRRR card appears, they may roll for resource dice, and all units that do not have a black die are considered ordered again, and may behave as usual without any penalty.

Needless to say, this has a tendency to snowball and disabuse any commander of continuing on for much longer, and, at the very least to place the Concede card in the next turn’s Phase deck!

ALL of the new mechanics worked like a charm, and a great time was had by all, even the losers.

The Battle:

The battle was a pretty straight up one with deployments as stated above. For this game we rolled for Commander capabilities and both sides had some disappointments-the Allies Austrian Command was a dismal “Inept” with only 1 command die! (eugene had been badly wounded in a recent previous battle and was feverish from his wounds.) The ratings of units were mixed, though again the Austrians were a sorry lot for the allies and the French Left wing had some distinct problems as well. See the folder “ Battle of Curasso” in the Files section of the Yahoo! site.

We used a command ratio of about 9:1 for both forces with each side having 3 commands of about 9-10 units each and 1 CinC, of course. DFII will use a significant higher ratio for all forces, with none lower than 6:1 and most hovering around 8-10 to one. A few (Russians at Narva, Prussians in 1806) may have as many as 12-14 units to a single command stand!

On the initial Resource dice roll the lowly Austrian commander rolled a 3, which even with the CinC augmenting their supply was only a dozen or so. Likewise, the French Left wing was woefully short of dice.

I played, along with Ed Meyers, on the Allied side, and after noting our command and unit rating weaknesses decided we should play defense with the possible exception of on he left where the Dutch with superior command and good troops-especially the cavalry-offered a chance at Objective dice on the hill and some offensive gains.

Set-up

We used our usual system of die rolls for deployment with the winner forcing the other side to deploy one command. We got the better of that by far and had a pretty good idea of their positioning prior to our deployments.

We noted the refused, flank on our left, which might indicate weakness. However, since the woefully weak Austrians were opposite them we had no real way to exploit that possibility.

Objective markers for 8 dice were at most road exits 4-5 dice were to be had for sections of the village and the crossroads. The hill on the Allied left/ French Right was a 6 die hill. If captured, the commander of the capturing forces was allowed to roll the number of dice stated and collect that many additional red resource dice. ( Friendly road exits and village sections closest to each force had value only for the opposing side.)

Both commanders shuffled the phase cards, as described above, and we began.

The initial moves

We had initially decided to play defense on the allied side, but two of our first three cards were cavalry move! We lost all discipline and launched a strong cavalry attack by the Dutch on the left, and I thought I would demonstrate with the Austrian Cavalry on the Right in an attempt to draw the French forces to attack in that sector.

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The latter move was very wrongheaded. The French opened up with artillery which caused the Austrian horse several red die losses in addition to those spent on moving. I decided to pull the Austrians back out of harm’s way. All in all, it was an unnecessary loss of red dice, that served no purpose, and I didn’t have too much of a margin out there anyway, with less than a dozen dice in the bucket.

In the center I sent British foot and Dragoons forward to invest the village, which was matched by the French sending their center command forward to do the same. He immediately seized the part of the village closest to his forces denying bonus dice to the Allies. Likewise the Allies took the Church and denied the French bonuses as well. The only section worth anything to both side swas the blue roofed section and the crossroads itself.

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On the Allied left the Dutch moved out to take the hill and attack the French left Flank. The French also advanced. It appeared that this might be the decisive front. The Dutch had the most resource dice of any command, but the French command was loaded with Maison Rouge troops such as the Gendarmes, Mousquetiers, The French and Swiss Guards and the redoubtable French Carabinier du Roi. They also were under the command of the superb Boufflers. Overkirk may not prove to be his match.

Stalemate on the Allied Right; The center starts to look dodgy, and a decisive outcome on the Left.

As the turn developed, and the Allies got a second cavalry move, the Dutch galloped forth to seize the high ground and to deal with the French Horse opposing them. The Athlone horse support by the 2nd Jyske Danish Horse rode up the hill. The commander of the Dutch was worried enough about getting to the objective first that he expended couple of command dice to accelerate his advance. This would prove costly in time.


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The Athlone Horse did take the objective (a 6 die roll-netted 19 Resource dice added to the Overkirk bucket) but as they cleared the crest of the hill supported by the Danes, the saw immediately ahead the Mousquetiers du Roi and The Carabiniers du Roi. The lines crashed together in a massive cavalry battle. The Carabiniers were surprised by the Dutch advance and were still deploying from column. The edge certainly appeared to be with the Allied Horse.

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However, Villars and the redoubtable Boufflers, were both nearby and through their staff and command into the fray as they saw the importance of this engagement. They had not spent any command dice prior to this massive cavalry melee. They now sent every one they had to the Mousquetiers and carabiniere-eight in all!

Overkirk threw in his command dice as well but could only muster three command dice. Marlborough was preoccupied in the center and too far from the action to lend any help. Overkirk’s horse did have the advantage in the attack dice thanks to catching the carabiniers in minor disarray, but when the crunch came the French out rolled them, Bouflers officers had whipped the carabiniers into reasonable order prior to the melee, and the fact the French horse was Elite and Guard, gave them just enough to through the Allied horse backward in retreat at a combined loss about equal to what they had gained for the objective.


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In the center, the French aggressively advanced and took the sections of the village nearest to them, while the British sent Lloyd’s dragoons to take the town Church section. The remaining section was going to be a scrap(and the only section that had value for either army as the others only gave dice to their opponents if taken). The Bavarians under Maximilian led by the Royal Italians, respondent in their brown and red jackets advanced on this objective, The English sent Orkney’s First Foot forward in a race for the village.The Allies also sent Hay’s Dragoon off to secure part of the wood to their right as a precaution.

On the Allied Right the demonstration by the Austrian cavalry had proven unwise (since they lost dice to artillery fire, and they had so few) they were immediately called back and resumed their initial position on the flank. At that point the French opposite them were content to observe and evidenced no aggressive intentions.

For Want of an RRRR card.

On the last card turn for the final phase of the initial turn it became apparent that the Allies were not going to get an RRRR card in that turn. No added Resource dice, and no restoration of command dice until the second turn!!! This was ascribed to certain command confusion on the Allies part, but it had the added problem that the Allied force had used all the command dice on the left, and a few in the center-and they needed them replaced quickly!

They had lost the cavalry battle on the left, but that force was still pretty well set with Resource Dice, but without command dice it was not wise to continue the attack. They opted to wait.

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In the center, the French got an infantry move and narrowly won the race to the village. From their protected position the English First foot could not maintain any long term firefight-and didn’t have enough Resource dice to risk a high loss attack. It’s only choice was to retreat out of musket range.

Maximilian got a five dice roll of 16 dice to add to his command bucket and was feeling pretty good about stepping up his attack in the center.

Farther to the right, Hay’s Dragoons made it to the woods, but the French left, given their army’s successes across the front lines, had suddenly become more active and sent Boufflers Dragoons forwards to contest the wood, and the French line on the hill, made up of Navarre, Picardie, and Tallard, stepped off in unison advancing on the Allied Right Center.

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The Austrians were so bereft of Resource Dice, Command Dice, and any meaningful role in the fight, they simply hunkered down in their positions.

The English sent troops forward to stop the French advance, but they, too, were running short of Resource dice. There was going to be one chance, and that was to halt the French attack in the right center at the woods, at least momentarily until the Resource and command dice could be restored. A Massive firelight broke out in the woods and to the left of the woods.

At first, the Allies had some success as Hay’s Dragoons drove off the French Dragoons, but after this initial victory, the weight of the French attack began to tell. They artfully fired off several volleys that the English troops, outnumbered as they were, were hard pressed to equal. The last few English command dice were used by Orkney, but on the second volley the Orkney’s command ran out of Resource dice as well.

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This threw his command into disorder, and left them unable to carry out any offensive moves against the French. They were now easy pickings for the advancing French. They had no choice but to fall back. Marlborough glanced along his lines. The Dutch, as best had a stand off, the center was disordered, out of dice, and had to fall back. The Austrians were so bereft of quality, command, and resource dice as to be worthless.

He began a fall back on the next infantry card, and even though the Allies did FINALLY get a RRRR card on the last card of the turn-shuffled in the Concede for the next turn, which fortunately came up first!

Conclusions

The battle, though smaller than some of our past engagements, still mustered nearly 30 combat units on a side, plus four officer stands ( CinC and 3 sub-commanders) per side. So 65 units of all sorts were in play. It was resolved in roughly three hours, with quite a bit of action.

The Allies should have stuck to their plan to play more defensively, but were suckered into excessive aggressiveness by the added Infantry and cavalry moves in the initial turn. Just because you can move, doesn’t mean you should! We had a force with 1/3 of its effectives under inept command and lacking Resource Dice when the battle began. We had a legitimate chance for victory with the Dutch attack, but tactically were outmaneuvered. Other than the Dragoons taking the Church, the English should have been stalwart on the defense. WE simply misplayed the “hand” we were dealt.

The French, on the other hand, played their army extremely well, aggressive on their right with great concentration of command, and exploiting the perceived weakness as it appeared in the center.

However,the absence of an RRRR card on the first turn was decidedly crippling and put our already weak forces in dire straits very quickly.

The Tested Rules

All of the new changes were very much liked, though there was concern about the severity of missing an RRRR card which has, in the basic deck, a 25% chance of occurring. On one hand some players expressed a certain appreciation of the “Piquet” nature of such an adversity, while others wondered if it might be softened somewhat. This is especially true if it were to happen more than once. The average DF game runs about 4-5 turns.

Two suggestions were offered that could be used:

1. A player could only miss the RRRR card once in a game, on every turn thereafter that card is held out and the phase cards are selected from the remaining 7 cards, with the RRRR card shuffled in. This guarantees its appearance in the following turns.

2. If you have not received the RRRR card by your last phase card of the turn, you can sacrifice the last card of whatever type and do RRRR for any ONE command (not the whole army).

Web are testing these, and they will be offered as alternatives in DFII.

Now it’s on to the taping of DFII on August 23rd. The crew has been assembled and the rules are pretty well structured out. Lights! Cameras! Action! is the motto.

Opening Graphic DFII.001

Officers-Salute the Rank!

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In writing my last blog entry on “The Battle of Mouzon,” and thinking on the way both the FOB game and the DF game were affected by the quality of the officers, I began to reflect on larger issues of game design where officer quality impacts our view of battles, and our wargame designs.

I’ve often felt that game designers and players seem to reflect in their choice of rules their attitudes on many things, including the role of officers. In many games, especially during the Horse and Musket period, the officers are a slight up modifier or a penalty for the units they command. Gamers are very willing to give great consideration to all sorts of minor differences of drill, exaggerated “national differences”, conjectured capabilities of various units, or very slight advances in technology, but officers? Not so much.

Part of this stems, I think from the very simple fact that most present day gamers have not served in the military, and of those who have, the great majority have been enlisted ranks, with the highest command level of sergeant. This accounts for the great popularity of skirmish and squad level games, and the limited role of officers in larger battle’s gameplay. It also explains a certain lack of understanding and appreciation of the officer and the intricacies of command both organizationally and in terms of leadership.

And yet, when we look at the history of battles, officers on all levels, but especially of divisional, corps, or commanding officer responsibility, and their capabilities, are usually the surest predictor of success or failure of a fighting force, not the vaunted fierceness of a few troops, or the dominance of a particular organizational or technological advantage.

Gaston Bodart wrote a book called “Losses of Life in Modern War” In which he analyzed the losses of French and Austrian officers in those two armies over a 300 year period, and found that the French lost more officers in the period 1805-1815 than the Austrian’s did from 1618-1913! He used this information to suggest that the success of French arms in the Napoleonic Wars may have had something to do with leading from the front!

I have slowly come to the conclusion that Officers are another class of units that are important, and often unique, to an army’s functioning and chances of victory. Most rules have very elaborate and defined roles for the infantry units, the cavalry units, artillery, and even the engineering and support units, but officers, are, at best, a plus or minus 1 or 2 and often denote units that can move or not if they are located nearby (in command, etc.).

In DF they are MUCH more than that. They are the source of very necessary command dice to be added to rolls for movement, combat, and even more for morale. They can often determine the successful reaching of an objective, success in combat, and the alacrity of a rally. They are, however, not unlimited in initial number, they can be used up in a turn, and the distance that they may be “transmitted” to a unit is very much determined by the quality of a commander.

There is much more to them than just the command dice, as flawed generals, or exceptional leaders are given distinctive differences in their battle behaviors, and additional ways they can affect units.

They are now “units” in the game, just as the combat arms are, but their offensive capabilities are expressed through the movement, performance, and morale of units-just as they were in actual battle.


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If anything, in the first iteration of DF there were too many officers allowed on the tables provided. As we gamed over the years, we discovered the profound affect they have on battle in the DF rules. This has led to increasingly lower numbers of officers allowed. Our typical games in the WSS now have a ratio of about 1 officer per 6 units-plus a CinC. This is for armies of about 25-30 combat units. Certainly, even a very good army should not be at a ratio of less than 4-1including the CinC. In DFII one of the significant changes will be these ratios, which will probably be 5-1 for “the Best”, to 6-1 for average, to 7 or 8-1 for poorer armies (The Russians at Narva, The French in 1870, the Prussian 1806 army, etc.) This effectively halves the officer units from the initial DF rules.

I have also added a new method of profiling the officers. Rather than just rolling them up-which is still quite viable-I now write profiles on each officer stand that are based on history as to their overall capability and any flaws or advantages they may have. Each such profile is associated with a certain card in a suit (Hearts for French, Diamonds for allies-though sometimes other suits are used for Spanish, Bavarian, or Prussian leaders). Prior to the game the players pull cards from a deck of cards-this establishes their command structure (officers) for that game. They can then assign them to the various commands. Each officer profile has a priority number-the highest must be CinC. This insures that Marlborough, or Villars would have precedence in our WSS battles, for instance.

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In any case, my officers-each mounted-sometimes with staff-on a single 2 1/2” circular stand are thought of as units to be used intelligently in planning the battle-just as we think of where certain units of cavalry and infantry are placed, and guns are sited; so we also consider which officers should be given certain tasks, given their personalities, and just where they should be located to best serve their command. Leading from the front is still rewarded.

There is the danger of an officer being lost. This is usually caused by a test which we now use; If any unit in an officers immediate command acquires a black die, he must roll a D6 for each such occurance- a 1 indicates immediate death, with newly rated or chosen officer appearing on the next RRR phase; A 2 roll indicates a wounding-he loses 1 command die for each wound suffered. If all his command dice are lost he is dead of his wounds.

In any case, these profiles allow the great historically-based personalities of a period to enter our games, and also makes each officer stand a thoughtfully used unit of battle, and not just an afterthought. It gives our officer corps a little more respect!

In the latest game we played, The “A Different Battle Along the Alva,” posted yesterday on this blog, we took the roles of the officers up even further! Instead of calculating the Red Dice for each army based on the assigned troop values prior to the game as a combined total of usually hundreds of dice, we, instead, rolled each commands and the CIC’s command dice prior to the first turn, and then again on each RRR card, thus generating their Resource Dice throughout the game based on officer dice rolls. This meant each player had far fewer dice at any given time, and the danger of overextending himself, or being too rash, and having his command’s dice bucket go empty was much more an issue.

The CIC also rolled at the same time as the sub-commanders, but his role was to apportion his dice to commanders as he saw a need. He had to do this on an RRR card. The method of distribution was made identical to the distribution of yellow command dice. He had to roll his command dice to transfer a designated bunch of dice. If he failed, the dice were lost, if he made the roll they were placed in the sub-commander’s bucket. This meant the CIC had to consider his position relative to other commanders, and a better commander had more latitude than a poor one.

If a sub-commander’s bucket went empty, his command’s units were considered disorder/out of command and thereby gave a one die advantage to any attacker. They also, obviously, had no Red dice to add to their rolls , but could add yellow and green dice as warranted. Any losses were as usual with possible black dice added to his problems. If, at any later point, red dice were acquired the units would lose their disorder without rally and be considered under command again. However, any black dice acquired and distance retreated remained.

Any commander with disordered/out of command troops could move them away from the enemy and toward his own shortest line of retreat from the field using green and yellow dice, and ADD any black dice to this roll. They COULD NOT move toward the enemy or initiate any form of combat, but only respond if attacked.

This system worked elegantly, I think, and all gamers seemed to like it. It cut set-up time to near zero, as no calculations of dice needed to be made, fewer dice are required overall, and game resolution was, if anything, shortened. It added great tension to the game, and made the “energy” to maneuver and fight contingent on command, not the units themselves. The units assumed a more proper role as the instruments of battle, not the motivator of it. It accented better command in a way few games presently do.

It is such a striking advance in game play that It has made me more committed than ever to do Die Fighting II soon. Very soon! There will be an announcement in a few days concerning this matter-that may prove VERY surprising!

A Different Battle along the Alva River



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We recently played a large battle along a fictional river line with nearly 40 units on a side and two players on each team. It was a standard deployed set-battle piece with all arms well represented set in the War of Spanish Succession Period using my ever-growing 28mm WSS figures.

It was, however, markedly different from any Die Fighting game we had played before, because many of the main rule premises had been dramatically changed in order to test several new ideas I had been thinking about.

I am, as many who know me well will attest, always trying out new ideas, and seldom letting any rule set I play, or develop, rest on its laurels and be declared finished and cast in stone! Frankly, I can’t understand why anyone would do so. The joy of gaming and game design for me is the new idea, a different twist, and pushing the envelope so as to discover whole new ways of illustrating battle on a table top.

Lately, my thoughts had become more centered on the role of officers in battles, particularly in the Horse and Musket period, and the crucial nature of their leadership, skills, and ability to inspire. I was also eager to explore some new methods of using the red resource dice in the game, and trying some radically different methods of sequencing.

I warned the game crew that this one was going to be different, and with much good humor they said, “Bring it on!”

The battle terrain was set out to provide a wide range of tests for the new ideas, and also to be fairly balanced. Here’s a view from the table end:

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There was a variety of terrain ranging from a class II river, Class II and class III woods, a vineyard (III across, I along vines)some chateaux, croplands, two small villages. There were no hills, this was the river valley. Another view from the far end:

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The commanders reviewed the scene and deployed their extensive armies:

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Chris Caudill and Greg Rold (Allies) Terry Shockey and Ray Levesque (French)

Now, some background on the rule changes.

There were three major changes, and most tactical movement and combat rules remained unchanged as did the various Rules of Six.

The first major change was the turn sequencing. Instead of any of the methods covered in the rule book the sequencing was changed as follows:

1. Both commanders would roll a single D6 for which phase of the turn they would be in. If they rolled a 1, it was Specialized action, If a 3, it would be cavalry action, and a 6 would be Reload, Rally, Restore. The two commanders would be on entirely different phases.

2. Each turn still had 6 phases, and if an army rolled the same phase as before they would repeat that phase. The only phase that could not be repeated was RRR, which would be treated as a action-less phase by the army if re-rolled. AT the end of 6 phases, the RRR card would be available if rolled.

3. If both armies rolled the same phase, nether took action, though it still counted as a phase of the turn.

The result was there was no way of predicting when or if you would get a certain phase. This added a lot of suspense to the turns, but also had a few drawback that I will discuss below.

The second change was how red resource dice were generated. In a standard game you simply add up the unit worth totals, adjust by plus or minuses, and that is how many red resource dice you possess. This may then be broken down into multiple buckets using those rules, but that is how you generate the initial red dice. Resource dice can also be acquired by enemy units eliminated by catastrophic loss or retreat from the field, and by taking certain objectives.

Because of my latest thoughts on the worth of officers to an armies capability, I made radical change to the system for this game. Now each separate sub commander and the CIC would each, individually, roll their officer dice (ranging from 2 to 5) and that sum would be their initial red resource dice in their bucket. On each following RRR card they would roll again and add that sum. This use of the officer dice did not count against their use as additional dice in tactical situations, which was played as per the standard rules. (i.e. the use of the dice for RRR generation did not remove them from play. Only if used to tactically augment a unit loses a command die in a turn.)

The sub-commanders were only rolling for the units under their command and kept a separate bucket for their command that could only be applied to their troops. The CIC could allocate any dice in his bucket, in any proportion, on any turn; However, it could only be done on a RRR card.

The method of the CIC distributing his dice would be identical to the existing method of distributing Yellow Command Dice. He would roll his command dice to determine whether the assigned dice made it to his sub-commander. He had to roll a number equal to, or larger, than the distance in inches between them. If his roll failed the resource dice were lost. This made sure that better commanders had, in effect, a larger, more effective, command range, and that the CIC should try to stay reasonably close to a crisis. This was to play a large role in the test game.

This also meant that each commander had far fewer dice initially than in previous games, and even with a pre-game roll, there was a pause as the two forces built up capacity for the attacks. (More on that below)

The third major change was what happened when a commander ran out of resource Dice for his units?

In our past games, the game simply ended when one side had a sub-command out of dice, and the other still had dice. Clean and quick. This often took several turns and a few hours as both sides started with many, many more dice-literally hundreds. This was not true for this new approach. Judging just what could be expended for movement, and in combat became much more difficult. In fact, given that the losses from combat, and/or the catastrophic or retreat loss of a unit could still be many dice and a commander could be quickly embarrassed.

So the meaning of an empty bucket was changed. If a commander was out of dice, and could not “Pay” for his combat losses to an enemy, all units in his command went disorganized (giving the enemy a die advantage) and they could not advance, or engage the enemy in combat). Any combat that was forced upon them was waged as normal, except they, of course, had no red dice to contribute. This would generally mean, along with their disorganized status, a minimum loss of three dice from the usual mix-and led to almost certain defeat by the unit. The acquisition of Black Dice from losses would then accelerate the process even more.

Now, they were allowed to retreat away from the enemy using green dice, any black dice,and officer dice alone. They were allowed if good fortune struck and an RRR card came up, or the CIC got them some dice on the RRR card, to immediately lose the disordered status and again advance on the enemy. However, any black dice acquired while devoid of Resource dice remained.

We found that the added tension and decision making issues were really excellent. I am testing again as this may be the new”standard” system. It also wrapped up the game in a satisfying and even more rapid fashion than the old system. It fit in with my new ideas about the effect of officers.

These were the major changes affecting play, though a minor change of selecting officers by card draw was used and expanded. Simply put, actual historical leaders were put on a grid with each card from a suit indicating one of the officer for an army. each leader was given a three number rating on his officer dice-such as 5-5-5 or 4-3-3, or 3-2-2 or 3-3-2. a single d6 was rolled with a 5-6 giving the high “Good Day” value, a 3-4 meaning and average, and a 1-2 meaning a “bad”day for that officer. Certain other traits could be added that fit his historical personality. See the materials in the files section of the Yahoo! site for particulars. This method is an alternative to the random roll method, and not meant as a replacement. Depending on scenario either one might be more desirable. I like the card draw because it allows the actual historical character of general’s to be brought to play.

THE GAME PLAY

Because there was little need for dice calculation prior to play the game got off to a quick beginning and deployment was done by die rolls with each loser of a die roll required to place one command on the table. The initial deployments were very typical with a double line on each side with the Allies hugging the bank of the Alva, and the French anchoring on the villages and chateaux in their half of the battlefield. The allies had drawn a good command made up of Marlborough, Cadogan, and Eugene of Savoy. The French had the Steady Boufflers a very average Elector of Bavaria, and the excellent James, Duke of Berwick. The allies got their commanders on a good day, but the French found their command on a typical day.

The pre-turn rolls for Resource Dice left everybody feeling a bit unready for action, and their buckets looked much sparser than they were used to. Caution reigned, and only some preliminary cavalry advances, including both sides sending dragoons off into the woods were attempted.

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The dragoons contest the central wood

As luck would have it the allied dragoons stumbled upon a French officer scouting the woods, the red-haired Jean de la Mumbie, and captured him almost in the opening moments. He was treated well and offered Dutch beer and mutton prepared by an English cook, but he claimed he was being tortured by the enemy!

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Jean de la Mumbie captured by Hay’s and Lloyd’s dragoons

After the initial gathering of forces the Allíes took the initiative and attacked on both flanks with the Dutch-English-Danish on their left, and the Austrians under Eugene on the right.

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The Dutch-English advance on the French Bavarian Right Flank

This gave the French some concern as the Bavarian force on their right was quite weak, and even with the Clare and Royal Italien regiments using the vineyard as cover, they weren’t too sure about the command.

On the French left their Spanish cavalry and infantry under Berwick was their strongest force, but it was opposite Eugene and his Austrian veterans. Berwick immediately advanced on the attack just South of the left Flank Village, across the bridge, and possibly across the shallow Alva on the far left.

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Navarre, The Spanish Guards, and the Old Yellows Advance

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The Spanish Horse leads the French North of the Bridge While Conde Chevau-leger cross the bridge. The Austrian Cavalry and Infantry await. Note The Piedmont Yellow Dragoons South of the bridge. They were to be crucial.

The next turn was the point of decision. The French were feeling pretty good about their left flank attack against the Austrians, but the command deficiencies started to show. They never could never seem to roll an Officer Action (#2) card and when they did the Allies would roll the same negating the phase from the turn.

Their initial placement of the CIC (Boufflers) was too far from Berwick to risk sending Resource Dice, and Berwick was paying often and frequently to fuel the attack, and in losses, particularly from the Piedmont Dragoons across the river. Austrian Extra Heavy Artillery was also having steady and constant small effect. But, Boufflers never seemed to realize his danger and even with the players shouting at him remained motionless in the Center of the French position as No 2s were rolled, and when they did it was countered by a duplicate allied roll!

Berwick realized his danger and tried to slow the attack but the Allies then began a counter-attack. It was devastating. The Dragon Piedmonte fired a round and then saddled up and advanced on the French Navarre regiment and the Spanish infantry. They were well supported by the Austrian Alt-Daun Regiment and the Dutch Guard. Berwick’s resource dice plummeted and suddenly his bucket was empty. There was no RRR card to bolster him, and Boufflers could not assist from his distant position. The Left buckled as fire and melee against dispirited troops sent them reeling backwards from the field.


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The collapse of the French Left. Louis’ Wine wagon is in peril!


The rout extended North of the Bridge as well, as Berwick’s command crumbled.

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Austrian Hussars see an enemy running!!!

And, of course, once things fall apart, it can easily snowball! The Allied Dragoons took the woods. The Allied Left was closing in on the poor Bavarian troops. One look at his dissolving left and Boufflers retired his army from the action to fight another day.

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Berwick Recules!

The battle lasted for about three hours with over 70 units on the table and two players per side. Greg Rold and Chris Caudill played expertly, as usual, and the French players, Terry Shockey and Ray Levesque, did the best they could given their unforeseeable command problems. The test was viewed enthusiastically by the players involved and, with adjustments, further games will be played with these concepts. Additional materials may be found in the files section of the Yahoo! site.

Conclusions

As it was a test game, there were many surpasses for everyone involved, and some changes of tactics were obviously to be considered. Some rules will be modified in the future tests.

1. The gamers will be allowed a double roll of their command dice prior to the first move to insure a suitable initial energy and get the units moving more quickly.

2. I felt the die rolling for phases slowed things up a bit, and certainly provided some anomalies such as the French lack of mobility with their officers. It did provide interest with double moves, and missing phases that were nice, I just think it might be done more efficiently. In the next game I’m using another approach.

There will be a double deck of six phase cards for each side ( the 6 phases twice with Concede and Creative removed) that will be shuffled and then cut in half by sight unseen discarding 6 cards. The six cards that are left are active for the turn. They are placed face down and used in order with a standard single initiative roll at the beginning of that turn determining who gets to choose to go first or second.

If that deck contains any duplicate cards, they may be used as per normal until all six cards in the deck are used in a turn. This could allow multiple of any card up to two, and it could mean certain phases are not present at all! If both sides pull the same phase they may both use it.

At any point the commanders may introduce a creative card (no duplicate) if called for by a scenario or a Concede card (no duplicate) if they wish to quit the field and cut their losses. Both cards may be acted upon if, and when, drawn.

3. I am honing the effect of running out of dice on a command, and may try a few tweaks next time, but feel like its very close. This system, when polished, should allow one command figure per player, with his command and a dice bucket. This would allow convention games of ANY size!

4. I am going to further develop the Officer Card Draw with historical personages. This may end up as a custom deck for each period that would be sold separately. Note: random officer creation will still be standard and the cards will not be required.

I wish to thank the Quebec crew of Chris Caudill, Greg Rold, Terry Shockey, and Ray Levesque ( John Mumby in absentia) for their patience and help in this game. I’m a lucky guy!

The Battle of Mouzon

This battle was a real change of pace for our group in many ways. First, it was our first battle outside of the WSS in many months, and marked a return to the Franco-Prussian War, which we had not played for quite awhile. It, also, used my FPW 10mm figures that had been on the shelf ever since the development of Zouave II. This made for a far different visual look and a nice contrast to my WSS 28mm figures. It also was the first battle we had fought using a scenario from a previously fought game played at Brent Oman’s house in 28mm using the FOB Rules. Many of the Player’s in the FOB game were present to play their same roles in the DF game which was held one week later.

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The preceding week’s game using FOB

I was interested in seeing how the two systems and the tactics of the player’s might differ under two different systems and the degree that the system’s altered or changed the outcome, if at all.

I set up the terrain to match, albeit on a table that was three feet longer, and one foot narrower. It looked like this:

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The first things I noticed is that this is far less terrain, and troops than I usually use in a DF game. There was going to be a lot of opportunity for the Krupps and Chassepots to wreak havoc with little cover, except fro the forest of Class II (small stands) and Class III woods on the far left looking from French Position. The Hills were Class I denoted by the faint line of Lichen, and Class II (the actual hill terrain pieces) The village was all class III.

I then translated the original FOB ratings to DF equivalents. Roughly speaking, any units that in FOB were rated 12 or 12+ were rated Crack in DF; 8 to 10 were average, and 4 or 6 were rated Poor. Any unit that entered the battle with an existing UI were given a proportional number of Black Dice (which could be rallied “off” the unit) Officers were rated as the troops-Except if they were poor in the FOB rating-I rolled a single D6 which, using the table found on Page 22 of DF, automatically gave them an additional “flaw”. The final rating OOBs for both armies may be found in the Mouzon folder on the Yahoo! site.

The signal difference between FOB and DF was that, in FOB, the officer ratings influence the national decks, and in that game, the Prussian’s surprising lack of skill in command, and the French Army’s unusual high abilities, gave the French army a noticeably better deck. This would account for the French being uncharacteristically aggressive in that game. In DF the command quality differential gave the French more command dice, and fewer “problem” generals than the Prussians who not only had fewer dice, but a few limitations of commanders that caused some inefficiencies. This had an equivalent effect as in the FOB encounter as the French were to prove aggressive, and the Prussians far less so.

In the FOB game the French were blessed with a few more morale chips, and in the DF game, as ratings transpired by type and the infamous + or - minus roll, the French started with more dice, which serve an equivalent purpose of ending the game. There were objective markers at the road exists on the hills and in the town, ranging from 4X to 8X potentials for adding dice. (IN DF the taking of an objective gives you a morale gain, and the ability to pay in part or whole for the losses incurred in the attack)

Both games allowed for hasty entrenchments, which were not used in the FOB game, but were, Briefly in the DF game.

The other distinction between the games is that an FOB deck is quite a bit larger, usually 27 cards more, DF uses a standard 6 per game. They work in a similar fashion, but the FOB deck allows an Army’s personality to be modeled using the frequency of certain card types, while the DF system uses the command dice, and period or scenario specific uses of the Specialized Action, Rally, Reload, Restore, and Creative action card to provide similar effects. Both are sequenced “narrative” war-games.

In this game, the The Specialized Action Card allows an additional reload to breech loading weapons, and RRR was to allow tests for Prussian troops to enter the field. Each Prussian unit had to roll before the game to see if it was still marching to the guns, rather than initially present. As luck would have it, the Prussians made the roll for every unit, and started with all hands on deck! NO further tests were necessary. (You may see the special rules for the game, including this rule, in the Yahoo! Mouzion Folder)

On April 19th, the commanders assembled at Chez Jones and the forces deployed.

The French immediately opted for hasty entrenchments to provide extra cover on the ridegline, and deployed opposite the village, just as in the previous game.


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While the Prussians went almost immediately into a rope-a-dope defense anchored on the village on their right and the table edge on the left. The center of their position was a massive grand battery of Krupps artillery.

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Evidently, The Prussians took one look at their command, and remembering the previous FOB battle where they deployed evenly in line across their front and were badly mauled by the French attackers, and did not form grand batteries, decided to simply let the French come to them and use their guns to mow them down.

This was to prove a very bad decision. On the first turn, the French watched quizzically while the Prussians went into their sitzkrieg. But the French Commander (Greg Rold) immediately decided that he would exploit their hesitancy by an immediate attack on the village. Hoping to use the woods and village as cover, while capturing some objective points (dice) and bleeding the Prussian force. He intuitively realized that by defending the Prussians were giving up advantages that the rules provided the Prussians in movement and combat fire and melee when using the Zug Formation. If the French maintained the initiative and attacked they would actually, given their superior command and the Chassepot have the advantage in combat!! He attacked the village with gusto!


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The French Attack on Mouzon!


He flanked the Village and sent several Prussian units back in disarray>

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The French were masterful in their attack, and the Prussian left was taking extensive losses. However the French center and right were not yet pressing the enemy, and Krupps long range fire was taking a toll on a few units in the center that were in range. Fortwo turns that had pummeled the center in the class I ridge, that was taking some losses though, thanks to the Hasty entrenchments holding their position. The French Commander was reluctant to move them out of cover, but concerned for the losses. He then ordered his sub-commander (John Mumby) to swing his right wing troops on the ridgeline around and down toward the Prussian left flank.

The French Moved out with a cheer!

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The French Right begins its attack!

This had the immediate effect on the Prussians of fearing envelopment, they moved their cavalry out to challenge the French, and began to dismantle the Grand Battery to resight it to protect the flank. They ceased their fire on the center, and lost several turns of fire as they attemptted to relocate.

The French Right continued its turning action with great alacrity advancing smartly on the Prussians. In desperation the Prussians sent forward the Cuirassiers to confront the French and buy time for the Krupps to come to bear.

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The French move on the Prussians-Note the Prussian Cuirassiers
and Dragoons moving on them (far center)


The Chassepots rang out and many a cavalry man was sent reeling backward, with most of the saddles empty. It was glorious, but most certainly a very ugly loss. At that same moment, the village fight was also turning very ugly for the Prussians. The French brought up an artillery battery that, bad as the French 4# were was having some effect on the reforming Krupps guns. exposed as limbered targets.

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French fighting house to house, note 4# at bottom

The French Right was moving with alacrity on the Prussians, who only had two badly hauled cavalry and a poor infantry unit to immediately oppose them.

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Their losses in the village had mounted, and having lost many dice to several attacks by the French on both flanks, and having started with fewer dice the Prussians announced that their left and center had run out of dice, and the reserve was also gone (much of it spent keeping the Village forces in play)

Conclusions:

The Prussians made two essential errors. They chose a defensive posture which robbed them of their Zug advantages, and they didn’t get good use out of their Krupps Grand Battery because it was too far toward the center and was not in position to quickly counter the French flank attack, and could not do too much against the village attack. The possibilities for the guns were clearly shown in their initial rounds against the French dug-in center forces, but events took them out of play as they attempted to meet the flank threat.

It must be said, however, that the outcome was not much different than the FOB game where the Prussians were attacked in the village and from the ridge, and never got their Krupps into effective action. The Prussians were soundly defeated in both battles, and ran out of chips and dice in a definitive conclusion.

The fact is, the unusually good French Officers, and the rather weak Prussian officers, both through the composition of the card decks in FOB, and in the initial Command Dice quantities in DF had significant effect on the outcomes.

Rules

The New Hasty Entrenchment Rules look to work very well.

We also tried just giving the losing dice in DF to the other team instead of the used bucket. It accelerated the conclusion, but the penalty on early losses when using the flip method of dice buckets may be too severe.

The Transition period rules seem to work very well.

All the rule adjustments and modifications may be found in the Mouzon folder on the Yahoo Site files section.

Sur La Table

I’ve had several wargame tables over the years. My first was a 4’ by 8’ sheet of 1/4” plywood that I could place over a table in my apartment, and hide under the bed, or against a wall in between games. My second was a standard folding 5’X9’ table tennis table that I could throw a green felt pool table replacement over. It resided in my first house’s finished basement, A traditional site all my later tables.


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My next table was the one I have now which is a 4’X8’ 1/2” plywood sheet, with a strip wood edging and a 4’ by 4’ extension both placed on three saw maple stained saw-horses and covered by a terrain guy 4 X 12’ length mat. My latest space is finished, well lit, and about 10’ 6” by 20’ in size, but only about 14-15’ could be used for a table. It has served me well and seen many a Piquet, Zouave II, and Die Fighting game, plus a few Maurice, and FOB games to boot!

However, as my WSS armies grow, and I hold a certain interest in doing naval games, I think I need a new, bigger, and better table!

I’ve come to several strongly held opinions about the design and dimensions of that table that I’d like to share with you, in the hopes that some of you might offer critique and commentary at the Yahoo! site.

Table Dimensions and Height:

Length (width?)

I would like the table to remain 12 foot in length, but with a fold down extension of about 3 feet in length to allow an expansion to 15 feet or so. I don’t believe a table can be too long, unless space issues force compromise. I like lots of troops on the board, but hate the table edge to table edge shoulder to should lines look of too many games on tables of 8 foot or less. In fact, there may be a formula of add 30-50% of the length of all your soldiers on one side lined up stand to stand to get the appropriate length of a table!

Depth

I intend to add 1 foot in width to the table-making it 5 feet “Deep.” The 4 foot width always had the advantage of making sure the troops could mix it up quickly, especially using average moves of 8-12”, but I have always felt that an extra foot would allow a bit more maneuver and finesse to deployments. In truth, length is always more critical, as it is the factor that allows flanking maneuvers, and creates weak points in a line that don’t occur in shorter and more compressed frontages. but I do think a bit of depth would be good. Conversely, going to a 6’ deep table, is a bit too far a reach, especially at the height levels I enjoy.


Height

Height

I like a high table. Perhaps this comes from many a year sitting at a bar, talking with friends with a good drink in hand. My present table is 37” high. This is a good height for either standing or sitting in my new Ikea “Franklin” folding backed bar chairs, or standard stools. A high table I think makes a better display-lessens the god-like peering down from above angles a bit, and is just more comfortable on the back and shoulders than a dining room height table. I would not be adverse to raising it to an honest meter (39&rdquoWinkingin height. In fact, I may do that.

The extra height will also allow for some storage options that I like (Though not what you’d suppose).

Construction


Table

My present table is, as a said, two sheets of 1/2” ply-one being 4’x8’ and the other 4’x4’. These are placed on three sawhorses-one at each end, and one at the junction point of the two boards. The longer piece has 2”x1/2” inch wood edging that adds to its rigidity. Because of its thickness and the edging there has never been any warping or bending. The space underneath the table is, other than the sawhorse legs, and a plastic case holding terrain, largely open.

One side of the table top is painted blue and one is sand colored.

My one complaint is that the table top boards are too damn heavy, and moving them is a pain. I don’t do it often but I think they are much too thick, weighty,and substantial for their use. I do want to retain the option of getting the table out of there easily and quickly when needed, but want it to be substantial and a safe support, not easily jostled. On the other hand I have no interest in using cabinets, heavy carpentry, and treat it as “furniture” It isn’t. It’s a functional gaming surface, nothing more. I do want it to be attractive when used-but relatively invisible. Like an empty stage-rather unremarkable until the actors and scenery are in place.

I’m looking at using model railroading techniques in trestle-like construction, as follows.

I intend to retain the three sawhorses one at each end approximately 8 Feet apart, approximately two feet from each of the the 15’ tables ends-one in the middle at 6 Feet, but run three 2X2’s between the sawhorses that will be fastened by removable nuts and bolts. Across the three trestles will be placed three 4’X5’ 1/4” plywood sheets. The long dimension will lie athwart the trestles. This will give a dimension of 5 X12 feet. (I might look for cheap alternative ways to provide support using attached fixed legs on each section.

The last segment will have a hinged drop shelf cut to a 5’ by 36” dimension. It will include some form of pop--down legs or support that allow the extension to safely be elevated and held-adding another 3’ to the table length. This would then be a table of 15 foot length, 5 foot depth, and 39” height. The South end will, as now, butt up against the far wall.

I will have to part with my much beloved 4X12 foot Terrain Guy rubber-terrain mat (Boy, I wish he were still in business!) I may paint and terrain the table top a nice varied medium to dark green rough textured surface that matches my troops stand mountings. Alternatively is finding a creator of mats that are similar to the Terrain Guy’s work. If I can find this, I will then paint the surface a sea-green for naval-and use the mat for land games, as is possible now. The table will not be reversible-but only the two surfaces- land and sea.

Storage

I will not be using the under the table space for any fixed shelving or cabinets. I want to keep it open and without obstruction-light and airy. I may roll a storage tray or two under the open end for terrain, etc. and rig my sound system by the wall end, as it is now, but no heavy cabinetry.

I very well may add extendable shelves on both sides for printed materials, QRS, etc, and some cup holders and, maybe, table edge file holders to keep clutter off the table.

Space

The book shelves will be moved to provide the maximum space for gamers on each side of the table. Probably the will be moved to the far end of the room. The room is 10’ 6” wide , so minus 5 feet will leave 5 and 1’2 feet divided by two or 2 and three quarters feet on a side. I intend to have three Ikea Franklin backed bar height chairs on each side with some extra stools for overflow attendees.

chair

Backed chairs are essential for comfort and support.

The floor is already carpeted.

The overhead lights are flourescents-that I may replace with CFLs or LEDs.

The room will be painted in restful earth tones. A separate table for food and drink will be placed at room end opposite the war game table. New art will be placed on the walls, though some “golden oldies” will remain.

This still leaves space for my work table-where I intend to spend many an hour improving my WSS forces.


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Time line

It appears that Getzcon II may be a real possibility. It will be held in mid to late August. So that would be the logical end date.

Suggestions, Gentlemen?


The Battle of Denain (Conclusion)


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The Battle of Denain was fought to conclusion at Chez Jones this last Saturday, March 15th, between 12:30 and 4:00 PM. By the end of the battle, Over 60 units of 28mm figures had been engaged in the two part engagement. (See the Battle go Denain -Advance Guard- of April 24th, 2014 for an account of the initial clash between the two advance guards that preceded the main engagement.)

Folders with complete sets of scouting reports and telescope views, OOBs, and other materials are located in the Files Section of the Yahoo! site under The Battle of Denain.

THE SET UP

This set up was very different from past games. After the clash of the Advance Guards in our last game, that battle gave a substantial gain of 80 dice to the French, and indicated that a number of Allied Units were eliminated in that battle. This put the allies at a starting deficit in numbers and total dice. The OOBs for both forces are found, as stated above, in the Denain Folder at the Yahoo! site. There are Folders for both the Allies and French that list the troops, their Type and Quality, their Dice contribution, elimination and black dice penalties.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Repiquerules/info

I also tried to give a modest advantage in terrain to the Allies as it would be highly likely they would retreat until they found some modestly good defensive ground. The terrain set up gave them a couple of ridge lines on either flank, and some wooded ground that would break up and channel the French attack. A small shallow stream helped guard their Right Flank. The terrain gave the Allies at least some cover for their deployment, and some advantages in defense.

Overview looking South


I required the Allies to deploy first-and they could deploy the remnants of the Advance Guard and their entire first line. I then took photos of their position from table height using my iPhone camera that I sent to the French. The photos were deliberately “foggy” in an attempt to recreate the lack of resolution-even with telescope of a distant enemy line.


Hill on Right FlankLeft of Village
More Photos at Yahoo! Site



After perusing these photos, the French then deployed-just their advanced guard- and suitably vague photos were sent to the Allies of that end result.

The French had to declare prior to any further actions exactly what road entrance the First line deployment would be centered upon. I asked them for a written set of orders as to the nature of that deployment. They were placed on the table by me, and a confirming photo was sent to the French Command. This Deployment was not sent to the Allies, but they would see it on the day of the game. The French First line could not move on the first turn (they were going through their elaborate WSS deployment) , so the Allies would have an opportunity to react to this appearance.

For a complete description of this Scouting and Deployment procedure read the Battle Continuation rules in the Denain Scouting Reports Folder at the Yahoo! Site. That folder has many more examples of the telescope “views” that both sides had prior to the battle.

SPECIAL RULES

Many of the special rules from the earlier Advanced Guard action were also extended to this game. These special rules covering Black Dice, Battalion Guns, Howitzers, etc. are also found in the Denain Scouting reports Folder.

INITIAL DEPLOYMENTS AND MOVES

The Allies deployed with the former Advanced Guard on their right flank. Using the stream, woods, and the windmill hill as a compensation for their reduced numbers and losses from the previous engagement. The First line was deployed across the center facing the village of Denain that had been occupied by the French Advance Guard. This force was primarily Dutch and English and among the best troops they had available. They made sure no coup de main was possible up the center, but that left only a few units of English and Danish horse to cover their left flank, with no Infantry to stiffen their defense, and most of their guns were placed so as to limit their targets to very close ranges.

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The Left flank was just dangling in air, awaiting their Austrian Allies to secure that area.

The French had deployed so that their first line was entirely opposite this exposed flank. Their horse was on the road and they had their light guns limbered and ready to advance! It appears they had stolen a march on the Allies and were going to press the matter! This was compounded by the player in command of this force was Ray Levesque who was renowned for his eagerness to close with the enemy. And close he did!

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THE MAIN ATTACK

The French right flank surged forward with the Garde Francaises and Suisses infantry advancing in close step with the Dauphin Regiment availing themselves of mutual support (best roll rule for movement of the line) as they strode determinedly toward the Hill to their front. On the road the Gendarmes Ecossais and the Mousquetaires galloped forward into the unoccupied ground on the Allies Left Flank. Levesque’s movement rolls added to his reputation for the rapid attack!


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The French Line Advances!

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The Gendarmes turn the Flank.


The Allies immediate saw that their flank was in great danger of being collapsed. CIC-Shockey immediately wheeled the English First Foot Guard about and headed it to its left flank. The Danish horse was refused back to stop the French flanking maneuver. Cadogan’s horse took the hill to stop the French infantry attack. The first indications of the Austrian arrival bolstered the Allied spirits.

The French Gendarmes sped down the road and wheeled into formation to attack the Allied flank they were closely followed by the Mousquetaires, while the French Regiment Royal Italien and Soissonais entered the wood at the edge of the battlefield.

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Gendarmes attack The Danish Horse. Note the Foot Guard flank beckoning!



The Danish horse turned to face the Gendarmes. The English Foot Guard headed in that direction, but paused, and then the commander wheeled them to face the hill not the eminent threat from the French Horse. Now their flank was exposed to the Gendarmes, only masked by the Danish horse. Several in the ranks questioned this dependence on a single horse regiment of unknown capability.

The Allies did have a few good moments on that flank, as the arriving Austrians clumsily sorted themselves out-with the Austrian Hussars and Piedmont Dragoons racing down the road to protect the village, and the Austrian line moved unto the table. The Walloons on the Austrian left wheeled to face the threat from the woods and with a good volley sent the Royal Italien regiment scurrying away. The Soissonais also retired back out of the woods.

This led to a controversial moment as the Mousquetiers du Roi opted to retire behind the Gardes rather than support their fellow horsemen, the Gendarmes! As they retired back up the road there was many a Gallic curse hurled after them by the brave Gendarmerie! (There will be brawls in the Tavern in the next few days between these units!)

But the Gendarmes were not deterred! They slammed into the Danish Horse and literally blew them away! As they rode the 2nd Jyske under, they immediately saw the exposed flank of the English Guard. On they rode!

At this exact moment the French Guard units made the crest of the ridge and volleyed into Cadogan’s Horse. The horse was sent reeling in disorder back into the mass of troops below, including into the Falkenberg cuirassiers rushing to the aid of the English Guards and Danish horse. This was not looking good for the Allies.

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ELSEWHERE ON THE FIELD

In the center, the French had a formidable column of cavalry led by the Carabiniers du Roi, who had performed so spectaculary in the advance Guard action, but they dare not charge the Allied line thanks to the English gun battery firing down the road toward Denain. A flank shot from artillery would inflict grevious losses.

That gun battery was now occupied in delsutory firing at the village of Denain, but with little effect on the Listerois Dragoons or the Bouffrement Dragoons that held the village. The center seemed relatively free from action as the Allied forces, including the Orkney First Foot, made no effort to advance, and the French seemed content to hold the village.

On the Allied Right, at the Southern end of the battlefield, Hay’s Dragoons advanced to the edge of the Chateau grounds, but then saw a large force approaching. It was the French second line, made up of Bavarian and Spanish troops. They began crossing the stream and surging toward the forests beyond the Chateau. Hay’s retired upon the small support force behind him.

THE BATTLE COMES TO A HEAD ON THE ALLIED LEFT

The English error in turning to face the hill and presenting their flank to the Gendarmes now exacted a deadly price. The Gendarmes, fresh from their victory over the Danish Jyske horse, now hit the first foot guards in the Flank, and sent them reeling in full retreat (many dice were lost).

Then the French Maison Rouge Guard infantry on the with two excellent volleys pummeled Cadogan’s horse and sent them in disorder back into the milling mass of English Guard infantry. Even the Austrian Falkenberg Cuirrasisers, who were attempting to stabilize the flank were swept up in the general chaos. Trapped between the Gendarmes and the French and Swiss guards the flank totally collapsed. A second line of infantry and the Mousquetaires was close behind the Guard in support of the attack.


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The Austrians were having a lot of difficulty deploying in the restricted area around the Northern village, and could not offer much help to their allies to the South.

At this point the French attack in the far South was forcing the Allied Right Flank back to to the Road entrance, and some of the troops from the reserve were beginning a general assault on the Windmill hill held by Seymour’s Marines.

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Losses everywhere were heavy. Counterattack was out of the question and catastrophe threatened. The Allied commander placed the Concede Card in his deck.

THE ALLIES CONCEDE AND WITHDRAW

The game continued through three more card phases, with additional losses to the Allies as the Falkenberg Cuirassiers were also destroyed, and the Right flank woods were abandoned by the English dragoons. Finally the Concede card came up and the Allies retired, as best they could, from the field. They hoped to regroup as they retired back toward the Dutch fortresses.

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Gentlemanly Concession! (L.to R.) John Mumby, French Commander Greg Rold, Ray “ High Roller”Levesque, Ed Meyers, Allied Commander Terry Shockey, and Chris Caudill

It was a smashing victory for the French, flowing from their earlier success in the advance guard action. Marlborough was sorely missed and The Duke of Argyll was clearly not up to the task on this day.

CONCLUSIONS

1. The Allies should have chosen a more balanced and compact defensive formation. Expecting horse to hold an entire flank without adequate infantry support was not wise.

2. The French followed excellent tactical practice. They had a concentration of force, and a simple and direct battle plan. Turn the Allied left flank and roll up their line. It was to be done quickly before the Austrians could effect the action. The double edged attack of the French Guard Infantry and the Gendarmes was devastating (even more than expected thanks to some excellent movement and combat rolls by Ray Levesque).

3. Conservation of dice for the Allies was paramount. They started, thanks to the earlier action, with a deficit, and their horrendous losses of dice in the flank battle soon left then with an empty bucket that could not be helped by reserve dice-which were also depleted.

4. The game also brought up the necessity of very carefully siting the artillery. The Allied guns were often in a cramped and limited position with few lines of fire. There were no guns on the left flank that could be brought to bear with much effect. Since the French were in an all out attack mode-they seldom waited for their artillery and used almost none of it in forcing the battle decision.
Artillery in this period is not what it would become in the next century, but neither side used it to much effect during this game. The sole exception was the restraining effect the allied battery in the left center had on the Carabinier led French cavalry in the center by firing down the road toward Denain.

GAME PLAY OBSERVATIONS

1. The game played very well. The entire game lasted from 1:00 PM to resolution at 4:30 PM. Everyone was headed home for dinner by 5:00 PM.

2, The new special rules all worked as intended and many are sure to become “Standard.”

3. The mobility of horse, and the relative weakness of artillery were both underscored by the battle play. The most telling aspect was the comparison of the cavalry ability on the attack, but its crucial weakness on the defense against infantry. You are hard pressed to hold ground with horse.

4. The French used the linear advance rule, where the contiguous line gets the best roll for distance moved by any one unit-applied to the entire line. It worked very well, and looked impressive as their lines stepped off toward the enemy.

5. The Allies, apart from horrendous dice lost to combat on the left, were not as careful as they could have been in the dice use. Too many long distance shots for no effect by artillery. A lot of movement on the right flank by the Windmill hill and the adjacent woods that had no focused purpose.

6. The Two commands were well matched with a slight advantage to the French in terms of having a good day. Oddly enough, every wood rolled for became a Class III, not one Class II!

6. NEVER, I mean NEVER, deliberately turn an infantry flank to horse-even when there is one cavalry between you and the enemy. Pursuit will occur and a flank attack by cavalry is simply devastating!

All materials concerning the game and several additional photos may be found in the Yahoo Battle of Denain Folder.

Next Game: April 19, 2014 at 12:30 PM

IMP, Occam's Razor, and PBN


Einstein

When we design historical war-games we are attempting to reflect some aspects of decision making and model physical actions that real commanders and troops demonstrated during battles. We read a wide variety of sources, often make notes about the events we read about, and we frequently find contradictory information, incomplete accounts, and degrees of variance in the stated outcome of events. The description of the decision of certain general can be highly subjective, and it is not uncommon to find huge gaps and omissions in the description of events. How do we weigh this information? How do we decide what or who to believe? What tools can we use to sort the wheat from the chaff, or the gold from the dross?

The two that I have found are Inherent Military Probability (IMP) and Occam’s Razor.

Inherent Military Probability was first proposed as a tool by Arthur Higgins Burne, an ex-officer in the Royal Artillery, and later, a military historian who authored several books on ancient , medieval, and early gunpowder warfare. (He co-wrote a book on the ECW with Peter Young). HIs original premise was that as you tried to decipher historical evidence and accounts you should apply a test of “What would a trained staff officer of the 20th century most likely have done?” If it wouldn’t make sense to him-it probably didn’t happen that way. If it does make sense then it had to be more strongly credited. This was later amended by some to say that it must make sense to a person in that era as some situations may not have a direct historical corollary to the modern mind.


Unknown

It remains mildly controversial, and has had some singular successes and failures as an approach, but I think it is an invaluable tool when used correctly. Correct use requires really thinking a account or report through and examining it logically. Ultimately the question is “Does this make sense?” as important as the provenance of the remark, its source, or the authority of the account. It requires judgement and knowledge.

An example of my first use of this in wargaming many years ago is a series of articles I wrote in the old Courier about the use of artillery. At that time in the 70s, many gamers used “Ricochet Sticks” to denote where a ball ricocheted “Over” a unit and had no effect, and where in was low enough to have effect. I thought about this a long time and turned to elementary physics and ballistics to prove that this didn’t make sense. A ball fired from a smoothbore gun at zero elevation will NEVER rise higher than the gun muzzle, and every ricochet will be below the height of a man. If fired at a higher angle their will be fewer ricochets (remember skipping a rock on a water surface?)if any, and they will all be lower than a man, or a man on horse back. In certain extreme cases of terrain, where the target is on the backslope of a hill, or the ball hits say the top of a stone wall, it may fly over a man, but almost certainly will bury in on its next impact. In effect, the IMP of a ricochet clearing a man height is very low and ricochet sticks are representing a nonexistent factor. There was a great kerfluffle by the advocates of this equipment until General B.P. Hughes book, “Firepower” came out about a year later stating the exact same finding. Ricochet sticks disappeared from the wargame table a victim of IMP and physics!

Another such finding in my articles was that during the era of Smoothbore Artillery, heavier weight guns had more effect on a single infantry or cavalry target than lighter guns when firing ball. This was easily dispatched as nonsense when logic and physics was again applied. The size difference in diameter between 4-6-8-and 12 pound field artillery balls was not very much-less than an inch in diameter for all but the 4 lb. and only an inch and a half for that!. That is, the area of effect was nearly identical! (remember they non-explosive rounds) So all artillery hard shot should have equivalent effect on a single target. Where they varied was MASS which made the heavier guns able to penetrate through many more units before the ball’s motion was arrested. They were, for the same reason more impactful on solid objects such as walls, fortifications, etc. They also had a much higher effectiveness with their canister, and a somewhat longer theoretical range, but that was seldom of great use. What they did not have was a higher effect with roundshot on a single unit to their front. IMP-QED!

The above examples are easy manifestations using physics and math, but using an IMP based on your general military reading as to the likeliness of certain behavior bolstered by a general view of people in real life and their reaction to stress and conflict is an invaluable tool for assessing information to be used in a design.

The other tool is Occam’s Razor. This premise was set forward by William of Occam in the 14th century as a means of judging the most logical explanation for a single event. In its simplest form it merely states that, when faced with several explanations or causes for an event, always look the simplest, least involved, and uncomplicated explanation-always. One way to phrase this is when you hear hoof-beats behind you always think of horses approaching, not zebras!

William-of-Ockham-Quotes-1


Now, this does not preclude complex answers, or scientific data, but simply says the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions is a good place to start. This is a conspiracy killer, an answer to Rube Goldberg explanations for events and long involved explanations of why Junior missed school yesterday. The use of Occam’s razor for a war gamer designing rules, or deciding the accuracy of unverifiable reports, is a very handy tool. Go for the clean and simple. Eschew obfuscation!

Finally, I’d like to comment on rule users themselves, and how they effect their own enjoyment of rules. I am open to argument on this at my Yahoo! site, but it strikes me that we have seen a lessening of experimentation and creative growth in rule users, more than in rule designers! I can’t remember a time when, when playing a set of rules I didn’t think of a better way to do something within that rule structure, or come up with a new extension of the rules, or redefine some aspect of their use. Usually I did this to better suit my idea of how things occurred in a period battle, or to make the rules more playable-FOR ME. This also led to my answering a lot of my own questions about certain points of rules that might be unclear- I seldom asked the designer, unless I was impossibly confused. If I liked the core principles of a set of rules, I was more than happy to be creative in order to make them even better for my use!

That appears to be less common among war gamers now. In effect they want their war-games to be the equivalent of oil paintings done by the number. They want to be told where to put a color. They want to be told the exact shade of that color. They want firm lines denoting exactly where the boundaries between colors are. They want to be told the exact and precise nature of the image being created. Tell me the color. Tell me the number. Show me the finished picture.


Mona Lisa

Even worse, they never even consider different shades and hues, or how to actually paint, but just want to be told what to do. They want all their answers supplied, and they want no responsibility to figure it out or experiment on their own.

What is needed for a great wargame is the gamer must be a creative painter, and throw away the numbered canvas. He must try to grasp the inherent principles of a design which are usually fairly easy to grasp after a reading or two, and a couple of times on the table, but then he should take it on himself to innovate, to try new ideas, and bend the rules to his liking. He should use a set of rules as a base for his own creativity and exploration of history. He should really try to become his own artist rather than always going to the Master for interpretation and certification.

Part of this may stem from the fantasy backgrounds of many current gamers, where there is no real world to use as a touchstone for their ideas, but only the limited universe found between the covers of a 128 page, full glossy, Codex. The gamers using these rules are looking to fit in to a group rather than to strike out creatively and as an individual. They are also constrained by the corporate game publisher’s restricting their ideas to “Official Rules” and “Official Figures.” That is fine for an adolescent, but an adult in a creative hobby should at least try to be creative and an individual and not just a passive recipient of some imaginary construct.

Historical gamers have no such excuse. They are the heirs, as I have stated before, of creative writers such as Stevenson, Wells, Pratt, and Featherstone, and their hobby begs for added entertaining narrative that may include a light hearted comment on the human condition. They are missing so much, if they don’t give up painting by the numbers, and learn to paint!


The Battle of Denain (Advance Guard)

Denain-Players

Advance Guard Players: French-Left-Greg Rold, John Mumby; Allied-Right Ed Meyers, Terry Shockey


This last weekend, we had the beginnings of what promises to be an interesting series of games fighting a single battle. In most war-games commented upon in the Wargame press, and, quite frankly, in all of our battles prior to this game, we divided the battle, and the players “horizontally” - Left Flank, Center, Right, with a possible fourth segment characterized as the Reserve closely behind one of the sections of the battle line. This weekend’s game changed that method for the “Battle of Denain,” and provided some real fun in the process.

It all started when I was reading the historical accounts of the Oudenarde campaign-especially the early parts with the first contacts of the two advanced guards. It was an encounter battle, much like Gettysburg, Jena-Auerstadt, and many other engagements. What it immediately brought to my mind is that the contact of the two armies was sequential, and they were divided “vertically”. First, the contact of the two opposing advanced guards, then the First Line closely followed by Second Line-and finally a small Reserve.

Now, admittedly, armies were far more rigid in this early WSS period than they became later, but it struck me that this process of meeting was a fairly common one, throughout history, and I should give it a try. I divided the armies into four parts Advanced Guard-First line-Second line- and Reserve.

Each army’s break out can be found on the Yahoo Site in the files section under “The Battle of Denain.”

Essentially, the Advanced Guards are made up of a concentration of horse and dragoons with a couple of light artillery, and infantry battalions to provide backbone. The First Line is the bulk of the army with most of the infantry, more guns, including heavy guns, and the best horse. The Second Line is smaller, mostly infantry, but only a smattering of horse and guns. The reserve is very small with a few infantry and the train.

I then set the game conditions.

Terrain:
The terrain favored nether side, but two class III hills in the neutral center dominated the field and were given objective markers. In fact, I gave them two objective markers, one worth 4x to the initial taker, but another worth 8X to the party that retook the hill, if possible. This guaranteed that the high ground would be a pretty good scrap. On the Eastern Flank, I placed an objective rich village, which had three Class III sections at 4X, and a crossroad at 6X. A nice haul and worth an attack-especially on a flank. It was surrounded on the South Side( Allied side) by small Class III wood. The Western Flank had extensive Class III woods that offered difficult going, but a couple of road exits on either baseline. If unopposed, a force might sweep around a flank-but quite a gamble with the obvious delay and disorder of transiting a wood. Tempting? All Road Exits were 10X with the “Y” crossroad on the Western French side a 6X. The rest of the field was open terrain.

Denain-Advance Guard


Set-Up
The procedure of set up was that the Allies had won the last wargame and were awarded the General’s Carriage. This allowed them force the French to deploy first or second (they naturally decided the French should deploy first); would add +1 to the first turn’s initiative roll, and could choose their first phase card in turn 2. It was deemed their commander reached the field rested and with a carriage full of maps and reports. Both Phase Decks were to be shuffled for a random draw throughout the game, except for that 2nd turn Allied exception.

Army Arrival
After the first turn the Creative Option Card was put into both decks. When drawn the army would throw 1 D6. A roll of 5 or 6 and the First line would arrive on the NEXT turn! After its arrival the second line would arrive on the NEXT turn after that, and, finally, the reserve would arrive on the NEXT turn after the second line’s arrival. If the roll was not made the Creative Option would be placed in the deck for the next shuffle and turn. However, the arrival roll would be increased by one on each turn-so, on the second turn the roll would be 4-5-6, on the third turn 3-4-5-6, and the fourth turn, 2-3-4-5-6 and automatic thereafter. Once the first line enters, the rest are automatic at 1one turn intervals.

Multi-Bucket with Reserve restrictions
The game was also a multi-bucket game so each force got 1/5 of the entire army’s die total (4 sections-plus the CIC’s reserve bucket divided into the army’s total dice) and the commander couldn’t access the reserve dice (1/5 of the total) until the reserve section had also arrived on the field and a RRR card was turned!

Each section of the army was assigned a player. So they game started with the advanced guard players as the only players active, but they received a LOT of advice from the other, not yet engaged, players. Since the allied Advanced Guard player was inexperienced, this was helpful.

Initial Deployments
The French forced to deploy first, quickly looked at the situation in front of them and devised a very simple, but direct and clear plan. They detailed off their dragoons on the left flank to take the village, and get the objective dice. Dragoons have the advantage of taking village structures, but may leave-infantry once in a village section is there for the battle. Opposite the two hills they placed their infantry force and both of their gun batteries. They wanted that ridge line! Between these two forces the placed a long line of their horse where it could protect the flank of the infantry and possible count on the support of the Dragoons. The ground in front of them was excellent for cavalry, both open and flat. Most importantly they completely deployed their force in battle order, except for their light guns, as they appreciated the clumsiness of that process once battle had begun. They gave up a little speed for surety of order.

The Allies were less decisive. They saw the French deployment and concentrated their entire force to attack the ridge line. They disregarded the value of the village. (They stated it was full of Belgians and the restaurants and bistros were not very good.) They deployed with the Dutch and Prussians on their right under an inexperienced commander, and the English contingent on their left. Their entire force was in road march order and not deployed for battle. They hoped to “Steal a March” on the French and then deploy on the hill. None of these decisions turned out well for them!

The command on either side was relatively good. The French had Villars on an average day (4 Command Dice) and the Allies had Cadogan on an average day (4 dice).

The Allies won the initiative on the first turn and moved off at a smart step-they did not deploy. The French did likewise with their dragoons making a beeline for the undefended village. Their infantry moved off toward the ridgeline while the cavalry in the open ground kept pace.

At this point it appeared that the French were going to snap up the village objectives without opposition, and their attack on the hill was well ordered-with artillery to place on the ridgeline when it was taken. Artillery on low hills is advantaged, and it would lessen any chance at Allied recapture.

French Dragoon Take VillageBouffler's Dragoons Take Village

French Dragoons take the village and invest the church grounds. The White tower is a dice tower (it really ruins the pix does it not-? I think I’ll outlaw them!)

The Allies soon realized that they needed to attack quickly as the French were very precise in their attacking formations and moving at a good rate. They also realize that not offering any resistance to the taking of the villages was a mistake. Even in column order, their first turn advance was not that much better than the deployed French. On the second turn, they selected the cavalry move card as their first card move card as their first card, and shuffled the rest.

This was the turn they knew they were in trouble. As they began to deploy the player’s had not properly arranged their troops and much confusion arose as they attempted to sort out a very clumsy deployment. Several units were barely moved as they were blocked by other regiments going through their evolutions! They then noted the fall of the village, and that the placement of the British gun was faulty in that it had no clear targets as they were masked by the ridge. Even worse, the French had actually gotten closer to the ridgeline in formed order than the Allies, delayed as they were by their jumbled deployment. There was some hope that they would be immediately reinforced by the First Line on the next turn. They needed to roll a 5 or 6. They rolled a 2!

The French in the second turn took firm possession of the village. That acquired a total of nearly two dozen dice! Morale was high! The French infantry and guns got to the base of the ridgeline in very good order, both guns were ready to ascend and take a dominant position. They, too, failed their roll for the entry of the first line.

French Attack on Ridge
Anspach riding to their doom in upper right. Note disarray in Allied deployment.


On the next turn the Allies were very worried that their initial deployment and the subsequent delays, had lost this initial engagement of the Battle of denain, almost from the start. They won the initiative. At this point desperation kicked in and the Dutch-Prussian wing launched a furious and chancy attack. The Ansbach Horse launched a charge against the French horse at a 3-1 disadvantage!

IMG_0074Nassau Tattack over Ridge
Upper: Ansbach attack Carabiniers Lower: Nassau attack over ridge (note Ansbach in background)



The Nassau horse galloped up over the ridge and launched itself at the French line-first assaulting the Artillery battery between Clare and Talard regiments. The Prussian light gun moved forward and unlimbered on the allied right flank. Supporting them, the Van Welderen Dutch and Bothmer Dragoons came forward rapidly-not bothering to deploy even at this late moment. The British, somewhat shocked at the Dutch-Prussian audacity, advanced cautiously toward the Northern part of the ridge, trying to make sure the Allied line was not too disjointed. There was great hope that the First Line might make it to the field to rescue their situation on the next turn. They needed a 4-5-6. They rolled a 3!

The French mounted up the Listerois Dragoons and sent them at full gallop down the road to secure an objective marker and deny the Allies one line of retreat, and slow any appearance by the Allied First Line along that entry point.

IMG_0073


They closed on the hill-just as the Nassauers cleared the crest and slammed into the limbered artillery battery. The battery was hacked to pieces! First blood to the Allies! In their battle fury the Nassauers pursued on into the Clare Regiment without pause. The Clare Regiment was surprised at their appearance and audacity but, as veteran Irishmen, stood firm with a round of musketry and their battalion gun barking. They stopped the Nassauers cold! a general milling melee developed, but the Nassauers were blown and Clare was not going to run from these Dutchmen!

IMG_0079

In the meantime, the other French gun trundled onto the ridge.

IMG_0080


Then the most magnificent event in the history of the French cavalry began to unfold in the open ground South of the ridge. As related above, the Ansbach Horse had charged the concentration of French and Spanish Horse. At the front of the French formation were the storied Carabiniers du Roi, a proud and tough unit of cavalry. The resulting melee was quick and decisive with the Ansbach thrown back in retreat with a black die added. The carabiniers immediately pursued and crushed the Ansbachers with a catastrophic defeat-scattered individuals dashed from the field. Over 20 dice had been lost as well! BUT the carabiniers were not done! The swung out along with Conde Regiment and the Spanish Cecile-Nestien horse to envelop the Allied right. The turn ended with the French seeing if their First Line would arrive on the next turn. They rolled a 2, so the First line would not arrive the next turn for them as well.

Things were very desperate for the Allies, they needed to win the initiative on the third turn for many reasons; To realign the Prussian gun to face the oncoming Carabiniers, Conde, and Spanish horse, To deploy Van Welderen in order to secure that flank, and to move The Bothmer Dragoons onto the ridge to take out the French artillery. Lastly, the Nassauers were not going to break through and they needed to extract them from their exposed position. The British watched with concern, not clear as to whether they should support the failing allies or be ready to surrender the field. The initiative roll was made. They won! Now they just needed to get the artillery action card or either Cavalry or Infantry move, before the French cavalry could act. Their first card was Specialized action-not very useful!

The French, who had been tres heureux throughout this engagement-drew a cavalry move card. What followed was extraordinary. First the Carabinier du Roi hit the flank of the Prussian Light artillery battery and rode right over it with another catastrophic win.

IMG_0075Into Van WelderenIMG_0078
Left: Prussian gun overridden Center: Van Welderen destroyed Right: Bothmer. Too!


They then pursued into the flank of the undeployed Van Welderen regiment and took them out with another catastrophic win! They then, rallied and chose to pursue into the flank of the Bothmer Dragoons, who were also undeployed! They, too, were, destroyed. In a matter of minutes, a gun, an infantry unit and a unit of dragoons were eliminated and over 46 dice acquired! The Allied Flank was a shambles. The French had established a gun on the high ground and were ready to secure the entire ridge.

For one hesitant moment, the Allies paused as their Creative Option card allowed yet another chance for the First Line to appear-this time they needed a 3-4-5-6 and rolled a 1! The British officer in Seymour’s regiment was heard to say,” Well, at least there’s been no Englishmen lost,” as Cadogan ordered the advanced guard to retire off the battlefield and back toward the First Line. The English forces had not fired a shot in anger!!! Would this lead to bad blood with the Allies??

This was as decisive a victory as the French have had in any wargame we’ve played. It was their first victory in several battles. Spirits were high. The Carabiniers were cheered throughout the army, as were the stalwart Irish of Clare’s Regiment.

Conclusions:

1. The Allies learned, the hard way, that deployment is clumsy enough in this period that most units should be deployed as a battle starts. Certainly artillery and horse have some added flexibility, but any unit that is not deployed , and not ready to fight on the battlefield is not to be allowed without very, very good reasons.

2. Unsupported cavalry attacks by lone units is never going to be successful in the long run. Ansbach’s Ride to Infamy started the unraveling of the Allied Right. Nassau’s attack over the ridge, had the benefit of surprise and took out a light gun battery, but was not able to break Regiment Clare, and once their bolt was shot, they were done. The fact that the French Commander, Villars, was very well positioned to throw his command weight (Yellow Dice) to Clare and initially to the Carabiniers, while the Allied Commander, Cadogan, was not a factor in many actions by the Allies, added to the debacle.

3. The clumsiness of the Allied deployment was made worse by the inexperience of the Dutch-Prussian player, which was at the root of the faulty deployment, the decision to not contest the village, the lack of considered response to the French deployment which the Allies saw before their own, and to the inadequate spacing of units that caused delay in deployment.

4. The French made few mistakes, and exploited every error by the Allies. They earned this stunning victory.

Game Mechanics

1. Everything went well, though it is only the initial part of the battle of Denain. This is our first “vertical” battle and I LIKE IT! The entire action took less than 2 hours of play time. leaving plenty of time for chat afterwards.

2. The deployment to the flank and rule of 8 makes initial deployment far more tricky than in most games. It accurately reflects the restrictions of maneuver and deployment in this period.

3. The new rules for Battalion Guns, and other changes mentioned on the notes, played very well. They added interest, but did not distort play.

4. The next game will be the confrontation of the French Advanced Guard which gained a total of nearly 80 dice, and lost only one artillery unit, against the combined numbers of the Allied First Line, and the remnants of their advanced guard. They lost an artillery battery, two cavalry units, an infantry unit, and the Nassau Cavalry will have a Black die beginning the next action. Cadogan will be minus 1 die on his command dice. No effect on following First Line’s command. The advance guard, obviously, will contribute NO dice to the Allies and only the First Line Bucket will be in play.

The French First Line will enter on the next(2nd) turn on the Creative Option Card. The Allies Second Line will enter on the next (2nd) turn on the creative option card . Both are automatic. The French Second Line will enter on the 3rd turn on the Creative option card.. Both Armies will then roll for their reserve forces and train, on the Creative Option card of the third turn. Even they arrive-Odd they do not. They will continue to roll on the Creative option card of following turns until their reserves drive.

Terrain: The terrain will mildly favor the Allies, but they will deploy first.

Initiative and Phasing for the next battle: The French may stack their entire deck on the first turn. They may select the first 2 cards of the following turn. They will get a Plus 2 on the first turn initiative roll; a Plus 1 on the second turn initiative roll. Standard phasing and deck randomness thereafter.

This was a great experiment and played to the strength of the Die Fighting rules. Vertical battles are a great way to turn a battle into a mini-campaign. It also allows the “Big” battle, but without swamping the players with units and adds tension to the entire battle narrative. How will the Allies fare once the main body is present? Will it be like Ligny or Quatre Bras before Waterloo? Or the first day at Gettysburg? In both cases the “Loser” came back to win. We will be doing more of these vertical battles in the coming year!




Fantasy as Historical Salt and Pepper

Louis XIV's Wine Wagon


I have stated on this blog in the past my general disinterest in fantasy gaming. Part of the reason may be when I got into wargaming it didn’t exist. (Well, that certainly dates me!)

I got into miniature wargaming in the mid-sixties, after a few years of Avalon-Hill board wargames. At that time, all miniature wargaming was historical as fantasy didn’t truly arrive on the scene until the early 70’s as a reflection of the popularity of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Little did any of us grasp what a change that would make to the hobby. Now, some 44 years later, fantasy is by far the largest element in wargaming, far outnumbering historical gamers at almost every convention except Historicon, where it is now one of the largest “eras” of games played at the premier “Historical” wargame convention. I should be clear as to my definition of “Fantasy” as including pure fantasy, Sci-fi, and alternate universes such as victorian steam-punk, the AVBCW style games, as well as combinations such as Victorian Mars, etc.

My own interests are determinedly historical, as I have always seen the hobby as a doorway to historical inquiry, and an intellectual challenge to portray aspects of the real world as it existed in history. The history aspects of games and game design imposes a limiter and a discernible, researchable, information and data base to examine and attempt to reflect. Fantasy is less confining, and demands little in the way of research other than an internal consistency to the imagined world, and even then, is often nonsensical (30 foot walkers that are prime targets to even present day weaponry) or simply disconnected from physics and fact. Instead of demands for reading many, often conflicting or incomplete sources, and trying to find the best explanation and means of portraying the effect in a game, one simply reads a few very short codexes, and Voila! you are an expert!

gandalfproblemsolving1
Excerpt from Fantasy Wargame Rule set



I’ve also come to the point where I think Historical rules may need MORE fantasy, not less! “What” You say? “How can that be?”

It’s been a growing feeling on my part that too many Historical miniature games have become too serious, far too pedantic, and, well, more like a dissertation, than a fun game. This is counter-posed by the dummyification of historicals by truly banal, and derivative rules, that are so simple that there is no challenge to the game except rolling the dice and working through to the tedious outcome. This is often a blatant attempt to appeal to the younger, fantasy gamer, that doesn’t want to read, but just play a game.

So we have a diminished middle in historical gaming. It’s either dissertations or History gaming for non-readers. Neither speaks well for historical wargaming’s future, which will depend on gaining some new converts from the young as the old gray hairs fade away. The too intricate will slowly descend into cult status with a few die-hards, and the dully simple will gradually turn Historicals into a bad reflection of Fantasy games. The latter is the more likely for many reasons, among them the lack of barriers to entry. It is also true that fantasy is generally speaking, simply representations of Medieval warfare ala Tolkien with magic added, representations of WWII with Space ships substituted for ships, and “Earthman’s Burden” representations of the joys of Colonialism with Martians and all forms of monsters substituted for natives and “alien” cultures of the East.

What fantasy games do have is (occasionally)humor, a firm “personality” narrative, and a dedication to “Fun” that has gotten too lost in our Historical rules. Historicals need to take these things back into our games, while not tailoring the rules for a sixth grade reading ability or lack of sophistication.


images

There is an old story about Winston Churchill that admonished us to carefully and precisely use swear words in daily speech as too frequent use brands the user a lout, and lessens their effect, and not using them at all gives up the impact and punch that they can add to a communication. He advised that they were like the salt and pepper of language-too much ruins a dish, but too little makes it bland and uninteresting.

What historical war-games need now is a small dash of seasoning, to make the dish more appealing and enjoyable. The most easily integrated, and the elements that will most add both humor and fun are Personalities, Narrative, and the “What the F#*K!?” moment. Let me explain.

As I pointed out in my article, “What History? The Markerdom of Tin Armies” The original historical war-games of Stevenson, Wells, and the other “Earlies”, were based on a strong narrative. This was made up of officers and units who had a real personality-specific traits or qualities that made them subtly different from other officers and units. You got to “know” the officers and their foibles over the many games you played.

In Stevenson’s case it was as simple as one unit where the castings had spindly legs, and were very unstable. The means of adjudicating artillery and rifle fire in his Davos Attic games was either a metal projectile from spring-loaded cannon, or a thrown cufflink. The slightest hit and the whole regiment of “Spindlies” would collapse! They had a reputation for failure that rings throughout the tales of the Davos a\Attic campaign. Wells had a similar affection for a certain officer casting which he imbued with near god-like capabilities in his games-including being saved from wounds quite arbitrarily. These are simple, and not very sophisticated, differences, but putting strong personality traits into certain units and officers adds a lot to fun game-play, and supports an on-going narrative that contributes to much laughter, and good-natured ribbing over a number of games or even years.

Many historical rules have provided mathematical differences to officers and units, but too few have gone beyond some simple numerical advantage, or some pluses and minuses to actually inject personality into the gameplay. There should be some stated “soft” differences such as a bad temper, a feud between certain officers in the same army, an officer that is uncommonly loved that the troops would follow anywhere, the stupid son of an important political figure that too often does something stupid with his command. There should be units that have a reputation for excellence quite beyond their type or random chance, and, of course, the reverse corollary of the unit that is always near disaster. Many such ideas ,and the specific qualities of temperament of historical leaders, may be easily found by reading good histories in any period.

These traits can be assigned and overlaid on the basic game rules, or they can be acquired by chance events that happen on the table. In our last game a battery of British Light guns had a brilliant role in the victory by the allies. That has been noted on a database, and a plus will be added to their die roll on their next game’s rating. They may also acquire a “soft” addition to the unit’s reputation that may manifest itself in surprising ways. (Hint, Hint)

Having a narrative requires an ongoing history-all games with that unit or officer should have a thread that connects them and simple records should be kept,even if there is no formal campaign. Even more detailed narratives and traits can be created if there is a formal campaign.

One other thing, there are simply too few “What the F#*K???” moments in many historical war-games. The history of battles and wars is fraught with complete surprises, amazing escapes, and unlikely turns of events. To be sure, the randomness of die rolls can introduce some of this, but the results are often too little of this occurring, and what does occur is not too much of a surprise, or very different from the predictable norm other than in slight degree. This is where cards really shine as a means of introducing the unexpected. It can also be done by scenario, or a combination of the two. Sam Mustapha’s surprising appearance of bad terrain cards in Longstreet, Brent Oman’s Bazaine card appearing in an FPW game of FOB, or my use of the Creative Moment card in DF as a mechanism; all work to do similar things. They are a shock to the gamer, that he must deal with. They break the sheer mathematical march of certainty that only happens on a wargame table. They are wonderful fun in gameplay...for some. (I will admit that there are those that simply can’t deal with things that are not literal, predictable, and unexpected)

Also, there is nothing wrong with introducing plausible, but only quasi-historical, elements into the game. My Louis XIVths Wine Wagon as a permanent part of the French Armies Train is such a device. It adds color, and also holds out the delightful possibility of success being rewarded with a glass of good red wine from a special bottle in my cellar to some lucky players. They may cease to care if they win the game!

All of these things must not become the main course, but remain, as Churchill suggested about foul language, the seasoning, the touch of spice that adds great flavor to the game. But they will allow so much of the nature of real war and battles into the game! No battle existed without some of these personal and surprising events influencing in a major or minor way the outcome. So it is an irony that by introducing more “fantasy” into historical games we make them more realistic!

I know I’m doing it!








In Hospital

As may be evident from my postings here, I am particularly proud and protective of my figures, especially my growing WSS army. I have mentioned that my army does not travel, and that the games are played by a great group of guys that I have known for years, and with whom I share a strong interest in History and wargaming. They are great fun to be with, and very tolerant of my latest whims and ideas for rules and scenarios. They are also careful with my toys, which I appreciate!

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The Usual Suspects: L.to R.-Terry Shockey, Greg Rold, John Mumby, Ed Meyers, Chris Caudill


However, even with their great care occasionally accidents do happen. It is a fact of wargaming life that figures will be bent, snapped off their bases, flags will be dislodged, buildings scuffed, and even an occasional spillage of beer or coffee will happen. It is best if a person adopts an attitude from the very beginning that this will occur. I am so fatalistic in this regard, that I actually have a designated few hours later in the week after every wargame, where I take my troops to “hospital.”

This allows me to sort through my forces and note any wear and tear and immediately repair the damage leaving the troops ready for the next engagement in all their splendor. I find if I do this small amount of maintenance on a regular basis, the amount to be done is minimal at any one time and takes far less effort than a general overhaul required over several games.

As many of you know, I am not fond of repetitive tasks, especially painting umpteen copies of the same figure, same pose. Therefore, I concentrate on doing special units or mini-dioramas, such as the Siege Train, Louis XIVth’s Wine wagon, or The General’s Carriage, but am more than happy to send my infantry and cavalry units off to Fernando in Sri Lanka for his expert staff to paint. I have never been disappointed in their work. Usually I use the Collector’s standard for most units, but Guard units, Command figures, and a few others are done to a Showcase level. When spiffied up with flags from The Flag Dude or Maverick UK, and mounted and stands terrained by me, they look very good. (Check out the WSS gallery on the photo section of the Yahoo! site)

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I also use the hospital session to improve the figures, so that over time, my army not only is maintained but actually improved! With the Collector’s Standard this usually entails adding extra detail on the lace or buttons, adding fur textures to thing such as dragoon bonnets, and some additional shading to the horses of mounted units. The Showcase Quality seldom need much, but, even there, a touch of added lace or shading can make them sparkle all the more. I think of it as using the professional painted figures as a base and taking them up a level. I do this gradually over time and find it more creative, and very much as rewarding as starting from scratch.

It also allows me to do minor corrections of painting errors. The most common correction is tinting any white belting so that it is in a natural tan in the WSS, and correcting any errors in minor detail. Hair colors can be corrected to a more natural look if needed. This is seldom required as Fernando does an amazingly accurate and high quality job.

For those of you that are beginners and maybe a few others, I have a few recommendations for running this “hospital”.

Design your placement of units on their bases so as to minimize their exposure to damage. Keep them away from the edges, and make the bases thick enough for a good grip, nothing less than 3mm is, in my mind, sufficient. Keep gun barrels for men and artillery from hanging too far out over the edge of the stand. Deliberately choose poses that are most easily contained within the perimeter of the stand.

In the specific case of standards, they should be fixed at two points on the base and on the figure with super glue, and use a thinner, rather than a thicker wire for the pole. I have found that thinner wire than bends and “twangs” back into position, tend to survive a bit better than thicker more rigid wire. It also helps if the gamers observe the protocol of approaching the stand from behind and below, and not over! I have found that my adding of label bases to the rear of the command stand, has served as a crude, but usable, handle for that stand and flag damage has been minimized. (The label description is in an earlier blog entry-All details are found there.)

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There are also simple things you can do that add immeasurably to the diorama and aesthetic of the game. Among them is simple attention to detail. I find that by including items such as limbers, and wagons, the “look” of a game is immediately improved. I also have become very committed to adding easy detail such as harnessing, drapery, sacks, barrels, to the units. This takes very little extra time and I think takes appearances up by 50% or more.

Harnessing is easily constructed from .10 flat wire of varying widths. It’s very light, easily held by superglue, and takes paint without any problem (Paint it prior to fixing on a model, then touch up the bits where metal flakes off during installation). Be sure to form it with proper tension, taut or loose depending on the poses of the horses.)

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The drapes in my General’s Carriage were made of plain typing paper, cut to shape, painted with acrylics and glued in place; Simple but effective.

My Siege Train illustrates another technique, find unused and non-period specific castings and give them a new life by a new use. The Gun in my siege train is a GW Imperial gun, I re-fashioned the carriage, added Front Rank Wheels (which may be purchased separately) and then through careful painting, adding a Front Rank Limber and Oxen, plus some wire and balsa harnessing turned out pretty well. Both the Siege guns and the General’s Carriage made use of small, fine link chain for added detail to the gun and harnessing. Model railroad shops are pretty good sources for the balsa, wire, and chain details that are needed.

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You need a fairly well organized space in which to work, mine is a pine wood square surface on a cutting mat. A good strong light source, such as my magnifying light that can be repositioned over the work area is ideal.

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You cannot have too many different adhesives. Wood glues, super glues in different strengths (and debonder!), Plastic glues, Epoxy (5 minute) for heavy work that will take some stress, and the inevitable Elmer’s White glue. I also must recommend GOO (not Goop) for use as a strong, waterproof adhesive to mount figures to either metal or wood stands. A little goes a long way, it is easy to use, and allows figures to be cleanly removed from the stand with a good Exacto knife at a later date.

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For snapped off figures, or pinning broken arms, horse legs,etc, or for replace meant gun barrels, I have found fine .020 Carbon Fiber Rod to be invaluable. By drilling a hole in the two pieces and using the rod either as an added strengthener on a figure such as shown below, or a pure splint in a horses leg or tail, it can be glued with any number of adhesives and painted over. It is very tough, has enough flexibility that it is easy to use, and is practically invisible even when exposed. It weighs nothing and can be cut to length with a hobby knife or scissors. The center photo below shows its use as a “Brace” for a figures that had been broken off at the ankles. I also used it to create a whip on the general’s carriage.

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Tools are essential, and I have a number, but a few I particularly found the Chopper to be a handy tool for cutting balsa and basswood strips to exact measure, and with perfect angle cuts.

My other tools are pretty standard; Exacto 8 and 11 bladed knives, pin drill, files, small clamps both plastic and wooden clothes pins, but I might point out a few other nice tools. A metal forceps with clamping action is very nice for handling small detail and arranging and holding items such as flat wire for harnessing. Craft toothpicks are very handy for everything from paint to glue application. Lately, I have also gotten a box of clear, light plastic disposable gloves. These really make cleaning up your hands after spray painting or handling certain adhesives very quick and easy-you just throw away the gloves-no scrubbing! A steel ruler with a firm straight edge is also a handy, handy tool.

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I truly enjoy my “hospital” time, and encourage you all to spend a few minutes a week-repairing and improving your troops, the result will make you even more eager to show your troops on parade review!

What History? The Markerdom Of Tin Armies


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(top to bottom; left to right: Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Jack Scruby, Don Featherstone)

Before a recent game, Brent Oman and I were talking about flags, unit identification, and wargaming. He commented that he thought gamers seldom used flags and specific unit identification or markings in games, because many gamers simply didn’t care, and treated the various combat units and figures as generic infantry and cavalry and were only interested in their value-their mathematical worth-in the game , and little else. There were a few exceptions, of course, the Imperial Guard, or, regrettably, SS units, but, on the whole they were just game pieces and nothing more.

This is a great loss for historical wargaming. Wargamers assign units specific names, but, other than a few units, the identifications have no meaning in the game or to the gamers that distinguishes it from any other unit. The units are interchangeable and each is absolutely equivalent to any other unit of its type. They are demoted from being representations of any known historical unit to being an anonymous game piece and no more. Even worse, we (and I include myself) have all been too prone to leave officers and units unnamed, or we just make them up. Once again, we sever the connection with history. In an odd sort of way, the potted histories of fantasy and sci-fi units created by GW have more “history”, albeit repetitive, derivative, and stupid “history”, than our historical units possess. Our units become mere tin markers devoid of any distinguishing traits for the gamers involved, other than a generalized type, and possibly technology differences. This may suffice for the drab anonymity of later periods, but certainly not for a period involving flags, horses, and honor.

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We often hear of the great joys of the “Old School” war-games, which, one has to admit, are usually exaggerated by time and hagiographic memories, but we mistake what made them so good. It wasn’t the dully simple rules, the spring-loaded cannon, or the crude figures that made these games so memorable, but the fact that they existed in a narrative. They fought in a world where an imaginative and fun story was being told. Scruby understood this with his Mafrica games, and Don Featherstone, ever the man with a good story (which were sometimes true) exalted in the joys of a tale well told, including in the games he played. Stevenson and Wells interests in wargaming were solely a good tale. This required units to have singular personalities, and for officers and leaders to have a colorful backstory and fleshed out character. What has been lost in too many modern historical miniature wargame designs is the substitution of the quantitative, the calculated, the CRT, the deadly earnest, and the accountant mentality, for the creative, the Kiplingesque tale, the irrational, but true events of real life, the sense of a narrative.

It has been a great loss to the hobby and made for too many largely commercial, determinately simple minded, sterile, and ultimately boring war-games. No wonder so many young people have run off to fantasy and Sc-fi in the delusion that they are more imaginative, though, in truth, they are even more derivative and predictable.

Good Historical war-games should always tell stories, not be some mathematical equation, and risk-free assessment based on some old Avalon-Hill CRT (3-1 or nothing!). They should entertain on the basis of events and the drama that unfolds, not some sterile all-too-certain calculation. History, at its best, is facts told as instructive stories. History, in itself, is a cracking good story!

That was my initial premise in Piquet all these years ago, and remains the same in Die Fighting to this very day. I am heartened by the recent directions that Sam Mustafa has taken in developing new aspects of the narrative game, and Brent Oman’s FOB developments. Both are using cards, as I did in Piquet, to create true narratives and games that ring of drama, and echo what we read in the historical accounts. Richard Borg has had great success with some aspects of this idea, as has Richard Clarke at TooFatlardies.

The way out for historical wargaming is through the door created by Stevenson, Wells, Scruby, and Featherstone that stresses the narrative over the mathematical, and the experience of the story over some meaningless”Victory”. This does not mean the rules cannot be sophisticated, but it may mean historical gamers might be well served to look in different directions, the pieces on the table must be more than mere tin markers. Our gaming is vastly improved by giving them personalty and individual traits.


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This led to my epiphany, after labeling each of my units and, more importantly, my officers, as I described in may last Blog entry “Crafting Special Units.” I have decided to try to reintroduce history, and historical appreciation, of units and their abilities during a given war in a far more specific way than in the past. I also want the units and the commanding officers to have distinctive and continually developing traits, personalities, and quirks. I plan to overlay this on my preference for creating fictional battles for the armies to fight as opposed to simply refighting historical actions. Not that these changes will preclude refighting some historical engagement, but that they will reinforce history in the fictional scenarios that are created.

The first step in this process is clearly labeling every unit, and giving an actual historical name to every command stand figure in the game. At the very least the gamers should be made familiar with the names of the units and the real names of significant leaders in a given period.

Next, I plan to institute a new process for commanders and units ratings in games. Instead of just random rolls determining a unit’s worth, only corrected by a generalized national plus or minus correction from the Period Template, I intend to create a list with unit by unit corrections from historical reports. If a unit is mentioned positively, it will get a plus 1-2, if pejoratively, a minus 1 or 2. If the unit is either not mentioned or has a mixed record, there is no correction and a straight roll on the template is made. In some periods this will be the vast majority of units. This rating shall be done from scratch for each of my WSS, and, eventually, Great Northern Wars, and FPW armies.

Once created, this is the unit’s value in the game and every future game. It can only be altered by bad performance, or superior performance in a given battle. If the unit is wiped out, it can be reformed and re-rated with a suitable note made to its record. This status will require an assessment after every game/battle. Units that did nothing of note will be unchanged, others will be rewarded or punished as the history warrants. Each unit will have a card on a simple database, where a record is kept. Post-game evaluations will incorporate the feelings of the players, as well as the umpire’s assessment. There will be a slight variation for good day, bad day. A roll of 1-2 is a bad day -1 on rating die roll; 3-4 an average day no corrections; 5-6, an extraordinary day, add 1 more to the rating roll!

Over time, this will give real personalities and a wargame history to each unit ranging from unremarkable to admirable and even to scorn. I think this could add great fun over time to game play.

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The officers are another change I am experimenting with. My idea is to give an actual historical title and name to each officer/command stand in the game. They will then be given a rating that only varies by a set range depending on historical assessment. My present concept is to make it a simple 3 number range as described above.. Each officer will be rated by rolling a single 6 sided die. 1-2 equals a low rating, 3-4 a middling rating, and 5-6 a high rating, BUT each officer shall have different ranges that are based on history.

A Marlborough would be a 4 (low)-4(average)-5(High)in terms of DF’s command dice. Even on his worst day he’s pretty good. A Tallard would be a 1-2-3, even on his best day he’s average. General Cadogan may be a 3-4-4, pretty good, and average on his worst day. Some may rate out at 1-1-2! The best, which I cannot see ever granting, would be 5-5-5, and the worst a 1-1-1 , which may well happen. A “poor” roll of 1-2 will also trigger a second roll that will determine additional weaknesses, quirks, or problems with that commander’s actions; all based on historical texts. Therefore, a Charles XII could still be a 4 in command dice, but his aggressiveness as a leader might be prompted into rashness or foolhardy behavior. A Tallard rolling poorly could bring out his timid and lacksadaisical nature to a greater degree!

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Now, I can see the thought occurring to gamers, “Why would I ever take some miserable general, and not opt for my best available officer?” The answer is that you don’t get the choice! Either the King, Parliament, or the various national councils will choose who to command in a campaign or particular battle. My method for doing that will be making up the equivalent of baseball cards for each commander of any given army. The card will list their title, name, seniority, notable historical battles, and a short history of their actual career. It will also have their command dice range as described above, and any possible historical quirks, attributes, flaws, and unusual abilities. The Baseball card deck will be shuffled for each side and a draw for commanders and subordinate officers will be made. Each officer shall have a seniority number based on his reputation, and/or on his date of commission. The highest ranked is the commanding officer. The subordinates may be assigned to command the various brigades. Some officers will only be used as subordinates, other will always be commanding the entire army. Note this is by army in the WSS, as each nation had its own commander, that though subservient in battle field command, led the troops of his own nation. That is, English command English, French, French, and Austrians, Dutch, and Bavarians likewise. After each is assigned his role, the rating for the day of battle will be rolled to determine if they are on their game, or having a rough patch in their career.

Certain officers may have multiple cards in the command deck, increasing their chances of being chosen, or the scenario can stipulate a commander, and only the subordinates are chosen. Each army will have a range of commanders in their deck that ranges from “Oh, my God!” to “Hurrah!”. In lesser known armies (such as the Russian Army of the GNW) I may still have to create some fictional names, but that will be a last resort.

There will also be, in some decks, a few special commanders whose command will be limited to only certain areas of command. One I have in mind is Holcroft Blood of the British Army. He will not have an actual command, per se, but will allow some benefits to artillery he is near, in the form of extra dice. He may also allow the artillery some privileges during the initial deployment and even later movement! There are other commanders of horse, or specialized arms such as engineers, that may appear in the deck as they show up in my readings, or for a particular period. These will not count as a draw against the drawing army, but be a free addition to their army’s capability. I am open to other’s discoveries and additions to these officer’s “personalities.”

My goal with all of these experiments is to introduce more history in a narrative way to the game and strive to increase personality and historical fun and defeat the markerdom of our tin armies. When one reads Lloyd Osbournes’ description of Robert Louis Stevenson’s attic game in the winter of 1878 in Davos, one would begin to get the idea of my eventual goal. It is no accident that the first true recreational war gamers were writers by trade-Stevenson and Wells, they were the progenitors of the narrative wargame, because that’s what they did for a living, create narrative stories! After my experience at Getzcon this last September (see the September Blog posting) I am much encouraged that with Mustafa, Oman, Getz and myself all experimenting in Narrative Wargames that a true renaissance of the Stevenson, Wells traditions may be underway!

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Crafting Special Units


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Many historical wargamers are so concentrated on the combat troops, and getting their forces to a sufficient size for the next game, that they seldom look beyond adding to the most effective units for their rulesets, and their forces quickly become very similar to every other wargame army in any period that they are now gaming. Everyone has the Imperial Guard, or British Rifles in Napoleonic armies, Panther Tanks in WWII, or, in the AWI ,the minutemen, and buckskin-clothed riflemen. Other than the quality of the painting, and styles of base terraining, there is a certain sameness that one spots upon roaming the game tables at conventions. (This is even more true of sci-fi / fantasy, but that’s another article!)

ll too often in war-games of the horse and musket era, one is lucky to see more than one flag on an infantry unit, and the cavalry often goes into combat without their colors. The guns are evidently self-propelled, because limbers are few, and, even when rarely used, the limber does not seem to have any physical connection to its team of horses. Any indication of logistics, or support weaponry is usually nonexistent.

This is a shame!

There are many ways to make the game presentation for the gamers, any onlookers, and, especially for the owner, a more effective and colorful production. Foremost among them is some attention to table-top terrain as mentioned in my earlier blog articles on that subject (July 2013), but attention to certain details beyond just the uniforms is an all-too-frequently overlooked aspect.

This can be the introduction of seldom modeled support units, or dioramic scenes to the table top. It can also be adding details that are often ignored, or omitted from regular units and take very little extra effort to add. The addition of these ideas to the wargame can also be creatively included in the gameplay or improve it, so they are not just decorative additions.

The addition of logistics and support units can add a lot of period color, and in the early to mid Horse and musket period were, in one form or another, very near the battle field. It is a lot of fun and not too much of a stretch to make them one of the game objectives. Certainly in the period starting with the early 1700s, to even as late as the Napoleonic Wars, their looting or capture was not uncommon. They make a great diorama effect positioned well behind the army’s lines.


This is an area for a little humor as well, using character figures, modeling odd impedimenta. In my WSS period games, I created Louis the XIV’s Wine Wagon based on tales of these wagons (if not specifically for Louis! ). I went out and bought a good bottle of French Rhone Wine that I keep in my wine rack. If the wagon is ever captured, the Allies each get a glass of the wine to drink and the French side will be given glasses of water!

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They can be unique custom units that you can create yourself that will make your army stand out. I scratch-built the Wine Wagon from an S gauge model railroad water wagon kit, adding doll house barrels, and then painted a very royal red! My siege train was made from a GW Imperial Army artillery barrel and frame, but with Front Rank heavy duty wheels replacing the plastic ones from the kit, and some details added on the elevation wedge, and limber Hitch. The limber is Front Rank as is the oxen team, but I modeled the harnessing and hitch arrangement from balsa and .10 wire, using historical art and photos as a guide.

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My pontoon wagon is a modified Hinchliffe 30mm wagon, to which is added a Reiver Draft Horse, two Front rank civilian figures, some balsa bridging planks, and some fine chain link from the local hobby shop.

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Note that even on this model, a harness lead is provided

The addition of detail to units of all types adds to their attractiveness and adds a sense of real historicity to the units. As I noted above, the addition of harnessing is a big get for little effort. Use .10 flat wire, superglues and leather paint, and you add a LOT to the model. I also used chain on my Siege model connecting the Oxen to the Limber, the Gun to the limber. Deployed artillery may have powder barrels, Shot wheelbarrows, chests, etc added to their stands.

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Maximum Harness!

But above all, flags and finials on the flag staff are absolutely necessary! If your armies carried flags then add them! They add a lot of color and history to the unit. You can do them yourself, but I use the wonderful flags done by the Flag Dude for most of my units, supplemented by Maverick and Flags of War out of England for units the Dude does not do.

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Barry Hilton on the League of Augsberg site has a recent posting on doing command stands as mini-dioramas, that I heartily recommend. See: http://leagueofaugsburg.blogspot.com/2013/11/i-wanna-tell-you-story-tales-with-toy.html One should always be on the look out for a unique “personality figure” to add to a command stand or unit. I also suggest you use a mix of manufacturers to widen the range of poses both between units and within them for greater visual variety. The days of a rigid line of identically posed figures is over, except for a few die-hard “Old School” types.

Added custom additions can also add clarity to game play and easier identification of the units involved in the game. I have long used base shapes as an identifier of unit types-especially in smaller scales such as 10mm and 6mm. My 10mm FPW army was the first that used this system. In all cases, and scales, I use Litko 3mm thick plywood bases. They are indestructible, take paint and terraining well without any warping, and give enough traction for all but the most fumble-fingered war gamers to grip the unit without grabbing the figures.

I assigned infantry 2x1” rectangles, Horse 2x2” squares, artillery hexagons (1” for 10mm, 3” for 28s), and command circles (again 1” for 10mm, and 3” for 28s). 2X1” ovals were militia and untrained infantry. Even at a distance, the troops were easier to ID in 10mm, and I liked the system so much that I kept a variant of it for my WSS 28s.

But my most recent detail addition occupied my last week of modeling.

We have been playing WSS at my house for over a year now-using DF rules. I had hoped that my good wargame buddies would soon start identifying the various units-especially the French- by learning the flags. I was too optimistic! It reached a crescendo last week when one gamer thought he was advancing with the English Foot Guards, when it turned out to be a lower rated Seymour’s 4th foot! Talk about the fog of war!

To be fair, I am VERY into the period and I own the figures, bought them, either painted or had them painted, and selected each one for a specific reason of history, color, or reputation. I know every unit as if it were family The guys come over and are intent on having some fun, our games are fairly social (food and drink flow freely) and they really aren’t deep into the weeds on the banks of the Rhine. It wasn’t exactly fair of me to demand that they share my interest down to the most arcane details of vexillology!

So I decided to solve the problem by making the identity of every unit as clear as a bell. by adding labels. This posed a small problem since the label additions would be after the troops had been mounted and terrained - which I didn’t want to do all over again. I also wanted to add information beyond a simple name. It had to be aesthetically pleasing and not ruin the diorama effect of the battles. They had to be classy. I also wanted to not spend a fortune on this change. Several challenges to resolve!

After some thought , I designed a label base made from typical modeler balsa strips and shapes, costing very little but looking, if I may say so,damn good. I own a handy device called The Chopper that jus available at many model railroad hobby stores that is one of the handiest tools I’ve ever owned for precision cutting. I began cutting strips of .5”wide strip, 2” in length and similar pieces of 3/16th strip. and 3/8ths wedge strips into a three piece construct that was glued together into a perfect fit for the edge of my 2” wide 3mm Litko stands. Once painted and sealed with gloss varnish, and then glued onto the command stand of every unit, they provided the perfect base for a label! Only the command stand was necessary since the four company stands were always with it.

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The labels themselves were done using the Table function in Word to fit the base perfectly. I used the Word ability to color the background and text of each cell so that I could by color clearly designate the nationality of a unit ( and the officer of the same color that was allowed to send orders to that unit). In addition to the name, I added the type description of the unit in DF (line infantry, guard, dragoon, etc). This meant that a gamer knew the unit’s name, its nationality, and its game type at a glance. They were printed on 4X6 photo paper which gives a great hard, gloss finish, and vivid colors with distinct lettering.

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I designed the label to lie at a 45 degree angle, which made it readable from both a standing or sitting position at my table. Its low profile, and similar coloration to the base, almost made it invisible from the front or side making it less obtrusive to the diorama of the game. The additions to the infantry and cavalry were done in a day.

The artillery and officers posed different problems. The artillery bases, being hexes, and crowded with gun and crew, required a shorter, and smaller, label. They were done separately.


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The officers were a more difficult problem since they were mounted on a round stand, my answer was to combine a duplicate round Litko stand, with a section cut out of a chord that was exactly 2” and a fit for a standard 1X2” Litko ply stand, these were glued together, and a similar wedge and strip balsa piece was glued directly to it.

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Once terrained and labeled they looked great! The artillery stand labels list a battery’s ID, weight of gun, and, by color, nationality. The officer labels list the title of the officer, his full name, and, by color, nationality.



Marl

All of the above projects are fun to create, and very easy and quick additions to armies in many periods. They provide a nice relief and alternative to painting rows of identical figures, and they make your army stand out from the crowd. Try it! I guarantee you’ll like how you look!










My Greatest Finds of 2013

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Each Year, prior to the Christmas Season, I like to suggest some wargame products released in the last year that I would recommend to other gamers for their Christmas Lists. Here is the 2013 list of “Greatest Wargame Finds”. It covers games, boardgames, wargaming, and just plain neat things. I offer the disclaimer that I have NO financial relationship, other than being a customer, with any of these products.

1. Everything that EBOR Miniatures of Yorkshire, UK casts! Their War Of Spanish Succession line is simply superb. This year, the Artillery sets with their wonderful posing, and their new cavalry charging, add to an incomparable line of figures. They are now Kickstarting a line of Swedish Army troops of the Great Northern War that promises to be every bit as good. Check them out, very competitively priced and excellent service. See: http://www.eborminiatures.com

2. Mark Adkin’s latest BIG book, “The Western Front Companion,” is another gem in the style of his earlier Waterloo, Trafalgar, and Gettysburg volumes. World War I is NOT my favorite period, but this book is just so compellingly written, so inclusive, and well illustrated, I would say it is a required volume for any military history library. Not cheap, but worth every penny of its $42 price(Amazon) See: http://www.amazon.com/Western-Front-Companion-Devastating-1914-1918/dp/0811713164/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383773927&sr=1-1&keywords=mark+adkins

3. Battle Over Britain by Gary Graber is a clever, clever, little card wargame covering aerial combat in WWII that is great fun to play and says more about air combat with its rapid play and emphasis on “advantage” than many air war-games out there that move in a stately manner and seem to forget about the vertical dimension entirely! This very inexpensive game($11.95) from MInden Games is a great gift item for a fellow gamer. It is a lot of fun, and may attract the non-gamer as well. See: http://minden_games.homestead.com

4. Napoleon 4th edition from Columbia Games is an updating and upgrading of a classic block wargame that has stood the test of time and is now even more elegantly presented. Block games are, to my mind, one of the most creative and effective forms of board wargaming available. This game, along with Quebec 1759, were the inspiration for a whole new category of game design, and are one of the true conceptual breakthroughs of wargame design in my lifetime. This latest version is the result of a Kickstarter and features an improved mounted map board, some oversized blocks with metallic foil unit identifiers, a battle board, and rules that have been made, if anything, cleaner and more effective. See: http://www.columbiagames.com

5. Total Battle Miniatures makes the best resin terrain buildings I have ever seen. Crisp molding, great proportions, and they come in 10, 15,and 28mm scale for both Horse and Musket or Modern periods. They not only have excellent buildings, but roads, terrain tiles for the buildings and both medieval and Vauban period fortifications in all scales! Excellent service. Good prices. (I’m asking for the Vauban Fort for Christmas). Take a look at their site at : http://www.totalbattleminiatures.com

6. 2 de Mayo-this is an unusual little wargame that is based on the popular uprising of the Spanish population of Madrid against their French occupiers on May 2, 1808. This game is very unusual, quick playing and is growing in popularity as more and more people become aware of its seductive charm. A great mix of history, abstraction, and intriguing game mechanics. See: https://www.funagain.com/control/product?product_id=020838

7. Finally, for a non-military change of pace, I suggest you look out for Hanabi, a delightful card game for everyone with a Japanese fireworks theme. Great fun that good friends and a little wine and beer makes for a great evening of laughter.

May I be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas!

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Few Battles, Many Wargames


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I recently was part of an exchange of emails from a gamer deciding what period to paint figures for next. There were many arguments back and forth about the merits of several periods, but one criticism came up which got me to thinking about wargame periods in a new way.

The opinion was advanced that some periods are not really worth consideration because so few battles were fought in the actual war. The exact period in question was the Great Northern War where it was asserted only four major battles were fought over twenty years of fighting, so what could a gamer really expect from the period? This was contrasted with the American Civil War and the Napoleonic Wars where dozens of good sized battle were fought. Other periods such as the WSS and even the American Revolution certainly had fewer major battles, and in the case of the AWR the ones that were fought were minuscule in size of the armies compared to European actions of that same time.

Just a bit of thought on this matter brought me to not only reject this line of argument, but to actually see some merit in wars that had fewer battles!

First of all, unless one limits one’s gaming in a period to recreating actual battles and refighting them, the lack of battles in a period is not really important. Even in periods with many battles, most gamers find themselves refighting three or four favorite “Old Warhorses” and ignoring most other engagements. I bet there’s a hundred Napoleonic gamers that have refought Waterloo, Salamanca, Leipsic or Austerlitz multiple times to every one gamer that has refought Ulm or LaRothiere. Likewise, Gettysburg seems to be the recurring ACW game, and Pea Ridge is only for the truly committed ACW miniature gamer.

More importantly, the VAST majority of games I’ve been in or seen played were fictionalized engagements built around a scenario that, though based on historical considerations, was entirely created for the purpose of playing a good game with challenging premises and not any actual events. Sometimes these fictional games were a form of alternative history where a real battle was altered in numbers, location, or timing and based on real events, but more often they are just created out of whole cloth. Again, great consideration was given to the historical technologies, drill and command limitations of each army, and even to insuring realistic terrain and uniform correctness, BUT the tabletop battle itself was a creative fiction, an act of imagination and artistic design. These are often great games, and are a VERY common form of historical wargaming at conventions as well as in private gaming.

As long as there is enough of a historical record to accurately estimate the effectiveness of arms, each armies tactical skills, and the quality of leadership and command, you can create battles for the tabletop that will be fun and historically instructive. In fact, there is a case to be made that periods with fewer battles encourage more of this historically imaginative gaming, which may be more rewarding and challenging than recreating actual battles.

If you know the Prussians will arrive in late afternoon at Waterloo, or that there’s nobody in front of you at Chancellorsville, or any number of certainties that the actual commanders did not have at that time, you will be making decisions on the basis of a science-fiction novel as you foresee the future, and the possible outcome from past strategies. Talk about unrealistic! However, if you are fighting a battle with no historical precedent, no sure timetable, and no precognition of bad or innovative tactics, you are far closer to a real commander’s experience than in a historical refight. In a fictional scenario, history is yet to be written, and you will write it!

Periods with fewer historical battles free you from the mindset and approach of historical predetermination. It is also true that there is NO LIMIT to the number of creative scenarios and fictional battles you may play in any period! You may fight many, many more battles in the WSS or the GNW than the actual commanders ever did! It is still historically accurate, perhaps more fun, and inspires creativity and not just filling in an order of battle. To be sure, a period must have enough battles and comparative data to accurately recreate its conditions, but as few as three or four engagements are sufficient. Minor actions, raids, and skirmishes also abound in almost every period to add to the information required.

So pick a period you like. If it has intriguing personalities, great uniforms, interesting tactical considerations and limitations, and good amounts of published scholarship, then the last thing to worry about is whether there were one hundred battles or just five! Just as in travel, where the best experiences are often staying and eating where the tourists seldom go; so in wargaming the periods that are a bit off the well-beaten path will often be far more rewarding!

Speaking of beating paths, you might want to beat a path to Nick Wragg’s new Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/eborminiatures/swedish-army-of-the-great-northern-war-by-ebor-min?ref=live

Getzcon-Micro-Convention

I had always wanted to host a gathering of gamers and designers that are exploring the narrative style of wargaming, often using cards, dice, and other innovative uses of any number of gaming tools. The occasion finally arose when my good friend of over 40 years, Jim Getz, arranged to come out for a few days in September. It, initially, was to be a simple visit of a friend, but I soon got the idea to broaden the visit into an event. Thus was born GETZCON! I craftily named it after Jim, so that if is was a failure his name, and not mine, would by forever linked with the event.

I sent out invitations to people I have known and respected, and knew would enjoy each other and the prospect of a few days gaming and talking war-games. No rules lawyers, no whiners, no gamers that weren’t open to new ideas and fun. I also decided to concentrate on those that were very supportive of narrative wargames-such as Die Fighting , Piquet, Field of Battle, Maurice, and Longstreet. I invited about twenty people from across the US and Europe. Conflicts and distance required some to decline, but the group that did assemble was really a singular group. On Friday, September 13th, and Saturday September 14th, they assembled in Denver at Chez Jones for the new Micro-convention-Getzcon!

They were Jim Getz of Napoleonique, Empire, and Chef d’Battalion; Brent Oman of Piquet and Field of Battle, Sam Mustafa of Might and Reason, Grand Armee, Lasalle, Maurice, and now Longstreet, Myself, author of Le Jeu de la Guerre, Piquet, Zouave II and Die Fighting, along with long time supporters of these designs like Californians Freddie Avner, and Iain Black (Who flew in direct from Amsterdam. With some excellent cheese, I might add!)), plus expert play testers such as Terry Shockey and John Mumby. My long-time friend, Ed Meyers, who was part of the Les Jeu dela Guerre rules of so long ago, and New friends such as Eric Elder. Tony Fryer brought his usual pure fun and enthusiasm, and doubled as grill chef during the closing Cook-out. Tony always creates fun scenarios, and his FOB game was no exception! Greg Rold was very involved in the FOB game and the Longstreet introduction, and could be seen analyzing the new rules very carefully. Everyone was very busy either talking, gaming, or eating for the two days of the event.

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Getzcon began on Friday evening with a cocktail party, which allowed a few people that had not met to do so, and for old acquaintances to talk about a wide range of topics, past games, rules, and the merits of good drink. It was a spirited and fun event with the conversation moving around the room accompanied by laughter and many a story about past experiences. Don Featherstone was one of the subjects and a toast was raised in his honor. Fond memories of meetings with Don, and David Chandler, were recounted.


Panorama


I had had T-shirts made up for the group with the motto “ Historia, Ludus, Rixor, Crapula” which pretty much captured the activities of the convention. These were distributed during the cocktail party. I also had recently discovered among my collection a number of 30mm painted Stadden figures of the Young and Old Guard that I had purchased at the Tradition Shop on my first trip to England in 1969. These were individually mounted on simple black plinths and presented to each of the assembled Getzcon attendees.

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As a surprise to me, Jim Getz had brought a presentation with him to the party. He presented me with a replica of the Victoria cross that had been given to him by Don Featherstone. (Jim was great friends with both Don and David Chandler and had visited them often in England). It was a touching and most appreciated gift.

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But it was gaming that the group had come for, and starting after a small breakfast on Saturday the 14th, games there were to be! The morning games from 9:30 AM until 1:00 PM or so were a Die Fighting WSS game on the big table, and an FOB ACW game on the smaller table in the Fryer Lounge (recently converted from a storage room). The games began sharply at 9:30 with the attendees breaking upo into separate groups for the games.

The WSS game was made up of over 50 units on the 4X12 food table. It was a re-fight of a very successful game played in July, “Battle of Linswald”, that had been won by the Allies in a crushing defeat. (that battle may be found on this blog) . The field was unchanged from the earlier battle, but the set-ups could not have been more different.

Bob


The allies Ignored their left beyond the stream, and, instead, bolstered the center a bit, and added the bulk of their attack on the their right under Iain Black. The French again deployed in a balanced fashion with their dragoons on their right set to wend their way through the Linswald woods and take the undefended objectives, and then turn on the allied left flank. The center began a measured advance, while the left moved foreword to contest the Miasme Chateau.

Battle - CenterBattle - French Center

The Dragoons led by Sam Mustafa, did make their way through the the Linwald wood, and captured the road and the bridge over the steam, but the allies refused their flank.

Mustafa Attack


The Allies responded by sending the Prussians through the LInswald village, capturing most of the village. But the fatal blow was on the their right when they captured the Miasme Chateau and inflicted such heavy losses on the French left that their dice were running low (we played, as we do all games now, with the multiple bucket rule).

Crucial attack WSS

Even when the attack by the Dutch cavalry was blunted North of the windmill by the brave Bavarians, it was looking very bleak for the French Left as they had paid a dear price in troops (and Dice) for their defense.


photo copy 4Freddie and Ian

The crucial French error was a complete failure of communication between the CIC (Terry Shockey) and the Left Wing Commander (Fred Avner) as to his diminished resources (Dice) and the French had not committed the reserve dice to his flank on the last Turn. When that crisis became clear, it was a question whether Freddie could survive with a mere 14 dice left, before the next Rally, Restore, Reload card allowed the Reserve to be sent. Iain made sure with a full frontal attack that this would not happen! The French left ran out of dice and the battle was declared won by the Allies, while the French, once again, retreated back onto the Brabant fortifications. Thank heavens for the skill of Vauban! The game was concluded at 1:00 PM.

Meanwhile, the other gamers were fighting an FOB game in the adjoining room. Many shouts of “Union Forever! “and Rebel Yells were heard.

FOB

Here is the Union Commander’s report (since they were the victor they write the history):

“FOB game AAR

from: Brigadier General Greg Rold, U.S. volunteers, serving under Brigadier General Eric Elder

General Elder and I were ordered to probe the Confederate lines and were advancing our divisions side by side with myself on the left and General Elder on the right. As we encountered light resistance (the 4 Union Brigades initially faced 2 rebel brigades), I ordered up my 3rd brigade. (My 7 regiments were initially advancing against 3 regiments and a battery, 2 opposing regiments advanced while the other units deployed. I routed one of the enemy regiments and forced the other backwards.) At this point the advance of the fresh third brigade stalled as the commander lost his nerve. (This brigade had a huge opportunity to advance into close range with the outnumbered enemy and do some real damage, and after rolling a triple move to advance onto the board, he rolled a '1' on the next move card and stalled in place - this was a d8 leader). I had to threaten to relieve the colonel of command to get his troops moving again.



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This delay nearly cost us the battle as the rebels were suddenly reinforced by 2 additional brigades, which, after a slight mixup in orders (one brigade rolled the dreaded '1' on its attempt to move onto the table), were able to coordinate a heavy counterattack on General Elder. General Elder was able to repulse the attack although he suffered some significant losses. (At one point, Eric's C8-D4 unit fought 3 melee's against C8-D4, C10-D6, and a C12+1-D10 units, winning all 3 melees, routing 2 enemy units and forcing back the C10-D6 unit. Our regiment was quite heroic and should be mentioned in General Elder's dispatches.)

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At this point, my troops resumed the advance and exchanged heavy fire and assaults with the enemy. While my men did suffer some losses in the advance, we were able to force the rebels to retire hastily from the field. We did capture some rebel artillery and inflicted serious losses among the enemy infantry. (At this point, the Confederates were giving us morale chips, and they had a number of regiments that were routing or destroyed. We also had a few destroyed units, but were in much better shape to continue the contest. The Confederate players decided to throw in the towel. When we checked, the Union still had 11 morale chips along with the chips we were winning from the Confederates.)

Respectfully submitted by your obedient servant,

Brigadier General Rold”

(No one seems to know who that guy in the confederate forage hat was…he seemed mildly embarrassed by the fashion statement.)

Further commentary on this game may be found (along with scenario design notes) at Tony’s excellent blog: http://wargamebayou.blogspot.com Brent Oman’s site is at: http://wargamesandstuff.blogspot.com Additionally, more photos and text may be found on Eric Elder’s blog at: http://elderswargaming.blogspot.com/

The FOB game concluded at exactly the same time as the DF game, and left everyone free to break for lunch and catch a beer and a sandwich. Lots of chatter about the games filled the air, with the usual, “But if i’d only done ….,” statements.

The break was a swift one as Sam Mustafa was going to introduce all of us to Longstreet on the big table. Several players rotated through that demo and game, while everyone else watched closely. It is seldom that you get a designer willing to fly across country to coach you through your initial game of his new rules! Everyone was eager to give Sam’s latest a try. They weren’t disappointed!

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Jim Getz seems absolutely mesmerized by Sam’s guidance!

The game was very much enjoyed by everyone playing. It is also a very different game than Maurice, which several had played before this game. It took only a few minutes of remarks and everyone was playing the game. It is very accessible!

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As luck would have it (or not have it, as the case may be) Jim Getz at a critical moment opened fire at the Confederate lines and rolled this:

LS-6 ones

Yup, six natural ones! Needless to say the Union was very demoralized, and the Confedrates were convinced at this point they were proof from shot or shell, and swept forward to victory. One of the morals here is never trust a rule designer to win a game! That’s not what they’re good at!

Needless to say, it was a great game experience and Sam sold a number of rule sets on the spot! Check out Sam’s rules site at : http://www.sammustafa.com/honour-forums/index.php

By 5:00 PM the afternoon session gave way to a cookout with burgers on the grill, sesame buns, bean salad, chips, wine, beer, and chocolate cake! After a leisurely meal, some of the group went downstairs for a scratch game of Maurice, while others of us stayed above for a card game of Hanabi, one of the most delightful “party” card games I’ve played in years. Tony Fryer brought it, and it was an instant hit. Lots of laughter and light-hearted banter. This was helped by the addition of some good scotch for those who partake. It was a perfect end for all involved as we said our goodbyes and all left for home-some nearby and others a long flight on the next day.

I very much enjoyed hosting this event, and only regret that all those invited could not attend-maybe next year. It was a perfect “convention” and game weekend with four different war games, many meals and drink, and lots of wonderful conversation. It was a particular delight to have four of the hobby’s most innovative designers under one roof, sharing their ideas, and listening to the group’s insightful comments and the sharing of several hundred years of experiences and memories. It was also the first gathering of people dedicated to “Narrative” wargame design to my knowledge. May some even more innovative ideas come from this event! Micro-conventions are the thing, that’s for sure!

The only blot on the weekend was the beginning of the rains that brought so much suffering to parts of Colorado in the foothills and Mountain canyons to the North. Though Denver was not greatly affected, everyone shares in our heartfelt sympathies and wishes for their rapid recovery from this awful act of nature.

The end



The End

Competitive or Cooperative?


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In recent years there have been a number of somewhat different boardgames that are really great deal of fun-even for people that are normally not much for boardgames. I’m speaking of Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and the new Forbidden Desert. The characteristic these three designs share is that they aren’t really competitive in the same way that past games have been. They are games designed to require every player to cooperate with the other gamers to win the game. They either all win as a group effort, or they ALL lose the game.

In Pandemic each player is a member of an epidemic containment and elimination team- a scientist, lab technician, forward facilities administrator, etc. Each player has a special skill that, in itself, is not capable of halting a world-wide epidemic, but if they work together, using their particular skill to contribute to victory, then they can stop the killer virus and save the world! In Forbidden Island-each player is the member of a team that is trying to remove valuable artifacts from the island before it sinks beneath the waves. Skills range from helocopter pilot who can flit about the island, and is the only means to get everyone off the island when the artifacts are found, to a diver who can transit flooded areas, or an explorer that has “Jungle Skills”. There are six people in all on the island, and they either all get off the sinking island with the goodies, or they all perish. Forbidden Desert is a variant where a team of archeologists and scientists are trying to recover a strange flying machine buried ion the shifting sands of the desert, and fly it out of peril, or they will all die of thirst or be buried in the treacherous sands.

All of these provide for a great evening’s gaming, and are unique in that everybody can be a winner.

These games got me thinking about wargaming with miniatures on a table top. It is a truism that most war-games, since they are a game based on battles, are competitive. Ties are rare. One army and general will generally win, and, as in history, one will lose. That’s a given.

But competitive games can lead to some really outrageous behavior by some gamers, ranging from cursing, throwing dice across the room, arguing some minor point to impossible lengths, passive-aggressive delays and sniping at the rules and the other players, or rudeness, and even, on rare occasions, to fisticuffs. I’ve always thought that the gamers most prone to these extreme behaviors have some other unresolved problems or difficulties, and are using the game to release these stresses by projecting their anger and bad behavior into the game. I’ve often felt some concern for the worst offenders, but it is limited by the obvious fact that this destructive acting out affects every other gamer, and can in a few moments destroy an enjoyable experience for everyone else.

I have begun to see the play of a wargame as not really competitive at core, but cooperative. When you sit down at a wargame table you are entering into a contract to help everyone else at the table use their minds and energies to create a work of imagination and fun, a distraction-rather like staging a play, filming a movie, or playing music in a band or orchestra. This illusion is built by hours of work painting figures and building terrain, reading rules and investing time in learning them, and by joining other people that have contributed their time and money to stage this entertaining bit of performance art. Everyone then has to pull on their own oar-even if competing against each other for the “victory”- to energize this endeavor and help contribute to the fun, drama, and social experience. If, instead, you get so caught up in the competitive aspects of the wargame that you begin to work against the total group, even players on your side, and destroy the illusion, the suspension of disbelief is shattered, and often cannot be recovered again. The game is over. The bubble is popped, and everyone is a loser. Hours of preparation and play can be wasted for EVERYONE, because of one person’s lack of consideration.

So, in a very real sense, war-games should be thought of as cooperative endeavors,and the joy we get from them should not be some meaningless “win” in a game, but the social interaction with others, the laughter, watching the creative suspense and developing narrative of the game as it unfolds, and this should be the case win or lose! There is NO occurrence in a war-game that warrants being destructive to the imaginative effort of all at the table-not one. A discussion perhaps, a die roll if necessary, but nothing beyond that.

There is a saying about Academia that the arguments are so mean spirited and nasty, because the stakes are so low. This may be true of wargaming as well, if reading the postings on TMP, or even worse, the Blue Fez, are any indication. (Last week’s interminable thread on TMP about the number of decks in Longstreet was one more example of the stupidly destructive behavior of some wargamers) It may be that the hobby attracts an unusual share of people that are trying to compensate for disappointments in life, and, therefore, they cannot deal with any further set-backs even in the totally artificial, and ultimately meaningless, activity where grown men move toy soldiers over a green felt terrain. It may be that some war gamers are simply anti-social, maladjusted, victims of arrested development, or really bad losers, but I hope that many more war gamers come to see that a wargame is competitive only up to a point, and is ultimately cooperative, and demands a commitment to all the players at the table, not just half of them, or , even worse, only to yourself.

If the wargame is well done and well played, we are all winners, and if the spell is broken-everyone loses…everyone. The sea will swallow us up, the desert will cover our footsteps, the killer virus will spread, and our enjoyment of that day’s wargame is ended.




The Battle of Linswald-DF AAR

The Battle of Linswald-July 20, 1703


Being an account of the recent engagement between the forces of the Sun-King, Louis XIV, and his Bourbon kinsman, Phillip of Spain, and the Elector of Bavaria versus the assembled forces of the Allies led by the English General, John Churchill, and including the Dutch Republic. The Hapsburg Empire, and The Prussian forces of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

The Battle of Linswald attacks10

The forces arrayed. The Town of Linswald in the center, and the Linswald Forest on the right. On the left rear is the Moulin du Mougin sitting on a low ridge, and on the far left is the Chateau Miasme-a decrepit ruin of a once proud estate. In the distant left is a small farm and a low unnamed ridge.

The French (In White)have arrayed dragoons near the Linswald Forest-French Infantry spanning the stream north of the ford, a large mass of cavalry, including the Cuirassiers du Roi, The Royal Carabiniers, and Chevau-legere Regiment Conde to the east of the village. South of the village are a force of two Bavarian Regiments and Regiment Clare (Irish). The left is made up of a Bavarian Artillery battery on the plain. The Mougin ridgeline is held by a Spanish “Old Yellows” regiment fronted by some Spanish Dragoons, East of the Moulin, and a French Gun Battery West of it. Just West of the ridge is a cavalry group made up of Bavarian Cuirassiers and the Mousquetaires du Roi, and two regiments of the Maison Rouge-the French Guard Francaise and the Garde Suisse.

The Allies (in Red) deployed with the English to the right-the 1st Dragoons opposite the Linswald Firest, and a string of Austrian foot From the bridge to the gun batteries. They were backed by Prussian Ansbach cavalry and Austrian Cuirassiers. A Large “Grande Battery” of a Prussian, and two British batteries stationed themselves just South of the road and East of Linswald. Directly North of the town are the Anhalt-Dessau and Kronprinz Prussian Regiments. The British foot was on the Right, primarily around the small farm, which was fronted by a great troop of cavalry made up of Hannoverian horse, Dutch Nassau horse, Cadogan’s Horse, Lloyd’s Dragoons, and Danish Horse. The farmstead hosted a light Britih artilelry battery. The Allied Far Right was anchored by the Dutch with the Welderen regiment and the Dutch Guards assaulting the Chateau, and the Salish regiment linking the chateau with the Dutch battery on the ridge line.

Here’s a Oil painting showing the initial view prior to battle by our artist, Reggie Percy-Smyth Painted from notes drawn from a perch in a tall tree in the Linswald Forest:

WSS Battle July 20

And from the top of the ridge line on the allied Right Flank an opposing view of the initial positions drawn from memory in pencil by Willem von Loon of the Dutch Army Staff:

The Allied horse

A Full listing of the the troops involved on both sides may be found at the Yahoo! Site in the File Section ( http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Repiquerules/files/Battle%20of%20Linswald/ ), as well as a page of “special” rules that were applied to this battle only. You should look them over before reading on as they provide a lot of information that makes the battle report even more understandable.

The Battle:

The French had deployed intending to take the Chateau Miasme, contest the Village of Linswald, and possibly steal a victory by a thrust by Dragoon through the Linswald Forest to capture the Allied line of communications at the bridge and road exit. They secured their train (the defending army gets the train) behind their French Line on the road.

The Allies saw themselves as defensive on their left, with only a light force holding the far left behind the Linswald Forest, but contesting the Village with the Prussians, and the Chateau with a token Dutch Force, but the main attack was a combined attack by the allied horse meant to sunder the French line West of Linswald.

The French Plan unraveled a bit when the Commander of the French Cavalry near Linswald, General Victor-Baptiste-Pierre-Raymonde Levesque, declared after the first round of artillery fire from the distant British and Prussian Guns “Merde!” and, “Il y a Votre artillerie!!” and launched a gallant and jaw dropping charge toward the Allied line!

The Battle of Linswald attacks4

This was to be the main French attack in the battle. If successful, it would sunder the Allied line, isolate Linswald, and open up flanking actions as well as exposing the Allied line of communications (and several lucrative objective markers).

Levesques’ attack was made up of three cavalry regiments, the Cuirassiers du Roi, The Conde Chevau-legeres,and the Royal Carabiniers. They were arrayed in a narrow column with the ranks closed up tight one behind the other.

The three opposing batteries opened up with hard shot that tore through the ranks, causing effect on all three units with bounce through. Leveque had to use a number of command dice, right from the beginning to keep the troops in order on the advance. This was going to be a near run thing!

Elsewhere on the battle front, The dragoons were advancing through the woods on foot, albeit slowly. The French were loathe to spend too many resource dice on this advance until they assessed the cost and the degree of victory of Leveques’ cavalry charge.

French slowly advance in the Linswald forest

The Bavarians and the Clare regiment advanced on the village from the South, while the Prussians entered the village from the North. This was to be a grinding, house to house affair with all the units being committed and locked into the village fighting. The only unit still outside the village was the Bavarian Mercy Regiment, and a supporting Bavarian heavy battery to its immediate left.

Fighting at Linswald

Both armies were also contesting the Chateau Miasme. This was pressed by the French Garde Francaise and the Garde Suisse. To oppose them the were the Dutch Allies, including the vaunted Salish Regiment. The Garde Suisse was to take part of the chateau, while the other half was invested by the Dutch. Both armies were surprised at the deplorable condition of the decaying chateau and its very low objective values. It appeared it was a waste of troops, especially for the French.

Chateau Miasme

Meanwhile, the Allied horse was strangely quiet.

The Dutch, British an Hannoverian Horse

But, these were but sideshows to the thundering French Charge in the center. Round after round tore through the tightly packed cavalry, but on it came! The brave horse men closed with the guns as they switched to desperate rounds of cannister.


The charge strikes home!

But at this crucial moment the French cavalry, rolled a 19 total on 6 dice! This included four 1’s even after all re-rolls! Sacre Bleu!

Bad Dice

There was a wavering , one artillery crew was driven off, but then the shattered remnants of three regiments of horse began to recoil back to the French lines, pursued by the Ansbach Cavalry, which had waited for their opportunity. The French Carabiniers valiantly tried to cover the retreat of their fellow cavalrymen, but then they too were swept away by the retreating mass and the determined Ansbach pursuit. Many, many men (and dice)were lost.

Ansbach Pursuit

As this grand attack was crumbling, the Allies then launched their cavalry force against the French line just West of Linswald.

The Battle of Linswald attacks9

The French were outnumbered the center infantry was firmly lodged into Linswald. All that confronted them was a Bavarian Battery, and some Spanish Horse and infantry on the Moulin Ridge. The guard infantry and the French Mousquetaires and Bavarian Cuirassiers were far to the West and unable to help.

The Allied cavalry rode forward. There was an attempt by the Spanish Horse to disrupt the charge, but it was summarily brushed aside by the Hanoverians, while the Dutch Nassau-Friedland Horse rode over the Bavarian Battery. The center was pierced! The only uncommitted Bavarians were flanked! and the Spanish on the ridge were about to be overwhelmed.

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The Linswald village was rapidly falling into Allied possession along with a number of Objective dice, the center objectives and the Train (incuding Louis’ wine) were exposed. The French had lost a sizable amount of their dice. Nothing could be done to rescue the center. The French generals conceded as the Train began its race to the rear.

The battle was over. The French would have to wait for another day.

The train races from the field copy

A graphic portrayal of the battle:The Battle of Linswald attacks11

Lessons learned by the French

  • Cavalry must charge on a broad front, and when confronted by guns, be spaced by 6” inches to avoid the bounce through devastation and die loss.
  • It is silly to station you best troops on your far left-taking the guard infantry and the best cavalry out of the main action. This was exacerbated by the low objective values of the Chateau Miasme.
  • You simply cannot hold a section of line of over 400 yards with two infantry, a horse and a single gun. This thinning of the line was partially the result of the set-up restrictions, but mostly was the commander’s fault (me). This is the second game in a row where I have stationed the best troops too far from the decisive area-and well away from a position where they could aid units in the crucial center, and also left an inviting line of attack in the center.
  • When you are inferior in units, outnumbered in guns, and have inferior numbers of command dice-you are foolish to attack. Let the other guy prove the point.

General Lessons:

  • Objective values, while low for the Chateau Miasme, were too high in other areas. the general consensus was to lower (yet again) the base values to 4-6-8-10-12 from the present 6-8-10-12-16. See the revised Objective value article in the files section posted today.
  • A concentrated battery of three guns is not to be trifled with without close infantry support.
  • We used the multiple buckets rules gain and it worked VERY well. It will probably be the pattern for all future games.
  • The Asynchronous Sequencing using both a rolled fixed method and allowing the Allies the flexibility of plus or minus one (see the Special rules document in this folder) worked very well and will be used again by scenario.

General Comments:

This was a delightful game. for many reasons including the genial and fun presence of Ray Levesque, who has the true spirit of a French Cavalryman! The Allied commander Greg Rold had a masterful plan-and a sure knowledge of the rules. His second in command, Chris Caudil carried out the Coup de Gras with expert timing and deadly precision. The game was completed in just over 3 hours-even including a reshuffling of the dice buckets from three to two a side prior to play.



Wargame Terrain Part II

WSS Battle July 20
In Part I on war-game terrain, I touched on the physical representation of terrain, and its creation and storage, Part II shall be about what it does and how it functions in Die Fighting and Zouave II.

Terrain in most war-games has a number of different effects on the game. It may restrict or slow movement. It may provide cover from firepower weapons and/or diminish their effect. It may increase the advantages of a defender in hand to hand combat. It may obstruct line of sight preventing any fire at all, and, in some rules, limiting the reaction of units to each other. It may increase the effectiveness of certain weapons in certain situations. It may, in itself, be an objective or goal of play, and constitute part of the conditions of victory. It may have an aesthetic effect increasing the appeal of the game and its sense of time and place for players and observers.

Here are some examples of each use or effect of terrain:

Restrict or slow movement: The most obvious and common use in war-games. Streams or rivers that cannot be crossed; woods that slow or prevent certain combat types from entering (i.e Artillery not entering woods); rough ground or hills that slow the rate of advance of units. Conversely, roads my either simply free units on them from the effects of surrounding terrain, or, increase the rate of movement by some units.

Cover: Woods, wall, structures usually diminish the effect of fire by either subtracting from the firer’s effect, or adding to the defense’s resistance to fire (saving rolls, etc.)

Defense increased: Another common effect is to increase the hand-to-hand effectiveness of the defender of a wall, structure, redoubt, hill-top, etc.

LOS obstruction: Probably the most contentious aspect of terrain in many rules. Usually some minimum exposure of the unit to the view of the potential firer is required for fire to take place. this may be stated as a percentage of the unit, X number of stands, or, in terms of geometric qualifications (ie. does a straight line from the attacker to defender pass through some point, such as a command stand). Some rules also restrict a unit’s reaction where Force A cannot advance on Force B unless they are in view prior to the start of Force A’s movement.

Increasing Effectiveness: Often rules give a firer or defender on a hill, or higher, ground than its adversary, advantages. The most common is that artillery in the Horse and Musket period shoots farther and with better effect from slight elevations. Downhill charges are often given advantage.

Objective or goal for victory: Surely, the most common war-game objectives are “Take that hill!”, or Take that town!” This was often the case in history as well, where taking certain topographic features were instrumental to winning a battle. Most often they were an element that facilitated victory.

Aesthetic Effects: Simply put, attractive and well done terrain is like a stage set for a play-it can set the mood, add to the sense of “reality”and be pleasing to the eye. It can add, if only indirectly, to the enjoyment of the game-particularly for those not actually playing the game, but observing.

All of these effects, with the exception of the last, must be clearly specified in a rule set, or if not, they must be agreed to, either by the player’s having a long standing agreement on such things, or a firm pre-game stipulation on any possible points of contention-especially LOS.

LOS-no matter the rules-will require some gentlemanly behavior-pulling out a theodolite during play can spoil the enjoyment of ANY war-game. Rules lawyering the last MM of a stand’s exposure is decidedly not fun. One of the reasons I included the “Unusual Actions Unforeseen by the Rules” (page 27) is to allow a mechanism to escape such game killing behavior.

WSS Allies


On the other aspects of terrain, I have the following thoughts and opinions, which are evidenced in both Die Fighting and Zouave II:

Any restriction on movement effects by terrain should be a variable, not a fixed deduction. This is easily handled if the movement system is already a variable roll, as it is in both of the Repique publications, but even in fixed movement games, it seems to me that terrain’s effect should not be predictable, and have wide variation. The occasions in history of terrain causing the unexpected delay or failure are simply too prevalent to ignore. The angst caused by entering woods or forests to commanders is rooted in the unknown effects that ensue-this should be a factor in the war-game. In periods such as the WSS, and even up through the Napoleonic wars, units that enter structures or villages and occupy them-should not find it easy to leave. We often stipulate that once they occupy they are there for the duration.

Cover from fire is relatively straight forward, regardless of the rule set, but the trick is finding a sensible proportion of such terrain on the tabletop, and not understating the effect of the low end of the terrain cover, and overstating the high end. The all-too-frequent mistake is to have too much covering terrain on the table. Let’s face it, generals did not often choose, especially in the horse and musket era, to fight in the badlands of the Dakotas, or the middle of the alps! The armies and weaponry of that period did not need much adversity to lessen their efficiency.

Even a cursory look at typical battle fields in Europe, and to some extent, also in the Americas, shows that a third to a half of most battlefields was open ground, another third was usually a mix between low rolling hills and copses of woods, broken occasionally by very minor streams that were a messy but crossable obstruction. A VERY small percentage was rougher than that, and that was often man-made structures of a village. Chasms, vertical hills, raging rivers, woods of fairytale density were certainly possible, but damn rare. In fact, terrain of high density obstruction-could happen, such as The Wilderness, the Mance Ravine, or the Bocage, but they were the exception, and noted as such, and not the rule. On the whole, keep the terrain severity and density down, otherwise I recommend playing Warhammer 40K, not historicals.

One should also look at the way cover diminishes effect. It’s not always a simple minus one and a neat even-stepped progression from one level to another. In most rules it’s a simple progressive subtraction from the fire effect, minus one, minus two, etc. In many games this will suffice.

In both Zouave II and Die Fighting I looked at different mechanics. Zouave II just looked for a net advantage in fire or melee to one side or the other, this allowed various opportunities to re-roll for a better roll, and, if extreme up one die type (from a D8 to a D10, for instance). This made the tactical advantages of terrain, less linear or progressive-and, other than the obvious advantages of having an advantage vis-a-vis re-rolls and die improvement-far less predictable.

Die fighting, took these concepts even farther-with the addition of more dice to a roll providing a higher potential low and high roll by either the attacker or defender. Because of the Die Fighting addition of die total mechanics, I had to take a counter-intuitive step in subtracting all ones, and multiple 1 re-rolls, from a Class I terrain attacker’s roll, all 1’s and 2’s from a Class II terrain, and all 1, 2, and 3’s from a Class II terrain. This preserved the potential, however slight, of the attacker scoring hits on the defender in class V terrain, as he could still roll 6’s-but he was going to need a bunch to compensate for 84% of his dice not counting. Class IV and V terrain in Die Fighting is pretty tough-much tougher than in other rules. Even class three which occurs relatively frequently as village structures, dense woods, or steep or rough hills is a bear, with 50% of potential die rolls not counting. I love the system for its simplicity, and for the easy mnemonic of the excluded die rolls matching the terrain grade. That the mechanic is essentially identical, though with different factors, for both fire and melee, greatly simplifies play.

LOS issues have always frankly bored me, as many gamers make them labyrinthine and very complex issues in their design. What’s at stake is simple; Can the unit see and fire at another unit? I HATE the quibbling over millimeters and using protractors to argue the finest point. Keep it simple! If 1/2 of the unit is exposed to at least half of the firing or attacking unit, case closed. If that issue is generating a quibble just roll the damn dice-high man gets his way. There is enough vagaries in war that attempting to find surety on this issue is absolutely silly! Use the rule on page 27 of DF, declare the older man correct, flip a coin! But please, don’t write 5 pages of LOS rules, most of which never are applied, and for which there is always an exception, or an extremely unusual case. One combat in a table top battle that involves dozens of units and hours of gaming will seldom, if ever, makes a crucial difference.

Terrain increasing effectiveness is a common effect. It is usually confined to giving an advantage to a unit attacking from a higher terrain than the defender, or artillery firing from a height. Fair enough, but keep an eye out for including all considerations in your estimation of the advantages. Guns from a height gain range, often have a clear view of the target, and the fire effect upon it, but ball from heights, especially against soft soil following a rain, or plowed ground, often buries in having less effect upon the unit, and bounce through is sometimes eliminated by the more acute angle of incidence of the ball with the ground.

Terrain as an objective or goal, is, in my estimation, far more important a mechanic than many rule sets give to it. It is also something that, by design, Die fighting does especially well by linking certain terrain features to the gain of resource dice, which allows the army to continue its attack and absorb the higher losses that an attacker generally absorbs. The fact is most battles do have grand tactical and strategic reasons for attacks being made in certain sectors or against certain parts of the enemy’s position, BUT those goals and aims are usually achieved tactically by the taking of certain, specific, terrain. A key bridge, ridge line, village, cross-roads, or the enemy’s escape route and lines of communications. In tactical war-games it makes great sense to reward the capture of certain identifiable terrain points as a measure of an army’s potential success in winning the battle.

It should not be a single point in most cases, but a collection of points that incrementally augment the chances of success. They shouldn’t, in my opinion, be of a fixed value, but a variable one that is weighted depending on the generally perceived “potential” value of that terrain point to the battle. The reward for this in easily implemented in DF by the award of additional dice, but other games could use a variety of point systems that relate to the games mechanics. The key for DF is that the addition of dice is simple, quick, and pretty inclusive of measuring army morale, as well as the military objective’s value.
HougomontFalling
Finally, one last word on aesthetics. It only takes a bit of care to create a visually appealing game, and the terrain will be a good part of that artistic effect. Make the game a performance event for you and your fellow gamers, as well as interested onlookers. It can be elaborate, but needn’t be. Minimalist treatments can be stunning, and in many ways,, MORE beautiful than something too over the top. Just think about the appearance and layout of the terrain. Give it as much thought at the scenario and the painting of the figures. It can add immensely to everyone’s enjoyment when it looks planned, finished, elegant, and beautiful.









Wargame Terrain Part I

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One of the areas of wargaming that is often the most ignored and aesthetically slighted is the terrain. I have seen all too many games with some relatively well painted figures, but felt cut-outs and bits of paper representing hills, streams and forests placed on a bare tabletop or an old green blanket. While, I admit that the hobby requires imagination on the part of its participants, even five year olds invest a little more care into their playsets! Such “presentations” at public war-games are pretty uninspiring, and, even at home based games, makes one wonder why the gamer spends hours getting the figures just so and then piles rubbish on the table-rather like a well costumed professional play being performed in front of a 5th grade painted cardboard set!

There is an opposite extreme where the gamers are really refugees from model railroading and do an intricate, multi-layered, terrain that gets the battlefield correct, right down to the last hedge and tree. They look fantastic, but their failure is one of function, moving and adjusting troops in this cross between a diorama and an architectural model is damn near impossible. Troops fall over, don’t fit in the dense foliage, and get lost in the arboreal splendor. In fact, it is not only difficult to use in a gaming sense, but the terrain completely dominates the most important element, the troops and figures representing the combatants. Even the best painted units are visually submerged in the undulating green. This is a case of the scenery getting more attention and applause than the actors!

In truth, war-game terrain has to be a carefully wrought balance between functionality and visual impact. Gamers should seek the “Golden Mean” where the terrain gives an attractive and reasonably accurate representation of the real world, or the actual battle, but retains an ease of use that doesn’t frustrate play.

This will also underline the two different kinds of war-game terrain needs. I NEVER game at conventions or hobby shops, ALL of my wargaming is done at Chez Jones in the legendary Chambre de Petit-Guerres. This allows me to acquire and build some really nice terrain pieces( and troops) that never will suffer the travails of being carted miles to a large gathering where there will be at least one lout that, never having bought, painted, or built any war-game figures or terrain treats them like they were his plastic Marx playsets when he was seven.

People who do choose to game at stores or conventions often willingly make the compromise of less elegant, very tough, and damage-proof terrain and troops. Some terrain of this type could literally be stood on, or dropped a couple of stories and survive, The figures are so coated with clear enamel and dull coat that they will outlast the Pyramids!

Both needs can be met with aesthetically pleasing and functional terrain, but compromises in detail, materials, and delicacy of construction and painting must be made if you plan to do a road show. Some gamers may choose to create a collection for home use, and another for the “away” games.

Another problem of terrain is storage. In the joy of purchasing some scale representation of Hougoumont, the gamer may be excused for overlooking the problem of where in the hell do I put this thing between games?? Even a basic collection of hills, structures, and forests will take up more space than many gamers imagine until they run out of drawers and corners to put the stuff!

The storage issue varies a lot depending on period and scale. This is the justification for scale such as 6mm. or 10mm, and is a MAJOR problem with 28mm figures-especially if the gamer buys his structures in 28mm. Even a small house or farm covers a lot of table top space, and a village could easily cover half the table! What makes this especially problematic is that most war-games, for obvious reasons, use a ground scale that is quite different from the figure scale. We must do this, since a ground scale of 28mm to 6 feet would make musketry range 4 1/2 feet to 13 1/2 feet, and artillery canister would reach up to 26 feet away! Round shot would be out of the house and down the street! So we propose a ground scale, regardless of figure scale, that varies depending on the scope of the game from 25 yard to 100 yards an inch. This makes a single small 28mm scale building with, say, a measurement of 8 inches on a side monstrously huge in the ground scale-over 200 yards at even 25 yards to an inch! 400 yards at 50 yards to an inch!

Compounding this weird ground scale anomaly is the sheer size of 28mm terrain. I once had a collection of superb Herb Gundt created structures in 28mm; A French and Indian War wood fort, A Vauban fortification of over 3 feet on a side, a German Farm, a French chateau, a Three Musketeers Tavern, a large stone village home with a courtyard, etc. They were magnificent creations, but the took up too much space! Even with a war-game room that measures 12x 20 feet-dedicated to the hobby-they were consuming so much space in storage, there was little room for anything else! I sold them all. There just wasn’t anywhere to put them, unless I chose to live in a house that looked like a hoarder’s!

My answers to this storage issue? It’s an easy one, that I encourage every gamer to consider. Do the same thing with structures that you do with ground scale for weaponry- use structures for smaller scales! All of my terrain structures are in 10mm, with a few of indeterminate size, such as a windmill and some bridges, in 15mm. I use them with both my 10mm armies and my 28mm armies. The mind easily adjusts to the structure size disparities, just as it does to the disparity between figure and ground scale. All of my terrain fits in a two plastic storage boxes, that fit under one end of my table and on one shelf in my storage room. They take less than 50% of the space of 28mm terrain. If I gamed 15mm, I would look at 6mm structures for the same reasons.

I also took an added step of stipulating a certain size of terrain base, in my case 4”x 8”, that all my structures are built upon. Of, course larger structures, such as my 10mm model of la Haye sainte, are built, jig-saw puzzle-like, upon several interlocking 4X8” bases. Each base is defined as having a capacity of one regiment of troops, regardless of the number of structures upon it. This clearly defines the issue of how many troops may occupy a structure, or group of structures, and further defines just where that regiment is located in order to be attacked. The structure “Type” defines the cover the troops investing the structure(s) have in combat.

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Because all terrain structures share a common base, the issue of storage is further simplified and made even more efficient.

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Needless, to say, hills are hills and are of no particular scale, though for storage reasons I make sure all of my hills are flat topped.

I use trees that are from model railroading and are from 2-3” in height Each individually mounted on a tin disk so I can make a wide variety for forested areas. They are not so high as to get in the way, can be moved slightly to allow for occupying troops, and still give a nice forested look at any scale.

Streams are of no particular scale, but, again, I use segmented streams that allow for a variety of lay out and store flat in a shoebox.

Roads are to 28MM scale, two inches wide-simply because the units fit on them better, but I could have easily have chosen 1” roads-and may in the future. They are also segmented and store flat.

Wargame Terrain Part II , will concentrate on gaming concepts used in Die Fighting and Zouave concerning terrain and its effects on movement and combat. I hope to have it out next week, along with a battle report on this week-end’s game.






Why I Love The WSS!

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In “Picking a Wargame Period” I stated a number of reasons a person should select one wargaming period over another. Many of those factors figured in my current love of the WSS. I thought I’d tell you why.

When I started in wargaming in 1965 my first love was Napoleonics, There was something about the glorious and elaborate uniforms, the personas of the age such as Napoleon, Wellington, and even the world wide aspects of the war in the Levant and the Americas that really caught my imagination. Books by Chandler, Weller, and Oman were readily available. The period, even in those early days, was well supplied by Scruby, Minifig, Stadden, and several other manufacturers. After my first trip to Europe my interest was even higher as I had actually visited several battlefields and museums . ( Though, because of the cuisine, coffee and wines, not to mention sun and countryside, I switched my affection from the British to the French in war-game army preferences. It appears that a war gamer marches on his stomach as much as an army!)

The period was the bulk of my early wargaming and my first set of rules “Le Jeu de la Guerre” was a Napoleonic set. This set was one of the first to use hidden Combat Efficiency concepts, and had an interactive turn sequence. It was very popular in the early 70s, and some people still play it! It was in this period I first met Scott Bowden and Jim Getz. I spoke at the Napoleonic Symposium that Scotty ran in Dallas in 1980. I imported the “WarPlan 5/5 campaign system to the US and sold it for a couple of years. I wrote many articles for The Courier in that period-some of which on artillery use and ballistics, and on Lancastrian theorems- caused a bit of controversy and protestation-there were some epic exchanges with a fellow named Vietmeyer about Napoleonic national differences that also garnered some attention. Most of my writing revolved around Napoleonic wargaming.

It was then my life took on a different course, as I began a long career in television, and my career took precedence. During the 80s I had little to do with wargaming, and my figures never saw the table. During the late 80s, I edged back into the hobby, but was a little taken aback by the Napoleonic scene. The rules en vogue at that time had gotten VERY procedural and legalistic-often hundreds of pages in length, and one set had so many acronyms for its turn processes that it was like reading a foreign language! Many of the gamers playing Napoleonics has also gotten to a level of pedantry and petty bickering over inconsequential minutiae that was very off-putting. Instead of innovation, the answer for too many was layer upon layer of rules, sub-rules, and, coupled with the case numbering vogue, made Napoleonic gaming more bureaucratic than fun, and fresh ideas were crushed by “expertise.”

I was done with Napoleonics, and thought I’d try the American Civil War as a new refuge. This led to my writing, “Rebel Yell!”. There I attempted to combine roll-playing game-mastering with historical miniature play. It offered a number of new ideas, but was probably my least successful rule set. It did, however, provide some ideas that later blossomed in Piquet. I soon found, however, That the ACW, just wasn’t for me. The uniform variations were, to say the least, limited; the tactical variations were also fairly limited, with little role for cavalry, and with artillery not yet the dominating force it was to become, it was an infantry slugfest, which had settled down by 1864 into trench warfare in the East, and marauding raiders in the West. I also generally like periods where I can have some level of empathy with both sides of a conflict-and the American Civil War is as difficult for me as many theaters of WWII in that regard.

So, I was at sea for a period to concentrate upon. My answer? Do them all! This was exacerbated by my creation of a multi-period ruleset called Piquet which introduced card sequencing (not activation), highly variable turn sequencing, the concepts of being able to fire at any time, but not being sure when next you could have effect, and a novel means of morale assessment using chips. Some of the aspects of Piquet (especially the “Dress Lines” concept)-led to some calling it “Zen” Wargaming. It was, and is, a great set of rules, and many of its “wild” ideas are now found in many rule sets and are now accepted as standard practice. At that time they sure weren’t!

The need to expand out the Piquet series led me to acquire armies in the SYW, F&I W, Three Musketeers, ACW, Napoleonic, Hundred Years War, ECW, WWII, FPW, and Colonials! However, I had no real attachment to any one period, and most armies were brought up to numbers sufficient for a game, and not given the finishing touches that truly add character-such as mini-diorama scenes, and the impedimenta of trains, limbers, etc. It was a fun time in wargaming for me, and I attended every HMGS East show from 1994-2001 and wrote twos editions of Piquet and every rules supplement during that period, including the initial versions of Les Grognards, Hallowed Ground, Cartouche, Din Of Battle, and Point of Attack. I also brought several people into writing rules, supplements and scenario books during that period. My interests had no period focus as I was trying to do it all!

By 2001 two things occurred that, again changed the equation. First, I started my own company in TV Production and research which required me to step back from the hobby, and, quite frankly, I had burnt out on gaming. Burnout is a common enough result for many people who let the hobby become their business.

I retreated again from the hobby. I sold Piquet Inc. to Brent Oman, who I thought would keep it going, as he did. I sold all my painted figures and most of my unpainted figures-half of my library, and did not game again for almost eight years.

Then, as my career was winding down, and I was looking forward to retirement-it struck me that a return to wargaming was something I wanted to do. I thought again about experimenting with new concepts and ideas, and technology, which I had been very involved with, was now allowing increased control over the creation and publication of rule sets.

I contacted several old war-game buddies and started back into wargaming with the creation of RepiqueRules and the first set, Zouave. I was very energized by moving to a scale that was new to me, 10mm. and also, by the Franco-Prussian War, which was, in many ways, the first true example of a modern war, and presaged the horrific casualties, both military and civilian that were to characterize warfare for the next 75 years. It was the root cause of three wars-the FPW, WWI, and finally WWII. I found the reading of Alistare Horne’s books on the war and the commune very compelling. It had echoes of the Napoleonic past in the French Uniforms, and,yet, had the precursors of machine guns, trench warfare, and the administrative structure of armies and their staff. The numbers of combatants in battle began to edge to the massive scale of modern war, and communications and command control methods became central to military actions. It’s a very interesting period.

However, the period also has some intrinsic gaming issues, namely the French command was generally terrible, The Army had no real structural integrity, and the Prussians had, in their Krupp Breach loading cannon, an almost insurmountable technical advantage. You could compensate with clever scenarios, especially in the Republican period, and you could also, as a French player, adopt the “How well can I do given the limitations of the force?” attitude, but, over time, you yearn for a bit more balance in play.

It is here that I began to look around for another period to explore in conjunction with the development of Die Fighting. I made a list of characteristics I wanted in this new period. This was going to be a major choice, since I was probably, at my age, not going to start too many more armies (At some point you get your last cat, last dog, last car, and last war-game army, though not necessarily in that order!). Here is the list I created:

1. I wanted a period in which both sides were fairly balanced in their chances at victory.

2. I wanted a period in which historical information on tactics, uniforms, and campaign strategy was reasonably available and that information was portrayed by excellent historians and top-notch writing. I also wanted a period where the strategic aims were clear, and the tactics also clear, without too many exceptions and “fancy-footwork.”

3. The location of the conflict should be in Europe, though it would be a plus if it had wider implications and other theaters.

4. Colorful uniforms and flags would be desired.

5. It had to be supplied with figures by a variety of sources, and the figures available should offer more than static poses.

6. It would be in 28mm scale-since I already had two 10mm scale armies.

7. It would be Horse and Musket with a strong representation of cavalry.

8. It would be nice if the period selected hadn’t been gnawed upon by war-game pedants to the point where only a mangled carcass remained.

That was what I was seeking. As it happened, Die Fighting was being play-tested by a group in Norfolk, UK, and my point-man there was Tony Hawkins, a delightful fellow, and he, and the group were playing Marlburian games. The initial testing was all done in the early linear war period. AS we talked and that group gave me their spirited feed back, I began to look at the at period more closely. I had a few bags of Old Glory War of Spanish Succession figures ( the last done by Dave Alsop) that would get me started, hmmm….. I compared it to my list.

!. When one looks closely at the War of Spanish Succession, one soon realizes, that once you get beyond the British hagiographic portrayals of Marlborough and his victories at Ramillies, Blenheim, Malplaquet, and Oudenarde, that the war itself was quite a back and forth affair that the FRENCH finally won! With the exception of Blenheim, perhaps, the victories were all closely fought, and when one casts your attention across the Italian and Spanish theaters, the French allied forces had many a victory. You also begin to realize that there were many smaller engagements and skirmishes, and that a wide range of fighting occurred over the 14 years of the war, and it was more than four British battles and a bunch of sieges. It was a fairly well balanced campaign.

2. As for writers, You get the best. Churchill, and Chandler are well known to the English speaking world, and Chandler has an exalted place among Napoleonic buffs. Few gamers are aware that Chandler’s favorite period, and the one he preferred for wargaming, was the War of Spanish Succession! His ”Marborough as Military Commander,” and “ The Art of War in the Age of Marlborough” are essential reading.

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My favorite author, however, is John A. Lynn. Get a copy of “Giant of the Grande Siecle” and you will have one of the most impressive books on the period and , specifically, the French Army of Louis the XIV, that has been written. It is masterful. He has two other works, “The Wars of Louis the XIV, 1667-1714” and a shorter Osprey pub, “The French Wars 1667-1714” that are also very well written.

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Charles Grant has several uniform guides available, and Mark Allen’s series in Wargames Illustrated on the standards and uniforms of the 17th and early 18th century armies is now available on CD. Well written histories and information are readily available.

The tactics and drill of the period are simple. No light infantry, though dragoons often fill the bill, not a lot of artillery movement-you deploy them that’s where they’ll be unless you can coax the civilian train drovers to face fire (very unlikely) and the three arms are very much equal in their threat. Guns are effective, but heavy and not very mobile, and inaccurate at longer ranges, Cavalry is comparatively mobile and a threat to flanks, but must close; Infantry is a bit clumsy, but can hold ground, and the new impact of the flintlock is beginning to be felt.

The strategic aims are VERY clear-no grandson of a French King on the Spanish Throne-no Bourbons in Madrid! Sure, some squabbles over the low countries, a bit of hassle over The French border, but both sides are the usual suspects and the diplomacy is pretty straightforward. (The term “Perfidious Albion” certainly had its roots in the manner England exited this war!)

3. The WSS is, of course, a European War, but it has implications in North America as Queen Anne’s War, and segues into the Great Northern War involving Scandinavia, Russia, and Eastern Europe with little pause. Some of the troops are useable in both wars! It is not hard to adapt the WSS forces to earlier wars such as the 9 years war-though you may need to add some pike and matchlocks to the mix. No end of possibilities. For those so inclined, it also provides the opportunities of imagi-nations.

4. The uniforms are quite flashy and colorful, especially in 28mm! It is true that many nations used variations on gray and white uniforms with the huge cuffs supplying the reds, yellows, and other colors, but the pre-1707 Spanish coats are like a rainbow including purple, the Bavarians are (arguably) in bright blue, the English provide red coats, and the Prussians dark blue, the cavalry of many nations was in a wide range of coat and cuff colors. The flags are plentiful and very striking. Don’t miss the chance to have a LOT of flags! Because of the relative simplicity of cut and tailoring of the uniforms, the lack of turn backs, and, other than officers, a lack of gaudy lace and frou-frou, the units paint up quickly and are quite neat in their appearance. Remember, no powdered wigs in this period-even for the French!

5. Figures are available from some of the best casters in wargaming. Old Glory has a range, Front Rank has an excellent range ( I particularly like their cavalry and artillery), but my favorite is EBOR figures. I don’t think that there are finer figures being made anywhere! Their anatomy is simply wonderful-actually human! It is the posing, however, that sets them apart even more dramatically. The officers are available in a amazing range of poses-including shouting, waving hats or half-halbards, and their new artillery crews are simply unique in their imaginative, but correct, posing. Whether wiping a forehead, covering their ears from the concussion, or peering through a telescope to observe the effect-these figures are so very good! The line troops come with both grenadier hats or tricorns, and in a wide range of poses as well. The detail in the clothing is impressive-both in its richness, and in not being “too much”. When painted, these figures are really gems. As with most well designed, and cast figures, their excellence actually makes them easier to paint, and ben a basic paint job looks great! There are many reasons for my love of the WSS (as I am demonstrating in this article) but these figures are a major reason.

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6. With a period with the richness of uniform and flags of the WSS-28mm is truly required.

7. Thirty to Forty per cent of most armies were cavalry, and cavalry was often the arm that forced the battle’s decision.

8. There are pedants in the WSS, but the vagaries of the fine detail of uniforms and accouterments, coupled with the wide variation found within armies between regulation and practice-makes their certainty and the heavy hand of button counters a tad less effective. There is much range for opinion-especially informed opinion-and so greater latitude is allowed to all than in some later periods

So, the WSS is my period, and I look forward to adding a lot of period touches and detail (see the Wine Wagon on the forum) and my goal is about 30-40 units on a side to be used on my 12 foot table. I recommend it heartily to anyone looking for a great wargaming experience. I also realize that this is just my opinion, and that others may disagree and prefer other epochs, but they are, of course, foolishly wrong.

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Picking a Wargame Period

Selecting the periods we chose to war-game in is a key decision in our enjoyment of the hobby. This is particularly true when we are new to the hobby and “All Things are Possible,” but it is a constant issue as we game over the years. Heaven knows, there are many temptations along the way that can tempt us to try “just one more” period. There are also fads of brief interest in periods that are either little known or unusual that can lead us to scatter our interests and figure collection. This leads to the “hundreds of figures and no finished armies” problem resulting from a lack of focus that I mentioned in my “What I’ve learned from 50 years of wargaming” article.

So what should we look for in selecting a period?

Is it an interesting period? Of course, we would choose a period of interest to us, but is that enough of a reason? Are there other things we should ponder when making a choice that will commit us to a good bit of money and a number of years of study and painting or collecting the figures that are needed for a game?

Here are my thoughts:

1. Make sure you are VERY interested in the period. You should have some attachment to the period that is both emotional as well as intellectual. Do you find the historical personages admirable? Are they interesting as people? Does the history have an appeal to your own family history? Does the period just appeal to your personal tastes? It should have an emotional appeal to you that is much higher than you may find in other periods.

2. If the period marks some sort of watershed in military history, it is likely to have more intrinsic interest. There are several of these transitional periods that come to mind; The rise of cavalry in ancient warfare transitioning into the medieval period. The rise of gunpowder weapons in the 16th and 17th century, The transition from pike and musket to pure musket formations in the 1690 to 1710 period, the rise of light infantry and artillery in the late 18th century, Napoleonic “Nations at War” and the Corps System replacing “Wings” and “Lines”, the first modern wars in the 1860’s and 70’s; and, finally, the transitions that brought forth massive artillery, automatic weapons, tanks, and aircraft in the early to mid 20th century.

3. It would help if the period has a good level of literature and historical writings available. Certainly periods such as the Napoleonic era, ACW, and WWII are amply supplied-almost too much - as there is a LOT of crap and comic book-level history that often overwhelms the quality efforts. There is the old joke that a Light-year is the distance that all books on the American Civil War would cover if placed end to end. Other periods may suffer from not enough readily available information, but usually EVERY period has a few excellent works that can get you started. One of the keys to enjoying a period is developing a good bibliography, AND READING IT! This is the key challenge to historical war gamers, they have to read more than one work, and they may find excellent histories that differ on the factual record. Fantasy gamers read one codex and it is the TRUTH!

4. The search for uniform information is one of the joys of historical gaming, and I, personally, prefer a little bit of a search rather than having information too readily available. It adds to the joys of the hunt! In most periods, one must guard against becoming too literal and pedantic, by realizing that uniform information ( and tactical movement) are often imperfectly known, and open to more variation than the pedants seem to be willing to grant. There is much room for variation and personal taste in EVERY period, but some periods-such as Ancients, Napoleonics, and ACW seem to have more than their share of those that “Know what they know, and that’s the end of it!” All three of the above are very popular, but popular art, music, and movies might serve as a warning about “popular” being a positive description!

But the rest of military history has many wonderful periods that have not been overcropped. The 100 years War, The ECW and The Wars of Louis XIV, Marlborough The Great Northern war, SYW, The Wars of the French Revolution, The unappreciated FPW, and a number of inter-war clashes in the 1930s and into the early WWII period, all offer some very fresh and fun periods that haven’t been done to a crisp.

5. Figures are a key. NEVER go into a period where there are only one or two suppliers of figures. Wargame hobby businesses are notoriously ephemeral, and when the one maker of figures for some minor period goes under, you’re left holding the bag. But small companies that augment periods where figures are readily available from a wide number of suppliers are excellent sources for variety and for unusual units. I think it is wise to use a variety of figure makers as long as the figures aren’t too dissimilar in size. The different styles give good visual variety, and if used within the same unit can give a hint at the variety of sizes among the humans they model. If their size differential is too great then confine the overly large or small figures to one unit and do not intermix them. Units may vary greatly in size, but go unnoticed if not intermixed.

Occasionally, a figure maker comes along that offers such striking figures that one is attracted to a period solely because of their aesthetic appeal. In my next article on the WSS, I will explain how EBOR figures made me the WSS buff I am today. They are simply some of the best figures I’ve owned in all my years of wargaming, but more on that in my next posting.

These days it’s important to check if some manufacturers offer plastic figures in the period. If so, then the period becomes even more attractive. Plastic figures offer an inexpensive entry into a period by newbies, and are an excellent way to flesh out an army to a greater size than would otherwise be affordable by veteran gamers. When painted and mounted, plastics may be freely intermixed with metal units with no damage to the battlefield’s appearance. There is no real downside to using plastics figures that adding a little weight to their bases won’t cure!

6. Rules are a tricky area (and one where I am an interested party). Some periods offer scant variety in rules, or less than interesting rule systems, while some periods have too many options, so sorting the chaff from the wheat is very difficult.

All too often group think dictates which period will be played and with what rules. This has two immediate downsides; a tendency to go for a set of rules that are “Lowest Common Denominator” that are easy enough that a 6 year old can play them, or, even worse, a group that has played together for so long that the rules are incredibly complex with MANY house rules. Groups also gravitate to the most common periods WWII, ACW, Napoleonics, Ancients and seldom explore much else.

Having said that, they do provide a way to test out rulesets and periods before substantial sums are invested. They can provide, if you’re lucky, a good social atmosphere and exchange of ideas.

My own feeling is that a gamer, after a brief introductory exposure to rules, figures, and periods, should do his own thing. It’s your hobby, so find a period that you are interested in, select rules you want to play, buy figures that you find particularly good. Now, this requires that you commit to buying BOTH armies and completing suitably sized forces for each force. That is more expensive than “sharing” the cost between several people, but it has the signal advantage of you have ownership of the armies! If your friends move, or you move, it’s no matter-you can still play! If the group goes off on some fad, or the latest rule set, you still are in control of your own hobby experience. I have also found that if you provide the table, forces, and rule set-they will come! You will not lack for players in your games simply because you choose a separate path.

So be in control, build both armies in a period you enjoy, select rules you want to play, create a table and terrain that you find pleasing, and you’ll never lack for gaming partners and you’ll be doing what YOU enjoy.

7. Finally,do not become too narrow in your interests, both within a period, as well as curiosity about other periods you do not game. Broaden your interests to a more general love of history; read challenging authors-especially the ones that challenge the accepted truths; expand your interests into the arts and literature of a period, the diplomatic histories, and new scientific inquiries. DO NOT become the guy who counts buttons on a tunic, but has no idea what the Treaty of Paris was, or worries incessantly about the true description of the color “Aurore” but has no idea how Beethoven’s Third Symphony relates to Napoleon Bonaparte. Your choice of a war-game period can broaden your interests, increase your understanding of the world, nations, and even present day world affairs, and can, concurrently, make you more interesting to other people, or it can make you as small as the figures you paint, and with your intellectual horizons limited to the 4X6 foot war-game table.

In the next blog entry, I will extol my love of the WSS and how it happened.


What I've Learned From 50 Years of Wargaming! Part One

The only advantage to getting older is the ability to get a wider view of the world and more experiences-good and bad-to guide our actions.

I started in wargaming in 1960, and in miniature wargaming in 1965. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Don Featherstone, Jack Scruby, Scotty Bowden, JIm Getz, The “Duke”, and, more recently, Sam Mustafa. I’ve been writing rules since 1972 with Le Jeu De La Guerre, and have attended and run booths at Historicon, Fall In! and Cold Wars, plus a few local Conventions here in Denver, such as Tacticon. I’ve written articles for Table Top Talk, MWAN, Wargamer’s Newsletter, and a few others. So what “Gems of Wisdom” have I learned in that period to pass on? Well, Here’s a few:

1. FOCUS!

Select a period that you really find interesting and stick with it. An argument may be made to select a period in three or four major war-game subdivisions such as Ancients, Medieval, Horse and Musket, and Modern, but limit the number of eras you game in. I’ve seen too many gamers that shift willy-nilly from the latest fad period to another, never finishing any army, and ending up with fragments of armies from dozens of periods-including some so obscure that more people play war-games in the period than actually fought the original war!!!

This includes settling on a few figure scales that fit the period you have chosen. Certainly, some periods with colorful and interesting uniforms cry out for treatment in 28mm, while other, especially the modern periods from 1860 through WWII, might be better served with 10s or 15s-not only to better fit a visual agreement with ground scale, but because the later uniforms are pretty monochromatic and plain. If you have any periods with multiple scales, duplicating the same units in 15, 28, etc.-get real! You will have drawers full of unpainted figures, and, again, nothing will be completed.

2. SIMPLIFY!

This includes focusing on a few periods, and a limited number of scales, but includes defeating the hoarding tendencies of many wargamers. Foremost among these are the “collections” of books and magazines. These items take up a lot of space and are often the source of clutter and chaotic information resourcing.

You will never refer to those stacks of magazines again! Usually there is no index, no means of referencing exactly what article is in which issue; so after two or three years accumulate-they are wortless as you cannot remember, or find, anything when needed. Some of the more progressive pubs are digitizing some of their content by subject or theme and putting it on CD, often with an index. Lately, Wargames Illustrated did this with the Mark Allen 17th-18th century articles. Excellent! Buy the digital CDs, trash the mags-or sell them to some unmarried fool with more room than sense.

Books are even more egregious. Let’s face it, the number of truly useful references in a period, especially for war-game uses, are limited. Buying every damn book on warfare in every damn period, is a waste of money and postage. It may make you feel “smarter” by having walls covered with books, and stacks of books in every corner, but most of the books written on military history are repetitive, offer few new insights, and are not adding much to historical studies, and certainly not to popular literature on history so loved by war gamers.

Every period has a few really well written, and excellent histories, that can help a gamer understand a war, the tactics used, and give insights on the major characteristics of warfare as it was fought, but the gain from adding book after book is one of diminishing returns.

I used to play a mind game where I imagined I was going on a world cruise on a sailing ship and I could only take a six-foot bookshelf of all my books. What would I take? What would I discard? It focuses the critical faculties on what books are REALLY important to you. I have now instituted a wargame/history limit of one three foot shelf per period, and my periods are down to WSS, ACW/FPW, Colonial WWI Air, WWII Naval, War-game History and rules and a general warfare category that is allowed two shelves. Any new book coming in displaces the least needed of the remaining books on the shelf. I have culled my book collection to less than 1/3 its greatest size…and I miss nothing! What’s left is gold, no dross, and it never grows! Digital downloads are making space-consuming printed books less necessary, as is simple on-line research. I’m sure some of you have books with my bookmark in them!

An adjunct rule is that, if you have not touched, opened, or read a book in the last two years-it goes! This is easily instituted by placing a piece of paper in a book with a date written on it. A library card with a two-year due date!

Trust me, too many war gamers become a prisoner of their “Stuff” Free yourself from your hoarding instincts and you will acquire new energy in the hobby ( and some additional funds from their sale to finance your war-game activities)!


3. EMPTY YOUR CLOSETS!

No one benefits from those bags of unpainted lead in the closet. They are, instead, a testament to your procrastination and misspent funds as your wife constantly reminds you. Every time you see those silver mementos of impulse buying and lack of focus they are another indicator of action that needs to be taken. Either paint them, send them to Sri Lanka to be painted, or sell them! The same two-year inventory method used with books may be used with figures. Often, if they are older than two years the artistic and casting abilities of the figure-makers has advanced so far that they may be unsellable. Sell them NOW! This is even more true of figures that are mere fragments of past interests in a period you KNOW you will not pursue!

Think of it as passing on a pet to a good home that will take better care of them, and greater needs, than you have!

4. GET OUT OF THE RUT!

By all means try new things, read new historical studies, examine new rule sets, and open your gaming to new experiences. In fact, strive harder to do this. This may seem to be at odds with my advice to focus, but it is not. Within the areas you have a greater interest, simply diversify. Read areas of the history that extend beyond the military such as historical novels, plays. movies, music, poems from or about the period, diplomatic histories, memoirs, and scientific studies both archeological and science-based inquiry on the historical record. Try new rule sets instead of the same old thing. Open your mind, not by flitting about the historical record, but in expanding your experiences within your chosen interest. New ideas are the lifeblood of maintaining interest in a hobby.

5. STOP BEING A NICE GUY!

This is especially true when you get past the magic age marker of 50. Look, your time is more precious now than it once was, as the hour glass has more sand in the bottom than the top. (this is sometimes true of body shape as well). There is no need to do anything that you don’t enjoy doing, none. If you don’t like a certain set of rules. Don’t play them! If you don’t enjoy the company of certain people at your table. Don’t play war-games with them. Find the people that you do enjoy gaming with and the rules you want to play, and then spend your time enjoying them! Screw the rules-lawyers, people that make gun sounds with their mouth, those move-counter move, perfectly obvious, rule sets, the Napoleonic (or Ancients) pedants, the quasi-racists, and people who never actually read books. You don’t have to be “nice.” You have an obligation to your own enjoyment that is greater than some imagined need to be one of the bunch. Now, if you find that your perfect war-game experience is solo-you might want to reflect on your sociability, but, short of that, don’t be afraid to say “No!” and to be selective in your use of time. You owe it to yourself!

6. FIRM DON’TS!

Never eat at a place named “Mom’s”
Never sleep with a woman whose problems are worse than yours.
Never play cards with a man Named Doc.
Never play Ancients with a man named Phil.
Never play Napoleonics with a man named Todd.
Better yet, never play Napoleonics.









My Best Wargame Finds of 2011

Looking back over the last year I thought I might share some of the things I stumbled across that are really excellent:

1. Boardgame: A Few Acres of Snow by Martin Wallace-First rate game that improves with every play, and every play of the game suggests new strategyies and combinations for thenext game. Set in the French and Indian War period as France and the British Colonies fight it out in North America-the game provides great game play and is a very fast game-certainly time enough in a three or four hour session to play two games and try both sides at least once. Each side has very different possibilities and resources. This game is a masterpiece. The deck building technique has many.many fresh ideas for campaign games. Already out of stock in many places-if you can find one get it!

2. 28MM-figures: Ebor miniatures has released some new WSS foot figures with cavalry to follow that are simply superb. The price is right, and for the WSS or a Imagi-Nation gamer, these are very much to be considered. EBor has some nice 28mm WWI figures as well.

I should also mention That Wargames Factory, after all of their travails, has produced some very nice WSS figures both foot and horse-some have quibbled, but they assemble and paint up into excellent units. You can’t beat the price.

3. 10MM figures: Nothing, in my mind, can beat Pendraken’s FPW line, and the entire mid 19th century collection is unmatched. The 1866 and minor states figures are also first rate and Pendraken is covering almost all of the wars of the period-including Maximilian and the South American wars/ New ACW figures are on the way.

4. New Period: WWI and WWII naval has suddenly seemed far more interesting to me. I stumbled into it while structuring the naval rules for Die Marching. I have purchased Minden’s Battleship Captain, Curry’s re-publication of Fetcher Pratt’s Naval Wargame, Curry’s re-pub of Jane’s 1906 rules, my old, original, copy of Don Featherstone’s naval war-games, Phill Dunn’s Sea Battle Games (also from Curry)Steel Dreadnaught’s Thunder at Sea rules, General Quarters from Old Dominion, and Seekrieg from Rick Sartore’s group. I intend to play and then review all of these rules on this blog.

I am impressed with the variety and the choice in rules available-each with a different take. They are all very well written on the whole, and many offer some great ideas for campaign and scenario creation techniques. As an old navy guy I can’t explain why I hadn’t been interested more in naval gaming in the past. Re-discovered the sea during my December hiatus. More on the Zouave blog when I review the rules available.

5. In land miniature rules, I am most intrigued with Sam Mustafa’s upcoming Maurice. It seems like an imaginative idea, and he aways has very high production standards. I look forward to it.


On Paper Soldiers

In the last month or so I have become fascinated with an old and traditional form of the model soldier-the paper soldier. I have been aware of their history dating back into the 18th century, but had long ignored them, along with metal flats, in favor of the more common, full round, metal toy soldier. I owned over the years a number of different armies, mostly in 28mm, and in a variety of periods. However, about five years ago I sold them all-over 5,000 figures.

This had a hugely liberating effect on me. Suddenly many shelves were empty, and I was free of a lot of painted lead. It was about four years ago that I got the urge to build armies again, but being free to do whatever i liked, I essentially changed my entire collecting habits. I decided to concentrate on specific periods of interest, and not try the fruitless “all things to all men” approach. I also decided to go to different scales. This was promoted by an urge to try larger battles with the development of Zouave, and also to keep the storage demands within firmer limits. My first direction was to go to 10mm figures, and I started my Pendraken FPW and ACW armies in that scale. BY shipping off the bulk of 1200 figures to Sri Lanka, I was soon equipped to fight battles in this new scale. When coupled with a 13 foot long table-I reveled in the diorama effect of these table-top actions. I fell in love with this wonderful scale, and began adding more figures for 1866 and the Maximillian Intervention.

I did return to 28s for my WSS armies using a mix of Front rank, Old Glory, and Wargames Foundry figures. This period was also new to me. It is very rich, with a wide range of battle actions, and the uniforms are very colorful, but less fussy than either SYW or Napoleonics. I doubt if I’ll do any more 28s, whose cost and shipping expense are bordering on silly. Plastics help with both of these factors, but other than a few unpainted French Foreign Legion figures, I think I’m done with 28s.

However, I do want to do other periods, but don’t want the clutter of tons of figures, and I have never been fond of painting an unending number of line troops. What to do?

Then I was introduced to paper soldiers. When assembled they can be very attractive, and some of the artists creating these figures are producing artwork of the highest order. When placed on the wargame table they make a terrific impression. But the best part of it all is they are very inexpensive, store easily, and are often delivered by PDF! Some come painted, or you can do it yourself (digitally!)

My latest Papersoldiers are from two sources-Billy Bones Workshop (http://billybonesworkshop.co.uk )/ War-games Vault and from Paper Terrain (http://www.paperterrain.com/index.html).

For less than $20 I got a complete ECW force for both sides from Billy Bones. They were delivered by PDF and included horse, guns, infantry, plus terrain and buildings, smoke and casualties all in 25mm! Since they can be printed at will your armies are unlimited in size. These figures are done in an antique brown ink on white paper in a very antique and impressionistic style-I think they make a stunning diorama, and one move in you completely forget they are only paper and in two dimensions.

The neatest thing is that you can colorize them, if you wish to add colors of the period uniforms or make the terrain green and brown tones! I am using Pixelator on my Mac Pro which is available from the Ap store for $29.95. Using this software I can colorize the Billy Bones art in about 5 minutes a sheet. I even added an identifier number! (see Photo)

Pasted Graphic 2

Thereafter, I can print color versions to my heart’s content. I am now ready to test Die Fighting for the Crown (1400-1700)! Go to the Billy Bones site and look at the effect of these figures in mass! Wonderful! Added advantages are they store flat on a shelf until assembled, and a shoebox holds an army of hundreds, and weighs mere ounces.

My other new acquisition is the Paper Terrain ACW troops from Scott Washburn. These are not delivered by PDF since Scott is, by his own admission, not too tech minded. I picked mine up at Historicon and got complete Confederate and Union armies plus his new sheet of the Iron Brigade in 15mm. They are also available in 25 and 6 mm. The style of these figures is much more precise and draftsman-like, but beautifully done. He delivers on quality paper by mail. One of the joys of paper soldiers is the contrast in the artist’s styles.

My goal with these figures was to mix them in with my 10mm Pendrakens (they are a good fit) using the paper soldiers for those reams of line troops and the metal figures for command, horse, and artillery pieces. Over time I can replace the paper line infantry with metal, but in the meantime, I can game big ACW battles. This would work with other periods that demand large numbers of troops as well: say, Napoleonics for instance.

Speaking of Napoleonics, be sure to check out Walkerloo Napoleonics (http://www.walkerloo.com/) for their napoleonic paper soldiers. These are very different and also physicaly delivered in a pack-not by PDF. Their style is very much in the Bob Marion style of drawing, they are full color, and really very attractive. They are also a heavier card figure, rather than paper. Pricing on the Walkerloo figures is the most expensive of any and represents the high end of paper figures at about $1+ per figure.

The paper soldier has a long and illustrious history in our hobby, be sure to add a few to your collection. They are a quick, and often inexpensive, way to enjoy new periods, and they are perfect for gamers that have space limitations.


Repique: Zouave Blog-7/17/11

Here is a round table discussion that spans the world on Historicon Die Fighting, Zouave II, the use of rondels, the initial work on Die Marching campaign rules, a discussion about the wargame press in the US and Europe, and some hot tips for wargamers. Just click on the arrow to run. Audio Only.

Participants:

Jim Getz (Columbus, Ohio) Mike Siggins (The Fens, U.K.) Iain Black (Singapore!) Peter Anderson (Connecticut) and Bob Jones (Denver, Colorado)

Running time: 50:18 minutes

THE REPIQUE: ZOUAVE BLOG SKYPE CALL/ PODCAST:

Podcast

Historicon Coverage

Well, I'm off for Historicon.

I am not only giving a seminar “Dice, Cards, and Rondels” In Scanticon GS-3 at Historicon Saturday at Noon, but I intend to do more.

1. I will post the Seminar presentation, I am hoping with audio, upon my return from Valley Forge, on Tuesday, July 12.

2. I will be taking pictures throughout the show, which I hope will be more useful than close-ups of clumps of figures on a field of green baize. Pictures of people! of Places! and wide shots of halls and games! They will be posted on the Repique website, and in the files section of the Repiquerules Yahoo! forum.

3. I hope to record an interview or two to post on the Zouave Blog.

4. I will be posting here with some notes and initial impressions of the
convention as it is going on, using my trusty iPad. There also will be a
final review of my activities posted on the Blog upon my return.

5. The next Zouave Skype Blog on the 17th of July, will also devote a bit of time to discussing the convention with some fellow attendees.

I am at the convention from Noon on Friday until Noon on Sunday. In addition to the War College presentation, I will be at the On Military Matters Booth at 3 PM on Saturday the 9th for a half-hour or so to answer any questions about Die Fighting or Zouave II.

It's the Wargames That Got Small!

After 45 years or more in the Historical Wargame hobby, and having written 15 sets of rules over those years, and founded three wargame publication companies, I was musing this week about Historical wargame rules. What are they the most like? What is their perfect metaphor as a creative work, and as a business?

I concluded it was the movies. The parallels are astounding. Both film and wargame rules are creative works where the rule writer, or director, is an auteur. Just as movie directors attract fans and followers, so do rule writers. Some of my customers have been buying rules from me for nearly 40 years- and have a complete collection! This is true of other rule writers as well. Some rule creators acquire almost cult-like followers.

Some rules are “Popular” films in the manner of the fare at the local cineplex, each week. Very formulaic, predictable, and aimed at an adolescent audience (either in age or maturity). These rules sell well, are often produced in flashy color, and have a distressing tendency to be fantasy or sci-fi with a lot of impressive figures, and a Gee-whiz factor, but no discernible plot, and don’t really make sense if you think about it. Other rules are produced by small indy producers that, though limited in special effects, are often more sophisticated in content, use innovative techniques, and actually have a narrative thread! Just like the movies!

Just as with film, the “audience” is easily attracted to the newest set of rules, the latest release, and the largest grossers seldom “rock the boat” or try to do much more than give the customer a predictable, familiar, unchallenging, and “safe” entertainment experience. More often than not, if you want something more than the usual, you end up buying rules from a small independent producer-just as the small movie houses tend to get the films that don’t appeal just to sub-21, male, suburbanites. Both rules and films have companies that cynically exploit this audience demographic.

All rule writers share other similarities with films-to survive a studio must crank out a new feature as frequently as possible-especially prior to the big shindig in Cannes or Hollywood, so, too, is the case of miniature rules writers at Columbus and Valley Forge.. New product keeps the revenue flow and the “buzz” going strong. This voracious demand for new product leads to sequels abounding. Just as there was a Rocky IV, Star Trek V, and a Batman XXXIV, so there are supplements and editions of established rules with high numbers of sequels as well. It’s always cheaper and more successful to sell a familiar brand and product to the same audience, than to break new ground.

Both Films and Historical Wargames suffer from the very poor quality of critical review. The quality of criticism is abysmal-especially the local reviewers and bloggers whose writing skills are often worse than their insight and critique. Just as with film, there are , maybe, 2 or 3 critics worth their salt-that provide insight, understanding, and perspective in their reviews. Rules and films suffer from this inadequate critique as crap is too often saluted and quality overlooked. The influence of the “Big” guys on the trade press and critics often distorts critical reviews in both areas as well.

One significant difference is the press itself. The film press is strong and ever growing, but the historical wargame press has greatly diminished in number, especially in the US, and also in ideas. 30 years ago there was MWAN, The Courier, Wargamer’s Newsletter, The Wargame Digest, etc in the US-now there is nothing. The only national outlet is TMP-which, for various reasons, is typical of many on-line forums which have more contention than sharing, and more locker-room towel snapping silliness than ideas or extended and thoughtful concepts. Internationally, there is Vae Victus, which has limited effect in the US because of being in French (it is challenge enough for many US citizens to read and write English), Wargame Illustrated, Miniature Wargames, and Battle Games. Of those three, Battle Games may be the only magazine that seems to have consistently provided excellent content and an openness to new ideas-especially in digital publication.

Both films and historical wargame rules provide an archive of past classics that keep being seen or used-just as Casablanca and the Wizard of OZ play on, so does Column, Line and Square, Empire, and Tactica-all made long ago-but still popular with some. It would pay some gamers to do a little research and find some of the older rule sets. In many cases, the new gamers may never have seen these rules-some were invented before the gamers were born, but they might find something very good in the past. (Warning! Earlier Rule Sets were often in B&W-not color, and special effects and pictures were less used-just as in film)They will also be given a lesson in how many “new” ideas are not very new-but the few that are can change everyone’s enjoyment and expectations as to what a wargame may be. Though there are many film histories-there are few meaningful works on recreational wargaming, and especially Historical wagaming’s, history and development.

So, the next time you buy a set of rules-think of it as a ticket to a good entertaining film, but don’t make the mistake of inviting a date-that’s not the same-at all!

Dice, Figures, Action! (“Ready when you are, Mr. Wells!&rdquoWinking

Is Historical Wargaming History?

I don’t go to many wargame conventions as I tend to find them to be not very enjoyable. Something about the press of the crowd, the sometimes oafish behavior of a few, and the ambiance of an all male, Big Lebowski, Bowling Night crossed with a cheap Vegas casino, has never really appealed to me. I do like to shop the dealers, which is one positive motivator, but the best reason is to meet a few good friends and fellow game designers over dinner. If the dealer area is small and few people I know are going to be there-then I happily pass.

However, I recently did go to a local Denver Convention and strolling through was reminded of the significant changes the hobby of wargaming has undergone since I first starting gaming. I roamed the halls and found a mere five or six historical games being played and two of them were a board game knock-off (Battle Cry) and something with mammoths, which, while historical, was only marginally military.

At the same time, an entire hotel ballroom was occupied by GW 40K games-table after table lined edge to edge with tanks, flying-what-nots. and troops so thick they looked like a SYW battalion-standing shoulder to shoulder. There were absurd “walkers” which would be juicy targets even for current day weaponry. While colorful, they were being used with rigidly enforced codices and rules that seem to have more in common with the battle of Hastings, than anything reasonably futuristic. For people that define fantasy as creative, the rigid adherence to these codices and “official” rules seems to argue for more lockstep, authoritarian, and legalistic attitudes than freethinking creativity.

Throughout the other halls fantasy, Sci-fi, and strange blends of history with fantasy-such as VSF, totally dominated the gaming. To be sure there were a few RPG vampires, werewolves, and winged creatures strolling about drinking cokes, but not even one hint of any historical being.

It then struck me, Historical gaming may be dying out in the US! Could it be?

When I began in the hobby, it was close to 95% historical in nature, and rules and figures were committed to attempting to illustrate historical facts. This may have been done poorly or very well by various rule sets, but the goal was the same. With the introduction of fantasy and Sci-fi the hobby has changed radically. Now worlds are invented (though often depressingly similar in a Tolkien/King Arthur/Starship Trooper sort of way) and rules are freed from being anchored on anything-except a bad novella, comic book, or TV series. Subtlety, humanness, and the “gravity” of reality are gone and shallow and cartoonish considerations are foremost. Sometimes the premises are so light-weight-that it is a good thing the figures are heavy or they would float away (maybe the plastic ones do)! Then again, maybe it IS the figures that drive the fantasy/sci-fi juggernaught, and the invented worlds, rules, and reading are decidedly secondary.

Often the companies behind these efforts show a cynical greediness in changing rules, bringing out new figures and cashiering old ones, as well as an unending list of add-on units that make for some high profits, but much lower goals in design, and cleverness, on their part. It makes no difference to many of the followers, perhaps forgivable to the collection mania of an adolescent- but less attractive in a grown adult who should know when he’s being taken for a ride. Maybe those Zombies HAVE eaten their brains!

But at the core of it, maybe history has ended. My English friends tell me that it is alive and well in their country and still is in the majority-some of them claim that this is a reflection of their better education in history, and their proximity to so much of it. All of the major historical wargaming publications are located in Europe and the UK. Even on-line the fantasy dominance of figures, rules, and websites is very much evident, and the majority of historical figure companies is, again, to be found in the UK and Europe.

Admittedly, many gamers do both, and there is a very WWII aspect to most Sci-Fi wargames, and not much except magic and freakishness to distinguish the fantasy games from Dark Ages warfare, but even at the premier historical wargame convention, Historicon, there has been a huge influx of fantasy based gaming in the form of VSF, GW, and quasi-history ala AVBCW and DBM. The board game industry has been the one area where historical gaming has held its own, but, then, board game publication has seen a decline over the years.

Is this a bad thing? Who knows? One thing is certain, Wellington, Napoleon, Jean d’Arc, Marlborough, and Grant may all be endangered species with their ecological gaming niche being taken over by ghoulies, and geesties, and three-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night.



The Zouave Skype Podcast (#4)

Here is the latest edition (4th) of the Zouave Skype Podcast. This session covers some Zouave questions, and an extensive preview of the latest game in development from Repique-Die Fighting.

Die fighting is a tactical horse and musket rules set that introduces some very different and fun mechanics. It is playtest and at two locations here in the US. The planned publication is in December, 2010.

Other subjects include eReaders and Piquet/Die Fighting development comparisons.

The session runs 31:30. Enjoy!

(Click on the podcast link)


Podcast

Boomers and Post-Millennials Unite!

I was just reading over on the Piquet site that Eric Burgess, one of the early Piqueteers, and the long time leader of the Charlotte Garrison wargames group was disbanding the group due to lack of attendance at many of the scheduled games. Now Eric organizes and produces games and campaigns of the highest order. Each game has plentiful figures, spectacular terrain, and a well thought out scenario. He has been doing this for may years and recently commented that he has hosted over 600 games in the last 20 years!

But, it appears that family obligations and work are taking their toll on regular participation in his games by many of the Charlotte Garrison’s players and he is going to concentrate on one on one gaming and small games in the immediate future. A sad coda to a wonderful group of gamers.

But in thinking about this event it came to me that there is something positive to be garnered from it.

All of us remember our early years in wargaming, usually starting in the high school and college, when we would play games for an entire weekend, and campaigns would be played that stretched over months with games every week, some extending until midnight or later! We were either not married, or only had very young children. Our jobs were at the beginning of careers, the demands of the work were narrower, and less demanding of our time “away from the job.” All of this was to change, of course, as children grew up, the job became more rewarding, and required far more than just eight hours of our time.

The mid-life pressures on a person make his “free” time diminish and, in some cases, disappear. Priorities must be set and who can fault those that choose their families and their livelihood over other uses of their time?

But life moves on, and those children grow up and leave to lead their own lives and create their own families, and the day comes when you hang up the spikes on the career you spend 40 or more years pursuing. There you are, still vital, still full of creativity, and with wide ranging interests and experiences. You have more time than you have had in years to do what you want to do, not what the corporation needs done. You generally have a few rooms in the house that are suddenly available as the kids leave for their own adventures. You, hopefully, have the time and money for hobbies and great tech gear. You remember the fun of those early wargame years, and now you have nothing to stop you from getting going again! The good news is that many of your former wargame opponents are in the same place in life.

Now there will be fewer games lasting until midnight, but there’s nothing to stop you from playing any day of the week-all day on the weekends, and if you want to do some travel based on your historical interests-there is nothing but your own planning to stop you!

We have heard for years about the graying of the hobby as if it were some doom, but, in a very real sense, it may be the wargame hobby’s salvation!

It also sets up a strange alliance of the High School/College players and the Retirement Players as the core of the hobby. The young can bring their energy and enthusiasm-and a lot of tech savvy to the hobby and the gray hairs bring their extensive reading, experience, and a life-time of skills to the gaming table. They BOTH have the time to devote that the 30-60 crowd finds in short supply. It is a funny sense is the mirroring of the social relationships that occur in many families, especially in Europe, where the grandparents and the young find a lot of mutual rewards in time spent together.

So, Eric, you and your Charlotte Gamers group are really only taking a break in your wargaming pursuits, and are actually moving toward a return to the golden days you remember so well of your younger days. Keep the figures dusted, mull occasionally the grandiose plans for the big campaign, or that new set of rules you always wanted to write, and know that a few years from now the group will be ready to assemble again!

"Forward to the Past"

This last month has been a lost month in terms of my writing, and rule publishing. A combination of extensive renovations at the house that went on for several weeks, and now a visit from my daughter, who lives in Europe, has thrown my schedule of writing, gaming, and blogging into a cocked hat.

However, it has not been entirely unfruitful. During the month I developed the campaign rules further, and got inspired with the single best game design mechanic I’ve had since I designed Piquet back in the 90s! The rules are just spilling on to the page the idea is so good!

The new design’s goals are very different from Zoauve, which was designed primarily with 10s and 15s in mind, was concentrated on a single period, and was aimed at replicating some of the characteristics of the big battles and their command issues. The new concept, which is being developed under the title, “Die Fighting” is the flip-side of Zouave’s goals. Die Fighting is aimed at the old” classic” wargame style with 28mm and larger-maybe even 40s and 54s! It is very much a battalion level tactical action design. In breaking with past designs, it uses NO cards. It only uses D6s for all of its mechanics-and, yet, it is very unique in how all these mechanics are tied together. It promises to be a great game design and will, in its earliest release cover the period 1700-1900 with specific information for each major period included in the rules. There will be NO addenda or supplements. All of this and the rules will not exceed 35 pages including all period information!

Die Fighting is very much in the Charge!, Shambattle, Wells, Featherstone tradition and will be throughly tested both in the US and in England prior to publication. Price remains to be set, but I hope to make it very affordable. It will be initially available in a numbered and signed 300 copy edition. I hope to have it all complete and up for sale for the Christmas season.

This will NOT delay (any further) several other projects including the 1866 addenda, 1859 addenda, and the Zouave Campaign rules.. Now that the family and renovation pressures are off, I intend to go into overdrive on all of these projects and get them done as rapidly as possible. The two addenda will be offered on-line at the forum for no charge.

The Zouave Campaign Rules will be developed concurrently with Die Fighting-as they share a few new mechanisms, but will probably appear after the Zouave second edition and Die Fighting. These campaign rules will be usable, by the way, with ANY wargame rule set.

Die Fighting is a real return to my wargaming roots, and I must thank Mike Siggins for putting me on to Phil Olley’s new publication, The Classic Wargamer’s Journal. This is a real throwback to the Scruby, Featherstone, Hal Thinglum publications and game style. It took just a few pages of reading and the new rule design idea clicked in my head. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this fine initial effort. I’m sure you’ll want to subscribe. Check it out at http://classicwargaming.blogspot.com.



In the meantime, I will keep you apprised of the progress on all these projects at the forum and on this blog. Now, back to the writing...!

Why Do We Fight?

I write this on Historicon weekend, as a substantial number of our wargaming community are off fighting battles in every imaginable period of history. As I looked back on my many trips to Historicon, and the games I held at my house, or observed over 50 years of wargaming, i realized what is a central “problem” with our hobby.

Our battles never have and reasons behind them, they have no consequences to our armies or commanders that affect later battles, in short, they have no history!

Each battle is a little snippet from time, that exists quite apart from any decisions that got the two armies to that point, or any consequences beyond a tactical victory or defeat in the battle itself. True, some scenarios may be very inventive and a fun “puzzle,” or they may be based on an actual battle in history, but the fact remains that the gamers involved had no input or responsibility for getting the forces to the engagement, little choice in terrain, and in all cases no long term consequences to consider. Too many battles are hot house flowers that can only exist in that one moment.

This is the central reason that many wargames leave all parties with a rather unfulfilled sense of completion. Too often the loser and winner are left wanting more. Many a “big” battle is more fun in the planning, than in the doing, simply because the game is too “balanced” and too scripted, and the results in outcome, as well as degree of victory, are meaningless. It’s like a single baseball game without a season, or even a world series, deciding who is the best team.

We lack a history preceding the game and following it. We lack a campaign!

Campaign rules are the great undiscovered country of wargaming, and in all my 50 plus years of wargaming they are the one creative challenge that has not been successfully conquered by wargame designers. We’ve had hundreds of Napoleonic rule sets, mostly tactical in nature; we’ve had a number of game “generators” that have offered formulas for creating a one-off battle, we’ve had point systems of suspect value, we’ve had rule sets, such as Piquet, that offered multi-period wargaming, but the list of successful campaign rules is close to zero-no, it is zero!

So, of course, I’ve got to give it a go! I’m working right now on a set of campaign rules that would have multi-period applicability, and a minimum of rules and record keeping(no one wants to be a bean counter in logistics!). They will allow historical or fantasy pretexts. The system creates its own maps, a simple, but effective, rationale for the reasons for and effects of battles, and allows for the interconnection of a number of wargame engagements over a campaign season-which could be an annual or bi-annual events to be renewed every January or September by a group or club. It will also have a strong web component for support, discussion, and development.

I am now writing the initial draft which will be play tested both in the US and in England-hopefully as early as August of this year. I hope to take it to publication in September. It is very different, but something, I think, that Tony Bath would have greatly enjoyed.

It will be the second publication of the planned Zouave Trilogy. I plan to use the formula I mentioned in my last blog of 2-300 numbered and signed “Limited Edition” copies in print, and a follow-up of ePub editions after that initial release. The game itself will not require any devices beyond paper, dice, and cards. It will be integrated with Zouave, but not dependent on any given rule set for tabletop actions-any system will work.

More information to follow

A New Model For Rule Publication

For the last few months, I have been puzzling out a new model for wargame rule publication, specifically for the miniature wargame rules that Repique publishes. As I stated on the last Skype Conference, I don’t believe the present model of print, or even the PDF model, has any long-term viability. The present model has excessive per unit costs to the publisher and, therefore, to the customer, very limited distribution channels, and imposes limitations on the product and its design which result in reduced quality and utility. Even when PDFs are introduced, a few issues are resolved, but the grave fault of effectively losing control of one’s intellectual property is a killer for any designer or publisher. All of these problems are negatives for the growth of the niche publication market where wargame rules are firmly lodged.

There are now coming on the scene various new technologies and means of publishing and distributing ideas and limited run documents. At the forefront is the wave of new readers and tablets led by the iPad, The Kindle, The Nook, and the Sony eReader. More will soon make their appearance, and the prices on all, especially the one-purpose eReaders, will rapidly decline. This will occur at the same time they all become even more capable and user friendly. I am convinced they are the new path for niche publications.

Not only will widespread use of these devices allow cost savings for the consumer, reversing the inflating pricing that leads to $30-$50 rulebooks, but the quality of the product in terms of layout, interactivity, referencing of topics, as well as yet to be discovered gaming capabilities, will be drastically improved. Someone has to jump into the deep end of the pool and try a new model.

So I am committing to the following model for Repique Publications, starting with Zouave, and continuing with our future release of Zouave Campaign:

1. There will be an initial numbered “Limited Edition” print run of each new release. All will be signed by the author.
2. Once sold there will NOT be an additional print run. There will be an ePub run always available for sale, that will work with any eReader.
3. All support materials, Player aid cards, POD decks, scenarios, and addenda for the rules will be published as PDFs on the forum.
4. All publications will be actively supported with a website blog, monthly Zouave Podcast, email response and forum discussion and Files, Links, etc.

The price points for the Print copies will be typical and competitive with current market pricing of $25-$35, while the ePub copies will be sold at current market pricing also-roughly $12-$15.

Over a few year’s time, I expect step one to be phased out and ALL publication to be in ePub format.

Zouave was published prior to my settling on this longer term strategy, and I am now within a very few copies of selling the initial run out. Though I will not be able to offer the numbered or signed copies, I will do so on “Zouave: Campaign” targeted for late Summer-early Fall. I am undecided about another print run of Zouave to meet this model, or just proceed to the ePub publication. It appears that Zouave will be OOP within a few weeks. I will then decide upon printing additional copies or simply moving it to ePub.

I will also appreciate any feedback and reaction from the assembled throng. Discussion on the forum is also encouraged. I am open to several issues, including the nature of the initial print run-by subscription? First come, first sold? The size of the initial Print run is also TBD-though Zouave’s sales seem to indicate several hundred initial copies are warranted. I suspect that the 300-500 range is where it will settle. Over time that initial print run will decline and at about 150 copies ceases to be a viable option and Repique products will be solely ePub.



The Suave Zouave Podcast

Here is the June 19th conversation on the Zouave Rules, Wargaming, and the business of wargame publication. It features Jim Getz, co-author of Empire from Columbus, Ohio, Tim Couper, from just north of London UK, Adolfo Laurentis, from Chicago, Illinois, Mike Siggins, noted wargames critic for Battlegames Magazine and columnist on all forms of gaming, from The Fens, UK. It ran about 58 minutes and covered a wide range of topics including the mechanics of the Zouave Rules, the future of electronic publishing, issues on abstraction in wargame design, and general commentary on the hobby. I hope you enjoy it. Just click on the podcast button and enjoy!


Podcast


Skype Redux

This coming Saturday, June 19th, 2010, is the scheduled date for the Zouave Skype Conference Call. I have several people who have RSVP’d as being in attendance, including me, Jim Getz, Tim Couper, Mike Siggins, Myron Shipp, and possibly Peter Anderson, and Adolfo Laurenti.

If anyone else would like to join in, the call will be at 2:30 PM (MDT)-4:30 PM EDT-9:30 PM in London, 10:30 PM Paris, and 6:30 AM (the 20th) in Australia. Please email me and I will set you up with all the info you need. You will need a computer with broadband, Skype Software (free) and an inexpensive USB mic. The call will last 45 minutes or so. You can leave the call at any point.

Even if you can’t attend, please let me know if there are any Zouave questions, issues, confusing text, or general wargaming topics you would like discussed. I will be making up an agenda and will try to include as many items as I can given the time allotted and good taste and programming allow.

The call will be posted as an audio podcast immediately following the call’s conclusion.

We had a good initial effort in May (which is still available on the blog-check the May archives) and I look forward to our next episode of the Suave Zouave!

Learning A New Set Of Rules (Ugh!)

Jim Getz and I used to joke about the fact that we hated learning new rules so much that we preferred to design our own! I plead guilty. Almost all miniature wargames I have played since I’ve been in wargaming-which is -OH MY GOSH!-45 years!- have been rules that I have written. The joke is that having written them doesn’t mean you remember them during the game, as I am often reminded by a well experienced gamer what the rule is that I wrote and forgot! There is also the problem of having had several versions of rules that are amended and sometimes replaced, it is very easy to forget which one you finally kept! It is almost better, I would think, to only see the finished product.

Even so, I am always greatly heartened and pleased that many gamers are willing to grind through that first tentative game, re-read that key paragraph to wrinkle out the author’s intent, and to basically learn a new language and vocabulary in order to play the “new” set of rules. Thank heavens that so many will do it, otherwise we’d all still be playing H.G. Well’s rules, though the sales of spring-loaded cannon and the fiscal resources of Wm Britain’s might have been improved .

I marvel at the dedication of many gamers that allows them to do all this hard work in the hopes that the resulting game will reward their efforts with a few hours of entertainment now and then. It makes me feel very responsible to all my customers and committed to investing an equal amount of effort to insure that they are given a treat at the end of the learning task.

Writing rules is more difficult than many gamers, who are always “going to write down my own perfect set,” are willing to admit. These people are often akin to those who are going to write their own novels, their own hit song, or win the lottery, better at the dreaming than the doing, better critics than creators. But equally difficult is discerning from a rule writer’s text what in the hell you are supposed to do! Every rule writer attempts to be clear, but just as one often does not see the flaws in one’s favorite child, so one can become blind to a confusing description or a glaring omission in a set of rules. You become so close to the mechanics of the game that what seems obvious to you can be far less so to the gamer trying to understand your creation. You strive for clarity and completeness, but a rule writer starts his task knowing that imperfect clarity,and the typo not seen until printing is done, are always going to await him.

So, in a very real sense that few rule writers or publishers will publicly admit, but ALL know is true, that first brave band of gamers that adopt a new system are the final playtesters. They are the ones that catch the little gremlins that hide in the dark corners of every rule set, and ferret out the less than perfect sentence structure. For that, every wargame designer owes them a debt of thanks and appreciation. That is one reason I always offer a small discount to those that purchase early, or wish to buy a second edition that often has benefitted by their comments on the first edition. In a very real way, the early adopters are very much a part of the wargame design team, and should be recognized as such.

This has been particularly true in another way for my designs. I have always tried to do different things, try new approaches, and introduce different ways to address the portrayal of battles in my game designs. In Le jeu de La Guerre in 1972, I tried a new interactive time sequencing with the “Denver initiative”; Rebel Yell! tried to graft the RPG game master techniques onto a miniature wargame, and Piquet, in its many manifestations, was a really different approach to illustrating time in a tabletop game. Many of these techniques were so “different” that they provoked some pretty strong responses at their introduction from those that either didn’t get it, or didn’t like the new patterns of play. This led to some spirited exchanges, for which I say great! I’d rather be hanged for being a wolf than some comfortably pedestrian sheep!

I know that I have always demanded more of the players than some designers, and that some aspects of playing my designs well requires a reframing of perception and a willingness to break with more established and accepted mechanics. For that, I am always grateful to all those gamers over the years that have been willing to try my designs. I hope that Zouave is a game that provides you with many hours of entertainment and fun. I know it will be a better game in a year because of your input and added ideas. In advance, I thank you all.

Big Table; Small Figures!

OK, I admit I have a subjective reason behind my decision, and that it flies in the face of common judgement (which has never been a big deal for me!), but I just sent an order to the Terrain Guy, who is having a pretty good sale on game mats right now, for a 4 foot by 12 foot green wargame table mat. Yup! I’’m building a twelve foot long wargame table in my basement! My current table is 4 by 8 feet and I have used it for damn near 16 years, but after all these years I think I have found one of the secrets of wargaming.

Many people have tried small tables with big figures ala Games Workshop.
Many people have tried big tables with big figures starting with H.G. Wells and Fred Vietmeyer.
Some have tried small tables with small figures such as many an apartment dweller or a person with extreme financial restrictions.

I’ll not gainsay any of them if they had a good time and it fit their perception of a good wargame.

HOWEVER, I’ve seen one too many GW battlefield with monster tanks and figures crammed stand to stand from one end to the other on a table top. How many trucks does it take to move boxes and boxes about of historical 28s only to have a unit density on the tabletop that makes the Japanese subway look spacious? “I’m sorry, Your grace, but we can’t fit the Hannoverians into the battle line!” (???) Do you really get the best diorama from a bunch of 6mm figures on a 4 by 6 table??? Really?

I’ve already committed to 10s in my gaming for many other reasons; cost, portability, mass look, ease of painting, storage demands, and sufficient detail to be attractive. The conversion to “Tens” led me to look at wargame design differently and led directly to a number of new approaches I’m taking in Zouave, and my 4 X 8 table allowed good maneuver space even with 4 or 5 divisions, two or more corps in play, but I wanted to have even bigger battles, and even more room for maneuver without the “Chorus Line” (1-2-3 kick) look of so many wargame deployments. That naturally led to the idea of even a bigger table. One seldom needs more depth to a wargame table since the primary interest is at the point of contact and not the logistical tail of an army. There are also mechanical difficulties with play once the width exceeds about 5 feet. What you want is more flanks, more frontage, more space to the right or left.

So I decided to go to a 4 by 12 foot standard table for which I will build an optional 4 foot extension to allow 16 feet! Hello, flanks! I mean FLANKS! Coupling this with a typical unit in Zouave occupying 6” when deployed in line and then put thirty 10 mm figures on those stands and you get some idea of the diorama and the sense of space that this will allow. In the Zouave main scale of 1”=50 meters (yards) and the twelve foot table gives you over 3 and 1/2 miles of frontage! Now if you keep the forces at typical levels for games the sense of not being able to occupy or block every enemy option and the pressure to control certain areas indirectly or with fewer troops will begin to grow.

Maybe this decision reflects in some distant way why Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells played on the floor with their miniatures armies instead of the limitations of the typical table. Bruce Weigle, the Dean of FPW gamers, has always used HUGE tables with his 6mm armies, though I think their depth often made play difficult, and not many people would have the patience and/or skill to custom make his beautiful terrained one-off tables.

I wish to stress this is my private hobby-horse. It is not at all required to make Zouave a good wargame evening, but someone has to try it! I’ll follow up on the forum with a report on our first BIG table
small figures game. Photos will be taken, of course! One other change I may try in our games is more cowbell!

High Tech; High Reward

t’s not uncommon for some in wargaming to bemoan each new bit of technology that comes along as a change they don’t want to deal with. However, it is amazing how technology has changed wargaming, and almost always for the better.

Compared to when I started in wargaming, this is the golden age of miniature wargaming, and almost all of it is attributable to sweeping changes in how things are done, brought on by high tech. Here’s my list of the good things:

1. High tech spin-casters and new metallurgy have allowed for much finer castings with better proportions than the old days of individual plaster or vulcanized molds. The old figures were lucky to have even one undercut.
2. Laser cut parts have allowed for a vastly expanded line of highly detailed buildings and structures being offered for terrain pieces. Laser mold cutting has also provided improved figures, terrain, and even dice!
3. Desktop publishing tools have allowed a much higher quality of publications and rulesets to be produced by many more people and sold at competitive prices.
4. The internet has allowed the world-wide group of wargamers, who are thin on the ground compared to many hobbies, to establish contact and share ideas and information.
5. New high tech production techniques have allowed mass production of many wargame models in tanks, airplanes, and ships- all delivered PAINTED and at very low prices!
6. World-wide on-line stores selling a wide range of products have flourished offering much more variety at lower prices. It has also led to the smarter brick-and-mortar stores to become more specialized, focused, and service oriented to maintain their business.
7. Reprints of rare, and formerly hard to find references, are far more available thanks to high-tech limited run presses.
8. New high tech gaming tools are just around the corner, including embedded sound devices for the table-top, cheap laser measuring tools, and digital troop rosters.
9. The iPad and other tablet/readers, will change gaming as much or more than all of the above combined. Rules will be delivered to customers on this device requiring no printing costs. The DRM will protect the digital rights of the authors, and its bluetooth component will allow interactive rosters, and results tables. It will be no more difficult to use than a book and actually be interactive and far more useful. New designs using these tools will combine computer gaming and miniature gaming in a way that will surprise many miniature gamers. It will be the best of both worlds.
10. The age of live video distribution of wargames being played and conventions by podcasts and youtube is already here-it just hasn’t yet been fully utilized.

Technology is delivering the goods and the ideas-and we’re all the beneficiaries! The geeks in T-shirts at wargame conventions owe a lot to the geeks in jeans in San Jose!

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Expert Opinion?

One of the greatest things about game design and publishing is meeting some new people with fresh ideas. Every game I’ve ever published has introduced me to someone new that has added some fun and fresh ideas to my wargaming. I first met Jim Getz after publishing La Guerre in the early 70s. That has been a life-long friendship with as many laughs as good ideas. Each following set brought new people with good ideas into my life. Piquet was especially fruitful, in that regard, with Brent Oman, Greg Pruitt, Jeff Valent, Eric Burgess, Jeff Grein and Freddy Avner-and especially the famed opera librettists, Peter Anderson and Adolfo Laurenti -and many more-Chris, Rob, Jimmy, and the Ilkey Lads; The, yet unmet in person, Sam Mustafa-and many, many more. All are great company and have made my life more interesting.

That’s what makes the writing and the work of publication all worth it.

But there is a darker side to the hobby, too, and no published designer can escape it-the lonely people seeking some sort of approval who offer exaggerated complaints, demands for attention, and almost stalker-like behavior on the boards. Sam offered a perfect parody of this character-that rings all too true to all game publisher/designers- in the first week of the Repiquerules forum. It’s a funny read, check it out! But it was also predictive, as at least a couple of people did a pretty good imitation of Sam’s “reviewer” on the TMP boards this week. It comes with the territory-which is why some designers just don’t go to conventions-or at least keep a very low profile. It isn’t the good people that they wish to avoid, but the few that just can’t seem to sense that their inner Emily Latella is running amok.

The most hilarious examples are often found blissfully unaware of their faux pas de deux with some authors, as one character on the “Repique publishes Zoauave” thread, who took it upon himself to offer advice on advertising, PR, game publication, customer relations, expert playtesting skills and interpersonal relations, which is fine-until you ask the question-who are you to be offering advice???? Ever written a set of published rules? Nope, never heard of him! Ever run a rule or history publishing business? Nope, not any that I’ve seen advertised. Background in advertising or PR? Not that I know of. Interpersonal skills? Well, if obsessing about other people’s character and approaches to the wargame biz( such as it is) is an interpersonal skill, rather than what some people might call it, I guess you might give him that.

There are critics and people genuinely seeking information about a design who perform an important role in the hobby, and then there are the people that just want attention, and the opportunity to play the expert. One can humor them, if one can spare the time, but most people that are actually doing something, whether successfully or not, are too busy creating something to tell other people how to run their business.

Ultimately, that’s how it all sorts out in life. Doers and talkers. Talkers are the ones that want respect, Doers are the ones that earn respect. The important thing is that they have to actually do something-not talk about how they’re fixin’ to do something. Or have we come to a point in the age of the internet where people are not only entitled to their own facts, but to have their untested opinions called expertise?

When Is Wargaming At Its Best?

In reflecting back on a lifetime of wargaming, I began to muse upon when did I most enjoy the gaming? What characterized the best of the best when it came to fun, interest, and play? I determined very quickly that enjoyment was never related to the size of the game. In fact, I doubt if any gamers would classify those huge multi-table 10,000 figure extravaganzas as their favorite wargame. Sure, the planning leading up to those monsters could be involving, but they were often all wind-up and no pitch! I’ve never seen a more bored group as a group of gamers on day two of a three day game! Inevitably the promise of these games is not met and everybody walks away thinking what a colossal waste of time they just went through and desperately seeking either food or a restroom!

The hobby shop is also not my idea of being conducive to a good game. The distractions are many, you get some people playing that not only don’t know the rules, but are often lacking basic social skills-especially when they are losing. It is a venue for the very young or those without any other option for a playing venue.

Convention games are equally prone to the poor loser, rules lawyer, loud mouth, and no one has any investment in the social group around the table. The truly bad sport could care less about his behavior when among strangers and people he may never see again. Convention games also seem to tailor their complexity and challenge to the simplest form and most obvious of strategies. That makes sense because of the need to be accessible to anyone who wanders up, but it leads to VERY ordinary games, or those that play fast with loads of dice and no thought. That’s why I never go to conventions to wargame. I go, instead, to mix with friends, shop for new goodies, discuss rule concepts with other designers, and to gather a group up for a good meal, non-wargaming conversation, and drinks later in the day. That’s the best of conventions, in my mind. I can play wargames at home, why travel 2000 miles to play an unchallenging game with complete strangers?

Club games can often work well. People do know each other. Most are conversant with whatever rules are being played, and even within a club, sub-groups are created that enjoy the same period, type of rules, or certain personalities. Like can find like and games can be as simple or complex as the sub-group desires.

But the best-the very best-is a small group of 4-6 people that get together regularly in someone’s private home and play a set of rules over a length of time. They learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses; learn to enjoy the little quirks that each person brings to the game table, and everyone understands every little nuance of the rules being played. This leads to games full of subtlety and challenge. The group generally has the best of good humor, because these people gather because they genuinely enjoy each other as people. Most of all such small, private, groups acquire a history! There are tales to tell, funny moments to recall and laugh over. There are silly reputations that grow up around the group. “Don’t ever give the cavalry to Ed-he’ll ride them off a cliff!” “Good old, Mumbasa, hunkered down in the woods as usual!” The rewards and the affection grows within the group when you can throw in an annual back-yard cook-out, or a summer Scopa Tournament. The best of wargames is only found when a great group of people, play a good set of rules, with good humor and mutual regard over a number of years. That’s the best-believe me!

On publishing wargames

I suppose that every wargamer at some time or another has mentioned writing his own rules and publishing them. Rules writing has been my primary enjoyment in wargaming. I was never too hooked on the modeling aspects, painting, or terrain building. Generally speaking, I let others do that-while I worked on creating rules. I have rarely played any commercial sets that are available, though I do read most of the just to keep in touch with what other designers are doing.

Historical wargame rules are more like literature than technical writing for many reasons. Though based on history and factual parameters, they are subjective interpretations and not either scientific analysis, or strict simulations. The tastes in rules vary widely and so does the appreciation of certain authors, and the criticism of others. The interest in many rules usually starts with a burst of chatter about the “latest” set and then after a few months quiets down to a murmur, often accompanied by the required and VERY predictable counterforce of criticism, which leaves you wondering how the rules were so widely touted in the first place. In short, wargame rules behave identically to the fiction entertainment business whether it’s a book, a movie, or the latest catchy tune. To be sure, some rules survive to be come classics and played over many years. The Sword and The Flame, Napoleon’s Battles, Piquet come to mind, but they are the exceptions not the rule. Most wargame rules are made of the same ephemeral material as the latest mystery novel, The DaVinci Code, and whatever is the latest 3D money with explosions playing at the local cineplex.

Wargames are entertainments. They are intended to amuse and provide a bit of fun for each of us and our friends.

But that does not make them easy to write and publish. The Two happiest days for a rules writer are the day he begins a new set and the day he finishes it! The writing task is a very lonely one and one that demands a wide range of skills. There is no way to write a set of rules other than to closet yourself with a computer and spend many long hours writing, editing, and re-writing. The playtesting may be a group activity, and the most fun part of rules creation, but the writing is NOT a group activity. If you are not a reasonably competent writer, you will never complete the task. But even more necessary is a wide range of computer skills. The margins in rule publishing are so narrow that unless you can do layout yourself, have some passing acquaintance with Word, InDesign, Photoshop, and basic drawing programs-you will lose money if you need to hire those skills.

Even more necessary is the ability to create and build a website. It is the modern broadside, newsletter, and advertising tool. Hobby publications are less of a force today in wargaming than ever before. A majority of people below the age of 30 in the US have not read a book in the last year! Only one in 10 reads a newspaper! All of the hobby publications are having a hard time of it, especially in “fringe” interests such as wargaming. In the historical wargaming segment this is even more pronounced, there are no MWAN’s, Table Top Talks, or Wargamer’s Digests-they are tools of the past. A few glossies continue overseas where publishing costs are lower-England’s Miniatures Wargames, or France’s Vae Victus are good examples, but they more driven by the visual content than ideas. The web is the best advertising and marketing tool available for our niche hobby. It is a necessary tool for a wargame designer/publisher. Again, Wargame publishers should not farm it out!

The wargame designer/publisher’s work only truly begins with the writing. One has to explore printing options, learn the language and needs of the various forms of printing ranging from POD to Short Run Presses. You have to research exactly who can give you the best product at the lowest dollar. That takes time and effort. Maintaining website and a forum-such as the one Repique has established on Yahoo! takes a lot of effort and time, especially as a start-up where you are building a location where you want to encourage people to visit by having fresh material and ideas constantly appearing. Writing a blog successfully isn’t a case of sporadically making an entry every 3-4 weeks; It requires constant new materials.

Finally, there is customer relations. This comes in two forms. First, is fulfillment-getting product to the customer quickly. As I learned from past experience, do that yourself too! One of the worst aspects of the initial Piquet release was the terrible fulfillment and response. I learned a good lesson there and will always make sure that aspect is also under my direct control in all future publications.

And then there is the issue of meeting the customer at shows and conventions. I am very divided in mind about that. I think if you’re a figure seller, a book seller, a figure painting service, a terrain maker, etc. It makes a lot of sense to meet and greet at the shows-it is the best opportunity to show off a tangible, touchable, product. Rules, I think are quite different. Very few wargamer designers attend the conventions as dealers. Arty Conliffe seldom makes an appearance, Bowden, Getz, Mustafa, etc. all keep a relatively low profile. After 10 years of going to every show in the 90s, I think I know why. Wargame designers deal in ideas, the intangible, and the subjective-they are often introspective and, by nature, analytics. Wargamers at a convention are quite different, and often more interested in proving their own expertise and offering critiques than any meaningful conversation. To be sure there are some genuinely brilliant and insightful people at conventions-but most rule writers will see the peopel they really find interesting at a pre-arranged dinner.

My idea of hell is a wargamer in front of me demanding to know why there are no emergency squares in the rules, or accosting you when you are exhausted after a day doing game demos or talking at the booth, and being upset that you don’t seem to want to jabber on for another hour about the use of light infantry. I think I might return to Historicon to meet with friends, but I am not eager to jump back into the convention scene, which was one of the reasons I burned out on the hobby ten years ago. Most rule writers seem to agree with me that less is better when it comes to the convention scene. This is doubly true when the largest such convention has very clumsily moved from a bad hotel in a rural backwater to an aging convention complex in an urban backwater. Better to spend your money of advertising and publishing costs than the cost of travel and lodging. Maybe go once every 3-5 years just to see friends-unless, of course, it’s in Philadelphia!

I am hoping that internet services such as Skype, podcasting, and other forms of electronic conferencing, along with fast e-mail responses on the forum and personal e-mails, might prove as effective in the long run in interacting with customers as spending four days in Valley Forge. (Remember, even Washington only went there when there was no other alternative!) Winking

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Wargamers I Have Met

Over the years I have enjoyed the advantages of being able to travel extensively, and this has allowed me to meet a number of people who have provided the foundation for the hobby of wargaming. They have all been interesting and often entertaining company. In fact, their good humor and bonhomie seems to be a cornerstone of their personalities.

I first met Jack Scruby, as most of the old timers did, through the annals of Wargames Digest or Table Top Talk, which used to be the two main means of spreading news about the hobby, and the source of many a fine early article about history, uniforms, and wargame rule creation. He was always open to off-beat ideas and experimental games. He always had a new rule idea he wanted to try. Jack was also the primary source for figures using his printing business as a source for lead and a front for his wargaming! He brought many of the early wargamers together. If you ordered figures from jack, you were almost certain to get a call or letter from someone who lived within 50 miles of you who had done likewise and jack had passed on your contact information.

I drove with my wife to the West Coast in 1966 to see him at the old Visalia factory. He was a big man, a tad overweight, and a cigarette was always dangling from his lip, but his loud laugh and smile coupled with a boyish enthusiasm for anything new in the hobby was infectious and you soon forgot the smoke-thick air. At the time I met him he had a large garage-like store room with walls lined with casting molds (the OLD kind of plaster or vulcanized rubber-no spin cast!). Dave Rusk was his manager and the only person that seemed to know where everything was located. In the center of the room was his table, that many a game from Mafrica and other mythical places had been fought.

For quite a while, at least into the mid 70s, Jack was the primary supplier of figures, published rules, and the monthly newsletter, Originally Table Top Talk, and later W.argame Digest. It’s hard to believe in this age of the internet, but his publications were the only means, other than Featherstone’s Wargamer’s Newsletter, for gamers to share ideas and suggest new ideas for many years. Jack was the main supplier of not only figures but information and motivation to try new periods. Scruby’s came in 30mm, 25 mm, 1 inch, and “N” scale-he was open to any scale as long as it fit his latest inspiration. This openness to new ideas and new devices was his hallmark, and one that many present gamers could well adopt. The period that Jack was in business was the last period in which the main thrust of the hobby in the US was Western based. It was a very creative period for everyone involved as a lot of the core concepts of gaming that exist to this very day can be found in jack’s rules and magazines. I wrote several articles for him and never failed to receive a note and encouragement from the Father of US Wargaming! jack died in 1988 but is remembered by the Scruby Award given by the HMGS East chapter.

I met Don Featherstone in 1969 at his big home in Southampton, I was making my first trip to Europe immediately after leaving the Navy. My wife and I got a B&B near his home and I got to spend my first of many meetings with Don. His Wargamer’s Newsletter-published in mimeograph was always chatty, informative, always showed his good humor. In person, this humor showed all the more. He was a natural diplomat and could show the patience of Job with a mob of wargamers clamoring for his attention. When I first met him in 1969 until just a few years ago (we last had a long chat in 1999 or 2000 at Historicon during his last visit to the States) it was as if he possessed the keys to a time-machine-he never aged! He was amazingly fit throughout his life, and I can remember running with him in 1969 for a good half mile at a demanding pace to get to the local pub before it closed. I was a competitive runner my whole life and he had no problem pressing the pace with me!

Just as Jack Scruby was an important US source of information, so was Don’s Wargamer’s Newsletter the voice of UK gaming for many years, and let all of us in the states know about the latest figures and rules from across the pond. He, too, was open to ALL ideas and systems, and saw all approaches as not only valid, but necessary to a growing hobby. His one credo that was heartfelt was that the game should be a friendly one with good natured ribbing, and when it came down to it-“Just roll the dice.” At our last visit, he was having trouble hearing, and was feeling the limitations of his age more than he would like, but his energy and good humor shown through in his every word and that wicked twinkle in his eye was not diminished. Don is a treasure to this hobby and deserves every accolade that comes his way. His books remain a delight to read and I am thrilled that they are being republished by John Curry. Read them, and rediscover the core reasons that we enjoy this hobby! And if you ever meet Don ask him about his twin brother, Larry, who, unknown to most gamers, co-wrote most of Don’s works as a silent partner. If you get a chance to talk to Don, look at his left hand. If it has a rose colored birthmark-you’re actually talking to Larry! Don’t tell the Featherstone twins that I spilled the beans! They’ve been pulling this scam for 50 years!

(I’ll continue these little notes about the interesting people I have met in this hobby in future Blog postings.)