Wednesday, September 25, 2013


In the last eight years or so my left eye has developed cataracts, and although my right eye seems to be free of them so far, and can still read without corrective lenses, painting figures has become a real problem, especially in the last twelve-month.  Then, about eight weeks ago, my glasses broke.  Already having to be repaired once, they had to be replaced, no question.

 So off to the local optometrist, eyes tested, renew prescription, and it seemed that something - not a lot admittedly - might help with the bung eye.  Well, vastly expensive as it was (my lenses are the progressive type, photo chromatic, but not polarised) they do make quite a bit of difference, even for reading.  I've been checking my 3D vision with my Magic Eye book, and the finer 'grained' pictures had been lost to me. Though it has not totally been recovered, the improvement was noticeable.

And painting: I feel a bit more like the effort these days.  Pictured are some of my Napoleonic project: A Highland Regiment (bought a couple of weeks ago on Trade Me, and a couple of Russians.  The latter are more 'Revolutionary Wars' but they''ll do for Napoleonics as well.   At this point I'm perhaps about 2/3 of the way through the painting - plenty to do yet, but I just wanted to see what they looked like as my first detailed paint job with new specs.

The Highlander battalion is a little bit of historic licence on my part, being the 73rd (Perthshire) Infantry.  This unit had indeed been Highlander, but recruitment problems had in 1809 led to its being opened up to a wider intake, with a consequent loss, not only of its Highlander status, but also of the Highlander regalia from its uniform.  Too bad: I wanted  Highlander unit in my army, and this was the only candidate.  The reason is that, although mine is intended as a Peninsular War army, it comprises Waterloo battalions.  It was much easier that way to get the appropriate flags on line. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Map Games

I received some very welcome and generous feedback to the ideas I expressed in my last posting.  Actually it was surprising as well, and therefore the more appreciated.  Other gamers are now looking to adapt or adopt them into their own projects.
Morning 1 July, 1863.  Buford's cavalry intercept Rebel elements
approaching Gettysburg.
I should just mention, I think, that in its present incarnation, I take doubles as forcing retreats and triples as 'kills'.  The idea is to try and reduce the attrition rate (though it was not successful in my little example).
The action opens without effect upon either side.  Ironically,
Buford has no foot or guns; the Rebs, no cavalry.

I did consider some jiggery pokery with higher numbers of the same pip score (quadruples and higher), but aside from whether to call four 1 'kill' or two retreats, or one side or the other chooses, I haven't yet decided.
Both sides' forces build up:  Ewell and Hill; Reynolds and Howard.

To any force I added an arbitrary two dice.  This was to allow a single unit of cavalry, say, a chance, however remote, of scoring a 'kill'.  As for terrain, I hadn't yet decided, but was leaning towards counting only towns, fortifications and maybe mountainous regions, all of which would advantage a defender.  But what sort of advantage: a plus to the force, or a multiplier?  Otherwise, a body of at least one element received 1 die per horse, 2 per infantry and 3 per gun, plus an extra two for being an independent command.
Results of the duel between III Corps  (CSA) and I Corps
(USA).  Buford's cavalry has been attached to I Corps.
The sort of game I had in mind was probably something along the lines of the R.L. Stevenson/Lloyd Osbourne sort of map game.  But I can see that the whole idea could be adapted to other systems.
Results of the duel between II Corps (CSA) and
XI Corps (USA) - heavy loss on both sides, though the Rebs
get the better of it!
At any rate, not having spent much thought as to the game mechanics other than combat ... erm ... resolution (you'll see the reason for my hesitation later) methought to knock up a one-brain cell set and have a quick play test.
2 July 1863 - Morning.  Sykes is on the field but not yet
in action.  Sedgwick has not yet come up.
The rules were simple:
1.  A body of troops (corps) that included foot travelled at 10cm; one with horse and no foot (but which could include guns) travelled at 20cm.
2.  A retreat from combat took 10cm for foot, and 20cm for horse.  Guns would retreat 10 or 20cm according as whether the corps it belonged to also included foot or not.
3.  A retreated element could (advance to) rejoin its corps after waiting one whole 'turn' in the rear.
4.  The main body may, at the end of the turn, fall back to conform to its retreated elements. I am considering making this compulsory if the fraction remaining is smaller than the retreated elements, in terms of numbers of elements, or possibly in terms of firepower.  One certainly feels that guns stripped of their supporting horse or foot ought to go back.
5.  Dice are rolled in respect of each corps in turn.  Two or more corps may engage a single enemy corps, but their combats are resolved separately though simultaneously.
6. A corps engaged by more than one opposing corps may select from which enemy to take losses or retreats; with the broad proviso - i.e. insofar as is possible - that they are taken evenly from each.
Same pic as the previous, from a lower angle/
 As a playtest I thought I'd use Gettysburg - the whole thing played over 5 turns: 1 July, morning and afternoon; 2 July morning and afternoon, and 3 July.  Now, I am aware that most of the action of the second day did not begin until late afternoon, yet I felt that taking two moves for that day's action seemed appropriate.
Situation at noon.  Both sides are feeling the pinch.
 For the battle, I hoiked out a wall or ceiling tile thingy that had spent the last 3-4 years protecting our caravan's tyres from the sun.  As said caravan has been sold, this tile can serve other purposes.  Upon this, I drew a crude, much simplified map of the Gettysburg battlefield.  The orders of battle were as follow:
2 July 1863 - Afternoon.  Even reformed, the Corps are
mere shadows of themselves.
 Union Army:
Buford's Cavalry - 1 mounted figure (firepower = 3)
I Corps (Reynolds) - 3 infantry, 1 gun (f/p=11)
II Corps (Hancock) - 3 infantry, 1 gun
III Corps (Sickles) - 3 infantry, 1 gun
V Corps (Sykes) - 3 infantry, 1 gun
VI Corps (Sedgwick) - 3 Infantry, 1 gun
XI Corps (Howard) - 3 infantry, 1 gun
XII Corps (Slocum) - 3 infantry, 1 gun.
Total firepower = 80.
A lower angle pic of the previous.
 Confederate Army:
Longstreet's (I) Corps - 5 infantry, 2 guns (f/p=18)
Ewell's (II) Corps - 5 infantry, 2 guns
A.P. Hill's (III) Corps - 5 infantry, 2 guns.
Total firepower = 54.
The difference in firepower is pretty big, but it is largely offset - possibly more so, in fact - but the larger sized CSA corps.  In order to guarantee triples, a corps needs a firepower of 13.  Twice during this action a Union Corps imposed a lot of retreats without getting a 'kill'.

A further point to note: the Union 'should' have got one extra gun as far closer to the artilleries of the two sides.  How to allocate it was the question.  On balance I would probably add it to Hancock's or maybe Sedgwick's Corps another time.  I also left off all the cavalry but Buford.  Kilpatrick's might have been added on 3 July.  Maybe.  But I didn't trouble.  For the rest, the main cavalry action took place a distance from the battlefield depicted here.
The battered remnants of both armies retire for the night...
 The action began with elements of A.P. Hill's Corps (2 foot) striking Buford.  As neither did damage to the other, they were joined by I and XI Corps on the Union side, and by Ewell's Corps and the rest of Hill's on the Confederate.  The results of this combat are shown in the pictures above.  Hill achieved the destruction of I Corps artillery and Buford's cavalry, but lost in return two infantry destroyed and one retreated.  On the northern flank, Ewell scored two infantry destroyed and two retreated, but as XI Corps had but 3 foot elements, the sole survivor trudged back to Culp's Hill with the artillery conforming.  Ewell didn't get off unscathed, neither, losing one infantry and two others retreating.
Same as previous, seen from the North-west.

July 2 opened with Longstreet joining the attack upon the Round Tops, A.P. Hill facing Cemetery Ridge and Ewell facing Culp's Hill and Spangler's Spring.  This meant that Ewell would be facing XI and XII Corps both; Hill squaring off against I and II Corps; whilst Longstreet concentrated upon III Corps alone.
Without going into detail, the Union had the greater success overall (9 hits to 8) but lost 4 infantry and 1 artillery destroyed to the CSA loss of just 3 infantry.  One Union infantry and two artillery elements also retreated.  The CSA were deprived for the following afternoon of 4 infantry and 2 artillery themselves, though no doubt they would form a welcome reinforcement on the 3rd.

Sickles's III Corps defended well against Longstreet's superior numbers.  True, III Corps was reduced to a single foot element, with one other that had retreated.  The remainder of the Corps was lost.  Given this situation, the single survivor ought to have followed his more retiring friend.  Trying to find the right kind of convention, and the way to express it is the trick, I guess. Longstreet himself lost an infantry element, and half the remainder of his foot and guns retreated - he had taken 4 hits and given 3. These might have been sufficient grounds to impose a retreat here, as well!

The afternoon's battle was much less destructive, owing to the attenuated firepower on both sides.  Hill and Ewell were rejoined by the 'retreated' units of the night before, as were their Union counterparts.  The scores were only slightly greater for the Confederates.  Both sides lost 1 infantry destroyed (Longstreet and Sykes). Five CSA elements ought to have retreated, (Ewell his remaining artillery, Hill 1 infantry, and Longstreet 3 infantry) but as Longstreet had only 2 infantry with him, one of which was now destroyed, only the survivor retreated.  Six Union elements retreated, all foot, and only the yet to be engaged VI Corps escaping.

Final day's action.
Neither is in such great shape to inflict much hurt...
 With nightfall, the elements that had retreated in the morning could rejoin their parent formations.  I decided that I would limit this to one turn - a kind of 'Pickett's Charge' day.  Sickles's corps being pretty much out of the fight, Longstreet faced Sykes and Sedgwick;  Hill - Newton (vice Reynolds) and Hancock; Ewell - Howard and Slocum.
 This time, the Union outscored the Confederacy, but not by much.  Longstreet destroyed an infantry and forced an artillery to retreat; but himself lost an infantry destroyed and two retreated.  Ewell forced back  of Howard's remaining infantry, but two of his own also fell back.  Hill was the most successful, driving back (but not destroying) the exiguous remnants of Howard and Newton, at the cost of one of his own infantry falling back.
End of the battle.  The survivability of the Rebel artillery
in particular is phenomenal.
The upshot of all this was that both sides seem pretty much to have exhausted themselves.  Having taken Cemetery Ridge, possibly the Confederates could claim a victory, if a somewhat tenuous one.   However, a count up of remaining firepower seemed to show that the USA had lost double the CSA loss (32 to 16). Leaving out the arbitrary extra 2 dice per formation, the difference was actually reduced from 18 to 4.  So, I'll call it a CSA victory, all right, but scarcely a nation-saving one!

I think the concept is promising - just a whole bunch of tidying up to be done.   The figures, except for the cavalry, were taken from my Airfix ACW collection.  The French Foreign Legion looking guys are supposed to be my 'Coloured' brigade.  I know they didn't wear havelocks, but ... they look so good!

Thanks to Natholeon and Kaptain Kobold, 92nd and 93rd followers of this blog spot.
Archduke Piccolo.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fin de Siècle - Armies and combat system.

This is somewhat inspired by Rob Cordery's recent blog posting concerning the use or adaptation of his MOMBAT (Memoir of Modern Battle) rule set.  This was in the context of a correspondent's Green and Tan Army Men project.  It seemed to me that it might go with my Jono's World thing as well, though that is 'set' in a period cognate to 1941.

But I was reminded of a turn of the Century - the 19th - in which I thought to rip off (technicians imitate; artists steal) what I could figure out from the combat system Rob was using.  Before going into this, I think it is worthwhile looking at the figures I'm using.  A considerable time ago I posted an account of the 'First Marnon War'.  This was the early stages of this idea, which has since then received some refinement.

The figures are from the Eagle Games's 'War: Age of Imperialism.'   These comprise (inter alia) Red (Ruberia) and Blue (Azuria) forces, each with 15 foot figures, 6 carbine-armed horse, 5 sword-armed horse, and 5 guns.  There are also some 'explorer' figures with a staff or walking stick, and engineer/surveyor types with theodolites. From these I make my armies.

The Armies:
These are organised into Army Corps as follows:
I, II and III Army Corps, each with:
5 infantry, 2 carbine-armed horse, 1 gun.
Cavalry Corps, with:
5 sword-armed horse, 1 gun.

I mentioned to Rob Cordery that each figure represented a Division, but Brigade would be a reasonable alternative.  On the other hand, one might organize things differently, adding, say a IVth Army Corps by diluting the other III.  I did think to add a Corps Command, but what I had in mind has been diverted into something else.  The  figures with surveying equipment might end up as engineers (military or civil).
The 'explorer' guys with the stick become gunners with trail spikes or rammers.

This leaves 1 gun spare, which might be used in garrison, or as a reserve piece (replacement or Army Reserve Artillery park).

It would be tempting, I think, to detach some troops from the army Corps, 1 infantry to serve as garrisons, say, and 1 Horse to serve in reconnaissance or raiding roles.

Combat strengths:
In what follows, I thought to provide any force - which might comprise anything upwards of one figure, but no more than an Army Corps.
1 die per horse figure;
2 dice per infantry figure;
3 dice per artillery piece;
1 die per engineer figure (if included);
2 or more extra dice depending on terrain and stance.
Ruberian I Army Corps.  This is probably as strong as you
might want an army to be.  Absent a horse and a foot figure
still gives the formation a respectable firepower of 14 Dice.

So  I Army Corps above would receive at the outset:
5x2(Inf) + 2x1(Cav)  + 1x3(Arty) + 2(Extra) = 17 Dice.

Azurian Cavalry Corps

The Cavalry Corps receives:
5x1(Cav) + 1x3(Arty) + 2(Extra) = 10 Dice.
The Cavalry Corps is notably weaker in firepower, but this is offset partly by being able to ignore 'infantry' losses, and partly by its greater mobility.

Combat Dice:

I think the diagram makes it clear:
Ones are required for strikes on artillery;
Two and Threes are required for strikes on mounted;
Fours, Fives and Sixes are required for strikes on foot troops.
If engineers are included in the army organisations, then sixes will answer for them as well.

It will require two strikes of exactly the same pip value to force 1 unit to retreat; three such strikes to eliminate it. A roll of 4-5-6 will cause no damage to infantry, even though all three are 'strikes'.  You need actual doubles for retreats, and triples for 'kills'.

Example Combat: 
In the brief Wombat Furriers' War of February 1890, the opening clash occurred on the 3rd, as the advance guards of both armies approached the border town of Bilkington.  Crossing the frontier the day before, the Azurian Cavalry Corps approached the town from the east.  Hurrying from the Ruberian interior, the Ruberian I Army Corps advanced in the opposite direction.

Though the shooting is reciprocated simultaneously, for the sake of simplicity, they will be adjudicated sequentially here.  Note that there are no actual battle tactics or anything so sophisticated.
Above is the result of Azurian shooting: 1 die per horse, 3 for the gun, plus two extra for the force.  The two extra is designed to allow a single unit some chance of inflicting a hurt.  From the above convention we can see that the Azurian shooting has been pretty deadly, eliminating a horse (triple 3) and a foot unit (triple 5).

And to the right is the result of the Ruberian return fire.  Had their target been an Army Corps, it would have met with heavy losses indeed, but as the Cavalry Corps has no infantry the Fives and Sixes can be ignored (otherwise the two lots of triple-5s would 'kill' two infantry units, the double-6 forced a third {or an engineer} to retreat).   That being said, the Cav Corps has taken a heavy knock: a horse unit, and, even worse, the artillery, being eliminated. [As there is an extra 3 it seems reasonable to suggest that RED might opt to retire two of the BLUE units, rather than take the kill.  Or maybe BLUE should have the option...].
Such a blow to its firepower, reduced from 10 to 6 (compared with 14 remaining from the Ruberian firepower of 17) should compel the Azurians to retreat betimes, their attempted seizure of Bilkington having failed.

Situation after one round of combat.  In terms of units,
losses are even, but the loss of its artillery is a
serious matter for the Azurians.  Retreat forthwith
is clearly indicated!
At this point, no doubt the Ruberians would shove a garrison into the town (1 unit), and follow up the retiring Bluejackets... perchance to meet an Azurian Army Corps coming the other way...

My thanks to 'Bill', 'Grigork', 'ian_willey' and Brian Carrick - the latest additions to the list of followers of this Blogspot.  That brings the list up to 91...