Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wargaming the Barbarian Kingdoms (part 2) - The Visigoths

Visigoths - originally, as Feoderati under the Romans, they established area of rule in Gaul and Spain. The early (but exciting) campaigns of Alaric I predate the period considered here.  In 507, however, the Franks, under Clovis I beat the Goths (under Alaric II) at the Battle of Vouille  Visigoth rule in Gaul was at an end, but the Frank's were established as a kingdom that would give us Charlemagne, France, Germany, and a lot of different kinds of cheese.

The Visigoths, however, survived the loss of Gaul.  They had a kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, or Hispania).  There, they survived (and in harmony with the rest of Christendom after converting from Arianism in 589) until being overrun by the Moors (Berbers and Arabs up from North Africa) in about the year 711 or 712 (the Mozarbic Chronicle of 741, written in Latin, is unclear).  That was the Battle of Guadalete between King Roderic of the Goths, and Tariq ibn Ziyad.

Battle of Guadalete
So, for about two hundred years, there was a gothic kingdom in Spain. It gave us a lot of interesting Gothic architecture and early cathedrals, but not a lot of details on military practices.
Tariq Ibn Ziyad

Looking at what wargames have to offer on the Western Goths is interesting.  Again, turning to the original DBA list (as a conceptual distillation of the 1982 WRG army lists, and benefitting from eight years of further research and debate) we see that there is an infantry core of five elements. These can be either spear, or warband, or a mix of warband and auxilia - depending on which allies or sources you prefer. But that establishes a solid infantry battle line, supported by two units of skirmishers (Psiloi), and finally a solid mounted contingent of four units of four Cavalry units, and a Knight (general) unit.  

King Roderic
This could easily represent the army of Roderic, at the battle of Guadalete.  There, his solid infantry line was a match for the Moors, but he lost because his right cavalry wing under a disgruntled commander abandoned the field allowing the numerous, but lighter, Moorish cavalry to flank the infantry line.  Legend replaces the commander with Count Julian, who turned traitor because his daughter was raped at Roderic's court, but this (while a great medieval narrative) is unsubstantiated.

Visigothic Warriors - from a later English sculpting method.

Refighting Guadalete as a decisive battle that ended Christian rule in western Spain, until the Reconquista, is a worthy war gaming goal, but the lack of other major foes makes the prospect of building a large Visigothic army seem like a futile enterprise.  It is, however, a great example of a balanced army from the Barbarian Kingdoms era.  There are, of course, lots of Possible match ups against sixth century foes, such as Byzantines, Ostrogoths, or even early Andalusians from the other parts of Spain.

For figures, standard dark age infantry (metal conic helms, round shields, and either sword, spear, or bow) make the battle line and Psiloi easy to model. Likewise, the cavalry (cloaks, metal helms, round shields) are readily available. The older Minifigs heavy barbarian horse and heavy barbarian infantry are nearly perfect, as well as many modern manufacturers.

A nice set of pictures of a painted army is here.
is here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wargaming the Barbarian Kingdom Period (6th century AD) - Part 1, Ostrogoths

The story of the Ostrogoths is a very interesting one, including their origin, and how they became to be considered a single people, but from a military/wargaming perspective, their war against the Romans (especially the Eastern Romans, or the Byzantines, as their identity was coalescing following the fall of Western Rome) in and around Italy is the most interesting, and where we find some potential scenarios and campaigns for good games.

The eastern Goths had come into Italy in the previous century, and held (as the result of a number of successful sieges and sacks) many of the key cities of the peninsula.  In a period of almost 20 years, under Justinian, the Byzantines waged the "Gothic War" in order to restore these areas back to Roman (Byzantine) rule.  This lasted from 535 to 554 AD.  Some Gothic strongholds in Northern Italy would hold out for another 8 years, not falling until 562.

The earlier period is the successful sweep of the Byzantines up the peninsula, crossing from Africa, and securing a number of strong strategic points up the Italian peninsula.

Early Phase of the Gothic War

Battles of this period feature an early Ostrogothic army, against a Justinian Byzantine army.  The fighting is suitable for somewhat larger battles, and also (due to the rough country and terrain of Italy) for smaller raids and skirmishes, that no doubt took place between Byzantine forces, and smaller Gothic strongholds and military units.  Eventually the Gothic stronghold at Ravenna would be conquered by the Byzantines in 539/540.

This leads to the second phase of the Gothic War (540-554 or event 562) where a revived Gothic push back against the Byzantines takes place under the Gothic leader of Totila.
Totila, painted by Salviati in 1549
During the push back phase of the Ostrogoths reclaiming the initiative from the Byzantines, the great Byzantine general Narses would suffer because he also was dealing with encroachments from the Franks and the Alamanni.  In 554 AD, Narses was succesful against the Goths, at the battle of Vesuvius (also known as the Battle of Mons Lactarius), by defeating the army of Totila, and also killing the king.  The Goths, after this, retreated north into Austria.

In the end, however, Byzantines were successful against the Goths in Italy, but it was a fleeting victory.  First, it kept the strength of the Byzantines from dealing with problems in the north and the east.  Second, once the Goths were subjugated, the area was swept over again, by another German group, the Lombards, who would prove to be a lot harder to dislodge (that task being left to the Carolingians).

Battle of Mons Lactarius in 554AD, painted by Adolf Zick (~1900AD)

The representation of the Ostrogoths in miniature wargaming is pretty interesting, even if the army only has a few distinctive troop types.  The DBA rules give a pretty good indication of what we can surmise from history (and how rules writers interpret that history into wargaming terms).  DBA (original) has Army number 86 (Italian Ostrogothic 493-554AD) with 6x elements of Knights, 4x elements of Psiloi, or skirmish infantry, and finally 2x elements which could be either formed as 2x more Psiloi elements, or 2x spear elements.  

Before looking at how they are represented in other rules, it is worth considering the basics presented by the DBA list.  First, is the cavalry. In a gothic army, that is the Ostrogoths that settled in Italy, or the Visigoths that settled in Spain, and the various places these two broad groups came from (stretching all the way back to Northern Eurooe, in what is modern day Sweden), the army was mainly focused on the Warriors being mounted, and fighting in a close order, for shock value.  The other members of the population, as well as absorbed and allied peoples, would generally fight on foot.  Mainly these were loose order skirmishes, designated to a role supporting the mounted warriors. But in the case of some absorbed peoples (like the remnants of local Romanized infantry, which would fight in a dense shielded formation, with sword and spear) the foot troops might actually fight in a formed up formation, not entirely unsuited for a place in the battle line.  Still, however, the main branch is the mounted warriors.

 This is very much the same as what we find in the original 1982 WRG Army List Book Two entry.  There, the army gets a mandatory 44-72 Gothic Cavalry (start at Heavy Cavalry, but some portion can be upgraded to Extra Heavy Cavalry, all with javelin/light spear and shield).  Add to those figures, up to 90 additional Gothic Cavalry (which start at Medium Cavalry, but can up upgraded to Heavy Cavalry, and can be upgraded to match the morale grade of the earlier lot, Irregular B).  This makes for a very strong cavalry section (as you would expect, given the history of the army at battles like Taginae and Mons Lactarius, where the Ostrogoths fought against Byzantines and Germans that countered them with a reinforced infantry center), but without infantry it will have problems against a mixed foe who can reinforce a central battleline of heavy infantry.  The only real infantry presence the Goths have is that of the Gothic Archery (presented in the WRG list as up to 100 Light Infantry, which can remain as Irregular D or be upgraded to Irregular C).

This is a very interesting army, for a wargamer, because of it's strange mix of troop types.  The heavy cavalry is very good, and may be a precursor for later armies in the post-dark ages period.  But, as it is only supported by light infantry archers, it might be tough against some armies.  Where this will do well (a-historically) is in games the give too much credence to archery, and games that do not provide structural problems to cavalry fighting deep formation infantry without support.  I own (and fight with) an Ostrogoth DBA army, but I have not yet tried it with Might of Arms, or Terry Gore's rules.  It should be (at least) an educational matchup against a sixth century Byzantine army.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A move, a return, a restart, and a resumption

Recently, the staff and adjutants at Gaming with Chuck HQ have undergone a move.  This is a return, in a way, back home.

Five years ago, upon completing my PhD, I went off into the world as a new professor, and after teaching for a few years, and serving as a research professor for a few years, Providence has brought us full circle, and we are now returning back to Newport News.

I will be teaching at a local university, and my daughter will be attending my alma mater, Christopher Newport University.  And, I have fallen back into step with my old wargaming club.  There is also talk of regular game days at GwC HQ, and also (gasp) rumors of regular roleplaying.  Where will all the time come from?  Still it is good to be coming home.

Soldier from the wars returning,
Spoiler of the taken town,
Here is ease that asks not earning;
Turn you in and sit you down.

Peace is come and wars are over,
Welcome you and welcome all,
While the charger crops the clover
And his bridle hangs in stall.

Now no more of winters biting,
Filth in trench from tall to spring,
Summers full of sweat and fighting
For the Kesar or the King.

Rest you, charger, rust you, bridle;
Kings and kesars, keep your pay;
Soldier, sit you down and idle
At the inn of night for aye.
      - A.E. Housman, 1922

I mentioned that I have fallen in with the old wargaming club, Old Dominion Military Society, which is now actively gaming again on a weekly basis.  Our summer convention (Guns of August) is being hosted at the Virginia War Museum.  We have plans underway for the new winter convention (Williamsburg Muster), returning to its regular February timeslot.  The local club is also talking about monthly game days (game nights?) where we rent out or acquire access to a large venue, for some big, serious, miniatures gaming.  Maybe at the Museum?  Maybe at a local community hall?  Still working the details.

Miniature gaming, so far, has been of the Thursday night variety.  Which means, typically, smallish games.  Some ODMS members have hosted great things - (The Rules with No Name, FrostGrave, Wings of Glory, DBA, etc etc), and this week we have some Ancients happening, and next week we have some Napoleonics happening.  All very good.

Boardgaming has been quite fun, and with our new game room (the den, or family room, in our new house is dedicated as a game room, with storage for all our board games, and a nice game table, some chairs, a couch, and a computer desk), we have been playing on a regular basis, as a family, and with some guests.   During the move, the inventory and packing/unpacking experience showed us that we have a lot of games that we really like, but haven't played in a while.  And some that we have never played.  To address those issues, we made a list of "games we have not played lately, but want to" and will be using that to schedule Wednesday night family game night. Several recent games of Fantastiqa have been quite fun, and looking forward to some Terra Mystica and maybe some Archon and/or Tempus.

Roleplaying has been discussed, especially with our return to the old stomping grounds, and so many of the players we love playing with from years ago.  There is talk of "getting the band back together" with some of the our old regulars, in an old fashioned roleplaying game (either fantasy, or maybe sci-fi).  Nothing yet, but details will appear in this fine publication.

Planned upcoming game activities -

Guns of August is going to be in a public place - so it will be a little bit different.  I am treating this as a recruiting and/or community outreach opportunity for both wargaming in general, and for the game club (ODMS).  I will be hosting four (introductory level) wargames, and am in the process of preparing handouts for each, to introduce some history, wargaming, and the rules being used.

1. Introduction to Medieval Wargames - very similar to the games I hosted at Guns of August 2016, with two games going on at once (maybe, Vikings/Saxons, and Crusaders/Saracens).  I'll be using the Neil Thomas introductory rules, and am working on a handout for this game.

2. Wargaming the Revolutionary War - I will probably use a smaller version of the scenario I ran at Thanksgiving 2015, which was a fictional Southern Campaign battle, set in South Carolina 1780.  I won't be using Black Powder for this, because I want it completely friendly to newcomers and kids.  Either some homebrew rules (Patriot's Blood) or Neil Thomas Napoleonic rules adapted for the purpose.

3. Introduction to Renaissance Wargaming - This one will be a lot like the first one, with two battles (four armies), and using the Neil Thomas rules.  One of the battles will most likely be French/Imperialist vs. Italians.  The other might be English Civil War.  Again, similar to the solo Renaissance game I did back in 2016.  The main feather here is the history of the period, and trying to get people interested, so I am working on a nice handout.

4. Introduction to Medieval Wargaming - This one is a conundrum for me.  I have a couple of ideas.  The first is to do the same thing I plan for number 1 above, but maybe with different armies.  The second is to do a 28mm scale game using Lion Rampant, to show what medieval games are like, at that weird mix between skirmish and full army battles (such as LR, but also Saga and some others).  The third idea is to use the Chainmail rules such as my recent games supporting the Lord of the Manor project, and use the handout session to show the connection between miniatures games and the later roleplaying game revolution.  Still deciding this one.

Lots more coming up, including finishing some of the projects here (dark ages wargaming, retro reviews, etc).  Watch this space.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

I have mentioned my love for renaissance gaming in general, and the English Civil War period in particular, several times during this series of reviews.  This time, I would like to review a set of miniature rules that I came to in the mid 1980s, although they were first published in 1974 (a second edition came out in 1977, and that is the edition that I own).  These rules are the 'Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War' by Bill Protz.  These are still available for sale on Bill's website, along with some of his other excellent rules.

Curiously enough, the first edition of Bill Protz' ECW wargaming masterpiece (i.e. - the volume I am reviewing here) came out in 1974.  It was published by the Myers and Zimmermann wargaming house of Z&M Publishing (Myers and Zimmermann were the lads behind the Angriff rules, and they went on to form a publishing house for wargaming rules - mostly from their neck of the woods up in Milwaukee).

The interesting thing about the publishing year, is that it is one year after the first appearance of Cavaliers and Roundheads, by Gygax and Perren (published by TSR).  From Bill's website, he got interested in the English Civil War, as a wargaming topic, because of Cavaliers and Roundheads (C&R), and also the availability of the Hinchliffe ECW figures.  I seem to recall that TSR needed cash for their new publishing idea, the Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, and that they rushed out C&R for publication in order to raise cash.  The English Civil War must have been a popular period at this time, to not only inspire two great rulesets coming out within a year of each other, but also to convince Mssrs. Kuntz and Gygax at TSR that they could raise capital from selling an ECW rule book.  But they did.  And, furthermore, the Protz book (WGECW) is still highly regarded, and as mentioned above, still for sale.

The English Civil War continues to be a very interesting topic for wargamers, as it not only features in generic, broadbased rules sets such as DBR and Field of Glory Renaissance, but also continues to inspire specific rulesets in popular series' such as Warhammer English Civil War (sadly, now out of print, like the rest of the Warhammer historical series), and Pike and Shotte from Warlord Games (which covers the broader Renaissance, but which has an ECW specific period book - 'To Kill a King' -  due for release the month that this article is being written).  Of course, it has been, and continues a period of interest for me, as well.  On to the rules . . .

WGECW is presented as a 5x8 booklet, 76 pages long.  The book is divided up, generally, into three sections: (1) is an introduction, which gives a very brief overview of the English Civil War, and also reasons for wargaming in this period, (2) is the section containing the rules themselves, and (3) is a series of appendices that introduce information about army composition, painting and uniform information, rules for fighting sieges, and other bits of extra information.  It is this third section that lifts this book from being just a tactical rulebook, to being a wargamer's guide.  C&R did this, somewhat, but not to the extent that Bill Protz has done here.

Initial Concepts
One thing to establish up front, is that the miniatures within the units don't really matter.  Well, that is to say, they matter because it is a miniatures game, and they matter because they bring the splendor and pageantry to the wargame, but they don't matter in the sense of combat being based on particular figures in contact, or even specifically how many figures there are in a unit.  What does matter, is the units CR or Combat Rating.  Now this is typically computed initially from the number of miniatures in a unit (and the point value of those miniatures), but it will change up and down with circumstance, and in fact, the initial CR of a unit might be increased by 25% if the unit is elite.  The unit's CR is what matters, in WGECW.  Combat effectiveness is based on the CR, and losses are subtracted from the CR (although the author suggests that miniatures be removed from a unit, in proportion to CR losses that the unit undergoes).
 The CR is calculated from points values of the miniatures in a formation.  This includes extra points for figures such as officers, flag bearers, and sergeants.  For a mixed formation, such as an ECW formation with a body of Pikemen, and perhaps two flanking bodies of Musketeers, each of those divisions would have its own CR calculated and recorded on a unit roster.

Scale and Unit Types
Game scale is given at 1 inch to 15 yards for the ground, 1 figure to 20 men for the troops.  Basic types of figures are foot, horse, and artillery.

Foot troops can be Open Ordered (such as skirmishing forlorn hope), Ordered (typical musket and pike formation), Double Ordered (half the depth of Ordered formations), or Close Ordered (tightly packed infantry, in order to defend against enemy cavalry).  Finally, there is the possibility of a Ring formation (like a hedgehog, or square formation).

Horse troops can be either Ordered (such as typical charging cavalry), or Open Ordered (such as dragoons or other cavalry, spread out in order to screen), or Caracole (designed to allow pistol fire and recall against an enemy unit).

The rules give basing sizes for troops, which generally doesn't change for the different ordering listed above, EXCEPT for Close Ordered Infantry.  In that case, the player is to remove half the stands of the unit from the table, but to record and remember what their CR is - they have just gotten denser.

Foot unit stands represent three ranks of troops, and Ordered and Close Ordered units are 6 ranks deep, so they should be two miniature ranks (or stands) deep.  Double Ordered infantry are only 3 ranks deep, so are only one stand deep (called Double Ordered, because by halving the depth, they double the length of the formation line).  Horse units and artillery have their methods of representing Ordering on the tabletop.  Open Ordered units, it should be pointed out, have the stands dispersed by a short gap between them - typical skirmishing formation representation.

Turn Sequence
The game turn is divided up into a sequence of events.  Since this is a game that practices simultaneous movement, it features order writing.  Regular readers of this blog will know my affection for simultaneous movement and order writing (similar to my affection for root canal).  When we played these rules, so many years ago, we would write general battlefield orders at the beginning of the game, and our specific turn orders were only changes to those, as well as announcing charges etc.  It helps to have a referee.

The sequenced events of the turn, however, are these:
  1. Both sides write down orders for their units.
  2. Both sides read out their orders, alternating who goes first every other turn.
  3. Moves are performed simultaneously according to orders.
  4. Skirmish Fire is assessed, and casualties immediately calculated and removed.
  5. Artillery Fire is assessed, and casualties immediately calculated and removed.
  6. Other Small Arms Fire is assessed, and casualties immediately calculated and removed.
  7. Melee is adjudicated and resolved.
  8. Turn is complete.

Morale tests can be triggered in any of the firing or melee events.

Movement is quite straight forward, and is based on some simple charts showing inches, based on the type of movement (and troop type) performing it.  There are some simple reductions and additions based on different circumstances (road movement, move and fire, direction change, etc).  There are some specifics to be followed if a unit of musketeers is going to be firing by introduction (that is, as the ranks fire, and are replaced from the rear, that they slowly move forward), or extroduction (the same, only the unit as a whole slowly moves backward, as firers run to the rear of their file).

Movement for cavalry is slightly more involved, although the chart is every bit as simple.  For mounted troops, the player must determine if the horses are trotting, cantering or galloping.   Rules are given about accelerating through these different states.  A horse, cannot, for instance, go from a simple stand-still to galloping in one move.  It must start at trotting, then the next turn can proceed to cantering, and finally to galloping.  As with foot troops, there are some simple additions or reductions based on circumstance and operations.

Finally, there is a similar table, with similar rules for artillery pieces of different sizes, and different situations.

Small Arms Fire
Once the type of fire (regular, introduction/extroduction, pistol caracole, etc) is determined, then the number of figures, and their CR, can be assessed.  The following procedure is used to determine the number of casualties (expressed in CR reduction to the target unit) is finalized.
  1. Determine CR
  2. Determine Range
  3. Toss 1 die
  4. Check Die Adjustment Chart for mods
  5. Cross reference die results with range, to get an Effectiveness Letter
  6. Cross reference the effect letter, and the CR firing on the Small Arms Casualty Chart, to get the casualty integer.
  7. Modify the casualty integer by modifiers on the final casualty adjustment chart.
  8. Take the final modified casualty integer, and multiply it by the point value of the target troops, and deduct the result from the target unit's CR
One final consideration, is that armored units (foot and horse) have a reduced calculus of how much total CR damage is inflicted.

Artillery Fire
The procedures for doing Artillery Fire, are somewhat different from small arms fire.
  • First,  determine your target, and then based on range there is a chance for the artillery shot to go awry.  If at short range, it is a definite hit, but at medium and long range there is a chance to miss.
  • Second, determine the ranks penetrated (light guns penetrate 2 ranks, medium guns penetrate 3, and heavy guns will penetrate 4).  
  • Third, for each rank penetrated, there is a one point casualty integer, and these are all summed up (so for 3 ranks penetrated, there is a total casualty integer of 3).  This is reduced by terrain (such as firing up- or down-hill).  
  • Finally, multiply the casualty integer times the CR of the troops hit, and reduce this from the target unit.  This total amount is reduced by half in a number of situations.
  • The final CR total is subtracted from the target unit's CR.
There are similar procedures for other types of shot (the above, is for regular round shot, that does damage by bouncing through multiple ranks of soldiers, and killing them).  Shot types include exploding shell and langridge (case, or hail) shot.

Not surprising, the CR system is core to how melee engagements are adjudicated in these rules.  Each side calculates their current CR (lots of modifiers, such as Horse vs. non-Horse gets multiplied by 125%).  Then, the winner of the melee is determined.  This is done by each side rolling 2d6, and multiplying the result by their unit's CR.  The high score wins the melee combat.  Now, casualties are inflicted as a percentage of the original CR (not the product of the CR multiplied by dice).  The losing side will deduct (from their base CR score) an amount equal to 25% of the winner's CR.  The winning side will deduct 10% of the loser's CR.  The loser then takes, and applies, a morale test.  There are rules for fleeing, pursuits, and how officers affect things.  That is it - it is easy to play out melee combat, and although the impact of multiplying your CR by a 2d6 roll at first blush seems like there can be a lot of variability, the actual casualties (CR deduction) and morale results are more important.

Example combat - Lets say a Royalist Pike and Shot unit, with 12 pikemen (including 2pt command figures), and 12 musketeers will have a total CR of 36.  It is facing a Parliamentarian unit with 8 pikemen and 16 musketeers, or a total CR of 32.  The Royalist player rolls a 7 on the dice, and a total of (7x36) or 252.  The Parliamentarian player rolls a 9 on the dice, and a total of (9x32) or 288.  The Parliamentarian unit wins.  The Royalist unit subtracts (.25 x 32) 8 points from it's CR.  The Parliamentary unit subtracts (.10 x 36) 4 points from it's CR.  The Royalist unit, as the losing unit, will have to test morale

The rulebook is about half full of appendices. The first few of these go over how units should be organized on the wargames table, and a short guide to painting and flags, as well as advice to the 15mm player (a new scale, for the most part, in the early 1970s).

But then the appendices get more interesting.  There is a subset of rules for doing siege games.  These cover the specifics of affecting fortifications and buildings, as well as rules for grenadoes and other siege equipment.  A series of six different classes of storming/sieging are described, as scenarios and what is to be done in each (as well as victory conditions, and how to represent that sort of siege on the tabletop).

There is a set of notes regarding the organization of armies and the proportion of units, etc, in the years of the First Civil War (1642-1646).  And finally, there are some blank and sample unit rosters (showing a clean way to record unit CR and orders/status).  Lastly, the book ends with a nice glossary of ECW military terms.

I owned this book before I owned either Forlorn Hope or 1644 (both of which I played more than these rules).  In fact, the only renaissance/ECW rules I owned before these were the George Gush rules from WRG (and, eventually, Universal Soldier).  I only played these a few times, but I returned to the book for information about the period, and units, artillery types, etc many times over while in my early years of ECW playing.  This was one of those rulebooks that back then (in the 1980s) was in many of the wargaming shops I visited, and also on the rack at vendor booths at wargaming conventions. I saw it a lot, but unfortunately the people I played with did not use it.

One of the things I found disconcerting (more below, as I discuss this effect in regards to shooting) is the fact that the unit is kept track of by its CR, and casualties and effects are based on total CR engaged, and not individual stands or figures.  I understand the reason for this, with mixed units of pike and shot, but it seemed to introduce as many difficulties as it solved, see my comments below about shooting (both musketry and artillery).

The basic scale and representation of the game (in terms of figures per unit, movement and shooting ranges, and also turn/time sequence) works very well.  But for some reason, these rules never quite were the thing in the group I played with. I include it here, because of the impact the book had, and Bill Protz's excellent writing about wargames, not so much because I played it so often (I played almost all the other ECW rules mentioned in this review series - Forlorn Hope, Cavaliers and Roundheads, Universal Soldier, Hackbutt and Pike, and the forthcoming Gush rules and 1644 - more than I played the Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War).  Eventually, I would get other resources on wargaming units and uniforms and army lists, etc (Forlorn Hope was excellent in that regard, but also great books from Caliver), but early on - this is the book that made me fall in love with wargaming the period.  Even if the rules in this book did not.

Pros/Cons for Musketry and Artillery
Okay, this seems (to me) to be a bit overly complicated, mostly because of the basic structure of WGECW.  The casualty integer is a number of enemy figures killed.  But the final step, of converting it back to points and then deducting it from the CR, is because of the requirement to discuss everything about a unit in terms of CR, rather than in terms of figures. 

I give the author (Bill Protz) the benefit of the doubt, because there are benefits of doing a unit as a whole, even when it is comprised of disparate parts (like pike, officers, halberdiers, and shot all in a large battalia, for instance).  That is always hard to do, and rules for the period (even the latest modern rules) always struggle hard in how to do hybrid units.  The CR system is an elegant way to do it, it just didn't appeal to the people I was playing with.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Card based system for wargames deployment

One of the features I like about the various strains of card driven board wargames, is the decision involved in playing a card for activation.  Clearly this does not apply to all card driven systems, but the ones I am thinking of have cards with multiple options on them, that the player must choose from when playing a card.  Does the player use the card for bringing on reinforcements, or to activate an event, or for a special ability/modifier, or simply to activate units/leaders already in the game?

This seems like a useful thing to try and bring into a miniatures wargame, to put a little spin on that old standby scenario - the meeting engagement.  So what I am considering here is a system of cards, each with two different pieces of information on it. Each player would, in turn, place one of these cards, from a small handful they have to choose from, on the table, in one of three different sectors.eventually, each player will play two cards in each sector.  Each sector would have one card, for that player's forces, that corresponds to one of the two categories of information on he cards (so, one card for forces, and one card for deployment).

The first piece of information is a partial basic order of battle. It would list a number of units that would belong to one of three sectors on the battlefield (left, center, right).  Depending on the period and the number of units a player owns, this could be tailored so that a personal collection could provide the figures needed. This could easily be three or four units, or as many as a dozen, depending on period, scale, and rules used.

The second piece of information would control the deployment of forces in that sector.  Are the forces arrayed in a single line? Some units off board? In column on a road?  Dug in with scouts deployed?  Again lots of possibilities, depending on period, scale, and rules.

An example might be this, for Blue Army's Left Flank... (Fictional situation, of course)

Forces Card: Infantry Division, 6 units of line infantry, 1 medium gun battery. 
Deployment Card: Probing Line, All units in a battle line, 12" in from base edge.  Up to two subunits (converged flank companies, or detached squadrons) can be deployed up to 24" in from base line.  

I can see this used in several ways. The easiest, and maybe most interesting, is to deal out six cards to each player, and they need to use all six.  The second way, is to deal three cards each, and as a player places a card, they draw a new one.  Other possibilities exist, but in all cases, the players roll initiative, and high roller places one card, and then the players alternate until all six cards for each side are played.

I am looking forward to trying a set of these, maybe for Napoleonics first. Loads and loads of possibilities exist, including special event cards, special decks for special scenarios, and ancillary effects of cards, like logistical conditions, weather, or affects to limit or increase command.

A neat project to ponder.

More on Arthur

I have found a nice blog, by Guy Halsall, on his wargaming activities. Dr. Halsall is an academic that makes a fine study of sixth century history, and starting back in the late 1990s he combined his history pursuits with his wargaming and published a series on King Arthur.  Much of the series found its way into Wargames Illustrated, all of it is on his blog.

Halsall goes on to complete a lengthy, and excellent (once he moves away from the touchy subject of Morris) series on both Arthur and the wargaming of Arthur inspired scenarios.  He has a nice introduction to campaigning, here giving a set of simple mapless rules (but with excellent scenario generator guidelines), and also a set of map based campaign (more detailed, naturally) rules. He discusses lists and rules (as I had done earlier here  but while I chose to compare lists against each other, he is comparing them to what he projects to be proper warfare for the period, based on his scholarly research).  In his discussion of rules, he gives kudos to Dan Mersey (Glutter of Ravens) and to Simon McDowall (Goths, Huns and Romans), both of which I highly regard.

In short, a great article series. Halsall's historical work is top drawer, and even his criticism of Morris is well placed (he takes down one of my favorites, John Morris, for writing history that is more of the "enjoyable narrative" rather than the "rigorous scholarship" type of work).  I am forced to agree with his criticism, even if I have a strong fondness for The Age of Arthur

For me, as a wargamer, I am perfectly fine with a strong narrative version of a potential historical Arthur.  It was not an especially literate time, so the lack of much literary evidence doesn't bother me - and an actual King Arthur is not necessary to me as much as a potential Arthur that is consistent with what we do know about the history. 

I find very appealing the notion of an Arthur-like figure in the sixth century keeping alive the spark of Romano-civilization against the inevitable sweep back into Germanic paganism.  And so it follows that I would want my wargaming to be based on that idea. It is my world view, and my sense of myth and legend of the West.

So, I will stick with Morris, and Arthur, warts and all.  And still enjoy the great work of Guy Halsall, as well.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 6 - 19th Century

Wargaming topics and possible theaters of battle in the 19th century are extremely varied and provide for a lot of exciting gaming possibilities.  One of the most popular is of course the American Civil War.  But not for me, I have tended to avoid that conflict ( I had a collection in 25mm, but I only used them for imagi-nations gaming).

This period, from the perspective of military operations and wargaming potential, is fantastic.  It is the century that sees musketry evolve from a weapon of mass application (with little precision), into the dominant force on the battlefield (as we evolve from the age of muskets, to the age of rifles).  The introduction of the railroad and mass production also mean that armies and logistics are evolving, so that operational campaigns are very different.  Naval capability changes from being wind and muscle driven, to being steam driven - which means that imperial and global colonialism is not only possible, but commonplace (with the colonial wars that go along with it).

I will include in this listing a few armies from the very early (pre-WW1) 20th Century.

Mexican-American War
This is a big enough collection to put on a 6-8 player game. Maybe a thousand Mexican figures, and maybe eight hundred Americans and Texans.  All painted, recently rebased.

Mahdi Rebellion
This is a larger scale (in terms of larger scale battles) and more serious study of the two parts of the River War (as Churchill called it) than my 28mm TSATF collection ( which is, appropriately, for small scale skirmish engagements).  I have British (painted), Egyptians (unpainted, but also suitable for the Arabi Revolt), and Mahdists (hundreds painted, but hundreds not painted).

Zulu War
Probably not worth mentioning except for an impressive stash of very nice, but unpainted, Zulus. Hundreds of 'em.

American Indian Wars
This is a recent acquisition for me, a set of very nice (but individually mounted, so suitable for skirmish gaming) figures including US cavalry forces (mounted and dismounted), and a large selection of American Indian figures.  There are leaders and a variety of figures for both sides.  I have not gamed with these yet, but I am planning on trying The Tomahawk and the Flame, Pony Wars, and/or Hey You in the Jail (one of my favorites, now available as a PDF download).

Spanish American War
A few years back, Patrick Wilson re-released the Richard Houston Lyzard's Grin collection. I bought in. I have a few hundred figures, all painted nicely by John Callahan. Both sides, and big enough for a modest game. No Philippines or Moro figures.

Boxer Rebellion
Very nice Old Glory 15s, this is at heart a nice, large collection of unpainted Boxers, and some Europeans. Started this collection to take advantage of Americans (from above), and Russians and Japanese (both from below).

Russo-Japanese War
Another nice OG15s set, painted (by me) and large enough for a meaningful game. Maybe a dozen infantry units per side, with 2 or 3 cavalry and artillery units for each side. Many more troops for Russians. In addition, maybe another dozen units each side, of infantry.

Part 6 - 19th Century (this article)