Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why do I plan game activities?

To me, it is important to plan gaming activities.  This is because of a couple of different reasons, personally, so if I can ramble on for a few minutes, here are a few of them.

1. It gives me goals.  If I know I a want to do a game in the future (solo, for/with friends, at a convention) then planning will give me a timeline to get done what I need to (learn rules, paint miniatures, playtest, write up a dungeon, etc).  Of course, procrastination is always a stumbling stone, but with a plan, at least you can know what you SHOULD have done, on the way down, once you stumble.

2. Mental exercise.  Sometimes, my schedule is just too darned full to get in some of the gaming activities I want to do.  For instance, in my current look at 15mm AWI gaming, one thing I would like to do is rebase some miniatures.  Also build some terrain.  But I might not have good chunks of time in my schedule over the next few weeks to do those things - but what I can do is research battles, re-read rules, and maybe get orders of battle and scenarios down on paper.  Why those things?  Because they are all easily doable at the computer, or with a tablet, or with a book and pencil - while doing other things.  Lunch, watching a movie with the family, waiting for response on a work email.  etc.  They are planning activities - not the same as actual gaming activities - but they scratch an itch and keep my mind engaged in the topic.

3. Evaluate what needs to be done for a future event.  If I plan to do a Third Crusade wargame in November (which I am thinking of), then I will start thinking about my miniatures, rules, wargames terrain, scenario - etc.   While planning, I will take stock of what I already have available, and what needs to be developed.

4. Sometimes if I don't plan things, then (since I am interested in so many different gaming topics, and a victim of my own ability to change focus at the drop of the hat) sometimes I don't get anything done, and another year has passed and I still haven't played out the whole Furstenburg/Rumpwhistle 23 Weeks War of 1870. What is worse, is that I haven't recorded it here for posterity on the blog (what would the world do if it did not know the outcome of the 23 Weeks War?).

5. Related to all the above - it is fun.  Planning is a gaming exercise - whether it is the next set of encounters for my RPG campaign, or sorting miniatures and planning a painting project - it is all fun.  And I like to talk about it and share it here on the blog.

These are the times that try men's souls

One thing I am interested in doing more of, in the coming months, and that I have already begun actively preparing for, is some 15mm wargaming in the American War of Independence.  I recently came into the possession of a large collection (and very complete) of 15mm armies, representing Americans (of various shapes and hues - colonists, loyalists, state militia, minutemen, continental army, etc), French, Hessians (and other German mercenaries), Indians, and many, many British.  Oh, and an odd Tory to kick around.

I have set up a wargaming table and have already started parsing out terrain for my first battle.  I am relying, initially, on a great overview of the battles of the American Revolution that exists in the single volume history of the military affairs of the AWI, called Patriot Battles, by Michael Stephenson (Harper/Perennial 2007). I have a couple of other nice historical volumes to consult on the topic, but I find Patriot Battles to be a good starting point, when researching a battle.  A matter of taste, I suppose.

The battle I am planning to start with is going to be Germantown.  A few reasons are in order, I suppose.  First, I like the whole of the Philadelphia 1777 campaign.  But I have never been a fan of the battle of the Brandywine.  No hobbits, I suppose.  Second, I think that Germantown exhibits Washington's genius for a tactical solution, but it also shows his weakness, early on, in estimating the abilities of his generals and men.  His battle plan for Germantown is brilliant (almost Napoleonic), but it is a little bit optimistic (and the results showed it).  Third - the Chew House (which would be a great name for a Dog Treat company).

Vicious fighting at the Chew House.

The unfolding of events allows for all sorts of military scenario event listing (MSEL) items to occur.  The arrival (or not) of American reinforcements on the British Flank).  The ability of the Americans to actually engage and carry against a smaller Hessian force.  The firing on friendly troups.  And the Chew House.  I suspect that there is a possibility (while we are rewriting history) for British troops to arrive by flat boat, from down river, assuming that they completed their work against the American forts (not part of the battle, but it did leach off some of the British troops in the area).
Great map, from 1877, but it doesn't show the initial American disposition.

The battle features 11,000 troops under General Washington's command, and some 9,000 troops under the command of General Howe.  According to the (useful) website British Battles the units involved were:

British Manifest
Light Dragoons (not clear which regiment 16th or 17th)
Two Composite battalions of grenadiers
Two Composite battalions of light infantry
Two Composite battalions of Foot Guards (1st, 2nd and 3rd Guards)
5th Foot later Northumberland Fusiliers and now the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
25th, now King’s Own Scottish Borderers
27th Foot later the Inniskilling Fusiliers and now the Royal Irish Regiment
40th Foot later the South Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment
55th Foot later the Border Regiment and now the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment
(and Hessians)

American Manifest
Wayne’s Pennsylvania Brigade
Weeden’s Virginia Brigade
Muhlenburg’s Virginia Brigade
Maxwell’s Light Infantry
Colonel Bland’s 1st Dragoons
Stephen’s Division
Stirling’s Division
Pennsylvania Militia
Maryland Militia
New Jersey Militia

The Pennsylvania units were (supposedly) armed with rifled muskets, but I don't know how much of an impact that had on the battle.  Still, it adds flavor and interest for a wargame.

I will consult the scenario book for British Grenadier (miniature rules) to check for a more detailed manifest, but that is my starting point.  It is possile that the West Point military atlas also has more detailed OB information.
Attack against the British 40th Infantry, inside the Chew House

For the tabletop map, I plan to have the table stretch from the American right, past the Manatawny road (southwest of Germantown) where Armstrong was supposed to push past the Hessans at the Schuykill River side.  The other end of the table will be the American left, past the Old York (northeast of Germantown) where Smallwood and Greene were supposed to attack the British right flank.

Map of the battle from the US Military Academy
The American side of the battlefield will include Mount Airy (where Washington's HQ was), down to where the Frankford Creek crosses the Old York Road (including Howe's HQ).

At about the middle of the table, slightly closer to the American side, will be the Chew House.
British Troops entering the Chew House (the architecture is wrong in this picture)
I intend to fight some other battles of the AWI, now that I have this great collection of miniatures, but this will be the first.

As far as rules  - I have not decided.  I have considered several old school sets of rules, and have only soundly rejected one completely (Valley Forge).  I have also considered Piquet, British Grenadier and the Neil Thomas rules.  And, of course, Sons of Liberty. In the end I will most likely write my own rules for this period, but I am just not sure about this first battle.  Pictures of the table top, terrain, and the units will of course follow.

The quote used for the name of this blog post, "These are the times that try men's souls" was the opening line from Thomas Paine's first issue of his series of articles published in Philadelphia during the war, called simply The American Crisis.  This first issue was proclaimed on December 23, 1776, in Philadelphia.  The battle of Germantown would be fought, just outside of Philadelphia a mere 10 months later (on October 4, 1777).  The opening paragraph of that first article is worth reprinting here, and will no doubt stir your own soul (ignore all that financial motive related to taxes...).
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

So, the most excellent new gaming magazine from Flying Pig Games has recently come out with issue number 3.  The magazine is Yaah!, and it covers all manner of board games - many historical, but also science fiction and fantasy.

I will leave it to the readers of the blog to discover the goodness of the magazine (if you haven't, please do yourself a favor and purchase a copy - full color, excellent articles, and a game in every issue).  But I will toot my own horn by saying that in issue three I have had an article (actually two, but they are connected, as you will see) published. 

Yep - that X-Wing/IA mini-campaign mentioned on the cover is Me!

The first article is a mini-campaign for the Star Wars X-Wing miniatures game (from Fantasy Flight games).  The mini-campaign is actually fought as one battle, but as they resolve it, the players are also rolling dice to see how two concurrent battles are turning out.  If one side or the other wins one of those other battles, then they have the possibility of sending reinforcements to the main battle.  It is an interesting scenario, and one I borrowed from "Hey You in the Jail" (miniature rules by Martin Goddard, from Peter Pig).  The Star Wars article in Yaah! magazine, introduces some interesting features that will make it useful for other X-Wing mini-campaigns, other than the one presented in the article.

Now, I mention that I also had a second (but related) article, and that one is a Star Wars Imperial Assault mini campaign (a series of linked scenarios like the campaign that comes in the booklet with the main game).  This time it is related to the results of the X-Wing game (or you can play it alone).  It has to do with a small group of rebel commandos trying to capture a space station (that their starfighter squadron recently secured, or hopefully so, in the X-Wing scenario).  The starting conditions are necessarily different if the Imperial Forces won the X-Wing scenario, but internally many of the scenarios are similar.  Again, some unique stuff that is pertinent to this mini-campaign is presented as part of the article, I hope you get a chance to read it.