Friday, October 31, 2014

Fall Cycling on the Palouse

Side-stepping wargaming for this post and turning outside to cycling.  With the return of Pacific Standard Time on Sunday comes the loss of an hour of daylight in the afternoon.  Cycling outside after work will quickly become an activity foregone.  Except for weekends, stationary, indoor afternoon cycling will soon become de rigueur.   To enjoy afternoon cycling before the sun is lost with the approach of winter, I headed out on the bike for one of the last weekday, afternoon ride of the season.  Of course, I will be out on the bike on weekends as long as the weather cooperates.

Today's ride sees me on a 25 mile loop out onto the Palouse and then back into the city.  Palouse?  What is the Palouse?  The Palouse is generally defined as a region of rolling hills in southeastern Washington and north central Idaho dominated by fields of wheat and lentils.  The rolling hills remind me a bit of Tuscany.  Spokane can broadly be defined as the northern boundary of the Palouse although some might argue against that delineation.

Back to the ride.

Residing on the southern boundary of the city, open roads are only a few minutes away and my cycling almost always begins in a southerly direction.  The rolling terrain can be a leg breaker on a long, hot summer afternoon but today with temperatures in the mid 60s F, a pleasant day, indeed!  
Farmland at outskirts of Spokane

Typical Palouse rolling wheat fields
punctuated by farms
Still heading south

More farmland as the road turns down into a canyon 
Not only rolling wheat fields!

Open road as I drop into a canyon

One of the many golf courses in the area

Six miles later, another golf course.
Yes, I must climb up the plateau to reach home.
The climb begins
Back on top of the plateau.
Home and hot shower in six more miles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

French Artillery for the 1799 Project

Finally!  After nearly half a year, a few more figures for the 1799 project made it to the painting desk.  The last figures to see the brush in this project were two Austrian grenadier battalions back in May (see Austrian Grenadiers).  The 1799 project is coming together at a leisurely pace which is all right with me.  While the project is focused on the Italian and Swiss conflicts with the Suvorov led Russian/Austrian coalition, I imagine using the Austrian and French in battles in the earlier northern Italian campaigns of 1796-1797.  Recently having re-read parts of Boycott-Brown's excellent Road to Rivoli, makes me long for another refight of Rivoli.  Fought Rivoli on more than one occasion and it was good fun every time.   

Like all of the figures thus far in this project, the French artillery are AB Miniatures.  Dozens of French artillery from the primary 15mm Napoleonic project could have been pressed into service for the earlier conflicts but that would not do.  Although this would have saved some effort, I really thought the project deserved French artillerymen in bicorne.  Something about bicornes for these earlier campaigns I simply find appealing.  Austrians in casquets are cool too, right?  


Now, Austrian artillerymen wore bicornes throughout both periods so I could get away with using the existing Austrian guns for this project.  My thought is to maintain some integrity within the 1799 project and field AB guns and crew for the Austrians as well.  Probably time for a small order to Eureka USA.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Land of the Free: Thoughts on 15mm Play

Having finished the first games of Land of the Free (LotF) and the review (whew!  reviewing is hard work), I plan to give the LotF a test with my 15mm AWI collection.  Since each of my line battalions consist of around 360 men (ratio 20:1 with 18 figures plus mounted officer) on a 2.5 inch frontage, the given LotF musket range of 12" in the game would equate to over 400 yards if kept the same!  Point blank range would correspond to an actual range of over 100 yards.  To me, a better solution is to replace the Units of Measure (UoM), inches with centimeters.  That results in the 12 cm musket range now representing about 170 yards with point blank only reaching to 42 yards.  Those ranges are more believable and switching from inches to centimeters is easy.  All measurements remain as before only in a different UoM.  Some new measurement sticks will be needed but that is also easy.

Still need to select a scenario for the 15mm test run.  To hopefully get some inspiration and ideas, I pulled the collection from the shelf and opened the boxes.  Besides, I need to remember exactly what I have.  It has been a very long time since these models have seen the light of the game room!
15mm AWI Collection
American Box 1
Germans (mostly)
American Box 2
British
Many of the figures are split between Frontier Miniatures and Jeff Valent (the old Washington's War range) with a few other manufacturers added in.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the Frontier figures especially the Hessians.  Great figures even by today's standards.  There has always been a soft spot for the German contingents.  Germans were the first regiments I fielded for the 28mm AWI project and Von Mirbach, Von Rall, and Von Donop were the first three regiments painted for the 15mm AWI Project back in 2000.  Perhaps, I will use the Germans in the scenario?  What about Knyphausen's attack at Chadd's Ford at Brandywine?  Should not be too big a battle and one that I could resolve solo.

This exercise might be a good opportunity to try Fields of Honor, American War of Independence rules by Shane Lacy Hensley.  These rules have been on the shelf for many years.  Simple mechanisms derived from Hensley's colonial rules, Fields of Honor.  Read many times; played none.  Using multiple rules for the same battle can often provide interesting insight into both.  A compare and contrast activity might be on the agenda.
Suggestions for a test scenario?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

State of the Painting Desk

State of the Painting Desk is really just a random snapshot of the works in progress on the workbench.  Last month's snapshot featured Napoleonics with Elite infantry and Front Rank cavalry in work.  The October snapshot illustrates that the Napoleonic theme continues although other units have passed across the table in the interim.  More 28mm Napoleonics are seeing action at the paint station in today's photo.  Elite Miniatures and Front Rank are again featured with 14 Elite British rifles in the background and 16 Front Rank French legere in the middle.  In the fore are Battle Honors' ACW figures that will stand in for Garibaldi for the 1859 project.
A number of other figures have been prepped, stuck to golf tees, and awaiting their turn at the brush.  What else is coming up?  More French mortars for the Narvik project; heavy this time.  The 28mm Punic Wars project has a unit of African spear in queue and the SAW project soon will have American dismounted cavalry undergoing the brush.  Oh, I have a handful of old Minifig Native Americans to paint for the 15mm AWI project.

The 15mm AWI project has been dormant for a long time.  At one point, I figured the project was complete.  My problem is that a dose of AWI gaming has energized me to add a few more units to the project even if not needed for gaming.  While all of the Jeff Valent and Frontier figures are long gone, a few packets of Minifigs and Freikorps remain to be painted.  I am afraid LotF may see a return to painting German and British units in 28mm too.  Does it never end?  Woe is me...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Warrior Monks for Samurai Battles

Despite not having a game of Samurai Battles in a very long time, I decided to pull these Peter Pig Warrior Monks from The Lead Pile to field a second unit for the project.  With a mix of black lacquered armor and white robes, these 16 figures made it off the painting table quickly.  Peter Pig's Samurai range of figures is quite good with fine detailing for 15mm.  Weapons are sturdily modeled producing a durable figure for the gaming table.  Figures for this project have not been on the painting desk since mid summer so it was a refreshing change of pace among all of the 28s that have recently seen more than their share of activity.    

Back to a few more Napoleonics.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Land of the Free - Review

Choices. Choices abound in Land of the Free by Joe Krone.

The first choice a gamer must make with Land of the Free (LotF) is in which period to fight. LotF covers horse and musket warfare from 1754 – 1815 in North America. With a span of 60 years, French & Indian War, American War of Independence, Northwest Indian War, and the War of 1812 are all possibilities. With more than two dozen scenarios included, the gamer will have plenty of battlefield variety and scenarios from which choose.

Second choice is what scale to select. With a game that allows for actions from 2-3 men per maneuver unit for skirmishes up to 10,000-30,000 men per maneuver unit at the Division or Army level, all size of collections can be gainfully employed. Really, no collection is too small nor too large to enjoy these rules. The rules will also work for figures of 6mm up to 40mm (or larger!).

A choice not required of the player in LotF is how to base or rebase figures. Having no set basing restrictions or figures per base requirement, rebasing an existing collection to try the rules is not necessary. Players may use what they have in their current collections. Basing and figures/base suggestions are provided for those not already committed to a basing scheme.

Title: Land of the Free, Wargames Rules for North America 1754-1815
Author: Joe Krone
Publisher: Osprey Publishing, 2014. *

The Book:
The book, itself, is a very well constructed hardback with 192 heavy stock, glossy pages. The layout is functional and loaded with color plates from various Osprey books, color photos of miniatures in action, and diagrams explaining assorted rules' mechanisms. While there is no index, the Table of Contents provides enough detail to pinpoint the required section quickly. Very thorough effort.

Production Quality: Excellent.

* Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book directly from Osprey Publishing for review purposes.

Book Organization:
The book is laid out in a logical order with chapters detailing,
  • Organizing Your Forces
  • Elements
  • Orders
  • Commanders
  • The Game Turn
  • Shooting Combat
  • Melee Combat
  • Discipline and Morale
  • Scenery
  • Advanced Rules
  • Scenarios - Generic
  • Scenarios - Historical
  • The French & Indian War
  • The American Revolutionary War
  • Northwest Indian War
  • The War of 1812

Basic Game Attributes:
LotF uses six-sided die (D6) for resolution but many outcomes are determined by the usage of a D3. D3? That is a D6 where a roll of 1 or 2 becomes a “1”; 3 or 4 is mapped to a “2”' and 5 or 6 as a “3.” LotF can become a Buckets-of-Dice game in firing and melee so having six to eight on hand per player would be prudent. All measurements are in inches with the most common increments of 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 inches. To speed play, I made an assortment of Range Sticks with these given demarcations.

Game Markers: LotF requires a LOT of markers. The player will need markers or Rosters to track,
Command Points
Hits
Disorder
Element Discipline Levels (Fit, Shaken, Exhausted, Shattered)
Stored Maneuver Orders
Stored Combat Orders
Unloaded status

I may have even forgotten one or two.

The basic maneuver unit in the game is termed an Element and may consist of a variable number of stands. Since the number of figures per base and number of bases per element are completely at the whim of the players, any basing ought to work as long as both sides are based similarly. LotF has no figure removal and no incremental stand removal so element size is strictly used only to assist in identifying the relative size of an element.

Relative element size is important for identification because LotF allows for force scaling. That is, the game can be played from a skirmish level game all the way up to a division or army level game. No ground, time, or figure scales are given. Ranges are the same despite the level of game chosen. Elements can consist of four distinct sizes of Tiny, Small, Medium, and Large. Each size carries its own distinct set of attributes.

Elements can have three basic types: Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery. Each element type may have more than one weapon choice with different ratings based on element size. The element attributes are:
Weapon
Number of Maneuver Orders
Number of Combat Orders
Discipline Rating
Morale Rating
Number of Action Dice
and Points (used in building or balancing opposing forces)

Sample Element Roster
In the example, the element, “Prescott's Massachusetts battalion” is of Medium Size and carrying the smooth-bore musket. A Maneuver Order rating of three allows the element to perform up to three Maneuver Orders with each activation. Similarly, a Combat Order rating of three allows the element to perform three Combat Orders per activation. A Discipline rating of “3” signifies that the element must make a Discipline Morale Test every time the element suffers three or more hits and measures the ability of an element to stand up to combat stresses in battle.  An element can have one of four Discipline Levels. From best to worst, these are: Fit, Shaken, Exhausted, and Shattered. When an element reaches Shattered status, it is removed from the table. The Morale rating shows that Prescott must roll a modified “7+” on 2D6 to pass a Morale Test. With an Action Dice Number of “4”, Prescott will add 4D6 to his Dice Pool for both shooting and melee.

Notice in the example roster above that American militia and British regulars have the same values for the core efficiency measures. Discounting the Special attribute of Self-Preservation for the moment, in LotF, American militia can maneuver and deliver musket volleys equaling British regulars. Puzzling. Of course, militia drop some effectiveness once Self-Preservation is added but maneuver is the same. Combat Orders are reduced from three to two. With commander guidance, militia could deliver volleys three times per turn and still stand toe-to-toe with the British.

Each element has a central leader stand or point from which all measurements and movements are based. Elements are assembled into combat forces termed “Groups.” Each Group must be under the command of a Group Commander who, in turn, under the command of a Force Commander. Each commander has a Sphere of Influence (SPI) within which an element may operate efficiently. Outside of a commander's SPI and an element will stand idly by watching the action. Suggested minimum number of Groups is two with each Group commanding between 2 and 6 elements.

Force Commanders and Group Commanders are essential in LotF. Most elements outside of a commander's SPI are unable to activate to execute orders. Commanders issue Command Points to elements within their SPI to provide extra assistance via special Orders. This extra help can take the form of Rally, Forced Order (allowing an extra order), re-roll missed die rolls, or promoting a new commander. In most cases, a commander must attach to issue these Special Orders. When attached to an element, only that element may receive Special Orders.

Turn Sequence:
LotF uses an Alternating Activation mechanism for Turn Sequencing. What that means is that each player alternates between activating one group at a time rather than one player activating all of his units before handing play over to his opponent. With that, the Turn Sequence is,
  1. Both players roll for Force Commander CPs
  2. Both players roll for initiative. Winner gets choice of being either first or second player.
  3. First player activates one Group Commander and rolls for CPs.
  4. First player activates each element within his Group
  5. First player moves Group Commander
  6. Second player activates one Group Commander and rolls for CPs.
  7. Second player activates each element within his Group
  8. Second player moves Group Commander
    Steps 3-8 are repeated until all Groups have been activated
  9. Both players move Force Commanders
    One turn complete
Movement:
Elements may move multiple times per activation. For each element's move, the active player spends one Maneuver Order. If an active element has three Maneuver Orders, it could make three moves in three 3” (6” if in march column) pulses for a total of 9”. Besides forward movement, an element could expend one Maneuver Order to move backwards, oblique, change facing or formation, charge, remove disorder, or reload.

Shooting:
Like multiple moves, an element may fire multiple times within a turn. The number of volleys allowed is governed by the number of Combat Orders the element has remaining. An element may fire during its own activation or during its opponent's activation. If firing during the opponents activation, it may fire as a response to enemy activities within its Threat Zone. A Threat Zone is an area to the front of an element (limbered artillery and elements in march column have no Threat Zone) extending 12” out, frontally, from the outside edge. To fire during the enemy's activation the firing element must either have a Stored Combat Order or be the target of a charge. In an oddity, weapons' ranges are the same regardless of game scale. That is, a patrol element (8-13 men) in a skirmish game has the same musket range (12”) as a Division of 10,000 men!

To fire on an enemy element, the target must be within the Threat Zone of the firing element's leader stand. If not, pivot the firing unit such that the target is now within the Threat Zone. This pivot is free but tends to break up a linear battle line if not targeting elements directly to the front.

Now that the target is properly aligned within the Threat Zone, the firing element creates a firing Dice Pool. This dice pool will be the total number of dice thrown in the volley. To 2D6 add the firing element's Action Dice number and then add or subtract die (dice) for situational modifiers. After dice adjustments, roll the dice. Hits occur on 5 or 6. Roll two or more '1's then the fire results in a Ragged Volley. Subtract one hit from the total. Roll two or more '6's and the target receives a Punishing Volley, disordering the target as well.

If hits applied to the target meet or exceed its Morale Rating, it takes a Discipline Morale Test. Hits in excess of the Discipline Rating become negative DRMs. Pass the Discipline Morale Test and the target drops a Morale State. Fail the test and the target drops a Morale State and retreats 1D3 movements. For example, an element with a Discipline Rating = 3 sustains three hits. Since the number of hits taken equals the Discipline Rating, the element must make a Discipline Morale Test. If it fails the test, it withdraws 1D3 moves back. Otherwise, no effect.

Sound complicated? Took longer to write the explanation than to execute. The number of modifiers is about a half-dozen and easily remembered after a few shots have been fired. Resolution is quick and morale tests are equally easy to remember. The shooting process is fast and straightforward. Not only may an active element fire more than once during activation but it could target more than one enemy too. Also, the same target may be repeatedly hit with fire. In our first game, players were resolving fire quickly midway through the first game turn.

Melee:
For melee, an active element must declare a charge and expend one Maneuver Order. A charge move is twice the regular move broken up into two 3” charge pulses. After the first 3” move, the inactive player may interrupt. If not the target of a charge, a passive player may either Snap Fire (similar to Opportunity Fire) or Counter-Charge. Each of these actions requires either a Stored Combat Order (Snap Fire) or a Stored Maneuver Order (Counter-Charge). On the other hand, a target of a charge may fire or counter-charge without expending a Stored Order.

Once in contact, following the second charge pulse, the resolution process takes a twist. The hit process is similar to shooting resolution but in melee hits from the Dice Pool become DRMs in the final resolution. In melee, each combatant begins with 2D6 and adds his Action dice. That total is then modified by a number of situational dice modifiers to arrive at the total dice pool for each. Each player rolls the handful of dice. Hit on 5 or 6.

Each player adds the number of hits to a list of Melee Resolution Modifiers. The player with the largest total wins the melee. The loser applies hits sustained, makes a rout move, and is disordered. The distance of the rout move is based on the Melee Results differential. That is, for each incremental difference between the two totals, the loser routs that many 3” moves. For example, Attacker has Melee Results total of 6 and Defender has Melee Results total of 8. Attacker loses the melee, becomes disordered and routs 6” (2x 3”). If the Melee Results differential is greater than the loser's Discipline Rating then the loser drops one Discipline Level. Winner applies hits taken and is disordered as well.

Discipline:
As noted earlier, Discipline has four levels of Fit, Shaken, Exhausted, and Shattered. Over the course of the game, an element's Discipline Level will likely fluctuate. Commander's may rally an element from Exhausted to Shaken but never to Fit. A Shattered element is removed from the table as combat ineffective.

Morale:
Certain actions require an element to take a Morale Test. Which Morale Test taken depends upon the triggering event. There are three types of Morale Tests. (Simple) Morale Test has no negative consequences other than to deny the action attempted. Rally, Inspirational Change, and Concentrated Volley fall into this category. Disorder Morale Test results in disorder if failed. Examples of these are Forced Order, Charging when not Fit, formation change during charge reaction, etc.. Finally, a Discipline Morale Test is triggered each time an element's Discipline Rating is equaled or exceeded or a Group is broken. If failed, the element withdraws 1D3 moves to the rear.

Disorder:
An element may find itself accruing Disorder Markers too. These disorders are gained for a variety of reasons and are removed by either expending Maneuver Orders or by a Commander Rally. Elements are disordered by interpenetration, punishing volley, hits from artillery, melee, failing a Disorder Morale Test, and crossing a linear obstacle. If an element has any Disorder Markers then Maneuver Orders must be expended first to remove as many as possible before any other action.

That ends the summary of the basic rules mechanisms. Now, there remains a section on scenery and linear obstacles but those can be distilled down into Terrain Effects. Advanced Rules are present too and provide Special Element Rules to give each element type more historical flavor. For example, American foot militia are given the special skill of Self-Preservation which has militia beginning the game already at Shaken Discipline Level and unable to use Battle line modifiers in melee.

Scenarios:
Does LofT offer scenarios? That is an understatement! By my count there are eight generic scenarios and 20 historical engagements. The historical battles cover the periods French & Indian War, American War of Independence, Northwest Indian War, and the War of 1812. Many of the battles included for the AWI are huge affairs with many having more than ten Groups each!  Having that many groups would push the limits of multi-player playability in my mind.  With such large forces, why not scale up to the next level to reduce the number of independent commands? 

Conclusion:
With sequential element activation and multiple movement and firing, holes in an enemy line can be opened and exploited. Competent play with these rules will likely require deployments in depth, elements having Stored Orders ready to interrupt the enemy's decision cycle, judicious use of commanders, and a reserve to plug holes and exploit opponent's weaknesses. Plenty of choices for the battlefield commander.

While I mentioned a few of my observations in the review, I enjoy the overall dynamic nature of horse and musket conflict that Krone has created.  After two test games using 28mm AWI collections, I am looking forward to pulling my 15mm AWI collection from the shelf.  LotF presents a perfect opportunity to field these armies on the gaming table once again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Linear Obstacles - Fences and Walls

In the historical Battle of Bunker Hill, a stone wall and rail fence played a prominent role in the battle.  For my recent replay of this famous battle, I wanted to include similar linear obstacles.  The problem for me was that I have no walls or fences in 28mm!  Most of linear obstacle type terrain pieces are sized for 15mm or smaller.  So a day or two before the Saturday game, I whipped out a few sections of both rail fence and stone wall from bits laying around the house.

First, the stone wall sections are built up from a Litko 120mm x 30mm base using a bag of talus from a model railroading supply store.  Using tacky glue, rocks were piled one on another, allowed to dry, and then hit with a spray of flat black.  Later a dry brush of light gray, a Minwax stain, a spray of Dullcote and voila, finished.

Second up was the rail fence.  This took some thought on how to build and later store a worm rail fence.  Using some old, surplus balsa laying around, I built five sections of three rail fence.
Each section is designed such that they interlock to create a hinge at the join.  A tight fit allows the sections to remain interlocked.

The sections can then be positioned anywhere from a 90 degree bend to 180 degrees.  Sections, when disassembled can store flat yet pieced together to make a worm rail fence.   Five fence sections are a start but not nearly enough for frontier battlefields. 
Both of these linear obstacles will work well on the North American frontier in either 28mm French & Indian War or American War of Independence games. These items provided a quick, inexpensive, and relatively easy addition to the gaming table.
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