Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Battle of Godly Wood

I was able to get together with Vidal last night and play some more War of 1812 with my 28mm collection. I chose to use the Godly Wood scenario about which I had written an article a few years ago. Oddly, I had never actually played the scenario. For more detailed info about it, look here. In short, after the British victory at Bladensburg in the summer of 1814, Major-General Ross chose to try his luck with Baltimore. In September, his army was disembarked on the peninsula astride Baltimore (North Point) and began the march to the city. On the way, Ross was felled by a militiaman's musket ball and subsequently died. The British army continued its advance under Colonel Brooke and ran into an American delaying force under Brigadier Stricker at Godly Wood (the battle is also known as the Battle of North Point). The 3rd Maryland Brigade sat astride the only road to Baltimore. The British had little room for maneuver or flanking movements since the peninsula had seriously narrowed at this point. As Colonel Brooke's regiments debouched from the heavy woods of the lower peninsula into the open area chosen by Stricker, American guns began to play amongst the redcoats. Vidal chose to play the Americans and yours truly worked with the Brits. The Americans in Field of Battle are all raw class with the exception of the artillery and the 1st Maryland Rifle battalion, (regular) deployed as skirmishers on the American right flank. The British are all regular class except for the Light Brigade, both regiments of which are crack.

Order of Battle American Army – Major-General Samuel Smith

3rd Maryland (City of Baltimore) Brigade – Brigadier-General John Stricker
5th Maryland
6th Maryland
27th Maryland
39th Maryland
51st Maryland
1st Maryland Rifle Battalion
5th Regiment Maryland Cavalry
Baltimore Union Artillery ( 6 x 4 lb guns)

2nd Maryland Brigade
4 x regular & militia regiments
1 x artillery (6 x 6lb guns)

British Army – Major-General Robert Ross; Lt. Colonel Francis Brooke

1st (Light) Brigade – Major Timothy Jones
85th Foot (light infantry)
Converged elite companies (4th, 21st, & 44th Foot)

2nd Brigade – Lt. Colonel Thomas Mullins
44th Foot
4th Foot
Provisional Battalion, shipboard Marines
Naval Landing Party

3rd Brigade – Lt. Colonel William Patterson
21st Foot
2nd Battalion, Royal Marines

Rocket Section, Royal Marine Artillery
Royal Artillery Company (4 x 6lb guns)

For this game, I added to the American Order of Battle the 2nd Maryland Brigade. These troops represent the substantial reinforcements available a few miles away in the Baltimore defenses. They didn't actually take part in the battle but were an asset for the American commander. Stricker's intention (and that of his superior, Major-General Smith) was not to fight the British toe-to-toe. Rather, he wanted to merely delay and test the invaders. In game terms, the Americans could not begin to withdraw from the battle until the beginning of the third turn. The game proceeded fairly closely to the historical battle. The British advanced on the fence-line and pushed the 3rd Maryland Brigade back but were unable to quickly take advantage of the situation. The Americans ultimately failed their Army Morale Check and withdrew, which in a way was a sort of victory for them since they hadn't intended to remain anyway.

Initial Deployments! The limitations of the mapping program deny me certain images. The purple trees indicate impassable water courses (in fact, arms of the surrounding Chesapeake). The American line was also sheltering behind wooden fences.

The initial American deployment along the fence-line.

The British 1st Light Brigade begins to advance and the 2nd Brigade debouched from the woods and starts to deploy. American cavalry moves forward to threaten the British skirmishers.

2nd Brigade moves forward to the American line and looses a volley.

2nd Brigade begins to push the American militia back from the fence-line. The American reserve arrives on-table. The Light Division continues to occupy the American right wing.

Light Brigade battling for the fence-line.

The Americans had just established a second defensive line with the reserve brigade when they failed their Army Morale Check because of excessive casualties.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

All the King's Men for WWII

After our game on Friday using ATKM rules with my War of 1812 collection (look here), Michael and I spent some time in the car on a road trip and devised a set of amendments for the rules to use with my 54mm WWII collection. We tried to use the basic mechanics of ATKM while attempting to maintain the "beer & pretzels" feel of the rules. The latter is difficult to do, since it's a slippery slope when towards complexity, especially with WWII rules with the increase in diversity of weapons etc. I've listed the amendments below in a QRS format. In order to relate them to the rules as written, you can see the main rules here.


Infantry units are typically four to six figures each and represent fire teams or half-squads. Machine gun teams are also represented as separate two-figure units or may be part of a fire team (i.e. three or four riflemen and a two-man LMG team). Vehicles operate as individual units but may be activated together with the use of a command chip (assuming they are of the same platoon). This would also assume that they are equipped with radios (thus, French 1940 tanks would not be able to activate together in this way). Mortar and artillery units firing indirect may be activated by using a command chip by designated observers or on-table commanders (scenario generated). When firing tank guns (or equivalent), roll the number of dice indicated on the Hard Weapon Table. The defending AFV rolls a number of saving (or defensive) dice plus any appropriate modifiers. If the number of hits (after subtracting the hits from the saves) exceeds the AFV Toughness, roll 1d6 per hit on the AFV Effect Chart. If tied or lower, ignore. We've tried to place all the firing modifiers with the saving rolls for consistency but there's not particular reason why firing dice couldn't be modified as well.

infantry - 6"
slow AFV - 12"
medium AFV - 16"
fast AFV - 20"
*Wheeled AFVs receive a 4" movement bonus on roads.

Defensive Dice

All infantry teams roll one die per figure remaining.
Light AFV - 4 dice
Medium AFV - 6 dice
Heavy AFV - 8 dice

Small Arms
rifle - 1d6/figure
LMG - 6d6/team
auto-cannon/MMG/HMG - 8d6/team
SMG - 2d6/figure (maximum 24" range)
pistol - 1d6/figure (maximum 12" range)

Weapons Ranges
All weapons (except SMG & pistol) have unlimited range. If firing within effective range, there are no modifiers (see Firing Modifiers chart).
Small Arms - effective range 24"
Heavy Weapons - effective range 48"
grenades - 6" maximum

AFV Toughness
Light Armour - 1
Medium Armour - 3
Heavy Armour - 5

Heavy Weapons
Light Calibre - 4 firing dice
Medium Calibre - 8 firing dice
Heavy Calibre - 12 firing dice
* Infantry anti-tank weapons (i.e. bazooka) are heavy calibre up to 12" and medium calibre to 24".

AFV Effects from Fire
roll 1d6
1-2 = suppressed (i.e. not able to activate for balance of turn)
3 = immobilized
4 = main gun destroyed
5-6 = vehicle destroyed

Explosive Weapons
light (i.e. light mortars, grenades) - 4" burst radius
medium (i.e. medium mortars, small infantry guns) - 6" burst radius
heavy (i.e. off-board artillery) - 8" burst radius

line of sight - 1d6"
on-table indirect - 2d6"
off-table indirect - 3d6"

Roll the deviation dice with a direction die. The firer rolls 1d6 per figure in the burst radius. The target rolls 1d6 saving rolls per figure in the burst radius. If impact point is on an AFV, roll as per the Heavy Weapons table.

Saving Rolls Modifiers

additions/subtractions to the number of saving roll dice:

+1/+2/+3 cover
+2 AFV target moved
+2 heavy weapon firer moved
-1 versus auto-loading weapon (i.e. auto cannon)
-2 versus AFV flank
-3 versus AFV rear
+2 per multiple of the effective range (beyond the effective range)

These are the basics. After our first play-test, it was obvious that some of the numbers may need to be tweaked (especially the ones related to AFVs). It's probably obvious already that the slippery slope is difficult to avoid (especially to those familiar with the rules already). ATKM rules are designed as an old school gaming exercise. When I play with them, I can easily see us sitting in the backyard playing with our toys in the grass and dirt (although I haven't gone there....yet). You can see some photos of the game from Sunday below. My apologies for the quality and small number of the photos (since my good camera has gone missing).

Overview of the table.

German armoured car takes a direct hit!

German anti-tank gun hidden in the ruined buildings.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Battle of New Orleans

After my recent Historicon rant, I'm happy to report it's back to business as usual (assuming I don't mention that my camera may have been stolen at Historicon...ooops, too late!). I was able to get some gaming in this weekend, with another game scheduled for Wednesday of this week. Michael and I decided Friday night to throw together a War of 1812 game on my home table. We hadn't actually pre-decided on 1812. This was necessitated by the fact that most of my Napoleonic collection was at the club and I only had my Americans and British available at home. So, we began setting up a game, specifically New Orleans. This battle has held a strange fascination for me for years. At first glance it seems a straight-up attack-defend scenario with the defenders behind fortifications and little room for attacker maneuver. There is, however, more subtlety to the scenario than may seem at first. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the battle knows that the British in this battle were faced with substantial entrenchments thrown up by the American army under Andrew Jackson. The American line, entrenchments aside, was solidly flanked by the Mississippi River on one side and near impassable woods and swamps on the other. The British were forced into a tactical frontal assault, although not necessarily strategically. For a good perspective on the latter, you can't do better than Robin Reilly's book The British at the Gates: The New Orleans Campaign in the War of 1812. There was one other possibility open to the British. Jackson had installed an entrenched battery on the other side of the Mississippi that could rake any British forces intent on advancing on the main entrenchments. In our scenario, we allowed the British player (Michael) to deploy a limited number of units on the far bank of the river to neutralize the American artillery there. We also allowed limited movement through the swamp and woods on the American left flank, as was possible historically.

We had set up the terrain for the game and began picking the units out of their boxes when we realized we were short of dice, tape measures, and Field of Battle card decks (also at the club). The decks we could easily manufacture and the tape measures I could get from my garage but the various die types required for FoB we could not replace. I had a few d6s but that was it. The table was set and the troops available but no means to prosecute the battle. What to do? Another rule set using only d6s would suffice. Since I had just come back from Historicon where I ran a good many demos of All the King's Men rules, we thought it would be a great opportunity to try them out in the 1812 period (appropriate enough since Ken at ATKM has just launched his new 1812 range of figures). You can see the progress of the game in the photos below. The end result was a British victory but that was probably as much a result of the way we designed the scenario as any great generalship on Michael's part (no offence intended). ATKM rules are designed for 12 figure infantry units and my collection is based as 16s for the regulars and 12s for the militia. Rather than make any adjustments to compensate for artillery firing on the larger units, we decided to leave it as is and see how it worked. Turned out that the artillery was not powerful enough against the larger units. One key to the American defence is the artillery's ability to chew away at the British attackers as they struggle across the drainage ditches and soggy ground toward the entrenchments.

We also allowed generals to spend command chips to move multiple units at once on one activation. Units were required to be within four inches of each other and within the general's command radius. We allowed three such units to move together under these conditions but after discussing it further, we decided that in future we would allow a general to do this with a number of units equal to his command rating. Thus, a class 3 general could move three units in concert, a class 2 general two units, and a class 1 general couldn't do it at all. It does allow a bit of coordination in movement and gives the player another use or choice for his command chips. Of course, using the command chips this way reduces the general's ability to activate other units outside his command radius in the normal manner. (Note: These comments are directly related to ATKM rules. To gain a better understanding, you can download the rules here.)

The initial deployments. You can see the Americans ensconced behind their entrenchments and the British preparing their assault. The British have detached a small brigade to the opposite side of the river to deal with the American battery there. The British general has decided to "stack" his brigades, one behind the other, in preparation for the assault. Note: The river should be much wider but my on-table river is not big enough to model it. In fact, Battle Chronicler, the program used to create the maps, has only one size of river.

An overview of the table after initial deployments.

The British have begun their advance on both sides of the river. The Americans have pushed some skirmishers forward in the woods and swamp to threaten the British right flank.

The main American entrenchments.

The American redoubt on the opposite side of the river. Note: Maryland militia are standing in as southern units.

While the main British assault is struggling to cross the drainage ditches in front of the American line, the detached brigade has pushed the defending infantry and gunner away from the redoubt on the opposite side of the river.

American militia have abandoned the small redoubt.

The first British wave is within striking distance of the entrenchments and the detached brigade has been able to turn the American guns around to play on the main redoubt on the right end of the main American line.

The 5th West Indies Regiment leading the assault on the American line.

The American militia has retreated from the entrenchments after seeing the fortitude of the British army.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Historicon rant

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Ken of All the King's Men Toy Soldiers hosted an invitational game on Saturday at Historicon for some valued customers and friends. Earlier in the day, I had made a trip out to a supermarket to pick up some food and beer for the snack table. Ken's wife Gina had set the bar pretty high last year at Historicon (or was it Fall In?) with some incredible home-made goodies for the food table. The players really appreciated the gesture. Ken and I decided that this year we'd try to emulate Gina's efforts, albeit with store-bought food. While Ken was setting up the game (with help from Bob and Matt Lehman...thanks again guys!), I was putting out the food. We had a small folding table set up next to the game table in the Distelstink room. On it we had three platters of cheese and crackers, donuts and other delicacies. Underneath was cooler full of beer. You can see the set up below.

The scene of the crime!

The little diagram here is important so that it might become apparent how obvious it was that our food table was meant only for our game. The side of our game table on which the food table was situated was bordered by a set of empty gaming tables. So again, it was unmistakable that the food table was meant for our game and players. The more astute among you will probably have already figured out what's coming next. Within moments of the food being displayed, I had several people come over to comment how cool it was that we were treating our players with this. These people were respectful of the food's provenance and its target audience. To them I easily offered unlimited access. They hadn't asked to partake but the fact that they had come over in a friendly manner with no apparent pretensions of getting free food of course precipitated my offer. It's a friendly atmosphere (usually) after all and, frankly, why not? Now comes the rant! Several people from neighbouring games (and even not so neighbouring events) casually began to walk by and grab food on the way by. No inquiries. No permission asked. Not even a friendly, "Hey that's cool! I wish our game had that!" Just grabby, grubby little hands from people that, I assume, thought that food on a table was free for the taking. Did they walk through the main foyer of the Historicon host and grab food from the food vending tables? I think not! So why grab it from ours? Some people even came back for more after being told that it was a private spread! Deaf? Stupid? Uncaring? Probably the latter two. So, there is now another category of gamer to be added to my list (see this previous blog for some descriptions of common gamer types), The Thief! Granted, we're not talking about serious "take the bastard to court" theft. But c'mon! Isn't there a basic code of conduct that might be observed here? The Thief is probably also The Leach. The Leach is someone who contributes nothing to a gaming experience (or the hobby in general) but takes from others' efforts. Damn, but this riles me. Thankfully, the company of players at our game was superb and made this incident of little import at the time. The longer I've had to think about it the more I understand why at times I distance myself from the hobby. I'm lucky to have excellent friends to game with at home and I've gravitated to only gaming with similar people at conventions.

And to cap this experience off, this week on The Miniatures Page there was a notice from Conquest Miniatures about a serious theft from his vendor table in the dealer hall. You can see the thread here. Same type of perpetrator, same type of attitude. And gamers wonder sometimes why it's a niche hobby looked upon as unwashed nerds and geeks playing with toy soldiers. That may well be true (and I count myself among the geeks who play with toy soldiers, but clean and washed), but incidents such as these just reinforce the negative stereotypes. I'm also aware enough to realize that these types of people inhabit any organization, whether professional, social, or hobby-related.

OK, rant over!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Historicon: additions to the lead pile

Last night I was able to sift through my purchases from Historicon. As usual, I had made a shopping list for the convention. Doing this, in most cases, keeps me from making too many impulse buys and it seemed to work well this time as well. I was able to make it through the biggest gaming shop in the world with the addition of only a few things to my list.

My first stop was at Age of Glory, where I knew I'd be able to find the first item on my list, Perry Miniatures Carlist Wars. My plan had been to pick up only five packs but when Steve at Age of Glory told me he had discounted that particular range by 30%, I couldn't resist a few extra packs. The discount plus not having to pay shipping costs proved a no-brainer. In addition to the Isabellino troops originally on my list, I picked up several packs of British Auxiliary Legion. These are exceptionally good sculpts and the British should prove an very attractive addition to my growing collection.

After a phone conversation with Vidal (at home living the convention experience vicariously), I was persuaded to stop at the Old Glory booth and purchase some 1/2400 Napoleonic ships. Vidal had asked me to pick up the Trafalgar British and French fleet boxes and after seeing the models in the flesh, I persuaded myself that this might be a good diversion as well and I picked up the Spanish fleet pack (the smallest of the three, so the purchase was more easily justified). These are great little models, single castings with rigging and base all part of the whole. Should be an interesting project!

Then it was off to Brigade Games for some of their Spanish-style 28mm buildings. These are planned as part of the Carlist Wars project but can be just as easily used with my Napoleonic collection, especially since I am presently building up my Spanish army. These are gorgeous buildings and should look spectacular on the table. It took a great amount of willpower not to purchase the large church model as well. I walked away with four smaller buildings and some walls. This should give me a nice little village and the church can always come along later(!). As a side note, I received yesterday the latest Battlegames magazine, in which there is an excellent article about building a very nice Spanish church that I may just attempt.

Of course, I couldn't leave the convention without some All the King's Men Toy Soldiers castings in my hands. First in line are the new British grenadiers for the AWI range. These are tasty little castings that should look suitably imposing on the tabletop (look at the photo at the left and tell me this guy doesn't look like Steve Martin!). Second are some of the brand new War of 1812 range. I chose to start with American units, although I'm sure that eventually I'll field both sides. One of the great things about this range is the variety of heads that can be purchased. The figures themselves are headless and with the various head variations, many of the line and militia units of the war can be created. Ken is currently working on more heads to add variation, including the ubiquitous round hat. I'm also trying to persuade him to add a figure to the collection wearing hunting shirt, a garment worn by many militia troops and the regular rifle regiments (I especially want to model the Virginia state rifle units in purple hunting shirts). Ken is also planning to add the turbaned shako of the Maryland troops to the list. Very cool! The question for me now is whether to wait for the turbaned shakos, convert some myself (an easy enough project), or to paint the Americans units as regular line. And if I choose the latter option, do I paint them in blue (or brown, or black, or drab) or the grey of Scott's brigade during the 1814 Niagara campaign. Ah, the conundrum!

Besides the figures, I picked up James Arnold's Crisis in the Snows: The Eylau Campaign 1806-1807. I've always enjoyed his books (Crisis on the Danube, etc) but I hadn't read this one. Crisis in the Snows deals with the 1807 campaign against the Russians and the remains of the Prussian army (after the 1806 debacle). After all the years of Napoleonic learning that I've put myself through, this is possibly the campaign about which I know the least. It should prove illuminating, especially since a Russian army is a planned expansion of my Napoleonic collection (someday).

Other than a few other purchases of bases, that was the extent of my Historicon purchases. Not bad, considering that in past years my back bumper has almost dragged the ground from all the lead weight in the back!

Historicon photos

I was able to acquire some photos of two of the most impressive games at Historicon (OK, bias admitted!). Below are some great shots of Bob and Matt Lehman's 54mm AWI game, using ATKM figures and rules. This is a fabulous setup that the elder Bob has really outdone himself with. I understand that he even sold several of the terrain pieces to one of the participants at game's end.

And below are some shots of the ATKM Invitational game on Saturday night in the Distelstink room. You may be able to pick out yours truly somewhere. The room was busy and hot and, at least for the first couple of hours, Ken and I had to yell to make ourselves heard over the din. The room had also acquired a rather pungent air from a full day's gaming. I swear a vendor could make a fortune selling deodorant (of course, directions for use would also have to be provided).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Historicon: Day 2-4

As it turns out, my ambition of blogging each day of Historicon was waylaid by circumstance. Friday saw Ken and I run six demo games at the booth, all while doing bang-up sales! I lost count at some point but I think we ended up running 14 or 15 demo games at the booth over the course of the show. If I don't know the rules now, I never will! We played around with some experimental rules during the demos and talked alot about different things we can do with the rules as well. We even bandied about the idea of using ATKM rules for WWII! Yes, WWII. More of that anon. Also, Friday saw a massive 54mm AWI game hosted by Bob and Matt Lehman from Ohio, using ATKM figures and rules. Ken and I met Bob and his son Matt last year at Fall In! They are loyal customers of Ken's but more importantly have become very good friends. We always look forward to seeing them at conventions now. Their game was indeed massive, on an 18 x 6 table with 15? units per side. Unfortunately, I have no photos to hand of the game since I left my camera (with the pictures) in Ken's hurdy-gurdy which now is in Georgia (home of ATKM). If you're wondering what a hurdy-gurdy is, feel free to email Ken with your query. I'm sure he'd be happy to chat about the pros and cons of hurdy-gurdies. My thanks got to Dick Caldwell, who sent the photos in this blog entry to Ken. Dick was a very pleasant and agreeable demo game player and customer.

After a long Friday, I was off to dinner and drinks with friends who live in the area and Ken spent a quiet night at the hotel. So, no blogging Friday.

Saturday we were up bright and early again, at the booth for the 9:00 am influx of punters. This day would prove to be a real struggle to get through, and not because of any negative events. The day was great but WOW we were tired at the end of it. We were hopping at the booth all day and looking forward to the ATKM Invitational game that evening. The invitational game is becoming a tradition where Ken hosts a big, big game for his loyal customers. This year saw a 16 x 6 table with 34 units (18 on the American side and 16 on the British). We had seven players, beautiful figures and terrain, a small smorgasbord table, and a cooler full of beer. What more could you want? Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this game either (see my comments above). Everyone seemed to have a good time and even the neighbouring gamers were showing great interest (of course, that may have just been the prospect of free food and beer...but I will go on that rant some other time). We finished up around 11:30 and after packing up the gear (thanks to all for the help), we were able to relax with cigars and friends before heading back to the hotel and collapsing from near exhaustion.

Sunday morning was a more relaxed affair in the dealer hall. The punters are fewer in number and the vendors are thinking forward to the logistics of going home. It's also a time to say goodbye to good friends and new ones as well...until the next convention. One of the more interesting things to watch at a convention is the flurry of activity that breaks out when the dealer hall doors are finally closed to the buying public. It's like watching an AutoBot transforming into an 18-wheeler (in slower motion, of course).

Ken and I had a great time at Historicon this year. My thanks to all the great demo players and customers for making the entire show a fun experience. And that's what it's all about, after all. Kudos go to Bob and Matt Lehman for all their help and friendly camaraderie. My especial thanks go to Ken for his hospitality and the opportunity to help him out. He is truly a prince in the hobby!

The dynamic duo!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Historicon: Day 1

After an uneventful drive through the mountains of Pennsylvania, I was able to hook up with Ken in Strasburg, just outside Lancaster PA...home of the last country Historicon. Next year, it's off to the sights and (apparent) dangers of Baltimore (but more of that anon). The first evening in Amish country was spent catching up over cigars and drinks. Thursday was the first day of the convention and Ken and I appeared at the dealer hall promptly at 0800hrs (ugh!) to set up the booth. When the unwashed masses were admitted at 1200, we were already feeling the effects of the long drive the day before and the early rising. This was only partially mitigated by the natural excitement of the first day of another convention!

Damn, but it was a busy day. I ran three demo games at the booth while Ken exercised his considerable charm with visitors. At times like that, Red Bull is your friend! and again...and again!

Sitting here Friday morning, dealing with the after effects of the abuse I inflicted on my body last night with Red Bull, rich food, wine, beer, and cigars, I've quickly come to the conclusion that this will be a very short blog ent............

General Cornwallis leading his troops in the demo game.

American artillery awaiting the British advance.

What's that you say?

The demo table.

The World Headquarters!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Historicon '09

Well, I'm off to Historicon tomorrow for five days. I'll be helping out Ken Cliffe at All the King's Men Toy Soldiers, running demo games at the booth (guess I should brush up on the rules, no?). I'm excited to see Ken's new War of 1812 line in the flesh. Check them out here. These 54mm beauties will be really hard to resist (do I need an 1812 collection in two different scales?). I'm going to take the laptop with me and hopefully I'll be able to make some blog updates from the show. Come on over to the booth and say hello, chat, and even play a quick game if that's your fancy!