Monday, March 31, 2008

End of the month catch up...

Bit of a hodgepodge for this, the last post of March… been doing lots, just not had the time to post, isn’t it always the way…

First off – books – I’ve just finished reading “Washington and Caesar” by Christian Cameron (click here).

As an impulse buy at my local library from the shelf of books they are getting rid of (torn pages/covers, old, etc.), I wasn't expecting much. What a bonus, though – a fantastic read!

The book is set in the American War of Independence and tells the two opposing sides of the war from the perspective of George Washington, and one of his slaves who escapes, and goes on to fight for the British in a unit made up of former slaves. I’m not sure from my reading how many of these units the British had, but from the historical notes in the book (full marks to the author) he documents a number of coloured units who fought on the side of the British, usually company size – subject for a post at some time in the future I think....

I also want to read up a little more on the life and career of the British general who oversaw the diplomacy marking the end of the war – Guy Carleton – who sounds like an extraordinarily talented man, and not a general who I've come across before in my reading of the period….

A cracking yarn then, set mostly in the northern theatre, with a major part on the Philadelphia expedition. Cameron is particularly good on light troops and tactics (I notice he has Nosworthy’s book on battlefield tactics (click here) in his select bibliography) and his battle descriptions are excellent – all in all, very readable – recommended (and just out in paperback I notice)!

Second off – the campaign – I’ll post further tomorrow, or the day after. The latest move has arrived but DG is travelling at the moment, so as there was no rush I’ve not done it yet. The good news is that DG is visiting me on Wednesday evening – so time for a game…

Third off – please find following some pictures of the latest unit to join the forces of Louis XIV and his allies – this is the first of my Bavarian regiments – the regiment Lutzenberg. They served in Major General Lutzenburg's 'Bavarian' Brigade at the battle of the Schellenberg - and that's all I can find out about them...L If anyone has any good online resources to the Bavarian army of this period, please leave a comment.... in the meanwhile I shall take to my books and see what I can find elsewhere...

The unit is comprised exclusively of Minifigs, with the rear rank comprising the first usage of a large consignment of these perfect little specimens that arrived just last week. For the Old Schoolers amongst you, when talking to the guys at Minifigs UK last week, they were telling me that the new website has been a huge success, and is generating a lot of sales.... good news!

Last of all - it's the last day of the month, so time to have a look at the numbers, as ever my thanks for taking me through the 11,000 barrier - appreciated - I wasn't so sure people would find the campaign interesting but it doesn't seem to have had a detrimental effect on the numbers....

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Move 7 & 8 (14:00 & 15:00)

14:00 Day 1 (move 7).. a reminder the campaign map is to the left (click on it and any of the other pictures in this blog for the usual bigger view).

Interesting move..

..the British have clearly opted to send their cavalry towards Fourstones (4/.) while their infantry and artillery continues to advance down the main trunk... this is where campaigning gets interesting - what interests me at the moment is 'exactly how much of my deployment can DG see from his current positions'???

I suspect that the infantry and my C-in-C may not be visible to him, so by now he should be aware that there are no sightings of any troops in Fourstones (4/.).. here is the position at the beginning of the move: guess is that the only American units he has visibility of are:

~ the ex-garrison of Threepwood (3/.), now hot footing it south with the garrison commanders antique family heirloom finely balanced on top of a small dog cart
~ the still smarting Milita and cavalry, "fresh" from the skirmish at Twogates House (2/.)

..further interest also in the form of much needed couriers to the units currently retiring towards Sevenoaks (7/.) as a result of the British feint along the west road. The couriers carry news from both the Milita formerly based at Twogates House, and the cavalry that were patrollong road between their and One Tree Hill. This allows me to change the orders for these units to move towards Carnine (9/.)

Couriers also arrive to advise the half battalion currently stationed at Camsix (6/.) that they will be needed at Carnine (9/.) but they have orders to wait for the other half of the battalion before they march and these are at Tenterden (10.) I settle for a die roll and it confirms that the half battalion in Camsix will march towards Tenterden to effect the consolidation sooner (rather than staying put)..

...and after all the American orders and moves are complete - you'll notice that British are lost from view as I move away from them and out of recon range - but I know where they are!:

15:00 Day 1 (Move 8)..

Further consolidation - I've now lost all view of the British units that were approaching on the western road - no doubt they'll pop up at a time in the future when I could least do with seeing them!

Other than that all American units proceed as previously - at the end of the move the view is as follows:

..what's interesting is that my last recon report showed that the three British units I could see were comprised one unit only - interesting... has DG dropped off a few elements to consolidate elsewhere?? Have I outpaced his artillery and that's why I can't see the main body? I'm betting on the latter.... more anon...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Featherstone at 90, and Steve The Wargamer at 12...

I am, regrettably, a little late in wishing Don Featherstone a happy birthday... but wish to make amends.

For the record he was 90 last week, and I thought I might share a little something with you from the very earliest days of my wargaming "career"... J

..back then, as a callow 12 year old, and just starting out on my wargaming hobby, I was playing with unpainted Airfix Napoleonics, and badly painted Airfix WWII... I used the rules from Don's book "Wargames" and was obviously frustrated at the time with how slow it was to move all my troops individually - so with the typical arrogance of a 12 year old I decided to ask Don how he managed the problem!

Now it never even occurred to me that he might be a bit busy doing other things in his very busy life, but back came the following (please click on it for a bigger view):

..I have kept that letter, framed, ever since - yeah, I know, bit sad, but as a 12 year old with a huge interest in wargaming, this was a little like getting a signed letter from a super star. It only occurred to me in later years what level of dedication to the hobby it showed on his part... my letter would have been badly written, may even have been poorly typed on my mum's old typewriter, it would quite clearly have been from a youngster, and still he replied.... and the Wargamer's Newsletter he sent was much appreciated, and still in my possession - though I've bought a few more since!

..a genuinely nice guy who I finally got to meet last year at the Colours show.

So, Happy Birthday, Mr Featherstone - and thanks for igniting an abiding interest that has remained with me for 36 years now.....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Move 6 - 13:00

13:00 Day 1 (move 6)..

..and the campaign moves on - just as a reminder the campaign map is to the left (click on it and any of the other pictures in this blog for the usual bigger view)

Further consolidation by the Americans, but still the fog of war dogs our steps...

Hard pressed couriers arrive for a number of the units, but especially the garrisons of Threepwood (3/.) and Fourstones (4/.). The latter in particular is key as you may remember that that was where I'd placed my C-in-C.

The Threepwood garrison acted as I'd hoped - their standing orders were to withdraw to Carnine (9/.) in the event of an eastern advance by the British - and it's clear that this is what happening. Throwing the antique family hip bath into a cart, the garrison commander is on the road inside the hour, and by the end of this move is on the main trunk having just left the little peninsula that Carnine is situated on...

The good news is that the C-in-C also got his courier before the contradictory message came in from the Militia regiment on the eastern flank - stopping only to issue an "immediate" order to all units under his command to meet at Carnine, he too was on the road before the hour was out - slower (minor) road though... he's unlikely to get there before the next day unless some night/force marching is considered...

On the east flank however, the courier arrived at just about the same time the retreating Militia did - and the garrison commander at Fivehead (5/.) decided that the news he had been given was enough to assume an eastern advance by the British, and accordingly ordered his troops to join up with the retreating Militia and move to Sevenoaks (7/.) forthwith - go to hope those 'immediate' orders arrive soon!

At the end of the move the position is as follows...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Campaign - Move 5

12:00 Day 1 (move 5)..

..a move of consolidation - the initial disposition at the start of the move is as follows (and you can click on this, or any of the other pictures here for a bigger view):

  • no couriers have yet arrived - you may remember that the commander of the milita regiment at 2/. (now known as Two Gates House), sent messages to all friendly units in move 2. The only units American moving are those who have spotted or contacted the British...
  • One of these is the aforesaid militia regiment formerly occupying Two Gates House, who after the fearful drubbing during the skirmish (we can hardly call it a battle), join up with their cavalry (in the map above they are just south of the hamlet) and hot foot it south as per their orders.. one good thing - they both post reconnaisance reports that show the same results - handy for comparison purposes...
  • The other unit is militia regiment that was at One Tree Hill (also known as 1/. - you may spot that I've substituted numbers for actual names, but to make it easier to remember them the number features in the name!) They are also hot footing it south following their orders - the only problem being that they believe the major British advance is on the west axis so are heading for entirely the wring rendevous point - no problem - my assumption is that they are going to meet another American unit at some point in time who will advise them of the error - what's important at the moment is to conserve strength.....

..and that's the end of the move - a quick check of the deployment map shows the following:

It also shows that my couriers have started to arrive, and next move I get to start consolidating in earnest..!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Skirmish at Twogates House

71st (Frasers) Foot in their campaign uniform - Minifgs 25mm DG and I got together yesterday evening for the first, and preliminary, skirmishing in the campaign... this turned out be a fairly short event as the fog of war had truly set in, and I had absolutely no idea that those advance British units were actually as large as they turned out to be..! J

Suffice to say that when six entire infantry regiments comprising King George's finest and their German allies, accompanied by two batteries of light guns entered the table north of the hamlet of Twogates House (2/. on the map) it came as a bit of surprise to yours truly, as my sole (under strength) Militia was expecting one regiment and a battery of guns at most!

So - let's start with the battlefield (and please click on this or any of the other pictures for a larger view):

As you can see I, as the American, was deployed on the edge of the hamlet, DG entered opposite (from the north). I needed to last six moves before reinforcements would arrive, in the form of a the American cavalry that up until then had been patrolling the road between OneTree Hill (1.) and Twogate House (2/.)

I managed to make four moves before being driven off the table so I'm afraid it was a pretty short game - my fault - I hadn't been clear enough in my campaign definitions and DG had registered the brigades in Berthier as strength 1, rather than 1 per unit... he'll correct it going forward, and no great damage was done as I now have a clear indication of where the main British forces are! My, how we laughed..... J

With plenty of time to spare and an enticing table set before us however, I dragged out the soldier boxes, slapped down two French regiments, two regiments of Continental's, and two regiments of regulars, plus some artillery, and with roughly equal sides we decided to set to afresh for a standalone game...

The Americans started off on the same edge as before with the British opposite.. here you can see the French and one of the two regiments of regulars deployed west of the hamlet on the road, the Continental's were on the other flank just opposite the barn and log cabin. The Americans had one of their guns unlimbered and facing down the road towards the British, the other gun was on their far left flank limbered.

The British deployment was fairly similar - I daresay that if we'd had time to think about it, we might have tried something different. In the following you can see the British deployment - Germans in front with the British regulars behind - guns were deployed on both flanks.. the road divided the command. That picture is good enough to grace the front of any book on wargaming... troops, terrain, a tape measure and dice, does it get any better?!

There then ensued what the football (soccer) pundits in the UK are want to call "a game of two halves" - the first half was definitely with the British, the second half I managed to claw some advantage back...

The game started with a general advance by both sides - the Continental's moved to occupy the farm complex..(see next)

..while their French allies moved forward towards the wood.. (see next)

The British opened up a particularly effective barrage in this part of the game however, if has to be said the DG had great amounts of trouble even throwing low numbers, whereas I as having exactly the opposite problem, suffice to say that one of the Continental regiments routed from the field as a result of casualties and failed morale tests, while my artillery and some particularly ineffective musketry resulted in little or no casualties being inflicted on the British!

On the American left flank an all out assault (see next)

.....was beaten back with casualties - it's always the most difficult of things to pull off successfully, but in this instance poor dice, and the intervening terrain contributed to the failure and the assault was bloodily repulsed.. added to the destruction of the American artillery on this flank, this was the low watermark of the American ambitions....

Half time - and over the tea and refreshments, I considered my next step - happily, things were about to change..

Holding back on the left, I decided to concentrate my efforts on the right flank where the British - shielded by some broken ground in front of the farm complex, were putting in a big assault - dragging my gun forward by main effort, and thus clearing the field of fire, I was able to start using canister (in our rules there is a range limitation, and a field of fire limitation - none of your own troops should be in a 45' arc of the front of the gun) and the initial blasts wreaked bloody havoc.

I also moved one of the regiments of regulars into the log cabin which brought the British gun within musket range, and I eventually drove off the crew... traversing my gun, I then managed to enfilade the British regiments on the edge of the wood opposite my right flank.

It was this I think that was probably the turning point of the battle - the casualties were enough for me then to launch a successful assault on the units in the wood.. one of the regiments was shaken which was enough to put them off their aim and the American regulars crunched home, the other British regiment stopped my French in their tracks with sustained musket fire, while on the far flank, the other French regiment squared up to the highlanders...

The American regulars drove off the first regiment in rout before turning to take the next regiment in the flank - the Highlanders were destroyed to a man (they had taken a fair amount of damage from my artillery prior to this) - when the British commander decided that discretion was the better part of valour the two French regiments were lining up on the same remaining British unit on the wood edge..

The following is the final picture from the game and is taken from the American left.. in front of the wood the French regiments are lining up for their "go", just the other side of them, and the wood, you can see the American regulars... in the far distance the other American regulars are in the process of quitting the farm complex so as to finish off that flank.

Post Match Analysis:

  • ..all in all then an excellent game, and despite the fact that DG conceded when we totalled up the "bill" there was only a point difference in it - truth if any were needed that assaults really are "bloody" - mine in the first half had almost equalled his in the second..
  • Truly dreadful dice throwing by yours truly in the first half (I think I'm still paying back for the game DG and I had a couple of months ago!) but managed to get it back in the second half... we had some discussion afterwards as to how to launch an assault more effectively - the secret is probably to get at least two units to one so that the one can't drive both off with musketry, but it's not easy to get the numbers given the largely linear nature of warfare at this time. All in all - totally realistic then..
  • Browsing Will McNally's AWI blog (click here) earlier in the week I noticed that Will had been playing around with the idea of command and control - reducing the god-like status of your table top brigadiers and generals... you can see the thoughts here ( and we decided that we'd have a go with this game. We did change one aspect, which was to drop the idea of the supplementary test - basically we said that the commander could attempt to order all his units, if one failed, then he just carried on rather than stopping.... general consensus was that for us the additional die rolls didn't really add anything, and only slowed the game down (and the speed of the game is one of the things we really like about it).. we may not have been applying it correctly though, so I may drop an email to Will for some more of his thoughts... it may just be of course that neither DG or I are keen on rules that limit the actions of your table top men, based on the characteristic of a table top general, when it's us who are actually in charge... J we like a straight fight, and dice throws limiting movement & action are just a luck element...but hey, that's just us!
  • All figures for this game were Minifigs 25mm's, terrain by TSS, buildings by Hovels, tree's by K&M. Snake rail fences were home-made (using the extra long matches you can buy). The normal fences, are Airfix, and I reckon that they are probably in the region of 30+ years old - bought them with my pocket money when I was in Oz (forces family so we lived in Sydney for a couple of years) supplemented by returning coke bottles for the deposit..J
  • For those for whom I know it's important - the tea on this occasion was Twining's Everyday a lovely brew. More solid refreshments were provided by a plate of the emperor amongst dunking (and check this link out to know why we dunk!)biscuits, the digestive, and also a couple of generous slices of Wild Blueberry and Apple cake... we lived like kings!

Stay tuned for more campaign moves...

Last of all - many thanks to everyone - I've just gone through 10,000 visits, which I think is amazing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Campaign Move 4..

11:00 Day 1 (move 4)..

..things are not getting any easier for the Americans but the very difficulty of the position makes the final decisions easy - within the confines of the orders I've given my units I only have a limited number of options. This is what it looks like as the start of the move (click on any of the pictures for a bigger view): 2/. DG has advanced to contact and offers battle against my sore pressed Militia - their commander decides that two retreats is enough, and in a shades of Bastogne kind of mood responds "nuts" to the British demands. They are joined by the American cavalry who sidestep the British unit on the road and join their Militia colleagues in 2/. The cavalry bring in a recon report:

..on the other side of the peninsula, in danger of being surrounded, the commander acts on his orders and withdraws..

..the position at the end of the move then is as follows - I've worked the recon reports to show me who's where..

So it looks like that Sudan game on Saturday is postponed for the time being... J

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Campaign - Move 3

10:00 Day 1 (move 3)..

..that ominous blue square that I spotted north of 2/ you may remember had metamorphosised into a whole clutch of sightings, but having broken off from the contact with the cavalry, I now find that I've been contacted again - by the same unit...

..I have a couple of options - stand and fight - which isn't really going to do a lot of good against what looks like the whole of the British army, or break off again and attempt to follow the units orders... I go for the latter, so take another point of damage..

..the deployment map is now swarming with "nasty's" (incoming hostiles!) almost certainly a major British advance on this axis

..I also have a recon report that gives me a little more detail on how many (to be taken with a small pinch of salt)...

..the cavalry (who are on the road between 1/. and 2/.), I now decide to put on a hold order for the time being - the British can come to me.

What concerns me most now is the other ominous blue square on the west road - looks like DG has decided not to put all his eggs in one basket - I've ordered the American unit their to hold while I wait for the British to advance so I can recognise who they are. If they don't then I'll start withdrawing next turn...

...with none of my couriers having yet arrived at the other American units, that's it for this turn.

DG is coming down to my neck of the woods for a game this weekend, so I suspect that on the campaign front, that will now be it until next week. In the meanwhile though, I have the aforesaid game to prepare for, and in light of all the discussion on the Old School Wargaming group, and Alte Fritze's Blog (links to both from the left) I've decided it's going to be a Sudan game... more on that anon!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

...I think I need some landsknechts... way of a slight break from the campaign (and normal service will be resumed soon), I just happened to spot this amongst all the usual drivel in the Sunday colour supplements today, and was seized by an almost insatiable desire to paint large regimental blocks of landschneckt pikemen - all slashed doublets and finery, some of them carrying the huge two handed swords (the famous "zweihander") or halberds... can't think why! J

...magnificent picture, isn't it..? This is a detail from the "Martyrdom of St. Catherine" painted by a guy called Lucas Cranach the Elder, who was a German painter (of course) who lived from 1472 to 1553 - bang in the middle of the period when the landsknechts were in their prime... I can't help thinking that Cranach must have seen a few of these famous soldiers, and who knows he may have even got one to pose for him for this picture..

...being a wargamer of course, apart from the immediate urge to rush off an buy little metal men to represent these furious fighters on the table top, I also had to find out a little but more about them.

The first landsknecht regiments were formed by Maximilian I, known by many as the father of the Landsknechts, to uphold his claim to the Burgundian Legacy of the Netherlands. They typically came from Swabia, Alsace, Flanders, and the Rhineland, but ultimately the regiments were made up of men from all parts of Europe. They were modelled on the halbadiers and pikeman of the Swiss Confederation. Their regiments often numbered from 4,000 to 10,000 men according to circumstances, and sometimes even larger - the 'Black Band' (brilliant name!) raised by the French in 1515, were 17,000 strong !

The landsknechts fought in almost every 16th century military campaign, and sometimes on both sides of the engagement! They contributed to the defeat of the equally well known Swiss, who had become overly-dependent on hand to hand fighting, whereas the landsknechts were more open to the tactical employment of firearms. Landsknechts relied less on the precipitous rush to close combat and, as Imperial soldiers, they also often fought in formations mixed with Spaniards & French, who made widespread use of the arquebus and artillery.

Their battlefield behavior was pretty variable. At the Battle of Pavia, they performed well and were instrumental to the Emperor's victory, on many other occasions (such as in the later Italian Wars, French Wars of Religion and the Eighty Years War) their bravery and discipline came under severe criticism...

....I still feel the need for just a few pike blocks! J

Saturday, March 08, 2008

..the British and American first move..

...while I waited for the British first move, I sat down and had an enjoyable thirty minutes deploying my troops on the map (some of which was pre-decided by the scenario), deciding which unit to place my HQ with (important when orders need issuing), and deciding orders for all my remote units (ie. those not under direct command of the C-in-C).

For me this is one of the joys of campaigning, the decisions you're making are not the usual table-top one's - probably much closer to the decisions that the real military we are simulating (badly) would have to make... for right or wrong though, my basic set up is as follows...

  • In essence the American response is based round the premise that if the British advance via the eastern route they will withdraw so as to consolidate & give battle at 9.; if the advance is via the western route they will consolidate at 7...
  • As a result of the scenario requirements my numerically inferior forces (may as well start making excuses now...!) are scattered throughout the peninsula - all villages and towns are occupied by varying numbers of troops. In addition one cavalry regiment is deployed to patrol the road between 1. and 2. - I decided where it was by counting the road squares between the two locations and generating a random number in that range... by the time I finished, the Berthier deployment map for the Americans looked as follows ie. the red squares mark where the Americans are deployed (please click on any of the following for a better/bigger view)

  • Most perplexing of all was the decision as to where to place my C-in-C, I must have changed my mind at least half a dozen times, but basically you have three choices -

    • gamble on either a west or east advance and place the commander in 1. or 2. respectively - but putting the commander in either of the two frontier towns and then having the British arrive on the other flank didn't bear thinking about - it just didn't make sense.
    • adopt the WWI approach and keep the commander well to the rear in 8/. where he's able to marshal his forces in a more relaxed and orderly manner. This is also the peninsula's major town so it has the biggest garrison, another plus point... my concern though is that you are a long way away from where the major action is going to be when located here... and that could add delays..
    • the middle ground - and that's what I went for - I placed my HQ in 4/. where I'm near enough the front line troops to be able to influence their actions fairly quickly, and also central enough to be able to react to an advance on either flank. I'm also able to bring up my re-enforcements "fairly" quickly.. 'no brainer' as they say, lets hope it doesn't turn out to be a description of my performance!
...when the British move arrived - and I didn't have to wait long (DG is obviously keen!) - I was ready to go.. so without further ado..

09:00 Day 1..

When I fire it, the first thing I go to is the Red deployment overview map as that shows me where all my units are, and also any sightings that I may have - this is it:'ll notice that there is an ominous blue square just to the north of town 2/. It looks like the British have opted for an advance with at least some of their units on the east of the two roads - no idea who or how many though, so I need to find out what or who they are...

This move is a pretty easy one for the Americans - I only have two units that can move. I give the cavalry on the road between 1/. and 2/. orders to move towards 2/. and set them off on their way, I then order the American unit in 2/. to move towards the sighting - I need to find out who and what they are...

When I arrive at the square I find the following:
...British cavalry. My advance has brought a number of units within recon range and they are now known to me.

I send messages to all other American units advising of the British advance on the east axis, I then advise DG that it's my intention to break off from the engagement. In our campaign rules, where this happens and one side wishes to force battle, then the side breaking off takes 10% casualties and withdraws straight back (it's a fighting retreat) - we'll see what DG wants to do... if he doesn't wish to force battle, then we can both withdraw without taking casualties.. but I know what I'd do if I were him!

My plan is now to withdraw on 2/. then my orders are to withdraw to 9/. as above... it promises to be a long retreat!

Position at end of American move.. things are hotting up..

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Campaign set up - part 2... where I left off, we'd got the map, loaded it into Berthier, set the terrain, and decided the movement rates for each troop type in that terrain. It suddenly struck me as I was cycling home last night though, that I'd not actually told you what the background to the campaign was!

Suffice to say that the peninsula depicted in the map is held by the Americans (myself), and is about to be invaded by the British (commanded by DG in the guise of that legend amongst - fictional - British generals of the American War of Independence, General the Honourable Harcourt Wade-Smith) who have a clear mission of one, occupying all major terrain features and two, destroying or dispersing all American opposition. with that, the next is to start adding some of that "fog of war" I mentioned.

  1. In the "Campaign Options" menu, Berthier allows you to define how accurate your reconnaissance reports are going to be, so that's my first opportunity to inject some uncertainty into the proceedings (and this affects both sides, so I'm not sure what I'm gloating about!) For this campaign I've set the value as 20% which means that the reports can be anything between 80 & 120% correct... by the by, you can also define what kind of reports you want - just numbers of troops, numbers and troop types, full report (with unit names) etc. As I was using option for percentage correct reports I went with just numbers...

    The second opportunity for uncertainty lies in the option entitled "Terrain Modifies Recon. Range". Berthier works out sightings based on a distance in squares from a unit (more on this in the next step), by ticking this option, the number of squares it takes into account is modified by whatever the terrain features are in the squares around the unit, so, if a unit is in the middle of a wood, or up a hill, or the wrong side of an impassible river, your recon range is considerably less (an in the case of seeing a unit just across that river, nil)... needless to say I have elected to include this option.

    ..and that's basically it on this screen - there are a couple of other options that you can also set but for this campaign neither was required. Supply is "off" (the likely length of the campaign is going to be such that supply will not be an issue), and I ignored the options for combat casualties (Berthier will fight your battles for you if you want, it just gives a result with casualties per side) as in this campaign we'll be playing all the battles on the tabletop and tracking rosters on paper.

  2. All that remains to be done now is add in the combat units for each side - Berthier can handle 18 "units" a side. The units can be anything you want - squads, platoons, battalions, regiments, brigades, corps, divisions, or even armies... in this game, certainly for the Americans I defined my units at the regimental level though it's fair to say that they'll be grouped into brigades by the end of the campaign.... hopefully... J

    At the same time you enter the unit you also define it's reconnaissance range, level of supply, and strength. The latter two I didn't bother with, as above supply is off, and as we're playing all battles on the table unit strength is not required. The recon range I set to be equivalent to movement range though - in essence then, a unit has the ability to "see" things within a single move of itself... the thinking here is that units on the march would always have some of their members off on the flank, or out front - this represents those individuals. It also gives cavalry an inherent ability to see further than other units (because their move is further), and therefore encourages their use in their traditional role... if I'd wanted more fog of war, then the shorter the recon range the more likely you are to blunder around trying to find the other guy!

    For this campaign the numbers of units are defined in the scenario, along with some specific rules on deployment for the Americans.. as mentioned before I'm not going to go into huge detail on what these are (you need to buy that book!), but in summary, the Americans are fewer in numbers and have specific requirements on deployment - DG is not aware of what these are, but he's been given a rough estimate of what numbers to expect (I've also told him he's not allowed to read the blog!)

...for anyone who fancys having their own attempt at this campaign - then I have saved a "blank" version of my Berthier Campaign file here (just click) This contains the whole of the campaign with the exception of the OOB's for the Blue and Red forces - but that's OK, because I'm guessing you would want to use your own forces anyway... all you then need is a copy of Berthier, which you can get from the links to the left (under resources). Berthier by the way is a DOS program, so it will run under Windows, and with a DOS emulator program I'm guessing it will also run under Linux (Jeff..J)

...and with that - the campaign is set, and I now await the British first move! I'll post further as the campaign progresses...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's Spring, and a young mans fancy...

...turns to campaigning (well what did you think I was going to say??!) J

It must be the weather, but as I cycled into work the other day I was thinking that it had been far too long since I had last run a campaign (there goes that rush of oxygen again...). One off games are great fun, but campaigns are a great way of introducing the bigger picture, and they also have a habit of throwing up those lop sided games that provide such a mental challenge....

Last year I started the campaign in Charles Grant's "Programmed Wargames Scenario's" book ( highly recommended b.t.w, whether your a solo gamer or not - click on the link for details..), but somehow lost my way and never got round to finishing it. Rather than waste this effort then, I decided to pick it up where I left it, but when I looked at the campaign diary, and my assorted notes, I was struck with the idea that, really, I'd prefer to start it again, and rather than do it solo, I'd challenge DG.

Suffice to say, that after an interesting weekend tidying up the logistics, maps, rules etc. I banged off an email to him with the challenge. Now I don't know if it was DG being nice, but it happens that in his response he happened to mention that he'd just been thinking about a campaign that morning! Great minds....

Anyway, by way of an incentive, I thought I'd document the campaign here as a way of tempting you to start your own campaigns, and who knows, perhaps giving some idea's that people haven't thought of before??

So where did I start...??

  1. Step one is the map; with me it's always the map, as without an interesting map I can't summon the enthusiasm to launch my miniature forces across it. In this case I used the map from the book (hereafter referred to as the 'master map'), which I simply scanned into the PC and coloured (no reason to do this, but the original is just black and white, and I think it looks better now)....

    The map is shown above and to the left (clicking on it, or any of the other pictures, gives you a bigger image by the way), and as you can see it was already gridded, ten rows by eight.

    In the book Charles gives the size of these squares as being five "table" feet across, and if you were to solely use the map "as is" (ie. putting it on a pin board and using pins to mark units and movement)then a quick calculation from your favourite rules would allow you to figure out how far your miniature forces can march on a hourly/daily basis...

  2. Next, I usually then work up the reason for the campaign, troop numbers, period, etc but in this case most of this was provided and I only needed to decide on "period".

    In this case, because of the numbers of troops required, it's going to be set in the American War of Independence; I wanted to make it Marlburian, but don't quite have the numbers required yet.

    NB. The book has a huge amount of detail, that allows you to play the campaign solo, with programmed responses depending on situation - I have no intent of duplicating that here, and in fact will give as little information from the setup as I can get away with by way of an incentive to go out and buy the book... J

  3. As I'm playing against DG (who lives in deepest darkest Wales) then email is going to play a part, so I knew I would be using Berthier to manage the campaign.

    There are a number of other applications you could use, but Berthier for me has some distinct advantages - most importantly all movement is hidden until sightings are made, it has scouting rules, the ability to use couriers, ability to use email to send move files, etc etc. Some of these I'll cover later..

    I loaded the master map image into a little application that comes with Berthier (which you can get by clicking here) called GridMap. GridMap allows you to open any map graphic (bitmap format), superimpose a grid of any size you want, and then define each of the squares in the grid with a terrain type. What it means in this instance was that I didn't have to stick with the bigger grid, but could go to a much smaller one to allow greater control of movement/time... this resulted in a Berthier map that looked like the following:

    Once you finished that, GridMap then allows you to save the file as Berthier Campaign file.

  4. Now it starts to get (even more) interesting - opening up Berthier, and loading the campaign you just created, you can then edit your campaign to set up the final pieces of information that Berthier needs; there is also the option to add in some fog of war... (NB. Berthier comes with a very handy instruction manual which shows you step by step how to do the following, and what each of the variables does.... far more informative than my updates following!)

    First, I set up the movement as I'd already done a little of this above, so it was a quick and easy... a quick calculation gave me the ratio of Berthier squares to master map squares, which then allowed me to work out how far my miniature forces could march across the Berthier map in any period of time. Once I had that I then took the basic move, and modified it for the terrain types that I had present on the map. Again, this is fairly straight forward, and basically I just used the modifiers from the wargames rules (click here) I use, which happily are expressed as a percentage. You can then enter these in the "terrain effects" table, see mine following - these are hourly rates:

    You'll also note that supply is "off" (more on that in a minute) and that I defined five troop types (Line Infantry/Light Infantry/Cavalry and two types of Artillery); you can define up to eight but these were the only types that are present in my campaign so that was all I set up.

    Finally - at the bottom of the screen you can see I've set a courier rate for messages. DG and I use an honour system - only those units in the exact same geographical location as the C-in-C can act as desired - all other units have pre-defined orders, so couriers are required if you want to change them. Berthier handles all that for you, you send the message, and at the proscribed point in time that it decides the courier has reached you, you get the message - very neat!

Stay with me - in the next post I'll be going into a little more detail on "fog of war" etc. and finishing off the campaign set-up

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Rabble in Arms...

..for Christmas I got a pile of books, one of which was "Rabble in Arms" by Kenneth Roberts.

I'm always on the lookout for good readable fiction to provide colour and background to the wars I re-fight on my wargame table, and I seem to remember that this one was amongst a number of books set in the American War of Independence that had been recommended..

I'm pleased to say that having just finished it, I would definitely agree with those far off recommendations.

The book is set against the Saratoga campaign and Burgoyne's invasion from Canada and is it is chock full of background. The book is told from the first person perspective by Peter Merrill a ship captain and seaman from New England and tells of the events that he experiences while serving as one of Bendict Arnolds scouts, including capture by the British, imprisonment with the Indians, and eventually escaping...

This was the first book that I have read that has gone into a lot of the background into why the fledgling American army was in such bad condition, the bickering and politicking of congress, the policy of paying militia bounties rather than focusing on the Continental/regulars, etc. Although it's a novel, Robertson is scathing on the activities of congress, and their ineptness in those early years of pursuing the war - all very informative, but more importantly quite readable.. He is also very good on the career of Arnold, his undoubted qualities, bravery, and how poorer performing men were consistently promoted above the American generals who actually won the battles (Schuyler, Arnold, Morgan and others)

On the wargaming front, there is the action on Lake Champlain (where Arnold's rapidly built fleet took on, but ultimately failed to stop the more powerful British fleet from moving south), Freeman's Farm, and Bemis Heights...

It's a big book, 600 odd pages, and it's also a very "gentle" read - Tom Clancy this is not. Once you get into the flow of it though, it's very difficult to put down. The book is the second of a trilogy, and on the basis of this book I shall be seeking out the other two!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

February totals..

...and there goes February - a short month I know, but this is turning into a short year..

...before I have a look at how the numbers changed this month though, see following for some new tanks that have just joined the armoured forces in the Western Desert - these are the first fruits of that delivery I mentioned from Minifigs.. 12mm scale.. featured are an A13 Cruiser with accompanying MkVI Vickers, being ambushed by an early Panzer IV.. not a happy situation to be in!

On the blog front - I did quite well... despite the short month I had more visitors to all of them - main blog aside though the Teasers continue to be of most interest to people - Charles should be proud..

As always "thanks!" to all my visitors, I don't think I could blog in a vacuum so the visitor numbers, and comments people leave, are kind of important.. J

The painting points are looking quite good as well - with that new armour, I painted 78 points this month which for me is exceptional, I now make my total for the year to date to be 144..