Thursday, February 28, 2019

ACW armies on Parade (and inventory)

First painted ACW units of the year! First painted of any kind of unit for the year actually.

Paint like the Rock Star You Are

I've never been a great painter, but I usually make up for it by getting things painted up somewhat quickly.  But not this time; these guys seemed to take forever!  but I've been distracted with life.  We all know how it is.  : ) 

Actually it probably just seems longer because these CSA bases were on the paint desk last year but I got distracted by the big LOTR Ruin project that I just finished last month, so these guys had to wait their turn.

I'm definitely a paint to play type person; whereas I don't particularly enjoy painting for it's own sake.  I'm more motivated to paint because I like playing with painted miniatures.  I also enjoy the other aspects of painting: some quiet down time, an artistic outlet, creativity, and of course that sense of accomplishment when something is finished.  It's a RUSH like any action movie.  I could be an action hero, I would do all my own stunts, especially when those stunts mostly involve sitting quietly and doing small brush strokes. 

CSA Army on Parade

So basically I finished these 18 bases of CSA infantry.  8 bases of infantry in firing line and 10 bases in the 'advancing' pose.

-Side Discussion: ACW Poses.
All my ACW figures are Blue Moon 18mm, and they are available in lots of different poses: marching, firing, advancing, charging, with light equipment or backpacks....In my early days of ACW collecting I would buy a variety of poses and my union army reflects this; there are bases with the figures marching and bases with the figures in firing line and etc.. However, I have found that some poses rank up better than others and it's basically a lot of effort to hunt out bases that match.  Bases of guys marching just look weird in my eyes when in a unit with bases with figures in firing line.  It's not make or break of course, it just adds time to setting up while I hunt out the 10 bases of marching figures so that they can all be in the same unit together.  I like it when all the bases in a unit are all doing the same thing (more or less).  So I started to only buy figures in 2 poses: firing line and advancing.  This was a brilliant move on my part (if I do say so myself).  For one, sorting through two poses versus 4 is much easier.  For two, bases tend to rank up much easier.  And for three, when I have to mix and match the two poses if I put the firing line bases in the front rank and the advancing bases in the rear rank it looks just fine to me.  It also makes painting easier since they're all in the same pose.


After I finished these 18 bases it occurred to me that I wasn't exactly sure how many CSA bases I had in total.  This number being kinda important when figuring out if I have enough figures to do a published historical scenario or not; or just to know how big to make the forces in my own fictional scenarios.

Now I could of just counted them from inside the storage tubs, but that is NOT the wargamer way.  No! Wargamers stage parades like the military dictators that we wish we were...

I started grouping the bases into regiments of 10...

CSA total (presented in the style of Regimental Fire and Fury)

152 infantry bases*
20 infantry command bases*
7 Brigadier Generals*
2 Divisional / Corps command bases
12 cannons
7 limbers
6 Brave Colonels.

*If you take those 3 numbers you basically get the size force can you field: In this case I can field up to 7 Brigades with up to 20 regiments with up to a total of 172 bases.  In RFF each base is 40 men so that's 6880 men.

Not bad!  Some followers with great memories for trivial details might recall that my goal of last year was to have at least 150 infantry bases, so I'm only 2 months late.  If I were my own Kickstarter I wouldn;t even blink an eye.  Goal Accomplished!

USA Army on Parade

Now while I told the wife that I would be upstairs in about 20 minutes after I finished counting the CSA, it just seemed utterly ridiculous to tally up the CSA and not the USA.  So I pretended to lose track of time and the USA got it's own parade.

USA total

139 Infantry bases
18 infantry command bases
6 Brigadier Generals
3 Divisional / Corps command bases
12 Cannons
9 Limbers
6 Brave Colonels

Ut-Oh, looks like the good guys are out numbered.  This would only be 6280 men.  

Scale of 1000

Everyone has their own scale preferences and biases, and sometimes strong opinions.  But as long as people are happy and having fun what do we care.  I really like 15/18mm because you can get a feeling like you are fighting a battle on a normal sized table.  How many figures do you need to fight a battle?  1000.  One thousand of anything looks huge to our eyes, I imagine we're just hard wired that way.  

Not counting the Artillery and higher commanders, I have 329 infantry stands (that's infantry and infantry command stands put together).  Each stand has 3 figures on it. So if I field all the infantry at once that will be 987 miniatures on the table.

I'm close.  
Very close.

Till next time.  Thanks for reading and commenting.  

Monday, February 18, 2019

RFF Scenario: Secure the Flank! Also bonus content on scenario design

I had a somewhat longer delay in posting than I anticipated; because you know...Life. 

One of the aspects of wargaming that I really enjoy is scenario design, which can be something of a dark art, done in secret caves, out of sight from the rest of the world.  Which is a shame. 
So to shine some light on the subject, and hopefully provide an interesting and amusing blog post in the process, I present to you my dear reader, this scenario along with my thoughts about scenario creation.

Read on below if you's a lot of words.  I fell asleep twice while writing it. 

Part One: Secure the Flank!  A Regimental Fire and Fury Scenario   

Recently I hosted a game of Regimental Fire and Fury for some ACW fun.  While playing a published historical scenario is always fun, I want to do something a little different and flex some creative muscles (so manly!) so I came up with a scenario and tried it out on the unsuspecting victims I mean players. 

What I told the Players (some lies)

The situation: In the year of 18 hundred and sixty mumble mumble something something (around the time of Gettysburg).  The advance portions of the respective armies have stumbled into each other sometime earlier this morning.  The forces under the players control are being rushed forward to the flank of the fighting in order to secure it, and if possible, to take it in order to have an advantage later.  What results is a meeting engagement as both the Union and the CSA march onto the board looking to achieve their goals.  So kinda like the first day of Gettysburg.

Each side was broken up into 3 player commands, with one player also serving as the leader with overall command (the Union Corps or CSA Divisional leader).  I told them that the sides were NOT equal and that commands were assigned by how much I liked the person playing.  Which was a bold faced lie because I let them pick. 

-side note: ACW army structures:
Especially by the mid point of the ACW and on the Eastern theater, a Union Corps was roughly the same size as a CSA division in terms of actual men.  There are several reasons for this.  One was because the Union had a larger population of officers to pull from, so had more officers of appropriate rank that had to be given appropriate commands while the CSA started to struggle to have enough officers to fill basic requirements.  Another reason is that the Union tended to fight it's units to death and not give them replacements; choosing instead to disband a unit when it became so small and ineffectual and just raising other units whole; this resulted in several Union brigades being very small as loses were chipped away and several units being green even late in the war.  The CSA on the other hand tended to feed in replacements to it's regiments so they kept their numbers up better.   The result: a Union made up of 2 divisions would have 6-8 brigades and a CSA division would have around 3-5 brigades but the around the same numbers of actual fighting men.
Fascinating right?!!

Players were allowed to see the table (not like I could hide it), and told that after they picked their commands they needed to decide the marching orders of where the forces would enter the table.  The Players could discuss this amongst themselves but The Overall commander on each side had the final word.

The Forces involved:

The Union have a Corps with 2 divisions, each division with 2 brigades (a total of 4 brigades) making a total force of 15 regiments  and 4 batteries of artillery.

The CSA have a division with 3 Brigades, with a total of 13 regiments and 3 batteries of artillery.

To generate the forces I used some random tables that you can find in Brigade Fire and  Fury (2ed) and also some old random tables that you can download from the Fire and Fury support page that you can see HERE.
Using that as a skeleton, I then tweeked the army lists to reflect my own biases and preconceived notions.  Basically I wanted the Union to have more of everything but with variable quality: troops mostly average with some green units, a few vet, and fewer elite regiments.  The CSA conversely have less of everything but mostly vet, some elite regiments, and a few average. 
In other words:  I wanted the Union to have a slight advantage in numbers and munitions and the CSA a slight advantage in experience and morale.  It's the classic ACW set up.
And I kinda lied again, because while I told the players the sides were not equal in actuality I strove to make the sides relatively equal in the scenario. 

Isn't wargaming a weird hobby?  Where you invite friends over and then lie to them? 

OOBs for the RFF People (whomever they are)

For anyone who cares enough or knows RFF, here are the OOBs.  Just skip this part otherwise...I usually just quickly peruse OOBs on other blog unless I am familiar with the rules or the genre.
Every regiment is armed with rifled muskets, it's just easier that way, trust me.

XI Corps Leader Able
I DIV Leader Able
I Bde/I Div Leader Able
Regiment 1: 12/9/6 trained
Regiment 2: 12/9/6 trained
Regiment 3: 8/6/4 Vet
Regiment 4: 9/6/4 Vet
Regiment 5: 8/6/4 Vet
II Bde/I Div Leader Gallant
Regiment 1: 13/10/7 Trained
Regiment 2: 15/12/8 Green w/ Brave Colonel
Regiment 3: 10/6/5 Vet
Regiment 4: 12/9/6 Trained
II DIV Leader Gallant
I Bde/II Div Leader Poor
Regiment 1: 9/7/5 Vet
Regiment 2: 9/7/4 Vet
Regiment 3: 6/4/2 Crack
II Bde/II Div Leader Able
Regiment 1: 10/7/4 Crack
Regiment 2: 10/8/5 Vet
Regiment 3: 6/4/2 vet

Batteries to be assigned to players at either Divisional or Brigade levels
Vet LR x2 bases
Vet LR x3 bases
Trained LR x 3 bases
Vet LR x3 - off table battery (see set up)

I DIV Leader Able
I Bde/I Div Leader Gallant
Regiment 1: 11/9/6 Vet w/ brave Colonel
Regiment 2: 11/9/6 Vet
Regiment 3: 12/9/6 Trained
Regiment 4: 9/7/5 Vet
Regiment 5: 8/6/4 Vet
II Bde/I Div Leader Able
Regiment 1: 9/6/4 Crack with Brave Colonel
Regiment 2: 9/7/5 Crack
Regiment 3: 9/6/4 Vet
Regiment 4: 10/8/5 Trained
III Bde/I Div Leader Gallant
Regiment 1: 8/6/4 Crack
Regiment 2: 8/5/3 Vet
Regiment 3: 9/7/5 Vet
Regiment 4: 11/9/6 Vet

Batteries to be assigned at either divisional or brigade levels:
Vet HS x 2 bases
Vet LS x3 bases
Vet LR x 2 bases - off table battery

Set Up (and more lies):

This is how I set up the table.  If you try this scenario sometime you of course have to use whatever terrain you have available.  I like to tell myself that my ACW terrain collection has gotten robust enough over the years to be able to do a lot.  Things that I wanted to be sure to include was some sort of LOS blocking terrain on the eastern edge (I'll explain more why later on) and a large hill on the western side as nothing says 'anchor your flank here' like a large hill.  there is also a hill on the north and south edges for batteries to perch on and fire from off the table.  in game terms the hills are actually 12" more to the rear (so players just add 12" to the range). 

Sometimes it's fun to have your tables look like real places.  One resource I used to create this table are the books of maps by Brad Butkovich.  He has some books that are just maps of famous battlefields and the surrounding areas.  It's just fun to look and imagine how different a battle could of been if the fighting had happened a mile in another direction.  

OR just throw down the terrain in any pattern that looks cool to you. 

As the map shows, across the Northern and Southern edges there are 3 entrance points that basically converge on the center and corner of the tables.  At each point there was a card that dictated on what turn a force that was using that road could march onto the table and any other special conditions.  I told the players that each army is basically coming from the east, so they could expect that forces sent to the road entrances on the eastern edges would arrive faster than the middle, and with the western entrances the last to arrive.  This was to represent troops that had to march farther behind the scenes to arrive on the flank.  I also told them that the road conditions were unknown, so none of what I just said was necessarily true (but it was, I just like messing with people's minds).   Armies had to be sent down the road by Brigades (as in a brigade could not send 2 regiments down one road and 2 regiments down another) and that a brigade would normally enter on 3 regiments at a time. 

-- that last bit was just something I added to force players with large brigades to deploy with some reserves as a normal ACW commander would do.  If one had 5 regiments the standard deployment would be 3-4 upfront with 1-2 in reserve...So this forces players with large brigades to act a little more historically...

Players were told that the whole army could go down one road if it wanted to (though no one chose that, which is too bad because I thought that would of been pretty cool and daring).  Players were told that since no one likes to wait 6 turns for their troops to arrive and start playing that the turn delay was not a high number. 
Players were told to figure out their commands; who had which brigades and which batteries, and then write down which roads which brigades would take.  Players were not told that there would be a roll off for which side got to go first, and that the side handed in their orders first got a +2 modifier on the d10.

Man this post is starting to feel like it goes on forever, and it's been awhile since we had a picture to break up the walls of text...

After all that, Players were allowed to see what was on the deployment card.  Then a player had one of the best ideas, that the info on the cards could NOT be shared because one general would not know exactly when another would arrive.  GOOD IDEA!  said I, let's roll with that. 

but in the spirit of full disclosure: here is what the cards said...
starting with the CSA:

Eastern Corner road: Deploy 1 entire brigade before turn 1 within 12" of the corner.  Each Subsequent Brigade enters on turn One, 3 regiments at a time.

Middle road: Enter on turn One, 3 regiments at a time.

Western Corner road: Enter on turn two, 3 regiments at a time.

The USA cards read:

Eastern corner road: Deploy 1 entire brigade before turn 1 within 12" of the corner.  Each subsequent Brigade enters on turn One, 3 regiments at a time.

Middle road: Enter on turn Two, 3 regiments at a time.

Western corner road: Good road!  Enter on turn Three, 1 entire Brigade at the double quick (extra movement)

A summary of deployment schedules can be seen here

Obvious afterward but the players didn't know going in, the deployments are not mirror images but favor the CSA getting on the board first.  I did this for 2 reasons; 1) I wanted the outnumbered CSA to have chance to set up before being slammed into by more numerous Union.  As it was possible that depending on the marching orders a lone CSA brigade could be faced off against an entire USA division. and 2) It's just MORE INTERESTING to have an imbalance.

That's basically the scenario. 
Inevitably there are small tweeks I would make for next time, but I'll save those for another time because that was a lot already.  And I still have more to say about scenario design in general.

Part Two of the Post: More to Say About Scenario Design in General

As I said awhile ago, I like making scenarios.  SO Perhaps on a more interesting topic here are some of my half baked ideas on scenario design for tabletop wargames. I'm not saying I'm an expert, have you seen my published book of wargaming scenarios that everyone on TMP raves about as masterful?  No you haven't because it doesn't exist. 

Know What You Want

I think the first step of any scenario design is to know what kind of battle you want to play, besides a fun one for all the players with lots of carnage and drama.  Here I will make a sweeping statement.  There are really only two types of battles that we play on our table tops: Attacker versus a Defender and Meeting Engagements.  That's it; everything is just variation on those two.  Live with it.  I see some of you are nodding your heads in agreement. 
Neither is better or worse than the other, but each has specific requirements in order for it to work.  So when you design a scenario, you need to know which one you are doing.  Scenarios have trouble working well / being fun when it doesn't meet the requirements or tries to do both. 

Meeting engagements require the sides to be relatively equal (in some way).  In the scenario above I balanced the forces in the usual way of using Quality of troops versus Numbers.  I also gave the CSA a small boost by getting to the table first (however it was possible that the Union would still win the initiative and have the first turn).    Meeting Engagements also require that both sides have objectives to conquer the tabletop.  It's not enough to only have objectives like to destroy the enemy; because players then tend to only advance so far and take pot shots at each other.  Ever play in a game where both sides just kinda advanced 20" and then stopped?  But when you make the ownership of the battlefield the objective, you encourage players to actually attack and defend the ground.  In the above scenario the objective was clearly stated that the winner is the side that holds more tablespace at the end of the game; this resulted in both sides preparing attacks and defenses all across the table and made the game more interesting.  This usually means you also need to have some interesting terrain, but more on that later.

Attacker versus Defender (from now on call Attacking scenarios) require that the sides be UNEQUAL, with the advantage to the attacker.  I'm NOT talking about the traditional wisdom that states the attackers advantage is then countered by the defenders position / barricades or some such so that overall the sides are balanced.  NO! I'm telling you that the attacker needs an advantage over the defender even after you take the defensive position into account.  Why? several reasons:
Defense is always easier than attacking, and most rule sets will convey more bonuses to the defender than you realize.  Defense requires less decision making.
The attacker needs some leeway to mess up or bad luck.  If the sides are basically even, then if the first die rolls go against the attacker then the whole game will stall as the attacker won't have enough umphf to push through.  An Attacking force needs to be able to take more casualties than the defender and still have a chance of success.  Conversely, for the game to be interesting for the defender they need to feel like they are barely holding on.

The trick is to not seek a balance, but just enough advantage for the attacking force to take the objective but not steamroll the defender.  I guess that is balance in another way..

Points? We don't need no stinking Points!

Point systems are great for pick up games and tournaments and that's about it.  Otherwise I think points are kinda misleading as a tool for scenario design basically because all point system are flawed and really only produce 'balance' in a very restricted range of games; mainly pickup type games with minimal terrain.  What you really need in order to effectively gage the strengths of two combatants is experience with the game rules.  This takes time to get, but you have to start somewhere so go ahead and ignore points and just play around.  It's all subjective anyway.  A good scenario for a game system results because you have to appreciate how all the elements of maneuver, terrain, and combat all come together. 

Give 'em Something to Fight Over - Terrain

Maybe not so much for ancients and medieval games, where armies tended to fight on empty plains, but for anything else I think terrain is key to produce an interesting scenario.  In Meeting engagements it usually helps to have some things on the middle axis of the table to draw the players into combat like a magnet.  A fence line, a hill, a forest, something.  you don't have to necessarily state "fight over this hill" but you can rest assured that if you place a hill on the table in reach of both sides, they will fight over it.  Which is fun, as you sit back and twist your mustache because you knew that would happen.  Terrain also helps in deployment.  In the scenario above, I wanted some LOS blocking terrain on the eastern side, so that the two forces could deploy onto the table independent of each other.  In Attacking scenarios there needs to be something worth attacking and defending.  It's very common in the ACW that battle lines formed along natural linear terrain like a ridge, the edge of some woods, a line of fence.  I guess the main point I'm trying to make is that terrain will shape the way that a scenario is played, and that's a good thing. 

I think this Post is going on forever.

I know right?!  I feel like that too. 
I hope that was interesting reading for someone.  If you ever try the scenario out, please let me know.

I think now I'll spend some time painting miniatures versus typing out blog posts. 

Till next time.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A gaming weekend? Speak more you say...

A light-hearted post about a good weekend.

A Happy Time

Earlier in the month I had a fortunate (and rare) occurrence when the moons and stars align and I had what is known as a "free weekend."  I know!  You don't even know what I'm talking about because it's Virtually unheard of among my circles of married men with little kids.  The details of why are unimportant (not bad in anyway, just too boring to explain); but the wife and kids left on a Thursday night, nay to return till Sunday eve.   Unfortunately it was not the same weekend when there was a local Wargame Convention called the Gauntlet that featured only historical games.  but what can you do?

side note: Historical only?
I don't know why a convention has to be historical games only (as in no sci-fy).  That seems like it would just limit the population.  I'm primarily a historical gamer, but it never bothered me that while I'm at one table making machine guns sounds (ratta-tat-tat-tat) the table next to me is making lazer noises (pew-pew).

Of course my first thought was a weekend of loud women and fast music.  (Wait, other way around? I think I'm right).

all my parties look like this.....

but naturally I settled for my second (and less dangerous) choice; a wargaming weekend to start the new year off right!

I envisioned a weekend where I would play games Friday night after work, all day Saturday with a small group and most of Sunday with a small group.  It's not quite what happened, but to complain would be ungrateful.  The reality is that my wargame buddies have their own lives to live and aren't sitting by the phone/computer just waiting for an email from me.  Also, organizing wargamers is always an exercise in futility, because it's like herding cats!  

So Friday night I went and spent time with my father in his new old folks home until he chased me out of there with this surliness, and then began the weekend proper.

Saturday: A day of Post Captain, Life at Sea

On Saturday My friend PC came up from the bay area and after the usual chit chat and catching up, got down to some Age of Sail with the rules Post Captain. I'm an expert on the rules (except for boarding actions) and he's played before, back when his cat chewed on my ships.  

The game began with Mr. PC taking 2 British 3rd rate (74 guns) ships closing in on my 2 French ships; a 1st rate (120 guns) and a 3rd rate (80 guns).  We rolled to determine crew and captain quality.  The British got 1 ELITE ship and 1 regular, and the French 1st rate got GREEN (but I gave myself a regular captain just for pities sake) and 3rd rate regular crew. 

French in the foreground, 1st rate on the left.

A French 1st rate with a Green crew is probably very historically accurate, but does take some of the punch away from the big ship with a lot of guns when the crew shoots poorly and takes 4 TURNS TO CUT AWAY A DRAGGING MAST!!  (people familiar with the rules will feel my pain).  
But when a Green crew pulls off something unexpected it fills you with pride.  Like when they pull off a tacking maneuver that they never should of tried in the first place but needed to be done to stay in the battle.
Overall I found the rolling for crew quality a fun thing.

I also got to use my new Ocean mat that I got for Christmas / my birthday.  Looks pretty good huh?

When my third rate struck it's colors it was time for reinforcements to enter the board! 
Mr. PC got a British 1st rate (100 guns) and rolled an ELITE crew (making it a monster) and I got 2 French 74s; one with ELITE crew (hurray for the good guys)

(British ships on the left)
What did I just say about the boarding action rules....?
oh well, time to learn by doing.

Side topic: Boarding Actions with Post Captain
are slow, and bloody.  That's really it. 
Actually I still find the boarding rules in Post Captain to be a little convoluted,  but overall seem accurate.  It was good to actually use them 'in anger' and will likely play faster next time.  I didn't get a picture of the deck cards with all the fiddly markers.  It was kinda fun that my Green crew on the 1st rate beat off the ELITE crew of the British 3rd rate mainly because the Green crew has SO many more guys because it's a much bigger boat.  I am very tempted to invest in some 15mm crew figures just so I don't have to use the crew tokens again. 

I know, pics of ships without any context are lame.  but lookit how pretty!

All in all, we probably played Post Captain for about 6 hours, mainly because we had nothing else we wanted to do.  Now I really feel like a rules expert. 

Sunday: A day of ACW with Regimental Fire and Fury

The next day I managed to wrangle 5 players for an ACW game.  I got 2 veteran players of RFF with AS and CG, 2 players that have played before with PH and MW, and 1 brand new rookie but seasoned wargamer RB.  There were 6 players before Dai cancelled (because there's always a cancellation, but life happens) but that worked out bc the scenario was for 6 players, which meant I got to play! 

I wanted to do something a little different than just a straight up historical scenario.  As fun as they are, sometimes we players want to seal our own fates with our own fateful decisions (nice word play!).

The game table.  5 x 6
it can be hard to see hills in pics with my usual method of putting the hills under the game mat,
so I labeled them for you.

This scenario will be presented in depth when I write a post about it and scenario design (nice foreshadowing!), but in broad strokes;
the table is set up with 3 entry points on each side (basically 3 roads).
Each entry point has secret instructions on which turn the forces arrive.  Players can choose what formation the troops move onto the table.   
The players pick their commands from forces available, and the together assign the march orders, but the overall commander has the last say.  The Overall commanders also have some artillery batteries that need to be assigned 

early moves: my CSA brigade races for the stone wall in the center of the table

Both sides have their orders, but the winner is the side that owns most of the tabletop, as they have secured the flank for the next day of fighting.

What evolves is a large meeting engagement with some randomness provided by the player decisions. 

Some great pics except for all the gaming clutter....

I played a confederate brigade that was ordered to enter on the center of the table. 

like so.

Not too many pictures or details as I was playing and hosting. 

The hill on the right flank as seen from the left flank.
I was going for a hill with 2 elevations on it and think that it worked out well.

Finally a pic not cluttered with gaming accessories...
The pipe cleaners are markers to show the ridge line.

Game lasted around 7 hours.  All the gamers left just before the family walked in. 
Everyone said they had fun and enjoyed the game.  Of course how could you not enjoy a game of ACW in stunning 18mm?  And played in such luxurious accommodations as my front room that doubles as the kids play room?   I even picked up all the toys and rattles off the floor first.

In Closing; Get the Gaming in While You Can

So one weekend spent at home and 13 hours of gaming on the books.  2 boxes marked off on the Gaming Matrix.  A good time had by many who enjoy this singular hobby.
Who knows when such a rare opportunity will arise again.  Just to prove what a rare weekend it was, I'll tell you that I was supposed to have another such weekend at the end of January; but that was dashed away due to family events and now I'll have to watch the kiddos all by my lonesome.   I had plans / opportunities to play games at other people's houses that I had to be lame and cancel; because life happens. 

Bright side, I had some time to get some painting done after the kids wents to beds.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.