Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Away from Home

I'm on a business trip at the moment, and not one that would permit me to cary any paint or miniatures.  I did bring CS Grant's Wargames Campaigns, to see if I can do something a little more formal with respect to an NQSYW campaign.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inspiration, or, News from Wachovia

I had a quick update from the Student Prince while I was composing the St Stephen report.  While I've been writing, he's been painting, and wanted to show me the preliminary results of his labors.  I hope to have some time to work on a few figures myself this weekend, since I'm still wanting to take advantage of the inspiration provided by the convention.

The Pragmatic Defense of St Stephen (Raid on St Michel, Scenario 4)

From a gamemaster's point of view, we finished a satisfactory game 3 on Friday night, did the paperwork necessary to record casualties, and then packed things into boxes to await our attention when we were, we hoped, better rested in the morning.  With the aid of Ross's handy camera and my laptop, we consulted photos from Thursday night to reset the border town of St Stephen as closely as possible to the previous game there.  While we tried to get things exactly like they were, the key was going to be to ensure that the terrain did not accidentally shift between scenarios 4 and 5.  This was made easy for us by the HAWKs room scheduler, who ensured that we had continuous use of the table on Saturday.  Scenario 4 was also a nice one for a Saturday morning, involving few enough troops that deploying them was not a significant time issue.  This allowed us to eat a leisurely breakfast, a significant factor by that point in the convention.

View of the town from the left

As usual, we had no idea how many players would actually show up for this, so the Student Prince was invited to lay out a defensive position without looking at the scenario book to see what the enemy's expect axis of advance might be. The Adelmann regiment was deployed to the left of the town, as viewed from the SB side of the river.  The von Nordhafens deployed on the right side, with the artillery, and the Wachovian and SB hussars (1st squadrons of their notionally extended regiments) deployed to the far right.

Von Nordhafen regiment defending the town

As it turned out, we had three players show up for this scenario, so the Student Prince volunteered to take a role to make a nice even four.  He was assigned to the defenders, thinking it fairest to compel him to live with the consequences of his defensive set-up.  After a quick council of war, he and the other Pragmatic player agree that they would leave things as they were, and that the Prince would command the left side of the town.  He is shy of commanding the von Nordhafen regiment, which has the reputation of having suffered more disasters than any other unit in the S-B army, several while under the authority of the Prince...

Enemy in Sight!

Events showed the Pragmatic commander to have been foresighted.  As the game opened in the late afternoon of the game day, a regiment of Rosish dragoons was sighted approaching the town.  The Wachovians missed few opportunities to engage during the campaign, and this was no exception.  The order was given to charge, to protect the lone gun on the Pragmatic side.  It was considered likely that reducing the strength of the oncoming Rosish infantry by artillery fire was the only hope the Pragmatic troops had of holding the town, and it was therefore vital to keep the gun from being overrun immediately.  A ferocious two turn melee resulted, which ended with the Hussars being eliminated as a fighting force, but taking the dragoons out of action for long enough that the action had moved to the streets of the town by the time they rallied, and they played no further part in the battle.

Hasty redeployment

As soon as it became clear that the enemy was concentrated on the right side of the town, the defenders  quickly redeployed the Adelmann regiment.

I should note as a gamemaster that Ross and I were a little uncertain when we started this scenario just how long it should be to provide the appropriate level of challenge to the Rosish player.  After consider the table size and the difference in movement rates between The War Game and Charge!, we finally agreed on a ten turn limit.

Adelmann Regiment meets the first attack

Once the opening cavalry action was concluded, the remainder of the battle consisted of the attack of the Rosish infantry.  From the Pragmatic point of view, the Adelmann regiment was engaged in a series of desperate melees on the right flank around the approaches to the bridge, and the von Nordhafen regiment was engaged in a firefight on the left.  On the right, successive Rosish charges brought about most of the few massed infantry melees we resolved in accordance with Charge! rules all weekend, and the constricted area kept the attackers numerical superiority from weighing too heavily on the defenders in any one melee, though the defenders were worn down as the attacks went on.  

Rosish colonel exhorting his men to try one more time

On the left on the position, superior numbers and the eventual deployment of a battery of artillery made the situation very hot for the von Nordhafen regiment.  The S-B gun attempted to get off one shot too many and was overrun.
Chargers reach the gun position

However, fire from the infantry ensconced in a covered position behind the hedgerow proved to be too much for the already battered Rosish regiment, and they withdrew, unfortunately not without the gun.  As a second line was coming up behind them, the situation remained grim, and the defenders began to doubt that the sun would set on a Pragmatically-held village.

A final push by the attackers

As the sun set (or turn 10 ended, depending on your point of view), the von Nordhafen regiment was reduced below strength and compelled to retire.  Their standard was taken, and they fell back from their position in the stone house and the white house.  Troops of the Adelmann regiment were gamely rallying after the series of assaults, and they continued to hold the thatched house and the adjacent orchard, which would feature significantly in the next action...

Elevated view around turn 8

The game was judged a draw, with the Northern Alliance in control of the majority of the town, but not in control of the bridge.  Interestingly, this is the "book" situation when scenario 5 is to be played as a stand-alone situation.  As a gamemaster, I found this to be a tense and exciting scenario, with a number of incidents which could have altered the end situation considerably. (The slightly late timing of the withdrawal of the SB gun, for example...) This was a reminder that the satisfaction produced by a game is not necessarily in proportion to the number of troops involved.  This game could have been played on my 5x6 home table, so I really ought to work on a few limited scenarios to keep me interested until the next major gathering.

Recruits and Barracks

The Prince Palatine of Wachovia (aka the Student Prince) was home briefly today for a visit to his chirurgeon.  Discussing the current state of affairs within the Pragmatic Alliance inspired him to recruit a new artillery section.  We dug around the available stockpile of castings and he hastily filed and primed them so that he could take them back to school to work on as time permits:

I had time over the weekend to work on storage expansion for the NQSYW armies, so I was able to transfer the entirety of the Schoeffen-Buschhagen cavalry force into a new magnet lined box today, deep enough for all standards and swords:

The next squadron will necessitate a second box, however, or will go back into mixed storage with the foot.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On the Origins of the NQSYW

The Battle of the Tollgate

During Ross's recent visit we went digging through a selection of hardcopy photographs of games from days gone by, and I was particularly pleased to be able to put my hands on this picture, taken by Chris (GASLIGHT) Palmer during a game at his house, to try the mettle (or perhaps metal) of our new joint project.  While this is not the best lit shot of a wargames table I've seen, it is what we have.  The brown paper, hastily cut for the layout, running down the length of the table was  representing the dry river bed of the former border; the building was the tollgate that formed the casus belli.   While I am not certain of the exact date for the game, I wrote an account of it on Monday, 26th August 1996. We often played on Thursdays at the time.

A page from one of my hobby notebooks; I apologize for the hasty and less than neat printing. 
Click to enlarge.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry on the background of the NQSYW, we hadn't agreed on the name of Chris's country yet, so he got tagged in the write-up as "Saxe-Weilenz", my still future opposing force.  (I'm getting close to painting the first S-W unit, though...I'm becoming eager to see what they are going to look like...and it's only been 14 years...)

A look at Charge! shows the forces as theoretically balanced.  I had two line companies, a squadron of heavy cavalry, a gun, and a light company (plus that half company of the Adelmann regiment in yellow facings in the lower left corner of the picture), with Chris having a second gun instead of a light company.  The Brigadier estimated the value of each at 70 points.  I don't recall how we handled the morale of the half company; our early encounters generally used the company as the morale unit, so I would imagine in retrospect that this scenario should have been dominated by the guns.  I don't think it went over six turns, so it fit into a short evening.  I'd encourage anyone considering Charge! to give it a try, even with limited forces, though I'd limit artillery to a single gun for any scenario of less than 4-6 infantry companies per side.

I hope to have something on St. Michel, scenario 4 "The Pragmatic Defense of St. Stephen" tomorrow, now that the Scenario 3 report is up on Battle Game of the Month.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More on St. Michel

I took the opportunity to raid my son's archives for a few of his shots from the St. Michel games.  Here we step back from the imaginary world for a moment, and find co-gamemaster Ross refreshing his memory on some aspect of the Charge! rules (here the 1986 Athena reprint that I carry to conventions) prior to the start of Scenario 3, the Battle of St. Michel.

Scenario 3, for reasons that are not clear to me, since I thought that we started at a sensible time (6pm on Friday), was massively undersubscribed.  We press-ganged my sons, my older son's college roommate, and a spare Hawk, also of college age,  to actually play the scenario.  This was the one scenario where Ross and I dropped our mask of impartiality and commanded some of our own troops, though we chose to face each other on the quiet flank of the action, leaving the meat of the fight to the younger generation.

Ross will cover this "in role", but my player-level observation on Charge! is that a major infantry assault will not reach the target without losing a screen of some sort, and if you're not prepared for that, it would be better not to make the assault in the first place. The advancing Pragmatic infantry in the center of the table suffered severely under Alliance artillery fire, so much so that we never actually were able to assault the town.  Had we started with a major cavalry advance, the infantry might have been able to advance within musket range of the objective in a fit condition for the assault.  As it was, the Alliance delivered the bold cavalry charge at just the right moment, not us, and a regiment of Freedonian infantry crumpled under a charge by the Yellow Hussars, undoubtedly itching for revenge after their rough handling at the hands of the S-B dragoons some days previously.  It only took six or seven turns to realize that we would have to withdraw or risk having the entire army cut to pieces in the follow-on scenarios.
Here the S-B Prince's Dragoon Guards, deployed at full regimental strength for the first time for this raid,  have nothing to do but stand around looking pretty, trapped as they are behind all the infantry to their front in the center of the table.

On St. Michel

I'll let Ross tell the story as proper battle reports on his Battle Game of the Month blog; I'm lucky that he has a way with words in that respect, although it does mean that I am going to lose the propaganda war every time...

My son had the camera, so the only pictures I got were from my cell phone.  The lead shot here is the Pragmatic Army drawn up for the attack on St. Michel (scenario three), showing the rather wide variety of uniforms.  It's a good thing there are no rules for friendly fire incidents in this game, as the Pragmatics must have had quite a time with IFF issues.

The second shot is actually from the Sawyer's Farm/Sawmill Village pre-convention game, showing my sole S-B general, plus his newly completed personal standard and an aide-de-camp with a rolled order galloping off...I was glad of the opportunity to paint a few figures as the convention loomed, and have been working on preparing a few things for painting this week.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


After Ross's visit and Cold Wars, I'm inspired, and I wanted to make some use of that inspiration before it dissipates.  I wanted to work on my next pair of Egyptian chariots tonight, but with an eye to clearing my bench a bit, I also finished up one stray Schoeffen-Buschhagen dragoon (who'll need a little foliage clump when basing to hide the casting flaw on the left hind hoof) and an Airfix billman for the Medieval Mayhem project.  Both of the latter had been hovering in a mostly completed state for months, so it felt good to actually get them varnished and be ready to move on to the next thing.  However, that is stuff from three different projects.

Lack of focus has not been the main reason for lack of progress this past year, but it certainly hasn't helped, and I'm hoping to increase my discipline with respect to having too many things on the work bench at once in the near term.

Monday, March 15, 2010

On Charge!

I still haven't had time to pull pictures together for a full St. Michel report.  Here's one brief story from the weekend:

My son brought one of his gaming college friends along for his first time at the convention.  Having heard from my son beforehand about the NQSYW and having been press-ganged immediately upon arrival into filling out Scenario 3, he asked afterward about why he hadn't seen too many other Charge! games going on.  My son's reply: "Dad and Ross are like people who take their antique car out for a ride now and then."  I must admit that I'm so used to doing these games that I don't think of Old School Gaming in quite that way, although a famous gamer wandered by in the middle of things and opined that "Charge! projects are like the weather; everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything."

Upon reflection, I don't recall seeing many (if any) other Charge! games at our conventions.  Perhaps I should wonder why we don't have emulators?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cold Wars/Fire and Stone

Cold Wars is over and, sadly, the troops have been sent back to winter quarters after a most entertaining week.  I'll write up something on the St. Michel campaign from my perspective shortly.  My most interesting acquisition at the con was a copy of Christopher Duffy's Fire and Stone on siege warfare.  It includes what amounts to a siege supplement for Charge!, and Ross and I are now considering what it would take to do an NQSYW formal siege of a fortress in 40mm.  Our Haddington 1549 game in 2004 had the fortress, but it was incidental to the game, so this would take things to the next level...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sawmill Village/Chance encounter

Ross and I were looking for a quick scenario today which would require us to refamiliarize ourselves with the building rules in Charge!, as we expect to be needing them this weekend. The scenario chosen was #41 from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames, "Chance Encounter" (also known as Sawmill Village, as described in The War Game Companion), I chose to use my freshly painted dragoon squadron as one of my units, and was amazed as they won a two-turn melee with a squadron of the Rosmark Yellow Hussars (seen here at the start), and then proceeded to win a second melee with the Yellow Hussar's second squadron, despite being down on dice due to a need to rally.

The victorious dragoons are seen here at the moment of victory. Unfortunately, that was the highpoint of the game, as the remainder of my troops were sacrificed in a fruitless attempt to break into the town against determined Rosmarker (er, Rosish) resistance. Ten turns were played in about two hours, reminding me why I like Old School games...

On to Cold Wars and the first Not Quite Raid on St. Michel scenario tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pre-Cold Wars

Ross Macfarlane arrived yesterday evening for the now-traditional pre-Cold Wars visit. While we have not yet had an opportunity to put a game on the table, the day was spent comfortably finishing off a couple of units destined for the weekend's games. I have a squadron of Schoeffen-Buschhagen dragoons finally completed, and Ross has been working on a batch of Rosmark militia intended to defend against the coming S-B incursion.