Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday 30 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (4) – Command Cards

Here is a very first-cut attempt at producing a Command Card pack for my proposed application of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics to the English Civil War. This gives the text for each card, and the number of each card type. The whole listing is very obviously an edited version of the corresponding section in the official CCN rule book – I hope this is neither illegal nor impertinent – regard it as a respectful tribute, if you please!

The proportions of the cards, the wording and (for example) making the cards reflect the less mobile nature of the Foot, compared with their Napoleonic equivalents, owe a lot to the original CCN cards, the Ancients version of C&C, and also White Mountain, from Anubis. The mix, however, is all my own, as is much of the content, so please don’t go blaming anyone else.

This is an Aunt Sally – please feel free to tell me what you like or dislike about it. If it becomes stable enough, and if playtesting looks promising, I hope to produce a set of card images (don't hold your breath).

Section Cards (48)
Section cards are used to order units in a specific section of the battlefield to move and/or battle. These cards indicate which section of the battlefield you may order units or leaders, and how many units or leaders you may order. An attached leader ordered by a Section Command card may be ordered to detach and move separately. Command cards that state ‘order units equal to command’ mean the number of units you may order is equal to the number of Command cards you hold including this card. Cards that are on a player’s Foot in ‘Stand of Pikes’ tracks are not counted as Command cards you are holding.

SCOUT LEFT FLANK - Issue an order to 1 unit or Leader on the Left Flank. When drawing a new Command card, draw two, choose one and discard the other. (2 cards)
SCOUT CENTER - Issue an order to 1 unit or Leader in the Center. When drawing a new Command card, draw two, choose one and discard the other. (2 cards)
SCOUT RIGHT FLANK- Issue an order to 1 unit or Leader on the Right Flank. When drawing a new Command card, draw two, choose one and discard the other. (2 cards) 
PROBE LEFT FLANK - Issue an order to 2 units or Leaders on the Left Flank. (4 cards)
PROBE CENTER - Issue an order to 2 units or Leaders in the Center. (6 cards)
PROBE RIGHT FLANK - Issue an order to 2 units or Leaders on the Right Flank. (4 cards)
ATTACK LEFT FLANK - Issue an order to 3 units or Leaders on the Left Flank. (4 cards)
ATTACK CENTER - Issue an order to 3 units or Leaders in the Center. (6 cards)
ATTACK RIGHT FLANK - Issue an order to 3 units or Leaders on the Right Flank. (4 cards)
ASSAULT LEFT FLANK - Order a number of units or leaders on the Left Flank equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). (2 cards)
ASSAULT CENTER - Order a number of units or leaders in the Center equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). (2 cards)
ASSAULT RIGHT FLANK - Order a number of units or leaders on the Right Flank equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). (2 cards) 
COORDINATED ADVANCE - Issue an order to 4 units or Leaders. Order 1 on Left Flank, 2 in the Center and 1 on the Right Flank. (2 cards)
FLANK ATTACK - Issue an order to 2 units or Leaders on each Flank. (2 cards)
REFUSE LEFT - Order a number of units or leaders on your Right Flank or in the Centre equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). (2 cards)
REFUSE RIGHT - Order a number of units or leaders on your Left Flank or in the Centre equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). (2 cards)

Tactic Cards (20) Tactic cards allow ordered units to move and/or battle in ways not normally allowed in the basic rules. Terrain movement and battle restrictions still apply when a Tactic card’s Actions take precedence over basic rules.

BOLD DRAGOONS—One unit of Dragoons may make a further complete move after firing (but may not fire a second time) – thus they may advance, dismount, fire, mount and retire, for example. If you have no dragoons, use this card to order any 1 unit of your choice. (2 cards)  
BOMBARD—Issue an order to 4 or fewer Artillery units. Ordered units may move up to 2 hexes and not battle, or may not move and battle with 1 additional dice. If you do not have any artillery units, issue an order to 1 unit of your choice. (2 cards)
CAVALRY CHARGE—Issue an order to 4 or fewer units of Horse (not Dragoons). Ordered units battle with 1 additional die the entire turn. Ordered Cuirassier and “Trotter” units may move 3 hexes and still battle. If you do not have any cavalry units, issue an order to 1 unit of your choice. (3 cards) 
COUNTER-ATTACK—Issue the same order card that your opponent just played. When you play this card it becomes a copy of the card your opponent played on the last turn. Following the instructions on that card as though you were actually playing it, except when countering a Section card. Then the right flank becomes left flank and the left flank becomes the right flank. (2 cards)  
EVADE—Play this card after opponent declares a melee attack, but before the dice roll. The attacked unit evades. The attacker does not roll dice. The defender may opt to retire 1 hex, but the attacker may not take the ground or carry out Cavalry Breakthrough. At the end of the turn, you draw a replacement Command card first. (2 cards)  
FIRE AND HOLD—Issue an order to 4 or fewer Foot or Artillery units. Ordered units will perform ranged combat with 1 additional die. Ordered units may not be adjacent to enemy troops. Units may not move before or after combat, but foot may come out of ‘stand of pikes’. If you do not have any foot or artillery units, issue an order to 1 unit of your choice. (2 cards)  
LEADERSHIP—Issue an order to all Leaders. When a Leader is attached to a unit, the unit is also ordered as long as the Leader remains with the unit. Any ordered unit shall roll 1 additional die if it battles. A Leader may detach from a unit. If a Leader moves and joins a unit, the unit is not ordered. If you do not have any Leaders, issue an order to 1 unit of your choice. (2 cards)
PUSH!—Issue an order to all units adjacent to the enemy. Ordered units may melee with 1 additional die. Ordered units may not engage in ranged combat. Units may not move before melee combat. After a successful melee, foot may Take Ground and horse may breakthrough and may make a Bonus Melee Attack with its standard number of battle dice. (1 card)  
RALLY—Roll battle dice equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). For each Foot, Horse or Artillery symbol rolled, 1 block of this type is returned to any under strength unit anywhere on the battlefield, as men return to the ranks. A unit may not gain more blocks than it started the action with. Rallied units that gain at least one block are ordered, and may move and battle as normal. (2 cards)  
THE DEVIL’S MATCH—One enemy artillery unit (dice for which – first to roll an Artillery symbol with 1 dice) suffers a powder explosion. The unit selected will roll 2 dice – an Artillery symbol or a Crossed Sabres symbol will eliminate 1 block. If either of these dice produces Crossed Sabres, the explosion is very severe – roll 1 dice for each adjacent unit (of whatever side) which is not in a town, a wood or earthworks. A Foot, Horse or Artillery symbol will remove 1 block if it matches the unit type – a Flag symbol will remove a Leader. If the enemy has no artillery, use this card to order any 1 unit or Leader of your choice. (1 card)
THE LORD IS WITH US—Roll battle dice equal to command (the number of cards held in your hand including this card). For each symbol rolled, 1 unit of this type is ordered. One unit or leader of your choice may be ordered for each Flag symbol rolled. Sabres order no units or leaders. Ordered units battle with 1 additional die the entire turn. Reshuffle the Command card deck and discard pile. (1 card)  

Friday 27 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (3) – The Cuddies


Mounted troops I have worked on thus far are types CU, TR, GA – being respectively cuirassiers, “trotters” and “gallopers”, and there should probably be lancers and some other kind of light horse still to be thought about.

I have to come clean here and admit that, having spent some time reading about Parliamentarian cavalry early in the war advancing cautiously and using their pistols, I got completely carried away and produced some monstrous cavalry melee rules which were about as straightforward and easy to use as the inside of my grandfather’s pocket watch. Having been shocked out of my excited state by the realisation of what I was doing, I am pleased to say that I have finished up with some CCN-based rules which are much simpler – very much simpler. In case it comes in useful in 30YW contexts, I have preserved a little of my frenzied “pistol melee” efforts as a rather crude “caracole” rule, which I shall append here as something which I do not intend to use at present – and possibly as a kind of warning to other kindergarten rule-writers.

Anyway – these are the first-cut rules:

No cavalry may carry out ranged combat – all pistol and carbine capability is assumed to be covered by the melee rules.

CU move up to 2 hexes and battle, GA move up to 3 and battle, TR move up to 3, but cannot move more than 2 if they are making a melee attack. Typical units of horse in my armies will have 2-4 blocks/bases of 3 figures (on 60mm square bases – these are 20mm figures).

Melee combat: 1 dice per block/base, +1 dice for CU (heavier), +1 dice for GA in first round of a melee (more dashing), +1 dice for certain identified Royalist GA units (not more than 25% of all cavalry present) who are nominated as “rash” (crazier).

The standard CCN rule allowing cavalry attacked by infantry to carry out a manoeuvre called Retire & Reform is lifted straight into this ECW variant. Combined Arms attacks with artillery support are not allowed, since artillery of this period could not co-ordinate in this way.

In CCN, a victorious cavalry unit which eliminates its melee opponent, or forces it to vacate its hex, may take advantage of a Breakthrough rule, by which it may opt to claim the vacated hex, plus (optionally) move another hex, and may carry out an immediate Bonus Melee attack if it is now in a position to do so. My ECW variant will also allow this, but the breakthrough and bonus melee may be repeated as many times in a single turn as the general wishes. 

Rash Cavaliers: to reflect the extra difficulty of controlling successful Royalist horse, a special variation applies to Royalist GA units which are designated as “rash”. Such units must carry out a breakthrough, unless they are brought under control, and must carry it out in such a way as to create a bonus melee if it is possible to do so – the Royalist commander may choose which unit to attack if there is a choice, and he does not have to attack villages, woods or earthworks - terrain situations which put horse at a major disadvantage. If he wishes to stop the breakthrough and continued attack by such a rash unit, after any melee victory, the Royalist commander must get them under control. This is achieved by rolling a Cavalry symbol or a Flag on a single Combat Dice; if a Leader is attached to the unit, control is also gained by a roll of Crossed Sabres.

The Caracole

I fear you are not going to like this – it needs more work, and I don’t intend to use it for the time being anyway.

CU and TR units may make a special melee attack with pistols – the Caracole - and this is the subject of a special rule, as follows:

CU & TR may ride up to melee contact, and declare a Caracole attack. The attacker rolls a single Combat Dice for the whole unit. There may be terrain or other tactical situations which require a deduction from the number of dice, such that the attacker is left with no dice to roll! If they score a hit on the defenders (and crossed sabres doesn't count for this particular type of melee) or frighten them (dice turns up a flag - which can't be ignored - but defenders don't retreat yet), remove any casualties, but there is no immediate "battle back" from the defenders - what happens is the attacking CU/TR cavalry now carry out a CCN-style "bonus melee" - on the spot. So a second round of melee takes place immediately (it counts as a continuing melee, so any defending GA do not get their 1st-round bonus dice). This melee is a normal 1-dice-per-block-plus-valid-bonuses combat.

If the single dice caracole attack does not produce a fright flag or a valid type of casualty, the defenders get to fight back with a single dice. If this causes the attacking CU/TR to retreat (or eliminates them) then that's the melee over. If it doesn't, the pistol-armed attackers may choose to retire a single hex. If they opt not to, the melee continues in future turns as a normal continuing melee combat.


Dragoons (DR) are neither horse nor foot, and so they require their own rules. The first complication is that I am duplicating my dragoon units so that they may appear on the table in either mounted or dismounted form. Since in their mounted form they will be on cavalry-style bases of 3 figures, it makes sense to put the dismounted dragoons onto special open-order bases of 3 figures too. When they mount or dismount, simply switch the models – it’s a hassle, but it’s less of a mess than most of the options.

Dragoons may not fire when mounted, and they are very poor in melee. Their musket range (when dismounted) is 2 hexes, same as the musketeers. Theoretically, they have a 3-hex move, which they may use to do the following things:

* if mounted, move up to 3 hexes on horseback, or up to 2 hexes and dismount
* if dismounted, up to 1 hex on foot, or mount and ride up to 2 hexes

If they are on foot at the end of the move, they can shoot (half a dice per base/block of 3 figures, rounded up) – so 3 bases get 2 dice, for example.

They can melee at the end of the move, whether on horse or on foot - but not very well (half a dice per base/block of 3 figs, mounted or not).

Unlike Foot units, Dragoons can fight as soon as they arrive, whatever the terrain.

Thursday 26 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (2b) – Mixed Foot Units - contd

It would probably be neater and potentially less embarrassing to do most of my thinking aloud and U-turning off-blog, but I would miss out on some valuable input if I did.

I am not back where I started – this is progress. On the subject of mixed pike & shot units I have gone from conveniently crude to more-correct-but-too-fiddly and now back to crude-but-justified, as we shall see. My thanks to Ross, again, and to email input from Ludovico.

The table produced in yesterday’s effort is not wasted – it gives a useful cross check for other approaches, and it served to remind me how much I dislike tables, when it comes down to it.

Here’s a mixed list of thoughts – some of them are useful, some are merely statements of policy (to keep me straight), some are blinding flashes of the bovinely obvious, and a few are the recording of some “doh” moments.

(1)   I don’t like look-up tables.
(2)   I don’t care much for rosters – I like to be able to see everything I need to know about a unit by looking at it, without worrying about what it used to be, or what it has lost, and without looking up any offline information.
(3)   Yesterday’s table demonstrates that shot-to-pike ratios of 3:2 and 2:1 may be regarded as effectively the same, given the rounding errors.
(4)   My foot units consist of 3 bases, usually, with 2 bases of muskets and one of pikes, so on a bases count this is 2:1, but in fact if you count the little men on the bases you will find that the pikemen are closer-packed, and provide 8 of the 20 figures in the unit, which is 3:2, I think. So take your pick – it doesn’t matter anyway. The units are structured like this because they are designed to work with Victory without Quarter rules, and because cosmetically it looks OK.
(5)   Going back to my original rules of thumb, a base of pikes gets 2 combat dice in a melee and gets none in ranged combat (firing); a base of muskets gets 1 dice for melees and one for firing.
(6)   My original idea was to allocate Casualty Markers, rather than remove bases, to denote attrition (since the troops are not homogeneous), and deduct 1 dice from any kind of combat for each such marker. The first “doh” moment was the realisation that removing a base of muskets would reduce both melee and firing dice allocations by 1, which is exactly the same as awarding one of the proposed Casualty Markers, however it might look on the table. With one stroke, that looks like the end of the Casualty Markers.
(7)   I am still left with the issue of “pike heavy” units – which I’ll define as ratios of 1:1 or less. 4-base or 2-base units can be represented in a straightforward manner, with equal numbers of pike and shot bases. Intuitively, a 3-base unit is less convenient, since the bases do not show the correct proportions of troops. The second “doh” moment was realising that a 3-base pike-heavy unit is simply a 4-base one with one base removed [cue spontaneous applause], and, courtesy of the first such moment, we know that the missing base should be a musket base. Since I probably wouldn’t have available troops to make up a unit with 2 pikes and 1 muskets, and since such a thing would look wrong, we just need to field a normal 3-base unit with some kind of marker to denote that it is pike heavy. Such a unit, as proposed by Ross a while ago, should get an extra dice in melee and lose a dice when firing.
(8)   I know that this all rather overstates the effect of casualties on firepower, but will live with it. In any case, it’s worth remembering that “firepower” means ranged combat in CCN terms, which means, in turn, fire at ranges greater than 1 hex, or maybe over 150 paces. The majority of effective fire would take place at ranges less than this, and CCN abstracts this as part of melee combat.

Right – where does that get me? The recycled rule for units of foot (FT) is:

Foot [rewrite]

In my ECW army a unit of Foot consists of 3 blocks (bases) – 2 of muskets and 1 of pikes. Other mixtures are possible, including all muskets, but the 2:1 mix appropriate to the later years of the war is the norm here. Any units which are specified as having a musket-to-pike ratio of 1:1 or less are termed pike-heavy, and are marked as such.

In CCN-speak, infantry units will be of classification FT – they may move 1 hex and Battle. In melee, pike blocks count 2 dice each, muskets 1 each; identified veteran units (which may not be more than 25% of the FT units fielded) count an extra dice. Identifed pike-heavy units get an extra dice in melee.

All losses for a mixed unit should be taken as musket bases – this is so that the fighting value reduces correctly.

In Ranged Combat (shooting), the musket blocks count 1 each, the pikes zero. Range is 2 hexes. Again, veterans may count +1 dice, and 1 dice is deducted for a designated pike-heavy unit. The number of Ranged Combat dice is not reduced if the firers moved (CCN does reduce it).

FT units which have pikes may adopt Stand of Pikes formation against cavalry – the rules and operation for this are exactly the same as for Squares in CCN.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (2a) – Mixed Foot Units

With thanks to Lee and Ross for their thoughts on the previous post, here’s another go at producing a simple treatment for mixed units of pike and shot, trying not to distort things as a result of oversimplification.

I am still keen to avoid look-up tables if possible. As Ross proposed, making the number of Combat Dice for melee and Ranged Combat an attribute of each unit seems to be the way to go. All of what follows can be produced by mental arithmetic, but at 2am the summary table might come in useful.

This is specifically for mixed foot units – any unit which consists of a single weapon or troop type does not require this level of detail. As suggested, I have worked out for various musket:pike ratios the required number of Combat Dice for a unit. In each case, the proportions of muskets and pikes are not necessarily as represented by the miniatures employed – though the fact that more than one type of armament is depicted indicates that the unit is mixed, and the number of bases gives an approximate numerical strength (at about 150-200 men to the base).

Losses to a mixed unit are recorded by attaching Casualty Markers, not by removing bases/blocks. A unit is eliminated when the number of Casualty Markers is equal to the number of bases.

In this new version of the draft rule, pikes count 2 dice per block in melees and 0 in Ranged Combat (firing), muskets count 1 dice per block in both melee and ranged combat – all as before. The number of dice produced is then proportioned for the specified musket:pike ratio for the unit and for the fraction which has been disabled as Casualty Markers. The result is rounded to the nearer, exact half up – this is where the rounding errors come in, but the game requires a roll of an integral number of dice! After all this, the number of dice to be rolled may still require to adjusted for the “veteran unit” bonus, and for any terrain-related or tactical bonuses or deductions (as per CCN rules).

The table which follows gives the number of dice before the last two adjustments described above. The figure before the slash applies to melees, the figure after applies to ranged combat. I have considered only the ratios 1:1, 3:2 and 2:1 – any other ratio required should be assumed to be whichever is the nearer of these 3 options.

I hope that the table makes sense, and is simple enough to be used without bogging the game down. I am still half-inclined to insist that all foot units should be 2:1, since that is what VwQ does, and since the differences are not large in any case!

Number of Combat Dice for a Mixed Foot Unit – Melee/Ranged Combat

No.of blocks (bases) less Casualty Markers

As an example, consider a 4-block unit with a musket:pike ratio of 3:2, which has acquired 1 Casualty Marker. The table shows that the unit is entitled to 4 dice in a melee and 2 dice when firing. This has to be further adjusted for any “veteran” bonus, plus any terrain or tactical adjustment.


Tuesday 24 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (2) – Foot & Artillery

Continuing from the previous post, this is an attempt to produce a game based on GMT’s Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (CCN) which will work successfully for ECW and (maybe) 30YW. CCN, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is a card-driven board game played on a hex grid. The game uses purpose-built Combat Dice, which are marked with special symbols – Infantry (x2), Cavalry, Artillery, Flag (used to initiate retreats) and Crossed-Sabres (which has various uses – including melee hits and hits on Leaders).

Standard CCN is played with labelled wooden blocks – typically, for example, an infantry battalion consists of 4 such blocks. The game can also be played with miniatures, using a base of figures as a “block”, or some equivalent mapping.

One immediate issue which arises for ECW infantry is that the units are mixed – muskets and pikes – and thus casualties cannot simply be removed as a block/base – the result on the mix of arms remaining would be disproportionate. First proposal, then, is that losses against infantry units will be recorded by adding Casualty Markers, which represent a proportionate reduction in all arms. This may not be necessary for other types of troops, for which the units are homogeneous, but it might be more sensible to have the same approach for all arms.

Thus the first rule is that a unit is eliminated when the number of Casualty Markers is equal to the number of blocks/bases. In what follows, the basic rules are CCN unless otherwise stated – if you are interested, you may download the CCN rules from the GMT site here.


In my ECW army – primarily because it is being built to be suitable for Victory without Quarter – a unit of Foot consists of 3 blocks – 2 of muskets and 1 of pikes. Other mixtures are possible, including all muskets, but the 2:1 mix appropriate to the later years of the war is the norm here.

In CCN-speak, infantry units will be of classification FT – they may move 1 hex and Battle. In melee, pike blocks count 2 dice each, muskets 1 each; identified veteran units (which may not be more than 25% of the FT units fielded) count an extra dice. The number of dice available is reduced by 1 for each Casualty Marker.

In Ranged Combat (shooting), the musket blocks count 1 each, the pikes zero. Range is 2 hexes. Again, veterans may count +1 dice, and 1 dice is deducted for each Casualty Marker. I decided not to halve the number of Ranged Combat dice if the firers moved (CCN does reduce it) – there may be weak historical justification for this, but firepower is so feeble anyway that it hardly seemed worth the complication.

FT units which have pikes may adopt Stand of Pikes formation against cavalry – the rules and operation for this are exactly the same as for Squares in CCN.

[I considered allowing a variation, such that some FT units might have a 1:1 muskets:pikes ratio, however the blocks fielded might look. In such a unit, the 3 blocks would really be 1.5 blocks muskets and 1.5 blocks pikes. Melee power (rounding up) would be 3 for the pikes and 2 for the muskets, and firepower would still be 2 for the muskets (rounded up), which is not reasonable given the smaller number of muskets present, so overall I decided that such a unit would appear to have too big an advantage if I bent the rules for it. A big 1:1 FT unit with 2 musket blocks and 2 pike blocks would be OK, but otherwise the guideline is that units must be mixed in the same way as the blocks fielded. If you want a 1:1 foot unit, you can have a little 2-block one or a big 4-block one, but if you’re fielding a 3-block one they have to be 2:1] 


Units are all of type FA – I have not yet considered the issue of different weights or calibres of guns. The units consist of 1 or 2 blocks, and may move 1 hex or fire. Moving and firing is not allowed. They have zero melee capability, so may not attack, and can only battle back with zero dice! In ranged combat, each block in the unit throws 1 dice at range 2 to 4 hexes. If casualties for artillery are kept as Markers, then 1 dice is deducted for each Casualty Marker, as with infantry.

Since I think that it is very unlikely that the artillery of the day would have been able to co-ordinate with other arms, the Combined Arms Attack rule in CCN is not used in my ECW variant.

I haven’t yet decided what to do about batteries which are overrun. I assume that the civilian gunners would clear off pretty smartly if attacked, so there is maybe a case for captured guns being used by the other side – I would like to claim that I am thinking about this, but my historical knowledge is so poor in this area that what I am probably doing is sitting wondering what to do!

At the moment, I am hoping the Terrain Effects chart from CCN may be imported as is.

Next post will look at the units of Horse (including a very brief look at the Caracole, which came close to distorting the entire game), and Dragoons.

Monday 23 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (1) - Preamble

Just couldn’t leave it alone, could I? Having decided on Clarence Harrison’s Victory without Quarter (VwQ) as my rules of choice for my forthcoming dalliance with the ECW, I am building armies to suit these rules, and I’ve even produced a computerised manifestation of VwQ for solo play, incorporating extensions to the rules, some of which come from Clarence’s own notes, some of which are based on mods used by Prof Longuelade and his collaborators in the Northern Wastes, and some of which I admit I came up with myself.

I did briefly consider adapting VwQ for use on a hex grid, but put the idea on hold when I considered the damage which this would do to the finely-balanced variable movement mechanisms. My only (faint) concern about VwQ in the longer term is that, since it is designed to work best with actions involving maybe 12 units a side, I am uncertain how it will handle very big battles. However, I am reliably informed by the bold John C that he has used VwQ for a battle with 40 units a side (i.e. very big), and it worked well, albeit with some modifications to the activation pack.

So that really should be an end to it. Trouble is that I have become very fond of the swing and the commonsense of Commands & Colors, and the convenience of the hexes, and I hear tales of Richard Borg running test games for an ECW relative of C&C. So – damn it – I’m interested again in a C&C style ECW game. This is not intended to replace VwQ in my affections, you understand – it’s just something to think about.

White Mountain

I tracked down what appears to be just such a thing, in Anubis Studio’s White Mountain rules for the 30 Years War. I availed myself of the free download, and spent a few days reading them. I do not propose to criticise these rules, nor find fault with them – here are my thoughts on them – in the context of how they would suit me, given what I am looking for.

(1)   The card & hex & unit structure arrangements owe a lot to CCA, though the game uses normal dice in a slightly different way.
(2)   Losses are tracked in two ways – as (red) casualty markers, which lead to block(/base) removal, and as (yellow) disruption markers, which give a disadvantage in combat – by the slightly unusual method of giving extra dice to the opponent – and ultimately put units out of action.
(3)   The C&C turn sequence is complicated by options whereby (for example) units may elect to shoot before moving – timing of events is less straightforward.
(4)   A great deal of extra complication is added in the interests of defining the facing of each unit – units may face a flat side or an angle of a hex. This is mainly intended to cope with flank and rear attacks, as far as I can see.

Right. The game is nicely presented, clearly it works and is played successfully by some kind of user group, so I am not going to say anything bad about it. I think it is not what I am looking for, since for me it is a mixture of basic CCA and some fairly detailed areas of personal interest, and I think they have sacrificed a measure of the fundamental playability of C&C in the pursuit of a few hobbyhorses. I am not saying they have got it wrong, merely that it is not what I was hoping for.

Try Something Else

I thought further about this, and I decided to have a go myself – starting with CCN (the Napoleonics game), primarily since I am most familiar with it, but also because I have a feeling that some of the Napoleonic features would work well enough with the ECW – for example, the very effective rule for using squares against cavalry should work for stands of pike with very little change.

To put this into context, my initial requirement is for enough troop types to cover the ECW, though scope to extend it to the wider 30YW would clearly not be a bad thing. I will be using it with 20mm miniatures, based to suit my version of VwQ, which means muskets mounted in 6s (3 wide x  2 deep) to a base, pikes in 8s (4 wide x 2 deep), cavalry in 3s (single row) – each base 60mm square. A base will represent a “block” in C&C type boardgame-speak.

I’m currently on holiday, so the subject gives me something useful to chew away at in odd moments, or when I’m out walking. A fair amount of this has already been run past Lee, who, as a former re-enactor and as a current perpetrator of CCN, has been kind enough to offer some very useful feedback and alternative ideas, and I must acknowledge his contribution to anything that appears in the next few instalments of this. If there’s anything which seems particularly inept or just plain dumb, that’ll be my bit!

I emphasise that this is not likely to be earthshaking – primarily a discussion of issues – but there will be some first cut rules for applying a CCN-based game to my particular interpretation of the ECW. The next post will look at foot and artillery, the one after will look at horse (which at one point threatened to get me going off on a tangent) and those pesky dragoons, who – as we know – are neither foot nor horse and need rules of their own.

If I get that far, I’ll try to consider how the Command Pack might look for such a game. It goes without saying that I shall be very pleased to get any comments or suggestions! 

Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Second Spanish Foot Battery

I'm very pleased to have a second regular foot battery for the Spanish Nationalist army, very kindly - and delightfully - painted for me by Lee, in return for introducing him to Commands & Colors and providing some uniform info. I think I came out of that exchange handsomely ahead - thank you, Lee, once again.

These guys have been sitting around in my spares box for a while, and they are now ready to join Morillo's new 2nd Divn of the Spanish army. Excellent - a real bonus.

Thus my Spanish army is complete now, apart from a few generals. Well, actually, apart from a few generals and some more cavalry. All right - a few generals, some more cavalry and a couple of limber crews.

And maybe a couple more units of voluntarios. You can never have too many voluntarios.

The castings are of Frenchmen, tweaked and modded a little here and there. The guns and the crews are by NapoleoN Miniatures, the officer with the telescope is yet another of Art Miniaturen's little gems. The Gribeauval system 8pdrs are completely authentic - Spain was a Bourbon kingdom before Napoleon, and all Bourbon kingdoms used the Gribeauval system. Spanish guns were either grey or - as in this case - stained timber with black ironwork.

Monday 16 July 2012

Solo Campaign - ...and his Nephew

Now ready for The Cupboard, the Earl is joined by his ADC.

Captain John Edward Falconer, of Rufford, Lancashire, is the Earl's nephew. 22 years of age, he recently exchanged into the 4th Regt of Foot (The King's Own). He is described as "a flawless horseman, and exceeding polite" by his former regiment, and expresses himself delighted to be appointed to support the Earl's new adventure. The Earl's only concern over the arrangement (allegedly) is that, at 6 feet 4 inches, young Falconer is almost exactly a foot taller than him.

To make sure there is no confusion, the gaffer is on the right, the gopher on the left. I knew that frisky horse for Tarleton was a mistake.

Our family holiday starts in a few days, so it will be a week or two before these gentlemen are seen in action.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Solo Campaign - The Earl of Aigburth

Still on the milk bottle top, and with his varnish still a little too bright, here is the new C-in-C of the Anglo-Portuguese army. May I introduce General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Earl of Aigburth, more or less ready to join his troops in Portugal.

You see him mounted on his favourite horse, Philadelphia, and dressed as Colonel-in-Chief of his beloved 21st (Yorkshire) Light Dragoons. Yes - the hat - had to be.

The 21st, of course, are currently in South Africa, not in the Peninsula at all, and experts might observe that in 1808 the regiment's facings were changed to pink - ah well - according to my trusty Franklin, the new facings were not well received, and the regiment continued to wear its pre-1808 yellow facings until the new (French-style) uniforms were received in 1814, at which point the facings became black.

So there you have it.

He has still to be joined by his ADC - Captain JE Falconer of the 4th Foot, who is, in fact, his nephew (being his sister Bridget's boy - I hope you are taking notes). The family were very keen that Falconer serve in this capacity, though who is going to look after whom is a matter of debate. The Captain is on another bottle top, and will be along shortly.

If anyone cares, the figure of Tarleton is what as a boy I would have called a bitza (bitza this, bitza that). He started life as a Minifigs S-Range figure of Eugene de Beauharnais, but has a new head (from a NapoleoN light dragoon officer) and a horse supplied by Art Miniaturen.

In his baggage for his voyage to Lisbon is a letter for the Quartermaster General which contains the following passage:

It is my intention to leave responsibility for the whereabouts of individual mules and supply wagons in the hands of the QMG's staff. I intend to focus primarily on the disposition of the fighting army. I should not express a view on whether this will be a change of recent practice, but this is my aim.  

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Hooptedoodle #58 – The Adventures of Max Spinnejäger

Had an exciting episode last night. What follows contains reference to extreme violence, and even some cruelty - so if you choose to read on, having been warned, please make sure that no children or unusually timid adults are looking over your shoulder. If you choose to read on, you are certifying that you are over 18 years of age and are accepting all Terms & Conditions, published or still to be made up, etc etc. Yawn.

I woke up about 3:30am, and there was a spider on the bedroom ceiling - approx 3 inches across overall (75mm) , which may not be big by your local standards but is close to a Scottish national record, I would think. Our spiders aren't poisonous, but I don't like them at all - especially on the bedroom ceiling, where they tend to drop on the bed. My wife is absolutely terrified of them, so we always get rid of them as soon as possible. I would maintain that I am not actually frightened, but this one was above some threshold size which causes unreasoning panic - something about being able to see their kneecaps. Even Robert the Bruce would have kept well away from this one.

First embedded footnote I'd like to make here is that there is something about spiders - they have a psychic presence. If there is a big spider in the room, somehow you can sense it when you go in (or wake up, as in this case). They may be sitting there, thinking, "right - now wake up and scream". Power of personality. Awesome. Or it might just be that they have a stronger personality than me.

Anyway, I went to find something to catch it with. The battery in the humane catcher was so flat that the spider would have taken the thing off me and broken it over one of its many knees. I considered the vacuum cleaner for a moment, but it would have woken the entire household, and there is also a fair chance that in my haste I might have fallen down the stairs with it, which could have been marginally worse. So I found one of the trusty old fly-swats, and by the time I got back to the bedroom, of course, the bloody spider had disappeared. This is not a good scenario for going back to sleep, so the bed was stripped, I shifted the chests of drawers and the bookcase etc, and found the spider after about 20 minutes (maybe I heard it laughing) - behind my bedside cabinet, so I whopped it and disposed of it, and the bed was re-made and things calmed down again. Adrenaline still pumping. After a few minutes, I started to wonder if that had been the same spider...

Let's assume it was. To those of you who live in countries with poisonous beasties, I offer my deepest respects. I don't think I could handle that.

Second embedded footnote: like a lot of other areas in Northern Europe, we have been having a great deal of rain recently, and yesterday I spent a couple of muddy hours, swinging from ladders like a silly old fool, cleaning out the roof gutters - or what in Scotland are called "rones". This invariably chases a few big friends out of the eaves, to take shelter in the relative calm of the bedrooms. So it's probably my fault anyway, which you may think makes it doubly unfair that the visitor should have been so harshly treated.

I confess I do feel a bit uneasy about killing living things (apart from dandelions), but it was him or me, guv. Look at it this way - if I invade a spider's home I expect him to deal with me as he thinks fit - seems fair all round. If you really are upset by this tale of dreadful arachnicide, let me say that I am probably killing off only the slower specimens, or the ones that are dumb enough to walk across my ceiling, so I am strengthening the species.

As some light relief from all this bloodshed, here's a pithy (and probably fake) piece of Scottish wisdom on the subject of rones to end with:

“Nae wonder yer walls are damp, yer rones are fu' o tatties [potatoes].”

Friday 6 July 2012

English Civil War - Poles Apart

This is a plea for advice, I think. Please? I’m getting my first ECW units of foot prepared for painting, and I’ve come a bit unstuck over the flags. I’m using 20mm figures, mostly Les Higgins, but since Higgins never did a standard bearer I’m looking at a choice of Hinton Hunt (don’t care for the cast flags, so would have to mod them and equip with wire poles), SHQ (a bit chunky) and Tumbling Dice (also a tad chunky). The immediate problem is not the Chunk Rating, it’s the length of the flag poles. I have a good number of reference books on this stuff now – it is clear that the flags were about 6½ feet square, and the older books show them mounted on big long poles – even some contemporary illustrations from the National Army Museum, reproduced in Philip Haythornthwaite’s lovely The English Civil War 1642-1651 – an illustrated military history, show a pole about twice the height of the flag. More recent works insist that the flags were mounted on a short pole, 7½ to 8 feet in length, they were normally carried in one hand, and that skilled exponents could perform some very flash displays with them.

Fine big pole, but the flags were square, and about 3 times that size

That flag is a bit small, too, but it is mounted on a truncheon,
in the style which is currently regarded as correct

That looks more likely - correct sized flag on a shortish pole
would be a devil to carry

The flags were made of taffeta, or a light silken material, and were painted.

Stop right there. I don’t like it. I have no practical experience of this subject, of course, though I’ve seen what they do with flags at the parades associated with the Palio in Siena, so I’m hoping that some knowledgeable veteran of the Sealed Knot, or anyone with some factual knowledge or experience of re-enactment can cast some light here.

This is my problem: the proposal is that a flag about the size of the cover from a king-size duvet, albeit made of taffeta, can be mounted on a short pole, and the appointed officer can carry this in one hand in a dignified manner appropriate to military decorum, on the march, in a stiff breeze, on the battlefield – nay – he can even do some genteel tricks with it, with or without passing cannonballs.

Well, I’m sorry - I don’t believe it. I think I would have to see this with my own eyes. I would certainly not like to attempt it – not for more than a few minutes, and I would certainly not like to upset anyone who was physically capable of such a feat. If they really did have short, one-handed poles then either they held them with two hands, with the flag partly rolled around the staff, or else the short staff somehow socketed into a longer carrying pole. However it was done, any kind of ceremonial carrying of the taffeta duvet cover would have to be done with two hands, surely?

All help would be most welcome. Haythornthwaite also includes a colour plate of an ensign carrying a flag which is described as having a 9½ foot pole, which is somewhere in the middle, and that seems to correspond to the kind of flagpole carried by the Hinton Hunt figure – I defy anyone to suggest that Marcus Hinton made an error...

Thursday 5 July 2012

Solo Campaign - The Battle of Balsa

The Battle of Balsa, 30th May 1812

General view of the battlefield, from the North-West - the French are on
the left of the picture, with the afrancesado Spanish in the foreground.
The crescent-shaped ridge is clearly visible

A combined Anglo-Spanish force, under the command of Sir Thomas Graham, had been left as a rearguard in Northern Portugal, to protect Wellington’s main force (engaged in relieving Almeida from the risk of a siege) from Marmont’s army.

Graham had the full support of a portion of the Spanish 3rd Army, under the command of the Conde de Espana, and he selected a strong defensive position not far from Vila Real, on a crescent shaped ridge overlooking a flat river valley in which lies the Castelo de Balsa, the stately home of the Conde de Vilaverde. The Spanish troops available were in good order and condition, but the troops of his own British First Division were somewhat reduced by recent fighting – accordingly he merged the two battalions of Foot Guards into a single strong battalion, and split Major Gardiner’s depleted battery into two units of two guns each, which were placed in two earthworks constructed in the only two gullies which penetrated the main line of the ridge. The Avila Volunteer battery was placed on the hill between these two small redoubts – some concern was expressed over putting non-regular gunners in such a prominent position, but in fact they performed well – their shooting was not wonderful, but they remained solidly in position.

[CCN rules were used – 5 cards each, French move first, 7 Victory Banners required for victory – the French had available two bonus Banners – one if the British were evicted from the Castelo, and one if the French had any infantry over the crest of the ridge.]

Graham deployed his British troops on the left of his curved line, with the 2/24th positioned in the Castelo and its grounds – their aim being to delay the French as much as possible in this area.

On the Allied right, the Spanish troops took station, with the volunteer infantry in a reserve position behind the front line. The two Castilla light infantry units were placed in woods at the foot of the ridge.

Marmont had a considerable superiority in cavalry and – since the terrain was not well suited for cavalry operations – Maupoint’s 5 cavalry regiments from the Armee du Nord were detached and kept in the rear. The afrancesado Spanish troops were concentrated on the right, opposite the British units, while Foy’s French division, consisting of some fairly weak veteran battalions but with plentiful cavalry support, took station on the left, opposite Espana’s Spanish troops. Marmont’s strategy was to demonstrate against the British troops with his own Spaniards, and to assault the less steady Spanish nationalist army with his French veterans.

The action started with much artillery activity [both Bombard cards were played very early, and at one point the Allies replied to a Bombard with a Counter Attack card, which replicated the preceding Bombard]. The French avoided the Allied centre, which was very strong, and featured much of the artillery. Foy’s attack was preceded by two horse batteries, which advanced in gallant style but failed to hit anything worthwhile for most of the afternoon.

The King’s Guard, under Nicolas Guye, came on splendidly on the French right, captured the Castelo quickly and efficiently, and chased some Spanish light troops out of the woods in front of the left end of the ridge.

Foy’s attack was faced by unexpectedly determined fire from the Spanish army, and gradually ran out of momentum and men – a situation which was not helped by the loss of one of his horse batteries and the (usual) pointless expenditure of the supporting light cavalry, for whom Montbrun spotted a couple of non-existent opportunities to turn the battle.

As Foy ground to a halt, on the other flank the King’s Guard were routed from the woods, and finally broken by the heavy musket fire of the 42nd Foot and the KGL infantry. As the grenadiers of the Guard broke, Guye, who had performed well beyond expectation throughout the day, was struck down by a ball, and carried from the field. At this point the Victory Banners count was 7-5 in favour of the Allies, and Graham had won.

As the result was a Marginal Victory, and since the French had a large superiority of cavalry, both sides recovered a good portion of their battlefield missing and wounded, and the French retired without further loss.   


French Force – Marechal d’Empire Auguste Louis Viesse de Marmont

1st Divn, Armee de Portugal (Gen de Divn Maximilien Sebastien, Comte Foy)
Bde Chemineau – 6e Leger & 69e Ligne (4 bns)
Bde Desgraviers – 39e & 76e Ligne (5)
3/2e Art a Cheval (Capt. Guerrier)
6/4e Art a Pied (From reserve - Capt. Braty)

Heavy Cavalry (Gen de Divn Cavrois)
Brigade Boyer - 15e & 25e Dragons (4 Sqns)
5/5e Art a Cheval (Capt. Graillat)

Light Cavalry (Gen de Divn Montbrun)
                Brigade Curto – 3e Hussards & 22e Chasseurs (6)
                Brigade Col. Vial – 13e & 26e Chasseurs (6)

1st Divn, Armee du Centre (Gen de Divn Nicolas Guye)
Brigade Merlin – King Joseph’s Guard (5 Bns)
Brigade Casapalacios – 1e (Castille) Leger, 2e (Toledo) Ligne, Royal-Etranger (4)
Art a Cheval, Garde Royale (Capt. Desert)

Total force engaged approx 15680 men with 26 guns. Loss approx 3950 men and 6 guns; Gen Guye of the King’s Guard received a serious, but non-life-threatening wound.

Anglo-Portuguese Force – Lt.Gen Sir Thomas Graham

First Divn (Maj.Gen Henry Campbell - acting)
H Campbell’s Bde – combined Foot Guards Bn
Blantyre’s Bde – 2/24th, 1/42nd, 2/58th & 1/79th Ft
Von Loew’s Bde – 1st, 2nd & 5th Line Bns KGL
9th Coy, 8th Bn Royal Artillery (Maj. Gardiner)

Spanish Force – Genl. Carlos, Conde De Espana
De Espana’s Divn, Spanish 3rd Army
                Godia’s Bde – 2. Princesa & Tir de Castilla
                Truxillo’s Bde – 1. Sevilla, 2. Jaen & Caz de Castilla
                Foot Battery (Capt Herrera)

Provincial Bde (Col. Julian Sanchez)
                Zamora & Avila Vol Bns
                Foot Battery (?)
                1. & 2. Lanceros de Castilla (6 Sqns)

Total force engaged, approx 13420 men with 14 guns. Loss approx 2320 men, and 5 of the Spanish guns were disabled by enemy fire.

Detail losses:

French – 2/69, 2/39 (-3 blocks each), 2/76, 3/2e Art a Cheval (-2 each), 5/53 Art a Cheval (-1), 3 Huss, 1/Gd Grenadiers (-3 each), 1/Gd Fusiliers (-4), 2/Gd Fusiliers (-2), 2nd Spanish Line, Gd Horse Battery (-1 each)

Anglo-Portuguese – 2/24th, 2nd Line Bn KGL (-2 each)

Spanish – 2. Princesa (-1), 1. Sevilla (-2), Caz de Castilla (-1), Herrera’s Foot Battery (-2), 1. Lanceros de Castilla (-3), 2. Lanceros de Castilla (-1)

The Pictures (Nick wasn't present for this one, so the standard of photography has dipped a bit)

The 2/24th Foot at the Castelo

Spanish troops on the Allied right

Graham set up his units carefully, with the reserve line held back to
allow the front line room to manoeuvre (or run away)

Old School Bellona earthworks - how cool is that?

Put that man on a charge - one whiff of a Cavalry Charge command card
and Montbrun is off like a madman...

This is where it comes to grief - Montbrun's flashy attack, with
Leadership bonus, is stimied by a First Strike card played by the
Allies, and his hussars are in serious trouble...

Command Cards again - the 42nd Highlanders and a KGL battalion,
with bonus shooting dice because of a Leadership card and the presence
of Generals Loew and Blantyre, put paid to the King's Guard grenadiers
and Nicolas Guye, and that's 7 Banners - thank you and goodnight...

The high water mark - this is as far as Foy's attack got - he
was running out of men

The Position at 31st May 1812

A Footnote on CCN Command Cards

A couple of comments on recent posts have suggested that the Command Cards in Command & Colors, Battle Cry, Memoir 44 and kindred games are a weakness, and I’ve had a couple of emails to the same effect – i.e. it’s difficult to get any decent movement of your army when the cards limit you to moving in dribbles – two here, one there and so on. I am happy to accept that people have to get what they want out of their games, but I’m pretty certain that I disagree with this particular point.

This week I have fought two battles which were pretty large by most standards – a couple of divisions a side, and were certainly large for CCN. The cards kept the movement restricted to small groups of units, admittedly, but the turns rotate at an unprecedented speed, and the gamer has the advantage that he can focus on the army in detail – something like the old proverb about the wisdom of eating an elephant one mouthful at a time.

No swimming of the head, no need to go check your email while your opponent thinks about his move, and then ask him to explain what happened – the game goes tika taka, to borrow a current buzz phrase. It moves in small steps, but very quickly – you can see it develop.