Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Column, Line & Square

My friend Dave was a member of the New England Wargamers Association (NEWA) back 'in the day'. He and a bunch of his friends gather occasionally to play Column, Line and Square (CLS), a set of Napoleonic rules they played heavily back in the 70s and 80s when NEWA was THE wargaming club in New England. Being slightly younger than Dave's NEWA friends, I was nonetheless invited to participate in Dave's most recent game. The figures, all 25mm, from several nations made up the hypothetical scenario. Both the terrain and the figures were stunning.

Column, Line and Square is typical of rule sets of its era. There are the various charts based on formation, troop type and nationality. You roll dice, modified by factors for every so many figures if skirmishing, or roll dice then multiply by the figures if in line. There are morale checks with math that nearly requires a calculator, and melees that last for many rounds of dice-offs until one side rolls doubles forcing the other to check morale. It's BLOODY. Units committed to combat, either ranged or melee are rendered useless no matter who wins. This has its charm, especially if you like painting figures, as you can have hundreds on the table and it's a good bet that most of them will get to die during the game.

The player's handbook called the 'Battle Manual', which is the condensed version of the rules, is a svelte 107 pages long, although the full rulebook with all errata is much thicker, around 250+ pages. Needless to say I was not going to be able to familiarize myself with the rules sufficiently before the game as I usually prefer. Instead I would show up and hope luck and tactics alone would save the day for me. Alas, it was not to be so. Buried somewhere in the 250+ pages of interpretations, rulings and revisions were enough minutia to doom me to failure before the game started, and I made sure to make this prophecy a truth by destroying my entire command to a man by mid game. My opponents seemed to enjoy my utter destruction well enough while they reminisced about when CLS was cutting edge technology for rules. Actually it was quite impressive how much of the nuances of the rules everyone (but me of course) remembered. I guess playing the same rules pretty much full time for 15+ years will do that to you.

I think we all owe a nod to rules such as CLS for the success and longevity of our hobby. If it were not for such rules we wouldn't have what we have today. I am however, glad that modern rule sets have been created for the betterment of the hobby. I don't think I could convince anyone today to learn a set of rules with a 250 page rule book!

Below are photos from the game, courtesy of fellow gamer and NEWA member Bruce Weeks.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dennewitz - Third Replay

This is the third time I've run this Dennewitz game. The first time was a play test in my basement, the second was at my club's game night. Both of those playings left us a little short on time to play to completion, so this time I hosted it at our club's game day, knowing that this venue presented plenty of time to play the game to completion.

Although our club events are usually well attended, we've had a lot of Saturday events this year and I think the club much prefers our normal Friday night schedule. We originally had three games scheduled, but one game master had to cancel due to other commitments. Because of these two factors attendance was very light. I was only able to get six of the eight players my game was designed for, and that was with the game master of the other game playing as one of my players. We pressed on, and had a good time regardless. I was fortunate that our club has a lot of experienced V&B players who aren't overwhelmed by having to push a corps or more of figures at a time. Since some of the players had played the scenario before, I asked those players switch sides in order to give them a fresh view of the game.

In the photo above you can see the terrain lay out. The French deployment zone is marked in red cord. The Prussian advanced guard deployment zone is anywhere North of the river and east of the bridge, including the Town of Dennewitz. Below you can see the initial deployments for both sides. Prussian on the left and an overview showing both on the right. Of note in the Prussian photo is my new 6mm windmill that I purchased at Historicon and painted for this game. Although 6mm terrain isn't in the figure scale, it better matches the ground scale and still looks quite snappy with the figures.

After seeing this scenario twice, both sides had a good idea of how they wanted to approach the battle. The French took the initiative by pressing the western part of the battle, away from the river while contesting the Dennewitz area initially with only the Italian division and artillery. This thrust proved overwhelming to the Prussian cavalry division initially deployed in that area and the Prussian cavalry gave way falling back on upcoming infantry reserves.

As the French continued to deploy their arriving army they pressured the towns of Neder-Gohlsdorf, Wolmsdorf and Rohlbeck. On the east end of the battlefield the Prussian Landwehr made two solid attacks on Rohlbeck, but neither dislodged the Wurtemburg troops holding it. In the center the Prussians were eventually able to push the French out of Neder-Gohlsdorf after several turns of back-and-forth fighting which saw the town change hands three times in a bloody exchange that threatened to exhaust divisions on both sides. On the west, the overrun Wolmsdorf was kept in French hands for the remainder of the game.

The telling blow actually came when the Prussian 4th division (in the right-hand photo above with blue labels on their stands), after holding that flank since the opening blows of the game, finally collapsed. Until this point holding Windmill Heights had kept the Prussians in the battle. This loss put the French on the winning side of the casualties and at this point the French drew up a solid defensive position. The Prussians, while still having most of their army un-exhausted, conceded that attacking the French in this position wouldn't improve their situation and both sides opted to call the battle at this point. The result of the game was actually quite historical, with the one exception that the French attack didn't cost the players of the game nearly as much as it did in the real battle. Had the French in the game taken more casualties, the Prussians may well have counterattacked late in the battle as they did historically. This battle ended in a Minor French victory.

I'd like to thank all the Northern Conspirators who came to the game and stayed and played it to completion. I'm actually hoping that some day I can bring this game to one of the larger HMGS conventions now that I'm confident that it's well balanced and well designed and that I can host it competently. For those interested in more photos, they can be found on the Northern Conspiracy Events Galleries.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Historical Image Bank

Just a quick update. I don't usually post updates about other sites, but the Military and Historical Image Bank is worthy of an exception to this rule. They have a wonderful collection of color plates for the American War of Independence as well as several other black powder periods. The plates are searchable and well cataloged. This is a commercial site. They sell these images and what's on-line are watermarked samples. They are however, still extremely useful to us wargamers for painting guides and research.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Roman Velites for Field of Glory

These Roman Velites are Old Glory 15s that I've painted up for Field of Glory. Most of the time they'll be used in two battle groups of four stands each, but since I wanted the flexibility to deploy them in a single battle group of six or eight stands I painted them all similarly. I have to admit that I stylized these figures quite closely to how Scott MacPhee painted his as seen over on his blog. The only exception is that I chose un-decorated red shields which was inspired by a club mates figures that I've always liked. I still like Scott's paint job better than my own, but these will do just fine for me and will fit in well with my other figures.

I haven't painted 15mm ancients figures in over a decade, so I started with the Velites as they're quite simple figures. The Old Glory figures are quite acceptable with decent detail and a variety of poses in the pack. These were block painted then washed with Citadel Sepia wash. I'm still getting used to these new Citadel washes and I think I could have used a heavier coat, but wanted to make sure I didn't overdo it. Next up I'm going to ramp up the difficulty a bit and try painting four battlegroups of Triarii. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

American Rifles

This is a unit of American Riflemen I've painted up slowly over the past month and a half during the rennovation of my hobby room. The figures are from the Perry Miniatures AWI range - pack AW35 - American Riflemen Advancing. The figures are based up as two skirmish stands for Volley & Bayonet. They'll get plenty of use as skirmish elements of Morgan's and Dearborn's units as well as other at-large rifle battalions as needed.

These figures were painted using my usual technique of block painting followed by a wash. For this unit instead of using my usual homemade wash, I tried out the new washes from Citadel. These washes, while quite nice, do have a tendency to lighten up after they dry. Not knowing this when I first applied them I was aghast at how muddy the wash made the figures look. I paniced, wet my brush with water and cleaned most of the wash off. After the figures dried it looked like I hadn't done anything. After a second application of the wash without the panic they ended up as you see here. I used two different color washes: Sepia on the light brown and tan coated figures and black on the blue and dark brown coated figures.

Although these are wonderful sculpts, they do suffer from one problem commen to a lot of 'advancing' poses from many figure lines: the figures all seem to be leaned forward a lot. While this makes for a nice looking pose, photographing the figures ends up being quite challenging. For the photo on the bottom right I ended up having to prop the stand up to be able to see the faces of the figures.

Tarleton's Cavalry

This is a unit of Tarleton's cavalry that I purchased from my friend Rich Oster at Historicon in July. I'm not entirely sure of the figure manufacturer, but knowing Rich they're most likely either Foundry or Old Glory figures. Judging from the quality of the sculpts I'd guess the former. Rich had these based up for another set of rules so I based them for Volley & Bayonet as two massed stands with Tarleton on his own command stand. This basing should also let me use the figures with Carnage & Glory and British Grenadier hopefully.

When I received the figures from Rich, the command stand for Tarleton had a nice vignette on it with a sign labeled "Tarleton's Quarter" in front of a wounded Continental soldier with a saber sticking out of his chest. I thought this was so fun I had to include this on my new re-based command stand even though it's a little cramped on the smaller Volley & Bayonet-sized stand. Rich confided in me that these figures were painted for him by a close friend of his and I have to admit, they're painted much better than most of the figures I've painted for myself in my collection. I have two other units I purchased from Rich that I still have to re-base. Hopefully those will show up in this blog later on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gettysburg Visit

This past week my wife Lori and I took a vacation to Gettysburg Battlefield National Park. Gettysburg is one of my favorite places to visit and this was our second vacation here in our RV motor home. Some of the highlights this year were visiting the new visitor's center with it's vastly improved museum and new orientation movie and the improvements they've made to return the battlefield terrain to its historical state by clearing trees, adding fences and rebuilding historic structures. My only disappointment was that the electronic battlefield map presentation, which was my favorite exhibit in the old visitor's center, wasn't brought over to the new visitor's center and is now gone forever. The new visitor's center has integrated the Cyclorama painting presentation, and I have to say the restoration that was done on the painting was masterfully done. Sorry no photos are allowed there.

Our favorite part of the trip by far were the park ranger presentations. Of these the best by far was a two and a half hour walking tour entitled "Opening Moves" which focused on the first half of the first day's battle. This is my favorite part of the battle, and walking that area of the battlefield while the ranger described the action, punctuated with quotes from soldiers who were there at the time was exceptionally interesting. We also attended hour-long presentations on Sickles advance at the beginning of day two, and the action at and around the Devil's den also on day two. It's incredible that more people don't attend these excellent presentations. Our Devil's den tour had only five people including us in it which gave us great access to the ranger for questions.

Below are some photos, one taken from Little Round Top which shows some of the work that's been done to restore the battlefield, the other is a photo my wife took of the Wheatfield that I just like a lot. Since this was a second visit for us as a couple (my 8th visit) we didn't take a lot of photos, but there are some more photos here. I have more wargaming-related posts to make soon, including some new AWI figures, and ancients figures I've painted as well as photos of my newly-renovated hobby room.