Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fitting it on the table

Ok, so I went to the venue we'll most likely be playing on today and looked at the tables there and how I could connect them together. It looks like the best table depth I can do without being too narrow or too deep and not needing to start buying plywood is 160 centimeters. Width is not so much of an issue as there are plenty of tables to connect. 160 centimeters of depth gives me a slice of the battlefield pictured above. I rotated the rectangle the best I could to fit the important parts of the battlefield on the table. It's a compromise, but what isn't in this world? I would have liked to have chinn ridge and bald hill completely on the map, but it is important to have some space on the other side of the stone bridge for Union troops to deploy on. I might trim the map a bit from the right hand edge if need be to fit the field on two Citadel grassmats and to save on not having to buy as many model trees. Besides, the Island ford probably couldn't serve as a Union entry point as the trail leading from it to the Union positions goes very close to confederate troops I do not intend to include in the OOB for this scenario. I'd say it's just safe to assume the Union troops wouldn't risk moving troops by this trail. Credit for the map this butchery of mine is based on belongs again to Hal Jespersen and his site. I'm just hacking his work to pieces for my own sinister ends.

So, to give players the possibility to still maneuver more than this map allows, I thought I'd make it possible to conduct off-map movement. The entry time for a force can be altered depeding on entry point. For example, if a union brigade marches from the east, it can choose to appear at the stone bridge or at the Sudley church a couple of turns later. I'll have to figure out how long it will take for a force to march via the roads but I think it's doable. It should be possible for a brigade to march via Groveton to threaten the enemy from a different direction, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scaling Bull Run.

So what will I need and how much of it? Figure-wise I have already a nice start in 6mm Baccus miniatures, the first base I ever made pictured above. The stuff I have, however, is based on the Polemos rules with a 28 figure 6cm*3cm stand being the norm. For Fire and Fury, I'll need to rebase.

Fire and Fury uses infantry based on 1"*3/4" stands, which converts nicely to 25mm*19mm stands which a SI system oriented person is more keen to understand. The stand represents either 150 or 200 infantrymen making the groundscale either 45 or 60 yards per inch. I've chosen to use the 200 scale for Bull Run to make the task of painting them easier and because fitting the game on a reasonably sized table will be difficult enough on the 200 scale as I'll reveal later.

Fire and Fury has been designed with 15mm figures in mind, with 3 figures per stand, but I see absolutely no problem in using 6mm figures with the same stands, as the groundscale will be closer to the figure scale and I'll get a better massed effect by putting more figures on the stands. I will have eight to ten figures per stand, standing in two ranks. Sort of like on the image above, only on smaller bases. 

The  The Wikipedia article on Bull Run cites the number of soldiers engaged as being approximately 18 000 men per side. Using the 200 scale, that means I will need to do about 36 000 / 200 = 180 stands of models for this project. This might be reduced somewhat when I design the scenario and see who will be controllable by the players, but if I'll put 10 models on each stand, I'm going to have some work ahead of me. The good thing is that I have roughly half of that already painted up!

Yes, I know there is a Bull Run scenario in the Great Eastern Battles supplement for Fire and Fury. I just haven't seen a copy I could procure at a manageable price anywhere.

Then the battlefield itself. Looking at the very  wargames friendly map on the Wikipedia article, we can see that the fighting was centered around the area of Henry house hill. A lot of the Wikipedia ACW maps are made by one Hal Jespersen, and they're great. You can find a collection of his maps at Now, the thing I don't like about many wargames based on historical battles is that the scenario sets up to a point in the battle when the die is already cast. The armies are facing each other in the historical positions and there is very limited maneuverability left for the player. You simply roll a lot of dice and see if history repeats itself. Now, I want a scenario where I have the possibility to choose different strategies than the ones the generals of history took. I want this scenario to give some maneuverability to the player so he can move in from a different direction if he wants and use the troops at his disposal in different ways. I think the battle of Bull Run gives good opportunities for this.

Now ideally, if you want to give good maneuverability to the players, you should have a playground which has (take a look at the map now) Sudley church in the north, Groveton in the west, old Warrenton road to the south and the Stone bridge with enough elbow room beyond it to the east. That would give the players some good road march options and enough space to try and maneuver. The problem with that is not that I'd need a lot of miniatures terrain. The problem is the table size.

If one inch of table represents sixty yards, then one mile is 29 inches which is about 73 centimeters.  The battlefield area I'd want to cover is about 4 miles times four miles. That is nearly three meters across per side. That would look impressive, but there is no way that anyone would be able to reach the center of the board where the action is the hottest. Damn you, real world!

 So, I'll have to trim my grandiose plans and figure out a couple of tricks to be able to fulfill my wish to give the players ample maneuverability...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

First PvP playtest of Fire and Fury (and a bit of ASL)

Today me and my regular wargames opponent, Simo, played a playtest battle for the Fire and Fury rules. We played the Battle of Newmarket scenario taken from as it wasn't too big and had infantry, artillery and cavalry to try out.

I had played the same scenario by myself solitarire style before to get to know the rules but now we played full Pvp. Simo was quick to pick up what I had learned from the rules and we quickly got a nice pace to the game. I think we played four hours overall. In the beginning as per scenario setup, the scattered union forces face a concentrated attack by conferedate forces. Simo was playing the confederates and he got off to a good start by kicking the butts of the two or three brigades facing his forces with superior troops and solid dice rolling. The confederate forces advanced quickly towards the Bushong farm line while the union forces scrambled in an uncoordinated retreat. The union reinforcements did get to deploy in time and the Sigel was able to dress the defensive line in the last minute.

Now that the Union line was in proper order, the confederates faced a more challenging task. The union guns and muskets started to disorder and whittle down the confederate line and their attack ran out of impetus. The two lines exchanged fire for a couple of turns without either side gaining the upper hand.

At this point we calculated victory points and found out the confederates, having decimated several brigades, were in a healthy lead. Seeing that the confederacy didn't need to advance anymore to win, I attempted a charge with the union troops to even the score. Charging headlong to the front of confederate brigades with cavalry might be a cinematic sight, but it is also suicidal. Several stands removed, the attackers retreated in disorder. We decided that we didn't need to play the final turn of the scenario as it was getting late.

The game was fun and filled with entertaining events, even though the ruleset is fairly abstract. I also already remember a lot of the dice/firepower modifiers in game by heart, which speeds up play nicely. I'll just have to wait for those laser cut bases I ordered from Litko to come so we don't have to play with pieces of cardboard.

Also, me and Juniori (another regular opponent) played a game of ASL yesterday. Scenario 49 "Piercing the Peel" from Last Hurrah. It was a German versus Dutch match in 1940.  The board was countryside with hills, hedges, grain and orchards. The Dutch had a trenchline with three pillboxes but the pillboxes were facing the wrong way. The germans had managed a surprise attach to the rear.

The german objective was to take two of the three pillboxes. The dutch are not very good quality troops especially compared to the Germans, but they managed to put up a fight. In the end, the Germans didn't manage to take more than one pillbox. According to the rules, taking a pillbox isn't very easy as you cannot advance into melee with the occupants but have to shoot them all dead in order to enter. I think we may have gotten some rule wrong with this, as it didn't seem that realistic. I'll have to look into it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My ACW project.

Hitting the ground running with my blog, I'll start with the topmost project I have in the works right now. A couple of years ago, I bought a set of 6mm acw figures from as well as the set of rules offered on the site to play with them. The ruleset didn't satisfy my needs but I did paint a good amount of them, about 500 figures for both the union and the confederacy. I've been aching to get them on the table, but haven't found rules which suit the figure scale well.

Well, now I have a copy of Fire&Fury (the brigade version) and after playtesting the rules with cardboard pieces I think I have my set. The scale is appropriate for 6mm and most importantly, the rules are fun to play. The activation rolls create a bit of a realistic difficulty in syncronizing attacks as some brigades might move at half speed or not at all at a crucial moment (warhammer players might be reminded of stupidity/animosity and chuckle). The fire combat and melee modifiers are appropriately abstract for the scale. If you try to recreate entire ACW battles, do you really want to have differing ranges and combat modifiers for different kinds of musket? Nope. F&F differentiates only muskets and carbines which is appropriate. The two sides of the war are separated with the Union having more powerful artillery and the confererates being more effective in close quarters. Simple and quick to play. I like it.

So, what to do with the rules now that I have them? Well, it is the 150th anniversary of the war and the anniversary for the Battle of Bull Run or First Manassas is this summer. Since the battle has a manageable number of engaged and is the first large encounter of the American Civil War, I decided that I'll try and recreate the engagement in Fire and Fury.

I have until late July to rebase my already painted figures for F&F, paint a batch of new ones, create suitable terrain and design a scenario. Should be no problem, right?