Monday, December 24, 2012

Of Dice and (Tin) Men; "Something Sweet for Christmas!"

    I'm now going to back track a bit to 1973 -1974. As related in my previous post of this series, the unofficial wargames group from UConn was invited to the home of Charlie Sweet for a game there, by his son David. I know at least four of us made the trip there, including Joe and myself, and probably including Jim, Steve, and Rocco.  I think our first trip was over our Christmas break. Charlie was probably roughly the age I am now at that time (hmm, he was born in 1914, so roughly 60 years old at the time... I have a few years to go yet, but not many). Charlie was one of the true Old Guard of our Miniature Wargaming hobby. He was one of the original fifty or so subscribers to Jack Scruby's pioneering wargames magazine, Wargames Digest, first published in 1957. Charlie was a frequent contributor to the magazine, but never published any commercial rules sets. He holds an extremely important place in the history of our hobby none the less. In 1965, Sports Illustrated published an article "A Little War can be a lot of Fun", covering the hobby and Charlie's games with his brother. This was the first ever national exposure for the hobby, and was followed by additional coverage, including a spot on the television show, "Sixty Minutes". Charlie brought our hobby out into the open (at least in the US), and made it both visible and respectable.

Charles Sweet as he appeared in an article in Jack Scruby's "Table Top Talk" 1963  -picture from the Vintage Wargames blog (link below).


    Even at age 18, I already had some idea who Charlie was from the articles he and David had written for the original NEWA Courier, plus this well written article, "Confessions of a Long Time Wargamer", published in 1971 from Jack Scruby's briefly resurrected Wargames Digest (I still have my copy of it!). Visiting the Sweet home in Bristol, CT was a real eye opener for a young and avid wargamer. His basement was like a museum, with posters on the walls, cases displaying his best soldiers, and an anteroom storing thousands more, many of which he had designed and cast or converted himself. It was impossible not to like Charlie almost immediately; he was un-pretentious and genuine, and his enthusiasm for the hobby was utterly infectious.

    I'm pretty sure our first game there used their Ancients rules. There were three of us players on each side, each commanding a set army composed of 20mm figures, I think  many of them by Alymer. If I recall correctly, these included Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, Macedonians, Carthagenians, and Persians. I have given my best attempt to reconstruct their rules below. Anyway, we all had a blast, even though I think almost half my Catapult shots hit my own troops instead of the enemy! we were invited back several more times, playing their Renaissance/TYW rules, featuring the famed Polish Winged Hussars (which Charlie had in 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, 30mm, and 54mm!), Dutch Spanish, Imperialists, etc. That game  triggered in Joe and myself an ongoing interest in the era, as well as a search for rules that we liked, that really only ended 30myears later with Band of Brothers by Piquet; I wrote the second edition of these rules with inspiration from my coauthor, Ken Baggaley, and much playtesting and brainstorming assistance from Joe. Another visit to the Sweet household was spent playing their American Civil War Gap Game, in which the forces of each side advanced through three "gaps" in the mountains on each table edge, the troops being allocated (in advance) secretly, each unit to to one of the three gaps. The cavalry at each gap had to enter first, followed by Infantry, and last, the artillery.

    When the seniors at UConn moved on to other things, in the following several years, my hometown gaming group and I were invited to Bristol on several occasions, and we played a similar selection of Sweet rules, with Charlie, Paul, Chuck and myself making the trip. The Ancient rules were our favorite, and Charlie and I began to collect some Ancient armies ourselves for the first time.

Edit: March 8, 2012:  This post spurred a lot of interest, and that lead to Dick Bryant (by way of Bob Cordery) releasing a copy of an article in the original NEWA Courier from ? the late 1960's covering these rules. Using that information, there is an updated version of these rules on my blog here.

Reconstructed Sweet Home Rules for Ancient Battles:

    These are reconstructed as best I can from memory and the published Sweet House Rules for AMR and Napoleonic battles, found on the Vintage Wargaming site below. Doubtless I have made numerous errors, but the overall flavor of the game should be more or less intact. To my knowledge, David doesn't generally spend time on-line, and I don't believe they ever published their Ancient rules.

   Their wargames table was actually a Pool table, with a thick, gridded board (marked off in 4" squares) overlaying it, and very simple, basic but functional terrain set out upon it. Charlie was a big proponent of using gridded tables for wargames. I was very receptive to that idea, as we had already been using a 3" hex gridded table for years as well.

    The basic troop types were Heavy Infantry, Light Infantry, Light Cavalry, Heavy cavalry, and... Catapults. Ah, those catapults! Each army, I think, had six units of Heavy Infantry and three of Light Infantry, four units of Heavy cavalry and two of Light Cavalry. Heavy units had four stands (3 figures each for infantry, 2 for cavalry), while Light units had only three stands (2 figures each for Infantry, only one for cavalry); I think a catapult had two stands of 2 figures each. Thus an entire army would have 72+18+32+6 +4 = 132 figures in 16 units.


My 25mm Minifig Late Assyrian Army, deployed in a fashion somewhat like the same army would be using the Sweet House Rules for Ancient Warfare.


    As best I recall the Movement rates were;


TYPE
Move Distance
Face on Diagonal?
Light Infantry
3 squares
yes
Heavy Infantry
2 squares
no
Light Cavalry
5 squares
yes
Heavy Cavalry
4 squares
no
Catapults
2 squares
yes
Commanders
yes
* Add one square if the move starts ends, and travels entirely along a road.


  Moves on the diagonal cost 1.5 squares. All troops could change face at the beginning and/or end of their move without penalty, IIRC. The two sides alternated, with the side having the first Move of the game being determined by a D6 roll off - suitably enormous ceremonial dice were used for this one roll. Only one unit could occupy a square at a time, except that Commanders could be placed with any friendly unit (or not), and could attach and detach freely.


Another shot of my Assyrians deployed a la Sweet.


   Only the Catapults, Light Infantry and Light Cavalry could shoot. Shooting (by both sides) *preceded* movement, and shooting by Catapults of both sides preceded other troops of both sides.  Aside from the Catapults, I'm pretty sure that maximum range was 2 squares (an adjacent square was a range of 1, 1.5 if on the diagonal, with a +/-45 degree cone of fire.. Fire was by units, and each stand rolled a D6.  Scores needed to hit ranged form a 1,2, or 3 against unarmored troops at a range of 1, to triple 1's to hit a commander. Something like this:


Target
1 square range
1.5 - 2 square range
Light Infantry, Catapults
Hit on 1,2, or 3
Hit on 1 or 2
Heavy Infantry, Light Cavalry
Hit on 1 or 2
Hit on 1
Heavy Cavalry
Hit on 1
Hit on double 1’s
Commanders
Hit on Double 1’s
Hit on triple 1’s
+1 die per unit if Elite
+1 die per unit if Commander with firing unit
+1 die per unit if firing at the same target as last turn.
-1 die per unit if firing into a Protected Square (cover)

    The Catapults had 2 shots each, but no more shots than they had crew. Actual firing catapult-like devices were used! These fired clay discs in a high arc, with a mark in the center of the disc. Range was unlimited, but filed of fire was still +/- 45 degrees. If the disc landed within 1" of troops, friendly or enemy, all such stands were hit and removed (I hit plenty of my own troops the first game!).  EXCEPTION:  for troops in a PROTECTED square, the center of the disc had to be both within 1 " and within the square itself, otherwise no stands were hit. Overhead fire was routine. The firing device could be placed anywhere behind the tabletop model when shooting. Needles to say, shooting with these was a lot of fun!


The number of units is correct, but these are 3" squares and the numbers of stands per unit would be different; actually, I think Charlie and Dave Sweet used 6" squares for 25/30mm troops. My own Sweet-inspired rules use 2 stands per unit and the 3" squares seen here.


    After Movement, if you moved had your troops into the same square(s) as an opposing unit, a Melee would be fought. The troops in the contact square would automatically be involved, and other troops of both sides might also be involved. Supports were indicated by facing the unit into the contact square, but note the restrictions in the table below; additionally, the defender could only face +/-90 degrees, not 45. The attacker had to indicate and face their supporting units first, then the defender. No unit could fight in more than one melee per turn. Commanders could be placed in the same square as another unit and still participate in melee. There was no penalty for the loss of the commander, if I recall correctly.



UNIT
TYPE
Melee Value
Support
90 deg
Support
45 deg
Support
ahead
Light Infantry
0.5 point
yes
yes
yes
Heavy Infantry
1 point
yes
no
yes
Light Cavalry
0.75 point
yes
yes
yes
Heavy Cavalry
1.5 points
yes
no
yes
Catapults
1 point
no
no
no
Commanders
3 points
yes
yes
yes

 Elite units add 0.5 points per stand.
* Only if on their own; if in the same square as a friendly unit ("attached"), Commanders support in the same fashion as the unit they are attached to.

Each side then totaled up the points they had either in the contact square or in support. Then came the interesting twist. Each player had a set of six Melee Deployment Indicators (MDI); the Sweets used old Dominos, with the "spot" side filled and painted over, and labeled LINE, COLUMN, SQUARE, FLANKING, PINCERS, and WITHDRAWAL. Each side selected an MDI secretly, and placed it face down ion the table. They were then revealed simultaneously, and the choices compared according to the following table:


DeploymentSuperior toSuperior to
LineColumnSquare
ColumnFlankingPincers
SquarePincersColumn
PincersFlankingLine
FlankingLineSquare
Withdrawal*Line (Succeeds)Square (Succeeds)

In the case of EQUAL deployments, Withdrawal succeeds for both, otherwise, each side loses stands equal to half the points of the weaker side. The weaker side then retreats 2 squares (counting moves on the diagonal as 1 square for retreats only). If both sides are equal, both withdraw 2 squares. However, if after losses are deducted, the stronger side is three times stronger (or more) than the losing side, then the weaker side is completely *destroyed* instead!

In the case of UNEQUAL deployments, a successful Withdrawal results in that side retreating 2 squares as above with neither side taking any losses; if it does not succeed then it is treated as an Inferior deployment.  The side with the Superior Deployment inflicts 1 point of losses upon the enemy for it's first point, and then points equal to half of the remainder of its strength. The side with the Inferior Deployment inflicts losses equal to half of its own upon the Superior side. The side then having the fewest points remaining retreats 2 squares as above; if the weaker side is outnumbered 3:1 or more in points, it is instead *destroyed* as above!

If the contact square is a PROTECTED square, the attacker eliminates 1 point less from the enemy than usual.

The first stand eliminated is always in the contact square, there after they are spread as evenly as possible, moving clockwise. For retreats only, diagonal moves are counted as 1 square instead of 1.5 squares.

I have used Chariots for one wing and cavalry for the other; IIRC, the Sweet rules really didn't distinguish between Chariots and Cavalry, just Light and Heavy. 

Morale was fairly simple; if a Heavy unit was reduced to 1 stand, it had to retreat on each and every move towards its baseline. It could support a Melee if otherwise eligible, but not initiate one.  I'd allow a single stand with an attached commander to carry on as usual, as long as the Commander remains attached.
.
Each Ancient armies had special features; For example, Assyrian (Heavy) Archers counted as in a Protected Square at all times, and as a Heavy target as well, but otherwise functioned as Light Infantry. Numidian LC were Elite, as were the Cartahagenian Noble HC, Persian Heavy Cavalry, Macedonian Companions, Spartan Hoplites, and all Roman Heavy Infantry. Balearic Slingers were also elite as were Egyptian (Light Infantry) Archers.


Imitation is the most Sincere form of Flattery

   My senior year at UConn, Chuck transferred from the Stamford Branch to the main Campus at Storrs; with a bit of heavy handed manipulation, we managed to get his room changed so that we could share my dorm room. We became very close friends over the course of that year; indeed, he would later be my Best man at my wedding 5 years later. Oddly, all three of my college room mates were also Eagle Scouts like myself. Now, you might think that with such an arrangement we were playing wargames all the time, but in fact we rarely did, although we talked about them quite a bit. One of the things we talked about was the Sweet rules, and especially those firing catapults!  Now, Chuck was majoring in Civil engineering, and as we talked about them, he sketched out an idea for building a prototype. It turned out some modifications were needed, but we were able to build two small working, firing catapults using just some Masonite, epoxy, coat hanger wire, balsa wood, the lids form two tins of Humbrol paints, and rubber bands.  That plus some plasticine clay from which to fashion, and we were soon shooting catapults all over our dorm room, LOL.

   That brought up the matter of the rules. It seemed Dave and Charlie never really got around to formally writing out their Ancient rules that we could tell. Besides, we were looking for some thing a little different, but still using a gridded table with one unit per square (or hex, in our case), plus the shooting catapults. Right around this time, the Legion! rules by Al Margolis, were published, predating DBA by roughly 15 years. These rules used uniform, 60mm frontage (for 25mm figures) "element" bases of troops, with 2 bases per unit. Those would fit into our 3" hexes.I liked the overall concept and mechanics of the rules, and with some significant modifications, these became the basis of our own Sweet-inspired Ancient rules.


Legion! wargame rules by Al Margolis. Published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1976.

   Over the next several years, we raised armies for Assyria, Carthage, Macedon, Mauryan India, Macedonian Successors, Republican Rome, Palmyra, Sassanid Persia, Byzantium, and the Teutonic Knights. We played games with these rules avidly for the next 15 years at least, and I even had Dave himself over to play them on several occasions, completing the circle. If there is interest, I can probably post them at another time. The same is true for the shooting Catapults Chuck and I built for these games.

*******************************************************************************

Sadly, Charlie passed away at the age of 87 in 2001; Bob Beattie wrote a nice tribute to him here. The Vintage Wargaming blog has a series of posts concerning Charlie and his games, figures, etc. here. Take a few minutes to look through some of the material; I think you will find it time well spent!

Peter

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Royalist Cavalry pt 2

    Continuing on with my circa mid 1970's 25mm Minifigs English Civil War armies, here are two more Royalist regiments of Horse, the famed "Cavaliers".


This first unit is Arthur, Lord Capel's regiment of Bluecoats, sporting the traditional plumed hats. There is a short biography of him here on wikipedia; a staunch supporter of King Charles II, he was eventually captured  in battle, and despite surrendering on condition of lifetime quarter, was executed on the order of Parliament in 1649. 


I gave each stand (troop) their own plume color, so the first has red and white, the second blue and white and so forth. They wear a showy  polished white metal cuirass.


There flag bears a crown and scepter, and the Latin moto "Perfectisima Gubernatio", more or less meaning "Monarchy: the Best form of Government". This flag is well documented for this unit.


 
The second unit is the Gentlemen Pensioners, here seen as as a rather larger unit than was in fact the case ( in actuality only a little over 50 men at this time, the unit having been established in 1509, and having a largely ceremonial role).


The unit fought for the last time as King Charles II's bodyguard at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, but it still exists today, in a radically different uniform, as the Gentlemen at Arms. Giving them 3/4 armor as Lobsters is speculative, but it gives me an excuse to have a unit of them in my Royalist army. This kind of heavy armor was rapidly vanishing from the battlefield by this era. Note the cavalry axes, especially suitable weapons for fighting similarly heavily armored foes... along with their Pistols!


For their banner, I have equipped them with the Royal Standard, with the gold Harp of Ireland on blue, the red lion of Scotland on gold in opposite quarters, the remaining quarters themselves being quartered with the three gold fleur-de-lis on blue of France (indicative of the English crown's now exceedingly tenuous claims to the French throne), and the "three lions passant guardant"of the Kings of  England, gold on a red field. 


A final, rear view of the Gentlemen Pensioners; I have given them red pants, where visible. The India ink black lining  I used works well to bring out the details of the construction armor plates and helmets. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Tragedy Too Close to Home

                                                         December 14, 2012                                          
                                                      Newtown, Connecticut                                        

    By now, most of the English speaking world must be aware of the almost unthinkable tragedy that happened yesterday just a few towns away from where I live and work. Newtown, CT  is a fairly affluent suburban community in an affluent state of an affluent nation; the kind of town where most people would be happy, and indeed fortunate to live and raise their children. The kind of town were you would feel safe at any hour of the day or night.  My two daughters started swimming competitively in elementary school, and the team that they practiced with and swam for was in Newtown. 

    It is, of course, impossible for any normal person to understand what could prompt a human being with any conscience or moral compass to do what was done yesterday, most especially the deliberate and methodical killing of twenty very young and completely innocent young children in their school. It is equally impossible to make sense out of it, because it doesn't make sense, and it cannot. Losing a child is one of the most difficult blows for any person to withstand emotionally, and now many families and an entire community are faced with just that, to say nothing of the families, friends  and colleagues of the slain adults as well. At present, It does not appear that I knew any families directly effected by the events of yesterday, but one of my office employees has a daughter who works in another elementary school in Newtown. My older daughter's first full time teaching job was in another nearby town; the principal who hired her at that school, Dawn Hochsprung, was the principal who was shot and killed in Sandy Hook yesterday. 

    In April of 1999, our family was on vacation on Grand Cayman. While we were there, we became friendly with an older couple who owned a condo in the complex where we were staying. He had just retired as an OB-GYN, having practiced in Littleton, Colorado. While we were there, the dreadful school shooting at Columbine High School took place; he had delivered many of the high school kids who were shot that day, and it devastated him. He and his wife have kept in touch with us since then; I was never really sure why. Perhaps today I know. 

    Our hobby, harmless as it is, models conflict and war, and as the in the case of the martial arts class coeds that I related in "War College", can be seen as glorifying war, and with it death and destruction. Some of us have military experience; others may be fervent pacifists  Some indeed, might be both. Since I have been on an "old school" path recently, in this regard I think that no one has ever said it better than H.G. Wells, in his 1913 classic, Little Wars:

    " And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence. 

    This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind—splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more — and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable “patriots,” and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.

    My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, and yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls."

    I trust that I might be forgiven for ending this sad topic on a somewhat political note. Granted that there is no way to completely protect yourself or those you love from the acts of a seriously deranged individual(s), we have seen far more mass shootings in this country over the years than any other developed country. While I have no interest whatsoever in hunting, I have nothing against those who enjoy it. That having been said, perhaps this time we as a nation will take some meaningful action to start to break down our "culture of the gun", and markedly restrict and control access to them, especially hand guns and assault rifles. "Guns don't kill, people do", the NRA will say. True, but it is pretty difficult to kill large numbers of random people in a short period of time with knives, bows, or what have you. The person most likely to be killed a by a gun is... the owner of that gun, whether by accident, or by another member of their own family, as was evidently the case in Newtown. Our friends in Australia have already conducted this experiment; the rate of homicides there dropped dramatically following the institution of strict gun control laws.  So as we pray for those impacted by this unthinkable tragedy, perhaps *this* might be the time that we as a nation finally might be moved to take meaningful action to reduce the ready access to firearms that exists in our country, with such gruesome and heart rending consequences.

                                                       December 14, 2012                                            
                                                     Newtown, Connecticut Newt                                 

English Civil War Parliamentary Infantry pt 2

    Continuing on with my vintage, 1970's "new" Minifig ECW units, here are two more Parliamentarian Foote regiments; the Earl of Stamford's, and a regiment of London Trained Bands.


This was the first unit that I painted out of all my ECW troops. From the Regiment's US website:

Henry Grey was created Earl of Stamford in 1628. A zealous Parliamentarian, he was the first man to be declared traitor by King Charles. By the start of the war in 1642, Stamford had raised a regiment of foot and a troop of horse.

The regiment saw early action in the West Midlands and Welsh borders. Battles in 1643 included those in Evesham, Gloucester, Worcester, Sudley Castle, Tewkesbury, and Hereford. Gloucester was held against the Royalists through 1644, when the regiment went on the offensive against Littledean, Westbury, Newnham, Wilton Castle, Malmesbury and Tewkesbury. More heavy fighting took place around Gloucester and all up and down the Severn.

In 1645 the regiment negotiated with the Clubmen, and fought Royalists in the forest of Dean, later taking Evesham by storm. In May the head of Stamford's, Lt. Colonel Massey, was appointed General of the Western Association, and soon after the regiment reorganized for the New Model Army and became Colonel Charles Blunt's Regiment (Blunt was originally the 3rd Captain).
 

I have equipped the Regiment rather nattily, with slashed sleeves showing the white linen shirt underneath, red wings sewn on for the pikemen, and red "apostles" on their bandoliers for the Musketeers.
 

I chose to use Bibles as the Company distinctive mark for this regiment; I can't recall, but I doubt I had any particular justification for the choice;. The US re-enactment group uses white unicorns.
 

The Earl of Stamford's regiment also has a U.K. re-enactment regiment in the Sealed Knot, in fact the oldest Parliamentary regiment in that organization, having just celebrated its 40th anniversary. More can be read about them at their website here.
 

Next up is the "Red" regiment of the London Trained Bands. These troops were as close as the British crown came to a standing army before the Civil War. They were composed of local citizens, probably mostly tradesmen, who drilled on a regular basis but carried on with their normal occupations otherwise. Like the bulk of ther city of London itself, they espoused the Parliamentarian cause.
 

Technically, the "Red" regiment is only known to have had red flags. I have chosen once again to portray them far more uniform and well equipped than was likely the case in reality; I plead Wargamer's License!  :-) The Musketeers are wearing sleeveless buff coats, with long red shirts or jackets underneath.
 

There is a Tower Hamlet's trained band Regiment in the Sealed knot as well; their website here has a host of truly excellent pictures of re-enactors; highly recommended. "Jehvah Provide Bit!"  (motto of the Regiment).  
 
Peter

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Of Dice and (Tin) Men; War College

    I started college as a Freshman at The University of Connecticut in 1973; I had written a short article for the original New England Wargamer's Association Courier earlier that year about a point system for the Frappe! rules (see previous posts), which lacked same, and in it mentioned that I would be starting at UConn in the Fall. A few weeks into my first semester, there was an unanticipated knock on the door of my dorm room. Upon answering it, I encountered a Senior who had come looking for me. It seems he had read the article, and went to the Bursar's office and looked up my campus address. Obviously, this was in the days before privacy was a big issue! Anyway, the guy in question was Joe Fish; we've now been friends and playing together off and on for 39 years!  Hard to believe!

    It turned out that there was an informal group of about a half dozen guys, unfortunately all Seniors, who played wargames a few times a month at UConn, usually in a corner of the cavernous ROTC Hangar (one of their number was the student Colonel of the ROTC organization). For Napoleonics, they used Fred Vietmeyer's "Column, Line, and Square", which were very popular back then; indeed, it was an unusual issue of The Courier that didn't have some kind of CLS related article. It was already out of print, but I had previously written directly to Fred and obtained a photocopy of the rules, that he made for me personally at his local library. I still have that copy in its plain black report style binder (hence no photo of this one), as well as a letter from Fred. I was already familiar with the rules as a result. [Although still long out of print, you can download a free copy here, if you like]. CLS uses a (nominal) 20:1 figure; men ratio. As my own troops were effectively 40:1, this meant that I could easily field two of my units as one CLS unit, so several hundred of my figures made the trip up to Storrs and fought in a number of games. At 36 infantry per battalion (and 6 -10 Cavalry per squadron), CLS units were BIG! This also started my shift into "Historical" organizations as opposed to standardized ones for all combatants (I later shifted back to standardized organizations after about 20 years!) CLS is a very bloody rules set; the castings are removed from the table rapidly once they engage in combat!




    Memorable among those games was the time that the newly painted, green coated Irish Legion in French service met an Irish regiment of the British army on the battlefield. Both marched straight for one another, and closed to musket range. Thereupon, their respective commanders declared that the men of both regiments had exited the table arm in arm, headed to the nearest pub for an epic drinking session.... but that the next time they met, it would be a fight to the death! Another time during a game, the British players pulled out Bicorne hats made from Newspapers, and  clapped them on their heads. Yep, it was a *very* stuffy group indeed!  :-)

    Then there was the time when we were rather quietly playing a nice little tabletop wargame in our little corner of the big, open space of the Hangar, whilst a martial arts class occupied much of the rest of the building; the majority of the participants in said class were of the female persuasion. Now recall, this was just after the deeply divisive Vietnam War had finally ended (my class in HS was the last to be given draft numbers in the lottery, but the first in many years where none of us were called up). Anyway, a group of these young ladies trooped on by our game after the class, looking rather disdainfully at our harmless endeavor, and proclaimed, with a decided sniff (no gamer funk, LOL - this was post hippie era, and we showered), "How Militaristric!" As opposed, of course, to completing an hour long class in combat designed to break bones, dislocate joints and the like. Talk about "too many boobies!" Or maybe just plain boobs.  :-)

    Also memorable from that year was the Medieval campaign for the French Throne, with each of us playing a Noble house/province and its pretender... except Joe, who played the evil Viking raiders. We had gold used to buy mercenaries to augment the limited numbers of very powerful armored knights raised by our feudal levies, the battles being fought with Chainmail.  IIRC, I had the Dauphine, which you might think would give me a leg up as pretender, but did not. Lots of diplomacy and skull-duggery involved!

Chainmail, first published in 1971, and authored by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren. In addition to the Medieval battle rules, it had a Fantasy supplement, plus a jousting game, which we played several times in my home town wargames group. In searching through my old rules for this post, I discovered that I have no less than THREE copies of these rules!


    On another occasion,  a group of us made a "road trip"  from Storrs to Pine Plains, NY, for a tour of Minifigs USA, guided by Steve Carpenter and George. The new Minifigs were a huge step up from the Scruby figures I had been using up to that point, and thereafter most of my new figures were Minifigs for the next 10 years or more.  I also started my first new period shortly thereafter, the English Civil War, using their figures.

    My ECW armies I did with LARGE units, based upon the organizations in "Cavaliers and Roundheads" (by Jeff Perren and Gary Gygax again, published in 1973) and "A Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War" by Bill Protz; 40 infantry or 18-20 Cavalry per Regiment. My ECW troops resided on the top of my Bureau at school, growing as I painted new regiments. After all, it pays to "advertise" for new opponents! I've been posting pictures of my ECW troops recently, with more to come. My Royalist ECW army was the only army I've ever entered into (and won) a painting competition, back around 1977.That mostly just proves how much everyone's painting has improved since those days!

    Another result of meeting Joe and the wargames group at UConn was meeting Dave Sweet. It turned out that both Dave and Joe attended High School in Bristol, CT. Dave was then a senior at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He and his Dad Charlie Sweet had also featured prominently in the pages of The Courier over the years. Dave stropped of at UConn for a CLS game in the venerable ROTC Hangar one evening, and that lead to invitation too the group to attend a game at the Sweet family household, over Christmas (or maybe it was Spring?) break. But that is a story for another post all by itself, which will be forthcoming!

   Now, lest you think that I was busy wargaming myself into flunking out, nothing could be further from the truth. I was admitted as part of the excellent Honors program at UConn, and  taking a slew of Honors courses (including Honors Organic Chemistry as a Freshman).A few of the guys in the Honors program liked board games - I played a couple of games of Risk, Diplomacy, etc., with them, but none of them seemed interested in miniatures.  I had an Appendectomy in November of my first semester, which kept me out of classes for 2 weeks. At the time, my Dad told the surgeon to be careful, as he would be operating on a future physician. What the heck was that about? I wasn't going to be a doctor; I was going to be a Chemist, Physicist, Historian, Marine Biologist,Writer - or whatever... not a Doctor! 

   Aside from meeting new gaming friends, the best thing about college was the four years I spent in the UConn Marching Band (and the pep band for basketball games my senior year 1976-77, this being long before UConn became a national basketball power). Playing in the band (Baritone Horn) was work, with practices 5-6 days a week for 90 minutes or more, but it was a blast. I even got to tour Europe for three weeks with the Band in May 1974, a bit of which is related in my post on Bavarian Infantry earlier this year. We also did a record album every year. I have to say that, for a Napoleonic enthusiast, our uniforms were pretty cool, too! We had royal blue heavy cloth jackets with white lapels, white cuffs, and white collars (piped royal blue), and large silver buttons on the lapels and cuffs. The pants were black, with a wide royal blue stripe down the outside seams, piped white. The best part of the uniform, though, were the short bearskins we wore, with dark blue "fur", ornamented with short red stand up plumes at the left side. One of the other guys on the same floor of the dorm where I lived the last three years played the Trombone in the band, and we became very good friends, even though he wasn't a gamer. Near the end of our senior year  I made Tom a 54 mm model of himself wearing the Band's uniform, and holding his trombone, with a mug of beer along side (I used a plastic Old Guard Bandsmen figure as a start for the conversion). Speaking of Napoleonic, the drum major wore a suitably flashy uniform in "reversed colors", i.e., white jacket with blue facings, complemented by a tall white bearskin with blue colds and plume. I think the Band's present uniforms are pretty ugly by comparison! Although I wasn't a big drinker, I can attest that a pint of brandy fit very comfortably inside the bearskin for safe keeping while performing, marching or otherwise! I will also observe that, even with modern dyes, the red color of the plumes would run horribly if the feathers got wet, and we played in the driving rain  more than once. Oilskin covers aside, I can only imagine what happened to the colors of the plumes actually used in the Napoleonic wars when it rained!  That aside, I still prefer my Napoleonic troops in parade ground perfect uniforms, as unrealistic as that might be.

    In any event, my first year of college passed, and the rest of the UCOonn wargames group (all seniors) graduated and moved on, Joe ultimately to a tour of duty in Germany as a Lieutenant in the US Army. Thereafter, I did almost no wargaming at college for the next 2 years, aside from painting more troops in my spare time. I played Napoleonic games, D&D, and board games (Cosmic Encounter!) back home on the weekends at times, but mostly during school breaks, as Paul and Chuck had now moved on to college themselves, Paul at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and Chuck at the Stamford Branch of UConn (thus he was living at home for the first two years).

    One game we did play some of at college  (on the floor of our dorm rooms) was Lou Zocchi's "Alien Space" Most of my friends were big Star Trek fans, as was, and am I.  From Board Game Geek "this 1973 classic uses (more or less) the same game system as his [later] Star Fleet Battle Manual. Including alien empires that sprang from his own creativity, these exotic starships carry such weapons as the Blazer, Nytron Lance, Tentical Beam, Magma Beam, Proton Torpedo, Javelin Torpedo, and the infamous Gapper Zapper! The game was intended for play with miniatures, and needed only eight pages of rules, eight ship damage charts, and a couple of pages of weapons templates. The game is played on a large surface with cardboard counters marked with a ship picture and a compass circle. A piece of string is passed through these tiles and knots are made at the 3, 5 and 6 feet marks. A record sheet inserted in a clear holder shows ship characteristics and a grease marker is used to mark damage. Players physically move their ships by measuring distance with a ruler. During combat, player must estimate their firing angle. The string is pulled along that angle and the enemy ship is hit if the string passes over it." Each of the eight ships had it's unique strengths and weaknesses, and often a unique weapon. Because all the players had to write their orders and the exact angle that they would fire from at the end of the (simultaneous) move, you had to be good at anticipating the moves of the other ships in order to hit them, making the game quite challenging!




    Speaking of Science Fiction Naval gaming, the year after I finished college (i.e. 1978), the Superior Starfleet Wars rules and miniatures were released. We started collecting and playing with those marvelous ships, each of us taking a different one of the five Starfleets (OK, well, I took TWO fleets, LOL). Charlie had the Aquarians, Chuck the Entomalians, Paul the Terrans, and I had the Avarians and Carnivorans. Now sold as the Galactic Knights range, I have many other posts about these ships on my blog already, with more to come, eventually.

The original boxed set, released in 1978, which came with one destroyer model from each of the Five fleets (photo from the Starfleet Wars blog).


Hope you didn't all find this too boring, as I have still more to inflict upon you!   :-)

Peter

Saturday, December 8, 2012

English Civil War: Royalist Infantry: pt 2

    The next group of my ECW army figures are two more Royalist Foote regiments. The first is that of Sir Charles Gerard. known to have been bluecoats. Gerard was a member of an old Lancashire family, and a stalwart supporter of the King and his cause. There is a reenactment regiment of Gerard's Foote in the Sealed Knot;  more can be read about Sir Charles and the regiment on their website.

I chose to do this regiment wearing rather old-fashioned Morions, which, for the pikemen, are adorned with red plumes proclaiming their Royalist sentiments.



The dress of this regiment is a bit less flamboyant than some of the others, but still note the decoration on the seams of the baggy pants of the Musketeers. 


The design of the flags, quartered per saltire or and azure, with gold wreaths as the badge, is known for this regiment. Still other regiments had the field divided into eighths diagonally, termed "gyronny". 


This very stylish regiment is the King's Lifeguard of Foote. Their red coats are set off by dark red pants, striped in white, and complimented by white plumes (all but the coat color highly speculative, and even there the exact shade is unknown, although of course subject to the usual dirt and fading!


An overview of the regiment, with the pikemen holding theirs at "Push of Pike". Many don't like this position for wargames pikemen due to the practical aspects of handling melee contact on the wargaming table, but I'm always happy to have an occasional unit in this very aggressive posture.



A rear view of the Lifeguards; the ornate designs on the standards are known (the scroll above the Lion reads "Dieu et mon Droit"). This regiment is also re-enacted by the Sealed Knot; their websiste is here.  There are illustrations of the flag designs as well as numerous pictures of reenactors on the site. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Of Dice and (Tin) Men - Maps and Monsters

  By now I was in High School and started working as a counselor at the local Scout Camp, a job which continued for four summers on into college. I spent an hour or so a day after lunch painting my armies at the Staff tent. As intended, in addition to getting a lot of troops painted, this lead to several of the older Scouts expressing an interest in the figures and game itself, and by the end of the summer, I finally had the start of a group of 4-5 of us who began playing the rules regularly up in my attic and having a blast; the three of us who were Scouts all became Eagles along the way as well. These guys would remain my friends and main wargames group for the next 20+ years, until one fellow moved to Arizona and another to California. Of course, as a rules junkie, I was always modifying and tweaking the rules, often with ideas stolen from the latest new rules release.

    Very early on, Charlie D. and I played out a simple campaign. We drew a map on a piece of poster board, each of us having 4 cities plus a capitol. Terrain on the strategic map was limited to a few rivers, and a road grid. His cities and rivers had Germanic style names, and mine French. To keep things simple, all movement was along the roads, and orders were written secretly for each of our armies (each represented, IIRC, by Mah Jong tiles). If an army's "supply line" was cut, it had to retreat the way it came and attempt to open it back up again. When two armies came in contact, a map was drawn at random from a pool of about 2 dozen generated in advance. Each player also drew an envelope, which had an Order of Arrival pre diced for - a quarter of the army would start on the table immediately, the second 1/4 would come on a D6 roll later, the next 1/4 a D6 roll after that, and the final 1/4  a D6 roll after that - thus the latest your last troops would arrive would be turn 19. Now, we were allowed to look at the maps and our own Orders of Arrival, but not the enemy's!  If you wished, you could withdraw 1 move ( a week) without penalty, or offer battle. Each made this choice secretly, and of course without knowing the other guy's order of arrival. On balance, I was lucky with my Arrival cards, and Charlie wasn't! If you lost a battle, your army had to retreat TWO moves, and lost 25% of its strength. If you fought a battle within a move of one of your own cities, you were allowed an additional 25% strength added to your army, but it had to all be Militia.

    Not long after that, we discovered the Warplan 5/5 system, sadly long out of print. It was not until 20+ later that I found out that Bob Jones was the US distributor for this product. Anyway, in a nutshell, the heart of the system is the map cards - 30 of them, numbered 1-30, and printed on both sides (thus A side and B side), for 60 different cards in all. A set of three Island cards (31-33) were also available (and we used them, too). Each 5" x 5" map card is gridded into twenty-five 1" squares, each numbered for reference. The terrain on these cards is quite detailed, and is further enhanced by the Atlas, which lists each card and gives additional details on every 1" square, even sea squares. Wow! Once a battle was joined, a 1" map square became a 5 foot by 5 foot square area of tabletop. The set also included counters for land, sea, and supply units, pads for tracking everything and issuing orders, and a weather grid and tables, as well as movement and scouting rules.

Two sample map cards from Warplan 5/5.The seaside resort of Wimate is in 11A.23, while Fort Wheeling is in 12A.13; believe it or not, I picked this pair at random from the thirty available... after I had already written the text!



    So, we dove in, creating a map with 4 countries, playing as 2 sets of Allies. I had Rigel and took the blue counters (and French troops),  Charlie D. was my ally this time with his nation of Das Vidanya and took the red counters (and British troops), while opposing us were Paul Y. who had the green counters and Russian troops, while his ally, Chuck G. had the yellow counters and Austrian troops. I can't say I recall the names they gave their countries. Charlie's future wife acted as umpire, and she was tough! :-) My sister was not above spying on our "situation map", and giving intelligence to Paul and Chuck, who were her classmates! We each also had a substantial Navy, and these played a significant role in the campaign, generating some very memorable naval Squadron actions, which we played out using Dave Arneson's "Don't Give up the Ship" rules (and Jack Scruby's 1:600 Sailing Ships, complete with detachable Masts), most notably the Action of Wimate. 

I couldn't find my first edition copy (1972 by Guidon games); this is a picture (from Wikipedia) of the second edition, published in 1975 by TSR.  Don't Give Up the Ship was the first collaboration between Gygax and Arneson, preceding Dungeons and Dragons!

  The culminating battle of the campaign was the Battle of Wheeling, which featured a fort on the tabletop, siege guns, and an 18 foot long table. Memorable in that action was Charlie's newly painted British Rocket troop opening fire for the first time ever. In Frappe!, when you fire a rocket, you choose a number of dice to roll, up to ten D6, IIRC....  whatever score you roll is how far the rocket travels, in 3" hexes. The rocket goes straight the  first 4 hexes, but for each hex thereafter, you roll a D6 - 1,2 it goes 60 degrees left, 3,4 straight, and on a 5,6 it veers 60 degrees right. Cavalry passed over by rockets have to check morale, and in the final hex of flight, another roll is made: on a 1,2, or 3 the rocket fails to explode. On a 4 or 5 it bursts on the ground, and any unit(s) in that hex have to dice for casualties. On a 6, though - air burst!  All units in the target hex *and* the six adjacent hexes must check for hits! So, Charlie rolled ten D6 and the rocket snaked its way six feet across the table, ending in the hex with Paul's newly arrived and also just painted Russian Chevalier Guard Cuirassiers. Charlie rolled the D6 - a SIX! The airburst hit the Guards, they failed morale, and routed off the table, never to be seen again. Of course, on the next shot, a similar handful of D6 dice rolls resulted in the rocket reversing course and landing in the same hex as the Rocket battery itself. This time, the D6 roll resulted in a ground burst, which destroyed the rocket battery... an oddly poetic form of miniature justice!

A sample page from the Warplan 5/5 Atlas

    Anyway, we fought dozens of battles and at least 4 campaigns (two with Warplan 5/5, and the fourth with a hex map we drew ourselves) with tabletop rules still essentially based upon Frappe!  We also began playing Dungeons and Dragons regularly. This was quite a feat at first, as the original rules were extremely vague as to how combat would actually be carried out! No problem, we adapted Arnold Hendrix's "Sword and Spear" skirmish rules to D&D for a much more tactical approach to personal combat. I won't say much more about D&D, except that we had a blast with it, and my character was a Lawful Good Cleric by the name of Virelon... perhaps foreshadowing my future choice of Medicine as a career! Our painting skills also improved as we painted individual figures for our characters, faithful followers, monsters, and, of course, the local color. We also built not one but TWO model castles, and used them for some large scale battles that resulted from our intrusion into the land that had once been a monster infested wilderness.  One year, we even had a Christmas party where all six of us that played came dressed as our characters (long blue robes, a blue red/yellow Bishop's miter, mace and crosier, in my case), and each of us did a song parody based upon our imaginary world, "Eingeladen". "Tilandor, the Copper Dragon, lived on a noll; and frolicked in the Northern mists, eating Goblins, Orcs and Trolls!" Tilandor was a NPC, and proprietor of the local trading post; he was well known to palm off cursed magic items to unsuspecting players at "bargain" prices!

Yep, I'm a geek, and proud of it; here's my card!  :-)

The Original D&D; image again from Wikipedia, but identical to my own copy, except that my cover says "Price $3.50" at the bottom (3rd printing - April 1975). IIRC, the three volume boxed set was $10 together.


    It was also during this time that I attended my first Wargames Convention; I think it was 1971, and the old MFCA (Miniature Figure Collectors of America) Wargames convention in Chester, PA (outside Philadelphia); I think the year I first attended was the last year it was held at the Armory before moving to the grounds of Widener College.  I do recall meeting Dick Bryant and Arnold J. Hendrick there at my first convention. I was probably just shy of 17 at the time - Charlie, who was several years older, did the driving.  This was pretty much a purely shopping, socializing and buying event for us; I don't think we ever played a game there. Jay Hadley was the chief organizer of these events. Still, we attended enthusiastically every year for many years.

Sword and Spear, by Arnold J Hendrick, published in 1975. Image from Boardgame Geek, but my copy is identical. The appendix included rules for a variety of Mythological Creatures, Heroes, etc, which we adapted for use with our D&D games.  Mr. Hendrick was a member of the Boston based New England Wargamer's Association (NEWA), and a frequent contributor to the original NEWA newsletter, "The Courier". Who, having read them, can forget the tabletop exploits of the portly Roman general, Maximus Gluteus, and his somewhat limp-wristed Pontic adversary, Faggo Hermaphrocomedie?

 To be continued...

Peter