Thursday, 22 February 2018

Going to War Again

Hard on the heels of the North Korean game Shedquarters was reconfigured for a figure game. Gary was over for his first go at the WSS rules, specially written for him as he's reading Charlie Spencer's book on the Great Duke. The aims for the rules are:

  1. Capture the period flavour of the WSS
  2. Be readily playable by a toy soldier novice
  3. Be quick and simple, with a result in 3 hours

Looks easy, but I think that's quite a difficult ask. The rules we played were in quite good shape due t the previous playtest with Phil, but I was aware bits were still missing (command and control is rudimentary to say the least) and I had to rely on being able to gloss over the shortfalls or just make stuff up on the spot.

Gary and I decided on the scenery between us. I had no scenario in mind, other than an encounter battle. At this point Gary confessed he hadn't got to the bits about the fighting yet in the book, so I filled him in on the basics of early 18th century West European Warfare.

Gary got the Anglo Dutch, - to the left of the picture, - and I got the French. I put my chaps out first, and then put the kettle on whilst Gary sorted out his deployments. He went for a strong left and right wing with a gap in the middle covered by cavalry. I tried to deploy in several mutually supporting lines of infantry and cavalry.

First off we both advanced. Here's Gary getting used to measuring things with a tape measure.

Gary had a lot of cavalry in the middle in march column. He moved it forwards quite aggressively. I warned him about not allowing enough space to deploy. Like he'd done in "Ney vs Wellington".

My army has shaken out into rows, and it looks quite...."Marlburian", if a French Army can ever be that. Gary has pushed his cavalry quite far forwards....

.... and then, scared by my foot, he about faced and ran away. On his left, Gary has set up all his guns in a big battery, and is lining up to make a defensive corner behind the stream.

And on the other wing he's setting up a defensive line on the hill top. He's covered his flank with a couple of units of cavalry.

Meanwhile my infantry are making a brave showing in the centre, supported by my cavalry. It's all looking good.

The Anglo Dutch cavalry continues to flee before our advance. Perhaps my opponent is drawing me into a trap.

Gary finally unleashes his cavalry straight into the front of some formed infantry. A devastating volley brings them to a halt.

My cavalry then sweep past to exploit the gap that is opening up.

On my right, having softened them up with some artillery and musket fire, my cavalry punches a hole through the Anglo Dutch Infantry line. Alas, the cavalry may have gone too far. What do the pursuit phase rules say?  Oh, I haven't written them yet.....

As I press forwards in the centre the issue with the game sequence becomes clear. You can't fire the turn you step into range, so end up getting blasted by your stationary opponent. This needs looking at (although, as we all know, by the 1740s the accepted tactic was to make your opponent fire first).

It is all looking jolly splendid. I'm on the attack everywhere, but a lot of my stuff is looking a bit ragged. And I'm running out of cavalry as it chases off its opponents.

Not so short that I can't take a chance on over running some infantry trying to cross a marshy brook, however.

Over on my right I deem it time to start pressing my opponent a bit. My troops advance from the village, and I move cavalry up in support.

On my left my single unit of cavalry has seen off one of Gary's, but is in no fit state to face his fresh reserves. Sensing my weakness, the Anglo Dutch have started to advance from their hill top position. My artillery on this flank, by the way, didn't hit a thing all game, pretty much. However, I sense the opening of an internal flank on my left, so I swing some of my centre cavalry across to exploit it.

As predicted my left flank cavalry are off towards the table edge, helter-skelter fashion. By the way, that's a square just to the right of the hill. There's a problem with 3 element units in this period.

In the centre Gary is trying to charge infantry frontally again, after he saw it work for me.

A coordinated infantry and cavalry attack lets me get to grips with the Dutch infantry at the base of the hill.

On the right centre Gary is trying to get some forces in place to cover the return of my pursuing cavalry.

I break the Dutch infantry on the left, who flee up and over the hill. Gary manages to get his other foot out of the way in time to stop it all turning into a rout.

I'm pressing forwards everywhere, but I'm light on reserves now. On my left there's some cavalry out of the picture about to cause me some grief.

On the right two infantry battalions have finally closed and their melee is swaying backwards and forwards.

This the position when we finished the game. I've cracked the centre with my infantry, but have too little cavalry to exploit this. I've got nothing to cover the cavalry on my left, which has over run my guns. On the right I have the initiative, but I'm outnumbered. If the Anglo Dutch infantry sort themselves out I've got problems.

So, how did I get on with my three aims?

Well, it looked like a WSS battle. Phil popped in part way though and agreed on this point, so that's not a bad start. The way we set up and fought didn't give me much chance to test the rules allowing cavalry to fight & recover behind infantry. Units degraded more quickly than I might have liked, and artillery, in Gary's case, turned out to be more powerful than I would have liked.

Gary got to grips with it quickly, and his problems were what to do with his army, not understanding the rules. So, big tick there.

Finally, it took us 5-6 hours to get this far, with a break for lunch & drinks. So, more than the three hours, although part of that was because it was a new rules system.

Good progress I reckon. Areas of the rules need to be looked at, and I think my attempt to get Neil Thomas simplicity has to go. I want flavour in more areas and perhaps it's just a type of rules I can't write.

I wonder if I can get the re-write done before Monday?


  1. Looks splendid fun. I'm not sure large(ish) battles, period feel and quick play is a possibility in one set of rules. Looking forward to seeing if you get there.

    1. You are probably right. On the quick play side of things I want to resolve combat results and morale quickly, not add up lots of numbers and have endless back and forwards. Speed of lay is always helped by having players who know the rules, too, so there's a way to go with that yet as well.

  2. Certainly good to see the AIRFIX AWI figures as conversions- lot of memories there.

    1. I love them. Alas access to more is going to slow this project badly. There are a few for silly prices on ebay, or you have to take a chance there might be some in bag of random figures. Guess I need to check out more bring and buys. Or hope that friends and acquaintances just give me stuff they no longer want.

    2. Three decades ago I had very good sets of AIRFIX -AWI with conversions...always lament that in recent times AIRFIX hasn't re-released the older AWI is a great pity. Hopefully you could be lucky checking the 'bring and buy' stands at you local wargame shows and clubs. Cheers. KEV.

    3. I would think there's very little chance of them ever being re-released. There's too much competition if you were starting now, and they are (according to the internet) very dated. It's just us old gits who never bought enough first time round that want them.