Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rearguard forces

Luftberg’s luck continues to run ever-badly.  Ah well, at least there’s hope yet for them in von Kleintrink’s headlong attack.  It seems unlikely that they’ll get as far as the redoubt, as the whole thing is likely to get settled one way or another before then, but I’ve nonetheless worked further on the model.  The clay has dried, but predictably had an annoying tendency to shrink and needed to be constantly reworked so it didn’t part company from the plastic base.  I covered the dried clay with glue and stuck on lots of base-modelling sand, to give the whole thing the look of freshly-heaped earth.  For some variety, I used grass on the actual interior ground area.  I’ve still to paint up the wicker gabions in a dark brown, but it’s coming along.

I’ve also done some basic housekeeping, in the form of remarking my measuring dowel-stick into 60mm long sections to reflect the new base size.  I’ve also got to tidy up my turn progress marker, which is basically an A4 page with lots of linked boxes like a flowchart, for counters to be placed on.  I’ve discovered the Might & Reason rules are not clear enough to hold in your head, as it’s all ‘stages’ within ‘phases’ within ‘turns’, all of alternating initiatives & varying lengths.  For the DBA rules it’d be redundant, but for M&R it’s pretty much essential.  I’ll see if I can post my results.

I’ve also turned my thoughts to forces.  To guard the convoy, which I’m planning out as three counters for three wagons, I’m going to field four infantry regiments – two with the convoy, one rearguard and one vanguard.  I’ve also strengthened the vanguard with a half-sized regiment (only a single base, with points and strength halved,) as the chaotic nature of the retreat & pursuit makes detachments as likely to appear as full-formed regiments.  Also, I’m fielding a half-regiment of Croats, to give a bit of much-needed irregular troop-support.  Plus, there’s two regiments of cavalry going on the field.  No artillery though, as it’d probably be as much of a hindrance as an advantage. 

For Aschenbach, which is naturally smaller on account of me just having rebased old figures to play, the force is as follows:  Two full infantry regiments, a half-strength detachment of Grenadiers, two regiments of Dragoons and a regiment of Cuirassiers.  They are weighted (by necessity and scenario conditions) more heavily to cavalry than infantry, which is suitable for von Kleintrink.

Oh, and the last thing – the new General Ludwig’s stats for the tabletop.  I’ve decided to make him non-valorous, which would fit with him not being instantly charismatic; +0 to action (+1 or +2 would mean he is a highly active commander, so +0 suits his decent military education – at least he’s not -1 or -2, like some others!)  His one non-average feature is his high intelligence, so I’ve designated him as ‘gifted’ – in M&R this means he can reroll a command dice, which should reflect him well on the table – generally solid, but with the potential for inspired bursts of action at the critical moment!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Progress to the field

Things have been progressing, albeit slowly. The real world has intervened, and I've spent the last few days on a DIY project - specifically, wedged into the cupboard under the kitchen sink while fitting a new one, like some magician's assistant. Now it's done, but my arms and back ache! Anyway...

Scenario - check. Commanders - check. Campaign map - check. Forces - tbc. Before I get down to basing and painting whatever extra figures are needed, about all I can do is sort the battlefield.

What with the long road crossing four 4ft x 4ft battlefields, I decided to give Aschenbach a 1-in-3 chance of appearing on each field as Luftberg passed through it, which worked out as giving Luftberg a roughly 1-in-5 chance (if my sums are right) of making it through all four maps with no contact. This seemed like a pretty decent set of odds, offering the possibility of a clean escape but making it more likely that there'd be a fight. Also, I planned to do a second roll to determine what side of the board the Aschenbach entry was from. It was always most likely to be from the south, never from the north, but possibly from the east (ie, ahead of the column and across it's path) or the west (following on in it's tail.) I varied the odds of this depending on the position, so if the attack came earlier it was more likely to be ahead of the column, and more likely to come behind if it was late.

So, Colonel Ludwig rolled the metaphorical dice for the first area, hoping not to get a 1 or a 2, and he got... 1. The Aschenbach columns duly appeared, directly south as it turned out, close in to the road where it tended southwards. A direct attack by Von Kleintrink would be straight-out head-bashing, with minimal tactical space to move. Alternatively, he could move eastwards parallel to the Luftberg column. The road curves north up ahead, giving him a chance to cut a chord across the curve of the road and block the path up ahead. More tactical, but less aggressive. What will the hard-charging Von Kleintrink choose? The gods of fortune tossed a coin... Oh well, so much for ay fancy footwork: "Attack!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Felix doesn't live up to his name

Consider, for one Kafka-esque moment, that you are General Felix von Hentsch.  You must feel there is some cosmic conspiracy against you, for your luck has remained so unswervingly bad.  Your son gets invalided out of the army the previous year, and a new noble family emerge in Luftberg to challenge your pre-eminence.  You engineer a war to give you a shot at glory, only for it to go terribly.  Not only does the fugitive Von Zaub manage to empty the city of Spitzburg before you get there, but the Aschenbach army manages a spectacularly successful surprise attack across the river.

Not that you're a slouch, though.  Despite being badly surprised, you rush to some good terrain and offer battle - and promptly lose.  You have performed not at all badly, but a competent loser is still a loser, as far as you're concerned.  Frustrated at poor sub-commanders failing you, you send back to Luftberg requesting a talented young blade to put some fire into the troops.  Someone charismatic; someone brave; a pillar of support for you in trying times.

Meanwhile, you have to organise your retreat along the single available road east from Spitzburg, despite the Aschenbach forces under that old nemesis Erich von Kleintrink - the aggressive leader of the enemy cavalry.  Then, just prior to setting off, word arrives that your new commander has arrived.  Stepping into the shoes left empty by your own son, to go up against the veteran von Kleintrink, there arrives - Tobias Ludwig...

Tobias Ludwig, erstwhile lieutenant in Tradgardland, now freshly catapulted up the ranks through his dynastic connections.  When you meet him he turns out to be awful - morose and pessimistic, all but predicting disaster.  He is spectacularly ugly, his reputation for petty grudge-holding is dire, and the only reason the troops don't loathe him on sight is simply down to ignorance of the Tradgardlander noble.  Still, the Duke's letter promises he's militarily capable, and highly intelligent.  Perhaps he'll reveal hidden depths as he commands the rearguard.  Even so, the snakepit politics which prevail at the Luftberg army HQ have taken a fresh turn for the worse.  Perhaps you really should have just stayed at home...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Position Filled

After looking over the responses to last week's job advertisement, I've decided to accept a Tradgardlander. The Duke of Tradgardland's great-nephew, the Lt Tobias Ludwig, will be accepted as a transfer to the Luftberg army where he will receive a field promotion to higher command upon arrival. The official acceptance letter will be dispatched to Tradgardland via EvE shortly.

Many thanks to all who offered, which was greatly appreciated, but in the end I felt best on accepting from somebody just down the road from me, rather than compel other kindly folk from having to post figures internationally! And, of course, thanks in advance to Tradgardmastare for aid in enriching the fictional background.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


First and foremost, thanks to all for the offers of commander employment – I’ll pick one and respond in the next day or two.

 I’ve decided, what with the build-up of the two armies, that terrain needs a bit of a sprucing up. I bought some model railway trees to use, which look very nice, but the really ambitious bit is the home-made terrain.  Following on from my decision in the last post to include some field fortifications, I’d been pondering making a model and scratching my head about how to succeed. 

 Eventually I headed to the local hobby shop, bought a 2mm thick plastic sheet for the base, plus some non-firing modelling clay.  I marked out a base area of 60mm square (two of my 60x30mm bases, back to back) and then added a 30mm border to the back and sides.  I cut this out, rounding the corners, and then scratched up the surface of the borders to let the clay get a grip.

 Next, I started getting clay and rolling it into sausages of roughly 1cm thick, which I chopped up into rough cylinders and placed around the base area to look like gabions.  Once done, I added lots of clay to the outside and built up a parapet of excavated earth – taking care to leave a lower gabion in the middle, so any artillery wouldn’t look too implausible in residence.  I also used a spare base edge to press ridged lines into the inner gabion faces, to indicate the wicker basket-weave patterning.

 And that’s it.  The whole thing took only about 30 minutes of sit-down modelling time, and that was with correcting my errors.  For the benefit of others, these were that a) the gabions will creep inward as you press on the outer mounds of earth/clay, so you need to constantly check the bases still fit in and leave room for error; and b) check your gabion heights against your based figures, as my first efforts came up to a disappointing waist-height – something of a design flaw!  Still, easily corrected with some top-up clay.

 I know what you’re thinking – what does it look like?  Well, here’s the latest workbench photos:

The whole thing should really help out with Luftberg’s defences in the coming scrap along the road.  After all, who ever heard of a belligerent Austrian coming to grief in a bunker?  J

Friday, March 6, 2009

Maps on Post-It's

As is the way with the blogosphere (aka: the best thing to happen to wargaming since the dice) I’ve been kindly directed to a device that blows my own home-made effort away (courtesy of Snickering Corpses’ recommendation to Muster The Troops.)  However, I’ll see through the battle with my home-made version, not least because I can edit the terrain as required and prevent mountains appearing in a generally level river-valley province.

 I’ve used my generator as described above, and here’s the result in all it’s post-it-note scribble glory!

Awesome, I know.  So, here’s the tidied up version with MS Paint.

I generated the terrain a few times until it looked right (ie, no seven squares of marsh all side-by-side) and then drew in the road lengthwise through the map, generally avoiding bad terrain where possible and trying to go within 1 square of all towns, farms and villages.  One area which I noticed about ¾ along the route seemed a bit risky – where the road curves southward towards the anticipated Aschenbach attack and runs adjacent to three boxes of heavy woods.  As any attack here would come virtually without warning, I pondered revising it, but then decided on another solution.  I’ve got some modelling gear ready to be put to use, so I decided I fancied the idea of some protecting bastion (or revetment, as I believe that’s more technically accurate phrase) thrown up in haste to cover this obvious blind-spot. 

 Oh, and one last discovery on the blogosphere:  The site called Miniature Wars has a personality generator, which could well provide a bit of character in future for new individuals to turn up in the game.  Worth a look!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Scrap On The Road

With a few bases in hand, it’s time to turn thoughts once more to fighting.  I’ve been turning over the idea of playing the upcoming Luftberg retreat march as a kind of ‘protect the convoy’ mission.  Basically, the idea is to get a long and narrow stretch of ground mapped out, with a road running the length of it.  Luftberg will start at one end, burdened with a collection of slow-moving wagons to represent their baggage train.  They have to move them (or at least as many as they’re able) to the far end of the map and escape, all the while guarding against a random entry by a raiding Aschenbach force seeking to cut the road. 

 Step one on this is to carry out the long-overdue replacement of Conrad Von Hentsch, shot down in action at the conclusion of the last campaign, and still unreplaced as one of the more gifted sub-commanders in the Luftberg army.  I have therefore (on behalf of Felix von Hentsch, you understand!) posted an advert on EvE to see if any other blogger out there has a character they wouldn’t mind volunteering to fill Conrad’s vacated boots.  It seemed appropriate given the cosmopolitan nature of the military in the 18th century, but if no colourful characters are forthcoming I’ll simply create one myself.


Step two is to knock together a map.  I did this for the river crossing and approach marches to the battle of Passditz, and I actually liked the effect.  I thought it really lent something to the whole battle, so I’ll do the same here, and in case anybody is interested, I’ll explain the process.  I’ll be looking for a map that’s about 4ft wide, in order to give all the units a generous bit of elbow-room, and the area for possible fighting will be roughly four times as long as it is wide, to create the ‘corridor’ required for the scenario above.  So, 4ft x 16ft – 64 squares in all, and in each one I’ll put a single dominant terrain feature.

 Having tried and failed on repeated occasions to just imagine a map, I’ve given up.  You always stick a hill or something right at the point of maximum interest, and spoil it for other options beside the one you’ve expected going in.  A purely random process has proved itself perfectly good, and I’d recommend it.  Plus, you can computerise it for free!


Thinking up terrain for 64 boxes can be pretty tedious, and you’ll probably need more than 64 if you’re doing a decent battle, so I like to use an Excel spreadsheet.  Without getting technical (although I will in the comments boxes if anybody wants me to) you can instruct Excel to generate a random number for you – effectively a dice-roll of any number of sides.  I set up a ‘terrain table’ which numbered 1-10, and assigned a terrain type to each number.  These were pretty basic, like ‘hill’ or ‘light woods’ or ‘Village’ and I made about four options ‘clear terrain’ so the map would have some open areas, and not be like fighting in a mountain range or rainforest. 

 All you do is knock together a grid of the size & shape of your map, and in each cell you put the random number generator so each square is being rolled for at once.  I then create a second grid beneath it, and tell Excel to look up the number generated for each box above, refer to the ‘terrain table’ to look up the corresponding terrain, and print the result – and bingo!  You’re done.  Your grid should now list the terrain for each square, and you don’t get an aching wrist from rolling dice all evening.  I’ll post the results of my own map next, so you can see the fight taking shape.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Calling all Bloggers!

Hi everybody - I've a question I'm hoping somebody could help me with.  Through a busy week that's prevented me from doing much more than ponder ideas in quiet moments, I've got a search on my hands.  In doing up my armies, I need to also do up some of my officers.  These were previously made up from a mixed bag of officer figures, but were a bit haphazard and make-do.  Now I'm reworking the army, I should buy some new ones, and the blog's reliance on characters means I should really have some 'characterful' characters (if you see what I mean.)

What I need is some advice on where to get some individual 18th C character figures for 15mm, in order to take over generalship duties.  Does anybody know of such a range?  Most of the ones I've seen with individual figures are unfortunately ranges like Foundry, who only do 28mm models.  Any comments gratefully received!