I recently finished reading Donald Featherstone’s Advanced War Games (1969). I think it’s only fair to say that it’s a bit of a hotchpotch of wargaming ideas from the early years of the modern hobby. Having said that, I’m glad I’ve read it. Not only has it has helped me appreciate the pioneering work that Donald and his contemporaries contributed to the hobby, but it’s been a palate cleanser of sorts. When you strip things down to their nuts and bolts and see things with fresh eyes, it can help you build anew.
Donald presents extensive morale rules – 19 pages in all! There are tailored morale tables for Ancients, Medieval, 18th century, 19th century, colonial and American Civil War, each detailing the various factors which could be applicable during that period. However it was some of the possible outcomes that I was particularly taken by; troops retreating in good order and those retreating in disarray. These feature in military history time and time again, yet there seemed to be no rule to help actualize this in one of my current wargames of choice, The Portable Wargame by Bob Cordery.
In The Portable Wargame, retreating is one possible outcome of a unit being under fire – the other being the degradation of their Strength Point value. But when a unit retreats, the direction that the unit is facing seems to be left up to the player in charge of that unit. Given the choice I’m sure no-one would want to have their rear facing the enemy when there’s a chance that they could follow up, but history tells us that this could and did happen.
So here is a simple houserule for The Portable Wargame to determine the direction that a retreating unit is facing, when the quality, condition and situation of the troops are considered, inspired by the distilled ideas of Donald Featherstone.
Portable Wargame: Retreating
When a unit retreats, roll 1d6 to see if it’s conducted in good order.
If the retreating unit makes its target number, then it retreats in good order and does so facing the enemy.
If the retreating unit fails to make its target number, then the unit is routing and faces away from the enemy.
Modifiers to the dice roll:
Friendly Commander with the retreating unit: +1*
For each friendly unit in good order that’s on the flanks of the retreating unit (within 2 hexs of the unit’s initial location): +1
If the retreating unit has already lost half or more of its SP: -1
If retreating from artillery fire: -1
* If using Commander ratings as described on p39 of The Portable Wargame, then you could use the following:
After a week of work on my VASSAL module to play the Franco-Prussian War using The Portable Wargame, I’m nearly at a suitable place to catch my breath. I probably could’ve finished it by now but I succumbed to feature creep and implemented a battle start time generator and day/time turn tracker inspired by Donald Featherstone’s “War Games“.
I’ve also created some Day / Twilight (as shown above) / Night visual effects so that the turn time could be used to affect play. And finally I’ve made it easy to deploy Fieldworks + Fortifications (also shown above).
If I behave myself and don’t add any more bells & whistles, I should be able to finish version 1.0 this week and get it play-tested with a live opponent.
Well lookee here! A new edition of Michael Howard’s “The Franco-Prussian War” has just been published. I’d been holding off on buying the previous edition because it was around £25. But at over 500 pages, that’s probably not unwarranted. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only had a new edition been released but also that it was a bit less of an outlay.
For those of you who aren’t aware of this tome, here’s the publisher’s blurb…
In 1870 the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck ordered the Prussian Army to invade France, inciting one of the most dramatic conflicts in European history. It transformed not only the states-system of the European continent but the whole climate of European moral and political thought. The overwhelming triumph of German military might, evoking general admiration and imitation, introduced an era of power politics, which was to reach its disastrous climax in 1914.
Michael Howard’s The Franco-Prussian War is widely acclaimed as a classic and the definitive history of one of the most dramatic and decisive conflicts in the history of Europe. Evoking a palpable sense of the struggle and the high stakes of the war, Howard analyses the tactics, political dynamics, morale and actions that determined the course of the conflict. He also describes the crucial role played by key figures in the war, including Bismarck, the Prussian military commander Helmuth Von Moltke, and the French generals MacMahon, Chanzy and Trochu. He also sheds fascinating light on how difficult it was to bring the war to an end, with extremists in both France and Prussia pushing to prolong the conflict.
A tour de force of both European and military history, The Franco-Prussian War is a superb account of this dramatic and hugely important conflict, ideal for the student, historian and general reader alike.
This Routledge Classics edition includes a new Foreword by Bertrand Taithe.
When planning on how best to base certain miniatures (especially the unconventional kind) I found myself wanting a guide to help me eyeball things. Given that I can’t help myself but embark on another project to fill my day, I created a miniature base size guide for round and oblong bases.
Pictured above are examples of it in use. On the left is a 54mm undead warrior from Tehnolog and on the right are four 20mm Afghans from Newline Designs.
It was particularly useful when trying to figure out how to base my various trees, before I had a stockpile of MDF bases in various sizes from Warbases to try them out with. Pictured above is the resulting fruits of my labours. Two trees from Games Workshop on the left on 60mm and 40mm, and a random model railway bottle-cleaner style tree on a 35mm base. When it comes to trees, I think it looks best when the base isn’t quite as wide as tree but wide enough to stop it from toppling easily. (Yes I know they would look even better if I finished basing them… they’re in the queue).
Anyhoo… pictured above is the guide that I created with Affinity Designer (which, if you’re in to such things, is an inexpensive vector art program comparable to Adobe Illustrator). You’re welcome to use the guide for your own personal purposes.
NB YOU WILL NEED TO PRINT IT ‘ACTUAL SIZE’, NOT ‘SHRINK TO FIT’ OR ELSE IT WON’T BE THE CORRECT SCALE!
For ease of future reference, I’ve also added it to the Downloads page. Have a look… there might be something else that you find handy.
You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of Crossfire, a WWII company-level wargame. If you’re interested in finding out why, then I’d recommend watching the following Crossfire intro videos courtesy of Lindybeige and Paul Ward (aka Matakishi’s Tea House). They should give you a good feel for some of the unique aspects to the game. I’ve compiled them into a playlist for your convenience.
Paul suggests some simple alternative houserules for close combat and tanks, which are worth contemplating if you aren’t keen on those sections of the rules-as-written. However I’d always recommend playing a game straight at first until you’ve got a handle on the experience that it’s trying to emulate.
Crossfire recommends base sizes for figures of 15-20mm (or 25mm). They are 1 1/4″ square (that is ~32mm) or 1 1/4″ x 5/8″ (or ~32mm x ~16mm).
Personally I find the recommendations a bit on the small side for 1/72 scale (20mm) miniatures, especially those figures that are already individually based and need mounting on a group stand. So over the years I’ve toyed around with various options and I’ve settled on the following:
Rifle / SMG Squad: 40x40mm round-cornered base with 3 figures
HMG / On-table Mortar: 40x40mm square base with 2 figures + weapon
PC: 1p base in a single figure tray
CC: 40mm circular base with 2 figures
BC: 40mm circular base with 3 figures
FO / AT: 2p base with 1 figure
Sniper: 2p or 20x40mm round-cornered or pill base as appropriate
Here are my thoughts on the above-mentioned units and base types…
Rifle / SMG Squads and HMG / On-table Mortars
I used to use squares for my rifle squads but now prefer the rounded-edged bases for those troops as they don’t need to be regimented like Napoleonic forces. However I still use straight-edged bases for HMGs and on-table Mortars as the base is useful for eyeballing their 90° arc of fire.
I really didn’t like the recommended size for Platoon Commanders. I know it was useful to have one dimension equal to the standard squad base-width, however there was a lot of excess base and I didn’t find it very aesthetically pleasing. It also seemed to be a rather unique base size for a leader, which would be a bit jarring when used with other game systems.
Left to my own devices, I probably would’ve based my PCs on 2p bases, however I inherited some figures based on 1p bases. To help distinguish them from the rank and file, my solution was to mount the leaders on a single figure tray. This also allowed me to colour code the single figure trays to highlight the platoon commander’s assistance modifier (gold = +2, silver = +1, copper / bronze = 0) and hot-swop them between games whenever necessary. Given that it’s possible to have lots of PCs on the table with different modifiers, this is pretty handy!
I could be wrong but I don’t think there are any PCs that have a modifier of 0, but there are French, Italian, Russian and US organisations that have varying PC modifiers depending on the context (see table below). So the copper / bronze tray would signify that.
French leg & motorized infantry and dismounted dragoons
Italian leg & motorized infantry
United States leg & armoured infantry
Company and Battalion Commanders
As CC and BC stands don’t fire, I thought it’s not that important to have squarish bases as facing isn’t an issue. Round bases are the classic shape for commanders on the tabletop so why break with tradition? However as they can both engage in close combat I thought it best to use a similar base size to the Rifle / SMG Squads.
Anti-tank infantry markers
Rather than create additional rifle squad bases featuring anti-tank weapons (eg Panzerfaust, Panzershreck, Bazooka), I’ve settled on using an individually based AT figure, which is essentially a token, to place beside the squad in question to designate their upgraded equipment. You just need to remember that the AT figure is just a token, and AT fire is from the centre of the squad base not the AT figure themselves. Usually I’d use a 2p base for AT figures but in the case of prone PIATs or Anti-Tank Rifles I may base them as a regular Rifle squad should the need arise.
I guess it was a blessing and a curse that when I started playing Crossfire there weren’t any local players whose basing style I needed to mirror. Anyhoo, after much play and mulling over, this is what works for me. Maybe it’ll help you figure out what’s good for you? If you’re looking for a base supplier, then why not try Warbases. That’s where I got my MDF mountain.
I took a wild punt on a job lot of Franco-Prussian figures from Chariot Miniatures the other day. I wasn’t really sure what I’d be getting, but I thought it might be a good way to get started with the FPW, as regardless of what I got, it would be something that I could build from. I mean, I’m going to need lots of everything really. Though I’m not going to rush in to all the Prussian allied states *just* yet!
After a bit of internet sleuthing it seems that Chariot Miniatures are no longer trading and their FPW range may have been acquired by Magister Militum. Certainly some of the sculpts and catalogue numbers are similar. So that’ll be handy if I want to top up any of the units in the same style. Though it does look like some of the packs aren’t available on the MM website. I assume they’ve combined certain packs eg the command and the line infantry. Also the Chariot packs have 12 infantry and 6 cavalry, as opposed to Magister’s 30 infantry and 12 cavalry.
There is a Chariot Miniatures website still partially accessible courtesy of the Internet Archive, however their Franco-Prussian War page is sadly absent. So for the benefit of anyone who is trying to find out any information about their FPW range here’s as much info as I’ve managed to work out.
SFE1: French infantry
SFE2: French infantry command (4 officers, 4 standard bearers and 4 drummers)
SFE3: French Turcos
SFE5: French Zouaves (with turbans)
SFE10: French Hussars
SFE12: French Cuirassiers
PUG3: Prussian Jägers
Anyhoo, these are the first 10mm figures that I’ve seen close at hand, and I must say I’m amazed at the detail in such small miniatures. They’re quite remarkable! I’m looking forward to picking up some Pendraken 10mm next to see how they compare.