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.
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.
With thoughts of playing a greater variety of wargames but with less investment in figures, time and storage space, I’ve come round to the notion of using paper miniatures. At the very least, they allow you to try out a game relatively quickly after reading it, to help you decide whether or not you want to pursue a project before it even begins.
I was rather delighted to see that an artist called Vyacheslav Batalov has released some magnificent paper miniatures for 19th century Central Asia on Wargame Vault. I have the two sets pictured above and they are beautifully illustrated. Vyacheslav has since released Afghan Tribesmen, Afghan Regulars and two sets of Indian Army figures – the first of which includes Gurkhas (set 1 and set 2).
Alternatively you can get hordes of paper miniatures for free from the Junior General website.
Whilst trawling through old issues of Wargames Illustrated, I stumbled across a set of wargames rules for the Franco-Prussian and the Russo-Turkish wars. The memorably-named Schlachtenbummler (it translates as “away supporter / fan”), by Richard Brooks, clocks in at only 4 pages long, and can be found in Wargames Illustrated #5.
I’ve updated the earlier post on Franco-Prussian War resources, to include this omission. That post also includes details of how to get hold of WI back issues.
Yesterday I played the first of Dick Bryant’s small scenarios for Crossfire as published on his Maximus Gluteus blog with my old sparring partner doppelgangdave. We tried “The Farm” and it was a surprisingly long and rather bloody fight, even on such a small table. In the final moments, the last surviving German rifle squad frantically rushed the bullet-holed barn and stuck it to the two defending Soviet rifle squads and their platoon commander. Iron Crosses all round!
It’s the first time I’ve had a minefield and a sniper on the table and it was fun to see those traps sprung. Sadly they were largely unsuccessful. I’ll get you next time Gadget!
The scenarios are designed to be played on a 2’x2′ table with 15mm figures, but we were using 20mm figures so scaled up the layout to a 3’x3′ table and it worked out fine. We’ve been playing quite a few Ostfront games of late, but are still early in the war, so we decided to give the German attackers a medium rather than large mortar (in hindsight, this probably contributed to the length of the game). As we were both familiar with Crossfire, we made both sides Regulars (as suggested by Steven Thomas on the Steven’s Balagan blog).
In order to keep track of the hidden defenders, we used numbered maps courtesy of Steven’s blog, and a simple hidden unit sheet I knocked up, which you could use for any units you’d like to field. I’d recommend placing a numbered token on the tabletop next to each of the terrain features in sectors C+D to help streamline proceedings.
As is not unusual when playing a relatively rules-light game like Crossfire, we came up against an unexpected situation… What happens when an HMG is close assaulted and there is a friendly 50mm mortar within 1 stand-width. Can the mortar assist the HMG in the close combat… and if so, how?
After a bit of humming and hawing we decided it could assist the HMG and made the following call on the close combat modifiers:
-2 as the HMG wasn’t assisted by a non-weapon squad
+1 because the 50mm mortar counts as an additional squad
Net result combat roll of D6-1
Double-checking the rules after the game, I think we made the right call.
8.3 HMGs / Crew Served Weapons A Weapon that fights by itself or with a PC is -2 (plus any modifier for the PC). If it fights with another non-weapon Squad or a CC it fights normally (i.e. no -2) counting as an additional Squad.
2.2 HEAVY WEAPONS These include Heavy weapons such as: Heavy Machineguns (HMGs), 81mm Mortars, and Infantry Guns (IG)… The term Squad will be used to describe game procedures that apply equally to both Squad and Heavy Weapons stands.
8.3 Close Combat Modifiers Each Squad Larger: +1 for each additional Squad (PCs / FOs do not count)
I hope our deliberation helps you out of a jam, when you give these small scenarios a go. And you should. What’s stopping you? They’re right here!
It saddens me to let you know that Ian Taylor (2nd from right) passed away peacefully at his home this morning surrounded by his family. Ian was an integral member of the East Neuk Irregulars and together we put on public participation games at many a Scottish wargames show. You may have enjoyed his banter, his handiwork and if you’re a trader, his business over the years. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace brother.
I’ve been frequenting the Board Game Arena website to play boardgames online for over a year now and would heartily recommend it. It’s free to create an account, there are no ads, and you can play a whole host of boardgames with your friends or other BGA users. Some games can only be kicked off by a premium member, but all games can be played with a standard free account.
ANYWAY… I was gobsmacked to see the news that they now have a hex & counter wargame available to play. I’ve not played Unconditional Surrender before, and I must admit the 50 page rules tome is a little daunting, BUT it’s a wargame nonetheless. I hope to have a crack at it before too long…