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MY WARGAMING

"Through the travail of ages, midst the pomp and toils of war,
have I fought and strove and perished, countless times among the stars.
As if through a glass and darkly, the age old strife I see,
when I fought in many guises and many names, but always me." General Patton watching the battlefield of Zama.

And also:

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ACW

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WW2

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2024 PROJECTS 

  • Saxons for 1812  30+ figures  to finish one division 
  • Additions for cavalry and more to some napy units for use with Bataille Empire rules.
  • More hedges, fields connections and  more wider rivers . 
  • Do finish my part for the ACW games 150 figs?
  • Upgrade the 100s of figs left and do more to be able to play 100yw battles.
  • Get rid of useless stuff; paint and sell surplus acw houses, odds and tails.
  • Brigade of Neapolitans. Late 23 Campaign games sent me the figs. No excuses now.
  • More militia for AWI/Sharp practice. That can be differentiated. Rebase the regulars.
  • Destroyed / burnt wooden houses. 15mm
  • Last division of 1870 imperial French. plus upgrades of republicans to fit -XXIe corps.
  • More paper houses for 1870. 
  • Finishing (?) the Landwehr etc. for the Austrians 1809 and bits, depending on Piano 3d productions. + bits of cavalry for every one.
  • 20mm Reconquista waiting for years.
  • Put back the lost stuff from the site; more scenarios;  finish the 1809 campaign, start an 1870 maybe; learn well  Bataille Empire for small historical scenarios. 

2023 PROJECTS painting and making (belated but for fun, that thing real life which gets in the way of proper wargaming)

  • Do my part of the ACW games (4 brigades inf. 2 cav. plus fences etc.) 400+ figs
  • Saxons 1809 30+ figures +2 batteries to finish one division for my 1809 campaign (DONE)
  • Same guys but for 1812 
  • Westphalian division to finish 40+ figs DONE
  • More medievals for Lion rampant and that can be used for bigger stuff (glory to magnets)- + the jacquerie horde (3/4th done)
  • Additions for cavalry and more to some napy units for use with Bataille Empire rules. 7/23 some done @ 1/3
  • More hedges, fields connections and river sides+ more rivers "wider ones). some done
  • Upgrade the 100s of figs left and do more to be able to play 100yw battles.
  • Get rid of useless stuff; paint and sell surplus, odds and tails.
  • Brigade of Neapolitans.
  • More Russian jaegers, to allow "small units" to be played for more realistic flexibility. done
  • More militia for AWI/Sharp practice. That can be differentiated. Rebase the regulars.
  • Destroyed / burnt wooden houses. 15mm
  • Last division of 1870 imperial French. plus upgrades of republicans to fit -XXIe corps.
  • Last Germans just done earlier on.(Hurrah) err... Landwehr division is waiting still. 1870 MOSTLY DONE
  • More paper houses for 1870. (@15) DONE
  • Finishing (?) the Landwehr etc. for the Austrians 1809 and bits, depending on Piano 3d productions. 
  • Bavarian division     DONE
  • Tyrol and Vendée in waiting, when I can go to visit and do properly the scenario books for it. 

2022 PROJECTS

Saxon division 1812+ (part will be filled by greatcoat fillers) 24+ infantry + 6 gunners +2 guns +1 colonel+1 brigadier.  still waiting, disapointed.
Russians 24 greatcoats; + a few Jäger. 10 gunners. some done
More Freiwilliger and Landwehr for the Austrians around 48 figs.. 36 done
Colonels and brigadiers for Waterloo to add to my player who owns the figures for 1815 , around 20. (not done)
Most French done, most Austrians too.

finish the Saxon Korps (100+) ; Prussian cavalry 60; French cavalry 36; Bavarian Jäger 30. bits 20+ IX korps finishing, fr VIIth corps bits/ mg, some brigadiers. DONE

mostly Wofun and some 3d metal. to base; paint some sk, baggages. DONE        

Possibly medieval Lion rampant or/and Baron's Wars 15mm as I have already bits and stuff. DONE 

Prussians: Kleist Korps 1813 around 350+ figs. one day...2024?  2023 new 3d printed beauties appearing, so definitively 2024 

A few remaining houses, camp sites, more orchards, hills for the Borodino mat, finishing walls for the German town, homemade walls too. Winter trees (not done). more or less DONE.

Of Pips, command and games, brainstorming.

Yesterday I significantly changed things in my Napoleonic rules. Sort of half departing with the decades old regimental/brigade units towards more flexible (and more fiddly?) 1000 infantry and 4-600 cavalry “units”, mashed up into brigades (with small, average, big sized ones for accuracy). A sort of “sub accounting” of brigades. It would allow flank guards, garrisons, independent cavalry brigades on two waves. It would give cavalry their flexibility. I remember a cavalry division neatly going around the enemy and not doing much damage as it could only crush two batteries per half an hour, from its two brigades’ components, clearly silly. Not battalions, as I still don’t want too many and besides, they will be too small to look good, of infinite sizes variations (to remember!) which means often never right in representations anyway. This prompted a big brainstorming about command and control.

I have a system of orders, with delays and mishaps which, I think, gives a decent rendering of the command problems at higher echelons (army-corps). Parallel to that, in last few weeks I was toying with the need (need?) to play something like Bataille Empire with battalions, to finally be able to use the scenario books of Michael Hopper. This means more painting! I played twice his big Eckmühl scenario, it was fine but the big chunky units were not flexible enough to do it justice. The Austrians should have been able to spread more. Hence the idea that after all, why not use smaller components of my manoeuvre elements (yes I kept it, in honour of my 20 years of Empire playing)?

So I went on changing things, new QRs and so on. Then doubts hit. Will this be too fiddly?

There were 2 basic premises in my game scale choices long ago:

1 lower number of “things” to handle= more troops possible per player. Brigades.

2 The nice-looking big units. More figures per unit.I will now have potentially 12 semi-independent “units” in my Austrian divisions, instead of 4. Sure they can now have only one in square to secure a flank, make refuse flanks in echelons and more. But even if the system promotes grouping for movements and attacks, players being like lawyers, will still sneak into the limit edges of the system.

I was then thinking of re-establishing (it was jettisoned decades ago) a system of control inside the divisions. You know the pips or something similar. Players think it a command system.

1 You must make choices. Good game wise. Does a division general in 1809 have to make choices if he can “move” 4 or 8 of his 12 battalions? I think not. He might want to, say assault a hill. He wants it coordinated. It comes down to how many sub commanders he must explain that to disseminate the manoeuvre to all the units. In the case of this Austrian, two brigadiers and 4 colonels or just the brigadiers who will in turn do it. The difference between Erz. Ludwig and Friant, one relatively inept young, there because of family, and one with 15 campaigns and a position because of his obvious abilities? Not hat Ludwig will move 5 and Friant 9, but that Friant might have it ready in 20 minutes when the other one will take an hour.
2 The limit on units going all over the place. Right. But why should they do that? We have a forever contradiction: Some claim we have too much control over the troops, but in the end we, the players move them, turn left or right, no matter what pips or not we have, we just can do it less. More important I think is the orders/ the intend/ the attitude these troops have. If they are ordered to assault that hill, in most cases, once orders are received, they will go and try. There can be bad coordination, delays, lack of enthusiasm, but overall, they will go unless some more pressing threat arises. The threat thing is often under evaluated in games. We the player also overrule it. We might carry on things the real ones would be reluctant to attempt, because we see and know more than they do. The famous helicopter general. Pips limit your freedom of pushing everything, but you entirely chose what to push. If coupled with orders (as in Bataille Empire) you get a bit of both command and control. But…
I remember an officer telling me, loosing control of the troops (that was about urban fights, groups you can’t see, without comms etc.) is not like in games that they do nothing, that would be easy. It is that they do things, you don’t know where and what. I tried to get a bit with this, having a system for uncontrolled units, doings things linked to the situation and their orders. My take is that in the game control is a fast intervention of the leader, things under his eyes, in the end often via the famous directing unit. Many other things would be reactions to threats, not easy as you the gamer do it in the end, not the troops.
My main pet against pips came from old DBm games. You have this big cavalry wing you sent on a wide outflanking move., you just had a 5 for them. Then they slow down as you have only 2s fine, they got cautious, found obstacles, missed alignments, you name it. But...
Then the enemy who often interferes with your best plans, gets something on the opposite wing that gets nasty. It literally swallows your pips into a fight. Your flanking wing who in real life you told to go an hour ago, suddenly, slows down or halts, the pips being used elsewhere. They still have their orders, they have possibly no clue of what is happening on the other wing. To change their orders would take a big delay in real life. Perhaps your general got all his attention into this new fight, his aides there too. In that case the flanking wing would even more do what it was sent for, not stopped.

I have this with orders, distances, and delays. Most of my orders, you will be happy to know consist of a simple marker under the commander, arrow and code attitude. Nothing is perfect. We still don’t have to be lazy. The occasional slow down and stops of Fire And Fury systems are better for control than pips. They and their occurrence don’t depend much on you. Events cards played with a chance to work can do that too. The problems of command:
Delays, distances, misunderstandings, coordination, cretins, smoke, terrain,sheer bad luck and more. If the game turn or decision segment, is long enough it can “swallow” many of these.

I don’t want an excellent commander with 15 bn (Davout’s corps divisions in 1809) be in trouble because too many, and a smashed-up Austrian with only 6 left, happy with life as clearly, we don’t read of Gudin, Friant, Morand etc. having terrible problems with my list above.
So, I will resist the pips. Also fighting anything that adds plenty of dice rolling, storing etc.
So far, I am very satisfied with my orders system (command quality and use of time) and my uncontrolled random reactions. As of 6/23 have added an optional system using directing units, just like they did from Romans to the "empty battlefield" of 1900+.

OF THE FRUSTRATION OF UNFINISHED GAMES

Because my gaming pal only normally has the 4 hours of gaming here and there authorized by his life and madame, we often, never fully finish games. Unfortunately (we used to , but that was long before…) we don’t do campaigns, to me the glory of wargaming., so our either historical, twisted historical, or one off scenarios are more often than not reaching a sort of conclusion. I’d say apparent conclusion as several time I did carry on solo when he was gone, and the winning side ended up to be different.
Past games, last century, when gamers did relish multi day, multiplayers wargames, some that seemed to be ending, that obvious ending, your opponent will try to convince you is here for all to see, well that victory, after several more hours, was fully reversed. Either dice miracles or overconfidence, sleek manoeuvers at times, rewarded that tenacity. One big Empire battle, where the allied did quite well till t one tired commander did that capital error of provoking an opportunity charge form a lousy brigade of Chasseurs, who turned out to be quite furious breaking everything, pursuing into the mass, breaking divisions and provoking M.E. tests and a great big hole in their lines. We could have stopped before that, it would have been a pity. A Midway campaign when late in the night, tired to the bones, I became careless, supposedly winning, and then that lousy remaining jap carrier sunk two of mine. Plenty in fact.
Scenarios, artfully done, go very far towards helping out this frustration. Fine when done by another who did the job of testing, and taking time to think it thoroughly, something we do not necessarily have time for or capacity as it not easy alone in your den to think right about all. It can be quite useful to sort of “fast Kriegspiel” play the next few turns before closing. Going to the most important moves and decisions, often without moving the figures. A few dice rolls and discussions can often not be enough to get a good idea of “the End”.
When playing campaigns, either the full-blown type or the mini/simple versions, the catch is that you need to go to the end, which is often not much interesting to the losing side. It can be done in a sort of bargain to avoid that time seemingly wasted. That is if your campaign does carry over casualties, and /or morale/ cohesion losses. If done in a boardgame, it can be mercifully in the game rules. On the other end, normally a battle created by a campaign has its own self-explanatory reasons, hence victory conditions and maybe a clearer “end” that makes sense.  

OF THE HOPELESSNESS OF SOLO GAMING AND MORE.

Everything in sight, linked to, was tried. A collection of sorts, that has clever ideas aplenty, that can manage some sort of small games (notably “Adjudant introuvable”-who can only attack though) up to a point. Could not find a way to have an enemy doing reasonable things, with hidden troops
(a fundamental thing post 17th century), “thinking” more than one turn ahead. It just is not interesting. Nothing can replace a decent human opponent. I will be long dead (and or we will be gone third world/dark ages by then) when a robot can do it. An old pal wargamer, known for 20 years+ is also coming once every 3-4 weeks for a 4 hours partial game. Partial results, for we rarely finish games to a conclusion, even Sharp practice at times.
I have a huge, dedicated game room full of goodies. A dream come true, but too late, the wrong century. This morning when doing exercise, I wondered what to do with this, when I give up miniature games. A sort of come back to the origins: to boardgames and now computer games?
I started gaming in my late teens, when a friend brought from Paris one of the first local historical boardgames. Hooked, we bought more; then later I organized a big (too big) tour in the USA where we visited SPI, tourists but with a wonderful set of ANG and air force bases + Dayton show. Yes, I was also modelling planes back then, and reading “Air-fan”. Imagine, just write letters to “see if” to the bases Public relations officers, always getting enthusiastic simple kind answers. Back before the muz brotherhood had enough money to get everyone scared of too many things and other people. Later I moved to “the city” where I put a note on the wall in one of these shops where you found games, some figures, cards etc. Got myself into a club playing miniatures, mostly ancients with WRG! At the same time regular visits to the holy grail of wargaming, the UK brought more stuff, more games, notably Empire rules. Thus 10 years of devout 6mm napo games with 4-8 players, 30 times or more a year.
You see the thing. A few years later, got a dedicated game table, but not so big, and a stressful more than full time job. The dream went on, persist, that one day I will really be able to play campaigns, all the battles, big games and smaller linked games. Now theoretically I can. But in fact not; the teeming, teaming (?) gamers of the past century have vanished.
Within 1hour drive, I have say 400000 people (2 million within 2hours), 2/3 of whom are of the same civilization (in the 80s it was 600000 elsewhere, with 9/10). There are 3 groups of gamers (total 15?), two are clubs of maybe 4-6 playing twice a month an afternoon on 1.2 x1.8m tables, enough for them, for decades. One club is more a social thing, most playing fantasy, boardgames (non-historical/family). Another has a bigger table at home (a beautiful room) occasionally playing, but does not go anywhere. So while still attracted to , even painting new stuff (aie those printed minis!) whenever the testing , the experimenting, studying historical battles or rules will be done,   I look around and ponder if this all worthwhile. Mass of money, efforts (I am more a gamer than a painter) for what?
In truth, without fooling myself, there is no way the 30yw, 7yw, 1809,1812, 1813, 1815, 1870-71 campaigns will ever be done. I have operational (with my pal for some) AWi sharp Practice; MEG Punic wars; medieval Lion Rampant (soon 100yw battles-again-previous set for DBm was sold); 7YW, AWI sharp practice; Napoleonics (most), 1870, naval ww2+ ww3.
When we play (when He plays) only Age of Valor (1870-offset of Fire and Fury) is mastered as so easy self-explanatory system. There are not enough games of any subject within months to keep proficient in them. It also contributes to the dwindling (despairing) interest. Games have to be challenging.
Most players who still call themselves “historical wargamers” actually play unfinished short games on small tables, with at most 100 figures, a few trees and 2 houses, with rules that are first of all social games dressed up with a costume of history.    In some ways, just change labels, costumes and that mean a new “period”. The “period” with “factions” (shudders). There is nothing wrong per se, with these games, this is just not my thing, for this as for many other things, I won’t bend to fashion and herd compliance which is probably why I am alone, besides the dwindling/dying number of able gamers. Many will think this a rant of an old grumbling elitist wargamer who thinks these things too seriously. You might be right. And it surely has to do with the near complete collapse of the education system, the new products of it (already for decades-so 2nd-3d generation) unable to decipher texts, don’t even think reading 50 pages, short attention span, very low simple math ability (guess what wargames and thinking ahead?) and that missing 7 hours of playing a week, easily day after day wasted using both thumbs on images and mindless 140 characters. Sometimes I also wonder when running outside, what Chinese archaeologists in 1000 years will say of those tiny metal figures buried (dumped in the house collapse?) after I passed away and the rest too. Oh well, lets go painting those Tyrol revolt minis, it will be a valid reason, additional valid reason to go to Innsbruck. 

OF GOOD OLE TIMES.

Past century I played 3 Napoleonic campaigns. Three I umpired (Spain 1811+ some 1812) and one I was a very modest Napo in a what if Polish 1813 campaign.

Back then (1990s early) no internet, no cyberboard etc. It all had to be manual and on table (the host had a clever two level table which allowed to keep the map and papers down protected from the Cat! and play the minis on the top when needed. Team job of around 6-7 players. Two-3 "historical" hardcore veterans and the rest reconverting (for the occasion!) fantasy players. The first fun and hard job was to bring the fantasy guys to ground to earth realities and history though they were very willing. As in military training and doctrine, one needs the team to understand most things and function in a relatively homogeneous way to enjoy the stuff and limit the amount of disappointment from misunderstood /misinterpreted "game realities". In another campaign, more limited, around the Lake Champlain and Fort Ticonderoga during the English and Indian wars @1758, one gamer wanted to dig under the lake to escape, also poison supplies in his convoy to kill looting Indians (that was more plausible but not XVIIIth cty gentleman like I decided, as the French militia was just as prone to loot (especially food as they were short of it). So one had to be careful about their expectations.
After learning with a few battles the ropes of Empire IV (hey people could back then , they even could find the time!), they could go on rather fast. Had to role play many thing for them, if only to understand. Like in the army where you have the platoon strung two meters from each other and pass a simple sentence hushed to the neighbour till the end of the line, and ho surprise, in the end has no connection with the actual original sentence. Then they understand the need for procedures. So I role played orders, to make them understand the needs for clarity (for the receiver) with hour, objective, path, sitrep etc. Fast it went as I vividly remember the mess and argument of one who did not obey "attack left of the hill" as he did not know when, which hill and was seated in a way the "left" was quite different for him.

So I went on making a multiplayer Spanish campaign (limited, not the whole peninsula). I had plenty of historical maps photocopied from books (I was the only one ever to have borrowed Fortescue etc. from uni library over 50-100 years!) and a bit of creativeness adapted to our terrain possibilities. Because these guys were role players, well they did play roles. We tried to tie them to something with their actual personality (one was rathe-say- cautious- one very impetuous for example. I even put some hidden objectives to bring in some strife (the French jealousy between corps commanders?) and more of the like. It ended up being a string of situations with decision makings. I often draw fast sketches with a pencil and "you are here, you se that, you know this" what do you do? the hardest theoretical part is that we could come maybe the same way and see different sketches but well...

So we had cautious, fun, rash and successful attacks; bad communications of intel which put in deep, far reaching resentment and distrust between at least two players. Quite realistic. It was quite a job to manage, but knowing all the missed chances, the luck, the overall moves was also quite fun. In the end we had a big final battle where the French won, largely from two factors:

Wellington was keeping all the powerful and shiny stuff for himself, the cautious French (all judged him that way) corps commander left on a side faint attack got enough of the sneers and went all the way in an all out assault which of course succeeded beyond expectations. We had another shorter campaign with Russians 1812 types, also much fun.

I finally managed to play one campaign with the ablest and leader of the team doing the umpire thing. He got a bit overhead but with our help it worked well. Again we managed to put players fitting historical known characteristics. This Polish 1813 campaign using a map done from an air control map. The French won again a big encounter at Brest Litovsk, seems an historically marked place for fights. Never buy a house there;).  A vital bridge was between the Prussians and the Russians parts of the enemy and each thought the other would control it, occupy the town and scout ahead. A nice river crossing had a bit of misgivings further off (was deemed our main attempt before the Brest opportunity) as the riverside was patrolled by Cossacks belonging to the Russian player, but the closest reaction force was Austrian. They barely talked to each other. The Austrian was a slow, obedient unimaginative gentle guy (rather fitting) with secret orders not to damage too much his army. The Cossacks reported only to the Russian HQ which gave precious time to install a bridge head drawing lots of coalisé troops to it. Meanwhile my Murat player fount this empty Brest and bridge and on initiative the whole nearby troops went in it and we re positioned the reserves and available troops towards it, flanking the enemy (who was massively moving towards the initial crossing) cutting them off their logistics and to be beaten piecemeal.
I long to be able to play such thing nowadays, easier with the electronic tools we have. 

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