Friday, June 24, 2011

Thinking about new rules...

Despite not posting much lately I have been able to get some more painting done of late.  The Argentinean office is up and running and staffed (entirely with attractive young ladies, we have to admit) and a last minute project (in Kursk!) has been dealt with.  Fortunately, I haven't had to travel to any of these far flung places and, anyway, my colleague has been stuck in Buenos Aires now for over three weeks because of the Chilean volcano. 

I haven't quite taken a rest from  Darkest Africa as I finished a unit of Zulus which had been hanging around for far too long and have nearly finished a cannon and crew for my Zambezi campaign.  It's that time of year when I have to start thinking about what figures to take down to Cowes for the summer.  This year my wife and daughter have to go back to London for a week as Charlotte, who wants to be a rocket scientist (literally), has got on a space course run by Imperial College and NASA.  The opportunity to develop experiments for the International Space Station working with real astronauts is too much to pass up, despite it being right in the middle of our holiday.  This means that Guy and I have five days when we can run riot and do all the things we aren't usually allowed to do (like drinking rum and having cooked breakfasts at Eegons cafe).  So, hopefully I will have more time to paint for a few days anyway.  I will probably take down some more Darkest Africa Arabs to do so will not do any more of them for a month.  We got the work finished on the front of the house in Cowes (a whole lot of tiles fell off the winter before last and we had terrible problems with the council about the type of tiles and sort of mortar we were allowed to use to replace them as it is a listed building) so it should be brighter without the scaffolding we had last year.

Recently I bought the Hail Caesar rules and have heard good things about them.  Likewise, I have been looking through Black Powder as well.  Basically I bought both sets for the pictures but, at the back of my mind, I was thinking about moving away from Warhammer Historical which, certainly for Ancients, I have been unhappy with.  Now, given that I enjoy painting more than gaming I want rules that make my figures look good and my principal problem with WAB is that (at least under the first edition) ranks are important which makes my Romans look wrong; I want them in two long ranks not a square block.  From this point of view alone Hail Caesar looks better. 

My biggest problem with most rule sets is that they require element basing.  I hate element basing; I like my soldiers to be based as individuals so that is a big advantage of the new Warlord Games sets. I can't stand it when I am playing someone at Guildford and they have all their figures on bases of six and can't remove individual casulaties so have to use dice to record casualties.  Totally irrational, I know, but that's the way it is! 

I was also interested in the write up (well, actually, really what they used to call an advertising feature) of Clash of Empires in this month's Wargames Illustrated as they sound quite good too.  Maybe I'll see if they have them next time I am in Orc's Nest.
Now the problem with both Hail Caesar and Black Powder is that they contemplate big armies of big units which isn't ideal for someone who only gets six figures painted a week at best.  Nevertheless, I was inspired by the Greek Hoplite battle in Hail Caesar and so have started a few more Immortal plastic figures. There is much to admire in these figures (shield detail, spears, proportions) but there are also some significant things I don't like about them (the way the sword scabbards fit (or don't) and, particularly, the handling of the pteruges which are depicted as long trapezoids in shape rather than as oblong strips) but en masse I suspect they will be fine. 

Other than Ancient Greeks I sat down and painted some more Perry Napoleonic Dutch (27th Jaegers). The only Napoleonic rules I have are the old Charles Grant ones that first appeared in Military Modelling in the seventies. These suggest 48 man units!  Black Powder split foot units into Standard (24 to 30 figures), Large (36-40), Small (12-16) and Tiny (5-6).  They give suggestions for unit sizes with "standard" equating to between 24 and 30 figures.  Still large-ish but not out of the question.  The problem is that if I look at the battle I am contemplating for my Napoleonic figures (Quatre Bras) then if you take the "standard" unit as the battalion you have numbers ranging from just over 400 to over 1000 men.  Given the broad banding of the unit sizes and the fact that "standard" units are what you are supposed to have most of then you get a problem with the French, most of whose battalions would fall under the "small" definition but they obviously controlled two or three battalions as one regimental unit.  This is important for things like forming column where, under the rules, a unit must be the same depth (or more) as it is wide.  Questions arise like: if I have three small battalions from one regiment can I use their total complement to form one column or does each battalion (which could be only 12 figures) have to be a column of 3 by 4?  If the answer is to have regimental, rather than battalion sized units then most of the French would become "large" units, again conflicting with the fact that most units should be "standard" sized.

All this was provoked by my Dutch Belgian Jaegers who, at nearly 800 men were one of the biggest units at Quatre Bras.  However, If I make them a small "large unit" (36 figures: 6 companies of 6) then they are far too close in size to, say, the Coldstream Guards at 1,050 who would be only 10% more figures (at 40 figures) but were actually 20% larger as a unit. If I decide to make the jaegers a "standard unit" they should be at the top end of that (30 figures) but then they don't rank up as neatly as 24 figures (6 companies of 4) which would then be on the bottom of the "standard" as opposed to the top end.  This all may seem boringly irrelevant but it makes a big difference as to how many I paint as can be seen from what I have done so far.  At six figure companies I have only finished two and a bit companies whereas with four figure companies I have nearly finished four companies.   Maybe the 30 figure unit is best....

Oh well, my next figures are still en route from Perry Miniatures so I have time to think about it yet, I suppose.  Maybe I should take some Perry plastic French down to Cowes instead.  I had lunch with one of my European lady friends last week and B is the only woman I have met who can discuss wargaming sensibly (she comes from a German military family).  Her view was that anyone wanting to wargame seriously should really only play Napoleonics as everything else is just "not Napoleonic".  Rather in the way that at Lloyd's of London insurance is referred to as "Marine" and "Non-Marine".  Basically, marine is what it is about but they have to grudgingly acknowledge that other stuff too.  I sort of have some sympathy for this view but my army building is basically based on what is the smallest army I can get away with; which is certainly not Napoleonics (but does explain why I like Spartans!). When she discovered that the Perries were now producing Prussians she couldn't understand my problem.  "But, of course, all is clear and you should just paint Prussians!"   She actually tried to get me to go to Orc's Nest to buy some Perry plastics but I resisted and had another Grappa instead

Oh well, a busy weekend (with Charlotte and Guy variously running, dancing, shooting and rowing) with not much chance to paint, unfortunately, but I hope to move my Darkest Africa cannon on a bit at least and maybe finish a couple more Spartans.


  1. Interesting views on basing. I admit to being the opposite - I have difficulties with individual basing and much prefer figures based in 4s and 6s - to me it reflects the fact that men in battle usually act to support one other.

    Any chance of lunch this summer?


    ps I think you should take the Perry plastic Naps to Cowes. They are dead easy to paint so you'll get loads done and feel very pleased with yourself (and you won't need to take that many paints, either).

  2. Lunch would be great! I could do next Thursday or Friday or the following Wednesday (6th)