Saturday, October 31, 2009

Field of Battle: Ancients

As many of you know, I've been working on Field of Battle: Ancients, the newest FoB style game we'll be publishing at Piquet Inc.  While it uses core FoB mechanics, it has numerous twists that make it a unique game.  Here are some Roman unit photos using my basing:

As you can see - I said "unit".  In FoBA, there are no unit formations.  This means that as long as unit frontages are equal, any basing style or method will work.  DBA armies?  No problem!

Why no formations?  I want FoBA to be focused on the battle management aspect, not internal unit details such as formation.  At this level of abstraction, I think that units were formed in the manner that best suited their function - Pikes were deep, swords were shallower, skirmish were dispersed, etc.   I don't want the Napoleonic feel of jockeying for this or that formation to gain an UP1...

There are still a wide variety of tactical decisions that are required of players, you just don't worry about formation!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review - The Quest for Annihilation

"The Quest for Annihilation - The Role & Mechanics of Battle in the American Civil War", by Christopher Perello.

Image of Front Cover

Image of Back Cover (Sorry about the rotation - can't figure out why blogger does this??)

Chris Perello was an editor for Command Magazine for 12 years, and served in the US Army (infantry/armor).

Strategy & Tactics magazine is branching out into book publishing, and TQfA is the first in the series.  The book provides an analytical look at a variety of topics.  Its a fascinating study of many aspects that have never been covered in 1 title before.  

Some of the chapters:

  • Strategy:  How it was decided where and when battles would be fought

  • Armies:  How soldiers were raised, organized, trained, and supported

  • Infantry:  How the primary component of the armies fought

  • Battleplans:  How generals planned to destroy their opponents

  • Artillery:  How the firepower of a cannon could dominate a battle

  • Siege:  How fortifications were attacked and defended

  • Campaigns:  How armies were brought to the place of battle

  • Cavalry:  The speed and striking power of horsemen on the battlefield

  • Pursuit:  How a battlefield victory was turned into a greater result

I'm surprised that I haven't seen more comments about this book in the wargame world.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it spurred many thoughts about rules and campaign systems.  My favorite chapters included the cavalry and pursuit chapters.  In particular the pursuit chapter, as it focused on the Appomattox campaign in a way that I hadn't seen done before.  The book is loaded with maps (220) and diagrams (100).  The maps would allow a multitude of game scenarios to be developed directly from the units and terrain that is shown.

The Quest for Annihilation sells for $34.95, and I'd buy it for twice that amount.  Highly recommended!

Note:  Strategy and Tactics Press' next book in the series is Crowns in the Gutter, a similar treatment for WW1.   From the S&T website:  "Crowns in the Gutter provides a concise analysis of the strategies and tactics employed to to try to achieve those goals. The chapters cover the entire war chronologically. They weave together the campaigns and battles with political events, improvements in weapons and changes in combat methodology, into one seamless story. The narrative also has dozens of maps and diagrams to further illustrate all the action of the first total war. "

By Ted S. Raicer (noted WW1 boardgame designer)
Illustrated by Christopher Perello

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who spends this much time working on card holders???

As all my games (Field of Battle, Field of Battle, various Piquet supplements) have cards in them - I'm undeniably hooked on the randomization and characterization capabilities in a deck of cards.  As such, the cards have to go someplace during the game. 

I'd previously used a double wide business card holder.  The unused portion of the deck was on the left, and the discard pile was on the right.  It worked "ok", but players had difficulty in grabbing the cards, and cards ended up on the tabletop playing surface.  Egad!  That is one way to ugly up a game in a hurry.....there had to be a solution.

And there you have it - my solution!  Its actually quite simple, and I'm embarassed that it took me so long to come up with a decent device to hold the cards.  As you can see in the photo above, the card holder is just some oak 1x4 for the base, with 1/4" x 1 1/2" oak for the section dividers.  I chose oak finished with spray satin finish rather than a painted soft wood for a couple of reasons.  First - the oak just looks good!  Secondly and more importantly for game play, the satin finish on the oak lets the cards slide on and off the surface very easily and avoid the sticking that is possible on a painted surface.

The 1/4" thick dividers are just glued to the 1x4 base.  The oak was sanded, stained and then spray finished.  I used an old woodworker's trick to get a very smooth finish - after each layer of spray finish (I used 4 coats), I rubbed down ("sanded") the oak surface with a folded piece of regular paper (printer paper).  Paper has an extremely fine abrasive quality, and it knocks off the imperfections and roughness without messing with the stained finish.  The end result is a very consistent and smooth surface that the cards just glide over.

The unused card deck is placed on the left.  As cards are revealed, they are placed in the center section.  This makes it easy to count how many cards have been played, and keeps them off the table.  After the side's initiative is complete, the played cards are gathered and placed on the right discard section (face up).  Easy as can be!

Of course, this solution may not be for everyone.  I have a custom built game table with a tray built into the perimeter to hold stuff during a game.  The initiative card holders fit in the tray nice and tight, and keep the game table looking good and mess free.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Loss Markers for Field of Battle

Field of Battle tracks unit's "strength" by losses and rallies of a units Unit Integrity (UI).  Units start with 4 UI for infantry, 3 UI for cavalry, and 2 UI for artillery.  While stands or figures can be removed, I don't like that option for more than 1 UI loss as the unit frontage starts to get ridiculously small as well as making it hard to indicate unit formations.

I've gone through a few iterations of UI loss markers over the years.

First I started with 1 marker per unit, with a numbered loss marker on each corner of the stand.  The stand is just rotated to show the UI loss on the right front.  This worked well, requiring only 1 stand to be removed and replaced with the loss marker, but players could confuse which number was the actual loss number.  Also, the big white numbers detracted from the appearance of it all.

The second iteration was to use casualty figures and eliminate the numbers.  This looked great, but had a couple of problems.  For 3 or 4 UI loss, the system required 2 stands to be removed.  As I use 4 stand infantry units, that meant that 1/2 of the unit was removed and replaced with casualty stands.  Also, I didn't create specific artillery and cavalry casualty markers, so sometimes it was a bit odd seeing infantry casualties on a cavalry unit.

The top stand is for a 1 UI loss, the bottom stand is for a 2 UI loss.  Both stands together are 3 UI loss, etc.

I've finally settled on a single system using 1 stand that shows 1 UI, 2 UI, and 3 UI loss.  The stands are generic so that they work for any horse and musket period - no need for spending that extra time painting dead guys.  So - I used extra muskets for casualty markers.  I also used a matching number of small rocks per stand to reinforce the loss value.  So - 1 musket and 1 rock is a 1 UI loss marker.  2 muskets and 2 rocks is a 2 UI loss marker.  3 cannon balls and 3 rocks is a 3 UI loss marker.  The cannon balls are just BB's painted to look like cannon balls (black with grey highlights).  I just terrain the stands (yellow glue and dip in ballast/sand) and then glue on the muskets/cannon balls after the yellow glue has dried.  Paint all the terrain and paint the muskets/cannon balls last.   Finish off with some turf and the marker is finished!  Fast and easy, and they look good.

Here's an example of the system in play.  Note the 1 UI loss marker on the Prussian infantry unit deployed in the woods.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Painting and Writing Area

The top picture shows the majority of the painting area, including the most vital appliance - the TV. This helps pass time during painting sessions. Its amazing how many television shows only require the slightest attention to stay current on! The overhead storage holds tools, spray paints, glues, etc. - stuff that I use pretty constantly.
The bottom picture shows the writing area - where I handle the correspondence and business items for my business empire....Piquet Inc., as well as where I write (and have written) all the rule sets that I've done. You've now seen the world headquarters office - the CEO/Supply Chain Management/Billing/Payables/Public Relations offices of the world renowned PK Inc. Maybe if you're very good, I'll someday post photos of the Production and Shipping facilities.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree

I was strolling through Home Depot (a large DIY store, for those outside of the US) picking up odds and ends for a home project when I happened to look over at the Christmas decoration area newly set up at the front of the store. What did I happen to see! A big bag 'o miniature snow covered conifer trees! The bag of wire brush trees sells for $5.99, and includes 10 each of 2 1/2" trees, 4 each of 4" trees, 2 each of 6" trees, and 2 each of 8" trees. The trees are sprayed with a white "blob" substance - not sure what I'd call it. Its tougher than a spray flock, but doesn't really look like paint. At any rate, I was intrigued and had to buy a bag of trees. A quick trip over to the hardware aisle to pick up some appropriately sized fender washers to use as bases, and I was set for a trial and error wargame tree project.

I began by gluing each tree to a fender washer using CA glue. The next step was to thoroughly spray each tree with flat black to give a dark base for shadows, as well as to completely eliminate the white snow effect on the trees.

Armed with a few shades of green spray paint (in my case, Rustoleum Moss Green, Hunter Green, Hunt Club Green, and Oregano), I prepared to add some color back to the trees. First coat was a dark shade of the greens, followed by a highlight "mist" of one of the lighter shades of green. The result was a pretty acceptable tree color, with dark depths to the tree, a dark green main body and subtle highlights.

I avoided further detailing efforts of adding flocking to the trees as I wanted to have some robust game trees and not "fiddly" railroad type trees.

A quick basing effort of applying yellow carpenter's glue to the base followed by a dip into my sand/ballast mixture gave a rugged appearance to the tree. After finishing the base to match my basing colors and style, the tree was complete! All in all, I think they look pretty good. While the 6" and 8" trees are on the extreme end of size I'd like to use, I think they'll add some nice variety to my forest areas.

I absolutely love making a game or terrain piece out of a non-game item. This project was a blast....I'm tempted to go back and buy more bags 'o trees.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More 1866 Game Photos

From top to bottom:
Three of the four Austrian generals. Notice how happy they are....the game has just started....

Austrians and Hanoverian allies press the attack on Prussian right flank

Austrian center

Austrian artillery in the center of the Austrian Army.

Austrian cavalry masses on the Austrian right flank. This is as close as they would come to the Prussians.

Monday, October 19, 2009

1866 Game Report

As I suspected, it turned out to be a difficult task for the Austrians to win the game. While the Austrians had approximately a 25% advantage in the size of their army compared to the Prussians, the Prussian edge in firepower made all the difference (and correctly so).
The Austrians (right side in the photo) suffered throughout the game with poor movement rolls in the center. Their two main command groups in the center seemed to be immobile throughout most of the game (too many 1's rolled!). This allowed the Prussian artillery concentration to ignore any pressure on the center and pound the Austrian advance on the hill and wood at the bottom of the photo. The Austrian advance soon melted away like snow on a warm day. Few melees in the game as firepower tended to send units packing before they closed. The Prussian flank commanders seemed to feel threatened, but to my eyes as the game umpire, the Austrians never really had a chance at cracking the Prussian line. They looked good advance with flags waving though!

The game lasted around 4 1/2 hours - not bad for a total of over 50 units on the table...and a lot of talk!

On a side note - great bike ride yesterday. About 200 miles, mid 80 degrees, little wind. Absolutely gorgeous. That's what makes Colorado the most beautiful state in the US. Unless you're thinking of moving which case the weather is always bad and you should stay away....we don't need more road congestion.

Broncos vs. Chargers tonight. Given the fact that the Broncos average margin of loss to the Chargers over the last few years is over 20 points, I'm hopeful that things might be different tonight. We'll see.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Game Night

The table and terrain are prepared and the troops are placed and rated. Its almost like Christmas eve....

An 1866 APW game, with my Austrians (Battle Honors) and Prussians (Wargames Foundry). I anciticipate a tough game for the Austrians, but who knows? There's something about the mid 19th century European wars that fascinate me. Great uniforms, interesting tactical situations. A full game report tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow - it is supposed to be 82 degrees F! Considering the high temperature a week or so ago was 24 degrees F, I think its time to get in a ride. We'll be out on the road in the afternoon to take advantage of the Broncos playing on Monday Night Football vs. the SD Chargers (San Diego....Super Chargers!).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interesting Tidbits

Found out that I share birth dates with some interesting military "personalities": John Hunt Morgan, John Bell Hood, Karl von Clausewitz. I guess I was destined to be interested in all things military.

On a gaming note - we're having a game Saturday. I haven't yet decided the period, but I'm leaning towards 1866 Austro-Prussian using Field of Battle. This will be the first game on my new terrain. I've used homemade hex terrain for years, and just got tired of the "hex-y" appearance and all the gaps. I still have to get all the terrain set up for the game. Photos of the game and terrain will follow. If there is interest, I'll document the terrain making process. On another note - the game will mark the debut of my initiative card holders, as well as a playtest of "Deck of Battle".

And just a reminder - the Broncos are 5-0. The Avalanche are in first place in their division. The Nuggets haven't lost a game yet (of course, their season hasn't started yet). Life is good.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My First Blog Post

Well, here it is...I actually have a blog. It remains to be seen how interesting, useful, or engaging this blog will be. What do I intend to include? I'm primarily a historical miniatures gamer, with a smattering of historical boardgames thrown in. As my game of choice is Field of Battle (from Piquet), my game posts will obviously tend to revolve around that and also around future developments (disclaimer - I'm the author of FoB and an owner of Piquet Inc.). I also love painting figures, building terrain, short, this will be a reflection of my interest and involvement in the hobby that I love.