Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bladensburg: The Rerun

Doug Hamm and I ran Bladensburg at Enfilade 3-4 years ago. I had a mad hankering to do the battle again. I didn't feel it turned out quite right then, and thought we needed to give it another go.

Mind you, Bladensburg is a tough one to re-fight. A relatively small British expeditionary force of two brigades, with little artillery, led by a great fighter, Robert Ross, routs a much larger American force led by a bevy of nincompoops, including the President of the United States. It is always difficult to play the Americans as poorly trained as the large force of American militia, or to lead as badly as the American commanders actually did. It is difficult to reproduce Ross's brilliance and impetuosity, which paid dividends at Bladensburg but cost him his life at North Point months later.

We had reliable British players and some amusing Americans-some experience and inexperience on both sides. Our rules are Red Coats and Grey Jackets, which is Doug Hamm's Fire and Fury knockoff. I've really enjoyed our War of 1812 project, and love working with Doug. We laid our minis out in more or less historical positions with British having to work their way across the Anacostia river facing a withering fire. They did, but didn't move quickly to outflank the the Americans out of their hasty earthworks. The rockets that proved the deathknell orderly American militia didn't have enough range to reach the Americans (a problem of our creation) and the rapid march of the third American line contributed to the discomfiting of the British attack.

It was a disappointing game. The new untest firing table didn't work as well as hoped. I also believe that the lights have to be able to melee the Americans, not just skirmish around them. The gigantic American militia units really were unwieldy. Once they had to move, they could just runaway at the drop of hat, and god help 'em if they were disordered by fire. We'll need to give the rockets a longer range if they are to have the effectiveness they need.

Regardless, it looked good and I've included some of Doug's outstanding photos. At the upper left are Joshua Barney's naval gunners who hauled a handful of cannon to the battlefield after they burned their gunboats to prevent their capture by the British. The figures and guns are by Abbott's Miniatures. Those at top right are my American Marines. There are pitifully few of these excellent troops at Bladensburg. The figures are from the Dixon Napoleon in Egypt range. I've scraped off some of the shoulder decorations. I like 'em. Center left are British rocket troops by Old Glory. They have a nice batch of these with rockets on the tall firing ladders as well as those firing from horizontal tubes. At center right is the advancing British line. The front unit is a light infantry battalion backed up by line foot. I think all are Old Glory figures. Finally, Doug has taken a great shot of my grey coated regulars we pressed into service as militia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lewis and Clark at Enfilade (at last!!)

Lewis and Clark made its appearance at Enfilade on Saturday night. There were many eager players and I kind of had to sleaze Dave and Doug into the game. But, we do sleazy things for our friends.

When I found out the table we were on, I was thrilled and alternately horrified. It was a perfect ten feet in length, but six feet wide. My felt mat was wide enough, but my river bank was only five feet, so that created a problem. But Mark lent me a hill to cover the hole and put some extra trees on it, so that solved the problem. The terrain went out as planned, but with table an extra foot wider, I was a bit concerned about having things too spread out.

I'm not going to name names, but I really did enjoy the mix of folks who signed up to play the game. They seemed excited. I pre-set all the forces, so when the time came, all the players knew what they were running. Only one of the players had ever played Black Powder Battles, or had experience with any of the Two Hour Wargames systems. Most seemed interested in learning but a couple of the key American players were put off by the rules, and seemed as absent from the table as they were interested in playing the game. With disastrous results.

With the American forces more spread out on a somewhat larger table, it was important that they have a plan. They didn't. Floyd's command left alone with their horse on the northern board edge, were quickly cut off by the Spanish militia horse, took some early carbine fire and tried to fight it out in the woods. They could have abandoned their horse and moved fast, which would have worked because the Spaniards were unable to activate for three turns out of four.

Pryor's command (with Lewis) in the center woods hemmed and hawed about as the Comanches raced past them, effectively isolating Floyd's command, but didn't do much until they reached the river banks. They offered some desultory fire, eventually formed a firing line on the top of the river bank, only to begin taking fire from the Spanish regulars as they approached the American positions.

Clark's command rushed out to confront the Comanches who performed some interesting and mysterious quick move maneuvers. Hoping the Indians were peaceful, Clark held his fire until the Indians treacherously attacked him, and then extracted the maximum possible price before his command was almost entirely slaughtered.

Ordway's squad joined the firefight from the river bank, but in the end the Americans had not played together as a team. The squads fought seperately without an eye toward a withdrawal to the boats. Their cannon were not loaded for final protective fire, and they were dying by half measures. The Spanish played together very well. The Comanche advance was rapid, despite some really terrible activation rolls. The Spanish regulars were at the riverbank with a well planned advance with fire. The Spanish militia, captured the remains of the Floyd's squad, while the lancers prepared to cross the river bank into the American camp. I stopped the game there.

I hope to run the game another time, perhaps with my own rules, but the game was certainly manageable with Black Powder Battles.

Pictures are mostly by Doug Hamm. The top left shows me trying (vainly) to explain the scenario and the rules. The top right shows the Regimento Luisiana. At the bottom right is a great close-up of the Comanches (Doug takes awesome pics.) The bottom left shows Gotterdamerung-the Spanish have massed their troops on the hilltop, pouring fire into the scattered Americans trying to defend their camps. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Clark will have some 'splainin' to do.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Enfilade: The Overview

Enfilade '09 was a smashing success. The best I can figure there was record attendance. There were a record number of games. It seemed that all had a good time.

There were some great games-Mike Garcia's Teutoberger Wald game, guest Bob Murch's Curse of the Jade Buddah game, and many more.

I'll be following up with individual articles on Lewis and Clark and Bladensburg.

As always the best part of the convention was seeing friends. Doug Hamm, Daveshoe, Dave Demick and a host of others ran games with me or played in my games. Mark Waddington checked in on the Lewis and Clark game. Mark Fortner and Tim Webber, two of my favorite Enfilade entertainers, played in three of my games. I had the opportunity to spend time with Randy Miles, whom I hadn't see for a few years.

It was all good but I'm glad its over. I did sell some goodies at the Bring and Buy-WWII Pacific stuff I haven't looked at in years. I did invest in the Victrix 25mm British Napoleonics for War of 1812, and with the money I had left over I spent $74 (!!!!) on some Perry AWI that will become the 5th Maryland at Guilford Courthouse. All year I bought nothin' and in two days went crazy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three Days to Go

It's three days until Enfilade. I love the convention; I truly do. But I am simply all in. Lewis and Clark took over my life, and I am still in the "I've got my fingers crossed this works at the convention" stage. The other games haven't taken much work, thankfully, and I'm looking forward to them. More importantly I'm looking forward to seeing friends.

Next year-yes, I'm saying it now-no more than three games. I'd like to do the Raid on St. Nazaire with Daveshoe, maybe another Lewis and Clark scenario and either hydroplane or air racing. That will leave me a little more time to goof off or play a game or two.

Where am I with my games now? I still need to do the flags for my three little War of 1812 militia units. I'm just going to print out flags and stick 'em on standards. Yes, it's cheesy, but I'm wiped. I also need need to print up the paperwork for Bladensburg, organize my bag, making sure I have everything packed for the convention. It would be just like me to drive off and leave behind my Thunderboats! cards

I helped Daveshoe with pre-registration last night. Together we got it done pretty quickly. Talked about St. Nazaire a bit.

Exhausted Beyond Belief!!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Arrest Captain Merryweather Playtest

I took my L and C stuff off to Game Matrix to playtest my Enfilade scenario today. I put together the game on 10' by 5' table, which is the size I'm planning for the convention.

There were two things I hoped to accomplish with the playtest. The first was to determine whether the rules would be playable with a game this size and with some of the modifications I made. We had five guys running twelve units and roughly 120 figures, and it seemed to work okay. I did away with a couple of morale checks and made some other minor modifications. This seemed to work reasonably well. It didn't hurt that my intelligent and helpful friends were doing the playtest.

The other thing I hoped to learn from the playtest was whether my planned set up for the game would work out. I learned the Americans needed to be more spread out for to involve all the players, particularly the Spanish, quickly. It also means the game will turn into smaller, more desperate actions, rather than allowing the Americans to form more deadly mutually supportive actions.

The details. The Comanches opened the battle with a rapid advance toward the river bank. Unfortunately the quickly were caught in a rapid crossfire that became a massacre when the Spanish rolled above their activation numbers two turns in a row. The Indians were unable to move or shoot and simply were shot to pieces by Sgt. Pryor's squad, Ordway's squad and Clark's men who came up from the island to help.

As the remaining Spanish watched their Indian allies flee, they staked out ground in front of the river banks and engaged members of the Corps. In an uneven fight, the Spanish killed a couple members of the Expedition, while they simply took it from the Americans. On the left the Spanish sent their militia cavalry who moved close enough to empty their carbines at the Americans, but not quite close enough to run them down. All told the Spanish suffered fifty percent losses, and the Americans took slight casualties.

A lot of this will be balanced by simply stretching out the American deployment and positioning the Spanish. Life is good.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Work on the Lewis and Clark game continues. I'm making terrain pieces for the island-something to break up the flat space as well as an encampment for the Corps. The latter can be something to defend for the Corps, and something to capture for the Spanish. Things are winding up for the game prep, but the time is also winding down before the convention.

I still need to make something to represent supplies I can put on the boats and in camp. I have my chokecherry grove to finish. I need to finish painting up the George Drouillard mounted figure. Last but not least I need to type up quicksheets for the rules as we'll use them for the game. Everything needs to be done for the playtest on Saturday.

There always seems to be something new to do. I'm reminded of the line repeated often in the The Agony and the Ecstasy when Pope Julius (Rex Harrison) asks Michaelangelo (Charlton Heston) when the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel will be completed. "When will there be an end." The reply is always "When I am finished." And so it goes with me.

Monday, May 04, 2009

More Lewis and Clark

I had a lot of difficulty conceiving of the table dimensions for this game. I originally saw it as a larger game with the Missouri River running through the middle of the table. To be clear, the Missouri was 300-800 yards wide, so that would require a pretty darn big river. Mark suggested putting the river on one end of the table. It was an idea I liked and that's pretty much what I went with-an 8 X 5 table with the river and island taking up the last three feet of the length.

Last week in my test of the rules, however, I found that things were pretty cramped. We fought with two of L and C's squads (20 figures) and three units of Spaniards (28 figures) and that took up an awful lot of space. I decided to go with a larger table space and a 10 X 5 table. That will spread things out a bit more. Made the changes with Allan, the event coordinator at Enfilade.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

More L and C terrain

Today I finished my river bank pieces. They still don't fit together as well as I'd like, but nobody will be able to say I didn't try. Lots of Woodland Scenics products here. Some deadfall logs, clump foliage and bushes, as well as fine leaf foliage and turfy stuff. I also have a picture of the three vessels moored off the island. I made a larger one. I haven't quite decided what to do in the way of an encampment, but I'll try to brainstorm that this week.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Terrain: Phase One

All of the figures are now completed for the Lewis and Clark game. I'm now working on terrain. I've ordered and completed work on some hills for Battlefield Terrain Concepts. they look good and should clutter up line of sight for the game. I'm working on the scenario idea and have also begun modifying the roster sheet for Black Powder Battles so they work a bit better for this game.

My biggest task at this point is to begin making the terrain look a bit better for the river part of the battle. That will take up about a third of the game table. This is the before view. I've got the felt to represent the river, and more felt to represent the island in the river. I think the island is too small, so I think I'll pick up another yard and be more liberal with its size. I probably need to stretch nearly the width of the board (which this represents.)

I've made the river bank from one foot pink insulation board sections. They are in stage one, which is forming and painting. I need to be sure they fit together a bit better than they do, which may involve additional sanding and fitting. I have an additional small piece to add at the far end to make the five feet fit. This is stage two. I'll work on this tonight. Then it's on to stage three, which is additional terraining. The final stage will be to come up with some add-ons for the island.

We're on deadline this week, which will make additional work difficult for this week. I'd like a walk through with the rules in the next week. Dave Demick and I did this last Monday, and I got a chance to play with the mechanics and work through some of the factors for the two armies. I have a full blown play test scheduled for May 16th, so not much margin for error.