Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bits and pieces

I have longer blogs to write, but I'm too lazy, so just some dashed off tripe will have to do.

Research, research, research

Writing the rules Pike & Periwig for my 1672 project is enjoyable torment. One of the nicer torments is all the books I've bought recently to research the warfare of the period. Among the nicer finds are the  photo reproductions of 17th c. drill manuals. I was very surprised not only to find them available, but cheap.

Early English Books Online (EEBO) is a scholarly service that gives suitably credentialed types access to a digital wonderland of old books. Being suitably credentialed is the rub. You have to be associated with a member academic institution. Individuals cannot become subscribers. However, EEBO Editions are a number of printed copies of the digital material. I haven't found a complete list of what EEBO Editions offers, but one-by-one I've come across the volumes I was looking for and feared I would never find. Among the treasures I've acquired so far are:

Sir James Turner. Pallas Armata, Military Essayes of the Ancient Grecian, Roman, and Modern art of War, Written in the Years 1670 and 1671. (1683)

John Cruso. The Arte of Warre, or Militarie Discourses of Levying, Marching, Encamping, and Embattling an Armie. (1639)

John Cruso. Militarie Instructions for the Cavalrie, Or, Rules and Directions for the Service of Horse Collected Out of Divers Forrein Authours, Ancient and Modern, and Rectified and Supplied According to the Present Practice of the Low Countrey Warres. (1644)

William Bariffe. Military Discipline: Or, The Young Artillery Man Wherein is Discoursed and Showne the Postures Both of Musket and Pike: The Exactest Way. Together with the Motions which are to be Used. (1635)

These are a bit much to plod through at times, but perseverance has its rewards and the books provide answers to the crucial questions about what, exactly, a unit could do. For writing rules about facings, formations changes, wheeling, etc. these are invaluable. Even though most of them date to the Thirty Years War period, they are based on the tactical reforms of Maurice of Nassau, which remained dominant into the 1690s.

Another great find was the two volumes of William Guthrie's Battles of the Thirty Years War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen 1618-1635 and The Later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia. These are a terrific resource for the period and are the only source for detailed information about these battles. For each battle, Guthrie includes full orders of battle with unit strengths and clear maps of the deployments. There is nothing else like this in English. Guthrie also includes a lot of explanation of the tactics used. As with the drill manuals, it's a little anachronistic, but not much. From Maurice's reforms in the late 16th c. to the 1690s, the change was gradual. The biggest changes affected the way that Imperial armies fought. The giant tercios of Tilly and Wallenstein gave way to the smaller battalions of Maurice and the and tactical finesse introduced by Gustavus Adolphus. English military drill, which is reflected in the manuals, was based on the Dutch and Swedish models throughout the 17th c. Maurice had his battalions in eight ranks; Gustavus reduced infantry battalions to six ranks, which were widely adopted before the end of the Thirty Years War and remained the standard depth until the end of the century.

I have a few more books on the way about tactical aspects of the Dutch Wars (1568 to 1648) and am contemplating yet another I saw on Amazon. It's not cheap. These books never are.

Rules writing

I had a great brainstorm this weekend and got a lot of work done on the close combat rules for Pike & Periwig. I'm just polishing them now and creating the illustrations for them in Adobe Illustrator. I hope to get them in complete draft form soon so I can get some feedback (ridicule, scorn, contumely) from reviewers.

I have no intention of going commercial with these, so I feel free to indulge my own instincts rather than try to make a popular set—as if rules for the period 1660 to 1680 were going to set the wargaming hobby on fire anyway.

I'm hearing about some local interest in the rules, so I hope that getting them in a draft form will inspire a few people to paint units for the period. If I have to paint everything, I'll be 70 before I'm ready to play my first game.


I've got the horseflesh painted for my first cavalry unit in the 1672 project. I'm working on the horse furniture and uniforms of the riders now.

I've also got several guns painted or nearly so. Old Glory makes a nice falconet model. I recently got two of The Assault Group falconets which are a different style. I've painted the Old Glory falconets with red carriages for the French. I'll paint The Assault Group falconets for the Austrians, although I'm not sure what color their carriages were in this period. Yellow ochre,—or did that come later? I know that English carriages were light gray since the New Model Army and remained so. It's not unlikely that Austria would stick with one color from the start.

Even though the guns are ready, the gunners are yet to appear from North Star. I've heard since January that the gunners for the North Star 1672 range are just about ready, I fear I have longer to wait than I hoped. North Star did recently release two packs of flintlock musketeers for the range. I'm intrigued, of course, but the matchlock was still near-universal in my period.


There must be a conspiracy in the Pacific Northwest to deprive us of dullcote. It can't be found! Hobby stores that would sell it are getting rarer. Galaxy Hobby near me carries a lot of model paint. I've been able to get the Testor's Dullcote I crave from them before, but they've been out the last several times I've checked. I've also gone to craft stores that have a small model kit section with a smattering of Testor's paint. They would have some, but they've been out, too. I finally just ordered three cans direct from Testor's.  I can't believe that I couldn't just find it to buy off the shelf. It gave me cold shudders to think that this may be a portent of a dying world of hobby stores.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pikes and periwigs

I finally completed my first battalion for my 1672 project. As I posted earlier, it's regiment Vivarais (with azure coats because that's what my Susane print shows). Also, at this time it was Regiment D'Albret. You never realize how much bloody detail is on these figures until you paint them. I finished and based the pike stands about two days before I completed the musketeers. Those bandoliers are tedious.

This is a good start to the project—along with the rules Pike & Periwig that are progressing along. What's nice about having the unit painted is that I get a better feel for how my ideas actually translate to figures and bases.

The possible formations for an infantry regiment are spelled out on page 11 of my rules:
My inspiration for the page was Bill Protz' set of English Civil War rules (Wargamers Guide to the English Civil War) where he used similar diagrams:

It's funny how those diagrams (and the letters PEP DOS) have stayed in my head for more than 30 years...

These diagrams also nicely represent the look of 17th c. drill manuals:

Which is the feel I'm going for with the rules. The formations, now that I can actually try them out, are Line:

Close Order:


And March Order:

Next up is a squadron of cavalry and some guns. I will also clean and prime another unit of foot. I may get ambitious and get two ready. I think I'll go with two battalions of the Regiment Picardie (in actual gray coats). I have the flags coming from GMB Designs.

I also have two partially-painted Savoyard battalions that I started a long time back when Bill Stewart, Rich Knapton, Doug Hamm, and I were conspiring on an earlier version of this project. So far, only one stand of pikes is completed and based:

This is on a single 60mm x 60mm base, so I'll rebase them on two 60mm x 30mm bases. I also need to replace my home-brewed flag with one of the ones that I found recently.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Smooth & Rifled playtest

Earlier this week, my friend Phil emailed me about the Smooth & Rifled skirmish rules from Dadi & Piombo (that name always makes me think of Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King). He's been painting 40mm figures for years and finally had a hankering to game with them. He's currently working away at some Front Rank 40mm British light infantry from the AWI. But he's had several Sash & Saber 40mm ACW figures hanging around for years: 16 Union dismounted cavalry and about 20 Confederate infantry.

I went to the Timon and Pumbaa Dadi & Piombo site and bought the rules on Wednesday, then downloaded the free supplements for specific periods. We arranged to meet at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland and play a trial game.

We thought we might suck Bill "the forgotten man" Stewart into the game, but he was making up for lost time with his first free weekend since the Nixon administration (or so it seems). We did, however, get Wes Rodgers and Chris Craft involved.

The game was pretty slap-dash. We just lined figures up on a table that had originally been a FOW game. We carefully removed the burnt-out tank models, but otherwise had 15mm terrain for 40mm figures. In those days, giants stalked the land...

Chris and I were the Confederates organized in three groups; Phil and Wes were the Union organized in two groups. The game was probably set in 1862 at a time when the Union cavalrymen couldn't stay on their horses without being tied on, which is why there were on foot. The Rebels, of course, were Old Jack's foot cavalry already.

The Confederates outnumbered and outranged the Union, but the Union had Spencers, which fired faster. We were curious to see if the higher rate of fire could win the day.

The rules are pretty simple, but make for a nice game. While not being a competition system, there are points to use in building forces, which we ignored, but they come in handy for those wanting to do things right. We kept it simple with just one "unit" per side.

Initiative rolls give you a set number of action points for the unit to spend. The actions can be things like moving a set number of centimeters, firing, reloading, fighting a melee, etc. The combat resolution is pretty straight forward, although that didn't keep us from missing a lot of things that we didn't notice until re-reading the rules after the game.

The Johnnies looked to be getting the best of it at the start because their longer-range rifles were picking off the Union horse infantry from beyond where the Union could effectively reply. Phil ran his men into some woods and I, being the overly-aggressive gamer type, decided to close the range (thereby giving up my advantage).

Once Phil's remaining troopers got their Spencers working, there were fewer and fewer Seccessionists on the table. Wes had worked his way through some woods and starting knocking Chris' men off their feet. We got a significant number of hits against them, but their saving rolls were low (meaning the figures hit just became shaken) while our saving rolls were high (meaning our figures became dead).

Once a unit reaches 30% of its original points value, it has to test morale. We needed to roll low, but by force of habit, rolled high instead. Game over.

It was a pleasure pushing around Phil's beautiful 40mm figures. They look great and the size gives them a nice heft, which is a good feeling for a skirmish game. I think I see some Sash and Saber in my future, but I don't want to dilute myself; I have my 1672 project and rules to focus on for now (more on that project to follow).