Seven Steps to Freedom

May 25, 2017

Charlie Wesencraft has published several books on wargaming.  His first, “Practical Wargaming”, covers several periods from ancients through the late horse and musket period.  His second, “With Pike and Musket”,  covers the English Civil War.  What is remarkable about the latter is that it is also an extensive scenario book covering more than 20 battles.  His third, “Seven Steps to Freedom”, covers 29 battles in French and Indian war and American Revolution.  It was rejected by his publisher and was almost never published until John Curry accepted it for his History of Wargaming project.  It was finally published in January 2015.

The Book 

There are 188 pages of text, diagrams and maps in the book.  All of the graphics are black and white line drawings.  There are 29 scenarios in the book, grouped in 7 phases (steps) in chronological order starting with the French and Indian War and ending at Yorktown.  The former has only 4 scenarios.  The balance deal specifically with the American revolution.  There is also a set of rules to play out the scenarios.  These rules are similar to those found in his previous book, “With Pike and Musket.”  The scenario information has enough detail so that you could adopt them to whatever game and basing system you like.  This alone makes the book a real value for anyone wanting to game this period.

The Rules

I’ve seen in other reviews and even from the author(!) that these rules are dated and gaming has moved on.  I strongly disagree.  They are rather unique by today’s standards, but these rules have a lot going for them.

Units are formed of anywhere between 10-20 miniatures.  British regiments, for example are approximately 12 figures.  Cavalry regiments are somewhat smaller.  There is an efficiency rating of 1-4 points which will determine how well the unit obeys orders or fights.  Efficiency is determined randomly at the beginning of the game and then raises or drops based on results of combat when the unit fights.

Movement is basic with the standard rules for turning and changing formation which cost you a portion of movement.  The striking difference is that he uses an activation roll to actually move, charge and stand firm against an enemy.  This roll is modified by the unit’s current efficiency rating.  The player must usually roll a 5 or more with sometimes a 6 or more to escape the ill effects of the situation.  For a standard move or charge, the ill effects usually mean the unit just stands in place.  Standing firm or from taking casualties, the unit may flee.  Efficiency is added to the roll making it more likely that the unit will pass the check.

Combat is chart based.  there is a simple casualty chart that determines how many casualties a unit delivers based on half the number of figures fighting.  This number is modified by a die roll. 1-2 is -1 casualty.  5-6 is +1 casualty.  Simple and effective.

There is a weather gauge that determines the status of the battlefield weather.  Again this is diced for with 2 dice at the beginning of the game.  Weather is then checked for at the beginning of each turn to see if it changes by 1 step.  You might start the battle with clear weather and then a storm may blow in half way through.  It is a simple method.  I’ve seen it used in GDW’s “Fire and Steel” game.

Style

The author writes in a very easy to read narrative style.  The battles are interesting to read about and the author gives some analysis about each battle’s historical conclusion.   As a simple history book, it made for fun, light reading.

Conclusion

This book can be many things to many people.  It is a fine history book on its own.  It has a very playable set of wargame rules and scenarios to provide hours of fun at a fairly low cost.  I highly recommend this book.

“Seven Steps to Freedom” By Charlie Wesencraft


Throw me a 6 Horse and Musket

May 22, 2017

I’ve been musing for a while now about how to bring TMA6 into the horse and musket era.  I’ll focus initially on the early part where linear tactics prevail and worry about the the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period later.

Moving should be pretty simple.  I think a simple formation system will be in order.  The only formations needed will be road column and line.  Perhaps 6″ in line, 9″ in column and 12″ in column if traveling the entire distance on a road.   Most of the other maneuver rules can remain the same.

Shooting was my bigger hangup.  How much is too much in terms of firepower?  I have to consider the two firing systems.  There is rank fire which, while relatively steady, can be cumbersome when the formation is taking fire.  The platoon fire system probably yields similar results when the formation is moving but should have an advantage when the formation is not moving.  In general, there is about a 4:3 relationship between a 3 rank and 4 rank formation.    I settled on a unit being able to fire with 3 dice which is about a 42% chance of causing at least 1 hit.  Platoon fire infantry that do not move may add 1 die to the total for about a 51% chance of causing at least 1 hit.  Each hit on the unit reduces it’s firepower and melee power by 1.  3 hits (3 stands lost) results in the unit routing.   Units should be represented by 5 stands.  4 will do but with 5, you can place the flag in the center which makes the unit look great!

Melee should be similar to the Ancients version.  The loser retreats a variable amount of inches while the attacker can pursue up to a half move.   Base melee power should be set at 3 as melee by this time is a combination of shooting and hand to hand fighting.  If an infantry unit chooses not to charge another unit, it may issue fire first.  A hit results in the opposing unit to halt short and it may then return fire.  2 hits breaks the attacker and the unit retreats in a similar fashion to melee.  The defender (winner) may not pursue if they win through firepower.

I have not thought about cavalry yet but being that they are mostly melee troops, there will be armored and unarmored heavy horse and light horse.  They should all function similar to the TMA6 ancients rules.


Portable Hereclea

May 9, 2017

Kicking the new rules around play-test style, I decided to try a Rome vs Pyrrhus battle.  Hereclea is always a good test battle since it can be played on a flat, featureless plane.  I made the opening moves that the Roman commander did along with the response as Pyrrhus heard word that Roman cavalry had crossed the river.

At the end of turn 1. Rome has the only unit on the board. They move the cavalry forward at top speed. Pyrrhic cavalry enter at the bottom of turn 1.

At the end of turn 2. Rome wins the initiative and enters the board with the rest of their army. They wisely hold back their cavalry. Pyrrhus follows suit.

End of turn 4. There was a small amount of skirmishing. The Epiriot light infantry takes a hit as it has no room to escape. The Roman left flank is turned. Fighting in the middle is inconclusive.

Turn 5-6. The Epiriots easily wrap around the Roman left with their light cavalry. Only luck allows the Roman allied unit to survive as long as they do. Center continues to sway to and fro.

Turn 7-9 The Epiriots drive back the Romans in the center. They realize that that Pyrrhus can slide right and engage again pinning the Roman legionaire against the Epiriot light cavalry. This turned into a fatal mistake. The Roman commander had Pyrrhus pinned against his own unit. It was hit twice and was eliminated. In the ensuing At the bottom on turn 9, the Epiriots manage to kill the Roman Legionaire. Both armies pass exhaustion at this point and the battle is over.

Rome wins 9-8 in a close struggle.  This battle could have gone either way.  The Epiriots made a fatal mistake with their general and one unit blocking their own retreat.  The battle really felt like an Ancient battle as described in some of the primary sources.   Lots of scrumming in the middle with some maneuvering on the flanks.


Ugly But Effective

May 8, 2017

Here are a couple of pictures of my Portable Wargame kit box.  It is about 7.5″ square and is 5″ tall (I think).

The box all closed up. The multi-colored look is NOT to attractive.

It gets better. What it looks like inside when all packed up.

The flat stuff stays on the bottom while the tray can be easily removed so you can get the pieces setup quickly.

For better or worse, most of the hard parts are done.  I will probably add 2 more boards so I can have a 2X3 battle.  I don’t think I will have to add any terrain.  The only other possibility is, perhaps, more armies for different time periods.  Whatever I decide, there is plenty of head space for adding more stuff.  I’ll probably have to switch to a different format.  Maybe small boxes to fit inside the large box so as to be able to stack the armies “safely.”


A Box by any other name…

May 5, 2017

I’ve been pretty busy with real life stuff over the past few weeks.  Birthdays, sports events, more birthdays and work.  I finally had a bit of time to make the storage box for my Truly Portable Wargame.  I don’t have a picture yet because it is not actually done.  Only the container portion is complete.  But I can give you a description.  It is made of matting board.  Blue to be exact.  It measures 7.5″ on a side and is 5″ deep.  The box was quite easy to build.  I just needed to cut a total of 5 rectangles.  I’ll print out the lid pieces from the computer on 110 paper.  Maybe I’ll reinforce the top with matting board, maybe not.   Pictures to follow completion.

I’ve had a look at the forth coming installment of the portable wargame.  While I don’t want to give too much away, the new book will have an Ancients game with unit detail along the lines of Phil Sabin’s Lost Battles.  I think it could carry you through the early medieval period up through the Baron Wars.  I’ve had a game with these rules and they do work quite well.  Romans vs Celts.  My Celts were a bit stronger than they are in the game now but the game was a nail biter and did feel like an ancient battle.

There is also going to be a set of WW2 rules.  These are a bit more detailed with tank differentiation and some extra weapons.  There will also be “pinning”, which to my mind, is essential for any set of tactical WW2 rules.  I have not played these yet but hope t get a game in this weekend.


Fine!

April 13, 2017

I finished up the game tonight.  I won’t get into the details but here is a picture of the action at the end of turn 7 and then at the end of the game.

Blue advances toward the woods. After a grueling series of close combats, Red’s light infantry is dispatched and Red reaches its exhaustion point.

At the end of the game, Blue had red in a crossfire. Blue was about to seize the back edge of the last crossing. However, Red did still hold on to both sides of the crossing at the end of the game thus causing a draw.

On turn 9, I made a mistake allowing Red to advance another infantry toward the enemy.  This, by rule, is not allowed once your exhaustion point is reached.  the game should have ended with a marginal victory for Blue as they did hold 1 crossing.

Artillery was key.  Blue got a phase every turn where they got to fire and inflict casualties on the enemy without reply.  On two of the turns, both guns missed but otherwise, they scored at least one hit on each of the other 8 turns.

Based on this scenario, I’d say 10 turns for One Hour Wargames game length is about right.


So what did it cost?

April 13, 2017

Some point out that this is a low cost way to play wargames and is portable to boot!  But what did it really cost me?

Much of the game was made from stuff I found around the house and on the internet.  The “free” stuff includes paper, foam board, artist board and, of course, time.  It isn’t truly free of course but some of it has accumulated at the house from stalled projects and leftovers from who knows  what.  There are some real costs though.  One Hour Wargames costs about $16 and the Portable Wargame costs about $8.  So, the rules are about $25 all told.  Add to that the 6mm houses from Wargame Print.  Those are about $6.50.  There is also Riverside Scenics from Microtactix which got me the bridge and trees.  That set was $9.  The miniatures all came from Junior General and of course are free.  I used GIMP to process all of my miniatures on the computer and have a color printer to print them out.  The cash outlay was about $40 for the whole set or about the cost of a single DBA army in 15mm.  Not bad at all.