Rumours have reached the Redcoats at Fort MacGuffin that a gang of illegal loggers and miners are back in the hills to the NW edge of the Northern Forests. From time to time, rumours of past gold finds and limitless timber have lured landless settlers and gangs to try their luck.
Usually a Hunting Party of Forest Indians deal with any threats to their Hunting Grounds and Sacred Forests.
Redcoat patrols in the forest are warned to watch out for trouble. What will happen?
A small gang of armed miners is glimpsed at the entrance to the old mine, pulling down the boards that close it off.
D6 thrown to see at which turn or when next two parties of miners (Turn 4 and 9) and the next two Forest Indian Hunting Parties of five each arrive at Turn 6 and 7.
The Redcoat patrol of nine will emerge on the board and road to the south of the mine at Turn 11. Two d6 were thrown to determine how many redcoats are on patrol.
A Forest Indian Hunting Party emerges from the Northwest following a scrub turkeyfowl. They spot the Miners and some felled trees. This must be stopped! Where there are a few Miners, more follow.
The Forest Indians decide to scare the Miners off with some up close rifle fire.
Do the Miners post a lookout? D6 yes 1,2,3 – no 4,5,6.
Do the Miners see the Indians moving in the forest before the Indians fire? D6 Yes 1,2 No 3,4,5,6 – at this point Turn 1 and 2 the Indians are not seen approaching.
By Turn 3, the Miners do notice the Indians approaching. They are all out of range.
The first Hunting Party of Forest Indians uses cover to get closer to the miners.
By Turn Four and Five, firing has begun.
By Turn Six, the Melee between the Miner with the Pike and the Indian Braves sees the Miner and one Brave killed.
Photo: Turn Four, To the North a second Party of miners appears, weapons drawn.
Turn 9 – the final small group of miners appear on the track, south of the mine. Several Forest Indians and Miners are in melee.
Turn 10 – more Close Range firing does not lead to a mass of casualties due to some poor dice throws when firing and lucky Casualty Savings Throws.
Turn 11 A patrol of Redcoats appears on the path, south of the mine.
At this stage with three groups on the table, I chose what would happen next from six options for a d6 dice throw.
1 – Miners fire on Redcoats
2 – Miners try to ally with Redcoats against Forest Indians
3 – Redcoats ally with Indians against Miners
4 – Redcoats fire in Forest Indians
5 – Forest Indians retreat away into the trees
6 – Indians fire on Redcoats
The outcome this time is Number Four, that the Forest Indians retreat whilst firing and being fired upon by the Miners.
Turn 12 – time to leave?
The Indians departing and Redcoats arriving, the Miners throw a d6 to see if they stay to fight (1-3) and be caught or retreat (4-6). They wisely throw a retreat dice number, leaving their equipment behind.
The fortunate Turkey watches the Redcoats load up and wheel away the Miners’ cart. It lives to gobble another day!
Before they departed, the Redcoats hastily used the gunpowder and explosives they found at the site to blow up the entrance to this troublesome mine good and proper, once and for all. If they can’t carry back all the Miners’ supplies on the cart, they will be buried for later or blown up in the mine entrance. No sense leaving it all for more Miners or the Forest Indians to find.
The fleeing Miners and Forest Indian Hunting Parties far away hear the sound and saw the plume of dust, smoke and rock spouting high above the trees as the Old Mine was sealed shut under a rockfall tumbling onto the Forest Path.
In their colonial policing role, the Redcoat Patrol gather up any dropped weapons and loaded them onto the Miners’ handcart. Removing any identification papers or personal effects that they find, the Redcoats quickly bury the Miners in one area.
That done, they bury the fallen Indians in shallow graves and cairns in another area, to keep them safe from wild beasts, knowing that the Forest Indians would return by nightfall to retrieve their fallen warriors and bury them according to the Forest Indian tradition.
By nightfall, even with the Miners’ Cart, the Redcoat Patrol should be back towards the safety of Fort MacGuffin by dusk.
Photo: The surviving two Hunting Parties of Forest Indians lurk to see what they can scavenge, including this small mystery barrel. Firewater? Explosives? Food?
Who knows what will happen next in the forests of North Gondal?
An enjoyable short solo skirmish game in cluttered terrain, handling three different groups of characters for once. Hope you enjoyed it too!
I am enjoying the rough continuity of tensions between skirmish episodes amongst the various character groups and their background motivations.
The 54mm figures and terrain used are the following:
The Forest Indians are my repaired and repainted mostly Britain’s Hollowcast metal Indians
The Redcoats are my paint conversions of Pound Store Plastic copies of WW2 German Infantry
Movement distances are again generally halved from the Close Wars appendix to reflect the smaller playing space available.
By chance, the Amazon.co.uk page for this book currently features in the sample pages / ‘see inside’ section a view of these Close Wars rules appendix – good choice, as you can see proof that it is a (reprint) book worth buying and reading!
The Forests of North Gondal, 1870. A stranded wagon, its wheel off and axle broken. Awaiting rescue and surrounded, the small group of defenders listen to their Captain.
Captain Snortt of the Yestershires is busy briefing his Redcoats, drawing lines in the surface of the Forest Road with his swordpoint.
The Forest Road is a glorified name for a track to the Forest Fort and old Trading Post Fort MacGuffin to the North. Its edges were cleared of timber to make the Fort itself and also make it easier to spot an ambush.
Invading and clearing their sacred forests and hunting grounds had caused tension with the usually peaceful Forest Indians who over the years had traded and stolen many Redcoat muskets and rifles.
Snortt: “We can expect reinforcements to march from the Fort to the North here, unless Ambushed en route. Forest Indians may well appear from here and here to the East, as well as travelling in from the West. We will keep a sentry posted in cover at each point of the compass.”
Snortt: “On first sight of the enemy, fire when you sight them. Whilst it will reveal your location, we need to keep them at a distance and away from accurately counting our numbers. We need to keep them at long range and stop them from closing in too quickly. They will be sounding us out. We need to give them an idea that we have troops all around the perimeter.”
“Only when they are too close and you are likely to be surrounded, may you fall back towards the wagon using what cover you can.”
Snortt: “Meanwhile, Private Fuller and you Miss MacGuffin will remain with the wagon and try to fix the axle and wheel whilst we wait for the repair team and reinforcements from the fort. Miss MacGuffin has also volunteered along with myself to make sure you have enough ammunition.”
“We also have taken off the Wagon two small barrels of gunpowder supplied for the Fort’s cannons that we can explode if we need.”
“Good luck, Men. To your posts. You too, Miss MacGuffin.”
Snortt saluted Major MacGuffin’s daughter and hurried off to post his few men at compass points around the Wagon.
Thus began the desperate situation of the Yestershire Regiment’s daily supply column to Fort MacGuffin, broken down with a damaged wheel and axle, stranded at the plank bridge. The Forest Indian Drums have been heard and glimpses of movement amongst the trees.
Addressing his Braves and Hunting Parties – Forest Indian Chief Old Wooden Legs
A big 54mm game in a small space.
Post 2: The Skirmish
Forest Indian Chief Old Wooden Legs spoke to his assembled braves, now arriving in the grove, from hunting parties across their forest.
Translation of Old Wooden Legs’ words: “I will split you into three groups, one to travel north and circle round to delay any reinforcements and appear to the North and the West side.
“The other two hunting parties will split up and approach through the trees and stream valley to their East.”
“We will raid their supplies, take civilian hostages to barter with the Redcoats and make the Forest Fort Warriors fearful of their supply wagons being attacked again.”
“They rely too much on their slow beast of two wheels, rather than hunting the swift beasts on four legs. The Redcoats are foolish and have not learned to live off the land as we can without destroying it.”
“When they see we can strike without warning and melt away again into the trees like spirits of the mist, maybe then they will become fearful and wise enough to leave our Forests in peace and return to their own places.”
“To your places and may the hunting go well with you!”
The Forest Indians disappeared back into the forest.
Pre-dice roll depositions
2xD6 thrown to decide when the Forest Fort reinforcements will arrive from the North forest road. On Turn 6, Snortt’s reinforcements will arrive on foot at the northern baseline at 4A.
The Forest Indians do not know how many soldiers there are with the wagon or how many will be sent to rescue them.
Snortt did not send the Major’s daughter back to the safety of the Fort on horseback as he did not know if his rider will got through with the message until he hears two of the Forest Fort guns fired in recognition. The Forest Indians will also have heard this sound echoing down the valley.
The Relief Party is setting out on foot. There is a shortage of horses and pack animals in general in Gondal in 1870 due to the ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ North Pacific climate and the horse sickness, horses not being native to the island or the four kingdoms of Gondal. The Forest Indians have become adept at stealing and hiding those horses that are imported and bred.
D6 are thrown for letter and number coordinates on the map
Forest Indian Hunting Party 1 starts out from map point D1 on Turn 1.
Hunting Party 2 from map point D4, starting out on Turn 6.
Hunting Party 3 from map point 4C starting out on Turn 10.
Wheel takes 1xd6 turns to repair once the Engineer arrives, in this case six turns.
D6 to decide if the Redcoat Relief Party appearing at Turn 6 is in one or two groups and how many turns apart. D6 1,3, 5 Apart or d6 2,4,6 Together. Dice roll says – They will arrive together.
Close Little Wars Rules tweak 1
Playing on a small corner table 2 foot by 4 foot meant that the generous Wells and Featherstone movement rates of 9 to 12 inches were too big and the game would come to blows too fast. This is stealthy forest movement in cluttered terrain of logs and hills, marsh and swamp. I simply cut movement rates and terrain modifiers in half but kept all weapons ranges the same. The effect is of halving each turn into two turns to reflect short skirmish times.
Going up hills, across streams and marshes really does cut into rapid movement.
Firing from cover or sometimes blindly at cover in confined spaces and cluttered terrain of Bold Frontiers trees, hills and streams requires the dice modifiers of casualty savings throws and extras for cover or no cover. Bullets and arrows get blocked by trees and rocks.
If firer is undercover and target in open, 5 or 6 scores a hit.
Casualty Savings Throws if hit
4, 5,6 – slightly / not wounded, carries on
3, 4, 5, 6 – If target undercover, slightly / not wounded, carries on.
Turn 1 and Turn 2
Close Wars rules. IGOYUGO. Dice thrown for A who moves first, sort out melee, B who moves second, sort out melee, A shoots first, B shoots second. End of Turn.
Redcoats assume their compass positions in cover around the wagon as centre. Sentries at N, NW, E, SE, S, SW and W.
Forest Indian Hunting Party move off from D1 towards wooded hill at B1 /C1.
No shooting – none within range.
First firing by Redcoat sentries to East of wagon – several hits on Forest Indians along the stream bed B3/C3. One killed, others saved by casualty savings throws.
Further exchanges of fire between both sides sees another Forest Indian killed by the stream.
Both parts of Hunting Party 1 are now moving in from the stream bed and downhill from the wooded hill, firing on the Redcoat sentries at E and SE positions. The Redcoat sentry at East by the stream is killed. Third Indian in the stream bed area is killed by Redcoat fire.
However three Forest Indians are closing in on the wagon, close to sentry posts around the E and SE positions.
Aware of the risk, Captain Snortt and Miss MacGuffin draw rifles from the wagon and stand behind it, ready to see off any marauding Forest Indians from raiding the supplies and taking Miss MacGuffin hostage.
Relief party of the Yestershires sighted in the distance on the road coming up the hill.
However the immediate threat remains the three Forest Indians getting close to the wagon. Two Indians engage the Redcoat sentry at SE (the Redcoat with the turban) in Melee.
Point markers for duelling from the old Heroscape Game.
Redcoat sentries to the southeast engage in hand to hand duelling with rifles and bayonets. Three life points given to each, attacker is the Indian. Card each detailing at random which blows and blocking blows are dealt are hit points removed. The Redcoat Sentry at SE sees off first one Indian, then the second Indian closes in.
Melee Duel 2 – cards reset, melee begins and one of the random cards sees the second Forest Indian retreat, his weapon broken.
Over the next few turns, the retreating Indian heads back up the wooded hill for safety to join Chief Old Wooden Legs, where he looks to pick up a spare musket or rifle from one of his fallen comrades.
The sentry due south on the road rushes over to cover the fallen E. sentry and is brought down by the Indian archer.
However Captain Snortt and Miss MacGuffin steady their rifles from behind the wagon and aim at the archer. He is brought down by Captain Snortt’s first shot, removing the nearest threat to the wagon and its defenders.
The Redcoat Relief Party of the Yestershires passes the Fallen Tree across the road. The black helmeted section spread out into the trees, whilst the white helmeted section head up the road to surround the wagon. Amongst them you can glimpse the Fort Engineer in his bush hat, ready to fix the wagon axle and wheel over the next six turns.
The Forest Indian Hunting Party 2, who set off at Turn 6, continue up the stream valley closer into range. They are now outnumbered by the Relief Party.
The Forest Indian Hunting Party 2 in the stream bed fire at the Redcoat sentries at long range but fail to kill one. Fire is returned and two further Indians are brought down.
The chief Old Wooden Legs notices that his forces are now down close to half strength, even with the third Hunting Party due to appear at Turn 10. Should he call them and recall them to fight another day?
A further exchange of fire between the remaining Indians on the Stream valley, including a Redcoat grenade being thrown. There was one further Indian dead, with no further Redcoat casualties, once casualty savings throws and being undercover taken into consideration.
The Redcoat Relief Party and Fort Engineer cross the bridge and begin work on repairing the wheel.
The Indian Chief calls to the Hunting Party 2 and 3 to retreat as they are now past 50% casualties and outnumbered.
The Redcoats fire upon these retreating Indians in the stream valley and bring down these three Indian. The battle is over – for now.
The shadowy stream valley of death …
Whilst the wagon is repaired, the Redcoat reinforcements keep watch on the trees, quickly bury the native dead and recover the native rifles.
Turn 11 onwards.
The Forest Indians regroup further in the woods. Snortt keeps his sentries posted watching for further attacks.
Will there be another attack from different directions?
Snortt keeps his troops quiet and watchful. It’s not over yet until they reach the Fort.
He thinks – There are no signal drums.
The forest sounds of trees and birdsong return amongst the sound of the wheel and axle being fixed.
They know we are still stranded. The Forest Indians will be watching and listening. The Forest is always full of eyes and ears.
Will they face further ambush and sniping on the road ahead?
The Chief recalls his remaining Warriors. They will return to retrieve their dead warriors after dark.
Later that evening
Back at Fort MacGuffin as he writes his report by oil lamp for Headquarters, Snortt reflects on the day and how things went.
From this – the stranded wagon and brave cool Miss MacGuffin …
Captain Snortt and the Major’s daughter Miss MacGuffin as ASC Private Fuller helps the Fort Engineer mend the wheel
To this – Relief or Rescue – and the wagon fixed, his young passenger safe with only two privates dead. Things could have been very different.
Miss Macguffin’s secret weapon … whilst her Guard dog Patch hopes Snortt has biscuits or a ball.
A Captain may dream of promotion – and other things …
I have a feeling we have not heard the end of Captain Snortt of the Yestershires, Miss MacGuffin and the aggrieved Forest Indians of Gondal led by Chief Old Wooden Legs.
The Forest returns to quietness and wild animals – for now.
Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that I have painted in the top of the shorter flat tree markers with green and white Acrylic paint, as they show when photographed from above.
Close Little Wars Scenario Post-mortem – initial thoughts
Playing solo, I had to work hard not to have favourites. I wanted both sides to succeed in their aims. If in doubt, a dice decided.
The opening turns for the Redcoats were those of stand and wait in cover until first contact and melee, but playing as solo player and umpire, I had to assume for the storyline that the Redcoats could be attacked from any angle and Snortt could not weaken any one side.
The presence of the delayed third Hunting Party who could loopin at the top North and attack from the NW or NE or engage the Relief column had to be borne in mind by Snortt.
Had the outcome of the dice throw for the arrival of the Relief Party been different, say for example Turn 6 plus 1d6, the game could have had a very different outcome.
Firing through cover and related savings throws had a big influence on the events. Strength of numbers and some lucky dice throws (or excellent shooting) made things easier for the Redcoats.
Melee – Duelling by cards – made it feel in places like a skirmish game.
I wish I had taken time to name the initial Redcoats and Forest Indian Hunting Parties, instead of talking about the SE or NW Sentry.
The lumps and bumps of the cluttered terrain of Bold Frontiers trees, book hills and felt streams (with attendant movement modifiers) works well for me. It slows down movement as it would in real life and provides a longer lasting target for concealed riflemen.
Judging Line of Sight (LOS) from the character’s eyeline in cluttered forest was tricky. I used a small mirror from a Christmas cracker to help me see what they could see.
Using a 12 inch ruler in cluttered forest terrain was tricky at times. A ruler half that size would help.
50% loss of strength as part of the Victory Conditions governed the retreat by Forest Indians.
An enjoyable and fulfilling solo skirmish game ImagiNations scenario of which I feel we have not heard the end.
I hope you have enjoyed the game, the terrain and the build up. I look forward to hearing reader’s thoughts and reflections.
North Gondal forests, 1870s – a supply column, deep in the forest, approach a stream
Ahead of the supply column, few yards over the old bridge, a large dead tree had fallen over the road, neatly blocking it.
Suspicious? Old dead trees fall over, and they had had heavy rain storms recently. The old plank bridge wasn’t looking in too good shape either. Must have happened overnight. The Forest Fort foot patrols should have noticed this damage and made good a repair.
They would need to proceed cautiously. Steady there! The weekly supply waggon for the Forest Fort (Fort McGuffin) tipped precariously over and backwards as it crossed the old wooden bridge over the stream.
The Redcoat troops of the Yestershire Regiment heard the sound as one of the wheels skewed off at an odd angle. Barrels and boxes tipped out onto the rough forest road and stream. Some of the bridge had washed away … or maybe the rope and timbers had been hacked away?
Assessing the damage to the wheel, Captain Snortt of the Yestershires, the officer in charge of the supply column, quickly sent the wagon horse and rider ahead to summon reinforcements and a repair team from the Forest Fort (Fort McGuffin).
As the horse and rider disappeared up the forest road, Snort sent his small column of seven redcoats to fan out and protect the cart whilst one of the Army Service Corps men Private Fuller tried to fix the axle and wheel.
The scattered barrels and boxes were stacked to make temporary cover positions.
They wedged the damaged axle on a haybale that they had been carrying for the horse.
Snortt knew that the Forests this far North had eyes everywhere. The local Native Indians were increasingly hostile, they did not enjoy their sacred hunting grounds being carved up by roads and forts, loggers and the land claims of settlers.
To add to his problems, the column included a rare civilian passenger, Kate the youngest daughter of Major McGuffin, the Fort Commander, who was travelling to visit her father. A fine hostage and bargaining chip she would make, if the Indians captured her.
Luckily for Snortt, young Kate was used to frontier life and quickly unpacked a pistol from the baggage, loaded it and watched the surrounding forest. There were spare rifles in the wagon if needed.
The Indian Scouts who were scattered around hunting through the forest return to their chiefs. They bring news. “The wagon is broken on the bridge.”
“The horse has gone to the fort.”
“Several redcoats have stayed to protect the wagon.”
“There are supplies and a passenger for the Fort.”
Meanwhile back at the bridge, the Redcoats of the Yestershires heard drums. The low sound of a native signal drum in the distance. Snortt was not sure how far away. Drums talking across the forest trees. Someone may have seen their difficulty and was even now summoning the local hunting parties.
Damn that bridge! Damn that wheel.
It looked to Snortt now that the fallen tree and the storm damaged bridge may not have been such natural events after all.
Meanwhile amongst the trees, the Indian Braves gathered with their spears and hunting rifles. Their tribal chief Old Wooden Legs spoke to the dancing Medicine Man who was blessing their hunt and ordered the drums be silenced. The Summoning was over.
“Let us harry the Redcoats and their wagons to remind them this is Our Land. There may be much of value in the Wagons – firesticks, metal bees* (bullets) and other important supplies for the Forest Fort, a Fort made from the timbers of our sacred trees.”
“Let us use the shadow and cover of these trees to approach the wagon and take something back in return for what these Redcoat devils have done to our forests. Civilians may prove good hostages. If the Redcoats attack or resist, we will use force to defend our forest.”
* The native Gondal Forest Indian name for bullets, “metal bees that sting death”.
Thus the die is set for a confrontation. In part 2 (or chapter 2?) of this small skirmish solo game I shall set out the terrain map, troop dispositions, aims and victory conditions.
Figures, Terrain and used.
Close Wars rules requires a cluttered terrain. Rather than clutter up the kitchen table with a 54mm Close Wars game and have to move it for meals, I wanted to leave this set up to play over several days squeezed in next to my desk and painting table.
I put sheets of felt over my usual portable hex boards for a change, using some chunky bound old volumes for hills. I used strips of felt for added streams and paths, exploiting the dips added some slate chips and chunks from the garden, some twigs and railway modelling bushes.
The damaged bridge was quickly made from a raft of coffee stirrers, superglued and ‘painted’ with felt tips. The bridge provides a “pinch point” between hills and stream for the wagon.
Hopefully it all keeps some of that improvised terrain spirit of our childhood games, of H. G. Wells’ Little Wars and early Donald Featherstone War Games 1962 (the book from which the two page ‘Close Wars’ rules appendix came).
The only large sheet of felt in the house when I was a child, a beautiful thick dark green, was the heat protector under the table cloth for our family dining table, so borrowing this or the dining table itself (above or below) meant toy soldier games had to fit in and finish around family mealtimes.
For a few moments I considered this as a garden game, but with creaky knees and changeable weather, I decided against this. The trees I use for pop-up 54mm games would not like being left outside.
The forest trees are beautiful preformed preprinted thick card ones from Bold Frontiers Australia, a recent gift to aid my Close Little Wars forest games. The three tree sets bring a real pop-up 3D picture book feel to this forest landscape.
The scenario of ‘Wheel Meet Again’, the broken wagon to defend in hostile territory is loosely based on one by the late Stuart Asquith that I used as a memorial game last November. Add a dash of Last of The Mohicans.
Gondal is a borrowed ImagiNation, one of the four kingdoms on a North Pacific ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ island created in the 1830s and 1840s by the Bronte family as youngsters. Other Bronte versions of ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ include Glass Town and Angria (roughly West Africa), whilst Gaaldine is Tropical Yorkshire on two South Pacific islands. Gondal is similar to my ImagiNations continents of North, Central and South Generica, roughly equivalent to the historical Americas.
I don’t have any French Indian War / Revolutionary War bicorne figures or redcoats in 54mm at the moment. The BMC 54mm ones are in a box patiently awaiting painting, a year on from Christmas 2019. Instead my 42mm Pound Store Redcoats have stepped in and borrowed the scout trek cart. This overloaded wagon is pulled by a flat cavalryman who disappears to take news to the Forest Fort, Fort McGuffin.
A few smaller Britains hollow-cast figures were added in. The Fort Commander’s daughter is a plastic seaside pirate girl with concealed pistol behind her back, her faithful hound from the old Tradition of London Victorian street figures.
Barrels are buttons from the local craft shop, hay from Britain’s farm series, the baggage from the old Herald cowboy raft.
I do have a host of repaired, tuppenny based hollow-cast 50 to 54mm Indians that I have repainted over the last two years. I have generally chosen the non Britain’s Indian figures as they tend to be a little smaller in the mid 40s to 50mm size.
Following up my post about Jen B’s version of Featherstone’s Close Wars Rules, fellow games blogger Stealth contacted me to say that he had been playing around with his own variant of Donald Featherstone’s simple Close Wars rules.
These were first published in Don’s appendix to War Games (1962) and Stealth had been looking at my variants Close Little Wars.
Stealth’s rules have a slight D & D influence or feel (see his other blogs) in that carrying or capturing crates forms part of the victory conditions, scoring and scenarios. Interesting idea for ambushing a supply column etc.
I hope you find something of rules variants interest here. I enjoy seeing how people adapt and tinker, go back to basics and then elaborate a bit more.
I was delighted to discover this year, after reading recent articles in Miniature Wargames, that Don Featherstone’s collection of figures still exists – some colonials are in regular gaming use in the UK and the rest with his manuscripts and books can be seen in the collection of DanielBorris in Canada. They can be visited by appointment. Daniel has filmed and photographed much of the collection to put them online on his website: https://www.borrisfeatherstone.com
Toying with some eraser merchant ships I revisited Featherstone’s Naval War Games and noticed another interesting connection:
Celebrating some of the “old guard” of the hobby, one of the figure makers that Don admired and contributors to Don’s Naval War Games book – Jack Alexander – is 90 years old and still actively modelling ships.
I always admired the Jacklex figures seen in Donald Featherstone’s books but had no idea where to buy them from in the 1980s, or if they were still made. His beautiful Jacklex figures are still available from Spencer Smith Miniatures and so a few maybe added this year to complement my vintage Airfix figures, just as Jack intended in their size and design. http://www.spencersmithminiatures.co.uk/html/jacklex.html
Another excellent Featherstone related and still active blog is by Rod MacArthur, one of Don’s original 1960s young opponents in Southampton, His blog Rod’s Wargaming features some great Airfix conversions, some like the Zulus cast or aided by Don himself.
I wanted in this skirmish games to get a motley collection of Peter Laing 15mm British and German infantry into action, WW2 figures bolstered by late war WW1 British and German Infantry in steel helmets.
I wanted to fight another skirmish over the hex terrain portable game board that I had laid out for the American Civil War skirmish a few weeks previously.
I also wanted to test out a platoon level infantry scrap with few heavy weapons and almost no vehicles using a mash up of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ appendix rules to his 1962 War Games with a few additions from his simple WW2 rules in that book.
A lucky find of some Peter Laing WW1 / WW2 figures (lots of Sapper figures) amongst a job lot of 15mm WW2 figures of various manufactures gave me just enough for a small platoon level skirmish. Sappers and others had rifles added by me from finely carved slivers of wooden coffee stirrers.
This gave me a scratch force of British infantry:
Three 5 man sections of pioneers or sappers with rifles and shovels (handy in a scrap!)
1 light mortar team (2 men)
1 Light Machine Gun (Bren Gun) team
1 motorcycle despatch rider
A light 2pounder anti tank gun team with three men emerge in Turn 5. A spare Bren gunner was also found to join the British several turns in.
Versus a much larger but slightly lightly equipped German infantry group:
A larger infantry force of German infantry consisted of:
Three cycle reconnaissance troops
1 German despatch rider
Five x 5 men rifle squads directed by 1 officer with pistol
1 light machine gun (MG34) team of two men
1 light mortar team of 2 men
Officer and two rifle men
The game was played solo over two evenings with a skirmish figure scale of 1 figure = 1 man.
Arrival of different sections and weapons at a different times and locations was staggered by dice throws d6. The two board(s) being roughly marked with 6 by 6 squares A to L and 1-6, arrival of different sections was diced for using 1 d6.
Indirect artillery fire could be plotted in using this grid system and dicing to see which turn this lands but none was used in this game.
The Germans started with their reconnaissance troops (3 rifle equipped bicycle troops) in place at the river crossing and to the North a British 5 man pioneer unit of sappers and officer and the Bren Gun team on the board.
Dice thrown at start of each move to see who moves first, other side second, first side also fire first, other side second – highest score wins first move.
To speed things up, no casualty savings throws were used after Melee.
In Turn 1, Germans moved first and shots were exchanged without casualty between the British motorcyclist and the German cycle troops who were behind the cover of the stone farm walls.
In Turn 2, the British despatch rider was not so lucky! In turn the first British rifle volley brings down one German infantryman.
Playing solo, deciding which of the two possible British infantry targets the German troops fire at is decided by dice throw: roll 1 to 3 aim at Bren gun team on left, 4 to 6 at British infantry on right.
The terrain is the same portable hex wooden box lid territory as used for the American Civil War skirmish, but with the house location moved and a small wooden hut used instead.
The high rocks and the forest either side of the river are deemed impassable, the river unfordable. This concentrates the efforts into dominating the crossings and the ground between them with all available firepower.
The Peter Laing WW2 German officer and infantry with rifles are really WW1 Germans with steel helmets.
Turn 3 sees more infantry on each side appear on the game board. Line of fire is checked with a reversed Lionel Tarr style periscope (from another appendix in Featherstone’s 1962 War Games).
Turn 4 sees the British move first and a further British rifle squad appear near where their despatch rider was killed. They close in melee with the German cyclists and two are killed for the loss of one British infantryman.
Turn 5 sees more German troops emerge onto the board. The German motorcyclist emerges onto the board only to be blocked and killed in melee with three British Infantry.
One of the British Bren Gun team is hit – I diced quickly to see if another nearby British soldier could help man the gun and it to remain operational. It did and brought down a German infantryman, as did the light field gun. Fortunately for the Germans the British light mortar team is just out of range.
In Turn 6 the German Light Machine Gun MG34 and light mortar teams (each of two men) make it onto the Board at G and J on the German / South side of the river.
This mortar team in Turn 7 take out one British infantry, whilst melee and rifle fire take out 3 German infantry and 2 further British.
The forest, impassable scrub, rocky ridge and river crossings continue to create safe spaces or bunchings but once the mortars come into action, lobbing their shells over trees and obstacles etc, these safe spaces are no more.
The British field gun is a board game piece from childhood.
In Turn 8, this gun begins to damage the hut and the Germans inside it. Melee, mortar and rifle fire brought down 8 German infantry including their officer and 3 British including their officer.
By Turn 9 , a stalemate has set in – the British mortar team from behind cover takes out the German Light Machine Gun team. Positions are consolidated. Both sides have lost their officers.
If the German infantry remain in the cover of the hut, they will eventually be killed by the 2 pounder which is just out of rifle range.
The British bridge position is now covered by one British mortar team and two Bren gun teams.
In Turn 10, the German mortar team move closer towards the British position whilst four German infantry take cover behind the stone wall to give themselves a better field of fire onto the British dominated bridge, should anyone try to cross it. Many of the German and British troops are now out of sight of each other and out of rifle range.
A lucky ‘counter battery’ hit by the British mortar team on their German rival reduces the last opportunity of the Germans to dislodge their opponents without a fatal rifle charge.
Turn 12 – the German infantry dice to advance or stay put. They stay put but a further German infantryman in the hut is then killed by 2 pounder fire.
By Turn 14, one of the British mortar team is hit crossing the British sector bridge. The last German in the hut retreats over the German bridge behind the stone wall.
Turn 15 – no movement, just British gun and mortar fire.
Turn 16 – The 5 Germans behind the stone wall must decide what to do as they are now within British mortar range. 1-2 Advance, 3-4 Retreat, 5-6 Stay Put. They roll d6 – advance.
3 Germans killed are crossing the bridge under rifle and gun fire; the bridge is destroyed (d6 1-3 destroyed, 4-6 intact). In the return fire, a further British infantryman is hit.
Turn 17 – German infantry retreat behind wall out of rifle range, their bridge blown.
The game is at an end, nominally a British victory but all depends on whose reinforcements turn up first.
Play testing these Close Little World Wars rules
The increasingly dominant force in this game were the heavier weapons – mortars, light machine guns and the light field gun. It would be interesting to play / replay this game at rifle squad level without (some of) these other weapons.
This and the restricted terrain created the shape and the pressures of this solo game.
Recently I have been improvising a WW2 platoon level version of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ rules. These were originally written as an appendix in his book War Games (1962), as suitable rules for 18th Century redcoat versus tribal natives in a cluttered forest or wooded terrain.
I have been looking for very simple platoon level WW2 game rules, suitable for Peter Laing’s limited 15mm WW2 range, which were designed to give “a most satisfactory infantry action game”
Bolt Action they may not be, but it is interesting to look at the background logic, assumptions, simplifications, mechanisms and whys or wherefores involved to make suitable rules and weapons ranges for your style of game.
These simple rules could be used with WW2 infantry action in wooded or cluttered terrain, where vehicles cannot easily follow such as Normandy ’44 bocage hedged terrain (but without armoured vehicles) or early 1939-40 infantry action, the Bicycle Blitzkreig, the withdrawal to Dunkirk etc.
An Operation Sealion invasion of Britain scenario (1939 /1940/ 1941) is also possible with the few WW2 types that Peter Laing made. (I’m source some of them could double up as The Warmington Home Guard as required.)
Once artillery, heavy machine guns, vehicles and other long range weapons are introduced, the distances and ranges become too big for the smaller game boards and tabletops I work with.
Reference to weapons ranges and other scenario rules (buildings, street fighting etc) as situations emerge can be made to the ‘Simple WW2 rules’ that Donald Featherstone includes in his 1962 book War Games; the Close Wars rules are an appendix to this book (shown at end of blogpost).
Using 20mm plastic figures with a wider range of troop types available gives the possibility of an interesting jungle action of cluttered terrain which could be played with a box of Airfix OO/HO Australian / Gurkha infantry or US Marines and a box of Japanese infantry. Get those palm trees out to replace the fir trees.
1 figure = 1 man in skirmish rules.
Small numbers, small tables, short actions or games time = my style of usually solo game.
Aims or Victory Conditions
The aim of each force (as set out in Featherstone’s Close Wars rules) unless otherwise described is:
1. to seek out and destroy their enemy.
2. Alternatively, to get at least 50% of your troops to the opposite enemy baseline
However for each game, you can set your own scenario end or Victory Conditions.
This usually involves fighting to the last man, but occasionally involves rescuing or escorting to safety civilians, stretcher bearers or secret plans.
Infantry on foot move 6 inches per move or 2 hex / squares.
Uphill – moves up (opposed or unopposed) hills count as 1 hex / squares or half rate move e.g. 3 inches.
Motorised vehicle e.g. motorcycle despatch rider moves 12 inches per move or 4 hex squares off-road (Plus 3 inches / 1 hex on road). Bicycle moves 12 inches on road / 4 hexes, 9 inches / 3 hexes offroad.
Stretcher bearers move 1 hex per move. They are not armed.
If deemed passable, fording streams take 3 inches or 1 hex to cross. Fording places or bridges can be marked out.
Bogs and marshes (if deemed passable) at half speed eg 1 hex square per move. Other impassable features you can introduce include marked minefields.
Moves on clear paths or roads (if they exist) have 3 inch extra or 1 hex extra BONUS per move.
Crossing walls, fences etc or other barriers – as required, throw dice 1-3 yes, 4-6 no; takes 1 hex of a move.
Firing (if range of fire clear)
Range of LMG light machine guns (Bren Gun, MG34) – 12 inches or 4 hexes; throw 1 dice for LMG, full score counts as hits.
Rifles have a range of 12 inches or 4 hexes. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy. SMG or Submachine Guns (Sten, Tommy, etc) – 6 inches or 2 hexes; SMG – half dice counts as hits.
Pistols have under 6 inches or 1 hex range. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy
HMG (e.g. Maxim gun) – 18 inches or 6 hexes; Featherstone has a Mitrailleuse rule for ACW throw dice 1 to 3 entitles one dice for hits. 4 to 6 entitles 2 dice for hits.
WW1 / WW2 Maxim / heavy machine guns had an effective firing range of up to 2000 metres (effectively 48 inches or 16 hexes) which is too much for our space.
Mortars (2 inch or 50 mm / 60mm) require 2 man crew – target range from 1 hex to 3 hexes. Burst pattern for 50mm mortar is 3 inches or one hex. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 hit target hex; all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Grenades – treat as mortars but with one hex throwing range /burst pattern; all in that square /hex counted as hits. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 – all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Casualty Savings Throws
For each man hit, throw a casualty saving throw.
If fired on, each casualty has a d6 thrown for him. 4,5,6 wounded and carry on. If 123, casualty is dead.
If casualty under cover, 3,4,5,6 wounded and carry on 1,2,3 dead (except for mortar fire where use above as if not under cover)
You can choose to dispense with casualty savings throws if you wish, after firing and /or Melee. This gives a faster game.
Light Field Artillery
To check line of sight / range of fire, the Lionel Tarr reversed periscope can be used for fun to get you down to table top toy soldier eye level.
2 pounder anti tank gun with crew of 3 (British QF) using Featherstone rules counts as LMG throw 1 dice, full score counts as hits.
2 pdr gun if hit by mortar: 10-12 knocked out, 9 knocked out for 2 moves, 8 knocked out for 3 moves. Crew? Casualty savings throws.
Turns consist of four sections:
a) First side moves (possible melee)
b) Other side moves (possible melee)
c) First side fires
d) Other side fires
Throw dice at start of each game turn for each side to see who moves first.
Variations on this include: 1st side Move, 2nd side Fire , 1st side Fire, 2nd side move.
This is the ‘Bish Bash Am-Bush’ bit! Assume each man has something to fight at close hand with (pistols, clubs, rifles, bayonets, entrenching tools, fists or boots, etc)
Remember – We are playing 1:1 scale, each figure represents one man.
Melee is joined when one group of figures invades or faces the other square / hex.
You can add +1 to d6 throw for attacking side (if you choose / remember / can be bothered.) This is what Featherstone calls impetus bonus.
Choose pairs (of attacker vs. defender) and throw 1 d6 for each man involved.
Attacker can have the + 1 added to their d6 dice throw (if you choose / remember / can be bothered).
Highest score wins, loser can throw casualty saving throw* to see if killed 1-3 or only wounded / unharmed 4-6
Continue until each man has been involved in melee.
“Usual dice saving throws for melee Casualties” – Donald Featherstone.
* Or not if you want to speed things up.
Melee Morale Test(if desired / wanted / can be bothered)
At end of melee session, throw d6 for each side to see who wins melee morale test and who loses and retires 1 hex backwards. Some Featherstone versions times the dice by number of each side to come up with a post Melee Morale score.
Then d6 again for losers to see if routed:
Throw 1-3in rout, unable to fire or move further that round, effectively in modern games terms “pinned”. Roll again next move to see if still routed and retreating. A suitable coloured marker can be added to remember this.
or throw 4-6 in good order, retreat only one pace / hex.
Movement and ranges
The original ‘Close Wars’ appendix rules by Featherstone has a Redcoat Infantry man in the French and Indian Wars travelling at 9 inches in loose formation (under 3 figures) or in formation (over 3 figures) 6 inches in cluttered terrain. Natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches.
In cluttered terrain, I assume that a heavily encumbered infantryman in WW2 is still carrying about the same amount of stuff and moving at the same speed as his ancestor in the 18th Century. Hopefully his boots and field rations would have improved though!
I take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.
Featherstone has a ‘Rifle’ range in his simplified WW2 rules and in Close Wars appendix rules both as 12 inches (which I take to be about 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm, this gives us a rough working scale of a 3 inch hex equals 125 metres.
1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres
1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)
More in our blogpost Researching WW2 equipment ranges, matching the limited weapons ranges shown in the Peter Laing range to the rules.
It is possible to scale this set of rules and ranges up to 54mm skirmish games by simply doubling the ranges etc set out above. This would allow the use of 54mm Airfix, Britain’s Deetail or Pound Store plastic figures; I intend in better weather in future to try these Close Little (World) Wars rules outside as a garden game fought “on the beaches and on the landing grounds …” Sorry, on the flower beds and garden terrain. Could be fun!
As a further insult to Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix rules to his 1962 book War Games, I have scaled these up to 54mm and taken them outside to a bigger outer space and another planet, the far off galaxies or planets of Yarden. How will they work out?
Previously on Man of Tin blog we have featured my hexed up version of these Close Wars rules:
Rainy day? Crowded alien planets work quite well on your tabletop (if forced inside by British wet weather) using different borrowed pieces of your Yarden (Yard / Garden). Fake plastic or real plants, rocks, stones etc create a sense of a cluttered planet / terrain etc.
As a child growing up in the 1970s, life changed around about 1977/78 when Star Wars came out as a rival to Airfix, Weebles, Cowboys, toy cars, Knights, Busybodies Etc.
This is primarily a ground troops / infantry based space game without much in the way of space vehicles or larger laser cannons, otherwise the ranges become toooooo big!
Create your own big laser cannon range and dice hit rules as needed.
Imperial (Earth) measurements and Earth GMT time will be used throughout (with Metric for those as likes)
Space Laser blaster pistol – 12″ or 30cms
Space Laser blaster rifle – 24″ or 60 cms
Space laser bow – 12″ or 30 cms
Space Laser swords – melee weapons only.
Space Laser spears – 6″ or 15 cms
Natives / Aliens / Savages – 18″ or 45cms
Space Infantry (<4) – 18″ or 45 cms
Space Infantry (groups of 4+) – 12″ or 30cms
Astromech droids 6″ or 15 cms.
Humanoid Robots – 9″ to 12″ 22 to 30cms
Hover Infantry on Space Bikes – 36″ or 90cms
Star Crawler vehicles, lunar buggies – 24″ or 60cms
Usual Melee Rules. Usual hit d6 Dice throws. Featherstone savings throws if you like them.
Add other rules, weapons and characters as you see fit.
Mark up a garden cane with 6″ intervals or use a metal retractable ruler as needed.
Find some knee pads or a garden kneeler if playing outside.
Before you play, some essential research for your Close Little Star Wars:
a) watch movies and TV, from Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica to Flash Gordon (Black and white 1930s) or the colour movie 1980, choose your favourite. Flash, ah-ah!
There’s the very odd Britain’s 1980s metal based Star Guards range with vehicles and aliens. There are more recent 54mm Star Wars Command plastic figures that were cheaply available c. £4 a box in branches of Wilko (2016). Some good deals on the eBay / Amazon / internet too!
Pound store fire fighters and their equipment make good space stuff.
Alternatively you could upscale the rules to use old or new 10″ Star Wars play figures (buy bundles of the more battered ones on EBay) but the fiddly weapons tend to get lost in gardens. The Playskool Heroes Star Wars series for younger children have weapons moulded on.
Hopefully H.G. Wells, father of modern science fiction, would approve of this futuristic version of Little Wars.
Let play commence in a galaxy / planet / garden “far far away …” in my next blog post.