Muskets and Tomahawks and Flintloque

Shakos and Bayonets is the Napoleonic supplement for Muskets and Tomahawks. The base rules are still required to play as are a set of cards, official, proxied or made from the pdf file on Studio Tomahawks’ website. The Rebels and Redcoats supplement already covers the 1812 war in North America so it would be possible to run Napoleonic battles without the new book. The new card load out is different with the addition of 2 types of cavalry and changes in the infantry names and card quantities.

Shakos and Bayonets has lists for the French, British, Austrians, Spanish, Prussians and Russians. There is a also a generic minor nations list. The Portuguese are part of the British list. There are no stats for Ottomans. There are no specific rules for allies, for example stiffening the Spanish with some British but something could be worked out by customising the card deck.

The rules gave an opportunity to trot out Flintloque figures that have been boxed up since about 1998. Enough figures were found for about 300 points of Spanish and 500 of French and British. A solid coat of varnish has left them in good condition if overly shiny. They have now all had a shot of matt varnish. The Orks had been given green flesh. This seemed reasonable for Orks at a time when there was no cheap Internet and few colour images for inspiration. The flesh has now been over-painted pink to make the models look a little more ‘human’ at a distance. A full strip and repaint would have brought out more detail but that would be almost as much work as painting new models. The Flintloque figures are vaguely 35mm but as they represent Orcs, Elves and other fantasy races the proportions are all over the place. The castings are still available from Alternative Armies and there is usually a selection on eBay (many at higher prices than buying new from Alternative). It is pretty much a buyer’s market. The reason that your author still has Flintloque figures is due to a consistent failure in selling them off. A unit of dwarves did manage to make their way to a gamer who specialised in collecting the little folk. The quality of the models is spotty. The best have a certain charm reflecting the modelling style of the Wallace and Gromit films. Some of the worst have been re-modeled or dropped from Alternative’s line. Older versions of the Flintloque rules can be found amongst the Alternative Armies free downloads, look for the ‘free files stacks‘. The Elves and Orcs just about pass for historical but some of the Flintloque races such as the Goblins, Dogs and Toads are way off the scale. The Russians are undead and werewolves; so to start off we will stick to Spain.

This image is of a Reiver 28mm wagon. It looks acceptable by the French elves although the original heavy horses have shrunk to being ponies.

Here is the convoy scenario from Shakos and Bayonets. The wagon contains gunpowder and might blow up. The French are escorting the wagon but some of their troops have become separated from the road convoy. The wagon and its escort move on a clock card and the game runs until the 6th red clock card. As the deck is shuffled after the 3rd clock card drawn it is possible although extremely unlikely that after the 1st 6 cards every single card drawn could be a clock. Although unlikely the length of the game and how quickly the wagon moves are quite random. The size of the deck will affect this and it is governed by the variety of troop types fielded by each side. The wagon defender should prefer a small deck, hoping to rush the wagon through the board. In this scenario it would be best affected by running light cavalry only. Fast enough to get ahead of the wagon and keeping the deck size small will make the wagon move more often. This is a very reasonable convoy escort detail but not the best for a balanced game.

Trying it all out at 300 points; so on the small side for Muskets and Tomahawks. A unit of Spanish line (12) 2 of guerillas (6) and 1 of lancers (6) with 2 leaders. The Spanish could have fielded militia but the line unit stats were ropey enough. The lancers are recruits so rubbish but cheap. The French had 1 leader, 2 units of line (8)(centre company troops of a light regiment) , 1 guarding the wagon and 2 of voltigeurs (5).

This layout was fought over twice and seemed to fit the bill. An isolated finca surrounded by orchards and vegetable fields. As a game it worked less well as the fields hampered movement except for the lights and guerillas who had the scouts trait. This meant that most forces moved up and down the road. The hedge system also made it difficult for the wagon to move off road, either to avoid a Spanish block or for the Spaniards to capture it and drive the wagon away and off the road.

Trying for a more open set up here with lanes allowing the wagon to more easily get off road and reach the opposite board edge. The attacker has entry points on 2 board edges. Here the wagon finds the main road blocked and turns onto the side track (not benefiting from the road movement bonus) towards the edge furthest from the Spanish entry points.

The only unit that can catch the wagon are the lancers who bravely self destruct on it as it turns and heads for the exit board edge. A re-run of the game saw a similar result with few casualties and the wagon making its way off board, well ahead of its own escorts.

The problem is the relative speed of the wagon. It moves when a clock card is drawn; 8″ on road and 6″ off. There will always be 3 clock cards in a turn so except for terrain effects it will move 24″ or 18″ unless the path to the board edge is blocked. An infantry unit would draw 4 cards in a turn at best. Probably less due to shuffling and maybe more from activating through command points. 4 moves of 6″ with the road bonus would give 24″. A more likely case would be without the road or even with a terrain penalty as units chase the wagon through rough terrain. In the gunpowder scenario shooting at the wagon has the risk of it blowing up so the game becomes one of position with the ambusher trying to get units into blocking positions. The chance of additionally winning a melee and escorting the wagon away is low.

Having got the table and troops out here is a go at the first skirmish scenario from the main Muskets & Tomahawks rule book. The only force change is to ditch the guerilla leader and 1 of his men in favour of 4 more regulars and deploying the 16 Spanish regulars as 2 units of 8. The guerillas are skirmish troops, tending to run back rather than rout when failing morale. This is easily reversed so they do not get a great benefit from their leader. The ‘forward boys’ card is unlikely to come up before every shuffle making the leader less use than 3 more boots on the ground. Also a unit of 12 is a poor size as it needs 1 more command point to shift than a unit of 11. 8 is a good sized unit for line although it loses the juicy close order bonus when reduced to 5.

The troops deploy around their entry points. It is not clear exactly what this entails but they have been placed close enough but not overlapping. The sheep and cows are objectives. To win a side must control 2 out of 3 on a deck shuffle.

The Spanish lancers gallop forwards; soon to fall back under French fire.

Elsewhere the action hots up with scouting troops in the fields and line along the main road. The Spanish line get off a devastating volley on their French opposite numbers. The French commander runs off forcing the French to pay an extra point for all command point expenditures. The pig has appeared from the ‘standard found’ random event. There are command points for carrying it off but not enough to offset the cost of the unit that captures it.

The Spanish keep up the volley fire. There is another firefight between the guerilla and voltigeur units.

The Spanish line manages to turn and hose down the 2nd unit of French line. Note that there is another unit of Spanish line behind the first trying to nudge their way round and avoiding the path of the volley fire. The Spanish guerillas now control 2 objectives and win the game.

The message here is that even rubbish infantry can do well with volley fire if they have the close order trait and have a touch of luck with the dice. The lancers were consistently rubbish although they do look good, the unicorns might not be historic. They would have done better had they remembered that they had pistols as well as lances. The Flintloque figures as a whole looked OK. After 20+ years an order has gone off to Alternative Armies and they will be treated to another 12 new Elf models to buff up the Spanish army. These could run as guerillas or militia or even pad out the regulars considering the Spanish supply system and these being fantasy Napoleonics.

For Whom The Dice Rolls In 6mm

‘For Whom The Dice Rolls’ are rules for Brigade or Divisional games in the Spanish Civil War. Each base is half a company. The unit of manoeuvre is a battalion; that might be 8 bases although part of a unit can be split off from the main body at some cost of retaining control. The rules examples use 15mm figures in bases of 3 with an additional command base for infantry units. The command base is purely used to govern how spread out a unit is and could be ignored.

Your author has 15mm WW2 French, Russian and Finnish models based for Flames of War which could see service here for the Republic but lacks a suitable Nationalist force. To try out the system and see how many or few units are needed for a workable game Irregular 6mm strips will be used. A problem that any army built for Bolt Action, Chain of Command or other 1:1 systems will have is a lack of support weapons. Larger guns and all aircraft can be held off-board but at Brigade level assets such as HMGs, mortars and smaller guns would be needed in larger numbers. At full strength one or two models per battalion; depending on the basing used.

The 6mm models here do have just enough support assets having been built up for similar scaled rules in the 1990s. The SCW Irregular 6mms are not their best in this scale. They are cast as strips of 3 on thick bases which would take significant effort to remove and re-base. The SCW range is reasonably comprehensive and models from their WW1 and WW2 range can expand it. Unfortunately the WW2 infantry are cast 4 not 3 to a base making for some awkward re-basing to put them back into use. The models look OK from a distance, close up details are unclear. Guns are the best models but the limbers are blocky. Trucks are acceptable but the tanks less so. As an alternative Baccus do WW1 in 6mm, at this scale many of the models could be used for the SCW.

6mm works best with larger numbers of figures on base sizes approximating those used at 15mm or 28mm. It does have the advantage of getting a game in on a limited space. The relative size taken up by markers is greater than at larger scales. The dice and tokens here would easily fit on single 15mm or 28mm half-company bases. The best plan for painting 6mms is to use bright colours and accent select details such as tassles, berets and flesh areas. Any attempt to show real detail requires painting on what is not there and would not be seen from more than a short distance away. The models shown here are not a particularly good example of this painting. To be fair the camera close ups are much more detailed than would usually be seen in gaming.

The rules include tables of organisation and suggest brigade level games. There are no points values and no set game scenarios. This does make it hard to determine what might be a balanced, achievable game. The on-line resource pack includes a couple of scenarios. One seems relatively involved and the other requires Italians, which your author does not possess. To try out the system the double or breakthrough board from the Commands and Colors game Memoir ’44 will be used. The hexes will be treated as equivalent to 4″ across in the rules with models set to the edges or mid lines of hexes. That will give an equivalent to a gaming table of 4′ 6″ by 5′ 8″ plus the 6mm figures in 2cm strips will take up a little less space in proportion than the 3cm recommended bases.

We have hills, fields, a river and a small town. There are road and rail tiles in some of the expansions to Memoir ’44 but these have been left in their boxes. To see what happens 3 Bandaras of La Legion and 2 of Regulares went up against 5 battalions of Popular Army. The Popular army were deployed in line and occupying the town. The Legion were shot flat, no one got into close combat. Keeping the Nationalists the same but downgrading the Republicans to 4 larger units with less machine guns saw La Legion destroying 1 battalion of Popular Army but at horrific cost and being unable to hold against the developing counter-attack. It had been hoped that the superior command of La Legion would enable them to concentrate on part of the Republic line but they were stalled by heavy casualties and the Republic was able to transfer troops and plug the line.

The consequence of the card activation system deserves some debate. A unit can activate up to 3 times in a turn spending a card each time. A force will draw at least 1 card per unit, plus 2-6 based on the army quality and another 1D6 from a dice roll. Smaller forces will receive proportionally more cards from the quality and random factors. The very best troops such as La Legion can operate on any card suit. Most troops act on 2-3 out of the 4 suits only. So a proportion of the drawn cards are unlikely to be of use. Even for La Legion there are unlikely to be enough cards on hand to activate every unit 3 times. Units take hits which are allocated to stands when the unit is activated or it pays 2 cards of the same suit to reorganise. Reorganisation is a magic bullet that should be used whenever possible. Hits are halved, pins and disorder removed. The result is that a unit under heavy fire (many unallocated hits) will want to spend 2 of its 3 possible activations to reorganise. Any nearby enemy will continue to pump in more hits at a rate of 1 card per shooting. Unless there is some way to take the pressure off the unit will sink into a cycle of mounting losses. Although losses are allocated to stands and morale rolled for when a unit is activated there are some cases when a unit is obviously done for but technically still on the table. At its simplest the unit has hits which if halved and allocated are enough to wipe out all the unit’s stands. Alternatively the unit would be allocated enough hits when halved to ensure that it cannot pass the resulting morale test even on the best possble die roll. The simple solution is to remove such units at the end of a game turn.

Having got some idea of how the rules pan out and a strong lesson in the importance of heavy machine guns here follows an attempt at a more varied game. To the front of the ‘photo op’ we have 6 battalions of Republicans. 4 of regulars and 2 of militia recently co-opted into the Popular Army and not too happy about it. Behind are 8 battalions of Nationalists, 2 being Carlist and a group of 4 batteries of artillery. All the Nationalist Peninsular Army units have 2 bases of machine guns but the Carlists and Popular Army only have 1 machine gun base per battalion. The Nationalists also have 2 one-use off table assets, medium bombers and heavy artillery. Some of these machine gun bases are probably mortar models but in 6mm a model with a machine gun barrel or mortar tube over their shoulder looks much the same. Command bases are not being used. The bases with flags are standard infantry.

The Republic’s troops line up and hope for the best. The ex-militia battalions hold the rear. The Nationalists manage to draw enough of the right sort of cards to get all their units on the table. All the infantry are in skirmish order for relatively quick movement and to minimise losses. One battalion has taken some hits from long range machine gun fire. The Nationalists are looking to break through across the river, taking or isolating the town.

The Nationalist air and off table barrage comes in but with only limited effect. The Nationalists also bombard the Popular Army in the town and the general advance approaches the Battalions lining the river. Blue markers are hits allocated to bases. Yellow dice are unallocated hits to Batallions. The yellow die on the explosion is bombardment hits. The unit at the end of the river has built up a mass (9) of unallocated hits and is pinned for good measure. This is a consequence of any unit at the edge of the game board having a virtual exposed flank. All units are moving in short bursts and assumed to be halted at any time. Where units were kept moving green markers (similar to the blue) were used. Red markers are for pinned or other poor status units.

The Nationalists are across. A Battalion of Popular Army and both Battalions of Carlists are both out of the game. In the top of the field a Popular Army Battalion has pulled back to shorten the line.

The Nationalists push on taking more losses, the Republic pull back their exposed flank by the town. The game ended with the the Republic having the initiative and charging out of their defenses at 2 Nationalist Battalions dragging large numbers of unallocated losses. The allocation of losses caused both Battalions to fail morale. This required 5 consecutive cards of the same suit, attack and then pull back for 1 unit; attack, pull back and reform into firing line for the other. All activations were resolved separately. If the Nationalists had the initiative they could have reorganised the 2 wobbly units for 4 cards of the same suit. With 4 Battalions out of 8 off for an early bath the Nationalists make a flank assualt at the Republicans lining the fields by the town but that too is repulsed. A final tally of 5 Nationalist units routed or replulsed to 2 Republican routs.

In theory a 3:1 advantage should allow an attack to succeed. In gaming we do not want pre-ordained failure nor a walkover. With 8 Battalions against 6 and the hope that the artillery and off-table assets could neutralise 2 defenders a 2:1 ratio might have been hoped for. The better Nationalist morale and greater number of machine guns would also be expected to give an edge. The off-table support was not a game changer, single use assets can be relatively ineffective. Multiple instances of each asset would offset this. The artillery did its job but was only silencing 1 target at a time. With a bit of luck a single battery could shell 1 target, stop shelling and then shell another with 3 consecutive cards. This does depend on the cards being available and the rounds zeroing in on the first shots. Artillery will pin but its effect will vary. In this game the Nationalist guns shelled the town, earned 12 blast markers but only inflicted 1 hit. Shelling for more than 1 activation is needed to build up the bast markers under the target. The machine guns kept up their reputation as good value. They have a longer range and better firepower than infantry stands. It made sense to leave the machine guns behind giving covering fire as the infantry advanced. This did lead to isolated machine gun stands if the allocated infantry is subsequently destroyed.

The game size seemed about right for an evening’s play and limited knowledge of the rules. ‘For Whom the Dice Rolls’ does include vehicle rules but these were not used. The board seemed crowded, the defender could cover almost all of it as a single line. At this scale any terrain is a generic area not an individual feature. Where a unit spread over more than 1 feature the cover bonus for the most open was used. It would be reasonable to allow a unit to count as in firing line if in more than 1 parallel line at the cost of only being able to shoot from the front line. Built up areas need defining as to how many bases can shoot or melee. An entire company could fit in a good sized house. This would be fine for a cocktail party but in combat how many rifles could be brought to bear? If packed too tight losses would be increased unless we allow a unit to occupy deep bunkers. Trenches and deep bunkers were a feature of some Spanish Civil War battles but these would need to be scenario specific rules.