Sunday, November 27, 2016

Playing wings of war with my son

   Typical game with my son, Nathaniel.  Sort of explains our approach to the game.

Me:  Ok, see this plane.  It was flown by the famous ace Voss.  This is how he painted his plane, and this was a special insignia he used...

Nathan:  Hey Dad, my plane is behind you, and here are my cards shooting at you.

Me:  Oh!  Well down I go, let's play again.  This time this plane was flown by the ace David Putnam.   I painted his plane based on a photo and....

Nathan: Dad, I am behind you again....

Me: Oh drat!

This weekend was Nathaniel's 21st birthday. He very seldom asks for anything, but he wanted to see a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game (his second favorite NFL team). Since we would be down in Orlando to visit with her mother Janine got two tickets to the game.  On the fifty yard yard, row six from the front for Nathan and I.    We just got back and it was a outstanding  game.  Thank you Janine and  Happy Birthday Nathaniel!

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Narrative of a Light Company Soldier's Service in the Forty-First Regiment of Foot (1807-1814)

   Shadrack Byfield (sometimes Shadrach) was a British soldierwho served in the Light Infantry company of the  41st Regiment during the War of 1812. He the author of a memoir of his wartime experiences, A Narrative of a Light Company Soldier's Service, published in 1840. This work is notable as one of the only accounts of the war written by a common British soldier.

Born in Bradford on Avon to a family of weavers in 1789, Byfield enlisted in the Wiltshire Militia in 1807, aged eighteen. Two years later, he volunteered into the 41st Regiment and was sent to join the regiment in North America, serving in Lower Canada and at Fort George in modern-day Niagara-on-the-Lake prior to the outbreak of war.

    He saw much service during the War of 1812;   the Siege of Detroit, the  Battle of Frenchtown (where he was wounded in the shoulder), the Siege of Fort Meggs, and the Battle of Fort Stephenson.  Byfield narrowly escaped capture after the British defeat at the Battle of the Thames and later rejoining elements of his regiment in the Niagara area. He participated in the Capture of Fort Niagara and was at the Battle of Lundy's Lane.  At the Battle of Conjocta Creek, an unsuccessful British raid on 3 August 1814 his left arm was shattered by musket ball. Byfield's forearm was subsequently amputated and he was invalided back to England, where he was awarded a pension from the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1815.

Byfield returned to Bradford on Avon and married but was prevented from working at his trade as a weaver because he required use of both hands to operate a loom. However, according to his memoirs, a design for an 'instrument' came to him one night in a dream; this contraption enabled him to work at a loom with just one arm, allowing him to provide for his family.

   Byfield published a memoir of his wartime experiences in 1840. Although some sources speculate that he died in 1850 more recent research suggests that Byfield actually died on 17 January 1874 in Bradford, aged 84.

   Shadrack Byfield's Narrative provides a common soldier's perspective of the War of 1812.  Because of this his humble account has  been republished numerous times in many editions.  Byfield has often been portrayed as the archetypical 1812-era British soldier by modern historians.  John Gellner, who edited Byfield's memoirs in 1963, asserted that his story "could have been told by any one of those humble, patient, iron-hard British regulars who more than made up in discipline, training and bravery for their lack of numbers."  Byfield is also the protagonist in a 1985 children's novel, Redcoat, by Canadian author Gregory Sass, which presents a heavily fictionalized account of his military experiences.

An online edition of his narrative is available here:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mr. Madison's War: Wargame rules for the Niagara Campaign 1814

                Mr. Madison's War:  
             Wargame rules for the
             Niagara Campaign 1814

      (Based on Loose Files and
       American Scramble rules)

Infantry:  four figures to a base. Unit size = 12 to 32 figures.

Cavalry:  two figures to a base. Unit size = 4 - 12 figures.

Skirmishers: Individually based. Fire in groups of 4 figures. Maximum unit size = 12

Artillery: Each model gun has a crew of 2 figures and a team of horses

One base in each unit should be clearly identified as the 'Command Group' (e.g. by using a flag of officer figure).


Each unit is given a basic efficiency grade at the start of the game, indicating its training and experience. Morale and training grades are for the Niagara campaign of 1814 and are the authors opinion only.  Please adjust for other campaigns or years.

1st Class: Veterans
American Scott's brigade and 21st regiment
British 1st, 8th, 49th, 89th

2nd Class: Regulars
American regulars, 1st Rifles, Artillery and Regular Dragoons.
British regular Infantry, Artillery and Dragoons, Swiss Infantry, Fencibles and Volunteer Incorporated Militia.

3rd Class: 2nd line regulars
American Volunteer Regiments, Rifles, green regulars and militia cavalry.
British foreign regiments, west Indian regiments, embodied militia.

4th Class: Militia
 Raw militia and Indians with no tribal leader.

5th Class: conscript
Indians with no leader or if you are recreating Bladensburg !

Order of Play in a Turn
 (all movement is simultaneous)

1.Compulsory Retreats/Routs following combat in previous turns.
2.Calculate Morale effects provoked by 1 above.
4.Allocate Command Points. Move commanders and couriers.
5.Move units. Announce attempted advances to contact/charges before moving.
7.Re-dress ranks (according to training) of units that did not move this turn.

This is exercised through the use of Command Points. At the start of the game determine the command points of each side's commander in chief. Unless these are determined by the scenario the number of command points = Average dice roll +1.

The actions possible to a commander are listed below, together with the cost in CP's.

Move your own commander figure up to one dice (Average or D6, as you choose) x inches = 1 CP.

Inspire troops in Combat (i.e. +1 in combat calculation) = 3 CP's *

Rally one D. Point (see below) = 2 CP's *

* Commander figure must be adjacent to unit's command group.

D. Points

Represent the temporary Disorganisation, Demoralisation and Desertion that can affect a unit's performance in action. Unlike casualties (see below) DP's do not have a permanent effect. The number of DP's on a unit may fluctuate up and down according to circumstances, but may never be more than 5. According to their training units may remove D. Points by re-dressing the ranks and otherwise sorting themselves out at the end of a turn. This varies according to training and circumstances.

1st Class units may remove up to 2 DP's per turn, if stationary and not in combat.

2nd Class units may remove 1DP per turn, if stationary and not in combat.

3rd Class units may remove 1DP per turn, if stationary, not in combat and not under fire..

4th Class units may only remove DP's by a commander using his command points.

5th Class units only remove DP's if commander in chief uses his command points.


Infantry move 2 AD (average die) in line, 3 AD in column and 4 AD road column

Skirmishers may move an extra AD if player wishes.

Cavalry may move up to 4 AD if player wishes.

All troops except skirmishers and Indians take 1 DP for each 2 or 3 rolled in woods.

Special Cases:

On movement unit must move full distance rolled unless objective pointed out before dice rolled (regiment will stop at fence line).
Rather then roll for each individual unit, player may roll for brigade.  All units within that brigade have same die roll.

Cavalry may only change speed by one or two dice in a turn (i.e. if a unit is at rest it may only move off at up to two dice x inches, and if it is moving at top speed - four dice - it may only slow down to two dice on the next turn). In any move where it is the intention to close to contact, a cavalry unit must roll at least three dice, whatever the distance to be covered.

On Roads the player may choose his own roll up to a maximum of 4 AD (thus limiting the random effect and preventing too much 'bunching' in marching columns).

Woods/Uphill: Minus highest die from all dice rolled.


Wheeling: Treat as uphill move. Pivot one end of line. Measure distance moved by outer figure. Take 1 DP.

Change Formation: Takes one Turn. Take 1 DP (2 DP's if under fire).

Limber up/unlimber: Takes two turns. Take 1 DP (2 DP's if under fire).

Cross minor obstacle (e.g.. small stream, gully): drop lowest die. Take 1 DP (2 DP's if under fire).

Cross major obstacle (e.g.. abatis): Time and penalties determined by umpire.Cross fence/wall, about face, retire facing enemy: Drop lowest die. Take 1 DP if cavalry or if under fire.


Each unit takes 1 DP.

Retreating or Routing units move round supports that are better formed, (i.e. have less DP's), but run through and collide with units equally or worse formed.


Troops ignore the retreat of friendly units with a lower training grade but take 1 DP if such a unit routs past within six inches.

If equal/higher grade unit retreats past within six inches take 2 DP's.

If equal grade unit routs past within six inches take 2 DP's and 1 casualty.

If higher grade unit routs past within six inches take 3 DP's and 1 casualty.


1) Artillery: 3 classes of gun are recognised:

Light = less than 3 pounders (e.g. 'gallopers' or 'grasshoppers').

Field = Most guns.  6 - 12 pounders were in general use.

Heavy =24 pounders and upwards. Rarely in use in the field.

Ranges: Long 10 inches to 36 inches (minus 6" for light, plus 6" for heavy).

Short = under 10 inches.

Effect: Roll one D6 for each model gun firing, modified as follows:

+1 : Heavy Gun.

+1 : Target in column, or limbered artillery.

+1 : Firing at same target, at same range, as in previous turn.

-1 : Firing at new target.

-1 : Each DP on gun firing.

-2 : Target in fieldwork or stone building.

-2 : Target in skirmish order.

-1 : Light gun.

At long range inflict 1 DP for final total of 4 or over.

At short range inflict 1 DP for total of 2 or 3, inflict 2 DP's for total of 4 or 5, inflict 1 DP and 1 Casualty for total of 6 or more.

2) Infantry: Note, only skirmishing infantry may fire and move in the same turn.

Ranges: Musket 8 inches, Rifles 16 inches.

Effect: Roll one D6 for each base or group of 4 skirmishers firing, minus the number of DP's on the firing unit. Halve the total if firing at artillery or skirmishers, halve again if target in fieldwork or building. Halves round up.

E.g.: A seven base unit with 2 DP's firing at skirmishers would roll (7-2) = 5 / 2 = 2 1/2, rounds up to 3 dice.

Inflict 1 DP for throws of six only. Skirmishers roll again for throws of five, with subsequent 4/5/6 = inflict 1 DP.


If a unit under fire has already sustained the maximum number (i.e.. five) of DP's, any subsequent DP's caused by fire, combat or morale only are taken as casualties.

Loss of one 'casualty' = remove one base (4 figures) of infantry or one stand (2 figures) of cavalry. A gun that receives a casualty is knocked out.


Occurs when a unit advances to within 4 inches of an opponent. Each side throws one Average dice, plus or minus the following:

+3 : Each Training grade higher than the opponent.

+3 : Defending fort or stone building.

+2 : Defending fieldwork or wooden building.

+2 : Making bayonet attack.

+1 : Terrain advantage (e.g.. uphill, behind stream, gully, wall, fence, etc).

+1 or 2 : General with unit (depends on how many CP's he spent on 'inspiring troops').

-3 : in skirmish order.

-3 : being attacked in flank or rear.

-2 : each DP on the unit.

-2 : each casualty suffered.

-1 : outnumbered. *

-2 : outnumbered 3:2 *

-3 : outnumbered 2:1. *

-5 : outnumbered 3:1 or more. *

* For these purposes one cavalry figure =four infantry; one gun = eight infantry.

For two units attacking one, the attackers total up all their factors and divide by two (halves round up).

Count highest grade unit for training comparison.

Result: Compare scores. If side A's total is, say, +3 and side B's is -2 then side A is the winner by a total of +5 and B is the loser by -5. Consult the following table for the effect on each unit:

+4 or more: Easy victory. Take 1 DP. 1st/2nd/3rd class troops obey orders. 4th/5th class pursue (see below)

+2/3: Successful action. Take 1 DP and (if facing infantry or artillery and not in a fort, building or fieldwork) one casualty. Halt one turn.

+1/0/-1: Stand off. No clear result. Both sides halt. Action continues next turn. Both take 1 DP and (unless infantry, facing cavalry, or facing a bayonet attack, or in a fort, building or fieldwork) one casualty.

-2/-3/-4: Driven Back. Take 2 DP's and one casualty. Retreat one move at maximum speed (no deduction for abut face).

-5/-6/-7/-8: Defeated. Take 2 DP's and two casualties. Retreat at maximum speed behind next line of friendly troops, or next terrain obstacle if no support.

-9 or more: Routed. Run away at maximum speed to beyond artillery range of enemy or next terrain obstacle (whichever is the further). Take 4 DP's and two casualties.

Note: Pursuit continues until the enemy outdistances the pursuers or is destroyed by them.

Cavalry who get a stand off result against infantry or artillery act as if driven back.

Generals who attach themselves to a unit may not quit that unit until the combat is resolved, and they must share the fate of that unit (ie. risking retreat/rout and getting caught up in a pursuit).

Risk to Commanders;

If a unit to which a commander is attached (e.g.. for rallying purposes, or to give an order, etc) takes a D. point from enemy fire, or takes a casualty in any circumstances, roll one D6 to see if the commander is hit (maximum of one such roll in any one turn):

1 = hit. Roll again.

4/5/6 = Light wound. Lose 2 CP's.

2/3 = Serious wound. Retire from field. Loses all CP's.

1 = Killed.

Special Cases:
Always in a skirmish formation.  No deductions for moving in woods, treat it like clear terrain.  Firing is a 6 for hit only.  Cannot move to close combat unless they have less DP's then target.

Are very erratic and dangerous to friend and foe.  Thus they are great fun!  Use range for medium artillery.  Point out target and roll two D6.

11 - 12.   Hit.

9 - 10.      Roll 1 d6. Rockets hit that many inches to right of target.

7 - 8.     Roll 1 d6. Rockets hit that many inches to left of target.

5 - 6.      Roll  2 d6. Rockets hit that many inches to right of target.

3 - 4.    Roll 2 d6. Rockets hit that many inches to left of target.

2.           Rocket double backs and hits itself!                  Rocket battery destroyed!

Trace path of rocket to target.  Any class 3, 4 or 5 units it passes over takes 2DP.

Treat all hits as short range artillery hits.  Roll one D6;  inflict 1 DP for total of 1 or 2, inflict 2 DP's for total of 3 or 4, inflict 1 DP and 1 Casualty for total of 5 or 6.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loose Files and American Scramble rules

   For my Rev War gaming I have been using these rules since they came out in the 1980's.  Written by Andy Callen they appeared in the first issue of Wargamers Illustrated and are now available throughout the internet on various sites for free.

   What attracted me to the rules when they came out were the at that time ground breaking use of disorganization points or DP.  This represented temporary problems with the battalion or regiment.  The number of DP's effect combat and firing and too many would cause your unit to disappear from the board.  Better trained units could remove DP's quicker, while poor units needed brigade or higher commanders to help out.  DP's cause you to loose a die for firing, and negative for combat.  Get too many (maximum of five per unit) and additional DP's cause casualties which means you remove whole stands.  I like this since units stay on the table longer, and you can pull back a unit and redress ranks and return it to the fight.

   Games run like this.  Start of the turn you have retreats and rallies from end of last turn.  You adjust morale for units effected. Again better trained units weather misfortune, lower grade units can fall apart. Commanders ride about trying to help out regiments in trouble (remove DP or inspire by adding +1 to die roll).

   Next is small arm and artillery firing.  Units can either fire or move but not both, unless they are skirmishes.  So you have to plan accordingly.  Infantry throw a d6 per stand of three figures.  Hits are a 6 on your die roll, which cause a DP.  Fire at skirmishers or troops  undercover and you half your total of dice thrown.  Remember this is long range musket and rifle fire.   Artillery is a little harder with plus and minus to roll for a hit.

   Next is movement.  Units throw  average dice to move.  A house rule I use is regiments must move full die roll, unless you point out a terrain objective like a hill or fence to stop at.  In addition another house rule let's units within a brigade roll once for each unit.  Skirmishes can fire and move, regular infantry either fire or move.  Slippery fellows those skirmishers.

   If regiments move to within 4 inches of an enemy they are in close combat.  This represents close range fire and closing to melee.  Both units roll die, add modifiers and compare difference in scores.  Close combat can be deadly.  Evan combats grind up units, while better regiments rout poorer regiments with disastrous results for friends around them.

   One part of close combat that confused players is the British getting +2 for bayonet charge while Americans do not get this.  This represents the British standard tactic of charging Americans without firing first.  For a better explanation please read With Zeal and Bayonets by Matthew Spring.  I like this as it represents the British standard operating procedure.  But, if not carefully managed you get no better then a stand off result which causes a second round of fighting and the British now get two DP's so are fighting at a disadvantage.  Basically the Americans were not impressed, stood their ground and shot you up as you came in.  Lesson to learn is use this against a wavering line.

   I have recently modified the rules for use with 25mms figures and also for the War of 1812.  There is also a link to bring you to one of the many sites where you can down load an original set of the rules

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day November 11

My grandfather, Edward McNamara from Lexington Massachusetts served with the 101st Regiment (Medical company), 26th Yankee Division in the first world war.  He seldom talked about it, and when he did it was a terrible memory which haunted him.  But  I will always remember his smile when he told me how at 11:00 A.M. on 11th November the guns stopped and he and his friends knew they would live, knew they had survived.  

And as this date is now called Veterans Day I say thank you to my father in law, Aldrich Stevens  who served in the  3rd Ranger Battalion (Darby's Rangers) in the Second World War.  Like my grandfather he too was haunted by the memories of what he saw, experienced and especialy those he lost.   

I remember their sacrifices and hope both have found peace.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

General Porter's 3rd Brigade

   If Ripley was cautious with the lives of his men, Porter was the opposite.  He was a war hawk before the war and championed its execution there after.  Yet his actions seldom met his desire for fame and fortune.

  He was angered over his disgrace at Black Rock, where during the raid he was chased by the enemy from his house in his night shirt.  After Chippewa he felt his militiamen had not received proper credit for their part in the battle.  There he felt they have been treated as “the tools and drudges of the regular troops.”  After Lundy's Lane he would write the Governor of New York, that because his casualties are so low “it will seem that we were cowardly and did not do our duty.”  Ahh, political generals.

   The militia command figure for the 3rd Brigade is from knuckleduster miniatures incredible War of 1812 line.  Although not a portrait figure of Porter it has the feel of the militia General about it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

General Ripley's 2nd Brigade

   Commanded by General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley the 2nd Brigade was composed of the 21st and 23rd U.S. Infantry Regiments. Later, in time for the battle of Lundy's Lane they were joined by the 1st U.S. Infantry regiment. The first two regiments had taken part in Scott's camp of instruction and were exceptionally well trained and had had hard service prior to this.

   While Scott's 1st Brigade gained the lions share of the credit for the campaign, Ripley's brigade fought well.  The 21st Regiment, which he had previously commanded saw sterling service at Lundy's Lane.  Perhaps Ripley being from New Hampshire, one of the New England states against the war worked against him.  He also felt the campaign had insufficient troops for the task at hand and no pool of trained replacements for battle casualties.  For all this he was viewed negatively by both Scott and especially by General
Brown.  This is sad as he fought very well and was much more protective of his men's lives then the other commanders. An interesting "what if" is if Ripley had been in Scott's place at the opening of Lundy's Lane.  How would the battle have developed?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lady Butlers painting "The Return from Inkerman"  showing the Guard's and 20th regiment after the battle on November 5, 1854.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

British organization 1814

Proposed Organization of the British Right Division. Summer 1814
(Based on historical O.B.)

1st Brigade: (Colonel Scott)
8th (King’s) Regiment
100th Regiment
103rd Regiment
 Royal Artillery

2nd "Light" Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Pearson)
Glengarry Light Infantry Regiment
Volunteer Battalion of Incorporated Militia
 Royal Artillery

3rd Brigade: (Lt. Col. Morrison)
1st (Royal Scots) Regiment
41st Regiment
89th Regiment
Royal Artillery

Unattached :
1st Militia Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Perry)
1st / 2nd / 3rd / 4th / 5th Lincon militia regiments

2nd Militia Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton)
 1st / 2nd Norfolk Militia Regiments 2nd York Militia Regiments

19th Light Dragoons
Rocket battery
Native Warriors

My order of battle is based on the British/Canadians who fought at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane.  In addition I have added the 41st regiment which was available in the area but only its light company took part historically.  I blame private Shadrack Byfield's account of his service for this.  The first account I read of a soldier in this war and it's always stuck with me so I had to have the 41st.

  On the other hand the 2nd Light Brigade is historically accurate and one of my favorite due to books on the Incorporated Militia (great name!) and Pearson's biography.  So I had to have them. Since many British units were at the battles in bits and pieces I have brought all regiments up to a table top standard strength. Like the American regiments I use a standard number of stand, which I can reconfigure if fighting a historical battle.

 This command also gives a lot of colorful and fun units like Indians and rockets.  Both of which I will have to create new rules for to reflex their eccentricity on the table.  For the cavalry I will inflate their numbers like I have with the Americans to give gamers something to led in glorious charges;   Or not as is usually the case.