Monday, 26 January 2015

Waterloo Project: Record keeping and Status bases

I've written my own rules for our representation of the La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont fighting at 1:3 scale, which I'm calling "With MacDonnell and Baring 1815" (WMaB15). Some of the other members of our little syndicate have helped me with initial play tests and we have two bigger ones lined up over the next couple of months.  When the rules were in first draft I saw articles on the, then new, Wargamer Aide de Camp, plastic trays and tiles for keeping track of unit statistics and status information on the tabletop. It looked like just what we needed so I bought a batch and set them up for our test games.

For those not yet familiar with this project here's a link to the Cavalry test game -second-test-game
You can get an idea from that of the overall effect of units accompanied by Wadc trays and here are some close up photos.
A French Horse Artillery battery
This large French infantry battalion has one tray for the main body of Fusiliers
and separate ones for the Voltigeur and Grenadier companies so they can operate
independently if desired

The KGL 2nd Light Battlion here coming up to the front line being used in two wings,
each has a status tray, although the one for the Left Wing is not visible in this photo

Trying to keep things organised! An old ice cube maker tray takes the Wadc plastic
tiles nicely when awaiting use. They supply stickers up to 30% losses but I've made
diminishing numbers up to 90% to allow for some "die hard" units at our Waterloo.
You can also see Morale status markers such as "Shaken" and "Disordered".

French battalion attacking in company column, (and beyond in column of attack)
with losses now showing on the tray. The smart numerical unit markers can
of course be used separately from the trays, such as for the mounted officer
 so he is easily identifiable on the Order of Battle sheet

Guard Lancer unit with losses indicated.
The MDF casualty bases I featured many months ago from Warbases can also be
used in combination with this system if you have many figures to a movement base.

A more general view - the Line Lancers are falling back in "Disorder" with a 30% loss marker .
In the distance you can see the Wadc tray also comes in handy to house
a die if you need some other numerical status method. 
I hope you can tell from the photos how versatile this system is. They come in sets of different coloured headers and status markers with the very professional looking green plastic trays and tiles (which reminded me of the letter tiles from my old Travel Scrabble set!) - I ordered the basic packs with Red and Blue unit markers for obvious reasons, and a good range of status markers come in neutral green. You can get as downloads different files as either PDF or Word documents, mine were from the "Horse and Musket" range but they do Ancients too, and you can customise them yourself . Full details on the website wargamer-aide-de-camp. which has very useful links to photos of the Products and a much more full explanation than I can give here. There is also an interesting page of videos of wargames using the system. 

In summary I really like this system and if you use one of the commercial rule sets they are designed to fit then you are all ready to go. In addition you can modify the Word files to suit other sets of rules, or your own design, as in my case. That's quite hard work but should only need to be done once and printed out onto special paper you can buy for adhesive labels. If you like the look of it then that is worth the effort. I know many people don't like battlefield "clutter" on the tabletop and neither do I, but if it's for a practical purpose like this you have to weigh that up against the aesthetic appeal and they could be made much more professional looking than mine, or, if the green is not for you then you could paint the plastic trays to match your battleground. If you have small units or small figures they might look a bit overpowering, but considering many of our basic tactical units in 28mm for WMaB15 are around 50 cavalry or over 100 infantry they feel "just right"  to me.

Look forward to any comments

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8 comments:

  1. Record keeping and status markers are a challenge. They can slow a game and also add an unnatural feel to a game. Markers can also aid or detract from a game's visual appeal. I'm a Napoleon's Battles player and that game started out with what were effectively boardgame counters. They were effective, but had two problems: they didn't look very good and tended to get left behind.

    At the same time I was also playing Fire and Fury and that had a much better approach to markers (although there was still a tendency for them to get "separated").

    It is a challenge I'm still struggling with - the need to label units so you know what is what and who commands who etc plus the need to show status and casualties. I been thinking of adding them as part of a movement tray (problem is when units change formation and you need to ditch the movement tray). Another thing I've been doing is making dedicated bases to hold the information - I was toying with using unit flags and bases with slots to position the flag to show casualties and ability to add flags to show disorder or rout, but it was all getting a bit fiddly and I tended to go back to using counters.

    But I'm still thinking, still looking.

    What you've come up with looks good, but my scale is different to yours - 15mm and units around a dozen figures. Labels and markers can easily dominate.

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  2. Sun of York, thanks for your detailed thoughts on this. Kevin now tells me he finds the red and blue too garish so we have a cunning plan to redo the inserts to blend with our bases and background....ho hum...as if painting another 200 cavalry isn't enough work for me! But these are not for you with 12 man units in 15mm. What I have done with my 10mm AWI armies using a Fire and Fury variation is to have all figure stands and markers on thin magnetic paper bases (including such things as "low ammo" and "1st Fire"). The whole lot can then be moved around on metal bases of various sizes that I got made for me by a friendly school metal work department.

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    Replies
    1. One of the really great things about this project is the visual impression of the large very well detailed and very well painted units; they make for great photos and give an impression of what the numbers look like in a way the smaller units most of us use can't really do and can only hint at. The book-keeping system may be just what is needed and pragmatically the thing to do in game but spoils the overall look on the table - could they not do the job off table if you know what the units on the table are? Or at least can you temporarily remove them when you do the photos of the full game. It all looks fantastic - keep at the effort - I hope it all comes together for you.

      Sometime after all the rush is over it would be interesting to see what a 1 to 1 representation of a unit of cavalry or infantry looks like en masse, even if drawn from 3 of your units etc. You have enough to do to be ready so I'll just leave the idea with you and wish you luck with what you are achieving.

      Well done.

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  3. Wonderful series of updates Chris. This exciting project is coming together really well. Top painting by you and Kevin.

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  4. Thanks James, more to follow soon. Colin, I know you have been following this for some time and I appreciate your feedback. I've just set up the troops in readiness for our third test game and I'll post some photos shortly. I agree it looks pretty special but, you know, I then think, anyone with enough money, space or time could throw money at a project like this and do it as a static "exhibition" but what makes it come alive is that we are doing it as wargame. The real test is whether we can make it work as an enjoyable experience over a weekend and get some kind of result within a historical context. To that end we have to keep up momentum during the gaming and taking too much time out to set up perfect photos will killl that. I've said in other media that we will do our best and will take shots that will hopefully photoshop up into some rather cool atmospheric photos....so something for everyone. And I will bear in mind the 1:1 suggestion though I'm not sure if enough of the same kind of figures will remain in one venue long enough - we shall see.

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    1. Totally agree it is about the fun and the action on the day - Enjoy the whole experience - nice to have something to remind you of it of course.

      I like to learn from the very small historical recreations I do and I have found that getting the terrain layout/spacing as near right for the scale of your units helps that, but in the end you make use of what you have and have time to work out to do the best you can.

      Sometimes surprising what insights you can get from this about what the real people encountered on their day at the real event.

      We can only approximate and glimpse what the past was like - perfection takes too long and is impossible; it is about having fun in the process.

      You are absolutely right it is about the struggle and effort on the day(s) as the conflict unfolds and resolves that you do not want to hinder.

      Pretty sure that is why we love the hobby and what it gives us.

      By the way you might like to think what it was like for Napoleon, Wellington and Blucher and all their staff getting their armies together in the run up to the real event - plenty of hard work for all I am sure - someone was making sure they all had their uniforms and equipment on them of course; a small, or actually perhaps at this stage quite a large, part of what you are simulating.

      I applaud your hard work and energy; try to enjoy it everyone.

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  5. By the way, if you think our project is impressive have a look at this one!
    http://britisharmywaterloo.blogspot.co.uk/

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  6. Colin, thanks again. Ha ha! don't tell me about organising big units! Wellington et al had staff to do that! Couldn't agree more about scales being right and I've done a lot of that in my time. We'll be doing Waterloo as a whole at 1:100 and on top of the 1:3 scale version I have to make the boards for that soon. In fact the LHS and Hougoumont scenarios are mainly for the fun and joy of pushing masses of toys around because Kev had the model buildings already and I went into great detail to try to work out a game that would be in scale with them. We are aiming for a combination of "simulation" but with some old school dice rolling excitement too, but no pretensions that we can provide at this scale any great insight into how to get the French to "win".

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