Sunday, April 30, 2023

Little Wars - Day One


So this year's Little Wars convention is over and I have to say that it was one of my best game judging experiences that I have had in over 30 years of running games at conventions. The HMGS-Midwest staff, led by Kevin Cabai, were great and they helped make the running of three games run smoothly. Game judges were also given a goodie bag of candy, chips and homemade brownies to tide them over whilst running their game. That sugar jolt of energy was a good thing.

I ran three games: Thursday evening, Friday morning, and Saturday morning and I was honored to receive the Duke Siefried award for Best Game at the convention. More importantly though, all of my games were sold out with 12 players per game, which really made me happy. I extend my thanks to everyone who played in the games, fine fellows all, as well as the many folks who came up to me just to talk about the terrain and figures and how I put everything together. I also reconnected with a number of gamers that I hadn't seen in quite awhile and phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged, leading to more wargames in the future.

Old Fritz (on the right) recieving the Duke Siefried award.
He's looking a little bit "alt" rather than "jung".


I packed up my wife's Volvo SUV the day before so there was no panic or hustle and bustle to get my gear packed. When we ran several play tests of the game at Kieth L.'s house it had taken me two trips to haul everything to his house. I was going to rent a larger vehicle to get everything to Lisle, but the car rental company wanted $200 per day, or $1,000 for the whole long weekend. Yikes! So I turned to Plan B:

Mrs. Fritz loaned me her Volvo SUV

I looked at all of my packing containers and saw that they were a melange of different sizes and shapes that would inefficiently fill and overflow the available storage space in the vehicle. So then, drawing on an idea from the Gribauval System of French artillery, I decided to only use stackable plastic containers of the same size. This was more efficient because it reduced the amount of "dead air" space in the various containers. The next step was to purchase a couple of the large containers at The Container Store (the smaller containers were stackable on top of these as well. Finally, I put all of the empty plastic containers in the SUV and worked out an optimal arrangement of the various boxes. I decided that if something couldn't fit into all of these boxes then it wasn't going to go to Little Wars. The extra storage in the roof pod was also a necessity.

I arrived at the venue for Little Wars (Sheraton Hotel - Lisle, IL) around 2PM and found that the hotel staff were still setting up the game tables in the main gaming room. I was the first person in the room to set up my game and it was a good thing too because I had three 4ft by 24ft tables and I needed the tables to be 6ft wide. So I did a little refiguring of the tables and the hotel staff brought in three extra tables so that I ended up with two 6ft by 24ft tables and one 5ft by 24ft table (as a staging area for the Dervish troops, so it didn't need to be 6ft wide.

The game hall prior to setting up all of the table.

All of my terrain and figure boxes on one table.

It took me about three hours to set up my terrain and place all of the figures on the various tables. It was getting a little tight on the time because my game was scheduled to start at 6PM. Fortunately I finished the set up with 30 minutes to spare. Phew!

A view of my tables showing the aisles in between each table.
This allowed access to the inside of the city of Khartoum, which I split into two halves.

The main part of the city on one table...

...and the front walls of the city on the middle table. In the distance (upper right corner)
you can see a part of the third table which was the Dervish staging area.

A full view of the vast expense of area over three table. The Nile River is on 
the end of the tables on the left side.

A little bit of marketing promotion can't hurt either. A full size reproduction 
of the original movie poster from the Khartoum! movie.

The Thursday evening game started on time and without a hitch and it was full with 12 players. The Dervish eventually swarmed over the walls and hunted down General Gordon in the Governor's Palace. 

New Rules
I decided to write a completely new set of rules for my convention games this year. Our group normally uses a Colonial version of Bill Protz's B.A.R rules and we have played them enough that they become second nature to us. However, the rules sheets are a bit chart heavy and can be hard to follow for someone who is playing the rules for the first time. So I made a "light version" of Bill's rules, taking out many of the modifiers and slimming things down. However, the light version of BAR still seemed a little bit daunting. So I decided to go in a different direction and write up own set of rules with a mind of keeping things as simple as possible. This turned out to be a great decision.

I used a variant of Buck Sudru's Colonial convention rules that had been given to me by Bill M. over on the No Stress Miniature War Gamers Facebook page. I added some hand-to-hand combat skirmish rules that Bill Protz and I worked out awhile ago and tacked these onto the tactical part of the rules. Basically, we use Sudru's rules for regular actions out on the desert, but when the Dervish start climbing up the ladders and fighting on the parapets of the walls, we shift to Bill's rules for climbing and toppling ladders and hand to hand melee (you and I roll one D6 and the highest die roll wins the melee). In a word, there were really two sets of rules in play.

There were a few inconsistencies and kinks in the skirmish hand-to-hand rules part of the game, but one of the players was particularly good at identifying the loopholes in the rules and we got the rules sorted out after which things ran more smoothly. I took the lessons learned from this game and made the necessary rules adjustments for my other two games. Particular kudos go out to Paul P., Brian V. and Earl C. for helping us get through the rules.

I don't want to give the impression that my rules had not been play tested; quite to the contrary we had run several full scale games, but you can always count on other wargamers to come up with some new wrinkle that you hadn't thought of. I say this in the most positive manner.


Here are some pictures of my game. Read the captions for the story. And click on the pictures to enlarge your view.

The Dervish dhows sail up the Nile towards the back side of Khartoum.

The Dervish attack begins. They instinctively focus on the corners of the fort, 
which is the most vulnerable part of the wall.

Close combat rules: allows for a maximum of 3 figures on a ladder and no more
than 3 indivual hand to hand melees per turn on each ladder. Once the Dervish touch the walls, then we shift
over to the skirmish hand to hand rules. The Dervish ladder goes up when they touch the wall. The Egyptian 
defender immediately gets an opportunity to tip over the ladder. If not, then up to three attackers can 
scale the ladder and fight up to 3 defenders on the parapet.

The Dervish have made it over the wall and now they will pour through in great numbers.

The Dervish blow open the main gate with a powder keg.

The Mahdi makes a triumphal entry into the city to the cheers of his followers.

The Egyptian paddle wheel boat comes to grips with on of the dhows
while the other dhows head towards Khartoum.

It's about over for the garrison and Gordon as the Dervish run amok through 
the streets and alleys. They break through the windows of the Governor's Palace 
to enter the building.

Small groups of Egyptian soldiers gravitate to the Governor's Palace, where 
they make a last stand. Alas, Gordon died with all of his men.


This blog post would become way too long if I included the full report of the rest of the convention on Friday and Saturday. So stay tuned and come on back here in another day or two to hear the rest of the story/

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Little Wars: Packed and Loving It

Well I've got the car all loaded and ready to roll to Little Wars Thursday morning. I don't know how I crammed so much stuff into our SUV (below), but I did it. I had to put the Thule roof top pod on the old Volvo in order to carry terrain and game mats. I seem to have filled every square inch of space with boxes and stuff, but I have this nagging feeling that I could still be more efficient in how I pack everything. This trip to Little Wars is a test run of sorts to help me figure out how to transport everything to far off Pennsylvania this summer for Historicon.

Volvo XC-60 before all of the boxes are packed. Wish I had a Chevy Tahoe instead - more room.

The roof pod is a must for this trip.

Some packing of baggage of another sort:

By the time this post "posts" on my blog it will be Thursday morning CST Chicago time, but I'm about to hit the hay and go to sleep. The good thing is that I don't have to do any packing, save for a duffle bag of clothes to wear during this trip.

See you all at Little Wars!

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Packing Up For Little Wars


This evening I packed all of the miniatures for my Khartoum game at Little Wars this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I also got all of my terrain packed away into stackable plastic containers. All of the boxes will be loaded into our SUV tomorrow. Previously I had loaded empty boxes into the vehicle to see how many I could fit into it. Thus by knowing the maximum number of containers that I can fit into my car, it becomes a matter of fitting everything into the exact number of boxes. If it can’t make it into a container then it doesn’t go to the show.

This afternoon I finished making four new 12-inch long city walls for the game. These will replace the heavy weight King &  Country walls. I can pack.more of my foam core walls into a box than I can the K&C resin walls.

The last thing on my punch list is to make some more scaling ladders for the game. 

I checked out the convention game sign ups and it looks like all three of my Khartoum games are sold out with 12 players per game. I’m really looking forward to the convention in a couple more days.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

One Week To Little Wars - Work to do!


Play testing my rules. The Dervish didn't do very well in this iteration.

So here we are on a thursday and it is exactly one week to go before the start of the Little Wars convention in Lisle, Illinois. I've got most of the figures that I need for my games, but me being me I'm painting some more figures for the game (more for the fun of painting the figures rather than need).

I've been working on some Camel Corps figures using the Armies In Plastic British Northwest Frontier figures. While some of the equipment is incorrect for 1885 (it being the 1895 Omdurman campaign uniform), I like the figures and the uniform is "close enough". I will be using the plastic figures in my convention games rather than the heavy to carry Britain's Camel Corps figures (shown in the picture above).

The first picture below shows three British officers painted in three different uniform colors. The Camel Corps is on the left, a sort of generic red coat tunic in the center, and a general khaki uniform on the right. I have to say that I rather like the red uniform with the buff color breeches. There was two regiments wearing red coats at the Battle of Kirbekan ( February 10, 1885), the South Staffordshire and the Black Watch and this battle is famous for being the last battle in which the British army wore its distinctive red coats.

Sir Charles Wilson's riverboat dash to Khartoum included a company of the Sussex regiment wearing red coats (to impress the Dervish and possibly scare them away from Khartoum).

I have to say that I rather like the red coated officer. Since my British contingent is based on Herbert Stewart's Camel Corps expedition, my understanding is that all of his troops wore the blue-grey tunic and that none of the troops wore red coats. For my Abu Klea game scenario I will have two regiments (64 figures each) making up a square and I think that I need some way of distinguishing which regiment is which. One thought is to keep everyone in grey tunics, but have one unit with brown stained helmets and the other with white helmets. Another idea is to paint one unit with blue-grey and the other in red or khaki. The latter option is historically incorrect, but it would look really really nice. What to do?

Paint testing several uniform styles on the same figure.
54mm Armies In Plastic figures.

Armies In Plastic 54mm Camel Corps figures on Litko movement trays. I place 8 figures 
in each movement tray with two trays representing one company of soldiers. Eventually this
Camel Corps unit will field 8 trays or 64 figures in total
The whole enchilada: the Dervish Army on final inspection.

The third picture above shows my Dervish army arrayed on my game table. I'm working on terraining some of the individual 40mm round bases that are placed on 10-figure skirmish trays that I buy from Litko. I did have 200 bases that need the ground terrain added, but I've slowly whittled the number down to 70 figures. I do a little bit each day because this can be tedious work. You can also see a thin line (on the right - click on the picture to enlarge) of Egyptian and Camel Corps figures. I painted 16 Egyptian soldiers to top up one of their units (48 figures per regiment) and then there are some Camel Corps figures that may or may not appear in my Little Wars convention games. I'm finishing Camel Corps figures at the rate of 8 figures per day.

Other items on my punch list that I have completed include:

- make more Acacia trees out of plastic flower stems

- paint an 80 figure contingent of old Britain's hollow cast Arabs as Dervish in jibbahs.

- paint the afore-mentioned 16 Egyptian figures

- finalize the rules that I will be using in the game

- find boxes for specific buildings in my Khartoum city

The items still open:

- rent a larger SUV vehicle so that I can bring everything to Little Wars in one trip

- make two more wall sections

- base The Mahdi and other Dervish army leaders

- make 16 more ladders for scaling the walls (MOST IMPORTANT)


Sunday, April 9, 2023

Khartoum! The movie trailer for Little Wars


The Dervish scale the walls of Khartoum
54mm figures largely from Armies In Plastic

I made a new movie trailer on iMovies for the running of my Khartoum! game at this year's Little Wars convention in Lisle, Illinois on April 27-30, 2023. The convention venue is at the Sheraton Lisle Naperville Hotel (3000 Warrenville Rd. Lisle, IL)

You can find more information about HMGS Midwest at Little Wars

The new movie trailer is about one minute long but it is jam packed with some great pictures and a stirring musical accompaniment. The file size is too big to post on Blogger, but you can watch the film by clicking on the YouTube link below:

Khartoum Movie Trailer

I will be running Khartoum! three times at Little Wars:

Event #185        Thursday at 6PM    SOLD OUT

Event #183        Friday at 10AM        2 slots available

Event #184        Saturday at 10AM    4 slots available

The Thursday evening game tickets are sold out as of this writing, but there are still several tickets left for the other two games. Each game allows for 12 players.

If you are at the convention, but are not playing in the game, stop by anyway and say hello. Sometimes players pre-register and don't show up, so there is still a chance that you might get in.

I will also be running at least three games at Historicon and probably a fourth. I want to see how my stamina holds up over three games before entering my events at Historicon. But I will be there!

Finally, here are several teaser pictures of the play test game that we ran last week:

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Charles Grant's Mollwitz Game at the SYWA Convention


The Austrian headquarters located within the town of Mollwitz.
Houses were made by Ian Weekley and I made the church model.

I was in a bit of a bind for putting a game scenario together in time for this year's annual Seven Years War Association convention in South Bend, Indiana. Then it occurred to me that there was a ready-made game scenario in the classic wargame book "The Wargame" by Charles Grant (sr.). So I decided to do the Battle of Mollwitz which was Frederick of Prussia's first battle and first victory (of sorts, ahem).

The scenario provides each side, Austrian and Prussian, with 13 combat elements plus some artillery. The interesting thing about Grant's Mollwitz scenario is that the two armies are mirror images of each other. The Austrians are strong in cavalry with 6 regiments, but only 7 infantry battalions, whereas the Prussians are weak in cavalry with only 3 regiments, but they are strong with a robust 10 battalions of infantry. The Prussians also outnumber the Austrians in artillery, but I reduced the number of guns to 4, compared with 3 guns for the Austrians. My artillery rules are bloodier than Grant's when it comes to effectiveness on the table top so the reduction in guns was a necessity.

My Mollwitz game table set up. A copy of "The Wargame" is displayed
in the front foreground. Austrians (left) and Prussians (right). Compare
to the map below.

The scenario proved to be a good cracker of a game with the forces deployed such that each side's strength was facing the opponent's weakness. Thus the Austrians started the game with 6 cavalry regiments on their right flank, facing only 3 Prussian cavalry regiments across the field.

The Austrian army deployment is shown at the top of the map (white rectangles)
and the Prussian deployment is shown on the bottom of the map

Given the superiority in numbers of infantry units for the Prussians versus Austrians, the outcome of the game is determined by the success of the Austrian cavalry. If they can quickly defeat the Prussian cavalry, the Austrian cavalry will be poised on the left flank of the Prussian battle line. However, the Austrians must win the cavalry battle before the Prussian infantry closes in on the Austrian infantry.

I ran the Mollwitz game twice, once on Friday morning and once on Saturday afternoon. The Austrians won a slight victory in the first game, but the Prussians returned the favor in the second game, giving the Austrian infantry a good thrashing. In both games, the Austrian cavalry successfully drove off the Prussian cavalry and then made a pivot to their left to place them in a position to roll up the entire Prussian army.

Here are some pictures of the initial deployments of the armies. Austrians on the left and the Prussians are on the right.

Prussian infantry marches onto the battlefield.

The Austrian infantry marches onto the battlefield

Game I on Friday

The Prussian cavalry (right), while outnumbered, pitched into the Austrian cavalry.

Austrian cavalry numbers would soon have a telling effect on the outcome of the melee.

Austrian hussars gain the flank of the Prussian cavalry.

The Prussian's Bayreuth Dragoons (in white coats) are flanked but they died hard 
and took a lot of Austrian horsemen with them.

Here's something that you hardly see in an 18th Century wargame: the Prussian Guards
are forming squares!

The jig was up for the Prussians once they placed their guards into square formations. I advised the Prussian player not to do it because my rules favor disciplined musketry over charging cavalry, but he did not heed my advice. The Austrian artillery took to pounding the Prussian squares, while the Austrian cavalry simply bypassed the squares and looked for better targets to attack.

Game One resulted in a narrow Austrian victory.

Here are some more pre-game set up pictures of the armies on the table top.

The town of Mollwitz

Prussian right wing infantry march onto the table.

The Bayreuth Dragoons wearing white coats. Prussian dragoons wore white 
coats up to 1745, when they switched to blue coats.

Marshal Schwerin leads his powerful brigade of grenadiers (in line formation)
and IR15 Prussian guards on to the field.

A young King Frederick II of Prussia awaits his very first battle with much anticipation.

Austrian general von Neipperg watches a unit of converged Austrian grenadiers
marching through the town of Mollwitz

An Austrian infantry brigade deploys on the left wing of its army.

Game II on Saturday

The second game was run on Saturday afternoon and it would result in a very convincing Prussian victory, although for awhile it looked like the Austrian cavalry was going to have a glorious day because it ran all of the Prussian cavalry off of the field and it rode down the Prussian grenadiers and two battalions of the Prussian guard before running out of steam.

Austrian hussars charge into the flank of Prussian hussars and a regiment of Prussian cuirassiers.
It was a short and bad day for the Prussian cavalry.

The Austrians have turned the left flank of the Prussian army and prepare to attack 
the infantry of the Prussian right flank. However, it was too late as the Prussian infantry
put most of the Austrian infantry into rout mode.

The Prussian cavalry commander looked across the field at the Austrian cavalry and he decided that it would be more prudent to seek protection behind the Prussian guards. The large Bayreuth Dragoon regiment (36 figures versus 24 for normal sized cavalry regiments) deployed into line formation to provide a screen for the Prussian cuirassiers and hussars to march away. However, the Austrian army won a string of first initiatives in the card draws. Since they elected to move first, the Austrian horsemen were soon charging into the flanks of the Prussian hussars and cuirassiers. The Prussian cavalry did not have a chance of surviving.

Then miraculously, Austrian dragoons and cuirassiers teamed up to run down a battalion of Prussian grenadiers and one of the guard battalions in the flank. It was all a very exciting thing to see. I am unashamedly biased towards the Prussians, but I was enjoying the sight of an excellent Austrian cavalry battle on this flank. Alas, the Prussian infantry made much headway against the Austrian infantry and soundly defeated them before the Austrian cavalry could make its impact felt on the far end of the table.

Some Final Thoughts

I really really really really liked the Grant Mollwitz game scenario and found both games generated a lot of excitement and unexpected events. The deployment of unequal amounts of cavalry on one end of the table and a similar inequality of infantry on the other end of the table made for some great table top battles. The scenario all comes down to whether or not the Austrian cavalry can work around the Prussian army's left flank before the Prussian infantry can do the same to their infantry counterparts at the other end of the table.

I recommend giving the Grant Mollwitz scenario a try. The scenario is time-tested over several decades going back to the 1970s when the book The Wargame was published.