Fix Bayonets: The Day of the Horsemen


Franco-Prussian 1

A view from Maison Smyth in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game adapting over the Bolt Action rules. The miniatures and the terrain was spectacular.

Yesterday was our annual Fix Bayonets game day.  Like the trip to Chehalis, it is a fun little gathering, now in its seventh year.  Lawrence Bateman, Damond Crump and Bruce Smith take responsibility for hosting the game day at historic Fort Steilacoom, and the ten dollar entry goes toward buying new stuff for the fort.

Fix Bayonets offers two game periods and I participated in both of those.  In the Morning David Sullivan and I hosted a Rebels and Patriots game.  David chose a scenario out of the rule book and created “Barlowe’s Necessary.”  The British and American forces were created out of roughly equal points for six different players, three per side.  Three of the players in the game were school-age and fairly new to miniature wargaming.  But they were a pleasure to play with and did pretty well.

I was an American player, pretty much in the middle of the table, and paid for that privilege.  David was on the left side, slogging through slow, rough terrain, which also shielded him from a lot of fire.  Chris, my young cohort, was on the right side, and though the British facing him scalded him with hot fire at times, was able to take cover behind a fence line and some woods.

My command, was in the open.  Which means about the same thing as my personal motto: “Shoot me again.” If I had a piece of heraldry, it would feature a green cross, with a red heart in the middle, full of bullet holes.

I actually had some cool units.  My best unit was Lee’s Legion light infantry, and they did some great work, trading shots with several units and making an important charge during a key turn.  My unit of William Washington’s 3rd Continental Dragoons made their debut.  I also had a unit of militia skirmishers.  Finally, by a sheer order of luck I rolled up a unit of raw militia, shooting poorly, that I figured wouldn’t be too useful.  I’m glad I did.

A lot of the British units were lights or grenadiers, with a couple of line units.  That meant that point-wise, there were fewer Brits to fight, but they had  much better staying power than the Americans.  I faced a unit of light infantry skirmishers, a unit of line infantry and a unit of lights firing at my guys.  Tough.

But I also fought with my own damn die rolls which were pretty terrible for the first two- thirds of the game.  I was able to activate okay, but just wasn’t able to hit much.  The worst was when I sent my cavalry crashing into the woods woods to rout out the annoying and destructive fire of the British skirmishers, hit them, but couldn’t inflict a single casualty.  They returned to my lines at half strength, having accomplished nothing.

Things were brightening on my right flank, as Chris inflicted casualties on Mark’s lights.  A bad die roll saw the Brits take to the hills and Mark withdrew his grenadiers to cover a source of victory points. But David was being pressed on the left as troops from the center were being drawn into the the fight around the Barlowe house due to my ineffective performance.  My skirmishers fled the field after taking serious damage from the British skirmishers.  The dragoons cowered behind Lee’s Legion.  The Legion troops soldiered on, firing ineffectively, slowly accumulating casualties, but tough as nails. The green militia, gamely advanced, looking for something to do.

Then, it was like a light bulb was turned on. A round of fire sent a unit of British line running.  A British light infantry unit advanced just a little too far, were charged by the Legion, and even though the Legion lost the combat, they didn’t break.  The militia advanced and successfully fired at the British skirmishers. Dragoons, advancing behind the Legion charge were perfectly positioned to deal some death.

Washington's Dragoons Charge

The British line infantry to the right prepare to dispatch Col. William Washington’s dragoons after their successful charge eliminated a key British light infantry unit. Only Washington would survive.

In the following turn, the last of the game, the dragoons charged the light infantry, surprising the startled Brits, inflicting enough casualties for them to break, both sides taking losses.  However, the redcoats retreated just far enough to be contacted again by the pursuing Continentals.  The lights disintegrated, and the cavalry dispersed.  In the end, only Washington rode back to the American lines.

David held the Barlowe house, the Legion lights earned two honor points, and the British forces were all damaged enough to win the Americans a convincing victory. The Continental dragoons rocked.

In the afternoon, I played in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game using Bolt Action as a rule mechanism.  I found it easy to play and the WWII rules set worked pretty well for the 19th century conflict.

Dean devised a six-turn game in which both of the evenly matched sides could easily control two of four ruined buildings on the table. The side that could control one of the other side’s building would win.  The Germans had an artillery piece, while the French advantage lay with their Chassepot rifles, out-ranging their foe’s Dreyse needle-guns.

Mark Serafin and I ran the French.  We committed half our force against the building directly to our front, while holding off units to our flank.  To my right, I occupied one of our buildings with one unit, supported by a unit of mounted chasseurs.  Mark took the building on the right side supported by a unit of Algerian Tirailleurs.

With the clock ticking, we immediately pinned the unit in the house to our front, without doing a lot of damage.  Meanwhile three units of Prussians crossed the stream protecting my fortified flank.  What to do?

The chasseurs were a deterrent to do too much too quickly, and I eventually drew two units to support my building.  Fire into a wood full of Prussians neutralized one unit.  Twice, the Prussians advanced to fire on the chasseurs, but using Dean’s emergency escape rules allowed them to retreat to safety.

Jim Sagen, commanding the Prussians threatening my command, decided to assault on my position on turn four.  He advanced his artillery to get within close range. He chased my chasseurs away for the last time.  Things looked bad.  In his bloody assault, Jim destroyed my defending unit, but in the process, lost all but one of his figures. My cavalry crept ever closer to one of his supporting units.  It was now turn five.

I counter-attacked an unblemished unit of Zouaves into my building, tossing out the lone surviving Prussian.  When the time was right, I launched my horse into the supporting Prussian unit.  With no pre-measuring, I wasn’t quite sure whether they were within the chasseurs’ 18 inch charge range.  Made it by a quarter of an inch.  I managed to kill five of the eight Prussians before they could fight back, and that was their end.

Franco Prussian 2

The chasseurs rule the my end of the table in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game.

In the final turn it was pretty clear the building was secure, but there was one more Prussian unit ripe for the taking. The damaged unit in the woods fell victim to the chasseurs.  With that, the game was over and it remained tied, as it began.

Dean’s experiment with the rules was successful for a first test.  I think there is still some fiddling to be done with the assault rules, but the firing and casualties seemed to work quite nicely.  I had a lot of fun with his beautifully painted miniatures.

So two awesome games in which cavalry played a major role in both.  That doesn’t always happen.


Fix Bayonets: Back to the Future

I love Fix Bayonets.  It’s a small gathering hosted by the Fort Steilacoom Historical Association (or something like that,) a preservation group aimed at keeping up the oldest buildings in Western Washington.  Each year Lawrence Bateman and Damond Crump host a modest gathering in one of the original fort buildings and we play a day’s worth of games for a modest entry fee that goes toward the many needs of the maintaining the site.  It’s a nice fundraiser for them and we certainly have a good time.

I was particularly looking forward to yesterday’s event, because I hoped to see an old friend there.  Scott Appleby recently joined the NHMGS Facebook page, and I had my fingers crossed he would be at this event.  I played Fire and Steel Napoleonics with Scott back in the 70’s and 80’s.  But as I gradually became more involved with NHMGS and took on different projects we lost touch.  I hadn’t seen him in twenty years.  So when he came to the event I was thrilled.  It made my day.  A semi-truck could have backed over my hydroplanes, and it still would have been a very good day.

I ran a Thunderboats game in the morning period.  It’s a great game for gatherings like this because after the first twenty minutes it almost runs itself.  It was actually an exciting game because my friend Chris Bauermeister, who always has terrible die rolls in my games, had stupendously good die rolls.  He got off to an early lead in the Miss Bardahl that he never relinquished.  In fact it was never even that close.  Bill Vanderpool and Al Rivers both bought nitrous bottles, used them and both had some interesting moments with flames. There was lots of risk-taking, which makes for a fairly fun game.  I went through an entire deck of event cards-a first.  But, with a lot of risk taking goes a high attrition rate, and four boats did not finish.  Still a lot of fun, as Thunderboats usually is.

Chris Bauermeister rolled a twelve on a 12-sided die on turn one and never looked back.  Miss Bardahl won the race quite comfortably.

Chris Bauermeister rolled a twelve on a 12-sided die on turn one and never looked back. Miss Bardahl won the race quite comfortably.

A look at the also-rans coming into turn one.  Scott Appleby, racing Doug's Hamm's Beer boat didn't survive turn two.

A look at the also-rans coming into turn one. Scott Appleby, racing Doug’s Hamm’s Beer boat didn’t survive turn two.


There some other interesting looking games in the morning session. Scott Williams brought up his Galactic Knights game from Olympia.  Bruce Smith also ran a pre-dreadnought naval game.

We dashed down to Steilcoom to our favorite sandwich shoppe for lunch and I got to talk to Scott and some of the guys a bit longer.  Scott is also a teacher so we talked some shop, as well as about the Huskies.  So it was a good time.

During the afternoon session I decided to play in Hugh Singh’s 28mm Sky Galleons of Mars game. I’m a sucker for SGoM, so it didn’t really take a lot to convince me to play.  Hugh converted  three Stonehouse Miniatures resin gunboats into flying vessels for Mars. He did a really nice job using some Houston’s Guns  and crew for the armament, as well as using some interesting bits for Martian tether mines and fire pots.  Very nice and very serviceable.

Hugh Sing's Austrian gunboat was quite a death dealer at Fix Bayonets

Hugh Sing’s Austrian gunboat was quite a death dealer at Fix Bayonets


I really liked the touches on Hugh's Martian sky galley.  The firepots fore and the tether mines aft are quite nice.

I really liked the touches on Hugh’s Martian sky galley. The firepots fore and the tether mines aft are quite nice.


Gene Anderson brought up his vessel from Centralia, a gorgeous (and huge) Endtime screw galley.  Gene constructed the deck and skeleton from plans and covered the hull with planking fabric and coated it with liquid starch.  It looked amazing, and takes its place alongside Mark Waddington’s Aphid and Ranger as examples of superb modeling.

Gene Anderson's Endtime gunboat is an exquisite model.  Constructed using fabric coated with liquid starch, Gene was able to achieve the unique shape of the most common Martian ship.

Gene Anderson’s Endtime gunboat is an exquisite model. Constructed using fabric coated with liquid starch, Gene was able to achieve the unique shape of the most common Martian ship.

The nicest touch to the Endtime model is Gene's creation of the bridge in the lower hull.  Great work Gene.

The nicest touch to the Endtime model is Gene’s creation of the bridge in the lower hull. Great work Gene.


Unfortunately bad things often happen when a single Martian vessel takes on an Earth gunboat.  I commanded Hugh’s Austrian gunboat with two long 4″ guns.  It was fast enough to keep the bigger Martian craft from closing and with superior firepower, slowly began to pound the Endtime to pieces.  When we decided to call the game, the screw galley lost all but one of its guns and the crew was about 50%.  It was having difficulty maintaining altitude, and with about a third of its turncranks dead, was half the speed of my vessel.  I took only slight damage to my hull and crew.

Word is out that there are plans for a big 28mm Sky Galleons game at Enfilade. That would be pretty to see, but we sure need to plan how to run it. That will require quite a bit of room.

There were some other great games in the afternoon period too.  Chris B. hosted a Cold War armor battle.  Bruce ran a big Korea vs. Japan ancients game with some pretty smooth looking rules. Paul Grandstaff hosted a Check Your Six game.  Bruce Smith ran a very cool looking post-apocalyptic game in a very trashed city.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, and the organizers were pretty happy with the support.  It was an early in, early out kind of day, and I was able to be home by 3:30 to see most of the Huskies game.