You die, he dies, everybody dies: the America Rampant playtest

As promised, today Dave Schueler and I dropped in at Meeples to try out the America Rampant adaptation of The Men Who Would Be King. I knew we’d be playing on a pretty small table, probably 5′ X 3′.  So I couldn’t have too many units out there. Thursday and Friday I took every minute I could to remount enough figures to play the game.

I settled on a simple scenario idea, the search for cannon captured and hidden by the Miamis at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.  It was a good idea, but the scenario played poorly in execution. But it did give us a good look at my basic ideas and I’ve got to say they were two thumbs up.

TMWWBK plays like a super cleaned up version of Lion Rampant, and why anyone wouldn’t create house rules to adopt those changes is beyond me. Free actions.  An activation failure just means move on to the next unit. It all made for a good flowing game.

America Rampant changes the game from a rifle dominated game to one in which melee in close terrain is more likely.  In our little game, casualties through muskets and close combat played a part in the game.

i hoped to learn two things from our little playtest:

  1. Did my remount make sense from a game context?
  2.  Did the rules adaptation work from a mechanical and historical standpoint?

The Remount

The remount was not easy. Lots of steps.

  1. Figures were pried from their bases.
  2. Glued to their new bases.
  3. Modeling paste applied to bases
  4. Bases painted with Burnt Umber
  5. Bases dry brushed with Trail Tan
  6. Apply Woodland Scenics turf
  7. Glue in clump foliage
  8. Final touch up and Dullcote

It was time-consuming, and it took every spare minute I could summon Thursday, Friday and even a half-hour this morning to finish seven Indian and five American units. I don’t have any more painted natives, but I have tons of American militia and regular units, and a lot of Spanish.  I’ll need to acquire more bases to finish them all, but it’s on the docket to finish all of them this summer.

That said, it seems completely worth it. They don’t rattle around in their cases.  It took much less time to set up a game.  Movement was easy.  Pick up went really fast.  All the objectives were achieved.  They look pretty good too. The remount was a success.

The Rules Adaptation

I chose to take the Americans and Dave took the indians.

Dave had:

  • Two tribal infantry without modifiers
  • Two tribal infantry with veteran +1 to discipline
  • two tribal infantry with veteran +1 to discipline, and fierce.

I had

  • One veteran regular infantry, +1 to discipline
  • Two plain ol’ veteran infantry
  • One unit of irregular infantry, militia
  • One unit of veteran militia, +1 to discipline, armed with rifles.  This was a rule change allowing greater range (18″ vs 12″ for smoothbore muskets,) but allowing only half the figures to fire each turn due to slower loading and shooting.

The two sides were divided by a fordable stream, and Dave set up his units in covering terrain.  Another change to the rules is the Indians have only an 8″ shooting range and always fire at long range (this requires all hits to be halved.) Deciding he was too far away and unlikely to coax me into crossing the stream, Dave launched all six of his units at me.

Because shooting is a free move for regular and irregular infantry, it didn’t make much sense to do a lot of moving around.  The first turn of fire was made at long and short range, depending on the unit. My troops did little damage, and successful pin rolls were made all around.

In the second turn, as some units moved close enough to consider attacking at the double-quick, the Indian units mostly failed their activations. But one of the fierce units did not, and hit a regular infantry units.  Dave rolled 24 dice and hit on eight of them.  I rolled ten dice and hit on two.  Bad news. The unit failed its pin roll. I was not shocked.

But my second turn of fire went much better. All my remaining units hit at a greater than 50% rate, and pinned their targets, rendering them unable to move in turn three.

But our fierce friend struck another unit, inflicting another eight casualties against only three losses. Two of the five units in my command were now shattered, and by a single unit. My center was simply remnants, my left was holding and gradually reducing their attackers, and my veteran rifle unit was isolated, pouring fire at two potential attackers, but firing at half strength was not going to cut it forever.

In turn four, the fierce unit dispatched one of its badly wounded prey, while the two left flank units ended the resistance by their opponents. Three Indian units were eliminated.  But on the right flank, one of the units was across the stream, and the other was finally moving into the stream.  Trouble was coming.

In turn five, the fierce unit was fired on as it advanced toward the last remaining regular unit, and reduced to five figures. One of the Indian units in the right flank attack struck the collection of figures assigned to finding the hidden cannon, driving them back, but suffering loss. More losses came with fire from the rifle unit, and they were pinned. But the fresh unit on the far right was lining up the rifles for destruction.

Turn six was the final turn. The fierce unit attacked the American regulars and were finally worn down to nubs.  But the unit on the right hit the rifles and killed half of them at minimal loss. They were driven back and pinned, but failed their pin recovery.  The two American left flank units advanced toward the carnage in the center as the game end. By the end of the game, far more stands were removed than were still in the game.

Our verdict was the game played as intended.  The rules were simple.  Lots of bases were removed.  No real snags in the flow of play.  We didn’t use the officer characteristics rules. One other rule change, was the addition of a leader to each command.  The leader could give a +1 to activation or pin rolls to one unit per turn. This played a minor role int he game.

I’m pronouncing these a success, but I want to play them again soon.

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2013, the Year in Review

London War Room Cuera mounted Spanish militia.  Used on the frontier mainly to fight Comanches and Apaches, they are a large mounted element in my Louisiana project

London War Room Cuera mounted Spanish militia. Used on the frontier mainly to fight Comanches and Apaches, they are a large mounted element in my Louisiana project

It’s been a different year for me.  I tend to be fairly reclusive and hide in my house up on the hill.  Well, that didn’t change, but even so it’s been an interesting year.

My most important measure of the year is always what did I get done vs. what did I buy.  Normally I’m a pretty careful purchaser of lead. In years past I accumulated big piles of lead against future projects.  Bladensburg is an example of this.  I bought four boxes of Victrix figures three years ago, and only just finished almost all of them.  I have more painted Hundred Years War figures than any of other era with about 700 figures painted.  But I have at least that many unpainted. So, as with many of my friends and miniature wargaming colleagues, I’m a figure whore.  I’ve been better over the years.

I have painting goals of 400-600 figures per year.  These get harder to reach every year.  I tend to spend a little less time painting each year.  In years past I’d guess I painted an hour and half a night 320 nights per year. A bit longer on the weekends.  I would guess I’m down to about 250 days of painting per year.  Why?  My work schedule-newspaper deadline nights makes it tougher.  I have more fatigue–I don’t sleep particularly well many nights so I’m just too tired to paint.  Some nights I’ll just plop myself down in a chair and read.  But there are times when I really, really enjoy what I’m painting and I’ll paint until I’m just too tired to go on.  7:00-9:00 p.m. is my painting prime time, but I often am all in by about 8:30. I’ll have the Mariners on, unless I’m really frustrated with them, or the season is over, or be watching something on Netflix and just paint away.

I didn’t keep up with my painting log this year.  Tried, but just fell off the wagon.  My guess, however is that I didn’t meet my goals.  I believe I finished the year with about 350 painted figures.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  One is the fewer hours devoted to painting.  Another is that I only paint 28mm figures now.  No more 15’s, so no more cheapies.  I count a figure as a figure.  No bonuses for mounted figures, no bonus for extra size or extra effort. A tank, a 1/285 airplane, a cannon model, a terrain piece are all equal to a figure. So I fell short of my goal.

I’m going to keep my painting goal for 2014 right at 400.  I’d like to think my painting can be equal to about one figure per day. I fully expect my work will be mostly 28mm figures, but I may reinvigorate my DBA projects and try to at least paint a few of the six or seven armies I have.  Most of all my time will be spent working on my Louisiana Project.  I probably have about 200 or so figures left to paint.  I find them pretty fun to do, and they paint up fairly quickly, even the mounted figures.  However, I don’t have a deadline with them.  They don’t have to be done until they’re done.  It will allow me to drag something else out to work on, whether those are my Irish Civil War figures, some AWI units, my 1/600 ACW ships, or something else. My Enfilade obligations are largely painted, though I still have a bit more fiddling to do for Bladensburg.

Cuera were multi-armed with lance, shield, carbine and pistols.  So burdened, they were often unable to keep up with their more lightly armed enemies.

Cuera were multi-armed with lance, shield, carbine and pistols. So burdened, they were often unable to keep up with their more lightly armed enemies.

Two items I definitely want to work on aren’t particularly wargame related.  A couple years ago I bought the Perry “Death of Gordon” vignette from their Sudan range.  I love the movie Khartoum and admired the G.W. Joy painting the vignette is based on.  It is something a little bit different to work on, and I’m preparing it on my work table now.  The other item I really want to paint is a 54mm Imrie-Risley figure of Abraham Lincoln I’ve had for quite some time. I actually a lot of the “big boys” stowed away for quite some time, and some day I hope to paint them in my dotage.  I’m an admirer of Lincoln.  He is my favorite president, both for his principles and his ability to work within a greater understanding of what was needed to get things done.  Because Lincoln dressed very simply, usually in black, the challenge will be to bring life to the figure.

Something I didn’t do a great job of is managing my buying this year.  I was pretty good until August.  I earned some extra money for my work at J-Camp, and I promptly started spending like a drunken sailor.  Figures for the Louisiana project, the Perry Volunteers of Ireland, some War of 1812 Americans, command figures for the British for Bladensburg, and more I can’t even remember.  My goal is to at least break even with figure purchases-no more figures purchased than painted.  I don’t know if I did that this year.  I purchased some figures for Bladensburg, but many were for sheer spec, and I don’t like to do that.  My purchases should be for “just in time” production purposes and I feel like I failed.

These figures are armed with carbine or escopeta.  These figures are a bit crude, but highly paintable.  I really enjoyed working on them.

These figures are armed with carbine or escopeta. These figures are a bit crude, but highly paintable. I really enjoyed working on them.

I have a couple of New Years resolutions.  The first is to set some painting goals.  I would really like to finish all of my Louisiana figures.  There’s not really a deadline on this.  I’d like to run a game at Enfilade, but honestly I probably already have enough figures to do it now.  Realistically I’d like to have everything done by Drumbeat in September. I have nearly all the figures to do this.  I think I need a few more of the mounted Cuera militia, and a few more foot officers.   I think this also leaves me some time to pick away at some other painting along the way.  I have an AWI unit or two I’d like to paint.  Maybe some of my Irish Civil War figures.  Ships.  Planes.  My dance card is wide open.

My second resolution regards game play.  I don’t do nearly enough.  Mostly it’s my choice, so I am putting my choices out on right now. I want to play at the Game Matrix DBA nights twice per month.  My hope is I can morph that into a bit more than DBA, focusing on DBX gaming.  I’d love to, for example, play Sluys again.  In addition I’d like to commit to playing on the NHMGS game days the third Saturday of the month.  These are absolute musts for a couple of reasons.  First, I need to get off my damned hill and get with my gamer friends.  Don’t know why I’ve been so reclusive.  I also have way too much time and energy invested in my projects to not be playing with my figures.  I know I can do better.  It’s as though I’ve just become a bit of a hermit.

In any case, 2014 is shaping up to be a good year, and I’m looking forward to it.