Friday, August 26, 2011

"You're a Good Shooter"

"With Practice, You Could Be Great"

That is quite a compliment coming from Chuck.   He does not give them out that easily.

In the very small world of legal Chicago pistol shooting and training the name Chuck is well enough known not to need any other introduction.

And likewise Chuck knows the name Haggerty who was my instructor, and can go on at length as to his style and the problems under which  he operated.

I just had to requalify because one of my shooting cards is coming up for renewal, on a worknight after a worknight, coming off the midnight shift, and the range where Chuck operates is at 142nd and Western, over forty miles from where I live. Through heavy traffic from the Northwest suburbs to the South Side.

At five pm on a Friday evening. That's commonly called "Rush Hour," which is kind of a quaint phrase from some time back in the twenties when some of the other hours must not have also been  rush hour, but it is still the worst hour for traffic, that and the other one right after it, which I was just in.

So I did 81 miles of that plus fired on the range, and absorbed useful pointers about trigger pull, sight picture, when to not shoot, two-handed grip, up to the butt--yes there is one--and talked intelligently about how pistol training was done back in the day, and got back in time to get ready for work in two hours and 45 minutes, and still haven't calculated as to whether that could be mathematically legal or not.  I think it is mathematically possible.

Unless you take out nine minutes for the Mickey Dees at the Hinsdale Oasis on the Tri-State. These roads are famously shown in the movie The Blues Brothers, and I think they even stopped at that Oasis.

With all these millions of people driving around, I still can't get over that I found the one guy who can still talk knowledgably about the legendary Haggerty. That class  must have been twenty years ago, as I look back now on what must have happened which year and because of what.

I still remember Haggerty had a reloading station set up in his living room so he could watch TV while he did reloads.

I got a 95, and my glasses are several years past their prescription date. One round went two inches to the right of the target's chest, and would have probably got his arm anyway.

That's nothing, one time in the army I had broken glasses, so broken that there was no lens on my usual right-handed shooting eye side, and I had to make do with only a left lens, while the right side swung free in the open air. But unfortunately for me, the left side had no crossbar from the frame to the left ear, so I had to attach a suitable twig off the ground with a piece of duct tape. That is Double Broke.

That was using an M-16A1 which would drop hot brass down your shirt front left-handed, without a left-handed brass deflector, and being right-handed most of the time I didn't think to get one, so that did happen a couple times. Still, I am proud that I shot Expert under those conditions, left-handed. They really should lower the price of glasses for us poor folks so we can get them more often.

Anyway I have noticed I seem to shoot at billiards better left-handed too. It's a useful skill sometimes.

What I shot tonight was a Smith and Wesson Model 67 .38 Special, which is a six-shot double-action revolver, I think a J-frame, and a four -inch barrel, which might have been a bull barrel but I didn't really look that closely.  Don't even ask what was in the rounds, it was whatever Chuck provided.

If I get new glasses too then look out. I gone tink abou getting some.

*                                *                                *

Monday, August 15, 2011

More on Scale-Changing for Leipzig: Empire, Napoleon's Battles, DBA

Empire, the Grand Tactical game
Empire by Scott Bowden was the Grand Tactical Napoleonic game popular in the 80's with 1 figure = 60 men, and 1 gun = 2 guns.

So battalions could be 6, 8, 10, 12, maybe up to 18 at most figures, and batteries each needed 3, 4, or 6 models.

So to do Leipzig with that you'd need almost 1,100 cannon and howitzer models on the table, and about 8,300 figures, not counting thousands of gunners necessarily in that total.

There have been several iterations of Empire, besides derivatives, and the current version is called Revolution and Empire. There are still people playing it, including more or less as written.

Please click here and look at this guys photos, they show us what 12,000 painted Napoleonic figures looks like all in rows. It's pretty awesome but a lot of painting. This has been in my blogroll for several months but I don't think I ever called attention to it. Amazing work.

Reaction Against Empire
Then the community reacted against Empire, after maybe ten years of its ascendancy in the eighties, on the grounds it's too fiddly, time-consuming, trying too hard to be a simulation versus a game, and gives too many +2 to the French even though it's +1 to the British, etc.

Plus people didn't like being stuck with the generals named and shamed as incompetent as they were many times. And also, Empire had the nerve to have the figures in a line stand only one rank of figures deep, instead of two, even though there were still deeper formations for the column anyway. There are still people overreacting against that.

Me, I just didn't like the percentile dice, that's all, even though they probably are better. It could have been a little simpler and been all right. Actually it isn't really that difficult anyway, to me. But it still needs too many guns, at the 1:2 ratio.Who has 1,000 limbers painted up?

The Vocal Community's Solutions

So the solution of the community, and it may really only be a very vocal minority, is to reject all that and go to big battalions of at least 48 figs, which would point to 1:10 men, or 12, even though they often use one gun, with or without limber, as a battery.

The trend is to much simpler and quicker games, which may be further back towards game from simulation on the continuum.

But not only can they not do Leipzig, but they can't even do one tenth of Leipzig either, with rules like that. They could do Bunker Hill, but not Leipzig.

The result is Leipzig would require only 300 model guns, if at 8, but also 41,666 or some odd figures, if at 12. Distance who knows but few have that many tables nor could reach across it, yet this battle is only two or three times the size of Waterloo really.

The Obvious Solution
The obvious solution is to change the scale.

Even with all this having been said, there always have been a minority who saw these problems ahead of time and so we find in Charles Grant the Elder's The War Game, around 1972 or '73, a mention of a figure:troop ratio of 1:100 as a possibility, that some were using.

And in Ned Zuparko's Vive l'Empereur, again 1:100. That was 1982.

When Avalon Hill joined the trend set by GDW System 7 for board wargame companies to have a Napoleonic cardboard/miniatures hybrid system, their Napoleon's Battles went with 1:120 men, but still compromised to the two figure ranks deep line, saying that it was for a satisfactory appearance of depth, just for the visual aspect, while acknowledging it is a great distortion of depth at least for a line.

Napoleon's Battles had a far superior graphic presentation over any miniatures rules and most boardgames too for that matter, as they were in a position to produce top-end components. These are the same company who did Squad Leader.

Then there is DBA, De Bellis Antiquitatis, which divided an army into 12 parts, and called them elements, and covered many thousands of years' history with one coherent system, Barkerese notwithstanding.

If the French army of let's say 180,000 at Leipzig were in 12 roughly comparable parts they'd need to be around 15,000 men each, and if so then each element would need to be a corps d'armee.

And if 360,000 Allies had to only be in 12 elements, theirs would have to be around 30,000 men each.

So the one silliness is to force every army of all history into a 12-part mold, no matter what, and count the commander as one of them--but then they define one element as being what, 300 paces across? That means all of them in one line would be 9000 feet, 3000 yards, no matter what, and thus would make a French Napoleonic army no more than 13500 men, and that's all you get. Then ranges and moves and time and all else scaled accordingly.

So it's double silly, yet popular and fulfills a need in the community.

To me it is a challenge to make something sort of like that, but more like the idea of the dream of what the potential of DBA seems like the first time you look at page one and start to realize what they are doing, but before you completely figure out what they are doing, which pretty much spoils it.

The obvious solution is to change the scale.

Boardgamers Don't Ever Deal With This they don't need to
Boardgame companies think nothing of adjusting the scale drastically from each publication to the next, they have gladiator fights and they have all of World War One, and Two, and Three, all on the same physical size of maps, plus many with more than one map to adjust the scale as needed. They have one ship on one ship duels and they have all of outer space in the future Galacticas and all that.

So the miniatures community seems kind of hidebound and overly conservative and even to the point of being "reactionary," the way it looks to me. Except in World War Two miniatures, so there I see a glimpse of light.

In the period of World War Two, even though there are many skirmish-level games and small-unit games, there are also a healthy range of games at what they call the Operational level, which is the one above Grand Tactical, but below Strategic.

Thee are games where  one stand is a squad, or a platoon, or a company--and there are several games out where 1 stand is a whole battalion or in one case a Regiment/Brigade.

Horse and Musket Does Think About It Sometimes
There are also Snappy Nappy, and One Brain Cell games, and that is for both Napoleonic and Seven Years' War, that do put some thought into this level. I know what people say about the names, but these are closer to what I am looking for.

Attention Deficit Disorder?
So headed in this direction, now I am busy thinking about how to convert some of the WW2 operational miniature games to the Korean War, so again the ADD strikes again, but I think there is a connecting thread.

                               *                    *                         *

Friday, August 12, 2011

Maybe I Won't Do Leipzig First After All

Leipzig Needs 500,000 Men and  Well Over 2,000 Cannon
Having second thoughts about the advisability of actually trying to do the great Battle of Nations as the first Napoleonic battle for the budding 1/72 plastic Napoleonic collection, but it still may be the best way to have started thinking anyway. Having the British Horse Artillery, British Infantry, and British Light Cavalry at the outset could easily have sent me down the path to the Peninsula so commonly seen in English, and diverted me away from the big continental campaigns. Still might anyway, but there is some balance.

Everything else must needs be smaller and easier, than Leipzig. I have small armies shaping up for the British, Austrians, Russians, Prussians, French, and ready to add some of their friends once the great powers are all represented. As it stands so far I would have to have something like a ratio of 1250 men per figure or some such ratio to make a small collection serve for Leipzig. That part is okay, but what about all that artillery? That's what makes it crazy to do this one first. It's like someone planning their first job out of school to be winning the big lottery. Not really an entirely bad idea.

Not really opposed to that ratio on the face of it,  but in this scale and actually even in 2mm or any other scale, the proportions of the figures' bases greatly exaggerate the frontage and depth most especially for artillery and cavalry. This same issue continues even at much lower ratios.

Most wargames I have seen vastly exaggerate the actual size of a square and always have done so. These squares are not as big as your kitchen inside many times;  it is necessary to do some mathematics to figure it out. It has often been depicted with the same figures from the line arranged in a square, but that makes the square way too big. It should be very tight and compact, only a small number of horses even could make contact if they would, notwithstanding the fact that they wouldn't anyway except by accident.

There are some maps in the Adkin book, The Waterloo Companion, which is a large coffee-table size of book, and in these maps the ground scale is only one millimeter different from the tabletop ground scale I had arrived at for doing Leipzig on my table, at least if it was the dining room table. Placing actual 1/72 figures on the map right in the open book itself then gives an approximation of what should fit, because it did fit in reality. But the depth  of the bases of the figures makes them not fit the actual formations.  The worst is the reserve formation of the Imperial Guard standing in the French rear in a very tight formation in closed columns close together.

They would be quite vulnerable to artillery, but luckily for the French they were using the reverse slope.

Of course Waterloo is a very small field for having 200,000 men jammed in, only 5500 meters side to side, so the British for example used mostly column or square with few lines formed, and even then not so much their famous two-rank line, but the four rank line. That means most of the well-worn stereotypes are in fact false impressions.

Wellington thought when he arrived that he would use the same reverse slope (in reverse) as the French ended up using on the 18th, but no, his assistant had selected the next one north.

So we have the French using that reverse slope. The British deployed in column. If in line it is a four rank line, while the French still have the thinner three rank line, should they deign to use it. And we even have the French attacking in square, not even allowed in many rules but there it is in reality.

Many of the most influential pioneers in English-language miniature gaming and indeed in figure-making too were oriented towards the most popular aspects in their own country of these wars, so thus the Waterloo figures were mainly for the painting of the Scots Highland square receiving the French Cuirassiers, plus Mercer's horse artillery on the side, but there was a lot more to the 25-year period of constant warfare than just that scene.

For example Mercer was really next to the Brunswickers wasn't he? I remember that I did paint some of my French in black to make Brunswickers, but today there are more than one dedicated set for that purpose, so you don't need to use the French any more just because they have shakos.

The Prices are Too High
So back then when I was in my formative years we had no choice but to raise vast armies of the same few sets and use paint and what not to differentiate and make anything else. Today there are a vast number of different sets available and the price is much higher, even taking account of inflation they cost a lot more than they used to cost, in the seventies.

It was 69 cents, and then due to inflation even then they raised it to 89 cents a box, when I was starting my collection. Now they range around 10-14-even 20 dollars a box and that is far in excess of inflation.

It is more than just that. Certainly I wish my income had increased by that proportion. Do the math and it is shocking, these plastic figures are now a dollar and more each depending on how you do it, at least if the man sits on a horse. And there has been no improvement at all in those Airfix Cuirassiers who still can't hold together at all, as bad as they ever were in that regard.

Here is What is Good About It
On the other hand, even if it is money-grubbing on their part four or five times and more above  inflation, all that money in their hands does give them the motivation to vastly increase the ranges from the choices there were in the past. So now there are a couple hundred different Napoleonic sets, instead of five or six.

But this means one has to be selective and not try to get one or more of each type all the way down the line, as that would now require thousands of dollars as well as take many months to catch up with the painting.

Underground Music Award
Teri aka Lyric thanks anyone who helped with the voting for her Underground Music Award nomination for Song of the Year 2011. The voting has now closed; it had to be before midnight last night of the 11th. Now they will use the next ten days to figure out what they are going to do, and then on the 21st of August in the Bronx they will have their awards ceremonies and announce who won.

The Bronx is one of the boroughs of New York City. So in about ten days we will see the results.

Banquet Tables
I have two matching folding banquet tables with wheels, quite convenient for a temporary and mobile wargame setup. They are each five feet by 28 inches, so side by side they give a few inches short of five feet square. There is also a roughly comparable wooden table that could be next to those, without even diverting the dining table. If I were to use all four at once, it would allow the Leipzig rules to be like the Waterloo rules as far as scales are concerned, but would certainly dominate my wargame room for as long as it stayed set up. It would perhaps allow ten inch miles instead of three or four inches, for the scale.