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Xenophon's Ghost covers military history and wargaming from the ancient period to modern times.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pause Ex

I have not posted for more than a week, so I think a short update is in order.
My family and I have made the move to Seoul, Korea, and we remain focused on house hunting and settling in. I hope to start playing games again, using the foam core counters next week. Until then, best wishes to all from the Land of the Morning Calm.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paper Drill

While hurriedly packing away my miniatures and hobby desk, I recognized an opportunity to test out the DBN wargame rules during our travels: foam core.  We had a scrap of foam core board left over from a craft project, so I created 40x20mm counters.  Being in a rush, I didn't have time to cut the pieces perfectly.  DBN uses different base depths, so the practices pieces won't capture differences in movement, such as recoils, that would take place using properly based miniatures.  Nonetheless, the counters have already let me try out the rules in our hotel room.
The Battlefield, complete with IPad-hosted rulebook
Referring to French and Russian army lists that would work for the 1812 timeframe, I labeled the counters with order of battle symbols and letters to differentiate unit types.  Later, I will label additional counters with units required to make up other armies. (I might resume DBA 3.0 playtesting using the reverse side of the counters.)
Foam Core Board Counters
Force Deployments

I played a solo game to learn the rules, pitting the
Russian deployment (Yellow square is Baggage Train)
Russian as attackers against the French.  For the Russian army, I fielded an army heavy on infantry and artillery.  I formed up the main attack force in a column, planning to advance beyond the woods that line the road before deploying.  Cossacks were positioned on the right flank, and I planned to advance a secondary infantry force on the left.

For the French, the army was a balanced combined arms force that included both light and heavy cavalry and a unit of horse artillery. 

French deployment
I placed half of the French in a defensive line, keeping the other half back as a reserve.  I tried to position artillery to support clear fields of fire.  A Legere unit in open order (LI element) anchored the force on a difficult hill.

Game Results

I played through six turns.  DBN has a few rules that ensure the game gets moving, to include compulsory advances by the attacker, the option to conduct successive tactical moves when you have enough command points, and extra command points for the attacker's first turn.  In any case, the Russians rolled a 6 in the first round, so I had plenty of options.  

Birds Eye View after deployment (The shopping bag marks the battlefield edge)
I learned an important lesson during the first two turns, realizing that I bungled the order of Russian units in the main column.  I would need to use multiple turns to get the infantry, in front of the column, out of the way of the artillery once the units cleared the woods.  Meanwhile, the infantry would be under fire from the French artillery.
Turn Four - Russian infantry trying to give the artillery some room
I advanced Horse Artillery forward to ensure a clear field of fire.  By the third turn, I was able to fire on the Russians with both the Horse and Heavy Foot artillery elements, resulting in several unit recoils.  The Russians have an unusual resilience to artillery fire (the "Stoic" characteristic), so the dice had to break in the French's favor even for a recoil result. Given the massive casualties endured at Borodino, for instance, the "Stoic" advantage adds a touch of realism to the game.

I played through six turns, ending with two Russian Cossack units flanking the French position.  The French Light Cavalry advanced to protect an artillery unit from the Cossacks; it was outfought and destroyed.  
Cossacks overwhelm French Light Infantry
Overall, the DBN rules were very easy to learn.  I did ask for feedback from Yahoo Group members on the firing mechanic (I was performing it correctly) and clarification on Light Infantry unit rules.  Once we arrive in Korea and settle in, my son and I will be playing some more foam core DBN.

I'm signing off for a few days.  We depart the USA tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Russians and Prussians

I'm finishing off the element reuse analysis with a look at the Russian and Prussian armies.
Russians and Prussians attack at the Battle of LeipzigAuthor: Andrei nacu at en.wikipedia, February 2008, public domain image
Alexander's soldiers
For the Russians, I compared two DBN Army lists, 1800-1806 and 1813-1815, to a Lasalle infantry division supported by light cavalry for the Conquest and Liberation periods respectively.  The first DBN list requires a total of 22 elements and the second list requires 25.

Prussian Blues
With a last name of Frederick, I've always had a soft spot for the Prussians.  It's unfortunate that they fared so poorly early in the Napoleonic War.   I compared the DBN 1794-1806 list to a Lasalle infantry division supported by Saxon infantry for the Conquest period.  I also compared the DBN 1813-14 list to a Lasalle infantry division supported by an infantry Abteilung brigade for the Liberation period (the Saxons were apparently distracted by 1813).  The first Prussian list requires 34 elements and the second list requires 28.

Reuse Recap

Fielding the early Russian army would be an efficient way to start my Napoleonic wargaming.  The DBN list only requires 22 elements, and I could reuse all but three elements for Lasalle later.  Of all the comparisons made, this force supports the highest level of element reuse.  The DBN Austrian and later Prussian lists tie for second, with only four elements left behind when playing Lasalle.  The early Prussian force has the worst reuse level, followed closely by the British Peninsular Army List.

Will my painting laziness push me toward a Russian and French combination for my first effort?  When I first considered Napoleonics, I was leaning toward the Peninsular theater due to my reading of the Sharpe novel series.  I switched to Austrians and French once I bought the Lasalle rules due to the appeal of the Austrian Avante Garde Division.  Now, I'm not so sure.  My current reading might also be influencing me.  I'm thoroughly enjoying Russia against Napoleon by Dominic Lieven.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Peninsular Recycling

Let's continue to look at miniature element stand reuse for DBN and Lasalle, focusing today on the Peninsular War.
Battle of Salamanca
Illustration von J. Clarke, Koloriert von M. Dubourg, 1812, {PD-1923}
DBN Peninsular Armies

DBN provides army lists for the French and British forces on the Iberian Peninsula as well as a special list for the British Light Division.  For the reuse analysis, I am comparing all options for an army list to a basic Lasalle force with the exception of the British Light Division. In this case, I selected enough elements to field the Light Division as I would in a game. The French Army list requires 26 elements, the British Division 30, and the Light Division 16 (as I have fielded it).

Lasalle Peninsular Forces

For the comparison, I used a French Infantry Division supported by Lt Cavalry in the Peninsular period.  The Lasalle British lists include an Infantry Division and a Light Division.  I used a Portuguese infantry brigade as the supporting force for both comparisons.

Reuse Levels

As you can see, most DBN elements for the French can be used in Lasalle.  The same isn't true for the British because DBN uses a number of unique irregular forces for the Peninsular armies.

Will this discourage me from tackling the Peninsular campaign for my first Napoleonic armies?  Or will the play value of the DBN irregular forces make up for the extra work?  Some testing might be in order...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Military Estimates

My recent 10mm painting session led to a recalculation of painting time for my planned Napoleonic collection.  The newest data indicates that I will be able to make progress much faster.  I completed the second batch of 10mm figures at the rate of 55 minutes per base or stand, much faster than the original test results of 93 minutes.

 15mm in the front, 10mm in the rear
(Please ignore the prehistoric-sized flora in the background)

Using the same assumptions as the original analysis, I calculated paint time for DBN and Lasalle Forces.  (See the "Battle of the Scales" post for more information.)

DBN and Lasalle Paint Times
The DBN armies are the French 1805-1812/1815 list and the Austrian 1801-1808 list with all options.  The French Lasalle Force is an infantry division and supporting curaissier brigade.  The Austrian force is an Avante Garde Division supported by an infantry brigade.  The time saved approaches 50 percent.  It was interesting to see how much faster I can start playing DBN compared to Lasalle.

Army Creep

If Napoleonic miniatures are as addictive as Ancients, I won't stop at two armies.  I recalculated my "weeks to complete" analysis for multiple Lasalle forces, estimating five hours of hobby time a week.

The new estimates are motivating.  I should have enough figures painted to play DBN in 11 weeks and Lasalle in 25.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10mm French Elite

I finished up the 10mm Old Glory French Elite Company figures, practicing my 10mm paint skills and evaluating the efficiency gained in painting larger batches.  For my time comparison test, I painted enough figures for a single double row-based bases for both 10mm and 15mm scales.  As expected, paint time was much faster per base when working on a larger batch.  There is probably a learning curve factor at work, too.

I painted three bases as French grenadiers and one base as voltigeurs.  I will use the grenadiers as elite infantry for DBN, and all five bases (counting the base from the original paint test) will also serve as companies in five Lasalle infantry units.  The figure strips were mounted on craft sticks, and I  generally repeated the same paint stroke on all figures on a stick at one time.

I modified my painting approach slightly for this batch, aiming to speed up the process without sacrificing the quality of the work too much.

Thinning the Paint

I primarily use FolkArt acrylic craft paint.  For my 15mm figure painting, I often use the paint directly from the containers without thinning.  I noticed that this was not working as well for 10mm.  I either ended up with too much paint on the brush or needed to reload constantly.  I thinned out the paints for the large areas, such as the coats, boots, and shakos.  It made a big difference in the ease of painting and time.  If you thin too much, though, you are in trouble.

Sloppy to Neat

On my first 10mm painting attempt, I was very careful to not stray out of an area with the paint.  This time, I didn't worry as much about  collateral damage with the initial colors, particularly the jacket and boots.  I painted fairly quickly, and I cleaned up a few mistakes later.


I did take the time to shade and highlight the face, coat front, and pants more.  I'm not sure that it made a big difference in the end.  You certainly cannot notice from a distance of more than 12 inches!

Hat Trick

For my first painting attempt, the shako braiding and edging took a lot of time.  I tried a different approach, pulling out a Number 4 flat brush (That's right, a Number 4!).  For the shako top edge, I loaded up the brush and lightly pressed it to the top of the hat at a 45 degree angle.  Voila - instant edging!  This technique worked well except near the plume.  I also tried to use the Number 4 for the braiding and details on the front of the shako.  This didn't work as well.  Next time, I plan to try dry brushing the details.

Fast Results

I expected to paint faster when working a large number of figures, but I was surprised at the efficiency game.  The total paint time for 40 figures (eight strips of five) was 3 hours and 40 minutes, including the final wash.  I completed the work in five sessions.  The paint time for a single base is 55 minutes, compared to 93 minutes for my first test.

I also timed the basing time.  I kept the basing simple because I was working on a tight schedule due to our move, and I had already shipped much of my hobby supplies.  I used small grey model railroad ballast for the basing, covered in a Vallejo Earth paint wash.  I finished the bases with Woodland Scenics burnt grass sprinkled over Elmer's Glue.  Total basing time was 15 minutes in two sessions.

I'll work out the paint time for a couple of Lasalle armies, comparing to my original analysis in a future post.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recruiting an Army Efficiently

Because I'm planning to paint Napoleonic figures for use in both DBN and Lasalle, I analyzed the figure requirements for the two rulesets, aiming to build up two armies efficiently.  DBN is a corps-scale game, so it includes a greater variety of units than is necessary for a basic Lasalle force.  I evaluated the forces of several major armies to determine the level of reuse of element stands.  (A stand is a base with miniatures mounted on it.)

The analyses compared Lasalle divisions with one supporting brigade to a DBN army list with all options.

Basing Options

DBN uses 40mm wide bases for its elements.  Fortunately, Lasalle also recommends a base width of 40mm.  Lasalle is flexible on the specific basing depth, so I will be able to base figures that work for both games.

Infantry Figures

Line infantry elements are completely reusable for the two games.  DBN bases some light infantry units, such as Legere, differently in terms of figure count. Lasalle treats Legere units the same as other line infantry.  I chose to use the light infantry elements as line infantry since the figures are in a regular pattern.

Other DBN elements, such as Jagers and Guerrillas, are not as easy to reuse for Lasalle.


Most DBN army lists include both heavy and light cavalry.  In building up an initial Lasalle force, I will need to choose between heavy or light for the supporting brigade, so I won't be able to reuse all cavalry figures.  As my collection grows, though, I can use the remaining elements in other Lasalle brigades.  DBN has a unique cavalry element, known as skirmishing cavalry, that will not be reused.


DBN uses heavy foot and horse artillery.  Many Lasalle forces use medium artillery and howitzers, so the reuse level for artillery might be lower for many armies.

French Attack the Austrians

Before deciding to switch to 10mm scale, I was working on a French Infantry Division and Austrian Avante Garde Division as my first Lasalle forces.  I'm not sure if I'll stick with these armies as the first part of my collection now.  In any case, let's look at the reuse level of DBN elements for a Lasalle French Infantry Division supported by Lt Cavalry Bde and an Austrian Infantry Division supported by the same.

To field a DBN French Army for the 1805-1812/1815 period, I will need 30 element stands.  I will be able to reuse all but nine of the stands for my initial Lasalle force playing in the Conquest period.  For the Austrians, the DBN army requires 28 elements; I can reuse all but eight elements for a Conquest period Lasalle force.

 Avante Garde

The Avante Garde division in Lasalle is a awesome combined arms force.  Comments on the Honour forum (www.sammustafa.com) indicate that it is a fun division to play, too.  I compared the DBN Austrian 1801-1808 army list to an Avante Garde division supported by a Grenadier Brigade, playing in the Conquest period of Lasalle.

The reuse of DBN elements for Lasalle is very high.  Only four elements cannot be used in the initial Lasalle force.  Of course, the total number of element stands needed to play this force in Lasalle is much higher: 70 stands.  The 24 reusable elements from DBN will make a dent in the painting, but I'll still have some work ahead of me if I field an Avante Garde Division.

I'll compare other forces in future postings. In the last days before our move, I was able to complete additional 10mm figures and run another time test, using a larger batch of figs.  I'll share the painting results soon.

Happy to have electrical power in Md,