Monday, January 24, 2022

Woodscrew Armies Campaign - Debrief

The Second Sino-Union War having concluded with a hard fought and dearly bought Union victory, I thought here that I would make some comments on the running of the campaign, the rule set used, and some of the decision-making. One thing that might be worth mentioning, though, is that had the copy of 'Trebian's' Taiping Era arrived before the campaign was fairly begun, that would have been the basis of the battles.  

Battle of Yangzigu

I think it appropriate here to paste in the comment of the originator of the Woodscrew Miniature Armies blog and its world, and some of my thoughts in reply.  My discussion of firepower, factors and numbers didn't really complete the ideas I had of running 'paper battles'.  

Tony Adams sent -

Yet another great battle report and at last, a final Union victory !!!!! This whole campaign has not gone the way I expected but that demonstrates clearly how one sided my view of the Union has been till now. There is much for me to digest before I write the next chapter of the history of Tian although I know for sure that the Union will not take comfort from this victory, it came far too close to defeat for that to happen. Thank you very much for wargaming my Imagi-Nations, I am honoured you felt them worthy. Regards.

Battle of 'Weshall Pass'.

My reply:

Hi Tony -

Did you feel a sense of relief at the final outcome? I have no doubt so did the good burghers of Denver and hinterland - even the editor of the 'Denver Discourse'! Tenth Army will return home as heroes; its commanders, especially Jackson and Bidwell, as leaders of heroes. And heroes are heroic according to the quality of their adversaries.

But this campaign narrative I wanted to take an occasional glimpse across to the 'other side of the hill'. I began quite early to see T'ai Kun Wu as tough and determined - a man of moral strength, and fiercely loyal to his master, the Emperor. Such a one was capable after three heavy defeats, and in the face of such awesome firepower, to mount a strategic offensive and come within an ace of winning the campaign, or at least 'squaring the honours'. I do not believe the campaign was quite as one-sided as it might at first reading appear. Clearly YOU didn't think so! One major defeat to Tenth Army would have ended the campaign pretty much forthwith.

You don't war game as such, but you might consider 'randomising' the battles in some way - what I call 'paper battles'. One possibility is to assign a 'firepower factor' for battalions and support weapons:
S/B muskets FP=1
M/L rifles FP=2
B/L rifles FP= 4
Magazine rifles FP=7 (say)
Machine gun units FP=6
Flying and light artillery FP=4 (S/B) or 6 (Rifled)
Heavy Artillery FP=6 (S/B) or 8 (Rifled)

A Union brigade of 6 battalions, MG company and light artillery
would have a FP factor of 6 x 7 + 7 + 6 = 55.
A Chinese Regular unit, 6 'battalions' with M/L rifles and no support weapons, would have had a FP factor of just 6 x 2 = 12. These numbers are fairly arbitrary, arrived more by quesswork than anything else.

But on this basis, then, the Union Tenth Army, less 40 Brigade, would have had an overall FP factor of 237; the Chinese Army a total FP factor of 170. Quite a difference, but the disparity in actual numbers - at least 3 to 1 - would have in fact reversed the disparity of force.

Now, these numbers are pretty arbitrary. But a little bit of Mathematics (based on Lanchester's Theory of Battles) suggests that even with such an enormous disparity in 'unit' firepower, the Tenth Army could not possibly have handled the Chinese Army all at once. Some very rough calculations indicate that Tenth Army could take on - at equal terms - a Chinese Army (per this campaign!) about double its numbers.

Well, that it had to do, at Camp Supply, and look how close that was!

Now that the Second Sino-Union fighting war is over, no doubt the diplomats will be settling the peace. Thank you for allowing me to carry on the fighting part of this campaign. Something different, and I'll be following the 'future history' of Tian with great interest.


Archduke Piccolo 

Brig. Bidwell's delaying action

The Woodscrew Campaign Battles Rule set

This was hastily cobbled together, and much simplified, from my own 'Old School' Bluebellies and Graybacks ACW game set.  I had to add in factors for magazine rifles and carbines, for breech-loading rifled artillery, and for machine guns.  Not having any Maxims, I used Gardner/ Nordenfeldt models.

1. Movement:
1.1 Artillery:

  • Flying (Horse) and Machine Guns: 9" (22.5cm)
  • Light and Heavy: 6" (15cm)
  • Manhandled (except heavy): 2" (5cm)
1.2 Cavalry:

  • Line: 6" (15cm)
  • Column of squadrons: 9" (22.5cm)
  • Route Column: 12"

1.3 Infantry:

  • Line: 4" (10cm)
  • Assault Column: 6" (15cm)
  • Route Column: 8" (20cm)
Battle of Liaoyang

2 Shooting:
2.1 Artillery:

Ranges: 0-4" ....... 4+-8" ........ 8+-12" ...... 12+-16" ... 16+-20" .... 20+-24"

              0-10cm . 10+-20cm . 20+-30cm . 30+40cm . 40+-50cm . 50+-60cm

S/Bore   DR=6..... DR=5 ........DR=3......... DR=2....... DR=2 .........N/A

Flying    DR=5.....DR=4 .........DR=3 .........DR=3....... DR=3 .........N/A
Lt Rifle  DR=5.....DR=4 .........DR=3 .........DR=3........DR=3 .........N/A
Hv Rifle DR=5.....DR=5.........DR=4 .........DR=3........DR=3 ..........DR=3

2.2 Other shooting:

Weapon.......Volley Group ...... Ranges: 0-4"(0-10cm)... 4+-8"(10+-20cm)... 8+12"(20+-30cm)
S/B musket          6 figures                     DR=4                N/A                          N/A
M/L rifle              6                                 DR=4                DR=3                       N/A
B/L rifle               4                                 DR=4                DR=3                       N/A
Magazine rifle     4                                 DR=5                DR=4                       N/A
Mag. Carbine       4                                 DR=5               DR=4 (up to 6"/15cm only)
Machine gun        1 model                      DR=5               DR=4                       DR=3
Wagons/Train      1 model                      DR=2                DR=2 (unless armed with S/B musket)

Die Range = the maximum die score that is counted.  See 4. Method.

Fractions of volley group take the appropriate fraction of hit scores within Die Range.

2.3: Halve 'hits' for targets that are fortified, or in cover.  For heavy fortifications, reduce the Die Range by one, before halving hits.
2.4: Halve 'hits' (again) for targets that are 'dispersed': skirmishers, artillery, routers.

Battle of the Turnoff Road

3. Close Combat:
Infantry:  Regulars: Volley Group = 4 figures
                Conscripts and irregulars: VG = 6
Cavalry: Regulars: VG=3
              Conscripts and irregulars: VG = 5.
Artillery, Machine Guns, Wagons: VG=1 model

Halve 'hits' when attacking fortifications or buildings.
Halve 'hits' if skirmishers or artillery in close combat.

4. Method:
1. In all small arms fire and close combat, roll 1D6 per volley group.
2. For each die rolled, all scores equal to or below the 'Die range' (DR) count towards 'hits' on a given target. Higher scores are ignored.  
3. Total up all hits on a given target.  
4. Divide this total into groups of eight plus a further group of any remainder
5. For each 'group' roll that number of dice (8, or the remainder).
6. For each group reduce duplicates to one die.
7. For each group, the number of dice remaining (i.e. each distinct score) counts as a casualty on the target.  Note that for groups of 7 or 8 'hit' dice, there will always be duplicates.
8. Remove casualties. (Yes, I am THAT 'old school'!)

Battle of 'Camp Supply'

5. Morale:
Cavalry and Infantry units are 'in hand' whilst still retaining at least 50% of the strength it had at the beginning of the battle. Once reduced to below 50%, the unit retreats in rout. This does not apply to MGs or Artillery.

Once an army has been reduced to below 50% of its original strength during the course of a battle, it must retreat, having been defeated.  If both armies become so reduced in the same turn, then both must retreat.  If, the enemy having been defeated already, an army's strength falls below 50%, this army need not retreat, but halts all advances against the enemy.

Battle of 'Camp Supply'

6. Campaign:
6.1.Battle Losses:

All battle losses are regarded as killed, wounded, missing, or otherwise no longer 'with the colours'.  At the end of a campaign battle those losses are divided into sixths:

3/6 (one half) are killed or wounded - a permanent loss to the army
1/6 (one sixth) are 'stragglers', which return to the colours post battle if the army wins the battle; or are POWs if the army loses.  They are part of the 'casualty count' only if the army lost the battle
2/6 (one third) are 'stragglers' who, for any number of reasons, left the colours during the course of a battle.  These return to the army's strength (win or lose) after the battle.

Battle of Xiaozheng Creek

6.2 Campaign outcome:
The War was to conclude when one or both armies fell below 50% of the numbers with which they began. The Union did receive reinforcements after the first few battles - roughly 40% of their original strength. This was assessed after the final adjustments of battle losses for stragglers etc. Added together, the establishments of Tenth Army, minus 40th Brigade, but reinforced by understrength 17th and 19th Brigades came to about 181 figures (slightly more than 30,000 troops altogether according to the scale I had set: 3 figures to 500 men). The Chinese army overall began with  434 figures - a little over 72,000, all up.

After the Battle of Camp Supply, the Chinese army had fallen to just below 50%; the Union almost, but not quite, reaching the same situation.  Had the Union lost, or even merely tied the battle, Tenth Army would have been forced to retreat, as indeed would the Chinese.  There was just a handful of figures in it, one way or the other. However, given the result, it seemed to me reasonable to fight one last battle, with the Union attacking, and the Chinese army, its morale shaken, unable or unwilling to mount counter-attacks other than to recover lost ground. That completed a successful campaign for the Union.

* * *
This rule set was intended to offer very fast play, even with a lot of figures on the table. No doubt it could be improved with refinements, and they did favour the Union quite a bit, but I felt that that was only to be expected, given constraints upon the equipment available to the Chinese. As it was I had to persuade Tony to allow the Chinese some cavalry, however slender the numbers, basic their training and rudimentary their weapons. 

For most of the battles, the Chinese actions and reactions were 'programmed', pretty much. 

In my response, I suggested to Tony that he might want to 'randomise' his battles slightly. I made a start, but as this posting is already sufficiently long, I'll leave it for another occasion.


  1. A very interesting campaign Archduke, not least for using another person's Imagi-Nations. Thanks for sharing your rules too.

    1. Cheers, Maudlin Jack -
      I quite enjoyed that wee project - and I appreciated Tony's OK to go ahead with it. Some - most - of the strategic decisions made by the Union side were his. That added interest to the proceeding. I thought it reasonable to share the rule set to show how the battles were conducted. There wasn't a lot of chrome with this set!
      Archduke Piccolo

  2. Hi...Well that sounds very interesting even if I really do not understand most of it !!!!! As you know I only fight wars in my head rather than on a table with rules so I have no experience of wargaming as you conduct it. However this is fascinating stuff for sure and the whole experience has given me a lot to think about going forward. I am drafting the next chapter of my Imagi-Nations now which will fully reflect the campaign which you fought so well. Thanks again. Regards.

    1. No worries, Tony -
      Thanks for the experience, and I hope you found it at least entertaining, if not especially informative. What I enjoyed about the whole exercise, was that the issue was in doubt right up to the penultimate battle; and I didn't expect the last would be such a disaster for the Chinese (though I played it pretty cautiously on the Union side; and the Chinese were constrained in how they fought that battle).

      Maybe in the future, if ever you want a change from you usual method of resolving battles, you might think of me. I'm not sure I'd want to 'do' another whole Tian campaign, though!

      Archduke Piccolo

  3. The blending of two gamers, using their strengths has lead to a fascinating campaign which I personally enjoyed reading. Here's to the next one?

    1. Hi pamncerni -
      I don't know that I'm in any hurry to 'do' a second Tian world campaign - and I have an idea Tony prefers on the whole his own 'modus operandi'. It was fun to do, and I hope entertaining, but for me it was very much a sideline, as may be inferred from the proxy 'Chinese' Army!

      However, I will be doing other campaigns from my own worlds. At least three, 'paused' now for a considerable time, need to be revived and rounded off. And I have an idea, inspired by Mark Cordone's 'Fall of Rome' campaign, do do an elaborate 'Siege of Constantinople' campaign involving three 'barbarian' enemies of Byzantium - and as I have zillions of Byzantines, possibly a revolt into the bargain - a certain Yevgenes Apostas possibly leading it.

      Wars, and rumours of wars...
      Archduke Piccolo

  4. Archduke Piccolo,

    A very helpful debrief after a great series of battle and campaign reports. I look forward to reading your take on Mark Cordone’s campaign.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      The 'debrief' seemed to be called for. Thanks for your comments during the campaign.

      As for my 'take' on Mark Cordone's campaign concept, I'm beginning to think I might have run away with myself a bit there. Mind you, if it means at last painting up some figures that have never seen a lick of paint since their purchase 20 -25 years ago, that can not be a bad thing.

      If it does turn into a concentric campaign, I might add a fourth enemy - a certain pretender to the Purple, one Yevgenes Apostas... I have a LOT of Byzantines.

      Archduke Piccolo

  5. A nice way to round off the campaign, which I did enjoy although I was hoping the Chinese might pull one out of the bag and give the Union a bloody nose!

    1. Hi rross -
      I reckon the Union got a little bit of nasal impact at 'Camp supply', though the Chinese paid for it big. Having said that, that was the battle at which they very nearly did 'pull one out of the bag'. The outcome rested on a knife edge, and could easily have led the Union Army reeling back to the border.
      Archduke Piccolo