Sunday, 29 April 2012

French Infantry of the Revolution

Regiment of the Day

Some more early period French in bicornes ... using some figures from an exciting new range from Lancashire Games.

French Infantry in Tarleton - Ancien Regime

Regiment of the Day

Some more 'early French' - French line troops in the pre-Napoleon Ancien Regime uniform.

All white, regimental facings, and tarleton helmets with imitation leopard skin headband.

Brilliant !

Early French Line Regiments in Bicornes - 1806

Regiment of the Day

Starting to knock off quite a few early French troops now .. ready for the Jena Auerstaedt mini campaign.

Going to need quite a few as it turns out.

These are marked (underneath the bases) as different  regiments, but really they are just a generic mass of early French that can be configured however to fit the battle at hand.

This type of uniform should cover most French line troops from the Glory Days of Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena Auerstaedt, Eylau .. and maybe even later.

French Divisional HQ bases

Commanders of the Day

Just how many Napoleons does a man need ?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

French 16eme Legere

Regiment of the Day

... and some more French legere for good measure.

5 bases of troops in march attack pose, with 5 matching skirmisher bases - mostly double based Carabiniers.

Saxon Boguslawski Fusilers

Regiment of the Day

A few more Eureka Saxons out the way today ... this one is a small detachment of sharpshooters to provide a token skirmish screen for the main line troops.

Again, I have gone with a distinctive non-regulation jacket colour for these light troops. Same colours as the Saxon artillery uniforms in this case.

And the little green plumes to denote that they are sharpshooters.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The good Magician and his Elven guide

Horde of the Day

Something a little different today ... a magician base for HoTT.

Saxon 2 Div - 1st Brigade

Regiment of the Day

Just documenting a Saxon 'brigade' at the moment - currently set up as 5 bases of figures for Republique, before I expand them out at 1:60 into a set of large Battalions

All figures from Eureka's excellent 18mm range

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Prussian Leib Garde - Dresden 1813

Regiment of the Day

Last varnish experiment before settling on a 'standard' way to apply the varnish.

Some Prussian Garde in full gloss finish. Looks anything but 'realistic', but I do like the way it makes these special troops stand out !!

A few bases of Garde Grenadiers  and supporting Garde Jaeger. (white plumes for the Guard - line Grenadiers have the black plumes I believe).

Whilst on the subject of massive plumes, note that the officer is white over black with silver shako fittings, and NCOs are black tip over white with gold shako fittings.  Privates are all white with white shako fittings, and a silver Garde star.

I don't really know whether that is 100% correct for the given campaign .. any comments on that ?

Jaegers operating in pairs, as they should.  From what I can tell, the only difference (worth painting at this scale) is that the Garde Jaegers have the little 'Lintzen' stripes on the collar and cuffs.   Probably a bit of extra lanyard as well for the marksman award.

If you can dig up a more recent East German DDR braided lanyard - they are almost identical to the 1813 model.

Extreme gloss finish for the Gardesmen - slightly OTT perhaps, but they do stand out on the table.

Prussian Reserve Infantry Regiment 11

Regiment of the Day

More varnish experiments - this time going real heavy on the gloss coat, wait for a few days, and then a light matte coat to bring it back to matte.

A week later - no frosting !  It works, Yay !

I like the unit too - these reserve regiments look quite 'modern' for the period, very warlike actually.

The usual mix of whatever dirty colours are currently sitting on the palette when it comes to painting the pants for the reserve units.

Varnishing II - French 27/50e Ligne - Jena Auerstadt 1806

Regiment of the Day

Second experiment with varnishing ... this time hitting them after the gloss coat with a very very light airbrush spray of vallejo matte varnish.

Back to a full matte - works nicely I think.

Varnishing - French 33e / 85e Ligne - Wagram 1809

Regiment of the Day

Taking the plunge with varnishes now. Had nothing but rotten experiences with varnish in the past - yellowing, frosting, etc, etc.

Some of the new UV stablised urethane varnishes now seem to do the trick nicely.

Here are a couple of units of regular old French line with a splash of JoSonjas gloss coat - seems to do the trick OK.

Some of these I am hitting with vallejo matte varnish afterwards, just experimenting with what works and what doesnt.

Seems like the best approach is to make sure there is decent gloss coat BEFORE applying the matte coat ... give it a day or more to dry thoroughly, and then hit it with a super thin matte coat - just a light dusting with the airbrush brings it back to matte, with zero frosting, and no loss of detail.

Anywhere, here are some marching out in full gloss ... bit of variety, and it gives them a nice 'toy soldier' look I think.

I think what I will do in future batches is go for a reasonably heavy gloss coat in all cases, and then use a real light dusting of matte afterwards.

In some cases, I can then leave some of the leatherwork like boots or shakos a little shiny, to represent some very nicely polished up units.

I reckon that good old-school Prussians and various Guard units for example should be immaculately turned out, with exceptionally shiny boots and headgear !

A slight satin finish is probably a good thing to leave behind on skintones as well .. what do you think ?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Computer Moderated Gaming - Source Code now available

Computer Hacks of the Day

For those that are interested in following the development of this ambitious project, I have the source code up on the web now in a Git repository.

The Git repository is available here :

Or you can just grab the ZIP file (automatically generated by git to contain the latest code release) from here :

There is a fair bit of code there already, and quite a bit of rather cool functionality already.

This is a developer release, so its only useful at this point to those who just want to get into the code, and play around with the prototype. Requires some basic understanding of how to setup a web server, configure PHP / mySQL, etc.

Code-wise, its all vanilla CodeIgniter .. great little PHP framework with excellent reliability, speed and support. I haven't used CodeIgniter prior to this, but its good to know that it only took around a week to really get into. Top marks for codeigniter ;)

For non-developers who just want to USE the damn thing - well, as soon as the whole package is complete, I will setup a hosted version so gamers can use it online without having to touch any code.

I have made a big effort with the user interface so far to provide a bit of a period feel for the system, and also to make sure that the computer doesn't unnecessarily take over the gaming experience.

Its still a miniatures game played with real people on real tables. The computer is only there for making the gaming experience even better.

I have also kept well away from using flash, or any other proprietary evils in the development of the system. I need to make sure that the finished result will work on all web browsers, all operating systems, and common devices such as ipads and possibly smartphones.

So far so good.

I have divided the development up into Phases that exactly match the game turn phases in the Empire V rules. So what I will do as far as blogging goes is to just post a quick update each time that a phase is fully completed, along with some screen shots and explanation.

That gives us the following status report :
(Green = all done and running)

Phase 1 - Issue operational orders to Corps and MEs

Phase 2 - Test determination for all Infantry MEs

Phase 3 - Test ME Morale

Phase 4 - Attach / Detach Commanders

Phase 5 - Declare Operational Orders

Phase 6 - Activate Orders

Phase 7 - ME under BreakOff order does grand tactical movement

Phase 8 - All other MEs do grand tactical movement

Phase 9 - Determine number of Bombardment rounds

Phase 10 - Engaged MEs do tactical movment, and eligible artillery does bombardment

(this is the big one actually)

Phase 11 - Leader Casualties

Phase 12 - Rally eligible units

Phase 13 - Eligible units rest and recover fatigue

Phase 14 - End of hourly round

And now for the Player View screenshots :

(click any to see a full-sized image which is a bit more readable)

This is the view each player gets to see on his forces.

The units are arranged as a tree, so you can see how the various battalions, squadrons and batteries are assigned to each brigade or division.

It gets a little complicated in Empire, since units are not only grouped into their respective brigades and divisions, but they are also grouped into manoeuvre elements in addition to this. 

The system handles that little complexity nicely - each unit in the system has an immediate parent formation, and a manoeurve element as well.

Clicking on a unit displays the details that are visible for that unit.

This is presented to the user as a 'Visit to the unit, for a review on parade' ... hence a little bit of UI fluff, and some jquery goodness to animate the visit.

The player cannot see the exact details of losses, etc ... just a summary of the current state of the unit, as the officer in command of the unit would be likely to report it.

Each player communicates with his units through the orders screen.

In this example, there are several Divisions, each with a number of brigades. The player can drag the brigade boxes around to layout the formation of the whole Division.

This is important in Empire, as the manoeuvre elements require orders that specify the relative position of each manoeuvre element.

Orders can then be drag-and-dropped from the orders boxes onto the elements, depending on their type. (ie - support orders can only be dropped on cavalry brigades, garrison on infantry brigades, etc).  In each case, the description in the objective field (at the top of the screen) is applied to the order.

Placing an order on a unit creates an order dispatch for the unit, and the back end system delivers the order to the unit some time in the future, dependent on the distance to the recipient, and the professional skill rating of the staff for each unit.

The details of how the delay is calculated are faithful to the way that Empire V calculates it.

This also allows for the computer to model some personalities for non-player sub-commanders with a really simple AI system. A rash and impetuous computer controlled sub-commander may randomly misinterpret an order to defend as meaning 'Push forward and attack the enemy', for example.

Remote Wargaming :

Really looking forward to getting this part working. So far, there is no technical reason why the system wouldnt work out of the box with some players accessing the game remotely from the other side of the world.

You still need a real-life table setup with real people and all that, but it would be nice to have a mate from another country take command of a brigade in the game, and run it from over the internet.

Just need a decent webcam streaming thing (with audio support) to make that a reality.

Lets have a look at the Umpire view then ...

Note that the whole system is multi-user, so each user can be logged in at the same time, viewing their own data only, whilst the umpire is also logged in on another computer, controlling the flow of the game.

This is the administrator view of the user accounts.

In this case the Admin user has assigned the user account 'Augereau' to command the French VII Corps, and has assigned the user 'Duke of Brunswick' to command the opposing Prussians.

In addition to that, the user 'Wartensleben' has been assigned command of the Prussian 2nd Division.  When this user logs in, they will only be able to see the details of those units that are directly under their command (ie - 2nd Division forces)

This is interesting, since the user 'Duke of Brunswick' can see all of 2nd Divisions troops as well - as they are ultimately part of his wing, but he cannot issue orders to any units under 2nd Division. Only the delegate player 'Wartensleben' can do that.

The user 'Augereau' on the other hand gets to see and command all Divisions in his VII Corps, since he is the only user assigned to the French.

So the system allows multiple players per team to login to the system at the same time, and command a complex mix of delegation responsibilities.

Here is the Umpire / Admin view of the units involved in a game.

The Umpire gets to see a bit more detail on what is happening with each unit - note in this case that they can see accumulated actual casualties, as well as a detailed summary of actions in the previous turn which will have an effect on things like morale tests, and ME determination tests.

This is the main game control screen that the Umpire uses to run the game.

For each phase of a turn, this command console displays the details of what is happening in that phase, and provides the umpire with several buttons to control the flow of action.

In this case, it is simply the orders phase (Phase 1 in Empire), where users are given a couple of minutes to complete submitting their orders.

During orders phase, the umpire screen shows a clock counting up the seconds ... which changes from green, to blue, to finally red when 2 minutes has expired.

As players submit orders on their computers, the details of the orders automatically appear on this umpire screen (it polls the backend every 10 seconds to collect the latest orders).

This gives the umpire the opportunity to question any orders, or if they so choose, they can actually edit the order, add a delay to the order, or make the order dissapear. Its up to the umpire how they want to play that.

Once the umpire decides to close off the orders, they click the 'Close Orders' button. This advances the game to ME Determination phase.

After orders are closed, if any player submits a new order to the system, they get an immediate reply from their ADC telling them its too late :(

ME Determination Phase in the system.

The backend part of the system crunches through all the details for all units in the game, working out which units need to be checked .. digging up all the details, working out the % chances of failure, and then rolling the dice.

As you can see here, the report from the computer lays out all the steps that it takes to arrive at these results, including relevant die roll mods, etc.

This is still under Umpire control at this stage. If the Umpire decides that the result is not in the best interest of the game, for whatever reason, he can choose to 're-roll ME determination test' and get a completely fresh result.

Otherwise, click 'Accept ME Result' to apply the ME determination test and move on to the next phase. (ME Morale tests)

One thing I want to maybe add is an option to tell the computer that for a given game, player die rolls must be used instead of computer generated die rolls. In that case, the computer will add input boxes along the way to require the user to enter the value of the die rolls to be used in the calculations.

I think that option of allowing real-life die rolls to be used might be useful in any game, as it keeps the players 'involved' of you like, and kills any perception that the computer has taken the game over.

ME Determination results ... according to the rules, all ME determination results are to be made public to all players immediately. What I will do then is to create a dispatch message to all players if ANY unit from ANY side fails a determination test.

Other than that, any ME's that are becoming fragile through deteriorating morale or mounting losses, I am generating a dispatch message from the unit to the player, telling them in plain language that the unit is coming under some distress. (without the exact casualty details or % losses)..

The system, when its done, will be full of these little messages from the units arriving at the player's HQ.  The beauty of having the computer handle all of this communication is that it can correctly manage the delay.  For example, in the 3PM turn, the player may receive a message from a commander on a distant flank, who dispatched an urgent request for more ammunition at 1PM.

With the computer controlled sub-commander AI, dispatch reports from rash and impetuous sub commanders may be a little overly optimistic, whereas excessively cautious sub-commanders may exaggerate losses and the strength of enemy units. Lots of fun to be had with that, and great for Solo play as well.

Thats all for now ... back to coding. Hopefully will be able to report back with more updates soon.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Campaign System Ideas - the Rule of 3

Thoughts of the Day

Some ideas here on extending the computer system to manage campaigns.

Handling the logistics and fog of war is one important aspect, and that is all covered quite well by best practices in this area.

Its the 'game' aspect that is a really hard call. A campaign that is done with full realism would tend towards becoming pretty dull pretty quickly, as a couple of decisive battles turn an even contest of a campaign into a simple mopping up and exploit operation. Not much fun in that.

Here are some psuedo-historical, but gamey ideas that might be worth playing with for a campaign system :

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Computer Moderated Gaming - ORBAT editor all done !

Computer Hacks of the Day

Wow - that was  quick !

 The whole project is coming along quite nicely, but I figured that I dont want to get too bogged down in the force-editor part of the project if I can easily use something off the shelf.

Turns out there is an excellent utility program available that does a perfect job of editting ORBATs as portable XML files, and its free, and it runs on Windows and Linux as well. That part of the project is all done then.

I am using TreeLine to create and edit ORBATs then. It works brilliantly ! Its free for download, and runs on anything (Windows / Linux / Mac).

I have published some small sample ORBATs for download then ... please feel free to download any, have a play, and get back to me if you think it needs any changes.

Also, feel free to email me any Orbats you come up with for inclusion in the list !!

Here is roughly how they look in the editor :

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Computer Moderated Gaming for Napoleonics. - Draft Specification

Computer Hacks of the Day

Here is a draft specification for something I am working on at the moment. Should keep me busy for a few months at least.

It is taking the bulk of Empire V rules, and using this as a specification for a computer moderated application to run Napoleonic Wargames.

I know that Carnage and Glory is out there, and it does a fantastic job of a difficult subject, but I am after something a little different.

ie :
  • I want to base it on deterministic rules that are well known / well understood. Empire V in this case. Might be a difficult set of rules for the average player to get their head around, but it provides a good basis for the computer to get it's head around.
  • I want something that is open source, so it can be hacked around with endlessly to add in house rules and things. Very important for me ... so that really rules out C&G for my use.
  • I want it to be able to run multi-user, so running it as a web application makes sense. Everyone just bring your laptop, and login to the server to play the game.
  • Being a web application, it would mean that a group of players who are remotely separated could all participate in a game. That is way outside the scope of this specification here, but at least the architecture of using a web server for driving the app leaves that path open for future development.
  • Ability for the application to display video clips / audio snippets as part of the user interface, to provide period chrome. Infantry volleys, cavalry charges ... whatever little video goodies you have on your hard disk should be able to be added in to the video library for the computer to add to the UI during phases of play.
  • I want full debugging details and audit trails for the 'admin user', but really sketchy fog-of-war details for the players. I even want the computer to deliberately make outright lies in it's status reports to players on occasion.

So - The Computer 'application' shall be written as an open source web application that runs on the LAMP stack, and allows for multiple simultaneous players to interact with it as the game is in progress, via a standard web browser.

Keep all the book keeping and calculations at the backend, and provide the players with a really flexible interface to  monitor what is going on, and to give orders to their units. 

Allow the computer to generate some advice to the players, acting as their logistics and operations staff officers.

Maybe later on - adding and AI to the backend for solo play. A lot harder than it sounds !

Keeping it simple, and keeping it open, I will use the following tech for getting this together :
  • Write the back end as a PHP application, using MySQL for data storage.
  • Use an off the shelf framework - probably codeigniter is a good choice. 
  • Distribute access to the code (as it is being developed) on a Git repository to allow for unlimited forking and distributed development.
  • Publish all work under appropriate licensing - LGPL, etc.
  • Maintain a public web page for users to download the latest release (for free).
  • Provide an online space for users to share electronic OOBs in a format that can be imported into the application.

Without further delay ... here is the high level spec document :