Wednesday, May 29 2019

vmod: Bull Run

Rich Hamblen's Bull Run (Avalon Hill 1983) is a cogent and unique regimental scale game on a battle that was unique in the Civil War.

1st Bull Run was a battle of unknowns. The armies were mostly raw militia units. The leaders were inexperienced in command and combat. Logistics were slapdash. Bull Run (the game) is a solid depiction of the situation, well-reasoned in the Designer's Notes, and like the actual battle, tense and balanced, with good replayability.

The Map

The Bull Run module is a good example of why paper maps are preferable to mounted maps when adapting a game to VASSAL. A paper map can be scanned as one image at your local Staples or OfficeMax. Mounted map must be scanned in sections and stitched together in a graphics program - a tedious process that always seems to yield mismatched seams.

Map images available in existing modules (VASSAL, Cyberboard, Aide-de-Camp) were unsatisfactory, so a new map has been created from scratch, with no gaps or seams in the final image. Wargame maps almost always contain too much cartography that has nothing to do with game play. And printing a hex coordinate in every hex is overkill (in print) or completely unnecessary in a VASSAL module where mouse-over hover information is available.

Instead of "eyelash" countour lines for the slopes, the module uses a hex-hugging gradient of brown. Otherwise, the module map mimics the printed game board. Rivers and streams were drawn "freehand." Pikes and roads were done by creating Bezier-curved paths and then "stroking" them with an appropriate color and line style. Place names and hex numbers are not included. The map was created in GIMP using eight layers as follows (listed top to bottom):

  1. transparent hex grid
  2. major roads
  3. minor roads
  4. rivers and streams
  5. slopes
  6. tree texture
  7. woods (solid green)
  8. background (off-white)

The Game-Pieces

It seems like every Civil War wargame printed in the last 30 years has used tiny bust-portraits on leader counters. Yawn...off with their heads! And NATO symbols are dropped in favor of cartoonish soldier, horse, and cannon icons. But NATO icons are just fine for Civil War infantry, cavalry and artillery since they are actually throwback designs evoking 19th-century arms:

  • Infantry: crossed shoulder belts for ammunition pouches.
  • Cavalry: single shoulder belt for saber scabbard.
  • Artillery: a wagon wheel for limbered, a cannon-ball for unlimbered.

The game-pieces in the module are adaptations of the printed counters, with the same printed information and a re-scaled NATO icon.

Module Notes

The only components needed from the board game are the rules and player aid card.

The OOB charts have been replaced with a Brigade Holding Boxes window. (The two Union units at the bottom of this window are for the optional July 20th rule.)

Setup notes and errata are included in a chart window.

The map image in the module is scratch built because all available images of the original board are either ill-fitting scans or pixelated computer images that try too hard to mimic the printed board.

The game pieces in the module were built with VASSAL's game piece image definitions.

The board-game uses separate counters to show brigade and artillery status. These have been replaced with game-piece layers in the module.

Ctrl-B to cycle brigade status

  • Union brigade units have three levels: leader, dummy, and formed.
  • Confederate brigade units have two levels: leader and formed.
  • When forming a brigade (or if using Union dummy leaders), place only the constituent regiments in the Brigade Holding box of the corresponding leader.

Ctrl-A to toggle command status: active/inactive

  • Stop markers (for inactive units) have been replaced with a game-piece layer. An inactive unit shows a movement allowance of 0 on a yellow background.

Ctrl-F to toggle artillery status: mobile/battle

  • Artillery units have two layers: mobile and battle.

Ctrl-Z to toggle frozen/unfrozen

  • All units have a mask trait for use with frozen units: CSA units that start frozen and Union units under the Fog of War rule. Player sides have been created so that only the owning player (or solitaire player) can unfreeze each unit.

Monday, May 27 2019

Fredericksburg 1862

Poetry of Mark Morss (1947-2015)

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Sunday, May 12 2019

vmod: Leipzig

Napoleon's 1813 campaign in Germany, published by SPI, designed by James Dunnigan. VASSAL module based on the 1972 version, using scratch-made map and counters.

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Tuesday, April 9 2019

GCACW House Rules

Some variants that I use when playing solitaire.

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Thursday, March 14 2019

Wagoneer (TM)

Thoughts on The Wagoneer's Fight, a new scenario in Roads to Gettysburg II. Confederate wagon trains try to march from Gettysburg to Williamsport unscathed; defended by Stuart's cavalry corps; pursued by three division of Union cavalry.

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