R.I.P. My Old Friend Mike Urschel

September 17, 2016


R.I.P. My Old Friend Mike Urschel

Mike’s obituary read:

Michael W. Urschel, 53, Silver Lake, IN died at 2:28 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, 2016 in Peabody Healthcare Center, North Manchester, IN.  He was born January 12, 1963 in Huntington, IN to Glenn & Dorcas (Paul) Urschel.  He graduated from Canyon Del Oro High School in 1981 and attended University of Arizona.  He served in the Army National Guard and worked in construction in Tucson, AZ.  He loved animals and most especially his cat, Neko.  He was a history fanatic and was lovingly referred to as “Professor”

It seems sad to me that a person’s, especially a friend’s, life is reduced to a few lines in an obituary, so I’ll add some more that.

I first met Mike in high school. We were both in First Year Woodshop with Mr. Dave Bromley. Mike had just moved to Arizona from Indiana. He seemed like a good guy, but was very quiet. He was great at woodworking, so I decided to get to know him better, as I was not that great at woodworking. As we worked together at the work bench, I learned that he loved History (along with The Lord of the Rings) and played board games, especially Third Reich, which was one of my favorites. So one day I invited him to play a game of Third Reich with my regular wargame opponent and friend Greg. That started a period of gaming and friendship that lasted until I left Arizona for good in 2002.

Mike wasn’t that great at Third Reich, but once we tried our first RPG, Traveller, Mike was hooked. Greg, Mike and I played a variety of games together for about 2 years. Then I formed a bigger gaming group, and Mike was one of the first people I asked to join. Over the years we played boardgames (Mike loved Squad Leader), numerous RPGs, and eventually historical miniature games (usually American Civil War). That game group eventually fell apart when I was in college in the 1980s, but members of it continued to play some sort of game until the late 1990s. I think the last game I played with Mike was one of our American Civil War campaigns in 1995. Mike loved playing games as they allowed him to use his imagination, which was endless. He was a great person to play games with as he was a great player and always a gentlemanly wargamer.

Mike’s life wasn’t always easy. His family life was a bit chaotic after his parents divorced. He attended the University of Arizona for a few semesters, but left for financial reasons. I had the pleasure of taking a couple of History courses with him while he were both in college. He served six years in the Army Reserve as an Armored Cavalry Scout in the scout platoon of an armored battalion, reading the rank of Sergeant. One of his greatest adventures was going to a REFORGER exercise in Germany, where he was able to visit the town that his family had come from. After college, he worked a variety of jobs, but was always free to play a game. Even when we were not gaming, he always enthusiastically spoke of his endless gaming ideas. He was also more than willing to be one of my groomsman when I got married in 1996, which was a great honor for me. The last time I saw him was in 2002, when he and another of our gaming friends went to dinner one last time before I left Arizona.

Mike was a hard person to keep in contact with. He was the sort of guy you literally had to go to his home to get in touch with. I tried for many years to reconnect with him, but I could never find him via the Internet and he seemed to have lost touch with most of his gaming friends. Yesterday, I tried one of my Google searches for him, only to find that he had died four months ago. I was really shocked and sad that I could not tell him one more time how much I had valued his friendship over the years. I’m not sure that there is an afterlife, but if there is, Mike will be there playing some sort of game as gaming and the friendships he made from gaming were clearly the positive parts of Mike’s life and gave him solace in the many times that life didn’t go his way.

It just seems like yesterday that we were playing games together. Mike loved History, games, shooting, soldering (but he hated the B.S. of the Army, which after being in the Army I understand), and most of all cats.

So here’s to Mike “Orc” Urschel, fellow gamer, soldier, craftsman and most important of all, friend. May you Rest In Peace.

Mike (from about 1985 when I was away in the Army)


Mike in his apartment (@January 1988), where many games were played (but the apartment never seemed to get cleaned)


Mike and two of our gaming friends out for a day of shooting (again @January 1988)


Mike after too many hours gaming (again @January 1988)


Mike (in red) and Kyle during one of our many American Civil War campaign games (@1994)


3rd Try at Camden (1780) with Piquet-Cartouche

August 26, 2016

About 30 years ago I went through the United States Army school for infantry lieutenants (Infantry Officer Basic Course). In that course, we read a book titled, The Defence of Duffer’s Drift (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Defence_of_Duffer%27s_Drift). From what I remember of the book, the author took the reader through the planning of a defensive position. Each time he would point out flaws in the plan and fix them. The book was effective in teaching lieutenants how to think about all aspects of the military planning, including looking for flaws that could be corrected. As my game of Camden was still set up, I decided to give it another go based on what I had learned from the two games of it I had played recently.

For both sides, I realized that firing at enemy troops in open order in light woods (Class II terrain in Piquet) as not that effective as both the open order and Class II terrain were a Down 1 fire modifier. That reduced a d10 fire value to d6. Even worse, many of the American militia units started with a d8 fire value, which reduced them to d4 when firing at British in open order in the woods at normal range. That showed me that the British could and should move to melee combat as soon as possible, especially given the higher quality of many British units and the masses of low quality American militia present. For the Americans, I realized that it was best to use Armand’s command as a second or third line force given the small size of the units; they were good for skirmishing, but didn’t last long in the line of battle. In my second game, Armand’s command was in the front line, and was quickly destroyed by larger British units, which was costly in Army morale chips and units lost.

The American set up on the right and center was three lines: two of militia and one of Continentals. The extreme left was Armand’s command, which was designed to guard the American flank and threaten the British right if they broke through the American center.

The American Right Wing: (click on the pictures for larger images)

American Right Wing

The American Center:

American Center

Armand’s Command on the American Left:

Armand's Command

The British set up with their regular brigade and reserve brigade on their left:

British Left Set Up

Rawdon’s loyalist and militia brigade was on the British Right:

British Right Set Up

Here is a picture of the overall British set-up:

British Set Up

In the game, the British advanced on both flanks, and were able to defeat the American militia with only minimal casualties. Rather quickly, the Americans ran out of Army morale chips. This was a disaster for the Americans as the lost units put a Major Morale Check card in their deck. By turn 4, the Americans were out of Army morale chips and forced to take a Major Morale Check. With no Army morale chips to spend, each American unit had to check morale. Some of the militia and even one of the Continental units failed and retreat. Likewise, the previously unengaged American cavalry started to fall back. Three Continental units and a single militia unit fought a rearguard, but it was ineffective due to the addition of Dress Lines cards in their deck for each unit lost (up to 11 Dress Lines cards were added by turn 5). By the end of Turn 5, the Americans had clearly lost and the game was over.

Again, Piquet worked exceptionally well in terms of command and army morale. The better quality overall commander of the British (Cornwallis) was able to make good use of his two Brilliant Commander cards, while the Americans suffered several times from losing key initiative when Gates’ Command Indecision card came up. I also really liked how the game represented the collapse of the American Army, it almost mirrored the actual events. I still need to review the rules before I play Piquet again to check a few issues, but it was a great game. Piquet works exceptionally well for solo games. I had an overall plan for each side, but the cards dictated when I could implement those plans far better than a you-go, I-go rule system.

Here are some more photos from the game (I was too involved and interested in the game to take many mid-game photos):

American Artillery that dominated the main road through the woods:

American Artillery

American Militia await the British attack:

American Militia 2

The British 71st Highland Regiment advances:

British 71st

British Legion Infantry and militia of Rawdon’s Command:

British Legion & Militia Support

The British Legion Dragoons in reserve (behind Rawdon’s Brigade):

British Legion Dragoons

At the end of the game, the British Legion Dragoons swept the American flank:

British Legion in Pursuit

The American rearguard:

American Continentals & Militia

The American “dead” pile:

Dead American Stands

Another victory for Cornwallis:

Cornwallis 2

The game was played with 15mm figures (from Blue Moon, Minifigs, Old Glory and Polly Oliver). I use 3/4ths size stands and rulers, so the normal 5′ x 8′ map fit on a 4′ x 6′ table.

American Revolution Strength Returns for 1777 in the New York Public Library Digital Collection.

August 23, 2016

1st NH Return

While doing a bit of Google-Fu on the Internet, I found that there were several strength returns for American units in the 1777 Northern Campaign among the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection. I have never seen most of these referenced in a secondary source, so they were quite a find. Here are the ones that I could find:

John Ashley’s (1st Berkshire Massachusetts) Militia Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-4701-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1 (This is a very rare militia unit strength return)

1st New Hampshire Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-470b-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1

3rd New Hampshire Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-4768-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1

Nixon’s (Massachusetts) Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bb4ebb8a-0c7a-c85e-e040-e00a18063bc4

Brewer’s (Massachusetts) Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bdccf4f5-5f3d-c2ff-e040-e00a180602bc

Marshall’s (Massachusetts) Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-4718-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1

Alden’s (Massachusetts) Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bb266ec4-a662-320d-e040-e00a180616a6

Bailey’s (Massachusetts) Regiment (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-4707-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1

Learned’s Brigade (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bb266ec4-a64f-320d-e040-e00a180616a6

(the first regiment is van Schaick’s 1st New York Regiment – the writing is not very clear, but the comments below make it clear as to which unit it is as van Schaick had been sent to Tyron County to raise the militia.)

Schuyler army-level return (July 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-4704-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1

Gates army-level return (October 1777): http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bdccbd8c-b350-decc-e040-e00a180601a7

American Casualties at First Saratoga (September 1777):  http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/bad6720b-4716-a00b-e040-e00a18067aa1


Camden (1780) With Piquet-Cartouche

August 8, 2016

This weekend I set up my Camden (1780 – American Revolution) scenario for Piquet-Cartouche. I try to play my scenarios at least once solo before playing them with another person. This helps me find errors in the scenario and other issues that need a decision about. I had the game set up, and my son asked if he could try it out. We played a couple of turns (about 3 hours of game play). It was my son’s second game of Piquet, and the only time he commanded an entire side. He somehow ended up with the Americans, which were a large side to play on your first go. He did learn the rules quickly, and was beating my when we had to stop. We decided that he needed to play a smaller game before tacking a scenario this size.

I reset the game with a new set-up and new values (BDV) for the units. This time I was able to play the game solo to a conclusion. Playing time was about 5 hours plus an hour setting up the figures, organizing the decks, and rolling for the unit BDVs. It was a very interesting scenario to play. Almost all of the table is light woods with visibility of only 4″, so most of the shooting was done at fairly close range. Eventually I figured out that the British needed to charge as much as possible, and that led to a British victory. I also realized that Armand’s command needed to be in the rear as its small, skirmisher-type units did not fair well in the front line of battle. In the end, the Americans failed their major morale check two turns in a row (turns 4 and 5), and that pretty much ended the battle for them. The Piquet system worked very well as in the end; the Americans collapsed and started to rout off the board (in a fairly historical way). In the future I hope to play this scenario with Mark as it is a very interesting one to play.

I did have to substitute a few units and commanders, but I’m painting up what I need and hope to have them ready before the next game.

Here is the scenario we used: Camden August 2016

Here are some photos from the first (partially completed) game with my son, James.

Click on photos for a larger image

Here’s the overall battlefield. Note that the entire battlefield is wooded except for the farm on the right side of the photo:


The American left wing with Armand’s advance guard command in the front (which was not a good idea):


The British center-left which consisted of Webster’s Brigade and the Reserve:


Lord Rawdon and his command:


Some of de Kalb’s Continentals under Smallwood:


The converged 1st/3rd Maryland Regiment:


The converged 4th/6th Maryland Regiment of Gist’s Brigade:


Here are some photos of the solo game I played. I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was having too much fun playing the game.

The overall American set up. It even sort of looks like daybreak, which is about when the historical battle began:


More of the American initial set-up:


American militia:


The British left (Rawdon’s Brigade):


The Overall Set-Up:


Another overview shot:


General Stevens of the Virginia Militia:


General Horatio Gates before his “flight”:


General Smallwood of the Maryland Continentals:


Some of the American militia:


Cornwallis and aide:


Figures are 15/18mm and a mix of Minifigs, Old Glory, Blue Moon, Polly Oliver, and Freikrops figures.

Sorry about the uneven photo quality. I’m still learning how to take a decent game photo.

We used this version of the charts: AWI Charts 2016 5.0

Sgt Steiner’s YouTube Video

August 5, 2016

While searching for videos for an online college course in Irish History that I will teach in the fall, I took a break and looked at wargaming videos. I came across this very good one by Sgt Steiner:

He also has a blog at: http://sgtsteiner.blogspot.com/

All are worth a look!