A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 16 April 2018

Field of Battle - Nibbling Away

Things are a bit disrupted around here at present - as far as hobby stuff goes, the problem is time. It's not that I don't have any spare time, it's just that it's a bit unpredictable, and tends to become available in small amounts.

Thus for some weeks I haven't been doing any major painting work - it's all been short bursts of refurb work (which can produce finished figures quite quickly, if I do it right), poking at test figures for big batches to come, and reading in odd quiet moments.

I'm working away at getting up to speed on Field of Battle, the Piquet-produced game which has me quite excited at the moment. As with all new games, there is a lot to learn - philosophically as much as anything else - this game is unlike most of my previous wargaming experience. It has some similarities to the full Piquet rules - though it is not simply a "lite" version of Piquet.

I've been reading and studying the rules, and I now have a scenario book, which is very interesting indeed; I've invested in a couple of decks of the official cards, and I have finally sourced some sets of dice. Like Piquet (I think), Field of Battle requires the rolling of small numbers of dice - usually they are rolled singly or in twos - but they may be selected from a set (for each side) of one each of D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20. Interesting challenge to get a completely satisfactory matched set - I had some problems finding D10s which were numbered 1-10 instead of 0-9. Managed it without too much hassle, so I'm all ready to get on with some trials now.

The intro to the rules recommends that the new reader should not be overcome by the length of the booklet, nor damage his health trying to memorise reams of tables. The recommended approach is to set up a smallish game (I'll make this a solo effort - about 10 units a side), and have a bash, taking note of how the cards work. The set-up requires a fair amount of work - it's necessary to determine the quality of the army, and of its leaders and units, make up an appropriate pack of cards for each army, and work out what "size" of die (D6, D8 etc) is to be used by each unit for combat and for defence.

This is not the place to attempt any kind of summary of how the game works, nor attempt any kind of critique - suffice to say that I am happily working away at getting up to speed, and I hope to play a solo trial game sometime in the next however-many weeks. This is not a blistering rate of progress, admittedly, but I am enjoying it. My thanks to Darren, for his kind help and guidance, and also to Brent Oman, the author and originator of the game, for his help and generosity in getting me off the ground.

In a perfect world, the next logical thing for me to do would be to attend someone else's game (as a spectator) to see how it swings and feels. I guess that is unlikely, but I'm open to invitations if anyone fancies it - especially in a warm country with liberal drink laws...

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Bavarians - Another Sample Figure

I've finished the second "style sample" - this is a fusilier from the 9th Infantry Regiment Ysenburg - the casting, again, is by Der Kriegspieler.

I'm getting the hang of the Bavarian uniforms now.

Serious painting will be starting shortly...

***** Late Edit *****

A propos of absolutely nothing - this follows a couple of recent conversations. There was some talk of Sergei Bondarchuk's Waterloo being released on BluRay to commemorate the bicentennial of the battle. Did it ever happen? I can't trace any such product - I have now watched this film an embarrassing number of times (far more than the number of times I've watched The Sound of Music...) and still love it to bits - warts and all. Nay - especially the warts - wart-spotting is a great hobby.

If ever a film needed an HD BluRay edition this is it. Anyone know anything about this?


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Bavarians - More Preliminaries

I've now completed my first pilot figure, and have learned a lot about the Bavarian line infantry uniform, and the practicalities of painting it in 20mm scale. I am now a lot more confident about what is required. This is a fusilier of the 14th IR - a Der Kriegsspieler casting. You can distinguish these from the very similar Hinton Hunt figure since the soldier's feet are placed in the middle of the front and back edges of the base, rather than diagonally opposed in the corners, and the musket is carried in front of the body, with a space behind it, rather than the "bookshelf" attachment of the HH. I will be using some HH castings for the line infantry, but the DKs have an advantage in that they made fusiliers without plumes - presumably Marcus intended that his customers should simply grind the plumes off the grenadier castings, as required.

For the entertainment of those who understand these things, and most certainly know more about them than I do, here's a photo of a small selection of Hinton Hunt Bavarian officers, from my tubs. These are, from left to right, two examples of BVN1 and one of BVN6 - they are all clearly coded under the bases. I was interested that the two BVN1 "charging" chaps are different - they have their heads turned at different angles, as you see, and the one on the left has an unmistakable epaulette on his left shoulder.

Bavarian officers didn't wear epaulettes.

It is always inadvisable to imply, even accidentally, that Marcus ever made any mistakes (similarly for Peter Gilder and the Perry Bros - not acceptable at all), but I wondered whether the left hand figure was in fact an earlier version, subsequently replaced.

As ever, it matters not a jot - I'm happy to file off the epaulette, and it's a luxury to have a choice of two slightly different poses. Just thought I'd mention it.

Next job is to prepare another prototype paint job, this time for the 9th Ysenburg IR. I've received a little shipment of paint from Foundry - I must confess to a very slight moment of disappointment when I found that the appropriate shade for the facings of the 5th Von Preysing IR appears in the Foundry catalogue as Nipple Pink. I hadn't realised that Foundry did that spotty Citadel Warhammer thing - there's something faintly incongruous in my first two official paint acquisitions from Foundry for this new army being Bavarian Cornflower Blue and Nipple Pink, though I accept that this little problem - if there is one - is entirely mine.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Bavarians - Something Stirs

Still a lot to do before this gets seriously underway, but this weekend I've started cleaning up some infantry figures for painting, as part of my Napoleonic Bavarian project. The chaps in the picture make up two battalions - most of them are Der Kriegsspieler, though the command are a mix of Hinton Hunt and Falcon.

The first batch should yield three painted battalions - not sure of the timing, but at least things are moving now.

The infantry will be provided by castings from DK, HH, SHQ (provided the castings are better than the batch I received recently - legs missing etc) and the Hagen-reissued Falcon range. The gunners will be SHQ (since I can't afford the Franznap ones) and the cavalry are still to be worked out. Since the cavalry of my target period of 1809-12 all wore variations on very similar uniforms, it should be possible to recruit nearly all the cavalry from the Hinton Hunt chevauxleger OPC figures, with conversions based thereupon.

My target OOB is in two stages:

The "halfway-house" target is Deroy's 3rd Division of Lefebvre's VII Corps of 1809 - this comprises two brigades of infantry, plus one of cavalry, plus a couple of batteries for the Division. The cavalry brigade is of two regiments (1 Chevauxlegers + 1 of dragoons), and the infantry brigades each comprise 2 x 2-bn line regiments plus a light battalion - that's 10 battalions total.

The longer-term objective is to add Wrede's 2nd Division, which has a very similar structure.

The accumulation of figures proceeds - I have them organised into tubs within crates, as you see, but there's a fair amount to obtain still.

I confess to some nervousness over the small matter of painting HH or DK type figures. It's been a while since I did this on any non-trivial scale, and I am uncomfortably aware that the glories which we see weekly from the blogs of Stryker, Wellington Man and Mark D show how this should be done. I don't anticipate getting even close to that quality, so I'll just have to take refuge behind the old "effective in the mass" policy embraced by some of the wargaming pioneers.

Problem with DK and similar (obviously) is that the detail of the figures is to some extent implied rather than set out in crisp relief in the manner of more modern castings. It'll be fine, I'm sure, but I'm not going into this with any level of arrogance, I can assure you! Doubtless you will see some painted figures emerging fairly shortly, but if my painting is disappointing they may be standing in the distance, slightly out of focus, in Old School black-and-white.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Hooptedoodle #298 - Donkey Award - The Man Who Bought the Same Puzzle Books, Two Years Later

The Donkey, let it be understood right at the start, is me.

I came to Sudoku rather late in life - I've been interested in the idea for years, but I swerved the craze (was it a craze? - is it now an ex-craze?) because I know myself too well; I always knew I would get hooked and would waste far too many hours - I find the puzzles very compelling, and the perfection of the game system has a strange beauty and rhythm. Love it.

This started in earnest in 2016, when I bought the first 4 of the Telegraph's Sudoku books to take on holiday to Austria. I very quickly became addicted, and got a lot of pleasure from them. I invested in a good-quality propelling pencil (Faber-Castell Grip-Plus model, 0.7mm lead, lose the pocket clip, keep a supply of fresh eraser inserts...) - with the pencil tucked in the current page of my current book, I'm a happy bunny on train journeys, in dentists' waiting rooms - you name it. I don't claim to be particularly brilliant at Sudoku, you understand, but I like to think I'm not bad, if a little slow sometimes.

The Telegraph books are structured so that the puzzles are graded - they start off "Gentle" and then get progressively more difficult, going through "Tough" (I can't remember all the actual grade titles) until they get to "Diabolical" at the end. Problem is that the faster you bash through the easier ones, the quicker you reach the near-impossible ones at the end. The end-state of one of my Telegraph Sudoku books is that I am left with only the very hardest puzzles, so that if I pick up an almost-finished book I have maybe a 20% chance of solving the next puzzle.

Thus I have started each new book before the previous one was finished - basically because I am not capable of finishing it, but also because regularly failing to solve the next puzzle is not entirely gratifying (though one appreciates a challenge, of course).

I believe I have now "finished" (more accurately, "had enough of") Telegraph books 1 to 7, though I suspect I never did purchase Vol.6. I've chucked out the "finished" books, and now started looking to see what further volumes the Telegraph is offering. It was only when I started looking that it suddenly dawned on me that, since there is no way I would ever remember, or even recognise, a particular puzzle I had already attempted, it would be perfectly feasible to start again with Volume 1. Thus I have ordered books 1 to 4, though Amazon helpfully protested that I had bought these same books just two years ago. One big plus (especially for us Scottish enthusiasts) is that the earlier volumes are available through Amazon's Marketplace, new, at 30 pence a pop, rather than the full price of £5.99. You do get stiffed a little for P&P, but it's still a big saving. Better and better.

So I've ordered up the same books again! If everything goes well, there's no reason why I couldn't order them up yet again sometime later. All right, I could get someone else's Sudoku books instead, I suppose, but I know and trust the Telegraph's gradings and organisation.

In passing, I was intrigued to note that some dealers on the Marketplace were offering even cheaper, used copies. A used copy of a Sudoku puzzle book? - if they're anything like mine, they will be full of scribblings, and filthy with the rubbings-out which are an important part of the solution. Sounds a bit dodgy to me - would you buy, for example, a second-hand paperback book of crosswords?


Anyway - Groundhog Day puzzles should start here in a week or so.


Monday, 26 March 2018

Hooptedoodle #297 - Deception in Warfare

Spring is a little delayed this year, but things are starting up in earnest - our crocuses (croci?) are making a brave show in the grass verge outside in the lane, and Dod the Gardener has just arrived with an enormous petrol-driven machine he's rented to scarify the lawns. This is getting serious, and may be expensive [scarified, Matron? - I was bloody terrified].

One thing we'd like to avoid this Summer is a repeat of the Swallows Episode from last year. Last Summer, after 17 years when they could have done the same thing (but declined), swallows eventually built a nest in our woodshed and - though I wish the little chaps no harm - they were a nuisance. They made a terrible mess. When starting their nest-building project, they appear to have thrown mud and crap all over the place, and the eventual nest was where it happened to stick best. Also, once the laying and brooding bit started, it was a problem to avoid disturbing them, and we had to clear the woodshed and put plastic sheeting down to limit the medieval squalor.

This is not so handy; we keep garden furniture in there, and some tools, and all the bins and tubs for the bird feed (which are, as they say, legion); we had to shift all that lot into the garage, so it didn't get pebbledashed - and then there was the small matter of having a load of firewood delivered during the Summer, so it could dry nicely for the year-end, and - another thing - last year the stupid beggars put their nest on top of an electric light, so we had to use a flashlight to avoid frying their eggs.

Once they had gone we disposed of the nest (which was a wreck anyway) and cleaned up thoroughly. Actually I'm not sure whether it's legal to get rid of the old nest - well, it's gone. This year we'll try to avoid a repeat. Rhetorical questions: do a pair of swallows come back to the same nest? - is there, in fact, such a thing as a pair of swallows to come back to the same nest? - could another pair somehow find (or hear about) last year's nest?.....

Whatever, we'll try to discourage them gently. We have a hot tip that one way to keep swallows away is to equip your shed with [wait for it]...

...a FAKE OWL.

Good, eh?

You buy a fake owl, and put it near the potential nesting site, and the swallows will express their disappointment, fleetingly (which is how they do everything, of course), and will then go and happily build a lovely nest somewhere else, where they can make as much mess as they want. You may well have a fake owl in your garden already, but here are some examples of what you can get.

Owlternative No.1 - this one's head turns in the wind - how awesome is that?

No.2 - this is a long-eared owl, and the swallows may knock on our door to
explain that these don't live around here
No.3 - very scary - this one is supposed to flutter on the top of a pole
So we are going to order one - at the very least we should get a good laugh if it doesn't work. It could make an interesting conversation piece if we have any soirees in the woodshed. The only slightly chilly note is that the Contesse found a reference to some unfortunate lady (in Devon, apparently - you probably like a bit of authentic detail in your stories?) who invested in a Fake Owl for exactly this purpose, and the swallows built their nest on top of the thing. Yes, I know - the owl doesn't look very realistic, does it? - and the swallows may not have realised they were supposed to be scared away. Also, I think it may have been reported in the Mail, so the story may be tripe.

People will always try to discredit a good idea
- just a minute - isn't that No.2...?

Interesting, though.

Real Life has been getting a bit much of late. We could certainly cope with swallows as well, but we'd rather they didn't bother.

Max Foy visits the lighthouse

Sunday, 25 March 2018

ECW - The Battle of Marston Moor - 2nd July 1644

Hot Rupert came spurring to Marston Moor;
Praise we the Lord!
Came spurring hard with thousands a score:
Praise we the Lord!
Beleaguered York, that we lay before,
He knew would be ours ere a week was o'er,
So to scatter our hosts he fiercely swore.
To the Lord our God be glory!

William Cox Bennett

With the snow of recent weeks now merely a fading memory, we played the postponed Marston Moor game yesterday, here at the Chateau Foy. Excellent fun - using my Commands & Colors-derived rules, we fought the battle to a result in about three and a half hours elapsed, which is not bad going at all, considering that I was umpiring...

Baron Stryker, true to type, embraced the role of Prince Rupert with his customary zeal, while Count Goya played out the part of the canny Lord Leven with a more calculating, cautious approach which was entirely appropriate.

The battle was set out according to the most reliable OOB listings I could find. Rupert was given a couple of choices before commencement:

(1) he could, if he wished, reposition the two advanced units of foot on his right - his own and Lord Byron's regiments - which earned him much criticism on the day from Lord Eythin; he opted not to change the set-up, and left them in their historic position

(2) along with his own regiment of horse, Rupert started in reserve, off the table, and could appear on either flank, as he wished; in this case he chose to join Goring's cavalry on his left flank, rather than the choice he made back in '44, when he joined Byron and Molyneux on the right

The game had some strong similarities to the original battle - both sides won their own left flank - Cromwell and Leslie with the horse on the Allies' left were successful, after an initial struggle which could have gone either way; Goring (with Rupert) won the cavalry fight on the other flank for the Royalists - rather easily, in fact. In the centre, the Allied foot was more cautiously handled than in the original, and Rupert surprised everyone by attacking in this area. This was a bold move, though there is a reported eye-witness account which claims that at one point he was heard to say, "erm - I wonder if I should have waited for them to attack...?". 

With luck, some form of battle narrative should suggest itself from the photos. The Allies won by 14 Victory Points to 9 - the units and leaders eliminated being:


Chisenall's Foot
Earl of Newcastle's Foot
Gibson / Ernle's Foot (combined)
Prince Rupert's Foot
Lord Molyneux's Horse
Trevor's Horse
Lord Byron's Horse
Chas Slingsby's Foot
Tillier's Foot
Warren's Foot
Cheater's Foot

plus a couple of cannons and a few commanded shot (which don't count), and also the following generals:

Lord Eythin
Sir Charles Lucas
Lord Molyneux


Earl of Manchester's Foot
Lord Eglinton's Horse
Bethell's Horse
Lambert's Horse
Earl of Manchester's Horse
Vermuyden's Horse
Fairfax's Horse
Fleetwood's Horse

plus one light cannon, plus

Sir Thomas Fairfax, who was killed in the cavalry fight near Long Marston

To my guests yesterday I offer, yet again, my heartfelt thanks for their good humour, patience, enthusiasm and excellent company. It should be recorded that, in honour of the substantial Covenanter presence on the field, our lunch menu featured haggis, neeps and tatties.

Very open terrain - view from the South-West (Allies on this side)...
...and from the South-East - the edge of the village of Long Marston is off the table,
and only there to provide some scenic context
Same two views, with the armies in position

Prince Rupert - his dog featured in the scenario rules. Earl of Newcastle's carriage
in the background.

Cromwell attacks the cavalry on the Royalist right flank

In the centre, Rupert shocks his opponent by attacking
Meanwhile, on the Royalist right, only a battered remnant of the horse remain, and they are
about to be finished off
...there you are - they've gone, and Lord Byron is now taking refuge with the
Foot, a bit further along
The battle in the centre is now building up, though Rupert could have done with some more troops
Having defeated the Royalists' horse on their right flank, Cromwell turns his attention to the foot
Meanwhile, on the Royalist left, Goring has virtually eliminated Fairfax's horse - this
was the most successful bit of the Royalists' day. The day before the real battle, the Allied
soldiers and horses exhausted all water supplies in the village of Long Marston - you
can see that we were taking no chances yesterday. [To even up the accidental advertising
 in this report, the sharp-eyed reader may observe that I have requisitioned a number of
Tesco's charity tokens to augment the stock of order counters - that's the blue, round
things - more accurately, the blue, round things which have "Tesco" written on them]  
Rupert running out of steam in the middle - the VPs are mounting up
Goring has complete control of the Royalists' left flank, though by this time it doesn't
really matter any more. Rupert, with his own regiment of horse, is in the centre of the
picture. Rupert conducted himself with conspicuous gallantry, as you would expect,
though he appeared to be the object of some personal vendetta from Lord Loudon's
Glasgow Foot (who, luckily for Rupert, couldn't shoot for toffee). Both Rupert
and his dog survived the day. Hurrah! 

Appendix 1 - afterthoughts...

With the battlefield dismantled and everything put away, the dining room returns to its normal calm. With Glenn Gould playing Bach on the hi-fi, it's hard to believe that so many thousands fought and died here just yesterday, a feeling which is not unlike what I experienced when I walked across the Marston Moor battlefield in the pouring rain only a few weeks ago - it's just farmland now - odd how the years take away the suffering...

So, if one day the battlefield archeologists visit my tabletop battlefield, what will they find? - just a family dining room?

Not necessarily! - they might find evidence of my splendid new play-mats from the Early Learning Centre, which add greatly to the stability and the evenness of my battlefield, and would probably serve to deaden the sound of tiny hooves in the basement below - if we had one, that is.

Appendix 2 - the Rules

Mostly, everything went well. The game is intended to allow a large action to be fought to an understandable finish in a short time, and that was accomplished without problems. A couple of things I learned, which may appear on Version 2_70 in due course:

(1) Artillery is worse than useless - arguably even more useless than it should be. Easily fixed - I'll go back to fielding two artillery pieces in each unit of medium or heavy field artillery - that should fix it. 

(2) The scenario rule to handle parties of commanded shot attached to units of horse was something of a wash-out. Since loss of these musketeers did not involve Victory Points, it would have been better to state that if they became separated from their parent unit of horse (normally as a result of the horse galloping off at cavalry speeds, which happened a lot, both in the real battle and the toy one) then they would simply retire quietly to a nearby hostelry. Trying to keep track of them and make sensible use of them after separation was not useful.

(3) The latest version of my rule which tries to give "Galloper" cavalry a reasonable advantage over "Trotters" has become too fiddly again - it would be handier and simpler if they just got an extra Battle Die in all combats. My attempts to do something more subtle really only produced a small extra measure of irritation...