Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Rules - Turn Sequences

I've recently been working on some wargame rules of my own (yet again), and I seem to have developed a bee in my bonnet about building them around the turn sequence from the old WRG 1685-1845 rules, which in the past impressed me greatly. It is (or was, at the time I was impressed), unusual in that moving is the last thing you do, including the declaration of the first half of any charges to contact you wish to make. Thereafter, reaction to those charges, defensive retaliation, the completion of the charges and the actual melees take place in your opponent's turn.

I thought that was clever - I confess I never used the full rules as written, because I found them tricky to get the hang of, and there were far too many lists and reaction tests for my liking. Anyway, since the spark had now glowed again, I thought I should make a more serious job of understanding them properly, so that I could maybe use the turn structure in my new game - I have to say that the WRG's rules sometimes rely heavily on your spotting the subjunctive verb in Paragraph 417 to appreciate the full beauty of the logic. [Also, over the years I have skipped past "jezails" in the combat factor lists more times than I could estimate, and I still don't know what a jezail is.]

This, of course, is a jezail
Again, I have found this quite tricky. My new rules were suddenly full of morale tests that I hadn't wanted, there were coloured counters all over the place, to show where you were up to with keeping track of routing units, and, since the game would collapse in a heap if you did anything out of the correct order, I had written out the turn sequence as a checklist.

In a recent email exchange with a fellow bloggist - a game designer of some repute, let it be said - he offered the view that the turn sequence has to be capable of being carried in your head - if you need a chart then there may be something seriously wrong. He is right - I guess I knew this, but I needed someone else to say it.


I have - all right, regretfully - dropped the WRG bits, and my new game is looking slimmer and more like my idea of a recreation immediately.

What is capable of being carried in the head, of course, also depends heavily on how the old head is performing, and I am aware that the passing years have made me less patient in this area, but I prefer to think that I have become more fussy about how a game should be, rather than simply more stupid. Other opinions probably abound.

I was joking about this with another friend (I am showing off here, since this means I must have at least two friends), and we agreed that a wallchart for the turn sequence in chess would be

(1) White moves
(2) Black moves
(3) go to (1)

I could probably post that as a download on boardgamegeek - now there's fame.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

WSS Project - Bavarian Artillery Done

This afternoon I finished off these chaps. As before, the figures are Les Higgins 20mm, from about 1971, and the guns are much more recent, by Lancer Miniatures.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Dog's Chance

I'm really pleased with this. The refurb job on my ex-Eric Knowles British Royal Horse Guards (for Waterloo) suddenly became rather more complicated when the extra figures (Eric's units were bigger than mine are) offered the chance of making some of them into the Life Guards as well. The numbers were a bit tight - through the marvels of digital communication (and Old School analogue kindness) an extra recruit is now on his way from New Zealand to swell the ranks (will he get a seat to himself, they wondered?), and a broken figure needed to be fixed to complete the establishment.




So here is Trooper Lazarus, now of the Life Guards. The horse was broken off its base, years ago, at ankle/fetlock height - tricky in 20mm. I had both the casualty and his base, in the boxes. No problem for Count Goya's Magical Manufactory of Miniature Marvels - the legs and hooves have been drilled, wire braces inserted and appropriately fiendish glue applied. He's as good as new, matron. Marcus Hinton himself could not tell he'd been repaired.

I'm delighted with him. I couldn't have done this. Thank you very much, Your Excellency.

The rest of the unit will follow along as soon as the chap from The Colonies arrives. Trooper L is thrilled to have the chance of getting back into action after all these years of being dead.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Hooptedoodle #354 - The Obstacle Course Game

This is rather a whimsical post - I wasn't sure whether to publish it. Maybe I'll delete it later.

Recently I've been corresponding with a friend about memories of childhood - especially about family get-togethers, in an age when it seemed everyone lived locally, and almost the entire family could be assembled from a small area. My friend and I had some laughs about social rituals, things that our families always did (and said, and sang), and about how the roles of various family members have changed. Since he and I come from different parts of the UK, it has been interesting to note the similarities and the regional differences.

Terraced street in Aigburth, some 10 years later than my tale
I got to thinking about the New Year parties at my grandparents' house, when I was a kid (that's my dad's parents, in Aigburth, South Liverpool). I think we only attended a few times, mostly because my dad would normally have fallen out with one or other of his siblings during the previous year!

The gatherings were large - a lot of people crammed into a small terraced house. They were good-hearted folk, in a tough, noisy sort of way. We must have been at that itchy post-war period when the working class had a bit more money, and everyone was becoming keen on what they saw as middle-class status symbols and values. It was all a bit competitive, and all of it was loud and in-your-face. My posh Auntie May had definitely "rose up", and she had married the boss/owner at her work, developed a new Hyacinth Bucket accent (see clip, below), sent her kids to private school and moved to the Wirral. In a strange, ambivalent way, the family were proud of her, yet envied her, and really hated it when she drove over for New Year in the new Vauxhall, even though they bragged about it when she wasn't there, and stood in the freezing cold to watch it drive away when she left.

Vauxhall Wyvern

At this time, everyone still had their feet and their roots in traditions that were, at the very least, Victorian. The family would come on various buses (only May had a car), some would walk, bearing biscuit tins filled with sandwiches, home baking, even bowls of trifle. When people arrived, all the big winter coats would be piled on the bed in the upstairs room at the front of the house (the smell of moth-balls was stifling), and everyone was issued with the regulation cup of tea to warm them up.

And, I guess, a good time was had by all. Occasional neighbours would appear (though the family was not noted for being very open to strangers), and eventually there were boyfriends of my various cousins (my cousins were legion, and they were all girls, now I think of it). If there were enough newcomers to the family throng, the inevitable party games in the kitchen after the tea-party would include a game called The Obstacle Course. I think my participation in this game came when I was about seven, after a number of years of non-attendance (politics). It was a game you could only play once, but when you could no longer take part you could be involved in the organisation and, of course, spectating.

Even by the prevailing standards, this was an unusually noisy game - it must have been audible a good way up the street. It was necessary to have a minimum number of first-time visitors to play - maybe 3 or 4. There was an element of initiation in it, to be sure. The family's taste in jokes and fun activities was always dominated by practical jokes, some humiliation, just a whiff of sadism, and giving a newcomer the opportunity to demonstrate that they were a "good sport", prepared to laugh at themselves - certainly to be laughed at by others. Maybe this was a test to see if they were going to fit in...

The Obstacle Course game required the identification of suitable (first-time) participants, and then my Uncle Harold and Cousin Joyce (who were the loudest of all) would take charge. The players would be led into the hall by Joyce, where they would be prepared for what was to follow, and while the course was set up. When everything was ready, they would all be admitted to the kitchen (living room), and would be shown an improvised obstacle course, which they had to memorise as best they could; then they would be taken out into the hallway again, and would be given some additional instruction on rules and so on. All the non-playing family members would be seated around the walls of the room - they would be the spectators, and later would vote for the best performer.

1950s clothes horse - we used to call ours a "maiden"
The course itself featured all sorts of household items, arranged in time-honoured constructions that you had to crawl under, step over, wriggle in-between - there was a horizontal broom handle, supported on boxes, to be stepped over without touching it, there were all sorts of cunning arrangements of sofa cushions, the wooden clothes horse, covered in rugs, a step-ladder, stacks of food tins - a lot of ingenuity came into play. And, of course, you would have to negotiate the course blindfolded, with plenty of instruction from Harold - and the spectators, obviously.

The participants (or "explorers" as they were termed) were solemnly blindfolded, and led into the room one at a time. Others went in ahead of me, and the noise was indescribable - the main object of the game was that everybody shouted at the same time - support, conflicting instructions, occasional sympathy, lots of banter. My turn came - I was completely blacked-out. I could hardly breathe, in fact.

The door closed behind me, and Harold said, "righto, Tony - come forward two steps - that's good - a little further - very good. Now, the first obstacle is you have to walk under the step-ladder without touching it, so stoop down a bit - right a bit - no not so much - good. Now edge forward slowly - good - a bit lower - right a bit more..."

And from the onlookers came a deafening uproar of "lower - not so low, turn left a bit - keep your elbows in" and so on.

After the step-ladder I was sweating profusely, but was pleased to have got past it. There was loud applause. Harold shouted, "OK - now you have to step over the bucket of water, so you need to turn left, where you are - righto - stop when I tell you - now - stop - two little steps forward - stop - now - you're going to have to turn sideways for this one..."

And so it went on. In spite of all the conflicting shouting from the sidelines, I did remarkably well, wriggling through sofa-cushion tunnels, tiptoeing through little mazes of tins, stepping over things, all without touching anything. At last, clear so far, I had to jump right across a little hearth-rug, without touching it. In a blaze of glory, I managed to do this. The applause was fantastic - I was as pleased as I could be. Then I was allowed to take off the blindfold, and I realised that the room had been completely cleared, apart from the spectator gallery around the walls. All my gyrations and extreme high-stepping and wriggling had been in an empty room. Of course I was embarrassed, but I got to join the audience and watch the last competitor in action, and I have to say it still seems to be one of the funniest things I have ever experienced. Cousin Pauline's new boyfriend, in his fashionable new shoes, keen to make a good impression, earnestly stretching his legs to impossible angles to avoid a broom-handle which was no longer there, all to the accompaniment of riotous approval.

Harold did a virtuoso performance as ring-master, no doubt. Fantastic noise, tears of laughter - it is sobering to realise that probably only about three or four of the people present are still alive - where did all that noise and camaraderie go? Of course, there are dozens of descendants, but they live in Australia, Singapore, Canada - even London. I have no idea at all about my extended family now - certainly it would be impossible to bus them all to my grannie's house - it might not even be possible to trace who they all are. Changed times.

I also remember that everyone that took part in the Obstacle Course that year got a prize. The bad news was that it was one of Auntie Laura's home-made rock cakes, left over from the festive tea, and quite rightly so, since anyone who had eaten one before would know to avoid them.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Black Bob

Lightweight, entertaining little paint session tonight. Digging around in the Eric Knowles boxes, I have found some interesting items in there.

Tonight I restored a couple of little command vignettes.

First off, here's Maj.Gen Robert Craufurd, of Light Division and getting-killed-in-the-breach-at-Ciudad-Rodrigo fame. This is not going to win any prizes, but it's an attractive little piece. The conversions are ambitious; I can see from the figure bases that the starting point for each is Hinton Hunt SC 4, which is a one-piece-casting ACW cavalry trooper. The mounted Rifles officer has had a body swap - I think I recognise the top half of the HH Rifles officer (normally on foot) - the one with the whistle. His shabraque has been cut from lead foil - it's an impressive job. The General's top half is more of a mystery - I thought he might be a Wellington - I even thought he might be an SHQ Wellington, but I think this model was made too long ago for SHQ. The cape is hand-built from lead foil, again, and I imagine the saddle furniture was, too. I've kept Eric's colour scheme. There was evidence of some corrosion on the foil cape - a white bloom on some of the edges. Lead rot? I've cleaned them up, repainted as necessary and sealed with fresh varnish, and put them on an official house-standard base (Division Commander - 50mm x 50mm, white border). I guess Black Bob's days may be numbered, but with a bit of luck he might outlast me.

And here is a HH General for the ECW, complete with dog. This will go well with Lord John Byron's ferret and Fairfax's Mynah bird. I couldn't find the dog in Marcus Hinton's catalogue, so can only assume it must be a Clayton addition.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

WSS Project - a little gentle rule-testing

It's possible to keep typing for ever without getting anywhere very definite, so tonight I spent a happy couple of hours trying out the new (developing) house rules for the WSS soldiers. Interesting, as always. I found that the principal game mechanisms need a bit of tuning, as you would expect, but the hard bit is getting the flow of the turn-sequence logical (and in a sensible order - better test to see if the attached general is still alive before we give a "+1" on the morale test for his presence...)

A lot to do, but this is a definite step forward, I think. It amuses me to claim that the rules are tried and tested - they are, in the sense that the morale rules mostly come from Charlie Wesencraft, the turn sequence from WRG 1685-1845, the combat rules are based on Neil Thomas (by way of Old Trousers' hexification experiments thereupon), the idea of a single number for unit effectiveness comes from Howard Whitehouse (and, I suppose, from Avalon Hill), the activation rules come from my Ramekin game, the movement and manoeuvre rules come from a computer-driven rule-set called Élan which I used successfully for solo games some years ago...

You get the idea, the only thing which is completely new in this recipe is the combination, and how many teaspoons of each. Anyway - so far so good. Some simplifications are needed, but I'm pleased - I'll carry on with this, and get on with refurbing the armies.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Napoleonic Refurb Project - RHG

My Refurb Project has rather grown arms and legs since I acquired some of the old Eric Knowles collection of figures. Here's the first Napoleonic item to emerge from the boxes.

As you will see, these are the Royal Horse Guards. The castings are Hinton Hunt OPC BN60 - as far as possible I've kept Eric's painting - I've repaired chips and freshened faded colours, and occasionally tweaked things to match the house style, but the spirit lives on. The splendid conversions for the officer and trumpeter are by Count Goya, to whom I offer most appreciative thanks.

My Napoleonic collection has been consciously confined to the Peninsular War for many years - in fact (to my subsequent regret), I have been known to pass over or get rid of items which did not fit with that narrow (though large) focus. Recently I have been working on a Bavarian Napoleonic army, so units for the Danube campaign came into scope, and now the arrival of some of Eric's old soldiers has brought the possibility of adding some specifically Waterloo-period units. Anyway, here's the first.

Eric's regiments were rather larger than mine, so I have spare figures left over. I hadn't meant to, but I now realise it would make sense to produce a unit of Life Guards to keep the RHG company. Goya has added further impetus to this idea by producing command conversions for them in advance, so I'll get on with the regiment. Sadly, I am one casting short - it is possible to convert and recarve and so on to get the extra man, but I thought I would brass it out and ask here: does anyone have a spare Hinton Hunt BN60, the British Household Cavalry trooper (charging)? I shall be delighted to do swaps, pay you actual money, wash your car, take your children for a walk - anything - name your price. I only need one.

Topic 2 - Waste Management

This crops up from time to time - not a rant, really. I read recently about a certain city in England where a primary schoolteacher contacted the local council last year, and said that her class of 7-year-olds were very fired up on the topic of saving the planet, and they were very keen to come along and see how the local authority deals with recycling and so on - would there be any chance of a class outing to the rubbish processing plant?.

She met a surprising amount of hesitancy, she thought - resistance to the idea, in fact. It turns out that the council are not actually doing any recycling at the moment. The residents clean and sort out their recyclable domestic waste, place it all carefully in separate dustbins, as instructed, but when the wagons take it away the whole bloody lot all goes into the same landfill site as the general waste. When she expressed a little disappointment, she got a lecture from the department head. Once they used to sift through it all and send it for suitable processing, then the problem became too large, they couldn't get the staff to do the work, so they started (apparently) sending containers full of plastic and glass waste to China. Then China stopped importing the stuff, so now landfill is the solution. She was told that they realised it wasn't an ideal situation, but proper recycling is not economically viable. They have a duty to the ratepayers to keep costs down etc etc.

OK - I can see there's a problem here, and I hesitate to rush to make worthy suggestions, but I did have some sympathy for the teacher's suggestion that the council's economic model might change a little if they were hit with a very large fine every time they did this. The ratepayers might even have something to say about it, too.

Just as well that environmental issues aren't important, really, isn't it?