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

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Just Another Half Fort, Please...

When I first started fiddling around with sieges - maybe 6 years ago now - I bought myself half a fort. Having studied my Chris Duffy book, I decided that half a fort on one edge of a table gave a useful "slice" of a full siege ("slice" as in "pizza"), and I have used this set up from time to time since then.

I am still short of some decent-looking siege trenches, but I know what sort of cross-section of hardwood mouldings will give me something useable, so it's just a matter of getting around to that bit. The fort itself has always been a work in progress anyway (a "works in progress", perhaps?). The hardware I invested in was the 15mm scale "Vauban Pack" offered by Terrain Warehouse (circa 2009), and it came pre-painted to a decent standard. TW offered a limited range of pieces, but the general format looked more useful than some of the alternatives (someone makes a square fort, for example), and the configuration is hexagonal, which sits rather nicely with my hex-gridded table, apart from anything else.

The TW products did not include gatehouses, or damaged sections, or very much in the way of flexibility, and the glacis sections as manufactured forced you into a limited number of shapes and patterns, but it seemed good for cutting my teeth on. I intended to get more pieces as time and funds permitted, to give a larger installation, and to adapt items from other makers and scratch build to add sophistication (or "fiddly bits" to use Vauban's own technical term).

I kept meaning to get around to this. At one point, around 2011, I read that Terrain Warehouse were offering the rights and moulds for their scenery range for sale, and I was panicked into getting in touch, but I let things slide again and the fort remained a half-fort.

The sections I have are:

4 straight wall sections (each 100mm long, to give an idea of proportions)
3 bastions
2 ravelins
plus sufficient glacis sections to match all of these

The illustration at the top shows this lot laid out.

Well, the latest news is that I am now in touch with the guys who bought the Vauban Fort rights from the previous guys who bought them from Terrain Warehouse. The pieces are not currently in production, but it seems likely that if I specify exactly what I want they should be able to make the sections. Whether they will paint and flock them for me I do not know yet (though I'm confident that I could handle that bit myself). I don't want to say too much about who and where and what until things are more definite, but it looks promising.

So if I could get pieces and glacis bits to give me a full circular fort that would be very nice. This, in turn, would involve me in hunting out and modifying and scratch-building the required Fiddly Bits to keep Vauban happy, allow the townspeople to get in and out and model some particular fortress or other. Since these pieces are required mostly for a Peninsular setting, I am also keen to be able to blend the Vauban pieces in with older, medieval or renaissance fortifications to produce the sort of scruffy hybrid which was the normal installation in Spain. Imagine me cutting and flocking glacis sections, covered up to my elbows in glue and green fluff, happy as a pig in wassname.

I'm currently working out what bits I need to get this started, and I'll send some drawings to these mysterious new owners. I reckon another 2 wall sections, 3 bastions and 2 ravelins, plus glacis to fit, will give me a full fort, and I might get some extra bits for the odd outwork if I can see how to do that. I've also checked out the available gates and drawbridges and suchlike from Magister Militum - all very interesting. As and when I make some progress I'll publish an update on how it's going.

Picture of my fort in action, taken by Clive (The Old Metal Detector) during a
play-test in Summer 2010, with additional buildings by JR, Hovels and others,
plus the odd chair (photo used without permission - thanks, Clive)

Friday, 17 April 2015

New Blog on 25mm Ros figures!

Iain very kindly drew attention to a blog which I had not seen before, which is dedicated to the (legendary) 25mm Ros wargame figures, which were a brilliant idea in principle but disappeared quickly.

The picture at the top is borrowed from the blog, which you will find here. I am very impressed - this is what blogs should be - celebration of the rare and the obsolete and the vanished - works of true affection. Humbling. My own short post on Ros was some 4-and-a-bit years ago, and is here, and I hope that it captured my appreciation of Ros's efforts - obviously their 6mm figures are very successful and rightly celebrated, but most wargamers and collectors are unaware that the 25mm range ever existed. Well they did, and it was a splendid idea - deliberately cheap and cheerful - you got 10 infantry or 4 cavalry to a bag, and the idea was to enable rapid build-up of inexpensive armies.

Not sure why they stopped making them - the "true 25mm" approach meant that they were a bit big for the 20mm collectors and were also rendered obsolete by the sudden growth of mainstream 25mm into something rather larger. Maybe they arrived on the scene a couple of years late - they would have made comfortable table-mates with S-Range and Lamming. I had a few units - the only one I have left now are my ferocious Chasseurs Britanniques, who have, admittedly, some non-Ros command figures - these chaps have been the heroes of many of my battles over the years; there is something especially satisfying about the occasions when they see off much more prestigious units, manned by more revered makes of figures.

Here they are.

Anyway - best of luck to the Ros blog - I would follow it officially if it did not require me to be recalibrated to Google+ (which a friend recently described as "the Betamax Facebook" - I would not have a view on this). I shall watch the blog with friendly interest.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Hooptedoodle #170 - Donkey Award - Even the Scammers Are Crap

Phone rang at 9 o’clock this morning. It was almost like a long-lost friend had called. I had spoken briefly to this presence when I answered the phone at my mother’s house a year or two ago, but they’ve taken a long time to get round to me. Now they were calling – I felt almost honoured.

A gentleman from the Indian subcontinent asked for me by name – he was polite, though his English wasn’t very good. The number showed in the caller display


He said that there was “a problem with the Windows” and if I was near my computer I must help him to fix it. It would just take a few minutes, and I had to do this.

I told him I knew who he was, and where he was, and what he was doing. I told him that the call was being recorded (untrue), and could he please give me his name, so that I could pass it to the police?

“Oh no,” he said, “no need to go to all that trouble – this is the Windows Support, this is what I told you already.”

I know what happens next – the caller gets the victim to fire up Windows, to run eventvwr, displaying a supposed pile of (spurious) error codes. Then he gets him to sign up to some fake extended guarantee, which will require a credit card payment, and then he persuades him to allow remote access to his computer, where they can implant any malware they wish, and through which they can (and will) delete key system files if the card details turn out to be invalid, often demanding immediate payment to undo the damage.

Monday mornings are a bit low on excitement here, but I was (frankly) disappointed that the young man was untroubled by being told that I knew he was a villain, and was quite prepared to carry on where we had left off. I got bored with him and hung up. I am surprised they keep this going – the scam is famous – it has been widely known as the Microsoft (sic) Scam since about 2007. Obviously it must still be making money for them, though I would have thought that a credit card transfer was traceable – mostly I am surprised that the scammers have not been arrested or dismembered.

So – action point for today – if it isn’t there already, put the number I noted above in your phone’s directory, with the name LOW LIFE SCUM against it, so you know not to speak to them if they ring you. I am vaguely interested in where they got my phone number and name, and how they know my BT account details, since my phones are ex-directory and BT’s records are supposed to be confidential. Not to worry, but bad people are not usually as limp as these guys – my brush with them wasn’t even entertaining.

Poor show all round.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Callan - any good? - any opinions?

Short and rather pathetic request for help...

I have been offered (at a very cheap price) two new, shrink-wrapped box sets of DVDs which between them cover series 1 and 2 of the old Callan TV show (in monochrome, including the original pilot programme A Magnum for Schneider) and series 3 and 4 (by which time the programmes were filmed in colour).

Apart from the legendary wargaming scenes (which I do not believe I have ever seen, even on YouTube), I feel that this is probably a worthwhile buy at the price anyway, as a piece of vintage TV.

Problem is that I probably saw maybe two of the original shows (they date from a period when I mostly didn't own a TV), and I have found on recent nostalgia trips that vintage TV was often embarrassingly poor. So I am torn - half of me says "Yeah! - Callan! - great", and the other half says "but what do I know about Callan? - I never saw it - I have no opinion".

Anyone out there a Callan fan? - would you recommend the series? (it is very cheap).

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

ECW Campaign - Big Finish - The Battle of Brockleymoor, 1644

To resume our tale of the English Civil War in North Lancashire and Cumbria in 1644…

Capt Groves' Royalist firelocks occupied the churchyard at Leaning St Mary's,
but did not delay the brigade of the Earl of Dunbar for long
After the Battle of High Cark, the King’s forces were contained in the town of Lowther and the fortress of Erneford, on the River Arith, in north Lonsdale. The victorious Army of Parliament went into one of its habitual phases of re-organising itself, with the result that very little effort was made to lay siege to either of these places, or even to seal them from the outside world, and in early May the Royalists marched out of their supposed prisons with breathtaking synchronisation, meeting no serious opposition at all, and headed north toward the Royalist town and castle of Penrith, where they were to be joined by a reinforcement sent from the garrison of Carlisle. It is evident that communication between Carlisle and the valley of Arith had been untroubled by the presence of the blockading troops. 

So complete was the surprise achieved by this move that it took a few days for the Parliament forces to set up a pursuit.

The reinforcement had not yet reached Penrith when they got there, so the King’s men continued northwards, eventually meeting up with a force commanded by the military governor of Carlisle, Lord Peterkin Maule, near the town of Lazonby, two days' march beyond Penrith. This additional column brought from Carlisle consisted of the regiments of foot of Col Thomas Ganesbrough, Col Hendrik Penny, Col Charles Martindale and Col George Crompton, the regiments of horse of Lord Maule and of Col Josiah Trimbull and a couple of serviceable guns from the Carlisle garrison.

The augmented army turned to confront the pursuing Parliament force and met them near the village of Plumpton, in Cumberland, at what has become known as the Battle of Brockleymoor, on 27th May 1644.

[The size of the forces involved, together with my beta-test “Brigade Orders” activation rule, required a raid on the spares box to raise extra officers, who were temporarily mounted on coins for the occasion - my apologies for the Old School informality.]

At the head of the Allied army, Sir Henry Figge-Newton was conspicuous by his absence – he had travelled to London on private business, and so the overall command devolved to the capable (though unloved) Sir Nathaniel Aspinall, who kept the Covenant forces in distinct brigades but took the admirable step of placing the Scottish general, William Geddes, in command of all the Allied Foot.

The field is fairly open – one fordable stream flows into an odd, swampy sink-hole, which was a no-go area at this time of year. The hills occupied by the Royalist line are not high, though the slopes were slippery after a period of rain. I hope to give a rudimentary narrative through the picture captions. The general style of the terrain is moorland fells, lightly wooded.

 General view from behind the Royalist left - Darracott held a symmetrical
line, cavalry on each flank, while the Allies placed their main weight on
their left, with extra horse in support of the centre. The village of Plumpton
is the middle of the Royalist position

Col Frayne's Northumbrian troops in the Royalist right wing

View from behind the position of Sir Marmaduke Davies' reserve brigade,
towards Geddes' slow but sure advance

Royalist dragoons at the lead mine, on the extreme left flank, had a very quiet day

After some delays caused by problems with orders, Geddes' left flank is ready to attack

Aspinall's plan (his army is on the far side) was to attack with his stronger left,
then to advance his right if the Royalist army started to shift reserves to support
their own right, but the day was decided before that.

Darracott was determined to hold his cavalry back, but the dice determined
that Broadhurst, on the Royalist right, saw an opportunity to harrass the flank
of the Parliament attack

Broadhurst had greater numbers, and handled his troopers well enough, but
his men could not fight for toffee. These are not the sort of dice you need when
fighting cavalry

Yet again, the fate of the Royalist horse suddenly became critical to the outcome
- this picture shows a sort of high-water mark, as Broadhurst's men have pushed
back the advance, but themselves have taken a battering. [Red counters are losses,
other colours denote the brigading]

It took a while, but the infantry attack finally goes in - Sir Julius Mossley has the leading brigade

The Parliamentarian cavalry brigade of Sir Beardsley Heron became the
surprise heroes of the day - after wrecking Broadhurst's horse, they took
the Royalist position in flank and caused a general rout there. Here
they arrive at the end of the Royalist reserve position, exposing the shakier
second-line troops - the Trained Bands of Penrith and Lazonby had not expected
to be subjected to this sort of treatment, and simply melted away. Sir
Marmaduke Davies was badly wounded trying to rally the shreds of his brigade.

The Royalist line is not what it was; Aspinall's hawk-like gaze was watching
for any movement of the reserves, but none came in time to save Davies and Monkton

The collapse of Darracott's right and the loss of a couple of general officers
produced a violent swing in Victory Points at the end - 12 was enough to win the day...

And still there is no action at this end of the table - not much remains of Darracott's right, though

Big Wullie Geddes waving his hat in victory, celebrating the end of the Royalist
presence in Lonsdale. Darracott, still with a large army despite the carnage,
retired to Carlisle. Aspinall, aware that many of his men were a long way from home,
and plagued already with high rates of desertion, let the King's army go, and
fell back to Lancaster. The campaign was ended.

Orders of Battle - Brockleymoor, 27th May 1644

[Units marked # were from the Carlisle garrison; those marked * were remnants of units, converged to give a formation of useful size]

Royalist Army (Sir John Darracott)  3200 horse, 11065 foot, 2 guns

Horse (Lord Sefton)

Bde of Sir Allard Jenkinson
Jenkinson’s RoH
Ld Sefton’s RoH
Ld Cressington’s RoH
Bde of Sir Roderick Broadhurst
            Clevedon’s* & Broadhurst’s* RoH
            Moorhouse’s* & Noden’s* RoH
            Maule’s# RoH
            Trimbull’s# RoH

Foot (Lord Maule)

Bde of Col Monkton
            Monkton’s RoF
            Galliard’s* & Rice’s* RoF
            Ganesbrough’s# RoF
Bde of Lord Ullet
            Ld Ullet’s RoF
            Maxwell’s RoF
            Parkfield’s RoF
Bde of Sir Marmaduke Davies
            Davies’* & Fulwood’s* RoF
            Penrith TB
            Lazonby TB
            Penny’s# RoF
Bde of Col Frayne
            De La Roche’s* & Frayne’s* RoF
            Wooding’s RoF
            Martindale’s# RoF
Bde of Col Charlton
            Charlton’s RoF
            Fintry’s*, Corfield’s* & Brogan’s*
            Crompton’s# RoF

Dingle’s Dragoons
Groves’ Firelocks
2 med cannons

[Losses on the day were approximately 1200 horse, 3000 foot, and two of the brigade commanders – Sir Roderick Broadhurst and Sir Marmaduke Davies – were severely wounded. Broadhurst subsequently died of his wounds on 4th June.]

Allied Parliamentarian & Covenant Army (Sir Nathaniel Aspinall)  4000 horse, 11350 foot, 3 guns

Horse (Lord Alwyn)

Bde of Col Allington
            Ld Sudley’s RoH
            Ld Eastham’s RoH
            Pitlochrie Horse
Bde of Sir Beardsley Heron
            Heron’s RoH
            Winstanley’s RoH
            Chetwynd’s RoH
Bde of Sir Rowland Barkhill
            South’s RoH
            Barkhill’s RoH
            Dundonald’s RoH

Foot (Gen William Geddes)

Bde of Sir Julius Mossley
            Buckland’s RoF
            Mossley’s RoF
Grafton’s RoF
Bde of Col Bryanston
            Bryanston’s RoF
            Hawkstone’s RoF
Bde of Lord Lambton
            Burdett’s RoF
            Ld Lambton’s RoF
            Nielson’s RoF
Bde of Col St Clair
            St Clair’s RoF
            Laird’s RoF
            Petrie’s RoF
Bde of Col Herdman
            Herdman’s RoF
            Yester’s RoF
            Sweeting’s RoF
Bde of the Earl of Dunbar
            Snodgrass’s RoF
            McKinnon’s RoF
            Earl of Dunbar’s RoF

Ancaster’s Dragoons
2 med cannons
1 heavy cannon

[Allied losses were approx 700 horse, 800 foot.]

Friday, 3 April 2015

Hooptedoodle #169 – Weather Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

Loch Lomond - bonny, bonny banks etc - as featured in tourist brochures
We took a crafty, early Easter break, as soon as my son broke up from school, and thus managed to rent a holiday lodge at a fraction of the normal price, right on the shore of Loch Lomond. That’s where I’ve been this last week.

The lodge was brand new, and in fact was better than anything of the sort I have stayed in before, so that was very good, except that some of the advertised facilities hadn’t arrived yet. It was obvious that the site managers are working very hard to get ready for the full season, and there was a lot of work going on – laying tarmac, landscaping, all that – and a fair amount of noise. In fact, as we were based at Inveruglas, on the Western shore of the loch, it was a bit noisy generally, since the main road and the railway take up most of the land at the water’s edge, and there is a lot more traffic than you would think. We had intended to get some decent hillwalking in, but it rained fairly solidly for the whole time we were there, and the need to start off any outing by playing chicken along the nightmarish A82 proved a major disincentive.

We did manage one proper walk, and it was a short one, but pretty harrowing from the weather point of view – we walked up Glen Sloy to have a look at the hydroelectric dam, and it actually snowed while we were up there. We told jolly tales of Captain Scott’s lads, to amuse ourselves and take our minds off the cold.

Foy the Younger and Elder during the assault on Glen Sloy.
The hydroelectric dam in the background dates from 1946,
and apparently the resultant artificial Loch Sloy behind
it has drowned the traditional lands of the McFarlanes.
All disgruntled McFarlanes please form an orderly queue to
register complaints. This was April Fool's Day - the snow
appears to have stopped briefly at this point - we were
pretty much soaked through, though.
We drove to Inveraray on Tuesday, and visited the famous Jail (an interesting, if overpriced visit), and we had an absolutely splendid lunch in the George in Inveraray, which apparently was awarded the accolade Best Pub in Scotland in 2011, and is still pretty damn good now. Great traditional atmosphere, log fires, fantastic food – high spot of the holiday, I reckon.

Because of the weather we saw very little in the wildlife department, but yesterday while I was getting dressed I could just make out (through the murk) an enormous bird of prey sitting on the grass, not far from my window.  Since it had to be an eagle, at the very least, I rushed off in a state of high excitement to find my spectacles and my camera, and came back to find that it hadn’t flown away (as I had thought it would), since it was, in fact, a large stone.

Got home at lunchtime today, to find that Hermes (the courier – definitely not the deity) had left a parcel safely tucked behind a plant pot on my front doorstep. It had been there since 31st March, sitting in a puddle, and the wrapping had gradually disintegrated. As luck would have it, it was my shipment of Spanish cavalry from Hagen, not a book I have been expecting from Spain, and the figures themselves were completely unharmed by their experience - another stroke of good fortune to cherish.

The cavalry are excellent – more will be heard of these once I have sorted out some plans for painting them. They will become the Dragoons of Pavia, plus 3 units of Line Cavalry that I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I have them written down somewhere.

Now we have to finish unpacking and put our boots somewhere to dry.

Oh yes - I seem to have wriggled past the 300K hits landmark, so thanks again to everyone who reads, or has read, this blog!

Late Edit: Taken by the Contesse - Inveraray Jail uses some effective techniques with
recorded voices and scenes set in the courtroom and the prisons depicting real events.
Your bloggist could not resist the temptation to join the other dummies in the public
gallery at a Victorian trial of a man who burned down a barn filled with animals.
He was found guilty, of course, as he was again 30 minutes later.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hooptedoodle #168 - Donkey Award - World of Bins

Whatever the question was, this new chart is almost certainly the
answer - I promise to post a photo of our proud new row of bins
when the grey one arrives; we may cut down a few trees to make room
We live in a house built on a farm in a very rural area. In our kitchen there are three waste receptacles - to conform with the local council regulations. We have a plastic tub into which goes all recyclable waste paper, another to take recyclable plastic, metal and glass, and a bog-standard (large) flip-top bin to take everything else. That is the indoor bit of this industry; outside we have corresponding wheelie-type bins - a green bin for general waste, one with a red top for the plastics etc, and one with a blue top for the paper. Existing regime is that the green one is emptied every Thursday, and the other two are emptied (by a different truck) every second Thursday (I hope you're taking notes here).

A new development is that we have now been supplied with another bin (a brown one) to take all garden waste - prunings, dead leaves, grass cuttings and similar. The brown bin collections will start in April, we were told, so - as you can imagine - we have been waiting in a state of some excitement to see how this will work.

Well, it gets more complicated. It seems we will also be supplied with yet another bin (a grey one) which is for food waste, which will henceforth be banned from the green bin. This is a serious business, too - I expect to see officials with armbands checking the contents of our bins for compliance - they may even be required to taste the food waste, just to be sure. I hope so.

Since it would be unreasonable to expect householders to wander down the garden to the new grey bin every time they have a used tea-bag, we will also be supplied with a matching indoor (grey) food waste container so we don't run any risk of contaminating the household rubbish. We are lucky to have a decent-sized kitchen and a large garden, to house all this splendour, and our domestic arrangements allow us a bit of time to devote to the complexities of the new arrangements. For new arrangements is what we shall have. Our local authority - whom I have avoided naming, not that it matters - have decided that our bin collections will now all be fortnightly, and staggered in such a way that there is no easy way to remember what the blazes we are supposed to be leaving out in any particular week. Like me, you may have doubts about the overall improvement in our quality of life, despite the hefty municipal investment in PVC and our proud new row of bins.

At the top of this post is the new master schedule, which we shall have to keep in a prominent place, since I do not fancy our chances of ever memorizing it. Our lives will be pretty much driven by our waste management activities in future, which is probably how it should be. I shall say nothing at all about the double-whammy of ratepayers being saddled with both extra cost and extra hassle; my lips are sealed on the subject of just how much benefit to the environment and the state of the planet is likely - I need more information on the carbon footprint of the manufacture of plastic dustbins; it would be overly carping to observe here that as far as I can see the stuff that goes to the local landfill site still looks pretty much as it did some years ago, so I shall swerve that one as well.

I'm sure that armies of jobsworths all over the UK are already running such regimes - it is simply that we have joined this enlightened group rather late in the day. I'm also sure that someone will be delighted to tell me that it is all the fault of the Eurocrats in Brussels. If so, I have a message for you...