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

Friday, 24 May 2019

Hooptedoodle #333 - Fake News

I thought it would be best to put this note out now, to avoid any baseless rumours.

I have come under some pressure recently to put myself forward as a prospective leader of the Conservative Party - it was even suggested that it might be expected of me. I have thought about it long and hard for at least seven minutes, and I regret to say that I shall not be doing this; I do not wish to disappoint anyone, but I think it is only right and proper to be straightforward about the matter.

(1) I have become alarmed at what I can only see as falling standards of behaviour in the House of Commons. I have to assume that the emergence of a reality-TV celebrity as President of the US has triggered an appetite for the proceedings of the British Parliament to be converted into a reality-TV show in its own right. Whatever, I feel I might find the working environment to be insufficiently dignified. Call me old-fashioned if you wish.

(2) I fear that my Thursday bridge evenings would cause something of a clash with the requirements of the job, and I could not live with myself if I did not give the thing my full attention.

(3) The timescale is very short - there is not enough time for a proper lobotomy, even a private one.

(4) I have some difficulty with the idea that the internal squabbles of the Party are somehow more important than the fate of the nation. I accept that the problem appears to be my own, but, again, I would find this a distraction.

Thus - with all due thanks and sincere appreciation to those who have encouraged me to stand for election, I confirm that I shall not be doing so. I am confident that whoever does get the job will do at least as well in the role as I could have done, so I extend to them my best wishes.

If anyone feels the wish to suggest some suitable candidates, I would be delighted to hear from them.   

Sunday, 19 May 2019

French Refurb Project - Yet Another Sanity Check on Scales

I have had some problems getting hold of command figures - especially drummers - to plug the gaps in my refurbished French infantry units. Once again, I find myself trawling around ancient blog posts and forum threads, reading old debates about whether figures from Maker A are compatible with those from Maker B. My perception is complicated somewhat by the fact that individual models from the same manufacturer can vary a bit in scale, by the fact that I frequently disagree with the views expressed in the discussions and by the fact that I tend to forget whatever it was I decided last time.

Round and round we go. I had a couple of email exchanges recently which suggested that, despite my previous investigations, Newline might be OK with Hinton Hunt/Der Kriegsspieler-sized troops after all - especially since I could claim that the drummers were mere lads. I have found old discussions in which some worthy swore blind that Newline were a good match with HaT plastics, and they used them all the time, and so on.

My armies are (unofficially) 20mm or "true" 25mm (an old-fashioned term which is no more helpful than more recent ones). I look for figures which are 21 to 23mm soles to eye, which have hats and equipment which look about  the same - thus 1/72 should fit nicely, though some 1/72 figures don't seem right to me in this context. The important thing is that I should think they look correct - it is my game, after all.

Anyway, I thought I would go around this loop again, and I ordered in some Newline samples (last time was maybe 6 years ago, I think), to see if I have changed my mind, or if recent developments with the Higgs boson particle have somehow changed the size of the millimetre.

Once again, I have produced one of my occasional strange green photos, just to give myself some evidence next time I become confused about this, and to confirm the Groundhog Day nature of these continuing investigations.

You will observe that Newline are quite a bit smaller than all the other figures illustrated. Apart from Newline, these figures all group nicely around the 22-23mm soles-to-eyes mark (the little squares on the cutting mat are 5mm) - the Newlines are a lot smaller. I might just about persuade myself that a very small Newline drummer boy might fit with my Der Kriegsspieler repaints (which, though not included, are the same as Hinton Hunt), but I might have to be pretty desperate to believe it.

So - in case I forget again - here you have it. Newline figures are too small for my armies, though of course they would be perfectly lovely in someone else's Newline army. Oh - and the Hat soldier has a small head. Just saying.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Bavarians - Quick Succession

Yesterday I finished off a second Bavarian artillery unit, within a day or so of the first - clearly Bavarian artillery batteries, in the time-honoured traditions of the No.27 bus, travel around in widely-spaced pairs.

Kennington gunners, Franznap guns - Hauptmann Peters' battery
All ready to keep the Austrians off our terrace
Extra picture, included for anyone who is enthusiastic about waste-management systems
I'm pleased with this. This is a battery of Fuss-Artillerie, that of Hauptmann Peters, according to my official OOB, and they are equipped with a 12pdr and a howitzer. The figure castings are Kennington, and instantly recognisable as such, and the ordnance, as with the previous unit, are splendid little pieces by Franznap - correct Manson pattern and everything. I painted these chaps myself, as you may be able to tell (!). Kennington figures are businesslike and cheerful - this lot show a good attitude, though I am not sure about the officer. It could be that he is disappointed to find that he has been drafted into the artillery, since he had been intended for the infantry for a while, but he looks rugged enough. What's all this shouldered-sabre stuff, though? Is he intending to add some emphasis to his commands to the gunners, is he just posturing, or is he preparing for the enemy cavalry to come too close for canister shot?

In passing, I have read recently that Peter at SHQ, who sadly has some major health problems, is proposing to cut down his activities to concentrate on the core WW2 ranges, so the 20mm Kennington Napoleonics and ECW figures will be looking for a new owner. I certainly hope that goes well. Kennington figures are rather taken for granted, and seldom eulogised, in my experience, but they are good little sculpts, for the most part, they are cheaply and readily available (they have been absolutely invaluable to me in my constant search for 20mm figures over the last 15 years or so) and Peter and his colleagues offer a quick, friendly service. If they become unavailable - and I certainly hope they do not - I think we would (yet again) come to realise what we have lost. A familiar story?

Topic 2 - adventures with highwaymen

This one may ramble about a bit. Recently, Prof De Vries noted my references to Bob the Postie (our mailman), and wondered what had happened to Jamie the Postie - was he all right? Had he moved on to better things?

That's easily answered. Bob the Postie is, in fact, one and the same bloke as Jamie; he now wishes to be called Bob. No idea why - none of my business - perhaps his name is Jamie-Bob - who knows? We have known Bob for a long time now - when we first knew him (as Jamie) he must have been about 20, I guess. He did once blot his copybook by crashing into my wife's car, but that was a long time ago now, and we are friends again. He is cheerful, and reliable, and a good guy to have on our side.

Yesterday lunchtime I did remarkably well on the mailing front. The Bold Bob brought me packages from Uncle Tony Barr at ERM (who had performed heroics, despite the flu, in making me some custom-sized MDF bases, cut from his last-ever sheet of 3mm) and from Wonderland (the Edinburgh model-shop, who got some paint to me within 12 hours of my having ordered it online). The direct result of this fine service is that I managed to complete the Bavarian battery featured in the first part of this post. Really can't complain at all about that.

Less happily, I now realise that my shipment of posh new paint brushes from Cass Art has been committed to the tender mercies of Hermes, the infamous courier. Every day I am invited to refer to the continuing online tracking record for my parcel, which is, as usual, bullshit.

Let me say right away that I realise that the individual delivery drivers who work for Hermes are all self-employed, and the job must be a nightmare, so I am not completely unsympathetic, but our situation here does not lend itself well to operators like Hermes. I live on a farm, in a rural area. In the time it takes to drive a couple of miles out here with my single parcel, the driver can earn far more by delivering a cluster of packages to a larger village, so we tend to get bounced off the end of the day's job list.

Cass Art were prompt, and courteous, and informed me very quickly and correctly when they sent my order out. The downside is the appearance of the word "Hermes" in the detail. Hermes offer a comprehensive tracking service, and their drivers are equipped with a terminal (smart phone?) so they can update the records in real time. Out here in the sticks, that is just an irritant. There is much reference to "attempted delivery", or to people not being at home. On occasions we have stayed in specially to receive a parcel - often, I suspect, the driver has no intention whatsoever of coming around here, he simply enters junk into the system to keep the courier firm off his back. Our current record is about 1 week elapsed, when Hermes promised (and failed) every day to deliver some clothes my wife purchased from a well-known online shop (no - not that one). Every day there was a new line added to the story, and all of it was untrue.

A work of fiction - this is the eBook version, of course. The driver has never been near my house, nor has he had any such intention, I guess
Of course, this is not really a big problem at all. If Cass Art had said to me "we'll try to get your parcel to you sometime next week" I wouldn't have batted an eyelid, but if someone from Hermes tells me a lie every day about how he has bravely been defeated in his attempt to reach my house, or how I failed to be in (although I have supplied safe-place instructions to the seller and I can see the complete length of the lane from the Real World from my windows) then that is just silly. We never see the Hermes drivers, by the way. If and when they ever get as far as our door, by the time we answer the doorbell the driver is gone - there is just a package on the doorstep. They can't spare the time.

This means, of course, that if we happen to be on holiday in Florida and it is monsoon season here, my parcel of (say) expensive books will lie there undisturbed, unless Bob the Postie very kindly puts it safely in the woodshed.

The pros and cons of the "gig" economy. Discuss.


Thursday, 9 May 2019

Bavarians - Light Artillery

Thanks to some splendid paintwork, very kindly carried out by Count Goya, the first artillery presence in my Bavarian 3rd Division is now ready for action. This is a battery of Leichte Artillerie, commanded, I believe, by Hauptmann Tausch.

The figure castings are by Franznap, as are the guns, which are Manson pattern 6pdrs (the gun masters were produced by 3D printing, I understand).

Some foot artillery are also coming along - currently they're on the bottletops. After them, I have to complete a regiment of dragoons and add a few staff and that is the 3rd Division complete - limber teams and a Wurstwagen will follow on after a respectable interval.

Monday, 6 May 2019

A Fool and His Money - a Brush with Disaster

Since I was getting some hobby-type odds and ends from Amazon, it seemed a reasonable idea to get some cheapo brushes while I was at it. A lot of my brushes are coming to the end of their useful careers, so it does no harm to stock up a bit.

I've moaned about this before, but I have a very frustrating personal history with brushes. On occasions I have treated myself to something really expensive, and have usually been disappointed. Some of the best brushes I ever had were second-quality bin ends from Hobbycraft - very unpredictable. Eventually I get to a position where I have a jam jar full of scruffy wrecks, plus a couple of remaining brushes that will still form a decent point, and then one night I lose a bristle or two, and things start to get a bit tense!

I've been reading some forum or other where the dudes were discussing which budget-priced modelling brushes in the UK were good, reliable value for money. Based on this, I added a couple of packs of Humbrol Palpo brushes to my Amazon order. Sable hair, one each of sizes 000, 0, 2 and 4, about £8.50 or so for a pack of 4 brushes.
Old, scruffy brushes are always a nuisance, right? The joke is that these are the new, unused ones - admittedly before I tried to train and clean them a bit - but they were no better afterwards
Humbrol "Palpo" brushes, made in China - marketed by Hornby Hobbies (once of Binns Road, Liverpool). Unspeakable rubbish
A last look. It would be infantile to put them straight in the bucket, but this evening I have been painting with my old brushes. I can feel the donkey's ears growing out of my head
They arrived. I think the only relevant word I can think of is "crap". I've had a go with very hot water and the posh brush cleaner, and the only difference is they are probably slightly cleaner crap now.

Very uneven mixture of bristles, trimmed to length with a hatchet, apparently, lumps of dressing on the ends of the tufts. No likelihood of a passable point. I am disgusted.

Don't ever be tempted to buy any of these, chaps.

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

This follows on from some of the comments. Here are a couple of real veterans. When I was clearing out my parents' house, a few years ago, I came across a lot of my father's old painting equipment. Back in the 1970s he did a lot of hobby painting. He was a very fair watercolourist - a bit photographic for my taste, but pretty good in a draughtsman-like way. He also tried his hand at oils. I found masses of spoiled tubes of paint, and a lot of old brushes. Most of the brushes disintegrated when I checked them - the hair had perished and broken. Amazingly, though, some of them were OK.

I found quite a few of these - they had been used, but not much, so I acquired them for my soldier painting. These are Winsor & Newton, as you see (I've included one side of each brush in the picture - they were all marked like this on the two sides. They are also, I'm faintly embarrassed to observe, stamped by HM Stationery Office in 1966, so I guess my dad liberated them from the office stores when he worked for HM Government.  

The big fellow is worn down - evidence of my dry-brushing resin thatched roofs? The No.1 has probably slimmed down a bit, but is still one of my in-use brushes. Now, I'm not saying these have been used continuously since 1966 - clearly that's not so - but they have been used regularly by me in the last couple of years and there is no sign of degradation of the sable since manufacture 53 years ago.



Saturday, 4 May 2019

French Refurb Project - Getting Organised

The bewildering thing about a big refurb project is that every time I look in a known box of figures I find when I count them that the number is not what I thought it was last time. On occasions, this is because a new box has materialised somewhere else - one which I have forgotten about. It is possible for the effort of trying to keep track of what I'm doing to become so great that it leaves little time or energy for doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing.


The refurb figures which are painted and finished are now properly mounted on magnetised bases, and everything is logged on a proper spreadsheet. If I leave gaps on the bases where the figures are missing, or still being painted, then I can see at a glance where I'm up to. Another (cunning) advantage of this approach is that if on a short evening I decide to paint half-a-dozen figures, I can plan exactly where they will go, which is a considerable help with stuff like company pompom colours - not to mention motivation.

When a unit is actually complete, I finish off the bases, supply an official 110mm x 110 sabot, give 'em a flag, and they move from the box-files to The Cupboard, ready for warfare. Snapshots of this morning's state show two box-files in use - one for the Hinton Hunt and Der Kriegsspieler battalions and one for the Les Higgins battalions. The figures are not incompatible, but I keep them separate for historic reasons which are a bit dim and distant now.

Higginses on the left, HH/DK on the right. The big brown areas are where I've got masses of rank-&-file on bottletops in a big Really Useful Box, being worked on; the smaller brown areas are usually because I'm missing a command figure or a flanker (which may, of course, be on a bottletop as well) - there is a general shortage of drummers for the HH/DK units at present - I'm hoping to make use of some Schilling castings to plug the gaps.
And here are the boxes the other way up, so you can see I have nothing up my sleeve. A lot of the DK figures are ex-Steve Cooney. The furthest-away columns in the left hand box are ex-Eric Knowles Hinton Hunts - waiting only for drummers - I believe I have some proper HH drummers lined up for these. Nerds with exceptional eyesight may detect some HaT plastic eagle-bearers in the right-hand box. That's how desperate things have become in the world of 20mm French light infantry. It's OK. Everything is beautiful in its own way.
In addition to this lot, the recently-arrived Freitag Battalion flashed through to completion without loitering in the boxes, so that's already in The Cupboard. I have two further battalions away in foreign parts, being worked on, I have two battalions of Higgins figures on my own bottletops, being retouched in the evenings, I have three Higgins light infantry battalions waiting to be started (though they look pretty good to start with, so that might not be a big job - put your hand up if you've heard this song before), and a further Higgins battalion which is currently scheduled to be retouched as the 3eme Suisse, though I may have a change of heart and transfer them into the French army (which would involve stripping and repainting from scratch). Then there is a mass of DK figures - also on bottletops, which are in the current queue. I also have some (small) shipments of command figures coming from Art Miniaturen and Old John, plus a trial pack from Newline, to see if I can live with undersized drummer boys. And I have some command figures at a painter.


After that, I am hoping to slow right down on the French army. I have Higgins figures for yet another light battalion (though no command at present) and also for a battalion of Young Guard voltigeurs (same situation). I am going to have to train myself to stop buying old figures I don't really need. What happens is that the planned army establishment gets a hike to accommodate the extra figures, and it all justifies itself. So all I have to do is stop.

Easy. What could go wrong?

Anyway, organisation is the key at the moment.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Coming Up - Ney Day?

There's a great deal made of anniversaries these days. The great thing about an anniversary is that we know when it's coming round, so the media people can prepare something in advance, during slack periods. Sometimes these anniversaries can seem a bit contrived, or they commemorate something that isn't very interesting, or that nobody has heard of (which is a special case of "not very interesting", I suppose).

Recently it was the 54th anniversary of my Uncle Harold accidentally reversing into the lady next door's car, in Bromborough. The stature of this anniversary is limited by the fact that very few folk who knew of the incident at the time are still alive, and those who are cannot remember it anyway, so it is unsatisfactory on a number of counts - not helped by the fact that no-one was hurt.

No - we have to aim higher. This post is all the Duc de Gobin's fault, by the way, since he reminded me of the classic Waterloo film from 1970. Subsequently I was browsing around the subject of the movie - online, like - and I discovered that Dan O'Herlihy, the Irish actor who played Marshal Ney in the movie, was born on 1st May 1919. If Steiger will always be the true Napoleon to many of us, then for me O'Herlihy will forever be the iconic Ney, the man who told the Emperor to abdicate, for goodness' sake. You can't get any more important or influential than that - though it surprises me that I never saw O'Herlihy, as far as I know, in anything else. It has been suggested that they had to pay so much to secure the services of Steiger, Plummer and Orson Welles in the Bondarchuk movie that they economised by filling the rest of the cast with lesser lights - first-rate actors who were less well-known. And Terence Alexander, of course. 

Anyway, this means we are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the birth of The-Man-Who-Played-Ney. I don't expect this to get into the BBC Radio 4 world news on 1st May, so I guess I'll have to commemorate Ney Day privately. I can always watch Waterloo again, of course, with a mug of cocoa, but I'd welcome any good ideas about a suitable way of celebrating.

Any thoughts?

To get myself in the mood, here's the classic opening sequence, in which we discover that Napoleon's Marshals were trained to speak in turn, in the best traditions of panto, that Marshal Soult was a Scotsman (played by an Italian actor), that Napoleon wore specs and that Marmont was a rotten scoundrel. Great stuff. Love it.

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

Scrapbook stuff, courtesy of the Interweb.

Ney (Michel, not Dan the Man) was born in Saarlouis, which these days is in Germany - his birthplace is now an Italian restaurant, but the situation is rescued by the fact that its address is 13 Bierstrasse, which is more like it. I don't know if the restaurant is the original building, but since his father was a cooper, it is no surprise that they had a big cellar.

Here's young Michel in the 4th Hussars, 1792.