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


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Hooptedoodle #23 - Dandelions, What Dandelions?

I knew it would happen. If I lived long enough, we would eventually buy a gadget that works.

With all this focus on blog awards and suchlike (well, not focus, exactly) I am once again aware that the one thing this blog is short of is stuff which is actually useful. Well today I am going to make up for that.

I have a friend who emails me regularly and says things like "I enjoyed the posting, but why on earth did you write it?". He also once described one of my posts (the one about bananas, in fact) as "an exercise in pointlessness", a judgement with which I cannot find fault, to be honest.

Anyway - a new world is here - if this works OK, I may start a series of domestic tips of the week - useful things like "how to get bloodstains out of a clown suit".

If, like me, you regard gardening as one of a number of things which take up time which could be spent with your toy soldiers, keep reading.
If, like me, you spend some time each week wondering just how the description "low maintenance" applies to your garden, keep reading.
If you have ever bought a patent gadget to make gardening easier, keep reading - especially if it turned out to be crap.
If you hate dandelions in your lawn (though you might like one if you met it socially), keep reading.

Gentlemen - I have bought a dandelion remover. This is not an advert - I am simply so overjoyed that I am sharing some news with you. The device is made in Finland, and is marketed under the trade name Fiskars. And it works. Mme Foy bought it for me, and it works.


I have a long, unhappy history with dandelions - I have sprayed them with all sorts of stuff, dug them up - no good, they come back stronger. In sunny weather, you can hear them laughing. Well, no longer. This new toy is well made, simple to use, and reliably pulls them up - as often as not with a complete tap root you could just about boil up for soup.

Wholeheartedly recommended - don't say I haven't got your interests at heart. If you want to see a demo - click here.

Blog Award Nominations - pass it on!


I'm really very pleased to get a nomination - thanks very much to Ross, whose Battle Game of the Month blog is compulsory reading for me – the new stuff and the comments. Until yesterday, I was unaware that this sort of award thing went on, but am very pleased if someone finds my burblings interesting.

As I understand it, a nominee who accepts is obliged to do a number of things:



(1) Thank the nominating blog(s) and link back to it/them
(2) Share seven things about myself
(3) Nominate more blogs which you think deserve it
(4) Tell the people you nominate (and explain what it means!)

There is definite uncertainty about point (3). The number varies a lot - I've seen 4, 5, 7 and even 15. I'm nervous of chain-letter arithmetic - if we really go for 15, everyone on the planet will have several awards by mid-May, so I've gone for seven, which seems more than enough. I tried to go for blogs which I read regularly, and to avoid those which have obviously been nominated elsewhere. To the people I forgot to include, as well as those I included who may not appreciate it, my apologies.

As part of my research I found myself briefly in the world of chic-lit blogs, hair products blogs, lip gloss blogs, kids' parties blogs, pet grooming blogs, and weight loss club blogs. Wow. Interesting, but a bit too much like bl--dy Facebook for me - a lot of this stuff is terminally cute - as one who gets a nominal 1/2-meg of rural broadband when the wind is in the right direction, I am left gasping at the time and effort involved. However - pots and kettles...

Seven things about myself:

(1) I was born in Liverpool, but have lived most of my life in Scotland. I attended the same grammar school in Liverpool as John Lennon (though he was long gone before I got there).
(2) Between leaving university and taking early retirement a few years ago, I worked for just one firm. It may not sound very exciting, but it’s OK when they are working out the redundancy packages!
(3) I have 4 sons - my 3 sons from my first marriage are grown up now, and my youngest son is 8. Correction – he tells me he is 8½, and that ½ is significant when you're 8. Sorry, 8½.
(4) For many years I’ve been a semi-pro musician – mostly blues and jazz groups (though I’m less busy in that area these days) – and I’ve been lucky enough to travel fairly widely through music. One of my older sons plays professionally – he is currently touring Europe with North Atlantic Oscillation, who are worth checking out (skip the ad at the start of the YouTube clip).
(5) I live on a farm about 40 miles east of Edinburgh, right on the coast. No, I am not a farmer – they have to get up too early and work far too hard for me.
(6) I am appalled by how uninteresting these things seem as I type them. Somebody (Woody Allen?) once said that he was terrified of drowning, because he knew that as his life passed before him he would realise how boring it was. That rings a bell. Would it be all right if I wrote about someone else?
(7) In addition to being a soldier collector and wargamer who has become disenchanted with painting, I am also a keen hill-walker, though I am terrified of heights. Is it possible to get counselling on choice of hobbies?

My victims/nominees – this is difficult – I’ve excluded blogs which I know have already been nominated, so if you’re not listed here, there’s no stigma! There’s no implied order here:

(1) I’m very partial to Unfashionably Shiny, largely because it’s a good, no-nonsense blog with plenty of good pictures of great soldiers.
(2) The same is true of Stryker’s excellent Hinton Hunt Vintage Wargame Figures
(3) I thought seriously of nominating two of Clive’s blogs, but since that seemed a bit like victimisation I opted for The Hinton Hunter because it is such a valuable resource, such a terrific labour of love. This, to me, is an example of blogs at their most useful. Clive also has told me that he tries to keep his opinions out of the blog, to keep it factual. I am so impressed by this, and so completely unable to do the same, that this in itself may be worth the nomination.
(4) Small Scale World – always something different, and it’s an interesting presentation of a subject area I know very little about. And the rants are always good value, too.
(5) Miguel Angel Martin Mas’ blog – because it’s invariably interesting, and he keeps the posts short enough to give me a chance to try out my vestigial grasp of Spanish
(6) Project Leipzig (1813) – great blog, Rafa – so many good things and so much information
(7) Illustration Art – something completely different – beautiful and informative – always interesting and entertaining

I’ll set about sending comments to all these, to give them the good news...

My sincere thanks to the authors of these, and all the many other blogs I enjoy; I came into this blogging business pretty cynical, and it has been a revelation. Thanks, guys.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Hooptedoodle #22 - Mann Overboard - Vandalism on a Grand Scale

A short Easter break with my family gave a chance for a rare visit to Liverpool, my birthplace. The weather was good and we had a very enjoyable trip. Like all lost souls, each time I go back I am surprised by the amount of change, but I have no real axes to grind, the city is much more prosperous than it used to be, and I can take it all with an open mind.

This time I got to see the new buildings which are going up at Mann Island, in the Pier Head area of the city, and I am really not very enthusiastic at all. Whether or not you care for Liverpool, it does have a vitality and a bustling, cosmopolitan feel which befits its traditions as a seaport. It even has beauty. The "Three Graces" - the Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the old Dock Office buildings - are now clean and refurbished and rightly occupy centre stage in what may be the most widely recognised waterfront view in the world. But they have a new neighbour – an asymmetrical monstrosity of black glass which I would consider, at best, ill judged. The strange shape is supposed to represent the bow of a ship, an idea which is interesting for maybe 15 seconds, but the structure is not at all in keeping with its surroundings, and completely obscures the famous view of the Pier Head from the Albert Dock area to the south.


Liverpool's Pier Head


Mann Island - no, it isn't a practical joke...

I tried very hard to see some merit in this addition, but regret that – like the majority of the locals – I can only see it as a blot. It feels, somehow, like a deliberate defacement of the traditional image of the city. I started wondering idly about why someone might wish to do this.

Liverpool has become many things it did not used to be. For one thing, it has become extremely contrite, and not before time. The wealth of Georgian and Victorian Liverpool was largely based on the unspeakable triangular trade which its merchants plied. Ships loaded with beads and copper trinkets would sail to the west coast of Africa and the Goree, where the goods would be exchanged for slaves, who would be shipped across the Atlantic to the plantations of the New World. The ships would return home filled with cotton, sugar and tobacco from America and from the Caribbean, and round they would go again. It’s appalling, but it’s true. In recent years the city has made a very public attempt to present an honest appraisal of its historic role in slavery – the top floor of the Maritime Museum is now given over to a permanent exhibition of the subject. It’s a heartrending experience, but well worth a visit. I do not doubt the sincerity of this effort, but there is an inevitable whiff of PR there as well. A proposal was made recently in the city council to rename a number of streets which commemorate prominent local families and individuals who profited from (or were otherwise connected with) slavery – the Tarletons, the Newtons, the Tates and so on. It was realised that this would require Penny Lane, no less, to be renamed. Since a great many cash-bearing tourists would be disappointed by its disappearance, the project was shelved.

It is obviously difficult to be selective about which bits of your history you wish to admit to. Liverpool has to come to terms with what it has been and what that means in the modern world. In my idle way, I wondered whether self-mutilation – deliberately spoiling the famous landmarks of the mercantile tradition – was part of all this.

You can’t blame the architects. Architects will always dream up something new and different – why, even the Liver Building might have been considered inappropriate when it was designed. It’s the planners. If you tell an architect not to be silly, he will generally go away and happily come up with something else – that’s what he does for a living. No – some weasel on a committee somewhere is delighted that he has earned a little immortality by achieving what the Luftwaffe failed to do in 1941 – he has destroyed the city’s waterfront.

No doubt I shall get used to the results, like everyone else. It would not surprise me if the new Mann Island building is demolished long before the Three Graces – it may even fall down, who knows? In the meantime, if some lunatic wishes to put up a large, 3D version of a child’s drawing in front of the Sacre Coeur, or the Rialto Bridge, or the Taj Mahal, see if you can talk him out of it, will you? We have to look after what we’ve got.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

CCN - My Local Rules - (2) Grand Tactical variant

I am aware as I write this that previous posts I have put up here about CCN have not raised a lot of interest, which supports my guess that CCN has relatively few fans among miniatures gamers - thus far, anyway. If anyone does wish to have a look at the original CCN rules, you can download them from GMT's website.

This follows on from an earlier post, in which I mooted the possibility of producing a variant (or a "Scenario Rules" add-on, if that sounds more comfortable) for Commands & Colors:Napoleonics (CCN) which will handle a grand tactical wargame, which, to me, means a normal-sized wargame in which the lumps represent something bigger (i.e. brigade-sized units) rather than a vast game with many more of the usual sized lumps (which I would regard as a very large tactical game). The reason is that, quite simply, I need rules which will run games of different sizes, and a small add-on to a single rule set seems a good way to go about it.

Much of this note will repeat ideas from my original post, but I've firmed up on some items, changed my mind on others, and filled in some missing bits. I have also (predictably?) developed an alternative version of the crib sheet to fit grand tactical games using my own armies.

Bear in mind that this is not even a beta-test version yet - it's just an early prototype to get my hands dirty.

(1) The starting point is the standard CCN rule book. I intend to play the game, for the most part, with miniature soldiers, though the changes here are intended also to work with blocks and the original boardgame.

(2) There is an implied reduction in the ground scale. Movement is as in the standard game (which, in turn, implies a longer turn length), but artillery ranges are reduced to 3 hexes for horse artillery and 4 for foot artillery. Ranged combat (fire) for Rifles is allowed at 2 hex range, but infantry other than Rifles are not allowed to carry out ranged combat. [Musketry is assumed to be included in melee combat. There is an issue I need to watch for here - I may have reduced the overall effectiveness of infantry vs other arms.]

(3) The Command Cards pack survives with very little change. The 2 Tactical Cards titled FIRE AND HOLD are the only ones I could find which refer specifically to ranged fire from infantry, so these should be removed from the pack. [There may be others I haven't found yet.]

(4) The scaling and grouping of units is changed from standard CCN. In general, a unit is a brigade, and the number of "blocks" (bases in a miniatures game) in a unit will indicate its numerical strength - approx 750 men for an infantry block, 500 for cavalry. The identity of the blocks should represent the historical units and troop types present - typically, a block will be a battalion or cavalry regiment. This introduces the idea of mixed units - infantry and cavalry should not be brigaded together, but divisional artillery (normally a single block) may be included in a cavalry or infantry brigade, and a brigade may include an assortment of troop types, appropriate to the historical original. [Some examples here: (a) in the Peninsula, a French brigade of mixed Light and Line units will count as Line; (b) the Anglo/Portuguese Light Division will have brigades which are entirely Light Infantry, with some Rifles blocks present; (c) in addition to divisional batteries of a single block, artillery may also be formed into massed or reserve batteries of up to 3 blocks in strength; (d) a 4-block unit which has 3 Guard blocks and 1 Line will normally be taken as Guard (etc).]

(5) Allocations of Combat Dice, bonuses and deductions remain unchanged, but the number of troop blocks/bases counting for dice should be limited to 4. [This is to stop a large, poor quality brigade becoming unstoppable.]

(6) Individual artillery or rifles blocks in a unit may carry out ranged combat, but the whole unit must be Ordered to achieve this. [Not sure about this - at the very least, this may require rather more generous allotments of Command Cards...]

(7) The numbers of dice used by artillery at various ranges have been recalculated, as given in the crib-sheet table below. The CCN rule whereby a single-block horse artillery unit cannot move and fire is suspended - typically, batteries will have a single-block strength. In the table, artillery is identified as "single" (1-block) or is otherwise a massed battery of 2 or 3 blocks.

(8) If hits on a mixed brigade include an artillery symbol and there is a battery present, the battery must be a casualty. Otherwise the blocks removed must be of the predominant type, but the actual choice of block is made by the owner of the unit. [Thus, if an infantry hit is scored on a 4-block brigade comprising 3 Line and 1 Rifles, the owning player may choose which of the Line blocks he loses. If he has 1 Line and 3 Rifles, he must choose one of the Rifles blocks. If he has 2 of each, he can choose to lose any of the blocks.]

(9) Leaders/Generals will normally be deployed at Divisional level and higher, though a particular scenario might justify a detached brigade having its own Leader. This will give a higher proportion of Leaders to combat units – to compensate, there is a change to the rules: you may attach a Leader to any unit you like, but he only allows them to ignore a Retreat result if he is in their chain of command. [The Victory Flag requirements for a result must be raised to allow for the greater number of potential Leader casualties.]

Here's the modified crib-sheet for this game:


I am also working on some ideas for including formal, masonry-built forts into the Terrain rules, but that hasn't got very far. I am giving serious thought to the possibility of handling siege games with an extension of this grand tactical variant of CCN, but that is a further degree of sketchiness beyond this current idea, which is sketchy enough to be going on with.

If I am pleased about any particular aspect of this, thus far, it is that the basic CCN game is altered relatively little. Even if I decide (or am otherwise convinced) that this idea doesn't work, I shall have learned something, and had a bit of exercise for the grey matter.

I intend to call a halt to CCN posts for a while and get back to Realism and a few more mainstream topics. If anyone particularly wishes to pursue the CCN thread (and I'm not a contributor to the forum), you can email through my blog profile.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

CCN - My Local Rules - (1) Peninsular War tweaks

I am very pleased with my experience to date of the application of the Commands & Colors:Napoleonics (CCN) rules to miniatures battles. It looks very promising indeed, and for the time being will form the basis of most of my wargaming.

I have made a conscious effort to leave the rules alone - as far as possible. This does not follow my instinct, nor the habit of constant tweaking which I have followed for many years. Leaving them alone has some worthwhile advantages - it keeps me on common ground with the many other users of CCN, it keeps me positioned to take advantage of subsequent extensions to the published game as they appear, and it avoids damaging a game system which works and has been extensively tested by people who know what they are doing and have a good track record of game design. However, there are a few issues to be resolved when applying CCN to my own games, so I've set out some thoughts and some possible modifications. I have numbered them just to impose some structure on this exercise, not to imply any priority ranking or reference to sections of the rules.

(1) CCN seems to work best for battles involving 20-30 units & leaders per side, which is a fair tabletop-full for my size of table. I am aware that the Grande Battle or Epic extension will appear in due course, but it appears that this will introduce a double-width table, probably using teams to handle the bigger commands. I still have a need to be able to fight big battles on a grand tactical level, with (preferably) units which correspond to brigades - this may still be 20-30 units, but the scale issues are different - I'll come back to this in the next instalment of this post.

(2) There is now an accepted web forum and an array of support tools to enable CCN players to develop their own scenarios. I have a slight suspicion of this being pursued, at least in part, to enhance the fame of the contributors, but the concept is good and is useful. However, I need to get beyond the idea of being limited to approved scenarios - even if there is a growing library of them - I need a more general approach where a one-off game, or a battle from a campaign, can be set up and fought using the CCN rules without the blessing of a GMT proprietary scenario. This is not likely to be a problem, but it presents the immediate issue of the need for some rules-of-thumb to determine, for any ad hoc action, the numbers of Command Cards allowed to each commander and the number of victory flags needed for a result. All this can be assessed on the spot, but I would be interested in views on this, authorised or not.

(3) Since I am fighting non-GMT battles using my own Peninsular War armies, I need to be able to cope with some nationalities and a few troop types which are outside the scope of the National Reference Cards as published to date. I've done a bit of work on this, which I'll describe in a moment, and I've produced an expanded version of my CCN crib sheet (player aid - my original version is here) to cover this. To cut down the bulk of the thing, I've also excluded troop types which I do not have (they can always be added back in when necessary). I've also changed the unit sizes a little where I felt strongly that they were inappropriate. Now I do realise that GMT will be releasing game expansions to cover more nations (the Spanish army is expected in August, I believe), so I look forward to seeing what the official versions are like - in the meantime, this is the revised crib sheet for my entirely unofficial version, for my own use.


Notes:

(a) French - I've dropped various troop types which I'm unlikely to have involved; I've fought against my instinct to make so-called Light Infantry into Line, and left them as was; since the French cavalry was critically short of horses and not very numerous for most of the Peninsular War, I've reduced cavalry unit strengths to 3 blocks/bases (same as the British, in fact)

(b) British - I've dropped the Guard Heavy Cavalry class, since as far as I can see they were the same as the non-Guard; I've reduced all Light & Rifle unit strengths to 3 blocks, and Guard Inf to 4

(c) Portuguese - as published, but I've omitted the non-existent Heavy Cav & Horse Art categories

(d) Italian & Confederation (German) Allies for the French - I've dropped redundant troop classes (for my purposes), otherwise they are like the French except (i) the infantry don't get the +1 dice bonus in melee vs infantry, and (ii) the "half-blocks" calculation is rounded down (like the Portuguese) for ranged combat when moving - this last bit may seem harsh, but I can't believe they were superior to the Portuguese in this theatre

(e) King Joseph's (JN) Spanish - the Guard & the artillery are the same as French Line troops; non-Guard troops get the half rounded down when firing while moving, and infantry & cavalry troops suffer double (x2) retreats. I justified this because I felt they would fight satisfactorily, but might tend to collapse if things went against them

(f) Nationalist Spanish - I am fighting 1811-12 period, so have not adopted a Guard category (they had nominal Guards units, but probably no better than Line troops); they are the same as JN's Spanish otherwise, including double retreat rule; militia are the same as Portuguese militia (incl 3x retreats); new categories are Guerrilleros - (i) Guerrilla Cavalry may not retire & reform, but otherwise fight as Lt Cav (ii) Guerrilla Infantry have max strength of 2 blocks, may not form square, may move freely through Forests & Towns/Mills, may move 2 hexes & still battle, fight like line infantry (sabres count as hits in melee) (iii) important rule for guerrillas of all types is that one (non-disregarded) retreat eliminates them

This is all provisional, "beta test" stuff while I try it out for a while. As and when GMT publish more nations and more game extensions, I'll be pleased to bring my own efforts into line with the authorised version as appropriate - this is all just to get me up and running!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Hooptedoodle #21 - Demons Revisited


In a fairly lengthy and very busy life, I have been told many things by many people, some in person, some through the medium of the written or broadcast word. This, I suppose, is how we all acquire wisdom, but there seems to be a quirk in my own particular wiring diagram which means that the things I have learned are not necessarily stored in any sort of useful priority order. The things which are most readily retrieved are such treasures as odd football results from English League Division Two in 1960, or some stupid proverb a long-dead relative used to misquote when the weather was cold, or a radio advertising jingle which annoyed the bejesus out of me when I was nine. There is some useful stuff in there as well, I suppose, but it seems to be buried somewhere in the gaps.

Here's an example of a memorable-but-not-very-useful thing I have stored away. Someone - can't remember who - once said to me, "If you loved a place, you must never go back there, because the magic will be lost, but if there is a place you fear then you must revisit it, to lay the demon to rest". Of course, I have never really had the faintest idea what it means, though I can appreciate that it sounds kind of wise in a folksy sort of way. I sometimes feel that I have almost understood it, but then it slips away again.

Well, I have had a very busy week - that old Real Life thing has really been playing up again, and my priorities all got skewed. However, I did manage to get some units cleaned up and shipped off to the painter. Some more Spanish militia and irregulars, and some more of my mythical Pommeranians. I am saddened to have to report that two of the Pommeranian battalions were pulled out of the shipment, old Scruby figures - I found (when I got close up to them with a razor saw and some needle files) that the castings were so poor that I shall have to make arrangements to get replacement figures of appropriate Old School style. What a pity that L S Lowry never turned his hand to sculpting 20mm wargame figures, come to think of it.


And then, this morning, the postie brought me a personal demon. I have managed to obtain a slightly battered copy of George W Jeffrey's The Napoleonic Wargame, and I am pleased to have it. It surprises me to find that I should have come to be interested in such a thing, and it gives some satisfaction to note that I can now read it without becoming depressed. I must have moved on. It is, moreover, a proper, archetypal wargames book, with a picture of the classic OPC Hinton Hunt lancers on the front. Excellent. I am looking forward to reading George's book, after all these years, just for a glimpse through someone else's windows.

At this point I should carefully point out that I once knew GWJ - he was not a close friend, but he was a personable enough fellow, if rather intimidating, and I knew him through his activities with my local wargaming club. I should also point out that, as is right and proper, I cherish the fact that wargamers can each pursue the hobby in their own way, so that they get what they want from it. The breadth of the church is all part of the richness of the tradition. I also have no wish whatsoever to be disrespectful or to rattle any cages, but in my view GWJ was one of a select number of individuals who came close to killing off the hobby of miniatures gaming. I don't just mean that they alienated me - I mean that they developed a school of thought within the hobby which ultimately threatened to make the games unplayable, and probably drove a lot of enthusiasts away from historical gaming (or into fantasy gaming, which is sort of the same thing). I am referring to the dreaded Myth of Realism. That is the demon. I never had a particular problem with George, but in his day he was one of the high priests of realism.

The first and most important point about realism is the obvious one that, since we do not normally play these games up to our necks in freezing mud, suffering from dysentery and festering bullet wounds, there is some major gap in the realism thing. The second point which occurs to me is that a sense of proportion is essential. George's book is a goldmine of facts - it tells you, for example, the exact dimensions of a deployed French horse artillery battery, in 5mm, 15mm or 25mm figure scales, and he goes on at considerable length about the use of templates to get the distance travelled by the outer edges of a wheeling unit. This is familiar - George was always a stickler for wheeling distances - he was obsessed by π.

I have always been a fan of the commonsense approach which I found in the writings of Paddy Griffith and Charlie Wesencraft, in which it was suggested that if (for example) rifles could shoot further than muskets, and if it mattered (i.e. if it affected anything), then it was a good idea to make the rules give the rifles a slight edge, but it didn't matter exactly how much, as long as it gave reasonable results. Because, to tell the truth, chaps, no-one actually knows exactly how much the advantage was. There are people who will claim to know, but that is mainly because they are too obtuse to perceive the shortcomings of the scientific data. I used to read regularly how such-and-such a set of rules had revamped their fire effect in line with Maj.Gen B P Hughes' (excellent) Firepower, omitting to notice that Hughes was mainly writing about test firings under experimental conditions, which have as much relevance in a true battlefield situation - especially with conscripted troops - as the price of onions.

I have witnessed, with my own ears, a lengthy argument at one of George's wargames about exactly how many rounds the Imperial Guard could fire before they needed to be resupplied from the caissons. The argument then moved on to the capacity of the caissons. The battle did not finish. I never saw a big Napoleonic battle finish at that club. There were holes in the melee rules that you could have driven, well, a caisson through, yet they argued about marching distances and the capacity of a cartridge pouch. George also used to be very interested in which particular figures in a unit were hit, though I never really understood why.

He is regarded as the inventor of Variable-Length Bounds, or VLB as the initiated call it. A great idea, in principle, to facilitate those dead periods at the start of a battle when not much happens. Advancing an entire army 2 kilometres in 30-second bounds is a certain cure for insomnia, in my experience. I've had several goes at reading about VLB, and I still can't understand it. Perhaps some worthy soul will respond to this post to sort me out. I read somewhere that George had a lot of good ideas, which were hamstrung by the fact that his approach was bottom-up - too many musket ball counts and not enough strategic movement.


I would like to stress that this was never intended to be any kind of personal attack on George Jeffrey, though I'm sure that someone will see it as such. George's book dates from 1974, which is three years before the appearance of another classic for detailed realism disciples, Bruce Quarrie's Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature. I am very fond of this - it is packed full of so much extrapolated trivia that it is a book which had to be written. I believe George would have liked to have written a book like this. It is absolutely full of numbers - some of them numbers about things which you wouldn't think you could measure - and is an interesting read, if you do it in very short bursts. I'm confident that most readers of this blog will be familiar with Quarrie's masterpiece, but here is a section from one of my favourite bits, as a sampler.


And if that doesn't get you rushing to rewrite your in-house wargame rules then you should be ashamed.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

My Peninsular War Spanish Armies (2) - Afrancesados

These are my forces to fight on the side of King Joseph. I have a brigade of the King's Guard (uniformed very like the French Imperial Guard), plus a brigade of Line troops.

Here's the Guard.


Two battalions of Grenadiers (Les Higgins figures, with the odd Hinton Hunt and mounted colonels by Art Miniaturen)...


...two battalions of Fusiliers (same mix of figures)...


...a single battalion of Voltigeurs (same again)...


...a horse artillery battery (PMD)...


...and skirmishers (Les Higgins).


Now the Line brigade.


A single battalion of the 1st Light regiment (Castilla) (Higgins figures with some Kennington command)...


...two battalions of the 2nd Line (Toledo) (Higgins with Kennington command and NapoleoN drummers)...


...a single battalion of the Regiment Royal-Etranger (Falcata figures, with a Scruby OPC mounted colonel)...


...and skirmishers from the 1st Light (Kennington).


In an ideal world, I'd like to add a hussar unit, but that is in the pending folder. I also have plans to add a standing figure (probably) of King Joseph himself, with a carriage, all ready to get captured at Vitoria. I wonder if Musket Miniatures do a 20mm chamber pot?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Hooptedoodle #20 - Patapoufs et Filifers - encore une fois

My very first Hooptedoodle posting, last Summer, made reference to a book of which I am very fond, André Maurois' Patapoufs & Filifers, published in 1930 and illustrated by Jean Bruller.

Without wishing to go over old ground, I should explain that the Patapoufs are a nation of stout, placid people, while their near neighbours, the Filifers, are ectomorphic, irritable and generally everything which the Patapoufs are not. The nations are irreconcilable and constantly at war (although it all works out in the end), and these characteristics extend to all aspects of their lives, even the geography.

As a child I enjoyed studying their armies in the book. My recent involvement with Scruby figures has reminded me of Maurois' book (since they are clearly Filifers), and I was looking at the illustrations again this morning.

Here are some of the military scenes. First we see the respective armies on manoeuvres...


...then there are some interesting views of the styles of trench employed in the two armies...


...which leads, sadly, on to a portrayal of the tragic death of Commandant Tripouf, who died in action as a result of overeating in a trench.


Lastly, a view of the Filifers' armoured forces crossing the Sahapouf Desert - scary.