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

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Solo CCN - ready for testing

This follows on from my soliloquy - not quite a lament - on my lack of solo gaming since I started using the rules from GMT's boardgame, Commands & Colors: Napoleonics, for my miniatures games. I now have drafted up an approach, which might be of interest (it certainly is to me). It borrows from ideas aired on various C&C Ancients discussion sites, especially by one mst3k, but refines them a little for use with CCN, and incorporates some tweaks of mine own.

I must also thank Messrs Crick and Pearson and The Bandit of Valparaiso (surely that must be an alias?) for their email suggestions, Rafa for his reassuring comment, and especially the gentleman who asked that his comment "not be published, in case my friend sees it" - quite so - we all have to be careful, I think. Thank you all anyway.

The problem, for those who are unfamiliar with CCN, and for those who are familiar with it but would like a reminder, is that the Command Cards which provide activation in the game do not work well for a solo player who can see both hands. GMT suggest that you just play a solo game normally, and try your best for both sides, but it still takes the surprises out of it. My concerns have been that, since the cards are central to the character of the game, any workaround which does away with them or which makes other radical changes to the activation mechanism might spoil everything. I have seen dice systems, which are clever - sometimes very clever - but definitely different, and I'm not convinced. I strongly suspect that having the opponent's game-plan driven by completely random card drawings is very unlikely to give a worthwhile game, if it works at all. A real opponent would be carefully building a good hand of cards, to support his strategy.

To get to the point, my approach (still to be playtested) retains the cards (which seems best), with minimal change from the normal game pack, and has the advantage that the rules remain unchanged, to the point where a game could switch at will between a live opponent and solo play. The mechanism is not fiddly or confusing, and should not slow things down (certainly it should not be slower than a human opponent scratching his head over his choices). Ticks in the right boxes so far. There is even an element of progressive refinement of the opponent's hand as the game goes along.

Here goes.

The game is played as normal, but the opponent's hand is played blind - always face down, and is shuffled each time it is played. Fan the hand out, face down, when it's the opponent's turn to issue orders to his troops. Now we need a throw of 2D6 and a little wrap-around counting. Count from the LH end of the cards for the higher dice throw (start again at the LH end if you run out of cards), and turn over the card you reach, and carry on counting off similarly for the 2nd dice. Take out a second card. Here's an illustration of doing this for a 5-card hand, where the dice come up 6 & 5.

Choose the better of the two cards selected (from the opponent's viewpoint), and that will be the card to be used this turn. The other card, if it is pretty good and/or potentially useful for the opponent, can be put back into his blind hand. If it is not, it can be discarded along with the played card, and replaced. The refreshed hand (back up to strength) is shuffled, and placed face down once more. This way there is a tendency towards improvement of the blind hand, and there should be some consistency in the cards collected, though their actual time of appearance will be unpredictable.

The only other special rule for solo play is that if either the FIRST STRIKE card or the SHORT SUPPLY card appears, discard it and draw again immediately - these two cards are not suitable for solitaire, but leaving them in the pack and just ignoring them makes it easier to switch seamlessly back to a 2-player game if need be.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

One for the Facial Detail Enthusiasts

From time to time I have a look at Todocoleccion, which is a Spanish online auction site. I have very occasionally found goodies such as surplus stock of Falcata figures, which is what keeps bringing me back, but mostly I find myself gawping at a heap of overpriced dross which makes eBay look like Christie's.

Here's a fine Todocoleccion picture of a 60mm plastic Napoleon, possibly made by Jecsan, which may come as a bit of a shock to those of us who associate Spanish toy soldiers with Del Prado and similar. I include it as inspiration to the fans of facial detail on miniatures. Sadly, as you will note, the artist missed his mark with Napoleon's trademark red nose, but it probably only spoils the overall effect very slightly.

What Angel Did Next

This is pretty certain to be old news, since I would guess it is all over TMP by now, but I am informed by the man behind NapoleoN Miniatures that he has emerged from the garden shed with his new project, Napoleon at War, which looks pretty exciting. It is a book of rules, plus a range of 18mm figures, all available soon. I won't be switching scales just yet, but I shall watch with considerable interest.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Solo Wargaming - I may have lost something

Nothing serious, but I have been enjoying Ross's posts over on Battle Game of the Month about refining his solo rules, and I realised (with what must have been a pang, I guess) that I haven't been doing much solo wargaming in recent weeks and - since much of my wargaming is of the solo variety - this means I haven't been doing much wargaming. The reason is not hard to identify. My new, and very enthusiastic, commitment to Commands & Colors:Napoleonics as my miniatures rules of choice has left me a bit stranded, since the solo options for that game that I've seen thus far are not brilliant.

My in-house rules, which use a computer for activation, record keeping and calculation, do have the advantage that they support solo play pretty well. However, the simplicity and logical flow of CCN - which make the in-house game look more than a little turgid - have won me over, and recently my own rules have been unused.

I guess this is easily fixed. This morning I spent a little time fishing around on Google and there is a fair amount out there. The problem with playing CCN solo is that the Command (activation) cards do not work well if you can see both hands. A number of the workarounds I've seen use a dice system to replace the cards - I had already started thinking about that approach. Another places the "ghost" opponent's cards in an unseen stack, two cards are turned over, and the one which suits the ghost's position best is chosen, both cards being subsequently discarded and replaced. Or both players can be ghosts, treated in the same way. I have only just started thinking seriously about this, so I am not pessimistic - something will come up, I'm sure. At the moment it's a bit like "how you gonna get them back on the farm, after they've seen Paree?". The CCN game is so much better than my previous rules that I'm reluctant to use anything else, and CCN with an opponent is so much better than my solo attempts with it to date that there is a strong temptation just to find something else to do in the evenings.

I'll have to get moving on this. I've written a post-it to myself, this very morning - that should get something happening. I could try using Ross's rules, I suppose, but that would mean learning something new (ouch). Or I could try to recruit a new opponent locally, but people tend to take to their heels when they just hear about my soldier collection. Or I could try to get my son up to speed on CCN, but he is only 8, and it feels a bit like exploitation. Hmmm.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Noble Art of Conversion

Some recent acquisitions. Two of the brigade commanders in my Allied army are mounted Rifles officers - a rarity in 20mm. After many years of failing to find suitable figures, and a couple of rather so-so attempts to produce suitable conversions, I have finally commissioned some professional work. I am pleased with them – worthy additions, I think - the donor figures are Hinton Hunt, which will offend some as butchery, though it is an old and distinguished tradition. If Marcus had produced such a figure in the first place, this would not be necessary – and one of the reasons he didn’t is probably because he assumed this sort of DIY effort would fiill the gap!

It is interesting to try to spot the original figures - my initial guess is Stapleton Cotton and (possibly) Junot, with new heads and new horses, but you may have alternative ideas. Anyway, it wasn't me, so I don't know for sure. I also received a nicely finished DN31 (Dutch-Belgian general), who will be surprised to find himself leading a Portuguese cavalry brigade in the near future.

Corpulence in Wargames

A neglected theme, which is maybe a surprise given the average physical condition of the attendees of the last wargames convention I visited. Maybe we need rules to cover the fact that the second battalion are too out of breath to get up that hill in one move, or that the cuirassiers' horses are struggling to cope with the load?

This officer came to me via eBay, in a rather nice battalion of Minifigs S-Range "Valencia Light Infantry", which were in good enough condition to form the Ligero del Reino de Valencia in my volunteer/militia brigade with very little extra work. The officer illustrated is clearly the correct one for the unit, but is from MF's current range. I rejected him - he does not get a gig in my army, sorry. This is not because I am prejudiced against the circumferentially challenged - not in the slightest - but because he simply doesn't look right among my other troops. If you have a wargame army consisting entirely of Minifigs' current products then I'm sure they look splendid, but out of that context this guy is awful. He isn't going to do a lot of brisk skirmishing, or even retreating at the double quick, is he? You can't tell me this chap has been existing on campaign rations.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hooptedoodle #30 - Broadband & Bloodpressure

Not another rant, surely? You betcha. I live in the country, maybe 7 miles from the telephone exchange, maybe 4 miles from the nearest fibre-optic cable. We get (i.e. pay for) a half-meg broadband service, which on the face of it is not so bad, considering everything, and my little publishing enterprise is based very heavily on email and electronic data transfer. The service used to be fine, but, sadly, in effective terms, our broadband here is getting slower. It is slower than it was 5 years ago - much slower. This is not because the cables are rotting, or the technology degrading in some way - it is because of commercial strategies and some astonishingly dumb assumptions made by the service providers and the life-sucking advertising schmucks who cling to their softer parts.

I am only a fringe technician, but I've worked with computers, the internet and general communication issues for enough years to have a good grasp of what goes on. The recent (and continuing) problems with Blogger have been a reminder of the situation - I have no wish to pick on Google as a prime baddie here, they are only one among many, but anyone who has a high profile is sort of inviting a whack on the head, so let's pick on Google for a start.

Some of our local difficulties seem to come from the fact that ISPs and website designers assume everyone has fast broadband, and so jam up the bandwidth with adverts and unnecessary ornamentation - cute videos and suchlike - but also we appear to have problems caused by what seems to me like unnecessary interactivity. Example - when using Google search, I start entering a search string, and by the time I've typed in 4 characters it has already started listing search results on what I've typed so far. The bad thing about this is that it has missed 2 of the characters I typed because the computer's attention was distracted, waiting for buffered responses from elsewhere. I don't need the stupid thing to predict what I'm going to ask for, it isn't clever or helpful - well, it's probably clever, but mostly it's just an irritant.

Similar thing using Google's email service (which I do all the time for my publishing stuff) - I keep having to retype missed characters and the typing falls behind with buffering, because the idiot program is checking what I've typed to see if it can identify, and supply, an unsolicited ad for "sunshine holidays in Prestonpans" or similar based on the words it finds there - this seems to be a continuous monitoring, requiring a hefty dialogue with the ISP's server which causes delay and screws everything up. Google again: Blogger seems to provide continuous update of pages, which is not necessary at all, and just causes problems and delay (and my CPU fan to come on!) if the traffic rates are too slow to cope with this. If a blog page is open as a background tab on the browser, it appears to hold things up in the foreground while Blogger searches for updates. Not necessary. Dumb.

It's not just Google, of course, the same symptoms are found elsewhere - I have to check all typed input when the Internet is running slow, since stuff goes missing. I was quite happy in the days when you had to hit F5 to get a page refresh - basically, if I want an advert for perfume to be updated continuously I'll ask for it - most things in life, apart from the occasional sports commentary or streaming material, don't need to be in real time (or failed real time, which is what we get). I'm currently in discussion with my friendly techie internet expert to see if there is some option setting on the browser which amounts to "only update the bloody page when I ask for it", and some setting for Google Search which means "don't interrupt me with stupid guesses, it's rude - I'll hit Enter when I'm finished".

It's a joke, at best. YouTube, and news video clips, have become unuseable here because the overhead generated by the advertising material that comes with them is getting in the way. At times such as my main monthly publishing week, the response speed causes real stress. My ISP's email browser does not help. If I decide that I don't want some particular new window that the browser has just opened for me, and I try to get rid of it, I have to wait until it has finished downloading all 17 graphic ads (many of them movies) which it has been showing me all week, before it will pay attention to my request to close the window.

I guess that, in general, broadband is getting faster and better and is a real boon to us all, but - inevitably - greed is jamming things up. The service providers and the marketing weasels are filling the available bandwidth with crud which makes the received service slower and slower. Some days it's easier and quicker to phone somebody than to try and send an email, and that cannot be right. I've tried switching off the ads through my ISP's provided filter settings (Customer Preferences - hah!), but that is a scam - you have to identify each actual ad you want to suppress, and there are myriads of them.

If you email someone today, mention the word "Mississippi" at some point. If the recipient gets a little ad on his/her mail browser advertising holidays in New Orleans, then you have just measured the level of stupidity the world has reached - and people are making money out of this inconvenience.

Here's an open message to ISPs, politicians, providers of phone lines, cable companies, Google and anyone else involved. Some of us do not have the infrastructure to support fast broadband - it isn't there (I'm not going too quickly here, am I?). Ironically, people in remote locations are among those who rely most on communication technology, but I realise this is a matter of money, so fair enough. As the available bandwidth gets clogged with more and more penny-generating irrelevances, the Internet is grinding to a halt for those whose broadband connection only has the capacity to cope with what they actually want. THE SERVICE IS GETTING WORSE - WAKE UP.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Foy's Tenth Law: The Principle of Enforced Expertise

Foy's Tenth Law is also known as "The Principle of Enforced Expertise", and it states:

However obscure and personal may be your interests or beliefs, someone will eventually appear and tell you that you are doing it wrong. You may hide, or lock the door, or move to a secret address, but you cannot prevent this happening.

I was thinking about this, and it reminded me of a short story which I once read and which, infuriatingly, I cannot identify. I thought it might be Stephen Leacock, but I can't find it. The story is about a man and his friend who regularly get involved in social card games, but always do badly. Whatever game they play, there is always someone who knows it better, and plays it better. Eventually, in desperation, they invent their own game, with a crazy name, and very strange rules, which vary by the day of the week and so forth.

They are delighted with their game, and thrilled, at last, to be the world's leading experts in something, until his friend reports that he has found a book in the public library on how to develop an unbeatable strategy for their new game.

If you can think of anything more pointless than a quotation without a known source, please do let me know. You get the idea, anyway.

Minor Jostling in the Painting Queue - More Foot Dragoons

The replacement drummer

An everyday yarn of the life of the retired wargamer. The minutiae of army organisation. I published a post recently explaining that I was pleasantly surprised to have obtained and painted a battalion of Les Higgins Napoleonic French Foot Dragoons, since I had never thought I wanted one, but was more than happy to have them.

At that time, I did some minor huffing about my disappointment with the drummer. Because no-one ever produced a suitably scaled drummer of foot dragoons in metal, I had recruited a plastic chap (no prejudice here), from Strelets set 0009 (I think). As far as I know, this is the only foot dragoon drummer in 1/72 scale in the entire galaxy. Though the Strelets set is a nice one, and contains some interesting and potentially useful figures, I regret to say that the dragoon drummer is, with all possible respect to our Russian friends, a gnome. Grotesque in face and physique, equipped with a helmet which has been sat upon and a drum which clearly is deflating; and why - why? - do Strelets arrange to have the sprue joint in the middle of the front of the helmet? Even David the Painter was not able to produce a thing of true beauty from such unpromising raw material.

Anyway, I have lived with my plastic drummer for a while, but the intention has been to replace him if I could come up with a suitable conversion. In fact the conversion was easy - a Kennington Old Guard drummer (Kennington Old Guard are particularly good, by the way) with a replacement head donated by a Garrison officer of foot dragoons. The really handy thing about the Garrison figure is that the horsehair mane is blowing interestingly in the wind, which means that it is not hanging down the back in the manner which makes other dragoon figures unsuitable for conversion. The converted figure has been half painted for a month or so, but this is a bit of a luxury project - replacing an otherwise serviceable figure for aesthetic reasons is never a high priority, and progress has been stalled for some weeks.

New development. Someone was selling a group of LH foot dragoons on eBay, and they looked quite nice, so - though of course I don't need them, and though I don't officially deal on eBay any more - I put in a half-hearted bid and was surprised to win them. When they arrived, I was even more surprised to see how well they are painted. With perfect grenades on the turnbacks and all that, they looked to me like the work of Clive Richards, one of my favourite traditional-style figure painters, but the seller confirmed that he had painted them himself, years ago when his eyesight was better (and I know what he means). So, with minimal retouching, I suddenly find that I have a second battaion for my Dragons Provisoirs (uniformed as the 19th and 23rd regiments), though of course I now had to get my replacement drummer finished in a hurry to complete the new battalion. The picture at the top of the post is a bit foreshortened by the close-up angle - I like to think that the new guy is - well, less gnome-like than he may look here.

So I now have both drummers in service. I had another look at the Strelets chap, and I still don't like him very much, so I've make a note to replace him sometime - and I know how to do it now. Life being what it is, I would bet that the Strelets drummer will be around for quite a while. Any takers?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hooptedoodle #29 - Small Ads in Comics

This is all triggered by the fact that I came across this picture - I don't know whose picture it is, so if it is yours then thank you, it is a great picture. I have never seen one of these things, and haven't thought about them for well over 50 years, but this was one of a small number of weird toys I always fancied from the small ads on the back of my mate Brian's comics when I was a kid. I wasn't allowed comics like that - I just got the Eagle, and later I got the Rover and Adventure. Brian's comics were much darker, with heavy, violent stories about US Marines fighting in the Pacific and suchlike. But the Seebackroscope was definitely on a secret wanted list, as was a device which, apparently, enabled you to throw your voice and mystify all your friends. I would have loved to mystify my friends.

The only thing Brian and I ever bought through these ads was a small box of ex-US Army ration packs. Don't ask me why. Brian arranged for them to be delivered to his grannie's house, and we opened the box like thieves. I am delighted to recall that the packs contained no morphine capsules - nothing dangerous in that sense - but they did contain foil-wrapped chocolate and fudge bars. Brian liked the chocolate, which was too strong and bitter for me, and which also had an odd grey appearance which might have served as a warning if we had been receptive to such a thing. Brian, sadly, consumed a great deal of the grey chocolate, and was unable to venture further than a few feet from the toilet for the next day or two. For some reason, his mother blamed me for the whole escapade. Most unfair.

So, as you will see, this is nothing more than me idly dreaming about things from long ago which I didn't really understand at the time anyway. I am confident that there will be a whole specialist hobby built around the toys you could buy from these old comics, and there will be experts. You may actually have a degree in this very subject.

Did anyone ever have a Seebackroscope? Was it any good?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Product Mentions...

Very short post to express my appreciation of a couple of recent purchases, and to draw the attention of anyone (specifically UK residents) who does not know of them. No, neither of these has anything to do with dandelion removal - well, nothing obvious.

First off, a plug for a local Edinburgh business - Harburn Hobbies. Makers of fine model railway scenery, and definitely not cheap, but their cast-resin rivers are superb. I haven't actually used them on the battlefield yet, but I am impressed - they make my home-made rivers look wretched, not to mention insanitary. Only slight problem at present is that their bends are all about 75 degrees, and I'm trying to pluck up a plan and the necessary courage to alter them to a hex-friendly 60 degrees.

Secondly, I got some pre-cut bases from East Riding Miniatures (ERM), of Hull, who now do laser-cut 2mm MDF in any size you can think of. Excellent - they are quick, friendly, very helpful, and surprisingly cheap. My brand loyalty just shifted. Thanks, Tony.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Graf Leberknödel

As fine a figure of a man as ever sat a horse. Something of a celebrity joins my armies this morning. Here is the 22-year-old Hans-Joachim, Graf Leberknödel, general commanding the brigade of the Duchy of Stralsund-Rügen, my unofficial extension of the Confederation of the Rhine. His military experience is not vast - he served on the staff of Count Essen, the Swedish governor, during the Siege of Stralsund, where he was officially described as "very polite", and was subsequently made Colonel in Chief of the Franzburg Jaegers when the Stralsund-Rügen army was raised to provide the troops required by the new Duchy's membership of the Confederation. What he lacks in years is more than made up for by the fact that he is Duke Friedrich's son-in-law.

Here we see him posing for the official portrait, with his favourite horse, Millefiori, a gift from his mother and the doting taxpayers of Franzburg. It is rumoured that his military wardrobe cost slightly more than the Duchy's artillery train. All he needs now is for the remainder of his brigade to come back from the painter, and glory awaits. Or at least a proper parade.

Humble old S-range figure, scavenged during one of my final dalliances with eBay, and humbly painted in appropriate Old School style by moi. The brown border to the base identifies him as a brigade commander (division commanders have white, corps and army commanders have a border in the national colour) - it's a useful feature for spotting commanders on the battlefield, but the colour coding, and why I adopted this system, are lost in the depths of time. So I just keep it going - some military traditions, after all, are not to be questioned.

Speaking of questions, I had a very pleasant email from a gentleman in Poland, wanting to know a little more about the Duchy, and asking where I got the information - could I recommend any books? His English was excellent, flawless, but, though he had some doubts, he had not completely picked up on my hints that this particular piece of history is entirely a self-indulgence of my own, and - well - bullshit, really.

If you wish to read a little more of this little-known niche area of Napoleonic history, click on the Imagi-nation label on the right hand side of the screen - no, down a bit...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Hooptedoodle #28 - Bad Attitude

More nonsense - more staring out of the window. From time to time we get a bad-tempered blackbird in the garden. I guess it's seasonal, and, since it's been going on for a good many years, it can't be the same individual. It must be a blackbird thing.

We have one now. He takes it upon himself to chase and generally intimidate all other living objects in the garden. In case we thought it was our garden, he keeps us aware that it's actually his.

It's not even a productive strategy. I just watched him abandon a good-sized worm in mid tug, and - presumably because something had caught his eye 50 yards away - he flew, screeching, into the wood at the foot of the garden, ready for a scrap. While he was distracted, the thrush that he had previously chased helped itself to the worm.

You know, I think there's maybe a lesson in there somewhere, if I could only think of it.

Hooptedoodle #27 - the Zippo app

It must be me - I refuse to consider, even for an instant, that everyone else might be crazy. For some years I have been aware of moments during rock concerts when, for some reason, people are on their feet, waving lit cigarette lighters in the air. My instinct would be just to turn on the sprinklers, but apparently this bizarre ritual is supposed to bring an almost religious quality to the group experience.

I am forced to accept that this is just one of those bits of mass culture which not only passed me by while I wasn't paying attention, but which also make no sense now that I am. I mentioned the phenomenon to a teenage guitar student of mine this week, and he informed me that now you can download an app to your iPhone which displays a picture of a Zippo flame, so that people who attend rock concerts need not feel left out if they do not smoke. So that's all right then.

I am seldom speechless, but this brings me pretty close to that state. I can see that there are certain health & safety advantages, but the idea that someone should apply 21st Century technology to the solution of such a major problem is just mystifying. What are they going to do, then, so as not to exclude concert goers who are non-smokers and who, like me, refuse as a point of principle to own a bloody iPhone?

Personally, I would still turn on the sprinklers anyway.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Portuguese Cavalry Project

This has been off and on for many years. A chance discovery, and the fact that I have more time to fiddle around these days, means it is probably back on again.

No-one makes Peninsular War Portuguese Cavalry in 20mm. If you are a 28mm or 15mm gamer then you are well provided for, but 20mm, nothing doing. I have approached this problem in a number of ways. For a while, I decided the easiest approach was to assume that by 1812 the Portuguese had been supplied with British Light Dragoon pattern (i.e. French style) bell-top shakos, and I should convert some kind of cavalry wearing single-breasted jackets accordingly. I even have some Scruby British Light Dragoons which I bought specially for the purpose, with the intention of grinding off the epaulettes and shako cords - enough for at least two regiments. Alas, they are among Scruby's most primitive offerings, and I cannot bring myself to invest effort or money into them. The sow's ear/silk purse department is simply not prepared to take this on, though I have warmed a bit to Scrubies of late.

So I fell back on the safe and well-tried option of doing nothing at all about it. Portuguese cavalry (with all due respect) was not usually effective in a battlefield role, so could be a lowish priority anyway, and - anyway - I have not always been entirely comfortable that I knew exactly how these guys were dressed. There was the strange sky-blue uniform on the cover of Otto Von Pivka's old Osprey book, which I believe is probably incorrect (though it appears to have influenced GMT's counter artwork for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics), and there was a wide range of interpretations of the appearance of the helmet. The headgear situation is confused by the fact that the Legion d'Alorna wore something very similar to the helmet of a French line lancer, with a high crest, while there are descriptions of cavalry units in the Portuguese army equipped with British equipment, including, apparently, Light Dragoon-style Tarleton helmets.

We are much better informed these days - the recent Chartrand books published by Osprey are a big improvement. Just to be difficult, for a moment, let's go back to 1810, and reproduce an illustration from William Bradford's very fine Sketches of the Country, Character and Costume of Portugal and Spain.

Bradford's book includes plates of relatively familiar Spanish and French subjects which demonstrate that he was a skilled observer, and recorded what he saw. The cavalryman has his side plume removed, and the wide front stripe of piping colour is unusual, but we get the idea - there is no cause to doubt its authenticity. While on the subject of ancient history, here is a photo I took in 1981, back in the pre-digital days when poor holiday snaps really were poor, at the little military museum in Morges, Switzerland. The exhibit was described as a Napoleonic Spanish coat, but the button inscription (P. JOAO VI PRINCIPE REGENTE) and the style of the jacket identify it as Portuguese, the facings (sky collars and cuffs, red lining) being those of the 11th cavalry. The wings are odd - maybe a later addition, or a trumpeter's ornament?

The recent stroke of good fortune was that I came across some 20mm Kennington (SHQ) Waterloo Dutch Cuirassiers, and I think they will make pretty good Portuguese horse. Dutch cuirassiers, luckily, did not actually bother with wearing cuirasses, which makes the single breasted jacket a good match for the Portuguese one - near enough for 20mm, anyway. Sadly, Kennington do not do matching command figures, but the troopers are available in a resting or a charging pose, and it should not be a life-threatening challenge to produce two officers and two trumpeters with dremel, razor saw and my box of spare parts. I believe the project is back on - I would not recommend that anyone holds their breath, but I have a good feeling that my hoped-for, two-regiment brigade will become a reality before long.

To finish on a complete irrelevance, I was very taken with another of Bradford's plates, which shows a Portuguese goatherd in an ingenious straw raincoat. How about thatched guerrillas, then?

I am still having problems with Blogger which mean it is a major hassle to sign on successfully, so I have been unable to comment on my usual blog haunts, and publishing is an uncertain process. I am making use of Firefox to get by, but am not happy with it as a general-purpose browser for a number of entirely personal reasons (that should get me some hate mail – there’s nothing like a perceived religious insult to get people worked up...)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Foy's Sixth Law Revisited - NapoleoN Miniatures (yet again)

Just because it follows on from the last post, and the comments thereon, and because it is another appropriate reminder of Foy's mighty Sixth Law, here are some pictures from the old NapoleoN website of 20mm British Peninsular cavalry.

I did obtain a unit of the hussars, but would welcome any suggestions (on a used 5 pound note to Chateau Foy, please) as to why I never got around to buying the heavy dragoons, when I knew they were available and needed quite a few.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

New Lamps for Old

To be more precise, that should read "New Lights for Old", but Aladdin never said that, so it wouldn't have worked for a heading (oh yes it would! - oh no it wouldn't!).


It's that old Creeping Elegance thing - where you replace a unit that you have some prejudice against with a newer, better made or more appropriate version. For about 35 years I have been less than delighted with my 14th Light Dragoons - not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with them, but because what I really wanted was proper Peninsular Light Dragoons in Tarleton helmets, but there was never anything available. This original unit consists of Phoenix Model Developments (formerly Les Higgins) castings - nicely made if you like Higgins' stupid horses - and I didn't make a completely terrible job of the painting (Humbrol, and that orange will almost certainly be a model railway colour). It's the Waterloo-period uniforms that grate with me.


By dint of a few swaps and some eBay captures, I've finally collected a third unit of NapoleoN Miniatures' Light Dragoons of the appropriate period - I already have the 11th and 16th regiments in my British army. Matt very kindly did the very fine paint job for me on the new one, and here we have the replacement 14LD, ready for action. The old ones are spoken for, and will go to a very good home. Since I am a prince among skinflints, I have managed to re-use the original bases. Looking at the bases, you may wonder why I bothered, but there is some vague whiff of continuity which I find pleasing - the Executioner's Axe raises it's replacement head once again.

This little side project is especially satisfying because it is something that I didn't really need to do, but have wanted to do for many years. And now it's done - YES!!!

I don't have a big list of things to replace - the odd misfit figure of dubious scale, the odd item which I don't like for some reason or other. One recurrent theme is a back-burner intention to replace units which have the wrong period uniform whenever I can. Having all my British Light Dragoons in Tarletons is pleasing, though there is an element of rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic, since most of my British infantry wear the Belgic shako, and most of my British heavy dragoons are in Doric-type fire-bobbies' helmets, neither of which is awfully clever for the Peninsular War around 1811-12. Still, says I, no-one knows for sure when supplies of these later items became available, do they? And by the time the answer comes, I have my fingers firmly in my ears, and am singing la-la-la-la-la.

Thank you, Matt - another small step for progress.