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

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Beauties & Beasts

I've been putting together some mixed bataillons de marche, and I was rummaging through the spares boxes - reaching layers that usually don't see the light, and I was also thinking of the very pleasant email I received from Jean-Marc recently, in which he noted his disappointment at my lack of enthusiasm for ROS 25mm figures - he being a big user of their 6mm chaps.

So this is simply a small collection of pictures of odd figures which caught my eye - not particularly significant or collectible, but some of them are examples of things which I like very much (sometimes for reasons I would be pressed to explain) and some are things which are somehow classical in their - well, simplicity, shall we say. I criticise nothing here - these are just a tiny sprinkling of the rich variety of wargames figures which have been available to us over the years.

Scruby OPC infantry colonel

Scruby infantry drummer - you can be a sculptor too

Qualiticast Rifles Officer - you can't do this, though

NapoleoN Light Dragoon officer

Minifigs 20mm Brunswicker - why is this such a satisfying figure?

ROS 25mm - the French were the ugliest

And, lastly, simply because they were well received when glimpsed in a recent wargame pic, here's a proper view of the Phoenix Model Developments Royal Horse Artillery. Guns are Hinchliffe 20mm, and the mounted officer is the notorious Minifigs BNC20, which sold in surprising numbers because a bunch of optimists like me hoped (vainly) that they might convert into Light Dragoons. Painting is by the great Jez Farminer, slumming it a bit to conform to my house style!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Posh New Dice from Canada

Arrived in the mail today - new wooden replacement dice for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics, supplied by Valley Games, of Canada. No, I really didn't need them, but since I was slightly disappointed by the quality of the build-it-yourself dice which come with the game (though I am sure there is nothing wrong with them) I felt I was sort of obliged to get some of these.

Very nice - something pleasing about wooden dice. They are also rather smaller and lighter than the original issue, which may be good news for bayonets. In any case - let's come clean here - I am a bit weird about dice anyway. Love the things.

My picture doesn't really do them justice - I should have dusted them before photographing them, or put them in a less sunny location. Bit of a failure, really.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


I got a little gentle grief through email about the downbeat nature of the Tom Waits track, so here's the wonderful Stochelo Rosenberg to brighten things up a bit.

The blog is still sleeping, by the way. Hush.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Blog on Hold

Very short non-post to explain that I'm having a bad attack of Real Life, and this blog will be quiet - probably for a few weeks. Nothing dramatic - it does not (necessarily) mean that I have died - I am in the process of selling my business, so will be preoccupied until further notice.

This has nothing to do with Liverpool FC getting hammered by Tottenham yesterday.

Friday, 16 September 2011


From one of my favourite albums of all time - I've been listening to this again recently. If you ignore the overtones of perversion and suicide(!), it captures my mood nicely this rainy morning.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Proposed Solo Campaign Rules - First Bunch of Thoughts

My notebook is now full of jottings, crossings-out, re-writes, circles connected by arrows, and doodles - all evidence of my thinking about campaign rules during spare moments while I was away on holiday. The rules are nothing like complete yet, but I thought it might be interesting to describe some of the ideas that I'm working with.

I have a fair amount of experience of campaigns - all of it a good many years ago, and most of it pretty successful (in the sense of "the campaign worked well" rather than "I won"). Usually I was the umpire and co-ordinator, which was a lot of fun anyway, but the generals involved enjoyed it too. These games were postal, though the other players all lived in the same town as me, and could easily get together for a tabletop wargame. They were also, now I come to think about it, all played using normal maps with set movement rates (which weather and the umpire could alter most unfairly). Not a square or hex grid in sight. I can remember a Roman campaign and at least six Peninsular War campaigns which went well. I can also remember one which ended rather awkwardly when one of the generals, having arrived to fight a battle, took one look at his position and announced a retreat into his Winter quarters, which left us with the problem of what to do with the evening apart from eat supper. I think we managed to improvise some other sort of game to keep ourselves amused.

I kept all the campaign records and correspondence in a big file for years but - infuriatingly - lost them when I moved house 12 years ago. Not to worry

I need a very simple, boardgame type operation which will enable me to fight an extended solo campaign over a period of months. Battles will, for the most part, be fought using Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (CCN) with miniatures. Battles which have more than (say) 25 units on one side will be fought out using my Grand Tactical extension to CCN (I half-jokingly call it GTCCN), in which the “units” are redefined as brigades. Otherwise, battles will be fought using normal CCN, with whatever national or scenario-based extensions are necessary. For actions which are too trivial (or inconvenient) to merit tabletop action, I intend to use the NapNuts algorithmic system to produce results. Similarly for sieges - it would be wonderful to use my fortress models and fight actual sieges, but the timescale sits awkwardly with the continuing campaign (unless it were possible to have a siege set up in a separate room - hmmm - no - what if a second siege started at the same time?). The NapNuts site is a good source of campaign ideas, many of which originate from a couple of articles by A Duckenfield in Practical Wargamer from March/April 1992.

Which brings me on to my sources. There is some wonderful stuff out there - Bruce Quarrie's famous book gives you more numbers than you could shake a quartermaster's pencil at, though very little idea how to make use of them, and is a bit short in the old sense-of-proportion department. I have the standard wargamer's books on campaigns by Featherstone, Charles S Grant, Tony Bath, I have a number of boardgames to pinch ideas from - notably War to the Death by Omega Games (which is mind-blowing) and the Empire campaign system (which is rather less mind blowing, but a huge amount of work), and I also have a copy of the unpublished campaign system created to support Battle Cry. Since I intend to conduct the campaign solo, I will not have any collaborators to gee me up - this will be a completely synergy-free exercise - so it is important to get the pitch and scale of operations correct, or I will just get fed up and pack in. The classic Old School campaign books are all interesting but a little vague - they are a pool of ideas, but a bit short on instructions and glue (as it were). The boardgames, and Quarrie's book, are more like a real campaign than a game so that, for me, they are inspirational but over-the-top.

I need sufficient abstraction in the rules for the events to be reasonable without being oppressively complicated. I want simple mechanisms and phase sequences (or I will forget something), but I do not wish to overlook anything important - for example, assuming that armies can roam freely, living comfortably off the land, would give a very free-flowing version of the Peninsular War, but would be wildly unrealistic. Might as well give them aeroplanes.

Starting topics for today, then, are the map, army organisation, movement rules and a sketchy look at a simple supply system.

First off, dice. Throughout these rules, I use dice numbered 1-1-2-2-3-3, which I call D3s. These are easily obtainable from educational suppliers. I like them. When you see reference to D3s below, that's what I mean.

Now - the map. I have experience of playing on maps with hexes superimposed - it is a commonly used set-up, so obviously it does work, but it is not ideal for my purposes at present. An even spread of hexagons looks as though you can march all over it - in fact, you are restricted to roads. I am impressed by the War to the Death style zones-&-corridors board, because of the simplicity and lack of ambiguity, and because of the disappearance of the knotty issue of cross-country marches. There aren't any. I am even more impressed by the work Rafa has done with Gamebox boards based on the WttD board. Gamebox is intended to support online computer versions of board games, but the map looks good in this form, and can be edited with a normal graphics tool. Rafa corrected Omega's original map in some respects (factual knowledge of Spain being an important element of this!), and I've made a couple of further tweaks. I emphasise that I am simply using this map as my campaign board for my own game - I won't be using Gamebox (other than the picture) and I will not be playing War to the Death. Thanks again, Rafa, for your work - I have amended it again only to rationalise the approaches to Lisbon, and to bring the border forts more into line with my understanding of them.

The map consists of geographical districts, which, provisionally, I am referring to as "Areas". Yes - I know it's a pathetic term, but it'll do for now. These Areas come in two colours - brown and green. I have made a huge, bovine assumption here: the brown Areas are assumed to have more rugged terrain, have inferior resources (for forage) and - in addition - to be more susceptible to the activities of guerrilleros and other irregular forces. I confess that this is an ambitious assumption - the correlation between these factors, not to mention the accuracy with which I have assessed the Areas, is at best arguable, but I'm ignoring all that in the interests of convenience.

A brown Area:

(1) will require more rugged terrain for battlefields

(2) will support a maximum of 1 Division without other means of supply, but not during defined Winter months (Oct-Mar?). (Green Areas will support 2 unsupplied Divisions, or 1 Division in Winter)

(3) for purposes of the French line of communication (and supply), is regarded as hostile and therefore a break in the LOC unless the French have at least 1 regiment stationed there. Green areas do not cause this problem, and this whole issue does not affect the Allies anyway.

Areas are linked to one another by roads, which also may be green or brown. Brown roads are roads of inferior quality or roads which are difficult for some reason of geography. The movement rules will explain how this works (maybe). Unlike the colour-coding of areas, the brown roads are a problem for everyone, not just the French. No land movement may take place other than along the marked roads (though guerrillas can sometimes disappear and appear again somewhere else!), but the Allies also have the possibility of moving by sea, using ports which are not held by the French.

Army organisation: this begs some definitions, to keep things sensible.

Each army will have a full OOB, but for campaign purposes the army acts as a series of “combat groups”, which will move and fight together, normally under an identified commander at the appropriate level. The composition of these groups can change from time to time as the army is reorganised, or as the result of detachments and the arrival of reinforcements or new units. Groups can be:

Army (or Divisional) HQ: this has no fighting strength, and is primarily required to show the position of the CinC. It moves as cavalry, and can be stacked with any other group if the CinC is with them.

Brigade: a collection of individual units (infantry battalions, cavalry regiments, artillery batteries) under a brigade commander. A brigade may include attached artillery, and it must contain no more than 9 units in total (this total does not include staff officers). A grand battery or siege train is treated as a brigade.

Division: a higher level grouping, under the command of a division commander. The Division is the grouping used to work out supply requirements. A division may contain no more than 3 brigades, with an overall maximum of 20 units (unless scenario rules say otherwise).

Corps or Army: in principle, higher groupings are possible, and are treated the same way, but the number of Divisions will always be required for purposes of checking supply.

Individual units may be detached (“dropped off”) from a larger group for purposes of garrisoning Areas. These units subsequently may only move independently if they are marching to rejoin their parent group. Units (usually cavalry, though irregular infantry may also be used) may also be detached as a separate reconnaissance force. Detaching and picking up units from a group, and the strength of the units, are the most important bits of record-keeping required.

Although units may be reduced by losses and wastage, no organisational unit smaller than a battalion, cavalry regiment or battery can be given orders.

Supply: The intention is to include an element of supply (since ignoring the matter is unrealistic) without getting the game bogged down in the problem. The supply rules are thus kept very simple. Guerrilla forces may ignore supply, since they are assumed to be able to obtain (or extort) what they need from the area they are in. They may not, however, move or operate outside their home province (Castilla, Navarra etc). Guerrillas apart, the principles are the same for both sides, though the definitions and the details are a little different for each. A combat group which can show an unobstructed road back to a supply Base is considered to be adequately provisioned by wagon/mule trains. If the line of supply is broken, a group becomes Unsupplied, and will be required to fend for itself. Armies of any size may pass through any Area, but if they end their move there then supply limits apply. Note that garrisons in fortresses are considered to have unlimited supplies as long as they are not under siege.

Bases: Initially, for the Allies this means Lisbon and Porto. For the French, this means any area in France, plus Madrid, Salamanca and Seville. A supply base is lost if the Area is captured, but may be restored once it is won back. I have to work on some means of shifting bases - especially seaports (for the Allies). Ship-borne movement of a base and its garrison (available only to the Allies) can be anywhere to a friendly port. An army which finds itself without bases is in big trouble!

Lines of Supply: The Allied LOC can be broken only by a French group (or garrison) occupying an Area on it. The French LOC may, in the same way, be broken by an Allied group (or garrison), but may also be broken by an unoccupied brown area, which is assumed to be held by guerrilla forces if no other group or unit is visible there.

Unsupplied Groups, and Demoralisation: A group which is Unsupplied – i.e. does not have an unbroken road back to a supply Base – is required to fend for itself. For the French, this means foraging and “living off the land”; for the Allies it means purchasing or requisitioning supplies as necessary. The effect is the same – a green-coloured Area can support a stationary force of 2 Divisions maximum size during the months of April to September, or 1 Division during the remainder of the year; a Brown area can supply 1 Division in April-September, and will not support troops at all the rest of the year. Large forces will have to spread themselves if they are not to be weakened or Demoralised by lack of provisions and materials. A group which is Unsupplied and is too big to subsist is Demoralised - during the organisation/reinforcement phase of each turn, it will dice to determine losses due to desertion and sickness.

Scorched Earth: For the expenditure of additional order(s), a force may carry out measures to “scorch” an area. A scorched area will have its capacity to support troops reduced by 1 level – thus a green area becomes a brown area until the following Spring, and a brown area, when scorched, cannot sustain troops at all until the following Spring. A Division can scorch an area as it leaves it, at a cost of one additional order (this needs a lot more work).

Movement: All land travel must be by means of the defined roads. The map is not specifically drawn to any numeric scale, but the intention is that the distance from one Area to the next represents a week's march for troops on foot. Activation rules (still being worked on) will generate a number of available Orders for each CinC each turn. These Orders may be expended on a number of activities, of which marching is one. A single Order will move a single group one step - this is to an adjacent Area, but in the case of a group which is all mounted (including horse artillery) it is 2 Areas. Addition of an extra Order can make the march into a Forced March, which - in theory - allows a further move of 1 Area. This is where the bad news starts:

The Bad News

I'll (temporarily?) adopt the term Step to mean the distance between one Area and the next one along a road. Movement along a green road is automatic, but a movement step requires a test (only 1 test) if any of these apply:

* Group is Tired
* Group is Demoralised
* the road is brown
* the move is the extra one for a Forced March

Test is:

* Add the general's leadership rating (motivational; 3 = good to 1 = poor) to 2D3. If no general is with the group, count zero for the leadership rating. Be honest here, if Genl de Bde Crapeau is rated 1, that's what you use if he is the man on the spot. It doesn't matter if he is in Davout's Corps if Davout is not present.
* Add a further 1 if the group is mostly veterans or elites
* Deduct 1 for each of the following that applies:
    - Group is Tired
    - Group is Demoralised
    - the road is brown
    - this Step is the extra one for a Forced March
    - it is Winter (Oct-Mar)

Outcome: depends on total score
5+    successful
4      Step completed, but group is Tired
3      Step completed, group is Tired and Demoralised
2-     move fails - group is Demoralised

Tiredness and Demoralisation may well become additive scores, so that a group may have a Tired score of 2, for example. At present I am thinking only of them as binary states - a group is or is not Tired etc. A group which remains stationary for a week will lose one Tired point, provided it has supplies. Demoralisation is the subject of a test each turn for desertion etc, and thus clears itself. I am trying to avoid the need for explicit bookkeeping for hospitals, a heavy extra workload which I remember with a shudder from campaigns of old.

That's probably more than enough of all that. I have made no attempt to set this out in an organised manner - this is just a first-cut cloud of bits, for interest (or not). Activation, ports, forts, sieges & off-table battles, reinforcements, how we get from the Area blocks to an actual battlefield and the esoteric subject of scouting can all wait for another day, when I've thought about them some more. The map shown is a scaled-down version - if anyone wants the big version, email me through the Blogger profile.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Just One More Bid

"Of eBay I've had quite enough!"
You declare, as you browse through more stuff,
"But there's Hintons and Rose,
And - oh look, what are those?"
So no-one is fooled by your bluff.

Yet more shoddy, overpriced trash,
With paint slopped on over the flash,
Greets your wearying gaze -
There must be more ways
You could fritter your hard-earned cash?

Before I go out of my mind,
What is it you’re hoping to find?
What’s the dream? What’s the Grail?
What’s the sting in the tail?
Please explain, if you’d be so kind.

Buy soldiers, if buy them you must,
But by now I would think you’d have sussed
You’d be best, in the end,
Doing swaps with a friend,
Or someone you know you can trust.

But the postman still comes to the door,
And you open your mail with a roar:
“That seller’s a bad’un,
They’re never by Stadden!”
I really can’t take any more.

...“If that’s a dragoon,
I’m the Man in the Moon!”
No, dear, you’re a foolish old bore.

© MSF 2011
Any association with any real person, living or dead, or in any intermediate state, is entirely unintentional. Especially anyone named Foy.

As a late afterthought, here is a faint response, borne on the wind...

"I once almost had them, you know -
Hinton Hunt light dragoons in a row,
But I lost them, gawd blimey,
Outbid by the Limey,
With only four seconds to go!"

Monday, 5 September 2011


I really wanted a nice picture of a birthday candle app for iPhone, but will make do with a humble little celebration at Versailles

I just realised it's a year since I began this blog. When I started, I had very little idea what I was going to do with it - a situation which has changed very little since then. I have to say I've enjoyed my blogging very much, and I've gained some very real benefits from it. Firstly, I've learned a lot from the comments people have been kind enough to leave and - rather more difficult to explain - I find it invaluable to try to write down my thoughts on a particular topic, since it forces me to address areas of doubt (or at least identify them), and to put my porridge-like ideas into a more linear, coherent form.

I used to have a boss who reckoned that if someone couldn't describe his job to you clearly, then he probably didn't understand it. That's the same sort of idea, I think - when I read the final version of what I think, I'm often surprised!

The institutions of the Hooptedoodles and Foy's preposterous laws almost seem to make sense now - good grief. To all those who have read any part of this outpouring of self-indulgent banality during the last 12 months, I offer my thanks and best wishes. I propose to have a small glass of Armagnac, maybe the '65 De Montal, and I'll drink to your health and happiness. May your varnish dry without bubbles. May your saving throws all be high.

Gentlemen - I thank you.

Hex Cells - Round & Round We Go

There are occasions when I find that I am somewhere I've been before. Sometimes, the number of footprints makes it clear that an awful lot of people have been there, but it doesn't make it any more likely that the path leads anywhere.

Prompted by comments to the previous post, I reckon it is time for one of my periodic visits to the subject of hex cells on the wargames table - specifically, what size they should be. Since the mid 1970s, I have had 7" hexes on my table, and only occasionally have I wished they were a different size. They are seven inches (across the flats) because that looks OK and fits my unit sizes nicely. Six inches would be a possible alternative, anything smaller would not be viable, given that I have no wish to allow hex sizes to drive a complete re-engineering of my armies, rules and figures-to-men ratios, nor to initiate an extensive re-basing programme. Since no-one made commercial hexagonal bits in the 1970s (as far as I know), there was no option but to manufacture my own hills, so the odd size did not make things any worse than they would otherwise have been. If someone had made pre-formed hills and rivers for 6" hexes when I started, I would probably have gone for 6".

In recent years I looked at various mats and tile systems. The most basic was a printed tablecloth made by a Spanish concern that was promoted by NapoleoN Miniatures. I can't remember the name of the firm - Microgames? - something like that. I corresponded with them for a little while, and they sent me a couple of samples. They did a range of off-the-shelf cloths, including a decent-looking Peninsular War job with 100mm hexes, but they were more than happy to discuss bespoke products. They were prepared to print anything I wanted on the cloth (it didn't warrant the description "mat"), and make it any size I wanted, which sounds ideal. The cloth, sadly, was very flimsy - you could see light through the weave, it would certainly stretch and wrinkle and move about in action. A friend said that you couldn't even dry dishes with it, which is an interesting criterion. So I dropped that idea - not without difficulty, since the manufacturer seemed very excited by my interest, and looked forward to meeting me at a wargames convention in Dublin (which is obviously just down the road from here) to finalise my order. I have seen impressive examples of heavier, textured mats, which look good (though the hex grids come in a small number of unsuitable sizes), but I worry about storing them without damage, and I have a weird dread of covering my home with bits of shed flock and resin flakes.

Tile systems are invariably impressive - sometimes spectacularly so. The old Geo-Hex tile system (which I have never actually seen) appears to have used large hexes, but it's long OOP. I have heard mention of TSS making hex tiles, and their website shows some interesting pictures, but it makes no mention of sizes. I emailed them, and they came back very quickly and politely and said they no longer make the hex tiles, since they had trouble with manufacture and accuracy of the finished pieces. They did, however, recommend their excellent square terrain tiles, and they do look very good.

One of the familiar aspects of following a hopeless path is that frequently people will fix you with a slightly pitying gaze (especially in email) and imply that they are surprised that you are still doing whatever it is you are doing, and that the rest of the world has moved on from that - all the cool guys are now buying our latest product, and here's some pictures and a price list.

Hexon - state of the art?

At four inches it's a breeze. Kallistra make what appears to be the standard-setting product, Hexon II. Looks terrific. It probably looks awesome, though I am not an expert in awe. 4" tiles in a bewilderingly huge range - you can build the most convincing looking countryside in all sorts of regional shades. I am really very impressed, but it wouldn't do for me. The hexes are too small for my armies, and the whole approach of using a wall-to-wall set of tiles involves costs and storage issues which put me off. No - I am not decrying any of this, it really is wonderful - if I was starting from scratch now I would do Napoleonics in 15mm, with small unit sizes, and I would buy the Kallistra system. The snag, of course, is that I am not.

My wargames have never been scenically realistic. There is no whiff of diorama about my set up. Plain boards, unflocked bases, simple, representative villages and woods - that's how I've always done it. I've found it practical and pleasing, and I like the traditional look. I also like the look of more exotic approaches, I hasten to add, but they are not for me. A plain table with some blocks on it for hills is fine. If the hills look half-decent and troops can stand on them, and if I can store them easily without damaging them, so much the better.

As Mr Kinch has correctly pointed out, the real reason for choosing to move to smaller hexes is because that is how you want the game to be. It is possible that I could use 6" hexes, and it is possible that there would be advantages for the game size, but it does not (yet, at least) strike me as a must-do. Cutting out hills is a royal pain in the ass, to quote Mr Salinger, and no mistake. If someone makes suitable 6" hexagonal hill blocks which could be used, singly or in multiples, without leaving raw edges, and without requiring me to cover the whole world in the things, that would be a small push toward making a switch.

I have read interesting forum threads about casting tiles in plaster, papier maché or secret-formula gloop, and all kinds of mine-is-bigger-than-yours discussions of tile systems past, present and mythical. I am, I think, not much the wiser. It looks like a choice between staying where I am or some DIY-based change. The more I think about this, the less I fancy a change. I must Google "hex terrain" and look yet again at those TMP exchanges from 2006, and count the footprints.

By the way - what happened to Hexon I?

Friday, 2 September 2011


Since I got on to a DIY thread with the previous post, it seemed appropriate to talk a bit about another hot topic for me - boards, or what I have always called battleboards.

Now there are four of them

I have only had one set of boards since I started wargaming. Around 1971 I bought two 4' x 5' pieces of half-inch chipboard - placed side by side they made an 8' x 5' tabletop. They have been various shades of green over the years, and since about 1975 they have had 7" hexagons applied to one side, but otherwise they are the originals. They are leaning against the wall here in my office, and it is sobering to think what long-redundant armies have marched on them, and how many visiting generals have played on them - quite a few of those players are no longer with us, I am reminded.

Same boards. A shot of a Romans v Celts battle in Feb 2001 - this picture intrigues me, since it is taken in the old dining room of our cottage, a room which is now the downstairs bathroom. This is as near as I have got to fighting battles in the toilet

Chipboard is not ideal - it tends to crumble around the edges, especially the corners, and the half-inch stuff, though light and easy to handle, tends to droop a bit if any unsupported overhang exceeds a foot or so. The boards are getting a bit battered now, and they smell strange, since for a while they were stored in the garage wrapped in tarpaulin. They have been placed on all sorts of supporting surfaces over the years - wallpaper pasting tables, various dining tables, and - surprisingly successfully - for a while I used a child's playpen, with lengths of Dexion angle-bars lashed on. This was good because the tabletop was much lower than standard and (whatever it says in the books about the advantages of high tables) this gives a terrific view and puts the middle of the table in easy reach. Gives a glimpse of what gaming on the floor would be like, I guess. Might not be too clever for the spine, but I was immune to such problems in those days.

Anyway, I'm now back up to standard dining-table height, which is fine. Our current dining table is a big fellow (2.5 metres long), which meant that I was able to cut the battleboards in half, so that I now have four 2' x 5' sections, which are much easier to store and to lug around.

My ancient hexes run in the wrong direction for CCN, so I have been working out how to remedy this. I reckon that I can keep my 7" hexes and still fit the official CCN playing surface on an 8 x 5 table. My original plan was to paint the new hex grid on the reverse side of the present boards but they are not in a good enough state - it would be a lot of work, and I would be disappointed with the result. OK then - new boards. Some swimming of the brain here - what sort of materials, how big? Yes, how big? Could I fit a 9' x 6' board in the dining room? - hmmm. In fact, commonsense prevails - I'll stick with 8 x 5 - it fits the CCN layout and gives a little room for a blank surround, and I can paint the reverse plain green, or maybe apply felt. Anything bigger, though tempting, would be difficult to walk around. For material, I fancy 20mm MDF. It should be structurally robust enough, and a sealed-and-painted MDF surface is smooth but tough. I've also given some thought to having four 8-foot battens to place on the dining table, and site the battleboards on top of these - that would enable me to have the table as eight 1' x 5' panels instead of four 2' x 5', which would store in a wardrobe or similar without drama. Interesting.

I don't think I'm going to start on this until the Winter. I am strangely reluctant to abandon my old boards, but they've been in use for 40 years, so they do not owe me anything, and it's time to smarten up.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Cupboard

I've referred to The Cupboard before - I think I once mentioned that I might do a post on it.

It has come to mind again lately because it is getting to be a bit of a squeeze in there. It was all planned so carefully - I even got rid of my unwanted Ancient armies to make more space for the Napoleonics - but my recent acquisition of an unexpected Pommeranian contingent has messed up the space planning. It's only a matter of time before I start having to employ supplementary Box Files, or maybe Cupboard II...

Once upon a time, it was a glazed bookcase. An elderly neighbour of mine (in a former life) had a huge personal library, and he had a number of suitably serious bookcases. After he died, I was told that his widow would like me to have one of them, which (apparently) I had once admired. I couldn't remember ever commenting on it, but I was delighted to get it. It's a nice, sturdy item, probably 1920s or so, and has solid shelves, 0.5" thick and 12.5" apart - three of them.

When I first got it I knew at once what I wanted to do with it. I worked out that I could fit 2 glass shelves between each pair of wooden ones, giving enough height for standard bearers and chaps on horses (and those delicate games of leapfrog which are always needed to get the right units for the evening's battle), so I got some heavy quality quarter-inch armoured glass shelves made up, polished all round, and fitted them - it was a lot easier than I expected. I was also delighted to find that my unit sabots, which are 110mm deep, fit very nicely on the shelves, two deep.

It has gradually filled up over recent years - the soldiers now occupy almost all of the shelves, though the floor of the cabinet currently holds my Peninsular War buildings (which do not normally do well in boxes). Next step will be some Box Files (no idea why this should warrant capital letters - maybe it just feels appropriate for a back-up for The Cupboard, which has always had capitals). I may put some of the buildings in box files, with magnetic arrangements to stop them rattling around. Bell towers and fortress gates will not go in a box file, but this would still free up enough space to get the planned limbers and so forth a home on the bottom.

Though the dining room of our house is a fairly dark room (this being where the battles take place), some perverse accident of astronomy means that the early morning sun in the Summer falls right on The Cupboard, so - to protect the red paint and the flags - I arranged for my wife to very kindly fit black blinds inside the glass doors. This may seem a bit overprotective, and it certainly means that my soldiers live in a glazed display cabinet which does not display them, which has occasionally struck visitors as odd. I may change my mind about this some time, but at present the troops live in the dark.

The Cupboard has a significance beyond mere storage - only units which are complete and finished may go in there, so "being ready for The Cupboard" means ready for action, and no mistake. It is a standing joke here that the end objective for all my collecting, painting, basing and organising activity is to get units ready to go into The Cupboard, where they cannot be seen! All witticisms about closet wargamers to Chateau Foy, please, on used 5-pound notes.