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


Monday, 28 November 2011

...and Beads

Many thanks to Willie Morgan and his wife Megan, who make costume jewellery and know about glues. By the way, I think Megan Morgan is an excellent name.


This is the stuff. Evo-Stik Serious Glue. Leaves the tube with a jelly-like consistency, does not tend to string or run about. Stays moveable for 3 minutes, sets hard in 2 hours. Fully cured the next day. It will fill gaps, stick uneven surfaces.


I haven't done all the beads yet, but am working through them. Fiddly fiddly. This requires some care, since the little magnets will happily leap 4 or 5 inches to join a neighbour, or stick to my penknife. You need plastic tweezers for this job. Here you see a couple of finished markers on the laminated master map - a division of the Armee de Portugal in Valladolid, plus a garrison in Burgos castle to keep the supply road open.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Baubles, Bangles

Well, beads anyway. Any glue experts out there? I could do with a little advice.

For my upcoming solo campaign (for which I hope to have a working rules draft in a week or two), I need something pretty good in the way of map markers. My map of Iberia has been printed up nicely at A3 size, and laminated. It is now on the magnetic whiteboard in my office, and I am working on creating very small magnetic markers for the combat groups.

I have thought up a design, the materials are here - all I need now is to assemble them with sufficient precision!

The counters will be 7mm acrylic "spacer" beads (as used in necklaces and friendship bracelets) which are embossed with the letters of the alphabet, and these are to be fastened to some fabulous little 4mm magnets I have obtained. There will be 3 colours of beads - one alphabet for each, to cope with the 3 armies. The beads are 3mm thick, the magnets 1mm.

The makings – a couple of beads, a magnet and Her Majesty’s head on a £1 coin, all laid out on a board marked with 5mm squares. The coin is not part of the design – it is there to give an idea of the size. You probably realised that. On this scale, my finger-ends would look like elephants’ feet.

I'm dithering over choice of glue at present. The magnets are amazingly powerful, so the glue must be strong enough to allow the markers to be removed from the map without breaking and leaving the magnets behind. The beads are rounded and have the letters embossed on both sides; if they were flat on the back, I would consider superglue, but I'm not a fan of using superglue to fill gaps or provide part of the structure. I could use Araldite, but it's messy to work with, and these are very fiddly parts - I could easily end up with the whole lot glued permanently to my workbench. I need some user-friendly glue which will stay where I put it, fill the gaps between the curved bead and the flat magnet, and dry rigid and STRONG.

I have a few ideas, but there may be something out there which is just what I am looking for.

One of the attractions of the beads and magnets is they were very cheap - the magnets were about £5 for 100, the beads came to about the same amount again in total. Slight problem with the beads is you get 150 mixed letters in a bag, so you have to do some quick maths to identify how many bags you need to be pretty sure of getting at least one complete alphabet!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Trouble at t'Mill - Solo CCN with miniatures


The Battle of Fuentelolmo

Last night I played a Commands & Colors (CCN) battle, using my home-brewed tweak to allow solo play. I took the Spanish side, and played the French (no cheating), using a blind hand of Command Cards. Not only did the game go well, it was actually very exciting, which is unusual for my solo wargames - they are often interesting, but seldom gripping. It was finished in about 2 hours, which is good, considering the time taken for photos and talking to myself...

The OOB

French force (Abbé)

Flying column (reserve):
2 bns of (dismounted) 1er Dragons Provisoire, plus 1 Bataillon d'Elite (Line Grenadiers)
French foot battery

Neuenstein's Confederation Brigade
4 Bns

Leberknödel's Vorpommern Brigade
4 Bns
Vorpommern foot battery

Kleinwinkel's Vorpommern Lt Cavalry Bde
1 & 2 Chevauxlegers

[Neuenstein's and Leberknödel's brigades are classed as line infantry, though each also has a small light infantry "battalion" formed of the combined voltigeur companies]

Spanish force (De España)

Spanish regulars
3 bns line infantry, 2 of light infantry
Foot battery

Voluntarios (Pardo)
2 bns light troops, 2 of militia
Volunteer Foot battery

Cavalry (Sanchez)
2 units of Lanceros de Castilla
Perseguidores del General (who are irregulars)

Partidas (Perez - "El Barbero")
4 small "bns" of guerilleros

Portuguese (Otway)
2 regts Portuguese dragoons
Thomar militia bn
Foot battery

The Scenario

Background is that local partisan irregulars under the command of the noted Don Alonso Perez (known as "El Barbero" because of his skill with a razor) have had considerable success in and around the little town of Fuentelolmo, driving out the French garrison. In response, General Jean Abbe has been sent to recover the situation with a couple of German brigades (including the previously untried Pommeranians, the contingent of the Duchy of Stralsund-Rügen), and a token force of Pommeranian light cavalry. His best troops are French, intended as reinforcements for the Armée du Centre, but borrowed to provide Abbé with some grenadier-quality infantry. Abbé is disappointed to discover that his column has been well publicised, and the Spanish forces are greatly stiffened by a line Division under Carlos de España, a good volunteer brigade and even some Portuguese troops under Col Otway.

The French have a numerical disadvantage in cavalry and artillery. The Spanish have some disadvantages in the unpredictability of their troops - the line troops will fight well, but suffer double retreats, the militia/volunteers suffer triple retreats, and any retreat at all by any of the guerilleros will eliminate them. They will come back and fight again, but not today.

The terrain is fairly open, with some small hills, a couple of them very rocky, and some small areas of woodland. The Spanish have taken a position with their right on the town of Fuentelolmo, held by the Volunteer brigade, with support from Sanchez' cavalry. The line troops and the Portuguese hold the more hilly area on the left, and El Barbero's more volatile irregulars are held in the rear of the centre. The intention is to defend the position, and allow the French to attack. Abbé has his Pommeranians on the right, the rest of the Germans on the left, and holds the "flying column" as a reserve behind his centre.

The French move first, 5 Command Cards each, and victory requires 7 "banners".

The Narrative (brief)

The day began tentatively, both sides deploying carefully and weighing up the opposition in each area.

Not for long. On his first move De España played a "Grande Manoeuvre" card, which allows a turn of very rapid movement - there is only one of these in the game, I think. Pardo's volunteer brigade rushed to its right, occupied the farm buildings at San Baudelio and deployed the volunteer artillery company of Avila to very good effect. The initiative on this side was suddenly with the Spanish - their defence had become an attack so quickly that I had some difficulty keeping track of what I was doing!

More lucky card drawing resulted in the French playing a "Counter Attack" card - again a rarity; this card allowed the French commander to repeat the Spanish "Grande Manoeuvre" - so once again troops were running across the table. Now the French reserve rushed to seize the mill at Demonio and its surrounding buildings - they were now opposed only by the guerrilleros, and also offered a threat to the left flank of the advanced brigade of volunteers.

The action was bloody and very evenly balanced. Both sides suffered from having left their artillery out of position as a result of the rapid advances - especially the French - and both commanders must have regretted the lack of horse artillery. Early on, the French suffered very heavy losses as they advanced across open ground in support of the position at the mill, which was gallantly held by the foot dragoons.

The Spanish line troops fought bravely but unsuccessfully to take the mill, and lost heavily - including a serious wound to their commander. De España was rushed from the field, and is expected to recover.

Now the cards turned things around again - the foot dragoons would not be dislodged, but eventually lack of ammunition forced them to retire - the dreaded "Short Supply" card sent them to the rear, and the battered remnants of the Cazadores de Castilla captured the position. Now - belatedly - the Pommeranians came into their own. One spectacular turn of firing from young Major Nyudrev's battery wrecked a Spanish line battery which had been causing considerable damage, and finally Graf Leberknödel led his two fusilier battalions out of the woods to excellent effect - they routed the remains of España's light troops, destroyed an unfortunate Portuguese militia battalion which got in the way, and - taking advantage of a valuable "Leadership" card - captured the Portuguese howitzer battery. Game over - that was the 7th victory banner. The French edged it, 7-5, though they were 5-3 down at one point. It could, in truth, have gone either way very easily.

I don't know why I am so elated - I lost. Losing a solo game is quite an achievement, I guess. Anyway - it was excellent fun. The solo tweak works well and without difficulty - you just have to remember to ditch the "First Strike" card if it appears, since it cannot be used in a solo game.

The Pictures

The Vorpommern brigade on the French right

General view at the start - the town is in the top right corner, the mill in the dead centre of the table. The Spanish forces are set out down the right hand side, with Portuguese cavalry in the foreground

The French "reserve" (ha ha) in the centre
Pommeranians - the Chevauxleger regiment "Herzogin Katrin" - they had a bad day on the left flank

Confederation troops on the French left

Spanish right and centre, on the outskirts of the town

Voluntarios

Otway's Portuguese cavalry - on loan for the day

The ill-fated Portuguese howitzers

Guerrilleros - were successfully kept out of harms way for the most part. Father Francisco working on Divine intervention

The trouble starts here

Spanish central defence suddenly becomes the right flank...

The boys done good - Graf Leberknoedel brings up the Pommeranian fusilier battalions

Now things get really silly - the French are rushing about too

The critical fighting around Molino Del Demonio

Foolhardy - the "Herzogin Katrin" cavalry fancy their chance against the volunteer artillery - Julian Sanchez' lancers are about to make short work of them

Nyudrev Pulls It Off - Pommeranian artillery puts paid to those pesky Spanish 8pdr boys - and not before time

The Joy of Command Cards - you can fight as bravely as you like, but you'll need ammo

"Tulips" - the Pommeranian grenadier battalion "Zum Alten Greif" puffing their way up a hill - they never got into action

The Thomar militia in the wrong place at the wrong time - eliminated (streaky dice)

And that is that. Leberknoedel with the remnants of the IR "Graf von Grimmen" just about hung on to capture the howitzers, and that was the 7th victory banner

Monday, 21 November 2011

More Mystery Figures - any ideas?


Just received these today. I have no idea what they are - spindly 20mm - French infantry (hats are a bit strange). I thought from the little picture on eBay that they were going to be Hinton Hunt Spaniards painted as Frenchmen, but that is clearly not correct. Bases are small, rounded squares - like HH or Der Kriegsspieler, but they don't look like these makers' figures.

It has been suggested that they might be home-cast copies of DK, but I'm not convinced. Anyone seen anything like this before? I have 12 of them, with varying proportions of bayonet.

Antisocial Networking Sites - Moderate or Die

I like it - Nihilist approach to Social Networking - would this be more sustainable in the long term than what we have at present?

Another rant - probably a continuation of the same old rant. I guess I must feel strongly about it. Yesterday, someone passed me a link to a discussion thread on an English football (that's soccer) fan site. I am aware of what goes on in these cess-pits, but between visits I tend to forget how bad it is.

There are inspired worthies around who see merit in the Internet's role as a means of letting popular culture and mass opinion be seen and have their due effect. I have some very bad news for these people - whatever else it might be, the Internet is also a magnet for the uneducated, the antisocial and the peculiar, not to mention those who are not distracted by having something better to do. The haters and the abusers thrive in there, and the more extreme their behaviour gets, the more they frighten away the more normal folk who might have something worth saying, and who might balance things up a bit. Homophobia, racism, filth - these sites can be upsetting, evil places to visit - the prevailing atmosphere is hatred, pure and simple.

As a trivial, personal example, I cannot let my elderly mother or my son look at otherwise worthwhile items on YouTube or even Yahoo News because some zero-wits will have daubed obscenity all over them. Moron Rule is here to stay, it seems. I read a complaint from someone recently on some BBC forum or other that they were scared to let their children use the Internet freely, not because they might get coached or politically corrupted by some extremist site (or whatever the Daily Mail would claim), but because perfectly ordinary, valuable resources were defaced and spoilt by mass mindlessness. This in itself was hardly revolutionary, but I was appalled to see that one of the responses was from someone making the point that it was not up to a parent to censor what their children should see - instead the parent should ensure that their children were brought up to appreciate the damaging role which censorship has played throughout history. I realise that everyone is entitled to their opinion (are they? - isn't it also true that some people aren't fit to plead?), but do they actually have to tell us what it is? Personally, I would have given this person a kick up the backside, but that almost certainly offends against some human right or other.

All the above is a rather tired subject for debate in the pub. So what is the problem? - is there a graffitti instinct in people? Given anonymity, do people (and I mean most people) feel obliged to express themselves in extreme, provocative terms? Are they trying to present themselves as someone they admire, or aspire to be? As a rule of thumb, I reckon that if you say something anonymously which you would not say in a room full of the people you are addressing, then you should probably think carefully about what you are doing. In fact, the situation on discussion sites may be slightly worse than strict anonymity, since the contributors are able to cultivate some notoriety in their assumed identity. No need to look anyone in the eyes - no comeback - just let rip.

As ever, I am intrigued, somewhat offended, but have no real answers. However, there is a discernible paradox here. The sites which explain that the views expressed are those of their members, and do not represent the views of the site provider, are very happy to pocket the advertising revenue generated by site hits, yet they wish to duck any associated accountability.

Not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

Though the idea is attractive, the concept of having some defined standards and some kind of enforcer of Public Decency is impracticable - laughably so - the things that offend me probably won't offend you, and vice versa - it's far too subjective to make into a legal issue. However, there are a great many comments on public sites which really do offend against established law - racism being one of the more obvious. If some anonymous excrescence puts an illegal remark on a forum, then the forum should take full responsibility for moderation - a disclaimer is not sufficient. The contributors are invariably registered members of the site, so they are known to the site providers. If I rent the back room of the pub, and invite a bunch of crackpots in to have an unruly meeting, I would expect to be answerable if things got out of hand, or we offended or hurt someone. In my own interests, I might take it upon myself to keep my members in check, or I might expect to have the facility closed down. It's a no-brainer.

Here's my tuppence-worth - an idea which appeals to me: if a forum or message site is not properly moderated, then any illegal or offensive views expressed should be clearly the responsibility of the site provider, who should be directly accountable. If they cannot afford the work of moderation, yet cannot tolerate the risk of someone saying something illegal, then they should close the site. That should get rid of a few. OK, we might lose some things that we would rather have preserved, but something has to give - the situation we have is intolerable, and I don't think it can go on. A good many things, after all, are not worth saying - the fact that it would offend your grannie does not make it clever or apposite, however much it might amuse the lads.

Moderate or die.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Solo Campaign Rules - resolving off-table combat

Another requirement for my solo campaign rules is some means of settling battles which are too small, or otherwise unsuitable, for a tabletop game. One of the attractions of a campaign is the scope for variety – fighting skirmishes between scouting parties, for example (in fact, such instances form my entire experience of skirmish wargaming), but there will frequently be situations where pragmatism must win over self-indulgence! This is, once again, something of a sad cop-out – absolute zero-spectacle wargaming, but these things will crop up, and it is necessary to have some available means of resolving them – much less awkward than having to improvise something to order.

My requirement – as for the sieges – is that it should be simple, reasonable and broadly consistent with what would have happened if a “proper” miniatures game had taken place.

Mr Duckenfield’s system, published in Practical Wargaming for March/April 1992 (I think), is well established as a way of doing this. What follows is primarily a re-hash of his method, with a few small tweaks to suit myself, and some smoothing of the numbers. If you don’t agree with my numbers, feel free to substitute your own.

For each army, identify the relevant modifiers in Table 1, and add 1D6. Subtract the Allied total from the French total, ignoring fractions, and get the result from Table 2.

Situation
French
British & Portuguese
Spanish Regulars
Militia & Irregulars
General present (most senior only)
+ General’s rating (1,2 or 3)
Troops mostly elite/veterans
+1
0
Troops mostly inexperienced or despondent
0
-1
-2
Troops tired
-1
-2
Forced march into battle
-1
-2
Encounter battle in rough terrain (brown)
0
+1
Defender in rough terrain (brown)
+1
+2
+1
+2
Defender in open terrain (green)
+1
0
-1
For each 25% numerical advantage
+1
Out of supply
-1
-2
-1
0

Table 1 – dice modifiers

French score minus
Allied score
French vs British/Portuguese
French vs Spanish or irregular
Result
French loss %
Br/Port loss %
Result
French loss %
Sp/irreg loss %
6 or more
Br/Port routed
5
30
Sp/Irreg routed
1
60
5
7
25
1
55
4
Br/Port defeated
8
20
2.5
50
3
10
17.5
5
40
2
Drawn – Br/Port withdraw
12.5
15
6
30
1
Drawn – attackers withdraw
15
12.5
Sp/Irreg defeated
7
25
0
Drawn – French withdraw
17.5
10
8
20
-1
French defeated
20
8
9
17.5
-2
22.5
7
10
15
-3
25
6
Drawn – attackers withdraw
12.5
12.5
-4
30
5
French defeated
15
10
-5
French routed
35
5
20
7.5
-6 or less
40
4
French routed
25
5

Table 2 – outcomes