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


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

New Celebrity Look-alike at Chateau Foy

Surely it can't be.... Lasalle?

Correct, it isn't. Since it is forever 1812 here, Lasalle has been dead for 3 years or so. Nice find on eBay - one of Jorg Schmaeling's little masterpieces for Art Miniaturen. In an ideal world, this would, in fact, be Lasalle, but I have tweaked him a bit, retouched the paint job to help disguise the handiwork of a pro painter and rebased to the house standard - in short, I've sort of coarsened the figure so he will fit in!

This is now an all-purpose flash French cavalry commander - in the current campaign he will be Montbrun, but he would also work as an over-the-top colonel of Chasseurs a Cheval looking after a brigade. Because the figure is to have a multi-purpose role, I've waived the usual coloured border round the base to denote rank.

This is as near as my collection gets to class...    Now - into The Cupboard with him.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

FaceBook - Lifestyle Concept


I was amused by this, a portrayal of FaceBook-style behaviour out of context. By the way, I had a cup of coffee an hour ago, and it wasn't great.

Karl, Freiherr von Neuenstein

Thanks for the comments on the hectic little affair at San Rafael - I also got a couple of emails, and as ever Herr Doktor Morgenstern is cross-checking the historical accuracy of my account, looking in particular for traces of anti-German bias - there is much that badly needs checking, I admit it - not to mention a good number of downright fabrications.

On this occasion he backed the wrong horse, however - in a world of lies, he chanced upon one thing which is true.

Who is this Neuenstein, says Morgenstern, is he another of your fake Pommeranians? Well no - as it happens, he is the real deal. He was some fringe member of the royal house of Baden, I think - to be honest I am not certain, and the websites which give the true nitty-gritty on the ruling houses of old Germany are not recommended reading unless you are very seriously interested. He was commander of the Baden forces in Spain, after Col von Porbeck was killed at Talavera. Neuenstein subsequently commanded a German brigade in the Armee du Centre.


Josef Karl Franz Xaver, Freiherr von Neuenstein (1769-1838) was a real fellow, no doubt. You can read of his adventures in various places, most notably in Lt.Col Sauzey's Les Allemands sous les Aigles Francais - Tome II - Le Contingent Badois. Col Sauzey does not mention that Josef Karl was the Hero of San Rafael, as it happens, but one cannot have everything. I'm confident the bold Freiherr would have played down his own part in the business, in any event. I even found a (very small) picture of him - wearing his uniform as a colonel in the Baden infantry, I think. He was definitely wearing his second-best French campaign gear on my tabletop yesterday.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Solo Campaign - Action at San Rafael, 27th Feb 1812

Von Neuenstein's Frankfort and Baden units calmly await the storm

General de Brigade Von Neuenstein was sent to deal with an irregular Spanish force under the command of Don Alfonso Maceta – “El Achaparrado” – which was attacking supply trains and couriers in the mountains to the north of Madrid. Von Neuenstein’s own brigade consisted of 5 battalions of troops from the Confederation of the Rhine – professional, experienced soldiers, but a long way from home and increasingly convinced that this was not their war. They were augmented by a very smart new battery of (French) horse artillery from the Madrid garrison. Von Neuenstein marched his men up into the mountains, somewhat concerned about their lack of spirit, and hoping that the inexperienced artillery would perform well if called upon to fight. The French force numbered about 4300 infantry, with the 6 guns of the horse battery.

Maceta’s men had also been on the road for a while, having marched from the Avila area. They were a mixed force, militia and volunteer units and groups of irregular partisan infantry from Avila. The total was 4700, approximately, and Maceta was not impressed when the artillery support promised by the Junta de Castilla turned out to be a half-battery of extraordinarily old and fragile-looking cannon, apparently borrowed from a museum. Better than no artillery at all, but there was no means of moving them once they had been brought into action.

The forces met in the late morning of Thursday 27th February, in a deep and rugged valley near the monastery and village of San Rafael. The unusual terrain generated some special scenario rules – a number of impassable hills were defined, but also some “severe” hills, denoted by double-height blocks and mostly topped with trees – these hills could be entered only by guerrilla infantry and the voltigeur battalion of the French brigade.

[Spanish move first, normal CCN rules, 5 Command cards in each hand, 4 Victory flags needed for a win.]

Very early, the French played a Grande Manoeuvre card and moved 4 units forward quickly, the intention being to gain a toehold in the hills and woods adjacent to the Spanish position. This did not go particularly well, since the Spanish responded with a Bayonet Charge card, which enabled them also to rush 4 infantry units forward, and also to fight with a bonus dice. Von Neuenstein’s troops on the left were caught in the open and suffered badly – the 1st Bn of the Nassauers and the combined voltigeur unit were both broken and routed, and the 2nd Bn of the Nassau unit only avoided a complete collapse of the left by taking possession of the monastery and its outbuildings.

The Spanish militia units, Maceta at their head, now showed commendable élan in the centre, committing to a bold frontal assault on the French force. This had a measure of success at first, and the Frankfurt regiment suffered considerable casualties and recoiled. Neuenstein brought up the two battalions of the 4th Baden regiment and the horse battery, and the Spanish militia and their supporting irregular bands were pushed back and broken. At the same time, a rather half-hearted attack on the monastery was stopped by the Nassauers’ disciplined fire, and the Spanish force retired, the triple-retreat rule for militia units pushing them back quickly, though their previously unengaged cavalry served to cover the retreat well. The antique guns, sadly, were abandoned.

The melee combat at the end of the action was of a very confused nature, the broken terrain and the many twisting paths appear to have caused many men to be separated from their units. The victory for the French was marginal, there was no pursuit by the victors, and many of the missing and wounded on both sides returned to the ranks during the night. On a Victory Flag count, the French won 4-3, and losses were surprisingly light considering the severity of the fighting and the very aggressive tactics of the Spanish commander. The game took about 50 minutes, representing a little over 3 hours fighting. Von Neuenstein conducted himself with great valour and calmness, fighting in the ranks with the Frankfurt unit, striving heroically to rally them when they finally broke, and then taking command of his own Badeners to win the day.

OOBs

French (from l’Armée du Centre)

Genl de Bde Von Neuenstein with his own brigade of D’Armagnac’s Divn
2nd Nassau (2 Bns), Regt de Francfort (1) & 4th Baden (2)
Masset’s battery of horse artillery (attached)

Total 4300 men with 6 x 6pdr guns

Spanish

Don Alfonso Maceta with a mixed force of militia units, volunteers and irregular partidas, with a half battery of irregular artillery provided by the Junta de Castilla

Total 4700 men, including 350 irregular cavalry, with 3 guns

The French lost 1050 men killed and wounded, from the Nassau and Frankfort units, and from the brigade’s voltigeur battalion, which last was pretty much destroyed.

The Spanish, by the time runaways and detached stragglers had rejoined, were reported to have lost only around 800 men, though Neuenstein claimed that the Spanish losses were at least 2000 men. The Confederation troops took a number of standards – mostly informal flags abandoned by the irregulars, and captured 3 very dilapidated 4pdr guns.

General view at the outset, French on the right hand side

The artillery unit provided by the Junta was not what had been hoped for...

1st Bn of the Nassauers caught in the open by the quick Spanish attack

The 2nd Bn, more sensibly deployed next to the monks' vegetable plot

Capt Masset's horse artillery unit

The Spanish attack runs out of momentum while the Frankfurters run out of men...

General view of the Spanish attack

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hooptedoodle #44 - Stereotyping in Nature


Occasionally, when I'm watching TV, I suddenly realise that the adverts are aimed at me - I mean me personally. I just know I am a target - I'm in the crosswires somewhere. Someone who is good at this stuff has doubtless worked out the likely profile of the people who will be watching this particular show, on this channel, at this time of day, and will have identified what other things that stereotypical viewer might be interested in. This afternoon I will be watching football (that may be soccer to you), so would expect to get plenty of ads for beer, or gents' toiletry products, or smallish cars. Maybe even for sports drinks, or football boots, or for those PlayStation sports-simulation games which have begun to replace actual physical exercise for our kids [which of course is why we have to import so many of our sports stars from developing nations which have not yet attained our own level of inactivity - separate topic for discussion...] There will be no ads at all for facial moisturiser creams.

The other night I was watching a programme about the D-Day landings on the UK History channel, and found that the ads were about life insurance for the over-55s, comfortable shoes by mail order, incontinence pads. Just a minute - that's not so good, is it? Should I be keeping an eye on the adverts, to check that I am correctly following the correct stereotype? Which way round does this work? I think I would be uneasy about someone accurately predicting that I would be watching a particular show. I would definitely be disgruntled by their then predicting what my marketing profile was likely to be, and I would be mortified if they were right! [In passing, is it possible to be gruntled? - I am interested in things like that.]

I guess it's something to do with not wishing to be predictable - I have always felt that if someone knows what I am going to do there is hardly any point doing it. In fact there may not be any point in being here at all.

I got to thinking about whether creatures other than humans consciously feel obliged to conform to some idea of stereotyping. In particular, do the birds come to the feeders in our garden because they are hungry and that is what they like to eat, or is it because they know we would be disappointed if they didn't? Who is watching who here (sorry, whom)? Is it possible that left to themselves the songbirds we know in our garden would actually prefer to eat at KFC?

Among the birds that come here, we are especially fond of the goldfinches. They are lovely, vigorous little things, with smart rows of buttons down their backs like Napoleonic footmen, and that wacky clown's makeup. Recently we haven't seen as many as we would expect, and Mme Foy came home a few weeks ago with a hefty bag of niger seed, and a special plastic feeder to dispense it. Niger seed, it says in the books - and especially on the back of the pack of niger seed - is what goldfinches really like. Interesting. Trying to ignore the fact that, gram for gram, niger seed is about the same price as prime foie gras, I think this through:

* could this be why the goldfinches have been neglecting us? - because we have had no niger seed?

* does this, in turn, mean that goldfinches eat nothing else? - in fact we know this is not true, since we have often seen them busily hoovering the general-purpose bird seed.

* perhaps it means, then, that they prefer niger seed if there is some, and a neighbour has had it on the menu? - in fact this is not likely either, since as far as I know none of our neighbours is that interested, and certainly not daft enough to pay out for niger seed.

* no - none of this seems likely - probably we'll put out the niger seed and we'll continue to have few goldfinches. We will have the same number of goldfinches, but less money. Perhaps they are dying out.


Don't you believe it. Within days the place was buzzing with goldfinches. Since they are untidy eaters, they throw the niger seed all over the place, and then there's a big feeding frenzy on the ground (see illustration). So where have they been? What's going on here? It is possible, of course, that we have now pinched all the goldfinches from the surrounding area, but in fact there were not many around. Probably best not to worry about this, I think, enjoy the little chaps while they're here and plan ways to save up for the next niger shipment.

It is interesting, though.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Accuracy Drift - The Spanish Army


Since I am now closing down the Peninsular War Unlimited Expansion Project, I am trying to get things finished off fairly quickly, thus the flow of figures to and from the painter is faster than ever, which seems a bit strange, but no matter. Next batches will be 60 Falcata guerrilleros, which I hope to clean up and send off by Tuesday if possible, and 6 battalions of Spanish line infantry, for which I'll need to do some conversions for command figures, so they'll be a few weeks in preparation. [One of the line infantry units is to replace a Warrior battalion that I've always been uncomfortable about. I think Warrior are fine if your whole army is Warrior, but I find they don't fit in well with my armies, either for size or animation. A pity, really, because they are absolutely lovely people to deal with - and they are in Glasgow, of course, so they deserve all the support they can get.]

And in odd moments I'm picking away at limbers, carts, generals and similar - I still enjoy painting single items or very small groups, but nowadays I can't be bothered with a row of 24 identical infantrymen - my eyesight isn't terrible, but it isn't as good as it was. A daylight hobby lamp and a jeweller's optical loop have been a big help (the jeweller was furious, of course), but I have to make sure I only take on painting that I want to do.

The extra Spanish line units are planned to become Morillo's Division from Pedro Agostin Giron's "4th Army" around 1812-13 - the only detailed OOB I know of is in Nafziger's treasured collection and - as usual for Spanish records - it is full of typos and misunderstandings. Part of this is because there is always a little loss of accuracy in translation, but it's also because his sources were slightly careless army archives compiled from handwritten returns 200 years ago, and some of these returns must be a record of what somebody thought somebody else said. The scary bit is that, since information is scarce, this stuff gets recycled and requoted, and fresh typos get inserted as time goes on, and we get Accuracy Drift. I've spent a fascinating couple of days cross-checking lists in Nafziger, JM Bueno, Oman, Esdaile's book on the Spanish army, the Spanish notes in Mike Oliver's Napoleonic Army Handbook and some typed stuff I got from a friend in Madrid some years ago. This is not straightforward, since many of these sources quote each other, but I think I have now pretty much identified all the infantry units in the 4th Army. I haven't started on the cavalry yet, but the infantry is pretty tight, and I even have a good idea of the uniforms. I am so enraptured with my own cleverness that I shall have to go and lie down for a while.

I fear I may have passed the limit of your interest in this subject some lines ago, but it is easy to see why duff info gets passed on and why so many wargames armies are a bit unhistorical (is there such a word?). The said Morillo's Divn, for example, contains the line regiments of Leon, La Union (Morillo's own regt) and Bailen - that's all easy, and Nafziger gets that spot on. The roughnesses sneak in for some of the less regular, newer units. Nafziger's "Regimiento de Legion" turns out to be a light unit called the Legion Extremena, which was formed in 1811 - I know who was the colonel and have a good idea of their uniform - and his "Regimiento de Vitoria" (i.e. regiment from the city of Vitoria) turns out to be the Voluntarios de la Victoria (Volunteers of Victory), another light unit raised in Galicia in 1809. And so on.

If I get a suitable burst of enthusiasm, maybe I should stick my updated OOB in a future post. If, like me, there is anyone reading this who gets a bit frustrated by the lack of quality information about the Spanish army in the Guerra de Independencia, please make yourself known!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Solo Campaign - Week 5 & part of Week 6


Two weeks' manoeuvring and I have two battles to fight - one big'un, one tiddler. I'll insert the batreps when I've fought them. This post has now been edited to include a photo of the map - the map shows the position around 27th of the month - before resolution of combats.

Week 05

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 4, French 3(!), so Allies have initiative. From this week, modification to rules requires a specific Order for scouting of adjacent Areas to take place, apart from Spanish irregulars, who will always scout without orders.

Moves

Allies (4 allowed)
1 – A (Wellington) at Salamanca divides to split off new Group E (Cotton – with Sixth Division and Le Marchant’s and Otway’s (Ptgse) cavalry bdes)
2 – A (Wellington) marches 1 step from Salamanca to Zamora...
3 – ...and forced-marches from Zamora to Leon, which requires a test:
2D3 = 6 +3 (Wellington’s rating) -1 (forced march) -1 (winter conditions) = 7     which is OK – great marching!
4 – Sp B (Espana) marches from Zamora to Salamanca, to reinforce E
 [Intelligence step –
  • Nothing – no scouting orders]
French (3 allowed)
1 – N (Marmont) holds position at Valladolid – order to hold position allows tired troops in Foy’s Divn to recover
2 – N (Marmont) sends scouting patrols from Valladolid into Leon
3 – S (Joseph/Jourdan) at Madrid scout area of Avila
 [Intelligence step -
  • Br A (Wellington) and Fr N (Marmont) both have cavalry – thus Marmont receives Fragmentary Report – he is aware that there are now enemy forces at Leon, but has few details
  • Fr S (Joseph/Jourdan) at Madrid has no cavalry – Sp D at Avila has irregular infantry and some cavalry, so French have No Information about forces in Avila, other than the fact that Spanish mounted guerrilleros have been seen there]
Supplies
No supply problems, all LoC open and defended.

Contacts
None.

Random Events
None.

Narrative
Detaching Cotton with a division of infantry and two cavalry brigades to cover the Duero crossings, and reinforcing them with Espana’s Spanish force, Wellington force-marches the remainder of his army through Zamora to Leon, threatening Marmont’s right flank and (by a potential move through Sahagun) his rear and his line of supply through Burgos.

Joseph is concerned that sending so many troops to reinforce Marmont at Valladolid has left the Madrid area vulnerable to attacks by the irregular troops of the Junta de Castilla, who have forces at both Avila and Ocana. He is short of cavalry, and spies sent into Avila have not reported back – perhaps they are roasting over a fire somewhere. The separate irregular Spanish forces may not join together, but will share intelligence, and all Spanish irregulars always have good information about neigbouring areas.

Foy’s infantry (with Marmont at Valladolid) have recovered from their fast tour of Central Spain.

You want the artillery up where?

Week 06

Random Events
French again get interference from Paris – once again an instruction that the army needs to be more aggressive, this applying to the most obvious critical area (“dice if in doubt which one” – can’t believe the Emperor really said stuff like that?). Marmont’s situation in Valladolid is pretty much self-evidently the hot spot. Since he is not sure what force is in Leon, he would prefer not to attack at present, but needs a test to ignore the instruction. The test requires him to add his rating (3) to 2D3. A total of 7 or better and he can choose to ignore the instruction – 6 or less and he has to comply.

In fact he throws 3, so the total of 6 means he has to attack if he can.   

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 5, French 7, so French have initiative and choose to move first.

Moves

French (7 allowed)
1 – N (Marmont) splits off new Group H (Clauzel – with his own division, Picquet’s dragoon bde and the reserve arty) – this group is to hold the bridges on the Duero at Toro (Valladolid)
2 – N (Marmont) takes the rest of his army from Valladolid to attack the allied force in Leon. [Intelligence step -
  • Marmont is aware that there is a major Allied force at Leon, but underestimates strength]
Allies (5 allowed)
1 – A (Wellington) at Leon also underestimates opposing force, so opts to stand firm – specific Order allows selection of ground
2 – Sp D (mixed irregular force under Don Alfonso Maceta – “El Achaparrado) moves from Avila into Madrid Area to attack French Group S
[Intelligence step –
  • Nothing new – no scouting orders]
Supplies
No supply problems, all LoC open and defended.

Contacts
Two.

(1) French Group N (Marmont), with a total of 28240 men, marches along the only good road from Valladolid to Leon, passing through Benavente. On the night of Thursday 27th February the French army camps around Benavente, while Wellington, with 23300 men, is camped in the area around Villamandos, with his advanced outposts at Villaquejida. Shortly after daybeak, the Allied army takes a defensive position in an area of rolling hills to the south-east of the little village of Villaquejida. Their left flank is on thick woods on the bank of the River Esla, which is not fordable. The so-called Battle of Benavente takes place on Friday 28th, the weather is cold but dry and there is a slight mist, which disappears as the sun comes up.

(2) Spanish Group D (Maceta) have established themselves in the mountains near Guadarrama, where they are causing havoc for French communications and supply trains. Marshal Jourdan sends the Badener, General Von Neuenstein, up into the mountains to deal with this problem. Neuenstein’s brigade is all German – the 2nd Nassau, Regt de Frankfort and the 4th Baden – a total of 5 battalions plus a small unit of the converged voltigeur companies. He also has a battery of French horse artillery from the Madrid reserve – all told, some 4300 men with 6 guns. Maceta has around 4700 – including a few cavalry – plus a volunteer company of foot artillery. The Spanish troops are well suited to the rocky terrain, but they include a number of units of infantry supplied by the local partidas who have little experience of formal combat.

The troops meet in very hilly ground near San Rafael around midday on Thursday 27th. There is some snow, but not enough to hinder movement.



Narrative
Reports for the actions at Benavente and San Rafael will appear as soon as they have been fought. The Benavente combat appears to be too large for normal CCN rules, so will use the Grand Tactical variant.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Last Word on Fonts - for a Bit - maybe...

Well, I'm back using Firefox this morning, because Blogger and Internet Explorer aren't playing nicely together again - ho hum.

I had a couple of emails about the bastardised font I produced for the Spanish flag in the previous post (my email contact address is back in my Blogger profile - if you can get that to display properly...) - so here it is - just in graphic form - to download if it's any use to you.


The original font is TrueType JSL Antique, and I have mucked about with it (to use a technical term) in PaintShop to make the characters more like those in the flag. Individual pieces of text can be produced for a flag just by copying and pasting, and resizing as necessary, and any slight unevenness in the layout is all to the good.

I am quite pleased with the result, though probably more pleased with demonstrating that this is a good, flexible approach - if crude - which will work with any suitable donor font I can find. The alphabet here includes a few letters which may not have been in use in 18th-19th Century Spanish, and I have not amended any letters I did not find in the flag.

I have squashed the O, P and R a bit, given the S the odd slant required, shortened the middle horizontal stroke in the E and F, shortened the riser in the G, produced a nice quirky(!) Q by reversing the P, added the dot over the I, substituted the Latin V for U, and maybe one or two other tweaks I can't remember. Bear in mind this character set is intended for a rather rough battle flag for an irregular Spanish nationalist (i.e. anti-Bonaparte) unit around 1809, and may or may not be suitable for anything else! The reversed version of the N appears on the flag - maybe a bit of artistic licence?

I'll be working on flags for more of my 20mm guerrilleros, so some images may well appear here before too long. I think that is probably more than enough about that for the time being!

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Little More on Fonts

I really haven't got much further, but here's a sample of what I've been doing today. I've attempted to produce an approximate simulation of some of the text in the flag shown in the photo (which seems to belong to the 4th battalion of the Guards of Spain(?) - seems a very informal flag for such a formal sounding unit..).

My first line below the photo is simply added using a standard downloaded TrueType font, JSL Antique - exactly as the characters come. I also printed out a complete alphabet on a very large PaintShop 'canvas', and manually edited certain letters in the alphabet to make them more like the flag. The edited alphabet thus exists at present only in a graphical form on a very large jpeg file. I produced the second line of text simply by copying and pasting individual letters from my edited alphabet - this is childishly crude, but in fact doesn't take long to do, and has an unexpected advantage in that the manual placement of the letters gives a pleasing additional touch of shabbiness - makes it look less like a machine font (I think).

Next steps? - no idea - I suppose I might be able to create a new TrueType font based on my edited version of JSL Antique, or it may be that what I have done here is versatile enough and sufficiently useful to provide all I need without going to the trouble of producing actual fonts - I'll still require a variety of starting fonts, but I have a few of those now, and it's not bad for 5 minutes work, is it?

The laugh, of course, is that in 20mm scale you can hardly see the text anyway...

Hmmm.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fonts for Flags

This is a plea for a bit of help - it's not a critical matter, by any means, but it is possible that someone who is interested in printing military flags may have some useful suggestions.

As one of the sideshows of my wargaming, I enjoy researching, designing (or "laying out") flags with PaintShop and printing them up in the correct size for issue to the 20mm troops. In an ideal world, I would like to be able to hand paint my flags, but I don't have the skill and the results would disappoint me, so I print them on the posh graphic printer, using posh photographic paper. Works fine, and if they fade I can always re-print them.

Recently I've been looking to produce some more examples of convincing-looking flags for Spanish irregular units in the Guerra de Independencia (Peninsular War). Of course they are going to be fakes - no-one has an exact idea what most of these flags looked like, so my aim is to produce something which looks fairly convincing, and is generic enough to allow the unit to change its identity to suit the scenario!

Here are three reproductions (not mine) of some real flags. I am interested in the style of the lettering - the guys that made up these flags were not necessarily sloppy or lacking in taste - they wanted their flags to look good, and the lettering presumably looks like what lettering was supposed to look like on such flags. In other words, what you see here was to some extent constrained by lack of money or time, but it represents a contemporary style.


I've spent a couple of interesting evenings searching for antique fonts on the internet (and that's free fonts, boys and girls), and I've found a lot of interesting stuff, but I find that it is very hard to get graphic designers or font specialists to stray far away from the Germanic "Olde English" lettering I used to see on marmalade labels, and in general their products are far too slick and far too marketing-oriented for my purposes. I understand that no-one is likely to make a TrueType font as crude as some of these, but any kind of unsanitised 18th-19th century lettering would be refreshing.

This is maybe a long shot, but has anyone got any ideas for sources for the kind of historic fonts I'm talking about?

Hooptedoodle #43 - Stories of the Old Lead Mountains


I read an estimate recently - in one of the wargaming mag trade pages, I think - that only about 10% of the wargame figures manufactured ever make it onto a miniature battlefield, and that much less than half, maybe as little as a third, get painted. It may not be accurate, you may have different thoughts on the numbers, but it's kind of interesting.

You realise what this means? If these probabilities have always applied, this means that something approaching two-thirds of the total historic output of Minifigs, Warhammer, Foundry, Hinchliffe, Marcus Hinton etc etc is stashed away somewhere - if we make a deduction for stuff that has gone to be recycled or just thrown away (not a very common fate, I think), that still leaves maybe half which is lying in spares boxes in lofts, cupboards, desk drawers, sheds, garages, jam jars and old suitcases. Quite apart from the waste of material and money, that is a remarkable vision - imagine it all heaped up in one place. I wonder how many guard mamelukes there would be in there...

Since I decided to start on a new period, I have a refreshed view of my own spares department, and I will be spending some of the forthcoming weeks applying a healthy dose of reality and disposing of things via eBay and otherwise. There is, of course, every likelihood that the majority of what I get rid of will simply relocate to someone else's loft, and the percentages will remain unchanged.

While trawling through the boxes - some actually labelled "GASH" or "INFANTRY SPARES - DUFF" - I am constantly amazed to think how or why I acquired some of this flotsam. OK - I accept that at the end of any project there is a little distortion caused by the fact that what you are left with is the stuff you couldn't (or chose not to) use, but a lot of the time I simply have no idea where it came from. In an idle sort of way, I decided it might be fun to consider a geologist’s view of the Lead Mountains, and try to identify some patterns, in an appropriately scientific manner...

This is essentially a subjective table. Unlike proper rocks, the categories of figures do not have the decency to form distinct chronological layers – they are all stirred together – so the following sections require a lot of tedious pre-sorting...
  
Classification
Description/Examples
Possible Origins
Extra-Terrestrial
Totally irrelevant – a complete mystery – e.g. figures in the wrong scale, or for a period/nation that is out of scope, figures for which you have no idea at all what they are
·   No idea
·   Things very badly described on eBay
·   Extra figures which came in mixed eBay lots
·   The results of being criminally misled about the true size of some manufacturer’s “true 25mm” range
Pre-Cambrian
Stuff that’s always been there – even pre-dates the last rationalisation and chuck-out
·   All suggestions welcome
·   In some cases, previous failure to categorise what it was or why it was there may have brought a stay of execution until next time
Devonian
Incomplete projects, or stalled good ideas that never came to fruition – e.g. large numbers of MiniFigs mounted RHA officers that never did get converted into Light Dragoons
·   Cousin Michael’s Crimean troops, that he grew out of before he painted them
·   Spanish Civil War – what a great idea!
·   Something that was going very cheap at the Bring’n’Buy stall
·   Look at that – WW2 Romanians
Permian
Useful stuff – relevant figures but need a few more to constitute a full unit
·   Usual channels – just short of a few FN22s to make another battalion...
·   This category is directly traceable to the emergence of eBay as a source for OOP and otherwise defunct figures.
·   It can get wildly out of control – this is the bit to worry about.
Jurassic
Flights of fancy – e.g. sample figures for the Lord of the Rings (can’t remember why) – superbly sculpted 18mm Zulus that don’t match anything in the known universe
·   Those 8 unpainted figures bought at a Wargames Show after watching a breathtaking exhibition game with 800 painted figures
·   Mystery parcels bought when drunk


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Anglo-Portuguese Army - as at 18 Feb 2012

Wellington's army - from their right flank towards their left, you see here the cavalry, the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th and Light Divisions, with the siege train and supports in the rear.



This army is patently smaller than the French, but then the French have to fight the Spanish as well. "Anglo-Portuguese" is surely an overly simple description of an army which also includes Hanoverians, Brunswickers, and French royalists - not to mention Scots and Irishmen. Mind you, it's probably no worse than describing their assorted opponents as "French".

It will probably be a month or two before the photo of the Spanish army appears - there's a lot of work going on in that department.

Friday, 17 February 2012

French Army - as at 17 Feb 2012

First off, Chesapeake wanted to see the Chasseurs des Montagnes in close-up, and also my attempt at a Vistula Legion flag, so here they are.


The main business of this post is to publish an up-to-date team photo of the French army. I needed to get everything out of The Cupboard to reorganise, to accommodate the new units, so it seemed a good idea to photograph them. I publish pics like this fairly regularly - I like taking pics like this - if they look pretty much like the last lot, maybe that's a good thing.



Here you see the Emperor taking the salute, complete with music by the band of King Joseph's Guard. My hybrid Armee du Centre/Nord is on the right flank, on the left is the Armee de Portugal. At the rear are engineers and garrison artillery. Please pardon the lack of limbers - I'm working on it!

Since I had no idea, I counted up: including the converged light company "battalions" for each brigade, I reckon there's 75 battalions here, but I wouldn't swear to it. I'll have a bash at the Anglo-Portuguese army in a day or so. The Spanish army is still changing fairly rapidly, so I'll hold off with that one for a few weeks.

Pictures of soldiers - sometimes my originality amazes me.

More Stuff Back from the Painter

The significant thing about this lot is that these should be the last five battalions to be added to the French Peninsular War army for the foreseeable future. There are a few limbers to get painted up, and a mule train(!), and a couple of old units of Chasseurs a Cheval which are due to be refurbished and re-based, and that (officially) is that. Oh - and there are a few engineering figures half painted - and then there's a complete 11-battalion division of Kenningtons, command and everything, but they can stay in a box until I decide whether I'm going to paint them...


First picture shows some of the new guys ready for finishing touches to the paintwork, "grassing up" of the figure bases in the statutary house baseboard colour, and then basing - the main purpose of the picture is really to show off a small part of my cherished collection of bottle-tops. You may imagine the volume of Highland Spring that's gone down the hatch to achieve this. Strictly speaking, it will mostly have been Tesco's own brand of bottled water, which is a fraction of the price but comes out of the same hole in the ground in Perthshire.


And here they are a few days later, still to get a couple of flags, but otherwise ready for The Cupboard. Here are a 2nd battalion for the 2nd Nassau, the 4/28e Leger, the Garde de Paris, a battalion of the Chasseurs des Montagnes and the 4th infantry regiment of the Vistula Legion, who - by some bureaucratic oversight - remained in Spain after all their Legion mates were recalled to go to Russia.

I've always wanted a battalion of the Garde de Paris, ever since I saw the illustration of one of their grenadiers in Windrow & Embleton's lovely book. Of course, at that time I was dumb enough to think the whole regiment dressed like the grenadiers. My battalion is, intentionally, very scruffy - mostly Falcata figures, though the grenadiers are old Garrison chaps. They will not be getting a flag - anecdote time...

A few years before my 1812-vintage battalion would have been recruited, the Garde de Paris had been at Bailen, where they lost their eagles and were sent to the prison hulks, an experience which very few of them survived. I understand that the reformed, reorganised regiment of this later period was not issued with replacement colours - units which lost their eagles, however much they might have suffered in the process, were not usually a high priority for the issue of new ones.

Not much glory here, then.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

ECW 20mm - Another Figure Comparison


I've now received figure samples from SHQ (Kennington) for their 20mm ECW range, and I like them. They are somewhat chunkier in stature than Les Higgins or Hinton Hunt, but the height is pretty close, and (very importantly!) the horses and the hats match the other two ranges.

The logic may seem a bit oblique, but the more compatible ranges I can find, the happier I am with my choice of Higgins as the main basis of my proposed armies. I have spent too many of my Napoleonic years backed into corners, stuck with little or no choice, and dependant on a small number of extinct manufacturers! Choices are good for covering gaps in ranges, and for maintaining welcome variety and interest in the armies.

Thus far, I reckon that SHQ, LH and HH cavalry can mix without problem. LH and HH infantry can mix pretty well, and SHQ infantry would be OK on the same table, though maybe better in separate units - in truth, it appears to vary between individual figures, so a bit of judgement will be needed (uh-oh, that might be a problem...)

So? Pleased with what I've found so far - all I need now is to firm up my ideas on unit organisation and basing, to work out quantities and shopping lists, and I'm in business. Well, sort of.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Solo Campaign – Questions from the Floor


I received a couple of emails about my solo Peninsular War campaign, in particular one from Francis (who, alarmingly, is thinking of maybe basing a solo campaign of his own on what I am doing), which asked some very perceptive questions, and reminded me that a few things here are maybe not obvious to anyone other than myself, and there are quite a few things I hadn’t thought of!

The main questions were:

(1) Are there some strategies at work here, or are the armies just blundering about the map, making it up from move to move?

(2) How do the Intelligence rules work?

(3) Is this really a solo game, or are you scripting it to keep it interesting?

(4) What happens when Groups meet in one of the Areas?

First thing to own up to is that, since this is a solo effort, and a new activity for me, I am going to massage it a little if I need to, to keep things reasonable and make it worth continuing. Some of the rules are evolving (which means that if they are not working I will drop them or change them on the fly).

Here’s an attempt to answer Francis’ questions – the photo of the map in the previous post might help make sense of all this.

(1) Strategies


The starting position was loosely derived from the actual historical situation in January 1812 – I took a number of liberties to avoid being forced down the acting-out-strict-history route, such as handing Ciudad Rodrigo to the Allies, and I limited the campaign area on the map to keep the thing playable in terms of the available troops in The Cupboard and the amount which my poor old brain can cope with. I am beginning to regret putting Galicia (top left corner) out of bounds, since it may be the only way for the French to provide any threat at all against Portugal – I may reconsider this...

Strategy, both initial and developing, is mostly a question of looking at the map, considering any standing orders, how much each commander knows of the true position (and this bit isn’t working brilliantly), what they would be likely to do, and throwing dice to choose between options where necessary. I also have a vague collection of random Events which can affect things, and the most useful innovation has been occasionally to ask someone else what they think. Naturally I usually ignore the input, but it is a useful sounding board! If all else fails, of course, I shall make it all up on the spot – why else would anyone play a solo campaign?

The chief strategy for both armies is really to destroy the enemy army – there are some technicalities like capturing Lisbon or getting the French out of Castilla, but the reality is that the French will not get anywhere near Lisbon unless something pretty awful happens to the Allied army, and the only way the French will pull out of Castilla is if they become too weak to hold it. The border forts are a major obstacle – the French objective at the start was to get Wellington to spread his forces too thinly (e.g. siege at Badajoz and a separate force in the Salamanca area), and destroy the bits in detail – this requires the French to optimise the grouping of their own forces, without leaving the key supply route from France (and now Sevilla) unprotected.

The French plan has not been helped by their unsuccessfully attacking Espana at Zamora – an action which was not at all necessary.

Wellington’s strategy initially was to do something about Badajoz, attack any French army which is small enough to make a likely prospect, and attempt to cut the supply through Pamplona and Burgos and Valladolid. Groups without supply risk the dreaded Demoralisation, which can melt away an army through desertion and sickness, particularly in mountainous (non-fertile) areas, and particularly in winter. Also, Groups which are not In Supply do not get their monthly injection of reinforcements and replacements.

After 4 weeks, with some cajoling from Paris, Marmont has now fallen back to the line of the Duero near Valladolid, taken in reinforcements from outlying parts of his Armee de Portugal and the Armee du Centre, and has his supply route from Bayonne protected. After his defeat at Corrales, his original plan was to fall back to Burgos, but the pursuit has been less vigorous than he expected and the reinforcement has been quicker than it might have been. He now has something like parity of numbers with Wellington's army. Wellington can only feasibly cross the Duero at Toro, a position which the French have well defended. There is a lesser road across country to Tordesillas, but I have assumed it would not be practicable in February – it’s Toro or nothing.

Wellington might have done well to attack the retreating Marmont at Salamanca before the French supports were available, and before Marmont crossed the Duero. He did not because of a dice throw, and also (partly) because I was a bit concerned the campaign would be over in a few weeks! As things stand after 4 weeks, he will not risk attacking Marmont in his current position - he has no superiority of numbers now, and the river is a major obstacle. He could make some movement to his left, through Zamora to Leon, but this would remove or weaken the force separating Marmont from Ciudad Rodrigo and the Portuguese border. Or Wellington could move to his right, through Avila, threatening Madrid, but the roads are not good, and the French could cover that with some ease.

Wellington is some 5 weeks march from his supply base at Lisbon – an unfavourable Event could screw up his supplies very badly – and he is thinking of falling back to Almeida and Abrantes, where he would be close enough to the border to react to any initiative the French might take, and where he presents a threat to Badajoz, and wait for better weather (Spring starts in April!).

Yes, it is a bit vague – I agree.

(2) Intelligence


The answer to “how does this work?” might currently be “not as well as I hoped”. There are a couple of the random Events which influence this – captured orders, the activities of spies and partisans – but mostly I have lifted the Scouting & Intelligence rules from Battle Cries, the unpublished campaign system for Battle Cry. I have recently tweaked this yet again – rather than talk around it, here is the current version from my draft rules:

8.0 Scouting & Intelligence
This is an optional addition to the rules. Groups on the map will be aware of each other to varying degrees. When they need to know who is near them, their knowledge will be based on reports which may be of 4 types:
8.1 Types of Reports: There are four types of intelligence reports (No Information, Fragmentary, Partial, and Detailed) that can be obtained by scouting and other information gathering.
8.1.1 No Information: The Group is unaware of the enemy’s presence.
8.1.2 Fragmentary Report: The report merely indicates the presence of an enemy and, if D6 > 3, the identity of one (screening) unit – dice for which. Overall details of Group strength, name of commander and type of troops are not known.
8.1.3 Partial Report: Report reveals presence of enemy, and reports the strength as [2D3]/4 of true strength. Also identity of one (screening) unit – dice for which. No details of commander.
8.1.4 Detailed Report: Accurate estimate of enemy strength, plus the name of the commander.
8.2 Effectiveness of Intelligence: Only Areas that are connected by roads can be scouted by Combat Groups. The following five sources provide (or influence) intelligence reports on enemy movements. In the event that more than one Report can be given on an Area, the most informative report will be employed.
8.2.1 Combat Groups with No Cavalry and with no Irregular Infantry: The Combat Group gets a Fragmentary Report on adjacent Areas.
8.2.2 Combat Groups with Cavalry or Irregular Infantry: The Combat Group gets a Partial Report on all adjacent Areas unless the Area has enemy cavalry or irregulars located in it. In that case a Fragmentary Report is issued in its place.
8.2.3 Cavalry Combat Groups (including scouting patrols): all-Cavalry Combat Groups get a Detailed Report on all adjacent Areas unless the Area has enemy cavalry in it. In that case a Partial Report is issued instead. In addition, a Partial Report is issued for all Areas that are two Steps away, unless that Area has enemy cavalry in it. In that case a Fragmentary Report is issued instead.
8.2.4 Civilian Sympathies: Because of the anti-French stance of local citizens and partisans, the Allied/Spanish side always gets Reports enhanced by one status level (thus a Fragmentary Report is upgraded to Partial, etc), while French Groups in “brown” Areas have their Reports degraded by one level (a Fragmentary Report becomes No Information).
8.2.5 Naval Patrols: In addition to land-based scouting, the British Navy can obtain a Fragmentary Report on any Area which is a Port.

(3) Scripting or not


I think I’ve probably answered this – it is amusing to add extra details to the narrative of why something happened, though it shouldn’t distort anything. If the survival of the campaign requires a bit of distortion, however, I’ll probably go for it...

(4) Inside Areas


To keep the game simple, the Areas on the map are big – they may be named after a city which is contained in them, but there’s a whole pile of countryside in there too. It’s also necessary for me to remember that the map is merely a representation – however it looks, there is no land between the Areas, and the roads simply show how the Areas are connected.  Areas are roughly classed as rugged or not (brown or green), which will influence the terrain on any battlefield, but the main job when contacts occur is to get a detailed map out and see what is what. I have modern maps, but the most valuable resource is the reproduction of the contemporary map from Foy’s Histoire de la Guerre de la Peninsule sous Napoleon (1827) – this map is also reproduced, in sections, in Napoleon’s War in Spain by Henri Lachouque, and probably elsewhere.

The old map shows the roads as they were at the time, especially the river crossings. A bit of reasoning will identify suitable battlefields, and the trusty dice will clarify areas of doubt! Oman – or any other military appraisal – also provides invaluable analysis of the geography, and there’s a pile of useful stuff in Marmont’s memoirs and Wellington’s Despatches, so I get a lot of fun reading out of this aspect, which, now I think about it, might not work so well with an opponent, unless an umpire did the study and the set-up!