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


Thursday, 31 May 2012

Hooptedoodle #54 - Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead


I have, in the past, made the occasional utterance about time lost to the antivirus software from McAfee which I pay for as part of my agreement with my Internet Service Provider.

Things have got so bad recently that I started having a look at a few of the support discussion threads for McAfee, and it seems that - though the originators swear it is now fixed - things went pear-shaped after an upgrade last September. All over the known world, McAfee's customers are becoming more and more stressed. At the start of this week, it took eight minutes for me to open a Word document which I had typed up and saved the previous day - McAfee was checking it. At various times in the day, even when I am not online, the desktop computer's fan has been switching on and - there it is - McAfee is suddenly using 90% of available CPU. No-one knows why, not even McAfee. On Tuesday we had a minor family problem and I had to find some things out and get stuff arranged quickly - no go. McAfee wouldn't let me do anything. It was busy.

The final straw was when I found a suggestion from a member of a support team on one of the discussion threads, which suggested that the person writing in with the problem should think about buying a more powerful computer, so they could live with the demands of their AV software.

As Descartes used to say at breakfast, "Un oeuf is enough". I am, as it happens, planning to upgrade my desktop machine in a month or two, but it certainly isn't going to be because McAfee forces me to do so. So I have uninstalled McAfee - it didn't go willingly, but it is gone. I am now paying for a licence which I am not using, but to hell with it. I have installed Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free, and which appears to work nicely and quietly in the background without drama. It did a full system scan yesterday in a little over 2 hours, which compares favourably with McAfee's recent record of 8 hours. When the new machine comes, I intend to put McA back in place, but I will remember that there is an alternative if I need it. In the meantime, I can get on with things and smile a little smug smile to myself.

There is a description of computer malware on one of the support sites I was reading, and part of it says:

"A virus's primary function is to take control of the computer's operating system and deny user access to communications and application software"

Seems strangely familiar - normally you don't have to pay for a licence for it, though. All together, now, please join in...




Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Viva Villaran - we need more heroes

Castillo las Cuevas, Cebolleros

As it happens, this is all Vive l'Empereur's fault. He suggested that I get some convincing photos of me doing a real siege in the back yard, to satisfy the non-believers and the realism prophets out there of my credentials and great wisdom. I thought it would be a great joke, ho-ho, to fake some pictures of something like the earthworks at Vicksburg and claim it was me.

The intended joke, and anything else I can think up, vanishes without trace - pales into invisibilty - compared with this, which I just came across by accident. If you haven't seen it before, I recommend you have a look. This is the solitary work of one Serafin Villaran, a welder from Burgos, who decided in 1977 to build a castle for himself, at Cebolleros, near Burgos. He died in 1998, before it was complete, but his family worked to finish it, and it has become a major tourist attraction locally.



What a monument. What an outrageous, heroic, bloody wonderful monstrosity. Apart from the size, the labour, the humbling devotion, the in-your-face refusal to conform to any known style of historical architecture, the whole thing has a delightfully unhinged quality which I just love.

Some thoughts, in no particular order:

(1) Wow.

(2) I want one.

(3) How did he get planning permission to build it?

(4) What are archeologists two thousand years from now going to make of it? 

Wanted: Time Machine - a Whiff of Foy's 10th Law


Following on from yesterday's posting on the Solo Campaign, and with particular reference to the second week of my Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, I received a comment which bothered me a little more than I would have expected. For a start, it was something of a put-down - informative in a way which is clearly intended to demonstrate the superiority of the informer rather than to provide help. For another thing, it was anonymous, which I don't care for either, so I didn't publish it. So there.

I am reminded of my old Hooptedoodle note about Foy's Tenth Law, which you can find here if you are interested.

To clarify a point, I am aware that a siege was a complicated process, involving a series of formal, defined steps, a lot of science and received methodology, a load of back-breaking labour and in incredible amount of bravery. I'm certainly not an expert, but I've read enough to understand roughly how it worked. My nameless correspondent felt that my reducing something as "immense" as a siege to a series of "stupid dice rolls and a look-up table" was trivialising an "important and dingified" [sic?] aspect of warfare in a way which he considered to be pathetic. My own irritation is probably at least partly due to my recognising some truth in this(!), but sadly he did not go on to explain how I could have done a more satisfactory job of fitting open-ended sieges into a map campaign with a weekly order-cycle. If you're still out there, my friend, I'd be pleased to hear more.

All wargames are by definition artificial and unrealistic to an extent - a favourite hobbyhorse of mine - otherwise we would not survive them. What we really need, for complete realism, is to be transported back to the actual event and take part in it. I haven't any good ideas how to do that, either, but if Mr Anonymous has, I hope he will take the trouble to stand right on the top of the Great Breach during the height of the action.  

Monday, 28 May 2012

Solo Campaign - Week 16 - CRUNCH!


Well, Sod's Law raises its ugly head yet again. Just when I'm a bit short of time, this week in the campaign throws up two battles, one divisional-sized one at Malpartida, near Almeida, and one of rather more than twice that size at Allariz, south of Orense. Not sure just when I'll get these games played, but it should be within a week or two - I'll publish the updated army returns and a new map when the battles are done.

In the meantime, the Mathematical Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo has undergone its second week, and the French are making a real mess of the fortress. It proves, once again, that all the science in the world is not as useful as lucky dice. 

I haven't written up a narrative summary of Week 16, since it just means writing everything twice (not to mention reading it twice). Here's the nuts-&-bolts report, in exactly the form that I promised not to publish them. 

Old Bridge at Allariz


Week 16

Random Events
None.

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 5, French 4 – Allies elect to move first.
As a result of Br.Gen Silveira being sent with the Brunswick hussars to Almeida, temporary command of the fortress garrison at Elvas devolves to Col. De Souza of the Abrantes militia (rating 0).  

Moves

Allies (5 allowed)
1 – Sp D (Maceta, at Talavera) marches to Toledo.
2 – A (Wellington, at Braga) rests his force after the march from Orense.
3 – F (Framlingham, at Elvas) detaches a new force, H, consisting of the Brunswick Hussars under the command of Br.Gen Silveira (rating 1) of the Portuguese service ...
4 – ...and sends them to join Von Alten at Almeida. The first leg of this journey is over a difficult road to Abrantes, the march therefore requires a test:
2D3 = 4 +1 (Silveira’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 4   - the march is completed, but the force arrives tired in Almeida (which means they will suffer a deduction of 1 die in any combat).

Church Parade - the militia at Almeida - not a good turnout

5 – The Tomar battalion of Portuguese militia, plus a regular Portuguese Artillery howitzer battery are detached from the garrison of Almeida (Group F), and join Von Alten’s Group C, in the countryside near Almeida.
You mean go out there and face the French?
(Gunner - 4th Portuguese Artillery)


[Intelligence step –
  • no scouting orders]
French (4 allowed)
1 – O (Clauzel) advances into Portugal, from Ciudad Rodrigo (which he may pass through, since the fort is under siege) to Almeida, where he attacks the Anglo-Portuguese Groups C and H (Karl Von Alten)
2 – N (Marmont) marches 1 step from Lugo to Orense. Since this is a difficult road (they are all difficult around here), a test is required:
2D3 = 4 +3 (Marmont’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 6   - the march is completed without problems.
Marmont then attacks Graham’s force (B, and possibly Sp B).
3 – C (D’Orsay’s bde of Bonet’s Divn, Armee du Nord), march from Valladolid to Salamanca.
[Intelligence step -
  • no scouting orders]

Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. No-one is Demoralised.

Contacts
(1) The siege of Ciudad Rodrigo enters its second week.

The medieval chapel on the Malpartida battlefield

(2) Karl Von Alten, with the Anglo-Portuguese Light Division and the 1st Hussars of the KGL, and now augmented by the Brunswick-Oels Hussars (under Col. Ernst von Schrader – this unit is classed as Tired), the Tomar battalion of Portuguese militia and a Portuguese howitzer battery (these last two units seconded from the Almeida garrison), defends a position on the Almeida road, south of the settlement of Malpartida, within a mile or two of the Portuguese border, but inside Portugal. This position is chosen primarily for political reasons (since he can call on Portuguese militia support, though in the event the dice decree that he receives only a single battalion). The region is high, virtually treeless, and he has a position on a ridge overlooking a small river – so small that it will not appear on the battlefield. A large quarry, dating back to Roman times, is a feature of the field. Von Alten has a total of about 5000 infantry (including 3 battalions of riflemen), 600 cavalry and 12 guns available.
The quarry where they got the stone for the old chapel - might
just get to use CCN's rules for a quarry - always wondered why they were there

He is opposed by Bertrand Clauzel’s Division of the Armee de Portugal, supported by Picquet’s dragoon brigade and two batteries from the reserve artillery of the Armee de Portugal. Altogether 10 battalions of infantry and some 5 squadrons of dragoons (including the formidable 6eme, who recently wrecked Le Marchant’s British heavy brigade), but some of these are understrength, and his force is estimated at 6200 infantry, 400 cavalry and 24 guns, all of heavier calibre than the Allied artillery.

The advanced guards are in contact at dawn on Saturday 9th May – the Battle of Malpartida, as it will become known, is critically important – if Von Alten loses, Almeida is immediately vulnerable and the road to Lisbon is threatened. Clauzel has the chance to place his army between the besieged town of Ciudad Rodrigo and any relieving force sent by Wellington from Braga.

(3) Marmont’s northern force, advancing from Lugo, is in contact with Graham near Orense. The original agreement between Wellington and the Spanish army was that the town of Orense was to be defended, but Graham has abandoned Orense to the French and adopted a defensive position closer to the Portuguese border, near the village of Allariz.

In this campaign, whenever a Spanish force is required to support an Anglo-Portuguese one, a dice is rolled to check the level of co-ordination. The rule is:

4+           No problems – full co-ordination
3              Spanish force arrives late – 1D6 each turn – 5 or 6 they arrive
2              Spanish force arrives late – 1D6 each turn – 6 they arrive
1              Spanish force does not arrive

In this case the dice came up 2, so the Conde de Espana’s little army, which was quartered around Arabaldo on the River Minho, expecting to be ordered to defend Orense, will take a little while to reach the field. One imagines a little tension between Graham and the Conde, since Graham has retreated almost to the border – I had considered making the Spanish force demoralised, with some deduction from their combat effectiveness, but decided against it on the grounds that an outnumbered Graham has little enough going for him already – I may change my mind again, of course.

Marmont’s army consists of Foy’s Divn and about ¾ of the cavalry of the Armee de Portugal, Guye’s Divn of the Armee du Centre (King Joseph’s Guard and a brigade of Joseph’s Spanish line troops), plus the entire cavalry of the Armee du Nord – about 5 regiments including the 13e Cuirassiers. His total force is estimated at about 17850 men with 24 guns. He has a considerable superiority in cavalry.

Graham, without De Espana, has the Allied First and Seventh Divns, plus the cavalry brigades of Von Bock (KGL dragoons) and Otway (Portuguese). Total is about 11500 men with 12 guns.

De Espana has about 6000 men, of whom a proportion are voluntarios (classed as militia), and 2 batteries, which between them have 10 guns.

The battle of Allariz takes place on Friday 8th May.


Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (Week 2)
Bombardment phase: Spanish now have a Garrison Value (GV) of 4, thus roll 4D6 - they come up 6 3 2 1 – the 6 reduces the attackers' Battering Value (BV) by 1, but there are no 5s, so no losses from the besiegers’ Assault Value (AV).
Simultaneously, the French battering guns (BV = 5) roll 5D6 – 6 6 5 3 3 (once again, the French siege batteries are good/lucky) – each 6 deducts one from the defenders’ Fortress Value (FV, the strength of the place itself), and the 5 deducts one from their Garrison Value (GV).

Removing the losses, next week’s figures will be FV = 2, GV = 3 (total = 5) for the Spanish, while AV = 7, BV = 4 for the French. The walls are not looking good – a storm is becoming a distinct possibility, but the French – confident that they have another week before the Allies can interrupt them with any kind of relieving effort – decide to continue bombardment for a further week. They do, however, summon the fortress to surrender. One of Marshal Jourdan’s aides, Col. Alfonse-Maurice-Louis Merveilleux, is sent on 10th May under a flag of truce with a letter from Jourdan for the governor, General Hermogenes Reixas, requesting that he lower the Spanish flag within one hour. Merveilleux is returned, unharmed, but trussed up with rope, with a dead chicken hanging around his neck. Despite this additional provocation, no storm is attempted.

Casualties for the week: Spanish defenders have lost 1/4 of their GV, so have lost 1/10 x 1/4 of the remaining 2320 men engaged, which is 58 men killed and wounded. Again, loss in combat effectiveness is proportionately far higher, and the walls of the town are in a sorry state. French besiegers suffered no deduction from their AV, so their strength is unchanged at 16330. This does not mean, of course, that no-one was hurt – it simply means that returns from hospital and so forth cancel out any new losses.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Solo Campaign - Weeks 14 & 15

Ciudad Rodrigo

Week 14

Random Events
Everything calm in the British Parliament this week.
Maj Gen RB Long has arrived to take command of the heavy cavalry brigade previously commanded by Le Marchant.

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 6, French 6 – since they moved first last week, French elect to do so again.

Moves

French (6 allowed)
1 – Group H (Clauzel, with 6700 men of AdP) to march from Zamora to Salamanca
2 – Group M (D’Armagnac, with 6400 of AdC) to do the same
3 – Group K (Marshal Jourdan, with 11200 from AdP and AdC) to march from Avila to Salamanca
4 – Group K to scout into Ciudad Rodrigo area
5 – Groups H & M to merge with K, all under command of Jourdan.
[Intelligence step -
  • Jourdan learns only that there are Allied forces in the area around Ciudad Rodrigo, and the gunners at Rodrigo itself fired at his cavalry patrol!]
Allies (6 allowed)
1 – C (Von Alten, at Ciudad Rodrigo) retreats into Portugal, at Almeida.
2 – Sp D (Maceta, at Ciudad Rodrigo) must dice to see if he will enter Portugal with Von Alten, in contradiction of his orders from the Junta de Castilla. In fact, he rolls a 2, which means he will follow his orders (Maceta is rated 2), so his force separates from the British and marches south to Caceres.
3 – A (Wellington, at Lugo) orders a march to join Cotton at Orense. This involves a difficult (brown) road, so requires a test
2D3 = 4 +3 (Wellington’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 6   - the march is completed without problems.
4 – Group E (Cotton) now merges with A.
[Intelligence step –
  • no scouting orders]
 
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. No-one is Demoralised.

Contacts
None.

Narrative
Joined by the forces from Zamora under Clauzel and D’Armagnac, Jourdan enters Salamanca, his total strength now being 25300 men, including the siege train and engineers of the Armee de Portugal.

Karl Von Alten, with the Anglo-Portuguese Light Division, retires into Portugal – to Almeida – to avoid confrontation with this much larger force. Maceta, with the Spanish force from the Junta de Castilla attached to Von Alten, is prevented from entering Portugal by his orders, and thus separates from the British, in spite of their requests that he should not do so, and retires southwards to Caceres.

The Spanish garrison at Rodrigo, under General Hermogenes Reixas, are now unprotected, and expect to be attacked very soon.

Wellington, with the Anglo-Portuguese main army marches south over difficult roads without problem, joining Cotton’s troops at Orense.

Maj.Gen Long has now arrived to take over Le Marchant’s heavy brigade. 

Week 15

Random Events
Change in rule – test will be made on British Parliament around 15th of each month, rather than weekly as at present.

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give Allies 5, French 7 –French elect to move first.

Moves

French (7 allowed)
1 – K (Jourdan, at Salamanca) advances to Ciudad Rodrigo...
2 – ...where a new Group O is split off, consisting of Clauzel’s Divn of the Armee de Portugal, with Picquet’s dragoon brigade and 2 batteries from the reserve artillery, a total of 6600 men with 24 guns
3 – K commences siege operations against Rodrigo
4 – N (Marmont) marches 1 step from Leon to Lugo. Since this is a difficult road, a test is required
2D3 = 5 +3 (Marmont’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 7   - the march is completed without problems.
5 – C (D’Orsay’s bde of Bonet’s Divn, Armee du Nord), march from Sahagun to Valladolid.
[Intelligence step -
  • no scouting orders]
Allies (5 allowed)
1 – Sp D (Maceta, at Caceres) marches to Talavera.
2 – A (Wellington, at Orense) scouts into Braga...
3 – ...and into Lugo.
4 – Finding a large French force at Lugo, he divides Group A, splitting off a new Group B, under Lt Gen Sir Thomas Graham, comprising the First & Seventh Divns, with Bock’s KGL dragoon bde and Otway’s Portuguese cavalry – a total of 11530 men with 12 guns. This force, together with Sp B (Espana) will remain at Orense...
5 – while the remainder of Wellington’s Group A march south into Braga. Again, this is a difficult road, so a test is needed:
2D3 = 2(!) +3 (Wellington’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 4   - the march is completed, but the army is Tired, and must rest at Braga.
[Intelligence step –
  • A (Wellington) gets a Detailed Report on Marmont’s force at Lugo, helped by information from civilian spies – he is aware of both strength and composition]
Supplies and Demoralisation
Note: By abandoning Sahagun, the French give up the right to route supplies from France through that Area, so all such supplies now come through Burgos. All units are in supply. No-one is Demoralised.

Contacts
The French force under Marshal Jourdan commences siege operations against Ciudad Rodrigo.

Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (Week 1)
Initial Fortress Value (FV) is 6 – which is also the max size of the garrison. Reixas (commander, rating 2) has 1 line battalion plus 2 of militia, plus 3 batteries of 8 guns each, one of these batteries being of militia calibre. Counting ½ each for the militia – Garrison Value (GV) is 4½ - say 5 - and since Reixas is officially rated as 2 (Good), add 1, giving 6.

Attackers – Jourdan’s force consists of 34 combat units, of which 4 are cavalry and count ½ each; this gives a total of 32. Dividing by 4 gives Jourdan an Assault Value (AV) of 8, plus 1 since Jourdan rates as 2 (Good). The French siege train has 5 batteries of heavy guns, so the Battering Value (BV) = 5.

So, at the outset, Spanish defenders have FV = 6, GV = 6, French besiegers have AV = 9, BV = 5.

Bombardment phase: Spanish have GV of 6, thus roll 6D6 - they come up 5 5 4 3 2 1 – no 6s, so no damage is done to the attackers' BV, but the two 5s cause a deduction of 2 from the attacking troops’ AV
Simultaneously, the French battering guns (BV = 5) roll 5D6 – 6 6 5 5 2 (remarkable shooting) – each 6 deducts one from the fortress (FV), and each 5 deducts one from the garrison (GV).

Removing the losses, next week’s figures will be FV = 4, GV = 4 (total = 8) for the Spanish, while AV = 7, BV = 5 for the French. The French do not bother asking the fortress to surrender, since their AV of 7 is not promising for a storm against the defenders’ (FV + GV) = 8. No storm.

Casualties for the week: Spanish defenders have lost 2/6 of their GV, so have lost 1/10 x 1/3 of the 2400 men engaged, which is 80 men. Loss in combat effectiveness is proportionately much higher. French besiegers have lost 2/9 of their AV, so have lost 1/10 x 2/9 of the 16700 men engaged, which is 370 killed/wounded.

Narrative
Jourdan has divided his army – Clauzel has a covering force, while the remainder have now started the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. Brisk fire from the garrison coupled with the unhygienic conditions in the trenches have caused the French fairly high casualties, but the French siege guns have performed extremely well, doing much damage to the fortress and the morale of the garrison.

Marmont has moved his army to Lugo, where he can now threaten Wellington from the north, with the option of marching to La Coruna and threatening the Allied supply base at Vigo. Wellington has a very accurate idea of Marmont’s strength and movements, and has detached Thomas Graham with the Anglo-Portuguese First and Seventh Divisions, with the cavalry brigades of Otway and Von Bock. Graham is to hold position at Orense, with support from the Conde de Espana’s Spanish army.

Wellington marched the rest of his force south to Braga. Once again, the roads were difficult, but the army did not fare well [awful dice] – the march was completed in good enough order, but Wellington’s force are tired and must rest for a week.

Col D’Orsay, with a brigade from Bonet’s Division of the Armee du Nord, has moved from Sahagun to Valladolid. This has implications for the routing of French supplies from Bayonne, which must now all come through Burgos.

Maceta’s Castillan army has orders to return to Toledo, and has reached Talavera.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

More New Troops - More Spanish Officers


The recipe is as before, except these fellows are mounted on what in Scotland are traditionally known as "cuddies". The recipe? - something like 80% Jorg Schmaeling, 1% superglue, 19% coffee. If they'd all been destined for the same unit I would have varied the horse colours a bit, but it's not worth the bother at one horse per regiment - no-one will notice. It just means that, in addition to the officers clearly all being brothers, their horses are brothers too.

New Falcatas for June include these

My plans for completing my Spanish army may be about to change again, since Falcata have announced some new General Staff figures for June, plus an assortment of new Peninsular War offerings - including light infantry in bicornes and marching militia in round hats. Oh, well.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

New Troops - Spanish Officers


To celebrate my release from eBay packing duties, I got the first six of my converted Spanish infantry officers finished while listening to the Champions League Final this evening. There are four mounted colleagues for them which are about half done, but all the rank & file of the six new units are still to come back from the painter, so I have a couple of days to get them done.

The chaps in the picture were originally Art Miniaturen Dutch-Belgians, and they now have various new hats and heads attached. I'm pleased with them - something very satisfying about non-catalogue figures in your army.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Where the Heck was I?

Today I was going to do a little post on my new Spanish line officers, but sadly I haven't finished painting them, so that will have to wait a day or so. I was also going to write up the next week of the solo campaign, but I haven't got the housekeeping sorted out yet, so that will have to wait as well.


One of the things which has taken up time in the last couple of weeks is the auction of various Historex items which I volunteered to sell on eBay to raise money for cancer charities. Since I volunteered I can hardly complain about the hassle, but it has reminded me of the amount of labour needed to sell stuff on eBay, especially if you are as verbose as I am when it comes to the listings. Then there's all the questions to answer, and all the peeking to see if anyone else is watching or bidding yet...

Everything is sold now - some 100 unopened kits from the 1970s, plus a collection of 60-odd finished figures. Some things I learned about Historex during the last few weeks:

(1) The interest is very substantially from outside the UK - most of the items have sold to buyers in Italy, Germany, France and the USA. Unfortunately, because of the weight, I could not offer the big collection of complete figures outside the UK, though most of the questions and interest I got came from overseas. In particular, the insured shipping cost of the 2Kg+ parcel to the USA worked out at about £90, which is crazy.

(2) Maybe predictably, the kits generated much more interest than the completed figures - there seems to be more interest in building them than purchasing someone else's efforts, however good. That shouldn't have been a surprise, I think.

(3) The completed figures are horrifyingly fragile - you dare not sneeze near them, and some of them will hardly support their own weight. A challenge - even for a fastidious (fusspot) packer like me. (I love the sound of bubblewrap in the morning.)

Anyway, they are all sold and mailed now - one or two still have to be formally accepted as safely received, but shipping has been remarkably quick. One small packet to Indianapolis arrived in a little over 2 days, which is fantastic. I have to make a detailed breakdown of proceeds-less-expenses, since I have to pay the net amount over to the charity, so I have been more than usually focused on the fees charged by eBay and PayPal. Man, they are not cheap. OK - I'm not really grousing - there is no other easy way to sell stuff like this, but the 10% completion fees on eBay really add up. However, I'm delighted to say that - assuming the last few items have arrived safely and we don't get into any disputes, we should have raised about £730 for the charity, so I'm very pleased with that.

It fairly knocked a hole in the time available for painting and other hobby stuff, though.

Next topic. I wrote a post not long ago about my apparent weakness for big shiny wargame books, and how they are usually not as useful as they might look. Well, I did it again. Having already bought and browsed Wargames Foundry's Napoleon rule book (great title, by the way, guys), I had decided against looking at Warlord Games Black Powder publication, which looked like another of the same sort of figure-promotion-disguised-as-rules jobs.


However, a few people whose judgement I have a lot of respect for have played the game and made positive noises about it. The most guarded comment I have heard was from John C, who said the game he played was "the most excellent fun, but had very little to do with Napoleonic warfare". So, when I got the chance of a good, cheap, second hand copy, I bought it, and it has been my bedtime reading this week - it is a bit large and heavy to be ideal for bedtime reading, and it also tends to hit the floor with an alarming thump when I doze off, but it has been most enjoyable.

It is refreshing to read a wargames book which appears to have been written by adults who have a nice way with humour and who can actually write both entertainingly and grammatically, and without getting unpleasantly nerdy or giving in to the temptation to slag other people's efforts. Anyway, the book is entertaining, the game looks like a lot of fun, and a few bells rang.

For a start, all ranges, moves and everything else are given in multiples of 6 inches - Ding! - hexes, I thought. I'm not sure if I intend to rush to try the rules - I think I'd like to sit in on someone else's game first. Fat chance around here. One slight difficulty I have is that, since the book is written in a nice, conversational style, there isn't a formal statement of scales and so on - or at least I didn't find one. The illustrated scenarios seem to be played with 28mm figures (as you would expect) on a 6-feet-by-12 table (and no-one expected that...), but they do not appear to be very large games, in the sense of numbers of units.

Anybody played Black Powder? Any views on what size of battle it works for? What did you think of it? I realise a lot of people use these rules, but I hadn't really considered them before. They look practical, and I like the simple, commonsense approach - anyone like to offer a brief critique?

If you'd like to invite me to watch a game, I'll be delighted - please just send the return air fare and I'll bring some beer.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hooptedoodle #53 - The Dreaded Small Print


This is intended to be an observation rather than a rant - I state this right at the start in case you cannot tell the difference.

I think my theme is basically the counter-productive effect of our modern dedication to Health & Safety. All the warnings printed on everyday items, all the overcomplicated messages printed on product packaging, all the safety stuff in user manuals, all those crazy garbled codas on radio adverts for financial services - all that - be aware that no-one actually cares whether you hurt yourself, or suffer financial loss, or even die. This is not to say that they wish you any harm, of course, but their main concern - you could say obsession - is to ensure you do not blame them or try to get any money out of them if something goes wrong.

I recently bought a new flat-screen TV, which came with a very thick owner manual. Being very careful to keep my back straight when I lifted the manual, I found that it was printed in 17 languages, including Arabic and Slovene. The remaining 8 pages in English started off with 5 sides of safety information, including details of how to dispose safely of the item and its packaging, a surprising amount of detail about the risks of epileptic seizure if I watched the thing, and solemn advice about not watching it underwater, or on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm. Whatever goes wrong, they have told me about it in 17 languages, so what's my problem? Sadly, the manual did not explain how to edit the tuned channels, or configure the DVD player, and was very sketchy about quite a few other practical operational matters. This is partly explained by the fact that the manual is issued with a whole range of very different models, and so can only refer in general terms to some topics. In truth, the TV is fine, once you poke around with the menus and stuff, but, basically, the manual says:

"Congratulations on buying this TV. We think it's quite a good TV - don't do anything daft with it, and further instructions on anything that isn't intuitive about the operation might have been found at the following internet URL if we hadn't moved it 2 years ago. If anything goes wrong, or you hurt yourself, don't bother getting in touch - our legal department is bigger than our technical development section."

And it says this in 17 languages. One reason why these documents have to be so multilingual was made clear to me some years ago when the previous Mme Foy recruited the services of a student to help with the housework. If there is any implication of a fantasy au pair in a short overall, forget it - this girl was not of that breed, and her main qualification for the job was that she was penniless and Mme felt sorry for her. Maria didn't understand how to use the vacuum cleaner, or how to do much else, as far as I could see. The arrangement lasted some 5 weeks, until the Great Bath Disaster. Because she had poor eyesight, and was Spanish, she had problems with printed English instructions on packages, and one morning she cleaned the bath with a cleaner which said, in small print on the package, "Caution: not suitable for enamel baths". Remarkably, she must have put an unusual amount of energy into cleaning that bath, because she turned it into a horrible, matt-finished, piebald item which had to be replaced - could not be rescued. It was about 4 years old, and it cost something like £1500 to remove it, replace it and restore the bathroom to a proper state. Neither the cleaner manufacturer nor my insurer were the slightest bit interested in sharing the financial grief, since the product package said clearly it was unsuitable for enamel baths - assuming you had very good eyesight and could read English - and that got everyone off the hook. This was about 20 years ago, and £1500 bought a lot of food and beer in those days.

I confess that in some ways I am a slow learner, but I took due note of the incident. The warnings are not there to help the customer - primarily, they are there to protect the manufacturer.

What brings it all to mind this morning is that, once again, I find that the present Comtesse Foy - bless her - has put interesting bottles of new products in the shower. Some of them may be familiar items with new packaging - I wouldn't really know, mostly, but I had better be sure to do a little label-reading to be on the safe side. It might seem astonishingly remiss - even eccentric - but I tend not to wear my spectacles in the shower - is that unusual? - I wouldn't have thought so. Whatever, it is not unknown for me to attempt to wash my hair with skin cream or bathe with something which turns out to be hair conditioner. It hasn't got any worse than that, but the scope for disaster is impressive - chilling, even. If a new green plastic squeezy bottle appears on the shower shelf, there is no immediate way that I can identify what it is unless they give me some very large print and maybe some pictures. It could be a new German shampoo containing caffeine, which is fine - Mme Foy is a tireless researcher - or it could be Mr Muscle's Extra Strong Barbecue Cleaner. I wouldn't know. Taking a shower can be a major act of trust.

Of course, it could be that the legal requirement to print all those disclaimers and warnings on the label in microscopic fonts leaves no room for pictures. There is probably even a message that says, "If you can't read this, it isn't our problem - have a nice day." 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Just Can't Rush These Things


I'm currently doing some conversion work and painting to get a supply of command figures for my next lot of Spanish line infantry, and in the breaks - since I have the brushes and the tools out - I am taking the opportunity to do a few other bits and pieces. Tidying up, finishing things off - that sort of stuff.

Here is an example. This, you will see, is a British artillery caisson. I have a few such caissons, and there are still a couple more to be finished. Most of them are models by Lamming - the older the better, to get the scale right. This one is slightly different - the limber and the caisson (actually, I think it is officially an Ammunition Car) are both from  the lovely old Hinchliffe 20mm series - long gone; the horses are Hinton Hunt, the driver is a converted Minifigs S-Range RHA gunner. Nothing particularly notable in the mix, I think you will agree - all the castings date from the 1970s. If you were to be a little fussy, you might suggest that the horses are a tad small for the rest of the kit, but that is certainly my fault for removing them from their bases in 1972. Anyway, you wouldn't suggest it out loud.

That is the point - the horses and the limber have been attached to this plywood base since late 1972. When I switched my house standard from 2 gun limbers per battery to just one, I had a few spare limbers like this kicking around the place. Last year I got hold of a matching caisson from the same maker and the same vintage, and added a suitable driver. Some very slight freshening of the paint on the original bits and here you are - a brand new addition to my Allied artillery which has only been 40 years in the completion.

That must be a house record, I think.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Solo Campaign – Siege Tweaks Re-tweaked


If something is worth doing, my grandmother used to say, it’s probably worth doing over again. Here I was, quite happy with my new Hassle-Be-Gone automated siege rules, and then some insightful comments from Ross on my recent post and an unusually coherent email from De Vries the Impaler sent me back to the drawing board.

One of the truly great things about blogs is that you can get other interested parties to shine some light on your own thoughts, and you can learn a huge amount. [By the way, any fans or students of Water Logic? – I used to be a firm believer in all that creative evaluation stuff, though I seem to have forgotten about it since I stopped being paid to think. I might do a post about it sometime – you have been warned.]

The purpose of my mathematical, off-table siege rules is to strike a workable balance between convenience and realism such that sieges can be handled easily in the background while the campaign rolls on. The tricky bit is finding the correct balance – rephrase that – an acceptable balance.

The part of the siege under particular scrutiny here is the actual assault or storm. For a start, Ross raised the very good point that not all sieges are the same. If the defenders are unusually determined, it can change things. I carefully avoid the use of the word “fanatical” here, since it has kind of rabid overtones. Let us merely identify that there are certain situations and certain armies where the defenders would be prepared to fight for every building, and to sustain unusually high levels of casualties. De Vries’ original suggestion was that the defenders might be “Spanish or mad”, but that won’t do at all. 

Further, De Vries cited the Agustina Effect (after the heroic lady celeb from the Siege of Zaragoza), where the civilian populace are prepared to help with manning the guns and the barricades – i.e. commit to a level of active combat over and beyond merely trying to defend their own property. We also agreed that there might be situations (though I’m struggling to think of an example) where the citizens are on the side of the besiegers, and take a part in the attack on the garrison. To put all this into effect, I have changed the calculations of ASS and DSS (as defined in the rules below) in the storm – the defenders can get an extra dice if they are ready to fight for every building (the Suicide Dice - suggestions for a better name will be most welcome), and either the defenders or the attackers might possibly get yet another bonus dice (the Agustina Dice) if the civilians are prepared to fight on their side, during the actual storm. All storms take a week, however they go.

Agustina de Aragon - "No - it's OK. If she really wants to stand there when
we fire, just let her get on with it..."

Ross raised the matter of levels of loss – applying an overall factor to the complete besieging army’s strength to get the casualty figures is over-simplifying things, and may give inconsistent or illogical results. Prof De Vries also pointed out that calculating the besiegers’ losses retrospectively for the whole siege, based on the “total force employed” is, to use his terminology, dumb, for a number of reasons:

(1)  Though the total force, represented by the variable Assault Value (AV) may justifiably be regarded as all at risk during the weekly routine Bombardment Phase (which includes all kinds of missile fire, mining, sorties, hunger, disease, bad breaks and random demoralisation), this number AV will vary from week to week, apart from losses, as a result of troops being detached from the siege, or new troops joining it.

(2) During the actual storm (as Ross also mentioned), only a portion of the total available AV may be called upon to actually assault the place – losses for that week should be restricted to this subset.

(3) In a campaign where weekly returns are made for all units, it makes no sense at all to do the casualty calcs for a siege only when it has ended. It is much better to perform the calcs week by week, as AV varies up and down (or is subdivided), and carry forward the actual totals.

Though still determined to keep this manageably simple, I accept all of this, and the re-tweaked section of the Siege Rules now reads thus:

11.3.3 Storming:
Defenders’ Storm Strength, DSS = FV + GV + 1D6 + the Suicide Dice + the Agustina Dice
Attackers’ Storm Strength , ASS = AV(st) + 1D6  + the Agustina Dice     [BV, the Battering Value, does not count in a storm]

Where:

* The Suicide Dice is a bonus 1D6 available to the defenders if they are prepared to fight for every building.
The Agustina Dice is an extra bonus 1D6 available to either side if the civilian population of the town will fight for them.
AV(st) is whatever subset of the full current AV the attackers commit to an assault.

Results:

* If ASS > DSS then the fortress falls and the garrison surrenders. Attackers lose 0.25 x DSS (rounded to nearer whole number) from AV(st). Defenders lose 0.5 x ASS from GV.
* Otherwise, if ASS <= DSS, storm is repulsed; attackers lose 0.5 x DSS from AV(st); defenders lose 0.125 x ASS from GV
[Losses in GV and AV are not simply casualties – they represent all manner of loss of ability to continue – and note that GV and AV can become negative].

Each week during a siege, losses for each side are calculated as one tenth of the percentage loss in AV or GV for the week. During a storm, AV(st) replaces AV if it is different. Thus, for example, if AV is reduced from 7 to 6 during a particular week, the actual loss to the besieging army in killed and wounded is 1/10 x 1/7 = 1.4% of the troops present/engaged.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Hooptedoodle #52 – On Being Rich and Famous


Nothing gets Breakfast TV switched off quicker in our house than the scheduled few minutes with the Show-Biz Correspondent, possibly live from Hollywood, with tales of who has been seen with whom. Glossing over the fact that I have not heard of most of the people mentioned, I really cannot believe that anyone gives a rat’s about this stuff. Does someone out there actually care?

Not being interestingly rich or famous myself, I have never paid much attention to the private lives of those who are. I accept that I appear to be in a minority here, so let’s be a bit more specific – I don’t care much about the private lives of people who are still alive, anyway. Once, long ago, astounded to learn on the BBC’s lunch-time national news that a Palace Spokesman had told the world’s press that Princess Diana was suffering from a slight cold (she was still alive at the time, I hasten to add), I complained to my wife-of-the-day that I was once again thinking of resigning from the human race, or any other species which spent its time waiting for daily news of this calibre. Bad move – I was immediately skewered with a familiar laser-beam stare.

“You,” she said, “should be trying to get in the queue to JOIN the bloody human race”.

To this day, I am sure she was right, so since then I have tried to keep track of areas where I don’t quite line up with the mainstream – not because I necessarily wish to change, you see, but because a little understanding never did any harm, and forewarned is fore-something-or-othered. Armed – yes, that was it.


All those magazines that stare at me next to the checkout in the supermarket – the ones with an exclamation mark at the end of the title – all plugged into some national obsession. “Katy Price tells all – exclusive”, and there is Katy on the cover, looking right at me – sharing her secret just with me. Good on you, girl. You tell em. Don’t tell me, though, for goodness sake.  

That’s what nearly all kids want to be now – rich and famous. Rich = famous. I’m not so sure about that, but there is a general assumption that fame brings riches, and you have to be rich to be interesting. Just as well that Jesus or Gandhi aren’t around now, then – they would get no coverage at all.

I see special celebrity editions of shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and many of the supposed celebs are unknown to me. There are more and more famous people, it seems, and I’m still not one of them. I’m probably jealous – that must be it.

I knew we were in trouble a few years ago when I saw a bit of a TV show which featured people who earned money from being professional look-alikes – being booked to turn up at hen-parties and suchlike. I found that an interesting idea, and I thought the Bruce Springsteen clone was really good, but there was one character I had not come across before, and it turned out that this particular guy earned his living from impersonating one of the then-current stooges on the Big Brother reality TV show. Just a minute – but isn’t that a reality show, featuring real people (i.e. non-celebrities)? Does that mean that exposure on reality TV converts people into celebrities important enough to justify the existence of a paid look-alike?

This is scary – especially since anyone who thinks he sings quite well in the bath can now get publicly humiliated on Britain’s Got Talent – are they all famous too? At this rate, everyone is going to be a celebrity eventually. I hadn’t thought of this – if I become the last man on earth that no-one has heard of, surely in its way that would be, like, really exclusive? I mean, you know, such a person would be interesting enough to warrant some media exposure. Someone should interview him on TV to see what’s wrong with him. Ghost-write his autobiog. Hmmm.


On the radio recently there was a pointless phone-in about something or other, and someone was sounding off at length about the obscene amount of money Wayne Rooney gets paid a week, and what a disgrace this is. [For non-UK readers, or UK readers who could not care less, Rooney is a prominent football (soccer) player with Manchester United – arguably the most gifted English player at the moment, and his private life keeps the media and the public in a state of great excitement]. For once, the pundit in the studio seemed to me to have something sensible to say:

(1)   If Rooney is offered a certain, very high, wage, is he expected to say (as we all would, of course), “Oh no, that’s far too high – I’m not worth it”? Bear in mind that a single bad injury could end his playing career tomorrow, so this whole issue is very high-geared. The man is not a filing clerk.

(2)   This is a free market – if the complainer begrudges him the money (or envies it?), all they have to do is apply for Rooney’s job. I’m sure that Man Utd would be delighted to talk to them.

Is all this, ultimately, just about envy?

I fear that, once again, I have not progressed my ideas very far – I’ve just sort of wheeled them out of the shed. No matter, I can wheel them back again for another day. On the general topic of not fitting in with the times, here’s a good song from Loudon Wainwright – this is the best clip I could find. I’m sorry that the last 4 minutes or so appear to be silent – you can stop it when the music ends or, if you prefer, you could use the silence to meditate on a topic of your choice. I guess LW is not rich or interesting enough to justify a better clip.


Once, back in the days when I wore a suit every day, I was mistaken for someone famous. I was hurrying up Charlotte Street, in the centre of Edinburgh, late for a meeting with a lawyer, as I recall, when I was stopped by two middle-aged ladies with beaming smiles.

“You’re him, aren’t you?” said one, “him on the telly.”

I was a bit taken aback, and explained that I was sorry, but I was not him.

“Oh, come on!” said the second lady, “we know who you are!”

I muttered something appropriately pathetic, and continued to my meeting.   

Later the same day I was telling some colleagues about this. One of them couldn’t believe that I hadn’t asked who they thought I was. I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t asked, too, but deep down I’ve always known that I would probably have been upset if I had found out, so I’m glad I never knew. Sometimes I do wonder, though.

That’s as near to famous as I ever got.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Solo Campaign - Siege Rule Tweaks


Since it looks as though my campaign may produce a siege quite soon, I was encouraged to go back to my mathematical siege rules, since there were some bits in there I wasn't sure about. There was a post on this system a few months ago - I explained there that, though an algorithmic system for sieges is certainly not a big attraction from visual and fun-generation aspects, it is (sadly) necessary to handle sieges in this way in a map campaign, since a siege will last for a number of campaign moves (and thus must be able to coexist with armies marching and fighting elsewhere on the map in a different timescale) and also since it might be necessary to have more than one siege running concurrently.

The particular bit I wasn't happy about was the section on Storming. Without getting too deeply into the nuts and bolts (again), the idea is that the defenders have a couple of numbers associated with them - a Fortress Value (FV), which represents the strength of the place and its guns, and a Garrison Value (GV) which indicates the fighting capability of the guys in the fort - this is a kind of lumpy amalgam of numerical strength, attitude, and their current ability to carry on - for whatever reason. Similarly, the besieging force have a Battering Value (BV), which is a measure of their heavy artillery capability, and an Assault Value (AV), which is the amount of force they could bring to bear in the event of (you guessed) an assault, but this number also makes allowance for the men who are available for digging ditches, carrying stuff and just constituting a threat.

The detail of the siege rules is set out in the orginal notes, here and here, so I won't go through all that again, but the idea is that bombardment and (implied) sorties and mining etc wear down these numbers. At the point that a storm is attempted, the appropriate section of the rules is set out in its new form below, with the odd explanatory annotation here and there. The inclusion of a dice roll for the defenders and the besiegers is intended to reflect performance and luck on the day. The calculation of losses bothered me - something struck me as counter-intuitive. If the totals for ASS and DSS (as described below) were very close - in other words, if the result of the storm was a close call the casualties would tend to be relatively light, which intuitively seemed completely wrong. A close-fought storm might have the heaviest casualty rates of all, so I've made a couple of changes - I now use the absolute values of DSS and ASS, rather than the difference between them, when calculating loss, and have changed the formulae slightly. It's a minor tweak really, but I'm a bit more comfortable about how it works now. In a campaign, losses have a lasting significance.

Here's the revised section from my Campaign Rules:

11.3.3 Storming:
Defenders’ Storm Strength, DSS = FV + GV + 1D6
Attackers’ Storm Strength , ASS = AV + 1D6  [BV, the Battering Value, does not count in a storm]

* If ASS > DSS then the fortress falls and the garrison surrenders. Attackers lose a final, further 0.25 x DSS (rounded to nearer whole number) from AV. Defenders lose 0.5 x ASS from GV.
* Otherwise, if ASS <= DSS, storm is repulsed; attackers lose 0.5 x DSS from AV; defenders lose 0.125 x ASS from GV
[Losses in GV and AV are not simply casualties – they represent all manner of loss of ability to continue – and note that GV and AV can become negative].

Whenever it is necessary, at any moment during the siege (or when the siege is broken off or completed), actual casualties may be computed as one tenth of the %age loss of AV or GV since the start of the siege. 

Example – if a successful besieging force started out with AV = 8, and end with AV of 6, then they have lost one tenth of 25% = 2.5% of the total force present; if the defenders started out with a GV of 5 and end with GV = -1 then casualties are 1/10 of 120% = 12%; if the fort surrenders, the remaining 88% will become prisoners.

[It occurs to me that if I don't actually get to a siege in the campaign then it doesn't really matter that I've improved the rule, but it's the principle of the thing!]

Monday, 7 May 2012

Solo Campaign - Week 13

Ciudad Rodrigo - General Reixas checks that everything is ready

Week 13 - Narrative

Having received further prompts from Paris to carry the fight to the Allies, with the objective of invading Portugal, Marmont detached D’Armagnac, with two infantry brigades (6400 men) and the Italian foot artillery battery (8 guns), together with the siege train and engineers of the Armee de Portugal. This force marched to Zamora, where they joined with Clauzel’s command.

Jourdan, with his newly assembled force, carried out a splendid piece of forced marching, travelling from Toledo, via Madrid, to Avila without any straggling.

Karl, Baron Von Alten

Karl von Alten, with the Anglo-Portuguese Light Division, the KGL Hussars and Maceta’s Spanish volunteers, became aware that there were now French forces to the north and the south – Maceta’s contacts among the civilian population confirmed that the force at Avila (Jourdan – though the Allies did not have this information) was large enough to cause concern. The combined Allied force accordingly fell back to the area around Ciudad Rodrigo, since their relative lack of cavalry would make it impossible to withdraw if attacked.

General Barbot

Concerned about the possibility of sea-borne landings on the north coast, the French moved Barbot and his garrison troops at San Sebastian to Bilbao, replacing them at San Sebastian with a force of 4000 National Guard plus artillery from the Bayonne reserve.

Gregorio Cruchaga

Gregorio Cruchaga has been appointed in Navarra to lead the irregular partisans formerly commanded by the Gomez brothers.

Strategic Note

With the Allied army occupying Galicia, the French cannot get into Portugal without getting past the fortresses at Almeida and/or Elvas.

Marmont is convinced that the Allies will not attack him across the mountains from Galicia. Since he is once again directed by the Minister of War to invade Portugal, he has detached his siege train and some of his infantry to join Clauzel to the south.

Jourdan has moved from Toledo to Avila, and the French now have some interesting possibilities:

(1) If Von Alten stands his ground at Salamanca, attack him with some combination of Clauzel’s and Jourdan’s forces – then move to lay siege to Ciudad Rodrigo, which would require two weeks march to receive support from Cotton (who is at Orense).

(2) If Von Alten sees the threat and retires back to Ciudad Rodrigo, there are choices – either pursue him and attack him there with the combined Clauzel/Jourdan force or (riskier but potentially more decisive) hold him there with Jourdan’s force while Clauzel (now reinforced by Armagnac’s 2 brigades), attacks Cotton and Espana at Orense. Defeat for Cotton would leave Wellington isolated in Galicia and allow more time for a siege at Rodrigo.

Either way, Rodrigo is the objective.

The roads from Lugo to Almeida are not good, even in decent weather, and it would be difficult for Wellington to support Rodrigo quickly or force a siege to be lifted. He is really obliged to move south now, back into Portugal, even though this may allow the French an alternative (tortuous) route to Lisbon, bypassing the border fortresses.

The situation of Maceta, whose Spanish troops are currently in Ciudad Rodrigo alongside Von Alten’s, is interesting. He and his troops belong to the Junta de Castilla, and will not serve in Portugal. If Von Alten is forced to retire into Portugal, Maceta may have to separate his forces and head for Caceres instead.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Solo Campaign - Week 12

Quiet week in the Peninsula - Wellington survived a vote in the House by the skin of his teeth, the French are busy collecting together small forces into bigger ones and Karl von Alten is marching off to Salamanca [...do you think that's wise, Captain Mainwaring?].

Higher profile? - Marshal Jourdan

Lower profile - a contemporary sketch of Pedro Gomez

Week 12 - Narrative

A vote in the British Parliament was tabled, but voting was narrowly in favour of keeping Wellington in command in the Peninsula.

Since this is the weekend nearest 15th April, reinforcements, replacements and returns from hospital have arrived. The French have an increase of 2820 men, the Anglo-Portuguese 4010 plus 2 guns, and the Spanish regulars 320 men. No-one knows accurately the strength of the Spanish irregulars, which are diced for as occasion arises.

The Gomez brothers have been removed from the command of the irregular troops of the Junta de Navarra who were defeated at Ancenigo. In fact, they appear to have disappeared completely.

Karl von Alten, with the Light Division, and the Spanish volunteers and irregulars commanded by Maceta, have marched into the Salamanca area. Attempts to scout northwards into Zamora were foiled by superior French cavalry. All Alten knows is that there are French dragoons there.

Marshal Jourdan is now in command of a new, consolidated French force at Toledo – this comprises Neuenstein’s Confederation brigade, Maucune’s division of the Armee de Portugal and Treillard’s cavalry from the Armee du Centre. The intention is to give them some extra artillery from the fortress at Badajoz [but they didn’t have enough orders left this week]

The Anglo-Portuguese army, apart from Von Alten with the Light Division, is holding position at Lugo and Orense, on the assumption that the French will not attempt to attack through the mountains on the border between Castilla and Galicia. [If the French do attack, and if they are successful, Wellington will be accused of inactivity as well as his other problems].

Foy has rejoined his Division at Leon – he is reported to be walking with the aid of a stick.

The fever epidemic among the French (Confederation) force in Burgos appears to be over – there have been no new cases, and troops are starting to return to duty.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Falcata - 30 Years War range


Hermogenes at Falcata Miniatures sent me some of the first pictures of their forthcoming 30 Years War figures, which will be available later this year - after the Summer, Hermogenes says.

I thought it might be a nice heads-up for anyone with an interest in 1/72 metal figures for this period. They aren't in the catalogue yet, but the catalogue is worth a look anyway - check out the Carlist Wars figures, and I fancy some Isobelinos for converting into late Peninsular War Spanish.

ECW - Yet more figure comparisons

Still my investigations continue into which figures will work with my principal choice of Les Higgins as maker of my 20mm ECW armies. Progress has been a bit ponderous, because of my own lack of organisation. At last I have samples from Tumbling Dice, who were very helpful and quick once I had got around to emailing them.


So here is yet another strange green picture with unpainted figures. My conclusions to date are:

* Les Higgins are still the standard for my armies, by reason of affection and long-held ambition.
* Hinton Hunt are compatible, near enough.
* SHQ/Kennington - foot figures are nice, but a bit chunky to mix in - self-contained units probably OK. This was a bit disappointing, because I had hoped to be able to use SHQ foot command figures in Higgins units, but I'm not so comfortable about that now. SHQ cavalry are a good match with Higgins - no problems there - in fact Higgins riders on SHQ horses look good as well.
* Tumbling Dice - foot figures are similar in stature to SHQ - not quite so beefy - I am optimistic about being able to mix TD infantry figures in with Higgins units. This was a surprise, since I had expected them to be bigger. Cavalry are an excellent match, though the horses are bigger than both SHQ and Higgins. TD riders on SHQ horses also work OK.
* Art Miniaturen - they are lovely, but too big in this context.
* S-Range Minifigs - they have a charm of their own, but next to the Higgins figures they are big-headed and their physique looks wrong and, of course, they are armed with telegraph poles.
* Plastics - a lot of nice stuff out there, but in general they are too big to match - I'm keeping an open mind.

I hope to get as far as actually painting a trial unit in a week or three, and there is talk of some visiting armies coming for a VwQ game.

In my reading, I'm still looking for a regional context for my own ECW - I'm currently interested in Lancashire in 1644. I may have changed my mind in a couple of days. I'm looking for an area which strikes some personal chimes, and which is obscure enough to allow liberties to be taken with actual history.

No end of possibilities - I could do with having more time.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Hooptedoodle #51 - Not Like Me at All

Thomas Newman

For almost all my life I've loved, played and collected music. I tend to lose critical arguments on the subject, because my tastes are (I think) unusually wide and, because I studied it for so many years, I have been exposed to, and impressed by, all sorts of styles and genres. I also think that the passing years bring a change to one's perception and appreciation - I am less interested in attitude these days (though I have my moments) and more involved by textures and orchestration. I am mystified by the number of sub-categories of contemporary dance music, and can't really see why anyone would be interested enough to go to the trouble of coming up with all those names, but this kind of trainspotting approach to music classification appears to have partly replaced what I would recognise as artistic appreciation. No matter.

I have a very large collection of CDs - visitors might probably be disoriented more by the lack of consistency than anything else. Delius, Robben Ford, Planxty, loads of jazz (whatever the hell that is - anything from King Oliver to John Scofield, but an awful lot of Bill Evans and 1950s be-bop guitarists), 1940s R&B, Cuban bands, on and on. Of late I have been listening to gypsy jazz guitarists, the work of Vince Mendoza, Mendelsohn's symphonies, Tom Waits, Fauré, a lot of baroque concerti, Anthony Wilson - a very mixed bag. I have no axes to grind, it's just stuff that I like.

One thing I have never got much involved with is film music - I've maybe even been slightly prejudiced against it. I have Shostakovich's "Gadfly" on CD and I bought the music from "Gladiator" (because I couldn't get it out of my head), and I have a couple of albums of music from Jacques Tati's films (because it makes me feel happy), but otherwise not much. Music designed to go along with a movie seems, intuitively, to be only part of something. Also, because they are meant to generate a variety of moods and support a wide assortment of dramatic situations in a film, listening to a series of short tracks in quick succession in your living room can be a bit unsettling - they tend not to develop in a symphonic sense.

It is not like me at all, but recently I have become very interested in the hypnotic soundtrack works of Thomas Newman. I was aware of the big hit theme from "American Beauty", and also that he was a very successful composer for film, with a huge back catalogue - I even knew that he was Randy Newman's cousin - but his work had mostly passed me by. I've now bought the soundtrack albums for a number of his films, and I think they are remarkable. Most of the clips for Newman on YouTube feature distracting (and sometimes soppy) trailers from the films, so I've included a clip which shows somebody's Canadian photos - and very nice too.


Not everyone's cup of tea, for sure, and until recently I wouldn't have bothered to listen, but I may have become a fan. Mind you, after an hour or so I'll be digging out my old Steely Dan albums.