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


Friday, 8 March 2013

Here Be Dragons - Pitfalls of Planning


The 20eme Dragons, in fact. I'm pleased with these - a chance purchase on eBay, they arrived in good shape. The original paint job was really very good, though the passage of time and a few "improvements" had had an effect.

I got them cleaned up, retouched, based and in the cupboard very quickly - I only received them yesterday afternoon, and I finished them off this morning. Here they are, then, all looking eyes-right and with their carousel horses dancing in step - the best and silliest aspects of Old School in a single picture. They also gave me cause to wonder about a few things...

(1) Since I had already decided that I had more than enough units of French dragoons - in fact I had even sold off and otherwise disposed of a good many such figures already - I am not clear just why I needed these. It may be something about the sight of painted soldiers on eBay.

(2) Further to (1), how is it that a rogue arrival like these chaps can completely leapfrog the existing painting queue and make a mockery of any pretence of planning or prioritisation? Though I guess it is a hobby, after all.

(3) Most serious of the lot, my in-house unit numbering system has now failed. This is the first unit to which I cannot allocate a new number - I've run out of numbers. The end of the French army has just collided with the start of the Spanish. This may not sound serious, but the organisation of the cupboards, the catalogue, the picture library, and even my in-house computerised wargame all rely on these numbers. So, for the third time I can remember, the most recent being some four years ago, I shall have to re-do the numbering. Apart from the admin and the re-naming of the computer records and retyping the spreadsheets, this will require me to replace the little Blick number labels on a great many (probably most) unit sabots for the Peninsular War armies.

My intention is to allocate numbers 1-200 to the French and their allies, 201-400 to the British-Portuguese and their allies, and 401-500 to the Spanish. That should all be OK, leaving a good bit of headroom, and the next bit of head-scratching concerns how to arrange the numbers within these blocks. A man with an IT background like mine can see that certain arrangements are more capable of surviving organisational change and new arrivals than others, but the tabletop fighter in me sees that the most convenient way to address this is to number the units consecutively within the higher army organisation, so that the battalions within the regiments within the brigades within a division, plus their skirmishers and attached artillery, form a single number series which sit next to each other in The Cupboard. At set-up time, and during tidy-up (which is much more of a chore), there are few conveniences to match just moving a contiguous section of a shelf onto the table (and back).

It does mean that any re-organisation or insertion of additional units can cause a bit of hassle, but there's not so much of that these days. Apart from when new, unplanned units like the 20e Dragons arrive in the post.

Changing the numbers is actually rather fun - it does come, admittedly, from the same group of hobby jobs as re-basing, but involves nowhere near the same level of pain. However, because it is quite a pleasant job, it is likely to jump the entire queue of hobby tasks I have in mind - in the same way that the fitting of magnetic sheet to subunit bases and sabots did last year (or was it the year before?). That particular interruption formed a dangerous precedent, because I have been delighted with the results, and it does offer a case in support of changing my mind about things. This really does not help the concept of The Grand Plan at all.

On the subject of getting things done in the right order, I am pleased to present the thoughts of one of my favourite popular philosophers, AA Milne. I think there are familiar echoes in much of this.


The Old Sailor 


There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew 
Who had so many things which he wanted to do 
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin, 
He couldn’t because of the state he was in. 

He was shipwrecked, and lived on an island for weeks, 
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks; 
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks 
For the turtles and things which you read of in books. 

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he’d look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

He began on the fish-hooks, and when he’d begun 
He decided he couldn’t because of the sun. 
So he knew what he ought to begin with, and that 
Was to find, or to make, a large sun-stopping hat. 

He was making the hat with some leaves from a tree, 
When he thought, “I’m as hot as a body can be, 
And I’ve nothing to take for my terrible thirst; 
So I’ll look for a spring, and I’ll look for it first.” 

Then he thought as he started, “Oh, dear and oh, dear!
I’ll be lonely tomorrow with nobody here!”
So he made in his note-book a couple of notes:
“I must first find some chickens” and “No, I mean goats.”

He had just seen a goat (which he knew by the shape)
When he thought, “But I must have a boat for escape.
But a boat means a sail, which means needles and thread;
So I’d better sit down and make needles instead.”

He began on a needle, but thought as he worked,
That, if this was an island where savages lurked,
Sitting safe in his hut he’d have nothing to fear,
Whereas now they might suddenly breathe in his ear!

So he thought of his hut … and he thought of his boat, 
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat, 
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) … 
But he never could think which he ought to do first. 

And so in the end he did nothing at all, 
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl. 
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved - 
He did nothing but bask until he was saved! 


AA Milne



_______________________________________________________________________
Late edit - I'm thrilled to bits to report that the bold Stryker has contributed a nice little addition to the verse. It appears in the Comments below but, since no-one ever reads those anyway, I've copied it in here. How marvellous to acknowledge a little class on this blog, for a welcome change!



There once was a wargamer who’d played for a while
Kept changing his mind on the right basing style
That flocking and filler it looks pretty cool
But would they be better all based up Old School?

He lined up his lancers in neat serried ranks
(and sooo wished he’d gone for those King Tiger tanks)
My Romans are finished, but then again no
I’d like some auxiliaries armed with a bow

He tossed and he turned all night in his bed
Trying to work out what to do with his lead
At last I’ve got it (he exclaimed with a will)
I’ll do it all again but in 28 mil!


Stryker

6 comments:

  1. What if you were to go to 4 digits?

    Then the 3 digits you have on the units now can stay?

    1000 = French & allies
    2000 = British
    3000 = Spanish

    etc

    This way you do not have to 're-set' as much of your labels?

    Indeed you may not need to 'put on' the first digits for a long time, as the French and Brits are pretty obvious when you look at the uniforms.

    Just a thought to save you time and keep you at the game table more an the re-labeling table less.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  2. "...in fact I had even sold off and otherwise disposed of a good many such figures already - I am not clear just why I needed these."

    Perhaps we are hoarders? We imagine them as real armies and you can never have enough men... after all, how many might you lose in battle? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Didn't know AA Milne had written a superior bit of doggerel about me,

    As for the numbering, I have to wonder why you didn't adopt an alpha-numerical system F1-F999 for the French, S1-S999 for the Spanish and so on or to be even more explicit you insert a 2nd letter for cavalry although it might start looking a bit like a Minifig catalog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There is a big attraction in using pre-printed, off the shelf labels, and short numbers are handy for data entry into my netbook.

    Yes, these are not great reasons. The real reason I have used simple numbers is because each time I changed the system it was the Final Solution, and I was blinded by my genius. Blinded to the point of forgetting that I am a slow learner.

    Short numbers also have the advantage that you just know that unit #47 will go on the shelf between 46 and 48. You can't be so sure about FC0207 without some additional documentation.

    This time will be different. I will still use the short numbers, but this time there is enough headroom, I am happy to manage the occasional unexpected tweak, and this time (again) the Solution is definitely Final.

    Faites vos jeux, messieursdames....

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tony - if you're anything like me I suggest you put at least 3 zeros in front of any new number!

    There once was a wargamer who’d played for a while
    Kept changing his mind on the right basing style
    That flocking and filler it looks pretty cool
    But would they be better all based up Old School?

    He lined up his lancers in neat serried ranks
    (and sooo wished he’d gone for those King Tiger tanks)
    My Romans are finished, but then again no
    I’d like some auxiliaries armed with a bow

    He tossed and he turned all night in his bed
    Trying to work out what to do with his lead
    At last I’ve got it (he exclaimed with a will)
    I’ll do it all again but in 28 mil!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is so brilliant that I've inserted it into the original post - your people can sort out the details with my people next week. Excellent - many thanks.

      Delete

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