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


Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Battle of Nantwich - preparation

On Friday of this coming week, I have arranged an ECW battle with some friends. This morning I've been setting out a briefing note for the other players, which I thought might be of interest here.

Please note that this is not an attempt to teach everyone about the Battle of Nantwich - I've done a bit of tweaking with the history and the OOBs, to make best use of the troops available and try to give a balanced game. What follows is simply a copy of what I've sent to the players. Apart from the scenario and the starting position, there is to be no attempt to replicate or re-enact the historical battle, this will just be a free-for-all.

My sources are John Barratt's super little The Battle of Nantwich 1644 (Stuart Press), John Dixon's equally super (though larger) The Business at Acton (Partizan Press) and the scenarios for Nantwich in De Bellis Civile 1644-45 and Charlie Wesencraft's Pike and Musket book. It goes without saying that my version will not be like any one of those, though they were all useful.

The game will be played using my ECW variant of CCN, with a couple of scenario tweaks. OK - the rest of this post is just what I have sent out to next Friday's players.


The Business at Acton  - the Battle of Nantwich, 25th January 1644

The Armies:


Royalist

Commander:                   John, Lord Byron
2nd-in-Command:      Maj.Gen* Richard Gibson

Horse:
Col. John Marrow’s Regt
Lord Molyneux’s Regt
Lord Byron’s Regt (v)
Sir Thos Tyldesley’s Regt

Foot:
Sir Michael Earnley’s Regt (v)
Sir Robert Byron’s Regt (v)
Col. Henry Warren’s Regt (v)
Col. Richard Gibson’s Regt (v)
Sir Thomas Tyldesley’s Regt

Sir Fulk Huncke with approx 400 musketeers (v)

Artillery:
A battery of medium sakers
Some light pieces


* = acting
  
Parliamentarian

Commander:                   Sir Thomas Fairfax
2nd-in-Command:      Maj.Gen* Sir William Brereton

Horse:
Sir Wm Brereton’s Cheshire Horse
Sir Wm Fairfax’s Regt (Yorkshire)
Col. John Lambert’s Regt (Yorkshire)

Maj. Thomas Morgan’s Dragoons (Wales)

Foot:
Col. John Booth’s Regt (Cheshire)
Col. Richard Holland’s Regt (Manchester)
Col. Sir Wm. Brereton’s Regt (Cheshire)
Col. Henry Mainwaring’s Regt (Cheshire)
Col. Alexander Rigby’s Regt (Lancashire)
Col. Ralph Assheton’s Regt (Lancashire)

800 musketeers from Nantwich Garrison (r)

Artillery:
Some medium sakers
Some light pieces



[Units marked (v) are of Veteran status, those marked (r) are Raw – everyone else is Trained by default. Unless otherwise stated, Foot regiments are about 650 strong, and in each of them approximately one third are armed with pikes and the rest with muskets. Horse and Dragoon units are about 400 strong. All Royalist Horse are of “Galloper” type (i.e. they employ the Swedish-style tactics adopted by Prince Rupert), though none of those present are classified as Rash. The Parliament Horse are all “Trotters” (i.e. they use the more conservative Dutch-style tactics).]

Background – Cheshire 1643-44:

Lord Byron
In late 1643, John, 1st Lord Byron marched from Chester with a Royalist army which contained a high proportion of excellent, veteran troops who had previously served in Ireland. His objective was to gain control of the troublesome eastern portion of Cheshire for the King. Initially things went well; Beeston Castle was taken, and a close but significant victory was gained over the army of the chief Parliamentarian leader in the county, Sir William Brereton., near Middlewich. The main result of Middlewich was that Brereton became convinced that he could not stand up to the Royalist army in open battle. Byron now set about attacking the town of Nantwich, which was the last remaining Parliament-held place of any size in the county, having an important bridge over the River Weaver. On the way there he was involved in the infamous massacre at Barthomley Church, on Christmas Day 1643, where a number of surrendering Parliamentary troops were shot out of hand after they had (reportedly) been offered quarter. Byron was unrepentant, but the incident backfired on him, in that it increased Parliament’s resolve to counterattack.

Sir Thomas Fairfax
Sir Thomas Fairfax was sent from Lincolnshire with a sizeable force of good Yorkshire cavalry, joining with Brereton around Manchester, and their combined army set off to deal with Byron.

Byron’s attack on Nantwich was beaten off with heavy loss, but the town was besieged.  Instead of approaching Nantwich from the East, from Middlewich, Fairfax surprised Byron by approaching from the North, through Delamere Forest, and thus on the west side of the Weaver. Byron had only a few troops on this bank of the river, and therefore had to move his men over the river to face the threat. This is the point at which our action today commences.


Scenario – the Battle of Nantwich:


The Parliamentarian baseline is the top (North) edge of the picture. Each hex on the table is about 150 paces across.

It is a cold, grey day. A recent thaw has melted most of what snow there has been, but the ground is generally very muddy. This is a flat, agricultural area with few hills and little woodland.

The stone bridge at Beam Bridge was destroyed a while ago by the Nantwich garrison, and the Royalists’ temporary pontoon bridge there has been wrecked by the swollen River Weaver, so Lord Byron has had a lot of trouble getting the second part of his available forces (including all of his horse) on to the West side of the river to meet Fairfax’s approaching army.

By midday, he has the foot units of Gibson, Warren and Earnley and all his artillery (a large battery of medium guns plus a small light unit) in position at Acton church, but the regiments of Robert Byron and Tyldesley and all his cavalry are coming up in the rear as best they can, having spent the morning marching some miles upstream to Shrewbridge to cross the river and then marching back towards Acton.

Fairfax has arrived by the Chester Road, approaching over the low wooded ridge on the north side of the field. He hasn’t come very far (his men camped last night at Tilstone Heath, about 8 miles away) , but the roads are in poor shape, so they are puffing a bit. The roads marked on the battlefield have no functional role in the game beyond helping to make sense of the geography – the rules give no movement bonus on roads.

The river is unfordable throughout. The areas of Welsh Row, Acton Church, Darfold Hall and Henhull (farm) are all classed as built up areas/villages for the purposes of the rules – i.e. troops occupying them are assumed to be able to make use of the walls and buildings to provide defensive cover and firing positions. A feature of the battlefield which is mentioned in all accounts of the fighting is the hedged enclosures (farm fields), which made things difficult for the cavalry. In this game, such enclosures are treated similarly to woods – all mounted troops entering a field must stop on arrival, and may defend it as though it were a wood (though a field will not obstruct line-of-sight, so that artillery may fire over a field). Units of horse leaving a field/enclosure must stop immediately afterwards to reform, unless they are carrying out a Retire & Reform manoeuvre. Thus cavalry are handicapped in the enclosures in a manner which should correspond to the historical situation.

Parliament have first move throughout. Parliament receive 6 command cards, Royalists 5 – to reflect the disorganisation in Byron’s army and (to a lesser extent) Fairfax’s greater leadership ability. “Victory Banner” counters will be awarded on elimination of units and leaders as normal, but there is a special additional VB counter available to the Royalists while/if they hold the Welsh Row position.

7 VBs wins the day for either side.

Initial set-up:

Parliament – Nantwich garrison are in Welsh Row at the outset. They have to remain there until the fighting starts. Once firing has commenced in the central area, a throw of 6 on a normal die (throw at the start of each turn) will allow them to decide (subject to subsequent suitable Command cards!) to sally out to join the main action. Note that these troops are classed as Raw.

The remainder of Fairfax’s army must be placed in the Centre section of the table, within 2 hexes of their own baseline. Artillery must initially be placed behind another friendly unit – they were held up by the soft ground. Leaders may be attached to combat units as they arrive.

Royalists – Huncke’s musketeers may be placed 2 hexes distant from Welsh Row. The artillery (one unit of 2 medium guns, one of a single light gun) and the foot units of Earnley, Warren and Gibson may be placed on, or within 1 hex of, the 3-hex hill at Acton Church – Richard Gibson himself may be attached to any of these units.

The remainder, with Byron, must be deployed south of the roads near the Royalist baseline, and no nearer than 3 hexes to Nantwich.

Notes:


Artillery: Bear in mind that a single-gun battery is unable to cause loss to troops in buildings or cover – the larger battery has a chance of doing this. Artillery is also very vulnerable in melees.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Hooptedoodle #89a - ...and another thing...

Vignemale, Pyrenees
This follows on from yesterday's post - partly because I am on a potential roll with Robert stories, but mainly because I'll forget if I don't write it down today.

Another of Robert's pub tales.

When he was still an Army helicopter pilot, Robert was sent on a prestigious, multinational mountain flying course in the Pyrenees. He said it was an exhilarating experience, but even while they were on the course some of the lads started getting bored and having ideas for some unofficial fun. Eventually, a few of them requisitioned a number of large insulated containers from stores, and took a surprising amount of fresh snow from a glacier - similar to the one illustrated, perhaps.

This was smartly transported to one of the naturist beaches next to Cap d'Agde and there - in the height of the season - the pilots had a monster snowball fight, in full flying kit. Naturally there was some collateral damage to the unfortunate naturists, and there were a number of formal complaints, which were dismissed out of hand as ridiculous. How could such a thing have happened? - snow? - on a Mediterranean beach in August?

Case dismissed. Another example of something that never happened. Maybe there is a recurrent theme developing here.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Hooptedoodle #89 - Robert and the Missile

More ancient tales from the pub...


Since the spam seems to have eased off and I’m feeling a lot more upbeat, I have decided to end my temporary rest/sulk and do another post – just to see how it feels.

Things are still very busy around here, but I have arranged an ECW wargame for next week – it’s in the diary – and am really quite elated at the prospect. More of this in a later post, I think – the intention is to stage a game based on the Battle of Nantwich, so I’m doing some reading and general preparation for that, and I’ve painted up a suitable church specially for the occasion. I even had a look at the actual church on Google Maps - such is my commitment.

On Sunday I was at a very wet barbecue in Edinburgh, and enjoyed meeting up with some former work colleagues. Somebody mentioned another ex-colleague we had, Robert, who was not present, and a number of very amusing Robert stories were recalled. One in particular has had me chortling occasionally this week, so I thought I would trot it out here, in a spirit of suitable bonhomie.

I must mention that I am unsure of the exact details – no doubt some Cold War period expert will be able to correct the story as necessary – but I have no doubt of its truth; Robert was never the sort of chap who would make anything up. I would bet a lot of money on that. It is also possible, of course, that this story is otherwise well-known and exists in alternative versions based in other countries at other times, with other equipment. If the tale is, in fact, bollocks then I offer my humble apologies, but I will certainly be surprised.

Robert was an absolute treasure. He worked for me from about 1987 to about 1991, and we recruited him from the British Army, where he was serving as a major at the time he left. He was ex-Sandhurst, and had a very active service life until a helicopter crash in Northern Ireland left him with injuries which forced him to retire to the Army’s IT operation. He had no previous experience of life or work outside the services, and he was frighteningly enthusiastic to get started. His life-long devotion to the Army was eventually killed by having to have his car checked for bombs every morning in Germany before his kids were driven to school. That would do it, right enough.

Robert’s greatest value to me was that he was used to getting things done. Different mindset. If he was asked to do something, he expected to crack on with it and make a good job of it. He had not got the hang of the more common approach of his new civilian co-workers, which was an instinct to spend two weeks preparing excuses for why we had failed to deliver something which would have taken a week if we had just done it. The bit he found most difficult was understanding the context he was now working in. He found it unbelievable that anyone would agree to do something and then not do it – an everyday situation in our firm – and he couldn’t come to terms with the fact that there wasn’t much he or anyone else could do about it. No, I used to tell him, we can’t put them on a charge, unfortunately – what we have to do is convince them up-front that they will get something out of it. Yes, I used to tell him, I realise that Jeannie in the corner is not the nominal manager of that department, but she is the one who makes the place work, and she is the one you need to get on your side – the theoretical hierarchies here work differently, and in more subtle ways. Robert took all this on board, but found much of it strange.

Apart from his energy and his positive approach, Robert was also valuable because he was an excellent chap who came from an interesting and (to us) alien world, and had real-life experience of combat and other life threatening situations, which was more exciting than we were used to. Some of these life threatening situations, it has to be said, were a result of the manic approach to recreation which seems to be a characteristic of young military men. A pint with Robert was always worthwhile – he had a fund of fantastic stories, and many of them became legends among his colleagues. It was very common for Robert stories to feature in the pub, even when Robert himself was not present, and that, gentlemen, is fame indeed.

Today’s story from Robert’s army days involves the Honest John missile. Robert was still recovering from his helicopter accident at the time, and was mostly involved in ceremonial and other light duties, when he and a good friend were ordered to attend a NATO test firing of an Honest John. Now, this was a big deal. Many servicemen had been trained to serve with these missiles, and had even been through launch drill (as had Robert and his pal), but they were frighteningly expensive, so that no-one knew anyone who had ever experienced a for-real launch. They were actually going to launch one, which was an exciting prospect for all concerned, and Robert and his colleague were duly delivered to a clearing somewhere in the Ardennes, all togged up in their ceremonial uniforms, as part of an international guard of honour. Everyone who was anyone in the top brass of NATO was there, and a lot of work had gone into constructing very smart, wooden seating galleries – there was carpet and white cords everywhere. No expense spared.

With everyone suitably tensed up, and the guard of honour at attention, the Belgian launch crew selected for the test duly arrived and went into their drill. It was a wet, overcast day, but they were really very impressive – crisp and assured, under scrutiny from the field-glasses of the High and Mighty who were watching from a safe distance. As the moment approached for the launch (and remember, these boys hadn’t actually fired one before, either), the clamps which held the missile to its cradle were opened, and a lot of adjustment and shouting of commands was going on when Robert’s colleague quietly drew his attention to the fact that the crew did not appear to have released the 4cm thick steel securing bolts which held it in place. Shortly afterwards, the missile fired. The noise was unbelievable, apparently, and the ground shook before the missile, with very large truck still attached, rose from the ground and disappeared into the low clouds.

Robert told us that his strongest recollection was of the strange silence which followed. He could hear the odd, strangled sound of the guard of honour trying desperately not to laugh, and the indefinable, though very real, sound of general embarrassment at a strategic level. The gathering broke up very quickly, with appropriate levels of harrumphing, and everyone was rushed away in staff cars. The joiners had even started to dismantle the seating before the guard of honour received a very short briefing.

This did not happen, they were told. Anyone who mentions this – ever – will be in more trouble than he could ever imagine. And thus this event which had never happened was blotted from the records.

It seems that the missile did pretty well – it landed about a kilometre away, in a field, though of course that hadn’t happened either. Naturally the British contingent could not leave it alone. The Honest John kit came with a dedicated range computer, which could print out range tables and settings for a variety of payloads and situations. Some bright spark printed off a special range table headed up HONEST JOHN MISSILE – WITH LAUNCHER ATTACHED and sent it anonymously to Belgian HQ. Robert said that he was interested to see if there was any come-back, considering that the original event on which the joke was based had never happened.

They never heard anything further about it.

I believe Robert is in the consultancy business now – I bet he is still good value in the pub.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Foy's Twelfth Law

Foy's Twelfth Law states:

It is in the nature of all things that there must be an ending. Eventually, even I shall have nothing to say.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Hortillery & Articulture...

...or something like that.

Big 'uns

Little 'uns
It's taken a while to get everything ready (because artillery is fiddly), but my ECW armies finally have guns. In fact they are rather over-supplied now, but there is an element of future planning in there (he lied). I still need to get a couple of big bombarding guns and a couple of mortars, since you can't do the ECW without sieges, but this will certainly keep me going in the meantime. A dozen new guns with crews are going into the boxes tonight - very good.

Topic 2

In the garden, Nature rears her formidable head once again. Last October I posted here to express our astonishment that our half-hearted attempt to grow Edelweiss from seed produced a single fine bloom. This year we didn't know what to expect. Are they annuals? We had no idea.

Well they have come up fine and strong, and we have the beginnings of a marvellous show. Unbelievable - and this is despite the environment in our garden being wrong in a number of ways:

1. Next to the sea - salty air and high humidity

2. Wrong type of soil

3. About 1000 metres lower than their preferred habitat

4. Permanently overcast, near-Arctic climate

We can only assume our Edelweiss don't know any better. Here they are, anyway - alive and well and living in entirely the wrong country. We hope our experiment is not endangering our Scottish ecosystem...

Bless my homeland for ever - erm - just a minute...


Late Edit...

Thanks to John P and Ross for comments - here is a relevant clip I found, which shows how the Sappers might have looked in action. It is a surprisingly long clip...


Strangely, all suitable clips I could find apart from this one were filmed in Oregon. Cultures obviously can be transplanted, like wildflowers.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Perfect Circle


I sometimes have a look at The Miniatures Page (TMP). I am a member – I believe I am a Trusted Member, no less, but sadly I can’t remember my password, and can’t be bothered doing anything about it, so my involvement is limited to a casual gawp from time to time.

Often I find TMP interesting, even useful. On occasions it is a bit depressing, though – a general dumping ground for nerds of all nations who may misunderstand each other and at times aren’t paying much attention anyway, being distracted by the need to strike attitudes and out-nerd each other.

All this is merely my humble personal opinion, of course, but I was interested to note that I have been getting a fair few hits on this blog from TMP readers, and it highlighted what might be a classic example of collectively missing the point. Naturally, I am delighted to welcome all TMP activists here – pleased to meet you – but I was amused by the particular thread which got them here.

A few posts ago I put up a tweaked set of map cards for the Perfect Captain’s Battlefinder system. This was entirely an exercise in self-interest on my part, since I wanted a set of their (excellent) cards which were changed a bit to feel comfortable in a Northern Counties ECW context. Thus my son and I did a bit of PaintShopping and altered the place names to suit. In case it was of wider interest, I offered it up on the blog, with all due credits and links to the Perfect Captain.

It was of wider interest, as it happens. In particular, some worthy Resource Investigator type [check out Dr R Meredith Belbin’s famous work on team roles – identify the members of your local club...] put up 3 of my 4 altered sheets of map cards on a TMP post [obviously not a Completer Finisher, then], with a link to this blog – though not to the post in which they appeared. There are a few responses – one fellow says he found the blog and the C&C-derived rules, but not the map cards. The original thread setter suggests that he should contact me directly, which is accepted as a good idea, though none of the 500 or so hits which came from TMP in the last month seem to have resulted in such a contact – why am I not surprised? Eventually, some hero has reported that the map cards can be found on the Perfect Captain site – which is true, though not my tweaked version, obviously. We can all settle peacefully now – we have successfully completed the circle and arrived back at the point immediately before the point at which I started. Maybe someone will link to this new post, and we can go around again.

In fact, if I have drawn the attention of a few new people to the Perfect Captain then I am more than happy. I am more than happy in any case, simple soul that I am. Some more ECW cavalry will be going away for painting next week, and my artillery should make some major progress shortly. I have an interesting collection of random kit for the guns – some heavy stuff from the old Hinchliffe 20mm range, and a fair assortment of light pieces (from sources unknown), which includes a robbinet, a leather gun, a little frame gun and some other intriguing objects. As ever, I have no real idea what colours to paint these things – maybe plain wood, and there seems to be a generic orange stain whch is often depicted. I am also confused by the various explanations I have read of the names of the types of guns, so for the time being I shall not attempt to identify Falcons or Sakers or even Bastard Demi-Cannons – my ECW artillery will be called Heavy, Medium and Light, which is a cop-out but avoids argument.



Monday, 10 June 2013

A Little More on Tri-Chess


I'd like to be able to blame Hugh for this, after his comment on my recent Pythagoras post, but I think really I just had to produce a graphic to punish myself for losing my 1970s photo. This is how my Glinski-based (accidentally Glinski-based...) Tri-Chess game looked.

I actually built a set, albeit with very cheap, nasty, unweighted plastic pieces (all we could afford in them days, Pet). It was spectacular, but the game itself was sadly flawed - brave but ill-judged, like Babbage's pocket calculator, Cross-Country Billiards and other fleeting glories which history has consigned to File 13. The physical set disappeared long ago, though I remember throwing out the board relatively recently - might even have been in this Century.

Please don't ask me about the rules. It is still a sore point, and I shall just smile mysteriously. No, I do not regard this Grand Folly as clever - merely further evidence that I am basically a moonbeam.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Activation – More Dithering


It often occurs to me that a blog can be kind of a mixed blessing. For example, if I really can’t make up my mind about some element of wargames rules, it would be more dignified – and I might well look a little less foolish – if I did my dithering and thinking aloud off-blog. On the other hand, I invariably get useful input via the Comments, and that more than makes up for the discomfort of being seen to blunder about in real time. People are very kind – maybe they take pity on me.

Having oscillated between hot and cold on the subject of the Victory without Quarter ECW rules for some time now, and having gone so far as to do a fair amount of amendment and rewriting of those rules, the announcement that once again I am not happy with some aspects of them might generate a range of reaction somewhere between mild eye-rolling and total indifference. So the fool can’t make up his mind – so what’s new? 

My concerns with VwQ are mainly about the activation rules. I’m really still not very happy with them – not even with my own revamped version – and they get a mixed press on TMP and elsewhere. Taking the core activation system out of VwQ might be likened to removing the nervous system from your favourite cat. The results are unpredictable. You might not like what you are left with. Might be better to think of something else to do instead.

As a last ditch effort to stop short of a completely fresh start, I’ve been doing a bit more reading about activation approaches, to see what else might just fit with the rest of VwQ. I have been revisiting all sorts of games. I liked the activation rules in the latest version of Ross’s Hearts of Tin rules, and these formed the basis of some further scribblings of my own, and I had an exchange of thoughts on this with Martin. As it happens, Martin recently purchased the John Curry reprint of Donald Featherstone’s Wargaming Pike and Shot (first published 1977), which is not the first place I would have thought of looking for ideas on activation. Martin’s enthusiasm encouraged me to buy my own copy, however. Well, well.


It's actually a pretty good book. The bulk of it consists of scenario descriptions of battles from the Renaissance and 30 Years' War period, but a new bit of this revised edition is a summary of some previously unpublished rules used by Don, and there is a discussion of turn sequences which uses a simple activation rule (or, as Don calls it, motivation – which I rather like) – it involves a fair amount of dice-rolling, so it might be a bit labour intensive for my taste, but it looks interesting. I haven’t tried it out yet. Naturally, I couldn’t just use it as published, so I’ve started by meddling with it and tweaking to fit with my own games better. What follows is not Don F’s rule, but it is influenced by it and is not unlike it.

Let's start with a slight detour. First thing you need for this is some easy way of identifying units which are part of the same formation, or which all report to the same commander. A while ago, when I was under the spell of Sam Mustafa’s Fast Play Grande Armée, I adopted a very handy idea of his, which was to put coloured markers on the bases of units which were brigaded together, so you could see the breadth of an individual general’s command at a single glance. Naturally, once again, I fiddled with the system until it looked like this:

This is a Napoleonic example – here you see some labels waiting to be cut out and attached to unit bases. This is a collection of leaders and units from Maucune’s Division, which you will see has the distinguishing colour of yellow. The brigades are identified by the colour of the inner square. Thus it is very easy to identify all Maucune’s units (yellow outer square), or all the units which report to General Montfort, who is one of Maucune’s brigade commanders (red within yellow). These labels are much smaller in reality than they appear here – I laminate them, cut them out and attach with a smear of BluTack. [OCD on the battlefield.]

Right, you may be thinking, this must be leading up to something. There is obviously some reason why we might wish to identify higher formations in this way. And you will be correct - at long last, we come to the ideas about activation.

1. A brigade should consist of between 3 and 8 units. If a higher level of organisation is suitable for your game, a division may comprise between 2 and 4 such brigades.

2. When the player takes his turn, he nominates one of his generals. In a big game, he may have a choice of nominating 1 of his division commanders or up to two of his brigade commanders – decide for yourself how this would work.

a. For the nominated general he now rolls 2D6 for each unit in that general’s command for which he wishes to issue an order – this is where the coloured labels come in handy, so you don’t miss any.

b. A natural roll of 9 or more activates the unit – give them a counter or something – they are under orders for this turn.

c. Otherwise, adjust the dice roll as follows:
i.          For a good general, add 1
ii.         For a poor general, deduct 1 – sort-of-OK generals require no adjustment
iii.        For a good unit, add 1
iv.        For a poor unit, or one with heavy losses (shaken, whatever...) deduct 1
v.         For each complete 6 inches (or whatever you fancy) that the unit is distant from the general, deduct 1 (for hexes, this would be “for each hex beyond the first...”)

d. If the result is 4 or more, the unit is under orders

e. This continues until all units under the general’s command are activated, or until one fails the test, in which case no more units are tested. This means that it is important to take care over the order in which units are tested for activation – go for the good guys who are near at hand first – one failure and that’s your lot for this general on this turn.

3. The activated units now move, fight and all that stuff, as you would expect. End of turn.

4. Then the opposing player nominates one (or maybe two) of his generals, and so on. And that’s it, really. It may involve too much dice throwing, I'm not sure, but it has a few ingredients which appeal:

a. It’s simple, and easy to understand

b. Restricting activation to a single general keeps the game focused and ensures a quick rotation of turns

c. The fact that you can choose the general gives more direct control – less of a random element than a card system, for example, but some bad luck with the dice can still make life difficult.

5. And, as an add-on, we propose that any general who is a casualty has to be replaced, but should be replaced by an officer who is one degree worse. 

                                                                     -ooOoo-

Re-reading this now, it seems to me that most of this is familiar anyway, and I’m not sure why it has taken Martin and me so much correspondence to get to this stage. I am not even sure that I shall go on to test it, though I have thoroughly enjoyed the development process. However, in a spirit of what I hope will charitably be taken as innocent enthusiasm, I offer it for your thoughts.

Friday, 7 June 2013

ECW Dragoons - including squad players

DIS...(wait for it!)...

...MOUNT!
Restored after some damage inflicted by Royal Mail, I now have a unit of dragoons to add to each army. Lovely painting, as ever, by Lee, with a little subsequent gluing, straightening and touching up by moi. I have little to say (nay - in truth, I am afraid to say very much) about the shipping incident, other than to mention that once again I have learned that it doesn't really matter how carefully you pack goods for mailing, there will still be some height a package can be dropped from, some degree of lateral acceleration which can be applied, which will defeat your efforts.

Anyway, here they are. The first pictures show Col. Henry Washington's Royalist unit, in both mounted and dismounted guises. In my rules, mounted dragoons may ride up to three hexes, or may ride up to two hexes and dismount. Dismounted dragoons may walk one hex, or may mount and ride up to two hexes. These distances, of course, are subject to normal terrain issues. Mounting/dismounting consists of switching 3 of the 4 bases, as shown. The command base remains mounted, to represent horse holders who may not fire, and also to make it easier to spot them in the woods! Dragoons who end their move dismounted may fire - they may not fire from horseback. They may also, of course, take part in melees in either state, but are not very good at it - mounted dragoons are half as effective as normal cavalry in a melee.

Overall, to be honest, dragoons are not very lethal - an irritant rather than a major threat. They have the advantage of being able to move and fire (which normal musketeers cannot), and they can fight as soon as they arrive in woods or a village, without forming up, but they are gnats rather than hornets. They have been known, though, to pick off the odd general...

Roundheads + subs
They do look nice. Here are the Parliamentarian unit. This is a posed team photo, featuring a typically dastardly Roundhead trick of fielding the substitutes at the same time as the original line-up - they would not be seen like this in a battle. The unit purports to be Tom Morgan's boys, though of course they could be anyone.

The figures are Les Higgins, mounted on Higgins horses, though the command chaps are SHQ/Kennington, also on Higgins horses. The careful observer may notice that the officers are rather better fed and wear slightly bigger hats than the rank-&-file, but you'd expect that. They probably have thicker underwear too. By the way, I keep seeing mention of "out of production" Les Higgins ECW and Marlburian figures on eBay - not so - the ranges are alive and well and available in any numbers you fancy from Old John, whose blog is here. These lovely old figures deserve better recognition, I believe - I keep doing my best to plug them.

My special thanks to the Contesse Foy, whose heirloom embroidery scissors were just the thing for cutting out those pesky dragoon standards.

Syringa vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’
Elsewhere, Spring has definitely, finally arrived in our garden. We have a super little lilac bush which blossoms every year, but the flowers are fragile and short-lived, They go brown within a couple of days, and they are so easily wrecked by rainfall or any kind of a stiff breeze that it is very easy to miss them. If you blink, or the weather is wrong, you have to try again next year. Well, this month they are in fine form - does your little heart good to see them.

And just wait till you see how the edelweiss are getting on. Assuming the flowers come out nicely, and the deer can refrain from eating them, there should be quite a show later on.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Hooptedoodle #88 - Back in Training


With the prospect of some serious walking in the Salzkammergut next month, and very much aware that I haven’t had much exercise since Hadrian’s Wall last Autumn (what with the flu and other distractions), I went up into the Pentland Hills yesterday with Nick.

Very pleasant day – marvellous views – but once again Scotland did its famous climate trick. Having been persuaded by the warm sunshine to leave my extra fleece in the car, I found the wind at the top of Carnethie so cold that I would have been very pleased to have taken it with me. Unusual naivety for us – I always work on the principle that it is easier to remove extra clothing and carry it than to put on clothing that you didn’t bring along.

Good walk – I’m a bit stiff this morning with the climbing – I’m sure that Carnethie gets steeper each year. In truth, some of the climbing does get harder, and much of this is down to the worsening erosion of the paths – the climb up Scald Law and down its Western side is pretty tricky now with all the scree and broken stone.  Especially since there are a great many sheep and lambs on the hills, I am amazed that it was possible to meet an unleashed rotweiler on a narrow ledge – is it just me, or are there a few dog owners who don’t seem to have much of a grip on reality?

Happiness, by the way, is finding a pork pie in your packed lunch when you are on top of a hill.

We think this one is Castlelaw - if you have exceptional eyesight you
may be able to make out the army rifle range targets, right of centre

Looking south-east from the lower slopes of Turnhouse Hill. The hills in
the distance are the Lammermuirs

Nick conquers the pile of rubble which used to be a cairn on top of Carnethie

Fearsome sight - Foy on campaign in Flaming June. In the background are
Scald Law and East Kip, and then, further away, we must be getting
into Lanarkshire
The walks in the Salzkammergut, we think, will be rather less demanding than some of the Alpine stuff we did in the Tyrol in the last two years, but one has to be ready. Part of the script for yesterday was to try out my new boots, but I had not yet got around to wearing them in the house first, so I used my old ones. Yes - we'll just have to go out again as soon as possible.

My planned September break this year will not involve anything as daunting as Hadrian's Wall - the intention is to make a serious assault on the coffee shops of Regensburg and Vienna. I'll need to get in some training for that, too, now I think of it.

In passing, I might mention that Nick and I were discussing yesterday whether Captain Scott and his chaps on their South Pole trip spent much time saying, "Gosh, what a fantastic view!", or even, "Ooh, it's freezing here".

Oh, my aching sides
Also in passing, I got a quick blood-pressure workout at the end of our walk when we got back to the car park at Flotterstone and I found this attached to my car. After the initial self-righteous panic, I quickly realised that it was a spoof, and contained some advice on how to avoid having your vehicle broken into when it is unattended, authored by some well-intentioned bunch of cretins known as the Penicuik Crime Prevention Panel. It certainly got my attention, but how hilarious is that for an idea? One way of preventing break-ins, of course, is to put a sniper in the trees to pick off any unauthorised person going within 3 feet of the car.