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

Monday, 2 May 2016

Rivers & Farm Tracks

I've already played about a bit with the prototype pieces, but I've now taken delivery of the full shipment of my cunning new hex-grid river system - I have to admit that even I was a little taken aback when I saw how much of it there was, but you know how these things are. I reasoned I needed a dozen straight sections, a dozen curves - may as well make it the round 20 of each - plus a couple of add-ons - junctions (confluences?) and a source (or, as Michael the manufacturer would have it, an end, which to me implies that the river would run uphill to reach it).

The wargaming world is full of nifty rubber things which may be painted as roads or rivers - some of them are lovely, but this dual-purpose styling means that the rivers are actually canals, and mostly turn through right angles. My river system is designed for my 7"-hex battlefields, and is deliberately made to be as flexible as possible (as are the rubber ones, I suppose, come to think of it). The pieces are all laser cut from 2mm MDF, by Michael at Supreme Littleness Designs (see link on the right, listed under "other useful stuff").

Michael was kind enough to make a variety of bank profiles, to give a natural look, but the simplicity is impressive - the stack of parts comprises a full-hex (water) underlay for each river/water hex, and then banks of just 3 types - innies and outies (for the curves) and straighties (for the, erm, straights). Throw in a source, a couple of junctions and a customised version of one of Michael's super bridges (check out the website) and I can construct all sorts of weird and wonderful structures - some of which might make an unlikely battlefield, but it is the most excellent fun.

OCD playground - innies, outies and straighties systematically laid out for painting
- note the small "Achilles' Heel" corner on each piece, where I hold it to paint. All
the heels get sorted out at the end of the job (you probably guessed).
Painting the bits was a chore, to be honest, entirely because I bought enough pieces to model the complete Orinoco, but I set about it in a businesslike manner, and it took an evening for the water plates and a morning for the banks. Very therapeutic, in fact - a repetitive painting job, with appropriate accompaniment (chamber music by Ibert and Fauré, this weekend) and loads of coffee, and I was very happy. Mind you, if someone had been paying me to do it I'd have been knotting sheets together and planning an escape attempt. Funny how something you don't have to do can be relaxing.

The scale of the undertaking is partly explained by the fact that I am now running an extension to my original table, and I treasure the fantasy that one day I may get to lay out a full, double-width Epic C&C board. The fact that this, at 16 feet long, would require a church hall or a large marquee is a mere detail - I have already ordered the Grande Battle C&CN supplement as an act of faith - how much commitment do you want? All I need now is for some previously-unknown eccentric relative to die and leave me his castle.

This is just a fraction of the full set - test run on the Garden Room floor. Note that
I have built the bridge, though it isn't painted yet. I could do naval battles with
this lot. Hmmm....
Anyway, I got to play at rivers for a while this morning - Slartibartfast has nothing on me.

You should contact Michael and get a set of river bits, so you can play too - you know you want one.

Topic 2 - An Unusually Noisy Sunday

Something you don't get every weekend - yesterday the Berwick & District Motor Club staged their annual Berwick Classic Historic Car Rally. These days there are very severe restrictions on rallies which use public roads in mainland Britain. In the case of this particular rally, it is probably just as well, since the machinery and the drivers are all getting on a bit - good fun, though. The rally really consists of a fairly leisurely tour through East Lothian and the Borders, with a few time-trial sections on private land, to give a bit of excitement and splash some mud. One of the special sections was held on our farm - about 60 cars running along the farm lanes, starting at 1-minute intervals, and all trying quite hard - hard enough to justify a thorough wash and wax afterwards, which is only right for a rally.

The cars weren't too exotic - a nice old Allard took my eye, but mostly the entry consisted of 1970s Ford Escorts, which were by far the quickest things on show, but somehow also the most boring. One of my neighbours was taking part, so a group of us hung about to give him a cheer as he came through. I have no idea what the results were - somehow results seemed unnecessary on such a nice day out.

AC Ace? - not sure - if so, this is the granddaddy of the Shelby Cobra

Elderly Volvo going faster than I've ever seen a Volvo move - it didn't have its
headlights on, which is another first for my experience of Volvos

Ford Anglia, circa 1960 - haven't seen one of these for many years - very quick,
but they had almost all rusted into the ground by about 1963

Austin-Healey Sprite "Frog-Eye"

And there were loads of these - iconic rally car of its day, I guess, but I can't
get very excited about them


  1. Two very interesting topics actually. Thank you! I'm partial to the red two-seater at the top and, of course, the old Volvo. I once had a 1976 244DL turbocharged model in Monkey Vomit Green that could easily and rapidly reach 70+mph in the Interstate highways here in the US. Something that always surprised, well, everybody. Wish I still had that car.

    Best Regards,


    1. All Volvos have a good rep, with the possible exception of the 340, earlier known as the 66, an odd compact which derived from Volvo's acquisition of the passenger car bit of DAF - basically the car was a DAF without the interesting technology, but - as part of a strange convention which I never understood (and shall deny if pressed) - it shared with the Triumph Dolomite saloon the distinction of being sold to an astonishingly high proportion of poor drivers. Discuss.

    2. I owned a Volvo 340 for almost 10 years.... errr... "discuss".. :o)

    3. There you go, you see - the exception that proves the rule! :o)

      It was a standing joke in these parts for some years that you should steer clear of 340s and Dolomites because they were mostly driven by retired schoolmistresses (a distinction subsequently assumed by the Honda Civic) - similarly, you should get out of the way of Cavaliers in the outside lane, because they were always sales reps in a hurry, and a number of other similar pieces of nonsense - I, of course, have a history including ownership of a Renault 12, a Cortina Mk 3, a Land Rover 90, a Fiat Panda and a Citroen XM and a couple of other oddballs, so I am above any form of categorisation...

    4. Well saved, sir... :o)

      To be fair, I came to aforesaid 340 from a Renault 4 (with the umbrella shift) so it was unimaginably luxurious, but had not an ounce of the charm of the Renault 4 (which I still miss to this day).. character on legs...

      PS. I learnt to drive in a Dolomite

    5. Renault 4 - now that was something - only one I ever drove was badged as a Zastava, and I hired it when I was on holiday in Slovenia with my first family - that was 1990. Did a couple of short trips in it and then went for a Grand Day Out, over the top of the Julian Alps into Austria (Villach, I think?) - God, I must have been mad - the road I drove on has been largely replaced by a tunnel now. I was worried that the R4 would struggle up the hills, but it was a nice little car, very few miles on the clock, and it pulled up to the top with no problems - I was very relieved, but I forgot all about that on the way down the other side - it had drum brakes, and after a few miles they faded badly - you could smell the brake linings inside the car, and the road was, shall we say, interesting. Got down all right, but it wasn't so Grand. I had to be prised off the seat when we got to Villach. Dreaded the return trip, but in fact had no problems at all on the way back - I must have adjusted my driving style to go even slower than I normally do. Anyway - gratuitous yarn - I'd like to drive one again sometime!

      Might also mention that when I was a nipper we had a neighbour (who was a doctor) who had one of the early post-war Renault 4CV saloons - same 750cc engine as the R4, but rear-engined, with louvres in the engine cover. That car eventually did about 150,000 miles without any major problems, I understand, which was remarkable in those days.

    6. Now that's an adventure in a R4! An excellent diversion, and I would love to end by reporting that my R4 ("Woody", by the way, is it a British thing to name their cars??) went on to do 200, 000 miles, and was used by an eccentric in a Round the World trip, but not so... I sold hertomy sister for £500, and she ended up rusting to death... I was a windsurfer in those days and carried my kit inside the car (apart from the board)... fourth time of welding and the garage said that enough was really enough

  2. That river system is very, very nice. A similar setup could be used for trenches perhaps?

    1. Supreme Littleness do a very nice 10mm trench system, which you can see at


      They did some work to develop for me a 15mm scale version, tweaked for 7" hexes (so it had slopey ends and all that, to fit 60-degree changes of direction), and this was to be my final-solution, deluxe trench system. Regret I got cold feet, and cancelled the order - concerned about the amount of work it would take to put in filler and finish to a decent standard, and also I was much better pleased than I had expected with my (stopgap) trenches from Fat Frank, so the stopgap system has become the official version.

      The Supreme Littleness MDF designs can be scaled up and down, but it isn't completely a straightforward multiple, since the thickness of the MDF has to fit with the design, and that is a constant 2mm. The SLD website is worth a good perusal - lots of nice things in there.

      This is not an advert, by the way! - I have been very pleased with the quality of the workmanship and materials, the innovative approach and the preparedness to discuss and develop ideas.

  3. Your river system is top notch. If you feel you do have too much, you could always start a Vietnam War project set around the Mekong Delta. Just sayin' . . . .

    1. All this potential for expanses of water has me thinking about Peninsular naval party landings, or adding a warship to (for example) the siege of Newcastle. Thinks: if I added a ship to go with my land wargames, what scale would the ship be? - would it match the game groundscale, the scenery scale, the figure scale, some compromise of these - what?


  4. ...as it happens I also saw a Ford Anglia on Saturday.... Ford Escort Mexico, especially fond memories as one, I learnt to drive in a Mk 1 Escort (not a Mexico I hasten to add), but two, because the art mistress at my school had one (and a Purdey hair cut)... :o)

    1. Ah yes - the art mistress...

      That reverse slope rear window on the Anglia was a real novelty when it first appeared - Ford did the same thing with the larger Classic model (which was a bit heavy and over-engineered - great car, in fact), then the fashion disappeared - I guess there was a downside - insufficient rear shelf space for the noddy dog ornaments.

      I always think of the late 50s and early 60s as the Formica Age - I recall there was a brief fashion for curtains and plastic flowers to make the family car more like home.

  5. The river sections are brilliant. I bought a set of 6mm river pieces from Baccus and they work ok but still look like painted rubber. Those are nicer.
    In the 1980s, Volkswagen was still kitting out their WEsties with attractive beige curtains made of some kind of weird serge/polyster hybrid, and little eating tables with faux wood grain finish. One of the reasons why I still love my 85 Westie.