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


Monday, 29 February 2016

The Realism Paradox - a thought for today... and yesterday


In yesterday's post I made reference to some siege game rules which appear in Appendix 3 of Christopher Duffy's wonderful Fire & Stone - The Science of Fortress Warfare 1660-1860 (Peters, Fraser & Dunlop - London, 1975). I've been re-reading this book recently, along with its "prequel" for the period 1494-1660, which was published some 4 years later.

At the beginning of this same Appendix 3 there is a paragraph which made me chuckle. Nowadays the views expressed would not be regarded as reactionary or even particularly controversial, but the loss of direction within the wargaming hobby which is described here has a lot to answer for - for me, certainly. In this paragraph is the very thing which forced me into a 10 year sabbatical, which explains my periodic ebb and flow of enthusiasm - maybe even why I have mostly done my wargaming on my own, away from fashions and from know-alls. I wish I'd read and understood this around the time it was published - I shall certainly keep it handy as a reminder now. All those games which would not and could not ever end - how much would you like the time back now?

The original, recreational spirit of wargaming is preserved among civilian and military enthusiasts who have devised rules which enable them to re-fight battles and campaigns of any period in the past. Unfortunately the codes of regulations even in the amateur game have become so elaborate that the participants spend more time in making their calculations and arguing among themselves than in moving their pieces. Thus a re-fought Waterloo or Gettysburg often proves to be hardly less acrimonious than the original version, and the sense of the rapid passage of time - one of the most vital elements of "realism" - is frequently lost altogether.

Christopher Duffy  1975

Sunday, 28 February 2016

More Siege Topics

I now have work in hand to produce effective trench sections, after some years of just thinking about it, and also to fabricate support pedestals to allow troops to man the city walls when their bases are deeper than the walkway – all clever stuff, but this will require a little while to produce something worth looking at.

In the meantime, I have been tinkering with some new pottery houses (all right – ornaments, if you must) which seem to be shaping up nicely to form a 17th century town centre, and – since I had the brushes out – I have finally eliminated those ghastly red roofs from my Eco castle.

The Eco castle - now treated with RedRoof-be-Gone
I had been offered a wide range of advice – I’ve been urged to leave it alone, or completely repaint it, or do something in between, so I have produced a good British compromise – I’ve left most of the castle unaltered, and have repainted the roofs and touched in the windows to clean them up a bit.

I have also painted the swimming-pool coloured moat section under the drawbridge – it is now a charming shade of mud, and I poured in my new-and-trendy Decoupage medium, which – in theory – should set to form something looking like water. This last step isn’t looking too promising at present – the medium contains a surpising quantity of bubbles. The received wisdom is that these should disappear as the medium dries, but they do not seem to be doing this – which may be related to the fact that the medium does not appear to be drying.

Oh well – it may all turn out wonderful. If not, I assume that the medium will dry eventually in some form or other, and if necessary I can repaint and varnish or whatever. Let’s wait and see. I refuse to be pessimistic about it.

Down in the street in 17th century Chester, or some such place?

Just a glimpse of how this might look, with the old citadel looming in the background
Back to the pottery houses – these are the OOP Britain in Miniature series, by Carol Tey, who produced them in Norfolk for a while. Not all the range is suitable, but a few of the items are a useful size, and have a nice, stylised (almost playful) look which I think goes well with toy soldiers. They are, it goes without saying, my usual underscale mismatch with the 20mm figures, but they look OK (it also goes without saying). It is a dreadful thing to admit, but I am carefully applying matt varnish to these Tey houses – it improves the look enormously, though it would very much upset serious collectors. I have picked up these pieces very cheaply on eBay. It amuses me that the range is such that my besieged town is likely to contain a very high proportion of British tourist sites – all in one small area – Chester’s Rows, Ann Hathaway’s cottage, a number of inns and historic guildhalls from Norfolk – I even have my eye on John Knox’s house, which should fit in well, and no-one will notice…

Maybe.


I got hold of a good secondhand copy of Stuart Asquith's Guide to Siege Wargaming, and have been looking it over. Apart from the appendix in Chris Duffy's Fire & Stone, and the Battlegames articles by Henry Hyde which use many of the same mechanisms (especially the fast/slow time switch), all the books I have ever read about having a bash at a siege on a tabletop give you a lot of good information on how real sieges work, and more or less leave you to work this into a playable game yourself. This is the hard bit - that final step is a big one - it is the space where the PowerPoint slide says "at this point a miracle happens". Asquith's book is potentially good and useful, but it is of this type - there is a lot about sieges, but a few implied leaps of faith about making an entertainment out of the matter. No problem - I am quietly confident - I am seen to be smiling enigmatically.

One thing that this book certainly brings home is the dreadful loss which the demise of Gallia miniature buildings represented - there are many photos of Gallia fortress pieces and so on, in both 25mm and 15mm and they are - well, fantastic, actually. I've never seen such a thing on eBay - this book was published 1990 - I have no idea when Gallia ceased production - anyone know?

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Hooptedoodle #210 - Jim and Ike and the Cowhouse

From time to time I post here what I consider some of the more entertaining tales by which my family commemorate our quirkier ancestors. I’ve grown a little wary of doing this, since some of the comments I’ve received make it pretty clear that the authenticity of these stories is a matter of some doubt, that the tales are sometimes thought to be faked for the viewing audience.

Not so. If I had the strength or the moral fibre I would protest – I might even expostulate, if I knew how. If I had the imagination to invent this stuff I would be quietly pleased. This does not preclude the simple possibility that a bunch of lies has been handed down the family over the years, of course, but, though the tales may have been polished in the retelling, I believe they are substantially correct. Anyway, here’s another one…

A surviving "cowhouse" in the south end of Liverpool - this one at Aigburth/Sefton
Park - these were still a common sight when I was a kid, though few of them were still
working dairies. Typically, in their heyday, these places were run by people with a farming
background - i.e. who knew one end of a cow from the other
Recently, while I was visiting my mother in hospital, we had a lengthy conversation about Great Uncle Jim. My mother remembers some of these old characters with astonishing clarity and detail, and a lot of affectionate humour. Since she cannot always remember where she is on a given day, or why, we have to cherish the good bits of her memory, I think.

Now then. Let’s go back just a little. Great Grandfather George was my father’s father’s father (which is a straightforward idea, if tricky to say), and he was a moderately wealthy market gardener (vegetable farmer) near the small town of Rainhill, in Lancashire. He was a tenant farmer, and his business was run very efficiently by his wife Ellen, who was not a local woman – she came from somewhere further south – possibly Gloucestershire, as I recall.

The big problem was George’s thirst. Things got to a point where he would set off with his horse and cart all loaded up, on a Saturday morning, to take the produce to Warrington Market, and the horse would bring him back on Sunday, drunk and penniless. Every rum-pot in Warrington knew where to cadge a drink if George was in town. He was a celebrity, of a sort.

Brickmaker's Arms public house, Warrington, c1900
Ellen did a remarkable thing for those days – sometime around 1895 she decided she had had quite enough, and left her husband, and went to the nearest city (George is believed to have died in Warrington workhouse eventually).

Warrington workhouse - old George is in an unmarked grave somewhere here
She and her teenage sons moved into Liverpool with what little savings she had scraped together, and she opened a dairy (a milkhouse or “cowhouse”, as they were known, with a couple of cows and everything) in the vicinity of Hill Street, Toxteth. The idea of a dairy in such a location seems very far-fetched now, especially in post-Derek Hatton, modernised Liverpool, but such things were common in those times (non-UK readers who do not know about Derek Hatton are congratulated on their good fortune). The sons were Jim (the elder) and Ike (Isaac, my granddad), and they were up before dawn every day; they milked the cows, and delivered the milk in the neighbourhood – filling customers’ jugs from churns on their handcart.

A Liverpool milk-float - not Ellen's - the Anfield Dairy looks rather up-market
I believe the dairy did reasonably well, the hand barrow was replaced by a horse-drawn cart, and eventually Ellen sold up and retired, and Ike got himself a job in what was the then brand-new electrician trade, and he went into business converting houses to electric lighting – subsequently he was a foreman with Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, in the Electrical Workshop at the docks, and he (of course, since he was my paternal grandad) married and raised a family.

Toxteth - c1900 - not very rural - this is Wilson Street, at the Dingle

...and here is a supper bar in St James St
Jim never married – he missed the countryside and he returned to his roots (literally?), working on a few farms in Lancashire and Cheshire before acquiring a smallholding at Willaston, in the Wirral Peninsula. My dad could remember episodes from his childhood when all the family went for a working holiday on Jim’s farm at harvest time – the women, girls and infants slept in the farmhouse, while the older boys and the men all slept in a big shed, which was freshly painted out with bitumen each year to keep the fleas down – sounds pretty fancy – must have been great for the Liverpool catarrh, you would think. Dad always treasured the memory of these childhood visits, and throughout his life was fascinated by farming and the countryside. He remembered an incident when he must have been about five or six, when Jim’s carthorse, Samson, got overexcited and pushed its way into the back kitchen. There was no room for the horse to turn around, and the women in the house ran screaming while Jim confronted the monster. He punched it on the nose, and the astonished horse backed smartly into the yard – unfortunately, Samson was now wearing the doorframe and the beams across his shoulders, and most of the kitchen promptly collapsed, but my dad always saw this as a great success for his uncle, despite the collateral damage. You can see that, as a hero figure, an uncle who punched carthorses was a cut above a dad who fixed people’s lighting.

More like the thing - Willaston Village, Wirral, around the
same date - Jim had a smallholding at Nine Acres, not far from here
So this is shaping up to be an idyllic tale of Old Uncle Jim, who ran a lovely farm in lovely Cheshire, where the sun always shone, and where disobedient horses were disciplined promptly and with terrible strength. The truth is, Uncle Jim was a bit mad.

Jim knew for certain that any stranger who came near his farm was up to no good. One weekend he intercepted the collective gentry of the local hunt (yoicks!), who were crossing his land, and told them that if he saw them again he would shoot them. They dismissed him airily, as you would expect, and two weeks later he fired a shotgun during a hunt, allegedly at them, and was arrested. He spent a little while in prison, and then some time in a mental institution.

When I knew him he was over 80, I guess, and I was a very small child – if I had started school then I had only just started. Jim was long retired  - he gave up the farming, basically because he was always too lazy to make any money. He then lived in a council flat at Knotty Ash, Liverpool, which was many miles from our house, yet for a while he regularly visited us around teatime on a Saturday – my dad used to buy fish and chips for our weekend treat on Saturdays, and Jim was more than happy to drop in, unannounced, and share. He always claimed that he had just been passing, but a journey from Knotty Ash on the tram was a lengthy undertaking, requiring much planning. He used to come via the Saturday market in Garston, where he used to purchase crazy gifts for me – once a plaster figurine of an Alsatian dog, daubed with gold paint, often a bundle of pencils which only had about an inch of lead in each end, and once a framed picture of the Pope (cut from a magazine) – interesting in their way, I suppose, but each of them a poor swap for a decent plate of fish and chips.

Jim and Ike both had telephones installed in their homes – neither had many friends, and they kept in constant touch by means of this new technological wonder. I was once in my granddad’s house when he was on the phone to his brother, and I remember that they both shouted so loud that I thought they could simply have opened the window and communicated without involving the telephone service. Like a lot of retired men of their era and their background, they sort of lost their way a bit, having no useful role in the community. Ike was desperate to fix stuff, to repair things, to be useful and respected.

He repaired a handbag of my mother’s, and it was about twice as heavy after he had fixed it, the new leather patches contrasted strangely with the original material, and it would not open properly. It went in the bin.

He agreed to fix Jim’s alarm clock, which had stopped working. After he had got it working, he quizzed Jim on why it had been so rusty – he had had to strip down and hand-polish all the internals with oil and carborundum paper – a lengthy job. When Jim explained that it had fallen in his chamber pot one night, Ike said he was a dirty bugger, and they didn’t speak to each other for some weeks.

Ike’s worst ever repair job was when my Auntie May brought back a delicate silver bracelet from Spain – from the first foreign holiday any of that family ever went on (if you ignore Uncle Les’s time in Tunisia and Italy in WW2). He thought it looked disappointingly flimsy, and offered to improve it for her – this involved very large blobs of extra solder at every joint, and Auntie May was heartbroken, though it was definitely stronger – Ike was getting a bit past it by then, if that is an admissible defence…

Jim lived on his own in his flat in Knotty Ash, and he got very frail and very dotty. He still insisted on riding his bicycle, to everyone’s despair, in spite of frequent blackouts. On one occasion a motorist found him lying in the road, helped him up and stood him up in a shop doorway to see if he was all right – Jim punched him because he felt that the motorist must have knocked him off his bike. I believe that may have been the end of Jim’s cycling.

For a while my father used occasionally to travel on his Lambretta scooter (125cc) to visit Jim, to see how he was getting on, and invariably found him to be cheerful, full of energy and completely bats.

Lambretta 125, just like my dad's - that pillion seat was not
recommended for long distances - I still walk with a limp 
He was making a fried breakfast one Sunday when my dad arrived, and Jim invited him to share it, though there were no plates – the idea was they would both eat from the frying pan, since this saved on the washing up. Needless to add, the frying pan was never washed either. He also offered my dad some homemade bread to go with it – he said that he had become very keen on baking, which he thought was doubly useful since it kept his fingernails clean. My dad declined this splendid offer. Uncle Jim asked my dad (who was, like his father, an electrical man) to have a look at his radio, which hadn’t worked for a while. Apparently it was a real museum piece – Jim hugged it and pressed his ear to the silent speaker – he said that he was sure there was still life in it (actually, he referred to it as “him”), and that he had heard “him” speaking sometimes when he was in the other room. My dad swore that Jim had a length of wire from the EARTH (ground) terminal on the radio chassis, and the other end was in a plant-pot full of soil from his yard – I’ve never been sure about this – it sounds too much like an Irish gag.

Ike had a severe stroke when he was about 75, and died within a couple of days, but he died secure in the proud knowledge that he was something of a local rarity, since he owned his own house (he had bought it with the £500 he inherited from the sale of his mother’s dairy), and that he owned the first TV set in his street; they had bought it so the neighbours could watch the (1953) Coronation on it. Since he already had a telephone that he overcharged the neighbours to use, this was the ultimate in Beating the Joneses. My granddad was quite big-time – as a foreman in the electrical workshop, almost unbelievable nowadays, he used to wear a waistcoat and a bowler hat. My lasting childhood memory of him is sitting in his armchair, resplendent in waistcoat and silver watchchain (which I have somewhere), with the cufflinks and detachable starched collar removed from his work shirt, slurping a cup of tea.

Jim was well into his eighties when he died – his end was unfortunate, solitary, and in some ways had a lot in common with his life. He was boiling eggs on his gas stove in his little flat when he seems to have had some kind of dizzy turn. The coroner’s inquest reckoned that the pan of water boiled over, extinguishing the gas flame, and Jim was gassed while he was unconscious.

That’s enough about that lot. I also might add, in passing, that I have a relative from a different branch of the family, who was gaoled in the 1970s for spying for the Russians – this is absolutely true, by the way. I think I’m probably not allowed to say anything about this story, so I’ll leave it for the moment. Just saying.


Things could get worse.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

A Weekend Miscellany...

The Gothenburg, Prestonpans
First thing to note is that I found some missing photos from Wednesday's ECW game - nothing startling, but I'll tack a few on the end of this post. It seems that my camera had stored some of them in a folder I didn't know was there...

On Saturday I drove through to Prestonpans (yes - that Prestonpans), which is just down the road from here, to attend the Scottish Battlefields Wargames Show, which was staged upstairs in the Gothenburg pub. I was there early, since there had been concern that the small venue and the lack of parking space might by a problem - in fact, unless it picked up later, the attendance may have been a bit disappointing. Nice little show - there were a number of appropriately themed games, including some in which visitors might take part. I think there were about 7 trade stands, and maybe the same number of demonstrations, so there was a pleasant intimacy about the proceedings.

I liked this 10mm version of Flodden, presented by the Glasgow Wargames people, who
 - as always - were affable and enthusiastic and patiently informative

Some of the 10mm unsung heroes of Flodden
It was good to get a chance to speak to Graham Cummings, who was there selling his wonderful Crann Tara miniatures range (wow - these are seriously beautiful figures), and I was also very impressed by a new, Edinburgh-based venture, Supreme Littleness, which is Michael Scott's laser-cut MDF service. I've been sort of half-looking at MDF buildings for a while, and though they get quite a good press, I have not been convinced. Well, I think I am now. Michael does all sorts of interesting fortifications and buildings, in various scales down to 3mm - I was surprised at the scope really. He was inviting suggestions for new products and expansions to his range, and I intend to get back to him with some requests for 15mm scale earthworks, which he doesn't do at the moment. Here's my picture of some of the bits and pieces - from bases and game markers to medieval towers - which he had on show. I recommend a squint at his website (linked above). The 3mm village pieces are especially good.

Supreme Littleness - for those who have yet to be convinced about MDF...
It was also good to meet up with my shadowy friend Goya - I knew he was arriving when his security men and handlers came in to check that the CCTV was switched off. He brought along some impressive examples of his painting and conversion work to show me, and - just to give a glimpse of how the other half lives - I learned that he has found that the wire from champagne corks is perfect for fabricating replacement bayonets and sword blades in 20mm scale. The important point here is that Goya is teetotal - we may picture him ordering cases of Bollinger, so that he can pour the evil stuff down the sink and furnish enough sabre blades for his light dragoons project. Now that, you have to admit, is classy.

I took very few photos in Prestonpans, not least because I wasn't really speaking to my camera at the time, my confidence having been shaken somewhat by Wednesday's problems.

I got home to find that the postie had delivered my last two fortress components - a couple more gates, on which I have now daubed paint in the house style, so that they may take their place in the FORTS box.

One on the left is from JR Miniatures, the other is by Kallistra
And, finally, some more pics from Wednesday evening...

The Covenanters get a pretty clear run at the hill, if they can just get through that
pesky stream...

...and the capture of East Boldon didn't take long - more wet feet

General view, from the Royalist side, with the Scots getting their assault organised

Last effort from the King's horse, with Sir Chas Lucas about to be laid low for his trouble

Another general view, Scots on the left, just before the end

Thursday, 18 February 2016

ECW - Boldon Hill, 24th March 1644

Very few photos from last night - here, Sir Charles Lucas advances with
the Northern Horse. The Royalist cavalry were aggressive early in the day,
but had little success against troops on foot. Lucas, along with his colleague
Lord Eythin, was wounded in the afternoon.
The scheduled battle took place last night - we used a cut-down version of the house ECW rules, to make things less mystifying for my visitor. The circumstances of the historical campaign also lent themselves to some simplification of the troop types - all the cavalry of both sides were of "Trotter" type, and none of the infantry were sufficiently expert or experienced to permit "stand of pikes" as an anti-cavalry measure.

The initial positions can be seen in the previous post. To start off similarly to the original action (though rather earlier than teatime), Hew Fraser's Dragoons began with a hesitant attack on the fields surrounding the hamlet of East Boldon, and they were driven off rather easily by Royalist musketeers lining the hedges - the dragoons took no further part in the action.

The Royalist horse started very aggressively, in the more open ground wide on the right flank, and caused their Scottish equivalents a lot of trouble and some serious damage, but the cavalry action, as often happens with these games, was pretty much self-contained - the infantry battle developed slowly, more or less unaffected by their mounted colleagues. The Scottish foot advanced steadily and effectively up Down Hill (yes, all right) to attack the Royalist line, and successfully brushed away some troublesome artillery. They also occupied East Boldon village, but the second line which was supposed to be following in support was delayed and rather disorganised trying to get across the stream in the bottom of the valley.

After a vicious exchange of musketry on the hillside, the Covenanters took the victory by a margin of 9-7 in Victory Banners - this was helped greatly by the Royalists' late loss of two general officers - Lucas and Eythin were both wounded.

Close thing - could have gone either way (once again), and the game completed in around two hours, which is not bad at all considering that my opponent had no previous experience of the rules. I very much enjoyed the first wargame I've staged for a while, and I believe that I have not frightened away my guest general - I've added him to my list of potential volunteers for forthcoming events, including (if I get it organised) some possible siege work.

I'm sorry this is a rather unambitious report - I seem to have had some problem with my camera last night, and I got very few useable pictures.

Monday, 15 February 2016

ECW - Boldon Hill - The Set-Up


Painting and varnishing of buildings is now ended, and the dining room is now set up for the Battle of Boldon Hill (24 Mar 1644), which is scheduled for Wednesday evening. Because I can't count, I dug out one extra regiment of foot for the Royalists and - since it seems a pity to put them away again - I've added them to the OOB.

The view in the photo is facing almost due south - the Earl of Leven's Covenanters are on the left, the Marquis of Newcastle's Royalists on the right; the villages (which still exist today) are, left to right, Cleadon, East Boldon (with adjacent farming enclosures) and West Boldon (complete with St Nicholas' Church). To put a geographical fix on this, the Covenanters have the North Sea behind them, the ground beyond the right-hand edge of the table drops away past Hylton Castle to the River Wear, and the town of Sunderland is some miles beyond the opposite far corner of the table. There may, of course, be some minor tweaking of initial unit placings before we start.

The nice shiny stream (the Don Burn) is finished with brush-on decoupage medium, which I haven't tried before, but which does the job with no hassle.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Star-Fort (2)


With clear signs that the painters and decorators are still around, here's the finished fort, in its ECW "sconce" role. I included some cannons and a couple of officers to show how the scale mismatch works - 15mm buildings vs 20mm armies.

The occupants are obviously impressed by how modern the design is - it will serve as a shining example for the next 200 years...

I intend to have a squint at Chris Duffy's books on fortification, and search online to see how these forts appeared in reality - could it benefit from a garden shed, or a wine-cellar, or something? Starbucks? Looks a fairly unforgiving place to spend any time, especially under fire.

Note that the Roundhead soldiers are making a token show of aggression for the camera.

Big Brown Lumps - The Star-Fort (1)


Yesterday I finished off the first phase of building-varnishing and got the bits of the Battleground star-fort deflashed and scrubbed up, and applied the first two coats of brown base colour. The picture shows the situation after the second coat - some pinholes still be be touched in, but this is much better than the state after the first coat, which looked like a join-the-dots exercise (the paint being the dots, by the way).

A long way to go, but it is shaping up nicely. The idea is that it should be capable of being an outwork for a Napoleonic fort (e.g Fort Ragusa), or a half-section could be a hornwork of some sort, but also it can serve as a sconce for the ECW (it may not be strictly authentic for this last role, but I'm happy with it, so please do not look askance at my sconce...).

So the plan is: final brown base-coat touch-in to lose the pinholes, then drybrushing with mid grey, baseboard green, medium khaki and a very light breath of light khaki to make everything dusty - followed, of course, by two coats of matt varnish - this is a heavy beggar, and is going to get bumped a bit. After all that I can tidy away all the debris and paraphernalia and get the dining room ready for the Battle of Boldon Hill on Wednesday. Oh yes - my fort pieces are now in very nice new plastic storage boxes, so a load of old broken cardboard boxes can go away for recycling. There's another planet saved.

Speaking of which...

Last night we had an excellent take-away Indian meal from our friend Mohammed's restaurant in the village, and, unusually for us, afterwards we got the log stove blazing, and managed to prise my son away from his computer for long enough for us all to watch his new DVD of The Martian.

Matt Damon visits - erm - Jordan, in fact
Wow - what an excellent film - enjoyed it thoroughly. If it has a faint weakness of plot, I might suggest that the second half of the story is relentlessly and obviously heading for a happy ending, but the spectacle is more than consolation, and the scientific threads hang together well enough to gratify elderly viewers who cherish delusions of understanding these things (a very little bit). I am not a film "buff" in any sense at all, but I understand that it is now necessary always to attach references to previous work by the cast and crew, so I shall list a few personal fave contributors, with a very partial wargamer's view of what they have done before (i.e. what I've seen and enjoyed). Director is Ridley Scott (The Duellists - has to be), and the cast includes Matt Damon (Saving Private Ryan), Jeff Daniels (Gettysburg) and Sean Bean (anything but Sharpe).

I was pleased to be reminded that Bean, is, after all, an excellent actor when he isn't slouching around being rugged.

By the way, I speak with some little authority on the film industry since, apart from being not quite related to Christopher Plummer (previous reference to private joke), I also used to have a relative who claimed to have appeared as a bush in the Dunsinane scene from Polanski's Macbeth, so I'm quite an insider really - please notify Hello! magazine that I am up for the odd interview if the money's right.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Eureka



All hail to Jim, who correctly insisted that the gatehouse building in the previous post was from the old SHQ/Mayhem/Eureka range (still available, I think). I dug out an ancient pdf of a catalogue, and we see that N01, the Stone/timber townhouse and gate, is the very chap. Interesting that it appears in the North European range - I feel this building sits more comfortably in one of Napoleon's German campaigns than in an English medieval/ECW context, to be honest. [I must start painting up an Austrian army, immediately.]

I can only guess at the age of the pdf - maybe 2005 or so? - but it strikes me that the Eureka prices (in Australian dollars, of course) were pretty eye-watering at the time, considering you could get the same products from SHQ in England for an awful lot less. Just saying.

Varnish update: I've been cracking on with an industrial-scale varnishing operation, and have done all my new fortress pieces and all the ECW houses. Next I shall do the Peninsular houses and the Vauban pieces. First I tried Ronseal matt clear varnish - I would love this to have worked, because there is a pleasing inverted snobbery aspect to using something as vulgar and as workmanlike as ordinary DIY paint, and also because any product which offers a finish tough enough to walk on after 3 coats is certainly strong enough for my toy houses. Sadly, though it went on nicely and is easy to use, it doesn't dry to a completely matt state - it is faintly satin. Thus I retreated my test pieces with the product I should have used in the first place - DecoArt Media Ultra-Matte Varnish - £4 for a 4 fl.oz pot from Hobbycraft. I bought 3 pots, and at the present rate of progress that will be enough for several lifetimes - excellent varnish - water-based, dries quickly and, though it goes on milky, it dries completely clear - no hassle at all. This is the right stuff to brush-finish buildings. It has a faint smell of pilchards, but I can get used to anything...




Friday, 12 February 2016

Another 15mm Building for the ECW


While the scenery paint tins are handy and I still have some enthusiasm, I knocked off another building last night. I rather like it, I have to say. As to what it is? - well it certainly isn't a town gate in the sense of being a controlled opening in the enceinte which can be locked and defended, and which could withstand the efforts of a hostile army with serious equipment, but it is a point within a town which could have a sentry, and (I suppose) be barricaded if necessary, and which announces that you are now leaving such-and-such a place, and entering such-and-such other place, and, by the way, it is twenty-five past two.


I have no idea what the casting is - it is very heavy resin, and I bought it secondhand a while ago - I had thought it was JR Miniatures, but it isn't, and it isn't Eureka/SHQ either - no idea - I suspect it's quite old. Anyone recognise this? Good quality, anyway - one of my better eBay efforts. While I was painting this, some passing thoughts cropped up, viz:

(1) whatever this is an entrance to, it would make sense if the door to the actual building, and therefore the clock, were on the inside - no point telling outsiders what time it is, unless we wish to impress...

(2) Hmmm - the clock. I am not exactly sure whether this clock would have been in this form in 1640 - my guess is that it is OK - I saw a lot of very old public clocks in Germany and Austria recently which predate this, but am not sure if the appearance of this clock is an anachronism (how ironic would that be?), and therefore I do not propose to investigate the matter too carefully in case I get the wrong answer [I can't hear you - lalalalalalalala etc] 

(3) The clock (continued) - to be on the safe side, I picked out the details in an understated manner by drybrushing with a pewter colour - that way the clock does not hit you in the face, and reduces the chance of some smart-ass on TMP noticing that, like Einstein's famous clock seen from the Bern tramcar, it is a time-travelling clock. However, I seem to have understated it to the point of invisibility, so I may revisit it with something a little brighter. I'll think about it.

This now joins the queue for varnish. My latest thoughts on this matter are that the idea of fiddling round with a pile of aerosols is highly unappealing - apart from the toxic hazard and the collateral damage, there is more than a slight chance that I, being a Klutz, would not achieve a decent coverage anyway. Thanks to very useful input in response to previous post (for which, again, thanks), I am now obsessed with the idea that my new paintwork is just waiting to leap off again at the first excuse, and at the first contact with tissue paper, so it is a no-brainer to get on with the varnishing job. In fact, I shall also set up a cottage industry for a few days to catch up with the backlog of other buildings which I never quite got around to varnishing. I'm quite looking forward to a few moronic evenings of brushing varnish onto walls and buildings, and I'm looking online for a decent-sized can of artists'-quality acrylic matt varnish to do the job. I may even consider varnishing some of the Lilliput Lane and David Winter stuff - that would be seen as sacrilege by true collectors, but these items are heavy and have very delicate paintwork, so it might be an idea.  

It is, it goes without saying, essential that this varnish should be fully matt. If my buildings end up even the tiniest bit shiny then I shall be forced to run, screaming, around the country. It will be on TV - people will know when I'm passing their way, and will turn out to watch me. It will be the tantrum to end all tantra.

Next up is the mighty star-fort. I shall be especially careful to make sure this is a reasonable colour-match with the existing Vauban bits, though I do not intend to flock it. There will be more about this soon, I think.

Passing mention of Lilliput Lane reminds me that, if I propose to have a bash at something like the Great Leaguer of Chester, for example, then some representation of a section of something like a proper town would be a good idea. A row of cutesy LL cottages doesn't really fit the bill, quite apart from the nausea factor. I'm not sure what (if anything) I am going to do about this - my scratchbuilding days were long ago, I think - certainly on any kind of industrial scale. While I was looking about for ideas, I found that Tey Potteries (now defunct, but once of Norfolk) did a section of the Chester Rows as part of their range, though it is very rare and thus expensive. It did, however, introduce me to the idea of Tey houses - their Britain in Miniature range includes some nice pieces, and they are available cheaply on eBay if you look around.

I'll include some pictures of Tey stuff, to give the idea. I'm not really thinking terribly seriously about this, but (as ever) here are some thoughts on the subject:





This is the Chester Rows piece - probably too small and too
Victorian, and this particular example is in the USA, but
amusing. All pics very kindly supplied by eBay. 
(1) I have absolutely no idea what scale these are - they are probably a mixture, like all such ranges, but sizes I've seen given in eBay listings suggest that they tend to be about 7 or 8cm high, which might make some of the pieces around 10mm scale, which is getting a bit small but might be OK.

(2) The stylised appearance of these is obviously something of an acquired taste - they are not in any sense realistic, and would not mix at all comfortably with other makes. Some of them are charming, though, in a wacky sort of way - the idea of playing with toy soldiers with a backdrop of blatant toy houses is not unpleasant. A small group of these would make a nice town, and most of the models seem to be gratifyingly rectangular.

(3) Being pottery ornaments, they are obviously offensively shiny, and a good coat of the aforementioned artists' varnish would be needed to calm them down. Again, serious collectors would be horrified, but they are not valuable, and they would mine anyway (heh heh) if I bought some.

(4) You know what? - I think I probably won't do anything about this range, but it was interesting looking at them, and it's useful to come up with something unfamiliar now and then. So there you have it, gentlemen - Tey Pottery.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

What a Load of Old Walls


Further to references in a couple of recent posts, I have now painted up most of my new Battleground medieval fortifications. The paint now appears to be sticking nicely - thanks for assistance with the base coat issue - I am still swithering over whether to apply a coat of matt varnish spray to finish. I prefer the appearance without, but these chaps will have to be stored away in a box, wrapped in tissue, and tough might be better than pretty - thinking about it.

Quick photo includes my existing Battleground pieces, just to fatten up the picture a bit. I decided to go for a general stone shade, which, strictly speaking, is incorrect for the Siege of Chester (Chester has good, red Bunter sandstone walls), but is fine for Newcastle and a pile of other places. Also, a big plus for this colour is that it will match well with my Vauban pieces, so I can produce hybrid fortified towns for the Peninsular War.

I still have to paint a rather natty little gatehouse (with clock) and two dirty great half star-fort castings (two halves = one complete star-fort). The star-forts may be a week or so, but I'll try to get the gatehouse done at the weekend. The gatehouse is not Battleground, by the way - I think it's JR Miniatures, but I'm not sure.

Drybrushing stonework, fortified with plenty of coffee and my new Radu Lupu recording of the Brahms Divertimenti, has been very therapeutic!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

ECW - Boldon Hill - homework

[Map with thanks to Stuart Reid]
Further to an earlier post on this subject, I am hoping to get a lot more free time at home, beginning within the next week or so, so am planning to stage the aforementioned ECW battle on 16th or 17th Feb - if it seems odd to make the planning so formal, I can only say that if I write the date in the diary now then it is probably going to take place!

The intention is to fight the Battle of Boldon Hill (also known as Hylton), which took place on 24th March 1644 a few miles west of Sunderland. My guest opponent for the evening, David, is a man from this area (he has an uncle who lives in Cleadon - see map!), which is why I chose this particular battle. Since David is new to wargaming, we'll use a very simple set of rules - probably the C&CN-derived set, but using a dice-based activation system instead of the cards.

The actual historical action was rather odd - the armies were of about the same size, and the hedged enclosures surrounding a couple of the villages made the terrain difficult for the Royalist Horse, so no fighting took place until around 5pm, by which time, in March in Northumberland, the light must have been fading fast. Combat was restricted to the Foot of both sides, though some Scots dragoons were involved, and the firefight lasted until late in the night. There were moderate losses on both sides, and the Royalists withdrew towards Durham, their cavalry protecting their retreat. The real battle, then, might be regarded as indecisive, but it was one of a series of episodes in this campaign in which the Royalists progressively lost advantage of position and initiative - the forces were probably pretty evenly matched, but the Marquis of Newcastle was repeatedly outmanoeuvred by Lord Leven.

I have assembled an OOB from a variety of sources - mostly secondary. Unusually, the Royalist side has the sketchier recorded history in this campaign. What follows is partly established fact, partly an educated guess based on who was in the area. For example, the exact nature of the force which Lumsden detached from the besieging force at Newcastle in order to reinforce Leven's field army is not known.

Boldon Hill – 24th March 1644

Army of the Solemn League & Covenant (Lord General Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven)

Horse (Maj.Gen David Leslie) – approx 1600

Lord Kirkcubright’s RoH (Lt.Col James Mercer of Aldie)
Earl of Leven’s RoH (Lt.Col James Ballantyne)
Maj-Gen David Leslie’s RoH (Lt.Col Sir John Brown)
Col. Hew Fraser’s Dragoons (Maj. John Munro)

Foot (Maj.Gen Sir James Lumsden) – approx 5200

Sir Alexander Hamilton’s RoF [Clydesdale] (Lt.Col Wm Carmichael)
Earl of Loudoun’s RoF [Glasgow] (Lt.Col Robt Home)
Earl of Lindsay’s RoF [Fife] (Lt.Col Thos Moffat)
Lord Livingston’s RoF [Stirlingshire] (Lt.Col Andrew Bruce)
Earl of Lothian’s RoF [Teviotdale] (Lt.Col Patrick Leslie)
Master of Yester’s RoF [Linlithgow & Tweeddale] (Lt.Col Wm Johnston)
Earl of Buccleuch’s RoF [Tweeddale] (Lt.Col Walter Scott)
Earl of Cassillis’ RoF [Kyle & Carrick] (Lt.Col John Kennedy)

1 heavy gun, 2 light, 1 frame

Army of King Charles (Wm Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle)

Horse (Sir Chas Lucas) – approx 2000

Lord Mansfield’s RoH (Lt.Col Sir Francis Wortley)
Sir Richard Tempest’s RoH [Durham] (Lt.Col Sir Francis Liddell)
Sir Edward Widdrington’s RoH [Northumberland] (Lt.Col Henry Constable)
Sir William Widdrington’s RoH [Northumberland] (Lt.Col John Thornton)
Col. Francis Stuart’s RoH [Northumberland] (Maj. Nicolas Burnet)

Foot (Lord Eythin) – approx 4300

Marquis of Newcastle’s RoF (Lt.Col Sir Arthur Basset)
Col. Charles Brandling’s RoF [Northumberland] (Lt.Col Robt Brandling)
Sir Wm Lambton’s RoF [Durham] (Lt.Col Henry Lambton)
Col. John Hylton’s RoF [Durham] (Lt.Col Lynsley Wren)
Col. John Lamplugh’s RoF [Cumberland] (Maj. Christopher Dudley)
Durham Trained Band (Maj. Arthur Swindells)
Commanded Shot (Maj. Wm Wray)

3 medium guns