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


Monday, 25 December 2017

Hooptedoodle #289 - It's Amazing

La Duchesse Nails the Punchline

La Duchesse Veuve Culdechat (1934-   )
It being the Season of Goodwill, today we were delighted to welcome my mother-in-law to the humble comforts of the Chateau Foy. It is some time since she made a state visit at this time of year - you can read about the last occurrence here if you wish.

You will gather that we are always on our very best behaviour on such occasions. However, today her visit went very smoothly, and, as a bonus, she undoubtedly produced what so far has been the best line of the holiday period around here.

During the chatter before lunch, she suddenly asked me, "Do you still do - erm - whatever it is you do with toy soldiers...?"

You will recognise that this would be the moment for cheery self-confidence on my part, so I put on a big smile and my best, reassuringly breezy baritone.

"Oh yes - very much so," I said. "In fact, that's been going very well recently - there are a couple of chaps who live not too far from here, and I've been getting together with them for some pretty big games. Splendid fun!"

My smile may have been sagging a little at the end of this, but she was very positive about it all.

"That's good - it's amazing, though, isn't it?"

"Erm - what is?"

"It's amazing," she said, "that there are two people in Scotland that have the same interest as you."

And - of course, as ever - she is completely correct.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Thinking Aloud? - Marston Moor (maybe)

Royalist celebs preparing for Marston Moor - the fellow in the carriage may be
the Marquis of Newcastle, enjoying a crafty pipe of tobacco
One of this week's Things to Think About in the Background is the possibility of my staging an ECW battle - possibly in February. This is to be a proper, social game, not one of my weird solo efforts, so I am keen to make a decent job of it. Any kind of a historically-based scenario is always viewed with some suspicion here at Chateau Foy, but since the tie-in with history usually vanishes after about two turns it's not really a major concern.

My short list of promising scenarios has been steady at a choice of two for the past month. I did an ECW game based on Kilsyth (that's Montrose vs the Covenanters) a few years ago, which went well, and is a smallish action on interesting terrain, with plenty of potential movement, and highlanders and Irishmen and all sorts - that might be an attractive thing to have another go at.

On the other hand, it is tempting to go for the Grand Bash, just for the mind-numbing spectacle of the thing. I am drawn towards Marston Moor - hardly a leap of the imagination, you might think, but I've never attempted it, and it does have a certain [moronic?] appeal - flat, open field, groaning with toy soldiers, minimal scenery - all the alarm bells should be ringing.

Hmmm.

I've been doing a bit of reading, as you would expect - everything from Peter Young to Osprey, with John Barratt and Newman and a few others on the way - I've even looked at scenarios for MM in De Bellis Civile and Charlie Wesencraft's Pike & Shot book.

Hmmm.

The major criteria, of course, are the lowbrow ones: how many soldiers have I got, and how many would I need? What size table? That was easier - I believe that, without any extra figure painting (always a potential disappointment, since, in my experience, the fresh units always get eliminated within the first few moves of their debut appearance), I can set up a ⅔-scale version of the battle on my larger (10'6" x 5') table. The ⅔ refers to numbers of troops, rather than of units - we'll just assume that the smaller entities were assembled into fewer, larger groupings...

OK - looks pretty good. I need to improvise some scenario-specific rules for the treatment of the small bodies of musketeers which both armies interspersed among their units of horse in this battle, but that's all part of the fun. Righto - at the moment, it looks like Marston Moor is feasible. The background thinking may continue.

You may hear more of this, in time. I'd even get to field Rupert and his magnetic dog - the dog doesn't know what he's in for, does he?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

A Christmas Greeting

I've decided to snap out of my unnecessary paranoia about the winter weather - it's all part of the cycle of the seasons, after all - if we didn't have winters then we couldn't have summers, and the crops wouldn't grow, and all that. Nature is what it is - let's just celebrate it.

Stob Dearg - Glencoe

Loch Restil
Here are some suitably frosty photos of the Highlands of our beloved Scotland (borrowed from a couple of hikers'/photographers' websites I'm fond of), and the scene in the Great Hall here at Chateau Foy as we get ready for the festive season.


Whether you just chanced by here, or you are a regular reader, or if you are a good friend, or even if you never got here and never read this, I wish everyone all the very best for Christmas, the New Year and the future. May your hearth be cosy, may the mince pies remind you of childhood.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Hooptedoodle #288 - Donkey Award - another solution for a problem you didn't know you had

Courtesy of a couple of whizzo articles from newatlas.com, an exciting glimpse of the future - pick your own nightmare.



Naturally, we are all fascinated by the possibilities of the scientific world of plant nanobionics, which has recently produced such marvels as a variety of spinach which can give off a warning glow in the presence of explosives (if you don't believe me, click here). The idea is based around the development of  microparticles containing enzymes and other organic substances, which are small enough to be absorbed into the leaves, so that extra reactions can be introduced into the plant's normal repertoire.


MIT have recently developed a strain of watercress which glows in the dark. This was achieved by studying the chemical processes used by fireflies, and introducing microparticles into the humble watercress which will simulate this same light-producing trick. Thus far, it isn't very bright, to be quite honest, but the hope is that it should be possible to engineer plants as seedlings so that the trick will last throughout the life of the plant - the aim being to make it hereditary. There is hope that indoor plants will be developed which require no additional energy to produce a light bright enough to read by, thus saving some of the estimated 20% of the world's electricity bill which goes towards providing lighting. Beyond this there are visions of specially "hacked" species of trees whose leaves will glow bright enough to replace electric street lighting - just think of that.


If we ignore the potential psychological damage to confused fireflies, not to mention what chaos will hit the streets in the autumn when these wondrous shining leaves fall off, you may still wish to share with me some concern at the possibility that someday it may never be dark again. Fear not, o timid soul - the engineers at MIT are already considering that the hacked trees may be further tweaked so that they can turn themselves off on a given command, so what can possibly go wrong?

What if the plants propagate and spread naturally, beyond the places we want them? Is this the future botanic section of Jurassic Park?


I really don't know how people can be so negative when there is so much potential out there. Read all about it here.


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Histofig - courtesy of the Wayback Machine

A sample of what's on the Histofig archive - some Württembergers
I'm not sure if this is strictly legal, but I thought I'd share it - if I get complaints, I'll pull the post, and you can forget I ever mentioned it.

I used to be very fond of a very nice French website, Histofig, dedicated to Napoleonic uniforms and army organisation - it was not always easy to find your way around it, and it was never complete, but a lot of what was available there was attractive and very useful, and featured the very fine colour illustrations of Frédéric Pouvesle. [And before anyone asks, no - I don't mean Historifigs, the American figure manufacturer who still make some of the Scruby ranges.]

Anyway, like a lot of things one doesn't appreciate sufficiently at the time, it suddenly vanished. I gather that the information on the site was subsequently made available on a commercial basis - I don't know very much about that.

To my surprise, I am informed that it is still possible to access at least part of the old site, it is archived HERE. This post is just for info - I have no stake in this - if it is useful to you, have a look. It's always sad when these things are lost to us.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

1809 Spaniards - More Light Horse

Yesterday I received a couple of commissioned units which have been in the pipeline for a year or so. Mr B has been somewhat indisposed recently, with one thing and another, but he duly delivered in time for Christmas, so I now have a nice present to give myself - or perhaps it was for last year - doesn't matter really.

Here, in Mr B's trademark style, are two custom-built units of converted Hinton Hunt figures. One is simply a Creeping Elegance project, to replace another unit of the same name, which I was never really happy with - so here is the new version of the Husares Españoles...

Heavily converted HH figures - French mirliton hussar, hacked about, plume moved
to left side - not quite sure what the provenance of the horses is - if you're an HH enthusiast,
please spot the donor castings
I'll attempt a team photo of all the Spanish light cavalry for 1809 - that's
6 units of converted Hintons
The other unit utilises a very nice converted figure which I've admired ever since Clive (I think) got some a few years ago. Here, ladies and gentlemen, are the Lanceros de Carmona, all ready for Bailen.

Something a little different - straight from the pages of Jose Maria Bueno
They're nice, aren't they? Complete with stripey blankets - businesslike.


And that is the Spanish light cavalry complete, except....

Well, except that it would be a shame to waste the older version of the hussars, so I may repaint them and re-recruit them as the Husares de San Narciso - not sure about this. Beyond current planning, anyway.


There are now just 4 units of heavy (well, heavier) cavalry still to be painted for the 1809 Spanish army. - 1 of dragoons and 3 of line cavalry. They are in the new, all-singing, all-dancing plan for 2018.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hooptedoodle #287 - The Sun Made It Again

08:13am 6th December 2017, South East Scotland
Having got up early this morning (lots to do), and having been subjected to the radio news long enough to get up to speed on what those ridiculous clowns in Westminster have been doing, and having heard the latest forecasts for the economy and the weather, I am almost surprised that the sun bothered to come up today.

In fact it did such a good job that the Contesse went out on the steps with her camera.

Perhaps there is still a little hope.

Coffee. Toasted bagels. Franz Schmidt's 1st Symphony. It all helps.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Getting Better Organised - Productivity Is a Good Thing

Painting has been going pretty well recently - by my standards! Only bad news is that I'm adding to the queue faster than I'm getting through it. Current big refurb job on a load of vintage Napoleonic French infantry is doing OK, though not setting the grass on fire - I've just finished a second coat on the white, and it's still not as opaque as I'd like it, so a third coat is coming up. Elsewhere I have some jobs outstanding for the Spanish and Portuguese - notably some pretty challenging cavalry - and then there are some other Peninsular War things, but the big monster coming up on the blind side is the 20mm Bavarian army which is to start after New Year - there are plenty of figures ready now and there's more on the way.



In the circumstances I am very pleased to have re-established contact with David, who did some nice painting for me a few years ago - this should be a big help. I'll be shipping off some 1809 Spaniards for his attention in a week or so. I've unearthed the pilot figure for this first batch - these will be the Reales Guardias Españolas, who are destined to be brigaded with my existing Guardias Walonas in the Reserve division. The figure is a modified NapoleoN casting - some tweaks in the cuff detail to make him into a guardsman. Two battalions of these chaps will be a weight off my conscience - less little voices to nag me about not being painted yet. The intention is to have one battalion in the brown overalls illustrated, the other in dark blue.

If all goes to plan, the finished troops should be ready in about a month, and there are some more Spanish light infantry next up...