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

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Battle of Eggmühl, 22nd April 1809

Wargaming yesterday; delighted to welcome Goya and Stryker from Up North (or Further Up North, I suppose). Goya brought along an Austrian army (on the train - we are always at the leading edge of technical innovation here at Chateau Foy) and Stryker brought along Marshal Davout. Stryker and I were to command the French forces.

Our game was - unusually for me - one of the published scenarios from Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. This was No.312 - Eggmühl - Day 2 - French Left, which I think must be from Expansion 3 (the Austrian bit). One reason I am always hesitant about using other people's scenarios is because they are usually designed to give both sides a chance of winning, which is OK from a social aspect but sometimes dubious historically, and often (I have found) they give you a grinding match while one side waits for a lucky dice roll or a show-stopping card to give them an edge. I'm sure that GMT Games and their countless fans will not worry at all about my views, I hasten to add.

Anyway, we used the scenario, and it looked interesting, and in fact it gave us a nice game. A feature of the day was that we also used some experimental house tweaks to the rule system. I don't wish to say too much about these at present, since they are still under development, but they seemed promising.

Neither am I going to discuss the real (i.e. historical) battle, since it is well-known, and the portion of it we were playing, though it makes a decent standalone game, is a bit odd in isolation. I will, however, mention briefly the small matter of spelling. If you know better, or can give a better-informed view, please do pitch in here. The locals call the place Eggmühl - I have a locally-produced tourist souvenir of the battle, and there it is - Egg - as in Scrambled Egg. Not Eck, as in Prince of Eckmühl, or as in Bloomin' 'Eck. I assume that the proper German name must be Eckmühl - "the corner mill" (bend in the river Grosse Laabe?), and that the local Bavarian dialect says Egg. The French have always called it Eckmühl, of course, but their track record with German place names is not good anyway. [Ratisbonne? What's that?]

As usual, I'll attempt to fill in a narrative around the photos. In passing, I managed to get hold of some brighter bulbs for the over-table lighting (1200 lumen halogens, two of them, which are supposed to give the same light as old-money 150w jobs, but much less heat), so the photos may be a little brighter than in previous efforts.

As a spoiler, I have to tell you that the French lost [damn]. It wasn't a complete whitewash, but the field is very busy with villages and woods, and the Austrian line infantry, slow-moving and potentially brittle though they are, have 5-blocks-worth of musketry per battalion, and that is a very serious prospect all round. And, of course, Goya commanded his defence rather better than did Rosenberg in 1809. Our rules of the day stipulated 10 Victory Banners for the win, but the situation was sometimes quite difficult to follow, since there were temporary VBs available for possession of the villages, and the exact timing of when these counted was sufficiently complicated for me still to be unable to understand it this morning. I think the final score was about 10-7 to the Kaiserlichs, but I'll take advice on that. French did well enough, but couldn't keep up any kind of momentum in the face of the Austrian musketry.

By the way, if my account of the day shows a little French bias, I hope you will indulge me - the defeat is too recent and too painful. Like all military history, it may take some years for a truthful impartiality to creep into the narrative.

General view from behind the French right flank, at commencement. The French cavalry in
the foreground were always going to struggle to get some open ground to work in. Beyond them
are Von Deroy's shiny new Bavarians, then St Hilaire's Division, and at the far end Friant's boys.
The villages are, in order of proximity to the camera, Unterlaichling, Oberlaichling and
Obersanding, with various arrangements of VBs available for each.
View straight down the middle of the table at the same stage - note that the Bavarians
have some distance to advance across open farmland to attack the village and woods
in the centre.
Unterlaichling - first attack and the Bavarians took the place. A brief moment of glory -
subsequently the village and its neighbouring woods changed hands so many times I
lost count, though our lot never seemed to be in possession when it came time to tot up
the temporary VBs.
On the French left, Friant made a big push through the woods and towards Obersanding.
Heavy going. The dude on the right hand edge, on his own, is Davout, currently Duc
d'Auerstadt and, sadly, destined to remain so.
The problem - too many Hungarians in the Plastic Forest. You're sure of a
big surprise.
Erm - and suddenly the French had a lot less troops advancing on the left...

...and St Hilaire's division in the centre didn't fancy their chances much...
...and the Bavarians, though they are fleetingly back in Unterlaichling here, with some
French légère boys on their left, were running out of men and out of steam. 
Theme for the day - the French needed a bigger superiority in numbers to win the day.
Here they just don't have enough fresh troops left, and we are getting near the end.
After the official VB target was reached, we played on for a little while. I fiddled around
with some of the under-employed French cavalry on the right flank, which was fun but
enhanced neither the result nor the historic narrative. Faint shades of Borodino - some
cuirassiers capture an artillery position on the Bettelberg, but it makes no difference!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Bavarians - 3rd Division Commander

Needed for action on Saturday, here we have General Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy (on the nimble little horse...) and his General-Adjutant; the figures are both from the old Falcon range, now marketed by Hagen. The Adjutant has the Quick-Reference Sheet handy. The gentleman in the cloak is easily recognisable as the ubiquitous Minifigs FNX1, rescued from the spares box and repainted as an officer of cavalry attached to the Bavarian staff - he's obviously seen it all before. The white edging to the base allows quick location of a divisional general.

The mounted figure has a toy-like, Noggin the Nog air, which I find rather appealing. There is a joke here - one of the few stories about Deroy (who was an older officer, and a bit of a traditionalist) describes his fury when he found that his troops were growing all sorts of non-regulation facial hair on campaign - orders of the day appeared very quickly. This casting has a very luxuriant moustache, so poor old Deroy can hide behind a Full Groucho - maybe it's a move to gain the affection of his men?

Sorry the Arctic light has dimmed down the colours a bit - these Bavarian chappies are pretty vivid normally.

Deroy - no whiskers here
Deroy commanded the 3rd Bavarian Division in the VII Corps on the Danube. A well respected veteran and a good leader, he was mortally wounded at Polotsk in 1812.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Hooptedoodle #314 - October - Unusual Visitor (and other stuff)

Nice, sunny day today - cold first thing in the morning, then the sun shone all day. We have started putting some food out for the birds again - starting with a suet block on the apple tree. Much excitement among the humble sparrows and dunnocks, but we also got a couple of visitors we seldom see here. They are not rare locally, but they don't come here.

Motacilla cinerea - Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtails - despite the name, much more colourful than their cousins the Pied Wagtail, who are regulars here. Whatever the weather did in 2018, it has certainly produced a lot of insects in October, so the Wagtails of all varieties are very busy, and very entertaining they are too.

Photos, as ever, courtesy of the Contesse Foy.

While we are on about insects, this is the time of year when we get one of our visits from Cluster Flies - they arrive in large numbers, but always in the same rooms, on the same windows (how do they know?). They are harmless, in the sense that they don't bite, and they don't contaminate your food, but the sheer number of them is a menace. In October they come looking for somewhere to hibernate, and really they are small enough to go anywhere they want, so they are impossible to keep out if they wish to get in. A few years ago we had a scary episode when the Contesse discovered there were thousands of the beggars wintering in the tiny gap between the window sashes and the frames in a bedroom which overlooks the woods at the back of the house. Regular checking for uninvited squatters, occasional applications of the vacuum cleaner and some understated Raid spray in the crevices in the window, and we have had no repeats.

Don't panic - this isn't our photo - this is just what they look like
Their life cycle is interesting, if you are not eating a blueberry muffin at the moment. They swarm and mate in the early Spring (when they emerge from wherever it is they have been hibernating), and the females lay their eggs near earthworm burrows. When they hatch, the larvae tunnel down, attach themselves to earthworms and spend a gruesome summer in the dark, underground. When the weather turns colder (about now, in fact) the new adult flies emerge in great numbers, and set off looking for desirable winter quarters such as our bedroom windows. So you get two swarms a year - one at this time, when they move into a sheltered winter home, then another in the Spring, when it's time to wake up and mate. As far as I know, that's about it for Cluster Flies - seems a pretty pointless existence, though the earthworms might have something to add.

We also have a fine crop of toadstools in the lawn, which is seasonal - lots of moss in the lawn, plenty of rain recently, and bingo - here they are again. The last mowing of the lawns (which will be a little late this year because the long Summer has meant that the grass is still growing after we would have expected it to pack in) will get rid of them, and things can go to sleep until next year.

Oh yes - Dod the Gardener has planted a load more crocus bulbs in the grass verge in the lane, so we should get a nice show in the early Spring. Something to look forward to.

[I think Dod goes to sleep in the Winter as well, boys and girls.]

***** Late Edit *****

It is now the following morning, and the aforementioned Dod has already dug out the toadies (they are unpleasantly squishy) and is now applying lawn sand to - that's right, you  guessed - the lawns. This stuff is to be applied by a push-along rotary spreader, so we have jointly been searching out the reading glasses and reading the instructions on the plastic sacks. 


The instructions on the bag say you should go to the manufacturer's website at www.gardenhealth.com to get the correct setting for your particular job and your particular spreader (ours is a Scott's EasyGreen - I knew you wanted to know this). In fact I don't live too far from our garden, so was able to do this without much difficulty, and took a shortened version of a large printout for Dod's enlightenment. Set to number 30 on the adjuster, it says, and do the lawns twice, at right angles, in a sort of tartan pattern. First problem I had was trying to do the arithmetic in my head, before my first coffee. The table from the website says this will give you about 112-135gm/sq.m - at two passes, I estimate that my 2 large sacks of lawn sand will cover about one-third of one of the 3 lawns, though each sack is claimed to treat 200 sq.m. We have something like 300 sq.m of lawns. Spinning of head - does not compute.

Dod sets the trap-door in the bottom of the spreader to number 30, and can see right away that the thing is going to empty itself far too quickly. Thus he proposes to guess a reduced setting, see how thickly the sand goes on, and go over it again if it isn't enough. That, we agreed, is easier than trying to scoop the stuff back up if we run out. Something bothers me about this. Apart from the collapse of my ability with fractions (which is only one of a number of such concerns...), I have this mental image of a groundsman, half a mile from the nearest electricity, at the end of the cricket field somewhere, probably working in the rain, desperately trying to get a signal on his mobile phone to access the flaming website.

The triumph of gratuitous science.

What are we doing here? The lawn sand manufacturer has instructed us where to get details of the spreader settings (which may or may not be correct), but it isn't exactly handy, is it? Which banana thought this was good customer service? I suspect there will be a big increase in the number of mental health issues among gardeners and groundsmen in the near future.


Friday, 12 October 2018

French Cuirassier Division - finished at last

It's taken longer than expected, but what did I expect...?

Command figures all painted, flags and bases sorted out. As ever, cheerful does it every time.

I'd never thought of having a Cuirassier Division, but here it is. Stryker maintains he is going to chase them the length of the Danube. He and whose army, I ask...?

Next week I hope to get a Bavarian general ready for action. Fighting next Saturday. Busy, busy.

2e Cuirassiers
3e Cuirassiers
7e Cuirassiers
8e Cuirassiers
...and the compulsory group photo is faked by the 13e Cuirassiers getting involved in
the background; since they finally got a proper officer out of the figure swaps (after only
30 years waiting) they felt they deserved to be included, even if strictly speaking they
don't belong in the Division.
[I do hope that my old friend Wanko01 does not share this lot with his merry chums on that certain forum that I am not fit to mention, but in truth I don't care a lot.] 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Home-Brewed Flags: French Cuirassiers

In case they are any use to anyone, here are the 1804-pattern flags I've drawn up for my cuirassiers. The real flags were 60cm square, which is about 9mm in 1/72 scale. If I print this image at 58% full size I get 1cm flags, which is near enough for jazz. Click on the image below to get the full size, and save it.

Guest Appearance: ECW Hinton Hunt

Steve Cooney sent me an email, and was kind enough to include some photos, which are definitely worth a look, I think. Steve makes the point that, for devotees of Hinton Hunt, since tabletop Napoleonic battles normally feature large numbers of units, the small matter (literally) of keeping the footprint down, plus the limited availability of figures, mean that there has evolved a standard battalion size of two dozen or so figures. On the other hand, the smaller numbers of units needed for ECW actions have allowed Steve to experiment with larger regiment sizes, with greater emphasis on the look of the thing. His preferred unit size is 42-45 men for foot - you can see the effect in the pictures.

Nice, eh?

Thanks Steve - I for one am now crippled with envy, but I'll be all right...

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Last Trumpet - for the Moment

Last night I finished off the last of my little quartet of cuirassier trumpeters. This one is another Art Miniaturen casting - I have figures from two different Französischer Kürassiere Command sets by AM - one rather more recent than the other. The later set (which includes the chap in the photo) is more vigorously animated and more like modern plastic diorama box sets than the earlier one. This in itself introduces a very slight problem - it does limit the number of raw repeats; for example, the eagle bearer in the new set is bare-headed, having lost his helmet [duh], but it would be silly indeed if one had a number of cuirassier units, each of which had the same porte-aigle without a helmet. One such is OK, of course, but this is getting out of the normal run-of-the-mill for wargames figures.

A rather bigger surprise for me is that the newer set is a little bit larger than the older one. Nothing disastrous, but the Higgins/PMD troopers in my cuirassier division will be somewhere between the two sizes. Since all of AM's output is very officially 1/72 scale, and no messing, the idea that Herr Schmäling is introducing a smidgeon of refined scale creep is a novelty. Presumably the plastic sets with which he shares the market are getting a bit larger too? Who knows - whatever, it isn't a problem.

Just because it will cause trouble in The Cupboard if this guy doesn't get his photo on the blog when the other three did, here he is, at the top, with his PMD trooper mate. The more dramatic styling is quite fun - the two figures here are closer to each other in scale than the foreshortening effect of the camera lens seems to suggest. These are from the 2nd regiment - I'm definitely moving on to the officers now.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Conversions and Paint Jobs - French Heavy Cavalry Trumpeters

I've been happily fiddling away at filling the "Command" gaps in my unplanned Reserve Cavalry Division. Yesterday it was trumpeters - I still have one trumpeter to finish off, then I move on to officers and eagle bearers. I've decided (or have been convinced by shortage of troopers) that my French cuirassiers will break with house tradition and will carry (1804-pattern) standards in action.

I'll get to that - any excuse for a play with Paintshop Pro to knock up some flags. In the meantime, just because I have nothing else to post about, here are some trumpeters. Nothing great, to be sure, but any kind of conversion or paint-conversion work is almost always satisfying work.

Each trumpeter is sentenced to spend his operational life based with a trooper he never
met before. The troopers are all
PMD, with the compulsory "eyes-right" pose. The trumpeter
on the left (8th regt) is
Art Miniaturen, kindly supplied by the Old Metal Detector - strictly this
is from an OOP dragoon command set, but perfectly suitable; the one in the middle (3rd regt) is
an old (and not very ambitious) conversion by a previous owner, based on the trooper next to
him - I've revised the paint job extensively, and left him with his carbine; the one on the right
(7th regt) is the official
PMD-issue trumpeter (officially a dragoon, but intended to serve in
the cuirassiers as well), and I've mounted him on a 20mm
Garrison horse - partly for variety,
but also because it's a far better horse.

The uniforms are sort of 1809, and the regiments are selected so that the facings will also be suitable for 1813-14.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Another Bavarian Paint Test - 5th Line Infantry

Time for another test figure for my first Bavarian Division - this is a fusilier of the 5th Line Infantry Von Preysing. Once again this is a Der Kriegsspieler casting, but this time it's a slightly different pose - this is the first one I've done from the DK set 175 "advancing"; the previous line infantry figures tested and painted up have been from set 174 "at ready" (which, confusingly, looks very like the Hinton Hunt "charging" pose).

I was nervous about the pink facing colour - I've used Foundry's Nipple Pink [yes, all right, thank you - calm down now]. It worked out better than I expected. This unit has a rather unusual uniform. The good news is that there is no piping around the lapels or the collars, which simplifies things a lot, but the pink is potentially a bit weird with the red turnbacks, cuff piping and shoulder strap piping. The shades chosen seem to work OK - the red and the pink are clearly different. This pose has a rather more open stance than, and looks a bit more slender than, set 174.

Current record of getting units finished after production of a test figure is good - really much better than I had expected. Once this regiment is painted (maybe a month or 6 weeks?), there is one line regiment still to do for this Division (10th LIR), then there are two cavalry regiments, a horse battery, a foot battery and some staff. That sounds like a fair amount of work - especially since I am busy refurbing various French units as well - but I'm keen to keep cracking on.

The cavalry will be Hinton Hunt OPCs, with various conversions and (probably) a few Garrison horses drafted in. The artillery will almost certainly be SHQ (I'd have loved some FranzNaps for this, but they're expensive and tricky to get hold of). I have a very limited range of general officers available at the moment, and no ADCs at all, so some creativity is needed here. There is a chance that General Deroy may be in a carriage - still thinking about this.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Senior Debutante - Battle of Santiago Martir 1809

Marshal Victor and his young men decide what to do first
At the end of last week and over the weekend we had a family visitor staying with us; my mother's half-sister, my aunt, in fact, who is 83 and lives in far-off Somerset.

To put this into context, she is a very tough egg indeed. She travels a lot, drives over to France to visit her brother a couple of times a year, and has destroyed all her former hill-walking colleagues, who have all given up trying to keep pace with her. She was on her way home from a tour of the Highlands - particularly castles and the battlefield at Culloden - and took the opportunity to visit us, and thus to visit my mother, who is in a local care home.

Recently, I sent my aunt some pictures of my miniature Battle of Marston Moor, and she was so fascinated that she asked if it would be possible to invite someone in while she was visiting, to put on another wargame, so she could witness it at first hand. Hmmm. I thought long and hard about this, being pretty certain that there would be a very short queue indeed of people volunteering to come out here simply to demonstrate a wargame for my elderly aunt. I decided the best thing to do would be to stage what would in effect be a collaborative solo game - she and I would play out a game together to see what happened. Saturday morning was pencilled in for the occasion.

I dreamed up a fictitious but credible action from Central Spain in Spring 1809, and we used a cut-down version of Commands & Colors:Napoleonics which I have used successfully in the past for very large games. Our game was sort of medium-sized. Everything went well - we had about half an hour's discussion of the situation and the rules, then the game played to a conclusion in just over 90 minutes. The French won easily, which is as it should be, and my aunt thinks that wargames are fantastic. Does anyone know of a more unlikely debutante at a wargame?

The battle takes place somewhere between Madrid and Cuenca. The initial Spanish defensive set-up was decided by a couple of dice rolls, to select from a variety of possibilities. There were a few surprising choices made as a result - choosing to set up in front of a river seemed questionable, but it gave us a nice vigorous game. The Spanish troops included a proportion of Milicias Provinciales, who were kept to the rear, and (because they are colourful and excellent fun on the battlefield, and they don't get out much) a force of guerrilleros led by the dodgy-looking Don Pedro de Gentusa.

The narrative, very briefly, is that General Cuesta has sent forward an advance guard under the Conde de Belvedere, to deny the French the crossing over the Rio Mezquino at Santiago Martir. There are a good bridge and a couple of fords; wagons and artillery cannot use the fords, so the French will save a lot of time if they can capture the bridge. Bonus Victory Points (VPs) are available to the French for possession of any part of the town, the bridge and for each ford. The French will not gain VPs for the elimination of any of the guerrillero units. 9 points wins the day.

The French are commanded by Marshal Victor, Duc de Belluno (or "General Perrin" as he is known here), and he has brought forward his own advance guard in attempt to secure the river crossing. Imagine his disappointment when he arrives and learns that Belvedere is already there...

Victor has the infantry divisions of Leval (Germans) and Sebastiani (French) from IV Corps, and some cavalry from the Reserve under La Tour-Mauburg. Belvedere has the divisions of Del Parque and Portago and a brigade of cavalry under Ramos de Silva, plus Gentusa's fragile irregulars.

Victor has 15000 infantry, 1000 cavalry and 16 guns; Belvedere has 10400 infantry, 1000 cavalry and 12 guns, plus about 1600 irregulars, whom he sticks behind his left flank, to help out if everything else collapses...

General view at the start, from behind French right flank. Note that Belvedere (far side of
the table) defended his right flank strongly (the river behind that right flank is unfordable!)
to keep the French away from the little town, and was persuaded by the initial dice rolls to place
 his left flank on the wrong side of the river (he explained that the idea was that he could retire
them over the fords if necessary...). The fords can be spotted as a rather lighter blue in the river,
beyond the little wood.
Same moment, this time from behind the Spanish right. The troops behind the ridge in the
foreground are the Provincial Militia regiments of Cordoba and Granada, who were kept pretty
much out of sight.
Looking along the Spanish line. The division commanders (just identifiable by the white
edging to the bases) were both wounded during the day. The river this side (downstream)
of the bridge is unfordable, so the troops on this flank are in an uncomfortable situation.
Along the French line, from their left. The infantry on this side are Sebastiani's division,
Leval's Germans at the far end.
The Spanish centre - grenadiers in the town. The Walloon Guards and some of the best
of the line infantry on the far side of the road, in front of the fords. Victor decided that
a direct attack on the town would be costly...
...so he commenced a demonstration against the (stronger) Spanish right flank, to
discourage Belvedere from shifting any troops to support his left...
...where a major fire-fight commenced, which resulted in a big panic in the Spanish
army. The Walloon Guards were eliminated very quickly, General Del Parque was
wounded and captured, and the defenders on the Spanish left melted away.
At this point, the French only had to march forward; taking possession of the two fords would
be enough to get up to 9 VPs and win the day
Cometh the hour - nothing left on this flank but to send forward some of the guerrilleros,
to keep the French off the fords while reinforcements came from the town. They surprised
Leval's Confederation troops with the accuracy and weight of their musketry, but they didn't
last long...
...and Leval himself took one ford with the 2nd battalion of the 2nd Nassau. Just 1 VP
needed - get more infantry on the second ford (where are the light infantry when you need
them?). At this point Don Pedro himself brought up another unit of irregulars, but the game
ended suddenly...
...and it came in an unexpected way. The Lanceros de Carmona advanced to help delay the
French advance, but they took fire and, though they lost no men, they were forced to fall back.
On the French turn, the lancers took more fire, this time from the converged voltigeurs of Chassé's brigade
in the wood; again, they suffered no hits, but they did receive two "retreat flag" results. Without
support, and with no Leader present, they were obliged to retreat for both the flag rolls. Spanish
regulars have to retreat 2 hexes for each flag, and 1 hex movement forced the lanceros back into
the corner of the table - they couldn't cross the river at this point, so they had to take 3 loss counters
 in lieu of the extra retreat. The unit is only 3 "bases" strong, so 3 losses eliminated it. That was the 9th
VP - game over.
Here's a general view of the vanished Spanish left flank. Surmising beyond the technical end
of the game, the French now had the fords, and were able to cross the river, which would make
things very sticky indeed for the rest of the Spanish army. The boys in the town might make a
run for it over the bridge, or might fight on. Or, of course, they might surrender...
Here's the end of the game from another angle. The Spanish right flank, out of the picture to
 the left of the town, would now be cut off, and would mostly become prisoners, I think.
This photo gives us a rare glimpse of the Conde de Belvedere, with the yellow base-edging,
near the bridge, next to the beaker of red loss counters. We agreed that the Conde would have
a very fast horse (certainly it had been resting throughout the action), and he would be able to
go to report in person to Cuesta on what had happened to the advance guard.