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

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Hooptedoodle #293 - Rage over a Lost Pike

Bad title - couldn't think of anything decent, offhand. In fact it was hardly an episode worthy of rage, a few minutes anxiety, at most; also, the pike was not lost, it was simply - erm - in the wrong place, so "found" would have been closer.

Marston Moor game coming up next weekend. I've had a lot of very enjoyable sorting out to do - some figure painting (to make/balance up the numbers), some scenario tweaking for the rules, and - over the last few days - an extended wrangle to get a "best fit" of my available toy units for the regiments that were really present. Thus (for example), since I have a fair collection for the First ECW in Lancashire and Cheshire, the regiments of Assheton and Rigby and Tyldesley can simply play as themselves, and I have a fair representation of the Covenanters of 1644, so that also drops into place nicely, but the Eastern Association (for example) is outside my normal area of activity, so some role-playing will be needed. Robert Ellice's Welsh Royalists will be pressed into service as someone else, and much more of the same, so there will be plenty of scope for identifying wrong flags when the photos appear!

This "best fit" exercise involved more note-scribbling and fiddling about than I expected, so I decided to BlueTak some simple little labels onto the unit bases, to keep us right on the day and to preserve my studies so far. Thus I spent an excellent evening messing around on the dining table, cutting out laminated labels, attempting to get BlueTak to stick to something other than my fingertips, and so on. This required a lot of coffee and a few hours of Debussy.

Because Marston Moor will be the biggest pike and shot game I've ever attempted, I had to label up almost my entire collection of ECW figures, and then tidy everything away in the A4 box-files, ready for next week. Anyone with experience of Medieval and Renaissance wargaming will be aware of the scope for accidents and collateral damage when working with miniature pike-blocks.

I accept it as a necessary precaution to have a tube of superglue handy on the battlefield. My pikes are deliberately made of florist's wire, so they will bend before they damage the figures, and they will not injure any of the players (depending, I suppose, on how hard they are thrown), but they have certainly been known to detach themselves in the heat of battle. Hence the glue and the running repairs. If you leave it until later, the pike will be lost, or you won't get around to it, or whatever.

Well, I completed my labelling exercise carefully, managed to get everything tidied away, got the box-files back on their shelves without dropping the whole lot at once (one of the little-discussed advantages of box-files) and then, when I was sorting out the paperwork, I found a stray pike on the table.

Uh-oh! [arrows supplied by editorial staff so you can see the problem]

I've got pretty good at this stuff now - it took me only about 20 minutes to schlepp the boxes back through into the dining room (without dropping them), check each box of soldiers for missing pikes (all OK, in fact) and store them away again (without dropping them). Nothing missing, though of course there's that little thrill of tension right until the last box. The rogue pike must be from the spares department - looking at the type of wire, I guess it is from either the Mike & Whiskers collection I got from eBay or else some leftovers I have from a shipment of old figures I bought from Harry Pearson. Whatever it is, the important point is that it is not from my proposed field armies, so that is all right.

Pink = ECW
That's 16 of these beggars to check through
It also provides a timely reminder that PIKES ARE DANGEROUS, that some damage to the toys is inevitable when playing this period and - importantly - any damage should be recoverable and repairable with minimum effort. The florists' wire is invaluable, though I still wish they made it in brown. I have a factory process for painting green pikes brown - not a problem, but fiddly.


  1. Pikes can be right buggers, mine spring off at the slightest accidental 'ping', and if it's one of the central figures from the blog getting it to stick back again can be a nightmare, all the result of poor planning I suppose. Speaking of poor planning what length are your pikes Tony? I gave little thought to storage when I cut mine to a standard 80mm and now they don't fit the file boxes I have been buying, yours all seem to fit nicely. I'm on the search for alternative sturdy boxes that can be fitted with steel sheet and will take my pikes?

    Good luck with Marston Moor, should be quite a spectacle. Please bear with me and I WILL get that mortar cart to you....you know me by know!

    1. My figures are smaller than yours - I originally calculated 65mm for pikes, but in fact that is marginal for the box lids, so I altered everything to 60mm. I reckon that's near enough to 16ft for jazz!

  2. Just a tip on spears that I found a great solution; using nylon bristles from brooms or dust pans for spears. They flex, but bounce back straight and stays glued on. The only problem is finding the right color. All the brushes I've found are blue or green. Of course, writing this even a hair brush would work well.

    1. This is a good tip. When I started the ECW, which is only 5 or 6 years ago or so, I became the bane of local hardware stores, looking for brooms with brown plastic bristles. As you say, they only seem to make red or yellow now, though one of the shops gave me some false hope by remembering that there used to be brown ones, but he couldn't remember who made them.

      After some futile searches online I plumped for a particular guage of green plastic coated florists' wire, and by luck I picked up a big load of the stuff on eBay for just a few quid. With the investment made, a Scotsman is bound to be committed (!), but I have kept an eye open for promising brooms...

  3. I suppose "Pike Anxiety" might have been an appropriate title. I'm not sure what part of my brain thought that a Pinkie era Scots army was a good choice for my first full 40mm wargame army, one which was going to be travelling regularly to US wargame conventions. Not so easy to pack and they shed pikes as regularly as any 20mm army. I drive now.......

    1. It would have been an appropriate title, agreed, but then my pretentious nod towards Beethoven would have been lost (and the world might have been a better place, I hear someone mutter - I'll spare you the Columbian poetry and the Icelandic sagas, but I confess I'm a horror if anyone encourages me).

      I would have expected 40mm scale pikes to be more reliable - interesting - they'd be easier to spot, mind. A travelling army of pikes is a hairy prospect - I can see that.

  4. Don't tell 'em your name pike block!

  5. Pike hike strike is the technical term, I believe.