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

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Bavarians - Getting Back to the Project

I'm now trying to make a bit of progress on the painting front, after some weeks' interruption. Yesterday I completed a painted test figure for the 7th Light Battalion (Günter), circa 1809. The casting is one of the old 20mm figures which were formerly made in Germany under the trade name of Falcon, and which are now on sale again from Hagen. I like them. My current plan is that my Bavarian light infantry will be pretty much built from Falcons.

Skirmisher from the Light Battalion Günter - seems OK

I have become a firm believer in the value of producing a test figure for each painting batch - it's useful for deciding on shades (the sky blue collar here is a second attempt - I finished up using Foundry's Tomb Blue, which is much lighter than my first guess), and for identifying which paints to use, and in what order - and I then set the pots out in a row in my workbox (I don't always use the same logic - in my recent work using Der Kriegsspieler line infantry castings I have been painting the lapels and cuffs before the main coat colour, which to me seems unnatural, but it helps to preserve the rather sparse cast detail as long as possible - horses for courses). I also get a chance to find out which are the tricky bits. I think this chap shouldn't really have a moustache, by the way, but - hey - they're on campaign. He will be one of the 6 skirmishing figures included in the battalion.

Hinton Hunt BVN 44 - this picture is pinched from Stryker - I hope he doesn't mind. It
shows rather nicely the mysterious object under the trooper's right arm, which isn't a
sling but points down towards his carbine
Yesterday I also finally worked out what has been something of a puzzle. The time is coming when I'll have to start producing some Bavarian cavalry, and initially I'll be using Hinton Hunt's OPC Chevauxleger (BVN 44) as the mainstay of this. Work has been going on in the background, converting some of these to produce command figures (results should appear here eventually), and even some dragoons, and in the course of this I became interested in a mysterious object in the HH casting. Between the lower right breast of the trooper and somewhere near the muzzle of his carbine there is a straight, narrow object which I took to be part of the suspension system for the carbine, but study of uniform plates and so on indicates that it obviously isn't. I asked a number of knowledgeable people about the object, and did an amount of poking around before I came up with this plate by Knoetel, which is a definite clue.

I now have a proper answer. Sometime after the Rumford uniforms were scrapped, the Bavarian cavalry were supplied with a new, steel ramrod for the carbine - this had a loop on one end, and was suspended from a leather thong which was fastened to the stud which secured the two parts of the leather carbine sling. So Marcus was correct (I never doubted it) - the ramrod just dangled from the carbine bandolier. So now I know.

The Bavarians were beset by things which dangled, apparently - the badge of rank of the Unteroffizier was a cane of office, which had a wrist strap. The cavalry used to hang this next to the sabre when mounted, but in everyday dress it was correct for the cane to be suspended from the upper section of crossbelt for the cartridge pouch, so that would be swinging about too. I assume these gentlemen used to sit down very carefully.

Monday, 16 July 2018

"Jason" Figures - guest appearance

Following my recent post about Les Higgins, my noble friend The Bold Albannach kindly sent some photos of some 30mm Jason figures from his collection. These were produced by Les Higgins Miniatures in the 1970s, featuring in the catalogue I scanned and posted last month, and they are rare now. Albannach uses these with Minden and Cran Tara figures, and says they fit in well.

Thanks Iain - these are lovely. The "Katzenstein Supporters Club" seem well pleased with their insurance policy, but quite what the aforementioned "Courtesan" lady is doing in the artillery is a matter for discussion, I think. Printable suggestions welcome.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Hooptedoodle #306 - A Rumination on the Other River Tyne

Hailes Castle
Yesterday the Contesse and I went for a pleasant walk along the River Tyne. We started at the village of East Linton (which was once quite an important toll-bridge crossing on the road from Edinburgh to London), walked upstream along the river bank for a couple of miles until we reached the first footbridge, crossed over to Hailes Castle, then walked back along the public road (more of a track really) into the village to collect our car. Very enjoyable, and an easy walk to suit a rather humid day.

Some photos from yesterday's walk - the water level is quite low, with the current
dry spell, and these streamers of weed and algae are not what we normally see

View from the footbridge at Hailes

The bridge on this new (2003) section of the A1. Traffic running between the capitals
of England and Scotland sweeps over the valley of the Scottish Tyne without even noticing.
Everyone knows of the River Tyne. It is a major river on which stands the mighty city of Newcastle, and it has a long, hardworking tradition of shipbuilding. When we mention that the River Tyne is near us, visitors assume we must live close to Newcastle (which is about 100 miles away - 2 counties away), or that we must mean the North Tyne (which runs into the Northumberland Tyne, and is also a long way from here), or that we must be mistaken (no comment on that one), or that the Scots are obviously so bloody stupid that they have named a river after a more famous one which is not so far away, or that by some peculiar coincidence the rivers were independently given the same name.

The last of these is probably closest to the facts, but I've always been intrigued that the situation exists. So I did a little (trivial) research, and I find that these rivers have existed, within a hundred miles of each other, with the same name for a very, very long time. Hmmm. Our River Tyne, you see, rises somewhere to the west of Pencaitland (a town most famous these days for the manufacture of Glenkinchie whisky) and flows 30 miles through the county of East Lothian, passing through the county town (Haddington), then through East Linton, and Tyninghame (yes, yes, that's right), emerging into the North Sea somewhere between North Berwick and Dunbar.

River Tyne at Haddington
So why "Tyne"? In fact the answer is laughably simple, and I'm sure you either know or have guessed the truth already. Both rivers appear to get their name from an ancient word, tin, meaning river. This may be Brythonic, or may be some older, pre-Celtic word, but neither of our rivers seems actually to have been known as Tyne until Anglo-Saxon times. Interesting. Gradually, the word for river is handed down from a defunct language until, by default, it becomes the name of the river. One imagines some medieval incomer - maybe a tourist or some sort of bureaucrat from whatever new lot are taking over - and he asks, "what's this, then?", and the locals say, "oh, that's the river" - in fact, they may already be using the old word as a name, without realising - and the newcomer takes note that this is what the river is called.

This must have been fairly common. The River Avon must also, I guess, be named "river"; certainly the modern Welsh word afon is a close relative, you would think. So I am building a picture where the unsophisticated locals, who didn't have that many rivers to worry about, just called the thing "the river" in their own language, and eventually the language changed but the name had stuck.

It doesn't necessarily suggest a lack of creative imagination - they must have had other things to worry about; coming up with some more decorous (or pretentious) name for the river might have seemed unnecessary. Locally, we have another example of this sort of thing. Next door to the farm where I live is the ruin of an ancient seat of the Douglas family, Tantallon Castle, on which topic I have posted before. "Tantallon" has a splendid, wild sound - in keeping with the rugged appearance and setting of the place. The name, however, has a fairly mundane pedigree. Around 1300, it is referred to on a map as "Dentaloune", and later in the same century the Earl of Douglas writes of his castle at "Temptaloun", and both these names are now thought to come from the Brythonic din talgwn, meaning "high fortress". So the romantic Tantallon just means "big castle" in an older language. Right. That could be disappointing, but I find it interesting enough as it stands.

I'd like to leave the last word with one of the greatest 20th Century philosophers - possibly the greatest: Gary Larson.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Updates to my CCN-based ECW Rules

At long last I have re-done the documentation for my ECW rules. Following a big game based on Marston Moor in March, I have greatly simplified the handling of "Galloper" type cavalry, and have replaced the optional rule for "rash" pursuit. Playability triumphs over trying to be too clever, every time!

If you wish to download the booklet and the supporting documents, you'll find the links here.

If you already have printed versions, you will need to replace the booklet with the new one (Ver. 2.70) and to download the QRS (playsheet), which is now updated in line with the new version of the rules. You'll also need to remove the three How Went the Day? cards from the "Chaunce" deck, since they are no longer required.

If you have any problems with the links or with downloading any of this then please let me know right away. If you try the game I'd be very interested to hear how you get on.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A Battling Weekend in Ireland

Got back today from a splendid trip to Northern Ireland to take part in some games, and gain experience of Field of Battle as played by people who know what they are doing.

The events are far better covered on the blogs of Sgt Steiner and Le Duc de Gobin, so this post is mostly to commemorate the fact that I wuz there, chaps, and to thank these gentlemen - and also the celebrated (and formidable) Stephen the Dice Demon - for their enthusiasm and energy and their ability to explain what was going on. Thanks also to my hosts and their families for the food and the crack and for a really great couple of days.

On Saturday there was a big Napoleonic fight at Steiner's - the Prussian attack at Lützen (1813) - played to FoB rules - something like 70 units of 15mm on the table. A true spectacle, for which you'll have to visit the host's blog (I managed to forget my camera for this session - duh). I enjoyed the game immensely; my head was spinning a bit by the end, but I was definitely understanding a lot more.

On Saturday evening I had a brief exposure to Maurice - just as a taster, since I've never tried it before. We played a game based on Germantown, from the AWI - we didn't get very far, and it wasn't awfully serious, but it served well to demonstrate how the game works. Interesting.

On Sunday there was another big FoB game - this time Neerwinden (1693) at Castle Gobin. Again, there were about 70 units on the table, but this time the figures were 28mm and the ground scale was much bigger, resulting in a game which had more rapid movement [bigger moves, like...]. I was appropriately employed as a subordinate commander to the Dice Demon, who kept things cracking along on our side. I had responsibility for the Allies' left flank - lots of blood and thunder, and one memorable feature was that my troops were driven out of the village of Rumsdorp, took it back again and then were kicked out more decisively. The French were just getting their very impressive cavalry properly into action when they failed an Army Morale test and it was all over. The game lasted less than two hours - it was pretty intense, but it really moved along. It is much easier to get the hang of an unfamiliar game in the presence of experienced players, and these three gentlemen did a terrific job to keep up the excitement and the action. The French suffered a remarkable number of casualties among the celebrity generals - this is described more colourfully on the other blogs.

Overview of Neerwinden at the start, Allies on the right of the picture

The cavalry battle that never quite developed
French dragoons chuck my lads out of Rumsdorp for the second time
I also enjoyed a visit to Carrickfergus Castle, which is a blast, and in the evening had a quick introductory game of Memoir 44, which was more familiar because of my C&C experience. Good game, I must say - especially for someone like me whose understanding of WW2 is mostly based on John Mills movies.

King John enthroned in Carrickfergus Castle, pondering
the marvels of the electric light
We thought this chap wasn't up to the job at all - in Field
of Battle terms, he's no better than D6 quality
Got home late this afternoon, still buzzing from the battles.

In passing, anyone know what, and where, this is? Something I saw on my
travels - emergency iPhone photo not great. In fact I do know what it is, but 

if you know something about it please give me a shout.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A Short Spell of Fiddling Around

I have figures to paint;  I have stuff to do. Hobby progress has been slow, in fact it would be easy to fail to detect any progress at all. I'm going away on Friday to sit in on some Field of Battle wargaming, which should be a valuable and worthwhile experience - not to say enjoyable. More of that another time.

Mostly, I seem to have been sidetracked into doing Real Life things. I guess that includes watching a lot of football, now I think about it - we may debate how real that is.

I have, after a lot of lamentable foot-dragging, made a start on playtesting my developing, homebrewed, grid-based, Napoleonic miniatures game, which has spent a very long time being redrafted over and over. My thanks, once again, to Jay for his patience and his invaluable input, and now my thanks are also due to Martin and Dan Sarrazin, in Australia, who have started doing some playtesting for me (using Commands & Colors kit in their case) and have shamed me into shaping up and getting on with it.

Anyway, I've had a few evenings lately of walking through the exact, detailed sequence of what happens when a unit breaks from a melee (for example), and how it is different when that unit was in square or in cover (for another example). Instructive. I always knew that this process was going to turn up the need for a lot more clarity, which is probably why I've been dragging my feet. I've got used to revisions of the rules becoming smaller as the draft stabilised. Getting the soldiers and the dice on the table is bound to reveal a mass of holes, but it's all good!

Unless the testing turns out to be a complete disaster (in which case the game may quietly fade away), I hope to be in a position to report on some actual battles using these rules fairly soon. As I keep reassuring people (including myself), the aim is not to replace Commands & Colors as my game of choice, but to provide a slightly less blunt instrument with which to fight smaller, more detailed actions. To get back just a little into the world of lines and columns, and all that, when it is appropriate to do so.

In the pursuit of more light on the tactical niceties, I was reminded that I really don't know how the British Army of Napoleon's day managed to operate without French-style attack columns, so I've gone back to some good old standby books to brush up a bit.

I've also been reading a new book - a sort of memoir of Franz Joseph Hausmann, of the Napoleonic Bavarian army. This was translated and annotated by Hausmann's greatgranddaughter, and edited by John H Gill. It's interesting, and does fill in a lot of the "what was it like?" aspects of service in that army. Franz was eventually a lieutenant in the 7th Line Infantry. From 1812 onwards he sent his father detailed letters of his experiences - his father was by this time invalided out of service in the same regiment, and was keen to follow the campaign in Russia. Prior to 1812, Franz's personal journals consisted simply of lists of each day's marches. Much of the interest derives from extra information provided by Gill, and from family stories supplied by the translator.

Anyway, it is interesting rather than spellbinding stuff, and it all adds some personality and context to my forthcoming Bavarian force.

Elsewhere - and this really is trivial - I finally tracked down a little portrait of General Anne-Francois-Charles Treillard, a French Peninsular War cavalry officer who commands a division in my collection of toys. Treillard is noted, among other things, for having an unusual number of alternative spellings of his surname (though "Anne" is consistent throughout all versions), and for being famously portrayed by Robert Stephens in my favourite movie, "The Duellists".

Gen Treillard
I know this is silly, but I do like to know the chaps in my little armies. I've got portraits of most of my French generals now - I didn't have Treillard, and I still don't have a picture of Maucune (the head-banger who largely screwed up Salamanca). Maucune (real name Antoine-Louis Popon, Baron Maucune) was eventually a rich and titled chap, and I can't believe he didn't have his portrait painted, though it is possible he may have been very hard to please in the portraiture department. If anyone knows of a painting of the Baron, or if you happen to live next door to the family, please give me a shout. All I have is some detail on the family coat of arms, and a photo of his tomb, at Père Lachaise.

Maucune's final rest

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Les Higgins Miniatures Catalogue - 1971

Struggling a bit this last couple of weeks to get any time at all, so this post is a bit of a cop-out. I obtained a decent first edition copy of the Les Higgins catalogue from 1971, so thought it might be of interest.

I find it useful because it clarifies the rather complicated range of poses which Higgins produced (some of which disappeared from the range after Les died - some of them probably should never have existed - British light infantry "battalion company" without wings, for example - Les was not an expert in the military aspects). It also gives a reminder that 1971 was a very long time ago.

Anyway, if this is the kind of stuff you like, you may like this.