Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 24 January 2022

Sieges: More Preparation Work

 This is good fun, and a rather different way to spend an evening, but there is still a lot to do to prepare for my solo "practice" siege using Vauban's Wars (VW). After a couple of (short) evenings, I've worked my way through the official start-up checklist from the manual, decided on the forces involved (points-based purchase system), and set up the battlefield (approximately). I still have a lot of stuff to work on - jobs like photocopying and laminating the game turn markers, and making up damage indicators from gravel and PVA glue. Once I have these things in stock, the overheads of putting on a game should be much reduced. I've also laid out my stock of trenches and gun emplacements (mostly from Fat Frank) on a series of canteen trays - it's a bit like a weird tray-bake.

To be going on with, for this evening, here are some photos of the field, and the checklist, including the OOB.

The besieging troops are laid out along the First Parallel. Yes, it does look like a road, but it is a proper trench - since it is out of range of the fortress, and cannot be the objective of a Sortie or a Trench Raid, and since it is assumed to be complete, to get the game off to a flying start, the convention is that it just looks like a road, but if you screw your eyes up a bit it will look fine. There will be plenty of digging coming up, that's for sure. I'm working on a positioning convention for infantry on the walls or covered way - I may need to revisit this, but at present the rule will be that bases touching the parapet are on the firing step, and thus are exposed and may fire. If they are down below then they are in cover and may not fire. OK - I'm on it.

If it's possible, I'd like to add a small table extension behind the fortress section, to include part of the town, including a Rallying Point. I'd also like to add a little Artillery Park for the besiegers, outside the lines (if only to add a little scenic value to what is a very bleak terrain!).

 I've used my old Terrain Warehouse fortress with the supplied glacis pieces, which is pleasing, but does place restrictions on the design of the fort. I may (reluctantly?) opt to use trench pieces to lay out the glacis - most VW users seem to do this, and what it loses in visual brownie points it probably makes up for in flexibility.

I'll knock together another post when I've made sufficient further progress to justify it.

More soon - I think I've got an evening or two of this prep work before any shooting starts!


Trial VW siege - British attacking French in the Peninsula.


3-bastion fortress - no mining (ground too wet or something)


Initial set-up, as per VW manual   * = "hidden"





Besiegers (British)

Garrison (French)






Powder Supply

(D6 + 6)




Supply Dice




Food Supply


17* (Average)


"Popular Support" [low is good]


D8* (fairly hostile)






Strength of Fortress

Assumed "Poorly Maintained"

Walls 6*. Ravelins 5*, Bastions & Gates 7*. Earth Walls 2


Location o f Magazine & Sally Port

To be determined when layout is done

Keep hidden



No (too wet)




[36 points]

Genl & CinC               Free

3 Siege guns              Free

1 Spy                           Free

4 Sappers                    8pts

3 extra Siege Guns    12

2 Heavy Mortars        2

2 Lt Shrapnel Mtrs     1

2 Medium Guns           4

6 Infantry                      6

1 Grenadier                  2

1 extra Spy?                  1

Total exp                     36pts

[18 points]

Genl & CinC         Free

3 Fortress guns  Free

1 Spy                      Free

2 Sappers             4pts

2 Heavy guns       6

1 Light Gun           1

4 Infantry              4

1 Grenadier           2

1 extra Spy?           1

Total exp            18pts


Leadership Dice (LD)

D10 [Average]

D12 [Average]


Siege Morale Pts (SMP)

(decided not to use "Army Specials" for this game, to keep things simple)

23 units => 26SMP



13 units => 14SMP




Sunday, 23 January 2022

Sieges: Getting Organised (a Bit...)

 For a while I've been intending to take advantage of the strange world of Covid limitations and do some solo work on getting the hang of Vauban's Wars. Siege games are, by definition, very dependant on all sorts of fancy scenery and hardware, and it is always very easy to find assorted reasons why this is not the ideal time to have a go. Well, that's long enough.

I now plan to have a solo bash at a Napoleonic siege game, so I'm scratching around trying to collect all the bits and pieces I need. Some of this is trivial work, to be honest, it's just a question of getting down to it.

Today I have a case in point. The starting set-up for my proposed training game requires the British to have a couple of heavy mortars. Now I have odd bits of artillery around the place, and I have some spare soldiers, so it was a simple matter to put together the required mortar battery from some old Hinton Hunt gunners and a couple of very scruffy Hinchliffe mortars I got as a make-weight in an eBay parcel. Here they are - not beautiful, but absolutely fine - cross them off the to-do list. Ready for duty.

There is a new approach evident here - previously I put a lot of effort into making up smart siege trains for the French and the British in the Peninsula. I now also have pieces for a proposed Spanish train, including some fortress guns, and I'm starting to collect items for WSS sieges. My new approach is that I shall paint the ordnance pieces in nondescript colours wherever possible, and make up crews of various nations who can "borrow" spare kit as needed. This is the first such - the scabrous mortars here are simply BluTacked onto the bases, so they can be loaned out to another army, in a different period if required, or they can even be replaced by more beautiful examples if the dreaded Creeping Elegance ever catches up with my siege projects.

Anyway, enough said. I retouched and based these chaps (ex Eric Knowles gunners, by the way) while listening to the Crystal Palace vs Liverpool game on the radio. Easy peasy. The British now have siege cannons, mortars (both heavy and Coehorn), various howitzers and sappers. I even have some new, specially sized and based units of foot, rescued from spares boxes for duty on sieges. And still the wonder grew.

I'll put some notes here on the starting set-up for my Vauban's Wars solo game in a day or two.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Hooptedoodle #420 - Whence the Pars?

 The other day I went out for lunch with my good friend Jack the Hat, and, inevitably, we got into our interminable old men's discussion about the history of football, who was the greatest player we ever saw, what was the exact team line-up for the Scottish Cup Final of 1975, and other varied and interesting stuff.

Well, it's maybe a bit specialised, but we get a lot of value out of it. One of our regular subtopics is the history of the Scottish teams. We got into the subject of club nicknames the other day. Let's not dwell too much on details, but we agreed that there is something particularly odd about the nickname of Dunfermline Athletic FC, who are known to their fans as "the Pars", and have been for a very long time.

Dunfermline are not one of the great teams of Scottish football, but they have been around for a very long time, and numerous generations of their supporters have doubtless gone to their graves with the club's badge engraved on their hearts, so they deserve to be treated with all due respect.

They are currently in the Scottish Championship, which is one level below the top league (The Scottish Premiership), and, though they have won the second-level league title numerous times, the only major trophies on record are two wins in the Scottish Cup, which they won in 1960-61 and again in 1967-68. They have had a good number of distinguished players, including internationals, but the most famous of these are individuals who went on to become successful managers in England, notably Owen Coyle, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes.

The lads of Dunfermline Athletic posing with the Scottish Cup in 1961

Anyway, back to the point. Why the Pars? Well, there are a number of theories, some of them remarkably stupid, but the most likely is because of the club's playing strip. In the early days, Dunfermline played at various times in blue or maroon, but since 1909 they have worn black and white vertical stripes. The nickname is most likely to have come from the Parr, a juvenile form of the salmon (a very important fish in Scotland), which is similarly decked out in black and white stripes.

So there you have it - a piece of information which is unlikely to come in useful in your local pub's quiz night, but there is a wider context which I find interesting. Anyone got any more stories about the nicknames of sporting clubs, any sport, no matter how minor, never mind how disputed or convoluted the history of the name? I'm interested in this stuff, for reasons which have more to do with social history than sport, to be honest. I'm also horrified how little sense of the past modern sports fans have, but that's another issue.

All printable suggestions welcome!     

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Hooptedoodle #419 - Herbert Tudor Vernon-Smith is Very Sorry

 Yes - you read it here. The Bounder of the Remove has apologised publicly - one of his chums described his demeanour as "abject", praise indeed, so the coaching must have worked. Personally I am unmoved. I am interested to see how his new friends and comrades in the unfamiliar North react to his adventures, but I find the whole thing extremely tedious.

So much weight has now been attached to the forthcoming independent report (by Sue Gray) that I would not be awfully surprised if the report were already working to a script, viz:

(1) the report will be delayed a long time, so that the media can calm down and the Electorate, being idiots, will forget

(2) whitewash will be applied universally - nothing to see here

I refuse to get drawn again into the sewer of political debate - I made myself rather unwell over the US Election, so no more of that. I will, however, quote my legendary Preston Grannie, who told me, when I was a lad:


If there's someone you can't trust, have nothing to do with them. Doesn't matter if they are friend or family - have nothing to do with them. Shop somewhere else. Life is too short to have to work out what someone really means

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Hooptedoodle #418 - New Year Trip to Kelso

 Since Saturday (New Year's Day) was bright and not too cold, and as I had no possibility of a hangover, I went for a drive to the town of Kelso, in the Scottish Borders. The place is around 50 miles from here, but it's a town I haven't visited for years, and I always liked it.

The Borders region has some very attractive towns, and I used to visit there quite often; my first wife's family came from St Boswell's and from Coldstream. It's a sparsely populated area, very agricultural, but there is a lot of history around those parts. Most of the towns are on the main modern routes into England - the A68 (to Jedburgh and Carter Bar), the A7 (to Hawick and Carlisle) or the A1 (to Berwick and Newcastle), but, although it always had an important strategic position on the mighty River Tweed, people don't normally visit Kelso unless they are going to - erm - Kelso.

My first father-in-law took me to see the sheep sales there, on a Saturday morning long ago, and subsequently I was a guest at various family functions in the town over the years, mostly at the Ednam House hotel (I think there were family connections!).

One effect of the pandemic has been that I have become even more of a recluse than I was before, and I've been nurturing an unreasonable urge to visit some of these old Borders haunts, if only to prove that they still exist!

On Saturday, then, I made a brief but enjoyable visit to Kelso, which was once the county town of Roxburghshire, by the way. Not much traffic, and I didn't get breathalyzed once (I was quite looking forward to it...). I took only a few photos, since the visit itself was the main objective, but I thought they might have some appeal in my blog. When we can travel about again, I recommend the Scottish Border  country as a place worth a visit. From Kelso it's only a few miles to Melrose, site of another great abbey and also Sir Walter Scott's military collection at Abbotsford...

New Year's Day in the main square - never seen it so quiet - it was certainly busier back in the days of the sheep sales. The Cross Keys hotel is something of a local institution. The town, as you see, was shut.


Another hotel - this is the Ednam House, where I've attended numerous weddings, wakes, 21st birthdays and Christmas dinners, back in another century. My first wife's uncle was once captain of Kelso's rugby team, and a Scottish international (traditionally the area is famous for rugby, in addition to wars and sheep-stealing), so the family were local celebrities! 
Kelso has a famous abbey - I'm afraid this is a very poor photo of it. A great area this for ecclesiastical buildings - Dryburgh Abbey is just a few miles away - where I think Earl Haig is buried.
The town has a very fine bridge over the River Tweed, which is not the border with England at this point, though it will become so not far downstream. 

Apologies for this one - it amuses me to think that this may be a must-see site for visiting Beytles fans. I am, as ever, easily pleased by such silliness. I don't know what a Royd was, but Kelso Abbey obviously had one

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

Since I was asked about the matter, I did some reading and now realise that the Kelso Ram Sales are still going strong - here's an aerial shot of a recent one [used without permission, of course]. The Events Centre is on the other side of the river from the town - you can see the bridge and the Abbey in the background, and you can see a few modern suburbs in the right backround, south of the Tweed. Maxwellheugh has an industrial park - my first wife's family owned the sawmill in Spylaw Road, south of the river - long gone.


Saturday, 1 January 2022

WSS: A Little Midnight Testing

 So what am I doing at midnight on Hogmanay? Am I drunk?

No. Not a drop has been taken. In fact, I may be on the wagon at present - the stuff isn't really agreeing with me. Red wine is currently off the list, since it's like drinking razor blades. Tea and a scone is fine.

Am I feeling festive?

Not bad. My wife went to bed fairly early, and the Polish family next door are having a party in their garden (South-East Scotland, 1st January) which is going to disturb the peace for a few hours yet. I have taken the opportunity to do a bit more solo rules testing - the knotty issue of Combat in my WSS rules. It may be a little unusual as a celebration, but it's going OK - I've got about 5 new tweaks or clarifications thus far, so that's useful.

Examples? Well, for one thing, a unit of Foot which is forced to take a double retreat will now lose any attached battalion gun in their haste. For another, a unit being charged from the flank, while still allowed to make an emergency change (if they pass a test), will no longer be allowed to swing around on the spot if they are already engaged with (or adjacent to) an enemy unit to their front. I think we used to use the term "pinned" once upon a time. And there's more similar; twiddly stuff, but OK.

I'm also getting the hang of the Combat bonuses - what you get an extra dice for - and it's actually as easy as I had hoped it would be. It's just a matter of practice...

Anyway, Billy No-Mates sends you best wishes for the New Year. All the very best to you.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Hooptedoodle #417 - The Year Comes to an End


Funny time of the year, this. Today is very dark and very wet - nothing much happening apart from the occasional tractor fighting through the mud, on its way to prepare the fields for next year. Now there's an act of faith - worth thinking about.

This morning I've been listening to Jan Garbarek, which captured something in my mood and the general vibe of the season. If you have a few minutes for a listen, click here for something very ancient and very northern; something watching from afar to see how we are getting on with our after-Christmas sales, and our pandemic.