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

Friday 12 April 2024

Product Search #817b

 This is a silly post, but someone may have a good idea. Good ideas are great; I am in favour of them.

I had a stock of circular cast-alloy 20mm diameter bases, very simple design, but nicely rounded at the upper edge. I got them back in the days of the NapoleoN 20 figures - as I recall, you got them with the packs of gunners and of skirmishers. Anyway, I didn't use them for the figures they were supplied with, but subsequently I found them very useful, in all sorts of contexts, for mounting odd sappers, or figures to accompany wagons, or ADCs. Odd-bods; you know how it is.

I guess I must have used them all, because there are none left now. I need some more. I know I can get 20mm round bases in 2mm MDF, and the world is full of plastic bases, with or without slots, but I like the weight of the metal ones, and they are pleasingly slim. With discs of magnetic sheet attached underneath, they store nicely as well.

Anyone know where I might be able to get such things now? A source within the UK would be great, since international postage is now well beyond a joke.

Here's a chance to earn my undying gratitude. 

If I remember, of course.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Hooptedoodle #459 - Peter Higgs

 I have something of an aversion to the standard "me too" notices which are published on social media when a significant public figure dies; just a personal preference, but I shall break with my traditions and publish a very short note to commemorate the passing of Peter Higgs. Yes, THE Peter Higgs, the man after whom they named the Higgs boson.

I have a  fondness for (popular) science, and have pretended to have some basic grasp of particle physics for some years now, but I am, at best, an imposter. A magazine reader.

Higgs was my first Mathematical Physics lecturer at Edinburgh University, long ago in another century. He was already deeply involved in his theoretical work on sub-atomic particles at that time, though no such topics ever came near us humble first-year students. I remember him as by far the best of the teaching staff in that department (which was swallowed by the Physics Dept some years later), but I have to say the competition was not great as far as imparting knowledge and enthusiasm were concerned. I also saw him often enough during my lunchtime visits to the Edinburgh Bookshop for the next 20 years or so of civilian life to be on what might be described as "nodding terms", though he had no idea who I was. I'm sure he was on nodding terms with most of the customers there, but I remember him as an affable, kindly old fellow.

Tait Institute
He died, at his home in Edinburgh yesterday, aged 94. He is, and will continue to be celebrated as, one of the greats of British Physics, no doubt at all. The old headquarters of the Mathematical Physics Dept, the Tait Institute, at No.1 Roxburgh Street, is mostly just a plaque on an old wall now, but Higgs followed some stellar figures as Professor there; notably PG Tait himself and (spectacularly) Max Born, who held the position from 1936 (when he escaped from Nazi Germany) until his retirement in 1953. My personal recollection of the old place is of freezing cold, occasionally hung-over, Monday tutorials at 8am in the depth of Winter.

My mention of Prof Higgs this evening is because he was one of the few distinguished academics that I might have recognised, and he remains one of the very few aspects of my involvement at the University that I view with anything approaching pride.

Please, if you are interested, have a look at the Wikipedia entry for him.

Sunday 31 March 2024

WSS: Siege Artillery Assembly Line - [Pt.1?]

 I ordered up various bits and pieces of siege artillery, and sorted out what I already had, and wrote some notes to myself about what I intend to do.

First off, my thanks to various kind souls, notably to Albannach for generous donation from his toy museum, to Old Glory UK, to Caliver Books for sending some Minifigs gun castings so quickly that I can only assume they had them in stock, and to a number of commenters and emailers for helpful suggestions.

I got started last night on cleaning up and assembling the things that require assembly. There is a considerable risk that if I don't get the various kits glued up then I shall lose the bits, or get them mixed up. The mortars are dead easy. The Minifigs MALA 3 siege guns are a little more tricky; I last bought some of these (my blog tells me) in July 2016, which was before the change of ownership, and the moulds are not nearly so crisp nowadays, so a lot of fettling is needed, but I'm enjoying it thus far.

Mortar this than meets the eye? A choice of weapons - Coehorns at the front. The second row from the back are Old Glory ECW siege mortars, I think the rest are all by Lancer Minis

The first of the Minifigs Malburian siege guns - there are 4 of these. A lot of filing and cleaning up; I find it easiest to assemble and paint them on the bases. This one has still to have the capsquares fitted (you can see the supplied pieces lying on the base, but I think I'll do what I did back in 2016, and cut these back to a short, simple plate; it will take some focused needle-file work to get them to fit nicely). I also intend to bore out the end of the muzzle a little

  I haven't yet received the extra garrison guns from Hinchliffe (which I think is Lancashire Games now), but in truth I hadn't expected to have anything at all yet, so a breathing space is fine.

The gunners for these new pieces will be based singly, so the guns may be shared by any nation that needs them. If I can play this correctly, I hope also to be able to use these guns for the long awaited Spanish Napoleonic siege train - I have some bags of SHQ Spanish gunners who have been waiting a very long time for such a moment...

Good so far - I hope to get on with painting the guns over the next few weeks, but the first stage is to get them all ready for painting. The mortars, by the way, will require a new size of MDF base, 20mm x 30mm, so I have those fine chaps (just across the Forth from here), Warbases, working on these.

Friday 22 March 2024

WSS: Sieges? - Shopping List for Starters

 I still have a couple of units to paint, but the completion of the Hessian Horse marks the Official Unofficial End of Phase One-B of my WSS Project.

Next on the agenda is to put together enough kit to add siege warfare to the period. I have siege rules (at least 2 sets, one of which is almost certainly the starting place for The Game Which Is To Come), I have fortresses in two different styles, and boxes of buildings; I have trenches and gun emplacements and all sorts - what I need now are siege artillery, gunners to man the stuff and some engineers.  

Bags of stuff

My WSS infantry units comprise 3 bases each; to make them suitable for siege duty, each unit needs only to give its command base the afternoon off, so they can operate on a compact frontage, without some daft wazzock riding a horse or waving a flag. You see? - I have already thought about this!

I already have numerous field guns, in national colours, with gunners in the correct uniforms glued to the stands. To try to extend this system to siege guns would be folly, so I shall go for a studied (though dirty) compromise. I shall paint up mortars and siege guns in a boringly neutral scheme - brown wood carriages, bronze barrels, black ironwork, and I shall field small gun crews, dressed variously in blue uniforms or grey uniforms, sometimes with red cuffs, who will be based singly, and will be grouped in 2s (for mortars) or 3s (for battering guns) around the non-specific guns as necessary.

One of the beauties of the 2 and 3 man crews is that I can omit the man with the rammer, which is inappropriate for a mortar and ludicrously short for a battering piece. If anyone is puzzled by the uniforms, then I shall claim that there are Dutch gunners at work, or Walloons, or possibly militia, or whatever suits the occasion. In a siege it is very clear which side each unit is on, just from their position, so the uniforms should not constitute a problem. Anyone who is still unhappy is obviously just trying to be difficult.

I'll come back to the guns themselves in a minute. I have oodles of spare gunners, some of them painted, some not. The broken ones can be converted into engineering and sapping roles, and I shall make as much use of pre-painted ones as possible.

Eric's home-brewed sappers (ex ECW)

I have a good number of odd officers, in odd uniforms, who can be handed out as senior engineers to all comers. Some work will be necessary to fudge together some actual engineers and sappers, but I'm off to a flying start since I have a group of converted sappers from Eric Knowles' mighty collection, which I propose to polish up a little. I don't care for the hardboard bases, so will attempt to remove them, though I fear this may risk damaging the conversions, in which case I shall stop very quickly. Gunners and engineers will be based singly. I think this will all be fine.

Another survivor from Eric's armies - he could be surprised to find he's an engineer

 Which brings me back to the heavy ordnance. I have a good selection of mortars of various sizes, most of them from Lancer Miniatures 20mm SYW range (which I think may be OOP now, replaced by 18mm). I have a good number of suitable biggish field guns in the pile already, which should help, but for yer actual 24pdr battering guns I need to think carefully. I have a few hefty guns, mostly 25mm Hinchliffe pieces, which are quite nice and might do the job, but I think (if I can still get them) I'll try to get 4 of the Marlburian siege gun from Miniature Figurines - catalogue number is MALA 3 - which I used to equip my Napoleonic French siege train. 

Minifigs MALA 3 siege guns, in use with my Napoleonic French siege train

I would also like, if they are still available, some garrison-style guns for the defenders, which are especially useful as they have a small footprint. I have 2 such guns in the spares boxes - I think they are Hinchliffe - they are not ships' guns, because ships' guns have solid wooden wheels. I'm checking these out.  

Hinchliffe spares - garrison guns on the left - I need a few more

I am disappointed to note that the old specialist artillery makers in 1/72 and 20mm seem to have disappeared - Finescale Factory have gone, and Art Miniaturen seem to have cut back on their more obscure artillery offerings. On the other hand, there must be a world full of guys making 3D-printed masterpieces which might be just the thing, if I only knew they were out there. That's the main reason for this post - to see if anyone has any good ideas about this 3D world. My soldiers are small 20mm - bigger than 18mm, but smaller than 1/72. I would happily use a 25mm scale model as a honking great gun, but it would have to fit the period pretty well.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday 20 March 2024

WSS: A Little More Allied Horse

 Proper painting of fresh castings, this time - definitely all me own werk.

I'm using shorter sessions now, out of kindness to the old peepers, so this batch took a day or two longer than I planned, but I'm pleased with them. Nice and shiny, Old School toy soldiers.

These are a couple of regiments of cavalry from Hessen-Kassel, to support the new infantry brigade.

Leib zu Pferd


Hessen-Kassel is an interesting nation in this context. The Landgrave has not pitched in his army on the side of the Grand Alliance; well, not necessarily so. These two units were paid, equal shares, by the British and Dutch armies, so strictly speaking they appear as mercenaries.

More than welcome, however. As ever, the figures are mostly Les Higgins 1970s castings; the command figures are Irregular, which gives a decent scale match and a bit of welcome variety, though the horses are all Higgins.

The lads are now in the duty boxes, getting to know their colleagues.

Friday 15 March 2024

Hooptedoodle #458 - Le Mot Juste

 There are words which don't quite mean what they originally meant, or what I think they used to mean. It's complicated. What is understood depends a lot on the perception of the listener, general usage varies from place to place, and the relentless churning of fashion will also result in there being subjective differences between people of different ages. 

It's all fine; like everything else, language moves along (though I miss a few old friends, and there are many things which I no longer dare say, since the meaning has changed).

A few evenings ago, I agreed with my son that we would go out later on to pick up a takeaway from the fish & chip shop in the village. We went along there about 9pm. The shop was quiet; since our order included a scratch-built pizza, we had to wait about 10 minutes. Two middle-aged couples came into the shop, very pleasant, maybe a little loud (drink had been taken, but nothing unseemly). I would guess they were visitors - North of England accents (I am something of an expert on the North of England), and they got into a slightly complicated exchange with the counter staff, all around the products and terminology you find in chip shops, which vary from area to area. Best not order anything unless you know what it is.

I got briefly involved in offering views on exactly what is the meat constituent of a scary local speciality known as the "King Rib"; which I think is a slab of ultra-processed pork heavily flavoured with something like BBQ sauce. Not recommended, anyway, except after about 4 pints.

Once the preparation of the orders was under way, one of the ladies - very polite, dressed up a little for an evening out, silk scarf, all that - said to me,

"If you don't mind my saying so, you look very..."

...and she paused for a fraction of a second, while she searched for an appropriate word - it seemed quite a long fraction of a second...

"...dapper!" she said, "Yes, that's it: dapper!"

I wasn't at all offended, neither did I take the comment any more seriously than she meant it, though I have to say that I was surprised, for a number of reasons.

(1) People who know me will be aware that my mode of dress is usually warm and comfortable, and, though I hope I do not look completely disreputable, "dapper" is a long way down the list of words I would choose myself. Last time I wore a suit, for example, was at a funeral, and I'm confident the next time I wear one will also be at a funeral, unless I have to appear in court in the interim.

(2) "Dapper" is rather an old-fashioned word, and I associate it with gentle put-downs of older men attempting to dress up. Originally it was used to describe someone who was making a genuine effort to be up-to-date, and I suspect that in the US, for example, it may still have that meaning. I am confident that this lady was not trying to take the piss out of a complete stranger, so this is a usage thing. In a similar vein, if I ever said to a friend that he was looking "with it", he would certainly be quite an elderly friend, and my comment would be (deliberately) an example of British sardonicism, since even I know that nobody says this any more.

(3) "Dapper" has thus, in the UK, become a word used in connection with old men. It is not offensive, but it is one of a number of words which, though generally positive, might be viewed with a little apprehension. If the lady had, for example, stated that I looked "very clean", I might have been nonplussed by the implied parenthesis, "[all things considered]" or similar.

Anyway, I thanked her. Thinking she might have been impressed by my cloth cap, I said something oafish about starting to dress like my father, and we parted with lighthearted laughter. Oh, what fun. The truth is that I had intended to wear my fisherman's beanie hat, which is much warmer, but couldn't find it, so defaulted to the old bunnet. If I had worn my beanie I doubt if I would have been considered dapper. I might have been told I looked like a pile of dirty laundry.

When I first lived here, my next door neighbour, Old George, who was well into his 90s, used to wear a blazer and smart tie on Sundays when he went to the church in Whitekirk, and his trouser-creases were freshly ironed, and his shoes were polished to a frazzle. Now, he was dapper.

Battered King Rib supper - don't ask


Monday 11 March 2024

WSS: Test Campaign Decider - the Battle of Borgloon


Last night I hosted the Zoom game to settle the campaign. At this point the Allies (that's me, folks) were leading by 3 points to 2, having won an encounter battle (1 pt) at La Bienveillance (2 Divisions a side) and a medium-sized set-piece (2 pts) at Waremme (at which I defended, with my 3 Divisions partially dug in against 4 Divisions of Franco-Bavarians), while the French (JBM) won an off-table siege (2 pts) at Rijnsburg. 

Last night we had arrived at a large set-piece (worth 3 pts) at Borgloon, near St-Truiden, where each army had 4 Divisions. Because my army was rather smaller, I chose to defend. Thus the winner of this final bash would win the campaign outright. Alas, I forgot to switch off the spellchecker in Word when I took the screenprints, we have some unwanted extra colour in the presentation of the OOB...

JBM (Marshal Marsin) withheld Chatrier's cavalry as a reserve, the location of their arrival a secret.

The action was predictably hectic. The Allies had a ridge and some woodland to defend on their right, the village of Bommershoven in front of their centre, and a more open area on their left, which was held by General Vielgluck, with Austrian cuirassiers and a brigade of infantry from Hessen-Kassel. 

The French arrived, and after a fairly unproductive preliminary bombardment the various artillery batteries withdrew, and Marsin used some very fine Command cards to order his whole line to advance. The Allies had expected the main attack to fall on their left, but hadn't imagined it would arrive quite so quickly!

Initial view from the French left; in the foreground La Bonne's infantry surround the little village of Oude Haren, with its neighbouring orchard; in the centre are Arco's Bavarians, with Bassinet's Division at the far end making the main attack. The larger village of Bommershoven is visible in the distance, commanding the main highway to Maastricht

From the French right, we get a view of Bassinet's command

Continuing around the table, we are now behind the Allied left. In the foreground is Vielgluck's mixed Division, Austrian cavalry and Hessian infantry, none of which performed very well...

The French advance very vigorously, right across their front, with the main attack going in in the distance, on their right flank
Vielgluck's boys get ready to hold off Bassinet. Vielgluck is encouraging one of his cuirassier units

In the Allied centre, at Bommershoven, Marlborough's Regt and the Royal Regt of Ireland made a very nervous effort at holding the village, repeatedly being pushed back by some of Arco's Bavarians, but scrabbling back

Arco's cuirassiers in the centre, including two very shiny newly-painted regiments, had a very quiet day - there was a lot of bloodshed, but it was elsewhere

Both sides taking a breather at Bommershoven; Marlborough himself was called into play a few times, encouraging his regiment to please go back and re-take the village

On the Allied right, the British have no intention of coming out into the open, while La Bonne's lads opposite mostly stand and glare at them

On the French right, Bassinet brought up the Gendarmérie de France - all 6 squadrons of them! - and the Austrian cavalry were outmatched

A general view after about 2 hours

At this point the British have taken back the larger village, but it didn't last...

With 12 Victory Points required for a win, the French got to 5-1 in fairly routine fashion, substantially helped by the apparent inability of the Austrians and Hessians on the Allied left to stop retreating when they were required to do so

With the Allied left pretty much wrecked, mostly by the (elite) Gendarmes, and Bommershoven now taken permanently by the (elite) Bavarian Leib Grenadiers, the value of top quality troops and excellent dice rolls were becoming very obvious

At this late stage, the Allied right flank emerged from their woods, determined at least to give some kind of showing. They had a few very helpful Combat cards at this point (including the much-prized Infantry Bonus card) and James Ferguson, now commanding Charles Churchill's old Division, suddenly made such rapid progress that Marlborough wondered why he hadn't tried this earlier. The situation is pulled back to 10-6 at this point, though it stabilised more than somewhat once the fancy cards ran out...

So the later stages of the game were dominated by this infantry combat near the orchard and, inevitably,  the French managed to eliminate enough units to clinch the day.

12-6! A decisive victory indeed, which also meant that the French won the campaign, 5-3 on points. Very well deserved too, my hat is appropriately doffed to the victors. Each army lost one general on the day, seriously wounded - Vielgluck and Bassinet were carried from the field. In case you are wondering what happened to the French cavalry reserve, it turns out that they were to come on behind their right flank, but they weren't needed - there was no-one for them to fight at that end of the table!

For Neil's benefit, this is what a trouncing looks like on my old scoreboard! I produced some army flags for the occasion. The personal arms of Louis XIV (top) seems sound enough, but I have failed to find any record of a flag for the Grand Alliance - not even the League of Augsburg, so just put up an Austrian flag. Just out of interest, does anyone know of a flag for the the unified army of the Alliance in the WSS? 

 The tabletop rules seem to have settled down nicely, and have coped with everything, including occasional memory lapses, without drama. The campaign rules are a little odd, but worked effectively. If I got anything wrong, I think it was in making the recovery rates for "legacy casualties" too generous. Attrition didn't really bite hard enough as the campaign went on - this is easily fixed, so I'll make the rallying rules more miserable!

My thanks to JBM for his help and wisdom, and for his companionship during the games.

A good time was had by all, but I really do want to know how much we are paying for these Hessian mercenaries...