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

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

WSS: A Little Night Testing

 Best time for fiddling about on your own - the house is quiet and much cooler. Tonight's action was some gentle testing of the revised Combat rules. OK - identified a couple of areas where I'm not quite sure what happens next (or, let us say, there are some choices to be made), and confirmed one rule I wasn't sure of. Good so far.

Buckets of Dice and Old School monochrome; The IR Palffy try to see what happens if they make an ill-advised attack on a superior force of Bavarians

Workmanlike testing laboratory?

Monasterol Dragoons, with General attached, check out their chances against an isolated Austrian unit across the valley. This section of the testing confirmed the adoption of a provisional ruling: viz Mounted Troops who do not win a Combat, if the troops are still in contact, must retire 1 hex or 2 hexes - their choice, but they become Shaken if they go for 2...
Up close and covered in soot

Tomorrow some more complicated Combats, and try out the new Artillery rules. Baby steps. Take lots of notes. Hot chocolate is a big help. And a little Couperin on the hi-fi does no harm for period feel.

Friday, 9 July 2021

WSS: More Cuddies for Corporal John

 Another welcome addition to my British forces, this unit very nicely painted for me by Goya, for which my grateful thanks. Here are the boys of Hay's Dragoons, aka Scots Greys.

Being a dragoon outfit, they also have a dismounted function - just replace two of the mounted stands - the remaining mounted stand serves as horse-holders and all that, and carries the regimental Status minidice. Important work. Here they are showing off their dismounted set-up - just looking for a wood to stand in.

The men on the command stand and those on foot are Irregular castings, the mounted dragoons are all by Les Higgins, and all the horses are Higgins. According to what I've been reading, these fellows were able to fight against regular units of heavy horse, so they will probably be excused the usual "-1" for dragoons vs horse in mounted combat.

Plus one for being British? That has a familiar ring about it. 

And let us not speak of soft penalty kick awards.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Writing Wargame Rules - Some Ponderings


For the last year or so I've been working on a set of home-made rules for the WSS. Things have gone a bit quiet, but they have not disappeared; they are undergoing a heavy re-write at this very moment. It's been very interesting; there have been a few disappointments on the way, and I've been reminded of a few things I should have remembered anyway. Overall, I've enjoyed it immensely, though this still depends on a belief that something decent will fall out of the end!

I contacted my good friend Stryker last week, to run some ideas past him. He is a sound chap - very sensible. Whereas I have a lamentable tendency to over-think stuff, and tie myself in knots (punctuated from time to time with complete changes of direction), I find him an invaluable support since he knows his wargaming, and he can take a look at something and notice that some bits of it are, in fact, nonsense - a gift which I never managed to develop.

So today's blether here is largely a result of mulling over my chat with Stryker. The cheque, of course, is on its way to him.

In the first place, I was keen to get involved in WSS miniatures gaming because I've always fancied the idea and the look of it - it seems like proper wargaming, somehow. It also - in theory, at least - seems to be a period which lends itself well to the rather stylised presentation which is necessary for toy soldiers. There is a good mix of horse-and-musket type arms, but there is a pleasing lack of fiddly bits - no skirmishers, no squares, no horse artillery, no attacking in column, and everyone moves about in nice straight lines. Ideal.

I have read a good number of published rule sets, and I decided that writing my own rules was an important part of the project, though there are enough options available to leave wiggle-room for giving up on the rules idea if necessary.

So I set out, early last year, to write a set of rules which would embody all the things I like, carefully avoiding the things I have lost patience with over the years. Terrific. I did a lot of sketching, and note-taking, and pinching of promising ideas from other sources. There was a lot of arithmetic, and experimentation, and it was all shaping up nicely. Life has obviously been strange, as a consequence of the pandemic, but I decided this would present an opportunity for an extended period of solo work, and I could make a really good job of the WSS rules. 

There have been some hefty changes of heart from time to time (see earlier...), but the basics of the game came together nicely.

Then there were a couple of playtests - these were handled by Zoom, which is better than nothing, obviously, but brings some constraints of its own. The playtests were approached with good humour and great fortitude by my collaborators, but I was left with the realisation that I had spent a lot of time developing a game which I didn't like very much! This, I guess, is a commonplace situation in developing rules, but it is disappointing when it happens.

In reality, of course, it's just another step on the "two forward, one back" path, or whatever variations on that theme are appropriate from time to time. I have been reminded of a number of important principles, which I really should write on a whiteboard somewhere. Some of them are so bovinely obvious that I am embarrassed to put them up here.

* Your rules should reflect the type of game you like, and also (of course) the period and the size of battles you are aiming for. [In my own case, I have gained a lot of benefit in the past from reading design notes by Frank Chadwick and Howard Whitehouse, who are particular heroes of mine.]

* You can playtest your rules on your own for as long as you like, but you will always attempt to play the game in the way that you intended it to work, and back-fit the rules in accordingly. This may come off the rails when you involve some outsiders!

* Proof-reading your own rules may improve the spelling and the punctuation and the layout, but you will always interpret them as what you meant to say (regardless of whether you have actually said it).

* Writing a proper manual before the rules have stabilised has some advantages, particularly if you are intending to play this game with someone else, but it adds greatly to the problems of version control and of making substantial change - the timing of the shift from rough notes and crib-sheets to a proper booklet is tricky to get right, and only becomes obviously problematic when you find you have done it wrong.

* I have, I regret to say, a passion for adding details and fiddly bits to rules, with the intention of improving them, but usually I just slow things down. I need a slap every now and then.

The last (Zoom based) playtest game we had was slow and turgid, and got bogged down in a long-range firefight which would never have happened in 1704, and which my rules did nothing to discourage or prevent. That was the klaxon signal for a major re-think, and I've been working on it since then. Some of the revisions have subsequently been revised, of course, but I believe I am now making good progress, though the re-write of the booklet is a major overhead. 

Anyway, my Prinz Eugen rules are shaping up to draft version 0.8 (the production version, if such a thing ever exists, will start at 1.0!). I have made them a lot simpler, I have dropped some pet ideas because they slowed things down more than they improved the game. It is coming together, I think. This week I had intended to get some troops on the table to try some serious solo playtesting, but Real Life is starting to creep out of the shadow of Covid-19, so I am busy, but it is a necessary step, and it will go ahead.

I'll do some photos, as evidence of my resolve.


Separate Topic #1 - MDF Bases

Since Tony Barr has closed his East Riding Miniatures operation, I am wondering where to buy my MDF bases in future. For as long as I can remember, Tony has been so helpful and so quick to respond to requests that I feel more than a bit lost without him. I use odd-sized MDF bases - metric sizes, quite a lot of them, in 2mm thick for figure stands and 3mm for sabots and bigger pieces. I had a look at the Warbases website - maybe that is the thing to do, but I was short of time and found it difficult to find my way around.

Supreme Littleness Designs have done some nice work for me in the past, but I think Michael is heavily involved in doing scenery design work for other suppliers at present.

Simple question, really - I am in the UK - maybe the answer is "Warbases" after all, but does anyone have any strong recommendations where I should get my MDF bases now? All helpful suggestions welcome.


Separate Topic #2 - Evidence of Dementia? - The Vanishing Horses

I spent a few hours in the dreaded spare figures boxes last week, and eventually collected together enough good figures to draw up a plan to paint the French Napoleonic Guard Chasseurs à Cheval. The troopers will all be OPC Hinton Hunt, the command figures SHQ, cobbled to fit on Hinton Hunt horses (FNH3). All good - pleased that I've got that worked out at long last. Yesterday I put the collected castings into a little sandwich box, to label it up for the project, and was rather irritated to note that I had lost the extra HH horses I had found for the command. Obviously I must have left them lying somewhere, so I had a good search - the front of bookshelves tends to be a favourite spot for such things - no. Didn't find them, after a thorough look around.

Next obvious possibility is misfiling - maybe the horses got back into the spares boxes? No - it took a while to check, but they are not in there. There are, of course, lots of other wrong boxes they could have finished up in, but we are getting to the limits of possibility here. Anyway, I abandoned the search, hoping that I would remember what I had done with them. I couldn't have accidentally thrown them out, surely? Stop it! - I went to bed last night, determined to continue the hunt as soon as possible, and not really worried, but these things do niggle.

Today was a busy day; I had to travel into Edinburgh, and while I was sitting on the train, reading my book, I suddenly remembered very clearly that the extra horses had been put into the stripping jar, which is about 3 feet from where I was conducting the search, and is in direct line-of-sight (to use an artillery term). Problem solved. Well - one problem, anyway.

Separate Topic #3 - Blogger Blues

At present I am having problems with Blogger again - I just know it must be my own fault - something to do with Account Settings, but I haven't got to the bottom of it yet. For a start, I am unable to comment on anyone else's blog (well, in fact, there was one day when it worked...), and for another thing I can only upload photos into my own blog one at a time, which is tedious. I am sort of keeping an eye on things, but I wished primarily to offer my apologies to anyone who is feeling neglected - at present, Blogger insists on my leaving comments under my Gmail address rather than my official blog ID - can't do that, I'm afraid. I am thinking about this, but I'm hoping it heals up, which is what usually happens with Blogger issues.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Hooptedoodle #400 - Roller Towels as We Knew Them

 Recently I was looking at some old photos of domestic kitchens - circa WW1, I guess, and I saw a picture of one of these...

In case you don't recognise it, this is a traditional roller towel - linen on a wooden roller - such as my grannie had on her kitchen wall, and they were found in various other places (all my friends' grannies' kitchens, for a start) - they were everywhere, once, but I had forgotten about them completely.

Two yards of linen, stitched to make a loop. My grannie's would certainly have been clean (boiled) every day. We had them in the washrooms at my primary school - I was at primary school in the 1950s, though the school itself was pretty much Victorian. That was less satisfactory, the soiled towel would go round and round, getting wetter and filthier as the day went on. I guess they must have been in factories and pubs and everywhere.

By the time I was working, and in the habit of going into pubs, they had been replaced by linen rolls in metal dispensers which were usually serviced by a contract company - and they seldom seemed to work very satisfactorily - they would jam, or the towel would end up in a sodden heap on the floor. Eventually, of course, all this was replaced by paper towels, to ensure someone could make money from the conversion of forests into non-recyclable paper waste, and later still by hot air blasters. I guess this has all been progress - driven by the search for improved hygiene.

 Anyway - back to the point. I can see some arguments in favour of the old linen roller:

* It would always be in the same place - no-one could walk off with it

* If it was used sensibly, each user drying their face/hands and moving it down a little, it might have dried off by the time it went right round

* No-one could use it to clean his football boots (or whatever)

* It kept it off the floor

* It was Official Issue - it would be maintained and refreshed by the Keeper of the House (Grannie)

My grannie's used to be on the wall next to the big sink in her back kitchen (scullery?) - when he came in from work, my grandad used to wash his face and hands with Stergene (bottled laundry detergent), I believe, which is scary, and on one famous occasion he accidentally washed his face with liquid ammonia, from which he seems to have recovered all right, and recovered long before his wife forgave him for his language. 

Here's an old vote in support of roller towels, with useful life-style tips for the enthusiast:

Kitchen Work Made Easier.


It seems strange to speak of the roller towel as a convenience, when it should be considered a positive necessity in every well-ordered household, yet there are many more kitchens without them than with them in some parts of the country— the cook substituting her work apron, or, worse, a dish towel, to wipe her hands upon. A roller and fixtures can be bought ready to screw into the wall. Six towels is a bountiful supply for one roller. Buy a good quality of linen crash, making each towel two-and-a-half yards in length; sew in a seam and fell neatly. Roller towels that have been in use a few months make the best tea towels, as they are soft and pliable, a quality by no means to be despised. Cut in two, hem the edges and again supply the towel drawer with new roller towels. In this way the drawer can be always supplied with strong towels for kitchen toilet purposes, as well as soft ones for the dishes. — The Weekly Wisconsin (May 13, 1889).

Conversely, it was also identified as a menace to health, as here: 

From a public information advertisement in the US in 1915

 While shaving this morning, I wondered if a variant could have been produced - a Moebius Towel? - with a single twist in the towel before stitching - this could gradually have presented us with both sides of the linen before we got back to the soiled bit. Nah - it wouldn't work, but I do find shaving very boring.


Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Hooptedoodle #399 - Time Out for a Jigsaw Puzzle

 A lot of work is going on here at present, trying to restore some order to Chateau Foy after the sale of my mother-in-law's house, which has involved an astonishing amount of stuff passing through here on its way to the saleroom, or the charity shop, or the tip. One useful side effect of this is that we keep finding things that we had lost or forgotten about. Last week we found this item behind the sofa in the Garden Room (aka The Ironing Room or The Music Practice Room):

It is a Jumeo PortaPuzzle - a very handy item, which will keep your unfinished jigsaw puzzle flat and safe - you can even zip it shut and take your puzzle around to someone else's house - whatever. You may well own such a thing. This is quite a big one - it's about 32.3 inches wide - big enough for a 1000-piecer, which is why behind the sofa is about the only place we could have stored it.

OK - this is not an advert for PortaPuzzles, nor even for the benefits of tidying up, but the discovery of this lost treasure did encourage me to dig out one of our jigsaws and have a go. My puzzle of choice was a 400-piece job we have had for a couple of years; it's a custom puzzle depicting a map of our home county. It's not the entire county, of course - the big towns and the old coalmining areas are mysteriously excluded, so it's a sort of cute, tourists' view map of our county. This makes an interesting little challenge; the puzzle comes without an illustration. It would be possible, of course, to get hold of an actual map, and use that as a master, but that would definitely be cheating; the objective here is to complete the puzzle from one's own knowledge of the area. I spent a fascinating couple of days trying to locate all the farms and tiny hamlets, and there was an insane afternoon when I placed all the sea pieces by measuring the gridlines and checking for a match.

Anyway - not much more to say about it really, but I'm reminded that jigsaws are good fun, I am pleased with my knowledge of the area, and I am encouraged to try another puzzle next week. I have an unopened 500-piece picture of Port Isaac, which will do nicely. The map puzzles are made by Butler & Hill, if you are interested. 

It did occur to me that carrying one of these map puzzles around in your car in case you get lost would not be a great plan, unless you had plenty of time. 

I was discussing with the Contesse the most terrifying jigsaw we had heard of - the winner was a large puzzle showing only a coloured picture of baked beans - a bath full of beans, in fact, cropped so that only the beans were visible. That's pretty bad, but we understand that some maniac also produced such a puzzle, but printed on both sides with different, though similar, photos of baked beans. That's certainly a bit extreme.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Brunanburh: History for Videogamers

 Just a very quick extra post on The Great Battle of 937 - someone sent me a link to this, which is pretty much aimed at videogamers, but I rather enjoyed it, and it seems a reasonable presentation of current thought [the battlefield site is probably a bit out]. It's 11 minutes or something - sorry about the sponsors' adverts and That Voice, and the cute captions, but it's not a bad little summary.

No, I haven't downloaded the game.

Friday, 18 June 2021

WSS: Queen Dowager's Regt of Horse

 This unit has taken a while to finish - the hot weather has been a problem for painting, and also the football has been a very enjoyable distraction. Anyway - here they are. They still have to have their flag fitted, and I'll see to that in the morning when the varnish is properly cured.

Problems with the heat? Well, mostly these are to do with my own tendency to snooze in hot weather, but I did have some issues with paint going off too quickly, and also some concerns about my varnish. Normally, I apply gloss varnish with a fairly large brush - it floods on well, and the fact that it goes on a little frothy is OK, because the bubbles disappear before the varnish dries. However, this can be tricky if the ambient temperature is high - it's possible for the varnish to start to set with the bubbles still present. I was prepared for this, so I've been careful to use the varnish in a cooler room, and everything is fine.

If the flag goes on nicely in the morning I hope to add another photo, and I may line up the growing British contingent for a group photo. 

 ***** Late Edit *****

Righto - good morning - the flag is now in place, and here are the extra pictures:

 This little British army is still to receive 2 more regiments of horse, 1 of dragoons, 3 (possibly 4) of foot, 2 more field guns and some staff - probably a commander and a couple of brigadiers. After that I have to finish some bits and pieces for the Imperial and Bavarian forces, and then start on the French. There are plans beyond that, but let's keep it sensible for the time being!

I am prepared to bet that you probably know who the Queen Dowager was, but I certainly didn't (being an ignopotamus), so I did a bit of reading, and I now have at least some basic facts:

She was the widow of Charles II - Caterina de Bragança. She seems to have had a fairly poor time of it when Charlie Boy was still alive (having to accept Charles's mistress into the Royal Household, among other outrages), and she famously had no children, as a consequence of which there were quite a few British monarchs in a short time. Partly because she was trying to secure her inheritance, she hung around in Britain for some years after she was widowed, and her regiment of horse was still in evidence in 1703 (though known as Wyndham's Horse by this date). She returned to Portugal before she died in 1705.

Here is a portrait of Queen Caterina, dressed as a shepherdess. You probably recognised her outfit immediately, since all shepherdesses dress like this - certainly in Scotland they do. The cherub seems dubious.