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

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Change of Scene

On Thursday I travelled down to visit Graham - he of Crann Tara Miniatures, and the very fine Scotia Albion blog - a real celebrity by my standards!

Crann Tara - '45 Rebellion - British Line Command, Marching
Apart from the social side of my visit (i.e. a chance for me to bore someone else to death) and the opportunity to see some of Graham's splendid figures, and talk about how he develops and manufactures (and sells) them, I have been fascinated by his reports of his use of 3D printers, and was very keen to know a bit more.

I had a splendid day - again, I must express my appreciation of Graham's kindness and his resilience and patience in answering my stupid questions so well and so openly. I learned a great deal, I have to say, and he very kindly printed me some samples of Vauban-type fortifications, and provided me with links to some of the more promising sites which provide files for printing (including some, such as Thingiverse, which provide the files free of charge, subject to the usual courtesy rules about non-commercial use and giving credit where it's due).

I accept that the 3D printing machines are probably pretty familiar now, if not to me, but I hadn't realised that they come in various types. Graham has a Prusa machine, which prints using a plastic filament (FDM - Fused Deposition Modelling), and he also has one which is physically smaller (I have forgotten it's maker, but you can find all this on Graham's blog) - this second one produces the printed models in a resin bath rather than on a flatbed in the open air (which is what the FDM one does). Both produce astonishing results - the resin models show fine detail rather better (for figures), while the filament machine is better for buildings and similar pieces. I saw figures of various types, in all sorts of sizes, and am very impressed that the muskets and bayonets appear, faithfully and beautiful, right down to the smallest size. The afternoon was filled with tiny tanks, bren-gun careers, triremes, the hulls and sails of sailing ships, soldiers of every known size and all manner of bits and pieces for fortifications - even furniture for dolls' houses...

Prusa FDM 3D Printer - probably not the same model!
The cost of production of the pieces is very low, though the machines themselves are obviously a serious investment if you are looking for quality and reliability. Printing is slow, which is not a problem, though it requires some commonsense in scoping projects and realistic production times. I was interested to learn that with the resin machine you can group several soldiers (for example) and produce them as a single job, with the same elapsed time as a solitary figure - on the other hand, the FDM printer will do the figures as a single batch, but the times will be additive. I was about to add a note here about why this is so, but I suddenly remember that I am out of my depth.

I also saw a lot of beautiful and interesting painted soldiers, of course, which is inspirational and humbling at the same time, and we talked a lot about wargaming - no-one expected that! I had an excellent day all round. 

It's a part of the country I really don't know at all. I was favourably impressed - it was a fine, sunny day and, maybe apart from Hartlepool [!], the area is more attractive than I expected and, of course, the people are lovely. In the evening Graham took me along to the Redcar Raiders Wargaming Club, which meets in a pub (yeah!). The members were very friendly and welcoming - that's a thriving club. I wandered about, looking at the activities, trying not to do my usual Banquo's Ghost impersonation. Amongst other things, there were a number of Warhammer-style games, and Blood Bowl (which is new to me), and an interesting looking naval game called Blood and Plunder. All great fun. 

Redcar Raiders - photo borrowed from their Facebook page

Thanks again, Graham, for your time and generosity - a fascinating day, and very educational. I'm going to do some more reading online about 3D printers, to see what possibilities there are for adding the missing bits to my existing Vauban fort.

Topic Two

One result of what I have learned is that I now realise that 3D printing is the way to progress my fort and my siege gaming, whatever my timescale, and however ambitious the intentions of the project might become. One immediate casualty is that one of my interim "diversification projects" has now become defunct, which means I have a spare fort to dispose of.

I planned to put this on eBay in a few weeks. Here are some photos - if anyone is interested, please email me at the address in my profile, or else send a comment to this post (stating that it is not for publication) with your email details, so I can contact you. What I have on offer is's Vauban fort set, with some extra pieces.  I regret that it would be a bad idea to mail it outside the UK, since the postage costs will be more than the price of the item - apologies for this, but UK only, please.

Some measurements - it is, as you see, a square fort. It's nominally 15mm scale, and it's cast in hard resin (the larger pieces are hollowed out, to keep the weight down). There are 4 walls, 4 bastions, 2 gatehouses and 4 staircases.

Overall size is 515mm square; the walls are 55mm to the top, and the straight wall sections are 180mm long, the roadway behind the rampart is 42mm wide. It is as new - I bought it about a year ago, and it has been stored, unpainted, in the original packaging - it just needs to be washed and painted. I'll try to get a painted view from Anyscale Models' website.

If you're interested, please get in touch. If there's no interest, I'll put it on eBay in a few weeks, but the price is likely to go up a bit to cover overheads.

Photo of painted Vauban Fort borrowed from Anyscale Models' website - I am offering a few additional bits

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Hooptedoodle #347 - Amazon Prime Telephone Scam

Armed with our whizzo anti-nuisance phone, we have got rather used to not being hassled by morons, but the use of randomised fake caller numbers seems to have brought the problem back.

No damage done here, but just a general heads-up. This scam was going the rounds last year, based on fake emails. It's now moved to the telephone. This last week we have been averaging 3 or 4 scam phone calls a day, sent to both our landline and my wife's mobile. The sender number appears to be randomly generated - none of the numbers is listed on Who Called Me and similar sites, and a call to any of them is rejected as invalid - no such number. Thus we can block each individual number as it is used, but it doesn't help much.

On the 3 occasions we've answered the call, there is a recorded voice message (English, with an Indian-subcontinent accent) which tells us that our Amazon Prime account will now renew itself by billing us $39.99 each month. If we do not wish to renew, press "1" to speak to an account advisor.

We did not press "1", of course, though some nervous people might. None of us has an Amazon Prime account (I can't imagine why we would want one), though both of the telephones in question were used in connection with chasing up recent non-delivery problems (and promised but imaginary refunds) associated with the Amazon Marketplace. Coincidence?

I don't think changing passwords or anything is going to help - we could change our contact numbers for our Amazon accounts, I guess. For the moment we'll just try not to answer, not play along and hope they get fed up with us soon.

Anyway - keep an eye open. I have already ditched my eBay account because of the security risks. I'd hate to lose access to Amazon, but I am starting to think about not buying anything more from Amazon's "marketplace" sellers. I'm sure they are mostly bona fide, but we've come across some lulus.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Hooptedoodle #346 - Pauly, the Iron Man

Yet another off-topic story of no consequence, about some odd-ball I used to know. This one is not only off-topic, but also definitely off-colour, so if you don't fancy the idea, or are easily offended, please skip it and go and read something else. I quite understand. Enjoy the rest of your day.

This recollection was sparked by a recent conversation with a mate of mine, in which we revisited some treasured tales of Pauly, a mutual friend, whom neither of us has seen for some years.

I first met Pauly when he was about 30. He's a native of Portstewart, in County Londonderry, though subsequently a Glaswegian, and I came to know him when I moved to this area because he was a spare-time musician (such lost souls tend to attract each other in the void, like asteroids). He was also renowned as a volunteer fireman in a local village.

He played the uillean bagpipes, and pretty well, too, I believe, though I never heard him. He was also a drummer (of sorts). As a self-taught drummer he was passable, but had a very narrow range of styles and was completely unable to play quietly, which is definitely a career limitation for a drummer. He and I were once involved in a wedding band in a local village hall, and the event was so loud and so unruly that the police eventually stopped it - that village hall has never been allowed to put on music since that occasion. Not even for children's tea-parties. This is fame of a sort, I guess.

That brings us to the underlying theme of this story - wherever Pauly went, if there was drink involved there was frequently trouble. He was a lovely man, amusing, and generous to a fault, but he stands out in my personal annals as one of the very few genuine desperadoes I ever met.

When I first met him he had just recovered from an "accident", in which he had dived into the sea from a cliff, and been lucky to escape with only a damaged vertebra in his neck. When pressed on the matter, he claimed that he had done this "for a laugh", to entertain some friends. He also claimed that he was unlucky in that he had been assured that it was safe to dive from this cliff, though he chose the wrong cliff (the assurance being in respect of a nearby, but totally different cliff), and he accepted that he was probably fortunate to survive.

Pauly was ex-army. After he left the army he appears to have taken "a few years out" - his main interest (apart from wild bouts of heavy drinking) was in keeping supremely fit. He was a regular, and very successful, competitor in various extreme competitions such as the Iron Man triathlon events - he was a hill runner extraordinaire, a mountain biker, swimmer, wind-surfer, diver and general madman. Whatever he did, it was invariably over the top. My mother would certainly not have allowed me to play with him, I think.

He told many hilarious tales - almost always self-deprecating, with himself as the butt of the humour. After his part-time spell as a volunteer fireman, he took a permanent job with the fire brigade in a nearby town (Musselburgh), and he got married and had a couple of kids and showed definite signs of settling down, though the fire service is probably never very calm. Obviously he did his share of cutting people out of motor wrecks and searching buildings for bodies - none of which he talked about. Later he was promoted to be a fire officer in a market town in the Borders, he moved away from these parts and bought a lovely old house in the grounds of a private school. His wife was a psychiatrist - a super lady - I guess she calmed him down. I visited him one weekend in the Borders, on an off-day. He was very happy, his new home was splendid, his family was everything to him, and I realised that he was no longer the crazy man I used to know. I guess this is in itself a happy ending, so I wished him well, and apart from occasional Xmas emails I haven't been in touch since.

My favourite of his fire service stories concerned the rescue of a very large lady in Musselburgh who decided to take a bath one Saturday night, when she was drunk. Alas, the plastic bathtub cracked under the weight, and she was trapped in the wreckage. The alarm was raised when the bath-water brought down the bathroom ceiling in the apartment below. We should draw a veil over the details of this episode, but it does give an interesting insight into the hazards and the delicacy necessary in the work.

Pauly was at his most entertaining recounting his adventures hitch-hiking around the USA and South America. His post-army drop-out period started off in the States - he managed to support himself by playing the bagpipes in malls and doing odd jobs. He was arrested on a number of occasions for possessing weed, though this only became nasty when he was jailed in El Paso - the police picked him up for vagrancy, confiscating all his money and papers to make the point. He was in serious trouble since his visa had expired. They kept all his stuff (including the bagpipes) and did a deal by which they dumped him and another hitch-hiking pot-head in Mexico, on the understanding that they did not wish to see him again.

He had a pretty wild and very confused time in South America.  He was there for almost a year. He made long trips on lorries, and in railway trucks. He mixed with some of the most iconic dead-beats of history. He made a little pocket money doing labouring jobs, cleaning jobs, washing dishes - whatever came up. It was never legal - he never had valid papers for being anywhere - he still had his British passport, but that was it. He deliberately kept a low profile at all times.

At one stage he arrived after a long ride in a truck at some coastal city (it might have been Valparaiso - it doesn't matter). He headed off to an apartment for which he had been given the address, dropped his bag off and was dragged down to a beach for a party. He spent the night drinking with a bunch of layabouts. At some point money was put into a hat, and someone went off and brought back some food. Pauly subsequently became very ill, and passed out on the beach. He was awakened by the tide coming in...

He was really not feeling good at all, and was disappointed to realise that he had (to put it in a straightforward manner) soiled himself during the night. He made an attempt to clean himself in the sea, with limited success. He still had a small amount of cash, so he set off to put matters right. He went to a street market in a poor area near the harbour, where he just had enough to buy a very cheap pair of jeans (men's - medium) and some underclothes. With commendable initiative, he walked into a shopping area, entered a supermarket and locked himself in a customer toilet. He cleaned himself up, took the plastic bag off his new jeans, wrapped up his soiled old jeans in the bag, and got rid of the evidence by throwing it out of the window into an alley-way. Only then, when he unfolded them, did he realise that his new jeans from the market stall were actually a denim jacket.

He did magnificently. He put the jacket on as a kind of loin cloth - upside down, back to front - tied the sleeves around his thighs and pulled his tee-shirt down as far as it would go. He said that he looked unbelievable, but he walked out of the crowded store - no-one gave him a second look, apparently - and made his way to the apartment. Every day, in some dubious part of the world, people must be performing acts of improvisational heroism like this which put us all to shame. In his way, Pauly was a legend. Certainly, his adventures are still told in hushed whispers.

Friday, 4 October 2019

I May Be Busy for a While

On a daft whim I ordered this - Blu-Ray box set of the "complete" Twilight Zone, available on a special deal - though opinions vary as to how complete it is. It's OK with me - I didn't see many of the original UK telecasts - we didn't have a TV for much of that period.

Box arrived safely today. 156 shows on 32 discs, I believe. I'm sure there will be some disappointments in there, but there's plenty of scope - whenever there's a risk of my getting around to doing something useful, I have no shortage of things to distract myself...

Another example of transplanted nostalgia - a wish to revisit something I never experienced in the first place!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

A Gentleman's War

I've been very much enjoying Howard Whitehouse's new book for my bedtime reading. Entertainingly written, and the game looks like fun - and also looks like it's versatile enough to cover a few periods with minor tweaking.

One small concern - has anyone played the game? - does anyone understand the card play? - even a bit? There must be something obvious I'm missing; that section seems to provide a lot of detail, but I seem to have missed the overall system. Sat-nav approach to wargames rules. I'll read it again...

Monday, 30 September 2019

The Miracle of St George - contd.

Further to yesterday's post, I got an interesting suggestion from the Duc de Gobin, the noted historian, engineer, velocipedist, wing-walker and collector of small invertebrates. The Duc suggested that my "cross on the window" experience might be the work of the dreaded Slug of St George.

Naturally, one is obliged to approach such matters with a certain laddish sang froid, to avoid giving an impression of ridiculous intemperance, but this morning's new development is....


Now then - it's not a new cross, it's exactly the same one - it's just come back after a day of not being there. Right.

What have we got here? - if it's a person that's done this, what are the implications?...

* Well, the roof out there is steep and slippy and quite high up. Quite apart from what they might mean by such a sign, I'm not sure I'd wish to meet someone who could do this.
* The Army have recently been conducting training exercises on the beach behind my house, which involved twin-engined helicopters and suchlike at 3am. I've not been marked as a target, surely?

Let's assume that it's just a minor freak of nature, then....

OK. First off, apologies for the duff photograph - it was more easily visible on Saturday night - snag with night photography of windows is that the reflections of what is inside the window would probably be more scary than what is outside. The photo should be judged in context - no-one complains that the imprint on the Turin Shroud, for example, is a little underexposed. For supernatural evidence, crap photography is essential.

It is very obvious that what we have here are two slug tracks across my window, and they only show up when there is condensation on the outside - viz Saturday night and this morning. So that's a bit of a relief, except that...

* just why did a slug choose to make a sign he doesn't understand on my window? Who told him to do it?
* since I've never knowingly had slug-tracks on my windows in the 19 years I've been living here, why did I get two in one night?
* how long do you reckon it would take to train a slug to do this?

All in all, I don't think I've heard the last of this. I shall take care to keep a 1st edition copy of A.B. Mayne's Essentials of School Algebra under my pillow for a while.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Fighting with Friends

Yesterday I attended a wargame in the company of Stryker and Goya, at Stryker's house. We played an excellent Napoleonic game based on the Battle of Ligny, using Stryker's Muskets & Marshals rules.

I'll attempt to put together a proper mini-report later in the week, once I've sorted out my photos. By that time, with luck, Stryker himself will have done a blog post, featuring his own (much better) pictures. For the moment, suffice to say that a very good time was had by all, history was not overturned, and Stryker's cleverly-crafted scenario worked really well. Once again, many thanks to our host for his kind hospitality and a sumptuous luncheon - a lot of work, and much appreciated.

Completely separate from the main story, a couple of odd things happened to me yesterday.

Stock photo
(1) On a bright, clear morning, at about 08:30 on my way north, I suddenly drove into a bank of dense fog in the middle of the Queensferry Crossing, the new road bridge over the Firth of Forth. Not a problem, but definitely a strange feeling to suddenly be driving along with nothing visible further away than about 15 feet - the barriers and the bridge superstructure just vanished. Only lasted about 30 seconds, but I'm very glad there was only light traffic. From then on my trip was, as before, clear and sunny.

(2) Rather more spooky. While I was getting ready to go to bed, around midnight, I raised the roller blind on the skylight in the attic bedroom, and was surprised to find that someone had scrawled a cross on the window. It was completely dark outside, but the room light showed up the marking very clearly. It was on the outside, and it looked as though someone had drawn a very rough St George's cross with their finger, right across the window - it seemed to be a light grey colour. At first I thought someone was playing a joke on me - it was a definite cross - but since it was on the outside that's not possible. There's only the roof out there.

The vertical stroke was pretty firm - quite straight, about 1cm wide and bang in the centre, top to bottom. The horizontal was more uneven and wiggled a bit, but it still went right across. I was going to check out what it was, but the weather wasn't great, so opening the skylight was not a good idea. I should have taken a photo, but my camera was still packed away from the Ligny trip, so I decided that I would open up the window in the morning and have a good look.

Came the morning, of course, and it had gone. Not a trace. I had a moment of doubt whether I'd seen it at all, but I am certain that it had been definite enough to give me something of a shock the previous night. I am half crazed, of course, but not normally given to imagining visitations.

So - no photo, no evidence, no clues really. I really wish I'd taken a picture. I can only guess that recent wet weather has resulted in a snail or a slug taking a couple of strolls across our roof window, and last night's rain subsequently washed it away. But it was very clear, and looked almost deliberate.

I'm not going to lose much sleep over this, but the nervously imaginative might react badly to a sign appearing on their window at night. If something grisly happens to me, I promise to let you know. If it's grisly enough, you might read about it elsewhere.