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

Friday 30 November 2012

The Two French Armies

What passes for the sun being up in Scotland as we approach the Solstice

A Post for a Slack Morning

Well, well.

My two-month wrangle with the banks was suddenly over yesterday – everything seems to be running smoothly. I won. The garden is finally straightened up for the Winter (with sincere thanks to Dod the Gartenmeister), a brief drama connected with my son’s school exams appears to have sorted itself out, I’ve sent a shipment of soldiers away to be painted, I’ve extracted myself from a musical project which was starting to do my head in, and it’s another beautiful morning.

Unnaturally beautiful, in fact. While the rest of the UK has had dreadful problems with heavy rain and flooding, we somehow managed to have the wind veer to the North, so that – for the moment at least – it is clear and cold and vaguely Scandinavian here. While I was sauntering around, having my breakfast (a strange eating ritual I perfected when I still had commuter trains to catch), I was watching the sun come up. I munched my toast and strawberry jam (Bonne Maman – very good), and a single aeroplane vapour trail, many miles away, was eastbound, immediately above the sun in the visible sky. It was lit up a wonderful, pinkish gold. I wondered where the plane was going – probably Amsterdam – and whether this was a good sample of that mysterious Napoleonic uniform colour, aurore.

A second cup of coffee, nothing particular to do this morning – hmmm. This could be how people who can relax feel on a good day.

My Liebster nominations appear to have incommoded as many people as they pleased, so I’ll pass swiftly on from that [Got it wrong again, Dad]. My enthusiasm for another rant against the banks is fairly low this morning, so a good, safe-ground post might be some photos of soldiers – yes – good idea.

I wrote recently that I have re-organised my French army so that it is now two French armies, and there was mention of some pictures in due course. If anyone is following my campaign (and sometimes I’m not sure whether I am), please note that these two armies are not quite the same as the line-up for the campaign. The structure is similar, but this is a more long-term establishment thing – the campaign armies are spread all over Northern Spain to meet the week-to-week requirements of the unpleasantness there.

Here’s the whole lot, from 2 directions - you may notice the little "battalion" of skirmish-order tirailleurs at the front of each brigade...

Armée du Centre – 3 infantry divisions plus cavalry – mostly
Confederation, Spanish & Italians

Armée de Portugal – 3 infantry divisions plus cavalry

The Engineers, Reserve & Garrison Artillery and Odd-Bods

It’s considered good form to ask the Emperor to do his
special Charles Aznavour medley, with the band

Some more general pictures...

Monday 26 November 2012

Not the Lobster Award

I've been aware of various blogs showing the Liebster Blog logo - a distinction which I know little about and hadn't really identified with. Since I have always subscribed to a strategy of self-humiliation as the best pre-emptor of humiliation by others, I covered myself by inventing a private joke about my receiving the Lobster Award, an alternative mark of recognition for blogs which fall rather short of popular acclaim. I even considered nominating other, similar blogs for this crustacean form.

Ross - he of the excellent Battle Game of the Month - has rather caught me off-guard by kindly nominating this blog for the for-real Liebster, which throws the whole lobster thing out of whack. Thank you Ross - I do appreciate it, though I am slightly nervous about the amount of homework I need to do next.

I understand that the rules require me to thank Ross for the nomination [tick], display the Liebster logo [at right - tick] and nominate 5 blogs which I like and read regularly, and which have less than 200 followers. Then all I have to do is send comments to those blogs to give them the news - supposedly good.

This is where the homework comes in - many of the blogs I read regularly have already been nominated, or have too many followers - one or two of them haven't been posting recently, and I did consider sending the Blog Police round to check they are all right.

I finished up with the following 5, which doesn't mean that I do not love others which are not listed.

(1) Hinton Hunt Vintage Wargame Figures because it's a joy to behold - a classic presentation of lovely pictures of proper old soldiers - and because I still don't understand how Ian gets Hinton Hunts to look that good.

(2) Another, closely related blog which I use a lot for reference is Clive's very fine The Hinton Hunter, which is an absolute gold mine for information and pictures of old Hinton Hunt models and related ranges.

(3) I am a big fan of Lee's A Napoleonic 'therapy' project for 2012, which is an inspirational shop window for the very best of 6mm Napoleonics, with some fabulous work on making hex grid battlefields look good.

(4) I was sure that Harry's Parum Pugna blog would already have been nominated, but I believe it hasn't. I'm not really an Ancients fan, but I love the pictures, and the posts are always humorous and pithy and brief - qualities which impress me especially, since they have all evaded me over the years.

(5) Something a little different - I've recently taken to reading Polemarch, which has a lot of original thought about wargames, philosophy and a whole raft of unlikely subject matter. Recommended.

If anyone wishes to accept it, you can also have a complimentary Lobster Award to go with it.


Next I'll send the comments...

Saturday 24 November 2012

Solo Campaign - Weeks 23 & 24

After something of an extended intermission, the Solo Campaign gets going again. No dramatic action, but the French are worried about having left Madrid pretty much exposed (and thus are proposing to leave Salamanca exposed as well), the wall-repairers at Ciudad Rodrigo have made very poor progress (which is worrying the commandant), and I’m a bit worried myself about the logistics of putting into operation a cunning plan to use a British fleet to convey part of the Spanish Army round the coast to the other side of Spain. So it’s all a bit worrying.

Anyway, here is the summary of Weeks 23 and 24, and it’s a comfort to have things moving again...

Seems like a nice boy? – Gen de Divn Claude-François
Ferey, shortly to arrive to take over the Division of the
unfortunate Maucune. A suitably prestigious Art
Miniaturen figure is being commissioned to play the
part of Ferey on the tabletop – watch this space

Week 23

Random Events and Strategic Notes
No progress has been made with the Central Junta’s request that Wellington be seconded to the Spanish service. A further request has been made, for the British Navy to transport España’s force from Vigo, round the coast through Gibraltar, to Tortosa, to join up with the rest of the Spanish 3rd Army to act against the French (and, potentially, their supply routes) in Aragon and Navarra. It is expected that General Giron would have a more active role with this enlarged field army.

It will take 2 weeks to assemble enough ships, and the actual passage is estimated at 2-3 weeks.

Outbreak of fever at Zaragoza badly affects French forces E & G (which are to combine). Estimated 1500 men in hospital, which is about 30% of French force present. Sickness not prevalent among civilian population.

The 3D3 activation throws give the Allies 7 and the French 4. The Allies opt to move first.

Following losses sustained to staff at the Battle of Carpio de Azaba, the following changes to the French command are announced:
* General de Divn Claude-François Ferey, Baron de Rosengath, has been appointed to take over command of the 5th Divn of the Armée de Portugal (formerly Maucune’s). Ferey is currently on long-term recuperation leave in France (following wounds received at the Battle of Fuentes d’Onoro) and will not arrive to join his new command until mid July. In the interim, the division will be commanded by Gen de Bde Baron Lamartinière, Marmont’s Chief of Staff.
* While General Berlier is absent from duty, his brigade of Clauzel’s Divn will be commanded by Col de Conchy of 25e Léger


Allies (7 allowed)
1 – A (Aigburth, with the Allied 3rd, 7th and Light Divns, plus cavalry) rests at Ciudad Rodrigo, allowing recovery following the previous week’s battle.
2 – D (Framlingham, with the Allied siege train) marches from Abrantes to Almeida, being ordered to join up with Aigburth’s main army.
3 – Sp B (España) is ordered to march from Orense to Vigo, to prepare his army for embarkation. This is a difficult (brown) road, so a test is required:
2D3 = 5 +2 (España’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 6   - march is completed with no problems
4 – B (Graham, at Braga) to send scouting patrols into Orense
5 – A (Aigburth) to send scouting patrols into the area around Salamanca, to monitor the state and position of the French field armies.
6 – British ships at Gibraltar, Lisbon and Porto ordered to make ready and sail for Vigo within 1 week.
[Intelligence step -
  • no French forces detected in Orense – assume Marmont is still at Leon.
  • patrols from KGL and Brunswick Hussars report that Clauzel’s defeated force has stopped at Salamanca, and is not in good shape. Jourdan’s force also in this area, giving the French an estimated total of 25000 in this area [this is an over-estimate]]
French (4 allowed)
1 – I (Clauzel) rests at Salamanca.
2 – E (Rabbe’s bde of Abbé’s Division of the Armée du Nord) and G (Lacharrue’s bde of the same Divn) are to combine as E, under Abbé, at Zaragoza.
3 – K (Jourdan, at Salamanca) to send scouting patrols towards Ciudad Rodrigo.
4 – N (Marmont, at Leon), to send patrols into Zamora and Lugo.
[Intelligence step –
  • Troopers from Maupoint’s cavalry brigade (in force K) detect no general movement of Allied units from Ciudad Rodrigo – Allied scouts reported around Salamanca area – presence of 1st Hussars KGL confirms that Allied main army is still at Ciudad – no details known
  • Cavalry attached to Marmont, at Leon, have found no Allied movements around Lugo, and have little definite information – hostility of civilian population in this area makes scouting very difficult. One party of 30 troopers  from 22e Chasseurs disappeared without trace near Sarria, presumed captured.]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. French Force E at Zaragoza is Demoralized by serious outbreak of fever – this week’s losses to the hospital are:
4/28e Leg  -3 blocks; Chass des Montagnes, Gren Prov, 1/Dgns Prov, 4e Vistule & Tirailleur bn each -1 block = 1500 men in total.

None, apart from scouts.

Engineering at Ciudad Rodrigo
Each battalion present with the garrison rolls 1D6 each week, giving 4D6 – every 6 rolled adds 1 to the Fortress Value, which is currently 4 – aiming to be repaired to a full value of 6.  This week, the dice come up 5 3 3 1, so no progress with the Fortress Value, which remains at 4.

HMS Inconsolable, 74 guns, Captain James Thornycroft,
which will be the command ship for the little fleet
transporting España’s troops from Vigo to Tortosa

Week 24

Random Events and Strategic Notes
Outbreak of fever at Zaragoza seems to have been related to troops being supplied with drinking water obtained from the River Ebro. No new cases reported this week.

Concerned about the safety of Madrid, King Joseph has ordered Jourdan to return there with his force, leaving Marmont and Clauzel with responsibility for Leon and Castille.

The 3D3 activation throws give the Allies 4 and the French 5. The French opt to move first.


French (5 allowed)
1 – E (Abbé’s Division of the Armée du Nord) rest at Zaragoza, to recover from fever outbreak.
2 – K (Jourdan) to march from Salamanca to Avila, en route to Madrid.
3 – N (Marmont) to march from Leon to Zamora, to communicate with Clauzel.
4 – I (Clauzel) to scout from Salamanca towards Ciudad Rodrigo.
5 – N (Marmont) to scout from Zamora towards Orense.
[Intelligence step –
  • No new information – the French are unaware that España has marched to Vigo]
Allies (4 allowed)
1 – British flotilla at Vigo take on supplies, and embark Spanish troops...
2 – Sp B (España) embark themselves and their equipment at the port of Vigo.
3 – D (Framlingham, with the Allied siege train) marches from Almeida to Ciudad Rodrigo.
4 – B (Graham, at Braga) to send scouting patrols into Orense
[Intelligence step -
  • no significant French forces detected in Orense, though some contact with unidentified French cavalry in this area.]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. French Force E at Zaragoza is no longer Demoralized by fever, since it has been contained.

None, apart from scouts.

Engineering at Ciudad Rodrigo
Each battalion present with the garrison rolls 1D6 each week, giving 4D6 – every 6 rolled adds 1 to the Fortress Value, which is currently 4 – aiming to be repaired to a full value of 6.  This week, the dice come up 5 4 3 2, so no progress with the Fortress Value, which remains at 4. Col D’Orsay, temporary commandant at Ciudad Rodrigo, is said to be very disappointed by lack of progress, since the withdrawal of Jourdan’s troops to Madrid leaves him exposed to attack.

Friday 23 November 2012

Old School Paint?

I must have reached some critical shelf date for my paint stock. A few of the old, polygonal GW/Citadel pots  I bought in the mid-noughties (at the start of my wargaming rebirth) are going off. As I've said elsewhere - and it was just as uncool when I said it last time - I like these paints. The pots are practical, they are simple to use, there is very little waste and they can be stored a long time (though not forever, as I am learning). My Blood Red went solid a week or two ago, so I had to get in some new. Now - disaster - the pots of white are turning gloopy on me.

A few practical issues have to be addressed. The only hobby shop that ever existed within 40 miles of here went bust a few years ago, so purchase of paint requires travel or - more practically - online mail order.

If I have no local supplier, and I don't like Citadel's newer pots so much (the lids won't stay upside down to act as a little palette), I also have a slight issue in that, having come to terms with seriously applying shades like Bubonic Brown and Snot Green to my beloved models (any grown-ups at home?), I now have to get the hang of new, though equally daft, names for the colours, since some 14-year-old marketing wizard must have decided that Snot Green isn't so great after all.

I like the Foundry paints I've used, though they are expensive to obtain here and I find the shade system impressive but bewildering - too much hit and miss without personal recommendations. Vallejo are good - I have some Vallejo colours (including white), but find them fiddly to use and I waste a lot when I mix them. A day or two ago our esteemed Monsieur Rosbif pointed us to a blog post where an expert sets out an astonishing presentation of all the weird and wonderful substances he uses in his painting and modelling. Once again, it is forcibly drawn to my attention that I am not - and never was - a proper painter. Not like those rude, heroic, beer-drinking Frothers people. So I am best advised to get the baby stuff and plod on quietly.

Back to the point - what to do about my white paint? Since the Citadel option is not so practical nor so convenient as it was, I took a mad turn and decided to revisit a brand of paint I used to be very fond of in the 1970s - Pelikan Plaka. In the interests of scientific research and unscientific nostalgia, I ordered a pot of the casein-based white acrylic I once used to swear by. In its/my day, Plaka was a major breakthrough for those of us who wished to paint white crossbelts over Humbrol red jackets, and were fed up watching the colour bleed through white enamel. At half-an-hour between coats, that was not a lot of fun.

It's arrived. I haven't used it yet, but I hope to shortly. The pots are redesigned, of course, but I believe the paint is still the same. If the white works, I might just give the yellow a try - I find it very hard to achieve a solid colour with yellows. Only problem with the yellow might be the shade - I used to have a very pale, lemony shade of Plaka - I assume they have others.

So anyway - this is today's non-news. If you are a Plaka fan, forgive my excitement - it's not often you get to leap back 40 years in a single step.

Subsequent Edit:

This is off the original topic, but I got emails from Ludovico, Jean-Marc and Lawrence Lander asking for more information about the changes in the Citadel range. Here is the only listing I have, which was kindly pointed out by Lee some weeks ago. I know nothing about the new range, nor how closely it matches the old one, but it seems there has been a move towards multi-shading. The only active, maintained stock of Citadel paints I've seen recently is in the Edinburgh branch of Hobbycraft, and they seem still to be using the old names, so don't ask me. I know nothing. A big boy did it and ran away.

New names - still daft?

Thursday 22 November 2012

ECW - Byron's and Dodding's Regts of Horse

Two new regiments of horse arrived today, splendidly painted by Lee - whose excellent painting services are described here. As ever, there is one for each side, to keep everything balanced and in step.

Col George Dodding's RoH [P] are a serious, well controlled lot. Dodding himself was from Conishall, in the Furness hundred of Lancashire, and his men were raised around Cartmel and Grange-over-Sands. The figures are SHQ/Kennington.

Lord Byron's Regt [R] are maybe a little more exciting in style - noted under my rules as "veteran rash gallopers", which makes them formidable opponents in melee but possibly difficult to keep under control. Figures are by Tumbling Dice - I've used SHQ horses to keep the cavalry units as compatible as possible.

Tomorrow they all get fitted with magnetic sheet under the bases, then they are ready for the light red boxes [not pink...].

Monday 19 November 2012

Regimiento del Ribero

Having replaced my congealed red paint, I've now finished the first of my new units of Falcata figures. Here are the Regimiento del Ribero - also known at different times as the Voluntarios del Ribero and even as the Cazadores del Ribero. Whatever, they are light infantry. These are all pre-production castings from Falcata - the skirmishers are my own conversions - Spanish regular light infantry with militia heads.

There will be three similar new battalions in the fairly near future.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Hooptedoodle #71 - Rhyngrwyd

I have a feeling this post is bound to offend someone, so I hasten to put in an early disclaimer – it is not intended to be disrespectful, nor to step on anyone’s sacred cows or national pride or pet prejudices. It is merely an expression of my customary wide-eyed ignorance.

North Berwick station

Yesterday I took the train into Edinburgh. When I got to my local station, which is North Berwick, in the county of East Lothian, I was greeted by a very smart and friendly sign, welcoming me (well – welcoming visitors, really) to the little town in two languages. For information, it’s Gaelic name is Bearaig-a-Tuath. 

That’s all fine, then – Scotland has it’s own Parliament (sort of), and is officially bilingual.


Well - just a minute. According to the 2001 Census, a little over 93,000 people in Scotland have any understanding of Gaelic. That doesn’t mean that all of those use it to converse – some of these people just have some knowledge of it. Even so, this represents, I understand, 1.8% of the population of Scotland. Coverage is not even, of course – in the Western Isles and the Highlands a great many people have the Gaelic, and I am especially enthusiastic about traditions like that being preserved, but I doubt if more than one or two residents of North Berwick have any knowledge of it – insignificant in comparison to the number who speak Polish, for example.

North Berwick, like most of East Lothian, is much closer both in culture and surroundings to the rural parts of Northumberland, for example, than it is to “proper” Highland Scotland (as featured in Walt Disney or on shortbread tins). It’s name comes from the Old English word bere, barley, and means a barley farm, or a settlement where they grew barley. The word North was added to distinguish it from the much larger, sporadically English town of Berwick upon Tweed, which is 38 miles from here (and is, now that I’ve mentioned it, where a surprising proportion of my post and mail-order deliveries are sent). The Gaelic name is fundamentally a phonetic derivative of an English word. Again, this is all fine – there are a great many place names in Scotland which are Anglicised forms of Gaelic names – but it does leave me wondering who it is that is supposed to call it by this authentic new Scots name. Not the locals – that’s for sure – and I doubt if very many Highlanders coming here would be interested either.

So it’s a political correctness thing, then? That’s OK too, but I do wonder what sort of person decided this particular sign was necessary. I also wonder who came up with the Scotified name, and who asked them to do it, and what their job title is. And how much do they get paid?

I used to have a friend named George, who lived near Bala, in North Wales. George had terrible blood pressure, lived on gallons of instant coffee, stayed up all night reading, and used to rant on at huge length about almost exactly this subject. George is – maybe not surprisingly – now dead, but he lived and died a fiercely patriotic and proud Welshman – a North Welshman, no less, and a fluent Welsh speaker. Wales, like Scotland, has a measure of devolution, and is bilingual. The big difference in Wales is that the proportion of Welsh people who use their language is high – especially in the North – and the country really does need to be bilingual. It has been for centuries. What made George furious was that they had made this official policy in a moronically completist way. The Welsh parliament had appointed a committee of scholars (presumably expensive scholars) to ensure that all English words had a Welsh equivalent. It would be a poor show indeed, you will agree, if there was not a proud Welsh word to display on the official signs – and it should be recognisably distinct from the English word in a proud, Welsh sort of way.

Just as well they translated that...

I emphasise here that I am not opposed to bilingualism – I’m all for it. I am just nervous about the way in which it works, and about the thought-processes that get us there. George was furious that the committee had come up with its own word – rhyngrwyd – for the Internet. Was it needed? Did it help? Are there any other nations which insist on their own word for Internet? – almost certainly the Scots, though I haven’t checked. George felt that this kind of over-fussy fetishism actually made the Welsh language – or more particularly the bodies who proscribed it – look rather foolish. Since it was his language, I will pay him the respect of refraining from having an opinion on the matter, but he might have had a point. Maybe he was right – maybe it was a waste of money, of effort, of emphasis. Maybe the people who were distracted about the future and the integrity of the Welsh language would have been better employed to direct some of their attention to some other specific need which Wales has? The Welsh language is not going to be threatened by people referring to the Internet by its American-English name. What is the point? George would have suggested that if people’s pride in being Welsh manifested itself in minutiae of this nature, they would be better starting again from basic principles.

Doesn't always work - the Welsh version says
"look left" - this wasn't an attempt to kill
non-Welsh pedestrians, surely?

I wouldn’t know. If you disagree with this, or feel strongly about it, then you are probably right. There must be a chance for all the Manx and Cornish speakers out there to stand up and be counted, and God bless you all. I am aware that if the North Berwick station sign appeared in English and German, for example, then a great many of us would get very heated about it, and probably rightly so, but on a given day – even in Winter – there will be many more German speakers in the town than Gaelic speakers.

Very odd, really.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Behold the Glaringly Obvious – Two French Armies

The Cupboard - a lot more comfortable now that the Spanish, all the
artillery and vehicles and the ECW are stored in magnetised box files in
The Other Cupboard

Quite often, I find that I have brilliantly deduced something which has been staring me in the face for a while. I don’t like to rush my break-through moments – maybe that’s it.

My Peninsular War French army is quite big. Not compared to some, of course, but in terms of the extent to which it has exceeded the bounds of what was needed and what would have been sensible it is kind of big. An inability to stop collecting – all the usual excuses. My French army is about twice as big as could possibly be employed on my tabletop – it offers some entertaining choices of line-up in a wargame, and it is fine for providing the manpower for a campaign, but some bits of it don’t get used very often, which is a shame.

The French bit of The Cupboard - general staff are in wooden trays a few
shelves down, and guns and anything with wheels are stored elsewhere

I must explain that my army is originally built around historical fact, with the necessary large pinch of wargamer’s licence. It started out as a workable subset of the Armée de Portugal of 1812. As it grew (thank you, eBay) I could have simply increased the size of the subset – grown the thing from the original 3 divisions of infantry to the full, historical 8 divisions. Problem is that the units in that army were all pretty much vanilla French regulars – fine chaps, but you know how it is. Short on colour.

So the growth has included all sorts of Confederation, Spanish and Italian units which have enriched the army in a number of ways, but the structure is increasingly convoluted (and unlikely), with all sorts of secondments from other French armies. A couple of things have happened recently which got me thinking about the matter.

(1) My solo campaign required me to break the army into suitable units to occupy a big area on the map – it made sense to follow some kind of historical organisation (if very approximately) to do that in a sensible and satisfying way. The army began to break up a little for this one-time activity, and I have found it interesting to think of the subdivisions as separate entities. The conflict between the various army commanders was, in any case, an important sub-plot for the war.

(2) My Spanish army has grown beyond recognition – it is now big enough to take the field on its own. Maybe they should have a regular opponent. Aha.

So – although choices and variety are still important – I have come to the idea of making the permanent structure of the army such that it is in two official parts. They will continue to mix and match and visit each other as necessary, of course, but they will firm up, and not just be a temporary feature of a map game. I will, in short, have an Armée de Portugal to fight the Anglo-Portuguese, and a (slightly bastardised) Armée du Centre to fight the Spaniards – regular and/or irregular.

Great. I started sketching out the changes – which are really very small. A little evening up of formation sizes and a short list of extra commander figures which I’ll need, and we are there. In a spirit of appropriate comradeship, the two armies can share engineers and siege/fortress artillery as necessary.

The proposed structure is thus:

Army of the Centre (King Joseph & Marshal Jourdan)

Division Darmagnac
            Brigade Neuenstein
                        2e Nassau (2 Bns) & Regt de Francfort (1)
            Brigade Chassé
                        4e Hesse-Darmstadt (2) & 4e Baden (2)
            Brigade Verbigier de St Paul (Italians)
                        2e Léger (1) & 3e Ligne (2) & 5e Ligne (2)
            Italian Foot battery

Division Guye
            Royal Guard (Merlin)
                        Grenadiers (2) & Fusiliers (2) & Voltigeurs (1)
            Brigade Casapalacios (Spanish Line troops)
                        1e (Castilla) Léger (1) & 2e (Toledo) Ligne (2) & Royal-Etranger (1)
            Brigade Leberknoedel (Duchy of Stralsund-Ruegen)
                        Grenadiers (1) & Fusiliers (2) & Jaegers (1)
Spanish Guard horse battery
Stralsund foot battery

Division Villatte
            Brigade Thouvenot
Dragons à pied Provisoirs (2) & 28e Léger (1) & 4e Etranger (Prusse) (1)
& 4e Vistule (1)
            Brigade Soulier
Grenadiers Provisoirs (1) & Garde de Paris (1) & Chasseurs des
Montagnes (1) & 3e Berg (1)
            French foot battery
Cavalry (Gen de Divn Treillard)  
            Brigade Maupoint
                        13e Cuirassiers (3 Sqns) & 4e Dragons (3) & Dragoni Napoleone (3)
Brigade Avy
5e Chevauxleger-lanciers (3) & 7e (Vistule) Chevauxleger-lanciers (3)
            Brigade Kleinwinkel (Stralsund-Ruegen)
                        1e Chevauxlegers (3) & 2e Chevauxlegers (3)
Army of Portugal (Marshal Marmont)

Division Foy
            Brigade Chemineau
                        6e Léger (3 Bns) & 69e Ligne (2)
            Brigade Desgraviers
                        39e Ligne (2) & 76e Ligne (2)
            Horse battery

Division Clauzel
            Brigade Berlier
                        25e Léger (3) & 27e Ligne (2)
            Brigade Barbot
                        50e Ligne (3) & 59e Ligne (2)
            Foot battery

Division Maucune
            Brigade Arnauld
                        15e Ligne (3) & 66e Ligne (2)
            Brigade Montfort
                        82e Ligne (2) & 86e Ligne (2)
            Foot battery

Heavy Cavalry (Boyer)
            Brigade Carrié de Boissy
                        6e Dragons (3 Sqns) & 11e Dragons (3)
            Brigade Col Boudinhon-Valdec
                        15e Dragons (3) & 25e Dragons (3)
            Horse battery

Light Cavalry (Curto)
            Brigade Col Desfossés
                        3e Hussards (3) & 22e Chasseurs (3)
            Brigade Col Vial
                        13e Chasseurs (3) & 26e Chasseurs (3)

Park, Engineering etc
            2 Foot batteries
            5 Garrison batteries
            Bridging Train
            4 cos Sapeurs/Mineurs
Prov bn of regimental sapeurs

This is not the state of my current campaign (except coincidentally). These units all exist (apart from a couple of generals, which are in hand), and each infantry brigade also includes a small combined tirailleur battalion of 9 or 12 figures. There are still some things in the spares box which should join the army at some future date, but I have deliberately excluded anything which exists only on paper.

If it seems appropriate, I may post some new team photos when everything is done. With two armies available, the Emperor himself might make the occasional cameo appearance, if only to witness the lack of co-operation at first hand.

Friday 9 November 2012

Spanish Militia - One Small Step

Since my Falcata parcel arrived – and I confess I had given up on it by the time it appeared – I now have the happy problem of having some more Spanish troops to organise and paint.

I spent a few days sifting through various Spanish OOB’s from the Guerra de Independencia – Oman and Nafziger and the relevant bits of the J J Sañudo database – and cross checking against the illustrations and tables in Bueno. The idea is to identify a (fairly) historically authentic formation whose uniforms suit the new figures. I like this kind of homework.

The figures themselves are probably a little early in the war for me. Falcata base their range around the 1808-09 period, and the voluntarios and milicias are consistent with this – lots of round hats and double breasted lapels in evidence. However, such uniforms could have been seen right through to the end of the war – and if I produce anything which is not correct then it is simply a matter of the new uniform supplies not having arrived yet!

One thing that surprised me is that, if you study the OOB of the Spanish 4th Army in July 1813, for example, it is very obvious from Bueno that about two-thirds of the units present had British-made single-breasted uniforms – dark blue with lighter blue collar and cuffs. And presumably they had British LI-style shakos as well. Somewhere in Lancashire, the mills must have been working night shifts! Interesting, but dull – I want some nice, classic militia that look like militia.

I have identified enough sound figures to produce four good battalions. One of these will be an 18-man light infantry unit - with lapels, ventral cartridge pouches, a mixture of trouser/breeches types, and with the skirmishers converted from light infantrymen, suitably re-headed. Falcata managed to send me enough broken figures to allow for head-donors, though to be fair they sent a lot of spare figures anyway. All these figures are pre-production castings, so there has been some cleaning up to do, but they will paint up nicely, I think.

I also have the makings of three units of normal volunteers/militia/provinciales (i.e. not lights) at 24 figures to a battalion. Two of these are in double breasted jackets, with a sprinkling of ventral pouches (nothing to do with kangaroos), and one is a mixed lot, various jacket styles, and a few of these have bicornes. My house standard does not normally provide such lowly troops as these with a mounted colonel, though a fairly ornate brigadier would be in order.

Yesterday I set about painting up the light infantry. Because of the number of body part grafts in the conversions, I decided against risking them in the mail to my normal Peninsular War painter, and to do them myself. I got started well enough – I am a bit nervous about black undercoat, since I require frightening amounts of light to see the detail on black figures – but that was OK. I got them undercoated, and did all the blue bits, but came to a shuddering halt when I got to red, since my main pot of red has turned into something other than paint. To save face, I found an old pot of red with just enough in it to do a single figure, and decided to paint a single pilot figure completely. I hadn’t intended to do this, of course, and it is something I normally don’t do (except when I am sending a shipment for painting in Sri Lanka – separate story), but in fact it’s probably a good idea. Or at least I can make the best of things and pretend it is a good idea.

So at the top of this post you will see the only completed output from yesterday’s session – a private soldier of the Regimiento del Ribero. You are unlikely to have seen one of these miniatures before, since they are not in full production yet, and obtaining them at the moment is a life-shortening exercise. I think this fellow would be ES41 in Falcata’s catalogue if it ran that far.

I used to smile faintly at blog posts dedicated to describing a lack of progress, but here I am doing it myself. Oh well. I have ordered up some red paint, and with luck it should arrive in a day or so. Since I live on the dark side of the moon, it is not simply a question of walking to my nearest stockist. I use a lot of Citadel paints – I say this without any embarrassment (you want to make something of it?) – and the Games Workshop website identifies my nearest stockist as being in Kirkcaldy – only some 17 miles away. This would certainly be true if I had a helicopter handy, or even a motor launch, but the reality requires me to drive through Edinburgh to the Forth Bridge, over the water and all the way back up the other side, which is a mighty trek for a piddling pot of paint. I have ordered online from Amazon – bless them. The paint is reasonably priced, the postage is extortionate, but the whole deal is ever so much cheaper than schlepping to the nearest city and parking in the Mafia’s multi-story arrangements.

The Joy of Robots – my nearest GW store, apparently

So when the paint arrives I’ll crack on with getting this chap some colleagues. The militia-type command figures are rather fun – more soon. There you are – I’ve managed to write another post about hardly anything. Must get out more.  

Wednesday 7 November 2012

ECW - How big is an inch, Jack?

I had a hard day yesterday – it doesn’t matter why. Honest toil is a fine thing, I’ve just got out of the habit, but one consequence is that today I’m taking it easier, and am less focused than usual.

Thus I shall start – fleetingly – with a digression [now there’s a surprise]. This is what I was thinking of writing about today, but when I looked into the matter I decided against it. My mum recently heard (or watched?) a BBC programme commemorating the fighting in Libya in WW2, and El Alamein, Tobruk – all that. At one point, they were interviewing an elderly veteran, and they asked him, what was the most frightening thing he remembered from the war in the desert?

Spiders, he said. Camel Spiders were the most terrifying thing he experienced there – all the soldiers lived in fear of them. When my mother mentioned this, I had an idea that it might make an appropriate post, with a back reference to my previous Hooptedoodle on the adventures of Max Spinnejäger, my bold, spider-killing alter ego. However, when Mme la Comtesse and I checked Camel Spiders on Google, we were forced to run around the house for a little while, screaming and waving our arms. If you wish to look them up, please feel free to do so, but do not tell me about them. I wish to know no more of the subject. Mighty Max S has just retired to a sealed rest home, as far from Libya as possible.

Jack Scruby

To the main topic, then. I have already bounced this off a few of my usual expert sources, but none of them could help, so this is a general appeal to anyone who has any useful ideas.

Recently I have been interested in obtaining 20mm figures for billmen, clubmen - peasant hooligans, really – for my ECW armies. I’ve had some good suggestions, involving converting plastic figures, or converting Les Higgins artillery figures, and I also have an interesting sample figure, a militia pikeman  from Tumbling Dice, which is (to be fussy about it) a little chubby for a perfect match with the rest of my chaps, but still worth serious consideration.

Thereby, you see, hangs the problem. My 20mm ECW figures are quite small – mostly Les Higgins and Hinton Hunt, with some SHQ in the mix, they are too small to combine comfortably with Art Miniaturen, or the forthcoming Falcata 30YW figures, or even with 1/72 scale plastics. My figures, I guess, must be smaller than 1/72.

So I spent a little time looking at the possibilities of borrowing figures from other periods, or from makers I hadn’t considered. And I thought of Scruby.

I checked out Historifigs catalogue online, and I see that the Scruby Thirty Years War range (which might be just what I’m interested in, and which is still in production) are described as “1 inch” scale. There is an interesting article by Jack Scruby himself on the website at Historifigs, in which he describes how he came to re-issue the 30YW range in this scale, the implication being that they came from an earlier period.

I could take this literally, and assume – since 1 inch is almost exactly 25mm – that these are the same as Scruby’s 25mm, which (as everyone knows) are about the same size as Hinton Hunt’s 20mm. Interesting. That would fit. On the other hand, 1 inch might mean something different.

If, at this point, anyone feels moved to send a comment about the correct way of measuring a wargames miniature, then please don’t bother. I appreciate the thought, but I tend to fall asleep while such explanations are going on. The only criterion which matters is, do they look good alongside other figures which they are to be used with? I don’t care whether we should measure a miniature soldier from the toenail to the eye socket, or to the scalp, or to the bookshelf behind him. Accuracy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

So what I’d really like to know is, does anyone have any experience of Scruby’s 1” 30YW figures? Anyone actually got any? How big are they? How big is an inch, in fact? As a general guide, anything which is a little smaller than plastic 1/72 would be in the ball park. I could, of course, order some samples from Historifigs – in fact I probably will – but I thought someone might have been down this road before. I don’t think any other range in Historifigs’ very large catalogue is advertised as 1 inch. I am intrigued.

But don’t mention spiders. I don’t dig spiders, man.

Paul Glickman's take on the Stan Freberg take on the classic 1950s hit.

Late Edit: many thanks to Ross for a very useful link to the Historifigs site, which shows this extract from the 1968 Scruby catalog. This seems to indicate that 1-inch figures are somewhere between the  25mm and 30mm ranges in size. If the drawing is to scale, it suggests that Scruby had a house standard inch measuring about 28mm, which was an astonishing piece of foresight, and is similar to the conversion ratio used by my local hardware store, as  discussed in my recent blog post on Hardboard.

From 1968 Scruby catalog (thanks to Historifigs)

Saturday 3 November 2012

Hooptedoodle #70 – Don, the Probability Well

Today’s pointless yarn is about a fellow I was at school with, somewhere around the middle of the last century.

Don was always an engaging, likeable chap – great sense of humour, and he was a good footballer as a kid – but he had a remarkable ability to get into scrapes. He was constantly getting hurt, or into trouble for something which, strictly, wasn’t his fault. Unlucky - you know?

When we left school we pretty much lost touch, and since we live hundreds of miles apart I’ve only met him a few times since, but I still hear tales of his misadventures. Don seems to have a knack of being around when things go wrong. There is a long record of 200 year old pictures falling off walls as he walked past, lifts getting stuck when he was in them, one case of a very old and valuable parrot which died of a heart attack when Don spoke to it - things like that.

I arranged to meet him for a beer about 5 years ago when I was visiting his part of the world, and was privileged to see a small sample of his powers in action. A full pint of Guinness slid horizontally across a perfectly steady table – no-one touched it – and dropped into someone’s lap. I swear this is true – there were four of us at the table, and we all saw it quite clearly. Later during the same evening (and this was before the general smoking ban came into effect in England), Don took exception to a note which was attached to the ash tray on our table, which said:

Please be considerate of diners in our restaurant. If anyone
is eating near you, please refrain from smoking. Thank you.
The Management.

Don airily waved his hand-rolled cigarette over the ashtray, and accidentally managed to set both the notice and a paper napkin alight, which caused some excitement. By this time, the staff of the pub were keeping a very careful eye on us, but we survived the rest of the evening without further dramas.

My favourite Don story was told to me by another old school chum (are you allowed to have school chums now?), who was present on the occasion when a group of friends was meeting in a London pub before going to the theatre. Don arrived a bit late, and was introduced to a lady in the party whom he had not met before. As she stood up to greet him, Don bowed in suitably theatrical style and their heads met with quite a thump. The general merriment was ended when the lady realised that she had become separated from one of her contact lenses, and would not be able to watch the play without it. A panic search failed to find it, so she rushed off to get a taxi home to collect some spare lenses.

She was about half-way home when the tip of Don’s cigarette, which somehow had fallen into her handbag and had been smouldering quietly, caused her bag to burst into flames. A bottle of cologne exploded and, though no-one was injured, the fire brigade had to come to put out the burning cab.

I have no plans to travel on an aeroplane with Don. To me, the scariest thing of all is that he has earned his living for the last 40 years – and very successfully – as a driving instructor. Are some people genuinely accident prone, or are they just clumsier or less careful than others?

Thursday 1 November 2012

Solo Campaign – where is it?

Back in February I got a nice email from Francis, which prompted a time-out discussion of how my solo Peninsular War campaign worked. I was a bit shaken at the time to learn that Francis was sufficiently excited about my efforts to think about having a go himself.

This week Francis was in touch again, asking what has happened to the solo campaign – have I abandoned it?

It’s a good question, but the answer is no – the campaign continues, but has been delayed for a number of reasons, some of which are not really very good reasons at all.

(1) Recent bad attack of Real Life – I have been involved with banks and lawyers and an accountant and all sorts of people, trying to make sense of my mother’s finances (which are not in trouble – merely obscure) and also to do some work on a trust fund of which I am the managing trustee. Boring but necessary. In truth, the impact on hobby time has been less to do with the actual time spent on these tasks than with the dispiriting effect that they have. Spending an hour trying to have a sensible discussion with my “personal account manager” at RBS, for example, is a depressing experience for both of us.

(2) The English Civil War – my reading and the arrival of the first real troops have absorbed a lot of the available enthusiasm. Much of the hobby time I have had has been spent on this. That’s all fine – there’s no rush, after all.

(3) The amount of joy I get from the campaign has been dimmed a bit by a couple of early decisions I made which I now regret. This is not a terminal problem, and I intend to carry on anyway, but I wouldn’t do this campaign the same way again. The particular issues are:

(a) The intelligence rules don’t really work very well – more seriously, they are tedious enough to prompt me to take shortcuts or marginalise them. They would work well for two players with an umpire – this is a comment which is of general application to a number of the problems I’ve come up against, and is maybe a reflection of the inherent difficulty of making sense of a solo campaign – or at least of my failure to understand these difficulties fully in advance.

(b) The theatre of operations is hugely complex, and I thought I was being clever by adopting the game map from Omega Games’ “War to the Death”, which represents the peninsula as an array of “Area” boxes connected by notional roads. This greatly simplified the movement and supply rules. I also declared some parts of Spain off-limits for the game, to concentrate activity into the area around the Portuguese border and the roads back towards France and Madrid. In reality, this has forced the campaign into too few areas – the tendency is for big clumpy armies to march around the same parts of the map. I would have been happier with a more detailed map, and more detailed distribution of the forces, but the workload would have been impossible. Again, this is an area where the campaign would have worked better with two players and an umpire...

(c) This one is a real pain – I originally intended to write a little computer program to handle attrition, recruitment and battle losses and recovery for all the units. I didn’t, since I was not confident that the rules were firm enough, and since the dice-throwing rules I had drawn up looked simple in operation. This paper-based book-keeping is proving to be a lot of work – even with a battery of spreadsheets, it is a problem. I wish I had written that program – it would have reduced the workload of running the campaign by about 40%. The campaign will not work without the numbers, but I would rather spend my time on map movement, battles and writing up the account. An umpire would have had a problem with this too. I could still write the program, but it’s a bit late now.

Not another letter from my mother's lawyer?

So? So I’ll get back to the campaign very soon, with due apologies to anyone who has missed it, and with thanks to Francis for giving me a prod. The arrival of November and the greater emphasis on indoor activities will be a help.

I have been thinking of uniting the two separate parts of the Spanish “4th Army” by sailing one part around the Spanish coast on British ships, but need to add a few rules to make this work. I must read up on how fast ships sailed in 1812, and maybe introduce a random event which can sink the lot in a storm!

The campaign was still a good idea. I just needed more time and a new brain.