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

Tuesday 29 January 2013

ECW - My Armies Thus Far

I've been asked a couple of times if I could show a picture of my ECW armies, such as they are at present. Since I had the battleboards out today, and the camera handy, I thought a modest team photo would be in order, so here goes.

Parliament - from front to back, the units of horse are Brereton's
Cheshire Horse and Dodding's Lonsdale Regt, and the foot are the
regiments of Rigby, Booth, Holland, Philip Egerton and Assheton. 

Royalists - on the left, front to back, are Prince Rupert's Blews and
Tillier's Regt; in the centre are the regiments of Thomas Tyldesley,
Lord Byron and Robert Ellice, and the horse regiments are those of Lord
Molyneux and Lord Byron.

And - just to attempt the impression of mass which the individual
armies rather lack at the moment - here's an unlikely grouping of
the units of both sides.

Target for completion of the first stage is for each army to have 8 foot, 6 (or so) horse, 1 lot of dragoons and artillery and generals to suit. As you see, my foot units are going well, and the horse are catching up, now that I have the Bold Lee's painting services on my team. Artillery and generals are a bit behind, but I have most of the castings I need - I need some more horses, and Old John will be sending me some more guns shortly, I believe, so everything is going well.

Watch this space.

Solo Campaign - Action at Martin de Yeltes

The 11th Portuguese Cavalry watch as the French enter the valley

It took me a while to recover from the family goings-on at Christmas and set up the wargames table, but I have now fought the little conflict between the two advance guards. I shall publish the revised returns taking account of this action after the next map moves.

Since the battle was small, and used the table lengthwise, I used a modified version of CCN - replacing the Command Cards system with a dice-driven activation system which I have used before and which worked pretty well.

The Allies won rather easily, and there was a cameo appearance by a Major Sharpe of the 95th, who commanded a provisional brigade composed of detached light-company men of the Third Division. I was a bit embarrassed to mention this, but why not, after all?

Action at Martin de Yeltes – 30th July 1812

The Allied advance guard, commanded by Maj.Gen Long, had been rather outmanoeuvred by a French force under Gen de Bde Pinoteau, having their right flank turned as the French crossed the little river Huebra.

Long had a brigade of King’s German Legion heavy dragoons and a brigade of Portuguese cavalry – all the cavalry being commanded by Lt.Col De Jonquières of the KGL (deputising for the wounded General Bock) – plus a provisional brigade of three “converged” battalions of light companies from the Third Division, commanded by a Major Sharpe (all right, calm down). In addition, Long had the services of Bull’s Troop, RHA. His force was near to the village of Martin de Yeltes when the French appeared on his right, around 10:30am.

Pinoteau had two battalions of the veteran 59eme Ligne, under their colonel, Nicolas Loverdo, and three regiments of cavalry – one of Chasseurs à Cheval, the Italian Dragoni Napoleone and the Lanciers de la Vistule. He also had a battery of horse artillery – that of Capt Faruse, from the artillery park of the Armeé de Portugal. His cavalry were brigaded under the command of Col. Lemoyne of the 14eme Chasseurs.

The French advanced in a businesslike column – lancers at the front, followed by the horse artillery, then the Dragoni, then Loverdo’s infantry and the Chasseurs bringing up the rear.

The 11th Portuguese cavalry fell back in front of the French advance, and Pinoteau detached his Italian dragoons and his chasseurs to his left, to pursue them behind a small wooded ridge. Meanwhile the French infantry entered some woods on the right, with the intention of taking possession of the large farm at Santa Consuela Parlanchina.

The British light infantry took good advantage of their ability to move quickly, Major Sharpe leading two battalions into the enclosures at the farm and commencing a brisk fire fight with Loverdo’s infantry.

The French cavalry attack – which was approached with great confidence – proved to be a complete disaster. The Portuguese 11th cavalry were joined by the 2nd Dragoons of the KGL, and together they routed the two French units, suffering very little loss themselves. Around this time, Col Loverdo was severely wounded on the French right, and Pinoteau decided to withdraw. The fresh lancer unit were detailed to cover the retreat, but they themselves were very badly beaten by the 11th Portuguese, and the French withdrawal became a panic. Long called off the pursuit – a move for which he was subsequently criticised – but he had won an excellent little victory.

The Rifles officer was Major Norman Sharpe, by the way.

De Jonquiere's KGL Dragoons

French advance

Dragoni Napoleone - did not impress

Lancers of the Vistula Legion

General View of the field at the start

A Thought for Today

Captain Faruse's horse battery

Pinoteau brings up his cavalry

Major Sharpe with the Light Bobs

Bull's Troop, RHA

The French take the initiative

Loverdo takes the 59eme into the woods

General view around midday

French cavalry attack the 11th Portuguese

Pinoteau watches in disbelief as his cavalry falter

Meanwhile in the woods...

Allied cavalry drive back the French

French cavalry beaten back with heavy loss

Double crossed-sabres mean that Loverdo is wounded

The Dragoni are just about still there

The Lancers cover the withdrawal...

...but not for long


French Force – Gen de Bde Pierre Pinoteau

Infantry Bde – Col. Loverdo (59e)
59e Ligne [2 bns]

Cavalry Bde – Col. Lemoyne (14e Chasseurs)
14e Chasseurs à Cheval [3 sqns]
Dragoni Napoleone [3]
Lanciers de la Vistule [3]

Horse Artillery battery – Capt Faruse

Total force engaged 2475 men with 6 guns. Loss approx 200 infantry, 620 cavalry. Col. Loverdo was severely wounded during the firefight in the woods at Santa Consuela, and was taken prisoner.

Allied Force – Maj.Gen RB Long

Provisional Brigade – Maj. Sharpe (95th)
3 bns of light infantry from Third Division

Cavalry Brigade – Lt.Col De Jonquières (KGL)
1st Dragoons, KGL
2nd ditto
1st Portuguese Cavalry (Alcantara)
11th ditto

Troop ‘A’, RHA – Maj. Bull

Total force engaged, approx 2300 men with 6 guns. Total loss 325 infantry, 90 cavalry.

Detail losses:

French – 2/59 (-1 block), 14e Chass, Drag Nap, Lanciers de la Vistule (-2 each)

Anglo-Portuguese – 1st Ptgse Cav, 1st & 2nd Prov Lt Bns (-1 each)

Saturday 26 January 2013

Pickin’ & Scratchin’

eBay, the Spares Boxes and a Museum of Glue

Cuirassiers – maybe by Alberken – soon to have a nationality transplant

I recently won some French cuirassiers on eBay – Alberken/Minifigs 20mm OPC jobs – enough for a unit. A couple of points here in the interests of accuracy (after all, standards have to be maintained). Firstly, I am not really sure whether they are Alberken or Minifig 20 – I have read the debate about strict definitions a few times now, and sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes – like this week – I understand it but have forgotten what it says. They do not have horizontal, sticky-out tails on the horses, which suggests they are not Alberken (or not Minifig 20, perhaps?), but the horses are recognisably from the same gene pool as Hinton Hunt, so they must be pretty early Minifigs.

Secondly, since I am doing the Peninsular War (as in doing the Lambeth Walk), I already have all the cuirassiers I need – the bold 13eme, in fact. Well, the truth is that my search for suitable Spanish cavalry has become desperate enough for me to embrace the idea of recruiting the famed Coraceros Españoles. Previously I had dismissed this as something of a cop-out, but a quick study of the magnificent database of JJ Sañudo has convinced me that this was an active unit with a long and worthy war record in the relevant period. They look pretty much like French cuirassiers (most of their hardware was nicked from a French provisional regiment), but they wear red jackets with green facings. Easy peasy – this should be just a paint conversion – and my ex-eBay figures have little enough paint on them to enable me to paint over what is there. I need command figures, but the castings do not have carbines, which simplifies conversion work, so the officer will just be a trooper with a bit of extra silver paint. The trumpeter was manufactured last night. Razor saw and superglue on a broken spare figure turned his head a bit to one side and replaced his right arm with one from a spare Kennington trumpeter. The join is a little crude, to be honest, since the arms were of slightly different diameter, but some gloopy paint can hide a lot of misery. I even did a little botchy dowel jointing of the grafts with brass wire, so by the normal house standards this is almost over-engineered.


A good wash and they’re ready for painting. However, since I’d built up a little momentum, I decided to revisit one of my plastic freezer boxes – this one is labelled Extra Chasseurs a Cheval. Inside are two batches of old Garrison line chasseurs, which are intended to be the raw material for the last two such units in my Grand Plan. I already have three regiments of chasseurs (13eme, 22eme and 26eme), but the theoretical OOB also includes the 14eme and 15eme (yes – I know) so I’ve sort of got used to the idea.

I got busy hacking flock and surplus glue off the chasseurs, checking the paint job and straightening swords and scabbards – no breakages – good so far, though I got bits of glue and stuff all over the place. It turns out that one of the batches is really pretty good – some minimal touching up and a couple of convincing command figure forgeries and they are good to go. The other batch, even after quite a lot of cleaning up,  really are not up to it. The paint job is not brilliant, and they appear to have been liberally coated with thick gloss varnish which has turned an amber colour – so a thorough strip is required. Also, close examination reveals that the horses for this batch are actually cuirassier horses, with the shabraques covered in thick cream paint. Since I have enough new, unpainted Garrison castings to make a full unit anyway, I decided to cut my losses and ditch the worse of the two old batches. I can make command figures by gluing chasseur heads onto Kennington line chevauxlegers, so I now have a detailed plan for my two proposed additional units, so that feels like progress of some sort.

I got quite interested, while I was hacking and scraping last night, with the variety of glues on display, and it got me thinking about glues in general. The figures I was working on have been fastened onto numerous generations of bases over the last 40 years or so, and the riders have been stuck back onto their horses at odd times with products ranging from Copydex to something like Uhu. The base glues included some thick, yellow slabs like barley sugar, and there were traces of Araldite, which is a sadistic thing to use to mount figures on cardboard bases.

Over the years my own favoured glues for use with toy soldiers have changed considerably. I started out using Araldite, I recall, but I was always terrified to try to heat it in case I melted the castings, so I did a lot of jobs which required 24 hours to set, with everything strapped together with wire clips and Plasticene girders. I briefly became attached(?) to Plastic Padding, which was pretty horrible stuff for small scale modelling, but had the big advantage that it set faster than Araldite.

Since then I have had occasional dalliances with the stringies, such as Uhu, which are useful for filling gaps and sticking non-flush surfaces, but almost impossible to make a neat job with. Nowadays I use two different consistencies of superglue, white PVA for base-gluing, and sometimes Serious Glue for fiddly jobs.

When I was a boy, my dad was a great glue enthusiast. We always had supplies of very earnest glues. I remember Durofix clear glue (which was like a less stringy version of Uhu), something called Croid, which had a more industrial relative named Croid Aero, which I think came in tins. There was also something very scary indeed which was in orange and blue tins (can’t remember the name), and it needed to be melted by placing the can in a pot of boiling water. It smelled like the old glue-pot stuff we used in school woodwork classes, so I guess it was derived from dead horses or similar. I’m sure modern glues are superior in many ways – a friend of mine who is a manufacturing biochemist says the best glues are American ones if you can get them, since the US is a lot more relaxed on the subject of eco-friendly solvents.

I also used to use Cascamite, a casein-based glue which you mixed with water, for joinery work. It was hard and strong if you could get it to set properly – much recommended by luthiers and the like.

Anyone remember Croid? It’s probably still on sale in B&Q, and I just haven’t noticed.

Monday 21 January 2013

ECW Regiments of Foot - more recruits

This afternoon I gave up on any outside jobs, and finished off and based a further two units of Foot. Here are Robert Ellice's RoF [R], with the red flag, who have rather unwisely allowed Philip Egerton's [P] to stand behind them.

The armies are shaping up nicely now - the artillery needs to catch up a bit, but I'm almost ready for a group photo. There's still a fair way to go, but I'm pleased with progress. First anniversary of the ECW lead mountain will be in March, so by my standards this is all very rapid indeed. I want to try to finish this first phase by the end of the Summer (which seems remote enough at the moment to be a safe target).

My starting OOB will have each army comprising 8 foot, 6 (or maybe 7) horse, a unit of dragoons and some artillery. I am also thinking about a unit of firelocks for the Royalists and a clubmen-type militia unit for the Parlies, but I'm still working out what figures would work for those. I recently received a photo of some very interesting Scottish foot figures from Old John, so there may be an extension to the shopping list.

Two more cavalry units are away to be painted, so I may be getting far enough ahead of myself now to think seriously about getting some ECW buildings ready. One big obstacle to starting that at present is that all my scenic paints (mostly Dulux emulsion) are Mediterranean-type shades, so I must put together a list of more mossy, thatchy, slatey colours and go and visit my nearest colour-matching service in Dunbar. 250ml sample pots are the boys.

Late Edit: I forgot to mention that if anyone is interested in 20mm ECW figures, Old John has the Les Higgins range in full production, plus the Marlburians and lots of other 20mm wargame figures. Please contact him through his blog.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Hooptedoodle #78 - Snobbery as an Art Form

Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging.
Alexander Theroux

An elderly man I once knew used to like to show off his garden to visitors. He didn’t get many visitors, in fact, but when he did, if the weather was at all favourable, they would get the grand tour.

It was a large, unusually beautiful garden, so this sounds like an attractive proposition, you would think, but the reality was rather different. During the tour, he would tell them everything – everything – he knew about each plant, plus most of what he knew about gardening in general. To emphasise the superiority of his vast knowledge, he would punctuate the tour with complicated quiz questions which the guest could not possibly answer. I don’t know if anyone ever actually died during the circuit, or ran away screaming, but I do know that no-one ever exposed themselves to the risk of repeating the experience.

In other ways – and I have to say I did not know him well – he appeared fairly normal. I know quite a lot of enthusiasts who inflict this odd kind of sadism on inoffensive strangers – I have even been known to do a bit of it myself – and I sometimes wonder why.

The old man with the garden did it, I think, because he liked the garden and liked to talk about it, which seems healthy enough, but also because it reassured him to prove how clever he was, which is a little darker. In the realm of gardening, he was an appalling snob.

While attempting to sort out the contents of my sock drawer the other day, I switched on the bedroom TV, and caught a bit of daytime programming. I got to see a little of Masterchef (the UK BBC version), and it had reached a final stage or something, so they had Michel Roux Jr (no less) in the studio, plus some noted food critics as a judging panel.

Two of the Masterchef judges

Now I quite like Masterchef – I can live without the Reality TV overtones, but I am generally interested in good food, and I like to see the techniques and the dishes. Michel Roux looks scary, but he was pretty good value – personable and supportive to the budding chefs under stress, interesting and informative about the food. The critics on the panel were something else again. If we try for a moment to overlook the fact that anyone who gets paid for eating on television is intrinsically ridiculous, they reminded me why I have always hated professional critics. Po-faced and disapproving throughout, they took it in turns to say something even more pretentious than the others about the dishes on offer. It would have been deeply satisfying to slap the lot of them – in fact that should be a feature of the programme. Or else Michel Roux should ask them to cook something themselves while he stands over them.

What they had to say had much more to do with their own cleverness than about the job in hand or what they were stuffing into their sad faces. There it is again – the old man with his garden. These people get paid for telling us what they know, what they think – which is all about themselves. It has no relevance to the context or the audience, unless, of course, we wish to learn from their style and become snobs too.

I played in jazz groups, both professional and semi-professional, for a good many years, and jazz critics were the arch-demons of that world. As my grandmother used to say, “If you can’t do something, then stand in the wings and criticise others – that’ll keep you amused”. There are many muso jokes about critics. You can spot the critic at a concert, they would say, because he is the one tapping his foot out of time with the music. A critic, they would say, is a man who can tell you who played valve trombone in the Benny Moten Band in 1930, whether or not you wish to know, and who will tell you that “Indiana” is actually called “(Back Home in) Indiana”, though he will not be able to whistle the tune.

Generally speaking, critics like to write about themselves. Perhaps it gives them peace.

Art snobs, film snobs, antiques snobs, WINE snobs (aarrgh!), hobby snobs, know-alls, self-appointed experts of any and all disciplines, members of golf clubs, Former Pupils’ associations, churches....   it’s all about excluding people, finding some reason to discriminate – the more petty or far-fetched or contrived the better. We belong (don’t we?) and you don’t.

I had a boss once who used to have an annual get-together with his senior people which involved a dinner and a wine tasting. That’s right – a wine tasting. He used to bring in a professional organisation who would do a wine tasting in your own home if you wanted one – rent-a-snob. He did it, of course, because he fancied himself as an expert and wished to demonstrate this in front of his subordinates. Sadly, he eventually lost his job because he was an alcoholic, which a less charitable person than me would find amusing.

Friday 18 January 2013

Spanish Milicias/Voluntarios

More recruits for the Spanish army - three more battalions of provincial troops, very nicely painted by Lee, ready to join with the extant Regimiento del Ribero to make a new brigade for Morillo's Division.

Here are the 1er Voluntarios de Aragon, the Voluntarios de Guadalajara and the provisional Regimiento de Cuenca (a mixture of the Cazadores de Cuenca and the militia of that town).

The castings are some more of what are likely to be very rare Falcatas - they are from my much delayed shipment of pre-production figures, and at present it looks as though full production isn't likely to happen. I quite like these little men, I have to say, whatever their pedigree, but those muskets have to be the thinnest and flimsiest yet seen on my wargames table. I have done some careful building-up of the muskets with superglue, but these guys will definitely be handled by the bases, and no mistake, and the mere fact that I have such impractical figures in use is pretty much a reflection of the fact that most of my gaming these days is solo, and casualties don't get removed. At least I'll know who to blame if they get damaged!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Hooptedoodle #77 - BAAAA! - Scientific interpretation of evidence

Once upon a time, some years ago, they tell me, four strangers were sitting together on the London to Edinburgh train. To pass the time, they got into conversation, and found - to their surprise - that they were all going to the same mathematical conference at the university in Edinburgh.

They also discovered that none of them had ever visited Scotland before, so, as the train pulled out of Berwick upon Tweed, the talking subsided as they all peered out of the window for their first glimpse of what, for them, was a new country. At first there wasn't much to see, but after a little while, through the rain and the mist, they could make out that they were travelling past a very large field, in which there were a couple of trees and a single black sheep.

"How interesting!" said the market researcher, "the sheep in Scotland must be black."

"Well, that's not quite right," said the zoologist, "clearly, they have sheep in Scotland, and black ones are not unknown."

The astronomer wasn't having that at all.

"No, no," he said, "all we know for sure is that there is a black sheep in Scotland. We know nothing about any other sheep - there may not be any."

"Gentlemen, please!" said the microbiologist, shaking his head. "Strictly, all we can say is that there is a sheep in Scotland, and it is black on at least one side."

Sunday 13 January 2013

Hooptedoodle #76 - I See the Light, if dimly and only after a delay

A few weeks ago, I replaced the light bulb at the top of my mother’s stairs. My mother is 87, and disabled, and her staircase is dark, even in the daytime, so a good light is essential for safety. We tried an energy-saving bulb, because we are good guys, but it really doesn’t give a satisfactory level of illumination, and then there is that irritating warm-up period during which it produces hardly anything at all. I appreciate that low-energy bulbs are getting better all the time, but the delay is still enough for my mum to break her neck several times over if she misses her footing in the dark.

Luckily, my late father was a great stockpiler – he was always worried that world supplies of toilet paper, lemonade, batteries or whatever were about to run out, and used to buy in and hoard surplus stock – just to be on the safe side. Light bulbs were one his specialities, and a short hunt turned up a couple of old-fashioned 100-watt, heated-filament light bulbs of a type which Messrs Edison and Philips would have recognised immediately.

Problem solved – the replacement bulb gives a good light, instantly, on demand. Perfect.

This got me thinking about the whole subject of saving the planet by buying weird light bulbs. The excellent, cheap 100w lamp I put into my mother’s staircase is now a museum piece. You cannot find them on the shelves of hardware stores any more. They are, in short, against the law. You can still buy 60s, but nothing bigger. Interesting.

I am, I have to say, all in favour of saving the planet. There are a few things about it which I think could be improved, but it is important that it does not stop functioning any time soon. If my light-bulb useage and buying patterns can help then I’m all for it. But I would like it to make sense, please.

Without passion or spite, I offer the following thoughts for your consideration:

  1. If I have a room which uses a 100w bulb, and I wish to replace it, and if the low-energy equivalent is too depressing or otherwise unsuitable, how many 60w lamps shall I replace it with, do you think? One? – no, unlikely. Two? - maybe – possibly even three. Anyone spot a problem here? That’s right – my appetite for manufactured bulbs and electricity just increased. I don’t think that is what was intended.
  1. Domestic electricity demand is primarily for heating, cooking, tumble-driers, any piece of household white-goods which contains a heater, air conditioning – power stuff like lifts and pumps. Lighting and entertainment kit is only the shallow end of the problem, though waste is possible, of course.
  1. The waste resulting from my mum not using a low-energy bulb on her stairs is absolutely insignificant compared with all the office blocks in our cities, which are fully illuminated and heated for many hours at night so that the Health & Safety people will allow the cleaners to go in. The centre of Edinburgh, for example, is visible from the far side of the galaxy at night. 
  1. How many energy-saving bulbs are left on permanently in stairways and passages, because their warm-up time is a problem for the safety of people passing through?
  1. My own house was extended some seven years ago, and incorporates some jolly clever dimming circuits which allow us to control the level of lighting in a number of the rooms and – wait for it – save energy. Well, our days are numbered if bulbs in the sizes we need have to be replaced by low-energy equivalents (which mostly do not work at all with a dimmer).  We shall have to think again. I smell approaching expense and inconvenience. Oh, and waste – plenty of that.
  1. In my garage I have a 75w halogen bulb which I bought in IKEA years ago which produces the same light output as a 150w conventional incandescent bulb. It switches on and off instantly, it has been installed for some 12 years without problems – surviving all sorts of extremes of temperature and humidity – and it wasn’t very expensive. That seems a good way to go, but IKEA don’t stock them any more – nor does anyone else. Maybe they are illegal too.  
  1. I read recently that the cost of manufacture and disposal of mainstream low-energy bulbs is considerably higher than that for conventional ones – both in terms of cash and carbon footprint.

I could go on, but even I am getting bored here. To sum up, I am very positive about protecting the environment and saving money, but it seems to me that enthusiasts and half-assed regulators spend too much time and effort on items which are easy to target but have limited effect. There was a lady from Friends of the Earth on BBC Radio 5 recently, and she was having a go at the manager of an electricity generating station about consumption habits. The spirit of what she was saying was exactly correct, and I have a lot of time for many of the aims of Friends of the Earth, but it became very obvious that this particular lady had no idea at all about the power-consumption characteristics of various domestic devices – she dismissed this whole area of her subject as too nerdy to acknowledge. The fact that the lighting in a house is insignificant compared to wasteful heating meant nothing to her.

I’m not sure what my problem is here, in fact. I don’t have much expertise in the field of lighting, to be sure, but I understand enough to realise that a lot of what is proposed and enforced by legislation, worthy and well intentioned though it might be, is pointless and ill-informed.

If someone can – quietly and effectively, and without posturing – produce low-energy bulbs which tick all the right boxes and do all the things I need, I promise I shall buy nothing else. I’m sure it’s coming, but the debate which accompanies the process is idiotic.

In my humble opinion.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Solo Campaign - Weeks 27 & 28

A contemporary sketch of the landings at the Golf de Sant Jordi,
near Tortosa

A further two weeks have elapsed (slowly...) - the seaborne portion of the Spanish 3rd Army has landed safely at Tortosa, where Field Marshal Giron has assumed overall command, and united his army at Alcaniz. In theory, this constitutes a major threat to the French garrison at Zaragoza, but in fact he has no siege guns, so he may only ponder how to cross the Ebro in order to mask the place.

Detached, probing forces have come into contact on 30th July near Martin de Yeltes, on the River Huebra - I shall fight the battle next week and post the report here. I'll also publish a revised return and the up-to-date map at that point.

Week 27

Random Events and Strategic Notes
The Spanish Junta of Castile garrisons the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo with second-line troops, and Aigburth proposes to move towards Salamanca, to place an advance guard on the line of the River Huebra.

A force of 1800 civilian workmen is being sent in to repair the defences at Rodrigo.

On Monday 20th, the British fleet transporting De Espana’s force was seen off the coast of Tarifa, and was fired on by French coastal batteries, but was well out of range. The French report the fleet as consisting of seven men-of-war, plus a great many merchant ships – possibly in excess of 50. Naval vessels recognised by the French included Inconsolable, Turbot and Sparta, all of which are known to be at Lisbon, and some of the ships are flying both British and Spanish flags.

[Rule amendment: The French are bringing up Garde Nationale and other auxiliary troops to man the fortresses in the North East – this is outside the scope of the original rules. A decision dice decrees that these troops may be used outside French territory, but – at present – only as garrison troops or to defend the frontier.]

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

Allies (5 allowed)
1 – Sp B (España) are at sea, close to their destination port of Tortosa
2 – Picton (Force E) detaches a new force (H), consisting of the KGL dragoons and Otway’s Portuguese cavalry with three provisional battalions of light company troops and Bull’s Troop RHA...
3 – ...which force is ordered, under the temporary command of Maj.Gen Robert Long, to probe eastward to the line of the Huebra, between El Cubo and the area near Tamames.
4 – B (Graham) to continue to scout northwards into Orense
5 – New force of Spanish volunteers and militia (Sp J) to form new garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo (commander is General Hidalgo)
[Intelligence step -
  • nothing new – minimal opposition to Long’s advance to the Huebra – French deserters in this area confirm that the army is dispirited and the withdrawal of Jourdan is seen as a betrayal.]
French (4 allowed)
1– D (Leberknoedel, with the Stralsund-Ruegen brigade) to march from Burgos to Valladolid.
2 – P (Martinelli’s brigade of Garde Nationale) to march from Tudela to Burgos (where Thiebault is to continue as governor). This is a difficult (brown) road, so the usual test is required:
2D3 = 5 +1 (Martinelli’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 5   - the march is completed, without problems
3 – R (Paquerette’s brigade of Garde Nationale) to march from Pamplona to Tudela (HQ of Armee du Nord remains at Pamplona)
4 – S (Normande’s brigade of Garde Nationale) to march from Bayonne to Pamplona  
[Intelligence step –
  • No scouting orders, but Clauzel is aware that there are Allied units on the Huebra – his forces are not in a good enough state to take the offensive, and he is concerned for his hospitals at Salamanca and Alba de Tormes. He has written to both Marmont and the King to request support.]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply – the movement of garrisons keeps the French supply route from Bayonne secure. French Force K is no longer demoralised.

A newly equipped (and painted) brigade of 4 battalions of Spanish volunteers (classed as militia in the CCN rules) is added to Morillo’s force (Sp C) at Alcaniz, but will not be available for combat for another week. The new units are Regimiento del Ribero (light infantry) and the volunteer regiments of 1er Aragon, Guadalajara and Cuenca. The brigade also has a new foot battery, manned by regulars. 

Clauzel (Fr I) and Long (Ang-Port H) in Salamanca area – neither side wishes to attack at present.

Engineering at Ciudad Rodrigo (once again)
Aigburth and the Junta of Castilla have ordered the repair of the defences at Cuidad Rodrigo. A body of civilian workers is being organised (which will be equivalent to 2 bns) and will start work next week. In the meantime, the new garrison of volunteer and militia troops is put to work by the new governor, Hidalgo – they have 3 bns available. Each battalion present with the garrison rolls 1D6 each week, giving 3D6 – every 6 rolled adds 1 to the Fortress Value, which is currently 2 – aiming to be repaired to a full value of 6.  This week, the dice come up 6 2 2, so the Fortress Value is increased to 3. With the arrival of the labourers, 5D6 will be available from next week onwards.

Week 28

Random Events and Strategic Notes
Espana’s Portion of the Spanish 3rd Army has now landed at Tortosa. One of the transport ships, the Bristol-owned Potentilla, ran aground outside the bay, but was refloated with no problems. The troops are in good shape – 15 horses became ill during the voyage and had to be shot, no other problems. Capt Thornycroft has been nominated for the Order of San Bernardino by the Supreme Junta.

Field Marshal Giron will now join the 3rd Army, and will assume command on the East coast.

De Espana


Clauzel is still concerned that his army, while numerically appearing quite strong, has many men in hospital and many of the units are at low strength. He may require to re-organise his forces rapidly if Aigburth attacks him in the near future – this would have a good chance of demoralizing his troops. He is aware of Long’s force on the Huebra, and proposes to send a counter to this advance, to assess the strength of the Allies here. Again, he has written to Marmont and King Joseph for assistance.

The new Spanish volunteer brigade is now in the field with Morillo’s division at Alcaniz.

The 3D3 activation throws give the Allies 4 and the French 4. Since they had the initiative last week, the Allies again opt to move first.

Allies (4 allowed)
1 – Sp B (España) now landed at Tortosa, are joined by MC Giron, who assues command...
2 – ...and Sp B is ordered to march from Tortosa to join Morillo at Alcaniz. This is a difficult (brown) road, and requires a test:
2D3 = 5 +2 (Giron’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 6   - the march is completed, without problems
3 – B (Graham) to march northwards into Spain, from Braga to Orense. This is another difficult road, so a test is needed:
2D3 = 4 +2 (Graham’s rating) -1 (brown road) = 5   - the march is completed, without problems
4 – H (Long, at Salamanca) to scout the area.
[Intelligence step -
  • Long’s cavalry find that the French around Salamanca are dispersed among the villages, but subsequently he finds himself confronted by Pinoteau’s covering force.]
French (4 allowed)
1 – New Garde Nationale force T (Momper) raised at Bayonne – 4000 men.
2 – New observing force H split from I (Clauzel) at Salamanca, to take position on the Huebra – cavalry plus 2 bns of (relatively undamaged) 59e Ligne plus a horse battery from the artillery reserve – this force commanded by Gen de Bde Pierre Pinoteau
3 – N (Marmont) to scout from Zamora towards Orense.
[Intelligence step –
  • Marmont’s scouts report Graham’s force is in Orense, as expected – Marmont does not realise they have only just arrived.
  • Reports of the Spanish disembarkation at Tortosa have reached Madrid – much alarm, since strength of the force is much exaggerated. King Joseph’s first reaction is to withdraw Marmont and Clauzel to Vittoria and Lodosa to avoid having their communications with France severed – Jourdan rolls a dice to talk him out of this, but there is a lot of concern that so many French regular troops are tied up in garrisons on the North coast. The French are always worried about the threat of the British navy.]
Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply, and no-one is demoralised.


Maj.Gen Robert Ballard Long

Gen de Bde Pierre Armand Pinoteau - he
didn't have a pointed head - this is
a photo of a portrait hanging on a wall

Pinoteau, with 2475 men, identifies that Long is detached from Aigburth’s and Picton’s main forces, and manages to turn the Allied right by crossing the Huebra at a ford near Cabrillas. The forces come into contact at Martin de Yeltes, around mid-morning on 30th July. [The action will be reported once the battle has been fought.]

Engineering at Ciudad Rodrigo
The civilian working party is now in operation and, in addition to the garrison troops, this gives a total of 5D6 for the repair work. Each 6 rolled adds 1 to the Fortress Value, which is currently 3 – aiming to be repaired to a full value of 6.  This week, the dice come up 6 6 5 4 1, so the Fortress Value is increased to 5. General Hidalgo is delighted with progress (as he should be). 

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Anschluss - More Ebb and Flow

Following on from my recent mention of Anschluss Publishing, I've now bumped into them again - twice, in fact, in quick succession - which usually means - well, something or other.

Firstly, one of my foreign spies sent me the booklet for The Ebb and Flow of Battle - Module 1: The 1809 Campaign, published 1988, which includes rules and notes on the historical campaign and OOBs. Interesting - pretty good, in fact, though I would not care to use the rules for a game. Some nice ideas in there, to be sure, but written orders, which is a screaming NO for me, and some surprisingly detailed tactical manoeuvring for a 6mm Grand Tactical game designed to handle army-level battles. No dice - all situation/table driven. He who knows the rules best shall win, a doctrine which is normally paraphrased as rewarding generalship.

I am also, most unreasonably, prejudiced a little against any rule set which claims to have captured the "true flavour" of the period, though - since I am patently not a real general - I would not claim to have any level of expertise in the true flavour. I am not really offering serious criticism of Ebb & Flow here - I'm sure it gives a good game. On a fairly gentle reading it does not look like my sort of thing, but that is hardly the authors' problem. I do like the idea of fighting battles using armies which are historically correct, rather than based on balanced points totals, and I also am comfortable with the fact that this means that sometimes one side will have no chance of winning, but will require to demonstrate its generalship by losing as well as they can!

Anyway, Histogaming has arrived, it says on the cover, though it took 25 years to reach me.

Anschluss also came up in the context of the scoping and planning for my proposed trip to the Danube in September. John C has very kindly lent me - among a pile of other useful stuff - Peter Heath's little booklet on Wagram, which has some tidy maps along with the narrative, though the OOBs are presented in wargame form. This booklet predates the Ebb & Flow one by some 3 years, and recommends the use of rules which are accurate yet fast in use - in particular WRG's 1685-1845 set.

There is/was a whole set of these booklets - several sets, in fact, since they covered 1809, 1813, 1814 and there are also Franco-Prussian titles (I think). They are not easy to get hold of - I found some secondhand copies at Abebooks and elsewhere, and they were certainly not cheap. I have managed to track down a copy of the booklet for the Battle of Thann, but there are also, for this campaign, a number of other titles in this Great Battles of History Refought series for 1809 I would like to have a look at.

Book 3 - The Battle of Abensberg
Book 4 - The Battle of Echmuhl [sic]
Book 5 - The Battle of Ebelsburg
Book 7 - The Battle of Aspern-Essling
Book 8 - The Battle of Raab

If anyone has a copy of any of these they would be prepared to lend me for a week or two (I only need them to take some notes for my initial planning) or sell to me (not too expensive - I don't need them that badly, and would be planning to re-sell fairly quickly!), please do get in touch.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Colonel of French Dragoons

A very small painting project completed – this is Colonel Piquet, of the 6eme Dragons, who is required to command one of the dragoon brigades of my Armée de Portugal, circa 1811-12. No big deal, and – as ever – my painting isn’t much to write home about, but I find this little figure quite interesting.

The officer himself is by Phoenix Model Developments – previously Les Higgins Ltd – and was mastered by Tim Richards around 1975. As I keep mentioning, the Higgins/PMD Napoleonic horses were not wonderful, and I regard them as particularly unsuitable for a brigade commander, so I have mounted Monsieur Piquet on a more sedate animal, courtesy of NapoleoN Miniaturas. The reason this is of some interest is that, during the brief spell (2008/9?) when they were producing the Higgins/PMD Napoleonic range, NapoleoN were giving serious consideration to offering their own horses with the PMD cavalry, as an option. I have always thought this would have been a good idea.

This particular pairing is not as brilliant as I had hoped – the rider comes from the period when PMD were trying a bit of sneaky upward scale creep. No matter – it is a well-known fact (disprove it if you can) that Piquet was quite a tall man, who had a favourite small, wiry horse which was ideal for the rough conditions in Spain.

Anyway – say bonjour to the colonel – I like him well enough, and the combination of castings gives a little glimpse of what might have been if NapoleoN had possessed stamina to match their flair.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

The Ongoing Artillery Background Project (OABP)

First off, Happy New Year to everyone who is kind enough to drop in here. I hope your year is good – in my own case, I am hoping for a rather more satisfying year than 2012, which was a kind of not-quite year – a lot of minor things that didn’t go too well, and then there was the weather, which I have decided to take as a personal affront. However – I’m still here and still fighting, and each day is the start of the rest of your life, as a former work-colleague used to have written on a poster above his desk for a while. Come to think of it, that same fellow is no longer with us – he drowned himself in a freezing Scottish loch not long after he retired, so let’s gloss over that quickly – inappropriate recollection.

This morning, Amazon emailed me to ask me if I would care to rate my recent purchase of a pot of red GW paint – did it meet my expectations? Pretty much, yes. They also suggested that, since I recently purchased CDs of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio and some concerti by Telemann, I obviously like music and thus might be interested in a new album from One Direction. Now that is impressive lateral thinking, but no.

Last night I spent 40 minutes on the static exercise bike, in the interests of getting the blood thinned down a bit after Cholesterolfest. Went OK – backed off a bit towards the end to keep my pulse under 140bpm, but no problems, and it was good for the first of a new series. To avoid spending my time on the bike thinking “Good grief – still 29 minutes to go....”, I watched one of my library of approved exo-bike movies. Last night I watched the first half of The Charge of the Light Brigade – that’s the 1968 one with David Hemmings. I haven’t watched it for ages, and it’s a bit dated now, but still pretty good. The relationship between Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave and the other fellow is what I would describe as uninterestingly soppy – not very engaging, and I couldn’t really care much about the characters themselves. The military bits are nicely done, but what really compromises it for me is that it comes from a period when all British films used the same short list of actors, and I find it distracting to keep noticing that the sergeant major used to be in The Onedin Line on TV, for example.

It may have been a "brilliant moment of madness" - it could even have been
a "mad moment of brilliance" - but such moments are fairly commonplace
on my tabletop, I think 

The whole thing is rescued by Trevor Howard as Lord Cardigan, who presents the most wonderful portrayal of a pure bastard it is possible to imagine. I know it’s all going to end in tears, but I’ll watch the rest of the story on my next pedalling session tonight. After the Crimean unpleasantness, I think I’ll watch Tom Berenger as Longstreet again – yes – haven’t seen that for a while either.

In this rather disjointed not-quite-holiday period as the world gets revved up again, there is an opportunity to revisit all those wargaming background projects which seem to grind on forever. One such is the box of bits which I have earmarked to complete my collection of limbers and logistics vehicles for my Napoleonic armies. Although it comes under the general heading of Mucking About, every so often I open up all the little margarine boxes and switch things around to make sure I have the best combinations of parts for the various units. I still have to paint up limbers, teams and drivers and pulled guns for all the French artillery – which is 3 foot batteries at 2 horses each and 2 horse batteries at 4 horses each. I also have outstanding limber teams for one Italian foot battery, three Spanish regular, a Spanish volunteer one and one for the Duchy of Stralsund-Ruegen.

Then there’s two more British caissons and two French ditto to finish off, a couple of odd wagons and a bunch of pack mules to paint up. It’ll all get done in time – maybe this year – I got a fair amount of this stuff completed last year, so there’s no stress!

The bits are all-sorts – limbers are a mixture of Hinchliffe 20, early Lamming and some Minifigs 20mm, cannons are similar, plus a few Les Higgins. Horses and drivers are Lamming, Scruby, S-Range and Alberken, and I even have a few rather posh Art Miniaturen teams for the French line. The mules and oxen are mostly Jacklex, and the Spanish muleteers are Hinton Hunts. Should be fine.

Going through the boxes reminded me (not  that I had forgotten, of course) that I have a couple of really nice Minifigs kits to make up – a general’s carriage and a French flying ambulance – I really must get on with those – I’ll enjoy that.

General's carriage - all bits present


And,  of course, having counted, examined, swapped and generally fiddled with all the bits, they all went back into the plastic tubs and back into the big box marked Napoleonics until next time....

Good fun though, and it avoids doing anything really useful. Also, I have a vague feeling that talking about it here makes it more likely I will do something about it soon, but don’t hold your breath.

Happy New Year, in case I didn't mention it.