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

Friday 26 April 2013

Hooptedoodle #86 – The World Is Getting Faster

This is not a rant. I state this right here, up front, so that I can refer back to it if I forget.

A gentleman on the radio this morning was waxing positive about how technology has speeded everything up, and how much better our lives are as a result. He may be correct. If he was on the radio, then it’s bound to be true, isn’t it?

I have expressed concerns here before about the risks to mental health and society if the entire population has too much information, most of it distorted by marketing and vested interests, too little imagination and judgement to make use of that information, and a compulsion to multitask between trivial, inconsequential, purely transactional exchanges. That was beginning to sound a bit rantish, so I’ll stop that paragraph.

The world according to my desktop is not getting faster. It is continuing to slow down. As I have mentioned before, I live out in the countryside, and my broadband is slow. This means that most of the cyber world is now specifically designed not to work properly for people like me. The charming little lady illustrated here is someone I see a great deal of. Since my internet provider is BT (British Telecom), and since they are sort of poor relations within the Yahoo edifice, I am unable to open any page in my email service until I have been provided with an advert for an American charity – they even have 800 toll-free numbers, which of course are meaningless outside the US. I can’t switch this feature off, and the ads take on average about 22.46 seconds a time to retrieve from some remote server. Every single mail item, every index page – everything – has to wait for an ad which I’ve seen before and is of no relevance. You can see that would begin to grate after a while.

As I type my mail, the browser is constantly jamming the buffer, trying to check what I am saying, so that it can target advertising at me which is relevant to what I’m writing about. I constantly have to retype bits where it got stuck, or where it dropped characters while it was distracted. I’ve started using WordPad to type my bigger mails, and pasting them into the browser – I hope the text interpreter gets very serious indigestion as a result of not being able to chew its food properly.

As I type anything into the input field for a search engine, the poor thing has a brave attempt to predict what I’m going to type, but always gets it wrong, since the time taken to realise that I am typing in the search field and call HQ results in its losing the 2nd to 5th characters – so its predictions are not worth the effort. Not helpful.

Well, I’m fighting back. We realised that, despite everything, my wife’s new laptop works much faster than my desktop does when it’s online, so we deduce that more modern designs cope better with all this friction and superfluous junk. I shall buy a new desktop machine next week, and set about the (estimated) 3 month project of transferring software and documents from the old one. I shall, however, keep the old computer – it is still of a high spec, although it is coming up for 7 years old now, and the processor and video components are fast and efficient, if left to themselves and not constantly interrupted.

I intend to strip back the old machine – remove Internet access, take off the virus checker – XP will no longer be supported very soon so a static OS should be OK. I shall remove everything I don’t need to be on it. Goodbye Google Toolbar. Goodbye RealPlayer. Goodbye DropBox. Goodbye Spotify. I shall use it for typing, and utility jobs like writing CDs, graphic and photographic work and desktop publishing. When I need to move files between the machines, I shall use USB memory sticks. The computers will share a printer, but it will be hard-wired so that there is no need for WiFi.

I can sense the beginnings of a smile playing around the corners of my mouth. With luck, my future sightings of the little Unicef girl will be instantaneous, since my new computer will be designed to cope with her as part of the mail service.

The broadband will still be slow, though.

Maybe it won’t work any better.


Wednesday 24 April 2013

The Thunderer

The general in this picture has appeared here before, and there was some helpful discussion of how I could use him. Generals on foot have always been a problem for me, since I find it unlikely that even infantry generals would have led their men into action on Shanks's pony.

As a result of suggestions made, I resolved to get him a held horse to add a little potential mobility, and I have finally done it. You can't rush these things, of course.

This is Sir Nathaniel Aspinall, known to his men as The Thunderer, and occasionally God's Trumpet - I sincerely hope this was because of his very loud voice. A noted lay preacher, and sometime Member of Parliament for Bury, in the Hundred of Salford, Sir Nathaniel was unusually well qualified to be a general of foot, since he had served some years of his youth as a professional soldier in Germany in the Wars of Religion.

He is here seen with his horse, Herod, and a horse-holder who was formerly in the artillery. Hinton Hunts to a man - or horse.

This sets a useful precedent - I'm quite pleased with Sir Nat (this is about as close to a diorama as you get in my armies), and will follow a similar grouping style with other suitable Staff castings which I have.


Monday 22 April 2013


Years ago, when life was simpler and I had more enthusiasm, I used to do a lot of figure conversions and scratch-build scenery items, and I used to use a Humbrol filler, and sometimes I used to use Plasticene, coated with banana oil in the celebrated manner mentioned in all the old books.

Recent hobby work - especially on resin buildings - has brought to my attention that I don't really have much idea what to do about filler now. Banana oil, if it isn't prohibited by Euroregs, is almost certainly plantain oil these days, and it was always dodgy stuff anyway. I have various clever two-part epoxy fillers and things which you mix together and knead by hand for half an hour before you find they have passed their sell-by date and will never set. I admit that I have even used Polyfilla on occasions to fill bubble-holes and graft-gaps in figure castings - at least it sands down nicely. I covered the brass plate on the front of a Hinton Hunt Old Guard Grenadier drummer's bearskin with Polyfilla once, and textured it with a pin, so that he could transfer to the Chasseurs. He's still serving in the ranks - no problems. Not something I would normally brag about, though.

Looking around, I see that Humbrol Model Filler is still on the market, and I believe that is the sort of thing I'm looking for - a simple, relatively non-toxic, one-tube gloop which will set quickly, sand smooth and take any kind of paint without blistering. I would happily order up some of the Humbrol, but felt a nervous twinge - in this day of wonderful acrylic things for modellers, is there something better I should be thinking about?

Yes - correct - replacing the bathroom wall heater would be a useful thing to do, but that's not what I was addressing here. Any gloop-lovers prepared to offer a little advice?

Saturday 20 April 2013

ECW Playtest - Action at Meols Harcourt 1643

With my feeling a lot more energetic, a little sunshine outside and a spare Saturday to fill, Nick and I took the opportunity to give the new ECW armies a bit of a run out, and do some further testing of the ECW variant on Commands & Colors which I produced over the Winter.

This was real toe-in-the-water stuff. We deliberately kept the armies small – Parliament had 5 regts of Foot, 2 of Horse, a medium gun and 2 Leaders; the Royalists had 4 of Foot, 3 of Horse and 2 Leaders.

The action took place in April 1643 around the mythical village of Meols Harcourt, which controls some key crossings – a ford and an ancient stone bridge – over the River Hassop, which might well flow into the Lune further west. We also kept the game simple – since it was an early try-out we did not categorise any of the units as Veteran or Raw or Militia (though we could have done) – the only complication we deliberately included was that we made all the Royalist Horse Gallopers and their Parliamentary opposite numbers Trotters.

It went fine. We were a bit slow, perhaps, because of all the checking of rules and general unfamiliarity, but we hit no problems. It’s a nice, crisp game.

The action suffered a little from having no real objectives – obviously the forces had blundered into each other, and the idea was just to cause maximum damage. The Royalists had cavalry on both flanks – Lord Byron’s regiment crossed the river early on at the ford. Philip Egerton’s foot regiment hurried to prevent the crossing, but they were driven back and then very roughly handled once the horse were safely ashore. On the opposite flank a lengthy and vigorous fight between the remainder of the horse (2 regiments on either side) caused heavy loss to both sides, but was not decisive.

Eventually, the infantry forces in the centre came into contact, and the Royalists just about won the day in this area – a bit of a grinding match. On the Royalist left, Byron’s horse – delayed by a lack of orders (i.e. suitable cards) eventually rolled up the Parliamentarian right and the King’s men had won. Lord Byron and Sir Wm Fairfax were both wounded in the process. They’ll be back.

Observations on the Rules:

The Chaunce Cards had no effect at all today – only one was played, and it was a False Alarum. I would expect a typical game to have more of these.

We saw none of the unstoppable, rolling cavalry melees that Clive and I experienced at the first playtest. The Gallopers had an edge in the first round of any melee in which they were attacking, but did not necessarily sweep away the opposition. In this action the cavalry pretty much cancelled out, though I think the Parliament guys might have had some lucky dice to sustain that.

Artillery in melees, as designed, cannot fight back. The best they can possibly hope to do in such a situation is somehow survive until someone rescues them. If they are isolated, they are dead ducks in a melee.

Command Cards worked well – the Evade card was well used (one for each side) and a card called The Lord Is with Us produced a good advantage for the Royalists at the end, contributing bonus dice in three simultaneous close combats.

Harcourt House, home of Lord Meols

Meols village

Rigby's men [P] behind the tavern

Parliamentary horse on the left - Dodding's & Lambert's

The ford

Sir Wm Brereton's RoF [P]

Rigby's again - waiting for orders...

Belching Norah
It is recognisably C&C

Lord Byron's Horse [R] ford the river

The cavalry action beyond Harcourt, which lasted most of the afternoon

Philip Egerton's Foot unsuccessfully try to prevent the Royalist horse
crossing the ford

Prince Rupert's Horse just about hold on to defeat Dodding's

General view from the Parliament left, mid afternoon

Gallopers from the Northern Horse [R] attack Lambert's Trotters (who held them)

The infantry battle in the centre develops...

...and things look very bad for Rigby's, who should have stayed at the pub
As is usual now, Nick did the photos. Thank you, Nick.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Hooptedoodle #85 - Earliest Memory?

Tonight I saw some of a British TV programme featuring Maureen Lipman, the Yorkshire actress. I found the idea behind the programme interesting - a study of why we remember some things clearly throughout our lives. One fact that emerged is that children do not seem to remember much before age 3 - at least not clearly enough to retain details into later life.

It was well done. Naturally, I checked my own memories, and I guess I found that I conform pretty well to the sort of average profile they described. I can remember a lot of unspecific stuff which must come from early childhood - the sound (and smell) of potato peelings on a coal fire, my teddy bear and a blue and red humming top, and sitting on the kitchen table watching my mother doing the ironing - but relatively much less about specific events - things I could attach a date and a place to.

I can remember being up very late, down by the River Mersey, watching the fireworks which were part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951. I can remember getting a lift home in my Aunt May's black Vauxhall Velox afterwards, but I know some of this is faulty because I was told recently that we were at Birkenhead Docks, and I do not remember the trip through the Mersey Tunnel which this would have involved. It does have a definite date, though.

After due thought, I'm pretty sure the earliest datable event I can remember is my being in hospital. I hurt my leg falling off a swing when my mother was away giving birth to my sister (I would always go to any lengths to steal the limelight), which I can obviously date very accurately - about a week after my 3rd birthday. I remember very clearly playing with a Dinky Toy on a tray on my hospital bed - it was a brand new Bedford Refuse Truck, just like the one in the picture above (though this is a stock picture, and not my truck), and it was bought for me by my dad's eldest brother, who had been the one unlucky enough to allow me to fall off the swing. There were funny blue lights in the hospital ward at night, I remember, and they used to reflect off the shiny new paint on the Dinky.

That's it, really. Anyone else like to have a shot? How far back can you go?

If, like me, you have difficulty with what happened last week, this might be a pleasant therapy.

Monday 15 April 2013

More on Scans of Old Books

The ghost in the machine
I was taken to task by a few people yesterday for implying that anyone could be dissatisfied with the Google Books and Gutenberg work to digitise old books. Surely, it was argued, we can hardly complain - it is wonderful that someone should take it upon themselves to provide such a resource.

I wouldn't argue with that. My only gripe is that it would be nice if the quality of the job was always up to the worthiness of the intention. I imagine the scanning work being carried out by underpaid but overqualified inmates of a big library somewhere. Whoever does it, then God bless them, but a bit of inspection and quality control after the event would offer so much extra value. The picture at the top of this post is an excerpt from Google Books' pdf version of Les Allemands sous les Aigles Francaises - Tome 1 - Le Regiment de Francfort by Lt Colonel Sauzey. It is good that the anonymous backroom staff should occasionally get a bit of visibility, and also good to note that Google obviously encourage the practice of safe librarianism.

In addition, I wish to make some quick - and largely uneducated - observations about the products of a company or companies known variously as Nabu, Biblio and other things, whose mission in life is to make rare old books available in print once more, by exactly this same scanning process. Some of these books are print-on-demand products. I would describe them as approximate facsimiles. I have nothing at all to say about the copyright implications, nor on the apparent furore arising from the public thus having access to works which otherwise exist only in American libraries or private collections. I think I have two specimens of Nabu's output. They are alarmingly slipshod, and the books are not especially cheap.

Strange that the translator of Foy's work knew HTML?
For example, I have the 2-volume English translation of Maximilien Foy's (that's me!) History of the War in the Peninsula, under Napoleon. It has misprints on the covers, no less. One volume failed to get a title on the spine, the front cover of the other is illustrated here - you will note that the main title includes the expression "&NBSP", which is, of course, the HTML code signifying a "non-breaking space" to an Internet browser type program. Classy, eh? A real attention to quality - a real pride in the mission - old books reproduced with care and love for the benefit of future generations.

These books also have a surprising number of missing pages - presumably the operator sneezed, or ended his shift, at these points. Fortunately I have a complete pdf-file version of the same books, so have been able to fill the gaps in my own copies by including printouts of the required pages. Something seems not quite right, though, and I am not comforted by Nabu's published policy statement, part of which says:

This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc that were either part of the original artefact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

Cobblers. Are there any grown-ups at home?

I thank Nabu for their good wishes, and note that they are also committed to saving on production costs by not bothering over much with normally accepted ideas on quality assurance.

Not recommended.

Sunday 14 April 2013

e-Readers - What to Do?

I own a Sony PRS-505 e-Reader. I’ve had it a few years now. Originally I was really very pleased with it, and I have used it a lot, but gradually it is becoming just another electronic white elephant. It lies about the house, and on the rare occasions I wish to use it the battery is invariably flat. I don’t mean to be unkind to it, but if I stop using something it usually has some significance, if I can just work out what it is. Something like “voting with my feet”.

Much of my disappointment with the Sony machine is a result of the e-book market not moving in the direction that was predicted when I bought it. I bought it because my main interest is in being able to read free downloadable pdf format books – mostly 19th Century memoirs and histories. I have a great many of these, mostly obtained from Google Books or Project Gutenberg. Much of the specification of what I need my e-reader to do is built around things I need and things which I do not like and am not interested in.

* I do not wish to be glued into a single supplier (such as Amazon) – they do not offer the books I am looking for.

* I require scanned pdf’s to be readable – one problem with my current machine is that the pdf’s have to be especially clear to display at all. Another is that the display size is not adjustable for pdf’s, and the simple task of turning the page requires the entire book image to be reformatted or reflowed, which takes about 20 seconds.

* I cannot use epub books for the material I study. It’s a nice idea, but the automatic character-recognition software used to construct these things at Google is mostly a joke. Being American, it has little patience with strange, foreign concepts such as accented characters, or with 19th Century fonts, and it also attempts to interpret squashed insects and footnotes – to very strange effect.

* I am a dinosaur. I do not wish to share my books with all my friends by installing them in a cloud or similar, I do not wish to browse my collection by Genre or Playlist, unless the management software is really intuitive and helpful. I like drag and drop and organised hierarchies of folders, and I wish my portable device to be USB compatible, and to be recognised as a detachable storage device by my computer when I plug it in.

* I do not care for iTunes or RealPlayer – mostly the software for these is banned from our house. Also Creative’s software products – I have a nice little Creative Zen mp3 player, which is almost ruined by the moronic management software. These things, apart from being a pest to use, will usually try to install a whole pile of stuff you don’t want, and make themselves the default for every kind of file you use. Creative even re-installs itself after you remove it...

* More positive – my wife has a Kindle and loves it. She uses it properly, and downloads actual Kindle books, and it is great. It will pay for itself all over again this year when we go away on holiday. We do not know how to install pdf’s on it, and somehow it would feel wrong to have to ask Amazon if it’s all right to download a book which has nothing to do with them. The newer Kindles look even better, though I do not wish to have one which thinks it might be a tablet. I need to find out how easy/possible it is to install my dirty old French memoirs on a Kindle, without passing through my Amazon account and without straining my poor brain, which is almost full.

* There are books available from Sony’s own eBook store, but they are expensive, not very interesting, and the range and scope seems to be much less than was expected a few years ago. Not a promising source.

* For a little while, it seemed to me that tablets might be the future of reading books on screen. The drag and drop and file management arrangements look about right, screen clarity is excellent – I really thought that tablets might blow the Kindle (etc) market out of the water, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. The trade-off between portability and readability is tricky, and a decent tablet is potentially a bit large, a bit fragile and definitely a bit expensive to shove in your pocket just so you can read a book on the train.

* Of course, I have a friend who tells me that he always has some books installed on his iPhone. Only in his more relaxed moments will he admit that he finds them very difficult to read, and therefore doesn’t use this facility. Bong! [i-Idiot alert]

* It is very unlikely that G4 will ever make it this far out into the forest...

* This morning I watched a couple of YouTube reviews on using Kindle with pdf’s, and they were quite frank about the fact that a 9-inch tablet or a Sony reader (not the one I’ve got, I guess) are a much better option, because of slow refresh and memory issues.

Dirty old French book - no wonder they say I'll go blind
I think some kind of vague idea of what I would like is taking shape. Ideally, I would like to find some miraculous way to make my existing PRS-505 into all the things I hoped it would be. Failing that, I really like the format and clarity of the new Kindles – particularly the PaperWhite, but have not yet read anything that assures me that I will be able to shift pdf’s of Marmont’s Memoires and Sarrazin’s history of the Peninsular War from my desktop computer to the device, and be able to read them comfortably if/when they get there.

Given a Kindle, I’m sure I could also occasionally find something available in Kindle format which I was interested in, and buy it for download in the approved manner. Despite my traditional anti-Apple (for example) posturing, I have a fairly open mind about what sort of device I need, though the cost and practicality have to make sense. Some of the received wisdom online appears to suggest that what I really want for this role is a cheap 9-inch tablet – Nexus? Could this just be the next white elephant? Hmmm.

If anyone can understand what I’m on about here and can offer a little advice (preferably based on actual experience rather than statements of faith from the Apple Chapel, for example), I shall really be very grateful.

Embarrassingly so, perhaps.

Friday 12 April 2013

Hooptedoodle #84a - The Big Drop

Our resident artist's impression of the alternative Lottery Rainfall system 

Further Mathematical Rambles with a 10-year-old

The only connection with the previous post is that this one also is prompted by conversations with my son. For a while we have chatted idly about the idea of the rain falling as a single drop – which is potentially amusing and environmentally catastrophic at the same time, but doesn’t actually convey very much unless you try to put some numbers on it.

Numbers would also involve defining some boundaries. It seems unlikely that Nature would distribute rainwater to match municipal or parliamentary dividing lines, but we can well imagine what, say, an inch of rain looks like, in the measuring glass, in the puddle on the lawn, in our garden, in our county...

We spend a significant amount of time watching, or being aware of, rain falling outside the windows. Our own county seems a reasonable area to consider – we know it pretty well, can envisage it. An inch of rain is a reasonable concept, too – it is not uncommon to get an inch on a particularly wet afternoon. I am confident that I have taken part in many picnics, hill walks, barbecues, football matches and so on which involved an inch of rain. I have also, I am reminded, visited the odd battlefield in such weather.

OK – to specifics. We had a go yesterday. The results are the sort of thing that prompts reactions such as:

1) Wow

2) Imagine that

3) What shall we play now?

4) I wonder what’s for tea?

This is an honest effort here, but we make no guarantees about the decimal point always being exactly in the right place – decimal places are not a strong part of my act. East Lothian is a small county on the East coast of Scotland. It seems it has a land area of 679 sq Km, which is certainly not large. If we take 1 inch as 2.5-something centimetres, an inch of rain all over the county (imagine, if you will, a rain cloud the same shape) gives a volume of almost exactly 17 million cubic metres – that’s 17 million metric tonnes of water. Two tangential thoughts – firstly, that represents 867 metric tonnes for each resident in the county, and – secondly – intuitively it seems astonishing that such a delivery doesn’t batter us to our knees and flatten everything in sight. And remember, an inch is not an exceptional amount of rain for a single day.

Obviously this all works because the stuff is sprinkled gently over the area, trickles into ditches and streams and drains, then into rivers and eventually into the North Sea, apart from any bits we choose to keep for later use. Our original idea, though, was to examine the effect of applying a National Lottery principle to rainfall, and dumping a single, giant drop on some poor fellow at some random point in the county [tee-hee]. One inch for East Lothian, we calculate, would require a spherical drop of water 318 metres in diameter – i.e. a bit larger than the average football stadium.

That’s big, isn’t it?

For later use - Hopes Reservoir, Lammermuir Hills, East Lothian
I wonder what is for tea?

If you realise that we’ve messed up the arithmetic, and the required droplet is disappointingly smaller than this, there’s probably no point in letting us know, since our attention span has now been exceeded. We are bored with this now, and are moving on to consider other sources of wonder, like how much does the moon weigh, and why wood-pigeons always say exactly the same thing.   

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Hooptedoodle #84 - Fun with the Recycling

With the completion of the ECW infantry, I was once again encouraged to look at the rate of increase in my collection of painting bottle-tops, and also the likely trend in the sizes of my future figure-painting batches. The two curves do not meet, my friends. I have reached a situation where I cannot throw out a bottle-top of the two proscribed types (Tesco’s fizzy mineral water for infantry and Tesco’s semi-skimmed milk containers for cavalry); the collection is continuing to grow without purpose, simply because it has been doing so for a while and it is hard to break a habit.

So I have decided to keep 40 of the little ones and 30 of the big ones, and throw the rest out. Sorry -  that should read “put the rest in the recycling bin”.

My son (who is 10) is a real maths enthusiast, so we spent a little while piling them up before they went away, and did some messing around with tetrahedral pyramids, and a touch of gentle finite difference theory to see if we could construct a formula for the number of bottletops in a tetrahedron of side n (and so on). Oh what fun....

We had enough of the smaller tops to make a tetrahedron with a side of 11 tops, it turns out, which our formula tells us contains 286 bottletops. It did occur to me that if I have the spare time to fiddle around with this stuff (it was for the boy, really...) then someone else might have the time to look at a photograph of the event.

The eleventh tetrahedral number is 286
Good, eh?

We have subsequently thrown them out (though it was a struggle to part with them in the end), together with the other surplus tops which didn’t fit into the construction. Now then, at 500ml a bottle, let’s ponder how much water that represents, and where it has all gone now. And then there’s the gas... 


Tuesday 9 April 2013

ECW - Finished the Foot

A small landmark today - still maintaining strict parity (8 units of foot for each side), I've now completed the infantry target for the first phase (you mean there will be a second?) for my ECW project.

Here are the Royalist greencoats of Broughton and Gibson, on the left, and the Parliamentarian units of Brereton and Mainwaring. Dragoons and artillery are coming along, and recruitment of cavalry will continue for a while.

The odd lighting in the photos is the result of a strange luminous object appearing in the sky over South-East Scotland today. I feel an inexplicable urge to rush out and sacrifice a lamb, or a maiden or something.

I was listening earlier to a discussion on the radio - some people were complaining that a ceremonial funeral for Lady Thatcher seemed a bit of an extravagance in the current economic situation. I think it is an excellent idea - in fact, I think they should break with tradition and hold the procession in Leeds, or maybe Glasgow, so that her loyal former subjects can take the opportunity to show their gratitude and affection.

I'll see you there? Looking forward to it.

Monday 8 April 2013

Bamburgh Castle

Since we have the school holidays upon us, and since my health is (infuriatingly slowly) getting back to normal, the lad and I took a trip down to Bamburgh Castle yesterday. It’s only an hour and a bit down the road from here, and I haven’t been there for years and years.

We managed to take the wet, wintry weather with us, so anyone in Northumberland who was enjoying the onset of Spring should have been warned of our coming, to be strictly fair. We loaded up our German refresher course on the car stereo and donned our arctic service underwear and off we went.

It was a good day out – I’m not going to attempt any sort of serious tourist review of Bamburgh – it was too cold for us to see everything on offer (we swerved the walk down to the sandhills – we can die of hypothermia doing that sort of thing at home).

There has been a fortification on this site for thousands of years, and it really is a terrific looking place, but somehow it doesn’t quite feel right for an ancient monument. It is a real place, with real history, but it has been destroyed a number of times – most notably by Edward the Kingmaker – and much of the rebuilding that has taken place has been aimed at making it a nice place to live. People still live there, for goodness sake, and the state rooms are in excellent condition. There was a hefty amount of refurbishment done in the 18th Century, and the Earls of Armstrong (that’s the engineering Armstrongs) made it an elegant and comfortable home from the 1880s onwards.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s an excellent place to visit, but it doesn’t give you the immediate step-back into history you might expect. It’s all very well maintained and very obviously has buildings from all sorts of periods. They have an interesting little museum for the Armstrongs – mostly of aviation and marine specimens – and the state rooms hold a wealth of examples of armour and weapons.

I believe that in the village church there is a monumental window for a young cavalry officer killed at Waterloo, but we didn’t get that far. Too cold. Nick liked the tea-room and the dungeons best (he took the photos) – I think I liked the artillery pieces on the walls, which included a splendid 6-inch Georgian mortar and a carronade. Apparently the whole lot are about to get sand-blasted and refinished, so this will remove 200 years of paint in short order.

Nice castle – I liked it. It looks like a proper, kid’s idea of a castle, and it’s mostly in very good shape, which is why it has been used for so many films.    

Tuesday 2 April 2013

ECW "BattleFinder" - alternative map cards for the North West

After some previous mention here of my intention to produce some tweaked map cards for the BattleFinder battlefield generation system, with place names which are more appropriate to an ECW campaign in the North West of England, a couple of people kindly emailed to express their interest in such cards. I've produced the first of an intended three sets of add-on cards, and they are here. If they are any use to you, please feel free to download them.

To put this into context, BattleFinder is available (free) from the website of The Perfect Captain, along with their Tinker Fox ECW campaign game and a few other goodies. These cards are not a corruption or rip-off of BattleFinder - you will still need to download the official rules and the playing board - my map cards use the original artwork and are merely re-named to suit a mythical area stretching from the old Lonsdale Hundred of Lancashire to the West Riding of Yorkshire - the idea is that the place names should sound reasonable rather than be real places.

As I sit here, I believe it is unlikely that I will use The Perfect Captain's Very Civil Actions or Spanish Fury tabletop rules, but the campaign stuff is definitely intriguing. My thanks to my son Nick for his skill with PaintshopPro and the magic copy-&-paste touch.