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

Monday 30 November 2015

Hooptedoodle #200 - Algernon the Kingpin

This last week has mostly been a thing of threads and patches, dominated by a few moments of panic involving my aged mother (which turned out to be less serious than they might, but which consumed a lot of time, nervous energy and diesel oil). One relative bright spot has been the spectacle provided by our local wildlife, greatly excited by the Contesse's decision to keep the bird feeders stocked.

We have a long-standing tradition that our garden really belongs to the cock pheasant of the moment. Around this time of year there is a lot of fighting, though I'm not sure why. These standing champions are great characters - many of them have had names - the earliest I knew was Percy (circa 2000), then there were The Curate, a fine lunatic named Reg (short for Road Reg, because of his habit of attacking passing vehicles), Daft Baldy and many others. The current incumbent is Algernon - pictured at the top of this post.

One thing they all have in common is that they are very unlikely still to be around come the Spring, since there are numerous shooting parties here on the farm around Christmas (which, of course, lest we become too emotional, is the reason the pheasants are here in the first place). The brighter, the more splendid the specimen, the greater his chance of ending the day of the shoot slung over someone's shoulder, on a string.

In the meantime, there is much activity directed towards establishing seniority. The Contesse's pictures show moments from two simultaneous battles from last week. They look clumsy and ridiculous, but these boys mean business - great handfuls of feathers were blowing about after the fighting. The last of the pictures here has not exactly frozen the detail of the action, but you can make out one of the losers retreating in a vertical direction, to reconsider his tactics. They fly with no grace at all - lots of noise - like a demented bag of carrots.

We also had a further two incidents which were too quick to be photographed, alas. A roe deer came into the garden from the wood behind our house, decided our garden gate was too formidable an obstacle to jump and headed back the way he had come - leaving me floundering in his wake, trying to reach a camera. We also had a lightning visit from a sparrowhawk, which failed to catch a Blue Tit on the nut feeder, and which also failed to notice that a male Greater Spotted Woodpecker was sharing the feeder with the tit. One peck from the GSW and the sparrowhawk thought better of the whole idea - these guys are unbelievably fast, but I wouldn't back one against Old Woodie. The hawks seem to regard our feeders as a sort of buffet for their benefit, but they lack the finesse, not to mention intelligence, to take full advantage.

On a more peaceful note, here is a pleasing picture of a plump Song Thrush, with his beak all muddy from rooting around under the bark chips, looking for biddies. Not for him the peanut feeder - Thrushie likes his grub when it's still moving.

Sunday 29 November 2015

1809 Spaniards - Regimiento de Cantabria

Flag still be be provided - otherwise complete
The dreaded Real Life has rather impacted this last week, but I did manage to finish off another battalion. Cantabria contributed just a single battalion to the Vanguard Division of the Spanish Army at the battle of Ucles (which army is the basis of my target OOB). The real unit was the 21st line regiment of the Spanish army - originally raised as the Tercio de Guipuzcoa (please don't ask me to pronounce that), they were renamed the Regimiento de Cantabria in 1715.

Since I had no idea where (or what) Cantabria is (or might have been) I did a little reading, and I learn that it is a province in the north of Spain, the chief city of which is Santander. Confusingly, I also learn that Guipuzcoa is the Spanish spelling of a Basque province, the capital of which seems to be, erm, Santander - is this just an older name for the same place?

The unit consists mostly of NapoleoN castings, but the drummer is
rather a pleasing little Falcata figure
Currently I have a further 4 Spanish line battalions in various stages of completion - these should be finished in the next week or two - I'll have a proper flag printing session when they are all ready.

Quick question, while I think of it: I took delivery of some pots of Vallejo paint this week, and two of them are metallics, which I am surprised to see require alcohol for thinning and brush cleaning - yes, that's alcohol. I am not proposing to bring the Martell VSOP into service - what is the official brew for this? - meths? - isopropyl? I have both of these - anything else would require me to sign the poisons book at the pharmacist, I think. Is there an official artists' alcohol product?

Monday 23 November 2015

Quickest Online Shopping Ever...

Just a very quick quickie...  I ordered up some plastic sleeves for the new cards in my Commands & Colors: Napoleonics Expansion #5 - I ordered them online from Board Game Extras, and they arrived in just one working day. I don't know how that rates where you live, but in these parts that's pretty impressive. Very slick - I like it.

As they say on eBay, recommended supplier. By the way, if you want to fit these sleeves for C&C cards, you want the Mayday Games 2½in x 3½in, heavy quality...

Thursday 19 November 2015

Expansion #5, and a Question of Tubes

Well, I've paid my ransom money of £17.76 to Royal Mail (that's £9.76 for UK Value Added Tax on an item imported from outside the EU, plus an £8 "handling charge", for the privilege of having my parcel delayed for 2 days at a detention camp in Berkshire), and have now received the promised Expansion #5 for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - "Generals, Marshals & Tacticians" from GMT Games.

I haven't had a proper chance to check it all out yet. There is a reissue of the C&CN Command Cards pack (green backs instead of blue - some tidying up, plus a logical dovetailing with the new Tactician pack), plus the new, additional pack of Tactician Cards, the initial allocation of which at game start-up is based on the ability of the General. There is also a bunch of new scenarios, there are some new unit and terrain types, and there are sheets giving General Tactician ratings for all the past scenarios.

I have steered clear of the C&CN expansions prior to this point. Expansion #1 covered the Spanish Army, but by the time it appeared I had developed my own additional rules for the Spaniards, and I have stuck with them (they are very similar to GMT's, in fact). I have no miniatures for, or particular gaming interest in, Russia, Austria and Prussia, which were the subject matter of Expansions #2 through #4, but I have always thought the role of Leaders in the core game was a bit underwhelming, so I was keen to purchase this latest instalment.

Once again, the production standards are very high and GMT themselves are nice, organised people to deal with - the pre-publication (P500) price represents a good deal, even with the international shipping and RM's ransom demand, and I hope to get some decent value out of the extended rules - what GMT describe as "enhanced fun"!

I'll get the old reading specs on this evening, make some coffee and have a good study - with luck this should encourage me to get the table out for a game next week. Interesting now that I see the scope of what this expansion comprises - prior to this I had very little idea what it would be, so the reality is bound to be more restrictive than the unlimited scope of what it might have been (including all the things I never imagined, of course!).

Looks very good - I hope to say more about this sometime soon. I'm confident you'll find proper, informed reviews of the product all over the place, so I won't attempt anything of the sort, but the mere fact that I, who have scorned all the previous expansions, should have invested in this one is evidence of my devotion!

Separate topic - acrylic paints. When I first started painting again, maybe 12 years ago, after a lengthy sabbatical, with what to me were new-fangled acrylic paints, a friend talked me into using a starter set of acrylic artists colours, in tubes. It didn't go well - I had enough trouble just getting my eye in again with the brushes, and I couldn't get to grips with artists' paints at all - couldn't get the coverage I expected, had problems with mixing and the gloopy textures. I switched to pots of modellers' paints, and have continued thus, quite happily.

My paint collection must have reached a certain age - many of my pots are now turning into chewing gum, and there is a limit to how much reactivation you can do (not to mention the time and the hassle). A big blow during my recent Spanish Grenadiers effort was the demise of my beloved Revell Stahl silver (in a square pot) - it is now metallic chewing gum - visually spectacular but useless.

The time is coming when I'm going to have to replace quite a few of my paints. There is a local problem in that there is no shop selling Citadel or Foundry paints within 40 miles of here, and I don't like buying unfamiliar shades or makes online. There is a Hobbycraft store about 25 miles away, and they sell the DecoArt pots, including the rather excellent Americana series, but the stock is uncertain and there are often gaps on the shelves. None of this is insurmountable, but since I am in any case forced to review my paint preferences, I thought it was probably worth revisiting the topic of artists' acrylics. Again, a friend suggested that was the way to go, though he is not near enough (or supportive enough!) to talk me through this in detail.

So - the point of mentioning the subject - there are certainly a few art suppliers fairly close to here, so availability would be OK. Does anyone reading this have experience or opinions of (tubed) acrylic artists' colours for modelling? I hasten to add that I am not really interested in mixing my own colours, so would tend to use them straight from the tube. I feel it would be silly to overlook these if they would be useful, but even more silly if they were not going to be suitable for my rather childish painting style!

As is always the case with this humble blog, all advice and clues will be gratefully received!

Monday 16 November 2015

Hooptedoodle #199 - Back to Business-as-Usual

Exhibit A
Here's an item from my outgoing email this morning:

To:                                                  Today     10:57am

Subject: Creativity vs Function

Hi there - yesterday I bought a greetings card published by XYZ Design.

Now that I sit down to write the thing, and open the plastic package, I am surprised to find that the envelope is black. Just plain black.

It doesn't happen often, but I am speechless with admiration. My compliments. Unfortunately, due to a sad lack of foresight on my part, I do not have a white pen with which to address the envelope, so my enthusiasm is not as complete as it might have been.

Whoever thought this one up really should go and have a look at themselves in the mirror - preferably with the light turned off.



Normally I would like to think I can handle a small matter like this without the Victor Meldew impression, but I also believe that the paying customer is entitled to an opinion. What I have done is pinch a spare white envelope of the right size from one of last year's Xmas cards, so all is well. I could also, of course, have applied a label to the black envelope, but I think I would need some preliminary lab study of the likely effect on the adhesive of black paper dye, and time is short. Also, I am not confident just how old my roll of labels is, so this is not a straightforward matter, and the replacement envelope will be fine. In any case, if I 'm going to supply my own label, I might as well knock up my own envelope, with some old pages from a jotter and some selotape, and maybe make up my own card with coloured pasta and old yogurt pots.

I have already nominated the greetings stationery industry for a Donkey Award in a previous post, in recognition of glossy and dark coloured envelopes which will not take a legible address - in consequence, I am not proposing to go to the Full Donkey for today's episode - these awards are not so easy to earn.

While I am enthusing about the retail industry, the Contesse reports that she has been awarded a special gift box by Marks & Spencer, no less, because she has spent a certain amount recently on clothes and suchlike. She has a busy day today, but since she was driving into the city anyway she planned to stop at M&S shortly after 8am to collect her reward for support of the Directors' Pension Fund. 

Problem - it seems the gift box contains a bottle of wine, amongst other comestibles, and it is against the law for UK retail outlets to sell alcohol before 10am. Ah, I hear you protest, but they were not selling this bottle, they were giving it away, and no-one had asked for it. Well, you are correct, but it makes no difference - they may not give away alcohol before 10am either. In consequence, the Contesse had to rearrrange her day slightly so she could call back at the store once the sun was officially above the yardarm.



1809 Spaniards - More Grenadiers

I confess that news of the dreadful events in Paris has left me unable to settle to do very much since Friday, or even concentrate, so as you would notice, but tonight I did manage to complete the other half-battalion of Spanish grenadiers. This combined battalion has contingents from the Reina (2nd) and Africa (6th) regiments, and will be the grenadier presence in my Spanish 1st Division for 1809. If I can get it organised before I change my mind, the plan is for four divisions of infantry, of which the "1st" is actually, confusingly, the second, but that will be explained when I produce my post on the OOBs for the Spanish armies of 1809 and 1812...

The second half-battalion is pretty much like the first, except that it does not include a drummer and does include a mounted commander. If you can make out the facing colours in the photo, Reina are purple and Africa are black - the Africa boys appeared in my previous post.

This unit is complete now - they will not have a flag, though I still need to put the usual magnetic sheet on the underside of the bases and make a 110mm square sabot for them (topped with steel paper). They will then be ready for the box files, which the Contesse feels is a strange end-state for the products of a hobby. However, the more promising news is that when they get to the box file they are ready for a wargame, so I must get something set up in the next week or so to give these chaps a run out - all box-file and no wargaming makes Jose a dull boy, or something like that.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

1809 Spaniards - The First of the Line Grenadiers

I've been very nervous about these chaps - the fancy embroidery on the flammes of the bearskins makes Spanish grenadiers of this period a bit of a nightmare for those of us who are rather below-average painters. In particular, this group from the Regimiento de Africa features yellow-on-black, which in my experience is one of the very worst colour combinations. They came out better than I had expected, and it was less work than I had feared, so I am encouraged to carry on with the next half-battalion. The drummer is a handsome devil, isn't he?

The Spanish system converged the two grenadier companies from each of two regiments in the same division, to form a provisional grenadier battalion. The other half of this lot will be from the Regimiento de la Reina, who have purple facings with white lace, so they should be a bit easier - they are undercoated, awaiting their turn.

Note the sergeant with the black epaulettes in the right hand group

The hats that make us painting imposters wake up screaming...
These are Falcata castings - I think they are officially OOP - if they aren't then they should be; Uwe recently commented that I was lucky to have so many Falcata figures left - maybe so - the original sculpts are excellent, but the uneven casting quality and the amount of mould damage mean that only a smallish proportion of the figures are useable, and the re-carving and dremeling required to clean them up to a decent state for painting is reminiscent of Hinton Hunt in the 70s!

Anyway, so far so good. Subsequent grenadier battalions will use marching poses, which seem to be in a better state.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Hooptedoodle #198 - The Enchanted Forest and the New Bridge

Last week we went to see The Enchanted Forest, which is a light-and-music show staged during each October at Faskally Wood, a small forest park surrounding a lake, just outside Pitlochry, Perthshire. I have to say I like Pitlochry - as resort towns go, it has a lot of character, and there are excellent hotels and eating places.

The actual show is remarkable - it is run by a local community group, for the benefit of the community, but there is nothing at all amateurish about the production. I believe that the contract firm which installed the sound and lighting this year is Chinese - for the Scottish Highlands, this is quite a big deal. I recommend it without any hesitation at all - if you have a few days spare next October and you can get to Pitlochry (rather less than an hour's drive north of the city of Perth), it is well worth a visit.

Take your camera - these photos are my wife's, for which I offer my humble thanks - they make my own feeble efforts look ridiculous!

...and, since photos without sound are missing an important part of the experience, here's a YouTube clip from this year's show...

To get to Perth from here you have to cross the Forth Road Bridge, and I got my first glimpse of the new bridge which is going up alongside it - no, it is not to be the Fifth Bridge, it will be known as the Queensferry Crossing. The current bridge is developing some rust problems in the main cables - it is not at all dangerous yet - it has years of life left - and so it will continue in service to carry public transport vehicles when the new one opens.

The present bridge is a conventional suspension bridge - the new one is of a completely different construction. Here you see the new towers going up, to the West of the existing bridge - the expected opening date is 2016, I understand, which certainly astonishes me. I wish them good speed - the Edinburgh trams and the Scottish Parliament building were both wildly late and overbudget, so there is a bit of a credibility exercise involved here, as well.