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

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Hooptedoodle #304 - The Haar

View from the upstairs bathroom window - somewhere out there, there should be a
distant view of Dunbar, and the Lammermuir Hills. But not today. This is a day for
staying indoors, and listening to the guy on the radio complaining about how
hot he is in London.
What you might call a characteristic regional phenomenon here is the haar (otherwise known as a sea fret) which blows in off the North Sea during warm weather. As an incomer, I always assumed that haar was probably a Viking word - a number of our local words - especially weather-related ones, have a pleasingly rough, Nordic twang, but it turns out that the origins of this one are almost certainly Dutch - there are similar, ancient words in use in Friesland and the Netherlands which simply describe cold, foggy weather.

Whatever the etymology, the haar is the reason why for the last couple of days, while most of the rest of the country is enjoying a minor heatwave, we have our central heating switched back on and the view out of the window stretches about as far as the trees on the far side of the nearest field.

One of my older sons visited North Berwick on Sunday, and he reassured me that Edinburgh was also cold and misty that morning, but yesterday, when my wife returned from a shopping trip, she arrived at the end of our farm road in bright sunshine, and could see our very own haar sitting like a pancake on top of our woods, so it is probably OK to take it just a little personally. Microclimate.

My first memorable experience of such weather came when I first moved here, in 2000, and my parents came to visit - all the way from (warm, West Coast) Liverpool, during a remarkably fine, warm spell in October. One late afternoon we were sitting on the terrace, with glasses of chilled white wine and straw hats deployed, when suddenly the mist began pouring down from over the trees at the bottom of the garden, and it became gloomy and bitterly cold while you watched. Show over - remarkable. [As a footnote, I have to say that my parents were not put off, and they duly upped sticks and came to live in this area the following year.]


The haar, as I'm sure you are aware if you live on the East Coast, anywhere from Norfolk to John o' Groats (or could care less, if you don't), is the result of warm air passing over the cold sea - the water vapour condenses into thick mist, and the sea breezes waft it back in over the coastal land - the fog obliterates the sunshine, the temperature drops, and we start wondering about the heating. It's always been like this here.

We have had a good number of bright days, too, of course. Here is a swallow resting on
our electricity cable, gathering his strength for nest-building in the woodshed...
And our beloved white lilac has had its brief few days of glory. We really do love the
show it produces, and each year, as the blossoms start to turn brown, I ponder the fact
that it will be another year before we see it again. That's a thought that becomes more
profound each time, I guess.
The Contesse continues to produce some terrific wildlife photos - here's a very
scruffy robin at his ablutions.

We've also had some remarkable exhibitions of raw aggression recently from those icons of peace, the Collared Doves. They have been beating up the wood pigeons on a regular basis. They have now been seen chasing magpies out of our garden - very scary - they really are surprisingly vindictive little beggars. We're still trying to get a photo of that - maybe even a little video, but no luck yet.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Blogger Misbehaving?

I've seen a couple of posts along this theme. I'm currently having problems with Blog comments. For some subscribers (not all, and I don't understand why) I am not getting email notification of pending comments. I also now realise that these "stealth" pending comments are arriving in my Awaiting Moderation folder in batches - sometimes a while after they were submitted.

Very sorry if you've been affected - I know that Stryker, Jon Freitag, David from Suffolk and one or two others have sent comments which didn't trigger the notification email. I live in hope that Blogger will be fixed soon - I don't think any of us has done anything wrong!

I do try to keep an eye on the pending folder.

Bavarians - Flags, and a Possible Wizard Wheeze...

Continued (very useful) correspondence with Giovanni suggested that the line infantry flags I have used with my new Bavarians might be of wider interest. Now I have to say straight away that the flags are such a nightmare to draw (not to mention the risk of epileptic seizure) that, unusually for me, I was happy to go for the examples in the Napflag bit of the Warflags site. I have long admired the Napflag material - Alan Pendlebury did a splendid job of giving a free offering of all his research and very impressive graphic work. The pity is that the site hasn't been updated since 2001 - not because the flags are wrong, but because more modern internet bandwidths would have permitted higher-resolution (bigger) files.

So I downloaded Alan's Bavarian flags image and - entirely for my own preferences and use - I used the trusty Paintshop Pro to alter the shade of blue a bit, and to replace the black outlines and construction lines in the image with the predominant blue shade. I've also, for my own purposes, swapped some of the centre sections between flags. The tweaked image is here, if it is of any use to anyone - please note that this is Alan's intellectual property, from the Napflag site, and I take no credit for any of this. The images are a lot smaller than I would normally use, but for my 20mm soldiers I have printed them so that each flag comes out 24mm high (they were 173cm, according to the regulations), which is 1/72, and they work out fine. I would not recommend them for anything larger. Oh yes, the Leibfahne (carried by 1st Bn) is on the right of each horizontal pair, the Ordinarfahne (2nd Bn) is on the left. If you want more details of dates etc, check the Napflag site.

These are slightly tweaked versions of Alan Pendlebury's flags from the old
Napflag site. If you use them, or pass them to anyone else, please explain that
they are Alan's flags, though it was me who probably spoiled them! 
I was mentioning to Gio that my only concern about having a burgeoning Bavarian army is that I don't have anybody for them to fight. Yes, they could have a bash against the French after Leipzig, and I can always change history and get them sent to Spain as part of the Confederation contingent, but for the most part I will be relying on visiting (or hosting) generals at social games to provide an Austrian army for opposition. Gio, of course, humorously suggested that I was now irrevocably committed to building an Austrian army of my own to complement them. This has already been suggested by a number of other humorists, and the joke is not what it was. The Austrians are no kind of niche army - that would be a very serious undertaking, though the idea does have a strong appeal for about 8 seconds, until the full horror of the implications hits you.

One campaign I do have an interest in, however, is the Bavarian involvement in the Tirolean Rebellion in 1809. This would be a smaller undertaking all round, would involve relatively few Austrian line troops, and, for me, has the scholarly underpinning that my imagination was caught by Andreas Hofer and all that lot during a couple of fairly recent holidays in the Tirol. Yes, all right, all right. Hofer and ice cream. Highbrow stuff.

There is still the problem of sourcing suitable figures. The only known models of Tyrolean rebels in a scale which suits me are a single set of plastics by German, which got a very muted reception in the pages of Plastic Soldier Review.

German's Tirolean rebels
However, Gio suggested that my existing Napoleonic Spanish guerrilleros might just slot right into the Tirol. Hey! There are plenty of round hats and capes, lots of knee-breeches, priests, mad women with blunderbusses. He may well be on to something. And, of course, I have about 130 of them. As Napoleon said, quantity has a quality all of its own.

Thinks: if I added a sprinkling of celebrity figures - maybe a box or two of the German plastics - I could already have the makings of a rebel army. Some of the flags might seem a bit inappropriate, but that's not bad for this week's potential Wizard Wheeze. If you half-closed your eyes, you might not notice that some of Hofer's heroes looked a bit Spanish.

I'll probably have gone off the idea, or have been talked out of it, by this time next week. My local providers of Austrians may have some understandable doubts about their prized regiments appearing alongside some very scruffy guerrillas. It does go to show, though, how sometimes we are so hidebound by history that we can't see the possibilities.

Part of the Bergisel Panorama, Innsbruck

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Bavarians - noch zweimal

Newly finished yesterday, here are the two battalions of the 14. Linieninfanterieregiment, flagged and ready.

My Bavarian forces are based on the troops which made up Lefebvre's French VII Corps in 1809, and the three battalions produced so far are part of Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy's 3rd Division.

The 14th regiment was relatively new in 1809, and had no official title, since it owed its existence to the terms of Bavaria's contribution to the Confederation of the Rhine rather than the patronage of a particular Inhaber. The history of the organisation of the Bavarian army is rather complicated, as I am learning. Even the brief snapshot around 1809 has a few quirks.

Line regiments with higher numbers than 10 become a bit tricky. Regt No. 11 "Kinkel" was ceded to the newly-created Grand Duchy of Berg in 1806, though a new regiment with the same name and number was created the following year - these chaps spent 1809 chasing around the Tyrol, fighting Andreas Hofer's rebels.

Regiment No. 12 "Lowenstein-Wertheim" was disbanded after it mutinied in 1806, and the number was kept vacant until 1814. The problem was that the regiment, which formed the garrison of Bamberg, consisted of men from the Würzburg area, and since Würzburg also became a new state in 1806 the troops did not wish to remain in the Bavarian army.

Regiments 13 and 14 were created in 1806, without regimental titles (which, I remind myself, was the reason I embarked on this explanation). In 1811, the new (replacement) 11th Regt was disbanded, the 13th became the 11th, the 14th became the 13th (to preserve seniority - and there continued to be no No.12); subsequently, in 1814, more new regiments were raised and things swapped around again, but we won't worry about that here.

Monday 21 May 2018

Bavarians - 1/9. LIR ready

King Maximilian's heroes - Oberst Delamotte leads the Ysenburg regiment towards
the front lawn. Some fool parked his car in the wrong century.
Here we go - all based and flagged, this is the 1st Bn of the 9. Linieninfanterieregiment "Graf Von Ysenburg" ready for action on the Danube. I have another two battalions almost ready, and I was holding off to post a photo of all of them, but time is passing and I thought better of it.

The others will be along on the next bus. Two posts for the price of - well, two, I suppose.

These are a bit special - they were painted by the illustrious Count Goya, who - when he is not painting the horrors of war - can apply his skills to turning out some very nice miniatures, as you see. This allows me, now I think about it, to focus my attention on the horrors of war. Anyway, my grateful thanks to the Count - I'm delighted with these fellows.

20mm as it used to be - guilty as charged, Your Honour. The rank and file are Der Kriegsspieler, the mounted officer and the Fahnenjunker are from the old Falcon range, which is now available again from Hagen, and the foot officers and the drummer are Hinton Hunt.

They probably felt a bit conspicuous marching round the garden, being the sole representatives of the VII Corps at present, but some friends will join them shortly, and they were enjoying the sun.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Hooptedoodle #303 - Flushed with Success [EXPLICIT]

Today was our day for a visit from the Septic Tank Man. The wagon duly arrived - all the way from Motherwell - to pump out our domestic drainage system.

As expected, it was all very professional and inoffensive. The driver/operator got about his business very quickly and efficiently - half an hour and we were done, and he was on his way to his next call.

It's not a big tank (1000 gallons), but it only services part of our house, so usage is very light really. This is our first clean-out in 13 years, and there were no problems - it was not an emergency. In the light of this (and the one-off service cost £250), consider, if you will, that Scottish Water, whom we approached late last year, will not touch your tank system unless you sign up for a 5-year minimum contract, with yearly visits which each cost more than Henderson's job this morning. Sometimes local authorities are not unlike the Mafia in their business model.

Anyway, all done, and now we are good for some years. Thank you, Mr Henderson. Remember: it may be just sewage to you, but it's his bread and butter.
...and, in case you missed their marketing push...

Lightbulb Moment - The Murky World of Illumination

The dining room lights at Chateau Foy - we like the light fittings a lot, but I need
some rather jazzier bulbs I can fit  on wargames days
Just over a week ago I had the very considerable pleasure of attending one of Stryker's classic wargames - his photos of the event are on his blog (4 posts starting with this one), and very good they are too.

The Bold Baron had a very crafty ploy up his sleeve - at the start of a turn he would bring in a couple of freestanding photographer's lamps, and we would all snap away, before the lamps were moved out of the way for play to continue. A wizard wheeze - the results are evident from his pictures.

This has got me thinking (again) about how to improve the lighting at my own wargames. I get occasional mutterings about my gloomy photos - quite rightly so; I'd like to do rather better - much better, in fact.

It was not always thus. Nearly 40 years ago, in another life and another house, I was given an old set of tripod floodlights by a friend who was a part-time professional photographer. They were OK - they came from his junk shed, but they worked well enough, though the cabling was a bit of nuisance, and visitors had to be careful not to scorch themselves. The bad news was that they were Soviet Russian (don't ask), and when the bulbs eventually died there was no way of getting hold of anything that would fit. One major obstacle to my adopting this extra-lights approach now, with more modern kit, is that I have a bigger table, and just don't have space - Stryker's room is far larger than mine.

Whatever I do is going to have to be a stew of compromises - I'll try to summarise what I need - if anyone would care to make some suggestions I'll be very grateful (practical and affordable would be good). I'd welcome some recommendations for particular bulbs (models or types?) that would do the job for me. I'm in the UK, so I need a British/European solution - no more retired Soviet stuff for me.

I fight my wargames in the household dining room - it's not ideal, but it works well enough - it is a decent size, and there are two overhead lights above the table.

Some of the uncertainty in this area stems from my outdated grasp of lighting metrics. I come from a world of traditional, incandescent coil-filament bulbs in which the folk lore is that 40 watts will do for a bedside lamp, a 60 watt lamp will do for the landing, normally we would be looking for at least a single 100 watt for a living room, and so on. This is now confused by the need to save the planet, and by the introduction of LED and other new technologies that Messrs Edison and Philips never thought of, not to mention the dodgy claims of equivalence made by manufacturers.

Our dining room has a nice dimmer circuit, so you can set the mood to anything you want (consistent with still being able to see what you are eating, of course). Most of the fancier bulb types do not work with a dimmer, but my literal "lightbulb moment" recently was the realisation that I could simply replace the normal bulbs with more suitable alternatives for the duration of a game - and if I keep the dimmer turned up full then it doesn't matter whether the bulb is designated as dimmable or not. The removal of the need to find a type of bulb which will handle both jobs is a big simplification. All I need now is a better idea of what I need for the wargames.

We currently use a pair of Philips halogen bulbs which are described as "75w, equivalent to a 105w bulb" (75w being the actual consumption of electric power, 105w being the claimed illumination equivalence in old money, just to confuse everyone). These will dim satisfactorily, and they give a good level of light for normal use, but they are not really bright enough for wargames, and too yellow for photography, especially if someone places a large mid-green table a couple of feet below the lights.

I thought maybe I could just screw in some proper photographers' lamps. Problem is they are very large - deliberately so, to avoid the hard shadows associated with a point light source - and they really don't work with our domestic downlighter fittings.

I did some background reading, to brush up my understanding of the numbers underlying the science. My Philips bulbs each produce a bit less than 2000 lumens of light, and the "warm white" colour which makes my photos so yellow is typical of domestic, household bulbs which are said to have a colour characteristic of about 2500K (that's degrees Kelvin, chaps). Never mind how the temperature relates to the colour - the point is that proper photographers' "daylight" bulbs are rated at 5500K, which is a much harder, bluish-white light, as we know.
I tried screwing in a couple of these. Not great - they are enormous, so protrude from the
shade, which gives a very uncomfortable glare. Also - and paradoxically, given my concerns
about glare - I'm not convinced that the overall level of illumination is much improved
So I'm building a picture of a pair of wargaming bulbs to keep in the drawer, specially. The overall requirements are:

* must be suitable for a large domestic light fitting - must not overheat the thing
* should be suitable for 220-240v AC, needs an E27 (European large screw) fitting, and should be about the same size as a standard bulb, so it doesn't protrude below the light shade (thus avoiding a distracting glare)
* it would be nice if it is dimmable, but it doesn't matter - dimming is not needed on wargames days  [...on the other hand, if it did dim, then it would be possible to set the lighting levels differently for normal play and photo moments...]
* I don't care too much about the technology - I'd like to save the planet, naturally, but whether it uses LEDs or whatever is not important, but...
* the bulbs must produce about 2500-3000 lumens [to put this back into terms I understand, this would be a bit more than I would have expected from a big old 150 watt incandescent bulb, which would certainly have fried my light fittings]
* ideally the colour should be whiter than my current "warm white" bulbs - the full 5500K daylight standard would be OK for photos, but is a bit harsh otherwise - does anyone produce an intermediate type of bulb, rated at say 4500K?

Mother ship. I ended up with an accidental UFO pic...

Sunday 13 May 2018

Hooptedoodle #302 - Nice Weather for Pigeons

Two consecutive wildlife Hooptedoodles is usually a sure sign that not much is going on in Hobbyland.

That's not entirely true, in fact - yesterday morning I spent a couple of hours re-sorting the lead piles into things that need to get done (in properly labelled boxes) and things that maybe need to be put at the back of the cupboard now (or got rid of, in some cases). I also did a little more work on some converted Bavarians which (according to the Grand Plan) are going away to be cloned, to provide some necessary cavalry command presence for the forthcoming contingent of Bavarois.

Most of my afternoon yesterday was spent out in the sunshine, mowing the lawns - I even got to run the mower over the grass verge, outside in the lane, which was a bit of a mess after our crocuses had died back. There was a bit of a deadline - the forecast for today (accurately, as it turns out) was very wet. The gardener is due to come on Tuesday, but he is likely to be a bit inhibited by the fact that Tuesday morning is also the date for the guys to come and flush out our septic tank. Just routine, you understand, and the least said about that the better, but I suspect that not much mowing will be possible.

Anyway, comes the morning, and here is the rain - a lot of it. Looking at the bird bath, I estimate we had about ¾ of an inch overnight. Around breakfast time, the Contesse took a picture of a line of wood pigeons enjoying a spa on the kitchen roof.

Local wood pigeons (columba palumbus) enjoying the rain - a chance to wash out
the dust and the biddies.
They're all right, pigeons. We're not really very interested in them, since they lack the glamour of some of the more spectacular garden birds, and they do cause a bit of damage to the fruit trees, but there are so many of them that they are pretty much a dominant presence here. They are big, lumbering fellows, and they seem to fall naturally into the role of clowns. They have an endearingly stupid routine when eating chunks of stale bread - since they cannot bite or chew, a pigeon will pick up a large piece, and toss it up in the air. This successfully detaches a mouthful, but the remainder of the piece of bread will normally land behind the thrower. The pigeon will take a quick glance to either side, shrug its shoulders in a resigned sort of way (and if you've never seen a fat bird without shoulders shrugging, keep your eyes open for this) and plod off in search of another piece.

Their love-making is also noted for its noise and clumsiness - the aluminium roof on the garage is a deafening place to cohabit, and they regularly fall out of trees while coupled. And yet they are obviously very successful - if you close your eyes, the endless mumbling of pigeons is the main sound here. It's soothing, but sometimes I wish they would learn a new tune. [I am interested to note that some recordings of birdsong I made here in 2001 clearly demonstrate that the proportion of pigeon in the vocal line up was much less in those days. Demographics, man.]

Very recently, we've seen a few odd feral pigeons here, of the type you get in towns - very rarely see them. They didn't cause any fuss, but they obviously didn't like it much - went back home again pretty quickly. They obviously couldn't handle our sunflower hearts and the fresh peanuts, and went back to eating cigarette ends and chewing gum, and dodging the trams.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Hooptedoodle #301 - Lack of Planning Permission

Suddenly the weather is good - there's evidence of Nature trying to make up for lost time. Everything Springlike is happening at once. The swallows definitely appear to be nesting in our woodshed - no nest yet, but a lot of activity - I don't suppose we could get our money back for the fake owl, but it has not been a success. No matter.

There is much displaying and fighting going on among the garden birds; surprisingly, it is those supposed symbols of peace, the doves, who are the most aggressive of the lot at present - they have been beating up the wood pigeons for some weeks, though they must be outweighed about 2:1 per individual. The deer have scoffed most of the tulips, and the pigeons have eaten most of the blossom and fruit-buds off the plum tree, so everything is as usual.

Paper sculpture - a bad place to build. Delicate though - you can just see the builder's
leg, and the start of the hexagonal cells. I would guess this is manufactured from the
chewed remains of an old railway sleeper we use in the garden as a ramp.
Yesterday we spotted the beginnings of a wasps' nest right in the middle of the window over our front door. We really don't want a nest nearby, and especially not there - it is, let's face it, a dumb place to build one. So we withdrew planning permission and removed it with a broom. It is possible that a little of our irritation over the swallows business found its way into the wasps' nest removal, but no hard feelings.

I don't like wasps. I know the excellent cleaning-up job they do, but their main function still seems to be to spoil picnics and frighten people - me, in particular. Their nests are revolting, yet fascinating in an Alien-like way. How do they do that?

Once removed and brought indoors, it is quite inoffensive - about an inch
diameter, maybe a little more. Seen from the outside...
...and inside
This very small effort was not so intimidating, so the Contesse took some pictures. I am intrigued that this short-lived nest is exactly - to the millimetre - on the site of a previous nest from about 15 years ago - we've never had one anywhere near that spot in the meantime. Why there? There was no trace of the previous one, it's not a great site by any criteria. Why would they build there? Is there some nestbuilders' checklist the wasps go through when picking a site? Does some ley line or something pass through our front door? Does this simply give a quick insight into how few wasps are really this stupid? - most of the successful nests (and we've had some belters) have been in the roof cavity, or in a burrow under the stone dyke. That makes more sense.

Well, sorry wozzers, you can start again. We may live to regret this, but we can't have a wasps' nest over the front door, can we?

Monday 7 May 2018

"Muskets and Marshals" Day Out

On Saturday I was privileged to take part in a very fine Napoleonic game - most excellent fun. I have no wish to pre-empt or otherwise produce a spoiler in advance of the official blog post, so regard these few pictures, if you will, as a humble taster. I will mention, however, that I believe I lost again...

I am told that the miniature headcount was over 1000; Hinton Hunts, and wonderfully well painted. A proper Old School extravaganza (I offer an appropriately deferential nod to anyone who regards Hinton Hunt as a little newfangled).

My thanks and best wishes to my hosts and my colleagues for a smashing day, in the most excellent company.

***** Late Edit *****

Very pleased to see that Stryker's produced a lovely post to commemorate the event - so please go over there and have a look at the real deal! (link)