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


Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Duke of York's HQ - Military Festival 20th March 1965 - PROGRAMME

Over the last year there has been some discussion here of the celebrated 1965 commemorative Waterloo wargame played at the Duke of York's HQ. If you wish to have a look at that, click here. We've had photos from the Featherstone book, and the report from Wargamer's Newsletter.

Today I am delighted to have a scan of the original programme, very kindly provided by Iain, the famed Albannach, no less - a Nobel Prize nomination will follow forthwith.

Here you will find all sorts - list of the participants, list of trade stands and - wait for it - the rules they used! Have a look - nostalgia lives - 1 dice for each 6 firers...

Anyway - without further ado, here it is. [One small message here - if any Resource Investigator on TMP feels the need to spread this round the world, it would be appreciated if they had the courtesy to say thanks, or at least hello, to acknowledge the hard work and love which goes into keeping these things alive. Iain, I'll be right behind you, mate - no worries - and thanks again!]  










 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Hooptedoodle #371 - Darwin Is Watching

I'm very nervously watching news of the rapid upturn in Covid infections in a number of Southern and Western States in America, which would appear to be directly related to relaxation (or abandonment) of social distancing and health guidelines. I understand that the President has expressed the view that widespread testing has inflated the figures, and makes things look worse than they are - does this mean that we are best not to know?

Frank exchange of views in Austin TX on the merits of protecting public health - photo borrowed from the BBC
Mr Greg Abbott, the Governor of the State of Texas - a man who is unlikely to be a liberal of any sort, I would have thought, has warned that hospitals may be unable to cope, and is taking steps to increase testing and to ensure there are adequate supplies of PPE. Even the Vice-President, Mr Pence, is now urging the public to obey regulations regarding the wearing of face-masks, "wherever it's indicated", saying, "we know from experience, it will slow the spread of the coronavirus", which appears to be something of a change of policy from a week or two ago.

Very alarming. Obviously, I hope this will stabilise quickly - with luck, some helpful changes of attitude might result - maybe some of them in high places - it remains to be seen. Do current trends mean that Trump's supporters are disproportionately at risk? Can we - all of us - try very hard to learn something here?





Saturday, 27 June 2020

Napoleonic Refurb Work - British Dragoons

It's been rather hot in the attic this week for extended painting sessions, but I've finally finished the refurb work on some ex-Eric Knowles British Dragoons. These are Hinton Hunts of great vintage, having been present at the 1965 Waterloo Anniversary game at the Duke of York's Headquarters. Accordingly, out of respect, my efforts have been directed at restoring the faded and worn sections of Eric's original paintwork rather than blitzing it and starting afresh [I understand that maintenance work on the Mona Lisa, for example, is approached in the same way!].

All based, with gaps left for the command figures
One consequence of this is that it has been quite a lot of work to get the figures to a state which I would describe as "good but not perfect" [which is probably how the job reports on the Mona Lisa read, too].

A few nights ago, at about 1am, I found myself working away, smartening up the piping on Eric's original turnbacks (in 20mm), and I was laughing to myself, wondering how I had managed to get here. Some of the original paint has also roughened a bit over the years, which makes it something of a challenge to get horse harnesses and so on to brush on smoothly over the top, but I got there.

Anyway, having reminded myself that Napoleonic uniforms are more labour-intensive than the WSS, I am now left with the job of adding some converted command figures to complete the two units, which are to be the 1st and 3rd Dragoons. I don't propose to start hacking up 50-year-old Hintons for spare parts, so the trumpeters and officers will be SHQ/Kennington figures, mounted on Hinton Hunt horses. Shouldn't take too long.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Update to my C&C-based ECW Rules


This post is overdue - I was working on some changes back in April, but hadn't got the links formalised for Google Drive.

The latest version is 3.01 - as always, there is some typo-fixing, and I've simplified some rules because the (imagined) added cleverness proved to be outweighed by the extra complexity (constant theme).

One of the big changes is that I've now included a more-or-less coherent note on the use of my optional, dice-based Ramekin activation system with the ECW rules. This does a number of things, the chief of which is removal of the Command Cards from the game. Ver 3.01 of the rules also uses a coloured font to identify the parts of the rules which are changed in the absence of the Cards. I have been surprised to learn that a number of people actually use these rules now, and it is only right and proper that I should try to ensure that the "official" downloads are up to date.

The downloadable documents should now allow use of Ver 3.01 with the Command and Chaunce Cards or, as an alternative, the Ramekin system. In passing, Ramekin has proved (fortuitously!) to be absolutely invaluable for playing C&C Napoleonic games remotely, via Zoom, which is an accidental bonus I had not planned for!

As ever, please bear in mind that these rules are primarily for my own use, they are supported and maintained on an occasional, best-endeavours basis, and I don't really wish to hear how awful they are(!) - I'm delighted to discuss them if anyone has any suggestions which are consistent with what I have tried to achieve with them. Also - of course - if the links don't work properly, please do let me know! Google Docs and its offspring have always been pretty much intuitive in use, but I use them so infrequently that I have a tendency to forget best practice!

If you are interested, or want to update the versions you have, you will find the link in the top right corner of this screen.


Friday, 19 June 2020

Sir Ian Holm

Very sad to learn that Sir Ian Holm, the distinguished actor, died today. He was 88 years old.


He had a remarkably successful career in movies, and I have a particular fondness for him. Of course he will mostly be remembered as Bilbo, and for his roles in Chariots of Fire and Alien, but he also has the unique distinction of having played the part of Napoleon in two films. OK - neither of them was what you would call an orthodox take on European history. One was Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, and the other is one of my very favourite movies of all time, The Emperor's New Clothes, released in 2004 and directed by Alan Taylor, which must be one of the supreme "what-if" stories ever.

If you haven't seen The Emperor's New Clothes, I would recommend wholeheartedly that you try to do so. In fact, I'm going to watch it again this evening. Here's a taster:


Hooptedoodle #370 - A National Initiative on the Phone


Yesterday morning I was sitting typing when my office phone rang. I picked it up, and was surprised to find that someone had obviously put me on hold. After a few seconds, I was connected, and there was a cheerful, though rather nervous, Glasgow girl ready to speak to me.

She addressed me, correctly, by my full name - could I confirm that she was speaking to the right person? - and she would just take up a few minutes of my time, if that was all right.

I asked, to whom am I speaking? - and she seemed to became rather more nervous.

Hi - this is Linsey, from [mumble] Energy [mumble].

She definitely rushed through the bit about who she was, but - as it happens - I've been expecting a courtesy call from SP Networks, who manage the power lines for our local electricity supplier. We had a power outage a week or so ago, and I phoned in to report it - all routine, and it was sorted out very quickly, but the power company always make a follow-up call to see if the customer is happy. I assumed Linsey was from SP Networks, without thinking about it too carefully, but was aware that this is not how she had introduced herself.

I'm sorry, Linsey, I don't think I know who you are - could you say that bit again?

Yes - as I said, I'm from [mumble] Energy Solutions.

I have never heard of you; I'm sorry, I don't have a few minutes to speak to you.

We are a national initiative, we can supply you with a grant to pay for home improvements, to fit double glazing or enhance your home's insulation.

A national initiative? - I think you are a commercial firm, trying to sell me something. You may be able to help me fill in the forms to apply for a grant, but it would be the Government's money, and your only interest is to persuade me to use this grant to buy something from you. I'm not interested, sorry.

No, no - we are not a commercial firm, we are a national initiative.

You mean, like a government department?

Yes - sort of. A national initiative.

I'm very sorry - I've told you I'm not interested, so if you don't mind I'll hang up now.

All right - no problem - I'll ring you again in a couple of days...


Click.

No you won't, Linsey - I just blocked your number.

I checked up on [mumble] Energy Solutions, and they have a proper website, so I guess they are a serious venture, right enough, but I get really very cross when cold-calling sales people pretend they have some sort of official capacity - a lot of gullible folk must get scammed by this. As for me, I'm too miserable to be fooled, especially if there is money involved. I would be happier if the company's logo, a cute cartoon penguin, looked rather less like Feathers McGraw from Wallace and Grommit.


Friday, 12 June 2020

Vimeiro (1808) - the Zoom Game

Today was the day for our "distanced" wargame, the set-up for which was described in yesterday's post. Sadly, Goya was forced to call off as a result of some urgent family commitments, so Stryker and I resolved to try the game as a twosome. Thus, in the space of about an hour, my role changed from being host/umpire/Schlachtmeister to being Lt. General the Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Wellesley.

The 2/86eme Ligne regain their composure after rushing into the woods near Ventosa and destroying my Rifles - one of a number of very heavy early blows!
I am delighted to say that the two-handed game worked without any problems at all - which is largely due to the good humour of my opponent, who is one of Nature's true gentlemen - so that was a major bonus for the day. The battle was a lot of fun - a challenging scenario (we used the C&CN one, straight out of the book) and there was never any evidence of our getting bogged down in the rather fussy terrain. All good.

The good news stops abruptly when I have to admit that the Allies lost, which will make the Convention of Cintra rather more complicated, but I had a great time, my new BlueTooth headset worked perfectly and once again I was privileged to be present at the overturning of History as We Know It.

The C&CN scenario offers an entertaining game, but its standing as a historical simulation (not that it matters) is worthy of some consideration. The scenario starts at the point where Junot has already screwed up rather badly, sending too few troops to outflank Wellesley's left, and the publishers have tried to balance the game by adding some extra French troops, including a cavalry presence on their right which doesn't seem to have been there in reality. Never mind - we do not care, it is a good game anyway, but it would be a poor show if we did not take the opportunity to demonstrate our half-assed grasp of the history.

Junot did what I think I would have done in his place - he pretty much ignored the main objective of the hill and town of Vimeiro (for which bonus Victory Points were available), and concentrated his efforts on eliminating enough units on the Allied left (6 VP needed for the win) without assaulting the very strong position at Vimeiro. Thus most of our action took place around the farm and hamlet of Ventosa.

The early stages of the action were notable for some remarkable combat-dice rolling by the French (about which I can hardly complain, since I did all the dice rolling, moving of troops, allocating markers and cursing for both sides). An early rush to gain possession of Ventosa was won rather easily by the French, and the Allies lost two units very quickly. 2-nil. Hmmm. Then, not long after, my skillful manoeuvre to bring my Rifles battalion through the woods, to fire on the flank of Solignac's troops on the French right, ended in tears when a single battalion of ligne charged into the woods and wiped out the Rifles with one astonishing dice roll. 3-nil.

Thereafter things began to settle down a little, and the Allies began to claw their way back into the fight - I got to 3-1, then it was 4-2, and Solignac's force were working very hard to take battered units from the front line and replace them with fresh ones. Then it was 5-3, and the game ended almost on an anti-climax when a rare moment of counter-battery fire eliminated my field battery near Ventosa, and the French had won 6-3. This may sound like a tanking, but Junot had a few units who were reduced to a very poor state at the end, so I am not too downhearted.

The pictures should give an idea of the proceedings. [I must add, in passing, that adding photos to this post has been a real grunt, since I am offered something halfway between the new and old versions of Blogger, which really doesn't work at all well. It's clunky, man.]

View from behind the Allied left flank, right at the start of the action, as we fail to capture Ventosa, and my infantry start to take a hammering.

The French left flank, opposite Vimeiro - the newly-painted 70eme Ligne are in evidence, with General St Clair keeping an eye on them

Looking along the French line, from the left, you can see where the action all took place, over beyond the trees and the rocky hills.

The fight continues at Ventosa - the British infantry (now less a couple of battalions) have withdrawn to rally a little, and a continuous firefight is underway.

Meanwhile, on the ridge in front of Vimeiro, Fane's troops wait for the French to attack. They may still be waiting.

Again, a more extensive view of not much happening.


At Ventosa, it's all happening - Solignac has even brought up some cavalry (coincidentally, this is the same 15eme Chasseurs à Cheval that had a starring role at Coa the other week, and which have drawn attention to themselves numerous times over the last few years).

But, apart from pulling his infantry back behind the ridge at Vimeiro, Fane has had very little to do. He had a field battery which spent the afternoon taking long shots across the valley and missing.


Ventosa again.

Troops are coming through the woods from the centre of the field, and things are really not going brilliantly for the Allies at this point. Note that we've adopted white loss counters for the Zoom games, since they show up better on the cameras than red ones.

The French don't have much in the way of elite troops, but here they are - General Kellerman with a battalion of combined grenadiers, about to set off through the woods.

On the extreme Allied right, Rowland Hill brings forward his brigade, across the fordable River Maceiro.

Kellerman's grenadiers about to march into the woods - some more celebrities in this photo - the 1/26eme (Freitag battalion) are up front, the 2/26eme (Gonsalvo battalion) on the left.


At Ventosa, the Allies are running out of troops - the nearest I got to a moment of success in this game was just before this photo, when the French grenadiers were decimated by fire from two humble Portuguese battalions - General Kellerman survived, but has dropped back to join another regiment (in the wood).

Understated ending - this French battery eliminates my British battery, and that's the 6th Victory Point for the win.

General view at this time shows that Fane's people are still having a fairly untroubled time at Vimeiro.

And Junot brought up his left wing cavalry, just to have a look at the enemy.

Now, this is interesting - at the end, you can see that Junot's right flank includes some very battered units (four counters means they are eliminated) - three units with three losses in the picture, and a couple with two. This is evidence of the intelligence with which Stryker conducted his attack - one of the skills of Commands and Colors is bringing up fresh units to relieve battered ones, and there's clearly been plenty of that!

[Final gripe about New Blogger - it took 57 minutes (I timed it, since I had nothing else to do) to upload these 21 small photos into this post using New Blogger. I assume this is going to improve - if it doesn't, I don't propose to do very much more blogging!]

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Fighting Tomorrow - Vimeiro Set-Up

Another Zoom-powered game tomorrow, with Stryker and Goya - Vimeiro (21 Aug 1808). Commands & Colors scenario, as published, though our house rules are tweaked a fair amount.

These early Peninsular War battles are useful for Videoconference-type games, since they are quite small. No doubt more will be heard of this - big reminder to the umpire to make a point of taking plenty of photos!

Vimeiro, from behind the French left flank
Vimeiro battlefield, from behind the French left flank.

This is a strange place to fight a battle, the French right is cut off by something that looks rather like Glen Affric - lots of impassable hills - it is possible to tiptoe through the woods! The small village on the right edge of the picture is Ventosa - I wonder whether the inhabitants have ever got as far as Vimeiro town (top left)?

And the whole field again, this time from behind the French right.



Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Sieges - Vauban Makeover

I'm very excited about the imminent publication of Eric Burgess's Vauban's Wars rules, which should be appearing very shortly. It's appropriate that I should make some effort to prepare for this momentous event by getting on with some smartening-up work that's been in the queue since the end of last year. That's what I was doing yesterday.

Last night - just the final dry-brushing with my house "dust" colour to go, and then some heavy-duty matt varnish.
I've now arranged that the Vauban-period walls should be a similar colour to the medieval walls I have, so that I can build hybrid fortresses as necessary (I had already taken this step with the 3-D printed pieces I obtained recently), I've repainted the glacis sections so that they match the house baseboard colour and I've smartened things up generally. One of the shades of brown paint which had been used by the Terrain Warehouse people on the walls (10 years ago? More?) had reacted badly to one of my previous attempts to varnish them, and had become a strange, mottled grey-brown, so I fixed that, and cleaned up the rest of the paintwork where required.

They are now sitting while the varnish cures, then they can go back in their boxes.

Finished; today, waiting for the varnish to cure a bit before packing away.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Tubs and Jars and Boxes

Today is my last chance to cut the lawns before the gardener comes tomorrow - it's raining. You may wonder why there is some pressure to get this job done if the gardener is coming. Partly this is a matter of self-respect, if I don't do the lawns between his visits, there is just a whiff of smug contempt when he comes; more seriously, I begrudge paying him for time spent doing a job I could (should) have done myself - there is no way I am about to climb up the big hedge with a ladder and a petrol trimmer - that's what I want to be paying him for!

So this morning I am doing a little tidying around the house. I thought I might take some pictures of the various hobby jobs I have around the place this week. The pervading theme seems to be one of storage, but it was ever thus, I guess.

Dragoons in the bath - these should be a very easy refurb job - 1st & 3rd British Dragoons soaking in a very mild detergent wash, to clean off half a century of muck and the remains of the cardboard bases. I'll get them retouched and varnished, and mount them on their new MDF bases, leaving gaps...
...for their officers and trumpeters, who will need a little more work!
Meanwhile, I have been doing some more editing and testing of my (slowly) evolving WSS rules, which are really shaping up nicely. The last big job will be to produce an intelligible leaflet and a decent QRS. You may observe a rather flexible approach to a hex gridded battlefield.
Whiteboards are very useful chaps - this is version 23.5 of the Firing Rules, which is pretty stable now - we are getting somewhere when there are no swear-words in the draft!
War in a Box - this is the current state of the WSS armies, and - yes - the bases are magnetised, and the Really Useful Boxes are lined with Ferro Sheet (the stuff which replaced Steel Paper).
Look, there are soldiers in there!
A jar of Imperialists - there is a delay with the Regt Hasslingen - about 16 or 17 of their number are pickling in the stripper jar; this is Clean Spirit (not so clean), and the fellow at the front looks just about ready for the toothbrush.
This is the next big job on the Refurb front - 3 battalions of French Napoleonic light infantry. I'm not going to start this for a week or two - I have to prepare for a Zoom battle, scheduled for Friday, anyway. You will observe that there are some bare-metal boys in there, and there's a full house of bayonets. Rank and file are 1970s Les Higgins, the command figures are already painted, and mounted on the bases, waiting. Command are a mix of SHQ and Higgins - the eagle bearers are plastic - nothing else available in this scale at present - but their flagpoles are brass, which is a relief all round.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Hooptedoodle #369 - Doomsday Obsession

A number of threads - of childhood nightmares, and of my failed career as a political activist...


This story is partly prompted by a piece of old junk I found when I was clearing my mother's house a few years ago - a sort of souvenir of my early teenage years, from a time of no little uncertainty and personal anxiety.



I've been watching the goings-on in the USA and elsewhere on TV, and, I'm afraid, I've always had a tendency to expect the worst. Usually, over the years, I've turned out to be unnecessarily pessimistic, but I guess I must be a slow learner.

I've always had some kind of Doomsday syndrome, I think. I was born in Liverpool, a city which was very badly smashed up by bombing during WW2. When I was a little kid in the 1950s, on the bus with my mother, travelling into the city centre to buy shoes or something, you could see the damage, still very much in evidence. Liverpool did not have a lot of money to rebuild, and these areas would have been a low priority anyway - there would be plans somewhere to demolish the whole lot for redevelopment as soon as possible, but all I could see were the gaps in the streets - if you travelled from the Dingle to the Pier Head, along Park Road or Mill Lane, which ran parallel to the river, within half a mile or so of the Southern Docks, every 5th, 6th, 8th, 12th house would be missing. These blitz sites gave me the horrors. Real nightmares.

Liverpool took a pasting in May 1941, when the Luftwaffe had bases near enough to put on massed raids - destruction of the port and the docks would have been a big strategic blow against the UK as a whole. The local defence chaps did their best, with searchlights and barrage balloons and AA guns and all the toys, but they stood little chance. The bomber crews would fly in over Warrington, and on a clear night they could see exactly where the targets were, as the river reflected the moonlight; they just flew along the East bank of the Mersey. Easy.



The actual air-raids were years before my time, but that whole story made a big impact on me - I guess I was a rather insecure child anyway, but the idea that some outside force could turn up and drop bombs on your house - I mean your kitchen, your toys, your mum, all the comfort in the known world - that was just devastating. I was really very obsessed with this stuff for years.

When we moved to Mossley Hill, a little further out into the suburbs, Saturday morning trips to the shops in Rose Lane now took us past the district Civil Defence HQ next to the railway station, and they had signs up on the walls telling you what you would have to do when the nuclear alert came - where to go, what position to assume, what you should take with you, what would happen. Not "if" the alert came - "when". This was like the WW2 blitz on an even more nightmarish scale. And there was no end of public information films on TV - all my school pals knew how near to the blast you would have to be to be vapourised, and we all knew that if you were not vapourised then things would be particularly grim thereafter. No wonder some of us grew up a little strange?


I remember going on holiday with my family - my dad hired a motor car, a real treat for us (it was a Morris!) - and we went down through the towns on the Welsh border, spending a week in Cornwall. At that time, I wasn't interested in anything - there was no point - we were all going to be vapourised anyway, so what could possibly be the point? My schoolwork was suffering, I had given up all my hobbies. On the holiday, at one point we reached a key moment - we were in the car park at Land's End. It was blowing a gale, it was cold and there was horizontal rain. My dad told me that for goodness sake I should cheer up a bit - this was a famous place, and I should enjoy being there - I might never have the chance again (in fact I've never been back). I was unimpressed - I knew that, like everywhere else, one day soon there would be a big flash in the sky (it might be over there, or it might be over there) and everything would be vapour and rocks.

Eventually I got over it, but I've always been a staunch pacifist, given the chance. I was at school when the Cuban missile crisis boiled up, I was at school when Kennedy was assassinated - I always had a good idea what was going to happen next...

At one point I took advantage of a free period at school, sagged off, took the bus into town, and visited Progressive Books in Mount Pleasant, up the hill from the Adelphi, towards the old University, and bought a small supply of CND badges for me and some fellow pacifists at school. I believe they were one shilling and sixpence each, by the way. The badges disappeared like the proverbial hot cakes, and I was commissioned to return to the "Commie Bookshop" for a further supply. No school uniform this time, either - anarchists didn't wear school uniform. The people in the bookshop were very kind to me, and obviously tried not to embarrass me, but they produced some leaflets (political - oooh...), and asked would I like to take some of these for my friends, and they were having a meeting the following Saturday if we would all like to come. I imagine I left at a good, brisk trot, without the leaflets. I delivered my load of CND badges, and the world moved on.

Not quite - I've always had that ability to see the Apocalypse coming over the hill - yet again - here it comes - 3rd time this week. That's why, when everyone was excited, watching the Berlin Wall come down, I was watching through my fingers, waiting for the shooting to start.

That's also why, when the fat fools who are in charge of the USA and North Korea were threatening each other with extermination recently, I felt that old, familiar sinking of the heart, and wondered why they couldn't get some grown-ups to do these jobs. I do hope Mr Trump doesn't frighten any little children in the world - being a child is scary enough as it is.

That's not much of a story, probably, but a lot of the shaping of my views is captured right there, however silly it may seem. That is how we were brought up - maybe I was a good boy, and reacted the right way. Maybe not. Whatever, I've always been a mug for any casual Doomsday story.


In passing, many years later, when I was married, with a young family, and striving to make ends meet, one birthday time I was given my Annual Appraisal at work by my boss of the day, who was a nice old boy - I liked him. As we finished the discussion of what I hoped to achieve, and how the professional exams were going, he said to me, "You're not still involved in the political stuff, are you?".

I was completely bewildered - I assured him I was not the slightest bit interested in politics, never had been, and he made a brief note on my file. I forgot all about it.

Many more years later, by which time I was a rather more important member of staff than I had been, something happened (was it the start of Data Protection?) and I was given the opportunity to see my personal staff file, by the same employer. I took the chance, and didn't think much about it, but in the miscellaneous section at the end was a handwritten note:

Active member of Communist Club at University and possibly a party affiliate of some sort - started at school?

I was dumbfounded - no basis for this at all. Untrue, in fact - not even close. Next to the note, in red ballpoint pen, my old boss, Bill (who had subsequently retired and was probably dead by then) had written: no evidence of this now, and that seemed to be the end of it.

Red Herring
 It doesn't matter now, but I have sometimes wondered where that came from - what on earth was it about? I guess I'll never know - probably a mistake. Yes - let's assume it was a mistake. At least they haven't vapourised me yet, though I suspect they are working on it at this very moment.