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

Monday 30 November 2020

Creeping Elegance: Everyone Switch Units (Musical Sabots)

Creeping Elegance is a general classification here - any odd sorting-out or reorganising jobs which are not obviously a high priority, but which still irritate me when they don't get done.

It's easier to get on with it when there are several reasons all pushing in the same direction - i.e. the planets align (which doesn't happen very often).

For a while I've had the following in mind:

(A) There are a few units in my French army which acquired a 3rd battalion at some point. My improvised house standard for these French 3rd battalions seems to have stipulated that they have no mounted officer and no eagle - I can't remember why, maybe I was short of command figures at the time. Yes, quite. Subsequently I changed my mind - I decided I already had a real, serious house standard, which is that the infantry of my French army in the Peninsula will consist of divisions, each of which has 2 brigades and a battery; each of these brigades will comprise 2 regiments, plus a converged mini-battalion of voltigeurs from these regiments; each of the regiments will have 2 battalions. Not 3, 2. 

(B) Some of my battalions do not please me, because their appearance does not match up to the rest of the army. A case in point is provided by 2 battalions of old 20mm Garrison fellows, some of them recasts, which I've had since 1971 or so and which I've always thought I should upgrade sometime.

(C) Fairly new idea - I need to raise some more little 12-man battalions for my developing siege games.

So I've decided that I can rationalise much of this in one go - thus:

(i) The 1/50e Ligne (apart from their command figures) are of these old Garrisons - if I combine the Les Higgins rank and file from the unwanted 3/50e with the command from the 1/50e then they can become a new, rather smarter 1/50e, and the Garrison troops thus released can be reallocated (very appropriately, in fact) to siege duties. Good. They'll be happy there. The idea of making the 3rd battalion into the new 1st battalion works for me, but I suspect that the 2nd battalion will be furious when they find out.

(ii) Similarly for the 59e Ligne, except that they previously did not have a 3rd battalion, so the replacement Higgins troops for the 1/59e will come from the (unwanted) 3e/15e. The Garrison boys will go for siege basing, as for the 50e.

(iii) The 3rd battalions of the 6e and 25e Léger can also be released, to be allocated to forthcoming Divisions which are in the Refurb Queue.

This is the revamped 1st battalion for the 59e Ligne - the command figures were previously surrounded by Garrison men for many years, and the replacement Higgins rank and file have arrived from the (now defunct) 3/15e.

Here are the troops released to be rebased for siege games - mostly Garrisons - some old friends here!

So I've done the necessary basing adjustments and unit labelling, I've taken new photos for the Napoleonic Catalogue, and I've adjusted the sabot numbering slightly so that the battalions may still be placed consecutively in The Cupboard. So far, I seem to have done everything correctly, though I am half expecting to find two units with the same catalogue number in The Cupboard.

Time to have a cup of tea and read for a while. Nice sunny day here - freezing cold, mind you. 

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

Pensioners: some grenadiers from the old Garrison battalions, now re-based and ready for siege duties.


Thursday 26 November 2020

FoB Giveaway - The Denouement

Since interest in my offer of my copy of Piquet's Field of Battle (2nd Edition) was limited to start with, and has fizzled out a couple of days ago, I've decided to default on the stated Terms & Conditions, and close now.

This was pretty much what I had expected - Piquet devotees will mostly have invested in the 3rd Edition already, so the enquiries I received were from people who were interested to have a look and see what it's all about.

Apart from a couple of comments which come under the general heading of "banter", I received four serious requests. As always, I had asked for some far-fetched or otherwise entertaining reason why each applicant deserved to receive the giveaway, which, as always, no doubt delighted me more than the contributors. I have to say, everyone did themselves proud; specially mentioned is Neil, who eloquently expressed the hopes and trepidations which a possible acquaintance with Piquet generated; however, the winner is the famous Chris Grice, author, celebrity, eco-warrior and all-round good egg, who produced a detailed and impassioned explanation of how he is having his house altered to allow greater scope for domestic wargaming, which would be helped enormously by the arrival of some rules which lend themselves to solo gaming.

A postal package will be arranged forthwith, if not fifthwith - thanks to everyone who took part or thought about doing so.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Featherstonia: Donald Featherstone's "Rules for Wargames in the 1880 Period Including Colonial Warfare"

Once again I must offer my most sincere thanks to the mighty Albannach for supplying another instalment of vintage rules, originally available through Wargamer's Newsletter.

These are quite substantial - Old School but detailed. I was particularly interested in the last section, on "Natives versus Disciplined Troops".

I hope you enjoy these - please bear in mind that they are a product of their time, and should be read as such.

Once again, Iain, many thanks for helping keep the blog afloat!

Friday 20 November 2020

A Quick Visit to the 21st Century, plus a [Qualified] Give-Away

I try to keep an eye on what the 3D-Printing world is up to. I'm already very interested in the scenery possibilities, but figures, at least in scales which are relevant to me, have tended to be a bit lumpen thus far.

I've actually ordered some Napoleonic sample figures from JJG Print 3D - I understand that they have made my figures already, and have posted them - I even have a tracking number, though I have no idea who is the courier, so tracking is difficult. The figures themselves are not expensive, though for a small order the postage is fairly eye-watering - the manufacturer is based in Walcourt, Belgium - close to Charleroi... ["...that man does war honour..."] - very businesslike and polite thus far.

They produce Napoleonics in 10mm, 15mm, 18mm, 22mm and 28mm. I've ordered some 22mm, since that seems the best guess, and since it might just be that 22mm is what the size of figures I collect is called nowadays . We'll see. The figures come without bases - the plates on the website look like computer renderings rather than photos. I am not building up wild hopes here, but it's sensible to have a look at the market every now and then.

The extent of the range is a bit unclear - they have Spanish and French figures illustrated, but there are painted examples which I couldn't find in the pose listing. The sculpture is a little quirky - the drums are about half-size in scale, and the French light infantry gaiters look a bit weird. Anyway, all very interesting.

Topic 2 - Giveaway

I'm trying to cut down the amount of my various collections - not least to make room for my siege scenery, which is beginning to take on a life of its own. One thing that I would be happy to give away is the Second Edition of Piquet's Field of Battle - I am offering the rule book, which has been read (though played very little) but is in pristine condition, plus two packs of the official custom cards, imported from the US at considerable expense. I am getting rid of this lot because I have now bought the 3rd Edition. The existence of a later edition will probably cut down on demand for the one I'm aiming to pass on, but it may as well go to a good home. The 2nd Edition was largely boosted (by its fans) as the best game of its type, so it can hardly have become crap just because there is now an update. If you are interested, send me a comment (which I shall not publish) explaining why you want it and deserve it - I'm looking for a wholehearted effort here, chaps - I seek entertainment, amusement. I am not interested in the fact that your cat has died etc, or you've finished your join-the-dots puzzle book. Some Terms & Conditions:

* I'll keep this open until the start of Saturday 28th November - I shall judge applications in my usual subjective and totally unreasonable manner

* The successful applicant can have the rules and cards free of charge, of course, but, if you are outside the UK, I will probably require you to pay the postage (at cost).

* I'll only accept entries from people who follow my blog regularly, including those who do so by email.

I really can't be bothered trying to sell this on eBay. If you have never tried FoB, or if you have a fancy for a look at a Piquet game, it's an excellent rule set, and worth a go. It's especially good for solo gaming, in case that is an extra attraction. If you like what you see, and are interested in the upgrade, you can now purchase the 3rd Edition from Lancashire Games in the UK. At the time I bought this 2nd Edition, it came from Piquet in the US, and it was an expensive exercise - the postage was astounding.

Them was the days.

Saturday 14 November 2020

Hooptedoodle #380 - Reasons to Be Cheerful?

Times are difficult, no doubt, but I think we have to hang on to what we can get in the way of better news. This last week or so has seen definite signs of the beginning of the ends of a few pestilences - early days, admittedly, but promising...


Friday 13 November 2020

Hooptedoodle #379a - Landscaping Work Complete - Tweaking Starts Now


After a complete washout on Wednesday, Thursday was astonishing - everything happened at once - at one point we had 4 guys on site, and everything was finished by dusk. Wow.

On Wednesday, my 5 tonnes of whin chips arrived. I still don't understand how the lorry driver got from the lane into our driveway. I was scared to watch - I was convinced he was going to convert our gates into a hoop, but he managed very nicely. No damage, no fuss. I guess these guys are good at their jobs, basically.

11am Thursday, Grant the Serious Chainsaw Man arrived from Longformacus. No prisoners were taken, our two tree stumps were quickly converted into manageable blocks of timber, he cut them down to below ground level and the holes were filled with soil. No more trees. What trees?

Once some tidying and graveling had taken place, this is where the trees had been - one on either side of the steps in the centre of the photo. The patches of earth will certainly sink after a bit of rain, so I'll order in a load of composted soil to level things up.

Friday morning. With the site almost completely cleared, this is the new aspect to our driveway - it is now straight, and the overhanging junipers on the right are no more.

We have always been very proud of the splendid blocks of stone, taken from our local beach, which line the drive...

...and we now have some more of these blocks visible; since this section was previously buried underneath the trees, it has not been seen since about 1990 - nice stones - pleased with this.

The whole front garden has changed a lot - big improvements in the drive and the parking areas, but it feels a bit odd at present. Our house is now visible from the lane for the first time in living memory, and the garden seems rather flat and boring. Righto - some plans for planting are required!


Tuesday 10 November 2020

Hooptedoodle #379 - Meanwhile, back in the Garden, Work Continues

The landscaping work continues, though things have slowed down a little as it becomes obvious that we need some heavier kit.

Barry the Iraq Vet has achieved wonders with the unwanted rhododendron bed. This has now been reshaped, squared off, dug out and dressed with hardcore, which has been tamped with a petrol-driven "whacking plate". The work on this part of the job took about two and a half days, and you can already see the potential improvement in the driveway. Gravel to follow.

Which brings us back to the overgrown juniper trees. This (above) is the state they were in at the start of last week - simple enough job? In fact they've been much tougher than expected - inside the greenery, these things have emerged as real monsters. Thus far, three big truckloads of wood and foliage have been taken to the Council's "green waste" site, and the junipers are now reduced to massive, twisted stumps which will require a far heavier chainsaw to cut up - I reckon we've maybe lost two days on this, not that it matters a lot at the moment. Bear in mind that these trees started life as a variety of juniper which was described as a shrub, expected to reach a height of 6 feet or so. Right.

Tomorrow, five 1-metric-tonne bags of 20mm whin chips are arriving from a builders' merchant in Kelso, in the Border country. It's clear that we aren't going to be ready to use them, but we can line up the bags on a "quiet" part of the site. Tomorrow's main tasks are going to be cutting down the stumps, digging down around them and grinding them to below ground level. After that, there is a lot of digging out of rubbish, leaf mould and a very large amount of sawdust which has accumulated during the deforestation exercise - then there should just be a big clean-up of the area and we are ready to spread the gravel. 

The picture here shows the ruin of the eastern juniper, when it was still about 5 feet tall - this is before we started work on the western one, which is looking pretty much intact in this view.

Some beautiful stone blocks are emerging from under these trees - most of this I've never seen before, since it was last exposed to daylight some years before I moved here. I'll get a photo of this when things are tidied up. The whole area is really opened up; we have to be careful here - last time we removed a tree (reluctantly - we had to - it was dangerous) we rather took a dislike to the garden for about 10 years, so we'll have to have some positive forward plans about what happens next. I need to talk to a proper garden designer. My problem with gardens is that I know when I see something I like, but I seem to have great difficulty in visualizing what layouts will look like - especially when we get into the 3D world of shrubs and bushes. 

I have to say, we've been remarkably lucky with the weather - any serious rain would slow us down a lot.



Friday 6 November 2020

Hooptedoodle #378 - No Fun at All, in the End

Yes, yes - I realise it isn't officially finished yet, since we are likely to have to live through the expected false-flag legal challenges, but the US Election is shaping up.

It would be unworthy to enjoy someone else's misfortune - except in very special cases, of course. Around midnight last night I heard that Mr Trump was about to make an unscheduled announcement from the White House.

We don't get to live through too many historic moments, so I thought I should have a listen on the radio. It's not my country, not my election, but the last 4 years have stretched patience and belief more than a little, even from this range. In truth, all I want is for the man to go away, and maybe I shall be spared his whining voice in future. That would do, but I also wanted to see if he could make a good end - perhaps, for once, he might present himself with unaccustomed dignity and maybe a little humility - it is the accepted way to do these things, I understand.

Fat chance. He spoiled the moment completely for me - I was profoundly embarrassed for him, and for his nation and its traditions. 15 minutes of deranged nonsense - incoherent, wild, paranoid, unstructured, fantastic - left me very uncomfortable indeed.

I assume he remains the commander in chief of the American armed services? Goodness me. If an ageing employee of yours exhibited behaviour like that, my guess is that he would be resting at home somewhere shortly afterwards. Unhinged.

None of my business, ultimately, but is that really the best he's got? Disappointing. That was no fun at all. 

 ***** Late Edit *****


Thursday 5 November 2020

Sieges: Back to the Little Stuff

Suitably inspired by all the work being done in my garden, I took the opportunity this afternoon to return my attention to the toys - to clean up and sort out some of my siege bits and pieces, and make more sense of the way they are stored. 

As I'm learning (and I'm quite happy about it - the amount of kit is a large part of the spectacle and the enjoyment), tabletop sieges use a lot of scenic pieces. I already had a good collection of walls and defences and buildings - medieval and Vauban-period - and I now have a growing mass of earthworks, gun emplacements and so on, to support serious sieges. I really do need to get this lot stored in a logical and practical way. So work is under way!


Here's something strange spread across the attic floor - there are 4 trays of hand-made trench sections (which can also double as earth walls placed in front of pre-gunpowder stone defences) and gun emplacements, all supplied by the excellent Fat Frank, then, at the front, a tray of assorted cast-resin pieces, various makers (I note that a few of these still need painting, by the way).

In the left foreground, open, is a badly thought-out view of a brown wooden cigar box containing 4" x 1" brown felt strips - these are for use as forward saps in my Vauban's Wars games (and, of course, any other games which might wish to borrow them). My starting idea is that you get two of these strips as a single piece of Sapper Activity action, when cued by the appropriate Sequence Card. You may lay them as you wish. Obviously, the speed of forward sapping will be closely related to how obliquely you place the strips - in the house parlance, to the angle of zig-zag. If your sap is enfiladed from the defences, you have done it wrong. There are no excuses. The closer you get to the fortress, the more extreme will be the zig-zag profile of the sap, and thus the slower the rate of approach.

There is another box (closed) at about 3 o'clock in the picture - again, not a great visual - in there is my collection of assorted multiple and single gabions - some of which also need some paint, now I look at them.

I propose to put the Fat Frank pieces in a box of their own, since this will be the main supply for the building of parallels and batteries by the busy besiegers. The rest can be stored separately as a back-up supply.

Near the top of the picture are a couple of very old Bellona gun positions, which are really just present for old-times' sake.

[In the real world, my driveway is now ready for the gravel, and one of the two trees nominated for removal has been severely wrecked - about two-thirds of the bulk has gone, though the main "frame" of trunk and big branches is to be removed tomorrow, along with, I hope, most of the second tree. Good progress - we've been very lucky with the weather.]

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Hooptedoodle #377 - The Siege of Chateau Foy

 Further to the reference in my previous post, work continues on the landscaping here. 

The old rhododendron bed has been cut back, and the big edging stones shifted, though the Royal Engineers won't be pleased with the wobbly lines, so some tweaking is in hand. It should all be a lot more OCD-compliant by the end of today. I understand that the big rocks came from our beach - I reckon the driveway was laid when the garage was built, in about 1975, so they've been here a while. There's a lot of earth to be dug out, then hardcore to be put down, and then a few loads of whinstone chips over the whole drive. Should be fine - almost makes me wonder why we didn't do this years ago, though I'd really rather not focus too much on the reasons why. To quote an old coffee mug I used to have when I was working, I guess we finally got a Round Twit - we've needed one for years.

In an experimental mood, Barry, our Iraqi War vet, hacked a hole into one of the juniper trees, to see what would be the best way of attacking these. It's dark in there, man.

Barry is more than capable of shifting any amount of earth with a shovel, but in the interests of speed we also have a very old Italian digging machine on site - known as The Green Shovel (to distinguish it from The Red Shovel - similar naming system to WSS Bavarian grenadiers, apparently). This machine has front and rear wheel steering, and you can, if you so wish, set all the wheels at, say, 45deg and drive along diagonally. Good toy, eh?

Result of this is that we temporarily have cars parked in some imaginative locations - I've given advance warning to neighbours, to minimise the inconvenience. At present rate of progress, work should be finished next week sometime. I'll double-check Vauban's original checklist for estimating timescales.

Sunday 1 November 2020

New Troops and Old Trees

I have a couple of new units for my WSS collection - very kindly painted by Goya and much appreciated. I based and flagged them yesterday. They are both grenadier battalions for the Bavarian army.

These are the "red grenadiers" which fought at the Schellenberg - the Boismorel Grenadiers, a (supposedly) French emigré unit donated by Louis XIV to the Elector's forces. The Colonel/Owner of the unit was one Monseigneur Boismorel, who was very well-connected, and seems to have spent his brief military service in the cafés of Munich. The man on the horse, then, must be Lt.Col De La Colonie, whose memoirs I am currently reading. Fascinating book, though Colonie may be the biggest braggart before Marbot - he's a wow with the ladies, his military achievements are breathtaking, he is slighted and wronged by all sorts of people - particularly his colonel - he is constantly arranging or threatening duels. Very exciting. The figures are Les Higgins 20mm, from long ago. These are fresh painted bare-metal castings, not my usual refurb efforts. The Boismorels (yes - "forest mushrooms") were originally planned as a 3-battalion unit, two of fusiliers and one of grenadiers, based on the organisation of the Bavarian Leibregiment, but only one battalion was raised. That's probably why they had a mixture of hats.

And here are the grenadier battalion of the aforementioned Leibregiment. Thus we have red grenadiers and blue grenadiers. That's fine - I can understand that. Nice, eh? Thanks again, Goya!

One thing I don't really understand (though I suppose I could find out quite easily) is why the Bavarians had formal grenadier battalions as early as 1703 - I don't know who else did. The British, French and Austrians all had grenadier companies as part of each fusilier battalion, and sometimes on the battlefield such companies might be combined for some special task or assault, but the practice of keeping these converged groupings of grenadiers together on a semi-permanent basis doesn't seem to have caught on, though it obviously did later. Certainly I don't know of any named grenadier battalions elsewhere. I would have expected the Bavarian army to be very like the Austrian or French model, but not in this instance. Prussian?

Topic 2: Landscaping

You know how gardens are - you see problems gradually taking shape, keep putting off the moment, and one day your hand is forced and you have to get something done. Nothing desperate, but it has to be done.

(1) Our driveway is curved - negotiating it in the sort of darkness you don't get in cities is made much more difficult by having to bypass a chicane of sorts - a border which once upon a time (before my days here) was a rhododendron bed. Now it is just a mess and a nuisance. We'll straighten out the driveway, then. If we change our minds in the future, we can always add potted shrubs or something.

(2) By the garden path, we have two juniper "shrubs" which never understood when they were supposed to stop growing. They have already been shortened a few years ago (to prevent their interfering with the radio transmission which brings our broadband service, and to stop their shading the neighbour's garden in the afternoon), and it made them extremely ugly. Now they are blocking the path, encroaching on the driveway and (potentially) threatening the septic tank. The problem with junipers is that they cannot be cut back - they are black beneath the skin and will not grow back or green up. If you have a look online you will find a great many people asking, "what can I do with my overgrown juniper?", and the answer from the experts is invariably, "get rid of it and plant a new tree".

Righto - the time has come. Work starts tomorrow. We are thinking what sort of tree would be a good replacement. I have not mentioned it to anyone yet, but it has occurred to me that a couple of new juniper shrubs would take 25 years to get back to this state...

While I had my camera in the garden, I took a photo of the lane past our front gate, which a week or so ago was flooded - the way it slopes stops the water coming into our garden, but the lane itself gave a very good impersonation of a shallow river heading down the hill at the height of the rainstorm. The square which you can just see the entrance to in the distance is equipped with very big storm drains - it's obvious why this is so!