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

Monday 26 July 2021

Hooptedoodle #401 - Maulwurfabwehr, anyone?


I have observed over the last week or so that a mole has been making a mess of one edge of our back lawn - just at the foot of the stone wall which keeps out The Deep Dark Forest. I had hoped that this was just a passing visitor, but the mess is getting worse and there are fresh entry holes, so I guess something will have to be done about it.

We've never had moles in the 20 years we've been here. When I first arrived, my next door neighbour had a fine collection of big, cartoon-style molehills, and so I bought myself an ultrasonic mole-scarer. I have no idea whether the thing worked, but we never had a mole subsequently, so maybe it did. When we were getting some landscaping done here, last Winter, we found the old mole-scarer in a border somewhere. I was tempted to fit new batteries (first for 19.5 years) and see if it still worked, but then I realised...

How can you test if an ultrasonic mole-scarer is working? If you can't hear the stupid thing, then the only proof you might get is if suddenly there is a crowd of moles carrying little suitcases on their way out.

We threw out the old gizmo in January, and forgot about it. Well, we may have to invest in another. Nowadays, of course, you can get solar powered ones, but there's still an act of faith in there somewhere. We bought ultrasonic mouse chasers for the garage at one time - no idea if they worked either, of course. Brilliant scope for a scam.

The whole idea of selling someone something that they can't prove works is very good. Echoes of those chaps who sold the Emperor his invisible suit.

I have no wish to hurt any moles, so discouraging them sounds a better idea, but I have to say that the only time you see moles in these parts is when there is a line of the things hanging on a fence somewhere, so maybe needs must.

I had a look online for painless ways of getting rid of moles, and found adverts for clinics in Orlando which will remove them with lasers, so I gave up on that.

Saturday 24 July 2021

Trip to Stryker's, and Various Other Topics

 On Thursday I had an invitation to a wargame at Baron Stryker's country seat, rather north of here, so I packed up my lucky tree, tried to convince Siri the Navigator that Stryker does not, in fact, live at the pharmacy in my local High Street, and set off early to avoid the entitled children trying to kill each other on the Edinburgh Bypass.

It is maybe difficult to convey what an illustrious event this was for me. Since I have not been anywhere for 16 months which did not involve vaccinations or visiting my mother in her care home, it was a genuine treat. Ian had set up one of his excellent Old School games - proper wargaming! - an Allied force of about 1815 [I was the Duke of Wellington, though I am not a gentleman, and the Archduke, who had travelled further than I, was Blücher] was fighting against Ian's [Napoleon's] impressive looking French.

Ian, whose photos will inevitably do the event more justice than mine, will probably produce the official blog account in due course, so I shall merely set out here the best of my pictures, to give an idea of the action, with my usual propaganda-laden, biased captions. It was a most enjoyable day, with beautiful toys, an entertaining and absorbing game, great food and amusing company; I really had a marvellous time. My thanks to Stryker and the Baroness for their faultless hospitality, and to the Archduke for being an all-round good chap and a splendid ally.

Oh yes - the reason I still need navigation assistance to get to Stryker's, after a number of such trips, is because I can never, for the life of me, remember which exit from the M90 to take. It's always familiar when I get there, but you know how it is.

Turn 1 - Allies on the left (British this end, Prussians at the far end) and French opposite. I had all sorts of ideas about shifting some cavalry to my right flank, to cover the French lancers on that side, but the French immediately started bringing up their heavy cavalry reserve in the centre, so the Allies were prompted to react to this.

Thus the action began with a cavalry battle in the middle. I have no idea what odds Paddy Power had been offering against this possibility, but here we were again. The morning session was underway in frantic style, and Napoleon had brought along the Dice from Hell - here is an example of what the Allies were up against in this first session.

On the Allied left, some Prussian uhlans chased away a very attractive (though short-lived) regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval, but were obliged to follow-up, and suffered from musketry for their efforts. It took them a while to recover their composure.

The main cavalry action was not going well at all for the Allies - the Scots Greys have already routed (and took a long time to rally - they completely ignored all the fine words of Wellington, and only rallied when Stapleton Cotton joined them after lunch), some Prussian dragoons are falling back, while the Prussian cuirassiers and the battered Inniskillings are struggling against French cuirassiers and carabiniers respectively. Below you can see that the British right flank was now fixed, everyone in square, obsessed by the threat from a single unit of lancers.

At this point, we took a break for a splendid lunch, and the Allies were pretty much convinced that they would be beaten very quickly during the second session. However, something in the wind had changed. Given the choice, if there is a hill, the British infantry always prefer to march over the top. After lunch, the Cambridgeshires received a charge from the dreaded lancers in line, and drove them off with very heavy loss. That was the first encouraging sign for our side!

Allied cavalry still on the field, though the Prussian cuirassiers are about to disappear. The Blues have now taken on the fight against the French cuirassiers, and the Inniskillings are somehow gaining the upper hand against the carabiniers. This was the start of a very good spell for the Allies. [I have to observe that Blogger is a real pain in the neck this morning - uploading photos has been punctuated with a lot of failures and re-tries, and my usual treatment of caption text doesn't seem to be working now...]. Below you see the massed Prussian infantry working themselves up to fever pitch.

Napoleon sent forward his shiny new Grenadiers à Cheval, to support his stalling cavalry thrust, and they were promptly defeated by the Blues - the Curse of the Fresh Varnish strikes again. With the disappearance of the French lancers, Wellington's squares got themselves into column and started advancing on the Allied right.

On the Allied left, the Prussian uhlans keep an eye on a Swiss square (as one does), and the Prussian infantry are wearing down the Poles at the windmill. Below, you see the Cambridgeshires, with Rifles support, involved in a firefight with French infantry at the farmhouse. The last surviving gunner with the Guard Horse Artillery waves his linstock in defiance. I think it's a linstock.

On the central ridge, it's all happening - the Allied cavalry is now going very well indeed, putting the French line infantry to flight. Napoleon sends up the two battalions of his Guard to put things right...

...and ponders which of his axioms, appropriately delivered, might encourage the infantry, who can be seen heading back his way in disorder. Below are two general views of the table, coming into Turn 8 (the end of the day). The mighty Silesian Landwehr have chased away the Poles, while in the foreground the Hertfordshires (?) have decided that trying to form line to meet the oncoming French infantry is too risky, so they plough into them, still in column. I wanted to see what happened when two columns met head-on, so was delighted when the British boys managed to disorder the opposition on this occasion.

At the end of the game, the French were once again scoring a few successes, but the Allies had won on Victory Points by a decent margin. Napoleon could not get his Guard infantry onto the ridge in time to stop the rot, and the Allies were surprised and delighted to have won, considering the disastrous morning session. Stryker admitted afterwards that at lunch he had considered giving us some extra troops, to keep the game going in the afternoon. I've seen games turn around like this before, but I don't recall one turning in my favour for a very long time!

Here you go - you saw it here - British and French columns meeting head-on. Lovely toys, too.


Separate Topic #1 - WSS Rules

I'm very pleased to say that my enforced break from painting has allowed me to finish the playtesting I had planned, and I now have a working "First Edition" of my Prinz Eugen rules. I'm confident they will change some more, but at least I'll be editing something which exists rather than a cloud of scribbled notes! My thanks to Chris G, Stryker, Goya and the others who have helped me get this project shaped up. Another tick in the box, and a great deal of waste paper off to be recycled!

Separate Topic #2 - Troll-Stalking for Beginners

I mention this lightly, with no particular agenda. It would be inappropriate for someone with a blog as ill-disciplined and rambling as this one to have too thin a skin. I don't set out to upset anyone, but it is bound to happen. I don't worry about it - if someone disapproves of what I write, I assume they will move on and not waste their time on it. If they express their distaste then fair enough - words are cheap - in fact, some people's words are without any value at all.

Recently, an old friend of mine drew my attention to the fact that I was taking a bit of a panning on the pages of a hobby chat-forum, not from the point of disagreeing with what I had written, but from a stylistic point of view - in particular, phrases such as "incomprehensible" and "a mess" were in evidence when I had a look.

Well, I'm not really going to get too upset about this. I quite enjoyed most of the invective aimed in my general direction. I am aware that such fora have traditions of being unpleasant for its own sake, but one hero in particular - his ID may or may not be Frobisher, as it happens - went a bit far. His contribution, which was what had triggered the tip-off in the first place, was much too personal and unkind for my taste.

Why do people do this? I don't know, but I guess that one day it will kill off our access to social media as we know it, Jim, so I don't see it as trivial. To quote the uncredited soldier from the Waterloo movie, how can we kill one another? We've never even seen each other (etc). Where is the appeal in being hateful to a complete stranger, with no real motive? Is it just to amuse our friends, or do we actually feel better afterwards?

I have no idea. I thought for a while about why I should be a little upset about something so unimportant, and I decided that it is the "we've never even seen each other" bit. The anonymity. There's a definite threat in receiving hostility from a stranger who could be - well, anyone, really. So I contacted my old friend who had tipped me off in the first place. He, you see, is a member of the forum in question, and thus he has access to a few more details about the Cruel Frobisher. Armed with some simple facts, easily available to any member of the forum, I spent about 20 minutes, online, and poking about mainstream social media, without doing anything illegal, and I now know all about Frobisher. I know his name, I know where he lives, I know what he works at; I have, if I am interested, access to pictures of his friends and family. He is not very threatening at all, in fact he is rather a sad little creep. I have removed him from my consciousness.

Given this amount of extra information, I have reduced forum-member Frobisher from the status of Mysterious Warrior to something rather more entry-level. I have no idea what I could actually use my new knowledge for - almost certainly nothing at all - but it is astonishing how the implied threat disappears when people appear on public platforms as themselves, with their own identities. Maybe a change has to come, in which case MSFoy will have to come clean and admit that he is, after all, the Prince of Wales. Topic closed - if anyone on a forum somewhere takes exception to my views then I'm sure they're right. I could not care less. 

Wednesday 14 July 2021

WSS: A Little Night Testing

 Best time for fiddling about on your own - the house is quiet and much cooler. Tonight's action was some gentle testing of the revised Combat rules. OK - identified a couple of areas where I'm not quite sure what happens next (or, let us say, there are some choices to be made), and confirmed one rule I wasn't sure of. Good so far.

Buckets of Dice and Old School monochrome; The IR Palffy try to see what happens if they make an ill-advised attack on a superior force of Bavarians

Workmanlike testing laboratory?

Monasterol Dragoons, with General attached, check out their chances against an isolated Austrian unit across the valley. This section of the testing confirmed the adoption of a provisional ruling: viz Mounted Troops who do not win a Combat, if the troops are still in contact, must retire 1 hex or 2 hexes - their choice, but they become Shaken if they go for 2...
Up close and covered in soot

Tomorrow some more complicated Combats, and try out the new Artillery rules. Baby steps. Take lots of notes. Hot chocolate is a big help. And a little Couperin on the hi-fi does no harm for period feel.

Friday 9 July 2021

WSS: More Cuddies for Corporal John

 Another welcome addition to my British forces, this unit very nicely painted for me by Goya, for which my grateful thanks. Here are the boys of Hay's Dragoons, aka Scots Greys.

Being a dragoon outfit, they also have a dismounted function - just replace two of the mounted stands - the remaining mounted stand serves as horse-holders and all that, and carries the regimental Status minidice. Important work. Here they are showing off their dismounted set-up - just looking for a wood to stand in.

The men on the command stand and those on foot are Irregular castings, the mounted dragoons are all by Les Higgins, and all the horses are Higgins. According to what I've been reading, these fellows were able to fight against regular units of heavy horse, so they will probably be excused the usual "-1" for dragoons vs horse in mounted combat.

Plus one for being British? That has a familiar ring about it. 

And let us not speak of soft penalty kick awards.

Monday 5 July 2021

Writing Wargame Rules - Some Ponderings


For the last year or so I've been working on a set of home-made rules for the WSS. Things have gone a bit quiet, but they have not disappeared; they are undergoing a heavy re-write at this very moment. It's been very interesting; there have been a few disappointments on the way, and I've been reminded of a few things I should have remembered anyway. Overall, I've enjoyed it immensely, though this still depends on a belief that something decent will fall out of the end!

I contacted my good friend Stryker last week, to run some ideas past him. He is a sound chap - very sensible. Whereas I have a lamentable tendency to over-think stuff, and tie myself in knots (punctuated from time to time with complete changes of direction), I find him an invaluable support since he knows his wargaming, and he can take a look at something and notice that some bits of it are, in fact, nonsense - a gift which I never managed to develop.

So today's blether here is largely a result of mulling over my chat with Stryker. The cheque, of course, is on its way to him.

In the first place, I was keen to get involved in WSS miniatures gaming because I've always fancied the idea and the look of it - it seems like proper wargaming, somehow. It also - in theory, at least - seems to be a period which lends itself well to the rather stylised presentation which is necessary for toy soldiers. There is a good mix of horse-and-musket type arms, but there is a pleasing lack of fiddly bits - no skirmishers, no squares, no horse artillery, no attacking in column, and everyone moves about in nice straight lines. Ideal.

I have read a good number of published rule sets, and I decided that writing my own rules was an important part of the project, though there are enough options available to leave wiggle-room for giving up on the rules idea if necessary.

So I set out, early last year, to write a set of rules which would embody all the things I like, carefully avoiding the things I have lost patience with over the years. Terrific. I did a lot of sketching, and note-taking, and pinching of promising ideas from other sources. There was a lot of arithmetic, and experimentation, and it was all shaping up nicely. Life has obviously been strange, as a consequence of the pandemic, but I decided this would present an opportunity for an extended period of solo work, and I could make a really good job of the WSS rules. 

There have been some hefty changes of heart from time to time (see earlier...), but the basics of the game came together nicely.

Then there were a couple of playtests - these were handled by Zoom, which is better than nothing, obviously, but brings some constraints of its own. The playtests were approached with good humour and great fortitude by my collaborators, but I was left with the realisation that I had spent a lot of time developing a game which I didn't like very much! This, I guess, is a commonplace situation in developing rules, but it is disappointing when it happens.

In reality, of course, it's just another step on the "two forward, one back" path, or whatever variations on that theme are appropriate from time to time. I have been reminded of a number of important principles, which I really should write on a whiteboard somewhere. Some of them are so bovinely obvious that I am embarrassed to put them up here.

* Your rules should reflect the type of game you like, and also (of course) the period and the size of battles you are aiming for. [In my own case, I have gained a lot of benefit in the past from reading design notes by Frank Chadwick and Howard Whitehouse, who are particular heroes of mine.]

* You can playtest your rules on your own for as long as you like, but you will always attempt to play the game in the way that you intended it to work, and back-fit the rules in accordingly. This may come off the rails when you involve some outsiders!

* Proof-reading your own rules may improve the spelling and the punctuation and the layout, but you will always interpret them as what you meant to say (regardless of whether you have actually said it).

* Writing a proper manual before the rules have stabilised has some advantages, particularly if you are intending to play this game with someone else, but it adds greatly to the problems of version control and of making substantial change - the timing of the shift from rough notes and crib-sheets to a proper booklet is tricky to get right, and only becomes obviously problematic when you find you have done it wrong.

* I have, I regret to say, a passion for adding details and fiddly bits to rules, with the intention of improving them, but usually I just slow things down. I need a slap every now and then.

The last (Zoom based) playtest game we had was slow and turgid, and got bogged down in a long-range firefight which would never have happened in 1704, and which my rules did nothing to discourage or prevent. That was the klaxon signal for a major re-think, and I've been working on it since then. Some of the revisions have subsequently been revised, of course, but I believe I am now making good progress, though the re-write of the booklet is a major overhead. 

Anyway, my Prinz Eugen rules are shaping up to draft version 0.8 (the production version, if such a thing ever exists, will start at 1.0!). I have made them a lot simpler, I have dropped some pet ideas because they slowed things down more than they improved the game. It is coming together, I think. This week I had intended to get some troops on the table to try some serious solo playtesting, but Real Life is starting to creep out of the shadow of Covid-19, so I am busy, but it is a necessary step, and it will go ahead.

I'll do some photos, as evidence of my resolve.


Separate Topic #1 - MDF Bases

Since Tony Barr has closed his East Riding Miniatures operation, I am wondering where to buy my MDF bases in future. For as long as I can remember, Tony has been so helpful and so quick to respond to requests that I feel more than a bit lost without him. I use odd-sized MDF bases - metric sizes, quite a lot of them, in 2mm thick for figure stands and 3mm for sabots and bigger pieces. I had a look at the Warbases website - maybe that is the thing to do, but I was short of time and found it difficult to find my way around.

Supreme Littleness Designs have done some nice work for me in the past, but I think Michael is heavily involved in doing scenery design work for other suppliers at present.

Simple question, really - I am in the UK - maybe the answer is "Warbases" after all, but does anyone have any strong recommendations where I should get my MDF bases now? All helpful suggestions welcome.


Separate Topic #2 - Evidence of Dementia? - The Vanishing Horses

I spent a few hours in the dreaded spare figures boxes last week, and eventually collected together enough good figures to draw up a plan to paint the French Napoleonic Guard Chasseurs à Cheval. The troopers will all be OPC Hinton Hunt, the command figures SHQ, cobbled to fit on Hinton Hunt horses (FNH3). All good - pleased that I've got that worked out at long last. Yesterday I put the collected castings into a little sandwich box, to label it up for the project, and was rather irritated to note that I had lost the extra HH horses I had found for the command. Obviously I must have left them lying somewhere, so I had a good search - the front of bookshelves tends to be a favourite spot for such things - no. Didn't find them, after a thorough look around.

Next obvious possibility is misfiling - maybe the horses got back into the spares boxes? No - it took a while to check, but they are not in there. There are, of course, lots of other wrong boxes they could have finished up in, but we are getting to the limits of possibility here. Anyway, I abandoned the search, hoping that I would remember what I had done with them. I couldn't have accidentally thrown them out, surely? Stop it! - I went to bed last night, determined to continue the hunt as soon as possible, and not really worried, but these things do niggle.

Today was a busy day; I had to travel into Edinburgh, and while I was sitting on the train, reading my book, I suddenly remembered very clearly that the extra horses had been put into the stripping jar, which is about 3 feet from where I was conducting the search, and is in direct line-of-sight (to use an artillery term). Problem solved. Well - one problem, anyway.

Separate Topic #3 - Blogger Blues

At present I am having problems with Blogger again - I just know it must be my own fault - something to do with Account Settings, but I haven't got to the bottom of it yet. For a start, I am unable to comment on anyone else's blog (well, in fact, there was one day when it worked...), and for another thing I can only upload photos into my own blog one at a time, which is tedious. I am sort of keeping an eye on things, but I wished primarily to offer my apologies to anyone who is feeling neglected - at present, Blogger insists on my leaving comments under my Gmail address rather than my official blog ID - can't do that, I'm afraid. I am thinking about this, but I'm hoping it heals up, which is what usually happens with Blogger issues.