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

Sunday 27 February 2022

WSS: French Field Artillery

 This weekend I've finished the French artillery for my WSS Project.

Once again, the flash on my camera gives the pictures a bluish tinge, but you get the idea. These are Irregular gunners, and the guns themselves are by Lancer Miniatures.

More troops in the pipeline - infantry waiting to be varnished and based. Watch this space!

Monday 21 February 2022

Hooptedoodle #423 - A Salute to Old Ben

 This is probably going to seem a little weird. Though he has been dead for nearly 14 years now, today I plan to spend a little time commemorating the 100th anniversary of my father's birth.

No particular agenda - for years now, I've occasionally been reminded that my father, if he had lived, would be x years old on that day. Each time, I laughed a little and shrugged it off - not a significant event. What I am tracking, I guess, is personal landmarks in the history of my immediate family - in other words, my own mortality.

Anyway, whatever the underlying sentiment, old Ben would have been 100 today. I intend to visit his grave, and I have purchased a very small birthday cake. After tea, I also plan to drink the last of the last bottle (of two) of De Montal 1965 which he bought me for my 50th birthday; I had previously bought him two bottles for his 70th, so it was not unlike a very slow and ponderous game of ping-pong. I can't think what else I might save it for.

You can just make out the "new" cemetery at the South-East end of North Berwick - very handy for Tesco. My sister is buried here too, and there is a space reserved for my mother, who is now 96 and in residential care in the little town. I have no plans to join them.

My thoughts today will be mostly of unsentimental stuff: how peaceful my life has been since he passed away, how angry and bewildered he would have been if he had survived to see 2022, and some measure of gratitude that he spent his last days very comfortably in a low-stress environment, though (like the swan's legs beneath the surface) I was one of the privileged few who had to race around fixing things for him, making sure he didn't get upset and didn't upset anyone else.

All the best, then, Ben - happy birthday - thanks for everything. I guess I won't have to think about this any more.

Saturday 19 February 2022

WSS: Régiment de Champagne

 These are (mostly) very old figures from Eric Knowles' collection, so this has been a return to my Refurb Factory desk. Eric used larger units than I do, so there are some extra command figures added to make up the numbers. I am pleased to say that I am happy with my new technique for painting musicians in the Kings Livery, which has removed an amount of stress from my current push to progress my French contingent.

I have tried to keep the appearance consistent with Eric's original, freshening everything up as necessary, and am pleased with the result. These are the two battalions of the Régiment de Champagne, all ready for the Duty Boxes. The flags are used by kind permission of David at Not by Appointment - no problems this time, with the flags laser-printed on thinner paper.

As always, these are Les Higgins figures - smallish 20mm - though the mounted officers are by Irregular, on Higgins horses.

There will be some more French units arriving over the next few weeks, so the barracks are getting swept out, ready.

Sunday 13 February 2022

Hooptedoodle #422 - Vernon-Smith Readies the Gunboat

 As part of my new, more relaxed approach to observing world news, I have stopped hanging onto every latest theory from someone-or-other's political Cub Reporter. I've seen it all before. On occasions I may be slightly afraid, but in general I am going to calm right down in the anger department. There are some things about the current state of our (my) nation which are so preposterously stupid that I can only assume that they cannot last very long. I'll settle for that. I didn't vote for any of these bastards, so I am only circumstantially interested in their self-promotion adventures.

One thing which did chime a faint chord was Mr Johnson's recent visit to Poland, to give assurance that Britain would be right behind them if they were on the receiving end of any aggression. Apart from those Poles who might ask, "Who?", I am confident that they will take a great deal of comfort from this, especially those of them who have a good feel for history.

Not Churchill

Not Churchill either

Naturally, as a mere provincial, I do not expect to understand such things, but I am gradually joining the citizens' army of people who suspect that Mr J's fondness for casting himself in the role of Winston Churchill may be more than a little wide of the truth. There are other, more apt possibilities. No matter. In any case, this fades into the shadows compared with the recent idea of Ms Truss going away to give the Russians a piece of her mind over the Ukrainian Question.

Also in the interests of keeping down the blood pressure and the adrenalin levels, I am making an effort to cut down on the coffee - this one crazy trick is the one that Big Pharma don't want you to know about...

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Sieges: The Siege of Toro (1811) - Part 2 (of at least 2)

 Two further days of solo play (and a lot of rule reading and checking) brought my second "practice" siege game to a close. The result will become apparent in the photo gallery.

View of the siege from the British No.3 24pdr Battery

I resumed the game with the British pushing ahead to develop their 3rd Parallel.

British Sappers zig-zagging forward to mark out the beginnings of the trenches for the 3rd Parallel
And, because of one of my Peninsular War tweaks, the trenches themselves are dug by infantry units, with Sappers in support
The new trench starts to grow some gun emplacements
...on both flanks
Confronted by this fine display of digging, the French couldn't resist sending out a Trench Raid to try to destroy one of the new emplacements before someone occupied it
Just like that bad boy who used to flatten your sandcastles at the seaside, they wrecked the emplacement, and then scampered off back to the fortress, giggling hysterically
The British were assembling their big guns in the 3rd Parallel now, while the French fortress guns tried to do as much damage as possible
The British 24pdrs now started to bombard the old stone wall - you can see the damage chips building up - the big ones are 10 hits each, the mummy-sized ones 5 hits. The British were supposed to be unaware of the true strength of the wall, but an early piece of successful espionage found out that 40 hits would create a breach. The spy in question was, very unusually for the British, of excellent quality. Sadly, he was subsequently captured and "persuaded" to reveal the size of the British powder stores to the enemy

As the damage to the wall worsened, Thiébault sent his Sappers to attempt to repair it, while it was still under fire. These brave chaps managed to repair about 3 hits-worth, but it was hopeless, and when the total damage passed 30 hits the wall was technically unreparable anyway, so the Sappers - miraculously unhurt - withdrew back into the town
I'm not sure what was going on here - Thiebault had a great idea about shifting his biggest mortars into the old castle, but it wasn't very useful. Thiébault himself was killed around this time - reportedly by a shell fragment - I think I may have a look at the mortality rates for general officers in Vauban's War - maybe this can be calmed down a little - that's two commanders lost in 2 games thus far!
When the next "Leadership" card was turned up, GdB Valladière was duly promoted to CinC, but the French Leadership Dice now went from a D12 to a D10, because of the less experienced Governor
Inevitably, the wall was breached, and the British 24pdrs turned their attention on the earth "Fausse Braie", which was rated at only 20 hits
Belatedly, the French heavy guns started to inflict some damage, and silenced two of the British 24pdrs (the ones with two white counters)
A smart move - on a "Siege Move" card, Sir Thomas Graham withdrew the two damaged 24pdrs, sending them to the rear where the chances of rallying/fixing them was better, and replacing them with a couple of 12pdrs to keep up the bombardment of the earthen bank
Almost for old times' sake, Valladière sent out a couple of Trench Raids, to try to inconvenience the bombardment as much as possible, but they were sent packing very quickly
The Morale Points indicator (which is supposed to be a secret to both parties, which is a bit tricky in a solo game!) shows that the French are not in good shape - 6 pts from disaster. On the other hand, the British were rapidly running out of powder, much having been consumed during their extended (and disappointingly ineffective) long-range exchange with the fortress guns. Thus an assault was becoming a pressing necessity, and the optional "Assault" card was duly placed in the British card deck.
However, an assault was not possible until the Fausse Braie had been breached - still progressing - I think we're up to 13/20 of a breach at this point
It collapsed soon enough - the stand-in 12pdrs were useful in getting this job done
The way is now open - Valladière had everyone rushing around inside the town, and got some of his Infantry to make a warlike appearance on the walls. The Sappers were commissioned to go to read the rule book, to see if they could barricade the back of the wall, or demolish the houses inside the breach 
The "Assault" card arrived too soon for much to be done by the defenders
Graham was allowed to call up an extra 6 battalions from the troops outside the Lines, to bolster his assaulting force - the British now had a huge numerical advantage

At this point, the game had become a tactical wargame, using Commands and Colors - the heavy siege and fortress guns, and the heavy mortars, may not be used in the tactical game. Two British battalions, including the 88th Foot, took one of the hornworks by escalade, and captured a battery of 24pdrs
The French garrison were right on the edge now...

...and the final touch was applied when the 74th Foot stormed the breach, and eliminated the last Morale Point. With a practicable breach and zero Morale, the French were obliged to surrender. Toro was in British hands

I'm still a bit shell-shocked by the experience - good fun, and very educational, but a lot of work and I have a big long list of things in the rules I need to look at again. As a siege, the narrative is pretty reasonable, I think. I got to the 8th turn (the British had enough powder left for about 2 more turns, accidental explosions notwithstanding). Since I started with the 2nd Parallel in existence as a trench, and my previous game suggests that it takes about 5 or 6 turns to get that far, at two turns to the week the Siege of Toro took about 7 weeks from starting the 1st Parallel - again, reasonable for the Peninsular War.

I may add another post to discuss the rules, and how the game went, but I'll give that some thought. At the moment, I am left to ponder what earthly use the Coehorn Mortar is. I decided to purchase some for the British, and they were a waste of time. Potentially lethal at short ranges, but useless for anything else - maybe the Coehorn Mortar is a weapon for the tactical game? Hmmm.

If you have read this far, you have my considerable respect - thank you very much.

Sunday 6 February 2022

Sieges: The Siege of Toro (1811) - Part 1 (of several)

 Another solo practice game with Piquet's Vauban's Wars. I have a few days to work with this, so I took some trouble today to set everything up and play through the first couple of turns.

This time I've carried out (committed?) a few changes to the rules, to give a better fit with my idea of how sieges in the Peninsular War operated. I'm interested to see how these work out, and may say something about them as I go through this. Some are changes to the basics of the Piquet-style game - nothing too outrageous - some are behavioural things for the armies.

This siege did not trouble the writers of factual history, but it could have done if it had happened. Toro is a town on the River Douro. The fort is a classic hybrid for the Peninsula, with the medieval walls and towers of the town and with it's 10th Century citadel, Alfonso III's El Carrañaco. In an attempt to cope with the arrival of gunpowder warfare, the side of the town away from the river has been improved in the early 18th Century by the addition of two hornworks (named Pablo y Pedro locally), which offer platforms for fortress artillery (there is no space for guns on the walls themselves), and the whole section is protected by earth banks to shield the base of the old masonry wall.

The French commander is General Thiébault, better known as some-time governor of Burgos, and his energetic 2inC, General Valladière. The British besiegers are commanded by Sir Thomas Graham, and his chief engineer is Colonel Daniel Fogarty.

As I did last time, I set up a segment of the fortress on the edge of the table, with the remainder off the table on extensions (floating in mid-air!), to provide space for the garrison troops and also a little gratuitous scenic content. The old castle on the right is entirely scenic here, being the ancient citadel from the time of Alfonso III, but it doesn't get out to play very much, so I decided to give it an outing. Made by ECO, of Bavaria, in the 1970s. The smoke puffs are Boots' finest cotton wool, and these are not just for show; they indicate which guns have fired and have not been reloaded, and then when the Reload card comes up I count the puffs to assess powder consumption
To get things off to a brisk start, I used one of the options suggested in the rule book, and set the game up with the Second Parallel complete, but with no gun emplacements added to it. Here, a little way into the action, the British have brought some guns up into new emplacements, and it is apparent that everyone is banging away in fine style. At this point the two front lines are still some 700-800 paces apart, and cannon fire is not especially effective at this range. The French have heavy mortars mounted on a couple of the ancient towers, and they did some damage to British infantry sheltering in the 2nd Parallel

You can just see in these last few pictures that the French commander has turned up a Trench Raid card, and - having learned how useful these are in the previous test game - the elite infantry companies have been sent out to cause a nuisance...
Since this is supposed to take place at night (each turn represents about 3.5 days), I dimmed the lights to give a suitably murky view of the Trench Raid action. The smoke is a bit incongruous here - the mortar is not firing at the raiders, it is just marked as unloaded. In this case, the raiders were driven off with loss, which is a fine show for an unsupported mortar crew
The other Trench Raid on the same night, however, caused some damage to a 24-pdr gun, which was withdrawn for repair and solace
Much firing going on, but very little in the way of casualties or damage - that will improve as the guns advance into the 3rd Parallel, so Graham's way forward is to start work on this parallel, and do as much damage as possible to the enemy guns from his position in the 2nd Parallel

A couple of teams of Sappers set off to advance the zig zag saps - the brown felt saps provide good cover, as we are reminded by the little sets of gabions, but the Sappers themselves are really wishing that the British guns had been more successful in quietening the French artillery, long range or not
That's as far as I've got thus far - there was a brief outbreak of disease among the British troops - like desertion, disease generates losses which cannot be recovered, though the numbers are not high. Tomorrow I'm headed for the 3rd Parallel - things should get correspondingly nastier for the fortress gunners, but I have to say I really don't fancy the sapping job!


Friday 4 February 2022

Hooptedoodle #421 - More Rubbish News

 The delayed collection service for our recyclable waste from our new tubs has now started. 

There is a slight problem - apparently the contractors don't have the right sort of vehicle available, so they are using the wrong sort of vehicle.

Here's a picture of what they are using at the moment.

It is a bit unusual, isn't it? It looks rather like the sort of thing that might be parked in a supermarket car park, so that the enthusiastic public may place their own recycling into the labelled hatches. The hatches, of course, are of small size so the public cannot place their old sofa in the waste paper compartment. Or perhaps local schoolchildren could make a trip to look at it at the County Fair, as part of their Save the Planet project?

Considering that we only have 3 types of waste to go in it, there are a surprising number of hatches - I haven't got close enough to read it yet, but something definitely not right. Miscast.

I've seen it in action a couple of times - around 8am one Monday, a man in a fluorescent pink overall appeared, running alongside the truck, and I watched him put the contents of our Recyclable Paper tub into the rearmost hatch. Because he was rather a short man, he was unable to reach high enough to up-end our paper tub inside the hatch, so he took out the paper and cardboard in handfuls, holding the tub in his other hand, and shoved it in the hatch. From where I was watching I couldn't see what happened to the plastics-and-metals tub, but after they were gone I did observe that they had dropped a fair amount of paper and plastic litter (mostly small items) on the grass verge, which of course I had to clear up. They had also left a quantity of small items in the bottom of each tub - till receipts, the little pop-tops off yogurt drink cartons, stuff like that - if they have to empty the tubs by hand rather than gravity, that's sort of what I would expect.

Not great; I would hesitate to challenge the guys on the job, since I would bet they are not enjoying it much. Never mind, perhaps they'll get the right sort of truck soon, and things will improve.

I tell you what this truck really reminds me of, it's the scene from "Dad's Army" when they converted Jonesy's butcher's van so they could shoot out of the sides. Now that puts a more cheerful aspect on the thing altogether, but I am getting a little fed up with cleaning up after they've gone.   

I couldn't find a video clip of Jonesy's van in action, but here's a song from my youth, all about food waste and garbage collection. What could be wrong with that?