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

Thursday 27 October 2022

WSS: Battle of Wartenried - Twilight of the Sun King Playtest

 Yesterday (evening for me, late morning for him) Jon Freitag was kind enough to join me by Zoom, to give the Twilight of the Sun King [ToSK] rules a hefty workout. One of the strengths of the rule set is its ability to handle large combats, so I set up an action involving all my Brits (that was Jon), defending a ridge position against all my French (that was me).

Schomberg's Horse - award-winning performance

I had tweaked the rules a little to give a battalion-level game, and had taken some trouble to simplify the amount of reading required by removing all reference to pikes, squares, light horse, Turks, GåPå and so on which are not relevant to my bit of the Wars.

I'll give a brief summary of our findings on the rules later. Here are some photos of the action. The French produced an elephantine attack in deep series of lines, with cavalry covering the flanks, and were well beaten. The attack on the right was far more badly disordered by the shallow river than I had expected, and never reached the ridge itself, suffering badly from the British guns. Much of the action in the centre was dominated by cavalry - the outstanding "special mention" has to be Schomberg's Horse, who eliminated 3 French cavalry units, one battery and two battalions in a remarkable tour of the field. They will appear here and there in what follows (well done, chaps... swine!).

Some of the main areas of combat were sadly bogged down by the slow rate of resolution of melee action - a lot of instances of units passing morale tests in unlikely situations, and the procedure of one lot of testing for each side every turn is mostly pretty turgid. Eventually a French surrender was necessary - we made very heavy going of the assault, and were slowed by the minutiae of manoeuvre, which I'm sure had a lot to do with my own incompetence. I did learn that getting your cavalry caught in column is not a good idea!


Ah - French cavalry in column, with no room for manoeuvre, are shown the error of their ways

...just hold your fire for a minute, will you, lads?...

This was the big French cavalry advance in column - like snowballs in Hell

Some of the cavalry vs foot melees ground on for ages...

French right attack disrupted by crossing streams and enemy artillery fire

Gendarmérie de France fail to sweep unsupported infantry (Hamilton's Irish) off the hill

Schomberg's boys get another photo opportunity - lest we forget

The Régiment de Navarre receives vague news that somewhere in front their army has been thumped

I was really very excited by these rules, so was looking forward to giving them a good workout. Like the old Huzzah! Napoleonic rules, they shift the generals' focus away from nonsense like loading and firing, and they must concern themselves with how the units are getting on. The commander's job is to get his army to where he wants it, and the assumption is that fighting will take place by itself. All combat is abstracted to a core series of morale tests, failing which can produce results ranging from loss of strength (unit morale) to "rout", which is break up and elimination of a unit. The manoeuvring involves "Action Tests" for complicated moves such as wheels or changes of formation, which depend on a very simple dice roll.

Jon and I had an entertaining few hours, let it be said, but we were left with some unease about how the rules worked. Some of the individual combat results were just plain silly, and the re-roll system tends to accentuate this [maybe the original 2-average-dice set-up would produce less extremes than the new 2D6 system?]. The morale tests are heavy going, though you do speed up as you get used to them, but a lot of the time not much happens, the rules are often unclear, and melees tended to drag on beyond what seemed reasonable. Manoeuvre is probably the most irritating bit - the rules to handle manoeuvre are quite detailed and really rather fiddly - on a non-gridded field there are lots of special situations which don't seem to be covered.

I was intrigued by what we learned, and there are some good bits in there, but overall the game is not something that either of us would rush to repeat. Each to his own taste, of course, but I found it heavy going, and the morale tests produced some questionable results and generally took a lot of time and effort.

Sorry, but I have bought the rules (including the scenario books which give updates), and spent some time studying them and following the Q&A on the Facebook page. I don't wish to be unfair to anyone, the booklet is a pleasant read and gives a refreshing view on gaming, but I am also left with the impression that the latest version of the game, as played by regulars, has evolved to something rather different from the booklet you buy from the Pike & Shot Society. No doubt someone will take me severely to task here, but that is my take on it. The Brigade Level game with 10mm troops might be a different exercise altogether, but the rules as we played them, interesting though the ideas are, do not tick the boxes I am looking for!

My sincere thanks to Jon, for his enthusiasm and excellent company; whatever the delivery on the rules themselves, it was a fun session, and also very educational! Mission accomplished, and we have agreed that we should meet again in the virtual world of Zoom Wars, and soon!

Tuesday 25 October 2022

WSS: Fighting Tomorrow - Intercontinental Playtest Session!

 If my broadband service stands up to the excitement, the plan is to stage a Zoom playtest of my heavily-edited, battalion scale version of Twilight of the Sun King tomorrow with the bold Jon Freitag. I'm really looking forward to it. Here are some previews of the battlefield (things may move around a bit before we start!).

Some of my hex scenery is in play, as you see, but this will not be a hex game tomorrow. It is quite a change to be able to pack the boys in on the "analogue" battlefield! Here we have a British army (dressed in red) defending a ridge position, near the town of Wartenried, against a rather larger French army (mostly not dressed in red). It does look a bit heavy for a test game, but one of the marketed attractions of the ruleset is that it works well with big battles, so let's check it out!

 More soon.

Sunday 23 October 2022

Hooptedoodle #432 - Toadies, and lots of 'em

 No - not a critique of the political class of the day - I am steering clear of those fellows. It is the time of year for us to see a crop of toadstools in the garden, and this year's show is very impressive. This is probably because it has been raining constantly during Toadie Week, but is also because the roots left under the lawns by the removal of two juniper trees, two years ago, are now very obviously rotting nicely.

Each year I promise to photograph them, as a commemoration of the Turning of the Seasons (or something), but I usually forget, and they are very fragile things. This year they are, as you see, a bit special, so I thought I'd show them off.

Friday 14 October 2022

WSS: The 5th Army - Flags in a Hurry

 My new project extension - the addition of a small contingent of troops from Hesse-Kassel - is under way. For this phase I'll be including a few more Irregular figures in the mix, to add variety and also because I have a lot of them, and I'm starting to run low on some of the Les Higgins stocks.

To help the Irregular boys fit in nicely, I have purchased a supply of 12mm brass discs, to add a little height to the Irregulars, and also give something closer to the standard Higgins bases.

The other thing I need, before painted soldiers start arriving, is a set of laser-printed flags to cover the units I am intending to field. I knocked up some flag images and emailed them yesterday to my man Malcolm at the local print-shop. He rang me this morning to tell me my flags were ready, and I collected them this afternoon. I don't have anything similar to compare this with, but that is an impressive turnaround by my usual standards.

I am more than a little shame-faced to air my home-brewed flags where comparisons might be made with the real deal, but felt that they might be of interest, and might even be useful if anyone else is considering a Hesse-Kassel force.

The Leibfahne flags are mostly guesswork, and the rest are sort of OK at best. Please note that the green surrounds on the white flags are not part of the flag, they are to make it easier to cut a white flag out of a white sheet (an eternal problem). From starting to think about this, these flags have gone from sketches to laser-printed sheet in about 48 hours. What they lack in quality they made up in rapid arrival! The small items at the bottom are cavalry flags.

These are intended for use with 20mm figures - I would certainly not recommend them for 28mm or larger.



Hooptedoodle #431 - A Little Fresh Air

 I've had a fairly suboptimal week, all round. I am pleased to record the fact that the decorator finished painting the outside of the house yesterday, firstly because such projects rather take over the diary and the daily routine, secondly because we were extraordinarily lucky with the weather, and lastly because he has done a wonderful job. Very pleased indeed.

Chateau Foy resplendent in new paint, ready for the Winter - very clean and shiny indeed. 
We even have a lovely day to show it off to advantage
Apart from that, the week has been a bit lumpy. I am, of course, depressed to bits by the relentless news of the Real World, though the reality aspect is becoming questionable, and have tried to avoid contact with the radio news for a while. Late last night, while I was sorting out my books upstairs, I had Radio 3 on, and a piece of music came on which stopped me in my tracks. This is The Lark, by the splendid Kate Rusby, which I have heard before, though not this version.

 It would be melodramatic (not to say unmanly, chaps) to claim that it moved me to tears, but let's just say it came close. It comes as a bit of a shock to realise that, in a world dominated by greed, self-interest and cruelty, there are still things as lovely as this.

This was a revised recording made about 10 years ago, and I am delighted that it also features Nic Jones, one of the lost legends of British folk music, who was forced to retire from performing when he just about killed himself in a car crash in the 1980s. A real voice from the past - Jones has struggled with physical injuries and brain damage, so it is pretty much inspirational that he should be present on this recording. 


Saturday 8 October 2022

Another New Gizmo - a Light-Box

 Something else to fiddle with. I seem to have had a sudden burst of energy this last week or two, and have ordered up a couple of things that I have been dithering about for a while. Yesterday I took delivery of a photographer's light-box, which is all new to me. I've been turning out poor photos of my soldiers for years now, and constantly saying how I'm going to buy (or make) a light-box. My entry into the twilight world of gloss varnish for my WSS figures has made photography even more tricky.

Anyway, I bought one. I bought a 16inch cube Neewer, and it arrived courtesy of Amazon's own delivery van. All good, apart from the fact that the driver leaned the box against my front door, which had just been painted, but there is another coat to go on, so it will be OK. You'd have thought that the groundsheet and the paint tins would have been a clue, but not so. Never mind.

If you have used one of these things (and a lot of people use them regularly, without making all the fuss I am) then you will be underwhelmed by my new venture!

The box folds flat for storage and transport, and it erects like some insane play-tent. If you are a Velcro freak you would love this. I got everything working, and now will have to read up a bit about how best to use it, but I'm happy with the apparent possibilities. That's another excuse crossed off the list; if my photos are still rubbish then it's down to me now.

I couldn't close without some evidence, could I? Here are some photos. I should have tried something shiny as well, but I'll work up to that.

I thought the 12inch one might be a bit cramped, so I got the 16inch; it has a ring of little LEDs in the top, and I set it up with a background sheet, and with the diffuser fitted. The light is controlled by a dimmer box

Here's a plastic kit building - the diffused lighting does away with the slightly soapy appearance you normally get with matt plastics
Naturally, I have to add some soldiers - 1/70eme - very smart
And, since I am an idiot, I tried switching the flash on as well, to see what happens - just makes the colours a bit paler, and adds some shadows. Still, it had to be done, I suppose

I believe a serious photographer would fall about laughing at my efforts, but I found it easy to use, if a bit fiddly to set up. I'll find out a bit more about how to make best use of it. If I find myself tempted to buy a better camera, I'll say so here, so you can shout at me and tell me not to be so daft.

Thursday 6 October 2022

Zoom: Final Check on the New Set-Up

 Yesterday Jon was kind enough to join me for a final test of my redesigned Zoom system. What I needed was confirmation that the video looks good enough at his end for a game to be practical, and I'm delighted to report that we have a thumbs-up.

I set up a WSS battlefield, for something to look at (boards with hex side up, to give some more detail to check on), placed one of my new StreamCams at each end of the table (that would normally mean one camera on each flank, since my games are normally played across the table). I hosted the "meeting" on my desktop iMac, connected to Cam1, and my laptop was a guest, connected to Cam2. It may be possible to use camera sharing to simplify this further, but the length of the cable runs is problematic, so the "one computer at each end of the table" works nicely for the present. Remote generals may select ("pin" in Zoom-speak) either of the two table views at will, without affecting anyone else.

This table is 8ft x 5ft, and the auto-focus is switched off on each camera. Here's a screenshot of the host's Gallery view of the test - click on the image to enlarge it. The picture on the right is Cam1 (looking from the Garden Room end!), so this view is direct from Cam1, as received, and should be as perfect as the camera and the computer's HD handling can produce; on the left is Cam2 (looking from the Hallway end), and this picture has been received by the host via broadband, courtesy of Zoom's server. Thus comparison of the quality of the two pictures gives a direct assessment of the resolution loss caused by the trip to Zoom and back.

Things to note here are:

(1) There is obviously a slight degradation between right and left, but it isn't bad at all, is it? The loss is less than I expected.

(2) For a remote attendee, both views would be of the quality of the left hand picture, since (obviously) all video is coming from Zoom.

(3) We agreed that some supporting maps and documentation would be necessary, since you really can't identify a unit completely from the view on screen, but Jon feels that this set-up would handle a game with no problems. 

Good - I'm ready to get back to this stuff now. I shall not be listing my webcams on eBay! Interested guest generals please form an orderly queue. Thanks again, Jon.

Rods, Poles & Perches – and BWs


Ruminations concerning the interesting matter of ground measurements on the tabletop


I have my own Prinz Eugen rules for the WSS working pretty well now. They could do with a lot of playing in, but I’m pleased with them. Now that I have just about got them sorted out, the Imp of Perversity bites, and I am suddenly very interested in the Twilight of the Sun King rules from the Pike and Shot Society, for the same period. I do not propose to jump ship yet again, but there some central ideas in this game which I like a great deal – these are philosophical approaches rather than cunning calculations – and I think they could potentially enable bigger games than Prinz Eugen. Whatever. I make no apology for my interest, and at present I am only trying to prepare a working draft for a few solo work-throughs, to see how it goes.

My WSS armies have been deliberately designed so that the basing and the unit organisation will work with Prinz Eugen (which is played on a hex grid), and with Beneath the Lily Banners, and Maurice, and Field of Battle, all of which are not. There is an implied ground scale in my own game, to be sure, but frontages and measured moves and all that are less important in the hexagonal world.


My cavalry regts (3 squadrons) and infantry battalions are all based on 3 stands, each 50mm wide, the implied ground scale being 1mm = 1 metre, so that a unit in line will be 150m wide, which is getting on for 200 paces. That’s about right, according to Nosworthy and Chandler, and I use a single vanilla organisation for all nations. Near enough for jazz.



As published, Twilight of the Sun King may be played in “Standard, (Brigade) Scale” or “Regimental Scale”. Central to this is that the game units are each 2 bases wide (BW = “base widths”), and all distances, battlefield sizes, ranges, movement allowances and everything else are measured in BWs. In the Standard game, the unit is a brigade, assumed to be 4 regiments/battalions wide, and the frontage of 2BW is assumed to be 600m. In the Regimental game, the unit is what 100 years later might have been termed a half-brigade – 2 battalions, say – and the frontage of 2BW is now 300m. I am working with a lower level still – in my experimental version, a unit is a single battalion or cavalry regiment, with a total frontage of 150m (for infantry that’s about 600 men in, say, 4 ranks, plus some spaces), thus for me BW, which is half that, is equivalent to 75m – getting on for 100 paces.


That’s all fine – in fact the authors of TotSK should really have been a bit more specific about some aspects of the game scaling, I think; if you double all linear distances for unit frontages and movement then you have to do the same for weapon ranges, and the assumptions for the elapsed time in a turn are affected too. Do not worry, my version will be sorted for this.


Next issue for me is that my units, as described above, are actually on 3 bases each, so the BW terminology becomes confusing, since my BW will be the width of 1.5 of my bases in line, which is 75m, sure enough, and is correctly half a unit, but it has nothing to do with the actual bases in use for my game.


So I need some new word which is less uncomfortable for my own game context.




I’ve seen a number of rulesets where they used an idea like Base Widths for a scalable game; I recall that Doc Monaghan’s Big Battalions used “bands”, and I’ve seen “spans”, which smacks of biometrics. Other devices too.


If I have a new unit of measurement, then it would be nice if it had a real-world provenance; military would be even better. This terminology thing gets twitchy quite quickly. TotSK also measures the strength of a unit in “hits”, which I find counterintuitive; it doesn’t mean “how many hits they can inflict on someone else?”, it means “how many hits (morale failures) does it take to eliminate them?”. To me, this is equivalent to stating the establishment strength of the Coldstream Guards in “corpses”. Something not quite right there. Similarly, I wouldn’t like to measure the strength of a game unit in “tiddliwinks” – not dignified enough.


You can take this too far. I had a friend, years ago, who insisted that all measurements on his table should be expressed in yards. He even had a home-made ruler which showed measurements in scaled-down yards. This becomes silly when some stipulated, scientifically authentic yardage in the rules has to be converted into 3.7 inches for the benefit of those players who only have normal rulers with them. In passing, this friend resisted all attempts to update his games to metres (which idea was only put forward to wind him up, of course), and refused to accept that his imposition of yards on Ancient Romans made little sense in any case.


So what is out there? I need an old-fashioned sounding, preferably military, word which means “75 metres”, or even “about 100 paces”. I often read contemporary accounts which talk about a distance of “half musket shot”, which is the right sort of idea, but in a game this would be confusing when discussing anything other than, well, firing muskets. I could, of course, call it a “stroll”, or a “bong”, or even a Base Width, but none of these is ideal.


The history of measurement systems in Britain, I thought, should offer something suitable, but I haven’t found anything yet, though I’ve looked at Scottish and Viking land measurement systems. I love these old terms like “toise” (which was about 2 yards), and all my siege plans are suitably marked out in toises. People talk colloquially of “a stone’s throw”, but it’s too vague unless you define it in terms of something else. A big stone? An Olympic thrower?


It really doesn’t matter, but any ideas? If you have no sensible ideas then even silly ones would be welcome. I am old enough to remember when athletics events used to be measured in miles, and all that. My budding career as an athlete seems to have been adversely impacted by metrication, by the way – just another bad break, I guess. However, I remember that the 220yds used to be referred to (only by journalists, of course) as “the furlong”, and furlongs are still sort of alive and well in the world of horse racing; there never was a traditional name for the 100yds, though. No-one ever won the “musket shot sprint” event at my school sports.


[I’d also like to have a moan here about some very odd quirks in Blogger tonight – I’ve had an interesting challenge to get this post to stay where I put it, without changing the formatting.]




Tuesday 4 October 2022

WSS: Just One More, Then

 Time to tidy up my brushes and paint pots, and get my desk cleared ready to fettle some more figures for proper painting. The plan is to get another package of WSS soldiers away to Lee later this week. 

Since I was pleased with my work on generals over the last week or so, I did one more quickie before the tidying starts. This extra figure is one of Eric Knowles' veterans - a wash in warm water, a bit of freshening of colours and some minor chip repair, a coat of new varnish and we're done. Otherwise the figure is as it was when it arrived here 3 years ago. I have no idea what the uniform or the army is, but this period is great for randomly dressed officers. The number of minor principalities which took part, and the complicated (and sometimes fleeting) alliances, not to mention the vagaries of personal vanity and non-military garb, all mean that a General officer will never go to waste - there is plenty of scope for lending them out as need arises!

Nothing particularly special about this man and his horse; this is Les Higgins MP23, the only mounted officer in the original range, complete with baton. One noteworthy point in this case is that this really is a remarkably clean, sharp casting, so it must be a very early example. This fellow must have spent many years lying in one of Eric's cucumber boxes, in his best fighting gear, just waiting for the call.

His cuirass and general appearance suggest to me that he might be a German of some sort - maybe a cavalry commander - but which army he will appear in is up for grabs. Whatever - willkommen.

Ironically, a small parcel of new W&N Series 7 brushes arrived from CurtisWard yesterday, so I'll look forward to getting them into operation sometime soon, but for the moment, apart from being carefully counted and checked over, they can have a rest until my next painting session.

Monday 3 October 2022

WSS: British Command Group - Eventually!

 It's taken me a while, but I've finally painted up some companion figures to complement the splendid British General that Aly Morrison painted for me last December. So, suitably varnished and based, here they are.

The riders are all Irregular figures. The Commander's horse is an OOP Morion 30YW casting, the other two horses are by Les Higgins. The Commander has been sitting on a temporary single stand since December (he did get a walk-on role in my Battle of Ober Eschenbach, however, in May), so that's another worthwhile tick in a box.

Thanks again to Aly, of course, and to Old John for the Morion horse. The trumpeter is straight from the pages of Osprey's "Marlborough's Army". Once again, I am reminded that I must set myself up with a proper light-box and take some better photos of these armies!

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

Further to comment from David (below), here are the existing Command stands with flags for the Bavarians and Austrians. Nothing very clever!


Saturday 1 October 2022

WSS: Some More Generals

 I've been working away at some more WSS general staff figures for a few days. I have a couple more examples of the new casting ready for duty:

Another French one...
...and a British one

I'm also working on a British C-in-C group, but for this I have to finish off Marlborough's trumpeter - straight from the pages of the Osprey book! I'm not happy with the current selections of gold paint I have available - this guy will be covered in fancy lace - so I need to experiment a little with mixing some more subtle shades. Sounds like a job for a Sunday.

The challenge of trying to take some half-decent photos of my gloss-varnished soldiers reminds me - yet again - that I am still intending to get myself an unpretentious lightbox of some sort. Must get on with that. 

Oh yes - horses...

I'm keen to avoid producing impossible colourings for horses. I used to have a little book which gave very useful guidelines for correct combinations - the book was intended for horse fans rather than toy soldier painters, and of course it reflected modern horses rather than historical ones. Whatever, the point is that it got chucked out with a load of magazines and junk a couple of years ago (I think), and I miss it. My next door neighbour, 400 yards away, is a riding school and livery stable, and the owner, Carol, is delighted to keep me right on horse facts.

I try to keep my miniature horses, painted in my plodding toy soldier style, to varieties I can manage. This time I attempted a palomino-style horse, just for a change [not least because I have a pot of Foundry paint called Palomino], as you will see. I rather like him, but my expert source tells me that palominos would be very rare in Europe in the early 1700s - their use was largely restricted to the personal stable of the Spanish royal family.

I don't care. This French general obviously is well-connected! I shall, of course, refer to his horse as Trigger.