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

Friday 22 December 2023

Season's Greetings

 I wish everyone a warm, peaceful Christmas.

I am choked up with my reaction to the state of the world at present, so I send no messages, other than this wintry shot of one of my favourite cities; a personal reminder of how privileged I feel to have spent so many years of my life as a citizen of Europe.

Regensburg, and its ancient bridge over the Danube

Friday 15 December 2023

Hooptedoodle #455 - Everything in Order

 Many years ago, maybe 40 years ago, a relative of mine, whom I shall call Wilson (since that was his name), told me in the pub that he had invested in a personal project which he hoped might change his life. 

Wilson had until recently been one of the older students at a Teachers' Training College (Alnwick College, in fact), and among his age-group peers he made some close friends who were very seriously intellectual - at least they seemed so to Wilson. He enjoyed the company and the elevated chat, but secretly was always rather humbled by his own lack of learning.

The week of our pub conversation, he had signed up for a new, weekly-instalment colour magazine which would build up, week by week, into a fine encyclopedia. Wilson was smart enough to realise that having an encyclopedia sitting on a bookshelf gave the chance to look things up, but didn't necessarily make you any wiser. However, a weekly magazine was a different thing altogether; if he read each magazine as it arrived then, in a large (but finite) number of weeks, he would eventually know everything there was to know. A superb plan, you must admit.

Sadly, it didn't work out. He paid up his subscription, bought the special binders which would hold his collection, and proudly showed me the first few instalments as they arrived. After about 7 weeks the magazines stopped, the company went bust, and Wilson and a load of other unfortunates were left with very little to show for their brave investment.

During a subsequent pub session, he told me that it was especially frustrating, since everything had started so well, but he ended up knowing an awful lot about aardvarks, abalone and Aberdeen, but not very much more. As he said at the time, he would have to pick his conversations carefully.

This story has nothing going for it at all, except that I remember it with affection and it impressed me at the time with the futility of owning part of the first volume of an encyclopedia, and I liked the idea of knowledge and enlightenment arriving in alphabetical order. [If anyone reading this doesn't know what an encyclopedia was, suggest you look it up on Google.]

I had a recent reminder of Wilson.

At the end of last year I treated myself to a few BBC DVD box-sets - they were on special offer - and one of the things I bought was the complete set of Shakepeare's plays, which were filmed by the BBC between the late 1970s and the mid 1980s (I think), with really excellent casting. I had seen a couple of them over the years, but I really fancied buying them in, and the challenge of living long enough to watch them all was another driver. I'm actually getting through them pretty well, and enjoying them - well, most of them. I've filled in a lot of gaps in dodgy periods of my historical knowledge, been absolutely thrilled by some of them and had some good laughs. The only plays which I have given up on thus far have been Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Love's Labour's Lost, mostly because I didn't find the actors sufficiently engaging. 

I don't propose to attempt my own spotty reviews of Bill S's back catalogue, which seems to be generally regarded as OK. The important point here is that there are an awful lot of DVDs in the set, and they are packed very cleverly in some special plastic cases which require careful handling. Since the plays are arranged alphabetically in the packaging, and I have already had a few minor disasters dropping DVDs all over the floor, I decided that by far the easiest way to approach this challenge was simply to watch them in the same order. That's the punch line - that's as amusing as this gets, though personally I find it very funny indeed. I am so delighted by the hysterical idea of "doing Shakespeare" in alphabetical order that I am sticking with it. I've just finished Part 1, which gets me up to Macbeth.

I'm going to have a week or two's break before I carry on with Part 2, but am looking forward to it. In the meantime, my specialist topic for Master Mind could be "Shakespeare's Plays, from A to M". I think poor old Wilson would have been impressed.


Saturday 9 December 2023

Beta-Test Solo WSS Campaign System - 1st action

 I've had to rationalise my hobby time lately because of some Real-World stuff, so I've taken the opportunity to do some work on my solo campaign system, to be used with my Corporal John rules. The great advantage of doing this on an informal basis is that I can fix it on the spot if it needs it. That's right, I can inflate the tyres while I'm travelling along.

Yesterday the campaign threw up an encounter game - fairly small. I must give the Jolly Broom Man a grateful shout for his help in doing sanity checking and quality testing on walk-throughs (walksthrough?) - thank you sir, and God bless you.

This first fight was the Action at La Bienveillance. An interesting mix of army types; the Franco/Bavarian force (under Feldmarschal Graf von Arco) fielded a predominantly cavalry force, the Allies (under Generalmajor Wissenstein) had a more traditional mixture of arms, but were secretly very scared that the hordes of French cavalry would sweep them away!

Austrians in nice straight lines await the arrival of the enemy

A win required the accumulation of 8 Victory Pts; there were no positional objectives giving bonus VPs.

Some form of narrative should emerge from my photos; a quick spoiler is that the Allies were surprised to win by 8-6, but it could genuinely have gone either way. As is customary with Corporal John, and all other members of the Commands & Colors family, units absorbed early losses without much effect, but as attrition and morale failures built up the excitement grew and units were eliminated more rapidly, resulting in not a few surprises.

View near the commencement from the Allied right flank. Wissenstein has command of his own Infantry division at this end, while Vielgluck has a mixed command of infantry (some Hessian) and cuirassiers on the Allied left
From behind the French left, we can see that the Allied infantry made a rush to take the woods to their front. On the French side, Arco commands a mixture of Bavarian cavalry and infantry at this end, while General Chatrier has all the French line cavalry for the entire campaign army at the far end
Here's Chatrier himself, leading some of King Louis' finest into action on the French right
On the other side of the hill, the Austrian cuirassiers await the onslaught, more nervous than they look
Austrian infantry stayed safely in the woods near the village of La Bienveillance; this was the cat & mouse period at the start, when casualties were few. The elite Bavarian grenadiers suffered badly from being exposed to Austrian artillery fire
Chatrier's attack goes in; he had a big superiority in cavalry on this flank, but the fighting went on all afternoon. Inevitably, the Austrian horse were eventually worn down, but the French suffered too, and this sector of the fighting probably tied up more French troops then might have been expected

On the other flank, Wissenstein is under attack in his wood

Time for Wissenstein to emerge from the woods
1st Bn of IR Thürheim seized one end of the village
Around this time, the French cavalry overran one of the Austrian batteries, though they lost a lot of men in the process
Wissenstein's boys are out of the wood, and advancing bravely...

The field is pretty empty on on the French right now
...back on the other flank, Wissenstein's infantry are withstanding the efforts of the Bavarian cavalry, and causing them much loss...
...though there was a major reverse when the 2 battalions of the Bavarian Leibregiment took back the village in devastating style. In particular, the 2nd bn of IR Thurheim retreated a total of 600 paces in one move, and were so upset by the experience that they just kept going
Back on the French right, Chatrier with one of the remaining French cavalry units stood and glowered at the last of the Austrian cuirassiers, neither unit having the energy to put paid to the other and potentially win the game 
Wissenstein's infantry - notably a couple of battalions from IR Lothringen and one from IR Scharfenstein, finally eliminated another of the Bavarian cuirassier regiments, the VP score became 8-6 and the Allies had won
And these were the cards that helped to do it!

I now have started the bookkeeping exercise of working out what proportion of each unit's losses will rejoin the ranks after the battle, to carry forward into the next steps of the campaign. I have a couple of notes about things in the rules that might need a tweak or two, but pretty good so far. I will probably be a couple of weeks before I resume my efforts, but I can pick up and put down this little campaign as time allows, so it's a useful little project.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Guest Spot - More Big Higginses!

 Many thanks to Albannach, who sent me photos of some additions to his fine collection of 30mm "Jason" figures by Les Higgins. 

He says:

"Attached a few photos of my latest haul of Higgins 30mm, plus a Stadden mounted general. Just finished basing them after having got them back from being painted by a very talented chap at the club. 

The painter is a chap by the name of Will Sykes – I don’t think I could get to that standard myself, and I wanted them to look as good as possible."

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Hooptedoodle #454 - Clearing Up after Babet [2]

 What hedge?

The boys came back this morning and finished the job in about 90 minutes.

Not a wonderful view, but better than a bombsite. Onward and upward.

Hooptedoodle #453 - Clearing Up after Babet [1]

 This follows from my earlier post about Storm Babet wrecking our hedge in October. I wasn't really expecting them until next month, but I got a phone call from the Tree Men yesterday afternoon to say that they were on a job in a nearby village, and had been obliged to stop work rather earlier than planned, so would it be all right if they came round and made a start?

Well, of course. Some quick opening of gates and shifting of cars and we were ready to go.

The guys didn't have all the gear with them that they might have needed (stump grinder, for one thing), but it didn't matter, since there was not a lot of daylight left, and they were only gong to manage to get some of the work done in any case.

As usual, they were fast - they do not take prisoners - and they were extremely noisy (that gives a little payback to my neighbour who insists on using a chain saw to cut up logs every Sunday morning).

I had wondered how many wagon loads would be needed to shift a 40ft x 12ft hedge 4ft thick. The answer, of course, is not very many. In about an hour, this machine reduced 3/4 of the hedge to a layer of chippings about 8 inches deep in the bottom of the truck. Some racket though. Come on now, if you thought of the movie Fargo, even fleetingly, please go and stand in the corner 

They'll be back within a couple of weeks. I know I have their full attention, since I haven't paid them anything yet. Things are pretty messy, but we are getting there. Having had years of grief from my neighbours about the hedge, it would be ironic if I also got grief for removing it. Whatever, things are moving.

Without wishing to get ahead of the game, I have been looking at possible varieties of evergreen hedges; I have an open mind on the subject, though I have no intention of allowing a Leylandii anywhere on the premises ever again. There are some nice laurels.


Friday 24 November 2023

Hooptedoodle #452 - All they that take the sword

 For the sake of my mental well-being I have been avoiding getting too caught up in the latest adventures of the 45th President of the United States. What I have seen suggests that there is something fundamentally flawed about the Constitution and the legal system, in the sense that it never seems to have occurred to any of the lawmakers over the years that there could ever be anything like the current situation. The courts and the government appear to be powerless to control someone who sets out to be sufficiently bloody-minded; the whole edifice is in thrall to that badly-behaved boy who is prepared to set fire to the classroom, here and now, rather than admit that he hasn't done his homework. The scariest bit is that he derives a lot of strength from the rapt applause which greets all this foolishness.

Spare us the tough face, mate - you're too fat and slow to hurt anyone

It is not particularly astute (or original) to see parallels with German politics in the 1920s-30s. I have been reading (again) about the interwar period in Europe, and one thing that I was struck by (again) was the enormity of the change in public opinion in Germany over a short period. From being a rogue troublemaker, viewed primarily as a temporary nuisance, Hitler somehow became an unstoppable force. Against the odds? OK - we could debate this in the pub, but was it inevitable, after all? It seems to me that there must have been some key moments in his progress where Adolf might have fizzled out - disappeared from view. Unlucky breaks? Complacency? Propaganda? There must have been some identifiable points where he was lucky to get away with it.

"Leider habe ich heute meine Ukulele vergessen..."
I'm not looking for a learned analysis of German socio-political history from the period, just some suggestions about where it could have worked out differently. Any thoughts? There were definite actions which no-one dreamed were possible - execution of Ernst Röhm and the leaders of the SA might be an example. That's just a start.

In his own career since his failed attempt to burn down the Reichstag on Jan 6th, the aforementioned 45th President, a known student of Hitler's speeches, seems to exhibit no awareness of how what goes around comes around. If he succeeds in normalising all this talk of violence, leaving vaguely expressed threats online to be fulfilled by the more stupid of his followers, I would have thought it might just occur to him that someone from the other side might, in turn, decide that the world would be a safer, better place without him. If I were in his position, making all those public campaigning appearances (in the fabulously glamorous school gymnasiums of the marginal States), I would certainly be a bit nervous.

Just saying.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Hooptedoodle #451 - Accidental Progress: a celebratory but extremely boring post about computing

 I'll keep this brief. It may seem an odd topic for a blog post, but someone might find it useful, so here it is.

I've been a Mackintosh user since 2014; I'm on my second desktop Mac now, and I like them, though I have become suspicious of the customer-support politics over this period.

After I'd had my first Mac for a year or so, I was notified that there was a new operating system. As I recall, I was using Mountain Lion at the time, and the new upgrade was El Capitan. Being a lifelong Windows user, I requested the update immediately, and so it came to pass.

Good news and bad; the new MacOS worked very nicely, but 3 non-Apple applications which I had bought and installed on the machine no longer worked. One was a rather good pdf editor, one was the Mac version of a graphics editor which I had used and relied on for years. I can't remember what the third was, but there were three. I contacted Apple's customer support people, and was told that they had no responsibility for other people's software, and I should complain to the originators. Right - message received, loud and clear. I coped, but my view was readjusted by the experience. Thereafter, I tried to hold off on MacOS upgrades as long as possible.

My latest machine is running very nicely. I've had Monterey running since I got it, and I've been badgered fairly constantly to upgrade to Ventura, almost from the outset. I've just been deleting the notifications - I have sufficient investment in MSOffice for Mac and a couple of other things to be nervous about a repeat of the El Capitan experience. Also, I have to say that I had read some criticisms of Ventura on-line which were not encouraging (though, of course, I mostly didn't understand them).

Yesterday I was notified that there was a new version of my installed Monterey available - version 13.7.1, I think. I had no objection to a version change for the existing OS, if it delayed the arrival of the dreaded Ventura for a while. So when it offered to update my system overnight, I took a deep breath and clicked OK

What happened next was a bit of a surprise. The machine set about installing the new system immediately, not overnight, and told me that it was Sonoma 14.1.1. Good heavens, I thought to myself, what the bleep is Sonoma?

It took about 2 hours to download, prepare and install the new software. Sonoma, apparently, is newer even than Ventura, so I was expecting the worst. Well, I have to say that thus far I find no problems - I've not lost anything, as far as I can tell, and some of my existing app software is running much faster.

Perhaps my trust should be restored?