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

Thursday 12 January 2023

Hooptedoodle #437 - The Tricky Business of Suet Pellets

 Our garden birds are getting very well fed at the moment. One of the most popular lines is Suet Pellets, which are placed in a hanging feeder, ideal for the birds which can cope with eating from a perched position. Some of them can't manage this, but in general that works out OK, since the perchers are very messy eaters, and there is a lot of stuff dropped on the flower bed, where the ground-feeders can tidy up.

This is a bit of a problem for the smaller ground feeders - notably robins, wrens, blackbirds and thrushes, who tend to get trampled under foot and bullied by the bigger birds. Accordingly, my wife has improvised a caged feeder, in which she places a daily supply of the pellets. The little birds can hop into the cage, delicately pick up a pellet, and fly away with it to a safe eating place. The blackbirds have discovered that they can reach in through the holes and pick up odd pellets, which is fine, and it puts a stop to the wood pigeons just sitting down in the middle of the food and hoovering the lot.

The pigeons are really not pleased about this, and I am interested to see that they have attempted to solve the problem by a sort of outflanking manoeuvre. If they walk far enough, the reasoning goes, they must get past this stupid cage thing.

Here you see them at work. Interesting. They will probably out-breed all competitors in the near future, but I reckon they should not be placed in charge of strategic planning. Apart from the two individuals being distracted by the need to stop the other one getting any, there is a final irony as a bluetit pops in to take the only pellet they might have reached.

Sunday 8 January 2023

Hooptedoodle #436 - Invasion of the Big Vegans

 Sunday morning lie-in was disturbed today by the realisation that we were not alone...

A trio of ponies had escaped from the field opposite, which (for historical reasons) is known as The Walled Garden, and were munching on our grass. They also broke an old bird bath (no great loss) and generally expressed their opinion over the lawns.

A neighbour kindly closed our gate to stop them straying further (please don't ask why the gate wasn't closed in the first place), and a girl came from the Stables (up the lane) to recover them. 

She promises someone will come and clean up a bit - I'm not sure how far down the food chain in the Stables hierarchy you have to be to do the bucket and shovel job. I'll be pleased to get the mess cleared up, since a lady is coming to look at our garden this week, with a view to taking over as our regular gardener, and it might not be a good start to have the place covered in you-know-what.

Anyway, panic over, no horses were hurt or upset, and our day is definitely up and running. It is surprising how large a smallish pony is in the wrong setting.

No - that's not right at all...

The rescue crew in the hi-viz coat is included for scale purposes

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Kilsyth (bis) - 1645

Baillie's reserve troops - Fife foot and a medium gun on his left. Yellow counters indicate "Raw" troops

 The background to this is twofold, I think. Maybe threefold - we'll see.

(1) I had been discussing with the Jolly Broom Man (JBM) the possibility of his trying a Zoom game with me. It is worth reminding myself that a game involving a gentleman in Darkest France, hosted here in the Darkest Scottish Border Country, is pretty much familiar territory, where two years ago I'd have been astounded that it was possible.

(2) Back in the Pandemic Days of 2021 I had the pleasure of hosting the Battle of Kilsyth (1645) on Zoom. On that occasion I was the umpire and message boy, and my guests were the noted Daves #1 and #2, who between them shared the roles of The Marquess of Montrose (leading the pro-MacDonald rebel forces, who may or may not have had some political affiliation with King Charles I) and of William Baillie, general commanding the Scottish Government troops. Poor Baillie has not been handled well by history, comparatively speaking, and receives very little adulation. Let us just say that there is still a Montrose Society, which has cheese-&-wine evenings and occasional presentation of papers, but you will not find any trace of a William Baillie Society. 


My previous post on this battle was preceded by an unseemly wealth of information about the campaign and its politics, padded out with accounts of my falling into ditches and streams as I explored the battlefield, complete with heavy boots and cheese sandwiches. With all humility, and with whatever apologies are needed for my customary blind zeal in these matters, I was very pleased with the way my battle turned out, and added it to a list of games I would like to run again.

I am pleased to record the fact that JBM is (or was) an established user of my own Commands & Colors-based ECW rules - in fact he helped me sort out the bugs in the earlier version. Since he was receptive to the idea of using a re-run of Kilsyth as the vehicle for our Zoom extravaganza, I was able to reissue much of the previous paperwork, and I still had the troops labelled in the boxes, from last time.

The game was arranged for the afternoon of 22nd December. On this occasion, JBM was to be Montrose [since it would probably be ill-mannered to invite a guest to be Baillie], I was Baillie and we promised to keep each other right on the rules. I'd never tried this before, but since we each have a set of the Command and Chaunce (Event) game cards, and the necessary Battle Dice, we played to the original rules, rather than using any substitute, dice-based activation system. In case, like me, you had ever wondered, I can tell you it is possible to play with two sets of cards, even 1000 miles apart - it makes no difference that we used 2 sets rather than sharing 1.

The game went well - we had minimal hangs in the broadband, but nothing major. 

Background Story, and the Historical Battle:


Montrose’s army was originally set up in an approximate line of battle stretching from around D7 and then upwards, (to the west) off the table, waiting for the Dumb Covenanters to march along the road from Stirling (the road is just off the left edge of the table, and parallel to it). The initial rebel line up was (probably) Highlanders on their left, Irish in the centre, regular Foot on the right, with Horse covering the rear of the flanks.


Baillie realised there was a trap, so sent his army on a march along the bottom edge of the map, from the left of the table, using dead ground as much as possible, heading to the high ground beyond the mill at Auchinrivoch, which would place him above and behind Montrose's left flank. If Montrose withdrew, or even just sat there, Baillie was happy to sit and wait for a reinforcement commanded by the Earl of Lanark, which was thought to be coming from the west.


[This initiative of Baillie’s effectively turns the traditionally accepted Kilsyth battlefield through 90 degrees.]


However, two things went wrong for Baillie:


(1) Montrose became aware of the flanking move, and rushed his army to face to their left - their positions on the table reflect how quickly the units could move, and where they were starting from.


(2) for some reason, the small Commanded Shot unit (under Maj Haldane), which was to lead the Foot units to Auchinrivoch, and Home's (veteran) regt of Foot saw highlanders on the other side of the little valley, apparently looking a bit disordered, and deduced that Montrose's chaps were retreating over the mountains (north); thus both units stopped marching up to the mill, and turned to attack directly. Baillie failed to correct this, and was obliged to throw in as much as he could to make the best of this premature attack. Game on.



I'll give a very quick resumé of the game, and let the captions to the photos provide a little more detail.


Baillie decided that, though he had not wished to start an attack before his right wing troops reached their intended position above Montrose's left flank, the potential unsteadiness of the Highland troops in Montrose's centre gave an opportunity to gain the initiative; the Government troops got off to a brisk start, taking a 2-0 lead on VPs (7 needed for the victory), eliminating one of the Clan groups, plus one of Mac Colla's Irish battalions, and occupying the enclosure at Auchinvalley.


Subsequently Montrose's horse got themselves organised on their own left, made very short work of their Government equivalents, and rolled up Baillie's army from the flank. The game ended with Montrose in a decisive 7-2 lead. History is vindicated once again, though Balcarres, commanding the Government horse, was badly at fault for the collapse and the exposure of Baillie's right. 


I must thank JBM for his excellent company, and some real laughs along the way.


This was my last fluttering for a while - 2 days later I was laid out with the flu, and managed to hurt my back, coughing, (not recommended as a plea for a hero's sympathy), so I missed the entire Holiday period.


Oh well... 

Initial situation, from behind Baillie's left flank - yellow counters mark Raw troops, red counters Veterans

And, again, the starting position, this time from Baillie's right
This is Montrose's hastily improvised line, from his own left - Veteran Irish troops in the centre, Highlanders beyond them
The Highlanders are moved forward around the enclosure at Auchinvalley Farm
Baillie's inexperienced reserve troops, Fife infantry under John Leslie, take up a strong position on the left
Early success for the Government; Robert Home's RoF, supported by Haldane's Commanded Shot, take the enclosure and do some major damage to the Highlanders
One further piece of ill-fortune for the Rebel troops at this point was being required to draw a "Chaunce" card, which revealed that all of Montrose's mounted troops had been supplied fodder contaminated with chickweed, which slowed them down for the rest of the day [it has to be said they did pretty well on it, at that...]. Here Airlie and Nat Gordon sort out the Royalist horse on their left wing

Mac Colla (base #11?) brings up his Irish troops. Beyond them we see Montrose (mounted, accompanied by the King's standard), attempting to calm down the Highlanders after a nervous start
The Earl of Balcarres, with the Government horse and the leading part of Baillie's intended infantry advance, gains the high ground beyond the windmill at Auchinrivoch
At this point, Baillie thought things were going pretty well...
Through total stupidity, Balcarres miscalculated an opportunistic attack on the Rebel horse (forgetting that "Trotter"-type horse may travel 3 hexes, but only 2 if they intend to fight anyone when they get there), and was very badly beaten
Now, suddenly and very clearly, Baillie could see that the failure of his cavalry had completely exposed his right flank. Bad news. With the inspirational support of his personal chaplain, he attempted to consolidate the troops in his centre, who seemed less than impressed with the idea

The asides of glory; one of the Highland clan units was sent to the rear by a Chaunce card, to replace poor-quality powder they had been provided with - they received occasional encouraging news from the front...
...and now it comes; the Rebels roll up Baillie's right - in particular, Airlie's horse did a formidable amount of damage at this stage... (if there is a Man of the Match award for the day, they probably deserved it)

Far from Fife, and fed-up - Henderson of Fordell's lads wonder if it is time to go home yet
Mac Colla (back corner with the ridiculous axe) takes the enclosure again, with one of his very fierce Veteran Irish units. Mac Colla's standard (which I believe is the MacDonald flag of the Lord of the Isles) is also in the field, to indicate where Mac Colla has got to
General impression of the end of the day, with Montrose's cavalry sweeping around the Government flank - it looks like a very long walk back to Stirling, gentlemen

Sunday 1 January 2023

Happy New Year 2023

 We had a very quiet night here last night. Nothing at all to write about, but my son, being rather more dynamic, went out for a walk yesterday evening (last year!) near his student flat.

Here's a view from a very damp Glasgow; looking south across the River Clyde towards the BBC Scotland building (which is in what I believe is Govan, though I'm not an expert). Looks like it was a quiet evening in Glasgow, too.

All the very best to anyone who visits this blog. May the new year bring us all something to be at least a little hopeful about!