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."