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

Wednesday 24 July 2024

A Whiff of Entitlement?

Over the last 14 years my hobby activities have benefited immensely, and often, from the kindness and generosity of others; many friends, but also on numerous occasions from complete strangers. It has been one of the most uplifting aspects of my involvement in the internet and social media. Accordingly, I always try to conduct myself in that spirit; after all, if we can't help each other, what else have we to offer?
About five or six weeks ago MSFoy received an email from Henschel, who lives in the USA. I have in place an arrangement by which MSF's incoming emails (and there aren't a great many) are forwarded to my personal account. This is in this same spirit of helping out, as mentioned, since poor old Monsieur Foy has been dead now for nearly 200 years. Henschel's message was certainly not impolite, but it came straight to the point; he had read somewhere about my "Corporal John" rules for the Wars of the Spanish Succession, but he hadn't found a download link on my blog, so where was it?

I pondered this for a day or two, since my experience of sending off the humble fruits of my labours to anyone who asks has not always been positive. About 48 hours later, MSFoy received another email (that's two in a week, which is almost a frenzy of activity), this time from Scotty, who is also in the USA, and again it expressed disappointment at the lack of a facility to download the Corporal John game, and requested that MSF send the materials to him.

I thought about it, and I put the rules booklet, with its current supplements and the images for the two card decks, into a zip archive file, and sent it off to Henschel and Scotty, with my best wishes and a brief explanation:

* The game is currently a mature draft, it works pretty well, and the rate of change has slowed right down.
* I regret I cannot send a set of the correct dice, since they are available only from the makers of the "Tricorne" board game (who refuse to sell them independently, by the way); they are, however, easy to make up with blank dice and coloured Sharpie pens.
* Although this is not commercially published work, I would appreciate the usual courtesies if the material is passed on or reproduced, including giving credit to the original source. In particular, the artwork is the work of a professional artist, and is copyright. I do not make a living out of writing wargame rules (fortunately...), but he does make a living out of drawing pictures.

All fine, I do not expect anyone to get too excited about anything, and I'm happy to forward the stuff if it is of some use.

Another three weeks passed, and old MSF received another request for Corporal John - this time from Alessandro, who lives in Italy. Same story - he had read a discussion somewhere which mentioned Corporal John and the lack of a download site, so could I please send it along - thanks in anticipation, etc, etc.

Yeah - whatever - I still had the zip file handy - I just sent off the same files and the same story. I'm quite happy with all that.

You know what? I haven't had a word from any of the three of them. It doesn't matter at all, of course, and I am not going to be offended, but no acknowledgement of receipt, no thanks. Not a dicky bird, as someone or other used to say. It's possible that they have all realised instantly that it is crap, or maybe they haven't had a chance to have a look at it yet. I really don't care, but I'm left with a faint feeling of weariness for reasons I can't put my finger on.

Have our collective expectations of the internet evolved in all the right ways?

Thursday 11 July 2024

Hooptedoodle #466 - Willie and the Bluetooth

 I was supposed to be busy spraying the drive this morning, but rain is forecast. Instead, I decided to phone my pal Willie, to see how he's doing, and if he fancies a spot of lunch at the pub in his village, since it is my turn to pay.

So I rang Willie. I took care to call his mobile, since he and his family have now had their landline phone removed (which is maybe something I should think about myself, though the potential hassle of having to inform the whole world of the change in my contact details puts me off).

Not for the first time, this was a more strange experience than I expected. Willie, you understand, is a big fan of new domestic technology, and is especially keen on spending his money on it, and talking about it in the pub. 

The phone rang, and Willie answered. His voice sounded very far away, and had a serious echo.

Willie - and I could only just hear him - said, "is that you Tony? - this is a terrible line - you are very faint. Do you want to try phoning me again?"

So I rang off, and tried again; same result. This time I could hear Willie, and my own voice delayed a couple of seconds, very faint and muffled.

It took a few moments, but I suddenly understood.

"Hi Willie," I heard myself say, somewhere in another galaxy, "am I, by any chance, speaking to your watch...?"

And, it transpired, I was. This has happened before; the only way out of this situation is for Willie to ring me back - that seems to work OK.

You may picture Willie, at home, with his iPhone in his pocket and his Apple Watch ready for action, listening to Earth, Wind and Fire (courtesy of his Apple Music subscription) on his Bluetooth Air Buds. When an incoming call arrives, all he has to do is press something (or other...) and the call will become the focus of world attention. Excellent. Problem is, Willie doesn't get very many calls these days, and his switchover needs more practice. I regularly find I am attempting conversation with some random device within his Bluetooth range.

He has made a hefty investment in a massive Smart TV, which is networked into his wi-fi, and from his phone he can access almost the entire back-catalogue of the world's movies and music - he has top-notch hi-fi speakers, too, so there is great scope for entertainment, all at the touch of a screen (or something). I'm sure that Mr & Mrs Willie get great value from all this kit, but I have to say that it has never actually worked in my presence. Perhaps my phone disrupted the network. Maybe it was just me. It could be the tin-foil in my hat.

I am not a non-believer, I hasten to add; sometimes I'm just a little slow to be properly impressed.

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

This morning, two days after this post, I drove to the post office in the next village, and, since they have a farm shop and tea-room on the same premises as the PO, I ordered myself a cup of hot chocolate and a bacon roll. The place was quite busy, so I took an empty seat at the last table in the row. I enjoyed my breakfast, but seem to have been singled out for some special treatment by the digital gods. Perhaps I should be more careful what I say. 

At the table next to mine were seated 4 visitors with backpacks and heavy boots, so I guess they were en route for Traprain Law, which would have been a squelchy and fairly hazardous climb in the pouring rain. They were holding a loud (and I thought rather competitive) debate about which phone app they found most life-enhancing; subsequently they moved on to apps they had downloaded but never used. This all went on for about 30 minutes, then they left. Presumably they continued to talk about this stuff while they scaled Traprain Law in the rain. I hope they had a mountain rescue app between them.

Seated at my table was a man with a big red beard, who was drinking a large mug of coffee, and he was fully absorbed in his phone - never spoke, which is fine with me. Whatever he was reading, he was also listening to music. I couldn't hear it - I must say these modern ear-buds are very cleverly designed to eliminated acoustic leakage - but I know he was listening to music because he tapped both feet and also whistled along with it, throughout my breakfast.

Of course, I should have brought along my own headphones, so I couldn't hear any of this, but there is something a bit wrong here, maybe? Anyway, I had a good laugh, at my own expense. Serves me right.


Wednesday 10 July 2024

Hooptedoodle #465 - Much to See on the 253

 After some rather hectic weeks of trying to plug holes in dykes, I am pleased to be able to say that I have managed to get my mother safely relocated from a local residential care home (which our County Council has suddenly decided to close - they didn't ask my mother, by the way) to a very satisfactory nursing facility in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The move finally took place on 28th June, and it all seems to be working out rather well.

Berwick-upon-Tweed (which I shall subsequently refer to as just "Berwick") is the famous old frontier town, which at various times in the past has been in England and/or Scotland. It is about 45 minutes drive from where I live, so not an impossible journey by any means, but over the last few weeks I have made quite a few trips down there to get things sorted out. Today I had to make another visit to sign contracts and set up payment details and so, partly for a little variety and partly to take advantage of the free travel pass available for Very Old People like me, I travelled by bus.

My bus, in far more pleasant weather than I saw today

The bus journey takes almost exactly twice as long as driving there, but I decided to make it a day out, and took my camera along. Surely, I hear you thinking, the old fool isn't going to give us an illustrated narrative of his free day out on the bus? Well, yes - in fact that is the plan, though it may be even less promising than you fear - the weather was so awful that I didn't get to take any useful photos, so I shall use a few borrowed from elsewhere.

This now stops being a tale about me and my bus pass, or even about my mum, and becomes a little potted history of part of the A1 - the Great North Road.

The A1 is the official main route which connects Edinburgh and London, the capital cities of Scotland and England. The London Road from Edinburgh has evolved almost beyond recognition over the years, as you would expect. Back in the days of stagecoaches, roads connected villages to local market towns, some of which were large enough to offer stabling services for horses and hospitality, and the run to London consisted of an extended join-the-dots puzzle.

As time passed, many of the towns were bypassed, new expressways were built across-country to get traffic away from town centres and speed things up, and a lot of places were left high and dry. It surprises even me, but I am old enough to recall when the A1 used to include the main streets of a few villages which are well off the beaten track now.

I have always been interested in this stuff; in a village about 6 miles from where I live, there is a fine old stone bridge - single track - which was a toll bridge on the London Road into the age of the motor vehicle. It was bypassed in 1927 by the new link road which later became the A1, and that new road was itself bypassed when a brand-new, motorway-standard A1 section was opened in about 2002. This is all progress in all sorts of ways, and the little stone bridge is now just an old curiosity in a quiet backwater town.

I boarded the bus at East Linton, which is about half-way between Haddington and Dunbar

My trip was on the No. 253 bus, run by Borders Buses, which travels from Edinburgh to Berwick, and it goes all over the place (which is really the whole point, both for my trip and for the existence of the bus route in the first instance). The reason it takes twice as long as a trip by car is not because the buses are very slow, it is because the service supports some isolated communities in rural Eastern Scotland which otherwise might struggle to survive at all. This is an oft-forgotten aspect of public transport. I just about remember the Doctor Beeching years, when railways which did not make a profit were culled wholesale, and stations were closed in their hundreds, which was hard luck for those people who were stupid enough to live in the wrong parts of the country. Mrs Thatcher's later privatisation of local transport services complicated things further (as countless visitors to rural bits of the UK will testify).

 So today's run to Berwick included many loops off the A1, to visit (as far as I can remember) East Linton, Dunbar,  Innerwick, Thurston, Crowton, Oldhamstocks, Cockburnspath, Grantshouse, Reston, Ayton, Eyemouth and Burnmouth. I saw a few places I have never seen before, and some I haven't seen for a long while. Some of them used to be on the A1 in living memory (well, mine, anyway), some are just outliers. They are not all trivial; the river crossing at East Linton was of military importance right back to ancient times; the castle at Innerwick was one of the lairs from which the Moss Troopers tormented the English army after the Battle of Dunbar; Dunbar itself and Eyemouth were important fishing ports until comparatively recent times. 

I emphasise that these are not my pictures, just things I borrowed from the Internet to add some body to my little story.

The 253 well off the beaten track, in Eyemouth town centre
Ayton High Street, a very long time ago
Burnmouth Harbour
The Mercat Cross at Cockburnspath, founded by James IV
Dunbar High Street
The old bridge over the (Scottish) Tyne at East Linton, once part of the London Road, with the old Toll House on the right
What remains of Innerwick Castle
Nearly 60 years after Dr Beeching closed the last one, they have a new railway station at Reston. Here you see a typical resident waiting to get on board [this last bit is a joke, by the way]
Reston - has both a railway station and a post box...

Monday 1 July 2024

Siege of Liverpool 1644: Prince Rupert Postscript

 Following the comments and discussion on my previous post, I liked the idea of interweaving a couple of the emerging threads (see what I did there?).

Accordingly, here is an alternative view of Prince Rupert, featuring his signature neckwear, with acknowledgement to well-known earlier works by Gerrit van Honthorst and Alfred Edmeades Bestall, and very special thanks to my good friend Peter at PaK Cartoons.

Bold Rupert's chance reduced by half
When he forgot his lucky scarf



Please do not copy or reproduce this original piece without giving due credit to the source, or the Copyright Fairies will come and get you in the night. 

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Siege of Liverpool 1644: The Game

 Last night I hosted the actual game, having talked about it for long enough. The draft rules worked pretty well - a few things need fixing, but we worked around most of the issues we came across.

Once again, my sincere thanks to the Jolly Broom Man for joining me on Zoom to play through another piece of historical tragedy. A very rewarding evening.

Royalist field artillery in action on the high ground near Everton

The build up to this siege has been sketched out in a previous post, so last night was all about getting on with it. Some sort of narrative should emerge from the photos; I'll briefly discuss rules matters later.

Things are very peaceful, before Prince Rupert's army arrives on the field. The end of the field nearest the camera is marshy - a no-go area

Two teams of sappers, relaxing in the grounds of the Castle before All Hell arrives

Rupert's besieging force arrives in the "safe area" outside the lines; he also had more troops available to assist in the event of a storm, but initially they were busy making gabions and cutting down trees. As you do...  The giant dice is to ensure that everyone can see the day's "digging number", which later had quite an impact when it became so high that the Royalist troops were struggling to complete building parts of the 2nd Parallel before the sun came up!

Sappers at work, zig-zagging their way towards the fortress - the brown felt strips work well, but don't look like hard cover, which is what they count as. The little stand of gabions is to remind us that they are not sitting ducks (and it is night time, after all)

An early trench raid - two companies of Meldrum's garrison troops, under cover of darkness, attack sappers on the job, and have brought some sappers of their own, to collapse the sap if the Royalist sappers are driven out. As I recall, this particular raid failed

We were using an Event Card system. To keep the number of events down to sensible levels, the active player had to roll a 5 or 6 on a D6 to draw a card. Sod's Law came into play very early; I had worked two historical events in as "Scenario Specials", and after only a few turns one came up...

... yes, it was a long shot, but Colonel Moore abandoned his fortress, leaving by boat during the night, which is exactly what he did back in 1644. The garrison suffered a loss of morale points, but passed the D6 roll required  to continue fighting without him

At this stage, the garrison's field guns were taking something of a hammering from the heavier Royalist pieces, and one of Martindale's first actions after taking over as Governor was to abandon the hornwork outside the North end of the town

Here Rupert gets his boys busy with the construction of a 2nd Parallel
The Royalists are digging forward from the East and the North

No immediate panic, but the garrison are beginning to run out of guns; since the port is still open to the river, there is no shortage of powder or ammunition, but guns are becoming a problem

Here is Rupert, accompanied by his famous magnetic dog, which for extra security is stuck on with BluTak for the day. Shortly after this photo, the Event Cards struck again, and announced that one of the Royalist senior officers had been killed - dice to identify which one. It was Rupert. I don't know what happened to the dog. Lord John Byron succeeded to the command, but it took a little while, during which the Royalists were unable to rally any of their damaged units

Mechanisms; markers; this shows that the Local Support rating for the townspeople (which can range from +3 to -3) is currently higher than you might expect, given the circumstances

Another trench raid; despite plentiful infantry support, the sappers were driven back on this occasion, and the garrison had cause to regret that they had not attached sappers of their own to the raid, who could have destroyed the forward sap. Oh well...

The sappers were soon back on the job

With the 2nd Parallel becoming better established, the Royalist guns started to concentrate on the earth wall. Here you see the stone damage chips accumulating, while Martindale has his own sappers working as fast as they can to repair the damage. This achieved very little against consolidated fire, and they were pulled back to safety

The Royalists' sole mortar, whose job was to drop shells into the town, to upset the civilians. There were a few misfires, none of them catastrophic. One of the rules which didn't work as intended was the starting of fires, and the management of existing fires in the town, so these chaps were less effective than they might have been. Next time, lads...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

With the besieging force sapping towards the walls, Martindale redeployed his men to defend the hornwork
...and this brought about the first "Tactical Rules" period of the game, as a hand-to-hand combat developed at the hornwork

The attackers duly captured the hornwork, with their accompanying sappers helping to achieve an escalade
The bombardment had now achieved sufficient damage (30 hits in this case) to offer a practicable breach
Extra units were sent forward from the lines to aid with an assault, and a switch to tactical rules was declared again. The defenders, given their shrinking morale total and the existence of a breach, duly laid down their arms and asked for quarter
Massed Royalist reinforcements, just to emphasise the point, wait for orders
In this game, the morale points count down towards zero; the garrison has the blue marker here. The scores are close, but there is no hope. If the Committee find Colonel Moore, there will be questions asked

A very quick mention of the rules. We did not use mining partly because Liverpool is built on a marsh, but mostly because those rules do not exist yet!

I have draft espionage rules, and this whole subject can offer a lot of entertainment to the game, but at present it is in danger of generating an industry which requires more extra work than it is worth. I am working on it.

Fires; I mentioned this earlier. I already know what to do to simplify this section and get it to work properly. I'm on it, gentlemen.

As you would expect, there were a number of procedural things we smoothed out as we went along. By and large, though such a game is, by its nature, unfamiliar, it was a fun evening - entertaining, but also educational. I'll do some more work and some behind-the-scenes testing on some rule tweaks, and organise another game pretty soon.

Good. If you are still reading, thanks for your interest. Bruce Quarrie once wrote that only a maniac would attempt to fight a siege on a tabletop. He may have been right - you can maybe form an opinion based on my account of this little game!

Monday 17 June 2024

Siege of Liverpool 1644: Preamble - Quick Scenario Context

 My game of Prince Rupert's Siege of Liverpool is scheduled for tomorrow night. The event was chosen because it is a small siege, which is a good idea for rule-testing, the ECW gives relatively simple sieges, and I have an interest in the area.

Liverpool, in 1644, is a town of only about 1000 inhabitants, with fairly primitive port facilities, but it provides a very useful communication with Ireland. A year ago, Parliament seized the town and ejected the main Catholic families (notably Richard Molyneux, who promptly raised regiments of foot and horse, and went away to fight for the King), and it has subsequently been fortified by the addition of earth walls to protect the north side of the town, the remainder of the approaches being protected naturally by water. Sir John Moore of Bankhall is the Governor, and he has been provided with weapons and men to form a garrison. The town has a number of disgruntled Catholics and others with Royalist sympathies. In my rule system, the place has a Local Support rating of +1 on a scale of -3 to +3, which means they are marginally supportive of the garrison - this being largely helped by recent news of the Massacre of Bolton, at which Prince Rupert and the Earl of Derby allowed the murder of hundreds of civilians who had not been involved in the fighting. The town Mayor is Jacobus Williamson, who may be regarded as an additional officer for the garrison as long as the Local Support rating does not go negative.

Map of Liverpool shortly after the siege, with no reference to the works or the walls. The inlet from the river, The Pool, is clearly visible, protecting two sides of the town. At the time of the siege, bridges and ferries over the Pool were removed. The Castle is also visible, and this provided a citadel

This is generally regarded as the best view of the siege; it is known as "Mr Leland's Map", and seems to be a Victorian re-hash of a contemporary map, though details of the town itself show a lot of odd mistakes. It is interesting that the ditch around the mudwall may have been flooded from the river. [This will not be the case in my version!]

Rupert's Royalist army is large, and growing in both size and momentum. His mission in the Lancashire area is to capture the port of Liverpool and relieve the siege of Lathom House (near Ormskirk), and to raise more troops for a march to relieve York. His army is easily large enough to take Liverpool, which he describes as a "crows' nest", and he detaches his cavalry and much of the infantry to carry out his other work while the siege proceeds. For all his numerical advantages, Rupert has limited time to get the job done, since he is under pressure to get to York with the biggest force possible, and he also probably has some confidence concerns, since he was heavily criticised for casualties suffered in the capture of Bristol in July 1643.

Rupert arrives about 6th June 1644; the advance guard which seals off the landward approaches to the town is Richard Molyneux's regiment of horse! The main Royalist camp is set up on high ground towards Everton, and work starts on building batteries, and trenches are constructed on the hill overlooking the east side of the town. 

The town is not a formidable objective, but could be costly (some early assaults on the walls are repulsed bloodily and easily, so Rupert is forced to accept that formal bombardment will be necessary), and the town, apart from the natural water defences, cannot be cut off from the river, since Parliament controls the Mersey, thus supply of food and ammunition will not be a problem for the garrison. 


Thursday 13 June 2024

Hooptedoodle #464 - one small snag for mankind...

 The European nations football championship starts tomorrow night. It would be undignified to claim that I am excited, but I am certainly looking forward to watching some football on TV over the coming weeks.

One item from the necessary fans' toolkit which I am missing is a nice coloured magazine, giving details of the national teams and a match schedule. I'll skip the sticker album (do they still have those?), and I do have beer. Good.

So I got onto my dear friends at, to order a magazine, and I found just the thing.

Slight bad news is the estimated delivery date is a long way into the future - the competition will be over by then.

Maybe if I had been better organised I might have ordered one earlier, but they didn't know the details of the team selections until a week or two ago. Hmmm. Not to worry - I think I'll just not bother with the online thing, and see if I can pick something up in the newsagent's. 

Old School. Ye cannae whack it.