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


Friday 12 April 2024

Product Search #817b

 This is a silly post, but someone may have a good idea. Good ideas are great; I am in favour of them.


I had a stock of circular cast-alloy 20mm diameter bases, very simple design, but nicely rounded at the upper edge. I got them back in the days of the NapoleoN 20 figures - as I recall, you got them with the packs of gunners and of skirmishers. Anyway, I didn't use them for the figures they were supplied with, but subsequently I found them very useful, in all sorts of contexts, for mounting odd sappers, or figures to accompany wagons, or ADCs. Odd-bods; you know how it is.

I guess I must have used them all, because there are none left now. I need some more. I know I can get 20mm round bases in 2mm MDF, and the world is full of plastic bases, with or without slots, but I like the weight of the metal ones, and they are pleasingly slim. With discs of magnetic sheet attached underneath, they store nicely as well.

Anyone know where I might be able to get such things now? A source within the UK would be great, since international postage is now well beyond a joke.

Here's a chance to earn my undying gratitude. 

If I remember, of course.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Hooptedoodle #459 - Peter Higgs

 I have something of an aversion to the standard "me too" notices which are published on social media when a significant public figure dies; just a personal preference, but I shall break with my traditions and publish a very short note to commemorate the passing of Peter Higgs. Yes, THE Peter Higgs, the man after whom they named the Higgs boson.


I have a  fondness for (popular) science, and have pretended to have some basic grasp of particle physics for some years now, but I am, at best, an imposter. A magazine reader.

Higgs was my first Mathematical Physics lecturer at Edinburgh University, long ago in another century. He was already deeply involved in his theoretical work on sub-atomic particles at that time, though no such topics ever came near us humble first-year students. I remember him as by far the best of the teaching staff in that department (which was swallowed by the Physics Dept some years later), but I have to say the competition was not great as far as imparting knowledge and enthusiasm were concerned. I also saw him often enough during my lunchtime visits to the Edinburgh Bookshop for the next 20 years or so of civilian life to be on what might be described as "nodding terms", though he had no idea who I was. I'm sure he was on nodding terms with most of the customers there, but I remember him as an affable, kindly old fellow.

 
Tait Institute
 
He died, at his home in Edinburgh yesterday, aged 94. He is, and will continue to be celebrated as, one of the greats of British Physics, no doubt at all. The old headquarters of the Mathematical Physics Dept, the Tait Institute, at No.1 Roxburgh Street, is mostly just a plaque on an old wall now, but Higgs followed some stellar figures as Professor there; notably PG Tait himself and (spectacularly) Max Born, who held the position from 1936 (when he escaped from Nazi Germany) until his retirement in 1953. My personal recollection of the old place is of freezing cold, occasionally hung-over, Monday tutorials at 8am in the depth of Winter.

My mention of Prof Higgs this evening is because he was one of the few distinguished academics that I might have recognised, and he remains one of the very few aspects of my involvement at the University that I view with anything approaching pride.

Please, if you are interested, have a look at the Wikipedia entry for him.

Sunday 31 March 2024

WSS: Siege Artillery Assembly Line - [Pt.1?]

 I ordered up various bits and pieces of siege artillery, and sorted out what I already had, and wrote some notes to myself about what I intend to do.

First off, my thanks to various kind souls, notably to Albannach for generous donation from his toy museum, to Old Glory UK, to Caliver Books for sending some Minifigs gun castings so quickly that I can only assume they had them in stock, and to a number of commenters and emailers for helpful suggestions.

I got started last night on cleaning up and assembling the things that require assembly. There is a considerable risk that if I don't get the various kits glued up then I shall lose the bits, or get them mixed up. The mortars are dead easy. The Minifigs MALA 3 siege guns are a little more tricky; I last bought some of these (my blog tells me) in July 2016, which was before the change of ownership, and the moulds are not nearly so crisp nowadays, so a lot of fettling is needed, but I'm enjoying it thus far.

 
Mortar this than meets the eye? A choice of weapons - Coehorns at the front. The second row from the back are Old Glory ECW siege mortars, I think the rest are all by Lancer Minis

 
The first of the Minifigs Malburian siege guns - there are 4 of these. A lot of filing and cleaning up; I find it easiest to assemble and paint them on the bases. This one has still to have the capsquares fitted (you can see the supplied pieces lying on the base, but I think I'll do what I did back in 2016, and cut these back to a short, simple plate; it will take some focused needle-file work to get them to fit nicely). I also intend to bore out the end of the muzzle a little

  I haven't yet received the extra garrison guns from Hinchliffe (which I think is Lancashire Games now), but in truth I hadn't expected to have anything at all yet, so a breathing space is fine.

The gunners for these new pieces will be based singly, so the guns may be shared by any nation that needs them. If I can play this correctly, I hope also to be able to use these guns for the long awaited Spanish Napoleonic siege train - I have some bags of SHQ Spanish gunners who have been waiting a very long time for such a moment...

Good so far - I hope to get on with painting the guns over the next few weeks, but the first stage is to get them all ready for painting. The mortars, by the way, will require a new size of MDF base, 20mm x 30mm, so I have those fine chaps (just across the Forth from here), Warbases, working on these.

Friday 22 March 2024

WSS: Sieges? - Shopping List for Starters

 I still have a couple of units to paint, but the completion of the Hessian Horse marks the Official Unofficial End of Phase One-B of my WSS Project.

Next on the agenda is to put together enough kit to add siege warfare to the period. I have siege rules (at least 2 sets, one of which is almost certainly the starting place for The Game Which Is To Come), I have fortresses in two different styles, and boxes of buildings; I have trenches and gun emplacements and all sorts - what I need now are siege artillery, gunners to man the stuff and some engineers.  

 
Bags of stuff

My WSS infantry units comprise 3 bases each; to make them suitable for siege duty, each unit needs only to give its command base the afternoon off, so they can operate on a compact frontage, without some daft wazzock riding a horse or waving a flag. You see? - I have already thought about this!

I already have numerous field guns, in national colours, with gunners in the correct uniforms glued to the stands. To try to extend this system to siege guns would be folly, so I shall go for a studied (though dirty) compromise. I shall paint up mortars and siege guns in a boringly neutral scheme - brown wood carriages, bronze barrels, black ironwork, and I shall field small gun crews, dressed variously in blue uniforms or grey uniforms, sometimes with red cuffs, who will be based singly, and will be grouped in 2s (for mortars) or 3s (for battering guns) around the non-specific guns as necessary.

One of the beauties of the 2 and 3 man crews is that I can omit the man with the rammer, which is inappropriate for a mortar and ludicrously short for a battering piece. If anyone is puzzled by the uniforms, then I shall claim that there are Dutch gunners at work, or Walloons, or possibly militia, or whatever suits the occasion. In a siege it is very clear which side each unit is on, just from their position, so the uniforms should not constitute a problem. Anyone who is still unhappy is obviously just trying to be difficult.

I'll come back to the guns themselves in a minute. I have oodles of spare gunners, some of them painted, some not. The broken ones can be converted into engineering and sapping roles, and I shall make as much use of pre-painted ones as possible.

 
Eric's home-brewed sappers (ex ECW)

I have a good number of odd officers, in odd uniforms, who can be handed out as senior engineers to all comers. Some work will be necessary to fudge together some actual engineers and sappers, but I'm off to a flying start since I have a group of converted sappers from Eric Knowles' mighty collection, which I propose to polish up a little. I don't care for the hardboard bases, so will attempt to remove them, though I fear this may risk damaging the conversions, in which case I shall stop very quickly. Gunners and engineers will be based singly. I think this will all be fine.

 
Another survivor from Eric's armies - he could be surprised to find he's an engineer

 Which brings me back to the heavy ordnance. I have a good selection of mortars of various sizes, most of them from Lancer Miniatures 20mm SYW range (which I think may be OOP now, replaced by 18mm). I have a good number of suitable biggish field guns in the pile already, which should help, but for yer actual 24pdr battering guns I need to think carefully. I have a few hefty guns, mostly 25mm Hinchliffe pieces, which are quite nice and might do the job, but I think (if I can still get them) I'll try to get 4 of the Marlburian siege gun from Miniature Figurines - catalogue number is MALA 3 - which I used to equip my Napoleonic French siege train. 

 
Minifigs MALA 3 siege guns, in use with my Napoleonic French siege train

I would also like, if they are still available, some garrison-style guns for the defenders, which are especially useful as they have a small footprint. I have 2 such guns in the spares boxes - I think they are Hinchliffe - they are not ships' guns, because ships' guns have solid wooden wheels. I'm checking these out.  

 
Hinchliffe spares - garrison guns on the left - I need a few more

I am disappointed to note that the old specialist artillery makers in 1/72 and 20mm seem to have disappeared - Finescale Factory have gone, and Art Miniaturen seem to have cut back on their more obscure artillery offerings. On the other hand, there must be a world full of guys making 3D-printed masterpieces which might be just the thing, if I only knew they were out there. That's the main reason for this post - to see if anyone has any good ideas about this 3D world. My soldiers are small 20mm - bigger than 18mm, but smaller than 1/72. I would happily use a 25mm scale model as a honking great gun, but it would have to fit the period pretty well.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday 20 March 2024

WSS: A Little More Allied Horse

 Proper painting of fresh castings, this time - definitely all me own werk.

I'm using shorter sessions now, out of kindness to the old peepers, so this batch took a day or two longer than I planned, but I'm pleased with them. Nice and shiny, Old School toy soldiers.

These are a couple of regiments of cavalry from Hessen-Kassel, to support the new infantry brigade.

 
Leib zu Pferd

 
Spiegel

Hessen-Kassel is an interesting nation in this context. The Landgrave has not pitched in his army on the side of the Grand Alliance; well, not necessarily so. These two units were paid, equal shares, by the British and Dutch armies, so strictly speaking they appear as mercenaries.

More than welcome, however. As ever, the figures are mostly Les Higgins 1970s castings; the command figures are Irregular, which gives a decent scale match and a bit of welcome variety, though the horses are all Higgins.

The lads are now in the duty boxes, getting to know their colleagues.

Friday 15 March 2024

Hooptedoodle #458 - Le Mot Juste


 There are words which don't quite mean what they originally meant, or what I think they used to mean. It's complicated. What is understood depends a lot on the perception of the listener, general usage varies from place to place, and the relentless churning of fashion will also result in there being subjective differences between people of different ages. 

It's all fine; like everything else, language moves along (though I miss a few old friends, and there are many things which I no longer dare say, since the meaning has changed).

A few evenings ago, I agreed with my son that we would go out later on to pick up a takeaway from the fish & chip shop in the village. We went along there about 9pm. The shop was quiet; since our order included a scratch-built pizza, we had to wait about 10 minutes. Two middle-aged couples came into the shop, very pleasant, maybe a little loud (drink had been taken, but nothing unseemly). I would guess they were visitors - North of England accents (I am something of an expert on the North of England), and they got into a slightly complicated exchange with the counter staff, all around the products and terminology you find in chip shops, which vary from area to area. Best not order anything unless you know what it is.

I got briefly involved in offering views on exactly what is the meat constituent of a scary local speciality known as the "King Rib"; which I think is a slab of ultra-processed pork heavily flavoured with something like BBQ sauce. Not recommended, anyway, except after about 4 pints.

Once the preparation of the orders was under way, one of the ladies - very polite, dressed up a little for an evening out, silk scarf, all that - said to me,

"If you don't mind my saying so, you look very..."

...and she paused for a fraction of a second, while she searched for an appropriate word - it seemed quite a long fraction of a second...

"...dapper!" she said, "Yes, that's it: dapper!"

I wasn't at all offended, neither did I take the comment any more seriously than she meant it, though I have to say that I was surprised, for a number of reasons.

(1) People who know me will be aware that my mode of dress is usually warm and comfortable, and, though I hope I do not look completely disreputable, "dapper" is a long way down the list of words I would choose myself. Last time I wore a suit, for example, was at a funeral, and I'm confident the next time I wear one will also be at a funeral, unless I have to appear in court in the interim.

(2) "Dapper" is rather an old-fashioned word, and I associate it with gentle put-downs of older men attempting to dress up. Originally it was used to describe someone who was making a genuine effort to be up-to-date, and I suspect that in the US, for example, it may still have that meaning. I am confident that this lady was not trying to take the piss out of a complete stranger, so this is a usage thing. In a similar vein, if I ever said to a friend that he was looking "with it", he would certainly be quite an elderly friend, and my comment would be (deliberately) an example of British sardonicism, since even I know that nobody says this any more.

(3) "Dapper" has thus, in the UK, become a word used in connection with old men. It is not offensive, but it is one of a number of words which, though generally positive, might be viewed with a little apprehension. If the lady had, for example, stated that I looked "very clean", I might have been nonplussed by the implied parenthesis, "[all things considered]" or similar.

Anyway, I thanked her. Thinking she might have been impressed by my cloth cap, I said something oafish about starting to dress like my father, and we parted with lighthearted laughter. Oh, what fun. The truth is that I had intended to wear my fisherman's beanie hat, which is much warmer, but couldn't find it, so defaulted to the old bunnet. If I had worn my beanie I doubt if I would have been considered dapper. I might have been told I looked like a pile of dirty laundry.

When I first lived here, my next door neighbour, Old George, who was well into his 90s, used to wear a blazer and smart tie on Sundays when he went to the church in Whitekirk, and his trouser-creases were freshly ironed, and his shoes were polished to a frazzle. Now, he was dapper.

 
Battered King Rib supper - don't ask


 


Monday 11 March 2024

WSS: Test Campaign Decider - the Battle of Borgloon

 


Last night I hosted the Zoom game to settle the campaign. At this point the Allies (that's me, folks) were leading by 3 points to 2, having won an encounter battle (1 pt) at La Bienveillance (2 Divisions a side) and a medium-sized set-piece (2 pts) at Waremme (at which I defended, with my 3 Divisions partially dug in against 4 Divisions of Franco-Bavarians), while the French (JBM) won an off-table siege (2 pts) at Rijnsburg. 

Last night we had arrived at a large set-piece (worth 3 pts) at Borgloon, near St-Truiden, where each army had 4 Divisions. Because my army was rather smaller, I chose to defend. Thus the winner of this final bash would win the campaign outright. Alas, I forgot to switch off the spellchecker in Word when I took the screenprints, we have some unwanted extra colour in the presentation of the OOB...

JBM (Marshal Marsin) withheld Chatrier's cavalry as a reserve, the location of their arrival a secret.

The action was predictably hectic. The Allies had a ridge and some woodland to defend on their right, the village of Bommershoven in front of their centre, and a more open area on their left, which was held by General Vielgluck, with Austrian cuirassiers and a brigade of infantry from Hessen-Kassel. 

The French arrived, and after a fairly unproductive preliminary bombardment the various artillery batteries withdrew, and Marsin used some very fine Command cards to order his whole line to advance. The Allies had expected the main attack to fall on their left, but hadn't imagined it would arrive quite so quickly!

 
Initial view from the French left; in the foreground La Bonne's infantry surround the little village of Oude Haren, with its neighbouring orchard; in the centre are Arco's Bavarians, with Bassinet's Division at the far end making the main attack. The larger village of Bommershoven is visible in the distance, commanding the main highway to Maastricht

 
From the French right, we get a view of Bassinet's command

 
Continuing around the table, we are now behind the Allied left. In the foreground is Vielgluck's mixed Division, Austrian cavalry and Hessian infantry, none of which performed very well...

 
The French advance very vigorously, right across their front, with the main attack going in in the distance, on their right flank
 
 
Vielgluck's boys get ready to hold off Bassinet. Vielgluck is encouraging one of his cuirassier units

 
In the Allied centre, at Bommershoven, Marlborough's Regt and the Royal Regt of Ireland made a very nervous effort at holding the village, repeatedly being pushed back by some of Arco's Bavarians, but scrabbling back


 
Arco's cuirassiers in the centre, including two very shiny newly-painted regiments, had a very quiet day - there was a lot of bloodshed, but it was elsewhere

 
Both sides taking a breather at Bommershoven; Marlborough himself was called into play a few times, encouraging his regiment to please go back and re-take the village

 
On the Allied right, the British have no intention of coming out into the open, while La Bonne's lads opposite mostly stand and glare at them

 
On the French right, Bassinet brought up the Gendarmérie de France - all 6 squadrons of them! - and the Austrian cavalry were outmatched

 
A general view after about 2 hours

 
At this point the British have taken back the larger village, but it didn't last...

 
With 12 Victory Points required for a win, the French got to 5-1 in fairly routine fashion, substantially helped by the apparent inability of the Austrians and Hessians on the Allied left to stop retreating when they were required to do so

 
With the Allied left pretty much wrecked, mostly by the (elite) Gendarmes, and Bommershoven now taken permanently by the (elite) Bavarian Leib Grenadiers, the value of top quality troops and excellent dice rolls were becoming very obvious

 
At this late stage, the Allied right flank emerged from their woods, determined at least to give some kind of showing. They had a few very helpful Combat cards at this point (including the much-prized Infantry Bonus card) and James Ferguson, now commanding Charles Churchill's old Division, suddenly made such rapid progress that Marlborough wondered why he hadn't tried this earlier. The situation is pulled back to 10-6 at this point, though it stabilised more than somewhat once the fancy cards ran out...

 
So the later stages of the game were dominated by this infantry combat near the orchard and, inevitably,  the French managed to eliminate enough units to clinch the day.

 
12-6! A decisive victory indeed, which also meant that the French won the campaign, 5-3 on points. Very well deserved too, my hat is appropriately doffed to the victors. Each army lost one general on the day, seriously wounded - Vielgluck and Bassinet were carried from the field. In case you are wondering what happened to the French cavalry reserve, it turns out that they were to come on behind their right flank, but they weren't needed - there was no-one for them to fight at that end of the table!

 
For Neil's benefit, this is what a trouncing looks like on my old scoreboard! I produced some army flags for the occasion. The personal arms of Louis XIV (top) seems sound enough, but I have failed to find any record of a flag for the Grand Alliance - not even the League of Augsburg, so just put up an Austrian flag. Just out of interest, does anyone know of a flag for the the unified army of the Alliance in the WSS? 

 The tabletop rules seem to have settled down nicely, and have coped with everything, including occasional memory lapses, without drama. The campaign rules are a little odd, but worked effectively. If I got anything wrong, I think it was in making the recovery rates for "legacy casualties" too generous. Attrition didn't really bite hard enough as the campaign went on - this is easily fixed, so I'll make the rallying rules more miserable!

My thanks to JBM for his help and wisdom, and for his companionship during the games.

A good time was had by all, but I really do want to know how much we are paying for these Hessian mercenaries...

 


Sunday 10 March 2024

WSS: Test Campaign - the Last Battle - Borgloon - Getting ready

 The eve of a fair-sized battle.

We know fighting will take place tomorrow. I have the table more or less ready, my Allied army is in position, waiting for the French to finish their petit-déjeuner and rock up for action. Although strictly I have the initiative for this battle, I have chosen to defend because my force is rather smaller than the enemy.

The field artillery is out front, ready for the official preliminary bombardment. You will see that 3 of the British infantry units also have battalion guns. My senior field commanders are in little groups of 3 figures; Marlborough (overall C-in-C) is on the prancing horse, Prince Eugène in more sedate posture.

The French and Bavarian troops are boxed in OOB, ready for laying out when they arrive. I still have to get the movie cameras set up and find all the dice, cards and counters, but everything is in hand. I even have time for some photos, just to prove we were here.

What could possibly go wrong...?







Saturday 9 March 2024

WSS: After You with the Sticking Plasters

 A couple of years ago, while setting up a little photo-shoot with my British WSS army, I managed to break off an officer's sword blade. These are Les Higgins figures, and the bayonets and swords are famously fragile, so I did a patch-up job with superglue, and got my photos taken.

I have always known that I'll have to make a better job of the sword repair, but to tell the truth I rather lost track of which unit it was. They all looked reasonable, and there is always a small chance that a quick repair might last indefinitely...

Nah - I didn't really believe this, and this afternoon, while I was sorting out the troops for what will be the last battle in my current campaign. it was suddenly made clear to me which sword blade it was, as it fell off again! 

Righto - today was the day fate had lined up for the proper repair, before I managed to lose the detached blade (it has happened), so I drilled out the officer's hand, carved a little tang on the hilt-end of the blade, and superglued it in properly. Job done. I still have to touch up the varnish a bit, once the superglue is cured, but I'm pleased with the result. The boys are all ready for a fight tomorrow.

 
Grenadier stand of Scrope Howe's Regt, now repaired. The extra superglue is a bit obvious, gleaming on the officer's hand, but I'll sort that out later, once I am confident I am not going to wreck an expensive brush with superglue which hasn't cured yet!

The campaign is very close, but the last battle is tomorrow evening, and it's a 3-pointer, so the winner of this battle will definitely win the campaign. I shall write up some form of report (unless I lose, of course).

Friday 23 February 2024

WSS: More Bavarian Cuirassiers Ready for Action

 I showed a glimpse of these chaps in the Refurb Box a week or so ago. I finished the painting a couple of nights back - they are now based and flagged, ready for duty

 
Costa
 
 
Wolframsdorf
 
These are ex-Eric Knowles figures, repainted and with new command. The officers and standard bearers are SHQ ECW castings, modded a little, the trumpeters are from the Irregular Marlburian range, the troopers and all the horses are by Les Higgins. They've been in the Refurb Queue since Nov 2019, though, since they were rather battered, they've been back down the queue a bit until recently.

I'm glad they are finished; this has been a fiddly refurb job, and on a few occasions I heartily wished I'd stripped them and started again, rather than trying to preserve their original (1970s) provenance. Happy with them now, anyway. They can go into the French OOB for my campaign, where they'll be balanced by the arrival of 2 new Hessian infantry battalions in the Allied line-up.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Hooptedoodle #457: A Stuffed Lion in Yorkshire


 A tale from long ago, prompted because I was discussing it with my wife recently, and I had some difficulty believing that it actually happened.

In the late 1970s, I was busily collecting information about the Napoleonic Portuguese army (as one does). I chanced upon some excellent contacts - in particular the very supportive curator at the Lisbon Museum, and a splendid old chap named Herbert, of São Paulo, who became my penfriend, and who had almost unlimited access to the old colonial archives in Brasilia, thanks to his son, Norbert, who worked there. Altogether, I stockpiled some great material on uniforms and flags, including some sumptuous watercolours by Old Herbert, who was a splendid artist; for a while I shared information and sources with Terry Wise (another splendid and generous chap), and he published some things for Osprey, sometimes working with Otto Von Pivka.

The name dropping stops at this point. For reasons I can't really remember now, I wrote a booklet on Portuguese uniforms for the Napoleonic Association. I gained nothing from the experience, apart from an invitation to their Annual Dinner in 1980, which was held at the Dower House Hotel, in Knaresborough. I drove down from Edinburgh (in my Mk.III Cortina - the worst car I ever had...) with my first wife and our 3 sons, the youngest of whom must have been 4 years old, now I come to think of it.

 
The Dower House Hotel (now the Knaresborough Inn, I believe)

The Dower House was a bit pricey for our family budget in those days, so we stayed just one night. I recall that the manager at the Dower House was a perfect doppelganger for Basil Fawlty. The dinner was loud and boozy, and the sound of axes grinding was very distinct. The re-enactment section despised the wargame section, and the main mission for the entire Association seemed to be to mock, and otherwise irritate, the deities of the wargaming establishment of the day.

To be honest, the dinner was not very memorable - I was, in any case, a total outsider, since I wasn't even a member of the wargaming section. My most vivid recollection of the night, beyond the forced laughter and the cigar smoke, was of Tim Pickles in the full - and I mean very full - dress uniform of an officer of Napoleon's Guard Chasseurs à Cheval, including sword, pelisse and fantastic plumed colpack. A spectacular production, and the quality was faultless. I recall that I and another drunken guest studied Tim's magnificent uniform in some detail, and the gold lace piping on his breeches gave rise to a fleeting joke about the Order of the Golden Haemorrhoid, which was promptly awarded to all and sundry, with copious toasts.

My wife and the kids had nothing to do with the dinner, and had very sensibly gone out on the Saturday. I promised that on the Sunday we should have a look around Knaresborough before the drive back up north.

It was suggested that we might visit the zoo. Not many people know that there was a zoo in Knaresborough; as far as I can deduce, not many people knew about it at the time, either. If you can be bothered, I recommend that you check it out in Wikipedia, which will reveal that its short history was so odd that I am confident that the story would not be believed if I told it here. 

We arrived at the zoo at about 10:30am on Sunday, and found the entrance booth closed. It said "please ring" on the door, so that is what we did. A rather harrassed-looking lady appeared, quite friendly, and she said:

"He's not here at present, he's busy somewhere. Just come in and look around - if he is here when you leave you can pay him then."

Fair enough, we went in and it was, to be sure, a small and very dilapidated zoo. The layout was confusing. There were small reptiles, and some rat-like things. There may have been a monkey. There was a lion and, in the same enclosure, there was also a stuffed lion - apparently a former resident. It seems that the previous owner had studied taxidermy as a hobby, which maybe explains why it was stuffed, but not why it was still on display. I would rather not think what psychological damage this could potentially do to the live one.

There were a few further weirdnesses about the place, but our visit was cut short. At one point, my youngest son laughed loudly at the antics of one of the small animals, and a furious lady with a clip-board appeared, and said we would have to leave at once, quietly. For a moment I thought we had finally met the Enjoyment Police, but in fact the zoo was in use that day as a set for a TV crew. There were cameras, masses of young ladies with tight sweaters and clipboards, director-type people and hangers-on, and there were even a few actors. It seems that Knaresborough was doubling for the day as Prague Zoo, for a very short scene from a contemporary British TV drama series (which, predictably, I had never heard of, though my wife at that time knew all about it). [A friend, all these years later, suggests that the scene might have been for The Sandbaggers, which was a Yorkshire TV series from this period, but I can't find sufficient clues to form an opinion!]

We were duly escorted from the premises. Since the entrance kiosk was still closed, we did not disturb the owner, or our budget, any further. [If you do look at Wiki, you may learn that the owner was also a little strange.] 


Apart from the Twilight Zone zoo, Knaresborough was a fine little town, and I am reminded now that I always promised myself a return visit, but never got around to it. We didn't have a lot of time that day, since we had to get on with our journey, to see if the Cortina could make it all the way to Scotland without boiling or forgetting how to charge its battery.

 
Passengers travel at their own risk...

I subsequently left the Napoleonic Association to get on with their squabbles. I met and liked a few of the guys who did the uniform booklets (well-intentioned amateurs, just like me). Howard Giles and Rob Mantle were very pleasant fellows, as was Peter Hofschroer (whom I'm not allowed to mention these days).

My remaining, abiding memory of the trip is that stuffed lion, pretending to be alive. There are official denials that it ever existed; I am here to tell you, my friends, that I saw it.


Saturday 17 February 2024

WSS: Battle of Waremme - Test (Solo) Campaign

 The days were accomplished, and on Thursday evening it was time for my Zoom game with JBM. I posted a description with an initial photo a few days ago. Subsequent discussion confirmed that we should switch from my extended table (17 x 9 hexes) to the standard size (13 x 9); the big disadvantages of having an oversize table for a Commands & Colors type game are:

* There is a temptation for both generals to stretch out their forces to fit the space, which is historically inappropriate for horse and musket warfare, and 

* The Command Cards and the Centre/Flank table sectors don't work properly if the armies are grouped in the centre, leaving the flanks empty!

Scenario? Well, this action was triggered by my (beta-test) campaign system, the vehicle for a try-out campaign, with which the Jolly Broom Man is very kindly giving me a hand. The game generator indicated that this particular event was to be a "medium-sized" set-piece attack & defence situation, with a Franco-Bavarian force under Marshal Marsin attacking an Austro-British Alliance force commanded by the Duke of Marlborough. Preliminary dice-rolling gave Marsin 4 Divisions, while Marlborough had 3; since the defending force was outnumbered, some further dice-rolling allowed the Allies to bolster their defensive position by spending the night before the action digging some modest breastworks on their right flank.

 
Start of the day's action; one of the Bavarian guns engaged in the preliminary artillery bombardment

The action took place at the farm of Oude Wieg, in open country outside the Wallonian town of Borgworm (Waremme in French).

I've posted the OOB previously, but here it is again. Some form of narrative should emerge from the photos.


Victory required 10 Victory Points (there are no bonus VPs for strategic objectives). 

 
Right at the start the French advanced all along their line; here you see them on the left of the picture and the Allies on the right, racing to occupy the central farm. Marsin has the French Division of La Bonne at this end, Lützelburg's Bavarians in the centre and Maffei's Bavarians extending into the distance; he kept his reserve Division (that of Bassinet), off the table at the start. On the Allied side you see Handschuh's Austrians in the foreground, with Charles Churchill's British at the farm and Lord Orkney's British holding the earthworks at the far end.

 
Early fighting was mostly around the farm. The Bavarians gained an early foothold, but were driven out fairly quickly, and from that point, though there were repeated attacks by Marsin's forces, the British held the farm for the rest of the day.
 
 
Attempts to take the farm and its fields cost the French army a lot of casualties; in very little time there was a large gap in that early French line. At this stage the Allies have accumulated 4 VPs, as indicated by the counters at the end of the table!

 
Tragedy for the British, quite early in the day; General Charles Churchill, the brother of the Duke of Marlborough, was mortally wounded by a musket ball at the farm, while encouraging his own regiment (the Buffs). The fatal dice are shown here...

 
Still contesting possession of the farm, the Boismorel Regiment (Bavarian "Red Grenadiers", who were mostly Frenchmen) are here hanging on to the kale field in the foreground. It was certainly vicious while it lasted.

 
General view from the Allied right gives a clear view of the earthwork.

 
After a couple of hours, it was revealed that Marsin, who was concerned about the extended Bavarian division on his left, had committed Bassinet's reserve Division to appear on that flank. Here they are just starting to arrive, while Bavarian dragoons nearer the camera have a good look at the British earthworks, and wonder what to do about them.
 
 
And still the scrap at the farm goes on, but is just about decided. The Boismorels have been driven out of the kale field by Ferguson's Foot (Cameronians).

 
Concerned that he might have to shift troops to his right to oppose the French reserves coming on, Marlborough deployed his limited cavalry to threaten the infantry on the French right, to buy a little time while the other flank developed.

 
A general view after about two and a half hours shows that the French had done very little with their right flank, had suffered heavy losses at the the farm, and had avoided the fortified flank at the far end, though the reserve troops coming on Marsin's left were worrying Marlborough.

 
Around the same time, here is a better view of the other flank.

 
Bassinet's reserve troops now clearly visible reaching the battlefield on the French left, but this part of the field was relatively quiet throughout.

 
With the VP score now 7-5 to the Allies, Marsin began an offensive on his right, against Handschuh's Imperial troops.
 
 
Then it became 9-5.

 
And still Orkney's little redoubt is under very little pressure.

 
The attack by Marsin's right late in the day once more got Marlborough anxious, as the VP gap started to close. In a lengthy game, the luck is always likely to swing at some time, but the game ran out with a 10-8 victory for the defenders.

I feel that my account maybe doesn't do justice to what was really an exciting little game. JBM (Marsin) and I had a productive discussion at the end; we agreed, I think (entirely with the advantage of hindsight on my part!), that he had probably been over-cautious around the earthworks, and that if he had committed the reserve troops to appear on his right, instead of the left, he might have had the weight to drive the Austrians from the field.

The campaign will continue in a week or so. Great fun - thanks again JBM.

We came up with a few slight wrinkles in the rules covering how artillery are handled if they come under attack, and one or two areas where the problem was that I didn't quite remember the details of the rules. All fine - a little pondering and some further discussion should sort things out nicely. 

No problems. Nice game.