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

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Strolling Along Nicely

 Soldier painting is progressing quite well - I'm keeping the sessions down to a couple of hours, since my eyes get tired, but I'm happy to be getting back to it. I have a couple of units close to being finished, and that will be an important step psychologically, apart from anything else; if I have a problem with a painting job, or if it gets stuck, this has always discouraged me out of all proportion to the seriousness of the issue. Energy sapping! This week should help a lot, in a number of ways. 


 I've also had a chance to get back to testing my solo campaign rules for Corporal John, which are coming along very well.  

Last month I got as far as the first tabletop battle in a fictional campaign. this was the action at La Bienveillance that I featured in a post at the time. I'm pleased that the Jolly Broom Man has been able to provide some very useful help and support via Zoom. To restate an idea about which I have become convinced, I believe that it is impossible to test anything original on one's own. Even if it is a solo game, we will always read the rules as though they say what we meant them to say, so the testing is invalid right from the start.

The bold JBM appeared last night, complete with a very intimidating set of whiskers, and we advanced the campaign a little without too much effort, and with no real problems.

We managed to start a background siege running, for the first time. It didn't last very long. The French laid siege to the small town of Rijnsburg, sending the siege train and the divisions of Lützelburg (Bavarian) and Bassinet (French). Rijnsburg was selected, not least, because of the mediochre reputation of the Dutch commander, Colonel Wiegman, and the result was the quickest collapse we have seen yet in a test siege. The investment was only 3 weeks into the job when something bad happened to the garrison - Wiegman asked to surrender, unconditionally, and the remains of the garrison and poor Wiegman were sent off to the hulks. The French now hold Rijnsburg, and obtained 2 Campaign Points for very little effort. They will have the job of repairing about 30% damage to the fortress.

We also got to the initiation of the next field action, which will be a biggish set-piece in the open country outside the town of Waremme, in Wallonia. The French will be attacking, and the Order of Battle will be:

I have to send some choices of battlefield terrain to JBM, and we can have a crack at it when opportunity allows. I also have to remind myself where to position the Zoom cameras for the extended version of my table - it should be OK, since I have done it before [hands up if you are convinced].

Thursday 25 January 2024

Any Day Now

 Been a bit distracted lately - no complaints really, just things to be getting on with and the odd storm to add excitement. The storms are losing novelty value now - maybe that's a good sign; if they become interesting again, it will probably be because of damage, so I'll settle for boring. Boring is good.

I've done hardly any soldier painting over the last year - a couple of jobs touching up bought-in figures, other than that I have two boxes of not-quite finished WSS chaps that have been hanging around since the start of last year. That seems a sensible place to get started again; I can work up to the freshly-reorganised boxes of raw metal later. As a token of good faith, I have put my painting mugs in the dishwasher, and am about to wash out my wet-palette container. If I make a flask of tea, tidy up my brushes, shift the small electric radiator into the painting room and try to get the DAB radio working, it should be just about bedtime.

Ha! - caught myself. No, I'll sit down with a couple of unfinished infantry units this morning, have a good look at them and decide what needs to be done to get them ready for duty. I suspect the house base-green paint may have gone off again, and I'm not confident about the state of my current pot of gloss varnish, but I can get on with the job until I reach the last stages. 


I have been working recently on the development of a campaign system (designed to work for solitary gamers, such as myself) to accompany my WSS rules. This has been time usefully spent, I think. The testing is presently on hold, another thing I have to get back to. I had a New Year exchange of emails with my friend Dominic, and he was very interested to learn of my campaign ideas. He was enthusiastic, in fact.

He asked, how was I dealing with sieges in my campaigns? I said that I wasn't really addressing sieges at this stage, though I intended to come back to them later, and my current target was just to be able to generate miniatures battles. Wrong answer. Good Old Dominic sort of snorted (via email), and pointed out that a WSS campaign which ignores sieges is a poor show. He was correct, of course - I have known this all along.

Thus there has been a two-week blitz on developing a siege add-on. If you are alarmed at the potential quality risks of adding sieges to the system in two weeks, I must explain that the siege game-within-a-game is a close relative of something I developed 12 years ago, so there is an underlying thread of sanity in there. Looks OK, anyway - it's added to the testing programme.

Friday 12 January 2024

New Year Quiz - Answers and Challenges

 I received a pleasing number of responses to my quiz, some complaining that it was ridiculously difficult, some that it was too easy, and some (correctly) identifying that the photo is misleading. On the other hand, the actual history involved is also very misleading, so I shall attempt to explain the background story, hopefully without causing unnecessary further irritation!

Straight away, let me announce that the city is Regensburg, which has been a major strategic river crossing on the mighty Danube since ancient times. Nowadays it is in Bavaria, though at various times in the past it was a free city. It has also been known as Ratisbon, which comes from an old Celtic name, Radasbona. The Romans built a major fort there in AD90, which they called CASTRA REGINA [fort on the (River) Regen].

My photo shows sections of several buildings, all with different dates and histories of rebuilding. This whole area is known locally as the Altes Rathaus, though which bit was the actual working administrative HQ of the city varied from time to time. In the picture, on the right, the pale-coloured buildings, including the foot of a tower, are the site of the very first Rathaus for the city, which was built in the mid-13th Century, close to the Roman fort and the commercial centre. The building on the left, which is a sort of mustard colour and was later known as the Reichssaal, was built as a posh new add-on to the Town Hall in the 1320s as a big assembly and function hall, appropriate to the dignity and aspirations of the thriving city.

The building in the angle of these two older buildings (with the ornate doorway) is called the Portalbau, added in 1408, and upgraded in the 1560s, to provide covered access between the two buildings. At this point, the story becomes easier to follow if I produce another picture, borrowed without permission from Google Maps.

Here you can see the Reichssaal, on the left, with its distinctive balcony looking onto Rathausplatz, and the original Rathaus location, along to the tower (which was rebuilt in the 1360s after a fire), with the Portalbau in between. 

During the 16th Century the Reichssaal became the preferred venue for the assemblies of the Holy Roman Empire, and from 1594 these Reichstag meetings only took place here. From 1663, the Perpetual Diet of the Holy Roman Empire was in permanent residence here, until Napoleon put a stop to the Empire.

To allow space for a functioning Town Hall for the city itself, the two wings of the Baroque town hall which you can see in the lower right corner of the Google aerial view were built in the 1660s and the 1720s. In this period, this was the Neues Rathaus, though in the 1930s a complete new administration centre for the city was built some distance from this site; this modern building, then, is truly the New Town Hall now. The Altes Rathaus now houses a fine museum and the main Tourist Information office for Regensburg.

 Apologies for the complicated story! In summary, the answers to the 3 questions in the quiz are:

(1) Regensburg

(2) The city built a new Town Hall next door to the old one because from 1663 to 1805 the Holy Roman Empire's Perpetual Diet was in constant session in the existing buildings!  

(3) My original photo shows several constructions, of different ages; they all form part of what is known as the Old Town Hall, though the location of the actual city management function changed from time to time under outside pressures!

For completeness, here is the modern Burgerbüro, some distance to the east:

My thanks to everyone who responded, in particular I received excellent answers from Jon Freitag, Dan Sarrazin, Martin S, nundanket, Cec Rhodes, Rittmeister Krefeld and Rigor Mort; after due deliberation, I decided that the best answer of all came from Count Goya - a splendid effort, with accurate historical information and humorous modern political analogies.

The noble Rittmeister also drew attention to the crossed-keys symbol, which appears in my photo at the top of this post, above both archways. Here's a close-up:

This symbol is a traditional Papal cipher, associated with St Peter and the Keys of Heaven (St Peter is the patron saint of Regensburg), and it has been in use as the arms of Regensburg since the 13th Century, so it is a useful clue. The slightly bad news is that it is also featured on the arms of well over 400 other towns and cities, including York, but no matter.

Interestingly, nobody who submitted an answer was interested in the prize, so the mugs will go to our village charity shop! I am alarmed to note that 4 of the entrants either have Covid or are recovering from a recent bout, which only increases my admiration. 

Thanks very much for your time and interest, everyone who read the blog post and/or took part!

Saturday 6 January 2024

Max Foy's Underwhelming New Year Quiz for 2024

 It's a while since I did a quiz post. This one, I confess, is primarily an attempt to unload some more clutter, but someone might fancy the prize, and the quiz might offer a little amusement, if only for me.

I bought these in 2019, and even publicised them here. I had great ideas that they would make a useful conversation piece for coffee and tea breaks when all my wargaming friends came to visit. Ah, well. What with pandemics and a few other set-backs, I believe that they may never have been used, and my current enthusiasm for clearing the decks and the cupboards resulted in my gimlet eye falling on them.

I don't know the maker; they are cute, but of moderate quality, and you will probably recognise that the subjects depicted are Napoleon and his staff at Eylau, Napoleon in Egypt, Napoleon's Old Guard Grenadiers and a Napoleonic infantry flag (complete with dodgy spelling). Just the thing in which to enjoy your battlefield tea, and they are especially useful for putting at the front of a suitable bookshelf, or you could even give them away in a daft quiz on Blogger. 

I offer the set of 4 as a single prize. To win them, all you have to do is study the photo below and provide answers to the questions. Accuracy is welcome, of course, though I am likely to offer more marks for humour and entertainment; the scoring system, as ever, will be shamelessly unfair.

Here we go - this is a photo taken in a European city, some years ago. It is not a published photo, so Google may not help very much. The scene shows tourists visiting one of this city's two town halls. Having two town halls is not uncommon, usually an old one and a better, newer (or less ruined) one, but the reason why this city needed two halls is unusual.

My questions are:

(1) Which is the city?

(2) Why did they build a second town hall?

(3) Which one is in the photo?

The country is German-speaking. Religion is relevant.

If you send a comment containing your answer then I shall keep it on file until the 13 January, when I'll pick a winner and publish the results. If you do not want the prize, and are entering merely for glory, please say so. I regret that sending this prize by international post seems a very bad idea, so it is possible that prize entries are for the UK only, though I would be interested in any ingenious ways to make the offer less restrictive.

If you would like some extra information, send it in a comment which does not contain any answers. It is very likely that I shall refuse the extra information - it depends what it is, and what mood I am in.

 All the best, if you have a go, and thanks very much for reading this nonsense anyway.

Thursday 4 January 2024

Hooptedoodle #456 - Very Quiet Start to 2024; More OCD, plus Von Richthofen & Falstaff

 Happy New Year to one and all! I hope you had a chance to enjoy the holiday.

The weather here has not been very good, it put paid to my customary New Year's Day drive in the Scottish Borders, and walking (squelching) through the countryside nearer to home didn't appeal much. Never mind; I've spent a useful few days sorting out cupboards and tidying up some of the accumulated clutter.

I've chucked out some things that should have been gone a while ago, and re-organised most of the lead mountain in large plastic boxes which slide neatly under the couch in my soldier-painting room. This frees up a lot of useful space in my other cupboards, and I've even updated my lists of what is in each box, so that is all gratifying in a rather specialised way!

Other than that I have spent my evenings watching DVDs. First off, I watched a BluRay I obtained of Las Aguilas Azules - it may not be obvious that this is The Blue Max, which I hadn't watched since it was released in 1966 (which is not yesterday). 

I spent some time fumbling with the Spanish instructions to get it to play back in English, but all was well eventually. Apart from the necessary alliteration in the Spanish title, it is not obvious why this was considered an acceptable translation; I assume the marketing people didn't know what it was about..

Visually, it is a delight - I spent a lot of time wondering how they had filmed the in-flight sequences. It is not a period I know a great deal of, so I will bow to those who are offended by the inaccuracies in the 'plane conversions or the uniforms, but it looks terrific. The script is woeful; there was a novel somewhere in the background, I understand, but it has been well dumbed-down to ensure that audiences will understand the plot. The dialogue is frequently embarrassing - budgerigar level - and the stereotypes on show, the class issues and the general treatment of female characters are fairly moronic; I guess that "of their day" would be fairer. 

Having said all of which, I enjoyed it; two and half hours well spent. I recall that back in 1966, for some reason I can't really remember, I watched it in a mid-week afternoon matinée at a cinema in Galashiels. The audience consisted largely of pensioners, I recall, and it seemed to be acceptable to converse at normal levels of volume in the theatre during the show; I was probably glad that the dialogue didn't need a lot of concentration.

I am, of course, continuing with my alphabetical Shakespeare campaign, working my way through the BBC's colour TV series circa 1980. Since Xmas I have watched Measure for Measure and The Merry Wives of Windsor, both of which were really very good. Merry Wives in particular is a riot, and the BBC deployed many excellent actors (in 1982); Richard Griffiths, Ben Kingsley, Alan Bennett, Prunella Scales and Michael Bryant, along with some lesser personal favourites of my own, including Richard O'Callaghan and the magnificent Elizabeth Spriggs.

I got through Merry Wives in a single sitting, hugely entertained, and reinforced only by a quart of black tea and the odd Digestive biscuit. Great stuff indeed, though the end does get decidedly weird, doesn't it?