Tuesday, 29 April 2008


I have acquired a set of "Warfare in the Age of Reason" rules. While I don't think I'll use them for field battles (12 figure "regiments?") they also have a useful set of seige rules. And then, of course, The London War Room have a nice-looking 28mm set of 18th century engineers and sappers...
So my question is, how many gamers have actually taken part in a seige game? Did you fight it out on the tabletop, or reduce everything to maps, plans and the abstract? Inquiring minds need to know...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Pootling along... 3

Not an awful lot happening this week. My progress on the residency/town wall project is moving along. One more bastion to go and it'll be ready for painting.
Friday night was club night, and we had a try-out of the WW2 Flames of War rules. 15mm was the figure size, Western Europe the theater, British vs German the forces. It's early days, and will need some more playtesting until I make up my mind about them. I do think the unit pack system is good. It may be spoon-feeding but it saves a lot of time and figuring out.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Lead Mountain.

A poem in the style of Rudyard Kipling...

"I have a suspicion figurines breed by fission if you leave 'em in the dark for a while. When you return to the heap it has gotten quite deep and the prospect of painting's quite vile.

"So a few done each session causes less tension and it's easy if the things are the same. You no longer feel faint, just slap on the paint, base 'em up and get on with a game!"

© A J Matthews 2008. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy if attribution is attached.

The Margravate of Dunkeldorf-Pfühl: Guard artillery

Today's snapshot of the Markgraaf's army depicts the Guard Artillery. Composed of 12- pounder guns and 7" howitzers, it's the heavy-hitter on the battlefield. Although too small to represent in this scale of image, the gun crews wear a silver roundel on their tricorn representing a cannonball; those of the howitzer detachment have the badge of a pewter "grenade, fired proper."


The gun crew's badge derives from the custom of allowing the very first shot of any engagement to be fired by the guard battery when it is possible to do so. To mark this, that first shot to be fired is a silver-plated cannonball. A reward of ten Margravate Thalers is given to the person who recovers it either during or after the battle. Since the sum is a considerable portion of a year's wages for a soldier (and more than the value of the ball), it adds a certain degree of eagerness to scour the area of the battlefield where the silver shot fell during and after the engagement. Some colonels don't like the practise as it leads to units becoming fragmented as men drop out to search, but it's a Military Tradition, which has a force all of its own...

Sunday, 20 April 2008

SALUTE 2008: Oh dear..!

This was not a good day out, but it wasn't the fault of the Salute organizers. Everything went fine until we reached London just before 9am. From that point on a combination of tube closures and bad directions from a London Underground staffer meant a horribly long and frustrating diversion through the East End of London and the Docklands involving a number of buses. We didn't reach the ExCel Center until just before 12 noon, meaning there was only an hour to look around a huge venue before having to head back to catch the return train. Our late arrival meant a lot of traders had already sold out of goods I would have bought, the prime reason I had for attending the convention.


Booking in at the Bring & Buy stall was straightforward but the scant time I had for my items to be on display meant no sales for me. I was a little annoyed when I tried to reclaim my goods at the earliest time of 1pm as stated on the booking-in form, only to be told by a couple of guys eating baguette sandwiches that the time had been extended to 1.30pm due to the heavy intake of goods. A bit of diplomacy was required and resulted in my goods being reclaimed by 1.15, leaving us only just sufficient time to make it back to the main railway station.


So, "moan" aside, it wasn't a bad show from all appearances. It was certainly crowded, with customers thronging the various stalls. After Salute 07's fiasco with the Waffen SS, the re-enactments were far less controversial his year. US Vietnam infantry rubbed shoulders with their Union and Confederate forebears, and squads of 18th century pirates and Star Wars Stormtroopers were making the rounds. I didn't have time to do more than glance at the games on display but they all looked good. A couple really caught my eye. The first was a nice WW2 Pacific beach landing game with US Marines storming Japanese-held defences. The second was another big WW2 game depicting the Allies assaulting the last foothold of the Axis forces in Tunisia.

Friday, 18 April 2008

SALUTE 2008: A small diversion...

Comin' at ya through the Docklands!

A slight diversion from the 18th century... I'm heading off to Salute 2008, the big wargames convention in London tomorrow with some of the club. It'll be the first time I've been there but I hear it's pretty good. It'll also give me a chance to sell a few items at their famous bring & buy sale. A regiment of 25mm ACW Union infantry is up for grabs, along with some painted (but not based) Gallic warriors. I'll also be selling the eye-monster aliens shown above. Scratch-built, they were inspired by the creatures described in Robert E. Heinlein's novel Starman Jones, a childhood favorite.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Margravate of Dunkeldorf-Pfühl: Artillery.

The artillery is the most professional body of troops in the Markgraaf's army. Although a relatively small corps it is well armed with 6-pounder cannon for the line battery, 12-pounder cannon and 7" howitzers for the Guard. The image above is for the line battery, Countess Erzebet von Neuman's Honorable Artillery Company. All ordinance is painted blood red.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Babbington's Legion.

By request, the flag of Babbington's Legion. It follows the family's armorial design and colors of red and silver. The motto translates from the original French as "Faith is everything."

Above is a detail of the uniform worn by Babbington's Legion, a mercenary regiment serving in the vicinity of Hetzenberg. Its Colonel is Henry James Villiers Babbington, a scion of that noble house which was involved in the infamous plot against Queen Elizabeth I of England many years ago. Irredeemably Catholic, this particular cadet branch of the family fled into exile when the plot was exposed. Although they have kept contact with the homeland, this has been intermittent due to the many surges in anti-Catholic feeling there. To some extent this has helped the Legion to raise and maintain its level of manpower.

Raised in 1743, it drew its personnel from exiled British Catholics from across Europe. It served for a while with the Gallican army until Colonel Babbington had a major difference of opinion with the government over deployment and withdrew the Legion from both Gallican service and territory. It has served a number of masters in the intervening years, mostly but not always from Catholic states, and has created a record of both competence and aggression. It is currently serving as the main force in being for the Free City of Cottbus.

The regiment retains the basic Gallican uniform with a Celtic flavor. This is most noticable in the green cuffs and turnbacks and the quantity of lace on the front of the coat.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The Other Side of the Hill - 2.

“It’s absurd!” Grand Duke Karl stopped his pacing and let the formal letter from the Imperial court in Vienna drop to the table. He leant forward, resting on his knuckles, and addressed the Ducal Council. “This… Vizier Evidya cannot be serious!”

The Chancellor, Heinrich, Count Ostenburg cleared his throat. “I fear he is, Your Grace. When the letter arrived from Vienna I took the precaution of consulting with the resident Professor of Oriental Studies at the university. He was quite adamant that the Vizier is the true power behind the throne. When he decides upon action, the Sublime Porte will move.”

The Duke furrowed his brow. “I hope you impressed upon the Professor that this matter is to be kept strictly confidential?”

The Chancellor bowed his head. “Indeed I did, Your Grace. In fact, he is waiting outside now should you wish to consult him.”

“Very well. Bring the gentleman in and let’s hear what he has to say.”

The Chancellor gestured to the chamberlain, who opened the doors to the council chamber and addressed someone beyond. “The Council will see you now, sir.”

A moment later a small, sprightly man in sub-fusculum robes entered and bowed to the assembly, removing his mortarboard hat to expose a shock of white hair as the chamberlain announced him. “Your Grace, Gentlemen of the Council, Professor Strabismus from the University of Hetzenberg.”

The Duke gestured for him to approach. “Come, Professor. Stand at the head of the table. This Council would like to hear your opinion on this extraordinary matter. Give us a précis of the Ottoman Empire’s governance.”

A footman moved the Duke’s chair aside to make room for the Professor. The Duke sat and gestured for silence.

“Your Grace, gentlemen.” The Professor bowed again then replaced his hat. He took up a tutorial stance at the head of the table, tucking his thumbs into the lapels of his gown and pursing his lips. Long memories were triggered by the Professor’s stance. As one the assembled councillors sat up straight and stopped fidgeting.

The Professor began. “At the head of the Empire is the Sultan, resident in his palace in Constantinople. He is the supreme ruler of a vast tract of territory in his own right. Furthermore he has nominal suzerainty if not considerable influence over a portion of the world that stretches across North Africa from the Pillars of Hercules in the West, and across the Orient to the borders of Far Cathay in the East.”

The Council members stirred and looked at each other. Educated men one and all, they nevertheless were centered on their own sphere of existence, and had only been aware of these facts in a kind of nebulous way. Now the Professor’s incisive account was painting detail on that broad canvas in a way that reminded them sharply just what kind of potential power lay on the threshold of Urope. They listened with close attention as the Professor continued.

“That is not to say the Caliphate is a monobloc, a homogenized body.” He shook his head. “Oh no, no, no. There are many Khedives, Sheiks, Beys, Deys and petty Emirs, lords who look upon the Sultan with no kind of favor and pay only lip service to the Sublime Porte. I can see little prospect in current events and from my contacts and correspondents in those Oriental lands to show there will be a mass assault against the Christian world.”

“Then for that we must give thanks!” The Duke murmured, to a chorus of Amen! from the Council.

“Indeed, Your Grace. That is not to say there will be no danger.” He gestured at the letter that still lay upon the table. “As you can see from this correspondence it most certainly exists.

“As I mentioned, the Sultan is a powerful lord, commander of a numerous host in his own right. Many of those other lords will follow should he call them to arms. The question is; who will spur him to action?”

“This Vizier Evidya?” asked the Duke.

“Possibly; I would say probably. You must understand also, Your Grace, gentlemen, that the Ottoman Sultan is a powerful man, but there are many factions that sway his opinions. The Seraglio, ah, that’s the harem if you prefer to call it that, is the domain of the Sultan’s mother, his wives, and his numerous concubines, not to mention the offspring from his loins.” He smiled. “We all know what influence our wives can have on us.” The Council nodded and smiled as one.

“Just so. That is one major faction, but they tend not to take much interest in foreign affairs. Then there are the Janissaries, the Sultan’s bodyguard. They are a considerable body of professional soldiers composed of forcibly-conscripted boys from the Empire’s Christian families -- of which there are a considerable number -- brought up in the Islamic faith to be totally loyal to the Sultan.”

A general growl of disapprobation greeted this and the Professor nodded. “Yes, it’s one thing to conscript a soldier, quite another to kidnap a boy and forcibly convert him to another faith. Our own lands saw quite enough of that in the centuries preceding this. The effects of those unhappy times are still with us.

“That is not to say the Janissaries are perfectly loyal. They are good soldiers, but they tend to be… pampered. Spoilt. If they don’t get their way they are quite happy to mutiny, which they symbolize by overturning the massive kettles they use to cook their food. They refuse their rations, they therefore refuse to accept commands until their demands are met.”

General Rauppen-Schlepper, the army representative on the Council, snorted in derision. “Brittle! I’ve seen that in other armies. Press troops like that hard enough and they’ll break.”

“I bow to your knowledge, General,” the Professor said. “I’m sure the prospect of routing some twenty thousand troops as one body will be a delightful one.”

The General looked thoughtful at the words twenty thousand. “Our army in its entirety numbers less than a quarter of that sum,” he said in a low voice.

A near-silence fell upon the chamber, broken only by gentle ticking of the clock and the scratching of the secretary’s quill pen as he took the minutes. An extra charge of tension began to be felt in the air.

The Professor cleared his throat. “Quite. That is not to say the majority of the Sultan’s army is as good, or even half as good as the Janissaries. The military sphere is not my field of study.” He bowed to the General. “I leave that concern to far more capable minds than mine.” The General returned the bow.

“And then we come to the Vizier, the real power behind the Imperial throne. Vizier Evidya is a man known for his intelligence and cunning, his long experience in the manifold power plays and shifting alliances within the palace and the Empire as a whole. He has held the post for a number of years, quite an achievement in a world where assassination and indeed mass-murder are perfectly acceptable political tactics. The… gentleman is not above using those tactics against other powers either, if there is a strategic benefit to be gained.”

“There were those rumors of arsonists attempting to fire Paris last year…” a Councillor said.

“Just so. There are pockets of Muslims in most major cities throughout the continent. The Vizier’s writ holds sway in a surprising number of them. It would not be a surprise to me to learn the Parisian matter can be laid at the feet of the Vizier. In any case, it can be assumed with a degree of certainty that he has an efficient spy network in the diverse lands of Urope.”

“Here, too?” the Chief of Police asked.

The Duke shot him a look that spoke volumes. “It’s something that must be addressed,” he said.

“Yes, Your Grace,” the man replied, chastened.

“Thank you, Professor.” The Duke stood up and addressed the Council. “It is plain that we must debate this matter further. General Rauppen-Schlepper can give us an appreciation of the military status.”

The General rose to his feet with a faint clicking of joints. “Your Grace, gentlemen. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe the Ottoman army as one belonging to the early Renaissance, with equipment and tactics to match.” He gave them a wintery smile. “They reached their high tide before the walls of Vienna in the last age. And the armies of the West are better now than they were then. We have moved with the times. The Sultan’s army has not.”

“So what is your appreciation of the danger?”

“I would say the direct threat to Hetzenberg is slight, Your Grace. After all, there is the Austrian Empire and numerous other states between us and the Ottomans, not to mention the might of Prussia and of course, Russia. Although I have little experience in naval matters, I doubt the Sultan’s fleets will be any better than his army. The Gallican navy is a powerful one; in the event of war it will dominate the Mediterranean. Should the Ottoman fleet manage to pass the Pillars of Hercules, they’ll have Britannia to contend with too.”

“Just so.” The Duke turned to the Professor. “Professor Strabismus, your talk on this subject has been most illuminating. You may return to the University now, with our thanks. Perhaps you will hold yourself in readiness to answer further questions on this matter should they arise?”

“Of course, Your Grace.” The Professor bowed and withdrew.

Once more the Duke leaned on the table and addressed his Council. “So, gentlemen, what is to be done?”

“I would suggest a watching brief, Your Grace,” the Chancellor said slowly. “We should send an ambassador to the Viennese court as soon as possible to monitor the events as they unfold. That is where the first crisis will come – if it comes.”


“Yes, Your Grace.” The Chancellor’s expression cleared as a small crumb of comfort came to his mind. “This whole business may be nothing more than saber-rattling on the part of this Vizier for purposes of his own.”

“Even so, we can’t be certain nothing will come of this.”

“Indeed not, Your Grace. As the good Professor said, there are several factions within the Ottoman Court. The same can be said of the Court of Vienna. Some of those are less than enthusiastic for military adventures.” The Chancellor shrugged.
“Who knows what may happen?”

“Who indeed. And what of our own bête noir, the Markgraaf?”

“He knows of the unfolding events, Your Grace. Our agent said as much earlier last week. A copy of this general letter from Vienna will have reached him too.”

“Yes, of course.” The Duke paced up and down several times, deep in thought, before walking over to stand before a window. He gazed out over the grounds of the palace for a while then nodded and turned back to face the Council. “Very well, here is my intent.

“An ambassador shall be sent to Vienna as you recommended, Count Ostenburg.” The Chancellor bowed. “He will be tasked with maintaining a watching brief on the situation. He is to learn all he can of the Austrians’ appreciation of the Ottoman army’s strength and abilities.

“A letter shall be sent to the Markgraaf of Dunkeldorf-Pfühl. He knows as well as we do that there will be war between us unless he acknowledges our claims to the towns and lands in the County of Waldorf-Salle-Adse. We shall proceed with our military build-up with that intent in mind. However, our letter shall ask him for an understanding that in the event of a major incursion by the Ottoman Empire into the lands of Urope all hostilities between us shall cease with immediate effect.” The Duke looked grim. “In the face of a major threat to our very way of life, even that superannuated dolt should see he must join us for the greater good!”

“United we stand, divided we fall,” the Chancellor murmured.

The clock ticked; the secretary’s quill scratched then fell silent. “Indeed,” said the Duke. “Indeed.”

* * * *