Thursday, 29 April 2010

An idle question

My current project is painting up some Plains Wars US cavalry for a fellow gamer. Pics of the completed mounted troops can be found here, at A J's Wargames Table.

In between times, I was talking over TV and media with my wife, and got to wondering. With all the TV coverage of sports, hobbies and so on out there, why is there no dedicated TV wargaming channel? Surely with many thousands of gamers all over the country and beyond, there's room for such a channel. Thoughts? Opinions?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Into the night

The company of Sobelsburg Jager swam across the Eisenwasser in the dead of night. Two miles upstream stood the small town of Wentwitz. Almost of one mind the company decided to avoid going anywhere near the scene of their rough handling by the Hetzenberg army and riverine flotilla. Enemy troops still patrolled the area, but the agent had said the riverbank here seemed unwatched.

Lieutenant Weismuller led the way across with a powerful over arm crawl, towing a sealed keg behind him by means of a length of yarn. It contained a dark lantern and a tinderbox, along with a dry white kerchief and spare cartridges for his firelock Experience had taught him long ago to be prepared for every eventuality.

Not far behind Private Träger swam like a trout. Kleiner’s massive frame bulled through the water in the manner of a ship of the line, raising a white wake and earning a hissed rebuke from the Old Man. “Yes sergeant, sorry sergeant,” Kleiner burbled, water slapping in his face. The Old Man raised his eyes to heaven and wondered quite what he’d done to deserve to be stuck with such a lumbering brute.

Before long the first swimmers entered the reed beds and set their feet down on the muddy bank. Drawing bayonets blackened with soot and lamp-black, they crept forward, eyes searching the darkness intently for signs of the enemy. The small sounds of night creatures filled the air. An owl hooted somewhere in a copse of trees close to the bank. Waving their fellows on the lead jagers climbed the low rise into the water meadow.

Lieutenant Weismuller shook water out of his ears and gestured to the senior NCOs to gather around. He pitched his voice low. “Our contact should be here. Ensure the men have unloaded firelocks; I don’t want anything giving the alarm, do you understand?” A chorus of assent showed they did. “Good, return to your men.”

“Sir!” a jager cried softly, and pointed toward the copse. A light flickered there, once, twice, once, twice more. The owl had fallen silent.

“That’s the signal. Stand easy, men.” Weismuller unsealed the keg and took out the kerchief. He waved it in the direction of the light, knowing the white cloth would be easily visible in the starlight. The light flickered once then twice in response and went out. Moments later a man could be seen emerging from the darkness under the trees. Stuffing the kerchief into a pocket Weismuller went forward to greet him.

“You’re late,” the man said gruffly.

“And you’re impatient, but this is getting us nowhere.” Weismuller couldn’t make out the man’s features then realized the lower half of his face was swathed in a black scarf. “Is the way clear?”

“Yes. There’s a farm track leading out of this meadow fifty paces in that direction.” The man gestured. “The high road’s half a mile further along. Cross that and head roughly northwest, you’ll come to the wooded hills on the other side of the valley. Skirt around those, keeping northwest for ten miles. You’ll come to a burnt-out windmill. When you reach that, head north. Your target lies nine miles further on.” He drew a folded sheet of paper out of his cloak and passed it to Weismuller. “Here’s the best plan I could obtain of your objective. It’s not well guarded. Good luck.”

Without another word the man walked away, swinging his lantern, heading north along the edge of the meadow. Weismuller watched him go and sighed inwardly. I hate skulking around like this. Give me an honest ambush any day of the week.

He clapped his hands softly. “All right, let’s get going. First platoon, out front, form skirmish order. You others, form on me. Keep your eyes peeled! Move out.”

“What’re we doin’ here anyway?” Kleiner rumbled.

“We’re on a secret mission, is what,” Träger whispered with a sniff. "Or 'ave you forgotten?"

“And you two will find my not-so-secret boot up your butts if you don’t shut it!” the Old Man snarled right behind them. “Now face front and march!”

Both men stiffened and did as they were told.

The owl watched the line of humans until they passed out of sight. If it could sigh, it would have done so. Gradually the noise of human movement faded, and the small scurrying creatures began to emerge from hiding. The owl forgot the intruders and turned its mind back to the matter of hunting.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Few, the Proud...

The increased importance of river warfare has been demonstrated clearly by recent actions along the Eisenwasser. Under the able command of first Captain Creighton then Commander Hornegeblase, the Hetzenberg riverine flotilla has given the forces of Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl a bloody nose on several occasions.
The Hetzenberg Army Council scrutinised the after action reports submitted by the commanders and identified a means of enhancing the flotilla's capabilities. To this end a general order has been issued commissioning the raising of a company-size Marine contingent for service aboard the flotilla vessels. A platoon-size force will be assigned to each vessel, including the new pennant craft once it is commissioned. This will give the riverine navy a raiding force to strike land targets, something it sorely lacked - until now.
The picture above shows the prescribed uniform for the Marines, a fusilier-pattern rig in royal blue over Prussian blue weskit and britches in similar fashion to the army issue. White gaiters are issued for parade dress only. All buttons are of spelter. The low-crowned fusilier cap has been adopted, and a carbine issued as standard firearm due to the confined space aboard ship. In keeping with Marine tradition, all personnel wear cutlasses.
With thanks again to David Linienblatt for use of the uniform template.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Does anyone know...

...of a US source of 25mm horses, compatable with the Dixon's Miniatures Plains Wars range? I've tried but they've sold out. Any guidance will be appreciated.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A new blog

After some thought I've decided to open another wargaming blog.

This will be a home for all my non-SYW/ImagiNations gaming and modelling projects, plus odds and ends that take my gaming interest. My first post is a brief but picture-packed note on the Victorian sci-fi GASLIGHT vehicles I built. Take a look and I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

In the siege lines.

Colonel Wilhelm Schmutzgräber cursed as a young sapper dropped his end of a fascine. “Pick it up, lad! The enemy won’t dawdle if they see you in their sights!”

As if on cue the Neuburg battery fired, blossoms of yellow fire erupting all along the distant embrasures. Lieutenant Mary Amadeus ducked low in the trench as the shot howled overhead. A gabion shuddered and slipped under the impact of a shrewdly-aimed shot. Before the shriek and howl of the salvo faded sappers were already pushing the huge earth-filled basket back into place.

Schmutzgräber slapped his tricorn against his arm to rid it of dust and dirt. He jammed the battered hat back on his head and regarded Mary with calm detachment. “How’re you bearing up, girl?” he asked, pitching his voice low so only she could hear it.

“Well enough, Colonel.” Even though their acquaintance only measured days, she already liked the lanky engineering officer, and could tolerate his use of the word girl in addressing her. “How long will it be before the battery is ready, sir?”

“You don’t like being under fire without the chance to pay the enemy back for his favors.” Schmutzgräber nodded with a glint on his eye. “A day, no more.”


He rubbed his jaw. “You’ll command the new battery, I collect?”

“I will.”

“And what of His Excellency, the Graf?”

“Philip will – uh, he’ll be in overall command of the siege guns.”

Schmutzgräber nodded again. “Good. Between the two of you they’ll be in safe hands.”

Mary felt her face grow warm as she blushed at the compliment. “Thank you, sir.”

The Neuburg battery fired again. They ducked lower in the trench as the shot hummed and whistled overhead. A sound like a butcher’s cleaver crunching into a joint came from close by. Mary clapped her hand to her hat and stared around. The clumsy young sapper now lay on the reverse face of the trench, minus his head. Bile rose in her throat and she turned aside and retched.

A firm hand took her by the shoulder and she felt herself being led along the communication trench, away from the first parallel. “Go back to the artillery park, lieutenant,” Schmutzgräber said kindly. “We’ll call you when we’re ready for your guns.”

Mary felt a mixture of shame and relief. The shame began to burn hotter when she saw the pity and even contempt in the eyes and faces of the men she passed. I know what you’re thinking, she thought as she headed for the park. Warfare is no place for a woman. Well, I’ll show you!

Philip was standing outside the tent he’d had erected for his use when visiting the artillery park. His place was properly with the headquarters, but he spent an inordinate amount of time around the new siege guns. Mary’s heart gave a pleasant lurch in her breast as she saw him. The smile he gave her filled her world.

That smile slipped somewhat when he looked closely at her. “What’s wrong, my dear?”

“A casualty. In the trench. A young man lost his life.” She closed her eyes and the image of his corpse rose again in her mind’s eye.

“Come inside, please.” His voice sounded so gentle.

She preceded him into the tent. The aroma of canvas, coffee and a plate of fried bacon and potatoes filled the space. Oddly, the combination of scents contrived to settle her queasy stomach.

Philip dropped the canvas fly and took her into his arms. “You’re worried about how you’ll appear to the men.”

“You know me so well,” she said, pressing her hand to his chest.

“I like to think that. I’d like to know much more about you, dearest Mary.”

She managed a smile. “One day.”

“One day.” His smile returned but his expression took on a serious mien. “You’re a capable officer of my uncle’s army. You’re the first of what I’m sure will be many women who’ll follow a military calling. It’s easy to say be strong, but much harder to do.” A tear trickled down her cheek. Philip wiped it away tenderly with his thumb. “It’s a certainty that the vast majority of the men in the siege lines are terrified. Death lies around every corner of every trench, and here in the camps. It lies in wait for us all after our allotted span. The trick is not to show your fear.”

“Are you afraid, Philip?” she asked. “You seem so calm.”

“I’m petrified!” He chuckled ruefully. “Bullet or cannonball or disease cares not for rank or title. As I said, the trick is not to show your fear.”

“Then I shall be calm, too.” I do feel so much better!

“That’s the spirit.” He took her face between the palms of his hand and kissed her. “You’ll be fine. Do your duty and all will be well.”

“I’m sure.”

“Have you heard from Ursula?” he asked, turning to the camp table and pouring two tankards of coffee.

Thankful for the chance to think of more pleasant things Mary sat on one of the folding stools. “I had a letter last night. She and Horatio reached Lehmangraz three days ago. He’s to oversee the repairs to the flotilla and the construction of a new vessel to replace the Styx.”

Philip handed her a tankard. “I hope it won’t take too long. The gunboats will be needed to threaten Randstadt from the river.”

“The new boat will be larger, and broader in the beam. She’s to carry two twenty-four pounders in the bows.”

“Will she carry a mortar?”

Mary sipped her coffee, savoring the brew as it overcame the lingering taste of bile in her mouth and throat. “I think there’s provision for a howitzer.”

Philip shook his head. “A howitzer won’t answer in a siege. The ten inch mortars the other boats carry would be far more effective.”

“I agree. Perhaps we could do something with rockets…”

She let the thought hang in the air. Philip stared into space, his tankard halfway to his lips. “Hmm!”

A polite cough sounded beyond the tent fly. “Your Excellency?”

Philip glanced in the direction of the voice. “Yes, Gideon?”

“A communication has arrived from the Grand Duke, sir. He requires the presence of yourself and Lieutenant Amadeus at once.”

With a puzzled look Philip opened the fly. His aide clicked his heels and came to attention, presenting the message with clean aplomb. Philip read it and looked blank. “It seems we’re wanted at headquarters, my… ah, lieutenant. My father is particularly insistent you should accompany me.”

Mary stood and tugged the hem of her coat straight. Her heart began to pound as a nameless dread stole through her. This can’t be good news

Headquarters had been set up in an inn back along the road to Kimmelsbrücke. They rode there together and were shown up to the Ducal suite. Grand Duke Karl waited for them, his Chancellor Count Ostenberg by his side. The Duke turned from gazing out the window at the passing scene as they entered. “Good morning, Philip, Lieutenant Amadeus.” They responded. Mary took care not to stare questioningly at her sovereign.

“We have received word that Dr. Knappenburger, guest Professor of International Law at the University of Bearstein, has died.”

“I remember Dr. Knappenburger,” Philip said, sounding puzzled. “He was a most erudite gentleman.”

“It appears the Professor suffered an apoplexy. We do not know for sure. His servant decamped with a sum of money and a number of the Professor’s personal effects. That, however, is beside the point.” Duke Karl’s expression was cold but Mary sensed he was fuming inside. “Apart from being an expert in international law, Dr. Knappenburger also served the Grand Duchy as a legal advisor.”

He crossed to the table and picket up a document. “This was found among the late Professor’s effects. It appears he was working on the case just before he died. I’d like both of you to give an explanation for it.” He set the document on the table where they could read it.

Philip stooped to examine it. Mary followed suit and felt the blood drain from her face as the words sprang out at her. “Oh no!”

With reference to your inquiry as to the validity of a marriage between your cousin Graf Philip von Hetzenberg and a woman of common birth, to whit, one Mary Amadeus.

I’m afraid it is entirely out of the question. Laws on the statute books governing Ducal marriages dating back over two hundred years clearly forbid such a formal union. Matters of breeding and bloodline have to be preserved for the sake of stability in the realm. However, there is no legality preventing the relationship developing along more, shall we say, informal lines.

I remain, Grafin, your humble, obedient servant, I. Knappenburger.

Karl gestured at the document. “It seems my niece is meddling in affairs that do not properly concern her. Even so, Professor Knappenburger’s response to her question is quite clear.” His gaze bored into them. “You are not permitted to marry!”

* * *
As an aside, a friend of mine in England has asked for my help in gathering uniform and organization info connected to the Revolutionary War/War of Independence. There seems to be a dearth of such in the UK. Can anyone point me in the direction of some useful material on the war?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A moment of peace and quiet

“It’s not a bad life.”

Private Träger looked up from cleaning his musket. “What are you talking about?”

Kleiner shrugged. He sprawled on the ground in the sunshine, hands behind his head, gazing peacefully up at the passing clouds; the very picture of indolence. “What I’m saying is, it could be a lot worse.” Without getting up he gestured around them at the hill and the farm in the dell below. “This is a nice billet, no?”

Träger screwed up his nose. Being of a naturally vinegary disposition he was inclined to find fault in anything, however pleasant. In this case he found it hard to disagree, especially when Ingrid, the farmer’s eldest daughter came into view down by the stream, a basket of laundry balanced on her hip. He gazed thoughtfully at her buxom form, the coquettish smile she sent in his direction. “’S not bad, I suppose.”

Kleiner raised his head, followed the direction of his comrade’s gaze and grinned. “Yeah, ‘snot bad, not bad at all.”

“I saw her first!”

“Did not!” Kleiner rolled onto one elbow the better to follow the sway of Ingrid’s hips until she disappeared into the farmyard. “Anyway, you still stink of powder smoke. A fellow’s got to be fresher than that to attract the likes o’ her.”

“Fresh? A bit of powder smoke would make a nice change for a girl who smells nothing but cow shit all day – gah!” Moments after Ingrid passed from sight another, far less welcome sight appeared in the arched gateway to the farm. “Heads up! It’s the Old Man!”

“Oh, fu…” Kleiner scrambled to his feet, groping for musket and cleaning gear as he did so. It was too late; the Old Man had seen them.

Both men stood and waited as the sergeant climbed the gentle slope, his dark eyes glittering with the special malice reserved for senior NCO’s. He came to a stop in front of them, and looked them over with evident displeasure. “You’re a couple of lazy dogs, hiding away up here! If you two don’t sharpen up, I’ll kick you so bleedin’ high when you come down your uniforms will be out of date!”

“Yessergeant!” they chorused, stiffening to attention.

But the Old Man seemed disinclined to push the matter. He let them stew, his hands on his hips as he looked them over. Finally, with a sniff of disdain, he got to the point. “Get down to the billet and gather your stuff. We’re moving up.”

“What?” Träger exclaimed. “Where to, sarge?”

The Old Man gave a sour grin. “The war misses us so much it’s got a little treat in store.” Their hearts began to sink. “There’s a special operation forming up. We’re going back into the Grand Duchy.”

“Oh, bleedin’ ‘ell!” Kleiner groaned.

“Enough of that! If you’d wanted a quiet life you should’ve avoided the draft.” The Old Man jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the farm. “Get your stuff and parade in the yard. There’ll be no bugle calls. This is going to be quick and quiet, understand?”

“Yes, sarge.”

He nodded, spun on his heel and walked away down the slope. Kleiner gazed mournfully after him. Träger sighed. “No peace for the wicked, and that’s us.”
* * *
A short post today, as certain computer problems have to be addressed. Meanwhile, I've noticed that Wargamesminis has Dixon's miniatures on sale at around 75c each. I'm heading over to browse and buy in a while. The call of shiny new metal figures is strong today...