Monday, 17 May 2021

It's been a while

Warning! No wargaming material. The following post fits more into the field of "reflection" or "therapy".

This has been the longest layoff in posts for quite some time. A lot has happened over the last three weeks. None of it wargaming related, bar finishing reading a book*. None of it serious either. I had the mother of all hay fever spells (the bathroom cabinet looks like a pharmacist's shelf), and after a gathering with two pals in a pub beer garden, I developed a cold. In the middle of all this I brought into our domestic "bubble" one of said pals** who was between accommodations, thus raising the number of exiled Grimsby Town supporters, that I know of, in this postcode to 3. I'm not counting my daughters as they are, at best, "part-timers". This temporary addition to the household didn't directly impact on my wargaming space, but it did create additional distraction.

Exercise has been a stop-start process because of said ailments. I start to get up to speed with my swimming then have a layoff for a few days, and start all over again. The odd walk, but nothing more than a few miles. It's been a few weeks since I've been on my bike. I was just getting clear of the cold yesterday when I got a message from the NHS to say I could bring forward my 2nd vaccination appointment from June, so I rescheduled for this morning and have been feeling a bit groggy and have 'fluey' arms, and ankles.  I've heard second time round, symptoms can be worse. I was pretty lucky last time (or unlucky if it means I didn't have the hoped for immune response).

* The book was Bair Irincheev's Vyborg 1944: The Last Soviet-Finnish Campaign on the Eastern Front. This was one of the better Helion books that I have read lately. Irincheev seems to have researched the book well from both sides. There is plenty of information in there for the wargamer. Orbats, casualties, detailed descriptions of the initial planned offensive. A lots of inspiring accounts. A bonus is an appendix showing the clauses in the peace proposals tabled by the Soviets in Spring 1944, and the clauses eventually agreed upon in September. The main downside was as I mentioned before, the maps. Unlike the books on the Saxon army of the 18th century, this one has been translated well by someone who clearly understands Russian and English. However, at times I'm not sure the translator has got a handle on military terminology. Regiments, brigades, and divisions seem to be a bit confused occasionally. One other quibble is over the spelling of Finnish place names and surnames***. I've struggled for years to get my tongue round these, but having done so, I'm buggered is I can cope with some of the renditions in this book. I suspect this is because the names have first been written into Cyrillic script, and then translated into English. Some letters and sounds do not have exact correspondence between the different scripts and then you throw in a different orthography and you have a recipe for confusion. It took me a while to work out that often words which have the sound "ä" in Finnish are rendered as "ya" in this book - nothing like the sound it's meant to be, and actually impossible in Finnish because of the "rule of vowel harmony". An example would be "myaki" which from context I realised was mäki" (hill). Sometimes a Y was used where the original Finnish word used a J, but that makes sense because the English Y makes the same sound - "Yoki" for "Joki" (river). These are minor quibbles. For the avoidance of doubt, I would recommend this book if you have an interest in this theatre of the war.

** all fellow oldies, and all "exiled Mariners". I do have some friends who are not Grimsby Town fans. I think.

*** One of the names rendered correctly, was that of my wife's paternal family name. I don't know if the person referenced was related, but I will attempt to find out before it is too late. 

The new command bunker for Schloß Nundanket got ordered about a month ago, and delivery is scheduled for late August (subject to the shenanigans at the border). When erected (don't) it should provide me with an internal floor space of 5m by 4m, excluding the bike room. So plenty of room for a good sized table. Thoughts are turning to a stowable format, with a permanent desk forming one 1/3 or a 1/4 at one end and maybe 2 or 3 foldable tables allowing the size to be extended or reduced as gaming requires. This will require a lot more thought, not least because the solution must be approved by the Chief Designer.

In other news, the long anticipated relegation back to 'the National League' of Grimsby Town occurred on 27 April, coincidentally the date of my last post. No, I haven't been in mourning. I've been too angry for that. The club has been badly run for two decades now, under the control of the same man. You could write a small book about the shoddy way things have been done over the years, and more stuff started to seep out when it became clear that said man's regime was ending. It really does need documenting in one place as our children and grandchildren won't believe it when we bore them with the tales in the future. I know a chap (a fellow Mariner) who can write, and I would love to see him do this.  If you're looking for a story that epitomises Tory austerity, followed by questionable Tory use of office, this is it on a small scale. The bloke concerned was until recently the councillor in charge of regeneration up there. Suffice to say he made the Rotten Boroughs column in Private Eye a few months back.

If you're still reading, you as an astute reader will have picked up on the phrase "said man's regime was ending".  Indeed, just over a week later a long-running takeover attempt was concluded. The new owners (both local lads made good) appear to be the acceptable face of capitalism. They certainly seem to be aware that ethics isn't a county near Thuffolk. And crucially, both appear to be competent in the ways of 21st century business. Hopefully, the Micawberish-Gradgrindian days are behind us. All of this matters to me, and thousands of others with a similar birth affliction, because it concerns a 143 year old institution embedded in a community. Indeed it is a community. Sure there are bigger problems in the world, but this one is much easier to solve, and it is part of what makes it all worthwhile.

Thoughts will turn back to my ECW campaign plans in the next post. It'll be a welcome distraction from everything else.


Well done if you got this far! As a reward here is a shot of some little figures that I spotted in a wooden fence at the London Wetlands Centre on Saturday.



Monday, 26 April 2021

Sellanen ol Viipuri - A theme of Continuation

So today Postie delivered a book that I ordered from Helion in on of their frequent sales (50% off). The book is Bair Irincheev's Vyborg 1944: The Last Soviet-Finnish Campaign on the Eastern Front. When this first came out I baulked at the £30 cover price, bearing in mind the patchy quality of Helion's publications.  At half that I jumped in. I had a quick skim through the book and started reading it this evening.



A couple of immediate observations. There are some excellent photographs, including a number of shots taken by Soviet aerial reconnaissance planes and by bomber crews. The maps are strange. For a start none of them show the city of the book's title. Maybe they make more sense when I get to the relevant part of the text. Secondly, they use unit icons that are quite different to what we're used to in the west, but crucially, there's no key. Finally, none of them have scales. Maybe it's a Soviet thing and the staff couldn't be trusted with all the information. Most odd. Or sloppy. So far the text seems fine and does not suffer from the same translation issues that I mentioned with regard to the Saxon army book. More anon.



Detailed Soviet dispositions, but how big is this area?


Vyborg is the largest city in Karelia and sits on the northern side of the Gulf of Finland, about 10 miles inside the Russian border. Its fate has been that of the classic border city. Once part of the Swedish Baltic empire, Vyborg then passed into the Russian sphere during the Great Northern War. After Sweden lost Finland to the Russians in the war of 1808-09, Vyborg was included within the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. From independence in 1917 to the end of the Winter War in 1940 Vyborg was part of the Finnish republic, then it came under Soviet control. For just over a year, as it was recaptured by the Finns in 1941 in the Continuation War. Finally in 1944 Vyborg was re-captured but the Soviets and eventually it ended up in the Russian Federation.

Viipuri by the way is the Finnish name for Vyborg, Vyborg being the old Swedish name. Viipuri is not a transliteration, but is I suppose is the closest to how it notionally sounds to Finnish ears (there being no 'B' or 'G' in the Finnish phonetic system). We did have some confusion in the Schloß several years ago over 'backs', 'bags' and 'packs'. Sellanen ol Viipuri is the usual title given to an old song which I came across on t'internet. I think rendered in formal language it would be 'sellainen on Viipuri' ('such is Vyborg').

The song was written as Ilta Viipurissa* (Sellanen on Viipuri) in 1929 by Eino Kettunen. More specifically Kettunen wrote the lyrics. As I've discovered before with these standards (e.g. Joseph Joseph and Those Were the Days), the tunes are often older. The music was composed by Moravian born Rudolph Josef František Benatzky as Abends in dem kleinen Städtchen. This seems to have been an instrumental judging by the 1924 version on YouTube. No doubt some musicologist or folklorist from Mitteleuropa will (or perhaps already has) claimed even older antecedents for the tune. 

* 'Evening in Vyborg'.  Kettunen also wrote the lyrics to another Finnish classic which became a meme a decade and a half ago when an electronic version got linked to a Japanese cartoon. Again, the tune is older. Much older I believe. (Ievan Polkka in case you're wondering).


There are many versions of Sellanen Ol Viipuri on YouTube, but my favourite is still this one. I may have mentioned it before, but I'm a sucker for cheese. 😁

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc_pVBAVzlk

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along. Enjoy!

Siihen aikaan näillä mailla

Oltiin vielä paljon vailla

Eikä kukaan kummempaa kaivannut kai

Tanssittu ei pitkin yötä

Illoin riitti puhdetyötä

Kapaloissaan kehitys köllöttää sai

Toista oli Viipurissa

Karjalaisten kaupungissa

Siellä vanhat vaihtuivatkin uusiin säveliin


Tanssia sai siellä aina

Arkena ja sunnuntaina

Helppo oli tiensä löytää

Kohti oikeata pöytää

Jos vain joku kielsi 'ei ei ei'

Toinen sanoi heti 'hem till mej'

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Karjalaisten kaupunki


Silloin painaneet ei huolet

Ystävät kun kantoi puolet

Surra saivat hevoset, laulut kun soi

Pyöreen tornin hämärässä

Pöydässä niin hilpeässä

Ilo oli irrallaan niin kuin vain voi

Kaikki viihtyi Viipurissa

Karjalaisten kaupungissa

Siellä vanhat vaihtuivatkin uusiin säveliin


Tanssia sai siellä aina

Arkena ja sunnuntaina

Kieli vieras taikka tuttu

Laulu oli helppo juttu

Jos vain joku kielsi 'ei ei ei'

Toinen sanoi heti 'hem till mej'

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Karjalaisten kaupunki


Tieshää Nuutipoja passas

Että syvämes ja vassas

Viipurlaise rakkaus assuuki vain

Torkkelista sai mie muiston

Alla koivu kaunii puiston

Rinkelii ko siult mie kerrankii sain

Muistat sie myös jottai muuta

Taisiha mie saaha suuta

Monrepoos myö kuuta ko nii kahe kasseltii


Laa-laa-la-la-la-la-laa-laa

Laa-laa-la-la-lal-la-laa-laa

Laa-laa-la-la-la-la-laa-laa

Laa-laa-la-la-lal-la-laa-laa

Hmm...

Hmm...

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Karjalaisten kaupunki




Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Solo ECW Siege Campaign - Progress on the framework

Whatever I did leading up to Tuesday evening seems to have unlocked the creative juices. Earlier on Wednesday evening I put together my first version of an Events Table. I've listed out most of the types of events that I want to affect the campaign. I have given some thought to what impact events would have on the two sides Resolve and I started to think about what are the odds of the events happening.

I decided to break events down into two types. Events related to the immediate siege are and that each side could dice for each turn (week) and events that occur elsewhere, or everywhere in the case of weather. This is not the final version, but I feel it is a massive step forward into getting a game on. Even as I write this, more things that I should address occur to me.  I don't intend to button everything down before I start either. The beauty of solo gaming is the greater freedom to make it up as you go along. Which is why I use the term "framework" rather than "rules". There will be a judicious amount of 'winging it'.

Events that occur in the immediate siege area are set-out for both sides being the 'Absent Opponent'. If I decide to play one side, I will not dice for that side's events, but I will use some form of rationing system for the actions desired. My initial thought is to expend Resolve Points to 'buy' say the digging of saps, mines or trenches, on the basis that more work wears dow the soldiers' will, but I haven't fully thought this through yet.

Events Table for the immediate siege area


Events Table for the wider area

More work in-progress on the Events Table

Once siegework construction begins, it will progress at a certain rate each week depending on how many foot bases are available. When the siege force reaches a (yet to be specified) size the Place is effectively 'Beleaguered' and the increased difficulty of obtaining fresh supplies begins to reduce the Garrison's Resolve by a set amount each week. Events outside the area could mean that some of the Besieger's force is called away elsewhere and weaken the encirclement and therefore stop the regular attrition to the Garrison. I still need to flesh out what happens with general bombardments, breaching fire and springing a mine.

One other facet of the Events Table to note is that the odds will change depending on the character of the relevant commander. Aggressive Governors, for example, are more likely to produce sorties increasing the chances of strengthening resolve. I decided to even things up a little by giving Passive Governors a slight advantage when it comes to things like ensuring the food and water is safe as they're not running around the place encouraging chaps to take the battle to the enemy.

'Resolve' by the way is my proxy measure for whether one side or the other gives up first. I intend to adopt a simple sliding scale and once one side reaches zero, its resolve has collapsed and loses the game. So circumstances can increase a force's Resolve, so it is not a one-way street. To some extent I'm assuming that any headcount wastage (death, disease, desertion) is rolled-up into Resolve. A crude formula might be Willpower + Manpower = Resolve. Beyond counting the number of bases available for certain purposes, I will not be maintaining a log of army strengths, nor of the amounts of food, ammunition or any other supplies.

So, it's still very much a work-in-progress, but I'm more confident of making a workable game. My Resolve has moved up a few notches.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Ideas for developing a solo siege campaign

After my navel-gazing the other day, some ideas began to coalesce in my brain. The essence of my prospective campaign is a siege in the English Civil War. The ideas which I'm going to set-out could, in principle, be adapted for any siege in any age, but the inspiration came from my recent reading of David Cooke's Yorkshire Sieges of the Civil Wars. I'm probably drawing, albeit less consciously, on Wenham's The Great and Close Siege of York, 1644 and Young and Embleton's Sieges of the Great Civil War. The examples that particularly grabbed me from the last named, were the sieges of Lyme and Plymouth. Further back in my reading I was struck by the siege of Ostend 1601-04, as covered by Duffy in Siege Warfare. This though was on a more epic scale, in terms of time, manpower and materiél, than anything I am planning.

Young & Embleton on Lyme


Now the great advantage of the ECW over any of the contemporary or later Continental wars was the relative lack of the Italian Trace and masters of siegecraft. I don't need to have a beautiful model of a bastioned enceinte. (Be careful how you say that. I think I got away with it). I understand that the only thing the English excelled in was mining (and sheer bloody-mindedness!) Plus ça change.

The central feature of the campaign will be the attempt by Parliament to capture a 'place' garrisoned by the Royalists. By 'place', I'm not sure yet whether I'm going for a York, a Pontefract or a Bolton Castle. I'm leaning more towards a Pontefract. Doing something on the scale of 'Ponteh' has obvious advantages in terms of table top space needed. Yet here's the thing, in the concept I have in mind the table top could be free of an actual fortress model for much or most of the time. I'm not going to be measuring out saps and lines of contravellation and circumvallation turn-by-turn. As siegecraft was relatively undeveloped or amateurish, the steady, predictable march of the siege after Vauban (who was a mere lad of 11 summers at this time) was unknown and as a result had less impact than other factors on when or whether a place fell. At least as far as my reading goes. And I readily admit, I may be unfairly stereotyping my compatriots' forebears.

So I'm looking at something set in, or starting in 1644 or 1645. Probably somewhere Yorkshire-ish, or maybe somewhere in Lincolnshire like Gainsborough, Tattershall Castle or Bolingbroke Castle. It did cross my mind to 'invent' a siege of Boston, though the garrison and siege forces would have to be swapped over and the clock dialled back a year or two. Such locations would be the more patriotic options for me, being from yat Country as I must learn to spell it. Boston would have the distinct advantage of not really needing any castle models at all.

Food for thought.

The outcome of the siege will be determined by which sides reaches the lowest point on a 'scale of resolve' first (must come up with a more period-friendly term). Events in the campaign will move each side one direction or the other. For example, news of defeat of the Prince's army will be an Adverse Event for the Royalist garrison and a Propitious Event for the Parliamentarians. This will move the indicator so many spaces in the appropriate direction. Picture a snooker scoreboard, if you will, like the estimable M.Foy uses.

Not as nice as the Count's board

Some events, if successful, will lead to an immediate ending of the siege (game). Thus a successful storm will win it for the Parlies. A relief force winning a field battle will be an automatic win for the Royalists. I'm mulling over how a capitulation on terms could be introduced and whether there will be degrees of 'Honours of Warre' that mean a better or worse outcome for the garrison.

The game will progress by weekly turns. Except when a tabletop action is needed. Each turn I will dice or draw cards for events. Events available will be contingent on time, thus in the first four weeks I will not be able to draw an 'appearance of a relief army' card. Events, and the odds of them occurring, will also be contingent on other situations. First of all I will dice for the character of the two antagonists, who could be Aggressive, Active, or Placid. This could then influence the odds of things like sorties occurring. Here are a few examples of what I have in mind.

The breaching the walls; the springing a mine; the availability  of supplies (in turn determined by size of siege force); success of sorties; the arrival reinforcements; starvation; disease, attrition. External factors will affect the size of the siege force and some of the supply issues.

First month: Size of forces, Sorties, attempts to seize key landmarks, opening of siege works. These things could carry on into future months.

From the second month on we could start to see other types events. The attitude of the population in the surrounding area (besiegers) and in the place (garrison); the arrival of a Dutch/Huguenot engineer; the arrival of reinforcements; withdrawal of besiegers troops due to the approach of relief forces; the arrival of Bigg Gonnes due to fall of other places; convoys and attacks on them;  the construction or destruction of bridges. I'm minded to have a sliding scale of withdrawals depending on the scale of rumours of relief forces and/or actual battles elsewhere.

I can play out various actions on the table-top. Obviously sorties and coups de mains can be skirmish level. Attacks on convoys can be a higher tactical level (possibly my own rules or maybe Charlie Wesencraft's) and full-on battles can use something like Max Foy's ECW Ramekin or In Deo Veritas. I don't need to limit myself to fighting relief battles either. I could play-out a Naseby or a Marston Moor, the result of which will impact the relative movement on the scale of resolve.

There's still lots of work to do on this to get to a point when I can play the game. But at least I think I have a clear direction now. It might all fall down at an early stage. I haven't done anything like this before and getting the balance right between all the factors and possibilities will be hard to judge. And it might all be too dependent on the turn of the card with not much for me to do as a player. However, by doing this solo I have the distinct advantage of being able to change the rules if I don't think they are working well.


Sadly, there is less uncertainty over the fate of the Mariners after Tuesday's games. A home defeat to Morecambe, coupled with a win by Colchester means that we are 10** points adrift of safety with 4 games to play. Saturday could see a second relegation out of the Football League in 11 years, which is quite some achievement by one John Shelton Fenty (self-styled 'Principal Funder'***) who has somehow managed to overcome a bigger resource base than 3/4 of the division, and SIX permanent managers in 5 years.

** Effectively 11 due to the delta in goal difference. 

*** Actually the principal funders are ordinary supporters who bought tickets and merchandise, and made donations to the club at key points. I could really bore you with his litany of faux pas, but I'll spare you the detail. 


Sunday, 18 April 2021

What next?

Apologies in advance. This is going to be a bit of a rambling post. I have no idea where this will go, or even exactly what questions I am going to ask let alone attempt any answers. It will have even less structure than normal. So look away now if you want any sense.

I’ve played a bit with Twilight of the Soldier Kings since being introduced to the Twilight series of Wargames rules. And very impressed I have been. It’s revived my Frederician mojo somewhat. Earlier this year (thinks: it was this year wasn’t it?) I played a few solo games of Loose Files and American Scramble, and those rules proved every bit as fun as I hoped they’d be. And they seemed to capture something of the nature of that conflict too (AWI). I also snuck in a game set in the Continuation War with my own ‘back of a fag packet’ rules. That too was fun. Ditto an ECW game with my own rules. What next?

Napoleonics is the only one of my five periods that I haven’t touched so far this year. But for no apparent reason, that doesn’t appeal.

I did begin the year with the intention of running an ECW campaign off the back of the This War Without an Enemy board game that I bought for my other half to give me for Christmas. For reasons explained previously this wasn’t terribly practicable. I’ve been tempted to run a campaign using other, or no, rules but I can’t quite get the motivation yet. Alternative campaign models are those produced by Peter of Gridded Wargames, Almost but not Quite, or latterly by The Jolly Broom Man on his latest blog. Both of those would fit the bill of being relatively admin light. Something, I know not what, is holding me back. At this juncture I could really delve into an introspective self-examination (and I think that would bear fruit, trust me) but right now I can’t be arsed.

It is after all a hobby. It shouldn’t be work. And introspection right now feels like hard work. I want a quick fix. But what?

The ECW is calling me. I’ve been reading David Cooke’s ‘Yorkshire Sieges of the Civil Wars’. I currently have limited ‘apparatus’ to do a siege game. I know I should use this to spur me on to make some. But, well. I want something now. Cooke’s ‘Civil War in Yorkshire’ book has some interesting small scale scenarios I could look at. The battle of Seacroft Moor 1643 appeals. But then so does Domstadl from the SYW in 1758. Neither are stand up battles, so they give  Both took place over a large area with relatively small forces. That poses a challenge in both cases too. I’d have to find a way of dealing with the operational aspects in order to make on table actions meaningful.

Another option swirling around my head is an action based on a relief of a besieged place. If it’s not to just be another stand-up fight (albeit with a backstory) it needs a bit of thought around the scenario and how the game is set-up.

‘No biggie’ you might think. There are always ways to do this. But it needs a bit of thought. And that is in short supply at the moment. Or is it the motivation that is lacking? I sort of know what I want but lack the mental or psychological resources at the moment to achieve it.

Hmmm.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

The Lord giveth....or Nundanket's tales of the riverbank

This is the latest of my river walks. It's out of sequence as I missed one from two weeks ago, when Lincolnshire Tom and I walked a big part of the Wandle Trail. Maybe more on that anon. The walk on Saturday, like many of my suburban perambulations, had an unexpected historical highlight.  Here's today's route. The numbers show the various places where I stopped to take snaps.

Sorry about the night mode. I don't know how to turn it off! This slice of SW London is a few miles upstream from London Town. You can just about make Wimbledon out, bottom right. Kingston is out of shot a couple of miles to the bottom right. Boat Race fans will note the normal route along the Thames at the top.

Before LT and I met I stopped and snapped these fish doing the equivalent of treading water, facing upstream. I have no idea what breed of fish they are.

Point 1 on the map

We met late morning on the neutral ground of West Wimbledon (point 2), walkable for both of us from home. First stop Wimbledon Common. The brook skirts the edge of the common on the side closest to the busy A3 road (a dual carriageway, so there's always road noise in the background). It also passes a number of sports fields (rugby and football) which were busier than they have been for months as the lockdown is easing. The A3 is the large road which starts at the bottom of the map close to point 1.

The A3 bends round to the north east between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. There's a 'Pelican' crossing here, which as well as being for pedestrians, also has a special boarded-off section for horses. There's even a button for the riders to press, and instead of a little green man, there's a little green horse when it's safe to cross. You know you're in posh territory when there is a road crossing specifically for hoses.

Richmond Park seemed to go by in a flash. We were in full on 'yarning' mode. A chap exiled to Scotland recently told me he could bore for England (or words to that effect). He clearly hasn't spent time with Lincolnshire Tom and I. Up to that point it was easy to follow the route. We'd both walked this section a number of times before, so even if we didn't have the stream to follow, we didn't need a map. Now at the north side of Richmond Park the Beverley Brook exits the park under a 8 foot brick wall so you need to leave the park at Roehampton Gate (a few hundred metres to the south east of the spot where the brook leaves the park. I'd downloaded a guide, which was not particularly clear at this point, but we spotted a helpful sign on the left of the gate. This took us past the back of some very big houses with the park wall on our left. When we caught up with the stream again I climbed up on the wall of the footbridge and stood precariously while I took a photo over the wall of the park. Just for interest.

Point 3 - looking south into Richmond Park


Point 3 - looking north, down the Beverley Brook


We then turned right (north) and followed the path alongside the bank as it passed a smaller park (Palewell Common) and then a pitch and putt course. Across the other side of the stream there's another golf place with a large building which turned out, confusingly, to be the International Tennis Federation (point 4).

Point 4 - The ITF

After this there was a bit of road walking. For a while along the busy A205 (a.k.a. the 'South Circular'). Before that there was a street of pretty top notch Arts and Craft style houses (Hertford Avenue). Fabulous. The stream was following a course at the backs of houses so we had to stick with the roads. Before we picked it up again, we stopped for a few snaps on the footbridge at Barnes Station. The main building of this small suburban station has some excellent decorative brickwork in the Tudor style.

Point 5 - Barnes station looking west in the direction of Richmond

Incidentally, every Swede I've ever met in the metropolis lives in Barnes (plus a fair few of the Finns I've met too). Admittedly a small sample, but there is the evidence of a couple of Swedish eateries around the area. A ghetto it ain't though.

We picked up the stream again as it flowed east, past some more sports fields and common. Not long after (we didn't notice anything particularly as we were busy putting the world to rights) we were at the mouth of the Beverley Brook (point 6). Here are a few views from around here.

Point 6 - Almost there!

Point 6 - looking upstream (NNW). New stand being built at Craven Cottage (home of Fulham FC).  When I was here on Easter Sunday evening you could also see the Wembley Arch. Two football grounds in one shot - I was excited.

Point 6 - looking downstream. London Town round a few bends that way. The tide is clearly out.

Point 6 - looking straight down. With the water level low, London's archaeology reveals itself. Signs of the ancient Celtic civilization: here we can see an offering to the Goddess Vespa.

Point 6 - looking NE to Bishops Park, Fulham

So here we were, at a decision point. A trivial point. Loathe to retrace our steps, it was either left or right. Left would have taken round two big loops before we got any where useful to us in terms of easy transport. Right it was. The decision was influenced by the sight of Putney Bridge. You see, we are of a vintage when we can remember when Grimsby Town were 'any good' and we had many trips to Craven Cottage. Along our normal route to the Cottage was a hostelry called the Eight Bells which was a frequent stopping off point. Sometimes 'Three Sheets' would have been a more apt name. We remembered the Eight Bells had tables outside, and April 12th was the day that pubs could have customers again, provided they had outside space.

At the bridge my Yellowbellied companion piped up and said, "isn't that the church where they had the Putney Debates?" OK, let's have a look. Indeed it was. Education before pleasure. So off we went to have a closer look. Somewhere along the way we lost Point 7. It may have been where we saw a metal detectorist and a mudlark scouring the river beach. Anyway, St Mary's was well worth a visit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary%27s_Church,_Putney

Point 8 - St Mary's, Putney

First we had some lunch at the rather nice caff (a modern glass structure, with seats outside, attached to the church). Then a wander around the church itself. The tower looks to be the oldest visible part, most of the building is from a 19th century re-build (interestingly the Putney Debates weren't widely known of at this point, not that they seemed to be that bothered about historical buildings). Inside the roof is concrete, dating from after an arson attack in 1973. When finished the altar was, unusually, left in the middle of the nave on the north side so the orientation is all wrong. Come to think of it, it's not orientated. So an interesting mix of styles. The nave has an area commemorating the debates, placed there to mark the 360th anniversary in 2007. One little fact I learned was that a historian in the late nineteenth century re-discovered the minutes of the debates and their subsequent revelation enlightened the late Victorian inteligencia and political classes. I bought a comemmorative DVD for £5 to watch at a later date.

So on to the north bank. We'd earned that pint. Sadly the staff there didn't think so. You have to book. Right we hotfooted it back to the bridge where our timing was immaculate to catch the 85 back to Kingston. On the journey we discovered that the Mighty Mariners [sic] had gone 2-0 up against an in form Bolton, after 85 minutes. My naive son sent a message saying "I think we might win for once." Naturally Bolton scored after 95 minutes to give us a nervy minute or so. Remarkably we hung on to win and close the gap on Colchester 3rd from bottom (and safety). Naturally, Colchester, who played after the Funeral, won coming from behind. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  

After debussing on Kingston Hill, the mile walk back to Schloß Nundanket was a mere bagatelle to us hardened suburban strollers, and we were soon enjoying a cold drink or two in the Inner Ward of the Schloß. And of course we carried on boring for England. Basking in the sunshine and the (all too temporary) glow of a Mariners win.





Sunday, 11 April 2021

Schlacht bei Chotusitz - Twilight of the Soldier Kings

Before Easter I spoke too soon about the return of face-to-face wargaming to Schloß Nundanket. His Nibs did turn up but for reasons too complicated to go into, we didn't get a game in. I had this scenario lined-up so I gave it a run through yesterday.

Sources
The usual sources were used for this. I.E. mainly Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great and Frederick the Great, A Military Life.  Wikipedia and Obscure Battles. There's a certain amount of circularity between these though - Obscure Battles references Duffy and Wikipedia and Wikipedia references the other two.

There is an interesting contour map on Wiki, dating from 1835. 

Orders of Battle

Estimates of numbers on each side vary, but generally each army had 24-28,000 men. This makes it a nice size for getting used to new sets of rules. As the rules use bases rather than traditional troop scales, the exact numbers do not matter so much. This is the breakdown taken from Duffy's map:

Prussians


Austrians

Bns/sqs


Regts

5

Grenadiers

0

3

Garde (1, 2&3)

0

25

Musketeers

13

0

Fusileers


35

Cuirassiers

6

25

Dragoons

5

10

Hussars

2

0

Croats

4 bns

Duffy says the Prussians had 82 guns to the Austrians 40. I assumed half of the guns were battery pieces and half battalion pieces which are assumed to be included in the fighting strength of infantry bases.

I then translated this to TOTSK units (brigades) with each unit being two bases, as follows:

Prussians:
Grenadiers and Garde: 2
Musketeers: 6
Cuirassiers: 3.5
Dragoons: 2.5
Hussars: 2
Guns: 2

Austrians:
Musketeers: 7
Cuirassiers: 3
Dragoons: 2.5
Hussars: 1
Croats: 2
Guns: 1

I allocated each side a commander-in-chief (Fred and Charles of Lorraine) and 2 wing commanders. The C-in-Cs led the centres and naturally the Wing Commanders the wings. All were given an arbitrary rating of '1' (i.e. average).

The two half units of cavalry for the Prussians were brigaded. When this came up against dragoons it was classed as heavier, but against cuirassiers it was classed as lighter. The odd half unit of Austrian dragoons was used to make the dragoon unit on the left extra strong (i.e. it could take an extra hit before being removed).

I took the unit ratings from the TOTSK Mollwitz scenario but upgraded the Prussian heavy cavalry to 'Average Charge', equal to the Austrians, following the improvements Frederick made to his cavalry after the first battle.

The Game

The game is told through the following pictures. Prussians at the top of each picture.

Under starters orders. Cirkwitz Pond to top left. Chotusitz village top centre.



A few turns in. Action is joined across the field. The only significant loss so far are the Austrian hussars who were used as bait to tempt the Prussian heavies, hoping that the Austrian heavies would catch the Prussians pursuing. It didn't work out.

Close-up of the action in front of Chotusitz. The Prussian hussars were diverted to the centre via the bridge in the distance.

Rival cuirassiers go head-to-head on the Austrian left. A second Prussian  cuirassier unit has manoeuvred to take the Austrians in the flank. This was successful in the end but it takes an unpredictable amount of time (you have to test to change direction) and in the meantime you lose the benefit of rear support. So it's highly risky!

The Prussian cuirassiers have overcome their opposite numbers (top left). The  Gard and grenadiers have moved out to their right

Having lost (over) half of their units the Austrian left wing must test for Wing Morale.....and fails, so the remaining dragoons and their commander leave the field.

The infantry battle hard in the centre whilst the Prussian right wing cavalry turn in to  threaten the Austrian left.

The Austrian are having 'lumpy' luck. On their right, the cavalry keep passing their Wing Morale test, but they keep failing Unit Morale tests in the centre. Their infantry is whittled down by the Bluecoats whilst the cavalry assault goes in.

The Austrian Centre fails their Wing Morale test. Only a single cavalry unit remains on the right. They have seen off their opponents as the Prussian left wing failed its test - I forgot to remove the Black Hussars (centre) who were part of this wing, but it was academic. I know this was the Black hussars were not the right regiment for Chotusitz, but they are such fearsome looking fellows on the table I couldn't resist.


I was surprised how things collapsed so quickly in the end for the Austrians. Terrible luck passing successive Wing Morale tests on the right when there was only one unit left. They could have done with winning the Centre Wing test where at least there were more units.

The Prussians had two key advantages here. One, their infantry have improved mobility so changing formation etc is easier. And the infantry have the Rapid Fire characteristic, which means that they can make the opponent re-roll one of the two D6s in the Austrians' Morale Tests. To pass the test the player has to roll an 8 or higher with 2 D6. If say they roll a 2 and a 6 the Prussians can make them re-roll the 6. This had an effect on at least a couple of occasions turning a pass into a fail (take one hit) and once it turned a fail into a catastrophe (i.e. unit routs on 3 or less). They were lucky not to get punished when they tried the flanking move on their right. If the Austrians could have got their right wing forward faster to block of the Prussian cavalry crossing the bridge, that could have paid dividends. Easier said than done as adjustments in facing are not that simple. The Prussians got lucky with their manoeuvres whilst the Austrians didn't.

Lessons? Make sure units have rear support. It really pays off with these rules! I need to re-read sections again to make sure I got things right. I'm not 100% confident I have the pursuit rules correct.

As I said before, these are a really simple set of rules to pick up. But that apparent simplicity doesn't come at the cost of 'realism' in my opinion. This game lasted a couple of hours plus set-up time. A great set for 'pick-up and play' games on club nights, for at least battles involving c 30,000 a side. I will try a bigger battle soon to see how they handle a larger number of units.