A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 22 May 2017

Another Solo Campaign? - Looking at Boardgames...

GMT's "Wellington"
In the last few years I have played out a couple of solo campaigns - one set in the Peninsular War, one in an unknown part of Lancashire and Cumbria during the ECW. I enjoyed them both - I mean really enjoyed them - there is nothing like a campaign to throw up interesting, assymetric miniatures battles, or hopeless defences, or tricky withdrawals, or games of a size and a format that normally I would not consider - might not even think of. Also, of course, as a solo player I need not worry about the one-sided nature of many of the resulting actions.

I documented these campaigns quite thoroughly, and still get a lot of fun and interest out of revisiting the narratives and the photos.

The mechanisms for supply and map-moving are always tricky - and then there's intelligence - despite my best endeavours, I didn't get either of these campaigns quite right - too much admin overhead, and the map systems forced the action into the same areas too frequently. For the ECW I used a map based on a customised set of The Perfect Captain's famous Battlefinder cards - it worked OK, but only just OK. For the Peninsula I used a map derived from Don Alexander's monumental (and terrifying) boardgame, War to the Death.

I have been thinking about a return to the Peninsula, later this year. I have been reading about the use of proprietary boardgames to provide the campaign framework - an obvious enough solution. One big advantage is that, apart from handling the logistics, the boardgame has its own inbuilt battle mechanisms, which you can use as defaults, so you can place whichever bits of the campaign you wish on the tabletop for the toys to fight out.

A number of sources were enthusiastic about the Pacific Rim game, Wellington's War, to manage a Peninsular campaign. I have never seen this game - I've read reviews, and seen pictures, and I was once quite excited about it, but there was a strange period of a few years when it was always just about to be published, during which I lost interest. It is very expensive, and I am unlikely to rush to buy such a thing unless I am convinced that it is worth the cost. I mean worth it to me (and I can be very difficult, I admit it).

It did get me thinking about two games which I own already, though I have not attempted to play either of them seriously. Firstly, I have the aforementioned War to the Death, which is so fantastically complex that I shall just reject it out of hand as a campaign driver. However, I also have GMT's Wellington, which is a smaller brother of their Napoleonic Wars and uses many of the same mechanics. In fact I also have the Napoleonic Wars game - and I haven't played that either (this is getting embarrassing...). The NW game has a replacement, de-luxe folding board, which is a major enhancement. At the time I bought Wellington, that was due to get an upgraded board as well - I don't care for the flimsy paper jobs, especially if the game is going to lie around for some weeks while I fight a campaign. However, GMT decided not to go ahead with that, for some reason, and the game has sat in its box at the back of my big walk-in cupboard for a long time, still unpunched, still waiting for the posh map which will never come.

I fetched it out at the weekend, and have been re-reading the rules in odd moments for a couple of days. It does seem a bit complicated, but the kit includes a Play Book, which walks through some detailed game-play examples, and that looks pretty good. Time permitting, I hope to set up a demo game and walk through the Play Book examples, to see how it goes. Customer reviews I've seen sometimes make reference to the game's being rather hectically interactive, which suggests it might be a dead duck for solo play. I don't normally do hectic anyway.

So what? Well, I just wondered if anyone had experience of the Wellington game (it doesn't have hexes, by the way...) and/or had any views about its suitability as the driver for a campaign. I'm not committed to using it, but it is lying in the cupboard...

Or should I splash out on Wellington's War? - or do you have good experience with some other boardgame for this purpose? All thoughts and suggestions welcome!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Hooptedoodle #260 - The Vaults of Yesteryear

Very pleasant day yesterday - I had to go into Edinburgh to collect some re-glazed spectacles, and my wife agreed to make the trip with me. We had a very quiet, relaxed journey in on the 11:23 train.

The visit to the optician took about 20 minutes, so we decided to get some lunch in town before we made our way back to The Sticks. We went to the All Bar One which stands on the corner of George Street and Hanover Street - one of several places of this name in the city. I'm always a bit wary of big chains/franchises, but in fact we had a terrific lunch, with very acceptable service in very pleasant surroundings. Never been in there before, but one slightly weird aspect of my visit was that this place used to be my bank, once upon a time.

When I first came to Edinburgh as a student, back in the Late Iron Age, I opened an account with the National Commercial Bank of Scotland, entirely because they were the Scottish agents for the old Midland Bank, which was where my family kept their fourteen shillings and elevenpence savings.

The National Commercial didn't last long - they were swallowed by Royal Bank of Scotland around 1969. To prove they once existed, here's one of their old notes:
My account moved (by default) to RBS, but I was not particularly happy with my new bankers - primarily since the word STUDENT appeared in my employment details on their files - in fact it said STUDENT ACTUARY - and thus they refused to allow me an overdraft facility (and quite right too). Thus I moved to the Clydesdale Bank, at the big branch which was conveniently close to my workplace - the building where I had lunch yesterday.

I don't suppose I have been unusually unlucky with banks over the years, but there are certain themes which have followed me in my dealings with them. I left the Clydesdale in a state of high animation around 1978 - I had returned from a fortnight's holiday (in Scarborough, in fact) to receive a registered letter from a firm of solicitors, acting on behalf of John Lewis and Partners, the noted department store. I had, you see, purchased new kitchen furniture for my new house and - as was the way in those days - had signed up to repay the bill over 18 months. A standing order was set up, the paperwork was completed, and money was sent each month to JLP. Alas, the Clydesdale made an honest-but-inconvenient mistake when they cancelled my payment after 6 months instead of 18. Everything was correct apart from the year. The first I knew about it was some 3 months later when I was notified that Lewis's were proposing to take me to court to recover the debt. We sorted it out without too much trouble, and a new series of payments was set up from a brand new bank account at Barclays. Sadly, Barclays were very little use either, but eventually I took my business elsewhere simply because I was generally fed up with them, rather than as a result of some melodrama. In a small way, I guess this was progress.

Anyway, that was all long ago, and is only faintly relevant because yesterday I had a very pleasant steak sandwich and a glass of Guinness in the Clydesdale's old Ledger Hall. Slightly odd, unreal overtones - does this sort of thing lay old ghosts to rest? - not sure.

So, if you're in George Street, Edinburgh, around lunchtime, All Bar One is a very fair choice for a bite to eat. It used to be a bank once, but that is of passing interest only to older residents.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

An Unexpected Day Out

I hadn't intended to go, but at the last minute I decided to attend the Carronade wargame show in Falkirk. I went on the train, and enjoyed the day much more than I expected. I'm not very enthusiastic about such events normally - my interests are mostly a bit too limited, too far from the mainstream, and I find the bring-&-buy sections are usually depressing.

Yesterday was better. Good to meet up with Stryker and Goya, of course, but I also had a chance to chat with Graham from Crann Tara, Paul at Tumbling Dice, Michael from Supreme Littleness, Trevor from Magnetic Displays (Coritani for those with tribal tendencies) and various other worthies. Some modest shopping was in order - I bought some Coat d'Arms paints, and some steel paper (and the word is that a steel-paper shortage is coming...).

A special mention for John Coutts and the lads from Westerhope Wargame Group - excellent fellows all. I particularly liked their 40mm SYW game, with Prinz August semi-flat figures which had not seen the light of day for many years. Splendid stuff - that's them in the photo at the top. I didn't take my camera, so it's not my photo, I pinched it from the Carronade Gallery page. Any club that has Charlie Wesencraft as a frequent guest are surely good guys in my book!

I was also very taken with the special home-made dice used for the Dunfermline club's C&CN game - one of the guys makes up his own custom dice - he has a set for each Napoleonic nation. Keep an eye open for these - a very nice touch! I've been thinking about some ECW-themed dice, so obviously the scope is wider than I had surmised. Hmmm.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Bordering on Command

This is a figure I've had lying around, undercoated, for years. Enthusiasts may recognise another vintage Alberken/Minifigs20mm OPC commander - this one starting life as the casting for Lt.Gen "Daddy" Hill. I have now painted him up as a senior field officer of the Royal Artillery. One issue I had with the casting was that there is a very prominent shoulder belt, over the LEFT shoulder - for which I could find no use. Given this fellow's map (no, it's not a towel), and the artillery role I've given him, the rogue shoulder belt became a leather strap for his map case. Of course, I hear you say. What else could it be?

I'll come back to this figure in a while - for the moment, observe that his base has a black border.

I've been asked a few times in the past, what is the significance of the coloured borders around the edges of the bases of the senior officers in my armies? Primarily, it makes them easy to spot, but occasionally I myself have questioned this system - house rules can sometimes live on as tradition long after the original reasoning is lost. For my ECW armies, for example, I dropped the coloured borders; I don't think I will, but just occasionally I have wondered if it might be a good idea to retrofit them, after all.

It all dates back to 1970-something, when I was using Don Featherstone's rules (gradually replaced by Charlie Wesencraft, then - later - by the WRG, which was the beginning of a period which I refer to vaguely as The Disillusionment...). In these rules, a simple morale test made use of whether a unit still had its officer present - fellow veterans and game historians will probably be able to identify just which rules these might have been. To help with this rule, I made sure that all unit officers were based on their own, and - to make it easier to spot them in moments of crisis - I painted a dark green rim around the edge of the base. This worked pretty well. I extended this to brown for brigade commanders, white for division commanders and yellow ochre (?) for army commanders. Yellow ochre? - well, the original idea was that I should use vaguely earth-type colours, which would not be too offensive against the house pea-soup green bases and tabletop.

Yes - I know, I know. The pea-soup is already something of an affront to the visual side of things, so picking colours which blended with it seems odd. It's OK - you just mutter the words "Old School" under your breath, and everything is fine. In fact, if I work at it, I can even dredge up a little genial ridicule of other people's armies, where the soldiers carefully drag a lovingly-prepared hearthrug of flock and cat-litter around with them - even along roads and into rivers. I am, of course, jesting. The point is, it's OK.

In a spasm of commonsense, I eventually replaced the unimpressive yellow ochre with a distinctive colour for the army, so that the Anglo-Portuguese army had a red border for its commander, the French blue, and - later - the Spanish had yellow. Yes - all right - yellow isn't great for Spain, but it isn't red or blue and it hadn't already been given a reserved meaning.

Righto. Time passed (that was the easy bit) and I was no longer using regimental officers for this morale rule - though it's always tempting to retain the coding system just in case I wish to use it again in the future. The result was that, long after it had ceased to have any significance, I was still devoutly painting up my units with dark green borders around the regimental officers. A major rebasing project eventually put a stop to that for the infantry and artillery - all command figures are now just glued onto a multiple base, with some of their subordinates, and no bordering colour is added. My regiments still have some way to go with liberté and fraternité, but we have at least made a start with egalité.

However, for the cavalry it persists. Now I would really be pushed to come up with a sensible justification for it, but any new cavalry units I add still have the officer on his own individual base, bordered in good old dark green. The only reason this still makes any sense at all is that - especially in campaigns - it is a commonplace for cavalry colonels to have to take over a brigade, particularly given the horrifying casualty rates in the cavalry arm in my battles. So, just occasionally, a colonel with a green border has been a useful addition to a battlefield, when acting up as a brigadier. I think that one day I shall probably get rid of the green borders on the cavalry, but I'm currently in that twilight, it's-a-tradition-no-it-isn't phase.

I am now slowly moving onto a Creeping Elegance project to change the basing standard for field officers - division commanders are to have an attached ADC, army commanders to have 2 supporting staff - so this gives me an opportunity to reconsider the coloured borders. I think I'll probably keep them.

Fine. Now, if I go right back to 1970-something, I did have an additional classification of field officers. I was aware that proper historical OOBs would identify an overall commander for the artillery, and maybe for the engineers. Since I wasn't sure whether such a fellow would equate to a brigade or division commander in my army organisation, I took an escape route and came up with a separate border colour - black - for officers of what I grouped as "service arms". Thus all commanders of artillery and engineering get a black rim around the base.

Only problem now is - I've never had one! I was never sure what I would use him for (my crass ignorance of how real armies worked is a major contributor to this), and other types of painting jobs always took priority.

Which - at long last - brings me back to the photo at the beginning of this post - long, long ago. I have painted up the old Alberken Hill figure to represent a senior officer of British artillery. I was going to make him Lt.Col Hoylett Framingham in my Peninsular army, but I find that Framingham was in any case a RHA officer, and was absent after being wounded at Talavera, so I'm still pondering his identity. I intend also to add Alex Dickson (a man from Kelso, as it happens) to look after the siege train and all that - Dickson will be in Portuguese uniform, I think. I should also have a commander of engineering. I think it might be appropriate for him to be on foot, and he will have the earlier (blue) uniform. I still haven't really got a clue how these fellows will be used on the toy battlefield (a puzzle with which some real generals of history might empathise, come to think of it), but here, gentlemen, after only some 40-odd years, is my first field officer with a black border.

I shall now, for shame's sake, dig out SGP Ward's Wellington's Headquarters to remind myself how this stuff worked...

***** Very Late Edit *****

I found some old pics of the Picton and Napoleon Alberken figures mentioned in this post and the comments, so here they are again...

I'm also reminded that, though Napoleon came in an eBay job lot, Picton was very kindly given to me by the Old Metal Detector - apologies for my error - one of wargaming's true gentlemen. Thanks yet again, Clive!

Napoleon playing the part of someone else

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Hooptedoodle #259 - Allan Holdsworth - A Unique Voice

I only just found out that Allan Holdsworth died last month, at his home in California. Another guitar hero gone. Oh well.

Holdsworth was never everyone's cup of tea - often too intense, too inaccessible. Of course, the equipment freaks and the technique warriors and all the rest of them (and just about every moron you know probably plays guitar - there's me for a start) have consistently missed the point by an enormous distance over the years - how he played, and the hardware he used, are very small parts indeed of a complex whole; the important bit, in the end, is what he had to say musically, and his was a unique voice - sometimes a breathtakingly emotional one.

He will be commemorated for his pioneering use of polychords, his completely original, alternative approach to functional harmony, his terrifying technique (based on what has become known as the "hammer-ons from nowhere" style of legato playing - no-one ever played like Allan - probably it's just as well), and the characteristically wide intervallic leaps in musical phrases. He developed his own way of playing, and he didn't sound like anyone else. He was born and raised in Bradford, and he took a pride in being an awkward Yorkshireman - he developed his own approach because he didn't find anything else that could produce the music he heard in his head. I guess he really was a genius - we hear a lot about geniuses, but they are thin on the ground.

Even as a (sort of) disciple, I can't take too much of it in one sitting - a lot of the music is very angular - uncomfortable - and if I try to visualise what he is doing I have to go and lie down. If you are a fan, please excuse my bumbling effort to pay tribute. If you are not, then I suggest he was worth a listen. He was never hugely popular - you will see why - but once you've heard him you will recognise him.

Here's a ballad from 1989.

And here's a live piece recorded in Frankfurt 8 years later. The album version of this track (same line-up) uses double bass, which I think is a big improvement (more space to breathe), but this is still good.

 Thanks, Allan.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - Command Cards - Summary Sheet

Further to yesterday's typing extravaganza, I had a good look at the revised (Expansion #5) Command cards, and decided that a full listing of these would also be useful for reference. Note that this is a listing of the revised cards - the ones with the green backs, not the blue ones that come with the original base game (which are listed in the rules booklet).

The cards are organised in three rough groupings - first are the section cards, which specifically relate to units located in one or more sections of the field. Next are the new Take Command cards, which are a bit like section cards, but are applied to Leaders and groups of units adjacent to them. Last are the survivors of what used to be referred to as "tactical" cards - because it is too confusing to have these in the same world as the new Tactician cards, I shall just classify these as Other - if you like, they are Command cards which are not section cards. As with yesterday's list, the numbers in brackets after each card detail are the number of instances of this card in the deck.

Anyway - here they all are - any significant typos, please shout and I'll get it sorted.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - The "Tactician" Cards - Summary Sheet

The Battle of Uclés which I played here last weekend, with Stryker and Goya in guest-starring roles, was most enjoyable - we did run out of time, which was a shame, but that can largely be explained by unfamiliarity. Not Stryker's lack of experience, as a debutant with the Commands and Colors game, but my own lack of facility with the extended card set which came with Expansion #5, although I had played it before. Since the battle, I have been thinking over why this was a bit of a problem, and what I might do to improve things.

All this is, consciously, being a bit over-critical, but among the joys of C&CN to date have been the ease and speed of play. The game is not trivial - there is a lot to remember - but the logical, fast-play rules are a great strength. So much so that a decent-sized game has typically been taking me about 2 hours elapsed - often less. It is so focused, in fact, that if your game doesn't go well you might just have time to try it again - or even try a different one - in the same session.

I've relished that aspect of the game system, and come to rely on it for crisp, understandable games. As the cliché goes - struggle against the enemy, not the rules.  Last year I bought the Expansion #5 upgrade, the Generals, Marshals and Tacticians box, which promised to add more meaning to the rather minimal role played by Leaders in C&CN. It looks good - the original Command card deck is replaced by a modified one, and there is a new Tactician card deck which adds extra depth to the play. The problem last Saturday was, as I say, unfamiliarity. Reading out the contents of each Tactician card as it is played, and agreeing what it means, turned out to be quite time-consuming. Though I had played with the Expansion #5 cards maybe 3 times before, they still proved to be a bit of a disruption. Apart from the hilarious spectacle (!) of my constantly trying to find my reading glasses among the scenery, it was all very new and a bit uncomfortable. In one step, Expansion #5 takes me from a pack of familiar Command cards which I know well and which I can recognise (and understand) on sight, to a whole new pack of rather more complicated text instructions which I don't know at all well, and which had to be studied as they emerged (and, in game play, it might take several games to see them all). That was the main problem.

The obvious solution is to do a little homework - read the cards over a few times, become comfortable with them. First snag is that, unlike the original game, there appears to be no summary list of the new cards. Not in the rules, and I've looked in a few other places - gamer sites and so on - but failed to find anything useful, so decided to type them out for my own use. That way I can swot up a little and save time and maybe some embarrassment (and a few errors) on battle days. So I've done that - you'll find them on the two sheets below. If there is a numeral in brackets at the end of a card text, that indicates the number of instances of that card in the deck. I have also attempted to edit the text a little where I thought it was potentially ambiguous.

If these sheets are useful to you, please print them off for your homework. If they are not, no matter. If they serve only to remind you that you hate anything to do with hexes with a crusading zeal, then why are you reading this anyway?

It is not my intention to enable anyone to produce their own rip-off card set - heaven forfend - this is merely to give a useful summary of the new Tactician cards, so that anyone (especially me) can do a little homework and get up to speed.

At present, I think that the revised Command cards are less of a problem - they are fairly obviously related to the earlier set, and in any case one sees more of them in a game, so familiarity should come more quickly. (Also - typically - they are less wordy, which is not an insignificant point for those of us with dodgy eyesight and failing memories!). If I get sufficiently worried about them, I may type out the new Command deck as well.

As they used to say in my old workplace, "You must embrace change - because you are bloody well stuck with it".

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Magnetic Dog

Smallest painting job I've ever done. Finally got hold of a casting to provide Prince Rupert's famous poodle, Boye. After failing dismally to get an HO model railway dog (and I looked at all sorts of upmarket stuff like Preiser and Faller), and being unable to find anything suitable in an overscale range (I drew the line some distance short of investing in a complete 28mm Warlord Games Rupert c/w Boye), I surprised myself by getting, very cheaply and simply, a 15mm dog from Peter Pig to accompany my 20mm prince.

Here he is, then. Rupert won't notice that the dog is underscale, since Rupert almost certainly lives in a 15mm scale house in my version of Civil War England. Since Rupert may not always want to have his dog with him, and - more seriously - since the Rupert figure will frequently be required to represent some other dude who did not have a dog, I have attached steel paper to the general's base and some magnetic sheet to the poodle, and the pooch is detachable (I am opening a book on how long it is before I lose him). The Rupert figure, by the way, is a Tumbling Dice rider on an SHQ horse, the rather idiosyncratic, house standard recipe, very kindly painted for me a little while ago by the mighty Albannach.

In passing, if you wish to see the full, evil glory of Google, try searching for a 15mm miniature poodle.

Right - now to try to get a 20mm ferret for Lord John Byron...

***** Late Edit *****

Following the comment from M. Le Balai Joyeux, below, I dug out the sad cartoon of Boye's demise - he does look a bit black, doesn't he? However, I also append a painting of the same fellow which is attributed to Rupert's sister - who would know, you would think - which must be a vote for a pale colour. Hmmm.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Hooptedoodle #258 - Woody's Breakfast

Thursday, 4th May 2017 - beautiful morning in South East Scotland - a young male Greater Spotted Woodpecker (dendrocopos major), immaculate in his new Spring outfit, enjoying his breakfast at 6am. I realise that I put lots of pictures like this on here, but I thought the Contesse caught this little chap rather nicely.

Woody knows nothing about UK council elections, or Brexit, or Trump - he just knows he likes peanuts.

Good morning, Woody!

Monday, 1 May 2017

1809 Spaniards - Vaguely Familiar? - El Ducado de Fernan-Nuñez

On his recent visit to Chateau Foy, General Goya was kind enough to bring me an interesting spare figure - you may recognise the early Miniature Figurines (20mm) OPC casting of Murat. Now I don't need a Murat, but for some 18 months or so I have been keeping an eye open for a candidate figure to be this chap - the founder and colonel-in-chief of the Granaderos a Caballo de Fernando VII, who were not horse grenadiers at all, but a regiment of light cavalry. Later in the Guerra de Independencia they changed their title to Husares de Fernando VII, and jazzed up the uniform appropriately. The regiment had an extensive service record during the war  - they were at Ocaña, for example - and there are two plates of the uniform in one of JM Bueno's books.

El Ducado was mentioned in the comments to a post about this regiment, and I stated my intention to paint up a suitable figure to represent him - well, here he is - his uniform is basically that of the Husares, with the addition of the really silly hat. We must assume that he saw Murat during his time in Madrid, and was impressed enough to get an oversized titfer with a rude plume, just like Murat's.

The casting has a vintage, whimsical charm - the horse looks rather like a whippet - built for speed? El Ducado obviously has the wealth, influence and nobility to make an ideal brigadier of cavalry. Convinces me, anyway.

I have a couple more of these old OPC figures - my serving General Picton is one, and the other is the Rowland Hill casting (the one with a map on his knee, if you know this range) - I have intended to paint him up as a general of artillery, but he's still in the queue.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Battle of Uclés - 13th Jan 1809

Artilleryman's view - near the end of the day, the boys of Vilatte's battery can still
see the Spaniards on the south end of the ridge opposite - unlike the real battle, in
which the Spaniards on that flank melted away like snowballs in Hades
The scheduled game based on Uclés duly took place yesterday afternoon, and it was the most excellent fun. My visiting generals were the famous Stryker and the rather more shadowy (though equally intimidating) Goya - splendid fellows, both, and more than ready to accept the eccentricities of the house rules and generally muck in, in the interests of the game.

Our game was not an attempt to replay the actual B of U, of course, but I shall refer to the real battle here and there, to set the context. Let's start off with some historical scene-setting... [there are pictures at the end if you can't be bothered with this bit]

When Sir John Moore and his army threatened the French communications at the end of 1808, Napoleon diverted a great many troops stationed in central Spain to support Soult in the pursuit which eventually ended with the Battle of Coruna and the evacuation of the Brits. One side effect of this was that for a while Madrid was relatively lightly defended, and there was a real chance for the Spanish Ejercito del Centro (commanded, briefly, by the Duke of Infantado - why do so many of the Spanish generals remind me of Gilbert and Sullivan?) to take back the capital. Infantado wasted a lot of time, pondering over alternative grand strategies which included marching off to attack the French lines of supply in the north, and by the time he actually did something it was too little, and far too late.

He detached two sections of his army, which got as far as Tarancon and Aranjuez, at which point they found that the French had recalled much of the missing manpower and that any action against Madrid was now impossible, so they combined and withdrew to Uclés. The commander of this expeditionary force, Mariscal de Campo Venegas, placed a small advanced guard in the little village of Tribaldos, and lined up the rest of his army along a north-south ridge which is bisected by the monastery town of Uclės and by a ravine containing the (fordable) Rio Bedija.

Marshal Victor, with his I Corps (one division absent) and the dragoon division of Latour-Maubourg (detached from the Cavalry Reserve) arrived on the field at 8am, brushed the Spanish advanced guard out of Tribaldos, and sent his infantry forward in two wings - Vilatte's Division attacked the Spanish left (and rolled it up very quickly), while Ruffin's marched around the Spanish right and intercepted the fugitives as they retreated. Infantado never appeared with the promised reinforcements - the Spanish army lost something like 6000 prisoners and was effectively wrecked. Infantado was relieved of command, and history proceeded...

For our game, we started with the position as the French arrived at 8am - Ruffin's (left flank) force was kept off the table, to be marched on as Command Cards allowed. To give the Spanish (me and Stryker) rather more than their customary zero chance, their infantry battalions were at full strength (many of the units on the day really had less than 200 men) and we adopted a scenario rule by which militia units did not count for a Victory Point if eliminated - this justified by the fact that the Spanish army would be neither surprised nor demoralised if the provinciales left early. We used a hybrid form of Commands and Colors, using the updated card packs from the Generals, Marshals & Tacticians Expansion (#5) and, since we had a big battle in hand, on a stretched table (17 x 9 hexes), we also borrowed the idea of the extra Courier Rack command hand from the Epic Expansion (#6). 10 Victory Points (VPs) to decide the day. There was an extra 2 VPs available to the French for each of the town hexes of Uclés which they captured, but this was always unlikely to happen, and in the event they never got close.

Rather than ignoring it and advancing around it to attack the Spanish left flank, Victor attacked the village of Tribaldos immediately - forcing the Spanish advance guard to remain and contest the place. That rather set the flavour for the rest of the day. Instead of being a brief mopping-up operation, this sector began to look more like La Haye Sainte, and, though the French did eventually take the village - eliminating Venegas' only unit of line grenadiers and the 2nd Bn of the Regto de la Reina and killing Brigadier Avellano (who was only painted a week ago!) - it cost them a lot of time and men - the sweeping right flank attack which won the day in 1809 never really got under way at all (not, of course, that we were intending to replay the historical battle).

Turning his attention to his left, Victor brought on Ruffin's Division, and managed to draw some very helpful cards to speed this process up. Thereafter there was a bloodbath on the French left - it has to be said that Ruffin did not have any luck at all with his dice-rolling mojo, the Spanish light cavalry (which was not very formidable) caused more of a nuisance than we expected and slowed things down by forcing units into square. In particular, the despised milicias provinciales on the northern ridge performed heroics - remarkable shooting, for one thing.

At this point, I regret to report, we ran out of time. The VP count stood at 7-all, and the French looked likely to pick off a few more, but my guests had to catch a train, so the deadline was not negotiable.

We had been fighting for about 3½ hours at this point, which by C&C standards is quite a long time, but Baron Stryker was making his first venture into the world of C&C, and, though he picked the game up commendably quickly, necessarily we still spent some time on explanations and conferences over card play etc. We probably made a rather stodgy start after lunch anyway! Though we agreed an honourable draw (an astonishing success for one of my forays with the Spanish army), in truth I think the French probably edged it because they had also eliminated a non-scoring militia unit, and were certainly well placed to finish things off - though it might have taken a little time, since they had lost momentum on their left. Also they had such appalling dice that they deserve a little extra credit for what was achieved. However, in my role as General Venegas, I shall graciously acknowledge all applause and honours which may come my way - to quote Bernard Montgomery, the boys done exceptional.

Afterthoughts? Hmmm - it was always possible that the game was too big to play as an introduction, but I picked it because the ability to play out a large action logically and with clear development is one of the strengths of the game system. Given the size of the action, we might have done better to use the original Command Cards - they are quicker in use, less longwinded, and require a lot less reading than the new ones! I wasn't convinced that the extra Courier Rack hand was much of a help, but Goya thought it worked well, so the jury is out on that one.

The double-retreat handicap rule for the Spaniards actually produces interesting results - on one occasion a battalion of Regto Ordenes Militares, about to be blown to pieces by a massed musketry attack, retreated out of range at the first volley without suffering any casualties, to the fury of Marshal Victor, and it is a commonplace for the French to be unable to catch up with Spanish units retreating from melees.  

All in all? Excellent - I had a great time, and we have agreed to reconvene soon for another fight - next time I fear there will be a mighty Austrian-Prussian coalition - I believe there is painting going on as I write. I am pondering the logistics of taking my French troops and my wargame on the road - should be OK. My van should do the job nicely - just have to put the troops securely in magnetised A4 boxfiles and, if we are to play C&C, I must wrap the battleboards in old duvets (my van is often mistaken for a travelling doss-house), and secure everything with bungee cords. Right.

My thanks, once again, to my colleagues - a lot of fun.

***** Late Edit *****

By special request of Mr L Gunner, here's a game OOB [note that the Spanish army is the actual units I have available, which is not hugely dissimilar from reality; the French army is the historic one and, since my cupboard armies are mostly VI Corps and the Armée du Centre, the parts of the various units were played by similar units with different numbers!]

(Part of Spanish) Ejercito del Centro (MdC D. Francisco Javier Venegas)

Adv guard in Tribaldos (Brig Beremundo Ramirez Avellano)
Combined grenadier bn (Regts Reina & Africa) & 2/Reina
Husares Españoles & Granaderos a Caballo Fernando VII

Right Flank (MdC D. Augusto Laporte)
1/Murcia; 2/Guardias Walonas; 1/Irlanda
2/Granaderos Provinciales de Andalucia & Bn de Campo Mayor (ligero)
Milicias Provinciales de Cordoba, de Granada & de Jaen
Foot battery

Centre (in and around Uclés) (Brig D. Pedro Agustin Giron)
Burgos (2 bns); 1/Reina; 1er Voluntarios de Cataluña (ligero)
Caz a Caballo de Olivenca & "Voluntarios de España"
1er Husares de Estemadura (Maria Luisa)

Left (Brig D. Antonio Senra)
1/Cantabria; Ordenes Militares (2); La Corona (2); Africa (2)
Bn de Ribeiro (ligero) & Mil Prov de Ciudad Real
Foot battery

French I Corps (Marshal Victor)

Division Ruffin
Brigade Barrois: 96e Ligne(3)
Brigade Lefol: 9e Léger(3); 24e Ligne (3)
Art à Pied

Division Lapisse (absent)

Division Villatte
Brigade Pacthod: 27e Léger(3); 63e Ligne (3)
Brigade Puthod: 94e Ligne(3); 95e Ligne(3)
Art à Pied

Corps cavalry
Brigade Beaumont: 26e Chasseurs à Cheval

From Cavalry Reserve: Division Latour-Maubourg
Brigade Perreymond: 1er & 2e Dragons
Brigade Dolembourg: 4e & 14e Dragons
Brigade Digeon: 20e & 26e Dragons
Art à Cheval


The struggle for Tribaldos - the French got bogged down a bit here - the elegant
white Lego block marks the flank section

Venegas' cavalry took this strange position - mainly to oppose the French
dragoons - there weren't many left at the end, but  they did all right

General view from the Spanish right flank, prior to Ruffin's arrival - units with
yellow cube markers are the militia...

Rather odd picture of Tribaldos, with the Spaniards gone, but a lot of time lost

Ruffin's Division appears on the French left...

...more and more of it...

...and things get very sweaty here for a while - the Spanish light cavalry look as if
they are on a suicide mission, which ultimately I suppose they were, but they forced
a couple of battalions into square and slowed the attack down...

...view at this stage from behind the French left attack - the town of Uclés
is in complete calm in the background...

Shrewdly, Venegas withdrew some militia from the end of his line, and replaced them
with the more warlike Regto Irlanda (light blue uniforms) as the French gained a
foothold on the ridge; the Irlanda were destroyed, very quickly! - overall the militia performed better...

As the day came to an end, the French were well positioned to make further progress
on their left, and the Spanish were getting a bit sparse at this point...

...but we ran out of time! Venegas might regard himself as lucky to achieve a draw,
but he will certainly dine out on his success for years. 7-all - you can see the VP markers.

Here are a few incidental pictures, commemorating a wonderful event in the history of the Spanish army's adventures at Chateau Foy:

Since some of the Spanish artillery wore red waistcoats, and since some of the
NapoleoN figures are without jackets, it amuses me that I have a battery of
gunners in what look like Arsenal strips - non-British readers, do not worry about
this - British readers, worry if you wish

Here are some of the Milicias Provinciales - they may be the regiment of Cordoba,
 or maybe Granada - it doesn't matter - whoever they are, they were great

Some of the French units which were badly damaged attacking Tribaldos, resting
at the rear. The more observant students of military history may note that Marshal
Victor and generals Pacthod and Vilatte are also resting at the rear. I have nothing
further to say about this.

The town of Uclés, on its hill, with light infantry in the town and line infantry in
the woods. No rape or pillage today - it would have been a good day for a picnic. 

Since they didn't get mentioned much, here is the Spanish left flank, still in place at the end.

Good company, an entertaining game of toy soldiers, complete with Bellona bridges and Merit trees - what more could you ask?