Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Season's Greetings From Raubenstadt

Now that the Holidays are getting into high gear, with all the decorating, shopping, wrapping, and cooking, I wanted to take a moment and express how much I have enjoyed being a member of this merry band of kindred souls. EvE came into my life at a time when I desperately needed a distraction from reality. For short periods of time I could wander through a different time and place, and have a good laugh now and then.

So....Gentlemen charge your glasses and raise them high for the Markgraaf's Favorite Toast, "To us and those like us! There are damed few left, and most of them are dead!"

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You and Yours!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Day That Will Be Long Remembered

While still basking in the afterglow of the Presidential Election, what should arrive in the mail, but my copy of C.S. Grant's, "The Wargame Companion"! After a quick scan of the contents, I am impressed. Once again Mr. Grant delivers the goods in a classic style, as he lets us "peek behind the curtain" into the mechanics and finer details of a Grant-style wargame. Just like "The Wargame", it can be read again and again with just as much enjoyment as the first time.

In addition, the mailbox coughed up Battlegames #14! Huzzah!! Every wargamer should have a subscription to this excellent publication.

Then in a remarkable three for three, there was a package from Historifigs with my first 25mm Scruby Jager Regiment! It just doesn't get better than this!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What's Eating Colonel Stein?

Colonel "The Terrible" Heinz von Stein was a very worried man, and he had very good reason to be so worried. His little brother, "The Horrible" Horst von Stein had come back, very close to home and he had not been alone. A considerable number of battalions, squadrons, and batteries had marched with him towards the city of Frankfort. Horst had left his native country, Raubenstadt, under a cloud of suspicion for a series of homicides that had advanced him remarkably quickly in rank, for service in foreign parts with the army of Hesse-Homburg about
a year ago. The immediate plan was to get him out of the country and away from vengeful relatives; then he was supposed to die gloriously in battle. This would hush up the entire matter, and give everyone involved plausable deniability as to the fate of Stein the younger.

Unfortunately, as of yet, young Horst had not fulfilled his part of the bargain. To be fair, this was not entirely his fault, since he was unaware that he was supposed to "shuffle off this mortal coil". Not only had he not died gloriously in battle, he had thrived in the Hesse-Homburg service, and had secured further promotions in rank and favor. (We can only wonder what nefarious and perhaps gory deeds had earned him these advancements and considerations, but whatever they were, they appeared to rest lightly on his soul.) Heinz had often wondered if the Homburgers really knew what kind of poisonous asp they had sheltered, as the months wore on and no word of Horst's long hoped for demise arrived.

Now, in addition to his fraternal concerns, the Colonel had received his orders for the campaign against the Prince-Bishop of Spires, and was getting ready to take his regiment, the Truerpfalz Frei Corps into action. It didn't look good. He was absolutely sure the General had never really forgiven him for the eighty piece Sterling Silver Tea Set that had come up missing when the Frei Corps had been the baggage train guard a couple of campaigns ago. Stein's account of a thieving battalion of Croats, that no one else had seen, was a mighty small fig leaf to stand behind, but that was his story and he was sticking to it. According to the General, the tea set had been given to him as a gift by the Russian Czarina for some mysterious service the old fellow had rendered. Ever since then, the General called upon von Stein whenever there was a particularly difficult mission to perform. It was a shame that the set had been melted down. He was sure the fence had cheated him as well. Stein had seen to it personally, that the last of the spoons had gone into the melting pot a couple of days ago, and that the fence was silenced forever. Now the von Stein family estate was free and clear of all debts, for the time being.

Colonel Stein thrust these thoughts aside and assumed the blank, wooden, somewhat stupid mask he wore whenever he reported to the General. As General Schwillingstaufinstein put it, "Colonel Stein, do you know how they hunt tigers in India? No? Well.... they tether a goat in a clearing, then the hunters take their place in some nearby treestands. Now the goat, the silly old thing, doesn't realize that it is being sacrificed, and it begins to bleat because it's thirsty, hungry, or needs to be milked. Eventually, the tiger comes around and while it is busy killing the goat, the hunters have a clear shot, or two, or three at the big kitty. Once they're sure the beast is dead, they climb down from the stands and tell each other lies about how brave they were and were hardly terrorized at all."

"Now your situation is very similar. I'm sending you out on our extreme left flank. Your corps will BE our left flank. No other supporting units will be available for you to fall back on, or call for assistance, if you get into trouble. Your mission is to make the citizens of Gerolburg cower behind their walls. You will be the tiger to their goat, so let some of their bleats for help get away to the Prince-Bishop. Make those peasants and burghers think that your rabble are the advance guard of our mighty host. They are not trained military observers lots of bugle calls, drumming, campfires, and whatever else your fertile imagination suggests. Do you understand Colonel?"

"Yes Sir! But sir, if I let some messengers through, won't the Prince-Bishop respond? Instead of being the tiger I would be the goat!"

"Exactly Stein!", the General cheerily responded. "When the Prince-Bishop and his men come storming up to smite you hip and thigh, and gobble you up, the rest of our army will have an opportunity to hit him on his left flank while he is strung out on the march! This makes him the tiger to our hunters. Dismissed Colonel!"

"It's going to be awfully hard on the goats, sir." Stein said as he saluted and left the command tent.

"The goat should have left my damned spoons alone!", the General whispered to himself.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Dragoons Have Arrived!

Those evil, evil men over at Zevzda have just released their Great Northern War Swedish Dragoon Set just in time for the holidays. Their just as evil minions over at the Michigan Toy Soldier and Figure Company have them for sale at $11.99 per box. You get one Officer, one standard bearer, one Bugler, three dismounted Dragoons, three Dragoons firing pistols, and six Dragoons charging with swords. Plastice Soldier Review should have something up soon. They look excellent! I can't wait for the Roadapplegang and the Hayburningnags to take to the field!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Indian Summer

This is my favorite time of year. The heat and rains of Summer are over. All the crops in the fields are ready to be harvested. The weather is turning cooler, but is not yet cold. Bright sunny days and a bit of a breeze to let the leaves know it's almost time to go, but not yet. It's for days like these that I stay in Indiana. Indian Summer. There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of Indian Summer in this neck of the woods would make a settler's eyes squint, and he'd check the load on his rifle a little more often. Since both sides of that conflict lived so close to the agricultural cycle, a raid by either side before the crops were gathered and stored for Winter, would mean "starving times" in late February and early March, and some hard decisions would have to be made.

Nothing quite that grim around the Meltzer Schloss, though. The two youngest are off to college, and the two oldest are commuting to their jobs. The rennovation of the basement continues. Most of the heavy deconstruction is done, so now I'm taking a look at the decontamination and wiring requirements for the lighting. Visions of a wargaming area shimmer before me, like a glimpse of the Promised Land. I've been pouring through my back issues of Hal Thinglum's (May His Name Be Forever Blessed!) Midwestern Wargamer's Association Newsletter. There are a number of articles in MWAN that have just about everything about building a gaming area. It will be something to have it ready for the first game! I've been good enough for a Digita Camera this year for Christmas.....(Okay, okay! I'm throwing myself on Santa's mercy, but I blame Alte Fritz and his Closet o' Lead, for leading me to acquire my own "Mound o' Plastic".) and maybe I'll be able to post some pictures of the process early next year, if not before. Heh, heh, heh.

Those evil, evil men over at Zvezda with their excellent, reasonably priced, miniatures, and their just as evil minions over at The Perfect Captain, keep tempting me to try out different eras. So between them, most of my disposable income has been disposed of! (See Previous Comment on Mound o' Plastic.) TPC's "Battle Finder" system in particular, is very good, and I foresee a lot of campaigns based around it. Their "Hoplomachia" set of rules for Classical Greek warfare and Zvezda's Greek and Persian miniatures made for an irresistable combination. It remains to be seen how the Greeks fare under the leadership of their Hegemon, Democrates Erronious, against their nemisis, the Persian Satrap, Arses The Extremely Ill-Tempered The Fourth.

While cleaning up the basement, I came across eight unopened boxes of Airfix Napoleonic French Infantry. Who-hoo! (Purchased, stored away, and forgotten more years ago than I like to recall.) Recently, I've been thinking about how my little Imagi-Nation would have fared in the late 18th/early 19th Century. The King of Bavaria and the Grand Duke of Baden-Baden did alright in those tumultous times; so why not the Markgraaf and his descendants?! Hummmm......the painting line is pretty long already, but the vision of seeing the armed might of Raubenstadt in a Napoleonic version it just too hard to resist. The discovery of the Airfix boxes was an omen. (Yes. I admit I have a low sales resistance level and am a compulsive customer too.)

Speaking of Raubenstadt, it's been a while. So let's pop over to the palace grounds and see what's going on:

The Markgraaf and his Chancellor are taking a walk and talking in the formal garden, enjoying the day, while the Margravine and the General play cribbage in a temporary pavillion, so she can keep an eye upon her youngest son who is sailing a model ship (A gift from the Ambassador from Beerstein) in one of the fountains.
"So Otto...How did the first convoy to Frankfort go?"
"About as well as could be expected, My Graaf. No trouble at the borders, or with customs at the city gates, and a minimum of Gallacian 'inspections'. There was only one disturbance worthy of notation. A merchant who rejoices in the name, 'Cut-My-Own-Throat Dilbert, was under the impression that the barrels of salted pork from the village of Bad Ham belonged to him."
"Remarkable. What does Mr. Dilbert do for a living, and how did he receive such an impression?"
"He is, I gather, a vendor of questionable edibles on a stick."
"On a stick, Otto?"
"Yes My Graaf. Deep fried usually, but also served pickled, salted, or jerked. He has quite the reputation as an entrepaneur with low overhead. The barrels were clearly labelled with the village of origin. When the drover's back was turned, Mr. Dilbert, his associates, and two barrels were missing. My Graaf, I doubt that the situation will continue to be this placid."
"Ah Yes. The Germanians will be advancing soon from the Gap. What was the mood in Frankfort?"
"The Gallacians are so increasingly nervous, that they do not notice that the Frankfurters are stealing them blind! My Graaf. We'll try to get another convoy or two into the city before things come apart. I hope that it doesn't boil down to a prolonged seige. Both sides won't stay on their own side of the Main, if it's a long campaign. They'll be looking for supplies."
"Yes...Mr. Dilbert may be reduced to selling Rats on a Stick and still be making a profit. I'll notify the General that we'll have to look to our North. Brigadier von Klunker, the Grenadiers, and the Fusiliers will set out day after tomorrow. Perhaps showing the flag, with a bit of muscle behind it will be enough to discourage any foragers. I hope that with most of the Army dispatched to the South to deal with the Prince-Bishop of Spires, that we aren't in a cleft stick, Otto."
"Yes, My Graaf."
Concealing all traces of concern, the Markgraaf of Raubenstadt turned and shouted, "Ahoy there Admiral! How many bad pirates have you hung from the mainmast?"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reality Intrudes

Where does the time get off to? I can't believe the last time I posted was back in the middle of June! My apologies to the entire group. I've really enjoyed seeing what everybody has been working on - gaming, painting, background stories, plot lines, and my occasional pithy comments. So what's been going on in this neck of the woods? Well, the gutting of the basement after the flood goes slowly, but it is going. I managed to sprain an ankle, while hauling some of the wooden framing upstairs. This, of course, slowed down the project even more. On the other hand, I got to do my Robert Newton/Long John Silver impression to my captive audience, as I tottered around on a pair of crutches. "Arrgh Jimlad! Who be the swab what put all this furniture in my way? Arrgh!" Sigh. Everyone's a critic.

Will and Drew, my two oldest boys, went to GenCon in Indy yesterday, and they brought back a ton of Sci/Fi and Fantasy stuff. (Two large bags and a knapsack loaded to the brims!) They had a great time this weekend and I understand that attendance was up from last year. Even the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was getting into the mood. On Friday night they played a program based on selections of video game music. The boys enjoyed it quite a bit . I hope so. I understand that GenCon has filed for bankruptcy and the possibility of any future Cons being held is "iffy" at best. What a shame if it is true. It was nice having a major Con close to home, even if historical miniatures and games were next to non-existant. You never can tell when a clever game mechanism might rear its head, and be utilized by historical gamers. (Heh, heh, heh!)

Once I was able to hobble down the hallway and get to the computer desk, I spent a lot of time cruising the net. There is a lot of interesting topics and stuff out there. One of the sites this group might be interested in is They're a company that makes reenactment supplies and equipment. Click on to their "resources" section, and then on to their "links", and you will be introduced to the world of reenactors. Tons of information about the FIW, SYW, ARW, 1812, Civil War, etc.. Lots of pictures of uniforms, flags, historic locations. A lot of good stuff for wargamers to use. If you get a chance, check them out.

I see that Captain Bill has set to sea, so I'll close this post with a hearty, "Darby M'graw! Darby M'graw! Fetch aft the rum Darby!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flooding and Reinforcements

Well....with all the rain we've been having, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. Our power went out during a heavy rainstorm, which meant that the basement sump pump stopped, and the water came rolling in like an artisian fountain. It was nothing like those poor souls in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois are enduring, but it was bad enough. The worst of it was most of my wargaming stuff got soaked and drying it out may take a while. The scenic items took the worst of it (Cardboard buildings and Lichen trees), and it looks like I'll be rebasing a lot of miniatures, which means there might be repainting (Sigh!). On the other hand, I get to gut the entire basement and start over (After installing a battery powered back-up sump pump). The inspiration of an "Alte Fritz" like gaming area keeps shimmering before me like a glimpse of the Promised Land. Raubenstadt will arise from the primordial slime, better, stronger, faster than it was before!

On a happier note, I took Mr. Bill McHenry's advice and latched onto ten boxes worth of Zeveda's "Great Northern War" Swedish Infantry. The Squadron Mail Order guys were having a sale, and the addition of 430 new recruits has cheered the Markgraaf significantly. These are some great figures! Check them out on Plastic Soldier Review. Russian Infantry (The Opposition) are also available (They have no turnbacks and can be used to represent troops well into the 18th Century). Swedish Dragoons and Russian Artillery are scheduled to be released sometime this year. So there are Horse, Foot, and Guns in the works and I'm excited. I'm still waiting for my first Scruby light infantry unit, the Grunwald Jagerkorps, to arrive from HistoriFigs, but since I've waited decades for these guys, a few more weeks is nothing.'s on with the rubber boots and breathmasks. Fire up the wet/dry vac. Break out the bleach and spray bottles. Where did I put that crowbar?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Meanwhile...In The Fortress of Felsigberg

"The Margravine? She has a merry brightness about her that is hard to describe. No wait! It's the same kind of look the rabbit sees before the hawk's talons close."

Otto von Weisenheimer,
Chancellor of Raubenstadt

After his meeting with the Markgraaf, von Mack was summoned to a meeting with the Margravine. Between the two, he considered the second meeting far more important. He still in his heart, thought of her as Baroness Sharon von Kerns and not the Margravine von Meltzer. The von Kerns were a very old, established noble family; so old in fact, that rumor had it that as the glaciers retreated, the von Kerns moved in.

This rumor might have been inspired by the fourteen foot tusk of some ancient beast that a Kerns ancestor had found and put on display in their family castle. A casual observer might not notice that if a person was thrown from the balcony, they stood a pretty good chance of being impaled. Her father, Ernst the Elder, like all the von Kerns had a vivid imagination, and "riding the tusk", was a special punishment he reserved for any who had betrayed his trust. Von Mack knew for a fact that not all the encrusted blood on the tusk was ancient.

He was drawn out of his reverie, when the gates of the Fortress Felsigberg closed behind him, and the officer escorting him to the Baroness could not be drawn into conversation. The Felsigberg! Von Mack had never been this close before, and he always hoped it would be as an invited guest with an exit pass, as opposed to those who were not! While not the grimmest place in the Germanies, von Mack rated it in the top five. It had always been an imposing pile of stone, and the "modern" improvements that George Fredrick, the First Markgraaf, had made when it was his base of operations a generation ago, had not softened the edges. No. The business of the Felsigburg was intimidation, and it was doing a pretty good job.

His escort stopped and knocked upon a door. It opened and the officer motioned for von Mack to enter. As the door closed behind him and his eyes adjusted to the light, he bowed before her. He was struck by the dazzling combination of her red hair and fair complexion. As he straightened and looked into her snapping brown eyes, he remembered that she had also inherited the Kerns temper, and that the red hair was no lie, and a warning to those who had the wit to heed.

"My husband suspects that his riding accident was no accident, but he has no proof. Without proof he will not act. If Maurice of Stagonia's agents were involved, you and I know that proof will not be found. The Vile King has threatened my family by this action. This will not be tolerated. He is too well guarded and suspicious to strike directly, so he and his agents must be distracted while the campaign against Spires is conducted and concluded."

Von Mack nodded his understanding, and the Baroness continued, " I leave the details up to you as to how to achieve this goal, but I want you to start with this." She handed him a folded note. "Have this printed, smuggled into Stagonia and distributed as far and as wide as you can." Mack the Knife unfolded the note and read, "Pity poor Maurice! His plots go round and round. How uneasy are his people, when Madness wears a Crown!"

"Yes Baroness. That ought to keep him chasing his own tail and jumping at shadows for some time," von Mack replied, "and who knows, it might just spark an uprising, if his reprisals are too severe."

"My son Wilhelm is going to war. Do you have the pistols?"
"Yes, My Baroness."
He brought the case out from under his arm and opened it for her inspection. "Your father's pistols. Ernst was a man who believed in giving himself every advantage.", he said as he pulled out one of the matched set. "Double barrelled, .62 caliber. This one has the right barrel rifled. The left one - smoothbore. The other one has two smoothbore barrels. I have taken the liberty of casting the balls, crosscutting the tops, placed a bit of arsenic soaked paper and raw onion in each cut, and recrimped them. If he doesn't kill his target outright, any wounds he inflicts will be fatal."

"Thank you. You have always been a loyal friend to me and mine." The Margravine whispered.
Von Mack would have sworn that there were tears shining in her eyes as he bowed and kissed her proffered hand. Maurice of Stagonia would pay a fearsome price.

Friday, March 7, 2008

On The Edge Of The Verge Of The Cusp Of The Tipping Point

"No one is totally useless. They can always serve as 'The Bad Example'."

General Ritter Hugo von Schwillensaufenstein

Otto Weisenheimer, the Chancellor of Raubenstadt, looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. As he had foreseen the Prince-Bishop had refused to return the disputed territories. There would be no further negotiations on the matter. A declaration of war would be the next step. He didn't know if he was happy or sad. Happy because he had served his lord well, or sad because of the loss of life that was bound to happen as a result of his actions. He went to see the Markgraaf.

He found him closeted with the General and a fellow he did not know. "Come in Otto. We were just about to send for you anyway!. This is Herr von Mack. He's an old friend of the von Kerns. The Margravine trusts him completly. We suspect that Stagonian provocateurs were involved in my "accident" back in January. Von Mack is going to try and get us some proof that "King" Maurice was involved. He may need some assistance from yourself or your office to help flush them out. Good luck with your fishing Herr von Mack." Von Mack bowed and left the room. Otto had a vision of von Mack following his trail, and involuntarily shuddered at the thought.

"Tell me Otto, what do you know of the vile Stagonian?", the Markgraaf asked. "Vile is indeed the word, my Lord." the Chancellor responded. "There was never much love lost between Raubenstadt and Stagonia. A distant cousin of your father's was killed in one of Maurice's convoluted plots, before he declared himself to be King. Your father blamed Maurice and severed all political relations with the Stagonian." "How many Stagonian barges have had trouble on the river recently?" "Seven, my Lord. They were carrying mundane cargo for the most part, but we did find uniforms on board all of them that do not match any worn by the Stagonian Army. Further inquiries provided matches for the Duchy of Stollen, Hesse-Homberg,
Frankzonia, and some postage stamp sized place down South called, 'The Pressipality'. We can only assume that these are all some part of another of his insane plots."

"Do you think my 'accident', might be Maurice's way of protesting the loss of so many barges?" the Markgraaf asked. "It's very hard to tell what the madman is thinking at any time my Lord, but I have another, more pressing matter. The Prince-Bishop has refused." He handed the message to the Markgraaf. The general said, "Our army is ready. Everything is in place. We can begin operations immediately."

"Not yet General. Not yet." The Markgraaf turned back to his Chancellor. "Otto, send the declaration of war to the Prince-Bishop. General, operations will begin twenty-four hours later. Gentlemen I will not keep you from your duties any further." Otto returned to the Chancellory to put the finishing touches on the declaration. The general returned to his headquarters.

As he rode back, the angrier he got. By the time he had returned, he had worked himself up into a towering rage. The Markgraaf endangered by unseen agents of Stagonia?! The General's aides stood silently by while the old soldier swore for twenty minutes, in a variety of languages, using colorful anatomical impossibilites, and never once repeated himself, while slowly turning an interesting shade of purple. "...unnatural spawn resulting from relations with a Cod Fish! He's worse than that fellow who thinks he's a Lobster. By the Powers! If I thought "Graf" Maurice had a speck of honor left, I'd call him out for pistols at dawn! I'd shoot out his left eye, and he'd spend the rest of the day looking up at the sky out of the right one and seeing nothing!" No one in the Headquarters Tent doubted him. The General's vision was still excellent and his duelling pistols had been fitted out with hair triggers. Schwillensaufenstein was no stranger to the Field of Honor and was still alive to tell the tale. Not everyone he had confronted could say the same.

"Double all the guards at once. Nobody gets in or out without a signed pass from me. Heaven have mercy on anyone who let them get so close, for I shall have none!" Each sentence was punctuated by a large beefy fist pounding the table. "If they are still hanging around to see how successful they were, or to try again, there is a small chance that we might catch them. If any suspects are captured alive, tell Cyril the Blade to fire up the coals, I may have some business for him. A 'St. Petersburg Special With A Ginger Beer Twist' ought to do the trick. Beer....Somebody bring me a beer! Swearing is thirsty work." It was at this moment of monumental bad timing that Heinz von Stein, Colonel of the Truerpfalz Freicorps entered the tent, came to attention, and said, "You wanted to see me, Sir? If this is an inconvienent time, I could come back later."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Busy, busy, busy days for Raubenstadt

"Your average citizen of Raubenstadt is a little bit above average."

Otto von Weisenheimer

It had been a very busy time for the Chancellor. The Markgraaf had directed him to strengthen the nation's alliances, tend to the daily routine of government, and ....oh yes! come up with a plausable excuse to declare war on the Prince-Bishop of Spires. The first two fell within his normal duties. It was the third mission that made for long days and restless nights. Oddly enough the solution presented itself after a couple of late nights stareing at a large map that Otto had nailed to the wall. (Otto hated maps. He felt that they gave the observer a false Godlike sense of scale. A sweeping journey to the farthest reaches of the back of beyond, could be easily achieved; when the reality was even the shortest of expeditions could be fraught with dangers and hardships.)

Like most political problems of the present, the cause lay in the past. When Raubenstadt came to be, George Frederick, the first Markgraaf, could only consolidate so much of the Kurpfalz. The more distant territories from Heidlebeerenburg had been absorbed by the neighboring states. Among those states was the Bishopry of Spires. Otto was convinced that whenever the Markgraaf desired, a missive (or better yet, a Messenger - no paper trail) could be sent that would demand the return of the splintered provinces that had fallen into his sphere of influence. Of course the Prince-Bishop would refuse and the Markgraaf could declare war whenever he pleased. All together Otto counted ten territories that once belonged to the Kurpfalz that the Markgraaf could use as a fig leaf for a "justified war". If the cause was in the past and the problem in the present, the resolution was in the future....the very near future. It was time to set the machinery in motion.

It had been a very busy time for Ritter Hugo. There was the coming campaign to plan, the reports to send and to receive, troop movements, and the other thousand and one things to do before the first weapon was fired. The regiments that had been selected for special tasks had been rehearsing them. It was a toss up as to who was the busiest. The Engineers had been corderoying the roads to the border, strengthening bridges over the streams and rivers for the artillery and wagons, and last but not least, digging fieldworks along the fords of the Kretch River. The General was concerned that the sounds of axes hewing trees and shovels scrapping against the cold earth could be heard for miles, but it was a risk he had to take.

The Supply Train had been convoying supplies for the campaign to the advanced depots, and bringing back enough food and materials so that, if necessary, Heidlebeerenburg could withstand a seige. Even the Bargemen on the Rubberneckar had inspected their vessels, and had been busy making any repairs. The Cavalry had been taking turns escorting the supply trains and patrolling the borders. The Spires military had made no scouting efforts, so far, but the constantly roving patrols gave the junior officers a chance to exercise their men and mounts before the main effort.

That left the "Exploring Officers" and their reports. Ritter Hugo had trusted this delicate task to mostly the Artillery and the most experienced Light Cavalry Officers. They were now just returning from their missions, or couriers from the ones sent deeper into Spires. Things were looking up. Even as busy as they had been, the General's aides had remarked upon the deep sense of satisfaction when the General was overheard murmuring to himself, "Heinz, Heinz, should have left my spoons alone!"

The sense of urgency did not stop at the Chancellor's or General's either. The Markgraaf himself was wishing that there were more hours in the day. There was so much to do in so little time. Something was bound to be overlooked or slip. Slip....The memory of Vociferous rolling onto him flashed through his mind. Thank God it was only a wrenched knee from that damned deerstag.
Stag...Stagonia. Maurice of Stagonia. A ruler so twisted he didn't need two mirrors to see his back. Could agents of Vile Stagonia have been behind the "accident" on the road? He didn't recall seeing any suspicious characters lurking about, but between the pain of his knee, concern for his horse, and the panicked reaction of the escort, he didn't have the best view of the circumstances.

"Bueller!", the Markgraaf shouted for his Personal Secretary. "Buellllller! Ah! There you are Ferris. For a moment there I thought it was your day off. Would you be so kind as to inform the Markgravine that I'm going to need her connection to von Mack the Knife? Thank you Ferris."

It was little known in Raubenstadt that the Markgraaf's in-laws, the von Kerns' had developed a network of horsetraders (horsethieves), wholesale businessmen (Innkeepers who's merchandise "just fell off the wagon".), and itinerate wanderers (Tinkers and Gypsies). The reason it was so little known, was the fact it was a closely guarded State Secret. His father, John Henry the Second Markgraaf, had always warned him about having any dealings with Stagonia. So... It would be best to approach this with an organization that had plenty of cut-outs. Yesss...Mack the Knife would do nicely.

The Markgraaf sighed. I must remember to have a word with Otto and Hugo about our internal security.

Meanwhile on the Spires bank of the Kretch River, a hussar of the Prince-Bishop wades out into the shallows, while the Sergeant and the rest of the patrol reined in their horses. "Hey Sarge! Look at this!", the soggy soldier splashed back to the shore, clutching a branch of wood in one hand. "Feldman!", the sergeant said in an annoyed voice. "Are you bucking for corporal? Schmit get a fire going before the damn fool freezes." The private showed the noncom the larger end of the branch. "Sarge.....this was sawn off!", he whispered urgently. "What does it mean?"

Friday, February 15, 2008

These Are So Cool!

Well.......I think I'm excited. The Post Office just delivered my first batch of Scruby Miniatures! More years ago than I care to recall, I spent many a happy hour pouring over ol' Jack's catalog, planning my miniature hordes in all the historical epochs. Unfortunately economic reality reared it's ugly head, and most of those cherished dreams (or delusions) remained only dreams; so my collection of genuine Scrubys was always very small, but remained the heart of my armies.

Time and tide rolled on, and I moved onto to other miniature lines. The plastic ones in particular were a good compromise between price, detail, and ease of painting. The well-thumbed catalog fell apart, and I remember reading in the Courier of Mr. Scruby's passing. I thought my opportunity to eventually order more went with him.

Jack may be gone, but thanks to the good folks at HistoriFigs of Portage WI, the moulds and his castings live on. I am now the proud owner of a Grant/Young SYW regiment of "True 25mm" Scrubys! There was hardly any flash to clean up. They painted up just as well as the Midieval figures of my youth. The detail may not be up to modern standards, but my eyesight isn't what it used to be either. I figure that since I'll be looking at the whole unit from about 3-4 feet away, all the detail would be lost anyway. (And there's the fact that I am a much better painter than I was back then too! HA HA.) (Of course, it's a good thing that bar was set pretty low.)

The really neat thing is that they match up very well with my hordes of Revell, Hat, Italeri, and Zevda miniatures. Huzzah! One regiment down. Brigades! I must have Brigades! (Creepy organ music swells to a cresendo, as the picture fades to black.)



Sunday, February 3, 2008

At The Palace Review - The Plot Thickens (Or Starts To Curdle)

"In the darkest of times, hope is the gift that you give to yourself."

Sharon Elaine, Margravine of Raubenstadt

The cold Winter wind made the bare limbs of the trees look like waving skeletal hands. "God! There's a depressing thought.", the Markgraaf sighed. The parade ground had been swept of the snow, and the skies had seen fit not to deposit any more upon the ground. The combined music of the Regimental Bands helped banish most of the cold, as the Grand Review got underway. Everyone who had accepted the Markgraaf's Thaler, would march past the stand and look upon the Markgraaf, as he would look upon them. This was the last of the reviews and parades the Markgraaf would attend personally. He had been from one end of the nation to the other; to every city and town. He went to meet the people, hear their concerns, and whip up their enthusiam for his continued rule over them. Today would be the capstone of all those efforts. By the end of today's parade, he would know if his people were ready for whatever lay ahead.

The columns of infantry methodically swung onto the review field. There was something hypnotic about the rythmic marching of the battalions; each man subordinating himself to a greater purpose. Of the Infantry he had no doubts, with the possible exception of Stein's Freicorps of course. "'The Farmer', they call me.", he thought, "Well By Thunder my boys will go into battle with solid shoes, warm uniforms, good muskets, full bellies, and enough supplies to make sure that they stayed that way." He had seen first hand some of the shockingly bad equipment the "Greater Powers" had issued to their armies. Shoes that would fall apart after the shortest of marches. Uniforms and blankets so threadbare, straw could be shot through the material with little or no hinderance. Muskets so rusted and unreliable the barrel would burst if given a full charge of powder, if the lock didn't fall apart first. Rations so bad that even a starving beggar would refuse to eat them.

There had been a pretty lively discussion as to where in the order of the Review the cavalry would parade. General Schwillensaufenstein suggested that they start off first. Brigadier General von Kerns of the Guards, pointed out that the infantry had spent a lot of time polishing their shoes, and that they would spend a lot more time cleaning them up, if the cavalry went first, due to the "hazzards" that would be left behind by the thundering herds. Ever advocating the spirit of compromise, the Markgraaf declared that the infantry would preceed the cavalry, and that the cavalry would preceed the artillery, the engineers, and the supply train; since all those branches had horses of their own and would be used to stepping around any deposits that had been made by any mounted units that had gone before.

Unlike the infantry, the cavalry was a different matter for the Markgraaf. Management of mounted soldiers had never come easy for him. Like all gentlemen he could sit upon a horse and not look like a sack of flour, but he never achieved the natural easy grace that his children all exhibited from an early age. "Cavalry is an expensive, yet fragile branch of the service.", he thought, as the horsemen clattered by. "Horses are so necessary on the battlefield, yet vulnerable to so many diseases and use in service." He had done the best he could for them. Raubenstadt was not Saxony and it's plains. "If they can scout, charge at a canter in the face of the foe, and not go hareing off the battlefield, I can expect no more of them."

The Artillery, the Engineers, the Supply Train, and the Army Staff all passed in review, as the Brigadiers urged their men to cheer. The bands played martial tunes, with lots of trumpet calls and drum flourishes, as the Colors were trooped. Unknown to the soldiers on the field, the most significant event was reached on the reviewing stand. The Markgraaf had his answer. Raubenstadt was ready to follow him to whatever end. For him the parade was over. Ritter Hugo looked very pleased with the result, but of course the old soldier lived for these moments.

As the last of the troops paraded by, going back to their barracks, the Margavine turned to her brother, Ernst, Brigadier of the Gard Brigade, and said, "I'm going to have the Devil's own time trying to keep Wilhelm out of all this." She gestured with her hand in a vague way towards the retreating soldiers. "Now, now, sister dear. The boy is what? Fifteen? Old enough to be an Ensign! He'll want to see some action. They all do at that age. All Blood and Thunder, until they see real blood and see a battle." Seeing that his casual remarks were not having a calming effect upon his sister, he hastened to add, "I'm sure that his father will tuck him away in a Staff position. Close enough to see and hear the action, but far from any danger." "He had better.", she replied, with a look that boded ill for someone, if she did not get her way.

At that moment the Markgraaf hobbled across the review stand. While going to Seckingheim on an inspection, a stag had unexpectedly dashed across the road, startling Vociferous, the Markgraaf's horse. As the horse reared up, a rear hoof slipped in the muddy road, and much to the escort's horror, fell and rolled onto the Markgraaf's left leg. The soft ground prevented any broken bones, but the severe bruising, wrenched knee, and the sprained ankle were enough to keep the Markgraaf off his feet and recuperating for three weeks. At least now, the crutches were a thing of the past, and a cane with the occasional grimmace were the only reminders of the incident. Ritter Hugo saluted as the Markgraaf took the arm of his lady and escorted her to the waiting coach that would take them back to the Palace.

Even though Winter still held the countryside in it's grasp, there were many preparations to be made. The old general went over them in his mind as he and his escort rode back to Headquarters. "Time to send the light cavalry out to the border with Spires, and get the 'Exploring Officers' on their missions.", he thought. He was especially looking forward to briefing Col. von Stein on his crucial part in the Spring Campaign. He hoped that by Summer the Prince-Bishop of Spires would be reduced to the bare necessities that a Man of God required.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Markgraaf's Hunting Lodge

"There comes a time in the life of every politician, when the Ruler they serve wants to, 'meet the people'. During this time, it is important for the politician to stress to the Ruler, as often as is necessary, the procedure is -HOLD the baby and SHAKE the hand- not the other way around."

Otto von Weisenheimer

Chancellor Weisenheimer had been summoned to the Markgraaf's hunting lodge, just outside of Heidlebeerenburg. Normally, the new Markgraaf met with the Chancellor in his offices, so such an unusual request made him wonder what was in the wind. The cavalry officer in charge of the escort had offered no hints.

As he was quickly shown inside and upstairs to the Markgraaf's quarters, he noticed that the Markgraaf was not alone. General Schwillensaufenstein, the Army Commander, was also here, and was making sweeping gestures at a map on the wall. "Gott in Himmel," he thought, as he shrugged off his greatcloak and handed it to a servant, "They've been looking at maps again!" As the servant put away the cloak and handed him a hot drink, Otto heard the General say, "Styles himself, 'The Lion of Baden', the arrogant bastard. He's some Franco/Scoto/Irisho refugee, and nobody knows how tight a leash Louis has him on. But one thing is for damned sure. He's recruiting every peasant that might be able to learn his right from his left, and he's getting them into uniforms and carrying muskets as soon as they arrive from Paris. In addition, our report says he's hiring mercenaries....and offering them land!"

The Markgraaf nodded and continued to sip at the stein in his hand. The general turned from the map and said, "My Lord, our country was established under your Grandfather. We had stability under your Father. But if this Duc decides to come our way, he will be looking for easy conquests. I don't know if we will be able to fend him off given our present strength. My Lord, we must expand both our army and our territory, and you know what that means."

"Thank you General. You have given us much to mull over. I will get in touch with you soon. In the meantime, I want to talk to Otto." "My Lord." the General replied, bowed, and left the room. The Markgraaf pointed to the chair opposite his, and the Chancellor gratefully sank down into it. "Otto, how strong are our alliances?" "The Hesse's will support us as long as we don't need their support. Wurttenburg and Baveria will use us as a screen to see which way the threat will develop. The Swiss will go with the highest bid, and the Duke of Baden will use any excuse to reclaim the Kurpfalz." "The times are unsettled, my old friend, but when have they not been unsettled? eh?. We will need friends, Otto. Good friends that will be willing to come to our aid if necessary. See what you can do and let me know your progress."
"Yes My Lord." The Chancellor rose from the chair and prepared to take his leave, while the Markgraaf stared into the room's fireplace. "Otto? One more thing. I want to meet the people."