Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Huzzah! The Light Cavalry!

I was trolling through the Michigan Toy Soldier And Figure Company's website, and I noticed that Revell has reissued their excellent set of Seven Year's War Prussian Hussars. They're going for $11.75 a box. So if you're in the mood to recruit batches of those dashingly uniformed rascals that we love to see "en masse" on the tabletop, now is the time to plead your case to Santa!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Has It Been A Month Already?!

Well shoot! The ticker says its been a month since the last posting...and the ticker don't lie. I attended the "Muster On The Wabash" reenactment in Vincennes, and had quite a time. My brother and I talked to the fellow portraying Governor Harrison in between his presentations, and he said that since the bicentennial for the Battle of Tippecanoe is looming near, plans are underway for reenacting the whole campaign of the Wabash Valley starting next year and climaxing at the Battleground State Park. Very cool!

HUZZAH! My latest order of figures from HistoriFigs has arrived! The LeNoble Frei Jagers castings will become the Yaeger-Schnitzel Jagers, and what fine looking fellows they are too! The mounted Hussar will be painted up as a dashing aide-de-camp for General Lostin Der Wald. I liked the resolute look of the sample figures of Morgan's Riflemen and the Hunting Shirt Infantry from the Am. Rev. line as well, so (sigh) eventually regiments of them will have to be fielded. What amazes me is how well ol' Jack Scruby's work has held up as the years have rolled on. Although some might consider them "long in the tooth", when they're painted up and on the tabletop they can hold their own with anybody.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Von Kerns Are Coming!

Erwin von Mack was grateful that the trip from Raubenstadt to Frankzonia had been without incident. The Markgrafin of Raubenstadt, Sharon von Meltzer was traveling to Frankzonia to visit the ruling family, the von Fhartz, and help them celebrate the completed renovation of one of their many estates. Of course, the presence of a platoon of the Markgrafin's Own Guard Musketeers, with their glittering bayonets, and a squadron of the Markgrafin's Own Lancers, with their twinkling lance heads, probably had something to do with the uneventfulness of the journey. It would have indeed been a bold band of highwaymen to even consider hindering the carriage and it's escort.

"If I keep showing up here, they're going to name the road after me.", he thought sourly to himself.

He was not surprised to see his counterpart, von Badmann waiting by the entry portal, as he rode up to the gate. Von Badmann raised his right hand and spurred his horse forward.

"What?! No wandering yodelling instructor cover this time?", referring to their first encounter years ago. "You know, old friend, that we'll have to name the road after you, if you keep popping up!", he said after shaking hands.

" least I could yodel, unlike those God awful clocks you were trying to foist off as your own work. Besides, I had no choice in the matter this time.", he grunted, and jerked his thumb over his right shoulder towards the carriage. "The Markgrafin and her brothers have come to call."

"Her brothers?!", Badmann's tone and right eyebrow rose.

"Only two of them.", von Mack dryly replied, enjoying his friend's discomfort.

"THREE von Kerns?!!" His left eyebrow joined the right in a mighty effort to reach the hairline.

"Technically only two. The Margrafin herself, her brother David, the commander of her personal Guard Musketeers, and her other brother Paul, the commander of her Guard Lancers. You see, Paul has given up the family name. So...he'll thank you to call him what he goes by these days: Colonel Somerussian Guyovich."

"And he thinks that that is enough of a fig leaf to hide behind?", Badmann inquired.

"He has great faith in the new name, the cossack scalplock, the moustache, his troopers, that he has spent enough time in the Cossack Stiech for everyone to have forgotten why he left, and if all else fails, that weighted Hungarian saber he favors."

Von Mack laughed as he turned his horse around and started to canter back to the carriage.

"I've seen him hack through a fencepost, in one stroke, at a full gallop with that cleaver!"

"We'll talk later!", Badmann called after him, then slumped back in his saddle.

As von Mack neared the carriage, he heard the clink of tumblers and a flask, as the Markgrafin said, "To old scores."

"And their settling!", David replied.

"In a painful manner!!", Somerussian Guyovich chimed in.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's Quiet In Raubenstadt...Maybe Too Quiet!

WOW! Where does the time get off to? Five weeks since the last posting? Heartfelt sigh.

So what have I been up to wargaming-wise? I've been finishing up some of those excellent Zvezda GNW Swedish Dragoons as my "Hayburningnag Dragoons". Three boxes will give you enough figures for a "Grant - Wargame" sized regiment of 1 Colonel, 2 Officers, 1 Standard, 1Bugler, and 24 other ranks, with some figures left over for Brigade Staff, Couriers, or Escorts. The boys at Squadron Mail Order were having a sale, so I went ahead and got enough for the "Roadapplegang Dragoons" and the "Knackerbound Karabiniers" as well. (As the names might suggest the Markgraaf does not have a lot of confidence in his cavalry.) They are reasonably priced and easy on the ol' Warchest, so even the most cost concious Monarch can recruit with confidence. Don't be put off by the timeframe. They are tricorne wearing Heavy Cavalry. If some eagle-eyed opponent spots a uniform detail in this scale, just say that your Imagi-Nation is very conservative, militarily speaking, and that "The Socket Bayonet is just a passing fad. Real Men Use Plug Bayonets". If he keeps it up, field a unit of pikes in the next game. Good stuff all around.

With their release of the Russian Artillery of Peter the Great and the Prussian Grenadiers of Fred the Great (I wonder why they avoided some of the more accurate nicknames of the past like Aethreld the Unready or John Lackland? I can see the troops really getting fired up to campaign with Wilhelm Augustus the Barely Adequate! Ha, ha, ha!), it looks like I'll be a regular customer of the Michigan Toy Soldier And Figure Company for the forseeable future. Check out their website at for an excellent source for figures, paints, brushes, books, etc.

I've also got an order in with Mr. Mike Tabor's HistoriFig Company for some of those classic 25mm Scruby SYW Le Noble Jagers that I will paint up as my "Ulster Jagers". (As an added benefit, they make great "stand ins" for AWI Butler's Rangers!) Included in the order are some 25mm AWI figures that I'm anxious to get my grubby little cotton pickers on too: Morgan's Riflemen, Hunting Shirt Infantry, Indians, Tarlton's Dragoons, Mounted Infantry, and some command! WOOF! They mix in well with the figures from Zvezda, Airfix, Revell, Italeri, and Hat Industrie, so a wide variety of units can be fielded.

More years ago than I like to recall, I took Bruce Quarrie's advice from his excellent book, "Napoleonic Campaigning In Miniature" to heart, when it comes to painting a couple of armies. Like most great ideas it is so simple that you shake your head and say in a sotto voice to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?!"

Start with painting a Line Infantry Unit. Once that is COMPLETELY finished and ready for the tabletop, paint up an opposing Line Infantry Unit. Paint up a Cavalry Unit for each side, then a couple of Artillery Batteries. Add a Supply Wagon Train Unit, then paint up a couple more Infantry Units. The jist of the idea is to vary the type and nationality of the units, so that you have two balanced forces (Not necessarily identical!) to set upon the tabletop. I have found that among the main advantages is that you avoid "Painter's Burnout" (NOOOooo! Not another Highlander Unit! The plaid! The plaid!), and if it's an era that you're not sure you want to commit major bucks to, you can still have some cracklin' little actions without having to 'prentise out the firstborn, or take out a third morgage on the ol' family estate. By the time you're ready to field Guard Units, your experience with the lowly Line types, will make your elite troopies martial display something to marvel at.

Last, but not least, I've been kicking around the idea of combining Graf Bogy's (of Hesse-Fedora fame) canvas cloth General Purpose battlefield with the Perfect Captain's Battlefinder tabletop terrain layouts. Seven foot by five foot canvas dropcloths would be ideal to represent their 6 by 4 area. When painted with all the detail of rivers, roads, fords, forests, fields, etc., then draped over the table and the edges clamped to the table's edge, the only things left to be added would be any hills, ridges, and buildings. Each battlefield could be unique and easily rolled up until the next conflict. BWAHAHAHA! The World Is My Oyster!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meanwhile....In A Back Alley, Somewhere In Frankszonia

Those who noticed him passing through the Frankfurter countryside thought that he was a well to do farmer. Most didn't even consciously register his presence at all, and that was just the way Erwin von Mack "The Knife" liked it. The whole idea was to blend in so well that no one would recall his features or clothing, so an accurate description would be difficult. For the life of him, he never could understand why any one who didn't want to be noticed, would dress in an all black outfit that fairly screamed, "Look at and remember me!". A dark, sober brown was just as good at night, blended in better in the day, and the occasional unavoidable bloodstain was much easier to hide.

God! He hated amateurs. They always gummed up the works and forced professionals, such as himself, to take extraordinary measures; like the one he was taking now. Hans Rottenbrat, a Stagonian Agent Provacateur, had escaped from the City of Frankfurt, and was lying low in a small town outside of the Frankfurter capital, but he had not escaped von Mack. There he was now! Just like clockwork, slinking along the alley way, all in black.

Mack the Knife waited until Rottenbrat had slunk by, then he stepped out behind him. One smooth, swift, practiced blow from a shot-filled leather blackjack, and Hans fell to the ground without a sound. A moment later he was trussed up, gagged, hidden in a haycart, and on his way to the Felsigburg. Erwin wondered what kind of song the canary would sing, once he was in the cage.

As the cart move out of the alley, he didn't notice a heavy lace curtain fall back into place. Milady de Winter turned to her cloaked and spurred minions. "Should we kill him and recover Rottenbrat?", one of them asked.

"No", she said after a long pause. "Mack the Knife has killed more people than smallpox, and he would not go easily. I can't afford the losses and the ensueing inquiries. His Vileness would not be pleased. He'll not get much out of Hans that concerns us!"

She turned back to the window and said, "And that is why we use 'Cut Out' Agents."

And now for something completely different. Does anybody know what's going on with the DPC website?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh No! Not Another Period And Ruleset!

Those evil trolls over at, "The Perfect Captain" keep tempting me with new periods and rulesets. I've already fallen victim to their "Battlefinder" campaign system and "Hoplomachia" - Hoplite fighting in Ancient Greece. Democrates, the leader of my City/State of Indiepolis has been having quite a time going up against opponents like Slago the Carthaginian, Philanderer of the Meander, and the local Persian Satrap, Arses The Extremely Ill-Tempered The Fourth. It wouldn't be so bad, but those equally evil trolls over at Zvezda also keep churning out good looking figures that paint up well and are easy on the ol' warchest. (Must resist purchasing Polish Winged Hussars until after thePrussian SYW Grenadiers come out!)

TPC's latest offering to catch my wandering eye is their "John Bull/Patriots" rules - small unit actions that can stretch from the French and Indian War to the War of 1812. One of the neatest things about this timeframe is that I can visit some of the actual battlefields and get a feel for the terrain and the combatants. Fallen Timbers, Fort Meigs, and Tippecanoe come to mind, but one that really caught my fancy was, "The Battle Of Blue Licks", August 19, 1782.

One can make a good arguement for it being the last battle of the Revolution. (Cornwallis who?) It's a small engagement. One hundred and eighty Kentucky Militia against three hundred and fifty Indians and Loyalist Rangers. It has it all: a well-known hero, Lt. Colonel Daniel Boone of the Fayette County Kentucky Militia, a well-known baddy, Simon Girty of the British Indian Department, infamous troops from Butler's Rangers, warriors from blood thirsty tribes like the Shawnee, Mingo, Ottawas, etc. against Sharpshooting pioneer indian fighters. WOOF! I see a road trip looming in my near future to catch the annual reenactment just a little bit North of Lexington, KY. Then I've got to find where I put those 1/72 scale Accurate Am. Rev. Militia and the Italeri Eastern Indians....I think I can get my 25mm Scruby Prussian Fusiliers to stand in for Butler's guys.....

Friday, July 3, 2009

Von Mack Rides Again

Erwin Von Mack, Chief (and Only) Intelligence Agent for the Markgraaf of Raubenstadt, found himself late at night on the road to nearby Frankfort Am Main, with a message from the Margrafin to her second son, the Ritter Andrew Von Meltzer, who was currently accompanying the Grand Tour of the Reich Duke Wilhelm Von Beerstein. She had received vague warnings from her sources in Stagonia, that there was a foul plot underway in Frankzonia involving the Grand Tour and the Frankfurter Herzog, but no further specific details as to who, how, and when were forthcoming.

Von Mack thought that if the Stagonians had grown so bold as to antagonize the Frankfurters, they were due for a rude awakening. Could this new agressive stance be the influence of the Duchess of Sachen-Vindow? If so, she did not know the Frankfurters as well as she thought. Bitterly gained personal experience had taught Von Mack that underneath the bland and somewhat bumbling facade Stanken showed the world, there lurked a mind that could have taught Machavelli a thing or two about ruling. He mentally winced at the memories, and wondered what it would be like to be on the same side for a change.

Sachen-Vindow. Sachen-Vindow. His failure at that damnable Inn, "The Crooked Kobold", had haunted Von Mack for months now, and if events had just gone a little different, he probably wouldn't have found himself on the road to Frankfort Am Main at such an ungodly hour, with a full moon lighting his way along the well known track. The grim setting did nothing to improve his mood. Von Mack was determined that this time there would be no failures.

Justice and Death, personally delivered in the form of Erwin Von Mack, were coming closer to Frankfort with every plodding hoofbeat of his horse....

(Hi Guys,

Sorry about not posting in a while, but things have been awfully busy around here for the last three weeks. However, progress has been made. The wiring, drywalling, and painting of the living room and hallway has been done, and the air conditioning system has been brought up to date and turned on. You would not believe how humid it has been around here. I hope that there will now be a little more time for hobby stuff.

Hope you had a Happby Birthday Jeff! Long may the Blue Bear lead this merry band!

A. J. ! Here's to you and your Bride! May you both live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live!

Hey Stokes! All kidding aside, congratulations on the impending arrival!

Given the outcome of current events in our Imagi-Nations, I just couldn't resist sticking a big ol' Raubenstadter thumb in the eye of this particular Stagonian plot!)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reading, Raiding, and 'Rithmatic

The Markgraaf has been pretty busy remodelling the basement (a.k.a. "The Mancave") and taking care of my brother. John's operations to repair his right wrist and left elbow went well. Some of the pins come out next week, and he's well on the road to full recovery.

So.....I was reading my copy of Brig. Grant's excellent booklet, "Raid On St. Michel", and I had one of those Eureka moments that happen so rarely. "Raid" is an excellent read, but it's kind of like eating a potato chip - it's tastes good, but one is not enough. Then I got to thinking (generally others can tell I am thinking by the burning smell that would remind one of cobwebs and old sawdust going up in smoke.) "Hey! Wait a minute! I've got 'Scenario's For Wargames', 'Programmed Scenarios', and 'Scenario's For All Ages' around here! Now that I've got a framework for minicampaigns, I'm only limited by my own imagination! Let the evil laughter and creepy organ music begin!"

Anyway, so now I'm pouring through the books; linking scenarios, and calculating how many troops would be needed for both sides. The results of these mental gymnastics have been put into a notebook. And on that glorious day when the "Mancave" opens for business, I'll have a narrative that will be worthy of those wargamers that have inspired me. Looking forward to the good times.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Walking Wounded

Well....the month of April has sure had it's share of surprises. Back on the 15th (Tax Day! Boo! Hiss!) my brother was involved in a bicycle/Golden Retreiver accident while going to the local YMCA to lifeguard at the pool. The dog is OK, but John suffered a broken left elbow and right wrist. Ouch! So he's come to stay with us until he recovers. Oddly enough, the doctors say that the elbow will recover before the wrist does.

Now my brother has always been an active, self-reliant fellow; used to being on his own, and so this is going to be a big change for the next six months or so. I guess it's a good thing we're related, because when you can't use either arm for very much, there are just some things that only a close relative can do for you. It reminds me of when I broke my left wrist while serving in South Korea. Normally no big deal, but I'll be darned if the Army didn't introduce the Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU) with the button fly the next week! You sure find out who your friends are in a hurry, when you're in a situation like that!

So if I don't post as often as I'd like over the next few months, bear with me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Light Gleams In A Window In The Palace Late At Night

The Markgraaf was restless and could not sleep this night. So he went to his Study to catch up on at least some of the never-ending flow of paperwork.

He sat down at the desk and started to read the first scrap of paper. Some sort of sickness or plague in St. Maurice. Skeletal like peasants spreading the disease, and they were heading for Frankfort-am-Main! Not close, but not far either! The Frankfurters were mobilizing to repel this incursion. The Markgraaf chuckled. Well that should give that smarmy Bastille something to foam about! From what little he knew of Phillip-Louis ( or was it Louis-Phillip?) he was the kind of ruler that would work his people into the ground, feed them next to nothing, and clothe them in cast-off rags! Small wonder that the observers thought these poor souls looked like something the grave had spit back up! He made a note to ask General Schwillensaufenstein about mustering a couple of battalions of Grenzers to strengthen the border patrols in that direction.

He picked up the next report. What in the name of all that was Holy is going on in Sachen-Vindow? The Scandel of the Duchess was the talk of the court, and rumors multiplied like mad march hares! Some of the more outrageous said she was on her way to Stagonia. Others implied she had gone to Gallia. Yet others insisted that they had it, "on the best authority", that she had accepted an Ambassadorship to some postage stamp place down South called, "The Pressipality"! God protect us from wayward women, he thought to himself.

Oh dear! Now Duke Peter is on his deathbed, and wills the Duchy to Treadergar? Good heavens. He wrote another note. This time to Chancellor Weisenheimer. "How will this effect our commercial contracts? Does anybody really know where the Duchess has gotten off to? Is there a chance that she might be able to rally enough support, both internally and externally, to contest the wishes of her husband? In case a civil war breaks out, which side should we support, or should we remain neutral?"

The Reich-Duke's Grand Tour is going well. The "Running Of The Barrels" had been a smash! (Literally and figuratively!) The Markgraaf was pleased that the Beersteiners had enjoyed their stay in Raubenstadt. It certainly made up for "The Fishing Incident" with General Technicalstuff! The Reich-Duke, the Markgraaf, and the Chief Engineer had flogged the water of the Rubberneckar River all day in a vain attempt to get that enormous pike to rise to the bait - to no avail.

General Technicalstuff said to his fellow anglers, "Gentlemen! I refuse to accept defeat from the fins of our gilled foe. Your Grace, if you will apply yourself to the starboard oar? My Lord, if you will be so kind as to man the port oar. I will take the tiller." With that, the small boat drifted with the current to where the fish lurked. As they drifted over the site, the General lit a fuse to a small, sealed, weighted cask, and casually tossed it over the side. He then shouted, "PULL ME HEARTIES! PUT YOUR BACKS INTO IT! ROW LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT, BECAUSE IT DOES! PULLLLL!" Needless to say the startled oarsmen dug in with a will at his sudden encouragement.

The resulting geyser was spectacular. The little boat violently rocked back and forth upon the waves . The Reich-Duke looked at the General like he had lost his mind. The Markgraaf wiped the spray from his face, and sputtered, "Carl! Are you trying to kill us?!", but the General's attention was fixed upon their wake. "Ah-ha! There she blows! Quick! Turn us around My Lord. That's the way! The blast has stunned the big bastard and he's floated to the surface! Now pull together! Your Grace, if you would be so kind as to get the net ready? Hummmm....I think a smaller charge of gunpowder for next time...." The Markgraaf was sure that the Reich-Duke would have an entertaining story about fishing on the Rubberneckarfor the rest of the Grand Tour! And the Markgraaf had sworn never to go fishing with an Engineer for the rest of his life.

The next missive caused a sigh to escape. "King" Ludwig of Stagonia is marching to add a Stollen Sawmill to his kingdom?! Well.....if there were any doubts about his sanity before, they were removed now. The Stollen General Drosselmaijer is confident of victory....Yah, yah...I've heard that one before! We'll see. They have pretty uniforms, but do they have spine (or claws) for battle with the Vile Stagonians?

Stagonia. Stagonia. All roads lead back to Stagonia. Perhaps once the territories from Spires have been absorbed into Raubenstaat, new troops could be recruited. Perhaps an alliance or two with other interested parties..., but not yet. Not with Frankfort in an uproar!

It was at this moment that young Bueller knocked on the door, and said, "Excuse me My Lord, but Herr Von Mack is here and wants an audience with you."

"Well...the night has been full of surprises!", the Markgraaf thought to himself. "This should be interesting." "Yes! Ferris! Send him in. I've been most anxious about him!"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Tricorn HAT Is Thrown Into The Ring

Excellent news from the boys from HAT Industrie - they're going to start a Seven Years Wars Range of figures soon! No word yet as to what will be released first, but if they follow what they did for their Napoleonic line, we shall soon have a wide assortment to choose from.

"Big deal.", says the wargamer of mature years with tons of lead and pewter. "Well....Yes!" says I. At $8.00 on average per box of 48 infantry or 12 cavalry, we can afford to furnish any nephews (and nieces) , cousins, brothers, friends, or total strangers who show an interest with some forces to oppose our own, in addition to swelling the ranks of our armies. Hopefully they will take the bait and add to them as the years roll on. If they REALLY take the bait, then they can discover the joys of RSM's, Front Rank, Old Glory, etc.

I must admit that some of HAT's first offerings were pretty ropy, but they've come a long way since then. Their 1805 Russian Infantry, 1806 Saxon Infantry, and their 1806 Prussian Hussars are excellent figures. Particularly when they have a decent paint job and fielded in large (ish) formations. All in all it is an outstanding time to be a wargamer!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Campfire Of The Vanities

It had been a long ride back from "The Crooked Kobold" and with every step the horses took, the money in the men's sabertaches jingled with an accusatory tone in Von Mack's imagination, "Gone, gone, gone. She's gone, gone, gone." He was relieved to call a halt that evening and set up camp for the night.

He left the details of the camp set up to Lieutenant Ziegler and the Sergeants, and instructed them that he wanted to be left alone as much as possible tonight. Soon the camp was filled with the muffled sounds and smells of horses being picketed and groomed, firewood being gathered, sentries being set, rations being cooked, and the hum of quiet conversations among the men. Von Mack knew that they were content; and why not? No casualties to man or beast. Ten Thalers for every man jack of them. That was a lot of money to these troopers, and yet ....Von Mack had hoped for so much more.

He took the time to draw the old charges, clean, oil, and reload his weapons before the sun set. It was an old habit that had served him well. For in Von Mack's business, anyone who did not take care of his tools did not live long. He found the routine strangely comforting, as his hands seemed to require no conscious direction. He then set tooth to the first hot food that had passed his throat in days. After he had finished eating, he pulled his pipe and tobacco pouch out and lit his pipe with a burning twig from the fire. Due to the covert nature of this mission, Von Mack had forbidden any fires. It was like welcoming back an old friend.

As he puffed away, he settled back against his saddle. He stared into the bed of coals, as the fire burned down. He had always enjoyed watching the blue flames dance and cavort among the ashes as night settled in. "No plan survives contact with the enemy.", had been one of the platitudes nagging at him all day. For a bit of fluff that was supposed to be tottering around all on her own, Her Grace sure had a lot of people around her that were familiar with firearms and cutlery....and not afraid to use them. Von Mack, always a suspicious cuss by nature, suspected more than just a little duplicity from his informant. He looked forward to having a frank exchange with his source as to the defination of the word, "unescorted".

With the benefit of hindsight, his decision not to charge into the village had been the correct one. Let the other unexpected contenders bleed each other, and hope that fortune will reward the patient hunter. That Sachen-Window Captain was a worthy opponent, and to come so close to the prize and watch her slip over the border was a bitter pill to swallow. Worse was the fact that the Stagonian Border Guards had gotten a good look at his face. That would make further operations along the Stagonian border more of a challenge, because Von Mack had always made it a rule that his face was the last thing his opponents saw in this world, if then. Garrottes and daggers to the kidney were much easier from behind. Much to his surprise his pipe had gone out, and he reloaded it with his favorite Virginia Leaf.

Von Mack had been very surprised to discover Milady De Winter among the competion for the Duchess. Now there was an operation that he could only dream about. A good information network, generally reliable Horse and Foot at her disposal, and the talents of "Her Nibs" herself. He wondered if the Lady would be having a few words with her own sources. This was not the first time Von Mack had crossed swords with her, but he was sure that this was the first time she was aware of his active participation. There were greater forces pulling the strings around here, and Von Mack resented being used for someone else's agenda.

After his third pipe, Von Mack slowly drew out from his cloak, a packet of carefully phrased letters. Each of them had different addresses and were variations of the same theme, "Her Grace is in my power. How much are you willing to pay for her return/continued captivity/disappearance?" One by one he committed them to the flames and watched them curl and burn among the dancing blue flames. By the flickering light, he scrawled a new letter.

"Your Grace,

I regret to inform you that despite my best efforts, she has crossed over the Stagonian border with an unexpected heavy escort, and is no doubt well on her way to King Ludwig. If you desire another attempt, deposit 250 Thalers with Messrs. Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe......"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

While I'm Waiting, and Waiting, and Waiting....

Tomorrow my oldest son William turns 28! A part of me still sees him with the eyes of a father. "What do you mean you've graduated from college?! You're what? Six years old, at the most!", but he is well and truly launched, and on his way, and I'm a happy man. He's coming home from Boston tomorrow and I'll be picking him up at the airport in Indy. Then we'll spend the rest of the weekend celebrating.

Well....that's one of the reasons why the SYW gathering at South Bend (so close and yet so far) will have to be put off for another year. Dang it! The other reason is that pesky job that pays the bills and all those other annoying necessities like food, etc. (A pox upon you Reality!)

So while I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out how "The Affair Of The Runaway Duchess" plays out, I thought I'd pass at least some of the seeming eternity by blogging about what I've been doing in this neck of the woods - wargaming wise.

Books and Such: I've been devouring my copy of "The Wargame Companion". Everytime I go through it, something else jumps out at me. This is an excellent read and it deserves a place by his Dad's book "The Wargame". Brigadier Grant is a prolific writer, and I hope to be a proud owner of his "Raid On St. Michel" before the month is out; then the Battlegames compendium of Table Top Teasers goes right to the top of the list. If I ever win a lottery, the guys at On Military Matters would have a considerable part of the winnings, because there is all the stuff from Featherstone, Asquith, Weisencraft, and others that call to me like a Rhinemaiden.

I've also been enjoying the Ancient Greek rules "Hoplomachia", from The Perfect Captain. When combined with the excellent Zvezda figures for that time period, it's a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. The Perfect Captain also has a great campaign system called "Battlefinder" that is generic enough to be used in a number of ways. Their English Civil War campaign, "Tinker Fox", is a hoot and half to run. Check them out at You won't regret it.

Miniature Painting: Some time ago I sent off for a packet of 6 SYW Prussian Generals from the boys at DPC, and I've painted up four of them so far this week. Thats what? Eight Olley Points? You get four officers with their right hand on their hip - solidly plodding along, and two officers leaning back in the saddle, looking off to their right, waving their hat! (Either to encourage the troops or saying adieu.) There were three horses in a standing pose, and three more standing with one foreleg pawing the ground. I tried out a number uniform coat colors on them and I am pleased with the results. The details were easy to pick out, and with eyes like mine anymore that's a good trick!

Back in February, the boys from Squadron Mail Order out of Texas had a sale on the Swedish Dragoons from Zvezda's Great Northern War series, and I latched onto three boxes of them! ( Ha, ha, ha! The World Is My Oyster!) These are some truly great figures, and if you're looking to recruit some tricorn cavalry; look no further, these are your lads. Plastic Soldier Review gives a detailed description of these troopers. They mix in well with my Scruby 25's and Airfix, but they look a little slender when placed right next to the RSM's. I'm hoping that when seen from a three to four foot distance, they should do the trick when on the table and in formation. So the Hayburningnag Dragoons have taken their place in the painting line. Can the Roadapplegangers be far behind?! Their Swedish Artillery set from the same range is due out sometime soon. (Yeah Baby! If it's anything close to their Napoleonics, it will be worth every thaler.) By the by, Zvezda has announced that a Prussian SYW Grenadier set will be released sometime this year. If they run true to form, there will be other SYW sets in the pipeline as well. Yah Hoo!

The Renovation Of The Mancave (Basement): Well this project is taking me far too long. I never in my wildest dreams thought that it would take this long. We've had some electric wiring issues in the living room, so all the interior side walls have been taken off so the rewiring can be done. Since all the interior window frames were exposed, SWMBO decided that it would be a good time for replacement windows. Heartfelt Sigh! Goodbye Tax Refund! We hardly knew ye.

Once the finances recover, I hope to rent a ten yard dumpster, and then I can get serious about gutting the rest of the basement and having the War Game Room of my dreams. A place where Victory will always be mine. Where bad Random Events always happen to my opponent and never to me. Where my dice always roll the required number, and my brilliant strategies and tactics never fail. "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies and drive them before you like dust upon the wind, and to hear the lamentation of their women!" Woof! Well....It's getting late and I guess I'll call it a night. Perchance I'll dream of Von Mack's sucess at the Crooked Kobold and the Duchess' journey to Durance Vile! Cue the Creepy Organ Music as the picture fades to black.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Running Of The Barrells

By some Divine Coincidence, the Reich-Ducal visit happened at the same time the Old Raubenstadt Festival tradition of "The Running Of The Barrells" was being held. The Markgraaf took particular delight in telling the Duke and Duchess how the custom had gotten started and how it had evolved over the years, as they took their seats in the stands near the finishline.

"Many years ago, a beer wagon lost its load of full beer barrells at the top of Brewer's Hill, and they careened away down the strasse. Between the people trying to get out of the way of the cascading casks, the apprentices trying to recover the run aways, and the customers of the Inns and Bars lining the road pursuing the barrels for their own purposes, the confusion was severe, to say the least.

After the original incident, there were recriminations and charges flung back and forth between the brewer's, the cooper's, and the hauler's as to who was to blame. So it was decided by the Guildmeisters that an annual competition would be held.

Each cooper would construct a thirty gallon barrel for the race, decorated with his colors and heraldry. Each brewer would fill the barrel with his "Winter Dark" Lager. Each hauler would nominate an apprentice to captain a team of one cooper apprentice and one brewer apprentice armed with wooden prybars to maneuver the barrell down the hill. If the barrel springs a leak, they are eliminated. The first team to get their barrel across the finish line wins bragging rights for their masters until next year's running.

However, each Inn and Bar along Brewer's Strasse is allowed to field a two man team. If they manage to stop a barrell in front of their establishment, it is theirs. In addition, there are the runners who start at the top of the hill. Each runner carries a white scarf tucked into his belt.
If a Inn and Bar team manage to grab the scarf from the belt, the runner is obliged to go to their establishment. Any runner who makes it down the hill, with his scarf, ahead of the barrells gets to drink for free in any establishment for the rest of the day.

Its a rather interesting combination of hockey, luge, curling, football, and tag. Definately not for the weak of heart. Of course, the legend around here is Augustus Sigismund von Barfly, a retired, half-pay Colonel of Barfly's Freicorps. He won the Runner's Competition for five years in a row!

Ah! There's the Noon Gun now! The race has begun. For all its rough and tumble, there are elements of strategy and tactics envolved. Each Barrell Team must hurry, but they cannot lose control of their momentum. They also must not be too far in advance, lest they be intercepted by an Inn and Bar Team.

The Inn and Bar Teams can snatch more scarves if they separate, but it will take both of them to try and stop a barrell, so they cannot get too far apart.

The Runners must stay ahead of the Barrell Teams to win, yet if they get too far out in front, their scarves are easier to pick off."

After a few moments, the rumbling of wooden staves on cobblestones could be heard above the roaring of the crowd. It promised to be a memorable day!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Beersteiners Are Coming!

"The Reich-Duke Wilhelm and theDuchess Lydia are coming here. Here to Heidlebeerunberg?!", the Margravine inquired.

"Yes my dear. Otto assures me that everything is under control for the State Visit and that we should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

"Did our beloved Prime Minister have that far away, glazed over look in his eye when he said that?"

"Well....he did look sort of frazzled, now that you mention it."

The Margravine closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I suppose you planned to entertain our guests by hunting at the Lodge during the day and carousing at the local inns at night?"

"Errr....Yes? The Gamemeister said that the grouse are getting too thick, and he finally found where that big boar that got away last Fall has gone. Wouldn't that be a fine centerpiece for a feast? The Brewmeisters said that the Winter Dark is particularly fine this year."

The Margavine again closed her eyes and took another deep breath. "God in Heaven! Men!", and with a snap of her fan, she set sail for the nearest exit, calling for the Meister of Ceremonies.
The last thing he heard as she departed was, "After the Reception, a Ball....that means the Hall Of Mirrors must be readied. The gardens are in good shape....Fireworks! Fireworks launched from the Felsigberg so they reflect in the river! Good! Good! What else now...."

Ever since then the Palace had been at the center of a whirlwind of activity not seen since the Thirty Year's War. Squads of servants opened and aired rooms that had been closed since the Markgraaf's Grandfather had ruled. Companies of maids dusted, mopped, and swept and then dusted, mopped, and swept some more. The cooks planned menues and inspected the cellars looking for rare vintages and casks. Carpenters and tradesmen constantly paraded from the town to the Palace and back again.

The Markgraaf took it all in stride - an island of calm in a frenzied sea. He knew that beneath her facade of long suffering, that the Margravine was enjoying herself immensely already. And why shouldn't she? The Reich-Duke's visit to Raubenstadt would be the first visit of a person of consequence since Wallenstein had come through.

The Markgraaf shuddered. "God spare us from such another visit. Perhaps enough time had passed for the High Nobles to acknowledge that the grandson of a Frei Captain who had taken the Fortress of Felsigberg, had a right to rule, and the threat from Baden-Baden would fade. That would be nice." Then another thought crossed his mind, "I wonder if my boy Andrew, Major Thirst, and Professor Dryasdust will be in the Ducal procession? Herr Krause should be in his service by now. It will be nice to see all of them. With the new Stagonian 'King' nearby, one could not be too careful. Maurice was bad enough, but this Ludwig....from under what rock did he crawl? Von Mack would know...hummm....No one has reported hearing from Von Mack for a couple of weeks now." The Markgraaf wondered what the old horse thief was up to that would keep him from getting in contact or at least sending a message?

Friday, January 30, 2009

With His Shield Or On It!

The Markgraaf mentally re-read the last line of his son Andrew's most recent letter home. "I hope that both you and Mother approve of my accepting this commission with the Pilsner Horse Grenadiers here in the Reich-Duchy. Father! I will command the Leib Squadron! Your Loving Son, Andrew"

His boys' decision had cause some tension between the Markgraaf and his wife. She felt that a soldiers lot would be far too hazardous; while the Markgraaf felt that if anything unfortunate happened to himself and his oldest son, Wilhelm, that military experience would stand Andrew in good stead. In addition, he would not spend his life waiting for a throne that might never be his.

The Markgraaf refused to send his second son to war with anything less than the best equipment he could afford, yet he didn't want to spoil or pamper his boy with a lot of useless impedimentia at the start of his career. His life might depend on being able to move light and swift. So far, the most important acquisition had been "Medium" Dolf Krause as young Ritter Andrew's servant. Krause, a Sergeant from the Hayburningnag Dragoons, had come with glowing recommendations from Colonel von Straw as a man with good character, high ability, and intelligence. These were characteristics that the Markgraaf prized highly, and he had volunteered to serve in the Markgraaf's Household.

He was of medium heighth, medium build, medium weight, brown hair, and brown eyes. In the prime of life, he had the kind of face with regular features that could get lost in a crowd of three. There was intelligence shining behind those eyes, though. The Markgraaf hoped that the Sergeant's experience would be a good, steady influence as a friend, confidant, body guard, cook, chess opponent, and, if necessary, trigger-finger.

Sergeant....err, Herr Krause would be leading a well turned, nimble footed road horse, a sturdy pack horse, and two Saxon bred cavalry mounts. The horses and their equipment would be lead by easy stages from Raubenstadt to Beerstein. Two other former soldiers/servants would accompany him on the journey on their own nags.

The Markgraaf sent his son a sturdy brass bound travel trunk. Inside, in addition to the spare clothes, were a brass telescope, a Bible, a Letter of Credit, a travel chess set and board, a brown wool cloak lined with silk, and a Cologne-steel forged sword with a scabbard. On one side of the blade, the name Andrew von Meltzer was etched. On the other side, the motto, "Draw With Need. Sheath With Honor." was inscribed.

General Schwillingstaufenstein had given the young Ritter a cased set of silver mounted dueling pistols, complete with powder and ball. He had included his own copy of "The Code Of The Duel", and a note saying, "These muzzles were the last things the Russian Count Vronsky saw on this Earth. Use a light charge of powder with a heavy ball, and mind the hair triggers!"

Given how his wife felt, he was surprised to see her come for Krause's departure. He saw her slip a package of her own into the trunk before it was closed and loaded onto the pack horse. He didn't see her approach Dolf, nor did he overhear their conversation.

Krause doffed his hat as the Margravine drew near. "I will guard your son well, my lady.", he said.

"Perhaps this will help you do so.", she replied.

Dolf looked down to see what she had placed into his hand. A straight, slender, serrated, black bladed, Damascus steel dirk with a brass knuckle bow guard was there in a forearm sheath.

"The handle has a special feature.", she said, as she twisted the pommel and pulled it away to reveal a retractable piano wire garrotte. She let the wire retract back into the handle and twisted the pommel again.

"What was it the Spartan mothers would say to their sons as they marched away, Krause?"

"With your shield or on it, my lady."

"Yes! That was it! Return with your shield or on it. See to it Dolf. See that my son sees to it.
There is another dirk in the chest - twin to yours. See that he learns to use it. ALL of its special features."

Dolf nodded, and tried to ignore the odd feeling in his throat. "Yes, my Baroness. I shall make a point of it." As the Margravine turned away, Dolf wondered what kind of family she had come from, where a dagger would be considered an appropriate coming of age present?

He put his hat back on and mounted the riding horse. His other two companions got upon theirs as well. The General came over and said, "Its a long way to Beerstein, so pace yourself. When you get there tell that young sprig from me that a soldier's life can be a good life, but he takes a soldier's chance along with it. When you see Major Thirst and that reprobate Professor - Dryasdust, tell them, 'Job well done!', and they have the choice of staying in Beerstein or coming home. Whatever they want. Good Luck Sergeant! I shall expect regular reports from you. Godspeed!"

With that, Herr "Medium" Dolf Krause saluted, touched spur to horse, and started the grand adventure that lay before him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Von Mack Attacks - The Raubenstadt Brief For The Affair Of The Runaway Duchess appears that my little country has stumbled into some of the political shennanigans of some of our neighbors, thanks to our Intelligence Agent Mack The Knife. The situation came up suddenly, and if things work out, it will be resolved at the Seven Year's War Convention in South Bend this March. A four (or more) way tussle to see who gets to control the Runaway Duchess of Saschen-Vindow. Our Fearless Leader Jeff and Der Alte Fritz suggested that each faction write up a situation brief, so the players will have a script to help flesh out some of the roleplaying aspects.'s my stab at it:

Erwin von Mack, aka Mack The Knife, is an Intelligence Agent of the small state of Raubenstadt, near Stagonia. (It's so small the joke is that he may be the ONLY Intelligence Agent in the country.) He has learned, perhaps from Duke Peter himself, that the Duchess of Saschen-Vindow is making a ill-considered, mad, UNESCORTED dash to Stagonia. The temptation to engage in some free-lance kidnapping and ransom is just too great for him to resist.

He has "borrowed" a half-troop of Frei-Hussars from Colonel Count Rotten von Pilfering to provide the muscle; then he plotted the Duchess' probable path on a map. Assuming that such a pampered, high-born noble would avoid camping out on the cold, hard ground...."The Crooked Kobold Inn" looked like his best bet to intercept her. His plan is to disguise the Frei-Hussars as Stagonian Customs Police to fool the locals and misdirect anyone who might inquire later. Once the Duchess has been determined to be at the inn, the Frei-Hussars will come trotting in from the direction of the Stagonian border. The idea being that she will be expecting friends to arrive from that direction. The Second Squad will surround the inn to make sure no one slips in or out. The First Squad will break into two sections. The first section will secure the courtyard, the main entrance, and hold the horses of the second section. The second section, under Mack's direction, will enter the inn, proceed to the Duchess' room, and Mack will try to convince her that they are an escort from King Ludwig, but they have to put on a show of "arresting" her for the knaves, louts, and tillers of soil down below in the common room. (His priorities are getting those damned pistols away from her, and getting her to slip on the handcuffs. There will be time enough to disabuse her of the notion that this is all for show later.) If guile fails, and she suspects, then she will have to be overcome the old fashioned way, and every man in her room takes the risk of being shot by the hellcat until she is subdued.

Once she is secured, voluntarily or otherwise, they will ride like the Wild Hunt is after them, back to Raubenstadt, and Devil take the hindmost. To discourage any pursuit, each trooper is equipped with a large bag of caltrops that they will scatter in their wake when it is their turn at rear guard. Anyone who attempts to get in their way will be shot, cut down, trampled, pistol whipped, knifed, strangled, and/or pummeled without mercy. Their ultimate destination is the fortress of Felsigburg, where her fate will be decided.

Unknown to von Mack, his little "smash and grab" operation is about to get very complicated, very quickly, for there are other groups on the prowl for the Duchess. (Oh, how the Gods must be laughing! Wheels within wheels.) Here are the groups and Mack's attitude towards them:

Schinderfranz's Chauffers - Enterprising gentlemen of fortune? If necessary, a deal could be reached. Appeal to their greed. The ransom would be substantial.

de Winter's Black Legion - Her reputation preceeds her and her lackeys, but at least she's not Stagonian. Again, if necessary as a last resort to complete the mission, a temporary alliance could be forged, but double sentries all around to prevent a double cross, until the Duchess is under lock and key.

Stagonians - The only good Stagonian is a dead Stagonian. No deals or alliances will be made with any Stagonian or anybody allied with them. Unfortunately, not every Stagonian is so open about their nationality and/or loyalty. The same goes for Stagonian Allies. So....Mack gets to play one of his favorite games, "Spot The Stagonian". There is only one rule to the game. If there is any doubt, shoot first and let someone else ask the question, because Mack and his men intend to be long gone before the first inquiry is made. Double points are awarded, if the "Spot" is put between the eyes of the suspected Stagonian.

Duke Peter's Loyalist Dragoons - These guys might be useful in a tight spot, if an "understanding of mutual benefit" can be reached!

The Duchess' Rebel Supporters - "OUT OF MY WAY, PECK!" No deals or alliances with these wannabes.

The Local Militia - How dare they meddle in the affairs of their betters! Ride the scum down and push on!

Rowdy Nobles - One warning to stand aside and live, or interfere and die. No deals.

The Inquisition - Are these guys still around?! Most Raubenstadtians are Presbyterians of the Knox/Calvin ilk. KILL THEM ALL if they dare stand before us. NO QUARTER TAKEN OR GIVEN! REMEMBER MAGDEBURG!!!!!!!!!CHARGE!!!!!!!!!

Count l'Beauphaup & Unter Gruntshuffen malcontents - A conditional these guys. Try to keep the squinty eyes and calculating looks to a bare minimum.

Witch Hunters/Vampire Slayers - These peasants are just too ignorant to even try to strike a deal. Threaten to turn them into newts or drink their blood as circumstances demand. If they don't break from the threats, kill them and their little dog too.

Friendly Hunters - One warning to stand aside and live, or interfere and die. No deals.

I'm really excited about how this scenario plays out. Though I will not be able to attend the Convention, I hope all the players enjoy themselves. Oh, by the way, Mack's nickname, "The Knife" is just that; a nickname. Even though he carries a large jack knife, and never lets it show a trace of red, I think he enjoys the look of horror on the faces of his victims when he produces the brace of double barrelled, large caliber, horse pistols that are loaded with buck and ball.

"Oh when the shark bites with his teeth, dear, scarlet billows start to spread...."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Well There I Was....

2009 already?! Didn't we just celebrate this a few months ago? It seems the years go by faster the older I get. Remember as a kid when the seasons lasted long enough that when they changed, you were ready? Hummm....seems there's a warning in there somewhere - like, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.", or "Time and tide wait for no man."; or even, "When can we expect payment?".

Oh well then. In keeping with the tradition of the season, here's my wargaming resolutions:

1. Finish off the basement for the wargaming area of my dreams. The Margravine refers to it as "The Man Cave". I envision a massive table for my armies to clash upon. Storage shelves so that my warriors can be displayed when not in use, and my massive book collection can be removed from the cardboard boxes from the garage. Adequate lighting so that I can see what I'm doing. Military themed posters and paintings on the walls. It will be great!

2. Master the digital camera that we got for Christmas , so that I too, may add pictures to the blog. (They really are worth a thousand words and add so much to the postings.)

3. I am grimly determined that 2009 will be the year that I actually go to a Convention, so I can meet some of you characters in person.

4. Try to keep track of how many miniatures I paint this year. I hope that this will spur me to set aside some time each week to reduce that pile of plastic and pewter.

5. Last, but not least, actually try to get some wargaming done!

Good luck in 2009! May your dice never let you down!