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!