Monday, December 13, 2010

More Honored In The Breach Than In The Observence

"Well...that didn't go as well as I had hoped.", Col. Schrieber commented to the Markgraaf as they rode their horses back to their escort on their way out of the gypsy camp.

Negotiations had been making some small progress, when the name Baron Von Kerns came up in the conversation. The gypsy chief made it very clear that what ever relationship there had been (if any could be proved) it was business only and no sense of obligation to any of his relatives could be implied. It would also be best if they left immediately.

"Hope springs eternal, Colonel.", the Markgraaf replied. "Tell your men when we get back to camp that they may light their campfires. Tell the sentries to be particularly alert, for I am confident that we will have some visitors later tonight. You see, my dear Colonel, these were only the formal, opening gambits of the delicate dance of negotiating. The second stage will begin when we have multiple people come through our lines willing to talk if we cross their palms with silver. The difficulty will be deciding which of their tales will we believe and pay for, and which ones are creative attempts just to gain our coin."

"I shall see to it, milord", Col. Schreiber nodded, "I hope you're right."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Frankzonia Is Full Of Woods...

When the Pilfering Frei-Hussars showed the Markgraaf the abandoned sentry boxes at the Northern Frankzonian border, the Markgraaf was dismayed. It was obvious that it had been some time since they had last served their intended purpose, and they were in danger of disappearing altogether.

As Schreiber's Frei-Korps marched past the crossing post, the Colonel took in the situation at a glance. "Double the advance and flank parties. Everybody keep a sharp lookout and your wits about you. We must be ready for whatever we run into."

The Markgraaf mounted his horse and joined Schreiber at the head of the column. "I knew thing were bad here, but I never suspected they were so bad that Stanken would voluntarily abandon the fees he collected here. Colonel?"

"We need a local source of intelligence; with recent information; that is willing to talk with us, Milord.", the Colonel frowned. "We have no contract with any of the locals, nor do we have a base of operations for further supplies. The powers that be, might object to our marching though, and if their force is bigger than ours, they can make their objection most uncomfortable for us."

It was at that moment that a messenger from the advance cavalry patrol galloped up, and saluted. "Compliments of Captain Dorfmann Sir. We have located a good campground for tonight, Sir. The only draw back is further patrolling revealed a gypsy encampment over the next ridge. The Captain didn't want any of our horses going missing Sir."

The Markgraaf leaned over to the Colonel and said, "My wife always said that Frankzonia was full of woods, and the woods are full of gypsies, and the gypsies are full of shenanigans and...information. If we can approach them without scaring them off, we could learn much."

The Colonel nodded, and said, "Have our patrols been seen?"

The trooper replied, "I don't think so, Sir; but it's hard to say for certain."

"Alright. Tell Dorfmann that we'll make a cold camp tonight. Keep his scouts out. Don't approach the gypsy camp, but keep an eye or two on them."

The messenger saluted again, and spurred his horse.

"Have you had much experience with gypsies Milord?", the Colonel asked.

"No.", the Markgraaf replied, "but I'm hoping that my dear departed Father-in-Law's reputation is still influential with them."

Noticing the Colonels puzzled look, the Markgraaf explained, "Ernst, the Old Baron Von Kerns was a man that very few people disappointed more than once and lived to tell the tale."

Monday, October 25, 2010

He's Over The Border And Away...

It had taken three weeks for the Markgraaf to put the Freicorps into something resembling fighting trim. Replacing the unfit, re-equipping, resupplying, and repairing, had seemed to take forever, but to rush off without taking care of these, would have doomed the expedition before it started, but now the long awaited day had arrived, and the Markgraaf was eager to be off. The enforced delay had generated other benefits as well. His first instinct had been to march up the road with his entire army to Frankfort-Am-Main, confront the Grand Duke, with a drawn sword at his throat, and the growled greeting, "Hello Stanken. Where's my wife?", but such fantasies had cooled with the passage of time. As his father, John Henry, had said, "You catch more flies with honey, than you can with vinegar."

So the Markgraaf had decided on a two pronged approach. The diplomatic effort, spearheaded by Chancellor Weisenheimer, would continue to apply what pressure they could on the Frankfurter government, while Schreiber's Freicorps would go fishing in the murky waters and see what would rise to the bait.

The troop of Pilfering Frei-Hussars that had served with Von Mack during the "Affair Of The Runaway Duchess" were summoned. They would scout the countryside ahead of the Freicorps, discreetly seeking news of the missing Raubenstadt nobles and their escort. It was determined that to mislead any unfriendly observers, that it would be best to take an indirect approach. The Freicorps would cross the Rhine to the East, go North for a couple of days, recross the the Rhine, and enter Frankfurt from the North.

Long days in the saddle, plain camp food, and saber drills had started to melt away the years of easy living in the Palace from the Markgraaf. "The Old Man" might not be as quick with sword as some, but he had deep reserves of determination. He would let his opponent exhaust himself against his defense, then dispatch him with a workman like thrust.

The Markgraaf of Raubenstadt was on the march.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Zvezda's Glorious Hussars Arrive In Raubenstadt

Ya-hooo! Well... the Markgraaf may be heading off to parts unknown, but recruitment continues on the Home Front. Today, two boxes worth of Zvezda's "Black Hussars" arrived from The Michigan Toy Soldier and Figure Company. They are outstanding! No flash, excellent poses, and two boxes (38 figures) enables you to eventually field one Grant sized unit of snazzy looking Light Cavalry, with some left over for any Frei-Hussaren squadrons that you may have visions of dancing in your head.

Check out "The Wars of Louis Quatorze" entry for 22 May, 2010. Bill shows the front and back of the box. The Pilfering Hussars of Raubenstadt will soon take the field, and the other nine I'll paint up as per David's picture of the Von Schill Hussars on his "Not By Appointment" blog. Alte Fritz has a link to some very snappy looking Prussian Hussars as well.

Any 18th Century Imagi-nation Ruler can recruit these lads with confidence (And they're easy on the ol' warchest). So...if your mounted branch is looking a little jaded and dowdy, a couple of regiments of these dashing fellows will lend a higher tone to any brawls your army may find itself in.

Cuirassiers! The Markgraaf needs Cuirassiers!

At Colonel Schreiber's Camp

The Markgraaf rode to the encampment where the recently hired Schreiber's Freikorps had been billeted. He approved of the sentries that stopped him at the camp's edge and asked him his business. Thanks to General Schwillingsaufenstein, he knew the passwords that would admit him. He approved even more, that even though he had given the proper responses, he was escorted by the Sergeant of the Guard's squad to the Colonel's headquarters, and was turned over to the Headquarter's Duty platoon. Such caution would be needed in the days to come.

The Colonel was at dinner. The Markgraaf was told to dismount, picket his horse with the rest, leave his pistols in their holsters, and the Lieutenant would see to his sword, while he waited the Colonel's pleasure.

As he did so, he heard laughter coming from the Colonel's mess tent, and the distinctive voice of Ritter Hugo von Schwillingsaufenstein, General of the Army of Raubenstadt, telling one of his favorite stories. The Markgraaf had heard the tale many times before as man and boy, and the good General was just coming to the end. Ritter Hugo was relating it with great gusto to his new and captive audience. The Markgraaf sat down on a nearby camp stool, under a canvas fly, and listened again to the old soldier weave the web that held the hearer's spellbound.

"The enemy was defeated, by God! The Vile Stagonians were retreating; leaving the field of glory to us! Thank God! For our part we were glad to see them go, for we had seen enough of them that day, by God! It was my first triumph as an independent commander of men. A proud moment for me to be sure; and I savored it to the full. Forty years have passed me quicker than that moment!"

Cheers, glasses, and steins were raised in salute. It also gave the General a chance to relight his pipe and take a pull from the foaming tankard by his side. Outside, in the gathering dark, the Markgraaf raised a full water dipper as well, and wet his throat.

"Telling stories is thirsty work. Now then...where was I?" He puffed on his pipe a time or two and continued, "Ah! Yes! But all too soon the sweet taste of victory took on a bitter tang. A local inhabitant was brought to me by the Escort Squadron. I pointed to a nearby collection of houses, and asked him, 'What is the name of that village, my fine fellow?' Imagine how crestfallen I became when I learned that my first victory would be forever known as, 'The Battle Of Halfwitz!'"

More laughter rippled through the audience of Freikorps officers. As it died down, a young cadet spoke up, "But Sir, that's not the name stitched on the flag."

The General took his pipe from his mouth, and pointed the stem of it at the youngster, as he addressed the Colonel, "Mark that one for advancement Schrieber! He notices the details and speaks up about them!" The Markgraaf recalled the thrill of pride that had coursed through him too, when he had spoken up to the General years ago.

"Sit down young man and let me finish.", Ritter Hugo said. "In a desperate effort to retrieve the situation, I just made it worse. I should have just left well enough alone." A hush fell over the tent, as the officers leaned forward to hear the end of the story. "I then asked the lout the name of the walled manor house that our Grenadiers had successfully assaulted, breaking the Stagonian's will to continue the fight. 'That's the House of Stupitz, my Lord.', the clod replied. Gentlemen, that's how the the Battle of Stupitz-Halfwitz became emblazoned on my banner from that day to this! attention to your maps; and if you do have to offer battle to your foe, promise me you'll try to find a decently named place to do so!"

Noticing the time, Colonel Schreiber dismissed his officers, and bade them good night. As they began to disperse throughout the encampment, the Lieutenant came up and said to the Markgraaf, "The Colonel will see you now.", and led the way.

As he entered, Schreiber looked over and casually glanced at the stranger. Medium height, brown hair well sprinkled with grey at the temples, starting to get a little stout in the middle, walked with a slight limp - favoring the left leg.

"So my good man, what can I do for you?", the Colonel inquired; and waited for the farmer to tell his tale of missing livestock or some such.

"Perhaps it would be better if I made the introductions.", Hugo smoothly intervened. "Colonel Schreiber, this is my ruler, my friend, and your employer, His Grace, The Markgraaf Of Raubenstadt. Your Grace, this is Colonel Rupert von Schreiber of the Freikorps you hired."

As Rupert came to his feet, he was relieved when the Markgraaf put out his right hand and firmly shook hands with him. You never could tell with the high nobility. Some of them could carry grudges about perceived slights for very long periods of time.

"Very pleased to meet you, Colonel", he said.

"Beg pardon, my Lord. I didn't know." Rupert began.

"No matter. No matter. Needs must when the Devil drives, as they say.", the Markgraaf responded; doing his best to put the Colonel at ease. "Please Gentlemen, sit down and make yourselves comfortable. We have much to discuss."

As the sentries made their appointed rounds that night, they noticed the Colonel's tent stayed illuminated from within until the small hours of the morning.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Markgraaf Goes Hunting

Day after wearisome day had passed with no news of the Markgrafin, her brother David von Kerns, Col. Somerussian Guyovich, Agent von Mack, or the troop of guard cavalry and company of guard infantry that had escorted them to Frankzonia. It was as if they all had fallen off the face of the Earth, leaving no trace behind. Diplomatic inquiries were blandly deflected by the Frankzonian Court. Covert attempts had yielded nothing. Limited cavalry scouting of the common border was done to no avail. The Markgraaf considered himself to be a patient man, but at last he could stand the inaction no longer. He summoned Wilhelm, his oldest son, and Otto von Weisenheimer, the Chancellor of Raubenstadt to the Palace...

"Son, I'm going after your Mother to bring her home from wherever she's gotten off to. I'm leaving you in charge until my return." Startled by the announcement, the Chancellor started to protest, but was waved to silence by the Markgraaf. "NO!
Otto, my old friend! My mind is made up and nothing you were going to say can change it. As a young man I rode into their Court and swept the Baroness von Kerns off her feet in a whirlwind courtship that they still talk about! Thirty years have passed me quicker than the image of the first time I saw her. The Old Duchess disapproved of one of her ladies-in-waiting marrying beneath her and opposed our union."

He reached out and gently shook his son's shoulder and laughed, "Luckily for you, your brothers, and sister we ignored her. I will not go another day doing nothing!"

"But Father", Wilhelm said, "I want her back as much as you. Uncle Ernst and Uncle Johan have been frantically trying to move Heaven and Earth trying to find her! Let me go in your stead."

"Ah? You think I'm too old to play the role of the questing Gallant Knight coming to the aid of his Lady Fair?! Bless you boy for the thought, but there's life in the old dog yet. What was done once, can be done again!"

Leaning in close so he could see his son's eyes, the Markgraaf whispered, "The greatest thing about being the one in charge is that you can have things done the way you want them. Mostly it is a great burden, but there are times when it's very useful. This is one of those times. You will discover this for yourself when you rule this place and have a wife of your own, my son."

With that, the Markgraaf gathered his hat, cloak, sword, and pistols from a series of servants as he headed for the Great Hall. He left the Palace, mounted his horse, and left Heidlebeerenburg behind him. He hadn't felt so alive in a long time. If there was even a hint of a trace of Mad Ludwig's involvement in this affair, the Markgraaf was determined to quickly finish up the business with the Prince-Bishop of Spires and turn his eyes toward Stagonia. Colonel Schieber was going to be very surprised.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back On Track/Stay On Target's taken a while, but I think I've recovered from my son's wedding. The photographer was amazing! He even made this Sow's Ear look like a Silk Purse. But enough about that. What's been going on in Raubenstadt?

Well, the short answer is not much. The Margrafin has gone missing in Frankzonia, and one or more of her brothers may be dead. Agent von Mack has gone silent. So the Markgraaf has considered launching a multi-pronged approach - diplomatic, economic, surrepticious, and low-grade military in an effort to clear away the mists and find out, "Just what the Devil is going on?!" Stagonian involvement is suspected, and if proven, the already frosty relations may hit a new low.

The gutting of the Basement (aka ManCave) continues at a slow but steady pace. Need to install battery powered back-up sump pump to prevent future water damage. (A new, faster, better, stronger Raubenstadt will arise from the soggy bottoms.) It's taking me longer than I expected, but it will be awesome when I'm done. It will be nice to have a place where I can store, display, and play with all the wargaming stuff I've accumulated, and not watch it get stored away in the attic or garage for years at a time.

In the meantime, two publications have arrived from "On Military Matters". The first one is "This Very Ground" a one to one skirmishing game set in the French And Indian War. I like the simple mechanics, and they are robust enough to set in other times and theaters. Say...AWI, 1812, SYW, etc. Good Stuff! The second one was Asquith's "Wargamer's Guide to the War of 1812". It's chock full of information about the campaigns, the troops, and the battles big and small. I enjoyed reading it.

Speaking about 1812, next year is the Bicentennial of the Battle of Tippecanoe. I understand that from the Indiana State Historical Society, that the whole campaign will be re-enacted from the Tecumpseh/Harrison meetings at Vincennes, the Pigeon Roost Massacre, the march up the Wabash to Prophet's Town, and of course, the battle. I'm looking forward to it all.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

All Of Raubenstadt Celebrates!

Our "Number Three" Son, Evan, is getting married this Saturday. Preparations have been underway for the better part of a year, and are now getting into high gear in the final week. He's the first of our four to get hitched. I'm going to try and do my level best to get through it with as much grace as I can muster; for beneath this hard, crusty exterior, lurks a soft, squishy center. (Good Heavens! I've just described a Tootsie Pop!)

So the Markgraaf invites his fellow Imagi-Nation rulers to fill their glasses and mugs to the brim as he toasts the happy couple, "May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live! To Evan and his lovely Bride Jennifer!"

The artillery batteries of the Felsigburg will be busy firing salutes for quite sometime to come, so the Markgraaf's plaintive cry of, "I'm too young to be a Grandfather!" will, no doubt, be lost amidst the resounding booms.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...

The lightning would flash and be reflected in the water of the river for a few seconds. The thunder would roll and echo back and forth in the hills of the river valley, while the wind driven sheets of rain relentlessly fell from the night sky. The Markgraaf savored the view from a palace window for a moment, before closing it. The weather matched his mood. He turned to face the four people he had summoned to this gathering. They looked worried and exchanged anxious glances between themselves. "As well they should.", he grumped to himself. The Markgraaf liked to think that he was a benevolent, kind, and patient ruler, but he was not a happy man, and in Raubenstadt, when the Markgraaf is not happy, no one is happy, or at least doesn't allow the happiness to show.

"She's been gone far too long! Something has gone terribly, terribly wrong! ...and NO one has had ANY communication with her, officially or unofficially since she and her escort left?!", he said.

"There has been no contact with the Margrafin verbal or written, or with the officers of her escort." Secretary Bueller blandly stated.

The Markgraaf turned his gaze to Ernst v.Kerns, the commander of his guards, "Not a peep from your brother David, or from Colonel Guyovich?"

The brigadier levelly looked the Markgraaf in the eyes and said, "Martin...I have heard nothing from either of them. They would gladly sacrifice themselves before they would let even the shadow of danger come near her."

The Markgraaf nodded. More to himself than anything else. He knew the Von Kerns valor well, and what they were capable of doing. "The shadow of danger...the shadow of danger...", he murmured. "Chancellor Wisenheimer! Has there been no message at all from von Mack?"

"Not that I'm aware of, your Grace.", the Chancellor replied. "Von Mack is a very resourceful and capable fellow. I have no doubt that he would find a way to alert us if something had happened to her Grace, her brother, or Colonel Guyovich."

"You're putting an awful amount of faith in one man.", the Markgraaf sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

"The Frankfurters have been undergoing a turbulent time.", the Chancellor said to try and reassure his friend and ruler, but could not resist adding, "But then again, when have they not had turbulent times?" This drew some chuckles of agreement all around.

"The Fartzen have been known to be upsetting and quarrelsome in their day to themselves and their neighbors, but if the Grand Duke or one of his many relatives has allowed the slightest harm to come to her..." The Markgraaf paused to calm and compose himself, "...the consequences will be severe."

The Markgraaf sat down by General Schwillingsaufenstein, and asked, "What was the name of that Frei-Korps that was marching though here the other day?"

The general took the last sip of schnapps from his glass, wiped his moustache with the back of his hand, "Schrieber's. Bunch of down on their luck Saxons from the Ducal Houses looking for a contract. A couple troops of ratty looking Dragoons on nags, a company of shoddy Grenadiers, and a smattering of ragged Jagers. Nothing special, but their weapons were in good order."

"Hire them Hugo.", the Markgraaf said. "Give them the standard agreement, but keep it quiet. Quarter them in one of the smaller towns near the Frankfurter border. I may soon have need of troops who's reprehensible actions I can disavow."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fifty-Five And Holding

I turned 55 today. Much like Yogi Bera, "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I woulda taken better care of myself." It was a quiet day, and I had a nice dinner with the wife, number 3 son, and his fiance. I'm still coming to terms with the fact that one third of my life is over. I must find more time for the important things in life like....WARGAMING!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Things In The Mail

Like most wargamers I suspect, I like to receive stuff in the mail. Each morning I'm faced with the delicious question of, "Will ........arrive today?!". If yes, I feel like I've won the lottery. (And the odds are a LOT better!) If not, then the sense of anticipation resets and rebuilds till the next day. (And the odds are STILL A LOT better!)

Recently, I've had some outstanding deliveries. First, on page 96 of Wargaming In History: The Seven Years War, there is a picture of a Prussian Frei Battalion Le Noble jager. The caption describes his headwear as "a black leather cap with a high front". It looked familiar. After a quick reconnaissance at, I came across Italeri Set Number 6073, Austrian Infantry 1798 - 1805. I know. I know! They're early Napoleonic and not SYW, but... Hey! They've got leggings, casquet caps, and turnbacks on their long coats. If Brigadier Young could use RHA, then I can use these guys for my Frei Corps.

So...a quick order to the boys at Squadron Mail Order, down in Texas, resulted in four boxes (192 figures) showing up. This will enable the Markgraaf to field:

2 Frei Corps of 48 men, 1 Standard, and 1 Drummer each. (I still need 1 Mounted Colonel and 2 foot officers to finish them off.)

2 Companies of Light Infantry of 6 men each. (Still need 2 foot officers.)

1 Battalion of Grenadiers of 24 men. (They look remarkably like the picture of the Hanoverian Scheither's Corps Grenadier on page 110 of Grant & Olley's book! Will still need 1 Mounted Colonel and 2 foot officers.)

1 Battalion of Engineers of 24 men, and 2 foot officers. (I'm going to use the Fusiliers in the "Roman" Helmet. Will still need a Mounted Colonel to lead them.)

Any leftovers will be employed at the Army Staff level, or will be the basis for some of my "Frankenstein-like" conversions. (Eyegor! Bring me another head!)

Secondly, my Minifig "sample" order from GFI, out in Colorado, has arrived. (Thanks Jeff for putting them in your Websites Of Interest list!) Woe to the Treasury! They fit in with all the Revell, Italeri, Scruby, and Airfix guys I've accumulated over the years. I ordered a Prussian Mounted Colonel and Horse, a Prussian Musketeer marching, a Austrian Mounted Colonel and Horse, and a Austrian Fusilier advancing. These are classy looking figures! There wasn't much flash to trim off, and I bet they are a breeze to paint up. Impressive!

I ordered a further 3 Prussian Mounted Dragoon Officers and Horses, 2 Prussian foot officers, and 1 Prussian Dragoon Trumpeter and Horse to help fill in some of the holes in my collection. I like the look of these little fellas so much, I may have to break down and get some Grant style 48 men, 5 officer regiments and hang the cost. I also might have to put in an order with the Minifig U.K. lads for their SYW and AWI "Personality" figures as well!

Last, but not least, my copy of "The Annexation Of Chiraz" has come from On Military Matters. Mr. Grant and Mr. Olley have taken a giant step forward from their "Raid On St. Michel". I am a big fan of minicampaigns, and "Annexation" gives us a "peek behind the curtain" as to how Messrs. Grant and Olley went about it. It's a good read, and I'll be referring to it often.

So! On to the next item on the Neverending List Of Wargaming Stuff, as soon as time, chance, circumstance, and finance allow. I wonder how those Garrison figures would fit in...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Moment With The Markgrafin

After a morning inspection and saber drill with his squadron of Saddlesore Lifeguard Lancers, Colonel Somerussian Guyovich casually wandered through the palace grounds, looking every inch the "Beau Sabreur" he was, while searching for his sister, Sharon Elaine, the Markgrafin of Raubenstadt. He eventually found her having a light lunch in a "Repose Temple" in the formal gardens. A squad of his brother David's Guard Musketeers was discretely scattered about nearby to insure that no one approached unchallenged.

"Ah! Colonel Guyovich! There you are. You certainly are a dashing figure in your Cossack uniform. Do you have to use that sword to fend off all the ladies that throw themselves at you?!", she teased. "Will you join me?", she said gesturing to a seat across from her.

"Thank you, Milady.", he said as he claimed a chair, keeping up the pretense that they were not closely related. "What's on the bill of fare? I'm frightfully sharp set and hunger is indeed the best sauce."

"The potato salad goes remarkably well with the bratwurst and a bit of mustard. I also recommend the iced strawberry cordial. It's very spritely."

"And this is...?", Guyovich inquired.

"A salad made with three kinds of beans as the main ingredients.", she replied. "There are rumors that the Frankfurters are working on a salad with five beans!", she confided.

"Remarkable.", he responded, as his plate and glass were filled.

As soon as the servants were out of earshot, the conversation took a more serious turn.

I'm surprised that you have enough of a saber left to carry, Paul. Is it true you hone it everyday?", the Markgrafin inquired.

"Sargent Malik looks at me every morning and says, 'Hetman, a dull sword is of no use to anyone.', then he puts an edge on it that would do credit to a razor. Father always thought I was an indifferent 'hack and slash' man, and Uncle Mack spent many a long hour drilling with me, but I've come a long way since then. I have done my best to pass on those skills to your own sons."

Sharon nodded and changed the subject.

"All of my requests for an audience have been courteously rejected, but rejected none the less."

"They're obviously stalling for time, but why and to what purpose? Who gains from the delay?", her brother pondered. "Uncle Mack is very concerned about the reliability of his sources.", he continued,"Even the Badmann network may have been compromised. He says he feels did he put it? Ah yes! 'A one legged man in an ass kicking contest.'. He always had a gift for a colorful turn of phrase.", he laughed.

"Poor Uncle Mack.", she said as she joined in the laughter. "Well...he knew the job was dangerous when he took it. It's a very tangled web, and there is no easy way to unravel it. We tug on a few threads here and there to no avail. Legend says that Alexander used his sword to cut through the Gordian Knot. We may have to use similar means. We need friends in high places and leverage. I believe I can supply both!".

"Oh?!", her brother injected. "How?"

"Let me demonstrate." She pointed her closed fan at a dish that had been set upon a nearby stand. The dish suddenly shattered and the pieces fell to the ground. Both Von Kerns turned to see their brother David wave from a palace balcony and start to reload his air rifle.

"Friends in high places indeed! And the leverage?", Paul asked.

"It will be interesting to see how the Court reacts when I mention that the cabbage and Saurkraut contracts between Frankzonia and Raubenstadt are due to expire soon."

"Well that shall certainly set a cat among the pigeons", Paul laughed at his sister's audacity.

"I hope so!", she replied. "It's a good thing David is an excellent wing shot, when the pigeon we want takes flight."

Their glasses clinked as they toasted their plans.

"Death to Stagonia!", the Cossack Colonel said in a soft tone.

"Confusion to our foes!", the Markgrafin replied.

In the shadows of the carefully clipped and trimmed hedges and shrubs, von Mack slipped his spyglass back into a pocket. It looked like it was going to be another long day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Looking For The High Command

Except for three regiments of HistoriFig Scruby infantry (two of them Lights) and one lonely Minifig casting of Lafaytte on his horse that I purchased lo these many years ago in my youth, the rest of my forces are plastic. Zvezda, Italeri, Revell, and some really long service Airfix American Revolution George Washington's Army compose the bulk of my forces. Much to my delight HaT Industrie will be releasing a SYW line soon that will rival their Napoleonic offerings, and I plan to purchase a boatload of 'em as soon as they're available. (Insert creepy organ music here.)

However...I'm really at a loss for mounted officers above the rank of Colonel that really look the part and fit in with the rest of the guys. You know Generals pointing, contemplating their next move, squinting through a spyglass, or looking at a map. I long to have Staff and Aides-de-Camp galloping about, etc. carrying out the directions of their superiors. HistoriFig currently offers only one mounted officer in their SYW range and he makes a great colonel. Sometime ago I ordered the Prussian General Set from the excellent fellows at DPC. They are great castings with next to no flash to clean up, and they looked good to me once they were painted up. Now normally, a millimeter or two of height difference doesn't bother me, but they are pretty beefy and tower over the rest of the troops. On the other hand, who would disobey a general that looks like he can pick you up and break you like a twig over his knee.

Old Glory might be a better fit, and I do like their Fred the Great casting...there's just something about the cane he's carrying. Their Brunswick figure is pretty impressive as well. I suppose that since a tricorne is a tricorne, their American Revoluion line may also provide some volunteers as well.

Push comes to shove, I may just have to bite the bullet and order from Minifig UK. Lafayette will be glad to see 'em.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shop Talk With Von Mack

A few moments after Small Paul and his companions had left the inn, Badmann came sauntering in off the street and saw Mack sitting at a table looking at something in his hand. Noticing the splattered blood trail on the floor, he asked, "What happened here?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle.", Mack replied blandly, as he slipped a coin into his vest pocket. "Come follow me. I've got a private room in the back."

With that Mack picked up a bottle of schnapps and a couple of glasses from the bar, and lead the way to a backroom that was little more than a large closet, a table, and a couple of chairs. "It's cramped. I know, but it's not going to take us that long."

Mack sat down in a chair and opened the bottle. Badmann filled the two glasses and was about to sit down, when he noticed Mack had one hand under the table.

"What?!" Mack said at his friend's hesitation. "Oh...". He slowly raised his hand and reached for one of the glasses, as a relieved Badmann took his seat. "An old trick, but a good trick, none the less. Well...the bottle is opened, it must be drunk, and only truth spoken while we drink. Salute."

The glasses clinked, and soon the table was covered with an astonishing wide array of pistols, knives, daggars, garrottes, brass knuckles, and blackjacks, while the two inspected, sharpened, and cleaned their personal arsenals.

"So...what's the latest from St. Maurice? Any more of that 'zombie plague' business going around?", Mack asked.

"It's been pretty quiet for the last few months. There's been no new 'outbreaks' at any rate. Say, that reminds me. Whatever happened to that Rottenbrat fellow that escaped in the aftermath of our last collaberation? The Herzog was most put out, and I had to do some fancy tap dancing about him. There were no traces. It was like he dug a hole and pulled it in after him."

"How odd that you should say that.", Mack harumphed. "I came across his track just outside the city, and invited him to accompany me to the Felsigburg. I've never seen anybody with such a high tolerance for pain. He kept claiming that he was dead. So after a week of interrogation with no results, I agreed with him. In Raubenstadt we have a law that if a body is unclaimed by relatives after seven days, it can be given to the University's Medical College. I understand that the Professors and medical students were most anxious to examine this rare case. There must have been some spark of vitality left, because he kept screaming, 'No! No!!', when they were carting hime away. Who would have thought that someone like Rottenbrat would have had enough civic pride in him to donate his body to science?" Mack mused.

Badmann shuddered at the mental image, and downed another shot. "Steiner is recruiting at the Black Pelican in Tradgarland.", he said.

Mack was surprised. "I thought I burned that place down years ago."

"They rebuilt it after your fire, and twice after ones I set.", Badmann offered. "Syldavians are a stubborn bunch. So why have three Kerns' come to town?"

"Her Serene Highness, The Markgrafin of Raubenstadt is very annoyed that during the Reichduke's visit, her son Andrew was endangered by the Stagonian plot that was disrupted."

"But young von Meltzer is in charge of the Leib Squadron of the Reichduke, and a personal friend of Prince Wilhelm. There's danger enough in either of those positions!" Badmann exclaimed.

"I know. I know. I tried to explain this, but she wouldn't hear of it." Mack held up his hands in protest. "She's come to give the Old Duchess an earful about endangering her boy and settle some other matters that have long rankled her. Her brothers David and Paul, oh excuse me! Somerussian Guyovich are escorting her to make sure nothing happens to their sister, but I think Guyovich is hiding something. I've known them all since they were little, and as terrible as you think they are; they're not a patch on their father the Old Baron Kerns. I used to work for him when I was younger, you know. He gave me my first job. I still go to his grave every now and then. The children think that it's out of respect, but I really go to make sure that the cold bastard hasn't found a way out!"

Mack drew his hanger to sharpen it. Badmann noticed that even though the hilt, knucklebow, and handle were plain blackened iron in a mass produced Dutch style, and that the scabbard was positively shabby, the blade itself was of the finest Cologne steel, with the "Running Fox" watermark. "I have sworn an oath to protect them, and I don't care who I have to kill to do so. So what is the latest information the Frankzonian Intelligence Service has on Stagonian Agents in the area?!"

Badmann pondered, as he drank his drink, just how much he should tell this very, very dangerous man.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Conversation with Herr Von Mack

It had become something of a tradition between Mack and Badmann that when each of them was in the other's area of operation, they would meet, clean their weapons, and trade bits of information and other "shop talk", before carrying out whatever mission they had been assigned. It was a mark of trust between the two professional agents. So it was that Mack was waiting for his friend at a disreputable inn that catered mostly to the bargemen and others who made their living off of the river traffic that had tied up to the docks of Frankfurt.

Mack spoke to the tapster behind the bar, ordered a beer and sat down at a nearby table to enjoy it, while he waited for Badmann to show. He was just about halfway through it, when a large, unkempt fellow sat down in the other chair at the table and said, "How much money do you have on you, Grandfather?"

Mack put his stein on the table, circled the lip of the mug with a forefinger, and replied, "Why do you want to know?"

"If it's enough for my thirsty friends and me to wet our throats, you might just be able to walk out of here in one piece.", the large fellow said, while cracking his knuckles and showing a yellowed tooth smile. "We've worked up a powerful thirst; rowing upriver all day!"

Mack smiled back and said, "I can see that you are a big fellow; and no doubt used to getting your way. Let me school you on why you should never sit down at a table with a man who has one hand under it."

The large man yelped and his confidence quickly leaked out of him as Mack continued in a pleasant conversational tone, "What you're feeling at your right kneecap is a very long, very sharp, and very slender knife. So keep your hands where they are. With only the slightest effort on my part, the blade will slide off the knee-cap and go into the joint, severing all kinds of ligaments, tendons, cartillage, muscle, veins, and perhaps an artery. It will be excruciatingly painful when it scrapes the bone as I twist it to pull it out."

"P-P-Please Sir! Don't!", the large man blubbered.

"What's your name?"

"Paul Peiper! They call me 'Small Paul'. Don't lame me!"

"You know Paul, it would be a terrible time to be out of work. You don't see very many one legged people working the docks. Well...except for beggers, of course. Now a stout fellow like yourself would probably survive the amputation, if this isn't the knife I used to dice an onion last night. Blood poisoning is a terrible way to die. I've seen men scream for days and days while their bodies rotted before their eyes; before the lockjaw granted them the sweet release of death. Good doctors who know how to properly saw off a leg are very expensive. They always want to be paid in advance. It would be months before you could even hope to stand again. Who sent you?"

"He never said. We were supposed to kill you and make it look like a robbery. The brass he paid was good.", Paul grimmaced.

"I'd wager that you wished that you'd asked for more right now. I'll see the color of his money. Now!"

A golden coin reluctantly fell onto the table. "All of them!", Mack insisted, giving a slight prod of the dagger. Two more coins joined the first.

"A pox upon the ragged man! And a curse upon his money!" Paul growled.

Mack drew a double barreled pistol from underneath his coat, cocked both the hammers back, and motioned to Small Paul's two companions to come over. He said, "Paul is going to need you to take him to a doctor." He then pinked him in the calf with the dagger. Small Paul yelled in pain and stood up. His two friends each grabbed an arm and supported him as they staggered from the inn. Small Paul cursed a coarse oath with every step. "Be sure to tell the surgeon to soak the bandages in vinegar, if you want to save the leg!", Mack called after them.

Mack put the pistol back on half-cock and slipped it under his coat. The daggar went back into it's boot sheath; two of the coins were dropped into a vest pocket. Mack looked down at the third coin. The profile of King Maurice of Stagonia stared back.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Joys Of Winter

Last Wednesday evening I was taking out the trash to the curb, when I slipped on some glare ice in the driveway and landed like a ton of bricks on my left knee. I hobbled back inside the house and spent the next day and a half watching the joint swell to elephantine proportions.

Having been down this road before, I applied the R.I.C.E. technique of Rest - this was easy, since I could put very little weight on the leg. Ice packs helped reduce the pain and swelling. Compression (Thank you, Ace Bandage!), and last but not least Elevation above the heart level to keep the throbbing down as much as possible.

So the crutches have been put away, and I now look like a proper curmugeon limping along with a cane. I remember ice and snow being a lot more fun when I was younger! Perhaps it was because the ground wasn't so far away! Ha, ha, ouch! ha!

So how did I pass the tedious days and hours of recovery? any good wargamer would; painting figures and reading. When I'd get tired of one I would switch to the other, and before I knew it, I was a lot more mobile. My latest addition to the Wargame Library is "Wargaming In History,Vol. 1, The Seven Years War", by Charles Grant and Phil Olley. What a read it was! Each chapter and page held me spellbound. I haven't been so enchanted by the printed word since I first stumbled across "The Wargame" for the first time. I highly recommend it!

Actually, Messrs. Grant, Olley, Asquith, and Hyde have much to answer for making my annual wargame budget resemble a piece of Swiss cheese. Their constant barrage of publications keep blowing large holes right through it.
Well...that's enough of sitting at the computer for now. Where did I put that ice pack?!