04 December 2016

Another Small Anniversary. . .

No, not the Battle of Leuthen, but the origins of an idea that became the Grand Duchy of Stollen, which turns 11 years old on or about December 5th. 

The Grand Duchy of Stollen was born on a Sunday in early December 2005.  The university semester was almost over, there was already a bit of snow on the ground, and the Grand Duchess was baking a Dresdner Stollen to share with her German language students in the kitchen of the apartment we shared together at the time.  Meanwhile, I was across the hall in my old office, "the purple room" as we called it, having a long think about what the next wargaming project would be.  

Surprisingly, I had become worn out and driven to the brink of madness by a lengthy 15mm Waterloo project that had grown boring after 20+ years.  Yes.  There.  I said it.  A few weeks before, I had come to the conclusion the the mid-18th century sounded more do-able, and, thanks to a paperback reissue of Charge!  Or How to Play Wargames that I had purchased and enjoyed periodically since 1994, along with recently stumbling onto the Yahoo Old School Wargaming online group, which was a much more active place at that time, I had decided to take the plunge into a new period.

Anyway, as I sat with a cup of coffee and enjoyed to yeasty aroma of the baking stollen across the hall in the kitchen, the name came to me like a bolt out of the blue. . .   The Grand Duchy of Stollen!  The blog followed in August 2006, and here we are as they say.


For those of you who are more recent visitors to the GD of S blog, of who have simply forgotten (Imagine!  The nerve!), The Grand Duchy of Stollen is a semi-fictitious territory, more or less contemporary to mid-18th century Prussia, Russia, and Austria, covering a few hundred square miles of territory across what is today Lithuania and Latvia along with a slice of the Russian enclave that used to be part of the former East Prussia.  Stollen, it's arch enemy The Electorate of Zuchenau, and the tiny surrounding principalities were the poor cousins of Frederick's Prussia, Maria-Theresa's Austria, and their cronies.  Stollen and Zichenau were, somehow, largely ignored  and remained on the political and military sidelines during the War of Austrian Succession, The Seven Years War, and the later War of Bavarian Succession.

Nevertheless, both Stollen and  Zichenau offered to send troops to assist with the latter conflict, but those offers were politely declined, or simply ignored.  Blame it all on being small, of little consequence, and, well, silly.  They walk funny in this region of Europe after all.  In any case, Stollen, Zichenau, and the others finally disappeared from the maps of Europe with the third partition of Poland in 1795 and haven't been mentioned much, or even thought of, since.  Except in the driest, most mundane, most arcane, and esoteric volumes of European political and geographic history.  Sad really, but there you are.


Things have been quiet hobby-wise in recent months thanks to a busier that usual semester with personal and professional commitments of one sort or another, but I did manage to sit down for about an hour last (Saturday) night to attached several unpainted drummers (RSM and Minden) and standard bearers (Minden) to temporary cardboard bases for painting later this month.  All of these have been in the pile of lead for two years or more with the intent of adding drummers to my existing infantry units and replacing old MiniFig standard bearers with pairs of those by Minden, which are a better match in height. proportion, and general appearance.  I'll also take the opportunity to rationalize my flags, basing these on fairly simple historic regional flags rather than actual standards carried by the Prussian and Austrian infantry of the period.  

Existing cavalry units too are slated for eventual reorganization, rebasing, and the addition of second guidon or standard bearers.  These will be reconfigured from three small squadrons and regimental command to. . .  two large squadrons with regimental command.  Then, of course, there will be the addition of a few more Minden and Eureka cavalry units plus the small Von Hasenpfeffer Freicorps that I babbled on about right here several days ago.  Realistically, all of this will probably take a couple of years before it is done, but the constant tinkering is something that is fun, keeps the fires burning, and likely is familiar to many of you who partake in wargaming and model soldiering, or its cousin the model train hobby.  

No, no.  Don't worry.  I'm not headed down that road although it looks mighty interesting, but there is only so much time. . .  Unless of course the Young Master begins to express an interest, and then we might try out model trains in a small way to test the waters.  So far, though, it 's all Star Wars, light sabres, Lego Millenium Falcons, and tie fighters along with talking Darth Vader tooth brushes at bedtime, so I feel relatively immune to the pull of highly detailed model train layouts. . .  for the moment at least.  I must admit, building the old Western Oslo Station, which closed in 1987 when the new Central Station opened in the Norwegian capital, or the train station in Bergen, Norway have crossed my mind.  Dangerous butterflies indeed.

But back to model soldiers!  One thing that will take place during the coming Christmas break is a solo refight of a Charles S. Grant scenario, a holding action I believe, following on the heels of The Battle of Doltz that took place last summer.  I took delivery recently of  some felt roads by Hotz Artworks in Canada, and they look great, so it will be fun to lay out everything on the table, set up the troop, and try out those plagiarized old school rules that I pieced together in September or October.  So, lots going on. . .  or about to here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold where we have been now for almost exactly one year, and that anniversary will be on December 14th.  More on this latest tabletop battle and playtest of the rules anon.

In the meantime, I've taken the opportunity to share a few less commonly seen Richard Knoetel illustrations that I like.  Enjoy!

-- Stokes

28 November 2016

Freicorps Musings. . .

Another lovely Knoetel illustration, this time featuring various soldiers from Favrat's Black Legion.

The various frei infantrie and freicorps formations of the (roughly Seven Year War-era) have long fascinated me.  And, I suppose, were I to think about it, so too have the various legions and ad hoc formations of the Napoleonic period.  All of which is a 'round about way of saying that I have, after much thought and doodling around with a writing pad and a pencil, made up an order and submitted it to Der Alte Fritz at Fife and Drum Miniatures Saturday evening.

In keeping with my fictitious Grand Duchy of Stollen concept, however, I don't intend to model an exact replica of Favrat's especially since black uniforms really aren't my thing.  But what I liked most about this particular formation is that it was, according to the various sources I've looked at, relatively small (and short lived).  It was also linked to my favorite city in all of Germany, The Free and Hanseatic City of Luebeck.

So, besides some Prussian dragoons, jaegers, and a few other odds and ends, I've ordered some of Jim's recent Hessian grenadiers, some British light dragoons, and some British Legion cavalry from the American War of Independence range.  The fictitious unit will consist of two distinct 14-figure squadrons of cavalry, a 31-strong battalion of grenadiers in mitre caps, and a 15-figure company of jaegers.  Along with a two-gun section of Russian artillery, these will, once painted, form my own imaginary Hasenpfeffer Freicorps.

I freely admit the influence of my seven-year-old son, The Young Master, who provided the inspiration with his own recent medievel adventures in the Duchy of Hasenpfeffer.  And who knows?  Maybe someday, when decrepitude has an even firmer grip on yours truly, they'll become his.

In the meantime, back to reading and grading student essays on this post-Thanksgiving Sunday.  I still have about 50 to finish by Tuesday.  Sigh.

-- Stokes

 As for color, I've always loved the dark green of the British Legion, so this will probably feature prominently with, maybe, pink facings.  There was, I believe, a unit o French Napoleonic dragoons with such a uniform, and the two colors, perhaps surprisingly, work well together.

24 November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all U.S. visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen, the grand ducal felines Gunnlaug and Onyx -- along with the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and family -- wish you a peaceful Thanksgiving Day wherever in the world you might find yourselves this year. 

Regardless of whatever life drops in our laps, we nevertheless have a great deal to be thankful for in the everyday small things that we (probably) take for granted.  If we have the company of loved ones, a solid roof over our heads, enough on the table, gainful employment (maybe even a job we like), with a little extra for a rainy day, a few pleasurable diversions that bring us happiness, plus a life lived in relative safety, then we can count ourselves very fortunate indeed.  Many in the world lack one or more of these things and suffer for it.  We ought to keep that in mind.

-- Stokes

15 November 2016

Note: A Gift to Self. . .

 The "Oh, you are so awful!" vignette from Eureka Miniatures. . .  THE very figure to represent the libidinous English ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Stollen, Lord Algernon Fortescue de Rumpey-Pumpey, belonging to a Sussex family of Hugenot stock.  Although unpainted, Lady Rumpey-Pumpey at left does not looked at all pleased by her husband's cavorting with Lottie the Charwoman, who they brought with them from Sussex to that most cosmopolitan of backwaters, as the Grand Duke is so fond of observing, Krankenstadt, the capital of Stollen.  The scornful looking Stollenian gentleman at far left must surely be thinking to himself, "Tutt, tutt. . .  So, THAT'S how they do things in Sussex!" .

In view of a certain 29th birthday I celebrated recently (Yes, THAT one, of which I am now on the wrong side.), I took the opportunity to add a few items from Eureka Miniatures to the ol' pile of lead, including a 30-strong regiment of Saxon cuirassiers -- I've set aside 2017 as a year to add mainly to my cavalry arm -- and a delightfully prurient civilian vignette.  

The rest of the order arrived in the mail yesterday from Eureka Miniatures USA.  Great communication and customer service from Rob by the way.  He had to order in a number of horses and cuirassier troopers all the way from Oz for me.  To say I am excited to finish the final few items for this year and get started on these in January 2017 is putting it mildly.  

I also have a solo game planned for December, just as soon as the fall semester ends, in which I play-test a new set of old school rules based on the work of the hobby greats, including Don Featherstone, the Grants, Wesencraft, et al.  Until then, I'll have fun daydreaming all about it.

-- Stokes

The Saxon cuirassier kettle drummer.  I now have one like him plus 29 other cuirassier trumpeters, officers, standard bearers, and troopers for a two-squadron regiment.

A Thursday P.S.
I've spent the last few weeks mulling over the additional cavalry figures I might add to the collection next year, and I think, I have reached a decision.  Although this could always change before I pull the trigger and submit an order.  But I'm leaning toward another three two-squadron units of 30 figures and horse each, and I'll probably go with Minden figures (Prussian dragoons specifically).  

Not exactly cheap, but most people only round the half-century mark once, so I'm splurging (yes, blatant conspicuous consumption and all that, blah, blah, blah. . . ).  If I am around in 50 years, I don't expect to be painting by that point, although who knows?  There might be a Cyborg Stokes by then with the eyesight and fine motor skills of a 20-year old.  And if that is the case, then why not continue painting and modelling?  You never know.  

Anyway, I like the colorful uniforms worn by the units of Saxon Chevauxleger (sp?) and the early Prussian dragoons in white before they switched to blue coats.  All of this will make for a nice, round two new brigades of cavalry when the Saxon cuirassiers above are added to the mix.  In the next few years, once the cavalry is done, a few more units of line infantry, finishing some odds and ends in the lead pile, and then I'll call the project done and simply enjoy playing with them and admiring them on the table.  

Of course, you know how that goes.  There ARE those Minden Russian infantry on the horizon, and Crann Tara has some nice things in its offerings, as do the Tradition and Wille lines, and good, old reasonably priced RSM95.  Oh, blast!  It looks like a terminal case manic obsession.  Cue Jimi Hendrix. . .

-- Stokes

16 October 2016

Some Doctored Photographs. . .

Some newly cropped, brightened, and sharpened photographs taken during the recent Battle of Doltz.  Enjoy!  Now, if only my new 2" roads from Hotz Artworks would arrive.

-- Stokes

15 October 2016

Tinkering with the Rules. . .

 A 'macaroni' was yet another derisive term for a popinjay, a fop, or a dandy (in the extreme.  A vain, conceited man overly concerned with his attire and appearance.  Ouch!  That description strikes a little close to home I fear.

Not a whole lot of painting recently as real life and work-related stuff have encroached into my evenings and weekends these last several weeks.  But, I have stitched together a short, simple set of very derivative rules based on the work of many wargaming "greats" both past and present, stretching from Featherstone, Wesencraft, and the Grants to Mason, Gilder, and Hezzlewood, to Purky and Protz. 

The reason for the rules presented below is due to my growing dissatisfaction with Charge! as an easily recalled, playable set of rules that keeps the game moving forward at a reasonable pace.  As much as I love the book and the illustrative stories contained therein, in practice I find even the basic rules slow going.  Greg (Horne) more or less concurred when I asked him about it in a subsequent e-mail.  

 After 30+ years in the hobby (something I find really difficult to get my head around since on a good day I still feel 17), it finally dawned on me that what I really want on those all too rare occasions when the soldiers are set up for a battle is an easy, fun game without the need to consult a rule book or playsheet each and every turn.  I'm not after a hyper-realistic simulation of 18th century warfare.  I simply want to see and play with my toy soldiers on an attractively laid out table AND reach a decisive conclusion to the game before my eyebrows are completely gray.

This realization hit me like a bolt out of the blue during the recently concluded Battle of Doltz e-game, which I ran much in the style of a classic kriegspiel where Greg and Ross (MacFarlane) sent me their general orders at the start of the game and followed up with subsequent orders as the game developed.  I handled all of the dice rolling to resolve combats and chance occurrences, feeding them new information via photographs with descriptions right here on the GD of S blog as the situation changed and/or new ones arose.  

I enjoyed the game as I always do, but the need to consult the quick play sheet that I cobbled together several years ago, coincidentally for a an e-refight of Sittangbad with Greg, became a pain in the neck.  Isn't there an easier way to have fun with our model soldiers and terrain?  It dawned on me that the late Donald Featherstone had the right idea.

So, below is what I have worked up based on various simple rules by the hobby "greats," both past and present.  They present six -- That's right, ONLY six -- easily remembered core rules with an additional dozen to keep in mind should a scenario or situation call for it.  Have a look, think about them, try 'em out if you wish, see what you think, tinker with them to your heart's content, and maybe drop me a line here with your own thoughts and conclusions.  Let's talkLadies and Gentlemen, I give you. . .  Call It Macaroni!

Call It Macaroni!   Simple Old School Rules for Tabletop Warfare

D6 per unit moving 1 = -2”; 2 = -1”; 3 or 4 = Normal; 5 = +1”; 6 = +2”

Line 12” (No woods; Move OR Fire)
Light 18” (Move AND Fire)
Cavalry 18” (No Woods)
Hussars/Uhlans 24” (No Woods)
Artillery 12” (Unlimber/Limber -1/2 Move)
Transport 12” (No Woods)
Staff/ADCs 30”

***Formation Change/Enter or Leave BUAs/ Obstacles/Uphill -1/2.  No penalties for Light Infantry.

Skirmish Fire (Individuals)
0-6” - D6 per each figure firing, 3, 4, 5, or 6 hits.
6”-12” - 4, 5, or 6 hits.
12”-18” - 5 or 6 hits.

***Use this rule too for odd numbers of line infantry, but at the shorter musketry ranges.
Artillery Fire
A) Ranging (Once for each NEW target)
0-6” Automatic Hit
6”-12” 4, 5, 6 Hits
12”-36” 5, 6 Hits
36”-60” 6 Hits

B) Determining Casualties
0-6” D6 per Gun
6”-12” D6 -2
12”-36” D6 -3
36”-60” D6 -4

***Cavalry, skirmishers, troops in cover -1/2 hits.

***Guns that use a half move to unlimber may still come into action that turn, attempt to range up, and, if proper range established, determine casualties inflicted.

A) Determine if one side or the other flinches before contact made -- at 6” or less -- by rolling a D6:

0-10% Casualties = 6 unit retires full move to rear.
10%-20% Casualties = 5, 6 ----------
20%-50% Casualties = 4, 5, 6 ----------

B) If and when units close with one another:

D6 for each foot figure
2D6 per each cavalry figure

High score wins.  Side with most losses retires two full move distances where it must remain stationary and rally during next turn with no offensive movement.  Winner moves immediately forward into space vacated by loser.

0-4” D6 (per eight figures)
4”-8” D6 -2
8”12” D6 -3

***+1 per D6 on first volley
***D6 for 6-7 figures.  Dice individually for 5 or less.
***Cavalry and target in cover -1/2.

The 50% Rule
A unit reduced to half of its original strength must be removed from the table and takes no further role in the battle.

Initial general orders must be written out beforehand and troops correspondingly placed on the table before the start of the game.

Turns equal roughly 30 minutes of actual time give or take.  Dice to determine time when battle begins, or decide randomly.  Battles slow at sundown and come to a halt at dark depending on the season.

Orders may only be changed by writing and issuing new ones via an ADC. Roll a D6:

1 = ADC lost or captured, orders never arrive.
2 = ½ Speed
3 or 4 = Normal Speed.
5 = ½ Speed
6 = Orders reach intended destination but misunderstood and go unfollowed

Rafts, Barges, and Boats
Downstream 12”
Upstream 9”
Each holds a half company of infantry (8 figs.).
Each takes half a move to load/unload.
Leaves landing/boarding site at half move distance.  Subsequent moves are at full distance.

Isolation and Prisoners
If one side has no supporting troops within one move distance when a melee occurs, it is isolated.  If the isolated figures are less than half the number of their remaining opponents AFTER melee casualties have been determined, they are taken prisoner and are escorted to the rear (one sentry for every six prisoners).

Building Bridges
Two companies of pioneers can bridge a:

Small river in 1 day
Medium river in 2 days
Large river in 3 days

Bridge Demolition
One company of pioneers:

Small Bridge 4 turns (two hours)
Medium Bridge 6 turns (three hours)
Large Bridge 8 turns (four hours)

Pontoon Bridges
Two companies of pontooniers can:

Float one pontoon 1 turn (30 min.)
Add bridge decking 1 turn (30 min.)

*** D6 for each pontoon.  It breaks free on a 6.

Field Works
Two companies of pioneers can build:

Redoubt for two guns 24 turns (twelve hours)
12” of trench 6 turns (three hours)
12” of abattis 6 turns (three hours)

Fog or Mist
If fog or mist present on tabletop battlefield, throw a D6 per unit:

1-2 = 1” to L
3-4 = No Change
5-6 = 1” to R

The Unexpected
Keep the spirit of the game in mind!  Players should handle unexpected situations not catered for in the rules by the seats of their pants, making up something on the spot to arrive at quick and decisive conclusions that keep the game pleasant and moving forward.

Period Feel
Players are encouraged to scatter extra vignettes, vehicles, period and location specific buildings, or anything else that might help create the right historic flavor around the tabletop battlefield.  These items and impedimenta play no direct role in the game, but foster the right sort of atmosphere.  Think Peter Gilder, Doug Mason, Bill Protz, and Jim Purky!



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