19 December 2011
Behind the Stollen, or "Hump? What hump?" The Story of the Grand Duchy. . .
Not Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein (1974), but a scene from the 1931 version of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, I believe, as The Monster.
As mentioned in a post earlier this month, the Grand Duchy of Stollen was born on a chilly day in early December 2005 when we lived a few blocks away in our old apartment. Classes were over for the term, final grades had been submitted, and the Grand Duchess was across the hall from my office, the old Purple Room, busily kneading dough for a couple of Dresdner Stollens.
Meanwhile, I was ensconced at my desk, bored out of my skull by painting corp-sized 15mm Napoleonic Waterloo-era forces and daydreaming about a new, no, THE new wargaming venture on which I was about about to embark. The only possible alternative. A mid-18th Century BIG battalion project in the spirit of Charge! by Brigadier Young and Colonel Lawford, something I had intended to do since purchasing and reading that charming and fascinating work in the summer of 1994 a few weeks before I relocated from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, to attend the mighty University of Wisconsin-Madison. . . Go Badgers!
At about the same time, and it might have been the very same day, I stumbled onto the Old School Wargaming Yahoo group. That discussion board was all abuzz at the time with preparations for a refight of the now famous Battle of Sittangbad at the then upcoming May 2006 Partizan wargaming show. I had also discovered Phil Olley's now sadly defunct War Cabinet site that featured a section on classic wargaming in the very style I craved. Singly-based 25-30mm figures grouped into large units of of 30-60, fighting in the name of imaginary, inconsequential "statelettes" set against the backdrop of the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. "Voila, shazam, and eureka!" I shouted, upsetting my glass of eggnog, which ran onto my lap and floor below.
Like a bolt out of the blue, as the Grand Duchess later summoned me to the kitchen for a slice of that first freshly baked stollen to emerge from the oven, along with a mug of fresh, strong, and steaming coffee, it occurred to me. I would name one of my countries The Grand Duchy of Stollen! Thunder rumbled in the distance and lightening flashed as I exclaimed, "It's alive! It's alive!" and hoisted my creation toward the ceiling to the accompaniment of clanking chains and sparking, zapping, sizzling old pieces of cinematic laboratory equipment from the 1930s. The Grand Duchess, as I recall, merely rolled her eyes in that way wargaming wives and girlfriends do -- you know what I mean -- and asked, "Another piece of stollen, darling?"
A day or so later, while trawling the internet for information about the former East Prussia, I came across an old town named Zichenau, which was destined to become the foil to the Grand Duchy. That now vanished point on the map was promptly rechristened as the Electorate of Zichenau. Thus began the long journey of painting, collecting, modelling, and daydreaming, nay, imagineering (to borrow a term from Bill Protz, the man behind the Campaigns in Germania blog) that has led us to this point in the Grand Duchy of Stollen Campaign.
In short, the Sittangbad-sized order of battle that I set out to fill in late July of 2006 is almost complete, which means that there must be a Grand Review and a game to celebrate in the next few weeks. What a way to begin 2012! Now, do I refight Sittangbad itself, or use one of C.S. Grant's handy scenarios from one of his books, or maybe one of his many Tabletop Teasers? Hmmmm. . . I just might need to have a poll here and let you visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen decide.