12 October 2017

Campaign Background Redux. . .

The original map of the campaign area drawn in Septermber of 2006 (post-Auto Levels, brightening, sharpening, and cropping with the Pixlr online photograph editing tools).  The contested area in dark green is the Mark of Schleiz, a region rich in wildlife and other natural resources whose precise ownership has been long disputed by The Grand Duchy of Stollen and its enemy The Electorate of Zichenau.

Separated by the Lesser Zwischen and Greater Zwischen rivers, and sharing equally in delusions of grandeur and influence far beyond their frontiers, the Grand Duchy of Stollen and its mortal enemy, The Electorate of Zichenau, are set more or less within the real Europe of the immediate post-Seven Years War period.  

Stollen and Zichenau are surrounded by several tiny principalities -- Pillau-Zerbst, Pillau-Reuss, Werben-Steinau, Tauroggen-Fiebus, and Zeller-Schwarzekatze -- who vacillate between allying themselves with and/or fighting against either Stollen or Zichenau, depending on how the wind blows on a given day.  Typically, war is declared by one or another state in the region at the slightest pretense.  Conflicts earlier in the century have had as their catalysts: a royal love affair gone bad, temporarily misplaced crown jewels, a plagiarized monograph on metaphysics by a dilettante academic, an expatriate artist who failed to deliver a commissioned portrait to his royal patron by the appointed deadline, and, during the summer of 1767, the utter humiliation of Zichenau’s late Prince Ruprecht II at the hands of a highly skilled master tailor.

More broadly, this tiny patchwork of Europe is sandwiched between extreme eastern Prussia, Courland, Poland, and Russia.  As a further point of reference, Riga is about two days to the north by northwest, downriver from Krankenstadt, the sleepy Baroque capital of Stollen.  Stollen, Zichenau, and the adjacent principalities occupy only about 100 square miles on the map.  All were later absorbed by Prussia, Austria, and Russia during the final partition of Poland in 1795, which is why history books have had very little to say on the topic.

The population in the region (mainly ethnic Germans, Wends, Poles, Lithuanians, and Slavs with a sprinkling of Swedes and Danes left over from the days when the latter two held a more vested interest in the region) is fairly sparse, explaining the tiny armies that maneuver against each other occasionally. The respective forces number approximately 4-6 units of foot, 2-3 units of cavalry, and a few batteries of artillery each.  The principalities surrounding Stollen and Zichenau are also good enough to furnish a few infantry units or some cavalry when absolutely necessary, much like some of the smaller Confederation of the Rhine states did for Napoleon I in his later wars.

For their part, Prussia, Russia, and Austria regard Stollen and Zichenau with bemused detachment.  In fact, even the beleaguered King George III of England refused an offer of mercenary troops from the former, during the later war against the rebels in America.  Further, while he has Stollen never held forth publicly on the subject, behind closed doors, however, the English ambassador, Lord Pipeclay Higginbotham-Bulling is rumored to refer frequently to Stollen's Grand Duke as, "That empty-headed coxcomb!"  Likewise, the Prussian ambassador to Stollen, the Freiherr Heinz von dem Salat, once observed with a chuckle that the ongoing tug of war between Stollenian and Zichenau was not worth the bother for the main players on the European political stage.

How did the current conflict between Stollen and Zichenau begin then?  At its root was the disappearance during February 1768 of Pillau-Zerbst’s Princess Valerie, betrothed to the notorious French mercenary officer Phillipe de Latte, which sparked considerable upheaval in diplomatic and social circles of the time.  At the time, issues of Der Schimtten Zeitung and Die Krankenstadt Tageblat, two widely read newspapers in the region, were filled with numerous speculative articles on the matter. 

Popular consensus blamed Zichenau’s Prince Ruprecht II for Valerie’s abduction. Indeed, agents for Pillau-Zerbst reported that a young woman matching her description was seen at various springtime social events with Prince Ruprecht.  Various, convoluted, and half-hearted diplomatic efforts followed, yet these failed to produce an amicable solution. Typically, these high-level meetings carried on for a short while before one or another of the ministers involved in the talks would exclaim at the first available moment, "Oh, I say!   Did you hear?  The von So-and-sos are throwing a large ball this evening.  I do hope the orchestra strikes up Sir Roger de Coverly!"  

After some weeks, the parliamentary assembly in Pillau-Zerbst called impatiently for war during an emergency session in late May of 1768.  Unable to remain aloof any longer, the fashion mad, and at times delusional, Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II of Stollen, to whom detractors refer humorously as "that overcooked macaroni," offered the services of his army to Pillau-Zerbst several days later, expressing wishes to exact sweet revenge for the loss of the Mark of Schleiz to Zichenau twenty years before during the Brocade Wars of the mid-1740s.  

The situation intensified when Zichenau recalled its ambassador from Schmitten at the start of June 1768. Pillau-Zerbst and Stollen followed suit, issuing mobilization orders. Neighboring Pillau-Reuss, Werben-Steinau, Tauroggen-Fiebus, and Zeller-Schwartzekatz, watched the developing situation closely from the sidelines.  

After much initial shilly-shallying by the respective commanders and their armies, the first battle -- well, action really -- took place during late December of 1768 at Zollamtstadt.  There,  the Army of Zichenau managed to cross the Lesser Zwischen and establish a toehold in Stollen proper, driving the weaker Stollenians under General von Drosselmaier from that frontier town.  Stollen met defeat again in the later Action at Pelznikkel, fought during August 1769, and once more in the Action at Pickelhaubewicz at the end of November that same year before the armies went into their respective winter quarters at the tail end of December.

Fighting resumed the following spring, during April and May of 1770, when General de Latte struck deep into Stollenian territory with a combined force of Zichenauers and Stagonians, achieving another victory at the Battle for Saegewerkdorf.  Fortunately, torrential rain and flooding prevented the total destruction of the Stollenian army, but not before enemy soldiers had occupied and dismantled the sawmill whose parts were shipped back to the Electorate of Zichenau.  There followed a relatively quiet 14-month period before the two armies met again, this time in July of 1772 at the epic Battle of Teodorstal.  It was there, that the Stollenians were finally victorious, following the surrender of General de Latte to Stollen's General von Tschatschke, or that "Flamboyant Silesian" as he is surreptitiously known among his junior officers. 

Clearly then, this corner of the continent has enjoyed little appreciable peace since the conclusion of the Seven Years War.  Despite their current conflict, which some observers have wryly dubbed the War of the Buttons, it seems that the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Electorate of Zichenau will continue to occupy the fringes of European political and military affairs for the foreseeable future.

-- Stokes

08 October 2017

More Photos from The Grand Review. . .

Two brigades of Stollenian infantry march toward the enemy.

The unassuming market town of Hasenpfeffer.

Stollenian guns and crew await the command to fire.

Stollenian transport  makes its way toward Hasenpfeffer.

Camp followers get up to all sorts of mischief.

My son the Young Master asked this morning if General von Bauchschmerzen ever feels well.  I replied, never.  'Bauchschmerzen' means something akin to 'tummy ache' in German.  One picks up all kinds of stuff when wife and child communicate in a second language at home.

A swarm of Zichenauer Croats screening the approach of their line infantry in a manner rather more appropriate for the Napoleonic era than the mid-18th century.

Zichenauer line infantry.

Zicheauer cuirassiers and dragoons.

Zichauer guns and crew ready to open up on the approaching Stollenian Army.

Stollenian hussar officers and trumpeter sound the charge!

Meanwhile, and as always, the upper crust of Hasenpfeffer decide to frolic in some open country just beyond the town limits.

"Wow!  Oh, my gosh!  Look!  When are you going to have a battle with them?" were the Young Master's first words when I took him down to Zum Stollenkeller here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold Sunday morning before breakfast to show him what ol' Dad had got up to late Saturday evening.  I had to explain, among the many questions that followed, that it probably would not be until the Christmas break when I would actually have enough free time for a small game or two.  


On a related note, and although the Young Master loves our two cats Gunnlaug and her brother  Onyx, he was somewhat troubled when I informed him that after some photographs, everything would need to be carefully put away to protect it from said cats.  One might make the argument that my wargame table is more the cats' than mine these days, which means that anything hobby-related left unattended for more than a few hours is at great risk of feline molestation in one form or another.  

While our finished basement here at Totleigh, where I also have my home office, is fantastic, I wish it was configured differently with a room, large enough for the table, equipped with a door that  would keep the blasted animals out and OFF the table.  I'm spoiled, I know, but it would also be nice to be able to leave things out in situ once in a while without fearing for the safety of my vignettes, units, and scenery.  Sadly, everything seems to be fair game for chewing, knocking off the table, and/or abduction.  It's enough to give one heart palpitations!  That said, I too adore the cats, but they have some less than charming habits where toy soldiers and scenery are concerned.


Several new followers have hopped on for the ride in the last couple of months, so allow me to bid you welcome.  I hope the GD of S blog lives up to your expectations and remains inspiring and fun.  It has been a pretty wild and wide-ranging journey so far around here during the last 11 years.

Thanks as well to everyone for your kinds words the last few days where the rather hurried Grand Review was concerned.  It was a blast to see almost everything out on the table at once.  

Almost as I said.  Besides the cavalry shown in the pictures above, I have a regiment of Holger Eriksson dragoons, painted by John Preece in the U.K. and used in the Partizan 2006 Sittangbad refight, that I have not yet been able to detach successfully from their lozenge-shaped bases despite soaking everything in a shallow cookie sheet of hot water overnight not once but twice.  I think I managed to get two figures separated.  Otherwise, no luck so far, and the figures are fragile, so I need to be very careful to avoid tragedy.  If/when I can remove the rest of the 30 figures from the individual bases, I will tack 'em down to multiple bases and they will take their rightful place along side their 25-30mm brethren.  If anyone has suggestions on removing these fragile figures from the current bases, I'm all ears. 


So, besides some games in December and January, what is in store for the Grand Duchy of Stollen down the road?  Well, I have a mass of cavalry by various manufacturers to paint, mostly heavies and dragoons along with two squadrons of hussars (I know, I know. . . ), five to eight units of Minden Austrians and Prussians, replacement infantry ensigns and new standards, plus a few more mounted generals and ADC's, a wagon/cart or two along with draft animals, and some Russian guns and crew along with another couple of limbers at some point.  All of this stuff resides in the lead pile at this point, so it is simply a matter of finding the time to get it painted.  I imagine there is enough here already to keep yours truly busy for the next several years without any new purchases.  But.  We know how that goes don't we?  


I have also had the lingering thought lately that the Young Master will eventually need his own small unit of line infantry, possibly a company of riflemen, a squadron of cavalry, and a gun or two with crew before too much longer plus a mounted officer vignette to command his small legion.  Here, I think RSM95 figures would be just the thing.  The metal is harder, and the figures sturdier with fewer things to bend or break as easily.  Paul is not quite ready for some serious wargaming figures of his own, but maybe for his ninth or tenth birthday.  His eighth is coming up at the end of the month (Can you believe it?  I can't.), and for now it is still painting and drawing, toy airplanes, Star Wars, Legos, Mine Craft, insects, birds, geology, outer space, and weather although you can hardly fault a busy youth for those particular interests.  It seems like our blonde, freckled boy might be something of a Renaissance man even at seven going on eight.


But back to Dad's conspicuous consumption for a moment (and clearly I cannot point the finger at anyone)!  There are new items in the pipeline from both Fife & Drum/Minden as well as Crann Tara that look mighty tempting.  A small mule train about to become available from the latter company might be just the thing to go with my existing transport train.  At some point, I'd also like to scratch-build a camp for my troops with a field bakery.  Black Hussar has had some wonderful mixing, kneading, and baking vignette figures for a year or more, and these would be just the thing. . .  along with a few additional pieces for the envisioned camp of 12-14 tents.    But I'm getting far ahead of myself here!  Suffice to say, that wargaming, in its various guises and permutations, is an amazing and expansive hobby.  It certainly provides a vast litany of things to do, plan, carry out, and achieve over time.  A life-long hobby if ever there was one.

Best Regards,


07 October 2017

A Few Teaser Photos of The Grand Review. . .

 The term 'groaning board' comes to mind here.  The table is 6' x 10'.  Obviously for actual games, and depending on the scenario (I like those by C.S. Grant), not all available troops would be in use, fewer buildings would be present, and a somewhat larger table might be in order too. 


Here's a close-up o two brigades of Stollenian infantry and a few officer vignettes with part of the pontoon and trasnport trains in the background.

At the other end of the table various light units of infantry engage each other as Saxon staff observe, some transport rumbles by, and to companies of generic pioneers/pontooniers march toward town.

Finally, a close-up o some Stollenian jaeger (painted by John Preece and featured in the Partizan 2006 Sittangbad refight) facing two companies of 'Wild Geese' in the service of Zichenau along with a company of dastardly Croats in the distance.

Back tomorrow with more photographs taken, this time, with a tripod and timer which always produce sharper pictures, but these aren't too bad for quick snaps.  It's late, and I'm off to bed.  Nighty-night.

-- Stokes

30 September 2017

A Notable Anniversary. . .

Der Alte Fritz and his soldiers.

It would be highly remiss of me not to mention the tenth anniversary of Jim Purky's Der Alte Fritz Journal.  Where my own renewed and reinvigorated wargaming activities of the last dozen years are concerned, Jim has been and remains highly influential in a litany of ways, and he ranks right up there with the Grants, Young and Lawford, Featherstone, Gilder, and Mason in my book.  Drop by his blog by clicking on the link above and take a gander at his retrospective plus where he sees his own hobby going in the next ten years.

-- Stokes

29 September 2017

September Was (Re-) Basing Month. . .

The hurried, unpainted, ragtag, 'teenage-style' basing of the various units comprising my armies is now a thing of the past, thank you very much.  The somewhat more mature (Really?) rebasing with commercially produced materials has now been completed.  And the long suggested GRAND REVIEW of the entire Grand Duchy of Stollen collection (atop a scenic table no less) is coming shortly.  Stay tuned!

-- Stokes

28 September 2017

Freshly Rebased Artillery Crews. . .

A bunch of Revell plastic (Austrian) artillery crews man generic MiniFigs guns in front, with Garrison (Prussian) crews and manning two more guns by MiniFigs (yellow) and two by Holger Eriksson (blue).  In the far background is an RSM95 crew painted as Saxons and another Minden crew painted in the artillery uniorms worn by some minor German principality or other, both of whom service a pair of Minden Swedish 4-pounders painted red.  I'm rather pleased with the way everything more or less matches up size-wise although the RSM95 and Minden figures are certainly the tallest.  But the slender Revell figures don't look entirely out of place either.

Home a bit early today, and puttering around Zum Stollenkeller for a little while before I dive into a stack of student team-written essays.  I thought it was high time to share a photograph of the rebased artillery crews.  Only one more pair of Minden Russian guns (I've also got a pair of Austrian) and 13 related Russian crew, including a mounted officer, which I like to include as part of my infantry and artillery formations.

The one fly in the ointment with all o this is that I now must think over what to do with that final pair of cannon and crew.  I have recently discovered that Lauzun's Legion also included a small artillery contingent that wore French-cut blue uniforms, but faced with Lemon Yellow rather than the more usual red.  Since I like painting my troops in unusual or less commonly seen uniforms, the yellow facings for artillery crew seem almost too good to resist.  More on this anon.

Otherwise, all of my painted figures have been rebased, and in just under a month, save for a unit of metal Spencer Smith cavalry which I am retiring from service as they just don't fit in with everything else that well as much as I like them.  Time to forge ahead for real now and do some actual painting

-- Stokes

23 September 2017

Lauzun Legion (Minden Prussian) Hussars Freshly Rebased!!!

Here's the two-squadron regiment of hussars on their new 40mm wide x 50mm deep bases.

The Litko bases arrived in record time with the mail today.  Late this afternoon, I set about painting them.  After dinner and the Young Master's bedtime (we are working our way through a wonderful National Geographic for Kids book on insects, spiders, and other assorted creepy crawlies) I returned to detach the Minden figures carefully from their old unpainted illustration board bases, touch up the edges, and finally cement each rider and horse in place on their new (and F-I-N-A-L) bases.  

I am very pleased with the outcome and will add a couple of additional trumpeters, already in the leadpile, to the flanks of the two squadrons at some point in the not too distant future, eventually raising the regimental strength to 32 men and horses.  Tomorrow, I'll tackle basing the ten completed artillery crews. 

And now I am off to play a game or two of Yahtzi with the Grand Duchess and enjoy a glass or three of a new wine -- a red Zinfandel -- she picked up today while out running some Saturday errands. 

-- Stokes

Unusually, the dice gods were with me, and I was on fire for the first game of Yahtzi last night, while The Grand Duchess easily won the second game.  The wine was rather mellow, reminding me odd of a Merlot.  Sadly, we conked out by about 11:30 and retired upstairs.  What a couple of lightweights we are!  However, I discovered new episodes of Call the Midwife (Season Six) on Netflix and watched two (and looked over Prussian hussar uniforms) before giving up the ghost and turning out the bedside lamp.  

You know, I have 30 or so RSM95 Prussian hussars that might look really nice, albeit understated, painted as the 6th (von Wechmar) Hussars.  This, of course, is a very dangerous thought since at one time I believe I might have sworn publicly that I would never again paint a unit of hussars.

19 September 2017

Grrrrrrr. . .

A rather nice rendering of a Lauzun's Legion hussar, ca. 1781, from Uniformology.

Well, I sat down to stick my regiment of Minden Prussian hussars (painted as Lauzun's Legion hussars more or less) onto new 3mm ply bases the other night and made an unexpected and mildly frustrating discovery.  The galloping horses with legs outstretched actually need bases that are 50mm in depth rather than the 45mm deep bases I have on hand.  The metal figure bases are too long as are the outstretched legs of the horses.  Blast!  

So, a short while later, I placed a small order online, admittedly somewhat unanticipated, with Litko for bases 40mm wide x 50mm deep plus some  60mm wide x 120mm deep for my deployed artillery crews.  Hopefully, I'll have these in two weeks or so, but in the meantime, it's hurry up and wait.  Don't you just hate it when that happens?  I know.  I know.  First World problem as they say.

-- Stokes

Later. . .   On a Hot, Sticky Thursday, September 21st.

The basing gods have smiled on me this time!  Amazingly, the Litko people turned my order around very quickly, and it is already wheeling its way to me via USPS Priority Mail.  With any luck at all, the new bases might be here by Saturday afternoon, and I can continue with the rebasing of existing cavalry and artillery crews.  Service has always been fine from Litko for previous base orders -- no complaints -- but it sometimes took a couple of weeks before the order was filled and sent out to me.  Once in while the stars do indeed line up.

16 September 2017

Two More Cavalry Regiments (Almost) Rebased. . .

Holger Erisksson dragoons painted, more or less, as Von Trumbach Dragoons, and RSM95 Austrian cuirassiers painted as, if memory serves, Austria's Anspach Cuirassiers.

Almost another two cavalry regiments (two squadrons each plus regimental staff) rebased this Saturday afternoon and this evening. . .  even with planning for two classes on Monday,  The Holger Eriksson dragoons still need some retouching on the edges of the figures' individual bases, and then I can tack 'em down at some point tomorrow (Sunday).  One figure each will be replaced with standard bearers carrying white colonel's standards hopefully before too much longer, but they don't look too bad in the meantime.  Next up, a regiment of Minden hussars!

-- Stokes


The Holger Eriksson dragoons were painted in 2010, or early 2011 using the last of an old tin of Humbrol 'British Rifle Green' that I purchased during a visit to one-time MiniFigs HQ on Graham Road in Southampton while visiting Mom and then new Stepdad in the U.K. for Christmas and New Year's 1988-89.  He was then a lecturer at the University of Southampton before being hired to run a center (and as a tenured full professor to boot) at the University of Pittsburgh, which is what brought them back to the United States at the start of the 1990s.  

Anyway, the dragoon horses were painted with a base color of one or another Humbrol colors and then given a stain of one or another oil colors on top, part of which was then wiped away.  They are some of the nicest horses, I think, in the collection.

On the other hand, the RSM95 cuirassier horses were a much simpler affair.  Everything was first painted black, the horses were given the slightest dry-brushing of Ral Partha acrylic dark blue -- from a bottle purchased in 1997, which STILL manages to yield fluid, usable paint thanks to the addition of a drop or two of flow aid -- and the the bridles and reins were given dabs of silver and brass to approximate the metal parts, buckles, bits, and ornamentation.  Painting horses gets no easier, and I will probably use a similar shortcut when I return to painting heavy cavalry in the not too distant future. . .  with a few very dark brown horses tossed into the mix just to shake things up a bit. 

15 September 2017

First Cavalry Regiment Is Rebased!!!

The 4th (Trakehnen) Dragoons, my first ever cavalry regiment made up of Revell Austrian dragoons painted way back in February and March of 2007, on brand-spanking new multiple 3mm ply, laser-cut bases from Litko.

Well, after a few nights off, I got right back into the rebasing fray and began with the existing cavalry arm.  First off, a unit of 1/72 plastics that I completed during the late winter of 2007.  

The Litko 3mm ply bases measure 40mm wide x 45mm deep, in keeping with the dimensions suggested for close order cavalry in the rule set In the Grand Manner by the late Peter Gilder.  As I mentioned in a previous rebasing post, these have always looked right to me in the many photographs of his collections that I have scrutinized over the years in old issues of Military Modelling, Miniature Wargames and Wargames Illustrated.  What I have always aimed to do these last 11 years, though it is only just now coming together, is to combine the very best visual features of Young and Lawford's, the Grants', and Gilder's approaches to horse and musket wargaming while at the same time imparting my stamp on the subject.  

We're just about there I think although there are several years of painting to get through before we can call things done (ha, ha, ha. . .).  The armies I envision will number 7-10 units of line infantry each, one or two of jaegers/grenzers/Croats, 4-5 of cavalry, along with several two-gun batteries of artillery.  The third arm is actually all done (guns crews, and limber teams) waiting only for the gun crews to be fixed to permanent bases.  And of course there is the famous supply train along with the pontoon train, pontooniers, pioneers, civilians, suttleresses and other camp followers, command vignettes of various types, etc.  All finished for some while now.

Still quite a bit of cavalry and infantry to complete though in light of last year's 50th birthday purchasing-orgy of cavalry castings from RSM95, Eureka and Minden.  I also  took a bunch of unpainted, unwanted, and unloved Minden Austrians and Prussians off the hands of a friend in Belgium for a reasonable price last winter, so the leadpile should keep me busy for the next several yeas I think.  Especially in light of my much reduced painting output these last couple of years or so.  The end product should be a rather nice mid-18th century force when it is finally finished.  That's getting a bit ahead of myself, of course, but I am reasonably certain that there will be more gray in my hair before everything is painted and based.  But the journey is half the fun, right?

Returning to the 30-figure unit of dragoons above for a moment, the regiment itself has been reconfigured as a two-squadron unit with two full ranks and a partial third of one officer and three NCOs.  One of the front rank figures in the far squadron will be replaced with another guidon bearer carrying the white colonel's color before long.  For the sake of the photograph, however, said trooper remains with his fellows albeit uncemented to the base in question for later ease of decommissioning.  

Tomorrow (Saturday), I'll either rebase a unit of RSM95 Austrian cuirassiers, or a regiment of Holger Eriksson dragoons depending on how the spirit seizes me in the morning.  Giddy up!

-- Stokes

Incidentally, this post is #1500 since I began this blog way back in August of 2006.  Since then, I've nattered incessantly on about painting and playing with toy soldiers, terrain, scenery, tables, scratch-built houses, favorite hobby-related books, magazines, and personalities, plus a game now and then as well as a variety of non-wargaming related fluff as and when the mood struck (skiing, camping, bicycling, child-rearing and fatherhood, occasional travel to foreign parts, house moves, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseam).  Which is really just a round about way of saying thank you for being a part of The Grand Duchy of Stollen experience.  There's still a bit of life in the ol' boy yet I think.


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