Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Next in the production queue at Fife and Drum Miniatures

British Flank Company Skrimish figures.

The Saratoga British greens are at Griffin Moulds and they will start making production moulds once everyone is back from their holidays. The release date will likely be in early February.

More light infantry figures. The backpacks will be removed from all of the skirmish/firing figures

An NCO (far left) and rank and file center company British soldiers

British flank company figures in marching pose

British mounted officer wearing a round hat, turned up on the right side. This figure can be used in all theaters of the AWI, especially in the Southern Campaigns.

Richard Ansell is currently working on some nice surprises for the Fife and Drum Miniatures Saratoga figure range. Stay tuned and keep checking in on this blog to see what is in the pipeline. I'm not giving out any spoilers.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Sand Worms from Acheson Designs

Uh oh, it looks like there is trouble on the horizon. Graboids have been sighted in Moravia. What implications can this have in the mid 18th Century?

The sand worms are made by Acheson Designs and come with five parts for assembly. The torso and head were attached with a metal pin, some green epoxy putty and Super Glue. The three tongue  or teeth thingys also need to be attached - these were a bit more difficult to attach. I will need to fill in the gaps with more epoxy putty.

The business end of some terrifying tentacles.

The obvious putty line should not be visible once a coat of black primer is applied.

Two Hour Wargames has a rules module called Big Ass Worms (or "BA" Worms) and I plan to use some of the ideas from this to append to my Croat Terror skirmish rules for the 18th Century. It should be a lot of fun to play. Perhaps Brotherhood of the Wolf and Predator could find its way into the 18th Century skirmish games on my table.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Croat Terror Skirmish Rules Play Test Game

Master of His Domain surveying His realm.

On Saturday December 28th the Terrible Trio of der Alte Fritz, Major General Pettygree, and the White Menace held our annual post-Christmas game at Schloss Seewald (also known as my house). This year I decided to break out my Croat Terror skirmish rules for the SYW and give them a thorough play test. Messers Pettygree and White Menace are particularly adept at finding the loopholes in any set of rules, so I set them loose on Croat Terror rules.

Ostensibly, we played a skirmish game with some second rate Prussian Freikorps, hussars and jagers escorting a supply convoy to a nearby Prussian encampment. One should not be surprised to hear that an Austrian raiding party of grenadiers, musketeers and Croats attempted to intercept the convoy.

I only took a few pictures during the game because I was busy jotting down notes about rules errata, loopholes and other legerdomain from the action on the tabletop.

Keith L (The White Menace) attacks with his Austrians.

Bill P's (Major General Pettygree) Prussian Jagers proved to be a deadly force to deal with.
I hadn't hosted a game with my Croat Terror rules for quite awhile, and it soon showed as I had to consult the rule book quite a few times to render judgement on the interpretation of the rules. There were a number of those "ah yes, I remember it well" moments as memories of how the rules worked were dredged from my deepest memories.

However, after several turns, Major General Pettygree and the White Menace picked up on the mechanics of the game system and the flow of the game proceeded smoothly. For the record, it looks like the Prussians staved off the Austrian attack and would have steered the convoy to the safety of the Prussian encampment had the game not been called at 4:00 PM as is our custom.

Austrian Grenadiers (left) chase some Prussian Freikorps out of the woods.
What Did We Learn

One of the first things pointed out by the White Menace was the need for a one or two page quick reference chart of the rules. I had given the players the 10-page rules set and we found ourselves frequently thumbing through the pages for movement and firing tables. There were very few melees in the game, other than to test the melee system in Croat Terror. So later that evening, I typed out a QRC and fit it onto two sides of one 8-1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper.

Next, we discovered that the Prussian Jagers were a powerhouse when they took advantage of the 30-inch range of their rifles compared to the 18-inch range of muskets. The players suggested either (1) shorten the rifle range to 24-inches, or (2) use only one company of 12 figures in any game, rather than the 24 figures that I have painted. I subsequently reduced the rifle range to 24-inches. I will probably limit jagers to 12 figures in any game.

It's kind of funny, but in many of my large battles and skirmish battles, the Prussian players fail to take advantage of the jager rifle's range. Basically, they can stand outside of musket range and shoot down the Austrians while the Austrians can not fire back at them. So it was great to see Major General Pettygree employ his jagers to his best advantage.

Movement seemed a bit too slow in the game, so I added an extra D6 to all of the movement rates for different formations and troop types. Typically, a musketeer regiment formed in line will move the number of inches from two D6 dice (i.e. a roll of six and three on two D6 equals nine inches of movement). Now they will have three D6 and so on.

There were several other minor changes such as clarifying some of the definitions and working out the mechanics of cavalry pursuit and passage of lines, but other than that, I think that the revised Croat Terror rules will work very well in a convention setting.

Next Steps
The QRC needs to be proof-read and then I will have some laminated copies made for my games. The rules book and text will need to be revised to incorporate the changes. After a couple more play test games, I shall start laying out the pages of the rules book with the aim of publishing them in the future.

The mechanics of the rules (movement, firing, melee and morale procedures) are fairly well-tested over time, so additional play testing will focus on seeing how the tweaks and changes affect the game.

Finally, I can see that I need to paint another unit or two of 24 Croats to use in the games. I envision two regiments of 24 figures, each on a 12-figure movement tray. These would actually be companies and so a player will command two companies in the game. I might reduce the forces to one company of 12-figures per player anticipating that fewer figures will tease out the role playing element of wargamers.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Croat Terror Skirmish Game Today

Dismounted Prussian Hussars spring the ambush trap!

This morning Bill P. and Kieth L. are visiting Schloss Seewald to play in a little skirmish game, set during the SYW, to play the Charles Grant "Ambush" scenario. The game will also allow me to play test my Croat Terro skirmish rules again. I haven't hosted a game with my rules for quite a number of years and Kieth L. in particular has a nose for sniffing out the loop holes in almost any rules set.

A band of Croats sets the ambush of a Prussian supply convoy.
The game will feature a Prussian supply convoy trying to reach the safety of a Prussian encampment somewhere down the road. Prussian hussars, jagers and freikorps troops escort the wagon train.

A task force of Croats and Austrian Grenadiers aim to stop the convoy from reaching its destination.

Austrian Grenadiers
I will post a game report later this evening. Stay tuned, you never know what is hiding out in the woods.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Ultimate Library

The stuff that dreams are made of....

Continuing my random journey around the internet in search of visual treasures, I found what certainly must be The Ultimate Library. I found this picture on Pinterest this morning. Wouldn't it be grand to have a two-story set of bookcases, requiring a ladder or staircase to reach the upper half of the shelves?

I'm sitting in my own library this morning as I write this post, and looking around me I realize that my own library is pretty nice too. My library hardly holds all of my books, far from it. I store my reference books for the SYW, AWI, Napoleonic era, some GNW books and my  collection of wargaming books ( Grant family, Featherstone, Peter Young, etc). My large ACW book collection is shelved in other areas of my house. All of my Ospreys and uniform reference books are in the wargame room in the basement.

Here are a few pictures of my library. I am sitting on the leather settee as I write:

The view from the entryway, looking to the right.

The view from the entryway, looking left.
The rolltop desk was given to me by my late father. It is one of a matching pair that he purchased in London, circa 1972.

My one regret is that I did not put a fireplace in the room. We rehabbed the entire house before we moved in back in 2004, and our architect told me that he could install a fireplace in the room, probably where the armchair and window are today. I'm kicking myself for not taking him up on the offer. The small television seems a bit out of place in this room.

The bookshelves are groaning from the weight of my books.
The white porcelain is  Lord Nelson, a gift from my wife. The John Bull statue is one of my favorite pieces. I bought it with the intent of turning it into a desk lamp, but I have never gotten around to doing that. On the shelf second from the bottom is my small collection of Frederick the Great statues and busts that I have acquired on my world travels.

One of the other bookshelves in the library. Note the collection of Napoleon figures on the second shelf. The collection has expanded greatly since this picture was taken about 5 years ago. The equestrian statue is Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveler, sculpted by Ron Tunstall. The grenadier mitre is a reproduction made by Military Heritage in Canada.

My library has a set of pocket doors that I can slide shut to keep out the noise or to have some privacy whilst I meditate and have great thoughts (or read another Christopher Duffy book).

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day Recap

Christmas Day at the dinner table

We don't really celebrate Boxing Day in the United States, but I seem to be seeing the name being used more and more here. These are mostly Boxing Day sales, but I have heard the term used on several radio stations today.

The Serene Princess and I had a day out together, having lunch together and doing a little bit of Christmas... err, Boxing Day shopping. I picked up some Woodlands Scenics trees at Michael's Stores while Lelia purchased some art supplies to donate to the daycare center where she does volunteer work.

Christmas Day was a big success; we had 15 guests for dinner. They were mostly family, but we also invited some friends who didn't have anywhere to go to for the holiday celebration. I didn't get any wargame related presents (do I really need anything when I have a basement full of inventory?), but I did get some interesting history books.

Post Christmas debris after all of the packages were opened. Don't worry, we cleaned up everything.

First and foremost is "Vicksburg. Grant's Campaign That Broke The Confederacy " by Donald Miller. I tucked into the book last evening and expect to finish it off in a couple of days. After that I will read David McCullogh's "The Pioneers."

Today the post man delivered a box with some resin Sand Warms from Acheson Designs, a gift that I bought for myself. Hmmm, what can I do,with these?

Transylvania Fortified Church

My internet browsing turned up this little article about the town of Viscri in Romania and this nifty looking Fort caught my eye. The building is actually a fortified church. I really like the architecture and look of this building.  The article is copied and pasted below:

The Transylvanian town of Viscri is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A preservation grouphas worked hard to bring Viscri into the tourism fold and provides plenty of opportunities for guests to get a taste of ancient rural life in Transylvania. There are plenty of traditional houses spread across the town, but the major draw is the centuries-old white fortified church. The oldest parts of the building date back to the 12th century. The additions placed over time are a testament to the historical power shifts that the town has witnessed.
The village has worked to bring back traditional activities, and the effort has been such a success that many local people have now made them a part of their daily life. Blacksmiths create horseshoes and nails, and they bake handmade bricks in an oven. Guests can feast on delicious fare sourced entirely from local ingredients. It's a town that wasn't so much stuck in time as one that intentionally chose to go back and recapture some of the most charming and authentic pieces of history.

A Great Looking Vauban Fortress


I was scrolling through my Blogger "reading list" of other blogs that I follow and I stumbled upon this awesome Vauban Fortress in a game that the Alde Gard wargame  club in Belgium presented at the Crisis 2019 show in November 2019.

The display portrayed the Siege of Maastricht in 1748 and used 15mm figures to good effect. The club members built a portion of the Vauban defense network at one end of the table, complete with the main city wall and the outer works: revelins, bastions, glacis etc. I am really impressed by the modeling shown in this game.

So click on the link to,the Alde Gard blog to see the full panoply of pictures.

Alde Gard Vauban Model

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas From der Alte Fritz

The official Christmas Tree of Hesse Seewald

Mrs. Fritz, Princess Lelia Jane and der Alte Fritz wish all of my blog readers a Merry Christmas with your family and friends and a happy and successful 2020.

While Christmas is the primary Christian religious holiday, I think that Christmas represents so much more than that. It is the spirit of giving and helping others, of being polite to others, and of being with close family and friends for the holiday season.

The other day Lelia Jane said to me, "Dad, you know what I like best about Christmas?"

" No" I replied.

"I like giving presents more than I do receiving them. I like to see people's expressions when they open their packages and gifts." she said.

I couldn't put it any better than that.

Merry Christmas everyone!

A few Napoleonic ornaments are tucked away in the branches.
Here is a Guard Polish Lancer.

An Old Guard Grenadier

A Golden Retriever to represent our dog, Tiberius (or just Ty)


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Boys of All Ages and Their Toys

H. G Wells and friends, circa 1910

Little boys will one day become grown men, but the love of toy soldiers will never leave them. I have enjoyed playing with toy soldiers for as long as I can remember.

I recall the excitement when the annual Sears Christmas Catalog arrived in the mail box. I would be the first to grab it and then I would quickly turn to the toy section of the catalog. There were usually lots and lots of Marx plastic toy soldier play sets such as the Alamo, Gettysburg, Western Stockade Fort with US Cavalry and Apache Warriors, etc. I wanted all of them, but hoped that one of them would find its way under our Christmas tree. More often than not, I was disappointed. They were too expensive for my parents to buy as presents. They would buy some of the smaller packs of Marx figures which were more economical.

One year my Grandmother gave me the most wonderful present that I could imagine, the Elastolin castle with little Saxons and Vikings figures. Prince Valiant was one of the Saxons. I played with this fort forever and a day and used it with all sizes of figures, from 20mm HO plastic figures, to the 25mm Elastolins, and on up to the 60mm Marx and Britain's figures. I wish that I had kept the castle and its figures. Who knows where they ended up?  A couple of years ago I was able to buy the exact same castle on eBay and I found some of the Elastolin 25mm figures. I wish that I could find the Elastolin seige tower and catapult.

Remember going to the toy store and marveling over all of the toy soldiers on display?

And of course once the teenage years and high school rolled around, the toy soldiers were put away on the top shelf of my bedroom closet and never seen again. My Mother, bless her, was probably the one who threw then all away or donated them to the annual church rummage sale. Of course, I wasn't that interested in my toy soldiers anymore, so I did not miss them.

Fast forward to about 1982, give or take a couple of years, and I was visiting London on a business trip. During some free time, I was walking up Oxford Street and found a curious little passageway that was actually a named street. I like a good adventure so I walked through the little passage and came upon Wigmore Street. Walking a block up the street, I happened across a store called Under Two Flags. It was a toy soldier shop that was filled to the brim with, what else, toy soldiers.

The window display had a square of Seaforth Highlanders fending off a Dervish charge. Toy soldiers and Highlanders will grab my attention any day, so I asked the proprietor, a gentleman named Jock Coutts, if the whole display was for sale. Why of course it was, so I bought the whole thing.

One of the advantages of being a grown up toy soldier fan is that you now have the disposible income to go on a lark and buy almost anything that you want (at least until you get married, but that's a story for another day). So now I was able to buy the toy soldiers that I couldn't dream of owning when I was a 8 to 10 year old boy.

Name that celebrity - why it's Peter Cushing!
One of the things that I still enjoy is to set up my toy soldier collection on a table and arrange a little diorama with the figures. The pictures below depict one that is currently set up on my game table.

Charge of the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman.

My toy soldier diorama - Egyptian troops await the Dervish charge.
A ferocious Dervish charge faces a counter-charge from the 21st Lancers.

A very nifty looking Nile River gunboat provides firepower support for the Egyptian army.

As you might imagine, I can be mezmerized for hours by my toy soldier diorama. I might be passing by the table, on the way to doing something else, and before I know what is happening, the little men call out to me to look at them. Now I am doomed, for once I start inspecting my troops, I can end up spending an hour just looking at them from every angle: left, right, aerial view, and best of all, getting down to my knees, at eye level to the table, where I can admire them. I am hopelessly captured in time now.

As the following pictures suggest, I am not the only one that has this problem. LOL!

Have you ever set up all of your toy soldiers on a table and then spent hours admiring them?
Me too.

The Don - Gettysburg with toy soldiers.

I can't identify this chap, but he is clearly enjoying his toy soldiers.
I am a grown-up now and a parent, but there is that little boy in me, who loves his toy soldiers, that will always be inside of me. He is never going to go away.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Top Twelve Best Songs of Christmas

Aw, who can resist Golden Retriever puppies.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Now that we have the "Worst" list out of the way, let us turn to something more joyful, the Top Twelve Christmas songs for 2019. Once again, our guest list maker this year is my daughter Lelia

1)    Silent Night

2)   O Holy Night

3)   Little Drummer Boy

4)   Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly

5)   Jingle Bells

6)   God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

7)   Hark the Harald Angels Sing

8)   Carol of the Bells (instrumental)

9)   The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...)

Lelia left off numbers 10 through 12, so I will add three of my favorites, although they might have been rated higher on my list.

10)  White Christmas (Bing Crosby)

11)   Sleigh Ride (instrumental by Mozart)

12)  Joy to the World

The Christms Mantle at Schloss Seewald

Honorable mention songs:

*   Santa Claus is Coming to Town

*   We Wish You A Merry Christmas

*   There Is No Place Like Home for the Holidays (Perry Como)

*   Baby It's Cold Outside (yes, I know #metoo and all that, but I still like the song)

*   Christmas Comes to Harlem (Louis Armstrong)

*   Good King Wenceslas

*   The Twelve Days of Christmas

*   Here We Come A-wassailing (Here We Come A-caroling )

I send all of my blog readers my best wishes for a Merry Christmas* and a Happy New Year

* or Season's Greetings if you prefer

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

They Say It's Your Birthday!

Their song says it all - thanks to The Beatles for the Birthday Song

Yep, 67 years ago Der Jung Fritz was born in Cleveland, Ohio. A week later, on Christmas Eve, my parents brought me home from the hospital and placed me in a wicker basket under the Christmas tree. In those days, mothers and their babies stayed in hospitals for several days after birth. Today it's In and Out in a day or less.

My late Mom, bless her, always used to say that December 18th is often the coldest day of the year. I'm not sure whether that was just an observation or if it was fact, or something else...

Indeed, tomorrow the temperature high will be around 20F degrees and then rebound into the 40s for the next ten days after that. That is a pretty good birthday present, warmer than average weather, if you ask me.

Birthday greetings from The Beatles?
Other December 18th birthdays of note:

Kieth Richard
Brad Pitt
Christina Aguilara
Steven Spielberg
Archduke Franz Ferdinand

and, ahem, uh, err, Joseph Stalin

In other news, my daughter Lelia was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right tibia and so she will be out of action for the 8 to 12 weeks that it takes to mend. The injury happened while she was at school - I won't say anymore than that. She will probably have to miss the Spring Semester of school and stay home to recover.

I am sure that somehow we will make lemonade out of lemons and hopefully set out on a good path to something else.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Twelve Worst Songs of Christmas

We are not amused.

It's that time of year again. Time to release der Alte Fritz's annual list of the twelve worst Christmas songs ever imaginable (at least to Fritz).

This year, we have a guest provider the dastardly dozen songs: my daughter Lelia Jane (better known as the world's reigning and undefeated champion of the Teddy Bear Wars).

The 2019 Guest List Judge

So without further ado, here is Lelia's list:

The Twelve Worst Christmas Songs - by Lelia Jane

1)  All I Want For Christmas Is You  - Mariah Carey

2)  Last Christmas (I Gave You My Love) - Wham!

3)  Dominick the Donkey

4)  I Want A Hippopotumus For Christmas

5)  Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt

6)  Have A Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives

7)  Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms

8)  Rocking Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee

9)  Santa Baby (again) - Taylor Swift

10) Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

11)  I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - The Jackson Five

12)  Blue Christmas - Elvis

Some analysis by der Alte Fritz:

Some of these songs are on the "Worst" list because they are played over and over and over and over again on the radio. Others are just plain bad. None of them are caroling songs. Most of you younger boys and girls who follow my blog probably have no idea of what Christmas carols are or what carolers are. The first are only played on Christmas Eve and the second disappeared during my childhood, back in the Dark Ages. People used to gather at someone's house and go door to door singing Christmas carols.

Listening to "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" 2000 times in one day will do this to you.

This year I have taken the sensible approach and refuse to play the 24-hour Christmas music station. As a result, I don't have to listen to the wailing of Mariah or the mind numbing lyrics of Have a Holly Jolly Christmas after hearing it for the two-thousandth time in one day.

You can compare Lelia Jane's list to my list from 2018:

Last Year's Dirty Dozen List

Der Alte Fritz and Family present the Dirty Dozen list of Christmas songs every year as a public service to our readers. Avoid listening to theses songs at all cost.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Litko Bases and a Dice Tower Too!

Litko dice tower

I ran out of my regular 2-inch square MDF bases that I use for my cavalry figures and my local FLGS did not have in stock. So what to do? I ordered what I needed from Litko Bases. For good measure, I also ordered a dice tower.

I could attach a house next to the tower and make a little vignette out of it.

My order arrived today, it only took about three days from order to deliver. Litko really does a good job on the delivery end of the business. Top notch customer service and great products make Litko hard to beat.

I want to paint and embellish the dice tower so that it looks like a building suitable for 18th Century warfare. I envision having four dice towers, one on each corner of my game table. The table rules would require that all dice be rolled in the dice tower or else the die roll does not count.

Searching for ideas on how to embellish the dice tower.
This one wouldn't work for obvious reasons.
Attaching a building to the other side of the tower might work
Not so good. It looks good but placing the add-on house next to the dice tray area
makes it hard to pick the dice out of the box.

Litko Figure Bases
I purchsed a 100-pack of 2-inch square bases to use for my cavalry units. I also needed some bases with a three inch frontage to use for small two stand cavalry units.

Two-inch square bases for my Russian Horse Grenadiers.

Three-inch frontage with a two-inch depth bases for my Gendarmerie de France cavalry.

Christmas Shopping at Target - For Terrain?
I went to the local Target Store today to buy some outdoor Christmas lights. Whilst there, I went rummaging through the Christmas ornaments section to see if I could find any potential wargame terrain items.

I found these galvanized steel towers, each with an American West style of wind mill. I won't need the windmills because these weren't used in Europe during the 18th Century. They would look nice in an 1800s farm or cowtown in the American West.

A pair of candleholders would make for a good town gate for a walled city.

The towers measure 5-inches from the base to the roof eaves, and 8-inches to the peak of the roof. The diameter of the can is 3.25 inches. The roof already has a tile pattern on it so I could just paint it without any embellishments. I don't think that I want to get too involved in geometry to try and tile the roof myself, but we shall see.

I will prime the metal black and either glue paper stone wall around the tower or slather it will Red Devil Pre-Mixed Spackle for wallboards, then paint a stucco color. I would imagine that the twin towers would be glued to a thin plywood base for starters. Then I can make a section of wall that attaches the two towers together at about the height of the second story of windows. The I could make a half round arch over the entrance.

Once the towers and gateway are made and based, then I could make sections of town walls that would abut the gateway section.