16 April 2017

A New National Plan for the Grand Duchy. . .

The Grand Duke's Easter guests listen with rapt attention.
The Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II holds forth, sharing his enthusiastic new plans to provide every gentleman in the Grand Duchy of Stollen with three new pairs of well-fitting, English-made dress shoes in black, brown, and oxblood.  Meanwhile, Hives considers the wisdom and practicalities of said plan from the sidelines.

-- Stokes

15 April 2017

An Easter Greeting from The Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

Still not a lot happening on the hobby front here at Stollen Central, but this vintage Easter greeting is simply too good not to share.  Happy Easter everyone!

-- Stokes

01 April 2017

An April 1st Reprise. . .

A lovely unit of Doug Mason French Napoleonics.

In bed AGAIN this fine weekend with some kind of nasty cold and fever for the second time in as many months, no doubt picked up from some undergraduate student somewhere, who has sneezed, coughed, or slimed in my general direction (grrrrrrrr. . .).  Still, we can't let April 1st go by without some sort of more light-hearted tomfoolery, can we?  So, here is a reprise of a post made originally back on April 1st, 2013 for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy!

-- Stokes 

Several months ago, I was contacted by the attorney of a distant cousin -- "Genevieve" -- from the state of North Carolina, several times removed and much older than myself, who passed away early last year.  To make a long story short, it seemed that she had been extremely impressed by and grateful for some translation and editing work I did for her in back in 2007.  Something she never forgot and mentioned often in conversations with friends and family if and when the subject came up.  It also seems that her assets were rather more than anyone in the family suspected. 

The long and the short of it is that the Grand Duchess and I have learned that we are now rather more well off that we ever expected to be as academics.  Even after taxes.  I won't belabor the point because, after all, talking about one's finances and how much you have is, let's remember, tasteless.  Suffice to say that we have been able to invest most of it, ensure the Young Master's future education and comfort with a trust fund, and donate some to worthy charities.  Even better, there has been some money left over to play with now. 

Which brings us to the real subject of this particular post. We've been lucky enough to find and purchase an apartment in a delightfully old section of Hamburg, Germany, where the Grand Duchess spent some of her student days, and we plan to spend most of our summers there.  Our close friend "Tante Anita," from Berlin, will reside there the rest of the year and look after things for us.  Better still, we are currently negotiating a final price on a wonderful old townhouse not far from the center of Bolzano, Italy, a place I have always wanted to live.  Finally, I'll be able to practice both German and Italian!  But the best part about this particular house, in my eyes, is the attic, which a recent owner finished fully, heat included.

And I've saved the absolute VERY best part for last, so stay with me just a bit longer.  My own attorneys have also been in contact with the folks at the Wargaming Holiday Centre in the U.K., who have agreed, after much begging and cajoling on my part, to sell off their entire stock of painted 25mm Napoleonics to yours truly.  It seems they want to start from scratch again given their fairly recent relocation in Southern England, and they have a new staff of painters already hard at work doing just that.  Anyway, these figures, some of which date back to the 1970s, will be used to populate the attic of an old, though well-maintained and featuring all the mod cons, yellow townhouse, which will feature a 6'x18' table fully stocked with scenic goodies.

 It should take a little while to arrange for the shipping of everything from Britain to Northern Italy, but I'll be onsite by late July this summer to set up the attic and the rest of the house before the Grand Duchess and Young Paul arrive at the start of September.  For those of you Grand Duchy of Stollen visitors who might feel like making the journey to Bolzano to spend a few days refighting key Napoleonic battles like Borodino, Leipzig, Austerlitz, or Waterloo (with good brandy and cigars afterwards), there is a standing invitation from mid-autumn onwards.  Just contact me offline, so we can set up dates.

 In the meantime, I hope I don't have too much trouble with the Tyrolean accent since most of my time in German-speaking Europe has been spent in the north of Germany.  It should be interesting though to see how the Italian and German cultures meet and mingle in Bolzano.  Oh, and by the way. . .  April Fools.

 -- Stokes

 And some Doug Mason Napoleonic Saxons for good measure.  Nope, I don't covet these at all.  No, Sir.

25 March 2017

A Blissfully Quiet Saturday. . .

A old Fred and Lillian Funcken illustration of various German auxiliary troops that fought in the American War of Independence.  Pay special attention to the two standard bearers at the rear, proudly displaying the colors of the Hessa-Hanau Erbprinz Regiment ca. 1776.

Far too quiet here at Stollen Central here during recent weeks.  The best way to put it is that "life" has simply stepped in between me and any attempts to get into the painting chair most evenings.  

Now, some might suggest, "Stokes, old bean, why in the world don't you paint as a way to wind down following a long day?"  And that is a wonderful suggestion, yes, but one that does not always work in practice for yours truly.  

While painting helps many to forget the cares and stresses of the day, I need a fairly clear mind to do so productively, and this particular semester has been brutal with not only teaching, meetings, and some research, but life at home has been, shall we say, busier than we would like too.  Physical and, more often, mental fatigue mean that most evenings the Grand Duchess and I simply collapse into bed where we watch an episode of New Tricks on dvd before one, or both of us conk out for the night.  Sigh.  All of this means that painting has simply ground to a halt since the start of February.


Still, that does not mean that hobby activities have not been happening behind the scenes.  First, a friend in Belgium recently sold me a bunch ( and I mean a bunch) of unused, unpainted Minden Prussians and Austrians secondhand, purchased back when Frank Hammond still held the reins of the company.  My friend who goes by the sobriquet 'Musketier,'  finally concluded that he would not have time to paint them since his interests have moved on during the intervening years.  Given the number of figures, a very reasonable price for the lot was agreed upon, and I now have more that I know what to do with.

That is not really the case, of course, and there are definite plans afoot about how to organize and paint the new drafts to the Grand Duchy of Stollen and Electorate of Zichenau armies.  I have sent the last couple of weeks, when a spare few minutes or two has become available, sorting through everything and placing the various figures into the compartments of small plastic parts boxes.  After finishing everything last night, and making a few notes, I see that I have enough figures for four additional 60-strong Charge-sized regiments of line infantry (three in Prussian uniforms and one in Austrian) and two 30-strong grenadier battalions (in Prussian uniforms).  This is in addition to all of that new cavalry and Minden Austrian infantry I treated myself too around the time I turned 50 last fall plus the Christmas 2016 gift from the Grand Duchess and Young Master. 

Needless to say, the pile of unpainted lead is now rather substantial, and, in good conscience,  I should curtail future purchases for a while. . .  Except in the case of some Minden Russians when those are released since I would like to paint a unit of these as Russian marines (see the illustration below).  A gaming friend, who lives outside of Chicago, once advised me to steer the course with the 18th century and avoid deviations into other periods, and if there were ever any questions in my mind about this sage advice, those have been swept away for good and all now.  I am well and truly entrenched in the era and will "do" the mid-18th century until they carry me out of Totleigh-in-the-Wold feet first.

The result is that things will be busy, busy, busy at the painting table over the next few/several years as I work through all of the related painting.  The carrot at the end of the stick, however, will be two rather sizable fictitious forces (not huge, but sizeable) based on -- Surprise, surprise! -- the Austrian and Prussian armies of the mid-18th century.  However, there will also be the usual fair amount of whimsy to keep things interesting.  I have already taken a few minutes to develop a painting progress chart in Word to help keep things on track and moving forward once some of the current concerns stabilize, things calm down, and normal hobby activities can resume once again.


Another Funcken illustration featuring another bunch of German auxiliaries, including a group of Anspach-Beyreuth troops in the foreground (I am particularly drawn to the grenadier sporting a bearskin cap) with standards in the middle distance.

Which brings me to the final point for today.  Long-time visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog might recall that my sartorial and vexillogical interests lean toward to the uniforms and flags of the Reichsarmee, fascinating due to its variegated appearance.  I am, moreover, captivated by the various German mercenary forces that augmented the British war effort in Colonial-era North America during the American Revolutionary War as we call it here in the United States.  

Some of those formations carried standards that deviated markedly from the typical Prussian or Austrian patterns back in Europe.  I have included a couple of old Funcken illustrations with today's post that feature a few of these for your perusal.   Maybe not strictly accurate, and I know some have questioned the accuracy of the old Funcken guides in the past, but once painted, some of the newly acquired figures that I blather on about above will eventually have these standards awarded to them.  Since my armies are semi-fictitious though, this sort of combining, mixing, and matching to produce a rather whimsical collection of units and flags is something I can easily live with.

A late 18th century Russian marine wearing a simple though very elegant uniform.

Ok, time to stop all of this useless shilly-shallying, get serious, and take care of some work that needs to be cleared off the desk and finish a crime thriller in time for class on Monday morning.  How many weeks until the end of the current semester again??!!

-- Stokes

25 February 2017

Apropos of Nothing. . .

The Grand Duchess is away at a conference, so last (Friday) night after the Young Master's bedtime, I settled into a freshly made-up bed with a navel orange, a glass of something cold (Fruit juice, relax!), and my trusty laptop to find something to watch on Amazon.  Finally settled on The Romantic English Woman (Dir. Joseph Losey, 1975), starring Michael Caine, Glenda Jackson, and Helmut Berger.  You know me.  Living life to the fullest out here on the bloody edge.  It'll be a barbed wire tattoo around an upper thigh next, with pierced naughty bits, and maybe even a case of Hepatitis before you know it.

Anyway, not the most riveting film, but basically Caine is a writer developing a film script about a bored housewife who travels from the U.K. to France or Germany and then has a brief affair while in a fancy, old continental hotel.  Strangely, the story mirrors much of what is going on with his wife in the film, played by Jackson.

I didn't make it through the entire film because it simply was not that interesting as much as I like the actors cast.  However, just before the halfway point, a young German gigolo (Berger, actually an Austrian), with whom Jackson almost had a tryst with while in Baden-Baden early during the movie, makes his way through Heathrow or Gatwick and stops at a news stand to pick up a newspaper (remember reading those?).  Displayed prominently above his head among the other magazines for sale were, very clearly, copies of Battle!  

At that point, I sat up and replayed the snippet just to be sure I had seen correctly.  Yep.  The much missed, often still talked about, long defunct magazine for wargamers that was absorbed into Military Modelling nearly 40 years ago in 1978 or '79.  I then turned off the computer, removed my glasses, turned out the bedside lamp, and fell fast to sleep.  A happy  and contented wargaming nerd. 

Otherwise, a largely free Saturday here today, so I hope to catch up on some painting and perhaps finish the first pair of replacement standard bearers and their flags.  Stay tuned!

-- Stokes

18 February 2017

Hurrah for Saturdays!

A parade of Carl Röchling paintings this weekend!  These are as interesting as the various Knoetel illustrations in my view.  First, one of Frederick II and von Ziethen meeting again as the Battle of Torgau ended.

At last, a free weekend for some hobby-related writing and painting after a truly brutal week full of meetings and an annual review on top of the usual teaching, paper grading, reading, movie watching, and preparation activities.  Whew!

Even better, there is another small load of unwanted Minden Prussian and Austrian infantry on the way from Belgium that I have decided to give a good home.  The pile of lead will shortly rival other stalwarts in the hobby, but it should give me everything I need to finish (yes, really) the final stages of the Grand Duchy of Stollen project during the next few years.  And then I will concentrate on playing more games with my toys as I drift ever closer to my dotage. 

The plan is to increase the size of my two semi-ficticious armies to six-eight units of line infantry each.  The two armies currently stand at four line infantry units for Stollen and three slightly larger for it's enemy The Electorate of Zichenau at the moment.  I also plan to augment the respective and related cavalry forces, but for the mid-18th century, which I have discussed in previous recent posts, but there is already enough artillery and light infantry painted, thank you very much, so no additions here though I do have a single company of 15 unpainted Minden and RSM95 Croats that will eventually enter the fray simply because the potential uniforms are so, well, pretty.

All of this is just a round about way of explaining and rationalizing the increase in 30mm military spending and related build-up of forces the last few months.  Hey, when am I ever going to turn 50 again?  Of course, I place all of the blame squarely at the feet of my partner in crime Greg, who, I believe, pursued a similar course when he rounded that particular milestone.  No, this latest bout of self-indulgence is not my fault!

Returning to the matter at hand, forces slightly larger than what I have so far built up, and as I have mentioned here previously here at the GD of S blog, will enable me to fight many more of the various scenarios presented by C.S. Grant in his wargame scenario books that came out during the early 1980s.  And, of course, more of his table top teasers will also be possible with slightly larger forces.

Anyway, once these additional figures units have been organized into their respective units,  painted, and based, anything after that will be icing on the cake.  In the longer term, I have a mind to add a field bakery to the collection since Black Hussar of Germany now offer several sets of bakers and associated helpers/equipment to that end.  Can butchers and candlestick-makers be far off I wonder?  A small camp with tents, stacked arms, some crates, and barrels sprinkled here and there might also be interesting to enliven  corner of the table at some point too.  That would give my Naughty Lola and other camp follower vignettes painted during the last several years a handy place to set up shop.  What a wonderful hobby this isHappy Saturday one and all!

-- Stokes

Sunday Morning. . . 

A delightfully quiet and unseasonably warm Saturday here yesterday.  I spent the afternoon writing up a short post-playtest of some short horse and musket rules I have written (ok, plagiarized from various sources really) for the upcoming Wargamer's Notes Quarterly #2 and bounced them to Greg on the other side of the world in Australia.  By late afternoon, it was time to join the Grand Duchess and Young Master for a walk around the neighborhood.  

After the latter's bedtime (the Grand Duchess had an evening event back on our university campus), I returned here to Zum Stollenkeller, where I cut 55mm lengths of brass rod for ten flagpoles and cemented Front Rank finials and cords to them using Loctite superglue gel.  The Minden standard bearers are at the stage, barring a few final small details, where I can turn my attention now to the flags themselves, possibly managing to complete four to six during the next couple of weeks time permitting.  

Painting the flagpoles and final-cord combinations should be a fairly quick exercise.  In the interest of time and sanity, though, I'll refrain from attempting any drinking straw red, black, and gold or red and white striped spirals up the poles.  To paraphrase a line in Charge! Or How to Play Wargames by Brigadier Young and Colonel Lawford (and still my primary wargaming touchstone), that is a road that leads to madness!

Finally, I notice that the GD of S blog has picked up two or three new followers, so "Welcome!"  I hope things here are/remain to your wargaming interests and likings.  Glad to have you along for the ride.

-- Stokes 

One of my favorite Carl Röchling illustrations, a parade of captured Austrian standards following the Battle of Hohenfriedberg.  This particular picture also provides more than a small hint about some of the forthcoming flags in the coming weeks.

Here's another Röchling painting of Frederick II at work in his study kept company by his dogs.

Finally, here is a fourth painting, one I have never come across before, and also by Carl Röchling, I believe, of ol' Fred and some Potsdam schoolboys cavorting around him.

05 February 2017

It failed to have the desired effect. . .

A bunch of 12-sided dice, much like the two bags of 25 each that arrived from Amazon earlier today.

Here's an item for wargamers, role-playing gamers, and, indeed, gamers of all stripes who have experience with multi-sided dice.  Who knows?  One day, anthropologists might just study the rituals and courtship practices of gamers, much like Jane Goodall's and Diane Fossey's work with the Chimpanzees and Gorillas of Central Africa.  There's got to be a dissertation or monograph in it at the very least.

A package containing two bags of 25 twelve-sided dice each (for a total of 50 dice) was left on our front porch earlier today.  I ordered these on Friday to use as a way of quickly generating random discussion groups among the students in some of my larger courses.  Upon opening the box and confirming that the contents consisted of the expected items, I felt compelled to perform a spontaneous version of the Polyhedral Dice Erotic Courtship Dance right there in the kitchen for the Grand Duchess.  

Sadly, my dance did not exactly have the effect on her I hoped for.  Rather the opposite.  Instead of leaping into my arms, she laughed for a solid two minutes and, once she caught her breath, told me to go back downstairs.  Sigh.  Something tells me that I might have better luck with Sparrows, Robins, or Grackles next spring.

-- Stokes

 The 50 twelve-sided dice are intended to help me randomly break my classes of 48-50 students up into discussion groups of three-five students quickly and easily.  We've done the favorite colors, month of birth, favorite fruit, etc. already, and random group generation is a way to shake things up a bit and prevent cliques that invariably drift off task from forming.  It was suggested by a visiting pedagogy expert who gave a very interesting talk here about a year ago.

04 February 2017

A Shameless Plug. . .

A musketeer of the Blau Wurzburg Infantry.  I'll be painting up conjectural flags to go with a regiment of 80 figures already in the GD of S collection, who sport a strikingly similar uniform.

Just a quick post to plug Fife & Drum Miniatures for those of you who are not yet converts to this particular range of figures.  Easily some of the nicest, most cleanly molded and best proportioned mid-18th century models on the market.  

A rather large order of Minden Austrian infantry and some Russian cannon with crew arrived today, part of a (late) 50th birthday present to myself.  Everything was packaged (taped into bubble wrap and with foam peanuts surrounding everything), labelled very carefully by proprietor Jim "Der Alte Fritz" Purky, and it arrived safely just a couple of days after the order was filled and sent.  Now all I need is the time to paint them.  

In any case, these are the miniatures you want for the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War in my view.  If the mid-late 18th century is your thing, you cannot go wrong with these particular figuresAnd of course they work well with those by RSM95, Crann Tara, Eureka, and the Fife & Drum American War of Independence range too.

On another note entirely, the three of us managed to get out on skis or a while early this afternoon.  It was a perfect day for it here in Mid-Michigan with cold temperatures, powdery snow, and almost no one else around save for one woman who passed by us twice, said hello, and skied on her way.  Just quiet woods, an occasional breeze in the trees, and stillness all around.  One of my most favorite things to do.  

The Young Master is coming along nicely too.  Not exactly fast yet, but he has the diagonal stride of classic Nordic skiing down, can glide forward, climb hills, and schuss down the other side without falling.  Not bad for only two previous winters on skis.  Not bad at all. 

-- Stokes

The Grand Duchess and Young Master on skis earlier this afternoon.

29 January 2017

Saturday Evening Painting. . .

Grenadiers of the Kreisinfanterieregiment Fürstenberg, who look remarkably like some old grumblers I painted way back in 2007!

The first pair of replacement Minden standard bearers for my line infantry regiments is almost finished.  Just sword scabbards, hilts, and neckstocks to do and then Bob is your mother's brother as the saying goes.  Once that is done, it will be time to work on the two flags and cords.  The poles will be made from brass rod, the cords come from Front Rank, I thinkI bought, in any case, two packs of these back in 2014 specifically for the planned reflagging.  Funny how it always seems to take a couple of years for plans to reach the actual doing stage!  If only I had two or three more pairs of arms.  The Human Centipede Goes Wargaming.  Now there's a horror film for you!

Anyway, for the flags themselves, I will try something a bit different this time.  My usual modus operandi for many years now has been to print out a flag on plain old white copy paper, cut it out, carefully attach it to the pole with thinned white glue, shape it a bit, and then paint carefully over the designs with acrylic paint to make things sturdier and more permanent as well as to impart my own painting style (really??!!) and help everything blend together more effectively.  Computer printer inks fade with time, and, frankly, commercially produced flags look too perfect in my view.

Last year about this time, I painted a couple of conjectural flags for a regiment of Ernestine Saxon infantry, and followed the same procedure but with a slightly smaller piece of aluminum foil between the two paper halves.  This helps the flag to keep its shape without flexing into something less inspiring once the white glue dries.  I was pleasantly surprised with the results.  Something approaching what looks like two silk flags whipping around in the breeze as they are carried into battle at the head of their regiment.  Of course, the addition of gold cords and tassels certainly helps.

A reprise of the aforementioned Ernestine Sachsen regiment (with Kurmainz Grenadiers attached) from last spring just after they were finally attached to Litko bases after all painting and glossing was completed.  The flags turned out reasonably well all things considered.

This time around, I have got hold of a tablet of Chinese-made rice or calligraphy paper, which, since it does not have sizing in it, should be much easier to shape in a realistic way after painting.  At least in theory.  This type of paper is also highly absorbent, so my source of information on all this suggests using acrylic hobby paints at full value rather than in diluted form.   

And where, pray tell, did I learn about all of this?  Well, the internet is a wonderful thing, or it can be if you don't mind wading through all of the garbage.  I came across an interesting video on this way to create more realistic wargame flags two or three years ago on YouTube.  Here is the link for those who might be interested.  As my artist/photographer/sculptor mother says at 72, "You can find out about and learn how to do anything on YouTube!"  Kids, don't try this at home.
It is worth noting that there are still a few people around who create their flags totally by hand, from start to finish, sketching the design by pencil first and then painting in the various details to produce stunning examples of our craft.  And how I wish my own hand and artistic abilities were up to the same level of raw talent and skill.  Sadly that's not the case.  My own method seems like a reasonable compromise between the two however.  

The various retail stick-on flags, while I can see their usefulness, and while they might make things easier, have never appealed to me though.  I've always had a soft spot for the look of the various hand-painted flags that adorned Peter Gilder's 25mm troops all those years ago in the many photographs of his collections that graced early issues of Miniature Wargames and later Wargames Illustrated.  Times and tastes change, true, but it's funny how certain things -- a particular wargaming aesthetic in this case for example -- stay with you for decades.   

There is also the issue of the white edges, unless you manage to get the stick-on flags just so, that too many wargamers never attempt to disguise, which kind of spoils the intended effect.  This is a particular pet peeve of mine when it comes to otherwise nicely painted figures.  But, of course, that's just me before anyone decides to leave a strident, expletive-laden comment to the contrary. 

Oh, and the flags themselves that are replacing the original single flag carried by a lone MiniFig ensign in my regiment?  Given my interest in the Reichsarmee of the SYW-era or thereabouts, and since the facing color of the existing regiment (consisting mostly of Revell 1/72 Austrian grenadiers painted during Spring and Summer 2007) is close enough if you squint in poor light, I've decided to use the standards carried by the Kreisinfanterieregiment FürstenbergCross your fingers, hold your breath, and be sure to drop by in a few days to see how things have proceeded with all of this.

-- Stokes

The colonel's and regimental standards of the Kreisinfanterieregiment Fürstenberg.  All three images have been 'borrowed' (yes, I know, I know. . .) from the Kronoskaf Project Seven Years War website.


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