Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Biography of Albrecht Mordicus

Biography of Albrecht Mordicus, Austrian naval officer, later Herzog of Lagerburg-Slobbovia;

-1710 Born Trieste, to maritime family
-1725 Joined Austrian navy as Mittschiffsman
-1731 Stood for and promoted to Leutnant zur See
-1737 Posted Kapitän-zur-See, assumed command of Nova, frigate (24)
-1737-39 Engaged in raids on shipping in the Adriatic
-1739 Nova transferred to Danube Flotilla
-1739-47 Commanded Nova plus 4 galleys
-1747 Assigned to command Imperial yacht
-1753 Titled 1st Duke of Lagerburg
-1755 Defeated, then annexed Principality of Slobbovia
-1757 Present day

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Map of Lagerburg

The Ducal cartographers have just completed the first official survey of the Duchy. Here then are the results, the official Map of Lagerburg:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Raid on Gublatz- Epilogue

In the Ducal manor, Herzog Albrecht was re-reading dispatches from the garrison commander of Gublatz when his servant, Helmut, discreetly knocked on the doorframe. “Milord, General von Grunt has just arrived.”
“Very well,” replied Albrecht. “See that he receives refreshment. And Helmut, see that his coat gets a good brushing-off before he comes in.”
“Yes, Milord.”
Moments later, von Grunt stumped into the room, stein in hand, a valet trailing him vainly waving a clothes brush. The Graf sat heavily into the chair opposite the Herzog, staring at the floor.
Albrecht regarded him carefully for a few seconds, then waved a hand to the servants. “Leave us. And Helmut, close the door.”
As the servant’s footsteps echoed off down the hallway, Albrecht said softly, “I imagine that you think I’ve taken leave of my senses.”
After a few moments, von Grunt looked up. “I don’t understand this whole business. You placed a magazine and a depot in a border town with an under-strength garrison, and don’t give me enough reinforcements to hold them off, even though we have more than enough troops to do the job. That just invited them to come and make off with everything. We lost enough guns for the Slobbs to form four batteries of field artillery and enough rations to keep them on campaign for weeks. And you don’t seem particularly disturbed by the results.”
“Perhaps this will make you reconsider…” said Albrecht, sliding the stack of reports across the table. “Take a look through these.”
The general glared at the stack of papers, frowning. He placed the stein next to the papers and began to read, looking more confused as he flipped through the pages. “This is making less and less sense. The gun barrels were shot-out or poorly cast? Wet grain in the wagons? What is all this?” After a few moments, he started as if struck, then his face brightened. Von Grunt looked up sharply at the Herzog, who was smiling faintly at the general’s sudden understanding. “Why, you old sea-dog, it was a gambit! So they got nothing they could actually use…amazing!” He chuckled.
Albrecht sat back, a satisfied smile on his face. “That’s correct, my dear August. We have just been officially provoked into war. Now, when we annex Slobbovia not even Her Majesty in Vienna will bat an eye.”
“And the silver and iron mines…very nice.” The Graf nodded, impressed. Then he frowned. “But our losses. You could have told me, and I could have withdrawn with fewer casualties.”
“True, but we had to make it look convincing. Forgive me, my friend, but you had to give your best to defend the town. Besides, there’s another reason.” Albrecht lowered his voice. “As the old saying goes, ‘Too many ears tie a rat’s tongue.’ There are agents of the Prince here.”
“In the capital? How did you find out?”
“The RFJK is not only for police work and reconnaissance. There is of course “I” troop, made up of my most trusted men. It operates in secret and reports directly to me. I wanted to see if news of the depot would reach Prince Sergei; then I would know for certain that I had one of his agents here. The timing of the attack validated my guess that he was receiving reports from here in the capital, as well as confirming who was passing the information. As we speak, those agents are being rounded up and will vanish without a trace this night.”
Von Grunt shook his head. “Very surprising you are, milord. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Sergei’s palace right about now.”
“As would I, August. As would I…”

“They’re WHAT!?” shouted Prince Sergei. “Unbelievable! Not even one gun usable? And ALL of the grain is spoiled? Impossible!”
Yerboudi shook his head slowly in admiration. “He out-foxed us completely. It seems that I badly underestimated this sailor Herzog, him and his intelligence people. He must have discovered our agents and fed them false information.”
“I’ll have their heads, the lot of them! Recall them immediately!”
“Right away, sire, but I doubt if any of them will survive to return. That’s how I would handle them.” mused the Sheik.
“Eh? You seem to admire this Herzog of yours a bit much, Ali. Are you sure of where your loyalties are?”
“Sergei, please. You should know better than that. I simply grant credit where it is due. The man outmaneuvered us completely, and I can admit that. Unfortunately, we just started a war we cannot help but eventually lose. We’re in the soup now, and it’s just a matter of how long can we hold out against his forces.”
“Perhaps we can wear him out by attrition.”
“Sire, that is unlikely. However, perhaps we can salvage the situation for ourselves. We can drag out the fight enough to inconvenience him, so that when we do sit down at the surrender table we can negotiate some favorable terms for you and me. Remember our ancestors’ arrangements.”
“True, it did suit both our families well enough. But how long can you stave him off?”
“A few weeks should be convincing enough. Just so it is obvious to all concerned that you didn’t just knuckle under without a fight.”

Monday, June 11, 2007

Raid on Gublatz

The town of Gublatz is situated on the west bank of the Pisswassere, at the highest point of navigability. The river is bridged there, and the town has a small waterfront, suitable for transfer of cargoes from medium-sized vessels. The location of the town makes it a transshipment point for goods from points upriver and inland. An overhead view of the surrounding area, with South at the top, is shown here:

The town was home to a supply depot, a magazine and an artillery park. There was a garrison of a sapper battalion, a battery of field guns, and the workers required to manage the facilities, all known beforehand to the Slobbovian general. Additionally, surprising to the Legion commander, the 12-pounder sloop "Herzogen Lynnette" (20) was anchored just below the bridge in mid-stream (one broadside was equivalent to a field battery), and had embarked a battalion of Marines (light infantry). The regiment of the Lagerburg Mounted Police (RFJK), accompanied by the Graf von Grunt, had recently arrived to reinforce the garrison. Enroute to the town was a regiment of kurassiers, but it is uncertain when they would arrive (von Grunt knew, of course, but he wasn’t telling).

A Slobbovian raiding force approached the town from two directions. The Legion, commanded by Count Philipe, and comprising a regiment of grenadiers, two battalions of grenzers (light infantry), a regiment of uhlans and a troop of rocket artillery (functioning as howitzers), came from the northeast.

Don Matteo led his Spanish mercenary brigade of two line regiments and a battery of field guns from the southeast.

The marines occupied a walled farm in the forward center of the position, with half occupying the house; the balance manned the walls. The light horse took position astride the northeast road near the farm.

The sappers sortied across the bridge and formed line at the foot of the eastern approach. The field battery remained in works just south of the bridge, protected by fascines and from direct assault by the river itself. The sloop remained at anchor, its guns covering the southeast approach and the eastern end of the bridge.
The first contact was between the uhlans and the RFJK just north of the farm. As the uhlans charged to contact, the marines in the house loosed a ragged volley into the flank of the lancers that caused a few casualties. Upon impact, the melee was fierce and bloody, but the constables gave as good as they got.
When the forces disengaged, both units were disordered sufficiently to require a long rally. While the uhlans fell-in near the scene, the constables withdrew to the foot of the bridge.
One of the grenzer battalions rushed the farmhouse; after enduring a volley from the marines, they broke down the door and forced the windows. A ferocious melee ensued inside. Although the marines exacted a heavy toll on the grenzers, they were nearly done in to a man, and a paltry few escaped to rejoin the rest of the battalion in the enclosure.
Meanwhile, the rest of the battalion peppered the advancing Spaniards with musket fire. Even though behind a stone wall, a full volley from the Corona regiment felled several marines, their morale was badly shaken, and they were forced to withdraw in some disorder past the engineer battalion and across the bridge, followed closely by the advancing enemy regiments.
As both columns of foot approached the bridge, each came under artillery fire. The Northeast column had to pass the canister-loaded guns of the "Herzogen Lynnette". The sloop’s captain had to shake his head with regret as he ordered broadside after broadside to sweep the leading grenzer battalion. That unit faltered, then broke under the relentless hail of canister from mid-river. Their losses masked the following grenadiers, who approached the bridge and the waiting sappers unscathed.
The Spaniards fared better at the hands of the field battery behind the redoubt. First roundshot, then canister as well, fell amongst the advancing Dons, but very few fell. As the Coronas moved slowly forward, there began a long-range musketry duel with the engineers. Despite the artillery supporting from across the river, the disparity in numbers of muskets quickly whittled away the engineers, and shortly they too were forced to retire back across the Pisswassere.
While the main fighting was going on, on a hilltop in the rear Major Wan was in his glory. His claims for his new-fangled weapons were proved true with a vengeance! Rocket after rocket arced into the enemy ranks with unerring precision and, to von Grunt, disconcerting effect. "If only the Emperor could see this!" Wan chuckled. "There’s a lot more that Shi-Tsu’s getting blasted now," as a rocket went off in the ranks of the remaining constables, scattering man and horse. Under the bombardment, the mounted police broke and joined the exodus to the west bank.
By this time, the Carlsberg Kurassiers arrived along the road from Felsenfall to stabilize the situation. Von Grunt ordered them to form up to charge the grenadiers, who by now were beginning to march across the bridge in their immaculate column. The left-hand field gun of the entrenched battery was wheeled to catch the advancing grenadiers in flank, the Herzogen Lynnette’s gun crews now had a clear field of fire, and it seemed that "the trap was sprung" on Philipe’s hapless guardsmen.
As von Grunt gave the word for the Kurassiers to "Angriff!", the field gun fizzled and popped and the canister tumbled unbroken from the muzzle! A faulty charge, and the gun was quiet as the frantic gunners worked desperately to reload. For her part, the sloop’s guns did good execution on the rear ranks of the grenadiers; handfuls fell from the blast.
In the front, however, the grenadiers had little time to discharge even a few muskets before the kurassiers rode them down, forcing the survivors back upon the following ranks. As the horsemen paused to regroup for another charge, one of "those damned rockets!" whooshed into the rallying cavalry, killing the standard bearer, the cornet and several troopers, driving even them back from the bridgehead.
Over on the southern flank, the XXth Spanish Regiment and their supporting field battery had come into action, engaging the right-hand entrenched gun. By that time, further defense of the position was impossible, and von Grunt had no choice but to call for a general withdrawl from the town, covered by the Kurassiers. The sloop’s captain "slipped his cable", the crew manned the sweeps and she sedately moved downriver. After the kurassiers finally withdrew, the jubilant Slobbovians swept into the town to reap the spoils of victory.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chapter 7- Prelude to War

The border town of Gublatz lies on the east bank of the Pisswassere at the fall line, the most southerly navigable point. The town serves as a main trans-shipment point in the area for goods in- and out-bound along the river. This area of Lagerburg has been long in dispute with the Prince of Slobbovia.
Before and after the SofanOttoman occupation, the area was clearly in Slobbovian territory. After the anschluss, or annexation of the Lagerburg region by the Holy Roman Empire, part of the border of Lagerburg was established along the west bank of the Pisswassere River to include that area formerly within Slobbovia, to include Gublatz.
This “paper invasion” sorely incensed the Prince, and he spent many a long night planning in vain to retake Gublatz. With his limited military resources, the possibility seemed remote.
Seemingly to add insult to injury, the Herzog recently established a sizable supply and artillery depot in the town. The town was not heavily guarded. The building military presence was predicted by many as a prelude to an attack upon the Principality.
“Who does he think he is fooling, with all that equipment and stores in Gublatz?” shouted Prince Sergei. “What nerve! What arrogance! Not even a decent garrison. He thinks I’ll just sit here and let him waltz in and take over?”
“Sire, there is an alternative” replied Sheik Yerboudi, the Prince’s chief advisor. “You could strike now, while the town is unready. Think of it; you could take the guns and the stores, and return here with them. It would set Albrecht back for months, perhaps more, if he is preparing to attack. And it would give Major Wan guns to train more gunners. We would triple or more our artillery arm. The advantages are obvious.”
The Prince leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin on his hands. “I’m not sure we are strong enough now to start a war with that son of a gondolier. We have only our uhlans, a regiment of grenadiers and two grenzer battalions. And of course Wan’s rockets. Not much of an army to start a war with.”
Yerboudi smiled craftily. “Sire, as you recall, the mines have been a constant source of considerable, not to say obscene, profits for both you and I. We have been able to afford to augment our army with hired foreigners for a long time now, but until now have not had the need to do so. Anticipating such an eventuality, I took the liberty of contacting some business acquaintances in Seville. I have secured the services of some troops, a total of a brigade and a battery of field guns. They have arrived in Trieste just yesterday, and are on the march here as we speak. I can have them alter their route of march to arrive at Gublatz at the same time as our force does.”
Sergei sat up with a start. “You did what? How long have YOU know about all this Gublatz business? So, are you intending to have me done in and take over again? I should have known you planned to eliminate me!”
“Calm yourself, Sergei. Our business arrangement is quite secure, I assure you. The last thing I need is to give the Sultan an excuse to send his assassins after me. I am only thinking ahead to our own futures here. I have had spies in the town for a fortnight already, and one in certain circles in Lagerburg for nearly a year. That is how I knew to hire the Spanish troops and have them sent here.”
The prince looked visibly relieved. “All right, all right. You had me going there for a moment. So, you seem to have thought this all out already. Why not just take the town and fortify it? That would show that upstart that we mean business.”
“Not necessarily. If we take the town, then we have to use some of our own men to entrench there, and we do not as yet have trained sappers to do it. Also, it may force his hand to declare an all-out war, one that we cannot yet win even with the mercenaries. We need to leave him the town, at least for now. It will give us breathing space to form batteries using the captured guns. That will also give him pause, thinking that we can use the artillery against him.”
“All right, I’ll issue the orders to put our troops on the march. Will you be leading the attack?”
Yerboudi smiled. “I will not actually be on the field, but you can be sure I will not be far from it. I leave immediately.”

Regiments Receive New Colors!

Felsenfall- Yesterday, in a ceremony complete with cannons firing, troops passing in review, speeches and festivities, the Herzog bestowed new regimental colors to most of the troops assigned to the Duchy. Reporters are working feverishly to complete drawings to show the ardent reader what the new flags looked like during the passing-in review. Because immigrants from other regions had established breweries in the region before the anschluss, some company colors had reflected their old national origins. According to comments by His Excellency, the new flags reflect more closely the close ties with Vienna and the Empire.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Good Day,
And now, by popular demand, a Pass-in-Review of the Lagerburg army. This new selection of photos reflects the assignment of Austrian-styled colours. The General Staff, led by the Duke and Duchess:

The Guards Brigade: Crown Royal Grenadiers and Lowenbrau Grenadiers:

The "German" brigade: the regiments of Heineken and von Busch:

The "Imperial" brigade: IR Borsodi and IR Edelweiss:

The "Irish" brigade: Col. Killian's Irish Red-coats, and Col. Guiness' Stout-hearts:

The Light Brigade: Garde Jager and the Jagermeister Jagers:

Col. Stroh's Sapper Rgt:

Major Pusser's Marine Battalion:

The cavalry- Three Brigades, plus the Mounted Police...

The Heavy Brigade: Carlsberg Kurassiers and the Grolsch Horse Grenadiers:

The Medium Brigade: Anheuser Dragoons and St. Pauli Dragoons:

The Light Brigade: Reitendes FeldJagerKorps (RFJK) and Schwartz Label Hussars:

The Slobbovian Legion, made up of horse, foot and rockets/guns-

The Infantry: the Bibermilch Grenadiers, Hurlbut Battalion and Grenzer Battalion:

The Cavalry: Smirnoff Bosniak lancers, and Topvar Hussar Regiment:

And finally, the Massed Batteries:

Monday, June 4, 2007

Lagerburg's Mounted Police given their Colours!


His Excellency Albrecht, Duke of Lagerburg has today in the capital of Felsenfall presented the Colours to the Duke's Reitende FeldJagerKorps Regiment. The ceremony was coincident with the graduation of the first class from the RFJK Academy in the capital city. The Duke personally presented each Trooper, NCO and Magistrate their commissions, then each was given his assignment and sent to his post. The presence of these highly trained enforcers and administrators of the law will ensure a safe and peaceful atmosphere in the towns, cities, and the countryside. They will also provide a more secure border, reducing the incursions of rading parties from across the eastern Grenz. The regiment should not be required to assemble again except for ceremonies, or if an emergency or war should arise. The attached artist's sketch is of the Regiment as they passed-in-review during the ceremony.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Lagerburg Mounted Police (Reitendes FeldJagerKorps)

The roots of military police in the Lagerburg Army can be traced back to the Reitendes Feldjagerkorps (RFJK) of Friedrich II. Upon accession to the newly-created Duchy, Albrecht borrowed from the Prussian model to create his own police and security force. In contrast to the Prussian regiment, however, the Lagerburg RFJK was trained and employed for civil law enforcement duties as well.
The Duke made use of the most recent advances in the sciences and law in order to create a model organization. He established an academy in Felsenfall for the training of recruits; basic literacy, physical fitness and prior education were prerequisites for admission. As indicated by the nature of training, a heavy emphasis was placed on law enforcement and criminal justice. Subjects taught in the RFJK academy were:
Criminal police methods
Correspondence training
General & special police powers
Criminal, forestry, fishery, industrial and waterway codes
Passport and identification duties
Folk culture
Wound treatment
Weapons drill & marksmanship
Scouting & reporting duties
Self-defense techniques
(It may be noted that much of the training would eventually be brought together to create an Olympic sporting event, the Pentathlon.) The rank structure reflected the mainly police duties of the organization. The commander of the force held dual titles of Chief Magistrate and Colonel, each used when appropriate. In peacetime the duties of the Reitendes FeldJagerKorps (RFJK) were to enforce and administer civil law; during general emergencies troopers were tasked to conduct reconnaissance, control military traffic, carry important messages, and protect members of the ducal family.
As members of the RFJK rose through the ranks, their roles and assignments likewise changed. In peacetime, rank and file troopers were employed as police officers or constables assigned to towns and cities in the Duchy, and officers held positions as circuit judges. When the Duchy went to war, the RFJK would muster at Felsenfall to be organized as the senior regiment of light cavalry. Later a battalion of Feldjagerkorps zu Fuss, was raised to supplement the RFJK.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why I use Plastic Figures...

"My name is Allen and I am a gamer of plastics..." there, I've said it! Yes, I'm one of the heathens out there. My entire SYW collection is in various plastics. The great Lagerburg and Slobbovian Army is composed of 9 line BN's, 3 grenadier BN's, 4 light BN's, one sapper platoon; 2 Dragoon RGT's, one of Horse Grenadiers one of Kurassiers, two of Hussars, one of Light Dragoons, and one of Uhlans; and eight field batteries, with two extra 24-pound siege guns and two howitzers in the artillery park. To accomplish this, I decided to utilize as many figues per box as possible, so I sat down and did some figuring. The numbers for, say, Revell Prussian infantry crunched out like this. In each box, then costing about $7.50 USD, you get:

loading, 8
marching, 5
st. firing, 8
kneeling, 8
grenadiers @ charge bayonets, 5
gren's @ run, back leg raised, 4
gren's @ run, front leg raised, 4
LT, 1
SGT, 2
Ensign, 1
drummer, 1
CO on horse, 1

Thus, if I wanted 48-figure line/grenadier battalions and 24-figure light/militia/engineer BN's, I would usually need six boxes of Revell figures. So, with 6 boxes, I got:
3 line BN's (firing, kneeling, loading),
1 grenadier BN (combining the running ones),
1 fusilier/Jager BN (the grenadiers at Chg. bayonets) and
a Light/Militia/Engineer BN (the marching hatmen).
I would allot one LT, two SGT's, one ENS, a drummer and a COL to each unit:

Average cost, about $7.50 USD per unit. Cavalry was a bit more, requiring two boxes per RGT of 24 sabres, plus officers. Average cost, about $15/unit. Artillery, depending on whose I used, was about a box per battery. I relaxed my authenticy needs a bit with regards to cavalry and artillery, as I am going the "fictitional nation-state" route in my gaming. This opens up the availability of using Napoleonic hussars (some SYW units had busbies anyway, true?), Italeri AWI light dragoons, some perhaps with RHA-supplied Tarletons, and a smattering of others, all this in keeping with my personal requirement for frugality. Now admittedly it was true that I was buying Revell Prussians when they were still pretty easy to get. Now only the Austrian infantry are priced reasonably at Tower Hobbies, at about $7.50 USD/box. To obtain specific SYW heavy cav, I resorted to "Frankenstein-ing" other figures, like SYW dragoons with head swaps (left-over grenadiers) to make Horse Grenadiers:

or Zvezda Napoleonic Saxon cuirassiers, with the heads previously removed from the Revell SYW dragoons:

I even modified unused dragoons, firing carbines from the saddle, to make extra staff officers (see my photo of the horse grenadiers, the CO is thus converted).The artillery is a mix of Revell Austrian artillerymen, ESCI AWI British infantrymen, and a few Napoleonic RHA (the Brigadier did that too once, as I recall from a certain book). All in all, I have kept the overall costs down to within reason.

Building an Army

Oddly enough, this army has been under construction for a long time; nearly 30 years since I first put brush to plastic.
I started out in the late 60's (I know I'm dating myself here) as a lad playing along with a neighbor with early Airfix WW2 figures and Matchbox vehicles. I received for one Christmas an Aurora "Rat Patrol" set that yielded a Pz IV, a Panther and (of course) two Jeeps with .50 cal MG's. These gave many happy hours in the sandlot next door, sculpting fortifications, terrain features and the like.
At that time the War Memorial Museum in nearby Newport News sold ROCO Tiger I's, Shermans, PZ IV's and T-34/76's for 99c apiece (ah, those were the days!). Also, Airfix figures were a dollar a box. One could truly amass an army on the cheap. Eventually an epiphany came, an idea of putting my FFL troops in two-rank formations outside of their desert fort to "volley" at the onrushing Arabs on their horses and camels on the coffee table; hence, a habit is born! Up to that point I hadn't though of actually painting them, though.
A serious setback happened in my teens when my mom threw out by mistake a large shoebox filled to capacity with all of my collection of troops and vehicles of various types. I was in such a blue funk over the loss (and also began unhealthy habits like driving and dating girls) that I forgot about reconstituting my "armies". Later, while attending college in Norfolk, my Army ROTC instructor showed me his copy of "Charge!" (thats it lads, I was hooked!) I was absolutely fascinated with the book, its style, the ideas of OS gaming and of the concepts of fictional countries and armies. While borrowing it to read, the book accidentally fell onto a copy machine with a handful of dimes (remember, was still two decades in the future) and I at least had the rules summary. It would be almost 20 years before I finally found and bought an actual copy for myself.
About the same time, a friend introduced me to D&D and I began to frequent a local gaming shop. Here I observed fellows playing "Empire" rules 15mm Napoleonic games, huge ancients battles, and WW2 company-level 20mm engagements. I thought, "Wow! I could have a decent sized army if I still had my box of stuff!" Finally, all of the elements of a gaming habit were in place. I never did get into lead figs though; I supposed that I'm just a cheap bugger, but most plastic figures had a sufficient level of detailing and of course one can't beat the price!
Over the course of a couple of years, I accumulated several brigades of Napoleonic troops in the Young/Lawford 1:10 scale, all from the Airfix line of figures and painted from Philip Haythornthwaite's Waterloo color plates. I quickly learned how to convert figures("Frankenstein-ing" as I call it).
With just Airfix Waterloo figures, I was able to
- swap the tarletons for busbies on RHA to get Artillerie a Cheval de la Garde (I got a lot of complements for those)

- put the tarletons on French line to get Bavarian infantry
- trimming the shako plates from British line to get 61st, 95th and 60 th. light bobs
- put excess French shako heads on the RHA drivers, trim the harnesses from the draft horses, separate the bases and get 16th Lt. Dragoons.
- Put AWI grenadier caps on cuirassiers, trim the breastplatestraps, and paint heavily on the torsos to get the 2nd RNB Dragoons.
- Trim the horsehair plumes on cuirassier helmets to get LifeGuards/Blues.
- Put shakoes on hussars for French, British, Prussian or Brunswick hussars.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. I kept painting at every opportunity, and by about '78 I had about 1500 figures, stored in a motley variety of boxes. After joining the Coast Guard and being assigned to a ship, I'd keep my collection in my "coffin locker" underneath my mattress (you'd be surprised at how much stuff you can hide in one of those). After getting several of my shipmates hooked on the hobby, we'd have "battle royales" in the helicopter hangar on improvised tables of stacked equipment boxes covered with green army blankets. On one duty weekend in a nearby barracks bay we held a marathon multiple-table event with (by then) nearly 3,000 figures. It was a truly awesome spectacle.
During this period, I also resurrected my collection of WW2 ROCO armor and Airfix troops. While in Connecticut on assignment, I found a hobby shop having a clearance on ROCO vehicles, with dozens in a wire-mesh bin by their front door. There were tanks, trucks, half-tracks, almost everything you could want for a collection. Whatever I could not buy, I converted with sheet styrene and model part trees. I scratchbuilt drop-on casemates. turning T-34s in to SU-76's or SU-100's, PzIVs into StuG 42's and modifying searchlight halftracks into SdKfz 251's. I even converted an M-41Walker Bulldog to a M-24 Chaffee by shortening the gun and cutting down the rear of the turret. I had several Avalon Hill board games, and a favorite of mine was Panzer Leader. I adapted the rule set for use with the miniatures with success. Two friends and I had many an enjoyable battle with those.
While on a cutter in NewYork, I met a young ensign who showed a mild interest in my painting troops, and he dabbled in a regiment or two. After we parted ways, I figured he wouldn't do much with the hobby. Imagine my surprise over a dozen years later when he, by now a commander, called me at my office. I asked him if he ever gamed anymore; he laughed and told me his wife would probably put out a contract on me for introducing him to the hobby. He laughingly called me Dr. Frankenstein to his monster. He said I should see his garage, overflowing with thousands of all kinds of miniatures, and that some vendors now send him samples to paint and show at HMGS events. DoctorFrankenstein I was indeed!
When I was made Chief in '88, I had a lapse of sanity and sold off all of my collection for a song (I still kick myself for that today). I figured that, now that I was a senior enlisted my days of miniature gaming were over; foolish me! A hiatus of 5 years ended with assignment to a sea-going cutter, once again out of Governor's Island.
During my dry spell, Revell began to produce their SYW series, which was from the time-frame that "Charge!" interested me in originally. I found a hobby shop in Manhattan and began to reassemble an army. Since then, I have amassed ten line/grenadier battalions, five light/militia Bn's, eight cavalry Rgt's, and eight field batteries. Whew! It's been many a year since I started down this road, and it's a relief to know that I'm not the only one who has traveled it.

Chapter 6- The Experimental Chinese Rocket Troop

As was related earlier, the Slobbovian Prince’s new chief of Artillery was a former Chinese artillery officer, Wan Hong Lo. Wan had been a brilliant up-and-coming favorite in the Imperial court who had developed both a penchant and a degree of expertise in the science of rocketry. As is well known, both gunpowder and rockets had been in use in the Empire for centuries, but only in passing as military devices.
Wan’s studies had led him to develop a rudimentary prototype detonating rocket for artillery use. (In his elder years, he would bitterly claim that a certain English officer had plagiarized his design, but he never successfully proved his assertion in the patent courts). His research had reached a point where Wan had organized a mounted rocket team, complete with one-horse cart and launching frame. His "rocket troop" was in familiarization training when His Imperial Highness, having been informed of this development, insisted on an immediate demonstration.
This would presumably have secured Wan’s place in Chinese military history but for an unfortunate turn of events. It seems that during the demonstration, held in the open court of the Forbidden City, an errant rocket swerved into a window of the Imperial apartments, detonating amongst a room full of the Emperor’s prized Shi-Tsu’s. In the ensuing pandemonium Captain Wan managed to slip out of the immediate area unnoticed. Even as Emperor's bodyguards were searching his personal apartments, Wan was riding hell for leather from Beijing’s western gate with only the uniform on his back, his ready cash, and his notebooks in his saddlebags.
The story of Wan’s flight to the West to avoid capture and execution is one for another time. Suffice it to say that a certain Asian had taken up residence in remote Slobbovia (where his appearance amongst the local populace would stand at least cursory scrutiny) when he was approached by one of Cherkinoff’s agents. Sensing his rare opportunity, Wan applied for and obtained an appointment with the Vizier, where he outlined his concept of an "Experimental Rocket Troop" (omitting the less complementary details, of course). Sheik Yerboudi, astutely realizing there was an untold aspect of the story, insisted that Wan explain why he was no longer on the Emperor’s general staff.
Wan realized that his only chance to avoid being run out of the country was to make a clean bust of it, and so he told the whole story without omission. He quickly ended his narrative by adding that he had corrected the flaw in the rocket’s design, and was ready to prove it. The Vizier knew talent (and honesty) when he saw it, and so appointed Wan to the rank of Major, and to the position of Chief of Artillery. He also agreed to sponsor Wan’s further experiments provided they were performed well out of range of any buildings, especially the Prince’s estate.

Chapter 5- Early History of Slobbovia

A region of Lagerburg, Slobbovia occupies the broad upper valley of the Pisswasser River leading up to mountainous West. Slobbovia has had a turbulent and varied evolution. Until the 4th Century, the area was mostly unsettled save for a few migratory herders. During the times of depredations upon the deteriorating Roman Empire a small Hunnish tribe, the Slobbs, stumbled upon the valley purely by accident. The Slobbs were not quite as bloodthirsty (or as good navigators) as their contemporaries, and suspended their migration to winter over. One winter became three, then five (or ten, depending on which history one reads), and the tribe soon forgot exactly why they were headed to Rome in the first place.
Over the next millennium, the now indigenous population of course lost all semblance of their nomadic heritage and quite contentedly adopted a largely agrarian and pastoral lifestyle in the wide fertile valley, ruled by descendants of Alexei Cherkinoff, the original chief of the Slobbs and first Count of Slobbovia. A few of the northernmost settlers began to realize and exploit the abundant mineral deposits of the lower mountains, and a subsistence mining community sprung up in the foothills of the western range. Overall, this isolated society maintained a modest level of prosperity, just enough to sustain the tribe’s future.
During the 14th century, the then-expanding SofanOttoman Ticklish Empire began to extend its reach to the west, eventually menacing Vienna itself. It was inevitable that Slobbovia would also fall under Ticklish control, and was annexed by the Sultan in 1528. Soon after the area was subdued (which by this time was no great feat), a family line of military governors was established. Sheik Akhmed Yerboudi, 148th illegitimate son of the Sultan (and, when at court, official wiper of the Sultan’s bottom), was assigned to keep the tributes flowing to Constantinople.
For a time, he and his descendants continued a benevolent and light-handed colonial rule. This arrangement brought mutual financial benefit to the Sheik and the Count, who was allowed as a courtesy to keep his title and some of his holdings.

During the 18th century the fortunes of the SofanOttomans began to recline, that is, decline, and the Great Sultan recalled the current Sheik to resume his hereditary duties in the court. Ali Yerboudi, not enamored with the image of his planned future duties, devised a ruse wherein he and his immediate entourage, on an inspection tour of the northern mines, was "lost" in an accidental cave-in. This of course ended the Yerboudi line of succession, and a new wiper was designated by the Sultan (lucky him!).
During secret negotiations with the now-reinstated (and self-promoted) Prince Sergei, Sheik Yerboudi pointed out that Slobbovia had done well under Ticklish rule, and in fact the Cherkinoffs were quite well-off by any standards thanks to the Yerboudi’s financial acumen. Thus persuaded, Count Sergei appointed the Sheik his personal adviser (Vizier), a role he retains to this day.

Prince Sergei, being a vacillating, somewhat marginal leader, defers to the Vizier and his senior military officers.

General D’Zordre, with his adjutant Major D’Zastre, commands a brigade of horse, foot and a rocket troop called the Slobbovian Legion.

With the Princedom now once again in Slobbovian hands, Prince (in reality, the Vizier) began a realignment of his military. Among the officers recruited to senior staff positions was a former Chinese artillery captain, Wan Hong Lo. The story of Wan’s previous employment, its termination, and his presence in Slobbovia is told elsewhere. Wan had lived in Slobbovia for just over a year when he was approached by the Prince’s recruiters. After considering his qualifications, Sheik Yerboudi appointed Wan to the posty of Chief of Artillery.
The standard headwear of the Slobbovian military is in the form of a low, flat topped beaver-pelt busby, sometimes with the tail still attached akin to the American colonial "coonskin cap". The giant Slobbovian beaver (Castor Slobbovicus Giganticus), is about the size and disposition of a Rottweiler.

This quite aggressive and vicious critter is an endangered species and national treasure native only to the valley of the Pisswasser River. The milk from the female of the species provides the basis for Slobbovia's fermented specialty, Bibermilch. This beverage is highly prized for both it's quality and it's scarcity, as the difficulty in obtaining the milk is quite obvious.
As a traditional rite of passage to manhood, each newly-enlisted soldier must fight a giant Slobbovian beaver mano-y-mano to the death armed with only a large knife in order to procure the pelt needed for his own uniform hat. (in such contests, the man is not always the winner). These hats are so rare and obscenely valuable (it is a capital crime for a non-national to caught with one), that if defeated, retreating Slobbovian soldiers will stop and retrieve the caps of the fallen, leaving none for their enemies to acquire.

Chapter 4- Imperial Suspicion

Over a year after the accession of Albrecht to the rule of Lagerburg, Although His Imperial Highness had been receiving regular payments of his share of the profits from the Duchy’s tax revenues, he was suspicious of the complete silence from the Herzog concerning political and military happenings within it’s borders. "Haven’t we received any reports from our agents?" he queried his intelligence chief advisor. "Your Majesty, there is a veritable wall of mounted scouts of some sort patrolling the borders that our spies cannot penetrate… it is as if he is hiding something he doesn’t want Your Majesty to find out." "He must be up to something, all right! But what… there’s only one way I’m going to get to the bottom of this, and that is to go there myself! Call for the commander of the Guard!" growled the Emperor. The advisor smiled, thinking, "Maybe if His Majesty catches Albrecht in some misconduct, there might be a vacancy for a new Herzog…who knows, it could even be me!"
…In the wee hours of the morning four days later, on a back road inside the Lagerburg frontier, a pair of the Emperor’s Guard Hussars trotted up to a road crossing, stopped to listen and look both ways on the cross road, then quickly moved onward. Two minutes later, a small mud-spattered nondescript coach and two approached, followed by a dozen more mounted Guardsmen. Behind the drawn curtains, the Emperor sat brooding. Normally this trip would have only taken two days, but not by the circuitous route that would ensure that no one would know of his presence. His double, wandering about the grounds of the winter house for all to see, wasn’t hurting either. The Emperor had done this trick a few times in the recent past, and thus far the deception was yet to be uncovered by the Empress, thank goodness. So far, there was no sign of Albrecht having the slightest idea he was about to receive a rude and early awakening.
At three-thirty, as the coach drew into the courtyard of Albrecht’s estate outside of Felsenfall, the Emperor noted a dust-covered trooper of the Lagerburg FieldJagerKorps, leading an exhausted, sweating horse towards the stable. As the coach came to a halt, the Emperor was taken aback to see a troop of Horse Grenadiers in dress uniform in ranks along the front steps of the estate. The Herzog and his senior officers, impeccably dressed, stood at the landing.
Albrecht bowed sharply and said, "Always a pleasure, Your Majesty…" The others followed suit; no one mentioned that it was at the very least unusual for the Emperor to arrive for a social visit at half past three in the morning. The Emperor’s eyes widened in surprise when he saw von Grunt among the officers. "You! I thought that you had been done in years ago!" "Fortunately for me not so, your Majesty," rumbled the Graf. Only the uncurled ends of his mustachios revealed the haste with which the officers had dressed.
"If Your Majesty pleases, I would be glad to take you on an inspection tour of the Duchy!" said Albrecht. "Perhaps later, after freshening up" replied the Emperor. After a day’s sleep, he thought; so much for catching him red-handed. Those damned mounted police of his probably knew he was at the border before he did.
"You have certainly been busy, Albrecht", declared the Emperor two days later. The inspection had gone without a hitch, and his Majesty found the degree of organization of both Duchy and army both impressive and mildly irritating. As they walked to the Emperor’s coach, he stopped abruptly. "How the devil did you accomplish so much so quickly, and without keeping me informed? If I didn’t know better, I might think you were preparing to take arms against me!"
"Not at all, Majesty" replied Albrecht, bowing innocently. "I was merely so deeply absorbed in solving the problems here that I simply forgot to send word to you of my progress. As well, I had hoped that you would be favorably impressed by the improvement in security on this part of your border." "That much is true, you have done extremely well. My compliments on your work here; just don’t forget who obtained this position for you, and just how fortunate you are to have it!" Of course, Sire… You there, Helmut! Is that the best of the Merlot from the cellar?" "Yes, milord, as you instructed!" grunted the valet, securing the case of wine in the carriage boot. Albrecht gestured towards the wine. "For you and Her Majesty with my humble complements."
"Thank you, Albrecht. Nevertheless, I will expect frequent reports in the future. The Emperor climbed stiffly into the carriage, and growled, "Don’t disappoint me!"
"Never, sire."

Chapter 3- The Establishment of the Lagerburg Navy

After securing the borders by land, Albrecht drew upon his background and experience to ensure that shipping on the Pisswassere to the Danube, and from the port of Piran on the Adriatic would remain unmolested as well. The first step, of course, was to create an ongoing trading relationship with one or more neighboring powers.
Negotiating a lucrative trade agreement with a Hunglish trading company, he "sweetened the deal" by offering lease of valuable docking and warehouse spaces in Piran at very favorable discounted rates. This established a shipping terminus, which would be frequently used by trading vessels.
The Herzog’s purchasing agents in Hungland located and bought a down-at-the-heels small ship-sloop from a breaker’s yard. The vessel was drydocked and thoroughly overhauled.

Meanwhile, Lagerburgian "businessmen" contracted for a brace of lightly armed schooners, which were constructed in an Hamerican colonial shipyard.

All three vessels were sent off to the capital for Albrecht’s inspection and approval.
This fledgling fleet would allow the Herzog to protect cargo vessels putting to sea or traveling up the Pisswassere as far as Splitzfluss.

Chapter 2- Establishing a Government and General Staff

Albrecht’s first chore was to organize the Duchy along both civilian and military lines. To facilitate his plan for a parliamentarian body, he divided the Duchy into five Counties (Grafschafts), each under the rule of a Graf. A representative of each town (Stadt) was sent to the capital at Splitzfluss to join the UnterHaus of the Parliament, while the five Grafs would form the OberesHaus. In times of war or emergency, each Graf would declare martial law and command military forces from their Grafschaft.
Since the reason for Albrecht’s rise to power had been frequent incursions, he saw the need to secure the borders from both raiders and the prying eyes of potential enemies. Albrecht also wanted to keep his initial activities from the Emperor’s notice, If His Majesty realized how extensive were changes being wrought in the new Duchy, he might reconsider his choice of ruler.
He instituted a mounted police force, his FieldJagerKorps, to bring centralized law and order, conduct border patrols, and ensure the collection of taxes. In peacetime, the Korps formed a national force to enforce and administer justice. In time of war, the entire Korps would muster at the capital, and held the title of senior regiment of light cavalry.
Herzog Albrecht sent his agents out to recruit carefully selected, experienced and proven military men for appointment to his civil/military staff. Among several capable and opportunistic officers who responded to the duke’s summons was a famous veteran of many campaigns, the Graf von Grunt!
Albrecht immediately appointed the gristly Graf his Adjutant General and leader of Splitzfluss Grafschaft.
Albrecht then called for a reorganization and expansion of military force. He increased some of the corporate Grenzer companies and squadrons to regimental strength, added an artillery arm to the standing force, and began negotiation with other countries to augment the army when necessary with mercenary units. As a result, in short order he had a workable Corps-sized army.

Chapter 1- Early History of The Duchy

In the fertile rolling hills of south-central Europe lies the Duchy of Lagerburg-Slobbovia. The Duchy is located in the general vicinity of the southern edge of Imperial Austria, occupying some of the region now known as Slovenia and the northern half of Croatia. The local geography is dominated by the rivers Piswassere and Spytzwasser (now known as the Drava and the Sava). The valley holding both extends from the Piswassere river mouth empties into the Danube in the northeast to its glacial headwaters in the upland region of Slobbovia in the mountainous west. At it’s southwestern corner, the port cities of Piran and Trieste provide access to the Adriatic Sea. Within its borders, Lagerburg contains parts of the major terrain types to be found in eastern Europe.
From the confluence, past the trading town of Felsenfall, the terrain is a rolling plain of low hills. Beyond that, the terrain rises to the alpine range and the glacial source of the Piswassere, which derived its name from the unique formation of the falls that mark its origin.
Scouring of the bedrock here took an unexpected form, resulting in a narrow, constricted exit from the lake at the base of the glacier melt at the top of a short but sheer cliff to yet another, larger lake below. Rather than a wide, ragged or tumbling fall usually expected, the Piswassere pours outwards and downwards in a concentrated, cohesive stream for nearly a hundred feet, creating a deep continuous gurgling splash that can be heard for miles.
Occupying a varied but fertile area in the east, the lower valley region is imminently suited to production of the constituent products required for fermented, brewed liquors. Indeed, for centuries the chief export of the region has been various brands of beers, varieties of pretzel, and pork products.
To the northwest, descendants of a Hunnish tribe, the Slobbs, who became lost on their way to sack Rome, settled into the high valleys and mountains of what would later become Lagerburg. During the 14th century, the province was annexed by the SofanOttoman Ticklish Empire. the area was administered by the hereditary line of Mirlivas (governors). By the early 1700’s, reverses in the fortunes of the Empire resulted in loss of control of the area back to the original Slobs.
Although the Emperor originally designated the region as a protectorate, he did not at first see fit to require any more than a loose territorial council, to whom was entrusted the tasks of government and protection. Villages of workers and their families sprung up surrounding each of several breweries in the area, and Grenzer (border) companies were established to protect each one and it’s town from the occasional raids by bandits (including light horse from Slobbovia and other neighboring states).
Loss of profits resulting from raids of this sort prompted the loose council of burghers to send a delegation to His Imperial Majesty to complain. The Emperor consented to officially annex the region, create the Duchy, and granted the lands with great pomp and ceremony to Kapitan Albrecht Mordicus, commander of the Imperial Yacht, as reward for "years of Faithful and Valiant Naval Service".
To be certain, the Imperial Navy was a minor participant in world affairs, and because of this, relatively underutilized by the Emperor. It was understood that an assignment to command the Imperial Yacht might improve a naval officer’s limited career opportunities.
(In fact the Kapitan, while making a late-evening inspection round of the Yacht, happened upon the Imperial Personage engaging in extramarital gymnastics with one of the palace maids. The granting of the Duchy was a convenient way to ensure the Kapitan’s silence, loyalty and permanent relocation to a place far removed from the ears of the ever-suspicious and ferociously possessive Empress).
After his arrival and a cursory junket about the duchy, Herzog Albrecht (long a connoisseur of many permutations of the fermented beverage) quickly and wisely realized the opportunity that had fallen in his lap. The potential for Imperial gratitude (not to mention considerable profit) did not escape his consideration. He set to work establishing his position and the future of the Duchy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

First Post

When I joined both the "Old School Wargaming" (OSW) and "Society of Daisy" (SoD) Yahoo! groups, I found that there were other military miniature gamers who still found the writings and the game philosophies of Brigadier Peter Young (Charge! or How To Play War Games) and Charles Grant the Elder (The War Game) as attractive now as when they were first published over three decades ago. Also, there are gamers out there who are not hogtied to the idea of "strictly historical" campaigns and battles. These ideas allow for a great element of fun and creativity to remain in battle gaming.
Especially when one looks at the SoD concept, there opens a partly historical, partly imaginary world within which to fight one's campaigns. Which is where this blog comes in. There is a small, some might say warped, but very creative group of players who are building imaginary, but loosely historic-based 18th century European nation-states with which to create their military and political campaigns. Many of them still espouse the gaming style, unit scales and sizes, and sense of imagination that were first explored by Brig. Young in his book, mentioned above.
One of these imaginary nation-states is the Duchy of Lagerburg. As an ongoing story, the history of the Duchy and its on again, off again protagonist and sometimes ally, the Province of Slobbovia, will be posted here, as well as on the SoD group site. Also, the work of building an army, from acquiring the figures, to deciding unit names, uniform details, modifications to existing figures to create new and unique regiments, to incorporating the units and their battle histories into the evolving storyline, will be the goal of this blog. More to come soon!