Friday, March 29, 2013

The Lady with the Lamp

An artist's impression Florence Nightingourmand

Mrs Kinch was rehearsing last night and Cousin Basil is on tour, so I had expected to spend last night with the cats.  It's not that I mind their company (I've been teaching Flashman to play chess), but after a week of close proximity we've used up our store of conversation.

However, just as I was settling down to another dull game of chess - Flashman will insist on overextending his knights - I was visited by a mysterious figure. Mrs Kinch had said something about sending someone over to look after me, but I was little inclined to the company of a hired nurse. Clad in a dark shawl and swaddled in a large, malodorous travelling cloak, she staggered in out of the billowing snow clutching a lamp.  Muttering something about "Not giving up the ghost," she produced a bottle of port from beneath her bonnet.
It was then that I became suddenly faint and collapsed into a chair.

When I came to, I realised that this was none other than my old enemy, General Du Gourmand, cunning disguised in female attire. He produced further comestibles from his gussets and then retired to chance. Once decently dressed, we sat down to give the new Command & Colours Napoleonics Russian Expansion a try. 

As you can see we made shift for ourselves.

We did justice to the cheese board and had a rare old time, though sadly Du Gourmand had to do most of the drinking and as I wasn't quite up to it. He bore this with his usual beatific grace. He is as ever, an example to us all.

There was one fraught moment, when I told him that while it is not normally my habit to put untested condiments in front of guests, but that I hadn't had a chance to try the chutney myself yet. However, I added that I was sure it would do honour to the family of Capability Savage. Apparently Du Gourmand had something of a near death experience recently with one of Capability Savage's pork scratchings and was very suspicious.

There then followed an ugly scene where a sick man was frog marched upstairs and forced to swear on a testament that our artistic friend had no hand in the making of the chutney. I did so swear; it was made by his mother and it was excellent.

Glorious field of grief

We played five battles over the evening and I'm sad to say that each one was a French triumph. We began with Craonne, an outing from the 1814 campaign that I have fond memories of. My earliest memories of wargaming relate to a book called The Sandhurst Book of Wargames by Paddy Griffith. I used to play it with my father, mainly Acquitaine at which I was undefeated, but there was a game about the battle of Craonne. I was beaten hollow when I was nine and I was beaten hollow again.  

Montmiral followed as it turned out we were playing the scenarios in reverse order. Sadly my cavalry on the left were unable to cut the mustard against a superior French force despite a good showing from my infantry, the result was another French victory. 

Champaubert was an interesting battle - not least because facing an opponent with total cavalry superiority is a dicey proposition at the best of times. Not tho' the soldiers knew, some one indeed had blundered. This wasn't the drubbing that I was expecting given the circumstances, mainly I think because I managed to get my infantry into the fight. It's a tough one for the Russians as one is trapped on the horns of a dilemma. The superior French force can take its time picking you apart, unless you're lucky enough to deal with his horse early.  The Russian general has an insufficient force to attack, but cannot afford to lie supine in defence. One we will play again. 

I had cherished hopes that at least the Crossing  of the Berezina might prevent my being out for duck, but it was not to be. While Du Gourmand's devilish luck definitely played a significant role in my disaster in previous games, this one was absolutely down to foolish play on my part. I didn't read the description of Grenadiers properly and failed to put my attack on the right together correctly. This silly play let a victory slip through my finger tips. 

Krasnoi is a battle that I'm not even slightly familiar with. It forms part of the retreat from Moscow and unsurprisingly the French player is attempting to withdraw his troops from the board. It's also unusual in that it's the only scenario thus far where the Russian player has a card advantage, though the French player can whittle this down by evacuating his men, which also scores him victory points. A two card combination (and a pretty unlikely one at that) allowed Du Gourmand to put himself half way to victory by the second or third turn and I was unable to make up the distance. 

The Russian scenarios feel more balanced than the Spanish ones and I think with practice and a bit of thought, victory will come. 

And so, disguised once more, Florence Nightingourmand disappeared into the blizzard with only a tightly knotted bonnet and a rude hand gesture to mark his passing. 


  1. Good God, if that Sandhurst business is what I'm thinking of, we had it here in the colonies as well. Card cutouts? At least one Franco-Russian napoleonic battle that wasn't Borodino? Pretty sure my dad had a copy I used to pour over.


    1. It was an excellent book. I still have the book somewhere. I wouldn't mind picking up a copy if I saw it again - I wonder if it will hold up after all these years.

      Did you ever play it?

  2. I think possibly the best AAR so far, it brought about plenty of chuckles


    1. I don't know what you're talking about Ian.

      This is a serious blog for serious people.

  3. Port is clearly a sovereign remedy for most ills (alchohol poisoning being one of the few exceptions). The Good Doctor Griffith would have approved of cheese and port being to hand during one of his games.

    Kind regards, Chris

    1. You couldn't be more right.

      The Good Doctor Griffith said as much on occasion at least in correspondence.

  4. A most enjoyable read CK, thank you. The vittles look most inviting,(as does the Port of course), and it's good to read some opinions of the new Russian Expansion.

    Never a dull moment here, keep it coming.