Friday, May 20, 2016

Pirates!

Southeastern Sardinia, 14th March 1714

It was a beautiful sunny and calm Spring day in Sardinia. Taking advantage of the forecast splendid weather, Lady Francesca Countess of Santa Sofia had arranged a 2-day archaeologic excursion in countryside, along with a small entourage of scholars and friends of her, with the aim to explore some of the mysterious local nuraghi megaliths Lady Francesca was so keen of.

As a matter of fact, some of those young Countess friends weren't as interested in such "chaotic accumulations of old stones" (as they used to say privately) as in Lady Francesca herself. Not strangely though, because she was of that kind of women always attracting all eyes like a magnet. Besides of being a countess, she was still unmarried at her 27 age, so one of two among these young men were actually hanging around, expecting she could take a decision at regard one day or another. For she'd have to, or wouldn't she?

She knew and didn't care. Her time for such things hadn't arrived yet, albeit... well, there was one not that ugly in the end, or even two perhaps! She discreetely smiled at her own shamelessness and quickly forgot it, for the imposing nuraghe was already at their sight, on top of a hill a few hundred yards ahead. She excitedly accelerated pace:

--Here you have the nuraghe I told you about, Sirs! Isn't it beautiful? --She said triumphantly.

Little afterwards, the group had arrived in the megalith vicinity and started scattering around, in search of the small archaeological remains an eventual old flood might have revealed. Suddenly, one of the entourage scholars stopped and started looking in the distance, far beyond the hill where they stood.

--Isn't that a smoke column? --he asked loud enough to be heard by anyone.

The man was pointing to a hill extending to their right, between their own location and the coast line that one could guess should be some half mile away. A tall, dense column of black smoke was lazily rising up skyward.

--It seems as if from shore itself, doesn't it? --Francesca asked.

--Hum --one answered--. Unless wrong, there's a village in that direction.

Prisoner of an odd feeling, the group hurriedly climbed up the hill adjacent to theirs, and watched the landscape that stretched at their feet. As some of them had started suspecting, the small village below was burning in flames while a myriad of small black dots ran in all directions, as frightened ants whose nest had just been smashed. By the shore, two large galleys moored indolently. Several large boats roamed around, apparently carrying people from the village aboard the war sharks. Deep red ensigns waved at sterns, and bright green pennants hanged from masts, both showing a strange white device that looked like a scissor in the distance.

--"Zulfiqar", the double bladed sword --one muttered.

--Oh Lord, Barbary pirates? --a terrified Francesca asked.

--Let's go, go away!! --another one shouted-- Before they can spot us! ...authorities must be warned. Hurry up, for the sake of God!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Adventure begins

Palma town (Majorca), 11th March 1714

Having sailed from Barcelona with destination Gibraltar, Marquis of Vilana has taken advantage from a short stop in Palma harbour in Majorca, for visiting his friend Josep A. Boixadors Marquis of Rubí, who is currently Imperial Viceroy of the insular kingdom. Now they are calmly walking along the beach, while awaiting ship's departure.

At some stage of their walk, Rubí extracts a document from his pocket and handles it to Vilana: --By the way Ramon, I've just been delivered this --showing a wide smile on face.

Vilana takes the document and unfolds it, while asks: --Is it what I think? --he smiles too.

--It is indeed! His Imperial Majesty Charles VI has just commissioned me as Viceroy of Sardinia.

--This is really great news, Josep --Vilana answers--. So it means that Princess Elisenda's own commission for replacing you here is likely on the way too. When do you expect to travel to Sardinia?

Rubí thinks a moment before answering: --The soonest than I can, honestly. Along with Emperor Charles' own document, I have also been delivered a second letter; this one from the Viceroyalty Secretary urging me to take office at my soonest convenience, for unspecified reasons. I'm afraid not to be able to await Princess Elisenda's arrival and proceed adequately to her own taking over.

Vilana shrugs and simles: --Don't worry for Princess Elisenda's demeanour, she will know how to keep up. Actually, our dear Eli is exceeding our expectations at Her new job. And anyway, you have performed oustandingly as Viceroy of Majorca: neatly sound finances, social calm and a lot of defence works in due course. She will have to face little troubles to complete your work here, Ramon.

Marquis of Rubí smiles again and resumes the walk. --And you Ramon? What odd kind of diplomatic issue is awaiting you in Gibraltar?

--No diplomacy this time, but business --Vilana replies--. That affair I talked you about some weeks ago, do you remember? Are you still reluctant to get involved in it?

--Don't wait for me Ramon. Currently it would be too risky for me to make such an investment. Maybe later, once I start feeling comfortable in Sardinia. No one knows if my current savings will be needed in Sardinia more than in Gibraltar. Good luck with your venture --and he simply winks.


This is the real start of Adventure. Perhaps just one adventure, maybe two. Our starring character from now on will be the just introduced Marquis of Rubí, who is due to overtake the Viceroyalty of Sardinia on behalf of Emperor Charles --just as he historically did, only that a couple of years earlier.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A lot of work

Barcelona, 9th March 1714

Ermengol Amill entered the room with some embarrassment, due to the amount of great men clad in bright red coats at sight. For what he knew, there were standing face to him all the Army active generals, that had been summoned by Marshall Villarroel at the "Casa del General" (a building in Barcelona traditionally used as military headquarters). When some of the attendants turned toward him, Ermengol felt the impulse to stand at attention and salute them, but after noticing their relaxed attitude he suddenly recalled he was himself dressed in red too --due to having just been promoted to Lieutenant General the week before.

--Oh welcome Amill, I believe there's nobody left now --Marshall Villarroel greeted from a stage at the opposite side of room, and then started his speech without delay.

--Sirs, first of all I would like to express on behalf of Her Highness Princess Elisenda the gratitude to you all, for your tireless commitment and performance to the cause of Liberty, as well as for your readiness to stay in active service for the times to come. As far as She has let me know, each one of you deserves an award She will make public soon.

He coughed before continuing, now using his usual sharp tone of voice: --Praises end here, Sirs. We've got a lot of work still. As you all know, our Army is in process of being drastically reduced, so the overall command structure must change too. Please take a look at the diagram next.

Some rumors abruptly arose, especially among the Navy commanders. --Yes I know Sirs, I know --Villarroel cut off rumors harshly-- But this is what we have at hand right now. It would be useless to devise a command structure at our own convenience, to rule just a couple of dozens regiments and half a dozen ships. We'll have to get accustomed to this for some time.

--Whatever the case, it will be the duty of us all --YOUR duty, Sirs-- to squeeze ourselves for bringing Army and Navy to an excellence pattern in spite of size. God willing, the time will come when the Navy can assume the outstanding role it deserves. Moreover if we retain in mind that no clausule in Rastatt binds us to keep the Navy small. It's up to your wit to make it grow and gain strength, Sir Admiral.

--The coming days, our main job has to consist in producing a complete set of new Ordinances. Our Army is still ruled by those published by His Majesty King Charles eight years ago, and must be updated to the new situation. Economy and efficiency are key concepts there, Sirs. We've got a lot of work to do.


I'm not going to tell here the story about the Infantry reduction, or its inspection by the Two Crowns legates. However, this one has been quite significant --even humiliatingly drastical to many eyes. Please judge by yourselves:

As with the Cavalry, for the Infantry I've also rolled one D6 for each individual figure, to see if the men it represents get licensed, are to be considered as invalids or are willing to stay in the Army. Prior to this, I put aside the four regiments that ought to be returned back to their respective homelands' control (Majorca and Sardinia). Dice rolling results were:
  • Licensed: 83
  • Invalids: 16
  • Active: 110
Even after merging troops from disbanded regiments, I realized I wouldn't be able to keep all the Regiments I had predetermined at first, not at full strength at least. So I would have to do the Mountain Fusiliers reform too and draw men among these to fill the ranks of the Line --despite risking some troop quality downgrading. As for the remaining girls of Fiona McGregor Regiment, they couldn't be merged into a male regiment, so that I decided to keep the 7 figures staying as a separate battalion of the Princely Guard.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Constitutions Oath

Barcelona, 6th March 1714

Princess Elisenda took advantage of a break in the Commons session for sitting in a quiet room and recap while sipping a cup of hot chocolate. The last days were being particularly stressful, not only for the endless and tense meetings with the French and Spanish delegates. Moreover, the political preparations for the investiture session had been quite exhausting too. The reason why was Her forecast oath of Catalonia's Constitutions, that had to be done prior to being solemnly crowned as Princess.

Since Middle Ages, it was a tradition that every new sovereign had to swear the Constitutions as a prerequisite to being crowned. The trick there was that the Commons used to take advantage of the opportunity for "updating" them --that is, for adding new rights and privileges proposals, that had to be negotiated by the new sovereign for obtaining the Parliament public support. And against all odds, negotiations were being harsh and rough.

Little trouble had Elisenda in gaining the full support of the Commons Military Arm, thanks to the joint efforts of Her many supporters there. Nor was too difficult to earn the Ecclesiastical Arm acquiescence, albeit in exchange for certain tax exemptions, as well as for granting to Tarragona and Urgell bishoprics political control of their respective Vegueries (=Shires). However, it was the Royal, or People's Arm under hegemony of the Busca Republicans, that proved more intransigent than expectable. Demands of Barcelona and Mataró Mayors were so distressing that Elisenda suspended negotiations with both; so that they retaliated by refusing to fund the infantry regiments traditionally belonging to them. The threat of a majority negative vote became ominously aparent.

However, tireless mediation of Her supporters was able to turn things around, adding to their ranges the Shires of Girona, Tortosa, Lleida and Berga in exchange for tax reductions; this allowed the Princess party to restore the balance between supporters and detractors. And last, Elisenda earned an ultimate majority vote thanks to a maneuver of Her own also securing the support of Manresa and Empordà Shires --in the latter case, after promising foundation of a Military Academy in Figueres.

Besides, several of the supporting Shires agreed to share the necessary fundings for the Army. An ultimate agreement was met in the end, so that Princess Elisenda had just sworn the renewed Constitutions and received the Parliament's approval. Coronation date had already been set for 21 March. She had succeeded, but felt now tired and discouraged.

Elisenda drained the cup from a last sip and stood up again. The Two Crowns Delegates would be already waiting for Her, probably. It would be wise not to let them wait.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Under inspection (1)

Barcelona, 2nd March 1714

Here you have the status of the Catalan Cavalry before and after the 1714 reform, shown as a uniforms and flags plates compared collection:

In the scene below, this is what Duke of Popoli sees after his cursory inspection.


Despite the lounge is large and beautifully illuminated through large windows, its atmosphere has become dense and thick. Around the large central oak table sit the delegates Duke of Berwick (France), Duke of Popoli (Spain) and Marshal Villarroel (the Principality), each one accompanied by a senior officer and several secretaries.

Courteous ways have been lost long ago, and delegates are heatedly, loudly arguing when Princess Elisenda enters the wide room. She discreetly stands there until the men notice Her. They then stand up and salute courteously at the young princess – all, except for the Duke of Popoli, who remains seated showing a surly air.

--Thanks Honorable Milords, please do not stop for me. Don't you get tired either, Signore Restaino –She answers to the gentlemen before interpellating the Duke of Popoli using his first name. The alluded blushes intensely but does nothing to mend the attitude.

Princess Elisenda seats by Marshall Villarroel and gracefully says: --Please, gentlemen. As if I wasn't here.

Duke of Popoli clenches teeth and resumes his talk to Marshall Villarroel, shaking a wad of printed paper before him: --Prior to the truce you Catalans had 8 regiments of horse, and after the reform there are 6 still. Might I know what do you mean for "a half"?

--I'd suggest you to read the full text body, rather than just taking a glance to the headline, Popoli –-Villarroel grimly replies--. Our regiments were 2 squadrons strong each, and are 1 now. So before the truce we had 12 full squadrons and 2 independent companies at hand; after the reform there are 6 squadrons left. Isn't it the half perhaps?

--Certainly, Sir. But don't forget to explain that your Hussars Regiment seems to have vanished from lists! --Popoli exclaims in turn.

Princess Elisenda then unexpectedly talks: --It has been transferred to Mallorca. The Regiment is no longer ours but under imperial service, flying the colours of Emperor Charles. The point is that the Principality once controlled 2,640 war horses, while now 1,320 only.

"... Besides of a 920 horses stock for breeding and Reserve, thanks to that same number of licensed or invalid veterans ...", Villarroel thinks shyly.

Duke of Popoli snorts soundly but keeps silent when realizes how the Duke of Berwick courteosly nods, giving as closed the discussion. The French marshal then says: -–I'm glad we've met an understanding on the matter, then. Let's start the infantry listings?

Something in Berwick's expression makes Elisenda understand he's caught the gamble. "He's aware I'm going to be appointed Vicereyne of Majorca, undoubtedly; but Popoli doesn't". She simply returns back to Berwick a winsome smile.


My Catalan Cavalry consisted of 66 figures. I first retired the Hussars Regiment from listings, so as to symbolize its transfer to Majorca. This meant 10 figures less. Then I rolled one D6 for each horseman figure left according to the table in my previous posting, with the following result:

  • Licensed: 16
  • Invalids: 7
  • Available: 33
One of the Dragoons Regiments was then disbanded (DR4) and 30 out of the 33 figures available were evenly distributed among the surviving units. Three remaining figures were used to create a new Guard Cuirassiers Squadron (which as a matter of fact is at half the theoretical strength of a squadron)

The gamble here is that Catalan Institutions are eluding the responsibility of including one Horse regiment in their compulsory reform, by transferring it into Imperial service in Majorca. However, as Princess Elisenda is to become Imperial Vicereyne of the island too, in the practice the unit keeps being at Her disposal. This doesn't prevent the forces in Majorca to be reformed too --but at the Viceroyalty's expense, not Catalonia's own.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Post-war (and 4): Next game!

I would reveal no secret if I stated that Gibraltar was taken in 1704 by an Anglo-Dutch fleet on behalf of Archduke Charles Habsburg. By virtue of Utrecht Treaty (1713) it was agreed the enclave to come under British sovereignty, as most already know for sure. But, did you know that Gibraltar kept being ruled by an Austro-Catalan governor until 1719, when he was finally substituted? Besides, I've recently learnt that right after the rock conquest, a group of Catalan businessmen created there a West Indies trading company, that was christened as Companyia Nova de Gibraltar (1709). We're going to combine and cook at will both curious stories as a starting point for an epic adventure in the Spanish Main, starred by an audacious band of Catalan settlers. Such campaign will be mostly RPG driven, with some wargaming sideshow around. Still doubtful about what RPG ruleset to use --however, GURPS keeps being a likely candidate for the job.

While the RPG campaign is being gamed, we'll start studying a wargaming campaign centered in an eventual What-if Catalan intervention in the Ottoman-Venetian War (one that nobody in this Imagi-Nation setting suspects is going to start, of course). We're planning to use some kind of campaign management software for handling the intervention strategical level, perhaps Berthier. Regular battles will be fought using Beneath the Lily Banners for sure; or if skirmishes, an adaption of Games Workshop's LOTR, probably.

Naval encounters are likely to happen in both campaigns, so we're in the need to choose an appropriate ruleset for them. Galleys and Galleons from Ganesha Games maybe? In any case, it's likely for the RPG campaign above to last some time --enough for taking decisions on the wargaming one, I hope.


However, none of both campaigns is going to be the next game we shall play; for we ought first to face the challenge of reducing an already small army. And how should it be done, I wondered at first? Well, what I finally devised consists of... throwing lots of dice! (quite original, don't you believe?).

Accordingly to the terms imposed by Louis XIV, the 1713 Catalan Army had to be halved in strength. Having this in mind, then I decided to check every unit in the Army, to see how many men would consent being demobilized, as well as how many of them ought to be withdrawn as invalids. For doing so, I chose the test to be done by the individual figure --ignoring how many real men one figure stands for.

So, I would throw a D6 for every figure in the army and determine results according to the table below:

Will be demobilized every Regular Troops figure getting the following result:

  • Guards: 6
  • Veterans: 5, 6
  • Drilled: 4, 5, 6
  • Raw: 3, 4, 5, 6
As for Miquelets Mountain Fusiliers, we'll follow this other table instead:
  • Drilled: 5, 6
  • Raw: 4, 5, 6
Whatever the kind of figure, a die result of 1 will mean the figure must be retired as invalid.

Depending on how the overall results turn out, several alternative decisions ought to be taken: either disbanding entire regiments, re-forming others into 2-battalion units, or in some rare cases to create new units --such as an Invalids Regiment, for instance. In the next few days, I'll explain you how did it all run (for it has been already gamed), in an easy to digest story telling form.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Post-war (3): 1714 Starting point

Please allow me a lighting quick review on the main challenges and troubles the Principality, and each of the countries most directly related to it, will have to face in the next months:

As for Spain, the first months of 1714 will be plentiful of challenges –a compulsory army downsizing for instance, but also a dramatical need to rebuild its naval power, crumbled down during the Succession War; not to say about restoring the Treasure Fleet route, apparently broken a couple of years ago. In the meantime, Spain will not do any step eventually worrying the European powers. Nevertheless, king Philip V's own plans in the long term include overtaking the terms of Utrecht and Rastatt treaties in two fronts: First of all, He'll secretly begin financing in France a party favourable to Himself --for he's still ambitioning to rejoin the Two Crowns under His own rule. Furthermore, under the excuse of restoring routes to America, the secret purpose under rebuilding a powerful fleet lies on using it for reverting territorial losses in the Mediterranean (not only Milan, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia as historically, but our what-if Catalonia and Majorca as well).

Regarding France, it is expected to live the last months of Louis XIV rule and the political struggle between Louis-Auguste de Bourbon and Philip d'Orléans for settling who is to perform as Regent in the age minority of Louis XV –with Philip of Spain intrigues behind. From a more practical point of view, France is exhausted after the long war, so that expense reduction measures are dramatically compulsory too: not just by means of the army reduction, but using the American colonies in a more profitable way –such as lending the whole French Louisiana in monopoly to Antoine Crozat's Compagnie de la Louisiane --an event just happened in 1712, BTW.

Not to forget, Austria: Vienna concerns in the second half of 1714 are going to focus suddenly on the escalation of tensions between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, that will eventually flow into open hostilities in December 1714. Then, a powerful Ottoman army will launch an invasion of Venetian territories in Greece. Bond to Venice by an alliance, Austria will have to take some action on the matter --an action still reluctant to take, due to being licking its own wounds yet.

And what about our Principality? First of all, it will have to start 1714 by endeavoring a substantial reduction of its army too --as formally required by king Louis XIV in a particular clause. In order to fulfill such requirement, all fictional units will be disbanded while many of the historical ones may suffer some kind of reform or merging. General Villarroel's staff will have to device a plan to minimize the effect of so a drastical reduction –whose extent has been already solo gamed by myself with quite surprising results! (it all will be explained soon, in due time). Such critical measures will of course relieve the young State asphyxiated finances, but will undoubtedly plunge the Catalan society into the issues of reabsorbing a mass of demobilized soldiers, or granting a pension to a number of war invalids. Here finances will be key too, and will require imaginative, bold solutions...