Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Likely useful little ships

Some days ago, while e-mailing with another Imagi-Nationeer about chances of having some small ships for our 1713-1714 campaign, we had the idea of searching for little wooden ships, of that kind that usually can be found at coastal towns' touristic souvenirs shops, for these perhaps might be useful for our purposes by little money and work. Well, this afternoon my wife and I have gone to the town of Sitges for a walk, and I've taken some advantage to search and pick up a few samples. Here you have them:

First of all, those I believe the most useful ones. There are some three -maybe four- different ships in this range, all of them have 2 or 3 masts, they're made in balsa wood (very lightweighting, then) and sizes are approximately 15 cm long x 12 cm high. I guess that their current set of sails should be replaced by a more appropriate one. Besides, we should have their base removed and keels leveled somehow -to simulate flotation at water level (how?). And I believe that little else: some painting art, a few complements and a nice set of paper printed flags... Their prices range between 7.5 and 8.6 EUR.

Afterwards, this other range of pretty fishing boats, also made in balsa wood, they're about 7-8 cm long, and 8 cm high at most. These might require some supplementary work, for they're actually quite simple, and some show a too modern look. Inversely, their bottoms are completely flat. The left one is worth 3.5 EUR while the other is just 2 EUR.

And in the end, both kinds of boats compared side by side. What do you believe? Might they be profitable? What would you do to adapt them to a 18th century look?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

To Hell with orders

Tivissa, 14th July 1713

From the privileged viewpoint that the Tivissa church belltower was, Sergeant Major Ramón Lanuza of the "Gaspar de Córdova" Imperial Dragoons Regiment raised the right palm to cover his sight from the intense sunrays, and looked at the plains smoothly lowering southwards down to the calm Ebro river waters, which looked as a brightly silvered, tortuous tape in everlasting route towards the sea. A couple of leagues to his right, where the river flew from, there was Aragón -his beloved homeland, now subject to the Two Crowns and squeezed by them up to the exhaustion. This sightseeing usually made him feel sick of melancholy, for he had been forced to abandon home as a prey for the enemy three long years ago, after the second frustrated occupation of Madrid. He would have usually broken in tears for his lost farm and family, of whom nothing was known a long since, silently mourning is fate...

...Usually, but not today. For other were the thoughts worrying him on this day: a dense column of mounted men were doing their way along the road leading towards Tivissa from the riverside. Their bright green coats could already be watched from his position: "Hum, Castilian Dragoons. A full regiment, I'd say. Here we have them, confidently coming to throw us away" he thought. Lanuza took a last glance towards the riverside, to get ensured no other units were following after the Dragoons, and afterwards hurried down the spiral stairs to the ground level, where some of his men were already waiting for him.

His superior Colonel Gaspar de Córdova was in bed due to an unknown fever, and he had to assume command of his Regiment, mostly formed by Aragonese men as himself. -It's a Regiment of Castilian Dragoons, marching in column towards us. Most surely, these are the ones supposed to relieve us, I guess. -Lanuza explained -Let's go to the gates, it wouldn't be proper to have them waiting too long for us... -he sarcastically ended.

-Hey! Who is in command of place? -shouted a voice from outside the town's open gates.
-Yes, it's me -answered Lanuza, advancing a few steps forward to stand just under the rewarding shadow of the gates' gothic arch.
The Castilian officer who had spoken seemed fairly disappointed at Lanuza's answer. -You? You're not Colonel de Córdova -he bitterly spitted to the Austro-Aragonese officer.
-My name is Sergent Major Ramón Lanuza, and it's me who's in command of this place right now in name of Charles, King of Aragon & Castile, and Holy Emperor by the grace of God. Why are you disturbing this neighbourhood with such loud voices? -Lanuza was getting increasingly irritated at that insolent young man, probably just landed on to the battlefields from some wealthy cortijo, and decided to pay him back the same way.

The young man plainly fell into his trap, and responded with even greater insolence: -I have been commissioned to take possession of this town in name of Philip V, King of Spain, and therefore I admonish you to immediately leave this place, if you all don't want to be thrown away from it!

-Ha! You, and how many else? -whispered as a snake Lanuza.

In the meanwhile, the Aragonese Dragoons had been silently taking positions close to the gates, responding to an already prepared plan. Several dozens of them could be clearly seen from the Castilian positions, and many more would be for sure silently hidden behind the windows. Some Castilian sergeants realized the dangerous situation they were, and started ordering their men to dismount without waiting for any order of their dumbfounded commander. Too late.

Suddenly, Lanuza pointed his right hand towards the enemy column, and coldly ordered: -"¡Fuego!".

A hundred carbines and muskets broke out the silence with a deadly volley, followed by the unmistakable roaring of the light cannons deployed along the church square's edge. The volley was followed by an intense delivery of fire from both sides, that lasted a long while. However, the Castilian Dragoons had been caught on the road, the scarce covers available to them had no match against the solid stone houses walls protecting the enemy, and they were being shot from higher positions. It didn't last too long until a NCO decided it was enough for his men and ordered withdrawal -not before leaving on the field almost 25% casualties.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Breaking news

Barcelona, 11-18th July 1713

Timidly, Loys d'Hauteville took a seat a little apart in the wide room, nervously looking at the dozen and a half Catalan high officers who were sitting around a long table in front of him. They were too abstracted in the reading of maps and dispatches to notice his presence -or were deliberately ignoring him, he thought. To his scarce knowledge on Catalan uniformity, it seemed to Loys that there were only a few generals among the group. He soon realized the eldest one was effectively the leading man, so that he guessed he would be General Villarroel, their commander in chief.

As General Nebot had predicted the day before, urgent dispatches soon started to be received at the Catalan War Board, so that General Villarroel had convoked all of his staff to study them and draw a map on the overall situation. Not only the enemy moves were to be analyzed, but also those of their own forces, because many of the Catalan commanders in the field had already taken decisions of their own, and not all of their purposes were clear.

Many of the Board members showed to be most worried with the apparently suicidal Marquis of Poal's daring move: he had taken an Infantry battalion and a Dragoons regiment with him in a forced march from Cardona to Castellciutat through the northwestern Pyrenean valleys, were no doubt they would clash with one of the main Spanish columns.

-Nearly suicidal, but irrational by no means, my friends -Villarroel abruptly said-. Our good marquis is fully aware that holding Castellciutat fortress is key to us, and he's going there to convince his friend General Moragues to join our Cause... On the other side, he completely relies on his brother's ability in front of the Cardona fortress to hold the Spaniards back until the whole Pyrenees is raised against them... It's all or nothing for him, I'm afraid.

-By the way, Monsieur d'Hauteville -then suddenly said Villarroel, raising his glance to their French "guest"-: The French Army is behaving just as you'd already predicted to us. Just a few testimonial moves, to get justified face to Philip d'Anjou's eyes, and little else. No major moves from their Army by now. -the General smiled for the first time, and then warmly invited Loys to join them -There at the rear you won't be able to see anything, my friend...

While d'Hauteville was bringing his chair closer to the wide table, suddenly an Hungarian hussar hastily bursted into the room; after a brief salutation, the soldier delivered a letter into General Villarroel's hands: -extremely urgent, Sire. It is concerning the town of Tivissa, Sire...

Villarroel hurriedly tore seal and envelop, and started reading without a word. His face progressively went into an astonishment expression. A deep silence spread all through the room, until the General stopped reading. When he did so and looked at the other Board members, he was showing a strange, cunning smile -These are most exciting news, Sirs- he just said.

New Ordinance on Civilian flags at Sea

Deeply concerned about the high significance of ensuring worldwide knowledge and respect towards Catalan sea traders and voyagers, the Permanent Deputation of this Principality's Parliament has agreed official enactment of a standardized new set of flags to be flown at seas by civilian vessels, either commercial or leisure.

It has been judged appropriate to restore the traditional red-and-gold flag of the Crown of Aragon to its former dignity as representative of the whole Nation at sea, by establishing it as the new Civilian Ensign of the Principality, which is to be flown at every Catalan ship's stern flagpole -or, if such a device not existing on board, on top of the vessel's mainmast.

Reduced versions of the Ensign above (that is, with only one, two or three gules pales on gold, instead of four as standard) are explicitly authorised in lesser tonnage ships, such as fishing boats, cabotage cargoes and yachting ships. Such reduced versions are also authorised on higher tonnage vessels, provided these are used only on lesser hierarchy poles, and the appropriate standard 4-pales flag is also flying on the ship's stern flagpole or mainmast.

Those civilian ships explicitly authorised by This Parliament to private war actions enterprising by means of a Carte Blanche or Lettre de Marque shall compulsory fly a special Ensign version including the St. George's Cross Parliament Seal, as shown in the attached top image. No other ships than those above are authorised to fly such special Ensign, so that any ship flying this Ensign, or exerting violence against other vessels, without the appropriate appointing Lettre de Marque shall be considered as guilty of a crime of piracy, with no regard of the Nation the attacked vessels belong to.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Some storyboard thoughts

In my Defiant Principality starting campaign, there are currently two main threads, let's say perspectives: on one hand, we have the military campaign itself, aimed at producing battle situations at different scales, either ranged, massed clashes or small format skirmishings. Such battles are to be solved by various ways and rulesets, depending on each situation and material chances, either in solo mode or sharing the experience with gaming mates.

On the other hand, the creation of several different individual characters in RPG style would allow me developing parallel threads or plots, whose final targets or aftermaths are right now completely uknown to me. Again expectedly, these parallel stories are to furnish me with ideas for small scale actions -either conventional skirmishing or pulp adventures-, or even to change the course of History (or, at least, to substantially influence the campaign).

As long as I've needed, such stories have been narrated according to a pre-established storyboard, because it was necessary to me for defining the characters and giving a precise image of each one to eventual readers.

However, such pre-determined narratives are to come to an end, once you and I have finally got a draft in mind of each character, and should be gradually changed by a more hazardous style, that will depend of two basic factors: the PCs involvement or affectation by war, and the result of their own actions, chances and fate. In order to regulate events in the life of my PCs, I had planned using Mythic GME Charts, once per campaigning turn for each character.

Well, this is the result of my first set of die rolls (God knows how to deduct anything from all this imbroglio!!):

Friedrich Leibnitz, the gallant Austro-German young officer - Event Focus 00 (Non-Player Character positive) - Action/Subject 67-42 (Open/A Plot)
Hernando de Soto, the veteran Spanish Dragoon trooper - Event Focus 86 (Non-Player Character negative) - Action/Subject 15-53 (Gratify/Home)
Loys d'Hauteville, the unfortunate French Huguenot deserter - Event Focus 94 (Non-Player Character positive) - Action/Subject 47-15 (Travel/The Innocent)
Marquis of Vilana, the respected nobleman in diplomatic mission - Event Focus 54 (Close a Thread) - Action/Subject 00-66 (Change/Fears)
Mireia Perelló, the gentle mysterious girl - Event Focus 78 (Ambiguous Event) - Action/Subject 87-25 (Work hard/Friendship)

Ufff... Who says that fortune telling, or Tarot reading are not Sciences? No necessary to say that any interpretation attempt would be welcome.

BTW, some latest time news: 1 - I'm about to introduce a new Playing Character (a rather unexpected one, I'd say. Allow me some time to go around it all), and 2 - My gaming mate has just delivered the catalan moves for this first turn. Some surprises to follow (nasty ones for the Two Crowns' side, it seems).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mustering for Glory

11-18 July 1713

...However, the Catalans were far from calmly waiting for the Two Crowns troops to enter into their cities, or from cheering them with a waving handkerchief in hand... In the image, it can be seen General Prado while carefully watching the bulk of Catalan Infantry troops maneuvering on the plains close to Barcelona.

Along with the long-living Regiments of Diputació General and La Ciutat, four additional, just formed regiments are showing their skills to the examining General. There were, with red flag, the Aragonese braves of Concepció Regt. followed by the fearsome Valencians of Desemparats Regt., with their distictive orange flag in front; or the Navarrese and Castilians of the Santa Eulàlia Regt. too, honest men who had chosen loyalty to their own homelands' rights before the Bourbon King's one. All of them had chosen to share destiny with their Catalan brothers in arms.

"Would they keep such a brave attitude if they knew the truth about what is really coming towards them?", mourningfully thought Prado while waving his hat as a salutation to his men. Of course, that wasn't the entire force they had at hands, but... Yes, the St. Narcís Regt. was about to be completed, with ranks plenty of Austro-German veterans, as well as the Dolors Regt's Frenchies -Huguenots many of them- or the dreadful, stubborn men of the former Royal Catalan Guards... Oh yes, but... How many enemies will have to face each one of them to prevail?

"It won't be any easy, my Lord. Any easy", thought Gen. Prado again, while an ancestral, fierce war cry deafeningly sounded all around the plain, simultaneosly roared by four thousand throats:

-...Sant Jordi i Aragó!! DESPERTA FERRO!!!

[Apologies to my gaming mate Jordi Prado, whose undoubtfully "heroic human" size has been unsuspectedly reduced to some scarce 15mm by the Imagi-Nations mysterious Magics... Wish him the greatest success against my inexhaustible Two Crowns' legions!]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Invasion begins

11-18th July 1713

When the numerous scouting groups sent all around the front lines start delivering their reports, the crude reality seems to widely overcome even the most pessimistic expectations in the Catalan Warboard: three major Castilian armies have started marching from West and South towards the very heart of Catalonia, protected by a huge cavalry and dragoons screen, while at the same time some French columns have also begun their moves to take positions previously held by Imperial forces.

Communications with the towns of Cervera, Tivissa, Puigcerdà, Camprodon, Hostalric and St. Feliu de Guíxols have been cut, and nobody knows what is happening there just now.

Caught in terror, great numbers of civilian population from the most menaced neighbouring villages have started a dramatic exodus towards the apparent safety of the closest walled cities. Due to this, many roads of the Principality are in chaos, for the civilians flood is seriously disturbing traffic of military reinforcements, supplies and messengers all along the Catalan rearguard.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Ordinance on Naval flags

By Mid July of 1713, our what-if Principality has adopted a new set of naval flags for official and war use, replacing those in use so far. The main difference from now on consists in the restoration of the traditional Saint George Cross as a jack, replacing the Spanish Empire's Burgundian Cross.

Stern Ensign and Mainmast Flag are to remain the same, though.

It has been said that new Parliament decrees are to follow shortly, regulating maritime flags for both Civilian and Corsair use.

A tense War Council

Barcelona, 13th July 1713

After half a day of pretty inconclusive arguing, the atmosfere in the assembly room could be cut with a knife. As a product of exhaustion, a deep silence had steadily been spreading through assistants in the latest minutes, while they started looking at each other, with serious and tense expressions in face; and no one seemed willing to start speaking. Finally, it was General in Chief Antonio de Villarroel who broke the silence:

-Might we draw a summary of all this, in the end? -he asked, looking straight at General Nebot, who was the senior commander of the just formed Catalan Cavalry.

-We've just started to be delivered messages from individual loyalist citizens in the occupied cities of Balaguer, Lleida and Tortosa -Nebot answered, in a low voice that reflected his discouragement-. According to their informations, up to three major Castilian armies started marching towards our lines early in the morning yesterday, one column from each city. Apparently all three are converging in to Barcelona (some sighs could be heard all around the room). If we'd to believe such informations, each column consists of not less than 8 or 10 infantry battalions and maybe 3 to 4 mounted regiments, along with every kind of artillery and supply trains. Scouting detachments have already been sent to fix such data, however -Nebot ended.

-Well done, Nebot -Villarroel replied-. When shall we be acknowledged of their inquiries?
-I guess that late tomorrow, or the day past tomorrow in the morning, at most.
-All right, that's all we can do by now. Word must be sent to all our forward units to stay ready in alert, and to inform us of any detected enemy move -concluded Villarroel-. Once we know better where are these columns heading to, and which is each one's force, we'll be able to plan our counters.

-I do agree with you, Sir -suddendly spoke Francesc Berenguer, who was the Parliament's Military Deputy-. It would be useless to keep arguing while such key pieces of information are still unknown to us. Instead, we might resolve some supplementary affairs. Lord Ramon de Vilana?
-Yes, here I am -answered a deep, cultivated voice. It was a tall, slim and elegant man of some 50 years who had spoken, an undoubtedly respected and influent nobleman.

-Unnecessary to acknowledge you about the extreme peril our beloved Principality is under, Lord. Have you had time enough to reflect about the proposal I made you yesterday? -Some vitality sparks quickly spread all around the room, many faces showing surprise.
-True, and I must tell you to be willing and ready -the alluded nobleman responded-, as long as I can enjoy the resources I already told you about.

The Artillery commander General Basset, who had been staying apart so far, plunged in a deep silence, then suspiciously asked: -Mission? What mission? May we ask what are you talking about, gents?

-While at Their Majesties direct service these last years, Lord Marquis of Vilana became an influent man in Court, so that he was able to establish a solid net of relationships with several foreign representatives -answered the Military Deputy-. He has gently judged to be time for him to put all of his acquired knowledge in the Homeland service. Therefore, he has been proposed to lead a diplomatic legacy...
-The idea is to humbly knock at every known friendly door, in search for help and advice -Vilana continued-. However, in order to properly perform my duties, I shall need some resources...

-Yes, we've been providing for your requirements to be fulfilled -Villarroel intervened-. A 12 cannons Xebec fast ship has been prepared during the day, and is already cargoed and waiting for you. One of our best captains has been commissioned to command her, along with a carefully picked crew. And you will enjoy an escort of 12 infantrymen too, as asked for. A small escort, I must admit, for we desperately need every man capable of brandishing a musket. However, these are among our best available men, for all of them belong to the former Catalan Royal Guards. They have been entrusted one of the Regiment's flags, as an external device of your high comission.

-You are honoring me, gents -answered Vilana-. Is an entrusted man who will be leading that detachment?

-A young man who's just joined our ranks -replied Villarroel, visibly satisfied-. In spite of his youth, he enjoyed the confidence of Lord Wallis as an officer of his regiment. He speaks fluidly not only German but French lenguage too, and besides has some knowledge of Catalan and Italian. He was really anxious for contributing to our Cause, and I personally wouldn't have him inactive in our Added Officers Company, tediously waiting for a vacancy in our ranks.

-His name?
-Leibnitz, Sir. Lieutenant Friedrich Leibnitz.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Mireia's nightmare

Tivissa, 10th July 1713


Mireia awoke abruptly, in a terrified scream. Drenched in sweat, deeply troubled by her nightmare, the young girl got up hastily from her modest bedding and went to the old house main room, where the fireplace was quietly crackling, permanently kept alive by her grandmother Teresa. In spite of being half deaf, the old woman managed to hear the slight rumour of her granddaughter small feet. Without turning her head, she affectionately said good morning to Mireia and asked: –...A nightmare again, my dear?

Surprised, Mireia didn’t respond at first. To her wonder, Granny was always anticipating her emotions and thoughts since a child, as if her soul was completely transparent to the venerable woman; and she had never completely got accustomed to it. Mireia quietly approached to the fireplace and filled for herself a bowl from a boiling soup pot. She then noticed her hands were trembling –and so did Teresa too. Increasingly worried, the old woman looked at her granddaughter for a long while, before sweetly insisting again: –Worse than usual this time, isn’t it?

–Yes it was, Granny –answered the girl in a whisper. At this moment, Mireia’s mother entered the room, carrying a wicker cart plenty of just collected vegetables. She was about to start some happy talking but quickly changed her mind after realizing the scene, so that she closed by her relatives and listened in silence.

–I was walking down the road, in the direction of Móra town –Mireia started–, collecting medicinal plants as Mum taught me to, when suddenly noticed a big dust column ahead, by the Ebro riverside. The column got close to me in a very short while, and then I could see the dust was due to a tight band of men, clad in bright vests and with shiny swords at hand, mounted on huge horses that looked at one as fiercely as their riders.

–...Soldiers –whispered Mireia’s mother, Blanca.

Mireia shook affirmatively her head, and continued –One of them suddenly stopped in front of me, with an angry expression in face. He then started shouting at me and threateningly waving his sword. I’m certain he was furious at me, but couldn't imagine why. He shouted at me, so that the rest of soldiers also stopped and approached to me, very angry too... –sobbed the girl.

–...Oh dear –whispered her mother, shocked.

A fateful premonition was growing deeper in old Teresa's heart: –Did anyone tell you why they were so angry? What were they shouting?
–...N-no Granny, don't ask me please –replied Mireia in anguish.

–They were accusing us of being witches, Granny. “BRUJA”, “BRUJA”, they shouted –followed Mireia, visibly altered–. I then would run away, but I wasn't able to, my feet didn't obbey to me, and they were getting closer and closer, always shouting "¡A la hoguera iréis!", "You'll be burning at the stake, witches!". Mum, I shouted and prayed and cried, "We aren't witches, we aren't!" I told them, but they wouldn't believe, they wouldn't... –at this point, Mireia broke down and started crying inconsolably.

Both women looked at each other and kept a long silence.

–We cannot ignore this warning. It's time to leave, my children –suddenly said old Teresa with determination. –Right now, the Castilians might arrive in here at any moment.

Astonished, Mireia looked at her relatives while they started a frenetic packing activity. –Hurry up, my young! –admonished her grandmother, imperative; so that Mireia started helping them, albeit in deep trouble.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The prisoner

Somewhere in the Guilleries range, 12th July 1713

–Do I kill him, Sir? –Asked the soldier, pushing the sharp blade of his knife against the prisoner’s throat.

Clad in Colonel’s red vests, the officer that was standing in front of them answered: –No Jaume, not yet. Let’s see what’s he willing to explain before –And then he carefully observed once again the man kneeling at their feet.

Colonel Francesc Macià, better known as Bac de Roda, was a real veteran of war. As a good number of Austro-Catalan military leaders of his time, he had been awarded his reputation in the 1688-1697 war against France, under command of George von Hesse-Darmstadt –who was called Príncep Jordi by his Catalan subordinates. After so many years of ceaseless fighting, always side by side with his men –so that a little more effusion of blood would hardly impress him a bit–, he was proud of having developed some kind of understanding, let's say perception, about Human nature through the observation of individuals behaviour face to extreme peril.

However, this particular prisoner wasn’t matching Bac’s aprioristic thoughts. No doubt, he was fatally aware of his more than presumable destiny but, in spite of such deadly fright, the man was consciously avoiding to fall broken, as Bac would expect to happen sooner o later. Inversely, the prisoner was clearly unwilling to beg for his life, and this was getting Bac curious about him.

The kneeling man was dressed in a French junior officer uniform –Bac couldn’t guess which regiment might he belong to. His vest was of a decent quality fabric, although deprived of unnecessary luxuries. He examined with care the blade of the prisoner’s sword –obviously used and sharpened several times. All in that guy was seemingly confirming his words.

–If you would me to believe you, Sir...

–...Loys d’Hauteville, Sire –responded in a whisper the prisoner.

–Oh true, my apologies –agreed Colonel Macià–. Monsieur d’Hauteville, I’d suggest you to give us an explanation of your desertion, a convincing enough one. Otherwise, we'd have no other chance than considering you as a spy, and therefore to accordingly act. –under the varnish of his capturer’s polite words, the prisoner perceived his cold, merciless eyes trespassing him as lances, and visibly faded.

–I’m a huguenot, Sire. I managed to escape prosecution after the Cévennes revolt, but since then...

A heretic? Are you a protestant heretic? –exclaimed abruptly one soldier. A furious glance of his Colonel made him shut up.

Bac de Roda was shocked, not by the prisoner’s revealings, but for he had not spoken French this time. He’d used some Gascon-related dialect, that was intelligible enough for them Catalans, so that his men had been able to fully understand the words. –“Mmmm... maybe he’s not lying that much, in the end” –he thought.

–...since that very moment I was forced to hide my identity, to avoid retaliation –the prisoner continued—. I’ve been pretty successful so far, but someone has been insistently inquiring about my past lately, so that I’ve had no other chance than leaving my current employment and escape...

–Your employment at...? –The prisoner hesitated, but Bac insisted again, imperative: –Your employment, Sir?

After a long silence, the man answered in a nearly inaudible voice: –...my employment at His Highness the Duke of Berwick headquarters in Perpignan, Sire.

–HA! Bingo! *

Visibly satisfied, Bac de Roda then shouted: –Captain Prat! Please take a handful of men and escort this gentleman to Barcelona. –and then to the prisoner: –General Villarroel will be extremely pleased to hear the story straight from you, Sir. Can I have your parole? –affirmative response–. Captain Prat, if the General confirms that man’s honourability, wouldn't you mind to bring this gentleman’s sword back to him? –And the officer took the sword from his superior's hands.

(*sure, quite an ahistorical expression)