Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Wherein the army of the Landgravate of Rotenburg under Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste encounters the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under General Gerhard von Rumpfler.

     It is June 1757. Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste still retains command of the Rotenburg army: having been sentenced by Chlodwig to being quartered (the Landgrave cancelling the hanging and drawing because of the Furst's previous good service), Augustus luckily encounters an executioner that is better with his axe than he is with his fractions - in consequence Augustus escapes with a nothing more than a rather severe haircut. Eager, as it were, to strike the 'furst' blow, Augustus moves the Rotenburg army by forced marches through Gelderland and occupies the environs of the village of Nottelbad. Keen to reclaim his lost southern marchland, Burgrave Falco orders the Nabstrian army to retake the village and its marvellous rococo duck pond. The Nabstrian army has a new commander: General von Rumpfler, employed because of his experience in the First Silesian War and because he absolutely cannot cook. Von Rumpfler brings with him attributes entriely new to the Nabstrian pursuit of war: thoughtfulness; enterprise; vigour; a map.

     (Below, top) Von Rumpler wins the first victory and out-scouts the Rotenburg army: he chooses to go onto the defence. Anchoring his left on a marsh, which he occupies with his light troops, von Rumpler deploys his infantry in a double line. His cavalry is massed on his right wing and deployed in march columns: von Rumpler has a plan for his cavalry so cunning that it probably has a doctorate from the Naffdorff Academy of Alchemie and Wytchcraft.

     (Above) With the wind whistling through his shorn hair, though mercifully not (since he has procured another pair of trousers) through his legs, Augustus places his artillery on his extreme left and his cavalry on the right. The Furst concentrates his entire infantry force of nine regiments into a three line formation: this battering ram of flesh and steel he plans to throw against the Nabstrian line in a bid to overwhelm von Rumpfler's army.

     (Below, top) And so the Nabstrian plan is revealed! Von Rumpler is able to elicit from his horsed arm previously unheard of exploits: forward movement; a gallop; a useful contribution to the battle plan. Under the command of both Michael von Pfanenstiel and Paul, Duke of Clarkeshire, the Nabstrian cavalry speeds forward, intending to pass the Rotenburg left flank.

     (Above, left) In the meantime, on the Nabstrian left, the Rotenburg cavalry, containing the flower of the Landgravate's nobility, surges forwards with brave cries: 'Charge! Charge! Death to Nabstria! Higher taxes for poor people!' After 500 yards, weary and saddlesore, they dismount for a cup of the new-fangled coffee and nibble from some baked leeches: they spend the remainder of the battle watching the exploits of their infantry and complaining about their manners.

     (Below) In a frankly never before seen bout of frenetic cavalry aggression, the Nabstrian horse flanks the Rotenburg infantry and artillery: von Gank's Horse (in white) form line and advance menacingly, whilst the remaining cavalry push past Nottelbad and threaten to sweep around to the rear of the Rotenburg assault column. Stunned at seeing cavalry simultaneously sitting on their horses and moving, the Furst is forced to begin swinging elements of his infantry to his left in order to cover his flank. The Nabstrian attack begins to falter ...

     (Below) Huzzah! With swords glittering the elite of the Nabstrian cavalry thunder down upon the artillery. The gunners pause, musing 'Can anybody hear that drumming sound?' - then, von Gank's Horse roar; swords glint redly; gunners scream and gurgle; and before one can say 'Ooh, that smarts' a battery of Rotenburg artillery are reduced to a bloody heap. Paul, Duke of Clarkeshire (in red) laughs roundly at the discomfort of the Rotenburg gunners; which he shouldn't, given the silly little flag that he has sticking out his hat.

     (Below, to the right) ) the crisis approaches! Defying all of the rules of war, Pfanenstiel leads his hussars in march column right around to the rear of the Rotenburg army, causing chaos - Rotenburg units are ordered to about-turn to meet the new threat. Satisfaction on the part of the hussars at a job well done is short-lived as the consequences of their intrepid ride become clear. Two Rotenburg units level their muskets at the march column. The infantry commence volley fire! Sadly for the Notable commanding the hussars, one of the Nabstrian musket balls has his name on it: and, as his name is Lord Michael Heironymous Wilhelm-Franz Igor Rudolph Susan von Pfanenstiel, it is quite a large musket ball. Von Pfanenstiel's remains are packed into his ivory snuffbox for posting back to his widow, and, as the smoke from the Rotenburg volley slowly clears, the hussars are now nothing more than heap of bleeding, though still stylishly attired, corpses.

     (Above, left) Perhaps the most critical effect of the death ride of von Pfanenstiel's hussars has been to reduce the Rotenburg infantry assault to a single line of troops. As the infantry come within range of one another, a sanguinary contest is inevitable given that both armies fire with lethal volleys. Along the lines, thunderous volleys crash forth. Having favoured Nabstria, winsome Lady Luck, tipsy, no doubt, on plum brandy, decides now to favour Rotenburg. Bringing up the second of his elite regiments (above, in white, about to join the line), Augustus musters a full line of four regiments and he orders his infantry to commence firing by battalions: they deliver a stunning volley that brings the Nabstrian front-line regiments perilously close to rout. From a distance, von Rumpler tries to rally his infantry: 'Steady men! There stands Paul, Duke of Clarkshire, like a stonewall, but in a silly hat'. His troops are unimpressed, and the Nabstrian line begins to waver.

     (Below, centre) Lady Luck, moving on to the brandy and babychams, smooches Augustus wetly once again: the Nabstrian Hussaren von Sock (in grey) have advanced too precipitously and stand ready to take the volleys from two Rotenburg regiments: to their flank, the Rotenburg artillery help the hussars to their five-a-day with another serving of grape. Before one can say 'Cut to pieces by deadly Rotenburg fire' the hussars are cut to pieces by deadly Rotenburg fire, and suddenly Furst Augustus seems to have the upper hand!

     (Above, foreground) Luckily for von Rumpler, Lady Luck vomits in the Rotenburger kettle: a dismal Rotenburg volley fails to break the wavering Nabstrians, and the Nabstrian infantry, their morale improved, no doubt, by the suffering of the cavalry, deliver a shocking round of platoon fire against the Rotenburger firing-line: one of Augustus' elite regiments breaks: now his front line has a gap! Augustus wails, gnashes his teeth, and searches in vain for some hair to pull out: with the wide gap between his troops he knows that his cannot rally his whole line with a single order!

     (Below) With the cohesion of the Rotenburg front line broken, Augustus chooses to rally his remaining elite regiment (in white): 'Soldiers!', he cries, 'remember your honour! Remember your country! Remember who owns the thumbscrews!' His elite troops quickly dress their ranks. But, as the Nabstrians commence firing again, one of the other remaining Rotenburg front-line units breaks under the galling Nabstrian volleys: the Rotenburg firing line now musters only two regiments whilst the Nabstrians still have four.

     (Below) Seeing his chance, von Rumpfler sends his whole line on to the attack: two Nabstrian regiments surge forward into each of the remaining Rotenburg units. Bayonets are thrust; bodies are pierced; britches are soiled; and finally, despite heroic efforts, both of the Rotenburg regiments are destroyed! To compound matters, Augustus has spent so much of the battle riding hither and thither, and shouting orders from long distances, that he is now utterly exhausted and must rest before he can issue any more orders.


     (Below) Sensing that the battle has turned decisively against him, and judging that Lady Luck, having undoubtedly passed out on the sofa, is unlikely to intervene again, Augustus realises that his chances of success are, unlike the Furst himself, rather slim. Outnumbered nearly two to one in infantry, the Rotenburg general signals a withdrawal.  Helped by the exhausted state of the Nabstrian horse, he begins to extricate his army.

     (Above, left) The five remaining Rotenburg infantry regiments (in red) withdraw from the field. The Rotenburg cavalry (above, right) pack away their coffee and nibbles, tutting at the exploits of their Nabstrian counter-parts who seem to have forgotten that, as a cavalryman, it is not the winning or losing that matters but, rather, how stylish one looks in the execution: claiming a fashion victory, they file slowly from the field.

     A victory for Nabstria! Wishing to reward his army for their exertions, von Rumpfler orders his commissariat to prepare a grand feast for the troops. Eyeing the heaps of broken Nabstrian horse-flesh, the Nabstrian quartermaster, Colonel Findus, breaks out his famous recipe for beef bolognaise.  Von Rumpfler, meanwhile, acknowledges the adulation of his troops. Nottelbad is once again Nabstrian: hurrah for Rumpy! Long live Burgrave Falco!

     Death, meanwhile, takes a short break from his work and tries to coax a tearful Lady Luck out of the water closet, where she has locked herself.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


     Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold: and in Rotenburg usually with a side-helping of leech fricasee. Brooding darkly, Landgrave Choldwig of Hesse-Rotenburg plots revenge against King Vlad. The punitive reparations imposed by the Peace of Kayck have ruined the Landgrave's grandiose plans for a new age of Alexandrian splendour. To cap it all, stepping carelessly backwards in the harbour a sailor has knocked over the 'Great Lighthouse of Alexandopolis (Not to Scale)'. And the marble-lined Acropolis Potting Shed leaks when it rains heavily. Utilising the services of Rotenburg's well-oiled Secret Police machinery (though in Rotenburg many things are well-oiled, not least the Landgrave's midriff), contact is made with elements in Vlad's own Royal Guard, disgruntled, it transpires, that they now seem only to do night shifts. Plans are laid to smuggle into the palace quantities of garlic baguettes, of which Vlad is reputed to have a fatal aversion, hidden inside crates of Vlad the Impaler and Swiss Musical codpieces. Still blaming Nabstria for their defeat in the Seven Beers War, Choldwig also establishes secret communications with Nabstria's adversary, Grand Fenwick. Once Vlad is laid low, Rotenburg and Imperial troops will march on Gross Schnitzelring and establish once again a Mittelheimer monarch in Gelderland. Smiling grimly, Choldwig ruminates on the ills done to his Landgravate and looks forward to a time of change. Revenge!

     'Revenge!' cries Burgrave Falco of Nabstria. In Nabstria, the mood has become increasingly febrile. Members of the party known as the Enten Gesellschaft have taken to wearing stuffed ducks as headgear and shouting 'Liberate the water-fowl of Nottelbad!': they receive a major boost when Burgrave Falco is seen at the theatre wearing a stuffed mallard as head-wear. His wife, the Burgravina, has also done the same (or possibly grown  a mutton-chop beard - it seems impolite to ask). Unreconciled to the loss of Nottelbad and its handsome duck pond, Falco comes to the conclusion that war must be contemplated if Grand Fenwick refuses to give it back. Seeking desperately to rehabilitate himself, Bishop Munschrugge consults the most able of Nabstria's legal profession, and declares to his Burgrave that he has 'a cast-iron legal and moral case for the renunciation of the Peace of Kayck': to whit 'I had my fingers crossed.' Upon this sound legal premise, Nabstria plans for war. Falco is clear, however: Nabstria must not be seen to be the aggressor - some way must be found of provoking Grand Fenwick.

     'Revenge!' cries Emperor George of Grand Fenwick. For the fatal wounding of Baron Stensch, King Vlad has ordered that Joachim, heir to the throne of Grand Fenwick, should be arrested 'and then damn well hung'. This edict is met with a refusal from Emperor George and the comment from Joachim that this would be an entirely redundant activity since, as his codpiece surely indicated, he was 'already hung damn well'; Joachim then reportedly made a lewd gesture to the Gelderland ambassador and invited King Vlad to take a most unlikely anatomical excursion with a soup spoon. Announcing  'no compromise and no un-'cod'-itional surrender' to Vlad's unreasonable demands, Emperor George imposes a ban on the import of codpieces, and defenestrates the Gelderland ambassador. In the town of Fenwick, incensed mobs roam the streets searching for Gelderland citizens: however, both have already slipped away, and when the crowd happen upon a vegetable stall with a vaguely suggestive parsnip, thoughts of violence are quickly lost in an evening of traditional Fenwickian 'fnars.'

     'Pigs!' cries Prince-Palatine Rupprecht of Saukopf-Bachscuttel: 'I love them', he declares; 'and I want more'. Having gauged correctly the rather limited nature of Bachscuttel's foreign policy objectives, Bishop Munschrugge is able to secure a secret alliance with the Palatinate at the cost of  forty Nabstrian Old Grunters, peerless porcine breeding-stock, and a large collection of antique pork scratchings, reputedly belonging to Pope Gregory the IX and taken on Crusade against the Saracens: being both holy and pig-related, Rupprecht has the latter placed with reverence in his private chapel.

     'War!' shouts King Vlad. The Rotenburg-Fenwickian plan goes terribly awry. As bad luck would have it, the crates of codpieces arrive at Vlad's palace at the same time as emissaries from the Duchy of Kurland. Unable to resist the temptation of the archaic groinal protruberances, the emissaries help themselves. Sadly more familiar with medieval fashion than with fancy French bakery products, the Kurlanders wear the baguettes as well. In the chaos that follows, Vlad loyalists are able to knock the baguettes into the moat using the butts of their pistols and, once their eyes have stopped watering, the Kurlanders are able to explain the source of their ill-chosen sartorial accoutrements. A search of the crates provides conclusive evidence of the provenance of the plot:  a receipt signed by the Rotenburg treasury; a voucher made out to Choldwig for a third off his next purchase; and  a small greetings card made out to Vlad from Emperor George of Fenwick saying 'Die, you bastard'.
     In Gross Schnitzelring, King Vlad has had enough: dismissing Choldwig's protestations of innocence as an 'infamous concotion of lies, calumny, slander, untruths, half-truths, semi-truths, and mostly-porkies', Vlad declares: 'Who will rid me of this turbulent Landgrave?'; and then, in case no one has heard, he has this published in seventeen different Mittelheim newspapers. Declaring himself to be 'the most loyal of the King's allies,' Burgrave Falco declares war upon Rotenburg! Amidst riotous scenes of enthusiasm in the village green, the Empire of Grand Fenwick asserts its support for Rotenburg and declares war against Nabstria! Nabstria activates its alliance with Bachscuttel, which declares war on both Fenwick and Rotenburg in the name of the King!

     Having completed his limbering up routine in Bohemia, Death takes a practice swing or two. The armies of Mittelheim are again on the march! The Cod War has begun!