Sunday, 1 October 2023

Groeninghumpe, the Fourth!

The Zentan irregulars continue to inch forwards. The Wurstburp artillery fire but, who would have guessed?, they fail to inflict any telling damage upon their advancing adversaries. The loss of a few limbs or even heads is unlikely to stop troops for whom speed, dexterity, or the capacity for logical thought are merely 'nice to haves'.

(Above) The Zentan infantry line gibbers and hoots, the troops forming a chaotic, capering mass; like a troop of monkeys that have been let loose on a children's dressing-up box and that have then found to their delight that a barrel marked 'Bananas' actually contains both bananas and a collection of modern firearms.  

Whilst the Wurstburp centre and right remain firmly on the defensive, the highlanders running their hands over their weapons as they wait for the Zentans to come closer, on the left Unpronunski decides to go for more of an active defence.

With the enemy regular cavalry masked by their sheep-brained irregular bretheren, Unpronunski decides it is time for some offensive action! (Above) Baggins' Horse and Fitzbadlie's Cavallerie charge a single Zentan unit. The Zentans fight as hard and heroically as they can; which is to say, not very hard or heroically at all. (Below) Before one can say 'sub-optimal speed-bump' the Zentans have been ridden down.

(Above) The Wurstburp cavalry halt in place. Though suffering minor disorder, they are still in good shape. Any attempt by the remaining Zentan horse (or indeed their riders as well) to take them on is surely in for a good thrashing.

Bulbous has clearly reached a similar conclusion. (Below, left) Declining the invitation to commit his irregular cavalry to anything so hopeless as an actual combat, he instead orders them to begin to move around the Wurstburp left flank. Even Zentans might pose a dangerous threat if they can reach an enemy flank or rear. 

In the Zentan military, the term 'combined arms' is most usually used in the context of the challenge of getting troops to use both of their upper limbs at the same time. Now, however, Bulbous begins to achieve some genuine combined arms coordination. (Above, right) Evidently intent at this stage on fighting a war of position, General Bulbous orders his Borat levend musketeers to move up into the nearby woods. Safe under cover from the enemy cavalry, they are now in a position to bring fire upon Baggins' Horse. 

(Above) The main Zentan line has halted. Bulbous' plan seemingly intends to make use of two key advantages possessed by his army. First, being skirmishers they out-range the Wurstburp musketeers. Second, being Zentan, they have no self-respect. Thus, despite the jeers and cat-calls from their enemy, the Zentan troops demonstrate no intention whatsoever of getting close to the main Wurstburp battle line. Unpronunski's frustrated highlanders are left waving their great choppers in the air, dreaming of poorly trained English conscripts. Unpronunski considers his options ... 

Friday, 22 September 2023

Groeninghumpe, the Third!

Bulbous orders his irregular troops to advance. On the Zentan right wing, the Zentan light cavalry pass through the palace sipahis and begin to move towards the Wurstburp cavalry. In screening his best troops with his dross and making it impossible for the former to make a useful contribution to the battle, Bulbous is, of course, following one of the key principles of Zentan warfare.

(Below) The Zentan irregular infantry shamble towards their adversaries. As they advance, they leave behind their artillery support, another key principle of Zentan warfare. As their Zentan adversaries get nearer, the Wurstburp artillery begin a cannonade, which, in relation to its effectiveness at causing casualties, is rather like a lemonade, but less refreshing.

(Above, top left) As the irregulars advance, the janissaries are left behind. As previous experience has shown, the Zentan view on war is that no great advantage can be had from committing one's decent troops to a fight. The janissaries hang around, catching up on their ironing and pursuing their hobbies. One of the units has already been promoted to elite status through these activities, and a few more well creased pantaloons will no doubt see the other also elevated to this august station.

(Below) In his position between both cavalry and infantry, Unpronunski is able to see in the distance the advancing line of enemy troops. Prince Karl is with him, and they exchange concerned views on the developing character of this battle.
'We should charge!' cries the prince. 'My Scottish blood demands it!'
'But you're not Scottish', replies the general tartly. 'You're from Wurstburp: you're German. You're about as Jacobite as a deep-fried strudel'.
'But I identify as Jacobite', cries Karl.
Unpronunski blows an undiplomatic raspberry. 'We must bide our time, Prince Karl. We must pick exactly the right moment before springing forward with the sword!'
'When will that be?'
'Well, I was hoping that your military experience would be useful in helping to answer that question. Do you have a plan?'
'I could get the cook to rustle something up, I suppose. But I'm not sure if he has any eggs ...'
'That's a flan, my prince. I can see that I am going to have to use some of my own initiative here'.

(Below) The likely development of this battle is clear from its early stages. With the Zentan line extending beyond the Wurstburp left, it seems likely that the Wurstburp cavalry might soon have Zentan irregulars lapping at their flanks: an unpleasant experience by any civilised standards.

(Above) Moreover, at that point in the centre where the irregular cavalry and foot meet, Bulbous may well be able to apply some combined arms attack against the Wurstburp horse. This kind of militarily effective coordination is largely unheard of in Zentan military practice, and so one reason it might fail is that the shock of doing it might require some of the Zentans to lie down for a rest. Bulbous moves his headquarters up. With his artillery and regular troops kept to the rear, the Zentan plan seems to rely entirely on their irregulars to carry the main weight of the fight. To those with any experience in modern warfare, the chances of the success of this approach might seem lower than a limbo-dancing sausage dog ...

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Groeninghumpe, the Second!

General Bulbous chooses to deploy his troops in a line; although it's not much of a choice, since the only other option for the Zentan army would be something called 'not a line'. (Below) On the Zentan left, Bulbous positions both of his regiments of janissaries. Here, they can continue their process of becoming elite through the expedient of never, ever moving in a battle; never fighting; and thus never taking the risk of being defeated.

(Above) The remainder of the infantry, all irregulars, are deployed in the centre of the Zentan position. Behind them are both batteries of Bulbous' artillery. That way they unable to see any targets at all, and so Bulbous will not be tempted into the foolish decision to try and fire them.

(Below) Cavalry constitutes the whole of the Zentan right wing, concentrating both the mobile elements of the army and also the most peculiar of the smells.

(Above, right) To the front are both regiments of palace sipahis. They are positioned directly opposite the Wurstburp cavalry. Behind them, Bulbous posts his irregular cavalry, consisting of five regiments. With all of his cavalry concentrated against the Wurstburp horse, it looks like the latter might be in for a tiring day.

(Above) Bulbous then sites his headquarters at the juncture between his irregular foot and irregular cavalry. From here, he is also in command distance of the sipahis. The general's plan is a simple one; and so probably dangerously complex for his troops to execute. By deploying his irregulars across the bulk of the battlefield, troops which collectively can be commanded as a single group, he hopes to pose multiple, simultaneous threats to the Wurstburp defenders.

(Below) Being skirmishers, the Zentan infantry outrange the Wurstburp troops, who in any case are mostly highlanders, fellows just as likely to try and drink their muskets as they are to fire them.

Bulbous completes the stationing of his troops, a process which has been mercifully free of Wurstburp-style 'tactics'. With a growl from the Zentans that could be aggression or which might just be flatulence, Bulbous issues his final orders and the battle commences!

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Groeninghumpe, the First!

Wherein the army of the Sanjak of Zenta under Captain-General Taras Bulbous encounters the forces of the Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp, commanded by General Bazyli Antonin Unpronunski .

We stand, gentle reader, in the Kingdom of Gelderland, somewhere to the northeast, and in the environs of the hill known locally as the Groeninghumpe. It is not a happy place. It is in Gelderland, for starters; and so it is inevitably, much to the disappointment of all who live there, also in Mittelheim. Other reasons to be unhappy would include the poor state of the local schools, and also the presence of the army of the Margravate of Wurstburp. The latter has been ravaging the local countryside for days, although the former means that most of the locals can't write to anyone to tell them about it. 

The Wurstburp army is by reputation and also, you know, in fact, the worst army in Mittelheim. Its incompetence extends even into its ravaging of innocent civilians. Since the Gelderlanders cannot understand what the ex-Jacobite Wurstburpers are saying, and because none of the locals are named 'Jimmy', the Margravial army has proved singularly unable to extract anything useful by their threats and bullying.

For both the Wurstburpers and the Gelderlanders, circumstances have declined even further. Approaching from the south (above, right hand of the table) are Gelderland's allies, the army of Zenta. These are allies only in the loosest sense, and their loyalty to the local Gelderlanders only really extends to those parts of the day when the Zentans are asleep and need someone to give them a wake up call. At other times, the troops of the Sanjak inflict a second ravaging on the local civilians. The is much more thorough than that inflicted by the Wurstburpers because the lamentable state of the economy in Zenta makes virtually anything anywhere else worth carrying off: wood, straw, false teeth, elderly relatives, or recently buried corpses.

(Below) Faced with the approaching enemy, the Wurstburp commander, General Unpronunski, decides he must deploy his army, even though the accumulation of past experience seems to indicate that this won't help very much.

(Above) The infantry are deployed upon the Groeninghumpe, which is also the objective for this battle. The artillery are deployed upon Little Groeninghumpe; and the cavalry far, far away in the distance. There then commences a process of what some might describe as 'dicking about' but which in Mittelheim is known as 'tactics'. The consequence is that Unpronunski decides that his line is too far extended and his guns too vulnerable upon the hill.

(Above) The original position of the Wurstburp cavalry. On reflection, this placement seems to Unpronunski to be rather exposed and probably reliant on the prospect of having to fight successfully. This is far too brave a deployment, what with it implying that the Wurstburp horse might be able to take on the enemy without any support.

(Above) Equally, the initial deployment of the artillery seems rather ambitious, based as it seems to be on the assumption that artillery fire will have any effect at all on advancing enemy troops. Unpronunski decides that it might be best to hide them amongst the defending infantry and pretend that they aren't there.

(Above) The guns, therefore, are moved and included in the infantry line. They are not dug in since Unpronunski recognises that they may need to move forwards later. Or indeed backwards.

(Above) And so, the final Wurstburp deployment takes place along a rather shorter line. The cavalry are on Little Groeninghumpe, and the artillery jostle uncomfortably among the elbows of the Wurstburp foot.

(Below) Unpronunski (in red) is with Prince Karl von Porckenstauffen (horsed). Karl, known as Bunnie Prince Karlie, because of his buck teeth, is heir to the Margravial seat, as well as most of the other furniture as well. The general's plan is based upon the very reasonable assumption that his highland troops are poor shots, but pretty handy in a hand-to-hand fight, especially against the slack-jawed irregular weasels that compose the bulk of the Zentan troops. Closing rapidly with the enemy will be the basis upon which he plans to win this battle. 

Alas for the Wurstburpers, it turns out there is rather more forest than was originally anticipated; a predictable consequence when no one can remember the rules. New copses, hitherto unnoticed, suddenly spring into view near the Wurstburp line. But that's war in Mittelheim for you.

Across the field of battle, the Zentan hordes begin a process that in other armies would be known as 'deployment', but which actually looks more like 'seepage'. Under the watchful eye of their Wurstburp enemy, the Zentan commander, Taras Bulbous encourages his troops to move to positions that, broadly, seem to face their enemy ...

Sunday, 10 September 2023

I Fought The Lore, And The Lore Won!

' ... and this?' asks Radu Pasha sceptically. 'Please don't tell me that this is a glass case containing a disembodied hand with an eyeball on it'.
There is silence.
'Well?' repeats Radu.
Sihirbaz shifts uncomfortably. 'You distinctly told me not to tell you that it was a glass case continuing a disembodied hand with an eyeball on it'.
'And so what is it?'
'It's, ah, not a glass case containing an eyeball and a disembodied hand?'
Radu sighs. 'Sihirbaz, if this were, theoretically, a glass case containing a disembodied hand upon which there was an eye. I suppose the obvious question is why it contains those things and not, say, a half eaten cake or a pile of scones which I think would be the sort of things one normally finds stored under a glass case'.
'I obtained these things from an ancient and powerful sorcer ... ah, I mean, ah, source'.
'Wouldn't the scones have been more useful? I mean, it's not as if you don't already have a useful quota of hands and eyes. What use are a few extras?'
'I was promised that this artifact would prove most handy in keeping an eye on things that were related to the future'.

'The future? Well, it can't work that well. I mean, if it did, wouldn't you have known that you were going to be run out of Wallachia for dabbling in the dark arts and then be driven here to Zenta in search of employment? Couldn't you have taken some preventive measures such as not dabbling in the dark arts and getting caught?'
'I did try' admits Sihirbaz, 'but I was shamefully framed by the local Witchfinder Specific'.
'Witchfinder Specific?'
'Yes, it's like a Witchfinder General, but with a much, much better knowledge of the witchfinding small-print. I was accused of dabbling in the occult and I was prosecuted in court'.
'And you weren't having a dabble?'
'No - I said to someone that I was dabbling in yakult'.
'Is there a difference?'
'The ratio of yoghurt to human sacrifice is much, much higher in what I was doing. But the witchfinder didn't care'.

Radu Pasha sighs. 'Well, I shall have to report my findings to the Hospodar. He won't be pleased. This is', says Radu Pasha, gesturing at the contents of the room, 'a sad bag of research spanners'.
Sihirbaz gulps. 'Well, yes - it is certainly a diverse collection of projects. But I think that you can reassure our lord that the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts'.
Radu Pasha shakes his head sadly. 'Sihirbaz, I suspect the Hospodar might end up sticking some of these parts in your hole, if things don't improve'.
At that moment, a servant appears at the door.
'My lord Radu Pasha - you are required by the Hospodar! News has arrived from the front!'

Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Rampant Inflation!

'Where did you get this pigeon?' asks Radu Pasha, stopping in another corner of the chamber. 'It looks very odd'. In front of the pasha, something that looks not unlike a tiny red winged lizard perches on a stand, chirping.

'It's an odd story, pasha', replies Sihirbaz. 'I was with some steppe nomads, and there was a fire at their temple: unsurprising, I suppose. given their lax approach to health and safety. The whole giant building and almost everyone in it went up like a torch! And then this young lady came out of the fire. And she was absolutely starkers'.
'What, no clothes at all?'
'Not a stitch. But she did have three of these lizard things on her shoulders'.
'Did she say anything?'
'It was odd, Radu Pasha. One might have expected that she would say something like: "Help! Fire!"; or "Blimey, I seem to be completely starkers - has anyone got a coat I can borrow?" But she started instead to blather on about being the "Mother of Dragons" or something'.
'Really? So what did you do?'
'Well, I got her to give me one of the lizards'.
'Got her to give you one?'
'Yes - I threw my coat over her head, stole one, and then ran off'.
'You have a very liberal view, Sihirbaz, of the meaning of the term "give"'.

Radu Pasha suddenly sees something on a nearby table. 'Well', he says, 'what's this?' pointing to a publication. 'Big Balloons, eh - I thought that you were uninterested in such technologies'.
'I don't think ...' starts Sihirbaz, quickly trying to reach the table.
'Hang on', says Radu in alarm, turning some of the pages. 'The ladies in these woodcuts don't seem to be interacting with any emerging flight technologies; although ... there is a certain amount of inflation on show ...'.
The scientist pulls the publication from Radu's hands and pushes another into them.
'Ah, now this seems more ... scientifically relevant', says Radu, though with a wistful look at the previous publication that Sihirbaz has now hidden away down his trousers. Radu examines the new tome.
'Why, this seems to be a pamphlet detailing how one might construct a giant balloon that can be lifted by the heating of air!' says Radu with enthusiasm.
'Yes, all nonsense though', replies the scientist. 'You must have heard of the early experiments?'
'Didn't they try and inflate some pigs?'
'Yes - and there was a terrible accident - the Hamstein incident'.
Radu leafs through more of the pages. 'But this seems very credible work. Where did you get it from?'
'I once met a French fellow by the name of Montgolfier. He had his experiments documented in pamphlets such as these. I think he intended to pass them on to his sons'.
'How did you get this from Montgolfier?'
'He have it to me'.
'He gave it ... oh, I see, Sihirbaz Pasha. You really must go through a lot of coats in your research. Hmmm, I think I know who might appreciate this document. I shall keep it'.

Friday, 18 August 2023

I, Bob!

'Well', says Radu Pasha, 'this is a cosy office space'. He stands with Sihirbaz Pasha, Zenta's scientist, in a room deep within the bowels of Hospodar Casimir's palace. "Bowels" is a very apt description given the state of the place. It is a dank, noisome chamber crowded with disconcerting oddities. 

There is a strange pool, fizzing, yet glutinous, exuding a pale green light. From it drifts a smell of ozone and haddock. In the middle, an arm protrudes, reaching forwards, groping as if it is seeking something - or someone.
Radu Pasha pauses, staring at the pool suspiciously. 'What's this?' he asks, trying not to get too close.
'What? Oh, that - it's really nothing', replies Sihirbaz airily. 'Nothing at all. Nothing to see'.
Radu peers more closely. 'Is there a room under this floor - a secret chamber perhaps? Because it looks like whoever that arm belongs to is trying to break through the surface of that ... pool or whatever, in order to enter this room. Or this dimension'.

The scientist tries to make light of things. 'Oh him? He's just my ... ah, neighbour ... who, ah ... is annoyed because he thinks that I play my musical instruments too loudly and it ...ah ... keeps him awake. He works nights - or at least, in the dark'.
Radu frowns. 'You haven't been doing something that you shouldn't have you, scientist pasha?' he says slowly. 'You haven't been delving into dark tomes full of forbidden knowledge, dreadful spells, and unspeakable horrors have you?'
'Oh no, no, no, no, no', says Sirhirbaz earnestly. 'No, no, no! The hospodar was very clear that I should stop doing that sort of thing'.
'Yes', nods Radu. 'Because there was that business with the tentacled thing ...'
'Just a large octopus, Radu Pasha - it could have happened to anyone'.
'And the virgins ...'
'They were not as advertised, pasha - I can't be blamed for that one ...'
As the two of them turn, the hand in the pool clenches its fist and then extends a middle finger.

'Now, what's this?' says Radu, pointing at what appears to be a very large shiny suit of armour.

'Ah!' says Sihirbaz enthusiastically. 'Now, this is my latest creation! It is a mechanical person: see, it moves and talks!'
'It's really hot in here' says a hollow voice from within the metal body. 'Master, help me up ...' One of the arms flails wildly.
'Amazing!' cries Radu. 'And this creation is entirely of a mechanical nature?'
'Well' says the scientist. 'Not wholly'.
'Not wholly?'
'Hello?' repeats the hollow voice. A metal leg waggles feebly. 'It's so hot in here. And this metal is so heavy'.
Radu raises an eyebrow. 'So, there is a person inside the metal suit?'
'At the moment, yes!' says Sihirbaz enthusiastically. 'But this is the first step towards the creation of a revolutionary clockwork servitor! I call it a "Robert"'.
'A Robert?'
'Yes, because the fellow inside is Bob, my apprentice'.
Radu Pasha nods slowly, considering this. 'So, you are close, then, to replacing ...Bob ... with an entirely mechanical system for the production of thought and movement?'
'No, not really', admits Sihirbaz. 'But the most difficult part of the project always seemed to me to be creating the armoured carapace. A few more weeks should sort out everything else'.
Radu gestures. 'But ... isn't an armoured carapace that has a human inside just a suit of armour?'
The scientist considers this. The silence extends just long enough that even Radu Pasha, a man who is a routine witness to the barbarous violence that constitutes the standard exercise of governance in the Sanjak of Zenta, begins to feel slightly embarrassed.
'I've got so much else to show you!' says Sihirbaz finally.