King Stépan IV's pleasure dome at Kragoneidin, on the shores of Lake Polishov

Saturday, May 28, 2011



7 September 1713

Leaning against the rail amidships on the Lightning, General Ritter Petr Kotrimanic felt the ship being carried away in the tide.  A puff of wind fluffed out the Lightning’s sails and the ship began to move with a sense of purpose.  Soon the sounds of Dbrnouks’ wharves faded away and then the building of the town’s seafront and their bright roofs began to fade from sight as the ship pulled way into the Adriatic.  The ship’s crew settled into their busy routine while out of their element, the passengers, Kotrimanic with them, settled into a mood of listless waiting.     

Ritter Kotrimanic, now more properly entitled Ambassador and retired General, reflected on the expected two days of isolation ahead of him.  Kotrmanic’s appointment was a newly-created position as Ambassador-at-large to the states of the western Mediterranean, his orders were to establish contact with the states of the region, including the newly-seceded Catalonia, to determine which, if any, might become useful allies and trading partners fro Syldavia, It will be a chance to breathe and catch my thoughts he thought, not that it will be too restful here… was his second thought, as his cramped personal cabin came to mind.  To avoid that stuffy and mouldering space brought the necessity of sharing the deck with the ship’s sweaty crewmen, the Syldavian officers travelling with him, and his own small troop of hussar body guards.  Five young officers hung together in a knot exchanging absent-minded conversation.  They were a cadre of officer-cadets on their way to a secondment in one or another regiment of the Imperium, part of the training of more Syldavia’s more favoured (or well-connected) young officers.   None seemed too sure of their footing on deck or of the ship’s unnatural and destabilising movements. 

Already in a worse state were the half-dozen hussars forming the Ambassador’s Kotrimanic’s troop of bodyguards.  These men were hand-chosen from amongst the older enlisted men in Syldavia’s pair of hussar regiments, experienced and competent veterans who had survived years of la petite guerre with Syldavia’s Bordurian adversaries, and who were approaching the legal end of their term of service.  They re-upped for the less onerous and more exotic circumstances of service and somewhat better pay of a diplomat’s bodyguard (all more tempting than going back to the farm…).  For all of their fierce moustaches and leather-hard faces, they looked hopelessly out of their horsey element on board the ship.  Their booted heels and scabbards skittered about on the deck, they smacked their furred hats off their heads on the low door-frames and ropes and a few began to turn noticeably pale and fingered their dolmans’ buttons as the ship began to pitch and roll ever so insinuatingly.   Ritter Kotrimanic was wholly a landsman as well and wondered about his own stomach.  So far so good for me, it wouldn’t do to be caught in a weakness in front of these men, thought the Ritter. 

The Lightning was to land at Monfalcone, a small port at the very northern tip of the Adriatic,  Kotrimanic was then to begin his mission by traveling in the opposite direction, going to Wyenow (the Syldavian rendering of Vienna), where he would shepherd the officer cadets, and where the Emperor was convening an assembly of his allies.  Kotrimanic would meet the Syldavian ambassador at Wyenow and they would begin to conduct their diplomatic missions in light of the meeting’s outcome.  Upon arriving at Monfalcone, Kotrimanic would rendezvous with the Syldavian ambassador to Venice, Ritter Mathej Musiloj and they would travel on to the conference in Wyenow together.  He was somewhat worried about the meeting with Musiloj, one of Syldavia’s wiliest and most experienced ministers, and one who had long held one of the country’s most important foreign postings.    With his years of experience as diplomat Musiloj would surely have some advice to offer.  

The whole affair was bittersweet to Petr Kotrimanic.   Only two years ago, he was a newly minted Lt. General with the favour of the King and a brigade under his hand, and the Polishov War turning, full of opportunities, in Syldavia’s favour.  Those were two tense and bloody years to be sure, but ones with a momentous and a glorious result for Syldavia.  But barely a few months later, the old warrior King Ivan « Ironhead » was dead and gone, a new regime presided in the Könikstzrwa Zyldav krag ministarstvo  (Royal Syldavian Ministry of War) and the doorway to Kotrimanic’s career advancement and even his chances at further senior command snapped suddenly and irrevocably shut.  Instead, here he was watching the Syldavian coast, with the mountains of his native Travunia far off in the eastern horizon, fall away as he and his career were shipped off into what might turn out be a dead end.  No, I must not look at it like that, thought Petr.  It isn’t the stuff of dreams to be sent away to an ambassadorship at the far end of Europa but it isn’t the end of the road.  Petr still held a royal commission, a new title and land grant that would help keep him confortable in his waning years.  His mission, was truly an independent command and one that could lead to great distinction. Who knows, perhaps there will be a new war next year, and a need for officers like me….

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Revised Map for Syldavia

Hi all,

I have updated my map for Syldavia, fiddling with minor details like the direction of river courses, the location of national frontiers and changing some place names.   The most noticeable change is the presence of a hex grid, each hex is supposed to be 10km in diameter.  This particular change is a big help (obviously!) figuring out distances between places in real terms, such as numbers of days (or hours...) of travel between point A and point B. Syldavia is smaller than I thought!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Response to the Stylish Blogger Award

Sure he is stylish, but can he write?

It is high time to respond properly to the Stylish Blogger Award, which was generously granted to Despatches from Syldavia by Alan of the Duchy of Tradgardland.  As I understand them, the conditions of the award require that I post a link to the award’s donor, so click here to pay Tradgardland a visit (and say Syldavia sent you!)  

Also, I am to reveal seven unknown things about myself.  Well, I’m 6’6”, a former astronaut and…

Well, you already knew all that.  Here are six other things:

1) My roots in this this curious hobby go back to a childhood gift of some Britons guardsmen, then of some Timpo knights which were followed by my own purchases of Airfix 1/72 figures, bought with saved-up small change.  After quite some long time, I stumbled on some old lead toy soldiers that needed repainting, did so and so came to the realisation  that I could paint my Airfix soldiers.  My model was not just any old thing, it was Félix Phillipoteaux’s tableau of French cuirassiers charging a square of Highlanders at Waterloo, a picture of which I found in a book.  Stirring stuff even when shrunk to a page, the real thing (at the V&A) is a dizzying, larger than life epic.  I recall horses bearing very fierce looking armoured troopers pouring into the centre of the painting, the Highlanders grimly bracing themselves off to the left, wreckage to the right, and cavalry charges extending off into the distance.  Better than a movie and I was hooked in a moment (the first one is for free, kid) and still am.  No doubt this story sounds familiar to you…

2) I have been lucky enough to visit a few Napoleonic battlefields.  I once worked in Portugal and quite by chance spent a few days at the battlefield of Vimeiro.  I was on the foreslope of the hill occupied by Craufurd and Nightingal.  I also put my hands on the table where Jean-Andoche Junot signed his capitulation.  I have fond memories of  a fabulous little restaurant in the village that served a tasty local wine.  I spent a little more time at my table there than Junot did at his.  Nearby were fortifications of the famous Lines of Torres Vedres and in that town were cafés serving espresso and delicious little bean tarts. Strange but very tasty.  I enjoy food and drink as you might have noticed.

3) I also once spent some time in the ruins of  a tiny castle in the Ardennes once owned by Godfroi of Bouillon.  He mortgaged his lands to the Bishop of Liege in order to finance his crusader army (1st crusade).  It paid off as he became King of Jerusalem, but died there in 1100.  One story told around there (that corner of Belgium) concerning his death is that he ate a poisoned apple sent by the malevolent Bishop, who did not want to return the land to the newly-enriched King.  You know what they say, « An apple a day… ».  Belgium was wonderful place to be a student and there was of course loads of absolutely splendid Belgian beer to be had in the local.  And there is always a local…

4) As for war gaming, readers will know that I am currently working in 15mm but am planning a classic Grant-style project.  I have RSM and Mindens at the moment and am looking forward to seeing my own Sittangbad-esque scenario in the big and spacious 28mm-1/56th scale.  

5) The first wargames store I ever saw was the defunct Minifigs/Skytex shop in London, near Victoria Station.  This was back in the age of Punk and I hadn’t yet seen anything better than Airfix and a few copies of Military Modelling. Imagine the revelation brought by seeing figures mounted on bases, let alone all that stock on display.  It was Aladdin's cave!  I still remember the thrill and I still have the catalogue as well.

6) Lets see, what else?  My formal introduction to organised social (that is to say not solo) wargames with experienced gamers came with people who were motivated by the ideal of a moving diorama.  Some of their tables were very beautiful and as a result of that, I spent a lot of effort in pursuit of "realism", though obviously falling short of my goal.  Stumbling upon EvE and the Old School-inspired sites of its readers was a wake-up for me and I’ve since read Grant Sr., Jr, Young and Lawford, etc.  What great fun!  I’m sold and like the Old School "it is a game" ethic but I have to say that I still find the visual esthetic almost terrifying in its simplicity.  The distracting excesses of realism are swept away, leaving flat, non-textured green-painted surfaces, terraced hills, etc; it is all quite abstracted.  That is taking me some time to get used to we’ll see how I work out a compromise. 

7) Last thing – and it is my worst character flaw – I’m chronically late.  Nevertheless, I do finish my projects, and Syldavia will be completed.  There is a plan and progress, even if you can’t see it from your side of the screen.  I look forward to presenting it.

Finally, Nominate other bloggers for the coveted award.

At the current pace of things, pretty much every site I visit is nominated or soon will be!  That is odd for an award, but it is a good thing, as this process lets us point out who and what is inspiring and generates a little discussion.  I’m a great fan of several sites, especially of some that are widely admired and I believe already so honoured.  Rather than gilding the lily, I’ll nominate a couple of sites that have not yet been noted (so far as I know):

1) The Hetzenberg Chronicles (

AJ’s well-known and much appreciated serialized novella is to my mind a fun and original experiment in building an complex and playful story as the backdrop for a wargames campaign. 

2) Desperta Ferro !  and Defiant Principality (

Lluis’ sites about WSS campaigns in Spain, uniforms and wargames also have a storyline, lots of game results and are really active. 

3) Frundsberg Freistadt (   Fireatwill’s site also boasts an intrigue-filled storyline married to a campaign.  Great fun.  

 and here are a couple that are a little off the beaten EvE track :

Really useful and interesting 18th century digitized books and other things.

Not 18th century, but lots of very well-painted Medievals and Ancients in 15mm, and really skillful terrain building.  Mr. Swampster does everything I want to do, except better.

Finally, I have two compatriots (two so far as I know) in the Syldavian imaginations biz:


Paul‘s project is all about the interwar period, and looks pretty much like authentic Hergé, relaxed and very playful.  I wish I could campaign in my yard too, but there is all that snow ! You have to admire his courage or question his judgement however; he has taken up the side of the Bordurians… 

and 7) Alan at Tradgardland, has worked Syldavia into his 18th century Imagi-nation and ventured into the interwar period himself.  Alan’s blog is ample evidence of an active and unfettered imagination (and thank goodness!) and it was a key motivation for me to go public with my own modest project. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Tintin about to be awarded the Order of the Black Pelican (from Hergé's Ottokar's Sceptre)
I opened up the internet today to find a surprise awaiting me, Alan (aka Tradgardmastare of the Duchy of Tradgardland, at has honoured Despatches from Syldavia with the "Stylish Blogger Award".  I believe that Alan is terribly generous as what passes for style around here is pretty threadbare compared to the splendour and wit of some of the web sites we are lucky enough to visit, and I myself have been so inactive the last while that even the "blogger" part of the honorific seems a stretch. Nevertheless, and to be serious for a moment, a nod from Tradgardmastare (who runs one of my favourite places on the web) is indeed an honour and one to be gratefully and graciously acknowledged.  My thanks, Alan.  The Stylish Blogger Award looks like an interesting exercise given some of the spots I have read in the last few days and I would be pleased to take this buck and pay it forward.  I'll try to have something interesting to say about this tommorow.