Sunday, 15 January 2017

An army marches on its stomach.

Now this post has nothing at all to do with Wargaming but is rather about my other minor passion - Cookery. Yes actually making meals for myself and Carole that don't come out of a packet and have never seen a bloody microwave- won't have one in the house ! Awful things.
 Now don't get me wrong I'm not really a total Foodie but probably a bit of one (and yes every possibly punning connotation intended) with a limited repertoire yet !!
 But I've never killed anyone I've fed- nor even given them as much as a tummy ache- unless it was from stuffing down seconds.
 Of the world cuisines I've tried a few  Anglo - Indian Anglo- Chinese and American- Chinese- somewhat different.
 Greek , French , Dutch- Indonesian, American,  German, Belgian, Thai , Tex-Mex, Italian and Spanish and of course English Scottish ,Irish and Welsh.(Welsh Cakes and Irish Soda bread- done properly are truly splendid and I don't object to a decent Colcannon either. Ayrshire round may just be the best bacon on the planet and a good Scotch pie- though perhaps an acquired taste  can be superb.
 There was a time when British food was incredibly boring  and indeed at times  still is though for different reasons. Top of my tedious list is the "classic"  British Roast Dinner or Sunday Dinner. When done well it can be quite acceptable and even good but as a home cook it is a hell of a faff for not very much in the way of style or flavour- the now old fashioned British aversion to anything resembling herbs or spices(except yellow curry powder) is still in evidence in pubs doing "Sunday Lunch" Beef you can sole your boots with boiled veg that- if you are lucky, still has some vestige of flavour. Often at these pubs you get out of a packet Yorkshire Puddings (God Damn Aunt bloody Bessie) that make reasonable shrapnel shells when stabbed. Obviously for some culinary variety is not the spice of life.- or this kind of stuff would not be so popular- likewise such  dangerous dross as Macdonalds or KFC-  "A coronary in a bucket please with extra salt and sugar ! "

So far myself and Carole we tend to have gone quite Mediterranean in our diet- especially as my current favourite cuisines are Spanish and Italian. Good Tapas and chilled Fino sherry are a combination made in Heaven and I've just acquired a book on Tuscan cookery and now love Garmugia amongst other dishes.

In case you all think I've gone metal  there is of course still room for the indispensable Bacon Buttie- at shows and a TWATS meeting simply would not wash without Landlady Jean's excellent Beef Butties and chips.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Thank God that is over at last.

Well the holidays are over. Not that Carole and I really had any. Christmas was a total frost due to an outbreak of some  kind of Flu like virus so all plans went out of the window. Then of course you get those people to whom the rules simply do not apply. That is - these days- everyone who wants anything NOW.
 To be sure these are overall a very tiny minority but you end up spending more time  on a chap who thinks he's Trump if he spends a tenner than on blokes who spend  a few tons or even a monkey or more. This of course is a fact of retail life and works in any area of endeavour and is by no means just  a wargaming thing.
 So the world is back to more or less normal. I've almost stopped trying to cough up a lung every 10 minutes and even got a tiny bit of panting done. Though nowhere near as much as I'd wanted. For instance I've cleaned up but not started a  group of the new Blue Moon ECW range. Hopefully it will develop over time into the Dunkirk Dunes campaign.
Some 40mm Thirty Years War. Having been touched up  now awaiting re-basing on round bases. Possibly these will end up taking the p*** out of "The Pikemans Lament."
 I'll have to get a copy of the Osprey "The Pikeman's Lament" even though I suspect it won't be very 17th century. However until I actually get one I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Mind you  being told it is based around "Lion Rampant"- which I do have does not fill me with confidence.
A couple of 40mm TYW cuirassiers that should may also aid in urinary extraction. 
On to other stuff.
 "Shinyloo" moves on at a pace slightly faster than glacial. with figures being added to both sides. The first game will definitely take place this year- only 6 months or so behind schedule.
Willie and Charlie! - Suren Cuirassiers on Stadden Horses.

There are now almost 200 figures painted for "Shinyloo" with the French having a large preponderance of Cavalry.. Certainly enough for a small "beginners" style "Charge " game. However we'll see. I may use Featherstone instead or perhaps a melange of both.  After all you don't have to tie yourself to a given set of rules.

Royal Horse Artillery. These are  from the Hinchliffe/ Caldercraft 30mm sets. They match in well with the Stadden models I already have. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A clutch of unread magazines

As you might expect I've been a tad busy in the run up to Crimbo. However all is as done as we can do . Now the last few latecoming parcels have gone up  up to the Post Office  that is it until we start again on Jan 4th. Orders can still be ordered but won't be processed or sent as there is little point in them sitting in a Sorting Office for a week and a half. Also - it has to be said - in certain areas stocks are a bit low after the hectic period just finished. Though I have just added a bundle of new stuff to the website in the shape of more Blue Moon ECW and a bundle of late Saxon Napoleonic cavalry. More new stuff will be added in late January.  when I get my next shipment from the USA.

 My last shipment from the USA arrived last Friday- since then Carole and I have dispatched around 150 parcels via the Post Office and our courier so I've barely had time to open let alone read any of the last 2 month's worth of magazines that have dropped on my mat since late November..

So now I may, just may have a bit of time to myself. Some of it will be spent looking through this bundle of magazines
 MW 404 MW 405  WI 350 WI 351
 Now in theory that is an awful lot of pages but once you categorise it actually works out a lot less. Ignoring all the adverts in both magazines for the same old same old cuts down the workload by at least half. The reviews in all  if the magazines are sometimes useful  but mostly not  likewise the infomercials for particular rulesets or games masquerading as articles. and the"interviews" with sundry games designers who - quite naturally want to push their latest creation . This kind of thing seems to be almost the only reason for  non- historical content these days. Either infomercials or interviews. Sci- Fant is or seems to be almost totally  game driven - "buy this game play it this way  because we told you so (£49.99)DISCLAIMER The company is not responsible for any accidents resulting from gamers using their  own brain)"
 Now this does not detract from the quality of some of the gear- so the Crooked Dice minis for 7TV look excellent- I even own a couple and the new John Carter of Mars stuff from Modiphius looks interesting -from the point of view of a figure painter getting the right flesh tone on Deja Thoris'   lissome thighs  could prove an interesting challenge!!
 Are sci- fant gamers so devoid of imagination that ALL they want to do is open the box and roll dice? Surely that cannot be the case. The vast number of different "games"  currently appearing in all of our different fields of endeavour would however suggest that this instant approach is becoming more and more popular. I'm not sure some of these are even wargames- when did the Thunderbirds , for example go to war ?. Even within the historical field the appearance of many very similar "games" may lead us to believe that this trend is for the moment almost universal.  This means that magazine content has to follow this trend (or perhaps help to create it under pressure from publishers anxious to make a few quid)  So within these four issues are no less than 11 infomercials for specific "games"- the majority- 7 -  being in the 2 issues of WI add in a couple of "interviews" in MW plus the usual review pages in both mags and you'd think that there would  not always be a lot of room left for "proper" articles.
In the case of these four issues at least you would be wrong.
 Show reports  include SELWG. and  Warfayre  in the UK ,Little Wars in the USA and Little Wars in Melbourne Australia.. All of the show gave us some fine looking display games..
 Various articles gave us information on the Korean War battle of Choisin ,Naval action at Jutland, Colonial Warfare and a good look at wargaming on gridded terrain. MW has a nice article by Belgian Wargame  Dirk Donvil on Napoleonic gaming in 54mm - showing different ways of doing stuff. Miles  away from the "open the box and do as you  are told"  of the infomercials sometime apparent.  Add in what I suppose is really another infomercial for Warfare Miniatures on the Great Northern war (interesting that the author barely mentions  15mm GNW ranges at all and totally ignores both the Blue Moon 15mm range- which has after all only been available for about 5 or 6 years.) Despite this overall the articles do provide a basic grounding in the period albeit a somewhat biased one.
 Of the four mags my overall favourite article was by 10mm enthusiast Dan Johnson in MW 405 detailing how he turned skirmish game SAGA into a rather splendid looking 10mm Crusades  set up for larger engagements. Equally Arthur Harmans ECW rules look useful and intresting - though I have not tried them yet.
Once again as far from the "buy my new thingy" infomercial as you can get and showing that (with others) there is still individual sentient life out there.
On a personal note I read the review of  Osprey's ECW/TYW -a -like "game" Pikeman's Lament " with more than a little trepidation. The review leads me to believe that it is more of an FRPG than a set of Historical rules- more like the D and D volume "A Mighty Fortress" that say "Forlorn Hope" or even "File Leader".- According to the review there are no rules for unit facing- so perhaps that is the reason for the Pikeman's lament as a pikeman on his own is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. Equally a bunch of pikemen with no unit structure is possibly even less use. Now I'll have to get a copy of these but if - given the author- they are as 17th century as Lion Rampant was medieval then I'll be using  such wonderful historical documents as Hammer's "The Scarlet Blade" as my historical source material. Nevertheless let us not pre-judge until I get a copy.

Overall there is plenty to read in these four mags- WI seems to have toned down it's "Shazam-Kapow" just a little though overall most of the articles are still shortish and in general of lighter weight than those in MW with a somewhat heavier reliance on the infomercial style. MW still seems to me-somewhat the more adult- though it has to be said the gap between the two in this regard is closing.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Roots

Back in the day a novelist /historian called Alex Hailey wrote a book called "Roots" purporting to be about his own ancestry. It was made into a TV series and actually wasn't half bad.
 Some time later the debunkers found out that  he had- at least in part been guilty, perhaps, of  some terminological inexactitude. This did not detract from the book being readable or the TV series being amusing.
 .This really appropos of not much except that the Twats Tiny Tactica Tournament didn't happen as planned because of chaps crying off at the last minute.
 Nevertheless 3 of us turned up at the pub- still wanting a bit of Ancient amusement of a more or less historical nature. So as a light alternative to Tactica I put a couple of the old "Classics" in my bag and told the lads if they didn't fancy Tactica how about either Terry Wise or Don Featherstone (actually Tony Bath). In other words we were going back to our Roots !
 It quickly transpired that Terry Wises' ancient rules didn't really work and I still can't fathom the melee system so we switched immediately to Tony Bath's set in Featherstones War Games of 1962 vintage. This without any  dislocation or disorganistation  or indeed any change at all  of either army. Like many older rules both these sets are "figure-driven" rather than "mechanism-driven".so it means that you can paly either as you like.
 Troops were 15mm- my own Marian Romans- commanded by Andrew and Shaun our resident Ancient Man using his Samnites. I umpired and this was really an exercise in seeing if theses ancient Ancient rules would work with two armies based differently and with no points systems or army lists  or other modern fol-de rol to get in the way. Yes I know the Marian Romans never fought the Samnites but Shaun reckoned that they had never yet been out of the box and it was time. So we streached a point. Andrew commanded the Romans . Shaun simply emptied his box of Samnitesand battle commenced. . No points systems or Army Lists were harmed in the making of this game.

My 15mm Marian Romans . All Blue Moon. Mostly painted by John Reidy.

 You know what, I've played a hell of a lot worse. It quickly transpired that there is little new under the sun. I'd not played these at all since school  with Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons with a few Hong Kong rip offs to add variety. (I recall some plastic Greeks that were basically pantographed down version of Britains ) They felt a lot like a cross between WHAB and Tactica- especially WHAB. The IGOUGO system slows things a bit but that could easily be altered to an "orders and Simultaneous movement" system without touching the actual mechanisms- which are dead simple.Dicing for "initiative" (ie choosing to move first or second) add a bit of spice
 Morale could do with a bit of fiddling, simply to vary the troops quality but basically the rules are pretty sound and faster moving than WHAB and possibly WRG 5th or 6th though we'd need to play a few more games to be sure of this. Like Tactica these were  a little dice heavy but not so badly that it took the game from the players control. The players were always in charge of their own decisions.
 These rules were of course a simple introductory set and none the worse for that. By today's standards definitions were a bit wooly and certainly would not suit the "win at all costs" types who need to have the far end of a fart defined to stop them cheating. It would be no big deal to add a little more period specific detail if you wished but all the basics are covered for those who have a modicum of useable brain cells.
Crunch Time- Just before the deciding melee. Shaun's Samnites in the more open order will get chewed up by the Roman mincing machine..

For the record the Samnites went down to a bloody defeat after an heroic resistance. The main Mellee in the centre swung back and forth but the Linen Legion could not quite match the power of the better armoured Romans Legionaries. What luck was about did seem to run Andrew's way(for a change did I hear muttered?)  but it was still a very enjoyable exercise as well as going some way to proving as Andre put it- "You don't HAVE to pay £30.00 for a book full of pictures and a few rules"

I will have another bash at these simple rules  with different armies. But equally I'll still use Tactica or WRG or possibly Hail Cesar as the mood take me. After all its not simply about finding  a game you can win at is it?
 Once again our thanks go to Jean the Landlady- in extra measure- for providing a splendid Christmas dinner  with all the trimmings as well as the usual fine beer.

Looking forward to some good games next year- Including the postponed TWATS  Tiny Tactica Tournament.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Pure Hell of Christmas

 I have this dream around this time of year. There I am sitting at a table  surrounded by ahem"friends and family"(who in this dream I do not know) all wearing silly paper hats and stuffing themselves into a mindless stupor with  sprouts and turkey(and OOH these sprouts have been on the stove since Thursday ! and OOH getting that 64lb Turkey into the oven wasn't half a chore! ) Needless to say the awful bread sauce is thick enough to put into a mould and the shrieking from sundry brats  blarting about how Santa didn't bring them the latest version of Zombie massacre 29 (and some of those brats are at least 32 ) is enough to burst your eardrums and of course my fresh foaming pint of "Old Horizontal" is just out of reach and the bells jingle louder and the fake snowflakes fall like 81mm mortar shells and every list has been checked at least twice.......

Then I wake up on a cold sweat and THANK GOD it is only December 6th.

PHEW!!!!

Now don't for a moment think I'm anti- Christmas. I'm not- well not altogether- though perhaps if James Stewart HAD jumped off the bridge in "Its A Wonderful Life"  we would not have to put up with that mawkish drivel year after year. (Though I can handle "The Great Escape" and even "The Wizard of Oz" no problem).
 No my problem here is not MY or indeed myself and my wife Carole's - Christmas but the way every other buggers Christmas- or more accurately the expected  correct commercial Christmas is rammed down your throat like a 12 pounder roundshot. 
It's enough to make you weep sometimes.
 So what is my kind of Christmas- well for a start it means a few days off without having to think about little lead men or parcels, some "quality time" (awful phrase)  for Carole and myself perhaps the odd visit to family.... maybe... though hoping to avoid stroppy teenage nieces who can't converse without use of the texting thumbs.
 As for Christmas dinner- well I hate Turkey so this year it is venison- so Rudolf had better not stop here. He'd be on the plate before he'd finished noshing his 3 millionth carrot of the night. How the overweight bugger leaps from rooftop to rooftop is beyond me and if Santa gets outside all that sherry- or milk and cookies  when in the USA- he's going to throw his guts up somewhere over the Pacific .Will NORAD be able to  track that I wonder?.


Image result for christmas images cartoon





So basically I'm looking forward to the holiday to a bit of peace and quiet - and even  a small amount of Goodwill to all men - and women.
So here's Hoping your all have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.






Related image

Friday, 25 November 2016

Troops of Horse and Photo software.

These Two troops of Roundhead cavalry have been on my desk for some time- Both will join existing troops to form larger regiments. So the Orange Cornet will join the Earl of Essex's regiment and the Red Cornet Sir William Balfour's  regiment. Both troops will join the "Modern ECW"  army rather than the shiny 1970s one. The Parliametarians in this collection are representative of the Earl of Essex's Army for the Edgehill campaign. The Royalists  more for the Summer of 1643.
 The shiny blokes are of course for 1978 !
 However  I do fancy doing  an "Edgehill-a-like" sort of refight at the Durham show this coming june(assuming of course that they are kind enough to invite us) where I use about 90% of the ECW stuff I own all on one table- the thick end of 1000 figures I think, though I have not actually counted 'em all.

Troop of Sir William Balfours Regiment of Horse. Possibly that of his Major and Son- William Balfour . 


 The models are all Old Glory though the horses- again Old Glory are- or some of them are- no longer in production. We changed our horses a good few years ago as some of the older ones were a bit thin. However I still have a few of the older horses left in my personal stock and for some units I prefer them.
Two troops together led by Sir William Balfour. Though at Edgehill he may have been in Cuirassier armour as the first Colonels troops of his regiment consisted of 802 cuirassiers plus officers.  So I might paint another ! 
Close up of the two troops. 

An 8 figure Troop represents a standard  troop of horse of roughly 70 men plus Officers so figure to man ratio is about 1-10 . However on the table they often act more like "divisions" of 2-3 troops which was the standard fighting  formation- we'd call it a squadron.
 Photo software can do your head in . I took these pics yesterday and the machine then hid them in the bowels of itself when I uploaded them to the computer. Apparently  the photo software  thinks it is Jan 1st 2005  despite haveing accurate clocks and calendars for other functions. Talk about left hand not knowing what the right is doing.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Rules rules games games.

Saturday the 19th Novemebr saw 5 TWATS   gather at our usual haunt for this months game - or rsather games
 Andrew the Tekkie was in the chair so it was 15mm Moderns using my British and Iraqi forces. However the idea this time was a bit different.
 Basically  Andrew and I wanted to test 3 rule sets to see how they compared. So Andrew set up a simple scenario which would be played out to each of the 3 sets
Team Yankee as it is the newest brightest ans shinyest came first . This would be its first outing
 Cold War Commander as we'd never actually played this and finally
 Combined Arms- is our usual set for these games and would therefore be the last of the 3 test games. In the event it didn't get played but as we knew what to expect from the system it did not change out ultimate findings.
 Andrew will post  accounts of the 2 battles on his blog Tantobie Internet Tattler in due course .http://tantobieinternettattler.blogspot.co.uk/
 I'm going to restrict myself to my opinion of the two rule sets.
The table laid out for both games- Iraqis nearest the camera. 

 I was deeply sceptical about Team Yankee. It is a glorified skirmish game where one tank represents one tank. Higher formations  than the company tend to be ignored for though you could play them if you had enough kit it would be a major exercise. Some things really jar- baled out tank crews for a start- not in a 1980s battlefield- well not for very long anyhow. My first reading of the rules was pretty cursory but they seemed rather simplistic and as always with that style of rule writing just a bit patronising. I was prepared to give them a proper spanking. Yet it has to be said I've played worse. The game was quick and frantic and quite dice driven yet it had its points. By the end of 5 turns there were dead tanks everywhere- mostly - but not entirely Iraqi and the British recon unit and 2 Challenger had ceased to exist. For the  1980s North German plain that is not actually bad- and since that is what the rules are designed for... The feel however was very gamesey, very shazam-kapow somehow quite teenage. Yet there was a bit of potential. The off- putting part is the price- not just of the basic rules but of all the add-ons- apparently £16.00 for the artillery  bombardment tool- some plastic thingy and of course around £12.00 for each of the add on books/army lists not to mention the vicious prices of some of the models. Of course this last does not bother us since we have bundle of modern stuff available.
 Despite all this I am, surprisingly, a long way from writing these off. I still prefer Combined Arms over Team Yankee - as it doesn't treat you like a 14 year old- and does not threaten to market the shite out of you at every opportunity. Also I prefer the higher command level of CA. Nevertheless TY was a good bit better than expected- 6/10
Team Yankee- move 2 and the Iraqis still survive ! 

Now we come to Cold War Commander. In theory it is set at the same command level as  CA- with one model representing a platoon but there the resemblance ends. simply because there is no higher organisation than a single model vehicle /Infantry stand - you are supposed to make it up. The whole system is slaved to the Army lists which in many cases cover a pretty wide time spectrum.Some of the possibilities are odd. with "higher" grouping of several platoons/units being called formations. There are  no companies/squadrons/battalions. Merely groups of pretty counters. So organisationally they don't score.
The mind numbing nothing ness of the desert and Cold War Commander.

 Now, on to the mechanisms- simplistic  but somehow not simple. Repetitive and tedious is the nearest I can get- this was DBR with tanks  with a bit of Black Powder for flavour and perspicacious reader will know my opinion of DBR. These possibly were not that good. The IGOUGO system made it slow even for a first game.. All 5 of us died of boredom by move 4 . If you are the sort of games player who thinks dice rolling is an intellectual activity then these are right up your street as EVERYTHING is dice controlled. Issue an order- roll dice, want to fire -roll dice work out hits- roll dice  Saving throws- roll more dice . . Morale- no not really  but roll a dice anyway. Gawd this was tedious. I had spots before my eyes.  Then do it all again next move as hits are not cumulative so unless you accrue enough hits on a unit in 1 turn to kill it outright . It comes back again later even if it has been forced back or temporarily suppressed. . This is yet another prime example of making the game for the sake of a game and ignoring the actuality.
 Total Cobblers 0/10

Nothing to do with the game but a pair of Old Glory AMX30 painted - and sand skirts/aerials added by Shaun Holdsworth.
 A regular TWAT. 
Still despite the above  as always a good day had by all.  As always mightily aided by  Beef Butties and the odd pint ! Next meeting in December will be the TWATS Tiny Tactica Tournament. - Watch this space !