Monday, 30 September 2013

Best auction of the year - get your bids in now!

Here we go, the keenly awaited Bloggers for Charity auction will begin in just a few short hours. Six Foundry explorer figures are up for sale to the highest bidder; ideal for use with your new set of "In Her Majesty's Name'. Here they are:























Rules and other details are to be found here, so dedigitate! It's likely to be a very popular auction.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Guess who didn't make it to Derby?


You'll see from the time I'm posting this that It's a little on the early side for a Sunday morning. I've had a night of hell with my knee (just the one) which I seem to have aggravated doing good works for the benefit of, well, mainly me, but good works nonetheless. Our garage is marginally clearer and the local allotment association has increased its store of fuel for the bonfire party. However, as a sort of instant karma, I can't walk properly, nor can I drive; the upshot being that I won't be travelling to Derby today (or whenever, depending on when you read this). I'm browned off at not being able to meet up with James as planned and not cheering on Tamsin in the competitions. Nevertheless, I hope that those of you who did make it had a great show and acquired plenty of goodies.

Now, one advantage, or maybe disadvantage of being up all night is that you have time to think. I spent some time reading and other things to take my mind off the offending joint and did some more work on the Napoleonic rules jiggery-pokery which raised lots of questions and ideas and things which really ought to be play tested. I have my pet niggles about how best to represent skirmishing and the handling of cavalry, but last night it was mostly about unit size, morale and combat effectiveness.

Some twenty miles off the northwest coast of France, between the North Atlantic and the North Sea lies a little island (actually a group of islands) known as Britain, or The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland if you want to be formal. Please note that Jonny Foreigner, the Americans in particular, has a habit of calling the whole of the UK England and referring to the whole population as 'The English' despite the fact that they do appear to recognise that there are also Scots, Irish and Welsh there in not insignificant numbers. Nobody seems to mention the Manx though.

It's only a small place, about half the size of Madagascar, and much smaller than the two European neighbours, France and Germany, it tends to favour when looking for a conveniently local dust up. Britain has a fairly modest population (in size, not attitude) and it's habitually punched well above its weight. This pugnacious attitude produced a huge empire (which the Scots, Irish and Welsh all claim to have been more important than the English in developing) and an ability to annoy just about everyone (although in this case the Scots, Irish and Welsh – and probably the Manx – are quite happy for foreigners to forget about them).

So what's brought on this little epistle? Well, broadly speaking, national characteristics. They're always a thorny problem in rules, Napoleonics in particular, and everyone has their own view as to how best to represent them or even why to bother at all. I'm not overzealous about a simulation as opposed to a wargame, but I do want some flavour in my games. In my view, a set of rules for, say, the Seven Years' War should be tangibly different to Napoleonic rules. That's aside from the debates about other issues: game scale – tactical or grand tactical, for example.

There seems to be a slightly disjointed approach in that some advocates of national characteristics adopt a sort of broad brush approach whereby all Russians are this and all British are that, which I don't think really fits the bill at all, even for competition games. On the other hand, scenario based games and those representing actual engagements have circumstantial factors included which may, or may not reflect national characteristics. Now, this next bit is probably going to mystify non Napoleonic gamers to some extent, but hey-ho!

An example I was discussing with a friend some months ago was the fighting on the Pratzen Heights at the Battle of Austerlitz. I can't find a decent enough map or diagram to illustrate the situation so I'll have to rely on simply describing the circumstances. On the one hand, the French units involved were fresh from the camps at Boulogne where they'd trained and waited for the invasion of England (scuppered by Trafalgar). They were spoiling for a fight and full of themselves: certainly a force to be reckoned with. Facing them were two Allied divisions, one Russian first line regulars including several grenadier battalions, the other Austrian, almost wholly from the most junior battalions of regiments: hastily raised conscript units who might charitably be described as second line troops at best. So, stalwart Russian regulars and shaky Austrian conscripts. On the face of it a no brainer, except that, after some initial success, the Russian battalions broke, whereas the Austrians fought well and with great determination. However, bring this into a proper scenario and we find that the Russians were understrength, worn out battalions who had just fought rearguard actions during Kutuzov's retreat along the Danube valley. Conversely, although conscripts, the Austrian battalions were all up to strength and not only under the gaze of Kutuzov himself, but aided by General Weyrother and a bevy of adjutants and staff officers. Consequently, they were on their mettle and gave way only after considerable French pressure.

So, what you might assume to be 'safe' assessments of national characteristics (stout, reliable Russians, almost impossible to break etc.) were radically changed by the circumstances. It's this sort of thing that has led me to move towards characteristics for troop types rather than include allowance for their nationality. You can still give additional benefits for some types or even identify actual units, but let the scenario determine the relative merits of the troops unless there are definite examples which would hold fast even for pick-up games.

"Dress them in red, blue, or green - they'll run away just the same." Fernando I, King of the Two Sicilies, c. 1800

Friday, 27 September 2013

“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” - Socrates


I'm going to the Derby World Wargames (Championships) on Sunday, which isn't a clarion call for all bloggers to come and greet me because nobody knows what I look like (though with a bit of research that's not impossible to change). From memory I know James Brewerton's going too and I know what he looks like so I have the advantage. We all probably ought to have some badges made – like those the Steve Dean Forum had done a few years back. Maybe at least those of us who're members of the Bloggers for Charity (Christ on a bike, he's on about that again!).



Anyway, I've read mention of the show on a few blogs and (apart from the fact that almost everyone seems to be going on the Saturday) there are a lot of long(ish) shopping lists being promulgated. Mine are usually uttered sotto voce so I can change my mind at the drop of a hat. Now, other than the ability to see things first hand and to save paying postage (though you have travel and admission costs to account for), I wonder why so many people actually do buy so much at shows. T'internet seems to be the obvious way to make purchases these days and you don't have to schlepp around with a carrier bag cultivating a hernia. Oh yeah, and we could also discuss the members of the Everest expedition who traipse around with bloody rucksacks, but that seems to be falling out of fashion lately, thank God.



Now, I think I was going to ramble on about what I intended to buy, but I've pretty much talked myself out of it. I think I was going to have a shufty at 6mm C19th Europe, Dave Thomas (the stand, not the man), Caliver, Fighting 15's and some real estate, but, other than that, I usually tour the demo games and go for a smirk at the competition games, pointing at the losers and whispering defeatist comments in their ear. I don't really.



So, why the profound title of this post? A few days ago I spent an evening at a council consultation meeting, bored out of my skull. For those of you still in blissful ignorance, this was a meeting organised by our local authority to discuss some redevelopment proposals which will go through anyway, but under a smoke screen of public consultation. As usual, it was clear from the accents of the most vocal opponents that they began life south of the Trent, which is something which has always amused me. I laugh out loud when the TV reporter (any company) interviews 'locals' from, say, South Uist and you hear an accent from the South East of England. I could have left early or fantasized about a particularly attractive local government officer as she sat taking notes (which nobody will ever see), but instead, like all red blooded males of an uncertain age, I began thinking about wargaming. And what I thought was this -



We all participate in a hobby, about which we (collectively) know pretty much nothing. I don't mean the historical stuff (though this can be more than a bit patchy at times) or how to paint leads or who makes which figures, but I mean who wargamers are; what they look like; what they represent. Physically there's a caricature of someone who's a bespectacled, clinically obese male, devoid of any fashion sense, a stranger to the concept of male grooming and with the personal habits of a warthog; but enough of me. What I mean to say is that we don't seem to know how our hobby would appear to an anthropologist.



The geographical spread of wargemers is reasonably easy to assess, at least roughly, but what about:



age

sex (or even sexuality)

ethnicity

employment status

job or profession

periods gamed

duration of participation in the hobby

reasons for engaging in the hobby


And so it goes. But why?



Well, in the first instance, I suppose it's the product of a bored mind, but, the more I thought about it, I came to wonder if we really are the broad church that is so often claimed. There's been a deal of debate recently about painting standards, ethical issues etc., but nothing about what we actually represent. It's the sort of thing marketing people spend millions on each year, trying to identify their customers and market groupings, so it must have some significance. Employers garner similar information about their workforce, governments about their populations, even political parties and some trade unions about their members because they need to be  sure the organisation suits its members or vice versa; yet we don't seem bothered. I bet if Warlord Games found a massive wargames following in China they'd have every type of Chinese soldier for the past two thousand years available in neat boxed sets.



Is it important? As things stand, no, I suppose not. However, if there really is a greying of the hobby, shouldn't we as a group be able to identify who we are before we can discuss what we need to do about it? I have a good friend (yes, I still have one or two), Bill, who's ethnically Afro-Caribbean, born in Trinidad, but brought up in Manchester - he's as 'English' as I am. He's never played, but likes the game element of the hobby and loves the figures. However, he thinks this hobby is unashamedly centred upon white European or Anglo-Saxon culture and values and would have little appeal to anyone outside those groups. However, he doesn't see why women shouldn't be attracted to it just as they are to any game or sport. I asked him about Ancients, but he thought that they referred to historical periods so long ago that the ethnic groupings actually mean nothing nowadays. O.K., fair point. Nevertheless, I still wonder what our anthropologist would think.



I think that, while we're busily justifying the morality of the hobby, we should spare a thought for who holds these moral views. If there's a thriving Napoleonic wargame community among the ethnic Unuit, does that blow Bill's Anglo-Saxon theory out of the water? If the hobby's hugely popular in Argentina, is that a result of Anglo-Saxon/European influence? What about gamers in the Middle East? Africa? Asia? The Far East? Who are they and what makes them tick?



However, in the meantime, I don't think the council gives a monkey's about or opinion of the redevelopment plans.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Chris' give away comp - and it's a clever one

Yet another blog give-away! This time it's Chris Stoesen's over at his Wargamer's Odds and Ends blog. Good prizes, but YOU'VE GOT TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS (here).


Now, once you've done (or tried to do) your draw entry, give the blog a good read through as I think you're bound to find something of interest. Chris is a talented chap who, not satisfied with writing a couple of books, has also written several scenario books for the following Too Fat Lardies rules:
"I Ain't Been Shot Mum"
"Chain of Command"
"Troops, Weapons and Tactics"
"Sharpe Practice"
"Terrible Sharp Sword" 
"Bag the Hun" 
(although a couple of these are compatible with other rule sets.) You can buy them from his blog or via the TFL site.

So, as I said, a blog worth following. 

(Jeez, I'm beginning to sound like Mike Siggins! - who would probably cringe if he read this . . . )

Monday, 23 September 2013

A stunner of a give-away . . . .

Blimey, you've got to see this one!


Anne O'Leary is running a give-away with some excellent prize bundles (and I mean EXCELLENT!) over on her O'Leary Miniatures blog. This give away is being sponsored in part by author Patrick Hatt. You can find Mr. Hatt's Amazon Writers Page at http://www.amazon.com/Pat-Hatt/e/B00AGFMYVC.

Now quite a few bloggers have run give-aways over the past few months and they've had some really good prizes, but I think Anne may have flipped her lid has been extremely generous because the prizes are not only desirable, but pretty substantial. So, my advice is to get over to the blog and get there fast and READ ALL THE RULES because there are little snippets of information dropped in almost casually. You'll haave to keep reading the blog as there will be opportunities to gain more points during the 'contest'. It's been very cleverly thought out and would probably win a prize as an example of its kind.

I get not a single brownie point for all this, so I'm not creeping, but did I say the prizes are really good?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

I know where there's going to be an exclusive auction and you don't (yet)!

A while ago I promoted a great scheme called Bloggers for Charity (see above right). It's gaining members and accumulating donations and has some great plans for the coming eighteen months so things look to be on the up. So, good oh! However, a few days ago I was listening to some nice music (Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor for the music buffs) and sorting through my collection of navel fluff (do you have an 'inny' or an 'outy'?) when I had an epiphany - it's perfectly legal and permissible in mixed company and even on public transport. I had mine in an armchair, but never mind that.



Right, cut to another part of the brain. I've got a bit of stuff I no longer have a need for, which refers to wargames related items and not a lover, and had been thinking it was about time I did one of those blog give-aways which are so in vogue. This didn't appeal to me though as I'm a bit of a curmudgeon and I don't really do celebrations. I do realise I've not long ago clocked up a hundred followers (I must do something for a 'thank you' I suppose) and twenty thousand page views (I must pray for you) so I probably will do a give-away after all. Nevertheless, I hit upon an idea for a way to raise the profile of Bloggers for Charity, increase membership and get more filthy lucre into the old charity fund. And that idea is this . . . .



I've got permission from the Top Table to run a small, closed auction on the BfC site which will run for the first ten days of October. The figures for sale are five Foundry 28mm Victorian adventurer types suitable for a variety of applications; there's an image of one below:





which bears a striking resemblance to the photograph on Bloggers for Charity.



It's a fast exercise and will be over before you know it. There's absolutely no point in letting things go cold so you're going to have to dedigitate if you want to participate. Even if you don't want to participate, PLEASE promote the blog and the auction in order to raise both the profile of BfC and the charity fund. If you do want to participate then you need to read this post and standby for the final instructions and start time.



By the way, if you do want to participate (and who wouldn't?) you need to be a member/follower of Bloggers for Charity and give evidence of promotional work – yer get nowt fer nowt 'ere mate.



So, go immediately to Bloggers for Charity and get your debit cards oiled up!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A sort of extended give-away!

The Blog With No Name



Saka Light Cavalry

Unfortunately Blogger isn't behaving itself (as usual) so the formatting is up the wall. However, Ian's added some new prizes to the give-away competition he began to celebrate his blog's second birthday and the 500th post.

Three more items have been added, including an unpainted Salute souvenir ACW cavalry officer I posted a couple of weeks ago:

It's a lovely figure and worth having, so get entering. Rules etc. are available on Ian's blog.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Chance your arm!

Ian's blog,

The Blog With No Name



is celebrating its second birthday and the 500th post with a give-away. You can enter here by following the simple rules and then stand a chance of bagging something good.

It's another good blog with plenty of interesting posts and worth joining anyway even if you don't want to enter the competition. Ian also runs a 'Secret Santa' and a 'Santa Clause' scheme which is worth investigating, particularly if you like suprises and random acts of kindness - O.K., just if you like surprises . . . .

Friday, 6 September 2013

A good read . . .

I don't often promote blogs for the sake of it because I like so many and for different reasons and it seems uncharitable to the rest to single out any particular one. However, every so often (very often among the people I follow) you come across a blog which is simply a good read. There are plenty of examples of this in the list to the left. 

Sean (from his Wargames Corner) suggested a blog worth visiting, so I read it. Not all of it yet, you understand, but enough to be convinced it really is a good read. The blog is called "The Royalist Roundhead", nicely written by one Justin Penwith who already appears to be familiar to some of you. He's an eclectic gamer and a talented modeller and, although not everything he's interested in will be common ground, the blog is, nonetheless, worth a read. He is currently reminiscing about a comic called 'Knights of the Dinner Table' which is best left to him to describe. Interesting though, so you might want to give it a go.

Despite being close to seven feet tall (well, at a modest 5'6" - 5'7" on payday - he looks it to me), he's as yet beset by some of the worst luck you could imagine,  which makes me wonder if being tall isn't everything. Anyway, he's in need of an uplift of sorts, so get to it - I think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

May be misconstrued as political . . . . .

In case anyone thinks the current political shenanigans over Syria are getting complicated, here's the alternative thought process. Succinct, I think . .



Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013




I've just read the sad news of Don Featherstone's death yesterday following a fall at his home. The interweb  will be flooded with remembrances and obits for the next few days, but I couldn't let this event pass without comment.

I never met or knew  Don Featherstone, but he was the original guiding light for me and for many others in our early years in the hobby. Well before we'd heard of Peter Gilder, Charles Grant or Peter Young, Don was telling us about a man named Tony Bath who was a rules wizard and a strange implement known as The Lionel Tarr Periscope.

Back in 1967 three schoolboys made meticulous copies of the rules contained in 'Wargames' in exercise books liberated from a variety of subjects and used them for years, only augmenting them with amendments pinched from Tony Bath's various rules.

Those three schoolboys are still gaming and genuinely owe it all to Mr Featherstone. Our grateful thanks for giving us much more than just a hobby. 

RIP.


(There's an excellent piece on Don on Vintage Wargaming here and an interesting wargaming timeline here.)

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Other Partizan (Actual)

As you might have guessed, I went to the show today and had a good time of it. Had some great chats with traders and also bumped into some old mates as well as the 'regulars'. Overall the show is never as hectic as the Spring event, but it was quite busy and the traders seemed to be there to the death, which is always a good sign.

Spotted Mike Siggins, though didn't get a chance to speak to him, but then he's probably been badgered to death over his 're-evaluation' comment. And that's about it for the glitterati, although someone said they'd seen Neil Shuck there as well.

There were some excellent games on show and it would be churlish of me to single out any in particular, but, as it's my blog, I can do what I like! The VBCW demo game was good and seemed pretty fast moving, but, by the time I managed to get back to it they seemed to be on a long(ish) break. However, they're perennials, so I'll see them again at the Spring show.

I don't really 'do' Ancients anymore, but there were a couple of very nice looking games on and overall the tables were to a pretty decent standard. Certainly not a disappointment for any of them. However, the best games from my point of view were what I call 'The Curse of Louis XIV': the League of Augsburg demo and the Northstar display. (I say curse because that feller has cost and will continue to cost me a fortune in projects!) Both were enough to make any real wargamer quite damp with excitement. Plenty of very well painted figures and excellent terrain (the trees on the Northstar board were superb). Unfortunately, I didn't get as many photos as I really wanted because I ended up yapping too much, but here are the League of Augsburg shots:










And here is the ONE of the Northstar board (it's Dave King's fault!):





A goodly few of the figures in this game were painted by Dave Woodward ('Paintermeister'), but who doesn't do much commission work these days, which is a loss.

Just a point of interest (which I didn't get chance to confirm): the Warfare Miniatures stand (League of Augsburg's figure range) had some packs which aren't listed in their online catalogue. I'm assuming they're brand new releases, but who knows. They were VERY nice figures though as were Nick Eyre's 'Northstar 1672' figures.

Which brings me on to the traders and anything interesting. Well, yes, there was lots of interesting stuff and I could have spent a fortune. I didn't, but I only put that down to my iron will and the self  discipline of a monk with the clap. Things which did catch my eye were:

Redoubt had their civilian sets (four periods, I think) on display and they were very good. Certainly worth considering.

Foundry had some sets which either I hadn't noticed or which look far better in the flesh. They also had some blisters which aren't listed yet on their site. They were selling their blister packs for only £10 each. Something to bear in mind if they're at a show you attend, even if they can't spell 'independence' correctly . . . .

Pete ("Look into My Eyes" ) Berry of Baccus 6mm had a support act in the shape of a painting workshop for 6mm figures by Dr Mike Salway which was excellent. He almost convinced me to get my Late C19th project off the blocks after a mere fifteen years or so. However, I couldn't let Pete know he'd finally won!

Andy Copestake's Old Glory stand had a revelation for me in that I finally noticed they do Landsknechts in pluderhosen as part of their 'Wars of Religion' range. They look really good and, as OG figures can be a bit hit and miss (often miss), I think these are worth an investment.

Anyway, that's enough name dropping for one day. There was plenty of other stuff worthy of mention, but this isn't a review page and I'm sure there will be show reports on several blogs and elsewhere so I'll be on my way.