Wednesday, 30 October 2013

So there's this book survey . . . .


Everybody's doing it, doing it, doing it . . . . (it's a song!)

I saw this on a few blogs and so, not wanting to appear illiterate, I felt obliged to give it a go. It's taken ages because I keep getting sidetracked and having a quick look at the books I mention and scratching my head trying to remember things in particular. It's also the ideal decoy to cover my lack of W/G output, which isn't as low as you might think, but I need some input on some rule ideas and I haven't got them down on paper yet. There's also plenty of stuff painted up, but even I think they're a bit rough!

You'll notice that there's something up with the formatting of this (again!). I've no idea what's up, but there you go. Sorry.


Authors you've read the most:
I changed this question to 'authors' because I could give a tally with a bit of thought, but I'm far too lazy.
Probably Philip Pullman, but Neil Gaiman is pretty damn good (but can be patchy) and there's also Philip K. Dick and Umberto Eco. I've got a feeling Ben Aaronovitch is going to be high up there when he gets his arse in gear.


Best sequel ever:
'Gormenghast', the second volume in the Gormenghast trilogy. The awful Steerpike continues his rise to power which leads to an inevitable and climactic confrontation with Titus! This is poetry in prose. Wonderful books.
 
Currently reading:
'Becoming Johnny Vegas',
Michael Pennington

'The Renaissance at War', Thomas Arnold

'The Castle', Franz Kafka

'Through Fire and Water: HMS Ardent: The forgotten frigate of the Falklands', Mark Higgitt


Drink of choice while reading:

 I usually get told off for not drinking!

 
E-reader or physical book:
Like 'em both, but I'm still a book lover. E-books seem too ephemeral. I like the practicality of my Kindle (mobility, convenience etc.), but it'll never replace the real thing. Military books just don't seem best suited to the e-book format.


Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a bearded man wrote a fairy story about intergalactic wars between an evil empire and rebels. It generated six films, spin offs and a TV series along with limitless merchandising opportunities and vast wealth for its creator who, strangely, has never been able to afford a razor. 

Many sad buggers cling to the saga and forget that it's only pretend and is unlikely ever to make its way into the English canon. Still, I suppose it beats real life . . . . Princess Leia – there has only ever been one! I couldn't care less that she doesn't really qualify: argue with this:



Glad you gave this book a chance:
'If, on a Winter's Night, A Traveller', Italo Calvino. Came highly recommended by an old friend who's a bit of a literary wizz. Best desrcription:
“The narrative is about a reader trying to read a book called If on a winter's night a traveler. Every odd-numbered chapter is in the second person, and tells the reader what he is doing in preparation for reading the next chapter. The even-numbered chapters are all single chapters from whichever book the reader is trying to read.” (Wikipaedia) 
 

Hidden book gem:

 'I am Legend', Richard Matheson. I can do no more than quote the opening of the Wikipaedia entry: “Robert Neville is the apparent sole survivor of a pandemic whose symptoms resemble vampirism. It is implied that the pandemic was caused by a war, and that it was spread by dust storms in the cities and an explosion in the mosquito population. The narrative details Neville's daily life in Los Angeles as he attempts to comprehend, research, and possibly cure the disease, to which he is immune . . . .” Forget the films, they're crap: read the book!!!!!

 
Important moment in your book life: 

Reading 'To Spare the Conquered' by Stephanie Plowman sometime between about 1962–1963 so , say I was eight or nine years old. First 'proper' book I read fully without becoming bored to death, except for 'Vulpes an English Fox', 'Robin Hood' and 'Treasure island'. Not bad for a kid who was dyslexic (though not terminally so). They hadn't actually invented dyslexia then – or at least not in Salford – so I was just considered to be a bit thick.
 

Just finished:
Ben Bova's 'Mars' series – OK, but a bit predictable and formulaic. Stick with the chocolate bars.

'Fighting Them on the Beaches', (D-Day etc.) Nigel Cawthorne. Not brilliantly researched and contained a few technical slips, but OK for anyone wanting a first stab at the subject. Thankfully dead cheap for Kindle: there are plenty of better books out there if you wants to pay yer money.


Kind of book you won't read:
There's so much bilge out there. Crime stuff and unoriginal sci-fi/fantasy; the list is pretty long.
Good example would be George RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR Martin's current, overlong attempt to be the Tolkein of the 21st century. It could have been knocked together by most teenagers, but for the fact that the sex would have been more ably handled and the swearing would have been better. The TV series is easily more enjoyable because of the soft porn and because you don't have to make the physical effort to hold the book.
 
Longest book you've read:

Done 'War & Peace' plus Tolkein and Peake's respective magna opera.


Major book hangover because of:

Predictable plots and poor characters.


Number of bookcases you own:

Five, plus seven stacks of between eighteen and twenty four inches. When I've finally got round to doing up the house (after Henry's gone to school, I think) I'll attend to this.

One (lots of!) book(s) you've read multiple times:


Probably 'I am Legend', 'Lord of the Rings' set and the 'Gormenghast' trilogy.


Preferred place to read:


Haven't got one. Common locations include easy chair, bed, train carriage, waiting rooms.
 


Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels
from a book you've read:
“Sections in the bookstore:
- Books You Haven't Read
- Books You Needn't Read
- Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
- Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
- Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
- Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
- Books Too Expensive Now and You'll Wait 'Til They're Remaindered
- Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
- Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
- Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too
- Books You've Been Planning to Read for Ages
- Books You've Been Hunting for Years Without Success
- Books Dealing with Something You're Working on at the Moment
- Books You Want to Own So They'll Be Handy Just in Case
- Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
- Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
- Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
- Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time to Re-read
- Books You've Always Pretended to Have Read 

and Now It's Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”

Italo Calvino' 'If, on a Winter's Night, a Traveller'


Very true and probably the most appropriate quote for this questionnaire!


Reading regret:

So many books, so little time . . .
 


Series you started and need to finish:


None I can think of, but I can think of some I started and binned without regret.
 


Three of your all-time favourite books:

'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman', Laurence Sterne

'I Am Legend', Richard Matheson

'Borodino', Christopher Duffy


 

Unapologetic fanboy for:


Hmmmmm . . . Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Umberto Eco, Ben Aaronovitch – quite a few really.

 


Very excited for this release:


'Broken Homes', Ben Aaronovitch, but I'm too tight to buy the hardback. Actually, I've simply not got round to it yet, which is a damning statement for someone who claims to like his books so much!

 

Worst bookish habit:


Tsundoku
 


X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:


  1. 'Frederick the Great; a Military Life', Christpoher Duffy
  2. 'The Complete Maus', Art Spiegel
  3. 'The Washing of the Spears', Donald R. Morris
  4. 'Cities in Flight', James Blish
  5. 'The Crusades through Arab Eyes', Amin Maalouf

I'll ignore the stacks . . . 

Your latest book purchase:

'The Franco-Prussian war 1870-7' (2 Vols), Quintin Barry


Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waay too late):

'Whispers Under Ground',
Ben Aaronovich – too tight to buy 'Broken Homes' yet.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Monty's having a give-away!

His actual name is Stefan, but his blog is called 'Monty's Caravan'. He's celebrating having 50,000 hits. He's having two raffles, the prize for the first one being:
The entry details are here.
The second raffle prize is:
and the entry details are here.
You've got until 09:00A on 2nd November to get your name in the hat for both parts. You'll have to get a wiggle on though as it's already proving quite popular!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Loki's Celebratory Give-away

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water (name that film!) Andrew Saunders ('Loki') has announced a give-away on his blog:
It's to celebrate the aforesaid blog reaching 200 followers and the prize is this limited edition Dark Age Scottish Warlord, painted by Andrew:
As you might expect, as well as the usual suspects, there are likely to be plenty of people going in for this, so you'll have to move sharpish - and you only have until 18:00Z on Bonfire Night!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Chris Stoesen scenario books


A short(ish) while ago I received a set of scenario PDFs from Chris Stoesen ( 'Wargamer's Oddsand Ends' blog). There was no ulterior motive, just have a read through and let him know what I thought. So I did and here's what I think.


There are four books involved, two for the WWII air war in the Western Desert, one for the Italians on the Russian Front in WWII and a set for the ACW. All very nicely produced and packed with information. You can get more information and buy the sets from Chris' blog.


I have to confess to a problem with scenarios. The standard I'm used to is that set by the Royal Navy for their own and NATO exercises and for little bits of 'shufty' work which, of course, never happened. We were given huge amounts of (relevant) tasking information and data and superb briefing notes and guidelines. I've yet to see their equal and it's a rare bird in the wargaming world. So, my view of the majority of scenario publications I've seen over the years has been pretty dim. They've been mostly O.K., but generally 'could do better' and not really worth spending money on, with a few notable exceptions. Thankfully, Chris' four sets fall into the 'a few notable exceptions' tray as they're pretty good in my jaundiced opinion. I've seen plenty of hypothetical scenarios, which are relatively easy to compile, but the challenge of writing historically accurate ones and, more importantly, historically accurate ones that work, isn't one to be taken lightly. “Well of course he'd say that, wouldn't he!” No he wouldn't.


To begin with, I'll talk about the two sets of air scenarios. I was drawn to these first because I've never played an air wargame and wanted to get an idea how they worked. Obviously the books are sequential and cover the whole of the North Africa campaign.


Falcon and Gladiator: June 40 to February 41 for use with 'Bag the Hun' and 'Check Your Six'


Air War in the Western Desert: June 41 to November 42 for use with 'Bag the Hun'


They are 122 and 120 pages respectively and a mine of information. I'm sure die hard air wargamers will be familiar with much of the background information, but, as I've generally focused on the land fighting and the Mediterranean naval campaign, the air warfare has always been linked to these. Not too unrealistic a view actually as the air battles were governed by the need to support the ground offensives and attack of defend the naval convoys.


The books follow similar formats, containing background campaign information, orders of battle and briefing notes, but, more than the other two books, they launch very quickly into the rule related information (plenty of that!), which, in itself, was interesting to me. The information and scenario specific rule amendments/additions are absorbing to a novice like me and they're well written so that even I could grasp the situation first off. They also include plenty of references and are supplemented by game templates. If you're sad like me and actually like reading orders of battle/TOEs, you'll understand why I found this aspect of the books the most interesting.


So, you can cover just about the whole of the air conflict for the campaign with minimum stress other than having to do the actual gaming. I thought air wargaming was really only doable on a PC to give a convincing game, but I'm in the process of changing my mind!




The Coming Thunder. Seventeen scenarios (June to December 1861) for 'Terrible Sharp Sword' (American Civil War)


Despite being the baby of the four books, coming to a mere 92 pages (!), this set was my immediate 'favourite' because of the period, but (see below) they're not limited to the ACW. The scenarios are linked by a 'campaign generator' to recreate the Battle of the Peach Orchard, actually a series of skirmishes over a period of weeks over an area of peach orchards in the Falls Church area of Virginia. The peaches themselves could well have been the actual object of the engagements as fighting ceased once all the peaches had been pinched by the soldiers. So, not the more famous 'Peach Orchard' at Gettysburg!


Now, I'm not much of a skirmish gamer and “Terrible Sharp Sword' is an ACW derivative of Too Fat Lardies' 'Sharpe Practice' rules. They're designed for what I'd describe as a large skirmish game with, say, two dozen to twelve dozen (keep it imperial!) figures a side. However, as with all scenario books worth their salt, the seventeen set pieces can be altered as you wish and the option for larger scale actions is an easy one to take up. I'd have little difficulty upping these to at least brigade level affairs, if not divisional squabbles, so a big plus from my point of view. There's also a decent bibliography, including URL's for websites.


In the Name of Roma!: Actions of the 80th Roma Infantry Division on the Eastern Front, August to December 1941.


These are designed for use with 'I Ain't Been Shot Mum', 3rd edition; 'Troops, Weapons & Tactics' and 'Chain of Command'. The Spanish Blue Division is familiar to many gamers, but I don't recall much being published about the Italians on the Eastern Front.


As if the other books aren't good enough, this is the magnum opus of the set. In fact, it's more of a labour or love, weighing in at a healthy 209 pages according to my laptop. It's a very good history in its own right and worth having without any wargaming interest. Those who do buy it for the actual scenarios will find they've got an extended bargain in that they can be transposed to other periods quite easily. The maps themselves should be easily modified to accommodate, say, Napoleonic brigade or even divisional actions.


As you might expect by now, each scenario is a complete package with orbats, map, background, conditions etc. and, importantly, umpire notes, so you can literally pick up and play. Those who want to adapt these for use in other periods will have as much to do as they wish. The briefing and notes are fine as is, but work will obviously need to be done on the weapon systems and orbats. If you simply want to game the scenarios as they were intended, but with another rules system, the notes contained in the introduction are excellent for this and I think they'd do well for use with the Force on Force rules, transposed to more modern conflicts such as the Balkans (or just about anywhere else for that matter). However, it's a much neglected subject and I think it's well worth looking into, particularly with the advent of the Perry WWII Italians.


I haven't gone into too much detail about these books because, to be honest, they speak for themselves. I've possibly been a little excited by their adaptability, but that's the sort of thing I tend to look for. However, I've got to say that they're excellent value for money and, being PDFs, you can get them from Chris's blog more or less instantly. Chris has written other scenario books which are available on the 'Too Fat Lardies' site.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

More of a raid than a post


Bit of a quick one to do a catch-up because real life continually intrudes and is making a bit of a mess of my otherwise moribund timetable.



Well that last post certainly caused some disquiet. I even had a couple of emails asking if I was alright. Alright? I'm always like that/this: what's the problem? Anyway, as a week has passed, it's about time to come up with the 'winners' of the little conundrum which finished the entry. Actually, nobody came up with all the answers (surprise, surprise), but two did identify me – damn! However, for the sake of the curious, I'm the one on the left. It's frightening how nature can contort Adam's perfect form, but there you go. For the record, the Royal Machine is the one in the middle who is also the other wargamer and he and the chap on the right are the motorcyclists. The evening in question became quite an adventure, but it's not for publication here, even though, to the best of my knowledge, no by-laws were infringed. I did have a little trouble with gravity though.



So, the winners are:

MS Foy (you know who you are!)

Andrew Saunders

and I'd better include Paul even though he bottled out. Actually, (THIS IS IMPORTANT!) as only five of you had the gumption to have a go, if you all send me your addresses, you can all have something, even Ray ;O) That should sort out who actually reads this thing . . . .



Oh and the labels for the post did seem to have some effect. I can't believe so many people read that drivel, but I can't see any evidence of search bots. I'll leave them on a little longer though just to see if the entry dies the death as entries are prone to do.



Other things . . .



Jonathan Freitag is having a give-away to celebrate his Palouse Wargames Journal's first birthday:

So, go to: http://palousewargamingjournal.blogspot.com.es/2013/10/one-year-blog-anniversary-and-give-away.html However, you're going to have to be sharp as it closes on the 19th. There are some really excellent books on offer, aside from which, it's an interesting blog worth following.
Exciting for me anyway, was an email from Chris Stoesen of 'Wargamer's Odds and Ends' with some of his scenarios for comment. Four sets: two WWII North African Campaign air war, one for the Russian Front and an ACW set. I haven't given tham a proper read through yet, but they look excellent for their designated periods and, equally important in my view, the land scenarios are easily adapted for other periods. The wise will go to his site and investigate. So, more of this anon.



There's some sage advice from Trabian on his 'Wargaming for Grown-ups' blog for those of us (you really!) who have difficulty completing wargame projects. I have no trouble at all in finishing projects as I have absolutely no conscience or self discipline, which is just as well. Trebian's advice is uncomfortably logical and includes a few home truths and it won't sit well with 'butterflies', but will get your project completed. It's at: http://wargaming4grownups.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/how-to-finish-wargames-project.html



There's a follow-up post on Prufrock's 'Here's no great matter' (an understatement if ever there was one): http://prufrockian-gleanings.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/musings-on-projects-their-start-middle.html



As another reminder, go across to the Blog-Con site (see above right). Join and get to the (first annual?) meeting at the Foundry HQ in Nottingham on the 9th/10th November. It's not only going to be interesting, with plenty to do, but you'll also be able to meet other bloggers who you worship and adore from afar. I'm going just to touch the hem of Ray's toga to see if any of his luck will rub off . . .



I've actually had a bit of a run of luck on the give-aways front lately. As I said, forty five years of nothing and then more wins than you can shake a hairy stick at. When I get my act together I'll list them. Despite this, I'm not resting on my laurels and I do intend to have a November give-away once I've sorted out the crap wargaming delights in the loft. By the way, I've noticed that some bloggers actually welcome new followers, which is something I've not done. I ought to, I suppose, as it at least gives a nod to those who've made the effort, but, for now, please accept my thanks. I also know a a couple of good counselling services to compensate for this blog.



And finally, Google +: what's the point? Against my better judgement, I got part of the way through adopting it and then changed my mind. Seems a lot of fuss over not too much. Unfortunately, I'm now in limbo: parts of G+ appear all over the place. I'm in and out of circles (whatever they are) and I get all kinds of strange messages about things I don't understand. I'm open to advice. Do I ignore it or adopt it?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Rambling: you don't have to read this.


I've had the strangest dream . . . .



I occasionally have repetitive or even sequential dreams which are a sure sign that I'm about to come down with something. Very useful, but the 'something' covers a wide range of ailments. Anyway, I've been having these for a week or so which turn out to be a harbinger of a possibly terminal affliction. I also have other warning signs like my obscenity quotient rising to a level sufficient to make a Bo'sun's Mate blush and a tolerance level which plummets through the floor. Example: Chris insisted on making a raid on Aldi today as part of the shopping exped. Going to Aldi on a Friday is like being in Blackhawk Down, but with more violence. You actually need a helicopter anyway because there's nowhere to park. After about two hours she spotted a space and made a dash for it, but gently (and I mean gently) brushed against the wing mirror of the car in the adjoining bay. I say 'in', but I've seen abandoned cars dumped with better parking skill. The driver shouted something: Chris apologised but I told him to get £@<&€§. I won.



So, by last night/tonight I had a ranging fever. It must've been about 150C – the sort of thing that gives vulcanologists wet dreams. I flaked out at 00:08 (can't help it, it's a navy thing) and had a really odd dream. I picked up the thread of not one, but two of these sequential dreams and, two hours later, had written and produced two radio plays. Quality stuff too like those on Radio 4 that nobody listens to. The storylines are fading now, but they were pretty good, if I say so myself.



So, now wide awake, I begin to think of the old shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. I had a think about my funeral, which I do now and again because my mother died very suddenly and my father died after quite a period of infirmity following a stroke, Consequently, both their funerals were sort of off the cuff as far as the service went. I've always thought “Not for me Jack.” and let my immediate family know my ideas. Currently the music includes 'Solsbury Hill', 'Eternal Father' and, as the curtain closes, 'Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone', but that'll probably change. I also plan to do my best to snuff it between mid November and mid February when the weather's at its worst and have the will read on the centre spot of an empty Old Trafford Stadium to show how bloody insignificant we are. The acknowledgement in the Evening News (complete waste of money) will also list all those who were invited, but obviously had something better to do. Nothing wrong with a bit of spite from beyond the grave.



I even managed to have a think about wargames and I've decided to bin the 'I'll do my own Napoleonic rules' project (probably a 'for the time being' thing) and settle for Le Feu Sacre, which, although I'm not entirely confortable with some of the game modelling, will satisfy my needs. I'll also finish that bloody Austrian regiment tomorrow and get on with something more interesting like the grenadier battalions and more grenzers. I'm planning to get some of the Blue Moon Austrian and Hungarian infantry because I just can't face more Battle Honours infantry than I've got waiting to be prepped and some French infantry in great coats because they're easy to paint, historically accurate and less boring than the most tedious uniform of the Napoleonic Wars.



I'll keep the ECW rules on the boil and crack on with the figures, but my Italian Wars project is waiting for a slot in the painting schedule. I haven't actually got a painting schedule, but I don't want to sound a complete klutz.



The ACW jobs (15mm and 28mm!) will just be grabbed as and when. I've little or no self discipline these days, but they're an understanding bunch of lads and don't hold grudges (but what am I going to do with 6 regiments of zouaves?). The rest of the crap stuff will probably end up on the give-away in November(ish).



Ah there you go. I can think of at least a couple of you who've suddenly come to point like an old gun dog. Yep, I'll do one in November because:



It's a significant birthday (for everyone else but me, it seems).

It's Blog-Con.

I haven't done one yet.

I really do have some rubbish to shift excellent wargaming goodies to redistribute.



Now, there seems to be an undue amount of concern among some bloggers about how many hits they receive and numbers of followers etc., which leaves me a little bewildered. Going back a few weeks there was a debate about why one blogs and what one gets out of it. From what I can remember, nobody mentioned anything about followers or hits, so I wonder what the worry is for. It's good for the ego to have lots of followers and an embarrassment of hits (there, I've said it), but unless you're running a business via your blog, I'm otherwise lost. Anyway, I've added some ridiculous labels to this post to see if they really do have an influence on the number of hits.



Now then, Quick puzzle: Look at the photograph below:





Three moderately drunken men:



two are wargamers and one isn't;

two are motorcyclists, but one isn't;

one was in the navy, one in the marines and one a confirmed civilian;

one of 'em is me.



You have to sort out who's who and the ones who get it right will receive a nice little something as a prize. (Should be safe there then!) If you can't work it out then you haven't been reading this blog for long enough and you can't use Google. :OP