Painting the Clouds with Sunshine

Writing this exactly a week before Christmas at the time of year you realise the Christmas card list has been subject to the attentions of the Grim Reaper. To quote Flight Officer David Campbell in ‘The Longest Day’, “I don’t mind being one of the few; trouble is, we keep getting fewer”.

There’s an element of entertainment too, like seeing who hasn’t sent you a card by a particular cut-off date and then sending them a card on the last possible posting date before Christmas, when they have no possibility of send you one in return. If they had actually intended to send you a card, but got delayed or distracted (it happens), you have the satisfaction of imagining their guilt and if they hadn’t intended to send you one, then you have the moral (or game) advantage for the coming year while you decide on the tactics for Christmas 2017. Of course, that could be another reason why my list gets smaller each year . . . 

However, enough of this and on with quick summary of what I’m working on at the moment. I’ve included below a few photos of some of the command figures which will make up The Marquis of Winchester’s Foot:

They’re all Perry with a few Foundry mixed in and were originally intended for The King’s Lifeguard of Foot but for two reasons: everybody’s got that regiment and Charles was a thoroughgoing dunce. However, I’m a fan of red coats, so I sought out another regiment that would fit the bill. I already have plans for a couple of such regiments, but, as the pike figures are particularly well equipped, I thought this unit ought to represent one formed by someone with access to his own source of arms or wealthy enough to buy in sufficient arms and armour from the Continent. A certain John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester fitted the bill nicely, being a particularly wealthy Royalist supporter who recruited his own foot and horse regiments for the King. 

Both units were quite modest, the Horse numbering around fifty troopers and the Foot only mustering around two hundred (but when has that ever bothered a wargamer?). However, the really attractive thing for me is the beautiful irony that neither regiment ever served in the field, both being engaged in the three sieges of Basing House, Winchester’s home. Basing House was a thorn in the side of the parliamentary armies as it commanded the main road from the West Country to London and, to make matters worse, had a reputation as a refuge for Royalists and Catholics. So, quite a famous unit with a famous patron and, to add to its prestige, Basing House was finally stormed in October 1643 by troops under Cromwell himself.

The Civil Wars often receive a sidelong glance from gamers and seem to have earned the reputation of being quite tame. It’s probably a good place here to mention that the storm and razing of Basing House involved a significant number of deaths among the defenders. Although atrocities against civilians during the Civil Wars weren’t common, aside from the attentions of passing armies, (Ireland was, I think, a different issue) and generally discouraged by both sides (if you ignore Bolton and a few other places and the King's 'Irish' troops might argue differently), the explanation may be the presence of a number of Catholic priests among the defenders. Interestingly, it later came as quite a shock to potential victims that Fairfax’s New Model Army was well disciplined and not given to the behaviour of other armies during the Wars.

Not satisified with ploughing through one regiment, I thought I might as well knock off two at once as they were stored in the same box and I could simply promote another of my ‘red’ regiments. So, the second lot I’m working on is Sir Thomas Tyldesley’s Foot which was raised in Lancashire (Hurrah!) and featured in some of the more famous actions of the Civil War. Oddly enough, one of these was the Storming of Bolton and subsequent massacre, so maybe I have a natural inclination for that sort of thing. However, unlike me, Tyldesley was extremely wealthy and raised regiments of horse, foot and dragoons for the King and began his service at Edgehill, which earned him his knighthood. 

Unlike Winchester’s regiment(s), this unit actually took the field and fought at quite a few engagements, including 1st Newbury, Nantwich and Marston Moor. Some command figures:

Stone me, what a life . . . .

Well I haven’t been sat with my thumb up my bum and my mind in neutral, see? Between short periods of DIY and longer periods of waiting for my hands to recover, I’ve ploughed on with clearing the odds and sods of jobs which have been hanging around like the smell from yesterday’s kippers.  O.K., most of this has involved basing or rebasing, but it all counts.

First off is good old Henry Bard's regiment rebased for 'Baroque'. Nothing startling, but it gives a decent enough impression of a pike and shot foot unit uinder these rules.

The two mounted ECW bases are command stands for the Royalist horse which are just flights of fancy. As usual I’ll have more command stands than anyone would need for an army ten times the size of the one(s) planned, but I do have a hang up about this and it’s caused by the almost total lack of command figures in the ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s a similar case to explain the half hundredweight of flags and standards I’ve squirrelled away.

Anyway, the figures all mainly Perry, but the dramatic cavalry general is really the Gustavus Adolfus figure from Warlord. I’ve no idea where the dog came from though.

Oh, and a  couple of casualty stands: figures from Perry and bases from Warbases.

The next batch are those ‘Boki’ figures I mentioned a while ago. There are actually a couple more than this, but I couldn’t find them when I came to do the basing. It’s the cost of continually moving stuff around.

Circumlocution (1)

Nipped to London for the few days in early August and had a great time, despite a mad rush around museums and such with Young Henry. However, a quick note on Jamie Oliver’s Italian place near Covent Garden:
·  Poor disabled access as far as I could make out.
·  We were shown down three flights of steep stairs to our ‘table’ which consisted of a couple of salvaged office desks surrounded by an assortment of chairs obviously rescued from a junk shop.
·  They’ve saved a fortune on decoration. Eating in a cellar had a certain ‘Berlin 1945’ feel to it.
· The service was absolutely average as was the food which certainly wasn’t reflected in the ambitious prices.

Back home, and on an adventure following one of Chris’ craft things, we ended up in a place called ‘Street Food’. The staff were nice enough people (one was great company and should’ve joined us!), but they weren’t very good at their jobs – the service was borderline bloody awful and that’s allowing for the deafening music and the faulty fire alarm. Asking if everything was alright seven or eight times didn’t really compensate. It was all very cutting edge, but I’ve never eaten from a seedling box before. I had a Korean thing and joked that I’ve never eaten dog before; now I think I may have. The prices were stratospheric. If you’ve got one of these places near you, give it a swerve.

Please note that we do other things than just eat . . . .

Circumlocution (2)

On the day when the EU decided to tell Ireland how to manage its own tax gathering arrangements with Apple, I thought another scheme might show how other foreign companies manoeuvre without 'special arrangements' and still manage to pay a host government no tax, its staff the minimum wage and its CEO millions ($8million bonus last year). This is a combined heads up and a bit of a shave off about corporate greed, a version of which I posted on good old FB. 

A couple of days ago we had the annual "we're putting our prices up" email from Vagina Media - let's be honest and just say Liberty Global. It's not a massive amount, but their attitude stinks and their driver is pure rapacity. To be fair, they're going to enhance our package to include things we don't use, things we don't want and things we haven't got access to, so it's obviously not all bad.

I gave 'em a quick ring and pointed out that my bill was set to increase by 8% but my income isn’t, so that seems a bit unfair. Now, to be honest, the chap I spoke to seemed to be a pretty decent sort and it was clear he was a bit uncomfortable with the overall situation. He must’ve had plenty of calls like this already. He pointed out that our existing package was going to be enhanced and reeled off a list of the new benefits. All well and good, but nothing to my advantage. I almost felt ungrateful when I told him I wasn’t affected by them: 

·  the new programme listings were full of American crap covering very similar topics to those they already pump out and even things already available on other channels;
·   we’ve improved the TV packages to allow viewers to experience the benefits of watching box sets and record on demand and catch up programmes. - See above;
· our broadband is going up to a billion megahertz per nanosecond with afterburners. - The broad band upgrade is the same upgrade you’d boasted about last year and was inflicted on unsuspecting subscribers for free;
·  what about the sport? - We don’t have the sport channels;
· what about the ungraded Vagina Movies? - They’re not free, we still have to pay for them;
·   maintenance is free; Sky charge £65 per call out. -  You’ve only been round here a couple of times in the last five years or so and that was for planned maintenance. And it’d be nice if the last engineer made a return visit to replace the access cover he left hanging off the wall.

In the end, the poor lad could only advise that, as I couldn't reduce the service any further, I could always bugger off; which is easier said than done as other ISPs round here are borderline garbage and comms packages likewise (can you hear this BT?). Of course, we could opt for Sky, but do I really want to support The Dodgy Digger? No I bloody well don’t!

So, as UK inflation has just topped 2.7% and the interest rate is a massive quarter of a percent, I realised that Liberty Global might be struggling so I had a shufty at their balance sheet. No they're not. They're raking in a modest $17 billion a year from their European Division alone and their debts and operating costs are relatively modest which allows them to hoover up any spare cash and buy another company. Cleverly though, they use Vagina Media's old debts to avoid paying us any tax and funnel lots of cash through Malta. Their annual report includes this gem:

"Since the formation of Liberty Global over ten years ago, we have delivered 42 straight quarters of growth in subscribers, revenue and operating cash flow. Looking ahead, we see ample opportunity to deliver even better results as we embark on our new growth and transformation plan called Liberty GO, which is expected to accelerate our revenue and operating cash flow growth over the next three years."


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water . . . . .

Only a couple of months since my last blog entry, so quite regular really. Although nothing has happened on the wargaming front since my last raid, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been on my mind. To be honest, between hospitals and house stuff, it’s about the only thing that’s kept me relatively sane. 

Did I say I’d acquired a copy of the new(ish) ‘Baroque’ rules from Dadi & Piombo? 

They’re a nice set of rules and have easy mechanics and I think they’ll give a pretty good game, but, as they cover a one hundred and fifty year time span, they’re not that strong on giving the ‘period flavour’ of specific conflicts, or at least the features of a particular conflict that make a wargamer prefer, say the Thirty Years’ War to the English Civil War., but that’s not their aim. If you want to go the whole hog, it’s possible to base everything on 6cm square bases (three per unit for foot, dragoons and horse and one for guns) which makes basing simple. They do have specific army lists (ugh!) which go a fair way to reproducing various armies, but if you’re looking for something to reproduce your particular take on the Nine Years’ War or the atmosphere of The Last Valley, then you need to get something more specific. That’s not to say you can’t make a reasonable go of reproducing a particular conflict and there’s no such thing as a set of rules you can’t tweak, but it all depends on how much effort you want to put in and how historically accurate your interpretation of that period actually is compared with what D&P have produced. Back to my thoughts on the accuracy or otherwise of a wargamer’s view of an historical period is. We also have a nasty habit of strict ‘periodisation’ so history is often thought of as being made up of distinct chunks of time without any consideration given to the process of military and/or technological evolution (cue debate about mid to late nineteenth century warfare in Europe and America).

In a way, they remind me of the old WRG 1685 – 1845 rules which appeared in ‘77.

They were a bit of a game changer in their day, but gave the gamer the facility to build up characteristics of units which gave a reasonable reproduction of the real thing. They did cause a few headaches with their mechanics at first and their terminology was a bit idiosyncratic (‘Irregular soldier skirmishing infantry with jezzail’ and such), but they did give a good game – and still do for some gamers. By the way there are some derivatives, ‘Elan’ for Napoleonics and ‘Pro Gloria’ for the Seven Years’ War, for example – other rule sets are available . . . .

Despite my oath not to buy more lead until the current ballast is painted and based or has found its way to other venues, I succumbed to a few boxes of the new Perry ACW releases. The temptation just got too much for me, but regrets have I none. They’re much better cast than has become the norm of late and they contain some nice characters. Although I got a mixed bunch, they are all destined for the Confederacy with on ly a few exceptions. The object of the exercise is to produce some ‘firing line’ regiments composed of a mix of Perry, Foundry and maybe Redoubt figures with some adapted Empress Miniatures’ Maori War castings thrown in for good measure. Only a few mind as they’re eye wateringly expensive – seven quid plus postage for four figures! I’m no skinflint, but I’m unenthusiastic about trying single handedly to improve their liquidity ratio.  However a few of my favourites swiped from the Perry site:

I dunno, call it what you want.

An Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman and a Rabbi walk into a bar and the Rabbi says “Damn, I’m in the wrong joke!” I was going to type “shit”, but I didn’t want to lower the tone.

Anyway, hands are on the up, which is a near miracle, given the amount of plaster dust and God knows what they’ve been subjected to. All good then. About time to squeeze in a bit of lead painting when things go quiet – maybe even today if I’m not seduced by the sun and the birdsong. Out back (as we refer to the back garden) we have had something of a war between a gang of wood pigeons and a trio of ‘nice' birds: a blackbird and two robins. The crunch came last week when the cat from next door but one left one of said wood pigoens in kit form across the road. They’ve not been close since then, but they do gather on the roof of the house opposite trying to intimidate that cat. Consequently, we’re treated to longish periods of birdsong from the blackbird and his great tit and blue tit support band from around five o’clock. The only negative part of this is that I wish they’d learn some new numbers as the same song all day, for days on end gets a bit like the muzac at Tesco’s. If I’m still round in a couple of million years, maybe they will have.

From the odd comment dotted here and there around the blog, some of you may have gleaned that Cloud Base is undergoing some ‘alterations’ as they used to say. Nothing too dramatic, but it’s about time and all that. The upshot has been (and still is) the need to ditch some of the gash we’ve accumulated over the years from a variety of sources. The tally of bin bags transferred to the tip (not including the skip!) is too depressing to admit here, but it wasn’t all our stuff guv. A fair percentage of the tally was stuff that belonged to relatives who’ve since gone west (we’ve got a whole library full of long stories).

A couple of weeks ago, son and daughter were summoned to see if there was anything they wanted to keep – at their house(es) - including things I’ve brought back from abroad and other bits of my junk which might be of use (no, I’m not sentimental). Unsurprisingly, daughter arrived on cue, ready to muck in, but her brother was somewhere in the Dark Peak – the acorn never falls far from the tree. In no time at all, Young Henry had discovered a modest accumulation of boxes, which contained wargaming stuff and, despite threats from his mother, turned up a few bits for himself (mostly junk) and, surprise, surprise, some AB French Napoleonic light infantry that I don’t remember at all. I know where they ought to have been, had they existed, but I didn’t know they actually did exist! No big deal really and not particularly well painted (must’ve been a rush job or just a ‘filler’, I think), but I think they may become one of those fabled ‘magic’ units that can do no wrong on the wargame table and lead charmed lives. So, fair enough, here they are:

Now then, Partizan. Great venue with plenty of light and free parking. Catering good, but probably taken by surprise by the numbers who actually turned up – around 900, I understand, but I might be wrong there. I had a good time of it and was much relieved that it was such a success. I have a soft spot for Partizan as it saw the birth of the old Wargames Mongrels (many of whom you do know as they’ve grown to better things and some fame within the hobby) so I was a little nervous about the effect of the migration to a new venue. I didn’t intend to do any shopping as such (and didn’t – two bags of bases from Warbases!) and thought I’d have plenty of time to browse round the games. It didn’t turn out that way because I seemed to spend all day talking to people I hadn’t seen for ages and those who I met again at the Bloggers’ Meet - up arranged by Pete Barfield (Panzer Kaput). To paraphrase Mr Baggins Snr, I didn’t speak to half of them half as well as I should’ve liked; and I give credit to more than half of them half as much as they deserve.

The games were generally excellent and the ‘best game’ winner was inspired (James Morris’ ‘Verdun’ game). My own favourite was the Humberside club’s 1666 naval action and I don’t particularly like tabletop naval games! That’s it from me on the show as there’ve been some good reviews and reports and, even better, some excellent photographs posted around the ‘net already.

O.K., time for a sudden exit and get the painting table fired up.

The Song of the Dodo

Yes, nice to see you too. Where have I been? Nowhere really, but I've been reading and ruminating and the like. Been cautious about wha...