Sunday, 15 January 2017

View From The Window

As you might suspect it is cold, wet, grey and miserable and although you might think this bad it is not the apocalypse the weather people have been promising and scaring everyone with for this weekend, another welcome failure. None of the houses nearby, and there are quite a few up for sale have sold, poor old Washington House has a scaffold up but no one has come near to do the repair for at least two months, nor shown any interest in buying it. I myself have pretty much settled in for the Winter and hardly crossed the threshold, although I did manage, along with the missus, to store two large bags of wood for the fire the other day, the only downside of being able to cosy down in front of a log fire of an evening. The missus however is not sure the wood is seasoned and believes some of it might be damp, there is also too much small stuff in one bag, this could mean dropping another firm from the trade list, we will soon have to look at nearby Yorkshire having almost exhausted suppliers in Lancashire. Perhaps we too will end up on a list.

We just can't escape Transgender can we, the BBC of course has jumped on this latest crusade for normality and we are being re-educated almost every week, in a preview of what is coming our way we had a programme where parents were allowing their children to choose their gender before no doubt making their way to the surgeons, was it right we were asked, no it isn't. Much is also being made of the 'man' who is pregnant, I have seen photos of this 'bloke' and I am looking at a woman the same way when I look at the 'woman' down the pub I see a big bloke with a blonde wig, hands bigger than mine, drinking pints of Guinness, sitting with, yes, the blokes. Not only that this 'man' above has to take hormones to feel male, but desperately wants a baby, I don't, because I am a bloke, and the pregnancy had to be done by surgeons, is it just me that is mad? And how much so far, well, £29,000 and rising. Not bad for an Asda shelf packer, oh wait, I'm paying.

Male/Female, delete where applicable.

And while we are on the subject the NHS is having yet another crises, the worst in its history I believe, and the answer once again is to throw more money at it. How can anyone possibly argue that it is underfunded when the first thing any incoming government does is up the spending, and if you are waiting to become the government you promise yet more money if you get in. I have been treated very well by the NHS when I have needed their services, my wife on the other hand had a dreadful experience getting someone to take her seriously before being given an operation. Why does the NHS now spend fortunes on non-illnesses like gastric bands, boob jobs, nose jobs, sex changes and more, all of which are non lethal and should be paid for by the person wanting them or buying named medicines and not generic medicines and of course the huge bloated bureaucracy. Aren't our doctors wonderful, yes some are, but mine now only see four people an hour because they allow you to call them by their first name and will take time listening to your problems, medical or not, mind you it will take up to three weeks for that consultation. How do we solve the A&E problem, the clue is in the name, Accident and Emergency, you are worried about a spot, clear off, I twisted my ankle, clear off, Kevin isn't his usual self, clear off!

I almost missed this one but will bring it up, Sir Bradley Wiggins, the great cyclist and darling of the country while he was winning, sure enough we have the rumours of drug taking, but don't worry, Bradley took the banned substance corticosteroid trimcinolone because of his hay fever. He really should have popped to the local chemist like the rest of us, no?

How many times have you heard the old "if women were in charge" rubbish, well they have been in charge of many things and made just as big a hash of it as we men. Take Christine Lagarde, the former head of the IMF, she was given the job despite being known to be shady, but hey, the guy before her was a rapist so another bloke wasn't going to cut it for a while, sadly for womankind she was up to her neck in dodgy deals and was found guilty in December last year, the case involved some 400 million euros, but she will not receive any punishment, how does that work? And now the Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster is being urged to stand down, again the sum involved is around 400 million, this time in pounds, for a completely cock-eyed heating policy. This totally brilliant scheme meant that if you heated your home with oil for 2p an hour the government would give you 3p, so the more heat you used the more money you got, turn all the radiators on begorrah. Women eh, just as useless as men when in charge, the defence rests m'lud.

Christine, you are free to go.

And what about those Russians supposedly trying to influence the running of another country as well as probably having the gall to defeat IS in Syria. It's not as if we in the West or America have ever contemplated such, no wait, Vietnam, Central America, South America, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brexit, errr. Politicians, you gotta love em.

What's happening in LA LA land, well I missed these during the festive season. Steve Martin made the mistake of tweeting that Carrie Fisher was a beautiful woman when he first saw her before saying he missed her, big mistake Steve, sexist mate. As we all know the first thing which attracts normal men to women in the first glance is their confidence in being a woman and their comfortable shoes, Steve has of course offered a grovelling apology. Actor Lance Goss, no me neither, was singled out for his Facebook Christmas photo because it seemed that although all the people in the photo were 'black' there was one woman way out on her own who was blacker than the others. Said entertainer was immediately pounced on for being colorist (I use the American spelling deliberately), the guy pointed out after all the vitriol he received that it was an ongoing joke because his friend always turned up for the photo on her own while the rest had partners. Only goes to prove no one is safe from the online lunatics unless you don't share your private life with them.

At least he didn't apologise.

And my favourite piece was the guy who 'assaulted' a couple of kids on the train, did he thrash them within an inch of their miserable little lives, no, he pushed their little feet off the chairs so other people could sit down or not sit on what was on the bottom of their shoes. Well done mate, I for one hope they don't track you down, but then again it might be easier than catching real crooks just to let them go again.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Friday 13th and nothing but surprises

Well knock me down with a feather. Just before I closed for lunch my main PC arrived back from repair, I had just been thinking of giving Scan a ring to find out what was happening and boom, there it was, and just in time for me to grab a quick sarnie and set it up, I retreated upstairs with a spring in my step and whistling to myself.

So far everything seems to be working fine and I still had thirty minutes to spare, I gave my latest figures a quick flesh wash and still had fifteen to burn. I popped TMP on and as usual checked the Dark Age section to see if there was anything which was not Saga that might pique my interest, an advert for the latest Miniature Wargames had a Dark Age cover and as I read the contents I nearly fell off the chair. There was an article on scenarios for Dux Britanniarum by one George Anderson!


I cannot even remember what they are about, despite having written for the magazine on and off over a period of 25 years I stopped when Andrew Hubbock left, at the same time I found my niche drawing military maps so my writing came to a stop, well almost, I started this blog to scratch that particular itch.

Around the same time I also sent in a piece about the Dalton gangs infamous bank raid on the town of Coffeyville, Kansas, perhaps the dust will be blown off that as well.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


After having fought an excellent battle, and I am not talking Waterloo with twenty figures and over in one hour, what is the next best thing for a wargamer, being victorious in a campaign, leading your forces to that final parade in the enemy capital or receiving his surrender surrounded by your loyal commanders as you magnanimously allow him to keep his sword or have him strangled later during your triumph. But how often do we get to the end, how many campaigns litter your road to military glory, have you actually managed to get one off the ground?

I was first introduced to the idea of a campaign by Tony Bath's book detailing his fantasy continent of Hyborea or some such, it sounded fantastic and I spent many an hour detailing my own continent and drawing up lists of its citizens and military only to eventually give up having realised it was far too complex and unrealistic for someone with only a couple of armies and no one else to play with.

I still wanted to be a Napoleon or Caesar though, show off my strategic skills, out fox the enemy, leave him surprised and bloodied, but of course none of my great ideas ever came to fruition. Then we managed to get our act together at my first club, we had medieval armies coming out our ears and I put together that long lost continent which none to surprisingly looked and felt a lot like 14C Europe. It was perfect for my imperial ambitions and I duly took the role of Holy Roman Emperor with my German army. I even had a mate offshore waste a fortune of Chevron UK's 'consumables' in the stores module making me an Imperial seal for my correspondence during the long night shifts.

The campaign was both a triumph and a disaster, the umpire didn't like me, yes I know it's hard to believe but he really didn't, long story, anyway he allowed an enemy army to take my capital which left me on the back foot. I tried to recover diplomatically having been dropped in the cak and engineered a marriage with a neighbouring state whose player dropped out, this seemed natural for me as it added to the storyline and would have brought me some succour, no, it wasn't allowed! I was then invaded by another player and my only army marched out to confront the enemy, I met him on the road but the umpire decided to let him move half his huge army past me and once again take my capital, or what was left of it. Now comes the triumph, even with half his army gone he outnumbered me and we fought the game with a 'hostile' audience in attendance, I was not doing well in the opening moves but somehow I pulled it out of the bag by smashing the enemy cavalry and capturing their Duke, an action which brought the game to a halt. I was then cheated of my rightful ransom and so ended the campaign, it left me sour but with a great memory of a stirring battlefield victory.

There was no more talk of campaigns until I built up my American Civil War armies and bought the ready made 'Shenandoah' campaign from the publishers of the Zouave magazine, this worked very well, it was a simple set of rules and was designed to give battles a point. I had to umpire of course as I had the thing, so no opportunity to be Bobby Lee, I think I still have it. I tried to bring some reality to it and all communications were done by couriers and these took time to run up and down the valley and the delay caused all sorts of mayhem. It also reinforced my idea that wargamers want to run everything in a modern way, the players wanted every scrap of info they could get, scouts were everywhere but even so huge mistakes were made. I gave one player at least half a dozen warnings of Confederate cavalry movements but he only twigged when the smoke from his home depot could be seen in the distance.

The players were not acting as generals, but as generals, quartermasters, brigadiers and scout troops, although the bookkeeping with 'Shenandoah' was minimal I tried to go one further. I took a small ACW campaign, took note of all the important dates, weather and happenings over the couple of months or so and wrote these down in chronological order as notes for the umpire. My idea was that the campaign would be run as a kind of narrative using these events, exaggerating or minimizing their effects without any need for bookkeeping apart from the whereabouts of troops on the map, it also had a start and end date so hopefully people would not get fed up and drop out, the number of people in command positions was also kept small.

Once again players tried to cover every road and approach with cavalry detachments, but this only served to dissipate the strength of their cavalry and spread them throughout the countryside. I do remember a Confederate force having to retreat and losing all its supply wagons, on making camp further down the road the player was told that each day more and more of his men were deserting until the trickle became a flood, he could have moved but despite all warnings remained rooted to the spot and suffered the consequences. He lost the ensuing battle and the campaign.

My Pea Ridge Campaign and one of my first digital maps

I played this particular campaign at least twice and both times it was good fun and fought to a conclusion but I was the umpire, not the military genius. Running a campaign though does make me wonder just how brilliant a lot of military commanders were and how often sheer luck of the draw and local circumstances made the reputation.

Dux Britanniarum drew me back to campaigning because the rules came with a campaign and it didn't need an umpire, it was also a great idea, sadly however the actual rules are a tad tedious to get through and the Raider supplement was even worse. We did kick off what looked like a good multiplayer campaign at the club but after a few battles the whole thing collapsed and no one now even mentions its demise. I now cannot find anyone who will go back to the original rules and play the original campaign, also Too Fat Lardies have also let it die a death, so my Warlord ambitions to unite all warring factions under my benevolent rule has also failed.

Up comes Bolt Action and it is crying out for a mini-campaign, TFL have mini campaigns and I bought several and spent long, frustrating hours trying to convert them to the BA system but gave up in the end. I also bought several independent booklets which I was told were for all systems, no, they were for Chain of Command but had suggestions for BA, this didn't work either. One of my main problems is that if you start a campaign and don't want it to die on you you have to spend time on it, usually to the detriment of everything else, so trying to find a like mind with the spare time and inclination is difficult. I need a retired old (yet still surprisingly good looking) duffer like myself who lives next door.

I have bought yet another booklet, this time it is a mish mash of CoC for the characterisation of the troops but I believe leaves the rules up to you, I haven't read it all yet, this is also recommended for solo play as the scenarios generate themselves. So this might be the way to scratch that itch which has bothered me for years and may at last allow me to show off my military skill, especially if I am fighting myself, how can I lose?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Walking Dead

Nothing to carry to the club last night apart from my 'man bag', an old toiletry bag which is convenient for dice, tape measure, camera, laser, 45 deg template, super glue and tokens for whatever game I am playing. Another miserable January night appropriate for fighting the undead.

Andy had mentioned a few weeks ago that his mate was organising a Walking Dead game, it started off as a Mantic Games kickstarter and is now available for those who sit on the shelf and wait. It has the distinction of not being influenced by the TV show but by the original graphic novels, this actually does not make a huge difference or any to be honest as Sheriff Rick is missing a hand in the comics but he still has two in the game. I had a quick look online at the excellent 'how to play' videos from Mantic and others, these really are a great way to showcase a game and go a long way to help understand rule mechanisms, I would love to see more of these for games and rulesets. After learning about the mechanics I still wasn't too sure of the point of the game.

In the event Andy's mate didn't turn up but Andy brought the game anyway, so we set up with some terrain, cars, obstacles, houses etc. and two survivors each, we entered the board and headed for different objects placed at random. As you move and fight you create noise and this is what brings the zombies into play as they move towards the nearest sounds, at times you can also direct the undead towards other survivors thereby hampering their attempts at trying to gain the loot.

Looks quiet enough.
 I had Sandra and a guy who was handy with a baseball bat, and I picked up a couple of objectives right away but turned out to be as useful as a chocolate frog in a heatwave, sadly while getting these Sandra was bitten and slowly but surely began her path to becoming a zombie. The bat guy took most of the game to finish of a Zombie in a nearby VW camper van, go for the head you idiot! In the end Simon won by killing three zombies and gathering three objectives, I had killed four and had three objectives but Sandra turned before the last phase and I lost the objectives as being a zombie she found no need for them and promptly dropped them. Women eh.

The head, go for the head....
I am not sure we played the game right, all the rules were in place but something seemed to be missing, perhaps we did not have enough zombies, no new zombies turn up antil near the end and even then it was only one or two. I think the game has potential but it needs better scenarios and more of a storyline, there has to be a point in survival not just killing zombies. I have Zombicide and in comparison so far I would have to say Zombicide is a much more exciting game, I would play Walking Dead again but it would have to mature a bit first, a campaign for instance where every scenario is leading to a particular end.
Sheriff Rick and his annoying son.