Monday, 19 June 2017

Shād bād manzil-i murād

So, I tipped India to win the final of the ICC Champions Trophy; I hope none of you followed that advice to the extent of putting any money on it. Not only did Pakistan win, they whapped India so badly that the losers might as well have not bothered to turn up. Once again proof, should any more be required, that Epictetus doesn't know what he is talking about.

I am on firmer ground with music however. As I have previously reminded you, that eminent philosopher Homer Simpson once noted that it had been scientifically proven that popular music reached perfection in 1974. In light of that self-evident truth I have been to see Ian Hunter, former lead singer with Mott the Hoople, a band who broke up that very year, presumably recognising that it was all downhill from there. Hunter is, astonishingly, seventy eight - by some weird coincidence all the musical heroes of my youth seem to be reaching old age together - but played and sang with energy seemingly to spare. He also had a rather good, and rather younger, backing band to help out. He is touring in support of a new album, but while there was a lot of stuff I didn't know, it didn't stray at all from the template of forty years ago. He did, of course, play the songs one would expect from his solo career (Once Bitten, Twice Shy) and from Mott the Hoople (All the Way to Memphis, Roll Away the Stone, a cover of the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane, The Golden Age of Rock and Roll etc). Hunter was a friend of David Bowie and for the encore he first played 'Dandy', his tribute following the latter's death which appeared on the new album, followed, inevitably and understandably, by 'All the Young Dudes'.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

C&C Cards

In Epic C&C Napoleonics some Command Cards which in the base game would affect the whole table now have to be played in one section. This seemed a bit unbalanced; for example it would be far more common to have four infantry units in a section (e.g. for Fire and Hold) than four artillery units (e.g. for Bombard). Even worse, it rather slows things down; playing the rules as written would mean often activating fewer units per turn in a large game than in a small game, which seems counter intuitive. I/we have therefore decided to tweak a few and to clarify the meaning of another:

Command Cards
  • The following cards apply in all sections rather than just in one:
    • Bayonet Charge
    • Bombard 
    • Cavalry Charge 
    • Elan
    • Fire and Hold
    • Leadership
    • La Grande Manoeuvre
    • Rally
  • For the avoidance of doubt the Give Them Cold Steel card still only applies in one section.
I did think of making some of these cards (e.g. Bayonet Charge, Bombard etc) playable in two adjacent sections, but in the end felt it added complexity for little value. All the cards listed have limits to the number of units that can be ordered - some on the card, some related to size of hand, some determined by dice thrown, and some by number of leaders - and so none are out of proportion to the rest of the game. Give Them Cold Steel has no such limit and could potentially apply to every unit, hence the restriction.

Tactician Cards

Call Forward Reserves: the wording on this card is ambiguous. To me the logic is that units are being summoned by a leader to join them. We shall therefore ignore the clause about open terrain. Units can be moved forwards to any hex adjacent to a leader or occupied by a lone leader. I will also allow any unit to be so ordered, not just those on the baseline; that restriction is presumably intended to make it a counter to Short Supply, but in practice would seem to punish attackers.

I have never been entirely happy with the Short Supply card, either when it was a Command Card, or now it's in the Tactician deck. For a while we played it as a sort of ranged fire equivalent to First Strike instead of as written. However, for the time being at least, it stays. In the next game to be played there will be a scenario specific restriction and we shall see how that works out.

OK, I'm off to sit in the sun and listen to the cricket. If I were a betting man my money would be on India.

Saturday, 17 June 2017


Well, I don't have much time for the royal family normally, but I think HM has played a blinder this week; which is more than can be said for TM the hapless PM. The Daily Mirror has also hit some form;

I used to work in the Mirror Building, back when both Fleet Street and I were in better shape; remind me to tell you all my Robert Maxwell stories sometime.

In other news I have been to see Vieux Farka Touré, the 'Hendrix of the Sahara'. I couldn't see any similarity between them myself beyond the fact that he played guitar, and, as the big bouncy woman pointed out, that is probably the absolute minimum. If I had to make comparisons - which I don't but I will - I'd say that he was the 'Robert Cray of the Sahara'. Whatevs, as the younger Miss Epictetus would say if she ever spoke to me, he and his band were very good. I have no idea what he was singing about - they spoke to each other in French, addressed the audience in very broken English, and sang in what is presumably a language native to Mali - except perhaps for the song entitled 'Ali', which I assume was dedicated to his father, the late Ali Farka Touré. However, I enjoyed it as did the audience of mainly aging hippies dad dancing in the aisles throughout.

He was on at the Howard Assembly Rooms, which shares a common entrance with the Grand Theatre. Currently showing there is Mama Mia, which made for some interesting contrasts in the queue for bag checks. It also provides an excuse to include a photo of Agnetha; though who needs one?

There is also no reason to explain the appearance here of some asparagus. That's crème fraîche with dill and jalapeño peppers on the right.

Friday, 16 June 2017


The latest Epic C&C Napoleonics game set up in the annexe continues a number of themes. It is based on an old Miniature Wargames article (by Gary Lind in June 2011), that article is based on a scenario in a book (Napoleonic Scenarios 3 - The Glory Years 1805-1809 by Dave Brown, published by Partizan Press), it's converted from a different rules set (General de Brigade)  and it ought to feature Austrians, but has Prussians instead.

The original action took place on 11th October 1805, a few days before the battle of Ulm. A large Austrian force, largely made up of new recruits, under Mack, who wasn't a very good general, and featuring lower level commanders who weren't very flexible, attempted, but failed, to drive off a smaller force of veteran French that was in the vicinity of two small towns close by the bank of the Danube: Haslach is nearer the camera, while the Danube is the table edge.

All of that is fairly straightforward to replicate in C&C, especially, as luck would have it, using Prussians. The uncertainty of the force can be represented by large proportions of reserve infantry and Landwehr, the poor C-in-C by a smaller hand of Command Cards, and the inflexibility by a limit to the number of Tactician Cards that can be held at any one time.

Scenario details:
  • The French get two units of converged grenadiers. These have been created to garrison Jungingen and no other units can initially be used for that purpose. 
  • The stream counts as a fordable river.
  • French 6 Command Cards, 6 starting Tactician Cards.
  • Prussians 4 Command Cards, a maximum of 4 Tactician Cards (which is also their starting number), 3 Iron Will counters. If they already have 4 Tactician Cards the Prussians may draw new ones and choose which ones to discard.
  • The Short Supply card cannot be played on a unit in a town hex
  • Victory conditions: occupy the two towns at the end of the evening.
I'm going to alter slightly the definition - or at least clarify the interpretation - of a few of the cards, but I'll list those in another post.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
   This thought is as a death which cannot choose
   But weep to have that which it fears to lose.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves

"The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means." - Tom Stoppard

It's time to leave behind British politics - with its stories of powerful though flawed individuals brought low by hubris and vanity; characters stopping at nothing and abandoning all principle as their ambition and selfishness causes careers and lives to end in undignified catastrophe; narratives that inevitably end with everyone involved, both the innocent and the guilty, lying prostrate as a result of revenge and ill will; all interspersed with cruel humour as the common people gather to mock those who presume to rule over them - and turn to the kinder, gentler world of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.

I have been to see 'Romeo and Juliet' - again. Even I now accept that this has shifted from the harmless cultural pseudery that has been a lifelong diversion and instead become a disturbing monomania. However, fate has punished me in the manner of, well, of one of Shakespeare's tragedies, and this was by some way the worst of the four (count 'em, Jim, four!) productions that I have seen this year so far. This was especially disappointing as it was at the Globe, a theatre where I have never before seen a production that I didn't like. It was a raucous mess, played in whiteface for no discernible reason, and with the poetry overwhelmed by shrieking delivery and inappropriate banging music. Tybalt was the best thing about it, played as a cross between malchick and butcher and, in fairness, Juliet had a good crack at a few teenage tantrums despite being rather long in the tooth for the role. The various methods of death - rapiers, poison etc - were all replaced by handguns. That might have worked, but instead of firing blanks the actors all shouted "bang"; it was risible. As was the climax in which Romeo appeared to kill both his own parents and Juliet's in a mass US style shooting rampage before he visited Juliet's tomb. It was all truly terrible.

Much better was their production of 'Twelfth Night'. Reviews were mixed (which they certainly weren't for Romeo & Juliet), but I loved it. It appeared to be set on a remote Hebridean island, although apart from kilts and some generic Scottish dancing the location didn't intrude too much. The text was heavily chopped up and new bits added, but there was much to enjoy. Malvolio was played by a woman (I should have mentioned above that so was Mercutio), but it was somewhat more complicated. Katy Owen played the part as a man - a Welshman inexplicably living in Illyria/Brigadoon - but also had clearly based her performance on Ruth Madoc's Gladys Pugh. Anyway, whatever the gender bending ramifications it worked a treat, as did the appearance of Le Gateau Chocolat (as seen in the National Theatre's 'Threepenny opera') as Feste. However, the show was stolen for me by Carly Bawden's sexy, sassy and funny Maria. As one reviewer pointed out, it may not be great art, but it's undoubtedly great fun.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

No one knows anything

I hope that you will excuse me if I return once more to the recent election. I won't promise that it will be for the last time because I am hoping for much ongoing amusement from Theresa May's death throws.

The cartoon is by Peter Brookes and is in today's Times. I'll give her three days and will confidently forecast that she will be gone by Tuesday. However, I am the first to acknowledge that my political predictions have been consistently wrong for a rather long period now. There's another thought provoking blog post here on the general subject of why absolutely everyone's judgement seems to be skewiff at the moment. I try to read analysis from a variety of perspectives and the 'Liberal England' blog is always worth checking out and covers a wider range of subjects than the name would indicate; an approach that I may emulate in future. He had a series of posts recently about what Ilkley looked like when the railway didn't stop there, but ran through to Addingham and beyond; possibly a niche interest, but isn't that exactly why the world wide web was invented?

Going back to politics, I keep hearing that since Thursday nothing will ever be the same again. What normally happens when people say that is that things immediately revert to pretty much exactly the way that they have always been. We shall see. The other main news is obviously that a political party made up of homophobic, climate change denying, racists has decided to team up with the Democratic Unionist Party. Readers might think that this would be the cue to finally relate the story of the Reverend Ian Paisley, the giraffe and me; but they would be wrong.