Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cerignola, 1503

Regular readers (?) have had to put up with a series of posts whose relevance to wargaming has ranged from none to, well, still none. However in a massive turn-up for the books I have played a game and, even better, am going to write about it.

The game was hosted by James 'Olicanalad' Roach using his gloriously painted Italian wars figures and using the 'Hell Broke Loose' rules developed by him and Peter Jackson from Piquet's Field of Battle. I won't attempt to explain the rules or the battle; partly because I'm not up to the task and partly because James has already done it on his blog Olicanalad. I say both James and Peter are responsible for the rules, but I lost count of how many times last night James turned round to Peter and said "Oh, I've changed that rule".

Peter ponders James' latest rule changes

Anyway, readers of James' blog - and if you aren't you should be - will know that he was asking for opinions on what formation he should deploy his Swiss pikes in: square or squareish. I can exclusively reveal that it doesn't matter. The Swiss, in what was referred to as Deep Square, formed the centre of the French line and moved very swiftly to the ditch, soon crossed that obstacle to come into contact with the defenders behind their defences and just as quickly got repulsed back. They then came under sustained fire from artillery and small arms, lost their commander and retreated from the field. Being Swiss they did this in good order, but the hole in the middle of the French line was just as big.

You will have guessed from the above that I was rolling the dice for the French, and in that capacity also managed to lose the commander of the left flank as well. However, there were various elements of compensating good fortune: the French reserves have arrived on the battlefield promptly and are poised to attack the area of the Spanish line weakened (!) by the Swiss and the Gendarmes on the French right have remained unscathed by the Spanish artillery and have belatedly reached the ditch. Perhaps more importantly, due to a tied dice roll, the three turns allowed for the French to assault the Spanish will involve cycling through the cards almost four times. With plenty of morale left all is not lost for the Duc de Nemours. The battle is to to be concluded next week.

I understand that James and Peter are to put the game on at Triples and I'd urge everyone to go and take a look because it looks fantastic and the rules are well worth finding out about. I don't know what name the game will be put on under. The schism in the Ilkley Lads gaming group appears to be approaching the level of the Bolam/Bewes feud; a case of life imitating life rather than imitating art.

Thelma is not amused

Tuesday, 26 February 2013


Is Epictetus the Andrew Ridgley of wargaming? Discuss.

Alternatively read his review of the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern.

It looks just as good when viewed sober

I have always liked Lichtenstein's work - possibly influenced by the fact that one of his most famous works (above) was reproduced on the wall of the students union bar at the University of Bradford in the mid seventies. The exhibition itself is very good and covers a wide range of styles as well as the classic comic influenced pop art. He was less successful (in my completely amateur opinion) is his more abstract works, although his version of Mondrian is substantially better than the original, which hangs elsewhere in Tate Modern. His take on cubism is also rather good, but in this case serve mainly to highlight the genius of Braque and Picasso. Anyway, I highly recommend the show.

'The ring always believes the finger lives for it' - Malcom de Chazal
The rest of Tate Modern (apart from the building, which is magnificent) merely reinforced my prejudice against most modern art. The rather small cubist section was good and I found myself unexpectedly rather attracted to a couple of the abstract expressionist paintings; although not, I hasten to add, to the Jackson Pollocks - which are basically a load of Jackson Pollocks.

Actually I quite like Wham! as well as Whaam! (Waake Me Up Before You Go Go, Laast Christmas, Caareless Whisper etc). I grew up near where they did and whilst some unkind souls have compared me to the less talented of the two (the Rhetorical Pedant here points out "It was you, it was you.") my more famous namesake has more in common with George being, er, bearded and Greek. If he was alive today I have no doubt that he would be preparing pithy epigrams on his right to park where he wanted, when he wanted, having smoked whatever seemed a good idea at the time.

As a sop to wargamers (although even the most hard line must accept some relevance in this post) I will finish on a picture of two typical wargamers on their way to a show.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


I have decided that I don't much care for Poulenc as an opera composer. I saw La Voix Humaine last night and didn't enjoy it any more than I had the previous time that Opera North did it. I thought that this staging was better and I had no complaints about Lesley Garrett's performance although I believe that some reviews have been decidedly lukewarm. I think it's more about Poulenc's choice of subject. Even by the standards of the genre he seems to have a rather unhealthy obsession with women's death. Have you ever seen The Carmelites? Grim.

For younger readers, this is a telephone

Dido and Aeneas was much better. The staging carried through some visual themes from the Poulenc (mostly women in negligees, but also green dressing gowns and red dresses) but, let's face it, the music is better and you get the singing of the chorus. It seemed to me (and feel free to correct me if I've got it wrong) that the sorceress and the witches (augmented by some dancers) were meant to be Dido's own subconscious. Thankfully they kept largely out of the way while she lamented and it all ended badly as a good opera should.

Dido is seated on the left
There is a very slight wargaming connection today. Aeneas was fleeing the Trojan War and is referred to by the libretto as a sailor. I'm afraid that's it.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Goat's Head Soup

I was listening to this in the car yesterday as I drove across the moors near Skipton and it occurred to me with a certain amount of shock that it was released forty years ago.

I can vividly remember that summer - well bits of it anyway. And all those that I was knocking around with then - ooh, what happened to you, whatever happened to me, what became of the people, we used to be? Actually, an awful lot of them are washed-up has-beens rather like me.

When I think back to that summer I also always think firstly about the future mayor of Harpenden - for obvious reasons - and then about the lime in the coconut. Vicious, you hit me with a flower.

Wargaming relevance - zippo.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

La Clemenza di Tito

After yesterday's shock on-topic posting we're once again in the world of high culture; Mozart to be precise. Opera North's new production has nearly finished its run and so I went off to see it last night with one of the £10 on-the-day seat in the gods offers. It was, as you would expect, excellent. It had the requisite top tunes, but much to my astonishment it ended happily - except perhaps if you were Lentulo, who seemed to lose a lot of blood after being stabbed by someone who was supposed to be on his side.

Beware redheads

Right, asks the rhetorical pedant, were there any wargaming connections? Well, Titus was of course a very successful general although we don't see much of that in the opera. Instead he suffers a succession of humiliating rejections when asking women to consider marrying him; so nothing at all there to remind us of the wargaming fraternity.

Anyway, in slightly more relevant news, I have been invited to actually play a game next week. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Miniature Wargames and Battlegames

Well, your correspondent as ever has his finger on the pulse. Only a week ago - and unnoticed except by the large numbers of people who have commented on it across the blogosphere - it was announced by the owners that Miniature Wargames and Battlegames are to merge. Now wearing my accountant's hat I can understand the logic, but as a reader I am disappointed.

I enjoyed (most of) both of them. In the case of Battlegames this is actually despite the Old School (*) stuff rather than because of it. And Miniature Wargames had improved beyond recognition since being run by Andrew Hubback. They were different from each other - as indeed are WS&S and Wargames Illustrated - but who wants to read the same stuff all the time?

Anyway, that's not the only rhetorical question. Who will get custody of Mike Siggins?

And I feel sorry for Andrew Hubback whom I met once at Recon and seemed a very nice and patient chap. He needed to be to deal with the idiot who was haranguing him about the accuracy or otherwise of the Grenada game that Miniature Wargames had on display, boring everyone silly with his reminiscences of his time spent working on the Spice Isle shortly after the US invasion. Who was that tosser? Ah, yes, it was me. I remember now.

(*) There was an interesting thread on TMP not long ago where Henry Hyde no less drew an intelligent distinction between 'old school' and 'Old School'.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Boardgaming at the White Swan

Survive: etc!
Yes, boardgaming. Personally I enjoy all types. Over recent years most of my boardgaming has been with various members of the Ilkley Old Gits, where the consensus has been firmly in favour of war related games. Now, I have no objection to those and anyway some of them stray a bit from that narrow theme; I'm reminded of a couple of epic games of Republic of Rome.

Anyway yesterday I played a couple of games: one of Family Business - a mafia themed queue management card game - and one of Survive: Escape From Atlantis! - which is a cutthroat family game if that makes sense.
Not at all like any family that I know

                                                                                                                                                                      The White Swan is the pub next door to - and in fact opening into the entrance lobby of - the City Varieties Theatre, which anyone of a certain age will have seen on the television in their youth.

Can you spot Danny La Rue?
Not from Barcelona

And bugger Danny La Rue (can I say that?) - although as a clue he isn't wearing a dress in the photo - this man was the real start of the show: indupitably, incontestably, incontravertibly.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Slight return

Well, the cowboys are still there; in fact they are shooting hell out of each other as I type. I admire their commitment because I happened to end up in the same pub as them last night (the Adelphi on the corner of Hunslet Road and Dock Road) it must have been a struggle for many of them to open their eyes this morning let alone get up and strap on their gunbelts. Like yesterday I popped into the Armouries cafe for a mid-morning capuccino to find it full of chaps in chaps and ladies in bonnets. Unlike yesterday I didn't greet the young lady behind the counter with a cry of "Howdy, ma'am". She didn't find it funny the first time in such a definite and pronounced manner that a repeat seemed rather pointless.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Bunch of Cowboys


20130216_121418.jpgOne of the unexpected advantages of living next to the Royal Armouries is the seemingly never-ending stream of people dressing up under one's window. Today it is the wild west. This is one of the more successful efforts recently. I think this may be for two linked reasons. Firstly, there are quite a large number of them and secondly they are all dressed differently. It seems to me that there is a clear correlation between how much re-enactors enjoy things and how individual their costumes are. The most joyous of the events outside my apartment has been without doubt the comic book convention and the most depressing were the sad ranks of the Star Wars stormtroopers who, except for Lord Vader himself, all looked identical. Of course the alternative reason could be that this bunch get to make lots of noise firing off a variety of guns as they pretend to shoot each other. The 'shoot-out'  put on by the Lonestar Old West Re-enactment group which ended with everyone except the undertaker being dead (or were they?) was certainly entertaining and loud enough. Judging from the dialogue which preceded the mutual massacre those taking part were right to choose re-enactment over amateur dramatics as a way to spend their time, but I suppose it's a least possible that the frontier was entirely populated by Geordies.
The gunfight at the Clarence Dock Corral

 I would have liked to see the Gatling gun fired though.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Horse meat

A horse from a different joke, possibly the one about the long face

I haven't gone wildly off topic for yonks now. [Cries of "Oh yes you have."] Anyway, regardless of that, a horse walks into a pub and the barman says "Sorry, we don't serve food."

So, is food adulteration merely a cause for humour? I take it as given that it is a topic for humour in the first place because everything is. As Aristotle once said 'Humour is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humour, for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.'. Anyway, the answer to the rhetorical question is no, absolutely not.
A chap with a beard

Instead it is yet another chance to stand up and say that once again Karl Marx was right about something. In a footnote to Chapter 6 of Das Kapital Volume 1 he classifies bakers in to 'full-price' and 'undersellers', the latter - the majority - adulterating their flour in all manner of ways. The explanations that he quotes as to why people are forced to buy this cheap, unnutricious food are still as valid now as they were then.
A chap with a beard
 An article on this subject

Monday, 11 February 2013

Django Unchained

Much funnier than I had expected, but just as violent.  I'm not sure what else to say except to recommend it highly.

The violence seems to be treated in two ways. That inflicted on the slaves is portrayed in a realistic, uncompromising fashion whereas the gun fights are in a more cartoon, fantasy style. I'm assuming, as an amateur film critic, that the intent is to stress that slavery is bad. I think that Tarantino is rather pushing at an open door there, but who am I to argue against a polemic?

It's interesting that two films based around the same issue have come out at the same time. Both Lincoln and this are actors' films, but here they get to ham it up somewhat more with an awful lot of scenery being chewed, especially by the wonderful Samuel L. Jackson.

There are various anachronisms; I'm pretty sure that dynamite hadn't yet been invented in 1858, but presumably its inclusion is an homage to spaghetti westerns. And watch out for a very funny scene featuring the proto-Ku Klux Klan.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Vapnartak !!!

At last, the moment that you have all been waiting for. What did Epictetus make of Vaprnartak having had a full week to digest and cogitate? Well, after due consideration I can say that it was OK.

The venue is of course wonderful. The previous venue, the Merchant Adventurers' Hall, is a lovely building, but a crap venue. Apart from anything else it was very dark inside. The Knavesmire by contrast, with its glass walls is spacious and airy with plenty of natural light. The attendees bring their usual accessories of beer bellies and BO, but possibly they have less impact there because one knows that the ambience would be far worse at a race meeting. The dress code at a flat race meeting is better, but there are ten times as many people and, by the end of the afternoon at least, they are all very, very drunk.

A typical wargamer
 It was good to catch up with some friends. Mark Dudley of 'Ilkley Old Fashioned Wargaming' put on a game of Maurice using Prince August figures. The game with its plain terrain and large units was a nostalgia fest and the rules seemed to live up to being as good as my reading of them last year. I think that one reason it attracted the attention was that pretty much all the other display games were far too crowded. Those putting them on probably said to themselves 'I've painted it so I'm bloody well going to put it on the table'.  Understandable, but it means that the games never progress much, let alone finish and that anyone with any wargaming experience at all (which yes, cynics, does include me) knows that they're not representative of real life games anyway.