Monday, 31 March 2014

How do you eat an elephant?

The answer of course is one bite at a time. And that is how I have disposed of the Carthaginian elephants in the battle currently taking place in North Africa during our Punic Wars campaign. My invasion has gone reasonably well so far and due to rebellion one of the provinces has come over to me and in the battle I am on only slightly worse terms and with evenly matched generals. So far I have had by far the better of the cards. The only problem is that they will eventually balance out so I have to make the most of it until they do. Anyway, the elephants have proved completely useless so far. It was W.C. Fields who observed that women were like elephants, interesting to look at, but one wouldn't want to own one. How true, how true.
Run, elephant, run

Q: What do you call an elephant that doesn't matter?
A: An irrelephant.

You will notice that I do not refer to the battle ongoing at the start of last week. I had a brief, but pointless, moment of success when I managed to extend the battle by capturing the village in the middle. However, I still lost heavily, and the retreat was even worse; the entire army disappearing. It's not looking good.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Tooth House

I have been to the Henry Moore Institute to see their latest exhibition 'Ian Kiaer: Tooth House'. I can already hear you asking the obvious question and believe me I have asked it of myself a number of times. Why? I clearly don't like modern art and yet every time they have a new show off I go to stand there aghast thinking 'God this is pants' (honourable exception for Robert Filliou). And indeed this one is. Pants that is. Don't bother.

Much better

The title of the exhibition and of some of its exhibits comes from the work of the surrealist architect Frederick John Kiesler. (For the record, I have no idea whether the title of some of the other exhibits really does come from either the book by Dumas père or the Alain Delon film, but finding a link between 'a frame stretching six metres high, only just capable of holding its own weight' and anything much is a bit of a challenge.) Anyway, I suspect most wargamers have probably never heard of Kiesler, but when you look more closely I would suggest that many of us have certain traits in common with him. One of his colleagues at Columbia University was quoted as saying: "If Kiesler wants to hold two pieces of wood together, he pretends he's never heard of nails or screws. He tests the tensile strengths of various metal alloys, experiments with different methods and shapes, and after six months comes up with a very expensive device that holds two pieces of wood together almost as well as a screw".


 I couple of weeks ago I had to admit to never having read 'Of Mice and Men'. However, I have read 'Tortilla Flat' (recommended - essentially a reworking of the legends of King Arthur with the knights of the round table becoming a group of indigent Californians). In order to demonstrate that this blog isn't simply just thrown together, the above photo shows Hedy Lamarr starring alongside Spencer Tracy in the film version. The pulchritudinous Ms Lamarr was Kiesler's niece.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


It's been a double whammy of boardgame events. First up was the White Swan where games played  were Coup, Survive: Escape from Atlantis!, Cards against Humanity, Avalon and Citadels. I liked Coup which I'd never played before, but really don't like Cards Against Humanity and Avalon doesn't do much for me either. The trouble with Avalon or Resistance is that one has to care about the success or failure of the mission to make it enjoyable and frankly I can never be arsed. We played Survive with the expansion involving giant squid and dolphins and it was complete carnage.

Atlantic Star as played by me

Last night was the Leeds Meeples where I played Kaigan, Love Letter and Atlantic Star. I was rather taken with Kaigan which, while in theory is about the mapping of the Japanese coast, but in reality is simply a very clever tactical card laying game coupled with an area control element. Two of us completely misunderstood the playing of the cards phase until after we had done it for the first time out of five, but I still finished a reasonable second. Atlantic Star is supposed to be about shipping companies, but is actually a rather elaborate version of Rummy. It was still a good game though and I'd play it again, hoping very much to do better.

The Guardian, always first with the news, yesterday carried the story of the MP Giles Mompesson who was fined, expelled from parliament and told to parade up the Strand "with his face in a horse's anus" for extortionately abusing his royal monopoly for the licensing of inns and manufacture of gold thread in 1621. We could do with a bit more of that sort of thing; it would sort the bankers out for sure.

And, just to dispel any suggestion of political bias in my choice of newspapers, I offer from the Telegraph a picture of a puppy that looks like Hitler; which obviously needs no further justification for being included here.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Things alter for the worse

"Things alter for the worse spontaneously if they be not altered for the better designedly" 
- Francis Bacon

And worse they got. No doubt James will give his usual card by card commentary, but in brief last night wasn't so good for the Romans. The only time it looked positive was when my strong left wing managed to get an attack going, an attack which culminated in the playing of a Clash of Shields card. Sadly it was trumped by a First Strike immediately followed by a very successful Rally. Oh, and once again I rolled double helmets and lost a general.

Lightning never strikes twice

Jean-Paul Sartre observed that a lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost. Who am I to argue with him? [ Perhaps long time readers will at least welcome the return of the rhetorical question, slipping in only a few weeks after the return of broadband allowed the return of the blog itself]

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

"If you can plan for war, why can't you plan for peace?"

Some readers may have wondered why no tribute has appeared here to Tony Benn. Well I must confess that I had somewhat ambivalent feelings towards the man. Whilst he was right about many things - he foresaw that technology would lead to the surveillance state that we now live in many decades ago - he never actually achieved very much. Compare that with the also recently deceased Bob Crow whose members are, as Ken Livingstone pointed out, just about the only working class people left with well paid jobs. And one can't help thinking that much of what he did was driven by ego and arrogance. But one does clearly admire the energy that he sustained across a long lifetime. I never met him although I did stand next to him to at the back of a public meeting addressed by Michael Foot during the 1983 general election. I have however had several conversations with his son Hilary Benn MP who I must say is one of the nicest people that I have ever met, which given that he is a politician is no mean feat.

Last night I went to see Oyster Band at the City Varieties. They did a fine version of 'The Bells of Rhymney' and dedicated it not just to Pete Seeger, but also to Benn and Crow. It was an excellent concert as one would expect. John Jones has possibly the worst moves of any lead singer that I have ever seen and it was perhaps no surprise that their backing singer on the night, Rowan Godel, was also a rather stiff stage presence; nice voice though. Adrian Oxaal, formerly of James, was on cello.

And speaking of the interweb and how much it knows about us, I have just received an email from purporting to predict my next travel destination. Most likely is apparently Dubai, of medium likelihood is Cardiff and least likely is Crawley. I'll give them the last one.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Une autre amende honorable

So it seems as if the scoop regarding the founder of Bitcoin was at the Hitler's Diaries end of the investigative journalism spectrum. I hope that all of you who thought that it represented anything positive about the losers who play with toy trains are now seriously embarrassed. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

It was off to the Leeds Meeples today for games of Apples to Apples, Village, Race for the Galaxy and Ice Flow. Village is a pretty bog standard worker placement game; it passed the time nicely, but didn't make me want to rush out and buy it. Race for the Galaxy was better (as in I won), but not enough interaction between players (as in none at all) for the average wargamer. I also won Ice Flow as usual.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Size does matter

There is a fascinating story on the front page of the Financial Times today concerning Bitcoin. You will recall that the founder of the virtual currency has always been known by the name Satosho Nakamoto, a pseudonym for either one or possibly several shadowy computer wizards lying low somewhere in the world. It now seems that the founder was indeed one man whose real name is, in fact, Satosho Nakamoto and he lives quite openly in Los Angeles. So far so unsurprising.

The real revelation as far as readers of this blog will be concerned is that Nakamoto is a model railway enthusiast. Not only that, but his motivation for creating the digital money was his annoyance at foreign exchange charges whenever he ordered trains from the UK. Now, perhaps wargamers might not feel particularly close to model railway enthusiasts, but I suspect that the general public might lump us all together and that therefore we should perhaps take the opportunity to exercise some bragging rights. Modelmakers united at the forefront of the tech revolution.

Someone, a woman for sure, once said "The reason that men like to make models is because they think that if they miniaturise the world they will be able to control it". The female view is quite the opposite; as evidenced by Georgia O'Keefe "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty".

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Warning: on-topic post

The problem with being able to post regularly is that it necessitates having something write about. After exhausting my cultural activities and wishing to steer away from some of the other ways I pass my time, I am left with a choice between a furniture update, a reasoned critique of the situation in Ukraine or some wargaming. As it happens, the toys win.

"Yay us"

There is no particular reason for this choice; certainly not the fact that I won the battle played out last night in the legendary wargames room of James 'Olicanalad' Roach, although should anyone be interested in my great victory full details can be found here. I will be the first to admit that the cards fell nicely for me. In fact on many turns my main problem was deciding which of two or three options to take. My dice rolling wasn't bad either, but I do think I'm entitled to a pat on the back for seizing the moment and making full advantage of the opportunities so as to scrape a win by the narrowest of margins. I'm gradually working out how to use the Romans in James' Command and Colours with figures hybrid ruleset. I still haven't quite sussed how to use the Triarii for anything other than turning round and sorting out any Numidians who have snuck round the back - a role they have had to perform for each of the last two battles - but I am working on it. The heroic death of my officer at the hands (feet?) of the elephants hasn't put me off throwing them into the fray; the law of averages says they should be immune for the rest of the campaign. As for which,there were no campaign moves last night which at least means the map didn't get any more blue.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A little piece of a great big soul

And so to the theatre. It was the West Yorkshire Playhouse to be specific to see a new production of 'Of Mice and Men'. Had you asked me before yesterday I would have claimed to be a Steinbeck aficionado, but that claim would seem to be based solely on having visited the Steinbeck museum in Salinas (highly recommended - the museum that is, Salinas is a dump) because I certainly hadn't read the novella from which the play was adapted.

In any event the play was excellent - with a slight reservation about the man sized rabbit - and perhaps all the better because I didn't know what happened. For those who like me don't know the story it isn't terribly cheery, but is pretty powerful.

"Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind. Ain't life unkind."

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hello possums!

I anticipate - perhaps foolishly - having proper broadband tomorrow so I thought I'd make a last post on the tin can and piece of string connection. Standby for another post in a couple of days complaining that I am still bereft. I was meant to have a bed by now, but it came, couldn't be put together and was taken away again. Why should BT perform any better?

Anyway, on the cultural front one event stands out above all others - I have been in the presence of Dame Edna Everage. She was, as one would expect, simply brilliant; what a woman.

I simply cannot remember the last time I laughed so much and one can only look at the 80 year old Barry Humphries in awe and astonishment.