Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lützen and Ligny

We've once again had a run of C&C Napoleonics games in the wargaming annexe here at Casa Epictetus, having moved on to the fourth expansion - the Prussians. Last week it was Lützen (the early part of the action with the French on the defensive) and this week Ligny, from which the photos come.

Both proved something that we've suspected for a while, that it is very difficult to attack in this game, especially against infantry in towns. Of course, and before anyone else suggests it, it's possible that we're just not very good at it, but we've been playing for a while and don't seem to be getting any better at that aspect. Last night admittedly James was handicapped by an inability to draw anything other than left sector cards, a problem exacerbated when he lost all his units in the left sector fairly early on.

Peter's normal complaint is that he rolls rubbish dice and, in all fairness, he often does. However, on both evenings he found himself rolling one dice with a unit of Lancers and on each occasion he rolled three flags in a row.

The terrain collection for this set-up continues to develop. Ligny calls for four bridges (as does Wavre - there's something about the hundred days and bridges) and so I made a trip to Wargame Vault, bought a download card model for 50 cents and made up four copies printed off at half size. Both scenarios need a church, which I didn't have and so had to substitute a walled farm. But today lurking in a charity shop in Otley - on the lookout for glasses from which to drink my breakfast orange juice since you ask - I found a nicely sized Lilliput Lane church which was immediately added to the collection. Inevitably, next week's scenario doesn't feature either church or bridge.

Prussian reserve infantry hold the 'church' next to the bridges

 I think it will be the last battle in this sequence and so I'm going to set up one with both Russians and Prussians, Katzbach. The French contingent also includes troops from Italy, Naples, Hesse and Baden, all of which I have, so there will be some colour on the table. All I have to do now is learn how to take some decent photographs.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Boardgaming Catch Up

I am behind with recording the boardgames that have been played, so here, in no particular order except for alphabetical, they are:

  • Abluxxen: This has to be the one game this week that has given me the most satisfaction, simply becuase after several attempts I finally worked out a strategy to follow. 
  • Castles of Mad King Ludwig: A good game although while we're on the subject of strategies, I've never worked out the best approach to pricing when one is the master builder.
  • Condottiere: An older game that was new to most of those playing, but which went down well.
  • Harbour: Someone had spotted a mistake in the rules that we were playing regarding the trading phase. The incorrect version that we had played is far better than the rules as written, rewarding cleverness much more. I'd also change the victory conditions. Enjoyable game despite those quibbles.
  • Libertalia: Arghh me hearties! I reserve judgement until a second play.
  • Nottingham:  A new one to me and not to be confused with Sheriff of Nottingham. I can remember very little about it.
  • Quantum: I always think it's an interesting design, and it's a good game to boot.
  • Quartermaster General: My favourite game of the moment. I was Japan and my team won for the third time out of the three that I've played it, mainly by destroying the Soviet Union.
  • Red7: Like it a lot.
  • Roll for the Galaxy: A quicker version of Race for the Galaxy which I would recommend.
  • Timeline: A much better welcome game than bloody Apples to Apples
  • Undermining: A far better game than I thought that it was going to be. All to do with mining an asteroid, but plenty of opportunities to be nasty to the opposition, which I like.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Epicurism and Lust

And so to the theatre. I have always thought that Lear was the part that Barrie Rutter was born to play. So it was with much anticipation that I went to Northern Broadsides latest touring production. My hopes were completely vindicated although perhaps not in the way that I had expected. Rather than giving it both barrels, Rutter's performance is restrained and, dare one say it, dignified. Whilst I was initially somewhat disappointed by the lack of ham or fireworks I must admit that he and director Jonathan Miller (1), not unsurprisingly, knew better than me. The production is of high standard throughout, from Fine Time Fontayne's Fool, through the excellent nastiness of Regan and Goneril, to the campest of Oswalds, and indeed the rest of the cast.

He loves a hat

I was accompanied by my elder daughter and, despite her being only twenty, this was the second time we had seen King Lear together, perhaps an indication of my cruelty to my children in the name of culture. On the previous occasion we had been to see it, with Tim Piggot-Smith giving us his take on the role, the lady sitting next to us died half way through the first act, at considerable inconvenience to all, except for those on stage who carried on regardless in the finest traditions of show business. This time nothing untoward happened, the empty seat to my left maybe indicating that someone had had the courtesy to pass away before setting off instead of spoiling the day for everyone else.

(1) Originally known of course for Beyond the Fringe alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. Cook and Moore are sadly no longer with us, but thankfully Bennett is still around to keep Miller company.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sabot bases

When I first came into contact with the surprisingly large number of wargamers based in Ilkley one thing that I couldn't understand was the propensity of some of them to constantly rebase their figures for different rulesets. I swore to myself that I wouldn't ever go down that route. No matter how idiosyncratically I'd structured my unit and element sizes new rules would just have to be twisted and tortured until they could somehow be made to work.

I was therefore delighted when I discovered C&C Napoleonics as they have allowed me to utilise my collection of very many, very small units of Russian, Prussian, French, Bavarian and other assorted nationalities without doing anything to the way that I had organised them many years ago: for example nine man infantry units on three 20mm x 40mm stands. It works very well and gives a good game. The main remaining problem (apart from calculating the line of sight on a board of offset squares) is the fiddly nature of the small bases, the time it takes to move them about and the incidental damage as they were being handled. I had been wondering whether perhaps they needed rebasing after all.

My Wars of the Roses figures however left me with a different problem. I had based the nobles, knights etc individually, mostly on pennies, but others on any old odd size that must have seemed a good idea at the time. The various rules that I have actually tried, or indeed would like to try at some point, all require leaders to be essentially just another stand. I therefore broke my rule and knocked up some temporary bases of the same size as a stand (40mm x 40mm), which held the leader and displayed his name, specifically for the battle commanders at Tewkesbury. I rather liked these and have therefore double broken the rule and made some permanent such stands for all sixty or so such captains that i have. The consequent dilemma was how to differentiate between battle commanders and unit captains now that I had, well, based them all the same again. Thus my last order from Warbases included some 60mm x 40mm sabot bases to allow higher level commanders to be identified by an attached stand of heralds. Unfortunately the heralds - of which I have an inexplicable dozen or so stands - were based on arbitrary sized scraps of card, because presumably I never really thought that I'd use them. I therefore triply broke my rule and rebased all of them on 20mm x 40mm bases.

It was only while admiring all this work that it occurred to me that the same sabot bases could serendipitously also be used for the Napoleonic infantry. So, a further order was placed and the C&C faffing about problem has been solved without rebasing dozens of units and hopefully they will be easier to handle without bending guns etc. Now, if only the line of sight issue were so amenable.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

I love a good bum on a woman, it makes my day

As no one has yet said: "work is the curse of the blogging classes". However, although the inconsideration of my clients has interfered with the pleasure of my readers, it hasn't stopped me doing stuff. And among the things I have been doing is to go and see Fake Thackray. John Watterson channelled Thackray during the songs and spoke amusingly and movingly about him in between; enhanced by the presence of a couple of people in the audience who had known the singer during his early years.

One small quibble - no turtleneck.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The quack who's gone to the dogs

 "Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974, it's a scientific fact." - Homer Simpson

I went to see Dr Bob and the Bluesmakers last night, a band who I hope so very much took their name from the character played by Rowlf on the Muppets that I am going to make no attempt to find out the truth.

"You're right, Fred is a terrible name for a hospital."

Unsurprisingly they played the blues, and played them very well. A fairly classic lineup of two guitars, bass, drums and harmonica were fronted by a female vocalist noticeably younger than the rest of them. Their repertoire leaned heavily on Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac type stuff plus more soul/jazz standards such "I'd Rather Go Blind" and "Stormy Monday" which suited the lead singer's voice very well. They also performed their own compositions which sounded good, especially to those of us who believe that Homer had it right (1).

Among their encores was "Shake Your Hips", nominally a Slim Harpo cover, but actually heavily reliant on the Rolling Stones version of the song on Exile on Main Street; and none the worse for that.

Didn't move her head,
Didn't move her hands,
Didn't move her lips,
Just shook her hips.
Do the hip shake, babe,
Do the hip shake, babe,
Shake your hip, babe,
Shake your hip, babe,
Well ain't that easy. 

(1) astonishingly it is now virtually as long since the first broadcast of the episode of the Simpsons from which that quote was taken, as it was between then and 1974.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Milton Keynes Still Ain't Much of a Town

I have been back to Milton Keynes and, apart from the sun shining, it was much the same as when I left it. However there have been better times at the Casa Epictetus, some of which I feel in the mood to share.

I went to see 'Feast of Fiddles', whom I have reviewed here a couple of times. They remain rather fine, opening this time with the theme from Mission Impossible and covering the usual blend of folk, rock, jazz, and yet more film themes in their own style. I had suggested seeing them to someone and was relieved when she really liked them, because they are somewhat idiosyncratic. So, recommended, but with a caveat.

Only one boardgame was played and that was Bohnanza which is of course a card game. I hadn't played it for a long time had forgotten how much I liked it.

Wargaming took place in the annexe. James, or more accurately his wife Lucy, is hors de combat and so I took the French forces against Peter's Prussians in the Dennewitz scenario from the C&C Napoleonics Expansion 4. While setting it up I was struck by how lopsided it looked and having drawn the French I expected to lose. However, I won by dint of the usual route in this game; I managed to draw cards that were useful. In particular with small hand sizes there is limited scope for building a hand before launching a co-ordinated manoeuvre. It did highlight the importance of well placed artillery and the use of them in Combined Arms attacks.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Mckinley Morganfield

Today may, or just as likely may not, be the centenary of the birth of Muddy Waters.

Got a gypsy woman offering me advice
Got a gypsy woman offering me advice
Got a whole lot of tricks keeping her around

Ain't that the truth.

Uncle Seagull's Orchard

And so to the theatre. I have been to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company do the Complete History of Comedy. which whilst not as good as their Complete Works of Shakespeare was nonetheless full of funny moments.
A chap with a beard

Personal favourites included an Elizabethan Abbot and Costello routine and a number of variations on the chicken-crossing-the-road joke, including a Greek tragedy version and a take à la Samuel Beckett. However, for me at least, the high spot was the Chekhov sketch. Building on the fact that while Anton Pavlovich claimed to write comedy nobody else seems to find his plays amusing, they skewered him good and proper. For someone who recently suffered through Uncle Vanya those few minutes were sweet revenge.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


So, still no wargaming, although a largish and mixed order has gone off to Warbases. The games it's aimed at are:

  • trying Basic Impetus using the Celts and Romans that I have for the Pony Wars variant we played a few months ago.
  • extending C&C Napoleonics to deploy more units on a wider battlefield
  • differentiating between battle commanders and unit leaders in the Wars of the Roses
Speaking of the Romans in Britain, Peter has drawn my attention to a meld of Pony Wars and Sharpe Practice that appeared in the Lardies' last Christmas special which looks to be an interesting source of ideas. My big problem is that I didn't redraft the rules immediately after the last runs through and have frankly forgotten what we decided.

Boardgaming resumed (by the way I still intend to dedicate a whole post to the whys and wherefores, but the world of boardgaming in Leeds has been riven by a schism every bit as deep as that of wargamers in Ilkley) with the usual wide range of games:

  • Kobayakawa: another excellent minimalist Japanese game. In fact it's so minimalist that once you know the rules - themselves, er, minimalist - one could play with a normal pack of cards (or even better 6 Nimmt!) and not need to buy it at all.
  • Abluxxen: I like it, but still can't work out a strategy to follow.
  • Mysterium: Cosa? Dove? Chi? Still don't like it.
  • The Three Musketeers: I was the cardinal and was given the runabout by the musketeers. I'd like to play it more often.
  • Hanabi: Much discussion of conventions - I think I'm against - and a solid 20.
  • Fidelitas: A new one on me which I'd like to play again now I understand it. I didn't win because I couldn't count to nine.
And briefly, music has included the Jon Palmer Acoustic Band and Blueflint. They were both excellent although sadly the two - count 'em - banjos in the latter did nothing to alter my aversion to the instrument.