Saturday, 30 May 2015


"Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable." - Jane Austen
  •  Our refight of Chotusitz completed - or near enough for everyone's satisfaction - and Frederick won. Having said that, I think it's a very good scenario and the Austrians have a pretty fair chance of winning. To do so, their commander needs to be more sensible with his cavalry on the left than I was and the grenzers who occupy the town need to inflict a bit more damage on the Prussian reinforcements; neither of which is beyond the realms of possibility.
  • I have been to the latest exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute featuring works by Carol Gove and Carlo Scarpa. It is absolute rubbish. 
  • I travelled to London last week, my first trip since the reprivatisation of the East Coast Mainline route under the control of Virgin Trains. My return train was cancelled, and I was advised by Virgin that any delay over thirty minutes entitled one to compensation and, this being the case, I duly did. My claim has subsequently been rejected on the basis that, and I only paraphrase slightly, there is nothing to do in Leeds at that time of night anyway so what difference did half an hour make. 
  • Asparagus has been cooked again, this time with bacon lardons, poached egg and pine nuts. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

To do the right deed for the wrong reason

And so to the theatre. I have been to see 'Murder in the Cathedral', T.S. Eliot's examination of, among other things, the dichotomy between man's loyalty to his conscience and the duty he may be considered to owe to authority. I prefer to interpret it as a product of it's time - having been written during the rise of fascism - but that may just be because I am constitutionally incapable of any empathy with the inner struggles of god-botherers. There are obvious parallels with Thomas More that other egotistical Lord Chancellor who allowed himself to be martyred, although in fairness to Thomas a Becket he never told lies about Richard III.

wasn't entirely convinced by the production, the opening scene in particular seemed to drift on for ever before anything much happened. Some of the costume decisions were also questionable. Becket himself wore motorcycle leathers for no reason that I could discern and while Reginald Fitz Urse (crazy name, crazy guy) had a bit of a Herr Flick, Gestapo vibe going on, the other three knights appeared to be ninjas. The music managed to be both odd and predictable - Cohen's 'Hallelujah' was inevitable - and was at times too loud. However the verse was crisply and powerfully spoken, transcending all the other inadequacies to make it a memorable evening.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Asparagus officinalis

If this blog had any readers I would apologise to them for my absence. I have had what medical professionals would describe as a stinking cold and have been laid low over the bank holiday. However, I am almost fully recovered and back to what passes for normal life around here. At the moment that seems to consist of searching for the best recipe for serving asparagus, always bearing in mind that I cannot eat dairy produce. The current favourite is lemon and garlic roasted asparagus with herby tomatoes, but I've also had great success with chorizo accompanied by sweet potato cakes with spring onion and ginger.

Returning to the ostensible theme of the blog, there has also been some wargaming in the legendary wargames room of James 'Olicanalad' Roach, after a hiatus caused by genuine illness on the part of his wife and some epic scale hypochondria from him. He has blogged about the game here and we will finish it off tonight, so I will simply say that considering the terrible dice that I threw and my appalling cavalry tactics on my left flank I am remarkably well placed. I don't have very much morale left though so another defeat seems all too likely.

I shall therefore celebrate rising from my sickbed by bringing the world up to date with boardgames played.

Cosmic Encounter: An oldie but goodie. Who wouldn't want to conquer the universe?

Factory Fun: A very off-putting name for a game so loosely based on factories one wonders why they bothered. Good game though.

Fleet: An interesting, if somewhat lightly themed, game. It was basically accounting and so I won.

Ice Flow: A favourite of mine, spoiled on this occasion by the fact that I didn't win.

Letters from Whitechapel: A one-against-many cooperative game where acting as policemen we chased Jack the Ripper through the streets and alleys and across the rooftops of the East End. I'm not sure where the letters come in to things exactly. I enjoyed it, and we caught the fiend while I was directing operations so I have to declare it a good game. Trivia note: I was born in the area represented by the playing map.

Pandemic: Contagion : A competitive version of Pandemic and all the better for it. Players take the part of a deadly virus attempting to wipe out humanity; suits me.

Pastiche: The game revolves around the painting of old masters. It's very pretty, but not terribly coherent.

Russian Railroads: I enjoyed this despite it being a worker placement game. I'd play again and would be able to deploy a better strategy next time.

Skull: I love this game to such an extent that I have been out and bought a copy. I'm rubbish at it though.

Sushi Go!: Very lightweight card drafting game that didn't do it for me.

Waggle Dance: Bees make honey - very entertaining; at least until with the game all but won I put one of my worker bees on the wrong spot because I wasn't paying enough attention and so lost. Hubris indeed.

Friday, 22 May 2015

What potent blood hath modest May

What potent blood hath modest May
when violets bloom sweet and fair
as the butterfly on red roses play
without a thought, without a care?

When violets bloom sweet and fair
along the roadsides emerald way
without a thought, without a care
as in the breeze they dance and sway.

Along the roadsides emerald way
a child picks them here and there
as in the breeze they dance and sway
with his mother the beauty he wants to share.

A child picks them here and there
innocent under the suns bright ray
with his mother the beauty he wants to share
all the treasures of his day.

Innocent under the suns bright ray
at the tombstone he lays with care
all the treasures of his day
as his mother sleeps so unaware.

At the tombstone he lays with care
he speaks the words he needs to say
as his mother sleeps so unaware
he curses the grave where she will stay.

He speaks the words he needs to say
who will love him without her there?
He curses the grave where she will stay
he cries to think how unfair,

who will love him without her there?
As the butterfly on red roses play
he cries to think how unfair
what potent blood has the month of May?

                        - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I haven't been to...

... Belgium again; and, with a new string to my bow, I haven't been to Turkey either. I have been to London - Marylebone or thereabouts - but that was dull. It was my first trip on the East Coast Mainline since it was reprivatised in the hands of Virgin and, to no surprise whatsoever, it was terrible, culminating in my return train being cancelled completely.

Other items of note over the last week or so:

  • An unnecessarily large Napoleonic cavalry battle staged for no other reason than to get all my collection on the table. The French swept the Prussians from the table easily, but the Russian heavy cavalry won the day in the end. I remembered to take some photos, but I can't put my hand on my camera.
  • I definitely had my camera with me when I went to the Otley Show at the weekend. This is the first of the large agricultural shows of the year in the north of England and was replete with livestock of all sorts and the farming community of the dales making merry. The absence of photographs means you are denied a detailed report on the ladies tug-of-war; which is possibly just as well.
  • I have seen Thea Gilmore again. She was as excellent as on the previous occasion.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

May was full of promises

And so to the theatre. Or possibly to the opera. Or possibly both. Opera North regularly include musicals in their repertoire, partly I think because they exist on a continuum with opera proper rather than being subject to a binary divide, and partly to make money. Their production of Kurt Weil's 'One Touch of Venus' from a few years ago remains a highlight for me of all the many times I have seen their work. This season they have revived 'Carousel', which I missed last time they did it for some reason; possibly because I was in Belgium, a country that I have once again failed to go to this week.

We want Willum, Willum the cat

Anyway, it was highly enjoyable, up to a point. It is very operatic in theme - for which read it is full of horrible people and it doesn't end well - and perhaps that is what attracted the company to it. I saw fit in my review of 'The Marriage of Figaro' to advise Mozart that he should have lost the fourth act. Similarly Rodgers and Hammerstein should have drawn a line after the first rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. The audience would stumbled out into the street emotionally wracked and blinking back tears. As it is they all leave shaking their heads at the baffling last half hour of mawkish sentimentality, wondering if even Americans could really stomach such banal, quasi-religious drivel.

Friday, 15 May 2015

There must be a better world somewhere

Fellas, tell them one more time

Well I've been around a long time
I really have paid my dues

Friday, 8 May 2015

Silence is safer than speech

"England is nothing but the last ward of the European madhouse..." - Leon Trotsky

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

He didn't fly to Bruges

Or indeed Courtrai. I have spent much of the last fortnight not going to Belgium; an activity which has occupied a paradoxically large amount of my time. You will be relieved to learn however that boardgaming has somehow struggled on regardless. Games played were:

6 nimmt!: The higher the number of players then the more random it gets, but I rather like it.

Guillotine: Once again the French aristos got what was coming to them, and quite right too.

Kemet: I led the dog people of ancient Egypt (you know, the dog people of ancient Egypt; come on, don't pretend that you haven't heard of them) to a respectable second place.

Mottainai: I have no idea how to describe this any more than I had any idea what the rules were while I was playing it. Peculiar, but on the plus side seems to reward the ability to plan ahead.

The Pillars of the Earth: Pretty standard, fairly light worker placement game with a cathedral building theme that, apparently, has something to do with a book by Ken Follett. Notwithstanding any of that it was nice to play and doesn't outstay its welcome. It's all accounting really so I won. It does contain the best turn counter that I think that I've ever come across.

The Resistance: Seriously, I hear you ask, seriously? All I can say is that my resistance was low (did you see what I did there?) and I went with the flow. I got it completely wrong, but in my defence the chap sitting next to me works at Menwith Hill and so must be considered a professional and he had no idea either.

Revolver: I haven't played this for a yonk, not since the episode with the Malaysian midwife; one of those stories for which the world is not yet ready. Anyway, it came out because Peter and I finished Katzbach a bit early and then I squeezed in another couple of games, including the first time I've ever seen it won by removing all the tokens from the Mexican Border card. It's a damn good game.

San Juan: It occurs to new players fairly on during the rules explanation that this is about running a slave plantation, but distasteful theme aside, this is a good game. It is rather similar to Citadels, but for some reason that game is looked down upon by the cognoscenti whereas this one is deemed OK. It's a funny thing, fashion.

Tzolk'in: This is the one with the cogs on the board that are rotated each turn. I very much enjoyed it. Again, a mostly standard worker placement game except for the gear wheels. It is, of course, all accounting and so as I often do in those circumstances, I won. For the record I have been to Chichen Itza. It rained.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Anything goes

And so to the theatre. 'Kill The Beast' theatre company are touring 'He Had Hairy Hands' and were in Harrogate for one night only. As one would expect given their name - which is a quote from 'Lord of the Flies' - the show is in the horror genre, but it's also very funny.

They combine slick physical theatre with clever wordplay and quick switches between the multiple characters being played by each of them. Highlights for me were a wolf wonderfully constructed from the entire cast and a corny, but laugh-out-loud, joke about haunted tiramisu. Worth watching out for.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Start wide, expand further

"Start wide, expand further, and never look back" - Arnold Schwarzenegger

My C&C Napoleonics set up consists of nine doormats arranged 3x3 and marked out in the regulation sized hex pattern albeit in offset squares. However, I actually have a further three such mats plus the space to add them on to the end to make a 4x3 layout. Before it all gets taken down to play something else I have therefore experimented with widening things out. The new layout has eighteen hex/squares on each baseline. The left and right flanks consist of six each and the centre eight, implying an overlap of on hex/square on the baseline row and two on the alternate rows.

We played out the Katzbach scenario from the C&C Napoleonic website (it's a user posted one rather than one in the expansion) with the terrain stretched, another half dozen units on either side and proportional adjustments to victory banners and iron will counters. The wider playing surface worked well in the sense that we didn't really notice it. The scenario wasn't a success however, the lack of ranged fire for infantry units (the battle took place in a thunderstorm) being too much of a special case to draw any firm conclusions.

I intend to play another game on the same layout and, learning nothing as usual, it will be another special case. I'm going to set up a cavalry battle; the only reason for which is that I have such a shed load of cavalry that unless I have a cavalry-only battle on a bigger area it will never get used.