Thursday, 31 December 2015

We ourselves must walk the path

So, what happened this year then? I should first apologise for the content of the blog, which was consistently neither relevant nor interesting. If it's any consolation, the comments that I have left on other people's blogs have generally been even worse; bloggers must wince when they see my username appear. All I can do is quote Rudyard Kipling: "You must learn to forgive a man when he's in love. He's always a nuisance."

Anyway, on to the much sought after Epictetus annual awards:
  • Opera of the year:  'The Flying Dutchman' with an honourable mention for  'Tales of Hoffman'
  • Theatre of the year: 'Beryl' with an honourable mention for 'The History Boys'.
  • Gig of the year: I've seen an awful lot of excellent gigs, but it's a toss up between  Nils Lofgren and Tom Russell with an honourable mention for Gigspanner (which good as it was I don't seem to have posted about before), plus of course the Ilkley Blues Festival for sheer value for money.
  • Film of the year: 'Lunchbox' with a dishonourable mention for 'Spectre'; once again I haven't actually been to see that many films.
  • Book of the year: City of Wisdom and Blood, the second in the Fortune of War series by Robert Merle, the first volume of which was my book of the year for 2014. There's a pattern developing.
  • Wargame of the year: There's been a lot of Seven Years War this year and I'm going to go for the large game in the summer where James got all his Prussians and Russians out on the table.
  • Boardgame of the year: Quartermaster General, no doubt at all, but there have been a lot of very good ones among the 265 plays of 134 different games that I've managed this year.
  • Cake of the year: I think pear and chocolate although the elder Miss Epictetus is a firm champion of the spiced fruit loaf.
  • Event of the year: I'm tempted to cheat and choose every time that the big, bouncy woman came and sat on my lap; or possibly the Otley Wool Fair (I really enjoyed that day); or perhaps a truly memorable afternoon in the Victoria Hotel (definitely my pub of the year). However, instead I'm opting for a walk up to Top Withens that I took at the end of August, during which we got wet, the past was laid to rest and the future mapped out. As Christina Rossetti wrote in the poem of the year:
I loved you first: but afterwards your love 
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

I'm Free

When I bought my first box of Hexon terrain a couple of months ago I set up a Command & Colours game just to see what it looked like. Unexpectedly this got played pretty much immediately and so I set up another one. Less unexpectedly this one didn't get played as instead we took an axe to the morale section in James' Seven Years War rules. However, everything comes to those who wait and so there was a sudden flurry of activity in the wargames annexe last night. You may recall me mentioning some months ago that I had introduced a boardgaming partner to wargaming via a Romans v Celts go at To the Strongest!. Real life - on his part - had prevented him following up on what he said was an enjoyable experience until now, but it had always been our intention to repeat the exercise. The Wharfe has receded enough for the bridge between the north and south halves of the town to be reopened and so he visited for a festive run through of the Grossbeeren scenario. Once again he said he liked it, and indeed indicated a preference for TtS! over C&C; in other words for the more wargame like of the two. I don't think that he is ready for Piquet yet, but it might be time to introduce him to a game requiring a tape measure.

A wargamer from the days when they knew how to dress shows off his tapemeasure

In any event the Hexon terrain is to be taken down, put away and replaced with green felt. James very kindly passed on to me a copy of Lion Rampant that Osprey had given him in respect of his oeuvre, or to be precise, in respect of using some of his photos in their Seven Years war rules, the name of which escapes me just at this moment. These - Lion Rampant not Honours of War - have featured in a number of blogs recently (there's a set up here that appeals to the accountant in me) and having read through them I am inclined to give them a go. I have seen the term 'false skirmish' applied to them, which I think refers to their being designed for single based figures but used in units rather than individually. Notwithstanding that I think they'll work just fine with figures based in elements and in particular will allow me to use some toys that have been languishing in boxes for years without ever seeing the tabletop. Photos will follow, subject to the usual caveat regarding the Young Farmers' ladies tug-of-war competition.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Mush! Mush!

December saw another full month of boardgaming:

Avalon: I hate this sort of game.

Bohnanza: An excellent game which I hadn't played for ages. I was too quick to open up my third beanfield, which I never really needed. I love the no hand sorting mechanism.

Codenames: Another really good game, only spoiled by the imbecility of one's teammates.

Condottiere: A card game with a board. It's a sort of wargame that always goes down well, even with those that don't really like wargames.

Discoveries: The dice version of Lewis & Clark, full of opportunities to make the wrong choice.

Fresco: Similar in theme to Pastiche, and probably about as good. It's perhaps a little bit easier for the colour blind.

Game of Trains: Nothing to do with trains, but good anyway. It's a abstract number sorting game where I never see the end coming.

Ice Flow: I wish people would stop beating me at this.

Lancaster: The Hundred Years War theme is not that deep, although I understand the need to go to France to fight is stronger in the expansion, which I would like to try.

Mush! Mush!: My preference is to play a wide variety of games and a bit of husky racing never fails to entertain. It has a very simple mechanic and it's always amazing how with the same resources the various competitors can achieve such very different results.

Pi mau Pflaumen: A German card game about fruit and π. It sort of makes sense when you play it.

Quartermaster General: Playing as the Soviets I only ever had armies on Moscow, Ukraine and Eastern Europe, but I bled the Germans dry. There was an unusual amount of action in Asia, proving once again that every game is different.

Red7: The thinking man's Fluxx. Don't let that put you off; this is good.

Roll for the  Galaxy: We played the Ambition expansion, but frankly it didn't seem to make much difference to what was already a good game.

Sail to India: None of the others had ever played this previously and to a man employed strategies that I'd never come across before, all of which did better than mine. Bastards.

Shadow Hunters: An interesting game - despite being based on hidden identities - for which there seem to be a range of winning strategies. I suspect that the frenzied bloodbath will always be the most fun if not the most successful.

Skull: An excellent bluffing game, at which many of my regular playing partners are very bad.

String Railway: I loved this. It basically involves laying out railways with, er, string. Fantastic.

Monday, 28 December 2015


And so to the cinema. In an attempt to provide some competition in the eagerly awaited Epictetus film of the year award - watch this space - I have been to see 'Bridge of Spies'. It is, as one would expect, a well crafted piece of work without ever really reaching any great heights. Mark Rylance is as excellent as Rudolf Abel (not his real name of course - he was a spy) as he was as Thomas Cromwell. In one sense it's hard to see what he is doing differently from before, but he is as convincing a Soviet spy as he was a Tudor statesman. Tom Hanks is also predictably reliable, albeit perhaps too old for the role.

I've no idea how historically accurate it all is, although perhaps one could guess from the fact that the end credits claim that the Soviets never publicly acknowledged Abel as being a spy while the stamp above is one of a series commemorating intelligence agents issued by the, er, Soviet Union. It's at least debatable whether he was any good as a spy or ever uncovered any secrets. As for the message that Spielberg is trying to get across, that's pure Hollywood. He seems to have very little time for the intelligence or moral compass of ordinary Americans - Hank's character aside - but magically when aggregated together the whole country suddenly become the good guys. Indeed they are so good that they are entitled to behave badly whereas the bad behaviour of the Soviets simply proves that they are the bad guys to start with. I think that it's fair to say that other, possibly more nuanced, interpretations of the Cold War are available. Hanks channels James Stewart throughout and, interestingly, Spielberg chooses to stick to the moral from one of Stewart's best films: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend". His protagonist's previous connections with the CIA are downplayed so that everything can be portrayed as the ordinary guy running rings round the intelligence services of two superpowers.

It all passes a couple of hours very pleasantly, but the film that they should really make about Abel's life is of his part in Operation Berezino.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

And all the boards did shrink

A whole lot of water decided to visit over Christmas, isolating the rest of the world from the lower Wharfe valley. I hope that you all coped.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow

Some festive wargaming news to tide us over the next couple of days:

The refight of Mollwitz ended with only two Austrian units remaining on the table while the Prussians had dozens, many of which had not seen any action, plus loads of morale. It was therefore declared a draw. The only reason the Austrians performed so well is that they once again got all the initiative. I don't think that I got half way through my deck on any of the seven turns. It was all highly enjoyable, with what can be a problem in Piquet - lopsided initiative - actually coming to the rescue here. I know that there has been some debate on the amount of snow on the ground during the battle, with various interested parties quoting different sources. Unless some film of the event miraculously turns up then we shall never know.

On the (lack of) painting front I have gone for a stopgap solution and yesterday in the post received some Napoleonic French Line Lancers and Ammunition Caissons. The former are because I haven't got any and the latter mostly to provide teams of horses for the Pontoon Train. There will be paint on the table this Christmas.

Gut Yontiff to you all, and remember that, as George Carlin pointed out, the main reason Santa is so jolly is that he knows where all the bad girls live.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Love Like a Man

A missive has reached us from the front line in Luxembourg where one of our occasional correspondents is bravely defending western civilisation against Islamic State armed only with a Collins Robert and a generous expense account. He astutely points out that Ten Years After are probably a bigger influence on Chantel McGregor than are Grand Funk Railroad.

The above video obviously comes from TYA's appearance at Woodstock, where they had the slot on the bill immediately following Country Joe and the Fish, the band with the most aesthetically overrated drummer in the history of rock.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Respect is due

My recent post which included the link to the video about Marcus Hinton and his other half continues to get literally hundreds of views. I believe that I have James 'respect to his ouevre' Roach to thank/blame for this, but I don't know how or why.

Anyway, in one of those moments familiar to people of a certain age I have suddenly remembered where I first saw the video. It was, glaringly obviously in retrospect, on a blog dedicated to Hinton Hunt figures. Respect to their mighty ouevre as well.

I note that none of my new readers has stuck around for the love poetry or the opera reviews, but perhaps that's as it should be. Party on dudes.

Sunday, 20 December 2015


"How could I, blest with you, long nights employ; 
And how with the longest day enjoy!"

 - Tibullus

Friday, 18 December 2015


Just a short post as I have a cold:

  • Another excellent Seven Years War(ish) game in the legendary wargames room - see the report here - is seeing a good year's wargaming wrapped up in style. James - respect to his ouvre - mentions in a throw away comment that the Austrians got all the initiative; if they hadn't then the game would be over by now, because the scenario is very heavily skewed in favour of the Prussians, especially given the extra cards they drew.
  • It has become apparent that a number of people haven't watched the video of Mrs Hinton because they didn't realise that it had anything to do with wargaming; as if any non-wargaimg content would be posted here! All that I can say is that a) it is about wargaming, although perhaps not as we know it and b) if lots of you haven't watched it then the statistics rather imply that one of you has watched it dozens of times. 
  • I don't think that I've mentioned recently how dreadful Windows 10 is. Let me rectify that now: it sucks.
  • For no particular reason here is Eli 'Paper Boy' Reed performing a cover of a Motorhead song. This one really does have nothing to do with wargaming.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


Well I've had a busy couple of days, involving lots of boardgames and nearly going to Bishop Auckland. I watched the launch, not because of the British astronaut - I am proud to say that I have no patriotic feelings whatsoever about anything at all - but because I am that age. Among my earliest memories are sitting on a classroom floor listening to a transistor radio (the detail is important because one of the teachers would have brought their own personal, portable - though still hefty - radio into school) as one of the Gemini flights was launched. I would happily watch any rocket lift off, any time, anywhere.

I also went to the theatre and saw Steel Magnolias. I've never seen the film, but was charmed by the play, which was both funny and sad. As an aside the actress playing Shelby had the longest legs I think I've ever seen. I say that with some trepidation because naturally this blog operates according to the conventions of the officers mess, and regards the ladies as off limits for conversation. But it may be that standards are slipping because my previous post has got a remarkable number of viewers (that's remarkable for this blog, still pathetic by anyone else's standards of course). I suspect that rather than new people being tempted in this is caused by regulars returning for a second ogle. Shame on you all.

I have also been to see the very talented Chantel McGregor. McGregor, a local lass and a woman in whom Robert Crumb would find much to admire, is an alumna of Leeds College of Music - an institution that has featured in these pages before - where she had a very distinguished academic record. She now plays guitar in a power trio who seem to think that Grand Funk Railroad circa 1969 is the aspirational route map to follow; which will get no argument from me. Their songs are basically just a vehicle for her to solo; which she does rather well, always assuming you like that sort of thing - which I certainly do. In addition she gets bonus marks for employing a bass player who looks exactly like the bass player in this sort of band should look. Check it out:

And here, as I mentioned them, is some Grand Funk Railroad from when they were good:

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Mrs Hinton

I can't remember on which blog I first saw this video, so apologies for not giving credit. I post it here following a recent conversation with a young lady of my acquaintance. She's never shown any interest in wargaming so instead we inevitably found ourselves talking about the pros and cons of women wearing men's clothing. I, who do have an interest in wargaming, was reminded of this, which, once seen, does tend to stick in the mind somewhat:

I don't know about you, but to me that short video raises a very large number of questions. The only one that I can help with is that one and ninepence is just under 9p. Two pounds ten is of course fifty bob.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Project required

I am in need of a painting project. I am in some ways reluctant to acknowledge this because since pitching my tent in Otley a couple of years ago I still haven't managed to get all my existing stuff onto the table. The Hussites in particular need an outing. However, having a certain amount of free time, and with the weather being truly appalling I could do with something to get my teeth into.

The last big project I was working on was of course the War of the Spanish Succession, but much of those completed units disappeared in all the disruption and I have no appetite to pick it up again. This is not to say that I haven't done any painting over the last two years, but it's been mainly aimed at filling out OOBs for games that I wanted to play:
  • I added some light cavalry to my Wars of the Roses forces and painted up all the longbowmen in the plastic mountain. I could no doubt do with some more of the latter.
  • In Napoleonics I added Imperial Guard to the French plus some Russian dragoons. An Austrian force would make sense, but options are strictly limited in 20mm plastic. I also have a pontoon kit that I was intending to use for the WSS; it would be a shame to see it go to waste.
  • I added more Roman auxiliaries, including cavalry, artillery and archers; indeed it is to some extent the completion of these archers that prompts me to ask what next. On the other side I added cavalry and a chariot. In the absence of any better ideas I suspect chariots will top the list.
  • I painted quite a lot of Roman civilians etc to expand the Romans in Britain version of Pony Wars. There's not much point in doing more - although I have a lot unpainted - until that gets played again, which in turn depends upon the acquisition of some more Hexon terrain.
  • I have most recently had a focus on markers. I upgraded all my numbers, added more letters, made some generic disruption/OOC markers and am just completing some ammunition chits to replace the beads we've been using for To the Strongest!. I got the idea for the ammo counters from the Tin Soldiering On blog, the author which tells me that he got it from one of Donald Featherstone's books. That, needless to say, is good enough for me. However, I'm all markered out. 
 I suspect that the next games in the wargames annexe at Casa Epictetus will be to try out the new expansion to C&C Napoleonics, which, as far as I'm aware, hasn't arrived in the UK yet. I certainly don't need any more figures to play that, so a painting project doesn't have any time or other constraints; although cheapness would be preferable, not because I'm poor, but because I am mean. While I am thinking about it here's some Grateful Dead. I can't remember if I've already posted this, but if I have then so what.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Beyond the horizon

James and I concluded the latest Seven Years war game last night, it ending as expected in a good kicking for the Russians. If anything the initiative was even  more skewed in favour of the Prussians than it had been the previous week, but it was nevertheless and enjoyable game. In fact, on the wings the Prussian cavalry was completely destroyed. Unfortunately this was because there was too much Russian infantry on the right and not enough in the centre and that was where the game was lost. The new morale rules worked well I think, and the charge restrictions on Cossacks meant that I used them in a different way, only lost one unit of them and yet they still caused a fair amount of disruption.

Indeed James asserted that the rules (provisionally entitled 'Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops') were now pretty much finished. This should be treated with a certain amount of scepticism, especially as it was followed by some suggestions regarding cavalry opportunity charges. The rules favour the Prussians, which is reasonable enough, but in order to make a decent game of it this has to be compensated for by scenario design. At its crudest this means giving the Russians more units, but exactly how many more is more of an art than a science. It maybe that, given that their strategy seemed to be simply to try to hang around long enough until Frederick's army got fed up and went away, that they should be allowed a number of 'free' unit losses not countable against Major Morale. Also, it would seem to me that any scenario should not require them to actually do anything. The previous game we played fell down because they needed to switch units around in reaction to a flank attack, and they couldn't. In this game my deployment was too much to one side of the town and I could never bring the units back across.

On a different subject you may remember that a couple of years ago James and I got into some heated discussions about the length of day at the equator. This was particularly pointless as this is a very well understood phenomenon, has been for thousands of years, and it could be demonstrably proved which one of us (i.e. me) was right. You'll be pleased to know that we have moved on to a new and somewhat upgraded topic to argue about when we should be turning cards and rolling dice: gravitation as explained by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. This is also completely pointless as, let's be honest, neither of us has the faintest idea what we are talking about; didn't stop us though.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

In the Middle of Something

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” - Epicurus

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Nuns fret not

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room,
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
                                                - William Wordsworth

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The New Rock & Roll

I have been to a talk on the Battle of Towton given by Chris Murphy of the Towton Battlefield Society. It was informative and entertaining, and in particular was very strong on the context and personalities. Murphy is given to a colourful turn of phrase and I was taken both with his assertion that the Wars of the Roses is the new Rock & Roll and that Edward IV was Elvis. I was less convinced by the idea of Henry VI as Stephen Fry, but one can't have everything. He included a special section on local notable John, 9th Baron Clifford (the 'Flower of Craven' or ' Butcher Clifford' according to one's taste). Otley wasn't actually on Clifford's land, being owned by the Archdiocese of York, but he was the nearest big cheese. There is one obvious problem with focussing on the Flower/Butcher in a talk on Towton; as discussed on this very blog quite recently he died the day before. It probably didn't matter because the majority of the packed out hall - the sight of which prompted the bon mot about Rock & Roll - appeared to have only come to get away from Storm Desmond which was raging outside. As with the previous year's talk on Richard III - also a sell out, although against a background of snow that time - their grasp of what was going on appeared to be slim. There were no actively racist questions this time, but the first one to be asked, after two hours of bigging up the events of Palm Sunday 1461, "Isn't it true that the 28,000 casualties are a huge exaggeration, that it's all myth and that it wasn't a very important battle after all?" was unsurprisingly met with a curt "No!". In fact it is only modesty that prevents me from pointing out that for the second year running the only sensible question was asked by me.

The storm had abated sufficiently today for the annual Victorian Fayre; indeed it was about 15˚C warmer than last year when the reindeer were the only things looking at all comfortable. It's a big event with the entire centre of the town closed off and interesting to see how my great grandparents would have celebrated the time of year. I entered into the spirit of things by having a samosa.

The weekend also included a bit of old Rock & Roll with an excellent gig by Steve Phillips and the Rough Diamonds. Phillips, a long time friend and sometime bandmate of Mark Knopfler, is really a blues musician - his set included the usual list of McTell, Broonzy, Jefferson, Johnson, Waters, Wolf plus a couple of obscure Dylan covers - but he opened with Heartbreak Hotel, first made famous by that son of York, Edward Plantagenet.

Friday, 4 December 2015

More SYW playtesting

And back to wargaming. James has posted extensively on his blog about the current game which is testing some rule changes. I thought that it was a most enjoyable night, despite things not going completely according to plan for the Russians. As discussed before, Piquet isn't to everyone's taste, but I really like it. Specifically, I just love the fact that if we played exactly the same scenario again it would inevitably develop in a completely different way even if both sides started with the same plan.  We (for which read James) are always tinkering with the rules, but I don't see that as a problem. The objective is not a simulation, but rather a good game in which the flow of the battle develops in a way that seems historically appropriate; the trick is to get the two objectives - enjoyability and verisimilitude - in balance. Anyway, here are a few thoughts to supplement James' report:

  • James had determined the forces and terrain, but otherwise this was a scratch game. Naturally none of us could remember exactly how one did that in Piquet, but we busked it through. I would, I think, make one small amendment to the process we followed: I would allow switching of qualities of units of the same type within the same command after they have all been rolled for. This is purely a game thing; it just gives one the possibility to partially ameliorate bad dice rolling.
  • My original intention had been to rush my troops into the town along the road, taking advantage of the extra Infantry Move in the Open card that I had drawn during the morale set up; that's why they were in column. It didn't work because of the way the cards fell, but then again, on a different day, it could have been a masterstroke. To repeat myself, it's that unpredictability that makes me enjoy the game so much.
  • On the plus side, my other unit of grenadiers in the centre did make it across the river and in to the town. They had originally rolled up as unknown quality, but when first into action the re-roll made them superior - a purple bead. Coupled with their commander having also rolled up purple means they will be very hard to dislodge; indeed they have already recovered all losses incurred so far.
  • I think the morale challenge rules are working well so far. I hadn't thought through the effect mechanism that in Piquet allows one to pay a chip to re-roll a morale dice for the cost of a chip, but I think that the approach that we ended up with is the right one. There isn't any great logic to the original rule, but I think it adds a moment of choice to the game so I'd be loath to lose it.
  • Prognosis? Not good for the Russians, apart from anything else my infantry is pretty poor. quality. I could do with winning the initiative and then turning Artillery Reload and Cavalry Move as my first two cards.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

A personal view

I have known quite a number of MPs over the years; for obvious reasons most of them Labour. In fact the only past or present Tory MP that I think I have ever spoken to is former cabinet minister Jim Prior with whom I had dinner in Abu Dhabi some twenty years ago. The reason behind our separate visits has recently returned with a vengeance, indeed there was an extremely inaccurate article about the whole affair in the Guardian last week. Pretty much everything they wrote was wrong, except for the inescapable fact that innocent civilians are being killed by British made weapons.

Anyway, I digress. I was going to write about the fact that I have liked a great many Labour MPs as people; you will recall that I have previously mentioned a couple that I didn't care much for. I knew Ruth Cadbury, newly elected in Brentford & Isleworth, many years ago and I'm sure she'll be a fine MP. The late Alan Keen, MP for Feltham & Heston, was a warm. personable man and I liked him more each time that I met him. Martin Salter, MP for Reading West until he stood down in 2010, is somewhat of a hero of mine and was one of the few who came out of the expenses episode looking better than before. And Neil Kinnock was every bit as gregarious and good company as you would imagine.

But, the politician for whom I had the most time by far after meeting them in person is man-of-the-moment Hilary Benn. Now clearly he and I take a different view on the issue being debated yesterday, but that doesn't alter my high opinion of him. All politicians are self-selected to be comfortable dealing with people, but I think we all know that much of the interaction is false and superficial. I always found Mr Benn genuine in his concern for the problems and well-being of others and, a rare trait this, keen to hear what they had to say and learn from their experience, rather than assuming - as so many senior figures in both politics and business do - that he knew the answers already. In my own case this was most pronounced during the horse meat scandal (as well as being a merchant of death my varied career has seen me as Head of UK Finance for a major global food company) when he sought out my opinions and asked very pertinent questions in what was clearly a serious effort to understand the realities of the logistics of the industry. Any elephants among my readers will recall that I have already blogged on this subject and so I am also happy to report that when I quoted Marx at him, he didn't make the sign of the cross and run away, but instead noted down the reference and, I am fairly sure, went and looked it up afterwards.

So, Hilary Benn is a lovely and engaging chap, but before you start thinking he's somehow too saintly to cut it as a politician let me point out that he was also responsible for the most outrageous and blatant stitch-up that I have seen in four decades of internal Labour Party politics. And that, believe you me, is some achievement.

An expert speaks

"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour." - T.E. Lawrence

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Norway of the Year

I have given up fighting against doing a round-up of boardgames played on a monthly basis monthly so here's November's:

6 Nimmt!: Random at first, but there is depth once one starts to try to second guess the other players.

7 Wonders: At the risk of repeating myself, I really enjoy this, but am absolutely useless at it. And I always seem to end up with the hanging gardens of Babylon.

Between Two Cities: I'm not entirely sure the extent to which there is actually a game here. The group is keen (actually 'keen' might be stretching it) to try the 'left' variant of the rules which is rumoured to improve things.

The Bloody Inn: Another competitive innkeeper game, and certainly better than Polterfass. I'm developing a taste for games where each resource - in this case cards - could be used in multiple ways, but where only one can be chosen.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets: This was the first time that I'd played this expansion. I'm not sure that it adds anything to what is a very good game to start with. It seemed to me that the obvious strategy now was to collect swans, so I did and won handily.

Codenames: This is rapidly moving towards becoming the game that I have played the most. It's a very amusing game whatever the mix within the teams, but not having much in common with other players is a real handicap to winning; and yes that is a reference to me being much older than everyone else. We also tried a variant using the cards from Dixit. It was better than Dixit, but not an improvement on Codenames. I wouldn't bother again.

Elysium: I was glad to see this back on the table. It's a good game that had got lost because of the temptations of the shiny and new.

Game of Trains: This has very little - in fact nothing - to do with trains. Instead it's an abstract, card sorting game and much to my taste.

The Grizzled: That rarity, a cooperative game that I like. Players are French soldiers in the trenches of WW1 (although the theme isn't terribly deep) and must together complete a missions and survive to the end of the war. We lost miserably, and I saw no real prospect of ever winning, but I'd be delighted to play again and be proved wrong.

Guillotine: When played last month this normally reliable filler fell completely flat.

Hanabi: n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-nineteen

Isle of Skye: Good game, with the variable victory conditions really adding to replayability. One of this month's games represented what was, I think, the first time I'd played it with four people. It made it harder to see what tiles were up for sale, but otherwise didn't slow it down too much. The winning strategy seems to be to concentrate on end-game scoring (especially with scrolls within completed areas) rather than scoring heavily each round. I suppose what I'm really saying is that I think that the catch up mechanism is a bit too strong so one may as well take advantage of it by lagging behind during the game and saving one's powder for the end.

Jenga: Seriously, Jenga, and very good it was too

The Manhattan Project: Enjoyable worker placement game on the soft and fluffy theme of developing weapons of mass destruction. I suspect that the winning strategy is always no aircraft, uranium only and will only fail when confronted by irrationally aggressive players.

Power Grid: I'd never played this before and for some reason had it in mind that it was a really heavy and complex game. In fact whilst it is on the long side it's fairly straightforward. It's an accounting game - I won, tied in fact - but very well designed and rewarding of sensible investment decisions. Despite enjoying it I don't think I'll play again; it's too much like the day job.

Skull: Always good

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!: There is such great pleasure to be had in sinking someone's boat with a sea monster. This is best played showing no mercy.

Ticket to Ride: Europe: This is such a good game, often and unfairly overlooked because it's a bit old now, and it's trains etc etc.

Titan Race: My companions kept finding parallels with Mario Kart but as I've never played any games on a games console at all, ever I can't comment. It's not up to much as a board game.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Wars are poor chisels

“Tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”- Aeschylus


Robert Kennedy would have been ninety last month. He famously quoted different words from Aeschylus, his favourite poet - the politicians of today, as I have mentioned before, don't have quite the same heft as those of my youth - when extemporaneously delivering a eulogy to Martin Luther King Jr.; words that would appear on his own tomb a tragically short time afterwards. He also played a key, behind the scenes, role in averting war during the Cuban missile crisis.

I would hope that MPs from all parties will bear in mind his words and actions whilst discharging their responsibilities.

"Are we like the God of the Old Testament, that we in Washington can decide which cities, towns, and hamlets in Vietnam will be destroyed? Do we have to accept that? I don't think we do. I think we can do something about it. "

"We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge."

"I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this?"

                      - Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy