Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Boardgames 11/16

6 Nimmt!: As I have mentioned before there is a strongly held view in certain quarters that playing cards at random is as good a strategy in this game as bothering to give it any thought. I don't agree; the winning strategy is to make sure you get dealt good cards.

7 Wonders: I rather like this game; I am rather bad at this game.

Airlines of Europe: The is mostly Ticket to Ride but with aeroplanes, or possibly Ticket to Ride is this but with trains. It's not as good, but it isn't bad at all.

Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game: Those who have played the original boardgame say this is better. Or possibly they say that this isn't as good; I wasn't really paying attention. I gave it a 6 - 'Will play if in the mood' on boardgamegeek. I confess I was bothered by the blurb describing a game with Burgundy in the title as being about the Loire Valley and, probably more importantly, that the cards are too small to read properly.

Celestia: I gave this the thumbs up last month and enjoyed it just as much on a second play. An expansion has arrived - that was quick - and seemed to add variety without complexity.

Clank!: A deck building dungeon adventure, with the title coming from the need to keep quiet if you want to stay alive. The dragon attack mechanism is very clever, although nobody seemed in much danger in the game I played. I thought it was all inoffensive enough, but had rather switched off because the way the cards played out during the first couple of turns seemed to have put me so far behind that I didn't have a chance. And then suddenly I'd won by a mile; if I knew how then I would pass on a few tips.

Codenames: Excellent game which depends entirely on the person giving the clues. When it was my turn I came up with one for 'Cat' and 'Tail' with which I was rather pleased.

The Dragon & the Flagon: A programming game (think Robo Rally or Colt Express) about a tavern brawl in a fantasy setting, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is something very satisfying about swinging from a chandelier across the bar and kicking someone off a table. No-one else enjoyed it though, so I suspect that we'll never see it again.

Evolution: Climate: Another expansion that seems to improve things; it's been an unusual month.This one involves the world getting progressively hotter or colder or, in the game I played, neither. This has quickly become the favourite game of one of the hardcore gamers that I know. Still, as his previous favourite was Keyflower that isn't necessarily much of a recommendation.

Flamme Rouge: I did slightly better this time, but still not very well. We played the advanced game this time, adding in the effects of going up and down hills. I recommend it.

Honshu: A map building game where the key factors are winning the turn order that you want - via a meld of bidding and trick taking - coupled with a sense of spatial awareness; the latter I just don't have.

Scrawl: This is to Chinese Whispers as Pictionary is to Charades.

Skull: Always reliable filler.

Village Inn: It's Village, with added Inn. It's a very odd inn as well because you have to first make the beer and then take it with you when you visit the place. Even by the standards of many boardgames that's a thematic oddity. Anyway, it's a worker placement game where your workers have to die if you are to win. The activation mechanism is actually slightly more interesting than the worker placement label would suggest.

Monday, 28 November 2016

The truth in masquerade

"I have always loved truth so passionately that I have often resorted to lying as a way of introducing it into the minds which were ignorant of its charms." - Giacomo Casanova

One or two questions have been raised about the Jackson C. Frank anecdote in the previous post. In response I would firstly say that it seemed to me to be one of those stories which is too good to check, and secondly that I have on a number of occasions pointed out that one would be wise not to take everything that appears here at face value.

And that's a moral that also applies elsewhere. One of my so-called rivals in the world of wargames blogs has, by who knows what photoshop trickery, published a picture which seems to show me using my phone whilst a wargame is in progress, with the implication that I am engaged in some alternative and reprehensible activity instead of focussing on the game. You can be comforted therefore, gentle readers, when I reassure you that I have a hobby that I take very seriously, work at assiduously, give all the attention that it deserves and at which I am very successful.

Anyway, back to wargaming. The game this week is at my house and I don't think it's worth doing any more WWI stuff until we've played this first scenario through and can see where it all may or may not be going. Painting action has therefore moved to ancients, where spurred on by recent To the Strongest! games I am finishing the loss markers for Celts and Romans and painting up a few Newline Celtic slingers, despite the fact that I already have more than the maximum that can be fielded. It's the only way.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Never Any Good

I have been to see Martin Simpson, whom I last saw four years ago. On that occasion he had a couple of accompanists - Andy Cutting on squeeze box if I remember rightly - although my blog post of the time is remarkably uninformative as to what he sang. Simpson, who is above all a brilliant guitarist (as an aside, he performed a couple of songs on the banjo and his versatility almost - almost - made me warm to that instrument), mostly performs interpretations of other people's songs with just a couple of his originals. Highlights for me were 'The Stranger Song', in tribute to Leonard Cohen, and what was apparently one of the English ballad forerunners to St James Infirmary Blues (much loved by your bloggist of course) segueing into Dylan's 'Blind Willie McTell', itself heavily influenced by the blues standard.

“But power and greed and corruptible seed
 Seem to be all that there is.”

As well as a poignant, politically charged and finger-pointing song about Aberfan and, more unexpectedly, 'Heartbreak Hotel' he covered Jackson C. Frank's classic 'Blues Run the Game'. Simpson is good value for patter between songs, mostly both educational and, where appropriate, amusing. I had previously been aware that Frank had been somewhat unlucky in life; what I hadn't appreciated was that the money which he used to record his sole, unsuccessful album came from compensation that he had received for being badly injured when the orphanage in which he spent his childhood had burned down. That is perhaps beyond bad luck as we would normally understand it.

Never Any Good is Simpson's biggest 'hit'. His father - the song's subject - was born in 1899 and was fifty four when Simpson was born. Simpson himself is sixty three and has an eleven year old daughter. My own daughters - ten years or so older than his - could never convince their teachers that they had a grandmother who had been evacuated as a child during the second world war (their classmate's parents typically being a couple of decades younger than me), but even I have trouble with the thought that there is in this country at the moment a primary school child whose grandfather was born during the reign of Queen Victoria and fought in the Great War.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Farewell Fidel

"A revolution is not a bed of roses. A revolution is a struggle to death between the past and the future" - Fidel Castro

Thought-provoking words at a time when we wait to see what sort of revolutions are about to be imposed on us all. 

The subject of Cuba always brings to my mind another subject very relevant to today's world: the lies that politicians tell. It's one thing to suspect that what one is being told is not completely accurate, it's a big step to knowing incontrovertibly that lies are being told based on one's own direct experience. For me that step came with the US invasion of Grenada, when I knew for certain that pretty much everything that Reagan said on the subject was an outright untruth. I've already wittered on about this enough in the past so I won't repeat myself (check out the posts labelled Grenada if you're really interested), and anyway you will all be familiar with the same story behind the more recent and more disastrous invasion of Iraq. But, in a world where truth seems less and less accessible it never does any harm to remind oneself.

The other source of misinformation is of course the media and it will be interesting to see how they report Castro's life and legacy. I've already read one lazily compiled report this morning saying that the US embargo has left the streets of Havana full of 1950s American cars. As anyone who has been there can tell you, the roads in Cuba are full of Toyotas exactly the same as everywhere else in the world. It's always referred to as the US embargo for good reason; nobody else took any notice.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Surely not?

And so to the wargaming table. I can pretend no longer that I don't play with toy soldiers and so need to report on activity in both the annexe and the legendary wargames room. In the latter we have spent a couple of weeks having another stab at Trebia using To the Strongest. James tweaked the scenario and it worked much better, although the Romans are still somewhat up against it. That is of course historical, and we got a more or less historical result with much of the Roman infantry getting away, but a large number of their allies not doing so. Very unusually the elephants were still there at the end.

I continue to enjoy the rules, although rather embarrassingly we didn't play it right in either sense of the word. Despite having played a fair number of times before and James being a confidante of the author, we got a couple of important rules wrong. Commanders died twice as often as they should have - they play a role in the initiative part of the game so that's quite a big deal - and we allowed skirmishers to pin formed units, which they can't. On top of that I still don't think we have the tactics sorted out yet. The Carthaginians had significant cavalry supremacy, but instead of just riding over the Romans I tried a series of ambitious manoeuvres that would be too complicated if performed as part of Trooping the Colour and which achieved nothing. The main issue however, in my opinion at least, is that we never pull units back from combat in order to rally them. One assumes this is what should be done because a) there are no support bonuses in melee and b) it is easier to rally if you can't be charged. Add to that the fact that withdrawal will also require the enemy unit previously in contact to activate twice if it wishes to attack again then it seems the logical thing to do. But we don't.

In the annexe the latest solo run through of the trench raid scenario ended with the Germans running away before the British got anywhere close. I've probably squeezed as much as I can out of running through it myself. We're going to have a try next week, and hopefully with more player input all will become clearer. Blinds are an important mechanism in the game and they're difficult to deal with if you know what both sides are doing. I have knocked up another couple of machine gun posts in order to give the Germans a choice of where to put things and the latest layout of their trench can be seen above. If I have a reservation about the scenario it is the worry that it might turn into a long range duel between the the two machine guns. Perhaps, in a Sidi Rezegh stylee, the British must be obligated to just get on with it.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Paths are made...

 "Walking is man's best medicine." - Hippocrates

I promised that my next blog posting would be about wargaming; a promise that I never really had any intention of keeping. Maybe tomorrow. I haven't mentioned my illness for a while because all that has been happening is that I have been steadily getting stronger. Although I have to have a follow-up scan in a couple of weeks, in my mind at least I am recovered. To check this out I have been out for my first walk in the Dales for some months. Both my fitness and my thermal base layer passed the test.

Winter is here

Malham Tarn - the highest lake in England

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Rock Steady

The big bouncy woman has been enthusing about Aretha Franklin's 'Rock Steady' (for those who follow that link, my personal dancing style is rather similar to the chap wearing the Rupert Bear trousers - and check out the presenter's tie). I find that oddly enough my own music collection doesn't include the original, but does contain eight cover versions. Here are three of them, with two instrumental takes (Johnny "Hammond" Smith and the La-Mars) sandwiching a reggae workout by the Marvels. Enjoy:

Back to wargaming tomorrow. Perhaps.

Monday, 21 November 2016

What it is

                                             It is nonsense
                                             says reason
                                             It is what it is
                                             says love

                                             It is calamity
                                             says calculation
                                             It is nothing but pain
                                             says fear
                                             It is hopeless
                                             says insight
                                             It is what it is
                                             says love

                                             It is ludicrous
                                             says pride
                                             It is foolish
                                             says caution
                                             It is impossible
                                             says experience
                                             It is what it is
                                             says love

                                                      - Erich Fried

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Diddle, diddle, dumpling

"I would like to sing someone to sleep,
have someone to sit by and be with.
I would like to cradle you and softly sing,
be your companion while you sleep or wake." 

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, 19 November 2016

On nous apprend à vivre quand la vie est passée

“It's quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don't do it.” - Jean-Paul Sartre 

Friday, 18 November 2016

The river and the sea are one

"Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years." - Ausonius

A joke has been doing the rounds since last week's calamitous events in the US: extra-terrestrials land on Earth and demand to be taken to our leader, but humanity declines their request on the basis that we're too embarrassed. It is interesting therefore that the film 'Arrival' deals not just with aliens visiting, but with the problems that arise from the fact that we have no common leader. When I told the big bouncy woman that I was going to see it she asked why, given my well known antipathy to science fiction. The only reason I could give was one not terribly likely to elicit much sympathy; my cleaners were coming, it was snowing heavily outside and it was what was showing.

However, I must say that I enjoyed it. I make an exception to my dislike of science fiction where ideas about the nature of time are discussed, and that's where this film ends up going. Indeed that's where it starts as well, although - in a meta twist - our own view of time prevents us from realising what we are seeing. One has to persevere though, because the whole first hour or so is a lowest common denominator meld of Jurassic Park and Close Encounters with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure. I have seen the director quoted as to his many and varied sources of inspiration in the animal kingdom for the design of the aliens; anyone who has seen the Simpsons may think they know better. And of course on top of that not only is the global phenomenon only viewed through the eyes of Americans, but it follows the classic Hollywood trope of disciplined and ordered process failing, but the situation being rescued by the maverick who breaks the rules. In other words, much of it is bollocks.

And yet; and yet. There is more than enough substance in the question posed by the sub-plot to engage the audience; indeed the main story is in many ways just a framework to enable the central character to ask: "If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?". Knowledge of not just our own mortality, but also that of those whom we bring into the world, is central to the human condition. All of us who give life, also give death.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Still playing with myself

I've been having another go at teaching myself Through the Mud and the Blood. I'm sort of getting the hang of it, although I think it will be much easier with another couple of pairs of eyes to remember things such as checking to see if automatic weapons have jammed. This time the British managed to avoid being machine gun fodder, and at the point I've paused it are ready to rush the German lines.

The rifle grenadiers deployed and immediately took four shock, reducing their number of firing dice by two. As I had forgotten that for their first round of fire they halve their dice anyway, this left them with not many - one to be precise - with which to try to suppress the German HMG.

All the British sections are now deployed. The Lewis gun and MG08 have both jammed, but rifle fire - and some rather flukey dice - has killed the entire HMG section leaving the way open for an advance.

I'm enjoying it, but the rules are as badly written as Pike & Shotte. Important points are dotted all over the place and many terms (e.g. cover, turn, dice) are used very ambiguously. However, movement and ranged combat - haven't tried hand-to-hand yet - are all very straightforward once you get going.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Beating the Boche

I popped in to the WWI gaming day held at the Royal Armouries on Saturday. It wasn't worth a special trip to Leeds, but I think more than justified the ten minute stroll from the city centre if one was there anyway. In fact I spent about an hour at the show playing a couple of participation games and chatting to a few of the demonstrators. Naturally I forgot to take a camera. There were eight games in all including the Jutland game that was at Fiasco, a Wings of War game and a large game by Leeds Wargaming Club that didn't seem to involve any contact between the two sides while I was watching. I had a crack at Villers- Bretonneux (the first tank on tank battle in history), where I routed the Boche with a lucky throw, and a sort of Steampunk take on naval clashes on Lake Tangayanika, in which I routed the Boche with a lucky card draw.

My own WWI gaming exploits continue although I haven't yet got a handle on successful tactics. The photo below has nothing to do with the scenario, instead it's just to see how my new barbed wire looks on the table.

Sunday, 13 November 2016


In my sky at twilight you are like a cloud
and your form and colour are the way I love them.
You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lips
and in your life my infinite dreams live.

- Pablo Neruda

I have had cause to look back at some of this blog's posts from the past; God hasn't the quality declined? Someone who's quality hasn't in any way gone down is Jools Holland, who I have been to see for the fifth or sixth time. Admittedly there isn't anything surprising or novel about it, but what he does, he does well. Other than it being the first occasion that I've seen them since the death of Rico Rodriguez, it was exactly the same and none the worse for that. The guests this time were Pauline Black and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson of The Selecter.

They both sported excellent hats; Hendrickson's in particular causing much envy on my part. If you had asked me before to name a song by their band I would have struggled, but I recognised and enjoyed them when they were being played. The duo also took vocal duties on Prince Buster's 'Enjoy Yourself', a song which always heavily featured Rodriguez. Ruby Turner was, inevitably, the star of the show. Holland seems to put up remarkably well with being upstaged at his own gigs.

Anyway, sadly another great has left us. It's as a songwriter that I think Leon Russell will be remembered. Here are a couple of covers of his songs:

And here he is singing a song by someone else, Nobel laureate Bob Dylan to be precise; and it's a song that has a very real resonance after the other events of this week:

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Take cover

I have a couple of solo attempts of To the Mud and the Blood, taking the scenario which was set up in the annexe through various stages. The first attempt was just to make sure that I understood the flow of each turn, which naturally I didn't. I got particularly distracted along the way by trying to work out the best way to use blinds in the context where one is playing both sides (hint: it isn't to ignore the concept completely).

The rifle grenadiers deploy from blinds in a really stupid place

The second, having reset it all and started again to take account of what had been learned first time round, took me up to the point of doing some actual spotting and firing. What I found out here must have been similar - in a strictly non-lethal way of course - to the insight that commanders gained abruptly when automatic weapons were first introduced to the battlefield. I moved the chaps forward as I had done in countless horse and musket games ready to initiate a firefight, only to find them relentlessly mown down by machine gun fire before they had a chance to do anything of the sort. The moral of which is that the rules encourage coordination of troops, appropriate use of terrain and taking cover for good reasons.

The rifle section have three shock and only one man left; this is not good

I've now gone back to the beginning, with an amended trench layout and will have another solo bash in due course.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Ring the bells that still can ring

"There's a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"

Innumerable tributes will be written to Leonard Cohen, all far more eloquent than anything that I could say; I suggest you spend the day as I will, reading them all whilst listening to his music. As regular observers will know I like to go to a gig or two. I can say without reservation that the best I have ever been to in the whole of my sixty years was Leonard Cohen in September 2013, which I gave seven stars out of five at the time.

As for the music, let's go with covers by Madeleine Peyroux (who I had always assumed was Canadian, but apparently isn't), Nick Cave (Australian) and k.d. lang (at last a Canadian) and as well as Mr Cohen himself:

"You'll be hearing from me baby
Long after I'm gone"

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Très bien

We reconvened last night in the legendary wargames room after a short break. James had dotted his cloth - it's an old Yorkshire dialect term - and so we had a crack at To The Strongest! for the Punic Wars. The dots were not at all visible to the casual glance - indeed I occasionally found them hard to see whilst actually looking for them - and the combination of unit strength and base size filled the squares to overflowing, meaning it didn't really look like a normal grid game (pictures here).

That link also leads to historical details of the battle in question - Trebbia in 218 BC - and scenario details. Having won the draw to choose sides I went for the Carthaginians because they have elephants. Having now played it I would choose Hannibal again because the Romans are never going to win in a month of Sundays. The elephants, needless to say, did nothing of any value; their only real contribution was to trample one of the Carthaginian commanders as they ran amok after being fatally wounded. The cavalry on the flanks were more successful, and Mago's ambush put paid to any remaining hope the Romans had.

The devil is in the detail in wargames rules. The Polybian Romans seem to cause much angst among those with any understanding (real or imagined) of the period and James had a new rule hot from the author regarding the legionary Hokey-Cokey which is at the heart of the debate. It seemed to my uneducated eye to deal with the issue satisfactorily, and certainly maintained the simplicity of the overall rules while adding a bit of chrome to playing the Romans. It is this simplicity that appeals to me, plus the element of push your luck of course. Like all the best wargames and boardgames the real secret is to discipline yourself to not do the things that don't matter.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

On the rooftops of London

As presaged the other day, I have been to see Mary Poppins, and very good it was too. The musical is based in part on the film - the classic songs are here- but also draws heavily on some elements in the original novels that Disney left out. Mrs Banks gets a much larger part and there are none of the those terrible penguins. In fact, let's be frank, the film isn't actually that good despite having a fair number of magical scenes. I am tempted to digress by relating the story of how my father-in-law, like Dick van Dyke's character in the film, didn't quite get it on with Dame Julie Andrews. However the story, while entirely true and taking place on the Lancashire music hall circuit of the immediate post-war years, probably falls into the category of those for which the world is not yet ready.

But as I say, the stage musical is rather well done, with plenty of spectacle and special effects. Many of those from the film remain - hatstands being drawn from bags, walking on the ceiling, sliding up the banisters - but are more impressive seeing them done live in front of you. Plenty of excellent performances, including the Banks children, and some not too ridiculous cockney accents made an enjoyable evening for both the younger Miss Epictetus and me.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Implausible navette

Not much happening at the Casa Epictetus, which is mainly my own fault, coupled of course with all the rain and cold going on outside that has caused me to dig out the scarf that the big bouncy woman kindly knitted for me. Still, one expects things to improve. As a man with an accent that was apparently supposed to resemble mine once said:

"Winds in the east, mist coming in. 
Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin."

James has now posted a review of his game at Fiasco! (and is it me or is one of the reader comments somewhat unrelated to reality?). I note that he doesn't mention how one sided the game was. The useful things that I picked up at the show were obviously the extra Hexon terrain plus the revelation that my washing machine has a 14 minute cycle; who knew? What I forgot to buy were some bases to mount heavy weapons - despite actually going to the Warbases stand to take a look - but the mail order that followed swiftly when I got home has now arrived .This has in turn led to some painting, and indeed modelling. I have made some barbed wire, with which I am rather pleased and which will no doubt feature in photographs soon. I have also painted up a Vickers HMG with which I am rather less pleased. There are two things wrong with it, above and beyond my painting abilities. The first I will leave to see if anyone spots; I think I must have spaced out on the glue fumes whilst putting it together. The second is far harder to notice, but for some reason annoys me a lot more. The chap firing has only got one arm. He definitely had two when I started out, but he's only got one now.

I have read through the Pike & Shotte rules several times, although I'm not sure how much I am going to retain. They really are poorly laid out. Fortunately I only had to read about half the book  because the rest is padding - army lists and general uninformative waffle about various historical periods. Given how many large photographs there are I would guess that you could get all the rules on less than a dozen sides of A4 if one really tried.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Meeting Point

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise –
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

                                     -Louis MacNeice


Thursday, 3 November 2016

More score

As I think I might have said before, I've always envied (and admired) those wargamers able to set out on a project with a proper plan and then stick to it, not to mention those who are organised enough to keep a running count of what they've painted. I have managed with the Great War project to be as focussed as I'm ever likely to get, helped by targeting a specific scenario from the outset. In that light I have decided to indulge myself by posting a list what I have completed so far:


  4 Officers
27 Riflemen
  6 Bombers
  9 Rifle Grenadiers
  2 Snipers
  3 Lewis Gun teams (1 prone firing, 1 parapet firing, 1 moving)
  1 Stokes mortar team, deployed
  1 Signaller releasing a carrier pigeon
  6 Shock markers


  2 Officers
27 Riflemen
  3 Bombers
  2 MG08 teams (1 firing, 1 moving)
  1 Minenwerfer team, deployed
  4 Shock markers

All of which is only about half as much again as I need for the chosen scenario, so that's not too bad at all. This particular scenario has the British as the attackers, hence there being more of them. I have a lot of stormtroopers which I shall paint when I move on to a German attack. The figures are 20mm, a mixture of plastic (HaT, Revell, Emhar, Ceasar) and metal (Early War, Lancer, IT, Tumbling Dice).

Looking at the list, the obvious missing items are, for the British, a Vickers HMG team and, for the Germans, an MG08/15. I have plenty of the Vickers so I'll do that next, but don't have any of the German light machine guns, the HaT German Heavy Weapons set being sadly out of production at the moment. Also looking at the list, the obvious item of no particular gaming value is the chap with the pigeon. Fellow wargamers will however know exactly why I painted him despite that.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The score

It's that eagerly awaited monthly post where I tell you which boardgames that I've played, but never include enough detail to let you judge whether you would like to try them or not. Being October this month sees a number of games that were brought back from the big trade fair at Essen by the surprisingly large number of people I know who went. Despite complaining bitterly that everything was much more expensive because of the decline in the value of sterling they still bought a shed load of new games.

Archipelago: Is this game as racist as everyone says? Possibly, but who really looks at the themes behind Eurogames? The real problem is the hidden victory conditions, which just make it a lottery. If I get roped into playing it again I shall be even more tempted to trigger the 'everyone loses' condition than I was this time.

Avenue: A strange name for a game about wine and castles. It's one of those where everyone have to draw the same road shape on a pad, but strangely everyone ends up putting them in different places. There's an interesting scoring twist, but it's all a bit ho hum.

Captain Sonar: I raved here about this game when I first came across it, but on every subsequent play I've enjoyed it progressively less. I'd like to play the real time option before giving up for ever though.

Celestia: A fun, push your luck combined with bluffing game. It has an airship theme and features some excellent 3D components. We crashed a lot and I didn't collect much treasure, but I did enjoy it.

Concordia: A nice game about trading across the Roman Empire which is complex, but not overly so. As usual with games I play for the first time I picked a strategy and stuck to it. In this case I picked the wrong one and implemented it badly anyway. I'd like to have another go and try a different approach.

Crisis: A return on investment game thinly pasted over with a theme about a country in economic difficulties of its own making. ["Where's that then?" asks the Rhetorical Pedant on behalf of all UK readers.] I won easily as I usually do in such games; not I think because I'm particularly good, but because most people are so spectacularly bad at judging what benefit in the future justifies spending a certain amount of money now. It was OK, but too much like the day job. There is an 'everyone loses' criterion, but we never came close to it; as opposed to the UK of course.

Flamme Rouge: This was my favourite of the Essen games that I've played so far. It's a cycle racing game that seemed to those playing to have a strong flavour of the real thing, although there are no drug cheat rules. The mechanics are a bit like those in Mush! Mush! and at the same time very different.

The Grizzled: This was a good game - a co-op about the French army in the Great War, with artwork apparently by one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists - in the first place, and is much improved by the expansion. I still haven't come anywhere close to winning.

Karmaka: A very fine looking game, and the theme, rising from being a dung beetle through succesive reincarnations before ultimately achieving transcendence, is at least original. The game play was average, but it passed the time and I'd play it again.

Mystery Express: Not a bad deduction game, but equally nothing to set the world alight either.

No Thanks!: Probably my filler of choice at the moment.

Paperback: I like this game, but there is no doubt that some people can see words in a jumble of letters much more easily than others can.

Peloponnes: A strangely spelled - and, among the Monday night group at least, a strangely pronounced - game, which has random and brutal natural disasters, but doesn't feel dominated by luck.

Phallanxx: A game by the same designer who, whatever his other virtues, clearly can't spell. The theme is the wars of Alexander's successors, but isn't any deeper than having victory points labelled 'Strength Points' (presumably as in his deathbed pronouncement of his heir). One can directly attack other players, both on the (abstract) map and in terms of the dice in front of them. Being a dice game it mostly depends on what you roll.

Power Grid: The Card Game: Obviously this is a reworking, the biggest difference being that there is no map. It's main attraction seems to be that it's shorter, but the length of the original never bothered me that much. It was OK, but I didn't really see the point.

Quarriors!: A fantasy themed dice game with too much small print on the cards for me. I did like the dice bag mechanic, but really can't be arsed with monsters, goblins and dragons.

Raise Your Goblets: I played this twice, with 12 players and with 6; in the latter each player combines the roles of noble and wine taster, in the former one of the wine tasters is disloyal. The best thing I can say about it is that it has nice components. In theory one is trying to second guess what everyone else is doing, but there are so many people and so many possible actions that it's all far too random. The only viable strategy seems to me to be to get rid of all one's wine tokens as soon as possible and then call the toast, because having the last turn is so very powerful. I hope that's clear.

Red7: Dependable filler.

Sail to India: Always goes down better with new players than they are expecting. There is a lot of game in a small box.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Toys on the table

I have laid out the Through the Mud and the Blood scenario in the annexe. The IT Miniatures order has arrived so I think I'll paint up the remaining shock markers before running through it solo to try to get my head round the rules. While I'm waiting, here are some photos.

The German trench defending a crossroads is just visible at the other end of the table.

The German defenders await the attack.

Still waiting.

They might be waiting some time because the British aren't on the table yet.

The British bombing section. The figures in the sabot bases are the 'Big Men'; the numbers in the white square denoting which one they are. The scenario book gives them names, but I absolutely do not intend to go down that route.