Saturday, 30 September 2017

And are you grown so high in his esteem;

And so to the theatre. I seem to have neglected to mention that I went to see an enjoyable, 1960s themed production of  'A Midsummer Night's Dream' earlier in the month. There were the usual cross gender characters, including Puck and Aegeus, though the strangest casting choice was surely to have Hermia taller than Helena; very odd. The actor playing Oberon/Theseus played the former as Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider and the latter as Che Guevara, a man about whom I predict we will hear an awful lot more over the next couple of weeks.

"Ill met by moonlight"

More recently I have seen Bazza's farewell in Northern Broadsides' 'For Love or Money', an adaptation of Lesage's 'Turcaret' by Blake Morrison. It's very funny, especially the second act where all the plot  contrivances - it's a farce - come to fruition. Morrison has placed what he enticingly describes as a "horribly recognisable world of avarice, deceit and sexual shenanigans" in 1920s Yorkshire. If the West Riding had a Jazz Age - and I think we must assume that it didn't - then this is it. I have often referred to Rutter's tendency to overact, but it was surprisingly emotional knowing that it was the last time I'd see him leave the stage, and I'm pleased to say that he got the ovation his record deserved.

Friday, 29 September 2017

The village was burned

Belated spoiler alert, but the Romans won, although only just. It looked at first as if it was going to be all too easy for them - despite one of their three commands repeatedly refusing to cross the river - but one of the Britons' warbands got on a bit of a roll and coupled with the late arrival into action of the chariots made a bit of a game of it.

The scenario worked well enough. I was rather pleased with the mechanism for burning the village, which seemed to hit the required Golidlocks spot and was neither too easy nor too difficult. Once again we came to the conclusion that the Army Lists are too kind to the Romans; I shall definitely change that next time. And perhaps it would be better if next time was reasonably soon, as there was a very large amount of rules rustiness. The other grid based game that we play most often is C&C and there was lots of confusion between the two: can you fire at an adjacent unit? does terrain affect the hex or the boundary? etc. Perhaps we should be grateful that no one tried to perform a diekplous. I'm always reluctant to criticise the tabletop tactics of others - it would seem to imply a claim to some toy soldier acumen on my part when all the evidence tends to suggest the opposite - but I have to say that I might have sent the chariots across the open terrain rather than through the woods and over the river.

Anyway, for my reference rather than yours, these are the changes I will consider next time:
  • Celtic commanders can be detached
  • Warbands and chariots to be a point or two cheaper
  • Warbands to be allowed a (once per game?) charge of two squares, perhaps with a penalty if they don't succeed.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

We're going to need a bigger boat

There wasn't much boardgaming in August, but September proved to be the first month in a yonk during which I played more games than in the same period last year. Here's a catch up:

7 Wonders: I remain no good whatsoever at this game. I do however continue to be a fan of its design, especially the fact that adding more players in (up to the maximum of seven obviously) doesn't add to the time taken.

Abluxxen: It's a baffling game for those new to it, but it's worth persevering with, because it's a nice filler.

Castle of Caladale: When I saw that this involved pattern matching I knew that it wouldn't end well. When I learned that players could constantly rearrange their tableau during the game it was obvious it would be really bad. And so it proved.

Mine did not look like this.

Codenames: I have nothing more to say about this. Even those gamers who claim they don't like it can't help getting sucked in when they think they see the answer to the clue.

Condottiere:I also have nothing more to say about this. If you don't own it, buy it.

Le Havre: The original game from which Harbour was developed as a slimline version. I think I prefer the latter, but only with our house rule scoring system.

Ice Flow:  I really like this game and whenever others are foolish enough to delegate the choice to me this is what they end up with. It's much deeper than it appears to be as the rules are being explained.

Junk Art: A sort of reverse Jenga, but with the components providing a range of different dexterity games, all well beyond your bloggist's capabilities. Good fun.

The King is Dead: I've now tried it with two players and it worked rather well. I am enjoying this, with no element of post-purchase dissonance having appeared yet.

Libertalia: Only the second time that I've played this pirate themed game, but I enjoyed it more than I remember doing the first time. We played with a full complement of six, which may have had something to do with it by increasing the opportunities for second guessing what everyone else will do.

Lords of Waterdeep: A really enjoyable worker placement game that, as I know I have mentioned before, can be played without ever giving any thought to the D&D type theme.

Neue Heimat: A couple of those with whom I played this hated it with a vengeance, which put a bit of a downer on the whole thing. Personally I wouldn't mind giving it another go now I've got my head round the possible strategies. The auction mechanism requires putting in at least some effort to anticipate other people's moves.

QuartermasterGeneral: 1914: Any game of QG is a rare treat. I think I prefer this to the original, but sadly don't play either enough to be absolutely sure.

Red7: A reliable filler.

Skull: Ditto, although I for one am a bit jaded with this at the moment.

Space Alert: A cooperative sci-fi programming game that did nothing to warm me to any of those genres. It made me want to have games of Grizzled and/or Colt Express instead.

Splendor: I like this enough to be seriously thinking of buying the expansion. It's an engaging, easily taught, game that makes you think without lasting too long.

Spyfall: It hasn't been on the table for many months and hasn't improved in the meantime. It does seem to have spawned a number of in jokes, so there is some upside.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!: A most enjoyable 'take that' game which has to be played in a cutthroat manner. On this occasion I thought it was a piece of cake until my boats were all sunk by whales and my men were all eaten by sharks; c'est la vie.

Thebes: The part of the game in which one moves around Europe collecting archaeological expertise and equipment works very well. The bit where one excavates for treasure, and during which one scores, involve far too much luck. It is also possible to quite early on fall behind to such an extent that the remainder of the game becomes pointless. I do like the way the time track works though.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Burn the village

As previously mentioned the twin drivers for the latest game to be set up in the annexe were the receipt of a To the Strongest! Quick Play Sheet from Don and finishing off the three chariots that had been languishing for months.

I was looking for something different to the usual line up the Romans up on one side and the Ancient Britons on the other and after a bit of casting around for inspiration (eventually found here) have set up a punitive raid scenario:

The conceit is that a small Roman detachment has been sent to burn the village. There are only two small units of skirmishers on table to defend it at at the moment; in game terms they positioned to prevent the attackers' lead command from using march moves. The rest of the Celts, having been caught unawares, will arrive in due course. Two warbands will emerge from the village via the gate, one after the other. Two further units will emerge from the wood and the chariots - having been elsewhere for some unspecified reason - will enter from the end of the table nearest the camera.

Which ones are crap? They all are!

We are playing with the very latest iteration of the rules and my advice would be to remember the following rules in particular:
  • March moves: make you get there quicker; can be thwarted by appropriate use of skirmishers.
  • Group moves: help keep units in command.
  • Light troops: don't actually need to be in command and don't cause morale tests when they break.
  • Melee from the flank: two chances to hit and no response from unit being attacked.
  • Firing from the flank: reduced saving throw.
To burn the village a unit of Roman auxilliary infantry must:
  • Be in a square orthogonally adjacent to the village
  • Not be in a warband zone of control
  • Defeat the occupants of the village (who count as a mob and may not leave the village) in melee. 
  • In the same turn start the fire by passing a simple activation.
If (when) the mob is defeated in melee they are not removed and nor do the Romans enter the village. If the attempt to set fire to the village fails then the occupants are deemed to have regrouped and must be defeated in melee again before another attempt is made.

I am hoping for a game of manoeuvre. We shall see.

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Model Makers

I have not been doing and modelling or painting recently and it's been a while since the blog touched on the visual arts. Let's bring both those missing themes together with this by Norman Blamey:

Is he using cornflake packets?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

I could do without my warhorse; I could drag about in a skirt;

I've just come across this in a bookshop:

I have no doubt that posts are already being written on many wargaming blogs condemning its publication. It's a good job that no woman has ever combined both outrages - that of wearing men's clothing and that of going to war - at the same time.

"I was admonished to adopt feminine clothes; I refused and still refuse."

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


"The robb'd that smiles, steals something from the thief." - William Shakespeare, Othello

And so to the theatre. The previous post mentioned the sitcom about Selwyn Froggitt. At exactly the same time that was being made in YTV's Kirkstall Road studios they were also making the far superior 'Rising Damp'. It is fitting therefore that I have just been to see a play by Eric Chappell, the man who put the words into the mouth of Rigsby, and who was obliged to write a lot more of them because Leonard Rossiter spoke so quickly.

'Theft' is described as a comedy thriller, but turns out not to involve any thrills at all. However, it provides sufficient laughs and so we'll let that pass. One doesn't have to be a devotee of Priestley to see that Chappell had 'An Inspector Calls' in his mind when he wrote it, with an outsider who may not be what he seems to be disturbing a superficially comfortable bourgeois status quo. The writer is mostly known for his dialogue, but here he also provides the main character with a most amusing entrance. I saw Northern Broadsides use a similar coup de theatre in their production of Dario Fo's 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist' a few years ago and once again it was most effective here.

And since we're on the subject of theft:

“And America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all. The white race believes - believes with all its heart - that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn't exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty.” - Colson Whitehead

Monday, 18 September 2017

Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt!

It has been drawn to my attention that the performer whose act at Batley Varieties was interrupted in 1969 by the late arrival of the pies was in fact Bill Maynard rather than Stan Boardman. I feel it is important to make this correction because whereas Boardman is best known for making racist jokes about Germans, Maynard was a film actor of some distinction, featuring in movies of the calibre of 'Carry on at Your Convenience'.  Among other Carry On films in which Maynard appeared was 'Carry on Henry VIII' which I mentioned here, and in which Maynard played a somewhat out of time Guy Fawkes. Maynard, who believe it or not was in contention to sing the UK's entry in the inaugural Eurovision Song Contest in 1957, stood as an independent Labour candidate against Tony Benn in the Chesterfield by election of 1984, in my view a bigger black mark against him even than his appearing in 'Confessions of a Window Cleaner' (although obviously there is a political connection there as well, in that the actor playing his son-in-law in that film later had a real life son-in-law who became prime minister). I mentioned a while ago that 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' was partly shot in my home town. Less impressively, so were the Confessions films.

Speaking of films, I find that I have seen some and not bothered to write about them yet:
  • Logan Lucky: I went thinking it was about motor racing, in the opening five minutes it seems as if it's going to be a searing indictment of the lack of universal health provision in the US and then it turns into an amusing enough caper movie, with a good joke about Game of Thrones which is understandable even to those like me who have never seen the show. Overall it's probably most notable for Daniel Craig's accent.
  • The Big Sick: A fairly average romantic comedy which is nevertheless better than its name suggests. The unanswered question is why there is apparently only one comedy club in the whole of Chicago.
  • Wind River: It's a cowboy film pretending to be a present day murder mystery. It passes the time nicely; just don't think too hard about the plot or the unresolved loose ends.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Taking things as they come

"The lot assigned to every man is suited to him, and suits him to itself." - Marcus Aurelius

And so to the theatre. I have been to see 'Eden End', a relatively rarely performed play by one of this blog's heroes J.B. Priestley. I rather unexpectedly found myself sitting next to Tom Priestley, the great man's son. Whilst we didn't exchange more than pleasantries it certainly caused me to think that I'd got top value for my ticket money, and I commend the idea to theatres everywhere. I'm seeing some Ibsen soon and I trust that the West Yorkshire Playhouse are already scouring Norway for a descendant of the playwright so as to add that little bit extra to my visit. In the event family influence on my enjoyment of 'Eden End' didn't stop there, because after the show, over coffee and cake, Nicolas Hawkes, Priestley's stepson asked me what I had made of the play, politely listened to my interpretation and then equally courteously told me that I had got it completely wrong. That didn't bother me in itself - no one is more aware than me of the shallowness of the intellectual foundations on which this blog is built - but there is one element that does cause some lingering embarrassment. His take on it, the official view if you will, is that the moral of the play is that one must take things as they come. Given that your bloggist's major affectation is to hide behind the name of an eminent Stoic philosopher you might be forgiven for supposing that I ought to have worked that out for myself.

Going back to Ibsen, Stella Kirby was played here by the same actress who played Nora Helmer in the production of 'A Doll's House' that I saw a few months ago. This production takes Priestley's play and gives it an additional prologue and epilogue in the form of music hall routines featuring her, the purpose of which is to allude to her character's backstory, to reference other works by the author such as 'The Good Companions' and to presage the Great War which shortly followed the play's 1912 setting (1). In the finale she sings and dances while wearing male military uniform, a costume choice which I know some blog readers find titillating, but which others have recently indicated that they see as an abomination of such horror that violence is the only appropriate response. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

(1) In case you think I'm being foolhardy in venturing my own opinions despite having earlier been shot down by someone who knew what they were talking about, be reassured that I got all that from the director, to whom I also spoke at the post show reception.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Same Blues, Different Decade

"Do I want the Seventies to come back? No. The haircuts were terrible. Everyone stank. The food was awful." - Douglas Coupland

To which he could have added the clothes of course. But what about the music? I ask the question because I have been to see the Maas and Moody Band, who seem to share my views on the subject. Micky Moody (MM senior that is - MM junior is the drummer in the band and indeed in the clips below) was in Whitesnake and, before that, Juicy Lucy and so he was there. But while he might be a near contemporary of mine, Ali Maas is clearly somewhat younger; nevertheless her vocals fit right in. So, if you like female fronted, riff-driven, guitar-solo heavy, British blues rock of the sort that one might have seen at St Albans Civic Centre most Saturday nights forty years ago - and let's face it who doesn't - then look no further.

I'm not sure about the stand up bass though - I'm glad to say that had disappeared by the time that I saw them. Moody also told an amusing anecdote about playing at Batley Variety Club as part of Gene Pitney's band which involved Stan Boardman and some meat pies; you don't get that from Eric Clapton.

They finished with a cover of Dylan's 'Gotta Serve Somebody', and so shall we. This is by the marvellous Etta James:

Friday, 15 September 2017

Crap chariots redux

I confidently predicted last week that we would be playing Italian Wars in the legendary wargames room until the show at Derby. It will therefore be no surprise to anyone familiar with my forecasting track record that we shall be in the wargaming annexe at the Casa Epictetus for a game next week. I have rather fallen out of love with the Great War, or at least with Through the Mud and the Blood, so have had to cast around for something else to do. The timely receipt from my erstwhile bandmate Don of some much improved Quick Play Sheets for To the Strongest! which he has prepared tipped things in that direction, with the added benefit of giving me an incentive to finish off the chariots which have been languishing half painted in the cupboard under the boiler for far too long.

Apparently he fell off when he did this while in motion

That reminds me of a recent post on the Palouse Wargaming Journal blog which not only featured some very nicely painted Assyrians, but also posed the question as to which looked the best: more chariots or more chariot units? I have no hesitation in plumping for the former, but then 20mm plastic are somewhat cheaper than 28mm metal. So the scenario will feature, for the first time, five chariot units at two chariots per unit. At the moment that's the entire plan; possibly more thought is required.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Are we getting the hang of this?

A brief reappearance to mention what was for me the best game that we have played so far with the Black Powder family of rules. Sadly that doesn't mean that I won. I think that all was lost when the dice roll determined that I should set up first. Then of course I put my guns in the wrong place, sent half my cavalry the wrong way and rallied the wrong unit when opportunity finally arose.

But we are starting to be familiar with the rules sufficiently to both get most of them right most of the time and to play in a way that make sense within them. I still think that both the broken battalia rule and the flank/enfilade rule are ridiculous, but there is nothing there that can't be fixed. I do wonder though whether it would be possible - and better- to graft the good bits of these rules on to Piquet.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Chotusitz Pt 2

It is with relief on all sides that we are able to leave behind discussion of gender specific clothing and return to topic, because last night I put on my wargaming frock and went round to James' house for some proper manly men rolling dice against men action. The first surprise of the evening was that, fed up with me wandering around the legendary wargames room in my socks, James had thoughtfully arranged for some fluffy white slippers to be provided for me; he's a sweetie.

Anyway, I find that neither he nor I had written about the first evening's play, so anything I say here will be lacking context. As usual, it was an enjoyable game and once again proved that winning isn't everything. It's hard to point specifically to where it all went wrong for Frederick the Great. One hypothesis was that it was when the second line of Austrian infantry blundered (i.e. rolled a double six) and ended up back on their own base line. What this meant that was when they came forward they could be targeted at the schwerpunkt rather than being strung out in front of the Prussian infantry as another juicy target when the first line was broken.

More likely is that collectively we still don't get the rules right and that many of the outcomes relate to that rather than anything else. The most overlooked rule has to be the penalty for trying to order units which are close enough to the enemy to qualify for an initiative move. In our defence the rules are appallingly written and disappointingly they vary in significant details from Pike & Shotte. On top of that the first house rule of wargaming club is that when someone (that's a euphemism for James) thinks of a new house rule it must be introduced immediately. The net outcome can be a bit difficult to deconstruct sometimes, but it looks good and passes the the time pleasantly - what more does one want?

We are back in the Renaissance next week, where we may remain until Derby Worlds,

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Stormy Weather

I have been listening to Joni Mitchell - readers will recall that I am very much in touch with my feminine side - including her fine cover of Stormy Weather. However I thought I'd share this version from Derek Jarman's 'The Tempest':

And here's a quote from Jarman himself:

"All men are homosexual, some turn straight. It must be very odd to be a straight man because your sexuality is hopelessly defensive. It's like an idea of racial purity."
All men are homosexual, some turn straight. It must be very odd to be a straight man because your sexuality is hopelessly defensive. It's like an ideal of racial purity.
Read more at:

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Clothes Maketh The Man

"For the apparel oft proclaims the man" - Polonius

I have been genuinely surprised by how many writers and readers of wargaming blogs are so insecure in their masculinity that they feel threatened by the children's clothing policies of a department store chain. The following is dedicated to them (this particular version chosen because apparently I was there):

Perhaps it shouldn't have come as a complete shock to me, as the following home video of a wargamers' dinner party would suggest:

Of course, what they're all really worried about is this:

Monday, 4 September 2017

My Philosophy of Life

Just when I thought there wasn't room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea--
call it a philosophy of life, if you will. Briefly,
it involved living the way philosophers live,
according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones?

That was the hardest part, I admit, but I had a
kind of dark foreknowledge of what it would be like.
Everything, from eating watermelon or going to the bathroom
or just standing on a subway platform, lost in thought
for a few minutes, or worrying about rain forests,
would be affected, or more precisely, inflected
by my new attitude. I wouldn't be preachy,
or worry about children and old people, except
in the general way prescribed by our clockwork universe.
Instead I'd sort of let things be what they are
while injecting them with the serum of the new moral climate
I thought I'd stumbled into, as a stranger
accidentally presses against a panel and a bookcase slides back,
revealing a winding staircase with greenish light
somewhere down below, and he automatically steps inside
and the bookcase slides shut, as is customary on such occasions.
At once a fragrance overwhelms him--not saffron, not lavender,
but something in between. He thinks of cushions, like the one
his uncle's Boston bull terrier used to lie on watching him
quizzically, pointed ear-tips folded over. And then the great rush
is on. Not a single idea emerges from it.It's enough
to disgust you with thought. But then you remember something
William James
wrote in some book of his you never read--it was fine, it had the
the powder of life dusted over it, by chance, of course, yet
still looking
for evidence of fingerprints. Someone had handled it
even before he formulated it, though the thought was his and
his alone.

It's fine, in summer, to visit the seashore.
There are lots of little trips to be made.
A grove of fledgling aspens welcomes the traveler. Nearby
are the public toilets where weary pilgrims have carved
their names and addresses, and perhaps messages as well,
messages to the world, as they sat
and thought about what they'd do after using the toilet
and washing their hands at the sink, prior to stepping out
into the open again. Had they been coaxed in by principles,
and were their words philosophy, of however crude a sort?
I confess I can move no farther along this train of thought--
something's blocking it. Something I'm
not big enough to see over. Or maybe I'm frankly scared.
What was the matter with how I acted before?
But maybe I can come up with a compromise - I'll let
things be what they are, sort of.In the autumn I'll put up jellies
and preserves, against the winter cold and futility,
and that will be a human thing, and intelligent as well.
I won't be embarrassed by my friends' dumb remarks,
or even my own, though admittedly that's the hardest part,
as when you are in a crowded theater and something you say
riles the spectator in front of you, who doesn't even like the idea
of two people near him talking together. Well he's
got to be flushed out so the hunters can have a crack at him--
this thing works both ways, you know. You can't always
be worrying about others and keeping track of yourself
at the same time. That would be abusive, and about as much fun
as attending the wedding of two people you don't know.
Still, there's a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That's what they're made for! Now I want you to go out there
and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too.
They don't come along every day. Look out! There's a big one...

                   - John Ashbery

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Don't lose that number

It's beginning to seem as if I shall be constantly posting videos in memoriam until, eventually and inevitably, my own number comes up:

Still, as the man said:

Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Be kind

we are always asked
to understand the other person's
no matter how
foolish or

one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
especially if they are

but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
because they have
out of focus,
they have refused to

not their fault?

whose fault?

I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately

among so many


           - Charles Bukowski

Friday, 1 September 2017

The odd uneven time

That was how Sylvia Plath described August, and this year at least she was proved right. It's probably easiest to sum it up by saying that my blogging muse disappeared for a while.

There was some wargaming however: mid-eighteenth century in the legendary wargames room using Black Powder. I continue to enjoy the rules, although the effect of broken battalia seems a bit odd to me. I will no doubt return to this in due course; I bet you can't wait. I have also been trying to work out how I feel about 'Through the Mud and the Blood' now we have had a few games and, finding that I wasn't coming to any conclusion, have decided to put the period on the back burner and do something different next time we are in the annexe.

Your bloggist walks it off

Cultural life always takes a dip at this time of year, but there have been events in places as diverse as Keighley (Ayckbourn) and Salzburg (Mozart funnily enough). Conversely there has been a fair bit of walking and visits have been made to Bracken Ghyll, the Seven Arches and various other places. And I can't leave without alluding to the very funny goings on at the relaunch of river boats on the Wharfe in Otley, although the same political considerations which stopped the local paper printing the photos also preclude me from providing details.