Thursday, 30 November 2017

creux roseaux domptés par le talent

"A roll of the dice will never abolish chance." - Stéphane Mallarmé

Mallarmé may have structured 'Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard' around the number 12, or possibly 7 or even 707. The latest game in the legendary wargames room was structured around the number 1. Piquet - for we have returned to our roots - is a game of opposed dice throws. Last night the first seven (it's that number again) response dice rolls were all ones, a something like 300,000 to 1 chance that only stopped when it would have been of any use to me. It's a good scenario, well worth reading about assuming James writes it up on his blog - but I'm afraid it's already not looking good for the Prussians.

As we are on the subject of wargaming I am still working away on the latest iteration of the Great War project to which I shall return shortly in excruciating detail. In the meantime I have made a 6" Newton heavy mortar for the British forces and once again I have taken a bad photo which I can't be bothered to reshoot.

Both this and the 17cm Minenwerfer would have been fired from specially dug pits, but because modelling them like that wouldn't have worked with base sizes that I wanted to use, I shall be making some sandbag enclosures to surround them.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Budget - an analysis

“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble - yes, gamble - with a whole part of their life...”

                                          - Albert Camus

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Tomorrow's almost over

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Rodney Bewes. I can't have been the only upwardly socially-mobile working class kid with whom 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads' resonated, with its subtext of the breaking up of friendship groups as different levels of ambition and educational opportunity played out. There was more to him than Bob Ferris of course; I have an excellent audio book of 'The Good Companions' narrated by him, which I would immediately dig out and listen to except that I have bought a new car and technological progress being what it is this one doesn't have a CD player. As a bit of a digression, this is why the old car had to go:

And then of course there is the appropriation of the sitcom's name by a group of wargamers in the Lower Wharfe Valley. On first meeting them the big question I asked myself was which one was Thelma; there were, and indeed still are, several plausible candidates. Speaking of which, James has now posted a report of the big game on his blog which shows the huge scale of the thing rather more than my own photos do. Notwithstanding James' outing me as a bald bloke in red I am in fact the slim chap in the striped blue sweater. Be that as it may, it gives me an excuse to post another of the pictures that I took.

My home city of Modena

In the background I have continued to produce support weapons for my re-focused Great War project, including a scratch built 17cm Minenwerfer with which I am so sufficiently not displeased that I shall include a photo.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Toss O'Ecclefechan

Bye attour my Gutcher has
A heich house and a laich ane,
A' forbye my bonie sel,
The toss o' Ecclefechan. 
 - Robert Burns, "The Lass O'Ecclefechan"

Not one person has asked me about Ecclefechan, but obviously that won't stop me answering their questions. Although mostly associated with Thomas Carlyle - and I'd like to think that to all my readers he is a man who needs no introduction - the other notable resident of the graveyard is Archibald Arnott, one of the physicians who was attending Napoleon on St Helena when he died and possibly - but probably not - the man who took the former Emperor's death mask; at least not the one from which the copy was made that we've all seen in the Musée de l'Armée. 

Nothing to do with Ecclefechan

As luck would have it I have a friend who lives nearby, but when I asked her about the place her only reply was the enigmatic "Ecclefechan tarts are tasty". She didn't mention the blended whisky named after the village at all.

She forgot the Fechan whisky

Monday, 20 November 2017

When is a Scotsman not a Scotsman?

“Ever in the dullest existence there is a sheen either of Inspiration or of Madness” - Thomas Carlyle

Certain things in the life of Epictetus have not been going as one would wish. I have naturally reacted in the manner that befits an eminent Stoic philosopher and have been sitting in a darkened room sobbing softly to myself. I was however roused from this state by the invitation of James to be one of his assistants at a game he was putting on for the League of Gentlemen Wargamers. We therefore screwed our courage to the sticking place and ventured into Scotland. Pausing only briefly at Ecclefechan to pay our respects, it merely took us a very long time indeed to drive to Kirriemuir. 

The view from Venice, with the Alps on the far right

I trust that James will post about the game comprehensively, and as umpire he had an overview and is best placed to do so, and so will others no doubt; indeed the King of France's take can already be found here. I will therefore restrict myself to my own part in proceedings which, apart from constantly asking "Are we there yet?", was to be in charge of the city of Modena (to paraphrase Pope John XXIII: "Wargamers are like wine - some improve with age, but others turn to vinegar"). If I have any complaints about what was otherwise an excellent weekend it would be about the limitations of my geographic position, with rivers on two sides and impassable mountains on a third. However, and this more than compensated, on the fourth side were the forces commanded by none other than Charles S. Grant; and I was privileged to spend a couple of days rolling dice against the author of Tabletop Teasers himself. That won't mean anything to my non-wargaming readers, but those in the brotherhood will recognise that this is a story to tell one's grandchildren.

The photograph above shows a part of the Venetian army as it trailed down past Bologna towards Rome in order to do battle with the Pope, following the King of France's decision to break with the Pontiff. Similar columns from Milan, Ferrara and from France itself also wound unmolested past Genoa, Modena and Bologna. I am proud to say that immediately after they had moved down into Tuscany the three cities previously mentioned all left the French alliance, declared for Spain and moved towards the Po with the intention of rampaging through the undefended territories north of it. I take no pleasure in reporting that we didn't get there, but it was a good plan nonetheless.

"A gentleman is simply a patient wolf" - Lana Turner

Monday, 6 November 2017

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The nine of clubs

"The challenge for Nine of Clubs people is to let go with grace and gratitude... and not fall to the lower vibration of apathy or self-pity."

Last weekend saw Fiasco, the local wargames show here in Leeds, and the passout token for those putting on games was a playing card; the one they gave me was the nine of clubs: so challenge accepted. The show itself was good in the morning and dead in the afternoon. Our demo of Zorndorf went very much with the flow; I don't think we played a turn after lunch. Astonishingly I have seen some reviewers complain that the organisers gave space to a charity cake stall. Fortunately Epictetus is in such peak physical shape these days that he was able to indulge himself with a bun or two and I can report that they were rather good; I hope that they are back next year. Other purchases included yet more trees from the tree man plus what is possibly the worst set of rules that I have ever read.

I bought a second hand set of Mailed Fist Wargames group's WWI rules and the best thing I can find to say about them is that it was only £3 wasted, or three cakes worth if you will. I won't take up too much of your time with them, but perhaps the oddest bit is the lack of any rules at all for machine guns because "they [were] a little thin on the ground". The author does however include specific stats for the 420cm L/12, Type M-Gerät 14, better known as the 'Big Bertha', of which only twelve were ever made and whose minimum range is somewhat longer than my table. I am more and more minded to stop buying WWI rules and instead to write my own; I'm envisaging a glorious mash-up of every family of rules that I've ever played plus the added complexity which inevitably creeps in every time that I try to devise something for wargaming use. The one thing that is certain is that the scale of these wonderful - though as yet unwritten - rules will be 12-15 figures per company, which should allow me to play a game of a brigade a side. I have it in mind to name them after one of C.R.W. Nevinsion's Great War paintings, perhaps 'A Dawn', which is just about to be sold for a shed load of money.

A game at that level requires a higher proportion of officers and support weapons than I had previously assumed. I have therefore scoured continental Europe for the out of production HaT German Heavy Weapons set and progress on painting has been brisk. October figures were:

Granatenwerfer 4
MG08/15 4
MG08 1
Flamethrower team 1
Minenwerfer 1
German bombers 4
German riflemen 10
British riflemen 7
British officers 12
Lewis guns 3