Wednesday, 31 January 2018


I have mentioned before that I don't care for the way C&C handles victory conditions. And if one is going to move away from that part of the base design then why not move away from other elements? So, for the latest game to be set up in the annexe, I have changed the shape of the board. It is exactly the same area, but instead of 20 x 12 hexes it's 16 x 15.

The scenario is Maloyaroslavets (October 24th 1812) which involved the capture and recapture of a village (in the right centre of the board above). To eliminate wasted space on the flanks, try to make sure that cards applying to all sectors can be utilised and provide space for successive waves of attackers from either side it seemed appropriate to make it deeper and less wide.

I took the OOBs from here, but have played about with the terrain a bit. I have added an extra bridge to mitigate against a roadblock for the French and have only included slopes around the village itself, mainly for simplicity. One part of the village and both bridges are in hexes spanning two sectors. Rather than trying to identify arrival times - a concept that doesn't fit easily into C&C's turn structure - commands have been staggered back to the baseline. Each side has a couple of off table commands which can be brought on at any time. If we remember to use the March Move rule that we overlooked last time then it shouldn't be too difficult to get things into action. Victory conditions are the French have to hold the village and one bridge by the end of the evening in order to win. If they don't then the Russians win. The game starts with a weak French garrison in the village just about to be assaulted by a larger Russian force. What is obviously meant to happen is that they capture it only to be assaulted in turn and so on in turn. I envisage burst of fighting followed by periods of regrouping and manoeuvre into position. As usual, we shall see.

The river can be crossed by infantry and cavalry (stop on contact), but a dice is rolled. Sabres means the loss of a stand, flags means the unit stops in the hex before the river. If the river is entered as part of a mandatory retreat then for infantry and cavalry a dice is rolled and unit symbols and sabres count as hits, flags mean an extra hex of withdrawal; artillery are destroyed. The French on the southern side of the river have an extra option when withdrawing; they can either move one hex back towards the baseline as normal, or they can move one hex towards the nearest bridge.

We shall be using the EPIC rules with the shared open hand of cards. Hands will be six cards each (to try to make sure that one has options given that the action will concentrate in the centre) with, I think, a starting hand of four Tactician cards. We shall use our house rule regarding cards such as Bombard, which is basically that you can spread the effect across the whole table. There will be a pre-battle Mother Russia role (six dice), and I think I shall allow Cossacks and artillery to start the game with higher than normal strength if that's the way the dice come up. I have some Russian militia - with a rather nice holy banner - who have never seen any action so I am trying to work out how to tweak things to get a unit of those on table; if they don't appear during the retreat from Moscow then they never will.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Walk

Glamoured the road, the day, and him and her
And everywhere they took me. When we stepped out
Cobbles were riverbed, the Sunday air
A high stream-roof that moved in silence over
Rhododendrons in full bloom, foxgloves
And hemlock, robin-run-the-hedge, the hedge
With its deckled ivy and thick shadows –
Until the riverbed itself appeared,
Gravelly, shallowly, summery with pools,
And made a world rim that was not for crossing.
Love brought me that far by the hand, without
The slightest doubt or irony, dry-eyed
And knowledgeable, contrary as be damned;
Then just kept standing there, not letting go.


So here is another longshot. Black and white.
A negative this time, in dazzle-dark,
Smudge and pallor where we make out you and me,
The selves we struggled with and struggled out of,
Two shades who have consumed each other’s fire,
Two flames in sunlight that can sear and singe,
But seem like wisps of enervated air,
After-wavers, feathery ether-shifts …
Yet apt still to rekindle suddenly
If we find along the way charred grass and sticks
And an old fire-fragrance lingering on,
Erotic woodsmoke, witchery, intrigue,
Leaving us none the wiser, just better primed
To speed the plough again and feed the flame.

                      - Seamus Heaney

Sunday, 28 January 2018


"There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write." - William Makepeace Thackeray

This is the one thousandth post of this blog. I am confident that my wish will now come true. While I am waiting here are the Kronos Quartet with Tusen Tankar:

Saturday, 27 January 2018

I should be so Lucky

I went to see Lucky Peterson last night and shook my tail feather (Do it right, do it right, do it right, do it right!, Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!). Peterson was discovered by Willie Dixon and taught by Jimmy Smith among others; he is the real deal. Fresh from a three day residency at Ronnie Scott's one can only wonder what he made of playing a working man's club in the north of England (and yes once again you could occasionally hear the bingo caller in the next room), but it didn't seem to bother him. Accompanied by guitar, drums and trumpet he mainly played the organ and delivered a wide range of genres, from noodly jazz (never really my favourite) through belting versions of soul classics especially 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone'. This will give a flavour of the sort of shapes that I was throwing:

He was joined for a few numbers at the end by Mrs Peterson, Tamara Tramell, who most notably did a very Annie Mae Bullock inspired version of Proud Mary. She wore more clothes though; this was Yorkshire in January.

Peterson did switch to slide guitar for a fine medley of Muddy Waters' 'Hoochie Coochie Man' and Robert Johnson's 'Dust My Broom'. The latter song is of course most closely associated with Elmore James, who may possibly have been taught the song directly by Johnson. In one of those connections beloved of your bloggist, today is the one hundredth anniversary of James' birth. Here's one of his other songs that I am currently finding resonates with me:

Friday, 26 January 2018

Over the roofs


Oh chimes set high on the sunny tower   
    Ring on, ring on unendingly, 
Make all the hours a single hour,   
For when the dusk begins to flower,   
    The man I love will come to me! ... 

But no, go slowly as you will, 
    I should not bid you hasten so,   
For while I wait for love to come,   
Some other girl is standing dumb, 
    Fearing her love will go. 


Oh white steam over the roofs, blow high!   
    Oh chimes in the tower ring clear and free!   
Oh sun awake in the covered sky, 
    For the man I love, loves me! ... 

Oh drifting steam disperse and die, 
    Oh tower stand shrouded toward the south,— 
Fate heard afar my happy cry, 
    And laid her finger on my mouth. 


The dusk was blue with blowing mist,   
    The lights were spangles in a veil,   
And from the clamor far below 
    Floated faint music like a wail. 

It voiced what I shall never speak, 
    My heart was breaking all night long, 
But when the dawn was hard and gray,   
    My tears distilled into a song. 


I said, “I have shut my heart   
    As one shuts an open door, 
That Love may starve therein   
    And trouble me no more.” 

But over the roofs there came 
    The wet new wind of May, 
And a tune blew up from the curb 
    Where the street-pianos play. 

My room was white with the sun   
    And Love cried out to me, 
“I am strong, I will break your heart   
    Unless you set me free.”

        - Sara Teasdale

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Another triumph...

...for the Prussians, who on this occasion weren't me. The 3-way scenario is starting to look somewhat unbalanced, primarily I think because the Prussian deck is so much better than the Allies that they can almost always do what they want, whereas the Russians and Austrians spent an hour last night without turning a Musket Reload card. I am minded to give one of those little lectures that James would at this point, explaining exactly what that means, but life is too short. We did eventually get the run of luck that we needed, but it was too little too late. It  would have been a sickener for the Prussians in a campaign context though, losing unit after unit when the game was already to all intents and purposes over.

Going back to the balance of the scenario, the Prussians set up second in full knowledge of how the Allies have deployed. And yet oddly enough, both James and I having set up with a completely free hand then fairly soon afterwards decided it was all wrong and started marching troops round the table. Given that we both still won we must assume that if the Prussian player ever gets their initial dispositions correct then it will be a walkover in no time at all.

As previously mentioned I have been trying to recreate a C&C Napoleonic scenario from six months or so ago. I was a tad harsh on  myself before because I do in fact have the OOB. What I don't have is a map and I seem only to have taken one photograph of the table. I was struggling to rationalise how it all went together from this when it became embarrassingly apparent that one section in the original game - the French left/Prussian right - had been one hex too wide and correspondingly the centre section one hex too narrow. Amateurs!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018


I know that you've all been waiting for a dental update so I can confirm that the permanent crown is now fitted and seems to be functioning OK; I am certainly no longer in pain. As for the roof, there has been a slight change of diagnosis. A cherry picker is due later in the week to allow re-pointing of the chimney stack. I have strongly made the case that as I am paying for the plant hire I should be allowed a go on it, but various obstacles are being placed in my path. We shall see.

My boardgaming rebirth has continued with a few more games played, featuring some very poor last places from your bloggist. I did get the biggest laugh in a game of Telestrations, but I'm afraid that you had to be there (which you would be correct in assuming is a euphemism for smut). Indirectly this has led (may lead?) to an unblocking of my current wargaming inertia. I have mentioned before playing a couple of games of C&C Napoleonics with Chris, the convener of the Monday night boardgaming in the pub group. He has requested another game and so the Great War will be sidelined pro tem. What I shall do is set up the sort-of Eckmühl game that James and Peter played last June. Partly because I thought it was a good scenario and partly because I neglected to write down the OOBs at the time and have been meaning to retrospectively do so ever since. There was actually some gaming last week when we played the first evening of a second run through of a SYW scenario at James'. His report doesn't mention that we, the Allies, did in fact turn a Move in Difficult card; it's just that we did so with out last initiative pip and the turn - and the evening - ended immediately afterwards. All we need to do is to win a dozen or so initiative points, then turn Manoeuvre, Musket Reload and Move in Difficult in that order and we're back in the game; not much to ask I think.

I can't go without a brief tribute to Hugh Masekela. Firstly, and perhaps surprisingly, this is him playing the trumpet part on the Byrds hit from fifty years ago:

And of course, I couldn't not include this from twenty years later:

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A certain kind of light

I'm in the mood for some Eric Burdon, and of course it will also serve as a belated tribute to Sir Barry:

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


I now have a temporary crown and can eat properly again. On top of that the roofer rose heroically from his sick bed, looked at my roof, agreed that it was leaking and said that he would be back in a fortnight. Normal service has been resumed.

All of which calls for some roof music. There's lots of choice, but we'll plump for one featuring the much missed Humphrey Lyttleton:

By the way James has posted the details of the 3-way scenario we played over the last couple of weeks here. I shall be off shortly to try my hand as the Russians in a re-run. And it will the second gaming experience of the week, because I have broken not only my porridge-only diet, but also my boardgaming fast. I played a couple of co-operative games, but found that the hiatus had made me dislike them less than previously; we lost them both of course. I also tried out someone's prototype of a game they had designed themselves, which is always an interesting experience. On this occasion we conclusively proved that it didn't work with six players, and I'm sure he is grateful to know that.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Worried Life Blues

So, my new crown has fallen out after all that time and discomfort spent putting it in, it's pouring with rain, my roof is leaking and my roofer has gone down with the 'flu (genuinely). Good job I haven't got anything else on my mind.

As we've been listening to piano blues lets have some Big Maceo Merriweather:

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sarah, Sarah, Sitting in a Shoe Shine Shop

I have been to see Ben Waters. He is an exponent of the boogie-woogie piano (he was the entertainment at Jools Holland's wedding if that puts him into context), and I confess I was feeling a certain trepidation at the thought of sitting through two hours' worth of eight to the bar and walking blues bass lines, accompanied no doubt by out of time handclapping from the audience. I was however, more than pleasantly surprised, because Waters mixed up the musical styles with plenty of rock & roll, plus some less expected covers such as the Kinks, the Beatles and ABBA. On top of which he was an amusing and entertaining raconteur. I was aware that he had connections with the Rolling Stones and he had several anecdotes about the various band members; although to be honest if you can't make something funny out of material like Jagger and Richards then you're in the wrong business.

He also told a number of stories about his mentor, the man who, himself steeped in the traditions, passed on the tricks of this particular piano style (and incidentally taught Waters very well because I had a good view of the keys and his hands were an absolute blur as he played). Given that this is a type of music that originated in New Orleans a century and more ago you can imagine the sort of mental image I had as he spoke. All of which proves that one should never jump to conclusions because the chap in question turned out to hail from Ilkley, and furthermore was sitting in the audience. Thus it was that a sprightly Yorkshire pensioner took to the stage, banged out a few numbers and regaled the audience with his own yarns about playing with Fats Domino, Dr John and the like; although sadly not Professor Longhair, perhaps that would have been too much to ask for. It's a funny old world.

One expectation that wasn't dashed - the audience clapped completely out of time all the way through.

We need some music at this point. Here's something from Fats Domino that speaks to me for some reason:

Friday, 12 January 2018

If three and four was seven only

I have been to see 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'; good film, funny, sad, full of twists. My only reservation is that even I don't believe that in the US the police either routinely behave like that or would get away with it if they did. It shares many tropes with 'Wind River' - which I suspect that I have never mentioned seeing before - but was the better film. Maybe it's just that the implausibility level was dialled back a bit; when violence broke out in this one you could sort of see where they were coming from. I think they are both essentially westerns set in the present day; perhaps it's cheaper to film that way, perhaps it's easier to get funded. I had hoped to catch a real western ('Hostiles') last week, but it doesn't seem to have stuck around in the cinema for too long. I'll have to hope that the local arts centre puts it on in one of their oap matinees with free tea and biscuits.

Here's the original version of a song from Three Billboards' soundtrack that struck a chord:

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Sans morale, aucune chance pour les hommes.

“You are well aware that it is not numbers or strength that bring the victories in war. No, it is when one side goes against the enemy with the gods' gift of a stronger morale that their adversaries, as a rule, cannot withstand them.” - Xenephon

We concluded the three-way Seven Years War game last night and somewhat to my surprise I won. I am not entirely sure whether to feel embarrassed or vindicated. The former because I set up completely wrong and changed my plan after literally a few minutes. The second because when I started a radical readjustment of my forces my opponents scoffed and claimed that they would have carried on regardless. I won quite comfortably as it turned out, but until close to the end it could easily have gone either way.

Indeed it was the sort of game that if you like Piquet reinforces why and if you don’t like Piquet, well it reinforces why just the same. The luck evened out as it usually does, but the way it fell definitely suited me. For the first week I got all the initiative and my opponents fared much better in combat. However, there wasn’t much fighting and I was able to use my runs of initiative and my better deck to move my right flank away from the pursuing Russians and concentrate them against the Austrians. This week the allies had all the initiative, but couldn’t do anything with it because my better army and good dice rolling meant that I did far more damage than them. The fact that they failed Major Morale twice in a row didn’t do any harm to my cause either. Coming back to Piquet, the changes we have made to the original morale rules are definitely a big improvement.

Next week we shall all be shuffling counter-clockwise round the table and giving it another go. I hope James takes some photos and posts it up this time as it’s a nice little scenario.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

What became of all the time

Just a quick post to say that I have done nothing whatever regarding anything at all except make a flying visit to that there London; you will be pleased to know that Revelation 21:21 still applies. 

I won't bore you with what I got up to - which ranged from Rhus verniciflua (or do I mean Toxicodendron vernicifluum?), through Justin 'Nigel' de Villeneuve (the chap Peter Cook bangs on about on Derek and Clive Come Again), all the way to Allectus (the accountant who assassinated his boss and declared himself Emperor; your bloggist nods approvingly) - so let's have some music instead. Here's Ray Charles and Bonnie Raitt:

Friday, 5 January 2018

Bears/woods - Pope/Catholic - Trump/crazy

Ecclesiastes Chapter 10 verses 12-14

    ..... the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
    The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
    A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Thursday, 4 January 2018


Your bloggist spent an hour and a half in the dentist's chair yesterday and is feeling pretty bashed about this morning, so I shall be brief.

I am also feeling pretty bashed about in a wargaming sense. The first game of the year saw me in command of a small Prussian army taking on a larger combined Russian and Austrian force. I was promised that the discrepancy in force size was offset by the superior quality of mine, but I have to say that I haven't seen any sign of it yet. The real problem is that having deployed everything I then abandoned my original plan within the first ten minutes, and spent the rest of the evening repositioning my forces so that next week I can try something different. The exercise did at least lend some support to Peter's assertion that Piquet allows a fighting withdrawal to be conducted in a manner that U go-I go rules don't. I sank into existential despair about the game's outcome even earlier than I usually do, but possibly that was just the anaesthetic wearing off.

In other news, the mainstream media has been strangely silent about the recent meeting between on the one hand a dangerous Marxist and republican, who holds much of British society in complete contempt, and on the other hand the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP. Fortunately a photographer was around to record it for posterity.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

...I've had a few

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.” 

Søren Kierkegaard

"Maybe all we can do is hope to end up with the right regrets" 

- Arthur Miller

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

...and all that

There was a heartfelt request in the comments a few days ago that I should post about anything other than wargaming, but as I find myself in the odd position of not having done much else, wargaming it is.

I have been reading 1066, the special edition of Medieval Warfare. The only previous one of these that I have read is 1453, which I enjoyed.  There are a couple of negatives with this one: the maps are particularly poor, showing not much more information than the fact that towns such as London, Durham, Rouen etc all seem to have been in pretty much the same place then as they are now; and the proof reading also leaves a bit to be desired. I know that the publishers don't have English as their first language, the same indeed being true for many of the contributors, but the issues are mostly typographic rather than idiomatic. However the chapters on context such as the backgrounds and experiences of  Harold, Haraldr and William are good, as is the one on what happened next; even if strangely excludes Sellars and Yeatman's insight that "William next invented a system according to which everybody had to belong to someone else, and everybody else to the King. This was called the Feutile System,... ".

I wasn't previously aware of the level of 'restoration' of the Bayeux Tapestry undertaken over the centuries. When one goes to see it they tend not to mention that it might not be be an accurate reflection of how it originally looked. I shall investigate some more. Also new to me was the Battle of Northam in June 1069, although I don't seem to be alone in not knowing much about it. Nick Arnold, the chap writing that article, is rather groping in the dark I think; nevertheless I shall keep an eye out for the book he is apparently writing on the battles of 1069.

In other news I convinced myself that drybrushing a second shade onto the wire wool smoke would be easier because the previous coats would have made it stiffer. They hadn't and it wasn't. However, despite being darker and greyer than I originally envisaged, it has reached the stage of  'it will do' (admittedly a reasonably low hurdle in the Casa Epictetus) and, Storm Eleanor permitting, I shall shortly be moving on to another solo run through of 'Blue Guitar'.

"With the brush we merely tint, while the imagination alone produces colour" - Theodore Gericault

Monday, 1 January 2018

Whereon the throstle rock'd

.................if this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone? but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering ‘It will be happier;’

                                 - Tennyson