Thursday, 22 December 2016

A clutch of unread magazines

As you might expect I've been a tad busy in the run up to Crimbo. However all is as done as we can do . Now the last few latecoming parcels have gone up  up to the Post Office  that is it until we start again on Jan 4th. Orders can still be ordered but won't be processed or sent as there is little point in them sitting in a Sorting Office for a week and a half. Also - it has to be said - in certain areas stocks are a bit low after the hectic period just finished. Though I have just added a bundle of new stuff to the website in the shape of more Blue Moon ECW and a bundle of late Saxon Napoleonic cavalry. More new stuff will be added in late January.  when I get my next shipment from the USA.

 My last shipment from the USA arrived last Friday- since then Carole and I have dispatched around 150 parcels via the Post Office and our courier so I've barely had time to open let alone read any of the last 2 month's worth of magazines that have dropped on my mat since late November..

So now I may, just may have a bit of time to myself. Some of it will be spent looking through this bundle of magazines
 MW 404 MW 405  WI 350 WI 351
 Now in theory that is an awful lot of pages but once you categorise it actually works out a lot less. Ignoring all the adverts in both magazines for the same old same old cuts down the workload by at least half. The reviews in all  if the magazines are sometimes useful  but mostly not  likewise the infomercials for particular rulesets or games masquerading as articles. and the"interviews" with sundry games designers who - quite naturally want to push their latest creation . This kind of thing seems to be almost the only reason for  non- historical content these days. Either infomercials or interviews. Sci- Fant is or seems to be almost totally  game driven - "buy this game play it this way  because we told you so (£49.99)DISCLAIMER The company is not responsible for any accidents resulting from gamers using their  own brain)"
 Now this does not detract from the quality of some of the gear- so the Crooked Dice minis for 7TV look excellent- I even own a couple and the new John Carter of Mars stuff from Modiphius looks interesting -from the point of view of a figure painter getting the right flesh tone on Deja Thoris'   lissome thighs  could prove an interesting challenge!!
 Are sci- fant gamers so devoid of imagination that ALL they want to do is open the box and roll dice? Surely that cannot be the case. The vast number of different "games"  currently appearing in all of our different fields of endeavour would however suggest that this instant approach is becoming more and more popular. I'm not sure some of these are even wargames- when did the Thunderbirds , for example go to war ?. Even within the historical field the appearance of many very similar "games" may lead us to believe that this trend is for the moment almost universal.  This means that magazine content has to follow this trend (or perhaps help to create it under pressure from publishers anxious to make a few quid)  So within these four issues are no less than 11 infomercials for specific "games"- the majority- 7 -  being in the 2 issues of WI add in a couple of "interviews" in MW plus the usual review pages in both mags and you'd think that there would  not always be a lot of room left for "proper" articles.
In the case of these four issues at least you would be wrong.
 Show reports  include SELWG. and  Warfayre  in the UK ,Little Wars in the USA and Little Wars in Melbourne Australia.. All of the show gave us some fine looking display games..
 Various articles gave us information on the Korean War battle of Choisin ,Naval action at Jutland, Colonial Warfare and a good look at wargaming on gridded terrain. MW has a nice article by Belgian Wargame  Dirk Donvil on Napoleonic gaming in 54mm - showing different ways of doing stuff. Miles  away from the "open the box and do as you  are told"  of the infomercials sometime apparent.  Add in what I suppose is really another infomercial for Warfare Miniatures on the Great Northern war (interesting that the author barely mentions  15mm GNW ranges at all and totally ignores both the Blue Moon 15mm range- which has after all only been available for about 5 or 6 years.) Despite this overall the articles do provide a basic grounding in the period albeit a somewhat biased one.
 Of the four mags my overall favourite article was by 10mm enthusiast Dan Johnson in MW 405 detailing how he turned skirmish game SAGA into a rather splendid looking 10mm Crusades  set up for larger engagements. Equally Arthur Harmans ECW rules look useful and intresting - though I have not tried them yet.
Once again as far from the "buy my new thingy" infomercial as you can get and showing that (with others) there is still individual sentient life out there.
On a personal note I read the review of  Osprey's ECW/TYW -a -like "game" Pikeman's Lament " with more than a little trepidation. The review leads me to believe that it is more of an FRPG than a set of Historical rules- more like the D and D volume "A Mighty Fortress" that say "Forlorn Hope" or even "File Leader".- According to the review there are no rules for unit facing- so perhaps that is the reason for the Pikeman's lament as a pikeman on his own is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. Equally a bunch of pikemen with no unit structure is possibly even less use. Now I'll have to get a copy of these but if - given the author- they are as 17th century as Lion Rampant was medieval then I'll be using  such wonderful historical documents as Hammer's "The Scarlet Blade" as my historical source material. Nevertheless let us not pre-judge until I get a copy.

Overall there is plenty to read in these four mags- WI seems to have toned down it's "Shazam-Kapow" just a little though overall most of the articles are still shortish and in general of lighter weight than those in MW with a somewhat heavier reliance on the infomercial style. MW still seems to me-somewhat the more adult- though it has to be said the gap between the two in this regard is closing.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Back in the day a novelist /historian called Alex Hailey wrote a book called "Roots" purporting to be about his own ancestry. It was made into a TV series and actually wasn't half bad.
 Some time later the debunkers found out that  he had- at least in part been guilty, perhaps, of  some terminological inexactitude. This did not detract from the book being readable or the TV series being amusing.
 .This really appropos of not much except that the Twats Tiny Tactica Tournament didn't happen as planned because of chaps crying off at the last minute.
 Nevertheless 3 of us turned up at the pub- still wanting a bit of Ancient amusement of a more or less historical nature. So as a light alternative to Tactica I put a couple of the old "Classics" in my bag and told the lads if they didn't fancy Tactica how about either Terry Wise or Don Featherstone (actually Tony Bath). In other words we were going back to our Roots !
 It quickly transpired that Terry Wises' ancient rules didn't really work and I still can't fathom the melee system so we switched immediately to Tony Bath's set in Featherstones War Games of 1962 vintage. This without any  dislocation or disorganistation  or indeed any change at all  of either army. Like many older rules both these sets are "figure-driven" rather than "mechanism-driven".so it means that you can paly either as you like.
 Troops were 15mm- my own Marian Romans- commanded by Andrew and Shaun our resident Ancient Man using his Samnites. I umpired and this was really an exercise in seeing if theses ancient Ancient rules would work with two armies based differently and with no points systems or army lists  or other modern fol-de rol to get in the way. Yes I know the Marian Romans never fought the Samnites but Shaun reckoned that they had never yet been out of the box and it was time. So we streached a point. Andrew commanded the Romans . Shaun simply emptied his box of Samnitesand battle commenced. . No points systems or Army Lists were harmed in the making of this game.

My 15mm Marian Romans . All Blue Moon. Mostly painted by John Reidy.

 You know what, I've played a hell of a lot worse. It quickly transpired that there is little new under the sun. I'd not played these at all since school  with Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons with a few Hong Kong rip offs to add variety. (I recall some plastic Greeks that were basically pantographed down version of Britains ) They felt a lot like a cross between WHAB and Tactica- especially WHAB. The IGOUGO system slows things a bit but that could easily be altered to an "orders and Simultaneous movement" system without touching the actual mechanisms- which are dead simple.Dicing for "initiative" (ie choosing to move first or second) add a bit of spice
 Morale could do with a bit of fiddling, simply to vary the troops quality but basically the rules are pretty sound and faster moving than WHAB and possibly WRG 5th or 6th though we'd need to play a few more games to be sure of this. Like Tactica these were  a little dice heavy but not so badly that it took the game from the players control. The players were always in charge of their own decisions.
 These rules were of course a simple introductory set and none the worse for that. By today's standards definitions were a bit wooly and certainly would not suit the "win at all costs" types who need to have the far end of a fart defined to stop them cheating. It would be no big deal to add a little more period specific detail if you wished but all the basics are covered for those who have a modicum of useable brain cells.
Crunch Time- Just before the deciding melee. Shaun's Samnites in the more open order will get chewed up by the Roman mincing machine..

For the record the Samnites went down to a bloody defeat after an heroic resistance. The main Mellee in the centre swung back and forth but the Linen Legion could not quite match the power of the better armoured Romans Legionaries. What luck was about did seem to run Andrew's way(for a change did I hear muttered?)  but it was still a very enjoyable exercise as well as going some way to proving as Andre put it- "You don't HAVE to pay £30.00 for a book full of pictures and a few rules"

I will have another bash at these simple rules  with different armies. But equally I'll still use Tactica or WRG or possibly Hail Cesar as the mood take me. After all its not simply about finding  a game you can win at is it?
 Once again our thanks go to Jean the Landlady- in extra measure- for providing a splendid Christmas dinner  with all the trimmings as well as the usual fine beer.

Looking forward to some good games next year- Including the postponed TWATS  Tiny Tactica Tournament.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Pure Hell of Christmas

 I have this dream around this time of year. There I am sitting at a table  surrounded by ahem"friends and family"(who in this dream I do not know) all wearing silly paper hats and stuffing themselves into a mindless stupor with  sprouts and turkey(and OOH these sprouts have been on the stove since Thursday ! and OOH getting that 64lb Turkey into the oven wasn't half a chore! ) Needless to say the awful bread sauce is thick enough to put into a mould and the shrieking from sundry brats  blarting about how Santa didn't bring them the latest version of Zombie massacre 29 (and some of those brats are at least 32 ) is enough to burst your eardrums and of course my fresh foaming pint of "Old Horizontal" is just out of reach and the bells jingle louder and the fake snowflakes fall like 81mm mortar shells and every list has been checked at least twice.......

Then I wake up on a cold sweat and THANK GOD it is only December 6th.


Now don't for a moment think I'm anti- Christmas. I'm not- well not altogether- though perhaps if James Stewart HAD jumped off the bridge in "Its A Wonderful Life"  we would not have to put up with that mawkish drivel year after year. (Though I can handle "The Great Escape" and even "The Wizard of Oz" no problem).
 No my problem here is not MY or indeed myself and my wife Carole's - Christmas but the way every other buggers Christmas- or more accurately the expected  correct commercial Christmas is rammed down your throat like a 12 pounder roundshot. 
It's enough to make you weep sometimes.
 So what is my kind of Christmas- well for a start it means a few days off without having to think about little lead men or parcels, some "quality time" (awful phrase)  for Carole and myself perhaps the odd visit to family.... maybe... though hoping to avoid stroppy teenage nieces who can't converse without use of the texting thumbs.
 As for Christmas dinner- well I hate Turkey so this year it is venison- so Rudolf had better not stop here. He'd be on the plate before he'd finished noshing his 3 millionth carrot of the night. How the overweight bugger leaps from rooftop to rooftop is beyond me and if Santa gets outside all that sherry- or milk and cookies  when in the USA- he's going to throw his guts up somewhere over the Pacific .Will NORAD be able to  track that I wonder?.

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So basically I'm looking forward to the holiday to a bit of peace and quiet - and even  a small amount of Goodwill to all men - and women.
So here's Hoping your all have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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