Monday, 24 October 2016

Handing on the baton

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end." - Seneca

Time for a quick wargaming round-up. Firstly, and rather unexpectedly, someone has asked me for the rules of my Romans in Britain rip off of Pony Wars. I have to admit that I never updated them after our last game although copious notes were made at the time. This was partly due to the arrival of the Hexon terrain which made me think that all the movement rules etc needed switching to hex based, partly because having played Lion Rampant I thought I might steal the melee rules from those, and partly because I am bone idle. Anyway I have sent them off as they stand and I hope they are useful. We enjoyed the couple of games that we had despite them being typical of any rules that I write by being rather over complex. Notwithstanding having bought some more slopes at Derby I would need quite a few more before having another go.

Speaking of Hexon terrain, I have ordered some more, but bits of trench rather than hills. I have cleared the annexe and set up the Through the Mud and the Blood scenario I'm planning to run in due course in order to see what elements I was short of. I had thought about making some, but the energy levels haven't returned after my illness so I bought them instead. I had to revolve the alignment of the terrain by 90 degrees from the standard C&C layout in order to get it to work. My order including the missing rifle grenadier has arrived and painting is underway. (As an aside, this morning the big bouncy woman managed in essentially the same breath to ask to see what I was painting, assert that I wouldn't show it to her in case she called it crap, and then deny - erroneously - that she ever said such a thing about the chariots in the first place; still, it was good to see her again) The other order, the one with the casualty figures for the shock markers, is delayed due to a broken arm.

The latest order - the Hexon one; please keep up - is to be picked up at Fiasco on Sunday where I am helping James run a Seven Years War game. It won't be Lobositz because we are using my car and it isn't that big. It also isn't that reliable so I hope we make it. Assuming we do then please feel free to come and say hello to James and, if you must, me.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan!

 “Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding.”

And so to the opera. I'd never seen Der Rosenkavalier before and being both too lazy to do any research and too mean to buy a programme I was surprised to gradually realise that it was a Mozart pastiche, even to the extent of being over long. Still if one is going to find inspiration anywhere then why not start at the very top?

It's not really about the Rosebearer or indeed, as the original title apparently had it, about the Baron for whom he bears the the rose. Instead its central character is surely the Marschallin, a woman sent by her family into marriage with a much older man who willingly sacrifices happiness so others may marry for love. As the Buddha said “In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?".

Musically the highlight is the trio at the end where the voices of the three sopranos - the male lead is played by a woman and in a Shakespearean twist spends a lot of time pretending to be a woman - combine to mark the turning point in all their lives. For the Marschallin, as she subsequently leaves the stage on the arm of the father of the bride, a recognition that time has passed. As for the wisdom of having an affair with someone the best part of twenty years one's junior in the first place, Strauss and his librettist Hofmannsthal pass no moral judgement; therefore neither will I.

Friday, 21 October 2016

“Now, Herbert Soppitt!”

"A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married." - H. L. Mencken

And so to the theatre. I have been to see Northern Broadsides' production of J. B. Priestley's "When We Are Married", and after two recent theatrical disappointments what a treat it was. For those who have never seen it, the piece is, first and foremost, very funny. Described by its author as "A Yorkshire Farcical Comedy" it is all that and more. It was written in 1938; indeed when it was first performed Priestley himself said it would provide a distraction from “the state of Europe for an hour or two” and that's one of the many aspects of the play that is as true today as it was then. However, as with "An Inspector Calls", it is set in the Edwardian world of Priestley's childhood. Whereas that play used tragedy to highlight the smugness of a bourgeoisie unaware of the catastrophe awaiting them, this one does it with comedy to equal effect. But more than that, it captures the strains and stresses that will inevitably develop between two people who spend twenty five years in each other's company; anyone who has ever been married will find it uncomfortably true to life. As I said above, many things have changed in the last century, but many others have stayed exactly the same.

It was all to the usual high Broadsides standard and they even managed to squeeze some singing and dancing in. Rutter pinched the plum role of drunken press photographer Henry Ormonroyd for himself, which suited his ability (compulsion?) to ham it up. Special mention must go Steve Huison as Herbert Soppitt, a man with whom I have much empathy, and Kate Anthony as Clara Soppitt, a type of northern married woman whom your bloggist can confirm exists in real life.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

More Pike & Shotte

So we had another go at Pike & Shotte and once again it proved very enjoyable. James has outlined the set up here and will hopefully report on the battle complete with photos in due course, so I'll just note a few random points.
  • This was a more complex and larger game than the first. It would easily have lasted another evening had our busy schedules so allowed. 
  • As James writes in his blog, he tinkered with the standard troop types and statistics to reflect his view of how things were. I am in no position to comment, but I would point out that things might have gone more smoothly had the handouts he gave out contained the numbers he wished us to use instead of seemingly random entries which he repeatedly superseded with corrections. Just a thought.
  • We used the blunder rule - which seemed OK to me.
  • The movement element remains the favourite part of mine. It needs some adjusting to take account of the actual base sizes being used, especially regarding interpenetration. I'm still not convinced by the proximity rule, but it may well be that there are subtleties still to be revealed.
  • I also like the fact that that one cannot rally back to full strength and there was talk of importing that rule into the house versions of Piquet/FOB.
  • There were still some extreme results in melee. These aren't unknown in Piquet anyway and, as Peter pointed out, it might be a function of using saving throws. It wouldn't be at all hard to work out the maths of, say, D12 vs D4 compared to 8 D6 versus 2 D6 hitting and saving on different numbers; but I can't be arsed. Let's accumulate a bit more anecdotal evidence first.
  • I felt that the game flowed better that under Hell Broke Loose in a way that was hard to put one's finger on. James said that the table looked more like a Renaissance battle and that seemed an astute observation. I can't particularly think what aspect of the different mechanics would be behind that, but again it's worth keeping an eye on.
  • I think we are all agreed that the rules for commands breaking need to be a bit more sophisticated, with units weighted in some way. I would suggest that should also apply to the calculation of support in melee. It probably wouldn't matter in a horse and musket period, but here an arquebus unit plus a small pike unit counts as twice as good for support purposes as a colunella consisting of exactly the same numbers of troops; which doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A classic study in homoerotic sadism

And so to the opera. From the title you will have deduced that it's Benjamin Brtitten, and you will be correct; Billy Budd to be precise. First let me say that musically it is superb. Opera North's male chorus get their chance to shine as the crew of H.M.S. Indomitable as their female counterparts did as nuns last week. The orchestra are, as ever, first rate and the cast, especially Roderick Williams in the lead role, sing gloriously. The stand out passage is that where Vere tells Budd of his fate; paradoxically, given that this is an opera, without any words being sung. The set is also striking, and actually conveys the atmosphere of a 74 gun ship of the line in the last decade of the eighteenth century. There are impressive bangs and flashes when the cannon are fired as the Indomitable seeks to close with the French ship it is chasing.

The problem is the story. Now, obviously if we are to start rejecting operas because of their plots then we won't have many (any?) left. But this is, I would suggest, both positively unpleasant and also ridiculous. For a view of the unpleasantness I can do no better than point you to an article written by James Fenton for the Guardian some years ago and from which the title quote comes. What is nonsensical is the significance that is attached to Budd's speech impediment. Now we've all known stammerers, we've all seen 'The King's Speech', we're all sympathetic to their plight. But I bet not one of us thinks that their frustration is a good excuse for killing someone, or that to do so is somehow consistent with being the epitome of goodness. This element was in the original novella by Melville; given how much else the writers changed they would have done well to junk that bit as well. (Another interesting take on the differences between book and opera can be found here.)

The libretto was, of course, co-written by E. M. Forster. The Nobel Prize for Literature is much in our minds at the moment, especially in the context of whether words set to music should count as literature. Forster was nominated for the Nobel thirteen times, but never won it. Interestingly the only other opera written based on the story of Billy Budd, by Ghedini and apparently never performed any more, had a libretto by Salvatore Quasimodo, the Italian Hermeticist poet who did, controversially, win the Nobel prize in 1959. When discussing Quasimodo, James Gardner wrote "There are two kinds of Nobel prize-winners in literature—those who honour that institution, and those who are honoured by it". I'm still not sure where Dylan fits in.

Ognuno sta solo cuor della terra
traffito da un raggio di sole:
ed è subito sera

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Oh my that little country boy could play

I probably won't be the only person posting this today as Chuck Berry turns 90.

You don't see many moustaches like that. Perhaps in the current political climate they'll make a comeback.

Monday, 17 October 2016

A 'True Wargamer' speaks

I have been outed on TMP, by Belgian Ray no less, as a true wargamer. It is needless to say a case of mistaken identity, or possibly he is on drugs. In any event he clearly doesn't read this blog. However, any praise is better than no praise and, duly inspired, I shall post today about wargaming related activities. Nothing I write shall mark me out as a true wargamer unless that denotes someone who doesn't particularly know what he's doing; which, on reflection, it just might.

I have returned with some enthusiasm to the Great War project. The figures are relatively easy to paint and I have now completed all the British that I need for the introductory scenario. Except one. This figure - a rifle grenadier - has not only not been painted, it hasn't been purchased; I'm not terribly sure why. Orders will shortly be placed. I mentioned in a previous post that at Derby I had bought an MG08 when I actually needed an MG08/15, but that I was going to paint it straight away for the hell of it. It turns out that it is indeed an MG08 that I need so, more by luck than judgement, that's another box that I can tick. That in turn means that I unexpectedly have enough Germans for the scenario as well, although I might paint up a couple more specific figures to differentiate those trained as bombers and runners.

A dreadful photograph

So what does that leave? I have made up a couple of Shock markers and am happy with those, but need to make another half a dozen. I have the bases, but need some casualty figures which will be included in the orders referred to above. More difficult is the means of identifying big men and sections. In the first instance will probably use the tokens that I use for To the Strongest! and damn the aesthetics, but need to work out the details. And then there is the terrain. I don't yet feel strong enough for sawing up hardboard or even cutting it up with a Stanley knife. I will however finish packing away the last game played in the annexe - a Napoleonic C&C game you will recall - which I started doing, but abandoned due to my illness; and then I shall set up the scenario and try to work out what I might need to buy/make.