Monday, 16 October 2017

Two Minds

Your mind and mine are such great lovers they
Have freed themselves from cautious human clay,
And on wild clouds of thought, naked together
They ride above us in extreme delight;
We see them, we look up with a lone envy
And watch them in their zone of crystal weather
That changes not for winter or the night.

              - Sara Teasdale

Monday, 9 October 2017

Are we there yet?

I suspect that there are many people saying that they won't be going back to the Derby Worlds show in 2018 if it's at the same venue, and I am certainly among them. From my point of view the distance alone would be sufficient reason. If it takes twice as long to get somewhere from the Lower Wharfe Valley as it does from the Lower Lea Valley then it really can't count as a northern show. The last half hour of the journey was on narrower and narrower, but otherwise identical, country roads with no sense of getting any closer to anywhere worth going. The venue was - and if you follow many wargames blogs you are going to get fed up reading this - far too small for the number of traders and games squeezed into it, and became very noisy and very hot; admittedly the last bit was in contrast to the previous venue being far too cold. There also weren't enough toilets. On the plus side the light was a huge improvement, as could be seen if I had bothered to take any photos.

James didn't win best game this year, but then again nor did anyone else, the new organisers having apparently decided the concept wasn't worth the trouble. The game went down very well with the punters though and so I think he can claim a moral victory. We played it through once each day, with the same result both times - a French victory. Given that the original battle was an overwhelming defeat for the French who suffered forty times the casualties of the Spanish, it would seem that the scenario and/or the rules aren't quite doing what they were supposed to (1). It did make for a good game though.

 There was a small amount of shopping: as usual at shows some trees from Last Valley (only another ten years or so of show attendance and I'll have enough to refight Hanau); Blandford's 'Army Uniforms of World War 1' at a very reasonable price from the Bring and Buy; and a copy of EWM's 'Crush the Kaiser' rules. These last are at a level that appeals to me, but do on first reading seem to have a number of areas which are not spelled out in much detail. However, I do seem to have enough figures to try them out, whereas I'm still way off being able to play 'Square Bashing'.

(1) For what it's worth I think that to make the scenario better reflect the battle (and as a corollary the game less fun to play) the French should be downgraded in some way to reflect their march to the town and their unpreparedness.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


"The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing" - Marcus Aurelius

Autumn has arrived  in the Wharfe Valley which must mean it's time for the Derby Worlds. As James has written in his blog a highly untrained scratch team will be putting on an Italian Wars game. In Peter's absence the role of crap dice supremo is still up for grabs, but driving duties have been passed my way. The Stoicmobile has seen better days, but with a full tank and some more air in the tyres it might yet get us there and back, wherever 'there' actually is this year; all I currently know is that it's even further away from Derby than ever. Someone more clued up that me tells me that we're 'just inside the entrance to the right' so feel free to come and chat about the impending launch of my new range of gender neutral wargames clothes.

Speaking of toxic masculinity, I have been in a fight (OK, scuffle) for, I think, only the second time in my life (1). I don't count giving the National Front a bit of a kicking from time to time during the seventies; that comes under the heading of public service. Nor do I include the occasion a fellow student thumped me in the union bar; sadly he's no longer with us and, on reflection, he had a point anyway. In this latest incident the owner of the local launderette upon discovering that he had misplaced my duvet lost the plot completely and tried to physically throw me out of the shop (2). A few brief moments of pushing and shoving was only brought to an end by the arrival of another customer. At that point the madman drew out a very fat wallet and started slapping down twenty pound notes on the counter with great force. Showing immense restraint I only took two and then walked around the corner and bought a replacement for £16; the rest is going into the Derby Worlds new toy fund. The whole thing was very funny.

(1) By coincidence one of those present at the first fight - which took place in 1975 and accounts for the shape of my nose - will be helping out with the game on Saturday.
(2) It is possible that I had first expressed my dissatisfaction with the level of customer service in a fairly trenchant manner.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Repent, Harlequin

And so to the opera. I have been to see the traditional verismo pairing of Pagliacci and Cavallieri Rusticana; a double dose of beautifully sung adultery and murder. It is encouraging to know that should I ever meet a sticky end at the hands of an outraged husband that it will all be accompanied by some top tunes. Musically, Cav is surely the stronger, but for sheer non-stop in-your-face passion and drama I think one has to go with Pag. The Commedia dell'Arte of the original here became the rehearsal of an Opera North production, in a very meta self-referential interpretation that worked very well apart from not making any sense at all. Still, the audience were carried along by the central thrusts of the plot, and there was indeed much thrusting, not to mention writhing. The attractive and voluptuous faithless wife and her, it must be said, rather handsome and dashing lover, were perhaps not as discreet as they thought they were being, are dobbed in to the husband by a jealous male rival and pay the inevitable consequence. Cav on the other hand is completely different. Transposed from post Risorgimento Sicily to Communist Poland, the cheating wife and her lover aren't very discreet, are dobbed in to the husband by a jealous female rival and pay the consequence. Contrast and compare.

It's worth noting that the male rival, Tonio, is a nasty piece of work, whereas the female, Santuzza, is both wronged and, frankly, completely bonkers. I wouldn't like to get too close to either of them, nor indeed to either of the husbands. The lover's mother in Cav was basically Dot Cotton with a somewhat more melodious voice and the evening was a bit like a scrambled Christmas Day afternoon in front of the TV where the picture was back to back Eastenders specials and the soundtrack was the carol service from Kings College. Verismo indeed.

One last point. I am not sure - and can't be arsed to find out - if I have ever made clear this blog's position vis a vis clowns, but for the avoidance of doubt: they are not funny.

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.