Sunday, 30 June 2013

G-L-O-R-I-I-I-I-I-A!!

There is a children's funfair outside my apartment as part of the Leeds Waterfront Festival and when they opened at 11 o'clock this morning the CD that they played was the Best of Van Morrison. The children of Leeds must have very well developed musical taste if that is what attracts them to roundabouts and bouncy castles.
Playin' a new game,
Laughing and a running hey, hey
Skipping and a jumping
And what about the Stones at Glastonbury? Rather good I thought; Midnight Rambler being a particular tour de force. But, 2000 Light Years From Home? Why?

This afternoon/evening saw a record turnout for boardgames at the White Swan. I played Love Letter, Ice Flow, Vineta and Guillotine thereby effecting a nice balance between card games and boardgames proper. Others played an awful lot of Dominion (a nice mechanism in search of a game) and K2 which I rather liked the look of and would like to give a try.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Nice legs, shame about the...

So, not only not many wargames posts, but not actually any posts at all for a while. Real life has intervened, but not necessarily in a positive way. Does it ever?

I have been sketching out a Typology of Wargaming loosely based on Max Weber's Typology of Law. I thought you'd like to know that. Anyway rest assured that despite the fact that it serves no purpose and has no intrinsic interest I shall not be sharing it with you. Yet.

The long overdue return of the man with a beard
Has anyone ever seen Max Weber and Roger Lloyd Pack in the same room? I thought not.

Today has been the first day of the Leeds Waterfront Festival. The weather could have been slightly kinder, but it didn't rain. The dragonboat racing was won by a team all of whom were dressed as Wally (NB that would be Waldo for the Yanks) so perhaps there is a god. Sadly I didn't take their photo, having got bored by that time.




Wednesday, 26 June 2013

What happened to the horses?

I attended a lecture given yesterday by the the distinguished economist Professor James Galbraith entitled "Inequality, Instability and the end of Normal". Professor Galbraith is a significant figure in his own right (by coincidence he was yesterday named as a 2014 recipient of the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought), but it is obligatory at this point to mention his father, the even more distinguished economist John Kenneth Galbraith, advisor to President Kennedy amongst many other things.
James Galbraith
I won't cover the lecture in any detail; it will shortly be available here in any event. I will simply report that Galbraith was an eloquent, engaging, amusing and above all human speaker. It was extremely refreshing to find someone prepared to step back, put aside ideology and theory and ask the obvious question "How can we help those who are suffering?".

Monday, 24 June 2013

Pot5pouri

More self-indulgence (the rhetorical pedant enquires "As opposed to?")
  • Thanks to all those who pointed out that it should have been "I'm his Rhondda". Whilst this may be more accurate, it does rather spoil a private joke that none of you would have understood anyway.
  • In an offline, face-to-face conversation I was asked to define a farce? Well, in Dry Rot one character drops his trousers while standing in front of a policewoman. That's a good enough definition for me.
  • No re-enactors this weekend, but the fire brigade have been here practising rescuing people from the apartment blocks. That's good. However, they're only doing it on the first floor (NB for US and continental European readers, this is not the one at ground level) whereas I live on the sixth. This is not quite as good.
  • And a belated farewell to a stalwart of the Shearbridge jukebox

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A few fillers

It was the Leeds Meeples today and I played a few games, pretty much all of which I would class as fillers. First up, after the warm up Apples to Apples, which I won, was a game of GUBS, which I also won. It was the first time through for everyone, but - for once - I think we got the rules right straight from the beginning. I won because basically I had drew the best cards, but I always think that the trick with card games is to recognise when that has happened and to capitalise on it.

Then came a game of Quoridor, which I also won; don't worry as that was the end of my success. I thought that was a neat little abstract game and may buy a copy if I see it. This was followed by Tsouro which I always enjoy and would have done so a bit more had I been able to last more than about five minutes.

I haven't played many co-operative games and following a run through Forbidden Island I'm not that bothered about playing too many more. It's hard to see how the players could realistically lose unless one started woth the water already at level 5 or something.

The rest were variations on well known card games. Panic Lab is a sort of Snap, but with the objective being to find a card that matches the roll of four dice, with the complication that the card may not actually be the one that the dice indicate. It was good fun, albeit just as complicated as the description that I just gave. We had a couple of games of this and one rule that I would suggest - if it's not already in the rule book - is that one can only point to one card and not move one's choice. This was followed by Munchkin Cthulhu. This was my second game of Munchkin and benefited from the rules being played more or less correctly from the start. In this case the shuffling hadn't been that efficiently done and a surfiet of really strong monsters at the front rather skewed the game. In any event I'm afraid that Munchkin isn't really doing it for me. The last game up was Ligretto, which is a sort of simultaneous multi-player solitaire and rather good fun.

So, another very pleasant afternoon out. Next time I would like to play a longer, heavier game though.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

I'm his Rhonda

And so to the theatre. An am-dram performance of the farce Dry Rot saw me at the Carriageworks last night. The hobbyists proved beyond doubt that comic timing is not as easy as it looks, but also that good writing can shine through however big a mangling it gets (according to the National Theatre this is in the top 100 plays; I'm not entirely sure about that, but it's OK).

However, I laughed quite a lot, as did the rest of the audience, so the cast can overall count it as a success. Best by far was Alan Buttery, playing French jockey Albert Polignac, despite the handicap of a part entirely in that language. Of the others, the racing fraternity outshone the toffs although a special mention should be made of the maid Tori Morgan.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Pot4pouri

 As is often the case, this has more to do with my need to post than with me actually having anything to say.
  •  Having said all that, surely you will be interested to learn that I have seen a mime artist in full white face make-up buying a tin of Dulux gloss paint in Wilkinsons. Won't you? There isn't anything further to the story, but I just love a touch of the surreal to brighten up the day. Remind me to tell you sometime about the Reverend Ian Paisley and the giraffe.
  • Some people have taken exception to me calling the latest Star Trek film tosh. So, who can tell me which part of the following makes any sense whatsoever: 'The English daughter of an American admiral has full access to all his top secret projects except one; she decides that the appropriate action to take in respect of there being an exception to her security access is to bluff her way on to a starship and then take her clothes off.' I rest my case.
  • I have acquired a hat with magical properties.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

They call me the Wanderer

Yeah, the Wanderer
I roam around, around, around
Dion Dimucci is chief of the gods that live in Valhalla
And so to the opera. Siegfried is the latest of Opera North's austerity ring cycle and I saw it last night at Leeds Town Hall. And that's not all I saw. Two rows in front of me was a chap in Bermuda shorts (come on, this is Yorkshire in June; what else would one wear to the opera?) proudly displaying a bum crack that a whole site full of builders would have been proud of. Didn't he realise it was being broadcast live on Radio 3?
Sadly the budget wouldn't run to the full fat version
Anyway, what of the opera it self. Smut. Yes, smut. Siegfried, upon reaching adulthood, comes into the possession of a powerful, er, sword, which, when he uses it for the first time, becomes covered in a hot liquid, which in turn drives him on to usurp the reigning alpha-male by breaking his, er, staff and then to deflower a handy virgin who happens to be lying about asleep. Add to that the fact that Siegfried is the son of incestuous twins, that the previous cock of the dunghill is his grandfather and that the virgin is his aunt and I think that we have clear reasons to refer Wagner to social services. I suppose we can be grateful for the small mercy that Brünnhilde's sleeping horse was left unmolested.

Overall verdict: it goes on a bit


The band were good though.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

If it be not now

And so to the theatre. To the City Varieties to be precise for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. It's one of those shows about which everyone, including me, says "I've heard that's funny". As indeed it is.


My own favourite was the hip-hop Othello, but the backwards Hamlet ran it close. It was pretty much all good; another special mention must go to the history plays as an American Football game with the crown being passed from one player to another with a foul called against King Lear because of a fictional character on the pitch. Ironically - fitting that there was irony given that the man invented it, or at least stole it from the Greeks - the least funny part was the quick run through of the comedies. The joke was supposedly that they are all the same: cross-dressing, twins, shipwrecks and so on. True enough, but we all knew that anyway.

 

They spent the entire second half on Hamlet, performing it four times in all. Whereas Tom Stoppard made a play out of thrusting minor characters to the fore, this bunch do away with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern completely (do you see what I did there?) and reduce the play within a play to a puppet show. But I think both recognise the essential duality of Hamlet; one the one hand possibly the greatest play ever written in English and on the other hand an inherently absurd melodrama. As Stoppard himself said "The bad end unhappily; the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.".


Anyway, I laughed and that's enough for me.




Tuesday, 18 June 2013

La tristesse durera

And so to the theatre. Kneehigh are at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with a revival of their acclaimed Tristan & Yseult, and it was excellent.

Kneehigh are famous for their physicality (their production of Brief Encounter managed to include a trampoline - something that David Lean didn't think of), and that was much in evidence, but at least as important was the astute use of music - both live and recorded. Obviously there was Wagner, but also a whole, beautifully poignant Nick Cave song and a singalong version of No Woman No Cry. The latter was undoubtedly helped by the presence of lots of sixth formers in block bookings at the back, but even the older members of the audience both entered into the spirit and knew all the words. Not many UKIP voters in the house last night presumably.


The other benefit of a theatre full of schoolkids is that there was no queue for the bar. Times have changed. Anyway, I must mention the design theme which was either inspired by the trainspotters of your worst nightmares or by the sperm scene from 'Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask', or possibly both.

So, very good, very sad and very well worth seeing.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Munchkin

It was boardgames at the White Swan yesterday. Games played were Love Letter, Munchkin and Ice Flow.
It was my first time playing Munchkin and I was left in two minds. Two things didn't help; firstly, we spent the first half hour or so playing the rules slightly wrong - an occupational hazard when playing new games - and secondly, the reluctance of the group - essentially strangers - to be nasty to each other. I think this is well worth a revisit.

Ice Flow always seems to go down well. It is definitely deeper than it looks at first and people are always searching for the perfect move that will take them across the Bering Straight in one mighty leap. There is one flaw in the game theme though; at the risk of appearing pedantic (moi?) can I point out that there aren't actually any polar bears in the area between Siberia and Alaska.

Anyway, how about a random picture?


I shall never eat another sausage.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pot3pouri

I've never seen this film.
Which is why I have used a picture of the wrong robot. Anyway, a few small things to report:
  • I saw the latest Star Trek film; none of it made any sense whatsoever. The villain was well done, both as a character and the acting by Benedict Cumberbatch, but that was about it. Complete tosh. The upcoming films in the trailers didn't look much better. I might go and see The Lone Ranger where they seem to have avoided the temptation to develop it as a sort of Pirates of the Caribbean or Raiders of the Lost Ark style action romp. Instead it seems to be a rather sensitive contemplation on the love that dares not speak its name. As the poet Shelley put it: 
                               "Maybe masked man he a poofter
                                 Try it on with surly Tonto
                                 Let me say to mister lawman
                                 Tonto doesn't mind."

  • I saw a magic show. I honestly thought that it was going to be a serious discussion on magic versus science, but it turned out to be a bloke doing card tricks. Still, who doesn't like a conjuror? And I'm no exception.
  • I saw Seth Lakeman, who I have seen described amongst other things as the Michael Bublé of fiddle-playing. I've no idea what that means, but I suspect it's not complimentary. I thoroughly enjoyed it except for the fact that the show on in the Grand's main house was The Rocky Horror Show. There is possibly nothing grimmer than men wearing stockings and suspenders.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Pot2pouri

On Wednesday last week James and Peter were kind enough to praise my blog, Peter even going so far as to describe it as 'erudite'. Naturally since then I have had complete writer's block. However, I have begun to experience a gradual rising of my mojo so here we go again. But first, James has complained that I only showed a photo of Peter in my game report. To redress the balance here is one of James ready to take the initiative.
Other things of note:
  • I went to see 'Behind the Candelabra' which has mysteriously only been released in cinemas outside of the US. Now I'm not saying that this because we Europeans are more sophisticated than the Yanks, but, er, well yes I am actually. I suspect that Americans are not yet ready to face the awful truth that Liberace was not only (plot spoiler) gay, but also (another plot spoiler) wore a wig. Anyway, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are both excellent, but their thunder is stolen by Rob Lowe as a truly scary (and scary looking) plastic surgeon. For Leeds residents only, the bald version of Liberace looks just like the chap who sells the Big Issue outside HMV.
  • Presumably US citizens have got other things on their minds at the moment, having woken up to discover they are living in a police state.
    "I told you so."
  • I went to see a band in the pub who weren't the usual dad-rockers. This bunch were quite young and, whilst a covers band, took it all very seriously; and any band that finishes with Paranoid and Ace of Spades is OK with me. They did a fair enough version of Gimme Shelter which reminded me that it is almost exactly 40 years since I saw the Stones open with that at the Empire Pool, Wembley. Bugger me I'm old.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Decisive results are good

I'm sure that we've all played games that either drift along boringly until everyone gives up or finish according the rules, but no-one really knows who had the better of it. That's why I was delighted, no - make that ecstatic, that the crusades game that we were playing finished in such a clear cut and definitive manner. Obviously it would have put the icing on the cake had I won in such a fashion instead of, well, not winning as such.

An old school wargame reaches the end of bound one
Now I have been playing Piquet style wargames for more than a decade now and I don't think that I have ever seen a side lose by all their commands failing Army Morale simultaneously with all their original commanders being dead. That's what happened to the Turks last night, and considering that the three commanders in question were the emir and his two sons it doesn't bode well for the dynasty. The only good news for the defenders of the holy places was that the Christian rearguard commander, who was useless to start with and in pretty much every respect had a stinker, will without doubt be the one to get all the glory when the minstrels' songs are sung. Hopefully for the Seljuks he'll be promoted.
"And then didst thou what, Sir Robin?"
I've said it before, but I shall say it again because, after all, I am a blogger with a page to fill; the real beauty of Piquet and its derivatives is that we could play this game a thousand times and not get the same result. That's not just because I would enter my commands in more sensible places next time (although I would), but because it's all on the turn of the cards and the roll of the dice. Peter had a wild card in his deck, which he always used as a March, and I had a Like Hail, which should have been really useful given my preponderance of horse archers. However, my dice rolling on shooting was dreadful, but only really on shooting. By contrast, whenever rolling against Peter's attempts to rally or bring on new leaders (his - except the useless Sir Robin - were a bit prone to dying as well) I rolled consistently high. It's a funny old game.

The next bit is not easy to write. I have a couple of complaints about the rules. Shock Horror! You dare criticise rules written by the legendary James Roach and his superhero sidekick Peter Jackson? Indeed so. However before I get on to that, the dynamic duo have complained about the photo of them that I used last week, which showed them wearing suits. So here is a picture that they have approved for use in future.
Sir Robin. Unfortunately Baron Batman rolled a 1.

Anyway, the rules that I don't like relate to horse archers, admittedly a rather esoteric issue, but nevertheless one that I feel strongly(ish) about. Should I ever actually get a wargames room (although somewhere to live would be a start) the opening game will be a replay of the siege of Bluddy Nora, a Hussite wars game that I staged before, and it will feature horse archers.

Firstly, I think the evade rules don't work. Evade, which is compulsory for units in whirling mass, is treated as analogous to rout in terms of where one can move, although not strangely in terms of distance. I would treat it as analogous to opportunity fire, in other words as a move taking place in the opponent's initiative; similar again to the opportunity charge in standard Piquet. And just like opportunity fire I would have it take place first, when the enemy unit first declares that it will move into contact with you rather than commencing on contact. I would allow the evading unit to move its full move (as adjusted for being vexed etc) and and anywhere except in the path taken by the full move of the enemy unit, even though that enemy unit - which would only commence its move after the evading unit had finished - would not be required to move its full move. In fact they would not even be required to move at all, although they would be deemed to have moved one segment by making the horse archers evade. Any unit evading would be marked and not be allowed to move on their next move card. It would however be able to evade again in this or any other enemy initiative without further penalty.  All references to moving above are completed on a segment by segment basis as usual. In addition a unit that evades off the table should be allowed to attempt to return using the rules for units that pursue off the table that are in at least one of these family of Fob inspired rules.

Secondly, I don't think the rules about compulsory charges for tribal units work although it's a bit hard to say that for sure because we didn't have any examples occur. They used to happen on firing, but that was changed because the further away one was when one fired the more likely one was to charge which didn't make a great deal of sense. The problem with having an impetuous charge happen on a roll of one on a move card seems to me to be that it is always therefore associated with the rest of the command not going anywhere and I don't see why one would want that. My proposal is that the test for uncontrolled charges is made on a Major Morale card should the usual conditions apply. After morale checks, routers and returning officers have been done, any units subject to this and close enough would roll the command dice (possibly adjusted for attached commander, command radius and whatever else seems appropriate) and on a natural one would charge home. I think that this would also work for arrogant chivalric units subject to impetuous charge - think Agincourt or that battle in the Balkans whose name I can't remember where they all died due to charging without support.

Controversial or what?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Mishigas

There have been one or two questions about yesterday's second post. Well, in the words of George Carlin "I don't have to tell you that it goes without saying that there are some things better left unsaid. That speaks for itself, The less said the better.".
So, from an overtly atheist comedian to two Jewish comedians, Sol Bernstein and Adam Bloom. I saw these last night in a show that formed part of JFest International, which is apparently the exciting new name for the Jewish Performing Arts Showcase. Leeds of course has a large, well-established Jewish community (it's where Marks and Spencer started for example), but as I'm not one of them I struggled with the Yiddish expressions and cultural allusions that make up a large part of Berstein's act. I didn't struggle at all with the filth that makes up the rest of it and laughed a lot. Steve Jameson - whose alter ego the 84 year old Bernstein is - had apparently been told to tone it down for the largely middle aged and middle class folks who had driven in from Adel in their Jaguars; and if that was the redacted version I must seek out the full blown thing immediately.
Bloom was funnier on the night, with a more mainstream act with less focus on the religious makeup of the audience, at least until he found out that the tickets were only £10. He does look like Harpo Marx without the hair though. It was interesting that both acts were able to get laughs from the fact that there were clearly some subjects which the audience wasn't comfortable with jokes being made about, in particular Islam.

Let's finish with another quote from Carlin: "I think everyone should treat one another in a Christian manner. I will not, however, be responsible for the consequences."

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Apropos of nothing

A rare second blog posting of the day. I just wanted to give you a link to the amusing Max Farquar blog http://bit.ly/10NLvRx While I am at it, here is a photomontage that he posted well over a year ago.
Some things just seem to get funnier over time; a bit like manure rotting away in the garden.

Extra Ludi in Veritas

There was a Leeds Meeples meet in Veritas last night so I had a second successive night of boardgaming. There's another one at the Travelling Man tonight, but I don't think even I'm keen enough for three nights in a row; especially as I'm due to finish the crusades game on Wednesday night.
Is there an 'o' or a 'u' in 'bollocks'?
Games last night were Citadels, Dominion Intrigue with the Seaside expansion (twice) and Love Letter. I didn't win any, thereby proving what I've always said: boardgames are just luck. Actually, these were all cardgames as were the the ones played the night before (Condottiere has a board, but the action lies in the cards); note to self - play a bloody boardgame next time.

I have played a few deck-building games recently and there is something about the mechanic that I like. The problem is that I find it impossible to judge during a game how everyone might or might not be doing. The only sensible approach therefore is to choose a strategy and stick to it. In the second game of Dominion last night I went for a Barons and Gold strategy. Everyone playing - including me - assumed that I was winning, but I, er, didn't.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Rise of the Zombies

It was games afternoon at the White Swan and amongst other games we had a brief run-through of a turn of Rise of the Zombies to see if we could work the rules out. We decided we couldn't, but having re-read them I actually think that we did. The complexity of the game seems to lie in the interaction of card play rather than the core rules. Perhaps a full game next time.
Jimmy Savile
Anyway, games that were played fully: Zombie Fluxx, Citadels, Condottiere and Love Letter. Modesty prevents me from pointing out that I won them all except Condottiere, that game being of course entirely down to luck rather than skill. Oh yes.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Potpouri

This post has more to do with latent OCD than anything else but here goes anyway:
  • Excellent news that Vauban's Wars is going to be played at Historicon. I shall definitely make this a priority as soon as I have somewhere within which to prioritise anything.
  • I watched Star Trek, the 2009 version, on DVD as a precursor to a cinema trip to see the sequel next week. I'd never seen it before; what a load of tosh. I thought the original engineer's Scottish accent was bad enough, but Simon Pegg's is worse. He makes Mike Myer's Shrek sound like Kenny Dalglish.
  • Oddly - or maybe not - there were some similarities between the plots of Star Trek and the Sherlock Holmes play that I saw the other night. 
  • No re-enactors at the Armouries this weekend, but there does seem to be a convention of crusties (think Swampy) congregating outside. I'm not entirely clear why. Then there's the hen party that has taken over one of the apartments opposite mine and who spent all yesterday afternoon on the balcony in their finery (short skirts, sashes etc) shouting down at passing blokes that took their fancy to get their kecks off. Sadly, no many how many times I walked to Tesco, my strides stayed on.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

She moved the dishes first

And so to the theatre. Visceral is a word that is often used metaphorically in reviews of all sorts of things, but applies literally to the play currently on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Among the attractions of the superb design and staging is an on stage post mortem during which a woman has her liver removed and shown to the audience. The same dead woman makes a gruesome, but gutsy, reappearance during a rather fine druggy dream that Sherlock Holmes (for it is he) experiences. If you are squeamish then don't sit on the left side of the auditorium.
Anyway, the fact that I am referring to the strengths of the set probably gives a clue to the fact that there are problems with some of the other apsects. The acting is OK; it's a bit shouty at times, but that's probably the director's fault. The real issue is with the play itself. Despite being a great fan of the Conan Doyle canon, I have no problem with re-imaginings, pastiche, or any other new mysteries for the great detective to solve. However, in my opinion, the best of these are those that take on a straightforward middle-of-the-road story. You know the sort of thing: local squire is victim of a mysterious crime that turns out to be related to nefarious doings somewhere in the Empire a generation ago. It's not easy to write a Sherlock Holmes story - even Conan Doyle wrote some stinkers (The Man with the Twisted Lip anyone?) - and that's why the closer to the base model the better.
The world's greatest detective

But authors often just can't resist shovelling in as many references as possible from existing stories. Anthony Horowitz did just that with House of Silk, and undermined the strength of his spot-on version of the Watsonian authorial voice. Mark Catley does the same here, throwing everything into the mix: Irene Adler, Mycroft, unrequited homosexual passion, steampunk and of course the drugs and it's all too much. Less would have been more. The plot isn't so brilliant. Not only is it obvious where it's going, but the solution relies on a coup de theatre rather than rationcination. There are some funny moments and the author manages to include the phrase "No shit, Sherlock." to the delight of the audience.