Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The latent or the lurking

                                               You are now
                                                In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
                                               At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
                                               Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more.
                                               Yet in its depth what treasures!

                                                - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Since my last post yesterday I have been to London and back, staying last night very close indeed to where I was born. I am with the seventh Lord Balfour of Burleigh rather than with Dr Johnson with regard to this one.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

It's all meat from the same bone

Another one. N'oubliez jamais.

That is of course the late Bobby Keys playing saxophone.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

                                   - W.H. Auden

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Earthly novelty is too soon dulled

                                           According to Brueghel
                                           when Icarus fell
                                           it was spring

                                           a farmer was ploughing
                                           his field
                                           the whole pageantry

                                           of the year was
                                           awake tingling

                                           the edge of the sea
                                           with itself

                                           sweating in the sun
                                           that melted
                                           the wings’ wax

                                           off the coast
                                           there was

                                           a splash quite unnoticed
                                           this was
                                           Icarus drowning
                                                     - William Carlos Williams 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

And through thick woods one finds a stream astray

Call it a good marriage -
For no one ever questioned
Her warmth, his masculinity,
Their interlocking views;
Except one stray graphologist
Who frowned in speculation
At her h's and her s's,
His p's and w's.

Though few would still subscribe
To the monogamic axiom
That strife below the hip-bones
Need not estrange the heart,
Call it a good marriage:
More drew those two together,
Despite a lack of children,
Than pulled them apart.

Call it a good marriage:
They never fought in public,
They acted circumspectly
And faced the world with pride;
Thus the hazards of their love-bed
Were none of our damned business -
Till as jurymen we sat on
Two deaths by suicide.

          - Robert Graves

Friday, 19 December 2014

More Mostly Marignano

It's been a grim, grim day so, cathartically, let me write about some things that don't matter at all.

The second evening of Marignano fell rather flat with an easy French victory. On reflection it had all been decided during the first night's play with the Swiss missing a move card, not being grizzled (although one shouldn't feel too sorry for them as they were still fierce, stubborn, murderous and swift) and suffering heavily from the artillery. It was sufficiently flat for James not to write it up, but the solo run through of the revised scenario that he is reporting on in his blog looks an improvement.

Other wargaming news is a bit light for various reasons. I have completed a third Roman villa which in line with my usual standards is crap but usable. I bought a pdf download from the Wargame Vault for $2.90. It's supposedly 1/72 scale, but I printed it out a half size and that gives a much more suitable footprint, especially as I shall be aiming to have perhaps five on the table. They do other villa styles, but being careful with money I shall probably just build another couple of the same ones.

Boardgaming included Abluxxen, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Mush!Mush!, and Skull & Roses. Abluxxen, or Linko as it also seems to be known, was rather good and I was rather bad at it, thereby placing it in a large set of such games. Mush!Mush!, or Snow Tails 2 as it also seems to be known, hadn't been on the table for quite a while, but seemed to go down well. One of the reasons I took it along was because I thought it would appeal to the younger demographic that sometimes attends and I was right. I also won the race, coming from behind on the final straight with judicious use of my bonus dice.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Une Amende Honorable

I have used this nominally wargaming blog recently to draw attention to the shortcomings of the US judicial system when dealing with institutional violence against black people. In light of the verdict in the Jimmy Mubenga trial, and even more so in view of this morning's revelations about evidence that the jury were not permitted to hear due to a ruling of the judge, I have to hold my hands up and acknowledge that this has been a case of the pot calling the kettle - well you know. The UK is, in this respect, clearly every bit as bad as the US.

It's true that life goes on regardless - I was wargaming last night myself - but events such as those in Australia and Pakistan (and all over the world if we're honest with ourselves) cast a long shadow. I know that I'm seven days early for this, but my own pie-in-the-sky Christmas wish is peace for all.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality." - Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A post of no interest to anyone else - no change there then

Brentford 3 Blackburn Rovers 1 - you have no idea how much that scoreline makes me smile. 

Gary Blissett - he wasn't playing yesterday

Friday, 12 December 2014

These bats are bred for one purpose...

I have seen The Hobbit: Battle of The Five Armies, a title that somewhat misleads as the fifth army hasn't even arrived before it's all over for them courtesy of some oversized animals. Such large beasts ('bred for one purpose') appear a lot in this film. Should you ever have harboured the ambition to see Billy Connolly riding a pig then your dreams have come true. My hearing isn't the best and even with my hearing aid turned to the appropriate setting he appeared to be playing a sweary, dwarf lord called 'Dave'; one part of that description isn't particularly surprising. In any event, cue Black Sabbath:

The film is, as you would expect, complete tosh, but is very entertaining. The dragon in full destructive action is most impressive. However, I can't help feeling that the whole series of films is simply the various scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy reassembled in a different order with different characters. Good fun though. One word of advice: revisit the previous two episodes prior to going; no recap is provided and I was completely lost until I remembered that it doesn't actually matter that much.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mostly Marignano

James has explained the Marignano game on his blog (which I am assuming you read - and if you don't then certainly should) and last night it got under way. Peter took the thankless task of attacking as the Swiss against the dug-in French troops of James and me. It was a playtest of the scenario and one must reserve judgement until we are finished, probably in early January. However at this early stage I would suggest that the Swiss chance depends on making good use of their march cards and rallying back UI at a steady pace. Turn one ended on a double with one Swiss march card unturned; that might prove costly. One question for the playtest is how many captains the Swiss need for their pike blocks. Whatever is decided the exisitng commanders on either side have not performed well so far. The commander of the attacking forlorn hope declined to cross the earthworks with his valiant halberdiers - subsequently destroyed by counter-attacking French pikemen -  and the commander of the French light cavalry screen left his men abruptly to pay a visit to the king, although a frosty reception saw him sent straight back to the front line. We resume next week for turn three.

The right sort of Halberdier commander

I haven't got anywhere with my refight of Tewkesbury. I have painted up eight bases of Levy Bow, two of Levy and one of Retinue Bow (all bases are 40mm square and have four figures on them) only to find that I am still short of Levy Bow. Not only that, but I have completely denuded the enormous pile of unpainted plastic of all suitable figures. I shall paint up some more Retinue Bow and they will have to be demoted for this battle. Also on the painting table are some Roman auxiliary cavalry, plus yet more civilians to provide a bit of colour.

Me at my painting table

 And to finish, some Sam Cooke.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

One way or another

There's only been one topic of conversation in Otley for the last few days: the one-way system. (Actually, and before any pedantic interjections, one of the one-way systems; I wouldn't like to give the impression that this is such a small place that it can't boast of two of the things) Anyway, the authorities decided to reverse the direction overnight on Thursday resulting in anarchy with a capital A ("Isn't anarchy with a capital A simply Anarchy" asks the Rhetorical Pedant, who can be kept out no longer. "No." is the reply.) There were some hopes that the mass civil disobedience as the motoring public insisted on driving the wrong way along the roads involved, was a symbol of their determination to not be cowed by The Man, but sadly it was almost certainly just a reflection of the selfishness of everyone when they get behind the wheel and the fact that they can't be bothered to read road signs or - as I witnessed with my own eyes - to obey the raised hand of a police officer. Good job we're not in the US.

In Otley obeying this is optional

Anyway, I braved the chaos with a capital C ("You've done that one!") to head off for some boardgame action. All of which reminds me that I didn't report on last week's games. So, briefly:
  • Sheriff of Nottingham - a rather good bluffing game at which I sucked
  • Sail to India  - which I think was the first time I'd played where we managed to get the rules right - a very good game
  • Boom: Runaway  - impossible to describe or teach, but a quick and clever game
  • Family Business  - always brings out the worst in people
  • Quantum - which I like; a clever design
  • Ticket to Ride: Europe - I'd never played this version before, but did as badly as usual
  • Among the Stars - a so-so game which I won by concentrating on the end scoring phase

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I look pretty young, but I'm just backdated

I have been to see The Who, which would be another addition to the list of bands that I haven't seen for forty years as I was at one of their iconic Charlton gigs (1), except for the fact that I also saw them about twenty years ago touring Quadrophenia with P.J. Proby and Billy Idol. That last time they were supported by The Stereophonics and they went down the power trio route once again last night, the first set being by a band with possibly the worst name of all time - and I used to play in an outfit called 'Or Is It?' so I know whereof I speak. The Standard Lamps - no, really - were however rather good. I thought I detected elements of Grand Funk Railroad; although it's possible that my pre-gig curry had just been too spicy. What is undeniable is that they did a fine rendition of the Dylan song 'I Shall Be Released'. Whilst the song appeared on 'Music from Big Pink', 'The Basement Tapes', 'Before the Flood' and 'The Last Waltz' - fine versions all - I always associate it with the Tom Robinson Band. Their version was in the support of the claims to innocence of George Ince, famously fitted up by the police for The Barn Restaurant murder. Ince (2), you may remember had the rather unfortunate alibi - which he was understandably reluctant to use in court - that he had been in bed with Charlie Kray's wife at the time.

Anyway, back to The Who and the excellent concert. It was, as you would expect, mainly a run through their greatest hits - excluding My Generation oddly - and none the worse for that. Townshend's guitar playing has lasted the course better than Daltry's singing as they have aged, and the singer looked unhappy at certain points. I'm always intrigued to see what artists from my youth look like today. Daltry has morphed into Stephanie Cole while his colleague looks like nothing so much as John 'Geophysics' Gater of Time Team fame.These two surviving members occupied front of stage, but they were - and I mean this literally - joined in performing a couple of the songs by Keith Moon and John Entwistle - the latter appearing to deliver a lengthy bass solo during 5:15 - notwithstanding the undeniable fact that the other two are both dead. As Dr Johnson said under remarkably similar circumstances 'One is surprised to see it done at all, but frankly bass solos are always a pile of crap'. Pinnacle of the evening was 'Won't Get Fooled Again', but with a back catalogue like that every song is a highlight.

(1) I can't for the life of me remember which one. There are very good reasons - e.g. physical location - why I couldn't have been at either the 1974 or the 1976 concerts, but I definitely attended one of them. My 1970s have now started to mimic the 1960s in that only the fact that I can't remember anything proves that I was there.

(2) Not to be confused with George Davis; the only real similarity being that while both were not guilty neither were innocent.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Sound drums and trumpets!

I have recently been painting a few Romans (and making a really bad model villa and a not much better marching fort) to provide some more variety to the Romans in Britain game. However, I have been assuming that we won't be playing it again for a while and have been wondering what to set up next in the wargaming annexe. A side conversation during last week's Seven Years War bash in the legendary wargames room of James 'Olicanalad' Roach has led to some action.

As you may have seen on his website, James is designing another campaign. Among the mechanisms that he described was a random countdown to define the campaign length, reminding me that various Peter Pig rules use something similar. That led me to re-reading Bloody Barons and that has led to the Wars of the Roses figures hitting the table, at least in the sense of being set-up. Real life has so far prevented any actual dice rolling.

I have gone for Tewkesbury - using the scenario in the book - for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it's relatively well balanced compared to most WotR battles. I've had to bodge the basing of what the rules refer to as Generals and Captains because it doesn't match mine, and to work around a shortage of levy bowmen; the rules are for 15mm and therefore tend to require a lot of figures. Sufficient reinforcements have left the mound of unpainted plastic and joined the workbench and will quite possibly be finished before I get round to playing anyway.

Bloody Barons involves motivation dice rolls a bit reminiscent of Blitzkrieg Commander plus some pretty traditional rolling for hits followed by saving throws. A word of warning though, the rules are really badly written, not so much in the sense of the mechanics being poor, but more in the sense of trying to work out what the hell they are in the first place. If anyone has worked out what the 'Extra arrows' markers are for then please let me know.