Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Real Life Weekend Plus

I took Monday as holiday so I got a three day weekend. I managed to fill the days with a good mixture of wargaming related activities and Real Life.

First off - the wargaming. The good news (for me) was I managed to finish a couple of pieces off. These were my first two XIVth Army 25 pounders. In the end I didn't modify the guns and actually put then on the pivot wheel as well. After all that wheel is sort of what makes the 25 pounder such an iconic gun. It's unique, sitting on that wheel with its snubby little gun barrel. The gunshield is also big enough to enable you to huddle the crew behind it comfortably. Having said that it's a bit of a pig to get onto the 40mm square bases that I use for guns. And as with other artillery you have to bury the figure bases in your basing material then put the gun on top of that and in this case on top of the pivot wheel as well. In fact I got this wrong first time round as my figure positions wouldn't allow for the gun to be inserted as it ended up being too high. Still, finished at last. Alas there's not really room for them in my XIVth Army box so they're looking a bit snug in there as the only room was in the "dead figures" section.

I got quite a lot more work done on the SoA publication as well with the castle walls and tower now drawn up. The test prints assemble nicely. I'm just a bit worried about how long the tidying up and odds and ends will take. Haven't got any good ideas on how the cover should look. Actually don't have a name for it yet, - "Phil & Treb's 2010 SoA Participation Games" is a bit rubbish as a name so any suggestions gratefully received. Especially if it includes a domino related pun and something to do with animals. I suppose "Domino Double Act" might do.

On the Home Front young Miss Trebian left Monday afternoon for Tanzania where she is doing volunteering for nearly six months teaching in a school inland from the coast. A lot of preparation goes into this trips, a lot of which seems to be done at the last minute ("Mum/Dad I can't find my insert noun here. Have you seen it?"). Luckily the time of the flight meant we didn't have to drive to Heathrow in any rush hour times and so that went smoothly and then it was goodbye and she was off pushing her rucksack and other bags on a trolleyf towards check-in. She's promised to write a blog so we can keep up with what she is doing, so hopefully that will off set some of the worry.

I said a few blogs back that I was going to read Edward Vallance's "Radical History of Britain". Well, I managed to finish it over the weekend and as Ashley was interested in what I thought, here's what I think.

Hmm. It's an important and unique book as it takes an "alternative" view of history from Alfred through to the 1930's and there aren't many books that do that all in one place. There's some really good stuff in it but whilst I'd recommend it to anyone as a "should read" actually it isn't brilliant in places. Some of the text is vibrant and exciting - the prologue and epilogue are really good - and some of it isn't. The account of the twists and turns of Chartism are a bit leaden and there's a disproportionate focus on the Pankhursts at the cost of the less militant suffrage movement. Having said that anyone who doesn't bother to vote should be force fed the pages on what people went through to get them representation. One piece that made me laugh out loud was Christabel Pankhurst's annoyance that having obtained a major amount of female liberation in the 1930s (comparatively speaking) young people used it to chose to wear short skirts and get drunk rather than engage in worthy causes.

The final section "The Fight Against Facism" is too short and too weak. The role played British Radicals in supporting the Republic in the Sapnish Civil War is skimmed over as is the dispicable part played by the Daily Mail in supporting facism bothy at home and overseas. However it contains the useful reminder that whoever controls the past controls the future and we should treasure and protect our radical heritage because when the BNP are using the same words and traditions as Billy Bragg to define their political philosophy you know you have something to worry about.

But you should read it to remind you why we fight.

(On a side note some of it was a bit uncomfortable reading. Our family tree researches indicate we've spent a lot of time in the past as a family serving in the lower ranks of various infantry regiments going back to the 1740s. During the Napoleonic Wars more troops were deployed in Britain to suppress disent than fought in the Peninsula. I rather hope none of my ancestors were involved in shooting or bayonetting people campaigning for the vote, constitutional reform or even decent working conditions or affordable bread)

Friday, 21 January 2011

Society of Ancients Incentive Publication 2011

I learned last night that what I'm doing is not a game but a publication. It's a publication, see, 'cos it doesn't come with any dice, - you have to provide them yourself.

The things you learn when you are wargaming with such an erudite bunch.

It doesn't have any dominoes in it either but hopefully that won't be too big a drawback for most subscribers. And if people don't already own four sets of dominoes they can buy them fairly cheaply from Amazon. They'll really want to when they get this pack through the post.

A recap for new readers. Your hero (a shy, unassuming chap who goes by the name of Trebian) volunteered in a moment of weakness to produce the SoA's resubscription incentive game for 2011. He did this off the back of a succesful morning's running of his brilliant 54mm elephant game called "The Elephant in the Room" at Campaign last year when he thought it would be a wizard wheeze to combine this with President Steele's Henry V game to make a domino double header. After a few months he was taken up on his offer because extensive research by the SoA committee revealed that it would be a real winner with the Society's target demographic. Either that or they didn't get another offer.

The problem is that there's quite a bit of difference between designing a game that you are going to run yourself and one you are going to publish. Like most people who write their own rules what I need to know to run the game is contained on one side of A4. I don't need a 32 page booklet with all the "what ifs" in it because I know what they are or alternatively if something turns up I haven't thought of I'll make it up as I go along. And then the one off gameboard that's lovongly crafted from plywood and plasterboard has to be reduced to a graphic that can be printed on a sheet of A2. The playing pieces I discussed before and once more there's some work to do to get those right.

Actually most of the graphics stuff is sort of fun once you work out how to do it and there's so many aids in drawing packages for the less talented of us. The addition of a pen-mouse to my PC's arsenal makes close up control easier and I can even trace round shapes if I need to. So I've done the board for TEITR, mostly, there's just a bit of tidying up on the text to make it all consistent in font and colour. The cards are all done, except for the backs and I might not do those anyway.

I've spent the last couple of weeks working on the text. That's done for TIETR except for proof reading and tidying up. I've also done a number of diagrams illustrating how play works, so I now need to poll my local group to see if that's actually enough to make everything clear.

In the last few days I started working on the text for Phil's "The Greyhounds in the Slips". Helpfully he sent me through his rules and PC files on the game. From those I've started to work them into a rules text rather than the current aide-memoire format mentioned above. This was hard enough with my game, let alone someone else's. I've tried to re-write them so that they are in the same style and layout as the stuff I've done already so people feel the two sit naturally together. Alas as I don't know Phil's game as well as mine so far my rules amount to 7 pages and Phil's make up 2. I'm also aware that whilst mine contain a lot of clarifications (eg "This means you can do this but for the sake of clarity you can't do that...") based upon running it with the public quite a bit I don't have the same history with GitS. Still, I'm sure I'll get there and I've a month or so to work on it.

Plans for the GitS playing pieces are shaping up nicely. The game has a set of cards featuring rousing speeches from Shakespeares's Henry V and these look really nice on the screen in pseudo-parchment style. I'm also thinking about the board and I can see how that might look, - I'm toying with the idea of giving people cutout scaling ladders and rubble as well as a cutout tower. Should make it a fun game to play with your children.

So, on schedule if perhaps a little tight. Still need to produce a stunning design for the cover and work on other illustrations and then work on making the text and layout look attractive. But on the whole positive.

But it is all making a big hole in my painting schedule and irony of ironies is actually interfering with Real Life, rather than the other way round!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Charity Begins at Home

Now nobody laugh. At work I'm sort of our morale officer. I'm responsible for overseeing the implementation of corporate culture in our division and also seeing events are organised to support our corporate charity (which is the local Air Ambulance).

Last year we ran a second hand bookstall and made over £250 if memory serves me correctly. Well, I say "we" I wasn't actually there. I mean I only have to see things are organised. I don't actually have to do them myself and I wasn't in the day it happened.

When my loyal team finished however there were a lot of books left over. Four crates worth, each containing two layers together with another big cardboard box of hardback autobiographies, including Des Lynam, Tony Adams and Katie Price. Really, I mean who buys these things in the first place and then who thinks someone else is going to buy it second hand. Perhaps we should record who donates them and hold them up to public humiliation, along with whoever donated a tome on the finer points of cost and management accounting.

When I got back into the office I found that the leftovers had been stuck behind my desk. This wasn't so bad at first as I picked up a few odds and ends that I wouldn't pay full price for (collected works of Michael Moorcock to remind me what it's like to be 17). A few more went over the next few weeks as I made everyone who came to visit me buy a couple of books. Eventually people stopped visiting so this tactic was never going to be a long term strategy. My team and I kicked around a few ideas and eventually decided to try to sell them to our local second hand book dealer (Harrowden Books of Finedon, - much recommended. Run by a great chap called Mike*. Books are cheaper if you visit rather than buy on line).

So eventually I loaded the four crates in the boot of my car last Friday and went off with one of my staff and a sack barrow to see who much we could get for them. We only managed to up end two crates all over the road in the process, so not that bad.

My plan was to say £20 and the whole lot's yours. However Mike pointed out there wasn't a market for most of the stuff and he didn't have the storage anyway. Apparently nobody really wants to buy second hand Jeremy Clarkson or any form of hardback fiction. Paperback crime, books on chess, classic fiction, and history are all good. In fact the only things Mike really wanted to buy were the crates to help with his storage problem.

He took half an hour or so searching through the crates and took a pile of books and offered us £6 or £10 if we wanted any books off him.

Damn. I was standing next to the area where the Spanish Civil War books were when I last went in and cleaned him out of said subject area. And he'd had some new stuff in.

So I stuck £10 in the charity fund, gave £20 to Mike and took the books. This haul included some Gosling Press booklets which I wasn't aware of. So I'm now the proud owner of:

Revolutionary Warfare - Spain 1936-37 by Christopher Hall
Viva la Muerta - Nationalist Forces 1936-39 by Christopher Hall
Disciplina Camarads - English Volunteers - by Christopher Hall
Battle of Brunete and the Aragon by Frank Graham (a Communist Volunteer)
The Struggle for Madrid by Robert G Colodny.

Can anyone tell me if I've wasted my money (other than the fact that I really do have way too much to read!)

*Mike is a re-enactor with the ECWS. So apart from him being on the wrong side and think Charles I was something other than a man of blood we got on famously. He even has a DVD with me in it as an extra on "By the Sword Divided".

Sunday, 9 January 2011

I'm ready for my close up...

Given the mass of comment asking for close ups of my SCW new boys, how could I not oblige?

This is the Brigade anti-tank unit, which is a Peter Pig 37mm, a couple of artillerymen in Adrian helmets and a bloke in a cap from the MG pack. The basing is a 40mm plastic square, like PP sells, with polyfilla/spackle and sand on the top. When dry it has been painted with Dulux vinyl colour mixing tester paint, ref 20YY20193, and dry brushed with another mixed pot called "Labrador Sands". The pebbles were sifted out of a bag of coarse sand, and the green flock came from the railway shop.

This is the HQ from the American battalion. The officer is painted to wear a leather jerkin. I quite like this pose, but alas it looks a bit clunky next to the flag bearer who is also waving his arm about. Perhaps the two command figures pointing in opposite directions is a metaphor for the command and control issues suffered by the Republican forces.

Next up with have three rifle sections, again from the Americanos. The stand on the right is actually a grenadier unit as the chap out front is waving a stick of dynamite. Of the other figures I really like the base in the middle, the figures head down with rifles clutched across their chests. If they had blanket rolls, they'd be perfect. The only other detail to note on the bases would be the tufts of brown, tall grass. This is actually coconut hair, taken from the tuft of a coconut Miss Trebian was given on a school trip. It is "planted" into a hole in the base made by a pin drill after everything else has dried.

Finally, to even things up here's a couple of fascists. These are two bases of Falangists which I painted as test bases when I first got the figures. As the Falange mainly served in rear area this'll probably be the only ones I do like this.

Especially if you look closely at the level of detail on them! Too much like hard work.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Remaining Civil

Our local group – known as the Monday Night Group – has made the momentous decision to change our regular day from Friday to Thursday. The honour of putting on the inaugural game fell to me, and I went for the Russian Civil War and my Return to the River Don rules.

I’ve written about the rules both on this blog and elsewhere. The strong bits are the command/control/disobedience mechanisms and the armour rules. What hasn’t really been tested thoroughly are the cavalry melee rules and any adjustments needed for armoured trains.

So what better than to run a scenario with a broken down armoured train and two mounted forces, one trying to rescue it and one trying to capture it?

Well, as it turned out perhaps having dental surgery without anaesthetic might have been better for some of the players but you have to try these things, don’t you?

Our first Thursday meeting achieved a good turnout, with five out of our regular six making it. So that gave me two Red Cavalry commanders, an armoured train commander and a Cossack hetman (plus me umpiring).

I think the game looked good, - you can judge from yourself from the pictures. The system still suffers slightly from an overload of markers but there’s a lot going on so it’s that or have record sheets for each unit. Very 1970s.

There are a few things to clarify about the set-up. The station building represents several buildings with streets in between, and the only bit of the armoured train that counts is the gun carriage that represents the entire train. All the other bits are purely decorative.

The scenario is that the train engineer has told the Whites that the train has broken down, so the train commander has telegraphed for some support whilst another engine is sent to recover it. However the engineer has actually sabotaged the train and managed to telegraph the Reds to tell them, so theyt can come and capture it. Hence the convergence of the two cavalry forces.

So that I could focus on the melee mechanisms and the armoured train I increased the quality of both troops and commanders to reduce the number of fails on the Nyet/Da command rolls and so keep Coercion and Mutiny to a minimum. Whilst they’re important for the game’s flavour if the troops refuse to fight it’s hard to playtest the combat rules.

The Reds used a pincer movement with Comrade Willski coming down the rail track and Comrade Ianov making his way through the woods. Count Phllin had the train and waited nervously in the station yard for the Red Hordes to descend upon him whilst hoping for the arrival of General Kempski.

Comrade Ianov got the combat underway by launching a mounted assault on the station. He succeeded in expelling the occupying White Infantry (general dissatisfaction all round at this) despite being under the guns of the train. However his support from his colleagues was delayed as some smart shooting by the train forced some reorganisation which slowed the advance down.

The combat round the station intensified as the White infantry steadied themselves and poured fire into the buildings. Eventually they would be able to re-occupy them, and, supported by the train, fight off a combined assault by two Red Cavalry units, one mounted, and one on foot.

Meanwhile on the other side of the tracks the White Cavalry had entered into a protracted melee with Comrade Willski’s mounted proletarians and had just about succeeded in beating them off before we drew the game to a close.

All in all the game proved what I feared, - that the melee rules are poor, particularly when horse are involved. The train needs a lot more thought as well.

However, I think most people enjoyed themselves. We might have made more progress but as this was a first meeting for a few weeks and with a big turnout there was a lot of catching up to do, as well as much deep philosophical discussion. Oh, and helpfully, an informed debate about what cavalry actually did in the RCW compared with the Great Patriotic War, likewise for armoured trains.

So, despite being a failure the game was a success.

And I was able to listen to the first 30 minutes play in the last day of the test on the way home, until rain stopped play.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

SCW Painting Update

Well, it's taken a while but the first of my Spanish Civil War Brigades is finished. So here we are, I proudly present the 37th Brigada Internacional of the 35th Division, consisting of the 23rd European Anti-Fascist Battalion, the Canadian Workers Battalion, 17th Battalion "Los Americanos" and the English Volunteer Battalion.

Los Americanos are top left, with the 23rd in front of them. The Canadians are top right and the English are in front of them. Right out front is the Brigade HQ, together with the anti-tank battery. A rather fearsome looking bunch of chaps I'm sure you'll agree.

I've modified my method of doing flags. I still draw them on the PC but rather than wrap them round the pole as a double paper flag I've started to glue the printouts to wine bottle foil. This enables me to get a more realistic fluttering feel to them. It's early days yet and I'm having a few teething troubles partly down to using foil that's a bit dark on one side. Any how if you can't see the flags in the photo, here are the originals.

Now I've got these done I shall start work on the legionnaires.

After I do those XIVth Army 25 pdrs.

After I write that scenario for tomorrow night.

After I finish that game design.


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Society of Ancients Incentive Game - 2011

If you got your most recent copy of Slingshot you'll see there's a piece of paper trailing the resubscription game for 2011. It's going to be a double header of domino games, being my Elephant Game, and Phil's Henry V Greyhounds game. Both of these have done the shows this year, - Phil's more than mine - and we've had good feedback from the playing public, including a few "Can I buy this anywhere?" queries.

There are a number of challenges in getting the game(s) down to components to fit in an A4 zip-lock bag. "The Elephant in the Room" has quite a few card driven mechanisms and these probably need a tweak to reduce the number of bits and pieces we need to produce. After all I only used cards to stop the dice rolling on the floor or being horded by small children.

The Christmas/New Year break has given me the chance to work on the components for TEITR. The game needs some 3D game pieces rather than just counters as one of the charms of the game is having a big elephant in the middle of the table.

We don't have the budget to give everyone a packet of Hat's 1/32nd elephants, so I reckon some cutout photographs might do instead. I reckon I'm pretty much there, to be honest, - so here's a picture of the test components. Minus the board, which will be A2 size so I can't print it out at home.

Let me know what you think.