Saturday, 25 February 2012

At last, something to do with wargaming

The advice from some people has been to give myself permission to relax and take some time out. Easier said than done, but probably good advice.

I never thought I'd suffer from "painter's block" but I've struggled to pick up a brush with any heart at all. However, I've forced myself to get back to it, so here's a photo of the results.


Okay, so this isn't usual Trebian territory. He's 28mm tall, he's a bit muscled and there's no Ronseal varnish in sight. Although I can't do that GW paint style, I'm really pleased with the outcome. The modern 28mm painting style follows strict convention, - a bit like always painting the sky and rivers blue. That doesn't mean they look realistic!

Any how, this is Xyston's Ramesses II personality figure. He's actually quite nicely proportioned and not massively muscled or grotesque. I understand he was designed by Dave of Hasselfree Miniatures, - if so, nice work Dave.

So he's all ready now to take part in the next run through of "Call it Qids", and he'll be making an appearance or two on the shows circuit this year (although I confess the design is unlikely to be creditted as unlike the Baccus stuff and the Warbases I'm using I had to pay for this fellow with my own money.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Things are looking up

2 bits of good news:

1) Tom-tom replaced my out of warrantly satnav free of charge.
2) Got a £25 rebate from the tax man.

No one can stop me now.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Grieving at my own funeral

The last two days have been the longest year of my life. The phone has been ringing regularly with people in shock, and my in-box is filling up. I'm still stunned, and feel sick constantly. Mrs T is in a similar state, but thank goodness we have each other. Coming home to an empty house, or sitting here just with a well-stocked booze cabinet and wine rack for company would not be helpful.

I think my ex-colleagues feel like they've been bereaved. One said to me "you're like my second dad" and a lot of them need comforting. Another said "I’d of said something more meaningful than Good Morning if I’d known it’d be the last time I saw you" which is almost the sort of thing you write in books of condolence. I'm almost like a bereavement counsellor at my own funeral. I didn't realise how much I loved them all until I had to go through this. I was never a great people manager, but I believe that inside eveyone has potential and everyone is good hearted (bit pinko liberal for someone in Banking, I know) and tried to get people in the right roles and get them to develop themselves. What's making this hard is that I was and am really close to my team. They weren't just droids in a factory. They're people with real lives, cares and worries. I want to be there to help them through this difficult time as more cuts and changes are made, but I'm like a ghost. I can see and hear but I can't speak or touch anything.

Then there's the phone calls with friends and colleagues who left the business a few years ago, - all offering support and a chance to blow off steam about how unjust it all is. And the imagined phone call when they tell you it's all been a terrible mistake, here's your job back and a big cheque for all the distress we caused you.

I've got a fair few of the "it's happened to me, - best thing ever" e-mails and comments. I hope it's true. I can see chinks of light, but nothing that is shining on the path forward.

I graduated in 1982 in Sheffield, the Rome of the North. I graduated into a dreadful recession although in many ways a more benign society. 12 months I was unemployed, sustained by friends (notably Pete Berry, now of Baccus) who kept me going and helped me develop a routine. I was supported then by what seemed a generous welfare package to a 21 year old who was trying to be independent and live in his own bedsit. The current Mrs T and I were engaged at the time, but she was living back at home with her father in the midlands. I had few worries, and few responsibilities. I had little to lose. Even so it was deeply depressing not to be wanted. That pales into insignificance to how I feel now.

I know I'm more experienced now, and have better contacts and skills, but nothing really tops the power of ignorance. When you're young and you don't know what you don't know you believe you can do anything. I certainly did, and when I finally got a job with the then Anglia Building Society I proved it.

When I get myself sorted I'll write up how it all happened properly. It'll be a story both amusing and shocking and if I was looking at it from outside of myself I'd find much to laugh about. I've already had one phone conversation with an old boss that was a brilliant mix of outrage and laugh out loud funny.

Not much about wargaming in this one, except to say my Xyston Ramesses dropped through the letter box this morning. He looks a lot better than the painted one on the website, and as a 28mm figure he of course measures up as 35mm top to toe. Who said anything about scale creep.

I realise I should take time off, get my head together, and paint some toy soldiers. Bit difficult to focus on that now, - another thing I'm enormously resentful off, - they seem to have taken away from me what I use to relax at the very time I need it.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Real Life Reality Check

I got made redundant at 8:30am, on 20th February 2012*.

I can't find a way to make this interesting, or amusing.

I am grateful for the messages of support from my soon-to-be-ex colleagues. I've been very lucky with the people who worked for me.

Actually, there's not a lot of luck there as I chose a lot of them and the others were chosen by people I've trained, coached & mentored. They're a very good team and will do me proud in the future.

Off to get more Linked-in.

*28 years, 9 months service, seeing as you asked.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Big Qids

I've taken the week-end off from finalising the Incentive Game pack and done some more work on the show participation game.

There's a number of reasons for that. Firstly I'm waiting on some answers from the printer/committee about some final aspects of production (don't panic, - nothing that's going to mean we miss this year's deadline). Secondly it does you good to take a break every now and then. Thirdly Phil got hold of the bases I needed from Martin at Warbases to mount the figures up and I couldn't wait to try them out..

It's the first time I've used Warbases' laser cut mdf bases and I wasn't expecting the smell of burnt wood you get when you open the packets! However that aside they're excellent, - precision cut with sharp edges. The burnt dark brown on the edges is attractive as well although for the game I need to colour code the units so I had to paint over this feature. Martin also cut and marked up some mdf egyptian shields to use to delineate the edge of Ramesses camp site. This is giving us an eclectic range of sizes in the game, that will be rounded off when I get hold of my 28mm pharaoh figure.

Any how, here's some photos of the playing area and the completed 6mm Baccus figures on their Warbases.

Overall view with troops in starting positions

Ramessses' Camp. Warbase shields with a bit of white Dulux
Pre Division crosses the ford over the Orontes
The Hittite ambush waits.
Pre advances and the Hittites close in......
Some of the Hittite first wave turns on the camp
The Camp attack with Qids/Qadesh in the background and the Hittite 2nd wave
Another view of the full board

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Final Pushing Again

Following me sending him the Final, Final Draft my co-worker has just sent me revised maps and illustrations.

In fairness they are much better than the ones I was using.

Some late night editting on Sunday, methinks.

Now, must get ready to go out in the fog.

As an ancient wargamer you could read that sentence as having two meanings.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Final Push

I think we're in the final push to finish "Call it Qids", the Society of Ancients incentive game for this year.

Ian has delivered the final version of the historical background and also the gameboard. He has excelled himself with some of the graphics, and it all looks great on the screen. We've argued over exactly what goes where and over victory conditions, but I think we have a really good outcome. All I have to do is cram the text into 16 black and white pages.

I've managed to get most of it in, and by dropping the font size to 10pt I've kept it readable and created enough space for some examples of game play to make everything clear. We've also found space for some nice big maps. There's some work to do on the counter sheet (Ian's changed the logo on me at the last minute), and he's just sent me a new map to put in, - although admittedly I did ask for that!

Now it's all the checking. Ensuring place names are consistent. Ensuring there's no terrible typos. Making sure no paragraph has got lost in all of the changes. Making sure pictures aren't overlaying text - or vice versa. Making sure all of the text makes sense.

So that's what I'm doing on a Friday evening in February. Sitting in my study, hunched over a keyboard. Mrs T occasionally pops her head round the door and asks me how its going and wonders out loud why I have to do this again this year. There isn't an answer really.

But I really need to get this finished. We're way for the weekend visiting Miss T in her new flat, and then in March we're off on holiday so time is running out. And no doubt next weekend we'll be visiting one of my parents if not both.

Then, hopefully, ex-President Steele will turn up on Monday evening with a bag load of goodies from Hammerhead so I can start to put the finishing touches to the display version board and start to base up the figures. Deadline on that's not too bad. I'm hoping/expecting to get this done in time for Campaign in Milton Keynes (12th -13th May) which should coincide with the game getting out to the membership.

Any how, just thought any of you SoA types out there might like an update.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ridge and Furrowed Brow

As far as I can see pretty much the entire English Civil War was fought across ridge lines. Living, as I do, quite close to Naseby you can see this really clearly. The English countryside is one long procession of ridge lines.

This is no more true than for the Battle of Cheriton, which was fought between two armies (Hopton v Waller again) across a shallow valley from ridge top to ridge top. Alas the area of the battle has three and a half ridges running in parallel to each other and no one can agree which two ridges it was fought across. So, a fine choice for my next refight using the previously published “Victory Without Squares” rules.

I don’t possess John Adair’s monograph on Cherition, written in the Peter Young style. This may be a blessing because, as far as I can make out, no one else agrees with where he sites the battle. My sources for this refight then were Richard Brooks', “Battlefields of Britain & Ireland” (which I have recommended before), William Seymour's “Battles in Britain” and Wanklyn’s “Decisive battles”. All three have a slightly different interpretation and in the end I went with Wanklyn as the most convincing. This was partly based on physically trying to get the figures on the battlefields suggested. Using Seymour’s suggestion the armies simply don’t fit (the ground scale for my rules is 4” = 250yards, with the frontage of a 1,000 man foot regiment/tercio being about 200 yards, with the same for a 600 man cavalry brigade).

Royalists to the left, Parliament to the right
Setting the battlefield up using all three ridge lines is a bit of a challenge and I had to use all of my polystyrene & polytex ridge blocks to get a fair approximation. It does mean it's awkward getting all the figures to stand up on it as well. So, lots of thinking to be done. It is made harder as unless you know where the battle was fought then contemporary references to bits of the landscape that are no longer there (eg 17th century enclosures) are difficult to fit into the game. One of the key issues is the size of Cheriton wood and if it is bigger now than then. The evidence would seem to suggest it is, but how big we can’t say.

Due to the snow and ice I only had one player, but that did mean I got to play the game (regular readers may be confused here: the Monday Night Group no longer meets on Thursday, it now meets on Monday. How crazy is that?). Phil took the Royalists with an instruction to be aggressive and I took the forces of Parliament with the intention of being Waller-ish.

I started the game a bit further back than you might expect, with the Royalists on the Sutton Sand ridge and the Parliamentarians on the Hinton Ampner ridge. This enables me to put Lisle’s forward outpost of the Royalist army on the Cheriton ridge where some writers put Waller and means that the forces in Cheriton wood are flanking the Royalist advance. As described there is some dead ground in the lee of the hill on which Cheriton wood stands, and this should enable the Royalist foot to engage with the forces in the wood without getting too shot up first.

Royalists watch Cheriton wood whilst they force the lane.
In practice I got this bit of the layout wrong. I allowed Phil to hide too much in the dead ground and so the harassing of the Royalist left flank didn’t occur. That meant that Phil could effectively screen off the wood, rather than being forced to drive out the musketeers, horse and guns holding it. That worked to his advantage as it effectively pinned a cavalry unit I could really have done with in the wood.

He then pushed forwards to support Lisle on the ridge line, and sent his cavalry round the end of the ridge to flank my line which was holding steady. This struck me as a smart move, the only downside being that I was now aware of his advance earlier than I might have otherwise been. In the actual battle this didn’t happen, and both sides just kept sending cavalry into the valley between them. There’s no real suggestion that the ground by the river is particularly difficult and in the end historically Waller used his infantry to turn the Royalist flank by advancing through this area.

Under VWS artillery isn’t really a battle winning weapon and it can be a struggle to hit anything. This was certainly the case in the first few turns then my lads in the middle of my line finally got the range of Lisle’s cavalry and forced them off the ridge line in disorder. Phil was a bit miffed by this as he was still struggling to get his guns into position and in any event couldn’t hit anything with them.

The first serious combat was on my left flank as Phil tried to turn me with his aforementioned cavalry. We had two evenly matched lines and attacked each other in waves. The combat ebbed and flowed a bit, but I eventually lost out with both of my units fleeing. My Lord Balfour also came unstuck, being unhorsed and overrun. He was spirited off before I was able to recapture him. I also realised at this point that it was a long time since we last played the game and, simple though they are, I couldn’t remember the rules properly. So things might have turned out differently.

Phil pushed bravely on and got his infantry mostly in the valley for an attack on my position. He also  committed to clearing Cheriton wood at last, having brought up an infantry regiment in support. The cavalry on this flank finally lined up and got stuck in to each other in a rather messy melee.

More worryingly for me Phil had now got his horse up on the ridge line on my left forcing me into hedgehog as my lobsters fled the field. If it hadn’t been for a really lucky shot I fear it might have been all up for the forces of Parliament.

However his persistence paid off as he finally hit my flank-holding hedgehog with artillery and disrupted it enough for the cavalry to put in a successful charge, leading to more of my brave fellows running off the edge of the board.

Fortune was favouring me elsewhere as I mauled Phil's infantry in the middle of the board (no photo, alas) and at last got properly stuck into his left wing cavalry. After some too-ing and froing I soon had them all streaming to the rear and was set up to give his remaining infantry a good hiding. This tipped the Royalists over into more units disordered or running away than not which meant the army was broken and Parliament had just won the day. It was close as I was wavering a bit as well.

The actual final act of the game pretty much was the Royalist attack on Cherition wood, which finally succeeded in breaking in after an initial repulse. So our final act was history's first. A fitting place to end the game.

So what did we learn? Well, I think I got the set up right, otherwise the players don't get a lot of choices. I need to think about the dead ground near the wood some more and also the enclosures at the end of the ridges. If I was to run it again.

Which, with so many other battles still to fight, is unlikely.