Sunday, 31 March 2019

What the Hell-ion is going on?

The Northamptonshire Battlefield Society was due to have Warwick Louth speak to us in January, but he couldn't make it for unforeseen reasons. Warwick is a battlefield archaeologist, wargamer and re-enactor who has published a book on how contemporary military manuals can shed light on battlefield archaeology.

Needless to say I was a bit disappointed, but no worries, I saw his book at a reasonable £15 on the Helion stand at Alumwell so snapped it up (its £20 on Amazon). I've at last got round to reading it which is super, as I've been looking forwards to it no end.

Let me say up front that this is an important book with lots of interesting stuff in it, and I am pleased to have read it and have a copy on my bookshelf. However.

The book is a publishing disgrace. Looking at the Acknowledgements in the front no one seems to have read the text and it is devoid, as far as I can see, of any editing or proof reading. No one has sense checked it or fed back on how readable it is. Now I don't mind a bit of academic language and I'm opposed to dumbing down, but the historian's duty is to communicate. The archaeological techno-babble and jargon make this quite hard to follow. This has been adapted from Warwick's Masters Dissertation and it shows, my does it show. Apart from sticking in a Glossary at the front there's been no attempt to explain what it all means to the lay man. Not good.

Then these's the proof reading. In the introduction from Dr Tony Pollard he says he's going to recommend this book to everyone on his curse. Yes, you read that correctly. Not "course", but "curse". There are no outright spelling mistakes, but other malapropisms do occur. Did you know that A H Burne developed "Independent Military Probability"? No. Neither did I. Punctuation is random or missing. There's an effective table where hyphens separating Subject and Detail are just missing. In another place we are told muskets fire in a range of 2050 yards. Really?Or is that 20-50 yards? 250 yards? Who the hell checked that page and thought that was right? Commas are missing or scattered like confetti so the sense of a sentence isn't always clear.

And then there's the illustrations. Some figures are missing. Some (most, I think) cross references to the figures are incorrect. Maps are used with references to places that aren't on them.

And then we have references to authors whose books aren't in foot notes or the bibliography. That's unforgivable in a work of any academic standing. The sequence of referring to something and then explaining what it is isn't always correct (eg mention something then explain what you meant three pages later). And what is Tranter's rule of marching? I think it might be referring to work done for mountaineering and hiking, based on a Google search (don't tell me, - that's not the point. It should be in the book).

I've got cross with the proof reading of Helion before, but not, I think, publicly on this blog, but this is on another level. This is an important book, and kudos to Helion for publishing it, but the result is a mess. Yes, it looks nice, but it's a disgrace to be selling a book this badly proof read and checked at £15, let alone £20. Could Warwick not have found anyone to read it for him? And where is the person telling him that it might make sense to him in his head but it doesn't to anyone who isn't.

Okay, so I'm making myself a hostage to fortune here as I have a self published book out soon, and I couldn't afford a professional editor (although a friend who is a literary agent read it, so that helped a lot). However, I did get several friends and acquaintances to read the pdf before hand with the brief "Does this make sense"? Some also provided typo corrections. Then I got a hard copy proof and went through it with a red pen, forcing myself to re-read every line, some out loud to make sure I wasn't glazing over. Then Mrs T went through it with a different coloured pen and explained to me where she didn't understand what I was saying*.

I have another worry. I have a friend and colleague who has a book for Helion in the final stages of production. I've read the complete draft and he has some issues with the text that I have described above, and I've gone back to him with an annotated file, although I'm not a professional proof reader or editor. He's been told that Helion are going to provide editing services. I hope they're better than what they did for Warwick, because his book is also very important, and the result of nearly a lifetime's work. I'd hate it to be marred in this way.

And I've got another Helion on my shelf to read, - the one on Montrose's Army. I almost dare not look at it.

* Yes, she is a saint and far better than I deserve.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Mesopotamiaming About Again

By way of a complete break from current games, and back refreshed from ANOTHER holiday (how the other half lives), I thought it might be time to introduce some of our newer players to a new period, - so it is back to the Middle East, and "To Ur is Human", last seen a couple of years ago.

I did have an ulterior motive. I'm looking at Jacobite warfare, and I have a feeling that some form of Fear Test, like the one central to these rules, might be useful, with a Fight/Fright/Flight mechanism.

It was just me and Steve due to other commitments (wife's birthday, - what sort of excuse is that) and general infirmity. Steve hadn't seen these toys, and I'm not sure if he really knew what to make of them.

The white cards are unit cards that enable some form of secret deployment. Steve was happy to go with what I'd set up, which ended up being unfortunate for me, as I'd got my army a bit wrong.

Steve started by moving up his light infantry to screen his battle carts. I settled on trying to break his right centre with some shock and awe from my battle carts, whilst bolstering my right with some heavy infantry.

I got the distances wrong with my lead carts, and took damage from the slingers in the palm glade. I needed to clear them with my javelins before I could chance advancing further.

On my right I took some damage from the light infantry.

On my left I sent my javelin men into the grove...

...and they immediately turned and fled.

On my right Steve rode down his own light foot with his carts to get at me, and broke my unit behind, seen fleeing into the village.Luckily I had got some heavy infantry in place to stop the rot, although I hadn't been able to line up any supports, which was unfortunate.

In the centre I had occupied the main palm grove, and Steve finished crossing the irrigation canal and advanced towards me. NB The walls are just to delineate the edge of the grove; they aren't a physical barrier.

My lack of supports on my right cost me dear, and my infantry fled in terror before the fearsome battle carts.

In my left centre one of my battle cart units braved massed archery and slingshots and broke the unit of archers in front of them. (BTW my other units of carts is tearing off to my right wing to plug what might become a gaping hole).

It's all getting tasty in the middle. The heavy boys are facing up to each other, and we have both committed our Lugals (Generals) to the struggle. Faced by Royal Guards in white cloaks my middle units are beginning to waver, but my left hand troops have broken their opponents and supports and my battle carts are about to mash up their opponents too.

And then my centre broke, with my Lugal skipping out by the skin of his proverbials. My right hand unit in the palm grove is starting to look a bit shaky.

Having broken one unit, my carts retire before they are completely destroyed. My infantry is now lining up to roll into the centre.

On my right Steve is pulling back his battle carts to help bolster his centre. My second unit has finally got round, and that's them chasing the unit with two white rings, that I just inflicted with javelins.

Steve has pretty much finished off my centre, but I'm lined up to roll over him if he doesn't turn to face in time.

We ended then after a couple of hours play as it was time to head home. I might have been marginally ahead, but it was close.

I have a lot of affection for these figures and the rules. The Fear Test mechanism works pretty well, and it is all about intimidating your opponent. If the threat doesn't work, units like the carts come unstuck pretty quickly.

I don't like the combat system that much, - it's slightly modified from Neil Thomas' AMW, and I always meant to swap it out completely, but never got round to it. The Fear Test relies upon knowing things like who will roll the most dice in combat, so the combat mechanism feeds into Fear Test in a way that is different to simply causalities inflicted, so harder to replace than I'd like. The idea of the initial Fear Test is it is based on what the likely outcome is, not the actual, so it simulates troops panicking in the face of threats.

Any how, I think there's mileage in the system yet, and it may well work its way into the Jacobite rules. We'll see.

Oh, and the rules "To Ur is Human" are available top right if this has tickled your fancy in any way.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Alumwell that was interesting

Off to Wolverhampton on a wet Sunday morning to the WMMS at Alumwell. We were taking our Edgcote game, in its first public iteration. Alas due to time constraints we weren't as far advanced as we might have liked, as Phil had intended to finish basing the figures, but ran out to time. Still, we had two painted armies and in lieu of a finished purpose built terrain board my dressing up box had to suffice.

All in all it looked okay, although I didn't notice that my cloth wasn't on straight. And I should have lined up the terrain to the map on the new Edgcote banner for ease of explanation

Here's Pembroke's fine fellows. The stamina tracks behind the units will have the middles of the slots drilled out so you can see the table through them eventually.

Redesdale's rebels with their archers out front, setting off to provoke the men on the other hill. You'll note that I've put a hedge down the side of the stream. Although there's no mention in the sources streams and rivers that form field boundaries often have a hedge line too, and it adds a bit more interest to an otherwise open field.

The Earl of Pembroke preparing to leave the Inn at Banbury. Why the "Damousel" has turned her back on him I can't say.

Then the family Fordham turned up. Graham F (in the blue coat) did the standards and banners for the armies and helped identify the men involved. On the right is Tamara, his daughter, who is a talented junior DBA player and usually does pretty well against the grown ups too. They helped with the play through, Dad taking the Earl of Pembroke's men.

Tamara moved the Rebels up to the river line and sent forward her archers.

Pembroke's men made a tentative start, with not everyone advancing.

However the left wing didn't hold back, and stormed across the river line, breaking their rascally opponents.

Just in time for Clapham to arrive, this time with a mounted contingent. They fell upon the flank of Pembroke's left hand division and broke them.

Elsewhere the Rebels were taking a bit of a pounding, their left wing having broken. Looks like Pembroke might just have got away with it.

Elsewhere the WW2 re-enactors were there is force, with two jeeps, a truck and a motorbike. Big shout out to the dick head with the motorbike who started it up and then rode it off through a convention centre full of people, filling the room with petrol and carbon fumes from a presumably vintage engine which seems to have no baffles in the exhaust. Thanks mate. You could have just wheeled it out.

The toy soldier displays were mostly of the 28mm big table type, so lots of big toys to look at. I was unable to spend any time with any of them as there were only two of us on the stand so I don't know if there was anything going on that was ground breaking in actual game design.

Nice looking Japanese v Dutch in Java game.

And then there was Martin Goddard, Mr Peter Pig, one of the hobby's good guys. Produces great figures and imaginative rule sets which he explains clearly and with a lot of patience. I would have loved to have found time to chew the fat with him.

His 1/450 Pirate ships are top notch.

Nice looking Star Wars game, but why has that walker got a black base?

Next along was a Peninsula War game.

They had a lot of figures going at it in the middle of the table.

The Border Wargames fellows were doing a 1745 Jacobite Rebellion game. I couldn't work out if it was a historical scenario or an excuse to get out a nice boat model and use some big cliff models.

The jury is still out for me in respect of using teddy bear fur for a table covering.

Nice looking Great Northern War game, but not quite as interesting as looking at your mobile phone.

Hordes of 28mm Mahdists surge towards beleagured Egyptian defenders. Wargaming chum "Rumblestrip" in attendance.

Nice 10mm (I think) game of Blenheim, not marred AT ALL by the presence of two soft drinks cans on the opposite sides of the table. Come on guys, get a grip.

The 18th Century Warfare re-enactors were putting on a game with Peter Dennis' paper soldiers.

It took me a couple of walk pasts to realise that this was what they were, so there's something right going on there.

The traffic on the stand was steady but not overwhelming. This young fellow knows way more about jousting helmets and armour than anyone honestly needs to know. Otherwise it was a pleasure to meet up with someone who had bought the 1460 board game, but not from us at a show. He'd picked it up at UK Games Expo last year so we had a good chat, where he told me how much he liked it, which is always good. It also turned out he was a blog follower, having come here for my tips on painting plastic figures. So, hi there, - leave a comment and say hello.

And then it was time to pack away and head back down the Motorway to Northamptonshire. Next event for us will be Milton Keynes Campaign, on the 11th/12th May. By then Phil should have finished basing the figures and building the wagons and produced the purpose built terrain.

BTW Tickets for our all day conference on Edgcote on 27th July are now on sale to members of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society & the Battlefields Trust. Priced at £30, the ticket includes not just 5 great speaker sessions but also tea & coffee, a full buffet lunch and car parking. Tickets for non-members go on sale on the 15th, and are priced at £35. You can get them on this link:

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

More Edgcote Edgperimentation

So we had another go with the 28mm fellows and "Hail Caesar". After the last game Phil had done some rebasing and was working on a way of recording Stamina levels using those mdf trays with circular receptacles. Richard and Tim turned up for a playtest. Phil remarked upon how heavy 28mm armies are (he's normally a 15mm man) and I threw together some terrain as Phil's been focusing on the figures.

This is the view from behind the Rebels. We (well Phil) have developed a mechanism whereby archers are thrown forwards of a unit sort of in the style of skirmishers - see below.

So the Rebels, by the time this picture was taken, had crossed the river and shot at Pembroke's men. He had led his forces down off his hill, and the Rebels had dropped back. Alas for Pembroke one of his divisions failed a command roll, so the Rebels were able to concentrate their archery on the man himself, causing quite a few hits, which Tim failed to save.

Deciding not to defend the river line, Richard dropped the rebels back to their starting position. Tim had eschewed the option of Herbert attacking on horseback to pin the Rebels in position and plodded forward on foot.

Pembroke's men slowly climbed the hill and the serious business began. Pembroke was really under the cosh as his left hand division was still being tardy, so he was facing two units of Rebels.

His right hand division was doing a good job on their opponents, however. The question was whether he would be able to break them before Clapham's men got stuck in.

Now having two units attacking him, Pembroke's division retreated down the hill. Luckily, despite being Shaken, it carried on passing its Break Tests.

Close up shot of fighting in the centre. Just because y'know.

So Pembroke's right hand division broke their opponents and was able to turn and face Clapham's men.

Finally Pembroke's left hand division came up, and the Rebels had to react, giving Pembroke himself some respite.

Clapham's men were soon history, heading back to Northampton. Out of shot Pembroke's other two divisions were both gaining the upper hand, and Stafford was returning to the field. So a Win for the Edward loyalists and the end of Redesdale's rebellion.

Quite a satisfactory outcome, - a close game with a non-historical  but believable win.

Personally I'm still not feeling the love for "Hail Caesar", but it is doing the job for us, and it will provide a familiar "way in" for people who stop by the stand. Phil has to do some more work on rule amendments and things like the reinforcement mechanisms, and we'll probably work through a few of the ideas at Alumwell on Sunday, 10th March, so come and say hello and share your ideas. We've even got a new banner.