Tuesday, 28 September 2010

That Whole Yahoo Group Thing

Yahoo Groups are great. Can't remember what it was like before them. They were called something else before Yahoo Groups, and I can't remember what that was.

Any how I'm a bit of an addict. Whenever I start a new period or get a new set of rules I search Yahoo Groups, find any relevant ones and join them. Bit like rushing out and buying the Osprey when you want to do a new period as well. Currenlty I'm on 15 groups, having done a recent cull.

And once I join I have to post. Never did get the hang of lurking.

Of course there are draw backs. Some of them do mutate. I joined one about Patrick O'Brien's "Jack Aubrey" novels and it was just people posting their own excruciating extra stories, parodies or poetry. No one seemed to want to discuss the actual novels. Left that one in a hurry. Other groups just overwhelm you with too many posts. The Munchkins group is impossible to keep up with unless you devote your life to it.

Those supporting rule systems are generally really helpful, especially if the rule's author(s) are members. Alas that isn't always the case. The Armati group is a case in point. So much of the angst and garbage spilled out on that group would have been cut short if only Arty Conliffe had just showed up and answered a few simple questions. The same goes for Neil Thomas' "Ancient & Medieval Wargaming". At least Martin Goddard pops up on the RFCM group to explain things from time to time (although I remember one post where he admitted he couldn't work out what he meant. In fairness to him he has currently got 17 sets in publication at the moment, and I can think of two or three others that he's written you can't get any more).

Yahoo Groups provide a lot of great information. The Russian Civil War group has some really, really good contributors, notably Tom Hillman and Mark Plant (who does the excellent "Pygmy Wars" website). Those guys really know their stuff and love to help.

The most irritating thing can often be the inability of groups to deal with the question you ask or to discuss a given topic. This is particularly true if the group has a resident "wit". Post a question and if he's the first to read it you'll get a "witty" reply. Once this has happened there's no chance of getting back on topic as the spiral of "amusing" response feed off each other. And if you repose the question you get the "didn't we just deal with this" response. It makes you want to scream. It's almost a type of vandalism. Then there's the person who has to answer the question regardless of whether they have any relevant information. These exchanges typically go along the lines of:

First Person: "Has anyone seen the new Mega Miniature T34"

Second Person: "I get my T-34s from Micro blobs, they're really good."

First Person (again): "Yes, but what about the one from Mega Miniatures?"

Second Person (again): "Mega miniatures make a good B52"

Third Person "You can get B52s from Value Castings, as well, and also WTG models"

Fourth Person: "I always thought the B52 was overrated"

Third Person (again): "The B52 had the best payload of the war and the longest range, and the WTG model has detachable wings"

First Person: "Yes, but what about the Mega Miniatures T-34"

Everyone else: "Didn't we just answer that?"

Of course Yahoo Groups shouldn't be a substitute for reading books, but sometimes it feels like that's what they're becoming. I have a friend who likes to pose questions like "I'm just starting to game WW2, can someone tell me who took part and when it was" and see who replies.

My, how we laughed.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Quick Catch Up

Got a panicked phone call from Mrs T whilst I was at work today. She'd turned the PC on to be confronted by a "You have got a virus message". The symptoms all sounded very odd so I told her to leave it and use the net book instead.

When I got home the error message did look awfully odd, - a webpage that looked like a hard disk scan, several "Trojan" files highlighted and so on. However the English on it was poorly written and had numerous spelling mistakes. So I shut it down and kicked off my virus programme to do a scan.

It's still doing it 3 hours later but it has found some malware. Admittedly it is only half way through, so this could be a late night.

Undistracted by the laptop I've been able to devote an evening to my Peter Pig Covenanters. They're coming along nicely, mainly due to the simple paint scheme required ("hodden grey"). I shall have another couple of regiments glued to their bases by tomorrow night, waiting for polyfilla. By the way, does anyone have any good sources for Covenanter standards? My books are a bit vague, - did they really have saltires on back grounds other than blue? I suppose I could go through by back numbers of Military Modelling but that'll take forever.

Whilst I'm on the subject of asking for help does anyone know who makes 15mm BT-5s for the SCW that are available in the UK. Best I've got so far is from Quality Castings on the US Old Glory website, but they're $10 each plus postage.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Black Powder again

Started Friday off in Huddersfield. Due to traditional Yorkshire weather (howling gale and rain) we decided to come straight home. The drive back was uneventful and completed in enough time to allow me to prepare for the evening's game.

We went back to the War of Spanish Succession using Black Powder. This was partly prompted as we had an occasional guest who used to do WSS years ago and was interested in revisiting it. Plus I now have a copy of Black Powder. See, I did buy it, even tho' I think there are loads of problems with it.

Our previous game indicated that there's no problem using WRG-sized element based battalions. As you can see in the pictures they're made up of 12 figures on 3 bases. With big flags. Cavalry units are two elements of 3 figures each. This is great as I can't stand the idea of re-basing stuff.

I threw out most of the amendments/suggestions from the Yahoo group. I used the standard values from the book for the infantry, made them Steady and gave the Anglo-Dutch "First Fire". For the cavalry I used the basic Regular Cavalry values, but gave the English the Heavy Cavalry bonus, which I also gave to one French unit.

The three Anglo-Dutch brigades were combined Foot/Horse (to enable them to do the multiple line thing), whilst the French had one infantry brigade and two cavalry. The Anglo-Dutch had 10 foot and 6 cavalry whilst the French had 12 foot and 6 cavalry. This set up also made the French a bit more ponderous.

All in all it went pretty well and I'm pleased with the choices I made. The Anglo-Dutch sat back and let the French come on to them, which enabled the French to impose themselves on the game and they were certainly on top when we had to call it a day.

We had three people at the game out of six of us with a copy of BP and it went slowly as we had to refer back to them on numerous occasions. The lack of a proper index and the poor layout - made subservient to the need to shove in as many pictures as possible - is a real irritant as you try to learn them.

Plus we were a bit mystified as to why a cavalry unit hitting an infantry line in the flank didn't result in the infantry completely folding.

Still, enough in it to revisit on future Friday evenings. Alas it looks like I need to get more cavalry at the point I'm committed to painting my 15mm Covenanters.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Trebian's Birthday Blog

Just had a significant birthday. So far it is going quite well. On Friday I was pleasantly surprised to find that the team at work had done a whip round for me and in consultation with the only other wargaming member of the department bought me a number of Spanish Civil War Peter Pig Black Boxes. This has resolved a shall I/shan't I issue that I've had since I read Anthony Beevor's book last year. I reckon I'll break the "armies" up and use the packets to make up higher level formations as these are intended for company level actions. However I am a bit light on SCW information although I have found a good painting guide on-line.

Saturday I held one of my occasional matrix day games. I tend to run a pair of games, - one set in the fictional African country of Zambola and one a historic refight. This year I did Magnesia. This went off quite well and we rounded off the day with a BBQ in the rain. I do these games with a different group of players to my normal group as these are matrix game "specialists" if you want who I met through WD.

Sunday Mrs Trebian and I went to Cambridge for a concert given by Canadian Rock-Gods "Barenaked Ladies", supported by the excellent Boothby Grafoe. I'd also managed to start a test paint job on some of my recently acquired Spaniards. Otherwise these are in the queue behind my Covenanters.

I've taken this week off, so after the excitement of the weekend Monday was a bit low key. Picked up a few more birthday presents (most notably from a wargaming point of view "Black Powder").

For the rest of the week Mrs T & I are on a road trip. Tuesday we drove down to Hay on Wye, pausing on the way at picturesque Alcester (where the Roman museum was shut but we did have a very good lunch sitting in a pub garden). Moving on from there we stopped in Worcester and went round the Commandery Museum. This building was Hamilton's command post during the battle and there's an audio guide that takes you through the major points. Picked up the book on the battle published by Paddy Griffith's Field Books imprint in the gift shop.

Have spent all of Wednesday in and out of Hay's bookshops. Hay is a pretty little village with about 20 new and secondhand bookshops in it. You never know what you are going to find as you poke about I was looking generally in the following areas:

1) English Civil War
2) War of Spanish Succession
3) Late 19th century Sudan campaigns
4) Spanish Civil War.

What I ended up with was:

Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, edited by Ivan Roots
Memoirs of the life of Colonel Hutchinson
Marlborough as Military Commander - Chandler
Great & Glorious days, Marlborough's Battles 1704-09 - James Falkner (plus Falkner's "Battle Ground" book on Blenheim)
Spanish Civil War - Osprey's Essential Histories
British Volunteers in the SCW - Richard Baxell
Crusade in Spain - Jason Gurney
The Battle for Madrid - George Hills

Not a bad haul, but nothing on the Sudan. plus we bought an owl made out of wire and a watering can in the shape of a snail.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Russia & Real Life

This is my 100th blog posting, which follows on closely from my 9,000 hits. So, a milestone blog in a couple of ways. I had no definite plans for my 100th blog, but a bit of Real life won't hurt. Then I'll post some fairly cool pictures from my Russian holiday.

Real Life, as ever comes first. I have to admit that even as a Grown Up with access to Power Tools I was quite unable to repair the leak under the sink. Previous fix had failed for some reason. Can't see why, as I did a proper job on it not a bodge, but I got home Thursday night to a cupboard full of water. After 30 minutes struggling I have given up, put a washing bowl in it and told Mrs T to find a plumber in the morning. That put me quite out of sorts, but I managed to finish cataloguing my Russian photos and burn then to CD. Or rather 3 CDs, as I may have got a little enthusiastic with the camera, even when I cut the number of photos in half. Still we were able to have a look back on our holiday, although I'll have to re-do the Moscow CD as there's probably too many tanks on it.

Any how, as another Real Life task involved taking young Miss Trebian out to a singing lesson I was able to take some time to fire up the net book and post the story of my epic journey to the Central Army Museum in Moscow.

This museum was recommended by several people on the RCW Yahoo group as it contains some serious stuff on the Red & White armies during the Civil War. I was also told that it was unlikely we'd be able to get there on a package tour.

As it turned out by the end of of our tour some people advanced the opinion that, quite frankly, they'd seen more than enough art to last for a while. After all we'd started with the Hermitage, and Russian Orthodox Churches aren't exactly shy on the paintings front either.

Such it was that the afternoon of our last full day in Moscow had two optional trips, - one being to the Tretyakov Gallery, and the other to a convent. Several days in advance I floated the idea of an alternative trip over dinner. The British guide on the ship I had already sounded out about the practicalities and he said we'd be fine on the Moscow Metro. The couple we were dining with, the lovely Nigel & Rosemary, were surprisingly receptive (I discover later that Rosemary is a regular shooter, and somewhat of a gun aficionado), so we decide to give it a go. A number of other chaps on the boat are keen, but in then end decide that they'd rather accompany their other halves to look at some pictures.

Travelling on a Metro system where you can't read the signs is a bit daunting, but we did the guided tour the night before (yes, you can have a guided tour of the Moscow Metro. It is beautiful) which increased our confidence and we learnt to count the stations, as the platforms do not have station signs that can be read from the train.

Actually it's not too bad. We had a map, and by the end of the holiday I was getting okay at translating Cyrillic to Latin characters.

We had one minor hiccup at one station as the signs weren't too logical, but a nice Russian chap came up and practiced his English and put us on the right path. So after a couple of changes and some use of a locally bought map*, being caught in torrential rain, we finally crossed a road, rounded a corner and saw this tank on a plinth.

Which is really a bit of a giveaway if you're looking for a military museum in Russia. I mean, it's the classic, isn't it? We all built the Airfix kit.

The museum allows pictures taken inside for a small fee, - and it's cheap to go in as well. They have some amazing exhibits, such as this Nazi eagle & swastika that has seen better days. Can't quite place it, - where might I have seen it before? It usually has the Red Army's "Reichstag flag" hung over it, but they were doing some work in that hall, and it wasn't up.

As you might expect large amounts of the museum are given over to the Great Patriotic War, and they certainly like their banners. There's barely a room without half a dozen or so hanging from the ceiling.

And what's more there's a big park out the back with loads of tanks, guns & aircraft. I'll post pictures of those at a later date.

I'd be remiss not to point out that ALL the captions are in Cyrillic and ALL the staff do not speak English. Also they do not sell guidebooks in either Russian or English.

However, can't complain. This is the museum with the biggest collection of stuff on both the Red & White Armies from the Russian Civil War, and I have to say I was positively salivating at the thought of all of those flags and uniforms. I know enough about the period not to need the signs, and what I really wanted was a camera full of pictures

Which was a shame really as the exhibit isn't there any more. Don't know why. All I could get out of the lady at the entrance after we'd been round was a "Nyet", followed by a drumming mime (no - don't get it either).

Ah well. It would have been nice, but in any event it was better than looking at another stack of pictures.

* The Lonely Planet guide to Russia is wrong, - it says the museum is to the west of Novoslobodskaya station and it's actually to the east.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Black Powder - next steps

In my quest to adapt Black Powder for the War of Spanish Succession I tracked down and joined the yahoo group for the rules.

They (it's not us yet, I haven't posted to the group) have had a few discussions about various periods and there are some files with ideas for WSS. Nothing from the authors on the site so it is just guess work and people writing their own rules. When you get to a certain level of special rules I do wonder whether you should have started from scratch.

I can only guess that the authors aren't posting because thewy're going to sell us a supplement or two next year.

Any how, whilst browsing the as yet brief archive I came across this posting:

Before purchasing BP I read through Rick Priestley's interview with WI, which I found helpful in understanding what the rules were about. Amongst Rick's comments I found this:

'...if we were going to play a game based on the Spanish Succession, at the very beginning of the period covered, we would have different rules for manoeuvring the units and formations; these things were less developed in that period. Napoleonic armies have special rules that allow them to adapt their formations and move in mixed formations. You can tailor the rule set to the period quite easily.

The adaptions are all described in the rule book. They are covered as a series of mechanics and the idea is that whatever period you wish to represent using these rules, you can adopt the mechanic we describe or you can invent your own.'

Having read through the rules several times, and having played one trial game (SYW period), I find that one thing missing from the rules is exactly that which Rick feels the rules cover: that is, information on how the rules can or should be adapted to different periods. Battles in the SYW period obviously differed from Napoleonic battles (the absence of squares or attack columns being examples), and I feel the rules should have brief sections outlining such differences and indicating how the authors think the rules can best be adapted to each period - what needs leaving out, what needs to be included, what unit stats are most appropriate.

Such information is particularly absent for European wars of the 18th century. Napoleonic and colonial gamers get some indication of what might be suitable from the scenarios section, but sadly the first century of the 2 centuries covered gets scant attention amongst the scenarios, coverage being limited to a single AWI game. Going back to the quote, I am left asking: well Rick, what are those 'different rules' for gaming the War of the Spanish Succession? Which ones are they? Where do I find them?

If I put myself in the position of writing a set of rules covering this 200 year period, sections on rules adaptions for specific campaigns, wars or periods would have seemed a basic requirement. Considering the size of the rulebook, I find the absence of such coverage a definite failing. I can and will work out the adaptions needed for myself, over time. But it was surely the responsibility of the rules writers to indicate their solutions to gaming the successive periods, even if only as initial guidance to those who might disagree once they
had gained experience with the rules.

Sorry for the long post. I like these rules and will probably adopt them, so I am interested in why they are the way they are. I just hope that this lack of period information is not an excuse for publishing period supplements at a later date. After all, Rick is a pretty big figure in GW...

I haven't quoted the name of the original author. If you want to know you can join the group. If he contacts me I'll put his name on it or take it down as appropriate.

Just makes me feel happier that I'm not a lone voice on this one.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Black Powder Ponderings

Black Powder has been the big thing in horse and musket this year. In fact, it's the biggest thing in horse & musket for quite a while. I've not paid it much attention until recently. After all if touches all of my prejudices, - it's a big glossy book, it covers a big non-period specific era, (from the Great Northern War* to the British in the Sudan in the 1890s) and it seems to be a platform for selling more 28mm figures. Sure the people playing it at shows seem to be having fun, but then a lot of people do and the games are often rubbish.

A couple of our group have played a game or two and taken the plunge and bought the book, so last night we had a game. We did an ACW scenario, but we did it in 15mm not 28mm and we used centimetres instead of inches for distances, principally because of the size of our table.

Well I have to say I enjoyed it. The basic game is almost devoid of period feel but you put that in with unit special characteristics, rules you make up yourself, and a reliance on players doing "the right thing". It plays quickly and cleanly and is fun. Admittedly that's only after one game and I don't know if the rule system might pall after a while.

Good things about the system, - the command / orders system is neat and has a lot in common with my command and control system in "Return to the River Don". The firing system is quick and efficient. Melee is effective if not imaginative. It hangs together and works, if you don't poke it too hard. An even points competition game it ain't.

Bad things about the system, - well, nothing really.

However the book is exceptionally irritating. This is a full colour hard-back book that runs to nearly 200 pages, and retails at £30. The rules are simple and could be explained in about 6 sides of A4 if you put in a few diagrams. Why does it take nearly 100 pages? Well, it is verbose and matey in its writing style which is fun but more suited to a magazine article than something trying to explain rules to me. Rules should be concise and clearly written. It has a good number of helpful diagrams, but mostly it has masses of pictures of 28mm figures from all the periods covered by the rules. Many of which are clearly not illustrating the game actually being played but presumably have been put in as wargamer pornography. It's like Delia Smith publishing a recipe book and sticking in photos of dishes she hasn't described.

The second half of the book is the real wind up. 80 plus pages of BATTLE REPORTS!!!! The 6 or 7 battles described certainly give you information about the armies involved and how they are simulated under the game system. I can't help thinking it would have been a whole lot more useful to have done 80 pages of army lists, showing the factors for troops for the whole period allegedly covered by the rules. At the very least they could have started with the War of Spanish Succession and picked armies at every 30 years or so to show the development. It's not like they haven't got the figures. THEY PRINTED ENOUGH PHOTOS OF THEM. The Battle Reports would have made good magazine articles or downloads on the web to help you once you've bought the rules.

I realise I'm a lonely voice in the wilderness on this matter. The three reviews on Amazon (including one from Charles Vasey) are 4 or 5 star. It's almost like wargamers want to have their pockets picked. I'm not objecting to quality. I like a nice production standard in a book, but I also expect to get decent actual content. The goal shouldn't be to pad something to 190 pages so the punter thinks he's getting value for money when the intellectual property in the book is short changing you.

Which is a way of saying can they please put a pdf on the Warlord Games website for War of the Spanish Succession armies.

(*Actually you can't use it for the GNW as it doesn't have rules for Swedish pike armed units)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

If you want to get ahead.....

There's a member of our group who has a saying. It goes "The army with the simplest uniform wins...."

As aphorisms go it isn't a million miles away from the truth, if you think about it. My view, however, is slightly different. I tend to the view that the armies with the best looking hats win. (I'm not sure if this applies to helmets however, although I have always preferred the look of the battle bowler to the coal scuttle.)

Now the Russians have great hats. Here's a picture of three of the hats I bought on our trip, all lined up on a shelf in our cabin:

I wanted to pick up the odd hat or two on our trip, but never thought I 'd get that lucky.

The first hat is the classic Red Army Civil War budenovka. This is the winter version. Not sure about the red piping, but it does fold down and button under the chin. Cost me 250 roubles (about £6). The next one along is a Naval Cap for the Baltic Fleet. As you can see it has lovely long tassels at the back - I got a stripy shirt to go with it later on in the holiday. Again about £6. Both of these were bought off souvenir stands next to the Cruiser Aurora, so I think added kudos for that. Later on in the holiday I saw budenovka's in grey and also in khaki with the blue cavalry star on the front. Bizarrely you can also buy them with white army badges and piping.

The last one is the classic WarPact era furry hat. Alas it is synthetic, but it has a lovely badge on the front. This one came from an official souvenir shop and so cost me €10. I could have got it cheaper from a street stand.

You could easily get peaked caps with various size peaks and tops from the post revolutionary Soviet era. I'd have bought more, but Mrs Trebian pointed out that there's only so much you can get in a suitcase without destroying it.

Finally, last but not least, I picked up a budenovka in black felt. Okay, so it's not in leather, but it is a ringer for the Cheka version*. I feel a funny hat game coming on.

* On the boat we had a "Russian Dress Night". This mostly consisted of people wearing a variety of hats. One chap had one of these. His wife said she didn't mind him buying it as she was a Key Stage 1 Primary School teacher and it'd go in the class dressing up box when she got home. I'm sure there aren't many British schools that give children the chance to dress up as secret policemen.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Welcome to St Petersburg

I realise that these blogs are sort of coming up out of order, but I thought I'd put them up when I got a theme sorted out in my head.

When we got to Russia our first tourist event was the obligatory coach tour of St Petersburg. These tend to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time and you end up with a lot of blurry photos through coach windows.

Russia was a constant stream of surprises, - I never really knew exactly what I was expecting but it wasn't usually what we saw. For example, St Petersburg river port (we were on a river cruise from St P to Moscow), is traditional Soviet era architecture. The photo shows a big concrete block with one of the better looking trams going past it.

Those of you who know your "Great Patriotic War" history will be aware that St Petersburg in its guise as Leningrad was subject to a very long and protracted siege that saw a large amount of damage inflicted. As someone who grew up near Coventry and saw the enlightened approach taken to restoring that medieval gem after their visit from the Luftwaffe I was fearful of the worst.

I was pleasantly surprised. St Petersburg is an artificial city, plonked down in a marsh as the capital of a new country by a leader whose name it bears (heard that about anywhere else?). The central part of St Petersburg with its 18th century buildings and its elaborate churches and cathedrals still stands largely untouched except for electricity cables. We took the canal boat ride and the water front is probably indistinguishable from that recognisable to Catherine the Great.

What that means for those of us with an interest in the Revolution (I read John Reed's "Ten Days That Shook The World" on holiday) is that the city plan and aspect is largely unchanged. The square in front of the Winter Palace is uncluttered by new developments, and is free of souvenir barrows (although they have put up some portaloos). Nevsky Prospect has new shops and a few neon signs - and of course a lot of cars - but it is essentially unchanged. The street pattern and the main buildings exist as they were then.

Many of the buildings that are of interest from the Revolutionary period are still there. Of course these buildings have other historical connections as well. The Peter and Paul Fortress, for example, where numerous political prisoners were held (including Lenin's brother I think) is also the burial place of the Tsars. Nicholas II and the remains of the last Romanov were reburied there in 1998.

Alas our visit didn't give us time to get inside the building, but I have a few pictures of its exterior. This one is taken from a canal cruise boat. Like most artillery fortresses it isn't the most exciting building from the outside. It is good of the Russians to give any besiegers such a nice aiming point in the form of the cathedral spire however!

On the landward side of the fortress is the Artillery Museum. Again we didn't have time to visit it, - if I hadn't only just got to Russia and wasn't feeling a bit jet lagged I'd probably have braved the metro and gone to have a look. If you have a look at what they've got parked by the road side you can only imagine what's inside (Lenin's armoured car, apparently).

A Night at the Ballet

Stay with me here. I've not gone all girly on you. This was one of the more surprising visits of the holiday in Russia.

As part of our "package" the tour company laid on a private "Gala Ballet Performance". For those of you who aren't familiar with the world of traditional ballet dancing this means you get to see a number of excerpts from well known (well known to some, - I was clueless) ballets performed in costume but without the chorus line or any scenery.

Whilst I'm not a fan of performance dance in pretty much all of its forms Mrs Trebian likes ballet and after all if you go to Russia you really should see what it is good at. Plus it builds up Brownie points for later if you want to go off and look at something on a bit more of the military side.
The venue for the performance was at a private club in St Petersburg (ooh err Mrs...dancing in a private club, nudge, nudge wink, wink).

Sorry. Lost my train of thought there for a moment. Where was I?

Oh, yes, - the private club in St P. I didn't pay much attention to the guide on the coach as at this stage, early in the tour he hadn't really won us over. However, when we got there the decoration over the door caught my eye:

This clearly wasn't an ordinary sort of gentleman's club. It obviously had a history. It turns out that in Tsarist days it was the St Petersburg Officer's Club. Post revolution the Red Army took it over, and it is now the "House of Army and Naval Officers", although I suspect that in deference to the proletarian nature of the revolution that all members of the armed forces made use of it in the early days.

On entry you are greeted by a magnificent staircase sweeping up to the upper floors. This is flanked by four large bronze statues celebrating the glories of the Red Army. These are really rather magnificent. The most striking one was that of Lenin inspiring the Red Guards, situated on the extreme left (no surprise there then). Alas due to their positioning in the entrance hall it was a bit awkward getting decent pictures, but this one isn't that bad.

Other bronzes showed the Red Army in its later periods, - here's another picture that came out okay.

Elsewhere the interior was magnificent, with rooms given over the comfortable relaxation and enormous paintings of the victories of the Red Army. Alas I was having problems with my camera settings at this point of the holiday so the pictures aren't really good enough quality to upload.

In many ways the military association wasn't the big surprise of the evening. That was the fact that this seemingly small and unassuming building on a street corner in St Petersburg had a large theatre in it.

And we did see some dancing. And it was pretty good too, - I just wouldn't want to go everynight.