Sunday, 31 January 2016

View From The WIndow

The view this morning was very pleasant, we were staying at The County in Aycliffe Village near Darlington and at breakfast we looked out the window across a village green which, apart from one ugly modern building, could have graced a lovely postcard of times gone by. The County is first class, both stylish and spotless and the fresh cooked full English, with Scottish black pudding was superb.

The ambience was maintained as I picked my son up for a wargame and we headed to his place of work on the Zetland Estates, the large complex once held the estates stables and sundry outbuildings which the good Lord decided would bring more cash in as office space. It just might be the poshest venue I have played in.

We finished off in the local pub for a pint before the ladies joined us and the missus and I left for home. We could just about hear ourselves think as the local big mouth ensured that everyone within earshot could hear his every word while his circle sat around admiring but quiet. Needless to say nothing he espoused was interesting, just loud.

I am late back, a trifle tired, and now fortified by a nice bottle of Nuit St. Georges and going to hit the sack, I do have concerns and observations from the previous week but they will have to wait until next Sunday.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Spoiling Myself Again

I finished the cavalry and they have now joined their companions in the Really Useful Boxes de rigueur these days for holding one's troops, and very smart they look. Now that I have banished that little doubt in my mind that is telling me I still need a few more skirmishers the Dark Age armies are now done, official. So since selling my five medieval armies to downsize and make room I have now added three more in the space of about eighteen months.

I managed to paint again last night, nothing drastic, just chickens, I bought some from Warbases to add to the pigs and cattle I have to adorn my Dark Age village, not the best things to show off my painting skills but done and dusted in less than an hour. I shall be picking up a twelve man unit of Carolingian cavalry on Saturday, I am looking forward to painting them.

I apologise for the bad photo, but I am stuck near the window and it is blowing a bit of a storm outside and it is dark, so it is the best I could do. It's not that chickens are interesting anyway?

My son is having a lot of trouble with his new army, he primed his next unit and it turned out 'frosted' so they are going back into the Dettol to clean and start again, perhaps his spray is rubbish as that is twice now, so I'll have a look this weekend. He has also found that several of his Saxon Miniatures have very large metal pieces on them from the molds which must be dodgy and he is also finding that the definition of clothing and equipment on many is difficult to make out, I told him he should send them back, flash is one thing, chunks of metal are another.

Now to the good part, despite only managing the odd game here at home I can put up a 7x5 foot table and have a large 6x4 foot board in the back cupboard as well. This latter has been a bit of a pain in there as to get to anything else is difficult, something the missus reminds me of constantly. My son has jumped into War and Conquest in a big way and although he has no room in his house he has got the OK to use his works meeting room on a Sunday, the only problem is that the table is short and has round edges. We decided to buy a board to tag on the end and stretch it to 6x4, but the other night I found this beauty. I cannot get you a better photo as the site must be protected from copying.

6'x4' G-Board: Portable Gaming Area
I dithered for a little while then decided why not, this solves two problems, I can get rid of the old board and can lay this on top of the meeting room desk, everyone is happy, simples. According to the blurb it can handle a weight of 20kg, I am not sure whether I would test this with my 7x5 boards which I use for ACW on the top but we will see, it is perfect however for all my other games. I have two mats and if the quality of the table is the same I should be very pleased.

That's another quick map project in the bag, this one was required tout suit and deals with the war in Somalia. I now have three on hold awaiting the authors approval and one still to draw but with no time limit, so an easy day ahead.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Pinkertons Foil Bank Robbers

I decided to do a game of Dead Man's Hand last night as I had not played in a while, I got three more volunteers and came up with a bank robbery scenario. The Pinkerton Detective Agency had got wind that two outlaw gangs had joined forces to rob a large gold shipment in Carefree's bank, so they duly informed the local law who got up a posse and along with the Pinkertons lay in ambush awaiting the bad guys. Carefree is my fictitious town in Arizona, where the only thing that flies is bullets. Sadly on the night we were down to two players and had to amend the scenario on the hoof, the basic storyline remained but we dropped two gangs and increased slightly the number of figures available, we continued with the Banditos and the Pinkertons.

The detectives split their forces between the jail opposite the bank and a local hardware store with two men keeping lookout on the boardwalk trying to look like normal citizens going about their business. El Arana (the Spider) sent two men to the bank along with two lookouts who waited nearby, he and the rest of his men watched from the Red Dog Saloon and the Majestic Hotel up the street.

The robbers about to enter the bank.
 On entering the bank the two robbers were shot at by a nervous bank clerk whose bullet hit the ceiling while he then hit the floor, the bank manager was told to open the safe and when he bravely refused the outlaws set about persuading him, but the courageous man held out for some time (three turns). As the shot rang out all hell broke loose, the lawmen started shooting from their windows as did the bandits, the first to fall was one of the Pinkerton lookouts, both sides seemed happy to blaze away across Main Street. One of the Mexicans made a move towards the jail which proved fatal for him as several detectives moved out and confronted him on the street.

Bullets fly across Main Street.

El Arana meanwhile took one of his gang members and made for the Livery Stable, hoping to outflank the store where the other detectives were shooting from. More bandito's hit the dust in a flurry of lead. The Pinkertons in the jail moved on the bank just at the moment the robbers inside had eventually emptied the safe, and were trying to move the gold with great difficulty out the back door. Again another of the bandits broke cover in an effort to stop the law at close range but soon regretted it as a fusilade of close range fire brought him down, a moment later the last bank robber hit the deck, the gold was safe.


With more than half his men gone and the Pinkertons holding the bank and knowing he was their priority dead or alive, El Arana, bleeding from several wounds decided to call it a day "Vamonos Muchacho's"

How was the wargame, well something which did stand out was my very accurate shooting, for every man I lost Simon lost two, his own shooting therefore was dire, he started off well dropping the lookout but it went south from there, and I had one turn especially where I could not miss. I did not make it clear enough when we adjusted the scenario that his men should have been in the saloons next to the bank, so some of Simon's extra men were one building away from the bank and it had an effect on his ability to help the robbers although its windows commanded the street. I also counted my points wrong and had two men more than I should, in hindsight I don't think it mattered much as I lost two men at the start but I should not have had them anyway.

Despite the mix ups it was still a good game and we had fun, I'd like to try it again but take the bad guys this time.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Giddy Up!

I am hurrying along with my painting so that I have the upgraded cavalry ready for Sunday, I only need to wash these guys, varnish and base. Before I ventured into the jaws of the great British public this morning I painted their shoes, magnetised the bases and got the movement trays ready, I then sat back and admired them.

They are all Gripping Beast Saxon mounted Heroes if my memory serves me well, I only ordered them a few weeks ago so I should be right. I think they are quite a dramatic little group, excellent action poses and a real sense of speed and menace.I couldn't resist a quick pic.

This has taught me one thing, get your army right the first time, perhaps I was being a bit optimistic using 24 man units for what are essentially warbands, my actual warbands have 32. Despite this the Romano-British have a decent average score in the tournaments and this may improve as I hopefully will improve. I might also have been trying to keep some money in my pocket not having the extra figures, who knows. Now I have the best of both worlds, I have extra figures and two types of movement trays so I have more flexibility when choosing an army for the day.

On the subject of army lists I have to make one up for Sunday, I shall be fielding the Romans again and am torn between fielding the same as last time, which I believe is a good all round army for the upcoming tournament in February or just have some fun and bring some cataphracts and Praetorians which if I do will leave me enough points for two dogs and a goat.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

View From The Window

 Another week gone and January almost done, which is just as well as it is as miserable month after the festivities and always reminds us that not much changes, it is hard to be upbeat when outside is once again grey and wet, not as cold though. Very dark, threatening clouds over by Ingleborough, Washington House is still up for sale and Eyebrow Cottage's new kitchen must be complete as their skip has gone.

My kitchen has no walls or ceiling at the moment it all lies in the skip outside the Post Office, I will have no rest today either as the electrician is coming to tie in the cables, he asked for today as all the power will be off, even though I was happy to close the PO for the day if it had been during the week. He has also managed to put a tear in my study carpet, right in the middle where it sticks out like a sore thumb, I am going to hide somewhere today when he turns up as the missus has her sights on him, there could be blood. The chimney still leaks as well. Although the other lads and to be fair the electrician are doing sterling work wouldn't you just like someone to come and do a job with no hassle or confrontation at all. I once had to call out a drunken bum of an electrician on a Sunday morning, I of course did not know he was a drunken bum until he turned up, to fix my electrics which had gone off and I needed the shop fridges back on pronto. He stumbled into the house, hit the switch, which I had been hitting for an hour or so, and boom, on it came, he still took £50 for the call out!

Image result for builders

My missus has been giving me stick for not taking an interest in the new kitchen, living room and a dozen other things, so to this end I was dragged out to look at paint and floor tiles yesterday. We went to Morecambe first for lunch and tried a different Chinese from our normal one, big mistake, food was OK, service was lax and the place had no heating. We left there for Lancaster only to find the paint shop had closed for the afternoon, we spotted a tile shop in the same industrial estate and popped in there. Every tile I liked was dismissed with disdain, many which were nice were obviously not good enough, I could see right away the salesman was wasting his time, he should have got back to his Candy Crush. I can see what your are thinking, why was I there. We sped up the motorway to the tile shop she wanted to see in the first place, only to find out it belonged to the same company as the one we had just been at! Again I spotted some nice tiles, but no, they were not nice enough, madam chose the tile she wanted and hey presto it was all over. I still have to go through the same routine for the paint at some point.

Image result for tiles

A lot about the EU this last week, David Cameron floundering about being ignored by countries which add nothing to the EU but insisting that their citizens can come here and immediately sign on for benefits, I know a lot of them work I've seen them quietly take over most of the service industry, but a lot don't. I would like to see how much I would get if I hopped off a plane at Riga International and tried to sign on.

Image result for no to the eu

What is left of the British Steel industry is teetering on the brink, 1,000 jobs gone in Wales and of course there are howls of outrage as we build warships and other things with foreign steel, but seemingly the governments hands are tied if we do try and help as it has to be run past the EU first, and of course the answer there is" Nein".

It is not as if there is no money to help, £20m has just been earmarked to teach Muslin women to speak English. I might be wrong here but if I went to Italy I would not expect the Italian government to pay me to learn Italian, wouldn't that be one of the first things on my 'to do' list. One of our own leaders intimated that it might put them off strapping bombs to themselves, not in so many words of course, don't want to upset anyone. Don't forget the £3m for the footballing Chinese.

Why do jeans manufacturers insist on putting buttons on the flys of jeans, they are usually metal and larger than the buttonholes they have to go through and there is never enough space there to grab the thing properly and push it through. After a time the cover slips to the side and you walk about with your buttons showing as if you are half dressed. I have seen guys in toilets completely open with their jeans half way down the buttocks to pee, not a nice sight. I have decided to make a stand and never buy another pair with buttons, only the humble but perfectly practical zip will do for me. During my last trip to London during the Boxing Day sales I thought I would pick up a pair of jeans, the looks I got when I insisted they be regular instead of skinny, boot cut, straight, flared etc. and with a zip were to be treasured, it was if I had just stepped out of the Tardis. It took me about four shops before I managed it.

I am in a bit of a hurry today, the electrician is expected in about twenty minutes and that is it for the electricity for the day, or at the very least several hours, I will of course be lost without my PC or light to paint by.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Enforced Break

Things have kind of slowed down at the moment, I have been kicked off my usual painting station of the kitchen table while the work goes on in there, I can't see me getting back to normal in there for at least another two and a half weeks. In the meantime I am stuck with an edge of my workstation in the study, not ideal as I have to either stretch my legs or move the drawers, and of course passers by must be wondering what I am up to so near the window.

Luckily for me I don't have a lot to paint at the moment, on the tray are eight Dark Age cavalry, I want them for a game on Sunday 31st when my son and I will be 'training' again, he with a pretend Western Frank army and me with my Romans. Normally as you know I play games in the Post Office as there is nothing in there, customers included, and it is a huge space, my son has no room at home in Newton Aycliffe so he has got permission from his boss to use the work meeting room for games on a Sunday, it should be a bit posher than the PO as they are architects. We need to extend one side of the table to get rid of the round corners but this can be done and will be tested in just over a week, it should prove to be interesting. While there on the weekend I am picking up twelve cavalry figures to paint up a Carolingian Milites unit, I am looking forward to something new.

I have completed another map project for a book entitled 'A Time to Remember' which is a memoir devoted to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the First World War. I was about to start on the naval project when I was asked this morning to draw two example maps of a possible forty for a history of the Scots Guards in WWI, like Normandy last year I am beginning to get a good knowledge of the locales the British army fought over in France during the Great War.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Club Night

Miserable January grinds on and unlike me I was a bit late getting to the club due to the upheaval in my house due to the work on the new kitchen. The game was based on a real battle called the  Battle of Great Bridge fought on 9 December 1775 in Virginia during the early stages of the American War of Independence. Rob as ever had done his homework and we were all presented with our orders of battle and what we were supposed to achieve to win the game.

A map of the original battlefield.
 I was in charge of the 2nd Virginia and had two battalions along with a big gun and the Governor's Guard, there would be further reinforcements of irregulars as the game progressed, Simon was in charge of those. Why were the Governor's Guard fighting against the Governor, I have no idea, this is not a period I know much about and although I have tried to understand it in the past I have failed miserably.

The Guard and the Militia holding the barricades, lovely figures.
My job was simple, to hold my position, the British were ordered to attack and found the ground in front of them fairly unsuitable for their tactics so this meant they took quite some time to approach me, I tried to shoot them down but my efforts were in vain. A battalion of Scots gallantly marched forward and were cut down as my shooting improved, however this still left three of them alive, I had a bad feeling about these three. On they came and nothing I threw at them could stop them, they valiantly attacked my right flank militia and drove them back from the barricades, my dice throwing was abysmal for melee but I always managed to make the morale throws, eventually after about three turns I managed to kill the brave Jocks, but it was touch and go.

The Jocks are coming!
By now Simon's men had turned up, manned a wood and several houses and commenced a deadly fire with their long rifles, more British hit the deck, but the Scottish light infantry had managed to outflank my defences, slaughter the Guard and hit my militia in the flank, I was in trouble again. However this time my men managed to recoil and loose a close range volley into the Scots which decimated them, helped by some long shots from Simon, the officer attempted to escape the carnage but he also fell before he could make the shelter of a nearby wood.

That was it for the British, Stuart had desperately tried to get to hand to hand with his Scots but it was not enough to break me, his luck deserted him at the last minute, his companion Andy had lost a battalion to Simon's riflemen and then realised he had to leave men in the fort to get victory points, so his remaining troops turned and legged it, sadly not returning before the game ended. As we held our positions at the end we won the game despite the fright the Jocks gave me.

The line holds.
I am lucky to be able to play this at the club and use the armies of Rob and Andy rather than have to collect two armies and sheds of terrain of my own. Elsewhere this week we had a Napoleonic Volley and Bayonet game and a Warhammer Ancients with what I think were Biblical armies and the boardgame boys continue with their AWI series fighting Saratoga.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

View From The Window

What a change this morning, we have snow, in the gap the view is frosty with sunlight, very atmospheric, I suspect it is also pretty cold, the view is spoiled somewhat by a large yellow skip with the remains of Eyebrow Cottage's kitchen, the lady is getting a new one. Off the road the snow is still fairly thick, about three to four inches, it was that nice powdery stuff which crunches as you walk on it, it will now be icy but it is still pretty. There has been a bit of interest in Washington House recently with several viewings over the past week or so, also the house at the side has sold, if all goes well we will have new neighbours in a month or so.

Buying a house in England is a nightmare, the buyers can pull out almost right up to the arrival of your removal van, and I know at least one person here in the village that has happened to. I don't know how this is possible but no one in decades has done anything about it. You cannot do this in Scotland, as soon as you agree to buy you are stuck, so you have to think long and hard and be sure, you can't muck people around up there, you wouldn't want to in normal circumstances either but you can't when buying a house.

Buying a house here in the UK makes me sick, it is a needlessly complex transaction where professional bodies like estate agents, solicitors, surveyors and the local government all have a vested interest in taking as much money off you as possible for doing as little as possible, this probably explains why the situation above has never been resolved, and never will be. For instance a land search has to be done to ensure that the house actually belongs to the person selling it, and this has to be done every time it sells, why? Surely if we all agree that the present owner legally owns the house then when you buy it you own it, why search again when you sell it? That's a couple of hundred smackers gone. Then there is the surveyor who makes sure the house is fit to live in, is not over a mine shaft or has damp in the attic etc. but wait, nowadays you have to sign a document which basically says that if he does not find anything he can't be sued for anything he didn't find! And get this, most 'surveyors' unless you shell out thousands of pounds only come in, look around, make some measurements and leave, another few hundred sheckles gone. I have bought properties twice now with damp problems. And what about the estate agent, they take a photo of your house, put it in the local paper a couple of times, pop it on their crowded website and boom, you owe them thousands when the house sells.

I didn't clear the kitchen last weekend which came as a surprise to me, I am clearing it this weekend, most of it was done yesterday. The kitchen people come tomorrow morning, so there will be another skip parked out the front, when you hire a skip here it would seem that you are hiring it also for your neighbours and passing scrap metal dealers. Neighbours come in the night and throw in the stuff that the bin men won't take, the last time we found a horrible, disgusting animal cage popped on the top with the remains of all sorts of creatures rotting in the bottom, god knows what had been in there. The scrap metal dealers must have some kind of jungle telegraph as they turn up within a day or so and dig out all the metal and other stuff they can sell, they left the cage.

When I was in India several years ago an obviously upper class family passed me on my way to the beach, father in suit and tie carrying a child, then mother, another child, then several more in descending height behind her. He stopped, handed the child over and then happily peed at the side of the road in full view of a great many people. Obviously that would not happen in a civilised country. Three days ago, one of the kitchen fitters across the road came out the house, walked into the drive of Washington House, looked around, came back to the front of Eyebrow Cottage and peed in the front garden. It is not a hidden garden and it is directly across from the Post Office on main street. There are toilets in the cottage!

How many ???? does it take to change a light bulb, you will have heard one version or another of the joke, well if you have sunken ceiling lights like mine the answer is simply, you can't, you're stuffed mate. I noticed one of the lights in the bathroom was out, I had a spare, I took off the cover and found that there was no room to grab the bulb, it was flush with the holder, with perhaps a millimetre or so free around the edge. The bulb is designed to pull out and you push the new one in, but somewhere along the process of getting it off the drawing board no one had thought about changing the bloody thing. Naturally I grabbed two knives and attempted to wiggle it out, bang, pieces of glass on the floor and half the bulb still in the fitting. Luckily we have an electrician coming to rig the kitchen, I am hoping he will get it out. The missus looked up YouTube, and someone suggested getting a sucker on a stick to pull it out, why didn't I think when they were put  in that I would need a sucker on a stick!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Nothing Much

I have completed as far as I can the upgrading of my Dark Age warbands from 24 to 27 men, the reason I did this is that most of the Dark Age armies I have fought against or seen in the WAC tournaments have 27 or 30 man units and I felt my own guys were at a disadvantage. With me it is only a feeling, something intangible, but there are other wargamers out there who work on probabilities, percentages and all sorts of other black arts which deal with numbers, I am not thick by any means but life is too short.

The new, improved Romano-British and Saxon hordes.
I paint my guys to the best of my ability and I then become attached to them, no matter whether they are elites or cannon fodder of the lowest order, I do expect them to perform on the battlefield but I leave it up to them and the dice gods, not the numbers.

I played a guy a long time ago who played by the numbers, a very clever, nice lad who turned up every week expecting his HYW English army to destroy everything in its path as he had worked out nothing could stand up to the arrow storm he would let loose from behind his barricades. I have to admit he was usually right, but not with my boys, we bucked the trend. Why, because my troops had heart not computers and I trusted them rather than the numbers. I fought one game against him where he simply could not believe the number of sixes I threw over three or four combats destroying his army, s**t happens.

I am only pottering about at the moment, I still have two infantry units to add to, then eight cavalry to paint and then I am done, I have no patience as you know and I have already started on the last six infantry, the cavalry I hope to have finished by the end of the month when I am expecting another WAC battle.

I have a tournament in May and if the new army lists are made official by then I will be tempted to take my Saxons as a Heptarchy army, they haven't always fought well for me but I still live in hope.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Club Night

Another cold and miserable journey to the club only to be met with a parking problem as it was a parent's evening at the school where we meet, how inconvenient, don't they realise Tuesdays are for wargaming.

Andrew had brought along his first attempt at a scenario, the Empire (me) had got wind of a Scum and Villainy, criminal/pirate base and decided to wipe it out as it was being used to raid the space lanes. In a surprise attack an Imperial force dropped in from hyper space and found themselves behind the enemy who were between them and the base. The S&V players each had forces of 100 points, Simon had taken two IG88 ships flown by assassin droids but had given them all sorts of upgrades, Andrew once again took the Hounds Tooth along with a Y-Wing and two Z95's. I fielded three Interceptors, two Defenders, one Phantom and brought along a Bounty Hunter, most of these ships had some kind of upgrade to give them target locks or defensive values.

The Imperials drop in.
 I kept my fleet in a tight formation but played loose with the Phantom as a flanker, keeping it cloaked as long as possible, this does not make it invulnerable, simply harder to hit. The enemy on seeing my approach scattered as they tried to turn around and put up a defence, Andrew was slow but Simon came on very quickly but left one IG88 sitting right in front of all my ships. I threw everything at it thinking it was a gift, although I managed to destroy her shields I did not do any real damage, Simon saved nearly all my hits. After this for a time I couldn't hit a barn door.
A very lucky IG88 attacks the fleet.
 At this point I wanted to turn on Simon and dogfight, Andrew was really too far away to help, I thought I stood a good chance of taking out the IG88's, but we were here to destroy the Scum base and I reluctantly drove my troops on, knowing Simon would get on my tail, but I needed all my firepower to take the station out.
The base comes into range.
 Sure enough I began to take losses, I could not hit back as nothing was in front of me and the Scum had a field day, before long I had lost four ships, however I could now fire at the base, I opened up and seemingly could not miss as one after another the four base modules spectacularly blew up. Game over.

Boom, game over.
 The scenario was a good idea but needs tweaking, we discussed several issues as the game unfolded, my concern was that originally the Imperials did not have enough points to make an attack, having to fend off the enemy and hit the base which had 20 hit points. I managed to get another 25 before the game started, I still think it should be more like 200 v 250. I initially thought dropping in behind the Scum would not be a big deal, but it did prove to be a nuisance for them as they fought for space to turn their ships around. Andrew took his Hounds Tooth and Y-Wing the long way around which helped me get in close to the base before they started shooting. I moaned about the 20 hit points for the base thinking it was too much, I countered this by saying the base should have at least one defence die. The guys agreed and we reduced the base to 12 hit points with a defence die. I then felt bad as when I did open up on it I could not miss and within two turns it had gone. I was prepared to call it a day but they gave me a minor win as I had lost more than 50% of my points in the attack.

It is a good premise for a scenario and I would like to play it again, it is also very hard to balance, the Scum could have taken more ships, smaller and more agile, my over the top shooting of the base could have gone the opposite way and I would only have managed a few hits before flying past the thing and having to turn back into the defenders. I on the other hand could have taken a bunch of Ties as escort for a few hard hitting ships. So a lot of different things to try out still.

 Elsewhere we had an AWI boardgame, another run at Cross of Iron and Frostgrave. Next week it is Muskets and Tomahawks, the week after I fancy taking along Dead Man's Hand as I have a neat idea for a scenario involving bounty hunters.
Cross of Iron, Eastern Front.

Brrrrr, Frostgrave.