Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rules & music

As I expect most of us are, I am a bit of a music fan. I vividly recall the thrill of going into town on a Saturday morning after a week of uni to check out the secondhand record stores and see what I could find. You'd have ten or twenty bucks to spend, you'd pick up an album, head home, put it on, and really listen to it. You'd play it again. Then again. You'd play it over a couple of riggers with your flatmates. Then you'd play it again when you went to bed.

You'd get news that a new album was coming out, you'd get the date, and you'd go and line up outside the record store to make sure you got a copy. There was camaraderie. There were conversations. You could make friends based on a person's taste in music.

There were milestones. The first time that you heard something on a really decent stereo (INXS: The Swing). The first time you heard something on good headphones (Genesis: Genesis). The first time you bought an album (INXS: Kick). The first time you realised that you could say you liked certain albums and that would not be cool, whereas if you said you liked others it would be (Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms; Def Leppard: Hysteria).

Then there was the musical awakening, when you found something that made you go 'yeah!' (Deep Purple: Machine Head). Then you found something that made you want to tell everyone you knew about it, and lend it to them (Deep Purple: Made in Japan). Then you found something that made you realise music could lift you onto an entirely different plane, even if you didn't quite understand it (Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy). Then you find something that made you want to become a musician (Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here).

And then you discover parties, booze, smokes, new mates, girlfriends, pubs, student flats, car stereos. You find something that you'd learned to play, and discover other people who'd learned to play that too.

Of course, when you buy, you buy vinyl.

And it's really good.

And then you get older. You look for a job. Hopefully you get one. You get married or settle down. You have kids or pets, and slowly music stops being the priority in your life. You still buy, but you listen in the car. You play a bit, but you're rusty, and you don't like the way you sound. You buy CDs. You use the skip button, which you never did before. You couldn't recite the track list of the last album you bought. In fact, you may not even remember where you got it, how much it cost, what else it was in competition with that day, where you'd heard of it, which of your mates would also like it, or its title.

It all gets a bit sad. Music is important, but it's those older albums you remember. You get a bit funny about some songs now. They make you think of people gone. You revisit scenes from your past. You muse over old times and old actions. You wonder if you were really the person you thought you were. Then you find there's some music you can't listen to in company. My uncle? Yeah, you met him at my wedding. Yep, he did love Pink Floyd. Saw them in London, you know. Yeah. He did. It was unexpected. Yeah, thanks. It was just one of those shitty things.  And now you can't listen to Comfortably Numb or Shine On You Crazy Diamond or Sorrow around other people anymore, and there's no way you could get all the way through Wish You Were Here on acoustic guitar for your kids.

And you know, wargaming gets to be a little bit the same. Not quite at the same intense level - there's no passion like teenage passion for music, after all! - but  the same general trend is recognisable. There is an introduction, a fumbling around, then growing certainty. There are significant books, rules, armies, games, people. You buy, read, play. You buy, you read, you might play. You buy, you intend to read, you don't. You buy. You stop buying.

But man, that game. I can't be sure what year that was now. Remember when that happened though? Remember, man? Remember that? That's what wargaming is all about.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

And now for something completely different

Regular readers may wish to avert their eyes at this point.

Yes, Warhammer Orcs. Although this revelation is not going to cause any Katie Perry level 'I Kissed a Girl' excitement, I did kind of like it!

These will have proper painters appalled by the rubbish paintjob, but after doing a big bunch of black undercoated 1/72 Confederates recently I thought I'd try the same approach with some fantasy figs I picked up ages ago and see how they came out. 

Not flash, but dip can hopefully hide a multitude of painting sins, and Dragon Rampant games become a little closer to reality...

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dux Bellorum battle

I was lucky enough to have Luke U-S venture down to these parts today for a spot of miniatures gaming. He'd recently taken (re)possession of a shipment of 15mm Late Romans from the homeland. As he hadn't played with them for 18 years, it would've been rude not to get them to the table.

As fate would have it, the task given to me was to defend a community of poor innocent Romano-British whose rights were being trampled upon by a rogue would-be emperor out for plunder.

As to those who spread rumours that a bit of cattle raiding may in fact have been somewhat instrumental in bringing this retribution down upon our own heads, they are not to be believed. There were no cattle, and besides, it wasn't us.

Grand schemes afoot.

The plan was for our centre - shieldwall, three units of ordinary, one of nobles - to claim the central area of the battlefield, leaning upon the hill as needed. Our right -  two units of ordinary horse and a unit of bow-armed skirmishers - were to drive off the enemy horse and thence to harass the open flank of the Roman infantry. Our left - two units of noble horse, one being companions, and some javelinmen -  were to see off the Roman horse and then fall upon the the Roman infantry from this side.

This plan did not in fact commence all that auspiciously. My right refused to move at all, and a petulant unit of foot refused to go up the hill. My javelinmen were eager to advance, but after running into fire from Roman slingers concealed in the wood, it did not seem such a good idea to send them forward after all.

Fortunately, the Romans didn't all do exactly what they were told to either.

It's all a bit hit-and-miss early.

Over the next few turns the situation crystalised: my left would be staying out of range of the enemy slingers until an opportunity presented itself to charge home; my centre would try to engage on the best possible terms; my right would continue with the original plan.

First actions. Circular markers indicate hits; any cubes left indicate leadership points (LPs) we forgot to remove prior to the 
taking photos phase...

It quickly became clear that we were in a precarious position in the centre. We would need to shore up the exposed right flank of our infantry line as best we could while we waited for our still tardy hill-huggers to advance far enough to give us a corresponding advantage against the enemy infantry line.

Fortunately, Dux Bellorum (for those are the rules we were playing) allows a person to do just that: a fellow can load up a unit with leadership points and use these points to cancel hits made upon it [actually, cancelling the hit is not quite true for our game: I feel an auto-cancel is too strong, so we used our defensive LPs to force the enemy to re-roll the successful attack]. Both sides made much use of LPs.

Over the next few turns there were various exciting and potentially battle-defining events. For one, my javelinmen on their hill were massacred from a distance by those infernal slingers in their infernal wood (okay, so I should have kept them out of missile range after all. Shoot me!). For another, the horsemen of my right proved singularly inept at ganging up upon one measly unit of enemy horse. For a third, the use of LPs in the centre kept cohesion losses on both sides to a minimum, which certainly favoured our heroes, given the advantage in numbers and position that the Roman line had.

Wherefore art thou, Romano-British javelinmen?

Come on horsemen, you're supposed to win here! 

Good job, gentlemen and cattle robbers. Hold that centre!

* Soon after this we stopped for lunch. During the break, a look at the rulebook showed that I'd missed a fairly essential rule: we should have been retreating units when they lost a combat. We resolved therefore to put this rule into practice from lunchtime onward.

It was now apparent that our left had to get involved or else we were going to lose horribly. Our noble horsemen therefore charged, and a miraculous result meant that the enemy were eliminated on first contact.

How did that happen??!

Triumph here however was tempered by the fact that we had also lost a unit of horse on our other flank.

You win some you lose some...

With leadership points now at a premium due to unit losses, our ability to influence the outcome in the centre was greatly reduced. Nevertheless, our right finally had success against the horse there.

It's still anyone's game, but our cohesion hits are mounting fast.
Over the next few turns there were more moments of triumph and disaster - but mostly disaster. We lost our leader and his companions; we lost more foot; we killed their skirmishers.

The tide turns against us!

Finally, when all looked grim, we had a 'there's no situation that double sixes can't remedy' moment.  Romans lose their outflanking unit to missile fire. Then, in melee, both central units destroy each other.

A most fortunate result - and the LP re-roll also succeeds!

Both armies have now taken 50% casualties and need to take rout tests. All units rout except for two on each side: it comes down to who has most cohesion points left on table.

It's pretty even!

In the end, I concede. The Roman still has his commander on table and his foot unit is of higher quality than our poor innocent Romano-Brits. We hand over the remaining head of cattle and both sides go home.

It was quite a game, and well done Luke. It was only luck right at the end that kept us Romano-Brits in it, but what luck it was!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The more things change the more they stay the same

I realised today that it's been a touch over eight years since I started this blog. That means I've been doing this for longer than I was at university, and I was at university for what seemed like a very long time.

The blog's been going for twice as long as I was together with my first steady girlfriend, and it seemed then as if we were growing into middle age together.

And this place is now as old as my second daughter, who is such a delight that I wish she could stay as she now is forever.

It's been an interesting period of time.

I was amused though to see that at the end of January 2010 I'd posted here about a Lost Battles play-by-email duel with long-distance wargaming mate John A (he keeps a very fine blog here) in which we were playing the Asculum scenario from both sides. At the end of January 2018 I also by accident found myself playing a play-by-email duel, using the same rules system, with long-distance wargaming mate Andrea T. Again, funnily enough, the scenario has been Asculum, from both sides.

Quite a neat little piece of symmetry, I think.

One final thing: as part of my first job in Japan I was lucky enough to teach a doctor who had served in the Pacific War. He was a lovely man with a keen sense of humour and many stories to tell. We talked a lot about the war when we could, and he used to joke with the other teachers about how he and my grandfather had been enemies.

Now, thirteen years later, I have been engaged to teach him again.

His circumstances are not now so good as they were. He is just months shy of reaching his century and has recently been moved to a rest home. While still fairly mentally sharp, he does not remember me at all, and I suspect that we will be getting reacquainted from week to week. It is a little sad, but again a nice piece of symmetry. I go to see him in the morning for our first lesson. I think my grandfather would have approved.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Hobby shop excursion

Today the wife and kidlings were keen to make the trip to Osaka to attend a sale, so I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in Shinsaibashi to go check out the new Warhammer store and another similar one nearby.

As it was the first time I'd visited miniature-wargaming stores in Japan, I was thinking that to be neighbourly I'd pick up a few pots of paint (or even some minis, if I could get away with it...), but the whole experience was a bit of a disappointment. The prices were triple what I'd pay for my usual paints, more yen per pot than I'd pay to order in Coat d'Arms from the UK, and the service worse than you'd get when asking about the contents of a riceball at the convenience store.

I wonder if I've underestimated how spoiled I am being a collector of 15mm, a predominantly solo hobbiest (meaning I can play what takes my fancy without needing to follow trends), *and* resident in Japan.

Even when including 20-40% shipping costs, 15mm gives good value for money in terms of spectacle (though the pound's fall is probably changing that now), and the low cost of locally produced hobby materials (paint, primers, brushes, washes, clear-coats, etc.) means that miniature wargaming has been, as a hobby, relatively inexpensive.

I've also been very lucky in that the local hobby connections I have have been with genuine hobbyists, interested in the pursuit itself and in the passing on of knowledge and techniques, with the money to be made from it a side issue (though of course as an appreciative customer one wants to direct as much of one's hobby money as possible to those people!).

If I were the kind of person to work these things out, it would probably have cost me more per year to be a keen gym-goer or snowboarder here than it has to be a lead-importing wargamer.

So, all in all, today's visit was an educational if not greatly edifying experience. I wish them well, but I probably won't go back.

(As an FYI, I did notice that introductory game sets were quite reasonably priced; it was the follow up ones and the paints that weren't...)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Impending flock crisis

I was hoping that other avenues would open up, but in the last month I've had to face up to an uncomfortable truth: my usual 'colour powder' flock has been discontinued by the company which made it and replaced instead by a new line of static grasses.

No joy online, no joy in stores, no joy posting on local FB groups; stocks are, in a word, extinct.

Now, I'm actually a bit of a stickler when it comes to basing. I'm not much of a painter and my basing style is very - ahem - 'basic' but with that comes consistency, so I know that when I line the armies up on the table they are going to be compatible, and that you aren't going to see heavy cavalry in idyllic meadows, heavy infantry on wintry farmland, slingers in bogs, light cavalry in stony hill country, elephants in desert wastes and so on all in within a couple of square feet of table.

But now I know that at some point in the future I'm going to run out of flock mix.

It's a little glimpse of Armageddon, and I don't like it!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Project screw up and rhetorical questions.

I've just come back to a long dormant project after seeing some spectacularly inspirational blogosphere action and have spent the last few days keenly prepping and organising in order to paint the untouched, touch up the already painted, base them all, and be ready to play.

Except that tonight, having taken out the partly painted and seen them close up, I've realised why I put them way way way back up in the cupboard in the first place: I did a rotten job on them first time around and, really, the effort required to bring them up to a standard I can accept is going to be draining and time consuming. Wrong scale and medium (1/72 plastic); wrong priming colour for me (black); and consequently lots of work to educate myself on how to do over and make them look good.

Again, I'm now not at all sure that it's worth it.

So I'm left wondering whether to push on through anyway or just give up. I'm not really a give up kind of person (more a put aside, think, and come back to it type, which can end up being the same thing, of course!), but the complicating factor is that we are going to be doing a big move quite soon, and so these borderline projects do require a decision.

It's a period I'm interested in and completed armies would be a great thing, but is this the form I want them in, and am I prepared to put in the work required?


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