Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Friday, May 31, 2013

Three months with no TV

As the post title suggests, this is the end of my third month without TV, after I cancelled my Sky subscription at the end of February.  I would like to be able to nobly intone that going without TV was a lifestyle choice, but the real reason I switched off was because the rugby I'd originally signed up for so many years ago was being used to manipulate viewers.  Basically, Sky have spent the last few years forcing customers to subscribe to more sports channels to get the same content, but this Super XV season they started to cut down the number of games shown as well, so I decided I'd had enough of being held to ransom (treating your loyal customers this way seems to be especially poor strategy in the internet age, where free live streaming of sports events is just a google search away, but that's another matter...).

To cut a long story short, not watching sports TV or the movie channels at night has freed up a lot of time, and I've tended to spend that time painting.

So, how has it gone?

Well, after three months of doing a little painting every day - sometimes as little as ten minutes, sometimes as much as three hours - I have quite a few painted figs to show for it.

I'm three or four sessions away from completing another 50 cavalry, so if I cheat a little and squeeze them in, we've got an average monthly output of around 10 6mm vehicles, 86 15mm foot and 22 15mm horse.

I've already exceeded last year's painting totals in this time (barring the 6mm stuff), so I have to say that this no TV caper has worked a treat.

Also, I haven't missed the rugby as much as I thought I would...

As an added bonus, the blood pressure seems to have gone down now that I have no chance of accidentally stumbling across those 'history' channel shows featuring some wild-eyed fellow demonstrating 'conclusively' that (insert historical figure here) was in fact in communication with alien beings!!

OK, these aren't quite finished, but I'm including them in the tallies anyway...

Friday, May 24, 2013

More Gauls...

Another lot of Gauls done, and we're now just over a third of the way through the infantry.  These are a mix of Tin Soldier and Xyston, with a pack of Corvus Belli in there too.

The rainy season is coming up, so painting can get a bit icky from here on until autumn.  I want to get as much done as I can while spray primer and spray varnish are still reliable, so the nose is to the grindstone!

Ideally the next lot will be a portion of the cavalry, but I may just keep going with infantry while the force is with me.  We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1/700 Warships

There is a wonderful variety of 1/700 ship models available in Japan manufactured by companies such as Aoshima, Tamiya, Hasegawa and Fujimi.  They are quite reasonably priced, and after putting this collection together for a chap in the UK who wants to do a naval game in this scale I find that I'm strangely reluctant to part with it!

Perhaps I will need to start collecting some models for when I move back to New Zealand and space is not such an issue...

Destroyers and a sub

Light Cruisers

Heavy Cruiser

The lot

If anyone reading is interested in 1/700 models and would like me to have a look down at the local hobby shop for you, feel free to ask.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

All's well that ends well.

2013 has not, to this point, been a particularly lucky year for this blogger and those close to me.  It has been lucky in the sense that the things that have gone wrong could have gone wrong worse than they did - a whole lot worse, in fact! -  so I'm thankful that nothing really disastrous has eventuated.

Still, it hasn't been all beer and skittles.

For a minor wargaming example, I'd heard that the USPS shipping rates would go up significantly at the end of January, and so decided to put in a couple of orders for some essential 'would likes' (note the wargamer's oxymoron there!) before the prices jumped.  However, since we were going to New Zealand for my brother's wedding at the end of January, I knew I would not be around to collect the parcels.  I therefore arranged to have them sent to my wife's uncle and aunt's house instead of our place.

As we were driving back from the airport on our return to Japan I remarked to my wife that it was nice to have a couple of parcels to look forward to to offset the inevitable low that accompanies a return to normal life after a couple of weeks of relaxed conviviality.

My wife gave me a funny look.

It turned out that in the rush to organize the kids for the trip she'd not told her relatives to expect any parcels from the US, and I'd not reminded her, feeling that it was best to not bother her long-suffering self with extra pressure.

No problem, we thought.  They are bound to have them there.

When we got home my wife called her aunt to apologize for not telling her about the shipping arrangement and to ask if the parcels had arrived.  Her aunt said that they had indeed had a strange parcel arrive from the US, but not having any English, they hadn't known what it was.  They'd kept it there unopened, but upon the arrival of a second parcel, they'd begun to get worried, thinking that it might be some kind of scam.  They'd then called the police, and the officer had advised them to return the parcels to the post office.

This they had done the day before we arrived back in the country.

We made a quick call to the local post office to see if they had the parcels there, which saw us redirected to Osaka, then redirected to the returned mail office somewhere up north, and then to a man who told us very nicely that he was sorry but there was not a snowball's chance of him being able to find our parcels amongst all of the other ones there, even if he had the time to look, which he didn't, and neither would we, if we got the volume of returned mail he did, and the number of idiots calling about getting it back.

Well, I could understand his point of view, so we had a laugh about it, and as a last resort I sent off a couple of emails to the companies I'd bought from explaining what had happened and asking them to contact me if the packages ever returned, which I thought unlikely.  One company replied to commiserate, and from the other there was nothing.

Three months passed, with no further news.

In the meantime, I'd had a chance to do someone a good turn.  By thinking about someone else for a change my attitude slowly moved from "What a crap year this is turning out to be!" to "Stop moaning to yourself, get off your backside, make some changes, and do something to improve things".

And things did begin to improve.

By this time a fourth month had passed and, on a whim, I decided to call up Old Glory 15s just in case they had any news.

I got a helpful chap called David on the phone and sheepishly explained what the situation was.  Had they had anything like that arrive?

"Hmmm, that rings a bell", he said. "Give me a minute."

"Yes," he said, "we got the package.  Just pay for the shipping and we'll get that order back off to you by the end of the week."

After this bit of unexpectedly good news I immediately called the second company, NWS online gaming store.

"Sorry buddy", said Christopher, "we've had nothing come through."

Oh well, I thought.  Even finding one of them is better than I'd anticipated, and I told my wife the good news.

Next day, there was an email from Christopher.  "We've found your order chit", it said.  "It was returned to us after all."

So, there we are.  All's well that ends well, and it's nice to have the orders on their way, thanks to some great work by the post offices concerned and the very helpful folk at oldglory15s and NWS.

By way of a postscript, the upswing in fortune seems to be continuing, but more on that another time...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gauls and cricket...

With the test match on at Lord's tonight I've been finishing the prep for the last of my Gallic infantry as I don't want to leave the computer for the painting room.  Shame that New Zealand has thrown away a good chance to build a first innings lead, but credit must go the the English bowlers and to the approach of their batsmen in the second innings.

Anyway, the Gauls must be getting annoyed with me talking about cricket, and I do want them to perform on table for me, so I'd best shut up!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book review: Matterhorn, a Vietnam War novel

Amongst a stack of books I recently got for the Kindle was Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes. Vietnam is not one of those wars that I tend to read about - mainly because it's still in many ways raw - but as this was a novel I thought I would give it a shot and see what it was like.

I finished the book last night, and have to say that I was impressed. Marlantes may not be a literary master, but there are moments when you might almost think he was. Some of the passages display lovely lyrical qualities, and the hard-won wisdom that underpins his descriptions and observations gives the novel authenticity, power and a relevance that can evoke unexpectedly emotional responses.

Some of the characters and scenes verge upon the stereotypical, but the sense that the author has known these people, seen these places and lived these experiences prevents any slip into terminal cliche.

Themes the book touches upon include innocence lost, the nature of friendship, race relations and the psychology of war.  The relationship I developed with the protagonist was complex, and the author immerses the reader in the blood, dirt and drink of Vietnam so thoroughly that we can begin to understand some of the damage that the ordinary man must do to himself to participate in warfare, and what things will enable him to accept the cost to self.

I have not gone into any plot details here, but if you are interested in a fictionalized account of  a young man coping with his experiences as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam, you could do worse than read this book.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wargame in Kobe

On Saturday I trotted up to Kobe for a game of The Perfect Captain's Spanish Fury with Pat and Luke.  After our last game day Pat had kindly offered to umpire a renaissance game for Luke and myself, and although it took five months to find a free afternoon, I think we were all agreed that it was a case of better late than never.

The battle was Mookerheyde (1574), which pitted a Dutch force under Count Louis of Nassau (Luke) against a Spanish force under Sancho de Avila (me).

The Spanish (red) were superior in quality, but the Dutch (blue) and their mercenaries had a slight edge in numbers, especially cavalry.

(Image captured from this Perfect Captain PDF here

In our game the Spanish had twenty turns to crush Nassau and his men.  Anything less would be a loss, so the burden of attack lay on me - just how I like it!

The heart of Spanish Fury is the orders system, which meant that how I brigaded the troops together was important. I split my cavalry into two commands, put the Spanish tercios together (S6 and S7) and left the Walloons on their own. This was not perhaps the wisest choice.

Luke had all his cavalry in one command and an arrangement I wasn't sure of for his infantry.

I put all my brigades under assault orders, so we immediately went racing across the turf towards the enemy. Nassau's cavalry seemed to have similar plans, but all his infantry bar one unit of landsknechts (R6) held in place.

(Initial advances)
As my infantry advanced it began accumulating disorder points from the enemy sakers, so I decided to march as quickly as possible and hope to rally the disorder before charging home.  On my left the cavalry fight was likely to be over swiftly and I hoped I could get the better of it.  Unfortunately, I didn't really pay attention to what Luke was doing (always a dangerous oversight!) and started rather poorly.

At the first onrush I managed to cleverly advance my unit of reiters within range of the guns of the advancing German foot, so we were a pretty ragged bunch by the time the melee combat with the intended enemy - the cavalry - actually began.

Elsewhere, the cavalry battle was reasonably evenly matched, with me winning one combat decisively, getting the worst of another and drawing the third. But it was the fourth that was crucial: my reiters routed after the gun work of the landsknechts (and I couldn't blame them!) leading to a furious pursuit which carried the enemy cavalry behind my infantry lines. My reiters kept running, but his did not: they rallied on the flank of my advancing tercio, just as it was about to confront the landsknechts.

The Count's reiters reform after their pursuit... on my tercio's flank!
At this point I was confronted with a stark choice: halt my infantry advance and go into hedgehog to see off the enemy or continue advancing towards the Germans and try to break them fast. I chose the second option.

Naturally, it was the wrong one: my tercio became horribly disordered in the charge, which negated its superior stats, and the landsknechts held without breaking sweat. In the meantime, the reiters had reformed and prepared to charge. I now realised that if they hit me I would break automatically, so all depended on them passing their waver check to charge.

And they did, without a care in the world!

They then hit my poor mismanaged tercio on the flank, breaking it in one fell swoop.  With my other two tercios badly disordered by enemy fire and the cavalry battle not going well, I conceded the game and slunk off to my side of the table with tail between legs and beer in hand.

So, how was the game?

Firstly, the result seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable. I did not plan my assault well, my cavalry advance was poorly executed and I failed to take into account Luke's intentions or counter them effectively.

There were a few things that did not seem entirely polished in the way that the various sub-systems of the game fitted together, but as I know very little about the subtleties of renaissance warfare I say that cautiously.

All in all it was a very enjoyable game and an excellent day.  Next time I will work more on tactics and rely less on dumb luck, but the early finish allowed us to chew the fat, have a glass of something nice and put together some plans for our next meeting.

To finish, here are a few shots of the game from Pat's perspective.

The early going with Luke in the foreground and me over there somewhere.

The cavalry get into position, with a little support from the landsknechts.

My tercio meets the landsknechts and is in turn met by the reiters...

The end of the affair!

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