Monday, July 03, 2017

"Dunstan" - a review...

Latest from one of my favourite authors... currently on holiday so this was devoured in a little over a day while lying on a sunbed...

After what I thought was an unconvincing War of the Roses trilogy... don't get me wrong I read the whole that trilogy, but it paled in comparison to the Ghenghis books...  this one is in a different league and in my view a huge return to form..

So this a single book (no series) charting the (largely) imagined life of Dunstan, the builder of Glastonbury and Canterbury cathedrals, mathematician, metal worker, advisor to Kings (seven in all), Royal Treasurer and senior churchman in the period from Athelstan (Alfred's grandson) to Ethelred (the Unready)...

Anyone who's read their history (or Bernard Cornwell) will know this was a tumultuous period in British history (British, since at the time nominally Scotland and Wales were part of the Kingdom even if Ireland was not)... regular viking incursions had to be beaten off, pitched battles, alliances and betrayals, and the passing of seven kings, all of which Dunstan witnesses and describes in his own particular style (irrascible just about hits the nail on the head I think )...

He describes life in the early middle ages, he describes the kings and their queens (most of the Queens he dislikes as he has a slightly misogynistic streak), and he describes his work as Royal Treasurer, and builder/achitect...

Absolutely wondeful book...  wholeheartedly recommended...  Steve the Wargamer rates it 10 out 10

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Southampton Beer Festival 2017

All change this year - after many years going to the Guildhall in Southampton (which to my mind is a lovely venue) the local CAMRA branch, faced by a stiff hike in prices from the Guildhall, shifted location to the football stadium (St Mary's) ....hmmm......

Picture from the local rag to give you an idea of the venue - not me by the way - just some other happy punters...
Cue new venue - a large draughty corridor - concrete floor - 'industrial chic'....  the venue is in the access from outside of the stadium to the seating for the fans (note the steps in the roof in the piccie above) - not convivial.... then add in that no food was allowed to be brought in (at a beer festival!) - no pork pies, no pickled onions...  then for reasons known only to themselves they'd got rid of the local ale bar which was one my favourite parts...

Good things? Plenty of tables and chairs... 

My jury's out...  but it ain't looking good.. 

Not a brilliant choice of ales either this year, I thought ..

Brewery Beer (click for
more info)
ABV Notes (from brewery website) What I can remember...
Hop Back Fuggle Stone 4% None - launched on the day.. Hop Back are celebrating 40 years of brewing this year and to celebrate had released a new brew at the festival. Disappointingly, we thought it was a bit flat, but otherwise an un-astounding amber, hoppy bitter.
Bristol Beer Factory Independence 4.6% "Our distinctive American Pale Ale is full of big hop character but without the strong bitterness. Carefully selected American hops are added continuously during the boil, and also during conditioning (dry hopping) to give a really fresh aromatic boost. This beer is mainly about hops but we have given it a malt backbone to balance the beautiful tropical fruit aromas". Now I've been drinking their "Belville Hop" in bottles, so I was keen to see how this one shaped up..  stonking... mahoosive hoppy citrus bitter hit..  lovely!
Southsea Brewing Company Casemate IPA 5.4% None - no website Small company that make beer from their brewery in Southsea Castle (Henry VIII era) - had this at the Petersfield Beer festivsal not long ago where it wa my favourite, but it was in poor condition this afternoon - flat/cloudy
Thornbridge Jaipur 5.9% "A citrus dominated India Pale Ale, its immediate impression is soft and smooth yet builds to a crescendo of massive hoppiness accentuated by honey. An enduring, bitter finish." A premier league beer this one and after the hit and miss of the earlier beers I had two of these...  smashing!
Red Cat Raiona IPA 6.2% "Packed with citra hops on a pale malt base" Taste tested this against the Bristol Beer Factory offering - subtly different - both excellent!






Monday, June 26, 2017

Smoke on the water

"Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water"
Deep Purple (of course) "Smoke on the Water" (no, really?? )

A long, (long) time ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, Steve the Wargamer was much enamoured of this particular book for a period of time (the same would happen some time later with Air Wargames) and in particular I was much taken with the chapter on American Civil War ironclads..



...for some reason my imagination was entirely taken up with plucky Confederates and their home made ironclad and the technological Union with their armour plated monitor..  at the time I made up plaster of Paris moulds, based on plasticine masters of the ships concerned (totally out of scale as I subsequently found as I made them roughly equal in size), casting up a few of each, and after painting, many happy games were played out on a two foot square table using the rules from the book..

Step forward a large number of years and I spotted these same models on the Peter Pig stand at Colours [clicky] and bang a Monitor and a Merrimack (yeah I know she's really the Virginia but from those early days the Merrimack name stuck) were bought..

They then sat in a box waiting for a set of rules to take my imagination - the originals (on re-reading) were a little basic, and then a whole succession of others that were either way too complex or way too simple, so the project kind of went into stasis..  then the other week I happened to be reading Edinburgh Wargames Society's blog [clicky] and they had a post on a most enjoyable (and fantastic) looking game featuring one of their own members scratch built 28mm models played to the guys own rules, and I thought "aha"..  fast forward and I had a copy of said rules from the inestimable Bill Gilchrist [clicky] who is a most helpful guy and provided me with everything I needed to actually play a game..  son on a grey and windy Sunday afternoon when you don't fancy going out on a real boat, what better than to test run the rules??

What a cracking little game it turned out to be...  only the one question at this stage, but they played out well, and with just the level of complexity I was looking for..  so a few pictures from the game

First or second turn and the Merrimack, sorry, Virginia, has opened fire on the Monitor for the first time...  small target (you can see why), long range, medium guns, chances are not high but despite that the Confederate gunnery was exceptional for most of the afternoon - consistent high rolling and on this first broadside, despite not being heavy enough to penetrate her armour they did manage to damage the engines...


Guns firing on all sides - Monitor has the advantage of small size and heavier guns - Virginia has more guns but not as flexible - she has two heavy guns but they only fire ahead and astern, broadsides are mediums and not capable of penetrating Monitors armour, but can still cause other damage..  the black puff ball is a visual reminder to me that a ship has damage and I need to check the ship record sheet


Monitor was getting hit hard


Having a ram it was clear that the Virginia needed to take matters into her own hands - and on a sufficiently high initiative roll in she went....  I was quite pleased with this move...  two moves (first was a manoeuvre) followed by ram, followed by gunnery from the heavy gun facing forward..


..and Monitor took some serious damage - engine damage, heavy damage to the ship, and she was also (clearly) holed - but being a ram, Virginia didn't escape punishment herself..

Monitor's record sheet at the time..

Ouch!


..and so they stayed for the next few moves - both ships had to spend initiative on damage control and gunnery rather than in Virginia's case, movement to disengage the ram..

Unfortunately when they did disengage the damage was done and Virginia succumbed...


End game record sheets..






Brilliant - I'll do that again.. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 12 - "An Unfortunate Oversight" - Game

At last a few moments to put finger to keyboard and document what has to be one of the closest games that DG have yet had with the scenario's from the One Hour Wargames book - it really did go all the way to the very wire....


So as per the last post, setup was entirely random using the Force composition will be random using the table which was based originally on the one in the book ie. with the period specific proviso's/addendum's
Die RollInfantryArtilleryLight 
Infantry
CavalryIndians
140101
240110
341010
450001
550100
650010

DG threw a 5 and opted to be the American attacker - I threw a 1 and was the British/Hessian defender..  for the first time in years and years therefore, we would be deploying native American allies!


After a quick run through of the scenario and winning conditions, I deployed only to look up and find DG had as well (following)


Deployment - me to the left, DG to the right..
Not surprisingly DG had done exactly what I (and I expect most) wargamers would have done, and had heavily loaded his right flank by the ford while leaving a single regiment to pin anything (willing to be pinned) by the bridge...  I on the other hand had put my Lights (Rogers Ranger's this evening), and the Indians on the hill as a kind of mobile reserve, had put two regiments of regulars facing the ford, with one regiment watching the bridge and the final two held back to go either way....

Move 2 or 3 (following) and DG's columns are hurtling across the bridge.. his Lights by the way (green flag, blue canton) have an interesting history [clicky] (one of the pleasures of Blogger is being able to record this nonsense! ). I am manoeuvring to cover my options but have bought the Regiment north of the encampment forward to replace the one held back who are now side by side with the Erbprinz..  the Indians continue to sharpen their tomahawks

About move 3'ish..

Three or four moves later and things have moved on apace (picture following)..
  • Left of picture - DG's Lights have been thrown back following an assault up the hill on the Rangers and in a subsequent morale check they failed and have routed - at this point my Indians picked up their tomahawks and scalping knives and hurtled off after them, catching the up in this move and destroying them
  • In the distance, the Erbprinz are about to take on the column coming across the ford whilst nervously looking over their shoulders at the two American regiments DG has there..
  • behind the tree to the right of the Erbprinz (and so hidden) two other regiments are exchanging musketry..
  • Right of picture - I have freed up the regiment watching the bridge - it serves no purpose being there as the bridge is not the objective - they are making best progress to assist on the hill - as are the held back reserves (in the foreground).. who are no longer held back..
About move 7'ish..
Three or four moves later (following) and it's all beginning to go a bit pear shaped for the British/Hessians/me...
  • In the distance you can see that the Erbrinz were successful (column is the one they attacked) but were indeed caught in the end and have routed from the field
  • foreground - the Rangers have succumbed to musketry and routed - to their left and partially obscured is Erbprinz's flank guard regiment who have also succumbed in the same way but not before removing one of DG's regiments
At this point DG has four regiments of regulars (albeit two of them routing/retreating) and I have three of regulars (albeit one routing) and the Rangers (also routing) and the Indians - but I was still quietly confidant....

Move 11'ish?

Two or three moves later (following) and it's beginning to unravel - but we're within spitting distance of the game end..  DG has recovered his regiments - regathered, and is now sending them up the hill from both ends (divide and rule)..  I am busy trying to reorganise/reface so as to face the danger, which is why the Jaeger's (by the red coated officer figure) are facing the wrong way, and I have my Rangers and Indians trying to block the advance of regular formed troops.... idiot... 

Move 13'ish

...and in the very last turn (following) it's all over, and DG has the day..  my forces are streaming away in disarray in the foreground leaving only the one regiment on the hill, and we both agreed that didn't meet the winning criteria so DG was awarded the victory...

Move 15 - End of Game
Post match analysis:
  • Hot and sultry evening in the loftwaffe so refreshments on this occasion was Adnams excellent  "Ghost Ship" cooled sufficiently to refresh whilst still retaining it's lovely flavour (grapefruit citrus bitterness - Citra hops I think)
  • We agreed that we need to modify the rules to better reflect open order troops firing - they're a harder target already, but we also wanted to reflect that in unit terms there would be less of them than a close order unit; -1 on the dice will do it.
Cheers John! I think he would have enjoyed this one - we certainly did... 

Friday, June 16, 2017

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 12 - "An Unfortunate Oversight" - Setup

DG is down this weekend for a visit with his Gand-spuds, and as his way it would be churlish for him not to suggest a game, and likewise it would be churlish of me not to bite his arm off..

The visit is apposite as I've been thinking it's about time we played the John Corrigan Memorial game for the year, so for this visit we'll give the venerable veterans of the AWI collection a run out, and for the game I have turned to the next scenario in  the "One Hour Wargames" book (was ever £10 better spent??!) which is based on a river crossing via an undefended ford...

We'll use the Will McNally AWI rules that are my "go to" for this period - simple but effective, and a cunning casualty/morale mechanic..  more details on my project page [clicky]....

Forces will be standard sized - the scenario calls for six units a side..  If we finish early we always have the opportunity to play the scenario again.

There are no arrivals/reinforcements in this scenario - everything starts deployed on the table but I'm not going to repeat the specifics here, you need to buy the book. as you'll not be disappointed, anyway.. 

Force composition will be random using the following table which was based originally on the one in the book with the following period specific proviso's/addendum's
  • artillery will always be "light"...
  • we ignore troop types that don’t apply to the period, 
  • the American War of Independence was not a cavalry heavy theatre so unit numbers are lower and infantry numbers higher...
So columns are as per the following:
Die RollInfantryArtilleryLight 
Infantry
CavalryIndians
140101
240110
341010
450001
550100
650010

In addition:
  • all unit morale modifiers will be 0 (for both sides) 
  • except for their Native American allies, no national characteristic bonuses will apply for either side (ie. British firing/European Regulars in melee etc etc., don’t apply) 
So each side will be totally equal except for the results of the randomised force generator....

.."before he dies, Magua will put his national characteristic bonuses under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed is wiped out forever"...
Table set up is as per the book, but instead of a town I went with an improvised camp - all movement within the brown area is treated as if in a large "house" - so movement penalties while in it, and access and entry penalties to come in and out of it - modelling a busy camp with all the impedimenta you would expect disrupting movement...
The river/stream - only way across it is via the bridge and the ford (ruined bridge) in the distance - also the hill which is the whole point of the scenario...



Lastly the table as a whole:


We'll dice for sides on the night - and we'll also who attacks or defends...

Bring it on!