Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Bats, Rats and More Rats

Spray painting and simple designs have actually got me going! After some tests in the last month, this week I set in motion an old project.

I had bought quite a few sets of Warhammer swarms in a sale. So I've got 25 each of bats, rats, spiders and goblins. Oh yes, and six bases with metal rat swarms. So on a sunny morning I applied the can.

Spray painting was easy, but I decided to try two different sets of rats: some with a light (bone white) base coat, and the rest brown.

I then started off on five bats, to see what effect might be achieved with drybrushing. I actually did some reseach on bats and that's why they look so cuddly.

These are the metal rat swarms. I just love those pink tails! More on the big rats later.

The biggest pleasure is of course that I got it all done in a few hours. All this goes really well with a Skaven army, but is also really handy in stand alone dungeoneering. There's still a bunch of spiders lurking in the box but that will be a bit harder to spray paint due to their model.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Fraction Too Much Glossy Diversity?

 I don't often disagree with Keith Flint, but this time he's wide off the mark. Have a look at his post on the future of the wargame glossies.

Keith argues that the 3 glossies are now all too diverse.

It's time to get back to basics. Every wargamer knows in his heart that playing battles with model soldiers has just three periods - ancients, horse and musket, and modern. [...] Every issue of a wargames magazine should have at least one decent article dedicated to each one of these periods.

But it seems to me the three glossies are not saturating the market, or otherwise they would be specialising (either on periods or modelling/painting etc). Now what might change the dynamic is when there would be a new, specialised glossy. It might not be as big as the other three, but it would cater to a more clearly defined demographic, with potentially similar profitability.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Across Two Lines of Fortifications

Last Saturday by some coincidence I biked all the way from Leiden to Houten, a distance of some 73 km. It was a pretty epic endeavour from my perspective as it has been some time since I spent 3 hours in the saddle and because I needed to be on time for another three and a half hours of frying fries and cleaning up afterwards. It left me pretty much broken at the end of the day.

Entrance to fort Wierickerschans along the Oude Rijn
between Bodegraven and Woerden

I also ran a flat tire, but luckily this was only 100 meters from my destination.

However, it took me through the two most heralded Dutch lines of fortifications: the Old and New Water Line. While the 17th century line runs from north to south (the IJsselmeer to the main rivers) to the west of Utrecht, the 19th century line runs to the east of the city.

The old line had it's day in the sun in 1672/3 when it stopped the best army and generals of its time. The later line was saved the embarrassment, although Dutch troops fell back in good order on the line during the night of May 13th and 14th 1940 after the breaching of the Grebbe Linie.

Fort Jutphaas in Nieuwegein now shelters a wine shop

Although in this case I didn't have enough time to make a relaxed visit, fort Jutphaas (and several others of the New Water Line) are within easy cycling distance of Houten, where my iron horse has now been parked. Once I get my tube fixed, I'll start exploring them.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: Bayonne and Toulouse 1813-14: Wellington Invades France

Bayonne and Toulouse 1813-14: Wellington Invades France
Bayonne and Toulouse 1813-14: Wellington Invades France by Nick Lipscombe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the Osprey campaign books that show what is possible in the format: good mix of maps, illustrations, photographs of the battlefield and drawings. The account of events is solid, but lacks a deeper analysis.

Weak point, as so often, remains the lack of sources and insight into Britain’s allies. Not even one quote to illustrate what it was like for a Spaniard to finally drive the French from his homeland or for a Portuguese what it meant to fight a war which was no longer directly protecting his home.

Interestingly, Lipscombe notes that the Spanish and Portuguese are highly critical of Wellington’s direction of the war and his lack of appreciation for the allied effort. But that doesn’t seem to serve as a lesson for himself. For me it is an interesting take away in the light of the post-Waterloo discussions on Britain’s allies. Apparently many who worked with Wellington had the same experience.

Another take away is the relationship between Soult and Reille and Drouet d’Erlon. The former was difficult, the latter good. Did this affect their communications in 1815? At least it seems useful to dig a bit deeper into Soult’s style of command and relations with his inferiors. Although Lipscombe gives Soult his due as a very capable adversary, it never becomes clear what his quality was.

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Monday, 21 April 2014

30 Seconds From Mars to Tokyo

Well, more like 8 minutes. And even that is understating it.

Last Friday we first started with Mission Red Planet, a Secret Satan gift that I had on my wish list to play for a year. We were a bit slow in getting to grips with the rules, but finally did alright.

Mission Red Planet is effectively an area control game. Although the player action mechanic copied from Machiavelli/Citadels works well, we felt that this game is more subtle and doesn't give you the satisfaction of pulling off a good on one your opponents like you can in Citadels.

We will bring it back to the table sometime, but it might turn out a bit scripted once you know the game better. I can see the Explorer getting used en masse in the 5th and 10th turns, with the Recruiter in the 6th.

Then it was on to 8 Minute Empire that is really liked by us all. Jeroen got a good introductory game.

Finally we played two games of King of Tokyo. My first game was really bad, not doing any damage before getting killed myself. In the second I managed to stay out of Tokyo for most of the time while acquiring a card that allowed me to recuperate faster. It meant that when I went I went into Tokyo in good health, I won.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Review: 1815 The Waterloo Campaign: The German Victory

1815 The Waterloo Campaign: The German Victory
1815 The Waterloo Campaign: The German Victory by Peter Hofschrser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second volume of Hofschröers depiction of the Waterloo campaign. Starts with the reorganisation of the Prussian army on the 17th of June, the march up to the Waterloo battlefield and the Battle of Wavre. Then follows the Prussian army in pursuit and the march on Paris. The third main part is the fortress war that stretches on into the autumn of 1815 and the exploits of the North German corps.

These include useful discussions on the delays of the Prussians in getting to Plancenoit and puts light on two interesting episodes that aren’t normally dwelt on by histories of the campaign. The joy of the book is also found the use of many sources not normally accessed by Anglophone or Francophone writers.

As in all Hofschröers books on Waterloo, the innuendo on Wellington’s duplicity and post war reputation management continues unabated. The political competition between Prussia and Great Britain fits neatly into the difficult co-operation between Russia, Prussia and Austria during the 1813 and 1814 campaigns. It would also have been understandable in a 1915 book. But coming from a late 20th century history of the campaign that tone of argument sounds shrill and forced.

Despite that, this book (with its sister volume) is a vital pillar for studying the campaign.

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Help Save the Ligny Battlefield

I've signed the petition to extend the protected area of the historical battlefield of Waterloo to that of the battle of Ligny

If you care about the 1815 campaign and not just the bit where the Brits and Dutch operated: please sign La Petition.be

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Famous Friends

Yesterday was a day of unexpected pride for me. Not pride for anything I'd done, but two of my friends made it to television on the same evening in two different programs!

First, Jeroen van Zanten, who wrote a biography of King Willem II of the Netherlands appeared in a television series on the history of the Dutch kingdom. As such he has made many appearances on TV and radio over the last few months. Let´s say that this series takes a low brow approach to appeal to a broader audience. But at least they have talked to serious historians as well.

Watch it here

Next, Michiel Schwarzenberg, who works at the Red Cross archive, was shown digging up information on a Dutchman who had died as a labour volunteer in Germany during WWII. In the Netherlands it was decided just after the war that the Red Cross should collect all the information on people transported to Germany (eg Jews, forced and volunteer labourers, volunteers for the SS) or in the Dutch East Indies.

The archive includes copies of Dutch, German and Japanese administrative accounts, but also many returnees were interviewed to find out what had happened to others so that they could be traced by family, or at least it was known where they had died. For example, the archive holds the records of Anne Frank´s transport to Bergen-Belsen, but also a note from a survivor that she had died in the camp just before the end of the war.

The archive in this case helped to figure out where the labourer, grandfather of the man searching in the TV program, had been buried in an unmarked grave.

watch it here

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Mechanics of Violence

Interesting outcome. New research links aggression after video games to the mechanisms rather than violent content. So it´s the designers fault?

Could this also be true for analogue games? Are wargamers happier after a bout of crisp Black Powder and aggravated after a spell of Barkerese?

Do people feel less aggressive after playing an 'elegant' Knizia design and driven to rage by the disorganised, misspelled and obtuse collection of half sentences that the publisher of Luna Llena calls the rulebook?

I wouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review: 1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras

1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras
1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras by Peter Hofschröer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hofschroer is a different beast to the English writers on the Battle of Waterloo. He includes German, but also English and even a few Dutch sources. Since the book is mostly a revision of English dominated historiography of the campaign, Hofschroer is critical of Wellington's conduct of the campaign and his dealings with the Prussians. The constant focus on Wellington's double dealing gets tiresome, even if it's clear that the Hof is on to something.

There are very useful chapters on the diplomatic struggle over the minor German contingents between the allied armies and the Saxon mutiny.

The research is very good, and I think for anyone not digging into the primary sources this book is more valuable than almost anything published by Anglo-Saxon authors.

View all my reviews

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mice, Mystics and Empires

Spurred on by my lack of progress on the boardgaming resolutions for 2014, I spent part of last week reading the rules for 8 Minute Empire and Mice & Mystics. And Friday that made me the master of ceremonies for the evening.

And an enjoyable evening it was: we managed two pairs of empire building at each end of the introductory scenario of the cheese fest.

8 Minute Empire manages to get a lot a bang from its very few rules. Every turn you can pick one of six cards on display, with the order determining the cost of each card. Free for the first card, three coins for the 6th. At the bottom of the card you find the action you are allowed to take. This mostly means placing a varying amount of blocks on the board, or moving them. But occasionally there is the opportunity to build a city or to remove a block of an opponent.

At the top is the symbol of a good. Building sets of goods gains you victory points, but of course some goods score easier than others. Apart from the goods, there are points to be gained from having the most blocks in areas on the map. With 7 to 9 turns (depending on the number of players) you have to chose wisely.

A highly tactical game. With a variable map and deck of cards, there is a enough replayability. Due to the minimalist design it has been compared to Love Letters.

Mice & Mystics is an entirely different beast. A sort of dungeon crawler, but due to the fairy tale setting and wonderful art work and miniatures one that immediate grasps your empathy.  There is quite a bit of information to take in before the game: a reasonable amount of rules, but also some scenario specific information.

I hadn´t had enough time to fully master the rules before playing and although I took on the role of dungeon master (not prescribed in the rules, but a useful variant, I think) there was a misunderstanding with the rules which meant that the players felt the were unduly pushed towards the end. If we had played correctly, they would have had more time.

This game is definitely coming back to the table sometime. I think the setting and scenario´s have the potential to make this a returning favourite.

Friday, 4 April 2014

NYR update March: books I read

Bought no new books, while awaiting some of the stuff that I had ordered in February. Managed to read a dozen. So still slightly behind the curve toward 150, but that should not be hard to regain when I have more time on my hand from September.

Two tougher books to get through was me finally finishing Lieven's Russia Against Napoleon, a great work which shows how the Russian army managed to get from Moscow to Paris in less than 18 months. The other was Gregor Dallas' 1815 The Roads To Waterloo, which is more about the reordering of Europe than about the campaign. A book which in content and approach is a clear precursor to Zamoyski's The Fall of Napoleon.

With my modelling efforts came three Osprey's on the M3 Halftrack, Stuart and Panther.

One small subject was the smaller German contingents, from Bavaria to Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen. I enjoyed John Gill's With Eagles to Glory on the 1809 campaign, and his article on the German troops in Spain. To this I added the book on the Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars by Nafzinger. Great research but I’d wish that man could write better and get an editor.

The last week has seen me racing through some books on the Prussian Army: Classics by Craig, Goerlitz, Demeter and Paret. All together throwing a much more nuanced light on the reform period. Paret's book towers above the others as far as I'm concerned.

And a quick Suske & Wiske as well. This one is about WWI and much darker than any S&W I’ve read.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

NYR update March

Not often that I acquire so much stuff in a coop game #teamplayer

Board games: failed. I bought 8 Minute Empire. And didn't play any of my games. Played some games, though, in three sessions: Eldritch Horror, Civ, Carcassonne, Bohnanza and Koehandel/(You're Bluffing). But I will need to pick up the pace of playing my own games, with 8 Minute Empire a requirement.

Miniatures: I bought a Panther model for a friend and a Buffalo amphibious craft plus jeep for my US Chain of Command force. So that's all within remit. René has informed me the miniatures are as good as done (all 143 of them) and I'm looking forward to playing with them. Next task is to pick a fight to try it out.

Good thing is that I actually did some assembling and painting.

No new projects started.

Blogging is still at a low although I´ve managed to get some interest on the post about Wexy and my modelling exploits. It´s enough.

Will post my past month's reading in a separate post later.