Thursday, December 29, 2011

Praetorian - a review..

Hard to believe that this is the 11th in the Macro and Cato series, and I look back with not a little fondness to those earlier books where the stories were firmly set in the Legions, and the adventures and dangers they faced were of the more "believable" kind....

These days however, Prefect Cato and his blunt sidekick Centurion Macro have caught the eye of one of the Emperor's special advisors, Narcissus, and as a result they tend to get involved in more high flown drama's...  think that's been the case for a few of the books now...  and this one is no different.

The Emperor (Claudius, as in the superb BBC drama series based on the Rober Graves Books "I, Claudius) is the subject of a plot to assasinate him by a shadowy Republican group. Implicated in the plot are members of his own personal guard, the Praetorian Guard, Macro and Cato are sent to Rome with new identities and placed undercover in the Guard to find out who the traitors are.

Set against the famines in Rome, with shortages of grain from Egypt, spectacular gladitorial games to distract the mob, riots, and a dangerous hunt to expose the traiters, Macro and Cato are now moving in exalted circles...  we are introduced to Claudius's stepson Nero (and given he was the son of Claudius's niece who Claudius had married shouldn't that be step-nephew??) his own son Brittanicus (who I'd not heard of before)

All in all this is an enjoyable romp, the back story is splendid (good detail on the Praetorian's), there is a reasonable plot twist, the baddies are nasty, and the goodies are believable...

Steve the Wargamer gives this one 7 or 8 out of 10; 8 I think as there are signs at the end of the book that more normal ventures may about to be thrust upon them....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sometimes you know..

...that you got very lucky indeed on Christmas day..




...now that* should make blogging a little easier!

* A Hewlett Packard Mini 210-3025sa Netbook in Grey no less...and as an unalloyed geek...  a thing of total beauty..

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!



...and so another year is drawing to a close, and it falls to me to wish all those followers desperately hoping for something interesting here, a cracking Christmas (or "holiday" depending on your religious temperament)...

For those of you working (and there will be some) I hope it's not too onerous, but to the rest of you I can only wish, cool (as in temperature) ales (real of course), fine foods, and a film on the TV you haven't seen before....  oh, and loads of "soldier stuff" (as my spuds insist on calling my past time) under the tree.. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit..

...the official trailer is out.... 





...but you're going to have to wait 12 whole months to see it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Difficult to believe..

..that the lost post was ten days ago, but the dates don't lie - I can only plead "Christmas" in mitigation...

Running around like a blue ars*d fly at the moment either getting ready for the big day or on aligned activities - social events, shopping, wrapping, add in eating, working and sleeping, and that's it... not time left for wargaming - asolutely worn out...  the boat is being ignored as well....

In a particulalrly arid hobby patch I did have a good day in the loft on Sunday having a massive clear out.. three bin bags of various books, folders, papers, video's (that I can no longer play!) and assorted "stuff" have made their way to the garage where in the end they'll make their way to either tip or charity shop....

I'm continuing to play the Battle of Waynes Junction which winds it's way towards a close....I'll put a report up when it finishes but it's going to be a close finish...

Other than that, the perrenial wargamers standby is a good read and I'm currently well over half way through The Praetorian - no complaints - watch here for a full review when I've finished it....

In the meanwhile.......only 5 days to go!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big update to the Marlburian project page..

It must be one of those afternoons... warm and cosy in the loft is the definite place to be...


Anyway - I took the opportunity while sat in comfort to have a big virtual 'sort out' on my Marlburian project page [click here]....

  • Done a major update to the layout so as to aid simpler navigation by moving all of the sections to their own pages (see list at top of page). 
  • I've also added details of the "Raid on St Michel" campaign that DG and I played end 2009/beginning 2010 (see Game Reports page)
  • Game report added - "Sawmill Village" (ditto)
  • Game report added - "Holding Position"(ditto)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Heartstone".. a review

I've read one or two of Sansom's books and have never been disappointed - they invariably veer on the large side* and this book was no exception weighing in at 600+ pages....  (slightly amusingly, this was in the local library's borrow it for a week section - no chance!!)

So what do you get in your 600+ pages??  A story set in the summer of 1545, where England is threatened with invasion by the French (when are we not!).

Henry VIII's invasion of France to try and imitate his antecedents, has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel.

Conscription has been called, the currency has been debased to try and pay the massive costs of the war, and seemingly the whole of England is on a war footing.

In Portsmouth the royal fleet has gathered but is hideously outnumbered by the French.

Against this background Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer, is given a legal case by an old servant of Queen, Catherine Parr. He is tasked with investigating claims of 'monstrous wrongs' committed against a young ward of the court resident just north of Portsmouth.

Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth to try and discover what the secret is, and at the same time try to find out why one of Shardlake's acquaintances is incarcerated at Bedlam...

The background detail is fantastic -  at one point Shardlake goes aboard the Mary Rose - there is a clever plot twist, but it's not a frenetic book and I can't help thinking it would have been better for being a bit shorter....


Worth reading for the history - I had little or no knowledge of this period of my country's military history - not a bad story..  Steve the Wargamer rates this one six out of ten...

* as an aside what is it about the 21st Century that we focus so greatly on "large", "extra large", "go large"? There was a time when I was younger (oh no I hear you say... another Daily Mail diatribe about how things were better in the "old days") when coffee came in small mugs, music albums lasted no more than 45 minutes (two albums, or a double album, on one C90 tape cassette) and burgers (served only by Wimpy) were single slices of nothingness with no sign of extra cheese/bacon/sausage/vegetable matter/salad or anything else...  at about the same time if you picked up a thriller they would invariably be 250-300 pages.....  at some point in between someone said "more is good" and all of the previous examples have gained size/quantity, but not necessarily the quality to go with it (Wimpy excepted - they never had quality in the first place...
)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

He's back...

...rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated....

...but the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and I are freshly returned from three nights in Bath for our traditional pre-Christmas trip....

...not bad for a view from the bedroom window.....
...quite astonishing quantities of carbohydrate were consumed, along with copious draughts of the landlord & vintners finest....

...and what can you say to a view like this outside your front door??
...and both of us have come back "larger" than when we went...  and also tired out, never seen crowds like it - I won't believe anyone who tells me that we are currently in a recession - the good folk of Bath were certainly spending on Christmas fit to bust!


..no wargaming or military visits to report (I'd wanted to go to Landsdown which is just up the road but we simply didn't have time) but as a parent there is something very sybaritic about being able to sit in a pub (that's it just above - next door to the Firehouse.. both are thoroughly recommended)  the whole afternoon on a Sunday and read the papers from back to front.....

...normal service should be resumed soon...