Friday, August 30, 2013

"Arena" - a review...

....does anyone else's heart sink slightly when they see that one of their more preferred authors has got a co-author for their latest book??

So it was with this one, but at the advantageous price Tescos were charging (other supermarches are available ) I thought it was worth a punt...

First things first, this is the first time in print for the contents,but the book is an omnibus of previously released ebooks  (novella's)so if you've read them then this is not going to contain anything new for you...

That makes sense when I think back on the book, as it is the story about the son of a tribune, who has been executed as a traitor..  the son has been thrown into one of the gladiator training schools, in the expectation that he will be killed in one of his early bouts....  the book is divided into each of the challenges he faces in the arena - fighting beasts, other gladiators of various types, and with various weapons, but always inching towards his goal which is a bout against the gladiator who executed his father....

So what do you get for your money?

A slightly formulaic story, it had the feel of a children's book about it but is eminently readable. The historical background is second to none with lots of descriptive colour about what it is like to be a gladiator in Claudian Rome. We get an appearance by the excellent Macro (chronologically this is before all his other adventures with Cato that Scarrow is better known for), some slimey baddies, a mad emperor, and set against a Rome increasingly ruled by the whims and demands of the mob....

I liked it, it's not high literature but it fairly ripped along and I was interested by the story, and the Gladiator detail...   Steve the Wargamer rates this one 7 out of 10..

Monday, August 19, 2013

Miniature Wargames (with Battlegames).. a review

Picture copyright Atlantic
We're in the summer hiatus as far as Steve the Wargamer is concerned..  at this time of the year the boat is in the water and any spare time is spent on that rather than in the (hot and stuffy) loft..  but it doesn't mean that all things wargame related completely dry up...

So it was that, firmly in catch up mode, I finally got to the latest issue of Miniature Wargames - perhaps the second under Henry's leadership??

Half way through now but driven enough to put a partial review of the "game so far"..  I'd be interested in the views from others as the following are purely my own....

Either way, half way through and..

Mr Kinch is good - not as thought provoking as some of his previous posts, but a solid effort and I recognise myself in some of the compromises he discusses!

The Condottieri article was interesting - the right balance of potted history and wargaming, not a preferred period but certainly colourful...

John Treadaway's Fantasy review is two (three?) pages of my life I'll never get back...   I'm afraid it's an immediate flip to the next article...

The Command Teaser Challenge thingy was a goody - best article so far - I don't like Lardy rules as a norm, but as per Rich Clarke's suggestion I'm going to try this one with Field of Fire.

Tommies in hot places? Over-exaggerated shading and the man paints eye balls! Talented yes, but not to my taste..

We then had 6 pages of VBCW and while I enjoy the spectacle in the flesh, I'm always slightly puzzled how people can spend so much time writing about pretend history, when real history is so damned fascinating...

I've just started on Paul Stevenson's ACW article - albeit converting ACW to Black Powder.... things are looking up.....  I think he may be the same chap who wrote the book on the left - I remember a very pleasant curry in Warwick reading this.....

5 (oh go on then, 6, the Command Challenge was good!) out of 10 so far....

Post edit (and apologies for the truly awful standard of spelling in the first section - now corrected!)

Issue 365 is due out so I need to bring this review to a close now that I've finished the magazine...  all in all a bit of a curates egg this issue.....

So I read the Stevenson article - quite good, although it deals solely with converting the ACW battle to a rule set I've never read, and don't own (Black Powder)...  that aside the descriptions, asides, and examples were interesting and worth reading...  must try Back Powder some time....  am I in a minority of one I wonder....?

Skimmed over the Kevin Dallimore interview - I quite like these types of articles, but as talented as Mr Dallimore (very) definitely is I found difficulty in finding anything he had to say that was of specific interest to my specific "wargaming experience" so moved quickly on....

Which brought me to Henry's article on Salamanca - well written as ever but at the end of it thought - did he really manage to make that fit 3 pages???  It reminded me of some of my blog posts that I've split in two so as to fill more time when they really could have gone in one article... short of articles I wonder??

Which then brought me on to Siggo - good oh I thought - one of my favourite columns (along with CK)... bugger....  board game reviews...  what are the titles...  not heard of them, know I will never play them, finished.....

The score stands 6 out of 10 this month...  highlights were the Command Challenge, the Condottieri article, CK and the ACW article.... the rest I could have left including the review section which this month seemed to be full of books that left me thinking "why?"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I have been to... The National Army Museum

As a treat for my youngest, and to allow the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer some time alone with our eldest and the new grandchild, last Sunday found myself and said youngest heading to London for the day in preparation for a trip to Euro Disney on Monday.

The train on Monday was early, so we booked a night in a budget hotel close to the station (the Premier near to St Pancras - much recommended by the way) and decided we'd have a day in the smoke...  the "deal" was that I got to go to the Imperial War Museum in return for little'un going to see the laser light show at Disney on two nights.. I think I got the better part of the deal... 

So, train delivered us to the delights of Victoria by 11, we were in the Wetherspoons at Baker Street [clicky] (I rubbed the toe of the Sherlock Holmes statue for luck) deciding what else we wanted to do with our day...  it was at this point that little'un checked her phone for which tube station we wanted for the Imperial War Museum only to tell me that although it had re-opened after the recent re-fit, a lot of the displays weren't available yet....  quelle domage.....  quick re-think and it was decided that National Army Museum [clicky] would do very nicely as an alternative...  with the added advantage for her that it was in Chelsea so she could see one of the central spots of the swinging sixties as she's a HUGE Beatles fan..

This was my second trip to the museum but I was amazed to realise that the last time had been over 6 years ago [clicky]! Time certainly flies...

The museum is a joy, small, free entry, and dedicated to the history of the British Army in all it's roles (international peace keeper, overseas duties, anti-terror, policing, etc)  which I think it does really well...  the museum is on three or four floors, starting with the English Civil War (the New Model Army being the starting point of the current British Army) and working forwards in history as you move up the building..  it is also interspersed with various more temporary exhibits which when we were there were Korea, the Unseen enemy (an excellent exhibit this one - little'un proved to be very clever at spotting the IED's in a mock up of a middle east street scene) and also National Service - worth checking the web site for what is currently on before you go though as they do change...

Highlights for me were the following...

Selection of pistols from the English Civil War period - I really liked the wheelock at the bottom which had the most exquisite mechanism....


Full size representation of English Civil War cavalry trooper - I think this was Richard Atkyns whose horse took the wound to its nose that you can see in the picture at Roundway Down while in hand too hand combat with Sir Arthur Haselrig (he of the Lobsters fame)

"T’was my fortune in a direct line to charge their general of Horse which I supposed to be so by his place; he discharged his carbine first, but at distance not to hurt us, and afterwards one of his pistols before I cam up to him, and missed with both; I then immediately struck into him, and touched him before I discharged mine; and I am sure I hit him, for he staggered and presently wheeled off from his party and ran. 

When he wheeled off, I pursued him and had not gone 20 yards after him, but I heard a voice saying, “’tis Sir Arthur Haslerigge follow him”; but from which party the voice came I knew not they being joined, nor never did know ‘til about 7 years since, but I follow him I did, and in 6 score yards I came up to him and discharged the other pistol at him, and I am sure I hit his head, for I touched it [!] before I gave fire, and it amazed him at that present , but he was too well armed all over for a pistol bullet to do him any hurt having a coat of mail over his arms and a headpiece (I am confident) musket proof his sword had 2 edges and a ridge in the middle and mine was mine was a strong tuck; After I had slackened my pace a little he was gone 20 yards form me, riding three quarters speed and riding down the side of a hill, his posture was waving his sword on the right and left hand of his horse, not looking back to see whether he were pursued or not, (as I conceive) to daunt any horse that should come up to him; in about 6 score more I cam up to him again (having a very swift horse that Cornet Washnage gave me) and stuck by him a good while and tried him from head to the saddle and could not penetrate him or do him any hurt; but in this attempt he cut my horses nose, that you might put your finger in the wound and gave me such a blow on the inside of my arm amongst the veins that I could hardly hold my sword’ he went on as before and I slackened my pace again and found my horse drop blood and not so bold as before; but 8 score more I got up to him again thinking to have pulled off his horse; but he now having found the way, struck my horse upon the cheek and cut of half the headstall of my bridle, but falling off from him I ran his horse into the body and resolved to attempt to attempt nothing further than to kill his horse; all this time we were together hand and fist."

...and people wonder why we find military history so fascinating!


Pikeman in the same exhibition.. note how floppy the sword scabbard is - to allow the presentation of the pike in the method shown a stiff scabbard would have got in the way, but I suspect there would have been a cost saving as well.. 


...and musketeer... I thought I'd remembered reading that the apostles (the prepared measures of shot in the holders on his back) were an anachronism by the time of the Civil War (???), but he's firing a matchlock.. note also the early model knapsack on both figures...


The exhibit is really missing some representation of  Marlboroughs fine fellows but the Napoleonic Wars are covered well.. really liked this representation of a rifleman from the 95th..


Siborne's slightly controversial diorama of Waterloo [clicky] wasn't fully working unfortunately, but is still impressive even without the lighted assistance to show how the battle progressed...


Private Matthew Clay - 3rd Foot Guards, Hougomont the morning of Waterloo...  he'd fallen in a muddy ditch the night before hence his appearance...


Sergeant Charles Ewart of the Scots Greys with his captured eagle (from the 45e Régiment de Ligne)


Loved this exhibit which is of the British Army in the colonial period..  Sudanese trooper of the 10th Battalion - once again I'm not sure but I think the jersey is the wrong  colour - my reading was that the Egyptian battalions had brown, but the Sudanese battalions had navy blue, both had the navy puttee's though...


..he's armed with the famous Martini Henry - look at the size of those bullets!


...rear view... that's a lot of ammunition he's carrying - I reckon about 40-50 rounds in the bandolier, plus extra in the pouches...??


Last of all, and there was a lot of other exhibits but I limited my pictures to the eriods I was interested in - a Bren Carrier from the Sikh division at Alamein ..


Steve the Wargamer rates the museum a very solid 8 out of 10 - a more complete Marlborough section would have got them a 9..