Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"The Bleeding Land" - a review...

I really, really, don't need a book about the English Civil War quite as good a this...     That next project is so close.....

Giles Kristian is probably better known for his Viking books, but this is the first in a new series set in the Engish Civil War, and about the Rivers family.

Being landed gentry, tradition dictates that their allegiance is to the King, and indeed the family heads (Sir Francis) loyalty is exactly that, though there is more than a hint of wanting to protect his family about the decision, as there family home is deep within an area that has Parliamentary leanings...

The youngest son (Tom) is in love with the daughter of the local minister who is arrested on charges of papacy, Sir Francis is unable, or rather unwilling, to help in the matter and the local magistrate has him hanged, but not before he has a 'casting couch' moment with the daughter who is desperate to save him... she hangs herself, and when Tom finds out what has happened he swears vengeance on the magistrate, and unable to forgive his father for his lack of action, leaves home and eventualy ends up in London, and then in the nascent Parliamentary army..

Edmund, the eldest of Sir Francis' sons, goes with his father to the raising of the King's Standard at Nottingham, and then serves (with distinction) at Powick Bridge where he is noticed, and then promoted into Rupert's cavalry regiment.

The family is destined to meet at Edgehill, on opposite sides, and with disastrous consequences.....   but not before Lady Rivers has to defend her family home from attack by local Parliamentary forces

What an absolute cracker, Steve the Wargamer rates this as 8 out of 10, the second volume is already ordered for  my Kindle (which just for once is cheaper than the paper book!)....

Monday, May 27, 2013

...that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books....

An interesting article in Saturday's Times... the usual journalistic stereotyping but the quote from Pete Berry is interesting, as is the premise that our fellow blogger Tim Gow [clicky] is a member of an "elite" wargaming club...   I had no idea there was a wargaming club premier league.... transfer fee's anyone???

...and just in case you want some source material:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yapton Beer Festival (2013)

I've been attending beer festivals and pubs to try different beers for more years than I care to remember, so I thought it might be time to start writing them down before I forget them...

In this case a superb sunny Saturday lunchtime at our yearly jaunt to Yapton (see above) in sunny West Sussex resulted in the following....  before anyone says anything - the standard measure is a half pint!

Notes (from brewery website)
What I can remember...
"Hop monster"
1st beer of the day..
Galaxy Hops from Australia, blended with NZ Nelson and Motueka provide an extreme passion fruit aroma. One of the hoppiest we've ever made.
2nd - Brodies confirmed as a brewer to watch in future.... both of these were superb...
Selhurst Park Flyer
Very hoppy session beer 
3rd - first disappointment of the day - insipid.... threw half away
Is It Yourself
Coloured bitter has a delightful floral aroma with an easy drinking citrusy bitterness
4th - second disappointment of the day - threw most of this one as well - I always give a brewery an even chance but in this case the brewery will be avoided in future.....
American Pale
a rich malt base giving it a warm amber colour and a delicious body of flavour. It is brewed with high quality American aroma hops that make it refreshing and hoppy.
5th - significantly better offering, but in the view of those who tried it with me, this may have been in comparison with the two previous offerings!
Dark Star
The yeast strain used for the brewing of this American style pale ale is specially imported from the USA, along with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. The low colour Maris Otter malt provides a perfect light colour and dryness to complement the crisp taste and full aroma of the hops. SERIOUSLY FULL OF HOPS
6th & also 10th - safe ground Dark Star are one of my premier league brewers - had this before and again it didn't disappoint - massive hop flavours, floral/citrus, with plenty of bitterness
Orkney IPA
A modern IPA, not overly bitter but still nicely ‘hoppy’ and at 4.8%, just about a session IPA for a sensible night’s drinking. The hop profile is nothing short of stunning.
7th - average......
Big Chief
Big hoppy IPA style beer, packed full of Kiwi hops with hints of honey and nectar and plenty of tropical citrus and floral notes. SIBA regional ‘Overall Champion Beer’ 2012.
8th - very nice finisher
Reserve options in the event any of the above were not available
Old Street Pale
showboat American Pale Ale.
11th - had to try given the huge success of the first two brews - and this didn't disappoint either - lots of hops/bitterness and flavour - darker beer....
Five Towns
Niamh’s Nemesis
a full bodied IPA with hints of grapefruit before a dry finish
9th - superb - should have been a first choice ale - one of our selections for beer of festival...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"War and Peace".. a review

....yep - done it!

..just in case you wondered why no posts, well with the start of the sailing season, combined with reading this - I've been busy! Always said I wanted to read it, I even made a random new year resolution that I would do it this year, and there you go...  finished it this morning...

So how do you review what most people consider to be one of the worlds greatest pieces of literature?? Shambolically... as you would expect on this blog... 

So in no particular order...

First, the book is  HUGE - I read it on Kindle, and even with the almost mythic battery length of the device I still had to recharge it twice during the period of reading just this one book...  basically the book took me from the beginning of April until now to finish...  6 or 7 weeks....'s a lot of time to invest in a book if you aren't going to enjoy it so..

Second - with a book that big make sure you get a good edition - there are lots and lots of cheap copies about, even free one's, but if you're going to invest that kind of time make sure you like the translation style of the book you choose...  I had a Kindle version from Amazon [clicky] that I chose to buy, rather than struggle with one of the free versions that I started with..

Third, it's a remarkably good story you'll be pleased to know, but it's interspersed with a lot of Mr Tolstoy's opinions and philosophy....  it's basically a book in 4 parts, but there's also a couple of large epilogues as well, and is about three main families plus a couple of lesser families, their lives, loves, intrigues, politics, feuds etc set against the Napoloenic Wars starting in 1805 and running up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812...

The main protagonist is a rather troubled chap called Pierre/Peter Bezukhov (I always had this mental image of him as Anthony Hopkins from the classic BBC version of the seventies - couldn't shake it) and his interaction with the other families - the Rostov's & the Bolkonsky's, and to a lesser extent the Kuragins and the Drubetskoys.

The Bezukhovs, are rich and slightly dysfunctional - the old Count, Pierre's father has fathered dozens of illegitimate sons and dies early in the book leaving Pierre as main heir.

The Bolkonskys are an old established wealthy family based with a head of the family who's a complete and total control freak. The old prince (as he's known) served as a general under Catherine the Great in earlier wars. His son Andrei (the superb Alan Dobie in the BBC version) I would say is the other main character, a close friend of Pierre, who serves with the Russian army before being fatally wounded at Borodino

The Rostovs have many estates, but never enough cash - they are almost the opposite of the Bezukhov's as they're pretty close, but the father is not good with money and is losing it hand over fist...

The lesser families in terms of main story are the Kuragin family who have three children, all of questionable character and the Drubetskoy's who are an elderly mother and her only son, Boris one of the biggest social climbers you could ever not want to meet...

So that's it - it's point less me telling you what the story is because it so huge and rambling I'd be writing a post almost as long as War and Peace, but suffice to say my favourite parts of the book are the military elements (there's a lot of civilian story too, mostly about the loves and losses of the younger female members of the families) Tolstoy is very good on battles, his depiction of Borodino was superb, and his depiction of the disintegration of the French army shortly after their decision to retreat is nothing short of brilliant...  he has some excellent little inserted stories about partisans, and Cossacks, raiding the retreating army..  superb....  and despite the fact it was written in 1869 I kept thinking it was an allegory for the later Winter War of WWII...

Anything I didn't like??  Well to be honest, the second half of the book (roughly) has far more of Tolstoy's philosophical meanderings - I don't doubt they are illuminating , but for me they got in the way of the story to a certain extent - when you're half way through a Cossack raid on a French supply train, you don't then want a chapter and a half on why Tolstoy thought the French had fallen to this level of deterioration (much as what he said had conviction)

Likewise I found the two epilogues hard work, the first one was OK as it dealt to a certain extent with the lives of the Bolksonsky's, Rostov's and Bezukhov's after the war but the second epilogue is a huge philosophical meander in the meanings of power, how people get it, how it is used, and how it was that one man could persuade 600,000 men to invade Russia.

So enough's enough - Steve the Wargamer rates this edition as 7 out of 10, you can get abridged versions that edit/remove the philosophical/history elements - but then you'd not be reading the book Tolstoy wrote.... recommended if only you read it once!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Skirmish at Signal Tower Hill - Game

So to continue from the previous post herewith...

The Game:

A fairly short game - I think we worked out afterwards it was about a dozen moves....

Either way, while the Confederate signal corps observe proceedings (picture following), Jackson's Brigade lurch forward in reaction to the approach of the Union brigade opposite...  my intent is to deploy as a blocking force no further forward than the edge of that ploughed field but in line abreast.. follows - artillery has also deployed....

On the other flank (picture below) however, we had both seemingly come to the same conclusion and were using it as our flanking edge...  the cornfield and farm would see the site of some serious fighting...

I shifted one of the regiments in Garnett's (picture below) to cover the approaches to the farm as DG clearly had the intention of seizing it so as to cover his flank march... 

About move 5or 6 (picture below) and the battle lines are drawing close - musketry ranges are fairly long but initial volleys have been exchanged - the artillery has been banging away at each other fairly ineffectively for some time, but mine clearly now has a tempting target to its front..

Three or four moves later (picture below) and we switch back to the left flank where DG can be seen manoeuvring the remains of his sorry band of Zouaves.. his Brigade as a whole however had done well and as you can see the other regiments remain at near or full strength.. mine however, are nearing end - the blue pin signifies half strength so in Rank and File rules these troops remain shaken - they can't recover, only remain the same or get worse...  we used the small dice to track hits as these are carried over move to move (unlike Blitzkrieg Commander where they are removed at the end of the turn) - 3 hits and a base is removed...

On the right it's far more evenly balanced (picture below) but this isn't the strategically important flank..  in the cornfield Wheat's Tigers unleash the rebel yell (and their fury) on the Union regiment to their front... interestingly (or not!) there's no bonuses for charging which I found a little strange - charging unit can't fire but gets no equivalent of the Fire and Fury "cold steel" bonus.....  

Left flank a couple of moves later (picture below) and my force has all but disappeared leaving the objective wide open unless I can get units from my right flank disengaged to protect it..

....which wasn't going to happen in time (picture below) - the Zouaves have seen off that Union regiment, but not enough for them to be able to turn their back on the remaining unit which hovers just out of range - they're too far away from the signal tower anyway... 

I do like this picture....

....and that's where we (or rather I) called it... it was getting late, and it was clear that I couldn't win the game even though it wasn't completely over... so a Union victory to DG.

Post Match Analysis:

  • Casualties... first the Union:

  • First Brigade: Colonel Nathan Kimball
    • 39th Illinois - 5 bases lost 2
    • 8th Ohio - 5 bases lost 3
    • 67th Ohio - 5 bases lost 2
    Second Brigade: Colonel Jeremiah C. Sullivan
    • 84th Pennsylvania - 5 bases
    • 14th Indiana - 4 bases lost 2
    • 5th New York Volunteer Infantry "Duryée's Zouaves" - 5 bases lost 3
    • Battery L, 1st Ohio - 12pdr Napoleon

    Next the Confederates..:

    Garnett's Brigade
    • 2nd Virginia - 4 bases routed from the field
    • 27th Virginia - 4 bases routed from the field
    • 33rd Virginia - 5 bases lost 2
    Jackson's Brigade
    • The First Louisiana Special Battalion: Wheat's Tigers - 5 bases lost 1
    • 4th Virginia - 5 bases lost 2
    • 5th Virginia - 5 bases lost 1
    • Carpenters Virginia Battery - 12pdr Napoleon Destroyed

    So 15 bases lost v's 12 - DG comprehensively won the signal tower flank, I had him running on the other one.. where it didn't matter....
  • The rules played very well - DG had put together a summary sheet that was extremely useful...  I had some concerns about the numbers of modifiers early on, but can confidently say that after 3 moves it was mostly from memory... what did I like??

    1. Much simpler firing mechanisms (throw x D6's per base - you score a hit on a modified 4+, a base is removed for every 3 hits), 
    2. Melee also worked well (similar mechanisms). 
    3. Movement is fairly business as usual but manoeuvring rules were much simpler
    4. You roll each turn for initiative (winner decides whether they want to move first or last), then after that firing/melee is simultaneous..
    5. Morale is very interesting - the 50% rule in particular I like very much - once a unit gets down to half strength their morale can never recover - the best they can expect to do is stay at the same level which at least allows them to shoot or melee at a much reduced effect - very clever... there are also some interesting army level morale break points that I'
All in all - roll on the next game!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Skirmish at Signal Tower Hill - Set Up after the furore that was Salute has settled, finally some time to sit down and organise the pictures and accompanying account of the game that DG and I managed to get in that same weekend.. I can only apologise to DG for how long this has taken - been busy!

Having just completed a couple of regiments for the American Civil War Project (more details here [clicky] and here [clicky]) and having unfinished business with regard to the rules for this period we decided that this visits game would be, ACW of course...

DG and I have tried a number of sets of rules for this period (they're documented in the ACW Project page [clicky]) but the latest set, "Regimental Fire and Fury", which had shown such promise, finally paled for me during the final game of our postal campaign (which I still need to write up)...  too many things to remember, too many variations, too many options, too restrictive in manoeuvrability (which may be historically accurate, but can be a little tedious in a game - there is a fine balance and they came down on the failed side for me though I appreciate this is very much a personal opinion).

Either way, DG had been playing "Rank and File" with his local club  and based on his recommendation we decided I should also give it a go... (NB. there are a couple of excellent posts by this chap to give you a flavour of the mechanisms, he posted these somewhat handily just before the game and I found them very useful (introduction [clicky] and play test [clicky]) An interesting aside, these rules are by Crusader who also wrote "Rate of Fire", the WWII skirmish set I use (and like)...

So, I decided on an encounter game given that DG and I were play testing  the rules - two infantry forces of six regiments and a piece of artillery each; I left the cavalry out for this first game. The infantry was arranged in two brigades  with relevant command (and at this point I realised I needed more command hence the purchase at Salute ) and once again for ease & simplicity were all classed as regulars with rifled muskets...

Union OOB:

First Brigade: Colonel Nathan Kimball
  • 39th Illinois - 5 bases
  • 8th Ohio - 5 bases
  • 67th Ohio - 5 bases
Second Brigade: Colonel Jeremiah C. Sullivan
  • 84th Pennsylvania - 5 bases
  • 14th Indiana - 4 bases
  • 5th New York Volunteer Infantry "Duryée's Zouaves" - 5 bases
  • Battery L, 1st Ohio - 12pdr Napoleon

Confederate OOB:

Garnett's Brigade
  • 2nd Virginia - 4 bases
  • 27th Virginia - 4 bases
  • 33rd Virginia - 5 bases
Jackson's Brigade
  • The First Louisiana Special Battalion: Wheat's Tigers - 5 bases
  • 4th Virginia - 5 bases
  • 5th Virginia - 5 bases
  • Carpenters Virginia Battery - 12pdr Napoleon

We played on the 6' x 4' version of my table, across the wide sides, so with 20mm figures the forces filled the table nicely while still allowing for a little flank marching if the need overcame us... a reminder of the table is as follows...


Having in the picture above the Confederates deployed on the left, Union on the right - the signal tower was the Union objective.

I played Confederates and deployed in an unsurprising manner given the objective and the terrain - the only significant difference was to keep one regiment back on each flank as it would allow me to deploy them left or right depending on what DG did. I kept my stronger brigade  (Jackson's) on the right close to the signal tower as I assumed that would be where most of DG's force would be concentrated..

In the picture above; Confederate deployment looking right flank to left.... Garnett's brigade in the foreground, Jackson's in the distance, artillery in the centre..

Union Deployment pretty much matched the Confederate one... DG is caught mid deployment... he put the 1st Brigade on his left, 2nd (with the Zouaves) on the right - his artillery was also with this brigade..

Stay tuned for the game report...