Sunday, March 18, 2018

Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor's LegionWatchers of the Throne: The Emperor's Legion by Chris Wraight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This the second novel from Chris Wraight that I've read recently and he has just gotten better. He deftly switches between three point of view characters and weaves a fast moving tale of violence and intrigue. What was also interesting was that this is one of the few warhammer novels that advances the grand narrative of the setting in any way, something which Wraight manages with a surprisingly light touch.

There is less of the overwrought description that was characteristic of his earlier efforts and ideally it could do with even more trimming, but ultimately this is finely honed and well delivered spot of far future action which kept me mightily entertained in my off hours. More of this please.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

And now for something completely different.

An unusual football player - I'm not sure if he's League or Union. 

One of the pleasure of the hobby is being able to share it with others.  I don't play Bloodbowl, the comedically overblown American football game from Games Workshop, but I have plenty of friends that do.  I recently came into a few spare figures, including these two goblins. 

Off to frolic on pitches new. 

I did these two for a pal who has very kind to Mrs Kinch and I last year.  He plays Orks and I thought they might make a worthy addition to his team.

The first chap is a fellow called Fungus the Loon, who brings a sort of giant morning star to the game.

That blasted "bomb" writing was a pain in the neck.  

The second goes by the name Bomber Dribblesnot - and he a football playing version of "The Professor" from "The Secret Agent".  I'm not sure II could swear to his politics with any certainty, but I think it could be safe to say he's a bomb throwing anarchist.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take proper pictures before I handed these figures over to their new owner, but I at least had taken some shots with my phone. Probably the trickiest thing about Bomber Dribblesnot was getting the yellow lettering on a black background right.  

I don't paint 28mm figures very often, but they are fun to do.  I think the next ones will be some Genestealer Hybrids.  I've been trying to find a painting guide for the Rogue Trader era ones, as I've had a look at the new version but they aren't quite the same. Something to mull over for when I next get a little time to paint.

Legio has said that he might put one up on his blog in the near future which would be ace. 

I had never encountered Sir James MacMillan before, but came across his work recently. It's very rare that I find modern choral or church music that I like, but this is absolutely fantastic.  Wonderful stuff. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review: Twelve Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great deal of ink has been spilt on the subject of Jordan Peterson and this book. I can not add much to what has been said, but to say that I would unreservedly recommend it.

This is a self help book after a fashion and a lot of what it advises is plain common sense. There is a great deal of value in hearing good advice again and I suppose every generation has to learn the same lessons again. It’s radical firebrand stuff like tell the truth, stand up straight and pursue what is meaningful.

I found the book accessible and eminently practical. The audio version is well produced and read by the author, though it lacks the illustrations, introduction and footnotes that come with the printed edition.

This book (and the work that preceded it, but that is codified within it) helped me when I was in a tough spot with injury, work and family. It has made me a happier, more useful and ultimately a better man.

As Mrs Kinch put it, “you can’t argue with the results.”

If you want a flavour of what the book is about, you could do a lot worse than watch this video, which is about eight minutes long.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

D-Day - Part One

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"That chap right there, I just plain don't like him." Gen. BRO discussing tactics with his Field Generals. The Americans plan was basically get up the beach and work the rest out later. 

One of the advantages of Memoir '44 is the wealth of scenarios that are available and the fact there have been so many battle reports recorded.  This allows you to work out roughly how slanted the scenarios are one way or the other.  I have had a hankering to do a D-Day game for quite a while and while our much ambitious ideas haven't come to fruition, nor are they likely to, I was glad that we managed to tackle it to some extent. 

Troops wading through the surf at Omaha beach
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We played three game on the day.  Omaha Beach, followed by Sword Beach and concluding with St. Lo.  This made it much easier to organise as I didn't have to write any scenarios and I had a good idea of what the win/loss percentages are. 

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A spot of Robert Capa style camera shake as the lads dash up the beach. 

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I was lucky enough to get a lucky eBay from a chap who was disposing of a large collection of landing craft. These are I think Airfix and aren't waterline models, but seem to work fairly well just plonked on the mat. 

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The venerable Airfix D-Day beach defences looking out over the seawall. 

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Another shot of the Airfix D-Day defences, Conflix pill box in the middle distance. 

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The American Commanders ponder their options.

 Note the shell craters in the foreground indicate hexes that are out of play. 

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General Clint Fatzenberg discusses the utility of using the seawall as cover. 

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We also had some very special visitors. Boomerowski Junior's clenched fist and gimlet eye were exactly the sort of thing that the Americans needed to give them some backbone. 

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The Americans are making some progress, but are taking casualties. 

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The landing craft don't actually have a game function in this scenario. They were mainly used for set dressing. We used them to count victory points. Each time an American unit was killed, we placed an explosion marker on one of the landing craft to keep score. 

A Frenchman awaiting liberation

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This chap might look a bit familiar to some of the more sharp eyed amongst you. I was given this figures as a gift several years ago by my good pal Mr. E. We used them to keep score during the game. Each time a German unit was killed, we added a French civilian to the cafe. 

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Having discussed their strategy upstairs the German team descended to view the flotilla facing them. 

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General GT Boomerowski orders the troops ashore, cigar clenched between his teeth, while Fatzenberg's DD Shermans take the sea wall. 

I didn't actually take any more pictures of this game as the whole thing was fast moving. Omaha Beach is a very tough scenario for the Americans and they lose 80% of the time.  The result was about on par with previous games, but hard fought none the less. If the Americans can get armour off the beach things can get very dicey for the defenders, but alas it was not to be. 

To be continued with Part Two: Sword Beach. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Audiobooks & An Osprey Bargain

I've listened to audiobooks for a long time, but I really upped my consumption last year.  I have a couple of avenues for these, Librivox, Audible, etc. But I have been backing a Patreon run by a chap who glories in the name, Felbrigg Napoleon Herriot.  FNH does a mixture of stuff, mostly 19th century fiction, classic sci-fi and military history. I've been listening to Felbrigg's stuff for several years now - probably my favourite piece of work is his recording of Oman's "History of the Peninsular War".  He's currently working through volume 4.  I had read the first three volumes in hard copy.  It was a pleasure to revisit them in audiobook form.  I only regret that I didn't pick up all the volumes of the Spellmount edition when I had the chance, but I am slowly finding them second hand. 

FNH has recorded Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" and made it freely available on YouTube.  If you'd like to have a listen, click on the image above. If you'd like to back his Patreon, which is less than the price of a pint a month, you should have a look here

If your tastes run to weird fiction, you should have a look at Edward French. He records classic horror and science fiction short stories.  He puts them all up on YouTube and they are absolutely free. French is an excellent reader and you should give him a try. 

Click on the image above to hear his recording of Algernon Blackwood's "The Empty House". 

The Men Who Would Be Kings

The Men who would be Kings by Dan Mersey is an excellent set of rules and we've been playing it for about a year now. I recommend them unreservedly.  They are currently half price (£6)from the Osprey website.  If you've any interest in Colonial Wargaming, they are well worth the money.   

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Aboard the Space Hulk “Memory Lane”

In the grim dark future there are only cardboard dungeons 

Target and Savage came over for a game last week.  We had intended to play "The Men who would be King", but Target's eye lit up when he heard I just gotten my paws on a copy of "Space Crusade". This and Heroquest were firm favourites when we were about 10-11.  So we pulled out the old girl and put her through her paces. 

Savage acting with typical magnanimity after snatching victory from Targets grasp

The result was interesting.  The game is simpler than I remembered, but has some intriguing wrinkles.  I enjoyed it's simplicity and the sense of nostalgia that playing it evoked, but also I liked the situation.  Heroic adventurers exploring a dungeon in space is evocative stuff.  I wish GW would release a game that bridged the gap between this and Heroquest.  The idea of exploring Space Hulks is a powerful one, but could benefit from some more "character". 

Mr Target damning the dice 

We used a mixture of the figures that came in the box and some painted 40k chaps I had knocking around.  One thing that struck me was that the game was quite luck dependent - the lack of an overwatch or interrupting mechanic made it difficult to deal with stuff that wasn't immediately blasted. 

Service in the Space Marines is a grim humourless  affair.

Space Marine Target giving the Chapter Approved signal for 
“Oh Dear, that is a Dreadnaught - isn’t it?”

We played two games in quick succession and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Target reckoned he'd give it another go, but Savage thought that it wasn't a game he would play again other than for nostalgia's sake. 

Lt. Randius Quaidius of the Imperial Fists bites the dust 

The final two marines stalk through the Space hulk before being mobbed by gretchin 

Honours were even between with one victory to the Marines and one to the Alien Commander. My love for the Rogue Trader setting might set me to do something more with the game, but the answer to that question remains a resounding maybe. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One ping only

I watched this recently with the Kinchlets and very good it was too.  John McTiernan’s submarine thriller is taut and well served by its cast.  Basil Poledouris's score is a joy and I really didn't find Connery's Scottish accent off putting, which I know some viewers did.   Alec Baldwin does a good turn as an unlikely action hero and the supporting cast are uniformly excellent.

All in all recommended.

The Kinchlets wriggled enthusiastically to the music which is also a plus.  But they just seem to like anything that's loud.

An Atlantic Convoy laid out on the board

My pal, Dr. Creaner, has a copy of "The Hunt for Red October" board game released by TSR many moons ago.  I haven't played many naval games, but this one seemed to strike the right balance for me - proceeding at a decent clip, but also presenting some genuine tactical problems.

For those who are unaware - The Hunt for Red October board game is superficially a board game of the book/film.  There are eight scenarios in the box, one of which involves chasing the rogue Soviet submarine across the Atlantic.  Having read it, I'm not sure how much fun it would be.

The other seven scenarios are devoted to naval engagements during a Cold War turned hot. Game play is very simple, the pieces are designed to allow the players to see where an enemy is, but nothing more.  Pieces are rated by type (surface vessel, sub, aircraft, etc), attack value and detection value.

Detection is everything, if you can spot your enemy before he spots you, it is likely going to end very badly for him. There is an old saying, which I am probably misremembering but it goes something like this, "Blessed is he whose cause is just, but three times blessed is he who gets his blow in first." No where is that more true than in submarine combat.

Soviet subs attempting to harass a NATO convoy

We managed to play three games in a very leisurely evening, while learning the rules and I hope that we'll be able to give this another go in the near future.  In our first game, I managed to swarm the USN and RN around Iceland and while my Foxtrots and Alfas were sent to the bottom, the exchange rate in Trafalgars and Los Angele's was equal which was very bad news for NATO.

Admiral Creaner considering his Anti-Sub screen

Sydney and Admiral Creaner played a convoy game which didn't go so well for the Soviets. Penetrating a convoys anti submarine piquet is no joke and we worked out that it was far more useful to work out where the convoy needed to be and then lie in wait for them.  This is slightly complicated by the fact that while the US convoy is slow moving and fairly predictable, they do have Los Angeles class subs attempting to disrupt the Soviet attacks - so a Soviet player who is too cautious could find himself being counter ambushed.

An enjoyable game and at a sufficient level of complexity - actually I think it might be fairer to say - of sufficient simplicity  - to keep my interest while still reflecting some of the problems of naval engagements.  Actually, I came across an interesting idea recently in the work of a Canadian academic called Jordan Peterson, which was the idea of the "low resolution representation".  The idea is that people have cognitive structures that they use to deal with problems - essentially stories that they tell themselves. These stories vary in complexity, but what matters is if they are true enough for the purpose they are put to.  A hydrologist might have a higher resolution mental model of currents and movements of water than a fisherman, but that might not matter to the fisherman who will have to make more decisions much more quickly than the hydrologist.  The fisherman's "rules of thumb" might be inaccurate in some cases, but so long as they as mostly true, most of the time, they serve their purpose.

A good game might need to be sufficiently high resolution to capture some sense of the thing that it is representing, while being of a sufficiently low resolution to be playable in a reasonable amount of time. The appropriate level of resolution will depend on what your goal is. 

My father in law put this together while we were all dying of the lurgy. It's solid, the cover is screwed to the timber underneath and then again to the floor. It's on legs so that Arthur Kinch cannot repeat his trick of building a ramp of cushions against it. Something similar was tried by the Romans at the Siege of Jerusalem I believe. 

Unfortunately the Kinch household is just a riot of chest infections, coughs, spluttering, paracetemol and anti-biotics, so we've had to batten down the hatches. Arthur and Gordon have borne it with remarkable stoicism for babies their age, something I wish I could say about their parents. 

Unfortunately, we somewhat underestimated Arthur's ingenuity.  Within twelve hours, he'd managed to pile cushions against the window and wedge himself against the wall in such a way that he could get up to swipe the little wooden bandsmen that went around the tree. 

Arthur Kinch will be getting this for Christmas.  I may have made a terrible mistake. 

Gordon is getting far more sensible LEGO, which she really enjoys (having played with a friends), but which doesn't make a noise.