Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Comprehensive List of Things to do While in Isolation.

Recent developments would seem to indicate that we wargamers are likely to be spending even more time in our rooms than we generally do. Sadly, as much as we would like to, we can't spend all that time painting, gaming, and reading up on armies and battles old and new. It would get boring.

Here then is a Comprehensive List of suggested other things a wargamer can do to while away the hours of isolation when between games, paint jobs, or books.

Learn an instrument. Were you bullied at school because your parents thought it would be splendid for you to play the concertina? Now is your chance to knock that trauma for six. You can even do it with help from the internet. As the Wiki How website says:

"While how easy the concertina is to learn depends on the type you use, you can be playing some folk tunes in no time!"

That's right - folk tunes in no time! What's stopping you? Not Buttley of the 4th anymore, that's for sure! This is the moment to demonstrate exactly how little effect his taunts still have on you several decades later.

Make a video. Continuing the musical theme, why not follow the heartwarming example of relatively minor celebrities medleying 'Imagine' while pretending to be in isolation? Combining with wargame buddies to make a similarly heartwarming cover of a similarly totemic composition, such as 'Number of the Beast' or 'Ace of Spades', would be a glorious opportunity to raise profiles while also seeming like fun and empathetic people.

What could be a better way to show that we're all in this together than hum-howling the opening riff of, say, 'Smoke on the Water' and then turning it over to a mate to hum-howl the next four bars, another the next, and so on? And all this before even getting to the vocals or the guitar and organ leads, which would obviously be the highlights of the song.

Get blind rotten drunk. If people say that this is unbecoming for a middle-aged-guy-who-is-indisputably-carrying-a-few pounds-too-many demographic, stuff them. It may not be a good look to get rolling drunk and dribble on yourself, but who's going to see you (provided you do your drinking and your video-making on separate days, of course)?

It could be great way to let down a remaining hair or two, and as a bonus it has the potential to lead to a need to stay in bed for a day or so afterwards - the odd bolt to the bathroom notwithstanding - thus bringing the end of isolation closer.

Leave commentary on online news articles. When you find a news article online written from a perspective that you disagree with, let the author know about it by leaving a comment. The author may well take heed of your thoughts and publish an updated form of the article which addresses your concerns, removes any hint of partisan bias, and renews faith in the unrelenting efficacy of  logic.

Be witty on social media. It's not only on news sites that you can put your keen powers of observation to good use: social media also provides boundless opportunities to contribute good sense and good-natured banter.

Good situations to drop in on might include your teenage niece's conversations with her friends (she will appreciate your sense of humour, and her friends probably will too), your self-made school friend's house and land renovation picture diary (he will love your jokes about how far he's come), and your partner's friend's travel pictures (she will be glad to be reminded that she won't be able to do any more of that sort of thing for a while, and most especially if you can include a pun or two).

Make some new friends. Judging by advertisements on the internet, there is a surprisingly large number of lonely women from exotic countries in my area who would love to get to know people in the vicinity, and I daresay it is the same for other male bloggers. For our female wargamers, I gather there is an abundance of somewhat older gentlemen with a lot of money and very busy lives who would be eager to make their acquaintance with a view to cultivating long-term friendship.

Now that we have some time on our hands it might be a good chance to chat with these people, get to know them a bit, and invite them along to a family barbecue once all this is over.

Video call fellow wargamers. This could be just the moment to get to know other wargamers who - to this point - you know only from reading blogs. You can share awkward periods of silence matched only in awkwardness by periods of simultaneous talk; you can experience lagging internet connections in real time; participate in bouts of sneezing; explore mysteries of idiom, dialect, and tongue.

That you have skype, messenger, facetime (or whatever) doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it.

Publicly reveal that you are a wargamer. Perhaps this is the best opportunity you will ever have to put a positive spin on wargaming to people who would normally think it was weird. While various people in isolation are struggling to read 'Ulysses' or learning to appreciate jazz, you can smuggly extol the virtues of a hobby that has already accustomed you to long periods of time alone and exacerbated anti-social tendencies that some are only now coming to comprehend.

Just breathe. I know it's one of those cod psychology catch-phrases that at first, second and third look appears stupid and pointless, but when you think about it, breathing is quite important, and perhaps it is something we could consider continuing to do?

At any rate, I hope that this list will provide some helpful ways to fill fellow wargamers' quiet times over the next week or two, when you need a break from painting, gaming and reading about the same.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Return to Delium

Delium got an outing the other night in what was the first proper wargame in the new pad. Of course, there could only be one ruleset with which to christen a house: Lost Battles. Bursting through the centre were the Thebans, who completed a speedy and resounding victory.

The hoplite battles have quite a distinct feel. They are over very fast, and you have to pile in with all you've got as quickly as you can.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Unboxing figures

For the Big Move ™ down south I was quite worried about how the figures were going to manage the journey. I wasn't entirely sure of the best way to pack them, so like a good libra I settled for three different approaches.

Method 1: magnetised bases in steel-lined drawers.

This was recommended by various people. I didn't have enough space to send as many drawers as I would like, but I used this for elephants, chariots, pikemen, and figures which had a variety of poses on each base.

Method 2: magnetised bases in biscuit tins.

This is an extension of the first method. Used for baggage trains, cataphracts, heavy cavalry.

Method 3: intensive packing.

This was something I thought would save space, and might actually protect the figures provided I had varnished them as well as I thought I had.

This is a brief explanation of the method:

1. Box measuring approx. 330 x 300 x 100 is found and labelled in pen for easy reference and in the hope that it will deter the customs man at the New Zealand end from opening it...

2. In the box matching base is stacked on top of matching base so that the figures are horizontal and the base edges themselves are holding any weight. Sometimes the figures slot together; other times they sit head touching head.

3. Bases are stacked along bottom of box in rows, with some variation to make sure they are packed tight enough that they will not move around.

4. Figures mounted singly on coins are inserted into the gaps head first.

5. Contents are covered with packing material so that nothing can move.

Box is closed, taped, and subjected to several species of incantations chanted in an ancient and barbaric tongue.

6. Contents are pulled out of box at destination and inspected.

And it's not too bad: two shields and a pilum came unglued, and one Miniature Figurine bendy spear broke. Otherwise, no damage.

Three more boxes' and an ice cream container's worth to go!

Hopefully they will come out in similarly good nick.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Patrick Waterson. May he rest in peace.

I'm not usually a person who's lost for words but I am finding it very hard at the moment to describe my feelings having recently heard of the death of Patrick Waterson.

I first encountered Patrick in the Strategos/Lost Battles yahoo groups, where it was immediately clear that he was a person of formidible intellect and seemingly inexhaustable knowledge of ancient authors and ancient warfare.

His ideas always came fully formed. He wasn't a person who reached conclusions tentatively, after a few false starts; he worked backwards from his conclusion, using almost Socratic techniques, to draw fellow conversationalists in to see the problem from his perspective.

He believed that the best and most reliable way to approach ancient history was to read the ancient authors and use common sense. He had little time for most modern commentators, who he felt lacked that common sense and were wedded to an academic narrowness. One modern commentator he did respect however was Phil Sabin, author of Lost Battles, and once Patrick had adopted a set of rules - as he did Lost Battles - there was no one that could turn him against them.

Patrick combined love of dialogue, broad knowledge and a talent for research with a genuine interest in widening people's horizons. He felt that wargames were an excellent avenue for approaching military history, and he would devote time and immense energy to discussing them, testing them, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses, and explaining what he felt they taught best.

He delighted in argument, and enjoyed playing devil's advocate. One of his favourite topics was the issue of numbers in the ancient texts. When someone brought up (say) the incredible size given for the Persian forces in Xerxes' expedition against Greece as evidence that the ancients were unreliable on this score, and must therefore be unreliable on other matters too, he would ask the question, what if Herodotus was right? And he would lead the unsuspecting person into the argument of his life.

But Patrick was also charming and gentlemanly. He took ideas seriously, but he was fond of a joke, and did not seem to hold grudges. If he agreed with something, he would say so; if he disagreed, he would also say so, but only if he felt the person was sufficiently robust to deal with disagreement. He was not oppositional in the common way that if so and so said it, it must be wrong; he was oppositional in the sense that if so and so was not taking such and such into account, or was not paying aspect A due respect, then it would be wrong.

To me personally he was always thoughtful and considerate, even if I was obviously exasperated with him, which I occasionally was. I've not met anyone who was quite so eager to help others to develop their ideas. In this he would provide all kinds of assistance. If there was something that I wanted to know, some quotation or passage I wanted to find, an idea I wanted to test, Patrick was the person I would turn to. And he acted in this way for many others as well (as Treasurer and more lately Secretary of the Society of Ancients, there were *a lot* of people wanting to bounce ideas off him).

Although I knew Patrick for about thirteen years, and was in weekly contact with him for a large proportion of that time, I did not know much about his private life. His private life he did keep private. I gathered from our conversations that for some time his mother was not well, and got the sense that he must have been hit very hard by her death, but he would sidestep such topics, and I never wanted to press him.

Perhaps though I should have pressed harder.

Over the last two years we fell out of touch, as I was too caught up in my own family circumstances to have much time for anything else. I regret this now.

Man is often a poor thing. A petty thing. We are often by default small-minded, mundane, concerned about immediate day-to-day things, and that which affects us directly. Patrick was not like that. He lived amongst ideas.

It was a thing of rare privilege to know him. He was utterly unique, and I will miss him terribly.

Monday, February 10, 2020

And the damage?

A preliminary inspection of the most vulnerable of the 15mm figure lots seems to indicate that they've made it to the southern hemisphere relatively unscathed. I was packing my pants a little when I saw that one of the A4 sized file drawers had collapsed in on itself; miraculously, however, there appears not to have been any crushing damage to speak of, and those layers of protective clear varnish did their bit for the cause.

There may yet be some tears to come, but so far so good!

One of my first acts must be to put on a game for some of the Nelson wargamers who've welcomed me so kindly.

So now there's just the small matter of deciding what that game should be...

As a postscript, I was quite amused to see that Pat, one of my board wargame mates in Japan, was so taken with last year's What a Tanker! game that he's possessed himself of a very fine collection of Dragon and Hobby Master 1/72 AFVs, and looks as if he's going to start converting the neighbours!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Personal effects

Good news: boxes from Japan containing (amongst other things) wargaming articles have arrived in Christchurch, and once these have satisfied the eagle eye of the Customs master, they will wend their way up through the Lewis Pass to Richmond, thence into storage until we move into our new address at the end of the month.

In the meantime I've been amusing myself by taking the family to the beach, reading books, and watching films.

1917, episodic and mythic in its telling, was one film I found slightly too long in the theatre, but that I have since had a lot of fun correlating to remembered scraps of Arthurian Romance, Herculean labour, and Medieval allegory.

The King I also enjoyed, as a re-imagining of another type of myth.

Moving to books, I can hardly believe I had never come across V.M Yeates's Winged Victory before. I saw it in two separate charity shops in the same week, and deciding that this must be a sign, bought it in the second. It certainly was a sign: it is brilliant. I haven't dreaded the end of a book as much as I dread the end of this one for a long time. There are some thirty pages to go, and I fear to read them. I had to write this post now just so that I could come back in the future and remember the feeling of not-having-quite-finished it.

The descriptions of flight are astoundingly good, the metaphors are fresh and striking, and the way he captures character is masterly. When you think of literary depictions of drinking, you think of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but the ones here are something else. A book to come back to again and again, I think.

Finally the beach: the young 'uns are absolutely loving having waves to play about in, sand that you can build castles out of, and a seaside not crowded with people and plastic rubbish. Their timidity around bugs and critters has also reduced remarkably. They're picking up sea creatures and sand dwellers with the best of them, swatting flies, and mentally preparing to crush white-tailed spiders. These may not seem like such big things, but it was only two months ago that they would yell if they encountered a moth!

Anyway, happy New Year all, and I hope that 2020 will be as good a year for readers as it possibly can be.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Bits and pieces, and a wargame.

As must be fairly obvious from the lack of postings on this blog, there hasn't been a lot of recent action on the wargaming front for the relocated Prufrock. But there has been plenty going on in other areas of life.

On the not-so-good side, we lost our much loved patriarch at the end of September after he finally succumbed to that insidious disease which picks people off from families everywhere. He was brave to the last and it was a privilege and a blessing to have had him in our lives.

Similarly, it was a mournful evening last week when the mighty English blasted our noble All Blacks to smithereens in Yokohama.

More positively, South Africa then crushed the English in turn to win a well-deserved third World Cup title. To be honest, I would have been almost as happy had England won - so good was their performance the previous week - but for the South Africans to triumph after having looked a shadow of their former selves not so long ago is great for rugby and for their country. It also gives nice bragging rights to the host country - the only game they lost was to the eventual champions!

The job is going well, house hunting is about to begin, and my wife and kids are moving over at the end of November, so this drawn-out process is now starting to look like it is producing results. It's been a long few months since February, but video phones are a wonderful thing!

Despite everything else that's been going on, there has been some gaming: I introduced a friend to Commands & Colors: Ancients not so long ago; while an epic night of rum and chess at an old school mate's place in Rarangi will live in the memory.

To close, here are a few pics of the last miniatures game I participated in, this one being a huge ACW battle in 28mm at Roundie's. It was a fine contest with plenty of blood and thunder, and even a crossroads.

The battlefield looking from the Union left.

The Union right centre catches a Confederate force in their tents.

The Union centre.

"Here they come, boys!"

And here we come on the left...

The fighting on the Union right was grim right from the beginning.

We race to defeat the Confederate left.

"Push on, gentlement!"

"Come and get us!"

We deployed quite craftily as defenders and I thought we'd done enough to beat those damnable Secessionists, but it was not to be. They held on their left, but we (mostly...) controlled the centre and pushed them on their right to take the advantage in victory dice scored. Unlike with victory points, however, victory dice still have to be rolled - and we rolled miserably, giving the staunch men in grey and butternut a famous victory.

As you can see, Roundie's table and figures are really something.

So there we are. Hope all readers are well and in fine fettle.

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