Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Civilization before Christmas

On the day before Christmas a few of us got together to play a first game of Avalon Hill's classic boardgame, Civilization.

The Peoples in play were Italy, Thrace, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt and Africa. Proud Thrace and Cruel Assyria began in the most forthright fashion, vying between themselves for the title of best and strongest. They continued to compete for honour and glory until the Thracian in his pride was hit by a series of calamitous occurrences (internecine warfare, drought, pestilence and still others we shall not name) that brought him low.

The brown jacket of our Assyrian looks particularly wolfish in this light.

On the other side of the Mediterranean world the Pius Italians suffered grievously - twice-in-a-row grievously - from the wrath of Vulcan, which allowed my (Cartho) Africans to throw a few sacrificial youngsters to Moloch and welcome Sicily into their commonwealth of Punic perfidy.

Assyria (in pink) grown fat on the misfortunes of others (all right, and due to his magnificent grasp of the mathematical model underlying the game, but don't tell him that!).

Noble Egypt - plagued somewhat by accounting difficulties - and the Virtuous Woman of Babylon made do the best they could, but as the sands in the hourglass were dribbled first this way then that way it was the Cruel Assyrians who arose the deserved victor.

The Hand of Babylon...

It was a lot of fun and a rare thing in this day and age to find a group of people willing to get together and have a crack at a game this immense. Well done to all the participants!

Friday, December 18, 2015

A little painting progress

It's been a while since I've had the brushes out, but as the year winds down (and after an invigorating tidy of the hobby room) I've pulled finger and tried to get a few things finished up to boost my 2015 painting tally.

At the moment I've got a selection of Companions, Thessalians and Xystophoroi (all Xyston 15mm figures) on the go. I can't quite remember the reasoning behind trying to put them all together in the one mass, but I'll worry about that later...

Anyway, these are still in a reasonably early stage of completion, but as I'd used a brown undercoat, I am using this bunch to experiment with the colours that will work best with it. So far I quite like the results, though the Coat d'arms chestnut wash has not worked well at all. This is not poor old Coat d'arms's fault though: in my zest for experimentation I simply forgot that a wash needs to be darker than its base-coat to be effective!

But enough blathering. Here are a few work-in-progress shots.

Red gray with a lilac highlight (central figure) seems to work quite well on a cloak.

The lion skin is almost there; needs a little more dapple, but the Coat d'arms flesh wash does a great job.

Attempt at a white horse. It will probably almost do.

The chesnut wash on the horse. Almost, but not quite right... It's become an inverse highlight, so I'll need to drybrush with a red-brown to fix that (or else do over with a darker wash)

This chap is pretty much done, but I still want to do a little more on the animal skin.

I've enjoyed it and have worked out a few useful paint combinations. Hopefully I'll manage to get these and the other twenty-odd in the batch done before the new year, but I've said that kind of thing before!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

On savage reviews, or their absence

The other week I did a book review here that was less than complimentary. It was a bad book, and I had no qualms about giving it a negative review, except that I may have come across as a bit of an arrogant git, which is a look I'd like to avoid where possible!

While I'm happy to give a bad book a kick, I don't find myself able to be quite so insouciant where games and rules are concerned. It's not a conscious decision, but when it comes to wargaming I just feel uncomfortable giving bad reviews.

Firstly, I have sympathy for the poor rules designer. Secondly, where the hobby endeavours of others are concerned, I generally prefer to be positive rather than negative. Thirdly, there is always the chance that I may be wrong. I may have misread an important rule, been impatient with the game, or have found some other less obvious way to do it an injustice.

I dimly recall having been reasonably scathing on the odd occasion in the past, but these days I would rather just say nothing and quietly put the game or rules set up out of the way.

I guess I'll never make it as a reviewer!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Band of Brothers: 'Ambush at Wardin' Scenario

I've got Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles back on the table again tonight. It's one of those games that I keep meaning to play more of, but never seem to end up so doing.

I'm still learning (and re-learning) the rules, so I thought I'd try for a heavier scenario that brings in weapons teams and vehicles.

As an aside, it's interesting to see the difference in approach between miniatures rules and hex-based games as to how flank shots against vehicles are defined. Vehicles are much more vulnerable here: anything outside the 120 degree frontal arc is a flank shot, so you really have to rethink your strategy.

After turn one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bad Book Reviews: 'The Last Templar'

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury is the worst book I've read in the last five years. It is so bad that after a certain point it became a matter of honour to see it through to the end, just so I could say I'd done it.

(Image from wikipedia)

Fiercely independent, stunningly beautiful female archaeologist? Check. Brave, principled law-enforcement type who needs to learn to love again? Check. Villains who work (or used to work) for various respected institutions and will do anything to find / hide a world-changing occult secret? Check. Scenes in which the aforementioned must [briefly] put aside their differences to work together? Check. A plot line that combines The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail-esque imagi-history with soap opera sexual tension and hoping-for-Hollywood cliffhanger scenes? Check.

The book is a triumph of box ticking.

On top of this there is a subplot featuring our last Templar of the title: a 13th Century knight who has escaped the fall of Acre and been entrusted to safeguard the SECRET OF THE TEMPLARS.

Whatever could the secret be?

While Micheal of Carmaux's story (for that is his name) undoubtedly serves authorial purpose on word count alone, it also allows the author to provide background information and construct parallels between the ancient and modern action that attempt to disguise the plot's reliance on coincidence. His adventures also provide opportunities for TV-rights sword fights and allow the author to signpost the deeper conclusions which readers should be coming to for a second time, just to be sure.

The writing itself is thick, and not only with hidden meaning. Here is an example:
The next few days drifted by in a daze. Tess would spend time with Reilly in the morning before going out for long walks, returning by lunchtime. Late in the afternoon, she would venture out again, usually up to the castle ruins from where she would watch the sun melt into the shimmering Aegean waters. She loved that part of her day the most. Sitting there in quiet reflection with the scent of sage and chamomile wafting down from the hillside, she found the idyllic setting among rocks somewhat reassuring, a bit of respite from the small bundle in her room that was preying on her mind at all times. 
If you didn't desire respite from any small bundle that was preying on your mind before, you certainly do after fifty pages of this!

Still, on the positive side, if you are looking for a book that sits proudly within the great tradition of crap books featuring Templars, you can't go wrong with this one.

Or if you are not looking, you could always read it as a penance!

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