Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Truth, Lies, Sources (and Videotape).

I was looking the other day at a post on Sean Manning's Book and Sword blog about Livy's account of the battle of Magnesia, which Sean reads as a clear example of 'suppression of the truth being equivalent to spreading a falsehood'.

"Livy", he asserts, "has cut something out of his sources and tried to hide it."

Invoking Appian as the control (it being accepted that both writers read and used Polybius, whose account is no longer extant), the post goes on to enumerate the aspects Sean feels Livy deliberately omitted, with the motivation for these omissions being that Livy was a Roman writing for a Roman audience who would not want to include things that showed the Romans in a less than favourable light.

I'm not entirely convinced by the argument myself. I don't think that Appian is as reliable a control as he is asked to be, and nor do I think that the items supposedly suppressed show the Romans in a particularly bad light, but what I do find particularly interesting are the modern parallels to this situation.

Just ten days ago there was a fierce rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand. Two weeks prior to it, Ireland had beaten New Zealand for the first time ever in their 100-odd year history of playing rugby internationals. The New Zealand All Blacks do not like losing, and the rugby world geared up for an exciting rematch.

What followed was a bruising encounter. The All Blacks won the game by the most ancient of methods - ie, scoring points on attack and denying their opponents from doing the same - but they also had men yellow carded for dangerous or illegal play.

After the match, the narratives in the two countries tended to be quite different. In New Zealand newspapers the All Blacks had kept cool under pressure despite having been harshly treated by a referee who overlooked suspect Irish play while penalising every minor little nothing the All Blacks did. From the Irish perspective the All Blacks were cynical thugs who would stoop to any low behaviour to avoid losing - including targeting the head in tackles, no doubt in an attempt to maim - and who used their aura to intimidate a refereeing team that signally failed to police the game as impartially as right and justice demanded.

In short, both sides took a shared set of events and interpreted them very differently. What from one perspective was an heroic tackle that unfortunately slipped up a little high was, for the other, a blight on the game. What for one side was a score that rewarded skill and perseverance in the face of an indomitable opponent and refereeing inconsistency/incompetency was, for the other, a bitter example of referee blindness and institutional bias in favour of a higher-ranked team and a scarier looking jersey.

But in New Zealand two voices went against the prevailing attitude. One used the high penalty count and and lack of forward dominance to mount his familiar hobby horse in a tirade against the New Zealand captain and the New Zealand administrators;  the other dared to say that the All Blacks' tackling was a a disgrace, but as his last name is Reason (and rumour has it that his father is English), his column could be safely disregarded as mere trolling.

I have exaggerated a wee little bit, but the way that these voices interacted after an event just ten days ago and which is on video for all to see seems to me to be an excellent example of just how difficult it is to come to grips with key events and motivations when they are clouded by one's own stake in the result.

It is from sources akin to these for our Ireland versus All Blacks game that Polybius, Livy, Appian et al had to prepare their own histories. They had no youtube go go back to, and so had to work with a shared set of 'facts' - "We lost/won" - the writings of officials, official historians, and the folk and campaign histories that resulted.

On the whole I think the ancient historians did pretty well. Some are more Daily Mail / Guardian than others, but we've got a lot to be grateful for, and I think we need to be cautious of being too dogmatic about our assumptions of bias because in the end we can't be entirely sure what the biases are.

After all, even New Zealand has its Mark Reasons!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Terrain Boards: Pydna scenario

To test out the look of my new terrain boards post spray paint I quickly set up the Lost Battles Pydna scenario. Both sides begin the battle surprised, so only a fraction of the armies start on table.

I think it's quite a big improvement over the unsprayed version. The colour matches my basing style quite nicely, and the whole is getting closer to how I was envisaging it would look once finished.

There's still a bit more to do, but we're getting there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

One Hour Wargames with the boy

The boy and I were home together on Sunday afternoon and to get him away from Minecraft we set up a quick One Hour Wargames scenario.

He picked eight stands of Vikings and I eight of Normans, and we went at it. His mission was to capture my castle by hook or by crook. He wielded the measuring stick with determined air and when given his choice of dice from the box took out a red one that happened to have 12 sides on it.

After about four turns he had crushed my Norman knights and their assorted hangers on.

As he rushed for the castle, William the Conqueror himself sallied forth uttering cries of war and threatening to hold off the boy's Vikings single-handedly. It was not to be, however. William fell, and the castle was sacked by the wolves of the sea.

The boy then went back to Minecraft!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

More Modular Terrain

Further to my last post, I was lucky enough to scrounge a few more carpet tiles which allowed me to extend the modular terrain system to include rivers. Based on Lost Battles, I've cut out five main river terrain patterns, with some directional variation within that (two left-to-right and then two right-to-left, for example), and now have enough for all scenarios except Sellasia, but I'll probably prepare for that too, just in case.

Here are a couple of sample battlefields as laid out in Lost Battles  with a couple of sample units to show figure scale.

The Sambre


I still have to do some spray painting on these and I'm wondering whether to add another layer to some of the hill tiles to make them stand out a bit more. I'll see.

Obviously, this terrain is very stylised, but I don't mind a bit of stylisation in my games, and I think this set would also work quite nicely with other projects I have in mind when a greater emphasis on realism in the terrain might not.

Anyway, am feeling quite enthusiastic about how this has turned out. There's still some work to do and decisions to be made, but to have acceptable tables makes a huge difference, and should see a few more games played at house Prufrock in the coming months.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Modular Terrain

For a while I've been gearing up to make a modular terrain set using interlocking carpet tiles. The difficulty has been in finding carpet tiles in the quantities needed, but after stripping the local store of another stack last weekend, I decided that I had enough to proceed.

The main impetus behind this project is Lost Battles. I'd seen the terrain that Phil Sabin and friends use for their demonstration games and decided that that was the kind of thing I'd like to go for.

With a day off today and no family activities planned, it was time to take the first step, which was to make the hill tiles.

After reserving twenty-four tiles for flat terrain (Lost Battles uses a 5 x 4 configuration, but I wanted to be able to do 6 x 4 for games with other rules), I had twenty-nine left to use for hills and other things.

A couple of hours of hacking away at them with a hobby knife resulted in thirteen tiles that can be arranged in various ways to create any of the Lost Battles scenarios.

Unfortunately, I now have to pause, because another fifteen or so tiles are needed to make the river sections.

If I can't track down any more carpet tiles I'll have to look at buying some flexible plastic rivers such as these instead, so if anyone has personal experience of such items and could recommend other manufacturers, please let me know.

Cheers all, and hope it has been a good weekend for everyone.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Flying Colors: Cape Ortugul scenario

The last couple of weeks have seen a re-acquaintance with play-by-email boardgaming with my old mate Andrea, whom I have gamed with on and off for about ten years now. We've never actually met in person, but after squaring off during the early Commands & Colors: Ancients online tournaments, we've kept in touch and he has always been a great fellow to play against and yarn with.

The game this time was Flying Colors by Mike Nagel and published by GMT games. It's an age of sail game and although I've had it on the shelf for quite some time I am still a novice.

I won't go into great detail (which would only expose my shameful ignorance regarding warfare of the period), but do want to say that it makes for an interesting game with plenty of difficult decisions.

The turn sequence is as follows: roll for initiative, move and fire (and suffer defensive fire), and then pass play to the other player who moves, fires, and endures defensive fire in turn. If it's a large game with more than one command on each side, players will alternate command activations until all commands have moved, and then the end of turn things are done, such as checking for morale failures, wind changes, on-board fire effects, etc.

The early stages as the English close in on the French and their ailing flagship.

Fire can be aimed at the enemy's rigging or at his hull, with the former when taken to its conclusion resulting in a dismasting, and the later in a sinking. There is also the chance to board enemy vessels and capture them (or not), but we were both too cautious to venture into that in our game.

Thankfully, there are no critical hits, but things like fire or hits on marines are factored into the firing tables.

After eight turns of fairly frenetic action we had the three English vessels dismasted, two of the French ones very badly damaged, and both admirals wounded.

Mid battle: all very messy and close-quartered.

In the end the French limped off too weak in the face of withering defensive fire to close in to land the weight of shot that would be required to damage the English ships. For their part the English, lacking masts, could not manoeuvre as needed to target and finish off the more vulnerable of the French vessels.

The French depart.

As I say, I'm no expert on this period but I thought the game was gripping and the actions quite evocative of the age of sail fiction I've read. I'm not well enough versed to enjoy this solo, but I certainly hope to play some more against Andrea or other opponents.

There is a small problem with this game PBEM in that the VASSAL module seems to have a few bugs in it, which produced misunderstandings and do-overs (to be honest, the do-overs were probably more due to my rules ignorance than the fault of the module!), but the annotated movement we ended up using reduced confusion and seemed to work OK.

The verdict? A good, solid game. Not sure about how it relates to the reality, but it plays well, gives you a bit of a thrill, and has me reaching for some Patrick O'Brien again.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...