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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Old stuff...

... or, as the connoisseurs would have it, 'classic plastic':

I don't know how old the moulds of this Revell kit of the Arado 196 are, but they bear all the hallmarks of the early 1970s - raised panel lines, masses of ejector pin marks in the wrong places (i.e., where they can be seen when the model is complete), thick plastic all round, and ghostly halos of flash. But the Arado 196 was a tough aircraft (only bettered by some of the Japanese types - though check this account of German engineering versus Japanese bodging), and I'm hoping it will look fine on my kit bashed shelves. I decided not to rescribe the panel lines (I want to finish something - it's been a poor year on the toy front here in the Hobbit bunker), but rubbed them down to make them a little less obvious. I've also added in a few longerons  for the cockpit:

It's all curing at the moment, but I've actually started something that I might finish!

Also on the classic plastic front:

 An Italeri re-release, specifically marketed as from the 'Vintage Collection' - i.e., will only appeal to old beggars like myself. I snapped it up when I saw it, thinking that I'd finish it as a South African Air Force Ju86 for the East African campaign. But, once I had it, I went back to my sources and discovered that the SAAF Ju86s weren't the diesel engined version in the Italeri kit, and/or were actually converted civilian airliners. For one I'd need radial engines, while for the other I would need to do a lot of window cutting in the fuselage. Mmmm, return to the planning drawing board.

Also on the theme of old stuff. It is a bank holiday weekend here in England, and, happily, it looks as if the grey, wet weather has gone, for the moment. I was in Warwick town market place this morning, the sun shining, the Warwickians wandering around the market, drinking tea and coffee, smoking, chatting. Many of those Warwickians, especially, I suspect, the poorest, will be the current representatives of the Anglo-Saxons who first built the place - as part of the defence line against the Dane. The sky was blue blue, with cumulus clouds. I sat my grandson on one of the high window ledges of the old Post Office (a Victorian building that reflects the old status of the Royal Mail - an organisation run on semi-military lines in the 19th Century, such was its importance), and we talked of this and that. Fifty yards away the dramatic, elegant, Protestant church tower of St. Mary's basked in the sunshine, with the medieval, Catholic, knights and ladies lying in their own dust in the tombs of the Beauchamp chapel, and the commoners sleeping the long sleep outside in the church yard. I wonder if they will climb out, as in a Stanley Spencer painting (Spencer that great English artist, not Spencer the great English poet), transfigured. 'In the sure and certain knowledge...'

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Drummer Lee Rigby RRF

Wherever you are you will have heard of the barbaric murder yesterday in Woolwich, London. Drummer Lee Rigby, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was murdered on the street in his capital city. His murderers appear to have been Islamists. Like other Islamist murderers and potential murderers arrested in the last few years in the UK, they appear to have been British citizens, or, at least, to have lived here for many years. The sense of horror, sadness, and anger that many of us feel overlies a sense of bewilderment - what has happened to England, to Britain?  And when were we asked whether we agreed?

Drummer Lee Rigby, son, husband, father, Englishman, British soldier.RIP.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

'So 'ere's to you,

Fuzzy Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan...'

'Strewth that were a close 'un !:

The remains of the Anglo-Egyptian forces return...? Sadly, no. Unfortunately, work (that horrid thing, paid employment, as opposed to 'useful work') is playing havoc with my attempts to wargame, or paint little tin chaps, or even stick together bits of plastic. It is very tiresome, although, in my defence, I might add that I have reported to the UK government's Cabinet Office this last week, so it must be important. Musn't it?

More happily, Spring in the land of the English is advancing in fits and starts, and my little garden is stretching itself towards the light:

The tree in the tub is an olive, given to me by my late father. We are far from the Med here in Mercia, but the olive tree still has a Romantic purchase on gardening imaginations, and my father, in his youth, knew Palestine well, albeit in the early stages of its current agonies. Blessed and cursed by the monotheistic imagination.

'So 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan;
You're a pore benighted 'eathen but a first class fightin' man;
An ''ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your 'ayrick 'ead of 'air -
You big black boundin' beggar - for you broke a British square!'

If you're a Kipling fan then you could do worse than hunt out some of the marvellous renditions of his poems by the now long dead English folk singer, Peter Bellamy.

Many years ago, I had a university tutor in English literature who looked the spitting image of Kipling. He was, somehow Imperially, and fittingly, I thought, an Irishman (from Cork?) named Dr. Welsh. He was the only university academic (male) who struck me as a thoroughly decent fellow. I wonder where he is now?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


... thousands of 'em ! Well, four sets of rules, actually, but I've been dithering to the point where it seems like 'faasands' of 'em. The question was, what was I going to use with these chaps:

along with these stalwarts:

British Army, Jack Tars, and Egyptian unfortunates, plus poor old camels.

Last year I bought a set of Peter Pig's RFCM Patrols in the Desert. I've had some reasonable games in the past with RFCM's Bayonet and Ideology (odd title, which doesn't reflect the rules at all), and much better fun with Hammerin' Iron (first version). Given that history, I thought that Patrols might be worth a gander - and they are. The RFCM team came up with some very interesting ideas to give the Mad Mahdi's men all the benefit of playing on their home ground. That gives the British, Imperial and Egyptian forces tricky scouting tasks, and helps offset the benefits of training, discipline and fire power. But, after much thought, I decided that I couldn't expect a decent solo game with them. So, I turned to the classical model, in the shape of Morschauser's Frontier War. I'm quite a fan of the gridded concept which is just the ticket for a time short solo gamer, but the Frontier set lacks a certain dusty, gritty, deserty, hellish feel - in other words it would need some amendments and thought to make it more 'Sudan'. But Morschauser and gridded thoughts took me to the leading contemporary proponent of this approach - Bob Cordery, and his Redcoats and Dervishes. Mr. Cordery's rules look very nice, and there is plenty to think about in them, along with some useful scenarios. But I didn't feel like making a card set for the game; although I might in future. All that cogitation led me back to where I'd started from:

So, I've taken, in a random, haphazard fashion, ideas regarding random terrain generation, hidden Fuzzies (and pals), other bits and pieces from the different rule sets, and added them in to Hordes of Dervishes.

So, the old school terrain is set, the armies are counted out (24 Army Points apiece, as per Hordes), and tomorrow night I'll roll the dice:

Thursday, 9 May 2013


... and furious! Amazing stuff! And I thought Rapid Fire could give a bloody game. As you know, this was, for me, a test play of Too Fat Lardies' Through the Mud and the Blood. And as such I was only playing small forces, being inspired to use the rule set by the Triumphant Standards supplement. So, no artillery, no barrages, no tanks, bunkers, air support etc, just the Milice, the Resistance, and, perhaps a German armoured car plus paras in support. So how did it go?

Having whittled down a Main of the Milice in a fire fight (see previous post), Hairy Pierre led his men in a very successful hand to hand with the enemy, killing all but one, who legged it. So far, so Resistance.

The cards seemed to have been going all the Resistants' way, and Felix decided to storm the HQ. A rash move, as inside, under the command of Big Man III, Le Chretien, was another Main, with LMG. And Le Chretien's card came up. Cue withering fire that killed all the attackers bar one. 

But to complete the moment, the next card was 'sentry', and the part-time Milicien sentry engaged the survivor with a close burst from his Sten. Goodbye Gaullist/Communist/bandit/whatever.

The Miliciens in the HQ then turned their attention to Petit Jo's boys sheltering behind the hedge line. Their fire had had little effect, as had the Resistance's LMG firing from across the main road. But the HQ boys made sure.

Hairy Pierre decided to push on, and led his men forwards, only for the next card to unleash the armoured car...


This was fast play, but enjoyable, and the card driven mechanism was ideal for solo play helping to reduce predictability and certainly raising the level of gaming 'friction', just as the authors intended.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

First die...

... cast. And they're off...

Most of the early moves were made by the Resistance, and not just because they were on the attack, but that's the way the cards turned up. All five Resistance groups made progress, moving into position in a well balanced way - good training, or luck. Hairy Pierre, Alain Draylon, and their group made it unseen through the southern woods to the south-west road:

And were ambushed by Le Perdu's Main, who opened up with a Bren and rifle fire - only adding one point of shock, but causing no casualties.

The ambush becomes a stand-off, with both sides trading fire. Good card draws give the Resistance the upper hand (they've two 'Big Men' with them), and Le Perdu's men, despite good cover, start to fall. 

The blank card is drawn, triggering the arrival of a German armoured car, but although heavy fire can be heard, low dice throws fail to trigger the arrival of the Milice's German support.

The current state of play:

Miliciens fighting desperately in the south west, but with the German armoured car rushing to the rescue. Elsewhere, the other Resistance groups are all in position for the assault on the Milice HQ. 

Meanwhile, late this evening in my little garden. Apple blossom:

And over the sunny bank holiday:

Euphorbia strutting its Spring stuff in the sunlight.

Monday, 6 May 2013

It begins...

After a beautiful long holiday weekend, with three days of serious Lego 'Star Wars', Transformers, and Lego 'Heroes' conversation with my grandson, some gardening and allotmenting, the Big Man test game has moved forwards, slightly:

Things appear relatively peaceful at the rural HQ of the Departmental Milice, with only a solitary sentry on duty. The local Resistance have decided that the ultra collabos need to be taught a serious lesson, that the HQ needs to be destroyed, and the local Milice unit wiped out.

But the Miliciens have been tipped off, and have laid an ambush on what they hope will be the main axis of attack on the south-western road into the town.

Meanwhile, on the eastern approaches the Resistance machine gun team move up to cover the main road to prevent reinforcements for the Milice turning up. 

While 'Felix' (Big Man status II) moves his men up, with 'Petit Jo' (Big Man status II) and his boys in the distance, moving to attack the HQ from the rear.

And Alain Draylon (Big Man status II), with the local Resistance supremo, 'Hairy Pierre' (Big Man status III), head, unknown to them, into the Milice ambush...