Wednesday, 24 August 2016
My good friend Francisco Goya emailed me to report that this blog - this actual blog you are reading - is now blocked to passengers using the wi-fi on First buses in the UK, since it contains inappropriate content.
Good heavens. Whatever next. Etc.
My first reaction is that, since I was brought up to trust that responsible business corporations cannot possibly be wrong, First are almost certainly correct to take such action. Further, it pleases me to see that protection of the feelings and moral values of their customers should figure in First's strategic gameplan. Good for them.
I am not well placed at present to research just why I am off the official reading list, but I am free to play games in my mind, and to imagine some story which happens to suit me. I may look further into this, but I sincerely hope that First still allow their passengers to visit the website of The S*n, plus various dating agencies and gossip fora, to keep their views clean and patriotic.
I may not lose a lot of sleep over this.
Monday, 22 August 2016
|Aerial view of battle area - the photo came to me with incorrect |
details - please see Ubique Matt's comment below for orientation [thanks Matt!]
Not as a walkthrough - I have no appetite for that at all, but as a game which involves something like the correct forces and – more challenging – has a chance of reproducing the strange events of the real battle.
Strange? Well, the action is pretty much ignored in the standard histories, though, since it involved something close to 8000 men, it was by far the largest ECW battle to take place in Wales, and its result – a surprising and catastrophic defeat for the Royalist side - effectively ended Royalist influence in Wales, and had far-reaching consequences for the war elsewhere.
Max Foy’s Potted History of Montgomery:
(1) Royalists besieged Montgomery Castle – they had about 1500 horse, 3000 foot. Since they had no serious artillery, the siege was more a blockade than an attempt to break in.
(2) Parliamentarians arrived with about 1500 horse, 1500 foot, and, having seriously underestimated the Royalist numbers, set about pushing through a mounted force, to re-provision the garrison.
(3) Royalists attacked – downhill, across pretty open ground, and pushed their outnumbered opponents back towards the River Camlad, which could only be crossed at a single bridge on the Welshpool road.
(4) As they prepared to drive the enemy into the River, the Royalist forces suddenly suffered a major collapse of morale, and were routed from the field, losing all but about 100 of their foot troops in the pursuit.
Hmmm. The action is well documented, there are eye-witness reports and commentaries from individuals on both sides. The Royalist army was experienced and well officered, though their recent experience had been unhappy. Parliamentarian accounts claim the influence of the hand of God (which might explain a few things), but give great credit to the leadership efforts of a few of the senior officers, and, in particular, to the courage and vigour of Wm Fairfax’s Horse and Sir Wm Brereton’s Cheshire Regiment of Foot, who rallied with such ferocity that they turned the day. The Royalist writers take the opportunity to blame each other, and name specific units which broke and ran in a shameful manner. The message is consistent, if the details vary a little: one moment the Royalists were on the brink of victory, then within a very short time they panicked and ran. The Battle of Montgomery is said to have lasted little more than an hour.
Interesting. I am currently on holiday (far away...) – I have some of my reading material with me, so homework can continue to an extent. I am focusing at present on the battlefield, and how best to represent it on the tabletop, on the OOBs (of which more in a moment) and how to allow for the kind of events which destroyed the Royalist attack.
Let’s look at this last bit first.
If I set up the armies as they appear on paper, and the Royalists proceed to push the (outnumbered) Parliament lot back into the River Camlad, few people would give the Parlies much chance. One way to give history a slight chance of repeating itself would be to allow some kind of fancy Chance Card event or a nuclear dice throw to stand the battle on its head. I don’t like this – the game is then obviously rigged, and it’s rigged in a manner which makes it pretty clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with my rules. I’d prefer it if there was some way of allowing for an inherent fragility in the Royalist army, veteran or not, and play the game as normal.
My rules, as ever, will be Commands & Colors based, though on this occasion the shape of the battlefield suggests to me that the forces will fight from the ends of the table rather than the long sides (which means I shall substitute a dice-based activation system for the Command Cards), and, since I am keen to have the town and castle at one end, I’ll use my bigger table size - 17 hexes by 9. At 200 paces across a hex, that’s pretty close to my estimate of 1.5 miles x 1 mile for the main field. My rules do allow for troops to be classified as Veteran or Raw, and maybe this gives me a way to address the problem. The regiments which are known to have disgraced themselves were all veterans, in the sense that they had been fighting for years, but the “Irish” [sic] units which came from the Shrewsbury garrison had mostly been badly mauled at both Nantwich and Marston Moor, and Tom Tyldesley’s horse had been through both of these and Ormskirk, where they had suffered considerably.
Given the hardships they must have been under and the big proportion of replacement recruits that must have been needed to make up the numbers, my inclination is to take a bit of a radical step, and mark a number of supposedly experienced units as Raw, which could well introduce the element of fragility I am looking for.
I’ll think further about this, but at least I can see a way ahead for the moment.
Order of Battle (with approximate strengths)
Royalist Army (John, Lord Byron of Rochdale)
Horse (Col. Mark Trevor)
Col Trevor’s RoH (500) – [from Chester Garrison]
Sir Wm Vaughan’s RoH (500)
Sir Thos Tydesley’s (Lancashire) RoH (500)
[I propose to rationalise this into 4 standard-size units of horse – Trevor’s, Vaughan’s and half of Tyldesley’s were with the main advance, on the right flank, while Byron kept part of Tyldesley’s back as a reserve, partly to defend the siegeworks near the castle]
Foot (Sir Michael Ernle)
Regts present from the Shrewsbury garrison were those of Col Robt Broughton, Col Henry Tillier, Col Henry Warren, Sir Michael Ernle and Sir Fulke Hunk – (total about 1500)
Col Robt Ellice’s (Welsh) RoF, Sir Michael Woodhouse’s ('Prince of Wales Regt') RoF and Col Henry Washington’s Dragoons (who fought on foot) – some of these were from the Chester garrison, brought by Byron (total about another 1500)
[it is thought that the Shrewsbury troops were combined into 2 battalia, with Hunk’s regiment as a reserve; I shall field 5 standard foot regiments, plus 1 of dragoons, serving as foot musketeers]
Parliamentary Army (Sir John Meldrum was nominal commander, but evidence suggests that the field command was a joint effort between Meldrum, Sir Wm Brereton and Sir Thos Myddleton)
Garrison of Montgomery (Col Thomas Mytton)
A few hundred foot from Mytton’s own regiment and that of Sir Thos Myddleton
Horse (Sir Wm Fairfax)
Sir Wm Fairfax’s (Yorkshire) RoH (400)
Lancashire Horse (Col. Nicholas Shuttleworth) (400)
Cheshire Horse (Maj. Jerome Zankey) (400)
Sir Thos Myddleton’s “brigade” (150)
Derbyshire Horse (Maj. Thos Sanders) (150)
[I’ll represent this lot by 4 standard regiments of horse – Myddleton’s and the Derbyshire Horse were probably merged]
Foot (Maj. James Lothian)
Sir Wm Brereton’s (Cheshire) RoF (500)
Col Geo Booth’s RoF (Cheshire) (500)
Col Henry Mainwaring’s RoF (500)
[on the face of it, this looks like 3 standard units of foot, though I am considering sneaking in a 4th unit to represent the “hand of God”!]
It seems that neither side had any significant artillery present – I shall ignore artillery, though the castle might have a gun or two, and the garrison of the castle certainly had plenty of ammunition.
I’ll describe the battlefield in more detail when I have better graphics facilities available!
That’s about as far as I’ve got, and that’s probably more than enough to be going on with. I am aware that the bold Jonathan Freitag, wargamer, cyclist and blogger extraordinaire, wrote up a couple of reports on a Montgomery game recently, so I’ll certainly check those out. I have found that searches for the Battle of Montgomery on Google produce an overwhelming amount of information about El Alamein!
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Despite my intention to boycott them, I find I’ve been watching the Olympics after all. My problem with the games is threefold. These are, in order of inside leg measurement...
1. Hypocrisy – the laughable pretence that somehow this extravaganza binds together the nations of the drug abusing, bribery riddled sporting world. How we love boring and previously unknown sports if it turns out that our lot might be good at them!
2. The BBC (bless them) insist on presenting the Games as though they were somehow a sponsor, rather than a licence-money-consuming media corporation. In particular, the pre-scripted, screaming commentary which accompanies any medal success for Our Lot is rather heavy going – unless I was mistaken, some hysterical gentleman was informing me the other evening that the victory of one of Our Lot’s swimmers was a “life affirming moment” for all of us. Let’s be clear about this, I am proud of the swimmer, and I greatly admire individuals who dedicate their lives to doing something supremely well, but I have little time for the posturing hangers-on who use public money to get in the way of the spectacle.
3. The presence of a few sports which don’t seem to me to be Olympian. You can make your own list – golf seems an oddity to me – our own hero may well be required to compete against some foreign chaps who would certainly not be welcome at your local club. Discuss.
Anyway, you get the idea, and yet I find I am rather enjoying the track cycling at weird hours of the morning. I guess the Games must be OK, after all.
Some odd gaps in the list of events, though. There was recent mention of the noble game of Conkers on this blog – I can think of no finer presentation of skill and individual courage, and yet Conkers does not seem to be recognised as a sport at this level. Conkers, in case it goes by different names in different parts of the world, is combat in its most ancient form – warriors armed only with the fruit of the horse-chestnut tree, pierced and mounted on a string (that’s the chestnut, not the warrior). Admittedly, the sport is normally played only by 8-year-olds, and it is heavily seasonal, but it seems a sad omission from the Olympic programme.
There was recent comment about Conkers on this blog – not a celebration, but then you wouldn’t expect that. It was a more of a lament that the game has been unfairly suppressed, and for some pretty feeble reasons, too. One local school authority in England banned the game on health and safety grounds, apparently, insisting that Conkers-players should wear protective goggles and hand protection. It would be a sad thing, after all, if the teaching profession should be prosecuted over a playground accident. Some local branch of an English teaching union is also said to have claimed that Conkers is an example of the kind of competitive, elitist activity which has no place in an enlightened schoolyard.
I would have loved to be an accomplished Conkers player – alas, I was a very poor performer, though I used to turn up each season with large numbers of shiny new conkers (ready pierced, carried in an old shoe-bag with a drawstring), but I was one of the fringe players whose role was to provide cannon fodder to bolster the reputations and the tallies of the true heroes and gunslingers at our primary school. There were dark arts at play – apart from techniques, sometimes of debatable legality, there were all sorts of whispered formulae involving baking in the stove, pickling in vinegar (someone once mentioned saltpetre, though when pressed he didn’t know what saltpetre was, so this was dismissed as a lie) and all sorts of weird and wonderful secrets. On occasions a secret recipe was claimed to have been handed down from someone’s granddad, which is probably a testament to the traditions of the sport rather than the effectiveness of the treatment.
I recall that Kenneth Ikin had an unbeatable conker for a while – it was old, and battered, and grey, and as hard as wood. Kenneth’s supreme conker was much feared – when it was in its fourth season (I seem to recall that eventually it was a two-hundred-and-elevener, which is, let’s face it, awesome by any standards), Kenneth was forced to prowl about the playground, challenging the opposition, who were not exactly queueing up to be humiliated – as part of his warrior routine he would occasionally swing it on its string, and strike potential opponents on the head, as a call to joust. One lunchtime, as he searched for opposition, he idly took a swing at the cement capping on the low brick wall which supported the playground railings. I’m not sure what he expected, but Kenneth’s pride and joy disintegrated, with a sad, dry noise, and he was speechless. The entire school was subdued by the loss – it might have been a life-affirming moment, if we had them in those days, but there was a vague feeling that we should have given it a Viking funeral, if we could have found any bits large enough to burn.
Now, half a century and 250 miles away from St Michael’s-in-the-Hamlet County Primary school’s Burdett Street playground, I live close to a chestnut tree which would have guaranteed me admittance to the inner circle of gunfighters – I have never seen such conkers, for either numbers or quality. Maybe I should take up the sport again. Tricky that – past discussions have revealed that not only the technical terminology but also the actual rules (how to treat a straight miss, punish a non-stationary target, sort out tangled strings, all that) were obviously heavily regional and varied from place to place.
I wonder what sort of protective goggles we’d have to use? Hmmm. Needs more thought.
Sunday, 7 August 2016
Oh no - here we go again.
Since my old Windows netbook is no longer supported, I have purchased a Samsung tablet to take on my travels, so I should be reachable (assuming I have wi-fi). I'm pleased with the tablet - only snag at the moment is that I am having some fiddly problems with email - if I send an email from the device, everything gets into the right folders on my email server, so that I can see it on my phone and on my iMac, but the actual wording in the mails sent from the tablet gets repeated for some reason I am trying to work out.
If you get an email from me which seems to say the same thing twice, then it will be from my tablet.
If you get an email from me which seems to say the same thing twice, then it will be from my tablet. You get the idea.
Buying the tablet was a refreshing exercise - I had a fair idea what I was looking for, so went into John Lewis' Edinburgh store early yesterday, since I was on my way to Claymore in Granton. It is very clear that old guys with white hair and tweed sports jackets are either invisible or don't fit some marketing profile which features in whatever training they give the staff these days. I was there about 9:05am, and by about 9:15 I was ready to be helped to buy something.
Bizarre. Every time I approached a member of sales staff, they would avoid eye contact and move into a conversation with a colleague. This happened a few times - I was beginning to wonder if I should try jumping up and down, or singing Old Man River while standing on top of the TV display. Eventually, after about another 10 minutes, I got someone from another department to persuade one of the sales people to condescend to speak to me. Very young chap appeared, with skin-tight trousers and rather unusual hair. Not bloody interested. Also, to be frank, didn't know very much - probably knew little more than I did, but managed to retain his cosmic cool throughout. Eventually he was pleased to get me a Samsung tablet from stock, selected a generic hard-shell case for the device for me, then handed me off without a further word to a colleague at a check-out till. This colleague wasn't interested either, but at least he made some businesslike noises - he gave me the wrong information about guarantee details, processed the sale and - presumably - returned to chat with his mates.
I left feeling oddly depressed - this dismal experience cost me a fair amount of money, of course, though I am pleased enough with the device. My feelings about the episode are not helped by the fact that the hard case recommended and supplied is the wrong one - it is specifically for an iPad of the same screen size, but the iPad has all its orifices in different places, of course. No matter - I shall return the case to Edinburgh for a full refund - when it suits me to do so - and I shall buy the correct case from someone else. Someone a little more professional.
The technology section in JL is tricky these days - they deploy various external specialists in logo-bearing sweaters (the Apple man, the Samsung man, the Sony man etc), but they may not be in attendance until later than my visit yesterday, and the other (generic?) JL sales staff seem to have less familiarity with the kit than they used to. This is all a pity - I have always liked the shop, and I have bought a lot of stuff from them over the years, including technology (my current iMac, and the computers of my wife and my son all came from there within the last couple of years). As a matter of principle, I would like to approve of JL and be a faithful customer, but they keep demonstrating that they don't care a great deal, and I keep promising myself I shall not go back.
Tuesday, 2 August 2016
After receiving some justifiable criticism from Musaeus, I am cutting down the number of rants on this blog. Today, however, I am pretty mad, so please regard what follows as a kind of helpful public information service, rather than just a mindless stream of bile.
I own a Mitsubishi ASX – I have had it now for 3-and-a-half years. It is an ideal vehicle for me – economical to run, well engineered and built, and provides optional 4WD for the bad weather (we can get a bit stranded at times in the Winter). I bought it new from our nearest dealership (which is some 40 miles from here), not least because they offered me an attractive trade-in price on my old Mitsu pick-up. When I bought it, one of the add-on lollipops was a cheap, pay-up-front offer on regular servicing - £200 on the purchase price secured me free annual services for 3 years. Since the warranty more or less cements you into main-dealer servicing for 3 years anyway, it seemed a reasonable deal, so I went for it.
The car does not do much of a mileage – my wife has her own car, and I also run a van, so the ASX has done about 23,000 miles from new, in three and a half years. Last week we drove in it down to Cheshire and North Wales, and by the time we got back on Friday there was something decidedly odd about the brakes. So yesterday I handed the vehicle over to the garage in our village, with whom I have had a long and positive relationship, and they fixed it and reported back. I have not yet seen their bill, so I may be even madder in a few days.
Now, our local garageman is a decent fellow – he is aware that if he cheats his regular customers in an area of low population then he will soon have no customers. Since everyone in the county knows or is related to just about everyone else, you can be pretty sure that word will get around. As a local builder once told me, if I do a good job for you, you might just tell someone, but if I do a bad job you’ll tell everyone – it’s a different world in the country, brothers. Howard the Local Garage Man is also professional enough to avoid criticising the competition, since such an activity simply gives the entire motor trade a bad rep. However, on this occasion he told me a few things which cast a dark shadow on the special main-dealer service deals which come with new cars.
The third and final pre-paid service on my car was carried out by the dealer at the end of January, at which time it also passed what is known for historic reasons in this country as the MOT test (a mechanical and safety check which is required annually for vehicles 3 years old or older). Since that January service it has travelled about 2,500 miles – not a lot. According to Howard, my car returned from Wales with its front brake disks rusted and pitted, the pads wrecked, and the rear brakes seized solid with rubbish and corrosion. There was no evidence of any lubrication being carried out on the braking system at any time since the vehicle was new; Howard was also astonished that the car could have passed inspection at the January MOT, given the state that the brakes must have been in 2,500 miles ago, but then the dealer carried out the test. Hmmm.
Anyway, it is now fixed, and I shall enjoy driving in comfort and improved safety, and I shall grit my teeth and pay Howard’s bill as part of what is required to keep my personal transport on the road – convenience has its cost. The bit that really grates (apart from the pitted brake disks) is the almost complete worthlessness of the cheap servicing package on a new car. The factory warranty forces the customer to return it to the dealer for maintenance anyway, an effect which is exacerbated by the inevitable series of peculiar safety recalls – “next time you return the vehicle for servicing, your dealer will carry out a necessary, free safety check on the bolts in the bonnet hinges – etc.” (this was a Renault example, but it will serve). In short, they have you by the dangly bits.
During the first three years of a car’s life – especially for a low-mileage vehicle such as mine – the servicing is likely to be cheap and routine. Any exceptions to this are likely to be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, so I appear to have had three oil changes, fluid level checks and maybe the odd new filter for my £200. Oh, and maybe the lad gave it a wash with the power jet. At the end of my first 23,000 miles with the car, it seems the brakes may have been untouched and in an unsafe state.
Not great is it? Now that the warranty period is over, I shall be very pleased to go back to getting all my servicing done locally – Howard has never let me down.
A couple of people have expressed interest in the ceramic buildings which I used in my ECW siege testing a couple of months ago. For the most part, these were made by the Tey Pottery company, now defunct, which operated from various locations in Norfolk. The range of which I seem to have become an accidental collector is the Britain in Miniature series, which suits my purposes admirably.
|Tey Pottery "Britain in Miniature" - Grannie would have been delighted. The |
white-backed buildings in the background make effective town blocks - the
textured-all-round items nearer the camera are more suitable for standalone pieces
I didn’t really need another unofficial collection, but I am pleased with what I’ve obtained, and have consciously cut down on purchasing now, in the sense that I am very picky about what I go for. I note that at the start of this year I wasn’t sure at all about the viability for the wargames table of items primarily intended for your grannie’s sideboard – these are ornaments, let’s make that quite clear – pottery knick-knacks, and they are neither serious models nor exactly accurate.
Some points (for and against) and things to watch for, if you have half a mind to acquire some of these miniatures:
(1) They suit me perfectly – they have a cheerful, almost playful brio which I find very appropriate to accompany toy soldiers – the Britain in Miniature (BiM) series are (mostly) to an approximately constant(ish) scale which I would describe as “smallish 15mm”. I deliberately use underscale buildings with my 20mm figures, because the smaller footprint is more acceptable (given the constant paradox of incompatible ground and figure scales), and because I believe a cluster of undersized houses looks more like a village than a single representative structure which matches the figure scale.
(2) Tey’s BiM range – if you are selective – will fit nicely in a 17th Century setting. The buildings are, mostly, what in ship model terms would be called “waterline” representations, without bases or landscaping, and can be combined into effective town blocks which would be difficult and expensive to achieve otherwise. Be careful with sizes – the churches are too small for my taste, and the Countryside Collection and a few others contain smaller-scale items – anything which is obviously a generic cottage usually will not match.
(3) They are readily available and splendidly cheap – on eBay you can pick up nice examples for just a few pounds (they are available on US eBay, too though slightly dearer). Typically, I obtained lots for about 3 to 5 pounds each, and was the only bidder. On occasions, an attractive off-catalogue or commissioned item will attract heavier bids, so I normally duck out when the going gets tough. It’s only a hobby, for goodness’ sake…
(4) They are ornaments – they are delicate (though not too bad, if you store them sensibly) and they are glazed to a high gloss. Being a very bad person, I give them two coats of acrylic matt medium – if I need to do any touching up, or obliterate any anachronistic shop or pub signs, I can do that with acrylics between the varnish coats. I expect serious Tey collectors to be outraged by my destruction of their collectors’ value by this varnish business, but these things are plentiful, the value is not great and they are mine anyway (heh heh) – consider it equivalent to converting original Hinton Hunt figures!
(5) Some serious bad news – many of these pieces are untextured and plain white on the back, so have to be placed with care to make a convincing street scene, but this doesn’t cause me any difficulty. This can be a fairly confusing aspect of collecting Tey buildings – some of them are textured and painted all round – these tend to be detached-style buildings rather than sections of town blocks – and I mostly go for these now if I can. Some of the buildings have changed during their production history, so I have (reluctantly) been forced to learn more about the catalogues than I might have wished – in particular, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage appeared in a number of versions, some of which had plain white backs and some, like mine, are finished all round. Yes, I know, this is getting nerdy.
So, overall, if they suit your purposes (or porpoises – thank you, Jonathan), these guys are cheaper and handier and quicker to deploy than wargames-specific resin buildings, lighter and more robust (and less irritatingly cute) than Lilliput Lane or David Winter houses (though I cherish a fair few of those, too), and I find they bring a pleasing, colourful vibe to my siege activities, which really benefit from a bit of scenic interest. I still need specialist Hovels houses and similar, but as a bulk buy to make an easy, flexible town the Tey houses are great. Buy them selectively, keeping a careful eye on sizes and they do a nice job. For matching churches, I have found the most satisfactory source is the products of Sulley’s Ceramics, but these are rarer and more expensive.
At a whimsical level, I find it deeply amusing to set up a town which features Shakespeare’s birthplace, the Bronté family’s parsonage, the Rows of Chester, the Siege House (Colchester), John Knox’s House (Edinburgh), and all manner of famous tourist sites – all in the same spot. Fantastic – I should wheel out one of my miniature tour buses to show off the rich heritage! I am cutting down on watching eBay now, but I keep an eye open for Anne of Cleves’ House, the Mermaid Inn and a few others. No – of course I am not a collector.
Sunday, 31 July 2016
Once again I had a vague idea about stretching the Welsh bit of the trip to include the battlefield of Montgomery, but it was really too far for the time we had available, so I shall content myself with a tabletop game based on Montgomery in the near future (note for self). Considering the wealth of good eating and drinking places in Chester, I was a bit unlucky to get a touch of mild food poisoning on the first night, so my diet was largely bottled water and Immodium tablets for the next few days, but I survived.
We hit crazy traffic queues on the way home, on the M6, on Friday, but otherwise we had no logistical problems at all - very easy travelling. Here are a few pictures - just to give a flavour of our trip!
|The King's Tower - formerly the Phoenix Tower - from which Charles I |
may or may not have been able to watch the Rowton Heath disaster unfolding
|And suddenly I find someone has put me in my miniature Tey Pottery ECW |
siege town - Chester's Rows - as you see, the place has had a coat of paint and a
few new businesses have opened up...
|Just a brief moment of hope for us old guys, and then you realise the place has closed |
down. The worst bit is the notice you can't read, which states "SORRY FOR ANY
INCONVENIENCE". Not with a bang, my friends, but a whimper.
|Please take note|
|We called at Conwy to visit the castle, which is a phenomenal place|
|The lovely, peaceful town of Ruthin|
|Back to my siege town - here's the original of another of my Tey buildings - |
this is Ruthin's Old Courthouse - now a bank
|Monument to a local hero - the racing driver Tom Pryce, who was killed |
in a freak accident at Kyalami in 1977
|This, of course, is one of the chief reasons we were in Wales - pleasing view |
of the Clwydian hills, taken from our B&B, on a farm near Pwllglas, about
4 miles from Ruthin. These are not very spectacular, really, but it's a lovely area.
|It was raining, of course, on the hills, but we were comforted to see that it was |
mostly dry and sunny in the valley below.