Saturday, 23 May 2020

Missä luotien laulu vain soi

"where only the bullets' song played" (from Elämää Juoksuhaudoissa - Life In The Trenches)

It's a long weekend here in the UK, so I aim to get a game or two in. First up will be a play test of my home-brewed single page WWII rules. I find I don't have the willpower to learn new rules much these days. The simpler the better seems to be my mindset now. In the interest of getting lead on the table, I dusted off a one-pager I started a few years back but never got around to doing anything with. Now I've got a decent batch of Finns and Soviets finished I can test them out. I made a few tweaks over the last few weeks to hopefully improve them a little.

On Monday I've scheduled a FaceTime game with my son, who has even less to do now he's finished his degree. I have in mind a scenario inspired by an episode Tuntematon Sotilas (Unknown Soldier)* where the Finns' acting commander gets his men to retreat to a safer position before being cut off. I'll be in the role of 'games master' again and I'll run the Soviets in a semi-automated manner. I just need to work out a way of deciding how to 'automate' the Soviets flanking force, i.e. to determine when they find the path leading round the back. I need to get the balance right between creating enough jeopardy to make the Finns get a move on and not making it impossible for them to extricate themselves.

* I really can't recommend this book and film enough. I know I banged on about at length before.

Naseby on the telly

Today at 19:00 on 5Select (Freeview channel 54) there's a documentary on Naseby, part of a series called called Britain's Lost Battlefields.

It clashes with England v Spain from Euro 96 so I'll probably watch it on catch-up here:

Monday, 18 May 2020

More on dialect

This post was sparked off by the title of tradgardmastare’s post about finding an antidote to flitting between different projects.

Flitting was a word that was more common when I was growing up. I’ve rarely heard it since leaving home but that’s probably because I’ve spent the vast  majority of my adult life in the south east of England. I might be staying the bleeding obvious here, so apologies for that, but I will hide behind the defence that it’s best not to assume everyone knows what I’m writing  about.

To flit simply means to move. And tradgardmastare was using it in a way derived from this meaning although it seems to have the connotation of making small, even ‘trivial’* movements from one thing to another. You can almost hear the alliteration with ‘flutter’ as in butterfly wings fluttering as it flits from flower to flower. It also triggers thoughts of flying, alliteration apparently involved again. You often hear or see ‘flit’ being used in this way. But you rarely see it (or I rarely see or hear it) in the wider sense of ‘to move’. Like a lot of dialect words, it seems to have fallen by the wayside.

* Incidentally I don’t think the said esteemed blogger’s movement from one hobby project to another is trivial. No more so than any of us sitting down to mega painting sessions churning out units in a singleminded drive to ‘complete a project’. And neither do I think he needs an antidote for it.

Now when I was a kid (and note I don’t use the classic ‘Northern’ phrase of ‘when I were a lad’, simply because that wasn’t how people from that part of northern Lincolnshire spoke) I intuitively understood that ‘flit’ was not standard English.  I never heard a teacher or any authority figure use the term. What I didn’t understand was that flit had a wider meaning of ‘move’**. You see in my world (working class, council estate) I associated ‘flit’ with the phrase “they’ve done a flit. They owed the council weeks and weeks of rent”. Often these flits seemed to be done by “moonlight” to add to the sense of adventure around the miscreants being tutted about. So in my mind it was associated with one very narrow sense of moving. I assumed it was ‘slang’ and ‘common’ in the pejorative sense.

Now many years later Rouva Nundanket and I took to watching Scandi Noir dramas on BBC4, her occasionally remembering the odd phrase and enjoying the grey interiors (only joking, I like them too) and me so I can indulge my biased view that everything is done better in those countries. In one detective series I thought I heard the word ‘flit’ and saw the associated text which contained ‘move’ or ‘moved’ and a quick check (yes that does mean move). Subsequent checks revealed that something like ‘at flytte’ or variants of it means the same thing in all Scandinavian languages. So a word with a common Norse root and a proper word, albeit one that, in the way of many English words which have synonyms, has come to have a specific narrower usage.

Latest edition of my ECW Rules?

I guess the word ‘flit’ was/is also widespread across the rest of the old Danelaw and parts of Scotland. I’d be interested to hear if this is the case and if it’s still in usage. And are there any uses that don’t have negative connotations?

** though not in an emotional sense: ‘that song really flitted me’ is not a phrase I’ve ever come across.
*** I also wonder if the word is linked with the words to flee and flight - when they are fleeing are our little routers engaging in a variant of ‘flitting’ (moonlit or otherwise)?

Late edit: Interesting feedback. So 'flit' in the sense of moving house is not just northern English but more widespread. I'd be interested if anyone in the west of the country, Wales or in Scotland or even farther afield, was familiar with the term, and if it was used in any other way.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Historical Accents

Just have to share this link with my loyal readers. I'm sure you'll both find it interesting. A friend sent me this earlier. It's a BBC programme from 13 years ago about hundreds of recordings of British (and other) POWs made by the Germans in WWI. To be clear, we're not talking about the 'Great and the Good' (although a couple of such exalted types are played) but the ordinary folk of this island.

The project was led by an Austrian academic with a genuine interest in the subject, and a sound recordist who had the aspiration of creating a museum of sound. The state funded the project, and whilst it wasn't explicitly stated, I assume it meant the army. I know from other programmes and reading that the Germans were meticulous, and very clever in the way they interrogated prisoners, over a long period, and mined the resulting records for all manner of useful intelligence. I couldn't help thinking of the two Vulgarian spies in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang trying to mimic Britisher eccents*.

This introduced me to the very methodical and intelligent way British troops were interrogated. WWI is not one of my periods but when Dr Duffy covers something, I just have to read it.
It's no longer on BBC iPlayer (though the link below still has some blurb on it) so you'll have to make do with YouTube. The presenter has a great talent for mimicking accents, and I was astonished to discover she is an Aberdonian. She makes some interesting comments about landscape/environment and accent. Her remark about the tight upper lip of the Aberdonian being possibly a result of bitingly cold North Sea winds, rings true. My dad who worked down** Grimsby dock had a similar mannerism.

There's also a lot about how accents and dialects have changed (and stayed the same in some cases), and there's a clip where members one close modern family in the Macclesfield*** area have three different ways of saying 'here'.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

* I also cannot help thinking that the reason the upper class (and royal) Briton used pronounce short As as Es, was because so many of them had German families. Oddly the programme also showed how in some parts of the south, rural folk pronounced 'S' as a Zed (not just in 'Zomerset') and F as V ('I'm a varmer'). Pretty German no?
** 'down dock' seemed more usual than 'on the docks' if I remember correctly.
*** In Cheshire, but only 15 miles to the south of Manchester.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Newbury - In Deo Veritas Playtest battle report

The playtest was carried out this afternoon. It probably took about 3 hours and a conclusion was reached in about 6 turns. With greater familiarity that could probably come down to 2 hours. Not bad.

Starting positions. In the foreground about to contest Wash Common: Essex on the left and Rupert on the right.

I managed to do the bulk of each turn using the QRS on my phone. I tried scanning them but my printer ink is low, but it was perfectly readable on the phone screen (iPhone 10). In fact it was better than the scan. The parts that needed the rule book were the Wing Fatigue test and the Army General Will test. With greater familiarity I could manage these with the QRS on the phone. Doubtless mistakes were made - I say that in the passive voice as if it wasn't me making the mistakes.

Late edit: Stupidly I didn't think to check any on-line resources. I found today that Helion publish the QRS and order tokens on-line. Download, print, problem solved. I'm still getting to grips with the 21st century.

Vavasour guarding the road from Newbury in the floodplain of the Kennet.

Opposing him is Robartes' force. Robartes adopted a slightly more aggressive stance than Vavasour and took first blood routing the Royalists' foot brigade. In their turn one of Robartes' horse brigades suffered hits from Vavasour's commanded shot and artillery and eventually routed. Eventually, buoyed up by a unit from Byron's command this wing ended the game fairly balanced.
It was quick to come to grips despite the opposing sides being 2 feet or more apart. As I mentioned before, movement allowances are long: 18 inches for horse in a normal move. 27 inches in march column! Shooting by contrast has short ranges: 3 inches for muskets and 12 for field artillery (e.g. 4 pounders - I forget which of the bewildering contemporary terms is the right one, maybe 'saker'). Horse attacking pike (and shot) armed foot is on no better than evens to win - there's a risk of taking hits on the way in and an equal number of melee dice are used, and if you take hits from shooting the horse can be on fewer dice. So you have to attack a flank or make sure the foot are shot up before charging.

Skippon on Round Hill, Mainwaring in the rear on the right, part of Essex's wing to the rear left.

The rule writer claims that you have to carefully nurture your troops and he's not wrong. Once a unit starts to take unsaved hits things can fall apart quickly. Having steady friendly units to either flank and a general on hand really helps steady units. Once units start routing the Wing that they are part of has to take a Fatigue Test - failure means limits on what that Wing can do - and the army has to take a test of its will to continue. In my game the Royalists quickly suffered losses on Rupert's wing and these soon escalated into two units routing. Initially they passed the Fatigue Test against the odds and the subsequent Army General Will test.

Disaster for Rupert

Leading up to that first Fatigue Test Essex had handled his wing better than Rupert. Being on the defensive he was able to keep his horse and foot co-ordinated and inflict shooting hits on the Cavaliers before melee, then once the Cavaliers were forced back Essex was able to gang two onto one to destroy another unit. An impetuous pursuit was launched by two the Parliamentarian brigades but they made no contact with any enemy. This left them isolated and out of command on the Royalist side of the board but there were no enemy units able to take advantage.

Hey for Old Robin!
Mainwaring advanced from Skinners Green to occupy the enclosures.
Meanwhile in the north
More routs followed in that wing and the next Fatigue Test was failed. Another General Will test was passed and the Parliamentarians suffered their one and only rout - a horse brigade on Robartes' wing. Soon after Rupert's Wing failed another Fatigue Test with their status falling to Exhausted, and the Army failed its General Will and Charles was forced to order a retreat. Once that happens (and bear in mind the will of both armies can fail in the same turn) the game is wrapped up with a check to see if a pursuit happens and in what degree it happens. Having steady horse brigades is a definite bonus at this point and fortunately Rupert had just managed to rally one brigade and Charles had stepped in to rally another at the opportune moment. This meant that the Roundheads were not able to mount a pursuit.

An outcome pretty much in line with history. Not bad!

So what do I think of In Deo Veritas? The basic game mechanics fairly trip along nicely. Combat seems pretty brutal and you really have to marshall your forces properly to avoid a rapid deterioration. I probably made errors and inadvertently omitted parts so I'll have to have some more trials. Which I'll happily do. This set has potential!

Reply to Tony S: Bloody hell, Blogger is playing up! I replied to your comment, clicked publish then it disappeared. Repeated it and same happened, so I'm trying this method.

Thanks. Good enough en masse, slapdash close up is the house style.

Each 'Wing Commander' ( yes that's what the rules call them, tally ho what) has a card associated with him. It could be a specially designed thing with his likeness and maybe characteristics if you're using those options, or simply an ordinary playing card. All the 'personality cards' from both sides are placed in a deck, shuffled and whichever card is drawn out that wing gets to move.

I used small, flimsy cards from a pack out of a Christmas Cracker. Red court cards for Roundheads and black for Cavaliers. Robartes, for example, had the Jack of Diamonds placed under his base to remind me he was a 'red Jack'. When the Jack of Hearts was drawn it was Robartes' turn to move.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

First Battle of Newbury - Set-up

It took a LOT of time to set-up but here are a couple of shots of the set-up for the Newbury I playlets of In Deo Veritas.

Looking south the north, Roundheads to the left (west) and Royalists to the right (east). The troops aren't in their final deployment positions yet. I'll probably set them in lines first. The colour tags represent the different 'Wings' or Battles in more common English parlance of the time. Under each of the Battle Commanders is a playing card, e.g. Jack of Diamonds for Robartes, Jack of Clubs  for Vavasour. The corresponding cards will be shuffled and drawn to determine the order of movement - drawing the Jack of Spades would mean it's Vavasour's turn to move.

A more 'aerial' view. The River Kennet near the top (north) running diagonally to the top right. Skinners Green is centre left. Round Hill is just south east of Skinners Green and Wash Common at the southern end where all the roads peter out.
I will have a quick re-read of the section on Newbury I in Hey for Old Robin to see what it says about the enclosures. I'm not confident I've got them right. And then a quick read through of the IDV rules again and I'll be ready to start.

I was tempted to game outdoors this weekend. Friday seemed too hot and I wanted to get the set-up done Saturday night for Newbury on Sunday so I couldn't do it outside. I've used my daughter's old gymnastics padded mat (8 x 4 feet) and put the cloth over the top of that, so the board is deeper than my usual 3 feet. The 8 feet represents something like 3.5km or c.2 miles

Orders of battle

I've used my normal unit frontages of 120mm as opposed to the IDV standard of 75mm, but scaled up the number of men a 'brigade' represents accordingly. As a result I have fewer brigades than you might expect if you used the IDV standard unit frontage. Groundscale remains unchanged.

Royalist: King Charles I

Right Wing - Vavasour:
1 brigade Horse
1 brigade Foot
1 detachment of Foot

Centre - Byron:
2 brigades Horse
2 detachments of Horse
3 brigades Foot

Left Wing - Rupert:
4 brigades Horse
1 Brigade Foot

Parliamentarian: Earl of Essex

Right Wing - Essex:
3 brigades Horse
3 brigades Foot
2 companies dragoon

Centre - Skippon:
1 brigade Foot

Reserve - Mainwaring:
2 brigades Foot
2 detachments of Foot

Left Wing - Robartes:
2 brigades Horse
1 brigade Foot
1 detachment of Foot

Friday, 8 May 2020

Schlacht bei der Brücke über die Unruhige Wasser

We held the second FaceTime game this afternoon. Start time was 15:30 and we ended at 18:30 with a short tea-break in the middle. Thirteen turns were played when we had to call a halt due my son's impending quiz evening with his mother's family spread across 6 houses! The game had virtually reached a conclusion anyway.

I haven't worked out how to capture photos whilst FaceTiming yet so the only pics are before the game and at the break. I didn't get any shots after the game as I was packing away whilst having a chat with my son and clean forgot.

The rules used were Polemos Marechal de l'Empire which we played without the Tempo Bidding and with only 1D6 worth of temp points per turn. The order of movement, once the Prussians were deployed, was British first, then Prussians.

Here is the briefing I sent him shortly before the game.

It is 1812 the Kingdom of Prussia is allied with the Emperor Napoleon and a corps of the army is preparing to march with the Emperor to Russia. The perfidious English have unexpectedly landed a force in the mouth of the Eble, seized Schweinburg and have marched upon Stillesund to secure a base on the Baltic. This daring plan would isolate Denmark from Germany and force the Danes into renouncing their alliance with Napoleon.  The scheme has been cooked up by the devious baronet Sir Edmund Blackadder who has the ear of the Prince Regent. The English high command at Horse Guards and the Admiralty has bowed to the Regent’s will and denuded reinforcements bound for Wellington in Spain. The plan was attractive to the Prince also because it opens the door to the reconquest of Hannover, the original seat of the royal family. The plan might also lead to other German states  including possibly Prussia falling away from the Napoleonic sphere and dealing the Corsican Ogre a devastating blow. The Prince Regent will be the darling of Europe.

The English force under Lord Flasheart consists of several brigades of infantry with brigades of light and heavy cavalry in support. After initially prospering the plan began to  fall behind schedule due to the incompetence of the English general and his staff. They are camped near the town of Bad Bach a short march from Stillesund but Stillesund is well defended and the English desperately lack supplies to conduct a siege. They are known to have sent out a strong force of cavalry to forage for supplies to the west of Bad Bach.

The Prussians hesitated at first not sure what course to follow. If the English are successful the Prussian will have an opportunity to throw off the hated French yoke. If they fail and you do nothing, Napoleon will march in with his Grand Armée once more, and this time finish off Prussia as a state. As the English plan begins to fall apart the Prussians are persuaded to act as Napoleon would wish and march to attack the English. The Emperor may allocate some more territory to Prussia at the expense of its neighbours - maybe even Hannover.

You are Graf Daun-Daun-Tieffer-und-Daun, a count from an old noble family. You have a corps of the Prussian army and have been ordered to destroy the English and aim to do so by seizing the bridge over the Unruhige Wasser at Bad Bach and cut them off from their supplies.  Isolated they will have no alternative but to sue for peace. Your scouts tell you that around the villages in front of the river they have infantry and artillery.

The map given with the briefing:

The Prussian player (my son) was told that he could see 5 infantry brigades and their locations, the 4 artillery bases and three heavy cavalry brigades. The Prussians have 12 brigades (4 large Prussian brigades) of infantry, 8 batteries, two brigades of hussars, two of Uhlans, one of dragoons and one of cuirassiers.

A couple of shots pre-game:
Prussian array on the right. This isn't the actual deployment. The Prussian player decided on how they were deployed.  He opted for 4 combined arms divisions, two the the Southwest of Polzeimon and two Southwest of Alt-Garfunkel.

Wider view of the battlefield. East to the top. The dark diagonal line is the Unruhige Wasser, the pale lines are the roads.

View after 5 turns. Tea break time! The column on the road at the bottom is the British light cavalry which accompanied the supply train. They came on after 4 turns - determined by a D6 roll at the start of the game. One British infantry brigade had been routed off the table by this stage. A crushing Prussian victory looked on the cards.

The centre of the battlefield around Polzeimon. The Prussians at the bottom are two different divisions. One which had routed all the way from the Prussian left wing. Before they could recover they were attacked again by two infantry brigades and routed off table. The division to the left assaulted the village of Polzeimon, were repulsed, tried again and were hit by more British brigades and were driven from the field. What did for the Prussians here was being too crowded in - when brigades at the front were repulsed they had to burst through the troops behind leaving them shaken too. 

By game's end, 13 turns in, the Prussians were down 16 bases (counting generals as one each) to the 13 British (including some of the supply train. The Prussian left wing cavalry saw off the British lights and were chewing up the supply column but the British heavies were returning to the fray after being routed. In the centre/right, the Prussians had lost their numerical advantage and had not got close to the bridge. A narrow tactical victory for the British, but, as my son pointed out, they were in a parlous state from a supply point of view. A capitulation in which the British were allowed to march back to re-embark at Schweinburg would have been likely.
Congestion and chaos on the centre right

An enjoyable game. The rules came back to us pretty well despite not having played them for years. The first few turns were a bit slow but once divisions began to disappear, and we had refreshed our memory, the turns speeded up. Marechal de l'Empire still gives a good game.

Comments this evening from my son:

"Very difficult attacking infantry in a town but I think that’s probably accurate. (Dice rolls didn’t help).
I’d say heavy Calvary vs light Calvary having +2 was harsh but maybe makes sense (I’m not as good with the specifics). 
Attacking the flank should maybe have a bonus. Not necessarily because they can’t turn to face but the vast majority of the brigade.... can’t see so there’s the element of surprise. 

However I thought the combat worked really well, surprisingly well matched considering how much I outnumbered you by. I always enjoy when extra bases come on after a few rounds. The scenario was strong and very believable. I think the system of rolling for messengers/tempo but scrapping the bidding worked well and sped it up.

Certainly the workings of a good fictional scenario there. Maybe there should be a goal for the prussians to take a certain strategic point/ the supply chain but if the brits hold out for a certain number of rounds then they win by virtue of reinforcements arriving to support.

Worked very well as a remote game actually yeah. Nice wide field to split it into chunks that I could visualise. I had a pad and paper so I could write down where the forces were and who was moving etc so I could keep track better than the first game we did."

Couple more pics from Friday's action:

The British supply train light cavalry escort arrives

British foot west of the bridge eye the advancing Prussian hordes.