Monday, 31 August 2020
Since late June I've been on a bit of a health kick. Actually it started before, with the beginning of my walking during lockdown. Unfortunately also in June I did 'something' to my right knee which laid me up for a few days. The doctor recommended walking as much as I could manage, and I persevered and slowly the pain disappeared. To be more accurate, it took longer into my walks for the pain to become too much. But it did eventually recede to the point of no longer being noticed until one day I realised it had gone.
Back in March I had a number of tests to confirm what was causing some severe abdominal pain. My worst fears were allayed and an ultrasound confirmed it was in fact gallstones. Bloody painful but nothing really serious. As an aside my mood was lifted when my wife's friend (the friend being a good deal younger than me 😁) said she'd had the same problem a year or two before and that the pain was worse than childbirth and she had gone to casualty it was so bad. "Get in!" Yes, we have to celebrate tiny victories. Equaliser for the Men.
I was lucky enough to get the operation done before medical facilities were totally locked down in early April. But for a while I pushed to back burner another issue that the tests threw up. i.e. indications of fatty deposits on my liver. I think this is something many middle aged men are prone too, and it is a risk factor in other harmful conditions. so ultimately I knew I needed to tackle the fat around my midriff. I needed to look a lot less like the Moomin on the front of my teeshirt.
The walking helped improve my stamina, which I'd lost since lockdown because my preferred exercise (swimming) was not possible. I tried running, but see above about the knee problem. Lethargy and excuses did for my number two preferred exercise, cycling. But in late June the wife and I both agreed to go on a diet and started logging our calories and exercise in an app. As with all such things, it started well and mid-July brought further help with the re-opening of swimming pools in the UK. I managed one session before going on two short breaks in late July and had daily swims (and lots of walks) on the second of my short breaks. Back home at the start of August I determined to make up for lost time - 4 months is the longest I'd been without a swim for 20-odd years.
On top of the swimming I dragged my bike out and started cycling to the pool for most of the sessions. Amazingly, although burning hundreds of extra calories most days, my weight loss didn't really accelerate. However, my fitness did improve. Since late June I have managed to lose about 8 kg and I'm aiming to lose 2 more to get to what fairly arbitrarily, I consider to be my ideal weight. Most of this occurred in July and only 3kg in August, but these things normally get harder, and I like to think I've added some muscle too 😉.
Now at the end of the month I've totted up the kilometres cycled and swum (swimmed/swam??). The results are 287km on the bike and 35 in the pool, or 179 and 22 miles in old money. There's probably a couple of hundred km walked as well, but my steps app routinely overestimates the distance so I've not got a reliable figure. The next month will be testing. The nights get longer. There will be fewer daylight hours and fewer days with inviting weather. A week or so ago my motivation was wavering and I was verging on not getting the bike out and heading to the pool. Then I got a message from my friend Peter, with a picture of his 94 year old father at the top of a high hill in the Peak District. That was just the kick up the arse I needed. Next time I feel my willpower lacking, I'll try to remember Pete's dad.
Oh, and I look a lot less like Muminpapa and a bit more like Nuuskamuikkunen (Snufkin) in my baggier teeshirt.
This was supposed to be where the following YouTube video was inserted but Google doesn’t seem to want to co-operate.
Nundanket prepares to head to the pool as winter comes to Hogsmill Valley, leaving the shade of his former self behind.
Sunday, 30 August 2020
"Yes. Some proper wargaming at last!" I hear my reader cry. It being a Bank Holiday on Monday, I have a bit more spare time to get some lead on the table. I've been meaning to give M.Foy's Prinz Eugen rules a playtest and I've been casting about for a suitable scenario.
I was looking for something quite small and initially I thought of Mollwitz. it's not WSS but it's still pretty much a simple linear battle. But even that is a little large (29 Prussian battalions) without some jiggery-pokery on the numbers. I'm not overly familiar with the non-Marlborough side of the WSS. I'm sure there must be some small battles, but I'm looking to get something organised quickly so I won't do the reading just yet.
I flicked through my notes on the AWS and SYW and eventually plumped for Zinna, 1759. It's what might be described as a divisional sized battle (in Napoleonic terms), numbering c12,000 Austro-Imperialists and c 5,000 Prussians. My main source for this is Kronskaf although I think it's also in By Force of Arms so I'll probably have a quick look in my copy tomorrow.
The real battle involved a force of Austro-Imperialists* arriving near the Prussian-occupied city of Torgau in Saxony. Indeed the battle is sometimes called the First Battle of Torgau (the Second, and far bigger, occurring the following year). The Second Battle of Torgau was covered in my last FaceTime game with my son a couple of months ago. Rather than meekly waiting inside the fortress walls the Prussians under Wunsch sallied forth and confronted the Kaiserlicks west of the city near the village of Zinna.
* The force consisted of a few squadrons of Austrian cavalry and other cavalry and infantry from the Reichsarmee ('the Imperialists'), i.e. other German states. Strictly speaking the Prussians (or at least the Brandenburg and Westphalian elements) should have been participating in the Reichsarmee, since every state in the Reich was obliged to send set numbers of troops whenever a Reichsexecution was announced, but clearly as Old Fritz was the subject of said execution, that wasn't going to happen. Also absent from the Reichsarmee were the Hanoverians, Hessens of Hesse-Kassel, Brunswickers and other related states who had sided with Britain and her Prussian ally. Also, most of the infantry involved at Zinna were blue-coated, so perhaps I should be using my Prussian models for both side.
Here is an order of battle drawn from Kronskaf. I might cut out the Imperialist grenadiers and Grenzers of the Vanguard, starting the scenario after they had been pushed away from the Ratsweinberg (not one of the best named beverages).
FZM St. André
RW 1st line
RW 2nd line
Centre 1st line
Centre 2nd line
LW 1st line
LW 2nd line
RW 1st line
LW 1st line
** i.e. battalions with guns
The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed the presence of both light cavalry, in the shape of hussars, and light infantry in the shape of Grenzers, Freikorps and Jägers. M.Foy's rules do not, yet, cater for such exotic types so I intend to use the hussars as poor quality line cavalry and the light infantry will be able to engage in ranged combat normally but will fight melees at a severe disadvantage. Another alternative would just be to convert the light infantry to line. I'll decide on the morrow.
In terms of the table size, the area on the Kronskaf map is about 2000 x 750 metres. If my maths is correct, this boils down to 13 by 5 hexes, so there's plenty of space. My (horse and foot) units will be two bases strong as this fits into my hexes: 2 x 60mm bases in hexes 130mm across the flats. The rules recommend 3 bases but I don't think it matters as units are only ever removed in their entirety once they reach a set number of 'hits'.
I'll post a report either tomorrow evening or on Tuesday.
Friday, 28 August 2020
I don't know whether it's the weather making it feel Autumnal, or whether the lads are getting in some pre-season friendlies ahead of the big kick off in October. The Mem and I set off early on Friday evening for a walk as the nights are drawing in (cheering thought in less than 4 weeks the nights will be longer than the days) and the storms are making it darker even earlier.
Starting off at Richmond Park's Ladderstile Gate we turned left and walked down the hill towards Kingston Gate. On the path we were on there was a lot of evidence of soil erosion from the recent torrential rains. Yesterday (Thursday) when I passed that way in the evening on my bike, muddy water was gushing out of Kingston Gate into the road outside. There were lots of loose stones on the path were the mud had washed away.
By the time we'd passed Ham Gate we decided we'd carry on and do a full circuit of the park, around 6 miles. Most of the walk is fairly flat except for the initial walk down the hill, and two steep climbs. The first of these climbs starts by Petersham Gate and rises up to Richmond Gate, and bloody steep it is too. I wouldn't fancy trailing a pike and having to fight a bunch of lairy Puritans at the top. At the top we caught up with a young Swedish couple who'd walked up with bikes, one of which had one those carriages that small children ride in (contents two 3-year olds)
. They were trying to work out how they were going to get through a small kissing gate when we turned up and helped carry the contraption over the fence.
|Entry at Ladderstile (indicated by arrow), then we walked anti-clockwise arriving back where we started an hour and 40 minutes later.|
Further on near Sheen Gate we saw a couple of young stags having a gentle 'rut' rather like these guys: Lads messing around . It wasn't as dramatic as a pair of mature stags going at it, but interesting nonetheless. More of a play fight that was over in seconds and the boys stuck around together aftewards, bezzie mates.
The next climb was in the last section of the circuit, up from Robin Hood Gate. I was feeling the effects of the climb and by the time we got to the top of the rise I was breathing heavily. We could hear some rattling, which at first I thought was somebody's bike chain coming loose. Then around a bend we saw the bigger boys sparring.
|This should be a video but due to a Google Glitch it wouldn’t load properly so you’ll have to make do with a blurry photo instead.|
Saturday, 22 August 2020
They say history is written by the winners (‘they’ usually bring the losers or their sympathisers and fellow travellers). If that’s the case, they were pretty honest in the case of this film.
I missed the beginning hour, and have watched for an hour and a half and it’s still got over half an hour to go. But it’s clear this is one of the best war films I’ve seen. The Christmas 1944 scene is hauntingly memorable.
The film makes clever use of Pathéstyle newsreels.
I’ll have to find a way to watch the whole thing. I’ve never heard of it before so it was a complete revelation.
Oh! I almost forgot to explain a bit about the film. It’s a series of loosely-linked episodes, sometimes mundane, sometimes moving, occasionally shocking, concerning American infantry in NW Europe in 1944-45. Very little of it concerns action. But it’s captivating. It seems as if it is all based on real stories.
I was going to post the Wikipedia link but it would spoil the plot.
Friday, 21 August 2020
|Early Modern road in the dusk. Actually the sky was darker than this but the phone’s camera has lightened everything.|
A comment by David in Suffolk about Paddy Griffith got me thinking about the practical uses we, as wargamers, can make of getting out for a walk. This rung a bell. I may have read one of his articles in the old Miniature Wargames about it. Or it may have reminded me of something I read on an ACW blog called ‘McPherson and Revenge’.
The blogger was explaining his thinking behind a set of rules he was developing, as he went along. When he got to roads, he made the (to me) revelatory comment that it wasn’t the better surface that made marching on roads quicker (at least not before metalled roads) but the fact you could be reasonably confident that they went somewhere. We’ve all read how pre-metalled roads were rutted when dry and quagmires when wet, so they weren’t particularly good surfaces to march on a lot of the time. Once you’d (thought you’d) identified the road you wanted you could follow it until you got to where you wanted to. No stopping every few minutes to reorientate yourself and checking that you were heading in the right direction. No risk of wandering around the countryside in a big circle because you couldn’t see your destination from your start point. Having spent enough time getting lost in the countryside, I totally agree it was quicker to march down roads.
The lesson was brought home on a recent walk in Richmond Park. Before I go on, we need to be clear that this isn’t like the Royal Parks in central London, this is an old hunting park. The terrain is very hilly, criss-crossed with streams and channels, and wooded where it’s not open heathland. As the nights have drawn in, it’s been getting dark before we finish our evening walks. We know this park pretty well having spent many many hours getting to know it over several years. We can each draw a reasonable map from memory showing where all the key features are. So we’re not phased by it getting dark. We know where we’re going. In our heads. One evening when the Sun had gone down too far, we used the fence of a familiar plantation to guide us, yet somehow in the dark we failed to spot our turn off and ended up trekking further than we needed to. Early this week we had to switch to using the torches on our phones yet still managed to go slightly wrong.
This evening we elected to take the track above. A nice wide bridleway which we knew would deposit us close to where we wanted to be. No messing about tonight.
Only problem is, it passes a perfect place for firelock men to launch an ambush.
|Again the clever trickery of the phone makes it seem lighter than it really was. In fact it looks a bit like a typical ‘night’ scene in a Hammer horror film.|
What difference does all this to make to wargames rules? If roads help speed up movement, does it matter why they do as long as we have a move bonus in the rules? Well in one sense it doesn’t. But in another sense it does. It’s part of the bigger picture that it can be bloody difficult to find your way round even when you know roughly where you are going. And that it’s difficult to see everything at ground level. And this has implications for visibility, movement and firing in our wargames.
Late Edit: hi Iain, inadvertently deleted your comment. Sorry! That’ll tach me to try to click on things while I’m a passenger in a car. Happy to publish it if you want to re-post it.
Monday, 17 August 2020
This blog is rapidly becoming a tribute act to Epictetus - Discourses on Wargaming. It's been a long time. 17 posts and not one about wargaming. Back to 11 July and a brief post about the re-fight of the imaginary Battle of Kluis with the estimable M. le Comte Maximilien de Foy via Zoom. 17 posts, mostly about what seems to be my new hobby. Walking. None of these have specifically been about wargaming.
I started going for walks during the early days of lockdown, when it was quiet on the roads (so quiet you could walk down the actual road rather than the pavement). That gradually increased from 20-30 minutes to an hour, and then to 2 in the evenings and sometimes 3 hours a time at weekends. I found a few things I hadn't noticed before, or had forgotten about. It was great when life had slowed down. But early on the walking didn't get in the way of wargaming activity. If anything, the new lease of energy helped me increase my activity in the Spring and early Summer. I got more ECW units painted, I played a few solo ECW games, painted and based enough figures for Continuation War games, and even dug out my 6mm Napoleonics and had a handful of FaceTime games with my son.
As the Summer progressed this activity ground to a halt and the walks grew longer. Then I finally got around to making a concerted effort to lose some fat around my waist (the kind of thing they warn men of a certain age about). No specific health issues (now at least) but it needed tackling. So I started a diet. So far it's been successful (5kg lost and another 4 to go), but over the last week the weight loss seems to have bottomed out. About a month ago I started increasing the amount I exercised to earn extra calories for the odd beer or other treats. Once my favourite pool re-opened in mid-July I got back to swimming (and what a feeling that was after 4 months) and then recently I got my bike out so a typical session would be cycling to and from the pool (16 km round trip) and a swim (currently up to 1.6 km or a mile in old money). Depending on what time of day I swim, I might still go for a walk with my wife in the evening too. I'm feeling much better than I've felt for a while. Much more energy despite the reduced calorie 'budget'. I even added yoga to my repertoire at the weekend (I stretched muscles I never knew needed stretching, but boy did it feel good).
All well and good, but I'm not getting any wargaming related stuff done. All I've managed to do is read a few books but I'm only making slow progress with More Like Lions than Men. Through no fault of the book or the author. I still waste a lot of time in front of the telly and I look with admiration at Jonathan over at Palouse Wargaming Journal who seems to manage to rack up the miles on his bike, and churn out a wide variety of well crafted units with the cadence of a GC contender in a grand tour. (Incidentally, that's going to be another distraction with the Grand Départ on 29 August).
So here are a few things that have been swirling round my head.
Seven Years War
My home-brewed SYW rules need a re-think. I really need to find a way to speed things up, but I'm not ready to fully abandon some of the mechanisms, despite one of Bob Cordery's recent thought-provoking posts on the subject. I also mentioned a while back that I would look at producing a C&C inspired game having enjoyed Tony's Ramekin version of C&C Napoleonics, and his ECW version.
I think I mentioned before about another narrative, mini-campaign set in my current locale. This is where some of the walking has come in handy, especially with finding out a little more about the area. So expect something involving the rivers Hogsmill and Beverley Brook, gunpowder mills, freshwater springs, Richmond Park, Kingston Bridge, Ham House and maybe Hampton Court. Colonel Sydenham Hill will be on his home turf fighting for King and Parliament.
Despite getting a uniform guide a couple of months back, I've still done nothing. This has been on my to do list for a long time so I really should crack on with painting and basing what I've got. My intention is to set things up for Loose Files and American Scramble. I've long admired those rules but never put them to the test.
This has been a glint in my eye for a while. I have prevaricated over what specific scale, period and theatre. India is probably the front runner theatre-wise. Thoughts as to period include the Anglo-Sikh Wars, the Rebellion of 1857*, maybe the First Anglo-Afghan War and the Great Game. This might extend to later periods right up to armoured cars and biplanes, but that's getting way ahead of myself. Oh and the Russian Caucasian and Central Asian provinces might get dragged in. My intention is to have something fairly light in tone. My inspiration comes from Flashman, Peter Hopkirk's Great Game related books (not at all light-hearted), Carry on Up the Khyber (of course) and the old Whitbread Best Bitter adverts.**
I think I'll go for something small scale in terms of numbers of figures, figure ratios of say 5 or 10 to 1 but with 'hero' type figures. Harry Flashman and Count Ignatiev seem likely candidates in the background (both in disguise). In a break from my usual small scale figures, I'm eying Irregular's 20mm range. They seem to have what I'm looking for. Brits and Loyal Sikhs versus Mutineers and Badmashes or Afghans. At some stage the Cossacks might make an appearance, running guns to the Afghans (the Brits will no doubt get up to similar skulduggery in the Caucasus and Central Asia).
This will be a big departure for me because I'll have to start with completely new buildings and different coloured battle cloth and other scenery. More thought needed on how to do this without a big investment in time and money.
So there you have it. Still no actual wargaming done. Just the intention to.
* Lights touch paper and stands back.
** In case Napoleonic fans are feeling left out there is one for you: 1812
Friday, 14 August 2020
On one of the very hot days recently I had a day's holiday and decided that rather than the usual walk near a historic site I would swim by one. This opportunity came about following one of our walks with our youngest. Youngest by a minute that is. Walking on the Hampton Court side of the Thames one having we saw people having fun by a couple of small beaches on the opposite bank. A few times over the past couple of months we saw people swimming in the river, including when swimming pools were still closed and it looked very tempting. I hasten to add for the squeamish that the river is cleaner than it's been for 150 years. Apparently.
I have been swimming in the river before, from the same spot opposite Hampton Court one October morning 8 years ago in one of those open water swim charity events. I think the water was too cold for bugs then.
My daughter (suitably primed with 'elf & safety advice) went to one of the beaches a couple of times with friends after that walk and reported back that, apart from having a fabulous time, the water was not in the least bit cold. So on the aforesaid fine day, after a morning swim in the open air pool not a million miles from the same spot, I rallied the household for a picnic and a few hours 'at the beach'. We parked up near the railway and followed the youngest to the riverside. Lunch before swim (not risking touching food with hands that might have picked up bugs are in the river) then in the water. I can happily report that the temperature was a lot warmer than the 12 degrees Celsius it had been when I last took a dip in the Thames. It was positively balmy. Before going to the river I had thought I might swim up the Ember, the tributary which pours into the Thames nearby, but once I saw the 'plants' on the surface I realised I could not be Captain Benjamin L.Willard. I restricted myself to swimming a couple of hundred metres in either direction in the main river.
I intend to go back sometime and venture further afield. Maybe with one of those bright float things to make myself more visible to any passing boats.
That’s DC, not the state - sorry Jon!
It seems I’m not the only one to go visiting local historical sites on ‘lockdown walks’. This chap (historian Graham Cornwell) writing in the Washington Post hit on the idea of visiting all the ACW forts and batteries surrounding the US capital during the lockdown.
If by any chance you are near that section of the Potomac it might be worth following up a few of the links in the article to the individual sites’ webpages.
Tuesday, 11 August 2020
Evening walk in Richmond Park clocking up the steps in my Fight the Flab campaign and I came across a display outside Pembroke Lodge* giving the history of the park.
|Plan of various schemes to enclose the park for Charles I.|
|Mid-18th century map|
|'Sire the locals are revolting.' 'Zat iss Surrey volk for you Pel-ham.' Scene from a few years before the previous map. The locals didn't take too kindly from being locked out. Eventually the right to roam the park was confirmed.|
I think I may have mentioned before that some ideas for a counter-historical mini-campaign for the ECW are swirling around my mind. They include: Kingston with the first bridge crossing of the Thames above the City of London; a large walled enclosure (with plenty of fresh meat in it); the Hogsmill river with its powder mills; a large country house on the River Thames (Ham House); freshwater springs on surrounding hills. Plenty to interest wandering armies of the 17th century.
* the gardens of Pembroke Lodge are beautiful and it is situated on a precipitous hill overlooking the Thames valley. The grounds also contain King Henry's Mound which has one of the protected views over London, and the Ian Dury Bench. On it's own this part of Richmond Park is worth a trip from London.
Saturday, 8 August 2020
I was up and out reasonably early today for a swim. After reading part of the Helion book on Sir William Brereton’s Cheshire army, then a snooze and light lunch I settled down with the telly (curtains drawn and windows closed all day to keep the heat down with temperature outside above 30 again).
This caught my eye on Freeview Channel 8 (London Live in this region):
The IMDB page has it down as ‘Lost Daughter’ (presumably the name used for its US release)
The story concerns the attempt by a British officer in post-War to track down a girl (played by Mai Zetterling*) from a concentration camp. * obviously that’s a spoiler alert that he does find her. The search, whilst accounting for a significant part of the film, is only half of the story. The other half being uncovering the truth of the girl’s life. Portrait from Life (released in 1949) is not a perfect film by any means, and in parts it’s acted in a rather stilted manner for modern tastes. It does however touch on many themes, historical and psychological, connected with the plight of millions of Europeans caught up in one of the biggest migrations in modern history. Herbert Lom’s performance (an exception to the comment about acting style) pays watching too.
Following that was a short ‘community’ programme about districts of London. This one focusing on Woolwich (which somehow managed to say that Arsenal FC started as Woolwich Arsenal without explaining why ‘Arsenal’), Deptford and Lewisham. It had some interesting historical snippets.
Then followed Walks Around Britain, which concentrated on short walks of 2-8 miles. Most of the episodes I’ve seen have been fairly gentle. If you’ve not seen it, it has a rather gentle, old school feel (in my case this means echoes of school days in the 1970s). More places for me to take my wife, herself a keen outdoor person, in the UK. She enjoys the varied scenery, flora and fauna (especially the flora) not being from these parts. The producers of Walks Around Britain have a website which I haven’t explored yet. Maybe there are some walks near you.
An afternoon well spent.
Oh I almost forgot. Following the usual Wiki route I ended up here (I had no idea Zetterling was also a director). Looks worth finding.
Post script: not an entirely lazy evening. A walk round the Thames to Hampton Court and back through Bushy Park with friends. About 10km including the walk back home from Kingston town centre. Nothing new to report. It was still very warm and quite humid - I quite envied the chap swimming in the river. Must give it a go. It’s been nearly 8 years since I did it.