Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reinforcements for In Her Majesty's Name.

The excellent Wargame News and Terrain blog has highlighted the fact that Northstar are selling a random pack of four cultists from the Servants of Ra company for IHMN.  Now while I am determined to stop buying figures in the quantities I have over the last few years I have ordered a pack of four of these so I can reinforce my company.  I can justify this on the basis I have painted all my servants of Ra figures and will paint the reinforcements immediately.  

It will be interesting to see if they do the same for the rank and file of the other companies.  Let's hope so.  The Society of Thule definitely need more Jaegers to be available separately.

As regards the lead and plastic pile I have just put two boxes of Napoleonic plastics on eBay.  I am serious about getting rid of stuff I will never paint!  Much more to go!  Skirmish armies only for me from now on!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Robin Hood at the Shed with Lion Rampant

This week's amazing scenery saw us in the countryside outside Nottingham Castle

Last week saw my latest expedition to the Shed cancelled due to cold weather but the shedizens regrouped for the planned Robin Hood game yesterday.  We had six players portraying forces commanded by Robin Hood, Little John and Ivanhoe (which was me) against the Sheriff, the dastardly Guy of Gisborne and the Bishop of Lincoln (oddly, the Bishop of Lincoln was one of the original founders of my old college, Brasenose!).  We were using the Lion Rampant rules by Daniel Mersey (who kindly gave me my copy as a prize in a competition he ran last year) so each had a force of four units of various sizes depending on the class of troop.  One or two people had played the rules before but most, I think, were first timers.  Still, they seemed easy to pick up, even for me and I would be very happy to play another game with them.  I won't go into great detail about the game itself or its scenario as it will be dealt with much better on the official Shed journal.  I will just put down a few random thoughts instead; not that all my thoughts aren't random anyway.

Ivanhoe and his Crusaders are charged by the dastardly Guy of Gisborne.  It's all about to go horribly wrong!

I hate trying out new rules, even, as in this case, if I have read them before, because my brain just can't translate written rules into gaming tactics.   I have to have played several games before these things become, even vaguely, clear.  As a result, I made a huge tactical error right at the beginning of the game which my opponent (the dastardly Guy of Gisborne), despite never having played the rules before either, recognised and exploited, leaving me without my best unit and indeed, my leader Ivanhoe, within the first couple of moves.  Incidentally, any time I hear the name Ivanhoe the opening of the last movement of Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony comes into my head, as it was used as the theme music of the 1970 BBC series, which I remember well from when I was younger.  

My men at arms did collect two out of the eight amounts of tax money up for grabs but probably should have been fighting instead.  The monks did nothing but walk up and down protecting their nuns

My second major mistake was that it never occurred to me that Little John's forces to my left were allies so I set off with my troops to attack him before realising this, meaning that half my force never got into combat.  Oh dear!  The other shedizens are very patient with me.  It's a bit like inviting someone over to play tennis who understands that you have to get the ball over the net but doesn't know the difference between serving and receiving and what all the lines on the court signify.   

One of the key frustrations we encountered was that the rules, like several others I have played, need a dice activation for a unit to undertake an action in a move but if you fail then your move immediately ends.  So, as I found on three moves in a row, if my crossbowmen couldn't fire then none of my other units got to do anything that go either.  Now it took me some time to work out that it was best, therefore, to move a low activation score unit first and save the higher score unit for a little later in the sequence.  On our side we had three moves where, basically, none of us could do anything.  For the latter part of the game, therefore, Eric modified the rules so that if you failed to activate one of your units you could then and try to do the others rather than your turn ending.  This is, however, something of a fundamental change to a set of rules which is designed to move things along quickly, as the dastardly Guy of Gisborne pointed out.  I suppose a compromise, in battles featuring multiple players, would be that if you fail your first activation then you have a chance to do just one more unit only. The rules are written for two players but Eric used a Bolt Action-style card draw to randomise the individual forces order of activation during each turn (known as the Swedish method, in this context).   

Anyway I liked the rules a lot and now feel energised to paint some suitable forces.  Wars of the Roses would be the logical choice, as I already have the figures, even though this slightly earlier medieval period is appealing because of all the old films my mother introduced me to such as Ivanhoe (1952) The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), The Black Knight (1954) and, of course, Errol Flynn's peerless The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).

My forces at the beginning of the battle

On the subject of figures my force was largely supposed to be Crusaders and these were some of Fireforge's plastics which did, I have to say, look splendid.  I have some of their Teutonic knights somewhere.  My force only consisted of thirty figures.  A very achievable amount for an army! Another positive aspect of  these rules!

Anyway, thanks as ever, to the redoubtable Eric and his fellow shedizens who continue to tolerate me and my total ineptness!  The pleasure of playing games on such wonderful scenery reminds me of a caption of a photo in Terence Wise Introduction to Battlegaming which depicted Charles Grant's wargames table: "Every wargamers dream!"  Indeed it is!

The music I played while writing this just had be be Korngold's Oscar winning soundtrack for The Adventures of Robin Hood, in the recording by the Utah Symphony Orchestra under Varujan Kojian.  It was this score which gave me an enduring love for Korngold, at a time when he was very unfashionable.  I remember whistling the main theme while exploring the walled city of Carcassonne when I was about ten, having seen the film on television at my mother's recommendation.  Later, I picked up the Charles Gerhardt Korngold highlights record which contained a suite from the score, before Kojian's much longer version appeared.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

First figure of 2015

Well, I have had thirty posts on the blog without featuring a single newly painted figure but today I have finished just one.  Like my first figure of 2014 it is lady; this time for my Lost World project which I started, shockingly, back in 2013 (I was sure that it was last year!).  I had assembled a band of five intrepid explorers and was thinking that I needed a cinematic style lady to add to the group (Conan Doyle would have been appalled!)

More about her and other Lost World heroines on my Pulp blog

A whole new pulp band is also under way for the early nineteen twenties!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Something for the Weekend: Ulla Lindstrom - First Page 3 Girl

Given all the excitement this week about the demise (allegedly) of the Page 3 girl, I thought that I would post a short feature on the very first one, on my Legatus Wargames Ladies blog.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

First Wargame of 2015: Pirates at the Shed

Spectacular scenery

The splendid Eric the Shed came though again, to get the New Year off to a splendid wargaming start.  This time it was pirates, using a version of Muskets and Tomahawks.  More here on my Swashbuckling blog.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top 40 Tunes Part 2

So, back for my top twenty iTunes list.

20  Try from the soundtrack to On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) by John Barry.  Barry out Mancinis Mancini in this, his slinkiest piece of "cocktail" music ever, from an otherwise disappointing score.

19 Overture The Globe Playhouse from the suite from Henry V (1944) by William Walton.  This is in my "Films medieval" playlist.  Useful for painting a Lions Rampant force, perhaps.

18 Reel du Forgeron by La Bottines Souriante.  I do have quite a lot of strange Canadian music (I can't think why) and this infectious track by this French Canadian band is like a mixture of Riverdance, big band jazz and Cuban music.

17 Prelude number 6 in D minor from The Well Tempered Clavier Book One by JS Bach. Played by Frederich Gulda on piano, this sums up the genius of Bach in one minute and twenty seconds of perfection.  My Bach playlist has the most number of tracks on it, at 316.

16  The Raid from the soundtrack to The Big Country (1958) by Jerome Moross.  The main theme is well known, of course but this was a hugely influential score taking the Western soundtrack down a more folk-based and American-voiced road than before. Brilliantly melodic.  If I ever painted wild west figures this would be the one to have on in the background.

15 El Agualulco by Conjuntos Tlalixcoyan y Medellin.  My German friend Bettina introduced me to Sones Jarochos, a wacky mixture of African, Spanish and native music from Vera Cruz in Mexico.  Very different from the more well known Mariachi it is played on a form of harp with early versions of guitars.  Perfect when painting Mexicans.

14 L'air des clochettes from Lakmé by Delibes.  I would never have predicted that this vocal showpiece would be my highest ranking piece of classical music and it's not even the much better known flower duet from the same opera. French coloratura soprano Mady Mesplé, in her signature role, nails it.

Actually shot at Chatham Historic Dockyard. Don't get me going on everything historically wrong with this shot!

13 Giza Port from The Soundtrack to The Mummy (1999) by Jerry Goldsmith. This atmospheric track features on my "Egyptian" playlist and is excellent for painting mummies and writing dodgy stories about archaeologists to.

12 Diablo Rojo by Rodrigo y Gabriela  Sophie introduced me to this Mexican acoustic guitar duo as she is an accomplished guitarist herself.

11 Caravan by Gordon Jenkins from Gordon Jenkins featuring Marshall Royal.  This eerie version of the Duke Ellington standard was used in the pilot episode of Mad Men but I had already got it in my collection.

10  Into Miami from the soundtrack to Goldfinger (1964) by John Barry.  This is the first of two tracks on the list that remind me of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, where I stayed a few years ago and which features in the film as this music is played. Sophie and I would listen to it as we got ready to take on the frantic public areas of the hotel in the evenings.

9 Funeral in Berlin from the soundtrack to Funeral in Berlin (1966) by Konrad Elfers.  This is a very catchy tune from the second Michael Caine Harry Palmer spy film.  I used to travel to Berlin a lot and I was always whistling this tune when I was walking around the place as I used to stay in old East Berlin.  I am an inveterate whistler - it drives everyone else mad as it seems to be a habit that has almost died out - probably disappeared along with milkmen.  It took me until late 2010 to source the CD, though.

The view from my room at the Fontainebleau

8 Bogota 1984 from the Soundtrack to The Specialist (1994) by John Barry.  Oddly, this has nothing to do with my trips to Bogota but I started playing it when I stayed in the Fontainebleau Hotel (part of the film was shot there).

Lana Wood in Diamonds are Forever

7 Diamonds are Forever (source instrumental)  from the extended soundtrack of Diamonds are Forever (1971) by John Barry. This is my favourite John Barry Bond soundtrack and this slinky track is another one from my "Cocktail" playlist which is a more anodyne description of the activity that usually accompanies this playlist.

6 Héiroglyphes from the soundtrack to The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle-Blanc-Sec (2010) by Eric Serra.  An excellent soundtrack to listen to for Parisian-set steampunk and Egyptian adventures.

5  To the Roof from the soundtrack of The Bourne Identity (2002) by John Powell.  This one helps get me through the rush hour crush at Waterloo Station.

4 Romanian Wind from the soundtrack of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows  (2011) by Hans Zimmer.  I have a number of "walking" playlists I listen to when stomping around London.  I now tend to walk rather than catch the Tube and as a result I have lost a stone in weight in the last year. 

3 Pellea de Gallos by Lola Beltran  I can't fathom why I like this song about cock-fighting by Mexico's answer to Edith Piaf so much, but I do.  Possibly it's because Sophie can sing along to it and, indeed, does whenever we are together.

She went to the same school as my son

2 The Medallion Calls from Pirates of the Caribbean the Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) by Klaus Badelt (yes we all know it's really by Hans Zimmer)  I do know that Guy listens to these soundtracks too but so do I, especially when painting pirates and the number of plays is so large that a lot of it must be me.  Certainly my top figure painting background music entry, along with the rest of the album.

1  Its Allright by Me  The Oscar Peterson Trio from Oscar Peterson Plays the Cole Porter Songbook.  I am convinced the man had at least two extra fingers on each hand.  I have 12 separate jazz playlists but this one, jazz instrumental, has 304 tracks in it.  It needs to be split up I think.

Well, all in all something of a surprising list.  I think if I was able to do a top 40 list that eliminated what I listen to on my iPod, which is not the same as I play at home, then it would, as Giles raised, have more classical music on it.  This is the only area where the list doesn't reflect what I listen to at home, I think.  There is quite a lot of film music but then I do listen to a lot of that, especially when painting, given I have playlists which are, essentially, put together for that purpose.  Just missing the top forty were the Soundtracks to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, The Great Train Robbery and You Only Live Twice.  It's mainly film music until we get to Resphigi's Pina di Roma, Milhaud's Le Boeuf sur le toit, Rachmaninov's Second piano concerto (oh no, I am Mr Classic FM) and Circus by Khachaturian.

Anyway, more details on some of my painting specific playlist on the relevant blogs in due course.