Friday, October 23, 2015

What's going on...and The Last Kingdom



Well, the short answer is not very much on the hobby front.  I am still largely working seven days a week and what with transporting Guy to various rowing events there really hasn't been any time to paint.  I am hoping that this weekend I can have a couple of hours so let's hope the light is good.  I want to undercoat the rest of my 1864 Danes, finish a Neanderthal or two and get some base colours down on my Lucid Eye South American Lost World type natives.

Also in the imminent pile are some Lucid Eye Amazons although I had a panic this week when I thought I had lost the Queen's bow and quiver. Eventually I found it tucked under the back of my computer monitor.  She is actually nearly finished but I have decided, foolishly, to give her a jaguar hide shield and the thought of attempting this is stressing me out somewhat!

My copy of Frostgrave arrived this week and I have had a brief look at it but am too stupid to understand how rules work just by reading them.  I have always shied away from any rules that use magic so this is a big departure for me but I have been encouraged by the fact that Eric the Shed will be building Frostgrave scenery for battles next year.  This just leaves me with the comparatively simple task of painting less than ten figures.  I don't have any of the official figures yet but have been toying with using some of my Foundry Vikings (especially the girly ones), even though they don't work for the pseudo medieval look of the official line.  Giving them some kite shields may do the job, though.




Speaking of Vikings, I really enjoyed The Last Kingdom on TV. Looking at it from a wargamers perspective the battle in last night's episode certainly looked better than the equivalents in Sharpe due to around ten times the number of extras. In fact it looked like a big budget production (unlike Vikings for example) with good looking dark age settlements.  




Several things slightly annoyed me. Firstly, the Northumbrian castle looked completely wrong  for this period and was, from the look of it, modelled to look like an obviously Hungarian (where most of it was shot) structure used as a location.  Far too much stone for the period and the square-capped towers look very Eastern European.  Secondly, yet again, filmmakers don't understand the use of spears in Dark Ages warfare with everyone using swords in the (otherwise well realised) shield wall.  




I also don't think the Saxon shields, obviously meant to be Saxon versions of Early Imperial Roman shields (if they were supposed to be folk memory versions of Roman shields they would be flat and oval, anyway), had any historical basis but were, no doubt, included in order to differentiate the armies.




The reviews have generally been very good though, so hopefully it will do well in the ratings.  One reviewer complained that most of the action took place in the dark and so he couldn't see what was going on.  I didn't have any problems watching on a high definition TV but the BBC iPlayer version is very murky indeed.  The costumes have, as ever, been a bit over-designed with the usual surfeit of leather but they are better than those in Vikings.




I will be digging out my Vikings, no doubt.  I have quite a few painted ones (they have even seen some actual games at Guildford many years ago) but I have a lot more unpainted ones.  Mine are a mixture of Foundry, old Gripping Beast (I don't like their gnomish plastics) and Artizan.  For this period I need to avoid the helmets with nose guards I think.




I also liked the way they used the word "Viking" in the proper Old Norse meaning of going on a freebooting voyage. Incidentally, when I was at college one of my girlfriends studied History.  We had two History professors at Brasenose, known as Dr Death and Dr Gush.  Dr Death was a crumbling old relic and Dr Gush was the bouncy, young, now internationally well known, Dr Simon Schama, then in his mid thirties.  Dr Death, a medievalist, always pronounced the word "Vickings" with a short 'i', according to my friend.  Anyway, I will try and dig out my Cornwell novels from wherever they are.




Our heating packed up last week and we had to have British Gas come in and fix it (just the wireless thermostat receiver in the boiler, thankfully).  While doing so my wife insisted that they had a look at the radiator in my study, which hasn't worked for years.  Unfortunately, this meant pulling out three filing cabinets covered in stuff, my entire plastics pile (dozens of boxes of figures, some of which I had forgotten about) and loads of box files containing all sorts of stuff (mainly Playboys from the fifties and sixties)  Down the back of one of these stacks I found a whole load of wargames rules I had lost, including some I don't remember buying at all.  Still no sign of the 7th Voyage ones though.  So, until I sort everything out and put it back (or sell it, according to the Old Bat) my room is even more chaotic than ever)




The mess in my room was getting me down so I went around to my friend A's again and had some more Port, which I'm not supposed to.  This was my last bottle of Port from the stock I inherited from my Uncle, an Offley Boa Vista 1972, which was still just excellent.




On a less sophisticated note, I am not a big fan of supermarket sandwiches but occasionally, if I am on the go, I need one.  Into Boots this week and a new one to me: Chicken, chorizo and smoky beans.  It was quite good but it made me nostalgic for my favourite ever shop sandwich, which was also a Boot's one (most of their sandwiches these days are very boring and there are far too many vegetarian ones).  Back in the eighties and early nineties they made one called Mexican chicken which had chilli mayonnaise and kidney beans in with lettuce and chilli chicken.  It was quite the best shop sandwich I ever had and is much missed.  The mayonnaise being far superior to the salsa in today's version.  It was not the best sandwich I ever had, that was a prosciutto (thick cut, unusually), mozzarella and pesto ciabatta in the Admiral hotel in Copenhagen.




One thing I didn't like about The Last Kingdom was the wailing music which was rather grating in a sort of Hans Zimmer/Lisa Gerrard/Gladiator way.  So for this post it's back to Mario Nascimbene's wonderful soundtrack to The Vikings (1958).

23 comments:

  1. The Vikings movie score is the best. Good luck in squeezing out some hobby time. I'll look out for the new show but issues like the wrong shields do get my goat.

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  2. I quite enjoyed The Last Kingdom, too...though I still can't understand why the makers of these sorts of programmes seem to think that being historically accurate with the details would detract from the show.

    On another note, I take some comfort from the state of your study.

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  3. I ended up watching Last Kingdom on iPlayer last night and it was rather gloomy on there. I was quite pleased with how they'd managed to adapt it, enough so to let certain issues slide (the Danes referring to England several times was one).

    I didn't really notice the wailing music, but maybe I just tuned it out.

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  4. I thought the Last Empire was good, in fact better than I was expecting... I did wonder about the tactic with the three stacked shields (is that based on any historical evidence??), like you the Saxon shields were just wrong, and I couldn't help thinking everyone looked a tad too... errr, clean... they all looked liked they'd just jumped out a shower following a close personal encounter with the Radox Shower Gel... that aside the story carried it along nicely and I shall be back for more.....

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    1. Whereas the shields looked like they had random clods of mud thrown at them rather than real grime.

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    2. Steve - Actually the Norse were relatively clean for the time. They were buried with various combs and other "personal care" stuff, and Saturday in Swedish comes from the Norse word for "bathing day". And there were complaints from the Saxons that their women were running away with Norsemen because they were a bit less smelly. Clearly they weren't a bunch of mis-understood Dark Age metrosexuals but they were pretty clean for the time.

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    3. LittleArmies - I can accept that, but there were no detergents then and the crew of that longship looked like they'd just got their clothes out of the airing cupboard... :o))

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  5. HD TV was a good picture for me so no issues with The Last Kingdom on that score. Mathew MacFadden still as wooden as ever but thankfully he went out in the first half of the first episode. I got annoyed with the shield and the portrayal of the Saxons overall - no armour apart from a mail head cowl even for a noble.

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    1. Chain mail is expensive to make to high definition TV standards. For the same reason the Prussian infantry in 1864 didn't have pickelhauben.

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  6. I'll have to see The Last Kingdom, despite the over-reliance on leather (9th C people wore wool and linen, why is this a problem?); looks like it might be another one to add to the list of guilty pleasures along with the amusingly named History Channel's own Viking series.

    And yeah, the soundtrack to The Vikings sounds just dandy... at first! But when you get to the umpteenth repetition of that three-note horn riff about halfway through, it does wear a bit.

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    1. Costume designers have a;ways been the enemy of authenticity in historical films!

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  7. It's many years since I read Cornwell' s original so I can't remember how closely the script followed the text but I was struck by how much of the storyline in Episode 1 looked like a re-run of Season 1 of "Vikings"?

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    1. Just started rereading the book and so far the episode followed it closely even using some of the dialogue from the book.

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  8. I have not seen it yet but it would seem another historical advisor getting paid for nothing, at least that is what I hope. And the next time my missus complains about my study I shall show her your pic.

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    1. Its always the costume designers who run riot...

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  9. Thanks for your views on The Last Kingdom, as ever honest in both praise and criticism. I know very little of the period but have just come to expect films to present history as they wish, so it's very interesting to get comments on the clothing, weapons and built structures. I persuaded the Duchess to watch it (since she had been fascinated by King Alfred in Chippenham museum in the Summer) and she walked off for the battle scene (no surprise there) but she came back and got strangely intrigued with the family saga unfolding and now seems keen to watch the next one. Look forward to more of your thoughts on this series in due course. Wonder if a Viking version of my Hussarettes we would be of any cultural value........
    Chris

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  10. Well I just watched the Last Kingdom on Popcorn time and it looked great to me as far as darkness of image. The Saxon shields, yeah well the less said the better. I do agree with all your remarks on historical accuracy and it starts to get tiring to see TV producers get even the simplest basics wrong every time.

    That said: heaps was wrong with the Sharpe series as well but it did bring the period and subject to a larger audience which is always good.

    Brother Vinni does a rather nice pack of realistic Shieldmaidens you might want to take a look at. I ordered some to be picked up at Crisis.

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    1. Hadn't seen those shield maidens before Ordered!

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  11. I quite enjoyed Last Kingdom, but some of the costuming bits that you've already pointed out grated a little. Unfortunately I kept wondering what it would have been like if it had the Vikings or Game of Thrones editing staff... there were a number of scenes where the camera work and post-production should have been much better.

    Having said that, I will be avidly watching the rest

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  12. I enjoy watching the programme and will be watching the others too. I also like Vikings and have giving up on any pretence to history accuracy as long as the story/plot is good and working

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  13. A BNC Historian myself....no need to guess who Dr Death was! Remember walking into his Hammer Horror like study for the first time very well....and the Hammer Horror trick of letting his cigarette burn through several inches before flicking off the ash. Took 2 1/2 year before I got anymore comment on a single essay I wrote other than a single tick, and occasionally the word 'Good'....the short lecture he delivered instead of a comment after listening to us read them out was generally worth it though...especially the Medieval ones, and not bad on the Anglo Saxons either...

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