Friday, November 28, 2014

The Proliferation of Blogs

Blogging and painting - it all happens here

While the title of this post does rather sound like the name of an AE Van Vogt novel it is really engendered by a recent post by Steve the Wargamer where he asked if he should have separate blogs for different periods or put them all on one.  The majority (all?) of the resulting comments said that one blog is best.  Recently, the estimable Eric the Shed also ventured that I should not have started yet another blog for my food entries. Needless to day, I don't agree or rather, to be more accurate, I don't feel I can now change. 

I currently have 24 wargaming blogs and another six under my other online incarnation.  Surely it is too much to keep 30 blogs up to date?  Indeed it is and most of my blogs go months if not years without an update. This does not worry me in the slightest and the reason goes to the heart of why I blog.

I originally started to blog with my Spartan Wargames Armies blog back in November 2005.  The clear intention was to log painting progress in one place on one project and use the blog to collect other useful information and links. The rot set in early because within a few weeks I had set up another one covering Byzantine Armies (a project which stalled because of my unhappiness with available figures and their incompatibility).  I didn't start the Legatus' Wargames Armies blog until nearly six months later, in April 2006.  

These blogs and the others that followed were, originally, purely designed as a reference for myself because I am always simultaneously working on so many different figures (I estimate that I have around 2000 in various states of completion) that I genuinely lose track of what I have started.  If I can go back to a blog and think "I wonder where those Carthaginians I started are?" it helps me decide to take something off the back burner.

What I never really expected was to get any comments or indeed, any followers.  In the first year of this blog I had precisely four comments.   In the following year I had 12.  In fact it wasn't until 2011, nearly five years after I started this blog, that I got a reasonable amount of comments.  As regards followers I didn't have a followers widget for many years and it was only when someone suggested I add one that I did.  

This was because, still, I was producing the blog for myself (and several friends in Canada who, despite being women, enjoyed the occasional game of Lord of the Rings - why do girls like elves so much?) which was why I started to add some non wargames content.  Maybe it was this that attracted more comments as it certainly couldn't be either my blotchy painting or my (total lack of) wargaming.

Anyway, much to my surprise I ended up with a small and friendly audience.  This was transformed when I started to meet some of them in real life - Giles (whose wonderful blog got me into the whole blogging thing), Big Red Bat at a Society of Ancients Battle day and Matt at Salute.  Others, like Eric the Shed, have followed.  This changed my attitude to the posts on the blog because I now realised that some people were looking at it regularly. I still thought that my blogs would only be of interest (if at all) to people interested in, say, just Spartans, or just the Dark Ages.  People would, therefore, primarily find them through search engines, not by following them.  I get, on average, about 300 views per post on this site, yet I only have 185 followers and probably only a dozen or so people who comment regularly so I still think that most people who look at the blog are not regular readers.  While it is nice to know people follow the blog, I am not interested in chasing hits or followers (that has unpleasant shades of Twitter and Facebook) which is why I don't post, for example, on The Miniatures Page regularly.  On the rare occasions I do, like my post on the re-branding of the Games Workshop shops, then the views will shoot up (to around 1000 in that instance).  Still, that's not the driving force for my posting or the blogs.

So I was quite happy to spread my content amongst multiple blogs because it never occurred to me that the same people who read my ramblings on Spartans would be interested in Vikings.  Certainly, from my point of view, I really enjoy those blogs which focus on one period (probably because I can't). These first ones I started to read regularly (Giles', Big Red Bat's, Matt's) stuck to one period so I thought that this was what to do.  I hadn't seen, at that point (because I didn't look at many other blogs for the first few years), what I would call general wargames blogs by people who also had an eclectic interest in multiple periods. Since then I have followed many excellent blogs, including a rare few where I knew the person first and their blog came along afterwards, like Alastair.

Now, if I was starting wargames blogging now, being more familiar with other peoples blogs, I would, indeed, just have one blog because the blogging has become an enjoyable process in itself over and above being a figure painting project monitor. This is especially true, as at present, when I don't feel like painting.  

However, I now feel I have gone too far down the multiple blog route to combine them all so I will continue in my usual way. I have a sidebar on the right which illustrates all my other blogs anyway so someone can always click on one of those is they want to look at them.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Something for the Weekend: Beaujolais Nouveau featuring Holly Madison

I picked up a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau yesterday, which I had hadn't done for about twenty years.  You can read about it on the Legatus' Food and Wine blog and see Miss Madison treading grapes and having a shower with her friends on my Wargames Ladies blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Legatus' Food blog

The idea behind the new Wargame Bloggers Quarterly is to give wargames blogs and blog posts a wider audience.  However, I realised that my piece in the second issue hadn't actually appeared on my blog as it was specially commissioned, thanks to Big Red Bat.  Rather than put it on my main wargames blog I decided to create another blog just for food and wine posts.  This new blog contains the Poulet Marengo post (with a few more pictures) and a new one discussing the constituents of a Full English breakfast.  

Much more to come!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Something for the Weekend: Katheryn Winnick, Viking shield maiden

After our recent Vikings post I felt I had to feature the splendid Katheryn Winnick, from the TV series Vikings, on Legatus' Wargames Ladies this weekend. So I have posted some pictures of her in her marvellously inauthentic textured leather costumes as well as some more contemporary outfits.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Lewis Chessman in Shepperton and other Vikings

The other weekend I was out watching my son compete in the big Silver Sculls rowing event which his club runs.  Over 500 crews competing upstream (against a very strong current and strong wind) from Walton to Weybridge on the River Thames.  Walking along the river bank on the Walton side I spotted this curious statue in a Garden on the Shepperton side of the river.  I recognised it immediately as a representation of one of the Lewis chess pieces now mainly in the British museum (some are on display in Edinburgh and there is a big argument about where they should reside).  It certainly looked rather curious, especially given its size, and I wonder how and why it got there.  Makes a change from a garden gnome, I suppose.

Actually, if you want a Viking Garden Gnome you can get this one which is very much from the Warhammer school of anatomy.

Discovered in Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in 1831 it is thought that the originals, which are mainly carved from Walrus tusk, are 12th Century and originate from Trondheim in Norway.  The late date is evidenced by the fact that the warriors have kite shields rather than the prototypical round Viking ones.  The lack of wear on them has led to the suggestion that they were a trader's stock perhaps en route to Dublin.

Inevitable feisty shield maiden included

Currently, I am watching the drama series Vikings which is grimly enjoyable.  As ever, some of the costumes owe rather too much to the whims of the costume designers (those enemies of cinematic authenticity) using far too much textured leather (the same issue as in Musketeers) although the villagers costumes look quite good.

 Vikings set in County Wicklow

The buildings look much better, however.  They eschew the usually depicted thatch roofs for wooden shingles.


A few years ago I went to a very interesting exhibition at the University of Oslo Museum of Cultural History on the Viking town of Kaupang. The buildings illustrated in pictures and models at the exhibition were just like the ones built on the sets in Ireland.

The series is filmed in Ireland although a few shots of the fjords were done in Norway.  The ships look excellent, although I winced when I saw the steering oars on the port side of the ships (er, steer board).

Gripping Beast Vikings were the first 28mm metal figures I bought and I have a number of them, plus some Artizan and Foundry ones.  I painted most of these a long time ago, probably the earliest ones were in the late nineties, but I could probably tidy them up fairly quickly.

I suppose the ideal rules for Vikings would be Saga, which I have got, although it seems a little too "gamesy" for me.  Something like the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings Battle Companies rules might work well.  I'm also tempted by a larger Lion Rampant force to fight the Moors in Spain and maybe the Carolingians.  Hmm.  At least I have enough unpainted figures to not have to add more to the lead pile!

Monday, November 10, 2014

To the War Memorial on Remembrance Day and the football charge of the East Surrey Regiment

Guy and I went to our local war memorial on Sunday and I took a few pictures before the service.  Many readers will have gone to their local memorial on Sunday but the one in Oxshott is rather unusual in that it is not situated in the centre of the village but rather on top of a ridge on Oxshott Heath.  It was commissioned by Sir Robert McAlpine, the founder of the large civil engineering firm, who lived nearby, although there was some opposition to the plan at the time.

View from the top

This means you have to park down the hill at the railway station and trek up to the top where on a clear day (unlike yesterday) you can see the North Downs.  You feel rather more isolated than in fact you are as you can only glimpse a few buildings from the site.  During both World Wars the heath was the home to large numbers of Canadian troops, some of whom are remembered on the memorial.  In World War 2 it was the Royal Canadian Engineers who were stationed here and they used their lumberjacking skills, it is said, to help manage the woodland.  On the flat area at the bottom of the hill, in the photograph above, they built a baseball diamond and used the slope of the hill up to the memorial as spectator seating.  This slope, which is steeper than it looks in the photo, was very popular with my children for tobogganing when they were smaller.  Coincidentally, they used a seventy-five year old toboggan which belonged to their grandmother who was born in Montreal.

Oxshott was sparsely populated until the arrival of the Guildford line railway in 1885 led to the development of the vast villas that made up most of the original houses.  Some of these are still standing.  Oddly, until his death in 1882, the land was owned by King Leopold of Belgium: his own private colony in Surrey!

The memorial itself has the names on it of locals killed in both world wars, many of whom were in the local regiment, the East Surreys, who were based in Kingston-upon Thames.  The Great War section has the dates 1914-1919 on it as the regiment went to Russia in 1919.  

The East Surreys were involved in a famous incident in World War 1 when, on the first day of the battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916, Captain WP Nevill provided some footballs for his troops to kick in front of their advance across no-man's land.  Nevill was killed early in the charge but the regiment kept kicking the balls forward, as they advanced, until they drove the Germans from their position and even recovered two of the footballs which were sent home to the regimental museum.  Before the charge one was inscribed 'The Great European Cup-Tie Final. East Surreys v Bavarians. Kick off at zero.'

The incident became so famous that it was immortalised in a painting by the famous military artist Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927) whose most famours painting is probably Maiwand, saving the Guns painted in 1883.  The Daily Mail commissioned a special verse.

 On through the hail of slaughter, 
Where gallant comrades fall, 
Where blood is poured like water, 
They drive the trickling ball. 
The fear of death before them, 
Is but an empty name; 
True to the land that bore them, 
The SURREYS played the game.

One of these footballs is still on display at the regimental museum at Clandon Park near Guildford, just one mile from where Guildford Wargames club meets.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Sobering thoughts at the Tower of London and Wargame Bloggers Quarterly

The Legatus was in the City yesterday, getting a long overdue haircut from the lovely Tracy.  It had been raining for most of the time during my meeting and lunch with Peruvian contractors but as I came out of the hairdressers at the base of the NatWest Tower (yes, I know it's not called that any more but it's the same with Debenhams in Staines which I still think of as Kennards, although it hasn't been called that for forty years) the sun came out.  Tracy had asked if I had been to the Tower of London to see the ceramic poppy display commemorating the centenary of the Great War.  I had not, so set off there before the light faded.  As I wandered down Eastcheap it was apparent that a veritable pilgrimage was in progress.  Lots of non-City types were heading east as well, in a road not known for its pedestrian traffic.  I had expected some tourists there but not the crowd around the whole perimeter of the Tower.

For all those who play the game of war the visual impact of all those poppies, each representing a person, was a solemn reminder that all the miniature people we move around our toy battlefields are there to mark, in many cases, the existence of real people who lived and died in the past.  Now the Legatus is not a deep thinker and as long as he has access to cold wine, hot food and warm women is pretty much happy but this brilliant display says more about the impact on Britain of the War than any book or documentary can.  The latter have, by their very nature, to look at wider issues of politics and strategy on the whole and, apart from some notable exceptions looking at the lives of soldiers, miss what this display conveys so well: That war is about individual people dying, violently and often in great numbers

Now I am not a pacifist and neither am I an isolationist - some threats to civilisation do need people to make a stand - a military stand (whether the Great War was one of these is a matter of debate) but it would be a good thing if sabre-rattling politicians could be made to spend fifteen minutes at this site (yes, Mr Putin) and think, for once.  Great Britain's losses in the Great War amounted to about 2% of the population or one in fifty people and this in a country which was not, unlike France (4%) in the combat zone.

Now last week I was invited to Eric the Shed's again for another game of Warmaster as our Imperial forces took the field against massed orcs and goblins again, in a larger game than last time.  I even remembered some of the rules and deployed some rudimentary tactics.  I have, like many historical wargamers, slightly looked down on fantasy wargames because my interest in recreating conflicts of the past stems from an interest in history, not gaming.  However, in retrospect, there is an argument that fantasy wargaming, which does not turn brutal conflict of the past into a recreational pursuit, is, perhaps, more ethically defensible than historical wargaming.  No real goblins, orcs, dwarves, men of Rohan or Empire handgunners were slaughtered to provide a setting for a game.  As my new lady friend, A, ventured (deliberately provocatively - she is a provocative woman) recently, isn't wargaming like playing a game about rape?  Can any acts of violence, defensibly, form the basis for a game?  Is the personal violation of rape any different from having your body violated by a musket ball?  There have been attempts in the past to protest against wargames.  The show that is now called Colours and takes place (sadly, not this year) at Newbury racecourse used to be called Armageddon and, as such was picketed by, amongst others, Greenham Common Peace protestors (and one of my ex-girlfriends became a Greenham Common woman so I know something of their mindset), forcing a name change to its less offensive current title.

I am uneasy about playing wargames set in the recent past but there are other games that unsettle me too.  When Wargames Soldiers and Strategy re-launched, a few years ago, it carried an article about a game concerning the assassination of Caligula.  I rarely get incensed enough by anything I read in the press to write to the editor (I did once when The Daily Mirror wrote a sneeringly disparaging article about an ex-girlfriend) but this nearly did it.  The scenario was about a small group of assassins breaking into the palace to kill the emperor.  This made me queasy enough, even if Caligula was a certifiable loon, but the author, Mark Backhouse, offered the following variant: "A second group of assassins start in the Palace complex at the same time with the objective of killing Caligula's wife Caesonia and daughter Drusilla".  I'm sorry, this isn't a wargame in my opinion it's trivialising the murder of women and children.  Nasty!

Now, of course, I am not going to suddenly stop painting my World War 1 British infantry and switch to Warhammer but just pausing to think to reflect on the personal consequences of wars of the past is not a bad thing and Paul Cummins Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, to give the Tower installation its proper name, has certainly succeeded in this.

Anyway, on a much lighter note the second edition of the superb Wargame Bloggers Quarterly is out today and you can download it here.  Even more exciting, it contains a piece by the Legatus on Poulet Marengo (I may not be very good at wargaming but I can cook!) the dish cobbled up, or so the story goes, for Napoleon after the Battle of Marengo in 1800.  I was pleased to see a piece by Scott too on his stunning Lord of the Rings Durin's Causeway board and am looking forward to the Sudan feature.  This really is a great initiative and if you haven't downloaded it yet then do so!

Today's music is a seasonal favourite: Sibelius' 3rd Symphony, in the (excellent) version by the Scottish National Orchestra under Sir Alexander Gibson.  For a number of reasons it reminds me of the sort of "crispy autumnal day" (as my former girlfriend SA used to call them) we have had today.  Autumn has been most peculiar in the South East of England this year; it was twenty two degrees on Friday when the monthly average for October is twelve.  Today, however we had our first cold, bright autumnal day.  SA used to live near Richmond Park and on autumnal days like this we used to go running there, as it was this time of the year that our previous friendship became rather more intimate.  I had bought this CD at about the same time so first played it in her flat after the good 12km whizz around the park's perimeter. We would come back feeling flushed with autumnal well-being, warmed by the exercise and the pale sun with the scent of leaves and dead ferns in our nostrils.  Just time for a horizontal warm-down before a lunch of spaghetti alla puttanesca!  Coincidentally, the story behind the creation of this dish is not dissimilar to that of Poulet Marengo in that it is a found ingredients dish created, it is said, in the nineteen fifties by Italian chef Sandro Petti who had to knock together a dish for some customers late one night when he was short of ingredients other than tomatoes, olives and capers.  The Legatus first had it in Rome cooked by our princess lady friend with, as is typical in the region, the addition of anchovies.  So I think I will cook it tonight as the autumnal weather and the Sibelius reminds me of the dish (not to mention SA and her thirty three inch inside leg measurement!).