Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Preview Darkside Video Animation for BBC R2

The BBC are having a Dark Side of the Moon day on Monday. Nice trailer video for the Tom Stoppard play - although more than a shade of Elysium about it.

***Imported from old blog***

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Just back from this year's long weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Not a classic, but some good shows in there - 16 in 3 days (and a couple of bits), not including the cafe. We got a a lot more different venues, some we hadn't been to before and hardly spent any time at the Pleasance (when previously we've spent almost whole days there). We also found it harder to work out what the "must-sees" were - perhaps because we normally go at the end of the festival when all the reviews and awards are out. None of our Festival faves (NIE, SpyMonkey etc) were there either to structure our schedule around. Also we saw hardly any posters for the shows we did see, adding to the feeling of being just a bit more in the dark.

Here's the shows in order:


Death By Murder* - We took a chance at using the half-price hut for our first night, just off the train seeing it was nearby. We go what we paid for. Sort of improvised comedy but not very well done and some pretty amateur acting. One of the cast played the inspector and had to work out who the murder was, but it just didn't really work and wasn't that well done.


Pussyfooting**** - Nice drama piece by a young theatre group we know via contacts in Birmingham. The neatest thing was the use of blackboards of all sizes to represent the set and props with drawings being hastily drawn as the play went on. Well acted and not a bad script around a fun plot about people's feet taking them over.

Seven Ages**** - flyered whilst buying tickets at the Fringe Ticket Office (saving us 90p a ticket vs iPad app purchases). 7 linked scenes about the 7 ages of pan, told and acted with wit and charm by Kevin Tomlinson, some with audience suggestions. Funniest was the "one word at a time" Clue style section with his assistant who couldn't remember that R came after E for the Queens initials, or that it was Great Britain and Northern Ireland (not ... and Scotland!).

Ballad of the Burning Star*** - history of modern Israel told Cabaret style complete with Drag Queen and gold spandex shorted Starlets. The Guardian had given in 5 stars but it just didn't really hold together. The play we say a few years ago consisting of monologues of cafe patrons each of whom gets blown up in turn as the end of their piece was far better.

Solfatara**** - Another that we'd been alerted to from friends in Birmingham, this time a Barecelonan production, in Spanish but with English subtitles. But it soon became apparent that the subtitle were part of the act as Annie-Hall style they started giving voice to the inner thoughts of the main characters (and even of the subtitler). The set-up was that a character in a mask (so very/only expressive eyes and mouth became the (evil) inner voice of the main character as the relationship between him and his wife went through volcanic (hence Sulfatara) outbursts. Really well done, really accessible, very nice piece.

Boredom***1/2 - Earlier in the day in search of a coffee we'd gone into Hunt & Darton's pop-up cafe just up from the Pleasance - without realising that it was actually an "event" - with Hunt & Darton curating a different ambience each day - today being "community" so we found ourselves at a large table doing a puzzle with a group of Australians. Really nice ambience and as good as many a show. SO in the evening we took in their Boredom show, which was prefaced by the two of them sat po-face saying "This is Hunt & Darton's show about boredom - good luck" and then proceeded with a variety of dead pan monologues, sketches, slideshows of food, a collection of model pigs and so. Well done and very amusing in a very dry way. Giving it **** would probably be wrong in principle, it wasn't meant to be that exciting. But **** for the cafe.


Voluntary Departure **** - Woefully poorly attended black comedy in a very small venue, it was nice to see a piece by more mature performers just acting their hear out - the woman in particular in this two hander was superb, the script really tight, sharp - just delivering that with a solid hour on stage at a brisk pace and some really wonderful wordplay was stunning. The plot was about a voluntary euthenasia clinic in a future state, the clinician advising the client how to die, and finding out why he wants to die. There was a 1984 watching security eye, and constant references to "our leader" - which for some reason kept making me think of Alex Salmond and a future Scotland. The the ending could perhaps have had a bit of a better build up, but overall really good.

High Plains **** - Really good simple (ghost) story of the modern American west told by a battered friendly drunk. Very simple, very effective.

Inspector Norse **** - Subtitled "The Girl with Two Screws Left Over" this was a wonderful mix of The Killing, Abba and the Ikea catalogue. A two hander from two mature women (Lip Service Theatre) and a set (and props) made almost entirely of wool. Just very silly but very good, highlights being the crisp-bread foleying of walking through snow and the woollen animal roadkills piling up on the front of the car. From the web site it looks like they make a serial habit of such popular culture send ups - must try and catch them again.

Humans Inc. A Sci-Fi Epic on Stage from anthony springall on Vimeo.

Humans Inc - ***1/2 - Every year I try and see something SF related, but am usually disappointed. Is it that people try too hard with Star Trek style sets, or that the plots are too cliched, or that the subject matter just doesnt attract good or inventive actors. Humans Inc almost broke the mould, but not quite - and a cavernous venue populated by a handful of SF geeks didn't help. The staging was really good, handheld LED frameworks for flying spaceships (or bits off), (real) lasers cutting through the smoke, white handheld screens being used almost balletically (?) to creating moving corridors, lifts and housings. It's just the plot was far too cliched and the acting (particularly from the lead) far too variable.

The Colour Ham - ***1/2 - Sketch and magic show delivered by three guys who were in perpetual giggles about what they were doing - some deserved some not. Well done but just a bit too much audience volunteer humiliation for my liking but they did appear to get their come-uppence when one volunteer turned out to be the neighbour of one of the performers and she had no idea what he did for a living!


Domestic Science **** - We made a conscious decision to see a bit more on the Free Fringe this year (having seen and enjoyed Austentatious last year), and along with the half-price hut on the first night, and generally lower ticket prices (earlier in the festival, not all weekend/bank holiday) we probably averaged a lot less per ticket than previously (despite still donating about £7 a head for the free shows we saw). This was a really good science show, lots of simple demos/experiments with household objects, smart and funny delivery, and a highlight of my wife being dressed up as the Hubble Space Telescope (image available on request!)

School of Night's Spontaneous Shakespeare **** - Jo saw this last year and really liked it. Four real "thesps" improvising around Shakespeare (and Chaucer), with some wonderful "study notes" style interjections to take the play in challenging directions. Great fun and well worth seeing again next year.

Ulysses Dies at Dawn ***** - You know that you've finally reached the real Fringe when you walk into a venue and wonder if a) you're in the right place and b) if you are whether you ought to turn right round and head back out. The WhyNot venue was a dark basement bar, the clientele sat on a motley collection of chairs and bar stools, and was dressed in a variety of fashions from punk to goth - Deb and I were initially the oldest people there - and certainly the straightest. But the guys with aviators googles on their hats, and the girl with a set of golden wings gave it away - this was steampunk and where we should be. From the description it had sounded the most like the wonderful grunge Beowulf we saw 2 years ago - and I wasn't disappointed. The Mechanisms do what can only be described as steam punk folk/blues music story telling, and do it incredibly well. The band members had their own be-costumed steampunk personas, a highly charismatic leader (first mate!) to propel the whole drama, and an audience (with no small number of devoted followers) which was rapt. This is what I come to the Fringe for. And of course interestingly despite the classical references of the plot it was SF, and well done steam punk SF.

Baby Wants Candy **** - Whereas as Ulysses was gritty this was slick and a bit manufactured - but great fun. Improvised musical, by a US group, in this case Oh Brothel Where Are Thou. The best bit was the rest of the cast trying to keep it together when the plot went off in a completely unexpected direction involving a Narwal horn and a toenail!


Aaand Now for Something Completely Improvised **** - We'd wanted to see this earlier but it had sold out, but decided we could just about fit it in before the train. Well worth it. Probably felt the most "improvised" of all the improv we saw (more than previous years), cant say it was "pythonesque" in the way described in the brochure (apart from one interjection), but again the fun was in watching in how other cast members dealt with the evolving plot and trying to keep straight faces. The two most glorious moments were one actor (supposedly with bird tendencies) regurgitating an opal fruit into the mouth of another, and one actors own mobile phone going off repeatedly - as the other actor said to him - "we'd have shamed an audience member mercilously for that", the miscreant got off lightly!

***Imported from old blog***

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Salute 2013

Back at the of April I went to Salute - the big wargames show in London - for the first time in about a decade. It was a truly huge event, with a good variety of stands, games and vendors. I met up with my mate Alan (who makes awesome wargames scenery and paints superbly) and we toured our favourite games. Here are some of the best we saw.


A wonderfully weird space/floating islands game, part Avatar, part Space:1889.


A 28mm mega-skirmish Napoleonic game. Superb figures and painting - particularly since my world currently revolves around 6mm.


Fitting in with the current steampunk meme a Space:1889 Martian conflict complete with canals and flying barges. Probably one of the best looking games on show.

There was also a Mexican game that Alan really loved, 30mm I think, so getting even bigger.

The other two I really liked but for some reason failed to get images for were:

- a 6mm Franco-Prussian war game with great scenery and showing why this scale works so well
- a large ancient game being played out on a gridded table, echoing my own thoughts about gridded movement.

Every time I go to a show whilst I love being a punter I always hanker after running my own game - after all I did my first show games when I was still a teenager. Perhaps I can persuade Alan and Nick to do one to show off our 6mm plus hex system next year.

***Imported from old blog***

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Seelowe - The SPI Game of the Invasion of England

During a wonderful week's holiday up in the Forest of Bowland ( walking in the day, gaming in the evening - mostly Britannia) I managed to fit in a solo play of the old SPI Seelowe game of the planned invasion of the UK by Germany in 1940. Since I grew up around Dorking in Surrey, right by the Mole Valley gap my childhood walks were always full of pill boxes, and ever since the Battle of Dorking pamphlet of the late 1800s the area has always been seen as a strategic focus for any invasion.

I decided to play the September Navy scenario as this was the most realistic in the game. The invasion is focussed on the ports of Kent and Sussex initially, and comsists of a small early assault phase followed about a week or so later by a moderate main landing force. This is not on the scale of D-Day.  It is assumed that the RAF was eliminated in the Battle of Britain, and that the Royal Navy has been locked out of the Channel. The Luftwaffe is flying regular interdiction strikes from France - but its range is limited, and with daily rolls for weather the ability to actually use the Luftwaffe and land troops can be a pretty hit or miss affair.

The write up was done pretty much turn by turn, and I haven't made any attempt to tidy it up - but hopefully it gives you a flavour of the game. Total playing time was about 4 hours.

Turn 1
German landings at Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Folkestone and Dover
Coastal opposition eliminated. 2nd Div deploys towards Chatham


Turn 2
British slow to mobilise. 29 Gren Regt keeps 19 Div holed up in Dover. 51 Gren Regt protects L flank at Worthing. 28th Amphib Tank Regt siezes ports along the coast. Main thrust towards Dorking, secondaries on flanks to Maidstone and Guildford. British 1st Div under air attack at Redhill, and 2nd Div destroyed NW of Maidstone. One RAF fighter group lost in air attacks. Rough, landings only at ports.

Turn 3 Rough seas still limit landings, slow expansion of bridgehead. leading forces pushing in to Surrey

Turn 4 Bad weather delays reinforcements and grounds air attacks. GE attack on 1st Div delayed.


Turn 5 Still rough but skies clear. Luftwaffe interdicts 1st Div and 47 & 48 Armd Bdes at Newlands Corner. Combined assault by 4 Regts and Para Bns destroys 1st Div (and Dorking) for the loss of the paras and a Regt. A proposed simultaneous assault on the Armd Bdes failed to materialise. 64 and 65 Gren Regt close on 25 Bde E of Croydon ready to open the way to the city where defence Brigades are still not fully mobilised.

Turn 6
German assault takes out the 47 and 48 Armd Bdes. Supply issues prevent assault on 25Bde. Germans now have a clear route to the W of London, and in the east are only 3 hex away from Central London. The first wave of the major GE reinforcements are embarked, and the British are belatedly mobilising some of their more far flung troops in East Anglia, Wales, and the West Country.

Turn 7
Air attack on 42 Div S of Guildford fails and one Sqn lost, operating at extended range but despite 8 Sqns on task. Successful interdiction against 7 Div moving SW fm Chelmsford. 19 Div in Dover finally falls, but takes 49 Regt with it. The attack against 42 Div goes in despite the failure of air support, and destroys the Div but 42 and 51 Gren Regts lost. 64 and 65 Regt push 25 Div back, and it withdraws across the Thames. The Germans are only 3 hex away from Central London, and despite forces massing in the Chilterns the situation for London is looking grim.


Turn 8
The German strategy is to obliterate London before clearing the rest of the country. Weather is storms which delays landing of the main wave of reinforcements and renders the Luftwaffe useless. UK 5 and 16 Div destroyed defending Guildford, 55 and 61 Regt move in, whilst 17 Pz Regt protects the flank from 6 UK Div and 1, 15 and 16 Pz Div sweep on to West London. Other German forces advance on a broad front to the outskirts of London ready for the bloody street by street fighting. A second wave is moving up from the beaches.


Turn 9
The Germans attempt a first assault across the Thames but are repulsed. 23 Div in Chichester also holds out. British forces mass in the Chilterns  ready for a potential counter-attack to relieve the pressure on London. weather still grounding a/c.


Turn 10/11
A/c still grounded. Germans force way across Thames in central London but then held. Also across in Thames estuary. Supplies hampering exploitation in E. British Home Guard active and making fighting in London hard, several units unable to get in on W. British forces steadily building in Chilterns bipartisan not enough concentration to take on German screening force.


Turn 12
Luftwaffe is flying again but loses on a/c in attempt to disrupt units around Basingstoke. GE destroy 5 Div W of Basingstoke, and push further across Thames estuary to complete their encirclement of London.

Turn 13
7 and 27 Divs defending East London destroyed. 6 Div defending Basingstoke destroyed. Only 4 units left in London but defensive line along Chilterns steadily building and Partisan and other forces massing S of Oxford.

Turn 14
Penultimate units in London destroyed. Luftwaffe plus 50,56 and 61 Regts sp by 5 & 6 Pzr and 48 Gren Regts finally clear 60 & 63 Mot Bdes and 21 and 33 Div fm Basingstoke area, only light resistance now between them and Oxford. GE encirclement of London now complete and preparing for assault on 6 Div and 33 Bde around High Wycombe.


Turn 15
London finally falls as 12 Div and 17 Bde give way under increasing German pressure. The Pzr Regts are immediately dispatched to aid the assault on the Chilterns. In High Wycombe 6 Div and 33 Bde are destroyed, and NW of Basingstoke 56 and 57 Partisan are destroyed by 4 & 5 Pzr Regt. Apart from some militia units nothing stands between GE left flank and Oxford, and the remaining 6 British Divs in the Chilterns are surrounded.

This was the formal end of the game.

Victory Calculations

Ports 10
GB SP ~40
GE SP 106 
Decisive German victory

Since the Germans were so close to total domination I decided to just play out their assault on the Chilterns.


Turn 16 (extra)
Successful assaults on both flanks clear 3 British divisions from Chilterns

Turn 17 (extra)
All British forces except a Mot Inf Bde (Str 1) at Didcot eliminated.

And that was it. The rules say that normally the Germans have a hard time winning, and it's always an issue with solo games as to whether you become naturally biased to one side or another. I made some random roles to decide to strategies - for instance giving the Germans the choice of isolating London ( which I'd have done) or assaulting it (which the dice decided). The weather also frustrated German landings and air support so I don't think they had a particularly easy ride. The British just lacked a decent number of high strength combat units, and perhaps played too passive a game, defending the North Downs/GHQ line rather than trying to push forward and engage - but again I don't think in the early stages they really had the forces to do it.

All in all a fun game thought, and a nice counterpart to SPI's Normandy which I must also replay some time.

***Imported from old blog***

Monday, 15 April 2013

Battle of Lutzen - Liphook


We refought the Battle of Lutzen (1813) as part of Liphook Historical Wargaming Society's series of quarterly Napoleonic Bicentenary battles. For some reason I found myself promoted to
General Wittgenstein and in command of the Allied Army. We had a creative plan which we managed to half implement, but the French kept coming. In the end we managed to hold our position in the villages to nightfall and inflict a good amount of damage on Ney.


A Battle Report Luzten Battle Report - Allies.pdf is attached.

***Imported from old blog***

Monday, 11 March 2013

West Midlands Military Show 2013

Spent an all too brief 90 minutes at the West Midlands Military Show. Good event, nice mix of stalls and games, although probably more of the former, and every stall appeared to have a related games across the aisle from it (not a bad move). Even though I only had time to buy 1 book, it was useful to get eyes on things I'd been thinking about from web sites, and to chat to a few people about rules and scales. Main findings were:

Bacchus 6mm vs Heroics and Ros

WMMS13 - comparing Bacchus 6mm with Heroics & Ros

Having inherited 2 Divisions of French and some Russians by Heroics & Ros (thanks Alan!), and added 2 Divisions of Russians it's time to decide whether to stick to H&R or move to Bacchus. The Irregular Miniatures definitely seem a step down (and hard to paint with cav side by side), and I see what people mean about Adler size and heads. So it was good to be able to put an H&R stand up against some Bacchus.

The good news is that height wise they are a good match, H&R inf a tad shorter but not that you'd notice, cavalry almost spot on.. Bad news - 3 Bacchus figures have the same frontage a 4 H&R figures - the Bacchus figures are altogether chunkier. I had thought the H&R figures a bit thin, Bacchus are probably a bit fat by the same amount. This gives me a slight basing issues as I'd settled on 75mm base for 18 figures in line, and 25mm for 3 ranks of 6 in column, but with Bacchus I can probably only get 15 in a line (worse cased 12) and 3 ranks of 5, maybe only 3 ranks of 4. However since I'm not doing figure based casualties or fighting factor the figures are really only for decoration - and the Bacchus figures certainly look better - so I think I'll try them out for the British divisions I do after the Russians.

6mm Painting

WMMS13 - 6mm painting master class

Opposite the Bacchus stand a nice painting demo/clinic for 6mm, sorry can't remember the guy's name. Really nicely done figures and a good chat about painting and basing. I do like the look of magnetic bases, and keep thinking they should sort the column/line problem, but of course column was at a variety of "orders" (close/quarter/half/open) and so the bases would never quite work unless you wanted to put your line on very narrow bases, or only have a very open column. Main tip I picked up was to use grey undercoat (or main colour of troops), then do a black in wash, and then only paint the non-blacks areas, and a final wash at the end. Worth trying with the Brits.

10mm Science Fiction

WMMS13 - Pendraken SF 10mm

I'd still like to get in to SF gaming, but whilst 28mm seems best for skirmish I'm note sure what the best scale is for platoon/company sized games, or bigger. I've been using 6mm 1/300 for WW2 and Modern, but would like to see more detail for SF so 10mm may be the way forward. Pendraken had a few examples of their range on their stand, but would like to see more. And I can't stand "bug" and "blob" type aliens and combat walkers, so buying a blister pack was out. Perhaps they'll have more at Salute.

Hex Terrain

WMMS13 - neat hex terrain and 10/15s

This was a very impressive hex terrain system, bet it costs a bomb. Far bigger hexes (100mm?) than the 40mm I've decided on, so probably better suited to a "measured" rule system or very large areas, and too costly/fiddly to do at 40mm, but very nice if you've the space and budget. Note the tiered bases to get the height differences.

***Imported from old blog***