Monday, March 31, 2014

Pocast Review - Rex Factor!

Click image to visit the podcast's blog. Also links to Twitter, Facebook etc.

I haven't done a podcast review for a while as there haven't been any that I listen to that have been really all that relevant to the theme of this blog (and to be sure, some the history podcasts I've listened to are a little dry and take a bit of persevering with), but this one is is a cracker. Seeing as how I've recently listened to the George III episode I can legitimately include a review here!

The premise of the podcast is to review and rate all monarchs of England from Alfred the Great to Elizabeth II. The format is for the hosts, Graham Duke and Ali Hood, to discuss the the monarch's biography with Graham doing the heavy lifting in terms of research and narration, while Ali indulges in colourful wit and general light relief, interspersed with the occasional erudite comment. It's like pub conversation between two mates about their favourite kings. The fact that one's done the research stuff while the other relies on his general knowledge means that Ali asks Graham the questions, getting clarification on points, or chipping in with interesting facts or legends, while Graham answers and generally clears up fact from fiction by shooting down legends and popping mythical bubbles.

The real fun is the rating system they've devised to score each monarch using 5 separate categories:

  • Battleyness – how good they are in battle and warfare
  • Scandal – their notoriety and tendency towards naughtiness
  • Subjectivity – how well and justly they ruled (i.e. would you want to be a subject?)
  • Longevity – how long they ruled for
  • Dynasty – how many legitimate, surviving children they had
Battleyness is my favourite, and the earlier Anglo-Saxon and Medieval kings scored quite highly in this category, personally leading armies into battle. Over the episodes, this criterion gradually morphs to battles fought during their reign by others, as fewer monarchs are involved in military campaigns the closer you get to modern times. Scandal is also another favourite as all the juicy stories of sex, murder and financial slipperiness are exposed. After each monarch is given a score, they are then judged by the presenters on whether or not they have  "...that certain something, that lasting legacy, the star quality that we call the Rex Factor." Completely subjective it may be, but both of the presenters justify why they do or don't award the prize, with only Edward the Peaceable causing controversy with the listeners, so far.

After all the monarchs are reviewed, there's going to be a play-off between all the Rex Factor winners to determine the ultimate monarch of England. Voting is under way, so listen to the podcast and vote for your favourite! I was happy that a Hanoverian got the Rex Factor in the person of William IV, but my money's on Charles II for the ultimate prize, especially with his Scandal score, his all-round genial raffish air and his fondness for a witty bon mot, not to mention bringing the kingdom back on an even keel after the chaos of the Civil War and Commonwealth

Highly recommended. I give it 4 out of 5 rosettes.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Handicap Gaming

Tim's come up with a plan to make club games more challenging and fair on those who are not as experienced (or talented; I count myself in this category!) as others, allowing a closer result and, let's be honest, a more enjoyable gaming experience. 

He's proposed a handicap system where more experienced players have a lower handicap (or  Force Differential / FD), which gives them fewer troops to field against someone of a higher FD, ie. an relatively experienced player with an FD of 200 playing against a newbie with an FD of 500 will get to field a 1200 point army against the neophyte's 1500 points.

It seems, at the moment, that a player's FD will be self-determined to be altered at a later stage if it proves to be unrealistic!

I'd be interested to hear from anyone if any club you frequent has tried something like this and what benefits or drawbacks arose. Do you think a Darwinian survival of the fittest is appropriate, or should all ace players be condemned to playing also-ran armies like Spain or Naples?

How I see my own tactical abilities!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Peninsular Heavy Dragoons WIP

In an effort to bring my British Peninsular War cavalry collection up to scratch, I've embarked on an improvement drive starting with last post's lioght dragoons in tarletons.

This time we have heavy dragoons in bicornes. I already have a small unit of heavies in helmets, which are really only appropriate for the 100 days' campaign, or as dragoon guards in the Peninsula. This lot shown here are the real deal for the majority of the 1808-1814 Iberian theatre of war.

The horses and heads come from a swap I did with Kinch a while back, which included several sprues of the HaT British Heavy Dragoons. Again, only appropriate for the 100 Days, but, interestingly, also come with separate bicorne wearing heads. The HaT figures have the same wooden poses common to a lot of their early figures, and the long horse hair crests would have taken a lot of fiddly scraping away with a sharp knife, so I never really considered using the spare heads on those figures.

What I do have lots of, though, are truckloads of Esci and Italeri Scots Greys, also inherited from various swaps or as gifts over the years.

So, Esci/Italeri figures on HaT horses with HaT heads. Et vóila! Peninsula-ready British heavies! They'll need some paint conversion to add the regimental lace on the chest and cuffs, but aside from that, they're ready. They are purely for club games, and not a historical unit like le Marchant's Heavy Cavalry Brigade, so 6 figures is appropriate for a small attached heavy regiment for my British forces

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

British Light Dragoons

Enough with the Horrible Histories and Dark Ages shenanigans, I hear you say! Well who am I to stand in the way? Back to the main game it is then!

I present to you Strelets' British Light Dragoons painted as the 12th LD ready for service in my Peninsular War British forces. The figures are from Strelets' Egyptian Campaign range, and the riders sport hair tied in a queue, but compared to the Italeri Light Dragoons, which are only appropriate from 1813 onwards, these are much more appropriate for the majority of the Peninsular War.

These chaps also took me beyond my target of 600 points in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge! Huzzah!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Introduction to SAGA!

I bet you didn't think you'd see this on my blog! :)

I had my SAGA cherry popped last weekend after the Waterloo 2015 planning committee finished our initial meeting at the Croydon venue last Saturday (I put my hand up to be Wellington. What was I thinking?!). Darren suggested a game of SAGA after the meeting. He has only a 4 point Viking army, so Pete brought along his 15mm Dark Ages troops. We were going to use a stand of them as equivalent to a single 28mm figure, instead of the 28mm figures, but it was looking more and more complicated. Leith happened to be passing and Darren's 28mm Gripping Beast figures caught his eye. When he realised we didn't have enough 28mm figures he generously offered to lend us his. Well, we couldn't take his figures without inviting him to play, so we duly set up a 4 points a side Vikings vs Anglo-Danes game. Darren and Pete were the Vikings and Leith and I were Anglo-Dane.

There was no scenario, just a up and at 'em fight to get to know the rules, which are simple enough once you get a grip on the mechanics. I'm not sure I'd call them historically accurate, more a glorified rock, paper, scissors with dice, but whatever; I had a blast!

I ended up with my whole command completely wiped out, except for my warlord. I took a fair few of Pete's Vikings with me, but the single warlord accounted for ALL the rest of Pete's command! He was a one man killing machine! He must have been a little pooped after all that killing, because he couldn't lay a finger on Pete's last figure, which allowed the Vikings that extra dice, dammit! My warlord was chasing Pete's last Viking around like a scene from Benny Hill (cue saxophone theme).

Darren and Leith had hardly come to blows before Pete and I had virtually wiped each other out. They contacted and similarly entered into a particularly bloody affray with Leith coming off decidedly second best, leaving Darren and Pete the victors.

It was a really fun game with simple, easy to learn rules. Pete was worried he was going to have a hernia at one stage we were laughing so much! Who needs a warband when you've got a one-man killing machine for a warlord! RAAAAAHHHH!

I enjoyed myself so much, I'm going to build my own Anglo-Saxon force using Gripping Beast 28mm plastic figures (yes, you read right; 28mm figures!)

My command; closest to furthest - levy archers, warriors, huscarls

Some of Darren's lovely Gripping Beast Vikings

And another lot

Pete took command of Darren's figures including the Wolfkin-clad berserkers and mail-clad fyrd

Leith's Huscarl's (including one dropping his trousers!) and warriors

Another warrior band

Another view of Leiths Huscarl band
Pete took the initiative and took a double move to get stuck into my levy before they started launching arrow volleys. Not a good start for the Anglo-Danes!

Half the levy are destroyed in first contact! The rest follow soon after.
My warriors, accompanied by the warlord, exact revenge on the Vikings...

...and destroy the lot! They took a few casualties in the process, while the berserkers loom in the background!

In the centre, the two warrior bands clash, with the Anglo-Danes virtually destroyed!

Next turn, they are!

The berserkers attack like a swarm of buzz-saw armed kamikazes!
The warlord is left as sole survivor of the combat!

The Viking warriors sense an easy kill and gang up on the warlord.

Bad mistake! He kills 2 Vikings and forces them back...

...and then goes for the throat in the next turn!


Only one left! He runs...

...but the warlord chases...

...and misses!

The chase is on! Cue Benny Hill:

On the other side Darren's fyrd attack Leith's warriors. In a meat-grinder, Leith survives...

...but Darren brings up reinforcements accompanied by the warlord!

The Anglo-Danes are doomed!

Leith's HUscarls then get whacked by Darren's remaining group of warriors; Game over!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy Birthday RAAF! - Centenary of Military Aviation in Australia Air-Show 1914-2014

Spitfire Mk.VIII

This weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook just outside Melbourne in March 1914. Today the airbase is still there as little more than a museum and training school surrounded by encroaching suburbia.

Mrs. R surprised me by suggesting we go en familie to the air-display. Even though I secretly wouldn't have minded going (my inner 13-year old was drooling at the thought!), I really didn't think my wife or kids would have the slightest interest. I was propably right regarding my kids' interest, but Mrs. R and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. I really surprised myself by giving my inner 13 year old his head and getting quite excited watching the flying exhibits, hearing the growl of the engines and smelling the fumes! It brought me back 30 years ago making Matchbox and Airfix 1/72nd models and memorizing the maximum speeds, armaments and powerplants of my favourite planes.

We arrived in perfect time for the WWII warbirds flying display including the Catalina flying boat, P-40 Kittyhawk, CAC Boomerang, Lockheed Hudson, CAC Wirraway, Supermarine Spitfire and CAC P-51 Mustang. We arrived too late for the Bristol Boxkite and Sopwith Pup, but caught the post-war and Korean War flights of a de Havilland Vampire, Gloster Meteor and North American F-86 Sabre and the RAAF aerobatic display team, the Roulettes.

Below are the pick of my photos from the day as well as some short clips of some of the planes in action. Sorry about the quality of some of the clips, but I think you'll agree the sound and vision give some idea of the action of the day. I still get a special thrill at the sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine starting, let alone as the throttle is opened on one as the plane takes off!

PBY Catalina in night raiding black livery

P-40 Kittyhawk

Spitfire and Kittyhawk taxiing

Early war flypast: (top to bottom; P-40, Lockheed Hudson, CAC Boomerang)

CAC Wirraway

CAC P-51 Mustang

Sopwith Pup
Bristol Boxkite

Rolls Royce Merlin firing up!

Spitfire taking off

...followed by the Mustang...

...and then the Kittyhawk

The RAAF Roulettes start their routine

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