Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Viking Experience is now available on Amazon

The Viking Experience  
The Viking Experience is a general history of the Vikings by Dr Marjolein Stern and yours truly, and I am excited that it is now available through Amazon. Far be it from me to praise this book overmuch but I am really quite pleased with how it turned out. It is in full colour with plenty of illustrations and comes in a slipcase with removable inserts illustrating important documents of the time. Rather than blather on about it, I shall let the publisher's blurb speak for me:

'From the remote and unforgiving landscape of northern Europe, the Vikings voyaged to far-flung areas of the world with extraordinary consequences. The Viking Experience examines the origins, explorations and settlements of these seafaring people, exploring their impact on the world as colonizers, craftsmen, traders and state-makers. This highly illustrated book provides a revealing portrait of the Vikings’ incredible legacy with a collection of facsimiles and translations of rare documents, including:
  • Drawings and photographs from archaeological dig sites
  • An extract from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, describing a Viking raid on Lindisfarne
  • The Skálholt map that marks Norse discoveries in the western Atlantic
  • A page from the Stockholm Codex Aureus, an illuminated manuscript that was looted by the Vikings
  • The Vinland map showing Norse exploration of America as an example of recreated Viking history'

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Existential Berserker: A search for meaning


For want of anything else to post at the moment, I thought I should publicise my new post on the Nottingham University English Language and Applied Linguistics blog. This short discussion of what Old Norse berserkr actually meant to the medieval saga authors might provide some food for thought for rules writers and Viking army enthusiasts.

One of the cornerstones of my thesis is that there is a significant gulf between the modern English meaning of 'berserker' and the medieval meaning of Old Norse berserkr, despite their semantic relationship, and that this gulf has led to misinterpretations of who and what they were. Obviously this has an effect on how they are depicted in wargames armies too and I hope to go into that in a future post.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Some photographs from the end of the Great War

With the centenary of the Great War coming up, and my plans to refight elements of it, I was reminded of some photos from the period in the family album. The only definite date I have for any of them is 1918. I thought I would post them, partly because I am too busy to game at the moment and I don't want the blog to get too quiet, but also because I thought they might be of interest. Also, I have little information about a lot of these so if anyone is able to glean more information from them, please let me know.
I have no idea which unit this is and family stories tell me nothing
The rugby team
My great-great aunt (or thereabouts) met her husband in this hospital
Or possibly in this one

My great-grandfather and great-grandmother in France in 1918 according to the writing on the back of the photo

When in France on holiday, one buys postcards of big guns!

It is important to have your photograph taken with the subject of some of your postcards
Once also buys postcards of ruins
 
And of destroyed forests with a crashed plane in them

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2013 - A Belated Retrospective featuring 2014 - Some Plans

I've not been hugely active on this blog of late, so I thought I would post the obligatory retrospective. Overall, last year was a pretty shitty year for me, for a variety of reasons, but my gaming helped me keep my head above water, and I did write a book that will be published in March (See the Amazon sidebar), so it is not all bad.

Games played:
The list looks longer than it really is, because I logged the modules that ASL scenarios came from as well as logging ASL itself, but I have logged 29 games in the past year. I may have forgotten to log a couple, and I feel sure that there was at least one game that did not have a BGG entry for me to log it. Still, that is not bad at all for me, and my biggest pleasure was getting back into ASL. It has been years since I played it ftf so the appearance of a player in the area is a godsend. I can't wait to get more ASL on board this year.
GameQty
Advanced Squad Leader7
Rally Round the King7
Tomorrow's War (second edition)6
Car Wars: The Card Game2
DreadBall: The Futuristic Sports Game2
The Last Hurrah - ASL Module 62
ASL Action Pack #4: Normandy 19441
Beyond Valor: ASL Module 11
Chandragupta1
Doomed Battalions: ASL Module 111
DreadBall: Void Sirens1
Hollow Legions - ASL Module 71
Maurice - War in an Age of Gentlemen and Philosophers: 1690-17901
Paratrooper - ASL Module 21
Polemos: Great Northern War1
Warheads Medieval Tales1
Zombies!!!1
Of the other games I played, Rally Round the King has remained at the top of the list (tied with ASL). It is a superb system for quick battles and the campaign is still ongoing over on Talomir Tales. There is a slight hiatus at the moment due to my workload but I shall be pushing on with it in the next week or two.

Tomorrow's War has come in a close third place. I enjoy it but the layout of the rules makes my head hurt. It really does need a better index.

Dreadball proved to be a fun game. I had dithered over buying it for ages and then was pleased when I did. The way Steve and I play, I cannot imagine us having any of the problems that the forum recounts, so I look forward to playing that some more too.

I thought we had played Warheads more than once, but I appear to have logged only one game. This is another fun game that could easily be played with more normal figures. All kudos to Steve for the Magic Roundabout style terrain that perfectly suited the style of the game though. We need to play this more.

Maurice was another game that we wanted to play more, but things got a bit hectic at the back end of the year. It's on the list for this year. I have some ideas for a mini-campaign, but need to make time for it.

One other thing I did last year that I have not done in a while was delve back into the world of boardgaming. I bought Chandragupta, Chariots of Fire, Lion of the North, Nothing Gained but GloryWizard Kings and several ASL modules. These last were primarily to update my ASL set with the newer versions of scenarios and for the Starter Kit style boards they contained. Wizard Kings is a simple game that I have played before and I wanted a set for something light to play when I am feeling brain-dead. The others are all largely in the same series from GMT and cover battles in ancient India, chariot warfare in the Middle East, the Thirty Years War and the Scanian War. Now all I need to do is find the time to read all the rules and play them all.

The Objectives:
I failed on most of my objectives for last year, but I have excuses that I consider to be valid. This year's objectives are both easier and more ambitious at the same time. They are easier because they will involve painting fewer figures, but more ambitious because they involve playing more of the same game without getting distracted.


On to the Future:
This year I have one big plan. I bought the Death of Glory book for Command Decision: Test of Battle and I intend to play it through. I have played Command Decision since first edition and CD:ToB is the latest iteration of the game. Although I have not yet played it through, I have read the rules and am enthused about it, because it really does look like a significant improvement on previous versions. Death of Glory covers the fighting in the Lorraine region in 1914, and includes a bunch of scenarios plus a mini-campaign. Steve has painted a 6mm Irregular minis German army for this and I am painting the French.

If the Death of Glory project succeeds, then I plan to try getting enough commanders on board later in the year to play the 'Home before the leaves fall' campaign from Over the Top, which was the original Command Decision Great War rules. This campaign covers August and September 1914 on both the Eastern and Western fronts. It has room for six or seven commanders and thus has plenty of room for command confusion and stupidity. The commanders are: French, British, Russian, German Overall Commander, German Western Front and German Eastern Front. The Belgians will join in only if they get invaded. The only problem is getting all the games played promptly enough to keep everyone interested, so I shall be looking at either having an abstract system for determining battles and only playing the most interesting one each turn, or recruiting people around the world to fight some of the battles for me. We'll have to see how the Death of Glory project goes first though.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Blue Wizard is about to DIE!!!!! (short AAR and thoughts on the game)

We were both a bit frazzled last night, so Steve and I opted for a light game. This was just the opportunity I needed to drag out Blue Wizard is About to DIE!!!! This is a game based around the old Atari favourite Gauntlet, so I was quite keen to try it out, because I had fond memories of spending all night playing Gauntlet with my mates. I bought it from Wargame Vault as a pdf and printed all the components a couple of weeks ago. Now I had the opportunity to see how it actually played.

Description
The game can be played with 1-5 players. Players take the role of Amazon, Barbarian, Elf and Wizard. Each character has three lives, so when you die you are not out of the game immediately. If you use up your three lives, you must buy a new one by putting 50 gold in the slot or you are out of the game. In some variants, one player can take the role of Sorcerer and takes responsibility for moving all the monsters and generally being mean to the characters.
Amazon, Barbarian, Elf and Wizard stand ready to enter the dungeon

Characters are rated for the number of attacks they may make each turn and the amount of damage they can do. Amazon has a low power short range attack and a medium power melee attack. Barbarian is a total melee monster but has no ranged attack. Elf and Wizard both have low power melee attacks and good long-range attacks. Each character also has a special attack, which costs gold and health points to use but can prove quite devastating. Note to self: do not fire a lightning bolt at an adjacent monster. It hurts!

All characters move the same distance, but their speed is represented by the directions they may move in. Amazon may move in any direction. Wizard may make one diagonal move and may pass through one wall per turn. Barbarian and Elf may not move diagonally at all.

They must make their way through three dungeon levels filled with Grunks, Slimes and Spooks to find and defeat Sorcerer on the fourth level. On the way, they can search treasure chests for power-ups and healing, while trying to avoid the dreaded Freeze Trap.

The game is played semi-cooperatively. All players are on the same side but only one can actually win, while it is possible for all of them to lose. The winner is the character with the most gold at the end.
Level 1: Amazon and Wizard work together to clear their side of the dungeon. Barbarian is happy on his own, while Elf is trying to steal all the treasure and avoid the Grunks.
Monsters move towards the nearest players and attack them with little strategy and lots of brute force. They spawn each turn in the corners of the dungeon level and move towards the nearest character. If they end their move in range, they automatically do damage.
Level 3: Spooks, Slimes and Grunts everywhere! Tough level.
The Game
We had a thoroughly enjoyable game. Levels 1 and 2 went well for us. The monsters spawned and were killed at about the same rate. We found some treasure and moved on. Then we hit Level 3 and suddenly the flood-gates opened. We were swarmed by all types of monsters and all the characters lost lives trying to get through from the entrance to the exit portal. We should have had a couple of characters stand on portals to slow the rate of advance but we were not cooperating well, as we tried to get each other killed and take the magic items that the other dropped. Eventually we did it, and fought Sorcerer on the fourth level. After the difficulties of Level 3, Level 4 was almost an anti-climax. Sorcerer did little damage and we wore him down quickly. Victory was ours and Wizard won by having the most gold, despite having blown himself up with a lighting bolt at one point.

The Verdict
It was good fun. The game took longer than expected, but it worked well. The rules required some interpretation in places. They are short and to the point, but could have done with a bit more explanation in places. Aesthetically, the printed components are nice, but I was glad that I had dug out some figures to use instead of the character counters. Next time I shall dig out figures for the monsters too. Using figures lifted the game visually. It also leaves me tempted to produce the dungeon levels using my Hirst Arts moulds. That said, I think this is an occasional game, and not a regular game, so the effort is probably not justified. It is still a very good value-for-money game. At £3 (plus ink and card), I feel like I got a pretty decent product. I shall dig it out again next time we are too frazzled to play something more serious.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

So, umm, I wrote a book ...


Over the Summer, a friend and I wrote a book about Vikings. It will be published in March, but is already up on Amazon for pre-order. If you already know a lot about Vikings, then this is the book to buy your friends to get them interested too. If you know little or nothing about Vikings, then this is the book for you. It's a general history with pictures and pull-out sections to illustrate all the points made. It also includes ideas for places to visit that are related to Vikings, so you can investigate their haunts in more detail. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

The publisher's blurb:
'From the remote and unforgiving landscape of northern Europe, the Vikings voyaged to far-flung areas of the world with extraordinary consequences. The Viking Experience examines the origins, explorations and settlements of these seafaring people, exploring their impact on the world as colonizers, craftsmen, traders and state-makers. This highly illustrated book provides a revealing portrait of the Vikings incredible legacy with a collection of facsimiles and translations of rare documents, including: Drawings and photographs from archaeological dig sites An extract from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, describing a Viking raid on Lindisfarne The Skálholt map that marks Norse discoveries in the western Atlantic A page from the Stockholm Codex Aureus, an illuminated manuscript that was looted by the Vikings The Vinland map showing Norse exploration of America as an example of recreated Viking history.'

I really have to admit to being a little giddy and excited about this. :) 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Lack of Progress

I have been painting some Irregular Miniatures 6mm WW1 French troops for our planned 1914 campaign next year. I have also done a little more work on expanding the 15mm Pieces of Eight/ Maurice army. However, progress is slow and painting time is limited, so they are not finished and ready for photographing yet. I am also finding that I am not motivated to paint much at the moment, so, instead, here is a photo of my cats. Javier asked for cat pictures, so blame him. :)
Victor (left) and Jasmine