Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas: Friends, Family and the Force Awakens


For a variety of reasons this post has taken a while to get to and as a result is in fact a combination of three. Christmas has been and gone but Maison Crook has been busy with all the usual pleasantries - Christmas Eve at the local church for their Christingle concert, family visits and the sheer joy of having our 5 year old grandson to stay. Needless to say industrial sized quantities of Lego have been built and repaired as well as umpteen readings of the assorted Marvel Heroes adventures (note to self - I must make a concerted effort to acquaint myself further with the adventures of Iron Man and Captain America). We have certainly eaten too much and and have (probably) drank too much as well but it is only once a year after all.

The three stooges meeting on a rather wet Monday in the heart of the West End of London. Yours truly on the right, Paul in the centre and Reilly doing the honours in respect of the 'Selfie'

At a personal level the holiday season really started on Monday 21/12 when I had the pleasure of meeting my long time partner in VSF crime - the redoubtable Paul O'Grady and his son 'Right Stuff' Reilly. For a short while before the day we may have also had the company of Bob Cordery but sadly he had to pass due to unforeseen circumstances. Nevertheless we hoisted a cold one in his honour.

The last time I met up with Paul was around 6 years ago so it was a real delight when he mentioned that he and his family were passing through London en route down under (via Norway for Christmas) and that a meeting could be slotted in. We spent a very pleasant Monday afternoon including a very good lunch, numerous examples of the Brewers art (ahem...) and a flying visit to both the Orc's Nest and Forbidden Planet. We talked gaming, life, the universe and everything in it - and also swapped a couple of purchases to avoid ruinous shipping charges. I will describe mine a little later but will refrain from mentioning my side of the arrangement as I am sure that Paul will prefer that pleasure in due course! Reilly is a delight to talk to and I have seldom met a more grounded and mature 14 year old - you do not get to be an Eagle Scout for nothing - and it was a privilege to meet him. I would certainly not want to play Bloodbowl with him though - he sounds far too good for my modest abilities!

The title on the left I have coveted for some years now - I did not paying some £40 for the UK paperback version though! The title on the right came as a very unexpected surprise - and one that I am truly grateful for!

My half of our mutual purchase arrangement was a hardback copy of a book I have been after for some time but was reluctant to order from the US as the shipping would have been expensive and the value of the item would be sure to incur customs charges. Taking both of these factors into consideration it would mean that the price would have been effectively double - and certainly not financially viable for my budget. A paperback version is available in the UK but this is in fact dearer than the hardback version from the US and if I am honest, I really begrudge paying out more than the cost of an Osprey campaign title in softback. An exchange of emails with Paul whilst he was in the US meant that he acquired this for me and carried to the UK whilst I got some goodies for him (top secret at the moment!) - with the exchange taking place over a couple of very nice beers. What I was not expecting though is that Paul had also acquired the Russian Campaign title by way of a surprise for little old me! I can't thank him enough for this gesture and it is a very welcome addition to the Russo-Turkish section of the library. The Allan and Muratoff title covers everything you wanted to know about the campaigns in the Caucasus between 1828 and 1921 between the Russians and the Turks - maps, orders of battle, campaign details - everything the aspiring war-games campaigner could need! I will review both of these titles in more detail once I have had the chance to read them.

So to sum up this part of the post I had a really good afternoon with an old friend and his son which really set the tone for Christmas. I should also point out that whilst the new Star Wars film was discussed at length Paul was diplomatic enough NOT to tell me what happened other than that they both really enjoyed it!

Christmas loot - and it rather reflects my somewhat eclectic tastes! The Serbian title further complements my growing Balkan collection.


As far as the Christmas present haul was concerned I was a very lucky chap indeed! My fondness for anything Balkans related was acknowledged by SWMBO who also knows that I am a sucker for anything to do with spying, secret agents and special operations (I have bored her incessantly over the years - especially as I recall when we went to Crete for a holiday - the scene of the operation described by Patrick Leigh Fermor) hence the new Max Hastings title and Patrick Leigh Fermor's account of the kidnap of General Kriepe. SWMBO also surprised me with the copy of Frostgrave - rather she surprised me when I said I was going to get it so she could wrap it up for me for Christmas - she readily agreed which in itself was rather unusual! I enjoyed Master and Commander on DVD so the Blu-Ray was a welcome surprise from Holly who is currently home from University. Finally my son, Reece, surprised his old man with a very welcome £50 Waterstone's voucher which I am sure to put to good use.

The Force Awakens

Holly, the redoubtable Mr Fox and myself are going to see the new Star Wars film tomorrow and needless to say I am really looking forward to this. I would ask respectfully that any readers refrain from posting any spoilers by way of comments although I have a pretty good idea of what happens and I also have a theory about what will happen in Episode 8 and 9....:-)

So in closing I hope that you all had a very pleasant Christmas and in case I do not get the chance to post again before 2016 have a healthy and safe new year!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Return of the Mac

At last! After 11 phone calls, 5 emails and 14 text messages the broadband service to Maison Crook has been returned to full power. In fact it is now faster than previously so I can at last get down to some serious work on the new family PC. Attempting to commission a new computer without the net has been a frustrating experience to say the least....

Our new PC is an IMac so for home use it is goodbye to Windows and hello Apple - and I am really excited about the potential of this brave new world.

In the meantime though, I have a number of posts to complete and publish and these will include a battle report, a couple of reviews and most importantly of all - a meeting with a fellow blogger that took place in the rather wet West End of London on Monday afternoon just gone....

More to follow - and it is good to be back!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Internet Issues

Aside from the usual work related dramas I have also been struggling with a very poor internet service from our friends at BT. After some nine phonecalls to the wilds of Bangalore or wherever else in India the Broadband technical support team are located they have finally discovered that the problem is in fact a line fault that an engineer will be fixing next Tuesday. At least I think is what he meant when he said he would 'see you next Tuesday'....

It has been really frustrating but to be fair we have never really had any problems with BT over the years. It does make it doubly frustrating when you are also trying to set up a new PC as well!

I hope to be posting on a more regular basis after Tuesday with not only a battle report, details of a couple of new additions to the collection but also a very important meeting tomorrow taking place between yours truly and a well known member of the blogosphere.

I will say no more at this point so as not to spoil the surprise....;-)

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Command and Colours: Weird War 2

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The Heroscape US Airborne figures in their original finish

It has been a busy couple of weeks so the blog has dried up slightly. Work has been frantic and I have also been suffering from a chesty cough which has been particularly tenacious. The net result of this is that little has been done in a practical sense. I have managed to get some planning done and the reading has caught up - I am a fanatical user of my commuting time on the train - but nothing tangible on the gaming front. I have set up and action to fight and this is what forms the subject for this post. The battle has yet to be fought as I need to finalise the rules I have been working on - a Sci-Fi version of Command and Colours or, more specifically, Bob Cordery's MOMBAT or Memoir of Modern Battle.

The game has been set up using some of the recently acquired collection of Heroscape figures and a standard Command and Colours playing area of 13 x 9 Hexon tiles. The figures in use are the WW2 US Paratroopers and the alien Marro. The terrain consists of a number of trees from my collection (and I need to base them on something smaller than present), a scattering of hills including a small plateau, a ruined research centre, the magnificent Marro Hive and a number of rough hexes designated by the liberal use of an old aquarium plant broken up into segments. They are a little rough looking at the moment but will have some work in due course to make them a little more alien looking.

The Back Story

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A selection of the Alien Marro figures. The chap on the right is a conversion - although not one of mine, the picture is courtesy of Google Images.

I set great store by having a background to whatever wargame I play and Sci-Fi and Fantasy games are no exception. What I have decided on for this little mini project falls very much into the Weird War 2/Secrets of the Third Reich category - although with a little twist as it features Imperial Japan.

When U234 arrived in Tokyo Bay and mid 1945 few could have foreseen the impact its small cargo would have. Aside from quantities of Uranium Oxide and a crated Me 262 jet fighter there was also a a small number of V 4 containers. It was the V 4 chemical that the Nazis used to such devastating effect in the creation of the dreaded Sturm and Bomber Zombies used in their top secret underground Gibraltar base. The V 4 containers were sent under heavy escort to the secret laboratory used by unit 731 for their chemical and biological weapon development  - with volunteers selected from the Kami Kaze corps and also from a local Sumo wrestling academy.

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Marro support troops

Following the application of the chemical it was quickly realised that something had gone. During transit from Germany on board  U234 the V 4 had been stored next to the Uranium Oxide. Unfortunately the Uranium Oxide was not sealed correctly and was therefore able to contaminate the V 4 chemical. This contamination caused the V 4 to completely reorganise the victims body chemistry to make them very different from what was intended. Essentially the victims body chemistry was completely reordered and gave rise to a very different life form - a life form that was ferocious, cunning and above all, sentient.

Initially the Japanese scientists opted to keep the Kaiju or 'monster' in a secure holding area in the laboratory complex as the initial batch had already killed a number of investigating scientists and armed guards. As well as being ferocious close combat specialists the Kaiju possessed the ability to convert certain mechanical items into biological versions of the same by coating the said object in a secreted bodily fluid - as a result of this they were soon able to arm themselves with 'living guns'.

The Kaiju were 'asexual' and were able to lay eggs to produce their offspring so in a fairly short space of time they quickly increased their numbers. The Japanese scientists, realising that this experiment had gone very wrong were going to blow the entire complex up to eradicate the menace within.

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The Marro Hive - note the 'eggs'. Early indications are that it is made from some kind of secreted resin - but secreted from what?

They were too late - the USAAF did this for them in the shape of a vast B29 raid that destroyed the laboratory, the out buildings and everything in it.

Or had they?

The Americans were aware that the Japanese had been experimenting with the German V 4 chemical and so assumed that by way of survivors from the bombing raid (assuming there were any) all they would encounter would some of the Zombie types. A special Airborne unit was hurriedly assembled with the intention of dropping on the site, collecting any data that may still be found and getting the results back to the US Intelligence service in advance of the landing being planned.

It would be quick 'smash and grab' raid and as the troop transports headed off into the Japanese night sky the paratroopers confidence was high.

To be continued....