Tuesday 28 November 2023

The Man From The Future - John von Neumann (Audible Books)

I thought I knew something about John von Neumann, but this book amazed my by revealing how little I really knew about him at all. He was the definition of a Polymath .. and  a Nobel one at that, in many fields! So, hand on heart, I can thoroughly recommend this title (see below, I listened too it via Audible, but intend to buy the book too, so I can skim through the chapters again .. I cannot give a higher recommendation than that): 

A tantalising peek at its contents reveals: 

"The smartphones in our pockets and computers like brains. The vagaries of game theory and evolutionary biology. Self-replicating moon bases and nuclear weapons. All bear the fingerprints of one remarkable man: John von Neumann.

Born in Budapest at the turn of the century, von Neumann is one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. His colleagues believed he had the fastest brain on the planet - bar none. He was instrumental in the Manhattan Project and helped formulate the bedrock of Cold War geopolitics and modern economic theory. He created the first ever programmable digital computer. He prophesied the potential of nanotechnology and, from his deathbed, expounded on the limits of brains and computers - and how they might be overcome."

It is also pitched at the general reader (so I didn't have that Stephen Hawkins Brief History of Time, "What does that mean?" - effect here on me).

Saturday 25 November 2023

Platoon 20 - NVA Figures

Inspired by the recent series of "Ghosts of the Jungle" games I visited my silver pile of shame in the loft for Vietnam figures and found pretty much a whole platoon of NVA Regulars to paint up. They had been based and primed so it was just a matter of gritting your teeth and letting go with the Vallejo paints (see below, the finished product or rather formation):  

A labour of love that has took twenty years to finish. Given the old casting quality (as in poor) - I best not drop them too hard!

Apologies for no close ups!

Wednesday 22 November 2023

My WhatsApp Problem Sorted - Reset Method


This is how: Google says - 

Right Click Start, then head to Settings > Apps
Select Apps & Features
From the Apps list, select WhatsApp and click Advanced Features
Select the Reset Button
Open WhatsApp and check if it's working.

Note: It did warn that it might lose data, but I was OK

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Professional Wargames - What the UK Government Sees

On www.gov.uk news today (17/11/2023) there is this interesting little article (see link below):


Nice to see that the educational power of games is being used to good effect.
Along with publications such as:

Influence Wargaming:

Wargaming Handbook:

Bodes well for sensible decision making (perhaps).

Monday 20 November 2023

"Ghosts of the Jungle" Playtest - Charlie fights, er Charlie!

I hit the critical mass (or Minimal Viable Product [MVP]) for the cast of characters, fully painted and ready for "The Ghosts of the Jungle", so it was time for a play-test  (see below, [the "specials" from a previous post are still 'in progress' - what you see here are 15 VC [Platoon 2- and Britannia Miniatures] and 8 US Special Force LRRP [Platoon 20]):

The game board is set up (see below, I chose to use 'explore mode' by giving the US insertion force a grid map, but only exposing "stuff" in LOS and not hidden from view): 

The US player (confusingly called Charlie) has been given an information extraction mission/ Get to a designation spot and retrieve some "information" and then get out. Body count was of no consequence to him, the mission's success rested on getting the "information" off the board and having all members of the LRRP intact (as in, at least with one hit point left). I added a layer of pre-game rumour "acquisition" - some helpful, some wrong and some just pla-in contradictory (in classic D&D fashion). What was ascertained was that there was little air support because teh Americans were busy elsewhere and you could and could not trust the villagers (who were VC, maybe or just "sometimes").  Although not a regular wargamer, Charlie took to the game like a duck taking to water.

Foot Note: In his own words, Charlie's success, came from his days of playing an old 1980/90's problem-solving computer games, in particular one called X-COM. This seems to fit into the "tower style" puzzle solver game, where you break through the enemy's defences by seeing weaknesses in their patterns. X-COM recently gained a second lease of life, with a 2015-20's revamp and series of follow on releases.

Back to the mission, which was played with an impressive amount of stealth and patience (waiting for the correct moment to 'move on' or to 'strike hard' ..good enough being far better than waiting "too long" for complete safe option). Reaching "X marks the spot", the "information package" turned out to be a downed (and wounded)  USAF airman, "Oh!" said Charlie (a bit of an understatement). The flyboy was promptly patched (and drugged) up by the SAS lads to get him as a "walking wounded" - the LRRP back-tracked out the way they had came in (while pushing, pulling, carrying and cajoling the Yank). The [exciting] "helicopter evacuation" option was not activated .. which would probably mean "hold a designated Alamo position" until the helicopter gunships and rescue helicopter came in. In the end the LRRP had a few scratches to show from a bit of fighting, but had successfully extricated themselves in a very professional manner! Beer on the USAF at the Australian NAAFI bar!

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Contrast Paints - Am I still not "Getting It"? (Probably Not)

As is my want, when in town I pop into any shop that could vaguely have wargaming "related" (as in useful) material in it. My local "Boyes" shop (apologies for those overseas or out of the relative area - so Boyes makes no sense) has Vallejo paints. Straight in like Flynn! As I was perusing the Vallejo aisle doing my usual -"Which colours do I have?" and only having a vague sense of this one and that one" - I  saw a new rack of Vallejo paints called, Xpress Color. Well certainly I had "none" of them and what is more there, was only a pitiful few of them left on the shelves. That talked volumes to me, so I picked up two of the stragglers (see below, Plague Green and Black Lotus - Contrast Paints by any other name): 

I rushed back home eager to give it a bash with Vallejo's babies - having had a hit and miss affair with GW's Contrast Paints. The targets were a set of 10mm Pendraken Modern Warsaw Pact and NATO British ("Cold War Gone Hot" era) toys. The result was really a heavy all over green wash with blue-black boots and metal gun parts. They are relatively small kit so probably not the 25/28mm ideal target range, but to me it was still a "primer and very good wash" [all my crevesses are certainly covered] but still really wanting paint. Though probably "less" than normal. It certainly was a factory style productionline, which is good.

Afterwards I set off around the Internet to see what others thought. The accomplished painter "The Beard Bunker" was of interest.

My verdict: I think I am still missing the point and probably playing around with too small a scale for real benefit! Washes are probably good enough for 10mm. 

Sunday 12 November 2023

Remembrance Sunday 2023

A small village in North Yorkshire remembers (see below, the pictures say it all): 

The community knitted the poppies.

Researched the names.

Found the faded photographs.

Across two world wars.

And remembered.

Lest we forget.

Friday 10 November 2023

Ghosts of the Jungle .. More Nam Figures .. (1/72, 20mm, 1/76)

When you are preparing for a game like "Ghosts of the Jungle" (allegedly a player cooperative play game, which also means you can be left at the mercy of other players "intelligent" decisions), there are always the game "odds and ends" you need to paint up .. just to oil the mechanics and make-up "special events" or have in the "background". They are typically not the sexy, sexy exciting figures that jump onto the painting table, but they have an important game function to do. For example, a VC truck (on loan to North Vietnam from the USSR, via the Plastic Soldier Company WWII Russian transport collection) to terrorise anybody trying to cross a seemingly deserted jungle track in the game, a couple of VC figures who can nicely fit in the back of said truck [of ESCI/Italeri 1/72 VC origins - waiting to be painted for some twenty years], some (as in eight) Platoon 20 Villagers [who under the game the mechanics could turn into VC], eight Platoon 20 SAS LRRP soldiers [OK they are pretty sexy, but were an upgrade from the US LRRP that I was previously using] and finally a downed helicopter pilot, in wounded and walking poses (see below, the primed and Vallejo brown washed ready for the "real" painting to start): 

It is "good for the soul" when you get figures at least to this stage ;) 

Thursday 9 November 2023

Audible - "A Savage War of Peace" Alistair Horne

Ever since reading, or should I say literally burned the print from the page with my mark one eyeball from Alistair Horne's "To lose a Battle: France 1940" - I knew I had to go on and complete his four part French Trilogy (akin to Douglas Adams five part Hitch-Hikers Guide to teh Trilogy). It was a bucket list "thing" for me to do. I devoured "The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916" but then came to an abrupt halt. Despite buying both the Franco Prussian prequel ("The Fall of Paris: The Siege and teh Commune 1870-71") and the de Gaulle sequel ("A Savage Wat of Peace: Algeria 1954 - 64"), the books never leapt into my hands. They have remained a "pile of pages" for decades, shameful look down. To jumpstart the much delayed process I saw Audible had "A Savage War of Peace" so downloaded it and jumped in feet first (see below, I had been warned from others that it was not a "happy book" and they were absolutely right, it made the Northern Ireland troubles look kindergarten by comparison):  

When I finally finished it, there was a sense of relief, "that's over". The only way I can try to describe it is as, "watching a good sports team play their professional game in a haphazard unprofessional amateur fashion. What they did well, was done in teh wrong places for the wrong reasons. The star goal scorer  (de Gaulle) was living off his past victories and prestige. I feel as if I now know how little I really know about France, having had but a small glimpse of their suffering and self inflicted post-Colonial malaise (of both indignation and sense of collective guilt). I now need a way to get into the Franco Prussian chapter - I seem to have read them all in the wrong sort of order.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Exploring WWII with an Old Friend: Panzer Leader

Back in 2019, yes pre-Covid, and a memory dredged up from the "Draft" folder. I was looking at Panzer Leader with a friend (see below, I think this is the first Panzer Leader scenario, US Paras dropping behind the lines in Normandy 1944 to grab a vital road junction - but which one?):

The set-up suggests a "gang up" action by teh Allied Player of one of three defended villages (see below, the German player has to hedge his bets and guess "where" the US Paras will drop in on him - teh German seems to have thirded his forces, with his mobile element in the middle [sensible as he can easily go East - West to teh rescue or stand and fight with his "best"]):   

In this case it was the central town teh Allied player opted for (see below, teh Germans are being hit North and South, in a concerted concentric attack): 

It is one of those games where it is advisable always to roll high (see below, rolling a six is a precious commodity in this game): 

A five is not bad either (see below, grinding attrition is a key element of the game, where patience is a learnt skill, as the old axiom says - "fools rush in where angels fear to tread"): 

One feature of Panzer Blitz is the continual flipping over of counters to mark that they have been hit, and/or are ineligible for a move on the Phasing Players turn (see below, a counter face up means the unit can spend an action, blank side means either disruption through combat or an action has been performed - it is a neat way of ensuring "units don't go twice" [by sneaky purpose or by accident mistake] - Oh for gentlemanly gamers!):

Many rounds of combat and not a lot seems to be happening (see below, however in reality the Germans are being ground down - just a case of can they hold on to the\key town terrain to see the German reinforcements arrive in time?):

The wider scenario picture (see below, relief columns have been sent East and West from the Towns the Germans now know are safe): 

However the German relief columns are a mixture or horse drawn, motorised and light wheeled armour (see below, so even with road movement bonuses it will take time and arrive disjointed - meanwhile the US Paras need to keep rolling sixes): 

The "German Dead Pile" is mounting (see below,  a mortar, a Security Infantry and quite a valuable unit - an armoured car squadron; each Panzer Leader counter is approximately a platoon strength):

The US Paras are hammering away at the town [rolling sixes] and the Germans are down to the last of defenders (see below, the Germans are also finding out how hard it is in generating the 3:1 odds needed for attacks with a half decent chance of success): 

A major moment in the conflict, a town sector devoid of Germans and US Paras who simply won't budge (see below, you know it is significant as there are two Generals pointing fingers at it):  

Negotiating your way round the Panzer Leader CRT was a vital but a dark art in itself - especially as Avalon Hill games designers did not necessarily go for historical orders of battle [and overwhelming 3:1 odds for one side] but rather hinged the scenarios around delicately nuanced "Maths-like Operation Research" equations (see below, or was that merely my imagination[?] or excuse for losing[?])

I would like to say "hours of fun" - but sometimes it was a glorious "At last it is THE END, we can all go home now". I think this one was an Allied victory! Panzer Leader was a (classic Avalon Hill) game, but very much a game of its time and getting to the end of a scenario in one night (without proceedings breaking down into a mild [understatement] argument over the "interpretation of rules" (and their correct context) could be quite an achievement in itself IIRC. Avalon Hill did produce a game called Diplomacy [which was renown for rupturing long lasting friendships]

Monday 6 November 2023

Cold War Era - CNN was prepared for "The End of The World"

Leaked from the archives of CNN and preserved for all to see on You Tube (see link below): 

Thank you and "Good Night".
Thanks to The Atomic Hobo for the "spot".
Gawd bless the internet!

Sunday 5 November 2023

1/300 Battle of Britain Planes: PSC

I found these lurking in the PSC Battle of Britain Game Box when I was looking for a 1/300 Stuka of all things (yes, I was doing another random loft traverse). I do like them, or rather the way they have turned out [I painted the roundels free hand - but squadron "lettering" has so far has defeated me] .. and I need to finish off the German 1/300 kit that came in the box, Spitfires and Hurricanes being long "done" (see below, the RAF lesser known and unappreciated "odd ball" fighters of the Battle of Britain: Gloster Gladiator Boulton Paul Defiant and Bristol Blenheim Mk I Fighter version): 

Note: I also have this "collection" to make in 1/72 .. which as you may guess is a longer term item on teh wargaming "bucket list".

Saturday 4 November 2023

To Clip or Not To Clip .. Board Game Counters .. That is the Question!

Although I do like my modelling (ahem, understatement) and my table top wargaming - along with plenty of models, even better when serendipity strikes and I get my to play with my painted toys on table too - I also enjoy SPI, Avalon Hill and GMT board gaming. I think it's that formative teenage Squad Leader experience coming back to me. Counters in place of figures is one thing (and sometimes a tactical board game gets brought to life on a table top), but it then begs an awkward question If you go all-in on models and bother to shade/highlight them and then lovingly flock your bases (and what is not to like about a good flocked base). Should you not really go the extra step in board game world and clip your counters too? (see below, the raw tatty square look fresh from the counter sheet that we all know and love):  

But look, a small matter of a clipper and a bit bit of counter TLC - a few (four in fact) corner snips and the ugly ducklings are transformed into deluxe state-of-the-art swan (or "melee markers" in my case)  that could be auctioned off at Christie's or proudly used at a convention (see below, what a change, smooth in the hand): 

Half tongue in cheek perhaps, but well why the hell not - apart from the thousands in my combined board game collection. Does it also remove the need for tweezers? [I am not going there!] I await for the Internet to speak back to me in due course .. "profanity filter now engaged"! I also believe there is already a high quality You Tube Channel devoted to this subject ..

Thank you Ardwulf!

Friday 3 November 2023

Corruptible - Audible Audio Book

Never mind the Halloween Horrors [Freddie, The Exorcist, Poltergeist are wimps compared to the everyday human potential to do wrong], if you really want to scare yourself silly then read Corruptible by Brian Klaas. Does 'Power Corrupt'? Does 'Power Corrupt' or 'Do Corruptible and/or Corrupt people seek Power'? The answer seems to be a bit of both, well a lot of both - but there are examples of selfishness under duress that ease the soul (see below, a recommended listen/read to all - I was so fascinated I also got a physical copy too just to check up on a few references): 

Spoiler alert: It seems that even though the answer is yes to both of the above, there is still a hope for us. If you make 'systems of power' totally transparent [so it is hard and/or obvious that if people "cheat" they will be caught and subject to open punishment] and people powerful people are totally accountable and impacted for their actions .. yes, those right at the top, not 'creeping out' the lower minions by being Big Brother .. spend your time and energy checking  up on the people who can make really big scores out of bad behaviour .. then we may just have a chance, albeit a tiny one, to evolve past our worst selves! 

Thursday 2 November 2023

Read All About It .. WD Updated Wargames Developments Handbook V3.1

Hot off the spinning presses .. "The Wargames Development Handbook V3.1". At the unbeatable price point of "free" (see, must link below): 


For those Grognards with photographic memories you can also just skip straight to the new bits:


Perfect for after dinner entertainment with a glass of sherry or pint of cooking lager [and crisps].

Wednesday 1 November 2023

ClearFix Tip - When It Goes Yellow Get a New Bottle!

ClearFix is obviously a bit like snow - when it goes yellow beware what you can use it for! To be fair you typically use so little of it at a time, unless you are making a plane per week you may never ever use a whole bottle. In my case, years will go by before you pull it out of the storage tin (which may or may not help being away from direct sunlight). Indeed as I found out to my cost when making my Vietnam helicopters, ditch it if it goes gloopy and yellow. Clearfix (though slow in drying and bonding clear plastic to normal plastic) is however the way to do aircraft canopies .. otherwise the terrible chemical affect that I do not understand ruins the cockpit look. ClearFix is a wonder chemical when clear but buyer beware avoid the yellow (see below, RHS clear and "Good", LHS gloopy-yellow and very bad!):   

I had to resort to covering up a smeared mess on one helicopter's side windscreen [reconnaissance Gun-Ship Loach, if you really wanted to know] with Tamiya X-25 transparent Clear Green. Note, authentically it was used on top horizonal window covers of Vietnam Huey's and Loach's alike to cut down on glare from the sun above [?] I am guessing - but I don't think side windows were typically covered - but I think the "look" seems to work (see below, my Italeri 1/72 "Little Bird" festooned with decals - grinning shark mouth underneath):  

You have to be careful when handling Italeri as they are delicate, but beautifully made!