The year 2013 is coming to an end, and it seems a good time to pop back on my DestoFante blog for a quick update. Blogging has clearly taken a backseat in my gaming related priorities, already quite stretched by my busy traveling and business schedule, Mrs. DestoFante's busy traveling and business schedule, as well as the legitimate demands of the 4-year old Destofante Jr.
That said, 2013 was a good year, in which projects were kept on a good track, and many ideas were sharpened. I am remained committed, as much as a wargamer can, to limit the number of periods in my collection: WAS/SYW, Colonial, WWI, Modern Africa. I have been able to rationalize (in some sort...) my collections, out of the realization that, as a solo player, I really do not need thousands of figures suitable for multi-player games. Also, I feel somewhat more focused about the rules that inspire me. Years of unrestrained rule purchases have fortunately come to an end, and I now gravitate toward two-three favorite sets per period. If you are curious: for WAS/SYW, Might & Arms, Piquet Cartouche, possibly Maurice and Kriegkunst; for colonial, The Sword And The Flame, Piquet Din of Battle, THW Colonial Adventures; for WWI, Piquet Barrage, TFL If The Lord Spares Us, and Greg Novak's Over The Top; for modern Africa, TFL Charlie Don't Surf (a Vietnam adaptation of IABSM) and Ambush Alley.
At cost of sounding a little sentimental, I want to take one moment to share the greatest hobby's joys of this year, which happen to be the same joys of the prior's: at the very end, for all our toils in collecting and painting miniatures and terrain, learning rules, devising scenarios, what really matters most is the great bond of friendship and camaraderie forged around the gaming table. This year, I was blessed to meet friends, old and new, at Historicon (for a fantastic siege game arranged by Eric B. and Tim C., a Renaissance clash with Peter Gonsalvo, Gabe and Michelle, and some quality time with Andy, Tom, Jim, Rob, and the team at Rebel Minis). During my business traveling in London, I had the immense pleasure Tim C. in Harpenden for a fun game set in East Africa, and enjoy lunch in the City with Bob C. of "Wargaming Miscellany" fame. In San Francisco during a conference, I only touch base with Freddie A. and Jeff G. - next time, we must ensure we get to the table! Unfortunately, I missed a big gaming extravaganza in Denver with Bob J., Brent O. and Sam M., and I can only hope this will be repeated in 2014!
Here's a few pictures with some of these 2013 highlights. At Historicon, Eric B. offered a preview of his latest creation, a witty siege game loosely based on the Piquet mechanisms.
Eric's terrain was gorgeous - and still a work in progress! Of course, my bad rolling resulted in much amusement being had by all, especially when I blew up my own gunpowder magazines!
The game provides a great sense of how sieging operations proceed. It was unnerving to see those trenches getting closer and closer, and little could be done by a couple of brave sortie from my grenadiers. Finally, a breach was opened in the fortress (Warsaw, if I recall correctly the set up of the scenario) and the Russians came in. We called the late game before playing out the storming, but the destiny of the Polish capital was very much decided.
In Harpenden, I played the German in a East Africa scenario where my askaris were called on defending a line of hills from the assault of a full Imperial and British brigade. (Ironically, I play the British in Tanga at Historicon 2012: it seems East Africa is a recurring theme of the games I join.) I successfully held the line until the time to catch the last train from St. Pancras - I'll call it amoral victory, even if things were getting dicey for the Germans after the loss of a gun and some machine guns. Here is a picture of the British lines closing my the hills I was defending.
To all of you, my dear friends, old and new, close and far away: a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It seems that in recent years blogs have become the standard for wargamers. They are fun - I have one, too, albeit somewhat dormant. Even if I do not write much these days, I check the blog roll on mine almost every day, and I enjoy very much what other people contribute.
So far, so good.
But here's my question: are website a thing of the past? Personally, I have dear memories of the Major-General Tremorden Redding, Bob Cordery's Colonial Wargaming, AK-47 Ztum-Setum, The Great Adventure about Great War Spearhead, just to name a few of my favorite.
The limit (and the strength, in other regards) I see in blogs is their "daily diary" nature. Yes, as a reader (and a writer), it is great to receive a daily pill of wisdom, a splendid picture, a AAR for the ages. But in a blog, all these contributions will end up buried over time; also, a blog makes very hard to arrange the narrative of a campaign, unless labeling is carefully done and the sequence of battles is not too stretched over time. This is particularly true for blogs like mine, which cover many different interests and periods within the hobby, and are not updated with frequency.
All of this to come to another question: am I a fool in contemplating the creation of a website? A site where notes, thoughts, OOB, AAR, reviews may be collected and organized in a more logical order than a blog allows? When I first started DestoFante, I intended to use the blog as a way to generate materials, and have them later organized in a proper site. The blog has become little more of a collection of WIP entries, but I still wouldn't mind to have things organized properly.
Finally: if I create my website, what platform/host should I consider? I know google offers free space on Google Site, but I do not know the quality of the service (although I would be tempted to go that route only because of the hope the technology would resemble Blogger, with which I am rather comfortable now.)
Just sharing some food of thought.
I spent the last ten days painting wagons. It seems to me that we never have enough wagons and supply trains on the tabletop, and the reality is: they look good. They are functional (raid on a convoy scenario?), they come handy in almost every period I game, from SYW to napoleonics, to colonial to WWI, and visually they really add a great deal to the game. Yet, it always seems that there are other priorities on my painting table. I have been buying wagons, trains and limbers for a long time, from several different sources (Essex, Minifigs, Hallmark, Museum Miniatures), but they have remained packed away. Over the years, memory of those puchase somewhat faded - I could tell what I own, but I cannot remember clearly what I bought from whom. Finally, a few weeks ago, I brought the lot out and I have finally put my brushes to work. Soon there will be a nice, varied train park at my disposal: a few larger wagons, a few smaller ones, some carts, a nice collection of items to be transported (boxes and barrels), a few canvas wagon tops. Pictures will come, but yesterday night I finished two carts with hay, and even if the pictures aren't of the best quality, I think you will enjoy them.
I just returned from a two-week break spent in Europe with the family, so my wargaming activities had to take a back seat for a short while. Front and center in my mind is the promised battle report from Historicon, on which I have been procrastinating. But in the meanwhile, my attention was caught by the "20 questions" that have been circulating in other wargaming blogs, and this was too much a temptation to miss. Hence, with no further delay...
1. Favorite Wargaming Period and why?
The Age of Reason, thanks to a lack of ideological fanaticism, nationalism, and racism.
Second favorite wargaming periods being Colonial and Modern African wars, because of the despicable excess of ideological fanaticism, nationalism and racism.
2. Next period, money no object?
Thirty Years War.
3. Favorite 5 Films?
Casablanca, Manhattan, Lawrence of Arabia, Apocalypse Now, Le Dernier Metro,
Favorite five war movies: Lawrence of Arabia and Apocalypse Now (see above) plus A Bridge Too Far, Gallipoli, The Battle of Algiers.
4. Favorite 5 TV shows?
Not being much of a TV viewer, I must go back in the years to pick two: MASH, and the French TV series "Les brigades du Tigre."
5. Favorite book and author?
"For Whom The Bell Tolls." Ernest Hemingway.
Related to wargaming and military history in general, I have a special affection for Pakenham's "The Boer War" and Barker's "The Bastard War."
6. Greatest General? Can't count yourself.
John Marlborough and Erich von Manstein.
Runner-ups: Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, Moshe Dayan, Alexander Suvorov, Frederick the Great.
7. Favorite Wargames rules?
Piquet and its supplements Cartouche, Les Grognards, and Barrage!
The Sword and the Flame.
Runner-ups: Over The Top, Might & Reason, GaPa, Colonial Adventures.
8, Favorite Sports Team?
Milan AC in football, and Baltimore Orioles in baseball.
9. If you had a only use once, time machine, when and where would you go?
Edinburgh 1776 - the year Adam Smith published "The Wealth of Nations."
Alternatively, Wien in the 1920s and Venice in the 1820s.
10. Last meal on Death Row?
Bruschetta, tagliatelle al ragu', polenta e brasato, pesche all'amaretto (amaretto peaches.)
11. Fantasy relationship and why?
12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?
13. Favorite comic superhero?
Never been into comics, but the Italian comic strip "Nick Carter" was good.
14. Favorite Military Quote?
"Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics."
15. Historical Destination to visit?
One day, I'd love to visit Adowa and Rorke's Drift; in the not-so-distant future, I hope it will be Austerlitz, but in two weeks it might be Rossbach.
16. Biggest Wargaming regret?
Missing a dinner with Sam Mustafa, Bob Jones and a bunch of friends at Historicon 2011.
17. Favorite Fantasy job?
General Manager at the Metropolitan Opera.
18. Favorite Song, Top 5?
May I list five operas instead? Rigoletto, Donna del Lago, Norma, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rosenkavalier, Tancredi.
(I cheated again, those are six.)
19. Favorite Wargaming Moment?
As a teenager, fighting a somewhat fictional invansion of Poland circa 1930 (with Germans facing Polish and French troops), when a rather fortunate artillery blast wiped out the Allied HQ during a visit of the political authorities to the front lines, bringing the 6-month campaign to a sudden end.
20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
In wargaming? Igo-Ugo games. Rules that require 2,000 miniatures per side to fight a medium-side battle. Sequences of play running three pages long. Long lists of modifiers.
During my unfortunately long time away from posting, I have continued to take advantage of my blog as a starting point both to visit other blogs, thanks to the Blog List on the side bar, and to enter my favorite wargaming website, also lined up on the side bar under Wargaming Links (a little bit further down the page.) Over time, though, websites come and go, and today I realized it was time to look for some updates and do some cleaning up. A few links have changed, and I took care of them - most notably, Piquet products are now available at
Alas, I also have to deal with the sad disappearances of two of my favorite sites: Major General Tremorden Redding has gone for a while, but I cannot help myself to erase it from my list; as for my memory, it is very much unerasable, as it was probably the most inspiring website on colonial wargaming that ever showed up on the Internet. Likewise, AK-47 Ztum-Setum is gone, another truly inspiring website for modern African civil wars (in Peter Pig's AK-47 style, a ruleset that came to define a whole genre of miniature gaming.) In fact, these website are gone but not entirely lost, as much of their information can still be consulted via the Internet Archive "Wayback Machine."
For this reason, I will add a special section to the side bar, labelled "WayBack Machine", and transfer there the links to those lost websites.
As many of you, I have a fascination for Victorian gunboats. I am ashamed to confess that I have yet to deploy one on my gaming table, but I have been anticipating that moment for, quite literally, years. A long time ago I bought a colonial gunboat steamer from the Old Glory Shipyard, which I have been in the process of building for too many moons now; on my shopping list, I also have the paper gunboats from The Virtual Armchair General, which in fact I'd rather build in balsa wood, when their time will come.
This morning, I found myself with a watering mouth by reading some recent posts by Bob Cordery on the Victorian and Edwardian Royal Navy. I took his opportunity to revisit the website of the Melik Society, an indefatigable group that promotes the preservation of the historic gunboat Melik which followed Kitchener to Khartoum in 1898.
I remeber first visiting this site some years back, and falling in love with the mission, and the passion of the organization. I also remember wondering: where is Melik, today?
Well, where is she? The website mentions that Melik now sits on a sand berth at the Blue Nile Sailing Club in Khartoum, and the information sent me on a virtual tour of the Blue Nile river banks in the Sudanese capital. After a thorough exploration of the area by satellite imagery thanks to Google Earth, and some additional verification based on the existing pictures of Melik, like this one found on Flickr, I think I have located the gunboat! The Blue Nile Sailing Club is, rather obviously, on the Blue Nile, on the left bank, immediately before the Al Mk Nemer Bridge downtown Khartoum. In this Google Earth snapshot, I circle the area in red, if you want and locate it yourself.
Zooming in further, and with some help from the additional sources, you can somewhat easily locate the Club, and the profile of Melik, mostly hidden by the surrounding vegetation, as clearly shown in the Flickr picture. Again, I took a snapshot and highlighted with another red circle here.
So, here she is! Our, and Kitchener's, old good friend Melik! I am very grateful for the preservation work of the Melik Society, and who knows, maybe one day, when the political situation will become less tense, there will be an opportunioty to travel to Khartoum and visit the boat in person. For the time being, we'll make it with our traveling dreams, our toy models, Google Earth, and, for those really inclined to paper modeling, with the beautiful model offered by the Paper Shipwright!
It may take a little longer to complete my battle report from Historicon, but here a fascinating news item that has fascinated me. I had an exchange with the British Consulate-General here in Chicago earlier today, and the Public Affairs Officer kindly confirmed me of a "tradition" still alive to this day: every year since 1967, six red roses have been anonymously delivered to the British Consulate on 1 August, anniversary of the Battle of Minden in 1759. A note that comes with the roses lists the six British regiments that fought in the battle and says, "They advanced through rose gardens to the battleground and decorated their tricorne hats and grenadier caps with the emblem of England. These regiments celebrate Minden Day still, and all wear roses in their caps on this anniversary in memory of their ancestors."
The identity of the donor remains a mystery. (It's not me.) For more information, Wikipedia has a good entry on the battle. Isn't it neat? Roses delivered to the Consulate for forty-five years?
Needless to say, I am now thinking to add the "Minden Six" to my SYW British regiments!
I spent last weekend in Fredericksburg VA to attend the mothership of all the miniature wargaming conventions, Historicon. I had missed the meeting one year ago, so I was somewhat eager to join back the fray, and what a great time I had! It was real pleasure to meet old friends, make new ones, playing one game or two, and did some financial damage at the Vendors’ Hall.
In wargamers’ fora there was some apprehension about the new location, south of the Beltway and away from Historicon traditional Pennsylvania’s grounds. Well, the new location worked very well for me. It was an easy flight in and out Washington Dulles Airport, and a relatively easy drive from the airport to Fredericksburg on Friday, and back on Sunday. Some traffic on I-95 on Friday, but I still made the 55 miles or so in about 1h 15min. I stayed at a Best Western about 10min drive from the Fredericksburg Expo, site of the convention. The hotel was simple, clean, functional, and $75 per night. The drive to the Expo was a short trip across a busy mall area (which, incidentally, offers many diverse dining options.) The Expo itself is a large and functional structure, with plenty of space for game tables, and an adequate Dealers’ Hall. Food options on-site were fine – what you would expect in a convention center. Many people loved the opportunity to walk to a Wegmans across the street from the Expo; I didn’t, but apparently the large store had much to offer for food (and drinks…) Some people complained about the noise and din in the large gaming space; it was a mild annoyance, but not a major problem for me. The only complain would be the bathrooms: too few, and not serviced during the day so that by night-time they were in precarious conditions. This is something that can be fixed next year.
Attendance was good, in my opinion – but it is hard to gauge it in a very different space. If you have eight cramped rooms with six games each, you have a very busy convention; if you have 60 games in one large space that can accommodate for 100 of them, you are showing 25% more games, and yet the space may feel somewhat less busy than in the former case. It will be interesting to hear the report on attendance by HMGS-East.
By what I heard, vendors were generally happy about sales and traffic, and I have yet to hear one comment by anyone, dealers or players, who suffered a completely negative experience. Grades on TMP range from A+ to B-, with mine at A/A-. In my opinion, there was a good variety of games, with a little bit for every taste: from the large, organized tournaments for Ancient and FOW (not my cup of tea) to Medieval, Napoleonics, Colonial extravaganzas, and so on up to WWII, post-war and contemporary “Force on Force” games. Both naval and aerial games were also well-represented and easy to locate. Here’s some pictures from random tables that caught my eye.
As for my frolicking. I did some shopping, but I successfully resisted any major splurge. I bought some JR Miniatures buildings, 15mm from the Prussia range, that will look very nice around Saxe-Pape. I bought a few bags of 15mm Blue Moon minis from the Dark Africa range. I brought home Mark Fastoso’s scenario booklet for the Boxer Rebellion – Seymour’s Relief Expedition. I bought trees and palms, and the pontoon bridge by Paper Terrain, plus two other nice bridges that will come handy in the future. That’s pretty much it. To be fully honest, conventions aren’t anymore great shopping attractions if you are mostly in 15mm, as I am. Minifigs was never big at shows, and the American branch of operations is now gone. Essex has a distributor who doesn’t take anything past Marlburians to the convention. QRF wasn’t available (I even forgot who was their Historicon seller in the past.) Old Glory 15 stopped attending a couple of years ago. The only reliable option remains Peter Pig, thanks to the participation of Brookhurst Hobby from California. On net, at least for me, Historicon is less and less about buying figures. As for the games, the one I fully participated and enjoyed was a “Tanga-esque” pick-up battle courtesy of a bunch of good friends, Rob C., Fred A., Tim C., Iain B. Since I have good pictures from that evening, I will write a more complete AAR on that affairs in the coming days. For the time being, here a few shots to whet your appetite!
All in all, Historicon was a great experience as usual, a wonderful opportunity to meet friends, and a fantastic way to rekindle my love affair with the hobby!
If all goes well, tomorrow by this time in the morning I will be at Historicon, in Fredericksburg, VA. Having missed the show one year ago, I am really looking forward to reconnect with friends, do some shopping, and hopefully join a few games.
As my usual, I am showing up at the convention without much of a plan. I have no pressing need to purchase miniatures or rules, and one of my favorite hobby bookstore, On Military Matters, is not going to attend this year. Thus, I think I may be aiming to some terrain pieces, or other target of opportunities -- a dangerous spot to be, as there is nothing like a wargamer abandoning himself to impulse shopping!
In the meanwhile, I spent the last couple of days doing some work on my revamped Imagination. I set up a specific blog... shhh, it's still a secret, but you can look at the layout and an introductory post right here at the Chronicles of Saxe-Pape. (By the way: when the time will come for the "official" launch, could anyone suggest how to have Saxe-Pape included in the Emperor vs. Elector blog?) At the moment, I am doing some background work of the personalities of my Imaginations, comprehensive of family trees and individual attributes. I became a little apprehensive about finding proper names, but as usual, Wikipedia proved to be an invaluable resource. Would you have imagined that somebody make the efforts to provide a comprehensive "List of Hessian consorts"? With a little of research on the history of minor German principalities, and their ruling families, it is really not that difficult to come up with many splendid ideas for an Imagination.
Going forward, my plan is:
to review and post the introduction and historical background on Saxe-Pape;
to complete the work on personalities and ruling families in Saxe-Pape, and post brief introductions about the leading characters;
to finish and post the "official" map of Alte-Saxe;
to take pictures, pictures, pictures for the blogs (don't we all love eye-candies?)
and, last but not least, to complete the painting of enough miniatures to fight a first battle sometimes before the end of the summer.
With those thoughts, off to Historicon - if computer connection will allow, I wouldn't mind to post from the convention, but do not hold your breath if I fail to return to these columns until Sunday.
Maybe I am getting old, maybe my sight is weakening, but as I returned to this blog yesterday, I felt dissatisfied with its look. Light characters over dark background do not make it anymore for me - I find the combination very tiresome on my eyes. Hence, the decision to switch to black and dark grey for the text, and off-white for the background. Any better? It seems so to me, but I will take your recommendations if you feel strongly one way or another.
On wargaming matters. Perfectly timed for release at Historicon, Blue Moon is now offering a French Foreign Legion range which includes an impressive Fort Zinderneuf:
We should congratulate Blue Moon for a very active expansion of their 15mm ranges - too many to mention here, but Three Muskeeters and Dark Africa stand out as interesting niches that were missing at this scale. Many of their packages can also be useful to add color and character to other periods (I am thinking of the FIW/AWI civilian sets.) As for myself, I think the Dark Africa range is something I will consider in the near future, to add to my colonial collections. And a Fort Zinderneuf has been in my wishlist for quite some time now, as I have, in a box somewhere, a small collection of FFL and Arabs figures from Stone Mountain. Maybe, as I will take a break from the placid 18th century German countryside, I will finally get into some action deep into a Northern Africa desert... ah, temptation, temptation...
UPDATE - Apparently some of the formatting options in Blogspot have changed during my "sabbatical." I am struggling a bit in spacing paragraphs, breaking the text, and inserting pictures via a link to other websites. I guess I need to spend some time in the Help section...