Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My 20 questions

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?
Isabelle Adjani.

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?
Harrison Ford.

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.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cleaning up and updating links, old and new

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.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Where is Melik?

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!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Roses for the "Minden Regiments"

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!