Friday, 23 September 2016

ENNISKILLEN MUSEUM NEW WING.



Last month I had the opportunity to attend an evening preview of the new galleries at Enniskillen Museum. Four new galleries have been created the Fermanagh Lakelands Gallery 1 and 2; the Our Town Gallery; and the Full Circle Art Gallery. What had once been an old health centre has been transformed into an impressive Visitor Centre. The centre includes a cafe and shop on the ground floor; a genealogy centre; a castle viewing area; and a history hub, providing access to the museum’s photographic, oral and digital film archives. I have included a few photographs taken while on the tour. The highlights for me were a digital display of my grandfathers homestead, a building I played in as a young child, and a number of items from the collection of Johnny McKeagney a local folklorist and historian, now sadly deceased. The museum is a must visit for locals and visitors to the county. 

The sloped wall of the ammunition magazine, slopped inwards to contain any accidental explosion.

Crannog.

Door of Enniskillen goal.

 Stone sculpture.

 A view from the castle walls over looking Lough Erne.

My grandfathers homestead.


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

WHATS ON THE TABLE SEPTEMBER 2016.



A short snapshot of what I plan to get to the wargaming table for September 2016.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

CRUSADER REX.

Crusader Rex 2nd Edition. 

Recently I have been playing a few games of Hammer of the Scots. Hammer has been a regular visitor to my table over recent years. So when I had the opportunity to make a trade for its close relative Crusader Rex , pictured above,  I jumped at the opportunity. Crusader Rex is a block wargame set in the 3rd Crusade. The objective is to control victory cities including Acre, Jerusalem and Antioch.This game shares many of the mechanics applied in Hammer of the Scots with subtle differences such as sieges, harrying, mustering and the hit and run ability of the Saracens and the Knights charge of the Franks.

Blocks and stickers.

I was delighted to find that the game was new and in shrink when I opened my parcel, so I settled down to a beer and a couple of hours of sticker on block action.

Event cards.

Followed by the sleeving of the cards. I did notice that the game will require a perspex sheet as the board is light card and doesn't lay flat. 


So with all this done its time to play cards, shift some blocks, roll dice and curse or cry as events unfold.

Monday, 11 July 2016

QCON 2016.

Qcon 2016 has been and gone. This year, I travelled to Belfast with fellow geeks Arthur and David S. We stayed in Queens accommodation, a short 10 minute walk from where Qcon was taking place. It proved to be an ideal location, as we could line our stomachs with a full breakfast before heading to the con itself for some quality gaming. I snapped a few photos using my phone during the event, be warned some of them aren't great. I have used the best below. 

As normal we attended the comedy event in the Mandela Hall on the Friday evening to watch the award winning Adam Bloom, supported by Donal Vaughan  with the usual compère Colin Murphy. One of the better comedy events was the general consensus on the night


Q comedy.

One of the highlights of this year's Qcon was getting to play Condottiere a game which I have been looking to acquire for some time now, but which sadly is out of print. Happily fantasy flight are due to release a reprint later this year.


Condottiere

On the Saturday we went old school wargaming with Soldier King. While fun, it is not something I would rush to play again as it has dated and shows its age and there are just to many more interesting modern wargames, with better mechanics.

Soldier King.

Arthur and Dave strategise.

On Sunday we played the excellent Triumph and Tragedy with Darragh, to the right in the photo below, jumping in for myself mid game. Arthur (Germans) made an early stab against the Western Allies played by Dave. He managed to take Paris but failed to launch operation Sealion against England, as Darraghs Soviets piled in on his eastern front. As always with "Triumph and Tragedy"  a great game with the participants discussing the what if's and if onlys post game and making plans for how they would approach the game if playing again .

Triumph and Tragedy.

A big thanks to Dave, who introduced us to a number of fun games over the weekend and as always it was great to meet new grognards like Darragh, who like ourselves, have the wargame fever.


Monday, 25 April 2016

W1815.

W1815 ready to play.

I recently acquired the folio game "W1815". It can best be described as a quick and simple war-game filler, a light strategy game, depicting the famous Belgium battle of Waterloo. The art work and map by Finish company "U&P Games" captures the period feel and the components are of a good standard. It has crossed my mind to replace the wooden units with the plastic cavalry, infantry and artillery pieces from the old Parker game "Risk". The only little quibble I have is that the text on the cards is rather small for ageing grognards eyes. 

The game abstractly simulates the major decisions for the Allies and French during the battle and the roll of a D6 resolves the various actions available to each side on their command cards. Yes there is luck, but that is the case in most light games  As the game\battle develops one cannot fail to ignore the grinding attrition of men and moral as the tension is ratcheted ever upwards. In a recent game I found myself muttering the words "Give me night or give me Blucher," needless to say he failed to arrive in force and the Frenches broke my center and lunched in Brussels. 

All in all, W1815 is a less common wargame filler worth having in the collection for those occasions when a couple of gentlemen are between wickets or waiting on the rest of the team to show.

Monday, 4 April 2016

NEVER TRUST A VODKA BUYING GERMAN.

Post game map.

"Never trust a German especially if they are giving you free vodka."
                                                                                                            Joe Stalin

Recently I had the pleasure of playing a wonderful game of  "Triumph and Tragedy" with Steve (the betrayer) and Arthur. Steve has written an after action report, see below, which details the nights events.

                                                                                                   
At present there is a great deal of soul searching and wringing of hands as Britain considers ‘Brexit’. But ‘Brexit’ is just small beer in comparison to what faced Europe in the 1930’s. The build up to war is the topic covered by ‘Triumph and Tragedy’ – GMT games, and this was the game on the table chez Declan.

Some fellas have a ‘man cave’ – our Deccie has a ‘man attic’ above his garage. It was here that I joined himself and Arthur in an attempt to rewrite history. Just as we settled in, the unthinkable happened – a WOMAN! climbed the rickety ladder and entered the inner sanctum, the holy of holies! All went quiet and Arthur nearly choked on a wine gum he had just pilfered from my sweetie bag (needs watching that boy). The woman was none other than Deccie’s wife – the delightful Sheila (we assume she kindly took him on as some sort of charity project).

‘Declan, who was looking after the children while you were up here?’ We all shuffled uneasily. ‘I thought I heard a child crying earlier’, I helpfully chimed in. Sheila cast her eye over the table. ‘What is all this then?’ ‘We are deciding the fate of Europe’, replied Declan. ‘What, with little wooden blocks???’

Declan had to remind Sheila that we were busy men – she left the sanctum with a final rueful glance.

Crisis over – Declan gave an intro to the rules and concepts, and off we went. I was to play the Axis powers/Arthur, the West/Declan, USSR. The finer points of the game can be read up online – suffice to say that it can be won by achieving economic primacy/military conquest/developing the atomic bomb. Players need to balance resources/population/industry with diplomacy and open warfare *military conflict is not inevitable, but likely. I can only account for my own actions, so the following tale is inevitably seen from the viewpoint of the Axis (particularly Germany).

As a ‘newbie’ to the game I decided that my best chance lay with a quick military victory – the simplest solution when not yet familiar with the game strategies. My plan was to defend in the West, and attack in the East. Germany is relatively strong in the early stages; this seemed the best time to hit the USSR before it could build up. Bluffing a possible invasion of France - I made a Nazi/Soviet pact of non-aggression with Declan. Much vodka was downed in celebration as we swapped tales of torture and oppression – oh, how we laughed! Arthur, meanwhile, was obliged to stiffen the backbone of the shaky French (no change there then), and played with his little boats in the Royal Navy. They splashed about the seas as if they thought they still owned the place – not.

Declan, thinking, his borders secure, went in to diplomatic overdrive. In no time he had political influence over much of central Europe; the Reds were truly under the bed. He even managed to turn Austria in to a permanent Soviet satellite. This affront to the German speaking peoples of the Reich could not, and would not, be tolerated. Arthur correctly pointed out that Declan now had me hemmed in on all sides. This forced my hand, and I had to go to war a year earlier than I would have liked. My panzers charged out of East Prussia and invaded neutral Poland. Lucky dice caused an immediate Polish collapse, and I was free to cross in to northern Russia. Declan spilt his vodka and protested that we had a pact. I apologised for the accidental breach of his borders, and assured him in song that it was a simple ‘mistake’.

‘All I want is a little peace.
A little piece of Poland,
A little piece of France,
A little piece of Austria
And Hungary perchance!

Thank you Mel Brooks.

My tanks quickly captured a weakly defended Leningrad; if I could take nearby Moscow it was game over. But now the friction and inertia of war took their toll. Declan had just time enough to reinforce Moscow, and terrain restrictions prevented me from making an all out assault. Also, my force was panzer heavy, but light on troops. Tanks get you rapidly to an objective, but they are poor in combat without the poor bloody infantry to back them up. To unnecessary gibes from my opponents, I was forced to retreat back to Prussia declaring that it had all been a ‘terrible misunderstanding…’

It was such a misunderstanding that I quickly reinvaded, and again captured Leningrad. But the problem with Moscow was now as bad, if not worse; with a change of tack I abandoned Leningrad, and sent my panzers on a widespread city/population grab. The hope was that I could end the turn with enough population control to steal immediate victory, Once again though it was a case of close but no cigar – the German bolt was shot.

At this stage the hour was getting late, and we decided to call it a day. Some seven hours had flown by, and credit to Declan for his patience in explaining the game in the face of time consuming picking at the rules (Mea culpa).

The game was played as a ‘learner’, and it is not possible to give a proper assessment without further play. Certainly the game is not trapped in any historical straitjacket. It is easy to see how it could play out very differently every time. Thanks to me there was an early war, but it would be interesting to see how alliances etc play out with an extended period of peace. Again, war is not quite inevitable. My only quibble is that the game would have benefited from a more abstract handling of movement/battle. A lot of time is taken up with sorting out the details, and I felt that that could be much simplified, so allowing more focus on diplomacy/economics. On the other hand, greater familiarity with the rules could well lead to a very different impression.


Triumph and Tragedy on first viewing: very much a ‘thumbs up! 
                                                                                                            Steve aka Adolf

Sunday, 27 March 2016

EASTER RISING 1916.

Tomorrow, Easter Monday marks the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The Rising provided the spark which would ultimately lead to Irish Independence and is arguable the most important Irish historical event since the Irish Famine. Having studied the 1916-22 period for A- level back in the day, I have found the current media coverage to be notable with a wide range of engaging and diverse perspectives covered in the press, TV and radio.

It is refreshing to see that all the people involved and caught up in the Easter Rising are being remembered, the volunteers, the British soldiers and the civilians. The Rising was remembered with maturity, dignity and respect.

Below are a few podcasts which are well worth a listen if you like me, have an interest in the period.

BBC Radio 4 - The Easter Raising 1916

BBC Radio 4 - Start the Week The Easter Raising 100 Years On.

News Talk - Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh: Abbey actress & 1916 rebel

News Talk - Easter 1916 through British eyes

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

HANNIBAL : ROME v CARTHAGE.


I was home alone this weekend and had the opportunity to break out a classic and number ten on "Board Game Geeks" wargame list "Hannibal Rome v Carthage". I have the Valley games version of this CDG (card driven game) and it is a thing of beauty. The game has the fantastic large jigsaw piece playing board, striking box art and wonderful battle and event cards. It has been sitting unloved on my shelf for almost two years and now I have had the opportunity to give the rules a good going over alongside playing a couple of game turns. My first thought after this look over is why has it languished on my shelf for so long. Time to get this little beauty to a table top asap.

                                                                    Hannibal set up.

A new version from Phalanx games is due to hit Kick Starter shortly, which will included miniatures for the leader pieces as well as the expansion "Hamilcar: First Punic War". The Hamilcar game board is going to be printed on the reverse side of the Hannibal board. You would expect that the kick starter will meet its funding goal without a problem as the game has been out of print for some time.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

ON THE RADAR 2016.

A few games on the radar for 2016.


Warriors of Japan : Just published by MMP in the last few weeks and due in the shops shortly. A follow up to "Warriors of God" and re implements Japaneses game "Taiheiki". One disappointment is that the art work used is from a later period in Japanese history than the period the game is set in. 



Time of Crisis :  GMT's  "Time in Crisis". A 2-4 player game set in the 3rd century Roman Empire. Each player takes a Roman dynastie wielding influence among the military, senate and people for control and power. Photo above from BGG.



HoldFast North Africa: Love the box art on this one. I owned "HoldFast Russia",the first release from this series and skipped on "HoldFast Korea" the second release following poor reviews. I  did enjoyed "HoldFast Russia" initially but it didn't have the depth to keep my attention and it got traded. Looking forward to the North Africa version and hope it can hit the sweet spot. 



Fields of Despair : A WW1 block wargame by GMT, looks to have some interesting mechanics. What's not to like about air and artillery assets to assist you break the stalemate. It has made the cut in GMT's P500 and is at the art  and final development stage.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

SHILOH : APRIL 1862.

Shiloh cover art.

For me January tends to be a quite month on the gaming front. I have however managed to get a learning play through of "Shiloh" with fellow grognard Al. As you can see from the photo above the box art by Don Troiani, a painter well known for his highly accurate historical and military paintings mostly from the American Civil War and American Revolution, is wonderful. The image depicts the moment Confederate Commander Albert Sidney Johnston rallied his troops for an attack on a Union position near the "Peach Orchard". Johnson was killed at the battle of Shiloh. It is probable that a Confederate soldier fired the fatal round, General Johnston was the highest ranking fatality of the war, 

Game components

This game depicts the American Civil War battle of Shiloh. It is named after a religious meeting house located on the site of the battle. Ironically "Shiloh" is a Hebrew word meaning peace.  The game comes with a light card map, two army set-up player aids, blue and gray blocks, rules and four dice. I also printed out and laminated player aids and a battle map (below). The rules are light, only eight pages long. If you have played a Columbia Games block war-game before then you will be familiar with the usual concepts of hidden movement and ABC combat system.

Battle map player aid.

This game has received mixed reviews. It is recommended that a number of house rules are added to improve play, in particular the inclusion of simultaneous combat after the first round. Following our introductory play through it is evident that positioning and terrain are vital. The time factor also adds the impetuous for Johnny Red to drive hard against the union positions as the clock is ticking and Northern reinforcements are on the way.

In researching a little about the battle, I came across the excellent "The Civil War" podcast. The podcast creators, Colorado couple Rich and Tracy are undertaking the epic task of detailing chronologically the conflict, covering most of its key events and individuals. Well worth a listen.

Monday, 11 January 2016

TRIM CASTLE.


Over the New Year I met up with a couple of old college friends in Trim, Co Meath. While there, I managed to snap a few photographs of "Trim Castle", the largest of its type in Ireland. We spent an enjoyable Saturday afternoon wandering the grounds, sadly it was a typical dark, wet January day in Ireland and the photographs are not great. Those of you with a keen eye may notice that this is the very same castle that was used in the filming of Mel Gibson's movie "Braveheart". 

This site was originally chosen because it was on raised ground, overlooking an important fording point on the River Boyne. The Norman leader Hugh De Lacy took possession of the land in 1172 and built a huge ringwork castle defended by a stout double palisade and external ditch. A few of the images on the signs below will give you an idea of how the castle looked during its heyday.

The plan is to revisit this area in the summer as it is not far from "Navan Hill fort", one of the great royal sites of pre christian gaelic Ireland as well as the location for the "Battle of the Boyne", one of the most famous military encounters in Irish history.












Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 GOODBYE.



2015 draws to a close and a new year beckons. I have kept a play list on BGG for 2015, as detailed above. This years gaming highlights included playing "The Guns of Gettysburg", "EastFront", "Designer Edition Bitter Woods" and GMT's "Triumph and Tragedy". I look forward to more of the same in the year ahead. 

I hope you all had a happy and prosperous 2015 and wish you a successful and joyous 2016.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY.

I have finally managed to get "Triumph and Tragedy" to the table with a couple of the regular grognards, Dave and Arthur. We stumbled through the rules and after six hours had reached 1940, almost half way if the game goes its full length. We had to finish the game early as midnight had come and the club was closing.

This game creates a wonderful sense of paranoia. Each of the three player's ever watchful for rival factions troop build ups on the boarders, threatening movement of navies or enemy military innovations. Previous encounters with fellow wargames in ones gaming back catalog also provide fuel to light fires and trigger the dreaded war which you may not be fully prepared for. There is so much going on in this game with the action and investment  cards being multi functional. The cards are able to be used for a number of different options including diplomacy, factory production, movement/combat, tech, intelligence and atomic research. The diplomacy mechanism reminds me of the coup, alignment and influence options from Twilight Struggle. The diplomatic back and forth is a large part of the early game and provides an interesting tug of war for neutral countries allegiances and there much needs resources and population. When war is triggered the game takes on your traditional block wargame feel with hidden movement and dice rolling.

This gem will definitely hit the table again. There is much more to explore in this game to try and identify the best strategy to play as each of the rivals, the West, the Axis or the Russians. Arthur took a copy of the rules home to peruse and he never does this unless he likes a game and is willing to invest time in it. A sign for me that a game is a keeper is when there is a lot of post game discussion on the what ifs, the whys and the if only. This game has this in spades.

I would highly recommend checking out Stuka Joe's excellent two part introductory video's on Triumph and Tragedy if you are at all interested in the game.

        

           

Sunday, 15 November 2015

NEW ADDITIONS.

Triumph and Tragedy.

Recently I have been selling a number of games from my collection, with the aim of raising money to purchase others. Two in particular "Triumph and Tragedy" and "Bitter Woods- Designer Edition". 

Triumph and Tragedy is a geopolitical strategy game for 3 players by GMT. It can best be described as alternative WW II. It details the competition for European supremacy during the period 1936-45 between the West, Communism and Fascism. It has diplomatic, economic, technological and military components and can be won by gaining economic domination or technological supremacy (A-bomb), or by defeating a rival militarily. The game has been getting very positive reviews on the geek. Surprisingly for a game produced by the normally excellent GMT the components are a little disappointing with a light card game board and small card tokens. Hopefully the game play will make up for this disappointment.

Bitter Woods.

I have also acquired "Bitter Woods - Designer Edition". Bitter Woods first published in 1998 depicts the battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in 1994. The rules are only ten pages with another eight or so for the advanced rules which you can pick and choose from. The game is old school hex and counters is very approachable, balanced and replayable. 

In preparing to play the game I have also started reading Antony Beevor excellent "Ardennes 1944". This is a compelling and beautifully written book on a battle which finally broke the back of the Wehrmacht in the west. 


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

DEUTSCHLAND.

Stumbling stones.

My son and I spent a wonderful two week in Germany this summer. This blog post includes a few photographs taken during our visit. I literally stumbled upon the above "stumbling stones" mini memorials to victims of the holocaust, created by the artist Gunter Demnig. They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazi to prisons, euthanasia facilitiessterilization clinicsconcentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide. The list of places that have stumbling stones now extends to several countries and hundreds of cities and towns. I came across them in Berlin and Furth and immediately my thoughts turned towards the individual victims. especially when you come across a family cluster, like that below. A very poignant tribute which arouses deep emotion.



While in Berlin I visited the "Topography of Terror". Be aware that this outdoor museum, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, is not for the fainthearted. The open air exhibition details the history of this site as the control center of the National Socialist program of persecution and annihilation.

Topography of Terror.

Berlin’s, German "Museum of Technology" is one of the most popular museums in the city and provides great family entertainment. It is a hands-on, activity-oriented fun tour of the cultural history of technology. The upper floors have excellent military displays including the WWII fighters below. 



Night fighter.

While taking the bus tour of Berlin city centre, I managed to take a couple of photos of "Frederick the Greats" statue on the Unter den Linden. The bronze monument is wonderfully ornate and a treat for the eye. Frederick sits atop "Conde", his favorite horse, dressed in his formal uniform - coronation robes, tri-cornered hat, and top boots. 

 Frederick the Great.

The pedestal is three-tiered. The lower part includes four tablets emblazoned with the names of sixty men proclaimed to be leading figures in Germany at the time of its construction.

The great and the good.

One has only to walk the streets of Berlin to be reminded by the very building that a violent conflict raged 70 years ago. Many buildings have bullet holes in the stone work a reminder of the ferocity of the fighting as the Russian troops fought their way to the city centre street by street, building by building.

A reminder of the battle for Berlin.
One cannot visit Germany and not acquire a few games. I made a trip to "Gamer HQ" to see what they had for sale. I snagged a copy of "Good Cop Bad Cop" and "Popular Front Escalation" an expansion to the Spanish Civil War game "Popular Front"

Gamer HQ.

It was a wonderful trip which sadly seems such a long time ago with the dark and damp Autumn nights now well and truly in effect. But good memories made.