Sunday, 24 February 2008

Heir to the Throne

It is with the greatest Pleasure that we announce our Heir, Francis John Joseph Williams (affectionately known as 'Frankie').

After a very long Labour he was Born by emergency caesarean weighing Eight pounds Fourteen and a half ounces, at four minutes past Six in the evening of the Twentieth of February two thousand and Eight.

The Grand Duchess and young Frankie are making good progress after a difficult start. The Grand Duke is feeling exhausted but elated.

We send our grateful Thanks to the representatives of the various Imagi-Nations for their messages of Concern and Goodwill.

P.S. Whilst still on the operating table, the Grand Duchess asked the midwife what would have happened in this situation years ago. The midwife asked if we really wanted to know, and Judy said yes. The midwife told us that the baby would have died, and that the mother usually died too. Then the anaesthetist interrupted saying 'Happy stories!' and began cracking jokes to distract us. How amazing it is to benefit from terrific advances in medicine! As if Frankie is not miracle enough, I am very thankful to the brilliant staff of Nevill Hall hospital that, unlike our Lace Wars analogues, we are all very much alive and healthy, and the worst thing we suffer is being sleep-deprived.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Wars of the Himmelbad Succession

After the disastrous intestacy of Alberich III, Himmelbad initially splintered along the following rough lines:

At first, none were overtly hostile to any other, but certain allied tendencies were already apparent. Kitschberg and Friedwald had affinity as Siegfried and Gustav were close as brothers, and Bohesia gravitated towards them under its loyal Warden. Meanwhile Angstlust under Ferdinand exerted significant pressure on the weak Isabella's Beringia, and Saxestadt's Warden remained loyal to Ferdinand, as surprisingly did the Warden of Hanemia, who declared for Ferdinand 'for the good of Alberich the Great'.

Busenwald was initially neutral, as Ruprecht the bastard took some time in assuming control of his inheritance, for reasons we shall discover.

Only Ostwald and Warzenhof remained truly neutral: Ostwald because it was a particularly dense and swampy forested region, and Warzenhof because it seized the chance to be a nexus of trade for the entire kingdom, hoping to become independently wealthy out of all proportion to its size.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


The only painting I'm doing at the moment is varnishing and staining the wooden floor of the cottage extension, but that did not stop me creating my own painting backlog by acquiring a couple more sets of miniatures today.

Another box of Revell 1/72 Prussian Cuirassiers, a box of French Line Infantry, Cossack Cavalry, British Hussars, a round tower, three square towers, plus a couple of HaT miniature sets that I'll catalogue later after the floor is finished.

All in all I'm accumulating a nice waiting list for the old paintbrushes. Baby has still not arrived yet, (and if it's anything like its old man will be two weeks late!), leaving me time to draw tentative maps, design rudimentary family trees, and rough out some details of the various warring states in The War of the Himmelbad Succession. Perfectionism was tending me towards waiting until they were done before posting, but where's the fun in that? I'll post up some basic and rough bits and pieces later on today and tomorrow, to expose the process and record how things evolve.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Buildings & Babies

Well, only one of each so far :-) and neither quite done yet.

Life has been very busy these past four weeks, with the building work on The Cottage (Grand Duke Siegfried's private hideaway, wherein he goes by the monicker 'Paul') approaching the finish line, and Grand Duchess Judith approaching the due date (Feb 11th, tomorrow!) for our firstborn.

The dust and disruption got so bad that a couple of weeks ago we moved out to a holiday let on a neighbour's farm just across the valley. Since then we have been busy trying (and failing) to clean while the builders are still working, and busy hosting the in-laws. All-in-all, they do say that moving home, building your own home, having a baby, and living with your in-laws are the most stressful things in life. So to do all four at once seemed like a good idea. Luckily we broke up for half-term on Friday, so although I still have plenty of marking and lesson plans to write, at least I don't have any teaching contact hours. (I calculated that my 'A' level essays take 45 minutes each to mark. With 40 of those to do, I am beginning to wonder if I will make any headway before baby arrives and I am supposed to take paternity leave...)

So, no work as yet on the shed / studio for my gaming, model making and figure painting. The dust is so bad in The Cottage that I can hardly sit in there for more than a few hours, let alone attempt anything that needs a clean surface! (My coffee, once poured, acquires a thick film of dust within a few minutes).

I have not been idle however. A sale in a local model shop prompted me to splash out on a number of promising 1/72 scale plastic miniatures. Here's the list:

Italeri 1/72 Scale
Prussian Light Cavalry
Austrian Infantry
French Hussars
French Line Infantry
French Imperial General Staff
Cossack Cavalry
Austrian & Russian Allied General Staff
British & Prussian Allied General Staff

Revell 1/72 Scale
2x Prussian Cuirassiers
2x French Hussars
Austrian Artillery
French Horse Guards Artillery

Now, I know that these are mostly Napoleonic miniatures, but of course a bit of customising and delicate painting will naturally reveal them to instead be bona fide Seven Years War Kitschberger and Angstlustian military units. Some of those fellows were way ahead of their time in terms of uniforms and colours you know.

I am also busy gathering materials and paints for scenery, terrain and buildings. My ally in the Art Department has persuaded me on the merits of tissue-mache (must find out how to produce accents and umlauts for this blog) for my terrain squares. And Stokes Schwartz over at the Grand Duchy of Stollen has made my life a lot easier by posting up his process for making SYW buildings, which has inspired me to have a go. As for scenery, well, while writing up my histories of Himmelbad, Angstlust, Kitschberg, Busenwald etc., I have included a few historical sites such as an old Roman ruin and some Medieval castle remains, and so these will be making an appearance on the battlefields of Urope too.

I also picked up some Plasticard to see what it is like for buildings, roofing etc. If it's no good I'll try some balsa wood buildings Stokes Schwartz style.

So my gaming goals are basically to survive baby's arrival and stay smiling, before setting up a clean, dust-free space to do some figure painting and building construction. I'm aiming for two battalions for each side at first, and they'll be small ones. I can't quite imagine how my life is going to change post-baby, so all these plans may fall by the wayside yet, but at least I set a goal!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Building Kitschberg and Angstlust

Supplies have begun accumulating in the Williams household. And I'm not just talking about the mad rush to get everything we need in time for the imminent arrival of baby.

On the spare bed I have piled five red and five blue folders, a mixture of ring-binder and arch-lever. Red is for the Principality of Angstlust under Prince Ferdinand, and Blue will contain the Grand Duchy of Kitschberg under Grand Duke Siegfried. These will hold the army stats, personality details, messages sent, and the overall campaign notes. Although I aim to make this a narrative-heavy solo campaign, I do acknowledge that the stat-kid part of me loves to record data and chart the statistics of things.

Next to these folders is a big black box file, where my rules will live. Big enough to house commercial rulesets plus any house rules I may write, the box file is handy in that it can store dice, rubber bands, ruler, etc. BAR (Batailles de l'Ancien Regime) arrived in the post the other day, and I had a quick skim through over a cup of tea when I got in from work, before I had to sit down with a few dozen papers to mark. I have also put a copy of En Garde! in this box file, plus some of my own notes on duelling in Kitschberg.

Also on the spare bed is a plastic crate, which is starting to fill up with wargaming books and materials. As we are building, books are liable to get moved, separated, and perhaps even stored safely away in a box that unfortunately won't get opened for months if not years. To avoid all my wargaming stuff going walkabout, and to keep it handy and mobile in case I get a chance to do an hour's work here or there on my campaign, it's all going to live in the crate. Books by Asquith, Featherstone, Bath, Grant etc., along with flat cereal box cardboard ready to turn into buildings.

Next to the crate, ready to be stored in it, are several boxes of Ultra-Pro Card Protectors, the heavier kind used to protect cards that will see plenty of use. I have enough here to protect my deck of playing cards and a couple of hundred 'special' cards that I might create over time.

The thing I consider to be the masterstroke however, is enlisting the aid of the head of Art at the school I teach at. In my break and before and after work I now have a place to sneak off to, where I can build (and most importantly, store) my home-built terrain and buildings. Huzzah! As soon as I have anything worth showing, I'll post up some pictures.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

BAR has arrived!

BAR came in the post today (incredibly swift international service from Bill Protz! Thanks!) and was waiting for me when I arrived home from work. Grand Duchess Judith was hovering about when I opened it, and made me a cup of tea to drink while I read through it and discussed various construction issues regarding the extension to our castle. A remarkable lady, to be just a few weeks away from the birth of our firstborn and yet still be so calm and accepting of my crazy hobby.

I have several dozen papers to mark so I didn't spend too long with BAR, but my initial impressions are very positive. The author's writing style is very inclusive, and soon had me persuaded that pretty much whatever I did with his rules was a good idea. I particularly liked the way he persuaded me to start small for now and aim to grow bigger later - on p.7 those pairings of small battalions painted with both regimental and colonel's colours struck me as a neat solution for flexibility. I had no idea that the idea of sitting down to design these uniforms was going to appeal to me so much!

Overall I get the impresion that BAR is very flexible (good news to me, who does not yet really know what he wants to achieve), and also is a very interesting set of rules. I find this very welcome, as there is nothing quite like being interested and motivated to really read and get into a rulebook. I also like the fact that the rules constantly remind me to alter anything about them according to my own personal preferences and/or available equipment. As a previously cardboard-only wargamer who predominantly played monolithic rules such as Advanced Squad Leader, I am experiencing a great feeling of liberation with BAR!

I have had some great advice from lots of you out there too, which I thank you for. I think that at some point I shall probably buy and paint some Spencer Smith miniatures, but I'll hold fire for now and spend a while thinking about my beloved nations and their histories, then designing their uniforms and unit regalia, before I finally take the plunge and put the brush to the metal.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Duelling in Kitschberg

As the late King Alberich often said, "You insult me sir, and I demand satisfaction." During his lifetime, Alberich fought some thirty-seven documented duels, and is rumoured to have fought many more impromptu ones. His favour for duelling ensured that the most fashionable Kitschbergers took up their weapons and settled their disputes in this way. The result? Duelling is now endemic in Kitschberg culture. The highest profile duels attract large spectator crowds at dawn and during the daytime, and in the dark of night countless accusations of adultery and dishonour are quietly settled in a flurry of blades and the drawing of blood. Only a silent scar survives to mark that something was once amiss.

The pfennig cheapsheets eagerly scandalise the lives of duellists, and have taken to recording each duel and tallying the counts* of Kitschberg's most successful. Current top ranking duellist Otto von Mundtot has fought and won twenty-eight duels to date. Of those, twenty-six have been fought to first blood. The other two were infamously to the death, a practice which has since flourished despite an outcry for it to be outlawed. Although such duels are rumoured to take place in secret from time to time, it is currently very fashionable to challenge one's wife's lover 'to the death' in public.

Karl Kampfbegriff, von Mundtot's nearest duelling rival, has been overheard lamenting the cost to Kitschberg's officer classes of this fatal trend, but so far at least, his voice is in a minority.

*What will be the consequences for my gaming? Well, once in a while I shall indulge in a 'sidebar' game where a plot thread will be progressed or resolved by playing out a duel. I am toying with a solitaire version of the En Garde! duelling rules which would involve writing orders in advance. Alternatively, I recall once owning a copy of The Duel, a set of fantasy duelling rules but ones I seem to remember having a lot of fun with 10 or 15 years ago. Using these rules the duelling would be much more dynamic and exciting. Next time I visit my storage unit, I'll root through a few boxes to see if I can find them for a try out. The main thing though, will be to track duellists' honour, due causes, and won/lost record.