Monday, 4 November 2019

Gaming goals - October update

This can be a very short post as I didn't do anything in terms of gaming goals. Yup, not one block changed colour this October. I didn't lift a brush, rolled no dice, dumped no book.

Technically I did play three games of Lost Cities, but that doesn't count.

I hardly cycled as well. Not even 200km.

The reason? Holidays and the big project still lumbering in the background.

Ten days cruising to Italy and back was awesome enough, though, and I slipped in the odd bit of (military) history. Looked upon Fortress Ehrenbreitstein in Koblenz, walked the 17th century walls of Lucca and spent the night on the battlefield of Arcis-sur-Aube.



Porto Venere

There was good food, beautiful countryside...

View from the hammock

Cinque Terre

and some awesome art

Werner Bischof, Dresden 1945
Barbari Baldi poster for Lucca Games & Comics

Jeffrey Catherine Jones at Lucca Games & Comics

But November will have to be different: the 1672 project needs work for a credible outing in February. So I need to make a decision on my painting method soon.

Also, PolderCon is back on the menu (yeah, I know...). Hope to see you there on February 2nd in Utrecht !

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Gaming goals - September update

A bit more modest month in terms of gaming goals.


Started a TooFatLardies pint sized campaign on the 29th Division pushing inland from Omaha Beach after D-Day using Chain of Command. I was able to achieve my objective, mostly by whacking every German that stuck his head up. It won't be so easy next time, I'm afraid.

My 81mm mortar barrage raining down on the Germans

And later I staged two introductory games of Muskets & Tomahawks. The first I only umpired, the other we played, mostly making up our own scenario around the canoes provided by my opponent. It looked fantastic and the liberation of captured hostages provided an interesting dynamic. But not sure the amphibious rules are the best part of M&T.

There was some fun boardgaming as well, but not the ones on my to do list. I'll have to prepare better to get them on the table.


My friend Dick had assembled a number of artillery guns for me from our SHQ order, which I immediately set out to paint. I also painted up the TooFatLardies jump off points.

And a 57mm AT gun that I ordered from Grubby Tanks, from which I ordered my WW2 Americans. I can't recommend them enough.


No stuff out of the door, but bringing in a new IKEA Ivar allows me at least to stack up my army bags rather than leaving them on the ground. Cleaned up my hobby table as well, so I can actually work on it again.

A fair bunch of hills from Total System Scenic came in, but I haven't gotten them on the table yet.


As you can see, a lot of Chain of Command stuff. Also guiding my reading.

But I've also been distracted by WW2 commemorations, such as the one at Arnhem. To come in October: Battle of the Scheldt and the liberation of Noord-Brabant.

Hardly any progress on the 1672 front as I try to get other stuff out of the way and think about the way I'm going to paint them. I have no set system yet, although I was reasonably happy with Army Painter.  But with the French grey uniforms, I'm wondering if that's the best solution. GWs contrast paint looks inviting too. So I've been testing different washes and varnishes on white and grey base coats. Not settled on a method yet, though.

And there is yet a new project popping up: a TooFatLardies day in Arnhem for October 2020! Might organise itself to a certain extent, but it will need a venue and some financial arrangement. Stuck my finger up.

PS I crashed through my 3,000 kilometer target for cycling this month. So 4,000 seems doable. A terrifying thought for next year...

Friday, 27 September 2019

Another Bridge Too Far?

The Tactical Painter recently published a great post with many good points on Richard Attenborough's 'hidden' message in A Bridge Too Far, and many of them I gladly take on board. It retriggered a train of thought that started last weekend, as I cycled with my friend Diederick from Arnhem to Oosterbeek and then on via Driel and Oosterhout to Nijmegen. We discussed why no one had attempted a new movie about Operation Market Garden recently (it being over 40 years since ABTF).

The church tower at Driel

I figured there is ample room for different perspectives. Quite a lot was left out in ABTF and a lot of time was 'wasted' on episodes that do not drive the grand narrative (eg Dohun/Eddie) but only make sense in light of Attenborough's ulterior motives, as The Tactical Painter shows (I think quite convincingly. You really should read that bit).

And in a sense, the episodes from Band of Brothers relating to Market Garden are one of those possible perspectives. Those combat scenes are excellent. And that is one way to do it, focussing on a part rather than the whole.

And there's so much more to play with. In ABTF there's hardly any time for the vital cutting of Hell's Highway at the crisis of the battle and 101st's US Airborne role in general.

Or what to think of the desperate fights on the 18th and 19th September by the Para's to get into Arnhem? This is where the back of the division was broken, but not always in the best performance. It somehow gets swept up in the Urquhart story in ABTF.

Polish Information Point in Driel

And I guess there might shortly be a Polish movie on Sosabowki's efforts (if there hasn't been one already). His role fits seemlessly into the political narrative of the present Polish government, with the Poles as heroic liberators that are being scapegoated by devious foreigners.

And by the way, where is Monty in all this? Only referenced in archive material.

But some of the most intreaguing choices Attenborough made are on the German side (and this is where I disagree with the Tactical Painter a bit). Rather than as simple foils, I think Attenborough made a conscious decision to only focus on the SS. They are portrayed as tough and ruthless, also probably as a counterpoint to the British lackadaisical approach.

Graebner, the commander of the SS reconnaissance battallion that gets shot up trying to cross the Arnhem bridge, is on the other hand the classic German puppet officer, who hardly utters a word, refusing even to scream as he burns to death.

The German commander in chief, Field Marshal Model, is portrayed as egotistic and incompetent, refusing to blow the bridge in Nijmegen until it is too late. Given Model's experience and competent handling of the German countereffort, this is inaccurate, so Attenborough might have wanted to pose him as a mirror image of Browning.

Looking towards Nijmegen from the spot where 504 PIR crossed the Waal

But nothing about the kampfgruppen on the west of Arnhem holding up the Para's advance, or the motley force commanded by Von Tettau. Nothing on Student, Walther or Chill mounting the vital counterattacks against the corridor. Equally competent to their SS colleagues but somehow showing the Germans as masters of improvisation and very average quality fighting troops didn't fit with the narrative lionising the allied troops. I think a modern movie might focus on them more and show the Germans as more human.

But what would a new movie look like? Another star studded epic involving the cream of international actors? Perhaps less likely than a combination of the Marvel/Disney universes. Or a new British epic in the light of Dunkirk and Darkest Hour? Or do we leave it to the next generation that will interpret WWII in the light of Brexit and Trump?

ps I tried posting my reaction to the Tactical Painter blog but that didn't work

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Gaming goals - August update

A good month, gaming wise.


Month started good with a brutal game of Gaslands... (note the excellent 3D printed terrain!)

Followed the next day by Chain of Command. My 20mm GIs were attacked by a reinforced platoon of 28mm Fallschirmjaeger, who seem to have a harder time advancing than defending.

Then there was a game of Muskets & Tomahawks, bringing out my FIW French to introduce a club mate to the system. Mission accomplished there.

And a game of Dux, hotly contested and narrowly lost, but that proved a phyrric victory for the other Saxons.

There was some board gaming, with my 20th game of Blood Rage the most notable.


I was trying to get some projects to finish before I embark on the 1672 painting project. So there were the CV33 Italian tankettes and the monks to give spiritual guidance to my late Anglo-Saxons.

And the last few Prussians that belonged to the lot that I sold earlier this year.

And then I finished a bunch of 1:72 tanks and M3(A1) halftracks for the Chain of Command and What a Tanker forces.


Not really, eh? Although those Prussians will leave the house at some point.


Chain of Command is going to turn into a pint sized campaign (29th, Let's Go! in commemoration of D-Day). Although I have quite a few support options already, in these pint-sized campaigns the support options can be quite specific, so I have ordered some additional men and materiel.

And the 1672 miniatures have arrived (plus some books...) offering me the opportunity to join the ranks of Turenne! First goal: four units this year and another before a first demo game in February of Sharp Practice tuned to the 1672 period.

But I also need to get back to the Big Project, so that limits my hobby time for September. This may have been the high point of this year.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Gaming goals - July update


In terms of painting I got off to a good start to paint my 47mm and 88mm Italian anti tank guns for my 15mm Italian desert force.

Testing which colours best match the spray painted base coats plus highlights

I also did some good work on my allied 20mm tanks but the decals are still on their way, so not finished yet.

At the same time I started to paint some more Italians but decided that I don't like to paint charred bodies of burned tankers and to have those on the table, so I'm going to give those away to somebody who enjoys that more.

Also started on a few Dark Age monks to finish off my 1066 Anglosaxon force for Dux Brittaniarum.


A bit of a catch up month in terms of playing miniature games! There was a game of Dux Brittaniarum which went down hill very fast and is surplus to the goals set for this year.

My FOW desert Italian force also didn't fare too well despite the newly added AT capability. It might have had something to do with attacking...

Then there was a big battle of For Reign or Ruin that went quite well. My skeleton cavalry made a big initial impact, but the rats were able to claw back their way into the fight due to superior leadership. At the end I held the advantage with uncommitted reserves in hand, but those weren't shock troops.

And finally an evening of What a Tanker with Harald's new entries: Valentines and M13/40s and two JS II, which were pitted against Michiel's King Tiger. The JSII are the first tanks that could actuallz take on the Tiger II with some chance and they did well in that respect. It means I've reached my goal of WaT games for this year.

There were some board games as well, including Mr Jack and the travel version of that game that I played with Nick for the first time. Good fun. None of the stuff on the goals list though.


Well, rather the opposite with an order out for the new project.

And I received some late but excellent birthday toys: Renault R35 tanks by my self printing friends. There's enough to build an Italian 1941 and a French 1940 platoon!

Also some additions came in for my Chain of Command yankees. Especially some support options. I hope to paint a few of those before I embark on a pint sized campaign this autumn.


So, the die has been cast on the new project so I can reveal what it actually is. We're going for a 1672 version of Sharpe Practice by TooFatLardies. It focusses on the petit guerre of Louis XIV's Dutch War from 1672 to 1678. I've gone for the French side, inspired by John Lynn's Giant of the Grand Siecle and their surplus of dragoons. That will be a major addition to my lead mountain.

My aim is to finish (mostly) some of the other projects before that time, such as my 20mm tanks for What a Tanker and Chain of Command, and Italians for Flames of War. It also means the Skavendome and Space Hulk plans are on the backburner.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Gaming goals - June update


Well, at least June has seen me return to the tabletop!

There was a very successful game of Dux Brittaniarum (and a very lucky one at that!), which will see my force quality improved for future games.

Also another session of What a Tanker with nice match ups: Semovente 75 + Panzer IID vs 2 M5 Stuarts and StuG IV + Panzer IV vs Grant + Firefly. An enjoyable evening.

And the elephant was seen by my platoon of Yankees in my first ever game of Chain of Command. Another successful game that proved an extended firefight from cover with no manouvering. Luck gave me an edge so that morale problems destabilised the Germans before my guys started to waver and then the German attempt to pull out of the fight descended into slaughter. Good for my men's morale but it felt like the game dragged on a long while after the result was clear. Got a reasonable grasp for the game now. Maybe a pint sized campaign later in the year?

Two games of Machi Koro and one of King of Tokyo on the boardgaming front don't count toward any specified goal but were very enjoyable!


Haven't gotten round to painting much yet, although I did have an evening session putting the last magnetic disks under my WWII Americans. They have been lying around for 5 years without getting a proper game since they were painted so nicely by Rene.

Also did a wash on some 1:100 British tanks to oppose my Italian tanks for a desert version of What a Tanker some day.


Nope. And new stuff will come in soon...


With Dux and Flames of War running, hints at CoC and Muskets & Tomahawks and the mysterious project starting in the autumn I suspect I'll have my hands full enough.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Gaming goals - May update

Another busy month working. My 8 months at the institute of military history is now finished. Not sure that means back to normal service but it will mean some more gaming time. But in May, it was still very little.


Again nothing. At all.


There was one game of  CIA vs KGB, so that's hopeful. Fun game that probably will see a revisit.

And an evening of What a Tanker with the guys. Mich brought the King Tiger I made for his birthday. We had two T34s taking him on but it was no contest really. Heavier stuff will be needed to take that one out.

There was also a game of Machi Koro with a birthday boy, so that was cool.




Nothing done, but I'm being drawn into a new one. Oh dear.

But it's not all gloom: on another goal I've reached the half way mark in my attempt to cycle over 3,000 kms, so that's ahead of schedule.

Friday, 3 May 2019

2 movies and some commemorations - part II

So this was another movie I went to (see yesterday's post) and it is wry humour that does the trick in this one. Although you could argue that most of the characters come out of this all too well, there is no doubt that many remarks in the movie have a kick if you realise what they would have meant in practice. The summary executions now are portrayed as comic rather than beastly, and Malenkow now comes across as an obseqious toad, without his direct and indirect responsibilities for the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

I remember reading parts of the Black Book of Communism (which sounds better in the original French) and being stymied by 100,000 deaths per page (for a 1,000 pages long if you can bear it).

The Mayday celebrations and the commemoration of Karl Marx' 200th birthday of course reopened that old discussion. While right wingers dismissed Marx completely and blamed all 100 million deaths of Communism on him, left wingers at least defended his scientific contributions, even if his predictions were widely off.

The allure of Whataboutism

The temptation of taking the easy way out it great. You can go a long way fending of the challenges to your beliefs by pointing out that crimes committed in the name of another belief were worse. We can try and just argue why imperialism was a worse crime than nazism or communism or slavery. As if determining which crime is worse would actually solve our dilemmas today.

So what if communism should prove to have made more deadly victims than any other ' bad thing', would that mean that inequality is okay and slavery too? Do the Gulags justify the Holocaust, or the other way around? Do the Crusades justify the bombing of the Twin Towers? Why even get close to such a trap?

We are not alone

But my promise to myself this year is that I will no longer stand idly by in these discussions. Not by outshouting others or letting go of the good manners in discussion just to win once. Because civilisation is not built on winning one argument, but on setting the conditions for resolving many arguments. Be it through laws, democratic process, rules for argumentation or  'good behaviour'.

In that way, even if we are not as committed to a cause as some others, by sticking to nuance and understanding, we set an example and show the value of those ideas. And we shall be beacons to those like us, also reluctant to join the fray. We are not alone. In fact, we are the majority. And our values are worth standing up for. So we need to be out there (wherever the discussion takes place) and visible/audible and support each other.

We can leave the floor to those on the extremes, but if any of the above commemorations should teach us anything, it is that if one extreme wins out, not just the other extreme loses out, but we all become limited in our freedoms, accomplices in the crimes of murderous regimes and chance victims of the violence they bring.

Like the mother in In Syria, we can't keep the world out. When it knocks on our door, it will be too late.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

2 movies and some commemorations - part I

About a year ago I went to watch In Syria, a very powerful movie about a woman and her extended family trying to make it through a day in war torn Damascus. The camera work is excellent drawing you into the claustrophobia of the appartment, even more powerfully than the tank in Lebanon.

What made it even more powerful to me is that these people are recognisable, westernised and hip, worrying about shaving their legs and the availability of broadband on their phones. It emphasises how much out of place are the bombardments and bouts of gunfire close by. And even though the  door of the appartment is blockaded, the sanctity of the home will be violated.

I cannot recommend this movie strongly enough to you.

Commemorating 'the war'

On May 4th last year, the official day of commemorating the war victims in the Netherlands, I joined the commemoration at Kamp Amersfoort, a concentration camp where the Germans in WWII kept Dutch high profile hostages from political parties and civic organisations to disencourage sabotage as well as people suspected of being part of the resistance. Over half were at some point moved on to camps in Germany, often with fatal results. Several hundred were shot or died from cruel treatment or the bad conditions during the war.

It was cathartic to file past the monument on the execution place in silence, with nothing but the evening sunlight and the spring chatter of birds.

Further on, at eight o' clock we kept the two minutes silence. As always, I thought of my grandfather who fought the German invasion in May 1940 and later survived as a POW in eastern Europe. But thanks to In Syria, I was now also more aware of the plight of those at home trying to keep going as best they could.

Whose commemoration is it anyway?

But the past isn't the past. It's here every day and part of today's struggles. The Dutch commemoration on the 4th of May has become part of the discussion about integration and inclusion. Anticolonial activists demanded that the commemoration also include the victims of the Dutch decolonisation wars, on the grounds that the Dutch soldiers killed in those wars were being commemorated as well.

On the other hand some right wing commentators tried to debunk the narrative that Moroccan soldiers (and other French colonial subjects) were actively involved in the defense of the Netherlands in 1940.

While there is no use in overstating the impact of Moroccan soldiers in this instance, it is good to realise that millions of Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese and others from French colonies, but also similar amounts of Africans and Indians from British colonies, and Indonesians from Dutch colonies were enrolled in the armies that liberated Europe, Africa and Asia.

Many of them volunteers, many of them motivated by the struggle against nazism, or otherwise to show that by liberating others they were worthy of their own independence. At least, they are as worthy of our thanks as the American, British, Canadian, French and Russian soldiers.

Not to mention the length the colonial powers went to extract resources from these countries, even if it caused famine and poverty. Millions died in famines like that in Bengal, where food was denied the population to feed troops at the front, or working in mines, plantations or field works, or as carriers. It is a side of the war that doesn't always get its fair share.

And if we want immigrants to identfy with their new home, there is no harm in showing that at that point in time we were on the same side, the right side. And that the fruits of that struggle are for them to reap as much as anyone.

Some people disagree with changing anything about the commemorations on the grounds that 'things have always been done like this'. But I was enlightened by a historian pointing out that only from 1966 did the official commemoration in the Netherlands include the victims of the Holocaust. The most important lesson for me is that we should be very critical of the argument that 'this is how we've always done it'. People's memories are very poor and short.

More in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Gaming goals - April update

Been working hard this month, doing a presentation at the Citadel of Namur on the Wellington Barrier.


None. Literally.


No minis, but I got around to a first game of Secret Weapons of the Third Reich.  There seems to be an interesting game hidden beneath a badly written ruleset. I spent quite a lot of time going through the rules before I dared to bring it to the table and I still missed essential bits tucked away in paragraphs. Which is a shame because the theme is awesome and some of the elements included, like Himmler's pet projects, really speak to the theme. Although I have a better grasp of the game now after filling in the gaps by rereading the rules after playing, I'm not sure I can get the players to play it again.

The other game struck off the list is Gothic Invasion. More meat to it than I expected. The game was tighter than it seemed, but the Goths needed a lot of time running around the empire to get to their targets. But Romans have a thankless task, and their best strategy is not clear to me yet.

Plus a couple of games of Blood Rage, Puerto Rico, Love Letter and Eight Minute Empire. So that week in Denmark was good in that sense (and the weather, and Dybbol).

Dybbol with redoubts V and VI on the left and VIII in the middle, visitor centre on the right

Not forgetting two games of Power Grid: First Sparks later in the month.





I may recover some breath in June. But May's going to be BUSY.