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.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Gaming goals - March update

Of course, March looked like it would turn out as bleak as February...

And it did. Other, more important, stuff to do. But some bits happened:


I did make a start on a bunch of allied and German tanks for What A Tanker.

Also finished the King Tiger for the birthday boy. That will come in handy with future bouts of WaT!


The new 20mm tanks got an outing mid-March in unfinished state, but what the heck...

I also managed a game of Dux Brittanniarum. And thankfully, it was a win. I think I am getting the hang of not putting myself out unnecessarily exposed, and with two lucky card draws (an Evade to have my thegns retreat to safety from a flank charge by the Viking elite, followed by a Carpe Diem so I could charge my fyrd into the flank of the Viking elite with good effect) I reaped generous rewards.

And my WWII Italians had another but not very eventful night of Flames of War.

No boardgaming at all though!


And in mid March, also arrived the 7TV Apocalypse and Killer Rabbits kickstarters! So a net 'lead' pile growth (certainly in weight!)

And a boardgame I thought I had given away was returned to me.


No work done and won't be until June at least before action picks up again in general.

A little ray of light though, because in my non-gaming goals for this year, I have clocked over 800 km in bike rides for this year already. I'd set myself the goal of 3000 km as I just missed out on that one last year. Given that I hardly did any cycling in January and February in previous years, I am some way ahead of schedule.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Gaming goals - February update

February has been a bit slow in ticking off boxes on my games goals chart.


Finished the fyrd! In time for the next Dux game later this month.

Had a pleasant evening of glue and plastic as the local What a Tanker gang seeks to increase its 1:72 options for the next battle: added: 2 T-34s, 2 Stug IVs, a Lee/Grant and a Semovente 75/18. Next episode: spray cans

Also got a bunch of 15mm tanks built and sprayed: Crusader, Shermans, Stuart and Matilda. Can be used to oppose my Italians in What a Tanker,

Got some work done on the Italian 47mm antitank guns for Flames of War.


Got in my game of Dux Brittanniarum, with the fresh fyrd doing as well as they could be expected. Still, it's a tough campaign for my warlord, Wealdhere, while the Vikings seem to have all the fun. The tables will have to turn somewhere soon or Wealdhere will lose his king's confidence.

U-Boot arrived early in the month, so that's now on the list to play. I put it on the list for the holiday in early April. Given the size of the rule book, it will require some homework before I can set sail.

I did play some board games, but none from the list.


PolderCon happened, and it seems a lot of the 140 participants enjoyed it. That's good. Given that I want to spend less time organising and more time playing I decided that I would step down from the organising committee.

Now wondering what game to host next year. I noticed a lack of games using 15mm minatures or smaller, which I think is a shame. On the one hand Hordes of the Things might be good to introduce people to the De Bellis Antiquitatis family, and I don't have to worry about painting. DBA itself is also interesting, but that would require painting (there's 6mm Carthaginian army lying around somewhere) and finding an opposing army.

An alternative would be U-Boot or 7TV since those kickstarters should attract some attention because of newness. The latter also requires painting, but probably more terrain as I can use some near future stuff I already have.

But I also made the brave decision to go ahead with project Skavendome (although not setting a deadline). To prevent my slow painting proving a bottleneck, this has been avoided by buying up a sizeable collection of painted Skaven. It will also ease development of rules and playtesting.


I managed to sell my Prussian Napoleonics to somebody who will actually use them, so that's a win-win. There's still a few stragglers that I need to finish.

However, I did buy some more stuff at PolderCon: a couple of 1:72 additions for What a Tanker, some palm trees as desert terrain for my FOW Italians. And some other stuff helping out Bad Squiddo's move from general shop to focus on her own miniature lines.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

PolderCon Encore

I did a PolderCon post earlier this week to get my most pressing thoughts out. But there was so much more to see with some 45 different events on 35 tables.

Small scale historical wargaming is underrepresented in my opinion. Not putting it on makes players feel it isn't an option and that there are no opponents out there.

I guess it's a reflection of supply by miniature producers/game designers, but it won't change if there's no demand. Although I enjoy the skirmish type games, the offer different challenges than games at divisional or corps level and I miss that myself. So that's something I'm thinking about bringing more into the spotlight for next year.

Blitzkrieg Commander
By Fire & Sword

Quite a lot of 28mm historical stuff

Chain of Command
I Ain't Been Shot Mum
Sharp Practice 2

There was a lot of fantasy gaming.

9th Age
Kings of War Vanguard
A Song of Ice and Fire

And a lot of sci fi/Post-apocalyptic

Fall Out

Walking Dead
Last Days
Looking over all these pictures as I go through them today I am so happy seeing so many of them including the hosts explaining the game to players. That is exactly what PolderCon is about!

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

PolderCon happened

This weekend, PolderCon happened and good fun it was. The idea behind the convention is that a number of people host games and others come to play (a fair number switches during the day to do both). It's not a buying convention, although we had a few traders.

Tank painting workshop Mitchell Basran

After cajoling people since August I was glad to have as many games on as we did. We averaged around a 100 slots in 30+ games in each session. There was a workshop in advanced tank painting and a presentation on modern tactics by a former senior officer.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Blood & Plunder


Cruel Seas
Star Wars Legion

You can't always predict what will work and what won't. Recently published games always do well, with most of those slots filled up.



Sometimes, self made games do well on the reputation of their designer or the appeal of their terrain and miniatures.

Zierikzee 1304
Redders van Erda

Generally, I think that self made games deserve more love. They may not be as smooth as the best commercial sets, but they often are more true to the theme, off the beaten path and prepared with more love.

Mythic Battles

Memoir 44 Overlord

The experience with board games is mixed. It could be that the skrimishy, miniature heavy ones (you know, the ones that get kickstartered with multiple boxes of plastic) do better than the more abstract ones in this miniature friendly environment.

Anyway, see you next year!

Non Star Trek Space Battles