Saturday, 12 April 2014

Famous Friends

Yesterday was a day of unexpected pride for me. Not pride for anything I'd done, but two of my friends made it to television on the same evening in two different programs!

First, Jeroen van Zanten, who wrote a biography of King Willem II of the Netherlands appeared in a television series on the history of the Dutch kingdom. As such he has made many appearances on TV and radio over the last few months. Let´s say that this series takes a low brow approach to appeal to a broader audience. But at least they have talked to serious historians as well.

Watch it here

Next, Michiel Schwarzenberg, who works at the Red Cross archive, was shown digging up information on a Dutchman who had died as a labour volunteer in Germany during WWII. In the Netherlands it was decided just after the war that the Red Cross should collect all the information on people transported to Germany (eg Jews, forced and volunteer labourers, volunteers for the SS) or in the Dutch East Indies.

The archive includes copies of Dutch, German and Japanese administrative accounts, but also many returnees were interviewed to find out what had happened to others so that they could be traced by family, or at least it was known where they had died. For example, the archive holds the records of Anne Frank´s transport to Bergen-Belsen, but also a note from a survivor that she had died in the camp just before the end of the war.

The archive in this case helped to figure out where the labourer, grandfather of the man searching in the TV program, had been buried in an unmarked grave.

watch it here

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Mechanics of Violence

Interesting outcome. New research links aggression after video games to the mechanisms rather than violent content. So it´s the designers fault?

Could this also be true for analogue games? Are wargamers happier after a bout of crisp Black Powder and aggravated after a spell of Barkerese?

Do people feel less aggressive after playing an 'elegant' Knizia design and driven to rage by the disorganised, misspelled and obtuse collection of half sentences that the publisher of Luna Llena calls the rulebook?

I wouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review: 1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras

1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras
1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras by Peter Hofschröer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hofschroer is a different beast to the English writers on the Battle of Waterloo. He includes German, but also English and even a few Dutch sources. Since the book is mostly a revision of English dominated historiography of the campaign, Hofschroer is critical of Wellington's conduct of the campaign and his dealings with the Prussians. The constant focus on Wellington's double dealing gets tiresome, even if it's clear that the Hof is on to something.

There are very useful chapters on the diplomatic struggle over the minor German contingents between the allied armies and the Saxon mutiny.

The research is very good, and I think for anyone not digging into the primary sources this book is more valuable than almost anything published by Anglo-Saxon authors.

View all my reviews

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mice, Mystics and Empires

Spurred on by my lack of progress on the boardgaming resolutions for 2014, I spent part of last week reading the rules for 8 Minute Empire and Mice & Mystics. And Friday that made me the master of ceremonies for the evening.

And an enjoyable evening it was: we managed two pairs of empire building at each end of the introductory scenario of the cheese fest.

8 Minute Empire manages to get a lot a bang from its very few rules. Every turn you can pick one of six cards on display, with the order determining the cost of each card. Free for the first card, three coins for the 6th. At the bottom of the card you find the action you are allowed to take. This mostly means placing a varying amount of blocks on the board, or moving them. But occasionally there is the opportunity to build a city or to remove a block of an opponent.

At the top is the symbol of a good. Building sets of goods gains you victory points, but of course some goods score easier than others. Apart from the goods, there are points to be gained from having the most blocks in areas on the map. With 7 to 9 turns (depending on the number of players) you have to chose wisely.

A highly tactical game. With a variable map and deck of cards, there is a enough replayability. Due to the minimalist design it has been compared to Love Letters.

Mice & Mystics is an entirely different beast. A sort of dungeon crawler, but due to the fairy tale setting and wonderful art work and miniatures one that immediate grasps your empathy.  There is quite a bit of information to take in before the game: a reasonable amount of rules, but also some scenario specific information.

I hadn´t had enough time to fully master the rules before playing and although I took on the role of dungeon master (not prescribed in the rules, but a useful variant, I think) there was a misunderstanding with the rules which meant that the players felt the were unduly pushed towards the end. If we had played correctly, they would have had more time.

This game is definitely coming back to the table sometime. I think the setting and scenario´s have the potential to make this a returning favourite.

Friday, 4 April 2014

NYR update March: books I read

Bought no new books, while awaiting some of the stuff that I had ordered in February. Managed to read a dozen. So still slightly behind the curve toward 150, but that should not be hard to regain when I have more time on my hand from September.

Two tougher books to get through was me finally finishing Lieven's Russia Against Napoleon, a great work which shows how the Russian army managed to get from Moscow to Paris in less than 18 months. The other was Gregor Dallas' 1815 The Roads To Waterloo, which is more about the reordering of Europe than about the campaign. A book which in content and approach is a clear precursor to Zamoyski's The Fall of Napoleon.

With my modelling efforts came three Osprey's on the M3 Halftrack, Stuart and Panther.

One small subject was the smaller German contingents, from Bavaria to Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen. I enjoyed John Gill's With Eagles to Glory on the 1809 campaign, and his article on the German troops in Spain. To this I added the book on the Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars by Nafzinger. Great research but I’d wish that man could write better and get an editor.

The last week has seen me racing through some books on the Prussian Army: Classics by Craig, Goerlitz, Demeter and Paret. All together throwing a much more nuanced light on the reform period. Paret's book towers above the others as far as I'm concerned.

And a quick Suske & Wiske as well. This one is about WWI and much darker than any S&W I’ve read.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

NYR update March

Not often that I acquire so much stuff in a coop game #teamplayer

Board games: failed. I bought 8 Minute Empire. And didn't play any of my games. Played some games, though, in three sessions: Eldritch Horror, Civ, Carcassonne, Bohnanza and Koehandel/(You're Bluffing). But I will need to pick up the pace of playing my own games, with 8 Minute Empire a requirement.

Miniatures: I bought a Panther model for a friend and a Buffalo amphibious craft plus jeep for my US Chain of Command force. So that's all within remit. René has informed me the miniatures are as good as done (all 143 of them) and I'm looking forward to playing with them. Next task is to pick a fight to try it out.

Good thing is that I actually did some assembling and painting.

No new projects started.

Blogging is still at a low although I´ve managed to get some interest on the post about Wexy and my modelling exploits. It´s enough.

Will post my past month's reading in a separate post later.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform, 1807-1815

Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform, 1807-1815 by Peter Paret

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book on the Prussian reforms before and after Jena-Auerstädt. Shows that it was not just a case of noble and visionary reformers vs dumb reactionaries, but a struggle in which military theories and practice were linked to but also conflicted with legal privileges, social attitudes and personal rivalries.

Considering the opposition it is amazing how much was achieved and one wonders what might have happened if Scharnhorst hadn´t died so young and peace hadn´t come so soon. In any case, the reforms turned the Prussian army from a laggard into a front runner, despite the rough edges.

Yorck´s role in all of this is much more interesting than many historians have it (and that includes recent historians who have simply repeated the myths of the past). Yorck was in many ways closer to the reformers than most, looking at his practice as a commander of the Jäger and the infantry regulations and training programmes he helped to write. On the other hand, he was quite aware that the consequences of the social change not only undermined his status and legitimacy as a noble, but thereby also that of other institutions. And he was a pain in the arse to work with.

All this lovingly analysed and extensively researched by the author.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 29 March 2014

I actually did some more modelling and painting!

Yes, it gets more unbelievable...

When I spray painted the Panther tank, I also went over two 1:72 Shermans I had assembled earlier for my US Army force for Chain of Command (look for a teaser at René's Paint-In blog, he's doing a great job again).

And three newly assembled M3 halftracks in different versions. I gotta admit I love those Plastic Soldier kits for ease and speed of assembly.

You won't believe it, but I also have three Stuart M5A1 sprues here that I just might assemble sometime soon. And a bunch of jeeps and a Buffalo.

Not making any promises though....

Friday, 28 March 2014

I actually did some modelling and painting

My appearance at Murphy's Heroes yesterday was a bit of a shocker. Not so much the fact that I was present, but the fact that I was carrying an assembled and painted 1:72 Airfix model of Panther tank.

This goes contrary to club myth that I don't ever paint any miniatures and as we all know you shouldn't let the facts come between a good story.

The tank is actually not for myself, but a proxy gift to my great chum Michiel, a tank hugger if there ever was one.

I had to assemble quickly to present the unpainted model at his birthday bash last Friday.

And this weekend I quickly snatched the opportunity to airbrush it. Yes, desert yellow is a cop out. But it's the thought that counts.

I even spray painted the tracks

Did some dark wash on the rear grids. And a highlight. Which makes it look presentable, doesn't it?

Oh yes! Almost forgot the decals...

Friday, 21 March 2014

It's Official: I'm not a Witch!

Had a nice trip cycling from Woerden via Oudewater and Montfoort to Vleuten. Not only was it a beautiful sunny day, but this is classic polder country.

In Oudewater we visited De Waag, where goods were traditionally weighed before sale, but it is better known for its weighing of witches. The first recorded witch trials in the northern Netherlands stem from the 1540s, and de Waag probably acquired the privilege to weigh witches sometime after that. However, since you have to pay for weighing, this was only of use to the wealthy.

Unsurprisingly, my 190 pounds proved I am not a witch

Although the coming of Protestantism helped in driving out the belief in witchcraft the last trial in the northern Netherlands was in 1614. But in the year before several dozens of people had been killed during a trial in Roermond. The last official weighing was in 1729 but it is still done for visitors. The museum has a small but engaging exhibition on witchcraft and trials.

From there on to Montfoort where with some luck we ran into the gate of the former castle of Montfoort. The castle was destroyed by the French during one of their attempts to break into the Water Line (oude Hollandse Waterlinie) in 1672.

A sign showing the castle in the mid 17th century