Friday, 31 August 2012

Why Italy came to dinner with only a plate and no cuttlery

I've posted the first 'review' in my Italian trilogy, John Whittam's The Politics of the Italian Army 1861-1918.

Find it her on the Maximum Effort blog

Next week I hope to offer a review of Thompson's White War, followed by Behan's The Resistable Rise of Benito Mussolini. I think I might need a post after that to address certain contentious issues.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

quick update

Won't finish my Italian review tonight so just a quick update of what's going on in various projects.


In the works are three reviews of books on Italy around WWI, spanning the period from 1815 to 1922. I will publish them at the Maximum Effort blog.

Dark Ages

I also have a review of a book on the Low Countries in the Roman age in preparation which also gives pointers to the Dark Ages, with interesting implications for Post-Roman Britain.

I've found somebody to paint my Dux Britanniarum troops, and they are under way as we speak. The first game of Dux was played last Saturday at my club, Murphy's Heroes in Delft, and the impressions were favourable. I'm anxious to join in. By the way, there's a few nice new early Saxon models coming out through Musketeer miniatures. Especially Hengist and Horsa look awesome.


I've now shifted to reading stuff for the upcoming megagame Lost Youth on operations in Vietnam (London, September 15th). The stack of books waiting is higher than I can take on in the three weeks left, so I will pick and choose. Started out in Michael Herr's Dispatches and it's cracking. Halucinatory. I'll definitely be in the mood for that game.

Essen 2012

Also coming closer is Spiel in Essen, late October. Probably won't manage to play all the stuff I picked up last year (that lesson has been taken on board), but I've already made a first pick of games I will be checking out. See my geeklist on boardgamegeek. It's a work in progress, as the list of releases for Essen is not complete yet. More suggestions are welcome, of course.


I've talked to my friend who's writing the biography of the Prince of Orange and we're concocting a devious plan, which might alter my future. I'm very excited about it and I hope everything will come up sixes. So far I'm mostly collecting books, but in 2013 I aim to start reading them.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

My favourite blogwrecks

If the internet wasn't virtual and the remnants of webspace were cluttering up or endangering normal service, we'd be in a world of pain. The total size of the web has multiplied many times over since the early 1990s and much of it is derelict and gathering virtual dust. A special category of this internet waste is dormant weblogs.

Over the past two decades, a significant part of humanity has tried it's hand at blogging. In most cases they've given up at some point, moving on to less time intensive forms of selfcasting like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

I myself blogged earlier in 2006-2008, and gave up trying to document everything I did: concerts, books, games, trips, personal stuff etc. It was all too much like work and I decided to quit and focus on other stuff (slacking mostly).

The internet is therefor strewn with the wrecks of sometimes great but short lived attempts at blogging. I've listed a few favourites here (in no particular order) as a memorial, but if possible, I'd like them brought back to the surface and see them sail again.

Derk's Miniatures Blog
The first is actually three blogs by Derk Groeneveld. In this first one he recorded much of his miniature painting. Not only is Derk a very good painter, his investments in camera also paid off. You can see some beautiful examples, and there's hints and tips as well.
Last activity: July 20, 2010

Napoleonic Hussar
The second is Derk's reenactment blog, concerning the Dutch hussar regiment Van Boreel during the Waterloo period. Records some of the work he put in for it, like saddlery and of course reenactment meetings.
Last activity: September 1, 2009

This One's Split
This One's Split is a fantasy ruleset based on the card driven mechanism used by Too Fat Lardies. Derk really put his heart in it and went through various drafts, but it never got finished and Derk moved on to other stuff. A pitty because some earlier drafts were really cool. As with all Derk's stuff, the quality of painting is astonishing.
Last activity: January 24, 2010

Why Derk needs to start blogging again: my hope is that Derk merges all three blogs in one. He still paints quite regularly and he has moved on to other periods for reenactment and miniature rules. If he would focus less on text and more on images, it would be easier to maintain. And nice pics is what the best modelling blogs are about.

Hail Hail to Freedonia
A shortlived blog by Jim Wallman to document a number of toy soldier games he ran in backyards and rooms using H.G. Wells Little Wars rules over the summer of 2011. The battle reports were hilarious and the pics are great.
Last activity: September 2, 2011

Why Jim needs to start blogging again: Of course, Jim has moved on to new projects, but I think many would be happy to see the Freedonian aggression flare up again. Sometime warm and dry. But I'd as much welcome a blog documenting all his projects, or Jim's ideas on game design. After he is a deep fount of ideas and experience when it comes to game design, and I think others can only learn from him. On the other hand of course, it would detract him from actually designing.

Chapel's Brain
Mike Chapel is a boardgamer with the right kind of rugged attitude. He did some great reviews of games but also movies and I think it's a pitty he quit.
Last activity: February 3, 2011

Why Mike needs to start blogging again: because he now wastes his time in online fora making trouble instead of contributing in substance. He doesn't have to do it all by himself. The best blogs are actually those where a number of people cooperate.

Frank van den Bergh
On March 29th 2011, Frank van den Bergh suffered a stroke. Friends set up a blog to keep his many friends and acquaintances in touch. After a few weeks, Frank took over the blog himself as he slowly began to recover. Through short posts with many spelling mistakes at first, Frank documented his frustrations of recovery but also the joy of friends and family visiting.

Frank had always been very active in his gaming club in Nijmegen, Casus Belli, but had also built up a wide network of relations as conservator of the Groesbeek Liberation Museum and his involvement in Market Garden memorial associations. So highlights of the summer were Frank's visits to his colleagues at the museum and the commemoration of Operation Market Garden.

Then suddenly on October 8th, Frank died of a heart attack. Speeches made at his funeral are the last additions to the blog. It now stands as a monument to his remarkable success in befriending people.
Last activity: October 29, 2011

Why it's a pitty Frank won't be blogging again: Frank's wide knowledge of military history and games and his frank observations on his own condition would have provided endless entertainment.

And finally a blog lost at sea forever: Playing with Girls, a moving account of a father and his attempts to draw his children into gaming.
Last activity: September 6, 2011

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Flag of Garibaldi volunteers in Franco-Prussian War

Another pic from my holidays in Northern Italy. The Risorgimento Museum in Genova holds an interesting object of Garibaldi's prodigious history.

Born in the big port of Genova in 1807, he rolled into a life in the merchant navy. But on a trip in the Black Sea in 1833, he met Italian revolutionary nationalists and was converted to the cause of Italian unification.

His involvement in revolutionary plots forced him to flee to South America, where he fought for Brasilian revolution and Uruguayan civil war. He returned to Italy for the 1848 revolts and the next year declared a short lived Roman Republic.

When these failed, Garibaldi again fled abroad, but he was back in time for the 1859-1866 campaigns of unification. His attempt to bring Rome under the Italian flag in 1867 failed.

He wasn't done fighting yet, because his last feat if arms was for the French Republic by the end of 1870. He led the Armee de les Vosges composed of (Italian) volunteers against the Prussians until Paris capitulated in January 1871.

Cool to find a flag of that army in the Risorgimento museum.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Canadian Museum of Flight

In January 2008 I visited the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, BC with my brother who then lived in Vancouver. It's a small museum, but has a nice collection with some interesting bits you won't find as easily in Europe.

I'm putting up some of the pictures, but as I'm no expert on aviation, I won't be able to dish out on details. I've provided links to the excellent website of the museum if you want to know more.

Canadian Quicky, a homebuilt design from the 1970s. It still looks cool.

Beechcraft 3NMT Expeditor, a Canadian C-45 in ample use

Canadair CT-114 Tutor. This plane was used by the Snowbirds, the RCAF demonstration team, in the 1970s

Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck
, a Canadian designed and built aircraft from around 1950

Replica of SE5A

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

"Western" boardgaming and egalitarianism

Sagrilarius put some interesting questions in his blog " The Culture of Gaming, and Vice Versa". I was struck especially by one point he made, in that "western" society doesn't accept hierarchical games.

Sagrilarius wrote: "Games with binding contracts or hierarchical player roles are simply unheard of in the genre, not because they aren't fundamentally sound, but because they simply don't occur to the usual suspects that drive boardgaming's technological progress. Not just a eurogame thing, this a western game thing." Not to leave my thoughts in the comments section, I put them up here.

The comment may strike true for boardgames (although the Great Dalmuti springs to mind as the obvious exception) but is patently untrue if you look at other forms of gaming. In games with many players there is the opportunity for both hierarchical and 'contractual' relationships.

If you look at the mass player games occuring online, the hierarchical (and diplomatic) aspects are very clear, with structures like guilds, corporations, alliances and clans. In these structures some players take leading roles, whether formally or informally. Another aspect is specialisation of character types and team balance.

Another form of gaming which is inherently hierarchical is megagaming , games which involved 25 players and more. Player are grouped in hierarchies of teams, which in turn are hierarchical. In "The Last War ", a two day game about the latter half of WWII, about 150 players were grouped into 35 political or military teams , ranging for example from Roosevelt's cabinet through the Joint Chiefs of Staff to theater headquarters.

In both types of games players seem to happily accept the different roles, some relishing in the opportunity to exert leadership, others preferring to stay out of the limelight. Some people take pride in the team effort.

Of course, problems do occur when arguments start. Because this is only a game, and not real life, the extent to which players accept formal authority is limited. And even though there are limits to formal authority in real life (think of Guderian pushing on to the Channel Coast in May 1940, despite orders to halt), the options to punish players for disloyalty and insubordination in games are much less. On the other hand there is greater opportunity for players to excel on merrit, charisma, setting the example or by taking the lead.

I think the lack of hierarchy in boardgames has more to do with the format of a small group of players that need about an even chance of winning, than with cultural traits. Interestingly, informal hierarchy also works with semi-cooperative boardgames, especially if connected to special powers connected to certain offices, like in Republic of Rome and Battlestar Galactica.

So while there is a cultural propensity in the west for egalitarianism, it is not absolute, and it would be very interesting to see comparative studies of gaming culture, just like is being done for business culture (where for example the German business culture is more hierarchical than the Dutch). Do Chinese MMRPG player groups have different forms of organisations than Americans, or British?

There is an academic literature building up that looks at these kinds of dynamic in computer games, but I'm not sure it's as easy to do the same for boardgames.

An earlier version of this post was published on Fortress Ameritrash

Monday, 20 August 2012

Ray and Fran's 20 questions

Life's slowing down a bit after holidays (I hope you enjoyed the pictures I posted, it was a fun way of updating whilst on the move) and a festival. I hope to have more spare evenings to write posts.

But before resuming normal service, Here's my take at the 20 questions by Ray and Fran

Favourite Wargaming period and why?
Pffff, that's mostly dependent on whether the rules are cool. I'd still love to do Great Paraguyan War and the Risorgimento Wars (1848-1870).

Next period, money no object?
Money is not the problem, as I've made clear from the start. Time is. So money would be spent on getting good painters to do useful stuff and with no time/money constraints I could splash out on terrain and fringe miniatures, like camp followers, wagons and civilians. That's what I always stayed clear off.

Probably I'd prefer a skirmishing period with lots of opportunities for scenario's. When Foundry came out with the beautiful Darkest Africa range, I had this fantasy of doing a campaign with explorers, carriers, slave traders, shady business men, some wild animals and of course a many war parties, both European and African. Add to this terrain and buildings for savannah, desert and rain forest, fortresses and huts...

Oh well. That or a Skaven Mordheim warband with loads of interesting monsters and adventurers for endless roleplaying fun.

Favourite 5 films?
Big Lebowski (that's just like... your opinion, man!)
Once Upon A Time in America (the scene where the kid eats his cake while waiting for the prostitute)
Cross of Iron (My platoon? You are my platoon now)
Once Upon a Time in the West (So you found out you're not a business man after all? Just a man)

Favourite 5 TV series?
I haven't owned a TV in 20 years, so it'll be old stuff:
The Young Ones
Saphir and Steel
Ren & Stimpy
Jan J de Bom, voorheen de kindervriend
Twin Peaks

Favourite book and author?
Terry Pratchett - Discworld series

Military history:
Martin van Creveld - Supplying War, not because it's the best book, but because it broke the ground and opened my eyes to the subject of logistics
Archer Jones - The Art of War in the Western World, shaped my view of military history and gave me a framework
Lawrence Keeley - War Before Civilization, shows how politics and graft are a small price to pay for peace

Historical atlasses:
Westerman's Grosser Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, shaped the world for me. I can still draw blind maps of the German states at various points in time. Or classic campaigns and battles. All learned from this book. It also inspired my paper on the Brandenburg West Indian Company (which you probably hadn't heard off).

Jan de Vries - European Urbanization, 1500-1800, I still love those maps of urbanisation at various points in time. Opened my mind to historical geography.
Charles Tilly - Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1992, on the link between warfare, urbanisation and state formation. Notice the link to Van Crevelds Supplying War!

Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!
I have a fascination with Wavell, and his challenges in 1940/1: Western Desert, East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Greece, Crete. Probably not the greatest, but those are not always the most interesting.

Favourite Wargames rules?
Science vs Pluck
Bag the Hun (1st Edition)

Favourite Sport and team?
(field) hockey. I sort of support/follow Fiorentina in the Serie A, QPR in the Premier League, the Canucks in the NHL, England in cricket.

If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?
The Big Bang, to go out with a bang!

Last meal on Death Row!

Fantasy relationship and why?
Cameron Diaz. That smile

If your life were a movie, who would play you?
Michael Fassbender

Favourite Comic Superhero?
Dylan Dog - Indigatore de l'incubi

Favourite Military quote?
"C'est magnifique, mais c'est ne pas la guerre" - French General Bosquet, while watching the charge of the Light Brigade at the battle of Balaclava.

Historical destination to visit?
Inca remains and battlefields of the Wars of Liberation in the Andes

Biggest Wargaming Regret?
All the unfinished projects

Favourite Fantasy job?
Corporate PR at Barclays Bank - a challenge

Favourite Song, Top 5?
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - The Lee Shore
Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
The The - Kingdom of Rain
Neil Finn - Try Whistling This acoustic version on some radio show
Beatles - Dear Prudence
Wilco - Impossible Germany

Favourite wargaming moment!
Kirovograd megagame, January 1994. A life changing experience that got me hooked on megagaming.

The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
Don't get me started

Friday, 17 August 2012

The opening of the Memorial for le Mille on May 9th 1915

On May 9th 1915, the monument was christened for the 1,000 redshirts that accompanied Garibaldi on his trip to Sicily in 1860, beginning the 'liberation' of Southern Italy.

I put liberation in quotations because it soon became clear that the replacement of the Bourbon dynasty with that of Savoy didn't make that much of a difference to the Apulians, Sicilians and Calabrians. For decades the new Italian army was involved in putting down the ongoing revolt in the south, and banditism continued well into the 20th century.

The opening ceremony stood in the light of the Italian intervention in WWI at the side of the Entente. Italy had been allied to Germany and Austria-Hungary since 1882 but now opportunistically threw its weight on the other side, claiming not only the Trentino, Friuli and Triƫste, but large parts of the Dalmatian coast in the secret treaty with Great Britain and France.

Gabriele d'Annunzio, Italy's most famous poet was recalled from Paris to whip up public fervour for war. France paid off his debts so he wouldn't be arrested.

On May 9th he promised, demanded bloody sacrifice: 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have splendid blood to wipe away, radiant pain to bind up'.

I'd think d'Annunzio got what he wanted. By 1918 over 670,000 Italians had lost their lives.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Alpini, Go Home!

The Alpini are the Italian elite mountain troops. They earned their distinctions during the mountain battles of WWI, but also elsewhere in WWII. I've come across quite a few memorials in Italian towns and villages specifically for them.

They have characteristic hats with a feather. You can almost make it out in the picture.

However, the love is not universal, as you can see. Taken in Genova last week.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

L'Armee de l'Orient

Picked this one up in Levanto on Saturday in a huge stack of second hand books. Interesting to kniw how it ended up there.

This is the account of Sarrail's command of the Armee de l'Orient in Macedonia from late 1915 to spring 1918. Published in 1920.

Sarrail was reluctant to go there, as he had been relieved of his army command on the west front and this was obviously a side show. He demanded and got an army command, more troops and independence from the Brits.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Uniform of the Carabinieri Genovese

The Carabinieri Genovese were formed in 1851 as a rifle association.

The club was heavily influenced by the desire for Italian unity and many members were involved in the failed 1857 plot in Milan, Garibaldi's Cacciatory delle Alpi in 1859 and the Mille that set sail for Sicily with Garibaldi in 1860.

The uniform is on display in the Risorgimento museum in Genova.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Mussolini at the helm

Another fine painting from the Wolfsonia collection in Nervi.

Close to the outbreak of WWII, this shows Mussolini at the helm (it's called 'Il Nocchiero').

I like it a lot, with the crazy references to barbed wire, but also airplanes and the map of Europe.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Fascist fascination with flight

This painting from the Wolfsonia collection in Genova-Nervi shows how the Futurist obsession with movement and action perfectly fitted fascism.

It is hard to separate the ideas of Futurism, which are grotesque and become soiled with fascist ideology, from the products, which are beautiful.

I went back early this morning to Nervi, just to see this collection, because I think it's a brilliant combination of design objects, graphics and more conventional forms of art. The trip was well worth the trouble.

I had to rush back for the train to Levanto.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Bust of Garibaldi

This bust is displayed at the Risorgimento museum in Genova.

It's an old school museum in transition, now having some multimedia displays.

Yet, it has an intreaguing collection because nationalists and revolutionaries Mazzini and Garibaldi had links to the city. Mazzini lived in the building for a while.

The museum doesn't expect non-Italians, I guess. There were few English texts and promotional material is only in Italian.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Women in times of war

A painting by Alba Giuppone from 1942-3 called Donne in tempo di guerra from the Galeria d'Arte Moderne in Genova-Nervi.

Nervi, a former upper middle class sea resort near Genoa, houses some nice art museums.

The GAM holds a few works of Futurist and later fascist influence, but this on transcends political lines, I feel.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Gate of St Matteo church in Genoa

The S Matteo church was the private church of the Doria family, as can be seen from the eagle motives next to the door.

Inside is buried Andrea Doria, the legendary Genovese admiral, who led a coalition of Spain, Genoa, Venice and the Papacy to victory over the Turks in 1571 at Lepanto.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Monument for the fallen of the Risorgimento in Tortona

This momument was erected around 1890 in Tortona to commemorate those fallen in the Risorgimento battles.

The period spans from 1848 to 1867


The list of battlefields includes all those I knew and a few more: Milano, Santa

Lucia, Peschiera (1848) Novara (1849), Palestro, San Martino, Peschiera, Solferino (1859), Milazzo (1860), Custoza, Villafranca, Montesuello (1866) and one battle from 1867 which I can't decipher and can hardly imagine. Not sure whether there was much fighting in 1867, or maybe this guy died of his wounds.

In terms of lives, the 1859/60 campaign was the most costly: 27 lives were lost, of which 10 at Solferino. The 1848/49 war cost 10 lives, and the 1866 campaign 5.

Remarkably, there are three deaths credited to the Crimea in 1854/1855, possibly the Battle of the Chernaya, but equally likely deaths of disease. It is interesting to see the Italians reckoning their participation in the Crimean War so directly to the Risorgimento. A quid pro quo for French intervention in Italy in 1859.

Anyway, 45 deaths in 20 years was a considerable sacrifice for an agricultural community.