Who do you think you are?

One of my wife’s hobbies is genealogy. So far she has traced her direct ancestors all the way back to the early eighteenth century, when one of them was born in Edinburgh. He is described in the records as being the son of a member of the Edinburgh City Guard (an armed quasi-police force) who was an in-dweller of the Castle. He later joined the British Army, and after serving as a infantry soldier in a number of regiments raised by successive Dukes of Argyll, he ended his service as an Invalid and Master Gunner at Landguard Fort near Harwich. When he was ‘too old and decrepit for further service‘ at the age of ninety(!) he moved to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, where he remained until he died.

During his service he spent some years in Gibraltar, and whilst he was there he fathered several children, one of whom joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery as a twelve year-old fifer. It was this son who was the first of my wife’s family to come to Woolwich, and the family are still here nearly two hundred and fifty years later. (The boy later became Fife-Major to the Company of Gentlemen Cadets, one of the senior NCOs in the Regiment.)

One of the things that my wife had done as part of her research was a Hereditary DNA test. This looks for markers in an individual’s DNA and gives an indication of the origins of one’s forebears. Because the Y-Chromosome (Y-DNA) passes down from father to son with very little variation, it can be used to trace the origins of your paternal line. In my wife’s case the Y-DNA indicated that her father’s family came from the Argyll area of Scotland.

My wife prevailed upon me to also have the test … and it produced an interesting result. My surname is Norman French in origin, and I expected that the results of the Y-DNA would show the necessary genetic markers to support the contention that my paternal line came from Northern France.

It did not. In fact what it did show was that I belonged to a particular haplogroup whose geographical origins can be found in the area known as Frisia or Friesland. This part of the North Sea coast of Europe stretches from the northern part of the Netherlands to the southern part of the Jutland peninsular.

So it would appear that I am not a full-blood Norman after all … but it is highly likely that I am a Saxon!

And the winner is …

Yesterday’s blog entry may have given the wrong impression that I was upset that I was not eligible to be ‘nominated’ for the latest award … but that was not what I was trying to say.

My niggle was that the rules made it impossible for me to nominate any of the excellent blogs that I follow (it is over eighty, by the way) … although trying to choose just five would have been a Herculean task and I would have ended up offending someone. During the process of thinking about blogs, the Internet, and wargaming I also began to think about the wargaming websites that I still visit on a regular basis … and decided to ‘nominate’ them for an ‘award’ instead.

Funnily enough this was a far easier task than trying to select five blogs … and here they are, in no particular order except for the first, which is still – in my opinion – far and away the most inspiring wargaming website ever:

Major General Tremorden Rederring’s Colonial-era Wargames Page

Although the original website is no longer available, it has been preserved on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

The Universal General

Rudi Geuden’s website is currently moribund, but I still love re-visiting it, especially the pages dedicated to his Afriborian Campaign.

Bob Mackenzie’s Web Page

Bob Mackenzie regularly updates his website, and his extremely well illustrated battle reports always have me itching to get my World War II figures and tanks out onto the tabletop.

(Photograph © Bob Mackenzie)

Beautiful models on achievable but realistic terrain. What more could one ask for?

Chris Kemp’s Not Quite Mechanised

I first met Chris Kemp at the gathering organised by Paddy Griffith that led to the formation of Wargame Developments and COW (Conference of Wargamers). At the first meeting he put on a wargame using 1:300th-scale model tanks that opened my eyes to the prospect of a number of models representing a unit that fought as one and not a group of individual figures or tanks lumped together.

From these early glimmerings he developed NOT QUITE MECHANISED (NQM), a set of wargames rules for fighting battles from 1930 until 1980. These were the forerunner of MEGABLITZ and Chris is still using and developing them today … as a visit to his blog shows.

Chris has an interesting attitude to modelling that can probably be summed up as being ‘it is good enough’. He is a good modeller – and even better cartoonist – but he would rather wargame than spend hours making sure that every vehicle he uses is exactly correct and each soldier is perfectly painted. He has an exuberant attitude to wargaming … and one that I wish I could emulate at times!

Wot, no award? … No, but at least we can now wash-up!

The recent spate of awards being made to blogs that have less than 200 followers has made me aware of some real little gems that I had not come across before. This has helped keep my spirits up during the last couple of days, and especially yesterday whilst we were waiting for the plumber to come to fix the leaking pipework under our sink.

The insurance company who supplied the plumber told us he would arrive between 8.00am and 6.00pm, and he did … at 5.30pm! He took about twenty minutes to take apart the pipework that was leaking, clean all the joints, and re-seal them … and then we were able to do the washing-up that had piled up over the course of 24 hours and start the dishwasher that was still full of the previous day’s dirty cups and plates. The plumber also told us that all he had done was to repair the leak, and that the pipework was actually a bit of a mess and should be replaced. (The actual term he used was that it was a bit of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ … and that the person who had installed it had had little or no idea how to do it properly.)

One more thing to be sorted out after Christmas.

Not a lot has been happening on the wargaming front, although I have been trying to finalise the alternative Close Combat mechanism I want to play-test. As soon as I have (which will hopefully be within a day or two) I will make it available via the PORTABLE WARGAME website.

PS. For those of you who DON’T know who the cartoon character at the top of this blog entry is, he is known as Chad in the UK and Kilroy in the USA. He dates from the Second World War and was very popular when I was a child back in the 1950s. He often appeared with the words ‘Wot, no …’ written underneath the cartoon, usually with reference to something that was not available or in short supply.

That sinking feeling

I am up early this morning waiting for the plumber to arrive.

Yesterday my wife noticed that there was a small pool of water in the cupboard under the sink. There was no indication where it had come from so we mopped it up and carried on as normal. Last night I went to turn the dishwasher on and the indicator light indicated that the rinse aid dispenser needed to be refilled. The rinse aid is kept under the sink … and when I got it out there was a large pool of water there.

A cursory inspection revealed that the complicated system of pipes that connect the sink and dishwasher to the outflow pipe seems to have failed (one of the pipes almost came off in my hand!) and that it will need to be replaced.

Luckily I took out plumbing insurance some years ago. It guarantees a 24-hour service, so at midnight last night I was on the phone to the emergency phone line to book a plumber to come and fix the problem. They will be arriving sometime between 8.00am and 6.00pm, and they will phone 30 minutes before they will arrive.

So today I am going to spend a lot of time waiting … and waiting … and waiting.

PS. For anyone who is wondering why I just didn’t phone the local plumber to come and fix the problem, I would just like to point out that I live in London. Plumbers in London (and I suspect in other parts of the UK) are not very thick on the ground and those that are ‘available’ are not always as reliable as one would hope and expect them to be. They will often arrive late – or even on a different day – and quite a few will either charge you a ‘call-out’ charge of up to £100.00 on top of their normal charges or charge you an astronomic amount for the work that they do … and any emergency work can be even more costly than normal installation or repair work.

The insurance may not be cheap, but at least the plumber – who is approved or employed by the insurance company – will arrive when he is supposed to arrive and the work will be guaranteed by the insurance company.

Alternative Close Combat Mechanisms for the Portable Wargame … fourth (and hopefully final) attempt!

After spending even more time today looking at how improve Close Combat mechanism used in my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, I think that it has now reached a stage where it needs some serious play-testing before I make any further changes.

As before the chart is too difficult to include within this blog entry, and so I have added it below as an image. If readers click on the image it should become large enough to read.

The most notable differences between the previous draft and this draft are that:

  • The scores required to ‘hit’ enemy Units have been changed to reduce the underlying chance of a ‘hit’ from 50% to 33%
  • Additional bonuses and penalties have been added.

Most of these changes have come about as a result of reader feedback and suggestions, and the resultant Close Combat mechanism does seem to be a lot easier to use and has the potential to be ‘tweaked’ quite easily to suit a particular historical period.

An idea worth sharing

One of my regular blog readers – Littlejohn – has come up with a very simple and effective method to draw a hexed grid, and his most recent blog entry explains how he used it to create a hexed playing surface for a naval wargame.

His idea was to create a template that used the redundant part of the cardboard terrain from a copy of Richard Borg‘s BATTLE CRY game. After the terrain hexes were punched out, the cardboard he was left with was a matrix of hexagonal cut-outs, and he converted it to become a template.

The idea is so simple and effective that it deserves recognition, and in my opinion is one of the best ideas I have read about or seen this year … and for some time before that as well!

Hats off to Littlejohn for coming up with it!

He has done it again! Now there is an electronic version of Memoir of Battle at Sea!

Peter Maller has done it again! Inspired by my MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA (MOBAS) rules and the work done by Steve Page on his Old Admirals blog, Peter has produced an electronic version of MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA (MOBAS) that uses a hexed grid.

He has even made it possible for players to identify individual ships by name …

… and to add their details to them.

A fuller explanation of how the game works can be found on his Three by Two Tactics blog and the game itself can be access via his Portable Wargame: Electronic Version website.

Well done and thank you Peter! You have helped make the PORTABLE WARGAME and MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA truly accessible to all.

Alternative Close Combat Mechanisms for the Portable Wargame … third attempt!

After spending some more time today looking at how the Close Combat mechanism used in my PORTABLE WARGAME rules could be made less ambiguous and easier to understand, I think (no, HOPE!) that I have finally cracked it.

The resulting chart is too difficult to include within this blog entry, so I have added it as an image. If readers click on the image, it should become large enough to read.

The following examples will hopefully enable readers to understand how the mechanism works.

Example 1

  • A Mounted Cavalry Unit attacks an entrenched Machine Gun Unit head on.
  • The Cavalry Unit throws a D6 die and scores 6.
  • The Machine Gun Unit is in fortifications so the die score is reduced by 1 to 5 … but this is still enough to ensure that the Cavalry has ‘hit’ the Machine Gun Unit.
  • The Machine Gun Unit throws a D6 die and scores 5.
  • This score is not subject to any bonuses or reductions but it is still high enough to ensure that the Cavalry Unit is ‘hit’.

Example 2

  • An Assault Gun Unit attacks a Light Tank Unit in the flank.
  • The Assault Gun Unit throws a D6 die and scores 2.
  • Because the attack has been made on the Light Tank Unit’s flank the die score is increased by 1.
  • The resultant score is not sufficient to ensure that the Light Tank Unit is ‘hit’.
  • The Light Tank Unit throws its D6 die and scores 6.
  • This score is not subject to any bonuses or reductions but it is still high enough to ensure that the Assault Gun Unit is ‘hit’.

Example 3

  • An Infantry Unit – supported by a Commander in an adjacent grid area – attacks an entrenched Machine Gun Unit from the rear.
  • The Infantry Unit throws a D6 die and scores 3.
  • Because the attack has been made on the Machine Gun Unit’s rear the die score is increased by 1.
  • It is increased by a further 1 because the Infantry Unit is supported by a Commander but decreased by 1 because the Machine Gun Unit is entrenched.
  • The resultant score is 4 and this is sufficient to ensure that the Machine Gun Unit is ‘hit’.
  • The Machine Gun Unit throws its D6 die and scores 1.
  • This score is not subject to any bonuses or reductions and it not high enough to ensure that the Infantry Unit is ‘hit’.

This is still very much a ‘work in progress’, but I feel a lot happier with the way it works than I did with the previous draft. I am still considering whether or not to reduce the odds of success slightly (e.g. 4, 5, or 6 [a 50% chance of success] being reduced to 5 or 6 [a 33% chance of success]) and/or increasing the bonus for flank or rear attacks from +1 to +2. My choices will be determined by a series of play-tests of the mechanism … but when I will have time to set them up is currently impossible to predict.

Back to the drawing board

Judging by the feedback I have already received, the latest drafts of my alternative Close Combat mechanisms for my PORTABLE WARGAME rules are not as unambiguous as I had thought that they were.

Basically I fell into that well-known trap of reading what I thought I had written and not what I had written … with the result that some people were not entirely clear how the alternative Close Combat mechanisms were intended to work. The upshot of this is that I will have to return to the drawing board and try to write another draft that will be easier to understand and even less ambiguous.

This is beginning to turn into a bit of a trial for me … but once I have some alternative Close Combat mechanisms that work – and that people understand – it will have been worth all the effort I have put in.

Alternative Close Combat Mechanisms for the Portable Wargame … second attempt!

Just over a week ago I tried to devise alternative Close Combat mechanisms for my PORTABLE WARGAME rules… and was not as successful as I had hoped I would be.

After a couple more attempts – one of which ended up with a huge matrix that I could not fit onto a single page – I went back to my original alternative Close Combat mechanisms, corrected the mistake that I had inadvertently included, and re-worded the instructions. The latter are now about as unambiguous as I can make them.

The new alternative Close Combat mechanisms can be downloaded from the Downloads page of the PORTABLE WARGAME website or via the following links:

I am actually quite pleased with the new alternate Close Combat mechanisms (it is surprising what a difference a few extra words can make!) and I am now giving serious thought to using them myself in future.