Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tiger Or Bunny?

In which Ephraim admits to being a bunny.
Previously unpublished. Luckily.

It's an exhausted Ephraim that pens this particular missive. The Club has today held its fourteenth annual Games Day which, for the second year running, has featured a Wings Of War (WoW) tournament and, while normally not the Tournament Tiger type and again for the second year running, one has found oneself in the final. Last year the competition ended in a draw as in the six rounds allocated, neither B von H nor self could stretch to a lead. This year, in an attempt to finally establish a Club WoW Ace, the committee extended the number of rounds to eight and after a great deal of toing and froing, yet again the von H Fokker and the Gadsby Se5 fought each other to a stand-still and the result another draw. Already there is talk of extending the number of rounds to ten although one has the niggling doubt that the hoped for decisive result will not be forthcoming. If only there was another way to organise things.
But then again, on occasion one rather likes the concepts of draws. Life these days is pretty much about winning and loosing and often so it is when our hobby gets together. As has already said, one is not a Tournament Tiger (TT) but rather a Tournament Bunny (TB) – terms coined by Messers Jones & Morris (responsible for much sterling work including the WAB Arthur supplement,) to roughly categorise an individual's approach to playing in a tournament type situ. The TB places much more value on the way the game is played than the end result. Now that doesn't mean not playing to win – one owes it to one's opponent to provide a good game after all and anyone who denies that winning a good game is actually enjoyable is at best in denial and at worst a rotter intent on lulling one into a sense of false security before running off with the club silver. But whatever may, playing with a straight bat is key.
TT on the other hand are often characterised by their uncanny ability to bend the rules to suit themselves. Their concern is not for a good game enjoyed by all but a good victory enjoyed by them. Mr Schwarzenegger summed it up best in his opus “Conan The Barbarian,” when responding to the question “What is best in life?” he replied with the TT mantra; “To crush your opponents, see them flee before you and hear the lamentation of their women.” Nice.
So why bother attending tournaments if one stands a good chance of running into TTs and having one's weekend spoilt? Well one has discovered that there is indeed another way to organise things. The aforementioned Messers Jones & Morris started it all a few years ago when they ran several one-day events where the emphasis was very squarely put on how one played not how one scored. Since then, several similar one day events have sprung up around the country plus of course the sterling WAB Campaign Weekend events at Warhammer World with their genial host Rob Broom from Warhammer Historical. The emphasis at these events is always on the social, playing the game side of things and fierce competition is frowned upon. In particular one can recommend the fun campaigns run by the chaps at Gripping Beast – surely the hobby's own Odd Couple; one of them looks like he eats bottles and turns into a werewolf at will, albeit a ginger one, while the other looks, rather admirably if you were to ask me, like he's stuck in the 1930's. Whatever their image issues, their campaigns are involving, competitive and yet always fun with prizes for almost everything except winning. They now run several themed/period events a year at their own GBHQ, many of which have been reported in Wargames Illustrated, where they happily continue to champion their own blend of challenging scenarios played in a fun atmosphere. Most definitely holders of the Gadsby Seal Of Approval.
In the evening after the Club's Games Day is held the Annual Smoking Concert And Wingding and it is in preparation for this that one resting in the comfort of the Smoking Room and loosening the old tonsils with a brandy and soda. For some bizarre reason Club Chairman has bullied one into yet another rendition of “47 Ginger Headed Sailors.” One should have thought that enough had been had by all after last year's performance but, I suppose much like the Club WoW event, some things are destined to go on. And on.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Are we going backwards?

In which Ephraim Gadsby assesses whether he is coming or going and if a school-boy error has been made on the way to the Smoking Room at his Club.
Cover dated March 2009

There's a strange sensation that one can occasionally experience on the London Underground. It last happened to me on the way back from the club a few weeks ago. One was on the last train home, gazing at the schematic of the route helpfully displayed above the doors while trying to avoid eye contact with the ruffians on the opposite seat. Despite their precariously perched chequered caps, they seemed unable to cope with the sporty Glen Urquhart of one's new suit without voicing serious misgivings. Having located the previous station, one's eyes followed the purple line toward the front of the train and clocked the name of the next station-stop. Only it wasn't. When the carriage jolted to rest and the sliding doors slid, in the split second before fellow passengers did the mind-the-gap, one saw not the expected station but rather another and in an instant one suspected the impossible; that despite being certain that one had boarded the correct train, one was not going forward as one had hoped but rather backwards, away from one's destination, away from one's cocoa and bed and towards an uncomfortable journey home on the Night Bus service. But one wasn't. It was just that one had misread the map, made the quite frankly school boy error of not orientating before consulting, and as a result thought one was going when one know really one was coming.
And it was with much the same sort of sense of confusion that one witnessed the sudden arrival at the club this week of plastic figures. One's initial response was that the hobby was going backwards. Young Ephraim was always to be found on the nursery floor, surrounded by seas of Airfix 1/72nd plastics, Matchbox vehicles and wooden-brick bunkers. One cut one's wargaming teeth on them, often quite literally. But as the golden locks of childhood were replaced by the short-back-and-sides of adolescence, so the grey Confederates and sand-coloured Africa Korp were replaced by silvery 15mm leads; individual castings lovingly selected from typed mail-order lists and purchased by Postal Order. Thank you Nanny. Now, of course, The Gadsby Collection is all painted 28mm alloy figures. Acres of them.
My assessment of this plastic invasion as a retrograde step received further support when one jokingly asked if they were to be painted in enamels, only to be told, “No, they'll be dipped of course.” And this was from a fellow widely acknowledged by those who care as one of the country's top painting types. Unbelievable. In the days when when one still turned back the old cuff, tucked in the tie and slapped a bit of paint about, 'Dip' was known as Yacht Varnish. Its bullet-proof and somewhat muddy effects were soon abandoned by all right thinking chaps who swiftly mastered the more artistic approaches of 'layering', glazing and the double whammy of gloss then matt varnish. Still reeling from the shock, (or was it the chemical cloud of so much varnish and poly cement?) the tin hat was put on the whole unpleasant experience when one noticed an enthusiastic club member garnishing a dipped, plastic figure's base with 'basing material' from a pot that the fellow had actually paid for! The very same 'basing material' that the club car park is covered in! Sorry to repeat, but unbelievable.
As readers will appreciate, this was all far too much for a forward thinking modernist like oneself and an emergency Martini was required. While enjoying a follow up 'sports' Martini, the old brain started the process of reorientation. Perhaps plastics were the future of the hobby? Maybe Ephraim had made the school boy error, assuming plastics were, well, for school boys? They certainly make consumption easy. There are chaps at the clubs in possession of plastic ACW armies that, were they to take the field at once, would require two of the longer refectory tables to accommodate the battle line. Impressive, but in the words of my old house master, just because you can doesn't mean you should. What about the quality? Well, according to some rigorous market research canvassing a wide spectrum of right-thinking chaps, the consensus, by show of hands in the bar, was that there is one set of absolute howlers out there but that the main contenders are all really rather good. In fact, Club Shouter, The Duke de PF, declared the sprue of Perry's Napoleonic French Infantry that he was waving about to be, rather appropriately, 'le dernier cri.' After brief inspection one had to agree; as 'cri's go these were indeed the dernier. As are the the Victrix British Infantry. So, a couple of box sets of these fellows might be an idea, just to try mind you. Might even break the crusts on a few paint pots, see if the old Gadsby magic is still there. You can keep your yacht varnish though.
With that resolved, thoughts returned once again to the nursery days and memories of battles of old. In particular one remembers a clash of epic proportions when the might of the Roman Empire and its ACW Confederate allies clashed with across the carpet with a federation of Ancient Britons, elements of the 8th Army and Robin Hood and most of his Merry Men. After raging all day, the battle was eventually brought to conclusion by the Roman Commander's cunning use of some plastic dinosaurs that had been discovered under the day-bed. That and the gong sounding for tea.