Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Trip to the 11th Century

This weekend was an event of a different colour. Most SCA events are very general in nature. The only requirement is that a person attending dress in clothing that is pre-17th century. You can get everything from your 8th century Celt woad warrior cheek by jowl with you 16th c. Elizabethan Lady (and somtimes they may even be married to each other). This weeked the Canton of Eoforwic hosted the Icelandic Althing, an event with a distinctly Norse theme, recreating as it did a Norse parliment from Iceland in the early 11th century. People attending the event were encouraged to dress according to this theme, but it was not a requirement. Normally I hang out in the 16th century, part of the doublet, slops and ruff set. It works for me as my main interest in the SCA is period fencing. I have done other periods but 16th c. stuff is my focus so doing a Norse event (call it 8th through 11th c.) was going to be different for me. I was even going to use a different name, Snorii Vikisun, one that I had used at the Viking Beer Tent at Pennsic many years ago. I don't think I actual did use it at the event though.

The Preperation

My wife, Eve, known in the SCA as Asa Gormsdottir is truly a marvelous woman. In the course of the week before the event she made new Norse outfits for myself, my son, my daughter and herself. I had a new purple and gold wool tunic and a new brown norse wool coat to go along with my Norse pants, linen shirt, blue rectangular cloak and knit cap. Oddly enough, the black and green striped Norse pants are the first piece of garb my sweetie had ever made for me and were still going strong. Matthew got a new brown wool tunic to go with his two linen tunics. He also had a red knit cap which he really didn't want to wear but eventually he did. Elizabeth got a little apron dress, a saffron coloured tunic, and a "wool" coat (it was arctic fleece but it looked just like the real thing). Eve made another tunic, a red linen one to go over her green linen. She also had her herrigbone apron dress and she topped the whole thing of with a new light purple Norse coat in wool. The whole family looked great and the new garb was beautiful.

We also had lots of Norse bling happening. I had picked a lovely Norse rooster pin at Pennsic which was for pinning the top of my tunic closed. I also had a circular embossed silver pin which apparently came from the Metropolitan Museum of Art' I think Eve's mom, finder of all cool yard sale stuff, gave it to me. I also had a copper armband that had been given to me to replace the iron armband I had returned when I left the Isengesitha in Septentia. To this I added two brass armbands I borrowed from Eve and a large copper torc that Eve had given to her father and that had been returned to us when he passed away. I also had the grogeous pattern welded saxe knife Eve got me for our 11th anniversary. Eve had a magnificant Frankish pin in gold and red she had purchased at Pennsic from Raymond's Quite Press. Apparently her husband went a Viking for it and, um, "retrieved" it from the Franks. She also had the apron dress turtle broaches she purchased from Fettered Cock Pewter. Even Elizabeth got in on it with a neat celtic maze broach to hold her coat closed.

A couple of weeks before the event I'd e-mailed my friend Ian Walsh, owner of Blackthorn Productions, and asked him if I could borrow some of his companies props to further enhance my Norse appearance. The Thursday before the event he very kindly dropped of a Norse style sword, a spear, a beautiful centre boss round shield, and a helmet (no, not a magic one).

I spent the evening packing and loading stuff into the car. Even with all the pre-trip packing we didn't get out of the house until around 10 o'clock Saturday morning. Kids always make getting going fun.

The Site

The event was in Orono which is on Highway 35/115 on the way to Lindsay. The drive was about two hours according to Google and we made good time getting there. The site was a farm owned by two Scadians and it was a good area for the event with lots of space. We passed through the site gate after paying our fees and drove into the main area being used, after passing an archery range and a thrown weapons range. One part of the site had some modern tents but a large chunk of it was devoted to medieval tents. There was also a Merchant's Row set, which was run by two other recreation groups, the Dark Ages Recreation Company (DARC) and Regia Angalorum. This row had a number of early period craft production sites including bead makers, a potter, a pewter caster, a bone craver and a lot of people working with wool and other period fibers. There were even some period breeds of chicken there.

There was an area set up for fighting which included several melee battles over a boat made of hay bales and a holmgang style one on one tourney. The numerous kids attending the event had a lot of fun with the hay bales when they weren't being used by the fighters.

They also has a tent were various Arts and Sciences classes were taught, including one by Eve.

The Event

We got changed into our Norse garb at the tail gate of our van. It was bit of a struggle with Matthew. He justs wants to play but sometimes he balks at wearing garb. This time it was the knit cap. Eventually he did wear it, along with one of his linen tunics. A certain amount of sulking was involved but once he got going he basically forgot about the garb. Elizabeth looked very cute with her orange coat pinned over her tunic. I was wearing my new tunic with the blue rectangular cloak pinned over it. Eve did a very nice job of arranging it. Latter in the day I changed into the brown wool coat because it was so nice and needed to be shown off. I was wearing my saxe knife as well as the sword I got from Ian on a baldric. Everything was topped off by a knit Norse cap in blue and grey. Eve looked like a proper Norse woman, in multiple layers of linen and wool. She also put on her Norse coat latter in the day, and was complimented on how the colour resembled that of lichen dyed wool.

I hauled our stuff over to the Eoforwic camp and established a base consisting of a couple of Norse looking blankets, my bench chest, a seagrass basket and the shield. The sheild and blankets handily cloaked the mundane items like the cooler bag that had our food in it. Eve took the car to the parking area which was about a half a click from the main site.

Much of my day was spent following Elizabeth around for I foolishly decided not to pull out the play yard. She can really go when she wants to and basically kept going for the day. She lead me a merry chase all over the site and by following her preambulations I got to see most of what was happening, including merchants row, the fighting and even as far away as the archery range which was near the gate. She also had a lot of fun playing in the hay when the fighters weren't going bashy pow over it. I didn't get to see the law cases which were one of the focuses of the day which was too bad and I didn't get to linger and look at the merchan't wares, which was probably a healthy thing for my wallet. She was quite upset when the fighters started to use the hay bales for their battles as it meant she couldn't play on them any more. I also had to steer her away from things like the woods that edged the site and the giant fire pit that was being used to bake clay pots.

Eve was prepping for the class she was teaching as well as making sure we were all fed (roast beef buns, cheese, drinks and other snacks). This was good because a delicious smelling pot of stew was being prepared nearby for the camp feast that evening. Apparently it was quite delicious and the left overs were donated to a local mission.

Eve's class was on using various celtic motifs in SCA award scrolls, including ideas from the Book of Kells, the Lindasfarne Gospels and Celtic jewlery. She had four students who were very enthusiastic about what she had to say and show. She had numerous books with examples and some large, bristol board posters she had made up.

Matthew got to run around with a bunch of kids around his age who he had made friends with in the SCA. They played soccer and other games, including "Bash the Sticks Together". They also had fun playing in the hay bales, some of which did not survive the experience intact.

The forecast for the day had been one of doom and gloom, calling for periods of rain all day. It actually turned out to be a nice autumn day with a mix of sun and cloud with temps in the high teens, good weather for wearing wool. The rain held off until late in the day, and was quite light when it started. I was able to move our stuff under an Eoforwic shelter were it kept dry until Eve came to pick it up.

In a stroke of luck I had been chatting with one of the site owners, Aurelia, on Facebook and she asked me if she had invited us to supper. I said "Not that I was aware of." She said they were having barbecued steak and I said if you'll have us, we'll be there. Around 6 pm we loaded the car and drove back to to parking area, which was almost in front of their house. We brought the kids in, along with Elizabeth's play yard (see, we're learning). Matthew played with Tatiana, our host's daughter and with Aurora, the daughter of our friends Jon and Mya (Angus and Isabeau in the SCA). Master Hector, his Lady and their infant son were also there along with SCAdian friend who was visiting while on leave from the CAF, but was not attending the event. We had a lovely supper of steak cooked over a wood fire, fresh corn on the cob, salad and pie. We stayed there quite late chatting away through the evening. It was very pleasant, the kids had fun together and we stayed dry.

In an excellent stroke of preparation, we had arranged to crash over night at our friends Dave and Susan's place (Gunthar and Nicolaa in the SCA). This was very kind of them as they were the people who had been in charge of organizing and running the Althing event. We really appreciated it because a 45 minute drive through pouring rain to Ajax was nicer than trying to make it all the way back to Guelph. Eve brought a gift of two nice bottles of sweet German wine for our hosts, Susan being a very big fan. We spent some time chatting with them and then we all crawled into bed. We slept until after 8 the next morning and before we left Dave gifted Matthew and myself with some toys he had culled including a Star Wars video game, a model Stug III, and various spaceships from the Battlestar Galactica Titanium line. We also got some ships for Axis and Allies: Naval Battles. Thank you Dave! He also leant me his copy of Alatriste which I look forward to watching. We headed out from their place around 10 am and were on the road back to Guelph after a quick, very non-Norse breakfast at McD's. The rest of the weekend was spent unloading, unpacking and resting.

All in all,it was avery good event, the organizers describing it as virtually perfect, and they probably made money on it as well. There were at least 150+ people in attendance. A person who had attended the first Althing event, more than 10 years ago, noted one important difference between this event and that one: all the kids. From were we stood, in the middle of merchants row, we counted at least 12, including my 3 year old daughter who I was holding in my arms.

That's all for now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Coronation Weekend

First, an important saftey tip: Never plan to have an SCA demo, attend a major event and have house guests all in the same three day span. This can cause fatigue and even some stress.

Again events of this blog start off on Friday. Our current local SCA group, the Canton of Der Welfengau, has been, well, lets say, less than active of late. Essentially we haven't held any formal meetings in some time. I've been holding rapier practices and my wife had set up a monthly A&S Sunday were folks can come out and work on their projects. A local Scadian wants to get things more active again and we are currently working on the hoop jumping required for that. In order to have a group in the SCA it helps to have active members. One way we are doing this is by having an associated club at the University of Guelph, The University of Guelph Medieval and Rennaisance Society (UGMRS). That way we have a place to meet, a place to hold martial combats, and some new people for our group. In order to attract new members we attended Club Days at the U of G on Thursday and Friday. Baroness Eyrny and Isaac Spinoza took care of Thursday while my wife Asa, Isaac and I covered Friday. We were also helped by some students who had come out to UGMRS last year. Elizabeth, who looks really cute in a medieval dress, came with us. We brought a pile books and artifacts, including my rapier gear. We spent the day chatting with students and showing off our stuff, including the cute medieval toddler. Asa headedout early to pick up groceries and retrieve Matthew from school. Between the two days we got about 70 names signed up. That doesn'tmean they are all going to come out but hopefully some will stick around. We're having our first meeting on Tuesday night at the University Centre, about 7:30 if anyone is interested.

Friday evening saw the arrival of our guest for the weekend, the Baron and Baroness of Skraeling Althing (Ottawa and area) Giovanni and Lucia d'Enzinas. They also brought their daughter and an entourage of one with them but I have, much to my regret, forgotten the good Ladys name. They arrived around 10:30 on Friday evening and we had Elizabeth's room prepared for them with a fold out couch and air matresses. We had also picked up a bunch of food because of some dietary restrictions invoved.

The reason Their Excellencies were crashing with us is that an important SCA eevent was happening on Saturday, the Coronation of our new King and Queen, Nigel and Adrielle. I Had also volunteered to run a rapier tourney that day. The event was being held in Tavistock, which is about an hour from Guelph.

We hoped to leave at 8:00 but as always we were delayed,mostly by the need to sleep. Asa had been working until early in the morning on a scroll that was being presented in Court that day. The scroll was magnificent, a vision in gold and red with motifes from the Celtic Tara broach. It was a combined King's and Queen's Favour for Master Baron Brand. We wanted to be at the site well before First Court so she could deliver the scroll.

We did manage to make it there with lots of time and Asa delivered the scroll right away. We'd gone to the site in garb so not too much set up was required. Asa went off to first court while I gave Elizabeth a run. Matthew took off to the playground and played with friends pretty much the whole day accept for lunch and drink breaks. After the Court was done and Their Majesties duely Crowned Asa took over with Elizabeth, who, after the extensive run she had, was content to stay in her play yard for the most part and Asa even got a nap while E was sleeping.

I organized the fencing tourney. No formal location had been chosen so we picked a likely spot and set up our list. In the tourney each combatant started off with ten tokens (glass beads purchased from a dollar store, 100 for a buck!). They used these tokens a wagers on the outcome of their bouts or even other fencers bouts. Whoever had the most coins at the end would win. Bouts were set up by the fencers and they would also determine the wager and any special conditions. I really do love a tourney that virtually runs itself as it means I get to fence more. We started at 1:30 and ran it until 4:30. People had lots of fun and the final victor was Lord Yoshi from Ben Dunfirth.

One thing that did rather sour the day was an annoucement made by Their Majesties that Dueling was outlawed in a missive that, in my opinion, used some rather poor, even insulting language. The missive lead to considerable confusion among the fencers and some are quite angry with what was annouced. Part of the problem comes from the choice of words used. By banning Dueling there Majesties are outlawing fights to the death which if it occurs can lead to the fencer being "arrested". This is meant to encourage us to roleplay and find ways around the edictand is supposedly all in good fun. The problem is people have spent a lot of time getting us to the accepted status we now enjoy. This was not always so, up to including a percieved attempt at having all fencing banned, back in our days as a Principality. Many fencers feel that the edict is a return to the bad old days and we are being pushed into isolation again. I'm hoping this is not the case. It would also have been nice, as the Kingdom Rapier Marshal, to have been consulted a bit more on this. I had a pretty good idea how people would react. We can certainly still fence at events, but fights to the death must take place out of sight of Their Majesties. There are ways around the edict, but it still feels wrong and a bit exculsionary, giving the fencing a kind of attention it really doesn't need. I've expressed my feelings to the person who is acting as point for TRMs but I suspect not much is going to change. Oddly enough, it doesn't say anything about killing in the rules for rapier combat, it says that good blows are "incapacitating". I know some people are really upset by what's happening and I hope we don't lose people over it.

We left the event at around 5:30. We just didn't have the energy for Feast or 2nd Court. All in all a good day with some great fencing and some beautiful weather. Their Excellencies and company returned around 10:00 pm. We had a great time chatting with them on Friday evening, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning. They were great guests and they seemed to enjoy our hospitality. They will be returning for Kingdom A&S in October. After they left we spent the rest of the day relaxing.

We had been bad Saturday and ordered Chinese food for supper and we had it for lunch. We chilled and watched movies as well. It was also Elizabeth's third birthday. Eve went out and got here some nice presents, including some lovely clothes. She also baked a cake, lemon with white frosting and sprinkles. My mom also had sent a bag of presents so she did quite well. Elizabeth even helped blow out her own candles. It was very nice.

I think that's all for now. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

War of the Ring Game

I got an unexpected call from my gaming buddy Mark last night asking if I wanted to have a game of Games Workshop's War of the Ring game today. I was suprised because we had just played the Aliens game last week. For those who don't know, War of the Ring (WOTR) is a game of massed battle for 25mm miniatures set in JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth. The way the game is designed you can play a battle involving potentially hundreds of mini's in a day. Miniatures are grouped together in companies which in turn are organized into formations and there are individual mini's representing Epic heros (like Aragorn, Boromir, a Nazgul, or Gothmog) and monsters (like trolls and Balrogs). The formations move, shoot at another if armed with missile weapons, charge and if succesful, fight other formations. Combat is resolved through the roll of dice, often lots of them. WOTR is very much a "Buckets o' Dice" game. There can also be magic used in the game depending on who is fighting.

Today's game involved me playing a force of Orcs, Easterlings, a Troll and Haradrim against a mixed force of Elves and Gondorians. The leader of my force was Gothmog while the good guys had Boromir and Faramir. There were about 60 figures on each side. I had two companies of Easterlings, 6 companies of Orc warriors, 4 companies of Orc archers, 2 companies of Haradrim archers, 3 companies of Haradrim cavalry, 4 companies of Warg riders (lead by Gothmog). IIRC I was facing 3 companies of Wood elves, 6 companies of Knights of Minas Tirith, 2 Companies of Citadel Guard Archers, 2 companies of Warriors of Minas Tirith Archers, and 6 companies of Warriors of Minas Tirith with Faramir and Boromir.

The board was set up with a few patches of forest and some rock outcroppings. We set up along the long edges of a fairly narrow table. I won Priority for the first turn and moved my forces forward. My troll moved into cover and what units could moved "At the Double. I made the mistake of moving my units of archers a full move which meant the couldn't shoot the 1st turn. The table was narrow enough that they would have had targets right away. It would have been a good thing to try and whittle down some of his archery units, as he used them quite effectivly in his part of the shoot phase, knocking my Warg riders down to a company and a half and reducing the Haradrim cav down to one company. I was able to shoot with my Haradrim cav, taking out a total of one Minas Tirith warrior.

The narrowness of the table allowed units to close quickly into charge range. My remaining Warg Riders charged a unit of archers and were in turn charged by some Knights. The Easterlings charged the Warriors of Minas Tirith lead by Faramir. Mark called a Heroic Duel using Might, but I managed to tie him on the roll meaning nothing happened. The combat went well for me,and I destroyed a company of MT warriors, for the loss of something like four Easterlings. My Warg riders did some damage to the archer unit, and then were wiped out by the Knights charging them in the flank, despite Gothmog's use of Epic Defence. This, unfortunately, took out Gothmog, a rather high value unit.

The game was slowed down because we are still learning it and there is a lot of page flipping and rule checking. Some of the rules don't really jibe with reality, but it is a game not a simulation. Admittedly some of the rules are a bit, well, gamey, like companies using defensable terrain as a teleporter to move faster than they should. Some of the rules don't make sense and GW has yet to produce a FAQ to answer the questions that have come up. Also, one of the best resources for the game, The Last Alliance website has vanished into the ether. It's important,when tweaking a rules set, not to go too far and mess up the intent of the designers, which was to make a reasonably fast playing mass battle game. Abstractions have to be made.

The game went downhill for Evil in the second turn, with more units getting shot up by archery and the formation of Easterlings being destroyed after an epic struggle in the middle of the board. The Troll was taken out by Boromir after damaging a unit of Citadel Guard. His mighty blow was pretty darn mighty. By the third turn it was pretty much game over, with three companies of orcs getting run over by some Knights and being utterly destroyed. I still had a fightable force, but it would have been tough going against the Sons of the Steward and only one remaining hero. We had to call the game at that point anyways as Mark had to head home and I had to pick up Matthew from school. Despite taking a bashing it was still a fun game, and things will only improve as we master the game rules and work out some house rules to cover the quirks. Here are some pictures from early in the game.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good Food Weekend

This was a pretty darn good weekend, especially in the food department.

Really my weekend started on Thursday when me friend Mark came over to play a game at my place. For the last couple of weeks we'd been intending to get together and play a War of the Ring game, with Orcs and Easterlings vs. Gondorians and Elves. When he did come over he brought a different game, one based on the movie Aliens. Contained within the walls of a large wooden box was a really nice set up of corridors and rooms made from cardstock. The terrain is printed out and then cut out and assembled. There is even furniture, like desks, chairs, computer consols and other pieces of equipment. The set was origially for a starship interior but it does yeoman service as the LV-426 colony. The game involved a squad of Colonial Marines moving from one end of the board to other, searching rooms for surviving colonists. Sounds easy, doesn't it. Enter the Xenomorphs. The game starts with multiple "blip" counters on the board, each representing a group of possible aliens. When a Marine comes into line of sight of a blip it's flipped over revealing what aliens are there, 0-3. The Marine miniatures where converted Imperial Guard troops for Warhammer 40K and the Aliens were a combo of stuff from Whizkids and 40K tyranids (for the facehuggers). It was not a good day for the Marines. Each turn saw a new blip generated in a random location. Despite a lot of firepower, including a lucky find of one of those nifty automated sentry guns, the Marines were eventually overwhelmed by the Alien hordes, with Hicks being the last one to go down. I was playing the xenomorphs and Mark had Hicks, Apone, Burke, the LT Gorman, Crowe, Drake and Dietrich. The poor LT was accidently fragged by one of his own troops when he was grabbed by an alien. The others met with various sticky ends, including the corporate weasle Burke who was dragged off the map for some alien baby making. Marines took out almost 40 xenomorphs before the end. Apone and Hicks could have exited but decided to check out a couple of more rooms, one of which which happened to be full of aliens. Oops. Each room searched generated a draw from a deck of encounter cards, some of which were good for the Marines (finding the sentry gun) and some, well, not so good, like an alien ambush. It was a fun game and it played well with Mark's homebrewed rules. Kind of reminded me of playing Space Hulk many moons ago.

Matthew was home on Friday due to a Board Holiday. It was strange because he'd only been back to school for three days. That evening I made a proper dinner, roast chicken breasts with lightly spiced potatoes and corn. I knew Eve had a number of nice food plans for the weekend and I wanted to make a contribution.

Saturday we had Bacon and tomato sandwiches for lunch and supper was a wonderful beef stirfry with udon noodles. Udon are my favourite noodles by far. The day was taken up with getting groceries and stuff around the house.

Sunday, Eve made giant pancakes with chocolate chips and a dollop of whipped cream on them. Later in the day we went to a very nice public pool in Guelph and spent an hour there. The kids had a great time splashing around. On the way back we stopped at a roadside booth and picked up some fresh corn and strawberries. Eve made steak with mushrooms and corn. It was all delicious. Eve and I ate the strawberries after the kids were in bed.

Monday we had peameal bacon sandwhiches for brunch and then Eve made a savory chicken curry for supper with basmati rice. During the day we watched the ten hour Star Trek Remastered episodes marathon on Space. The showed ten episodes in a row based on voting of the Space website. A number of the episodes I had voted for made the cut, including my top two, "Balance of Terror"and "The Enterprise Incident". There were also some good ones like "Space Seed", "The Doomsday Device", "Mirror, Mirror" and "The Tholian Web". The only slight dud was "A Piece of the Action" which didn't give many opportunities to upgrade the FX. I would have prefered to see "Arena" in there. Hopefully they will show all the remastered episodes as I want to see their take on a Gorn ship.

All in all, a good weekend, with lots of good food and relaxing. The rest of the weekends this month will be a bit more busy, with several SCA events and an Arts & Sciences day next Sunday.

I think that's all for now. Watch this space for further updates.