Monday, October 19, 2009

Death in the Desert Redux and an Event

I was surprised Thursday morning by someone ringing up from downstairs. It turned out to be Mark, he who brings over all the cool games. He had e-mailed me earlier in the week and I said yes, and then promptly forgot about his visit. I felt terrible. The place was a mess, well, more of a mess than it normally is and I didn't have any snacks. He was ok with it though and we played three games of the Axis & Allies CCG. It was a reprise of the previous weeks battles, Italians vs. British in the Western Desert. The forces were slightly altered, with the British losing their Grant tank and gaining some air cover as well as an armoured car. The Italian's lost their armoured car and two light tanks in exchange for a nasty self-propelled AT gun. I played the British twice, doing pretty horribly the first time. I don't recall if I managed to get anything off the board at all. I had a Spitfire that could do ground attacks, but I had to roll a 6 on one of four dice to get it to show. Suffice it to say, I'm going to have a long chat with my Forward Air Controller because the darn thing just wouldn't show up. I think it showed up once in each game, though it didn't do much better for Mark when he played the Brit's. Despite this my second game with the British went much better and I managed to exit some armour. I found that spreading out seemed to help, instead trying to force the pass. My armour can make it's way through the low hills. Mark did quite well with the Brits, inflicting serious casualties on the Italian forces and managing to exit two points more of stuff than I did. It was a fun afternoon and getting three games of anything in is pretty darn good.

Saturday was an SCA in the Hamilton area called Huntsman's Harvest. It is a fairly small, low key event with an emphasis on archery, but a rapier tourney and armoured combat tourney were offered weather permitting, which it was. At the Tuesday meeting of the U of G Medieval and Ren Society we had offered rides to those who might be interested and two students took us up on the offer, Harrison and Ashley. This meant putting the other seat back in the van, which Eve did on Friday evening. Putting the seats in is a pain in the arse, and the next van will have seats that fold right down. I e-mailed the students to confirm time and place of pick up (10:00 am at the UC passenger drop off near the bus loop). Friday night we packed stuff, including garb for the new kids.

Saturday morning we headed out, leaving a few minutes later than we would have liked too, but still getting to U of G just after ten. Harrison was waiting in a shelter by the pick up area but there was no sign of Ashley. We waited around until about 10:30, with me in garb outside the van so she could spot us. No luck. We drove around to a couple of other spots, but no sign of her so we headed out. I'm still not sure why she didn't show, but I hope to find out Tuesday.

In order to save room in the van Eve, Matthew, Elizabeth and I wore our garb to the event. I made a very wise decision to wear my green wool doublet and slops over my fencing armour. Eve was wearing two linen tunics, her wool apron dress, and her purple Norse coat. Matthew was triple layered in tunics, including a wool outer layer. Elizabeth had a silk tunic, her faux wool coat, and Eve added an apron dress later in the day. For Harrison I provided a linen tunic and my black wool Anglo-Norse tunic as well as a rectangular blue cloak with a pin. All the wool was necessary as most of the event took place outdoors and it was quite chilly, especially when it got a bit overcast and windy.

We made to the event successfully, though the last leg of the trip was a bit strange, driving down a dirt road towards a dead end which was rapidly approaching. I spotted an SCA sign at the last second, much to our relief. The site had a small hall which backed onto an archery range that had a covered area for people to shoot from. Surrounding fields provided venues for the fighting and fencing lists. I had promised Matthew from the get go that he would have a chance to do some archery. Eve took Elizabeth and the play yard into the hall. She looked after Elizabeth as the hall was warm and she did have a chance to run around. I showed Harrison the various things that were happening at the event. I introduced him to Mistress Nicolaa de Bracton, one of my oldest friends in the SCA and wife of one of my best friends. I had contacted her earlier so she could bring some loaner archery stuff for Matthew, which she kindly did. He got to use a loaner bow and 6 arrows. The range was nice and the person who had organized the shoots had gone to a huge amount of effort to make things interesting. The field was strewn with all sorts of fun targets, including a large number of stuffed toys, a black knight, zombies, Sponge Bob, pool noodle trees, fake pumpkins etc. I recalled a shoot I had seen years before where Barney the Purple Dinosaur was a target, and a Barney was promptly produced and set up on the range. Matthew shot several rounds, steadily improving his aim with some helpful hints from the archery marshal. He definitely wanted to do things his own way but came around when he saw how much better his shooting was when he took the advice. Harrison was also helpful with advice having done some shooting before and he showed some fine form on the range when he did his own shooting. I decided that I would get in a bit of practice as well, with Barney being my primary target. He was only about 15 feet away, which actually made it kind of tricky. Much to my sons delight I managed to nail Barney in the right breast, knocking him off his perch. I think some serious parent points were earned with that shot. I then dragged Matthew away from the archery range and into the hall for some lunch. We didn't know if there was going to be a lunch counter so we packed a bunch of stuff, including onion buns, ham, roast beef, cheese, crackers, chips, bananas, Coke, juice boxes and chocolate cake. We all ate well, including Harrison and Lady Jocelyn, who had come off the rapier list quite ravenous. After lunch Harrison and then I went to the rapier list where I armoured up and got inspected. The MIC, Lord Yoshi, in order to get around the edict against dueling, was apparently running a clinic on the Asian art of acupuncture, as practiced with three foot long swords. Works for me. I played for awhile and then I heard an announcement for a Youth Archery Tourney. I wanted to make sure Matthew had a chance so I gathered him up and took him over to the range. There were 6 or 7 other kids there, ranging in ages from 14 to 8. The shoot was done in rounds, each round being at a more distant target. The first target was a deer, the second was a large stuffed platypus, the third was a tiger, the fourth a collection of foam rabbits and squirrels, and finally there were two rounds shot at a stuffed pickle partly concealed by a forest of pool noodle trees. Matthew hit the deer once, the platypus twice and the tiger once for four points. He came very close to hitting some of the other targets as well. The person running the tourney said the results would be announced at court. I took Matthew back inside and went back to the rapier list. There had been a Warlord tourney earlier which I missed so I did pickups with various people, who all wanted to fence case for some reason. I fenced for awhile, getting some nice bruises in the process, including a nasty one near my right armpit. I fenced until they closed the list for court and we went back inside. Their Majesties Nigel and Adrielle where both at the event as were Their Excellencies Ben Dunfirth. There was an extensive Baronial Court, with Nikolai and Marioun taking care of a lot of business including some outstanding Kingdom awards. During the court the results of the archery tourneys were announced, and low and behold, Matthew won in his age category. What was really neat was the prize, bow and 8 arrows that had belonged to the Baronesses' daughter. Matthew was a bit flabbergasted when he was called up but he remember to bow to the Royals when he went up and received his prize.The bow is a very nice one, made by Yumi (, a traditional bow maker known world wide for the quality of their bows. They are made from layers of bamboo which are lacquered together in a traditional Japanese method. I'm not sure when we are going to get to use it, but it's nice he has his own bow and such a nice one too. During the Kingdom Court Lady Adelle, who both fences and does armoured combat, recieved her Award of The Scarlet Banner. It was very well deserved. I remember when she had injured her ankle during one of the armoured field battles at Pennsic, but she went out for the Rapier Field Battle, hobbling along with our King, both of whom were on crutches. That takes chutzpah!

After court we decided to call it a day. We decided we would eat back in Guelph, and we did make it back after one navigational flub on my part. So much for reverse navigating from the Google Maps instructions. We treated Harrison to a McDonald's supper and then dropped him off on campus. I think he had a good time and seeing the fencing made him want to do more. With his modern fencing background we may be able to get him authorized as early as Winter War in March.

Sunday Eve took Matthew to a birthday party for his friend Austyn that was held at a local conservation area, a less than five minute drive from the house. There was lots of great stuff there involving nature and bugs as well as a weeny roast. The present for Austyn was a field guide to insects and a Hot Wheels car which were well received.

That's all for now. Our next event will be Crown Tournament which is on All Hallows Eve.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Death in the Desert

My friend Mark e-mailed me earlier in the week wondering if I was interested in a game and, of course, I was. Mark always brings over great games and I've had a lot of fun playing. Some games have been variations on one's that I have played before and some have been completely new. The game he proposed for Thursday was the Axis & Allies WW II collectible miniatures game. I knew about the game, and I had bought it's naval counterpart as well as a pile of nice plastic ships. I figured the game would be pretty simple as most CMG's were but when I played it it had some remarkable tactical depth.

Mark came over just before 10 am on Thursday morning, after I had dropped Matthew off at school. He brought all the stuff necessary for playing. His wife had recently gotten him a set of heavy card boards with hexes and terrain on them and they were quite nice. Mark always goes the extra mile on his games. The miniatures for A&A are pre-painted plastic, but Mark was not satisfied with the paint jobs. He repainted them adding weathering effects through dry brushing techniques as well as markings. They turned out very nicely. He also re-based the infantry which made them look a lot better and easier to use than the singly based originals.

The scenario was a breakthrough in the Western Desert, North Africa, circa 1941, with Italians vs. the British. The Italians were defending a pass that the British needed to get through. Victory was based on how many units the British could get off the opposite map edge from the one they started at in 10 turns. If IIRC the Brits started off with a Grant tank, two Crusader tanks, two Stuart light tanks, two universal carriers, a truck and four stands of infantry. The Italians had two Carro Armato M 13/40 tanks, 2 M 11/39 tanks, an armoured car, two anti-tank guns and a mess of infantry, including two machine gun teams. We played the game twice, swapping sides between games. I played the Italians first. I set up in the low hills on either side of the pass and awaited the British onslaught. Mark spread his forces out, probing for a weak point in my defences. One of my heavy tanks holding my left flank died quite quickly but the rest of the battle was hard fought, with my machine guns and AT guns doing a lot of the damage. The battle ended after an infantry close assault took out his Grant tank, the closest thing to a monster on the board. He managed to exit a Crusader, a damaged Stuart, and his truck sans infantry. When I played the Brits, I tried for a more concentrated attack down the road, avoiding the mass of infantry lurking in the hills. I found out that my armoured fist was more of a glass jaw to lead with, with both Crusaders quickly being damaged, which by their special rule meant they were know effectively unmoving pill boxes. I managed to take out most of the Italian armour except for one of the M 13/40's which actually won the duel with the Grant, knocking it out. My best move was the Stuart which managed to take out both AT guns in the same turn with its "All Guns Blazing" special rule and it survived. Unfortunately it was the only unit I got off the board. So, the Italians won both scenarios and Mark won overall. I think both Italian victories could be considered Phyrric though, with them taking considerable casualties in both games. We both learned that universal carriers (small, tracked troop haulers) are quite vulnerable.

It was a fun game and surprisingly subtle for a set of CMG rules. There was also a lot of dice rolling involved. I can only imagine what it would be like with some of the heavier tanks from later in the war, where you would be rolling 18 dice for one tank instead of 9.

It's great that Mark can come over once and awhile and help give me my gaming fix. I've posted some pictures from the game above.