Thursday, 8 June 2023

Some hometown history

Back in Glasgow for a few days visiting my mum and catching up with friends.  I usually try and squeeze in some kind of historical facts in a post when I've been away but haven't been anywhere of much interest on this trip.  The best I can manage is a few 'interesting' facts about my hometown, Rutherglen which sits just to the south east of Glasgow.

Rutherglen lays claim to being Scotland's oldest royal burgh (granted by King David in 1126) although there are a few other claimants for that, and is fiercely independent of Glasgow, despite being pretty much a suburb.  It was an industrial town with mining, shipbuilding a chemical works and steel all being local industries but has really struggled since all of these declined over time and is now quite a deprived town.  The chemical works has left an unpleasant legacy of chromium waste and other nasties lurking under the soil, especially under the football pitches and playgrounds I used to play on as a wean.

One interesting historical titbit is the persistent local legend that a plot was hatched at a local church to betray and capture William Wallace at the end of the 13thC.  This tower, St Mary's Tower....

... is often claimed to be the venue where Sir John Mentieth and other Scottish nobles met with the English to hatch a plot to betray Wallace, or occasionally it is where he was actually captured (but it wasn't).  In fact this tower dates from the 16thC so although they may have plotted at a previous church on the site, it wasn't in this tower.  The tower originally had a square crenellated top until the 17thC when the spire was added to house a bell.

There are also rumours of a tunnel under the graveyard which led to Rutherglen Castle and which was used by Mary Queen of Scots and/or Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape.  It's fascinating how these local myths and legends grow and become 'fact'.  I imagine Nessie also made use of the tunnel to reach the nearby Clyde.  

There were actually 2  castles... one, Farme Castle dated from the 13th century and was criminally demolished in the 1960s.  The other, Rutherglen Castle, was demolished after Mary QoS's defeat at the Battle of Langside which took place a couple of miles to the west (most things in Scottish history seem to come back to MQoS)

Finally no trip to Glasgow is complete with a picture of the Duke of Wellington statue in the city centre adorned with his traditional traffic cone which has become a city icon.  A few years ago the city council made a concerted effort to stop the cone but failed... never tell Glaswegians they can't do something!  And I was pleased to see a local statue in Rutherglen was also sporting a cone...

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Star Wars Miniature Starship Battles

A bit of a blast from the past last week with a game of Star Wars Miniatures Starships Battles.  These rules came out way back in 2006 (in my head that's just the other day but of course it's... gulp...17 years ago!).  I think I'd played this when it came out but not since then.

They use a pretty simple grid based system which actually gives a fun, fast moving game.  It's not the most complex game but ideal for an evenings gaming.

We both had one substantial capital ship each backed up by assorted fighters... we used a couple of suggested house rules limiting ranges to 4 squares, otherwise fighters tend to get blown away at long range, and it led to a tense game as the rebels whittled down the Imperial fighters before ganging up on the Destroyer and eventually destroying it.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Xenos Rampant

I finally managed to try out Xenos Rampant which I've had since Xmas.  The game should actually have taken place several weeks ago but a combination of work being really busy and an assortment of bugs meant it kept getting postponed.

The rules use more or less the same format as the other Dan Mersey 'Rampant' rules... units are generally 5 or 10 strong and have 10 attack dice until they drop to half strength.  Each unit has an Armour rating and casualties need to reach a multiple of that number before they take effect.  If a unit is successfully shot at (even if there are no casualties) they need to test for morale.  All very simple and dead easy to pick up.

Imperial troops

The real strength of the rules is in the huge range of special characteristics which you can give the different troop types... these really let you customise the game and give it the flavour of your favourite setting whether it's a galaxy far, far away or a grimdark future where there is only war etc.  The downside of this is that it's easy to get carried away and end up with lots of special rules and modifiers which are easy to forget in the heat of battle.  It's always really frustrating to get a long way into the game and then remember something critical which could have made areal change to the outcome 


As this was our first game I only added a couple of upgrades and special rules... one unit had armour piercing weapons and one of the vehicles had indirect fire etc.  This, along with a simple encounter scenario may have made it a bit uninspiring. 

I used my old Laserburn figures, upgraded with some new ones from the excellent ranges at Alternative Armies.  Purely for the nostalgia value we went with the Imperial and Red Redemptionist forces from the original Laserburn rules 

Because I'd kept it simple and had matched the forces quite closely, this did give a bit of a bland feel to the game and I think I would definitely make more of a distinction between each side to give more flavour to the game next time.

The other mistake was having quite a lot of buildings on the table.  I should have guessed that it would quickly end up with lots of units holed up inside buildings and proving very difficult to damage. One suggestion in the rules is to simply agree that no one can enter the buildings which is a bit weird but would prevent the problem.

On the plus side the game was very easy and intuitive to pick up and we were quickly playing with minimal reference to the book which is definitely a good thing.

We'll give them another go bit with a bit more thought on my part about designing the forces more carefully and thinking about the terrain. 

As to the result, my Redemptionists were eventually whittled down... especially when I tried charging my Light infantry across the open ground to see what would happen... the result was exactly what you'd expect!!

The victorious Imperial tank which won the vehicle duel.

Monday, 15 May 2023

A weekend in Dorset


We've had a spell of bugs and illness over the last month, so last weekend we decided to take advantage of the long Bank Holiday weekend and take a short break away to cheer ourselves up.  We found a lovely, dog-friendly pub/small hotel near Bournemouth.  It was a lovely weekend and the perfect antidote to the Coronation.  

In amongst the cream teas in the New Forest and walking the dogs on the beach we managed to find a couple of historical things.

Mudeford Quay

One of our favourite spots has always been Mudeford.. a nice sheltered bay with short ferry trip to a huge sandbank filled with beach huts.  We've been here countless times but I'd never heard of the Battle of Mudeford.. a skirmish between 2 smugglers ships and a couple of navy cutters and a sloop.  All the details are on the plaque below but it involved a skirmish between sailors and marines trying to seize the smugglers ships before resorting to the more sensible option of using the navy ships' firepower to disperse the smugglers.  A scenario with huge gaming potential!

On the second day, after a lovely evening in the pub with 2 very well-behaved dogs (that's not always guaranteed!!) we had a wander along the beach and then stopped off in Christchurch.  This is Place Mill... a restored Anglo-Saxon mill which is now an arts centre.

And this is Christchurch Castle.  Dating back to 1107, it was attacked by supporters of King Stephen and later was seized by Parliamentary troops in the Civil War and then successfully fended off attacks by Royalists.

This is the Norman House which is a rare example of a Norman domestic building and dates from 1160... much nicer than a drafty old castle.

Sunday, 30 April 2023

2 new projects

Despite my best intentions to concentrate on sorting out the figures and projects I have in the loft I've wandered into a couple of new ventures.  Obviously this is pretty standard for any gamer!

I've tried to stick to things which aren't going to require a big investment in time or money and should only require a relatively small number of figures 

#1 was inspired by going along to the Little Wars Revisited games day a couple of months ago and rediscovering my enjoyment of larger scale figures.  I've always fancied having some Three Musketeers figures so these 40mm figures have come from Steve Barber Models and are really lovely.  I also have a few coming from Eureka Miniatures... there's going to be a  delay in getting these as the guys at Eureka in Australia are on a break till June but, at the rate I paint that won't really be a problem.

The other project is one I've always wanted to do... a Mythic Greek/Jason and the Argonauts collection.  I'd been reading some stuff about Ray Harryhausen and that set me off on the trail of some figures.  Almost straight away I spotted a bargain deal on a couple of packs of Wargames Foundry figures on eBay...

When I started doing some research online I found loads of blog posts by gamers who've done similar themed projects... clearly we all have a love of Jason battling stop-motion skeletons!  Now that the Covid symptoms have subsided I've primed them all and am ready to get painting, accompanied by some inspirational listening... the audiobook of Stephen Fry's Mythos which is a great re-telling of classic Greek myths

Saturday, 22 April 2023

No trip to Salute for me...

Round about now I should have been on the train to London for the annual trip to Salute but sadly...

I started feeling a bit unwell on Wednesday and by Thursday was really shaky and feeling dreadful.  Ironically I'm actually feeling quite a bit brighter this morning but I'll still be infectious so crowded tube trains and Salute are a definite no-go.  I didn't have any particular shopping plans for Salute so there's no great problem... in fact it'll stop me buying stuff I really don't need!

If I'm up to it later I'll use my free afternoon to prep some figures for a couple of new small projects.

Friday, 21 April 2023

A trio of castles...

 I posted the other day about Cadzow Castle near Glasgow.  A couple of days after getting back home from out trip back home we were off again, this time to Herefordshire and the Welsh Borders.  My wife was taking part in a days blacksmithing experience which my son and I had gifted to her for last years birthday: she loved it and I can highly recommend Oldfield Forge.  

We had a lovely day meandering up to the Forest of Dean and Ross on Wye before staying overnight at a local pub.  It's a part of the country we used to spend a lot of time in but haven't been to for years so it was a special trip.  Once I'd dropped her off at the forge I went off in search of castles.  Let's be honest, you can't move in Wales without tripping over a castle and there are the Three Castles within 15 minutes of each other a short distance from the forge.

Skenfrith Castle:

White Castle:

Grosmont Castle:

3 fantastic castles in beautiful locations.  White Castle is the most physically impressive but I loved Skenfrith with a lovely river (the Monnow) flowing past the walls and otters splashing on the bank.  I can even claim to have walked the Offa's Dyke Path, even if it was only for about 200 yards!!