Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Whimsy's Diary, 23rd October 1895

Oh, how wonderful to have visited Paris!

I know it was brief - merely a 'flying visit' - but it is a marvellous and thoroughly modern city. Men often do not wear hats - not a single stove-pipe did I see in my whole time there, though some men of poorer sort wore different kinds of flat cap, some pulled to the front and some that lean to one side. This sort, Rivets informed me, are a kind of fisherman's hat called a 'berry', though I cannot see why, as they resemble no sort of berry I know, but rather a kind of pancake, of which there many and excellent kinds for sale in the back-streets below the new church of Sacre Coeur. The women wear their hair long for the most part, and top this with either hats like a Homburg or another kind of fisherman's cap, this one less flat and somewhat resembling a pastry, of which there was also multitude of kinds on sale everywhere. Everyone, men and women alike, wears a kind of long narrow shawl called 'escarfe'. These come in a wide variety of designs and fabrics, and are knotted round the neck in a multitude of ways. But the most extra-ordinary thing is that some ladies wear trousers! Young girls, and many ladies of more mature years, wear respectable dresses it is true, but from about the age of 15 or so, up to 50, a great many women were wearing trousers. I can only assume this is due to the great love Parisiennes have of riding. Long coats vented so as to facilitate riding, as well as many short jackets, were much in evidence to support this notion. Of course, boots were also conspicuous, though as the weather was not exactly summery in late October, this may have been more to do with the water in the streets than any wish to exercise horses in the Bois de Boulogne.

We stayed in a small place in Belleville, which lived up to its name - a charming place and full of people from all over the globe from Africa to China, and even the far Americas, if you would believe such a thing. Walking down one of the broad avenues, intent on visiting the modern cemetery at Pere Lachaise, I happened to notice several ladies of Oriental appearance - though dressed in a manner indistinguishable from the French ladies - who seemed to be waiting for something while standing outside various establishments. Thinking perhaps that their husbands were conducting business inside, I asked Rivets if it was the custom that ladies of China would not enter the shops. Rivets seemed quite certain that these ladies did not have husbands. Asking how he was so sure, he told me that he was certain they were waiting for gentleman callers to approach them, at which point they would begin to conduct business on their own account. I was shocked, I must admit, as we don't have such a thing in Pootling Magna, I'm quite sure. I feel like such a silly girl sometimes, and am grateful to Rivets for his wide knowledge and wise advice. He turned even more red than usual when telling me, though.

At Pere Lachaise, I learned nothing. Neither Uncle Reg's grave, nor any of my grandemere's family, could I find. Certainly, I found many de Rieres in Paris, but never the right one. As to Uncle Reg, the story that he was given a hero's burial seems wide of the mark. I'll be very sorry to tell Aunt Eleanor, but those who died in that awful time are almost forgotten. What a waste, to have laid down your life for a city that pretends that nothing has happened! But, thoroughly moderne though it is, Paris bears the scars of war. Barely 20 years have passed since the war with Prussia, and only due the ingenuity of M. Verne's engines was the city kept safe at all. Here and there were memorials to those who fought to defend the city as well as partly-destroyed buildings - the results, I assume, of bombardment by the Prussian Kriegmaschinen. This latest calamity seems much more in evidence than the events of 1848. That escapade seems to have become something of a forgotten myth, and Uncle Reg has been forgotten with it - if his remembrance was ever more than our family's own myth to console us in our loss.

This is, I think, because Paris is always thinking of the future. The astounding metal tower built by M. Eiffel in the western part of the city is certainly a marvel of the modern world. I really cannot do it justice - the soaring iron beams seem to fling themselves into the sky, and one's eye is drawn irresistibly upward whenever one spies it above the surrounding buildings or at the end of a boulevard. The top floor, I'm told, is a tether-stage for airships of all kinds - though, as we were trying to stay somewhat inconspicuous, we set down Windhover on a small aerofield near Gare de l'est. I have taken many photomatographics of the tower; I shall study them in an attempt to better to understand this fantastical construction.

Peggy was transfixed by the whole adventure - perhaps by nothing more than our visit to the lingeresse that Aunt Eleanor recommended to me. She was right that their wares are far more sophisticated than anything I have seen in England! I am glad to say that Rivets did not accompany us on that trip - when I flatly told him we were going shopping for ladies' delicates, he turned scarlet (again) harrumphed very loudly and said that he would try to find some axle-grease from a mechanic's workshop. Peggy rolled her eyes at this - we both know that we're very well provided for grease and Rivets was making excuses, but it is for the best. I'm sure he would have been even more uncomfortable had he actually caught sight of any of the pretty under-things on display!

Sadly, in the end, our visit was fruitless. I am no further in my quest to find information on my father's mysterious disappearance and now, back in England, I can think of no other course than to venture into the veritable lions' den. I fear, I must make the trip to Ruritania - and soon, if I am not to find the trail utterly cold. It is not a prospect I relish...

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Now is not the time

I've been working on a post, to do with Rivets and Whimsy, about Paris. I love Paris, it's a marvellous city and I've spent many magical times there. I was there three weeks ago, and had decided that some of what I saw would find its way into a diary entry from Whimsy, while she is travelling across Europe searching for news of her missing father.

But I don't think I will be finishing it any time soon. I don't do 'historical' gaming because (other people's way of cutting the cloth is different and that's fine) because I want to escape from reality for a bit, and it seems to me that games can trivialise the horror of history. And what happened in Paris is not yet even history.

Solidarity with everyone, everywhere, who is living in fear and desperation, or mourning loved ones victim to the seemingly unending barbarity that surrounds us.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Mornington Cresent 1895

Until normal service is resumed (if it ever is) I'm going to propose a game. This will be the ever popular 'Mornington Cresent' - though as this is the 1890s, we will of course be playing as if it were 1895. Not the rather humdrum 1895 of the Dreyfus Affair, Oscar Wilde's trial, and the murder of the Empress of Korea, of course, but the 1895 of the War of the Ruritanian Succession, the entry of the Astro-Hungarian Empire to the space-race, and the first use of the Galvanic Bombard.

The game will use the standard Tudor Court Rules, with all the variations considered by Trumpington judged as valid, except those that for obvious reasons aren't; there will be no suspension of gambits; and play will be constant rather than sequential, though of course, one cannot both serve and receive without a return. As this is 1895, all currency will of course be pre-decimal, though I suspect most people still play using pre-decimal coinage in any case.

Trusting that such an approach will be met with favour, I will start the proceedings by serving thusly:

Tower Hill.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Final load of VBCW flags (for now)

The Fictional Flags pages continue to offer inspiration for VBCW: this time, I'm looking at flags for Fascist forces in my NE theatre of VBCW.

This is a link to a page of Nazi-inspired flags. In particular, I'm thinking that the flags of Richard III (from the McKellern movie), the flag of Libria (from the film Equilibrium), and the flag of the Arctic Nation (from the Blacksad graphic novels), would all make good flags for Fascist units. There's also, on a different page here, a flag of the 'Teen Titans East' which looks like a convincing Fascist flag.

None of these are my flags. But when I get round to sorting out my Fascist militia units, these might be some of the flags they could use.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

More VBCW flags

Carrying on from the last post about VBCW, I thought I'd include some flags for socialist factions.

In some ways I'm not very happy about these. In one way, they're fine, they have something of a Russian Civil war quality to them - red flags with some simple logos and some text. I've included red-and-white and red-and-gold flags as some players like to have different socialist factions - I'm assuming that the red-and-gold flags are those of 'official' Communist Party units, while the red-and-white are of units not aligned to the ComIntern; maybe Trotskyists, or aligned with the many other socialist groups of the 1930s.

The legends relate to units likely to make it into my campaign, set aound North Durham - the first flag on sheet 1 is of the South Medomsley Workers' Militia, South Medomsley being a coalmine in North-West Durham; the Oxhill Irregulars flag is fairly self-explanatory, Oxhill being a small settlement near where I went to school; on sheet 2, the first flag refers to the Wardley Branch of the Durham Mineworkers' Union Militia, and the second to the Union of Boiler-makers and Platers, from the shipyards on the Tyne. I made up both the unions, but were something like the VBCW to have happened, my guess is 'Red Guard' units like this based on unions and workplaces would have been formed.

However, the problem I have with these banners is that they really don't represent the traditions of banner-making in British society between the wars. Union branches, Masonic lodges, co-operative societies, brass bands, the Women's Institute, the Boy's Brigade - loads of organisations had banners. People were well used to them, they marched behind them, loads of people must have worked on them. So how come these flags look like they were quickly designed by someone with no graphical talent?

They should really be more like this, I think:

When I work out how to get the scrolly text, elaborate backgrounds and portriature, then perhaps I'll be able to make some banners that really represent the traditions of British banner-making.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Some VBCW flags

Top to Bottom: Black Order (D. Gray-man); Sir Galahad (Monty Python & the Holy Grail); Kingdom of Symphonia (Rave Master); Southern Cross (Fist of the North Star); alternate Southern Cross flag
OK, I basically stole a whole bunch of logos, flags and badges from the excellent 'Flags of the World' website - specifically the 'Fictional Flags' section here - and made some St George's Cross flags. Then I plonked the badges on the flags to represent some Anglican League unit flags, should anyone require them. If I get round to actually doing some VBCW, I think I might well be using them. The bottom two are alternative versions of the same thing, obviously, because there were two different versions of the 'Southern Cross' logo.

My assumption is that the Anglican League is using versions of the St George Cross. The fascist forces are mostly using red flags with black and white designs in roundels, and the socialists will be using red flags with stars and writing. More examples will no doubt be forthcoming at various points...

Not sure how big these are going to be in the end, they may need re-sizing. Hopefully downward.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Has a year gone by so fast?

Really, it's been two years. Very little progress on the VSF front since March 2013 or there abouts I'm afraid. I've been doing more things with Fantasy, I suppose, but even then last year was pretty empty of painting opportunities.

And this isn't going to help much, as it's about VBCW, which is something that has been simmering away under the surface for a long while now. As not much gets done re: VBCW, there's no point it having a blog of its own so I've put stuff up here before - I think about 5 years ago, I posted about some plastic Cluedo figures I'd got hold of and was thinking of using for '20s-'30s gaming (in fact here they are in their raw plastic state).

Well, that's still ongoing. What I have done is thought of some rules for them - at least, for VBCW skirmishes.

VBCW is a bit weird. The main things about it that I'm pulling into my gaming are that there are 3 factions - the Socialists, the Anglicans and the Fascists - and there are lots of card activations that happen.

So I was thinking what I could do with the Cluedo characters and decided on a few simple rules.

First - the Cludo characters would be 'card activated' too. If a player drew a card, that character would wander into the skirmish and get involved. That means I need six cards - one each for Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Reverend Green (in versions outside the UK, I believe this is 'Mr. Green, the Businessman' but in the UK version he's a clergyman), Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard.

Second - each character would grant some bonus. This I decided was quite tricky. Colonel Mustard I thought should be a combat bonus. Professor Plum maybe a bonus to shooting? A lecture on ballistics or something that increased a unit's ability to shoot. Then I realised I could pair up 'opposites'; and there are a lot of opposites in VBCW.

Third -each character would have some affiliation. The idea of affiliation is a bit weird though. There are three sides, but not every game has three sides. So affiliation can also work negatively and this is what I decided to concentrate on. Who wouldn't someone ally with?

So taking the last question first, I decided that straight off the bat that neither Colonel Mustard nor Mrs Peacock would side with the Socialists. Colonel Mustard is too military to fight for the Bolshies, and Mrs Peacock is too rich and aristocratic. They'd either fight for the Anglicans or the Fascists. So I needed to work out who wouldn't fight for the other factions.

Reverend Green obviously would fight for the Anglicans, but we already have two Anglican/Fascist characters - what I needed was two who would fight for Anglicans or Socialists, and two who would fight for Socialists or Fascists. As there seemed no reason for Reverend Green to avoid the Anglicans (in fact it seemed daft) he was down for Anglican/Socialist. And the pattern of opposites (and abilities) began to emerge.

I'd already reasoned that Colonel Mustard would boost fighting; and Mrs Peacock could perhaps show some chaps how to handle a gun, bein' a huntin' shootin' and fishin' type herself. Prof Plum could also be an expert on guns... so if I made a wheel, and put Prof Plum opposite Mrs Peacock...
That's how it came together in my head. Each character has a primary allegiance - Plum and White to the Socialists, Scarlett and Mustard to the Fascists, and Green and Peacock to the Anglicans. But because of where they 'never' go, each character also has a secondary allegiance. Plum and Scarlett, I decided, were far to unconventional ever to join the Anglicans. And I already knew that Mustard and Peacock would never join the Socialists.

So this way, in a two faction battle, each side could get three allies. In a fight between Socialists and Fascists, Mrs Peacock would join the Fascists with Miss Scarlett and Col. Mustard; Rev. Green would join the Socialists with Prof. Plum and Mrs White. In a fight between Socialists and Anglicans, Miss Scarlet would join the Socialists with Plum and White, against the Anglicans with Green, Peacock and Mustard. And in a fight between Anglicans and Fascists, White would join the Anglican side while Plum allied with the Fascists.

The abilities each has paired up quite neatly too. Reverend Green's effect on morale (a nice sermon to rouse the Anglicans, or a bit of fiery Christian Socialism for the 'redder' troops) balances Miss Scarlett's singing (I imagine her as a sort of celebrity coming to to entertain the troops); Col Mustard teaching hand-to-hand combat balances Mrs White fortifying the troops with tea; Professor Plum's ballistics lectures complement Mrs Peacock's teaching of the same subject. And the way the forces split means no-one would ever be on the same side as their 'opposite' with the same skills.

There will be two ways these characters can be used. If one draws a card with a character from 'ones own' army - let's assume, it's Socialists v Anglicans and the Socialist player draws Mrs White - then that player gets to place the Mrs White figure with whichever of his units he wishes, as she has wandered into the battle with a tray of tea 'for the lads'. All effects take one turn to come into play: for that turn the chosen unit cannot attack, but after that, for the remainder of the game, that unit counts as having a bonus to hand-to-hand attacks (exactly what bonus would depend on the games system of course). But anyway, the Miners' Militia, fortified by a turn of drinking tea, later assaults the enemy's positions with renewed vigour.

On the following turn, the Anglican player draws - calamity! - Miss Scarlett, an 'enemy' card. The Anglican player can't play Miss Scarlett in his own army but can, perhaps, still use her to his advantage. As Miss Scarlett's ability is improving morale, it would be best to 'waste' this ability on either a unit with high morale anyway (so the increment is not noticed so much) or on a unit unlikely to have to check morale. The Anglican player has a choice - place Miss Scarlett with the enemy command (where she may distract them with her singing thus possibly preventing them giving orders, depending on the system, but in any case unlikely to need an increase in morale) or with that unit of snipers hiding in the trees, who have to stop shooting for a turn in order to be entertained - even though they're unlikely to be making a morale check.

This latter effect, where a friendly character is placed by the enemy, can be regarded as the result of misinformation or deception by spies or double agents. Not the characters themselves - but whoever sent Miss Scarlett there at just that time - obviously, working for the Anglican League...

So where does this all leave VSF? I'm still working on ways to include these six into 'Torchwood: 1891' but without the three-fold alliance structure it's difficult to see how something like this is applicable. I think I might go back to my original idea to link them to D&D-type abilities: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Mustard, Plum, Green?), then perhaps Scarlett could represent Dexterity (and Thieving?) White could represent Constitution (generally fortitude and endurance) and Mrs Peacock Charisma - as a 'lady' she was probably born to rule...

Still thinking about that - I'd say 'watch this space' but if it's another year until I post you might get round to thinking that I was a bit presumptive!