History games 23 – a skirmish on the frontier between Rome and the Aquitanian Gauls (Infamy Infamy rules)

The Infamy Infamy rules came out a year ago. I played the game solo last autumn, over a webcam in the spring with my friend the Admiral (https://wordpress.com/post/paulhhodson.wordpress.com/4439), and yesterday, at the Amsterdam Six-Shooters wargames club, face to face for the first time, against Marc H. It’s even better this way!

Marc, as the veteran Aquitanian warlord Bituitus, rode at the head of two groups of noble cavalry. Alongside him fought three groups of warriors under Adiatunnus, plus two groups of skirmishing slingers. As centurion Augustinus I commanded three groups of Roman legionaries, two groups of Numidian light horsemen and a group of Numidian skirmishers with javelins.

Augustinus was supposed to escort half a dozen small cows from one end of the table to the other. He set the skirmishers to drive along the cows; advanced the steady Romans as quickly as he could; and sent the Numidian horse on ahead to tangle with Bituitus’ nobles.

Bituitus, helped by excellent shooting by the slingers, had much the better of the cavalry fight. I got one light horse group into position on the flank of Bituitus’s column of nobles, but when we studied the rules it turned out that a column is the optimal formation to resist a flank attack – so I did not press it home.

Meanwhile, Adiatunnus lurked.

He sprang out at last from the edge of the woods, three groups of infantry in a wedge. They fell on a group of my light cavalry and drove them from the field. They would have charged on against the legionaries, who’d caught up with the battle at last. But a roll of three (on two dice) meant that the group at the head of the Gallic wedge failed by a hair’s breadth to strike – and then a double one for a supporting group broke up Adiatunnus’ mob.

Instead, the Romans charged. In a series of attacks, with Augustinus fighting in the front rank like a devil, they wiped out two Gallic groups. Adiatunnus managed to sneak the third group out from the front line and away, battered beyond belief.

As this decisive fight went on, Bituitus’ heavy horsemen took up a position of menace on the Romans’ rear. Then charged. To their disbelief, the few remaining Numidian cavalrymen made a sacrificial stand. They bought Augustinus the time he needed to complete the infantry’s rout. (The photo shows this moment of the battle.)

The Romans, perhaps, were set for victory.

But foolishly I had moved my skirmishers, with an excess of care, to protect the Romans’ flank. I had left the cattle, that I was supposed to drive, roaming free across the battlefield.

Four hours’ play ended with the Romans ahead in terms of force morale – but with no troops fast enough to catch Bituitus’s noble cavalry and finish off the job. Instead, those nobles were well placed to fall on the cows and carry them off themselves. We’ll be feasting tonight, boys, cried my enemy Bituitus.

We called it a winning draw for the Romans.

It must be obvious: I love this game. Each side has their own tricks to master. Every game throws up a different story.

Living in Holland 16 – an outing to Hoorn

On a Sunday we often go for a cycle ride in the country, out from our home in Alkmaar, but today Travelling Companion suggested an outing, a grander thing, so we took the train east to Hoorn, a harbour on what is now a lake (the Markermeer) but used to be an inlet of the sea.

In the 17th century, captains from Hoorn sailed the seas. Willem Schouten rounded Cape Horn and named it after his home town. Jan Coen founded Batavia (now Jakarta) as the capital of the Dutch East Indies. There’s a fine statue of him in the main square, put up in 1893.

A plaque says, Coen was praised as a vigorous and visionary administraor, But he was also criticised for the violent means by which he built up trade monopolies in the East Indies. Last year protestors pushed for the statue to be taken away to a museum; that question seems still to be under discussion.

We like Alkmaar; we liked Hoorn even more.

How long would it take you to cycle to Petten to go to work?, asked Travelling Companion. Nearly twice as long, I replied sadly (the distance is 37 km).

At a harbourside restaurant (J&T Mos) we had one of the best meals we’ve had in Holland. Travelling Companion ate burrata, veal, and a peach thing with a glass of Cretan wine. I had oysters, gurnard (rood poon) and cheese. The oysters were Irish and divine; apparently French ones are too expensive. The cheese had not been locked up in the fridge.

Best books this year so far

(Golf course seen from the Glacier Express, Switzerland, 2018)

Life hasn’t changed much. I haven’t blogged much. I’ve kept reading, though. Here are the best books I’ve read this year so far.

Audre Lord, Zami: A new spelling of my name, 1982

Memoir of a daughter of West Indian parents (Barbados and Grenada) growing up in New York in the 50s and coming to love women. I am a fan of memoirs and this is so well written.

John Sandford, Deadline, 2014

I read all the Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport thrillers; missed this one. In later books there are many gleeful references to it. I’m glad to have found it now. A highlight is the chase alongside the Mississippi on golf carts.

C.P. Snow, Corridors of power, 1964

I’m a civil servant working for the European Commission. This book, written from a British civil servant’s perspective about working with ministers to get something done, rings true. It brings to mind the peculiar satisfaction old friends will be feeling – rightly so – after yesterday’s adoption by the Commission of the Fit for 55 package of legislative proposals against climate change.

Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge, 2008

Surely everyone would give this irascible New England schoolteacher book ten points? In retrospect I’m sure Strout feels she made the same mistake as did Patrick O’Brien (Master and Commander). By starting her character later in life than she needed, she set a limit on the number of sparkling sequels she could write.

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984.

The best of these five books. Suffused with compassion for Lincoln. Can I say that Vidal depicts him as trying to lead without ego? Could I go on to say that in their own work, people like Jean Monnet (I am reading his Mémoires) and Gareth Southgate (England football manager) try to do the same? Meanwhile, the book is funny about politics.

I see that four of the five authors are American. The two political books are re-reads.

Criminal Capers: Pumafiosi


Awww. Look at that wrinkly little don.

Today, Criminal Capers takes on the mafia. The puma mafia. The pumafia.

Dr. Knizia, you’re a master game designer. Surely you know the value of expertise. So maybe leave the puns to the punfessionals?

Okay, okay. The bones of Pumafiosi are based on Knizia’s own Rooster Booster, which wasn’t exactly the best-received of the good doctor’s catalog. Good thing, then, that Pumafiosi is only partly a remake. This one has layers.

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Half-Year Gaming Report, 2021

I played a lot of the figures game Infamy Infamy (solo and virtually, first physical game in 10 days). Best board wargame: Spartacus.

Clio's Board Games

2021 is already halfway over! At least the period of January to May felt like the longest five months ever. Yet now summer is here, COVID is retreating where I live, and so we get to enjoy some of the things we love best again. For example, board gaming in person. So far, I’ve only been visited by a friend for some board gaming once this year, but I do plan on stepping it up! Here’s what I played so far in the first six months of the year.

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Cromwell’s Adventures

Renaissance Wargaming

In part to rectify the lack of posts here of late a few photos of Friday evening’s game seemed in order. This game found the Ottoman Turks engaged against an English expedition dispatched by the Lord Protector in 1654. There is little historical basis for this engagement except in the same year hired English and Dutch ships were assisting the Venetians against the Turks in the Cretan Wars including the Battle of the Dardanelles in May 1654. I will use this as the historical basis for the deployment of land forces, be it admittedly tenuous.

As to the miniatures my opponent fielded his recently painted 15mm Ottoman Turks. Above, infantry of the Turkish left. While below, the Ottoman centre and right. The cavalry on the Turkish right were a mixed bag comprising both regular and feudal cavalry.

In contrast to the new recruits of the Ottomans the miniatures of the…

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Living in Holland 15 – looking at someone else’s wallpaper

Earlier in the pandemic my friend the Lawyer remarked on a visit she’d made with her family to an airbnb elsewhere in Belgium. It was good, she said, to look for a few days at someone else’s wallpaper.

In that spirit, Travelling Companion and I left our North Holland North home yesterday for a week’s holiday in South Holland. We’ve come to Delft. It’s a town of the same size as Alkmaar where we live, a bit over 100 000 people, and like Alkmaar it has a historic centre with canals. Still it feels different. Less provincial? Less medieval? Canal bridges here have higher arches than those in Alkmaar. On the other hand, they can’t be opened to let bigger boats through.

It also feels a bit less Dutch.

This boy’s drinking Leffe, a Belgian beer. The café on whose terrace we had lunch – terraces have been open from 12-6 here now for almost a fortnight – stocked Orval, a rarer one. You hear quite a lot of second language English on the street.

We arrived in rain and cold wind. We went straight to a posh restaurant for my birthday lunch. Through the cosy restaurant we walked, past tables fully laid for the eventual return of custom, to an open-sided tent in the garden. There we were served four courses with matching wines as we sat in coats and blankets.

We remembered the Da Vinci Gorilla Hotel in Rwanda last December, whose dining room is also open sided, and where again it was about 8º. We didn’t have such warm clothes with us then. But they brought a brazier to put under the table.

To get to our airbnb we passed through a carless, peaceful, child-infested modern housing development – one of the things this country does well. The entrance is down a hedged path.

It’s a back house, one up one down.

To my mind, the landlords’ explanation of how the house came to be here doesn’t fully explain:

After the flood disaster in 1953, in which large parts of Zeeland [a neighbouring province] were flooded, the Waterloopkundig laboratory in Delft started designing the “Delta Works”. On the site of the Waterloopkundig laboratory they reconstructed the islands of Zeeland. They wanted to test the theoretical model of the Delta Works. This also required a small office. Architecture Duiker designed a building. After the Delta Works were built, the models were demolished and the office was added to the backside of our house.

Today it was, at last, weather when you’d choose to sit on the terrace even if you could sit inside. In the morning I cycled a little way into the country.

Then we did a history walk in the centre. Almost everything was good to look at. The exceptions were some modern statues.

(I’m sorry the statue photos are out of focus. I have a new wide angle lens and am learning how to use it.)

That’s a wide street, I said to Travelling Companion:

It isn’t wide, she said, it’s just that there are no cars.

(They can drive down the street but not park. There’s a square at the end where the neighbourhood cars are parked.)


While sorting photos for this blogpost I listened to the news on Radio 4. The government looks set to announce that hugging will be allowed in England from next week.

Recent firsts

  • A member of my team was diagnosed with the covid.
  • A colleague says he’s received an invitation to go and get vaccinated.

(He is the first person that No-Travel-Companion and I know here who has had such an invitation.

Maybe that’s because as expatriates we don’t know people who are older or more vulnerable? Picking up a takeout from the 13 Balcken, I asked the young waitress if she knew anyone who’d been vaccinated. She didn’t either.)

  • Here in Alkmaar, when spring comes, people come out on the water, on the canal we look out over. Motorboats, rowing boats, canoes, paddleboards. This is the first time I’ve seen someone rowing a boat over the back. It doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it.

The Mission – first impressions

The Boardgames Chronicle

That was certain, that once I unwrap freshly arrived The Mission, I would put it to the table pretty quickly. This is my first title from White Dog Games and also the first one by Ben Madison. The urge to try one of the games by this new to me designer and publisher came from couple of reviews I read on The Player’s Aid blog. I knew I was looking for engrossing, re-playable, deep but not superficially complex solitaire title. The theme was also very important. I looked through all the games by Ben and that one – The Mission – specifically draw my attention.

In below article I would like to tell you a little about the game, provide the session report from my first game-play but also share some of the first impressions. Definitely, after one scenario final conclusions cannot be drawn and the time for…

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History Games 22 – Calgacus vs. the Romans (Infamy Infamy! rules)

One evening last week – in 83 or 84 AD – the Caledonian king Calgacus – my friend the Admiral – led a patrol into the Roman holdings in northern Scotland. These holdings were defended by centurion Pontius Sabinus, leading elements of an Imperial legion. Calgacus’ goal was to scout terrain features in four areas of the wargames table. Focussing on mobility, he increased his 100-point force to 111 by putting more warriors in chariots and bringing along some tribal cavalry. My force was already rated at 110 points, so I only got trivial reinforcements.

The Admiral lives in Edinburgh, I live in Alkmaar. The table was at my house; we fought on zoom. (On Skype, to be truthful, but “zoom” is now a word like “hoover”.) I got a tripod and set the webcam up high. Though it is the first time I have done anything like this, it worked well. I thought the Admiral would want closeups, and was ready to provide them via my phone, but he did not ask for them.

There was terrain in all six areas of the battlefield. Calgacus scouted three terrain features easily with his British tribal cavalry (1) and warriors (2 and 3). Of the remaining three, my legionaries stoutly defended one (4). But the Roman archers (5) got mashed up (partly because they advanced too far into the open). The British chariots (6) rode past them, easily dodged the lonely group of Roman auxilia (7) and scouted the fourth terrain piece they needed (8). Game over in a couple of hours and we didn’t even come to melee.

The Admiral liked the game enough that we will play again next week. I’m looking at different force composition and different tactics!