Sunday, September 17, 2017

Game day at Fort Steilacoom

Yesterday was our annual game day at historic Fort Steilacoom. This event was begun by Lawrence Bateman, who has been involved with the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association for several years. The event raises funds ($10.00 donation per attendee) to help upkeep and restoration of the remaining buildings from the fort.

The fort was founded in 1849 to give the US Army a presence in light of recent attacks on white settlements by native American tribes. During the Puget Sound War of 1855-56, the US 9th Infantry Regiment was stationed there. The fort was in use through the Civil War and after, but was decommissioned in 1869 and the grounds were used for the Fort Steilacoom Asylum for the insane, which is today Western State Hospital.

Fort Steilacoom circa 1860
Several of the original buildings remain, which are kept as a museum housing several artifacts from the era. There are also a few old cannon on the grounds.

The days of boom are long gone for this old veteran
We set up 4 tables for games in the restored officer's quarters and run two periods, morning and afternoon. So, there's potentially 8 games that attendees can join on a late summer's day.

Our venue
I came (late) for the first game period, but managed to wheedle my way into Kevin Smyth's "America Rampant" game, which is his modification of Dan Mersey's excellent The Men Who Would Be Kings skirmish rules. I have the rules, but this was the first time I played them.

Kevin has a long-running project that focuses on the hypothetical interaction between forces of the nascent American republic and the Spanish influence in the Old South along the Mississippi. Think of it as another French and Indian war, set 40-ish years later, with the Spanish as the French allied with Choctaws.

I commanded a couple units of mounted rifles, who got jumped on turn 1 by two bands of excitable Choctaws hidden in a patch of woods. I got smacked and sent reeling back.

Were'd all them gol-durned injuns come from!?
I had my back to the edge of the board/world. One unit kept failing it's rally test and ran off home to mama. With the other unit, I managed to dismount and start shooting slow rifle shots at my attackers, who kept ripping into me with tomahawks and clubs.

Meanwhile, three units of Spanish regulars were advancing.

¡Adelante, hombres!
In the center and left, American militia and regulars were advancing against a Choctaw stockade and some cornfields, which they had a mind to burn down and deprive the Spanish-Indian forces with food (or capture and make into corn liquor).

Let's make us some popcorn, boys!
Choctaws manning the stockade
The American right (me) continued to crumble. However, the wee American cannon in the center managed to drive the Choctaws out of their stockade. On the left, the American regulars were giving short shrift to the Choctaws skulking in the woods on that end.

I lost my second unit of riflemen under a fury of Choctaw war-clubs and took over command of one of the militia units. I traded shots with the advancing Spanish, but when the Choctaw warbands, fresh from killing my riflemen came on, it was all over.

The last stand
With the last of my units gone, I ran out on a mission to get cash (which I rarely carry) so I could pay my donation and maybe pick up something at the swap tables. When I got back, they were picking up the game. I don't think I ever knew who won. I just know that many fewer militamen were comin' home to their kinfolk.

Other games being played were Dean Motoyama's beautiful First Battle of St. Alban's, which he ran using Lion Rampant rules. Dean's blog has featured his work painting these over the last few months—and really, just a few. He not only paints well, but fast.

Yorkists attack!
The game Yorkists apparently didn't come out like they did historically. The gates of St. Albans (really just barricaded lanes) proved a nut too tough to crack for York and the Neville boys.

Forward to defeat
The one other game played in the first period was a naval game between George Kettle and Damond Crump. I'm not sure what the rules were, but the models were all battleships (WW1, I think), so a hard pounding on both sides, I imagine.

Battleships engage
Kevin Smyth and I went out to lunch in "downtown" Steilacoom where we talked of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings, etc. We also talked up the idea of using The Men Who Would Be Kings for playing the American Civil War. We both have significant ACW lead-piles that we want to do something with. There was talk of doing Fire & Fury Regimental in 28mm, which would be a big undertaking. Doing ACW with TMWWBK is more manageable (for me, the painting weenie—Kevin is another prodigious painter like Dean).

I didn't stay for the second period, but there were a few games setting up. One of them, run by Lawrence, was a skirmish between set in the Puget Sound War using his modification of the Brother Against Brother rules.

After Kevin and I came back from lunch, we chatted with other gamers a bit. Then I headed back north—with a few stops en route—to make it to the vigil mass, so I could sleep in and goldbrick this morning. Last week was a long week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer's end

This is the idyllic time of year. Labor Day is passed and summer is soon to end. The warm (sometimes too warm) days of summer give way to cooler nights and, shortly, to cooler days. These days are like the last few drops of an elixir that has intoxicated us till now. It's like the last rays of light on a warm, beautiful day. You have to just sit and drink it all in.

It's much warmer this year than last. Here in beautiful, bucolic Lynnwood, WA, our high temps are in the mid-80s and the air is very smoky due to the wildfires in the Columbia gorge and elsewhere. By this time last year, high temps were in the 60s and I'd already had a fire or two burning in the hearth.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Grendel's death. This time last year was filled with anguished hope and hopeless despair. I still miss my little man. My heart breaks a little bit every time I think about him. The sharp pain of those terrible six weeks of late summer has subsided, but the sorrow lingers.

I loved that chubby, obstreperous munchkin more than I knew. I love my replacement cow-cat Bogart. He has his own unique personality which endears him to me more each day. I can't help but note the contrasts, however. Grendel was a cool cat, master of every situation. He approached everything with an enviable sangfroid. Bogart is bit more touchy and skittish. He's OK with visitors, but gets a bit agitated if there's commotion. A friend brought her young daughter by a few weeks back and her excitability at meeting Bogart was clearly taking its toll. He withdrew, she followed. I had to back her off in fear that he'd attack her. The window cleaners came by last week and started whumping and bumping their ladders around the house. I had to put Bogey in the windowless master bath to calm him down. He was freaked out and near screeching in fear as strange faces suddenly appeared at the windows. Grendel would just sit at the window and stare them into submission.

I have a week's vacation coming up. I meant to take it in early August, but the demands of work kept me chained to my oar. It will be next week—or the week after that... So, on the plus side, I still have it to look forward to. I'm experiencing what it means to have your cake and not eat it, but the desire to eat the cake is growing. Maybe a week off when the temperatures are cooler and the smoke has cleared is a better option. Painting weather.

Oh no it's not!


Much of my summer reading focused on The Irish Project. However, I managed to get some reading in that was not project related but pure pleasure. As I mentioned in a post in June, my quest for fish 'n' chips brought me into striking distance of Sea Ocean Book Birth and a few delightful finds amongst its groaning shelves. I've completed The Galleys at Lepanto and Sir Francis Drake. Both were excellent reads. Thomson's bio of Drake was surprisingly rich. The narrative moves along well and the story is exciting from start to end. From the first chapter to the last, you find yourself hanging on in anticipation of the next exploit.

Beeching's book on Lepanto was equally rich. He pulls together so many threads to weave the story that you're entranced by the tapestry. I always wanted to be a historian. It's reading books like these that makes that desire grow stronger (though, I'm not sure if I could ever achieve it). I was able to tie in reading The Galleys at Lepanto with reading chunks of Gunpowder and Galleys. I've had this title for a while and only browsed it. It's a very nice technical work on Mediterranean warfare in the 16th century and allowed for a few excurses into ship details where I wanted a bit more that the narrative provided.

I'm now in the midst of reading Mattingly's The Armada. This is a classic work and is proving to be equal to the first two books. His characterization of Elizabeth is an interesting comparison with how Thomson portrays her in his Drake bio. Thomson saw the Armada as more a response to the depredations of the English corsairs, El Draque chief among them. Mattingly starts by tying it to the tensions between Protestant and Catholic England—and the larger tension between Protestant England and Catholic Spain—and the situation after the execution of Mary Stuart in 1587, the year before the Armada, or rather the year it was intended to be had not Drake preemptively wrecked it in harbor at Cadiz.

History is an opportunity missed if the writer can't tell a compelling tale. I love being able to get details, but they're valuable for reference and become onerous the more pedantic they are. A good story is more to be desired than gold. I've read a lot on the US Civil War, but nothing better than anything by Bruce Catton. He was foremost a master story-teller and my understanding of the Civil War is enriched by his colorful narratives.


My primary hope for my week off—whenever I manage to take it—is to get a lot of painting done. Mostly on the English and Irish figures I have, but on a few other projects too. I have some new Beyond the Gates of Antares figures that I'd like to get finished, or nearly finished. They're a quick paint and I have most of them started already. I might also like to complete some long-languishing Xyston 1/600th galleys for my Row Well and Live! project. I'm starting to get eager to complete the revisions I noted for it three years ago and play some more. I may offer it on Wargame Vault at some point when I'm satisfied that it will pass muster.