Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Three Months Gone

It occurred to me a little earlier today that it has been three months to the day since my Dad's passing.

I miss him.

I miss him in the obvious sense. The phone doesn't ring anymore with him on the other end of the line, wanting to know how the kids are doing, and how I am doing. Even this little passage of time has faded the frustration of many of our conversations in recent years, where he would ask many of the same questions and I would give him many of the same answers. Conversations that were apparently new to him every time we had them, while not new to me at all. I regret my eye-rolling, literal and figurative. I regret the times when I was in the middle of something else and the phone rang and I could see my parents' number on the caller ID and didn't answer the phone, knowing that we would talk again soon. Which we always did... but still...

But I also miss him in a more subtle way; one that I will probably do a poor job of trying to express. As a child, parents make you feel safe, or at least mine did. I always knew that mom and dad were around to protect me, and I had an unshakeable faith that as long as mom and dad were there, nothing bad would happen to me. I think that in some ways I have carried that belief with me into adulthood. It's not something that I consciously thought about, but I do believe that I still had that notion that mom and dad were there serving as a last line of defense against trouble in my world. And that as long as they were there, nothing bad would happen. And nothing ever really did. But now one of them is gone.

Even though I am surrounded by family and friends, and am fortunate beyond measure in so many ways, I feel a little bit more alone in the world than I used to. And it makes me sad.

Outremer Settlers domain list

This is the domain list I have drafted to represent a Frankish settler's domain in a border area in the northern part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the mid-12th century. I want something that will give a blend of the Frankish and native troop types that would probably have been more typical than a straight "Crusader" army in this kind of situation. It is a work in progress, and I have a few other ideas rattling around in my head that I think are worth exploring, so I would expect I will be posting an expansion on this in the not too distant future.

12 March, 1148

From the Journal of Reynaud of Aarma

"Sunset on this the Twelfth day of March, the year of our Lord 1148. It has been four years since I arrived on these shores and two years since I have been graced with the lands of Aarma. My two years here have been peaceful, and my daily work has been ruling these lands and not wielding a sword. But war has come from the East. Amir Habib ibn Hamad has been raiding into the borderlands, stealing livestock, robbing caravans and burning crops. Outriders from my neighbor Stephen of Yuval came to Aarma scant days ago with word of a force moving up the valley in my direction. I have called my men to me and marched to meet him beyond the borders of my lands. I will not see the toil of my time here undone. Nor shall I forsake the trust my lord Gilbert of Tyre has placed in me. I will do my duty. My scouts have found the Amir and his horsemen camped near the burning village of Houra, only a few miles hence. In the morning, he shall feel the wrath of our lances and the bite of our swords. Lord, may your blessings shine upon us on the Day of Battle."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crusades Project Page Created

I just wanted to post a note that I have created a "Crusades Project 2011" page in the Pages section over to the right hand side of the blog page. Items of note on the project will continue to be posted here. I will use the new page to keep a diary of my activity on the project, where it can serve as my ongoing To-Do list as well as keeping more trivial things out of the main blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crusades - Game 1 Prep

The Situation
March 12, 1148. A troublesome Syrian amir has been raiding into the Christian areas east of Reynaud's lands. Reynaud has summoned his forces and ridden forth to do battle.

Game Overview
I will play this first game as a straight-up battle with a Syrian domain list led by a leader with stats identical to Reynaud's. The Syrian army points available will be equal to Reynaud's with one plus/minus randomizer card. I will use the Early Crusader list for Reynaud as I have not drafted the Early Frankish Settlers list. Since this project is being tackled as a "just in time" endeavor, item one on the immediate term ToDo list becomes "draft Early Frankish Settler" domain list to have it ready for game 2.

Summoning Reynaud's Army
Army Points (AP) will be his household (HH) value (SR3 plus Esteem 2 = 5) plus three random draw cards. Cards are a 4, an 8 (max of his household value, so reduced to 5), and a Queen (faces are value 5). So his three cards are worth 14. Plus household of 5 is 19 AP. 19 AP divided by 3 is 6 units with one AP left over. That can be used to purchase an SR1 leader. There is a new Household Units rule that lets you pick a few units off your domain list before randomizing the rest. For a HH 5 leader, this is 2 units. The obvious choice here is to take 2 units of knights, which I will do. The remaining 4 units are rolled for randomly, and answering Reynaud's summons are: 2 units of spearmen, 1 additional knights, and 1 turcomen light cavalry. Just to use the new Mercenaries rule, I will make the additional knight unit a mercenary unit and say that they are Byzantine adventurers fighting for pay on the frontier.

The Syrian army of Amir Habib
Syrian AP will be 19 and a randomizer card, which is a black 5, meaning plus 1 AP, for a total of 20. This equates to 6 units with 2 AP leftover, which allows the Syrians to have an additional leader or two. To make them more flexible, I will choose a pair of SR1 leaders rather than one SR2. Habib's household units will be a pair of heavy cavalry. His remaining 4 units are rolled for and come up: 2 horse archers, 1 light cavalry and 1 infantry unit. Not an unrealistic force.

I will now either re-base enough figures for these units or maybe play this first game with the figures still in old standard basing. I just went down to the basement to check on one unit of knights that I re-based on a basswood sheet base as a test, and the results aren't pretty. The basswood bases are large enough that even though they are thick (3/32"), the amount of glue put on top to glue the figures and the sand texture at the same time have caused the base to warp dramatically. Looks like I need a plan B...which most likely means an order of Litko plywood bases that should be dimensionally stable. Looks like ToDo list #2 becomes "order bases." Bummer.

Crusades Project - Background

I have a lot of work to do on my 15mm Crusades armies. Re-basing figures, painting buildings, working on "brown world" desert terrain, buying some additional figures and other tasks that I am sure haven't even occurred to me yet. At the same time, the other main objective of this project is to help Chris with Day of Battle 4. I am afraid that if I get too bogged down in all the miniatures related tasks, I'll never get around to playing anything. So this is my plan...

I will create a new character to build the campaign around (and let's hope I can keep him alive for a little while!). I will do the pre-game prep for the first battle, up to the point of army creation. Once I see what I need for that battle, I will re-base the figures needed (but only what is immediately needed), fight the battle, and so on. This should force me into a nice mix of background tasks and actually playing.

Our Story Begins
We'll follow the exploits of Reynaud, a lesser son of a minor French noble who has come to the holy lands in the wake of the First Crusade to find fame and fortune. Or at least fortune. It is the middle part of the 12th century, let's say 1148. Reynaud has some experience in battle from his days in France, and has been granted lordship of a small fief in the northern part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. His holdings are modest, but more than he could have dreamed of back home. The town of Aarma, and its tiny little castle are his home, and he has feudal authority over the nearby villages of Dafna, Ghajar, and Baj al Malouk. The people of his fiefdom are a combination of Frankish settlers and locals, who he has treated well and are for the most part loyal to him.

His first couple of years have been mainly consumed with settling the area better and winning over the locals, but this inland area is in a historically contested area near the Syrian border, and things seem to be flaring up... There are raiding Syrians, roving bands of bandits, unfriendly "friendly" neighbors wanting more influence in the area, and all sorts of other potential enemies.

The Games
Chris has been kind enough to throw together drafts of the army lists from his On Holy Ground supplement for my use in this project. As I intend the character to be a Frankish settler between major Crusades (I and III primarily), depending on the circumstance I will be using the Domain lists for Early Crusaders, Syrians, and a homemade blended list for "Early Frankish Settlers". I want Reynaud's core Domain list to be the kind of amalgamation of western and local troop types that such a holding would have had access to. And it also gives me the opportunity to mix in Byzantine mercenaries and pretty much anything else that strikes my fancy. Once I draft this "Frankish Settlers" list I will post it here and forward it to Chris for his review and input.

Now on to Game 1...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crusades Project - Plans

I have been inactive in my wargaming for far too long. Now that we have gotten some family things straightened out that had things in a state of flux, I am ready to dive back into something.

First, I need to get an order out the Fernando Enterprises for painting. I don't have the time to paint quantity, so some of my figure stock needs to get on an airplane and go overseas. This will end up being 25mm Ottomans, 25mm Seven Years War, or 25mm Renaissance.

Second, I need to get back to work on helping Chris Parker out with his ideas for Day of Battle IV. In conjunction with this, I plan to rebase my 15mm Crusader and Saracen armies using the Impetus style basing that Chris is using. There is no real risk in doing this, as I have never really used these armies the way they are based now, and I have been anxious to base something on the kind of diorama-style bases that Impetus uses. I will try to use these newly rebased armies to do some playtesting of DoB4 as part of a small solo campaign.

Hopefully, between these little projects and the fact that Cold Wars is coming up in less than a month, I will get back on the hobby track.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cheerleading Competition - Feb 19, 2011

February has been a big month for my little cheerleaders. Julia's squad participated in two events over the last couple of weeks - one at Garnet Valley and one at Sun Valley High School in Aston today. Grace's team also participated in both of those, plus an additional one at the Chase Center on the Wilmington waterfront tomorrow.

BYC Spirit. I cry every time these girls perform and get a standing ovation (which they always do). Julia just loves performing with some of her best friends. And the degree to which the older girls on the BYC and Garnet Valley HS squads have "adopted" these girls is heartwarming.

BYC Pee Wees. Please don't drop my daughter...
Cheerleading couldn't be much further removed from anything I knew growing up, but I am very glad that my girls are involved in something that they enjoy, and something that is team oriented. These competitions are pretty serious, even at a young age (sometimes perhaps a bit more serious for some parents than is healthy, but you would run into the same thing in athletics or any other area I suppose).
One thing that I find amusing is how competitive Grace is. In her team's three competitions, they have placed 2nd out of 3, 2nd out of 4, and 4th out of 6. In each case, she has been very disappointed that they haven't done better. Which is good, I think, within reason. She enjoys it very much, and wants mom to sign her up for some gymnastics classes so she can be a better tumbler. She sees the bigger girls somersaulting and back flipping across the stage, and wants to be one of them. As long as she continues to have the interest, we will support her...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dakotas Trip Planning Update

Some significant progress has been made on our Dakotas trip planning for this summer as a result of a session at my house and a lot of emailing back and forth. Flight reservations have been made, as have rental car reservations. So we have starting and ending destinations locked in. We also have a pretty solid outline of what we intend to do in the middle. Exact details will be filled in over time.

The overall outline of our route is shown below, beginning in Denver and ending in Minneapolis. The end point in Minneapolis, while a bit crazy (or frankly a lot crazy...), is a concession to lower airfares out of major airports and the desire not to have to backtrack down to Denver to leave. The cost of that concession is 9.5 hours of interstate driving across the plains on our last day, but at least I'll get another new state out of the bargain. As of now, we plan on passing through (or touching briefly in some cases) Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.

The general itinerary as it stands now is:
  • Day 1 - Fly into Denver late in the day and get to Fort Collins CO for the night.
  • Day 2 - Buy supplies in Fort Collins then get to Wind Cave National Park in SD via Scotts Bluff NE.
  • Day 3 - Wind Cave and Mount Rushmore ending in the Harney Peak area. All in SD.
  • Day 4 - Hiking in the Harney Peak area.
  • Day 5 - Devils Tower WY and then cutting through the corner of MT on the way to Bowman ND (on the way to Theodore Roosevelt National Park).
  • Day 6 - Teddy Roosevelt National Park ND.
  • Day 7 - TRNP ND.
  • Day 8 - TRNP ND and the loooong haul to Minneapolis MN.
  • Day 9 - Fly home from Minneapolis.
Research continues on campgrounds, hikes, sightseeing highlights and the like. Lots of details left to iron out, but it seems to be coming together nicely and we are well in advance of the trip, so we have plenty of time...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Geocaching in Florida

I was in Florida for four days this week for a national sales meeting in Orlando FL, which means one thing - geocaching in Florida! The meeting agenda was packed each day, but I did manage to sneak in a couple of cool virtual caches.

The first was a B-52 strategic bomber in a little park next to the airport.

The second was a piece of the Berlin Wall located just behind the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Studios. Conveniently, we had a group event at Universal one afternoon, and came back and had dinner at the Hard Rock the next night. It was odd to see a piece of the Berlin Wall here, as I had seen the Berlin Wall in place on a visit to West Berlin in the summer of 1985 before the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany.

That makes Florida my 12th state with a geocache find.