Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Band of Brothers - Stephen Ambrose

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose is a history of E Company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101 Airborne Division in World War II. This covers the entire period from the formation and training through to the end of the war in Europe. Ambrose has now acquired a controversial reputation as an historian but his writing is clear and engaging so this succeeds as a readable account for general readers.

The narrative largely focuses on key individuals in the company, mainly the officers and NCO as the NCO in particular were the longest serving members of E Company, many having been in the initial cohort training at Toccoa and serving through D-Day, operation Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge and the advance into Germany at the end of the war. Probably the most heroic of the many named is Richard Winters, who was an early platoon commander until promoted further up in the Battalion and was vital in achieving successful missions at Brecourt Manor and Carentan in Normandy.

This was the basis for the TV miniseries made by Stephen Spielberg which is what actually led me to reading the book. The TV series was very good and I'd recommend watching it if given the chance.

As a Briton I found there were a few of the usual comments from American historians about General Montgomery's alleged slowness which is not borne out by the actual evidence. That is a topic I might discuss later as I don't want to go off on a tangent from the review.

For a wargamer there are a number of scenario ideas and several of these actions have been used in commercially produced games with ASL Starter Kit 2 having an 88s at Zon scenario. I'm planning to use the small action at Brecourt Manor as a basis for some WWII games using the Flying Lead and Nuts rules which will feature in my blog later on. The accounts of the battles fought tend to bear out the approach of the Too Fat lardies rules with 'big men' being critical to motivating and leading troops in battle.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Current Wargaming Projects

My current wargaming projects are really based round recent sales and purchases I've made on ebay, where  I'm clearing out unwanted odds and ends from the minis collection and buying things that will enable me to get games running soon.

I've bought some 15mm ACW to add to my existing collection and get me closer to being able to play some battles with Fire & Fury and They Couldn't Hit an Elephant.

My other project was a bit more of a spur of the moment notion as I had a few boxes of Esci WWII British and Germans and decided that I would play WWII skirmish level games in 20mm. To that end I've bought a copy of Two Hour Wargames Nuts rules from ebay, which are actually the first edition rather than the current one and am also going to try Flying Lead from Ganesha games. If I build up enough figures and get a decent size folding table made up then I will also use Too Fat Lardies Troops, Weapons & Tactics for a platoon level game.

The picture shows my German WWII figures in progress.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

My Favourite Albums: 1 Husker Du Zen Arcade

Zen Arcade

This will be the first of my irregular posts about my favourite albums, which in a way shows my age as it means I grew up in an era where music was sold either on singles with only usually a couple of tracks or albums with probably about 10 or a dozen tracks rather than being bought and sold individually like downloads are. I know that downloads of albums still exist but they are more to provide a comfort zone for older consumers like me I think or to match with CD releases rather than being the way that younger people favour buying and consuming music.

Zen Arcade is one of Husker Du's most musically adventurous albums as it sees them move away from their early hardcore punk sound into more diverse sounds and approaches. There are still plenty of tracks that feature their early sound with the distorted guitar and rapid tempos of early hardcore, but also experiments with slower tempos and adding different instruments to the guitar, bass and drums lineup.

In one way Zen Arcade is a concept album as it does have a unifying story that underlies the lyrical content of the songs. The story is of a boy running away from an unhappy home and facing the options of religion (Hare Krishna), the military (Chartered Trips) and drugs (Pink turns to Blue) before facing a realisation that life is hard and change is not always something we can create for ourselves (Newest Industry). The tracks Dreams Reoccurring and Reoccurring Dreams imply that it is all a dream.