Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Who should sit on the Iron Throne?

First off, the title is misleading.  My actual question is more along the lines, "who should rule in Westeros", but the Iron Throne title is much catchier ;-)

Warning:  Spoilers will be cropping up all through this blog post.  If you get upset about spoilers when the last book in the series was published in 2011 and the most recent episode was aired a year ago, though, that's your problem, not mine!

I've watched the HBO Game of Thrones series, up to the end of Season 7, and over the past year I've read George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, just finishing A Dance with Dragons this week.  I've seen good, bad and indifferent characters come and go (and those that go most often do so in unpleasant ways).  (Almost) All the people of Westeros are having a very unpleasant time, with the prospect of much worse times in the near future.  They need some decent leadership, but whose?  I am considering not necessarily the best person to wear the crown and sit on the Iron Throne, but who can provide the best leadership.  This means that a decent Hand of the King could count as a ruler, either as regent or with a compliant king or queen, and also leaves open the possibility of an independent king in the North, the Iron Islands, or Sunspear, for example.

So let's run through our candidates, shall we?

Robert Baratheon:  Disinterested king.  Dynamic back in Robert's Rebellion, when he originally claimed the Iron Throne, but uninterested in the petty details of actually ruling.  Has delegated power to his Hand and his Small Council.  As long as the Hand and the Council are competent, this works well enough but leads to trouble when the balance of power in the council is disrupted.  This is of course what happens at the beginning of the series, where Hand of the King Jon Arryn is murdered.  So, no, Robert is not fit to rule Westeros, but he was adequate as long as he had good (or good enough) advisors on his small council.

Eddard Stark:  (either as Hand of the King, or King in the North) too naive, too worried about honour.  Honour is good, and it's important to have honour to direct your behaviour, but as the man says,

Being honourable is excellent, but don't assume anyone else will follow or believe the same code that you do.  Amazing that Ned lasted as long as he did even in the North without getting bumped off by someone abusing his naivety, so no surprise that he was among the earliest losers in the Game of Thrones.

Renly Baratheon:  Ambitious but not realistic.  He knew the dangers that were present in King's Landing, and cleverly got out of there promptly.  Charismatic, and quickly raised an army but not sensible enough to treat with his brother first.  He knew Stannis well, and knew that Stannis would never step aside for him, but he shouldn't have raised a rebellion against Joffrey until after he was certain that at least his own House Baratheon would be united behind his claim.  Talking to Stannis quietly and in private before raising his banners might have allowed the brothers to create a united front.  Getting killed by a demonic smoke baby would have been hard to anticipate, though.

Stannis Baratheon:  Too rigid.  I like that he is a stickler for the 'rules', whatever they may be.  His habit of pointing out the distinction between "less" and "fewer" makes me smile.  He's a competent commander, and his men appreciate that, whatever his other faults, he will lead them to victory.  I was so enamoured of Stephen Dillane's portrayal of Stannis that for a while I was on Team Stannis.  Burning his little princess was a stupid thing,though.  In addition to horrifying anyone on his side with any decency, it also ended his own bloodline as there was no sign that he and Queen Selyse were going to have any more children.  In a land of dynasties, ya gotta have kids.

Joffrey Baratheon:  Incapable of ruling on the strength of his own dignitas.

Being a bored, spoiled, angry little boy, he is unsuited to the throne.  Had he been taught responsibility and duty, he may have eventually learnt to be an adequate king, but as we know, his career was mercifully cut short.  Regardless,  it seems unlikely that anyone would have taught him those lessons - grandpa Tywin and unca Tyrion being the only people who had even considered teaching him, but neither seemed to find the challenge worth the effort.

But fortunately,

Tywin Lannister:  Tywin is a great leader, very focussed, very disciplined.  He prioritizes the advancement of his own house but is wise enough to balance out things a bit with awards or rewards for allies to keep them on side.  He is not "nice" but in his role he doesn't need to be:  he needs to be effective.  He is not needlessly cruel, and he understands that there needs to be at least a perception of justice.

In his role as leader of the realm he does very well, however as a father he fails rather badly.  He sees his children as his subjects, and doesn't understand when they don't take his orders.  He is blind to the incest between Jamie and Cersei, even when Cersei tells him to his face he refuses to accept it.  He could have owned it, and with the performance he shown in other matters, he could have even made it into some sort of triumph (considering how much success the incestuous Targaryan kings had).  He also refused to see the strengths of Tyrion.  Imagine if Tyrion had received even the slightest acknowledgement from his father, the slightest gesture of appreciation.  Instead Tyrion gets all the shit jobs, and he turns each role around, saving King's Landing when he was Hand of the King, escaping Catelyn Stark at the Eyrie, recruiting the savage hill tribes to fight for House Lannister and King Joffrey.  Tywin should look past the dwarf and see his son.  But he didn't, so 

Tyrion Lannister:  Everyone loves Tyrion.  He is so smart, and just rocks as Hand of the King (and latterly Hand of the Queen).  I can't see him ruling in his own name, but he is an excellent power behind the throne.  He's like a better, more humane version of his father - best power behind the crown, provided the head that wears the crown listens to him (although his advice does get a bit dodgy in season 7...)

Cersei Lannister:  She's not a good ruler.  Nasty, vindictive, would rather destroy the kingdom(s) rather than rule them well.  Not good for peace, stability nor prosperity.

Jon Snow:  Very earnest.  Very gullible.  Strong sense of honour, which is great, and he's learnt not to be blinded by it (more than you can say for his "father", Ned).  But he's kind of a dope.  He has to trust his closest advisers with his plans.  Case in point being when he tells Sansa in front of everybody that she will rule the North in his absence.  Not cool - if you want to dump that level of responsibility on someone, make sure you tell them in private, so if they freak out, it won't be in front of the entire population.  Sure, getting stabbed to death by one's sworn brothers can really set one back in the trust department, but that you can't rule if you can't trust your team.

As a military leader, he puts far too much trust in deus ex machina.  He was even shown developing a careful battle plan just before the Battle of the Bastards, which he threw away just because Ramsey killed his little brother.  He only got out of that one because Sansa showed up with help in the nick of time.  Similarly with the Wildlings, who looked ready to kill him just before Stannis showed up to save him in the nick of time.  His stupid A-team mission to capture a zombie/walker/living dead thingie from north of the Wall was also about to fail when he was rescued by Dany, again just in the nick of time.  That whole mission was something that should have been delegated.  It's all great that Jon is willing to lead from the front, but a King shouldn't go off on quests or secret missions.  Even King Arthur knew that it was for the Knights of the Round Table to go on the quest for the Holy Grail, and it was his role to stay at Camelot and rule the kingdom.  

So nope, Jon Snow ain't my king.

Daenerys Targaryon:  Hmmm.  She has been learning a lot as she goes along.  She's had an opportunity to practice with the Dothraki, with Yunkai, with Meereen and has made mistakes along the way.  She has some great qualities in that she is compassionate, abolishing slavery and stopping the gladiator games.  She can be ruthless when necessary, but limits her wrath to those who have managed to earn it, taking care to protect those under her rule.  She really tries not to repeat mistakes, learning as she goes along.  For now I support Daenerys to sit on the Iron Throne!  

There are other kings, like Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Euron Greyjoy, but I'm going to shortcut and say that they aren't for me.  It's Dany and her Hand, Tyrion for the win!

PS- my position could change again once Season 8 is released next summer.  Season 7 already showed some pretty sloppy writing as the showrunners have moved beyond GRRMartin's published books, so I won't be surprised if the story jumps the rails before they bring it to an end.

Pathan warriors

A short update this time.  I've finally finished up some 25 Pathan warriors who have been in the painting queue for years!  Mostly Old Glory, with the exception of the Artizan drummer on the right.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

3 more horsemen

Only three figures this time, so it's barely worth a blog post!  It does mean that I've got enough 19th Century Afghan horse that I could keep my Hollywood figures off the table (the horsemen with AK-47 and RPG), but I think it's fun to have them in a game just to see if anyone notices ;-)

Three more Perry miniatures cavalry:

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Afghan Regulars, this time in brown!

One more unit of Afghan regular infantry, bringing the total to four units of 12 infantry. That's about enough to field a significant field force, once I add in the artillery!  May need just a little top up from some tribal cavalry and they'll be ready to see off those who dare invade their land, whether British, Russian or Persian!  OK, not Persian, I'm not heading down that path....

Instead of red coats, my first idea was to paint them with black tunics and white facings, as described in the Ian Heath article, "A Most Villainous Cavalcade", specifically the text caption for image 4, Infantryman 1878.  I certainly had (and continue to have) zero interest in the white/blue striped uniforms!  Finally, however I settled on the brown tunics with red facings of the Ardali infantry (ref text for image 5, Highland Guard in the above referenced article).

So here they are.  Figures are from Perry Miniatures' Victoria's Little Wars line.

The flag is a bit of a flight of fancy.  I was tired of the plain black flag that Wikipedia indicates was in use (if in fact Afghanistan had formally adopted any flag at all), so I fabricated a flag based on the Durrani flag but with a rather dodgy, hand-painted attempt at the mosque that would be included in the Afghan national emblem around 1901.

Here is a possible attempt at a march column with a handful of skirmishers leading the way.  Maybe I should do a series of posts showing the current state of each of my armies for Afghanistan, British India and the Russian Empire.  Let me know in the comments below if you'd like to see something like that!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Saving the Guns! Take 2

Last night at the Trumpeter Society's July club night, I set up the same 'Saving the Guns' scenario that I tried a couple of weeks ago (see here:  Saving the Guns AAR).   This time the players were Reeve (who took the Afghan forces) and Jim, who got to play the British mostly because he brought the right hat.  Rules used were The Men Who Would Be Kings.

As before, the British start with a gun and a unit of regular infantry in the middle of the table.  Their objective is to get the gun off the table before they are overrun by the Afghans.

Man, that's a lot of Afghans...

but help is on the way!

Afghans begin a general advance...

While the limber moves up to effect the rescue.  (rules for the limber:  movement is 10", may not move in difficult terrain, takes one full activation to limber the gun).

"A thin, red line, tipped with steel.."

Afghan horse moving on the flank.  Why, no, that rider isn't carrying an RPG, why do you ask?

Afghan horse almost ride down the gun crew, but effective musketry from the infantry sees them off.  

But there are still many more Afghans approaching!

Afghans converge on the beleaguered defenders!  The coloured wooden cubes are used to indicate which units have tested for activation.  I need to replace those with some more appropriate markers.  Suggestions welcome!  In other games I've used livestock such as goats or sheep as markers.  Another idea might be to use pebbles.  Hmmmm

It looks pretty scary for the Imperials!

But then some effective fire cuts down half the horsemen, pinning them

 And a timely charge by the Lancers finishes them off!  (I need to make some 'pinned' markers for the Afghans, too!)

Still plenty of Afghans advancing

So the lancers charge again!

About this time, the Pathans remembered that about half of them were carrying muskets, and used them to shoot down the Lancers, allowing the Ghazis to charge the gun...

While the last unit of Afghan horse charged the regulars and pushed them back!

Pinned markers for the British!  

The second unit of Lancers charge the Afghan horse and rescue the infantry.  In order to keep the units organised, I painted coloured stripes on the rear of the bases.  It was amusing to see the players avoiding referring to 'black lancers' or 'while lancers' as no one wanted to sound racist!  This also applied to the black, white and brown stripes that I put on the Afghan forces.

After chasing off the horse, the Lancers turn their attention to the Ghazis!

That didn't work out quite so well for them...

And finally the badly mangled British troops realise that they can't win.  The limber has been mangled, but could still theoretically pull the gun.  However, the mass of Pathans would simply shoot them to pieces.  This was where we called the game.  Once again, an Afghan triumph.

I want to try this scenario again, but would like to adjust the balance a bit.  In each game, both players reported that the scenario was fun but I'd like to see if the British can actually rescue the guns.

Changes from the first scenario:
No testing for leader casualties.  This was something that slowed down the earlier scenario for no particular result.  Especially because I excluded leadership traits!  The leader traits make for some fun role-play opportunities, but can as easily saddle a unit with a big liability (such as a cavalry officer who refuses to charge his enemy).

Changes to consider for next time:
Larger playing surface.  This would allow more room to maneuver which would give the players more choice in how they deploy and move.
Add another infantry unit to protect the gun. Maybe offset this by letting the Afghans have a gun as well.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Bombay Infantry

And another unit for the Indian Army!  This is a basically imaginary unit.  I'm calling it the 16th Bombay Infantry, which really did exist, but I couldn't get precise details on the uniform or the colours, so I made up some of the details.

The uniform is mostly inspired by a drawing from britishempire.com:  https://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyuniforms/indianinfantry/16thbombayinfwymer.htm

So here are the photos.

The regimental colours (hand-painted, whoo-hoo!) are completely imaginary, but are, shall we say "inspired" by history.  So are the turban colours, for that matter.

Command team (English officer, Indian officer, bugler and havildar).

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

A Tale of Two Houses

As I mentioned in my post from a week ago, I recently found a very reasonably priced little dollhouse in a nominal 1:48 scale, for only CAD$8.  In this post, I'll compare it to the CAD$50 Games Workshop Laketown House from The Hobbit.

The Laketown house is a gorgeous piece of scenery.  In addition to the house, it includes several sections of dock (3 pieces approx 4" x 1", 1 that is 1" x 2"), a 4" x 4" platform and a small rowboat, plus a number of small pieces like baskets, lanterns, and the like.  So your $50 gets you a bevy of extras.

There's even a dunny!

The house itself is very nice, with plenty of detail moulded on.  The wall details are different on each side, so the same model could be assembled a few different ways to produce rather different appearances for the house.  One of the best things for me is that this GW product has NO SKULLZ!  It's just a normal house, with details that place it in a fishing community (fishing nets, baskets, actual fish).  

The dollhouse does not have the same level of detail, which has a charm of its own.  It's very straightforward.  The open back is a minor nuisance, but that could even be a feature if you wish to place figures inside.  I chose to cover over the back with a sheet of cardboard and some popsicle sticks.

Both houses scale well with each other, but the difference in style is quite noticeable when they are placed side by side.

I also made a second flèche for my GNW Russians.  The mound for this one is made from DAS clay, while the first was made from leftover scraps of cork board. DAS is much easier to work into shape!

Here is the new flèche occupied by some grenadiers (in red), dragoons (with black boots) and musketeers (in the rear). 

Side by side comparison of the new (left) and original (right).

Both flèches ready for action.