|Game 1 Dimitris Filippatos4 # 43; 1492 AD. Later Hungarian 4 # 24, 1221 AD. Khwarizmians||
"I'm on top of the world, looking down upon creation....."
"pas 'dargent, pas de Suisse" as they used to say in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. However, for me the truth about the Nations Cup in grandson was somewhat different - more a case of "beaucoup du kilometres d'avion, beaucoup du monnaie pour achete les lagers".
Having a Friday off work is pretty good. Going abroad for the weekend is even better. Not having to drive at the other end is better still, as you can have a beer or two on the plane. Going to Switzerland to play with Toy Soldiers is maybe a bit more hard to justify to people from the real world, but on balance I guess it still makes sense. So, it was with this poor quality justification that I found myself sitting in Geneva Airport railway station, on what I hope would prove to be the 12:38 to Yverdon on warm September morning.
As the platform clock read 12:37, there was no sign of life - the platform was deserted, no efficient blokes waving flags, no officious foreigners blowing whistles were to be seen...... was I on the wrong train????
At 12:38, the train doors slid smoothly and silently shut, and we moved off, exactly on time....
I changed my watch, which I suddenly realised was clearly 2 minutes slow....
After getting to the hotel which had been booked for the whole party (nice - if you like your hotels to be a square concrete structure in an industrial estate in the middle of a field build on top of a supermarket), I managed to share a few beers by the side of the lake with Mike Bennett, who rather fortunately had just finished setting up the tables in the castle of Grandson (I'm getting the hand of this highly efficient Swiss timing I thought....). After that, it was time to bump into the New Zealanders, and we decided to wait for the rest of the UK team to arrive by bus. Oh - we had a few beers whilst we were doing this.....suffice to say, they took a while, but when they arrived, it was just in time to have a few beers with them.
By this time, clearly our thoughts were turning to the games ahead, so me, Dave Handley & Martin Naylor decided to continue our strategic discussions and set out our plans for the day ahead. As the hotel bar was now closed, we were forced somewhat reluctantly to cross the road and retire to a nightclub* to further our discussions. It would have seemed churlish not to, so we smoothed the path of tactics by having a few beers.
The next day, I played Dimitris Filippatos from the Greek B team, with his 1492 AD Later Hungarians. I think there was some terrain on the table somewhere - and he had a set of spearmen next to it, which were very nice indeed - and probably some knights, - but not as many light horse as my Lithuanians , who I think proceed to overwhelm his light horse, whilst my knights and Cv fought his knights (I'm a bit vague on some of the details - sorry...) probably... well, anyway, he is a really top bloke, it was a good enjoyable game, and I won 10-0.
That lunchtime the entire competition retired to the banks of the lake, to a restaurant to have some sort of food... oh, and a couple of beers.
In the afternoon I played Arnaud Grenon from France A, using list 61 from Book 4 - 1400AD Florence - Italian Condotta. This time there definitely was a huge wood in the middle of the table, which gave his Swiss ally and Bw(X) foot commands a good anchor, and so he deployed in one quarter of the table, single ranked Swiss lining up from the wood to the base edge, Bw(X) next to the wood, and a command with about 10 Kn (O) on the flank. Clearly the easy option was to pick on the Knights, so I sorted out as many LH(S) as I could find, drew out an overlap or two, powered up the electric tin openers and charged in - whilst my 4 knights swept round to line up against the uncommited Swiss, and my auxilia attempted to force a passage through the wood against stiff Ps opposition. The Florentine knights eventually fell, but the Tatars and Lithuanians were then unable to swiftly sweep away the fleeing remnants, nor to make any impression on the resulting flank of the Bw (X) - so the Knights charged the single ranked Swiss - and got mullered. Ooops - I appear to have lost 9-1.
That evening we retire to the hotel and grab a quick beer, then back to the chateau, to have a truly sumptuous meal... of potatoes and boiled meat, prepared allegedly by the Swiss Army, accompanied by Chateau Undrinkable wine. As two men in lederhosen and with twirly moustaches appeared to be giving Dave the eye (it must have been his new tattoo, or maybe the fact that he borrowed my vaseline.....which Simon Hall ended up with....hmmmm?) we both made a tactical withdrawal to an English pub (run by a Portuguese family..... well, what do you expect in Switzerland...they were efficient at serving us drinks anyway, so something must have rubbed off on them!).
In need of more tactical strategy, we retired to the aforementioned nightclub#. After a bizzarre sequence of events, in which Dave almost ended up sleeping in a "photo-me" booth, it was very, very suddenly the morning again.
The next day I am playing JD McNeil, with book 4 list 55; 1386 AD. Ottoman Turks. Oh - and we are both playing hangovers and lack of sleep - altogether more dangerous opponents, as we both found out. Suffice to say, he defended and managed to put down steep hills (I only had had one can of Red Bull by this point, and he had not had any), his Serbs were unreliable all game - but still had to be protected by the Janissaries, as it became abundantly clear that my Tatars had very intention of just riding straight across the table and charging the Serbian Bw(I), uncommitted or not. My flank march never arrived, if it had of done, it would hove caused merry hell on a totally beleaguered Ottoman flank where my Lithuanian LH had managed to pin the Ottoman Cv (S) into their deployment area for the whole game - in fact the LH might have forced an opening anyway if I hadn't been still pissed, and carelessly lost 2 of them in the first couple of moves. Suddenly it was time to finish - an inconclusive 5-5, but, oh well, down to the lake for another mal - and a beer.
The afternoon I play the Frenchman in the Belgian team (as opposed to the Brit, the Spaniard and the Belgian) Vincent Augur, using book 4 # 24, 1221 AD. Khwarizmians. Not ideal, with Cv (S) wall to wall, and an elephant, and some supported Pk (X). A big dune in front of my deployment area didn't help either, but we set to the task manfully, forcing back Psiloi out f a rough area on my left with an Auxilia charge, whilst putting pressure on the center with knights and the Tatars, and attempting to work a opening in the wall of Cv (O) & (S) to my right with swarms of LH. In many ways this was working well - it was tough, but gradually I was crafting some openings here and there - the Cv (O) were even dismounting occasionally to shoot and break up the enemy lines, creating overlaps to allow the LH(S) to fight - however the Tatars chose this point to roll abysmal pip dice - a string of 1's meant that they froze in their moment of potential triumph - having blown a hold adjacent to a Kwazzer general, they were first unable to exploit it, and then remained caught in the headlights as more and more Cavalry - and even the elephant - lumbered up to give them a pasting.
So, with my center crumbling, my right left flank proceeded to sweep away the psiloi and LH facing it, and my knights started chewing up Kwazzer cavalry. The game was in the balance, with his center racing for my baggage, as my right flank raced towards his - and it was all to play for on my right, as the LH and Cv (O) had forced an opening in the Kwazzer lines.
With time running out, the pip dice frustratingly chose now to dry up again - and my right flank ground to a virtual halt. Unable to regroup, it was time for desperate measures, and so I flung in the cavalry and LH where I could find advantage, hoping for a decisive strike. But, instead, witnessed by Simon who chose this moment to wander over and add his encouragement, I instead proceeded to roll an absolute sack-full of ones, and my right flank was blown away, losing 6 elements in one turn. Again I lose 9-1.
And with that disaster, (but not because of it) the Lithuanians were officially retired from full time competition play
That night, we all retired to the local town, to have a meal and a few beers. Oh - and some wine. Then I slept in as everyone else had to leave at 7am, but my flight wasn't until 4pm (That was nice!), giving me just enough time to wander round Geneva, not buy a watch or a Swiss Army Knife, but sit in the sun and have a beer.
All in all a top, top, top weekend - sod the results, 4 cracking games, huge amounts of beer, loads of new people, and even a tan! Even though it goes somewhat against the usual somewhat tongue-in-cheek literary (ahem) style of these pages, I must say a huge vote of thanks is due to Mike, Phil & Karin for sorting it all out, and to JD et al for organizing the UK elements of it - and it sure is an incentive to get to the the top of the rankings if ever there was one - Can't say no to that!
* - every bit as good as you might expect a Swiss nightclub on an industrial estate in the middle of a field about 2 miles from a fairly small country town to be
nightclub# - nope - it still hadn't gotten any better.