Monthly Archives: October 2012

The weather this evening in Taunton has been fairly abominable. To be sure, nothing like facing a hurricane – far more mundane. A very heavy rain with a biting wind. Typically I forgot to pack my raincoat in my bag today, so I knew the bicycle ride home was going to be very wet.

Cycling is a fairly new mode of transportation to me. I learned to ride many years ago as a child, but as a way of getting to and fro work it was never something I considered until my wife moved over here. As a visit to Copenhagen will quickly demonstrate that the Danes are convinced cyclists. Indeed, the bicycles can be more dangerous than the cars! So with my wife’s encouragement I have for most of the last year or so been cycling to work.

Tonight, for the first time, a car decided to interrupt my journey home.

It was a black evening, especially with the rain. The road – a back-road – was nevertheless fairly well lit. A friend was cycling beside me, when a car pulled out into the road without looking from a side-road. It was fortunate they were going very slowly, as they had not bothered looking to see the way was clear, with the result they bumped into me.

This is not quite as dramatic as it sounds – my friend (cycling on my outside) was perhaps half a length ahead of me and they had finally saw him and started to break. I tried to get out of the way too, but ultimately unsuccessfully. If one is to be hit by a car, this is how to be hit by a car – with the car now moving slow enough that one does not even get properly knocked off one’s bike. After a few minutes to collect myself (the car driver did stop and ask if I was alright) I continued on my way, and arrived home without further incident.

There was a time when this would mean I would cease cycling for a considerable length of time. I felt the urge just to tie up my bike somewhere and leave it as I stood on the pavement afterwards, my legs feeling like they were made of water. However, since my illness – especially in the last few years – I have become determined not to let my anxieties rule me as once they did. So it was I felt a rising desire not to be put off – it was enough to get me on my bicycle and get me home to my wife and daughter. I trust it will be strong enough to get me onto my bike tomorrow morning.

Just one of the many things that have changed – for the better – the last few years.


The Char D1 was the next tank on my Tier II project (about to be expanded with the advent of British tanks) and I have to say it was a very frustrating time. When I have done with the Tier II tanks this tank will certainly not be among the candidates to be retained.  Playing this tank is about like trying to touch-type with three fingers taped together.

I believe this tank belongs to the infantry tank doctrine of slow moving, relatively heavily armoured tanks with weaker weaponry. The “problem” is that, as the game plays, this tank is not really very well armoured at all. Oh it has more armour than most other Tier II tanks, just not enough. Tier II tank destroyers, quite a few upgraded Tier II tanks, and Tier III tanks all have relatively little trouble in ruining one’s day. The hull armour is weaker than the turret armour, which means a “hull-down” strategy might work – except there is virtually no depression to the gun.

Likewise the firepower of the tank – especially to start with – is not so much underpowered as utterly anaemic. The problem is really one of penetration – there just is not very much. Once the gun is upgraded finally there is the capacity to inflict damage, but even then it feels a good deal less than other tanks of this tier. The slow speed, combined with poor overall damage and inadequate protection, is the final insult.

It is interesting in a way to compare this tank to the Pz 38H 735f. That tank is also a slow moving, heavily armoured, weaker-firing tank. However, while certainly no quicker than the D1 that tank has two vital advantages – the armour is just that little bit better, and so is the armament.

My own experience of the Char D1 lasted six battles (two victories) with only one enemy kill to my name. It is some comfort to know that, in real life, this tank was also something of a failure, shipped out of France to the colonies before World War 2 broke out.

Now, I generall

I am fortunate to know a lot of people in various countries of the world. This is usually a really neat and nifty thing, but it has one downside – news of various nasty things happening around the world are sometimes no longer academic.

So it is now with Hurricane Sandy bearing down upon the US East Coast. Here is hoping that everyone in it’s path keeps safe, including those I know.

Over the last weekend we spent some time with my father and while doing so he and I ended up watching Molière. Now, I know virtually nothing about Molière, other than he was a comedic playwright in pre-Revolutionary France. I didn’t even know which century he lived in (the seventeenth, as it happens). I have never seen a Molière play, nor had any desire to see one (comedy being very much a hit and miss affair with me). In short this is a film I would never have watched of my own accord, but my father wished to watch it, and therefore so did I.

The conceit of the film is a flashback to a period early in Molière’s life, before he was famous, and a sequence of events which inspired him to his fame. In fact the entire episode is entirely fictitious, and as I read later, the film uses Molière’s own plays for its inspiration.

Comedy is actually quite a difficult thing for me to watch – especially situational comedy. I keep getting acutely embarrassed on behalf of the characters. It does not happen always, but sometimes I find myself finding an excuse to leave a room or bury myself in a book or something until the moment passes. It does not just happen in pure comedies, but also in comic moments in other films too. As it happens I did spent several moments of this film entrenched in browsing something on the internet now and then – but despite this I still enjoyed the humour immensely.

There are, at heart, four characters in this film with a smattering of others. I do not believe I have encountered any of them previously, given my miniscule exposure to non-English language films (this is a French film). The roles were all well and solidly played, and Romain Duris has a wonderful touch as Moliìere. However, he is a little upstaged by Laura Morante who captured her role to absolute perfection. If I were more of a cinephile I almost certainly would check out a selection of her other work, but realistically I am unlikely to do this.

While this film is a comedy, at moments it turns decidedly serious – like all the best comedies which do this it makes those one or two moments very powerful indeed. When Molière exclaims to Elmira Jourdain that there are comedies cannot tackle certain subjects she gives him the same advice she gave him much earlier in his life: invent it – and it nearly breaks my heart.

In retrospect the film this is most similar too – and one suspects it was part of the inspiration for it – is Shakespeare in Love. Thinking about it both Shakespeare and Molière had not dis-similar careers. One could probably right a parallel biography after the style of Plutarch about them.

Overall I enjoyed this film very much, and would recommend it to anyone who wished for an enjoyable masquerade with a serious twist – assuming there is no trouble either understanding French or reading subtitles of course 🙂 . Overall rating 3,5/5

It has been announced this evening that World of Tanks wins the Golden Joystick award for best MMO. The award itself means basically nothing to me – only that because World of Tanks won the award we will enjoy a special offer purposefully to celebrate running from the morning of Friday 2nd November to the morning of Monday 5th November – and what an offer.

To begin with all Tier IX Medium Tanks, Heavy Tanks, and Tank Destroyers, and all Tier VIII SPG are discounted.  They will all cost the same as the immediately preceding tank would ordinarily cost – all in all this amounts to quite a substantial discount. In addition all Tier VIII premium tanks will be at a 15% discount.

There will also be x5 experience bonus for the first victory of the day. Garage slots, equipment, and crew training and re-training will be at a 50% discount. Finally there will be a bonus code which equates to 3 days premium account.

In other words there is something for everyone – however I imagine it is players towards the top tiers who will now be saving credits. Quite simply the upper tiers very rarely get featured in the regular special offers, so this one is clearly for them. However, there are also plenty of other goodies for everyone else.

Indeed, this offer is actually going to offer me a mild dilemma regarding whether to retrain my Marder II crew now to include the Brothers in Arms perk at 100% (essentially, replacing the current second skill) or to wait for the next time a crew retrain is discounted. I am going to have a week to think about it.

The next World of Tanks special offer on the EU server – running from Saturday morning until Wednesday morning – is called Counter-Attack. It is based around a collection of tanks that are meant to be good at counter-attacks. I think it is a fairly weak theme to an offer given that very many tanks are very effective in a counter-attacking role, but the offer itself is I think fairly strong in terms of its contents.

First up, and gloriously slow, there is triple crew experience for the duration of the offer. Bonus crew experience is rapidly becoming one of my favourite aspects of any special offer – especially now my Marder II crew is onto its third skill.

Secondly there are four regular tanks on a 50% discount: the M7 (an American Tier V medium tank), the T-34 (the Soviet Tier V medium tank warhorse), the ELC AMX (a light French Tier V), and the Panzer III/IV (a German Tier V medium). There are also two premium tanks on a 50% discount – the T-25 (German Tier V medium) and the Matilda Lend-Lease (Soviet Tier V medium).

I can certainly recommend the Panzer III/IV as a most excellent tank and a lot of fun to play. I will be acquiring the T-34 on the back of this offer since it is on my “list” as it were. I know nothing of the M7 and the ELC AMX. I do own both the T-25 and the Matilda LL, though I haven’t played very many matches on either of them. However I have enjoyed them, and it is important to consider the possibility that with the introduction of the British tanks the three British Lend-Lease tanks to the Soviet union may be withdrawn.

The final aspect of this special offer is a 50% bonus to credit earnings with the T20 (American Tier VII medium), the T-43 (Soviet Tier VII medium), the AMX 13 75 (French Tier VII light), and the VK 3002 DB (German Tier VII medium). None of this affects me for the simple I reason I don’t own any of the above tanks.

On the whole though I think this is a great offer with a good range of offers and bonuses.

So, we have a video detailing some of the map changes in 8.1, another previewing the British tanks, the general understanding 8.1 is about to hit the Russian server.

The British tanks will add another line of tanks to those I wish to research – and some more Tier II tanks for me to play with before I decide on a Tier II to keep. The Tier II tour, as it were, is rapidly becoming one of my best decisions in World of Tanks. There is so much fun to be had in the low tiers.

The other big difference will be premium ammo being able to be acquired for credits. At a rate of 400 credits / gold this is going to be expensive – my Marder II for example would cost 2000 credits per round (5 gold), the KV-1 2800 credits per round (7 gold) and KV-3 4800 credits (12 gold). This is not a formula to make credits.

What it is undoubtedly going to be is a formula to buy a few rounds of premium ammunition to use in those situations where it is much more necessary – like when trying to prevent the enemy capping a base or getting the edge in a 1-1 at the end of a fight. Certainly that is how I am going to approach it. That said, for the first few days I expect a certain amount of carnage until everyone gets broke.

Looking forward to it.


It stands stop a blustery hill, a wooden palisade surrounding a few houses and a small mead-hall. Stangard, Rohan’s colony across the Limlight, feels grander than this small mote which is the first settlement we encounter in East Rohan. Stangard is a statement of power and intent – Langhold is a place with no such pretensions. The thane is courteous and welcoming, though not one for ceremony. He is also conscientious and competent – amongst other things he has instituted a series of watch posts along the Anduin to keep an eye out to ensure no hostile force crosses into Rohan, and to give warning if such a force were to do so. Not that Langhold could stop an invasion, but it might allow the rest of the realm time to gather itself together to resist.

You can arrive at Langhold either my moving south from the Great River region, or by following the Vol III Bk 7 epic quest line. After receiving a fulsome welcome – where in a nice touch the aid you have given to the folk of Stangard is recognised – you start about the business of finding how you can aid the locals. At first this starts of innocuously with thinning the local Salamanders, and then amusingly getting involved in a child’s game. Turbine is always good at mixing in some “fun” into their quests at some point. In effect the game is kill ten rats, but it feels alot more fun. The story develops from there, with a trip to a bandit hold which speaks of danger. Then a tour of the watch-towers along the Anduin, and scouting out an Easterling encampment in the process of which one learns it is not just brigands and easterlings the men of Langhold face, but an alliance of the two led by a Nazgul. The thane’s children are full of fire and wish to stay behind, but are persuaded to go with the evacuation and look after the hold’s children.

Only a few short quests ago – probably less than an hour of real time – you were playing games with the children. It is these little moments in which Turbine’s storytelling shines through in a way is much rare (in my experience) with other games.

Given that we know how the story of The Lord of the Rings ends, and that LOTRO provides us with lots of heroic moments, it is sometimes easy to forget how desperate the situation is during the War of the Ring. In game even if we succumb a little to the long dark of Moria the chances are one will soon be returning to The Shire for a festival, or something similar. Yet the reality of Sauron’s opponents is probably best described by Galadriel when she greets the fellowship in Lothlorien:

“[Celeborn] has dwelt in the West since the days of the dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.”

Langhold, ultimately, is another step along that long and weary road in which we tread as heroes in LOTRO. We leave Langhold a ruin, deserted, its ruler slain in its defence. Yet the heroes of Tolkien’s world are nothing if not defiant. So we regroup in the town of Harwick with a gift from the Thane’s widow – his warsteed with which to continue the war, and with which to seek vengeance.

The War has come to Rohan.



I have finally had some time to start playing LOTRO over the last few nights. The result is that I am now level 77, and have finally acquired my warsteed.

It all started where the epic story left off: Caras Galadhon. In many respects this is a perfect starting point – contra Syp I find it to be a delightful city, and not particularly difficult to navigate about. It is a great example of Turbine’s ability to capture the atmosphere of Tolkien’s settings. The initial stages of Book 7 were very full of story, including a sight-seeing tour of the elven city for our Dunlending companion and stories told around the campfire as we travelled southward. We ended up in the East Wall area, standing before the Argonarth.

Wow moment.

As I just wrote, Turbine has a history of brilliantly visualising Tolkien’s creation, and standing before those two grand statues looking up … it was glorious. In what I thought was a rather nice touch there is even a quest in the area where a character specifically wishes to view them. Somehow I think Turbine wanted to make sure there was a chance the artwork was actually seen.

The majority of Book 7 tells the tale of the breaking of the fellowship, usually through session play after uncovering evidence of what went on. All in all it is skillfully done, playing the roles of several characters in the ensuing chaos. Along with the epic book there are also two primary quest hubs – a band of Rohirrim who have recently been ambushed by orcs and a band of adventurers/refugees trying to make their way north. The quests weave in with the Book 7 quests very effectively. There is one point, for example, where a Rohirrim reports over-hearing some orcs talking about the attack of a mighty warrior – and I thought “Boromir” – and sure enough in due course one uncovers the spot where he makes his final stand.

When you leave the Rohirrim behind one gets the sense of having assisted them in the immediate aftermath of a crisis – and that this little band of men are about to become forgotten in the war that is coming. Along with the band of adventurers it helps one thinks of all the stories of the “ordinary folk” of Tolkien’s world that Tolkien largely leaves untold (though we get glimpses of them, in the books – think Beregond, Bergil, and Ioreth). The adventurers come across as beleaguered folk, but each with a clear personality. Storytelling is one of the Turbine’s strong points after all.

One of the tasks associated with the adventurers involves climbing up Amon Hen. The view is just … another wow moment. I think it is right up there with standing atop Weathertop for the first time (which I remember). Perhaps not quite as iconic as that first look into Rivendell – but close.

In another nice touch there are various points where the Rohirrim make somewhat unflattering remarks about the mounts we have and how they are not proper warsteeds. At the end of Book 7 one is teleported from the East Wall to the northern Wold where one can begin the quest lines to get such horses, but that is for another post.

My impression leaving the East Wall was of a very well put together area. One can actually acquire warsteeds independent of the epic quest line and use them in this area, but the area is designed for one to still be on foot. It is visually stunning – Ravalation has some great pics of the area. I personally have a strong autumnal feel from the area. All in all though a great introduction to the new expansion.