Dalliances with Danger – The Opening Innings

(More detail from the Deveraux Campaign Journal)

Les Enfant Perdus

The general term given to Deveraux’s own military elite, made up of a mix of military shades, all intensely loyal to Deveraux and his lieutenants.

In amongst this ‘Brigade of Brigands’ are the Colonel’s own Siamese henchmen, along with a motley collection of American outlaws, gun-runners and profiteers, D’Allange’s renegade Foreign Legion deserters, and a cosmopolitan mixed-bag of Central and East Europeans with severed ties to their own homelands, many of whom are wanted criminals, anarchists, deserters and escaped convicts.

Led and ruled with an iron hand by Deveraux’s devoted lieutenants, Hiram Beck, Gunther von Ludecke and Francois D’Allange, they are fearsome in their execution of Deveraux’s military schemes, ruthless and well-equipped and battle-hardened with many experiences of clashing with the forces of the European Powers.

His Other Elements

Deveraux recruits additional forces wherever he lays down roots – often manipulating the local populace to do his bidding by guile, blackmail, extortion or false rewards and promises. Often there is questionable loyalty and motivation, but always a concern nevertheless. Integrating himself in such a fashion into a region provides him some degree of perimeter protection and forewarning, when the locals warn him of newcomers and outsiders. The Powers have found that stealthy infiltration into his various lairs and domains is always so difficult and challenging.

But Deveraux has a consistent weakness, an appetite for learning and technology, and the men and women who delve in its creation. Warranted he only desires such advances to further his evil ambitions, but it is an aspect that can be used against him, by those clever enough to construct stratagems worthy to pit against him.

Opening Batsmen for the Home Team

As the British have agreed with all present at the Craigievar Conference to take the lead in the counter-operation, the Ministers looked to the Royal Navy and the Army to see if they had any acceptable contingency plans available.

Sadly, the staff at the Admiralty and Horseguards had to reply in the hesitant negative, but thankfully up stepped a relative unknown, Sir Tristram Monk, Under-Secretary for Procurement at the Foreign Office. In a detailed presentation, Monk outlined the new Detachment he had been commissioned to raise by Vice-Admiral Beckett. The Special Investigative Aeronautical Service, recruited with personnel from both Arms of the British military and indeed from several destinations within the Empire itself with a special article recently featured in the Naval & Military Gazette, would be based in a mountain fortress in the Hindu Kush. The Detachment, as it’s more commonly known, would be an excellent first choice to make the first responses and moves against Deveraux.

All present agreed with his excellent analysis and promised assistance towards the campaign where possible. Monk was then tasked with completing the preparations and after the conference ended, promptly left for India. The Foreign Office agreed to keep all those present informed of proceedings.

The Powers allowed themselves a momentary breath of relief.


This element outlined a bit more detail on Deveraux’s ability and motives, but it importantly provided a unit, the British SIAS, as a focus for the Old World Order forces.

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Dalliances with Danger – The Craigievar Castle Conference

(More from the Deveraux Campaign Journal)

Just what stratagem Colonel Deveraux has planned to attack the British Empire with, yet again, is unknown. The British, as the principally threatened power have striven to track and contain the Arch-Criminal in whatever location he has now considered to use as his base for his nefarious operations. Much foot-plodding and hard investigative work has been made in the dark streets and alleyways of the European capitals, stealthily following his known associates, and tracing the funds that Deveraux never seems to be short of.

At a recent extra-special conference of the Investigating Agencies of the Imperial Powers, held in the remote confines of Craigievar Castle, a week of deliberation was spent in assessing the best counters to make against Deveraux’s destructive ambitions.

The Craigievar Conference settled on the following four examinations:

  The Case of the Swiss Merchant, brought to the conference by the French Surete

In a classic textbook operation of surveillance and entrapment, Monsieur Atage, a Swiss resident of Nice, was arrested and interrogated, releasing a horde of details about the arms procurement Deveraux had been known to be engaged upon. With many millions of Swiss Francs changing hands, considerable tonnages of arms and ammunition had been directed from French and German manufacturers to unknown destinations in the Mediterranean. Some of Hiram Beck’s key players, known gun-runners, had acted as go-betweens with a disreputable Greek shipping line, all investigated by Lloyds of London agents. French officials now surmise that these arms are destined for a major uprising somewhere in East Africa or the Middle-East, and have traced two sailing vessels, one to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the other to the frozen wastes around Greenland. It is their belief that Deveraux has some vast new training ground at the latter.

  The Case of the Great Mirror, outlined at the conference by the Russian Okhrana

The Russian Delegation provided copious files on an ongoing investigation of one of their own scientists, Dr. Ivan Nossovitch. It transpired that Dr. Nossovitch was engaged in serious research into the manufacture of a ‘super reflector’ – a giant mirror lens that would enable the Russian Imperial Military to install their first Earth-based heliograph. Continued experiments with the ‘super reflector’ had discovered, by accident, it’s further potential as a weapon, when reflected sun-rays ignited several hundred acres of Siberian forest. With the experiment temporarily suspended pending an internal enquiry, visiting officers of the Russian Imperial Aerial Naval Flotilla arrived to find all trace of the Doctor, his staff and the ‘super reflector’ gone. A sweeping search was conducted using the 12th Cossack Cavalry Regiment, and evidence was discovered that the trail ran northwards, to the east of Novaya Zemla, and on into the frozen wastes of the Arctic Circle. The Okhrana’s presumption is that the entire experiment has, either voluntarily or under duress, been given to Deveraux at either his Newfoundland or Greenland base of operations.

  The Case of the Missing Zeppelin, read to the conference by the German Wache40

With a certain degree of embarrassment, the German Delegation announced that a certain party of Leftist terrorists successfully hijacked a Zeppelin from the marshalling sheds at the Imperial Naval yard at Wilhelsmhaven. The small garrison of Naval cadets were overpowered in an early morning infiltration, and at least 15 armed men removed a various amount of machinegun ordnance from the magazines, loaded the stolen property aboard L-13 and cast off, heading out over the North Sea. A small patrol Zeppelin gave chase but was driven off by light rocket fire. The Zeppelin was then discreetly tracked from a distance until lost in a high fogbank just 11 miles North-North-East of the Shetlands. An American merchant captain consequently reported sighting a ‘German dirigible’ approaching Greenland the following day. The Germans assured the conference that no other weaponry was stolen during the infiltration of their naval yard.

  The Case of the ‘Marie-Lucerne’, shown to conference by the British Special Branch

An ongoing investigation briefly detailed by the Special Branch was that of the merchant steamer ‘Marie-Lucerne’ boarded and taken in an act of piracy close to Foulness, Essex. The cargo was disclosed as amounting to 800 tons of high-explosive gun cotton, and the vessel was sighted off the Newfoundland coastline, after a failed recovery attempt by smaller Royal Naval vessels, and was last seen heading into Canadian waters. Lloyds will continue to monitor reports of sightings from the world’s sea-lanes, but enough evidence exists to confirm Deveraux’s involvement.


This part of the campaign briefing provided the Deveraux player four options to set into order of priority, as first operation, second, third and final task. From that, several clues would be written up for the players of the opposing forces of Old World Order to potentially sleuth out, depending on choices they made on where they spent their Investigative Resources. They also had to decide what elements of their forces they would ‘position’ to monitor and react to which of the four Cases. And of course, there would never quite be enough men and materials at the start.

Dalliances with Danger – Richard Deveraux – Arch-Opponent of Empires

(Another re-visit to earlier writings – and potentially useful for IHMN & TMWWBK – with some slight editing & updating carried out)

Escaping from HM Prison Dartmoor, where he had been sentenced to serve 20 years hard labour for his attempted bombing of the Houses of Parliament, and ably assisted by his dastardly Siamese henchmen, the Infamous Colonel Richard Deveraux sailed to rendezvous with his anarchist associates in Brittany before taking ship to his remote hideaway in Newfoundland. There, he will set in motion his latest venture to wrestle any amount of power away from the might of the British Empire and discredit them in front of the entire World.

Rumoured to have served in some far-flung post of the British Empire, possibly even as a young Lieutenant during the Abyssinian Campaign in the 1860’s and an Intelligence Officer in the Ashanti the decade after, this middle-aged man has done more to upset the rational order of statesmanship than any war of recent times. Of Anglo-Irish parentage, and purported to be rich from his mineral prospecting in the interior of Australia, Deveraux has sponsored more acts of terror against the European Powers than any other individual or force. Even the new blossoming powers of the United States and Imperial Japan have had cause to rue his attentions.

He will have with him his notorious ‘Les Enfant Perdus‘ – Deveraux’s own personal forces he calls his ‘Lost Children‘. Unknown in number and from many varied sources – Siamese pirates, Tong gang members, American outlaws, East European anarchists – he has a startling ability to recruit from anywhere, which many observers put down to his enchanting charisma. Along with renegade European officers followed faithfully by their specially-trained cadres, Deveraux has an amazing capacity to field effective armed forces to attempt to achieve his nefarious goals in all four-corners of the World.

As for his motivation, that has been difficult for all to pin down. Some in Western Europe, particularly the French of the Rive-Gauche, have considered him to be a gallant Republican fighting against the despotism of Absolute Monarchy. Others like his German Leftisch associates look to him as the First Socialist Activist fighting for the Rights of the Common Man. Many consider him an outright Anarchist, taking on all authority of the Old Order. The British Government label him a Fenian from his previous exploits against them, even upon their sacred hills and vales of England itself.

Now, free again to exercise his criminal intellect, Ministers and Generals meet in darkened rooms discussing how best to counter-act his next Outrage. It’s soon known that it’s not just the British who have concerns about Deveraux, and eventually Lord Napier obtains the Prime Minister’s consent to hold a secret conference in Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire. Lord Napier himself then hand delivers invitations to certain foreign Embassies in London, and the scene is set for the Craigievar Conference.


This was the setting I drew up, quite a few years ago, for a Space:1889 wargame & role-play campaign, set here on Earth, using an adapted set of rules from Stargrunt II. It’s always provided a useful background to dip back into every now and then, and seems suitably useful for both IHMN and TMWWBK.

More ‘Gothic’ TMWWBK with Axphain

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So I’m still planning the Graustark-Axphain skirmishing for some VSF play-testing sessions using the TMWWBK (The Men Who Would Be Kings) rules from Osprey and Mr Mersey.

The Axphainians (it’s true, that’s how they are labelled in the books) as I’ve stated earlier are drawn from several Russian contingents of the RCW/Back-Of-Beyond collection, now re-purposed as the mortal enemies of Graustark. So all quite perfectly villainous in their Siberian fur hats, long coats and wickedly bayoneted rifles. Plus, the CHEKA elements also stand out as suitable ‘elite’ troops for the Axphain’s dastardly Baron Arkhov (my invention, not in the books). He’s a suitably ambitious and wicked fellow, with grand designs on border infiltration, and potentially the odd abduction of Graustark nobility if he can get his hands upon them. True to form, the Axphainians are a brutish lot, mainly peasants, underlings and thugs at home in their bleak mountainous domain. Society’s to blame.

So the force construction of both sides already provides a good deal of neutral balance, to then modify later with a range of options to create some useful differences. That all helps in exploring certain parts of the rules, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this will be – generally speaking – combat between regular or pseudo-regular forces, with no tribal forces present. The rules themselves I see as a delightful ‘toolkit’ with which you can create some hopefully simple-to-follow basic guidelines, and where you can add ‘character’ with additional delicious details to suit the genre and the setting.

Unit size is fairly standard, fortunately. Weapon abilities will be equal too, so that ‘special weapons’ – like Baron Arkhov’s Infernal Mechanical Gun, (historically a Russian-made Maxim MG) – can be added or removed from the force, depending on scenario criteria, to provide more variation. After all, it’s still play-testing for the VSF concepts.

I’m also still working on the game-within-a-game format too, bouncing ideas about that I and some of the gaming crew have had. That too needs to be simple, provide easy decision-making for the younger mind, and yet still create the interest – the  hook – that keeps them involved.

The additional challenge is how to synchronize that and the main battle game together, and to even allow the two to interact with each other. Tricky perhaps, but I’m sure I can conjure something up that works. More on all this soon. And I think I’ll condense the demonym from ‘Axphainian’ to just the simpler ‘Axphain’ – it reads and sounds better, and after all, McCutcheon was an American author with some quaint ideas about Eastern Europe.

Take the bus? I’d rather not

(Another recycled item, slightly edited)

Well dear reader, I know this is personal preference, but if there’s a journey to be made, the bus is always my last choice. It may be the passion of countless anoraks to travel on an old double-decker, or the conscious choice of all those keen to save the planet, but frankly, give me the alternate options and I’ll take them all every time, regardless of cost too.

Am I a snob, hostile to the thought of sharing my journey with strangers? No, I would use the train or the tube with the usual pressing throng around me, so then that doesn’t phase me.

Is it the almost constant risk that my magnetic aura – for that is what it must be – attracts every oddball freak who boards and then decides to sit beside me to then share their life story? No, I get that fix satiated on the trains too.

No dear reader, my absolute avoidance can all be traced to one specific single journey, several years past now. Fair to say that I was not involved in any traumatic encounter, no imposition into my personal space from one of the newly acquired ‘friends’, or from anyone else who shared that route at that particular time. It all came about from a simple observation. And a decision not to bother.

It was a usual drawn-out stop-start trundle into town. The beginning of a standard working day. The window provided the opportunity to watch the neighbourhood slide past, as well as the safety of avoiding eye contact with any fellow passengers. You know, that embarrassing risk of a furtive glance matching their furtive glance back at you, at exactly the same moment, where neither of us know in that moment of connection what we should then do about it. Gazing slack-jawed through the glass avoids all that.

We arrived at a set of lights and waited our turn at that junction, always busy with lots of traffic. As I sat there, I saw a man with a ladder propped up against the front of a shop, looking up at the task in hand. There were no obvious tools in sight and he seemed to be concentrating on the signage above the main doorway. It was a slightly awkward spot – on the corner, encroaching on the pavement, the leaning ladder dominating the passing pedestrians, who all – every single one – refused to walk under it.

He seemed ignorant to any of that, quite engrossed in his job, and left alone to get on with it. And that was why I sat there and watched. And worried.

I had remembered my old forestry work days from decades before.

‘Don’t use a ladder without someone else footing it.’

It was a mantra of sorts in those days when I was a lot younger, said to me by wiser and less impetuous heads. Now I found it rolling around my head again, and I had this strange and sudden urge to get off that bus, to indeed insist that the driver let me off, so I could wander over there and tell him. Even to offer to brace that ladder myself for this complete stranger.

Maybe I was tired, even before getting into work, maybe the breakfast had triggered some odd chemical reaction. I know not – I just know ‘rational-Me’ kicked in at that point to remind me I had two urgent phone-calls to make as soon as I got to my desk.

The bus lurched forward and turned right, and I was awarded a perfect panning shot of that man and his ladder, the shop-front, the sign, the pedestrians, his t-shirt, shorts and rigger boots, until passing traffic obscured my view. And within ten minutes I had departed the bus at my usual stop, crossed the road at my usual place, waved my security pass at the usual security crew. Just the start of a usual day that steadily increased in tempo until nine hours later, I was glad I got a lift home.

A few more days and a few more bus-trips rolled by with nothing happening of any particular consequence.

Then at the end of the week, I found myself casually page-turning the local evening newspaper and there on an inside page was a single column of typeface, headlined ‘Tragic fatal accident’.

That man with the ladder had died. A simple slip, fell from the unsafe and unfixed ladder while using it without any assistance, and lost the straight forward contest of head meeting pavement. And it had probably happened just as I was getting off the bus. Or just as I was entering my office building.

I re-read those fifty or sixty words probably a dozen times and I sat there perplexed as to what I should do. Should I tell anyone? But then what would be the point? I handed back the newspaper with a barely audible stuttered thanks – and I just walked out of the office and went home early.

And at home in a darkened silence I just sat alone and drank alcohol.

So that, dear reader, is not fiction, it is a brief recollection of a true event.

Why I now do my best to avoid using buses.

And why I never ignore brief moments of doubt when I see anyone in potential danger.

And now some writing I prepared earlier.

Three years ago I had started a blog, solely for putting up my writing, challenging myself to write 365 words (at least) for every one of the 365 days of that following year. I did well, all things considering, an entry every day throughout all of January. And then the major life change of moving home stalled all of that.

But I saved that writing in order to provide me a vault of completed mini-works, and now that I’ve started this anew, I’ll plunder it and re-publish some of it here. It motivates me and reminds me of what I was able to create back then. With any luck, it will give me renewed impetus to create new work.

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Abra-bloody-cadabra

Passwords.

Bane of my life. In the workplace, whenever I want to access media, post anything, read anything, ask anything. And it’s all exactly the same at home too.

And of course, you can’t use just the one, because then you leave yourself vulnerable. And you have to renew them occasionally too, refresh the construct and the format, and don’t pick obvious stuff.

At work, I now meander along a security pathway of tedium, filling in passwords when prompted, clicking ‘OK’ dialogue buttons and always having to negotiate all the additional safety filters.

Do you accept the terms of operating guidelines?

Will you abide by the working practice standards?

You’re not going to be naughty, are you?

As you slowly navigate the layer after layer of text preamble and coloured formatting, you do begin to lose hope. Will I ever get to the end of this ‘logging-in’ process, just so I can do my work that I get paid for?

Aah, what’s this? A new one, a ‘have-you-completed-mandatory-security-training’ prompter. I thought this was exactly that?

I needed to re-arrange a parcel delivery today and the password process was completely busted on that. You’re often left wondering how certain companies ever stay in business, how is it that with such appalling IT, they manage to maintain a market presence.

I should be able to track it, see it winding along country roads and motorways towards me. But of course I can’t. Even with my new password. System has a problem at the moment.

I then e-mail the complaints department and they give me a reference – totally different to the reference for the parcel itself – and a password to log back in with later. I give it a few hours and try it – reference number isn’t recognised. So I wait until several hours – the entire working day in fact – has passed and try again. Reference number has now been tapped in by some unknown person but the password – their password they gave me – doesn’t work.

With a great sigh, I shrug back into my chair and stare at the screen, a harmless and useless cursor line winking on and off at me, awaiting further commands from my fingertips.

And I daydream of chopping firewood, filtering water, skinning animals for food, making cooking stoves from discarded drink cans, and the long-awaited Apocalypse whereupon I can sit atop my fortified hermitage and who so ever fails to use the proper password as they approach me, I can then shoot them.

 

Kandahar – an intriguing folio game

I was very fortunate that some kind soul – as my 2016 Secret Santa – sent me this item from ‘One Small Step Games‘, and designed by Brian Train. I’m already a fan of Decision Games Mini Series – like ‘Suez ’56‘ and ‘Congo Merc‘ & ‘Border War: Angola Raiders‘, but Kandahar provides just a dash more spice in the mix to really make you think.

Principally the game has you acting either as the Governor or as the Taliban commander of this Region. So there’s no gloried ride-around participation as a Western military commander with all the latest gadgetry. That stuff (ISAF) is available for support, but you as the official Governor use it with care. Likewise as the Taliban opponents you have some specific advantages, but if you go all out at destabilization, only the Criminal gangs will benefit. Indeed, the Criminal faction provides an interesting option for a third player.

So, you have a simple zone map with easy reference information included,  the rulebook, separate card sheets for charts and tables, 12 objective cards and 140 card counters. Ideally you then want two players, although it’s easy to play solitaire, and as mentioned above, you could add a third player as the Criminals in the region.

You win by achieving VPs (Victory Points) that are awarded by what others – generally your superiors – want you to achieve, and not what you at ground level see and believe to be the more practical  outcomes. Support is crucial, you only stand any chance of chasing the objectives if you have it, and continued support only comes about from success.

I’ll hold my hand up and say I’m quite new to the COIN series of games from GMT, so this folio game from another stable has provided me with a short sharp shock of an introduction on this sort of gaming format. And I really like it. I have a feeling I’ll spend many hours pouring over ‘Kandahar’ as I play out various initiatives from either perspective. And I’m sure I’ll learn a lot too, and not just in a gaming sense. I’ll return back to this at some point in the future with some more thoughts to share.

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