Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back from Belgrade and Dubai...

Well, I've had rather too much travel of late but, hopefully, that's it for 2012.  This month I have been to Serbia, which I hadn't visited before (I think it's the 58th country I have been to), and the UAE, which I had.

Belgrade, I suspected, would be a horrible city full of seventies concrete buildings.  Well it wasn't.  It was very attractive and, better still, it was 22 degrees centigrade - not bad for early November.  I didn't have much time there, just two nights, so didn't get a chance to do any sightseeing, which is a shame as there was an interesting looking castle in the centre of the city.  While walking from my hotel to a TV studio (to appear on breakfast TV, which was a first) I passed these two heavily damaged buildings.  I was told that it used to be the Serbian defence ministry until it was restructured by Tomahawk missiles.  Serbia, in some ways, is not as advanced as the likes of Hungary or the Czech Republic, as they essentially lost a decade of development since the fall of the Iron Curtain because of the war.

The Serbs do like their meat!

The food was very good, provided you aren't a vegetarian, as was the wine, but the great discovery was the local eau de vie, rakija, especially the quince one!   I had a thing with a Bosnian Serb girl once and was amazed to meet someone who could have been her twin there. Spooky!  Quite a few leggy blondes but most of the girls seemed to be dark haired.  Many of the girls were very tall (as were the men - there is a reason that they are good at basketball).  Much better scenery than average! 

Sort of local...

I was only back for a few days and then it was off to Dubai.  I find Dubai completely uninteresting and cannot for the life of me understand why people would want to go there on holiday.  It has no history, no old buildings ("Old" Dubai was built in the sixties as far as I can see) and all the culture is imported.  Everyone speaks English because virtually everyone there is from abroad (mainly South Asia, although I did have a lovely Russian waitress at one restaurant).  I thought I'd met one local lovely but she turned out to be from Bahrain...

Gin for her, Vodka for me and very big olives indeed!

The only good thing about Dubai is the hotels, which are very good, and I actually managed to have the first decent Vodka Martini I have ever had in the Middle East there.  Usually they are far too weak but this one, apart from suffering from the current annoying fashion of having too many olives, was both strong and cold.  B worked her way through a lot of gin and tonics, which I always think is an odd drink to find a German having, and nagged me about my lack of progress on the Prussians she bought me.

The breakfast buffet was pretty good and the hotel went up in my estimation when I discovered it had the true sign of civilisation: HP sauce. 

Wine is very expensive in Dubai and the cheapest bottle on the hotel wine list was about £40 but for slightly more we got a very nice, but strangely smoky-tasting, sauvignon blanc from the Lebanon which we chose on the basis that there was no point in paying over the odds for something you could get at home when you could pay over the odds for something you couldn't.

Since I returned earlier in the week I haven't had any time to paint anything but did put some filler on some bases, including the last three figures to complete my Dutch Jaeger unit.  However, I need to get back to those Prussians.  Arriving at home while I was away was a complete impulse buy, the Hasslefree Miniatures 54mm Christmas pin up girl.  She came resplendent in a nice red box but I have absolutely no idea what to do with her.  Cast in a lovely ivory covered resin it almost seems a shame to paint her and no paint job I could manage would do her justice anyway.  Hmm!

There has been almost universal condemnation of Games Workshop's The Hobbit figure prices but the cost in the UK seems to be a fraction of what they are charging in some overseas markets.  It's not like I don't have any Lord of the Rings figures to paint and I haven't yet seen a figure I really want (unlike for the LotR films).  One of the annoyances for me is that the main characters have come out in plastic.  I still see plastic as something for rank and file troops so, however good they are, the plastic characters aren't going to be as good as the old metals or even the new Finecast.  It's not just the detail, it's the poses, which in plastic seem that bit more ungainly.

Talking of The Hobbit, Mike of Black Hat, pointed out to me that he had got me the 10mm Battle of Five Armies when it came out but that he hadn't painted any of the figures.  Well, I have!  Exactly two stands.  I enjoyed painting these, I seem to recall, but got quickly bored by the prospect of having to paint dozens of stands.  They are certainly the smallest figures I have ever painted!  Still, who knows what I might do when the film trilogy gets to that point.  Someone said on one of the message boards that someone else has the rights to do The Battle of the Five Armies in 28mm which is why GW had to go to 10mm.  I don't know if this true or not but surely they wouldn't miss the opportunity to sell lots of figures for the only real battle in the book?

I've really got the urge to do some painting, having been away, so hope to have some time at the weekend.  I think my wife is off selling her friend's ludicrously expensive Christmas tree baubles at some Christmas fair on Saturday so I may get some done then, if it's not too dark!

Liebster Blog Award

Thanks to Arteis for nominating me for the current blog award doing the rounds.

The rules of the Liebster Blog (it sounds like the site of a Thirty Years War battle) Award are as follows:

 1. Copy and paste the award on your blog linking it to the blogger who has given it to you.

 2. Pass the award to your top 5 favourite blogs with fewer than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of their posts to notify them that they have won the award and listing them on your own blog.

 3. Sit back and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that you have just made someone's day!

My five are as follows:

By the orders of the Great White Queen as it's mainly about colonial wargaming which is one of the great periods and features some beautifully painted figures.

Solo Wargaming in the UK as it takes me back to my plastic days and its good to see someone doing as much work on scenics as figures.  Wish I could!

Wargaming Gallimaufry is a new blog but already showing signs of encouragingly random interest in periods.

Waterloo to Mons because the idea is a brilliant one for a blog!

La Journee as the quality of the painting is stunning and it covers a period I've always wanted to do but have never had the nerve to!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Games Workshop Hobbit figures - they cost WHAT?

Hunter Orcs

Here I am in rather hazy Dubai unable to paint at the weekend again so time, instead, to look at the new Games Workshop figures for The Hobbit.

I had been looking forward to the announcement about these since I found out at the Perry stand at Salute this year that the twins were busy working on them..  I found GW's rather pointless teaser trailers a bit annoying and five days ago for them to say that they may or may not be releasing figures at all was frankly ludicrous.  TMP readers seemed generally down on the quality of them, pictures having been leaked on a Spanish wargames site, saying that they were either too Warhammer-like, Finecast or too expensive.

Hunter Orcs on fell wargs

Well, I have looked at the pictures of them and so far I think they look good.  I can't imagine that New Line films would authorise miniatures that don't look exactly like the originals in the film, which is why the original Lord of the Rings figures are so much more anatomically correct than other GW ranges.

As to Finecast, I did buy a set (haven't painted them yet) and I thought they were excellent so I am not an automatic hater.

What did shock me was the price, however.  Now we have got used to seeing fantasy character figures going for around £4-£6 each, not a problem as you only need one, but £45 for four foot figures?  This is what GW are charging for the White Council set.  The figures are truly lovely and Gandalf looks exactly like Ian McKellen but £11.25 for one figure? For £45 I could get two bottles of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, or a ticket to see the Crazy Horse girls on the South Bank, or five Osprey's or eighty Perry plastic Prussians...

Here we have Finbul the Hunter on foot and mounted on a warg.  £25 for this set!  Now the ordinary troops are less than this but still expensive for plastics - £20 for 12 Hunter Orcs, for example.  Now, I am sure that I will end up getting most of these figures, despite the price, but will ration my purchasing so that I will paint as I go.  I enjoy painting GW's Tolkein figures but they are so detailed they take ages, so slowing my purchases will not be a problem.  If I was a fourteen year old with limited pocket money, however...

There is, as ever, an introductory boxed set, Escape from Goblin Town which includes a shortened version of the rule book (for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring you got the complete rule book with the introductory set), and 56 figures plus a scenic item for £75.  This seems better value and to ensure up-front sales they are making it a limited edition and offering a one-off Radagast the Brown figure with it.  I can't help thinking that, like the plastic Fellowship in the Mines of Moria set, the plastic character figures (Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves) will not be as good as the eventual Finecast figures they release.  At least £100 for the Finecast set I suspect.

The standard rule book is, the now typical £50, for a 288 page book, which seems like a positive bargain compred with the White Council set.  I really wonder whether GW might have actually priced themselves out of big sales (and I'm sure these releases loom large in their corporate business plan for 2012/2013) with these prices.  Certainly I can't see the casual, non-wargaming, buyer picking these up as they did with the Fellowship of the Ring set (helped by their availability in a UK high street bookshop).

I don't mind paying for a quality product.  I just picked up the massive Taschen book The James Bond Archives for £70 (now £99, heh, heh) from Amazon.  It's so big you literally could attach four legs to it and turn it into a coffee table.  But it's a wonderful book and I am happy to pay that price for it.  But £45 for four 28 mm figures?  It's like the £5 they want for a small tube of Pringles in the Grand Hyatt Dubai where I am typing this.  "You're having a laugh!", as my son would say.

Now I really want these figures but what worries me is that if they don't sell (and launching figures costing this much in the middle of a recession is a big risk for GW) then they won't produce more for the other two films and where would my 28mm Battle of Five Armies be then?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Warfare, Reading November 18th 2012

For various reasons I haven't been able to get to a wargames show since Salute earlier in the year so was glad to have a few hours at Warfare in Reading today.  It's not my favourite show, not least because the drive there from my house is quite stressful and negotiating Reading's notorious one way system is always a pain.  I managed to get lost on the way back and spent a terrifying 15 minutes in the centre of the town looking for an exit.  If ever there is a monument to disastrous town planning, Reading is it: nightmare!  Anyway I am safely back and it's time to review my purchases.

I was very conscious of my lead pile on this visit and had a very limited hit list of figures.  Firstly, I bought two packs of Musketeer Miniatures Great Northern War Swedish cavalry.  I supplied Bill of MM some copies of pictures I'd taken of a Swedish cavalry display in the Stockholm Army Museum when he was looking for research material for these.  These cavalry have been a long time coming but I do wish he had put some of the dash and movement he did with his infantry figures into the cavalry.  They are perfectly nice just a bit static: charging figures would have been more welcome and more Swedish!

Secondly, three packs of Perry Prussian Landwehr.  I thought about the Warlord plastics but have read so many iffy reviews of them I decided accuracy and anatomy was better than cheaper price.

I am reading an excellent novel about Hannibal at present so am trying to put a few more Carthaginian army figures on fast track.  I bought a pack of Crusader Miniatures Libyan skirmishers on the basis that they shouldn't take very long to do.

I'm also basing some Crusader Spanish for Lusitanians at the moment but needed bigger shields for them (according to my Osprey anyway) so picked up two packs of Magister Militum round shields which look just right.

New Empress Afghans: Sorry they are a bit blurred I only had my Blackberry camera with me!

My biggest figure purchase was of the new Empress Miniatures English Civil War cavalry.  Now I actually have three painted units of Renegade/Bicorne ECW figures and thought that these would be too small (Perry/Warlord size).  This does not appear to be the case however; I think they will be fine in separate units (the muskets are very much more in the proper proportions).  Apart from a unit of cuirassiers I don't have any cavalry so for £40 bought a special deal which included all six of the new cavalry packs.  They are truly gorgeous!  Empress were promising a new range at the show and they had the first figures on display: some North West Frontier Afghan tribesmen.  No-one makes a good range of these in 28mm and they are promising (eventually) some British for the period as well.  At the speed I paint I'm not in a hurry!

My two biggest purchases were for scenics.  I recall BigRedBat saying that maybe wargamers concentrate so much on figures that we don't get on with as many scenic items as we should.  This is certainly true for me!

Muddy stream from The Last Valley

I have no way of representing streams or rivers in my games and have always felt that I could make my own but, of course, I never have the time so I bought come streams from The Last Valley.  I'd seen their rivers and streams at Salute but couldn't carry them so I picked up 3 curved pieces and six straights.  I am going to customise them quite a lot, I think, but they provide a good start.

Finally, I bought two scenic items for my main two projects: Jason and the Argonauts and the Zambezi campaign.  Steve Barber (whose prehistoric settlement I have enjoyed playing) had a marvellous golden fleece and dead tree which I couldn't resist, although the resin and metal tree looks like it will need a bit of work.  

I can't resist Grand Manner's stuff (is it me or have their prices increased a lot lately) and they had a perfect trading post for the Zambezi campaign.  This I will get on with once I have finished the Argo.  It's just the job for Trader Jones!

I had a quick chat with fellow Guildford Wargames Club member Mike of Black Hat Miniatures and he said that today had been very quiet.  He also felt that people were coming with a fixed budget and once that was spent that was it.  I really wonder whether Warfare can continue as a two day show in the current economic climate but, apparently, it is to do with the requirements of the wargaming tournament.

So that's it until Salute next year.  Now all I have to do is actually paint something!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Are you a Proper Wargamer? Part 2

Dutch Jaegers.  Only three more to do!

The original poster of this brilliant set of questions has come out with a part 2, so I thought I would have a go at this while the bases on my Dutch Jaegers are drying!

* You have reference books on each period / army you play.

Yes. I've never finished a unit of Napoleonic troops but I have 44 books on the period.

 * Having played so many different games you confidently quote rules for a totally different period, scale or ruleset to the one you're playing at that moment 

I've never done this as I can't remember the rules for the game I'm playing let alone another set.

 * You have lied to your partner / spouse about how much you've spent on the hobby.

Oh, dear.  I think my wife reckons that figures cost about 20p each.  The most I ever spent on one item was the Forgeworld Weathertop which was more than £200 I think.  I told my wife it cost £25 and she had a fit at that!

 * You get genuinely excited when a package arrives in the post - then hide it upstairs quickly before your partner sees it. If your partner finds it first, you lie about the contents. 

I do try to hide new stuff but sometimes my wife finds the packages first and comes into my study shaking them and saying "sounds like more soldiers, again!"

 * You have joined a re-enactment society (5 points for this one!) 

No.  I did seriously think about joining the Sealed Knot a couple of times but don't have time at the weekends for something like that!

 * You have played in an unsuitable venue.

No, not really but then I've only played at home, at friends' houses, at school or at Guildford Wargames Club (which uses a nice, modern church hall).

 * You continue to search for the perfect Napoleonic / WW2 / Ancients / ACW etc. rule set (knowing that it doesn't actually exist).

As I don't play that much I don't worry about rules that much either, although I have been searching for some good WW2 skirmish rules and so far like the look of Bolt Action (except for the requirement of putting dice next to units which I will have to find a way to avoid).

 * For that reason you have developed your own house rules for certain periods. And think them far superior to the original author's efforts. 

Well, I did do that back when I was at school and wrote some WW2 rules, which were basically more detailed version of Terence Wise's ones with much more complex statistics for AFVs.  I had loads of Panthers and Tigers and didn't like the way Cess and Bean Kid kept destroying them with their puny Shermans so decided we needed to start allowing for armour thickness differences. 

 * You have returned from a wargames show and sneaked upstairs to hide the stash. 

Oh yes.  Sometimes I even leave stuff in the boot of the car and get it out after my wife had gone to bed.  The best tactic is to brazenly walk in with several carrier bags and then immediately remove half of the stuff in my study but leave a convincing amount in the bags so that when she checks (which she does - the word "Stasi" springs to mind) it doesn't look that bad.

 * You have an irrational aversion to some genres and vow never to play them regardless of how much fun they look. Like Dystopian Wars, 6mm Napoleonics, Warhammer 40k, Malifaux etc. 

Yes.  I think 15mm comes into this category even though battles using 15mm figures look better.  I just think that most of the figures in this scale are anatomic abominations.  I also can't stand anything involving zombies.  I don't like the idea of A Very British Civil War or the Spanish Civil War either, despite there being some very nice figures for both.  

* You have made your own wargames scenery. 

Well, I used to make hills and such like and I keep thinking I might do some buildings.  I made a late medieval house for a project for my daughter for school (well, she was supposed to do it but come 8.00pm on Sunday evening it still hadn't been done, so...) and was surprised how will it turned out.  I did have to paint it badly to make it more convincing.  I started a Rohan house from a White Dwarf article but gave up on it as I get panicky whenever the prospect of teddy bear fur thatch looms.  I did start this paddle boat based on the Gary Chalk one in Wargames Illustrated but, again, haven't quite finished it.  I'm not brilliant with my hands so was particularly pleased at the way the paddle wheel turned out although that was more to do with Mr Chalk's excellent plans than any ability of my own.

Perry Turcomans

* You have reached a painting 'wall' ("If I have to paint another f________ Gaul, I'm going to scream") 

Quite often.  This is why I usually paint no more than half a dozen of any particular figure at a time and often have ten sets of six different periods on the workbench on the go at once.  I'm already weakening on my Prussians and wondering whether I should do some Amazon warriors instead for a bit.  The biggest batch I ever did in one go was Turcoman horse archers for a Dorylaeum battle at the Society of Ancients battle day (which I missed as I was abroad, although my figures did take part).  By the end of this lot I was going mad. One of the reasons I still hate painting cavalry units and try to find armies or rules that don't need them!

 * You have lost - and regained - your wargaming mojo. 

Well I have certainly lost it at present.  I haven't played a game for about two years.  If we are talking about wider interest in painting soldiers or military modelling I really didn't do much between 1979 and 1995.  That period coincided with Catherine, Katy, Cathy, Janet, Veronica, Melanie, Josephine, Sarah, Sally-Ann, Sophie, Fiona, Denise, Ilaria, Paola etc. etc.

 * You have the occasional (and short lived) sense of guilt with your wife/children when complaining to them about the money spent in clothes, shoes or toys/Xbox games when you have £200 of unpainted metal stuffed in an upstairs drawer. 

Especially when it's about £8000 worth. 

Peter Pig 15mm. Even in this scale I had to mount them individually

 * You have done armies in different scales for the same period (e.g. ACW in 28mm, 15mm and 6mm). 

Actually, I did paint quite a lot of Peter Pig 15mm WW1 and Romans and Gauls but have subsequently replaced them with 28mm.

 * You have jealously coveted someone else's troops. 

Hmm, I don't think that there are any figures amongst the Guildford crowd I would want either because of scale or because they are old models.  Anyway, I only want to use figures I have painted myself.

 * You have laughed (secretly or otherwise) as someone else's paint job 

Not laughed really, but I do slightly cringe at gloss varnished figures (unless because they have been done that way for some old school effect).  People aren't shiny.

 * You have provided a piece of useless trivia relating to the troops on the table to show off your wargaming knowledge. 

I may be guilty of this one relating to the Sudan!

 * You have contradicted someone elses' trivia - demonstrating your superior knowledge and giving you a warm glow inside. 

I'd never do that.  Well, I probably would but it hasn't happened.

 * You have caused a major disaster on a wargames table (spilling a pint, collapsing the table, dropped someone else's figures on the floor). 

No, thank goodness!

* You have cheered when an opponent's dice lets them down at a critical point.

No, that would be ungentlemanly.  An unseen smirk is enough.

* You have lied to your partner about going gaming "Mothers' not very well - just popping around to see her.  I'll be back in about - oh - seven hours"

No but I have claimed to be going wargaming and then sloped off to see a lady in a wine bar instead.

 * You have lied to an attractive woman (man) about your hobby. 

Hmm, I think I am now "out" about wargaming but there were certainly cases in the past when I didn't mention it even during quite long (for me) relationships.

 * You have made an opponent cry. It doesn't count if they are under 8 years old though. 

No, it's usually me who should be doing the crying.

* You have painted the same army in the same scale more than once.

Not yet but this is looking likely for Early Imperial Romans and I really like those new Empress Miniatures ECW figures...

 * You have reference books on armies you haven't even got. 

Oh yes.  Mexican-American War springs to mind.

 * You have bought figures for a period you have never and will never play - because they were cheap.

Yes I bought a lot of Newline Designs goths and still have them and no intention of painting them.

. * You have inflicted grevious bodily harm on a dice that has let you down. 

No, I love my dice.

* You blog or have a web-page about your Wargaming activities 

A blog?  Surely not?  I spend more time on my girlie ones though, as one of them is now getting 10,000 hits a day and I feel a responsibility to keep putting stuff up on them.

 * Your book collection is almost all war and wargames related 

No.  I have lots of books featuring naked women.

  * You critique 'war' movies (especially Hollywood war movies) for historical accuracy (like the use of American tanks - Pershings I think - to represent German Panzers in the 'Battle of the Bulge'.)

Oh yes.  Why can't anyone get Roman armour right?

* You spend car / train journeys checking out the lie of the land - considering which way you would attack from and whether it would make good wargaming terrain.

That would be really tragic but on the way down to Bath the other week I did think how unlike real terrain wargames terrain is (compared with model railway terrain for example).

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Are You a Proper Wargamer?

I spotted this on Wargaming Girl's blog and couldn't resist as it's another post I can do without putting any pictures of newly painted figures up (as there aren't any).  Her answers are a model of economy.  Mine, of course, are not.  Originally on The Wargaming Site  no doubt soon everyone will have their own version.  My immediate response to the question being, of course: "No.  I am an improper wargamer."

To genuinely call yourself a Wargamer, then you must have done most or all of the following;

Drinking wine: like buying 12 packs of Perry Miniatures a week

* Spent at least £500 on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 you've spent

Does this mean in one go? I spent more than £500 at Warfare in Newbury a few years ago but that included scenery so maybe that doesn't count. If it means in total...oh dear.  I regularly go to the Archduke wine bar near Waterloo Station.  Well, when I say regularly I mean I go there once a week with my friend Bill (who got me into painting metal figures by buying me a Games Workshop Dwarf flame cannon years ago on the basis that plastic 20mm figures were "rubbish."  I still haven't finished it, needless to say, but I enjoyed painting these larger figures (ironically, given that they were dwarfs) so much that I went and got some Gripping Beast Vikings and some Foundry Darkest Africa at the next Salute). Anyway, Bill and I worked out that we had been going to the Archduke pretty much every week since 1982.  What was worse is that we reckon that we have each spent about £50,000 there in that time.  So, in comparison, given my 7000 figure lead pile, my wargames expenditure is considerably less.  It's the prices of the 750 military books that are the real killer, not the figures.


* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times

Given I have several painted (shock) ECW regiments and use Perry steel pikes then the short answer to this is: "Yes."

* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever again

Worse than that, I have bought dozens of rule sets and never tried most of them at all.  I just like the pictures, really.  The only one I looked at and thought "no I am never going to attempt this" was Field of Glory.  It's fallen down the back of one of my cases of DVD's (The Abyss to The Man who would be King) in front of a window in my study and the cover is gradually being faded by the sun. Extracting it would involve moving 250 DVDs so there it will stay until it's cover is bleached white.

* Bought an army off EBay

I haven't bought a painted army as I can't see the point in buying painted figures as that's the bit I enjoy.  I did buy about fifty Darkest Africa female warriors last year for my Zambezi Campaign (inspired not so much by any historical warrior women in the region but more my experiences of predatory women in the bar of the Hotel Intercontinental in Lusaka). So that probably counts.  Fifty figures is an army as far as I am concerned.

* Sold an army on EBay

I did sell a lot of Newline Designs Goths a few years ago and that was probably an army's worth but they weren't painted.  I sold my painted Foundry Romans to BigRedBat a month or so ago but not on eBay. So that is probably a yes.

* spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once

Spent months painting an army and never used it at all (my Ancient Germans).  So, yes again.

* tried several different periods and genres

Hollow laugh.

* dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height

Yes.  I dropped my Beja tribesmen after a game at Guildford when returning home in the dark.  I still haven't had the heart to untangle them all yet.  All those spears to glue back on.

* lost a battle on the last throw of the dice

No, I have usually lost way before the end of the game.

* made at least one enemy for life

Yes.  That would be R from my school wargaming club.  The tragic story of how we had had a bust up in the wargames club and then I stole his girlfriend (as he saw it) is told here.  I saw some old school friends a few weeks ago and he still hates me, it seems.  Oddly, someone I knew at university went into the Foreign Office and I met up with him at an Embassy event 25 years later,  He accused me of stealing his girlfriend too and he was still cross about it after two and a half decades.  I didn't steal her. She just left him for me because he looked like Plug from The Bash Street Kids and I didn't.  Well, maybe I did steal her a bit. Didn't steal the first one though.   

* had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers table

Only with my daughter when playing Lord of the Rings.  She called me a "bucket of orc-ridden skunking slime".  Which wasn't very nice.

* thrown a dice across a room

Strangely, no, given my violent outbursts when faced with recalcitrant inanimate objects.  I have thrown a chair, a phone and a dictating machine across a room but never a dice.

* rebased an army for a different rule set

No.  As I only base figures individually so don't play any rules that need element basing, which I detest.

* inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent

No.  Minor defeats only.

* suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision

Yes.  I was playing a game of WAB and had successfully marched three units of Romans (I think) up to the flank of an opponents barbarian army, having pinned his flank unit.  I could have turned them 90 degrees and rolled up his whole flank but thought my frontally assaulting troops would win the combat so didn't.  They broke.  He pursued and destroyed the unit and all my flanking units had to take a break test.  They all failed and fled.  Typical.

St John's Hall Merrow: home of Guildford Wargames Club

* joined a wargamers club

Yes.  I joined Guildford Wargames Club but getting there for 7.00pm on Monday's was almost impossible so haven't been for a couple of years.  I am no longer a member but may rejoin one day.  Everyone there plays a lot and so they are all very clever at rules which I am not, so I always feel like a beginner. The members include one owner of a wargames firm, a historian, someone who works at Sandhurst and many other very clever people. Too clever for me!

* bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted

Not quite a ton.  Thousands of figures, nonetheless. See here.

* been to a wargamers show

I regularly attend Salute, Warfare, Colours and have attended a number of other shows (Valhalla, SELWG, To the Redoubt) less often.

* have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them

I have a lot of dice.  Many of them originating from Las Vegas where I had to regularly travel on business for a few years.  Las Vegas dice are supposed to be the most neutral and thus the fairest in the world.  Not that this helps my dice throwing results one bit.

Nymphs.  Utterly useless for wargaming

* have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your mates

That would rather assume that I could field a box of painted troops but, no, that would be a ghastly thing to do.  I do remember someone asking if I could bring in my Foundry Elf Nymphs (yes, I have some) so they could have a look but I never did.  Part of the reason I bought these Foundry nymphs was that facially they looked exactly like my then secretary, L.  Physically they looked like her too.  We had a very close relationship (rather closer than was appropriate for a work situation) and when she announced she was leaving to have a baby I was pulled into the Chief Executives office with the head of personnel and asked if it was mine.  Luckily it wasn't, but at the time I liked the idea of a little army of L's (not baby L's, that would have been tricky).  She didn't have pointy ears of course.  That would have been strange.

I think that's fifteen yes answers but, oddly, I don't consider myself a wargamer at all just a wargames figure painter!

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Lead (and plastic) pile

Great War Miniatures Early War British

I got a bit done today, with a good couple of hours on the Dutch Jaegers.  I may get them finished next weekend but I am in Serbia most of the week.  When it got too dark to paint I cleaned up and based some Great War Miniatures British as they are going onto the painting table once I have cleared the Napoleonics.

BigRedBat recently noted on his blog that he had found a bunch of Celtic chariots and 100 Foundry Spartans in the lead pile.  Someone commented to the effect that how could he have a lead pile so big that he could  "lose" so many figures.

Well, I completely understand it.  I have just spent an hour looking for a group of early WW2 German infantry that I know I have but I can't find them anywhere.  Encouraged by my recent purchase of the Bolt Action rules I have been thinking about my Norway/France 1940 plans again.  When I finish the Napoleonic Prussians and Dutch I am going to finish some early WW2 British I have started and work on them with some early WW1 British I based today.  Both share the same colour scheme so there will be useful synergies with them.  I haven't found the WW2 British yet but know roughly where they are.

My lead pile is now spread out.  The picture above shows (bottom left) six B&Q units with 15 drawers each.  Some of these drawers hold 50 figures each, some less, but I still reckon there are somewhere around 3,000 figures here; all unbased and in bare metal.  To the right of the drawers are some boxes of Victrix, Warlord, Wargames Factory and Perry plastics (about 400-500 here).  To the right of those is another B&Q unit holding WW1 and ECW figures.  About 300 in there.

Next to the main metal stash are a load more plastics.  The boxes are two deep so we have 20 or 30.  750 figures minimum. At the top you can see three coloured file boxes.  There are actually six.  These contain figures I am working on.  About 100 in each so another 600 in total.

Finally, more file boxes.  The white ones contain painted figures as do the 4 coloured ones with labels but that still leaves 16 boxes with around a 100 based (and some started) figures in each.  More in some, as about four are packed with sprues of Lord of the Rings plastics.  Probably around 1800 more figures.  Overall I reckon that's about 7000 28mm figures.  Now, I paint 6 a week so that's...   Best not to think about it and consider selling some, I think!  The trouble is I don't really want to part with any of them.  Maybe the Ancient Egyptians.  That's about 50.  Good start!

Worse still, I have just ordered another pack of figures today.  These are Crusader Rank and File Union infantry in frock coats and Hardee hats to be Federal infantry for 1st Bull Run, as Perry Miniatures don't do these.  I suspect that size wise they will look odd with the Perry figures but you never know.  Worth a go, I thought.

I'm hoping to have a few hours on Sunday so I'll see what I can get done then!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Story of World War 1 by Mike Butterworth and Frank Bellamy

A complete impulse buy the other day was this book collecting the 26 part series The Story of Word War 1  from Look and Learn magazine.  I used to get Look and Learn every week from about 1967 until 1976 and loved the mixture of science (most of my understanding of science has not progressed from where it was in 1976), literature and, above all, history in the magazine.  The fact that my sister still believes that I don't really like books unless they have pictures in them (largely true and certainly for non-fiction) dates back to the beautifully illustrated articles in Look and Learn.  Many of Osprey's top illustrators produced work for the magazine and I own an Angus McBride original painting from it.  The Embletons were also regular illustrators for it as well.  We used to have a holiday house in the South of France (the then unfashionable bit near the Spanish border) and the most exciting thing about going there for the summer was having six Look and Learns to look forward to when we returned, as the village shop kept them for me.

Apart from the factual pieces there were always a number of comic strips which, although my mother didn't approve of them ("comics are for Americans who can't read") she did at least admire the artwork for my favourite: The Trigan Empire.  The Trigan Empire was created by Mike Butterworth (1924-1986) who also wrote The Story of World War 1 for Look and Learn.  

Providing the illustrations was Frank Bellamy (1917-1976) whose fantastic work on the Thuderbirds strip in TV21 I already knew.  I was only allowed TV21 as my mother knew that the Gerry Anderson programmes were my all time favourite viewing and, more importantly, she had met Anderson once and approved of him as a person.

The series ran from May to November 1970, so several of those issues would figure in my bumper end of summer dose that year. The duo of Butterworth and Bellamy was of such renown at the time that Look and Learn, most unusually, actually gave them credit on the individual weekly articles; usually contributors to Look and Learn were anonymous. 

They even look like the Airfix figures (which first came out in 1966)

Looking back on these articles today I realise how much of my interest in World War 1, particularly the early war, comes from Bellamy's stunning illustrations.  In fact, I think that they are simply the best WW1 pictures ever produced.  Fortunately, I could recreate the grim grey units of spike headed Germans and stolid British with the appropriate Airfix figures, which I did in the garden in trenches I dug in the lawn.  Oddly, I never used the WW1 figures in a conventional wargame, which I had started playing with other periods of Airfix figures, using the Terence Wise rules in the early seventies.  

Maybe it's because he didn't include a WW1 battle in his book, An Introduction to Battle Gaming (I always felt that "battle gaming" was a a rather more civilised, and indeed accurate, term for the hobby than "wargaming"); the period being represented by a single photograph of an Airfix tank.  More likely, I seem to recall, it was because my figures were ingrained with mud and kept in a plastic box full of dirt and grit and my mother wouldn't let me get them out of the box inside the house.

I think this painting also accounts for one of my great bugbears regarding WW1 wargaming figures.  Why doesn't anyone produce British infantry in a prone position?  

The other set of Airfix WW1 figures I had were the French (annoyingly from a different period from the British and Germans - I suppose there was some overlap at the end of 1914/beginning of 1915) but, again, Bellamy's paintings caught the distinctive look of the poilu and his Adrian helmet brilliantly.  There are a couple of manufacturers that do later war French figures and I am determined to get some as soon as I can work out a good paint shade for Le bleu horizon; one of the most difficult shades to recreate accurately on wargames figures.

Bellamy (who surely possessed the most dynamic signature of any artist) also provided portraits of many of the principal figures of the war and I was always taken by his pictures of the French senior officers Joffre and Petain in their kepis.  This was partly because, at exactly the same time (summer 1970) the French Total petrol stations (I don't think they were in Britain at this point) were offering free giveaways every time you stopped at one of their service stations, which we did a lot over six weeks in France.  

The Total Marshal Joffre bust from Gloires de la Republique

These were entitled Gloires de la Republique and you received a medallion, a little book or a 2 inch tall bust of a famous Frenchman (or woman, I think Marie Curie was in there).  They had both Joffre and Petain and I wish now that I kept mine!  I think I collected all of them in the end although we did get bored with the fact that Marshal Petain kept turning up again and again (you didn't know which bust, coin or book you were going to receive).

Anyone who has seen Bellamy's Thunderbirds strip in TV21 knows that his ability to draw machines was just as good as his ability to render figures.  Some of his WW1 dogfight illustrations for the series were tremendous and demonstrate how dynamic and radical his layouts were; using both pages to great effect.  Bellamy was always good at explosions and no one could do an exploding ship like he could.

This is a tremendous book for anyone interested in graphic art or World War 1 and the work that has gone into restoring the old Look and Learn pages is fantastic.  I got mine from the Book Palace who are selling it a at a bargain £15 at the moment (compared with Amazon who want £55 for it).  One thing is for sure I now know from what period my next unit to paint is going to come from!