The Servants of Ra - my favourite group of painted figures this year
2014 has been an atypical one for me on the wargames front so is worthy of a quick (!) review.
My biggest painted force for 2014
I was pleased to get 114 figures done, my biggest total since 2011. However, in the last quarter of the year I didn't paint anything at all, for a number of reasons. I'm going through one of those 'just don't feel like it' phases and have been blogging instead. Actually, my initial halt was caused by the Artizan Afghan Wars British. I had enjoyed painting the tribesmen and had rattled through quite a big group quite quickly. I thought that the British would be nice and quick to paint but then I realised that there was something wrong with the figures. Essentially they are wearing 1879 uniform but 1898 helmets, as far as I can see. This quite put me off them. Having stopped painting them I didn't have mush else close to being finished so I stopped painting anything else either. This, coupled with the bad light and the fact that I had to take Guy to rowing three times a week meant a dead stop. So let's hope I can get going again in 2015.
Anyway this year I managed:
28 Empire of the Dead/In Her Majesty's Name
26 Alamo Mexicans
12 The Hobbit
11 Darkest Africa
3 Ancient Egyptian
1 British Legion
I would not expect 2015 to be that different.
The record breaking number of wargames I have played this year (nine) is almost entirely down to the generosity of Eric the Shed, who has hosted me for eight games in seven visits to his marvellous shed, along with a group of excellent like-minded chaps. Three Very British Civil War Games using Bolt Action, two Warmaster fantasy games, a Muskets and Tomahawks game (probably my favourite, as it is a period I would like to do myself one day) and a game based on the film Predator, using his own rules, which was quite the most exciting wargame I have ever played. I also had a very enjoyable game of In Her Majesty's Name with Alastair at Guildford, in my one visit there this year. I can now call myself a wargamer rather than just a figure painter!
I always mean to paint some scenery so I can have a game at home but just never seem to get anywhere. I bought a number of scenic items this year including palm trees and the new Renedra Middle Eastern House. All were dwarfed by the huge Alamo model I bought from the US, however. I started to paint one small piece but realised that using Humbrol 14ml tins was going to be a bit hopeless. Now, however, our local B&Q has one of those computerised paint scanning services so all I need to do is paint a sample of the colour I want and they will reproduce it in a large tin.
I only got to the one wargames show this year, which was Salute, as my favourite show, Colours, was cancelled this year. I didn't go to Warfare, as I usually do, because I actually have decided I really mustn't be tempted by any more figures! Highlight of Salute was the appearance of my specially painted Roman Galley in Big Red Bat's epic Roman invasion of Britain game.
The reduction of the lead pile has not gone well. I have bought more than 770 figures this year-or about seven years worth of painting! All sorts of random stuff ,much of which is related to Kickstarters and the like but not all. How do I explain all the Crimean figures, Afghan War, even more Romans, The Hobbit and WW1 stuff? Best not to think about it but for 2015 a huge amount has to go. Am I really going to paint all those Foundry Bronze Age Europeans or Ancient Egyptians? No.
Kickstarters and pre-orders
Who wouldn't want lots of Egyptian harem girls?
These were my downfall. Most of the figures that arrived were ones I committed to in 2013 but the figures have been arriving in big boxes over the year, such as the Sikh Wars figures. Wargods of Olympus and War and Empire have yet to arrive. New ones were the Interdimensional Bestiary, the Egyptian Harem figures (two of these - one not here yet) and of course the big pre-order of all the North Star pirates. Buying figures in big batches really isn't what I should be doing. I was actually happier with the Artizan NW Frontier Afghans which I bought and painted in batches as they were released. No more figures!
Wargames good news
The real find was discovering that Hurst's in Cowes had started re-stocking the washers I use to base my skirmish figures. I am well stocked for the next couple of years, hopefully. The more recent good news is the fact that North Star will be making Pulp Figures available in the UK without the risk of horrific import duty and handling charges, which had really made ordering from the US prohibitive. I think I had about £60 to pay on my Alamo model. Pulp Figure offer a tremendous range for nineteen thirties adventures, although some figures are a bit cartoon-like for me and their female figures are really, really ugly. I don't want to deal with unattractive women at any scale (some of the Dark Fable Harem Miniatures are dodgy too) but not everyone can sculpt women as well as Mike Owen, Brother Vinni and Mark Copplestone, I suppose.
I also, unusually, put my name forward for a blog competition and, much to my surprise won a superb prize, from Mr Daniel Mersey, of his Lion Rampant rules and his book on King Arthur.
Wargames bad news
I was pretty happy with all the figures I bought apart from the Mars Attacks ones, the quality of which were rather disappointing. Even more disappointing was the failure of Mantic Games to produce the fifties style US infantry that were anachronistically used in the Tim Burton film. Warlord US Marines, which they put in my order instead, aren't really an adequate substitute but at least I will have a use for them. Other than using them the Martians in a US desert town setting (I have been taken with the Sally 4th shotgun shacks which remind me of a town I drove through in Arizona once) I might pitch them into Victorian London using the new Martian invasion IHMN rules.
Sadly (stupidly), Osprey chose not to produce any further supplements to IHMN but this is not stopping the redoubtable Messrs Cartmell and Murton who go from strength to strength with new ideas for the format.
The other big disappointment is the fact that all the new ranges by Steve Saleh for his own Lucid Eye venture and North Star seem to have been cut down by him being hired by Warlord Games (the new evil empire - that nonsense over their "28mm" walls told me everything I needed to now about their attitude to customers). In particular, I liked his Neanderthals and hoped for more Lost World type figures in his Core range. Worse, was the end of the exciting looking Bronze Age figures he had begun, with Mycenaeans and Trojans promised.
There is more to life than toy soldiers
I did 111 posts on this blog in 2014, surprisingly. The blog now has 189 followers, amazingly, and this year I passed the 150 followers and 250,000 views milestones close together. I am amazed that anyone looks at this blog but I get between 250 and 400 views a day, which is not quite up to the 10,000 a day I get on my girly blog but then women are much more interesting than model soldiers, I have always felt. The most viewed post was my 500th one, with over a thousand views; odd considering it was mainly about James Burke rather than soldiers. Running a close second was my post on the re-branding of the Games Workshop store in Edinburgh but this was a rare occasion when I actually linked a post on The Miniatures Page.
I set up a number of new blogs this year including: Legatus' Victoriana Wargames, Americas Wargaming and Legatus' Food and Wine blog. Talking of food and wine, thanks to an introduction from Big Red Bat (who gets more and more famous every year), I had an article published in the second issue of the excellent new Wargames Bloggers Quarterly. Needless to say, it was more about food than wargaming, Poulet Marengo in fact, but it was fun to do and more interesting than my other published article last year in Commonwealth Development Review!
I was nominated again for a Liebster Blog Award by Lee which was very gratifying. I am always pleased by those who bother to read and comment on my blog and I really enjoy looking at everyone else's inspirational efforts. There are some who follow my blog who I have been unable to follow in return. This is something to do with those who use Google Friend Connect which I don't. I am afraid I also don't respond to Google+ requests as I'm not sure what it is, other than it distributes too much information about yourself.
There was, of course, much entertainment about the accusations and denials around the editor of The Miniatures Page and his coterie of female editors, who turned out not to be female at all. However, unlike Ray Davies in his song Lola, Mr A seemed very aware of the situation. I haven't seen so much desperate wriggling trying to get off the hook since my particular friend Sophie caught a large Wahoo off Miami Beach a few years ago. Frothers Unite (a site I hadn't really registered before) gleefully predicted the death knell of TMP. TMP claimed Frothers attacks had totally failed and TMP was as strong as ever. As renewal season (as we used to call it at Lloyd's of London) approaches I was thinking about not continuing my supporting membership, as supporting TMP sometimes feels like supporting the BNP. I am not exactly left wing but some of the people there make me feel like Citizen Smith (aka Russell Brand) in comparison. However, in a calculated masterstroke, the TMP editor has set up a system so that if you are not a supporting member your screen is bombarded by inappropriate pop-up ads. I looked at the Lead Adventure Forum, which is quite good but just doesn't have the breadth and traffic. I found Frothers really quite odious. I was reminded of this in a discussion about "banter" regarding an incident on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here this year, which my son was watching. Apparently, it is considered quite normal in some male parts of UK society (sports clubs were mentioned, especially) to routinely insult people as a joke. I'm sorry, but if anyone insults or swears at me you can hop off: I don't want to have anything to do with you at all. This is probably why the male to female ratio of my friends is about one male to every ten women.
Anyway, I pretty much only look at TMP for news now but for that I find Wargames News and Terrain much better. Maybe I will do another year of supporting membership while I have a lot of stuff to sell.
Finally, I was rather shocked to discover that the notorious Tango01 on TMP had done a post featuring some of my Darkest Africa figures. Infamy at last!
Plans for the next quarter
To paint anything!
While writing this post I have been listening to Eric Serra's enjoyable soundtrack to The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (the recent film I would most like to see a sequel to). I first came across Serra's music with his soundtrack to groovy 80s film Subway but his music is variable. His synthesised Bond score for Goldeneye was terrible with the orchestral bits being written by leader of the Strictly Come Dancing orchestra, Dave Arch. The Adele score is delightful however and would make a perfect background for Parisian and Egyptian set steampunk adventures.