Sunday, 25 April 2010

Salute 2010

Well I think I've recovered from Salute yesterday! I enjoyed the show immensely and the drive wasn't too bad (the three miles from the A4 to Hangar Lane which took an hour last year took just minutes this).

The game went very well, largely down to Matthew, and proved very popular. The CD on the clear beakers for the ships worked well and many people commented on it (and the WI photographer took some snaps of them as well!). I am considering using plastic pint glasses next time to raise them slightly higher but as a concept I think it provides a playable yet aesthetically pleasing result.

There were lots of other really good games that caught my eye, so many I filled the memory card by lunchtime and in the end used my work Blackberry to take a load more - so this year I've made Salute The Movie Parts One & Two, with the obligatory traditional prog rock soundtrack!

There were many highlights but Tewkesbury was a personal favourite as I haved walked the battlefield a number of times with SWMBO (when we were younger and falling in ditches was fun). There were two amazing fantasy games, a epic Zama bash, Dr Who versus the Sea Devils (yeah!), a massive Malburian battle which I really liked, a winter 15mm SF battle from Critical Mass, a cracking Seminole Indian Wars games etc, etc, etc. Some people are moaning about the cost of the show on TMP but for the inspiration alone it's a bargain.

Purchase wise I avoided buying WAB 2 which looks very pretty, I did however go all ancient and bought three boxes of Immortal's new plastic hoplites and one of Griping Beasts' Vikings. Both are excellent.

The Vikings are a multi-purpose buy, they'll do as Chaos Marauders for WHFB and as Vikings for some other historical games. The Greeks were bought with Saul in mind; he loves 300 and is hoping to take Classics and Civilisation in his options so anything that encourages him to read his Herodotus and Thucydides... I really didn't fancy painting Persians but the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta seems the way to go. I also plan to use them in some fantasy games at some stage.

Apart from that I picked up some of the alien plant/hives GZG were selling on behalf of the late Jim Langer. Proceeds were going to charity and Jim had given me one a number of years back so now that I have a few more I can paint them up and show off what a talented, and now much missed, bloke he was. Paul from GZG told me they had shifted most of the stock which was good news. GZG had sold out of the 15mm Spider drones which I decided would make good 6mm Japanese tanks for Iron Cow.

Final purchase was the Perry's Sudan War Correspondents (with Melton Prior figure) and a unit of Naval Brigade to go with the British Infantry I bought last year from Empress. The Perry's had a 3up of their forthcoming plastic Mahdists which I must do my best to resist...

Friday, 23 April 2010

French Aquanef

Just finished the final three French aquanef. Like the British these were dropcast so aren't as sharp as they should be and don't have the stabiliser fins (I was going to add some plastic card ones and forgot - and the mast, doh!).

The design is quite modern looking but is based on the Peral and Gymnote, both C19th vessels.

The paint scheme differs from the smaller French models, I did try that pattern on these and they looked horrible so after looking at some pages of WW1 dazzle camo on the web I went with this disruptive pattern, similar to that used on some ships in the Great War.

I'm now ready to go (just awaiting delivery of the SFSFW leaflets - please join), grab a bite to eat and raid an ATM and we'll be off to London and hopefully will reach the hotel around 10pm.

If you are at Salute tomorrow, see you there, if you aren't I promise lots of photos...

Escadrille de Aquanef

The first French are now done, a squadron of six small class 5 aquanef of two differing types. The models are loosely based on (IIRC) a German-built Turkish Nordernfelt but have been enrolled in the French navy for the purposes of the game as the Peral inspired model didn't mould.

Both have suffered a bit in the moulding process and the one with the round conning tower has a slight twist along the bow to stern axis which is very irritating but just passable.

Three class fours left to finish off, final touches and magnets to do now...

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Aquanef Sighted!

Roll of drums... Here's a couple of photos of the first aquanef models! Managed to finish the British Squadron off over lunch so decided to post a quick couple of pics to the blog for you all to see.

The design was inspired by the early British Holland boats that entered service at the start of the 1900's and after feeling the overall grey scheme was very boring decided that because of the use of the underwater Tyrell Ray in aquanef combat that camouflage would not be inappropriate so took a degree of inspiration from the First World War naval dazzle camo.

The Royal Navy was not a great proponent of early submarines and viewed them with distrust so my view is their crews and commanders are kind of mavericks and paint their craft in weird and wonderful ways...

The models themselves are only drop cast so not as sharp as the final production models will be once I've had the opportunity to re-make the master mould, but they give you some idea of one of the British designs (there is a larger master of the same basic look as well for a heavier class machine).

On with the French now...

Countdown to Salute...

Things are becoming increasingly hectic at Bleaseworld as I try and get things ready for Salute, this thing called 'Real Life' doesn't help! :-)

A few things have gone pear shaped, notably the mould for the aquanef which was a bit of a disaster and in the end was cut up and with a pair of barbeque tongs was used to drop cast six aquanef to go with the six I'd managed to spin (although they didn't cast perfectly they will do for the game).

Anyway onto more interesting things and the problem of how to play a submarine game on a table and have surface vessels to sink. Trying to come up with something that was both practical and aesthetic wasn't easy. The idea of a two layer table was impractical to say the least and mounting ships on taller flying bases aesthetically unpleasing (they look like flying ships and we already do that game!). The solution, I think, is quite pleasing and effective. I've mounted a CD on a clear plastic beaker and covered it in the same sea effect as the ships bases. This gives a nice sea look for the ship and still allows for models under the surface to be moved with ease (apologies that the model under the surface is an aeronef but it shows what I mean and the aquanef are only at an undercoat stage). The effect without the CD is not as good and although you could just plonk the ship on top of an inverted beaker the amount of effort to texture and paint the CD is minimal and in my opinion worth it.

The CD/beaker solution is also useful for introducing aeronef who are either bombing ships of depth charging aquanef and allows for them to fly convincingly above the surface...

Rounding off here's a photo of some of the undersea flora that will be part of the game. Made from tropical fish tank grass mat and plants, hot glue gunned to CD's they will add a bit of visual relief to the game. I've also got a selection of underwater fish tank rocks and coral so it should look pretty eye-catching. If you are at Salute come and say hello and have a go...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

England Prevails

Back in the 1990's James Clay wrote a couple of articles for the SFSFW journal Ragnarok about a contemporary fictional civil war in England. With glasnost in full swing the idea of using existing modern wargames armies on England's green and pleasant shores was hugely attractive, especially with the addition of foreign volunteers joining the battle...

With the popularity of a Very British Civil War set in the thirties, my thoughts turned back to James' idea and the numbers of green painted modern armour and troops I still had which I had no desire to repaint and send to Iraq or Afghanistan.

So I've started a blog aims to resurrect James' idea, develop the background and give me an excuse to use my 20mm moderns in a temperate war zone (assuming I can find them).

At the moment I'm having some fun posting news stories from the alternative-history 'point of divergence' (the 1987 General Election) as a background to the outbreak of war...

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Siege of Khartoum

A couple of days working in Paris has put a bit of a crimp in Salute preparations this week, looks like it’ll be another of those “damn close run things” but I hope to get the mould made for the aquanef by the weekend and then have a busy weekend moulding, painting and making scenery. SWMBO has offered her services as I painted the young ‘uns ceiling on Sunday rather than hid away in the games room!

Currently sitting in one of those box sized hotel rooms in a hotel near Gare St Lazare (which does have a nice GW opposite) and have just finished the latest Simon Fonthill book, Siege of Khartoum, by John Wilcox. The Fonthill novels are another in the genre of Sharpe-style historicals with an officer and NCO engaging in missions of derring-do, this time on the British colonial campaigns of the 1880’s. This is quite an interesting period (and one were the British army didn’t do too well) and previous books in the series have covered the Zulu War, Afganistan, the First Boer war, the Egyptian Campaign and now the First Sudan War.

Although one of increasing populated genre the Fonthill novels are well written and highly enjoyable. That said, I’d had this one sat around for a while as knowing the ending and having seen various films on the subject of Khartoum I thought it wouldn’t be as enjoyable as the others – wrong!

I really enjoyed Siege of Khartoum, well written and paced the story had me thinking of wargaming opportunities on many occasions, whether in the deserts of Sudan or the sands of Mars!

Wilcox’s lead female interest (the obligatory love interest) is also an interesting character as she is a war correspondent and the references to other correspondents and war artists, reminded me of the book I have on Melton Prior, a fantastic artist from the period. Imagine my joy when ‘Googling’ Melton Prior I find that the Perry’s have a war correspondents pack in their Sudan range, including a miniature of the bald headed artist (that’s one purchase sorted for Salute, I may have to peruse the Sudan range more closely!).

(a Melton Prior sketch from the Sudan)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Death In The Dark Continent

A few years back I got hooked on Foundry's Darkest Africa line, whilst I managed to kick the monthly release addiction I have ended up with more natives, slavers, Ruga-Ruga etc than I probably needed and most have ended up in the lead mountain.

With a need to paint some up for the PDF of Voyages Extraordinaires sometime I have been on the lookout for a set of rules and have been intrigued by Chris Peer's Death In The Dark Continent after reading an AAR somewhere (WI?). However at £12.50 they haven't been top of my shopping list. Luckily I picked up a set on eBay for £3.50...

I must say I was disappointed with the production values for a set that retails for £12.50. It looks like it has been printed on a photocopier (albeit a colour one for the cover) rather than properly printed. I know this isn't the be all and end all but there are good printers who wold have done this properly and allowed a lower retail price.

The internal is all b&w text (no illustrations) and the typesetting is similarly poor. I don't know if it's old age on my part but A4 single column dense serifed text is hard to read. Anything in A4 should be twin column as it is easier on the eye. Titles look unprofessional in bold, underlined and with full stops at the end. I know this sounds petty but it just looks poor. A little effort could have made this a better looking and far easier to read product.

Ok, but what about the rules? Well despite the layout issues the rules seem fairly simple and look like they will provide a good game, much is down to keeping your troops on the table rather than melee and firing, the latter using D20's which I haven't got many of so will need to buy.

Miniatures are based in groups of two or three on 60mm x 20mm bases which might be a problem as mine are (I think) on 25mm round but this isn't insurmountable as long as basing is consistent. Half the rulebook comprises of army lists, useful but I couldn't help think some period illustrations (or photos of wargames models) of the various native tribes would have added a lot.

Overall I would have been disappointed if I'd bought these at full price. Whilst I don't think that all rules should be 'Beano annual' products (and I've bought enough Tabletop Games rules over the years) , if you are charging over a tenner for something then it needs to have quality as well as good content. However, having paid less than a third of the RRP I can't complain on that score and hope to get some spare time to paint up my Ruga-Ruga and try them on the tabletop.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Return To Salute!

This year will be the first for a number that I help put a participation game on at Salute for the SFSFW. This was a tradition for the Society following its formation in 1992 and we even won best participation game one year with our wonderful Destroy All Monsters 20mm scale Godzilla game. However we never made the move from Olympia to the ExCel for a number of factors, but this year we're back with Raid of Le Vengeur, an underwater VSF game using the soon to be published Aquanef rules.

This has meant that "normal" painting activity has been suspended as I realised we didn't have anything ready with less than a month to go (not that this is unusual, varnishing has previously occurred on the morning of the show on more than one occasion!). Most of the last week has been spent painting up the ironclads and scratch building the aquanef which will need moulding and casting, hopefully over the weekend.

Anyhow in lieu of anything new to show off, here are a few pictures of previous SFSFW games at Salute. Unfortunately I don't have anything pre-digital so cannot show the wonderful Destroy All Monsters game or Battle of Five Armies we did in 15mm...

The Battle of Britain 1890

The Great Land Ironclad Robbery

Pyramids of Mars


Classified Most Secret: Projekt X

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Victorian Ironclads

In between eating lots of chocolate today I've got my Royal Navy ironclads to a 99% finished stage (they just need basing and flags), so here's some photos...

The models are mainly from Houston's Ships 1/1000th range and despite being a little rough, make and paint up into some lovely models. The main purpose of the models is to serve as targets for the French in the game I hope to run at Salute later this month. The idea is that it will be the first public run out of Aquanef, but Plan B (if this doesn't come off) is that the French will attack the British ships with aeronef.

Anyway onto the models. First off is my favourite, HMS Inflexible, a turret ship with a rather strange and unique design of only being armoured in the middle! I love the way that the two side mounted turrets revolve through the centre to face the opposite arc, with a bridge joining the two parts of the superstructure. My major quibble with the model is that this is not straight and cannot be corrected without rebuilding the piece from scratch. That said, it is far less noticeable once you've slapped paint on the model.

Next is HMS Collingwood, a barbette ironclad (ie. open turreted) of the Admiral class, a nice model, not sure whether to get another to do as HMS Anson or go with the HMS Benbow variant.

Simpler models are the Torpedo Boat Destroyers HMS Havock...

...and her sister ship HMS Hornet, differentiated by the funnel mountings, which come two to a pack.

Finally is Brigade Models, HMVS Cerberus in 1/1200th. Whilst the Cerberus served "down under" as part of the Royal Victorian Navy I have yet to decide whether this model is a (fictional) sister ship that remained in Home waters. Whatever, it is noticeable that this is a much finer model than the Houston designs (which I do like) and one can only hope Brigade decide one day to add to it with a few British and French battleships of the 1880-1900 period as apart from Houston there is nothing in this scale for wargamers for the end of the 19th century.

If this has whetted your appetite, Angus Konstam's wargames pages has some excellent photos of British and French ironclads from this period going hammer and tongs at each other. Every time I look at the photos though, I must confess I keep mentally transposing a few aeronef into the pictures! :-)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Night Goblin Rock Lobba

At present it is all hands to the pump, painting up some Victorian ironclads for the game I am supposed to be running at Salute, but a man can only paint so many layers of white before his sanity goes...

For a change of pace I finished off this old Citadel Rock Lobba that I bought for my goblin army back in the eighties but never finished, so now will see service in Saul's night goblin army, the opfor that came with the Skull Pass boxed set.

Whilst not a night goblin fan, I really do like the models in the Skull Pass set as their robes reach the ground unlike the old boxed set. As the original crew had gone AWOL, I converted three of the night goblins from the set, two to carry fresh ammo and one to encourage them to load faster (for some reason - Tolkien I assume - I always like the idea of goblins being whipped!).

Back to the ironclads now (unless I get distracted by the Warlord Romans I picked up cheap on eBay...).