Friday 31 July 2009

Conan: The Ultimate Guide

Matters Hyborian have led me to purchasing Roy Thomas' exquisite Conan: The Ultimate Guide, a comprehensive, full colour, 160 page Dorling Kindersley production, that charts the history of Conan and the Hyborian Age.

This fantastic book is broken down into thirteen sections, from Conan's formative years in Cimmeria and his participation in the Battle of Venarium, through to his eventual relinquishing of the crown of Aquilonia and journey into the isles of the west.

Given his pedigree as editor and author of many of Marvel's Conan comics, Roy Thomas' presents as well-written history of Conan which serves both as a useful refresher for fans and an ideal introduction to anyone who has yet to discover Robert E. Howard's work.

As with other Dorling Kindersley guides, every page is covered in incredible art drawn from Conan novels, posters and comic books. These include the works of a number of famous Conan artists, including John Buscema, Frank Frazetta, Barry Windsor-Smith, Cary Nord and Alex Ross. There are also some beautiful (and highly useful) maps of the Hyborian World as well as (typical DK) insets on particular characters and items important to the Conan mythology.

All in all, a 'must have' purchase for the Conan fan...

Thursday 30 July 2009

79 Squadron Dolphin Aces

Hot on the heels of the Se5a's are the two Reviresco Sopwith Dolphins, painted up as planes from No. 79 Squadron in 1918. As stated below I was a little worried about the rough look of the unpainted models, but they have come up nice enough. Rather than Catachan Green, this time I have used Tamiya NATO Green for PC10 which is near enough an exact match with the Wings of War Sopwith Pups. Decals are as per the Se5a's below.

The two Dolphin's are painted up as the planes of two American aces serving with No. 79 Squadron...

Dolphin J was flown by Edgar Taylor who got his first combat victory on 4th August 1918 and his fifth and final one on 24th August when he was hit and brought down by ground fire and did not survive.

Dolphin V is that of Fred Gillet who scored twenty victories between August 1917 and the end of the war, claiming his final three victories on the 10th November. Gillet was awarded the DFC and bar and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Gillet survived until 1969.

There was one more American ace who served with No. 79 Squadron, Fred Lord. He seems a fascinating character, doctoring his birth certificate so he could join up, claiming twelve victories, then subsequently fighting against the Bolsheviks in Russia, with the Republicans in Spain and then rejoining No. 79 Squadron to fly Hurricanes by using his original birth certificate in WWII! Unfortunately I couldn't find which letter his Dolphin was in the squadron to paint one up as him...

Update: Fred Lord's Dolphin sported the letter N. Ironically it is one the one on the rear cover of the Osprey 'Dolphin and Snipe Aces of World War 1' which you can see in the preview on Google Books, but the identifying text is inside and not part of the preview (nor the photo of him beside his plane also inside). Looks like there might be another order to Reviresco going off soon...

Wednesday 29 July 2009

287 Squadron Takes To The Air

You can blame Dave Manley for this, he sent me a picture of his WIP AEG G.IV German bomber and I knew I had to find something to shoot it down!

Seriously, I am somewhat behind on getting the models ready for AirWar: 1918 2nd edition and whilst waiting for some more barbarians basing to dry I picked up one of the infamous Skytrex Se5a's I made up in March and started slapping some paint on it. A few hours later...

Working up from a white undercoat, I decided as the models are supposed to be compatible with the pre-painted Wings of War models, that I was not going to do any shading or weathering but try and go for a smooth neat look similar to the pre-paints. I did weaken and put some black lining in around the flaps and engine area where there was obvious detail and painted the exhausts grey over a black base leaving a black outline. The basic paint scheme is GW Catachan Green for PC10 and Bleached Bone for the doped linen, both of which look pretty good after a couple of coats.

Decals wise the roundels came from Dom's Decals and the letters are from Fox Transfers (pack FRH4009 - really useful these). The markings are fictional (hence them now being 287 Squadron from Biggles) and the letters should also be on the sides but I had enough trouble with the roundels...

Overall I'm quite pleased with the end result, at times during painting they looked bloody awful and I was tempted to give up (stopped only by the amount of white metal WWI planes I have bought...). I've started painting the Sopwith Dolphins as the models looked a bit rough and I'm keen to see how these turn out, then it's back to the ONESS Germans for Iron Cow now the bits and pieces I have been waiting for have turned up (and maybe some more barbarians as Nick Whittock kindly sent me some unused models he had which means that I now have enough foot for a brigade and each brigade will now have a standard bearer).

Monday 27 July 2009

1066 And All That...

Last month I mentioned in passing how we got somewhat carried away with Saul's Year 8 history project - build a Norman Castle (including flickering interior lighting in the main hall...).

Of course our 10mm scale epic fortress needed troops and I ended up buying a selection of Normans and Saxons from Magister Militum to man the battlements and try and storm the drawbridge...

Unlike the Kallistra 10mm fantasy figures (or GW's for that matter) these all came as individual figures which would allow you to mount them as you see fit and use them in command bases.

The quality was okay, they are not as good as GW or Kallistra (though this may be an unfair comparison as I haven't seen Kallistra's historicals yet) and the Saxons look like they have been sculpted by a different person than the Normans, as the latter are decidedly chunkier (not that you can really see that when they are on the wargames table).

SWMBO really got into the whole period historically and from knowing nothing more than something happened in 1066, she is now an expert on the lineage of the Saxon kings and who fits in where, who they married, remarried, gave birth to, killed etc. having read copious books including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

I'm not sure whether we will do anything more and expand the collection, though the Saxons do look nice and the thought of extending the shieldwall is very appealing (especially having half an eye on Kallistra's new Vikings which could do double duty in Hyboria).

Back in the present, Bleaseworld today has seen a lot of donkey work done including some pre-undercoat filling on my RFC planes, more basing work on the Tusk figures and trying to work out some Cimmerian cavalry units after I found the Kallistra barbarian sixteen pack included two horse archers leading me to want horse archer units (unfortunately they are not available separately).

Sunday 26 July 2009

Hyborian Age Cimmerian Bowmen

In between basing up my Tusk figures I finished off a unit of Cimmerian bowmen from Kallistra (part of last weekends small order). Nice figures like the regular troops it took me a while to realise what was 'wrong' with them - the entire unit is left-handed! Never mind...

Whilst Kallistra supply you with enough troops for four bases I have kept to the Warmaster three base unit and so by purchasing another two blisters will end up with a total of four units of bow for my army.

Since painting the first Cimmerians I have been trying to apply a bit of logic to the project and have decided that rather than get all ambitious and try and recreate the entire Hyborian Age in 10mm, I am going to initially restrict myself to the time of the Battle of Venarium and concentrate on raising Cimmerian and Aquilonian forces, then see where it goes from there. Re-reading Beyond the Black River I've gleaned a little more info on the Aquilonian army, although Howard typically is sketchy on detail and is wont to misname weaponry. For example the force at Fort Tuscelan has 300 pikemen, but I can't imagine a weapon more useless in the forested Pictish wilderness and would guess that these troops are equipped with long spears.

The look of the Aquilonians is a bit of a problem. Whilst they are the "Roman Empire" of the Hyborian Age they are clearly inspired by early medieval French. I liked the idea of using Carolingians but am not keen on the Magister Militum ones so might use Kallistra's Romano-British some of which can do double duty as Dale troops in any Lord of the Rings games, supplemented with the odd pack of suitable early medievals such as their Scottish Pike (which may well of been what Howard inspired by).

Friday 24 July 2009

A Mammoth Undertaking

A couple of years back I picked up painted sets of both the 15mm Irregular Miniatures starter sets for Tusk, their mammoth hunting rules, on a bring and buy. Unfortunately the previous owner had gone for the dinosaur hunting option and neither the caveman and Victorian adventurers sets included a mammoth (instead they both included a t-rex and brontosaurus).

Tusk is a classic beer and pretzels game and as I had to buy a few things off Irregular I decided to order the mammoths I needed for the scenarios (and the cavemen firestarters who were also missing). Now we all know Irregular can be a bit hit and miss and definitely quirky. The mammoths are no exception...

When I opened the packet I must say I was distinctly underwhelmed. The 15mm mammoth is a three piece casting that did not fit together at all well and let's face it, it isn't a mammoth at all but an elephant with fur sculpted on it! 

After sticking the pieces together, filling the gaps and painting I must say they have grown on me. The fact they are furred up elephants rather accurate mammoth models adds to the amusement factor IMHO and is all very 10,000 BC.

The baby mammoth is very cute when placed alongside the adults but in reality is really their 6mm mammoth, regardless it works well enough as an infant in 15mm...

Postscript: as you may have seen on Bertie's Blog or the WG Yahoo groups, Wessex Games will be producing the PDF edition of Tusk very, very soon...

Sunday 19 July 2009

Hyborian Age Cimmerians

Got a bit distracted today at the painting table and painted up this unit of 10mm barbarians from Kallistra!

I've always enjoyed Robert E. Howard's Conan stories and decided a while back that 10mm and Warmaster would be the way to go to collect some Hyborian armies, a few packs of barbarians later and typically no further progress was made! :-(

This first Cimmerian unit has been sat on a shelf, based and undercoated, for a good couple of years now and for some reason today I decided to just advance them a little bit before returning to the projects in hand which were drying...

For 10mm I give miniatures a black undercoat before a heavy drybrush of a base colour (in this case brown) before picking out detail. This means if I miss something it has some paint on it and will still stand out from the undercoat. In between checking the cricket scores I kept coming back to this unit to add a little bit more until I finished them!

For good measure I finished off this unit of Battle of the Five Armies GW plastic Goblins which had been sitting around painted and merely waiting for a drybrush on the base and some flock. Took all of two minutes and now they're done!

There are other projects that need finishing more urgently so I am relegating 10mm to an "as and when" project, painting up a unit at a time, in between other projects for a bit of light relief. so eventually there will be a useable number done and ready for a bit of Howard or Tolkien Warmaster action on the games table...

Postscript: "as and when" eh? Just ordered some more barbarians off Kallistra and their new Vikings look very nice as well, dang...

Saturday 18 July 2009

Attack 2009

Saul and I went to Attack in Devizes today to see what we could spend our hard earned money on (I say "our" hard earned money, Saul had to blag some off SWMBO as he forgot to get some out of his account!). A bit of a sprawling show across three large halls at a local school, Attack was a definite pot purri, most games lacked aesthetically with the emphasis being put on participation (not a bad thing but it made for very few photos) and there were a lot of secondhand traders or resellers, not many companies seemed to be present (that said I still managed to spend some dosh!).

Games wise a few caught the eye. First off was this Aliens demo game using the old Leading Edge Games boardgame rules. The scenery was nicely constructed and quite inspiring...

One game that I really did like was this El Cid game using 54mm HaT figures. The large numbers of brightly coloured miniatures especially eye-catching. HaT intend to produce some 28mm scale hard plastic El Cid miniatures which could well be useful for War Of The Ring games as well...

The other two games I liked the look of was this Secrets of the Third Reich game with a V2 as the centerpiece (though as Saul said who'd want to be that close to a V2!). The other was the 28mm Russian Civil War game below. I've always had a fascination with the RCW but never bought any figures, I guess if I do it'll either be 6mm or 20mm to tie in with the WWI miniatures I have.

So what did I spend my money on? Well apart from Saul's birthday present which I can't mention as he reads the blog (!) the highlight was a wonderful resin orc skull cave from Dreamholme Scenics. They produce some fantastic resin items including an amazing Viking chieftan's hall, unfortunately their website is absolute pants which is a shame as their products are very good. I also picked up a weather dice (for Aeronef) from em-4 (and Saul picked up a couple of emotidice, obviously he'll roll this in the morning and it'll decide his mood for the day!) and Saul bought me three goatmen from Gary Mitchell's Vixens in Space range.

Talking of which Saul played (and won) a game of Space VixensEnemy At The Goat, before playing three games of Wings of War (I played two, siding with Saul in the last and shooting down a Gotha bomber).

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Silvelian Troopers

One of the major power blocs in Dick Garrison are the Silvelians who live on the forest world of Silvelia in canopy cities such as Disidia. The figures here are (of course) Wargames Supply Dump, sculpted by the amazingly talented Bob Olley and with green as the predominant colour did not take very long to paint up.

The miniatures are very nice, although the differences between the advancing and firing figures is very subtle and at first glance it looks like they are one and the same. The Prince Borain figure is a particular favourite of mine from the range and I enjoyed painting this one up with a grey goatee!

I'm not quite sure what to paint next, I'm waiting on Brigade for  a couple of pieces before I start the ONESS Germans so I might have a crack at the Falconmen from Aurelias... 

Monday 13 July 2009

Gulf War SAS

I managed to finish my 15mm Gulf War SAS squad last night for Scudbusters II. The figures are Peter Pig from their AK47 Republic range (bareheaded professional soldiers with M16 IIRC) as no one appears to do Gulf War SAS in 15mm which is kinda stupid as it's the only suitable gaming scale for Scudbusters you can get a Scud in!

Painting the figures has been a bit of a nightmare as none of my normal painting techniques seemed to work and I was starting to despair of getting anything that looked vaguely half decent. In the end I decided to have a go with the Army Painter dip and whilst the figures won't win any prizes they look okay and will do the job blowing up Scuds or goats (whichever comes first).

Saturday 11 July 2009

Battle Picture Weekly

When I was a lad...

Popped into WHSMiths' yesterday to pick up the latest Simon Scarrow, Fire and Sword, and standing out of the comic stand was a logo from my dim and distant past - Battle Picture Weekly! A moment's excitement that this was a new weekly or monthly reprint edition was tempered slightly by the fact that this appears to be a one off "souvenir special" but it didn't stop me rushing to the till to buy it (and forgetting the Scarrow book which I had to go back and pick up today!).

Sixty-eight pages of D-Day Dawson, The Sarge, Major Eazy, Rat Pack, Johnny Red (and others) I was in pig heaven on Friday night and almost missed the last episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth. I'd forgotten just how well drawn the likes of The Sarge and Johnny Red were (got to do a Falcons unit for the Eastern Front). I am really pleased to note that following on from the success of the excellent Charley's War graphic novel reprints, Johnny Red is getting similar treatment very soon...

If you haven't experienced Battle before you should check out this special and them visit Best of Battle website to find out what happened next in many of the strips!

One the miniatures front I haven't been totally slovenly and decided I needed a 6mm break this weekend so started some 28mm Dick Garrison, 15mm SAS and 6mm VTOL's (I know I wanted a break but it was just two for the FSE...). Not sure what will get finished first as I am flitting between them...

Monday 6 July 2009

CDSU Guards Tank Squadron

I've managed to finish my CDSU Guards Armoured Regiment with the addition of this squadron of Zhu De tanks from Brigade. Nice enough little models, if a somewhat blocky design they paint up quite nicely and look suitably communist in appearance! Just the ONESS Germans to do now and then it's a well earned break from 6mm and onto the 1/144th aeroplanes...

Saturday 4 July 2009

Summer Project: 20mm Eastern Front

During last year's summer holidays Saul and I started on our WWII Eastern Front project but our initial spurt of enthusiasm didn't last although we did manage to get a fair bit painted, especially on the German side (the idea being that the Soviets would be easier and quicker to paint when painting fatigue kicked in).

The project did allow me to clear out some very old plastic kits sitting in the attic including a couple of Matchbox Panthers, a Jadgpanzer IV/70 and this Jadgpanther which I added side skirts to from a strip of plasticard.

Ruleswise we picked up Battlefield Evolution: World at War, which is a very simple set of rules and quite fun (if not too realistic). The first infantry painted up was a Pioneer Section (sporting MP44's) mainly from the Italeri Elite German troop pack with some Revell thrown in for variety.

The Revell figures are really very nice and the plastic is easy to cut and superglue works well on them, The MG is an example of how easy it is to convert as I removed the ridiculous wooden crate the gunner is balancing his weapon on and replaced it with a bit of wall.

With the school summer holidays only a week away we will no doubt be returning to the Russian Front and in preparation I did pick up some diecast tanks from a model shop in Eastbourne this week including a King Tiger which I am sure Saul will love (I also picked up an M1A1 for no other reason than it looked nice, and four M4A3 Shermans for an American force once the Germans and Russkis are done...).