Monday 31 August 2009


"As good as Bernard Cornwell or your money back..."

I must confess there isn't much that gets my back up as much as stickers like this stuck on the front covers of historical fiction, but I gave Angus Donald's debut novel Outlaw a chance (it may have been the subtitle 'Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest' that snagged me), and am glad I did.

As good as Cornwell? Not really, but this retelling of the Robin Hood story in the first person by Alan Dale is pretty good and tries to present the legend in a more historical manner akin to Cornwell's Winter King trilogy which it apes to some extent.

Donald's Robin isn't the straight forward whiter than white character of yore and he is not beyond a bit of torture and murder when the mood takes him. The outlaws are outlaws and behave as such, though any line between them and those trying to catch them is distinctly blurry.

Whilst quite bloody and violent in parts (I can see HBO picking this up for a TV series!), it's an interesting historical take on a well know story and I am looking forward to the sequel Crusader and volumes beyond that (the introduction of Prince John in the final chapter bodes well for the continuing fight in Sherwood Forest). Certainly it had me pondering the possibility of some small scale medieval skirmish games...

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Ragnarok 55

As the latest Ragnarok has now been posted out I felt it the opportune moment to comment on it as it is a really good issue.

For those that don't know Ragnarok is the journal of the Fantasy & Science Fiction Wargamers and contains lot of interesting and diverse material for F/SF wargamers. The latest issue is no exception with a good mix of fantasy, zombies, hard SF, Victorian SF and even something based around the 40th Anniversary of the Moon landings. A paper journal is posted out to members of the SFSFW but non-members can buy a PDF version at Wargame Vault.

This issue was especially good with a great article on Daleks in SG2 (but still worth reading for use in the likes of Iron Cow and FWC) and an excellent Aeronef scenario based on a historical incident in the Franco-Prussian War. However, my two favourite articles are Zombie Apocalypse, a set of zombie rules and The Eagle Has Landed, a beer 'n' pretzels moon landing game where random encounters range from H.G.Wells' Selentites to Wallace & Gromit!

All in all a cracking read and chock full of great ideas whatever system you currently play..

Saturday 22 August 2009

Isca Augusta

Family day out today, a trip across the border into darkest Wales and the Roman Fortress at Caerleon. Despite it only being a paltry 32 miles door to door, I hadn't appreciated what was on show in the town, indeed the nearest we'd ever got was driving along the M4 to Cardiff, seeing the sign for Roman Fort at Newport and thinking "must go there someday..." Well today was the day and it was well worth it!

First off we visited the National Roman Legion Museum in the town, a quite small museum, but well laid out with plenty to look at (and activities for the kids). It was free to enter and out the back was a Roman garden (much appreciated by SWMBO) with some re-enactors in residence (much appreciated by Saul as he had a chance to try on the Lorcia Segmenta and helmet). There was also a webcam which gave us the chance to wave at some family members holidaying in Dubai - well they had to find something to do during Ramadan!)

From the museum we went to the excavations of part of a huge baths, including a outdoor natatio and indoor cold frigidarium.

In the photo (to the left) you can see the raised square blocks which were part of the underground heating. By the natatio is a wonderful footprint of a hob-nailed sandal made by some Roman 1900 years ago!

We then visited the ampitheatre which is the most complete in Britain. The photo doesn't do it justice as it is quite large and in its day (built in AD90) it held a crowd of 6,000 in timber grandstand built on the surviving stone ramparts.

Part of the original fortress wall runs alongside the ampitheatre, indeed it was hard to gauge the size of Isca Augusta (so named because the 2nd Legion Augusta was staioned here) until you visited the barracks.

Three lines of barracks are visible and each barracks housed a century. This excavated area is just a small corner of the fortress and it is only when you compare that to the map that you realise the fortress covers the entire town, with the ampitheatre and parade ground (now a rugby pitch) outside. When looked at in this context it is really quite gobsmacking...

The photo shows the only properly excavated line of barracks (the other two are reconstructed on top of remains to protect them and the rest is below ground). The nearest squares are the rooms which house eight legionnaires, the ones adjacent are the rooms for their storage with the fortress rampart just visible behind (a wall was built atop this). SWMBO and I had debated how many would fit in a room and decided on four at a pinch in bunks. We were quite surprised when we checked the (excellent) guidebook and found it was double this (cosy!)

Overall we had a good time, and will definitely visit again (they do a "military spectacular" each July) and would recommend anyone visiting South Wales via the M4 to make the short detour and visit the site.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Dwarf 'Tin Man' Mining Machine

I must confess to not being the greatest fan of "steampunk" dwarves, the whole idea of dwarves with steam powered tech seems to be the antithesis of the whole concept of conservative, traditional dwarves, that said, done right, it can work and be fun. Enter 'Tin Man', a dwarf mining machine for Saul's dwarf army...

The model is a Ghordson Driller warjack from Privateer Press' Warmachine line. I do quite like the unique concept behind this game but can't justify another new fantasy game to myself (despite Saul's attempts to convince me otherwise!). That said, in the spirit of compromise, I have decided I have no problem adding a few warjacks, as and when, to existing WHFB armies, especially as some of the models are really nice.

This warjack was an impulse purchase at Crusade in Penarth last year, to be added to a growing number of miners in Saul's dwarf army (the idea is that maybe we will eventually have enough miners for a Border patrol size force). As a 'tin man' it looked like he would fit in perfectly with the miners.

It got painted up last night at the same time as I was doing the armour on the Burgundians, basically Tin Bitz drybrushed over black, then Boltgun Metal over that. I then, with a very dry and old knackered brush, stippled some black over parts of the model to mute it down and make it look slightly dirty like a working machine should. The end result was very pleasing, though I am pondering a suitable varnish as GW's satin dries too matt over metallics and the wonderful sheen is lost...

Monday 17 August 2009

Cyclops On The Cheap...

I was hoping to be showing off my Burgundian pikemen today, but my initial small unit of four stands of OOP Corvus Miniatures, expanding to five with a command stand, expanded again when I found three more Corvus pike and three ex-Grenadier pike (unarmoured, but lovely Copplestone sculpts, also found some handgunners and a wonderful cannon). Unfortunately I had almost finished the initial bases so had to chip the sand covered filler away to detach three of those hold their pikes at 45 degrees to move to the back row as the extra three Corvus were front rankers.. Hopefully these should be done soon, but the initial four stand unit with a 16cm frontage now looks more impressive at seven stands and a 28cm frontage!

Anyhow, whilst the undercoat was drying I cast a glance towards the shelf of pre-undercoated oddities and my eye was caught by this cyclops (sorry...). The model is actually a toy, donated by Saul, from his Yu-Gi-Oh collection (to give you an idea on size, it is mounted on a 40mm square base). Whilst it is made from a similar soft plastic to what Airfix soldiers of yore, with a wash to get any grease off and undercoating with acrylic the model becomes quite serviceable for normal wargames use (yes, if you bend the arm the paint would flake off, but if you bent a metal models arm the paint would also come off and likely the arm as well!!). Fantasy wargamers would do well to keep their eyes open for toys like these which can provide useful cheap models for the tabletop.

Thursday 13 August 2009

10 Naval Squadron Camels

One of the problems with British planes in WWI is that, out of all of the major powers, they are probably have the most boring paint schemes. I had intended to paint my Skytrex Sopwith Camels up as members of Biggles' 266 Squadron, but looking at RFC/RAF Camel paint schemes for the Western Front I was overwhelmed with boredom! Luckily the Royal Naval Air Service used colours and patterns to identify its planes so I decided to paint up two of my Camels as members of 10 Naval Squadron.

These two Camels sport blue and white strips which was painted on all C Flight machines (A Flight had black and white stripes, B Flight red and white stripes) as well as the flight letter on the fuselage just behind (aft?) the cockpit. Individual pilots were identified by the markings on the wheels. The one here with the white circles is Lawrence Coombes who shot down 15 enemy machines during the war. The other with the diamonds is a hypothetical design.

All markings are hand painted apart from the roundels which come from the wonderful Dom's Decals (who are planning to release a set for 9 Naval Squadron who were quite colourful themselves).

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Medieval Warfare

There is an urban myth that a wargamer cannot die until he has painted all his unpainted miniatures, in which case, as SWMBO will testify, I'll be around for a long time! Like many gamers, I have a number of unfinished and abandoned projects, most started in my youth, when I painted everything from 6mm Dacians to 25mm Orcs to 15mm Zulus, on the kitchen table, every Saturday afternoon, listening to Liverpool win the league title yet again (that might give you an idea of how long ago this all was...)

One of these projects was my 25mm Burgundian Charles the Bold army. I fell in love with the Citadel Wars of the Roses miniatures and (as this was before SWMBO introducing me to The Sunne in Splendour), decided that the Burgundians were much more interesting than plain old Yorkists or Lancastrians. Despite many afternoons painting away (as these two Burgundian standard bearers with hand painted flags demonstrate), and much research at Clevedon library (that had both the Burgundian and Swiss Osprey books in an amazingly comprehensive military history section for such a small town library), the project never really got off the ground, primarily as I could not find a set of rules I liked...

Fast forward over twenty years and rummaging around for something or other I came across a box marked "WotR - some painted - this way up", which upon opening was found to be full of mainly unpainted late medieval figures from a variety of manufacturers. Serendipity strikes because at the same time Foundry were doing a really silly book sale which included Terry Gore's much praised Medieval Warfare rules, £10 later... (yes, that silly a sale!).

Anyway, having read through the rules which seem quite good, I've decided that to break up the monotony of other larger projects, I'm going to rummage through the medieval box and paint up units for Charles the Bold's army as and when... So currently sat next to four Sopwith Camels, a unit of 10mm Barbarians and some 6mm ONESS Germans is a unit of half painted Burgundian pikemen, mainly comprised of some long OOP Corvus Miniatures Swiss pike along with the two standard bearers pictured above (the bearers being repainted in the same style as the pike).

Now I wonder where those 6mm Dacians and 15mm Zulus are?

Friday 7 August 2009

Veni, Vidi... Oooh Shiny!

I would just like to say - it was not my fault!

First off it's Saul's - he said he thought that the new plastic Celts from Wargames Factory and Warlord Games would make a great Sigmar era WHFB army so I bought a couple of boxes for a rainy day...

Then Wargames Illustrated has a special on Caesar's campaign in Gaul with lots of pretty colour pictures...

Then the History Channel had Alesia as this week's featured battle in Battles B.C. ...

And finally the straw that broke the camel's back, North Star are flogging the Wargames Factory Republican Romans off at £13.00 a box - how can any wargamer resist 28mm scale miniatures at just 27p a figure?!!

Anyhow I am now the proud owner of 96 plastic Republican Romans which I am trying to keep in their boxes! I have had a quick look at the figures and they aren't as bad as some people have made out and should look ok when painted up (I suspect this will be a Dip job).

Rules wise we'll just use Warhammer, I'm not sure on army composition as strangely Warhammer Historical have appeared to ignore popular ancient eras (such as Caesar's conquest of Gaul) to do the more obscure (c'mon, Vlad the Impaler or Julius Caesar?). Any thoughts on unit size (or a list) for WAB and other troops needed for Gaul and Germany (and maybe the Civil War) would be appreciated.

They may also get double duty by using them in Fantasy Battles maybe with some wizards if I can find some suitable figures...

Update: found a set of WAB lists for the Late Republican Romans here. An earlier version of the same list contains a number of interesting scenarios and can be found here. Looks like I might have a few too many miniatures in which case I am thinking of painting the odds up as Roman Marines for naval skirmishes...

Thursday 6 August 2009

100 Squadron Night Bomber

When I made up Skytrex's F.E.2b I said I might well paint it up as a night bomber as it was obsolete in its original role by 1916, but soldiered on through the war as a bomber. A bit of research on the subject led me to No.100 Squadron, Britain's first night bomber squadron which became operational in February 1917 and flew F.E.2's on the Western Front until August 1918.

Ascertaining the paint scheme proved slightly more problematical than I at first imagined. The squadron Operational Diary for March states that the planes were painted "in a camouflage not previously seen on the Western front. They were painted from wingtip to wingtip in matt black, with a matt, dark grey fuselage. The upper surfaces were dark brown, and the tailplane and rudder were black". I couldn't find any other source to back this up as as the F.E.2b at the RAF Museum Hendon is black all over I went with that (albeit when painting I added some blue so the colour wasn't so flat).

Similarly markings were slightly irksome. Officially the roundel should apparently be a single white circle, but clearly as can be seen from this period photo of one of No. 100 Squadron's planes, the three colour roundel was used so I went with two of Dom's Decals British roundels. For a brief time I fantasized about painting the name 'Jess' under the gunner's cockpit like the photo, but after one 'J' I gave this up as temporary insanity.

Overall I am pleased with the finished F.E.2b Night Bomber, it certainly makes a change from PC10 painted British planes and will undoubtedly be a useful model to have on the gaming table.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Where There's Smoke...

Tusk calls for the use of fire markers to show where the cavemen have set fire to the grasslands to herd mammoths towards the killing zone. Whilst the rules suggest a square of card with 'Fire' written on it, I was keen to have something slightly more aesthetically pleasing (providing it didn't involve an exorbitant cost or amount of time).

I had considered painting some flames on card and mounting this vertically on a textured base (indeed there is something similar to this in White Dwarf 356 on page 61) but SWMBO came up with a better solution - Kapok (the 'cottton wool' they stuff toy animals with). One teddy bear later... (only joking, SWMBO had a bag of the stuff in her craft box - a useful source of goodies that might involve some further investigation when she goes out!).

Kapok is MUCH better than cotton wool and was easily coloured with felt pens (don't try paint, it doesn't work). Indeed, as well as making nice 'Fire' markers and no doubt very fine clouds for air wargames, it occurred to me that suitably coloured Kapok could have a multitude of uses from mustard gas to sorcerous clouds in fantasy games.

As well as the 'Fire' markers I made up a corresponding number of 'Burned Out' markers to represent where the fire had been...

Monday 3 August 2009


There are a plethora of e-fanzine's for GW games on the internet and I was really pleased to find one for Warmaster given my recent infatuation with things 10mm. Warmuster is a free to download PDF from the Warmaster Players Community and I must say is really very nice.

The first issue is just out and contains some fantastic colour photos of home produced Warmaster armies (all for the Warhammer World background but I won't hold that against them). Some of the conversions are really very well done and hugely inspiring, especially the Dogs of War army. The group also produce a finely produced "trial" army compendium which includes army lists for the likes of the Dogs of War, Ogre Kingdoms etc, which again is free to download and worth spending some time perusing.

My own 10mm endeavours received a boost today when I re-discovered a bag of Kallistra goodies I'd stashed away including two packs of barbarians, two packs of Orcs and three packs of High Elves (which I must say are much more Tolkienesque than GW's).

Sunday 2 August 2009

Salute 2009 - The Movie!

I've been playing around with iMovie 09 to produce a holiday DVD and have been having a few problems with the audio... Having looked at a number of suggested solutions I let iMovie produce a test film using my photos from Salute 2009 to see if that converted to DVD with the audio. It doesn't, but did when I uploaded the same project to You Tube (go figure...)

Anyhow if you want to see the seven odd minutes worth of photos from Salute, complete with Prog Rock backing music by Also Eden, click on the picture above! Apologies that some of the photos are slightly out of focus...