Tuesday 31 August 2010

Victorian Gothic

Whilst painting up presents for son and heir I try and make sure I have something else on the go to explain away the hours locked away in the games room. So, in between painting some odds and sods for a forthcoming birthday (15! Where does the time go?) I took the opportunity to paint up some Victorian characters I picked up at Salute last year.

I have for some time fancied playing some Victorian horror games but have never got around to it. I even drew up plans for a conversion of Voyages Extraordinares which would have been called Victorian Gothic and had Bill Thornhill sculpt some armed bobbies (as at that time no one did armed Victorian police).

The idea has resurfaced in my head whilst reading the Pax Britannia books from Abaddon and they inspired me to dig out and paint the Holmes and Watson characters I purchased off Ironclad Miniatures last year. These are lovely sculpts and based on the actors who played the characters in the Jeremy Brett series.

Holmes was something of a challenge as the photos of Brett in this costume show it to be all black. Luckily I'd picked up a tip off the web recently about mixing Kommando Khaki into black to lighten it but keep it "warm" and I think this has worked well. The Watson character is painted in a light brown/beige outfit similar to one in the TV series (both should be wearing gloves but I liked the bare flesh contrast). The excellent bases are from Fenris Games and really help set the figures off without detracting from them.

I also painted up three Victorian police to go with them. There are four in the Wessex Games set but for some reason I was short the shotgun armed constable in this particular set. As with Holmes and Watson I removed the intergral bases and fixed them to Fenris resin ones.

Painting sources proved a bit of a bind (which IIRC was the case when I painted my first set a few years back) and I am not 100% sure whether to paint the white stripes on the left cuff (it either donates they are on duty, or on traffic duty...). Whatever, I was pleased with how they came out so quickly and they fit in nicely with the Ironcald figures. All I need now is a Spring Heel'd Jack and we're away...

Sunday 29 August 2010

A Coward's Tale

My WWI plane building has come to a bit of a halt due to my inability to be anything like organised. Having run out of white undercoat I decided to buy some from the local (RC) model shop rather than drive into town. Wallet £10 lighter I ended up with a can that gave a very rough finish. Ok for tanks but not for 1/144th planes, 28mm soldiers or SWMBO's garden pixies she now wants me to paint (!) Picking up a can of GW spray yesterday (wallet another £8 lighter) I sat down last night to find I was pretty mcu out of the brass rod I use for plane struts (and as I want to do a Voisin next I am going to need a fair bit). I have managed to paint some test pieces for the Grande War in Hyboria project, have started on some Victoriania figures (Holmes, Watson and some police) and need to paint something up for Saul's birthday in a couple of weeks (probably something small and stunty).

The main reason for the post is to tell you about the latest book I've read, James Delingpole's Coward At The Bridge. I'd read the first in the series, Coward On The Beach, about D-Day, earlier in the year and quite enjoyed it but the second book, set around Market Garden is to my mind much superior and enjoyable. The books have been described as a WW2 Flashman which isn't correct, Dick Coward is not a cad and a coward, just very unfortunate despite his often brave unrecognised actions (or his badly misinterpreted ones). A bit 'Boys Own' in parts but enough realism and recognition that war isn't a game to balance, I'm certainly looking forward to the forthcoming Coward In The Woods and the other promised seven (which I hope includes Coward's adventures on the Eastern Front serving with the Germans!)

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Terry Wise - My Wargames Hero

I've just read on TMP the sad news that Terry Wise passed away on the 17th of this month and his funeral is tomorrow. Like many wargamers of a certain age Terry Wise will have been one of the "wise men" of wargaming in their formative years, indeed for me, if it had not been for Terry, I may not have discovered wargaming and a hobby that has formed such a major part of my life.

I was for much of my youth an avid collector plastic kits (mainly tanks) and HO/OO Airfix soldiers and whilst I "played" with them (well created huge temporary dioramas) in my bedroom it was Terry's Observation Post column in Military Modelling that introduced me to the concept of playing 'proper' games with them when it took over Battle For Wargamers in 1977.

I loved this column and his inspiring wargames articles (I still want to make an Atlantic Wall games table from one article he wrote in an Airfix annual...). He was my wargames hero and he will be missed.

Friday 20 August 2010

The Grande Age of Hyboria

The HaT Napoleonic figures I ordered have turned up and I am quite taken with them. They are a bit slender but are reasonably well detailed and look the part. Consequently (and despite other projects) I am going to launch a C19th imagi-nation project set in Hyboria.

This will probably be a slow burner but might help me get back on track with the 10mm Conan army as well. As part of the project I've created a new blog, The Grande Age of Hyboria, which, if you are interested, I hope you will join.

Never In The Field Of Human Conflict...

Lest we forget...

Monday 16 August 2010

The Naga Queen

Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of VJ-Day and coincidentally I spent a good part of the evening "googling" an intriguing story from the Burma campaign.

Ursula Graham Bower was a 30 year old former debutante who led a group of Naga headhunters as a Captain in V Force during WW2 despite having no formal military training. Her story is quite amazing (as is much of V Force's) and she became so well respected she was given command of a Gurkha unit as well as Assam Rifles troops and other Nepalese soldiers in addition to her ill-armed Naga (the Americans loved he so much they wrote a comic book about her!)

Aside from this article from the Daily Mail, I also found a site with nearly 700 photos she took of the Naga and their homeland which are very interesting even if only a few are of a military subject matter.

Her book The Naga Path (published 1950) seems to be worth hunting down to find out more and 'Bower Force', as her unit was called, would certainly make an interesting and unusual WW2 unit.

Hansa-Brandenburg W.29

Also finished last night, my Reviresco Hansa-Brandenburg W.29, which as you can see presented quite a challenge painting wise due to the rather complex Imperial German Navy camo pattern, which makes the Luftstreitkräfte's lozenge schemes positively pedestrian... Ok, I didn't paint the pattern, the upper surfaces are decals from Reviresco which presented a challenge all of their own but I think we can all agree looks pretty darn good.

The Hansa-Brandenburg W.29 was a late war mono-seaplane fighter that saw service over the North Sea and one I could not resist when I saw the Reviresco model. The floatplane assembly was a bit tricky and I only used brass rod on the outer struts, using the white metal ones provided for the ones between the floats.

Reviresco provide all over decals for a number of their models including this, but I was somewhat perplexed on how to achieve a good result wrapping a decal around the fuselage etc, so in the end I painted the model a kind of sea-grey and cut the patterned parts of the decal sheet off and used them separately over a white background (unlike Dom's Decals, these do not have any white and must be used over a white undercoat. The crosses on the side of the model are from Dom.

Overall, really pleased with the end result and currently this is my favourite of my AirWar: 1918 collection. Next, after the AEG, possibly French or Italians...

Junkers D.I

A bit of decal frenzy last night saw me complete the Reviresco Junkers D.I, the first all metal fighter plane to enter service in 1918. The Junkers apparently lacked the maneuverability to be a frontline fighter in 1918 so was passed to the Navy and the 12 produced were deployed the Eastern Front following the 1918 armistice. Whilst it had limited use in WWI, it is such a nice looking design that it would make a great fighter for Inter-War imagi-nation wars if one was so inclined.

The Reviresco model is another nice one and was easy to put together. I couldn't find a lot of information on the correct camo scheme so have followed the pattern used by a number of aircraft modelers after a bout of Google-fu. Optionally I could have gone for an all-metal finish but as I haven't cracked the skill of painting (and varnishing) all metal finishes to my satisfaction I went with the green/purple look.

The decals are the ever fantastic Dom's Decals. Unfortunately Dom is between printers and the 1/144th range is temporarily out of stock, but luckily Dom still had one sheet of the later war German crosses left so I could finish the model.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Ghosts Of World War Two

You may have seen these before but I've just come across these very clever and evocative merges of WW2 photos into contemporary shots of the same locations. Just stunning...

Saturday 14 August 2010


Like many gamers of a certain age I've always had a soft spot for the imaginary C18th wars played out by the likes of Charles Grant, but never have taken the plunge mainly due to cost. The new plastic releases from the likes of Victrix and Perry's make a C19th black powder imaginary war possible, but I have been quite taken by HaT's 28mm hard plastic releases. They are more slender compared to the other companies 'wargames standards' but to my mind that gives them a kind of Stadden/old toy soldier look (and they can paint up nice as shown by this photo from their website).

Whilst the Victrix and Perry plastics are very good value for money, the HaT ones are even cheaper. A quick search on eBay has brought boxes of 48 figures up for as little as £7.95, that's just 16p a figure. Consequently I've taken the plunge and bought a couple of boxes to have a look at and see if this is an idea worth pursuing.

For this potential project I am thinking about pinching an old idea from Tony Bath and use Hyboria from Robert E. Howard's Conan books as a ready made imaginary world but we'll see...

Friday 13 August 2010

Lohner Over The Adriatic

Unfortunately it has been one of those weeks this week and I have not managed to progress anything much very far, though the Hansa W.29 and Junkers are a step closer to completion. Fortunately I have managed to add a new model to the AirWar: 1918 collection in the form of a lovely Austro-Hungarian Navy Lohner L flying boat.

The model is a pre-paint "toy" from a company called SORA and was picked up from a trader in Hong Kong via eBay. Dom Skelton kindly put me onto this and advised that whilst the model is not quite 1/144th it is good enough for wargames purposes. With a repaint it could see service as an Imperial German Navy Hansa-Brandenburg FB or an Italian Navy Macchi L.1 (both copies of the Lohner, the Macchi with a different engine and armament).

I think most of you will agree it is a nice looking model and a pleasant change from Sopwith Camels and Fokker Dr.1's.

Friday 6 August 2010

Abaddon All Hope...

In between things this week I have managed to make some small progress on wargames matters. I now have three battalions (of nine) for a 6mm German infantry brigade for Élan fully painted and 1/144th Hansa-Brandenberg W.29 seaplane and Junkers D.1 monoplane fighter for AirWar: 1918 stuck together awaiting paint (with an AEG G.IV part way done). Photos of these soon, I am hoping to get the W.29 finished over the weekend.

Unfortunately a post-op hospital visit this week did not provide me with a clear prognosis but the prospect of at least one op (if not more). Nothing life threatening but it does drag you down... Whilst waiting around for consultations and pre-op assessments I managed to plow my way through most of Jonathan Green's Unnatural History, the first in Abaddon Books' Pax Britannia steampunk series.

Abaddon are for all intents and purposes producing pulp novels for today's readers and Unnatural History is a steampunk pulp book, high on entertainment and derring-do and less so on classic literature (not that it is meant to be). I must confess to being a bit of a VSF purist and prefer period fiction to modern pastiches but this was marketed as a light hearted fun read and I enjoyed it as such. It could have done with a good editor (twice a chapter ends with the main character yelling "the game's afoot!") and there is a dreadful continuity error where the bad guy fires a pistol at our hero and when we rejoin the action a couple of pages later the hero dodges the bad guys knife! This aside I did enjoy the book and would recommend it as a light hearted read full of Victoriana cliches and a possible fun Steampunk background to game in. The next one of the Pax Britannia series is sat waiting me to finish...

Black Hand Gang by Pat Kelleher, the first in Abaddon's new No Man's World series, the concept of which is similar to William R. Forstchen's Lost Regiment series, this time with a WW1 British unit ending up on an alien world (certainly an interesting gaming concept and probably easier to do than The Lost Regiment). About a third of the way in it's not grabbed me yet, there are too many characters to start with and the WW1 scenes are rather cliched, but we've just ended up on the alien planet so hopefully things will gather pace from now on. Interestingly both Pax Britannia and No Man's World have their own blogs, which you can access here and here respectively.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

On Basilisk Station And More Great (Free) Stuff

Following on from the great Kindle revelation of yesterday I recalled a while back that US SF publisher Baen had sample chapters (and indeed whole books) online. A quick Google later and I found the Baen Free Library with the first books of many popular SF series, including On Basilisk Station, the first of the excellent Honor Harrington stories. I'm happy as I've always fancied reading Eric Flint's 1632 and here it is (with 1633, the second in the series).

It appears there are many useful sites with free Kindle e-books (indeed I got a bit enthusiastic downloading old G.A.Hentry historical novels last night from Amazon.com themselves) so a bit of Google-Fu is time well spent.

Monday 2 August 2010

Astounding Stories And Other Great (Free) Stuff

Bit of a domino day today as things fell into place for something that is more than a little useful. Amazon UK have been pushing the launch of the new Kindle e-book, personally I want an iPad but I decided to look at what it did for SWMBO who doesn't want the bells and whistles iPad but might appreciate something she could read all the old books she loves on Project Gutenberg like the Scarlet Pimpernel and Sherlock Holmes (or Raffles which she is currently reading).

Checking formats it seems Gutenberg (and a number of other sites) do free e-books in mobi format (what Kindle uses) so I investigated further checking out a number of 19th century detective books before broadening my search to Edgar Rice Burroughs then seeing what science fiction books Gutenburg had (it seems quite a lot). Amongst the books were some electronic versions of the Astounding Stories short story magazine from 1930 and 31 which looked interesting.

Back to seeing how the Kindle worked I noticed that you could download for free a Kindle reader for your Mac or PC (or iPad!), so interested to see if it worked I downloaded the Mac version and a couple of Astounding Stories and it all works fine. Ok, it is landscape rather than the portrait format of a Kindle or iPad, but the nice things is that the programme adjusts the document to landscape so you don't need to scroll up and down like you do with PDF's just click to the next page when you've read the one you are on.

As it's all free, I'd recommend checking it out, even if you only have a laptop or desk PC, there is a lot of interesting stuff at Gutenberg and this makes it a damn sight easier to read on a computer...