Thursday 29 September 2011

Colonial Wars Clearout At North Star

Just a brief note for those of you interested in things colonial, North Star are selling off David Bickley's three sets of colonial rules at £2.50 a set instead of the usual rrp of £11.50 to £14.00.

A Good Dusting covers the Sudan War 1884 – 1885 (and the Egyptian Revolt of 1882), Washing The Spears the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and The Devil's Wind the Indian Mutiny 1857-8.

I think the core system is basically the same from set to set, with player(s) taking the side of the British and the natives utlising an automatic generation system but at a price per set of less than a packet of sandwiches at Tesco's I thought it worth taking a punt on all three (I'd had my eye on the Mutiny ones for a while but, fortunately in light of the offer, forgot to pick them up at Colours).

Click here to order.

Warhammer 40K Lore In A Minute...

Monday 26 September 2011

Athenian Hoplites

It seems to have taken forever but I have now finished the first two hoplite phalanxes of my Athenian army for the Peloponnesian War project.

Both phalanxes are made from Immortal Miniatures excellent plastic hoplite boxes, mixing the original Ancient Greek Hoplite box with the Classical Greek set and painted using the Army Painter soft tone dip. The shield iconography are all decals from Immortal who provide a sheet with each box and an additional larger sheet which you can buy (but they gave away at Salute if you bought three boxes).

Personally I am unconvinced by the brightness of some wargamers hoplite armies with pure white linen and shining gold armour so I went for a slightly more grubby look relying on the horse plumes and shields for the splashes of colour. I also broke with tradition on the bases and used Vallejo Midstone as the base colour rather than GW Bestial Brown before drybrushing with Bleached Bone and adding some patches of flock to give the bases a more Aegean look...

Overall fairly pleased with them and keen to get the third phalanx done and the smaller veteran unit whilst the motivation is there.

Friday 23 September 2011

Hop(lite)ing Mad!!!!

The 'Curse of The Foggy Varnish' hit one of the phalanxes and despite urgent attempts to rectify the problem I ended up spending most of my lunchtime painting over the messed up brighter colours, spears and metalwork on the entire unit to bring them up to a vaguely useable standard. Why the varnish fogged I don't know as I used the same can on the separately painted shields just fifteen minutes earlier, must be a curse. The other unit varnished fine with a second can I had so it couldn't have been the weather or whatever. It is so arbitrary it is really frustrating...

Anyhow, they are coming along; movement trays made, just need to put the decals on the shields (tomorrow) and do the basing and that'll be a good chunk of the Athenians done. Also I've learnt (the hard way) some tricks on  how to go about painting them so hope the final main unit and smaller veteran unit won't take as long...

Monday 19 September 2011

Scupper Me For A Dreadfleet Else!

On International Talk Like A Pirate Day* it seems appropriate to ponder GW's latest limited edition offering Dreadfleet that they announced on Saturday. The internet is awash with fanboys and anti-fanboys waxing lyrical about the pros and cons many exhibiting amazing degrees of idiocy or prejudice or both, so as I had to pop into the office today I popped into my local GW to have a look at a copy in the flesh - except they haven't got one, and won't be getting one until release date on 1st October (and maybe not even then).
I then made the mistake of trying to talk to the GW Red Shirt who didn't know what Man O'War was let alone how the game mechanics in Dreadfleet compared (or even worked) or even the size of the models ("there's a picture on the website of a ship next to a figure"). After clearly failing on every level of competence he then asked if I wanted to reserve a copy of the game (quite...).
So I'm left pondering, £70 is a lot of money but the box does look chock full of useful stuff and whilst the miniatures appear to be very large compared to Man O'War models this might not be a crucial issue as it is fantasy and the largest 10cm ship is supposed to have a cathedral on the back so it is BIG. I was 75% convinced when I noticed Wayland were flogging it for £63 but adding the £6 postage on takes it back up to practically RRP. I considered the option of combining an order with David Manley which would have saved just under a fiver each on the RRP, but Wayland are now restricting it to one per customer as GW will only let them have 12 so that is a dead end savings wise...
So it's back to pondering and back to the hoplites who are now dipped and looking good, the shields were dipped tonight and are drying. Unfortunately I have to go to Bolton for a couple of days so no more work until I get back but hopefully a fair sea and clear skies at the weekend might see them finished before the end of the month!
Anyhow as it is  International Talk Like A Pirate Day* here is some Pirate Metal to set your cutlasses waving (ok the music is really crap on this one but you have got to check the stage costumes out, I couldn't stop laughing, the shark is brilliant!)

* it was Pretend To Be A Dinosaur Day on Saturday, missed a trick there for a good old dinosaur post... :-(

Saturday 17 September 2011

Alternate Realities

Whilst the two Athenian phalanxes are proceeding slowly but surely (the insides of the shields are currently drying) I have been catching up on my reading pile, a paper mountain that rivals the lead and plastic mountains!

Recent titles include the first two Oathsworn books by Robert Low, The Whale Road and  The Wolf Sea, the first of Jack Campbell's new Lost Fleet series, Dreadnaught, and I'm now immersed in the fourth of Alex Scarrow's young adult Time Rider series.

Alex Scarrow (brother of Simon) has wriiten four books in the series centred around a team of three young people rescued from the point of death by a mysterious stranger to work for a secret time agency (who they have no contact with), tasked with protecting the timeline from change and fixing time slips that occur.

For young adult books they are certainly well written and hugely enjoyable and the concepts Scarrow covers superb. The first in the series, Time Riders deals with changes that occur during WW2 but has two timeslips that will appeal to Weird War Two fans and post-apocalyptic zombie ones.

Book two, Day of the Predator, is a bit Jurassic Park but has enough going for it and develops well as it progresses.

The Doomsday Code, book three, concerns itself with the mysterious Voynich Manuscript and the dispute between Prince John and King Richard fresh back from the Crusades (and questions the historical picture of both).

The fourth one of the series, that I am currently reading, The Eternal War, is set during a timeslip that has resulted in an American Civil War that has lasted over one hundred years and is a wonderful C21st Steampunk world with giant zeppelins,  land ironclads, eugenic creations  etc. all great inspiration for VSF wargamers (some of the historical points of divergence are quite interesting as well).

Overall, despite being young adult books, if you are young at heart I think you'll enjoy these and they are great to share with any children in the family. All have tons of gaming ideas, especially for skirmish games, to boot.

Monday 12 September 2011

The Coffee Table Rules Dilemma

Colours 2011 was a bit of a wake up call for me, where the recent trend in wargames rules production of full colour hard back books was brought into stark relief with the contents of my wallet! Over the years we all have been very critical of Games Workshop's pricing policies* but now it seems the everyone and his dog has jumped on the bandwagon and new sets of wargames rules now routinely cost between £20 and £30, sometimes more when you start to factor in additional materials such as card decks, special dice etc, and that's before you get to the miniatures.

MERCS was the one that caused the sharp intake of breath at the weekend. A reasonable little game, nothing extraordinary but £30 for the full colour hardback rulebook, £6 per faction game deck and £7 per miniature, All in all over £100 for a five miniature a side skirmish game...

7TV caught my eye but £25 for a full colour hardback rulebook before miniatures and (given the nature of the game) dedicated scenery put me off. Yes, I know Crooked Dice give DWMG away free but did 7TV need to be a full colour hardback at £25 when it could have been a (WAB style) colour soft cover with colour insert for £10 to £12?

Then there is SAGA which sounds just perfect for what I want to do Dark Ages wise but again £25 full colour rulebook and then £12 per set of special dice (because who wants to put stickers on D6's?). Ok I already have some Vikings, Saxons and a pile of Normans in the lead mountain but I'm looking at almost £50 for the rules and dice for two factions and I'll be frank unless there is a good offer on somewhere (come on North Star) I'll probably hold off for a bit...

In "ye olden days" I bought rules sets like they were going out of fashion, often to raid for ideas. I don't know how many sets I bought of A5 one colour card cover sets from Tabletop Games but whilst many didn't get played they contained ideas that could be used in home made sets or added to others (Pony Wars was a favourite, the Indian activation system worked well for Orcs in games of WHFB second edition...). But the low cost rules producer is now appears to be a thing of the past which to my mind is a shame as we lose sight of the fact that the product isn't the physical paper but the ideas inside...

The question is the what is the need for the superlative production values, are we all now being seduced by the "ooh shiny" syndrome? Taking MERCS for example, the product description on the website tells you (very) little about the rules but regarding the production values (and I quote): "Spot UV varnishing on a hard gloss lamination cover, 176 four color pages on 157 gsm matte art paper, Case bound, Smyth sewn, Over 100 artist illustrations and 221 full color photos!" Hold on are we losing perspective here? Ok, we don't necessarily want to return to the days of badly typed, photocopied old school rules of the 1980's but "157 gsm matte art paper" and "Spot UV varnishing" (whatever that is)?

The other question is padding. Take Bull Run To Gettysburg, the rules are only 38 pages of the 160 full colour pages and some of those 38 pages are 3/4 illustration and this is not unusual (if the game of MERCS we played was representative I'd guess you could get those rules on two sides - ok, there are probably 'advanced' rules, but the core system is nearly a bag of a fag packet job).

Yes you can argue that in the grand scheme of things £25 is not too much compared to going for a Chinese takeaway or the cinema and certainly the enjoyment of you play a number of games is more lasting, but I'm leaning towards the view that I'd happily buy three or four nicely produced sets at £10 to £15 that I may or may not play very often than gamble on one at £30 that costs that much more just because it looks pretty. And really if you want something to leave on the coffee table in the living room to impress visitors surely you'd pick some pretentious volume on modern art than a book about toy soldiers? :-)

* GW are taking the coffee table production to beyond the extreme, the current WHFB hardback is so thick and heavy it is to my mind unusable. I don't know if Saul has opened his copy unlike the well thumbed A5 paperback rulebook that came in the starter set...

Saturday 10 September 2011

Colours 2011 (or The Case Of The Mysteriously Closed Wallet)

Saul and I went to Colours at Newbury today, normally a show which has an adverse impact on my finances but strangely not so today. I've been looking forward to going for a while now but didn't have much of a spending plan other than possibly getting some ACW artillery for the forthcoming ACW project. I had spent some time perusing the Perry Miniatures website and left quite enthused to buy some 12-pounders, maybe some dismounted cavalry and horse holders and even the outside chance of a wheeled ambulance. In the end I didn't buy any of this largely due to the fact that Dave Thomas only had one artillery pack in the ACW racks which had gaping holes in so I didn't see much point buying a small part of what I wanted...

The only (yes only) purchase was a copy of Grindhouse Games Incursion from West Wind which was on sale for £15 from its normal £35. I had considered buying it for Saul last Christmas and as it's his birthday next week and he likes WWW2 I splashed the cash on this. There were a couple of things that caught my eye including some resin nice craters with sandbags from one company that would have been good for 40k but didn't look like they would quite allow a heavy weapons base to be placed inside but overall there was nothing that screamed "ooh shiny" at me and two things I would have bought, Gripping Beasts' new Saga rules and the new Clash of Empires supplement, were not available yet (both due to be released in the next week apparently, did no one check the show diary and miss the big show?).

However as I wasn't spending money I did have more time to look at the games and even play a couple. First off Saul and I tried out MERCS, a SF skirmish game West Wind are importing. It was quite fun using character cards to not only show stats and rules but also as the measure for figure movement. Fun though it was the £30 price tag for an, admittedly nice, rule book was too rich for my taste (especially as you still needed to but the card decks at £6 a faction and miniatures at £7 each (I thought they were £7 for three which I thought was a bit steep and only realised this was the price per individual miniature (gulp!) when I checked the website when I got home.

We also managed to play Tusk in 28mm put on by Lincombe Barn which was so popular with the punters we didn't get on the table until quite late in the afternoon. We both had a lot of fun playing Tusk, it is a while since I played it, and Saul's surviving bowman with a haul of two mammoths and two babies saw him crowned king (I'd got off to a great two mammoth start but a saber-tooth and ferocious baby mammoth wiped out my small hunting party!).

There were a number of other good games, Hammerin' Iron was very popular and we didn't get a chance to play and I was personally impressed with the War and Conquest Peloponnesian War game for obvious reasons. The big VBCW battle caught my eye and intrigued Saul as he is studying the inter-war period in GCSE History and there was a big Isandlwana display that looked good but really if you ae going to make a huge mountain, paint that many toy soldiers and lug it all to a show why don't you play with it?

As usual I've run all the photos I took today through iMovie and added some prog to it...

Friday 9 September 2011

Bull Run To... Marathon

Having sent most of the week in Northern Ireland working in the fair, but rather wet, city of Derry I haven't managed any progress on the painting front but returned to find a nice pile of post including the new Foundry ACW Rules and the Ancient Warfare 2011 Special.

As previously mentioned I got a really good deal on Bull Run To Gettysburg and having given them a quick read they seem to be the sort of game I was looking for to make use of the pile of Perry plastics I bought in a fit of "ohh shiny" when the first plastics were released a few years back. At the time I planned to use the Lardies ACW rules but couldn't get my head round them. BRTG is much more old school, handfuls of D6 and what looks like an enjoyable game in a couple of hours. I suppose ACW perfectionists won't like them but they'll do me and now I have an incentive to paint the pile of plastics so look forward to an ACW month coming soon...

The production qualities are really top notch and much better than my only other experience of Foundry production values, Medieval Warfare. The rules only comprise 40 pages of the 160 page book and most pages have lovely colour pictures of beautifully painted Foundry ACW miniatures, the rest being a mix of painting guides, army lists, scenery construction, potted history, copiable flags etc.

Overall if the ACW is your pet period you'll probably not like this and I'm sure ACW buffs will be able to pick historical holes in the rules. However if you of an old school mind, like the idea of buying a few boxes of plastics and having some fun brigade level blue v the gray games then I think you'll like this.

My other reading material that the nice postman delivered was the Ancient Warfare 2011 special on the Battle of Marathon. Having flirted with the Society of Ancients for one year I have found Ancient Warfare magazine a much more enjoyable and unpretentious window into the period.

The annual specials are always well done and this one is no exception covering the build up to the battle, the historical records and the battle itself in a detailed, but easily readable series of articles (with I suspect enough footnotes and references to keep the more dedicated happy).

Whilst I really have no interest in raising a Persian army after I finish (hah!) the Athenians and Spartans largely due to the amount of miniatures I'd have to paint, it's still been interesting reading...

Friday 2 September 2011

Our War: Ten Years In Afghanistan

A few months back I posted about a National Geographic documentary called Restrepo: Outpost Afghanistan about a US army unit's tour of duty in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, today I watched the first of a three part BBC series about British troops in Afghanistan entitled Our War.

Interestingly most of the footage is filmed by the actual troops on the ground and this episode, entitled Ambushed, was largely filmed by Sergeant Simon Planter, Platoon Sergeant of the 3rd Platoon 1st Royal Anglians.

For the most part it centres on their deployment at Now Zad in the north of Hemand province and focuses on their first offensive mission against the Taliban which unfortunately results in the death of 19-year-old Private Chris Gray, the 53rd British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.

The BBC often gets criticised these days (sometimes by myself) but this 70 minute documentary is exceptionally well done and a moving tribute to Chris Gray. The programme intersperses interviews with his o/c, platoon colleagues and family with footage filmed by his platoon sergeant and intelligent use of maps and computer graphics.

My only criticism of the BBC is their failure to show it on BBC One at 9pm on a Saturday night as a fitting tribute to the brave men and women serving their country in Afghanistan...

 The series is being released on DVD later in the year but I have found it posted on You Tube here, along with the next two episodes in the series, for anyone who missed it on TV.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Bargains From Bull Run To, Er... Botswana!

I've had a quite productive day today on the old Greek Hoplite front working on two of the three Athenian phalanxes for the Peloponnesian War project but as they are still works in progress on I thought I'd tip you the wink on some bargains at Amazon that might float your boat...

First off is the new Armies of the Nineteenth Century, Central Africa by Chris Peers. £30 from Foundry you can pick it up for £17.67 plus £2.80 postage from Amazon if you get a move on...

Also from Foundry is their new set of American Civil War rules, Bull Run To Gettysburg, £25 at Foundry, just £13.12 plus £2.80 postage from Amazon. I availed myself of a set as I still have a large pile of Perry plastics waiting for some blue and grey paint one day and a set of rules...

And the sage wisdom and savings from Bleaseworld does not end there, no, here is one that gets you things for free!

Those of you that shop in Sainsbury's probably have a Nectar card but even if (like me) you don't shop their regularly* go register at Nectar for one (and if you have a card register it online). Why? Well as you will see from the website hundreds of online shops give you Nectar points including (wait for it!) Amazon AND eBay! Yes, all those second hand wargames goodies you buy on eBay and hide from SWMBO could be earning points that you can convert into vouchers to buy useful things like beer (or chocolates or wine if you have a SWMBO).  Not doing it is like throwing free money away...

Yes it's a slow process but it all adds up over the year and it just requires you to log on via the Nectar site which becomes second nature very quickly (and I can tell you SWMBO Blease is very happy with the way her Nectar points have gone up this year!)

* I don't but can recommend the odd treat for yourself in the form of their Big Bacon Breakfast Butty once in a while if you have been good (and yes buying the butty qualifies you for even more points!)