Thursday, April 17, 2014

A host of possibilities...denied!

Today the Old Bat's Easter present turned up.  Normally I would give her a chocolate egg but, increasingly chocolate and coffee are making her go strange(r).  This is what comes of living on coffee Complan and Slim Fast because you are too idle to prepare a proper meal.  Given her mother has been on a pacemaker for years because of irregular heartbeat you would have thought that she would have eschewed anything that gives her palpitations but no, you would do better reasoning with Kim Jong Un.  So it's a shed this year, to put all her rubbish in. 

Now I had no interest in the tedious shed until the happy chaps from Norfolk turned up to assemble it on the ludicrously expensive concrete foundation I had put in a couple of weeks ago.   My daughter Charlotte had recently adopted this concrete apron and had taken to sitting on it in the sunshine once she woke up (i.e. at about 3.00pm).  She thought it might be an excellent site to launch her rockets from in a sort of Oxshott version of Launch Pad 39A.

But no, today the men from Norfolk soon got the shed up.  Here it is just before I left for a meeting in London this afternoon.  Having walked around inside it I suddenly had delusions of being Eric the Shed.  I could set up a table!  And store scenery!  After all I had paid for the thing!  Sadly it is not to be and tomorrow we will start filling it with all the junk from the garage which is being demolished to make way for the extension (another expensive present for my wife).  However, we have a big garden and maybe over the other side...  One day...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"We're gonna need a lot more men"...and paint! Very big scenery arrives!

Now, The Legatus knows he should spend a lot more time on preparing scenery for his (largely potential) games.  The recent completion of the Roman Galley for Big Red Bat's game had got me thinking about doing some more scenic items so I could, perhaps, put on a game at Guildford (I always seem to join other peoples games).  I did, once, put on  a Lord of the Rings game at Guildford and provided a cloth, trees and hedges and even a building or two from my Dark Ages collection but that was very much a one off.

For the Lord of the Rings games I used to have with my son we did actually have enough trees hills and what have you, plus the Forge World Weathertop which conveniently broke down into pieces which could be used separately.

Latterly, I have really been enjoying painting my Boot Hill Miniatures Mexicans but really if you are going to paint Mexicans you have got to think about having a bit of the Alamo to fight over.  I wondered about how hard it would be to make a wall or too.  Then, while researching pictures of the Alamo I came across the insanity that is the Hudson & Allen Studio complete Alamo.  No, surely not!  Unfortunately, me looking at it coincided to the day with a new contract at work.   Reward time!  In not much longer than the time it took for Santa Anna to besiege the Alamo itself, a very big box indeed arrived from Vatican Enterprises, Wargames Scenics in Michigan. 

While intellectually I knew that this was going to be a big item when I laid it out on the floor it really is massive (about 4' by 5').  Forget your Warlord Games Rorke's Drift, or Pegasus Bridge this is real wargames scenery.  The problem, peering down on it, is that I realise that a few dozen figures are not going to be able to attack it and 18 (at my current ratio of 1/10) are not going to be able to defend it.  More thoughts on this will follow on my new Americas Wargaming blog  in due course.  I'm also going to need a lot of paint!  "You'll need a bigger brush!" as my son, rightly said. 

Now I have to paint it! One piece at a time, as Mr Johnny Cash once said.  So do I start with a big piece or a small piece?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A few more thoughts on Salute 2014

I've enjoyed looking at other blogger's pictures of Salute, not least because I always miss something when walking around and this year I walked around the place at least two and a half times but still missed stuff (like all the IHMN games  - and I was positively looking for those!).  The different versions of the queue is the image of Salute this year, though!  There have been many comments good and bad about the show so I'm going to offer a few of my own on some of the most common topics.

The Queue

Needless to say, there were many whingers on The Miniatures Page (it really, really is starting to annoy me!) moaning about the queue.  I went earlier than usual to give me time to set up my galley for Big Red Bat's invasion of Britain game but ended up getting in not much earlier than if I had gone at my usual time, which is about 11.15.  It seems obvious to me that if you turn up for the opening time of an event with limited entrances, volunteer staff and thousands of visitors you are going to be in a queue.  Who actually needs to be there at 10.00?  Do people really spend the full day there?  Maybe they do. 

S in 1987,  Fit!

In fact, I have to confess that I disappeared from the show at about quarter past one for an hour or so to have lunch with an ex-girlfriend who was registering for the marathon.  I had run into her, coincidentally, two years ago outside Salute 2012.  "You're not still playing with toy soldiers are you?" was her opening line.  She didn't run last year but we agreed to meet up this year.  I didn't fancy any of the food from the nasty looking kiosks in the hall (and there was no chance of a seat this year) so we escaped from the building to one of those weird chain pubs whose name escapes me.  

The food of champions!

I was starving, having not had any breakfast, so ordered a healthily sustaining lunch while S (not the S from Vancouver, this is another one - I did tend to go out with women who all shared the same first name a lot.  Usefully.) pigged out on asparagus and mushroom tagliatelle. Why is it so many women are going vegetarian? The (rather lovely) waitresses were somewhat overwhelmed in the restaurant (I'm too old to queue at bars) of the pub (goodness there must be a big event on this weekend.  It's completely taken us by surprise!  Again.) so S asked me to order while she nipped off to the ladies.  Now, having not been running properly for twenty years I didn't think and ordered a bottle of Australian rose.  Of course she couldn't have any so I just had to drink the whole bottle on my own.  Anyway,  S, sadly, had to go to stay with her friends in Blackheath for the start the next day, so having wished her luck and patted her on the bottom for luck (several times - she always did have a pert posterior and has retained it to a remarkably pliant degree) I sat and finished the wine while planning what I needed to go back and look at again at Salute.

Too many games are moving dioramas

On my second lap of the show I was less worried about the traders (I was less worried about anything after a bottle of pink wine) and looked at the games instead.  Now one of the other critical comments I have seen about the show from several people is that many games were just moving dioramas and not proper games at all.  Personally I actually like the "moving dioramas" and even the non moving ones (which are, perhaps, more of an issue) as I find them very inspirational. Perhaps because I am more of a painter I respond more to the visual look of games (and indeed figures) than the gaming aspect. I'm actually not very good at gaming!  I'd rather see beautifully painted figures on lovingly made scenery not being played with than a game actually being played on a green cloth and using those weird stepped hills that some gamers seem to like.  I know they are probably very practical but I have always believed that art should triumph over practicality.

That's how to invite participation!

People at the display games were not that friendly and should have been inviting participation more.  

Hmm.  This begs the question as to why people run games at Salute.  I don't think it's necessarily the role of Salute games to recruit people into the hobby.  Not The Hobby (TM) of course.  Indeed, where has the Nottingham behemoth gone at shows?  They used to always have the biggest stand.  Maybe they are waiting for a report from their new store inspector general, who they were trying to recruit a few months ago.  I keep imagining a crisply suited young lady with horn-rimmed glasses, a bun and a clipboard inspecting each store but that's probably just wishful thinking.

I would guess that most people run a game to give themselves, as a club, a joint project that many people can work on together and have the satisfaction of bringing it all together.  Increasingly too, there are the "sponsored" games which are being used to publicise a set of figures, rules or, increasingly, scenic items.  That said, Big Red Bat's Roman invasion game clearly publicised start times for the three games being run and had a list on which people could sign up to the games.  Very organised.  Simon (the Bat himself) was also excellent at engaging casual visitors in conversation about the game, as I witnessed myself.   Personally, I can't imagine anything worse than sitting down with a bunch of people I don't know and attempting to play a game I have never played before but obviously that's what some people are after.  It would also eat into my shopping time!

The display games weren't as good this year

Well, I think that may depend on what periods you are interested in, perhaps.  The big D-Day game looked impressive and I know that was the theme of the day but another D-Day game?  D-Day landings, Pegasus Bridge, Stalingrad all seem to come around with monotonous regularity.  I liked the game which consisted of an assault on what looked like a French chateau.  That was a bit different.  Maybe there were a few less showstoppers this year.

Carpet tile games

Further to the above,this year there seemed to be a lot of games played on small boards about three foot by three foot; no doubt due to the increasing popularity of skirmish games.  These small board games did give off more of a "it's just the two of us and don't bother us" vibe but the quality of scenery on some was impressive.  I was quite intrigued by this approach, I have to say, and it all seems a lot more achievable.

It's all trade stands and you can see everything you need on the internet

Most of the criticisms I have highlighted here are arguable, I admit, but I take issue with this one.  There is no substitute for seeing a product in real life,  For a start cameras quite often distort figures' proportions and I am very fussy (on the whole) about anatomy.  It is also impossible to tell the height of a figure from one range compared with another.  I quite often go around shows with  a pocket of figures so I can actually compare them with ones I am contemplating buying.  For example, I decided not to buy any Indian Mutiny figures from one manufacturer because the size of the figures was inconsistent within the range.  I hate that!  You couldn't have told that from the internet.  Equally, I often see something that I haven't seen before, despite following TMP and Wargame News and Terrain.  This year it was a book on Napoleons German Division in Spain.  Thirdly, if you are buying scenery or a lot of metal figures you can save significantly on postage.

It was darker than last year

This was the longest time I spent at Salute and I was there from about 11.00 until about 15.45 and (lunch break excepted) by then had had enough of the terrible lighting.  This was the first time I remembered to bring my glasses, otherwise I would have had no chance of reading the plan.  My photographs show how bad the light was with moving people blurred, as the camera cuts the shutter speed to compensate.  I used to work in the Lloyd's of London building and that had a similar diffuse light situation which got really tiring by the end of the day.  ExCeL makes great play of the fact that it has cut its lighting energy use by 74% by using different light bulbs.  Green issues are leading us into a world of Stygian gloom!

The concrete floor was very tiring on the legs

Well, it certainly was.  I will wear trainers next year, for sure.  However, the cost of hiring carpet for events like this is about £6 per square metre.  Can you imagine how much that would add to the cost of Salute?

There were more people/less people than last year

I thought it was more crowded but I have seen opinions either way.  Only the Warlords know.  It would be interesting if they gave out attendance figures but event organisers always tend to closely guard these as they have commercial implications.

It was smelly

I have never, I have to say, noticed that wargamers smell worse than other people, despite the constant comments that they do.  Maybe this is an urban myth (like we are all enormously fat).  Some, maybe, but the vast majority are not.  The key smell at Salute this year was, as Giles rightly identified, the smell of laser-cut wood.  Frankly, it smells like rotting fish.

I guess everyone looks for different things in a show like this and you can't keep everyone happy but South London Warlords do an excellent job, on the whole, in running such a big show.  It's still my favourite show, despite the issues.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Salute 2014

I've been going to Salute as often as I can manage since 1999; the last year the event was held in Kensington Town Hall,  I haven't been every year as I have missed several because of international travel but I suppose I have been to at least a dozen now.  It is now a huge event in the ExCeL centre in London's docklands and is, in fact, so large now that it is quite gruelling walking around it.

Talking of gruelling I usually aim to arrive at about 11.00am when there is no queue.  Today I wanted to get there earlier so arrived forty minutes before my usual time.  I might as well have not bothered because I just stood in the queue all that time.  They used this empty part of the building for the queue.  This is exactly the same size as the Salute area further down the building, which gives you an idea of how big it is.  The teeny, tiny people in the far distance are the ones who were organised and ordered their tickets in advance.  I didn't, because I thought I might be in Medellin, so had to queue with all the other disorganised people along the right hand wall.

ExCeL is a vast building (about 100 acres) and they also had a property exhibition on and the registration for tomorrow's London Marathon as well.  People always note the amusing contrast between skinny marathon runners and not so skinny wargamers.  Of course some evolve from one into the other.  I ran the London Marathon twice, in 1987 and 1990.  I was a 400 meter runner at school so the marathon is almost exactly 26 miles further than I can run in comfort.  In 1990 I was part of a Lloyd's of London team organised by our then chairman, who was one of Roger Bannister's pacemakers at Oxford.  He hired Zola Budd's coach for the team and he got me down to 3 hours 40 minutes.  Never again.  I reckon it took me two years to recover.  Some people are born distance runners and some are born to paint soldiers.  No doubt there are some who can do both!  Anyway, I thought ExCeL was the busiest I'd seen it today.

I also thought Salute was the busiest I'd seen it.  Nearly every stand had a pack of people in front of it.  This was the Empress stand (I bought some more of the superb new Paul Hicks WW1 British) and it was two or three deep all the time I was there.

I will leave others to display photographs of the games but I was very taken by this Albuera Peninsula game put on by Capitan Games of Spain.  A really fantastic piece of terrain that actually looked like a real landscape.

Of course, my favourite game had to be Big Red Bat's invasion of Britain one; put on in conjunction with Wargaming, Soldiers and Strategy magazine.  Not only did it have one of the nicest beach layouts I have seen but, lurking in the corner was my dreaded Roman Galley which Mr Miller (the Bat himself) has been encouraging me to finish since last summer and without whom it would still be up in my resin pile in the loft.  I must also thank Mr Mark Backhouse who provided the second Grand Manner galley for the game and lent me some of his figures to populate my decks.  More importantly, he helped me solve a number of engineering problems during construction over the last couple of weeks.

The Legatus' galley (foreground) provides cover for the disembarking elephant

He had built a proper base for his galley but his real stroke of genius was including a barge with an elephant as well.  I wish I'd put some slave girls on mine now!  He'd also done some excellent bases of troops wading ashore.  This is the first time anything I had painted has been in a game at a show.  I am now keen to get on with my Grand Manner Argo which should be a piece of baklava in comparison.  Not least because it has a moulded furled sail whereas I had to jury-rig a sail at ten o'clock last night.  Fortunately, my wife came to the rescue and flaked it properly for me so it looked much better than my original effort.  I just need to rig mine properly to finish it.  I couldn't do this because I had to transport it in pieces on public transport.

One thing that Salute is good for is spotting future items of interest.  The Perry's had some three ups of their plastic men-at-arms, which I will get for my Wars of the Roses forces.  These I knew about but I hadn't heard about the plastic Agincourt to Orleans figures.  This is a range I have been trying to resist since it first came out.  Plastic figures might drive me over the edge!  There was also  an 88 and crew for the Western Desert (trying to resist those too!)

On the Warlord stand they had draft copies of new Black Powder supplements for the American Revolution and the Sudan.  Their Zulu wars supplement was excellent so the Sudan one will be a must buy.

4Ground had a huge stand with lots of tables showing their excellent laser-cut kits.  It reeked of smoked fish, of course.  Coming soon from them are these medieval fantasy buildings.  It strikes me that these would be perfect for Transylvanian-set games of Empire of the Dead.  The roof shapes are very Romanian.

I picked up one of their Japanese buildings to go with my Ronin figures which I still intend to get on with this year.    It will be interesting to see how I get on with the dreaded teddy bear fur.

Something I hadn't seen before, and which would be perfect for In Her Majesty's Name, was a series of models by Sarissa which make up a railway viaduct. I bought one of their Japanese bridges, which is very much at the other end of their scale.

As regards purchases it must be a record for me in that I only bought seven figures: Four Paul Hicks Mutton Chop WW1 British and three Warfare Miniatures Great Northern War Swedish Cavalry.  The other figures I wanted (Lucid Eye Neanderthals and Artizan North West Frontier) had sold out.  However, I did buy a box of Empire of the Dead carriages and coaches and the new Warlord/Italaeri Sherman; although I'm not quite sure what the latter will be used for!

Apart from the two Japanese scenic items I have already mentioned, I also got the new Renedra mud brick house (I really enjoyed making their barn last year) and the new Warlord stone walls which will be very useful.  I must get more scenery!

Finally, I picked up a few books including the new Perry picture book, a book on the Germans in the Peninsula (which will be very useful for my Confederation of the Rhine project), the Osprey on the Trojan War and the new WSS.

So, I have got lots of exciting things to make without having added too much to the lead pile.  Sort of.

I thought I was a wargamer but, apparently, I am a strategy gamer!

Sadly, I failed to meet up with Eric the Shed (who has some great photos here), Nick Futter of Boot Hill Miniatures and Craig Cartmell of IHMN but there were an awful lot of people there.  I also missed the bloggers meet up, if it happened.  I enjoyed Salute this year more than the last few I have attended.  Tomorrow, however, it's back to the paint table and the Mexicans!

Paint Table Saturday: Off to Salute!

No paint table for me today as I'm off to Salute with my newly completed Grand Manner Roman Galley.  Above was its status at 8.00pm last night with just the mainsail and the ram to add and a bit of painting.  Just before I was about to pack it up, however, I broke off one of the railings and had to do about forty five minutes repairs.  These big resin pieces are surprisingly delicate.  All is fixed now (I've broken bits several times in assembly) and I hope to be able to get a couple of pictures of it in action in Big Red Bat's invasion of Britain game.   

I'm hoping to meet up with a number of other bloggers tomorrow too and this year I will have time for a proper look around as the last few years I have had limited time and have been in and out in a couple of hours. 

Usually I list what I am planning to buy but other than the Perry brothers new book I don't have anything on my list.  We shall see how that works in reality!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Paint Table Saturday - still on location!

A bit late this weekend but I'm still in the kitchen trying to get the Roman galley finished for Salute.  Yesterday I needed to get on with the oars, get some work done on the masts and replace the -well I don't know what they are called - they're like belaying pins for tying ropes to.  These are all moulded in resin and all but one had snapped off.  I probably won't rig the galley as I have to carry it to Salute in pieces on public transport but I will want to eventually, so need to get these bits fixed.  I started at 7.30am yesterday morning!

More work today!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Quarterly review: 1 January-March 2014

Ra! Ra! Ra!

Well, I am not quite sure where the first three months of this year went.  Much of my weekends were taken up with flood related stuff for my parents in law, filling out endless planning application stuff for the extension, taking Guy to and from rowing and doing rather too much work at the weekend, due to a complication regarding my job which hopefully will settle down in the next couple of months.

At least I started the year with an actual wargame, thanks to Alastair who put on a very enjoyable game of In Her Majesty's Name for me.

It is amazing that I got any painting done at all, but the fact that I did and enjoyed it is almost completely down to the estimable Sofie and her Paint Table Saturday. Even the Old Bat now realises that on Saturday afternoon I am going to do some painting.  Perhaps her newly discovered equanimity is due to the thousands of pounds I keep shelling out for planning applications, building regulations, structural engineers, architects and loads of other parasites for what is a very small extension indeed.  This week she has found a "really nice carpet" - at £500 a square metre.  Stop going shopping in trendy shops in Cobham, Esher and Weybridge!  Go to Carpetright like everyone else!  Anyway, it all makes me a lot happier about having recently ordered the most expensive scenic item I have ever bought (and I have the Forge World Weathertop).  More on that when it arrives!

I'm actually well on the way with the second lot of oars now

I have actually painted 37 figures this quarter and have about 25 pretty close to completion.  Fairly dismal by most people's standards but I am very happy with it. I might have got my next batch of Mexicans finished this weekend but it is all hands to the oars to attempt to finish the Roman Galley for Big Red Bat's epic game at Salute next week (argh!).  I meant to do a lot in the evenings this week but I have been busy writing strategy papers for the Colombian government so have got nothing done since Sunday.  So, my painting for the first quarter has been as follows:

Victorian  Naval Brigade - 12
The Hobbit - 12
In Her Majesty's Name - 10
Empire of the Dead  - 2
Darkest Africa - 1

This is, for me, an incredibly focussed result!  I certainly plan to do more IHMN figures, with Scotland Yard next and then the new Prince of Wales' Extraordinary Company after that.  For The Hobbit it will probably be the Mirkwood Rangers next but only after I have watched the Desolation of Smaug which, hopefully, I should get from Amazon on Monday, as I still haven't seen it.  Charlotte is returning from Edinburgh for Easter tomorrow, though, so I expect she will grab it and do her usual thing of watching it so many times in a row that she knows all the dialogue off by heart (she can actually recite the whole script of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).  

 Charlotte and the Old Bat are on the far left

I can't believe that Charlotte will be nineteen in a month's time.  This week one of the Old Bat's friends sent me this picture of her ante-natal group taken in 1995.  She was just like a little dolly and now she is studying astrophysics, eating industrial quantities of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers and is a proud member of the Edinburgh University Pole Dancing Society (she's always wanted to be either a pole dancer or an astronaut - this way she can keep both options open, I suppose).

Here she is now, about to attend her first toga party.  She couldn't wear a sheet like everyone else, of course, but got the Old Bat to make her an outfit and headdress which we had to post to her at great expense (we are always posting things at great expense up to Edinburgh - shoes mostly).

Anyway, back to painting and progress is good on the Boot Hill Mexicans, the Perry Confederation of the Rhine and the Orinoco Miniatures British Legion. If I can finish one batch of these a month I will be very happy, bearing in mind I completed nothing from May to October last year.  I ordered quite a few more Mexicans (they really are a joy to paint) so I can complete the Matamoros regiment at about 1/10 ratio.  These three companies of four, added to the six figures  I have already painted and the 14 figures nearly finished will complete the regiment.

¿Dónde está, Juan?

I was searching through one of my boxes and found a whole batch of 20 Boot Hill Mexicans I had completely forgotten about. They will form the beginning of the Tres Villas Activo regiment.  I also bought some of those splendid red clad lancers the Mexicans had, to form the Dolores cavalry regiment, although I seem to have lost one rider.  Hopefully the incredibly helpful Nick at Boot Hill can help me out with a replacement.  These are going to look spectacular painted!  I have also been buying some more books on the Texan War of Indpendence to keep me inspired.  I'm even contemplating another blog for my Americas projects!

Buy us, infidel!

Looking forward, it's Salute next weekend and I have manged to avoid going to Medellin at the same time but I will now probably have to go back to Colombia at the end of next month, although I have a cunning plan to add a historic side trip onto this visit.  I'm  really, really going to try to be good and not buy lots of figures as I have bought 270 in three months.  That said, the new Artizan Afghans look superb and they have just released seven packs this week.   But then there are the Empress Miniatures Jazz Age Colonials too.

Steve Saleh has just launched a new firm, Lucid Eye, for his sculpts and the most interesting for me are his Neanderthals.  Now I have someone to pitch against my Copplestone Cavemen!  Cavegirl raiding in prospect!

Those are proper BEF figures, those are

With the World War 1 anniversary this year I have been looking for some good BEF figures and Paul Hicks has just released his first batch of British and Germans for his Mutton Chop Miniatures.  I have a lot (well, forty) of painted Renegade Germans so needed something that would work with them (I didn't like the Renegade British as they got the hats completely wrong and the Great War Miniatures figures were variable).  I ordered a pack and they arrived this week.  They are taller than the lovely but small ones he did for Musketeer Miniatures and even better detailed.  I can now start on my British force!

A recent trip to Orc's Nest saw me pick up a box of the new Warlord US Marines.  I bet they sell bucket loads of these, especially to old Airfixy people like me!  The only disappointment with them is that all the helmets are either covered or have netting on them which is not really right for early battles like Guadalcanal.  Someone on one of the forums suggested I pick up some West Wind spare heads with plain helmets and it looks like these may well be an exact match size wise, much to my surprise.

I may, however, have to give a few tomato puree tube helmet straps for that authentic Airfix box cover look.  To be fair, the Warlord ones have some like this!

Talking of Airfix memories, the excellent Wargames News and Terrain site (which always trumps TMP on new releases, despite the later's horde of Filipina editors) had this up today; the first result of the Warlord/Italaeri partnership.  Bet they sell bucket loads of these too.  I am going to get one even though I don't know what for yet (later Pacific I suppose). 1/56th Sherman!  Yum! Yum!

They need arms and scabbards attaching

Finally, on the new buy front (and there were other figures I haven't mentioned) I picked up half a dozen of Warfare Miniatures new Great Northern War Swedish Cavalry.  I have quite a few of Musketeer Miniatures infantry but found their Swedish infantry a bit disappointing as they were very static, not something I associate with Swedish cavalry of the period.  These are depicted at full tilt, however, and although a little bit smaller than the Musketeer ones hopefully won't look too odd with the infantry when painted.

So, let's hope I can get a good solid weekend done on the galley and then back to figure painting again!

The Music for this post was from Australian saxophonist Amy Dickson's new album Catch Me If You Can.  This features a work by John Williams, a saxophone concerto by another American film music composer, Michael Kamen, and some arrangements of some of Mark Knopfler's music for one of my  favourite eighties films, Local Hero.

Worth putting up with despite the yakking

I saw the latter at the cinema with my then girlfriend, the extraordinarily passionate V, whose cousin appeared in the film, as she continuously mentioned all through the showing.  So the Local Hero music always reminds me of her, which is a good thing because when she was good she was very, very good and when she was bad she was very, very bad indeed!