Saturday, November 14, 2015

A quick trip to Warfare...

As I have said before, the Warfare show in Reading is not one of my favourites to travel to, as driving in Reading is like driving in the Monaco Grand Prix with no pit exit lane.  The awful one way system means that you can be doomed to circle around the centre endlessly, like Halley's Comet or, if you get in the wrong lane, be slingshot off to somewhere odd like Basingstoke, with no way to turn around for five miles, while being cut up by angry men in Vauxhalls.  So what a relief to get a lift from Eric the Shed and arrive stress free.  

I took my camera but really there isn't much to photograph, as the trade stands are trade stands and the hall is cramped (it was busy too) and the games are mostly of the tournament type.  Rank after rank of wargames on largely identical green baize cloths with that sort of toy town scenery.  It is the wargames equivalent of battery farming but I think, perhaps, that my exposure to Eric's marvellous scenery has spoiled me. We did have a chance to talk about planned campaigns for next year including Jason and the Argonauts and Frostgrave.

My limited purchases were all on my pre-show list, pretty much. Frostgrave soldiers and some lady Vikings from the Dice Bag Lady plus a couple of lady Dark Ages archers, which were a new release at the show from Elite Wargames and Models.  I was going to buy the female Frostgave sigilist and apprentice to lead my lady Vikings but the figures were tiny.  In fact all the metal Frostgrave figures were smaller than I expected.  I went for the Norse-looking Enchanter and apprentice instead but I think some of my lady Vikings will dwarf them.  

I thought I had bought the 7th Voyage Ray Harryhausen  type rules when they first came out but have been unable to find them anywhere so I picked up a copy, as one of the stands had them at a third off.

Finally, and the only thing not on my list, was a bag of 10mm Republican Romans from Newline Designs.  I have always wanted to do the Punic Wars but am I ever going to be able to paint enough 28mm figures?  I will see if I can actually paint them but they look, unusually for this scale, quite good anatomically.  I will have to make a decision about basing and rules.  I sold my Warmaster Ancients rules years ago (foolishly, as the cheapest they go for now is about £32 a copy second hand)  but maybe I should just use Hail Ceasar or some such.

It's too dark to paint this afternoon but maybe I can do some basing.

Thanks to Eric for the lift!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Something for the Weekend: Happy Hallowe'en

More about our pin-up witch on my Legatus Wargames Ladies blog here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pulp at the Shed: the Scales of Anubis Campaign - The Balance of Souls

Part of Eric's amazing board.  There is also a complete village not visible.  My forces entered the board at top left.

Eric the Shed has been continuing with his epic Scales of Anubis campaign since August and there was another game last night.  Unlike the previous three games, I did manage to get along (I quite often have to do work events in the evening) and there were six others in the shed.  Eric had hinted that there was a Where Eagles Dare aspect to it but this was not a lot of help to me as I had no idea about Where Eagles Dare.  I knew it was a film but that was it!

Anyway, Eric will no doubt be providing his usual splendidly illustrated account shortly but I will just provide a brief overview of the game from my point of view.  The other games have used Pulp Alley rules as players' forces were around ten figures but this one was more in the nature of a proper military action where we had a couple of dozen figures each, so it was Bolt Action, this time.  I had four units of six British paratroops.  Incidentally, my Uncle Keith fought at Arnhem as part of the Airborne, although he was glider-borne rather than a paratrooper.  He missed D-Day as he had been trained to operate a particular new light artillery piece which wasn't ready, as it turned out, for the big day.  

Objective flugplatz

Anyway, the British had to extract the final component of the Scales of Anubis, the Balance of Souls, from deep within Nazi Germany just before the outbreak of World War 2.  The British were told (I think - I didn't have my glasses so couldn't actually read my player's briefing) that the piece was in the Castle or the village but we also had to secure the airfield as an exit point.  

Taking on the pillbox

My units came onto the board close to the heavily defended airfield which had a pillbox and a nasty looking armoured car at the gate.  I got my troops into a walled orchard and had some initial success against the unit in the pillbox.  Incredibly, given my parlous dice throwing last time, I managed to get four sixes out of six dice thrown.   I credited this to the fact that Sooty the cat had been banished from the shed.  Unfortunately, I continued to throw high when I needed low scores to unpin myself or otherwise pass morale tests. Once inside the orchard I got pinned down in every way, not wanting to risk getting into the open given the presence of the armoured car, as we had no anti-armour capability.

Blonde girls with guns!

What I hadn't counted on was the arrival of two units, in smart cars, of Nazi She-Wolves; strapping blonde women (Seven of them in each car?  They must be as friendly with each other as one might suspect - at least from a series of obviously historically accurate  films of the seventies I have seen - Frauleins in Uniform (1975) aka She-Devils of the SS springs to mind) with lots of sub-machine guns, who stood outside the walls of the orchard and poured fire inside.  These were controlled by Nazi mastermind, Mark, who has won every single game of the scales of Anubis so far to the extent that I now actually think of him as a sinister Nazi in real life (although, in reality, there were more fascists in my own family (including the Old Bat - the only person I know who has actually voted BNP - she thinks UKIP are wishy-washy pinko liberals) due to a link with Oswald Mosley in the thirties!). 

Time to re-take the orchard!

My forces were being whittled away in the orchard although, towards the end of the game, I saw a slight improvement in my fortunes due to the kind transfer of a unit from Steve.  This  enabled me to mass behind the wall, see off the She-Wolves and counter attack back into the orchard.  At Arnhem my uncle had come similarly unstuck and, making a break for it, had rounded a corner on his Airborne folding bicycle only to be confronted by a Panther tank in the road.  He calmly got off the bike, turned it 180 degrees and cycled back the way he had come, very fast.  Fortunately, he had been his schools's victor ludorum and his athleticism got him out of trouble!

Tanks appear!

We didn't quite reach resolution in the game.  The British were close to capturing the airfield but the cunning Nazis has shifted the location of the artifact.  In addition, a column of tanks had appeared in the village and was heading up towards the airfield and castle.  So, happily, we are promised another game!  Thanks to Eric, as ever, and all the other players for tolerating my total inability to remember any rules whatsoever.  Maybe I should take up model railways rather than wargaming?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Agincourt October 25th 1415

Agincourt according to another of my great influences: Look & Learn magazine

There are a number of battles which have always resonated with the Legatus and driven his figure and book collecting: Thermopylae, Waterloo, Gettysburg and, perhaps, above all, Agincourt.  I have collected and painted some Spartans but always resisted buying any Persians.  I have re-fought Waterloo and Gettysburg with hundreds of Airfix plastics.  But I have never tried to do anything about Agincourt.  In a way the reason is the same one that has stalled my Thermopylae projects due to lack of Persians: the sheer horror of having to paint hundreds of figures wearing complex livery.

My interest in Agincourt came from two things which happened one Christmas in 1972.  We often used to visit my Uncle Len (who sadly died, well into his eighties, this year) at Christmas.  Uncle Len had something we didn't have at this time:  a colour television.  He actually had two, which was even more unusual, as they cost about £400 then.  One was in his study and it was in there that I first watched Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944) in colour.  A combination of the novelty of the colour TV picture, the quality of the film itself and William Walton's thrilling music (which Olivier hated) made a big impression.

Backing this up was the fact that that Christmas I had been given a copy of The War Game which featured recreations of historic battles using Peter Gilder's figures and terrain in a way I had never seen wargames depicted before - also in full colour (younger people forget that most media at the time was still in black and white).

Oh, how I wanted lots of shiny silver knights and archers.  So you would have thought that when Perry miniatures came out with their Agincourt to Orleans range in 2006 (nearly ten years ago!) I would have jumped right in (surely not?) and I nearly have, many, many times. Apart from the painting problems, though, Agincourt is one of those difficult battles to wargame effectively (like Thermopylae, the Alamo and Rorke's Drift) and I realise that, however hard I try to fight the urge, I am psychologically unable to pull myself away from seeing wargaming through the lens of historical recreation.  I cannot get my head around fictional actions (skirmishes, possibly) but not for major battles.  This, of course, can limit the use of any figures I might contemplate (like Sedgemoor, for example). 

I was sorely tested again by the Perry brothers new English army plastics (with French on the way) but I already have three boxes of Wars of the Roses figures I haven't painted yet and I have actually fought half a dozen Wars of the Roses wargames, with what is my biggest wargames force, and they have potentially far more use on the table.  The opening, today, of the Perries diorama in the Tower of London, which I am going to try and get to see on Wednesday, will be another temptation, although the £18.50 entrance to the Tower is nearly the cost of the Perry box of figures so I am sure that, despite today's anniversary, I can resist again!

Friday, October 23, 2015

What's going on...and The Last Kingdom

Well, the short answer is not very much on the hobby front.  I am still largely working seven days a week and what with transporting Guy to various rowing events there really hasn't been any time to paint.  I am hoping that this weekend I can have a couple of hours so let's hope the light is good.  I want to undercoat the rest of my 1864 Danes, finish a Neanderthal or two and get some base colours down on my Lucid Eye South American Lost World type natives.

Also in the imminent pile are some Lucid Eye Amazons although I had a panic this week when I thought I had lost the Queen's bow and quiver. Eventually I found it tucked under the back of my computer monitor.  She is actually nearly finished but I have decided, foolishly, to give her a jaguar hide shield and the thought of attempting this is stressing me out somewhat!

My copy of Frostgrave arrived this week and I have had a brief look at it but am too stupid to understand how rules work just by reading them.  I have always shied away from any rules that use magic so this is a big departure for me but I have been encouraged by the fact that Eric the Shed will be building Frostgrave scenery for battles next year.  This just leaves me with the comparatively simple task of painting less than ten figures.  I don't have any of the official figures yet but have been toying with using some of my Foundry Vikings (especially the girly ones), even though they don't work for the pseudo medieval look of the official line.  Giving them some kite shields may do the job, though.

Speaking of Vikings, I really enjoyed The Last Kingdom on TV. Looking at it from a wargamers perspective the battle in last night's episode certainly looked better than the equivalents in Sharpe due to around ten times the number of extras. In fact it looked like a big budget production (unlike Vikings for example) with good looking dark age settlements.  

Several things slightly annoyed me. Firstly, the Northumbrian castle looked completely wrong  for this period and was, from the look of it, modelled to look like an obviously Hungarian (where most of it was shot) structure used as a location.  Far too much stone for the period and the square-capped towers look very Eastern European.  Secondly, yet again, filmmakers don't understand the use of spears in Dark Ages warfare with everyone using swords in the (otherwise well realised) shield wall.  

I also don't think the Saxon shields, obviously meant to be Saxon versions of Early Imperial Roman shields (if they were supposed to be folk memory versions of Roman shields they would be flat and oval, anyway), had any historical basis but were, no doubt, included in order to differentiate the armies.

The reviews have generally been very good though, so hopefully it will do well in the ratings.  One reviewer complained that most of the action took place in the dark and so he couldn't see what was going on.  I didn't have any problems watching on a high definition TV but the BBC iPlayer version is very murky indeed.  The costumes have, as ever, been a bit over-designed with the usual surfeit of leather but they are better than those in Vikings.

I will be digging out my Vikings, no doubt.  I have quite a few painted ones (they have even seen some actual games at Guildford many years ago) but I have a lot more unpainted ones.  Mine are a mixture of Foundry, old Gripping Beast (I don't like their gnomish plastics) and Artizan.  For this period I need to avoid the helmets with nose guards I think.

I also liked the way they used the word "Viking" in the proper Old Norse meaning of going on a freebooting voyage. Incidentally, when I was at college one of my girlfriends studied History.  We had two History professors at Brasenose, known as Dr Death and Dr Gush.  Dr Death was a crumbling old relic and Dr Gush was the bouncy, young, now internationally well known, Dr Simon Schama, then in his mid thirties.  Dr Death, a medievalist, always pronounced the word "Vickings" with a short 'i', according to my friend.  Anyway, I will try and dig out my Cornwell novels from wherever they are.

Our heating packed up last week and we had to have British Gas come in and fix it (just the wireless thermostat receiver in the boiler, thankfully).  While doing so my wife insisted that they had a look at the radiator in my study, which hasn't worked for years.  Unfortunately, this meant pulling out three filing cabinets covered in stuff, my entire plastics pile (dozens of boxes of figures, some of which I had forgotten about) and loads of box files containing all sorts of stuff (mainly Playboys from the fifties and sixties)  Down the back of one of these stacks I found a whole load of wargames rules I had lost, including some I don't remember buying at all.  Still no sign of the 7th Voyage ones though.  So, until I sort everything out and put it back (or sell it, according to the Old Bat) my room is even more chaotic than ever)

The mess in my room was getting me down so I went around to my friend A's again and had some more Port, which I'm not supposed to.  This was my last bottle of Port from the stock I inherited from my Uncle, an Offley Boa Vista 1972, which was still just excellent.

On a less sophisticated note, I am not a big fan of supermarket sandwiches but occasionally, if I am on the go, I need one.  Into Boots this week and a new one to me: Chicken, chorizo and smoky beans.  It was quite good but it made me nostalgic for my favourite ever shop sandwich, which was also a Boot's one (most of their sandwiches these days are very boring and there are far too many vegetarian ones).  Back in the eighties and early nineties they made one called Mexican chicken which had chilli mayonnaise and kidney beans in with lettuce and chilli chicken.  It was quite the best shop sandwich I ever had and is much missed.  The mayonnaise being far superior to the salsa in today's version.  It was not the best sandwich I ever had, that was a prosciutto (thick cut, unusually), mozzarella and pesto ciabatta in the Admiral hotel in Copenhagen.

One thing I didn't like about The Last Kingdom was the wailing music which was rather grating in a sort of Hans Zimmer/Lisa Gerrard/Gladiator way.  So for this post it's back to Mario Nascimbene's wonderful soundtrack to The Vikings (1958).

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Paint Table Sunday: 1864

Well, my 1864 Danes arrived from North Star.  I just bought one pack each of the infantry to see what they are like and the answer is: Truly excellent.  I have been trying to find out who the sculptor is (North Star doesn't say, for some reason) but I have heard that it is Nick Collier who did all those fabulous English Civil War figures for Renegade.  I've started to base them up and am trying to do a bit of research on how to do snow bases.

However, my research came to a grinding halt yesterday, due to lack of visual material, as the monitor on my computer died, hence today being Paint Table Sunday.  So I had to go out today and get a new one.  I decided to get a slightly bigger one than the old one on the basis I might be able to actually see what is on the screen.  I'm certainly very happy with it and, tragically, I bought a Samsung as I am pleased with my mobile phone.  Isn't brand loyalty ridiculous? The alternative was the slightly cheaper Acer and I really should have bought one of these because I went to one of their factories in Taiwan once and met the founder.  Oh well, the Samsung is prettier which, in my experience is the other way around from the looks of the women in Korea versus Taiwan and, indeed, the taste of the food where, in both categories Taiwan scores more highly.  I had the best lobster I have ever eaten in the Chinese restaurant in the Pearl Liang restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Taipei and the waitresses were lovely.  Sorry, Koreans.  I wouldn't, however, go as far as saying that Koreans look like other orientals who have been hit in the face with a cast iron frying pan, as my friend Sophie observed once.  Korean food is disgusting, though.  I went to the food hall in the basement of a big Korean department store in Seoul once and all the food there looked like something that had died at sea and been washed ashore three weeks later.  And the smell!  I am usually very keen to try the local food when I am abroad but not in Korea.

I had hoped to complete my usual test colour figure today but what with the monitor shopping and having to take Guy to rowing I didn't have enough time to finish it.  This week, hopefully.  They figures are very easy to paint and quick, by nineteenth century figure standards.  Humbrol 104, which I have used for the coat, is, however, one of their most fragile colours and any contact rubs the surface off so until it's varnished I will have to keep retouching it.  The figures are much slimmer and more elegant than they look here.  When I have some completed I'll take a better photograph.

I was also thinking about Frostgrave and now I discover that both Alastair and, latterly, Eric the Shed, have bought into the game.  This will give me some opponents, hopefully.  Even better, Eric is thinking about how he can make some scenery (which will no doubt be marvellous).  My reasons for not buying some figures are, therefore, disappearing.  Tomorrow it is back to the Shed for the next game in the Scales of Anubis campaign which is good as I have missed all but the first game.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are Go!

Or they were exactly fifty years ago today, when the very first episode of Gerry Anderson's series, Trapped in the Sky, was broadcast.  A five year old Legatus was watching it, as I had previously watched Stingray, Fireball XL5 and even Supercar.

I had all the Thunderbirds toys, of course (even the largely unloved Thunderbird 5  - the model of which really looked only vaguely like the one in the TV series but had flashing coloured lights and would move randomly across the carpet, squawking), and wish I had kept them as they would be worth a fortune now.  My sister and I both had International Rescue hats too!

The most expensive Thunderbirds toy I had was a large Thunderbird 4 which also needed batteries and actually was waterproof enough to go in the bath, not that there was enough space for it, really.  Fortunately, Uncle Len, next door, had a swimming pool and it had at least one outing there.

The Thunderbird 3 model offended my aesthetic sense as it had a nose wheel and a friction drive unit (where you could rev the wheels up, let it go, watch it streak across the carpet and then have an agonising second or two of worry that the nose would break when it hit the skirting board)  built in to the back which spoiled the lines of the original.  The Thunderbird 1 model had the same issues.

My favourite, of course, was Thunderbird 2, and I remember the strange metal legs which tucked up underneath it, as the sort of retractable ones on the TV show would have been impossible to do in a model.  They offended my aesthetic sense too, however, so when it was supposed to be flying in my games I used to pop them out and only replace them when it was supposed to be deploying the pod, up on its legs, so the little model of the Mole could get in and out.

Trapped in the Sky was a marvellous episode and the sequence where they try to land a stricken Fireflash on the elevator cars is one of the greatest action sequences in sixties TV, driven along by Barry Gray's tremendous music.   Gray, who lived in Esher, about three miles from where I live now, produced some of the greatest TV music ever for Thunderbirds and it is very much the soundtrack to my childhood.  

Derek Meddings prepares the Fireflash for Trapped in the Sky

People who haven't really watched it (twenty something journalists, usually) decry the terrible special effects in the original series but actually they are very good and special effects supervisor Derek Meddings would go on to a stellar career in feature films, including many of the Bond films.

A girl on the International Rescue team?  Get back into the kitchen and make the coffee like you're supposed to!  (Actually, she is the best thing about the new series)

I still love Thunderbirds and was delighted when it was re-shown on TV when my children were small so I could go and get, er, them, all the new toys.  I didn't let them play with them, of course.  They are all safe in their box in the loft!  Watching the new digital incarnation with its laws of physics defying movement, ugly vehicles and boy band characters makes me realise how very, very good the originals were.  More excitingly, a team have crowd funded a project taking some recordings made with the original cast which were released on LP record in the sixties and are adding new visuals using exact replica puppets and vehicles.  Thunderbirds as it should be!