Friday, October 28, 2016

Reading Wargames Magazines over lunch and what's going on

Well, I was in London on Tuesday and had one of those awkward breaks in the day.  I had finished my meetings by 12.00 and my meeting in the afternoon was cancelled but I was due to meet up with a friend in the evening. Nothing to do but go to the National Cafe at the National Gallery and have a spot of lunch.  I already had two wargames magazines in my bag and bought the new Miniature Wargames at WH Smith in Holborn, so I had three magazines to look at.

I had been in Trafalgar square last Friday as well (which was Trafalgar Day!) having walked there from Orc's Nest on my way to catch the Tube back to the City to meet up with some former colleagues for dinner.  We went to a Tapas bar in Mincing Lane (Camino - nice food, nice waitresses far too noisy for old people like me) and drank a toast " a pox on the Spanish and the French!"  My friend had a spare ticket for the NFL game at Twickenham which was a bonus.  I went to the old pre-season American Football games at Wembley back in the late eighties but haven't been to any of the new regular season games the NFL is running, while they decide if they are going to start a team in London or not.

At Orc's Nest I picked up The Men who Would be King rules, having played a large Zulu Wars game with them at the Shed on Monday.  After my meeting in the City (where I successfully avoided being posted to Riyadh for three months - no alcohol, no pork and no women - I cannot imagine a worse environment) I sat in Pret-a-Manger and had a look through them.  Having already played them that week I did at least manage to follow what the rules are about and I also noticed some of the house rules Eric the Shed had introduced, such as a skirmish unit category and having an overall leader who can rally pinned troops.  What really cheered me up was a whole section on solo play and also the suggested forces.  I already have all the figures painted for s Beja force in the the Sudan and have all but the Cavalry for the British.  I am well on the way with Zulus and British too.  The units of 16 for natives and 12 for the British are much more achievable for me than the units of 20 I was trying to paint for The Sword and the Flame.  My Colonial Wargaming looks like it might be rejuvenated by these rules.  What I have to get over is trying to recreate historic battles and play some imaginary ones (although it makes me shudder to do so!).

While looking for something else I discovered a pack of 4Ground skirmish movement trays I had forgotten I even owned.  I think I bought them at Salute when Dux Bellorum (another Dan Mersey ruleset) came out in 2012 but I never used them as I hate movement trays but I think I will have to give up on this one!   As they hold eight figure each they will be great for Zulus and Beja as I mount my figures on 20mm square bases.  I have tried a few in the holes and will have to trim each base by a millimetre or two but it could work!  If it does, I will try and pick up some more at Warfare in November.  Amazingly they are still the same price as they were four years ago!

In the same pile of horizontal format material I also found my Back of Beyond rules, several sheets of steel paper, a DVD of Up Pompeii (in one of those card sleeves that newspapers used to give away), the missing grass sheet I pose my painted figures on and several charcoal drawings I did of girlfriends at college (all dressed, surprisingly).

On Sunday I went to Twickenham for the American Football,  Rather depressingly, I worked out that I had last seen the Los Angeles Rams play in London 29 years ago!  I had not been to Twickenham stadium before, even though it is less than ten miles from where I live.  This is because I have never attended a rugby match.  When I told this to my friend he didn't believe it but I have only been to one football match as well. I am contemplating writing a post on things I have never done!

I was impressed by Twickenham Stadium, I have to say and it appeared to be completely full with rather more women than  I was expecting (although not as many as you get at a game in the US) and a lot more Germans, oddly.  However the pounding third rate rock music played constantly before and during the game got on my nerves.  It could have been worse, it could have been rap, I suppose. 

I was quite impressed that they had  Nicole Scherzinger singing the American National anthem and she completely out sang Laura Wright, the poor man's Katherine Jenkins (who is the poor man's opera singer), who sang God Save the Queen.  

My seat was right up the top of the stadium and to get there you have to go up along a spiral ramp, like the vertical car park in the first episode of Captain Scarlet. I was getting quite dizzy half way up so stopped to look at the view.  This was worthwhile as the Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders appeared to do a short routine down below.  A man with two sons of about eight and ten was just ahead of me and saw them too.  "Do you want to go down and watch the cheerleaders?" he asked the boys.  "No!"  Heh, heh!

Part way through the game, I realised why I preferred not to go to big stadia to watch sport: the people in the crowd are mostly ghastly.  For a start I was surprised that they allow alcohol into the stadium and I was stuck behind five boys who looked about fourteen to me but must have been eighteen given the amount of beer they were buying.  They were really stupid and annoying, conducting swordfights with their flags and shouting instructions at the players.  They can't hear you and you just sound like a pratt. Basically, I don't like people!  Of course the worst thing about British NFL fans is that they all want to be American so whoop and holler as if they were.  You're British!  Calm down!  Anyway I am off to Sunday's game at Wembley so it will be interesting to go there as I haven't been to Wembley Stadium either.

So, after this rather rambling diversion it is back to lunch at the National Gallery.  They have a special Italian menu to go with their Caravaggio exhibition, at present, so I decided to have Truffled White Bean Soup to start with.  Given I had four hours to kill before meeting up with my friend I thought I might as well have a bottle of wine too, so chose the Sicilian Nero d'Avola.  I have had several Sicilian girlfriends, including one who meant that I couldn't travel to Sicily for a while due to an incensed husband with 'connections'.  I looked her up on LinkedIn recently and she has aged badly but then she would probably say the same about me.  It was thirty years ago!

The first magazine I looked at was October's Wargames Illustrated.  The theme was warrior women but I have no interest in Joan of Arc, Saint Olga of Kiev or Empress Maria Theresa.  I did enjoy the piece on their fourth "warrior woman", the Dice Bag Lady, Annie Norman, from whom I have bought a number of figures for my not yet realised female Frostgrave company.  Although I would never admit to her that I like barely dressed women warrior figures.  Articles on the Spanish Civil War (one of my pet hates) and Team Yankee (actually I have been tempted by this; having read the book and bought some modern 1/300 armour for it many many years ago) were skipped over.  There was quite a good piece on making ruined buildings, although the day I make my own wargames scenery will be the day the they decide resin and laser cutting are banned for health reasons. I also wasn't interested in the Winter War piece (good pictures, though) or colonial Ethiopia but The Men Who Would be Kings wild west variant did look interesting, as I have always wanted a Seventh Cavalry force.

No, what really interested me in that issue was the In Her Majesty's Name statistics for a Lost World force plus cavemen and dinosaurs.  Of course, I have started to paint figures for this and the author's characters are very close to mine (as they are roughly based on the Conan Doyle novel plus the dreadfully enjoyable Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World  TV series (which made Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea look like Wolf Hall). 

One thing annoyed me about the article, however, in that it posited a second Professor Challenger expedition and includes fictional background which they date to 1895, making it a Victorian adventure (and by extension, Challenger's original adventure, as detailed in Conan Doyle's book).  Of course the novel was originally published in 1912 and was not, therefore, Victorian or even Edwardian!  Of course, I am writing my own erotic version of The Lost World, initially for a couple of lady friends but now I am serialising it online so I know a lot about the original story and the time period!

Right, onto my second course, of Tagliolini with braised shin of beef and bone marrow butter.  This was very good indeed although quite messy to eat and I kept splashing the pages of the two issues of Miniature Wargames I looked at.  I always thought of this magazine as the lesser of the two main wargames magazines in the nineties, when I started buying them regularly, mainly because of the badly painted figures that they used to feature in their articles.  Something to do with featuring achievable painting standards, they claimed,  but then that is rather akin to featuring "real women" in fashion and beauty advertisements.  I don't want to see them, I want to see some impossibly gorgeous looking Eastern European, however unattainable (although there was that girl, Ringaile, from Lithuania who  I met in a nightclub in Riga.  She was very attainable after a few glasses of Vodka).

This issue was the last one edited by Henry Hyde, a man whose loss to the magazine was much mourned.  Frankly, I am afraid I don't really register the editors of magazines.  It either has articles in it I am interested in or it doesn't. Still, Hyde, who seems to have been pushed out by a publisher with new ideas (usually a bad sign, often leading to the imminent demise of the publication) ,was well thought of and his Battlegames certainly had more to it than most equivalents at the time, although it was bit too gamey (like jugged hare) for me.

One thing that did annoy me about Hyde was his World Wide Wargaming page, despite it highlighting some blogs of bloggers I know (congratulations to Eric the Shed for deservedly featuring in this last one).  There was something a bit know it all and didactic about its tone.  This month's  edition was no different, in which he pondered why people continued to use Blogger rather than Wordpress like him.  To me, people who use Wordpress are like people who have Apple computers, hybrid cars or record turntables ("the sound is so much better" - yes apart from all the clicks and crackles)..  There is something slightly condescendingly superior about them,   Hyde says we should be "buying (bad start) one's (pretentious) own domain name and hosting from an Internet Service provider and installing Wordpress yourself" (not ones self?).  Well I wouldn't have the first idea about how to do this and that's why I use Blogger because it is dead simple. One thing I have noticed about Wordpress blogs is that I can't follow them on Blogger.  Updates don't appear, so they disappear as far as I am concerned.  This happened when Dr Phil Hendry switched to Wordpress, which is a shame as I used to like his blog.  Hyde then goes on to talk about how to code a picture so that it appears in the Miniatures Page.  I had no idea what this was about.  I just post the url to a picture in Blogger and up it comes with no problem.  No need to adjust widths or limit pixels as he suggested.  He also urged us to use gallery pages.  "I look at many wargames blogs, especially those with lots of photos, where I feel like they're missing a trick and could potentially present their material in a more attractive way, using photo-gallery plug-ins (what is a plug-in?) that are available with many Wordpress themes."  Again, its the superior tone.  It's like having Gwyneth Paltrow telling you what you should eat all the time.  Actually, I hate gallery pages.  I always switch off 'view in lightbox' on my blogs too as I don't want to separate the pictures from the text..

So what else was in his farewell issue?  Another one of those how to build ugly scenics by the Wargames Widow, which I didn't read, again.  Something on Kursk, which would have been of interest when I was fourteen but, like Science Fiction and pop music, I have grown out of WW2 tank battles, There was yet another old school eighteenth century imaginations piece,also of no interest, Something on the ECW using hex terrain (brain switches off).  I quite enjoyed the Wargaming my Way piece, despite the author's espousal of hexes.  There were also articles on small scale wargames (no thanks) and a show report (I never look at these).  Conrad Kinch had a piece on the problems of multi-player games which, of course, are what I play exclusively, so I will probably read that but the light was failing and the point size of Miniature Wargames is too small for me to read in poor light. So out with a whimper not bang, I think, for this one.

So, on to the, hot off the press, new Miniature Wargames, complete with ugly random fonts all over the cover which made it look like a mid 2000s Playboy.  The magazine title fonts (two, really?) looked rather more fantasy wargaming than historical (perhaps deliberately).  The "Miniature" font had something of the UK editions of those Slave Girl of Gor books about it.  "16-page Sci-Fi and Fantasy Section" it trumpets on the cover.  There has been much muttering about this, particularly given the choice of John Treadaway as editor. I have clashed with Mr T before, over the appalling Nazi apologists who appeared at Salute some years ago.  He also can be superior and condescending.  He is always going on, on TMP, about why don't people use real names for their posts on TMP and the rest of the internet?  Because with that information I immediately discovered where he lived, where he worked and the fact that he has a Dalek in his house. Anyway, the other thing I don't like about him is his fixation on Hammer's Slammers, an SF (who still calls it Sci-Fi?) wargames world based on a series of novels by David Drake. I read the original novel and unutterably tedious and depressing it was too.  Needless to say there is a how to paint hover tanks article by Mr T in this issue.

The first piece in Forward Observer (they aren't exactly the changing the content) was on the rise of plastic figures.  A wasted opportunity this.  I would have been interesting to find out why plastics are now so viable for wargames figures manufaturers not just a statement that they exist and a not very informative review of the new Vixtrix phalangites,  The Wargaming my Way piece I really enjoyed because it resonated with me more than Mr Hex from the previous issue..  Articles on playing with tanks in the garden and dreadnoughts (not interested in naval wargaming at all) had no interest.  There was a good piece on the 1940 invasion of Crete which is quite a tank free zone, thank goodness.  The article on hidden movement was hilarious in that the author proposed the very practical solution of having two identical wargames tables with each side on a different  table.

The vaunted new fantasy section was actually mostly SF apart from an interview with the creator of Frostgrave,  I was losing interest in this game, due to its new animal faced gnolls but I am now interested in it again because of the forthcoming barbarian figures (it's all about the figures, not the rules for me).  I'm not an automatic anti SF and fantasy person, although there is still this niggle at the back of my mind that it is for children, like sweets, pop music and carbonated drinks. Given my extensive SF reading background when I was young I do have a hankering for some sort of SF figures to paint (for fantasy I am happy with GW's Lord of the Rings and wouldn't be seeking anything else).  There was a piece on an interesting plug together corridor scenery system but the accompanying photos were so small and dark (see above) I couldn't work out what it looked like at all.

Frankly, inside, apart from the fantasy section, the magazine didn't look that different.  The typeface was just as small and difficult to read and they persist in printing text on coloured backgrounds, which also doesn't help legibility.  They were a few changes in the way they presented headings etc but it was largely cosmetic.  If there is one slight design change it is that there seems to be more but snaller pictures. Frankly, I was hoping for something a bit more radical but perhaps it will evolve.

So, if you have got this far you obviously don't have any figures to paint, although I actually painted some base colours on faces and a few jackets on my Mexicans yesterday, the first proper painting I have done since May,  I hope to get my Perry ACW cavalry filled, based and undercoated this weekend, except I will be at Wembley on Sunday.

Some new tunes, while writing this very long post (as I haven't posted much at all in the last few months) with Alexander Grechaninov's first two symphonies which I discoverd in my usual roundabout way.  Having watched a Michael Portillo Great Continental Railway Journeys TV programme on Romania I started looking for more music by George Enescu and came across a recording by the George Enescu State Philharmonic Orchestra of Grechaninov (1864-1956),  One thing iTunes is good for is trying out new tunes,  Grechaninov studied under Rimsky- Korsakov and if you like him or Borodin you will probably like this.  Some of it is reminiscent of John Williams second trilogy Star Wars music, which is not a surprise as Williams is an expert on lesser known Russian composers.

Maybe some "something for the weekend" ladies later!


  1. Well! That was an excellent session of wanderings.
    Very enjoyable read.

  2. Lets see - you've been to an NFL game, leered at cheerleaders and been disdainful of your fellow attendees. Yup you're becoming an American - welcome to the Family, my friend.

    Your next step will the buying of a pick-up truck. I would suggest you go with the standard Ford F-150, but if you want to be fashion forward then we should consider a Dodge or Chevy truck. Buying your first pick-up truck can be a bit intimidating but fear not! - I will be in the UK the week of Nov 28th for some board meetings but can free up time to escort you to the American Embassy and introduce you the their Americanization section where they can help speed you along your path of true enlightenment.

    Chicks dig irascible middle aged guys in pick-up trucks. It says so right in the marketing materials.

    1. We had a pick-up truck to take us around Monrovia. I had trouble climbing up into it! Also, in the UK, it rains all the time so anything in the back is going to get wet! This has always seemed a fundamental flaw with them. I wouldn't like to try and park one here, either!

      Would you have time during your visit to London to meet up?

    2. You're looking at it glass half empty - here's the right way
      1) Rain - it turns the cargo section into a mobile swimming pool - what's not to love about that?
      2) Parking - Parking's easy - just push those cute tiny little European cars out of the way - it's surprising how easily the fold up. Don't worry about dents and scratches on the truck - those are considered marks of honor.

      I'll make time to finally meet you!

  3. An enjoyable read as always Legatus.

    As to your hankering for SF figures to paint, have you looked at the ranges from Raging Heroes( They're a bit expensive but very nice models, and almost all female. Dark Sphere carry a small selection in their shop, but you can get them online from Wayland Games and a few others. It may just be the resin versions from UK retailers - if you order direct from Raging Heroes, some of the character figures are available in metal.

    1. You are a bad person, tempting me like that (not for the first time I seem to recall!). I like the Teutonic ones in pointy helmets and compared to the new Games Workshop Hobbit figures (12 figures for £40)they look like a bargain!

    2. *whistles innocently*

      So, you like the look of the Iron Empire? For the character figures I prefer the Kurganovas and Jailbirds :)

  4. Unlike your magazines an excellent read over lunch. I also concur completely about crowds (haven't gone to a cinema in years) and your take on the magazines, very refreshing to read a critique of MW which has been a long time coming.

    1. Ah cinemas! People eating all the time! Argh!

      I just go round to my friend's as she has a projector TV system and a 102 inch screen!

  5. The usual good read, LH. Grechaninov wrote at least 5 symphonies, I think - Chandos recorded them all 20 years or so ago.

  6. An enjoyable read! I have to admit I have not bought a wargames magazine for years, I have reached that miserable old bugger stage where I know the rules and figures ranges I like and see no reason to buy a magazine when there is so much inspiration on blogger (however dated that may be!).
    Good choice with the ACW-it is my one constant throughout my wargaming years.

    1. Very excited about ACW. I now have picked up some Confederate and Union infantry!

  7. A very good read, I could not agree more with you on the Blogger vs Wordpress ramble. I enjoyed your musings on the MWs both old and new can honestly say I have not bought a copy of that magazine in about 10 years for the reasons you mention on standard of figures. I want to be inspired when I see figures to encourage me to pick up the brushes and improve.

  8. I’m always curious what the latest post will be about, wargaming, food reviews, travel advice or a confessional. Sometimes we get lucky and have all the above.

    I chose Blogger simply because I copied Giles’s AWI blog. Can’t see why anyone would pay for a site unless they needed one for business.

    1. Giles' was the first blog I looked at to and it also inspired me to start my own up!