Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top shelf wargaming: Warhammer Dark Elves

Men Only Elf Witch?

Egged on by both my little boy and my daughter I have started assembling some Games Workshop Dark Elf plastic warriors. I sort of feel faintly guilty about this! Recently I have been trying to sort out my vintage Playboy collection; a magazine that the better sort of women doesn't object to (certainly not my wife). But in doing so I have come across a few old Men Only magazines from 1976. By today's standards they reach high levels of "artistic" photography and excellent graphic design; but whilst I wouldn't mind my wife looking at 1976 Playboy I would not be so sanguine about Men Only. And this sums up my feelings about Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. If Perry Miniatures are Playboy then Warhammer is Men only. Just as much effort and skill goes into a high quality product but one is acceptable and one is not. Another test is that my immediate boss, the CEO, knows I am a wargamer and indeed we have had discussions about colonial warfare and WW1 but I wouldn't want him to know I am painting Warhammer figures. So even as I glue them together (no flash, very faint mould lines, beautifully crisp figures that go togther perfectly) I still feel that I should be doing it with the curtains shut and the door locked. All of this comes down to the simple fact that I see fantasy wargaming as, literally, child's play and historical wargaming as a justifiable activity for someone approaching his fiftieth birthday.

However, as I start to read the various rules and army lists for Warhammer of both incarnations I realise that much of this is really complex. Nevertheless I will fight my way through all the stodgy fluff to see if I can work out what a Dark Elf army should look like. I have come to a few conclusions already:
  • If I am going to do a fantasy army I might as well go the whole hog and include lots of scantily clad women and Dark Elf armies have the splendidly nubile Elf Witches.
  • Dark Elves rely on lots of missile troops and artillery.
  • I really want to make a corsair boat (preferably one I can use for Lord of the Rings as well).
  • I'm going to have to get over my prejudice against magic.
  • I don't like monsters and it seems the Dark Elf ones are pretty useless.

But, all this said, I am really looking forward to having a go at painting these figures which must be a good sign!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Wargames Shop in Brighton

During the First World War Brighton Pavillion was used as a hospital for Indian troops

I notice from TMP that a new Wargames shop, Wargames Heaven, is opening in Brighton on 22nd August. http://www.wargamesheaven.co.uk/

On a good day (i.e. not on a sunny summer weekend day -very little chance of one of those at present) I can drive to Brighton in just over an hour. I used to go down there a lot with my mother who likes visiting the town but haven't been for ages. There were several reasons I was happy to go there. Firstly, there are some excellent second-hand bookshops there. Secondly there is an excellent (if rather expensive) militaria shop in The Lanes called The Lanes Armoury. http://www.thelanesarmoury.co.uk/ The third reason was a shop called The Gentle Gallery which was in Steyning, just the other side of the Downs. We would come back from Brighton via Steyning and she could have a cup of tea in one of the very good tea shops they have there and I could look at what was quite a big selection of historical and GW figures that, oddly, this art shop stocked. I always find that it is more enjoyable buying figures in person than on the internet! Sadly, The Gentle Gallery closed last year so I haven't made the trip to Brighton for some time. This will all change now, I suspect!

A couple of days ago my little boy said he wanted to go to Brighton to visit the Lego shop so I will try to get down there on Sunday 23rd! Looking at their website they seem to have a lot of Foundry pirates in stock and my daughter, who has occasionally played a game of Lord of the Rings with us, is currently very into pirates and is showing interest in Legends of the High Seas!

Total Bloggage

There is some wargaming in there somewhere!

I have far too many blogs. 18 Wargames ones. Two non wargames ones under this incarnation (one is under construction) and two blogs under another incarnation which mainly feature pictures of naked women and me ranting about transport and foreigners so would not be of interest to wargamers.

Now, I started blogging in November 2005 with my Spartans blog. The purpose of the process was to discipline me into concentrating on one army and putting my finished units up one by one to encourage me to do more. My problem having always been that I want armies for everything and so I can't focus. I'd love to be someone who just does one thing (like the man in Italy who painted a 1:1 Roman Legion) or even someone who has a main period and then 1 or 2 subsidiary period (yes, Giles, like you!). But no. I'm working on over 30 WAB armies plus dozens of others from prehistoric times through to World War 2. Given that only two men in my family have ever lived past 50 (I'm 49!) the chances of finishing any are negligible but I keep starting new ones.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that I am more of a painter than a wargamer. I very rarely go to Guildford Wargames Club (2 or 3 times a year, maybe) so I don't feel the need to get armies finished. it's a vicious circle really. I don't have any complete armies to field so I don't play very often.

So the disciplining effect of having a blog to make me concentrate was doomed and instead I just proliferated blogs. This would be fine but a weird thing happened: people started to look at them. Oddly, I hadn't considered that; they really were supposed to be for me. Somewhere I could store information on units and points values etc. together with links to other websites I found useful. But he Sudan blog has averaged 2,500 views a month over the last two years and this one averages 1,200 a month. The Cavegirls blog (yes, I know it is only marginally about wargaming!) has had over 100,000 visits in just under two years. One of my other incarnation's blogs had reached a third of a million views and was getting 1,200 visits a day. This latter one, however, was recently deemed "objectionable" after a complaint to Blogger (because I wrote a not very enthusiastic piece about Michael Jackson, I suspect) and now only gets 12 a day because a lot of office software blocks blogs labelled "objectionable" by Blogger . The point being, that at some point I realised I had an audience and felt compelled to add content to service it.

I realised today that I haven't updated three of my blogs since 2008 and I was thinking about what I could paint to give them another entry. In other words, the existence of the blogs is driving my painting! So expect something on Darkest Africa, Swashbucklers and Byzantines in the next few weeks. Perhaps the best solution would be to do my one unfinished figure a week for these unloved blogs.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Painted figures: June and July

Much better lately as I am enjoying my painting again: 24 figures in June and 23 in July.

WW1 Germans 15
Napoleonic Dutch 4
Lord of the Rings Rohan 1
Celtic Slingers 3
Back of Beyond character 1
Balearic slingers 8
Beja infantry 15

Altogether I have managed a rather paltry 113 figures this year but I'm hoping the second part of the year will be better. That said I have four or five potential overseas trips over the next three months.

Currently, I have another 10 Beja who just need spears or flags and another 15 about half done. I'm also getting the next eight Sudan Gordon Highlanders ready in the vague hope that I can field a small unt for my Sudan game next month (unless I have to go to Argentina).

Distractions wise I want to get one of Guy's Games Workshop Warhammer 40K Imperial Guard done. He wants to do the urban type games as laid out in Cities of Death so between now and Christmas the plan is to paint one squad of Orks and one of Cadians.

Both Matt and Giles have suggested the idea of getting some part painted figures done. Giles has suggested trying to finish one a week. Easy to say when you have an army of clone painters at your disposal. I think that I will try to do the same, although I can see that this will result in my doing only one figure a week! Rather than just painting one of a unit I will aim to do a character figure. Looking at the workbench for a suitable figure I think that this week I will paint one of my mountain men to represent Frenchie Lebecque the leader of my French Canadian brigade of Hudson's Bay Company trappers. We shall see how I get on!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Warhammered in Cowes

The view from our balcony: north east facing so not brilliant for painting

I don’t know what it is: the sea air, the feeling of being dropped back in time to the nineteen fifties or lack of proximity to the lead pile, but whenever I come down to our cottage 0n the Isle of Wight I always end up with piles of Games Workshop stuff that I don’t really need.

I usually join the family for two or three weeks here in Cowes; usually coinciding with Cowes Week, which is the World’s biggest yachting regatta. Increasingly, unfortunately, it has very little to do with yachting and a lot to do with ghastly corporate entertaining of people who can’t handle their drink. It’s interesting to see that many of the corporate boats have disappeared this year but I see that Linklaters, who laid off 180 lawyers in the last few months, still have an eponymous yacht. Wonder what the partners who were chucked out think of that.

Charlotte dreams of her own command!

We tend to come at Cowes Weeks so my daughter, who is a keen sailor (she is very excited about having bought her first dinghy this week), can watch the race starts; usually from the lawn of the Royal Yacht Squadron, which is about the only civilised place left in town during the week. This year she might be doing a bit of crewing.
Our former steed. Looking a lot better than when we raced it!
My days of racing in Cowes Week have long gone although we did see our old boat out sailing yesterday. We will sail off to Newtown Harbour today, an idyllic complex of creeks further along the coast, and leave all the lager louts behind to crash about in their horrible plastic yachts. Then we might sail over to Beaulieu as Guy wants to see the new Top Gear exhibition. Beaulieu's always tricky, though, as we have to get in at high tide and the boat draws 6'8" so we only have a narrow window.

Anyway, I always bring a few figures to paint during the holiday and this year, given I have a Sudan Wars Sword and the Flame game coming up in a month, I bought 42 Perry Beja, 8 Highlanders and a few Foundry Mountain Men with me to work on. The mountain men are because I have just bought the excellent Charlton Heston/Brian Keith movie The Mountain Men on widescreen DVD. I’ve only got the US pan and scan version which is a travesty as the original was filmed on location in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming in glorious widescreen. I managed to get a European widescreen version on eBay, however. I’m also reading the enjoyable Terry Johnstone mountain men novel, Carry the Wind. So the mountain men are because I started them a few years ago and want to finish them and also to have a change of pace if I get sick of Beja (which I do, very quickly!).

I should, therefore, have quite enough figures to last me for the holiday but I have acquired, over the last four or five days, a whole pile of Games Workshop stuff. Partly I justify this on the basis that in the evenings I can’t paint under the rather gloomy light we have in the cottage but I can construct a few plastic figures. This is really retrospective justification, however. If this was really true I would have bought a few sprues of Victrix Napoleonics down with me.

There aren’t any wargames shops on the Isle of Wight any more. There aren’t even any model shops. A few years ago there was one called Wight World of Wargames, which had closed before I had even discovered it existed. Then, for a year or so, there was one called Fun, Fact and Fantasy in Ryde. The latter was one of the most dismal shops of any kind I ever had the misfortune to visit. A dusty, tatty looking emporium in an unfashionable back street of Ryde (not exactly Juan Les Pins itself). It was the sort of shop where the boxes of Warhammer in the window were so faded that you couldn’t see what they were. Inside they had a wargames table set up with really lumpy papier mache scenery and a few battered 40K models on it. Most of the shelves and racks were empty save for a few blisters of Black Tree Design historicals. I felt so sorry for them that I bought some fairly horrible BTD Anglo Saxons and a box of Uruk Hai. In retrospect, maybe it was this that started my holiday Games Workshop buying habit.

Now, the only source of miniatures on the Island are two toyshops and a comic book shop. All of these carry, unfortunately, a rather good range of GW products. Equally unfortunately, they are much frequented by my little boy Guy, in search of model supercars. Inevitably whilst he closely examines every Matchbox car in the place looking for exactly the right model Ferrari I end up browsing the GW shelves. My office is exactly 150 paces from the GW store in Oxford Street yet I don’t go in there browsing. This is, of course, because they are intimidating places for anyone over the age of 13. When I venture in it is usually to buy a pot or two of metallic paint. It’s a case of getting in and out as fast as possible. I certainly don’t want to get into conversation with some 23 year old troll. The only 23 year olds I want to talk to are female and from a Baltic city, thank you very much.

So the combination of time on my hands and the lack of hovering GW employees means I have time to look at some of the books they produce. Books, of course, are my biggest problem habit (after Baltic women). Since I have been on the Island I have bought about ten hardbacks in some of the very good second hand bookshops here. I’ve acquired a couple of excellent South African books on the Zulu Wars I hadn’t seen before, Michael Glover’s From Waterloo to Mons (that’s your fault Matt!), Michael Barthorp’s British Infantry Uniforms since 1660 and the Funcken’s The Age of Chivalry Part 1 (which has made me want to revisit my Carolingians). I also got some very old editions of Slatin’s Fire and Sword in the Sudan and Sir Samuel Baker’s Albert Nyanza Great Basin of the Nile which will get me back onto Darkest Africa (at least I have already painted my Foundry Sir Samuel and Lady Baker figures!). I also picked up a book called A corkscrew is most useful, about Victorian travellers (people who travelled the world not chaps in horse drawn caravans).

High Down Rocket museum

On a visit to High Down, the site of Britain’s top secret rocket programme, I a bought a book called Vertical Empire about the UK rocket programme, which my daughter, Charlotte, has temporarily pinched (she is not sure at present whether she wants to be a pirate or a rocket scientist at present so is also simultaneously reading Treasure Island (which I got in the RNLI second hand bookstand at Freshwater Bay).

Pirate or scientist?

Anyway, I stupidly bought the Citadel Miniatures catalogue along with a box of Lord of the Rings wood elves (encouraged by Charlotte who has played some LotR games with me). Then I made the mistake of looking at the catalogue with Guy. Next year his school is resuming its Warhammer club and his new little friend (the Russian billionaire’s son) is a keen player so we need to get Guy an army. Given that his friend has somewhat greater resources than us we need to practice our tactics and work on the composition of our armies. Fortunately, they live near by and his mother is a fine example of a Baltic woman so I never mind taking Guy around there. A few months ago I bought the 40K (the favoured incarnation at Guy’s school) starter set which contains Space Marines and Orks. While I quite like the Orks the Space Marines don’t really do it for me. In fact very few of the 40k armies appeal. Many of the armies are too monster-like for me (I’m not a natural fantasy person; I like my armies to look like historical ones; with men not monsters). However, Guy and I agreed that we liked the look of the Imperial Guard. He liked the tanks and I liked the rather Space Above and Beyond looking infantry. Oh dear. Sold. One Imperial Guard Battleforce.

Then I was looking at the Warhammer pages of the catalogue. Now I had already decided to give up Warhammer despite having a massive box of Dwarves and Goblins a year or so ago. But no. I decided I liked the look of the Dark Elves. Nicely sinister looking and quite a few girlies to boot. Three boxes of those and the codex.

The holiday workbench: Beja, Cadian Imperial Guard, Dark Elves, Wood Elves, Gordon Highlanders, Mountain Men and a dinosaur!

We’re off cruising for a few days so no more early morning painting but at least I have some plastic people to glue together. We shall see if I progress further than that. At least I have completed 15 Beja so far!