Monday, February 27, 2012


Reaper Cyclops squares up to a Foundry Argonaut

Well, this is an unusual sort of figure for me.  It is a Reaper Miniatures Cyclops which I picked up recently at Orc's nest.  It is nothing like a Greek mythological Cyclops as it is based on the one in Ray Harryhausen's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (if only someone made a really good range of Sinbad figures!).

I will write more on the Cyclops in my new Argonautika blog shortly. 

The Cyclops in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The figure was very easy to paint once I had found some colour references for it.  Unlike many of the Harryhausen figures which still exist, this model, being one of the older ones, has suffered in the fifty or so years since it was built, so no good, modern pictures exist of it.  I found some stills and watched the film again on DVD.  Incidentally the beach in the background, Sa Conca (near Girona in Catalonia), was also used in another two Harryhausen films The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960) and Mysterious Island (1961).  Sadly, the then deserted bay has now been entirely surrounded by villas which is one of the reasons that all recent Greek mythological films tend to be filmed in unspoiled Turkey.

Harryhausen's original model

With its goat legs, the Harryhausen Cyclops is very different from the giant human of The Odyssey but this was a deliberate move on Harryhausen's part as he worried that a more human figure would be taken by viewers as a man in a rubber suit.  The single horn would become a typical Harryhausen feature.

It looks, from the look of the Tribes of Legend book, like Foundry have a more conventional Cyclops on the way but I just wanted some Harryhausen in my games!

As a more primitive creature I have given him bronze weapons (the one in the film was unarmed) as compared with the technologically advanced, iron-armed Argonauts

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Things that make me go grrrr!

Some time last year Steve the Wargamer started a series on things that got him annoyed about wargaming.  I remember his well argued rant about people who paint eyes on their figures (like me)!

Well, I am in a generally grumpy mood at present (even grumpier than usual) as I don't have any time to paint at present.  This is mainly down to my wife having got a part time job which seems rather full time at the moment.  As a result I am ending up with much more children ferrying and domestic jobs to do to the extent that if I ever pick up a paintbrush I get told I should be fixing the tiles in the bathroom (or some such) instead.  Also my son has exams next week so we are having to spend a lot of time in the evening revising with him in the vain hope that we can get him up to a "C" grade in his mock GCSEs.

I did get ten minutes done today on my current Ray Harryhausen type figure and it may even get finished this weekend (except Guy now has rowing on Saturday and Sunday), which means I can't have a whole day at home any more at the weekend.

So, in my current grump here are three things about wargaming that have been annoying me this week.

Mr Eardley talking dirigibles again

1 Steve Eardley.  He writes (ad nauseum) for Miniature Wargames.  There is nothing wrong with his writing, which editing 50% of it out wouldn't cure, but what is starting to get me down are his constant schoolboy-level socialist rants.  I don't want to hear it! Stick to wargaming! 

The equally exciting Meeples and Miniatures website...

2 Meeples and Miniatures.  Part of my annoyance with this is the stupid name.  What on earth are meeples, anyway?  These are podcasts; something which I am instantly suspicious of anyway.  Podcasts are like listening to the radio without having a radio.  I hate radio. I can't stand it. Endless blathering from people who love the sound of their own voice.  Podcasts are worse as you don't even have the (however meagre) quality control of a radio station.  Anyone can produce these (like blogs!).  The idea behind this one is quite interesting. In the current one he interviews the boss of the Plastic Soldier Company. I have always wanted to see, in the wargaming magazines, more interviews with the people behind different figure companies.  But the problem with M&M is that the man behind it has one of those flat, monotonous (and dare I say Northern?) voices which sends me to sleep after three minutes.  Argh!  Talk faster!  Put some expression into your voice!  Better still get someone else to do the talking! Then I might be able to listen to what is, actually, a good idea.  If there is anything worse than a bad idea it is a good idea done badly!

Silly! Silly! Silly!

3 Bases on AFV models.  Every time I see this in a magazine I think, "why?"  The purpose of bases on model soldiers is to stop them falling over.  Yes, I know some people say that they are there to represent a certain area or number of troops but very few of the modern rules use ground scale in this way any more.  Model tanks don't fall over so why put them on a base?  It just looks silly!

There.  I feel much better now!  Now I have to take my daughter to a lecture about the Moon at University College London.  More painting time lost!  Grrrr!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tribes of Legend

Well, after some delay I got hold of my copy of the new Wargames Foundry Tribes of Legend rules by Jake Thornton.  I ordered from Amazon which meant I paid just over £14 rather than £22, which was well worth the slight delay in shipping.

I bought these, of course, for my new Argonauts project but also for some other Greek mythological games inspired by the numerous new, if rather clunky, Foundry figures.  Some of these are quite nice whilst some are truly horrible (like much of Foundry's recent output) but I am hoping that at least some of them will paint up OK.  Looking at some of the faces I wonder if they aren't modeled on some of the Copplestone Caesarian figures.

Anyway, this is a nicely presented set of hardback rules with nice touches such as marbled (appropriately) endpapers. There are 114 pages with colour photographs of their new models on nearly every page.  Indeed, some of the models included haven't actually been released yet (although there was another batch released today).

Essentially, what is contained in the book are three separate sets of rules all dealing with different types of mythological combat.   

Firstly, there are the Tribes of Legend Rules.  These contemplate small armies of figures with several troop types available to the different armies available.  These are City States (hoplites), Hillmen (Thracians), Amazons, Centaurs and Satyrs.  No unit can contain more than 16 figures and some units, like the centaurs, can only have six figures.  For me, this a very good start!  Units can either be formed or loose, with things like shooting ranges always being calculated from the leader figure.  Units are activated in turn and can either: move, move into contact with the enemy and melee, move and shoot once or not move and shoot twice.  This regular back and forth between the players units can be changed by deploying one of three Hands of the Gods cards which you draw at the beginning of the game.  These can, for example, allow you to move two units in one go, get an extra action or stop the other player doing something.  Moving and fighting are all very familiar from Warhammer type games.  In fact these rules only cover four and a quarter pages. They look designed for a short, brutal game.  Any unit (with some exceptions) that goes down to half its number is routed and is removed with no chance of rallying.

Next comes three pages on the major Greek Gods but given that they have no role in the game this section is a little pointless.  

After this, there is the first of a series of painting guides.  In fact no less than 41 pages of the book are painting guides by a number of different painters.  Most of this is very basic stuff but, as ever, Mr Dallimore's section gave a couple of useful hints I hadn't tried before.

The second set of rule is called Ancient Heroes and is for bands of five (no more, no less) figures really designed for four players.   There is only one scenario: based around a hill containing a temple which the bands need to occupy.  Combat is based on a normal pack of playing cards with dice only being used to resolve ties.  Distractions can be vineyards (there is a lot in these rules about alcohol distracting some of the forces) or lurking nymphs, wolves or skeletons.  Again the rules are only about five pages long.

The final set of rules is a solo set, Trials of a Demigod, based on the 12 Labours of Heracles.  Again, the rules are three pages and the scenarios total another twelve.  These rules are less about combat than husbanding and using resources and are dice and card driven.  The models and scenery are almost irrelevant but they could lead to an interesting campaign.  More importantly there are enough scenarios that you could devise others using similar formats.

I quite like some of the new gods and goddesses.  It's just shame they don't have a role in the game.

At the end of the book is an article on making rivers (the second set of rules, Ancient Heroes, requires a stream on the table) but nothing on any other scenery.

Now, I'm not one of those people who can read a set of rules and say "ah this means X".  I would have to play them first.  They look very simple (are they designed for children?)  They would make a much simpler introduction to wargaming than Warhammer, for example.  I would have to play some games to see how they work; especially the card-driven Ancient Heroes which looks to be the most interesting set but I would need another couple of players.

As far as using them to recreate the search for the Golden Fleece, I think that they could work by using a mixture of all three sets of rules.  However, I am a little disappointed in them as I think they have wasted too much space with unnecessary painting guides and not given enough thought to making the rules more complex.  I would have liked to see a bigger role for the individual gods, for example, and more individual stats for named heroes and monsters.  These may either come, I suppose, or you could write them yourself, but if you have to do that you might as well use something like an adapted set of Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings.

All in all, a few basic rules with a lot of padding.  There are lots of big, coloured photographs but actually many are too big for both the standard of sculpting and the standard of painting, which is workmanlike rather than brilliant.  So, I will give them a go but I am glad I only paid £14 not £22 for them!

Friday, February 17, 2012

An unexpected parade

We  just popped into Esher this morning to get Guy a haircut (his CCF officers were starting to complain) and found the whole place somewhat en fête for a march past by 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery personnel returning from Afghanistan.  

13 pdr gun

Sandown Park race course is just up the High Street and it was Royal Artillery Gold Cup day so we also had members of the King's Troop, Royal House Artillery, The Royal Artillery Band and the Royal Artillery Pipes and Drums. It was all rather stirring!

Quite a few of the gunners in the King's troop were ladies: they were first accepted into the unit in 1996.

The L118 105mm light gun as used by the parachute and commando regiments

It was good to see a fair crowd out to support them and even some Union flags being waved by the little ones.  At least it shows that not everyone living in this area are American or Japanese bankers, foreign footballers or Russian oligarchs!

Charlotte is showing a horrible interest in attending Edinburgh University.  I told her that she would have to get used to the incessant skirl of bagpipes.  Unfortunately she is one eighth Scottish (on her mother's side) and appears to actually like bagpipe music, tragically!

The salute was taken by the splendidly named General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey.

Charlotte watches as the Honourable Artillery Company parade back up the High Street.  I see this lot around the City a lot but hadn't seem them so far from home before.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tanks for the Memory...or Sex, Thighs and Measuring Tape. Life as it was thirty years ago: a Valentines Day special

Matchbox Char B and Airfix Matilda go into action

I have just been hit by a wave of nostalgia for a period three decades ago caused by finding some old stuff at home in a veritable time capsule.

I was back at my mother's house this weekend, looking for some books for my daughter, and picking my way carefully around the loft.  It doesn't have floorboards so you have to leap from beam to beam to ensure that you don't go through the ceiling below, as my father did, memorably, on one occasion. After moving a fold-up bed and a pile of old suitcases (when they have stickers on which say RMS Berengaria you know they are old!) I found two tea chests in a far corner I hadn't reached for years.  You never see tea chests any more but when I was younger, before plastic crates had been invented, everything was stored in tea chests!

Caroline Dell from December 1969

Inside one, buried under a pile of Look and Learn and a few Military Modelling magazines were a heap of old Mayfair magazines from the late sixties and early seventies (which were my father's) and some Men Only magazines from the late seventies and early eighties (which were mine).  An excellent find and all in very good condition.   At the time I prefered the girls from Men Only (hormones being more powerful than intellect at the age of eighteen) but, in retrospect Mayfair was a better magazine with regular, interesting, military-themed articles.

The December 1969 issue carried an article on old pipe tobacco advertisements and I was very taken with this one from 1900 which demonstrates very clearly how those nasty Boers don't like it up'em.  How times have changed.  I can't imagine you could advertise anything now by showing our troops skewering Afghans, for example!

Many of these magazines were actually bought for me by my then girlfriend at college who was what would now be called a lipstick lesbian (although I don't think the term was in use then).  C was into stockings (when all the other girls wore tights), vintage lingerie (decades before burlesque brought it back into fashion), Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Renoir nudes and calligraphy.  She used to write imaginatively erotic letters to me during the holidays in her impeccable script.  I used to do a lot of drawing years ago (I actually won a place at art school but went to university instead) and she was my first nude model.  Also in the same box were all the letters I wrote to my mother from college so I know that it was C who took me along (rather than the other way round, as I thought happened) to join the Oxford University Dungeons and Dragons Society.  We went along regularly every week for a year but I stopped going when she went off with a weedy chap from another college who would go on to be a wine writer (and got sent down for fiddling the cellar system. Heh! heh!).  You were allowed to take individual bottles from the college cellars provided you replaced them with an equivalent standard vintage of the same wine.  Taking a 1970 Bordeaux and replacing it with 1972 (a vintage which damaged the reputation of Bordeaux winemakers for years) was not done.  There was no wine at Dungeons and Dragons as they were all scientists and drank real ale. Indeed, another reason for leaving was that the DM ensured that without A level physics you would never solve any of  the dungeon puzzles he set. 

Fancy a bath, Legatus?  Oh alright, you talked me into it, again!

C was a star lawyer at college.  Every year we had something called principal's collections, which was like a school report but oral.  You had to walk the length of the hall to high table (where you had to stand not sit) whilst your tutors gave an oral report of your perfomance to the principal (not you).  The Chaplain was also there, presumably to lend comfort if you broke down in tears.  Much to my amazement my principal's collection was entirely about, as they put it, my "intense relationship" with C.  Essentially they told me to stop seeing her as I was taking her mind of her work.  I was shocked.  And stunned.  C thought it hilarious and was immensely flattered by the whole thing.  They made the same suggestion to her but she was rather more forthright than I had been in her repudiation of the idea.  Immediately afterwards, and within earshot of the tutors, she suggested we went and had a long bath together instead of her doing her essay, just to spite them.  A girl of great character!  Even though we both went on to other partners during our time at college we continued to "interact" for the whole three years.

Box of delights

All this is relevant because in the other chest, along with some unbuilt Tamiya kits, was an old writing case full of old photographs of, and letters from, ex-girlfriends which, for some reason I kept (maybe because some of the letters were absolutely filthy). In amongst the endless photographs of lady rowers at Oxford (I was official photographer for one of the ladies' colleges - which was as dubious as you might imagine), pictures of my own artwork and photos of ex girlfriends were just two of a wargame I must have done in about Easter 1982 (judging by the other photos in the set).

This then is a rare flashback to the time when most of my gaming was WW2 and was played with my friends Jimbo, Cess and Bean-Kid from school.  This must have been a holiday get-together as we were all at different universities by then.  It was a France 1940 game, as you can see by the Airfix Matilda and the Matchbox Char B and Renault.  Somewhere in the background is a vehicle with a D-Day star but we weren't that bothered about such things.  Indeed we weren't bothered about painting our figures either but these tanks were my handiwork and I still have them up in the loft.

I used to do all my painting and modelling at the little desk I had in my bedroom at home which has long since gone.  I kept all my paints in an old biscuit tin (which amazingly I still keep many of my paints in) in the bottom drawer.  The desk had a lift-up top where I kept my glue, cutting mat, bits box etc.   In the writing box in the loft I found this photo of it.  I used to keep my paintbrushes in the ski-ing-themed (I used to love Ski Sunday!) square pot on the left.  It's nice to find a picture of my original workbench! Somewhat dominating the picture in the forground is another girlfriend from Oxford who was also a C.  In fact I had three girlfriends with the same name during my time at college which was useful as they were being run simultaneously, so no danger of calling them by the wrong name in a moment of passion!  Fortunately, they all went to different colleges.

This C was a first year (and hadn't had a gap year like I had) when I was in my third year which meant that she was four years younger than me, which seemed like a huge amount at the time.  I had a shock when I went to my daughter's school this week as C's name was up on one of the prize winner's boards for winning a scholarship to Oxford, which I hadn't noticed before. How strange to find pictures of her two days later!  She was the first really fit girl I had come across (so to speak) as she was a rower and in the swimming team.  She had thighs like velvet coated steel hawsers and a magnificent posterior.  Being a pacifist English student, the daughter of a clergyman and  much enamoured of Siegfried Sassoon poetry she did not approve of wargaming at all so I wasn't allow to buy soldiers or model tanks when she was around.  This didn't matter to me at the time as she went like a bomb (vicars daughters, eh?)

There was a very good model shop in Oxford, Howes, which is no longer there, sadly, and I bought a whole load of ESCI North African theatre tanks like Valentines and Semoventes for a project that never materialised.  Howes closed in 1996, after more than thirty years on the site, but still exists online and in Kidlington. 

I bought a few Tamiya 1/35 AFV's including this Stug III which I photographed in the snow we had in the winter of 1981/1982.  I've no idea where I got this strange colour scheme from!  It had been mounted on a scenic base at some point, I think. Outside of studying I was doing a lot of drawing, when not entertaining girls (the two often, happily, combined), so never built most of these kits and most are still in the loft I think, although I sold one of the Fiat-Ansaldo tanks for over £25 on ebay a few years ago.  

The lovely J

After I left university I moved on to a girl whose name didn't begin with C but  who I had known at college (where she was someone else's girlfriend).  In fact J was often confused with C (number 1) as they both had long auburn hair.  I was having a very Pre-Raphaelite phase at the time. J was a lovely girl (she still is, as she is the only one of these ladies I still see regularly) who went on to become the first woman in the world to drive a nuclear reactor.  She used to wear white boiler suits at work with fabulously expensive and intricate Italian lingerie underneath.  She worked at a nuclear power station in Somerset and I used to drive down to see her, crossing the battlefield of Sedgemoor as I did so.  I was amazed to see an article in this month's Wargames Illustrated on Sedgemoor where someone had built models of the Westonzoyland and Chedzoy churches I used to drive past on my way to see J.   Since then I have always wanted to game Sedgemoor (especially as it is the battle at the beginning of Captain Blood) but it really is one of those battles where you can't really use the figures for anything else.

V. another very, very passionate girl indeed

After J came V who was situated much closer to home.  We went on a touring holiday in the Loire Valley which engendered a lifelong interest in Loire wines, especially their under-appreciated reds, and another unrequited interest in regional French regiments of the seventeenth century.   There were complications with V in that she was a friend of J and, indeed, both came on this holiday (with another male friend).  I couldn't persuade J to join V and I in the bath in the splendid hotel room we had in Montreuil-Bellay but somehow, oddly, the invitation dissipated any tension. Montreuil-Bellay, we discovered, was the then source of Sainsbury's Rose D'Anjou: V's favourite.  She didn't have the most sophisticated of wine palates (my sister called her a "Niersteiner" - which was a lot better then the other name she had for her) but I adored her and we got perilously close to getting engaged. 

I spent so much time  in extremely athletic physical activity with V that I didn't have time to paint tanks any more.  Anyway, she quite wore me out. She didn't so much go like a bomb as an an asteroid impact. 

My drawing of S.  She's actually got clothes on. Most unusual for one of my drawings!

I moved on to working in the City and found some more lovely girls in my firm including S who I unexpectedly discovered in the jacuzzi at my gym.  Seeing her in her flowery bikini certainly made me see her in a new light compared with her sober suits at work.  She had the most wonderful walk: talk about poetry in motion.  In the City I discovered another good model shop in Middlesex Street and started, for reasons to do with a book I had read, building models of post war US Navy aircraft.  I stopped anything to do with wargaming or non-aviation modelling for over ten years.

In the box with the magazines I also found a very few copies of Military Modelling.  I thought I had got rid of these years ago.  I was pleased to find this one featuring an article on the Sudan!  I tend to remember MM as a large-scale AFV focussed magazine but I was surprised how much wargames content was in it.

Although finding all these splendid magazines, passionate letters and photos of lovely girls was wonderful the real find was at the bottom of the writing box.  It was my old wargaming tape measure which I hadn't seen for thirty years.  This is the one I used when the school wargames club won the trophy at the Model Engineering Exhibition three times running.  I will now replace my nasty B&Q one with this proven battle winning one instead. 

There is an ironic corollory to this.  Although we played as a uniform (literally) team in external events there were two factions in the school wargames club: mine and one led by R.  I never beat R in a game (mainly because he had written the house rules), so I wanted to try something different from WW2.  This did not go down well with R (I think we wanted to have a go at ACW) and he wound up some of the others against us so we went off on our own and started organising our own games out of school (one of which, of course, is illustrated in this post).  After we left school R, who I never liked, started pursuing a girl from the school next door.  They were friends but he wanted to be more.  She regarded him as more like a brother, much to his frustration.  Anyway, I found out, in one of those rambling post-coital conversations that girls insist on having, that of course it was C (the fit girl with the sculpted thighs) who was the object of his unrequited love.  He came to see her at college (from Cambridge which tells you everything you need to know about him) in her first term. When they arranged the visit I wasn't on the scene but when he arrived at her room in college he found C ironing my shirts.  Apparently he nearly had an apoplectic fit when he discovered whose they were.  She insisted on bringing him around to my rooms (I was living out then) as she thought I might like to see an old school friend. I remember him having to be nice to me (through gritted teeth) as he didn't want to upset C.  He was even more upset when she wouldn't go with him to the bus stop to see him off to Fenbog, as she was staying with me that night; as she happily told him.   Ah, revenge!

So, a whole lot of memories in a couple of chests (oh dear now I am thinking about V again -hers was magnificent).  I think I better go and lie down.