Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Wargaming highlights and lowlights

Wargames played

My last wargame - in 2010!

Well, the first thing to note is that there was no wargaming at all.  In fact it's now two years since I had a game.  I thought my Belgians v Azande game was last November but it turns out it was November 2010.  I really don't know where the time goes!  My last game at Guildford Wargames Club was September 2010!  Must play something next year!

Figure painting 2012

A rather disappointing 107 figures in total this year, which is the lowest figure ever and about 50% down on last year.  The main reason for this is that my wife has taken on a part time job so has less time to do domestic things.  When she has spare time, therefore, she doesn't take kindly to me sitting around painting when she is doing the washing, stacking the dishwasher, helping the children with revision etc.  Fair enough really, so I have had less time and also want to avoid the evil eye form the old bat (as her sister calls her - it's not just me who finds her a nagging old boot).  In addition, there has been a huge amount of letters and university application stuff to do relating to the children and my wife cannot type, which means I often spend an hour or so an evening writing to the dyslexia psychologist and such. This all means I can really only paint when she is out, which is pretty much only Sunday.  Also the weather has been so bad this year I have struggled to paint in what passes for light.  I have two daylight bulb lamps on my desk but can't do shading under them only base colours.

The most figures of one type I painted were, surprisingly, Back of Beyond Russians, especially as they didn't figure in my 2012 plan at all, and Darkest Africa, which did.

Main categories painted:

Darkest Africa 21
Back of Beyond 21
Zulu War 18
Napoleonic 15
ACW 14
18mm Fantasy 8
Argonauts 6

I'm quite pleased with progress on the Zulu War and Napoleonics.  I totally failed to move the Indian Mutiny stuff along though and the Argonauts project has not gone as I had hoped, although I have 25 figures on the workbench at present.  I must say I live in awe of people who paint hundreds of figures a year.  They either have a lot more time than I do or they paint faster (or both!).

Figure Painting 2013

Trolls in progress

I need to finish the last three Dutch Jaegers to complete my first Napoleonic unit.  I did some on them today so hope they will be done in a week or two.  I also need to finish off my Prussian line infantry.  I want to do some figures for The Hobbit and worked on the trolls my daughter got me for Christmas today.  I need to finish some more Darkest Africa figures for my Zambezi campaign as then I will have enough for an initial game, if I can persuade Guy, who since our last game has become totally addicted to Xbox.  More on the Argonauts is called for too, especially as you can play a Tribes of Legend game with just ten figures.  I want to paint some of my French & Indian war figures from Conquest (now Warlord too) and have one test figure which is so close to being finished it might even get done by next weekend.  I want to get some more of my Copplestone 18mm fantasy figures done too.  I have some WW2 British well under way which would be good for Bolt Action.  My target for January is to finish 24 figures (my old monthly target).  It's possible if I don't have to go to Turkey.

Oh no!  I'm typing this while listening to Respighi and now I pini della Via Appia has come on and it always makes me want to paint Romans, especially as I sold all my painted ones to Big Red Bat!

Figure Acquisition 2012

I haven't owned one of these for some time!

Oh dear.  I really have no idea how many figures I bought this year. Hundreds certainly.  Perry American Civil War (3 boxes of plastics and about 50 metals), Empress ECW, Perry Napoleonics (metals and plastics), Perry Wars of the Roses, Crusader ancients, Foundry Tribes of Legend and Darkest Africa, A pack (well 60 figures) of Gripping Beast Skraelings for Saga, Warlord Plastic Zulus, Crimean War etc etc.  New ranges include quite a lot of Crooked Dice's not Captain Scarlet figures and then some die-cast vehicles off eBay to go with them.  The sad news about Gerry Anderson (who I was lucky enough to meet a few years ago) has got me wanting to paint a few of these sooner rather than later.  SIG!

Rules acquisition 2012

Musket and Tomahawk, looks interesting, and now the Conquest figures are more easily available via Warlord I might get some of these done to try a small game.  I bought Bolt Action and like the look of them so will try and get some early WW2 figures finished.  Other rules I bought include The Devil's Wind, Mutineer Miniatures Indian Mutiny rules, War and Conquest and Pike and Shotte.  I think I got some of the Hail Caesar and Black Powder supplements too.  I also bought Matakishi's Crom rules for Hyborian skirmishes which I thought would work with my Coppestone Fantasy figures.  I played  a game of Prehistoric Settlement with Matakishi once at Guildford and he is an amazingly focussed fellow as regards projects.


I'd like to get started on this Grand Manner traders hut

One of the reasons I don't play any games is that I haven't got enough scenic items.  Well, I have them, I just haven't painted them.  I'm starting small at present with a tree holding the Golden Fleece.  I really need to finish my GW Battleboards for a start as I have only done one out of six.  So, more scenics in 2013.

Big things of 2012

My "little boy" Guy, surrounded by bleached blondes as usual, gets his Olympic hat signed by some glammy Team GB sailorette at Cowes Week.  Girls can really mess up your wargaming!  I should know!

Well, I am rather distanced from the wargames scene but it's clear that Saga and now Musket and Tomahawk are making an impact. Laterly there is a lot about Bolt Action too.  Let's hope I can persuade my little boy, Guy, to try a game of one of these as a way to get him off the Xbox and stop him mooning over Bobby Davro's daughter, who is in his class at school.


On the magazine front I am enjoying what they are doing with Wargames Soldiers and Strategy, which is now my favourite magazine.  Well not  actually my overall favourite, I probably enjoy Decanter and Airfix Model World more and even Playboy has smartened up its covers a bit in the latter part of the year.    White Dwarf started to really annoy me when it mentioned the Lord of the Rings on the (increasingly sealed in plastic) cover and yet had no LotR content inside.  

Speaking of magazines, I  forgot to mention in my non-wargaming review that a significant part of my wargaming purchases this year have been funded by the fee from an article on the history of Playboy and Penthouse which I was commissioned to write for a new, arty men's magazine.  I've never made any money from wargaming.  On the contrary, it's like having a mistress in that all your spare money just disappears:  meals out, afternoon tea in five star hotels, Champagne (vintage, of course), expensive lingerie, tickets to the ballet, two day trips to Paris, coffee table books on fashion, etc.  No, not wargaming, of course.  A mistress.  I would imagine. 

Most annoying things...

Paper? Schmaper!

I can't finish without having a moan, especially after two thirds of a bottle of Chateau Giscours 1979, So what aspects of wargaming have annoyed me this year?

A really bad one is the increasing tendency at inane attempts at humour in some of the articles in the wargames magazines.  This is very difficult to do well and very few can manage it.  Thank goodness Steve Eardley was terminated from Miniature Wargames earlier in the year.  I actually enjoyed Dr Phil Hendry's article on basing in one of the magazines recently as he managed to inject some levity without it sounding like a Maths teacher trying to make a joke at the end of term (there is, after all, nothing funny about Maths teachers).  I have a friend who is very clever (he is an actuary) but has no sense of humour whatsoever; yet he constantly tries to tell jokes and make funny comments because he feels he ought to.  Hmm, something about Maths, perhaps?  Some people don't have a sense of humour in the same way that some are useless at Maths, languages, music or art.  If you can't do it don't force it!  I am well known for not having a sense of humour at all.  I therefore find other people's attempts at humour particularly tiresome.

Another pet peeve (and I also hate people who write cliches like "pet peeve") is the increasingly common "news" reports on The Miniatures Page advertising paper scenery, vehicles or troops.  If I see the word "cardstock" (what's wrong with just "card" anyway?) one more time I am going to scream.  I know it is a sign of the times but there is something just sad about paper wargames stuff (I can just about see it for buildings).    I wouldn't mind if any of these paper troops looked any good but they all seem to have been produced by people with the artistic sensibilities of John Prescott.  Before you produce paper figures (I positively detest the American term "minis", by the way) find someone who can actually draw and paint (or the digital equivalent).

Do not even get me on wargames companies who have Facebook or Twitter pages.  I really can't see the point of either, as most of the content on your page seems to come from other people over whom you have little control. Who wants to be "friends" with  a model soldier company anyway? Tragic. I bet Bobby Davro's daughter (she is an extremely attractive young lady, we have to say) wouldn't be impressed.

One final point is that some people are following this blog and I have not reciprocated.  I apologise for this but this is something to do with those who use Google Friend Connect for followers which I do not have as it sounds far too "social media" for me and it won't let me follow under this incarnation.

Anyway, the Legatus wishes all his readers a very happy New Year and would like to thank everyone who has read some of my inane ramblings and looked at my blotchily painted figures. I would particularly like to thank those who take the time to comment.  I continue to be inspired by everyone else's efforts so hope I can paint a bit more this coming year.  Now off to see Britt Ekland at Windsor pantomime later today!

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 non-wargaming highlights...and a few lowlights


Well, it's still too dark to paint properly (although I have just undercoated my trolls from The Hobbit) so I might as well sit down and ramble away on the blog for a bit whilst listening to some defiantly non-Christmas music. Today we have Russ Garcia and his Orchestra's groovy Fantastica: Music from Outer Space.  Garcia, a prolific arranger and conductor also did the striking soundtrack for the original film of The Time Machine  (1960).

Wargaming highlights will be next but lets look at the non-hobby year first. Oh no, I'm starting to sound like that Meeples and Miniatures chap! 

Best Book

I've bought a lot of books this year and have no idea where to put them.  I wanted to put some more bookshelves up but my wife, who doesn't read anything except the Daily Mail, thinks they "ruin the look of the wall".  I'm seriously contemplating putting all my paperbacks on Kindle to gain space even though I don't like the look of the Kindle machines as their pages don't hold enough text to look like a proper book.  There's no doubt about my favourite purchase though: the monumental Ray Harryhausen: Master of the Magicks Vol 3: The British Films.  Well worth £100 (especially as they are now selling for £149 on Amazon).

Best Film

Berenice Marlohe in Skyfall

I didn't get to the cinema much this year and think I may have only gone to Skyfall, which was truly excellent although a James Bond film more in the nature of John Gardener's new novels in the eighties (which is a good thing).  It shows what can be done in giving Bond to a proper director and not a former second unit stunt director. John Glen, who directed five Bond films (badly) nearly killed off the whole series in the eighties by not understanding the essence of Bond at all.

Best TV show

This has to be Game of Thrones.  I think its older than 2012 but I only got it on DVD this year as I don't have Sky (as I refuse to give any money to Rupert Murdoch if I can possibly avoid it).  I haven't read the books (although one of my young ladies is urging me to) but it was great to see fantasy done in an adult way rather than the sort of Xena/Hercules approach usually seen in the past.

Best Musical discovery

I bought 1147 tracks on iTunes this year, it seems, plus quite a few CDs as well but probably the most unexpectedly enjoyable were Laurie Johnson's two orchestral jazz pieces: Symphony (synthesis) and Concerto for Trumpet, tenor saxophone and orchestra from The Musical Worlds of Laurie Johnson.  Johnson, of course, is better know for his groovy sixties and seventies TV music (The Avengers, The Professionals, Jason King as well, of course, as the theme music for This is your Life and Animal Magic).  

Best encounter with a fashion model

Coming across the winner of Britain and Ireland's next top model, Letitia Herod, on Oxshott station one morning.  It turns out she lives here and she certainly improves the scenery on the platform compared with my usual fellow travellers who include:  Mr Public Sector Cardigan (men shouldn't wear cardigans to work-it's not the nineteen fifties - also, don't wear your work ID badge around your neck before you get to work), Mr Nineteen Fifties Hair (again, it's not the nineteen fifties - no more Brylcreem) , The Grumpy Frenchman (cheer up for heaven's sake), Big Ugly (a bolt through your neck might actually improve your appearance), Once was Handsome (the bouffant Patrick Mower look is well past it's sell by date, as are you, I'm afraid), Madame Witches Hair (women in their sixties should not have long hair; especially long, frizzy grey hair.  Being French is no excuse),  Takes her Coat off Girl (actually we don't mind her), The Old Codgers (stop sitting on the aisle seats of the train when the inside ones are empty - it's not going to stop people sitting next to you), Mr Argy Bargy  (the ageing tango dancer look doesn't go well with your pin stripe suit), Slutty the Schoolgirl (goodness, you have grown out of that skirt haven't you?) Mrs Blancmange (you really shouldn't be eating chocolate for breakfast), Porridge-eating Baldy (you really shouldn't be eating porridge out of a Tupperware box on the train - get up earlier!), The Evil Twins (Do you know the Midwich Cuckoos?  That's you that is), Mr Broad-brimmed Hat (it needs a clean and it doesn't make you look like Terry Pratchett) and Mr House of Blues (you really are too old for that jacket).  

Best foreign trip

The Battle of Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown

Not too many this year, thank goodness. Mostly B's this year: Bucharest, Belgrade, Boston, Bogota as well as Dubai, Houston and...Edinburgh.  Most enjoyable trip was to the splendid city of Boston as there was some good military content, a superb art gallery, excellent food and the presence of my particular friend Sophie from Vancouver, who was single-handedly trying to re-energise Boston's retail sector.  Also I felt very intelligent giving a talk at MIT!

Best Artistic Experience

This one was also from Boston with the very rare opportunity to see all of Renoir's great dance paintings in one place at the Museum of Fine Arts. Dance in the Country and Dance in the City were brought over from the Musée d'Orsay to be shown alongside the Museum's own Dance at Bougival.  All three paintings were produced by Renoir in a frenzy of activity over three weeks in 1883 but they don't look rushed, just full of movement.

Best Exhibition

Warner Bros Harry Potter Experience was utterly brilliant even for someone whose interest in the series starts and finishes with Emma Watson.

Best Olympics Experience

Wiggo on the Portsmouth Road!

I've always enjoyed the Olympics although the closest I had got to them until now was competing in the Olympic trials for archery back in 1980. To have the games come to London and discover all the cycling events were coming through my village was doubly exciting, therefore. I remember I was having tea in Claridges with the Egyptian investment minister (as you do) when everyone started cheering and that's when I discovered that we had beaten the French (again).

Although I enjoyed my two visits to the Olympic stadium  to watch the athletics (I went to the rowing and the fencing as well) nothing really beat the sight of Bradley Wiggins at full pelt carried by a positively peristaltic wave of cheering as he powered down the Portsmouth Road to take gold at my birthplace, Hampton Court.

Best Olympic Party

We're all quite relaxed by this point

The one I attended at Canada House with an increasingly "relaxed" silver medal winning ladies rowing eight. Good fun was had by all!

Best Martini

Surprisingly, it was the one I had in the bar of the Howard Johnson hotel in Bucharest.  Really cold and with just one olive.  It was by far the cheapest too!  Excellent!

Best Wine

Probably this bottle of Château Prieuré-Lichine 1995 which I had in the Tate Gallery restaurant.  These can be a bit hit and miss, I gather, but we had a good one.

Best New Beer Discovery

A Harpoon I had at lunch in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This would have to be Harpoon I.P.A. from Boston although it was best on draught at the trendy Hotel Marlowe  in Cambridge, Mass.

Best Meal

 Prosciutto San Daniele con Burrata Pugliese e inslata mista

 Ravioile ripiene di Taleggio, bieta e noci alla maggiorana

Controfiletto di manzo arrosto

My overseas eating experiences were disappointing this year and although I had some good solid peasant food in Belgrade my best meal was in the ever reliable Latium in London accompanied by a former PA of mine.  It's the only place in London that cooks my beef the way I like it too!  The wine list is fantastic: their Casale Marchese Frascati is the sort of wine I used to drink in Rome when I worked there and bears as much relation to the Frascati you get in Tesco's as Kelly Brook does to Ann Widdecombe.

Worst meal
Eats shoots and leaves

I attended some Olympic-linked business events run by the government in Lancaster House in London. I went to the China day which had a rather weird fashion show attached to it but I was very disappointed with the food.   Frankly, I don't consider a glass tumbler containing a few bamboo sprouts and leaves as lunch! However, looking at some of the Chinese models they look like they eat exactly that all the time.

Best wildlife

Eats shoots and leaves

My view tends to be that the only good animal is a cooked animal but I was rather taken by the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.  They are just so ridiculous!

Worst Jubilee nonsense

Not the BBC's coverage of the Jubilee sail pass (although that was so bad my father in law, who is involved with the Dunkirk Little Ships organisation, got engaged in a long correspondence with the Director General of the BBC).  No, it has to be this little display my wife put up in our front garden for the Jubilee period.  Gnomes !  Argh!

Best Discovery

The Legatus with V in Brasenose.  Splendid girl!

A tea chest full of old letters and photos from thirty years ago which reminded me of quite how many girlfriends I got through at university and how many I had completely forgotten about in the intervening three decades.

Worst discovery

 One of M's mugshots

M at my City leaving party in 2008

In trying to find her contact details finding that one of my friends M, a beautiful, classy and well-educated woman, who used to work with me in London, turned up on US mugshot sites having been arrested three times for trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer.  I wish I could contact her and find out what's wrong.

Next time we'll look at the wargaming/military side of things.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ACW Federal Regular Infantry

It's not all pork pie and claret this Christmas; I've actually finished some figures today!

These are going to be for the unit of Federal Regulars who fought at Bull Run.  They were a composite unit formed from men from several different regiments.  A few more regiments like these may have made a difference to the eventual outcome.

Perry Miniatures don't make the correct figures for these troops but fortunately, and rather to my surprise, Crusader do, under their rank and file range.  I am very fussy about mixing figures from different manufacturers but while these are a little shorter than the Perry figures they aren't that different and, crucially, the muskets are the same length.  In separate units the difference will be unnoticeable.  I will now order the rest of the figures I need for the unit as Crusader also do a command set.

As regards painting, I saw several mentions that in this period the regulars had dark blue trousers but then again some illustrations had them in the paler blue.  Some had them in the pale blue but with a broad dark blue stripe down the outside of the trousers.  Given that it is a composite unit I might paint the others up with these different trousers.  

They look a bit squat in the picture as I only managed to get one done before the battery died in my camera and my wife's camera battery had packed up too.  I'll try to get some better pictures when I do the whole unit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas is saved!

Well, when I last posted Christmas was looking grim but everything turned around in 18 hours!  My younger sister-in-laws family announced that they were all ill but were going down to my other sister-in-law for Christmas anyway.  Her children have not only had every child illness going but now they are working through ones even Dr Miriam Stoppard has never heard of.  Snivelling scum! My wife, worried about our children picking up dreaded diseases before exams in January said that we weren't going down for family Christmas, therefore, but we would do it at home,  This was 2.00pm on Christmas Eve!  Straight off to Waitrose to buy Christmas dinner.  Just got one of the last Turkeys, the last sprouts, etc etc.  

Return home and the evil troll family (as Guy calls them) have decided not to go to Christmas lunch at all as the boy troll is too ill.  He is the one who eats all the sausages and bacon rolls at lunch.  So my wife's parents persuade us to go down for lunch the next day after all.  The children are upset as they wanted to do a Christmas meal at home for the first time.  So we cook it all for Christmas Eve dinner.  Very continental!

Yes, that is a full sized dinner plate it's on!

Next morning my daughter gives me the GW The Hobbit trolls set and a massive pork pie for Christmas.  She paid for it all herself with money she had earned doing some work at a craft fair.  What a good girl!  Glad I got her the One Direction tickets now!

My brother in law goes for more bacon rolls.  But not this year, matey!

Went down to my sister in law's and without the troll family it was much more civilised.  There was more food for a start as the troll family weren't there to scoff it all before anyone else got a chance.  Still no first course but my brother in law opened a bottle of Bollinger before lunch and a Berry Bros Margaux at lunch.  Shock! 

Then my parents in law gave me the Saul David Military Blunders book.  An excellent choice which they decided upon on their own!  

Today I have been happily making trolls all day and even doing some painting.

Christmas saved!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Christmas to all our Readers!

The Legatus is not fond of Christmas, or at least, all the nonsensical commercial frippery attached to it and tries to ignore it as much as possible.  Unfortunately, my wife and daughter love it and have surpassed themselves as regards the installation of a ludicrously over the top Christmas display in our living room this year.  This is what 31 boxes of Christmas decorations looks like.  No wonder there is no room in the loft for my boxes of plastic figures!  What's worse is that the two armchairs that usually sit here are now in my study, the door into which you can just glimpse through the forest.  As a result I have no access to most of my DVD collection so had no luck when trying to extract my favourite anti- Christmas film, Gremlins, for a late night spin the other day.  I went off to try to buy some Champagne at the supermarket today, in anticipation of my birthday in January, (there are some superb half price offers on at present) but gave up when faced with a non-moving, 400 yard queue to get into Sainsburys car park.  On Friday it took me 20 minutes to find a free parking slot in our local Tesco.  It could have been worse, it took my sister-in-law two hours to get out of Tesco's car park in Salisbury on Friday! Madness!

Kelly Brook, a most unlikely, but nonetheless welcome, Christmas angel

Perhaps people are stocking up because the end of the World didn't happen last week, as it surely can't be because the shops are shut for one whole day next week.  I have to go down to my sister in law for Christmas lunch this year rather than my sister, who has decided to de-camp to Australia for the holiday.  This is a most depressing prospect as my sister cooks an excellent Christmas lunch whereas my sister in law is to cooking what Kelly Brook is to particle physics.  You get one slice of Turkey, one (burnt) sausage, one bacon roll, one potato and three sprouts.  If you're lucky.  If you're unlucky one of my children's cousins hoovers up all the sausages before you can get to them.  There is no starter, no stuffing, no peas, no carrots and no wine!  The problem is that my wife's family has no interest in food (or drink) whatsoever.  My father-in-law puts Worcester Sauce on everything (he even asked for it when eating in Gordon Ramsay at Claridges - he was lucky not to be thrown out).  My wife largely lives on Slimfast shakes because she can't be bothered to make herself lunch.  My mother-in-law (an otherwise estimable woman) has said if she could take one pill a day with all the required nutrients in she would, rather than waste time with eating.  Argh!  

I'd volunteer to cook it myself except they have an AGA, a worthless piece of outdated nineteen twenties technology, which should have been scrapped fifty years ago.  The AGA was invented in Sweden (Aktiebolaget Svenska Gasaccumolato) which is to haut cuisine what Kelly Brook is to neurosurgery. It might work well at heating freezing Nordic kitchens but as a means to cook anything it is utterly useless. It only has two rings for a start. Only someone totally disinterested in cooking would own an AGA! It dries out a Turkey so that it has a texture like shredded rubber from the sole of a twenty-five year old deck shoe. This probably explains why the Legatus always loses weight over Christmas! Sigh!

I only remember my father giving me two pieces of advice: "Don't ever dance.  Dancing is only for women, children, homosexuals and black people" and "there are only five important things in life: food, wine, women, art and music and they are all basically the same thing."   So that's probably why I have opened one of my remaining bottles of Mouton Rothschild today and am drinking it whilst listening to Meredith Willson's excellent two symphonies, which I have recently discovered.  Willson is better known for writing the musical The Music Man and more pertinently for this time of year, the seasonal standard, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  All I need is my Canadian friend Sophie in her little Santa outfit  (it's the boots that do it) and I would feel rather more festive than I do.  

Speaking of particle physics, my tragic daughter asked for the thrilling volume SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source of the Future for Christmas.  I think that could be nearly as bad as the bottle of Draino my wife asked for once.  My son asked for an iPad mini; the search for which began to resemble the quest for El Dorado.  I'm sure Apple are deliberately restricting the availability of these. After telephoning John Lewis every four hours for four weeks we tracked one down in Cheadle (wherever that is).  

Time-wasting machine

To add to my pre-Christmas cheer I have to write two strategy documents by the end of December.  One thing about being a consultant is that you don't get any days off. If you don't work you don't get paid. So Christmas Day and Boxing Day is costing me £1500 in non-chargeable days.  Grr!  What I really want to do  is get some painting done but if I try to do any when my wife is around I get harangued for not helping the children with their revision.  They both have re-takes in January on account of being bone idle slackers who spend all their time playing Xbox or watching Made in Chelsea rather than revising.  One of the other parents at Guy's school actually threw their son's Xbox out of his bedroom window.  Something I can sympathise with!

My current two legions need a boost

In fact, I did get a bit of painting done today on some ACW figures and some Back of Beyond ones, which were a complete impulse buy a couple of weeks ago.  However the light had gone by three so that's why I'm writing this instead!  I also bought a lot of Carthaginian Wars period Romans off eBay a week or so ago as I have decided to boost the size of my two painted legions for this period.  Currently they are in 12 figure units but I want to push these up to 24 figure units.  I have also based some Lusitanians which I might have a go at in the New Year.

I will do a proper review of the year the week after next!

Ho, ho, ho!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Bombsight: German bombs on London during the blitz

London is under there somewhere

I was equally fascinated and appalled by the new interactive Bombsight map which shows the site of every bomb which fell on London during the blitz, from October 1940 until June 1941.

I had tended to think that the bombs were concentrated on the East End and the Docks with a few stray ones over central London.  The reality is staggering.  Even out as far as where I live, in Oxshott, there were dozens in the immediate area.  This is a quiet suburb (it would have been even quieter seventy years ago) about nineteen miles from the centre of London and yet each one of these dots is a bomb impact.  I live along the bottom edge of this map which covers an area of about four and a half miles by two and a half miles.  Not a lot of area for such a lot of bombs!  Scary

We really don't have any appreciation of what our parents and grandparents had to live through...

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town

I suppose it was inevitable, but having resisted buying The Hobbit: The Escape from Goblin Town at the weekend (mainly because Games Workshop in Epsom wouldn't answer the phone, as I wanted to check whether they had any in stock) I was in Oxford Street today having just changed $1000 back into sterling.  Even £75 seemed like a small amount, therefore.  Or rather £75.10 as GW charged me 10p for the bag to take it home in!   Talk about mean!  

My daughter, Charlotte, is more excited about it than my son, Guy, who used to be my regular LotR opponent, as he now only wants to kill zombies on his xbox (and I refuse to do zombie wargames!).  GW man in the shop said that they had been selling really well but then the North Koreans keep saying that their rocket programme is doing well too.  So, now it's time to put on some Howard Shore and, as the annoying chap from Meeples and Miniatures always says "lets see what we have in the box".  Well , not that much compared with some other GW boxes I've bought.  There is actually white space, which isn't such a bad thing as I often find that once I have taken everything out of a box like this I can't get it all back in again without it bulging out everywhere.  Like trying to put a tent back in its case.  Not that I have ever camped in a tent, of course.  That would be ghastly.  Except possibly in the Ngorongoro Crater with a large tent you can stand up in, seat ten for dinner and have a lovely girl in a pith helmet to fetch your claret for you.

First out the box is all the usual bases and dice plus a rather clunky 24 inch ruler.  I know it's supposed to be everything you need to play the game in one box but do GW really think that people don't have tape measures or rulers at home?  Maybe they don't and it's only wargamers who have a surfeit of measuring instruments.  I suppose if you had just unpacked a box in your tent in the Ngorongoro Crater to have a quick post-prandial skirmish along with the Quinta Do Noval 1896 (which I remember having at our final legal dinner at College - it's still the only nineteenth century wine I have ever had) you'd be jolly miffed if you didn't have a measuring stick.  It would also be useful for swatting the girl in a pith helmet with if she didn't get more bottles fast enough.

Inside we have no less than six printed items.  Black and white instructions for the figures (those that have multiple parts anyway) and the scenic items like the Goblin King's throne and all the planking.  There is a separate sheet for the limited edition Radagast the Brown figure.  Also included is a separate colour A4 card with Radagast's statistics and a scenario on the other side. There is a two page summary play sheet which could have had a lot more information on it.  There is an A4 44 page introduction to the game with most of the pictures coming from a Goblin Town skirmish but containing a few stills from the film itself, as well, which is always useful for reference.  Finally,  the rules themselves which are in a small A5 format book.  These are 144 pages and I will leave it to others far more clever than me to point out any differences between the old LotR rules and this updated version, although I gather monsters are stronger.  One thing I did notice was that the writing is very small and I couldn't possibly read it without glasses, so that means, inevitably, buying the full-sized hardback version, I suppose.

One other thing I noticed in the main rule book was this picture of mounted elves.  These don't look like the existing Galadhrim knights so are they something to come?  They don't look like a conversion, either

The first sprue contains all the principal "good" characters.  Some are multi-part and need arms sticking on.  The detail is very good for plastics and many (although not all) of the faces do look exactly like the characters from the film.  Still, I would have preferred metal, or, rather, Finecast for these.  Maybe these will come out in the future.

There are two identical sprues of goblins; all one piece figures.  Many people have commented that they don't look anything like the goblins in The Fellowship of the Ring (although no-one actually called them "goblins" in that film) but that isn't GW's fault as presumably they reflect the creatures from the film.  They're bigger than the old goblins and look more orcish  They are very nice except that they are covered in boils.  It is weird, I know, but I really can't stand figures with lumps and boils on them; just as I don't like misshapen ugly figures, even if they are supposed to be ugly.  The Warhammer giant is a figure I would never buy, for example, as his body is just too slack, soft and nasty looking.  That's why I could never paint zombies.  Too ugly!  The other thing I don't like is the nasty pink tinged white that the GW painters have used on them.  I will have to see what they look like in the film, of course, but I am hoping for more of a grey colour.  Sorry that the picture of the front of them isn't very good but I had two attempts at doing them and have had a long day so couldn't face it again.

The "special edition" Radagast figure has no less than six pieces and is a very curious figure indeed.  I can't say that I am that excited by having a plastic model of the worst Dr Who ever, but there we are.  It also features another dislike of mine, scenic items attached to the figure.  Grr!

The biggest figure sprue in the box features the Goblin King (another very ugly figure) and his throne, plus some other bits.  The throne is very detailed, if rather Warhammer-like but, again, I believe it is based directly on the item from the film.

Finally, you get two sprues of the infamous planking that makes up Goblin Town (it seems).  Others have said that they will make their own, which seems sensible. The floor elements themselves are very solid with deeply etched detail top and bottom.  They are covered with horrible skulls, bones and worse, however.  This is not good if you want to use multiple sets to build a bigger environment because of the repitition.  I wonder how many sets at £35 you would need to build the layout that they used in this month's White Dwarf?  Some of the fittings on the posts look quite flimsy, too.

So, all in all it's an interesting set and I am sure that I will paint all the figures eventually, although not before getting some more colour photographic reference of the actual characters from the film.  GW usually paint their Lord of the Rings figures too brightly compared with how they look in the films.  The Bilbo figure on the front of this month's White Dwarf, for example, has a bright red jacket, whereas all the stills I have seen from the film have it a much darker shade.

Usually with a set like this I would start by painting something from the rank and file but for this one I think I may start with Bilbo Baggins, simply because there is more photographic reference around for him.  It's got me even more keen to see the film, anyway!