Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Off to the dentist...

I've never had any problem with my teeth.  I have one filling caused by an impact when foolishly playing rugby at school (one reason I took up archery) and a chipped front tooth caused by a collision while attempting a kiss during over-enthusiastic girl on top sex with one of my university redheads.  But recently one of my wisdom teeth broke on an olive stone (yes, it was from a Martini).  I was hoping my whizzy dentist could fix it but he just tut-tutted and said the dreaded words: "It'll have to come out!"  I instantly glanced at the knob on the surgery door as that, no doubt, is where they will tie the string.  I gather they will give me an anaesthetic, which is even more painful than the procedure itself.

Not looking forward to it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Getting some painting done but travel looms...

The Waldorf Caledonian hotel has a good view of the castle

I am seriously attempting to travel less for work; not least because I am terrified of flying but also because I find the stress of packing (I always forget something) airports, timetables and different time zones increasingly tiresome.  I think I have got my travel down to a reasonable amount now.  Certainly better than the 120 days I did out of the country in 2009 anyway.

This week I have been in Exeter and on Friday I fly to Edinburgh for a bit.  Not to do with work this time but mainly getting my daughter to interviews at various Universities.  She has applied to Edinburgh and has already had an offer from St Andrews (her one eighth Scottish blood is coming through).  So on Friday we are off to Edinburgh to visit the physics department and then the next day we have to travel on to St Andrews which is another hour and ten minutes on the train and a bus ride.  Frankfurt is actually nearer to where we live than St Andrews!   As compensation I have decided that we will stay in the Waldorf Caledonian Hotel for a couple of days.  The only think which takes away the stress of travelling is a nice hotel.  

The Royal Albert Museum Exeter

While in Exeter I nipped into the Royal Albert Museum which has an eclectic mixture of exhibits, to say the least, but had a nice Corinthian Greek helmet and some Zulu weapons. It won the museum of the year award last year and is certainly fun in the manner of a very large cabinet of curiosities like Victorian gentlemen used to keep.  It reminded me of the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford but has been beautifully modernised inside recently without losing any of its period character.  Worth a look if you are in Exeter.  We drove down on the A303 which is one of the most scenic drives in the South of England; taking you past Stonehenge and Cadbury Hill.  I always feel when travelling to the West Country that it's all a bit closer to history down there and that's not just because it was the route, thirty years ago, down to see my ex girlfriend J in Somerset   who was always ready with a delicious dinner, Sloe Gin and a companionable hot bath.  It is (appropriately) a sort of concatenation of factors: Ley lines, Bronze Age man, Time Team, the ECW, Glastonbury, Stonhenge, and the distinctive countryside that does it.  Surrey is so wooded (the most heavily wooded county in Britain) that long views are unusual where I live but up on the A303 you can see rolling hills and valleys for miles.  Added to which we were driving down in beautiful weather with clear skies, mist in the valleys and the sun going down most artistically.

I am also due to go to Istanbul and Ankara in the next six weeks or so and Poznan in Poland too.  The worst news, however, is that I am going to have to go to Colombia for a month so will miss Salute!  It's not the first time I have had to miss the show due to travel but it is slightly annoying.

Anyway, I have made a bit of progress on the painting.  The Hobbit dwarves are ready for varnishing and then it is just the armour to do (I can't understand those people who matt varnish after they have painted metallic colours).  I say "just the armour" but, of course, on these figures that is most of the area!  I have done some more on my ACW Federal regulars and am not quite half way there but have moved them on quite a bit.  I have also started another Back of Beyond cavalry unit and have painted four horses out of nine.  I also have four various individual figures on the go (I always have a few characters to hand when I am painting units) and all of these could be finished given a good day's painting.  I just need more painting time!  

On my two main contemplative projects Mike Lewis of Black Hat Miniatures brought some of his North Star French Indian Wars figures in to our Wars of the Roses game the other weekend and it is clear that they will match with the Galloping Major figures but not the Conquest/Warlord ones. So I feel happy about finishing some of my Galloping Major FIW French which I started some time ago.

The good news is that the In Her Majesty's Name Victorian steampunk project has achieved its initial start up goal meaning that they will be working on a force of policemen next.  I somehow doubt they will even meet the next goal (£18,000) as they are only on £8,000 at present but am hoping there will be enough extra interest when the figures are released to produce some more forces.  The really good news is that North Star are working with 4Ground to make some laser MDF Victorian London houses.  This really is excellent news and will solve my big worry about scenery!  I am already thinking about mummies on the loose, escaped dinosaurs brought back from a South American plateau, and nasty things in the sewers.  A few years ago I bought a set of the Ainsty castings sewers so these might be just the job for something!

So, all I need is a bit more time!  Maybe on Sunday!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thinking about Boadicea...

My one an only painted Ancient British chariot

Big Red Bat has just put up a post on his Queen Boadicea model and it reminded me that I bought a bunch of British chariots from him a few months ago.  I have built and painted a Celtic chariot for the game we did at Fishbourne Palace some years ago but you really do need more than just one for an Ancient British army!  So, why not do a Boadicea one, I think? I still can't deal with this "Boudica" business, however, even though I know that it was the result of a monk misspelling her name in the middle ages. 

Gripping Beast Boadicea

Big Red Bat's model is the Gripping Beast one which features the most terrifying Boadicea model ever.  In fact, she looks rather like one of the Morlocks from The Time Machine (1960).  Certainly not an attractive figure but, of course, we have no idea what Boadicea looked like: ugly old harridan or glamourous Amazon (or, more likely, something in between).  

Boadicea preferred her woad in a tasteful shade of green

Dio Cassius reported that Boadicea was unusually tall and had waist-length red hair.  Certainly, she is almost invariably depicted with red hair and it has even been suggested that redheaded women's fiery reputation is partly due to the character of Boadicea.  Whether she actually had red hair (not improbable in ancient Britain) or whether this was just a Roman writer's attempt to make her sound alien and terrifying we don't know.

A not very accurate chariot pulled by three horses but lots of red hair for Boadicea and her daughters

Dio Cassius was writing a hundred and fifty years after the Iceni rebellion, whereas the other chronicler of the events, Tacitus, was born just five years before the death of Boadicea.  He however, has nothing to say on her appearance.

Boadicea by John Kenney

Oddly, the first picture of Boadicea I can remember had her depicted with black hair.  This picture from the fondly remembered Ladybird book Julius Caesar and Roman Britain featured splendidly evocative paintings by John Kenney.  Kenney, who took part in the Normandy landings, worked on many of the Ladybird books, including another favourite of mine from the same period, The Story of Nelson.  Kenny also illustrated six of the Thomas the Tank engine books between 1957 until 1962. 

His Ladybird book cover picture of Suetonius and Agricola at the climactic battle with Boadicea had a lot to do with me buying my very first set of Airfix soldiers: Romans of course!  Agricola was, of course, Tacitus' father in law which is what gives his account of the rebellion by the Iceni more authenticity than Dio Cassius's later version.

There is very little information about her so we don't know when she was born; only that she died in 60-61 AD by suicide or illness.  As a historical figure she was forgotten about for 1300 years only re-emerging when Tacitus' work was rediscovered in 1360.  She became popular in Britain again in Tudor times during the reign of Elizabeth I (not coincidentally).  It was in the Victorian period when she really became popular as a British heroine with allusions being made to Britain's own warrior Queen, Victoria. Granted she didn't lead her armies in a scythe equipped chariot but she was leading an Empire engaged in almost continual military action.  This made her, ironically, rather more like a Roman Emperor than a barbarian queen.  Still, Boadicea was so popular that Prince Albert commissioned a massive bronze statue of her and her daughters from the sculptor Thomas Thornycroft who was, incidentally, the great grandfather of the poet Siegfried Sassoon.  In fact, Thornycroft never saw the statue installed on the Embankment as he died seventeen years before it was cast, in 1902.

The appearance of Boadicea in Victorian times usually had her in a rather inauthentic classical dress, often with a crown on her head, as depicted in Thornycroft's statue, and with the inevitable scythes on her chariot wheels.  There is no archaeological evidence for scythed chariots in Britain but the Spanish-born Roman geographer Pomponius Mela, writing shortly after the invasion of 43 AD, mentions there use in Britain.  It is on this one passage that all the later interpretations are based.

Angus McBride's illustration of Boadicea for Look and Learn magazine in the sixties, which I own the original of, doesn't include any scythes but does have the popular wicker type cab which I remember from my Airfix Ancient Britons.

These days it is now believed that the chariots had two arches each side rather than one, as seen in the recreation the BBC did  ten years ago based on an excavation in Wetwang, Yorkshire.  This reconstruction also used evidence from finds in  Anglesey, Somerset, Nottinghamshire and Switzerland.

Chariot in Kentucky

The reconstructed chariot was taken to Kentucky in 2003 where it was driven at an equestrian celebration, obviously with an eye to Boadicea, with an imposing lady on board.  It is clear from this how the latest evidence has moved away from the solid wheels of the Airfix and some of the nineteenth century recreations.

Foundry Boadicea

The only other two 28mm model chariots featuring Boadicea I know of both have the double arch sided cabs, although the Foundry one cheats a bit by putting them within a larger arch.  Their Boadicea adopts the ballgown and cloak approach of the Victorians and, indeed Angus McBride.

Warlord Games version

The most recent model is the Warlord Games one and contains a Boadicea in a dress and a fetching chainmail  top.  She appears to be modelled on Alex Kingston who portrayed the Warrior Queen (as it was named in the US) in the 2003 TV film Boudica.  This one really should be the one I go for but it is not, as I will explain, the approach I am planning to take.

Here is the redoubtable Alex Kingston in her chariot dressed in a sort of (very) shabby chic interpretation of Ancient British clothing.  Oddly, I have never seen this film and I don't think that it is even in my collection of one thousand unwatched DVDs.  Although it is not unknown for me to buy a DVD I already have!  I probably didn't buy it because of the atrocious reviews it got and the only available version is the Region1 DVD which has huge cuts.  Also, she affected, bizarrely, a West country accent in it.  Couldn't she do an East Anglian one?  She was actually born and brought up in Epsom, about three and a half miles from where the Legatus lives so you would have thought that it would have been just as easy given that people from Surrey think everyone else in the world but them have funny accents and don't speak properly.

As someone without a car, a girlfriend with transport, especially flash transport, was very useful

I had a girlfriend from Norfolk in the early eighties, the impossibly pneumatic S, but she had a posh accent.  It was only when I went to see her family in Kings Lynn that I found out that they were still all authentically regional.  Roight?  S appeared to have dark blonde hair but as, er, I got to know her better I discovered that she was actually a redhead underneath, so to speak.  I was baffled as to why a girl with naturally red hair would want to dye it.   Maybe she was a descendant of the Iceni and it was a modern equivalent of lime washing..

Compared with Alex Kingston's here is a slightly cleaner looking Boadicea (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) from that well known historically accurate series Xena: Warrior Princess.  Still a redhead, though.

So, if I do a Boadicea how am I going to approach it?  In the past I have thought about using one of the Foundry Viking warrior women as they have trousers and a tunic which would equally well work for Britons (sort of).  The figures are a lot prettier than the Gripping Beast one too.  What crew would I include?  This version has Boadicea multi-tasking in her, frankly, rather Roman-looking chariot (perhaps she liberated it from Verulamium).

 Another three horsed chariot from Look and Learn

I feel she would need some crew, however.  In many pictures of her she is accompanied by her two daughters.  Before her final defeat she addressed her troops, according to Tacitus, from her chariot with her daughters beside her.  There is no suggestion that she went into battle with them but a chariot crewed by three woman has a strange attraction to me.

Next I need to consider her clothing. This example (below) is from the chicks in chain mail school of Fantasy illustration and our Boadicea sports an extremely tight pair of leather trousers, barely held together by some very loose stitching.  No doubt she also sports abdominals like Jessica Ennis.

In the Pegaso model below she is wearing even less.  This one makes the Xena version look positively historical.  I like the cloak, however.  

Probably the most inauthentic Ancient British queen garb comes from the 1967 Hammer Film The Viking Queen which is not about Vikings at all but Roman occupied Britain and a warrior queen leading her people in an uprising against their Imperial conquerors.  Sound familiar?

The Romans even have the British queen, Salina, tied up and flogged, as Boadicea was.  In fact, it's more Shakespearean than Roman, in a sort of strange collision of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet.  It was quite a big production for Hammer and the Roman uniforms were surprisingly accurate given the date.

Professor Quatermass prepares to give Queen Salina a good thrashing.  If the film had been made three years later Hammer wouldn't have had her chest obscured by a plank

The Viking element was really only there to explain the accent of one-hit wonder (actually it wasn't even a hit) of lead actress Carita Järvinen who was from Finland.  Although why Hammer didn't dub her as they did with so many of their actresses, including the British ones, I don't know.

Carita, as she was billed, even learned to drive a chariot for the production but she was very much a one woman chariot girl.  No doubt this was because the chariots in the film were based on the Roman model a la Ben-Hur.

Whether I can fit three figures into any of the models I have needs to be explored, however.  Given that I am tempted by a completely mythic rather than historic model  I need to think about the  ladies dress.  I have a Foundry naked Amazon hoplte sat on my work bench.  Well, she is not totally naked she is wearing a Pylos helmet, some sandals and a cloak.  Could she be the inauthentic Boadicea I have been looking for?  Hmm!  I feel a silly coming on!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Wars of the Roses Game at Guildford!

The board set up.  Mike Lewis (left) of Black Hat Miniatures took command of the left flank

Well, I went along to the St John's Centre in Merrow on Saturday morning, home of Guildford Wargames Club.  The club had been asked to put on a demonstration game as part of the activities being laid on to celebrate the hall's tenth anniversary.  As church halls go it is pretty impressive (it is Surrey after all) with a first floor, where the seminar room is, in which the club meets every Monday.

The most popular figure on the table!

We had decided on a game set in Britain as we felt that it should have more resonance for our visitors.  The ultimate selection of a Wars of The Roses game was fortuitous given all the recent coverage of Richard III and nearly everyone asked if we had a Richard figure.  Fortunately, I had the one I painted for Guy's mini Bosworth demonstration at school a few years ago.  This was his first game, however, which is usually a bad omen.

My battle on the right flank.  This is one of the few actually viable armies I have!  About 1700 points

We had three players each side, authentically commanding a battle each.  I was on the right flank as Richard III or, rather, as our fictitious battle was set in the 1460s, the Duke of Gloucester.  We laid out our troops with, what to us on the Yorkist side, looked like a vast numerical superiority on the Lancastrian side of the table, particularly in cavalry and archers.

Our extremely numerous opponents

We used WAB 2 rules, which I have never played, although I have played WAB quite a bit.  The key changes seemed to be around making manoevering more difficult, the effect of characters as regards morale and three rank depth bonus limits.  Anyway, I forgot my rule book (or rather I brought my revised WAB 1 instead as I had completely forgotten WAB 2 was a large hardback) so although it didn't make much difference I did plod along at normal moving speed as I wasn't sure about the rules for moving at marching pace.  I thought you needed to be in column or have a musician but everyone else was moving at eight inches a go and I was moving at four.  Anyway, this did prove to be critical in the end as my foot units never really got engaged in melee. 

Old technology beats new technology in the village

Most of my game was a missile duel.  I had a cannon, two units of longbowmen and two units of crossbowmen who I remembered were very strong in WAB.  Most unusually, I had good dice throws all day and by concentrating my fire on certain units I sent some running very early in the battle.  My mercenary crossbowmen (my force is actually the Earl of Oxford's, so are usually fighting on the Lancastrian side where continental mercenaries would have been more common) did a great job on the far right; destroying Dave's handgunners completely and sending his cavalry back the wrong way.

My artillery crew flee their gun to escape the hail of arrows - but not before breaking two units of the opposition

It was the first outing for my cannon as well and, although the crew were eventually sent running from their piece by concentrated archery they did cause quite a few casualties first.  The other guns on the table mostly blew up!

End of the game

Thinks didn't go so well for Mike on the left flank where there was a vicious back and forward in the churchyard.  The centre also saw a reverse for the Yorkists.  Altogether we played for about four and a half hours without a final resolution I still had a viable force and hadn't lost a unit other than my artillery crew (and they still had a chance to rally) but our centre and right had been pounded.  The scene at the end of the game (above) shows me with a unit of men-at-arms (unengaged) and units of crossbowmen, pikemen and archers still fighting.

Further to the right I still had another unit of bowmen, another of crossbowmen and a unit of billmen (also unengaged).  Both of Dave's remaining units would have been removed with one or two more casualties in the next round.  So whilst it was a loss for the Yorkists I would like to think that Richard could have made a tactical retreat, at this point, to fight another day!

As to the real purpose of the day, we had a constant stream of visitors (and even at least  one potential recruit) all of whom seemed fascinated by what was going on.  Dave and some of the others had also laid out some static displays of troops from other periods, ships, aircraft and  the Lord of the Rings. People on  TMP are rude about Games Workshop but it was amazing how many people knew about Warhammer!  The ladies from St John's Centre kindly provided cake and there was free tea which helped calm my battle-stressed (or, rather, rules-stressed) nerves somewhat.

Part of the static display

This was the first big battle game I had played since April 2009!  Despite my nervousness about remembering the rules I did enjoy the day in the end and must thank Dave in particular for letting a non-member return.  I am now seriously thinking about re-joining and maybe doing some more Colonial gaming again.  The other question is: Do I start painting Wars of the Roses again?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

In Her Majesty's Name: Steampunk is coming!

Now, of course, the one thing I don't need is to start a new range of figures but I've always had a hankering to do some Victorian steampunk. However, I have never really been that happy with any of the figures I had seen.  Basically, they all seemed too much steampunk and not enough Victorian.  Now, however North Star are coming out with  line that's just right: definitely Victorian but with certain fantastical elements.  They are very much in the vein of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Even better they have been sculpted by Steve Saleh whose work I have always liked.

The new line is to tie in with Osprey's new skirmish rules In Her Majesty's Name.  I haven't been impressed by any of these other Kickstarter type campaigns, especially the much vaunted Gates of Antares one, which suffers from the not inconsiderable problem of not having example miniatures to show, but I signed up for this one straight away.

The advantage of the Osprey/North Star initiative, however, is that they present (splendid) pictures of the first (of what I hope will be many) forces for this interesting sounding game.  I think the ultimate target of £48,000 for this is hopelessly optimistic for a niche subject but, at the very least, you get the four sets anyway although I think the discount for buying all four sets and the rules of £1.79 is a bit mean.  In the last year or so I have been enjoying a number of Victorian steampunk novels; particularly those by Mark Hodder and George Mann and have thought about splashing out on some Victorian figures without finding any I really liked. 

The big problem with the period  is its Victorian (and in my mind at least) urban setting.  Houses suitable for Victorian London are not a popular subject for terrain manufacturers in the way dark ages, medieval, Tudor and Stuart ones are.  That said, somewhere in the loft I have a large ECW period manor house which with the addition of a laboratory in the grounds might work as a setting without too many buildings.  Hmm!

The figures aren't released until Salute in April so I have plenty of time to think about scenery.  I will keep an eye on Scott's blog as he has been doing some lovely work in this area.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Oh no! I'm going to play a wargame!

I've agreed to go along to Guildford Wargames club on Saturday and participate in a demonstration game as part of the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of the hall that the club uses.

Appropriately, given the news this week, it will be a Wars of The Roses game so my rather Hobbit-like Foundry figures will get another outing.  They must be my most used army!  We will be using WAB2, which I have never played so need to look at as, I think, it changes maximum rank bonus from four down to three which will effect the shape of my units.  

I'm excited to get some figures on a table but terrified of the actual gaming bit as usual.  Also, I repainted some figures from my Earl of Oxford's army for Guy's mini-Bosworth a few years ago so will have to get them off their bases and, possibly, re-paint their livery.  I'm out on Friday night so only have two evenings to do it!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Musket and Tomahawk: which range?

Conquest figure

I finished my first French and Indian war figure at the weekend as it had been sitting around on the workbench for far too long.  It is one of the Conquest (now also Warlord) figures and is a very nice figure indeed, anatomically.  It is very "Perry" in style, size and proportions.  I've done a very simple colour scheme to get him finished quickly: no beading and no war paint.  When I bought these figures (off someone at Guildford Wargames Club) there weren't really any other FIW figures around.  Well, maybe Redoubt but I refuse to buy figures from a manufacturer who won't put photos up on their website and, anyway, they have a reputation for being very large. 

Now however, we have Galloping Major, North Star and Crusader.  There have been some posts on The Miniatures Page asking about comparisons between the sizes of the figures.  Well, as usual, I take no notice of people who say "X range works fine with Y range" as mostly people talk rubbish.  One person said that Conquest work fine with Galloping Major.  No they don't!  Here is my completed Conquest Indian with a Galloping major figure.  The size difference is huge!  The conquest figures is 24mm foot to eye and the Galloping major one is 28mm.  That's not compatible in my book!

So now I'm stuck as to how to proceed.  The Conquest figures are easily the nicest looking but the range is restricted and there is no clue that there will ever be any more.  I need certain types to carry on.  French and British regulars (including Highlanders for the British), canoes, French and British irregulars/militia, Indians for both sides (preferably differentiated) and civilians (armed and unarmed.  I don't think one firm currently provides everything.  

North Star Highlanders

Conquest are strong on civilians and irregulars.  Their regulars are famously posed wrongly and there are no highlanders.  Galloping Major are strong on irregulars, Indians and militia but have no regulars.  Their figures are a bit less refined than Conquest's too.  Some are very nice but some are a little awkward.  The Crusader figures come somewhere between Conquest and Galloping major in style but Crusader figures are often quite small so I doubt if they would go with Galloping Major.  It's not ranges of Indians that we are short of, anyway.  North Star are strong on irregulars and Indians but have no regulars (yet).  However they have announced some beautiful looking Highlanders sculpted by Mike Owen.  The problem with North Star is that, on the whole, they are selling their FIW figures as packs of around thirty figures.  You can buy one or two smaller packs so I suppose I will just have to order one (which will take weeks) to see what they are like as I have no idea of their size.  I've also heard that their figures are very large, maybe even bigger than Galloping Major.

Oh well, more research is needed I think!