Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wargods of Olympus and more non-painting

Given that I can't summon the energy to do any painting at present it is patently insane to sign up for another kickstarter but this is what I have done by going in (quite big time) on Crocodile Games Wargods of Olympus, which finishes in a few hours.  It seems to have been a spectacular success for them and I am hoping to use some of the the figures as part of my Argonauts project apart from trying the main game itself.  This depends on their size (I gather they are quite large) and whether I decide to mount them on washers, rather than the slotta bases they are designed, for which will require some surgery.  I have done this successfully with Black Scorpion's pirates so see no reason that it won't work for these too.  We shall see. Their marketing has been very good, the concept art has been first class and I especially liked the way they illustrated progress on the kickstarter with a rather splendid map.

When their 300 style Spartans came out a few years ago I thought they were ridiculous but have been won over by their new Trojans which, while at the fantasy end of the spectrum are not by too much. I've also been impressed by some of the extra figures including an enticing Artemis who looks just like my Greek girlfriend F of thirty years ago! 

I've never seen any of their figures in reality but have heard good things about them. I am tempted to order some of the old Greek figures that they have produced just to try them out.

Now then, now then, what's goin' on 'ere?

I really wanted to get some painting done today as I haven't done anything in June and I thought maybe I could finish one figure today but I don't have anything close enough to completion.  I have four In Her Majesty's Name figures (the Scotland Yard policemen)  on the way but I am struggling with two problems with these.  Firstly, I am having trouble doing their eyes.  Annoyingly, rather than a plain oval, the eyes have sculpted irises which is really making them hard to do.  I've had three attempts so far and only one figure looks OK. The other issue is with regard to the uniform.  Police uniform at the end of the nineteenth century (as now, actually) was such a dark blue that it looked almost black.  Many of the painted figures I have seen are far too blue.  I am happy with the colour I mixed for them but shading them is proving a problem. I have actually shaded these figures with what I thought was a darker and then a lighter shade but when the paint dries the shading isn't apparent at all.  Oh well, I'll just have to have another go.

I'm off to the Americas (Houston, Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla and Panama City) again on Friday, somewhat unexpectedly, so I don't think I'll get anything painted before then.  So it'll be three weeks before I get anything done.

I am going to paint my Grand Manner Roman warship for a game Big Red Bat is planning in the autumn (see my Roman blog) so hope to get that started soon.  I might paint my Argo at the same time.  It'll make a change from getting stressed by not painting figures anyway.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Back from Poland

A dark and drizzling Terminal 3

Just back from Poland and a much more enjoyable trip than to South America (although without the consolatory bonus of S from Vancouver, sadly).  Not a good start, however, as I had a 7.20am flight which meant getting up at 4.30am.  Even worse, for some reason the British Airways Warsaw flights leave from Terminal 3 (a dismal pile of uninspired buildings that reminds me more of an Eastern Bloc shopping centre than an international airport terminal) rather than Terminal 5.  

Why Poland is better than Brazil 1: The City square

Usually, whenever I visit a country I only visit the capital city but in the case of Poland I have been to  a few other places as well.  This time, although I flew into Warsaw, a four hour drive west towards the German border saw me in Poznan for the first time.  Poznan is a very attractive city full of parks, gardens and water (actually they have had rather too much water of late).  The weather was perfect with between 27 and 30 degrees which meant I was able to have every meal outside while I was there.

Now the Legatus doesn't usually do 3 star hotels but as my hosts were paying I left the choice to them and, in fact, the Garden Hotel was right in the middle of the old town and was perfectly charming with a lovely garden where I had breakfast every morning (truly excellent scrambled eggs with smoked ham).

It was just a few yards from the main town square which was lined with dozens of restaurants and bars; nearly all of which had outdoor terraces.  In addition there was some sort of festival going on which saw market stalls selling stuff and a stage putting on various dance/music events so, as a result, there were lots of people to watch. There was also an international folk festival on so the square was regularly full of, as here, the likes of singing fiddling girlies in traditional dress or splendid looking chaps from India in full fig.  This was all much more enjoyable than the endless stream of  boring old government buildings I usually visit.

In fact, in Poznan, even the boring old government buildings are more interesting too.  I had a meeting in the town hall which was really rather splendid.

Poland does not exactly have a reputation for haute cuisine but I didn't have a bad meal there (unlike Brazil).  This is because mostly we ate out at the Brovaria Hotel  restaurant terrace which had a splendid view of the square.

The hotel looked very nice but would have been rather noisy at night with the festival on.  Inside there was something of a revelation in that it contained its own microbrewery as well as several bars and a restaurant.

Why Poland is better than Brazil 2: Micro brewery in a hotel

My host (who is one of the organisers of the world cavalry championship which took place  in Poznan last year) had me try his favourite beer: the honey beer or miodowe.

The beer is only served in the hotel and restaurant.  It's not bottled or sold elsewhere.  They make two other beers: a pils and a wheat beer.  It was only on the second day that I discovered the tasting selection!  Not like the one I had in the Granville Island Brewery in Vancouver once where the servings were rather small.  You got 20cl of each!

Why Poland is better than Brazil 3: beer tasting servings

Something else they served which you can't buy was JA Baczewski potato vodka which you can get in restaurants in Poland but not shops.  I've never bothered with potato vodka before as I assumed it would be rather rough but this was nothing of the sort; it was one of the best vodkas I have ever tasted.

Why Poland is superior to Brazil 4: Proper drinks!

Only £2 a shot too.   I had five on the final night which is the equivalent of half a tasting glass of the beer.  Oh dear!  Felt fine the next day though.  The trick is to keep eating and drinking lots of water.  The food at Brovaria was excellent too; sort of Polish with a trendy twist.

Why Poland is superior to Brazil 5: Proper food!

The Poles like their soups and for lunch one day I had a sort of chilled beetroot gazpacho.  Now I hate beetroot: I think it is an abomination.  Its slimy, peculiar-tasting and leaves unremovable stains on everything it touches.  But this was delicious.  Just the job on a day when the temperature topped 30 degrees.  I also had a splendid sour rye with wild mushroom soup too.

Chicken breast roulade stuffed with pistachios and Parma ham with plum sauce, savoy cabbage with ginger and pan fried potatoes.

 Wild boar dumplings 

 Pink beef tenderloin flavoured with truffles, mashed potatoes, peas and beans

All the main courses were equally excellent and it was nice to see somewhere that could cook my beef the way I like it.  That is, hardly cooked at all.  Poland is not a good place to try to lose weight although I didn't see any fat women there.

Why Poland is superior to Brazil 6: Properly attired women!

In fact, I have to report that the young ladies were far superior to those in Brazil, especially as most of them seemed to be wearing tiny denim shorts (it really was hot!).  This example was sat next to us one evening but the gloomy light made capturing her difficult.  I took several pictures of her with her phone, at her request, but I didn't get any of those, sadly, as hers would have been superior as she had a flash on her phone and I didn't (or more precisely, I did have a flash but didn't know how to switch it on).

So, all in all I enjoyed myself much more in Poland than Brazil.  Friday I am off again to Houston for a couple of days.  Then Colombia again and then on to a new country for me, Panama.  I hope to get at least one vaguely military post done before I go but I will be away  for another two weeks after that.  Nine flights this time.  Sigh.  I really do hate flying. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Something for the Weekend: Joey Gibson

I don't want to get this labelled as an objectionable blog so if you want to  see a young lady playing sandcastles with some soldiers you best head to my adults only Legatus Wargames Ladies site here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Military Museum, Bogota

When in Bogota recently I had the chance to go around the small but interesting military museum there. It's built around a courtyard which holds some examples of artillery used by the Colombian armed forces over the years.

Not surprisingly, given the nature of the terrain in the country, it was largely of the mountain gun or heavy mortar type.  I was pleased to see an example of the De Bange mountain gun there which will feature in my Zambezi Campaign in due course.

De Bange

Other artillery there was of German or Czech manufacture.  The Colombians seem to have bought their equipment from a variety of sources over the years.



There were a couple of aircraft outside the museum including a Lockheed T33.  Colombia bought some of these Canadian-built Silver Stars, which is what the Canadians called their version of the Lockheed  Shooting Star, in 1954 as the country's first military jets.

I think that the Colombian space programme needs a little bit more work, however.

Inside there were a number of rooms devoted to the navy the airforce and several to the army.  I hadn't realised that Colombia had 4,000 troops that fought in the Korean War!  The first historical room featured the Colombian struggle for independence with a lot of uniform prints of Simon Bolivar's army and even one of his cloaks.

The Battle of Boyaca in Colombia by Martin Tovar y Tovar

They had several full sized uniforms as well. In the earlier period the Colombian troops were not exactly well equipped and many didn't even have firearms.  By the time of the Battle of Boyaca in 1819 they were  equipped with British muskets however.

By the Battle of Carabobo in 1821 the armies of what was now known as Gran Colombia (consisting of Colombia, Venzuela, Ecuador, Panama, Northern Peru and North West Brazil) were more formal in the typical, colourful Napoleonic style.  

Gran Colombian troops at the battle of Carabobo (in what is now Venezuela) by Martin Tovar y Tovar

Needless to say I thought it would be great if someone made 28mm figures for this period.  No sooner had I got home than I saw on The Miniatures Page an announcement about the fact that Orinoco Miniatures in Prague had just released some figures for the British Legion for the period.  Up to 7,000 British (and Irish and German - ex KGL) fought in the British Legion of mercenary troops in Simon Bolivar's army and their contribution was critical to Bolivar's victories at Boyaca and Carabobo.  More British than Colombians died in the battles for Colombian independence, I was told on my recent visit to Bogota.

I placed an order Friday night and they arrived the following Wednesday morning.  These are really lovely figures; virtually identical in size and proportions to Perry Miniatures figures.  The detail is superb with no flash and hardly any discernible mould lines (North Star take note!).  If anything, the detail is even crisper than the Perry figures with none of that guess work you sometimes need on an obscure strap or belt. Very, very impressed with these with Spanish on the way (see their blog) and Gran Colombia troops next.

I was over at Mike Lewis' house (of Black Hat Miniatures) this evening, picking up some of his old scenic boards (more on which another time) for my Zambezi project and he told me that Parkfield Miniatures also did some nice South American Wars of Liberation troops.

Just what I need, another period!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Back from South America!

Well I have returned, somewhat enervated, from a couple of weeks in South America. My first week was in Brazil, a country I had not been to before. I was hoping for a nation full of curvaceous, sensual women, exotically infectious music, delicious food and a lot of tropical Latin flair. What I found was dull looking women, unhealthy and indigestible food in a country that reminded me of a rather dirty (and not in a good way) Germany. But maybe that's because I met too many engineers and government people. They certainly do bang on about their architecture a lot. Maybe that's because its the only thing they are really good at. 

First stop was Sao Paulo, one of the most unpleasant cities I have had the displeasure to ever visit (worse than Manila, worse than Taipei, worse than Seoul). Polluted, dangerous (one of the staff got mugged outside the Consulate at gunpoint just after we had left a reception there) overcrowded and quite claustrophobic due to the prevalence of tall concrete buildings which prevent any sort of vista. The women were dull too, except for the IT lady at the Governor's Palace who was rather fine. 

Very few people speak English in Brazil. It’s the only country of the 61 I have visited where this is the case. Now British people are rotten at languages; partly because everybody else speaks English (maybe ruling a sixth of the globe helped here) but also because we don't learn proper English grammar at school (or at least we didn't in the seventies) so learning anyone else's language is difficult as we have no knowledge of formal grammatical structure.  Still, it must be most unfortunate to be a country of 200 million people whose language was inherited from a tiny country that hasn’t been a world power for five hundred years and which almost no-one else, apart from a couple of the shabbier corners of Africa, speaks. It seems that Brazil has one of the worse language skill rankings in the world (probably just above Britain). Also Portuguese must be the ugliest Latin language on earth. It’s all “bish bem bosh” which bears no relation to the written form of the language whatsoever. 

Several days in Sao Paulo saw the Legatus in a very bad mood, therefore. This was exacerbated by the poor breakfast at my hotel. I’m sorry, but who eats cake for breakfast? Well, my particular friend S, who arrived from Peru and obviously, thought the addition of gold leaf to the cake was sufficient to make it acceptable.  But then she is a girl and Canadian.

Brazilian food is full of sugar, even the bread. The cooked breakfast (at my rather ordinary business hotel) consisted of scrambled eggs and slices of processed ham boiled (and floating in) water. Worse still was the total lack of proper tea. I know that it’s a coffee growing country but coffee gives me arrhythmia and so my doctors (I seem to have an increasing number) won’t let me drink it. This is fine because it is a disgusting, barbarian’s drink but I do need tea to keep me sane. All they had were those appalling substitutes made from fruit (tastes like that orange water which collects in a rusty wheelbarrow) or flowers (tastes like a particularly unpleasant Lentheric body spray). 

I did have some Brahma Beer which was also dull.  I also had, surprisingly, my only Vodka Martini of the trip which was not bad, actually.

Belo Horizonte

Next stop was Belo Horizonte. This I liked rather more than Sao Paulo. It was warmer for a start (33 degrees) and the girls wore a lot less as a result. A few slightly more attractive examples and many more displaying that appealing characteristic of the local wildlife, which we had been seeking to observe since our arrival: the Brazilian bottom. A lot of ladies were pretty plain from the front, however, but, in some versions of the world, this may not necessarily be important. 

The hotel was nicer and we had a view from our room of the city. There were hills. And trees. Breakfast was a bit better and they had proper tea (well, for one morning they did). The Legatus started to relax. We went out in the evenings and felt reasonably safe. It was warm and we could sit outside a bar and listen to some good local bossa nova (very sixties) from a band playing in a square (maybe that’s something else the Brazilians are good at). A bit more of the Brazil I was hoping for as passing lovelies (and some not so lovelies, admittedly) demonstrated their dance moves before moving on. Then it started to rain and we had to go inside where everyone was watching the local team play football (alright, something else they are good at, worthless though it is) and discovered they really do all jump up and shout “Go-a-a-l” very loudly when their team scores (which, thankfully, they did twice). 


Moving on to my main destination we arrived in Bogota (after a six hour flight). Although I have been there twice before I had never spent more than two days in the city. This time I had a weekend, however, so we got out and about a bit more. The weather was supposed to be bad all week, with constant rain forecast, but we were lucky and it was sunny all weekend. Starting off in the main square I observed many llamas with saddles for giving rides. My new expert on Andean matters told me that they must be imported for tourists as they don’t have llamas in Colombia. Disappointed at this inauthentic experience we wandered into the surprisingly restrained cathedral which was built by the Spanish around two hundred years ago, just as they were losing their grip on the country, but more of that next time in my post on the military museum which we discovered by accident whilst looking for a cafe which could dispense cake to my companion. 

The Gold Museum

After lunch at a cute but (bizarrely) Italian restaurant we went to the Gold Museum. This is a world class museum, by any standards, and is full of examples of pre-Hispanic gold and other artefacts. I’m not that interested in gold (unlike my companion who relieved the shop of quite a lot of it) but the way the different regional cultural stories was told through their surviving artifacts was very well done.

Bogota from Monserrate

Next day we ascended the funicular (I demurred on the cable car – in films they always seem to get stuck, with homicidal maniacs either on board, on the roof or disabling the brakes in the winding house) to Monserrate (you can walk but you’d have to be an idiot or a local, as the 3200m altitude means anything faster than a slow stroll leaves you completely breathless) for a fantastic view of the whole city. Usually touristy places like this have horrible catering but there was a splendid French restaurant at the top where we stopped for a very long lunch.

Old Bogota

A week of intense meetings (for me) and intense shopping (for S) followed.  I did feel slightly guilty that my 12 hour working days did not allow for enough time with my lovely companion but we made up for it when able.

I had a terrible trip back which took 26 hours door to door.  Too much turbulence on the aeroplanes due to the effects of the US hurricanes.  When I left Houston for London they didn't turn off the seat belt signs for two and a half hours after take off.  I really need to investigate banana boats.   So, it would be nice to say that would be it for travel for a bit but I'm in Poland next week and back in Colombia in three weeks time.  Good for my air miles anyway...