Saturday, April 25, 2015

Salute 2015

Well it was a very short visit to Salute for me this year, partly because I have another presentation to do before I leave for Istanbul on Monday and partly because my feet were killing me after only two and a half hours, despite remembering to wear trainers!  

Now I was determined not to add to the lead pile too much so how did I do on my list?  Firstly I restricted myself to only spending what I have collected in £2 coins during the year.  Every time I get one I put it in my "Mind the Gap" London Transport money box and this year I had £116, which is  a lot less than I spent last year.

This year the show was in a different (perhaps slightly larger) hall but I thought it was really busy.  I arrived at about 11.15 and went straight in, as I had ordered my ticket in advance, but whether you had to queue at all if you hadn't I couldn't tell.  Nearly every trade stand I visited had a crowd of people in front of it and in some of the lanes it was quite difficult to move around freely.  A good thing, I suppose.  I wonder if the cancellation of Colours last year had any effect?  It might have been me but I thought the lighting was a bit brighter this year.  It was hot inside, however.

I took very few pictures of games this year, mainly because other people take much better ones.  Look at Eric the Shed's blog for excellent photos. I liked the Warlord's Stingray game just because I like Terror Fish.  I am old enough to remember Stingray when it first came out in 1964 (in black and white of course although it was the very first British TV programme made in colour, for the US market, as we didn't have colour TV in Britain until 1969).  When I was small I had a plastic Stingray model with a rubber band powered propellor for my bath.

I had to go and see Big Red Bat's Cremona which was another lovely looking game.  He always manages to make his games set in Italy actually look like Italy! He was selling copies of his To the Strongest Rules which are hot of the press.  These are beautifully designed by Michael MillsCobalt Peak (who also design the layout of Wargames Bloggers Quarterly) and are illustrated with his wonderful collection of troops and scenery.  I have played them and they give a really enjoyable game.  You can buy them here

Next I had a quick look at the Black Ops game, previewing the new Osprey modern skirmish rules but there wasn't a mock up on show yet.  The board layout and (small) number of troops in play hopefully gives an idea of the sort of game it will be.  I can just imagine my Copplestone troopers in action in a game like this.  I think one of the main things that has changed about wargames in shows in the last few years are the amount of buildings on tables, with the growth in laser cut kits.  Now you have buildings manufacturers sponsoring games. I bought several laser cut buildings last year but as I haven't made any of them yet I resisted buying any more!

I did have a discussion with the lady from Sally 4th (perhaps she was Sally) about their Terra-Blocks system, which will be ideal for Black Ops games.  Unfortunately, they were too late to get a trade stand, otherwise I would have succumbed.  There were a number of people assembling some of their kits, taking advantage of a free offer to build some "live".  Interestingly, when I was there, there were more women than men doing this; gluing on wallpaper to miniature sets.  They have big plans for the range including a Casablanca style Rick's cafe.  I can see that in a Pulp game!

There was some nice scenery on games there and far fewer green baize cloth ones, although not that many show stoppers.  This one, which I think was American War of Independence, had lots of ships scaled to 28mm and a splendid fort.  It was my favourite of the show, I think.  Lovely sea effect!  

There were several Agincourt games, to match the theme of the show, but I can't say I saw any of them.  Maybe they were 15mm ones and I don't see 15mm!  The Perry twins were showing the three-ups of their next plastic Agincourt to Orleans set, of French foot soldiers.  Lovely though these are I have so many unpainted Wars of the Roses troops that I can't justify this period at all!  One medieval game I wanted to look at but couldn't find was Dalauppror's Stockholm 1392 game.  I went up and down the hall three times but never spotted it.  Such is the problem with Salute.

More medieval (sort of) fun around the corner is Frostgrave, which will be released by Osprey in July.  Having been rude about the figures in my post yesterday I was much more taken with them when I saw them today.  Here we have the 12 factions, with two characters each, released so far.  They are by different sculptors but in similar styles.  The Norse looking Copplestone ones look tremendous.

They also had painted three-ups (unusually) of the plastic warriors which will form the bulk of the forces.  These, I have to say, look tremendous and are almost historical (perhaps too historical).  The man at the stand said they were thinking of producing some alternative heads for them in the future, "Robin Hood" heads, for example.  It was not clear if the figures will have heads moulded on, which would limit variation or just will have a limited number in the box.  We shall see.

Unlike Black Ops the rules seem to be well on the way with finished looking pages on display.  There was a game going on and it looks like it might be a good time to dig out my ruins of Osgiliath!  Medieval Mordheim? More enthused about this than I was 24 hours ago!

So, what did I end up with?  Well the chaps at First Corps had received my pre-order, so I am now the owner of a unit of Mexican-American War Mexican infantry.  Considering I need to get on with my Texan War of Independence figures it is a bit crazy to start another period like it but as I am disposing of Napoleonics and Crimean figures then I can sort of justify it.  No more until I paint them, though!

Also on my list were more Lucid Eye Savage Core lost World figures.  I bought some Jaguar warriors and some Amazons.  I'm hoping to do some work on my Neanderthals tomorrow and I have already started the Amazon leader.  I could have bought a lot more from this range (well, all of them, basically) but resisted.  

What I couldn't resist but was the only thing not on my list was this Dee Zee resin mammoth.  I had no luck in finding the Footsore Franco Prussian War figures.   There were VBC and Dark Ages figures on the Warlord stand but no FPW.  Probably just as well.  I also couldn't find any Artizan North West Frontier figures but then I haven't finished the ones I have got yet.  

Frostgrave badge.  Is this an omen?

I got one free figure with my copy of Wargames Illustrated but he will go on eBay (eventually) but I did buy one pack of Iron Duke's new Indian Mutiny range at the Empress stand.  The good news is that they will work perfectly with my existing Mutineer Miniatyres figures.  Se my comparison here on my Sub-Continent blog

Finally, I managed to get to the bloggers meet up and there seemed to be a fair few people there.  First up I met Markus from Germany who had travelled overnight by bus to get to  Salute, which is dedication!  Tamsin, kindly came up and introduced herself as did Ray.  There was a slight etiquette issue in that you didn't know whether to introduce yourself by your real name (meaningless to most people) or your blog identity (more familiar but...odd).  Eric the Shed solved the introduction problem by wearing an Eric the Shed, Shed Wars tee shirt.  He is very famous anyway!  I also had a chat with Big Red Bat, taking a break from his Cremona game.  It was good to see Alastair, from Guildford Wargames club there too.  It was also really nice to meet The Wilde Goose from Orinoco Miniatures for the first time, who had come across from Prague.  He has more of his Latin American wars of Liberation figures out soon.  Excellent!

So a brief but worthwhile visit this year and only £70 spent but 44 figures added to the lead pile.  I need to get more on to eBay this weekend.  Now if I can just get an hour or two's painting done tomorrow before my trip to Turkey!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Salute Eve

It's Salute eve and while I am excited to be going, this year, because of my ongoing lead reduction strategy, I am not planning to buy very much at all as I DON'T NEED IT!

That said I may have a look out for the following which I am listing just to remind me when I am there as I can look at this post on my phone (how horribly technological of me!).  

Lucid Eye Miniatures (Arcane Scenery) Will there be any left?  There weren't last year!
Footsore Miniatures Franco Prussian War figures (no idea where these will be! No information on the website! Warlord might have some but maybe only Dark Ages)
Artizan North West Frontier (no idea)
Empress Miniatures Indian Mutiny (probably all sold out!) Are they really as small as rumoured?

Now I'm not saying I will buy any of these but I just want to have a look.  Actually, I only bought seven figures last year but then I spent £200 on books and scenery (none of which I have either read or built).  

I wanted to have a look at the new Frostgrave rules (TC7 and TD 5) but so far I haven't been overwhelmed by the figures (TL13), despite them being sculpted by some of my favourite sculptors.  Partly it's because some of them are rather lacking in animation and partly it's because I don't like the colour schemes on the painted examples I have seen so far (easily remedied but if Kevin Dallimore can't make them look appealing who can?) It's odd because when I first saw the IHMN and North Star pirates figures I wanted them all. Perhaps I should be able to resist after all!

I will go to the bloggers meet up at 13.00 and hope I know someone!  It's quite intimidating for an outsider like me!

I need to remember my glasses (or I can't read the floor plan) and to wear trainers (or my knees will give out).  I have lots of space on my camera and it is all charged up!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Some old things in my filing cabinet...and Pulp Alley at the Shed

Off to the Shed again yesterday and the opportunity to field some of my own figures on Eric's splendid scenery.  In order to get them there safely I decided to hunt out some magnetic paper I thought I had, to put in a file box. In one of my metal filing cabinet drawers I have a lot of old wargames rules, flags, shield transfers, cuttings and other ephemera and while looking (unsuccessfully) for the magnetic paper found some old stuff from the past.  I pulled out the hanging file right at the back (you know, the one that when you pull it out means you inevitably scrape your hand on the top of the unit) and all sorts of strange things were within.

The first thing I came across were the oldest wargames rules I own,  Gladiatorial Combat Rules by the Paragon Wargames Group.  I think I bought these in about 1975 to use with my Greenwood and Ball Garrison gladiators (above).  While these weren't quite the first metal figures I painted they were certainly the first I gamed with, using Paragon's typewritten rules. 

Paragon Wargames Group originated in Paragon Comprehensive School and Youth Club in Southwark, South London.  They were great proselytisers of wargaming and even appeared (bottom right, above) in a feature on model soldiers in UK Penthouse in August 1976.  

Their rules were the usual typewritten and then duplicated (not photocopied!) effort typical of many rules of the day.  The Paragon school building, which dates from 1900, is now home to swanky apartments (although I am not sure that "swanky" and "Southwark" aren't contradictory terms).

Now my figures were 25mm, of course, but the rules also suggested that they could be used for 54mm figures (movement was by square not distance).  At the back of the rules they offered some helpful conversion tips which included carving helmets from Plastic Padding (none of your poncey Greenstuff or ProCreate in those days)

The subject of these conversions was one of the Britain's Herald Trojans (above).  I had a lot of these when I was small although they are not exactly historically accurate and owe more to the style of the 1956 film Helen of Troy with Stanley Baker and a 21 year old Brigitte Bardot as a handmaiden.

Next, and rather more recent, I found a set of rules for Colonial Warfare called Bundock and Bayonet by none other than Mr Robert Cordery.  I have no recollection of where or when I got these but must have a look at them! 

Also in the same folder was this album of cigarette cards which belonged to my father.  Note that the cutting edge fighter, the Mark 1 Spitfire (with two blade propellor) is so new that performance details are not "available".  Probably so the dastardly Hun can't find out the details!  I love these flying boats too and wish you could get a 1/48th model of one of them!  Perfect for Pulp!

Mujahedin.  Pen and ink (1981)

I've not got on with any of my Afghan Wars figures for a week or so but did find this drawing I did of an Afghan warrior in 1981.  I did it to illustrate an article for a magazine.  I used to like doing pen and ink drawings and did quite a few illustrations for various publications in the eighties.  I remember that I had to do this really quickly to meet the printing deadline and stayed up until about two o'clock in the morning to finish it.  My girlfriend at the time stayed up with me and made me lots of cups of tea but she did get cross when I started to do the "unnecessary" embroidered sleeve and told me to get to bed!  Who could argue with such a lovely redhead?

Anyway, off to the Shed for the second week running and a game using Pulp Alley, which was new to most of us.  Not that that mattered as it was easy to pick up (except for me, of course).  It is a game for small bands of figures (10 in the rules although we used 8) and has characters whose differing strengths are represented by the dice they use to undertake actions.  All characters have to throw more than a four to do an action but leaders, for example, have D10s so that is easier than the minions who have to get the same score but on a D6.  Injuries are reflected by dropping down a dice level. which is clever.

There are also various action cards which can be played to effect the game by targetting other players or by improving your chances to do something (giving you an extra dice roll or restoring health, etc.)   Although designed for two players we had four which seemed to work pretty well.  I'm sure Eric will put something up on his blog shortly which will make more sense to proper gamers.  They do, however, provide that real sense of pulp adventure I had been looking for in a set of rules for some time.  Highly recommended!  You can get a free pdf of the basic rules here.

Eric's splendid board had four groups converging on a town in 1930s Egypt.  Each of us starting from one corner of the board.  We had to collect two out of four clues on the board to unlock an inscription on an obelisk.  Although the location of the clues was visible they were not all as easy to capture as there were also certain perils on the board which had to be overcome.

I was able to use my own figures for my team who are obviously the successors of the Servants of Ra last seen in action in the countryside forty years in the past.  It was a first game for my Foundry Mummy (different from the North Star IHMN one) and Max Kalba (far right) a Copplestone Castings adventurer.  So we have my leader, the High Priest, his sidekick, the Mummy and Max Kalba, the keeper of the Book of the Undead.  He used to have the scrolls but a course of mercury cured him.  Five followers make up my force.  Also on the board were a team of Nazis ("I hate these guys!"), a team of British officers with Sikh troops and at the far corner a group of adventurers led by a man with a bullwhip and fedora.

Quick! It feels a bit boggy!

My passage towards the village took me through a narrow defile where one of my opponents tried to place a quicksand peril, which given the dismal standard of my dice throwing at the beginning of the game could have seen me knocked out in the first move.  Fortunately, Eric, knowing the dismal standard of my dice throwing and my inability to understand new rules, took pity on me and moved the peril elsewhere (although I did, in fact, subsequently encounter it and defeated it.  Thanks, Mummy).

I came in from the top left and headed for the encampment.

The nearest clue was located in a Bedouin encampment, so my leader headed straight to it but was struck down by poisonous snakes.  Action in the camp was intense and while holding off marauding Sikhs (like Southall in the eighties) the High Priest tried several times to wrest the clue from the mysterious Arabs.  Max Kalba tried to help but expired in the attempt (in fact in these rules you don't really die but can come back in the next thrilling episode). His health drained, the  high Priest eventually had to give up on this clue.

Meanwhile the main part of my group began an ongoing skirmish against the dastardly Nazis, who were first to collect a clue through the brutal figure of Herr Kutz.  This man had an unfortunate hair style, a toothbrush mustache (not a good look to inspire a loyal following, you might think) and was very tough indeed.  He and the Mummy entered into a bruising set of brawls while his minions riddled the Mummy with lead, to no effect.  He is already dead, you see.

Switching tactics we decided to capture the two clues the Nazis now held and sent the Mummy and our five minions after the Germans, who were now trying to decypher the inscriptions on the obelisk.  The British were also attacking the Nazis but then my Mummy came under fire from seemingly all the adventurers who really should have known better than to help Nazis.  Americans! They must have been TMP Lounge members.

My forces close in on the Germans who, without the Book of the Undead to decypher the obelisk's hieroglyphs, are looking in the wrong place!

Fortunately, the elephant gun of Doddery Ken and some Sikhs on the British side and all my minions and my high priest on the other side soon removed the knot of Germans clustered around the foot of the obelisk.  I tried to unlock the secrets and, for once, my dice rolling came though.  The secret was mine and I had won (completely to my surprise).  I had only lost one figures as well.


So, another truly fantastic game at the Shed thanks to Eric.  I am currently part way through a 1920's/30s force for use in this part of the world so I will have to push along with them now.  Meanwhile the world will hear again from The High Priest and his servants.

Next stop, Salute!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A repainting project...Copplestone Castings female jungle troopers

Following on from my recent visit to the Shed, I was inspired to dig out my Copplestone Castings Future Wars figures but was disappointed at how badly they were painted.  So I have decided to see if I can successfully repaint them.   Here they are in their 'before' state.

'Improved' Ruga-ruga

Now I haven't re-painted many figures.  In fact, I think I have only done some Darkest Africa ones, as they were around the first metal figures I painted back in 1998.  These were Ruga-ruga who were first painted in 1999 and then re-done in about 2008.

I painted these Future Wars figures when they came out in 2001, when I hadn't started to use static grass on bases. I had half-heartedly dry brushed their weapons with gunmetal (whereas modern weapons are black) and I was using my old skin shading technique.  The camouflage looks OK, though so I may not have to re-do that. These are lovely figures, so as long as the paint doesn't clog up the detail I will have a go at freshening them up.  

So these are the female troopers with an unpainted officer who I found in a surprisingly full drawer of unpainted Copplestone and Foundry Street Violence figures.  Like all the officers in this range she is taller than her troops.  In order to get involved with them I have to name them all, of course.  This will encourage me to give them the love they deserve!  Lets see if they end up improved!  

Left to right we have:

Lieutenant Betsy Johnson. Canada. 6'1" Joint Task Force 2. McGill University, St Hugh's College, Oxford University (Rowing Blue). Rhodes Scholar.

Sergeant Carolina Velasquez. Colombia. 5'7"  Agrupación de Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas.  Former Colombian 63kg powerlifting champion.

Private Hildegard (Hildy) Greissman. Germany, 5'10" Kommando Spezialkräfte.  Bavarian kickboxing champion.

Lance Bombardier Kate Rowan. United Kingdom, 5'6" 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery.  Sub 2 hour 35 minute marathon runner.

Corporal Paola Capelli.  Italy. 5'9"  2° Reggimento Alpini.  Free climber.

Private Ariella Ben-Ezra. Israel. 5'8" Israeli Defence Force Nachshol Reconnaissance Company.  Open water swimmer.

So we have a multi-national force to be deployed against terrorists, Russian criminal oligarchs (what do you mean that's tautologous?) unfriendly nations, alien invaders, undead warriors from the past, genetically altered humans and all sorts of other miscreants.  Not zombies, though!  I can't stand zombies!  I've also found a Foundry sniper who I will add to the team.

As the range suggests they are from slightly in the future and unlike the Foundry Street Violence figures, which appeared about the same time, their firearms are fictional.  In fact, some of them seem to be loosely based on the guns of the Colonial Marines from Aliens.

Anyway, a different sort of figures for me to work on! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bug hunt at the shed and Osprey Black Ops

The temple...of doom!

I had another kind invitation by Eric the Shed for a game yesterday.  Eric's scenery is legendary but I thought he had surpassed himself with his Egyptian temple set up. Set around thirty years in the future there were three of us with four figures (United Nations marines, or some such) each; a leader and three grunts, looking for some scientists who had gone missing in the Egyptian desert.  

The two of us who had arrived first set off to explore the scientists' camp only to be confronted by a horrific apparition which exploded out of the tent (like the Old Bat in the morning after the night she went camping on Hayling Island - her flirtation with camping lasted exactly one night, given the cold and no bathroom - I stayed in the Portsmouth Marriott).  Eventually, the two teams brought it down but it exploded, splashing my leader with acid.  One of many lessons learned that evening.  Don't get too close to exploding bugs!  

My team edges around the temple only to be confronted by one of GW's worse (or is that the knights of Dol Amroth)

We both sent our teams into the temple entrance in the cliff face and soon started running into all sorts of nasty creatures.  Armed with a collection of weapons we had chosen from an options list (such as assault rifles, light machine guns, grenade launchers, flamers etc.) we quickly learnt what did and did not work against the seemingly endless collection of horrible creatures lurking in the tunnels.  Eric gleefully generated our opposition as we searched for the missing scientists.  

Behind the temple Eric had set up a maze of tunnels which were only revealed as we entered them or were able to scout them ahead, on a dice throw.  I'm not sure how much use scouting was anyway as it just revealed the presence of the nasties.  We had to take them on anyway!  Our third marines player arrived and took a different route into the tunnels. 

A few grenades soon saw off this lot

After over three hour blundering around in the tunnels we had found one dead scientists but didn't have time to finish the search as all of us had taken dead end tunnels.  All three of my surviving troops (I lost one early on to a giant spider) were down to only one or two stamina points (out of 8 or 10) but I still had four medical kits which could have restored them.  Could we have won and rescued the scientists from the Queen of the hive (one of a lot of nicely painted Games Workshop Tyrannids)?  Who knows!

The rules where Eric's own and we had played them before in his Predator jungle scenario.  You have to manage your ammunition (unless you find a lot, which I did) watch your health and decide which weapons to use on different enemies.  It is almost more like a computer game than anything like I have habitually played. The tunnels were great and I thought that they would work for a nineteen twenties Egyptian setting and some of Dark Fable's mummified priests.  Another possibility would be a tabletop version of the old Disney Pirates of the Caribbean online game where you explore tunnels and mines and have to deal with undead pirates and the like.  Because the nasties were randomly generated it would work for a solo game.  Something to think about.

One of my Copplestone Future Wars (lady) troopers

Eric's figures were all Copplestone Castings Future Wars ones and it reminded me that I have a lot of these and have even painted some (badly)!  I did them when they first came out back in 2001, however, so they will need a lot of work to bring them up to scratch.  If I can take them along next time we do a bug hunt or Predator game that would be good.  My figures love playing on Eric's scenery; it makes all the hours of painting worth it to see them deployed on such gorgeous terrain!

In a similar vein I was intrigued by the announcement of Osprey's Black Ops Tactical Espionage Wargaming rules, which are due out in September.

Amazon describes them thus:

Black Ops is a skirmish wargame of tactical espionage combat for two or more players. It recreates on the tabletop the tension and excitement of modern action-thrillers such as the Bond and Bourne films, The Unit or Burn Notice TV shows, and the Splinter Cell and Modern Warfare series of video games. The fast-play rules use regular 6-sided dice and a card-driven activation system to keep all players in the thick of the action, while the mission generator provides a wide range of options for scenarios, from stealthy extraction or surveillance missions to more overt raids or assassinations. 

Stealth, combat and technical expertise all have a role to play, and players may select from a number of different character types - spies, mercenaries, criminals, hackers, special forces and many more - to recruit the best possible team for the job. Players may also choose to join a faction - powerful organizations, intelligence agencies, criminal syndicates, militaries or rebel groups, each with a stake in international affairs. By doing so, their team may receive certain benefits, but may also find itself limited at a crucial time. With the variety offered by the characters, factions and scenarios, no two games of Black Ops should ever be the same! Although the standard Black Ops setting is an ultra-modern world just a hair removed from our own, the rules are versatile and adaptable enough to suit OSS operations behind Nazi lines, Cold War-era infiltration missions in Moscow or Berlin, or sabotage runs against a rival corporation's interests in a cyberpunk dystopia, and the rulebook will include a guide to running games in such settings. 

What is the appeal of this show to the Legatus?

I really enjoy the TV series Nikita and have been thinking for some time that the setting would be perfect for the Future Wars figures.  It sounds like these rules may be just the job.  Combining these with the Sally 4th Terra-Blocks system will give you all the secret labs, nightclubs, Defense Department facilities, warehouses and  office complexes you could need.  And I don't have to buy any more Copplestone figures as I own them all (needless to say)!