Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Project boxes

Here is a nifty idea I saw on (I think) one of The Hobbit wargaming Facebook pages.  I often lose things on my desk as it is so untidy. Recently I spent ages looking for the Golden Fleece and a part of a Lucid Eye Amazon figure.  Quite often loose shields disappear as well   In addition, as it is usually covered in figures, I sometimes knock figures off the desk onto the wooden floor, which has resulted in several disasters.

So having bunged off a quick order to Amazon I now have a lot of plastic freezer tubs in which I have put figures for individual projects: IHMN, Frostrave, 1864, Lost World, NW Frontier etc.  This means I can put the figures for individual periods I am working on in a box with shields and other bits.  This also keeps the figures dust free as well as safe from knocks.  I also put the paints I use most often in boxes by colour.  I am sure everyone else does this already but I feel very organised!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Golden Fleece!

In a burst of activity over the weekend I finished my Wargames Foundry Hydra and the Steve Barber tree with golden fleece for the planned Argonauts campaign at the Shed this year,  I don't think that the picture is very good but I can't check it as my desktop PC packed up today (I actually think the drive is full) so I am struggling on Guy's small laptop.  Hopefully, the people at KAD computers can fix it on Wednesday! A better picture is now on my Argonautika blog.

It gives you an idea, anyway.  Both tree and hydra are very much based on the 1963 film version of Jason and the Argonauts.  I had actually misplaced the golden fleece itself but after a good tidy up of the workbench I located it,  My first completed figures of 2016!  I will score these as 3 figures, so more than 10% of my total last year!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

2015 Wargames Review

Some of my figures on location at the Shed for a Pulp Alley game

Here we have my thrilling 2015 wargames review and at least I had enough games this year to qualify me as a wargamer, even if my painting output was tragically small.

Figures Painted

After 2014's score of 114, 2015 was very disappointing indeed.  I painted just 25 figures:

11 North West Frontier British
5 In Her Majesty's Name
4 Pulp
2 Argonauts
1 Pirate
1 Roman
1 Carolingian

This is my lowest amount by far since I started recording my painting in 2007, when I managed 312 figures.  I haven't completed anything since September although I have done some painting.  I just didn't have anything close to being finished.  I'm not quite sure why this is.  I cannot paint under artificial light and I suspect that my eyesight has deteriorated quite a bit this year.  I have spent a lot of time at the eye departments of local hospitals.   Hopefully, 25 is such a miserable number that I can beat it this year.  I will just have to accept I can't paint to the quality I used to.

Wargames played 

Some of my girly pirates at the Shed

Thanks to the generosity of Eric the Shed I have played a record breaking ten wargames this year!

First off there was an epic pirate game, next my first game of Lion Rampant for Robin Hood, a science fiction bug hunt game, a Pulp Alley 1930s Egypt game, two games of Battlecars, a big Lion Rampant Crusades game, a 15mm Black Powder Quatre Bras game and two more Pulp Action games as part of Eric's Scales of Anubis campaign.  Firsts included my first Lion Rampant game (excellent) and my first 15mm game, which was also my first Black Powder game.

Eric's scenery is legendary and I was pleased to field some of my own figures in some of these games.  It makes all the squinting worth while when they can see action on such spectacular boards.


I meant to paint a building or two this year but totally failed and the only scenic item I have been working on is a tree to hold the Golden Fleece for Jason and the Argonauts.  Actually it is now finished but it wasn't in 2015 so can't appear here in it's final form!


I went to Salute, as usual and actually attended the bloggers meet up for once.  I even appeared in the official picture!  In 2014 Salute was my only show as Colours was cancelled.  I tried to get to Colours this year but was defeated by horrific traffic on the M25 and M3.  Fortunately, Eric the Shed gave me a lift to Warfare in Reading (whose one way system scares me to death) so I scored two shows this year.


I have done quite well on reducing the lead (and plastic - more on this soon) pile this year; realising that I am never going to paint all the figures I have got.  I bought just 98 new figures, painted 25 and sold 518 leaving me a minus 446 score for the pile.   New figures were mainly Frostgrave. Lucid Eye Savage Core, First Corps Mexican-American War and Iron Duke Indian Mutiny.  Apart from the Mexicans, I have at least started most of the others.

Kickstarters and pre-orders

Too small!

I've tried to avoid these this year.  I sold all my War and Empire figures on and having committed to the second W&E Kickstarter of Romans I then cancelled it.  I just don't like 15mm and I can't see to paint them any more.  The only one I backed this year was for Miniature Wargaming the Movie, which doesn't involve having to paint anything!  I realise that I still haven't received my Wargods of Olympus figures which I ordered in 2013 because I wanted the rule book at the same time.  Now they want me to pay extra postage to get the figures first, which I will have to because I want them for Jason and the Argonauts.

Wargames Rules

Now as my regular opponents at the Shed know, I seem totally unable to pick up wargames rules; a somewhat fundamental issue.  I like playing the games but just don't have a strategic mind, which makes winning a game a rare event.  I don't play boardgames for the same reason, as they have all the stressful strategy and none of the enjoyable figure painting.  My friend A wondered if I shouldn't just paint 90mm figures for the fun of it and forget about the gaming.  The problem with that being that the quality of finish on most 90mm figures I have seen is so astounding as to make my efforts look embarrassing. It's a lose-lose situation, rather like my gaming.

That said. I have played several rule sets for the first time this year.  Black Powder (in 15mm), Lion Rampant, Battlecars and Pulp Alley.   Pulp Alley is very enjoyable but of these Lion Rampant was my favourite, once we had agreed as a group to abandon the rule whereby if a unit fails to activate the whole side fails to be able to do any actions.  For our larger games where we had 10 or 12 units a side this just didn't work (Eric has also had to modify the rules to allow for multiplayer games).

I bought several new sets myself this year: Black Ops, 7th Voyage (for Argonauts games) and Frostgrave.  Needless to say reading them has given me no clue as to how they will work in practice!  Eric's analysis of magic in Frostgrave scared me to death.  However, now I have realised that I don't care if I win a game or not so long as I can field some nice figures in it.  I assembled some plastic Frostgrave figures last night and they are very nice indeed.

Looking forward I'm quite tempted by the Dragon Rampant fantasy rules, The Men who Would be KingEn Garde and Studio Tomahawk's Congo rules.

Wargames Blogs and...Facebook

Well I actually didn't set any new blogs up this year, although I have expended some to a more widescreen format and increased the font size for my poor eyes. I only did 78 posts on this blog compared with 111 posts in 2014.  The blog now has 203 followers and has just passed 450,000 views.  My post on a bug hunt game at the shed and thoughts on Black Ops got the biggest number of views at 1547.  Could this score (I usually get between 200 and 400 views per post) have anything to do with the picture of Maggie Q and Lyndsey Fonseca in the post?  After all, my girly blog has just passed 12.5 million views! Speaking of which, Blogger threatened to take down all blogs with an "adult" tag this year and so I removed some of my posts from Legatus Wargames Ladies, in order to avoid the blog being closed.  Then of course, they changed their minds but I haven't replaced the deleted posts.  I really, really can't understand many Americans' fear of nudity or sexuality.

The biggest 'social media' (even typing the words makes me feel sick and ashamed) development was my Facebook page, which I initially set up so I could follow figure manufacturers' pages when I realised that they posted about new products on Facebook long before they appeared on their conventional websites.  Guided by my daughter, I set up a page and soon had around 160 "friends".  I then realised that many of these pages had nothing to do with wargaming (fair enough if they are for family purposes).  What I couldn't understand were all the ones full of tedious political cant or regurgitation of ghastly American homilies or so-called humour created by others.  Originate your own stuff, don't just circulate garbage!   Frankly I'd much rather look at pictures of people's cats, holidays or meals than see some cringe-making graphic with Minions in it!  So I unfriended dozens of them and am now down to just over 90.

Plans for the next year

Well, to paint more than 25 figures, obviously.  As regards what I will slightly cant it towards figures I might be able to deploy in the Shed.  This means a lot more for Jason and the Argonauts and, possibly, some English Civil War.  Other than that I will try to finish the units I have on the paint table at present which are my 1864 Danes, Carolingians, Indian Mutiny British and North West Frontier.  On the skirmish side, figures for the Lost World, IHMN, Black Ops and pirates are all on the desk at present.  The Neanderthals next!

Now I really, really shouldn't even be contemplating any new figures but Unfeasibly Miniatures new Empire in Peril range is very tempting!

Musical Accompaniment

While writing this post I have been listening to one of my favourite TV soundtracks ever, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.  Many British people my age will have seen this series from the time it was shown and repeated on TV between 1965 and 1975.  

The music was the work of two composers: Robert Mellin (1902-1994) and Gian Piero Reverberi (1939-).  It did not feature in the original French and German release in 1963 but was specially composed for the British version in 1965.  Mellin (born Israel Melnikoff) was a Ukrainian born, composer, lyricist and publisher whose family took him from Kiev to Chicago as a baby.  He wrote hundreds of songs and lyrics including words to Acker Bilk's Stranger on the Shore.  He moved to London in the seventies and had music publishing businesses both there and in New York.  Mellin produced some scores for spaghetti westerns and had the publishing rights to a lot of Italian film scores.  He was instrumental in locating the recordings of The Adventure of Robinson Crusoe in Rome for the CD soundtrack release in 1994, dying in Rome shortly afterwards

The much younger, classically trained, Reverberi worked with rock bands and also scored spaghetti westerns and TV series.  He is best known these days as the founder, conductor and composer for the hybrid baroque/pop ensemble Rondò Veneziano which he founded in 1979 and has now produced over 70 albums.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Paint Table Saturday 16th January 2016

It must be months and months since I did a paint Table Saturday Post and, ironically, there is no trace of paint in this one.  I was preparing some figures today for Frostgrave, which I hope to move along in the next few weeks.  I assembled the first five plastics but as I did them in artificial light I will have to look at them tomorrow to see where they need filling.  Any way, it's supposed to be bright tomorrow so I may be able to get them filled, based properly and undercoated.  I did actually finish painting two things today but will have to photograph them tomorrow.  There is one more thing I may try and get finished tomorrow too, as it goes with the things I finished today. My first hobby activity since September!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Non-wargaming highlights 2015

The year of the Tattoo!

Well the New Year brings my far from eagerly awaited wargaming and non-wargaming reviews of the year.  In an exciting move we have reversed the order of publication of these from last year, so we begin with our non-wargaming highlights.

Best Trip

Unlike last year I did have a foreign trip. as the Turkish government paid for me to travel to a conference in Istanbul.  I have covered both the military and non-military aspects of this very enjoyable week in the blog here and here so don't need to bore anyone with it any further.  I did particularly enjoy seeing my German friend Bettina again, however.

I had an enjoyable trip to Edinburgh to watch my daughter (far right, above) dance in the Edinburgh Royal Tattoo Bollywood performance (it was an east meets west theme this year).  However, because of all the rehearsals and performances she did she didn't come home at Easter or for the summer holidays so we didn't see her for nearly nine months.

Biggest upheaval 

Starting a new job which has rather more complicated database work in it than I am used to.  I have never used spreadsheets before and they stress me out!  At least the office is in an interesting part of London.

 Best day out 


Going back to Oxford and watching my college's boat defeat Jesus College yet again on the 200th anniversary of the first amateur rowing race.  Shockingly we even had nice weather!

Best Book (non-military)

The book to accompany the splendid exhibition of pre-Raphaelite paintings at Leighton House which I went to with a former PA of mine.  Altogether splendid.  As was the book and the exhibition.

Best Film

I've stood there!

Just two cinema outings at the end of the year, both of which I enjoyed.  Spectre was two thirds of a brilliant film with a somewhat soggy middle but it was filmed in places I know well; like Rome, Mexico City and ...Vauxhall. Oh, and of course it had Monica Bellucci in it (for not nearly long enough - I had to go home and watch Malena again) who I literally bumped into once coming out of an Italian restaurant in Toronto.  It was a soft impact.

I really, really enjoyed the new Star Wars and I thought Daisy Ridley was very good, although poor old Carrie Fisher's voice was unrecognisable.  It was the first time Guy, Charlotte and I had been to a film together for ages.  The Old Bat doesn't go to the cinema as it is too loud, too bright and is fiction, which she derides as "worthless made up stories".  Guy enjoyed it but thought it had too many elements from the original in it. Charlotte, who is the real Star Wars fan in the house (she has the giant Millennium Falcon and loads of action figures) is already planning to see it again.  In 2009 I took her to Star Wars Live at the O2 and the Old Bat made her a Princess Leia costume.  She got grabbed by photographers to have her picture taken with R2 D2 at the exhibition there.

On DVD I really enjoyed Jurassic World and although I have some other big 2015 films on DVD, I haven't watched any of them yet.  Of course, I enjoyed the velociraptors we had at Waterloo Station for several weeks before the film was released.  As for older films I enjoyed Topkapi (which I watched as the hotel I stayed in in Istanbul featured in the film), which I hadn't seen before and on TV Ten Little Indians (1966) which was far better than the depressing BBC version over Christmas.

Best TV Show

I am still currently taking all my DVDs out of their boxes and putting them in albums, thereby gaining yards of shelf space back.  I probably watched more live (or timeshifted, more accurately) TV than I have for a long time. Probably out of all those I watched live (or timeshifted) I really enjoyed The Last Kingdom the most.  I thought Hungary stood in well for a Dark Ages Britain.  David Dawson (also in Banished and Ripper Street), was really excellent as a charismatic Alfred.  

Olivia Grant BNC! BNC!

My other favourite was Indian colonial drama Indian Summers, despite the presence of the always annoying Julie Walters gurning her way through like spluttering, collapsed blancmange.  It was brightened by the presence of a number of splendid but not so well known (at least not to me) actresses, principally Olivia Grant who went to the same college as I did.

Other favourites were Lewis (the only UK contemporary drama I watch), Endeavour, The Musketeers, Mr Selfridge, Banished, Nashville, Game of Thrones, Fargo, Poldark and Ripper Street.

On DVD I really enjoyed The Bridge, Agent Carter, Black Sails, Arrow, Vikings, The Flash, and, particularly,  Penny Dreadful 

Guilty pleasure (apart from Strictly, of course) was Supergirl which now seems to be on one of those weird hiatuses that US television goes in for, inexplicably.

Biggest disappointment was Wolf Hall which  while nice to look at (but not as nice as the BBC boasted) had the pace of a fossilised snail.  I think it just reminded me of A level History too much.  I was also disappointed that the BBC cancelled Atlantis just when it was starting to improve and just when it looked like series 3 was going to be about the Argonauts.

Best Music

I added over one thousand tracks to iTunes and there was a lot of classical this year, including Sibelius' Belshazzer's Feast, Rheingold (in German-Solti - I already have the English ENO version) and a big box of Tchaikovsky orchestral music including all the symphonies which, oddly I didn't have in my collection.  I've bought a lot of piano music this year for some reason (usually I prefer big orchestral pieces) including a lot of Katia and Marielle Labeque and Alice Sara Ott's excellent Pictures at an Exhibition.  One of the Labeque purchases, Minimalist Dream House, contained a two piano arrangement of one of my favourite Michael Nyman pieces, Water Dances, which I have played a lot.   More esoteric were Widor's piano concertos and some symphonies by Tournemire. 

Soundtracks purchases include the extended versions of both Jerry Goldsmith's The Shadow and John Williams' 1941.  Other soundtracks I bought this year included Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones season 4, Klimt, Black Sails, Jurassic Park 2 (that took some locating, I had to get it from Korea), Jurassic World, Captain Blood and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Following my visit to Istanbul I added some more belly dancing music, thanks to a CD my friend Bettina gave me.  I also got the soundtracks to Topaki and Never on a Sunday by Manos Hadjidakis which are my two most played albums of the year, slightly surprisingly.

I don't really like much rock and pop, certainly not contemporary stuff, but I did get the new ELO album.

Biggest Annoyance

Get a  smaller bag!

Well, there is my increasing annoyance with the increasing tyranny of "mobile devices" and the all pervasive invasion of the aural landscape by the thump thump thump drivel of modern dance music, of course.  But since I have started commuting again I am getting really, really fed up with people who wear backpacks on the underground or crash into you at Waterloo while you are waiting for a train.  You stand waiting for your platform to come up and people shove past you to get to their platforms.  Walk around!  Say excuse me!  Don't just push!  It's not Japan!  Now, the Legatus, although he controls it like Dr Jekyll, is a violent person.  I have hospitalised three people in my life who really annoyed me.  I am calm (on the outside at least) for years but when I snap, I really snap.  Now I haven't done this for thirty five years but it is always bubbling below the surface.   So watch out! Oddly, at Waterloo at least, women are the worst offenders, usually because they are carrying ludicrously massive handbags that they bash into you, as they possess no spatial awareness whatsoever.  Grrr!  Close behind these reprobates are people who insist on taking suitcases on the underground.  I once discussed with a friend the possibility of building massive rotary choppers in stations so suicides didn't disrupt train journeys.  These could also be used for people who commit luggage infractions.

Best Artistic discovery

The wonderful photographs of Punch illustrator and cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) (Lord Snowden's great grandfather).  Sambourne took up photography to help in his illustration but it soon became a passion and took over his house (which you can still visit in Kensington and has supposedly one of the best preserved Victorian interiors in the world - definitely on my visit list for this year).  Apart from his source photos he also took a lot of nudes (not in his home studio he went to an artist friend's studio down the road so his wife didn't find out) which included (and this is how I found out about him) many of the top artist's models of the day, whose images I have seen in paintings by Leighton, Godward, Whistler, Burne-Jones et al.  It is fascinating to see the real women behind the famous paintings.  

Even more fascinating were the pictures he took of ordinary (invariably pretty) women in the streets of London and Paris with his hidden camera in around 1906.  They are unlike any other images of Edwardian women in that, rather than the formal poses seen in portraits of the time, they show women obviously walking at a brisk pace, their long skirts giving them plenty of freedom to move.  They leap across the 110 year gap since they were taken and could almost be modern stills of actresses on set for a costume drama.  They contain fascinating little details, like the fact that women wore fob watches on their blouses and carried clutch bags, neither of which you see in period fashion illustrations, for example.

Best Sporting event

Watching from the RYS out of the wind

Guy was a marshal at the Royal Yacht Squadron 200th anniversary regatta in Cowes this year and we went down to watch the racing, which featured a lot of classic yachts.  It was much nicer and more civilised than the now horribly overcrowded Cowes Week.

Best Disposal

Goodbye Dolly I must leave you

Having been sitting out in the garden since we had our garage demolished to make way for the new extension last year, we said goodbye to the Old Bat's Triumph Dolomite.  It was actually a nice car to drive (it was the 1850 automatic which has a SAAB developed engine) but it was over forty years old and needed someone who knew what they were doing to restore it.  I struggle with opening the boot on our car let alone anything more mechanical. A nice man from Bury took it away to restore for himself.

Wargaming highlights next!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Another birthday...

We don't really celebrate birthdays in our family or, rather, we don't celebrate them on my side of the family.  Mostly this is, I suspect, because mine, my mother's and my sister's birthday are all within two weeks of Christmas, so we have become used to the joint present and even, from real penny-pinching scum, the joint card.  There was only one advantage to having a birthday after Christmas, in that if there was anything on my list from Father Christmas that I never received then I could ask for it for my birthday.  Now the Old Bat (her family do do birthdays) bought me a joint Christmas and birthday present this year but it is a really nice one in the rather enticing shape of this dancing girlies table.  As ever, with the Old Bat, there is an ulterior motive, which is for me to tidy up my study which is a complete tip at present.  This may actually do the trick and I am well on the way to filing all my DVD's in albums which frees shelf space which enables me to put other stuff on the vacated shelves etc.

I didn't receive any hobby stuff for Christmas but my ever elegant sister gave me this so tasteful box of Humbrol paints for my birthday.  I looked at them and immediately though 'Dark Ages'!  Maybe it's time to finish my Carolingian Lion Rampart army this Spring.  My daughter got me some Superglue Gel, which I have had trouble getting lately.  I have some figures to assemble and I couldn't find it anywhere as both Waitrose and Sainsbury's seem to have stopped stocking it.  I can assemble my Brother Vinni Viking Shieldmaidens now.

Not sure about the paint job.  Not very well designed for sneaking up on things

Close to us we have a place called Garson Farm, which is one of those garden centres on steroids which also sells all the other unnecessary rubbish for your home (they call it 'indoor lifestyle') that you can shift in Surrey.  We have a lot of 'indoor lifestyle' shops in Esher, Cobham and Oxshott selling things like a wicker garden lounger for £12,000.  Garson's is particularly famous for its award-winning Christmas decorations shop (in addition to its award winning indoor lifestyle shop).  Every year the Old Bat goes to their 75% off post-Christmas sale and returns with more sparkly rubbish to add to the 35 boxes (plastic crate boxes not shoe boxes) of Christmas decorations in the loft.  I went there this morning with her and while she bought useful things like outdoor disco lights (so Guy can look at an outside moving lights display from his wing of the house), more Christmas tree decorations and some other stuff which I didn't really know what it was but had plastic flowers on it, I wandered around the rest of the recently vastly expanded shop.  The new restaurant was a disappointment; a breakfast menu of herb teas and smoothies was not what I was looking for.  Surrey wives, who are usually 15-20 years younger than their husbands, have to keep fit or they will find themselves replaced by a Croatian or Singaporean model (literally).  In the corner of the toy department, however, was a new dinosaur section, with a good selection of Schleich dinosaur models.  Now while these are very good they are usually far too big to use with 28mm figures.  However, today they had this splendid carnivore which is spot on for Lost World adventures and the Old Bat bought it for me as a birthday present.  Non-hobby Christmas and birthday saved!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Goodbye followers!

Google HQ plan their next Blogger enhancement

On Monday it looks like Google will start making it impossible for people to follow blogs on Blogger without a Google account.

"As part of this plan, starting the week of January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles so you may see a decrease in your blog follower count. We encourage you to tell affected readers (perhaps via a blog post), that if they use a non-Google Account to follow your blog, they need to sign up for a Google Account, and re-follow your blog. With a Google Account, they’ll get blogs added to their Reading List, making it easier for them to see the latest posts and activity of the blogs they follow. We know how important followers are to all bloggers, but we believe this change will improve the experience for both you and your readers.

Now although I have a Google account I do not put anything on my Google page  because I don't know what it is for except for extracting commercially valuable data.  I only joined it because there were one or two blogs I wanted to do but couldn't without having an account.  Many people, I suspect, don't want a Google account and so these people will start dropping off our followers list.  Maybe someone with more IT knowledge than me has a comment on this.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Beowulf, War and Peace and other TV

The Legatus has been watching a lot of TV lately and has also been dealing with a backlog on the digibox caused by lots of Strictly and, we are ashamed to say, I'm a Celebrity before Christmas. I still haven't finished watching Ripper Street, Banished or season one of Fargo let alone the new series.  With a new TV season starting since Christmas (glad that is all now packed away) there are a number of must watch shows coming up.

I am enjoying Dickensian, even though it is set in a period before my IHMN late 1890's period (I am working my way through the second series of Penny Dreadful, however - Dr Frankenstein's laboratory appears to be located about 100 yards from my office!)).   I also enjoyed Jekyll and Hyde (sadly, ITV has announced they won't be renewing it for a second season today), which had a fine design mix of Victorian London and thirties Pulp but then I am one of those people who looks up film production designers after I have seen a film.  "You don't come out of a film whistling the sets" a film composer once said, but I sort of do!  I am looking forward to the new series of Endeavour (just need to watch the last episode of series 2), Mr Selfridge (the Dolly sisters in this one), GothamThe Musketeers, and Agents of Shield, all of which are due over the next four weeks. What I have to watch out for are series that might get me thinking about wargames figures and this weekend we had two which couldn't have been more different: War and Peace and Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands.

My first exposure to Beowulf was through a serialisation in Look & Learn magazine back in the sixties, where they had a fantastic cover painting (above) by Ron Embleton entitled Grendel: Terror from the Marshes so my visual expectations were rather different from the actual look of the show.  I was put off the new Beowulf from the moment I saw the recent trailer where ITV seemed to have hired a voiceover person from off the street (a south London street at that) who was unable to pronounce 'th', or anything else come to that. Never have I heard a continuity announcer on TV sound so thick.  The opening theme tune and title sequence were such a rip off from Game of Thrones as to be actionable.   Beowulf had every current fantasy cliche imaginable: Black costumes with too much leather and fur, elevated Edoras style great hall, feisty female characters holding down important positions (Blacksmith? Really?), shiny hilted Conan-style swords, politically correct but unlikely ethnic characters etc.  

The set under construction somewhere grim up north

The whole thing comes from Tim Haines, the Walking with Dinosaurs (and Primeval) man who also had a go at a fantasy series with the short-lived (but actually rather enjoyable) Sinbad a few years ago.  The opening monsters had that weird bouncy gait you saw in the evil dogs from Ghostbusters and there was a troll right out of Lord of the Rings.  The whole thing also, despite some nice set design for the village of Herot, looked like it had been filmed in an old quarry.  In fact it was filmed in an old quarry, in Northumberland. 

Joanne Whalley.  Yes please

The countryside looked  grim but then it is grim up North.  It's not a patch on Jekyll and Hyde, let alone The Last Kingdom but I will keep watching (as it has the magnificent Joanne Whalley in it) but all the female characters have long black hair (er, Herot is supposed to be in Scandinavia) and I couldn't initially tell who was who.   I doubt it will see a second series and seemed to struggle (unlike The Last Kingdom which was post watershed) with the constraints of its family time slot.  

Fiona Gaunt.  Yes please

On to War and Peace and here my expectations were shaped by the epic BBC series from 1972 with a career launching performance from Anthony Hopkins as Pierre Bezukhov and an eye popping performance by Fiona Gaunt as Hélène which kept the 12 year old Legatus entertained for all 17 hours of the series.     It was brave of  Andrew Davies to try to tell the story in six hours but it has had a positive effect on the pace and much of War and Peace the novel doesn't really relate to the story anyway.  The 1972 production was very much studio bound and shot on video with only the location battle scenes shot on film in Yugoslavia.

On this point, some have said that the new BBC production, of course, has many more extras in its battle scenes compared with the  1972 effort, comparing that with Sharpe style battles.  This actually is not the case.  The 1972 version (above) actually used three times the 500 extras the current version used.  I thought that the battle (Schöngrabern) depicted in episode one last Sunday looked rather less effective (excellent cavalry charge excepted) than the 1972 one (which didn't take place until the end of episode three).  Also, I don't know much about Russian napoleonic uniforms but at least the 1972 version got the shape of the shakos right but that was because much of the uniform  had been used in Waterloo (1970).

On location in Vilnius old town

However, I did enjoy War and Peace more than Beowulf (which was the opposite of what I was expecting) and the interiors and exteriors of the buildings (shot in St Petersburg, Latvia and Lithuania (mainly)) are a wonder.  I recognise some of the streets in Vilnius, which I last visited about six years ago.

Anita Ekberg in War and Peace (1956)

Apart from Gillian Anderson and, rather distractingly, Inspector Lewis' boss (in a scene stealing performance by Rebecca Front), I was not familiar with most of the actors but then I watch almost no British drama.  The leading ladies are all pretty but, given the fashions of the time they all looked as skinny as sticks and certainly didn't have Fiona Gaunt's embonpoint (and bear in mind that Hélène was played by Anita Ekberg in the 1956 King Vidor version).

Tuppence Middleton as a skinny Hélène  

After all the Daily Mail's hoo-ha about a 'sexed up' series it was all rather tame, as it has to be to sell to the Americans of course. Despite all the negative press they have been giving it in advance it must have been embarrassing for them that their TV critic loved it.

So, although I had a quick look for 1805 Russian figures (both the Perry and Warlord ones are for a later period) I am safe from being diverted on this.  As for Beowulf... well there is that 4Ground great hall of Heorot...