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Sunday 28 August 2016

...And right in the middle ..... WSS no 86

The latest Wargames- Soldiers ans Strategy  dropped on my mat yesterday and it is a good issue.
 Personally I don't have great deal of interest in Russian Napoleonics- not I hasten to add no interest just not that much. This mag went a little way to changing that.  In terms of style it falls between WI and MW but with enough differences to be distinct from both. Articles are fairly short but the pictures do not overwhelm the text and the format is much quieter than WI.
 There are 4 modelling articles- all by different chaps and all in different periods but the end results are- stylistically speaking  almost identical- the  "stock look"  of today received wisdom when it comes to the painting and modelling side- does no-one have any different painting styles any more?

 However there are several articles on the  Napoleonic period featuring the Russians and their enemies- and barely a Frenchman in sight!  so  we get stuff on the Russo- Swedish war in Finland and the Russian Persian war  both conflict of which I knew comparatively little- especially the Persian war.  I quite fancy the Russo-Swedish war- done in 15mm using Blue Moon . Ah well maybe one day.
 If I had a complaint at this point it would be that the mag is "rules orientated"- often for comparatively few sets-  those that are in fashion this week-  though some efforts are made to widen the scope. I've never really understood the modern obsession with rules often to the exclusion of all else The current buizzwords do my head in as well " enjoyable narrative gaming experience" was one thatcaught my eye- in the review of Helions new ECW set- which I may have to buy. Hyperbole or what?? Especially when the reviewer never mentions if the rules follow ECW unit structure  but simply drones on about bloody games mechanisms. Now this may be a good and accurate set - but all I got from the review was that is was "fun" . Oh dearie me the F word again . The only reason I bang on about this in particular is because I know the ECW and this review told me very little about how the rules fit the period but an awful lot about how to pull dice out of a bag !!! .
Of the columns Richard Clarke's had me nodding in agreement. I've tried all of my wargaming life to make historical plausibility a cornerstone of my games. My surprise frankly was that , once again, something so basic needed repeating. These days it seems  such basic stuff is not to the point any longer- perhaps we are all supposed to fiddle with Dwarfs instead don't need plausibility for that !

Nevertheless a good mag- perhaps the best of this month's crop.
 Nice one Guy!!

Friday 19 August 2016

Contrasts of style.

2 of this months magazines plopped onto the mat this morning and they show such a massive contrast in style that- were I a newcomer I'd wonder if each magazine did not showcase a different hobby were it not for the use of the word "Wargames" in each magazines title.
Wargames Illustrated.
 The usual busy SHAZAM-KAPOW  style and mostly short  lightweight articles for the hard of thinking. Fantasy/Sci-Fi heavy but also with a few short rules reviews/infomercials - the one for the new Napoleonic set "Over the Hills" actually being of considerable interest though written by the rules authors.. There were pretty- but small- articles on Flodden and the siege of Athlone. My good friend Mike McNally's books on the Boyne and Augrim which I have made this article a bit superfluous for me and to be honest more than a little lightweight  but not a bad starting point .
 I suppose the 3 fantasy/sci-fi skirmish articles might be fun if you are 14 (or have a similar mental age)and indeed might be fun once at any age but the joke wears thin pretty quickly.
 There is good stuff in the magazine but as usual it is obscured by the flashy style over content outlook.
perhaps my tastes are changing but I really do find the over reliance on eye-candy rather wearing. Despite its thickness in pages its content is somehow thinner and rather lightweight.

 Miniature Wargames

Now the contrast here is considerable- it actually feels as if this magazine is at least in terms of content put together for adults. I actually found myself reading it pretty thoroughly.. Again there is considerable non-historical content but presented by someone who is not 14 and expects you to be able to read a few hundred words without looking at a pretty picture.. Not that this issue is short on pictures but they add to the articles rather than overwhelming them.
 I particularly liked the Sci-Fi article -though I don't play that particular set of rules. The Terry Wise"Nostalgia" ACW game was fascinating- and chimes in a way with my own "retro" shinyloo project  differing in the.main only that the author Mike Batten wanted to recreate something he did 40 or more years ago whereas my retro project is an attempt to do something I could not hope to do 40 years ago. Nevertheless a fine article more especially sine I had been re-reading Wise's book myself recently .
 Henry's own fictional countries campaign continues with lovely maps again. This time we had a little of the Umpires perspective and yes as someone who loves "active umpiring" the Lucy Tanner affir is just the sort of scurvy trick I'd use on any player who is so thoughtless as to draft his orders in such a slipshod manner !.
 Except in matters of detail I find my own approach to the hobby is quite similar to Steve Jones'. Again a nice piece
 Oh and by the way Henry thats not a library THIS is (about 1/8th) of a library-  though you probably have more wargaming books than I do !!

My wife Carole  upon seeing the photo of Henry's bookshelf- one of several I assume-  asked me to count my own bookshelves. There are 16 in 3  different rooms plus a few square feet on the Office floor. I keep thinking I must thin out the collection but frankly I'd rather sell off an army or two.

Anyway  this only goes to highlight even more the  differences  I perceive between to two magazines. I'm not sure that WI is actually targeting people who can read a whole book .

PS -The following day. Sharp eyed readers may notice I've upped my bookshelf number to 16 . This is simply because I missed a wall full  when I (mentally) counted up. Said wall had my KRRC Chronicles and a good chunk of my "India" section, not to mention my JSAHR journals and most of the actual "wargaming books"-a mere half a shelfs worth and ALL of my full run of Tradition magazine. So I should have gone upstairs and counted the lot in the first place- memory is a falliible thing.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Painting figures -Can't Paint Won't paint.

Now of late there has been quite a lot of comment about how- for some the painting and modelling part of the hobby is either a chore or completely irrelevant.
 Honestly I find this a bit thick. My reasoning is as follows
 1/. If you are primarily a games player and don't actually LIKE the models/toys then why bother with them in the first place. There are plenty of ways to game without ever setting hands on a model  grenadier or a Hoplite- without even knowing what these actually are. Even if you know there is no need to use models/toys/miniatures at all. Some of these games may even be termed wargames,
 So why are there a considerable number of  chaps who claim to use said miniatures but  somehow  seem to hate them? Perverse or what? Perhaps even a sniff of fashionable  hypocrisy? The bit I really don't get  is why you would choose to use models and then not give a s""t about how they look.
2/. Even if you hate painting there are plenty of ways around it. Painting services are legion and some are very good indeed and by no means all require the sale of a kidney to fund a painted army(well not all at once anyway !).

40mm Napoleonic French Hussars. These cost me the largest per figure price I ever paid for a painting service at £25.00 each
 I still think it was worth it.. The lad who did them has packed it in. 
25mm Old Glry Normans. Painted by me around 20 years ago. They'll never win any prizes but at least they don't look as if they were painted by a man with a bag on his head. 

 As an aside one wonders if the current popularity of so called "warband games" has been in part influenced by the cost of some  painting services. After all some silly one-off steampunk gang for In Her Majesty's name or whatever  can still cost you the thick end of a ton for a decent paint job and with the figures knocking on the door(or even smashing it open) of a couple of quid each you don't end up with an awful lot for your money,. So you do wonder if part of the move to these small limited, narrow, games is driven by economics .....
However back to the plot.
 3/.You can buy stuff from Ebay or from Bring and Buys at shows- though this IS hit and miss and does take a little effort and with ebay beware the jargon . "Well painted" may only mean "covered in vaguely the right colours not necessarily in the right order" and photographs do not  always tell the whole story. I've had both very good and very bad via ebay so Caveat Emptor !

 Of course a lot will depend upon your personal standards of good and bad. for me "BAD" is when I need to repaint the bloody things-even though this is often easier than starting from scratch. "GOOD" is when only a little touching up is needed. "Very Good" is when only rebasing is needed- which it always does as the bases need to match existing forces. Sometimes -not often- but sometimes "VERY GOOD"  means "better than I can paint" always with the caveat "and I didn't pay painting service prices either !"

 Mind you there are also some truly awful painters out there masquerading as "services" as well as the odd one who is so far up himself that he has disappeared into the requisite orifice- When razzing one painter for his 6 weeks  delivery time turning into 6 months I was told- nose in the air "I paint for important people" Needless to say I told him to shove his brushes where the sun does not shine- I near as a toucher did it for him! Back in the 1990s we also had to pursue one painter through small claims court.

Nevertheless there are plenty of good painting services out there. My favourite is Shakespear Studios which offers good quality painting at a pretty reasonable price and most importantly efficient delivery. Jez has painted a fair few 15mm for me and is a dab hand at camo - amongst other things.
Fireforce Miniature Falklands War Brits. Painted by Jez of Shakespear Studios..
 He really is a dab hand at Camo. I couldn't get even close to this quality. 

Now speaking personally its no secret that I have poor eyesight- I can't for instance drive because of that. Over the year many other avenues have been closed to me because of this. The Army being only the most obvious.. Yet I've taught myself to become a competent figure painter. I even enjoy it. For me it is part of  being a "Compleat Wargamer" in the same way as studying the history, understanding the period, fiddling with the rules etc etc etc.

Jez also did these Blu Moon 15mm Austrian Hungarian Grenadiers- so it's not just camo he is a dab hand at. 
Boney on a camel- 25mm (or28 if you prefer) Old Glory Napoleon in Egypt range painted by me. 
Now I'm  not, never have been and never will be a professional painter. I don't paint for money. I simply don't have the mental make up for it. For me however painting and modelling IS a part of being a wargamer so whining about how hard life is does not solve the problem.... In the40 or so years I've been at this I've heard all the excuses  a xillion times over and they are only true if you choose to make them so.

A bit of pure self indulgeance. A version of this picture appeared on the front cover of Miniature Wargames a few years back. All the figures were painted by me. Not a professional in sight..
 If I can do it ..... 

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Dark Age Welsh Wizardry in 40mm

 The lads at the Penarth wargames club in south Wales  do some cracking games. Their latest in 40mm(though not their first in this size) is a Dark Ages game with which they won an assortment of trophies at  the Boving show- Battlegroup South.
 I eschew all further comment but let the photos by Glyn Williams one of their stalwarts tell their own story. Personally I think it is a fine looking game. Well done Lads.

All the figures are Sash and Saber 40mm Dark Ages range
The game seems to have attracted a bundle of assorted silverware !!

And here we see the "proud fathers!"

Wednesday 10 August 2016

A short break from the shine !

 Aside from my retro "shinyloo" project  I've not done a great deal of painting recenttly as work keeps getting in the way.
 However I have managed a couple of additions to my 15mm Modern forces
A British army  Supacat "Jackal" in 15mm- crew from the WMIK crew pack.
The Jackal will join the "69 Codo Royal Marines battle group" in their continuing campaigns to oust  "The Great Leader". Both vehicle and crew are Old Glory products.
M-48 Tanks. Painted as Pakistani vehicles- hence the lower tracks in mud which Pakistani crews used to paint on the lower part of their tanks.

The 3 M-48 in Pakistani trim may appear as part of the "Free R'gheidistan Army" as rumour has it that the T' urds (or maybe the Dr'egs) are in revolt against IZAL However more painting needs to be done to prove the truth of this currently unfounded rumour.

On a somewhat different note with the recent Brexit furore I've been asked more than once about price rises. My answer is mixed, frankly. I'd rather not put my prices up unless I absolutely have to.  Some prices have edged up recently  by a quid or even less - but for most ranges  it was the first rise in 5 years or more.
 All I can say with certainty is that I will keep any rises to a minimum and that it will depend upon how incompetant out Government gets over this whole farrago of stupidity.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Situation Normal All """""" UP

 So here we go again. The Economy shrinking almost as fast as it did in 2008. The pound worth about three quarters  of a pound of  """". and the right hand having no idea what the left hand is doing. so is this SNAFU  or FUBAR.
 Well neither it is just normal for  UK in the 21st century. (so SNAFU I suppose!!)
Is this getting worse? Well possibly- certainly the propensity to blame the technology is now widespread.
 A couple of personal examples
 I recently got invoiced TWICE for the same job- different account numbers even a slightly different business name but for the same job. It took almost 2 weeks to sort this due to the other end not answering emails and it "not being my job" until eventually  I finally got to actually speak to the right person who cleared it up in about 2 minutes. They had "accidentally" duplicated my accounts due to the computer programme. Oh and I was to take no notice of the threat of legal action .
 Give me strength!
Another- currently as I type this I'm waiting for UPS to deliver 8 crates only 24 hours late which they "held in the warehouse" but did not inform me they had done this or why they had until I chased 'em, When pressed (after about an hour farting about with websites trying to find the correct phone number) they merely said they hadn't contacted me due to "pressure of work and holidays". So because Jemima or whatever is off lying on her(or indeed his) arse somewhere I have to do a weeks work in about 15 hours  instead of about 24.
 Give me strength!
Now assuming the UPS website is correct I should get the gear in the next 2 hours or so so those lads waiting for stuff will start to get it as soon as I've unpacked. Claymore pre-orders should be fine and we should also have a good bundle of new stuff at the show- though it may not be in any listing yet as until I unpack  I don't know precisely what is there.I'm expecting more Blue Moon Napoleonics and a bundle of new CD tanks both WW2 and Modern.

Oh and in case you are wondering the above are just this weeks catalogue of cock up!!

Monday 1 August 2016

I can't get my head around this ....

Recently  on the Grand Duchy of Stollen Blog Stokes opined the the legendary TV series about wargaming  "Battleground" was deadly dull. Now there is no doubt that there is a good slice of dullness in it at least from a spectators point of view (though perhaps on reflection I'd say earnest rather than dull) but I'm not sure it was ALL dull.
I watched it when it first came out and found no dullness there but then that was the late 70s a time when dullness was part of everyday life and for many the world only woke up at weekends or after inhaling certain substances. Dullness was part of life and for many still is. After all if you don't have some dullness how do you know when you are enjoying yourself- what do you compare against?.

However back to "Battleground". The show of course emphasised the historical and studious approach to wargaming. You know that style of wargaming where you had to actually KNOW stuff...
 What? Never heard of it?
No the dice did NOT have skullz on them and no the figures are not plastic and you can't get them from Games Workshop. Indeed fantasy is never mentioned- even though it did exist and indeed had existed though for a bit less than a decade when the show was made.
 But yes the show was a bit earnest by today's standards and being television did emphasise the look of the thing with those complicated-to film- "montages" showing lots of very pretty toy soldiers a few of which I now own(Yippee -show off git !).
One of the "Battleground" units-  the fact thsat the Lifeguard of Foot never looked like this in - in this case- entirely beside the point;

 That was how wargaming was perceived  by many at the time and indeed for some years before and after. A hobby that needed a bit of knowledge and a bit of skill perhaps and gave satisfactions in that knowledge and skill.
 Of course how much it was really like that is another matter but as I was there then I can say that often it actually WAS like that despite the odd row over the rhomphia and a good bit of sometimes vicious competition.
 Fantasy had not yet seeped into every pore of "the hobby"- with unforeseen side effects like some over marketed drug by an unscrupulous pharmaceutical combine. Yes the drug had some uses and was successful  but the side effects? A massive dumbing down is only the most obvious and least harmful. The lumping together of all the multitudinous facets of the various genres  as "gaming" is something I'm not personally convinced of either though I don't think it is actually harmful merely sometimes inconvenient. Until you have been droned at by a games bore about his bloody space marines or his sodding dark elfs or whatever other meaningless drivel posing as conversation then you don't know what  true darkness can lurk in the human soul .... (This has happened to me several times but the worst was in a bar in Essen. One is polite but Dark Thoughts cross the mind(I wonder what would happen if I rammed his beer up his nose???) )
The urge to shout "I don't give a  flying **** about bloody elfs !! " is almost uncontrollable..Yes gentle reader I had- by this time given up Fantasy for reasons explained in earlier posts !. Yes living in Wargames World as I do you can't actually avoid it and try as I might I can't see its attraction any more.  Mainly because you can't reproduce the atmosphere of "otherness" that a successful fantasy or horror film or book demands. I do read fantasy and sci -fi and even the odd bit of steampunk but I've never found a way to reproduce the atmosphere of those books. I've seen some very good looking attempts but most fantasy is too "sub-GW"  for my taste. Sci-Fi does a good bit better but still seems a bit samey- gamey on the whole. So Fantasy etc is simply gaming and therfore- to me a bit on the tedious side. Especially when there are no jokes.
 So where does that leave us? What is today's perception of the hobby. Certainly less scholarly than formerly. More lightweight. Possibly more childish but then adults acting like children is far more acceptable now in many arenas than it was in the 70s and 80s and I'm not only talking wargaming here. The desire to hang on to your childhood is quite common though I don't understand why. There is- and I kid you not -even a cafe which ONLY serves breakfast cereals and is successful because adults go there to eat those things they ate for breakfast as children. When I saw this my flabber had never been so gasted !  Grow Up .- Though you can't blame the owners saw a niche.... filled it.
  I don't want a second childhood- had enough bother the first time around so I really don't understand the urge to revert to a teenager probably something to do with a lack of responsibility and  having ahem "fun" (fun with acne wasn't it great !!!). Badly painted cheapjack crap on the wargames table (because that was all you could afford) wasn't in great.
 All I can recall about those  childhood days- in wargaming terms -was thinking- when I grow up I'm having an army like THIS-at the time I was looking at stuff by old stalwarts of the Manchester group (I think) John Leigh and Chris Tofalos in the Pendlebury Library.
 Much  NewWargaming now seems to be dominated by these childish themes. - See the new Airfix based game by Modiphius and more especially their publicised reasons for doing it- though of course the real reason is implicit- they think they can make a few quid, Nothing wrong with that.
So I ask the question is Battleground now dull BECAUSE it appears  a bit earnest and scholarly? .
 Is it now de rigeur to reain a child?