Saturday, 31 October 2009

Real Life (part 1)

Sorry for lack of posts. Real life intervened in last few days (month end and other stuff).

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I know what that is.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Keeping Up With Nostalgia

I was going to post the first part of "How To Paint Toy Soldiers Really Quickly" tonight, but as blogs are supposed to be topical I thought I'd write about one or two things I saw recently.

I'm not sure that nostalgia can be topical, but in many ways it has never been as fashionable as it is right now. The whole series of "how I grew up" type books like Harry Pearson's "Achtung Schweinhund" and Andrew Collins' book about growing up normal in Northampton make it okay to reminice about the trivial parts of our childhood.

Wargamers love this, especially Grown Up ones, as despite being grown up, we've never really left our respective childhoods. There's lots of fun to be had in "I had one of those".

First up this week was James May building a life size Airfix Spitfire. Like most of us Airfix aided my early wargaming, although it wouldn't be true to say it got me started. Like everyone else my armies were skewed by what was actually available. Haven't we all staged the Scotish invasion of Napoleon's France because you could only buy Highlanders?

Anyway, confession time. My first Airfix kit was a P-47 Thunderbolt. I can't remember where it was bought, but I do remember my Dad helping me build it (the canopy didn't fit properly and wouldn't close). My brother got to build his on his model own, - although under supervision.

But the big confession is that I don't think I ever built an Airfix Spitfire. Lancaster bomber, yes, but Spitfire, no. In any event I was more of a tank guy than airplanes. And as May pointed out the Chieftan was a stinker of a kit. My barrel never stayed up (that's not a funny line as I built it when I was in primary school, so put your smutty thoughts away).

But we did blow up a Stuka in mid air with a banger.

Second nostalgia note came from Andrew Marr's "Making of Modern Britain". Well previewed (and subsequently well reviewed) I was looking forward to it.

All I can say is that modern reviewers' standards must be fairly low. Either that or they don't have much of an education. The programme covered the early parts of the 20th century - Boer War onwards- so I wasn't expecting nostalgia, but history. Humph. What I got was the edited highlights from my A Level notes.

Do people know nothing of their past? There were no surprises in this programme. But as Marr sped across the Taff Vale Case and the Joe Chamberlain's Tariff Reform I was transported back to the late 1970s in Room E, with Mr Thatcher ("Fuman" to us) my history teacher and that select band he led through the twists and turns of the period to eventual examination success. I could almost feel the stuffy air and the thickness of my blazer as my arm moved to write.

Nice footage of cavalry in the Boer War, however, so catch it on i-Player and skip the rest of it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Advantages of Being A Wargamer (1)

Sometimes there are advantages to being a wargamer that aren't immediately obvious. I mean apart from all the opportunities to meet a wide range of fascinating individuals, many of whom do possess both soap and a towel, there are other benefits.

Most wargamers read extensively and therefore develop the sort of mind that just picks up random bits of information. So, for a start, they make good pub team members if not necessarily brilliant conversationalists. Actually, on balance, I think that's about it.

One of the often unseen advantages of being a wargamer is what happens once non-wargamers find out. Okay, so initially there is a degree of shock when they discover a grown man playing with toys but most people will regard you as eccentric not dangerous. However, I do reckon it is normally wise to prove you are competent in your job before you let this fact slip out, but once you do the doorway is open to owning up to virtually anything.

Because basically it doesn't matter what else you 'fess up to from that point no one is going to regard you as any more wierd than they do already.

Take cult television, for example. Oddly enough I'm not a fan of reality TV, but anything with a spaceship or shape changing aliens or mind controlling mysterious organisations and I'm hooked up with the video recorder set. Yup, I own all the series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-Files, and a few more you've probably never heard of.

So today, following the launch of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" on ITV4 I can comfortably admit to watching and enjoying it, whereas a work colleague has to make the point he only watches it because "it's full of hot tottie" once he has let slip that he's a fan. He's now thought of as a wierdo who letches over girls young enough to be his daughter, whilst I'm just, you know, the guy that plays toy soldiers. And that's old news and not an arrestable offence.

Monday, 26 October 2009

How can you work there?

Everyone needs somewhere to paint toy soldiers (if you blanche at this and inwardly go "Humph, model soldiers, please" then I suggest you go to another blog, because you may find other things to upset you as we go on).

The first advantage of wargaming when you're a grown up is you have much more control over where you can work, and what you can work with. If this isn't the case then you are not making the most of being a Grown Up. Most people reckon the two constraints on wargames productivity are money and time. When you're at school you have enough time, but not enough cash. When you start a job it tends to be the other way round. However, the third thing to think about is what other resources do you have, - eg access to space, the ability to leave stuff out to dry overnight, a garage to do spraying, power tools and whatever else is in your DIY box. Grown Ups have access to way more stuff to use than kids.

So, being a Grown Up you should be able to select a conducive area to work in. When I first started work and got married I had to be tidy, alas. My painting trays and equipment all fitted into a neat box and I had a portable work surface which I could use on the dinig room table. Adequate, but not ideal. Now, as I have Grown Up more I have a study with a workdesk in it. A picture follows, and it isn't a pretty site, except maybe to me.


My work area consists of a much loved old desk, with a set of zamba shelves standing on it.

The desk was mine from when I was about 11. It has followed me round and before it performed this function it was in one of my children's bedroms, - hence the "Old Bear" stickers on the drawers. I know I should replace them, but I was quite proud of how it all looked when the children were small.

I leave you all to take in the awesome majesty of it all, but would draw your attention to a number of items.

1) Creeping in top left is an anglepoise handcraft lamp that combines a light and magnifying lens. You can find them in places like Hobbycraft, and they are horribly expensive. I acquired mine when my wife gave up doing counted cross stitch.
2) On the left hand side there's a hot melt glue gun, - perfect for sticking things quickly. More of that in later posts.
3) Next to the glue gun you'll see a pot of sticks. Absolutley essential to my painting technique.
4) Behind the sticks a pot of cheap ready-mix wall filler
5) Behind the working area you'll see a lot of pots of Dulux colour mix tester pots. These are the ones you have mixed to your own specification. I have black, white, blue (for water), green (for European bases), and light brown (for sandy bases). My wargames tables are painted with these colours.
6) Paints: Apart from Dulux I use Tamiya & Games Workshop. Why? Because I can buy them locally if I run out. Damned if I'm going to wait for a postal delivery to finish some figures.
7) At eye level a shelf with figures to be painted and pre-cut bases.

Other items include a tray of sand, stanley knife and (bottom right) a drop-forged table vice I got in a pound store, nail clippers (brilliant for snipping off bits of figures you don't want), plus scissors, brushes etc.

Yes, it looks a mess but everything I want to use is within easy reach, and tends towards solid, reusable, grown up items.

Next Blog will be phase 1 of how to paint like a grown up.

And that doesn't mean like that over-blown steroid induced nonesense you see in all the comics.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

An Introduction

What to say to the wargaming bloggo-sphere that isn't listening?

This (hopefully) will be a blog about how wargaming fits into my life. Whilst wargaming is my hobby, and has been since I was 8, I try to balance it with the other calls on my time which often, quite rightly, take priority. Like many other gamers I have a proper job that sometimes intrudes, rudely, on what I want to do. More importantly I have a family that I want to be able to spend time with (although the children are now old enough to look after themselves, both being in further education). Oh, and I like to read the odd fiction book and watch cult television (but not in a nerdy fashion. Honest. After all I'm north of 40)

So this will cover not just games I play, and figures I paint, but also the techniques I employ to get it done in the time real life leaves available for it. For example, I plan each year to paint and finish two large opposing 15mm armies and develop a viable set of rules for them. I usually manage to achieve this, although the credit crunch has made this difficult this last couple of years (not for reasons of funding, - I hasten to add, this is not a begging blog, - simply that work became a lot more serious and there is no CDO based round securitising wargames figures).

So the first few postings wil be about how I get them done, interspresed with the odd picture of games we play locally.

Oh, and there'll be stuff about DIY shops and power tools as well.