Monday, 30 November 2009

The Advantages of Being a Wargamer (2)

It's not often that I'm inspired by the world of golf (as Mark Twain said "A good walk ruined" when asked about what he thought of the game), however Tiger Wood's recent misfortune made me think.

I mean he was very lucky, having decided to go out for a drive in the middle of the night, that his wife had a golf club handy to smash a window out of the car so that he could escape. Can't see anyone freeing you from a wrecked car with a bucket of multi-sided dice or a steel tape measure.

Alternatively if the circumstances were different* and she had been chasing him down the drive with one of the implements of his hobby, that'd be quite scary. I imagine you could do quite a bit of damage with a driver in the heat of the moment, with relatively little back swing.

It's a bit difficult imaging a wargamer's partner assaulting any wargamer with, say, a box of Parthians, in an attempt to bash his brains out with it. Even if you loaded them into a hand bag they'd do realtively little damage and there's loads of premeditation in that case, isn't there? There must be many objects more suitable for that purpose just lying round the house without resorting to the hobby room, so few wargamers are likely to be beaten to death with some of their much treasured figures.

On the other hand the traditional toolbox full of modern 28mm metal figures would tend to make a fearsome weapon if dropped from a height**. If you could lift it to a dangerous enough level without straining yourself in the first place.

Which just leaves modelling knives to do you a mischief, and frankly if you were going to stab someone you'd go for something from the kitchen, wouldn't you?

So on balance I reckon my hobby is unlikely to be turned against me by my nearest and dearest. I mean, it's not even as dangerous as owning a model railway as at least none of it is plugged in to the mains electricity.

Being a wargamer is great.

* And in case Mr Wood's lawyers find this blog I realise there's no way that there was any domestic tension between Mr & Mrs Wood AT ALL.

** Another reason to despise the mis-shapen lumpen objects.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

My Favourite Things (1)

Let me introduce you to one of the best things I ever bought. I didn't realise it at the time, but my Black and Decker electric jigsaw is just brilliant. It has made the production of robust terrain pieces quick & simple and meant I could make purpose built wargame shelving as well. You can get one for c£30 if you look around, and worth every penny. Plus it comes off the household not the wargaming budget.

We'll leave the shelving to one side for the moment, and concentrate on the making of terrain pieces.

I'm usually okay with the concept of spending money on wargaming peripherals such as rules, books and terrain bits and pieces. After all I'm a Grown Up with Grown Up income and restricted time. I'm prepared to throw money at a wargaming problem if it'll get me to the answer I want quickly enough.

And then...I'm not prepared to be ripped off for bits of road that are going to fall apart or look tatty inside a couple of months. I want stuff I can chuck in boxes and lug about round the country without having to worry about it. I look at what's on sale and have a Top Gear moment ("How Hard Can It Be?"). Plus I know I'll have to repaint anything I buy so it matches my figures and wargames table any way (see "Painting Toy Soldiers (4)" elsewhere on this blog).

I'm helped in the production of terrain by the upgrading of furniture that has taken place over my aduly life. We started off with some really cheap MFI wardrobes and chests of drawers and have moved up to professionally fitted stuff. Rather than dump the old furniture I disassembled it and stored it in the garage against some future, ill-defined usage (try to explain this to most women, - they can't understand why it's important to keep odd bits of wood. You just never know).

So when I decided I wanted long stretches of road to put across the rolling savannah of my fictional African country I started by hunting in the garage. I had a load of hardboard off the back of a wardrobe. I cut this into strips about 50mm wide (to accommodate the 40mm frontage of most of my vehicles) and the length of the hardboard panel width (c200mm). I then ran polyfilla humps down the side of the road and shook sand over that. Once this was dry I painted them with my standard Dulux brown, and added an off-white drybrush.

To get 4 metres or more of road took me no more than three hours. The curves took a bit longer, - I had to drawn them with a pair of compasses and a graph flexi-curve (see picture if you've forgotten what one of these is).

The production of small rivers is straight forward as well, using the same technique. However, I did make slight changes. My first river strips were dead straight, and look like canals (see piece on extreme left). I then twigged that as long as the start and end of the river sections are matched up you can make little bends in between to make it look more realistic and still have a straight river. The flexi-curve really worked over time for this lot.

Just to show off here's a picture of my Hovels watermill, which I put on a base to get it to the same height and added matching river banks. The size and width of the river was determined by the fact I own a couple of Peter Pig resin bridges that used to be in his fantasy range. Don't be put off by the fantasy tag, - they're nice little pieces.

Finally, I suppose you all want to know what I did with the doors off the wardrobes.

Well, I made ridge hills for my desert games. The jigsaw enables you to draw randomly wiggly lines on the sheets of chipboard and cut through them easily. Depending on your patience you can either glue them together with PVA glue, or just screw them together with some wood chip screws (remember to countersink the holes). I then paint with a layer of polytex ceiling paint to give them some texture, before I finish off with the Dulux and a bit of dry brushing. I use polytex because it's easier than mixing sand & PVA glue, and (again) it comess off the household budget.
Moral: It isn't that hard to do, nor that long, if you have the tools and the space to do it. That's what's great about being a Grown Up.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Aligning with the Rules

We met as usual for our game on Friday. It was unusual in that we had a guest, and also in that one of our rarer contributors put on a multi-player game, which was a nice change.

We were blessed with the right number of players turning up, and played a Greeks v Persians game using Armati 2. The twist in the scenario was that the Greeks were deployed in a cornfield that obscured all vision of them (our resident Bronze Age expert confirmed this was correct, - corn* was much taller in ancient times). This neutralised the Persian archery to some extent, and also their predominance in numbers as they couldn't be sure where the Greeks were.

The game played through in an interesting fashion, although we ran out of time unfortunately. As the particularly inept Persian leader I was saved by my skillful deployment of sixes when my opponent was rolling ones. In accordance with my heading for this blog, that's as much of a battle report as you'll get.

The inter & post game discussion got me to thinking. I haven't played Armati for a while, but it is about my favourite set of Ancient rules. It's what got me into ancient wargaming (along with Hat plastic soldiers). It's also the only set of rules I've ever played with in a tournament. I've always felt that it pretty much gives you the best historical feel and outcome of any set of rules except.....

I'm reminded of a remark in a Wargamers Newsletter by Don Featherstone. This was along the lines of some of the best games he'd ever played were where he didn't know the rules, but could concentrate on playing historically. I've always wanted that to be true but I just don't get it.

The problem is (and this is where we pick up on the "except" from above) two fold. Firstly, Aramti is a pretty simple set of rules, but even it has details you have to know to play effectively. Secondly every set of ancient rules contains the rule writers view on history, - things such as how manoeuvrable infantry are, the relative speed of troops moving to number of bow shots.

To take the first point. Every rule system has optimum tactics. This isn't gamesmanship, it just does. In Armati it is important exactly where troops are when you launch a flank attack or you simply won't get the benefit. If you don't realise that you can get a shock when you end up effectively in a frontal engagement with your cavalry (for example) when you thought you'd caught the hoplites in the flank.

Second point. If your view of history doesn't coincide with the game designer, you're toast. I'm reminded of a game set in 19th Century India I played in where the umpire/designer had a very different view to me on how good British Army Sikhs were in hand to hand combat (me, I rate them up there with Highlanders). So I kept using them as shock troops and couldn't work out why I was getting nowhere. Ho hum.

Which is a long way round to saying that I should have refreshed myself on the rules before he game instead of deploying my army into a traffic jam where all my units got in each other's way.

Doubly so if I take up President Steele's invitation to an SoA Championship game using them. I could be in for a thrashing.

* As in wheat type, not maize

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Bloggin' whilst the paint dries

This evening has been rescued from what looked like complete disaster. I thought I would get an early night, and was bunking off out of the office, laptop stowed, when I got the "'ere Treb" call from the boss' office.

Now he's a really nice bloke, but he's out and about a lot so how was I to know he was in his office at that time of night as I walked past. Anyhow he has a number of business and staffing issues he wants me to clarify for him. We agree that people cause problems and that an AK47 (the gun not the game) is probably the best answer for a lot of things. (He tends to run the department based on the last war movie he watched. The Band of Brothers phase went on for a long, long, time). So that's half an hour gone, although in fairness it was important and it is what I get paid for (yup, Grown Ups do have to deal with Real Life, don't they?) so I shouldn't complain.

When I eventually get in I find I've forgotten that Mrs Trebian has a Guide Association District meeting but that she doesn't need transport from me, so after a swift evening meal it's up to the desk for a bit of guilt free painting.

I've now got a couple of ECW infantry regiments on the go, and I'm waiting for the jacket colour to dry. They will be a green and a blue regiment, because I like green and blue. I'm reminded again of how little we know about most ECW regiments as I slap the acrylics on.

The last post, - about Battleground - required me to slog my way through a large collection of old hobby magazines. I knew the programme was late 1970's, and I was sure it was in "Military Modelling". However having flicked through 1977 - 1979 I still hadn't found it, so I went through "Battle" and sure enough there it was.

The thing about flicking through mags like this is that it's never a short task. Before long your eye falls upon the odd interesting article and advert (new minifig winged hussars!) and you end up reading most of a magazine you haven't picked up in 20 years (nope, don't throw much out. Drives Mrs T nuts).

Anyway there was a multi part article about standards of the English Civil War in MM at about this time. It comes over as really authoritative, - nice big A4 page with loads of flags on it. But then I realise that actually it's about 5 or 6 flags from each regiment, - ie Colonel's standard, majors, first captain etc. Seeing as the differentiation is just in the number of insignia on it I have to say I'm cheated. You don't need to show all of them to work out what they are like.

I've been trying to model my Parliamentarians on Waller's forces, and the information we have on standards is poor. The best stuff we have is on the defeated Royalist forces at Naseby because so many flags were captured. Books, and magazine articles, just repeat the same flags over and over again. There's so many people who have an interest in selling books on uniforms and standards that few will admit the emperor has no clothes. The best & most honest web resource I've found is on Pete Berry's Baccus 6mm website at:

It's good stuff if you want to know what we really know.

Now back to some painting.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Edward Woodward & Battleground

A little bit of a different topic for this one (although researching and writing it has got in the way of finishing off my ECW dragoons).

Following Edward Woodward's recent death, Bob Cordery at "Wargames Miscellany" posted a moving tribute. In this Bob referred to a programme Woodward fronted called "Battleground" which was made by Tyne Tees Television in 1978. Bob had never seen it, but I did, - probably because it wasn't shown on all ITV franchises. I don't think I saw all of them, - they were shown at odd times and this was before video recorders. (I have a feeling they were shown at lunch time and it depended whether my free periods meant I was at home, - I was in Sixth form at the time).

As it was probably the first programme to put figure wargaming on the TV I thought those of you out there in the wargaming blogosphere might be interested in a bit more background. Most of this information comes from a back issue of the short lived Battle Magazine, written by Terry Wise.

6 programmes were made and first broadcast in the North East. Woodward hosted each programme, giving a bit of background to the battle. He didn't play in any of the games. The games were actually fought out by people who either were, or have now mostly become, well known wargaming personalities, with a few exceptions. The programmes were:

Edgehill (first shown 23/02/1978)
Fought between a pre magazine editing Duncan Macfarlane and John Tilson, both them from the Hull club (selection influenced as the show was made in the North East? Who can say.)

Waterloo (first shown 09/03/1978)
Peter Gilder's first appearance on the show, fighting John Braithwaite "from the Hull area". Probably used Peter's figures from the Callan film.

Battle of the Nile (first shown 23/03/1978)
A Naval game fought out between two Halifax club members, Steve Birnie & John Harrison. (Steve Birnie had recently published a set of 18th Century Naval Rules at the time, although whether that was before or after the show I don't know).

Chalons sur Marne (first shown 30/03/1978)
Featuring Steve Davidson and the legendary Bob O'Brien.

France, 1944 (first shown 20/04/1978)
An imaginary game set in Northern France after D-Day. It was fought out between the author Gavin Lyall, and his son, Bernard. This was about the time that Lyall had published his own set of wargames rules called "Operation Warboard", which were used on the show.

Gettysburg (first shown 27/04/1978)
This was fought between Dr Paddy Griffith ("Senior Lecturer at Sandhurst") and Peter Gilder, using, I think, the figures from the Callan film. This was before Paddy founded WD and started his move away from using toy soldiers.

All the figures and terrain was provided by Peter Gilder, except for the WW2 game which was staged by Gavin Lyall.

It's quite a list of players, - but it is also notable for those who are missing. Phil Barker, Tony Bath and Charles Grant are all missing and were all considerably better known at the time than most of those who took part, as, of course, was Don Featherstone. Maybe they just failed the auditions, which covered "over a hundred wargamers". Amongst the non-appearing advisers on the programme was Charles Wesencraft and David Chandler.

My memories of the programme are that it was a noble attempt to make the hobby look interesting, but at the end of the day the figures don't move, and there's only so much you can do with blowing smoke across the table and playing drumming in the background.

My only recollection of the commentary is that in one game I think Gilder says something like "roll two dice, and you don't want any sixes", to which a po-faced voice over from Woodward remarks "he is joking, - he actually needs sixes".

I may have tracked down the original producer. I've e-mailed her and if she answers any of my questions, I'll post an update, but it could be in quite a while!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Take That, Real Life!

Hah Hah!

Managed to find half an hour this afternoon to finish the painting on the ECW dragoons. All they need is varnish and I can start to base.

Didn't think I'd get a chance today, so that's a real victory. Actually, if I can squeeze in 10 minutes after dinner this evening I'll probably get the varnish done. That means I'll be able to glue them to the bases just before I go to bed (assuming sober enough).

Which means I can polyfilla first thing tomorrow.

Could have them finished by the end of the weekend.

Why I love Wargaming

There I am, just packing up work on a Friday evening and someone says "Treb, I think we have a problem....". Sure enough we have a problem. But it's gone 5pm, so there's nothing we can do to fix it. All I can do is tell the relevant people to expect some problems next week, then go home. Not a brilliant end to a not brilliant week (note lack of postings....can't even blog about not painting, let alone paint).

Any how, get home and have dinner - pizza & the latest couple of episodes of Scrubs - then layout the table for this evening's game. Due to illness with one of our members we have a last minute change of venue to my dining room. This is great as it means I don't have to rush round to get stuff ready to go out. However, it does mean I have to rush round to set the table up.

We have a yahoo group to discuss what we're going to play (It's called the Monday Night Group, even tho' we meet on a Friday), and so we've decided we're going to play RFCM's PBI. As I get to set up and chose the toys I have proposed a bit of Burma, - XIVth Army v Japanese.

I struggle a bit with the set up as I don't actually own a copy of PBI (I bought the earlier version and haven't upgraded). Plus my dining room table table isn't 4' x 4', the standard size for PBI. You may have guessed by now that we don't always play games "straight". We have a number of house rules for PBI. The one that really moves the game along is that we roll the Motivation and AP dice together, and get to chose which dice we use for which. We get fewer failed motivations, and more usable APs. It reduces the game's "FQ" considerably*.

Anyway, I set up light jungle with a dried up river bed running through it and a couple of huts. The huts are Peter Pig, the trees are that fish tank matting you get in per super stores, cut up into sections and glued on drink mats. The river bed/road started life as the back of an old MFI wardrobe now cut up into sections (advantage of being a Grown Up, - you get to cut up furniture with a power saw. I'll do a post on terrain building at some point).

I then put out a couple of platoons on each side, the Brits (actually Africans) got a couple of Grants as well (Rajputs). The Japs got a couple of infantry guns. Figures are all Peter Pig, the tanks are Old Glory, because Mr Pig doesn't make Grants (I won't ask him to make any now as I've got some).

Out of our group of about 6 we had a turn out of 3, including me. Which was good as the other two had the rules.

We played for about 2 hours, and didn't completely finish. My Japanese had taken a bit of a pounding, but had put in a couple of spectacular bayonet charges. And I seriously duffed up on of the Grants. The XIVth were probably closing in for the kill, as one of my infantry guns had gone poof! and I was running out of anti-tank equipment.

Anyway, that's not the point of the post. The point is I sat down for an evening with two good friends, had a couple of cups of coffee/tea discussed life, the universe & everything and had a pleasant game. No edginess, no win-at-all cost tactics, no shouting across a noisy room. Just a really nice evening. Wargaming can create that environment, - the game fills in when the conversation drops, we share opinions and views and discuss our mutual interests.

By the end of the evening I've completely unwound, the troubles of the day pretty much gone.

Then just as we're packing up and saying good bye my mobile goes off. It's my boss's boss. "Trebian, - what about this issue, - is it our fault and what have you done about it?"

Blast. Back to Real Life.

*FQ is "Frustration Quotient". It refers to the rules in a game that seem to be just designed to wind players up. In PBI you roll to motivate, then roll to see what you can do (Action Points, or "APs". This gives you the situation where you can roll a high number when you motivate (when you only needed a low number) and then a low number for APs which means even tho' you motivate a unit it still does nothing. I've played entire straight games where units resolutely refuse to do anything. It may be realistic, but it isn't always fun. Having said that, I do love the odd game of PBI .

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Real Life (Part 5)

Everything is backing up again. Went out to dinner last night with young Master Trebian who is down from Uni for the week ( we all had a great time once we'd got ourselves moved from the table next to the door), so no painting then.

I thought I'd catch up an hour or so this evening whilst Mrs Trebian was out running her Brownie Pack. Then the daylight bulb in my anglepoise lamp blew out. Unfortunately it's a screw in bulb & I don't have a spare. Young Miss Trebian kindly lent me the one out of her bedside lamp, but it's a reflector bulb. My, that gets hot, so I'd just managed to paint about 10 muskets before I could smell burning and had to turn the lamp off. I could swap all of the various lamps in the house around, but that means undoing all the cabling. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a replacement bulb at the weekend. I won't be able to get out at lunchtime to buy one tomorrow and Friday is Children in Need day, so lunchtime will be compulsory enjoyment

Ah well, the week is half gone and most of the DIY is finished so maybe I'll get an hour or two at the toys this Sunday.

Except we have a tree surgeon coming on Friday, so I'll probably spend the weekend clearing up sawdust and stray branches.

Ho hum.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday Morning DIY

I sometimes wish I was a bit more rubbish at DIY. I mean it isn't a problem for blokes these days. I've got a couple of blokes who work for me who don't know one end of a screw driver from the other and it causes them no personal pain.

Me, however, I'm just about competent. I can build flat pack furniture fairly smartly. I can hang shelves on walls and I even made an extension for my wargames tables with folding legs. However to be honest it isn't really my thing. Take today for example. We had our downstairs cloakroom refitted a month or two back. All that was left to do was hang a mirror on the wall and replace the ceiling light fitting.

Now, if I was completely rubbish at DIY I'd not even try the latter job. I'd call an electrician and wait 6 weeks for him to turn up. Six weeks when I could happily sit and paint toy soldiers confident in a job that will eventually be well done. However, being me I got the fittings, screw drivers, insulating tape and so on and got going first thing this morning.

Of course nothing looks the same as the books when you take it apart, and so I spent 2 1/2 hours taking the fittings apart and re-assembling them . This one is different to all the ceiling fittings in the house and garage because of where it sits in relation to the out door light. Plus the YTS kid who did the electrical work on the house didn't label up the cable for the light switch. At various points I had:

1) No working lights at all down stairs
2) Working light in hall, but no others
3) Downstairs lights working properly but cloakroom light not working
4) Downstairs lights working properly but unable to turn off cloakroom light

I eventually finished off just after lunch, but an entire morning's painting and rule writing has gone, never to be recovered. Anyway, thank goodness for modern isolation switches, although I'm proud to say I never turned the power on at any point and have the switch trip.

So that's why my dragoons still languish on the desk part way through stage 3.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Land of the Giants

Now, I'm a fairly easy going sort of chap.

Actually, that isn't true. I'm sort of a bloke who has a bit of a temper and a tendency to go off on one. However, my employer has paid for me to go on self awareness training so at least I'm aware that I'm not an easy going chap and can recognise in myself when I'm going to lose it and so can control any outbursts and so on.

However sometimes you see something and it just sort of tips you over the edge a bit. Apparently, according to Nicholas Holmes in "Arquebusier" magazine "28mm is now well established as the scale of choice for most wargamers".

Since when? Now I have armies in most scales from 6mm up to 25mm, but my 28mm collection is limited to stuff I've won at Society of Ancients events and is only fit for skirmish gaming (pictures of these, which I think are Gripping Beast illustrate this blog). And when I start a new period my thoughts do not immediately turn to 28mm. Mostly I turn to 15mm (especially if Peter Pig has a range) or 20mm plastics from Hat & Zvezda. These win on speed of painting, transportability and realism in that you can field lots of units with reasonable numbers of figures in them.

I accept I'm not like a lot of wargamers, but do "most wargamers" now gravitate towards 28mm figures? I sincerely hope not.

I have a number of problems with 28mm figures. In fact I have a number of problems with the large figure culture that has sort of spilled out from Games Workshop. Firstly they seem to have killed off genuine 25mm figures, so I can't add to my existing armies.

Secondly there's the painting style we're all obliged to adopt now, with the multiple layers and tones are then the specially graded cans of overpriced varnish (honestly, - go and buy some Ronseal). They make figures look as genuine as David Dickinson's suntan.

Thirdly there's the look of them. I did a quick check on Wikipedia but I can confirm that anabolic steroids were introduced in the late 1930's (allegedly the Nazi's tried to use them to produce an Aryan super race), consequently the stocky, over muscled figures many manufacturers produce can't be justified in any way. People simply do not look like that*. Have a look at Warlord Games stuff, in particular the ECW figures. They're well built, fit looking, carrying the sort of bulk that sad sim-world players put on their avatars. And the faces! Only Noel Fielding of the Mighty Boosh comes close to looking like many of these figures which appear to have hada face transplant from a flat iron. Then check out the length of the arms (which would barely reach pockets), and whether or not they have a neck.

I could go on, - there's the complete disregard for scale in the clothing they wear, which features jackets the thickness of a plank. There's the idea that flags are likewise made out of a peculiar type of cloth that is 2" thick.

Still, I'm a lone voice in the wilderness on this one apparently and as the hobby is a broad and hopefully tolerant one we can all live side by side.

However I take exception to the expression of opinion as fact, and the underlying assumption that bigger is better.

*Ironically to my mind the best proportioned 28mm figures I've ever seen were Harlequin's original series Dr Who figures. Lovely proportions and body shape.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

If it's not one thing...

So I thought I'd have a fairly clear run this week. Swept up the leaves in the garden at the weekend and finished off some DIY.

And now I've got a cold. Nothing serious, just your average coughs and sneezes. It's not like I feel really ill, - still going in to work for example, it's just that it is so inconvenient.

The moment you pick up a paint brush to start anything your nose starts off again and you're rummaging for tissues or a handkerchief with a wet paintbrush in the other hand. And coughing when you're not expecting it puts blobs of paint where you don't want them even if you're using as basic a painting technique as I use.

So the ECW artillery is perched on the desk one stage from completion and the dragoons are part way through blocking in and not looking like being finished for a day or so. That'll put me even further behind the painting schedule as I've got a couple of days off at the weekend so I'll be off doing Christmas shopping or whatever.


Ah well, it could be worse I suppose, but being ill isn't half as much fun when you're a Grown Up. It's not like when you were at school and you could spend the day in bed being fed and reading back copies of the "Victor" or the latest "Commando" comic, or trying to develop a 54mm skirmish game that works on the bed whilst you're still in it.

Of course in those days there was no daytime TV to distract you or videos so you got so much more done when you were off school.

Now, I'm off to give those dragoons another go. Sniff.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Real Life (Part 4b)

Hands have stopped shaking now, so I can finish basing those PP ECW dragoons (not much to do, - just the green paint on the polyfilla/sand once it has dried properly).

Did manage to finish my CoW report on the latest President Jog-Jog game, - virtually 4 months to the day since it was player. I can't remember much of it, but the pictures look okay.

Here's one of him surrounded by what remains of his personal guard having just piled out of his brewed up command carrier (just visible spewing hamster bedding smoke at the top of the picture). He seems to be under close assault from a unit of the Wha-Li's camel riding fanatics.

There's also a technical poking its nose in top left. My recollection is that there was much confusion everywhere, and I'm not sure who finally did for the President.

Although if I recall correctly, they never did recover his body.

Real Life (Part 4)

The replacement leaf blower came earlier in the week, so I spent an hour or so alternately blowing leaves into big heaps then sucking them up into little pieces. Deeply satisfying in some ways, although also futile. I have a very large tree in my garden and it does have a lot of leaves. There are more to come down, the compost bin is full, the recycling bin is full and the green waste bags for going to the tip are full.

Hence no painting this morning.

I've now sat down the paint and the blasted thing has given me muscle spasms in both arms & hands. Can barely smear polyfilla onto bases, let alone do even the basic colour blocking. This is not a good thing.

Added to that my new mobile phone / e-mailing thingy has just defaulted back to factory settings, and I can't work out how to retrieve any of my contacts. Back to see the phone lady at work on Monday.

Sometimes being a grown up is a pain.

Oh, - I also returned my standalone hard drive to the manufacturers this morning as it kept losing its file registry and shutting down. What do you do when your back up stops working?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Wargaming, Gaming and The Press

I had that occasionally odd experience this week of opening the paper and seeing a photo of someoneI know.

What made it odder was that it wasn't a picture of an old school chum in the crime section either.

The Independent ran a big piece in its lifestyle supplement about the Essen game fair, and there, large as life, was fellow WD member Martin Wallace of Treefrog games. Here's the link:

Now, it is a good article, well written and very fair in its coverage of the boardgaming arm of our great hobby. Martin gets a good press too, as the article is mainly hung around his presence and how he has muscled his way to the game designer's top table.

But, alas, the media can't help but play with us. For those who know him, Martin designs cleverly structured games that require real thought and careful strategy from the players (he's rubbish at playing matrix games tho' but that's a story for another time). However, under Martin's picture, showing him standing proudly in front of piles of his games is the large, pullout quote saying

"There's a game that involves one player trying to build a Jenga-like structure from wooden blocks, while their opponent bashes them over the head with an inflatable club. It's called Argh!Tect"

You will not be surprised to hear that isn't one of Martin's, but I can't wait to ask him for a copy when I see him at CoW next year.

I am reminded of my one and only encounter with the local paper when the club I was then with was trying to promote a local wargaming open day. The photographer arrived, and his opening gambit was "Okay then, who want's to wear the dragon suit?" (Yes that is DRAGON as it the fire breathing flying thing, not DRAGOON as in the mounted infantry man)

This took us back a bit, but sure enough he had called in at a fancy dress hire shop on the way and hired a stuffed dragon costume. We all refused to wear it, but it ended up propped at the side of the table in the photo looking as miserable as only an un-worn fancy dress costume can do.

I still wait to be convinced that it made anyone extra turn up to the show.

I mean grown ups playing with toy soldiers is daft enough as it is. We don't need any help to look foolish.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Painting Toy Soldiers (Fourth and Last)

The final stage with the figures is what to do with them once they are painted.

For 15mm figures my current solution is slim file boxes. They aren't as cheap as the deep ones, but they are pretty much the perfect size and depth as long as you don't have cavalry with upright lances.

I divide the boxes up with strip wood, - 6mm x 30mm I think (look, I just go into Bill's hardware shop and buy the stuff from the same place, - I can't carry sizes in my head). Applying Grown Up rules this isn't hard to do. Don't faff around doing this on your work desk. I use a B&D Workmate with a tenon saw and a mitre block to cut the stuff up, and I glue it in place with Evostick woodglue. If I've left all the boxes for an army 'til last I even use a powered jigsaw to cut the wood. It's quick, neat & accurate.

This method doesn't take long, and produces robust, lightweight storage. I finish the boxes off with inlays with regiment/unit names in them (DTP on laptop) so that anyone can put them away properly and then label top, front & side with the army name & contents.

It all sounds a bit anal but in the long run it saves time.

As the areas for the figures are made to measure I have very few problems with movement in transit, even tho' I don't use magnabase.

So, in summary, I can't paint but all my stuff is finished and sorted out. Beat that.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Painting Toy Soldiers (3)

Take that Real Life! Yesterday's gloomy prognostication proved to be wrong as today didn't go to bad. Whole stack of stuff had to be done, whole stack of stuff duly done. Out of the office by 5:45pm.

So, final stages. From here on it all becomes very easy (Painting Toy Soldiers, that is, not Real Life). Once the polyfilla and sand have dried off, - probably takes overnight, - it only really needs a coat of basing paint. As you can see from the picture I paint my bases with Dulux, which I also use to paint my wargames table, scenery bases and anything else that needs to be grass colour. That way I get a reasonably consistent look.

Another advantage is that if you know the colour number (post a comment of you want to know the number for this shade) you can go back again and again for a pot the right colour. And it is so much cheaper than any type of model paint, and honestly it's often a better quality, more consistent and not in need of stirring or anything like that.

Any how, I've been going on about this for years, and no one has come up to me and said "What a great idea!". I even have another favourite shade for sandy bases. I have to admit this isn't really my idea either. It was recommended to me when I met Terry Wise at a northern wargames show, and I wasn't grown up enough to take him seriously (great bloke Terry, - I met him through WD & corresponded for a few years. Then lost touch, - easy to do in the pre-Facebook era).

Finally I dry brush over the top with a light brown to give the bases a bit more depth, and then I'm done. The result won't ever win prizes, but at least it gets the job done.

There's one last point to make, but alas I'm out of time for a number of real world reasons. Catch up tomorrow.

Monday, 2 November 2009

(Not) Real Life (Part 3)

The irony of not painting any toys this evening because I was contributing to a blog describing how I don't really get round to painting toy soldiers is not lost on me.

Plus Dollhouse looks like it is shaping up nicely, even if it has that unpleasant sicko male fantasy taste to it.

But if my wife & 20 something daughter approve of it, it must be alright.

Painting Toy Soldiers (2)

Despite Sean Clarke trying to steal my thunder in a shameless fashion, here's part two of the Trebian Method.

Basically Sean has the same aim as me, - getting from raw metal to varnished army in as short a time as possible. Personally I think he is wrong on undercoating, - the black emulsion paint gives me a good surface to paint on and is quick and cheap.

Any how, next stage is the simple blocking in. Selecting what to paint is key. You do not have to paint everything, just so long as all of the figure is covered in paint, and that the various bits that should be different colour are.

What differentiates various armies are surprisingly few if 15mm. For Colonial forces painting in cross belts in white is essential, for WW1, less so. For these ECW cavalry I did basic horse colour & saddle cloths (no edging) and horse furniture. The men have buff coats, jackets, back/breast plates, boots, cross belts, gauntlets, weapons and faces painted in. For sheer bravado I painted in shiny stirrups. The signature colour on these tho' is the red on the sashes.

It is important to note at this point that I do not mix colours if I can at all avoid it. I end up wasting loads of paint and if I ever want to paint any more figures I can never get the exact same colour.

If you are painting in a warm room using acrylics and don't paint colours next to each other until they are dry you can do all of this in an evening.

Anyhow, this is what they look like at this stage, - nothing spectacular, and well within the capabilities of even the busiest grown-up. Note the use of the upturned box lid for display purposes.

The secret ingredient for the next stage is Ronseal Quick Drying Wood Varnish, - Antique Pine.

It took me a while to be converted to the benefits of shiny figures, but this stuff does it for me. It protects and shades the figures all in one go and it is dry enough in 20 minutes to pull the figures off the stick and base them up.

What's more, it is quite reasonably priced compared to that Army Painter stuff, which only proves that you can sell pretty much anything to some wargamers, regardless of how good it is.

As I said the Ronseal dries in 20 minutes, and it is virtually odourless. And as an added advantage for grown-ups you can actually use it to varnish wood panels round the house should you need to, so the expense comes off the household not the wargaming budget.

With the drying speed you can move to the next phase, - basing - in the same evening. I used to make my own bases out of 2mm ply or mounting board but frankly I can't cut straight and it takes too long. Accordingly I have bags of pre-cut bases on one of my zamba shelves to save wasting time faffing about. I use Peter Pig plastic bases mostly, but for DBx style bases I use 2mm mdf from QRF. For individual figures I tend to use 2ps.

To stick them down I use Evo-stick PVA wood adhesive (again costed against the DIY budget). To finish the bases off (once dry - and here I suggest you do not hurry the PVA, but let it dry overnight) I cover them with polyfilla, or something similar. The picture shows a pot of Mangers Ready Mix All Purpose Filler that sells at £2.25 for 600g in my local village hardware shop. I then put them in the sand tray (visible on the right) for final texturing. Plus it speeds the drying process.

Okay, enough for now. To much text, not enough jokes.

Catch up with the third and final phase tomorrow night. Or most likely not, as tomorrow at work has a whole enormous pile of real life stacked up in it.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Real Life (part 2)

Was going to post 2nd half of painting blog this afternoon.

Instead am going out to buy a leaf blower for the garden.

This is a very Grown Up thing to do.

Haven't worked out wargaming applications of leaf blower yet. Please leave comments.

Painting Toy Soldiers (1)

So, initial posting on the blog about painting toy soldiers.

First, some ground rules. This painting system is designed to enable me to produce completed armies in a reasonable period of time. It takes account of a number of restrictions, - I usually only get a maximum of 1 hour an evening, four nights a week, with the occasional couple of hours at the weekend (depending on what other domestic DIY/gardening/domestic tasks need to be done). My aim is to finish a unit completely from cleaning to basing in a week. Furthermore my eyesight isn’t terrific (even with glasses), and like many people of my age the back and fingers are starting to seize up.

Final caveat, - this method works for 15mm & 20mm plastics, which is good because that’s what I paint most. If I ever paint 25mm (or even “shudder” 28mm steroid pumped monstrosities) then I paint them in a slightly different way, - which is mostly driven by the sheer weight or bulk of the figure.

First up, sort out your figures. I paint by units, not individual figures. This ensures all the figures in the unit are consistent. I sort my figures into units when I get then and put them into zip lock bags. The tidying up and any gluing is done in the lids of those cardboard press together CD boxes (I use the boxes for storing A5 magazines). I have three of these so I can have 3 units on the go at once. You’ll see the lids as background in some of the pictures.

Once the figures are cleaned up and stuck on their horses or whatever I glue the figures on to sticks, using a hot melt glue gun. The sticks I use were slats from a chocolate liqueur box (!) and other bits of wood slat that I’ve picked up. I have about a dozen of these ranging in length from 12” to 4”. The 12” slats will take 12 cavalry or 24 infantry.

The stick in the picture has 6 Peter Pig Royalist Cavalry on it. There's only six because I've broken one of my golden rules - I've changed my unit sizes and I'm painting filler figures and trying to make them match.

Because I’m using hot melt I can start to work on the figures immediately. Stage 1 of the actual painting is to undercoat. At this stage half of you will leave me as I undercoat in black.

White gives nicer colours but if you miss a bit you can see it really obviously and I only notice once the figures are varnished and based.Not only do I undercoat in black, I undercoat with a brush. I also under coat using black emulsion paint.

What?? I hear you say. Well, says I, the cost of black spray paint is prohibitive and the smell of the solvent is disgusting and I can’t be bothered to take stuff backwards and forwards into the garage. Plus it starts to get cold and wet this time of year.

I use Dulux undercoat because it costs me £2.99 for 250ml. On top of that when I did spray black I ended up painting in the bits I'd missed anyway.Actually there is one downside to undercoating with a brush. If you glue your figures with superglue make sure it has dried properly, especially round the saddle area, otherwise the brush hairs will get glued up and matted. I could leave the stuff overnight to be sure, but that would cut into my painting schedule.

I do about three sticks in an evening. Once they're done, I put them to one side to dry, ready for the following day's painting.

That'll do for now, as I don't want to trespass on most people attention span.