Sunday, 29 March 2015

So I Sold The Family Farm...

The last month has been quite an expensive one.

There were the Chaos Dwarves, the Great Spined Dragon and now, the very week in which I decide that perhaps having spent a four-figure sum on toys, I should recuperate a little, I am contacted to see whether I would be interested in spending another four figure sum on 3 original artworks by John Blanche?

Well, do wargamers wank over old Citadel catalogues?

Of course I was bloody interested...

And so, after securing the funds my darling wife drove me South at an unreasonable hour this morning to collect the works.

And what works they are!

Here are some pictures to make you drool. You will see in some images that I have included an old Citadel miniature for scale. For anyone interested it's 'Prince Ardelon', himself quite a sought after model.

First up, a 1987 sketch of a wizard, in pencils:





Next up, is a truly wonderful and insanely detailed abstract pice of a cyborg female suspended over a planet:



And then finally, a montage piece in that style which I would call 21st Century Blanche:








Along with my February purchase of the early John Blanche painting below...



My collection of original artwork by some of the best British sci-fi and fantasy artists is coming on in leaps and bounds. I have quite a few, but I confess that the John Blanche works are by far and away my favourites.




TTFN

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Heroics & Ros 1/300 Seagoing Vessels

A very brief post to showcase a couple of seagoing vessels which will be available at Salute in April.

These are 1/300 as you would expect. You can get an idea of the sheer size of the trawler (also available in a civilian version) if you look at the Sherman tank in the LCT.

Separate crew figures are available with which to bring the models to life.





TTFN

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Childhood just crept up on me from behind...

I just came into possession of some photos which show me as a child playing with toy soldiers.

What is fun about them, is that the fort is a traditional soap box fort and that as well as the odd plastic toy soldier they are all early 20th century toy soldiers.

Collectors seeing this may faint, but they were toys and I was playing with them.

I have no defence for the haircut!




And me on my birthday wearing a Six Million Dollar Man outfit...



TTFN

Sunday, 22 March 2015

80s...Na Na Na Neeerrrrrr. We're living in the 80s!

One of my prized possession, with which to give any retro Warhammer game some 80 hi tech gravitas is my MagiDice (TM).

This was, at the time a very expensive executive toy which was powered by a PP7 battery no less.

These were such precision pieces of electronics that each one had an individual serial number lest they need to back for servicing.

Anyway, here's some pics of the beast...








The more observant may have noticed that it was made a few doors away from that other great 80 gaming institution 'Chris Harvey Games' for whom I had the distinct pleasure of working in the 90s.

TTFN

Sometimes, the attraction to lead, has to be sated with a 'silly' purchase.

I think that we all have weak moments in our pursuit of the hobby, and today I have had one of those moments.

In the 80s I literally bought every new model as it arrived in Games Workshop, Sheffield. I almost lived in there; in fact if a particularly desirable item was due in stock, I'd (and I don't even blush to recall this) be there an hour before opening and half an hour after closing lest I miss it, or it be placed on the shelf after I had been thrown out at closing time, just to thwart my need for lead.

I have a vague memory of being found, one chilly November morning with my nose and tongue frozen to the glass of the shop window, and that the staff had to help remove me. But that can't be right because Pete, Chris and Lisa would have stood there in the store and waved, laughed and phoned around all my mates to come and do the same. *sigh*

Anyway, one of the models which I tackled was the Great Spined Dragon, sculpted by Nick Bibby (who also painted arguable the best White Dwarf cover ever). It was not as large as the Imperial Dragon, but it was still an impressive model which was a complex build and required you to make your own membranes for the wings using some rather crude templates on top of doing some really serious pinning.

Well, I got mine built and I started painting it. As, like most of my mates at the time, I took great pride in using complex materials and an over-serious approach in painting lead dollies, I decided to paint the dragon, one scale at a time, fully shading and highlighting to the nth degree. You couldn't hold the model, so I decided to begin on the underside and balanced the dragon on my bedroom drawers, overhanging the edge. I laid on my back, with spotlight aimed upwards, and a complex array of paints at my side, all of which were oil based and rather noxious.

The upshot was that I completed 14 scales before I gave up and traded it of for something or other with a friend. But my, were they wonderful looking scales.

And so, that model was forgotten, although I did almost buy one in the late 90s on the Sheffield Triples bring & buy, but the price was frankly stupid.

This week, completely on whim I got the idea to own a reasonably large dragon again, and of course it had to be an 80s casting. I had a bit of my pocket money left and so I made that 'silly' purchase:





It was certainly not cheap, but in the big picture, and compared to some prices I've seen it listed at, it was a a bargain, particularly (and I am sure you will agree) because it is nicely painted and the wings wonderfully well done.

Now I just have to hope that it reaches me in this condition...


TTFN

Saturday, 21 March 2015

What Does Oldhammer Mean To Me?

This must be a first. I am writing this post whilst in the bath, so fingers crossed... If you are reading this, then I didn't drop the iPad in the water. Right, here goes...

We see the term 'Oldhammer' bandied around freely these days like the favours of a lady of ill repute.

But what exactly does it mean to me?

Surprisingly, very little, but not in a derogatory way, I assure you.

Let me explain...

I started playing Warhammer, literally on the day of release, and although I was hooked, having for some time been a historical wargamer and a finalist in the junior heats of 'The Nationals', I was also obsessed with fantasy miniatures to t he point that out of the two first places in competions I had won by 1982 (by 1996/7 rising to 22 first places and several others which being lower, I literally binned) one was fantasy and one historical. But out of the six entries I had placed, only one was historical.

I'd been bitten bad, after my first purchase (detailed in my book) of  the pair of FTD range Dwarves carrying the stretcher. Alas, apart from rules such as 'Lidless Eye' and some fan-produced D&D themed rules, there was really nothing which captured the genre without making it feel like 'just another war game'. OK, I had roleplaying as an outlet, but I was a gamer who was already buying figures destined for D&D or Runequest in units, complete with command, uniforms and the like.

Then, Warhammer 1st ed came along, followed by Forces Of Fantasy, and I was hooked. The game flopped and GW stores soon had it stacked high at the front of the sales area at £2.99. By high, I mean 4 feet square on all sides.

But, as I say, I was hooked. 2nd ed, made the blood-pact even stronger and the £10 per week I could earn painting whilst at school, was spent on a unit or two every week.

One week I made £100 which was what I was paid for 3 weeks in my first retail job when I left school in 1984. This was in adition to pocket money, and on top of putting in a 40 hour week at the imagination penetentiary.

I confess, that 3rd ed was the straw which broke the camel's back for me. It was glossy and pretty - too pretty in fact. I know some will argue that it was a superior system, but remember, I was a traditional historical gamer, used to amateurish rule books, and traditional suppositions with regards to the mechanics of a game. There was and still is after almost 35 years a greater sense of the imaginary, the fantastic, the dream-driven to 1st and 2nd ed.

You have to play it and do so with a dozen friends every week, to really get a feel of what I mean. The rules worked, allowed for easy insertion of house amendments and we rarely used the official lists at the Sheffield club, relying  (oddly for teenagers) on a gentlemen's agreement approach to dispute resolution. Oh the games we had, pressing 15mm Landsknechts into service as Gnomes and beating GW to the post on the Empire by several years in doing so.

This to me is 'Oldhammer'.

It's also not just about buying up old Citadel castings, oh no... Back in those days White Dwarf reviewed other ranges and what's more they gave advice on how they could be utilised in WH. It was truly and indisputablt the 'Golden Age' of gaming.

So, when I read that to many, Oldhammer is 3rd ed, using vintage models, I confess, I squirm, I scowl and sometimes when in full flow, I shake my fist at the screen - How rude!

To me, it is a mind set, a credo, of playing games with same spirit that I did as a kid (in fact as I always have). Back in 1995 when I owned Dungeons & Starships, we had 1000+ per side games of 1st ed with a dozen players, which lasted all weekend and ended when one side was destroyed or capitulated. What was important was the models conveyed a sense of style which complimented the old rules.

Even today, I hold that as a constant. It's not about what make the models are, but rater the aesthetic value they project.

I have just started a Chaos Dwarf army this week - proper ones, not the 'Twat Hats' (TM). The armys is a mix of Citadel and other makes, and at the time of writing, after 3 days of shopping comprises:

Citadel
2 Whirlwinds
2 Tenderisers
8 Bazukas
3 Mortars
20 Crossbowmen

Ewal Dvergar
200+  Dwarves

4A Miniatures
4 figures

Bederken
16 figures

Quite a mix, but all of those companies meet my aesthetic dtandards and o are all equally valid as 'Oldhammer'.

That to me is the epitome of 'Oldhammer' or as I termed it some time in the last couple of years 'Firsthammer'.

I could have easily bankrolled a fully Citadel army, but what's the point? The newer alloys are better, the models fresh; and what's more I feel we should support those manufacturers who actively embrace the ethos and bring us new models. It's no more than an extension of 1982 to me. After all, had GW not changed it's mind every two minutes, it's feasible that we could still be buying our toys from them.

So, when I sy that 'Oldhammer' means nothing to me, it's only because for me, it as fresh and vibrant as it was over 3 decades ago. I live in a self-made 1980s limbo state, and emerge only to pay bills, buy wine or suchlike.

Stop thinking of Oldhammer as a fad or movement and make it part of your very core existence. You'll see things ina pleasingly different way, I assure you. What's more, the enthusiasm will rub off on people who will in turn embrace it and stop the older WH system from becoming 'something we played as kids'. Stop spending £20 on that 1988 Chaos Warrior and forget the 'cred' it will give you in an internet pissing contest. Spread thos esame funds around some of the new school, old school manufacturers, who understand the 'vibe' in an intimate way.

To you it may seem like a lifetime ago, but to me, it seems it was yesterday!

TTFN

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

When Fluff Meant Nothing...

For me, one of the great joys of Warhammer, when it came along, was just how open the world was. 

You got a skeleton of what is now an over-examined gaming world, which you could flesh out and shape to your own needs. And let's be honest, you never really needed all the 'fluff' in 1982. It was all about getting units on the table and knocking seven shades of imaginary shit out of the opposition.

I remember in one game, that a friend fielded a 3000 pt army which consisted of three wizards, who summoned demon after demon. Three Greater Demons ensured that on that day those seven shades of shit were:


Unicorn
Liche
Spectre (quite insubstantial stuff'
Fish Man
Dragon 
Gnoll
Skeleton (yes, he kicked me that hard)


But, it was a bloody good game, legal under the rules and did not need to be justified against any 'official' background story. There was a loophole and my mate used it to his advantage. After all how many 3000pt armies have you seen for a total of £12.60? 

They were great days, when floating castles 'just did' and no explanation was required. It was magic, it was mysticism it was FANTASY.

Best of all it was a fantasy that we created ourselves and which we did with relish and enthusiasm that would have modern parents reaching for either the Ritalin or, given how far gone we all were at times, the 'humane killer'.

When I was working on my first book I was speaking to the manager of GW Sheffield in the early 80s, and asked him why the staff at the miniatures counter (known then as 'the figure bar') were allowed to give us kids a hard time. The response was one which made me go red. Apparently we were so annoying (and remember that we were in there 6 days per week before the era of the 'GW creche') that he had to let them fight back or they'd go round the twist...

But I digress.

Recently I have seen posts on the internet, wherein grown men argue about what is canon and what is not. Reality check time...

IT'S FUCKING IMAGINARY!

That means that 'reality' can be what you want it to be. What a shocking notion that is.

For me, what has always been important is the flavour of the game itself. By that I mean the atmosphere, the people I share that experience with, the time we spend indulging in what for me has been a 35+ year love affair with the imaginary. I have never needed background to enjoy playing with little lead dollies, rolling dice and getting 'mundanes' to roll their eyes at me.

It is my opinion that we of 'a certain vintage' should try to spread some old school love at those who came after us, when Warhammer was strutting it's stuff like a sixth form punk at an 80s school disco, full of itself and posturing, but when it came down to it nothing special. Under the paint and peacockery it was fundamentally just another set of rules for playing with toy soldiers in the same way as that sixth former was just another kid in a room full of kids.

Anyway, for me fluff is just not that important... Your own opinion may differ. Both of us can exist in the same universe.


TTFN

388 Pages Of Sordid Gaming Hilarity...


Real life’s a bu**er!

That’s the conclusion that the author has reached after spending years of his life doing his best to avoid it - with an exceptionally high rate of success thus far.

As one of millions of teenage boys (and sometimes those other ones who smell better and have two bumps at the front) who spent the 80’s playing games with model soldiers or pretending that they were a mighty elf warrior, when the role playing and wargaming craze swept the globe, the author takes the reader on a journey of almost 3 decades from his first forays into fantasy worlds, all the way to – allegedly – making a living as the owner of a game store in the 90’s.

Candid and heartfelt, this is the truly entertaining tale of a decidedly abnormal son of a normal Northern working class family. The story is in turn, humorous, sad, serious and introspective, but always unrepentant.

It asks some of the most important questions faced by a teenage ‘games geek’ of the time:

When does ‘Will you go out with me?’ become unacceptable as a chat-up line?

How can I avoid compulsory P.E lessons?

What the f**k is a ‘Ral Partha’?

Where did the author end up after a night out with his fellow gaming drop-outs?

Can you make a million running a game store?

Is it possible to actually have a relationship with a well balanced member of the opposite sex if you habitually carry a D20 in your pocket?


These questions and more will be answered – possibly even honestly – as the reader skips hand in hand with this 80s casualty, down the yellow brick road of youth and right into the red brick wall of adulthood.



Available in soft cover and Kindle formats from Amazon, or you can order it through your favourite bricks and mortar book shop.



  • ISBN-10: 1471643875
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471643873

Monday, 9 March 2015

Boom & Bust

I was listening earlier today to a radio show out of L.A which was discussing 'The Beanie Baby Bubble'.

Essentially, the author of the book of this title was examining the way that mass hysteria of sorts can ensue with popular fads, and how as people jump on the band wagon of 'the next big thing', literal fortunes can be lost. For instance, one poor deluded fool invested and lost a 6-figure sum which was to have been his son's college fund, by buying into the Beanie Babies craze.

There's much more to the book, which is not about those cute little soft toys of the late 90s and early 2000s, and it's now on my 'must read' list.

This got me thinking about the nostalgia frenzy and the horrendous prices being bandied around for toys soldier which are around 30-35 years old and which, were mass produced and sold at 25p each to literally millions of kids in the 80s.

For example, I recently sold by auction a single model of a Dwarf for a 3-figure sum which is frankly ridiculous. True, the buyer was happy enough but really; an average week's wages for a single 30mm high toy soldier? MADNESS!

What's more, many of those figures had very high lead content and are suffering the dreaded 'lead rot', meaning that unless you are very, VERY lucky you will have a pile of dust on your hands in the reasonably imminent future.

Prices are being pumped up by a few 'known faces' in the fraternity and those for whom nostalgia is everything or who believe that by owning these figures they will get 'geek cred' are playing a major part in the future collapse of the hobby.

Why?

Because those spending inflated sums are banking on selling them in the future for even more and are feeding the 'lead bubble' by doing so. No market can go on like this forever.

I will pay a fair and realistic price for a model or set of models, but I won't pay 'Middle Earth' prices.

3 years ago, I purchased 400 Ral Partha models to complete an army I was working on... When they arrived in the UK from Texas, 55% of them were either dust or in pieces because the lead rot which was infesting them could not stand up to the rigours of international mail handling. So trust me, when I say your investment can simply turn to dust. Because it can!

Also think upon this... Unless you are very VERY honest with your partner, when you die they will probably sell them for what you told them they were worth, or will sit on them waiting for the right offer. You are leaving the white metal equivalent of a computer full of porn to those whom you love.

Take my advice, play with the soldiers while you can - THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE FOR!

Invest your wealth in something tangible or if you must throw it away, do so to a reputable charity, close to your heart.

Those of you wishing to read Zac Bissonnette's book 'The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion & The Dark Side Of Cute' can find it here:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Great-Beanie-Baby-Bubble/dp/1591846021



TTFN

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The perils of reading old gaming material...





It's common knowledge that  my first love of gaming, is 1980s Warhammer stuff. However, today I have found that it can be emotionally dangerous for someone in their fifth decade.

Having cleaned out my studio, put ups some new pieces of artwork on the walls and dusted my Warhammer boxes (which, more than any other game save 'white box' D&D seem to leech dust and damp unless regularly cared for) I opted to take a cup of tea, 'The Observer' and 'The First Citadel Compendium'... 




...and have a good hot bath.

It was when I got stuck in to the Compendium, that disaster struck...

I was happily losing myself in 1982 (the original 1982 and not one of the later incarnations) when I suddenly, in the midst of a rather excellent article by Rick Priestly on the introduction of high tech weapons and gadgets to fantasy games I had a literal 'flashback' to more than 30 years ago. It was a real 'FUCKING HELL!' moment. 

It began with a warm sense of wellbeing (no, I'd been to the toilet before bathing) then a literal sensation of being sat at the family dining table on the day I bought the magazine. But then I had the worst case of chrono-panic to hit me for ages as I realised that over 3 decades had passed, that I was not actually there, but sitting in a warm bath, in my own home paid for by the efforts of myself and wonderful wife. And then the tears rolled down my cheeks...

It goes without saying that I was out of the tub like a an Italian tank driver who crest a dune to find a sea of panzers on the other side.

I was literally able to feel my surroundings, smell the ambience of my parent's house, and see the late afternoon light in the long garden beyond. But I could not interact with it.

And so, as I write, I am trying to expunge the memory, but at the same time it feels that by doing so, I am losing part of me.

And thus, I urge you, if you are like me, a lucid day dreamer, to think long and hard before you absorb yourself in your gaming past. It could get quite nasty...

TTFN