Sunday, 16 December 2018

Of Orcs, City Streets And Supreme Serenity Via Fantasy Warlord And Stormtroopers Despite The Predations Of A Scottie Pup.

I'll begin writing and although I don't have a title right now, I may find one by the time I complete this old school epistle to the wargaming apostles as it were.

Friday saw me complete my work a day ahead of my schedule, having pulled double shifts at my desk for the last 3 weeks. All I had to do - and that's a sarcastic all - was to strip out and fully restock my studio. every year before I take my Christmas break, I dispose of the paints I bought the previous year and fully replace them, because frankly, I want my clients to have the very best materials and service - a mark of a true professional, IMHO. Although I have decided to only have the most used 400 paints immediately to hand this year, with the rest in 'Really Useful' boxes under my benches.

For the last couple of months, and in particular December, I've not really had time to sit and think much about my hobby and my life as it relates and intertwines with said hobby.
Firstly, I don't think the term hobby is in fact the correct way to view something which has impacted on my mental and physical wellbeing negatively and (more often than not) positively, and which has dictated the direction my life has taken to the extent that my daily bread (and perhaps a little cheese, salami and black olive paste - oh and a sliced dill pickle please) is reliant on that hobby.

When I do get a quiet moment or two - and there are few - I often reminisce on my friendships, feuds and experiences and despite the fact that my memories are somewhat harrowing at times, I don't think I regret a single one of them. After all, if I have been at loggerheads with someone, or they with me, there will have been a reason that one or more of the parties involved perceived to be justified under the circumstance. So, although I may bear the pain or the scars, I accept that is the way things have to be and therefore, losing sleep over it is not a logical way to proceed, however much regret I have.

What I am aware of very painfully, is that time is passing, and from my point of view, I'd possibly like to be chatting with or gaming with those people now and again, but the way of the human is that we don't generally apply heart and head in the most holistically balanced manner, because we are tribal at the genetic level.

No, this is not going to turn into a polemic, I assure you... I am simply at the end of my working year, reflecting that it has been one which has been filled with new experiences of every sort and which began with illness that took five months to shake off, and 3 days after I shook off that illness, as I walked around Partizan, my Mother was hours away from an unforeseen and preventable death, which robbed my small family of the ability to say farewells, and which was all the more bitter for me because we'd canceled attending a Christmas get together at my Mum & Dad's because I was so bloody poorly over Christmas with what was flu-like illness, that gave me a 48 hour break in February during which I went to Vapnartak and the day after as I was having lunch with my wife, celebrating what I assumed was my recovery with a long weekend, as a snowflake fell past the restaurant window, I felt that indescribable sensation that tells you that contrary to your own beliefs, you are in fact still much the main gladiatorial event in the arena of the unwell. My Summer holiday was three weeks of pootling around art galleries and museums (and some very fine ones we have, up here in the frozen flat cap infested northern reaches - and I include the realm of Mordor on the wrong side of the Pennines) during which I reached my 50th year, which was a bit more subdued, with the loss of my Mum. We fought like cat and dog, but for her not to be around to see me cross that line felt really rather odd.

But, I have only lost one working day despite all of the tribulations, and that for me is what counts.

So, as I sit here in my freshly deep cleaned studio on the second day of my Christmas break, with 16 more days after this one, the weak winter sunshine seeping through the various studio windows and a cup of coffee over on one of my benches, I am supremely serene and satisfied with what I have, despite all of the above.

You see, I said there was no polemic on the horizon, didn't I?

I truly am in a serene state; pleased to look at the sky, pick up an old rule set or purchase something that maybe, possibly only I have any interest in. And it feels very, very liberating. I am to all intents and purposes the most fortunate man in the world.

It has been - as you will have seen if you've followed me over the last 12 months or so - a year of some excellent buys; one which has seen me buy on instinct. If I've liked something, I've bought it, weighed it up in the balance once it arrived here at the Dark Tower, and either signed it in as a member or blackballed it and turned it back into cash.

Over the last two months, I bought a lot of vintage and modern Games Workshop Chaos stuff, and whilst the acquisition of it was fun (and trust me, there have been a couple of social media groups which blackballed me as a result of my buying frenzy, but hey screw 'em - they are won't be given the chance to buy from me, so it's a double edged blade :D ) the imbalance of those armies compared to other standard armies, and the plethora of rules in the two 300 page 'Realm Of Chaos' volumes made them look less appealing to me.  And so, I liquidated those assets and let the winds of retail fortune blow sirocco-like, keeping my eyes open for bargains.

It was interesting to buy things like this; snapping up anything which caught my eye rather than just relying on a firm plan hatched with fellow gamers. Don't get me wrong, had we had a collective plan, I'd have participated fully, but we were all pretty serene this year on the hobby front. It's all been quite odd.

I think my friends were giving me a bit of space that I myself didn't know I needed until I realised I was fencing myself off from the world a little. That's what friends - real friends - do, and I am very grateful to have friends like that.

Anyway, at Fiasco, my regular gaming buddy Dave and I decided to revisit Rapid Fire and 20mm WW2 gaming. He's gone for his traditional 'first crush' of Russians, whilst I, ever the backer of the underdog, acquired a really nice Romanian collection as you will recall from previous posts, and which is still sitting on my benches in the boxes it arrived in, awaiting sorting out and me getting to know it.

I am no aficionado when it comes to WW2, but from the first days of Colin Rumford & Richard Marsh showing what could be done in a relatively small space with 20mm, all redolent of days spent collecting Airfix figures, it was something which aesthetically appealed to me. Of course, Dave is madly building T34s at a rate which would have made the Soviet industrial complex faint with pleasure. I simply aspire to a few Pz-38t models to finish my own army.

The 'Living City' is going well, and I've got Prohibition figures, Martian invaders, 80s cops and more, all piled up in various states here in my studio. Dave is doing a truly sterling job of building the 20+ LARGE buildings that I've already bought and I guess there will be more:

The building at bottom left is a Hudson & Allen model... As you can see, they are massive buildings and Dave is really getting stuck in.

 Kayte is going to paint and detail them and my brother Andy has been using his brush skills to paint up some of the fittings, beginning with the machines for the amusement arcade which is part of the 80 incarnation of the city.

They are truly lovely when you remember they are just MDF boxes:

It's very much a team effort and one which we are all enjoying in one way or another, which, is how it should be.

Last week, I took delivery of 70 painted West End Games 25mm Star Wars miniatures, which 8 days later are in the dining room, still in the state they were delivered - as I said, I am so relaxed about my hobby, that it's looking a little pathetic to observers, as if I have lost my will to live with all things geeky, when in fact the truth is very much the opposite. I just don't have a timetable that I need to work to at present.

Going back to my point of collective enjoyment being the way that things should be, I recalled recently that I'd seen ready painted Orc over on the EM-4 site. The models were Nick Lund sculpts and as I have always had a weakness for Nick's style, which drills right back into the core of my hobby/life I started musing on building an army of Orcs, comprised of Chronicle, Citadel and Grenadier models all of which were sculpted by Nick. My original Orc armies all had fair number of Chronicle models in them, and I always thought that these were how Orcs should look. They were bandy, powerfully built models in a hotchpotch of clothes and armour, but with a business-like look about them, sculpted in that characteristically rounded style which you either love or hate. I'll leave you guessing as to how I feel about them ;).

So I headed over to the EM-4 site to find that they normally £15 per 5 figure sets were on offer at £9  per box.

They were painted to a rather pleasingly old school style, competent but not 'show standard' but let's look for a moment at them through the flinty eyes of someone who likes a bargain and hates painting his own models at weekends.

£9 per five works out at £1.80 for a painted metal figure

The bare metal price for 5 models is £8.75

So, that means the painting has cost 30 - or 5p per figure.

And so, I purchased 30 sets, which, when they arrived, saw me order another 26 sets, which led to another 6 sets, and a total of 360 Nick Lund Orcs filling the dining room.

And so at 5PM yesterday, I sat down to unpack them and then stick them to bases. There are 5 poses and so I opted for units of pole arms and units of hand weapons, each comprised of 18 models and to which I'll add a standard and musician from the Grenadier range, painting them myself, to give me a total of 400 Orcs in 20 units.

Here is where I was at 10PM last night:

As you can see, it's quite an impressive sight and weighs a ton!

In terms of expanding the army, I'll add a few chariots, a few units of archers and some bolt throwers from Grenadier, and Austrian based connoisseur and fellow old school enthusiast, Simon Howard very kindly cut me a most generous deal on a about a hundred Chronicle Orc infantry and 35 or so wolf riders.

The original Chronicle models are smaller in stature, which makes them perfect for the lower caste of Snaga and makes it very easy to differentiate between troop classes on the table.

Enamoured and soul-bonded as I am to Warhammer first and second editions, I also own a stack of Fantasy Warlord rulebooks, that 1989 rule set that seemed to offer so much but which at the dawning of a GW dominated world, crashed and burned, despite being a far more tactical and challenging set of rules. It was big, bright and unlike Warhammer at the time a full colour book with tons and tons of Gary Chalk illustrations which made it ooze High Fantasy. It had a game world which WHFB did not at the time and only really lacked a few of the more common fantasy races which would have made it - in my humble opinion - a far superior product in every way.

Reading it in the bath yesterday morning, I was reminded of just how solid a rule set it is. To this end, my Orcs were based on a 20mm frontage and will have sabot bases made o make them WHFB compatible.

Fantasy Warlord (and I am looking pointedly at you here,  Roger) is a 'proper' set of rules that any old school historical wargamer will feel familiar with. It uses a percentage based system and so you often get a number of automatic casualties based on your combat effectiveness, with any excess, being a percentage roll, for an additional casualty.

If I could find where the ownership lies for this rule set, I'd be in like Flynn and talking turkey over a re-release of them, because I think that these are a refreshing change from the modern tat. Lord, even Rick Priestley with his 'Warlords Of Nowhere' appears to be going skirmish these days, and you know my thoughts on that:

And so, there we have it. I am pretty darned serene, have a lot of plans, but feel a little less stressed about timescales for completion.

I must sign off at this point however as Rex, our latest addition to the pack of Scotties we keep here at Fackham Hall, needs his second feed of the day.

TTFN, and the very best of the season, to you all!

Monday, 10 December 2018

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Gnollmas!

First shots of the basic bodies for the Great Gnolls... These are really pushing that old school Fantasy Tribe vibe...

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

ORCS! And Stormtroopers...

Well, the other day I got a desire to build an army of Orcs designed by Nick Lund, late of Chronicle, Citadel and Grenadier.

Now, they are admittedly an acquired taste for some, but for me they mixed in with my Citadel and Ral Partha back in the day because they looked so different and gave the feel of a different tribe or strain of the Orcish gene. I loved them and still do to this day.

I was searching the inter web and then remembered that eM4 miniatures, the business of the great and mighty Doug Cowie, produce ready painted Orcs by Mr Lund.

True there are only 5 figures in the painted set, but you have shields, clubs, mauls, spears and axes, so if you add a few command and then some other bits such as wolf riders, you can seriously reduce the time taken to field an army.

When I got to the site, the Orcs were on sale from £15 to £9.00 for 5 metal 25mm models, painted to a nice retro tabletop standard. Liking what I saw, I ordered 30 sets for a total of £270, planning to make 10 units of 15 with 3 command to be painted by your correspondent, for a total of 18 models.

I ordered the models on Sunday and they arrived on Tuesday via DHL.

They were lovely and so, I ordered another 12 sets.

Then another 12 sets.

And 12 more sets...

As of today, I've bought 66 sets for a total of 330 Orcs.

The maths are astounding when you subtract the £1.50 per casting for the basic metal, you are looking at £99.00 for the painting of 330 models, which is so ridiculously good, that I may even buy another 30 sets.

To bolster the forces, my fellow Lundophile and inline chum, Simon Howard offered me a shed load of wolf riders and infantry at a very fair price, so I have a bloody enormous army at my disposal.

All in all, a very good day.

Yesterday, I also bought 69 West End Games Star Wars figures, painted to a decent tabletop standard for £150 which was the proverbial 'steal'

I think that's about me done for 2018, but I am very happy indeed, and somewhat giddy with the old school goodness...


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Of Bargains And Pastel Pink Ponies...

I finally fell for a Black Friday deal, and purchased the entire 'Tails Of Equestria' RPG set in the My Little Pony world, and produced by River Horse Games.

I have no excuse, other than the idea of playing a simple RPG wherein I can play a powder blue pony with big eyes and a golden sparkly mane, appeals to me... Not to mention the sparkly four leaf clover on my butt.

I also picked up a couple of other bargains today:

At £21.50 - It would be churlish not to.

Siege and Dogs of War will go in the bin of course. I have absolutely no use for modern tat...

And then for £100, I got this lovely little lot of Citadel 'Paranoia' figures from the 80s.

Now imagine if you will, the 80s series 'V', but in which the Visitors are simply paranoid and inept in equal measure... Well, they will be invading my city in a series entitled 'Y?'

And I think I have spent enough for the week, now, when you add into that the £60 refund for a set of old and rare rule sets which were removed from the envelope in transit to the U.S, the recipient receiving an empty, surgically opened envelope. I of course paid him out without question, but it has made my week a little more expensive than planned - Not to mention the new four-legged arrival.


Saturday, 24 November 2018

It's A Dog's Life...

Wow, what a busy weekend so far.

Friday was a hell of a day, as well as painting from 8AM to 4PM, I then had to spend  two hours racing around the city in anticipation of the arrival today of a new baby at Fackham Hall.

Last minute dashes for food, bedding and training pads were exhausting. Then, it was back to the Dark Tower atop the hall, and more painting until 10PM , with tea being served at 11PM and bed at midnight, with the alarm clock set for 6:30 AM.

Then, at 8:30 AM this morning I was riding shotgun with the memsahib up the M18 to Hull to collect the new addition, a 7lb Scottie (or Aberdeen Terrier to be more correct) for a top-end 3 figure sum, thence back to Sheffield, for 13:10 to attend our veterinary surgery on the far side of the city.

He was vaccinated and microchipped, then taken home to meet the rest of the pack, who have been pretty good with him.

Rex McHubbard to give him his full name, has a serious appetite. Despite being a mere 3.5KG and just 9 and a half weeks old, he destroyed a freshly cooked chicken thigh on his own before taking himself to bed for a couple of hours.

As I type, he's just up and about, finding his way around the house and growling at numerous soft toys that have somehow offended him.

After a year with a lot of sorrow, it's nice to have a new spark of life to take care of, although it has meant that Recon and Vapnartak are off the cards which means I'll not see Roger, Mike or Andrew N for a while (which is sad) but in terms of gaming I have a lot to be getting on with, what with the city and my vintage Warhammer projects, not to mention the sorting out into units of my 20mm WW2 Romanians.

Today, I took delivery of the new(wish) OGRE Battle Box, being a rather nice version of the Steve Jackson classic, with really nice plastic tanks, vehicles and figures in plastic, in the time honoured 1/285 scale.

And of course it can be played either as the traditional hex based board game or as a full on miniatures game, thus meeting the needs of everyone. The models are really nice, and I am actually itching to get some paint on them.

This morning as the memsahib guided the family transport towards Hull, I picked up online a rather nice set of mostly painted 'Mars Attacks' models, for the embarrassingly low price of £40 including postage.

These are destined to invade my city scenery in the future, more of which is on it's way to me as I type, my mate Dave having done yeoman's work on getting stuck into building the MDF over the last fortnight.

And that as they say, is the news from Lake Wobegone.


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Unknown Pleasures... Time To Admit A Dirty Secret That Even Roger & Darren May Find Surprising

About the time I was first becoming aware of gaming in 1980 was about the time my parents were trusting me to go into Sheffield city centre on my own. Indeed it occurred shortly after my first encounter with a display of Citadel and Ral Partha miniatures in Hopkinson's toy shop on The Gallery, a series of first floor shops connected with walkways inn the Hay Market area of the city, an area at that time frequented by Punks at one end and Skinheads at the other, and a serious no-go area in the daytime for young Rockers like your correspondent and his at the time best mate 'Stanny' Staniforth.

Today's youth I don't think, can appreciate what the late 70s and early 80s were like. They were frankly, bloody lethal. You either had to be a good fighter, a fast runner or know where to run to locate some older and better fighters.

It was also at this time that I became vaguely aware of politics, left wing liberal arts (odd for someone who is certainly not much of a supporter of the political left, personal style (more of this later) and design - in particular bright primary colours, abstract and graphic styles and a love of textures be they visual or tactile.

Now, this was a few years before I met Roger, who, upon reading this might just splutter, laugh out loud or raise his eyebrow in a wry expression that can only be appreciated by someone who has seen it in person.

Even the learned and erudite Professor Darren Ashmore, who knows me as well as Roger may, give out a small gasp and a giggle .


Surprisingly, one of my favourite places to go when in town was not a games store at all. Hell, this was 1980 and high street stores were scarce. Games Workshop was still just shy of 2 years from arriving.

One of my favourite haunts was Rackhams, latterly House Of Fraser which, had a really chic (by 80s standards) coffee house and a 'Knobs & Knockers' franchise on one of the upper floors.

This company specialised in door handles and fittings, of an astounding variety and with a keen eye for design and quality. I was enthralled at the colours and varieties. The shiny bright plastic mouldings in ergonomic shapes, the beautifully hand enamelled handles, the.... Oh my, it moistens my gusset, even thinking of it.

The only place better was the clothing departments in Schofields about 100 yards away with the free jukebox and risk of getting hammered by some older New Romantic smoothies. One particular trio, each in a leather suit of a different hue (burgundy, blue and grey iirc) used to take great pleasure in trying to corner us in the lifts every Saturday, terrifying the life out of us.

Admittedly as we got bolder, we baited them. This generally involved two of us giving the posers  some lip, whilst the other of our group held the lift doors open (having pressed the button which would take them either down into the bowels of the store or the top floor; both out of bounds to the public), dashing past them as they entered the enormous lift car to teach us a lesson.

Of course, as the doors closed, we waved to them before leaving them to explain to the staff why they were in a forbidden zone and why the lift had been held up. It was usually long enough for us to get to the jukebox, select a dozen rock and new wave tracks and perhaps listen to one before our nemeses returned and the world went pear shaped.

I digress...

I really started to get a feel for design, and over the years I would develop a fanatical love, or more precisely a yearning lust, for soft furnishings and ceramics as well as a respect for Scandinavian design. I don't mean that tat which IKEA touts, but serious hard core, minimalist design which cost a dragon's treasure trove but would last longer than you.

I never really indulged myself as the years passed. Frankly until I was 30 and managing (later owning) Dungeons & Starships in Sheffield, I had no money. We were, as I have said before, Third World poor - Really...

However, what that taught me was to buy things that were pleasing to the eye, which would last and moreover, it taught me to snatch any opportunity which presented itself. Up to now, this has been exercised mostly on artwork, but I have acquired a few choice items - cushions, coffee services and the like.

The odd thing is that when I get a taste for some retro games, I get an equally strong urge to look at 80s militant left wing art, and fondle some seriously good fabrics or stroke some quality glazed pottery.

And so it was that this morning, as I searched the internet for another Aberdeen Terrier (Scottie) to go with the four existing members of the Fackham Hall pack, I found a few interesting adverts for old models. Moreover, in the margins of the screen, I saw an advert for a small collection of Poole pottery from the time I was managing D&S, but which ticked all my retro styling boxes as well as having the tactile and visual keys which made it necessary for me to go and shower again and change my boxer shorts.

The items were local and the seller was happy to drive over at lunchtime and exchange them for a three figure sum. and so, treating this as some type of holistic, synchronicity-driven sign, I checked my safe and spent a little of the contents on 5 pieces of Poole 'Galaxy' ceramic ware:

 The only thing which could have given me the same buzz, would have been a visit to my favourite supplier of domestic soft furnishings, where the price of a cushion can bring tears of pain and pleasure at the same time, as you caress the fabrics (or as I always do, simply thrust my head into the display) and read the price tag...

And so, whilst some of my associates, may be referring to me as a 'Screaming Quent'. I think that Roger and Darren, who are men of taste and sensibility may be able to adjust to my coming out and and sharing this tale of forbidden fruit and unknown pleasures, in time being able to face me in public with smirk or raised eyebrow.

Incidentally, this is my favourite cushion weighing in at about 9lbs and being about 55cm square:

The smaller cushion was marginally less expensive but when I tell you that the larger was a 25th wedding anniversary gift from my wife, you'll appreciate that I look after it because she'll never spend that on a cushion again, I'm sure.


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Plenty Of Swedes & Not A Single Turnip In The Whole Pile

The first couple of days this week were spent painting the display models for the new modern Swedish range from Heroics & Ros.

As is the case with all of the new era H&R models, the detail is great and a joy to paint, if demanding at times, due to the meticulous detail and skill of the sculptor.

The models even have the goggles on the helmet rims, as equipped to Swedish troops.

They are a little odd to paint as the Swedes commonly have green painted weaponry, so that as a painter you feel a little bit 'lost' when comparing the process to most other armies where black and brown, act to break up the green and camouflage somewhat.

All in all, these are stunning models and a welcome addition to the equally stunning range of Swedish vehicles already produced by H&R.

You should be able to see them this weekend at the Warfare show in Reading, as I fast tracked the completed models down the H&R HQ on Thursday.