Sunday, 23 February 2020

Thoughts, Memories, Confusion & A Little Rage

I really have lived a life shaped by gaming. Sometimes, I wish that I had never walked into Hopkinson's Toys here in Sheffield, in 1980 and purchased that first pack of Citadel Dwarves for the princely sum of 75p.

Had I not done that, I may have simply been an average 'normal' kid, bullied, wearing the youth uniform du jours and listening to inane and uninspiring music. I would have been content to go with the flow, pass my exams and possibly make something of myself.

Instead by age 13 I was a lost cause. I coasted through school and did OK, but my reason for existing became gaming, fantasy worlds, history and the general sense that I was not really made for this grey and drab world.

Instead of of blending in, I stuck out. I was awkward in company, became separated from my school mates and indeed by 15 I had absolutely no friends in my local area, because frankly they bored the bollocks of me. They were so mundane, with their Stay Pressed trousers, Doc Martens and obsession with trashy music.

Did I mention that I became opinionated to a weapons grade degree? And arrogant? Oh, you'd not noticed that... Good, good.

Instead, I swallowed the red pill and become literally detached from all that was supposed to be 'normal'. I decided that as I'd not be anything mundane in my later years, I did not need to go to university. I was literate, numerate and could knock up 3000pts to WRG Renaissance lists in short order.

I grudgingly went into training for retail work and later into the Civil Service and Local Government postings, but by then it was too late. My life had been wasted and I was two thirds of the way into my allotted time on the Earth, or in this incarnation , which is increasingly something I am coming to take as a given. I am going to have to make a few changes next time around.

I have been told many times over the years that I could and should have done something more academic instead of wasting my talents.

But, here's an alternate view...

I purchased those figures, then a year or so later, Games Workshop came to Sheffield giving us around 5 or 6 places to waste our spare time. I was already playing basic D&D in the Eric Holmes version and I'd found that the life fantastic was a brilliant place to be, a place I never wanted to leave.

I was addicted to a life which in no way resembled that of my friends, who had by that time (with a couple of exceptions) become burdens to my new way of viewing the world.

Grey concrete underpasses became dungeons, staircases and carparks became the interiors of starships and increasingly, every night was spent gaming somewhere in the city, with the exception of Sundays, which were usually spent reading through an ever-growing pile of RPGs, wargames rules or magazines, or more often than not, painting an ever increasing pile of lead figures.

I went all over the country in pursuit of my hobby, teachers piled old Tolkien calendars and posters for Fighting Fantasy on my desk, and somehow, they realised that this dreamer was not a waste of space, but a quiet, sensitive and shy loner who just wanted to 'be'.

I was an extra in the Barry Hines film, 'Threads', I began to win trophies in painting competitions and I learned how to cut deals with traders who were often at least twice my age (at least)  and pay for my hobby by application of my artistic skills.

I became a re-enactor when it was not the 'off the shelf' hobby it is today, I haunted Underground Press establishments and found a love for abstract and conceptual art forms, often spending Sundays with my one remaining school friend, Alan Staniforth  or my ever expanding circle of gaming mates, stalking museums and galleries, or tramping across moors and sometimes along rivers (normally in them), whilst constantly talking history, fantasy and gaming. All of these were a million miles from my previous trajectory.

We had no internet, no mobile phones and strict parents (mine being a tad right of the Gestapo, when it came to obeying the rules) but together we went all over the country to conventions, painting competitions, shops. All the time I was literally absorbing the hobby. It was not cool back then, it could get you beaten up if word got out that you played games with little toy soldiers or listened to rock music.

In the early 1990s after meeting my wife and playing my part in the creation of the next generation, I got a million to one opportunity. I was painting figures to help keep the wolf from the door (in fact it was a warg, not a wolf) and placed an advert in Wargames Illustrated. I got some responses, one from a Chris Harvey of Walsall - yes that Christopher Harvey, who ran Flying Buffalo U.K, whose name I had seen so many times in my cherished copies of Flying Buffalo News.

I was so poor that I could not even afford a telephone, and so may conversations were had from public call boxes. Thanks to Chris, I was given the chance to outfit and run Dungeons & Starships, something I will always be grateful for and an experience I'll never forget.

Many of us dreamed of working in a games store, let alone managing one. For my sins, I ended up owning it until 1999, when my world crashed in around my ears and I went (to say the vey least) off the rails, almost ending it all as I spiralled towards bankruptcy when all I had wanted to do was sell enough games to pay my bills and fill the fridge of our little council house.

In 2003, I went into the Civil Service and tried, oh how I tried to be the normal, well balanced human being, but in 2011, I decided that my tolerance for idiots (and believe me,that is an accurate description of some of those who were supposed to inspire and lead me) was at breaking point, and one morning after spending two weeks in a new posting, without a desk or indeed a case load to work on, I threw in the towel there and then and went home. It was a valiant attempt at being normal, but the cards were not in my favour. For almost a decade now, I have been painting miniatures every day to pay the bills and getting by rather nicely or writing books. In short, I've been living life my way and by my rules.

I am a dreamer, a creative and an individualist and I guess that no matter how much I rant at myself or opine to my wife that I feel I have wasted my life, the truth is that I probably haven't. But that doesn't stop me wondering if that's how I'll be remembered, with an air of contempt by those who survive me.

I guess I'll never know the answer to that. You don't tend to get recognised for an OBE through painting tens of thousands of wargames miniatures, writing a memoir on gaming and playing your part in keeping alive a hobby which can be such a force for good (as long as it keeps the hell away from politics, social non-issues and remembers that it's a hobby not a fucking excuse to dress up as a wizard, unicorn or pink Llama) and that does nag at me a little.

So, I've lived a full life and, if  I sit and really think and remember the things I have seen and done, the friends I have made, (and often cast aside because I am a temperamental asshole at times but, let the record show, that the friends I do still have are as precious to me as my own family)  then I consider myself a very lucky person indeed, but I still can't help but worry that I may have not followed the correct path for the last 40 years...

I truly cannot come to a definite conclusion.

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Less than a week and already at the half way point of funding.

Grab some great value minis and help keep the old school gaming  aesthetic alive!

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Pictures, Pictures - Never Been Two More Delightful Pictures

Today I took ownership and delivery of two paintings from 1989 by the creator and owner of Otherworld Artefacts.

They are lovely, painted in acrylics on board.

First up is 'The Mushroom Path'

Second up is 'The Kite Flyers'

Both will be off to be framed, but it won't be cheap as they are large pieces.

Needless to say however, that I am really pleased to be the new curator of them.

Nothing else to report other than the sinister arrival this week of a box of 54mm Woodland Indians, which is Roger's equivalent of a horse'd head in your bed.

I want to do FIW, he wants to do it in 54mm, so I received the 'warning gift'.

It was a genuinely lovely little surprise, doubly so, because I've had quite a nasty little virus for the last ten days, and what's more, it was effective because now I am in agreement regarding the scale.

My wife stood there and laughed, because she is never knew Roger and I back in the day and she's starting to understand how we think and tease each other.

This to me is how friendships should be...


Saturday, 1 February 2020

Raises! Skitter, Skitter, Run-Run, KILL!

As many of you know, I have a truly enormous Undead army for 1st - 3rd ed including 250+ from the collection of the late Joe Dever. Now, I don't play points based games and so finding opponents for 700-800 Undead has been a problem for me, in terms of my finding another army to buy, which could face it.

So, although it was later models than I normally like, I bought a 400 piece Skaven army with the added bonus that it's fully painted too - I paint for a living, so painting anything for myself is not going to happen.

Well, I finally sorted the new Skaven army out of the GW carry cases it arrived in (jesus, do I hate those things) and onto their movement trays. It's an impressive and very good looking army.
The base edges are going to be painted black and a good matte varnish applied, as is normal for me, but I have to say that I am very happy indeed. The army looks 'right', with brigades from assorted clans as well as a large mass of Clan Rats, Slaves and Storm Vermin. Clan Moulder will get a little attention, and I want to remove the two Warp Lightning Cannons and add more Warp Flame Throwers.

It's easy enough to convert it for 2nd & 3rd ed as the majority of the clan troops simply become bog standard Clan Rats.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Making The Rats Work For An Earlier Time

Well, as I type, I am having my morning coffee and awaiting the arrival today of the Skaven army I purchased at the weekend.

The main thing of note with the modern Skaven armies is the large bodies of troops for each clan, which I approve of, but which if you are so much of a fanboy that you need all those special super powers and rules, then you might be unhappy.

Fortunately, I am not...

What I will be doing is sifting out all of the troop types which feature in the earliest Skaven lists (2nd edition) and then looking at stuff such as warp lightning cannons which has no place in an army list and removing them entirely, trading or selling them to fund other suitable bits.

Then, what I should be left with several large units of troops for each of the clans.

At that point, all of those troops simply become bog standard Clanrats, sent to the front by their clans, each forming it's own brigade.


I will be buying a classic Vermin Lord, but as you will know, no doubt, they did not feature in the earlier rules and lists. Easy enough... I'll simply use it as a greater demon, summoned after the start of the game.

Beyond that, I am just planing for Vapnartak in York this weekend, but it looks like my planned meet up with Roger will be scuppered yet again, which is a shame as I was really looking forward to a couple of hours mooching and buying lots of toys... Ah well - it can't be helped, but I swear that someone somewhere is using foul magicks every February.

I'm hoping that the tabletop sale, despite being akin to running the gauntlet, will provide me with lots of new models and games for the collection here at the dark tower.

Right, I'll sign off for now, but let me leave you with this public service announcement:


Saturday, 25 January 2020


Now, I know I rail against modern models a lot, but even a grizzled old moaner like I, has to admit that very few Skaven armies, of a decent size and fully painted, ever crop up.

So, today I am pleased to have bagged an albeit modern army at £1.31per piece equivalent - probably less actually.

It's a whopping force:

Ikit Claw (metal)
Death master Snikch (metal)
Plague Priest on Giant Pox Rat (metal)
Warlock Engineer (metal)
Chieftain (metal)
2 X Assassin's (metal)
2 X 20 units Clanrats (plastic)
1 X warpfire thrower team (metal)
1 X ratling gun team (metal)
28 X Storm Vermin (metal)
2 X 20 Skavenslave units (plastic)
1 X 40 Skavenslave unit (plastic)
4 X 20 Night Runner units (plastic)
12 X Giant rats (plastic) (no packmasters)
3 X Rat swarms (metal)
16 X Gutter Runners (metal/plastic)
4 X Rat Ogres (plastic)(no packmasters)
2 X 20 Plague Monk units (plastic)
1 X 30 Plague Monk unit (plastic)
2 X 5 Plague Censor Bearers (plastic)
1 X 5 Warplock Jezzails (metal)
1 X 8 Poisoned Wind Globadiers (metal)
2 X Warp Lightning Cannons (metal) 

And as you can see, it's very nice looking. All I intend to do, is paint the base edges black...