Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Frustration, The Temptation, The Satisfaction... All Wrapped In Cardboard.

It's a hard week here at The Dark Tower, as I'm busy - and that's good. so no complaints you understand. But, when I get a delivery at lunchtime and I can't do anything until the day's work is done, it's rather frustrating.

Today was one of those days when a couple of boxes of figures arrived. Now, when I say a couple of boxes, I should rather say 'crates':

Worse still, my eldest Scottie, being wise to my wiles, decided to stand guard  over the 27kg of renaissance goodness therein.

And then, as if Fate Herself was against me, my wife finished work before I, and undid the lot, commenting that had she seen this first she'd have had it, which to be honest is a great indicator that I have spent my money wisely.

Only one package got damaged and that will be easily repaired, so both I and the previous owner are at our ease.

I must give credit to Robert W, as he packaged each unit in it's own box, with the name written on it. 

Next I'll get the few repairs undertaken and then I'll varnish them - along with the 250 Landsknechts I bought on Sunday - with MTN94 high gloss anti-UV varnish before sticking them down to new MDF bases with rounded corners which I get from East Riding Miniatures. I use ERM for all of my commercial work as well personal and I will not go anywhere else. Tony delivers fast and his product is very, very good indeed. If you use MDF bases, check out ERM because you'll not be disappointed.

Once they are on new bases, my wife has been commissioned to add the texture and foliage, after which they'll all be matt varnished using Winsor & Newton professional artists varnish. This will keep them bright, protected and pleasing to the eye. I hear from people so often who tell me the use 'A' or 'B' brand and it's cheaper than W&N, but trust me... after nearly 40 years of studying art,  painting figures and in later year years spending 200 hours a month painting to fill the larder, I have tried many types and learned sometimes the hard way. 

MTN94 and Montana Gold gloss varnishes dry in 5-10 minutes and smooth out the paint as well as enhance the colours whilst protecting the model from UV.What's more, they are not expensive and go a long way because of the quality of the product.

 The W&N professional varnish is what it says, a professional grade varnish which is truly matte, and which does not cloud or dull your work like the much vaunted Testors varnish. Using it over the gloss, keeps the matt finish porcelain smooth. Also - and this can be crucial if you are not someone who understands atmospheric effects on paints and varnishes - it can be removed with turpentine, and because you will have used an acrylic varnish underneath it, will remove easier and without damaging the figure.

So there you go, I am a very happy little rabbit this week, as I have taken ownership of about 960 pieces of 28mm renaissance and had them safely delivered. I just need to buy a couple more units now to cross that magic figure of 1000 pieces. Maybe after work today...


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Fair Play To Warlord - Credit Where It's Due

Following my disappointment at the damaged book, yesterday, I feel it fair to point out how well Warlord Games have today rectified the issue thus:

'Hi Mark,

Good afternoon!

I am truly devastated to see that, as someone who likes to keep their books in as mint as condition as possible that is unacceptable. 

It most likely did not leave us in that condition and must have gotten damaged in transit. 

I have already arranged, picked and packed a replacement book myself to be sent to you today by first class post, and I hope it finds you in good quality. 

Again apologies for the inconvenience this has caused you.

Have a great day and if you have any further enquiries please don't hesitate to contact me here.

Kind Regards,

Robin Scott - Blore
Warlord Games Customer Service Team '

Well done Warlord... We may yet remain friends.


Monday, 12 March 2018

Tatty Rubbish From Warlord...

Well, it's been a day of double disappointments with the arrival of my copy of Eduard Wagner's 'European Weapons & Warfare 1618 to 1648' purchased last week from Warlord Games.

The package arrived today and I have to say I was pretty excited.

Upon opening the package which also contained the superb 'Devil's Playground' and some figures, this was the sight which greeted me:

Now, this is frankly not bloody acceptable from a company the size of Warlord, if at all, and I am as you may imagine a tad over the red line at which 'pissed off' registers. In fact I'm getting a bit closer to 'Fucking Annoyed'.

Now, that is the 'tatty' part of the title, now we shall go to the 'Rubbish' part, which is the content of the book. With almost 300 pages there's about the text content of an Osprey Elite title. The rest of the book is made up of truly awful illustrations and diagrams which are childlike at best. In fact I had to wonder whether the children of the publisher were responsible. It's a truly awful book, and you'd get more from an Osprey or two and the whole experience would be far more enjoyable.

In brief:

Piss poor product, piss poor packaging... Don't waste your money!


PS: I will say that 'The Devil's Playground' is stunning and did not suffer the same fate. I'd encourage you to buy this title as it sets the standard for background and army lists.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Oh What a Life!

Now, I know that often my posts can be a bit 'dark' as I wrestle with the more unpleasant sides of my life in gaming, but all things considered I have had a pretty good time. In fact, I've definitely had a damn good lick of the lolly.

And that has been largely down to the people I met and the encouragement they gave, despite my inflated passion for all things game related. his meant that I was in a position that many of my peers were not - save those who formed our 'case' - and without that, I doubt I'd be where I am today.

As Marillion front man Fish famously sang 'Well, I the streets back in '81...' And oddly that was my soundtrack for my gaming youth, along with Rush and Yes for the most part. The music made me think, it made me need, not just want, more from the world starting with the music. I was not a great scholar, but that was not because of a lack of ability, but rather because I just did not want to connect with those boorish and fashionable types. For me a lurid motley of denim and garish colours told who I was and made a barrier between the mundane and an alternate reality. When I first saw those baggies of Citadel and Ran Partha figures in Hopkinsons toys on 'The Gallery' in Sheffield, and then saw the big glass fronted (and therefore sacred and arcane ) display of what I later found out were games in Beatties on Pinstone Street, that just seemed to 'go' with the music I listened to, the stories I read and because of the seemingly forbidden knowledge they imparted, I craved the life they offered all the more.

I stumbled into my first ( and what will despite what some may think, favourite) Wargames show at the Victoria Hotel in Sheffield. In 1984 it would be this venue that saw me as a seasoned teenage veteran take my first and most treasured painting trophy.

It's the little gold disc at top right in the above pic, beneath all the tombstones and coffee mugs from Salute

I met the mighty Steve Roberts of SWS who was running a local after school club at Limpsfield School (which with it's liberal and experimental 'community education' and truly handpicked staff played it's own part in developing me) and who introduced the fledgling fantasy obsessed gamer to historical gaming and who for a couple of years took me to and from SWS on Wednesday nights. Steve in turn introduced me to Lloyd Powell who inspired me to take coin for my painting and who got me hooked on my favourite period, the Renaissance (you will note this by my recent acquisition posts) and who was a big brother I never had. In time I met the august and gentlemanly John Armatys and many other older gamers who in varying degrees, coloured and shaped my world view. But, it was the other kids I met - usually at the newly opened Games Workshop - from all over the city and even beyond, who all heard that clarion call to the imaginations of the romantic dreamers of our generation, who escaped from bullying, the mundane and the ever present threat of nuclear armageddon who made it all something more than a 'hobby'. It was for us life, and for some of us would become how we made or way in the world almost 4 decades later.

Roger Smith, Mark Bamford, Martin Lightowler, Darren Ashmore,,  Steve Smith, Richard Lindley, Josh, Matt and Andy Griffiths, Keith Rhodes, Martin Flower, Lee, Snitch Hobson , Craig Beatson. Later there came  Ian Plummer, Shaun Hovers, Shaun Exelby, Adrian Dyson,  Paul Green, Paul Stephens, Pete White, Adrian B and Mick Parkin as I gamed at Sheffield Runelords, Sheffield Polytechnic, University of Sheffield and the houses of those friends I'd made, so that 6 and sometimes 7 days or nights per week, I was actively gaming and without realising it, growing in knowledge and confidence as I traversed the U.K for whole weekends, unlike any of those grey faced sport obsessed 'cool kids' at my school.

To be fair I did have two friends who would game with me at lunchtimes at school in the shape of Craig Stainrod and Alan Staniforth, and a good friend who I did not know was into gaming but who many years later was the best man at my wedding named Ian Hill, who is a gentleman and  scholar in the truest sense.

In the late 80s I met up with Ian as I found the joys and woes of the Goth subculture and through him met Andy Needham, a fanatical Napoleonic enthusiast, who remains along with Ian and my own dear wife, Kayte, (the memsahib as she is often referred to) the only connection to my Goth past, during which time many of the friends previously named, became strangers for a while - and in some cases forever.

By 83 I'd also become a 'face' in GW and was soon being schooled with scorn by the late Pete Armstrong and Chris Gilbride who taught my how to take a verbal beating and how to riposte no matter how much they then 'tore me a new one' for having the temerity to try. Lisa Brook treated me a bit like a big sister and Jo Tickhill who was about my age, just gave me the verbals and once slapped me (probably deservingly so as I recall).

All the time I was getting deeper into the world of gaming, and believe me, if you were not in the hobby back then it was deep. 

I remember being in GW very early one morning as Pete Berry and Cy Harrison (manager and assistant manager respectively) were dressing the shelves and Pete remarking 'I've been working on a new set of rules for pike and shot.' and understanding what they were on about. I was not part of the conversation, but I knew a secret because I was so obsessed that I was the only person stood outside at 9AM for when the doors opened at 9:30. What a simple yet poignant memory that is.

At Sheffield Runelords, I met Andy Riston, brush man par excellence, Kev Fisher, Daz Hodgkiss and Nog Northing who encouraged me to play Runequest along with John Hancox and Bob Cooper, who I knew by sight from SWS - What a small and elite world this was, for sure! And here was I, an enthusiastic 14 year old, in the company of adults and being treated with a mix of amusement and respect.  In my late teens, Mick Rothenburg of SWS took me around the city on days out, to meet some interesting people and go into interesting bars, Andy Jarvis and I went on an all night pub crawl and somehow ended up after midnight at the home of a local Napoleonic re-enactor and gamer, purely by chance, before sitting somewhat the worst for wear at the top of one of Sheffield's hills, - kings of all we surveyed, talking about the city, our lives and of Course, games.

What a life!

I funded my hobby through my school years by painting figures and won more trophies as I became a serious contender in competitions, I plaid hundreds of big games as we in the 'case' pooled our collections. I made trade connections and thereby saved money and got an inside track on things along the way which was to serve me well in the future.

In the 90s I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to open and run the third branch of Dungeons & Starships, part of Chris Harvey Games. Chris was a brilliant man to work for. He listened, observed and very rarely interfered with how a shop was run. His standards were high (as were those of Pete Berry at GW in the day) and as long as you bore them in mind, the floor was yours. Chris was as many of you will know one of the pioneers of the business in those early years and is somewhat forgotten now in the flurry to celebrate all things Games Workshop. His 'Flying Buffalo News' advertising-zines were a guilty pleasure of mine for a long time, and it's high time Chris got the recognition he so rightly deserved. He is an educated and learned man, who taught me how to deal with subjects much larger than I.

After the loss of D&S in 99, I went into a bit of a recluse state until the early 2000's and then after a very acrimonious split with SWS for daring to speak my mind - correctly as history has shown - I am gaming more than ever and earning my living in the hobby again.

As I type this entry, I'm listening to Marillion, the smells of fresh bread and a Sunday breakfast are emanating from the kitchen. 1000 new painted Renaissance figures are looking at me from boxes, and I have to say that life is just wonderful.

I have lived a varied and sometimes dissolute life. In fact I could at times have given Rochester a run for his money - Trust me on this. But, it's actually on the whole been a brilliant ride and I hope it will continue to be so for many decades yet.

Sometimes, the smallest things are the most satisfying, and from those small things, whole lifetimes can and are shaped.

I have my family, some of the truest friends a man could ask for, my hobby and of course all those memories... I am a very happy man indeed!

Life is a rollercoaster, but you have to take the ride to see the view from the top...


Pretty, Pretty, Pretty... At a Pretty Fine Price!

Good day, good day, indeed!

I errr, did it again… Yeah, I grabbed a bargain.

I missed a load of painted 28mm Landsknechts that were on sale on a forum on Saturday, much to my chagrin.

There were 150 pike, plus 18 Gendarmes and a shedload of shot and halberds to go with them. I was gutted as I’d been mooching in front of my Xbox to avoid ending up in my studio at the weekend. You see what idleness did?

Well, I got a message saying the buyer i was mucking about and trying to haggle the price down after agreeing, which was in the opinion of I and a  my dear friend, Roger (who had alerted me to them, via encrypted channels in the first place) sheer lunacy.

Well, I was offered the models and I said cheekily - being happy to pay 50% more - would he be wiling to take 25% more for an immediate no fuss sale. He said he would if it was cash and he would deliver today at 9:30 AM.


The price you say?


You may now swear at me and call me names with my blessing. So, this week I have acquired almost 1000 painted Renaissance in 28mm for £1250 which is basically under metal cost.

The new stuff needs rebasing and the flags need replacing, but that's more me being a martinet than necessity.

And that’s about it for the week. It’s been work, work, work so no time for reading, despite the fact that I have ‘The Devil’s Playground’ supplement for Pike & Shot and ‘European Weapons & Warfare 1618-1648’ by Eduard Wagner on the way to me. I’d hoped they’d arrive today, but no luck.

Mind you I’ve been promising to read the writings of Madame Blavatsky for the last month and as I type the book is sitting on my desk, accusing me of crimes against literature. I love a decent occult title, so I must be busy if I haven’t even scanned through it yet.

Well, I shall say adios for now, and leave you with the pictures:


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Winter Warmers...

Well, after a week of snow (not Canadian snow, I admit, but snow like we used to have when I was a lad) all is back to normal. Thank the gods that the memsahib works from home a lot more now and that she’s not on the motorway to Leeds every day. She works from home because she is a highly paid professional, I do the same because I am an anti-social slacker... The money's the same, but the motivation isn't :)

Last week I took delivery of a bundle of goodies including 4 Osprey books on the 30 years war, the Pike & Shot rules, the 1644 rules, Judge Dredd RPG (original GW version) and the JD boardgames (again the GW version). The Grognard Files Podcast has a lot to answer for. If you can find someone who can get the Arch Frother to buy something old school, then you know they are truly hardcore.

The 30YW books are more of a pictorial reference for the memsahib to paint my two armies from, but as I’ve never read those they are a bit of fun. You will recall that I don't paint stuff for myself

If you don’t have a copy, I suggest that you get a copy of the Funcken’s ‘Waffen Und Rustungen’. I don’t read much German, but with 200 plates it’s still a lovely reference for anyone interested in the Middle Ages through to the 16th Century. You’ll get one on eBay for about £10. Trust me on this. 

As I think I mentioned, I picked up a 15mm Mikes Models Wars of Religion collection. Well, yesterday I sold it and bought a 720 piece 28mm Wars of Religion collection for metal cost. 400 infantry, 160 cavalry and some artillery for £1000… OK, it’s not award winning painting but you know that for me, ‘tidy’ is good. When they are rebased to my standard (well, the memsahib's actually, as she has accepted my coin so that I don’t have to touch figures at the weekend) they will look rather passable. 

It’s a 27KG package so I’ve had to go to great lengths to find a standard courier. I’ve been chasing the army for 7 months. The asking price began at £1500, but I played the waiting game (No point in being ‘irregular ‘A’ about things) and saved a packet. 

With that, I better slouch off to my desk and earn a crust...


Thursday, 1 March 2018

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

In Memoriam - Pete 'Greblord' Armstrong

Today marks the anniversary of the passing of Pete 'Greblord' Armstrong. 

Pete was one of the first people I met when I got into fantasy gaming, when Games Workshop opened it's doors in Sheffield in the early 1980s.

He was also the first GW figure painter and wrote the painting guide which appeared in the early Citadel and RAFM catalogues. He was an innovator back when the standard paint job was a simple block finish in enamels, and he was the inspiration for many of my generation. Pete was also I believe the last manager of the flagship Dalling Road Games Workshop store.

I emulated his style and made his life a living hell sometimes both in and out of Games Workshop. To get a grudging affirmative grunt from Pete when you showed him a figure, was high praise indeed.

I lost contact with Pete in the late 80s and the next time I saw him, I was the owner of Dungeons & Starships, when he walked through the door on a visit to his family in Sheffield. I never told him, but seeing him, seeing me owning a store which was greatly influenced by the old GW, meant a lot.

I would be a hypocrite if I said I always got on with Pete, because I didn't. We were abrasive with each other at times, because he was not the same egomaniac twenty-something and I was not that awe-struck teenager, and I don't think either of us adjusted too well for a while.

2017 was a horrible year for the old school gaming fraternity in Sheffield as we lost a total of 4 of our own, all much, much too young.

What's more a genuine hobby pioneer has been lost, and should be celebrated and mourned accordingly.

As befits Pete's renowned sense of humour, I'd like to leave you with a an excerpt from my 2011 book, which illustrates just how mad he could be.

'Sheffield used to have 3 main city centre cinemas, The ABC, and Gaumont were ‘respectable’ cinemas, but then there was Studio 5-6-7 a rundown pit even in the 70s and had only opened in 1968. The latter of the 3 specialised in porn films and the odd X rated splatter movie. By the time I was old enough to go there and sample the flea-ridden pleasures of the place it had gone the way of many of these old ‘bug pits’.

But, it was at the Gaumont that I spent the best part of an entire day watching all three - there were only three back then - Star Wars films back to back. It was I recall a Thursday in Summer and I had gone as part of a gang including Pete, and sundry other ‘gentlemen of the twilight’ all carrying 2 litre bottles of Quattro – the carbonated beverage of choice that year – and a bucket of weapons grade popcorn each.

I had dressed for the event, wearing a white cotton shirt with a mesh overlay on the shoulders. It was all very fashionable for the time – honestly – and had two vent pockets that ran vertically down each breast. This meant that I arm myself with my hairbrush and sundry other items that allowed me to keep my rapidly growing hair in tip-top condition.

We sat in two rows and I had the dubious pleasure of listening to Pete - who was sitting directly behind me - recite verbatim, the entire dialogue of the first two films. 

As credits ran for the 2nd of the trilogy, Pete leaned forward and whispered in my ear, ‘Either you’ve got really big dandruff, or a f***ing great parrot’s crapped on your shoulders.’

Somewhat bemused, I craned to see what he was blabbering on about, patting gingerly at my shoulders and back. My hand touched row upon row of toffee- coated popcorn and discovered that my shirt had gained a layers of comestible rhinestones. Pete had managed to meticulously stick individual kernels to me as I sat watching the screen. I was once again the butt of a masterfully orchestrated wheeze.

Later as we stepped out into the late night air I bounced my empty Quattro bottle off the back of Pete's head as he walked out of the cinema. It was a petty revenge, but revenge nonetheless and it felt soooo good to have had the chance to exact it.'

Rest in peace Pete. You will be missed by many, forgotten by none.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Genuinely Better Than Sex... No, REALLY!

After a week of watching and biding my time I just won a 583 piece Mike's Models Wars Of Religion collection at the very reasonable price of £510.00.

It's bang on what I personally love to see... Vintage figures, well painted and based on green filler.

I was pacing the room, with a very large rum (or two) having made sure none of my friends had thrown their hat in the ring, because I'd have been obliged to not bid, as a point of honour.

Anyway, here are the pics:


Friday, 23 February 2018

Need A Good Noggin?

Always happy to help out a friend, I'm doing a shameless plug for my mate David Woods of the Dear Tony Blair...' blog, who also just happens to be the manufacturer of the Noggin The Nog 28mm miniatures range...

Check out David's range and also think about backing the Noggin Boardgames on Kickstarter

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Crumbs! It's been a while...

I just realised that it's been almost two weeks since my last post. What with flu and my workload, I've simply lost track of time.

I have been listening to more of the Grognard Files Podcast and as usual, enjoying it immensely. I'd love to collaborate with Dirk company if the chance came up.

It really does hit that sweet spot in the memories of gamers of a certain vintage, and it's been responsible for me reacquiring several games as you know.

Now, I have always been a bit of a snob where Runequest is concerned, choosing to only buy/collect original box sets, but it struck me that it's a waste of time and money as they are increasingly fragile and using them just exacerbates the entropy.

I no longer need to prove my credentials by having that original item from my early days. I have moved on and will leave that kind of thing to those rather pitiful types who can't see the fun for the collection. So,  after shaking my fist at the screen as I listened to that damned podcast, I decided to just buy what I could from the re-prints.

My haul for last week was as follows:

2 sets of Runequest Classic rules from Blackwells £18.99 each,post free.

Borderlands and Beyond, Griffin Mountain and Cult Compendium from Chaosium, who very kindly found me all of those, lurking in the warehouse. £102.00

Trolls and Trollkin, Militia and Mercenaries, Creatures of Chaos, Balastors Barracks and The Sea Cave from eBay. £34.95

Then I turned my attention to the Judge Dredd boardgames and JD RPG, both long top GW titles and got the former for £22 and the latter in hardback along with the companion volume for £35.

I've also had a change of direction with my 28mm Renaissance project and have gravitated to the 30 Years War as it's a part of the period I'd not ventured into. I am going with 28mm again of course. My 15mm ECW from Lancashire Games should be with me in a few weeks.

I'm also considering another couple of projects which I'll go into in more detail at a future date lest I become distracted.

Going back to RQ for a moment, I was reading the Balastor's Barracks scenario in a fit of reverie and I have to say it's a bloody awful and bloody lethal scenario which leaves you wondering what was going through the minds of the authors when it was written. It's a bit too much like a traditional dungeon crawl, which I am not too adverse too, but RQ is capable of so much more. 

I've been hard at work this week on new releases for Heroics and Ros, in particular their forthcoming 6mm Cold War U.S infantry which, are rather nice indeed:

These models are as detailed as most 15mm, and Heroics are setting the standard for the WW2 & modern eras with release after reales of new ranges.

I was looking around the studio the other day and found my very first 'official' purchase at Games Workshop in 1982, in the shape of this rather tatty looking D20 which did some serious service back in the day:

I say 'official' because I'd already shopped there before it opened.


Well... (fade to 1982 in a shimmering tinkling kind of way)

I was allowed back into town with Alan and we had walked down The Moor, the major shopping area in Sheffield back then (although now, a shadow of it’s former self), which sloped down gently to the Moorfoot precinct with the imposing red brick pyramid which was the Manpower Services Commission building. I worked in that building during the early 2000s when the Home Office shared the space and it was great to look out over the city, but an absolute bugger to navigate around.

   On this, our first trip into town for a month since that fateful clash with Geoff (Or ‘That Bastard’ as he had become known), Alan wanted a record from Virgin Records, which lay in the shadow of that russet monolith. Sheffield had more than its fair share of interesting architecture back then. Of particular note was ‘The Hole In The Road’ essentially pedestrian underpass that allowed several lethally busy streets to be navigated by the simple expedient of going underneath them. Built in 1967 T’ Hole In T’ Road as it became known locally was a roundabout at the junction of four main roads. The middle of the roundabout had a hole in it like the summit of a volcano, which allowed light to pass into the large pedestrian underpass below. 

This underpass contained shops, a large fish tank and even public toilets. It was a great place to skateboard or in my case imagine I was deep in the dungeons of a fell necromancer. I’ll not waffle on about it any further but make a search on the web. It’s worth it.

   Virgin Records was not the shining ‘family friendly’ store it would become in later years. It was a dark and foreboding place as I recall, where if rumours were true, a clean living lad would meet a swift and sticky end at the hands of Mods, Punks and other ne’er-do-wells. I never went in and had my parents discovered that I had frequented a shop with such a ‘sexual’ name, I’d have been grounded for a year or so. So, whenever Alan went in there, I just hung around outside and tried to look moody and mysterious, but approachable and not in the least bit dangerous. This was not easy. Well the mean and moody bit at least…

Thus it was, with Alan in search of his record, this particular afternoon found us walking past the Hagenbach’s bakery – long gone, alas, alas - when what should I see? 

   It was dear reader, the answer to my prayers and the beginning of a life of penury in the shape of a specialist gaming establishment by the name of Games Workshop the first of several dedicated game stores in Sheffield. It was back then, with its amazingly broad range, and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff and distinct ambience, a place of almost holy reverence for my generation. It was in essence, my place of worship and weekly offerings were to the gods of games in ever-increasing amounts, a pattern that has continued ever since.

   These days, game stores seem more obsessed with ‘image’ rather than content, more about form over function if you will. In the ‘golden age’ it was more about the product, the hobby, the fun. It was all about playing games!   

   In 1982, the concept of providing the gaming public with a single ‘temple of games’ was still quite a novel one. Certainly to the uninitiated, it was unbelievable and what was more, the doors were open.

   We walked in, heads twisting, eyes swivelling, like nervous chameleons who, having fallen from their comfortably familiar treetop perch, find themselves on the back of a monitor lizard which is in the process of considering what it will be having for dinner. From all sides our senses were assaulted by literally thousands of striking box covers depicting all kinds of fantasy and science fiction theme imaginable from half naked princesses to gigantic star ships. Although we did not know back then, Sheffield based synth-pop band The Human League took their name from one of the factions in a game titled ‘Starforce: Alpha Centauri’. Just a brief aside, that shows the popularity of this type of game in even the most unexpected places.

   In the centre of sales area were wire ‘bins’ containing various special offers coinciding with the opening of the branch. My eye was taken by 4 small boxes, luridly illustrated ‘a la mode’, each containing 10 plastic figures, half a dozen acrylic paints, a terrible brush, 2 six sided dice and a set of rules. 

Each of these games presented a mini role-playing experience with all that the lucky purchaser needed. What’s more they were priced at £1.00! I picked up one called ‘The Cleric’s Quest’ and Alan, ‘The Woman Warrior’ - although the name of the other titles escapes me at the time of writing.

   Around ten years ago, I saw a set of these games on Ebay go for a three figure sum. Oh how I howled that day I can tell you, both with a sense of loss and recollection of happy times past. But once again I am wandering off at a tangent and you’ve not given me a sound nudge in the ribs.   We had been in there for about ten minutes before being approached by a member of staff. We had been so taken by the sights and odours - yes, smells, of which I will say more later - that we had not noticed a distinct lack of other customers and indeed, staff. The man approached us and said that the shop was not open. We precociously pointed out that it most certainly was, the proof being that we were in said store, having walked through the doors, thank you very much. 

How we were not slaughtered on the spot still amazes me to this day.

   ‘It opens this weekend and it’s going to be great. Do you want that?’ This said with a gesture to the box I was holding and then to Alan’s fistful of goodies.

   ‘Yes please. I’m sorry I thought you were open what with the door being open.’ I replied, my natural state of being returning, despite my indignant outburst.

   Well, we each handed over one pound of the currency of the realm, were politely but firmly shown the door, and I was thereby ejected from that store for the first but alas, not the last time in my life.

   Alan forgot all about his record. We had something new and exciting and what was more we had an inside track to the grand opening event for this temple of temptation, this cavern of game related goodness. After all hadn’t the bloke in the shop all but given us a personal invite to attend?

So, I can state in all honesty, that I was the first paying customer of GW Sheffield.

When the Grand Opening came around, that little brown nugget along with two sheets of hex paper and a comic badge made up the contents of my very first GW carrier bag, which you may have seen on this blog in the past.

As I type this I am looking at a pile of games and books next to the iMac I'm working on and I have to admit that the bold yellow box of the JD boardgame is getting the better of me and I can't wait until our next games night as I think I'll be rolling it out. After all what other chance will you get to rest Judge Death for littering?


PS: If you haven't already signed up of it, go and check out 'The Dice Men', the definitive history of GW's first (and greatest) ten years.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Of Men In Tights...

Well, this week has been very very unpleasant.

I managed to get flu after venturing to York last weekend, and have been quite poorly, with today being my best day yet. I'm far from perfect but I am on the mend.

It must have been bad, because I actually contemplated a day off work on Wednesday so ill did I feel.

My good friend Roger gave me some sage advice on Thursday, insisting take a bath with an 80s RPG book. And loom, was he right. 45 minutes with a Twilight 2000 module did me a power of good.

Last night I finally managed to place my order for £870 worth of Connoisseur Italian Wars in the form of a Swiss and a Florentine army, based on the old George Gush lists - because I like them and they are a good 'go to' starting point for the period which at least do try to match historical compositions.

In the end the butchers bill shaped up thus:


1 x 96 pike

2 x 72 pike

2 x 36 shot

2 x 30 halberds and two-handed swords

5 x knights

6 x mounted crossbows


4 x 36 pike

8 x 24 shot

1 x 18 halberd

1 x 5 men at arms

1 x 10 Knights

20 x mounted crossbow and handgun

Hopefully this will give interesting games, with the Swiss storming in against superiors volumes of firepower, cavalry harassment and a few annoying pike blocks on the part of the Florentines.

I'l add a few Perry character pieces in and possibly some artillery for the Florentines rather than the Swiss given the fast advance of the chaps from over the Alps.

I'd toyed with a few manufacturers for the project but as Roger pointed out, Gilder's sculpts look like they're doing the business with the forward lean to the pikemen being notably attractive to the eye.

They will probably end up being gloss varnished too, a la Gilder for a nice old school finish.

I am not anal about basing so the infantry will be all on 60x40 bases with generally 5 figures in 2 ranks rather than 6 to allow for a little more 'movement' which will give a little life to the blocks and, allow a degree of diorama work to be applied.

Lots of flags and command will be in evidence and the Swiss advance pike Kiel will have 16 of the 20 figures in the 3rd and 4th ranks made up from command and colour bearers, with 10 in the other two pike kiels.

The Florentines will feature Giovanni De Medici's 'Black Band' and a couple of Landsknecht styled mercenary units to add texture, with parti-coloured Italians for the majority of the remaining troops.

I am not painting them of course, but my wife has named her terms and price and was awarded the contract by competitive tender.

Now, I just need my 800 15mm ECW from Lancashire Games' painting sheds to arrive and all will be peachy.

Now, if you will excuse me I am going to have a soak in a steaming hot bath.

Until next time...


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Whatever Happened To The Traditional Wargames Show?

I remember the days when I would feverishly count the weeks and days until the start of the wargame show season.

The year began with a brilliant show here in the North where the club organised events for those attending for the weekend, where traders smiled and made money, and there was a positive atmosphere everywhere.

The club organising the show made a LOT of money, so much in fact that the society became one of the wealthiest in the country, actually paying a dividend to the members in the form of two Essex army packs and latterly a £50 voucher to be used at a local game store.

But along with this wealth came hubris. As time passed the club did less to entertain those attending and did less to help traders set up and take down. They failed to listen to those attending, those in the industry and in one memorable instance stated 'Traders are idiots.'

Basically, they lost the plot. Venues improved, standards slipped. Manufacturers stopped attending because despite repeatedly contacting the organising committee, they were being ignored. Quite literally ignored, because certain individuals could not be bothered anymore.

A rash of frankly piss poor second hand tat purveyors crept in, along with a veritable plague of re-sellers all stocking the same thing.

The rot had set in and like all Empires the end was on the cards.

It was a sad day when that show folded.

Now there are more shows filling the gaps left by this and other 'Fallen Eagles' but none of them are attracting the traditional manufacturers. The 2HTPs and re-sellers are firmly ensconced, to the point that you see no real variation in shows, no individual feel or atmosphere.

I understand that Dave Thomas, that stalwart of the trade scene is also calling it a day, so our hobby is looking even greyer...

Will we ever see the vibrant shows of the 80s and early 90s return?


Twilight Arrives And Vapnartak Passes

It's been a while since I put fingers to keyboard due to heavy workloads (no complaints from me there, as it pays the tailor's and vintner's bills and funds my rakish lifestyle) and a shorter than normal working mont, what with it being February.

Last week, I managed to get my hands on a rather nice copy of the Twilight 2000 RPG in it's 1st edition along with 7 supplements for slightly more than £100. This was more than I think reasonable, but the condition was nice and they were there for the taking.

T2000 or (WW3 The RPG as it's known in these parts) has been a favourite of mine down the years as it tied the two sides of my hobby together very nicely indeed and, being well written presented, is one of those games you can sit and read just for the hell of it.

The later edition of the game was 'sexed up' and for me, it lost some of it's feel.

I've not found the time yet to indulge myself in it's pages yet , but it's on my 'to do' list.

On Sunday, we made the annual trip to Vapnartak at York racecourse, stopping off at a very nice diner just outside of York in what was once a Little Chef. The menu was reasonably priced, the food and coffee very good indeed and it cost £10 per person including gratuities. Not for us the greasy pasty and instant beverage of York racecourse.

 I am pleased to report, the personal hygiene rating of those attending the show had improved after last year's stench-fest. In fact there was a noticeable improvement in the overall sartorial standards too, with plenty of tweeds, caps and sensible brogued footwear as is right and proper.

The show seemed a bit livelier than last year too, but I managed to spend a mere £144.50 which was later reduced to £84.50 after I flipped a £25 purchase for £60.

The day was only marred by repeated evacuations due to false alarms. In the end we just said 'fuck it!' and sat there drinking our tea and coffee.

However, this is the last show we will be attending this year, because the traders in attendance are becoming very 'cookie cutter' and there is only so much 28mm plastic WW2, Medieval and Dark Age product that a gamer needs or can look at without bleeding from the eyes.

I never thought I'd be witnessed saying 'Well, there's no point in going to 'X' or 'Y' show, because there's nothing of interest for me.'

But there you have it...