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.
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!