Thursday, 7 November 2013

Before the vitriol-filled curmudgeon, there was the child...

Before I became the bitter gamer of later years, I did a stint as a child, playing pretty normal childhood games.

It has to be noted however, that the games I played were coloured by the TV adventures of Dr Who, and the Tomorrow People. Like many of my generation, I would watch from behind the sofa, clutching my sparking ray gun as the good Doctor battled the assorted alien races intent on the destruction of the universe. It is of course a proven fact - to children at least - that the average sofa provides a barrier impervious to anything short of an all out nuclear assault. No monster can ever hope to penetrate its protective field.

My bedroom was filled with the toys that you just don’t get anymore. Stickle Bricks, Action Man - I mean a proper Action Man with guns, grenades and dynamite and not the politically correct, rather effete incarnation of today - Billy Blastoff, and realistic toy guns that would get a child locked away for some serious corrective therapy today. In fact, by the age of 8 I had amassed an arsenal of plastic weapons of mass destruction plastic sufficient to equip an entire squad of primary school mercenaries. Such preparation was essential if I was going to defend the playground from the Germans/Japanese/Aliens - even it was only Paul Crow and his mates.

Similarly, my wardrobe contained a wide selection of dressing-up costumes including two space suits several camouflage outfits, a cowboy costume and many more. Indeed, I could have probably beaten the Village People to the number one chart slot with a little effort! True, I wasn’t musically gifted, but since when has that mattered just so long as the band looked good?

Space suits were my weakness. In the same way that a well crafted handbag may make even the most rational woman weep tears of joy, so it was for me when I saw one of these costumes in a shop window. I recall that I had one with a fishbowl shaped helmet and NASA badges and another with a cloth and plastic ‘bag’ which at the age of five, had conspired with the assistance of an afternoon nap and concrete step, to cause me to cut my palm wide open, resulting in a scar that I still have today. I wonder if the doctor who removed the stitches incorrectly and caused the wound to re-open is still practicing?

Ah... simpler times.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

In a shameless plugfest, I'll just add that the website for my book is;

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Take a look at

Pete Armstrong was a great inspiration and irritant to me in my formative years.

Modern painters, take note... You didn't write the rule book, it was people like Pete and the amazingly talented Andy Ritson who got there first, using paints and methods that today's generation, frankly would not know what to do with.

That said, Pete is still evolving and absorbing the latest mediums into his own style.

Originality of this type will always score top marks in my books over slavish following of fashionable 'en vogue' styles...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

'I realised this morning that a year has passed since I had a really good rant about the attitude of a particular group of gamers that I and others encountered last year on the convention circuit, with particular disgust at Fiasco and the Derby World Championships.

Briefly, there was a group of forty-something gamers doing the rounds who looked like extras for a reality show about bailiffs or survivalists in the deep southern USA, who appeared to think that ladies and children were there to be literally in some cases, brushed aside so that they could indulge their repressed man-child which was straining at the chains, beneath their shaven pates, pilot jackets and fatigue trousers.

They were in essence, acting like top class arseholes.

Back in the golden days of gaming yore, known to mortal man as the 80s, we had lots of kids in this hobby, less in the way of ladies. Over the intervening years those kids (and I was one) have grown up, married and added to the gamer biomass by taking a few minutes to procreate instead of rolling dice. In my case, my daughter has recently done her bit for the team, and supplied a third generation of the Hides clan, who will, once he can focus a little better, be given dice and a character sheet and will be initiated into the hobby.

It would seem however, that the miscreants in question must have missed out on that game or just not care what happens to the hobby beyond their own little world. They barged, and pushed children to see the offerings, maybe making a supposed pithy comment or two and then moving on to the next stall.

Women were disregarded as mere space-wasters from what I and others observed and we all secretly prayed that they would treat my own good lady in such a way and learn from their error.

I will comment at this juncture that the fair Kayte was once spoken down to and over on the matter of gaming by a top flight figure manufacturer, who paused only to admire her bathykolpian magnificence. (See the following link for a visual primer on the word - )

 It was pointed out to him that her eyes were situated somewhat higher on her than he perhaps surmised and then she took him to task on his topic of conversation with your humble correspondent.

I have not seen the same little bunch this year, and I am hoping that they thought that Dec 21st 2012 was the end of the world and have ensconced themselves deep beneath the earth in a concrete wargames room waiting for 'the big one'.

As it is Derby this week, I shall be looking out for them as I absorb the extortionate prices charged by the caterers for what can only in an act of descriptive leniency as a bacon butty (that's a bacon sandwich for those of you not familiar with colloquial English terms for a breakfast comprising of slices of pan seared pig in between two thicknesses of bread with the condiment of choice) with a coffee that if it is like that served last year will be so weak that the sugar cube I'll put in it might kick the sh*t out of it.

I went down to one of my local clubs last night for what I thought would be a nice comfortable game of 28mm medievals, but one of the eight people gathered around the table was behaving in a manner which in time may evolve into that of the individuals I mentioned earlier in this rant. I was so pissed off at having to watch this display, that I begged my good lady to take me home before I said something I might regret at a later time, or more importantly may say again and again in an unaccustomed attack of bad manners.

So, we were back home, drinking a decent red wine and eating toasted muffins by 20:15, and a good friend of mine allowed me to rant at him about my evening until 23:45, so incensed was I.

Really folks, we have to think about the image we portray. The Lord knows that in my time I have been churlish, my goodness yes. In fact on Saturday last I was discussing a rather dark period of my life where I chose to see my friends as enemies. Mind you I saw the whole of mankind as my enemy as I tumbled on a wave caused by a bad relationship, the baggage of which, I carried into the early years of my relationship with my dear wife, lashing out emotionally at anyone who gave a damn about me. And so I was humbled when one of the people I trust most said that indeed I had been a cad, bounder and blackguard of high order in my youth, but that they and others were always there for me.

And so, I am dedicated these days to being as positive as possible, to promoting my hobby as accessible to all and, if needs be, to speak out against those who act in a manner which reduces the joy of this fine hobby.

And now, moving on...

As many of those who know me will be aware, (some shaking their heads in despair) I play both historical and fantasy games. Until this time I have never indulged in superhero themed gaming. True, I did visit Games Workshop twice every day in the summer of 1984 awaiting the release of the 'Golden Heroes' RPG, which failed to thrill me on all levels, apart from the two sets of miniatures that were produced to represent players and the foes they might encounter. For me, it ended there, until this years 'Sheffield Triples' when a very talented chap by the name of Steve Hird turned up with his costume depicting the 'War Machine' character seen in the film 'Iron Man 2'.

Well, that got me watching the films and from there as we all know if we have watched 'Spartacus', 'The Wild Geese' or 'The Lord Of The Rings', lies gaming madness.

And so today, I find myself in possession of 4KG of 28mm scale superhero miniatures that I picked up at a very reasonable price at the weekend from a chap on one of the forums I lurk in.

Now, with 3 days of my holiday left I am going to have to decide how to tackle yet another project in such a way that I get to use the toys as I paint them. Admittedly, with this type of caper, small groups of figures are the norm.

Dave Wood (he of fame) kindly sent me three more miniatures which also arrived today and so, my Autumn looks to be one filled with men in tights, underclad ladies with whips, and cackling villains - And that is just my fellow gamers down at the club!

And so, with the clock ticking towards 8PM and the promise of a 4 course Thai meal in the company of my fair lady wife, I shall bid you all adieu, and trust that you'll tune in again for more of my rantings.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

I am a gamer... 

We are all gamers...

But what I am not is someone who sees a need for self-appointed bodies claiming to be national or world federations, setting themselves up as the spokesmen for our hobby.

Almost as bad are the types of groups who then whore themselves out to be no more than a front for a given company.

But worst of all are the gamers who wish to give themselves a sense of importance by carrying a membership card for this kind of body in the delusion that it makes them in some way superior.

Save the money and use it to buy more toys, join a local club if you must, but stop giving a few nobody's an excuse to call themselves somebody.

It's a sad day when a collection of people who traditionally revel in the freedom of thought and independence of action roll over and become clone thinkers, sneering at the very people they were themselves until they paid an extortionate annual subscription to feel part of something.

And as for magazines that are no more than a company organ, dumbing down the hobby whilst pushing bad rules, questionable history and their own 'next big thing', well...
A few pics of the stuff I actually manage to get painted for personal use:

Back in 1984 I was heavily into Warhammer... Proper, old style Warhammer where fantasy was the name of the game and crushing your friends beneath your boots was the order of the day.

Back then, whilst we all wanted to paint like Pete Armstrong or Andy Ritson, we also played games every week and as a result were churning out regiment after regiment of tiny men and monsters in a toy cupboard arms race of sorts.

Back then I was heavily into Lizardman miniatures and built a sizeable force from the wonderful sculpts done by Tom Meier and the not not so wonderful sculpts of Aly Morrison whose only saving grace when it came to bipedal reptiles was that they were for the most part depicted as armed with bows, and bows allowed you to rain dice-laden death on your foes.

I wanted a range of figures known as Reptiliads produced in Canada by RAFM Inc, but on £3 or so pocket money each week it was a pipe dream.

After many games and the ban from the store around which my life centred, I finally sold the army at the Sheffield Triples Wargames show for £50, a meagre sum even then for an army of that size, and on which contained small Lizardmen riding on giant tortoises, gather from the family Xmas crackers to serve as somewhat plodding but oh so resilient cavalry.

My regular opponent Ian group of many was Darren Ashmore (now a respected and learned professor of anthropology in the land of the rising sun, no less but back then a spotty geek like the rest of us!) and week after week we tried to best each other on the green wooden table which serves at the field of battle in our imaginary conflicts.

Well, imagine my delight when I found that those self same ficus were still available from RAFM and that now that I have a little more pocket money than I did back then, I could finally build that army as the gaming gods intended. An order was placed and now I have a frisson of the excitement I experienced as a kid, as I wait for the long delivery from Canada by sea, of my new toys.

In the meantime, I am busying meals in tracking down the models of the type that I did manage to buy in my youth and although they are costing me ten time s what they did in the 80s, I am doing quite well so far.

I am looking forward to maybe trying my luck against Darren again after 30 years and giving my old friend another good dusting when he visits the country of his birth.
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to love... Errrr, lead. 

My name is Mark and I’m an addict… 

There’s no point in trying to deny it. I’ve never touched an illicit substance nor do I smoke or gamble. But I am every bit as bad as the worst type of junkie. My addiction is to lead. 

I think that if you are still playing with toy soldiers beyond your teen years, it’s a pretty safe bet that like me, you developed a craving, a need to own, paint and play with one inch high metal figures. You probably read about them, talk about them, daydream about them when you should be working.

Some people go into denial, ashamed of what they have become, some take it ‘one day at a time’ and the rest go hell for leather into it, oblivious of the opinions of others. I fall into the latter category I am proud to say.

I recall that back in the early days of my addiction, I carried a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons rules with me everywhere I went. I read it in the bath, my bedroom, on bus journeys, car rides and even at school. You will assume I am sure (and correctly so) that I was bullied at school, usually in the form of harassment for being quiet and disinterested in the ‘manly arts’ of football, metalwork and the like.

One day my classmates managed to steal my school bag from next to my desk, (we were in a maths lesson, but I was daydreaming about orcs and goblins as usual) empty it of it’s contents and return it. The only thing left was my rulebook, it being obviously something no normal lad would be interested in. When the lesson ended and I came to put my pens and exercise books back in my bag, there were sniggers and catcalls from the class. Seeing that my cherished rules were still there and that I had a pen for the next lesson, I simply picked up my bag and
went on my way. By the end of the day, most of my stuff had been returned with the exception of the odd pen or pencil and a packet of ‘Monster Munch’ – a favoured maize snack of the time – but because I had not played to the audience
as the butt of an obviously astounding jape, I of course had to be given a good kicking and generally abused.

I simply accepted it. All that mattered to me was that my beloved games and figures were left intact. I did learn one valuable lesson though. From thenceforth, I only took photocopies of my books and magazines to school, for fear that next time they would vanish and not mere frippery such as stationery.

Down the years I have gone to ridiculous lengths to get particular figures that whilst being worth maybe a few pence in some cases, have in real terms cost me tens of pounds. I have been known to travel from Yorkshire to the backwaters of Cambridgeshire on the train just to get to a shop that had a particular figure that I craved.

Of course I could have simply placed an order over the telephone or by letter, but the mark of the true addict is that they must physically hold, caress and sometimes, worship the item they seek, the acquisition being the end of the ‘high’.

Collectors often state, as the best part of the acquisition process. I recently listened to a podcast wherein one of the hosts, Jason Mewes - himself a reformed drug addict – recounted that his passion for toy action figures was driven by a need to acquire rather than own. In short, once he had purchased a particularly rare piece, and opened it, he would discard it at the counter, his need, his addiction sated for a
while until the next article of desire came along.

I’ve seen the same thing with wargamers and role players.
They spend every day visiting their local gaming store from the time a new product is announced and then within a couple of weeks of actually purchasing the given item, they sell it to fund the next thing to catch their eye.

I’ve been like this for over 30 years, my desire to ‘have it all’ tempered by lack of funds. Thus, I have sold and traded almost everything to buy something else.

One of my friends (Paul Green for those who may be interested) way back when I was 17, quipped that my gravestone would

‘Here lies Mark Hides - Wanna buy an army? - R.I.P.’

I laughed along with them at the time, but in recent years I have come to realise just how pathetically tragic it is to be seen as that. I have recognised that this is typical addictive behaviour and, have decided to try to work out what the triggers are and if possible override them.

You may already know if you have read 'Real Life's A Bugger!' that I have a passion for the old Ral Partha brand of fantasy
miniatures, and I had decided whilst writing this book that to celebrate the 30th anniversary of winning my first painting competition, it may be fun to recreate the type of display game you might find at any gaming convention in the early
1980’s. What’s more I decided that I had to use only authentic models, materials and rules in doing so.

At the time I made this monumental promise to myself, I owned no figures, no rule books nor anything else I’d need. I also knew that it would be expensive and, that more importantly, I’d have to face the demon that was my habit of selling my belongings to buy more. In essence I had to kick the habit, to use the old adage.

So far, so good and I have put a few things in place that have enabled me to resist my urges.

Firstly I have hunted down specific models and where possible have purchased them from other collectors for who they have been cherished possessions, but which are never going to be painted or used.

To assist my 'recovery', I have joined several internet based communities to discuss my project and latterly launched my own website to showcase my progress. This I suppose acts as my ‘sober living companion’ and should I succumb and fall by the wayside I will be looked upon with shame and pity by my peers.

Because I have particular ‘rules of acquisition’ and a long-term plan, I have been able to indulge my desires buy selling the models that I really don’t but which sometimes come my way as parts of ‘job lots’, funnelling the proceeds back into my war chests to pursue those rare models that still evade my grasp.

More importantly I have set myself a firm regime of painting to ensure that by the time 2014 and my anniversary rolls heaves into view, I have the models completed and cannot make excuses to myself.

Dave Wood is a stalwart of the hobby and is one of the most knowledgeable people I have met in terms of his ability to identify at a glance the make, year and history of any lump of lead he may come across at a convention or in the possession of a collector. I first came across Dave when he placed adverts in assorted magazines, asking other gamers to look in their attics for unloved and unwanted models to which he could offer a safe and loving home.

In the 90’s when I ran Dungeons & Starships, Dave would respond to a telephone call in which I hinted at possible booty in my possession and would race across the Pennines in the dark, often late at night to see what I’d found, risking the wrath of his good lady in pursuit of an elusive tin soldier.

I’ve recently got back in touch with Dave and once again we are discussing by e-mail and when we meet face to face at a convention, the various ‘little gems’ that have kept us interested in this odd pastime for so many years. In fact, Dave is responsible in part for my decision to break my pattern of acquiring and then selling my collection.

He probably does not realise it, but it’s perfectly true. So’
‘Thanks Dave.’

And do you know dear reader it seems to be working. I don’t think I’ll ever cured, but at least I am on the way to being ‘clean’ and leaving behind me a legacy which not only will be something for which I can be remembered, but also a thing of artistic beauty and dare I suggest, an article of cultural historical significance in terms of being part of one of the late 20th century’s most popular hobbies.