Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A Saving Throw For The Soul...

2014, has on balance, been a really awful year.

True, I have acquired a few nice armies, but as many of you will know, due to my personal opinions, I have had a rough year with regards to acquaintances and friendships. Some have been irrevocably sundered, it appears.

Anyway all this has had me suffering some really severe mood swings, to the extent that my G.P decided that it was time to see a consultant with regards to getting some cognitive behavioral therapy. Oh the joy; what with dealing with the effects of pretty bad arthritis in my hands (yeah, I know, I'm a full time painter, etc, etc) and this, I'm generally a pretty unhappy bunny.

Today has seen consecutive visits to three hospitals, starting with a hydrotherapy session at the first venue. Let me tell, you that an hour in a pool leaves you knackered when you spend it doing various exercises that would be a doddle on land. On the upside - nurses in swimsuits!

Thence it was a quick trip 5 miles across town to venue B to give blood. As my veins are not noted for giving up my life force to NHS vampire, this took 3 attempts and left me looking like a patched up Swiss cheese.

And from there it was a short but now very exhausting walk to venue C, cutting through the Weston Park museum.

Now, I am glad that I took this route because it took me past two points of wargaming significance for me.

Firstly, I saw the rather wonderful carved statue of two Samurai Sumo wrestlers.

Carved in 1890 from wood and wax, it depicts a 21 match bout between 12th century Samurai, Kawazu Saburo and Matano Goro. Matano was beaten and obviously was left humiliated. Like all good losers, he then had his opponent assassinated.

Now this is not only a wonderful work in wax and wood - stunningly lifelike - but when I sent a pic of it to my old friend Professor Darren Ashmore over at Akita University, he reminded me of spending time in the museum when we were but level 2 Frothers in the 80s. We would often sit in galleries, and talk games, absorbing the culture. As Darren said, one particular snowy afternoon stands out in our memories.

Secondly, in the grounds I came across the site where once stood a 3 sided park shelter, now sadly replaced with this:

Back in 1987 over the weekend of the Triples show, whilst all my club mates slept in hotel beds, I was living with my parents about 10 miles out of the city in a semi rural area which had no buses first thing on a Sunday morning or last thing Saturday night. And so, after the Triples night out, I bid farewell to colleagues and their mattresses (for I was poor, back then) and collected my sleeping bag and rucksack from a public locker, before climbing over the wall of the museum (quite a feat in leather trousers and clogs, for I was something of a 'Goth' back then') and settling down for one of the coldest nights of my life in that long gone shelter. On Sunday I climbed back over the wall and arrived ahead of everyone else, looking and feeling like shit, and thereby blending in splendidly, with those, hung over from a good night out in Sheffield.

It's odd how a simple walk can evoke such deep memories.

But of course memories and hang-ups were the order of the day after I arrived at the hospital for some CBT. For two hours, I relived the recent upsets, and delved back into the 80s and a rather upsetting past  involving gaming friends sleeping with girlfriends, and a life ban from a well known gaming store which was a put up job and which so called friends new of, and said nothing for 25 years. At 16, things like that leave a mark on you. (Note: You can read about it in all it's lurid glory in 'Real Life's A Bu**er! -  A Tale Of Sex, Dragons And Rock 'N' Roll')

It's going to take a lot of ironing out, but two hours later, I was feeling a little better with myself, and frankly I'm just going to let other people think and say what they like, and let them deal with their own issues. I'll speak as I find, and if that's objectionable to some, they will now just have to get over it!

Today has as the title suggests, been something of a saving roll for the soul...

And so, I will leave you there as I have just seen the time and I have just over an hour to get ready to go to another of my gaming clubs!


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Fortnightly Gaming In Sheffield

Just a reminder that a growing and very informal group of gamers are meeting fortnightly in Sheffield 


Shiregreen Working Men's Club
136 Shiregreen Lane
S5 6AD

Minimum age is 18 but children are welcome with constant parental supervision

The venue operates a strict Children's Charter, which is clearly posted near the entrance to the building.

Any kind of gamer is welcome. What is most important is a 'let's play games' attitude.

The next few meetings will be held on the following dates:

July 30th
August 13th
August 27th
September 10th
September 24th

So, once again, if you are interested please drop by from about 7PM on a meeting night and see what's going on.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

In Praise Of Customer Care

So often, I focus on the less pleasant aspects of the hobby, and thus, it is a very pleasant change to be writing in praise of one of the 'Old Guard' British companies.

On Thursday afternoon, I sent an email to Hovels enquiring whether I could collect an order the following morning.

Hovels as most will know make very pretty buildings for all scales, and whilst they are no longer considered the 'cutting edge' by today's young upstarts, for my generation they were and still are the Rolls Royce range for buildings, because they look good in the flesh (OK, resin), have a great range, and when painted really do 'make' a battlefield.

In the 80s and 90s, to own a complete town made from Hovels was a status symbol.

Anyway, I got no response on Thursday evening, but as I went to make my early morning coffee on Friday, I checked my e-mails and found a response from Carol at Hovels saying that not only was she sorry for having not replied on Thursday, but that indeed I could collect that day as everything was in stock. Now I will point out for the record that the Hovel address is residential address and so I was surprised and pleased that they were willing to allow me to collect, and at such short notice.

So, we drove up to Hovels HQ in Grimsby (a beautiful leafy town by the way) and sure enough, I was graciously and warmly received by Carol who told me that Dennis, the driving force behind Hovels for so many years was out on business but had left instructions that I should be given (unexpectedly, as the price was already great) a discount.

And so, after a 2 mile detour to Cleethorpes for some truly excellent fish and chips in the newly refurbished 'Seaways' restaurant I returned home with 11 buildings ranging from log cabins to a very nice windmill.

Now, I would not normally be so cavalier in placing an order, but Hovels met my bullish schedule head-on, and so, I am taking the time to heap praise by the bucket load on this excellent company, who, have ensured that many more pounds will be showered upon them in the future.

Take a look at the Hovels ranges at


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Durability? I'll say so...

Some of you may recall a little incident about 14 months ago where I had the only real catastrophe I've ever suffered in my work, as a full time figure painter.

You may recall that a batch of work suffered a 40+ foot fall onto concrete from my studio. It was as, as I said at the time, my fault entirely, and I had a lot of work to do at no charge to make amends for my stupidity, at the time.

You may also recall that I place great emphasis of the subject of only using what I consider to be the highest quality materials rather than what is the most cost effective?

Well it seems that my insistence is well founded.

A builder was working on the adjacent property to my own, installing a new roof, and found something interesting in the guttering...

Yes, it's a base of the unlucky troops.

Now, the only way that it could have got into the guttering is if carried there by Magpies, but that just adds to the tale.

These troops survived a 40 foot fall, were carried to an exposed gutter in one of the most windswept pats of the city, and spent 14 months exposed to extremes of weather and temperature which, in my opinion would have put paid to most toys soldiers, without a doubt.

So, as you can see there is the initial impact damage and the base has expanded over time and the paintwork and scatter faded a little. But remember; 14 months exposed to wind, ice, sun, rain, snow!

And so you can see that when I say that only use the best materials, they really ARE the best. If only they could make the models from a material that could survive act of idiot!

And so I will now heap praise on the producers of the materials used:

Flock - Mini Natur 

Foliage - Woodland Scenics

Undercoat - Army Painter

Paint: Vallejo & Scale 75

Gloss varnish: Montana Gold (UV resistant - and it shows)

Matt varnish - Winsor & Newton 'Professional Matt Varnish'

2mm MDF bases - East Riding Miniatures (accept no substitute)

The basing substrate I am not at liberty to disclose as to the exact make up, but again, it shows just how tough it is.

I think I can say that I am pleased with the quality of the materials I use!


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Rise Of The Gaming Family Or '2.5 Subordinate Commanders'

I'm something of a gaming culture vulture. I'm not only interested in the games themselves, but also the people, trends and history of this fine hobby.

Anyone who takes in the various shows, will now see not only couples but in many cases large family groupings at shows. This was not always the case however...

If one, looks at photographs (remember those?) from the 1970s there will be a noticeable swathe of middle aged men and young boys (no, not like that) with just the odd female in the shot, usually looking either over-enthusiastic or in the majority of cases attentively bored.

Back then, culturally, it was more often than not the preserve of the male to go out and protect hearth and home from rampaging 25mm invading hordes, and for the 'little woman' to prepare food and raise those children who were either too young to wield dice or whom wore dresses (don't go there eh?).

Another reason for the lack of female companions in those early years, may be due to the horrendous home-knits and hair styles, which, coupled with somewhat conservative attitudes seriously reduced the chances of making any headway with the opposite sex, unless you could could snaffle a handful of tranquiliser-laced choccy drops to their guide dog.

But as if out of nowhere a new younger breed of male emerged from those nicotine yellow skied days; a generation for whom bright colours and peacock strutting held no fear, and whose musical tastes be they the Punk of the late 70s through to the poodle-permed rock of the late 80s, (via the odd unwise foray into the world of the New Romantics) made these young dice wielding bravoes appear far more appealing to those girls of an artsy bent or who themselves were the siblings of older gamers, to whom these teen Napoleons looked up to for guidance.

I clearly recall in the early 80s how one manufacturer of rather nice 25mm Napoleonics for the connoisseur improved sales at shows by having a rather attractive lady behind the stall with him, and not only that, but a lady with the requisite knowledge of the products on offer. Forget Saatchi and Saatchi, this guy really new how to sell the dream. All weekend, young gamers found a sudden interest in the Prussian Army of 1809!

And so the floodgates opened and the almost Masonic secrecy of the hobby was made a thing of the past.

Increasingly, women were seen at shows, taking sweaty pound notes from glassy eyed, drooling males. Those who were teenagers in this 'Golden Age' of gaming, bucked tradition and took girlfriend after girlfriend 'down the club' (infinitely better than getting them 'in the club' I suppose). It's not that they were in any way denimed Don Juans, nor Coke swilling Casanovas; more that the girls usually came to their senses, or (as I personally witnessed) were made to feel unwelcome by those not lucky enough to have delved into Aphrodite's dice bag. Many a gaming group was split because of these dalliances with those teenage daughters of Eve.

But, in time this all settled down and the hobby thrived as women became more and more involved, bringing a much-needed breath of fresh air (literally in some cases) to clubs and shows. The aspiring young gamer needed not only the latest game under his left arm, but an attractive lady companion in his right.

By the 90s we saw the full integration of women into the hobby, with only a few curmudgeons (a few of which exist even today) showing a resistance to change that would make a Norwegian batchelor farmer's heart swell with price.

The first offspring of the happy unions which prevailed through the upheavals of the 80s became a commonplace sight at shows, and thus we reach the present day.

Now, a few things will be noticed by the attentive observer.

Firstly, in many cases, the children of gamers in many (not all cases) appear to have been dressed courtesy of various charity shops or wear clothes which are ill-fitting. Now, whilst this is all most agreeable, because they will get the same kid of character building experience of school that their Fathers got before say the age of 15, it proves that the cost of figures has increased to such a level that a choice has to be made between the latest release from Games Workshop or other boutique manufacturers and said children being clothed in way that will not see them openly taunted by Amish kids in the streets. It is a sign of the changing face of the hobby, that whereas, my generation grew up with non-gaming parents and had to save lunch money to buy toys; our own children are swamped with toy soldiers and now save their lunch money to buy fashionable clothes.

Secondly, whilst you will often see a gamer browsing with his wife and family in tow, when it comes to making a large purchase, said family will not be in evidence, having been herded off to the bar or cafe whilst 'I just go and get those dice I said I needed, and forgot'. At times like these the ubiquitous shoulder bag or rucksack will be seen to weigh its wearer down as the day progresses.  The two day even is the friend of the gamer with family responsibilities, because in most cases the family will tolerate one day of exposure to yet another 28mm Napoleonic craze, leaving the man of the house free to return and indulge in some earnest retail therapy the following day.

And finally, you will notice that these gaming families are often huge. I would like to believe that this is because of a genetic imperative which makes gamers try to field an entire team for the World Team Championships, or to be able to re-fight Borodino without leaving home. But alas, this is not the case.

You see, contraceptives cost money and the average 30 minutes of dice-free pleasure eats into the gaming budget, and so the procreative saving throw is made with the inevitable result that every so often it fails.

And finally, you must remember that gamers. like the collectors of action figures and comics suffer from that one overriding problem...

They hate to take something they bought, out of its packet!