Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Less Than 12 Hours Remaining on the Dwarf Empire Kickstarter Campaign - GREAT Freebies!

With just 12 hours remaining you only need to pledge £8 to get the Kickstarter Exclusive models. I have pledged for 500 of these little buggers and they are worth every penny!

There's more than just knights... There's every type of troop you could ask for!

Remember that the exclusive models will only go to KS backers and then the moulds will be destroyed, making them very rare indeed...


Another Section Of The Layout Completed...

Yesterday, I finally got the main construction of the 'Big Shed' completed on my layout, and the lighting fitted.

This means that I have been able to permanently fix and fettle the shed and fence. I am really happy with the grimy windows and the limestone hard standing.

Next I'll add a portakabin and portaloo. Then I'll move on to the industrial unit and BR compound. Once they're done, I can start to add the fine detail and people to really bring it to life.

Here are a few pics. Note please, that the 'night time' shot was taken before I dealt with light leakage.

As before I have used the 'Just Plug' lighting system by Woodland Scenics which is simply the easiest way of lighting a layout.

All in all, I'm really happy with this layout, given that it's new ground for me. What's more, I'm making serious progress, which I don't seem to do with wargames figures, given that I paint for a living and so rarely feel like painting in my spare time.


Another Year Shoots By...

Well, I got up at 7AM this morning, after a well deserved lie in, and harnessed up the pack which roam the grounds of the manse to savage any intruders.

I normally walk them a lot early on a local field and so at 7AM they were more than ready for some exercise - Which they never got, in the end!

I was slowly ascending a steep path when two of the pack ran around my legs, acting like a bolas. I went down like a brick and I am not a small fellow. I stood up. took four steps and then realised that something was wroong in my chest.

Anyway, I ended up in casualty with some of society's finest examples of hopeless causes and a number of police constables, who had obviously been busy. One member of the Watch spent a good five minutes giving me the eyeball, and as is the custom, I smiled and stared right back...

And so, it looks like I have some broken ribs, high on the left of my chest. I'm dosed up to high heavens on every kind of pain killer short of morphine, and feel rather poorly.

Thus I have crawled to my desk in the studio, to write a few word and keep my mind off the pain I am in. It really is quite exquisite...

And so, another year is at an end. It's been an odd one.

For the first time in my life I did not go to the Sheffield Triples. I'll not go over all that crap again, but even the Show Secretary of SWS trying to get me to accept a handful of tickets was not going to tempt me, because frankly, it wasn't worth the grief or the time. Still, it felt rather odd and left me with an empty feeling.

Vapnartak at York was great, whilst the Newark shows were absolute rubbish. At the Spring Partizan the breakfast catering was  managed I believe by a descendant of Typhoid Mary. After a 20 minute wait for a sandwich it appeared that the egg had not even been introduced to the pan , but rather cracked onto the sandwich in the hope that the bacon would cook it with it's own heat. 

Derby Roundhouse was the venue for a rather wonderful model railway show, which organisers of any and I mean ANY wargames show should attend, to see how a show should and can be run. I mean it - you lazy buggers have a lot to learn about hospitality, engagement and P.R.

I've done very little gaming, but I have two model railroads under construction and a third at the planning stage. This interest in model railways will undoubtedly continue, but I am also finding my wargaming mojo again, having backed the TAG Dwarf Kickstarter to the £400 pledge level, meaning I have around 500 models on the way and a LOT of freebies. My plan is to get these painted and then maybe paint a 28mm 100YW army using the new Perry plastics.

It's really odd to think that I am no longer part of an organised club (nor I think would they have me back if I wanted)  and I miss my friends, but I'll be damned if I will stifle myself just fit a collective view which is flawed, unimaginative and so bigoted. Yeah, I am outspoken and offensive at times, but that's who I am... I can live with it, so long as I am speaking from the heart. It gives me no pleasure when things go the way I predicted and likewise 'I told you so' gives little satisfaction other than proving to myself I was correct all along. Ah well...

2015 saw the loss of two friends, both ahead of their time. One was a wargamer and the other a re-enactor, but both were warm and funny guys with a real grasp and love of their hobbies. Both had a lot more to give.

Alex & Trevor I have drunk your health this Christmas and will do so again on New Year. You are missed...

Looking ahead to 2016, I am already planning meet-ups with some wargaming mates from way back, and there's talk of 'getting the band back together' for a few projects involving games, conventions and other commercial ventures. It will be an exciting time. I'm also looking at getting back into club gaming and due to various factors I am looking both at Sheffield, Rotherham and West Yorkshire. I'm in no real rush because A. I am busy and B. I know that it will not be the same as my old club, so my list of requirements will be different and thus a careful choice will need to be made.

My model railroading interests mean trips again to Derby and York. The York show at the racecourse, as I have written previously is awesome, and you can get a lot of stuff useful to wargamers. And of course the sheer beauty of the model making makes it a worthwhile trip and VERY family friendly whatever the age of the visitor.

On a more sombre note, it has come to my attention that a certain trader and a certain gamer whom for now will remain anonymous, both have figures belonging to a third party which should be returned to his family as a matter of urgency. 

Shame on you both!

Anyway, we'll collectively remind you both at shows and indeed I or any of my associates will gladly act as middle men to facilitate the return of the figures in question and will issue receipts.

And with that, I will bid you all a very happy and prosperous new year.


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day, 10AM... Erecting A Security Fence

I have erected 200 feet of fencing and it's only 10AM on Boxing Day.

Yes, it's OO scale, of course...

Well, it's coming on in leaps and bounds. The warehouse needs painting and detailing as 'Miami Spice (UK) Ltd' and there's a red brick office for the central yard. At the far end, it's a case of completing the ground work and the scennic buffer around the big shed, before getting the details done such as portakabins, portaloos, junk, tools etc... Ditto for the office area.

Dwarfs, Dwarves, Short Arsed Little B*****s...

Well, my mojo is back I fear. Introspective soul searching, and an analysis of what I really love, hobby-wise have made me realise that I really, REALLY want to get my head back into 'old school' fantasy gaming.

I have always been a a fan of the Orc & Goblin armies and at the totally opposite pole, Dwarves.

Orcs have got too silly even for fantasy, but Dwarves are still a pretty 'sensible' army.

In 1989, when my daughter was born, in fact in the very week she popped out and said 'hi' to the world, I bought a Dwarven gun and crew from the Marauder Miniatures (Citadel offshoot) range, which re-imagined the short arsed little fellahs in renaissance attire. People took to them right away, but of course Q.T Miniatures had already produced Landsknecht Dwarves several years earlier with less of a trumpeting than the GW propaganda machine gave this range of latecomers.

Still, I enjoyed painting them and then moved onto other things, such as being a full-time Dad for 5 years or so.

Well, when White Knight announced that he a had privately commission John Pickford to sculpt him a range of renaissance Dwarves about 3 or 4 years ago now, I was pleased to find out I could get him to sell me a few. But, when life overtook for a while I decided that I had bigger priorities with my time and the mood passed.

Now that The Assault Group have the Kickstarter going , having taken ownership of the range, I am in there again, and have backed them for £400 which gets me 122 packs of figures and a saving of around £500.

What really has me drooling are the freebie figures for those people who back the campaign, which will never EVER be produced again after it.

There's a foot knight and even better a Dwarf Santa. The Santa will apparently go to anyone who pledges over £8 which is less than many GW figures with far less character...

Anyway, get over to the Kickstarter site and spend a little of that Xmas cash which is burning a whole in the pocket of your festive cardigan...

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

It's The Time Of Year When One's ThoughtsTurn To Meat...

Well, another year is almost at it's close, and I am indeed older and wiser...

The one thing to come out of the last couple of years, is that  there are no more favours without the chink of coin. The Swiss had the right idea.

On the flip side, I do still have a few friends after my castigation and scourging as well as the fall out from 21st December 2012 where I put the fact that my wife had pneumonia before dragging her to a get together of old gaming mates in a wet and windy backstreet pub, far from the beaten tracks. I ended up saying a few choice and offensive words (no surprise there) and that was the last I heard or saw of about a dozen people I'd known for over 30 years.

But, at least I have been true to myself and have not bent to the wills of others.

Not the nicest wisdom, but it was an experience. People may not like me, but I still hold them in my thoughts and heart for the most part.

It's a funny old world...

Moving on, I have been drawn in by the Kickstarter being run by those fine people over at The Assault Group, who've taken on those rather wonderful Renaissance Dwarves formerly available in a limited Way from White Knight.

For £400 I have managed to get around £900 worth of models, which is more than enough to build the entire 3rd ed Warhammer Dwarf army list, with an additional 50 cavalry mounted on ponies, redolent of the 'Thelwell' cartoons, and a few more additional infantry units for variety of weapon types.

The Kickstarter is here:

And the range, with pictures can be seen here:

Dwarves in Landsknecht dress... What's not to like?

And so, I am now winding down for a couple of weeks of sheer indulgence. It'll be a quiet Christmas as usual, with just the two of us and the four dogs, but we have excellent vittles including venison, pork, pheasant, turkey, beef and gammon for starters and a seriously fantastic range of pickles and condiments:

Just as well, really because we have a few kilos of cheese and pate, too:

And just in case we need to wash it down a rather fine selection of wine, 11 bottles of port, plus gin and cognac:

Which just goes to show that cutting back on wargaming spending this year has led to much worse habits...

Well, all that remains is for me to wish you all a wonderful festive period and all that you would wish for and deserve in the new year ahead.

Eat, drink and make merry!


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Rodney Matthews Comes To Live At The Dark Tower, Along With Frank McCarthy

Now, that's more like a holiday...

After tending to the needs of my menagerie at 5:30AM, I made a little toast,with strawberry jam along with a mug of Java, and crawled back into bed to watch Antiques Roadshow and sleep in until 10:45.

What could be better?

Well, I woke up with that general joie de vivre which comes after dreaming you are on a motorcycle with a large animated  marshmallow figure on the handlebars - You know the feeling...

So, I should have stayed away from the Mac and my credit card because I decided that, given that I have been a good boy this year and have ended up 'in the black', despite some rather ambitious plans and projects  I could risk a look at the catalogue of original Rodney Matthews works.

I am a big fan of RM's work, and have been for about 4 years, but I've never allowed myself to add one of his works to my gallery. OK, owning assorted pieces by John Blanche, Tony Ackland, Wayne England, Phillip Downes and Tony Hough (and a few more, come to think of it) is one thing, but when you get into the big boy's game, it's taking things to a whole new level.

Now, much as I love the full colour stuff, I have a rather naughty attraction to pencil work, and even though you are generally looking at a mid 3 figure sum for a pencil sketch, it's good quality work when you compare it to say £75,000 for a colour original of a piece of album cover art.

So, I found a rather nice piece which is the concept sketch of a logo for Bizarre Creative, 12x16 inches and priced at a trifling £150:

So I registered my interest with the gallery, and was surprised when I got a mail saying that for 24 hours, I could make offers on any RM originals.


Thus, I allowed myself to be snared by 12x16 inch sketch of Legolas, which was a piece of concept work for the Lord Of The Rings musical (look it up, it was great fun) by Bernd Stromberger. It's lovely and was priced in the catalogue at £495. I registered interest...


I then noticed another piece which I had seen earlier in the year, again, concept work for an album by Barclay James Harvest which became 'Caught In The Light' but was under the working title of Feel The Silence, measuring 13x21 inches and priced at £350

I made an offer on this which was accepted, but then I considered what it is that I want from a piece of art, given the serious lack of space on any wall in the Tower apart from the bathroom, and withdrew my interest in the album cover.

So, here I was with two pieces of artwork I really loved and a potential price tag of £660.00 with shipping at £15.00.

So, I did the sums, looked at what I want to do hobby-wise in 2016 and then pitched a ridiculous offer of £490 including shipping, expecting some serious return haggling because let's face it, I was asking for a consideration in excess of 25%.

The gallery agreed...

And so, I now own some classic artwork which will need to be archival framed and insured, but let's face it, RM is no getting any younger and he is very, very collectible indeed.

Later in the afternoon, I found myself in a favourite charity shop, wherein I did find a 1984 exhibition poster for the work of famed American Western artist Frank McCarthy, who is right up there with the greats of American cultural art.

What's more it has a wonderful dark wood frame:

Not a great pic, so here is one of another...

Now, it was priced at £20, but I haggled... Yeah, yeah I haggled in a charity store, but to be fair they have had a few hundred pounds of donations from me, and they know me, so they returned the good turn and accepted £15 (so I spent some more cash on a few bits).

Well, as some of you may know, high end exhibition lithographs are seriously collected and because of the limited runs, are often considered works of art in their own right. This particular piece is very high end with contrasting print finishes and metallic details which are foiled. As I said... very high end.

So, I filled the last bit of space in the lower levels of the Dark Tower and then checked on average values. My hunch was correct and this is a $200-$400 piece at auction. But this baby stays with me as I have a rather unhealthy love of North American popular culture.

I have now sated myself for 2015. I bloody hope so anyway, because I have just had to sit and rework my plans for next year.

Well, it's been a tiring yet satisfying day, so I will bid you a very fond 'good evening'.


Monday, 14 December 2015

Fishy Goings On, Bagging Bargains In Canada & Tiny Fantasies...

Last Thursday, saw me finishing up for the year, about 10 days ahead of my standard schedule. This was due to the fact that I had worked like a demon for the last two months, completing two and sometimes three days of work in a single looooong day.

And so, all that left was the stripping down of my studio to give it the end of year deep cleanse which marks the 'official' last day of work, and thence to enjoy an extended Christmas break until my return to  my desk for work purposes on January 4th.

But, before I did that I had to go and pay homage to the former frontman of Marillion, the band which figured heavily in my youth as I struggled with all the crap that the 80s could throw at me.

Fish has remained a force majeur of the heartfelt lyric down the years, and whilst I openly confess that it took me 20 years or so to really appreciate this, boy have I been making up for it.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 'Misplaced Childhood' album and tour, and so, as part of his 'exit strategy' which should finally come to fruition in 2017, Fish was performing the entire album, live, for the last time.

He did so rather splendidly, despite not being a well bunny on the night.

Supporting him were French prog rockers Lazuli, a 5-piece from the South of France, who can do shockingly wonderful things around a marimba...

Seeing them perform this life, with a marimba-fuelled excursion into Marillion's 'Incommunicado' is something to behold, let me tell you.

Anyway, we were there, right at the front of Sheffield City Hall, being wowed by music which transcended the language barrier, with the crowd giving a very appreciative standing ovation to the band.

It was a late night after such a hard work regime, and I was up at 5AM on Friday to walk 4 assorted terriers in awful weather before tearing into the studio.

I also took the time to clear out a load of vintage gaming stuff to the dustbin, being sure to make a good job of deterring bin raiders. This means that I have the space I need for the model railroad layouts that I have on order and planned. The boardgames I kept were all placed in plastic storage boxes which will sit under the layouts. My large collection of sci-fantasy art books are piled at the side of my desk awaiting a dedicated bookshelf, having previously shared the same shelves as the games.

Alas, when I moved the shelving I was chagrined to discover a large area of well established black mould at a point where the air of the Dark Tower and my studio meet and clash, with disastrous results. So, I was in there with the bleach and mould killer, and then a can of Halfords white primer to seal it. I'll give it a quick shot of emulsion this week. It's my own fault for not checking air flow in there.

Speaking of model railroads, my layout builder has suffered a PVA failure this week which has really set back my layout. To my eyes his coloured PVA has not been uniformly mixed, and the entire yard area of the layout looks a right bleedin' mess.

I have done it myself in the past, but never on this scale, and it's going to take some clever remedial work to correct it. After paying out a four figure sum, I am going to have to a bit harsher than I might perhaps like, but that's how it goes I guess...

And so, to Canada...

One of my clients in the Great White North was kind enough to help me find some Canadian railroad stuff, and when I went to the site, it was of course priced in Canadian dollars, which right now are $2 to £1. This means that even with postage and customs I can get some pretty darned big savings.

I therefore also intend to do some shopping with Canadian wargames companies (with the exception of RAFM, who price using $U.S - Bloody unsporting.

I worked out that generally speaking on a like for like basis, I can save about 35% on the prices I pay for stuff imported by re-sellers. This in turn gets turned into more toys of varying kinds.

I'm now making my budgetary plans for the 2016 hobbies season, which begins Jan 1st and ends on Oct 31st. The last two months I spend nothing on hobbies but I pay for Christmas in full and so don't have to use the credit card or go into the red, thereby doing my bit to both support and thwart Capitalism.

It's looking pretty good so far.. On paper I can pay for a 3rd model railroad layout, a massive 6mm fantasy army (more on this anon) and a Perrys 100YW army in plastic and metal and still have £200+ per month for other 'off the cuff' purchases.

This is largely due to the decision to not support several shows any longer, When you bear in mind that I generally spend £1000 or so at Triples and £500 at each of the Partizan shows, it's not something to be sniffed at.

I'll be at Vapnartak where I always spend time in excellent company and bag some great bargains for pennies on the tabletop sale, and then later in the year at the Britcon show, which several local commentators have referred to erroneously as 'shit'. If you know what you are looking for and appreciate that this is a competition with attached trade show, rather than an arena gig, you can do very nicely. What's more the atmosphere is decidedly more convivial than many other shows, with the lure of Manchester's Chinatown and some good eating. Oh, and the venue itself has always been great... Good food, plenty of seats and well lit - Just what you need!

On the railway front, I'll be at the York and Derby Shows. York is massive, and I encourage you, be you gamer or railroad modeller to go and have a look at some of the stuff on offer. It's at the racecourse, but unlike Vapnartak, uses the whole Knavesmire stand and generally has the restaurant open too. It's a model of what wargames shows could be in the North, if they could be arsed.

Now, going back to 6mm gaming, I love the scale, but I loathe strips of conjoined models when it comes to fantasy. I want that bit more character and individuality - I don't know why, but fantasy demands it, I think. So, you may imagine my delight when I was directed to a company in the U.S by the name of Microworld Games, who produce stunning little models  at really competitive prices and with the added bonus of having a dirt cheap international postage rate of just $8 - flat rate.

It equates to about 10p per model but these are superbly detailed little toys and have plenty to go at regardless of individual tastes.

Have a look at

The only thing I've not found so far are Halflings, but there's a lot of really nice stuff.

Right, I'll bid you farewell for the moment and try to find something to fill my time... With 21 days holiday ahead of me, this may become increasingly difficult.


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

When The Band Stops Playing It's Time To Turn Out The Lights...

For me, music and gaming have always gone together in a BIG way...

Asia, Human League, Duran Duran, Haysi Fantayzee, Adam & The Ants, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cult, New Model Army; they have all played a big part in my life and I can tell you exactly what I was gaming or painting to each of them.

But, without a doubt the bands which fuelled my creativity and imagination the most were Rush, Marillion and Yes.

To Yes, I painted ECW and scratch built mecha. whilst to Marillion, I painted some of the most intricate Samurai I ever turned out, and then along with Rush they got me through exams, arrest for assault on a kid who was kicking the shit out of me, and the angst filled later teen years during which  I painted hundreds of fantasy figures and actually completed armies.

Of course Marillion split, but lead singer Fish continued to write and perform some wonderful stuff. This week I'll be watching him perform the entire Misplace Childhood album on it's 30th anniversary as part of his musical exit strategy which culminates in his planned retirement from music in 2017.

Yes, are still touring but after the untimely passing of bassist and co-founder Chris Squire earlier this year, the future of the band is uncertain.

And now, in the year which sees them celebrate 40 years of filling stadia to capacity the world over, Rush drummer Neil Peart has announced that he is effectively retiring, although the latest buzz is that this is only from touring.

This has left me wondering if it's time to throw in the towel with wargaming (just as I was actually starting to rediscover gaming and really get over all the fuckery of the past couple of years with my old club and mourning the loss of lifelong friendships) and plan my own exit strategy from my lifelong hobby.

It's funny how things like that come along, but I guess there is a time when you have to look around you and ask whether it's prudent to have piles of unpainted lead and plastic all over the place.

So, what I think I will do, is buy a couple of 'must have' armies and get someone else to paint them by 2018, at which time I shall be 50.

50 indeed... where those 35+ years of gaming gone? It'll be 39 by the time I am 50 and it has just shot past me. It's almost as if you get up to make a coffee and a decade has just gone by...