Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A Trip Down Memory Lane...

It was a Thursday, it was Spring, it was 1982, it was 16:00, and my mate and I decided to take a trip to Beatties, a large model shop on Pinstone Street in the heart of Sheffield. Using breathing techniques purportedly used by Zulu warriors to cross great distances of veldt at the run - you see? The school library did have its uses beyond calorie conservation and somewhere to look at pictures of unclothed females in biolology texts - we made it to Beatties in less than ten minutes. Weighed down as we were with bags full of exercise books and pockets awash with saved lunch money this was a good time, although Harvey (our passing gamer-cum-Olympic-athlete friend) who had not joined us due to the promise of being able to grope a girl in his form, before her mum & dad got home from work, would have snorted his derision and done it all again before we reached our destination. 

This was the day my forays into fantasy changed direction once again, in a way that would seal my fate much in the way that finding a black sword dooms an albino prince.

Beatties was a long store with a ‘T’ shaped layout, managed by a ferocious fellow by the name of Geoff. He was probably a totally decent chap who loved his family, but he ran his store with a rod of iron and with white hair and salt and pepper beard, adding to his apparent hatred of the young, he terrified us. He had that type of bearing normally reserved for comic book villains, and what we thought was a murderous streak.

We were not the kind of kids who got our kicks out of causing grief for the staff of retail establishments, nor would we ever consider shoplifting, having been brought up with a definite sense of right and wrong and an infraction of that sensibility would of course result in instant death, should our parents even think that we’d talked about it, let alone actually pilfer. Nonetheless, in the eyes of Geoff and his staff we were teenagers and therefore based on that, the enemy and already guilty as charged, and Geoff was a 'hanging judge'.

This meant that we normally only visited Beatties with parents or grandparents, it being a given that older relatives added gravitas and a sense of respectability to a young boy, out to spend some readies on the fine wares they had to offer. However, this meant that as my interests were pretty straightforward when it came to model shops – trains and model kits - and the time allowed by my elders to indulge myself somewhat limited, I’d never so much as looked at the arm of the shop that contained radio control cars and Geoff’s tiny office. We knew that to go close to that cramped little room was to invite disaster, probably ending with a spell in the torture chamber we were all certain was down in the basement stock room.

Critically on this day, Alan and I decided to risk the wrath of Geoff and venture into the other parts of Beatties. Alan had been given an old radio control model of a dune buggy and was looking for replacement tyres, and therefore this was, we agreed the best place to make enquiries. Rounding the right hand corner of the ‘T’ that comprised the shop floor, we were met with a truly glorious selection of radio control cars. But wait dear reader… On the right hand side was a wall covered in glass-fronted cabinets that were packed top to bottom with box after box of lead figures and board games with sumptuous, breath taking fantasy artwork.

We were simply blown away by the variety of stuff on display. Until now we had only seen the grubby little bags containing the models we had collected. Now, we were faced with a bewildering selection of themed sets of fantasy miniatures in the most amazingly illustrated boxes. These were produced by an American company called Grenadier Miniatures and, were their ‘Gold Line’ the ‘Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures’.

My head swam, choirs of angels sang out hallelujahs in my brain, and my heart pounded like a racehorse on the final furlong. The world around me melted away and I was transported to a realm where brightly clad elves fought battles with goblins and other strange monsters whilst lithe and limber women disported themselves in chain mail bikinis. My resolve stiffened by the euphoria – and probably the thoughts of chain mail clad ladies - I approached one of the staff. Some respectful questioning gained me the missing piece of the puzzle. The figures I had been collecting were playing pieces for something called a role-playing game or RPG. Crucially, I was handed a fistful of information and advertising that informed the curious reader all about them.

That evening, I literally shovelled my tea down my throat, whisked off my art and history homework and then took a long bath, devouring the arcane knowledge that promised to unlock the mysteries of role-playing games. I was, I imagined, Archimedes in his bathtub. I had reached my ‘EUREKA!’ moment and it was nothing to do with the whereabouts of the soap.

Unfortunately, my grand entrance into the mystical secrets of role-playing were somewhat curtailed a few weeks later, and it was the fearsome Geoff who was to be responsible for my downfall...

You see, following our discovery of the gaming temple at the rear of Beatties, Alan and I had started to visit the store on a regular basis after school and again at weekends, emboldened by our previous experience. We were hooked, but at almost £10.00 for the Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules, it was not something we were prepared to cough up good money for quite yet. Still, we imagined the fun we’d have when we got our parents to provide it as a Christmas gift.

In the meantime, I spent the then considerable sum of £4.95 on a box of the Grenadier ‘Gold Line’. I was in heaven when I got home, and spent the entire evening sitting in the kitchen with my decidedly grim selection of enamel paints burying them underneath layers of every colour imaginable. The powerful fumes from the solvent in the paints made me heady and I began fancying myself as celebrated artist who would specialise in selling these tiny works of art for hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. 

The reality of my skill at that time was altogether different. When I close my eyes and picture some my early attempts, I cringe, and indeed sometimes break into a cold sweat, particularly on those nights when you can’t sleep and the memories of the whole of your life so far, flash through a hyper-alert brain. Today I am an accomplished painter with an international clientele, but I’m still waiting to rake in the money.

There I go again, wandering away from the plot. I’ll try to keep on the right thread from here onwards, but don’t, I beg you, hold your breath.

Anyway, to continue where I so rudely left off… The following week Alan and I went back to Beatties. Lo and behold, the role-playing section had been moved to the front of the shop and was displayed in the open on shelves, instead of the glass display case. We were somewhat dismayed to see that the games also shared their hallowed ground with a demonstration model of the Atari 2600 game console running a continuous loop of the ‘Pitfall’ game. Of course computer games like this were never going to catch on, were they?
Unfortunately on this day we had managed to miss our usual bus after school and, had tarried a while longer than was wise at Hopkinsons’. Consequently, by the time that we reached our newest temple of all things fantastic, we were pushing our luck for getting home on time. In the same way that Scotland always fails to get to a World Cup final, fickle fate was to lay us low that day. As we discussed which box of Grenadier models would be purchased next, I happened to glance at my watch. This was – being the 1980s - a large stainless steel model of the digital variety, which displayed the time in red LED when you pressed a button. I applied a finger to the aforementioned button and the face glowed, illuminating its terrible, message in bloody brilliance. It was 5:00 PM and we were going to miss the bus unless we ran. So, run we did…

Sadly for us, Geoff ran too, believing we had made off with his beloved stock, he chased us a good 50 yards down the street at a pace not becoming to a man of middle years, before grabbing us squarely by the collars and marching Alan and I back to his office despite our protestations. I tell you, for a man in his fifth decade of life that man could run.
Now, these days, a teenager would simply take up their mobile phone and make a call to their parents who would in turn make a call to the family solicitor and commence suing the company who had dared to waylay and incarcerate their beloved offspring. But remember that this was 1982 and therefore we were as doomed as a doomed thing.

Eventually, after twenty minutes of being held against our will and our bags having been thoroughly searched whilst we explained the reason for our hasty departure to Geoff we were allowed to go.
Red-faced, I was almost an hour late for my tea. I apologised, I grovelled and may have even washed the dishes. What I did not do however was tell my parents what had happened as they would have simply banned me from going into town at the very least. 
As I mentioned earlier, I was the 'Beta Test' for my parent’s later forays into raising children and I am sure they were working from the Gestapo training manual as I will briefly illustrate.

When I was younger I was tied to a tree, in a local park by ‘friends’ – Matthew France, you know you did me wrong, that day! Anyway, as a result I spent two hours there and by the time I got home it was almost dark. Despite giving my parents a list names and a full account I was grounded for two months and soundly thrashed. There were in those distant days no ‘naughty steps’, which seem to be built into all modern homes.

Now, about a decade later, I was grounded for a month with a 4:15PM absolute limit for being home from school. Weekends were put on hold and so were all things to do with games – a fate worse than a bloody good thrashing. Life was already shaping up to be a bugger!

I had to linger away a month in my bedroom, mentally fashioning a voodoo doll in the shape of Geoff, using imaginary scraps imaginarily collected in woodwork and sewing class at school - Oddly, Geoff did have a heart attack later, but don’t try to pin it on me as I had given up needlework by then.

It's All So Bloody Feudal...

Firstly a big 'HI' to the Wednesday Night Watchers!

Well, I made another nice purchase today in the shape of a 28mm Feudal army using Curtey's Miniatures castings and painted I think to a nice standard indeed.

This cost me metal price plus 52p per piece which is just a little awesome...


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Desire To Games Is Definitely Back...

Well, it's taken me just over two years, but at last, I do really seem to have the bug for gaming again.

I've no desire however to get back into organised club gaming because frankly I don't want to lose the urge again.

Last week, I purchased two armies from friend I've known for about 30 years, who is focussing more and more on 15mm WW2 and 28mm Fantasy.

Accordingly, we were able to agree a mutually agreeable price for his 28mm Norman and Celtic armies, which are made up of mostly Foundry and Griping Beast models and are painted to a nice standard which stands out on the table.

The Normans need their bases finishing and a number of the Celts likewise need some basing love.

But they are great armies and are perfect matches for my regular opponent who has Republican Romans and Vikings.

Apart from that, I've not been up to much. It's been work, work, work which whilst tiring is filling the coffers and paying for hobbies.

Mind you, 10-14 hours, Monday to Friday with a paintbrush can be punishing on the neck, spine and eyes, so I have to make sure that I do all my stretches, keep hydrated and always work under my studio lights.

I'm hoping to get time to get my first miniature range into production this year, because I've a few more ranges that I'd like to see made too.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and cook a Thai curry with all the trimmings.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

WOW! Big Battalions With Tiny Troops

I have clients who, have a real vision of what a game should be...

One gentleman is creating armies in a 1:1 ratio using 6mm Heroics & Ros miniatures.

I literally just completed the first Panzer Grenadier battalion which has taken around 120 hours to paint and 29 to base, and I think you will agree, it's an awesome sight!

Sunday, 12 June 2016


I bagged a bargain today from a rather nice chap in France.

As you can see, it's a good sized Bolt Action force depicting troops from the 'Wiking' SS Division, all looking splendidly frozen as befits them.

Great atmospheric models for facing my mate's Russians.

And all for the reasonable sum of £160.00

I also got a rather pretty British airborne force on Friday...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Death Eater Theatre...

We had a great day at the Yorkshire Cosplay Con Today. I finally got the opportunity to wear the custom made Death Eater costume that I've been putting together for the last couple of years.

I am pleased to report that it was well received with many complimentary comments, as well as several photograph and video requests.
Our daughter and son-in-law were also there with their 3 sons, all in assorted Harry Potter themed outfits. My eldest Grandson Lukas, is a dead ringer for a young Draco Malfoy and is also currently going through the 'terrible twos' and as such was showing off splendidly. Even our bribery of a Kit Kat, stuffed toy and numerous badges took time to work.

Lots of really passionate people there, having a great time and some truly outstanding costumes. I was somewhat surprised to see that the 'Mad Max' lads from Sheffield didn't show as they'd have gone down really well.
For a first outing, I am really satisfied with the costume. I have a couple of tweaks to make before the next event. The great thing about it, is that I don't have to move quickly or suddenly, and if my arthritis is flaring I can use a cane, hobble or shuffle, and still be in character.

There were several other Hogwarts pupil in attendance, mostly those pesky Gryffindor types...
One lady who was attired in the robes of that house, clocked me and drew her wand, forgetting to utter the spell. I fast drew from my wand holster, and true to character used the Cruciatus Curse...Shouting 'Crucio'

'I drew first...' my opponent cried.

'Ah but I actually voiced the spell.' I retorted.

There was a good deal of chuckling and then some posed shots where we both agreed to pose as if bested. Like I said, a great atmosphere! I have said it before, and I will say it again, out of all the types of show and convention, I attend, the wargames show is the only one to not try to get some sense of it being a celebration. We take ourselves way too seriously.
I did however bump into a member of my old club Sheffield Wargames Society and exchanged a few pleasantries.

I'd love to post pics of my grandsons, but my daughter is very firm about that kind of thing... The following pics were taken by Kayte...

Friday, 10 June 2016

WANTED: Painted 28mm WW2


Fully  and very well Painted Bolt Action army. In order of preference:

Fallschirmjager Crete/Italy/Africa

British Africa/Italy

Afrika Korps


PM with details, pics, price


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

That Wednesday Night Rush...

Yet again my views have tripled on Wednesday evening...

Buggered if I know why...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why Nerds Shouldn't Be Like Everyone Else...

Down the years, I’ve watched and been part of various groups of gamers, of all stripes. I was always amazed at the amount of tribal attitudes and the amount of bullies in many of those groups.

The common pattern seemed to be one or two people being singled out at a given time and, either being excluded, tormented or just picked on. This might go on for a few months and then, someone else would be the target. It was always funny however that in every group a small cadre always managed to avoid the ‘treatment’, by allying themselves with the biggest, oldest or most cuttingly sarcastic  within the group.

I have seen this form first perspective and externally, and what is really amazing is that in some instances, it continues into adulthood.

Mark Barrowcliffe wrote a rather mundane book, but, when it came down to capturing the essence of social outcasts turning inwards to vent fury and rage, which they couldn’t hope to inflict on those whom they themselves were scared of. He illustrated perfectly the puerile vindictiveness which pervaded within his own group. But, that could have been pretty much any group, anywhere, at any time in the history of gaming.

I remember how in Sheffield, one of the groups I was part of, were passed masters at the art of isolating and hunting like a pack. The ringleaders were all about my own age, and as youth is wont to do, they believed they were witty and in some way above the rest of their peers because they had the ear of local gaming store staff. Oh how they made sure that their own backs were covered by making sure they sowed dissent, destroyed the feelings and confidence of others and generally bullied people in a round robin vendetta of petty vindictiveness.

I guess they felt emboldened and empowered, rather than the dysfunctional little boys they were at home. They bragged of how one day they would be ‘somebody’ and you know, quite a few people believed them.

I had a few run-ins with them, but to be brutally honest, even back then I knew how to sell, and so, I made myself content with squeezing every penny I could out of them without any remorse. Yes, they had their fun and thought that I didn’t know about their snideness, but believe me, I was well plugged in and set myself ‘sales targets’ which were raised as they came up with some new ‘wheeze’.

Luckily, I gamed 6 days per week at 7 locations, with 7 groups, and so, I was inoculated somewhat as most of the groups I played with were made up of older gamers, who didn’t go in for that kind of thing.

These days, I really try to avoid game stores, because invariably there will be some overweight, overripe beardy git with a god complex in there, giving a kid some crap. And alas, I am very likely to at the very least make a nasty fucking comment.

I am ashamed to say that when I had my own store, I emulated those who were the ‘store gods’ when I was a kid. I am not going to pretend that this was a good thing; it wasn’t and I was a proper little Hitler, treating those who displeased me with cruelty and derision. I could have broken the cycle, but like the abused hostage, I developed a Stockholm Syndrome-like approach .

Yes, I was a cunt of the first order…

When I crashed and burned the store, I had two years of very, very deep trauma, during which time I reevaluated myself. I raised a family, concentrated on the things which mattered and generally got on with life in the real world, until such a time having raised our daughter and found myself able to face a few ghosts down.

In 2014/15 I was diagnosed with a form of PTSD which, during psychoanalysis was identified as rooted in my experiences as a kid and the SWS debacle. The latter was simply a trigger for the symptoms to merge full-on; the real kernel of malign emotional dysfunction was caused by how the ‘gods’ and ‘in crowd’ of my youth made me feel at a time when emotional plasticity was such that the effects of such behaviour imprinted on me and gave rise to a habitual paranoia and anxiety which, in turn led to narcissism as a coping mechanism, which simply got me into more trouble.

The end result of the counselling and psychoanalysis is that I was taught to say how I felt and frankly, not give a fuck about how others felt. That was their problem and not mine.

At first, this made me uncomfortable conceptually, but when you sit back and look at it, it makes sense. After all, why should I suppress my feelings to protect those of others? Of course it does go both ways., and I have to accept that others may and indeed will take a similar approach. It makes for discomfort, but, when you get used to it, the faux political correctness can be dispensed with. You may recall last year that an individual who frequents my blog (of his own free will of course) made a a few remarks about my mental health; I suppose, to shut me up, embarrass me and make me feel insignificant. That was his right, but for my part I did not make snide remarks in return. I laughed in his metaphorical face and decided to give my analyst’s advice a real road test. It made me realise that the guy who was giving me a hard time a couple of years back (picking up where he left off in 1986) was himself a bullied narcissist - Oh the irony.

You see, he like others and like myself was possibly a victim of people like I was, and he is. And that cycle needs to be broken.

In a similar vein, you may also remember that I had a few choice words to say about the type of twat whom, at wargames shows, pushes kids and women out of the way at trade stands and bring and buys. They too need to be stood up to. True, some of them may just pop you on the nose and you could possibly do unto him ( I know I could)  and all that, but instead, perhaps, if they do take exception to a sharp word of censure or (god forbid), resort to physical bullying, laugh at the, and do it loudly, there and then.

One trader who, about 20 years ago, at Vapnartak, decided that my wife’s tits were more important than her historical knowledge, has ever since been sniggered at and boycotted, his notoriety spreading like ripples on a pond. Then there’s ‘Mr Touchy Feely’ - but that is another story.

Nobody is perfect, but perhaps before we open our mouths, we should look at what we are going to say, think about why, and see if we can avoid perpetuating the cyclical posturing that in all probability is a result of a crappy experience as a kid. It’s probably why you became a gamer rather than an athlete and so, why spend your time and energy in picking on those who, are just like you, if you’d stop pretending you weren’t the nerd you really are.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Red Skinned Fantasy

Well, I went to bed last night, more than happy with my purchases and with sincere resolve, that I would not buy unpainted figures, unless they were 6mm. After all I can paint 50-60 a day of those which means that armies will grow pretty quickly.

I was awoken at 5AM this morning by one of the pack (again) and after 5'5 hours sleep and a really disturbing dream in which my grandmother informed me I was evil and would go to hell, I was in pretty piss-poor shape this morning, when my gaming buddy arrived at 9AM for our bi-weekly gaming session.

We partook of Napali style scrambled eggs and coffee, and then as my mate set up 'Iron Dragons', I checked out what was on the forums and sales groups.

Well, bugger me sideways, if there wasn't a very nice Games Workshop army made up of Bloodletters of Khorne and their ilk, priced very attractively (having been reduced) at £150 - well below RRP for bare models.

Not being one to hesitate when pounds can be saved, I closed a deal at £170 to include shipping and the Paypal fees for the seller (I am not an unfair man), and so I have a third army this week, on it's way to me...

We had a round table session today and have decided that we are all going to play Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant which are fast play, large scale skirmish rules for fantasy and medieval battles. We will be tackling massive fantasy battles in 6mm using the wonderful Micro World Miniatures.

So for a total of £500 all in, I have got 3 very tidy 28mm forces this week.

And if that wasn't enough, I picked up a bargain last night on a charity book stall in a supermarket...

It set me back a whole 50p

Well, I'll sign off for now...


Friday, 3 June 2016

Time I Got Back Into Historical Gaming

Well, it's been over two years since I parted company with Sheffield Wargames Society, being named by one of the Old Guard as 'The Most Destructive Thing To Happen To SWS In 40 Years'.

Quite some feat, but I think I have been surpassed this year...

Anyway, I've been pretty much avoiding historical gaming for the most part. Model railroads and fantasy gaming have been foremost in my mind and heart, but now I think I fancy some historical gaming again after one of my fortnightly gaming colleagues simply said 'Bolt Action' last weekend.

I and another of those seated around the table (we were playing Ravenloft by WOTC at the time) raised our eyebrows, we mooted, we rolled dice, we mooted some more. And then by the end of the evening we had all pretty much decided that we'd give it a go.

Bolt Action revolves around reinforced platoons and kampfgruppe type of formations across all theatres of WW2. The scale of choice is 28mm and the games are fairly dynamic. The focus is very much on the infantry and thus armoured vehicles and artillery are kept to a minimum and games are generally scenario driven.

Now, this decision was well timed, because frankly, being a painter Monday to Friday leaves me with little enthusiasm for painting anything for personal use. In fact I sometimes wonder if, after the whole SWS bollocks, I am still a gamer. Certainly, if I am I am not the same type of 'play anything', 'buy anything' gamer I was for 35 years previously.

I certainly would rather work on a railroad layout, see a band or simply listen to the radio with a glass of decent red wine. I have been to one show this year, which will increase to two in August when we make the annual social visit to Britcon in Manchester. We all love the show and the venue is pleasing, the catering good. And what's more there is a bring and buy - and it's not run by traders!

A friend of mine from the wrong side of the Pennines swears by Bolt Action and plays in various competitions with some success. He's a veteran gamer, and so I take his opinions rather seriously (I do however, draw the line at his repair of a lost filling with Miliput at a show in the 80s).

This week I have cleared out 75% of my fantasy art collection, sold all but a handful of my fantasy figures, and decided that unless it's already painted or 6mm, then I will be damned if I pick up a brush to paint anything from scratch for myself.

With that in mind, I turned to eBay to find a nice little starter force of 1000 pts or so. I had elected to play Germans in African games and likewise in early European themed games, my mate actually already having a Russian mass to select his Red Menace from. Late war in Europe, I am as yet undecided, but will not go with German.

Anyway, I found a rather nice core Afrika Korps force on eBay which I picked up for £108.00 which with a tank, a recce element and some soft skins, will be just the ticket.

As you can see, it's tidy and carries the 'mood' of Rommel's chaps really nicely:

The day after, the first of my fantasy stuff sold, and thus the costs of the army were covered.

Then, last night I was on a well known social media site, when I saw a rather nice early war German army being offered. It was well in excess of 2000 pts and so, I enquired with the seller, who, was mainly looking for trades, if he had a cash price in mind.

He did, and so I parted with £220 including postage, rulebook, two source books and the order dice required, and got this:

As you can see, it's a veritable bargain, and although I had promised I was not buying anything for two months to allow me to recoup the king's ransom, paid for my latest model railroad layout, at that price it was a no-brainer.

Then, this afternoon, a collector over the pond purchased my fantasy art, lock, stock and barrel, so I  was able to cover the cost of the army and pretty much pay for the layout, which was nice.

I want to make a couple of cosmetic 'tweaks' to both forces, but they are nice and do the job wonderfully. Now, I'll take a breather from buying until Britcon where I'll look for a late European theatre force of some type, and maybe a few cheeky Fallschirmjager if I can find anybody selling them ready painted.

The hunt for a new house continues, with a couple of rural properties crying out to us. We are looking for something about 50% larger than our current three floor three bedroomed number, and so although there are a few coming up in the crosshairs, none are quirky enough for our tastes, or commanding the views we would ideally like to have. This has led to many a late night of late, which, as I am recovering from the damaged disc last weekend, has taken it's toll.

After a viewing last night we made it home, ate a meal and lo' it was 23:58... And to cap that off, one of the pack of terriers we keep at the Dark Tower, decided to waken master at 5AM to go widdles. Thus it was that I found myself at my desk by 6.05!

Last weekend, I spent a day or so completing a commission of sorts for a one of a dear couple whom we have known for 20 years or so, but who we see infrequently, living as we do, at opposite ends of this scepter'd isle. I was feeling bloody rough, but I had made a promise and I am a man of my word, with people I am very close to. So, loaded to the gils on amitriptylene, propranolol and numerous pain killers I painted the Micro Art Studios models of Greebo in cat and human form (Greebo is as you may know, the cat of Nanny Ogg, in several of Terry Pratchett's books).

I used the wonderful illustrations of Paul Kidby as reference, and I think I captured him rather well:

Despite not being 100% health-wise, I got a real rush; doubly so when Charlotte presented Kev with it today, his birthday.

I am not by nature a 'good' person, it is said, so the warmth I felt was both sincere and satisfying.

As a point of note, the Jack O' Lantern was my own addition. It sets the scene for the figure, which is based on the adventures of the three witches in Genua, a place of swamps, voodoo and vile politics. Moreover, it is doubly symbolic as Kev and Charlotte were married on Hallowe'en a few years ago, and although they made it a low key and private affair, they sent Kayte and I a lovely card with a heartfelt message inside. The card bore an illustration of a pumpkin... 

And with that I shall leave you to whatever plans you have for this weekend, noting in passing that the mysterious 'spike' of visitors on Wednesday evenings, continues. I don't know why exactly, but I do have an idea.