Monday, 26 September 2016

Damn You, Games Workshop!

Alright, I know I was the first paying member of the public in Games Workshop, Sheffield, back when all was sun, fun and Thatcher, but over the years I drifted away, because - and let's be candid here - they became like the embarrassing uncle at the family party. They, knew the music, but the dance was all wrong...

No, let's be honest again, they started producing some shite.

I was never really comfortable with Warhammer 40,000 (it wasn't '40K' back then) and the later, even darker background felt like a tight collar at a Summer funeral. I id however love the Imperial Army, Harlequins and the Genestealer Cults.

The Genestealer Cults had a certain fascination, in that here were parasitic aliens, interbreeding with humans, and the human and hybrid offspring showing the same love and affection to these bug eyed monsters as they might a kindly human grandfather. Ok, I guess you'd have to think twice about the Werthers candies in the case of the bug eyed monster, but I reckon that you get my drift.

They were splendidly creepy.

And then, like the Squats, the futuristic take on the Dwarf (and pretty reasonable when you think about high gravity worlds) they vanished.

Until now...

This Saturday sees the proper return of the Genestealer Cults, with a more rounded background, but still it seems, all of the things that were good in the original, as well as some new troop types and what appear to be converted heavy plant and mining vehicles.

And so, drawn like a salmon to an angler's fly, this sad old man, took the bait and got hooked to the tune of £190, which I hope will take care of the majority of the army to be honest. I'm not in love with GW, it's more akin to metaphorically sleeping with an 'ex' for old time's sake. Yes GW, you have hurt me bad over the years, but you shook that booty and a spark took hold.

Only time will reveal if we can be friends again.

Anyway, I made my purchase with Element Games who offer great service and a sound discount on most products, and whilst I was there I also ordered a set of cave scenery (Caverns Of The Underdark) which is produced pre-painted by Gale Force 9 for the D&D game. But, I intend to use it to vary my Dwarven Forge terrain as it is studded with purple crystals and dank purple pools, which will do nicely for a mine.

Hey, and aren't the Genestealer Cultists miners too?

What a fortuitous purchase...


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Clerics For Warhammer 1st Edition

Clerics in WHFB 1st Ed

Clerics are essentially the militant priests of whatever benign or malignant god they serve.

Clerics Must always select WS as their primary skill and always have a BS 

Clerics may wear any armour, use shields but may not used weapons with a bladed edge or stabbing point in combat.

As Clerics draw their power direct from their deity, they do not expend energy to cast spells. They do however, need to test for fumbled spells. Failure has no other effect than the spell failing, primarily because their patron god is not watching them at the time, or is chasing a comely nymph whilst sipping draught ambrosia.

Clerics may use a mix of standard and necromantic spells.

The spells available to Clerics are as follows:

Level 1

Cure Light Injury
Bless Sword
Magic Light
Hold Undead

Level 2

Aura Of Steadfastness
Cure Severe Wound
Banish Undead (Necromantic)

Level 3

Banish Undead (Magic User)
Walk On Water

Level 4

Restore Life

In addition, Clerics may petition their god to perform a miracle. To do this roll 2d6 on any double apart from double 1 their request is granted, but loses all spell abilities for the rest of the day. On a roll of double 1, the Cleric loses one spell of their choice permanently.

Only one request may be made per day (game session if fighting a tabletop game). A miracle may be something such as:

‘Oh mighty Zoink, deliver me and my companions to a place of safety’

'Oh Greblord The Sarcastic, raise this corpse to life again’

'Oh mighty Arkwright…’ Well, you get the idea - something that’s miraculous.

Thieves In Warhammer 1st Edition

I've been looking at the use of first edition Warhammer Fantasy BAttle for dungeon skirmishing. The rules are basically sound, but you only have the choice of Fighters or MAgic Users.

With this in mind I've begun to work on additional classes to give variety and a more traditional feel to games.

First up, I offer you the Thief class.

You will see that I've split the skills into two groups. This is because a player has to choose whether they are primarily melee or ranged combat specialists, with one being higher. This also allows two distinct styles of thief class to be catered for.

Thieves for WHFB 1st ed

Thieves use WS to ‘roll to hit’ for successful use of the following thief skills:
Fade into background
Climb sheer surface

BS is used for the following skills:
Pick locks
Disarm or arm trap
Secure grapnel
Locate trap

Fade into background: The thief blends in with the surroundings and may make a single move without being seen or heard.

Back stab: The thief must be to the side or rear of the target, roll to hit  ONCE as normal and then roll again for the back stab attempt, If the backs stab is successful then damage is equal to the WS of the thief, with no saving throw.

Dodge: This skill is used to dodge an attack. If a successful attack is made, the thief may elect to attempt to dodge away at the last moment. If cornered, this may be a better option than relying on armour.

Climb sheer surface: A thief may climb a vertical or horizontal distance along a sheer surface at half normal movement rate. The test is required each turn or the thief will fall taking falling damage as per the main rules. A roll of 6 will negate the need to take a test on the following turn.

Pick locks: A thief may attempt to pick a lock. If they fail, they may try again in following turns but their BS is reduced by 1, on each consecutive attempt. No movement may be undertaken in the turn this ability is used.

Disarm or arm trap: This allows the thief to disarm a trap that they are aware of, or re-arm a trap already disarmed after the party has passed it safely. Nome movement may be undertaken in the turn this skill is used.

Locate trap: The thief will be able to locate any traps within 6 inches. No movement may be undertaken in the turn this skill is used.

Secure grapnel: This allows a thief to firmly set a rope and grapnel in place to allow other party members to climb a vertical surface, making a test as if they were a thief climbing a sheer surface. A thief using a grapnel may climb making a single test failing only on a 1 for the duration of the climb.

A thief may attempt any of the above once per turn but may not perform a normal melee or ranged attack (back stab is the exception as a normal attack is made, then a test to see if the back stab attempt is successful) . Test against weapon skill. Thief skills may be used at any point in a turn unless otherwise noted.

Thieves may only use light armour, and no shields.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Anybody Looking For 28mm Marlburian?

If anyone is interested I have a large, 28mm Spanish WSS army, using Ebor Miniatures...

£320.00 which is a heck of a saving...

Would consider trades for 'Grenadier Gold Line' AD&D miniature sets from the 80s.

12 x Infantry regiments (18 figs)

2 x Guard infantry regiments (18 each)

3 x Dragoon Regiments (12 horses and 12 riders each)

5 x Horse regiments (as above)

1 x Garde Du Corps regiment (as above)

2 x Guns each with 4 crew

12 12 Send me a message if interested
(1) Spanish Garde Du Corps Cavalry  £23.00 each

Surrounded By Good Things, But The Lurgy Has Me In It's Foul Grip

As I type, I am in the 49th hour of a severe dose of the lurgy which has laid me low with all the symptoms of flu' and, left me feeling like the inside of a Kobold's loincloth at the end of a 12 day forced march whilst under pursuit by the local Ranger's.

I feel like shit...

Two days in a row, I've promised myself I'd take the rest of the week off, and recuperate, but as I have only lost 3 working days to illness since 2011, it's not something I can do easily. Thus, I've slogged on when really I should have stayed tucked up in bed .

And to cap it all off, I just had the great idea of using my coffee machine to get some hot water fast, for my Beecham's Powder, only I forgot to take the previous coffee pod out first, and I am now drinking a remedy which tastes and looks like a urine sample from a Kenco coffee taster who spent last night lashed up on  bottles of 'Hooch'.

Actually, it's not too bad, so if anyone reading this is a coffee taster with a penchant for alcoholic lemonade - get in touch!

Anyway, following my little splurge on 29 sets of Dwarven Forge over the last ten days, I have turned my thoughts to rules and miniatures, with a definite intention to keep it old school where possible.

To this end, I have taken delivery of a pile of Rolemaster books, Warhammer 1st edition and today, a pile of AD&D 1st ed rulebooks with the intention of spending my weekend in a series of hot baths, quaffing Lemsip and hot Vimto, with a box of tissues (for the nose!) and a selection of old rule sets. Come to think of it the tissues are a really good idea, when you think about it.

So, if you will excuse me, I feel the need to sweat and swoon a little more...


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Cocaine Is A Cheaper Habit - Really

Well, after my splurge on 21 sets of Dwarven Forge scenery last week, my kid brother and I messed about with 3 sets yesterday, and we were really impressed with the look of it...

 The layout below was  about 3 square feet in area:

Anyway, I am really impressed with it and you really can't tell between the older resin stuff and new 'Dwarvenite' stuff.

We also played with the LED lit parts too, and they brought forth 'OOOOOHHHs' and 'SQUEEEEEs' aplenty.

Anyway, this lunchtime, another 4 sets arrived and I'm planning on another 4 this week. Then I think another 6-9 will finish things nicely.

I can confirm for the record that in comparison, cocaine is cheaper and less addictive by an order of magnitude.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

At The Edge...

I am an unashamed lover of all things 80s as is probably, exceedingly, obvious by now.

After my recent epistle on the wonders of the toy and game stores we had in Sheffield, I was reflecting on what else I was being opened up to at the time I really got a handle on the whole gaming thing.

I think it was late ’79 to early ’81 where I started to musically awaken as well as exponentially broaden my mind with the possibilities of fantasy and science fiction beyond the Saturday morning TV cavalcade and the seeming mountain of sci-fi and action comics that I partook of every week.

I think it really all began with Adam & The Ants… OK, they looked pretty camp on reflection and with 35+ years of hindsight, but look, they were different and they had a sound which was different to most. There is a case, of course for drawing comparisons with  Bow Wow Wow, but given that both bands were Malcolm McLaren proteges, that’s hardly surprising.

One thing which has stood out during my musings is that I was from this point, no matter how much my parents tried to make me conform and control me, no matter how often the so called ‘popular kids’ made my life a misery (and they did. Not your modern idea of bullying, on no, some proper fucking kickings and what can only be described as physical torture) I had music and imaginary worlds to retreat into. Retreat, I did.

I was joined in my musical adventures by Stanny who also shared an interest in gaming once I’d made the decision to share my newly found secrets. His elder brother was a serious heavy rock fan and so we got our hands and ears on some top notch metal. He was also a talented professional artist and it was he who tok some of our first plastic Heritage fantasy miniatures and painted them. They were not a patch on the stuff that we later drooled over when Games Workshop opened, and the skills of Peter Armstrong and Andy Ritson were showcased. Pete was good, but I’m sorry, Andy Ritson took everyone to the cleaners when it came to brushmanship.

Anyway, as we found our feet at secondary school and met new friends from other schools, we fell in with Andy B and Stav. Andy B was the first new contact, and he shared our love of a rather peculiar mix of Peacock Punk (Toyah, BWW, The Ants etc), Rock (Maiden, Deep Purple,Saxon, and a whiff of Sabbath) and Post Punk (P.I.L, Stiff Little Fingers and Exploited). Andy B’s cousin was a few years older and he was a recovering punk, and was part of a group of similar aged hardcore punks who tore up the Thursday lunchtime discos at school.  Our teachers we found could be seriously liberal when not in the class room and with their left wing, anarcho-hippy tendencies we could be sure that amongst the usual sugary pop crap, there would be some cutting edge stuff.

Week after week, we 2nd form types watched from the sidelines as the older punks danced what can only be described as a kind of Redskin war dance backwards. It was called oddly enough and without irony the ‘backward run’ It was a kind of backwards running pogo, with serious spazzing out, but it was awesome to se these guys, dominating the dancefloor for 2 and a half minutes at a time, hurtling around and seeming to be on a collision course only to duck and weave away as if magnetic opposites at the very last second.

Then, one Thursday, Stanny, Andy and I kind of looked at each other, silently agreed upon a course of action and threw ourselves into the storm. Andy nodded to his cousin Sid, who nodded to his mates and we were allowed into the sacred Pow-Wow circle. Then we saw another kid also join in. I vaguely recognised him as being in my year and as one of the ‘In Crowd’ but here he was with the rest of us, as the hall watched on… This was Stav, more of whom, later.

The dance seemed to last for hours, but as ‘At The Edge’ by Stiff Little Fingers is a shake over two and a half minutes, it’s pretty obvious that exhilaration and fear were working their potent alchemy to make time stretch out forever.

Anyway, it ended and although we joined the older lads a couple more times in the coming weeks, it was never quite the same.

We did however start to dance to more stuff, and the popular kids did for a while give us a wide berth as they tried to work out if wisdom dictated a continuation of hostilities. Eventually it was business as usual.

But, Stav sidled up to Stanny and I one day and got talking. I can’t recall how he could have found out, but he said he'd heard we played D&D and did we want to go over to his parent’s house for lunch? We were suspicious of course, because it could be a trap, but Stav was a true closet gamer, it turned out. He was pretty safe from the hard kids as his older brother had ‘form’ and so that made Stav 'off limits' to all out bullying, and besides he could look after himself in a tight spot.

He had some games that we’d not heard of but had not played D&D. Thus it was, that we raced the 250 yards every day to his parents house and either gamed or talked about games whilst eating soup which I swear was like lava, but which could not have been in the pan for more than a minute. Stav was a through and through gamer like Stanny and I, but he made us swear that we would never tell anyone, nor indeed would we discuss our mutual interest at school, but every weekend, every holiday for about three years we got some gaming in, slowly drifting apart as I became more and more involved in the numerous clubs in Sheffield and widened my circle of acquaintances.

It was not just the gaming that Stav was into. He was a massive fan of The Clash, and it was during one of our daily lunchtime sessions that Stav first opened my ears to them when he played ‘London Calling’ and ‘London’s Burning’. At the time I was pretty impressed but I was starting to listen to other stuff such as Haysi Fantayzee (the only kid in the school who did) XTC and Tenpole Tudor, with a smattering of Lene Lovitch. Lord, I was weird… I still am. In later years though I really understood what The Clash were about and whilst I am not a hardcore fan, I confess to having the odd binge on their back catalogue. 

I could go on, but I am tiring tonight, but, it’s amazing how you remember stuff just by looking at a rule book or catalogue. Oh that reminds me ‘EXIT Books’ in Sheffield, a rather run down ‘underground’ book shop. But that will save for another day, I am sure…



As the following picture shows, the Dark Tower is currently buried under 33.3KG of Dwarven Forge dungeon scenery...

And plans are in hand for another 20KG shortly.

Will the madness never end?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sheffield - Designed By The Bastard Offspring of Le Corbusier and Armitage Shanks. An 80s Gamer's Paradise

Sheffield in 1981 may have looked like the demented sketches of the bastard offspring of Le Corbusier and Armitage Shanks, but it  had a number of outstanding toy and model shops. Sadly, all except one no longer trading and the remaining one is, I am sad to report a shadow of it’s former self. 

Even local the suburban shopping area of Firth Park half a mile from where I lived, boasted no less than two toy shops, both stacked to the rafters with plastic distraction. I haunted these like a lost soul, my long suffering Dad and ever patient Nan and Grandma (when she was back here from her bohemian 'Good Life' existence in Penwortham on the wrong side of the Pennines) indulging my whim. I loved both my grandmother's. They were both kind, but where my Nan had a sharply defined manner, defined by her strong Methodist background, my Grandma Hides, had a more indulgent and attentive way, made her own wine and was a hedgerow forager of no mean skill. In short she was almost witch-like - in a good way of course - all very alluring to a daydreamy boy. Sadly some never explained family feud meant that I was not to see her for several years until I got  my dander up in the late 80s and got the family talking again. She passed away not too long after and by then I was so obsessed with the trappings of youth, that I squandered time that I could have spent with her, as I did with my maternal grandfather a few years later.

 I digress...

The city centre was where the real action was to be had, with:




and Hopkinsons situated on The Gallery (more of which later, but here's a taster of what it looked like on a really good day)

In 1981, during the summer holidays, I was making my weekly pilgrimage to Hopkinson’s, a traditional floor to ceiling type of toy and model shop in the city centre. At this time, I was still not allowed into town on my own, or rather not without adult supervision, and so my visits were dependant on the good will of my family and of course my own good behaviour. I was still well behaved and what my Nan would have called a 'good boy', so visits into town were pretty much assured.

Hopkinsons was an Aladdin’s Cave for the true toy connoisseur and Old Mr Hopkinson seemed to live for his store. I never failed to find something that drew my eye or sparked my imagination. I shudder to think the amounts that my family spent on me in there over the years. But, again I digress…

On this day I was starting to despair, having failed to find that essential next ‘must have’, when my innate ‘kid sense’ indicated that some subtle change had manifested in the very substance of this temple to the toymaker’s art. My attention was drawn to a wire display rack in a somewhat stygian alcove to the left of the counter. On it were a number of scruffy card-headed bags bearing the names Ral Partha and Citadel Miniatures in a variety of shades.

Okay… what’s a ‘Ral Partha?’ I mused and, like a shot from a bow - It would not become an elven bow for a few months yet - I crossed the intervening 6 feet to investigate. This was all arcane and forbidden stuff to a molly-coddled, Mummy's boy and had about it the whiff of the decadent and edgy.

Each bag contained one or more tiny figurines made from lead. I was the proud owner of a large number of old lead soldiers and so this was no real surprise to my young eyes. What was a surprise however, was the subject matter. Along with medieval knights, were wizards, dwarves, elves as well as smattering of space-suited figures armed with laser rifles. The majority of them were priced at 30p and unless I was able to secure additional funding via a prayer to the gods of spending money along the lines of ‘Oh go on, pleeeaaaassse…’ that was going to eat into the £3.00 that I received in tribute each week from various parties charged with bank-rolling my childhood.

‘No,’ I thought, ‘I will not indulge myself today.’ After all, 30p was 30p and I was not about to squander it before I knew what a Ral Partha was in greater detail. Besides, I was getting the same response in the crotch area as I did when I looked at some of the older girls at school in their short skirts, with the accompanying musk of bubblegum and cheap perfume.

In fact, Ral Partha was, like Citadel Miniatures, a company producing beautifully detailed miniatures for use with fantasy games. Even 30 years down the line they are amongst some of the best examples of the sculptor’s art you’ll ever see.

 With that firm ‘No’ still ringing out it's peel inside my head, I went off with my Nan and Mum to have a chip butty and glass of cola in the nearby Sheaf Market, in an establishment renowned for it’s skilful presentation of deep fried potato sandwiches. Quickly disposing of lunch via my mouth, I told my Mum I was going to go back to Hopkinson’s while she and my Nan chatted and finished their cups of coffee. I was going to take another look at those tiny figurines that were already beginning to telepathically call out to me.

It was this day that I first really became aware of the youth subculture of Sheffield. Okay, we had diluted, primitive schoolboy versions of Skins, Punks and the irritatingly clean cut 'Trendies' emerging like clip-winged butterflies behind the science block smoking 'Bensons' at break, but it was on The Gallery, a roughly rectangular walkway which linked the markets, several small businesses like Hopkinsons and the upper floors of Woolco and British Home Stores, in a manner redolent of the buildings in Mega City One, the dysfunctional post apocalyptic city in which Judge Dredd patrolled on his Harley Davidson Lawmaster, dispensing parking tickets and death sentences in equal measure. Well, that's how it seemed to me, a kid who didn't need LSD to trip. 

It was on the gallery where the 'senior service' of the sub cultures lurked, each claiming their few yards of turf, using violence with what appeared to be gay abandon. The Skins lurked around the side behind BHS, and were frankly a bunch of 'Grade A' bastards, if popular folklore was to be believed, the antics of one 'Adolf' being youth legend. The Punks gathered thinly between Hopkinsons and Timpsons shoes, but more thickly by the upper front entrance to the Castle Market. This meant a head-down shuffle, for me, trying to look as small as possible because I had to pass a mob of two of them as I made my way up the staircase from the Sheaf Market , the shortest route to toy Shangri-la.

Let me tell you, with a basin haircut, beige flared jeans and a blur jumper with jaunty alpine motif, I must have had the skills of a ninja, because I made it to Hopkinsons without being cut from gizzard to midden, by a cutthroat razor.

Sphincter winking out a nerve induced morse code to my adrenal glands, I calmed myself somewhat by standing open-mouthed with the returning of that odd stiffening of the groin, which for years would cause confusion if I looked at a mate's porn collection whilst also discussing the day's figure purchases.

What was apparent even this early on, was that I was obviously a youth of taste and distinction. Ten minutes later I had spent the considerable sum of 75p after much soul searching and hand wringing. In possession of a paper bag containing two dour dwarves carrying a dead comrade on a litter made up of two shields and a pair of spears, I returned to my Mum and Nan, a little tingle running up and down my spine.

That day something had changed in the world. It was almost imperceptible but at the very moment that I took possession of the paper bag containing those models, I felt that I had crossed some line into a secret world, filled with dystopian danger, bohemian excess and the allure of sexual pleasure. Certainly, none of my mates at that time knew - or probably cared - about this new phenomenon, and I felt that I was indeed marked out for greatness, the leader of some new and exciting pastime, if I could only discover what that pastime was. I had high hopes as I'd cracked the code which was Ral Partha, after all, so it was a just a matter of time wasn't it?

 Very shortly, I would find out and then nothing would ever be the same.

All around me Police and disaffected youth were fighting in the streets, the I.R.A was continuing it's campaign of terror on the British mainland, Thatcher was doing to the working men of England, what they would only do to their own wives or favourite girlfriend, and in the midst of this, besotted with a newly found taste for the truly strange, I didn't give a bugger!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Like A Crack Whore, I am Addicted, And It's All the Fault of E.T...

Any gamer of a particular vintage and for whom, fantasy gaming has an enduring appeal, should be able to pinpoint the most famous appearance of D&D in popular culture - namely the opening scenes of the 1982 film 'E.T' and even more memorably in the novel of the same name by William Kotzwinkle.

In these portrayals, the kids appear to have a really sexy looking 3D representation of the the dungeon, which was way, way beyond anything on the market at the time.

In fact, when a new kid started at our school, some months after, and, seeking to impress us hardened 14 year old gaming veterans with his own 'cred', announced that he had just such a dungeon model, we made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was 'talking bollocks'.

We may have been the bullied and put upon minority in the wider world of comprehensive education, but, by golly we were the High, the Lords Of Taste, and in this case Board Of Execution in all matters relating to gaming. In fact we would only bow to those mythical (or so we thought in those heady days) figures a few years older than us, who worked in the newly opened Games Workshop (and it really was, back then).

Anyway, we saw this mountebank interloper off, and he was later seen with the lower orders, indulging in field sports and speaking to members of the opposite sex. Obviously, our instincts were spot on!

Anyway, over the years a few proprietary dungeons scenery systems came along, as well as some home made offerings, such as the rather nice cave system, built by the Sheffield Runelords and used as a participation game at the Sheffield Triples, but none really 'hit the sweet spot'.

Then, in 1996, along came geek genius Stefan Pokorny with 'Dwarven Forge', setting the standard to this day for 3D dungeonscapes. Cast in a polystone resin and superbly painted, these were the discerning gamer's choice. They were also bloody expensive and heavy. I remember in 1999, buying £300 worth of DF scenery and being a little chagrined at just how little I actually a got.

This was a rich man's product, a dalliance for the dilettante chequebook gamer. And so, I disposed of the pitiful selection and went back to tabletop historical gaming.

Then, a couple of years back, DF announced that they would be producing dungeons in a poly based material called 'Dwarvenite' which is a wonderfully robust, light and cheaper alternative. It remains however a product for the committed gamer, with a whiff of elitist panache which narcissists like myself (IE: the majority of gamers) can savour like a decent wine, or truffle butter.

This year, I have decided that life is indeed not a dress rehearsal, and reasoned that as I am almost a half century old, and somewhat comfortable if not wealthy, I am only going to indulge in the finer things which please my eye, stimulate my mind and moreover appeal to me if not others.

I have decided that where practicable, I will engage other painters to paint my own collection. After all, I paint for a living, and want to do other things in my spare time. I will only buy the best models, obscurest artwork, etc... In short I am pleasing myself, whilst I may. with the provision that it is done on a 'cash down' basis. If the money is available I will indulge myself and if not then I will wait patiently until it is. Not for me the credit card, as placebo pacifier of wanton retail lust.

Anyway, last week, after deciding that I would not be attending any further shows this year and after ordering 800 or so figures from Ebor Miniatures, I rashly (and without reason) happened upon the Dwarven Forge, european distributor's website.

Uh oh...

Cash in pocket + thing of beauty + cache of said product = palpitations and desire of an almost sexual nature!

So, I put together a small order...

And added a bit...

And a bit more...

And then like the gaming 'Crack Whore' aesthete I am, ended up with an order just over £1500 in value, and the idea of a display game, brewing.

The order went in at 12:30AM Monday and is due today, a mere 24 hours later, and it comprises:

2 x Chamber Of Sorrows Limited Edition set

5 x Starter sets

Game Tiles Set x 1 (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Diagonal Wall pack

Diagonal Wall Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Floor Pack

Dungeon Floor Pack A (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Narrow Passage set

Narrow Dungeon Passage Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Dungeon Dressings Pack

Dungeon Dressing Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Grand Stair Pack

Grand Stair Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Cavern Pack

Basic Cavern Set - Standard Walls and Floors (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Lava Cavern Pack
Lava River Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Cavern Expansion Pack

Wicked Cavern Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Water Cavern Pack

Water Cavern Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Chasm Pack

Chasm Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Cavern Floor Pack

Cavern Floor Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Narrow Cavern Passages Pack

Narrow Cavern Passage Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Mushroom Pack

Mushroom Pack (Expertly Hand Painted)

1 x Ice Cavern Pack

Ice Cavern Pack - Special Drybrush Edition

1 x Den Of Evil Room Set
Den of Evil - Room Set

1 x Den Of Evil Expansion Set

Den of Evil Expansion Set

1 x Catacombs Set (with sexy LED features)

Catacombs Set - 47 pieces - Limit 1 Per Customer

1 x Catacombs Expansion Set (more of those fucking sexy LED bits)

Catacombs Set 2 - 31 pieces

1 x Ice Snake (well he's pretty)

And, just like any addict, I am already looking for the next 'hit'...

I think I'll add more passages and caverns in the New Year as well as more of the lakes and Grand Stair packs, but for now, I think I have enough to be going on with, especially as I am also waiting on the delivery of 40 buildings in kit form for my latest model railroad.

Well, I guess I should bid you a fond adieu, and go and earn more pennies to feed my hopeless addiction...


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Some Factual Reading On The Subject Of Fantasy

I devour audio books (and print books when I am not working) at a ludicrous rate.

This week alone I have listened to 3 unabridged titles including 'The Hoffa Wars' which covers the rise and demise of the leader of the Teamster's Union, 'The North' by Paul Morley and most fulfilling of the lot 'Empire Of Imagination' by Michael Witwer.

Witwer has produced a warts and all biography of the life and times of E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and arguably the most famous gaming personality to date.

Starting with the early years wherein Gary was living inn Chicago, the tale progresses through his teenage years (explaining why he had a chauffeur in later years) and his obsession with games, to his marriage at 19 and thence to the creation of TSR and beyond with all the visceral back stabbing, 'Satanic Panic' and corporate and Machiavellianism which, marked the mid to late 80s  gaming industry and led to the inevitable death of what could reasonably be termed the most influential company in the history of roleplaying, and several other 'Old Guard' companies. 

I was unsure whether a book of this type could be more than a 'fanboy' homage, but I have to say, it really delivered the goods for me. After the chapter covering the terminal days of E.G.G, there's something of an industry round up, demonstrating just how influential and singular He and his company were. 

You will probably have to conclude that without the Lake GenevaTouch, we would probably not have the hobby which we enjoy today.

This is a 'must buy' for anyone who, like me, is interested in the history and politics of gaming.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Fresh From The Art Department...

As she had nothing better to to, 'The Art Department' has finished the first of the packaging mock-ups for the S.NA.F.U line of static grass.

Next is the weighing and making up of the first 1000+ bags.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Let Me Introduce You...

Somewhere towards the end of 1983 I was gaming two nights per week at the Rune Lords and SWS clubs. In addition, I was also hanging out with a group of lads who had all gravitated towards SWS from different directions but who were all of the same age and tastes.

Keith was a cheeky-looking youth of good temper, great wit and eclectic musical taste. One day he’d be listening to Jean Michel Jarre, the next Motorhead. A week later and he would be discussing in expansive terms the poetry of Maxwell Langdown when put to music by Midge Ure. He would play any type of game just so long as it was fun. To this day he still owes me a tenner, but that’s another story.

Greg was well spoken, bookish and on track for university, a good job and all that goes with it. He was a fantasy and science fiction fan. He had dark hair, parted to one side. Had he but grown a toothbrush moustache, he could have found fame in a production of ‘The Growing Pains of Adolf Hitler Age 15’. He had a fondness for all things scientific and would be the one who pointed out that the model of a futuristic star ship that you had would not be able to make it planet-side as it had no aerodynamics. Spoil sport.

Bamford was tall with long dirty-blonde hair and ‘rock cred’ by the bucket and a generally easy going ‘fuck you’ attitude. Like me he had an ECW army and had similar tastes in games and music although he tended to go a little heavier with his choice of rock. He hit it off with Greg and Keith right away. In fact he and Keith were the ‘diabolic duo’ of many a good night out, for several years, until Keith straightened himself out and settled down in the U.S.

Steve was a school friend of Bamford. He was similar to Glen in appearance with a tendency towards looking not unlike a youthful Lol Creme. But, Steve was a little too tightly wound, with a hair-trigger surliness that could rub you up the wrong way. in seconds if he was that way out 

He could be great company and although apparently outward going he lacked the relaxed attitude of his friend. He too owned an ECW army and so we already had enough figures for some really good games.

In 1982, Games Workshop thoughtfully launched its own set of rules for fighting fantasy inspired wargames, allowing those of us with large numbers of fantasy miniatures to fight ‘proper’ war games. We all had varying numbers of models, certainly enough if we pooled our resources and included suitable models from our historical collections, to have a game on a table measuring 8 x 4 feet. But we didn't get that far.

Contrary to the latter day success  of GW's hallmark product, the first edition didn’t do as well as expected and in 1983 it was sold off at £2.99 per copy in GW branches. I remember seeing it piled high in the centre of the sales area and thinking ‘ Time to hit the piggybank.’ I bought a copy to replace the one I'd palmed off to a gullible fellow gamer when we'd decided it was shit.

The thing was, we were all used to really strict historical rules, so the more freeform style of gaming presented in these rules and the rather 'rules light' approach kind of threw us. Once I'd read it for a second time though (and having only paid a fraction of the original price tag) we tried it again, and were hooked.

Today, that game is known the world over and is one of the key products in the Games Workshop inventory. Back then it was a set of three black books, somewhat amateurishly (yet still strangely alluring) sold in a box featuring a stunning piece of cover art by John Blanche who was in my opinion at the peak of his powers in the mid to late 1980s. 

His intricate and sometimes disturbing-erotic work inspired me to collect fantasy art books and Ratspike, a collection of artwork by John Blanche and Ian Miller is a seminal title for the fantasy art fan.

I still play the first version and I sometimes wonder whether the group I played with back then still have their copies. For me, it offers a form of time travel back to more innocent days when the people writing the games were same people playing them, before corporate interests dominated the scene.

As you may recall, I mentioned that SWS had effectively banned fantasy games. They will say otherwise, but believe me, there are plenty who to this day remember those days, with crystal clarity.

Now with the release of games like Warhammer and an influx of fresh- faced youth to the club, things were changing. We pointed out that we were playing war games and as it was a war games club we were living up to the tenets of the name.

Grudgingly - and I suspect with a sigh of relief at not having to babysit a bunch of over zealous teenagers - the movers and shakers of SWS agreed to our requests just so long as we played ‘proper’ games using armies and all the trimmings, but not role-playing games, for they were the work of Satan.This was later refined and softened so that we could play anything, but it had to involve miniature figures.

Indeed in the mid 1980s the national and even local press ran stories of how games like Dungeons and Dragons were drawing the country’s innocent youth into the worship of Satan and other diabolic practices. Films such as Mazes & Monsters starring Tom Hanks and based loosely on a book by Rona Jaffe - It’s a good book if you can find it - fuelled the mini hysteria. All over the country, parents must have taken entire collections of games and lovingly created characters and disposed of them.

My own parents briefly considered that their son could be in danger of demonic influences. I can confirm that I was, but the demon in question was Lloyd Powys who, in my eyes could do no wrong. If I could have chosen a big brother, it would have been Lloyd. He was, a year later to give me a piece of advice that would stick with me for the next thirty years, but you’ll have to wait a whole longer to find out what it was.

This was the beginning of arguably the best years of my gaming life in terms of the people I met, the games that I played and the sense of liberty that we all enjoyed. We were at an age where with careful management of parental concerns we could travel all over the country to go to war games shows, far flung shops and all night gaming sessions. Sometimes we could even have a beer if we were in the right place at the right time. The steadying effects of older gamers, in some cases people with their own young families, eased the concerns of even the most protective parent, and curbed the worst of our youthful enthusiasm.

We were in a state of overdrive, collecting, painting and playing games. Every week we fought epic battles on ever-larger tables. It would not be uncommon for the growing number of youthful members to take over a complete section of the room.

To our band of heroes came Roger, the epitome of rock-obsessed youth, circa ’83. I had met Roger after answering an advert for some item or another in Games Workshop. He was ( and remains) a great painter, and had an amazing collection of historical figures. He’d indulge in role-playing games but was not as drawn to fantasy battles as the rest of us. He did play guitar though which gave him added cachet.

We hit it off pretty much at once and Roger became a permanent fixture at weekends and during school holidays along with Keith, as we spent hours playing games and hanging out in general.

My mother, as is her way, would fuss around us, supplying a steady stream of food. When the lads stayed over she would herd us one by one into the bathroom, refusing to feed anyone who did not reappear shining and fresh faced. Keith would often require a pint of fresh orange juice in addition to the application of hot water to even function but oddly, his lethargy never got in the way of a 3-course cooked breakfast. How my mum kept up with our calorie intake, I will never know.

Roger and I began taking trips on the bus over to Doncaster where Terry Wise, one of the hobby’s ‘Old Guard’ ran the renowned 'Athena Books' and on Saturdays opened a tiny upstairs room to sell new and used games and miniatures. It was a goldmine of obscure items and we guarded its location jealously.

Terry was another of that rare and diminishing breed of 'Gentleman Wargamer' who saw the need to engage with the Young Turks. He would allow us credit against figures that we no longer wanted or used, and on reflection he must have taken stuff that were of little or no interest to himself. But, the important thing was that Terry understood that if we were encouraged to try different things, we'd be more likely to remain in the hobby. 

In later years, Terry would send out a photocopied list of the second hand stuff he had amassed and, towards the end of his life, his own collection. He was a gentle and inspiring soul, who is to this day, missed by many.

As a brief aside, I remember Terry putting on a participation game at Triples (the local wargames show run by Sheffield Wargames Society) which involved mounting models onto beer bottle caps, to produce a hybrid Subbuteo / wargame. Sheer genius!

We all talked games, we all played games we lived for games. Girls were discussed, and as you have read I was aware that there was something vaguely interesting about them in a kind of nice, tingly, hands in pockets way, but I don’t think that we had the time to spend on such trivialities. It was bad enough that we had to spend 35 hours each week in school without remuneration. 

In our imaginary lives we led armies and defeated evil necromancers but the adults in our world seemed to think that we needed an education. We played along. After all you never know when the bottom might fall out of the dragon slaying business.

However, things were set to go slightly awry as 1983 closed. Girls would be involved and, - as with many teenage dramas - it began with school Christmas festivities... 

Excerpt taken from 'Real Life's A Bu**ger - A Tale Of Sex, Dragons & Rock 'N' Roll'

ISBN: 9781471643873