Monday, 28 August 2017

WOW! That Was Fast...

You will recall that the other day I took delivery of 660 1st generation Minifigs ECW, and was on the hunt for more?

Well this very morning as I head towards the end of my Summer break at midnight, I have secured another 736 mint condition castings and closed an amicable deal with their owner.

I am really looking forward to fielding two large forces using these models. They are true 15mm, very 'of their time' in terms of the historical research on uniforms, - remember 'Cromwell' and 'By The Sword Divided?' - and are frankly lovely. The notion of painting in a toy solder style with gloss varnish, is almost orgasm inducing.

And when I say 'mint' I mean just that. See:

However I still need dragons, generals and artillery, as well as a full list of the models which were originally produced. Can anyone help?


Oh, How Empires Fall..

Friday was a bit of a shocker in terms of industry headlines...

Spartan Games who have been something of a staple for a decade announced that they were unable to service their obligations and went to the wall.

Now, forgive me my moment of bitterness, here, but as you know I freelanced for them as a painter and did the painting for several of the early box covers, before being cast adrift because their studio management was piss poor at the time and apparently they found themselves working on several projects at once with little organisation. I was owed a considerable sum which I was only able to recoup by accepting product which was not worth the RRP, and which almost cost me my home. So, whilst I am not leaping around in glee, I am not mourning, you understand.

The statement on their website ran thus:

Spartan Games

Written by Spartan Games | 
The following statement is issued today, Friday 25th August 2017.
Following a prolonged period of challenging trading and despite the directors’ best efforts to manage through, Rebel Publishing Ltd was unable to continue to trade and the directors have taken the difficult decision to cease. All members of staff were made redundant.
The company, which traded as Spartan Games, is a Somerset, UK based provider of tabletop miniature games which include
  • Uncharted Seas, a fantasy naval combat game (now retired)
  • Firestorm Armada, an exciting space combat game featuring highly detailed starship models
  • Dystopian Legions, a game based in the world of Dystopian Wars using highly detailed 32mm scale figures and vehicles (now retired)
  • Dystopian Wars– an exciting journey in a Victorian sci-fi world encompassing naval combat, ground warfare and aerial combat.
  • Spartan Scenics – a range of detailed and easily assembled wargames terrain.
Rebel Publishing Ltd was formed in July 2002 and traded successfully for a number of years. Spartan Games was launched in 2008 and grew rapidly.  However, the tabletop games market is challenging and has changed over recent years, and suppliers are predominantly a small number of large well-known names and several small, cottage industry, type businesses.
Initially the business outsourced production but following quality control and production management issues, manufacturing was moved in house between 2009 and 2011.  Over this time and since, significant investment was made into machinery and infrastructure. The business also expanded to provide models for a well known video game, moving this into the tabletop games arena.  However, significant new development costs, timing issues and the deflection of management time from the core games brands resulted in a significant trading loss for 2015/6. The business was able to continue to trade by raising additional finance and refocusing on core brands, and direct / online trading improved significantly.   Results for 2016/17 were significantly improved.
However, despite this it continued to encounter challenging trading conditions and it became clear this month that the company could not continue to service its liabilities, particularly given the burden imposed by the amounts owing to finance companies.
The company was in the process of running a Kickstarter project to raise funds for expansion of one of its successful product lines.  This was well supported and positive feedback on the new products was given showing the popularity of the product line and ongoing demand.  However, this does not, unfortunately, provide the full range of success and resources needed to sustain the business.
In addition to challenging trading issues, one of the directors has suffered from a long period of poor health which became significantly more serious earlier this year and although now back in the business, requires ongoing treatment.  That has inevitably taken a toll on the amount of time available to the business so, along with other challenges, has significantly contributed to this difficult decision.
The directors are extremely saddened by this decision and particularly regret any losses incurred by employees, customers, suppliers or other trading partners.  The directors fully committed their time, energy and personal resources to effect a turnaround.  Employees will receive redundancy payments through state funds and although efforts have been made to fulfil customer orders, it is hoped that anyone who does not receive their goods will be able to redeem their payments through their credit card or PayPal.
If customers have made a deposit or paid for goods or services by credit or debit card and the goods or services are not going to be received by the due date, they may be able to get their money back by claiming a refund from their card issuer.  They should contact their card issuer as soon as possible.  Further information including time limits that apply is available from the UK Cards Association: Credit and debit cards: A consumer guide.  Similar schemes exist in other countries.
Throughout the years that Spartan Games has traded, it has prided itself on the highest level of product quality and customer satisfaction.  This has been delivered consistently and is evidenced though annual customer research that the company has undertaken.
We would encourage anybody who may be interested in acquiring either stock, assets or the business to make contact as soon as possible.  Spartan Games and its product lines have a strong reputation in its markets together with an asset base which may be of interest to a number of parties, and a variety of machinery in addition to Intellectual Property.
All enquiries about this matter should be sent to

And so, a seeming giant has fallen, leaving a rather large gap, ripe for exploitation. Would I take on the I.P and ranges? No... 
And then, as if that was not enough, small company with large ideas 'Tor Gaming' also announced that they were going to the wall, with the following statement:

Tor Gaming was started back in 2010 with the intention to product the tabletop wargame Relics and with it, bring some originality to your gaming table. We tried to create a world that was distinctly different to what was already being presented from several fronts, and I like to think we managed in this task.
Unfortunately, the last few years have been a difficult trading time for Tor Gaming. Running a business in a niche market is never easy but the gaming industry has become very crowded in the last few years for a number of reasons. As such, I have made the difficult decision to close Tor Gaming and sell off the Relics IP and product range.
The reasons for Tor Gaming closing are many faceted but as I mention above the gaming market is a much more crowded than it was when I started out. The arrival of crowdfunding platforms certainly shook up the industry and made it even easier for new companies to appear and vie for the limited funds our customers have to spend in this hobby of ours. I have made use of them a number of times for Relics and whilst they are good for raising funds I have found each time I ran a project I had a nasty taste in my mouth afterwards.
Coupled with the fact that the traditional ‘distribution model’ of selling product to end users through retailers is a difficult task in this industry as retailers have only so much shelf space and as such are less inclined try out every range that comes along makes continuing to trade in this industry as a producer is difficult.
Over the last couple of years we have seen a steady decline in sales and as such Tor Gaming no longer has the resources to spend on the marketing and advertising required to make our voice heard over all the other voices in this industry. This has ramifications on our ability to develop and produce new products to support the Relics line. We could continue by making use of more crowdfunding projects and moving away from the more traditional ‘distribution model’ for selling but I feel that would be the wrong decision as I am not happy putting the financial risk on to the shoulders of our customers.
It’s been a fun journey but as with all journeys, there has to be an end. For Tor Gaming, that end is here. The journey has been fun and exciting, even frustrating at times. But along the way we have met some great people in this hobby and I am proud to call many of them friends now!

If you wish to contact us about this closure, or you are interested in purchasing the Relics product package and Intellectual property, we invite you to contact us on

It does make one wonder if their is some connection or common thread, or whether it is indeed merely foul fate at work again. Personally, I don't believe in coincidences.
I would say however that the Relics line was a niche product even in the supposed niche market.
I'd probably be interested in the Relics range but I'd want to do some serious thinking about how the figures were marketed and priced.

Interesting times, indeed...


Looking Over My Shoulder Somewhat..

As the toll to the Grim Reaper mounts in the last 8 months and heads towards an astounding half dozen gamers of my acquaintance who've 'faded into the West' - including 4 from my immediate circle - I am moved to note that none of them were old and that the sheer numbers are a little troubling. We are all pretty young by modern standards, but we seem to be suffering a heavier loss than other groups I know, for instance the hundred or so folk who made up my school year group.

What is it that we did wrong to have fate use us for target practice?

Answers on a postcard please, because I am really staring to get more than a little scared for my own life.
Given as I am to mulling things over, I was in that state betwixt sleep and wakefulness as the memsahib drove us home from one of our excursions - I doze more, now that I am old - and I reflected on the friends I have lost and then went down a rabbit hole of reveries on how my hobby has changed in the 38 years I've been a part of it.

What struck me was how the hobby appears from my ivory tower to have dumbed down to the lowest common denominators; money and the modern trend for instant gratification. Now I know there are exceptions to every rule, but I am going to have a rant along the lines of that sense of dumbing down.

When I got into the hobby there seemed to be a profusion of Eloi, whereas today the Morlocks seem to be in the ascendancy, a point I find very troubling.

Let me explain...

Back in the day, we had what we termed 'Gentleman Wargamers'. These were well educated, knowledgeable chaps, who took their hobby seriously. Peter Gilder, Terry Wise, Don Featherstone, Charles Grant, Stuart Asquith, Peter Young, Tony Bath, Phil Barker, Duncan Macfarlane et al... These were the Olympians of the hobby. They researched every aspect of the troops and battles of the chosen era and we, the Young Turks, in our attempts to get a few notches in our proverbial sabres emulated them. We read, questioned and strove to make our armies and games as authentic as we could. We could name every regiment, tell you the correct sash colours, argue the most authentic unit size based on paper and field strengths. In short we were fanatical about accuracy.

In Sheffield we were lucky to have such luminaries as Dave Lister, Roy Gunson, David Harrison, Lloyd Powell, Bob Cooper and the incomparable John Armatys - in the opinion of my contemporaries and I the epitome of the Gentleman Wargamer and to be accorded the utmost respect - and so we had a serious knowledge cache to draw upon. Yes, we also learned the drinking and carousing for which SWS was famous, but it was tempered by the notion of 'doing things properly'. And so, that has been our modus operandi down the decades, no matter where life has taken us, and we are proud of it.

We had unillustrated books of lists, we had similar rulebooks and we had a few Osprey books on hand. The rest was down to graft and study.

But OH! What has happened these days?

We are awash with glossy rulebooks which entice the unwary - and often ignorant - with promises of instant fixes and cloned armies which are the wargaming equivalent of the Big Mac. They look great but are in the long run, unsatisfying in the extreme.

Army lists are almost all - supposedly - competitive, and often encourage and promote forces which have absolutely no resemblance to their historical counterparts - what we called 'Mickey Mouse' armies and which would bring ridicule when encountered 'back in the day - and therefore are arguably not 'historical' armies. They are imaginary.

One particular gripe of mine is pike and shot period armies which are constructed with seeming ignorance of how the core units of the period were formed. Massed shot lined up across the board in units of 30 and 40 models with no pike even on the table, supposedly 'accurate' ECW armies? I think not... And then the inclusion of one or two 'guard units' which never historically deployed in such a penny packet way.

The manufacturers of these off the peg products know that they are sinning, but in the never ending pursuit of shekels are happy to re-write history, 'sex up' their army lists and generally take the stance that their 300 page glossy book of tat is meticulously researched when in fact it is the wargaming equivalent of a desperate hooker with a crack habit.

And so, we see the time of the Morlocks approaching, a time where standards are slipping and a new Dark Age threatens to descend upon the hobby.

Don't get me wrong, some of those early books had their faults, but the research behind them was formidable. Errors were corrected, modifications made, but rarely did you see the expense of a total revision of your rules library or the need for new models produced by a specific company at a premium price.

I am pleased to say that whilst many of those early luminaries have fought their last campaigns, we still have a small Imperial Guard made up of the likes of John Armatys, Duncan Macfarlane, Tim Gow, Alan & Michael Perry etc who care deeply about the research and aesthetics of this hobby and who, may be our last bastion when the Vandals of Ignorance storm the gates.

Easy access is not always a good thing. The act of research, the almost occult nature of creating an army is to me one of the great joys of the hobby, emerging into the light with a new army and taking a pride in what you have done is something special. Don't let it become a thing of the past.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Almost The End Of The Holiday...

Well, I have 3 days of my holiday left and I am knackered...

We went over to 'The Other Partizan' last weekend and whilst I had a good time, there was not much to really draw me. Baccus took £150 of my cash for some lovely 6mm stuff and I picked up a few scenic materials, but that was about it.

Now, I'd planned to pick up some Perry Miniatures Cape Wars stuff, but the range is far from complete enough to put together two complete forces, so I shelved the idea for the present.

I also broke the 6mm only, vow when I was offered 660 1st generation  Minfigs 15mm ECW from the 'strip' era. They are painted in a pleasing toy soldier style and whilst they will need a re-base and a bit of cosmetic work here and there, they are wonderfully vintage sculpts which make me sigh with pleasure in the same way that Samantha Fox and her comely udders did in the 'Daily Star' when I was but a youth, or which the food pages of the 'Yorkshire Post' do, today.

They are lovely little models, dated, stereotyped and I really, really like them. In fact, if you have any and need a new home for them, I'll buy them. Drop me a line as a comment (nobody can see it unless I publish it) and we'll do business.

To cap of the pleasure, when the models arrived on Friday the Osprey 'Wargames Campaigns : Naseby' book was in the package too, with some gorgeous pictures of Peter Gilders collection.


With the building work here at the Dark Tower completed and the labourers all sacrificed to seal the warding on the new construction, we'd discussed adding a new aquarium, to the Great Hall, for the edification both ourselves and any visiting ambassadors from the outer reaches of the land. It was something for the future, but when a hard up dealer in fine oak cabinetry offered to knock 200 gold pieces off a rather nice (and rather expensive) furniture grade aquarium, we snapped his hand off and took the metaphorical plunge much earlier than planned. And then, because a bit like cheeseburgers, one is not enough, we purchased another smaller aquarium for the kitchen staff to look at in between peeling exotic root vegetables and tending to the spit.

The larger tank will need a few weeks to mature and will be housing African Rift Valley Cichlids from Lake Malawi. As you can see, my somewhat wry sense of humour was at work with the inclusion of a life sized human skull in amongst the bare rocks which simulate the alkaline conditions of the Lake.

I also installed an advanced LED lighting system which can mimic weather and lighting conditions, including lightning storms, as well turning the tank some rather jolly shades and hues.

I installed the tank after it turned up late in the day on Wednesday and by 10PM that night, it was looking like this:

12 hours later and the sediment was settling and the enormous filter was hard at work, but it was still a milky looking environment:

Another 12 hours and things were looking decidedly chipper, with excellent clarity and PH values. The heater was doing it's job perfectly, and I was ready to play with the lighting remote control:

And now, as this is the last day that I will be journeying from the Dark Tower this holiday I must bid you a very good morning and bathe and dress before a trip to Nottingham to catch a gallery or two.


In Memoriam - Dez Green

2017 has been an unpleasant year for the loss of gaming acquaintances, both close and not so close.

I am sad to report the passing of  Dez Green of Sheffield, this week.

Dez was a little older than most of us and the cousin of one of the 'Pauls' who featured quite prominently in my book of gaming memoirs.

I would be a liar to say I was close to Dez, I wasn't but we knew each other and he was always quiet, pleasant, intelligent and had a dry sense of humour. Several times when I was 'frothing' a little too much he'd look at me in a kind of inscrutable way which had the effect of making me go silent - quite an accomplishment.

Others will of course have more meaningful memories, but I have undertaken to remember and and report the passing of fellow gamers, and this I do with a solemn heart.

My thoughts go out to Paul and the Green family at this time.

Rest in peace Dez.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Over to Britcon today and I spoke to my trusted and regular supplier about some 28mm Cape Wars figures which I hope to collect next Sunday at Partizan. 

It’s an interesting setting. The armies are not large, with 3000 men being a top end for the Xhosa and 1500 or so for the British, with the added fun of Boers, who were starting to get a bit uppity at the time. 

It means you can play some rather pretty games with around 300 models as well as smaller scale raids and the like. The lack of later weaponry such as the Gardner means that it can be rather bloody at close quarters.

I have had to go with 28mm against my better judgement as it’s not produced in any other scales, so don't judge me eh?

The two volumes sold by Perry Miniatures are an excellent read, even if you are just interested in learning more. As always they are superbly produced.

My mate and I picked up 8 Irregular Miniatures army packs, ready painted to an OK standard for 50% of bare metal cost, and between us bought 4 sets of the Perry Miniatures ‘Travel Wargame’ at £40 each from Dave Thomas, who was somewhat hoarse after a night on the town in Manchester last night.

I also purchased 3 paper army sets for 28mm figures from Helion and Company which will end up as large 28mm armies with which I will I think upset friends with traditional armies, when I turn up for games (maybe even a competition for the hell of it) with paper models.

I had a little bad news this week. A friend of mine - a painter whose work I respect - has irreversible lung cancer. The 2017 Reaper appears to be picking up steam again… It really should look elsewhere for 'trade' as I am getting a little fed up with hearing of friends being taken down in their prime. 

Anyway, to end on a more positive note, here are some pics of today's loot haul:

Friday, 11 August 2017

Normal Service Is Resumed - Now For A Rest!

Hi ho, my dear followers...

Well, after 8 weeks, the Dark Tower is now fully renovated albeit at a price tag £18,000.00 higher than planned.

It's really been hell and has affected my wife's health quite severely (possibly unrecoverable in fact)  so whilst the transformation is magnificent, the cost is, on reflection, not one I would knowingly pay again.

Anyway, As of 6PM today I have closed my studio for 17 days to take my first holiday since December. I did however finish on a busy note by completing a large number of 15mm Cossack and Italian Wars models for two of my regular account clients in Canada:

In the morning the Sheffield mob will be heading over the Pennines to Britcon in Manchester, to spend a day in good (albeit Lancastrian ) company, do a little shopping and partake in a rather fine lunch in Chinatown.

We all really love the show as it is relaxed, airy and has a rather decent little bring and buy. It's also free to get in. We seem to go over in greater numbers every year and never come home disappointed.

I'm looking to buy more 6mm stuff, but I am also looking at 28mm Cape Wars stuff as I finally got around to reading the two volumes by Col. Mike Snook which my wife gave me for my birthday last year (18th August) and it's a really fascinating period which does not require a large number of models. 300 figures will take care of any of the battles if you work in the standard 1:20 figure ratio. Whilst I had hoped to use a smaller scale of models, nobody makes suitable models in 6 or even 15mm.

The holiday is to be spent visiting galleries such as the Hepworth and Hockney as well as hunting down fine foods and wines asSummer passes into Autumn over the next few weeks.

On the 20th, we'll be heading down to Partizan, and then I am calling time on the year as far as conventions are concerned for 2017.

I'm also starting to sketch out some more ideas for my next book, and checking out the legal aspects of a few things I intend to bring to light in the narrative timeline. This break should give me the time I need to get my due diligence sorted out. It's gaming related again, but will also tackle a few things that may cause discomfort.

Well, I have to go and knock up a seafood pasta dish and drink some red wine, so I will thank you all for your patience whilst I have been living in the domestic equivalent of Beirut, and I look forward to getting back on track with my posts, from here onwards...


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Mayday, Mayday... This Is Free Trader Beowulf...

One of my personal projects is to put together a large 1/300 sci fi game. The original plan had been ground combat, but I found a range of 'garage' kits in 1/350 depicting the assorted and ubiquitous starships from the Traveller game. Anyway I ordered over a dozen as a 'test' and they arrived yesterday. A couple need cleaning up, but being resin that's straight forwards enough.

Now the plan is to also depict the low orbital conflict which on the day will dictate the provision of reinforcements for the attackers.

The pics show the various designs at the side of a strip of Brigade Models 'Pac Fed' troops in 1/300th scale.