Monday, 26 March 2018

Finished, Apart From One Vexing Job...

Well, it was a good week for the most part, last week.

My wife did a stunning job in basing 1000 pieces of 28mm renaissance in a frankly unbelievable 5 days.

yesterday, I spent an equally amazing 4 hours, removing 90% of the old (and shoddy) flags from the figures and then netting them down with my trust Winsor & Newton Professional Artist's Matt Varnish, going through 600ml and undoubtedly doing myself some physical harm from the fumes, such was the volume I used.

Now, all I need to do is fit the flags whilst I take a 10 day break, commencing this Friday.

Ah yes, the flags...

The butcher's bill for the 90-100 flags I required set me back £75. Yes, you read that correctly, seventy-five English Pounds. But., you know me, I only do things the right way.

I'm very happy with my purchases, but you know how it goes... You awake on a Monday morning, the Spring sunshine floods your very soul, and you innocently buy 180 or so Swiss Renaissance models and then the Wars of Religion regiment catches your eye. So you buy one...

Then, you think that at a pound per figure they are good value, so you buy another.

Then, you think that 4 would be nice to make a Spanish tercio up and buy two more.

And as is the way, you the get the brilliant idea that 4 sub units of sword and buckler would also add a frisson to the tercio and so you buy those.

Next thing you know, the day has cost you dearly, you've added another 330 models to the painting list and you get a call from your tailor late in the day to say that they have a Donegal tweed 3-piece suit awaiting your attention and wallet, so another £900 will need to be found by Wednesday so that you can keep the title of 'Best Dressed Wargamer'...

What a bleeding life eh? It's hell I tell you... SHEER HELL!


Saturday, 24 March 2018

A Real Blast From My Past

Following on from my two previous posts about Dungeons & Starships, my wife found these during a clear out of documents etc. I didn't know any had survived and they must date from 1997.

A real bit of personal history...


Thursday, 22 March 2018

Bases & Bushes

Well, my wife has rebased almost 1000 28mm pieces in 4 days. She just needs to add the larger bushes and then I have to replace a few pike, all the flags and matte them back down.

Not bad, I'd say...

More On Dungeons, Starships & Flying Buffalo...

Over the next few months Christopher came to Sheffield a few more times to look for suitable properties and iron out the odd wrinkle. I also went to Birmingham and Walsall to meet my soon-to-be colleagues in the company.

By now, I had taken it upon myself to get a hair cut which gave the look of a 15th Century page boy crossed with Oscar Wilde – no, not crossed like that, behave yourself. Haircuts have not featured much since about the age of 14. My Mum once said that I should get a hair cut, and obligingly I returned an hour later with what I believe in the more southern U.S states is referred to as a ‘mullet’. My darling Mother was heard to declare that I, first-born and most-favoured, with such a wonderful coiffure, had a visage resembling a bag full of spanners. Today I am still regularly tempted to sport the hairstyle of a messiah until nature dictates otherwise.

Eventually a location for the planned store was chosen and from a local’s point of view, it was well off the beaten track. Christopher was of the opinion that no matter where you site a game store, people will journey. I did not agree, - and still don’t - but at the end of the day he was the boss. The chosen property was a mess. It had been a travel agency previously and was a large, open plan building, with a dividing wall and a large glass window, behind which lay an office area and kitchen. It had a suspended ceiling which needed the lights and some of the panels replacing and the entire frontage although made of glass hade been boarded over and then in turn fly-posted. In technical parlance ‘it was a bloody mess’.

Stuntie, an old school friend, had recently returned to the U.K after studying ancient Nordic languages in Sweden, and was temporarily living with us. When Kayte and I had got married in 1993, Stuntie had been my best man and was the only person from my school days with whom I still had any contact. Now he was assisting with the preparations for the opening of the store.

Christopher had given me a budget and a series of pre-signed cheques along with a target date for completion of one month. One month? It was going to take a lot more given the state of the property, but Christopher had thrown down the gauntlet to me and I, somewhat reluctantly had picked it up, accepting the challenge.

They say that the best way to learn a new language is to live in the country where it’s spoken. Fitting out a shop is the same. The best way to learn is to get stuck in and learn as you go.
The weather was pleasantly warm that summer and the first job was to get the boards taken from the frontage which took Stuntie and I an hour or so, whilst Kayte got on with trying to make some space in the kitchen area. Unfortunately, under the boards was another thick layer of posters that had been pasted directly onto the glass, the removal of which took the rest of the day with much use of colloquial Anglo-Saxon to help it along.

The display and shelving units were being made in Walsall and shipped up to Sheffield. All we had to do was get everything fitted. This was easy enough as a counter also had to be constructed on site, so we arranged both with a local shop fitter. The decorators came in on Tuesday for two days and did a sterling job. Carpets were fitted on Thursday and the first of the wall brackets for the shelves were added the same day. It was looking good so far, and this from a trio who had never been involved in this kind of project. This was where Kayte’s natural ability to organise went into overdrive and as I negotiated prices and specifics of the required work with contractors, she was busily arranging schedules so that we never had a minute wasted. By the end of the first week we had the basic fittings in place, and it was looking very encouraging. 

The average day was between twelve and fifteen hours of work followed by food and sleep. I don’t recall ever feeling so simultaneously exhausted and elated. My main concern at the time was the state of the toilet, which was disgusting. Chris said that a good clean and a new seat would do the trick, but even after using the same amount of chlorine used to treat an Olympic-sized swimming pool it was still below par. In one of those odd coincidences that seem to come along when things are at their worst, as I fitted the new toilet seat the porcelain bowl cracked. There was nothing for it, a new one had to be fitted, and the king of fools had his new throne.

Week two started with the construction of the counter. It was a gigantic thing, a full twelve feet long, four feet high and three feet deep. It was possible for Stuntie and I to lay lengthways underneath it. If it came down to it, we could sleep in the shop, the counter making a fine bunk bed. Behind the counter was the glass window of the office, protected by this enormous altar dedicated to Mammon.
On the Wednesday we had our first real setback. It had been decided that all the florescent tubes in the suspended lighting units were to be replaced. When the fitter arrived we found that whilst the ceiling itself was correctly installed, the lighting units of which we had fifteen, each weighing around 20 kilos were not suspended at all and were in fact resting on the frames.

In short we had an accident waiting to happen. But once again, fate smiled on me when the fitter installed every unit correctly – at no additional charge. This is the kind of thing that fuels the rumours of the dreadful pact I must have made in return for my soul.

Thursday morning saw a container truck arrive with the stock. The sheer volume was astounding as H.Q sent 3 or 5 of every single item in their vast inventory. I don’t know exactly how long we worked, but, by systematic sorting of the stock into various product lines and then laying them out on the floor in order of price we were able to get the stock ticketed and on the shelves by 8.00PM Friday. What was expected to take a month was complete in 12 days and what was more impressive was that we had done it well below the projected budget. It was a proud moment for us all.

On Saturday morning the three of us stood and admired our hard work. This was it I’d achieved one of my childhood aims. I was not only the manager of Dungeons and Starships but the company I worked for was one that I had loved since the beginning of my addiction to gaming.

I put the key in the lock, turned it and pulled on the handle. The door slammed straight back with a resounding ‘BA-BANG!’ This was not the way it was supposed to go. That door should have slowly and gracefully closed with a mere hint of sound. We were as you may guess, somewhat chagrined. We’d left the door locked to avoid the same kind of teenage invasion that I had mounted on Games Workshop so many years before. By the simple error of not actually checking the locks and door mechanisms before our first day of trading we had not found that the spring mechanism was potentially lethal to anyone entering the shop.

An engineer was called and quote given along with an undertaking to have it repaired that day. Luckily when he arrived, said engineer presented me with the bill before he started as well as a contract. I paid him in advance, which was another of those fortuitous ‘El Diabolo’ moments. By the time he left at 8:00 PM the unfortunate engineer had been forced to fit a whole new braking system, replace two of his power tools and procure another. By my estimations he’d lost £600.00 on the day and because he had been so eager to present his bill in advance, I held him to it. Well, it would have been rude of me not to do so, wouldn’t it?

In the meantime Stuntie had been doing a sterling job of meeting and greeting curious members of the public, guiding them to the staff entrance and into the shop, offering refreshments for the inconvenience. It worked like a dream, as he is one of the most conscientious people that I have ever met, always looking out for the needs of the customer. In just a few short days I would be unto Stuntie as Judas was to Jesus. I would let my pig-headed pride and pomposity destroy a friendship that I have never had since with anyone other than my wife.

Those first few weeks were hectic. Stuntie was acting as a part-time sales assistant and in my absence he stepped smoothly and efficiently into my shoes. Whilst I was at the bank one day, we had a visit from another storeowner in the area, demanding that we sell nothing that he stocked. Stuntie in his calm but firm way made it perfectly clear that this would never happen. I heard several years later that it was a performance that I would have been amused and proud to witness. If only I had.

Trade was increasingly brisk and we were exceeding the targets set us by the board of directors, but I was wound way too tightly back then. I have always been something of a control-freak. Many gamers are, after spending their youth being scapegoats and misfits who play powerful and important characters in the games that often dominate every available hour. 

No matter how many times I hear someone protest this point, I can make a quick appraisal and reach a conclusion. In eight out of ten cases I’ll see the downtrodden youth inside the apparently brash man in front of me and think ‘I’ve been there, my friend. I have the badge, certificate and scars to prove it.’

My arrogance and zeal was to be the downfall of a friendship which was only rectified some 25 years later...

To find out what happened next, you'll have to read my book.


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Dungeons, Starships and Flying Buffaloes - Or 'How To Ruin Your Life Whilst Having The Best Time Ever...'

In the early 90s I was the keeper of our child whilst my good lady earned the crust. These were hard, hard days...

I did the odd bit of miniature painting here and there whilst my offspring took the afternoon nap that separated her AM and PM rampages. I don’t recall how he located me, but one day a well-spoken gentleman from the West Midlands sent a letter asking whether I could paint a few figures for him. I agreed, and over the next few months we had a lot of telephone conversations about figures and games. This was before we ever had a telephone in the house. We were the proverbial church mice, and I to use a public telephone to have those conversations.

The gentleman’s name rang bells with me, and I suddenly realised that he ran Flying Buffalo U.K, a company that imported the ‘Tunnels & Trolls’ role-playing game as well as a number of other products from the USA.

In the 80’s I had regularly sent off for the latest catalogues and the excellent ‘fanzine’ that was ‘Flying Buffalo News’ and here I was speaking the man behind it all in a cold public telephone box in a rough area of Sheffield. It was during one of these conversations that Christopher said that he would bet me ten pounds, I’d not be painting figures in 5 years time. I of course indignantly responded to the contrary. As it turned out he was correct.

In 1994 I was asked if I could meet Christopher and a couple of friends in Sheffield for lunch and a chat. I assumed of course that this was to maybe show say thank you for the odd bits of painting that I’d done and maybe give an excuse for a day out from the office. Never mind, it was the first time I’d been out for lunch with a businessman before. Free food was always welcome. I asked if I could take a friend and Christopher kindly agreed, and so it was that on an overcast Friday I went with Tim, a friend and fellow gamer to meet the Walsall triumvirate.

Christopher and his colleagues, were every bit the classic businessmen, with smart, well-cut bespoke suits, large car with exquisite leather interior, the likes of which the average working-class Sheffield lad only gets to ride in to weddings or funerals – and the final time, he’s not going to have the opportunity to enjoy it.

We went for lunch, I can’t recall where, but I do recall that Tim ate as much as he could because he wasn’t paying the bill. This was all very pleasant but at the end of the day I couldn’t see why Christopher and his friends had come all the way from Walsall, and I was none the wiser as I was driven home that day. Nevertheless, I’d had a great day and Christopher had been really good company, having a passion for the hobby and the business behind it to a degree that I have rarely seen equalled.

We had recently managed to be in a position to have our own telephone installed and that evening as I sat telling Kayte about the day I’d had, Christopher called and, has been the way of things for me over the years, the smell of roses began to manifest. In fact, friends have often suggested that I have a pact with the Devil himself but I don’t recall signing anywhere in blood.

Christopher asked me if I’d enjoyed myself to which I obviously answered that I had. So that was it, being every bit the gentleman that he was, he’d called to confirm that I’d had a good time. But then he asked me if he remembered the bet that we had made previously. Again I answered in the affirmative.

‘Well I think I may have just won the bet.’ Christopher almost taunted like a child. I was confused. This was not how a businessman acted was it?

‘Err, Okay. Why?’ After all I may have had to part with ten pounds.

Christopher continued. ‘Well my friends are directors of the company and they liked you.’ Well of course they did. Despite my now very long hair and pierced nose I was well mannered and knew my gaming subjects inside out.

‘Thank you, but how does that mean that you have won the bet?’ I responded.

‘We want to open a store in Sheffield. We already have one in Birmingham and another in Walsall both named ‘Dungeons and Starships’ and we’d like you to consider running the Sheffield branch.’

As you can imagine, I was dumbstruck. This was the dream of many a young gamer, to work in a shop that sold the games they played. But this was better because I’d been asked to manage a store. Apart from a few retail jobs in the years immediately after leaving school, I’d never done anything like it before, and here I was being given what was, to me anyway, the chance of a lifetime.

‘I need time to think.’ I stammered, still in shock.

‘Fine. Talk it over with Kayte and let me know on Monday. Have a good weekend. Bye-bye.’ And that was it the conversation was over.

Kayte and I did indeed talk it over and, on Monday morning I took my first step into the unknown I'd dreamed of since that first day I'd walked into Games Workshop.

To be continued...


Sunday, 18 March 2018

Dealing With Wargaming Dirt

Greetings fellow fanatics, from what is genuinely the snowbound Dark Tower, wherein I brood upon many things.

Today I am brooding on the subject of dirt in wargaming. No, not the scuttlebutt and rumour, which we all enjoy I'm certain, but rather the physical dirt and dust which accumulates on figures over time.

Now, I am old and well learned on the subject of keeping your figures in tip-top condition and the one thing which perennially gets my goat, is dusty figures.

Dust can be the break point for a buyer when there's a bargain to be had, and believe me, I've repeatedly grabbed a bargain when someone else has dithered because they see dusty figures.

I look beyond the dust and if I see the marks of a tidy paint job, I am in with the wallet. I have literally heard gasps of disbelief as I hand over a four figure sum for boxed of dust covered models, but in the end I have had the last laugh.

Take a look at the following pics (click to enlarge):

In the first pic you can see, the dusted, but still markedly faded models, as they arrived with me from the seller.

In this pic, you see figures from the same collection, now given a coat of GOOD QUALITY anti-UV gloss acrylic varnish. Note how simply by doing this, the colours and detail are revealed. Whipping them off the old and scruffy bases, and mounting them on good MDF bases also brings out the gems in the rubble.

Another over shot of the lot, just to give some comparisons. I have used the 'average' figures rather than the higher end models.

Now, once the basing is complete, I'll matte them down with a professional artist grade varnish, which will give them a strong matte finish without the loss of colour or rough texture you will get if you just matted them. Some say that a quick matte varnish will deal with dust, but it won't I assure you. It will dull them all the more.

Figures treated this way, can - if you allow them to get dusty in future - be held by the base and washed under the tap (faucet) if you have varnished them properly in the first place.

So, I know I am giving away some of the secrets which allow me to get large numbers of figures when others are up against me in the race to acquire them (but of course I always offer more than the others anyway, and try to pay cash on the spot) but it may inspire more of you to take a risk on what looks like a lost cause, but which in the long run will be an army which will bring you a lot of pleasure.


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Frustration, The Temptation, The Satisfaction... All Wrapped In Cardboard.

It's a hard week here at The Dark Tower, as I'm busy - and that's good. so no complaints you understand. But, when I get a delivery at lunchtime and I can't do anything until the day's work is done, it's rather frustrating.

Today was one of those days when a couple of boxes of figures arrived. Now, when I say a couple of boxes, I should rather say 'crates':

Worse still, my eldest Scottie, being wise to my wiles, decided to stand guard  over the 27kg of renaissance goodness therein.

And then, as if Fate Herself was against me, my wife finished work before I, and undid the lot, commenting that had she seen this first she'd have had it, which to be honest is a great indicator that I have spent my money wisely.

Only one package got damaged and that will be easily repaired, so both I and the previous owner are at our ease.

I must give credit to Robert W, as he packaged each unit in it's own box, with the name written on it. 

Next I'll get the few repairs undertaken and then I'll varnish them - along with the 250 Landsknechts I bought on Sunday - with MTN94 high gloss anti-UV varnish before sticking them down to new MDF bases with rounded corners which I get from East Riding Miniatures. I use ERM for all of my commercial work as well personal and I will not go anywhere else. Tony delivers fast and his product is very, very good indeed. If you use MDF bases, check out ERM because you'll not be disappointed.

Once they are on new bases, my wife has been commissioned to add the texture and foliage, after which they'll all be matt varnished using Winsor & Newton professional artists varnish. This will keep them bright, protected and pleasing to the eye. I hear from people so often who tell me the use 'A' or 'B' brand and it's cheaper than W&N, but trust me... after nearly 40 years of studying art,  painting figures and in later year years spending 200 hours a month painting to fill the larder, I have tried many types and learned sometimes the hard way. 

MTN94 and Montana Gold gloss varnishes dry in 5-10 minutes and smooth out the paint as well as enhance the colours whilst protecting the model from UV.What's more, they are not expensive and go a long way because of the quality of the product.

 The W&N professional varnish is what it says, a professional grade varnish which is truly matte, and which does not cloud or dull your work like the much vaunted Testors varnish. Using it over the gloss, keeps the matt finish porcelain smooth. Also - and this can be crucial if you are not someone who understands atmospheric effects on paints and varnishes - it can be removed with turpentine, and because you will have used an acrylic varnish underneath it, will remove easier and without damaging the figure.

So there you go, I am a very happy little rabbit this week, as I have taken ownership of about 960 pieces of 28mm renaissance and had them safely delivered. I just need to buy a couple more units now to cross that magic figure of 1000 pieces. Maybe after work today...


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Fair Play To Warlord - Credit Where It's Due

Following my disappointment at the damaged book, yesterday, I feel it fair to point out how well Warlord Games have today rectified the issue thus:

'Hi Mark,

Good afternoon!

I am truly devastated to see that, as someone who likes to keep their books in as mint as condition as possible that is unacceptable. 

It most likely did not leave us in that condition and must have gotten damaged in transit. 

I have already arranged, picked and packed a replacement book myself to be sent to you today by first class post, and I hope it finds you in good quality. 

Again apologies for the inconvenience this has caused you.

Have a great day and if you have any further enquiries please don't hesitate to contact me here.

Kind Regards,

Robin Scott - Blore
Warlord Games Customer Service Team '

Well done Warlord... We may yet remain friends.


Monday, 12 March 2018

Tatty Rubbish From Warlord...

Well, it's been a day of double disappointments with the arrival of my copy of Eduard Wagner's 'European Weapons & Warfare 1618 to 1648' purchased last week from Warlord Games.

The package arrived today and I have to say I was pretty excited.

Upon opening the package which also contained the superb 'Devil's Playground' and some figures, this was the sight which greeted me:

Now, this is frankly not bloody acceptable from a company the size of Warlord, if at all, and I am as you may imagine a tad over the red line at which 'pissed off' registers. In fact I'm getting a bit closer to 'Fucking Annoyed'.

Now, that is the 'tatty' part of the title, now we shall go to the 'Rubbish' part, which is the content of the book. With almost 300 pages there's about the text content of an Osprey Elite title. The rest of the book is made up of truly awful illustrations and diagrams which are childlike at best. In fact I had to wonder whether the children of the publisher were responsible. It's a truly awful book, and you'd get more from an Osprey or two and the whole experience would be far more enjoyable.

In brief:

Piss poor product, piss poor packaging... Don't waste your money!


PS: I will say that 'The Devil's Playground' is stunning and did not suffer the same fate. I'd encourage you to buy this title as it sets the standard for background and army lists.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Oh What a Life!

Now, I know that often my posts can be a bit 'dark' as I wrestle with the more unpleasant sides of my life in gaming, but all things considered I have had a pretty good time. In fact, I've definitely had a damn good lick of the lolly.

And that has been largely down to the people I met and the encouragement they gave, despite my inflated passion for all things game related. his meant that I was in a position that many of my peers were not - save those who formed our 'case' - and without that, I doubt I'd be where I am today.

As Marillion front man Fish famously sang 'Well, I the streets back in '81...' And oddly that was my soundtrack for my gaming youth, along with Rush and Yes for the most part. The music made me think, it made me need, not just want, more from the world starting with the music. I was not a great scholar, but that was not because of a lack of ability, but rather because I just did not want to connect with those boorish and fashionable types. For me a lurid motley of denim and garish colours told who I was and made a barrier between the mundane and an alternate reality. When I first saw those baggies of Citadel and Ran Partha figures in Hopkinsons toys on 'The Gallery' in Sheffield, and then saw the big glass fronted (and therefore sacred and arcane ) display of what I later found out were games in Beatties on Pinstone Street, that just seemed to 'go' with the music I listened to, the stories I read and because of the seemingly forbidden knowledge they imparted, I craved the life they offered all the more.

I stumbled into my first ( and what will despite what some may think, favourite) Wargames show at the Victoria Hotel in Sheffield. In 1984 it would be this venue that saw me as a seasoned teenage veteran take my first and most treasured painting trophy.

It's the little gold disc at top right in the above pic, beneath all the tombstones and coffee mugs from Salute

I met the mighty Steve Roberts of SWS who was running a local after school club at Limpsfield School (which with it's liberal and experimental 'community education' and truly handpicked staff played it's own part in developing me) and who introduced the fledgling fantasy obsessed gamer to historical gaming and who for a couple of years took me to and from SWS on Wednesday nights. Steve in turn introduced me to Lloyd Powell who inspired me to take coin for my painting and who got me hooked on my favourite period, the Renaissance (you will note this by my recent acquisition posts) and who was a big brother I never had. In time I met the august and gentlemanly John Armatys and many other older gamers who in varying degrees, coloured and shaped my world view. But, it was the other kids I met - usually at the newly opened Games Workshop - from all over the city and even beyond, who all heard that clarion call to the imaginations of the romantic dreamers of our generation, who escaped from bullying, the mundane and the ever present threat of nuclear armageddon who made it all something more than a 'hobby'. It was for us life, and for some of us would become how we made or way in the world almost 4 decades later.

Roger Smith, Mark Bamford, Martin Lightowler, Darren Ashmore,,  Steve Smith, Richard Lindley, Josh, Matt and Andy Griffiths, Keith Rhodes, Martin Flower, Lee, Snitch Hobson , Craig Beatson. Later there came  Ian Plummer, Shaun Hovers, Shaun Exelby, Adrian Dyson,  Paul Green, Paul Stephens, Pete White, Adrian B and Mick Parkin as I gamed at Sheffield Runelords, Sheffield Polytechnic, University of Sheffield and the houses of those friends I'd made, so that 6 and sometimes 7 days or nights per week, I was actively gaming and without realising it, growing in knowledge and confidence as I traversed the U.K for whole weekends, unlike any of those grey faced sport obsessed 'cool kids' at my school.

To be fair I did have two friends who would game with me at lunchtimes at school in the shape of Craig Stainrod and Alan Staniforth, and a good friend who I did not know was into gaming but who many years later was the best man at my wedding named Ian Hill, who is a gentleman and  scholar in the truest sense.

In the late 80s I met up with Ian as I found the joys and woes of the Goth subculture and through him met Andy Needham, a fanatical Napoleonic enthusiast, who remains along with Ian and my own dear wife, Kayte, (the memsahib as she is often referred to) the only connection to my Goth past, during which time many of the friends previously named, became strangers for a while - and in some cases forever.

By 83 I'd also become a 'face' in GW and was soon being schooled with scorn by the late Pete Armstrong and Chris Gilbride who taught my how to take a verbal beating and how to riposte no matter how much they then 'tore me a new one' for having the temerity to try. Lisa Brook treated me a bit like a big sister and Jo Tickhill who was about my age, just gave me the verbals and once slapped me (probably deservingly so as I recall).

All the time I was getting deeper into the world of gaming, and believe me, if you were not in the hobby back then it was deep. 

I remember being in GW very early one morning as Pete Berry and Cy Harrison (manager and assistant manager respectively) were dressing the shelves and Pete remarking 'I've been working on a new set of rules for pike and shot.' and understanding what they were on about. I was not part of the conversation, but I knew a secret because I was so obsessed that I was the only person stood outside at 9AM for when the doors opened at 9:30. What a simple yet poignant memory that is.

At Sheffield Runelords, I met Andy Riston, brush man par excellence, Kev Fisher, Daz Hodgkiss and Nog Northing who encouraged me to play Runequest along with John Hancox and Bob Cooper, who I knew by sight from SWS - What a small and elite world this was, for sure! And here was I, an enthusiastic 14 year old, in the company of adults and being treated with a mix of amusement and respect.  In my late teens, Mick Rothenburg of SWS took me around the city on days out, to meet some interesting people and go into interesting bars, Andy Jarvis and I went on an all night pub crawl and somehow ended up after midnight at the home of a local Napoleonic re-enactor and gamer, purely by chance, before sitting somewhat the worst for wear at the top of one of Sheffield's hills, - kings of all we surveyed, talking about the city, our lives and of Course, games.

What a life!

I funded my hobby through my school years by painting figures and won more trophies as I became a serious contender in competitions, I plaid hundreds of big games as we in the 'case' pooled our collections. I made trade connections and thereby saved money and got an inside track on things along the way which was to serve me well in the future.

In the 90s I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to open and run the third branch of Dungeons & Starships, part of Chris Harvey Games. Chris was a brilliant man to work for. He listened, observed and very rarely interfered with how a shop was run. His standards were high (as were those of Pete Berry at GW in the day) and as long as you bore them in mind, the floor was yours. Chris was as many of you will know one of the pioneers of the business in those early years and is somewhat forgotten now in the flurry to celebrate all things Games Workshop. His 'Flying Buffalo News' advertising-zines were a guilty pleasure of mine for a long time, and it's high time Chris got the recognition he so rightly deserved. He is an educated and learned man, who taught me how to deal with subjects much larger than I.

After the loss of D&S in 99, I went into a bit of a recluse state until the early 2000's and then after a very acrimonious split with SWS for daring to speak my mind - correctly as history has shown - I am gaming more than ever and earning my living in the hobby again.

As I type this entry, I'm listening to Marillion, the smells of fresh bread and a Sunday breakfast are emanating from the kitchen. 1000 new painted Renaissance figures are looking at me from boxes, and I have to say that life is just wonderful.

I have lived a varied and sometimes dissolute life. In fact I could at times have given Rochester a run for his money - Trust me on this. But, it's actually on the whole been a brilliant ride and I hope it will continue to be so for many decades yet.

Sometimes, the smallest things are the most satisfying, and from those small things, whole lifetimes can and are shaped.

I have my family, some of the truest friends a man could ask for, my hobby and of course all those memories... I am a very happy man indeed!

Life is a rollercoaster, but you have to take the ride to see the view from the top...


Pretty, Pretty, Pretty... At a Pretty Fine Price!

Good day, good day, indeed!

I errr, did it again… Yeah, I grabbed a bargain.

I missed a load of painted 28mm Landsknechts that were on sale on a forum on Saturday, much to my chagrin.

There were 150 pike, plus 18 Gendarmes and a shedload of shot and halberds to go with them. I was gutted as I’d been mooching in front of my Xbox to avoid ending up in my studio at the weekend. You see what idleness did?

Well, I got a message saying the buyer i was mucking about and trying to haggle the price down after agreeing, which was in the opinion of I and a  my dear friend, Roger (who had alerted me to them, via encrypted channels in the first place) sheer lunacy.

Well, I was offered the models and I said cheekily - being happy to pay 50% more - would he be wiling to take 25% more for an immediate no fuss sale. He said he would if it was cash and he would deliver today at 9:30 AM.


The price you say?


You may now swear at me and call me names with my blessing. So, this week I have acquired almost 1000 painted Renaissance in 28mm for £1250 which is basically under metal cost.

The new stuff needs rebasing and the flags need replacing, but that's more me being a martinet than necessity.

And that’s about it for the week. It’s been work, work, work so no time for reading, despite the fact that I have ‘The Devil’s Playground’ supplement for Pike & Shot and ‘European Weapons & Warfare 1618-1648’ by Eduard Wagner on the way to me. I’d hoped they’d arrive today, but no luck.

Mind you I’ve been promising to read the writings of Madame Blavatsky for the last month and as I type the book is sitting on my desk, accusing me of crimes against literature. I love a decent occult title, so I must be busy if I haven’t even scanned through it yet.

Well, I shall say adios for now, and leave you with the pictures:


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Winter Warmers...

Well, after a week of snow (not Canadian snow, I admit, but snow like we used to have when I was a lad) all is back to normal. Thank the gods that the memsahib works from home a lot more now and that she’s not on the motorway to Leeds every day. She works from home because she is a highly paid professional, I do the same because I am an anti-social slacker... The money's the same, but the motivation isn't :)

Last week I took delivery of a bundle of goodies including 4 Osprey books on the 30 years war, the Pike & Shot rules, the 1644 rules, Judge Dredd RPG (original GW version) and the JD boardgames (again the GW version). The Grognard Files Podcast has a lot to answer for. If you can find someone who can get the Arch Frother to buy something old school, then you know they are truly hardcore.

The 30YW books are more of a pictorial reference for the memsahib to paint my two armies from, but as I’ve never read those they are a bit of fun. You will recall that I don't paint stuff for myself

If you don’t have a copy, I suggest that you get a copy of the Funcken’s ‘Waffen Und Rustungen’. I don’t read much German, but with 200 plates it’s still a lovely reference for anyone interested in the Middle Ages through to the 16th Century. You’ll get one on eBay for about £10. Trust me on this. 

As I think I mentioned, I picked up a 15mm Mikes Models Wars of Religion collection. Well, yesterday I sold it and bought a 720 piece 28mm Wars of Religion collection for metal cost. 400 infantry, 160 cavalry and some artillery for £1000… OK, it’s not award winning painting but you know that for me, ‘tidy’ is good. When they are rebased to my standard (well, the memsahib's actually, as she has accepted my coin so that I don’t have to touch figures at the weekend) they will look rather passable. 

It’s a 27KG package so I’ve had to go to great lengths to find a standard courier. I’ve been chasing the army for 7 months. The asking price began at £1500, but I played the waiting game (No point in being ‘irregular ‘A’ about things) and saved a packet. 

With that, I better slouch off to my desk and earn a crust...


Thursday, 1 March 2018