Saturday, 29 December 2018

Bridges & Bullocks

After yesterday's marathon toy soldier acquisition mission, you'd expect me to be in a swoon, but this morning I found two bargain priced pieces that I had to have in the shape of an Indian artillery piece drawn by two white bullocks and a Royal Engineers pontoon wagon.

They were so cheap that I literally couldn't let them go by...

Friday, 28 December 2018

Eyes Front! You 'Orrible Little Men!

Well, after a day of desktop retail therapy, I have put together the core of my two 54mm Toy Soldier armies at a cost (thanks to some serious discount) of just under 4 figures. I can see Roger now, shaking his head, a look of pity and wonder on his angelic visage.

I bought 31 sets in total today, and decided that I better stop because frankly, I was looking at mountain guns and pontoon wagons - and that way lies insanity.

So, here's the haul - and yes, those duplicated pics are indeed multiple boxes...

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to lay down in a dark room for a while :)


Does Anyone Have A Remedy For Grass-stained Flannels?

2019 is to be the year of the shiny toy soldier for me.

I have looked at what I have, what I need (very little) and what looks fun, and the desire for some proper grown up gaming with matchsticks and funny hats, seems to need satisfying. To that end, I have this morning negotiated for a dozen or so boxes of Britains traditional 54mm toy soldiers, having driven a hard bargain. A few building block structures, and a bottle of port and I am set to go...

This morning, I began with a little pre-breakfast shopping, and acquired:


My two armies are both based on British units. One side is all Colonial and Native units, whilst the other is Home Service, the bonus being that I can combine them if I need to take on an over large opposing force. I have rationed myself to a £1200 initial budget but no doubt, this will increase, because those shiny little buggers are jut too nice...

Monday, 24 December 2018

Ho,Ho, Hum!

WOW! I just passed 150,000 views of this blog, so before I begin, let me say thank you to you all...

I was reflecting on how lazy I've been this last week, but at the same time, so very busy as we adjust our plans from going out for a 5 course Christmas diner at the Royal Victoria hotel here in Sheffield, to having a quiet (if the presence of 5 terriers can be called quiet) Christmas lunch at home.

The acquisition of a fifth Scottie pup last month meant that although he'd be safe and relaxed if we left him at home for a couple of hours, we would miss the joy of seeing him experience his first Christmas day with presents and a chicken dinner (turkey is a bit too rich for the chap yet). No doubt he'll join the other 4 mutts in staring out the oven for 7 hours straight, although the oldest Scottie also tries to cadge a bit of after dinner mint every year because, he thinks he's a human.

Anyway, as I said, we've been busy with buying everything, waiting for deliveries and have not left the house much. That said, the weather here has been awful so it's not much of a let down.

Reflecting on Christmases past, it was a lot different back then. Of course there was the obligatory school Christmas party and then freedom for a couple of weeks, which meant that there was a lot of time for painting, buying and gaming with figures.

Christmas Eve was traditionally a day for a mooch around the games and model stores with which our city was blessed - and that was a lot of stores.

Christmas Eve saw the Games Workshop staff (this was the pre-corporate bullshit era) in fancy dress, and just a tad more tolerant of the Limpets for a few hours. The girls would generally be dressed as rather magnificently tarty fairies - much to the pleasure of the majority of the Limpets, whilst the lads would do something fun, such as create Ghostbusters outfits with home made proton packs, that could fire 'beams' of the spray streamer in a can that was all the rage back then. Do they still make that stuff? It could be fun if used irresponsibly...

Before I found other gamers than my school mates, we'd not be in the store all day, but once my social circle went ballistic, I'd be there until about 3PM.

Lunch would be a french stick, stuffed with chips and tomato ketchup from a tiny little sandwich kiosk in the base of the multi story carpark behind the legendary 'Redgates' a toy shop for which Shefield was famous and was destroyed by London toy emporium 'Hamleys' which opened just down the road, killing Redgates before finally disappearing up it's own arse after a fraction of the time that the local store had served Sheffield. I and many other gamers will never forgive Hamleys.

Redgates had RPGs before GW ever came to the city (as did Beatties of London), the best selection of models (including the first Macross kits we'd ever seen), Action Men, Star Wars figures, and... Well listen, if it was a toy, they stocked it, and did so in bucketloads.

Dear readers, we are talking 4 floors - A goddamn department store which was packed to the rafters with toys. When I was much younger it was where I went for my dressing up costumes, Pelham puppets and teddy bears. At 13 and beyond, it was everything above, plus paints, Britains soldiers, Cyborg & Muton, Mobile Action Command, Micronauts... I could go on, but my heart is racing.

We generally took lunch up on to the roof of the car park and sat eating the ginormous carbohydrate boost we'd need to get through to the evening (more of this later) looking out over the city. Then it was over to Redgates, up to Beatties, down to Hopkinsons and then a final whistle stop visit to Woolworths to look at the latest music we'd found, taking our lives in our hands passing the assorted punks and skinheads who gathered outside the back entrance. Yes, I know that we could have gone a safer route, but there were big staircases between the floors if you went in the back way that you could use to ricochet a rubber ball you'd picked up for 10P in Hopkinsons, test the latest 'high impact' dice that Lisa had convinced you you needed when you were in GW (previous blogs have covered the testing we gave our dice in car park stair wells) or just test your mettle by leaping down entire flights to the spacious landing below with a satisfying slamming sound that echoed up and down the stair well, as the flashing lights left your vision and the pain left your knees.

On the matter of chip butties (thats a a sandwich of well buttered bread product filled with fried potatoes and tomato ketchup) it was the cause of the worst indigestion I've ever had one Christmas, which lasted from Christmas Eve until the 28th of December, ruining my track record for consuming multiple plates at the Christmas and Boxing Day lunches. It was also the reason I had two of my lanternas sunk by Alan Staniforth on Christmas Eve as we stuffed our faces with comestibles and listened to Peter Gabriel's first album 'Car'  in my bedroom.

Christmas Eve at our house was a big buffet for the family and assorted friends of mine who were 'wise' to the wide selection of foods that my Mum had spent 8-10 hours preparing, and who, had tagged along, knowing there'd be a good spread and a warm welcome, in that way that only a teenage boy can truly can.

After we had stuffed ourselves, we might play a game or go out onto the quiet streets if the weather was suitable cold and clear, perhaps to meet other friends male and female and maybe 'get off' with one of the local girls who were curious of our long hair and denim jackets covered in patches declaring our allegiance to 3 dozen rock bands, and who it turned out years later were competing to see who'd snogged more of the local rock fraternity at a time when it was considered to be an edgy and daring pastime.

Then, it was a series of declarations of friendship and  'merry Christmas' before going our separate ways and 2 hours (at the most), sleep because we simply could not wait to see what was under the Christmas tree in the morning.

At this point, the memsahib insisted I go downstairs and do 'normal things'. So, here I am picking up the narrative on Christmas Eve...

Christmas Day, rarely brought me anything gaming related, because my parents didn't understand or wish to waste money on RPGs, but I did get loads of stuff such as Adam & The Ants albums, Aramis, tabletop and handheld electronic games - certainly more loot than my school friends (what few I had) ever did. But D&D and my growing collection of historical miniatures, were never provided by my parents.

  In 1984 I was asked what I wanted for Christmas and when I was handed the requested 'Armies Of The Vietnam War 2' by Osprey, my parents played merry hell with me for unwrapping it and disappearing into my bedroom with it, leaving whatever else they bought me untouched. Don't get me wrong, there'd be some great gifts there, but that single book was the only thing I wanted that year. After Christmas dinner, my prize was confiscated as I'd buried my head in it for a second read through.

And 33 years later, here's that very book:

Between Christmas and New Year, there could be a lot of gaming if we got our acts together, and if the school holidays fell right, we could get the 'family days' out of the way and focus on the important stuff, as we saw it.

A trip into the city centre with parents and grandparents on the 27th of December could get you some really god bargains as, back then the sales started the day after the UK's Boxing Day holiday and boy were the bargains great!

Even GW could be relied on to put out a few wire bins of old stock, often containing some real gems, but Beaties and Redgates were the places to hit at 10AM sharp, because you were going to have to fight for the stuff you wanted, such were the reductions on the rrp - and they were genuine reductions on the 'rest of year' prices.

And then, all of a sudden you were back at school, the drabness of January eating away at your soul and reminding you why you chose to dive into imaginary worlds 6 days per week.

As I type, it's 14:00 on Christmas Eve, and I am thinking of Roger, Darren, Pete, Chris, Pete, Paul, Paul, Lisa, Josie, Martin and a host of others, some of whom are no longer alive. It makes me wonder if they ever existed, or were they just characters in one of my games. I'll never get my head around the whole mortality thing.

In fact, only last night I was watching Bill Murray in 'Scrooged' and was really enjoying the film immensely, until it got to the cremation scene at the end, whereat I had a panic attack, covering my eyes and ears. It really is that bad.

I've not gone for a traditional Xmas Eve 'mooch' around the city today. My wonderful and attentive memsahib raced me almost to the doors of the local wargames store, where I bought the Cruel Seas miniatures game and then in a fit of festive spending madness, I bought a U.S fleet pack because it looked fun and was very nicely priced. Then it was back to the car, and straight home, my wife pushing me from the car and (after forcing me to take a saving roll versus tarmac with a -2 modifier because I was clutching a carrier bag full of toys and paints) racing off to see her mum and brother for a day of festive family joy.

 I've done my ironing, made some toast and coffee, fed the pup and written this blog post, but I'm not really feeling festive.

I wonder what my friends of old are doing right now, at this very minute?

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'l have a very good Christmas, I am sure, but the buzz that I remember on Christmas Eves of yore just isn't the same. Add to this, that it's the first Christmas that my mum's not been there to wind me up all through the month of December.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and take a cold cure and have a hot bath whilst reading the Cruel Seas rulebook and listening to a few Christmas tunes, or the Audible Christmas story on the iPod before an evening of peeling vegetables and preparing joints of meat for the morrow. Then it's off to bed to listen to M.R James ghost stories with a slice of pie made from some rare and exotic meat and a glass of 1991 vintage port.

And with that dear readers, I would like to thank you for following my ramblings for another year and wish you all the very best for Xmas and the coming new year.



Tuesday, 18 December 2018

A Heady Mix Of Great Gnolls...

Well, I walked in from the Grandson's Christmas Nativity;  a blazing tour de force of infant drama, let me tell. you. I was clapping and crying 'BRAVO!' much to the amusement of my daughter such was the quality of the cast.

And so, just when I thought it couldn't get better, I walked into my studio, to do a bit of overtime for a particularly favoured client, and found in my messages some incriminating pictures from Martin Buck.

Now, I have had very high expectations of Martin on my old school project, but he has exceeded them and indeed the ball has been knocked right outta the park.

Here are the pics of the heads for the Great Gnolls, which just ooze class and style.

Remember that every figure will be cast with each of the head variants, and with the models mostly being open handed, the amount of variety you will have at your fingertips is astonishing.

It's not often I shed a tear, but I did today, such was my joy.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must return to my Christmas break.


PS: Please feel free to blog and share the pics. Follow them closely via the Screaming Mob Miniatures FB page.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Of Orcs, City Streets And Supreme Serenity Via Fantasy Warlord And Stormtroopers Despite The Predations Of A Scottie Pup.

I'll begin writing and although I don't have a title right now, I may find one by the time I complete this old school epistle to the wargaming apostles as it were.

Friday saw me complete my work a day ahead of my schedule, having pulled double shifts at my desk for the last 3 weeks. All I had to do - and that's a sarcastic all - was to strip out and fully restock my studio. every year before I take my Christmas break, I dispose of the paints I bought the previous year and fully replace them, because frankly, I want my clients to have the very best materials and service - a mark of a true professional, IMHO. Although I have decided to only have the most used 400 paints immediately to hand this year, with the rest in 'Really Useful' boxes under my benches.

For the last couple of months, and in particular December, I've not really had time to sit and think much about my hobby and my life as it relates and intertwines with said hobby.
Firstly, I don't think the term hobby is in fact the correct way to view something which has impacted on my mental and physical wellbeing negatively and (more often than not) positively, and which has dictated the direction my life has taken to the extent that my daily bread (and perhaps a little cheese, salami and black olive paste - oh and a sliced dill pickle please) is reliant on that hobby.

When I do get a quiet moment or two - and there are few - I often reminisce on my friendships, feuds and experiences and despite the fact that my memories are somewhat harrowing at times, I don't think I regret a single one of them. After all, if I have been at loggerheads with someone, or they with me, there will have been a reason that one or more of the parties involved perceived to be justified under the circumstance. So, although I may bear the pain or the scars, I accept that is the way things have to be and therefore, losing sleep over it is not a logical way to proceed, however much regret I have.

What I am aware of very painfully, is that time is passing, and from my point of view, I'd possibly like to be chatting with or gaming with those people now and again, but the way of the human is that we don't generally apply heart and head in the most holistically balanced manner, because we are tribal at the genetic level.

No, this is not going to turn into a polemic, I assure you... I am simply at the end of my working year, reflecting that it has been one which has been filled with new experiences of every sort and which began with illness that took five months to shake off, and 3 days after I shook off that illness, as I walked around Partizan, my Mother was hours away from an unforeseen and preventable death, which robbed my small family of the ability to say farewells, and which was all the more bitter for me because we'd canceled attending a Christmas get together at my Mum & Dad's because I was so bloody poorly over Christmas with what was flu-like illness, that gave me a 48 hour break in February during which I went to Vapnartak and the day after as I was having lunch with my wife, celebrating what I assumed was my recovery with a long weekend, as a snowflake fell past the restaurant window, I felt that indescribable sensation that tells you that contrary to your own beliefs, you are in fact still much the main gladiatorial event in the arena of the unwell. My Summer holiday was three weeks of pootling around art galleries and museums (and some very fine ones we have, up here in the frozen flat cap infested northern reaches - and I include the realm of Mordor on the wrong side of the Pennines) during which I reached my 50th year, which was a bit more subdued, with the loss of my Mum. We fought like cat and dog, but for her not to be around to see me cross that line felt really rather odd.

But, I have only lost one working day despite all of the tribulations, and that for me is what counts.

So, as I sit here in my freshly deep cleaned studio on the second day of my Christmas break, with 16 more days after this one, the weak winter sunshine seeping through the various studio windows and a cup of coffee over on one of my benches, I am supremely serene and satisfied with what I have, despite all of the above.

You see, I said there was no polemic on the horizon, didn't I?

I truly am in a serene state; pleased to look at the sky, pick up an old rule set or purchase something that maybe, possibly only I have any interest in. And it feels very, very liberating. I am to all intents and purposes the most fortunate man in the world.

It has been - as you will have seen if you've followed me over the last 12 months or so - a year of some excellent buys; one which has seen me buy on instinct. If I've liked something, I've bought it, weighed it up in the balance once it arrived here at the Dark Tower, and either signed it in as a member or blackballed it and turned it back into cash.

Over the last two months, I bought a lot of vintage and modern Games Workshop Chaos stuff, and whilst the acquisition of it was fun (and trust me, there have been a couple of social media groups which blackballed me as a result of my buying frenzy, but hey screw 'em - they are won't be given the chance to buy from me, so it's a double edged blade :D ) the imbalance of those armies compared to other standard armies, and the plethora of rules in the two 300 page 'Realm Of Chaos' volumes made them look less appealing to me.  And so, I liquidated those assets and let the winds of retail fortune blow sirocco-like, keeping my eyes open for bargains.

It was interesting to buy things like this; snapping up anything which caught my eye rather than just relying on a firm plan hatched with fellow gamers. Don't get me wrong, had we had a collective plan, I'd have participated fully, but we were all pretty serene this year on the hobby front. It's all been quite odd.

I think my friends were giving me a bit of space that I myself didn't know I needed until I realised I was fencing myself off from the world a little. That's what friends - real friends - do, and I am very grateful to have friends like that.

Anyway, at Fiasco, my regular gaming buddy Dave and I decided to revisit Rapid Fire and 20mm WW2 gaming. He's gone for his traditional 'first crush' of Russians, whilst I, ever the backer of the underdog, acquired a really nice Romanian collection as you will recall from previous posts, and which is still sitting on my benches in the boxes it arrived in, awaiting sorting out and me getting to know it.

I am no aficionado when it comes to WW2, but from the first days of Colin Rumford & Richard Marsh showing what could be done in a relatively small space with 20mm, all redolent of days spent collecting Airfix figures, it was something which aesthetically appealed to me. Of course, Dave is madly building T34s at a rate which would have made the Soviet industrial complex faint with pleasure. I simply aspire to a few Pz-38t models to finish my own army.

The 'Living City' is going well, and I've got Prohibition figures, Martian invaders, 80s cops and more, all piled up in various states here in my studio. Dave is doing a truly sterling job of building the 20+ LARGE buildings that I've already bought and I guess there will be more:

The building at bottom left is a Hudson & Allen model... As you can see, they are massive buildings and Dave is really getting stuck in.

 Kayte is going to paint and detail them and my brother Andy has been using his brush skills to paint up some of the fittings, beginning with the machines for the amusement arcade which is part of the 80 incarnation of the city.

They are truly lovely when you remember they are just MDF boxes:

It's very much a team effort and one which we are all enjoying in one way or another, which, is how it should be.

Last week, I took delivery of 70 painted West End Games 25mm Star Wars miniatures, which 8 days later are in the dining room, still in the state they were delivered - as I said, I am so relaxed about my hobby, that it's looking a little pathetic to observers, as if I have lost my will to live with all things geeky, when in fact the truth is very much the opposite. I just don't have a timetable that I need to work to at present.

Going back to my point of collective enjoyment being the way that things should be, I recalled recently that I'd seen ready painted Orc over on the EM-4 site. The models were Nick Lund sculpts and as I have always had a weakness for Nick's style, which drills right back into the core of my hobby/life I started musing on building an army of Orcs, comprised of Chronicle, Citadel and Grenadier models all of which were sculpted by Nick. My original Orc armies all had fair number of Chronicle models in them, and I always thought that these were how Orcs should look. They were bandy, powerfully built models in a hotchpotch of clothes and armour, but with a business-like look about them, sculpted in that characteristically rounded style which you either love or hate. I'll leave you guessing as to how I feel about them ;).

So I headed over to the EM-4 site to find that they normally £15 per 5 figure sets were on offer at £9  per box.

They were painted to a rather pleasingly old school style, competent but not 'show standard' but let's look for a moment at them through the flinty eyes of someone who likes a bargain and hates painting his own models at weekends.

£9 per five works out at £1.80 for a painted metal figure

The bare metal price for 5 models is £8.75

So, that means the painting has cost 30 - or 5p per figure.

And so, I purchased 30 sets, which, when they arrived, saw me order another 26 sets, which led to another 6 sets, and a total of 360 Nick Lund Orcs filling the dining room.

And so at 5PM yesterday, I sat down to unpack them and then stick them to bases. There are 5 poses and so I opted for units of pole arms and units of hand weapons, each comprised of 18 models and to which I'll add a standard and musician from the Grenadier range, painting them myself, to give me a total of 400 Orcs in 20 units.

Here is where I was at 10PM last night:

As you can see, it's quite an impressive sight and weighs a ton!

In terms of expanding the army, I'll add a few chariots, a few units of archers and some bolt throwers from Grenadier, and Austrian based connoisseur and fellow old school enthusiast, Simon Howard very kindly cut me a most generous deal on a about a hundred Chronicle Orc infantry and 35 or so wolf riders.

The original Chronicle models are smaller in stature, which makes them perfect for the lower caste of Snaga and makes it very easy to differentiate between troop classes on the table.

Enamoured and soul-bonded as I am to Warhammer first and second editions, I also own a stack of Fantasy Warlord rulebooks, that 1989 rule set that seemed to offer so much but which at the dawning of a GW dominated world, crashed and burned, despite being a far more tactical and challenging set of rules. It was big, bright and unlike Warhammer at the time a full colour book with tons and tons of Gary Chalk illustrations which made it ooze High Fantasy. It had a game world which WHFB did not at the time and only really lacked a few of the more common fantasy races which would have made it - in my humble opinion - a far superior product in every way.

Reading it in the bath yesterday morning, I was reminded of just how solid a rule set it is. To this end, my Orcs were based on a 20mm frontage and will have sabot bases made o make them WHFB compatible.

Fantasy Warlord (and I am looking pointedly at you here,  Roger) is a 'proper' set of rules that any old school historical wargamer will feel familiar with. It uses a percentage based system and so you often get a number of automatic casualties based on your combat effectiveness, with any excess, being a percentage roll, for an additional casualty.

If I could find where the ownership lies for this rule set, I'd be in like Flynn and talking turkey over a re-release of them, because I think that these are a refreshing change from the modern tat. Lord, even Rick Priestley with his 'Warlords Of Nowhere' appears to be going skirmish these days, and you know my thoughts on that:

And so, there we have it. I am pretty darned serene, have a lot of plans, but feel a little less stressed about timescales for completion.

I must sign off at this point however as Rex, our latest addition to the pack of Scotties we keep here at Fackham Hall, needs his second feed of the day.

TTFN, and the very best of the season, to you all!