Friday 31 May 2013

100K Prize Draw day 5

The last one! I'm away for the weekend (hoping to squeeze in a visit to East Kirkby), so I won't be starting the draws until Monday, so you have until 0800 BST (UK local time) on Monday to enter draw 1, and ditto on Tuesday through Friday for draws 2 - 5. Meanwhile, my robot will keep you amused with posts over the weekend!

But first, here's the fifth and final prize, and boy howdy, but I think this one's a doozy!

The Rules:

Just to reiterate:
  • One (1) entry if you are a registered follower and comment on the post. If there are multiple lots, please say which you're interested in.
  • One (1) bonus entry if you plug this day's draw on your blog and comment with a link to say you've done so.
And for this draw ONLY:
  • One (1) bonus entry if you tell me you do not own any set of Too Fat Lardies rules. (Obviously, I'll be relying on your integrity for this one!)
The Prize:

The final prize is one set of printed or PDF rules from Too Fat Lardies, of your choice, up to the value of £25. To be clear: one set of rules (plus support materials such as cards if they come in a bundle) in either printed or PDF (or both if there's a suitably priced bundle) for no more than £25. Rules, not supplements - the aim here is to get you to try out a set of rules you've not tried before. I am willing to defer sending you your prize until Chain of Command is out, if that's the set you want (but I accept no responsibility for production delays, unless it's me who makes Rich go back and fix a pile of typos!)

N.B. Support for the Lardies' rules is, as always, available on the TFL Yahoo! group, where you'll find me and any number of folks who can answer your questions. In return for winning, I'd really like it if you blogged your experiences with the rules, too.

All you Richard Sharpe fans, Flames of War/Battlegroup: Kursk/Blitzkrieg Commander and SAGA players, take note: that's enough to get you I Ain't Been Shot Mum, Sharp Practice, or the hard copy bundle of Dux Britanniarum, among others too numerous to mention. If you want to know which rules fit a period you like, just ask!

The Draw

0800 BST Friday 7th June

Thursday 30 May 2013

100K Prize draw part 4

The Prize:

Reverting to 'what on earth are these doing in the bits box????' mode :D

I'll split these if someone only wants one of the two.

  • A collection of what I believe are early pre-slotta Citadels - they look like they'd mostly pass for Brettonians. I can scare you up some of the plastic shields to go with.
  • A 40K Commissar Yarrick figure. AND (as a bonus extra 'look what I found while tidying') three metal Genestealers!
The Rules:

Just in case you've forgotten:
  • One (1) entry if you are a registered follower and comment on the post. If there are multiple lots, please say which you're interested in (both is fine!)
    , and I'll redraw for the other if the winner only wants one.
  • One (1) bonus entry if you plug this day's draw on your blog and comment with a link to say you've done so.
The Draw

0800 BST Thursday 6th June

Wednesday 29 May 2013

100K Prize Draw day 3

The Prize:

A job lot of two items this time, for the historical gamers amongst you! (Yes, this draw IS for BOTH items together.)
  • One box of Conquest Games plastic 28mm Normans - your choice of foot or mounted, tell me which if you win - these will be brand new (as I'm a big fan of CG's range, I believe in supporting them!)
  • One (used) copy of Sharon Penman's historical novel "When Christ And His Saints Slept" for inspiration for something to do with those figures. Cracking retelling of the history of the Anarchy (Stephen/Matilda civil war), well worth a read.

The Rules:

You should know where to find them by now (hint: go back two posts!)

The Draw

0800 BST Wednesday 5th June

The Results!

Winning a box of Conquest Games Normans and a copy of "When Christ And His Saints Slept"...


Tuesday 28 May 2013

100K Prize Draw day 2

The Prize:

12 sprues of GW Lord Of The Rings figures. These actually come from the magazine part-work that was released most of a decade ago to promote the initial release of the rules around the movies. I've basically nabbed the Rohirrim to stand in for later Saxons, but the rest are (barring a couple of sprues that have been clipped in half) intact. We have:

  • 2 Men of Minas Tirith sprues
  • 2 Goblin sprues
  • 6 assorted Orc/Uruk sprues, including two with siege ladders
  • 1 sprue of Orc Warg riders
  • 1 sprue of Wargs
The Rules

See yesterday's post.

The Draw

0800 BST Tuesday 4th June

The Results

The winner is....

Chris Stoesen

Monday 27 May 2013

100K Prize Draw day 1

[Before we start - the 2013 Lardies Summer Special is out, and man is it awesome! It would still be awesome without my article, of course.]

So, here we go.

The Rules
  • One (1) entry if you are a registered follower and comment on the post. If there are multiple lots, please say which you're interested in.
  • One (1) bonus entry if you plug this day's draw on your blog and comment with a link to say you've done so.
The Draw

0800 BST Monday 3rd June

The Prize

It's going to be a real mix - some vintage Citadels, some LoTR, heaven knows what else...

For today? From the 'dear Lord, I don't recall having these' pile.

Lot 1: Three boxes of classic era Airfix 20mm figures
German Infantry, ACW Artillery, Guards Band

Lot 2: Two of the 54mm Collectors series figures
British Hussar, Scots Grey

The Results:

The Airfix 54mms go to M R Lee.
The 20mms go to Monty

Sunday 26 May 2013


Yay! 100,000 page views.

I'm going to be very bad, and make this a very short post, as it's nearly 11pm, and I've been setting up, running and live-streaming a folk concert for the fabulous Talis Kimberley (and her other half Simon and my tame archaeologist Chantelle), and I am cream crackered.

Thank you to everyone who's read, commented, and followed: you're too numerous to mention individually, but a special nod to the folks I consider an inspiration: my partner in Dark Ages crime Andy Hawes, the regularly entertaining and thought-provoking Phil Broeders, and the amazing and inspiring Sidney Roundwood.

As promised, there will be a prize draw, starting tomorrow and spread over the next week.

See you all for the next 100K!

Saturday 25 May 2013

Review - "Miniature Wargames" issue 362

Scarily, it must be a month since Salute.

I can tell this for a couple of reasons. First up, the credit card bill's arrived - cue the 'you've been spending money again' cries from the Keeper Of The Privy Purse...

Next, and far more satisfying, issue 362 of Miniature Wargames dropped onto my electronic doormat yesterday morning. Unlike a real postman, it doesn't knock or bang the letterbox flap at 3am, so I was somewhat pleased by that!

This is the second issue under the guidance of former Battlegames editor Henry Hyde, and I have to say? he hasn't let the standard slip from the previous one. Plenty of articles on a wide range of topics, including an interesting piece on an ECW campaign setting in 1644 (which rather appealed after our club campaign last year), a pirate rescue scenario which I'm awfully tempted to try out with Legends of the High Seas sometime and another one of Diane Sutherland's excellent terrain-on-a-budget pieces.

More interesting, a couple of very thought provoking 'meta' articles on the nature of 'realism' in wargames rules, and on the 'top down' vs 'bottom up' approach to a wargaming project. I'm all for more of these in MW, as I really do enjoy talking about the meta stuff around gaming.

One small criticism of the digital edition? The contents items aren't clickable, as far as I can tell, on my iPad.

In a nutshell? If it was a brand-new gaming mag with no history attached to the title? I'd buy and subscribe like a shot.

Onto the next! (like I think I said last time!)

Friday 24 May 2013

Brief Review - Plastic Soldier Company Warsprays

At least, that's what I assume they're called. The cans are labelled very prominently 'Army Sprays', but the supporting literature calls them "Warsprays".

Anyway - to the right we have British and US tank sprays as well as British khaki and German Feldgrau. Initial impressions? Cans feel slightly chunkier than the Army Painter ones, and are a damn sight easier to open.

The colour is indicated by three things:

  • the icon on the can (which helps you distinguish half the range from the other half)
  • the coloured ring around the spray head (which probably helps you distinguish most things, but I'd hate to have to tell US, British and Russian tank colours apart in poor light)
  • a printed description on the coloured ring, which looks like the same kind of print 'Best Before' dates are put on things like milk cartons with. I'd be a little concerned as to whether it rubs off before I've emptied the can!

The only one I've tested is the Feldgrau, on a company's worth of 15mm Battlefront metals and plastics - in fact the force for the second scenario in the IABSM rulebook.


Covers well, sprays nicely, dries pretty fast (tens of minutes tops). If anything it feels a shade thicker and stickier than the Army Painter stuff its apparently based on, but this isn't a problem. Looks like it should be a decent match for the Vallejo Feldgrau should I need to do any touching up.

In summary? You need to paint WW2 stuff? Go out and buy some! Does what it says on the tin :D

Thursday 23 May 2013

Terrain part 6 - hills

As I have said in the past, I am a firm believer that the small, rather sad looking polystyrene, or similar, pimples that adorn many wargames tables are not hills in any reasonable sense of the word in any ground scale that's even close to 1:1. Time to build a big hill and put my money where my mouth is.

That's most of an A1 sheet of 10mm foam board: essentially it's about 2' x 3' before the shaping. The ribs are more foamboard, and the plateau is a chunk of 50mm craft foam I had spare from another scenery experiment (of which more later).

It's designed to fit a board corner. The next stages are screwed up newspaper, some more ribs and some masking tape, and then some Woodland Scenics plaster bandage.

My one worry is keeping it flat - that size of foam board tends to flex, but the plaster etc. should keep it rigid once it's done. Sadly, the workshop floor isn't quite flat, so before I apply any paint or PVA I'm going to have to clear some space and move it to the bench.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Feeling kinda pleased with myself

I'm rather chuffed (as we say up North) to reveal that as of (probably) the beginning of next week, I am officially a published wargames writer.

Ok, you could make the case that I am already if you count this blog. And the publication in question is PDF-only. 


My piece entitled 'If You Go Down To The Woods Today' will be in the 2013 Too Fat Lardies Summer Special when it comes out, which Mr. Clarke assures us is Real Soon Now. I've seen (and approved) the final proof, complete with a nice little snippet from my partner in Dux Britanniarum crime, Mr Andrew "Andrucius" Hawes, and a couple of photos of our battles.

Hopefully the first of many.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Battle Report - 21 May 2013 - Chain of Command

It's not often we run out of hedges before we run out
of places to put them!
Last night was the club's 40K campaign night, so some of those of us who don't, ah, partake, as it were, gathered for another run through the Lardies' Chain of Command.

This time, we decided to start the mini-campaign suggested in the rulebook, so basically a platoon a side - we decided to skip any reinforcements. And of course, since nearly everyone else was playing 40K (barring Andy and Paul, and I suspect he'll tell you what he was doing on his blog later!), we got to use ALL the nice new Last Valley 28mm Normandy terrain we wanted.

View of the battlefield from the German right - the red
roofed house nearest the camera and the grey roofed one
a little further down the road at the T-junction were the
main scene of the action.
Gary and Chris took the British, and AndyM (rapidly turning into a veteran of things WW2 and Lard) the Germans: the patrol move phase was, once again, interesting, and once again I think both players perhaps missed out - I really AM going to have to play this damn game rather than umpire, sometime! The Germans got beaten to a couple of spots, and the British did manage a rather nice jump off point out on a flank, but were a bit compressed otherwise.

Germans pick their way past the (rather stagnant) pond
to the house.
Action focussed largely in a small cluster of three buildings off the end of the river bridge: Andy managed to locate squads in two buildings on his side of the main road, but did cop a fearful pounding from two British squads in the gardens across the road, who basically drew a bead on the windows and let fly with everything they had, for several phases.

After a few phases of this, Chris deployed the held-back British squad out on the British right, where Andy's reserve squad managed to draw a bead on them out of the top floor of a nearby building. Cue use of smoke (not for the first time) by the British to block their line of fire... were it me I'd have taken advantage of that and moved closer, but Gary and Chris chose instead to start to bring that section round to join the assault on the building at the t-junction.

The third British section makes its way
round to lend a hand.
By now the Germans were a little under the hammer, and another volley of fire caused them to be pinned. Gary fired off another 2" smoke round to block them from shooting as his lead squad charged the building, and we got to try out the close assault rules!

End result - 12 dice to the Germans (24 dice before the halving for being pinned, which does very effectively demonstrate the need to suppress the living bejaysus out of a defensive position before assaulting it, especially if they're in hard cover with 2 big men, 2 MP40s and a MG34!), 11 for the Brits. 5 kills, 3 shock to the Germans, 3 kills to the British. Which resulted in both forces retreating in opposite directions leaving the building unoccupied - the British because they lost, the Germans because they now had twice as many shock as figures!

Lots of smoke - I forgot the cotton wool again, so raided
some scrunched up loo roll.
That was pretty much it. We continued on for a few phases in which Chris' section got shot at, but as it was getting towards 2230, we called it a night, and a marginal victory to the British. For all they'd driven the Germans out of one of the buildings, and forced them to keep their heads down in the other, they'd taken a fair amount of fire doing it, and weren't exactly in the best of shape.

I might even get to run another game next week!

Monday 20 May 2013

A nifty app for iOS users

Courtesy of a poster on the Meeples and Miniatures group on Facebook, this is a handy little app - iModelKit.

What's it do? Well, it has colour swatches for an awful lot of paint ranges: of the popular modelling ones the only one I couldn't find (grr) was, you guessed it, Army Painter. It also has a neat colour mixer app, and the ability to scan a colour to try and match it.

Now, admittedly, you're restricted by the colour quality of the display and how good the source colour samples are, but they've done the best they can by taking them off the makers websites. There's also a scale calculator, just in case.

I've had a play, and while it's not a replacement for the Mark 1 eyeball, it's quite useful as a guide.

Cost? Free, if you don't mind ads. £4.99 for an ad-free version. Sadly, not available for Android yet.
In other news, Tamsin's last giveaway of her 100,000 views prize draw is a box of Warlord Spartans. Which would, I have to admit, go nicely with the other four boxes of Hoplites in unpainted Ancients box number 2 :D.

Sunday 19 May 2013

WIP - more 15mm WW2

 Didn't get as much done today as I'd have liked - playing bass for two different church services and getting waylaid by the Domestic Authority to help weed the back meant I got to steal half an hour before breakfast and a bit more before supper.

Did manage something, though. First up, and like the rest waiting on the PSC Field Grey Warspray, 3 German 80mm mortar teams: most of the crew come from a Battlefront metal set, but they only provide three figures per base, and IABSM standard is 5, so I had to scavenge from spare Open Fire sprues.

The StugIIIG's, on the other hand, are from the Open Fire box - they go together pretty easily except that a) it's quite hard to get the tracks parallel in the vertical plane and b) the tiny part for the muzzle brake is exceptionally fiddly. So far, just undercoated in Army Painter Desert Yellow, which is a pretty close match to Dunkelgelb. I'm currently debating which of the many camo variants to apply: the standard brown/green wavy pattern is nice, but there's a few photos of StugIIIs in what's more green and brown 'blobs' which looks tempting...

And for those of you wondering - this is the 15mm WW2 stash. The 18L box is mostly unopened PSC boxes plus a few Battlefront tanks, and a large pile of halftracks and the like in blisters The bottom 9L box is Battlefront platoon/company boxes and blisters, and the top is the sprues from one complete Open Fire box and bits of two more.

With the addition of the Battlefront Easy Company and Para Warriors of Market Garden blisters (also in that pile on top of the 9L box) I have pretty much a company of US Paras, though I suspect it's a bit light on supports. Flames of War organise their Paras differently to IABSM, so I'll need to do some counting.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Building some 15mm Germans

Having finally got the table clear of scenery makings (for now - Tim-the-builder's hopefully here later next week with a supply of 2' hardboard squares), I figured it was about time I got some of my assorted 15mms at least sorted and assembled. Plastic Soldier Company have announced their new Warsprays are available (at Triples, which is this weekend), so hopefully my order should turn up sometime soon. In the meantime, having everything ready to paint is a Good Plan, right?

The end result of an afternoon's clipping, de-flashing and gluing is a company, pretty much, of Heer - 9 x 8 man sections, 4 MG42s with crew on tripods, two FOOs, 4 Panzershrek teams, and 9 bases of Big Men.

Most of the figures (the grey plastic) are from the contents of one and a bit Battlefront "Open Fire" boxes - I've still got roughly another three squads worth, which is handy because the max I need for Blenneville or Bust is 11. The metal are partly from a BF Panzergrenadier HQ Company box I won in Tamsin's last giveaway (note to the keen, today she's giving away a box of Warlord ECW foot, which deserves a plug!), and some from a couple of HG Weapons Platoon packs I bought off Dale at the club.

My original plan for the Heer was to at least look at the Wargames Factory figures. They're OK on their own, but... permit me to demonstrate:

Battlefront plastics
Wargames Factory plastics
As you can see, the WF figures are much spindlier. In WF's defence they may well be closer to realistic proportions, but given the very limited range, they really do not match the BF stuff.

Friday 17 May 2013

"After Me, The Flood"

I was going to return to semi-normal blogging today, but...

BBC Radio Lincolnshire spent last night (through into this morning) with a very comprehensive 'as live' broadcast on the Dams Raid. I sort of dozed of listening to it on the iPhone, and woke off and on through the night. At 5.30 am, they broadcast an absolutely superb drama, called "After Me, The Flood" - a translation of 617 Squadron's motto, "Aprés Moi La Deluge". It's a starkly simple, yet riveting, play that translates perfectly to radio, and was I understand performed in front of the audience at Scampton to general acclaim (and a thumbs up from Johnny Johnson!) yesterday. You can catch it on iPlayer for the next 7 days - it's only half an hour of your time and I really do thoroughly recommend it.

If you have digital, I also recommend Channel 4's "Building the Bouncing Bomb", on More 4 tonight at 9, in which an only slightly eccentric Cambridge engineering professor tries to rebuild the bouncing bomb and blow up a dam in Canada. It's a repeat, but it's well worth watching.

On a non Dambusters topic: the fair and talented Tamsin has reached 100,000 hits on her blog (beating me by about 4,000!, and, as seems to be the trend, is running a giveaway of some rather nice stuff (Warlord Tommies, a GZG gift cert or some Baccus minis) for the next few days. Congratulations to her, and go check it out.

Thursday 16 May 2013

It was 70 years ago today

At 2100 on the 16th of May 1943, the first of 133 brave men took off for the Dams raid, Operation Chastise, in nineteen specially modified Avro Lancasters. Only eleven of the aircraft returned home, and fifty-three brave, and in many cases all too young, men gave their lives.

The Dambusters raid has alwas been somewhat iconic for me. Paul Brickhill's "Dam Busters" was the first book my late maternal grandfather ever gave me - a battered, first edition copy with the narrative still gripping, but bruised under the red pen of the Official Secrets Act. I still have that faded copy somewhere. Strangely, I'd never realised till, would you believe, yesterday, when searching the text for it on Google Books, that Brickhill published a second edition. after the security restrictions had been lifted, which shows he actually knew a lot more about (for example) how the Upkeep mine worked than he was allowed to let on.

I loved that book. Like many others I read around that time, I can still remember sections of it verbatim. It's very much of its time - obviously it lacks some information that's come to light since (such as where certain planes actually crashed), it fails to mention several of the survivors of crashes, and so on. Were it written now (like, for example, James Holland's recent book) it would spend more time trying to get into the heads of its major protagonists for dramatic effect, but it's a testament to Brickhill's book and, one would hope, research that (for example) the words he attributes to a number of people are still those put in their mouths in other retellings.

It also taught me to swear :D

I've always loved that book, and the tale of heroism it recounts. It was the inspiration for Lord alone knows how many Lego Lancasters, and the original Airfix one was probably the first kit I ever built, again with help from my grandfather. He was a complex man: unlike my father's father (who instilled in me a love of cricket and heraldry), he was much more into military history and engineering. During the war, and for a long time after, he was a Civil Service engineer, and (ultimately) recipient of the Imperial Service Order (for 25 years of 'long and meritorious service'). I don't know exactly what he did, but family stories suggest that whatever it was was at a fairly high security classification, and he never told.

There have, unsurprisingly, been many excellent books written about the raid, and I do have a tendency to snap them up when I see them. Well recommended is John Sweetman's "The Dambusters Raid", which has been through several editions and a tie in with a fascinating Channel 4 programme - it's very thoroughly researched, and certainly opened my eyes to things I wasn't aware of from Brickhill's book or Gibson's "Enemy Coast Ahead". The latter, understandably, suffers even more from the censor's pen, given he wrote it during the war (although the link is to an 'uncensored' edition I may clearly have to buy!

Brickhill's, for all its flaws, is still the one I love most though.

Do watch the tribute and the documentaries on BBC1, and follow the twitter stream from @RoyalAirForceUK. (Also check out the next post to this for some more recommendations.)

In memoriam:

Today, specifically, those who lost their lives on the raid, and the 1600 civilian victims (2/3 of whom were forced labourers) killed by the destruction of the Möhne and the Eder dams, but never forgetting the 55,000 young men of Bomber Command who gave their lives during the war.


  • F/L W Astell DFC
  • SGT J Kinnear
  • P/O F A Wile RCAF
  • F/O D Hopkinson
  • WO2 A Garshowitz RCAF
  • F/S F.A Garbas RCAF
  • SGT R Bolitho


  • P/O L J Burpee DFC RCAF
  • SGT G Pegler
  • SGT T Jaye
  • F/S J L Arthur RCAF
  • P/O L G Weller
  • SGT W C A Long
  • WO2 J C Brady RCAF


  • S/L H M Young DFC & bar
  • SGT D T Horsfall
  • F/S C W Roberts
  • F/O V S Macausland RCAF
  • SGT L W Nichols
  • SGT G A Yeo
  • SGT W Ibbotson


  • P/O W Ottley DFC
  • SGT R Marsden
  • F/O J K Barrett DFC
  • F/S T B Johnson
  • SGT J Guterman DFM
  • SGT H J Strange


  • F/L J V Hopgood DFC & bar
  • SGT C Brennan
  • F/O K Earnshaw
  • SGT J W Minchin
  • P/O G H F G Gregory DFM


  • F/L R N G Barlow DFC RAAF
  • P/O S L Whillis
  • F/O P S Burgess
  • P/O A Gillespie DFM
  • F/O C R Williams DFC RAAF
  • P/O H S Glinz RCAF
  • SGT J R G Liddell


  • P/O V W Byers RCAF
  • SGT A J Taylor
  • F/O J H Warner
  • P/O A N Whittaker
  • SGT Wilkinson
  • SGT C Mc Jarvie
  • F/S J McDowell RCAF


  • S/L H E Maudsley DFC
  • SGT J Marriott DFM
  • F/O R A Urquhart DFC RCAF
  • P/O M J D Fuller
  • WO2 A P Cottam RCAF
  • F/O W J Tytherleigh DFC
  • SGT N R Burrows

Wednesday 15 May 2013


A few things as we edge closer to 100,000 page views.

As mentioned earlier, my friend Tim has a blog up covering various Lardies games etc - since he now has Actual Posts, here's the link -

Our club chairman, Reuben, has started running a small business shifting new and second hand wargaming stuff as PE2Collectables (also on Facebook). If you were at Campaign you might have run into him. Plenty of good deals on GW (both new and old, painted and not), Flames of War, etc etc. And he's a nice bloke too, so if you have anything you want to shift or buy... Also,
I'm hosting his new website, which should be set up by the end of the week.

There will be a giveaway when I reach 100,000 (just over 4000 to go, so expect it in a bit under two weeks) - after all, I've won two in the past from other bloggers, so it only seems fair. Prizes will include some GW LoTR sprues (elves, Orcs, Minas Tirith), some old Airfix 20mm boxes and 54mm single figure kits, and probably a few other things.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Dambusters 70th

The Möhne Dam the morning after -  taken
by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron
from his Spitfire PR IX
Photo now public domain.
If you haven't been hiding under the proverbial rock of late, you can't have failed to notice that it's the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise, the Dams raid, coming up on the 16-17May.

There's plenty of publicity for the more popular aspects of the occasion, but I thought I'd flag a few of the less so:

  • The RAF's Twitter account, @RoyalAirForceUK, will be live-tweeting (plus 70 years, anyway) the communications from the 19 Dambuster aircraft during the mission anniversary.
  • The Dambusters Weblog is going through biographies of all 133 Dambusters crew, one a day, at present.
  • If you're a completist, and want to know the eventual fate of each of the 19 aircraft, plus a couple of the training aircraft and Joe McCarthy's unserviceable Q-Queenie, you can check this post that I researched a while ago for the Breaking the Dams site.
  • If you're a real completist, there's a scanned copy of the 617 Squadron Operational Record book online which covers every mission to the end of the war.

Monday 13 May 2013

Sunday 12 May 2013

Back from Campaign day 2


Feet killing me less today, but then it was a two hour shorter day.

Another day with the mad, mad balloon game. And, annoyingly, another day when I can't find my camera cable, so you are, sadly, going to have to wait till Monday when I can snaffle the USB to miniUSB cable that's hanging up near my desk for pictures of the game.

Ran into a bunch of folks - Tamsin; an ex-colleague from the BBC I didn't know was a gamer; a couple of members from our club who were at the Flames of War tournament; Simon from the Rushden club; and a couple of potential new members, so all in all a good day. Also picked up a couple more useful Battlefront blisters and hardcopies of Sharp Practice and Charlie Don't Surf....

...and got paged at 1530 (ok, afternoon is better) due to someone else's maintenance going a little screwy. Fortunately, a much quicker and less annoying issue :D

I did grab a couple of pictures on my iPhone - this is the rather excellent 15mm DBA Battle of Bosworth from the Society of Ancients - surprisingly effective, and the guys doing the demo had some excellent material and were very knowledgable.

Oh, and we came up with a very interesting idea for our next participation game.

One ingredient is a pair of these:

Saturday 11 May 2013

Back from Campaign day 1

And man, my feet are killing me.

Getting up at 0630 to drive to Milton Keynes for 8ish would have been brilliant, were it not for the fact that at 0245 work's automated alert system decided to page me with a problem, that then proceeded to resolve itself but required me to watch it till 0330. To add insult to injury, I figured watching a couple of innings of the Twins/Orioles game on (yes, yes, I'm a Brit with an subscription who's a diehard Twins fan. Got a problem with that?) would keep me awake, and proceeded to watch the Twins throw away a 6 run lead. As you can guess, by 0630 I wasn't at my brightest :D

Campaign's a fun show - it's right in the open area in the middle of the centre:mk shopping mall, so we get the general public as well as wargamers, so our brand of cheap, cheerful, visual and fun participation game goes down really well. I'll report tomorrow with pictures of everything else that was there, but for now, just one slightly bemused observation.

There were three or four stalls there, including the Bring and Buy, which had brand-new, still-in-the-shrinkwrap, Flames of War minis. Without exception, they were all trying to shift all their stock at a discount (20%, 3 boxes for 2, that kind of thing) and, I'm pretty sure, weren't intending to restock.

I picked up about £130 of Battlefront stuff that I needed for Blenneville or Bust for a hair over £90.

Did I miss a memo somewhere?

Friday 10 May 2013

Learning more about Archaeology

Just popped up on Facebook via the Dig Village folks is this - "Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets", a course via Coursera taught by Sue Alcock of Brown University. Truth to tell, I've always been kind of tempted, if I ever had the time and the money, to do a second degree in archaeology or history - this is particularly tempting living as we do on the edge of the Fens, with Flag Fen but a few miles away, and the local college does in fact do one. I am, however, perhaps getting a bit old to make much practical use of it :D

Anyway, the Coursera course looks kind of fun - it's 8 weeks from the beginning of June, and here's the introductory video. It's free, and entirely online, so...

Watch this space - I'll keep folks updated on any interesting titbits.

Thursday 9 May 2013

World building and Kickstarters

After a day in London, and two train journeys with no room for a laptop, I am in thoughtful mood, so you get another of my ponderings.

I am struck by the number of Kickstarters around at present, which can all pretty much be summed up as 'here's an interesting new setting in some genre or other, with some rules and some figures'. To be more accurate, perhaps, "here's an interesting new setting which allows us to sell a set of rules and also lots and lots of figures." And these settings, for all they can range between all the genres under the sun, do have a number of things in common. So let's deconstruct them!

First off, you need conflict. This is, of course, pretty much a given, as we are, after all, talking about wargames. Design a setting which forces side A and side B to have a reason to fight. And make it a convincing one.

Next? Multiple factions. Not always the case - "All Quiet On The Martian Front" sort of technically only has two, Earth (lots of allies) and the Martians, but even so it has multiple Earth allies which allow folks to decide which faction they want. Particularly good for a Kickstarter, because it gives you stretch goals, multiple pledge levels, etc etc. Just ask Mantic, who really have got this whole thing absolutely nailed.

Next? An excuse for any faction to fight any other. This is one of the major tenets of 40K, that it should be possible for any two sides to go to war (and preferably, one side against itself!). Particularly useful for games with a tournament leaning, it does remove the awkwardness of 'blue on blue' battles which are, I gather, not uncommon in the likes of Flames of War or Napoleon at War tournaments.

Next? Fluff. Gotta have fluff, because fluff is what makes the difference between a nice wargame with some interesting factions, and a horde of raving fanboys and fangirls extolling the virtues of their respective in-game ideologies, writing blogs and more fluff of their own, and generating you more sales by word of mouth. Fluff is what makes the conflict believable. And yes, I know 'fluff' is a bit of a dismissive term, but I happen to like it. Heck, I write enough! It's one of the things that gives you immersion in the game, allows you to see it as more than figures on the table.

With fluff comes liberal use of recognisable tropes (look out, I'm going to link to again!) - they're a lingua franca of fluff that your players can easily identify, and identify with. Look at Space Hulk, Sedition Wars, DeadZone - the Alien trope in full force. Everyone 'gets' it, everyone can see where it's coming from. Highly trained killers in Power Armour are a trope (and no, GW, whatever you call them, you don't have a monopoly on them!). The art, though, is in picking tropes that haven't become clichés: the Alien trope is getting perilously close in the SF gaming genre. Tropes are a shortcut to getting your players (or potential customers, depending on how you want to look at it) to buy into your backstory, but if you want to produce something really good, they're not a substitute for Actually Doing The Work. For that, you need to subvert the tropes a bit. Remember the opening to the very first episode of Buffy, which takes the girl preyed on by vampire trope and turns it on its head? Say... what if we make the aliens the good guys?

By the time you get to about here, you're done. Well... except for a couple of things, namely some rules and some figures. The interesting thing here, and maybe I'm being a bit cynical here, is that of these two, the figures are probably the most visible and yet the easiest. Yes, designing good-looking figures isn't easy, but there are a dickens of a lot of damn good designers out there: find one, feed him or her your setting, ideas and appropriate negotiated financial inducements, stand well back and wait. There's nothing hugely difficult past there - making figures once you've designed them is known, proven, readily available technology.

The funny thing is - the rules (with a few exceptions - oh look! Mantic again!) probably get the least love and attention from the punters out of any of the above when they're looking at that shiny new Kickstarter. And yet, the rules are the one, actually, you really have to get right. And it's hard. Why? Because in several years time, the reason people will keep coming back to this whole game won't be the setting, the fluff, the awesome looking figures... it'll be, purely and simply, do I still want to play the game? Which will be all about the rules, the instantly forgettable, not at all shiny, PDF and/or book that gets none of the publicity and needs most of the love.

I'll leave you with that thought.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Terrain part 5 - the finished marsh


I had enough spare time, and a clear table, to do the nerve wracking bit on Bank Holiday Monday, namely pour about 1/3 of a bottle of Javis Scenic Water into the hopefully liquid-tight marsh area, and leave it to dry somewhere dead level that the cats won't get to it.

This wasn't as hard as it might have been - we have enough space in the house that I could commandeer the dining table and shut the doors, and I have a very handy iPhone app that is a very useful spirit level. It's still a bit nerve wracking, though, and I made a point of leaving it longer than the bottle recommended before yielding to any temptation to check it! The other issue is the resin water has quite considerable surface tension, so tends to leave slightly unrealistic looking edges. I found that adding a little more resin very carefully along the more prominent edges after about four hours seemed to hide this quite well.

Isn't it annoying how you don't
notice you've missed the edge of
the tree base until you
photograph it?!
The tree, as mentioned before, is a Hornby willow tree armature, liberally sprayed with hairspray and dunked in in Woodland Scenics flock several times before being dunked in a bath of Pledge Multi-surface Wax and left to dry. As per usual, it's based on a 2p piece and the hole it fits in has a small disc magnet to hold it in place.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Selling, giving away and welcomes.

A bit of a mishmash post here, but I'd feel like I was being cheap with my daily blogging if I stretched it out to four posts, and a bad neighbour if these things didn't rate a mention, so:

Selling: Andy Hawes, my partner in Dux Britanniarum crime is selling off some of his unpainted pile. Check his post here for details, but be aware I've got my eyes on the Romano-British :D [Edit; hah! Too late, it seems!]

Giveaways: Seb of Back to the Minis has started a giveaway to celebrate his blog's second birthday. Do check in if you're interested in any of the very varied collection of things he's giving away!

I should also note that this blog is coming up on 100,000 pageviews, at which point I'm likewise considering some kind of giveaway to celebrate.

Welcomes: A couple of friends have started blogs:

First up, Rob from our club - a mix of thoughts, and notes on Judge Dredd and the new Warhammer army he's building

Secondly, my friend Tim from Uni, with whom I play occasional games of Lardies' rules, is starting a blog. As he hasn't actually posted yet, I'll spare him the embarrassment of a link, but I will tease him to hurry up and post, as he runs a good game and has some excellent thoughts about gaming in general. Watch this space for a link.

Monday 6 May 2013

Book Review - Stuart Hills, "By Tank Into Normandy"

I'm pretty sure this was recommended me by someone on the Lardies list, but I can't find any mention of it in my email, which precludes me thanking whoever it was.

"By Tank into Normandy" is the wartime autobiography of 2nd Lt. Stuart Hills of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, and covers his career from being landed (eventually) on D-Day as the commander of a Sherman DD troop, through the breakout in Normandy, Operation Bluecoat, post-Market Garden operations with US 82nd Airborne and the final push into Germany.

You would be forgiving for marking the author down as a stereotypical British junior officer: born in Hong Kong, educated at boarding school in Tonbridge, keen cricketer and boxer, went to Sandhurst... and indeed, the photos in the centre pages do show him and his brother officers as the classic clean-cut army types. He is, however, a very articulate author, willing to reveal the emotions and thoughts behind the expected stiff upper lip.

I really enjoyed this - Hill (with assistance from a historian and teacher from his old school) writes clearly and articulately, telling the story of his wartime service in a way that grabs the attention and makes one see the action very clearly. It's also hard to look at those photos in the centre pages and realise how young some of these men were - Hills himself was only 20 - and how many of Hills comrades didn't survive the war. His quotes from the unit's chaplain are particularly sobering.

Hills died in 2004, two years after the book was published. As well as being an excellent insight into life in a tank regiment in World War 2 (and thus recommended reading for anyone who takes their gaming seriously), it's a fitting tribute both to him and those who fell during the war, be they famous or those who, as Hill says (quoting from the book of Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha):
...have no memorial;
Their bodies are buried in peace;
But their name liveth for evermore.
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