Wednesday 30 April 2014

Wargaming Books In Schools Project

From Rich Clarke on the Too Fat Lardies blog:
My first contact with wargaming as a hobby came on my first week at senior school when I accidentally picked up a copy of Don Featherstone’s War Games Campaigns. I was absolutely amazed at what I had found and very fortunate that the school library had many of Don’s other wargaming books as well as those by other authors such as Terry Wise and Charles Grant. It was, of course, the start of a long and very happy relationship with the hobby: a hobby which is now both my chosen career and my primary leisure interest. It must therefore be said that I owe much to that chance encounter with a library book.
More recently, a couple of months ago in fact, I was having a conversation with a gentleman who works at a school in Wales who had been asked to form an historical wargaming club for the students. With the passage of time it is hardy surprising that the wargaming books of the 1960′s and 70′s have long since disappeared from school library shelves, and I was very conscious of the fact that any member of school staff undertaking such a worthy project would most likely be lacking much in the way of budget and support materials. Indeed there seem to be few books on wargaming which ever come to the attention of the general public in these days where the internet can mean that niche markets are often invisible to those who are not “in the know”.
[read on here] 
In short? The idea is that those of us who feel some kind of debt of gratitude to school wargaming clubs and libraries may want to donate the price of a copy of Henry Hyde's Wargaming Compendium (which Pen and Sword have agreed to donate for £21), and that schools with a historical wargaming club may wish to apply for a copy.

If you're interested, do go read the full article, and you can contact Rich at

I (and very likely our club) will certainly be donating.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

3D printing - thoughts on DRM and per copy licensing

Some interesting and thoughtful comments on yesterday's (yes, it really was, don't argue) post.

One common thread that came up was re DRM and licensing generally. Archduke Piccolo is right - it's the big companies that are afraid of copying technology, be it tape, CD, MP3, whatever. But, and it's a big but, history says they will, pretty much, fail to restrict it. They might succeed in restricting the misappropriation of their own designs by the application of sufficiently large amounts of legal clout, but... you know what? Designs are copyright, stealing them is illegal. There's more money to be gained in copying (say) Dark Side Of The Moon than one of my albums. Wargames isn't a big market.

More to the point, the genie is already out of the bottle. Most of the software that drives 3D printers uses open file formats, and quite a lot of it is open source. The actual design of a printer is open source - look at the RepRap, which is not only a free design, you built part of it using a mate's RepRap!

Yes, it's possible (and I personally might actually welcome it) that, for example, Apple could add a category to the iTunes store for '3D Designs', and write some drivers for common 3D devices (the iMaker?) that handed iTunes design files, and possibly even ensured that a per-print royalty made it back to the designer. Would that, from the point of view of a small wargames figure designer, or even a gamer with a 3D printer, actually be that bad[1]? It would certainly indicate that 3D had hit mass market.

There are already sites out there that act as a repository for 3D designs - Thingiverse for one (follow the See Also links on that page for others). There are also (as PatG points out), and this may also be an interesting avenue to explore, sites like Shapeways who will print stuff for you: which allows you the tradeoff of access to their bigger commercial printer with better resolution in return for paying them more than it would cost you (but again, economies of scale - they can set off the cost of their big printer against multiple customers' orders).

Carl from our club also asked about full-colour printing - looks like it's here. Admittedly, the device to the left is $330K, but it is a high-end large format beast built by the same folks who make one of the more popular hobbyist machines, and... it's only a matter of time. Moore's Law, remember?

Which leads me to one final (unless you all get me thinking again) observation which brings us back to the first post of these three.

It is only a matter of time.

I get a little bit tired of threads on places like TMP where people loudly protest 'but home 3D printing's stupidly expensive and too low resolution for wargames'.

Wake up!

It might still be pushing what anything but an enthusiastic and well-off hobbyist can afford, but there are already people using it for aircraft, starships and tanks (where you can get away with slightly less detail), and have been for a couple of years. There's a shared 3D MakerBot printer in my London office. Maplin will sell you one. Micro's Kickstarter has raised over $1M for a $250 printer.  My son's GCSE Industrial Design lab has one.

The resolution issue will go away sooner rather than later, because once people have cracked it with a high-end printer, making it work for a desktop one is just about economies of scale and improving the design.

I'm starting to get that feeling I got when I bought my first home computer, my first digital camera, my first mobile, my first scanner, my first inkjet printer. I've never been an early adopter of technology (except for the iPad!): when I buy stuff, it's usually a pretty good indicator it's hit the mainstream.

Cheap home 3D printing is coming, in fact it's pretty much here: Moore's Law, the patent expiry issue  and simple economies of scale say it is. The technology is not the problem - how we manage the sale and sharing of designs will be. Think (especially if you're a designer or manufacturer) how you want to be a part of it, because as soon as next year or the year after could be too late.

[1] Please note: this is not a forum for discussion of whether Apple, Microsoft, Google, or anyone else is or are evil.  I am well aware of the wide range of differing opinions on that score, and hold one myself. Commercial reality and wide-eyed evangelism don't always mix well :D

Monday 28 April 2014

More thoughts on 3D printing

After some excellent replies to yesterday's post, some of which were on the line with my own views, I got to thinking some more....

Let's suppose, and it's not unreasonable, given both Moore's Law and the expiry of certain 3D printing-related patents that will considerably reduce the cost of the technology, that in 3-5 years time, quite possibly less, I can get for the same price as my Brother multifunction inkjet, a 0.01mm resolution 3D printer that will handle print jobs up to the size of, say, a decent sized 28mm building, sitting on the shelf in my living room. (More likely the workshop, since they'll still be a bit hot, noisy and potentially messy.)

What's the market for wargaming products going to look like then?

I honestly think the closest analogue is the record market, or perhaps now the book market. In both cases, we can divide the world into three different types of producer:

First up, we have the big companies: in the record industry, the likes of Sony, EMI, CBS etc, even the 'indie' labels; in books we're talking Penguin, Random House, the big publishers. They produce volume product, and they win on economies of scale - the setup cost for a product gets swallowed up by the super-low unit cost and the high volume run. The analogue in the wargames business is plastics - GW, Warlord, Mantic, Wargames Factory etc. Companies who are popular, and can afford, and have the market to risk, the setup costs of plastic in order to reap the benefit of the low unit cost afterwards. The key target here is popular titles, popular artists, popular figure ranges, that the producer knows they can shift enough of to win on sheer volume.

Next up, the smaller companies. We're talking the bands with self-produced CDs on CD-Rs in the record business, we're talking print-on-demand or vanity publishing in the book market. The unit cost is higher, but the win for the smaller market is that the setup cost is lower. In the wargames world we're looking at the likes of Foundry, the Perrys, Crusader etc. The per unit cost of lead is higher, but the setup cost for mould making is massively lower by contrast with the tooling for plastics with the likes of Renedra. But the initial outlay is still non-zero: you have a setup cost: a mould costs money to make.

Next? In the music industry, you have the MP3. Stick it on your band's website, or pay a small fee to iTunes, CD Baby, whoever, and you're laughing. Outlay beyond the sweat of making the recording, next to nothing, unit cost to duplicate (and I'm intentionally not counting royalties in this) effectively zero. In books, it's the same. Self-publish on your own website, Kindle or iBooks: unit cost to you the producer to duplicate, effectively zero.

Let's pause for a moment here. Despite all the hoo-hah about DRM, unauthorised sharing etc, the fact remains that this last model clearly works. If it didn't, there is no way that iTunes would be claiming three downloads per human being on the planet (and remember Apple removed DRM from iTunes), and Amazon wouldn't be doing $5 billion a year on the Kindle store. (As an aside, it's an interesting point that over 25% of the top 100 Kindle books are from small independent publisher and/or self-published titles.)

Where does that leave the wargames business?

Actually, I think it leaves it in potentially pretty good shape. The intellectual property exists in the figure design, just as it does in the author's original writing or the musician's original recording. Yes, there will always be people who rip off intellectual properly... That's been true ever since the photocopier and the tape recorder, and probably before - the existence of MP3s and digital versions of books would, you think make it easier, but despite the protestations of, chiefly, the bigger end of the producers of content - this seems not to be killing the market. Despite the doom and gloom that was 'Home Taping is Killing Music', home taping didn't, any more than Napster, or iTunes removing DRM, did.

I see a future where figure designers will be much more prominent, because you won't be buying (say) a Warlord infantry man, you'll be buying a 3D design for a Michael Perry sculpt. I do think this needs the commercial equivalent of iTunes for 3D designs, and I do think it needs to be at least in part dedicated to wargaming and similar, because of two things: one being that search parameters would benefit from being tailored to a wargamer customer, and the other being a subtle distinction between us wargamers and the average consumer...

The distinction, of course, is that people tend to only want one copy of a book or piece of music, We as wargames want anything from one (say Marshal Ney) to tens (a French infantry battalion) to hundreds (a Zulu horde)...

What this does mean is that the pricing model gets interesting: the classy one-off 3D design of Napoleon and the 3D model of the Old Guard both take the same effort, the same disk space... and yet your customer will print one of the former, and potentially a hundred of the latter. If you were selling lead, it's easy - you sell 101 figures, ring it up, move on. Selling 3D files, you sold 2 designs. Question? Is the Imperial Guard design worth more? Less? The same? Can I as the designer add value to it by providing integral basing, model files that print you a block of 2 ranks deep, 12 figures wide in one pass to (say) Napoleon At War basing standards? And yet, by contrast, in a more skirmish-y game, you won't want 30 US Marines all alike, so you may well be willing to pay for multiple designs.

It's an interesting one. What would you be prepared to pay (say) the Perrys for a design that costs you circa 30p a figure to print on your 3D printer? Would it make a difference if it was a design you were only going to use once? Would you pay more for a unit block that your printer could handle in one go and then split up afterwards? If you're semi-useful with a 3D editor, you could do this latter yourself, of course. How much would you pay not to?

The comments section awaits... :D

[And yes. It's after midnight. But I'm counting this as Monday's post because I started it over an hour ago, the first draft was done before midnight, and it's IMPORTANT!]

Sunday 27 April 2014

Kickstarter - affordable 3D printer (and Moore's Law).

Via the Cardiff' gaming club's BB -  the Micro 3D printer - and inspired by finally getting a driving lesson on work's 3D printer.

Thinking back, I remember when my wife was doing her final year VetMB project, and I was basically doing the DTP for it - we used my then employer's Apple LaserWriter, which was pretty much the first consumer laser printer...

It cost (according to Wikipedia) around about £4000, and (I vividly recall this) there was one diagram - simple black and white with a number of curves - that took literally twenty minutes to print.

If I look up to my left from where I'm sat here in the living room, there's a Brother combined A3 inkjet/fax/copier/scanner. £99, three decades later, for something which outperforms the LaserWriter in so many ways by about three orders of magnitude.

This is Moore's Law in action, which basically says that the density of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years with advances in technology. By extension, most measures of bang per buck in technology (for want of a better term) also double every two years. Hence the contrast between my inkjet, and that LaserWriter, and (for example) the rate at which computers are getting more powerful, hard disk is getting cheaper and (ironically) software is getting more bloated - although you could make a case for the latter being an adaptation of Parkinson's Law. :)

More relevant to the hobby this blog is about, is the fact that 3D printers are already quite a way down that curve - the analogue to the expensive business LaserWriter happened about 5 or 6 years ago, and we're now at the 'Maplin will sell you a basic 3D printer for £600' stage. It's only going to get cheaper, as this Kickstarter suggests. People are already 3D printing tanks and starships for wargames, and it's not going to be long (pace Moore's Law) before the printing resolution improves, and the price drops, to the point where 3D figures in at least 28mm are affordable.  The cheaper end of the market is already capable of 0.3mm resolution (not yet good enough for, say, facial detail on a 28mm) but the top end of the market is already at 1/10th of that or better.

It's coming, folks.

Saturday 26 April 2014

(Audio)Book review - "Decision in Normandy" - Carlo D'Este, read by Tom Weiner

I could wait till I've finished this before I review it, but quite honestly, most of what I want to say isn't going to change if I wait, so...

The book is subtitled "The Real Story of Montgomery and the Allied Campaign", which sums it up pretty well. It's a breakdown of the higher level politics and command decisions involved in the planning and execution of the British/Commonwealth side of the D-Day invasion. As such? It'd probably make a fun read.

However, it's badly let down by the performance on the recording. By contrast with Gordon Griffin's excellent Peter Fleming "Operation Sea Lion" book, there's very little light and shade in Weiner's voice: it's a dull, flat reading, in which it feels more like he's just reading the words than actually following the narrative. He doesn't pause for section breaks, he doesn't audibly change his 'voice' for quotes (and believe me, there are enough quotes in this book that that's a biggie)...

In short? I may go find a print copy to find out what I missed.

Friday 25 April 2014

Wish list

Having just had a nice bonus from work, and had the wife spend most of it (ok, to be fair, the new bathroom's long overdue, and I did offer, but not before I ordered the new camera...), I've been pondering what I might have spent it on in an infinite and home-improvement free universe...

The unpainted pile is pretty huge - regular followers should have a rough idea of what's in it: lots of 15mm WW2, 28mm Greeks, 28mm War of the Roses, 28mm WW2 in several flavours and 18mm Napoleonics are the main ingredients, and I have, I think, enough projects with those to keep me going for a good while (and that's without counting the Deadzone and Sedition Wars Kickstarters!)

What I was actually pondering was what I'd like to see that isn't already out there: brought on largely by wondering exactly why Warlord decided to add yet another set of 28mm plastic British Napoleonics to the two already out there (Victrix and Perry), and what they could have done instead. 

Top of the list? Has to be the Perry WOTR men at arms and light horse when they come out. I am much taken by the Sharp Practice WOTR variant courtesy of Silver Whistle, not in the least by the fabulous terrain. The rules in question are in the TFL Summer Special from 2013.

I'd love to see Conquest Games follow up on their Normans with some conversion sprues or similar for early Crusaders, the Anarchy, etc. Something tells me Gripping Beast or Fireforge might beat them to some of those, though (although I suspect Fireforge are tending later in that era).

I'd like Man At War to hurry the <deleted> up and bring out some 95th Rifles in their Napoleon At War range (as well as get those Dutch-Belgians cast!), and while we're at it, could *someone* (looking at you, Victrix) please make some plastic 95ths in 54mm, as I'd then be hard put to resist some large scale Napoleonic skirmish. (That game (link via JJ's Wargames report on the show) at last year's Salute was really really pretty!).

Other than that? More vehicles in 15mm from PSC - specifically the 6 pdr and Loyd Carrier in 15mm would make me very happy, as would a M3/M5 variants kit like the SdKfz 251 kit).

So that's me. 

What about you lot?

Thursday 24 April 2014

Warlord's new stone walls

Just a wee note to anyone considering buying these.

It's worth being aware that (while stocks last) these are exactly the same (not scaled up!) as the Italieri ones available here[1] for about half the price.

Several reviewers have pointed this out, and reviews of the originals have pointed out that the Italieri ones are a bit big for 1/72. The same (as far as scale goes) can apparently be said for their Walls & Ruins set.

[1]Usual disclaimer applies re Amazon links: they do link via my affiliate ID.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Some more pictures from Salute

...and a huge thanks to a couple of the folks who actually played our game at the show, Robafetts and Wardy-la.

Check out both their blogs for some great pictures of the game (and the club banner in action!).

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Imagi-nations campaign

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm off up to Ayton the weekend after next for a weekend of old school shot, steel and sword :D All done bar painting the horses, and ordering some Renedra 60x45mm bases to stick them too. (As these will only be used with Shot, Steel and Stone, I'm quite happy to base them in a non-standard, non-WABby way :D)

If you want to keep track of what's afoot, as well as watching here, you can enjoy the GM's (Henry Hyde of Battlegames/MW fame) public accounts of events in the warm-up map campaign via the pages of the Pescadrix Sun on his blog.

Monday 21 April 2014

Battle Report - 21 Apr 2014 - Shot, Steel and Stone

As a warm up for the Ayton game this coming May Day weekend, I attempted to refresh my memory with Henry Hyde's Shot, Steel and Stone rules - these are the set in The Wargaming Compendium, although we were working off the PDF set from Ayton two years ago.

The Vth (Careleton's) Regiment of Foot, flanked by
Johanesson's Native Horse (ok, ok, my Numidians
pulling double duty!)
Mine are painted and part-based for SSS (infantry on 45x40mm, although the cavalry are currently on 25x50mm singles and need rebasing). For those wondering? I did get both the guns and cavalry finished in time, although they all need varnishing and the latter need the horses painting something other than black undercoat :D

We picked some roughly equal forces, and had at, as it were. Grahame, as is his wont, sat and waited for me to come to him, barring a cavalry distraction on my left flank. It's probably a decent demonstration of the rules that penny-packet attacks against a line of infantry backed by heavy artillery gets you very dead. :D
The Guild of Barrelmakers medium guns, Jones' (IXth) Foot
and Byter-Legge's Jaegers. 

However, the aim of the game was to remind me how they worked in time for next month, and so they were a success on that score. They also served to remind me what not to do, so I guess that's good too :D

Sunday 20 April 2014

Exhibition banner, and resolution

Some of you may have noticed the banner the club had up at Salute. Sadly, I don't think I managed to get a pic of it in action, but here's a very very downsized version of the original art. I got it done by eBay user sign.print.lab, who managed to go from printer-ready art to banner in my hands from UKMail inside 24 hours, which was stunningly impressive, and only £40 including p&p.

The gotcha - they want printer-ready 300dpi art, so something knocked together in Word or Paint won't cut the mustard....

Just in case you're not sure you're reading that right, that's 250MB (a quarter of a GB) and 10,000 x 24,000 pixels. Like I said, a very downsized version!

What I did discover while doing this is that I probably need a new digital camera if I'm going to make a habit of this. My ageing Canon EOS 300D only has 6MP resolution, which translates to 3000x2000 pixels, or roughly 10" x 7" at 300dpi. (Hence the montage of pictures rather than one big one!)

While my really 'arty' and dramatic figure shots tend to be taken on the Canon (because I can do depth of field tricks etc), my iPhone 4S squeaks in at 8MP, which is marginally better. I have designs on an EOS 100D, as that nets me 18MP (and also HD video, which would be handy for several things!).

Saturday 19 April 2014

Osprey Easter sale

Heads up for the bibliophilic[1] amongst you. Osprey are doing an Easter sale, from now through Monday, with 20% off everything - including ePubs and PDFs, and if you're already getting a membership discount, it stacks :D

Remember, that also includes all their war-game rules such as Dux Bellorum, In Her Majesty's Name, Of Gods and Mortals...

Their store is here - have at :D

[1] Oo. Good word.

Friday 18 April 2014

More WIP - Wargames Factory WSS Cavalry

No photos this time, as there currently isn't space on the workbench :D

I picked up two boxes of the cavalry a while back, and in fact I've used about half a dozen to make various officers and standard bearers. The rest I've been meaning to turn into a cavalry regiment for a while, and today I finally got started.

First off, the bad - same complaint as the artillery horses: there is no way of fixing the horse to its base bar two points of glue and a prayer.

On the good side, this box is amazingly versatile - 6 identical horse sprues, 6 identical and seriously loaded rider sprues. I can do no better than quote the manufacturer's blurb:
[It] can be made into 12 horsemen and comes with 12 horses, 12 sets of legs for riders, over 50 torsos (including armored torsos for cuirassiers) and over 60 heads (including tri-corn, helmeted, grenadier and dragoon headwear).  They can be armed with a brace of pistols, muskets/carbines and/or swords.  Heads and accessories are interchangeable with the WSS Infantry set for even more options!
I'm not even sure one couldn't fiddle a set of ECW cuirassiers out of this box, to be honest. There are certainly enough spare heads/torsos/arms left over from the average infantry build to produce mounted standard bearers, etc. as well. Again, EMA Plastic Weld works much better than the Humbrol/Revell stuff, which at least meant I didn't wind up with a headache after assembling 18 horses and riders.

 As I have guests for the weekend, painting them (other than the undercoat, which is done) will have to wait till Monday.

Thursday 17 April 2014

WIP - Wargames Factory WSS Artillery

Finally got cracking on my Imagi-nations cavalry and artillery for the May Bank Holiday (with the added motivation of a game with Grahame at the club on Monday).

I got started with the artillery: they're actually pretty nice, as are a lot of Wargames Factory's more recent sculpts.

Om each of the two identical gun sprues you get 4 crewmen, with a choice of half a dozen heads, plus one mounted officer, and a selection of arms of various sorts. In addition, the gun carriage comes with a choice of 8pdr or 12pdr barrels.

Assembly is pretty straightforward - standard 'multi pose' plastic 28mms, although Wargames Factory have switched to a non-keyed head/neck joint compared to their earlier figures, and they've, rather annoyingly in my book. made the figures simply glue on to their supplied bases by their feet. (Compare the WSS infantry, which have their feet stuck to the usual small manhole cover.) This is even the case for the mounted officer, which has a pose which means its horse will only have two points of contact with the base: not convinced by this.

They'd have gone together better if I'd remembered my discovery from the Parthian marathon, namely that the usual Revell/Humbrol 'yellow tube' liquid poly is NOT the best glue for WF plastics, but in fact the EMA Plastic Weld applied with a brush.

I've also started to discover that the 'yellow' liquid poly gives me a headache after about 10 mins, so unfortunately, these half dozen figures is as far as I got today.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Dux Britanniarum Raiders supplement

As you may have noticed, in my Sa-loot was a copy of Raiders, the new supplement for Dux Britanniarum by Too Fat Lardies.

Your £18 gets you a 44-page rulebook, and a deck of 54 cards to add to your Dux Britanniarum deck as needed. The book adds four new forces to the core Dux armies, the Picts, Irish, Scotti and Northern British. They're all interestingly different, and the rules also provide for a whole bunch more unit types, including some fun cavalry variants. Unlike the original rulebook, it's black and white barring the cover and a few colour inserts.

You also get what is, effectively, a kit of parts for a campaign: you can go anywhere from using the Raiders forces as occasional nuisances in a classic British vs Saxons campaign, to a battle to become High King of Ireland, to a big sprawling whole of Britain campaign: this is helped by more maps covering the rest of the British Isles.

Also? Extra campaign rules that make use of some of the symbols on the maps that weren't being used before, and you finally get rules for an Armourer's Workshop!

For £18, which is basically the price of about 10-12 metal figures, that's pretty good. I can't wait to start adding to our Dux campaign world :D Go forth and buy, and tell Rich I sent you!

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Battle Report - 14 Apr 2014 - WAB Age of Warlords

Round one of AndyH's campaign. The battle at the ford... against AndyM2 (not to be confused with AndyM, AndyB or AndyMac, either).

It opens with two champions duking it out at the ford - three rounds of combat, and Wulstan, son of Wulfhere (yes, that Wulfhere) lays the Angle Atheling low. And it all went downhill from there.

Winning the duel means I get the advantage of deployment, and get to sit two units on the ford while sending my cavalry forward on one flank.

What are we all forgetting here?

It's a Saxon army.

It's a Saxon Raider army, which means all its major foot units are warband.

Failed warband test for the Gedriht sitting on the ford, who have already been taking slingshot fire, and now charge headlong into two units of Duguth.

I think what's most impressive is that they lasted three rounds of combat, even with help from my Geoguth, despite being outnumbered.

Needless to say, the end result was Wulfstan got trampled (and wound up with a head wound) and the rest of my army fled.

On the good side - while Andy won the battle, Wulfstan did get the Glory - 5 points worth for killing the Angle's Warlord in single combat!

Monday 14 April 2014


Presented without comment, other than to note that the Crusader packaging is hellish inefficient.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Sunday morning reflections on Salute

[Note: updating as I find them with various links to other people mentioned's reviews.]

So. Back from church, mug of tea, comfy chair. Time to ponder Salute.

*arty dissolve affect*

Come back with me to 5.30 am yesterday. Which is far too early, especially since my body clock (in 'must not oversleep' mode) has had me awake for 40 mins already. Shower, grab breakfast and the first of more than the usual number of coffees, remove two seats from car, and load up from the checklist.

Discover one of the telegraph poles has broken. Grr. Fail to grab the small pile of road signs on the painting table, and equally annoyingly fail to grab the big yellow file box on the kitchen table. This latter had a few vehicles and some livestock in it from Grahame at the club, and was dropped off during the 30 mins I was out on Friday... which my son failed to mention had been dropped off, my wife assumed I knew about, and I failed to recognise as Grahame's. Communication. Gotta love it.

Off at 6.30, pick up Grahame at 6:45 (with obligatory 'did you get the box I left for you?' conversation!)), Chris at 6:55, and we're at Excel by 8:15. A bit of a gefuffle before we find the traffic office, get our red pass and get directed up the loading ramp (I'm forced to assume that the Excel assumes that if you should ever need to deliver/collect from one of the halls, the precise knowledge of the process will be magically transferred into your brain). The great thing about the Excel, though, is that you do wind up parked right NEXT to your table/stall for unloading. More about loading later.

Carl and AndyM arrive not long after, just as I'm taking the car off to the car park. Pro tip: you want Orange car park 3 for quickest access to your vehicle after the show. More about that later.

And here it is - the finished result in all its glory (minus road signs and cattle). We'll probably do some retouching of doors and windows to a consistent style before next time (there will, I'm sure, be a next time). Our huge thanks to Warbases for the bulk pricing on the absolutely fabulous buildings. Credit also to Last Valley for the trees and hedges (from the club's stash), 4Ground for an awful lot of tiles (the General Store is tiled with Warbases tiles, but I found after a while I preferred the 4Ground ones), for the manor house, Mantic for the zombies, Wargames Factory for the Germans and Foundry for the Home Guard.

Here's a better look at the backs of the Warbases terraces.

All very painless to put together, and so English :D the gardens were great fun to do - second building from the back was AndyM, which I took as inspiration for the front two. The nearest is all dug to vegetables, complete with Dig For Victory poster on the fence. We joked that this was passive-aggressive motivation for their next door neighbour, who has a scruffy wilderness of a garden (a man after my own heart!) and would have had a goat or a sheep if I'd remembered the yellow box file!

You can just pick out a Warbases five bar gate in the hedge (hinged on a cocktail stick stuck into the foam board), and a Warbases stile at the end of the path along the backs of the houses leading to the cricket club car park.

Front view of 1-8 The Green, Walmington Parva. Nearest two painted by Grahame, then AndyM, and the General Store by me.

For next time, I intend to build some little sabot bases to go under each building out of plasticard, with pavement in front and down the alleys between.

Also needing a retouch before next time are the chimney pots - you may notice Andy's are better than the rest :D
Up at the far end of the village, past the manor house, we have the cemetery and the church.

The cemetery was pretty much built by Rob, barring the lych gate which I knocked together on Friday from two coffee stirrers, some square section balsa, a few bits of plasticard and some left over 4Ground tiles. The gravestones are Renedra (the Renedra guys were very taken with the end result!), the walls are scratch built, and the landscaping is the usual mix of Javis and other products.

The church is Warbases again, liberally ivy-ed with a roughly 3-1 mix of Woodland Scenics coarse grass scatter and earth flock onto superglue. Anyone who's ever tried to remove ivy from a wall will appreciate that it's a tenacious little bastard, and leaves fine bits of stems and the like marking the wall - the earth scatter in the mix does this rather well.

The cricket ground is a whimsical addition - I freely admit its too small, but it was fun to do. The fences are Ratio GWR station fencing in OO scale: each end is superglued to a panel pin which can be stuck in the board.

Eagle eyed players would notice that someone has pasted a 'Careless Talk Costs Lives' poster over the 'Walmington Parva Cricket Club' sign (just out of shot). The sign is two bits of wooden meat skewer and a piece of plasticard, again, stuck into the foam base.

We get our first players by about 10:15, by which time I'd already snagged some flyers from Warbases' stall, picked up my and Andy's copies of Dux Raiders from Too Fat Lardies stall and collected a pre-order from Dave Thomas (Crusader early-war Fallschirmjäger) as well as a couple of blisters of Perry Yorkist command.  I also picked up the first batch of my Winter War Kickstarter Finns and Russians from Baker Company, which are sadly about fifth down the painting pile. Also passed by Scrivs', Tom W-D er al's rather immense and awesome IABSM game, featuring a serious piece of terrain building - the hill was almost head high on me, and I'm 6'2"+. Briefly ran into Neil from Meeples (twice, once with Jake Thornton - it's really weird recognising someone by their voice alone), Henry Hyde, Chris Hall (showing off 4Ground's amazing Dead Man's Hand buildings), TimD, Roger B-W, and any number of others.

At 12 there was a gathering at the Lardies' rather superb Chain of Command demo.

If you want to know a bit more about how this table went together, Rich has a series of posts up on the TFL blog chronicling the process. Well worth a read.
And here's the gathering of assorted folks from the TFL Yahoo! group and forum. Thanks to Roger Bell-West for the photo (on my iPhone).

Takeways from this, BTW - for all that a 6'x4' game will fit on two of Salute's 6'x2'6" tables, three's definitely better in terms of having space to store papers, dice etc.

Back to our game for a bit - I was kind of in and out for the morning, what with catching up with various people, and at 1pm it was bloggers' meetup time. I've lost track of everyone I met, but I did finally get to talk to as well as meet (we didn't talk at last year's) Ashley, and finally meet as well as talk to (we talk a LOT on Meeples) Mike Hobbs.

Final round of purchases: a very big raid on 4Ground for most of a 15mm French town (I broke their top discount bracket, which got me 25% off) - I did forget to pick up their colour-matched paints, since I do have certain opinions on their buildings, and I will be needing said paints later. More on this in another post.

I also popped by Stafford Games, picked up a couple of discounted boxes of Napoleon At War figures, two Wings of Glory planes, a pot of Vallejo Lufwaffe camouflage blue for the Fallschirmjäger and had a chat with Walt from Commission Figurines.

He had the 28mm Stalingrad Steam Mill on display.


For scale? it's a over a foot high.

And the roof comes off, and there's places to park figures by nearly every window.

Our club's copy of it is on its way just as soon as he's ironed out the last of the problems.

Back at the Dead's Army game, we got in a total of five games during the day: with hindsight, we could have made more of the running 'lost episode of Dad's Army' gag :D And possibly running a competition for seeing home many rules mechanics from various games you could spot that we'd stolen!

End result, 2 wins for the lads, 2 for Skorzeny and the undead, and the last game was undecided at closing time. It did seem to all crucially depend on whether the Home Guard could avoid getting into melee with the zombies for long enough to someone with line of sight on Skorzeny and kill him. Once it got to the point where Home Guard sections were retreating before dozens of zombies, it was generally all over for Walmington Parva.

Also? Keeping a fire team, or preferably the Vickers, aimed up Church Road seems to have been a really smart move. Zombies and large amounts of .303 ammo do not mix well.

Clear up time. I missed a trick big time here, since, by the time I got down to the car, the nice bloke at the entrance to the queue for the loading ramp pointed out that I was in for a 2 hour wait. So we wound up loading out through the stairs down to the car park, which I suspect is where a sizeable fraction of my 7 miles of walking ended up getting used.

Salute veterans: what's the trick here? Bail out to fetch the car ahead of the close?

Despite that, we made it back to Peterborough by 8:30. My thanks to Carl, AndyM, Grahame and Chris for working the game, everyone else from the club and elsewhere who came and said hi, and to Rob (whose cousin rather inconsiderately got married the day of Salute) for painting the zombies, building the graveyard and in fact coming up with the game in the first place.

See you next year!

Saturday 12 April 2014

And back from Salute...

Distance driven: 180 miles
Distance walked: 7 miles
Calories burned: 4000
Amount spent: You're joking! My wife might read this. Let's just say I hit the top level of 4Ground discount :D

Full report tomorrow: right now I need tea and an early night. But for a teaser or two:

Photo by Roger Bell-West (on my iPhone:)

Friday 11 April 2014

Ready for Salute...

At last: final laminated stack of paperwork on the kitchen side. Ready to go. Time for bed.

I'd like to sing the praises of three things without which, etc...

First up, one of the Five Andys, Andy Miller - for unstinting work painting about 40 window frames, windows and doors on various Warbases buildings today. Awesome job, and he has a much steadier hand than I do, so I'm very glad he accepted the task while I got on with (28mm scale) gardening and building a lych gate.

Second, my big Brother A3 inkjet. Compared to my previous printer, having a printer you know won't mess you about at 10pm when you have to be in the car at 6.30 the following morning, is a jewel beyond price when you're creating handouts and reference sheets (and posters, though not today) to a deadline. And it runs beautifully on third party ink at 1/4 the cost of Brother's.

And lastly the club laminator. Every club should have one. Ours is small, easily portable, heats up in a couple of minutes, never produces curled pages, and I've never had it fail. Again, exactly what you want when you're working to a deadline!

See you tomorrow!

Thursday 10 April 2014

Heartbleed - time to visit the thorny topic of passwords again...

If you remember, we had a chat (well, I had a rant) about passwords when Kickstarter had their user DB hacked a while back. Go read it again: I'll wait.

Just in case you've not been following the news of late, here's a very good reason to change your passwords. Herewith the non-techie explanation:

security hole[1] in some versions of the software that handles secure web connections has just been announced. In a nutshell, it's a programming error that allows a lovingly hand-crafted web request to undetectably coax a server into returning some of the contents of its internal memory. That internal memory is likely to contain recent unencrypted traffic - i.e. anything that passes from a browser to the site or vice versa. Session cookies. Passwords.

The bug has been out in the wild since the 14th of March 2012.

Of course, this isn't to say that someone has exploited it. But we (wearing my IT security hat here) have no way of knowing at the server end if they have done[2]

Not all sites are vulnerable (sites running on Microsoft software, sites with an older version of the software, for example). Many of the key ones were forewarned a couple of days before the vulnerability was announced, and it is an easy fix - just upgrade the software.


Now would be a good time to go change your passwords. Just in case. (And Mashable has a list of which sites you should do it on NOW and which you should wait... which I hope is being actively updated.)

And as an aside, I have to admit now is about the time I'm seriously considering moving to a password manager that will generate and remember high-complexity passwords for me.

[1] leads to more technical explanation.
[2] but we can tell if a site is vulnerable. This list is interested on that score. Also, the password app LastPass now tells you if the site you're about to change your password on has been fixed yet, and thus, whether it's worth bothering yet.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Painting videos from WSS

I seem to have missed these when they first came out, but they are extremely inspirational and useful, even if, like me, you can't paint for toffee.

Christy Beall from WSS Magazine has been doing a series of painting tutorials using the Foundry three-colour system, as beloved by folks who are good enough not to need Army Painter :D There are some really nice ones in there - I've just watched the War of the Roses archer one, and (were they not about fourth in the queue behind stuff with Real Deadlines) I'd be painting some of my stash this evening!

The YouTube channel link is here, and just for your entertainment, here's the WotR one:

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Battle Report - 7-Apr-2014 - WAB Age of Warlords

Monday night saw AndyH and I playing a small-unit WAB game as a warmup for the club's Age of Warlords game, starting next week.

Which did mean I got to spend an hour or two fixing an awful lot of spears and shields first.

The campaign works with 1000 points a side, made up of a minimum of 550 points of troops and the rest from characters picked from a retinue of 9 worth up to 750 points.

 I went for a bunch of small units. There's a campaign rule that basically says you get to keep the core units from your first battle, but can tweak numbers/equipment, so I could in subsequent battles go for larger units and fewer characters.

The scenario was simple - capture the hill and be holding it at the end of eight turns.

Deployment went pretty much as expected - we both sent our cavalry down the road, I attacked the hill with my Gedriht, with the Duguth and Geoguth to their right.

It's worth noting that the other variant rules in this campaign that make life interesting - units of 5 or less don't autobreak, and Army General's leadership applies to all units, even skirmishers.

This did make for the interesting sight of my lone surviving Geoguth driving away Andy's unit of bowmen, despite taking some withering incoming fire!

Unfortunately, that was about my only success. My dice clearly recognised that I was playing WAB, and barring one combat, spectacularly refused to cooperate (except right at the end). Even to the extent that my cavalry, which outnumbered Andy's AND had a character to boot? Completely failed to do them any damage whatsoever.

Ah me. Such is my life when playing WAB.

In the end, Andy had the hill, and my one surviving unit had no choice but to charge his hearthguard, in a vain attempt to drive them off the hill, or at least contest it and reduce his win from a Mighty Victory to a Close-run Victory... Needless to say? I lost the fight...

...needed a morale roll of 4 or less on 2d6 not to break...

...fluffed it...

...remembered my one surviving character in the front rank was the Army Standard Bearer...

...and made the reroll. Result. Ish :D

Monday 7 April 2014

Prepping for Salute

Well, we're nearly there. After another Sunday afternoon, this time with Rob and Carl from the club, we have most things done:

Six terrain boards, all of which still need edging so they don't look quite so... um.. blue. We tried black gaffer tape, but it really doesn't stick to the foam. They also need magnets inserting into the slots Andy cut in the 3mm board they're based on, just as soon as I get time to find where I put them!

 Rob's masterpiece: the graveyard.

Hardboard base, most of two packs of Renedra gravestones, lots of Javis Spring static grass (by contrast with the Summer grass on the rest of the boards), lots of assorted Woodland Scenics underbrush/bushes.

Personally, I think it's brilliant.

And it did inspire Carl and I to knock this together.

 The pub.

Not quite finished - I have about an hour or two's work to get the roof on, the windows and signage painted and some ivy up the walls.

The base is a spare piece of hardboard the club had no use for, the walls are a set of 28mm 4Ground walls I'd forgotten I'd bought. The ivy is Woodland Scenics clump foliage (usefully hiding several places where the walls don't quite meet :D), and the grass is Javis Spring again.
Some of the débris of construction. By my reckoning, by the time we're done we'll have used:

  • a six pack of 600x600x50mm Craft Foam
  • 1800x1200mm of 3mm board
  • 6 packs of Javis Summer static grass (buying out Trains4U in the process!)
  • a pack of Javis Spring static grass
  • a pack of someone's fine grass flock (for the village green)
  • half a big container of Woodland Scenics fine gray ballast
  • about the same of assorted grades and shades of Woodland Scenics clump foliage/underbrush/bushes
  • several different types of flower/grass tufts
  • at least two or three other kinds of static grass
  • about half a tub of Evostik PVA
  • a quarter of a can of cheap brown emulsion
  • from the Warbases VBCW range
    • 4 terrace houses
    • one church
    • one general store
    • one post office
    • one pub
    • one warehouse
    • one stile
    • one five bar gate
    • two post boxes and a phone box
  • 10 4Ground roof tile sheets (at least)
  • one pack 4Ground stone walls
  • one pack Ratio GWR fencing
  • half a dozen panel pins, two cocktail sticks and a wooden meat skewer
  • two cans of Boots unscented hairspray
  • a whole bottle of Army Painter superglue
  • from existing club scenery
    • one manor house
    • about 10' of Last Valley hedges
    • half a dozen Last Valley trees
  • many mugs of tea and most of a superb homemade red velvet cake (thanks Anne!)
And that's not counting a large platoon of Home Guard, just shy of 60 zombies and a squad of Germans.

See you at Salute stand GL10!

Sunday 6 April 2014

Indiegogo watch... Tabletop S3

Not Kickstarter this time, but still something of which I'm very fond.

If you're a long time Meeples and Miniatures listener, you'll no doubt be aware that the podcast covers board games as well as wargames, and, indeed, that's one of the reasons I'm a fan.

The other boardgame-related show I'm also massively fond of is Tabletop. If you've missed it, Tabletop is a YouTube-based show in which Wil Wheaton and a number of guests play various boardgames: brilliant fun, very entertaining (even if they sometimes get some of the rules wrong!).

Anyway - the root of all this: Tabletop Season 3 needs funding - apparently the first two seasons were effectively funded by Google, but this next season needs a cool $500,000 to produce (and is already nearly halfway there). If you're a fan, like me, the link is here.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Another busy Sunday ahead...

Having spent today being "Dad's Taxi Service", as usual for a Saturday, tomorrow's a wargaming day, once i get back from playing bass guitar in church.


  • we're finishing off the boards for the club game at Salute - mostly this involves edging them so the blue foam doesn't show, but I'm also going to add a little more variation in the grass (some dandelions etc), and maybe build some front gardens for the buildings. I also need to assemble two more buildings, which I'll probably try and get a start on before church.
  • As I have a game of WAB with Andy on Monday, I really need to finish the repairs on my Saxons!
  • I'm off to Ayton for another round of Henry Hyde's Imagi-nation campaign on May Day Bank Holiday weekend, and I have 18 cavalry and 2 guns to build (from the good folks at Wargames Factory's WSS range). I may see if I can at least get them assembled.

Friday 4 April 2014

Designing a setting: part 2 - Fluff

Finally making my way back to the series I started on the way to Seattle - designing a setting. Several people made very useful comments on the introductory post, and I'll pick up on those in the inevitable articles that happen after the one's I've planned :D

Not taking things in quite the order I listed them at the start, we'll begin with:

Fluff. Fluff is that stuff that isn't essential to your setting in terms of rules, army lists etc. The peripheral writing, the backstory, the art, you name it...You can play in your setting without it...

...well, actually you can't.

Ok. You can. But all you're doing at that point is pitting two sets of statted up miniatures against each other and having a battle.

The best settings, the ones that draw you in, are the ones where the fluff grabs you and draws you in, inspires you. It's the stuff that gets you immersed in the setting, wanting to be a part of it.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Like or loathe the business practices behind it, the Warhammer 40K universe absolutely rolls in fluff on an epic (see what I did there? :D) scale. It might not be your cup of tea, but I guarantee you that it wouldn't sell half as well if people didn't like the backstory.

On a more personal note - I adore the pre- and early Clans setting of Battletech, and all its history. Two particular bits of its story grabbed me - one was the character of "Snow Fire" (after which one of my character's[1] 'Mech's got named), the other the mercenary unit the 12th Vegan Rangers. The latter scored at least in part because it wasn't as well-fleshed out as the more 'famous' units in terms of having books written about it (See? whole books! Fluff! And THEN some!), while having enough tantalising hints dropped to draw me (and a number of other players) in and want to create more in the setting. (We'll come on to sub-creation and open-endedness later in the series.)

And a question: those of you who read this blog and play or intend to play Dux Brit. How much have Andy and my campaign narratives helped to draw you in? (Dux Brit has some other features, setting and campaign wise, that we'll discuss later, but for now... :D)

[1] I'm 20 years the better writer since that story was written. Be gentle :D

Thursday 3 April 2014

Salute Blogger Meetup

Are we doing one this year?

If so, can I suggest the usual time and place - 1pm, seating area in the middle of the wall at the right hand end from the main entrance?

Failing that, I and the club will be on stand GL10 for the day.
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