Saturday 28 February 2015

Back from Hammerhead

These are from the Warbases VBCW range. We love them.
6 am alarm. Shower, half an hour with the laminator that I didn't get done last night, pack the car. Off by 7:15 with Carl from the club, picking up ex-secretary Rob at 8:15, pulling up outside the exhibition hall - dear Lord, it's HUGE - at 8.30.

We were fully set up by 9:15, after having had a bacon or sausage sarnie and a mug of tea. One thing in Hammerhead's favour - the Newark showground has onsite catering that actually understands. Their sausage sandwiches are three proper bangers in a large bap, and their tea is proper PG tips made with boiling water.

A couple of trips round the stalls to grab some 25mm round bases off Warbases (activation counters 'cause we couldn't find outs) and a new tape measure off Lesley's Bits Box 'cause I forgot mine. Good to go.

I'm actually surprised the venue didn't run out of food.
Perhaps surprisingly, we only got three games in. The first one was a win for the Home Guard - a very aggressive start, which set the pattern for the day, in fact. They managed to get a section into the parish church, and from a combination of the roof and a well-sited Lewis gun, managed to drop Skorzeny. This is the only way the HG can win - if they don't kill him, they will simply eventually get overrun by zombies.

Lunch was again more than decent: more tea, and a burger and chips. The catering staff seemed to work on the 'poor dears, they must be starving' approach - take one large plate, add a decent sized burger, fill every bit of available remaining space with chips.

A sheep has, you will notice, escaped the field onto the
cricket pitch and is availing itself of the much greener
grass on the other side of the fence.
Game two was excellent - the three young lads plus one dad playing the Home Guard also waded in, but then got bogged down. Hodges' van (with a Lewis gun section inside) pulled up pretty much outside the lytch-gate to the graveyard, but then spent what must have been nine or ten rounds just trying to beat off the zombie horde enough to actually get out. It was starting to look really dicey for them, until they finally managed it, piled out A-team style, round the back of the van, into the graveyard and opened up on Skorzeny with everything they had.

Game three swung this way and that - Jones' and Hodges' van and Wilson and Pike's section did a great job of clearing out the first couple of waves of undead, but again got bogged down by weight of numbers. What they DID do was enable Captain Mainwaring, Private Godfrey and a section to run up the other side of the village past the cricket pitch and make for the church. With hindsight, they should have gone straight in, or Jones should have stopped mowing down zombies with the van and headed in. As it was, Jones' section managed to get a few potshots at Skorzeny to no effect, before Jones went down under a tide of zombies. Mainwaring's section made it into the church, but the zombies were too close behind for comfort, and it wound up with the Captain and Godfrey valiantly trying to secure the rooftop trapdoor while a lone unnamed private dodged fire from the Germans and tried to kill Skorzeny.

And every time I see these photos I am
reminded I forgot to paint the inside
edges of the BRIGHT BLUE terrain
tiles :D
2:1 to the Home Guard overall, and a great fun day. Thanks to Sally and Kallistra for organising it, to Warbases and Lesley's Bits Box for selling us stuff before opening time.

My swag haul was one tape measure, the rest of a pack of 25mm round bases, two Warbases 15mm Horsas, and one of their new 28mm Model T Ambulance MDF kits (that thing is gorgeous). That and a lot of assorted leaflets and business cards from places as wide-ranging as the Stafford games club and the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It may be shaping up to be an interesting summer!

Friday 27 February 2015

See you at Hammerhead!

We're at table GB18, near Early War Minuatures and the loos on the back right from the main entrance. Do drop by.

This evening (apart from the bit I spent hanging around Stamford waiting for James to finish his cricket net) has been mostly spent checking the bits of Dead's Army are all there, reprinting and re-laminating the handouts, packing the car and re-glueing about 10 gravestones and once again failing to find the new club banner, which is actually now starting to annoy me.

Thursday 26 February 2015

A small wanted request

Anyone out there got a spare Firefly barrel from a Flames of War 'Open Fire' box set? I snapped one getting it off the sprue last weekend.

Will trade for 15mm tank furniture (wheels, tracks etc) or spares from just about any PSC Sherman box.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

This weekend

The club's busy this weekend, so look out for us:

We're taking the old faithful 'Dead's Army', for probably its last outing for a while, to the Hammerhead show on Saturday at Newark Showground, which means I'll be spending a chunk of tomorrow making sure all the bits are intact and re-attaching some gravestones.

Sunday is the Peterborough Scale Model show, at Voyager School in Peterborough. Grahame from the club will be masterminding a nice attractive demo game for this as well.

I'll be at both, so do feel free to come up and say hi. I'll also have flyers for our show in November.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Battle Report - 23-Feb-2015 - IABSM3

Needed a table with a slight rise at one end for this one, so took one of my painting sticks (handily pre-fitted with Blu-Tak) to prop up one edge of one of the three 4'x'2' boards (top of the picture on the right) - worked very well with a Citadel cloth over the top. The hedges and bocage are the club's, courtesy of Andrew from Loki's Great Hall, if I remember rightly: the trees are mine.

The Germans (Gary, with help from Reuben when he had to go) deployed upslope of the red line on the map: quite an aggressive deployment - Gary conceded later that having all three platoons up at the road crossing the centre of the board wasn't necessary. The Germans had the classic IABSM under-strength company (one platoon of 3 sections, 2 of 2) plus a FOO with access to four off-table 80mm mortars, two Pak40s and a Jagdpanther. The Allies (Carl and AndyM) had a full company of British, a US platoon (as the US/British sector boundary ran near the right hand flank of the Allies), a troop of three Shermans and a Firefly, and a FOO with access to a battery of 25 pounders. 
"No-one'll see us here, surely, guys..."

As I may have mentioned and you may have seen in the comments yesterday, the British could have done better with the order in which their blinds came on. 3 platoon ambled cheerfully into the middle of the main field their side of the road, and were auto-spotted by the German section holding the ruined barn (centre right). As were the American platoon the other side of the hedge, AND number 1 platoon on the road up to the farm on the British left. An awful lot of Germans deployed off blinds and opened up, shock and pin markers a-go-go. Number 1 platoon were largely saved by the big tree in front of the farmhouse window, but several of the 3 platoon and US sections took some hammer.
"Take cover, lads..."

About this point the dummy blinds showed up - rather too late to be useful scouts, sadly. And still no British armour. A protracted firefight took place in the vicinity of the barn, which the single German section did very well at holding, largely because a lot of their opposition were suffering some combination of using a dice to go to ground, losing pips or dice due to shock and casualties, or being forced to a range bracket worse due to being pinned. One or two good HE rounds into the barn would have sorted that PDQ, I feel.
"...Yup. Safe as houses here too, pardner."

They were helped by the Allied FOO (under heavy fire) making contact with the battery and calling down a strike. He had much better luck than his German counterpart, managing to get the support card out three times in about four runs through the deck. First ranging round was way too close to number 3 platoon for comfort. The second was close enough to hit the barn in the corner of the field, and also just grazed the American's lead section. One of those embarrassing friendly fire incidents.

"Ow. Also, ow."
On the left flank, the platoons' 2" mortars managed to lay a large line of smoke blocking most of the useful German LOS from the farm buildings, and after a round of fire (and being on the receiving end of a mortar stonk, as they were pretty much standing on the aiming point for a pre-registered target), went in to close assault. That's one mostly intact number 2 platoon against a single leaderless section in a building. 18 dice to 12 in favour of the Brits: and they lost by 1. Number 2 platoon followed up, and managed to wipe out the Germans in the stable. At this point the German section in the farmhouse decided that a bugout back to the tree line on the ridge was the order of the day. However, faced with the irresistible temptation of a British section from 2 platoon in the open in the farmyard, they popped their heads back over the wall and opened up, doing it a fair bit of damage. For their pains, number 2 platoon rallied off shock and pin and got stuck in... This time, the maths really wasn't in their favour: only two sections got into close combat, and wound up rolling 11 dice to the Germans' 12. And lost, by a rather terrifying one casualty to something insane like seven or eight. (Reuben was having amazing luck.)

"Just to the right of that plume of smoke, Hans..."
Over in the middle, one of the last British blinds got ALL the way to the road across from the farm, protected now by two curtains of smoke, and deployed, revealing itself to be the much-needed tanks. Unfortunately, the rightmost was rather delightfully flank-on to a gap in the bocage, in which there was a German infantry section, and more importantly a Panzerfaust.


It was getting late, but we were on a roll and reasonably in practice with the rules now (though I still so need to completely rewrite the official IABSM QRS and an index for the rulebook!), so we pressed on a bit.

A Jagdpanther in its natural habitat.
"Axis Blinds" was about the fourth card out of the last run of the deck. All the Germans had left to deploy (and after all, why should he have deployed it any sooner) were the anti-tank assets: two Pak40s and a Jagdpanther, all neatly dug in along the edge of the copse atop the ridge...

And Reuben's luck deserted him. Sure, the tanks being right up against the bocage, which had been the cause of the Panzerfaust's kill, made it harder, but they ALL missed.

And that was where we called it.

I rather hope the British FOO was at that point screaming for a barrage on the German ATGs: had we continued, I would have required spotting rolls to target them, I think, as they were well dug in and half a table away. The Germans should have fallen back to the tree line (they had pretty much lost the farm), and it would have been a very interesting fight. In fact I may run round two sometime :D

Thanks to Carl, Reuben, AndyM and Gary for a fun evening.

Oh - almost forgot. If you read this far - do you recognise what the scenario's taken from? ;D

Monday 23 February 2015

Lessons learned

A short post, as I just got in from club and am about ready to fall over (on call all week from last Wednesday doesn't help).

A full report from tonight's IABSM scrap will follow, but I think Andy and Carl wouldn't argue with my observation that when you have tanks and infantry, sending the latter across an open Normandy field without support from the former (and without scouting ahead first) is a recipe for getting very shot up.

1) Dummy blinds are not just there to fool the enemy as to your intentions. They can spot. This is very very useful when you have no idea where the enemy is.
2) Infantry trying to engage enemy infantry who are in hard cover need support from something big and nasty that can fire HE. Even if its at long range: the boom is just as big!
3) It takes most of two platoons to clear an unpinned section out of a building. That was just brutal.
4) Neither Reuben or Rich should be allowed to shuffle activation decks :D

Sunday 22 February 2015

BF Jadgpanther - almost finished

In the warm by the kitchen radiator to dry, having just applied the decals. (It's 7 degrees C out in the workshop.) Needs matt varnish over the decals, some weathering wash (which I might try and do if I'm up early - problem is it needs half an hour to start to dry before wiping it off in places), and then more varnish.

That aside, I'm quite happy with it.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Saturday Workbench

Not as much progress as I'd like today. Wife has done her knee in, so spent 3 hours + at the NHS WalkIn centre while I did the rest of the shopping, including sorting out this season's cricket kit for James (he's GROWN again, dangnabbit. That size 5 bat looks like a toothpick on him, so we had to go up to a Harrow.)

However, I did get all the dug in markers undercoated, painted and dusted with static grass - they'll just need a coat of varnish tomorrow, and bringing into the warm (only 2 degrees out in the workshop). The dug in markers are, by the way, from Daemonscape's eBay store.

The Jagdpanther is a Battlefront resin+plastic kit, and to my annoyance I was out of superglue: this is held together with UHU, and some fairly beefy clamps. Seems to have worked - it survived (barring a small but convincing ding in the track cover) me dropping it on concrete from 3' up while undercoating it after this photo was taken.

Hopefully if I have time I'll get the farmhouse started tomorrow, and these finished.

Friday 20 February 2015

Colourblind painting

One of the Ishihara test plates for
colour blindness.
My wife, as it happens, is blue-green colourblind. Technically, it' s a variant on blue-yellow colourblindness, but we have endless amusing arguments about the colour of dresses, and she tends to get very stroppy when our vicar uses green on blue text in his sermon Powerpoints.

I have occasionally wondered how people who are seriously red-green colourblind cope with hobbies like ours. If the thought intrigues you too, or you are colourblind or know someone who is, this article from Wargaming Tradecraft is fascinating reading.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Projects for the weekend

This'll be a short note, as much to get my plans in order as anything - I've spent the evening having the delightful pleasure of introducing two musicians I admire and respect greatly to each other; discovering that, as I hoped. they get on like a house on fire; and we've been plotting and scheming the formation of a new band.

On Monday, however, I'm running one more demo/intro game of I Ain't Been Shot Mum before we start the "29th Let's Go Large" ("29 Go Mad In Normandy", maybe?) campaign. So. for this weekend:

  • paint a bunch of sandbagged dug-in markers
  • assemble and paint the Commission Figurines 15mm farmhouse
  • paint a couple of Stug IIIs.
That should keep me busy enough :D

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Book review - "The Martian", Andy Weir

I rarely, if ever, review non-historical fiction for this blog, but if you're a fan of the space program, hard sci-fi and a rollicking good yarn, and you haven't read this, run, don't walk, to your nearest online or bricks-and-mortar bookstore and BUY THIS BOOK.

"The Martian" is Andy Weir's first novel: it was self-published in 2011 (first as a free online serial. and then as a 99p Kindle book), and was republished by Crown in 2014. There's a movie in the works, starring Matt Damon (well, it'd either have been him or space nut Tom Hanks, let's face it), directed by Ridley Scott, due out in November 2015.

What's it about? Well - Mark Watney is an astronaut on one of the first manned missions to Mars: he's stranded and left for dead by his fellow crew during a Martian sandstorm, and has to figure out how to survive long enough to be rescued. What makes the book excellent is that Weir genuinely knows his stuff - the science works. According to an interview with Weir, there's precisely one spot where he has to fly in the face of what would be accepted wisdom and NASA practice, but you can forgive him that, and most folks probably won't know enough to realise. It's told through Watney's warts-and-all journal, plus viewpoint shifts to NASA on Earth, and it's an absolute riot - consider Apollo 13 with a dose of Castaway and Gravity.

I'm not going to spoiler it, because, honestly, half the fun is figuring out how he's going to make it. Hence no Wikipedia link, since the page for the book is one massive spoiler.

'Nuff said. Buy the book. The cover's a link to my Amazon associate page for it.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Battle Report - 16-Feb-2015 - Black Powder 1815 Campaign

The first set of orders in the club generated a battle between French forces under Napoleon himself (Grahame, assisted by Dan, RichN and AndyM2 ) and a Prussian force under von Zeiten (Carl, assisted by AndyM, Ash and Pippa). Battle (on a fairly densely populated 8' x 6' table) commenced (at around 3pm, 15th June, 1815) .... The Prussian brief - to give Napoleon a bloody nose, delay him and then fall back.

The French left (top right corner, nearest camera) charged and drove off a bunch of Uhlans, then advanced a brigade against the Landwehr in the village (bottom right). And were repulsed - no casualties on either side, but the defence factor of the village outdid their supports, and AndyM2 rolled dreadfully for the unit doing the attacking... and for their supports. (They were my temporary command, so I was somewhat proud of the Landwehr.)

Meanwhile over on the French left/Prussian right, the Polish Lancers and another infantry brigade got well stuck in, and started slowly forcing units back/off table.

In response on the right, I threatened the remaining French infantry that were attacking the village with my heavy dragoons, and in the best tradition of Napoleonic combined arms, swung the cavalry away and had a lot of infantry unload on them. Rubbish dice, unfortunately - they didn't break.

On the Prussian left, the Lancers kept up the pressure, aided and abetted by yet more cavalry. Back over on our right, the French made yet another attempt to take the vlllage, this time by offloading the fire of most of an infantry brigade and some horse artillery on it, coupled with a cavalry charge on the centre right. Once again, the brave Landwehr... ok, let's be fair, hid behind every available bit of timber and masonry and emerged unscathed. The French cavalry charge was met with a countercharge, which drove off the French, but sadly left my heavy Dragoons shaken, spoiling my cunning plan to force the French infantry advancing on the Prussian centre into square.

About here, Napoleon was buttonholed by his subcommanders, who apparently had a better plan than the one which had one battalion of Landwehr holding up his entire left flank (I shouldn't rub it in, but they were amazing - two entire brigades broke against the Prussian extreme right!). Sadly for us, and for his reputation, they were right. Two whole brigades of infantry smacked into the Prussian centre, and while we managed to survive for the most part, it was clear that now was the time for the Prussians to fall back.

We'll move on next month (it's a third Monday campaign).

But in the meantime, if you'll excuse me, I have the Duchess of Richmond's ball to attend.

Monday 16 February 2015

Black Powder - teaser pics

Just got in from club from the first proper night of our 1815 narrative campaign, using Black Powder/Albion Triumphant and Gary's massive collection of 28mm Napoleonics. Me? I'm Wellington. I don't have time to do a write up tonight, but here's a couple of teasers:

Most of the French forces. About half of Gary's collection of French.

View from the Prussian left flank, or what's left after the Polish Lancers'
first attack.

The French columns pile in on the Prussian right.

Sunday 15 February 2015

More pondering on 3D printing and pricing

Let's suppose, hypothetically, I were to design a range of 3D printed miniatures for a game - let's go with spacecraft, since vehicles are actually more feasible on current hobby printers than figures, and spacecraft mean you can even get away without wheels.

To get it pre-printed by someone like Shapeways, you'd be looking at about $25 for a large ship (15 cm3 print volume) and $10 or so for a smaller one (7 cm3). Let's then suppose that a typical fleet is half a dozen large ships and, say, ten small, from a total of three designs each of the large and the small.

FX: counts on fingers...

That's $250 or so. Call it UKP 160 or so (yes, I know the dollar exchange rate is a bit variable at present, but lets work with the figure of 160 quid's worth of 3D printed starships for a single fleet). That seems to be a reasonably comparable price to a similar fleet in other materials (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Supposing you own a 3D printer of your own...

What's the right price for those six designs?

Assuming the 'pre-printed' ships are done in Shapeways "white strong and flexible", I'd be paying Shapeways $1.40 per cm3, which works out around $170-200, so you'd be paying me (for the sake of argument) $50 for the intellectual property, the design work, call it what you will.

So: would you pay $50 for the 3D files for those 6 ships? Say $12 for the large ones, $6 for the small, and a package discount for the lot? Fundamentally, I'm basing the figure on the typical amount of money I'd make from Shapeways if you ordered a representative fleet. Assuming you already own a printer, it's going to cost you (relatively) peanuts in ABS or PLA off-the-reel (not at Shapeways prices!) and power.

What if I said (purely on an honour basis): "those designs are for your personal use. If you want to print stuff for your club, or your mates, the price is $100 for the bundle"?


Saturday 14 February 2015

Pacific Theatre Chain of Command lists

For those of you hankering after an army list to use those 3d printed Type 92 tankettes (or for that matter any other 28mm Japanese forces or US Marines), draft versions of Japanese lists 1941-2, and 1943-5  and the USMC for 1941-42 (which covers the period up to Guadalcanal) are available in the files section of the Yahoo! Group (you'll need a login if you don't have one, as these are currently just draft lists).

I shan't be playing these any time soon, unless I can find someone with the appropriate forces :D

Friday 13 February 2015

The Wargame Bloggers Quarterly

Ok - how come no-one told me this existed till now?

Issue THREE (yes, that means I missed two completely) is out, edited by the worthy PanzerKaput. Issue four will be edited by my good friend Sidney Roundwood.

It's only 25 pages, but it's a collection of excellent articles from a variety of bloggers, many of whom may be know to my readers - heck, several of them are my readers! :D

The Facebook page for the 'zine is here - grab a copy or two, spread the word.

Thursday 12 February 2015

The teaser revealed...

And Paul was indeed right. These are 28mm Japanese type 92 tankettes, belonging to Ryan (who is a bit of a Japanese army nut!) from our club. And they are 3D printed (in, I think, SLA resin) by Trenchworx. I was quite stunned by how good they looked when Ryan showed them to me, hence grabbing a picture to share with my readers.

Trenchworx seem to use the 3D printer as a prototyping tool now: their main range is resin-cast once they've got a working model. Does mean the 3D stuff is pricey - the type 92s are $33 a go, for instance.

Also, they make a really nice Rolls Royce armoured car in resin, as part of their (Kickstartered) WW1 range, which I'm VERY tempted by for my Home Guard.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

TMP make it time to re-revisit the topic of password security...

In the light of a recent rather embarrassing disclosure about password security on TMP, it's time for another heads up/reminder about password security.

In this particular incident, sponsors' passwords are visible in the URL they use to access their stats. Moreover, those URLs have leaked onto Google, complete with password. And the powers that be at TMP seem remarkably unbothered about this.

Let's take a step back to a topic we discussed last year when some Kickstarter passwords leaked, and revisit the question of how passwords work, and all the security risks involved, step by step. Be warned, though, by the time I've finished I should have turned you into a paranoid wreck.

You type in your password.

There's a whole PILE of risks right here.. is your machine (is it your machine?) infected with a virus or trojan that's logging your keystrokes? Given a badly-designed web forum (say), I can install a keylogger on your browser by simply having you read a carefully crafted forum post.

Are you being watched (physically 'shoulder surfed')...?

Your password is sent to the server.

And the first question here is 'is it?'

Do you trust the wifi access point you just connected to? Really? Give me a morning, and I can knock together a very nice, convincing-looking access point which returns the WRONG answer to (say) 'where is Paypal' and presents you with a fake Paypal login page and grabs your password, then says 'sorry, login denied'.

And even if it is the right server, it's not immune to being 'sniffed' - if the server isn't talking HTTPS (the secure, encrypted way for you to talk to a web server - check for the padlock icon) then the channel between you and the server is NOT encrypted, and you're fair game to anyone who happens to have the ability to snoop... Give me that same morning, and I can build an access point that routes all the unencrypted traffic it receives through a proxy that looks for user credentials and takes a copy without you ever knowing (really, do you trust ALL the access points in the shopping mall, or airport?). Or I could probably wave a few Bitcoins somewhere on the Dark Web and get a device mailed to me that already does that.

(Oh, and just because the site responds to HTTPS doesn't mean it's safe: if you click on the little padlock icon, it'll tell you which organisation the security certificate is registered to - if it doesn't match the organisation you believe you're connecting to and it hasn't expired, something's amiss. Either that or someone's being appallingly sloppy with their security certificates.)

The server checks if you have the right password.

Now, as we discussed before, the way this is supposed to work is that your password is stored with a one-way encryption, i.e. one where creating the encrypted password is easy, but recovering the original text is prohibitively difficult. All the server has to do is encrypt the password you supply and see if it matches the stored encrypted one, it never has to, and never SHOULD, store the unencrypted one. (Unless, of course, it's being malicious.)

Of course, if you're lazy, ignorant, or bad, you don't bother encrypting the password, and store it in plain text. (One easy way to tell? tell the site you forgot your password: does it ask you to enter a new one, or send you the old one? If it's the latter, this is not good. Equally, does it do anything else (TMP, I'm looking at you) that indicates it knows your password?)

Why is this a risk?

If it's sniffable, or Googleable? You're at risk, obviously. If you're sloppy, and reuse passwords on other sites, you're doubly at risk. The defence 'but it's hard to find and/or not very important' isn't a good one either. This is 'security through obscurity', which is no defence at all once you've breached the obscurity!

To my mind, this indicates a lack of understanding of some key concepts in security, that or a dangerous level of arrogance. If I found a risk like this in my day job, I'd be looking even harder for other issues. If I as a security professional would, you can bet your bottom dollar there's some hacker out there having a good poke around TMP right now, in the hope of finding a backdoor into a database full of unencrypted passwords.

Passwords are gold. Passwords and the email addresses they belong to are better than gold, because people are generally lazy and sloppy about password reuse.

Do you even know you're accessing the site?

You're probably all looking a little blank here, but: suppose that it's possible for you to perform an action on your target site by sending it an appropriately crafted URL without any other human interaction - let's say for the sake of argument, you can award a customer a gift voucher (this is appallingly bad development practice, BTW - don't do it!). I send you an email, containing a handcrafted URL that I know awards me a gift voucher, as an image link.

The web browser in your mail client (c'mon, how do you think your mail client displays HTML mail) tries to fetch the image. Obviously, the reply it gets back won't be an image, so you'll see the broken  image icon. But, you will still have accessed the URL, and hey presto, I just got a gift voucher and it looks like you legitimately gave me it.

Scared yet?
Change your password. Use a password manager. Don't use the same or related passwords on different sites. Don't blindly trust unknown web access points. Don't trust sites that are flippant or dismissive about security issues.
Also, don't insert USB sticks you pick up in the car park or receive via unsolicited mail to find out who owns them or where they came from. But that's another story.

Disclaimer: just in case it's not obvious? I am an IT security professional: part of my job involves looking for places where my colleagues have, accidentally or through omission or laziness, released security risks into our code. In my job, the bad guys only have to win once: I have to win every time. 

I do not use or condone any of the above techniques, except where used as penetration test tools by the likes of me to validate the security of software with the author/owner's explicit consent. And the above techniques are all public knowledge - for crying out loud, most of them have their own Wikipedia pages! So please don't run screaming to accuse me of being a hacker, or enabling hackers.

Monday 9 February 2015

Spartan Games to produce Halo-based games

Spartan Games, producer of Dystopian Wars, Planetfall, Uncharted Seas and the like, has just announced a deal with Microsoft to produce... wait for it... miniature games based on the Halo universe/franchise. From their announcement:
image from Wikimedia Commons
"Spartan Games has entered into a License Agreement with Microsoft Corporation to design and produce tabletop miniatures games for “Halo®”, the global entertainment phenomenon. The first products will be on sale around the world through Spartan Games’ sales and distribution channels in 2015."
If you want the full, massively awesome scoop, go check out the latest Meeples podcast, where Neil and Hobbsy got to talk to Neil from Spartan last Wednesday... and were so excited they dragged me onto Skype at bedtime after they'd mostly finished and swore me to secrecy (for, lo, I have taken the Co-Presenters' Oath) because, as far as I can tell, they had to tell someone. (And I'm quite safe, 'cause I've never played Halo!)

Sunday 8 February 2015

Curteys Miniatures Romano-British church

Spotted by someone on the Too Fat Lardies list: a rather fabulous Romano-British church in 28mm from Curteys Miniatures.

It's a five piece, unpainted resin building, done by the same guys who produce the rather fine
Age of Heroes range I spotted at the Other Partizan last September. £45, 10% discount if you preorder and collect at Hammerhead.

Saturday 7 February 2015

Kickstarter watch - PSC's The Great War

An interesting one to wake up to this morning. Plastic Soldier Company have announced a Kickstarter for a Command and Colours Great War variant - link at

It looks rather interesting - not the least the new range of plastic 15mm British and German troops to go with it. I have pledged - after all, it's a boardgame, so my New Year pledge doesn't count ;) will be interested to see how the figures compare to the Battlefront ones. 

Friday 6 February 2015

Weekend off....

...which I have bloomin' well earned. 

I'm at an SF con in Colchester, believe it or not. There will be posts this weekend, but for tonight there's good company, music and real ale. 


Thursday 5 February 2015

Chef du Pont - the creamery, and Sarissa 15mm WW2 European buildings...

No, not the nice new ones that are scaled down versions of the 28mm ones.

Before that, Sarissa used to do a nice range of somewhat less detailed buildings that you won't find on their website any more - for a while, when their .com and sites were different, you could find them on one but not the other. They weren't as good - but... sometimes they're useful - one of them can be persuaded, I suspect, to pass as the three-storey building to the left of the northlight-roofed creamery building without too much trouble.

If you do need them, eBay seller treadhead2004, aka Arcane Scenery and Models, seems to have both the old and new ranges in stock - search for "15mm buildings" in his store.

I've picked up a terrace, for the above, and also the château from the newer range, which will more than adequately pass for the Chateau Isle St. Marie.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Book Review: "AD69: Emperors, Armies and Anarchy", Nic Fields

[Free review copy supplied by Pen and Sword Books. My usual statement applies. Price £25 hardback, or £15 digital.]

What we have here is a very nice-looking, circa-250-page hardback, covering the Year of the Four Emperors, in which, in the aftermath of the death of Nero, the position of Roman Emperor was held in fairly rapid succession by Galba, Otho, and Vitellius before settling into the markedly more stable hands of Vespasian. It's where the collection of ways to die in the Imperial purple moves on from the merely suspicious (did he really die of natural causes?) and starts getting interesting: Nero (suicide), Galba (killed by his Praetorians), Otho (suicide), Vitellius (killed by Vespasian's troops). From a wargaming point of view, it's a fabulous excuse for pitting legionary against legionary - witness our WAB campaign day last November, which was themed around this year's events.

There are all the component parts of a really good book in here. It covers the lead up to Nero's death and whole story of AD69, with lots of nice titbits about legionary organisation, ancient sources, some fascinating speculations about various folks' motivation, some interesting parallels to the here and now etc etc. But... and I really hate to say "but", because I so wanted to like this book....

The warning bells rang when the first thing I read after turning over from the contents page is the full captions for all the plates in the middle of the book. Huh? Flicking to the middle, all the photos have short captions as well. Better, surely would have been facing pages of captions and photos? Anything that stops me flicking from the beginning of the book to the middle and back every time I want the details of a photo. 

The main text itself covers the whole story, with, it has to be said, an awful lot of editorialising by the author - some of which I find it hard to agree with, some less so. But you reach the word 'FINIS' on page 99. The next 140 pages are: appendices, several of them fascinating; a sprawling list of footnotes; a bibliography and a pretty decent index. More than half the book is not the main text. More to the point, a lot of the appendices belong in the main text - for example, Galba's speech after he's made emperor and adopts Piso Licinianus resides for some reason in Appendix 9, as does the lex de Imperio Vespasiani, the law the Senate enacted in the last days of December 69 to bestow power on Vespasian. Many of the footnotes are ten to twenty lines long, many contain valuable and interesting information. Am I really supposed to read with a finger in the appropriate page of footnotes and look up every one as I go? I'll be honest: I didn't read a good third of this book by page count, and that's really not a good thing for a reviewer to be saying.

In short? It's a frustrating book, that you can't read from front to back if you want to get all of its considerable and interesting content in any semblance of a sensible order or context. And that's a crying shame, because the words, the sentences, the paragraphs and the pictures contain individually and severally the ingredients of a really good book on a fantastic period of history, that's fundamentally been put together wrong.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

More SF TV - Andromeda

Time to continue James' education in classic (and maybe not so classic) TV - this time it's Gene Rodenberry's Andromeda, which the UK satellite channel Pick (or as it used to be known, Sky 3) is doing a rerun (of at least series 1) of at present.

It starts, in my mind, superbly - it's apparently an attempt by the series' showrunner (Robert Hewitt Wolfe) to develop a show based on a TV pilot of Roddenberry's called 'Genesis II' (with whom it shares the main protagonists name and a lot of plot elements, even if the setting moves from a post-apocalyptic Earth for Genesis II to space for Andromeda). The first season has some decent hard science, a stunning and very different theme tune with many layers of electric guitar by Rush's Alex Lifeson, and the potential to be brilliant. The dialogue includes some snark that Joss Wheedon would be proud of, and for once it's a Rodenberry show with a male lead who's actually a bit of a dick on occasions.

During season 2, sadly, Wolfe got into a disagreement with the studio, who, predictably, wanted "more aliens, more space battles, and less internal conflict" and evidently less decent plot. Oh, and let's replace the brilliantly different theme music with... oo, I know. There's a stack of library music - how about 'Generic Orchestral Sci-fi Theme One'...?

I'm not in the least bitter about the theme music. Not a bit. At all.

"I'm a warship, and I don't like running
away from a fight."
Wolfe quit. Things went, to the mind of people with brains and taste, sadly downhill, and Season 5 was just downright weird.

But there is some brilliant stuff in season one - my favourite character is still Lexa Doig as the three representations of the ship's AI - the on-screen face, the hologram and the gynoid, Rommie - who in some cases end up arguing with each other. It'd be all too easy (translation, from season 3 on) for Rommie just to be a kick-ass brunette in tight leather, but there's a lot of stuff early on that actually explores what a warship's AI with the capability for human emotions would be capable of...

It started out well. It could have been so much better.

Monday 2 February 2015

Chef-Du-Pont - the creamery, Plan B

The best laid plans...

Still. I got a good blog post out of plan A.

Plan B is Ade Deacon's fault: he found the perfect eBay item in the right scale, that saves the headache of doing those northlight roof bits....

It's a TT scale (1/100th, i.e. 15mm near as damnit) Triang engine shed, and it arrived last week. OK - so the roof is more regular, and it's missing two chimneys but a) I don't care THAT much and b) work has a 3D printer which'll fix the chimney!

OK, so it'll also need a little work to add doors etc, but that's half the fun!

Sunday 1 February 2015

PSC Sherman M4A1 75s, finished

A bit cold to be out in the workshop, but I wanted to get these finished...

Vallejo gloss (brushed) varnish on the areas where the decals were going to go, and then fortunately the next bit didn't involve smelly paint, so I got to do it at the kitchen table.

The decals are waterside ones from Decal Details, who do a pretty decent and cheaper than Battlefront range, via an eBay seller who I'll be using again. It took me a while to get a process going I was happy with, but floating them off the backing with a brush after an initial soaking seemed to work pretty well.

Next stage was a matt varnish (GW Purity Seal, as I had some to use up; outside, as I still don't have a spray booth!), and then quickly back inside in the warm so the varnish didn't frost.

Once that was dry, out into the workshop (smelly stuff alert) for a brush on of some Humbrol enamel weathering washes (I WILL get some PSC ones but they spent ages out of stock - and oh look, they are AGAIN!): brushed on pretty liberally, left to dry for about 20-30 mins then wiped off quite roughly with a cotton bud, leaving it in the crevices and areas that'd gather dirt. This mucks up the tank quite nicely and also blends the transfers in even more, taming the rather stark white. It also leaves a slight sheen, which to my mind isn't bad thing. (I will, though, probably give them another light coat of matt varnish next time it's not windy and cold out!) The tanks are probably muckier than they should be but, know what? Don't care :D they look ok to me.
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