Thursday 30 April 2009

The Birthday has Landed

To be more accurate, my Birthday present has finally been delivered. My new laptop has arrived and this is my first blog entry on it. I've been spending the morning configuring my machine how I want it, setting up my wireless network and email accounts, and transferring files from my older machines. I'm taking five minutes out to write this while I copy files from my defunct laptop and ancient desktop. What a geek!

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Antietam 1862

I have been exploring some old PC games that I discovered yesterday. These included the Talonsoft Battleground series. They are pretty basic by today's standards but the thing I always liked about these games was the use of music and sound effects to enhance the playing experience. One of my favorites was Antietam 1862 so I decided to see if I could play it today. Despite being twelve years old this game loaded well on my laptop and played smoothly and flawlessly.Antietam (known as the Battle of Sharpsburg to the South) took place on September 17th 1862. In just one day more than one hundred thousand men join in a battle, little knowing that it would result in over twenty three thousand casualties - the single bloodiest day in American history. Union Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan launched attacks against the vastly out-numbered force of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the banks of Antietam Creek. Lee committed his whole force to the defence while McClellan was more cautious and sent in less than three quarters of his available troops. Despite horrendous casualties Lee retained possession of the battlefield for another day and was able to withdraw most of his army back into Virginia.

Down but not Out

Feeling a bit down today. Despite my earlier optimism my leg is still hurting and if anything now seems to be getting worse rather than better. I'm going to make an extra effort to keep my leg up today and hope the new course of antibiotics I'm on, do the trick. I've been off work two and a half weeks now, and I am BORED. I've been reading and have been able to use my laptop to get some writing done but the fact is I'm getting a little stir crazy and need to get out of the house soon.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Lovecraft overdose

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the literature of H.P.Lovecraft. Often described as a 'pulp' writer I think this is a rather derogatory term for such a towering figure in horror fiction. Regular readers will know that I have been off work for a couple of weeks and (in an ironic attempt to maintain my sanity) I have been working my way through Lovecraft's collected works. Today I'm reading At the Mountains of Madness having been inspired to re-read this classic by something I read on the Internet recently.Two articles that I literally stumbled upon [ Here and Here ] announced that Guollermo del Toro, director of Hellboy and Pans Labyrinth is planning on making At the Mountains of Madness into a film. I assume this project will come after the two Hobbit films that are in production now, so this is some way off... but still. Del Toro does Lovecraft... My skin is tingling at the thought! Here's a quote from Wikipedia on this subject:

After The Hobbit and its follow-up, Del Toro is scheduled to direct four films for Universal; Frankenstein; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; a remake of Slaughterhouse-Five; and Drood, an adaptation of a Dan Simmons novel due for publication in February 2009. He still has his sights set on filming At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft... Part of the Universal deal entails continuing research and development for the creatures in At the Mountains of Madness.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Plastic Miniatures

28mm Plastic miniatures seem to have come of age recently. Or maybe they have been for some time and I’ve only just noticed. Either way I was struck by the number of manufactures of plastic figures that seem to have sprung up recently.
Most non-gamers would associate plastics miniatures with companies like Revel or Airfix. Within the hobby (or within my limited view of it anyway) I have long been aware of Games Workshops wide plastics ranges. The quality of these has seemed to get better year after year but of course their ranges have been limited to their core games Warhammer, LoTR and WH40K. But this year I have seen a number of excellent ranges from companies like Victrix, Warlord Games and Perry Miniatures that have used this technology to create high quality plastics ranges for Historical periods. Primary amongst these are Napoleonic, ECW, ACW and Ancients (Imperial Roman/Celts). There are probably more available but these are the ones that I have noticed.
This all creates a bit of a dilemma for me because I am tempted (Oh so tempted) to buy these and start painting like mad. But I have an insurmountable problem before me. Which period to pick? The quality of the models is very high and each army has something to lure me in. My mouth is drooling just thinking about it! I'd love to paint an Imperial Roman army but I also have a keen interest in the American Civil War period. I saw both Victrix and Perry's Napoleonic miniatures in display games at this years Salute and both ranges looked spectacular.
Then of course there's my painting speed (snail paced at best). I'd never get an army finished! Maybe I could focus on just painting a unit, for display purposes... hmmmmm... how much were those boxes again?

Return of the Jedi

Regular readers will know I've been a bit quiet recently, due to illness. I've spent most of the last two weeks on my back with my leg in the air (very undignified) which has made blogging - or indeed anything else - impossible. The ol' leg still hurts when I put it down but its getting better, slowly. Long story short, now that I'm vertical rather than horizontal I can sit at a computer again and blog to my hearts content!

Blogging is also about to become a lot easier for me because my lovely wife bought me a new laptop for my 40th Birthday. I'm expecting delivery in the next few days and I can't wait. My current computer is coming up for 7 years old and has become woefully inadequate for my needs. In particular it struggles with downloads or graphics intensive websites. Part of the problem was my Internet connection, which I got updated last year, but mostly its just my computer not being powerful enough to handle my needs. It's served me well but its time to move on.

Thursday 23 April 2009

The Tank Museum - Bovington, Dorset

The following article contained a few errors when first posted. Amendments are contained in square brackets [amendment] and are italicised.
During my recent brief holiday I was lucky enough to visit the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset. I came here with my Parents back in the 70's and I have very fond memories of that particular day out. Now it was my turn to drag my own family around the much changed and enlarged museum.

There are three main exhibitions within the museum; The Trench Experience; The Discovery Centre; and the new exhibition The Tank Story which opened earlier in April. Before you enter the site, facing the car park there are two memorials to the men of the Royal Tank Regiment. This sculpture perfectly captures the closeness of a Tank Crew. There is also a memorial wall of crew killed in action, right up to and including the current conflict in Afghanistan.
Inside the first section you are encouraged to pass through is the Trench Experience. This briefly explains the deadlock that gripped the battlefields of Europe and the relentless dangers of trench warfare. Then you exit into a German trench being breached by a Mark I tank.
Past this section you are into the main display halls and a bewildering array of tanks and armoured vehicles. Each is meticulously labeled and there is lots of information on hand. There are also a few surprises. I had never seen this vehicle before. This was a Mark IX and was twice the size of the Mk I but was used as an armoured personnel carrier or support vehicle.
The next section of the main hall contains a few familiar tanks such as this Tiger II...
...or this US made M26.
The hall also contained the first of two King Tigers. Its hard to appreciate just how big this vehicle is until you've walked around a hall full of other large tanks. Only then can the layman truly appreciate the size of this tank and its [88 mm Gun] gun. This tanks was the pinnacle of German Tank design and engineering during WWII that this was to be its downfall. It took 10 hours in 'the shop' for each hour the tank was on the road and it drank Diesel [Petrol] at an unsustainable rate.
As well as the big 'celeb' tanks there are also a few of the not-so-famous 'b'-list vehicles like this remote controlled Goliath. This was actually a tracked mine so not many survived the war.
Further round the hall can be seen a Sherman Crab which used a mine flail to breach the barbed wire and minefields on the D-Day Landing beaches.
As I walked around I was surprised to see my family name on a display. 2nd Lt Hadley was at Second Cambrai during WWI and lost an eye to an enemy shell. His false eye and medals were on display. I'll have to look this guy up...we may be related!
This is the easily recognisable M4 Sherman with its original turret featuring a 37mm [75mm] Gun.
...and a later version sporting a 75mm [76.2mm, a British gun better known as a 17 pounder] Gun.
The new Exhibition, The Tank Story opens with the first ever (prototype) tank, Little Willie. Designed by the Landships Committee in 1915 this was the first real test of the technology that would go on to produce the Mark I, HMLS "Centipede" which you can just see beyond Little Willie in this picture. And Finlay at the end of this display was a Challenger II the main battle tank currently in service with the armies of the UK.
Unlike in my childhood you can't climb on the tanks but there are lots of interactive displays and information boards to view. This was a great day out and the new facilities make this a very family friendly and enjoyable museum to visit. In fact it was so good I may visit again for the Battlegroup South Wargames show there on 4th & 5th July 2009.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Ice Station Zebra

I have just finished watching one of my favourite films Ice Station Zebra. Released in 1968 and directed by John Sturges, this twice Oscar Nominated film is a loose adaptation of the Alistair MacLean cold war novel of the same name.
A Soviet Russian satellite ejects a capsule containing microfilm that both the USSR & the USA wish to get their hands on. Unfortunately the capsule has landed in the Arctic and both sides operatives in the area are out of contact. Worse still their base Ice Station Zebra is issuing a distress call with garbled news of an explosion. In comes Captain James Ferraday (Rock Hudson) of the US nuclear submarine the USS Tigerfish. Given orders to head to head north to the Weather Station he soon acquires various passengers including; a British agent Mr. ‘Jones’ (Patrick McGoohan); a Marine platoon, Captain Anders (Jim Brown) who takes command of the Marines; and Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine), a Russian defector, spy and ‘associate’ of Jones.

The Journey is filled with intrigue, sabotage, a journey beneath the polar ice and a cold war standoff above it. This film has it all as far as I am concerned; iconic actors; a tense tightly written script; kick-ass special effects that still look good in the CGI age; and a really simple but strong story.
But today I was watching it from a gamers perspective and thinking to myself what great material the story is. I know I'm not the only person to have had a similar idea as this games table from last years Salute clearly shows.

So what sort of games could be derived from this iconic film? Here are a few ideas:

  • Find the Saboteur. The players characters are on board the submarine Tigerfish and must discover which one is the saboteur before he destroys the vessel. (RPG)
  • Beat the Russians to the Pole. Playing on a map of the arctic can you get your Submarine to the Ice Station before the Russians can exploit the weather fronts and land Paratroopers? (Strategic Wargame)
  • Outnumbered on the Ice. 100 Russian paratroopers V's 20 Marines and a dozen ships crew. The marines have better weapons and the advantage of cover, but would it be enough to win? (Skirmish Wargame)

...or you could go for something a little more 'alternative' and mix this story with a Lovecraftian theme and come up with a variation on the story At the Mountains of Madness.

If you haven't seen this film before I implore you to keep an eye out for it on TV or buy a copy on DVD. You won't be sorry and you may even get a few game ideas from it yourself.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Legless on Holiday

Well that was a strange Holiday. I got to visit Bovington Tank Museum (pics and review to follow) and we even hit the beach. Then things went a little pear shaped on Wednesday.
The short version is that I developed Cellulitis, an infection that causes "severe inflammation of the dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin". In short my leg (from just below the left knee down to the toes) puffed up to twice its size and went red as a lobster. Very painful with accompanied by a whole army of 'fun' side effects. I'm now on antibiotics and recovering but for a couple of days I was a bit delirious and we had to cut the holiday short and came home early.

Long story short, I've got to keep my leg up for a few days making sitting at my desk writing difficult. So the daily posting schedule may slip a bit this week... unless my new Laptop gets delivered early!

Saturday 18 April 2009

Bear Warrior

This model was another character model also for the Anval Campaign. For a short while we played a parallel set of characters in the same setting, both groups eventually merging as the story drew to a climax. I loved this particular character model as he was the antithesis of my archer ranger. This character liked nothing better than to dive right into the middle of a battle using his clawed gauntlets to rip opponents apart.

I'm back from my Holiday today so hopefully I'll be back to my regular ramblings tomorrow.

Friday 17 April 2009

Ranger Archer

This is Bryn Keensight, one of my favorite and most successful D&D Characters. I painted this model for my mates Anval Campaign and continue to have good memories of this game. In fact we keep petitioning him to revive the campaign as a 4E game.

I think of all my character model this is probably one of the few that I might replace with a fresh model. That's not because I was particularly unhappy with this mini at the time but because I enjoyed the character so much I'd like to do it Justice with a new model.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Kick-Ass Monk

This is a conversion job I did on one of the pre painted plastic miniatured from the D&D Mini's range. I needed a monk for a character model and I liked the figure I had...but wanted more from it. So away went the sword, the boobs (the character was male, the model wasn't) and the white robes.

I used a metal rod to represent the characters quarterstaff and give the model more ridgidity when completed.

It's just another day

I’m 40 today and, contrary to popular opinion, I’m NOT having a mid life crisis. It's just that...Just thought it needed saying.

Wednesday 15 April 2009


I painted these hellhounds for a specific encounter in my D&D Campaign. But time was runing short so they were completed in a single evening.
Despite the quick finish I still like these models and they gave my players a few moments of panic as they stalked from the Gates of Hell and attacked the foolhardy adventurers.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Four armed is forewarned

This strange creature is a Chabra and featured in a home grown campaign written and run by my good friend Peter Greenaway (no, not the director). The Chabra were one of his best creations and were his worlds equivalent to Goblinoids in other traditional settings. The Chabra were the weakest of the types encountered but they were not to be underestimated in combat.
I made this model from an old Games Workshop plastic goblin. It didn't take much conversion work to fit an extra set of arms on this model and I was quite happy with the way it looked when finished.

Monday 13 April 2009

Copper Dragon

This was a model I painted for a display diorama. Unfortunately the base got damaged when I moved house some 17 years ago and the Dragon was removed and stored for later use. It then got forgotten until I rediscovered it while looking for old models to photograph.

Although never destined for the game table I was looking at it yesterday and a few 'nasty' ideas came into my head. I think this old fella has life in him yet!

Sunday 12 April 2009

Beholder Eye Tyrant

They say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" but I'm not so sure about this model. I like the colour I chose for this project but I'm not particularly happy with they way I did the eye's. This was painted for a D&D game many years ago and has seen 'active service' only once. I consider that a crime and plan on bringing this model out for another attempt at TPK.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Intermisssion...sort of

I'm on holiday for a week and that means no access to the Internet...which means no blog. Shock! Horror!! Oh the humanity!!!

Oh OK, maybe not. I've scheduled a series of blog entries while I'm away with pictures of past painting projects. Many of the models featured are old Character models from D&D campaigns of yesteryear. There are also a few 'display' models that I have recently rediscovered and photographed. Of course if I can get near a computer while I'm away I will try and fire off a blog entry but in all likelihood I'll be too busy to even think about it (pesky kids)... :)

Thursday 9 April 2009

How to add the AddThis button to Blogger

I have been asked to explain how I added the AddThis button to my blogger posts. Here is the step by step process as simply explained as I can make it. [Edit: This guide is for Blogger blogs only]
  1. You will need to go to the AddThis site and register in order to get the code you need to insert to get the button.
  2. Follow the steps on the AddThis webpage to select the type and syle of button you want to add to your blog.
  3. Copy the code AddThis provides for use later in the process.
  4. Open blogger dashboard
  5. Click on Layout
  6. Select Edit HTML tab
  7. Save a copy of your code by hitting the Download Full Template (You'll need this if you need to restore your original settings)
  8. Check the box Expand Widget Templates
  9. Then click in the code box and use the search function (Ctrl+F) to look for the code div class='post-footer'
  10. Insert the AddThis code immediately after the above code line.
  11. DON’T SAVE YET!!!!!
  12. Hit the Preview button to see what your blog looks like. Your blog will open in a new window and you should now see the AddThis button at the bottom of each post.
  13. If you’re happy with the way this looks click on Save Template
  14. If you’re not happy click the Clear Edits button to return your code to its original state.

I hope this is useful. I'm not an expert at HTML (not even close) and most of the above has been gleaned from other, better informed, bloggers and websites. However I have tried to cut through all the 'techno babble' and explain the step-by-step process as simply as possible.

RIP - Dave Arneson

David Lance Arneson (born October 1, 1947 in Minnesota, USA) died April 7, 2009. Dave was the co-creater of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) along with with Gary Gygax who passed away last year. Dave and Gary arguably created an industry when they adapted their Chainmail rules and designed the first roleplaying game in 1974.

In 1984 Arneson was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design's Hall of Fame and in 1999 was named by Pyramid magazine as one of "The Millennium's Most Influential Persons... at least in the realm of adventure gaming".

AddThis now...added

Sharp eyed readers of this blog will notice a new feature at the end of every post from now on. I have agonized (honest, it rearly hurt) over the HTML code of this blog to add an AddThis button. You can now bookmark articles you like in Facebook, Myspace, DiggIt, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Bebo, Twitter and dozens of other Social Bookmarking sites. This is a great way for you to share articles you like and benefits this blog by helping to stimulate more visitors and more feedback. Have fun!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

The Lord of Mordor

This is a Games Workshop model of Sauron, the Lord of the Rings himself. I loved the LoTR films and think the armour creations of Weta Workshop were second to none. When this model first came out I just had to have it!
Since painting it this model has sat gathering dust in a display cabinet. I 'rediscovered' it at the weekend and will be finding a better place to show it off in future.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

News: D&D co-creator ill

Dave Arnson co-creator of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game (with Gary Gygax) has been hospitalised. Dave has been struggling with Cancer for some time and the prognosis does not appear to be good. The news broke yesterday on Monte Cooks blog. The family is requesting privacy and no contact at this time.

If I learn anything new I will post it here.

Seen one, seen em all

This is a resin scenery piece but I can't remember who the manufacturer was. I painted it a few years ago as a backdrop to a display model. The blood was made by adding a small amount of red ink to clear epoxy resin.

Monday 6 April 2009

D&D: A young persons perspective

"Most kids are brought up being taught how to kick a football, but I was brought up painting my first model!"
Us gamers are often stereotyped as middle aged, fat balding geeks with no life. While some of this may be true (time marches on etc) this fails to take into account the fact that a whole new generation of players are entering the ranks. I recently asked my daughter to put down a few words about her experience of playing D&D from her perspective as a 'young' player. This is what she wrote:
"My dad got me interested in D&D when I was little, and since then I’m hooked! I enjoy all the game shows he takes me to, (even after the 100th time at the same stall) and even read his geeky comic book's (Order of the stick and Dork tower). I know that I’m not the only young person that enjoys D&D, as my cousins have enjoyed playing the dungeons and dragons board game I got for Christmas."

"Young people can enjoy D&D as much as anyone else, and I believe my little sister is next in line to be moulded into a skilled role player. My friends give me weird looks when I say anything to do with role-playing or models, so I suppose [most] people my age won't get into D&D popularly for a while... Whenever I’m taken to game shows, I usually find the majority of [kids] there are boys, so I find it rather likely that it will be a while till girls my age start taking any form of role-playing seriously. To be honest, I think gaming should be for kids of any age, as it’s a good way to spend your time and get you thinking"
I'd add to that last observation that role playing games in general involve a whole range of skills that benefit those that play. Communication skills, listening skills, basic math, probability, strategy, planning, teamwork and creativity are all exercised playing and running role playing games. I can think of few other activities that can benefit a growing mind in so many ways at the same time.

Sunday 5 April 2009

Insomnia is Magic!

Been awake most of the night, I just couldn't settle. Got a few things on my mind and I just couldn't shut down and go to sleep. I eventually gave up about 6am and now have a very fuzzy headache. Fab.
By the way... did I mention my fabulous daughter on TV? Last summer she took part in the Twenty Twenty production of The Sorcerers Apprentice. The format is a Magic School for 12 children who are competing for the title of, you guessed it, The Sorcerers Apprentice. Sarah (pictured below in the centre of the group standing on the steps) made it to the final and had two great weeks learning magic in a country house in Worcestershire.
I haven't mentioned it until now because we were sworn to secrecy by the production company but the series has just ended so I'm not giving away any secrets now. Anyway I just wanted to say well done to Sarah for doing so well.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Kebab with Slaad & Ganesh

Its been a while since I last wrote about my D&D groups current 4E campaign. Illness and work commitments mean we haven't got together for a game for seven weeks. Far too long in anyone's book but unavoidable non-the-less. Normally the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers gather in, well Dagenham. But this week we drove down to Reyleigh to play at another members house. Our intrepid party of adventurers was last seen in a Kobold infested underground palace. Looking into an adjacent room we could see what looked like the leader of the Kobolds lounging on a divan and surrounded by half a dozen guards. In the face of established logic we split the party and attacked from two sides...
Ouch is the best way to describe how the fight started. For a few brief rounds it didn't look good. Then suddenly the battle turned with the Eladrin Swordmage leaping into the fray and dishing out some "pure awesome". And all while his player did a sketch of my Dragonborn character.
Of course there were some moments of doubt during the battle and our GM does get a kick out of pointing out our mistakes...This is what is technically known as an "oh s**t moment".
After the battle we had a little chat with a long dead King, looted his desk and pocketed a few trinkets. Strangely we were not interested in looting the 200 year old silk bedclothes from the kings room.

The game ended with us standing before a large set of double doors and realising that an entirely new set of enemies lay beyond it...enemies that are almost certainly going to be badder than the Kolbolds, and enemies that were unlocking the door as we stood around wondering what to do.

Friday 3 April 2009

Review of Salute 09 - Pt 4 Traders

Over the last few days I have been writing about the great display and participation games on view at Salute. But of course this is only half the story as far as this show is concerned. Salute is an important event for many traders and this year - given the stormy financial climate at the moment - must have been an anxious one for many of them. If there is one thing that is a constant in the tabletop gaming industry it is that companies come and go. Many manufacturers or games designers have risen briefly, out shone everyone else, and the faded away. And this is during good economic times. So with the credit crunch biting almost every sector at the moment I guess I'm not alone in wondering who the victims will be within our hobby over the coming year.
Despite the pessimism it seems Salute was a roaring success from a traders point of view. Some traders reported their takings up by as much as a third which is very reassuring. And when I talked to retailers at the show I got the impression they were having a good days trade. Indeed much of the anecdotal evidence I have read or heard from Salute seems to suggest spending was generally 'up' on last year. Certainly visitor numbers seemed strong, especially while standing in the scrum that was the queue before the show started!

This anecdotal evidence seems to be backed up by a survey in Miniature Wargames magazine (Issue 312) which reported that 65% of respondents expected their hobby spending to increase this year with only 19% saying they expected spending to drop. I think my own spending at Saulte was on par with last year but I have spent more online and at other events in the past year. So I expect my spending will go up, credit crunch or not.Even that much maligned behemoth of the industry, Games Workshop, seemed to have no shortage of visitors to its display tables and trade stand. Incidentally I saw a LOT more children at this years show, and not all of them were clustered round the GW stand. This is a trend I have seen develop over many years and it is a strong indicator of a mature and healthy hobby.Overall I was reassured by Salute that our hobby is not about to collapse. No doubt there will be casualties but (and i'll stick my neck out with a prediction here) no more than in a normal year. And when you consider the cost of playing a tabletop game compared to say boozing it up down the pub on a weekend, then our hobby is positively cheep. And maybe (trying to find a positive spin in the midst of economic Armageddon) the credit crunch will actually benefit our hobby.. forcing people to find cheaper pursuits at home rather than down the pub or at a nightclub? Maybe, maybe not...but it whatever happens its going to be an interesting year in tabletop games.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Review of Salute 09 - Pt 3 More Displays

Yesterday I looked at some of my favorite participation games from Salute 09 and started to look at some of the Demo Games. Today I'm going to talk about some of the most impressive armies and displays at the show. One of the things I have always liked about Salute is the quality of the display tables and the armies featured. Everywhere you look there is eye candy and I doubt you could find a better advert for our hobby.

This table was the The Siege of Okamoto-Jo by Oshiro Model Terrain. This was a 28mm fictional battle set in the Japanese Warring States Period (戦国時代 , Sengoku Jidal). This was a time of political intrigue, social change and constant military conflict in Japan that lasted from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. Another impressive display table that caught my eye was Siege of Tenochtitlan. This was another 28mm battle this time run by La Grande Armee and based on the 16th Century Conquistador siege of an Aztec town.
I enjoy all historical periods and genre's (as can probably be seen from the wide range of pictures I post) but I defy anyone not to be impressed when they see a well painted Roman army. Julianus at Ozogardana was a 25mm Ancients battle run by Uxbridge Wargamers and featured Late Romans versus a Sassanid army.
Tomorrow I will talk about some of the traders at Salute and reveal what I bought (and didn't buy) at the show.