Saturday 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween

It's nearly midnight (well in an hour) and we've been having fun with a Pumpkin. I've carved a face before but this has to be my favorite. It's been creeping us out for the last two hours so it must be working....
And here with the lights out. I don't know about the kids, but I'll be sleeping with the light on tonight!

Band of Brigands

I've just finished reading Band of Brigands by Christy Campbell and if you are into the story of Tank development or just the history of WWI then this is well worth buying. The book uncovers the early development of the tank up to 1918 and the depth of research and detail contained inside its 480 pages (in the paperback version) can at times make this a heavy book to read. However through the details of meetings, Whitehall rivalries and political ambitions there are constant examples of the experience of the ordinary soldier. This helps the narrative flow easily between the smokey refinement of gentleman's clubs and Whitehall in London to the muddy hell of the Somme.

The opening chapters set the scene of a European was that has ground into a blood soaked impasse with a war that neither side could 'win'. The Germans seem to have settled on the policy of static defence, holding onto their gains from the opening months of the war. The Allies meanwhile try time and again to break the stalemate with men and shells and bayonets. This picture of futility has been burned into our collective Psyche and for many people in Europe they could see no end to the slaughter.

In the background however there was a growing demand for some new tactic or weapon that would unlock the stalemate and allow Europe's armies to fight a more traditional war of maneuver. Many wild and impractical solutions were devised and some, such as the use of Poison Gas, were implemented with little or no effect except to increase the suffering at the front. A handful of individuals however held a vision of a fighting machine capable of crossing no mans land and the trenches beyond.

The following chapters go on to reveal the slow and painful development of the Tank from several crackpot ideas to unworkable prototypes through to the first proper tank, Little Willie. The concept was developed further and thus Her Majesties Land Ship Centipede was born. Now the authorities seemed to be grudgingly accepting that maybe this concept had some promise, and a a small initial order was placed for 100 MkI's.

Secrecy was something of a joke. During the preceding years many people who had a hand in the development and concept of the tank had been openly discussing (and in the case of Ernest Swinton, lobbying) this potential wonder weapon. Questions were even asked in the House of commons and printed in Hansard about the new land ships. Fortunately the Germans didn't seem to have a subscription to Hansard and the secret remained secure. A new Training camp was established at Elveden Hall in Norfolk and the first recruits for the Machine Gun Heavy Section (the genesis of the Tank Corp) began to be assembled.

Secrecy however seems to have still been something of a farce and of course it worked both ways. For the new commanders and trainees of the Heavy Section finding out what the 'front' was actually like was near on impossible. None ever got close enough to the lines to see the sort of obstacles they would actually have to traverse and the conditions they would have to endure. None the less a mock trench system and man made trenches were dug at Elveden and the new tanks were put through their paces.

The vehicles themselves were far from perfect, indeed by any acceptable modern definition they would still have been described as prototypes. Prone to breakdowns they were hellish to work inside. Hot, incredibly noisy and filled with fumes the men inside were battered, bruised, roasted and even on some occasions rendered unconscious by the fumes. Despite this they were about to be committed to battle for the first time. The Somme would be their bloody debut and it was a muddy disaster.Throughout the remainder of the book Campbell takes the reader through what felt like one disaster after another. Yet despite the heavy losses, breakdowns and lack of proper tactics the tanks had impressed the likes of Sir Douglas Haig enough that he called for more to be built. At Cambrai Tanks were used for the first time in a combined Arms operation that was initially a huge success. But the lack of a strategic reserve meant that the Germans were able to counterattack and retake most the the ground that was lost. Perhaps more crucially they were also able capture some British tanks and transport them to Germany for their secrets to be unravelled. At times during my time reading this book I felt like shouting at the pages. Battle after battle seems to have been fought using the the same plan as last time only tweaked a little "because this time it will work". The unmitigated horror and loss of life pours out of the pages with every first hand account and eyewitness report. The Generals in charge were not the ancient traditionalists they are often made out to be. Haig in particular seemed very open to new ideas and new technology. But time and time again the implementation of new weapons seemed to be piecemeal, premature and poorly executed resulting in horrific casulaties.

This book is definitely worthy of a place on my shelves and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

Friday 30 October 2009

Save vs Nostalgic Overload

I follow a lot of blogs but one of my favorites is by Wil Wheaton. Some of you will know Wil as Wesley Crusher from Startrek Next Generation (TNG) or earlier still as Gordie LaChance in the film Stand by Me. Wil is also a prolific and very talented writer and his blog Wil Wheaton Dot Net is a regular part of my week. Most D&D players will also know that he is a committed player of our beloved game.

Yesterday Wil posted a geat article about his recent re-reading of the rulebooks from the Basic D&D set (the Red Box) and B.2 Keep on the Borderlands.

"As I pored over these three books, pausing frequently to feel the comforting warmth of a nostalgic childhood memory wrap around me, I remembered why I fell in love with D&D and then AD&D when I was growing up: when you get down to their fundamentals, D&D and AD&D provide a framework for imaginative, collaborative storytelling."

Just reading his words gave me a warm fuzzy feeling and made me want to rush home, dig out my Red Box and read the rulebooks again. Check out Wil's Blog, I think you'll enjoy it.

Holes in the Ground

I'm in that strange between projects sort of fugue at the moment. I'm not ready to plunge into the next big Tank Platoon for my FoW Lehr Panzer Kompanie. Not just yet. So I've started painting up some of the scenery items from Ironclad Miniatures I bought at SELWG. These include half a dozen resin craters for 15mm and the makings of a supply depot. The latter pack consists of six small stacks of supplies (Barrels, sacks, oil drums etc). I'm in two minds how to use these. I could paint each up separately as small scenery items or I could put them on a single base and use it as a larger objective marker... any suggestions?

Thursday 29 October 2009

Uphill Struggle

Yesterday I mentioned the TV programme James May's Toy Stories. Mondays programme was all about Airfix. The format of this programme was take a well loved toy from our (meaning 40 somethings) youth and introduce it to the kids of today. I thought it was a great programme, funny and entertaining as well as educational... but boy did James May have an uphill struggle with the kids. I've written several times about the need to introduce new blood into our hobby. Like many gamers my age I now have kids of my own and I'm already indoctrinating teaching them how to paint miniatures and play D&D. Whenever I go to conventions there always seems to be healthy number of kids present, mine included. But I'd lay good money on most of them being the children of aging gamers as opposed to kids that have dragged their parents along. The fact remains that they are easy recruits, living as they do in gamer land. What about other kids, from normal homes?

One of the things highlighted by May's programme was that kids today have so many distractions. They live in a technological age of wonder (compared to our day) full of computer consoles, iPhones, MSN, Laptops and mobiles. Communication is easy, instant and ubiquitous and entertainment has become hi tech and portable. The tech-noise is now so loud it has drowned out everything else. This sounds like disaster for our hobby which maybe lacks the glamor and easy access of a computer game.

Despite this I did think the programme gave us old farts a small glimmer of hope. When the kids had finished their project (to build a 1:1 scale Airfix Supermarine Spitfire) they seemed genuinely proud of their achievement. Some even said they would make an Airfix model again - without the incentive of a TV personality prodding them with a stick to do so. These children learned the hard way that making a model is fun and deeply satisfying in a way that computer games with their instant gratification are not.

Let me state for the record that I love technology, I love computer games and I love living in the future. OK I haven't got the Jet Packs and Spaceships I wanted as a kid but on the whole we live in an exciting and fast moving age of wonder. But sometimes we need to slow down to truly appreciate what we have. I for one think this is ever more important for our children who are saturated and utterly immersed in this hi-tech world. Now and again we should encourage them to unplug, disconnect, turn off and slow down. That's also good advice for us adults.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Biggest Airfix Ever

This programme is still on BBC iPlayer and well worth watching if you have time.

A Slice of Random Pie

This isn't about what we eat during the game (I talked about this the other day), but what our Characters eat. No self respecting PC would set off into the dungeon without his 'Trail Rations' or 'Iron Rations' as they used to be called in older versions of the game. Now I don't know about you but this sounds suspiciously like code for "we couldn't be bothered to come up with something more interesting in the rules... if it doesn't inflict damage we ain't wasting time on it". Or maybe I'm being harsh with the designers (sorry Dave & Gary). All of which begs a couple of questions.

First off, what exactly are Iron Rations? The idea of a pre-prepared food ration for soldiers has been around since the early 1800's but only got fully established in the 20th century. Often these were designed as emergency rations for when troops were not able to be fed and supplied by an army canteen. Rations often include a meal of some kind plus the necessary makings of a hot drink such as coffee or chocolate. The meal might be a dried food item designed for field cooking or it might be a ready-to-eat item such as an energy bar. One thing that is clear is that nothing like this existed in the quasi-medieval world in which D&D is set. The second questions is, what would be a better alternative for our PC's? Tolkien developed the ideal alternative in the form of the Elven Lembas Bread. This is often referred to as waybread and may have been based on the well known (but much less nutritious) hardtack biscuits used by the navy. This would complimented by the invigorating Ent-draught, a drink brewed from mountain spring water by the Tree Ents of Middle Earth.
Of course you don't have to plunder Tolkien for ways to feed your Characters on their adventures. There were plenty of preserved food alternatives used by medieval travelers that would easily fit into a standard game setting.
  • Dried meat - Made by soaking strips of meat in salt brine or rubbing with dry salt. The meat is dried and needs to be re-hydrated before eating.
  • Hard cheeses: These have a high calorific value and remain edible for a long time. They are also versatile being suitable for cooking.
  • Sausages: The sausage has been around for centuries and is a common way of preserving meat during the winter months. Usually made by mixing ground meat with spices and then put in a casing made from animal intestine.
  • Bread: The elves are not the only race to enjoy bread. Bread is one of the oldest foods and is high in nutritional value. Bread can be extended in life by twice-baking (or four times in the case of hardtack).
  • Pickled Vegetables: The art of pickling is almost as old as the art of bread making.
  • Dried Fruits: This was a common way of preserving fruits in the ancient world and would ensure bountiful harvests lasted all year. They are also a good way of ensuring good nutrition for the weary traveler.
I expect many roleplayers will consider Rations the same way they do Encumbrance, something they can safely ignore because the GM is focused on storytelling not bookkeeping. But I think this is a great pity and a missed opportunity for side adventures and a little 'local colour'. Its a chance for the Ranger to show off his woodsman skills or the Archer to develop his hunting technique.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Testors Spray back in Stock

I've been looking around for Testors Dullcote spray for some time. I found out today that Antenociti's Workshop has got a limited stock in. I've ordered a few cans for myself but thought I'd put the word out... there are 37 cans left in stock as of ten minutes ago!

I have used the Lacquer version several times and can testify that it is the best totally flat varnish I have ever used. However I do find that hand brushing to a consistent standard is quite hard. This may be just me but I'd rather use a spray version and have been on the lookout for it for months.

The original formulation of the spray version of the Dullcote fell foul of EU regulations because it contained Toluene. This new formulation works just as well - so I'm told.

Lighting the Dark

Yesterday I took the kids to Chislehurst Caves in the South Eastern suburbs of London. Some sections of the caves go back to about 1250 AD and the last known mining (for chalk & Flint) was in the 1830's. During WWI the caves were used as an ammunition depot for the nearby Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. The caves were then used during WWII by the local authorities for Londoners sheltering from the Blitz. At its height the caves protected 15,000 inhabitants and included electric lighting, a chapel, a hospital, barbers and a canteen.

The caves have featured in several television programmes including an episode of the BBC programme Doctor Who from 1973 titled The Mutants. Of course according to my kids this isn't Dr Who... "Jon Pertwee who?" they said. "Yes" said I, much to their confusion.More recently, some of the tunnels have been used for live action role-playing (LARPing). This must have been an interesting experience because its not until you've wandered these tunnels with just a paraffin lamp to light your way do you realise how dark it is. This might sound like a silly statement but if you've ever played D&D you'll be familiar with the standard equipment every adventuring Player Character takes with them into the dungeon. The (burning) torch and Lantern sound fine on paper, but in reality they give off very little light. I've run or played in plenty of games where the 'light source' of an adventuring party is given little or no thought. It seems to be assumed that if a torch provides light for say a 60ft radius then everything is clear right out to that distance. In reality anything beyond about 15-20ft will be dark and hard to identify without direct light (from a Bullseye Lamp for instance). In future I will definitely be emphasising the poor visibility provided by these light sources when I run a game. The ubiquitous adventurers burning torch will never be the same again.

Monday 26 October 2009

Tech & D&D on a new level

I came across this on Wired.Com and decided it was just too cool not to get a showing here...

The Surfacescapes concept has been around for a couple of years but this is the first time I have seen it used in a 'practical' application. This looks like Wizards of the Coasts D&D Insider on steroids! But is it D&D?

I've never really taken to electronic dice rollers - call me old fashioned but I like the tactile experience of holding the dice. Other than this I quite like the look of this concept... especially the fact that this proves that D&D geeks are out there designing the software interfaces of tomorrow.

Truly, the Geeks shall inherit the Earth.

Will Game for Food

Obviously this is a UK oriented list... just substitute a suitable local alternative if you're an overseas reader.
  1. Nachos/Corn Chips - If it doesn't crunch loudly during the GM's important monologue then it isn't working.
  2. Beer (if you're not driving) is guaranteed to make the game interesting. Uninhibited players are soooo interesting.
  3. Cola or other soft drink for the designated driver... meaning me most of the time.
  4. Pringles - Cheese & Chive or Paprika. Don't know why but I just associate these with a game. And the lids make great mixing trays for paints.
  5. Pretzels - High salt content they ensure a steady flow of Beer/Cola and trips to the toilet at various crucial moments in the game.
  6. Pizza - Don't mention the anchovies... no seriously.
  7. Coffee - To keep the GM Sharp. He needs to be to able to handle the outrageous behaviour of those that have over-consumed item 2
  8. Chocolate - The Players need the energy boost after the 4th hour of gaming. Especialy when game night is at the end of a long working week.
  9. Chips or French Fries - Saturated fat and gaming go hand in hand. I'm sure it's in the rules somewhere.
  10. Kebab... well we are Brits after all.

OK maybe this isn't a list to every ones taste (no pun intended), but this certainly seems to sum up the eating habits of my group. Surprisingly none of us have had a heart attack yet.

Sunday 25 October 2009

The A7V

I'm currently reading a book about the first tanks in WWI (I'll review it when I finish) and was inspired to look for some pictures of the first german tank the Sturmpanzerwagen A7V. I found this interesting video on YouTube and thought it worth sharing.

The vehicle looks amazingly impractical and is a world away from the Panzers of WWII.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Churchills 'Lost Submarine' Found

A WWI submarine, HMS E-18 has been found by a descendant of a crewman. Video footage of the wreck has been released and shows the sub in relatively good condition. The BBC's chief political correspondent James Lindale reported the find today, his Grandfathers brother was a 1st Lieutenant on the sub and was lost along with the rest of the 30 man crew.

E18 was part of a fleet of submarines sent by the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to block the trade of Iron Ore across the Baltic which was fueling the German war effort.

Outnumbered Again

Last night the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers gathered for our semi-regular 4E D&D campaign. Once again we found ourselves in an unequal combat situation and somehow managed to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
The group entered as secret 'back door' route into an Orc infested Temple of Orcus. Here the walls between the Shadowfell and reality are thin making the whole area dangerous. We entered a large chamber that seems alive with shadows and heavy air. Our trepidation was born out when 3 Shadow Hounds come barreling out of a wall and into the chamber, becoming solid as they did. After a brief pause as each side sized the other up the hounds attacked. Moving quickly to arrange ourselves into a defensive formation the hounds then teleported in amongst us, negating our defensive posture. To make matters worse just as battle commenced three Shadow Hunter Bats dropped from a darkened corner of the cave (where they were roosting) & swooped towards the melee.
My Dragonborn, Uthek, killed one of the hounds (after a couple of rounds of combat) but the others pressed in close with the Shadow Hunter Bats making flyby attacks with their tails. Wounds were starting to pile up an several of the party were effected by the fear inducing howl of the hounds.

We dressed our wounds and decided to press on towards the Temple. The passage was dark, often narrow and alarmingly shadow filled. Despite this the group pressed on and soon entered the hidden chamber at the back of the temple... we were in!
Our initial exploration revealed nothing more than an empty room and hints of another plane of existence pressing on the area. The next door is opened, leading into a long corridor.
The Halfling then opens the opposite door to Room 3 with a little less subtlety than the situation required. Inside the room are 4 rather startled Orcs and several straw ‘cots’ indicating others elsewhere in the temple complex. Here we go again....

Life Lessons

I recently came across this cartoon by John Kovalic from 2001. It tickled me then and its relevance is still as, well erm, relevant now. Check out Johns excellent webcomic Dork Tower.
I had the privilege of meeting John at Dragonmeet in 2004 and got some of his books signed. I'm not sure if he's planing on attending this year but if he does I'll be there.

Friday 23 October 2009

Who are the Dagenham Dungeon Devlers?

I regularly mention the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers and have even posted a few guest articles on this blog from them. But who are this motley crew really? Well actually they are a rather talented bunch (but don't tell them I said that)...

Peter Greenaway (aka. "The Evil GM") - Pete is one of the Old Contemptibles, having been part of the group from the start. He's a talented GM and and uncannily lucky player. Pete took on the job of running our first 4E D&D game and we haven't let him off the hook yet. From time to time I have posted guest articles from Pete as he has an uncanny ability to sit on the fence and argue with himself!

Rez Kempton
is an Actor by trade and has been on several TV programmes (most recently the Adha Cup on Channel 5 Channel Four) and movies. When in character Rez can be funny and unnerving in equal measure. An infectious laugh and a razor sharp wit make game nights a riot. Rez's latest film Stag Night of the Dead is in post production and is slated for release soon.

John Dorney is a recent(ish) addition to the group. An Actor and writer he also does a bit of Stand Up Comedy and has been an interviewer at several SciFi conventions. Possibly his most prolific work however has been in several BBC Radio Dr Who episodes. John is the official funny man of the group. His roleplaying characters are always hilarious particularly the Half Orc Fighter, Runk, who became a legend in his own time.

Dave Stokes is a very talented artist who always has a sketchpad to hand. Earlier in the year he published his first art book and he's been very busy since then. He is also a fellow and long time blogger where he displays his artwork. Dave is a big time World of Warcraft player and has also run a Dragonlance D&D campaign for our group in the past, although after the mauling we gave his adventure he may be reconsidering ever doing that again!

Derek Kettlety is the quiet one in the group. This may be because he often found with his head down frantically scribbling notes during every game. Derek is legendary for his in depth development of character backstories. Several of his D&D characters have literally come to life in the form of short stories and even (its rumored) an as yet unpublished book. While other players are maxing out their skills and feats Derek is often the only one considering his PC's motivation and inner feelings.

Andrew Ashenden is another Old Contemptable having been part of our group pretty much from the start. He's also yet another Actor and a qualified Fight Director. Fortunately we haven't needed his skills with a Rapier or Quarterstaff in real life, but its always interesting to play alongside someone for whom these weapons are not just abstract rules in a book. When Andy is playing the GM usually braces himself for the unexpected...meaning action, combat and chaos. Andy literally is the Eye of the Storm.

Peter Gentry is part of the original old school D&D group. Along with the other Peter & Andy we all started playing D&D when it still came in a red box with a Dragon on the front of it. Peter now lives in Ipswich but still attends the occasional game when he passes through the old hometown. The standing joke is that all Pete's characters are actually the same guy, but with a different name. This is a little harsh but very funny. One day when Pete couldn't make a game we put a life sized cardboard cutout wizard and sat it in a chair to stand in for him.

So there you have it. These are the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers... and tonight we venture into the Temple of Orcus to rescue some halfling slaves. Well, thats the plan anyway.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Wargames Illustrated 265

Its that time again. When I come home from a long hard day at work and find my copy of WI has arrived and is sitting on my desk waiting for me. My copy was delivered a little later in the month than normal which may be due to the ongoing (and worsening) postal strike action here in the London region, and now throughout the UK.

This issue of WI focuses on the American War of Independence, a conflict I know relatively little about. I doubt if I'll rush out and buy a load of models to game the period but I can still enjoy the content and scenarios and who knows, maybe I'll be inspired to do some additional reading on this world changing period of history.

So whats inside the glossy cover of issue 265?

  • So much at Stake - AWI - Setting the scene, and overview
  • Heavy Artillery in WWI - WWI - The problems of using artillery in tabletop games
  • Morgan vs Tarleton - AWI - A look at two lessor known generals
  • Recce over the Canal - WWII - A FoW scenario for reconnaissance forces
  • Uniforms of the Southern Campaign - AWI - Illustrations & Examples
  • Building Bridges - A how to modeling guide
  • Battle of Guilford Courthouse 1781 - AWI - Battle report
  • In Conversation with Rick Priestley - Discusses the release of Black Powder
  • The Battle at El Perez - Peninsular War - Battle report based on the Black Powder rules
  • The Chain of Evils - AWI - Scenarios for fighting the Battle of the Capes & Yorktown
  • Rules Roundup - AWI - Suggestions for game play
  • Festival of History - A tour of the UK's biggest Living History event

Once again this is a glossy, colourful and well put together magazine with interesting content. It's rare that I will read any magazine cover to cover but this is exactly what I have done with every issue of Wargames Illustrated since its rebirth earlier in the year. It could be argued that making each issue a 'special', might put people off if they don't game the period featured. But for me it has the opposite effect. Concentrating related articles on a given subject helps give a novice like me a chance to get inside the history and get a real flavor for gaming the period featured.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Demo Tables - A Small Plea for Handouts

Over the years I have attended a lot of conventions and shows and 2009 has been a particularly bumper year in that regard. Consequently I have started to develop a clear idea of what I like and don't like about demo games at shows. One of my pet dislikes is a lack of ready information for spectators.

It would be nice to see some of the Demo tables with more information available to visitors. Some of the tables provided information sheets about their games but the majority didn't. This isn't in itself a problem, if you're the sort of person who feels comfortable sparking up a conversation with the guys on the table. But multiply those little conversations by say 30 demo tables and they all start to meld into one confused blur. I guess I feel the problem a little more acutely because I like to come away from a show with pictures as well as miniatures. Trying to figure out who was on what table, what their game was etc can be a bit daunting - even if I process my pictures the same day. As I get older and my mind starts to go I fully expect this problem will get worse!

It would be great if each demo table could provide some sort of handout with basic details on it. This doesn't have to be a double sided A4 colour brochure (although that would be nice). A simple photocopied A5 sheet would be sufficient. Something that would be relatively simple to put together and cheep to reproduce.

So what sort of information would I like to see on the sheet?

  • Name of the Club or Organisation running the demo table
  • A table number or reference that links to the show guide (if there is one)
  • Contact details for the club & details of where they meet etc
  • The demonstrators names
  • Name/Title of the game
  • Period or specific dates if applicable
  • A little background or historical context
  • The rules system being used
  • The scale of the miniatures being used
  • Who makes the miniatures on display
  • Additional information on terrain features
  • If the table is scratch built, who did it?
This is by no means an exhaustive list but does represent the sort of questions I seem to find myself asking over and over again (and forgetting the answers over and over again). Not every demo or participation table is 'labeled'. Some have a sign up with the club/game details clearly displayed but quite a few have nothing. Now of course you can chat to the guys running the table to find out what you want but I often find it useful when identifying my photographs if I can take at least one picture with the table/club name label included. This is especially true for larger shows where there may be two of three Napoleonic games for instance.

If you're a club and have run Demo's please don't take the views here as a negative criticism. Far from it I fully appreciate the time and effort that goes into planning, preparing and running a demo or participation game. I just think its a pity that all that effort might not get the recognition it deserves in forums & blogs for instance. Keep up the great work guys, but spare a thought for us bloggers with poor memories!

BigLee on Warboots TV

It seems my SELWG video has been picked up by Warboots UK TV. Warboots is an online tv channel for wargamers which is non profit making and offers free advertising to clubs, events or companies (Just e-mail You can view the channel at the link above.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

SELWG 09 Show Report

It’s been a while since the last SELWG at Crystal Palace. When Asbestos was found in the roof of the building the 2007 show had to be cancelled only weeks before it was due to take place. Ongoing work meant the 2008 show was a non starter so for many wargamers the 2009 show has been much anticipated. I arrived just before 10am and waited in the cold morning sunshine for the doors to open. Once they did the queue was processed quickly and the cavernous space of the National Sports Centre waited inside. My first impression once through the doors was “renovation, what renovation?” as nothing much seems to have been changed by nearly two years worth of building work.

The show was split as usual between the Balcony/Concourse and the Main Hall, with two additional halls downstairs for extra displays and the Bring & Buy. Nearly 70 traders were in attendance making this one of the biggest events in the London area (after SALUTE). Some people I spoke to seemed to think attendance was down on previous years but I wasn't able to say myself, having only been once before in 2006. Irrespective of numbers through the door most of the people I spoke to seemed to be parting with large sums of cash and trading appeared brisk all day.

Down in the main hall there was an impressive array of display games covering pretty much every period its possible to game in. Some tables stood out for me, especially the Hockwald Gap game run by Shepway Wargames Club. This was ‘eye candy’ at its best with lots of little details and vignettes that had me returning for more several times during the day. This is the sort of gaming table we all aspire to but realistically can only be achieved as club effort. Another game that caught my eye was the Aspern-Essling Napoleonic encounter run by Too Fat Lardies. This used ‘blank markers’ to identify units that were as yet unidentified by opposing players (the models would come on later in the game as LOS was established). I had a long and interesting chat with one of the guys at the table…but forgot to get his name! (Note to self: Bring notebook in future!!). Deal Wargames Club put on an excellent display with their game Crossing the Irrawaddy. This featured an opposed waterborne landing, a very muddy looking river and some excellent terrain.
In a totally different period and scale another impressive looking table was the Thunder on the Danube Napoleonic game run by Maidstone Wargames Society. This 6mm game was at Salute earlier in the year and is just as impressive second time around. There seemed to be more participation games at this show (maybe I just notice them this time round). The South London Warlords were running their Usthutu game, complete with native headgear. Crawley Wargames Club had an interesting game called Operation peace for Galilee which looked like an interesting urban warfare scenario.
The Diamond Geezers had lots of players around their game The Raid simulating a commando attack on a port. And the South East Essex Military Society were running their Wot no Parachute? WW1 Aerial combat game (those models look great). All in all a very good show with an enjoyable mix of trade stands and display tables. All my pictures (including those I didn't have space for here) are available to view in my SELWG 09 Picasa Web Album. I've also put together a video slide show of my pictures here.

Monday 19 October 2009

SELWG - Wot I bought

I had a great day out at the SELWG show at Crystal Palace yesterday. I came home laden down with lots of Minis to paint and ton of Photo's to process. I'm working my way through the latter now but the process of identifying & labeling each picture is long winded. Hopefully I'll have them all available to view by tomorrow. At the same time I'm attempting to make a video from the pictures I took. However I'm working with an unfamiliar application to make the video so bare with me. If this works out I may try and do this again for future shows and events.

In the meantime here's a look at what I bought on the trade stands. This was a big event with over 50 traders scattered throughout the venue and I planned to take full advantage of the opportunity. I went with a prepared shopping list, a wodge of cash and hit list of traders I wanted to target first. My purchases were exclusively for my growing Flames of War army and I bought pretty much everything I set out to get. First off I wanted some Panzer Grenadier's so I picked up a Platoon box. I was also on the lookout for my next Panzer Platoon and bought a box of five Panther A's. I plan on picking up some more of these at a later stage but I want to check out the quality of the models first. In particular I'm eager to compare these Panthers to those produced by other manufacturers.
I also picked up the Panzer Lehr dice & token set. Its a bit expensive at £12 but apparently I'm a sucker for good marketing! In addition to these main items I also picked up some small bits of painted scenery (dugouts) and some magnetic disks. I plan on using the latter inside the turrets of my tanks to hold them together while allowing movement. I'm using blue tack at the moment and frankly it's not up to the job.

Tomorrow I'll post some pictures from the show and hopefully I'll have the video shortly after that.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Adventure in the Crystal Palace

No it's not the latest installment of my D&D campaign. Today is the SELWG Show at the newly renovated Crystal Palace Sports Centre in South London. This show has been missing from the Calendar for two years because of the renovations (& the discovery of Asbestos on site) and its return is much anticipated. Doors open at 10am and this years event is promised to be the biggest SELWG ever with two extra halls booked for traders and the famed Bring & Buy.
The Entrance fee is £5 for over 16’s and under 65’s. As always I'll be taking my camera along and will post my pictures on this blog as soon as possible. If your in the area why stop by, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Little Wars

I recently came across a pictures of the eminent writer HG Wells playing a Wargame and was fascinated to find that in 1913 he actually wrote a book on how to play Little Wars as he called them. It is considered by many to be the first proper set of Wargames rules although it is written with a degree of pre WWI naivety. Wells's of course was a well known pacifist and some his own philosophy can be seen in his words.
The picture is taken from the Illustrated London News and the full caption reads:

"Mr. Wells has developed his game so that the country over which the campaign is to be fought is laid out in any desired manner, with the aid of branches of shrubs as trees, with cardboard bridges, rocks, chalked-out rivers, streams and fords, cardboard forts, barracks, houses, and what not; there are employed leaden infantrymen and cavalrymen, and guns firing wooden cylinders about an inch long, capable of hitting a toy soldiers nine times out of ten at a distance of nine yards, and having a screw adjustment for elevation and depression.

There are strict rules governing the combat. Before the battle begins, the country is divided by the drawing of a curtain across it for a short time, so that the general of each opposing army may dispose of his forces without the enemy's being aware of that disposition. Then the curtains are drawn back and the campaign begins. All moves of men and guns are timed. An infantryman moves not more than a foot at a time, a cavalryman not more than two feet, and a gun, according to whether cavalry or infantry are with it, from one to two feet.

Mr. Wells is seen on the left of the drawing, taking a measurement with a length of string, to determine the distance some of his forces may move. On the right and left are seen the curtains for dividing the country before beginning the game."
(Source: Web Page by Phil Dutre)

Little Wars was first published in 1913 and it is now available online free at Project Gutenberg. The most recent edition of the book in 2004 includes a foreword by Gary Gygax.

Friday 16 October 2009

Opel Maultier - The Mule

The Opel Blitz Opel 3.6-36S/SSM Gleisketten-Lastkraftwagen or Opel Maultier (meaning "Mule") was a vehicle born of necessity. When Germany invaded Russia it soon became clear that normal wheeled vehicles were going to struggle on the poor quality or often non existent roads. By the spring of 1942 it was decided to produce half tracked versions of existing wheeled vehicles. The Opel Blitz (pictured left) was one such vehicle. With its three ton load carrying capacity and its proven design it was already the backbone of the mobile armoured divisions. Conversion to a half tracked model meant this vehicle saw service until the end of the war.

These miniatures are all resin (with integral base) and produced by Battlefront for the Flames of War game. I picked them up at the Redoubt show way back in July simply because they looked good. The models were actually quite easy to paint although I did find I needed to give them a good scrub in detergent to prep the surfaces for painting.

The detailing on the resin miniatures is quite good without being overly elaborate and this actually made these easier to paint. The only downside to them being a single cast model their is no clearance between the vehicle and the base. This can be 'hidden' by painting the area black, which is fine for wargaming miniatures but maybe not so if you collect for display only.

I'm still unsure how I can use these in my Panzer Company but I'm sure I'll find a place for them eventually.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Panzer IV H Platoon - Finished!

Well I've finally finished painting my Panzer IV Ausf. H Platoon which I started way back at the beginning of September. Its been a long trip and I feel like I learned a lot about working with this scale and with multi part, multi material models. In particular the Schürzen plates have given me grief. It also didn't help that I've been very busy at work lately so time for painting time was often hard to find. Here are a few pictures from the early development stages.

The first picture shows how I fixed the tracks to the resin Hull pieces. The second picture shows the Mud Guards which I still consider to be too flimsy and their connection to the Tracks to be too small for a robust bond. I strongly suspect these will need regular repair once these models get into usage. The Third picture shows the bolts I fixed to the turrets and hulls to hold the minis while painting. I detailed this method in a recent post. The last of the four pictures shows the assembled vehicles base coated and highlighted awaiting detail.

So how did they turn out in the end?... here's the eye candy.

I'm still not 100% happy with the finished job, in particular the camoflage pattern. Despite my earlier experiments I'm still not totaly happy with the faux airbrush technique. I think I made the mixture a little too strong and consequently the camo stripes are quite bold. Despite this I do feel I learned a lot and the next platoon of tanks I paint will be much better.
Having said that I think they look pretty good in formation and I'm looking forward to playing with them. One of the things I like most are the unit markings (decals by Battlefront) which help bring the platoon together.
Now all I have to do is decide what to paint next and that will depend on what I buy at the SELWG show this sunday (More on that nearer the time).

Tommorow I'll post pictures of two Opel Maultier (Sd.Kfz.3) which I also completed while doing the Panzer IV's.