Friday 30 July 2010

Gaming on the Beach

The kids summer break has started and the wife and I decided to get things going by taking them to the beach. The weather has been particularly good lately but the forecast was a little changeable so we packed for every eventuality. Consequently the boot of the car was packed with every imaginable item we might need for a day out.... except my bag and more importantly my current book. I didn't realise my mistake until we reached our destination and started to unpack. Needless to say I was annoyed with myself for forgetting my bag and for a while I felt slightly panicky when I realised I had the whole day before me with nothing to read.

Of course it wasn't a complete disaster, I did intend on spending part of the day playing with the kids, making sandcastles and beach combing, but I couldn't keep that up for 8 hours! I thought "Pull yourself together lad" (My internal voice sounded remarkably like Nigel green as Colour Sergeant Bourne from the 1964 film Zulu), "This is an opportunity not a disaster".

The beach combing netted me several small shells and stones to use as basing material on my models and a small quantity of fine grained sand which I'm now in the process of drying thoroughly. Beach sand is irregular and varied and I think it makes much better basing sand than anything bought in a shop. I hasten to add I'm not suggesting you go out and raid the beach until it ceases to exist, particularly if its a protected coastline.

After foraging for material we sat down to make sandcastles which was a great opportunity to slip a little history talk into the conversation. I'm a firm beliver in the principle that the first and most important teacher of a child should be the parents. Of course I havn't told the kids this, so when they think were just chatting about stuff they are actually getting extra lessons from their old man (sneaky, but effective). I don't think I'm being controversial in this matter as my wife is a Primary School teacher and she agrees with me.

After the history lesson we had a wargame on the beach. This followed the age old principle of building opposing sandcastles and then knocking them down with stones thrown turn by turn. It seems my aim isn't as good as that of my 5 year old and my castle was soon in ruins and sueing for peace.

Bit by bit the whole day passed by and we had had a great time. My wife made me chuckle when she made a comment about me managing to get through a whole day without my "toy soldiers". Little did she know.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Panzer Lehr - My Army

I've finished a couple of painting projects and expanded my Panzer Lehr Panzerkompanie. It's taken a while to get this far but I am happy with the shape of the Company I'm putting together. Here's a view of the complete company as it stands now.

Starting from the front is my Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier Platoon. In the second row in the centre is the Tiger II (Konigstiger) and to the right is a StuG G Platoon and to the left the Company HQ Panthers. Behind them is the new Panther Platoon and to the right of them in the third row is the Panzer IV Platoon. At the back are a couple of Opel Maultier.

The company has been expanded with the addition of a new Panther Platoon pictured below. 

I've also completed a Tiger tank, just because the model was calling to me! I will add a Schwere Panzer Platoon to the company at some point but for now this Tiger is all I have. It's not officially part of the army list but I had to paint it anyway.

Incidentally I was struck by the size difference between the Tiger and the much smaller Panzer IV. I've seen both tanks in museums but never side by side. Here's a comparison shot showing the Panzer IV, the Panther and the Tiger II. 

Now that this lot are completed I have one other project to concentrate on before deciding what my next FOW unit will be. I have some 88's to paint and I'm about to order some Sherman's for my other army. Choices choices! 

Monday 26 July 2010

War & Peace Show 2010

Another weekend, another military history show. This time it was the largest of its type in the UK, the War & Peace show at the Hop Farm in Kent. This event is massive and runs for five days every July with its climax at the weekend with some of the biggest re-enactment battles on UK soil. I only had a day free unfortunately but  I made sure I visited all the bits I wanted, and made myself a promise to set aside two or three days next year.

As usual I took a load of pictures and after much editing, cropping and touching up here is my selection.

There were quite a few unusual vehicles at the show that I've not seen before outside a museum. However one thing that was missing from most of the vehicles on display was information. Some vehicles had details and histories for visitors to read but many didn't. If your not an expert (and I'm not) its very hard to find out what each vehicle is. Some of my captions are blank (and others possibly wrong) so if you can fill in the gaps, or correct me, that would be great.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Big Picture :

This picture was taken on Friday at the War & Peace Show in Kent. I'm still working on all my pictures but should have them ready to post by tomorrow. In the meantime this is a general shot showing part of the German encampment area at the show. 

Dust was a big problem this year and seemed to get into everything. I spent a large part of the day cleaning my camera. Mind you it was better than the year when the site was 6 inches deep in mud!

Keep an eye out tomorrow for the rest of my pictures.

Friday 23 July 2010

Applying Water Based Decals

I’m in the process of applying decals to several vehicles and thought it was long overdue that I discuss how to do this. Now I’m not an expert by any means, and my experience is limited to the water based ‘slide’ decals that one associates with Airfix Kits (also known as ‘Transfers’) and the type sold by Battlefront for their FOW vehicles. I’ve also bought several other types from other manufacturers but always the water based variety because these are what I am familiar with. Over the years I have encountered several problems when trying to handle and apply these often small and temperamental details. So here’s my troubleshooting guide to applying decals.

Planning the Job
Take a few moments to decide what decals are being applied and where they will be positioned. This is a fiddly job so the more organised you are the easier it will be. You will need several tools before you start, including a sharp knife, tweezers, q-tips, tissue paper, gloss varnish and setting solution (described below). You will also need a shallow bowl - I use a ramekin dish - with warm distilled water.

Prepare the surface
Decals applied directly to a Matt surface can develop a silvery sheen. This is caused by micro bubbles between surface imperfections in the paint and the decal. There are two solutions to this problem. First you could use a Decal-setting solution which softens the decal allowing it to bind more closely to the surface. However setting solutions can cause decals to melt if they are too strong, which could be a problem if you use decals from different manufacturers. The second option, and the one I use, is to use a gloss varnish on the area where the decal is to be applied. Once dry it provides a smooth surface for the decal to adhere to and prevents silvering.

Releasing the Decal
First I cut the individual decal out from the sheet leaving enough backing paper around the decal to hold with tweezers. Soak the decal in WARM water for just 10-15 seconds then take out of the water and wait another 30 seconds. The Adhesive binding the decal to the paper should now have dissolved and the decal can be applied. Soaking too long in cold water runs the risk the decal will separate and end up floating in your water.

Sometimes large visible bubbles can ruin a decal. At the application stage bubbles can usually be brushed away (hold the decal in place with a cotton bud or blunted toothpick then brush the bubble towards the nearest edge). If a bubble is detected on a dry decal the only solution is to pierce the bubble with a pin or knife and smoothing with a damp brush. Weathering (see below) and varnishing can cover up smaller bubbles.

Excess water
I usually wet the surface before application to make it easier to reposition the decal. Once in position though it is necessary to remove as much excess water as possible and start the drying process allowing the decal to adherer. A dry brush tip can be used to draw off excess water, or for larger areas a dry cotton bud or q-tip. Another option is to use the corner of a piece of tissue paper. Whichever method you use be careful not to touch the decal at this point because it will not have adhered to the surface yet and could be moved.

Cracked Ink
I have found that decals often vary in quality from one manufacturer to another. Think decals can sometimes crack or split when applied on uneven or curved surfaces. If this happened the modeller has only two options. Either remove and replace the decal before it dries, or paint over the decal filling in the gaps. For simple decals like American Stars or Balkan Crosses this can be quite straightforward but is a nightmare for complex unit insignia.

Deep surface detail
In real life unit or national insignia were often applied across door breaks and engine covers etc. It may be necessary to apply a decal across a deep grove or other large surface detail which can use creases or bubbles. The best solution is to use a sharp knife to score the decal once it is in place. The knife needs to be sharp because the last thing you want is to move the decal as you drag a blunt blade through it. Apply a small amount of setting solution to ‘melt’ the decal into the grove or around a bolt etc.

Adhesive Stains
Some decals have more adhesive biding them to the backing paper than others. Sometimes this adhesive is not entirely dissolved when the decal is applied and creates a ‘stain’ on the model surface. These can usually be removed by wiping the area with a wet brush or q-tip but again, be careful not to touch the decal and accidentally move or damage it.

Seal in Place
I always varnish my models to make them durable when handling but even if you don’t do this you should consider applying a gloss varnish over the decal. This softens the raised edges and blends them into the paint job. Additional weather can be added over the top of this coat to further blend the decal into the model. Finally I apply Testors Dulcoat over the whole model to create a uniform surface.

I hope you've found this guide useful, and of course if you have any other suggestions or tips I'd love to hear them (this dog likes to learn new tricks). There are also several other guides online that you can refer to such as the Flames of War guide to Decals and Doctor Faust's Painting Clinic.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

War is Hell

Here's the latest comc from xkcd and I have to say it made me laugh. If you want to see this and other great comics go to the xkcd site. The humor can be a little strange, but then so am I.

Building Utopia

I'm not normally a Frother (although I have increasingly become a Grumpy Old Fart as the years have passed) but I recently came across something that got my blood up. Planning Department models for new building developments.

Our local authority just had its annual Town Show which is supposed to be festival celebrating and advertising all the great stuff about our town. Brushing aside the fact that this is Dagenham, and there is little if anything to recommend it to anyone outside a nuclear missile silo, I was more than a little incensed by the planning departments stand at the show.

There's a lot of new building development going on in our borough - much of it long overdue - and some of the recent projects were being showcased at the Town Show. In pride of place were the architects models of the proposed developments... and that's what ticked me off. The standard of the models was appalling with wobbly joints, gaps in the foamboard walls and poorly painted figures. Worse still they utterly misrepresented what the finished buildings will actually look like. Planning models, like architects drawings, are all pastel shades and soft lines of a Utopia that never exists. Even when brand spanking new these buildings don't look as clean and bright as the models. What annoys me most is the fact that all the models on display showed the new development in isolation and gave no indication of how the finished project will look next to existing buildings, street furniture, illegally parked cars, litter and graffiti!

Maybe I'm painting a bad picture of Dagenham (OK I am) it's not a bad place to live, but it looks nothing like the idealised pictures and models the planning department use when trying to sell new projects to the public (otherwise known as the "consultation process"). If the architects can't even make a decent model why are they being trusted to make the full scale version? What the council need are some tabletop gamers to make properly constrcted models with some decent painting, proper scenery, ... and maybe a trench system or two.

Monday 19 July 2010

Wargames Illustrated 274

The August issue of Wargames Illustrated has just landed on my doorstep and it's time for Blitzkrieg! This issues theme is the release of the source book for Early War games using the Flames of War rules. I've been collecting forces for playing the Normandy campaign but looking at what has just been released I'm tempted (very tempted) to collect a force for 1939. Mind you, it has to be said, that I was also similarly tempted by the North Africa material but I've had to pick a period/theatre of war and stick to it.

Having taken a quick look through the 124 pages of this months WI here are a few of the articles that stood out:

  • Rommel : Rise of the Desert Fox - As the title suggests this article looks at the early battlefield career of the man that was to become the menace of North Africa. 
  • The Battle of Arras 1940 - This article looks at the crucial encounter between the 7th RTR and the 7th Panzer Division as the Germans pushed through Belgium & France.
  • Salute 2010 Painting Competition - I found this article very interesting because I didn't get a good look at the painting competition entries at this years Salute. So many people were crowded around the display cases that I decided to come back and look again later, and then never got the chance. 
  • The Northern War - New Zealand 1845-46 - A very interesting look at the Maori Wars and an often overlooked part of colonial history. 
  • Churubusco 1847 - The US-Mexican war of 1846-8 was the training ground for many later Civil War generals and as such provides an interesting look at the events that shaped the US army running up to that climactic encounter. 
  • The Battle of Marathon - Greece and Persia go head to head in what has been described as "one of the most important battles in European history". 

It's no secret that I enjoy the mix of articles and eye-candy illustrations in WI but for me this is one of the best issues in a long time.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Big Picture : British Expeditionary Force

This picture was taken in 2006 at Tilbury Fort. The Fort is an English Heritage property and is largely of 19th Century design, however the site often holds Living History events. This Group represented members of the British Expeditionary Force of WWI.

Friday 16 July 2010

Project Overload

I suddenly seem to have an excess of things to do on the modeling/gaming front. In my usual disorganised manor I'm working on several projects at the same time and therefore finishing none of them in a timely fashion. Let me start at the beginning and hopefully by the end I will have decided on some priorities.

First off is my uber-secret project that I started a few weeks ago. It didn't work out the way I wanted so I've gone back to the drawing board and started again. It's also slipped from "uber-secret" through "keep it under your hat" and down to "don't let it all out at once".. so I can tell you some vague details. A friend of mine (Dave stokes of was commissioned to do some concept art for a new range of miniatures last year. These have now been cast and are due for release sometime soon. Dave let me have a couple of pre-release figures to work on and it's one of these that has been giving me grief and taking so long to finish.

Secondly I am trying hard to get a load more Flames of War stuff done ahead of a possible game in a few weeks. I'm about halfway through a Platoon of Panthers, a Panther Command Unit and a King Tiger. The Tiger doesn't actually feature on my Army list but I couldn't resist painting it. Besides it might be fun to pit this beast against a whole troop of Sherman's just to see what happens. I doubt it will be pretty.

I'm also doing some writing for my D&D campaign setting. I've neglected this for much of the year, and although I don't see myself running a 4th Edition game anytime soon, that shouldn't stop me working on the storyline for the third campaign arc. Even if I never play this out I'd like to know where I see things going for my intrepid band of adventurers.

I will make a big push this weekend to finish the Panther Platoon, followed by the Command Tanks and the Tiger. Then I must focus on getting the 'secret project' finished before starting anything new. It good to be busy!

Wednesday 14 July 2010


I've been away from my computer for a few days as I am doing a First Aid course with St John's Ambulance. It's a three day course and I'm scheduled to be assessed today, so cross fingers I'll remember to bandage up the right bits and keep my patients alive! Normal blog service will resume Friday when I get back to work and have time to write something pithy.

In the meantime, be safe out there folks.

Monday 12 July 2010

Plain old Water

A while back I got chatting to another miniatures painter at a convention and he mentioned using distilled water to mix paints with. I'd never heard of this practice before so asked him about it. He insisted that using distilled rather than tap water was better for diluting and blending with than any other option. He was a little vague as to why this should be the case so I decided to investigate.

Tap water actually varies in quality from one area to another. London (where I live) for instance has relatively high levels of Calcium Carbonate (from dissolved limestone/chalk) in it. This is why kettles get lime scale inside them and why irons ‘fur up’. If you use water to dilute paint for washes you are also adding a small amount of this mineral to the paint. The water evaporates and leaves behind the paint and the mineral. In really ‘hard’ water areas this could seriously affect acrylic paint and can - it is claimed- result in powdery looking deposits on models. I've never seen this myself but it sounds like a logical result when using water with a high mineral content in it.

Distilled water on the other hand has zero mineral content because it is made from condensed water. The process of making distilled water is simple and can be repeated easily at home. Boil water and let the steam hit a cold surface like a mirror or tile. Some of the steam will condense back into water. What’s happening here is the water molecules become a gas when heated but the mineral molecules in the water do not. So the steam is ‘pure water’. This process is called distilling.

Another suggestion that is hinted at on several painting forums is that acrylic paint can 'react' to the chemicals in drinking water, and by that I assume they mean the added Fluoride. None of the people making this claim explain how this process works. There are a lot of conspiracy theories on the Internet about fluoridation of water but I'm pretty sure that the evil hive over-mind that runs the planet didn't decide to add fluoride to our water to thwart the work of model painters using acrylic paint. Nor do I believe that fluoridation is responsible for corrupting our "bodily fluids".

However on the principle that less is more I have started to use distilled water for blending and mixing etc. Its cheep and can be bought at any service station/garage and is even available in supermarkets. I still use tap water for brush cleaning and drinking... although of course I don't drink the brush water. That would just be weird. 

I'd be interested to hear what you use and why, and of course if you can offer up some scientific reasoning behind some of the claims of 'chemical reactions' when using tap water that would be great.

Sunday 11 July 2010

Big Picture : Broadsword 2004

This was taken at Broadsword, a wargames event held at Walthamstow Town Hall in 2004. Although it was a modest sized show there were a lot of great tables and traders crammed into the hall. I don't think this event is running any more, which is a great pity.
One of the best tables was an excellent Lord of the Rings display game featuring a battle around the Tower of Isenguard (seen just right of centre in this photo) .

Friday 9 July 2010

Medical Breakthrough

I think I’ve discovered a new illness. It’s common amongst gamers of all types, but not, as yet, medically recognised…

Game Deprivation Disorder (GDD) is brought on when a gamer goes too far between fixes. My group meet bi-weekly but we skipped a game last week because of holidays and other commitments. It happens sometimes and its part of life, we have jobs and families and sometimes life just gets in the way of games. But I’ve started to realise just how important gaming is to my well being and how detrimental the effects are when I miss a game. After a few weeks without a game I start to get 'twitchy' and irritable. I find it hard to focus on my work and I get easily distracted.

The entomology of the word deprivation rests in the early 14th Century and is derived from the Latin word Deprivare, meaning to “entirely release from”. The modern definition of the word has taken this further and now means several things; a lack of the usual comforts or necessaries of life; deficiency or famine; dispossession and loss; denial or withdrawal. That pretty much sums up how I feel when I miss a game night.

We are getting perilously close to the kids summer holidays. This is the time when our group seems to find it hardest to achieve a quorum and games get cancelled. Ironically only two of us have kids, but I guess its also the fact that this is the time of year when most people take their annual vacation. We always seem to end up cancelling several games over the summer (and over the Christmas holidays as well). I can already feel my role-playing tick twitching in anticipation of cancelled games. This is the time of year when I start digging out computer games to play, but its not the same as the social atmosphere of a game night.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Less than Impressed

At the risk of some sort of legal action I feel the need to tell you a story of woe, and poor service.

Its a recognised fact (to anyone that reads this blog) that I like Wargames Illustrated and I like the Flames of War game/models. When the magazine was relaunched under the banner of Battlefront last year I signed up for a subscription immediately. This was probably one of the best purchases I have made all year and every month I have enjoyed the magazine cover to cover. The new format and look of the magazine isn't to every gamers taste, but its combination of well written articles and eye candy is just what I enjoy. So when my subscription came to an end in May I didn't hesitate to purchase another year subscription.

The only downside was that the 'subscription gift' offer no longer includes any Flames of War items, instead offering a choice of Battlefronts Moments in History vignettes or something from their Vietnam range. The subscription offer is handled by their UK distributor (who shall remain nameless for fear of legal reprisals!) and once the order is processed you email them your 'gift' choices. I opted for two osprey books on Vietnam on the grounds that it was an interesting period to learn about even if I never had any intention of wargaming it. I got an email back saying the books were out of stock and could I re choose. Fair enough, but I didn't want either of the Helicopter models on offer and I didn't want any of the Moments in History range (I've got enough unpainted lead without getting something else I don't have time to work on). So I rather cheekily asked if I could have an alternative from the FOW range.

I got a quick reply saying they would try to accommodate me and was asked what did I need. Great service (I thought) which was just what any customer needs. I sent a list of 'wants' back but kept it broad and left the final choice to the distributor. Then I waited, and waited and waited.

Half a dozen emails, and six weeks later, I have finally received my Subscription gift through the post. I should be pleased and excited (I got exactly what I needed) but instead I just feel relived this sorry saga is over and done with. I'll continue to enjoy my subscription for the next year, and the models I received will definitely get painted soon. But I have to admit that when my subscription comes up for renewal next year I may well be thinking twice before I get dragged into another protracted exchange like this one.

Monday 5 July 2010

Cataclysm Pt 2 - Global Plague

This post continues the series looking at Cataclysms and how they can be used in a roleplaying campaign. The idea of a global plague has been used often in Hollywood and in print and continues to be a powerful and plausible threat that grips the modern consciousness.

Examples from History
Bubonic plague is probably the most widely known plague of ancient times. It reared it head several times before becoming known as the Black Death when it swept across Europe, starting in Italy in 1348. However other plagues also ravaged the ancient world with equally disastrous effects. Ebola, Cholera, Typhus, Typhoid, Smallpox and Malaria all took their toll on ancient populations. Malaria was so prevalent in Ancient Rome that some historians have even linked its rise to the weakening and eventual fall of the Empire.

One of the best known of these ancient plagues occurred in 430-26 BC during the Peloponnesian War. It became known as the Athenian plague and counted amongst its victims Pericles, statesman, orator and General of Athens. Status and fame were no protection however and the plague swept away this hero of Athens as easily as it did its lowliest citizen. The Athenian plague may have been an early example of Bubonic Plague but it’s also likely it could have been Ebola or even hemorrhagic fever.

Another plague that was probably Bubonic in origin was the Antonine Plague which occurred during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD). As with earlier examples the plague was no respecter of social boundaries, and before it subsided had claimed the famed Emperor and Stoic philosopher as a victim.

Wherever you find civilisation in the ancient world you also find disease. Since the first cities evolved in Ancient Mesopotamia around 4000-3500 BC disease has been able to take hold and spread easily. This was always true but never more so than in wartime when the overcrowded and besieged cities meant that plague could spread quickly. This is exactly what happened during the Athenian Plague.

The Antonine plague however was not caused by war, but by the end of war. As with the Spanish Flu epidemic of the early 20th century it was soldiers returning home that quickly dispersed the disease and ensured widespread outbreaks across the empire.

It has long been recognised that as well as Military Movement, trade has also been an important carrier and transmitter of disease from one area to another. The Justinianic plague (another possible Bubonic outbreak) in the mid-sixth century rapidly travelled along the caravan trading routes. It spread throughout the empire and modern historians have been able to trace its progress along trade and military routes, always moving from the coastal cities to the interior provinces.

This was also the case with the Black Death in the 14th century. Coastal cities were particularly affected but soon plague spread inland. This was facilitated by the main carrier of the disease, rats and the fleas that make them their home. Rats in particular found overcrowded and unsanitary urban areas particularly conducive to their lifestyle. However it should also be noted that any animal which has fleas – such as dogs and cats – could also be a carrier.

The Symptoms of plague will of course vary from disease to disease. The initial symptoms of Bubonic Plague for instance include headaches, a rash which covered the body, and fever. This would be swiftly followed by coughed up blood, and extremely painful stomach cramps, followed by vomiting. These latter symptoms are most likely the result of internal bleeding and swallowing blood which the stomach cannot digest properly. Many victims of the disease also experienced insomnia, restlessness and unquenchable thirsts.

Other commonly experienced symptoms – common to several infections – include hallucinations, fever and fatigue, facial inflammation, sore throats and often diarrhoea. This latter symptom massively dehydrates the victim and is the usual cause of death. With Bubonic plague the most obvious symptom will be the buboes which appear in the groin area or armpits. These fester and bust spreading the contagion to bedding and cloths and then on to new victims.

Malaria was widespread in the ancient world and was not only lethal to the young, old or sick but could also materially weaken a society. Symptoms include fever, weakness, lethargy, diarrhoea and vomiting. Those that the disease did not kill would often be too weak to harvest crops or tend animals and famine often followed swiftly.

The Antonine plague killed as much as one-third of the population in a very short space of time. Diseases like malaria lasted longer but were equally deadly in the long run. Typhoid fever kills between 12 and 30% of victims while smallpox death rates vary enormously dependent on the severity of infection (anything from 10-50%).

The Bubonic Plague has incredible killing power and infected individuals generally died by the seventh or eighth day with death occurring in roughly 70% of cases. Pneumonic plague however has over a 90% mortality rate and although Septicaemia infected individuals might survive for two to three days the death rate was close to 100%. Some recent studies have suggested that between 45-50% of Europe’s population was killed over a four year period by the Black Death.

Effects on Society
With the onset of plague normal life came to an end, at least for a while. Some cities became practically deserted while others, especially those which were not trade centres, were less affected. Doctors and other caregivers frequently caught the disease any most sufferers had to fend for themselves. Food, particularly bread, became scarce and some of the sick may actually have died of starvation, rather than disease.

Descriptions of the Athenian plague describe how the despair caused within the city led the people to be “indifferent to the laws of men and gods, and many cast themselves into self-indulgence”. Christian writers felt the sufferings caused by the plague were the punishment of God. But as has already been noted, the plague killed saint and sinner with equal zeal. In such a religiously charged environment mass hysteria, flagellant processions, or persecutions of other religious groups often took place.

In the years following an outbreak of plague shortage of manpower was a chronic issue for the authorities. Crops ripened with no one to harvest them and fields were left unploughed. Inflation soared as the taxation and employment base shrank dramatically and civic construction stalled, sometimes for generations. Recruits for the army become increasingly more difficult to find which created great opportunities for foreign mercenaries which brought with them new waves of disease.

The churches and monasteries were badly hit by the plague but recovered quicker as much of their funding came from private donors. These rich patrons would likely be suffering from the economic effects of plague but would also be acutely aware of their own mortality in the wake of diseases that crossed social boundaries as easily as they crossed seas and rivers.

Plague in a Fantasy Setting
History teaches us that plague can wreak havoc in society and often takes generations to recover from. It can materially weaken empires and change the political and social structure of a civilisation. Plague kills rich and poor, old and young alike and few if any are exempt from its consequences. Even those lucky enough to survive the epidemic unscathed will suffer deprivation, hunger, higher taxes and an infrastructure that enters a period of decline that may last decades.

History also shows that religious upheaval will almost certainly follow such a severe shakeup of the social structure of a society. In a world where magic and clerical healing are common, religion may very do very well from such a disaster. The society that develops from the remnants left behind may well be more radical and more pragmatic. In many ways this is the ideal backdrop for a campaign world as the normal constraints of class and status are broken down and social mobility becomes the order of the day.

Plague in a fantasy setting, just as in Hollywood, can be much more devastating than real world examples. Severe as the Black death was, its overall mortality rate was 'only' 30-50%, leaving enough survivors for society to recover slowly. Fictional plagues could be more virulent, be global in reach and result in much higher death rates literally dumping the survivors back in a new stone age. Such an event would easily be defined as a cataclysm.

Even less severe plagues could conceivably result in the fall and rise of civilisations, either because high mortality breaks down regular institutions and the rule of government, or because lesser powers take advantage of militarily weakened neighbours. Cities may become abandoned, fertile farmland can become a desert and trade routes fade into obscurity. All of which provides opportunities for adventurers and bandits alike.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Big Picture : Damyns Hall

This picture was taken last year at the Military & Flying Machines event at Damyns Hall Aerodrome in Upminster. This 'Tank ride' (its actually an SPG or Self Propelled Gun, the FV433 Abbot) was a particular highlight, especially as we had the best seats in the house for the Spitfire flyover display.
I'm on the left, with my youngest daughter next to me and my eldest facing forwards and waving. On the right is my Brother in Law, whose partner took this shot.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Tankfest 2010 - Pictures

It's taken a few days but I have finally been able to sort through the 770+ pictures I took at Tankfest last weekend. The following slideshow is a selection of my best pictures.

This was a fantastic weekend with a huge amount to see and do. I was lucky enough to attend both days of the show and even then I was hard pressed to see everything in the detail I wanted. This really is a premier event if you have any interest in armoured vehicles and a great place to see some historic examples running and roaring.

One example was the Valentine. I've never seen a running example of this tank before so it was a real treat to see it in the arena.

The museum has a huge variety of tanks on show including one of my personal favorites, the King Tiger.
Also at the show was Rommel's staff car from North Africa. This is privately owned but was brought to Tankfest and put on display with Tiger 131.

The Tiger is currently undergoing renovation so was not running at the show. This was a great pity but hopefully the work being carried out now will ensure this historically significant tank continues to run for many more years to come.