Tuesday 29 November 2011

Legal Eagle

Sharp eyed readers (or those with too much time on their hands) may have noticed that I've added an Image Copyright Page at the top of this Blog. I've resisted exercising copyright on my pictures until now, mainly because I still believe in the free and open transmission of information on the web. I'm a bit of a hippy in that respect. However three recent incidents (two good, one bad) have got me thinking about copyright and consequently I have decided to act.

The first incident was the recent discovery that one of my pictures from a museum event a few years ago had been used for commercial purposes without my permission. Had I been asked I would gladly have revoked my copyright and given the picture away, but as it stands I feel as if my picture was stolen. I've no idea if the user (who will remain unnamed before anyone asks) made much money off the pictures used, but that for me isn't the issue. It just would have been nice to be asked.

On a more positive note I've had a several requests to use my images over the last couple of years. The Firepower Museum in Woolwich asked to use one of my photo's in their promotional material and I was more than happy to let them use the image. Similarly I was recently contact by a reenactor with the 44th East Essex Regiment of Foot who saw my pictures from an event at Wat Tyler Park. He wanted to use some of my pictures in their annual fundraising calender. I gladly gave them permission and yesterday I received a copy of the calender in the post (four of my pictures were used and I'm chuffed to bits).

I should state that I don't consider my pictures to be all that great and I certainly have no allusions to making a living out of my photography. I'm not protecting my copyright because I have delusions of grandeur! I'm all in favour of sharing pictures and ideas on the internet and am happy for fellow Bloggers and gamers to use my pictures for non commercial purposes (and even then I'll usually waiver copyright in return for attribution and a link-back).

So I've now added a Creative Commons License to the Blog which covers all my images. It provides basic protection from exploitation of my work while still providing freedom of usage across the web. From my point of view that's a win win scenario, and I need one of those after the weekend I've had!

Monday 28 November 2011

15mm Ancients Battle

The Rejects gathered yesterday for a 15mm Ancients battle using house rules devised by Postie, our host. The battle was Hittites v's Assyrians with Dave, Mark, Fran and Richard commanding the Assyrians and Surjit, Myself and Ray commanding the Hittites.

I'm afraid I didn't make many notes, partly because I forgot my notepad but also because only the victor gets to write history and it was clear from turn 1 that I wouldn't have that privilege! As normal we each drew random lots for which commanders we played and for this game the Hittite King was played by Surjit. I'm afraid there was a clear disagreement between Ray and I and our King right from the planning stage before we had even moved a figure in anger. Ray and I favored a different deployment and a more aggressive strategy than our King but ultimately we were good generals - we never rebelled and did exactly what we were told - and were trounced good and proper as a result.

I can't bring myself to go into the details but rest assured that Ray and I were right all along and had we deployed how we wanted we might have stood a chance of winning. As it was our Chariots and Cavalry were boxed in by our own troops on either side and spent most of the game sitting on the start line because our King was waiting for the right moment to 'unleash hell'. The moment was never going to come. Also the bulk of our infantry spent five whole turns doing nothing, not even moving, and by the time we started to move  they were being flanked by overwhelming Assyrian units. We also had some bad luck in the form of Assyrian reinforcements right where we were weakest but by that stage we had made plenty of our own bad luck and had all but given up.

Keep an eye open for BatReps on Rays blog and the Angry Lurkers blog. I'm sure they will have more details, and in the case of the lurker (looking on from the far side of the table) plenty of pictures of our despairing faces!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Big Picture : Tombs of the Kings

These stone carved tombs can be found in Cyprus in the Mediterranean. My family have mercilessly ribbed me about my apparent predilection for visiting "holes in the ground" as they call them. Well I consider this particular whole in the ground to be a fascinating example of human burial practices. At the time we visited this site I was in the midst of writing a D&D campaign and some of what I saw that day made it into my games.

Known as the Tombs of the Kings this is part of an early necropolis in Paphos, Cyprus dating from 300 BC. The name of the site is misleading as there is no evidence of any royalty buried here. However the site was the final resting place of about 100 Ptolemaic aristocrats who lived and died in Paphos beginning in the 3rd century BC. The catacombs were later used by early Christians, and one of the tombs was turned into a chapel. The tombs were carved from the bedrock using just bronze tools and cover an extensive area.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Dragonmeet 2011

Another year, another Dragonmeet and another excuse for a day out in London to see the Christmas lights. I'm pretty sure the organisers of Dragonmeet don't intend their convention to mark the start of my families Christmas celebrations but that's pretty much the effect it has every year. I usually take my Daughter along for the morning and we move on to see the lights in Oxford Street and Leicester Square before moving on to Trafalgar Square to see the Christmas Tree. This year the whole family came with me and despite the cold (or perhaps because of it) it was a very festive affair.

Dragonmeet 2011
This years event included guests such as Jason Juta (freelance illustrator), C. W. Marshall (writer), Jonathan Green (author), Ian Livingstone (co-author of Fighting Fantasy, co-founder Games Workshop, President of Edios, Living god), James Wallis (games designer, writer, journalist) and Jon Hodgson (artist and designer).


There was also the usual small but interesting selection of traders in the main hall. I bought a couple of new boardgames (Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games, and Lord of the Rings Risk) plus some dice. Unfortunately I couldn't get the HEX RPG supplement I wanted but other than that I think it was a good show. I took both kids with me this time and afterwards we went on to visit Covent Garden, Leichester Square and Trafalger Square taking in the first of the Christmas lights. Here are more pictures from Dragonmeet, I hope you like them.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Farewell to the Crystal Singer

I was saddened to read on the Blog Grognardia of the death of writer Anne McCaffrey. Her passing at the age of 85 was reported in the New York Times and other respected newspapers.

Anne McCaffrey started writing in the 1950's but it was her Dragonrider of Pern series of books (of which she wrote over 20) that she will probably be best known to gamers. The series is set on the feudal world of Pern whose greatest threat is a deadly spore that rains down from space regularly to kill humans and lay waste to land. The only solution to the Threadfalls are the Dragon's whose fiery breath destroys the spore. Over centuries these creatures have been bread and paired with the Dragonriders who become the Paladins of this detailed and entrancing world mythology. As a Teenager I read several of her earlier Pern books which were a mix of sci-fi and fantasy that was refreshing when juxtaposed against my other reading fare of the time in the form of Howard and Lovecraft.

One book stood out though and it wasn't one set in the Perm Mythology. The Crystal Singer tells the story of Killashandra Ree and her struggle to become a crystal singer on the fictional planet Ballybran. Having trained her whole life to become a vocal soloist her hopes are dashed when a slight imperfection in her voice is found. With her future plans in tatters she learns about the Crystal Singers who use vocally tuned lasers to mine the Crystals essential for interstellar travel and communication. Singers are changed by their exposure to the crystals, and those that survive the change develop a symbiotic relationship that gives them new powers and extended life. Killashandra is determined to become the best Crystal Singer but first she has adapt to her changed state and master the many and varied dangers of her new profession.

I've always enjoyed reading science fiction and this book like the best sci-fi challenged my preconceptions about the future as well as creating a detailed and engaging setting. I remember it best however as a game that I played at a roleplaying convention. The Con was held in Brentwood and I and my friends travelled there by train to take part. This would have been about 1983 or thereabouts. Most of the RPG's being played inside were commercially available games such as D&D but there were also some home-grown games being tested by local game enthusiasts. We joined just such a game set in the world of the Crystal Singers and played a group of new recruits setting out on our first mining missions. The games action revolved around the hazards of the environment and the betrayals and treacheries of our fellow singers. For a group of gamers who had only played D&D it was a refreshing and interesting introduction to a wider world of RPG's and it certainly broadened our horizons.

Heavy Reading

In eager anticipation of my trip to the Tank Museum in March for Tiger Day I'm reading as much as I can about the Pzkpfw VI Ausf E, otherwise known as the Tiger I. My aim is to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with my fellow Premium Ticket holder guests at this event without sounding like a complete noob. With this in mind I've just read back to back two excellent books about the Tiger. The two books complement each other perfectly so here's a very brief review.

Tanks in Detail : Tiger I and II by Terry J Gander and published by Ian Allen Publishing is very much in the style of an osprey guide. Its the same size so will fit nicely with your collection on the shelves. This is a 96 page soft-cover book with illustrations and black and white photos throughout. The opening section of the book covers the development of the Tiger in great detail and looks at the various designs by the two main competitors Henschel and Porsche. There are further sections looking at the transmission, suspension, engine, cooling and armament of the winning Henschel design.

This book highlights many of the unique an innovative design features incorporated into the Panzer VI but also discusses the many features based on existing and sometimes outdated ideas from other tanks. The flaws of the Tiger I seem to have been many and varied and it took several years of combat experience driven improvements to rectify them. This book also includes information about some of the Tiger based variants that came into service such as the Sturmtiger and the Bergepanzer Tiger. Overall I thought this was an excellent introduction to the Tiger I and II.

Osprey (New Vanguard) Tiger I Heavy Tank is written by Tom Jentz and Hilary Doyle and although slimmer than the tanks in Detail book (its just 48 Pages) it is beautifully illustrated with a series of full colour drawings. These pictures show not only the many small technical changes and improvements but also some of the wide variety of German camouflage schemes.

This is a much more technical book with a whole section devoted to detailing the many small changes the design went through during its production. But despite this the book is not purely a set of statistics and numbers and dates like so many guides I have read in the past.

I think both these books work very well together and provide the reader with an excellent introductory guide to the Tiger Tank. Both books contained details that would be useful to the wargamer and painter although the colour plates does give the Osprey the edge as you would expect.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Wargames Illustrated 290

I received my copy of Wargames Illustrated last week with it typically landing upon my doormat within an hour of my leaving on an overnight business trip. Having said that I find some time to just sit, relax and read over the weekend (and do a little bit of painting too) so I've had a good look through this issue.

The big Flames of War theme this month is the Eastern Front with a look at Tiger ace Otto Carius. The article Tiger in the Mud is named after the book by the same name recounting his experiences of tank warfare against the Russians. I've still not read this book, but hope to get a copy for Christmas (hint hint Mrs BigLee). There is also an interesting battle report for a recreation of Carius' own 'Wittman Moment' when he took two Tigers into Malinava (his own and that commanded by Lt. Albert Kerschers) destroying 17 of the new JS-1 Stalin and 5 T-34's.

There is an excellent eight page article about the Comanche Indians of the Southern Plains of the US. This looks not only at the history development and inevitable decline but at their battle tactics and how they can be represented on the tabletop. History - and Hollywood - has painted the North American Indians as little more than unsophisticated savages barely out of the stone age. The truth as always is more complex and infinitely more interesting. Many years ago I read the excellent history Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. First published in 1970 this history of the West from the Indians perspective has never gone out of print and is a must read if your interested in the period of the Indian Wars.

Another great article was the review of the game Clad in Iron that featured at this years Salute. This is a 'what if' game but has been written from an expert in the period, Dr Howard J.Fuller. Dr Fuller teaches Military studies at Manchester University but is also an avid wargamer and this game derived from a game he wrote, but never published, before he completed his Ph.D.. In fact the story of the development of this game is almost as interesting as the concept of the game itself. This is set around a fictional but plausible conflict in 1864 and pits the growing and powerful navy of the US against the maritime power of Great Britain.

There's plenty more in this issue to interest other readers including an article about the Battle of Marengo in 1800. Illustrated with an excellent series of pictures this Battle Report uses the General de Brigade rules to look at one of Napoleon’s seminal victories. There's also great photo report on the Colours 2011 show held in Newbury in September. Yet again WI has left me drooling and wishing I'd gone to this event...maybe next year!

Sunday 20 November 2011

Big Picture : Ancient Propaganda

This mural is a supposedly accurate recreation of a piece of ancient propaganda. It depicts Ramesses II defeating the Hittites and variations on this image can be found in locations all across ancient Egypt.

I took this picture in a tourist attraction called the Pharonic Village in Cairo in 1992.

Saturday 19 November 2011

D&D Night - Walk in the Woods

Last night the Delvers met up for our semi-regular D&D night. This will be our third game in a row without cancellation so we are all a little shell shocked! John was able to make it to the game, his latest Play having recently finished. Derek was there as always plus the Evil GM and his mini-me (his Son, Lewis).

Delvers new and old gather for the game
Making camp in a clearing

Trekking through the Forest of Valric 

The Wizard lays down a fog back to hide us from a Gnoll patrol
Waiting to see what comes out of the fog

The subsequent battle was fast paced but one sided and ended with dead Gnolls scattered across the forest. This concluded the evening and as usual the GM ended by giving out Experience Points resulting in our characters Leveling up! Its taken a looooong time to reach 9th Level, lets hope it was worth the wait.

I had to include this last picture. This is Fish. He's 20 years old, deaf as a post and only has one eye. His hobbies include sleeping and singing in the middle of the night. He haz the remote.

LOLcat says "I Haz Remote"

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Schwere Panzerspahwagen - Sd Kfz 234/2 Puma

The Schwere Panzerspahwagen (5cm) - The famous Puma - was supposedly the pinnacle of German Reconnaisance cars. It was fast and well armed with the 5cm KwK 39/1 L/60 gun and could engage light opposition easily. The Puma's main gun and co-axial machine gun were fully enclosed in a turret bringing the weight of the whole vehicle up to 11.74 tons. Production began in September 1943 and was halted in September 1944 with 101 vehicles produced in total.

In Flames of War the Sd Kfz 234/2 has Jeep Mobility with Armour 3 Front, 0 Side and 0 Top. The gun has a Range of 24”/60cm, ROF 2, AT 9 and FP 4+.

This three vehicle platoon was relatively easy to paint and prepare although I have found the Resin cast hull has some serious weakness in design. In particular the front bumper broke off on two models during construction and had to be repaired with the judicial use of Superglue! It remains to be seen if these battlefield repairs survive the sort of handling they will get in play.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Tinkering with the Code

I've been making a few small changes to BLMA to tidy it up. Nothing drastic just cosmetic in the form of a couple of new Page options in the header above. These include:
  • My recent article on Lead Rot. It's a subject that has come up so many times I decided it deserved a page of its own. 
  • There are also two new pages for each of my gaming groups, The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers and Posties Rejects. I'm constantly referring to these so decided they needed a page each. 
  • I have also created a Contact Me page and moved the links to my Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts to here and added a few more options for keeping in touch. This will keep the sidebar uncluttered and hopefully aid navigation to, from and within the site.
I have a couple of ideas for more pages but any ideas or feedback is always useful. 

In case you're wondering I've not been completely neglecting my painting projects while working on these changes. In the next day or two I should post some pictures of a newly painted unit for my Flames of War forces which I've been working on in parallel with the US Airborne Company. I have also been working on a scenario for an upcoming HEX game, but more on that when I have something more substantial to report.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Big Picture : Rubber Swords

Big Picture has been absent from BLMA for a while, mainly because I was finding it hard to dig out unique pictures that hadn't already had a showing here. This picture was taken at the 2004 Dragonmeet show in London (this years event is on the 26th November). Here you can see three members of the Delvers investigating the LARP weapons stall.

The guy in the center is Andy, an actor and Fight Director. He bought a load of weapons from this stall for use exclusively as training aids for the various stage fighting classes he runs. Needless to say a rubber sword is a much safer option in the hands of a novice so these suited his purposes.

Friday 11 November 2011


For all those who gave their life, we do remember you.

For those still in dangerous places, we are thinking of you.

Thursday 10 November 2011

WSS Issue 57 - Pulp Gaming

Issue 57 of the Wargaming Magazine Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy is on newsagent shelves and I snapped up a copy today. This magazine has had a bit of a rocky history when the English language edition ceased publication back in May 2010. However it returned with a new publisher (Karwansaray BV) and a new editor (in the form of Guy Bowers) in May of this year. I wasn't familiar with the magazine in its old guise but I have become a regular reader since its relaunch.

This months issue is themed around Pulp gaming in the 1920's. Although I'm not into playing the period straight (I like my gangsters mixed with secret cults and eldritch monsters) I have enjoyed this issue immensely. Its given me lots of ideas for my next Hollow Earth Expedition adventure which I am preparing at present. HEX is based in or around 1936, so a little after the period covered by this theme, but many of the miniatures and ideas covered could be utilised with minimal conversion.

As always with their themes there are plenty of ideas for models and scenery that I'm sure anyone into the period will find useful. The review of available miniatures was particularly interesting as it highlights manufacturers that carry suitable ranges.

Another good article is by Dr Phil Hendry who it seems has become an advocate of Dip for painting large units of miniatures. In fact he's the guy responsible for painting much of the Early Imperial Romans released by Warlord Games seen on their website. As a recent convert to the wonders of 'dip' I felt a certain kinship with Dr Phil's initially lukewarm feelings towards this technique. But like the good doctor I found that the finished product looks pretty good and its a great way to get lots of miniatures on the games table in a short time.

There is also a regular column by industry veteran Rick Priestly. Part two Of Dice and men - This gaming Life looks at the humble d6 and follows on from an equally interesting article last month about the d100. Both articles looks at the uses and restrictions implied by the choice of dice to the games designer and provide an interesting look inside the head of one of the most influential rules writers in our hobby.

The standard of presentation and range of content in this issue is high and its clean uncluttered design makes this easy to read. The reviews of new miniature releases at the beginning of the magazine are also very useful, not only for finding out about new releases but also for seeing new trends that are emerging (the shift from metal to resin for instance). All in all a very good read.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

My Date with a Big Cat

Regular readers will know I'm a bit of a treadhead and am a big fan of the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset. I've been there several times and was planning on going to Tankfest in June next year. The main reason I wanted to go was the hope that I would get a chance to see the newly refurbished Tiger I tank moving under its own power.

I've had several opportunities to see this unique vehicle up close and personal but I have never yet seen it moving. Well the refurbishment is complete and the Tank Museum have scheduled a display event in March next year themed around the Tiger. Tiger Day will be on Saturday 31st March 2012 and visitors will get to see the Tiger and several other vehicles strutting their stuff in the arena around midday. However the tank Museum are also offering 100 premium tickets for an extra special experience and as its my birthday just two weeks later my lovely wife has ordered a ticket for me.

Tiger Day - Premium Ticket Holder Itinery
Breakfast with an introduction to Tiger Day from Museum Curator, David Willey.
Lecture: Saving The Tiger with Curator David Willey, Workshop Manager Mike Hayton and members of the restoration team.
Up Close with the Panzers a guided tour with the museums in-house experts. This is a chance to get even closer to the Tiger, Panzer III, Panzer IV and Panther.
Lunch with members of the restoration team.
Tiger Tank In Action The highlight of the day. Tiger 131 will make its return into the arena along with its Axis and Allied contemporaries; including Matilda II, Panzer III, T-34 and Sherman. Premium Ticket holders get to view the display in a reserved enclosure in the spectators area.
Lecture: Hitler’s Pet - Development and Capture of Tiger 131 Tank Museum Historian David Fletcher, Assistant Librarian Stuart Wheeler and Curator David Willey, will discuss the development of the Tiger tank, examining the capture and evaluation of Tiger 131.
Afternoon Tea: A final opportunity to meet and put questions to David Willey, David Fletcher and Mike Hayton, the authors of Tiger Tank, Owners Workshop Manual, published by Haynes.
Plus: All participants will be given a special Tiger Day goody bag which will include; a signed copy of the Haynes Tiger Manual, A Tiger Tank Model, A Tiger Tank T-Shirt, and a 1 year pass to The Tank Museum.

Frankly the Premium Tickets are an absolute bargain and I just hope we bought early enough to snap up one of the 100 available. My Brother-in-Law, Ray, will also be coming along so we can nerd-out to our hearts content at one of our favourite museums. To say I'm excited at the prospect is a massive understatement.

Monday 7 November 2011

15mm Shoulder Patch Decals

I had a little envelope in the post today marked as having been sent from Utah in the USA. This raised a few eyebrows at home as nobody could figure out why I was receiving a letter from someone in Utah. Firstly, why shouldn't someone in America write to me (I don't bite) and secondly, it wasn't a letter in the envelope, it was some very very small decals.

These are the US 101st Airborne Shoulder Patches (code MGS-D18(15MM)) made by Mustang Games. I first heard about these on the Model Dads Blog (readers also get a 25% discount!) and so when I bought a box of US paratroopers I knew immediately that these decals were an essential purchase.

I'll be honest though, the prospect of fitting these tiny decals onto the shoulders of over a hundred 15mm figures is daunting. I'm a long way from reaching this stage but when I get there I expect this part of the project will take a very long time. Having said that the decals look excellent and I'm sure they will make all the difference to the finished platoon.

Mind you, when I showed my wife what I had bought she looked at me in a whole new way. You know the look; it's the one that says "you're certifiably insane" without the need for words. I suspect that by the time I've applied these decals to my models I may agree with her.

Underground, overground, wandering free

Its been a busy weekend one way or another, but with little to show for it on the painting front. We had a big family bonfire party on Saturday which required a lot of preparation and an equal amount of work on Sunday clearing up. By the time we had finished I was just too tired to contemplate painting so I watched some Star Trek on TV and read my book instead.

The weekend wasn't an entire write-off though as on Friday evening the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers gathered for the second game in a row (not sure how we managed that!) to fight our way northwards through the Forest of Valric. Our D&D 4E campaign is progressing slowly but we are nearing our goal.

Fridays game was interesting in that it consisted almost entirely of a Skill Challenge with combat encounters and Healing Surge reductions as penalties for failed skill tests. The combat encounters featured us clumsily blundering into Gnoll Patrols, although thankfully these were not as large as the group we encountered and battled in the last game. We've not had many skill challenges in this campaign - most of us struggle a little with the concept - but the Evil GM is clearly becoming more adept as this was a good game and an enjoyable encounter to play through.

I keep the group Campaign Journal and record the XP gained, creatures battled, treasure won etc.. According to my notes we are now just 900 points away from reaching 9th level. And its only taken us two years!!

Thursday 3 November 2011

FoW Kit Bag

A few weeks ago I finally reached the point where my painted Flames of War figures exceeded the storage space available. I did actually have a couple of alternative storage bags (a GW Case and a Charon Skirmishpack) but the foam inserts were designed for 28mm single figures not for Tanks or Artillery bases. So I sold the two bags I had at SELWG on the Bring and Buy with the intention to buy a suitable alternative for my growing Flames of War forces. What I bought was the Flames of War Army Kit Bag (Prod BAG01).

The bag arrived yesterday and by the end of the evening my models had been transferred to their new home. Now that I have had a chance to look the bag over in detail I thought I'd write down my initial thoughts on this product. I know I'm a bit late posting a review of a product that came out two years ago but I was so pleased with it I had to share my enthusiasm.

The bag material looks and feels tough. Some bags I have seen on sales seem rather flimsy but the outer material of this bag is much sturdier and looks like it will wear very well. All the seams are triple stitched and reinforced and the buckles and strap clips are made of metal not plastic.

The walls of the bag are reinforced, quite rigid and when zipped up the whole bag seems very robust. Other cloth bags I have used over the years have had far too much flexibility in them resulting in figure trays flexing and models dropping out of their foam slots. Another feature which will help prevent this problem is the fact that the trays are stored horizontally even when carrying the bag. 

Inside the bag there are six trays each with a different configuration allowing for a selection of different sized bases and vehicles. The foam trays themselves are probably the best I have ever used. They have a high density foam base with the softer more flexible foam inserts glued on top. Other manufacturers I have encountered typically use the same low density foam throughout each layer (whether the inserts are cut from a single sheet or glued onto a base). This means they sag and bend with even a small amount of weight in them. That's fine while they are stacked in a bag or box but murder when you have to lift out trays to get to the models. The trays in the FOW bag are much more rigid and even when filled with tanks the trays hold their shape and are much easier to lift out and move around. This for me is a major benefit over any other bag I have used.

My current forces slipped in nicely and there is still plenty of room for the units I plan on buying in the near future. It is possible to get custom trays made by Battlefoam the manufacturers of this bag. Their custom tray creator allows you to select and position any combination of inserts into a standard tray for about £13.50 each.

Its rare to buy a product and be 100% satisfied with it these days but the Flames of War Kit Bag does hit the spot for me.