Saturday 28 January 2012

Mobile Painting - The Results

As promised here's a few pictures of what I was able to paint using my mobile kit while up in Leicester this week. I only had two nights away from home but I think I got quite a lot done in the few hours I had spare.

Wood & Turf MG Nest
Sandbag and Turf MG Nest
Concrete MG Bunker - Rear View
Concrete MG Bunker - Front View
A simple shack or outbuilding with wooden shingles
Concrete MG bunker - Rear view
Concrete MG Bunker - Front/Side view

I was able to paint all of these and give them a coat of Vallejo satin Varnish to protect them. When I got home all I had left to do was apply a coat of Testors Dullcote and then add static grass, tufts etc. Job done!

I'm really pleased with these models, especially as I haven't been able to get anything else completed in weeks.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Mobile Painting

Last year my job changed (a promotion non-the-less!) and my new role involves a reasonable amount of travelling. A couple of times a month I have an overnight stay in Southampton and recently I also had a two day trip up in Manchester and today I'm in Leicester. While I'm enjoying getting out from behind my desk now and again it is playing havoc with my free time and in particular the time I spend painting. Frankly I'm so tired some evenings that I just can't face painting and all I want to do is veg in front of the TV. Consequently I have hardly picked up a brush in over a month. So I decided it was time to get mobile and better utilise some of the time I'm spending in hotel rooms in the name of my hobby.

Back in June last year I posted that I had made up a tool kit so that I could prepare miniatures while at work and I have used this successfully several times. Indeed on my last trip to Manchester I set about cleaning up and assembling a couple of vehicles for my FoW forces. But what I need to do is extend the principle so that I can get some painting done while away from home, or even at work in the few lunch breaks I get now.

The end result of this thought process is that I have put together a small travelling paint kit with the same selection of tools that I had in my tool-roll plus a few essential painting tools and a core selection of paints and inks. I can't bring everything with me but I can selectively pick out the paints I need to get a particular stage of a model completed while I'm away. It will require a little more forethought on my part so that I take just what I need each time I use the kit but its not an impossible choice to make.

Here's what I have included:

  • A selection of small diamond files
  • 2x Mini Clamps
  • Brushes for cleaning
  • Tweezers (Metal and plastic)
  • Pencil (for marking joints etc)
  • Craft Knife and Spare Blades
  • Sculpting Tools
  • Adhesives : Epoxy Resin Glue, Milliput Putty, Superglue, Bluetac
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Wooden Sticks for mixing glue
  • 50x50cm Leather work sheet (Shammy leather)
  • Small cutting mat
  • 20ml bottle of Distilled Water/Flow Improver (80:20)

I've also selected a core set of paints to keep in the box and have been selected with Flames of War/WWII colours in mind. I use Vallejo paints almost exclusively so the following list of colours are from that range.

  • 882 Middlestone
  • 886 Green Grey
  • 887 Brown Violet
  • 863 Gunmetal
  • 872 Chocolate Brown
  • 890 Reflective Green
  • 830 German Fieldgrey
  • 873 US Field Drab
  • 918 Ivory
  • 982 Cavalry Brown
  • 988 Khaki
  • 995 German Grey
  • 823 Luftwaffe Can Green
  • 826 German Camo Medium Brown
  • 875 Beigh Brown
  • 984 Flat Brown

I've also included bottle of GW Devlan Mud wash and a small bottle of Vallejo Satin varnish as well as the essential bottles of Black and White paint. The final stages of a project - Matt varnish, flock etc - I'll still have to do at home but most of the earlier work can be done regardless of where I am. 

Monday 23 January 2012

First game of the year!

The irony of the fact that I'm writing about my first game of 2012 at the end of January hasn't eluded me but needless to say all our group have busy or unusual jobs and getting together is a challenge at the best of times. First let me start by saying that the Dagenham Delvers gathered for a resumption of our D&D campaign after a prolonged Christmas break. Longs gaps between games are very difficult, especially when the games form a sequence and there is a story to follow. Fortunately we keep a detailed campaign Journal and were able to pick up quickly from where we left off.

This game saw our party of adventurers begin by fleeing the scene of our last battle with the Gnolls of the Valric Forest. Heavily outnumbered and seemingly surrounded we ran as fast as we could to reach the nearest Sealy Hill (these are semi mystical hills with links to Fey magic). We managed to stay ahead of our pursuers - just -and made it to the crest of the hill in time to see the Gnolls massing on the treeline surrounding the hill. On top of the hill was a large stone altar stone, but little else by way of defensive terrain. We searched the hilltop in desperation and found a rune or glyph etched into the side of the stone which when pressed opened a secret stairway leading down into the hill.

With little other option we proceeded down and closed the doorway behind us. However we soon found that we were in a small series of chambers, rigged with explosive traps and no exit other than a disabled Portal with the keystone missing. Next to the portal stood twelve chests made from various materials including wood, metal and stone. Each had a lock or mechanism and one possibly held the missing keystone. After tripping one trap we immediately suspected more traps when we found a garbled note next to the Portal. It was a message, clearly in code and maybe it held a clue to the location of the keystone.

The coded message kept us happily occupied trying to decipher it for at least 20 minutes and eventually we were able to locate the keystone just as we heard the Gnolls opening the secret doorway to this underground chamber. We passed quickly through the portal and removed the keystone on that side thereby deactivating it and blocking our pursuers. Of course this also means our route back is blocked so we have little option but to go where the Evil GM directs us!

Our group explored the underground rooms we appear to have entered looking for a route out but eventually could only find a spiral staircase leading down into a series of flooded rooms. With little other option we decided to swim through the flooded section to reach another series of rooms above the water level. However we never expected this short swim to be uneventful and true to our expectations we had to fight some bad tempered Sahuagin before making it to safety.

All in all a pretty good game with an interesting mix of puzzle solving, skill challenges and combat.

Sunday 22 January 2012

WI 292 - First look at FOW 3rd Edition

My copy of Wargames Illustrated issue 292 arrived on Friday and the first thing I turned to was the 15 page article about the imminent release of Flames of War 3rd Edition. The first teaser advert for 3rd Edition was in Wargames Illustrated 291 closely followed by a YouTube announcement that Battlefront are giving away the Flames of War 3rd Edition rules to anyone that owns a Hardcover copy of the 2nd Edition rules.

The new hardcover rulebook will be bigger (308 pages) with two separate softback booklets covering army lists and the hobby aspects of the game. Its not clear yet if these will be sold individually as I suspect that most existing FoW players won't need a booklet detailing the basics of how to paint their miniatures. Similarly the Forces book will probably be redundant to most existing players. However the new and updated core rulebook does look really good from the sneak previews shown in here. The article has certainly whetted my appetite and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the new Flames of War rules to see in detail what changes have been made.

Leaving the preview of the new rules aside this is still a great issue, focusing as it does on the increasingly popular Darkest Africa 'period'. This genre covers a wide swathe of history and a diverse selection of minor and major wars from colonial skirmishes, inter-tribal warfare, the campaigns against the Mahdi through to the Zulu War of 1879. The opening article in this themed issue is written by Chris Peers (author of In the Heart of Africa and Death in the Dark Continent) and gives a good overview depth and choices in this period. [If this looks like a period you are interested in check out the excellent Blog Return to Darkest Africa]

There is also an excellent Battle Report by Rick Priestley called The Path of Blood! This focuses on the revolutionary Zulu leader Shaka Zulu and the period that would later be called the Mfecane - The Crushing - when Shaka forged what would become the Zulu empire of southern Africa. In this battle the Zulus face off against the Matabele in an epic inter-tribal battle for domination of the northern portion of the Zulu sphere of influence. The pictures and write up of this game are excellent and very evocative. A few years ago such a battle would have been much harder to stage as there just wasn't a wide enough range of miniatures with which to field two such large armies. However with the recent advent of plastic box sets like those by Warlord games this has now become a much more realistic option.

As well as the themed content there are several other articles covering other periods that are equally interesting such as Hot Time in Ligny and Segemoor and More. There is also a really nice photo report from Fall In 2011 and a report from the Flames of War North American masters tournament. 

Wednesday 18 January 2012

BLMA Playing Favorites

Over the last couple of weeks several Bloggers I follow have been posting a thread called Playing Favourites. Basically is a list of categories and an excuse to show your inner geek, so how could I resit joining in! Check out some of the other posts on the following blogs: Trouble At T'Mill, Mylardiesgames, Too Much Lead and Steve's Random Musings. So here's my humble contribution:

Wargames Period - Easily WWII - no surprise there - closely followed by ACW. I'll happily play any period but I have a particular interest in the history of these two conflicts.

Scale - I'm a recent convert to 15mm for wargaming although I'd prefer 28mm for RPG's and skirmish type games. This is the scale I 'traditionally' painted but as I said I have been doing more and more 15mm in the last few years. Also thanks to Posties Rejects I have had a chance to play a wide range of games in 15mm over the last year and as a scale it is growing on me. I'd like to give smaller scales a try in future (10mm and even Micro Armour 1/200th) but I'm reluctant to branch out onto yet another game and set of models.

Rules - I don't think I'm qualified to answer this, because my experience has been limited to just a handful of  game systems. Generally I prefer simpler rules that allow the player to concentrate on strategic thinking rather than maths. I'll be honest, I find it hard to read rulebooks, no matter how many pretty pictures they include. I much prefer to learn at the elbow of an experienced player and as I don't belong to a club the only rules I have read are those I have bought for myself.

Boardgame - I haven't played Risk in years but as a teenager it was by far my favourite. Nowadays I think my favourite is probably the old classic, Chess. I'm useless at it but I regularly play on my Smartphone or PC and the beauty of playing a 'computer' is that I can turn down the IQ of the AI until I win (!!). Actually I win about 50% of the time so I still consider a game challenging enough to be enjoyable but not an exercise in self punishment.

Heresy 'Thrud the Barbarian'
Figure manufacturer -I love the 28mm miniatures of Heresy and Hasslefree. In 15mm I don't really have a favourite as I tend to buy from a wide range of manufacturers based on what I need from wherever it is available.

Metal/Hard Plastic -The quality of resin and plastic has improved hugely in the 30 years I have been collecting miniatures. I prefer Metal but if I need a particular figure, what it is made of is secondary to how it looks, what it costs and how easily available it is.

Club -I've never been a club man myself. Partly because for years there wasn't one local to me and partly because I'm not a naturally gregarious person. However I've now joined Posties Rejects which I suppose is a sort of unofficial club so I'll nominate them in this category.

The Evil GM
Opponent - My mate Peter (aka The Evil GM). We haven't faced off in a wargame battle for over 20 years but one day I'd like to beat him, just once. To my knowledge he has never been defeated in a wargame - the git - so victory against him would have to go down on my personal Bucket List. The chances of it happening though are vanishingly small because I have the tactical ability of a peanut and Pete is simply the luckiest SOB I have ever had the misfortune to meet in combat.

Film - I loved films like Zulu and The Longest day when I was a kid and they still inspire me today. But I have to say I'm excited by the opportunities that CGI have brought to modern war films like Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates and the HBO Series Band of Brothers and Pacific. Ironically I thought that CGI would also revive Fantasy movies finally bringing them the visuals that often lacked in older films. With the exception of the LoTR trilogy I can honestly say I have largely been disappointed on this front!

Book - I'm going to be boring now and say The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Closely followed at the opposite end of the literary scale by the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. However for pure inspiration I'd have to nominate Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as a history book that literally changed my view of the world.

Art - Considering my book choices it should come as no surprise that I love the artwork of Frank Frazetta. I'm also a fan of the work of my mate Dave Stokes whose artwork has been featured here several times. Also I have to nominate the photographer Robert Capa in this category as well as I consider his pictures not just brilliant but works of art in their own right. His pictures of D-Day send a chill down my spine.

The Interweb - I live my life on the Internet. When I'm not working I spend an inordinate amount of time on social networks, blogging or reading other peoples Blogs and generally surfin' the web. Consequently I honestly can't pick out a single site or blog for highlight because I love it all (ahhhh).

I hope you like some of my choices and I'm sure the moment I publish this post I'll think of several dozen new things I wished I had included. So what about you? Fancy picking up the baton and listing your Favourites?

Monday 16 January 2012

Miniature Wargames - Issue 346

Following on from yesterdays magazine review here's another! The February issue of Miniature Wargames caught my eye because it includes an article about Normandy scenarios. D-Day and the battle for Normandy is my 'Period' and I couldn't walk past this issue without picking it up. Worse still when I saw the cover I squealed "Oooo D-Day!" loudly in the middle of the shop, much to my daughters embarrassment (revenge is mine!!). Moving swiftly on....

The Devils own Breakout by Graham Burke presents a series of small unit scenarios for D-Day wargames. As well as the main scenario the article lists a couple of additional ideas for games as well as notes on figure availability and paint schemes.

This months issue has the usual wide range of articles covering periods as diverse as WWII in 28mm through to Ancient Britons, the Peninsular War, the Crimean War, the First Silesian War in 10mm and even fantasy/sci-fi skirmish games. There is bound to be something of interest to most wargamers in this issue although it does make this issue feel a bit disjointed and random. Having said that the standard of the writing and the excellent illustrations throughout make this an enjoyable read.

It has occurred to me that recently I am living my hobby vicariously through wargaming magazines and I must put this right soon. The Delvers are meeting this Friday and I'm hoping to hear from the Rejects soon (hint hint) for my first Wargame of the year. Plus I'm determined to squeeze in a few FoW games with my brother-in-law pretty soon. To this end I'm determined to try and finish a couple of painting projects that have lingered half done. One idea I'm going to experiment with is taking small bits of projects into work so I can get jobs done during my lunch break (when I get one!).

Sunday 15 January 2012

Wargames Soldiers and Strategy 58

Last weekend I picked up Issue 58 of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy and it was so good I've nearly finished reading it already. As usual this issue is dedicated to a theme (this month its Napoleon versus the Austrians) but also contains a range of other excellent articles, news updates and figure reviews to round off the content. Full details can be found here but the following articles in particular caught my eye.

Rick Priestley's excellent feature column This Gaming Life continues with a look at the much maligned mechanic IGOUGO. Once again Rick shows the depth of his knowledge and experience in providing a well rounded article discussing the relative merits of this sometimes controversial rule convention and its alternatives. With each article I read by Rick it becomes clearer and clearer that his understanding of wargaming is not just limited to those games he has had a hand in developing.

Another great article is Mark Blackhouse's You are no good Private Hook! Recreating the battle for Rourke's drift in 1:1 models to participants is clearly not practicable except maybe for large clubs, so Mark instead focused on action inside the hospital. His scratch built building was simple but effective and I could instantly see several applications for the model created.

The article Soldiers of the Imperial Army in the Pacific - Painting WWII Japanese by Helen Bachaus was also very interesting. In it she looks at Japanese uniforms from WWII. I've not seen these focused on for a long time and I thought it was a very interesting and informative article as well as being illustrated with some excellent photo's.

Richard Clark and Nick Skinner (Two Fat Lardies) also gave an interesting interview to the magazine about the latest edition of their WWII Company level wargame I ain't Been Shot Mum. The more I read about this game the more tempted I am to buy a copy just to check out the rules. I'm not the sort of gamer who finds rule-books easy to read - I much prefer to learn by playing the game - but various other reviews I have read say these are an easy and fun set of rules to learn. Obviously I've committed myself pretty heavily to Flames of War but I 'm beginning to think it would be useful to expand my understanding of other rules systems for the same period.

This magazine is definitely growing on me and I am seriously considering taking out a subscription so I don't miss future issues.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Zvezda T34/76

Back at SELWG in October I bought a couple of the plastic Zvezda 1/100 vehicles including a German Panzer III and a Russian T34/76. These sets are very cheep and easy to assemble and the quality of the casting is excellent considering the price range. I didn't buy either model for use in an army, I just thought I'd give them a try-out to see what they were like.

To be honest I sort of forgot I had them so when I uncovered the two boxes yesterday I decided I had found something to keep me amused during my lunch break. I've only assembled the T34/76 so far but I have to say I'm impressed both with the detailing on the model and its easy of assembly. I used clippers to remove the model from its sprue but that wasn't really necessary and a quick scrape of a fingernail removed the small amount of tailing where the sprue met the model.

The range is focused on Operation Barbarossa so is firmly an early war collection of vehicles for the game Art of Tactic. Other models in the 1/100 range include:

Opelblitz Truck 1937-1944
Sd.Kfz. 251/1 AUSF.B
Pz.Kpfw. 38 (T) Light tank
Pz.Kpfw. II light tank
Pz.Kpfw. III G medium tank
Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf.D medium Tank

ZIS-5 Truck
BM-13 "Katyusha"
KV-1 mod. 1941
BT-5 light tank
T-26 M light tank
T-34/76 (mod. 1940)medium tank

I haven't considered whether to paint this model yet, but as a quick diversion it fitted the bill. And at just £2.50 each I can see how they could easily be used to build a cheep force to start off a Tank Company or two. I may buy several of the German Opal Blitz trucks next for use as scenery or objective markers.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Replica Tank from War Horse

The Tank Museum has obtained the tank used in Steven Spielberg's new film War Horse (which I'm hoping to see next week). I saw this news reported a couple of days ago but the Museum have now put out this short video explaining why they decided to buy the replica and what they intend to do with it.

This is a fully operational replica of a British Mk IV tank and was based on the Museum's own Mark IV, which was built in 1917. On the inside is a modern excavator vehicle providing the power but the exterior detailing and handling are authentic looking. So much so in fact that the Museum decided it was worth buying to run at events like Tankfest in June.

The replica will go on display this weekend so I'll get to see it when I attend Tiger Day at the end of March. There's no word yet of they will run this vehicle at that event but I have my fingers crossed!

Monday 9 January 2012

Once more unto the breach...

Earlier today I news started to appear announcing that Wizards of the Coast are about to embark on development of a new edition of D&D. As the day has progressed various Blogger's have repeated the story and cited the announcement in the New York Times and this article on the D&D site itself. It seems only a short while ago that 4th Edition was released so will 5th Edition be what is needed to revive the franchise?

Mike Mearls, lead designer for D&D at Wizards has said "Most people will think of this as the fifth edition of D&D. In many ways, though, we want this to be a version of the game that embraces the entirety of D&D's history....One that all D&D fans can turn to and use." It all sounds very laudable and positive, but you know what, I've heard it all before. Several times.

On the plus side Wizards recently rehired Monte Cooke (lead designer of 3rd edition) and have announced he will be the lead designer of the revamped game. I like his work and I'd like to think that with Cooke back at the helm 5th edition could be a positive move for the game. But I guess I'm a cynic at heart and right now I despair at the thought of having to buy the core rulebooks yet again.

Its early days and development has not even got started yet. I guess release will likely be sometime next year but a lot will depend on financial and business pressures to get the new game published. 

This Blog wot I wrote

Today BLMA celebrates its Third Birthday! Wow... I honestly didn't know when I started this back in 2009 whether I would stick with it or whether this Blog would fade away like so many others. I'm glad its still going strong after three years, nearly 1000 posts and close to half a million pageviews!!

BLMA has gone through some significant changes in the last three years but hopefully nothing detrimental. I still enjoy the regular discipline of putting my thoughts down on paper (or pixels) although this has dropped from a daily activity to three or four times a week. As already mentioned in my review of 2011 work commitments have impacted on my free time and given the choice between sitting down to paint/play or sitting down and typing a post I really should choose the former. But change just brings different opportunities and I hope that 2012 will give me plenty of things to write about and photograph.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Painted in 20 Eleven

Following on from my review of the year a few days ago I thought I'd post a collection of pictures of the best stuff I painted last year. This was the year that I focused on my Flames of War collection and the terrain to play it. I want to diversify this year by going back to my painting roots with some 28mm figures. Like most gamers I have a growing lead mountain and I feel an overwhelming urge to dive into it and see what inspires me in 2012.

M5A1 Stuart Platoon

Destroyed Stug Objective Marker

15mm resin walls

Sherman A1M1 76mm Platoon

US Motorised Rifle Platoon

Supply Depot Objective Marker
Sherman M4A1 Platoon


Dragons Teeth

MG Nest

Panzer IV's by Forged in Battle

15mm Resin Norman Church

Norman Farmhouse

Nebelwerfer 42 Rocket Battery

US Rifle Platoon

Schwere Panzerspahwagen - Sd Kfz 234/2 Puma

Smoke and Flames

Monday 2 January 2012

Figgybloggy Best Blog of the Year Awards

The excellent French blog Figoblogotheque is running its third Figgybloggy Best Blog of the Year Awards (FBBYA) which will be awarded on the 1st of february. There are three categories: English language best blog, French language best blog and the other language best blog. Voting cannot be easier, just go to this post and leave a comment explaining which blogs you wish to nominate for each category.

Last year the excellent blog Big Red Bat Cave deservedly won the English Language category and this year other great blogs like The Angry Lurker and Model Dads have already been nominated.

I've cast my vote, now its your turn!

Sunday 1 January 2012

Review of 2011 & some Resolutions

Its been a busy and at times strange year both in my hobby and in the rest of my life. At the end of 2010 I made some resolutions and I can confidently say I achieved them all.
Paint more miniatures than 2010 - I've painted a lot of terrain and figures this year and I have a lot more at the half finished stage on my painting desk. Time has increasingly become an issue this year but somehow I have managed to keep the workload up. I'm crossing my fingers that 2012 will be a better year for me (health wise) and I can devote more time to painting.

Continue building my Blog - Although hits (page-views) have remained generally stable over the year they started at a high level so 2011 has been another record breaking year for BLMA. I've had just short of 185,000 hits this year, a 65% increase on last year. I've also increase followers from 141 a year ago to 230. Thanks to everyone who helps make this blog what it is by joining in and contributing to the conversation.
Play More Games - Well its been a bumper year for gaming. Both my groups have been fairly active and I've played more games than any previous year.
I've had more than my fair share of illness this year and this has impacted on my ability to get around and the time I have free. I have missed several key events this year either due to illness or other commitments including Salute, War and Peace, Tankfest and games with The Delvers of The Rejects.

Compounding the problem has been the otherwise positive experience of promotion at work. On the downside I am spending more time working (and travelling) but on the upside the increase in salary is having a significant beneficial impact on the family and my hobby activities. I'm very much aware that I'm lucky to have a job when so many others are loosing theirs and that our household finances are definitely bucking the trend.

The blog has continued to attract new readers which is a very humbling tribute to my work here. I always enjoy talking to new readers and I've made several new friends as a result. Any year when you end with more friends than you started has to be considered a good one, don't you think?

I've done a lot of painting this year but more than anything I have been building and painting terrain pieces. I reckon I have more than enough for a fair sized table but there are always new items that need adding. One thing I need to do for the coming year is make some more Bocage. I'm not sure if I'll follow the same formula I did when I wrote my Tutorial on making Bocage back in May 2010. I'm looking at a whole new method designed to produce some quick terrain in large quantities as I reckon I need at least another 6 meters of Bocage for my table.

So what of 2012? Well I think its a safe bet that the world will not end on 2012. I have some projects that I want to pursue this year but I also plan on getting out and about a lot more. I'm already booked to attend Tiger Day at Bovington in March and I have a full calender of other living history events and game conventions that I want to get to this year. I'm not sure whether I will get as much painting done, mainly because I'm running out of space to store everything! So one of my big resolutions for the year it to get my garden shed repaired and weather proofed. I hate DIY but this is one of those jobs that I have been putting off for years but would benefit my hobby as well as keeping Mrs BigLee happy!

So after all this rambling it just leaves me to say Happy New Year to all BLMA's readers and followers. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope you all have a great year filled with lots of games!