Monday 31 December 2012

My Gaming Year - 2012

Following on from my post earlier today listing my resolutions from 2012 and the new ones for 2013 here's a quick run down of my gaming year. Twenty Twelve was a busy and pretty productive year for me although it didn't start well from a gaming point of view. My job (the real one, that pays the bills) has been growing and developing all year and I have at times struggled to fit in time for painting and gaming. But looking back I have still managed to get a lot done.

Oh my, January...shudder! I was ridiculously bust at work in January with two intensive business trips taking me away from my family and my painting desk. Free time was a luxury I didn't have, games were missed and I got virtually nothing painted. However this fraught period also inspired me to put together a Mobile Painting Box which has enabled me to get some projects completed while I travel or in work during my ever decreasing lunch-breaks. I was able to use the kit to great effect before the month was out to paint some Battlefront MG Bunkers.

Things settled down a little at work and I got my first proper game of the year with the Rejects. The Battle of Mackenzie Ridge was a defeat for my side, but I didn't care because I had a great time in good company. February also the first of many museum visits with the family with trips to the War Horse Exhibition at the National Army Museum. The Rejects also attended our first game show of 2012,  Cavalier

This was the month when I got my hands on the mini handbook version of the new FOW 3rd Edition rules. I also ran my first Prize Draw in March (something I'll have to repeat this coming year) and in the middle of the month I took my youngest daughter to Skirmish in Sidcup. This was also the month when I painted a heard of dead cows! But the most exciting thing about March was the fact that I had tickets for the very first Tiger Day at the Tank Museum in Bovington. My Brother-in-Law and I made a long weekend of it and visited the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth on our way. 

The month started with another large set piece game with the Rejects. The Battle of Boars Back Ridge was the start of what turned out to be a run of bad luck on the games table that made me question my faith in random number generation. April also saw completion of a long running project to paint a company of US 101st Airborne Rifle Company another visit to the RAF Museum at Hendon and of course Salute. The month was the rounded off quite nicely with another Rejects game, The Battle of Salutesville with three invited guests; Curt from Analogue Hobbies; Tamsin the Wargaming Girl and Sebastian of Back to the Minis. April was also the month that the Delvers branched out into a new game, the Marvel Heroic RPG.

I completed quite a few painting projects in May, including an US Airborne LMG Platoon, a Mortar Platoon and an objective marker or two. I also managed to re-base one of my Panzergrenadier Platoons although sadly I still haven't completed the companion platoon (I hang my head in shame!). I also visited the Combined Military Services Museum which holds an excellent collection but also has an annoying photography ban. I ended the month with the Southend Air Show and a visit to Fort Amhurst.

June was a big month for the Rejects as we put on our first ever Demonstration game at the Broadside show. We ran a WWI Battle of Amiens game and it seemed to go down well with show attendees, winning us 2nd place in Best in Show! This was also the month when I kicked my museum day trips and living history events into full gear with visits to Queens Own Royal West Kent Regimental Museum, Upnore Castle, The Royal Engineers Museum, and the Spar Valley Railway. However I did also manage to get some painting done, completing a Tom Meier Giant that dated from 1977!

I played my first 10mm Boar War game with the Rejects in June. This got me thinking about smaller scale gaming and the idea began to take root as the year progressed. June was also a significant moment in the life of this blog as BLMA reached half a millions hits. As the month drew to a close I missed a Rejects game as it clashed the War and Peace show which I had been planning on attending for some time. I went over two days and even that wasn't enough. Next year I may try to go for three days but I'll have to see what my schedule looks like first (meaning I need to bribe the wife into letting me out to play on my own!)

Following on in quick succession from War and Peace were several other events that I visit in August. These included the Military & Flying Machines event in Rainham, and the Spitfires & Merlins Airshow at Duxford. I was also able to sneak in another visit to the Muckleburgh Collection in Norfolk while on the Family Holiday. It wasn't all museums though as the Delvers continued to experiment with various board games and I began to consider seriously running a HEX game.

I was back at Duxford in September for the big Air Show of the season and decided to become a member of the Friends of Duxford as I'm sure to revisit many times more. The family also visited the 1940's weekend at Chatham Docks. We also rounded the month off by visiting the second Skirmish show of the year. I'm not sure what my wife made of it all by my youngest daughter seemed to enjoy herself building an Armourfast tank with a little help from yours truly.

The month kicked off with another Rejects 10mm battle, this time set in the early days of WWI. By now I was finding myself with an itchy trigger finger and very few models left to paint. As all wargamers know one should never paint your last model so I planned some serious retail therapy to take place at the SELWG show at Crystal Palace. As it turned out - with a little help from the other rejects - I found myself buying 6mm Micro Armour! Before the month was out I had decided I wanted to play FOW in 6mm focused on the Western Desert in WWII and was painting my first 6mm tanks. I also enjoyed a work related meeting held at the Brooklands Museum.

As the autumnal conditions took hold here in England the family and did one of our last Museum visits of the year, this time at the Science Museum. This was also the month in which the Dice Gods turned their backs on me. The Battle of Hal was a fictitious 'what if' game set in the aftermath of an allied defeat at Waterloo. My cavalry took what can only be described as the ass-whooping of a lifetime as dice roll after dice roll went against me. The only plus to come out of this game was that I bought a huge collection of 6mm figures from fellow reject Smiffy. By the end of the month I was already painting whole companies of 6mm Italian tanks.

This month has been somewhat quieter although I have managed to paint several platoons of German Tanks including Panzer III J's and Panzer IV F²'s. I also completed the core of a British 8th Army Infantry Tank Company and started work on a troop of 25 Pounder artillery. This latter project has stalled a bit over Christmas as the inevitable family activities have pushed gaming and painting to one side for a while. Mind you its not all bad because we went to see The Hobbit before Christmas and I loved it.

Well there you have it, that was my gaming (and other activities) year. I'm tired just thinking about all of that and I have plans for a lot lot more next year. Thanks for coming along with me and I hope I can continue to share my hobby interests (and everything linked to them) throughout 2013. I'd just like to sign off by thanking everyone again for following and reading my Blog and wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

Resolutions then and now

Its time once again for looking back at the year gone by and looking forward to the year to come. Were those New Years Resolutions achieved or abandoned and what will be my resolutions for 2013. I looked back at my review of 2012 last night and cringed when I read some of my resolutions. Lets just say that its been a 'mixed bag' of successes and failures. 

Last years Resolutions:
  • Put a new roof on my shed - Er...I'm embarrassed to say that never even got off the drawing board. A combination of no money, apathy and then constant bad weather put paid to that plan. Hopefully 2013 will be better.  
  • Survive the Apocalypse - I didn't actually set this as a resolution but I did safely predict our collective survival. Just call me Nostradamus Jnr....
  • Paint more miniatures than 2011 - Well as usual my painting progressed in fits and starts but I think I ended with a surge. I'm not sure I actually beat my 2011 total but I have completed some inter
  • Continue building my Blog - BLMA has continued to grow with the number of followers leaping from 230 at the end of last year to 464 as of this morning. The hot count also clocked past the half million mark earlier in the year and now stands at a whopping 637 thousand! Gulp. I'd definitely like to see the Million mark breached sometime in the next year and with a regular 1000+ hits per day that's certainly achievable. As I have said many times, thanks to everyone who helps make this Blog what it is by joining in and contributing to the conversation.
  • Play More Games - Its been another bumper year for gaming although I have taken part in fewer RPG's this year. On the plus side I have branched out into a new scale (6mm/1:300th) and I can see this increasing my gaming tally for next year. 

Resolutions for 2013:
  • Put a roof on the shed & decorate the living room (including a new painting desk!). - Given my  failure to re roof my shed for several years running I must be glutton for punishment putting this on my list again for 2013, but I live in hope. The wife has also suggested re-decorating our living room and this may be my opportunity to get a bigger and better painting desk... watch this space!
  • Finish painting my 15mm Panzer Lehr Panzergrenadier Company - I'm so near but so far from completing this project. 
  • Build up my 6mm collection - I have a lot of models, but they all need painting. I need to focus on getting several companies painted.
  • Play more Games - I put this on my list every year but this year but I really am a lightweight compared to some.
  • Run a game for the Rejects - I know I'm going to regret this resolution but nobody reads these long posts anyway so maybe the guys won't notice my mistake! 

Well there you have it my next batch of broken promises resolutions looking all shiny and neat. Please don't hold me to them! 

Friday 28 December 2012

Schneegriefer or Gleiskettengreifer?

Following on from yesterdays post about my Christmas presents, I thought I'd try to identify the panzer 'track link' that my Mother and Father-in-Law bought me. Before hitting the books I turned to that greatest of resources the internet and within minutes had struck gold and identified the piece. This is almost certainly not a track link but something even more interesting, a Schneegriefer or Ice-Cleat. Another name I have seen these called by is Gleiskettengreifer, but I'm not 100% sure which is the correct name for these track accessories although many sources refer to them simply as track cleats.

This picture does not show the 'grip' side which has a divided chevron ridge (like this: / \ ) and would have been the gripping surface. This would have been bolted onto the tracks to improve grip in winter ice and snow conditions. 

A quick search of the internet turned up this really useful webpage along with this archive drawing showing various German anti-slip devices for German AFV's. And Figure 7 is a perfect match for my mystery item. 

From what I can tell these are pretty rare items as they were a temporary feature added to tracks during the winter months only. Driving with these on roads would have damaged both road and track. I'm not sure which vehicle it would have been used on but given its width it could have been used on larger the Tiger! Thats only speculation of course, but its a possibiity. 

I'm currently working out how to clean and preserve it and when it's ready I'll take a few more pictures and post them here. 

Thursday 27 December 2012

Best Christmas Haul. Ever.

Far be it for me to sound materialistic (what me ?! ) but I have had a great Christmas and probably some of the best Christmas presents ever. First off I'm writing this Blog Post on my shiny new Tablet PC which my lovely wife bought me. I knew I had this as we went and bought this a few weeks ago and I have been patiently waiting to get my hands on it. I needed something I could easily take away with me when I'm away on business or on other trips such as Tankfest in June next year. This tablet comes with a docking keyboard which extends the battery life and makes it easier for me to 'Blog on the move'.

My wife also bought me a copy of Donald Featherstone's Solo Wargaming. Again not a surprise as I had prepared a 'Christmas List' (on Amazon) some time ago and dutifully handed it over for inspection. I suspect that this book will come in very handy over the coming years.


My Brother and Sister in-law bought me another book from my Amazon wish-list, Walking D-Day by Paul Reed. But as an added extra Ray took the book to his friends at the Normandy Veterans Association and got it signed by five men who landed on D-Day itself! They also bought me the excellent book, German Tanks of WWII. I have several other books by George Forty and they are always interesting to read and full of unique and rare photo's. This volume is no exception and will be a valuable addition to my library of reference books on WWII armour.


My Mother and Father in-law also took advantage of the Christmas list (see, it was a good idea) and bought me another Donald Featherstone book that I had been wanting to get for some time. Battles in Miniature Vol 1 focuses on the Western Desert Campaign of 1941-42 which is perfect for my current Micro Armour project. I've already started reading this and I'm getting some good ideas and much needed inspiration from it. The in-laws also bought me a special Crusader Tank mug with my name on it. I think they got this at Duxford back in September although I'll be buggered if I know how they managed this as I was with them all day!


Even my Boss got in on the act this year, buying me this excellent book about the missions to capture the German Enigma Machines. 

Probably the strangest (but also the coolest) present I received was this lump of rusty metal that I got from the in-laws. Its a track link from a Second World war German Tank! I need to hit the books and look through some pictures to confirm which type of tank track it is and what vehicle it might have come from. I suspect its from a Pzkfw II or III but that's just a guess at this stage based on its size. 

I'll give it a clean up and then oil it to protect the metal from further corrosion before putting it on display next to my models. 

All in all a pretty darn good haul of presents, and the best bit is that every one fits me and I won't be taking anything back!

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Holidays!

To the readers and followers of BLMA, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy Holiday and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

28mm Figure of Santa by Foundry Miniatures 

Thanks for all your support and encouragement over the last year. It makes writing a blog worthwhile. Without wanting to sound too materialistic, I hope you all get the gifts you want this year and have a fun and enjoyable holiday! 

Thursday 20 December 2012

Its a Hobbit thing

I was hoping to post some progress pictures from my latest painting project but it was not to be. I have a good excuse though, and its got hairy feet. Last night we had a family night out to see the new Hobbit movie. We didn't bother with the 3D version but the new format of 48 frames per second really made this a glorious film to dive into. I was initially a bit sceptical about the decision to make three films out of such a slim book, but after about half an hour watching I didn't care any more...I was just immersed in Middle Earth and didn't want it to end.

I'm a big fan of the book - I must have read it at least twenty times over the years - and for me it has a very special place in my heart. I'm also a big Lord of the Rings fan but its the story of Bilbo Baggins that has always held the greatest attraction for me, perhaps because I think Tolkein's prose is so well written he managed to fit a huge saga into a very slim book. So when I initially heard that Peter Jackson was going to make it into two films I wasn't at all surprised. But like many others when it became clear this would actually be made into a trilogy my first reaction was "oh god, what's he doing with the story"! Lets just say that having watched the first film I could happily see it turned into four or five films (OK maybe that's stretching it a bit but you get my point). 

First let me say that it was clear from watching this film that Peter Jackson also loves the book. There is so much detail in the film that I'm sure other Directors would have left out. I'm sure there are plenty of so called film-experts who will go on about the film being stretched out or lacking in pace or some other pseudo-technical nonsense, but frankly this isn't just another Hollywood film to be churned out using the same old tired formula. This is The Hobbit, this is Tolkein, and it deserves better. For me, Peter Jackson has achieved that. 

I'm not about to nominate The Hobbit for a shelf load of Oscars (although it deserves something, if only for the cinematography which was beautiful) but neither am I going to join in the anti-Jackson hype that seems to be infesting some corners of the Internet. This was a good solid film which stuck strongly - but not slavishly - to the book while providing plenty of connection to the earlier films. I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I say there is a significant amount of foreshadowing of the later events in LoTR's, and as a Tolkein fan I loved it. 

I also enjoyed the characterisation of the Dwarves and the fact that much of the humour of the book came through in the film. My youngest daughter was laughing throughout the film and I was glad that the story wasn't too dark (although it had its moments) and remained true to its origin as a children's book. This is a much lighter film in tone than the LoTR's but that was entirely appropriate because this is after all an adventure tale, not the doom laden end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario of the later films. This is the tale of a stay at home hobbit who has his eyes opened to the wonder, danger and beauty of the worlds he lives in, and we are being taken along for the ride.

Like LoTR's the Hobbit is primarily a journey. The books subtitle is There and Back Again and that wonderfully describes the symmetry of the storytelling. The tale is one of a long journey and a transformational one for all the characters involved. At the start of the film trying to resolved the jumble of dwarves was confusing but by the end of the film the viewer knows each pretty well and more importantly has become emotionally invested in their adventure.

One of the big - and in my opinion utterly unfair - criticisms of the film is the fact that it has been shot in 48 fps rather than the traditional 24fps. The technique has been describes as 'hyper reality' as if that was somehow a bad thing. The crispness and clarity of the picture was astounding and I felt it made Middle-Earth (well, New Zealand) look even more beautiful than in the first three films. Some scenes literally took my breath away and I could feel myself grinning like a Kid at Christmas and thinking, "I don't want this to end".

Another criticism that has been levelled at the film was that the CGI wasn't very good. This one confuses the hell out of me because I thought the CGI was amazing - most of the time I couldn't see it, even when I was looking at something that clearly couldn't exit in reality. In particular characters like Gollum and the Goblin King were so well acted and so well rendered that I forgot I wasn't watching a real person.

I suspect that most of the criticism of the film has been born out the anticipation generated by the earlier films. This might be a bit of an over generalisation but from what I have seen online many so called 'fans' had written off The Hobbit on the grounds that it wasn't The Lord of the Rings... well newsflash folks it isn't LoTR's and its a better movie for it! Go and see the film for yourself and go with an open mind and more importantly an open heart, because I think if you give this film half a chance you'll love it as much as I did.

☆☆☆☆☆ 5/5 Stars

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Artillery, I'm really busy *

Despite the lingering chest cold and the seemingly endless preparations for Christmas, I have been getting a little bit of model work done. I've started basing a Troop of 25 Pounders for my British North Africa forces. They shouldn't take too long to paint but the crucial factor is availability of time. Here's a picture of the models so far. Some are old figures that need to be repainted but most are pristine and untouched. 

I may also prepare another infantry platoon to paint up for this company but first things first, I guess I  really aught to wrap the SWMBO's Christmas presents! 

* PS sorry for the Tabloidesque post title, I couldn't help myself!

Monday 17 December 2012

The end of the World is Nigh!

The end of the World is Nigh! ...or not. As predicted the 2012 Mayan Cataclysm end of the world nonsense has started to dominate the headlines. According to the conspiracy theorists the world will come to an end on the 21st December 2012, just in time for Christmas! Apparently the Mayans new all about the cataclysm that would destroy the Earth but hadn't yet invented the phrase "The end of the world is nigh". So instead of just leaving a big inscription warning humanity, they invented an elaborate calendar that would count down to the end of the world. Only they didn't. 

Bizarro Blog © Dan Piraro
Rest easy folks, the Mayan calendar does not end on December 21, 2012. If you don't believe me check out these links herehere and hereThis date is the end of a Mayan long-count period (a period thousands of years long) which will be followed by another long-count period just as one year is immediately followed by the next year.

One doomsday theory I heard recently has actually been around for a long time, but its still a load of pseudo-scientific nonsense. This states that a supposed rogue planet by the name of Nibiru is headed toward Earth. While this would make a good plot of a sci-fi movie (such as the classic When Worlds Collide) the rest is all just made up rubbish. 

What I do know is that if the world does end on Friday I'll be bloody annoyed because that's when I start my Christmas Holiday!

Just for a laugh check out the Daily Mash and their article entitled Mayans 'full of shit' say experts from within lead-lined bunker. To quote Doctor Brubaker;
"Such is our indifference to the 13th b’ak’tun and the rogue planet Nibiru that we’re hosting a big ‘un-Apocalypse’ party for the scientific community, world leaders and genetically superior individuals ...In a bunker.”

Thursday 13 December 2012

Its been a week since my last confession...

Sorry for the recent silence folks; its the usual combination of work, illness and general lack of time which has resulted in my absence from the Blogosphere over the last week. I've had a major Audit at work and that has required some heavy duty preparation. And of course on audit day itself - when I need to be on top form - I was struggling with a stinker of a head-cold. Combine all this with the usual pre Christmas activities such as shopping, parties etc and I've not found the time to write anything. However I have been painting and even finished a few items, but until now hadn't got round to photographing them to share here.

I've started putting together some British 8th Army to face off against the Axis forces in North Africa and have started with an Infantry Tank Company.

8th Army Infantry Tank Company
So far I have the core of the company including A HQ troop of Matilda II tanks, One Troop of Matilda II's and three more of Valentine II's. I also have an Infantry Platoon consisting of a command MG/Rifle Team, a Light Mortar Team, an Anti-Tank Rifle Team and six Rifle/MG Teams.

Infantry Rifle/MG Teams
I'll be adding a second infantry platoon at a later date along with an Artillery Troop of 25 Pounders which I am working on now.

I'm still looking for a suitable desert game surface or battle mat to play on. I've seen several products online but they are either incredibly expensive or out of stock! Any suggestions? 

Thursday 6 December 2012

Bad Customer Service & Late Deliveries

Poor Customer Service comes in many forms not just rude or obstructive sales staff. In this age of  Internet Shopping its things like late deliveries, lack of communications, mistakes in orders, unhelpful websites, and poor stock control that are probably the most common examples of Bad Customer Service that are encountered by most shoppers. And I've encountered them all in the last few months.

Regular readers will know that I have entered into a new scale recently, complimenting my 15mm WWII collection with 6mm figures and vehicles. My acquisition of a large collection of models from a fellow member of Posties Rejects has boosted my output of painted figures and without it I would probably still be sitting here twiddling my thumbs. Why? Because clearly not all retailers work to the same standards, especially where customer service is concerned.

Since I first decided to go the 6mm route in mid October, I have placed three different orders and so far none of them have fulfilled my expectations. Half the items I ordered from one retailer were out of stock, despite being shown as in-stock when I placed the order. I eventually received half my order (and a refund for the missing stuff) nearly five weeks after purchasing them. A second order with a different retailer is still outstanding over four weeks after placing it. Despite emailing them I have had no communications confirming an ETA for the delivery or explaining the delay. And a third order - this time placed direct from a manufacturer - is also overdue and now in its fifth week.

Maybe I have been a bit spoiled with the more mainstream (?) 15mm market where I could easily expect to place an order on the Monday and have my goods within the week. I have also grown accustomed to purchasing items that are listed as in-stock and those items actually being in-stock and then delivered as anticipated. So far neither situation seems to apply when buying 6mm figures and vehicles and I'm rather disappointed. This of course raises the question, is this a common experience for other micro scale wargamer's out there, or am I just unlucky?

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Desert Panzer III J's

Following on from my yesterdays post here's another platoon of German tanks that I finished off over the weekend. These Panzer III J's will no doubt see a lot of service.

I'm still waiting for some more German vehicles which are on order so before I get stuck into those I will be changing sides. I have checked through the models I do have and have enough to build the core of a British Infantry Tank Company so I'll be getting on with that shortly. I also have plans for a Heavy tank Company at a later date but that will require a few more purchases to fill the gaps in my available models. 

Monday 3 December 2012

Western Desert Panzer IV F²'s

More 1:300th scale tanks are rolling off the production line, this time two under strength German Panzer IV F² platoons. These are from the collection I recently bought and as you can see there are some small differences between the models. They were all identified as Panzer IV F²'s so I can only assume they are from different manufacturers. The differences are not too startling but do stand out when sitting side by side , so I have split them into two small platoons.