Friday 31 October 2014

The Royal Engineers Museum

Last week my youngest daughter had a day off school (teacher training day) so I took her to the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham. I've been here several times over the years but they have made a few changes since I was last here. The Museum has some new exhibits (a V2 Rocket for starters!) and currently has a special exhibition to coincide with the WWI centenary commemorations. I took a few photo's and here is a small selection of my favourites from the day.

The concept of fake tanks was first employed in WW1
The 'Rorkes Drift' collection
My daughter gets to grips with Morse Code
German WWI Trench Mortar
A German Mauser Anti-Tank Rifle
An assortment of Trench items including wire cutters.
A sophisticated gas mask... not generally issued to all troops!
This army biscuit was so tough it was posted home and arrived undamaged
A selection of typical mines from the Western Desert
And the answer, electronic mine detection. A very dangerous job because the user cold only operate the equipment while standing up. 
The V2 Rocket
The Unwilling Recruit - I must have the only child in the country that doesn't like dressing up!
A great day out and an interesting museum well worth a visit if you are in the area. 

Thursday 23 October 2014

Airfield Sentries and AA Gun Pits

As I write this my recent purchases of Italian Aircraft (from Heroics and Ros) and yet more Airfield Buildings (From Leven Miniatures) have just arrived in the post. I'm really excited by the sudden injection of new stuff to paint and I'm really eager to get working on them. Fortunately I have just this morning completed another little addition to my airfield defences for my Desert Raiders project, so my desk is clear and I'll be cleaning and priming my new models as soon as I have posted this.

No self respecting base commander would leave his perimeter unguarded and the rules for raids described in the Burning Empires book include the special rule Sentries. I have slightly adapted the rule for my game allowing the sentry models to remain on the table after the alarm is raised, but as previously they cannot take any further part in the game. The reasoning is that their role is purely to raise the alarm and - being unsupported and armed only with light personal weapons - would either flee or hide if they are not surprised and killed by the attackers. 

The defender deploys six patrols of sentries in their half of the table during the game set-up. These can be represented with six ordinary infantry stands. They are not taken from the defenders force, and for all intents and purposes are just tokens. Once the alarm is raised they can remain on the table but play no further part in the game.

The attacking player cannot deploy Vehicles or Gun Teams within 16" of a Sentry, and Infantry no closer than 4" of a Sentry. 

Six Sentry stands

I also wanted to provide this airfield with some Anti-Aircraft defences, even if they are only light guns. Unfortunately I can't seem to find anyone that sells the Italian Breda 2cm AA Gun I wanted (I bought a set of Truck Mounted ones for use with my LRDG vehicles but this is a rather expensive way of acquiring four tiny guns!). However I did find that I had some German 20mm Flak Guns that looked very similar to the Italian guns I wanted so I have substituted the models and painted them accordingly. No one will notice the difference unless I do something silly like write about it on my Blog and post it on the Internet!

Four 20mm AA Guns
By the way the Sandbag defences in which I placed the Sentries and AA Guns were bought from Leven Miniatures and are cast integral to the base (the pack also comes with some separate sandbag sections to build your own defences). As usual the casting is very good, even with such finely detailed models. 

Monday 20 October 2014

Ending Demo Game Anonymity

Way back in 2009 I wrote a post for this Blog about demo tables at shows and in particular the lack of information for visitors and sometimes the lack of interaction between exhibitors and show attendees. Since then I have had the pleasure of contributing to three demo games in conjunction with Posties Rejects at the Broadside show (in 2012 and 2013 and again in 2014). Looking back at that article I'm glad to say that the quality of information and interaction at shows seems to have improved immensely over the last four years (I'm not claiming any credit, its just an observation!) but I thought my earlier article was worth revisiting and updating.

Over the years I have attended a lot of conventions and shows and as any regular reader of BLMA will know I always go with my camera in hand. As a result I have developed a clear opinion of what I like and don't like about demo games at shows. My main gripe has usually revolved around those (thankfully few) tables where information and interaction are virtually non-existent and the spectator is left feeling awkward and unwanted. This situation has become noticeably less common over the years, but it's certainly not gone away altogether.

It would be nice to see some of the Demo tables with more information available to visitors. Some of the tables provided information sheets about their games but the majority didn't. This isn't in itself a problem, if you're the sort of person who feels comfortable sparking up a conversation with the guys on the table. But not all visitors are old Grognards eager for a chat, a large proportion are 'drop-in's' or newbies and its easy to see how they could feel intimidated by this clique of wargamers. Think back to your first ever show and how strange and new it all was. You probably didn't know anyone - apart from maybe one or two mates who came with you - and the place was full of strange sights and smells (oh yes, gamer funk....don't get me started on that subject!).

An example of an excellent display table (Southend Wargames at the recent SELWG Show) - Lots of Information, maps and books associated with the game. Plenty to engage the visitor and provide the opening of a conversation.

I guess I feel the problem a little more acutely because I like to come away from a show with lots of pictures. Trying to figure out who was on what table, what their game was etc. can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Its a sad fact that I still attend shows and nearly always come across a demo game that lacks any kind of identifying label or sign. When signs are present I always try to take a picture that includes the label as an aide-memoir when identifying and captioning my photographs. This is especially true for larger shows like Salute where there may be several Napoleonic or ACW games being run and trying to remember which was which after the event can be a bit tricky. Of course I always try to spark up a conversation with those running the game but its still hard to remember every conversation and every game correctly. Getting a picture of the label cuts through all the confusion and ensures that those that run a good demo game get the credit they deserve. 

Another great display (A Very British Civil War at Salute 2013) with artwork and period artefact's to bring the game to life. This sort of detail really helps tell the story of the game.
For me the whole purpose of running a demo table is to demonstrate the hobby (the clue is in the name!) and that means more than just plonking the models on the table and walking away. In my experience a significant portion of visitors attend shows to see aspects of our wonderful hobby that are normally outside their normal experience. Some of these visitors are new to the hobby, others - such as the hoards of younglings attracted in by the likes of Games Workshop for instance - may only be involved in a niche and are maybe casting around, looking for other games and periods to play. Failure to engage them is a lost opportunity to broaden their horizons and retain them within the hobby. It seems to me that one of the main purposes of a wargame show is to act as a sort of 'outreach' programme to draw in new players. That does sound a bit high-faluting and grand, but new blood coming into the hobby is a genuine concern and a recurring theme of many magazine articles written by the great and good of our hobby.

An ideal and very practical display that any group running a demo could put together (in this case Rainham Wargames Club at Cavalier 2014). This modest collection of items clearly identifies the game, explains who is running it, showcases research material and there is even a small handout with more information for those that are interested. 

So having pontificated about a lack of communication with visitors I guess I ought to say what I would like to see associated with a Demo Game, either on a handout or nearby signs and labels. Here's my own personal list of 'stuff I'd like to know' about each demo I view:

  • Name of the Club or Organisation running the demo table
  • The name or title of the game being played
  • Period or specific dates if applicable
  • The rules system being used
  • The scale of the miniatures being used
  • A table number or reference that links to the show guide (if there is one)
  • Contact details for the club and details of where they meet etc
  • The demonstrators names
  • A little background or historical context
  • Who makes the miniatures on display
  • Additional information on terrain features
  • If the table is scratch built, who did it and how?

This is by no means an exhaustive list but does represent the sort of questions I find myself asking over and over again (and forgetting the answers over and over again!). It would be great if each demo table could provide some sort of handout with basic details on it but simple displays that could be photographed would be just as useful. As I have said several times things are getting better and the unlabelled tables with uncommunicative players huddled around them are becoming fewer and fewer. I look forward to the day when this unfortunate phenomenon has come to an end... then we can set our sights on eliminating 'gamer funk' once and for all. 

Wednesday 15 October 2014


Following on from yesterdays pictures from SELWG I guess I'd better post a picture of my purchases from the show. After all everyone else has! I didn't spend a lot this year but I was determined to be disciplined in my spending and went with a very detailed list of 'wants'. Unfortunately I was only able to get some of the stuff I needed. 

Everyone has their core set of consumables that they can't work without. For me that means Purity Seal spray varnish. I use this on all my figures as the first of three varnish layers (two layers of Purity Seal for durability and a final layer of Dullcoat to kill the shine). I probably should have picked up two cans because I get through a lot of this. I also bought some Bolt Action coloured primer. I've fallen in love with this stuff over the last year and now I couldn't do without it.

I had several new Vallejo colours on my list - specific to painting WWII Italians in Tropical Uniforms - and I was able to get them all at from Tole Haven.  My one impulse purchase was some 4Ground Damage Tokens from Colonel Bills. These have only just been released apparently. I also bought another pack of Palm Trees from Timecast. I'll be using these for some scenic bases to use in my desert games.

No show would be complete without buying a few books and this year I had a couple of Ospreys in mind. Unfortunately I couldn't find these on the Lanchester Books stand (maybe next time) but I did find a couple of random books from a trader up on the Concourse. Desert Generals and the Airfix magazine Guide Tank and AFV Modelling were just £1 each, so I could hardly not buy them! I also acquired One of the Originals, a book about the founding of the SAS. A special thank you must go out to Clint (of Anything But A One fame) who brought the book to the show for me with my current project in mind. You are a Gentleman and a Scholar sir!

My last acquisition of the day was a Steve Barber Gladiator model. This was my prize for winning the chariot racing participation game run by Crawley Wargames Club. Thanks guys, I had a blast and it was great way to end my day at SELWG.

So I went home with some of my list fulfilled but with none of the aircraft models I needed for the continuation of my Desert Raiders project. So I placed an order with H&R for some Italian Bombers and Fighters and a dozen Lancia Trucks. I also bought some German Motorcyclists just to see what they look like. I want to make up an Italian Motorcycle Platoon but can't find any suitable models, but I may be able to substitute these Germans and just paint them as Italians... hell, at 6mm nobody will know the difference!

Tuesday 14 October 2014

SELWG 2014 - Photos

On Sunday I joined four other members of Posties Rejects for the SELWG show at Crystal Palace. This is probably my favourite show of the year and has a special place in my heart because it was at SELWG in 2010 that I met up with Ray, Fran and Postie for the first time and was invited along for a game in the Shed-o-War. This show is slightly larger than those we generally attend in the first half of the year and usually has a good mix of traders and clubs and is well attended. The show seemed a little quieter this year and there were some noticeable 'gaps' in the trader line-up, but I still had a great day and stayed almost until the end.  

The Main Hall seemed a little quieter this year and had some noticeable gaps in the layout

View from the other end

GLC Games Club - Siege of Madrid (SCW)

GLC Games Club - The Siege of Madrid (SCW) - The miniatures for this game were excellent

The terrain and buildings were nice as well

Society of Ancients

Society of Ancients - Excellently painted miniatures as always

Robert Dunlop & Sons - First Ypres - Using the Spearhead rules and 6mm figures

It was great to see a 6mm display game

The table looked excellent and at this scale you can really get a feel for the 'grand strategy'. 

I had a long chat with one of Roberts sons and a very nice chap he was indeed. 

Streatham & Tooting (Real Time Wargamers) - Home before the Leaves Fall

Crossed Lances - Participation Game

Crush the Kaiser

Crush the Kaiser

Southend Wargames Club - "Talavera, but not as we know it" - 1709

Southend Wargames Club - "Talavera, but not as we know it" - 1709

Southend Wargames Club - "Talavera, but not as we know it" - 1709

Deal Wargames Club - Mayhem on the Mekong

Sweeping ominously over the table was a massive B52 Bomber

SEEMS - Hothams first Action

All the ships in the SEEMS game were excellently painted and rigged

Loughton Strike Force - Hill 112 

This Normandy Table was very detailed and well thought out

The Hill itself looked excellent - Very impressive

Simon Miller (BigRedBat) running his Roman participation game using his rules "To the Strongest!"

Superbly painted miniatures made this a very enjoyable game to look at

I should have put my name down for the afternoon session but forgot!! Gutted!

North London Wargames Group - Kohima 1944

Maidstone Wargames Society - Somewhere in Belgium, 1914

Very nicely painted early WWI figures and some excellent terrain

Crawley Wargames - Ad Spatium Accedis (A day at the Races) - I joined in a later session of this participation game and won my race...mostly by driving my chariot like an old woman trying not to loose her no-claims-bonus!!

I was the White player starting on the inside track - The rules were simple but were deliberately unforgiving of hasty manoeuvres and excessive speed, especially on the corners. 

Rejects gather - Ian describing how he felt after rashly buying everyone lunch! 

The main hall later in the afternoon

Shepway Wargames - Le Petit Villages - Normandy 1944 in 28mm

More excellently painted miniatures, including several Churchill Tanks

This is the end - Later afternoon and I've done all my shopping, talked till my throat was sore and won a Chariot race. All in all a pretty good day. 
Once again I had a great time at SELWG, although it was noticeably quieter this year. I'm not sure if this was because some traders were missing or just a sign of the times. Hopefully things will pick up next year because I'd hate to see this show decline. The Bring and Buy was busy most of the day and this is now one of the few shows to still have a B&B. Some of the stuff for sale was a bit overpriced IMHO and would probably be better sold on eBay than a B&B where people are looking for a bargains. 

I still think it was a great show, and the standard of most of the display/participation games at the event was very high. Some clubs are clearly better at display information than others (a common grumble I have with demo games at shows) but on the whole the friendliness and engagement of those running the games was excellent. The only downside with SELWG is that this event is usually the last show I attend in the year. This year the money is tighter than ever so SELWG will definitely be my last until Cavalier in February.