Sunday 31 May 2020

The Art of Tidying Up!

For many people at the moment, we are finding ourself with more time on our hands than we are comfortable with. Whether you have recently gone back to work, or like me, were never off in the first place, there can be a lot of pressure to ‘Do something constructive’ with our time (particularly from idiots like me!) urging you to get on with painting, building new terrain, play games and use the internet to stay in touch with friends. These are all laudable pursuits and of course, I heartily recommend them. However, I would like to propose one more worthy but often overlooked activity... Tidying up your workspace!

The latest episode of The Quarantined Wargamer became available on Friday and if you haven't already seen it, here it is. 

Our painting stations, desks and mancaves can get a bit messy at times. Its happens to us all at one time or another. But keeping things tidy and organised not only helps keep a workspace efficient its also good as a way of clearing the decks mentally, preparing ourselves for the next painting session.

So, do you agree with me? Do you have any good tricks and advice for organising your hobby space that you would like to share? Please feel free to and share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below (so long as they are polite!) or over on my youtube channel. 

Wednesday 27 May 2020

An Enchanters Warband

Bit by bit over the last few weeks I have been painting up a new Warband for Frostgrave. I've been working on these figures one at a time in between other projects and it hasn't taken me long to finish the whole group. Most of these are Northstar plastic barbarian figures, models I picked up from the Bring and Buy at the Cavalier show back in February. The enchanter himself is a metal figure by Northstar and although I'm using an existing model for the apprentice, I do also have an accompanying apprentice figure in metal, but I haven't completed that yet. 

A couple of these have been posted before but the majority are new

I rather like the metal figures from North Star. They are very interesting, full of character and nice little sculpts with very little by way of mould lines or flash that needs to be cleaned before starting. I'm still a bit old-school and would prefer to be painting metal figures but I have to say I really liked the plastic sets from Northstar. The variety and detail of the parts provide almost infinite variety and the resulting figures are vary animated and full of character. The parts in these kits fit together very well and with a patient application of plastic cement or contact fluid the joins are very strong with very few gaps. However, I had a tube of Vallejo Plastic Putty used to fill joints on kit models and I used it for the first time on these figures around the shoulder joints. Once painted, in most cases, you'd be hard pushed to know these are multi-part figures.

I went with a simple colour scheme for this Warband, employing the same dark red and green different amounts of each figure so they look like a team. The next Warband I paint will have a distinctly different colour, again just so that they stand out well on the games table. I've got a lot of figures sitting in the wings that I can choose from; at least another 20 Barbarians already assembled and based and a similar number of generic fighters likewise assembled, based and primed. Having said that I'm probably not going to do any more Frostgrave for a little while (painting that is) as I am moving on to some 15mm WWII stuff...and not for What a Tanker!  I will report more on that next week.

Sunday 24 May 2020

A golden age of gaming?

It occurred to me recently that I’m busier and more productive than ever where my hobby is concerned (certainly busier than I normally am at this time of year), and anecdotally, So are all my friends. We are all playing more games, in more formats, with a wider group of people than ever before. So while we all recognise that we are living through a terrible time in our history, we may one day look back on this period and consider it something of a Golden Age where our hobby is concerned.

The latest episode of the Quarantined Wargamer aired on Friday and in it, I discuss this idea and ask if you agree with me.

Productivity, creativity and energy seem to be very high in our community at this time and I think its a good thing. As always I'd love to hear what you think. Do you agree or disagree, am I talking out of my posterior or have I hit the nail on the head? Please leave some feedback here, or in the comments section on YouTube. 

Stay safe folks, and may you always roll high! 

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Encounter at the Mausoleum

Over the weekend the Padawan and I had another go at Frostgrave, hopefully, this time correcting a few rules mistakes from last time. The result was a faster and much more exciting game and a good outcome for both of us...although in the end there could be only one winner. 

The Setup
Two rival warbands have stumbled across what they think is a small chapel. Instead, it's the remains of a Mausoleum of some ancient necromancer that is overflowing both with treasure and the undead. 

We used the Mausoleum scenario from the rulebook but used a ruined chapel as the central building. Six items of treasure were placed within its walls and each turn a skeleton would appear from a random side and attack the nearest adventurer. 

Orders of Battle
Emily opted to stick with her tested and proven Dark Elf Warband. She's won two games with these guys so I can understand her wish to keep to a winning formula. My Human Warband had two infantrymen, a Marksman, three thugs and two war hounds accompanying the Wizard and his Apprentice. 

The Action
The Layout - The Mausoleum is in the centre and filled with treasure. 

I send my Warhounds in to attack two infantrymen. I probably shouldn't have done this but it works and I manage to kille one of the Drow. 

Both sides converge on the Mausoleum, the scent of gold drawing them in! 
One of the recently spawned skeletons from the Mausoleum attacks a drow, thwacking him across the head with a huge animal bone! 

I lose two men to ranged fire. One dies with a crossbow bolt through his chest and the other is taken out by a Bone Dart cast by the Drow Apprentice.  

My dogs attack a single drow hoping to kill him, instead the Padawan rolled high and killed both dogs in short order! 

My wizards start using the Invisibility spell to give their remaining men a tactical also stops them being targeted by missiles! 

Undercover of the invisibility spell two of my infantrymen get to attack the Drow Wizard and kill him! 

Then the Dark elves lose a soldier to a lowly skeleton. 

I manage to kill the drow apprentice and the remaining infantry try to flee. I shot one in the back but the last one grabs some treasure and legs it off the table. 

Good grief, at last, I manage to win a game against the Padawan! It felt very close right up to the end when the drow lost both their spell casters. I ended the game with the lion's share of the loot remaining on the table but we both picked up some experience points in this game meaning both our wizards will level up. The Padawan and I now need to sit down and work out how we are going to spend our loot and improve our wizards abilities.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Use your wargaming Pound/Euro/Dollar wisely

Friday saw the latest episode of the Quarantined Wargamer air on my YouTube channel. This week I discuss the need to support our favourite hobby traders and manufacturers by continuing to spend with them. I'm not oblivious to the fact that many people out there are struggling financially at the current time - and I'd never advocate putting your hobby ahead of paying essential bills or feeding the family - but for those us that can do so, we should continue to support our regular traders. Otherwise, they may not be around in six months or a years time. 

So do you agree with me or disagree. I'd love to hear your opinion (so long as it's polite!). As always please feel free to comment below, or in the comments section on YouTube. Stay safe folks! 

Tuesday 12 May 2020

British Officers for the Anglo-Zulu War

I am currently flitting between a wide range of projects at the moment but I have managed to get a little bit of painting done. The latest finished work is a new addition to my Anglo-Zulu War collection. When I painted up the companies of infantry - a couple of years ago now - I never made enough leaders for my British troops and so I decided to get some done at last...better late than never! These are from Baccus and compliment the foot officers I already have. 

The cliched image of the British officer during the Anglo-Zulu war is one of a bumbling idiot. Certainly, the ruling classes and their offspring did not cover themselves in glory during this campaign. They vastly underestimated their enemy and paid a hefty price as a result. But the British army was changing and the Cardwell reforms meant that more and more officers were being appointed based on merit, rather than their ability to buy a commission. However, change was slow as many officers had bought their commissions before the reforms and because new appointments still had to be able to fund the lifestyle of an officer. However, on the whole, the quality of British officers did improve during this period. It's true, leadership at the battle of Isandlwana was poor, but it shouldn't be forgotten that the same day, later in the afternoon a different quality of leadership was on display at Rorke's Drift. I think it's fair to say that the quality of officers in the army during this campaign was a 'mixed bag'.

Officers leading three columns of troops (which I painted a couple of years ago). 

I will no doubt paint some more officers at a later stage but these are ideal for the time being. 

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Easy to build Farmyard Gates

I have been busy lately making gates... No, I'm not getting some DIY done in the garden (much as it would please the wife) I have been making some terrain items for my 15mm Normandy setting. This is a long-overdue project that should have been completed several years ago when I made the Bocage that it is meant to fit in.

I made quite a bit of Bocage hedgerow several years ago and then I made yet more in the Painting Challenge a couple of years ago. However, one of the things I didn't do was add any gates. In the second batch of terrain, I left gaps for the gates to go into, with the intention of buying some suitable gates at a later date. Unfortunately, the items I bought were just a little bit too big for my gaps and didn't look very good. I had my Normandy terrain out again recently and it got me thinking about my missing gates once again. I had a quick look online to see if I could find a suitable product but in the end, I decided I would just make some myself.

While I was doing this I shot some video and I will be putting a detailed tutorial on my YouTube channel on Friday. This sort of build is well within the capabilities of even the novice terrain builder. The 10 gates I made will be more than enough for my gaming needs but it's such a simple build I can easily add more if I need to... I just need to visit my local fast food outlet for some more coffee stirrers first!

Sunday 3 May 2020

Spelunking and other pursuits

The last couple of weeks have been exceptionally busy for me. I'm still working pretty much full time, only part of which is working from home, so it's been... let's call it 'challenging'! And I've also been very busy on the hobby front. I have been quietly getting on with some figure painting for frostgrave and working on a couple of small terrain projects for my 15mm Normandy setting. One of these is nearly finished and I'll be posting some pictures soon and I'm putting together a tutorial video on my YouTube page for the end of the week, but more on that later.

The Internet has been coming to its own for my hobby at the moment because I've been using it to stay in touch with the Rejects via Zoom enabled 'paint and chat sessions' on a Monday evening. These have been highly enjoyable because when we're playing a normal game we very often don't get a chance to just chat about how things are going. Most post-game conversations tend to drift in the direction of politics and that can get a little heated because we are pretty a diverse group! The P&C sessions mean we have had a chance to catch up with a few of the rejects alumni in the form of Fran, Ian and John so it's been good to see them and catch up, especially in these difficult times when social connections are more important than ever. I hope these painting chat sessions become a regular feature well after social distancing comes to an end because for me they have been a bright point in what has otherwise been a dark period. 

The wonderful and terrible Interweb has also facilitated getting back into some role-playing games for the first time in years. A few months ago my daughter and her partner asked me to join them in a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons game based on the stranger things TV series. The Young Padawan and I joined Sarah and Perry in this short campaign and we had a great time. So good in fact we decided we would play a regular ongoing game of D&D in the Ravenloft campaign setting. We had a couple of sessions before the shutdown began and have been exploring ways to continue playing despite social isolation. Later today we plan to try the Roll20 site for the first time and It'll be interesting to see how this works.  

I've also been playing Dungeons and Dragons with my old gaming group, some of whose members I went to school with! We decided to play the old red box classic D&D and have been using Discord as a way of keeping in touch rolling dice and seeing each other. It's been a mixed success but that has nothing to do with the game and more to do with technology and bandwidth. My ageing laptop struggled a little bit in the session on Friday and in the end, I opted to play the game via my phone and tablet because they just worked so much better. Everyone is 'winging it' where technology is concerned at the moment, and gamers are no exception.

It's been really good to play with these guys again because the last time we had any sort of regular gaming session was probably 6 or 7 years ago as it became increasingly difficult to get together as members of the group moved away and got jobs in other parts of the country or indeed overseas. One of the group joined the session on Friday from Los Angeles while others dialled in from various locations around London and the Dungeon Master was based in Lincoln. When my technology held up it was very good we were all able to see each other on video and on the other half of the screen we had a text chat session going where we could roll dice and write silly messages to each other (none of us has grown up!). Again this is a session I hope we continue into the future because it's been great fun to see the guys again and overcome the issues we've had in the past with gathering together.

In addition to all this gaming, and as I've mentioned here a couple of times, I've been doing some videos for YouTube. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I think I'm going to come out of this quarantine situation with a whole new skill-set as a result. Step-by-step I've been learning about presentation skills; talking to camera; scriptwriting and editing; and of course filming. I'm hoping each video is slightly better than the last one and so by the time we get to September I might finally have a product I'm happy with! I really enjoyed doing these videos, although it is very time-consuming. I'm currently working on a tutorial video that probably won't last more than 5 or 6 minutes but has taken up the best part of a day and a half just for the filming and I haven't even got to the editing part yet.

In order to fit in all this stuff, I'm trying to be a little bit more disciplined with my time. As already mentioned I'm still working and that's been taking up a lot of time. Most of my colleagues are furloughed at the moment and until this week I was the only one taking calls. I work for a small charity offering benefits advice to local residents, so you can imagine I have been exceptionally busy with the current set of circumstances that most people find themselves in at the moment. It's rewarding work, but it has been very distressing at times. Combined with the ever-present existential threat of Covid-19 to my family (particularly my Daughter and Brother-in-law who are nurses on the front line), I really need my hobby to get my mind off of negative things.

So in order to fit in as much as possible, I have been scheduling my free time in much the same way as I would schedule my work time. This means that as far as possible I'm going to try to stick to a fixed timetable for publishing both on the blog and for videos on YouTube. I need to allow time for the planning and execution of what I'm working on and I can't make it up as I go along. What I don't want is for the writing of the blog or the production of videos to become a chore or something that interferes with gaming time or paint and chat sessions and all the other things I've been enjoying recently. My aim is to continue posting once or twice a week on the blog depending on whether I have something to talk about, and the YouTube videos will start to be published on a fixed weekly schedule. This means I can do most of the filming I need over the weekend and the editing and new scriptwriting on a Tuesday and Wednesday. I hope to improve the quality of the videos I do, and I don't want to be in a position where I'm rushing to publish something, so planning is key.

I'm still working on a few other projects... like I haven't got enough to do! I have been working on my Zulu wars rules but I've also been given some serious thought about skirmish gaming for world War II. I'm really enjoying What a Tanker, but for a while now I have wanted some rules to include infantry. I've been doing a little bit of reading about what's available right now - and I'm sure most gamers will have their own preferred set of rules and could make their own recommendations  - however, I really like Too fat Lardies stuff and so I've bought a copy of Chain of Command. I think it's a cracking set of rules and I've really enjoyed reading it. I still have some 15mm second world war infantry figures from when I played Flames of War and I don't think it would take much effort to re-base them singly for use with CoC. I'm not in any rush however and I need to give some thought to this before adding it to my ever-growing to-do list!

So as you can see I'm being an exceptionally busy boy. I'm spelunking again after many years away from role-playing. I'm exploring technology to stay in touch with all my friends. I'm playing new games and adding to old collections. And despite the lack of any trade shows my hobby expenditure seems to be as much as ever. But that's a discussion for another day.