Wednesday 31 March 2010


I mentioned a few days ago that I was going to start work on a Grenadier Platoon... well progress has been swift by my standards. All the models have been cleaned and prep'ed for painting and have now been primed. Aside from the incident with the exploding knife everything is going quite well.

I've decided to try a different technique for painting the infantry. Last time I followed the traditionally accepted method of fixing the individual models to a stick to make painting easier. But I found this made basing them (and not ruining the paintwork in the process) much more difficult. Plus my method for painting infantry stands is based on the use of several drybrushing runs followed by fine detail work to clean up the whole figure. This would work just as well with the models already based so I decided to do things back-to-front this time. If it doesn't work out I'll revert to the 'proper' method for future models.

Here's a picture of the based infantry. I'm using a quick drying pre mixed plaster for the bases. Its flexible and tough so should be able to stand up to handling in-game.

Sharp eyed readers have probably noticed that I'm actually painting my platoon as Lehr Gepanzerte Panzergrenediers which means each squad has two MG teams of four Grenadiers plus one tank hunter team of two Grenadiers which makes them excellent both in defense and assault roles. I'm looking forward to using these in action.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Shrapnel Wounds

I had a slight equipment failure at the weekend. My modeling knife exploded in my face... and it came as something of a surprise.

I guess many gamers bare the wounds of their hobbies and wayward blades. I've certainly had my share of accidents over the years. I once slipped with a scalpel and buried the blade in the bone of my finger. Twenty years later the scar is still vivid and the tip of my finger still has no feeling. I've had a few other accidents that have left scars but its usually been down to carelessness on my part and the damage has been relatively minor. But this incident not only takes the biscuit for being utterly bizarre it could so easily have been very very painful.

I was cleaning flash off the base of a model with the edge of the blade. This is a task I've performed countless times and I've learned, through bitter experience, how to do it safely. The blade wasn't new but it wasn't blunt either and hadn't been heated or otherwise weakened. I've had blades break before but this didn't just break, it shattered like glass. I picked up half a dozen fragments from the table and then had to hoover the whole room just in case I'd missed some bits. I had at least one minor cit on my forehead and one on my hand from shrapnel.

I don't normally wear safety glasses when doing this sort of work but I might change this policy in future.

Monday 29 March 2010

Salute Tickets

I've ordered my Advanced Tickets for Salute 2010 and now I'm all excited. Followers/Readers from the early days of this blog will know I'm a little bit enthusiastic about this annual games show. I've been going for years and every year it seems to get better and bigger.

I'm not entering the painting competition this year - It was fun taking part last year but I'm nowhere in the same league as the other entrants. Instead I'm going to concentrate on exploring the display tables and taking lots and lots of pictures.

I have already started jotting down a shopping list of items I want and traders to visit. At the moment its mostly a shopping list of modeling supplies (static grass, glue, trees etc) but I'm sure a few 'big ticket' items will sneak on the list before the day.

If you see me wandering around, please come over and say hello, it would be great to meet you.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Big Picture : Golden Mask

This is the famous golden mask of Tutankhamun who ruled Egypt between 1333 BC and 1324 BC. I took this picture over 18 years ago while on Honeymoon in Egypt. Visiting the Cairo Museum as an amazing experience. It was also amazingly hot as the building had no climate control even in the exhibition rooms containing the most important artifacts.

From The Big Picture

Saturday 27 March 2010

Withdrawl Symptoms

My gaming group didn't have our regular D&D game last night. Our GM flaked-out on us to go to some silly black tie event ("Priorities man! PRIORITIES!") so the game was cancelled.

Now I have a twitchy dice finger and I'm feeling all on edge. Maybe its the new dice. As reported after the last game my old set lost their mojo. They disgraced themselves with an evening of unprecedented poor rolls and the d20 payed with its life after the game. The New set of dice have been shown what remains of the old d20 in order to motivate them.

So today I have no game notes to type up, no character to update, no pictures to process... Wow... a free Saturday. I'd better get some painting done before someone finds me a job to do.

Friday 26 March 2010

My Flames of War Forces

As promised yesterday here's a picture of my painted Flames of War forces, thus far. I'm painting both sides at the moment, but I'm hoping to rope my brother-in-law (and prospective opponent) into some painting soon. The US forces shown here are the M10 tank Destroyer Platoon I wrote about yesterday and a small platoon of Shermans. For my Panzer Lehr tank Company I have a platoon of Panzer IV's, a Platoon of Stug G's and two Opel Maultier trucks.

Needless to say neither side makes an army but its a start. Now we have enough vehicles to play some basic games, learn the rules and decide where we want to go next.

My next painting project is a Panzergrenadier Platoon. I've been gathering reference photo's and colour schemes and now feel able to give this platoon the detail it deserves. However given the slow speed with which I complete projects, and the fact that I am going on holiday in a couple of weeks, I can't see this getting finished before the end of the month. I'll try my best though... promise.

Thursday 25 March 2010

M10 Tank Destroyer Platoon Finished

I've finally finished painting up my M10 Tank Destroyer Platoon. I started this project way before Christmas but due to a missing part (and a saga trying to get a replacement) it got pushed back till now.

The M10 Tank destroyer was based on an M4A2 chassis and carried an open topped turret the held a crew of three. The main armament was a 3" anti-tank gun which could fire armour piercing rounds effective up to 1000 yards on 30 degree sloped armour. This vehicle was designated a Gun Motor Carriage (GMC) rather than as a Tank.

The main advantage of the M10 - and other GMC's - was its speed and maneuverability, but this was achieved by reducing weight (ie sacrificing armour) which made this vehicle vulnerable to German anti tank guns. I've also read that gun traverse was via manual hand crank and was therefore quite slow. The open turret improved crew visibility but also left them vulnerable to small arms fire and mortar attacks. As a consequence most units were accompanied by Jeeps and later by armoured utility vehicles such as the M20.

I've not gone into too much detail with the painting of this platoon because they are not for display. These are gaming miniatures first and foremost and as such I instead concentrated on strengthening and reinforcing the models to withstand regular handling. Wherever possible I 'braced' vulnerable parts (such as prominently exposed guns) against other parts when gluing. I also used off-cuts from sprues to reinforce fixing points. Purists would be horrified if they looked closely at these models but my main aim was to build models that would hold together during play.

I've also deliberately employed a light-touch when applying decals. These models are for my Brother-in-law to use and he has yet to decide on exactly what Regiment he wants them to be. I can add decals later if needed. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of all my FoW models to date and discuss my next project.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Tilbury Fort

I went to Tilbury Fort over the weekend and took a few pictures with my new Camera. I've been here quite a few times because I'm an English Heritage member and this is local to me. The fort has a small but interesting museum containing some WWI & WWII memorabilia, uniforms and cap badges. On sunny days its nice to sit up on the walls of the fort overlooking the river and have a picnic. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast with a chilly wind when we went, but It was still nice to get a little fresh air and take some pictures.

Within the next week or so I'll add more photo's of the Fort from previous visits. If you're in the area the site is worth a visit, and theirs a nice little pub down the road that serves hot food if you get chilly.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Wargames Illustrated 270

I've just recieved my copy of this months Wargames Illustrated (bit late arriving this month) and its bursting with rampaging Vikings. Here's a brief lineup of the contents:
  • THE VIKINGS IN IRELAND - An introductory guide to the Viking invasions of Ireland.
  • HEATHENS AT THE GATE - Viking and Irish armies and the warfare they employed in Dark Age Ireland plus two scenarios for battles between the two.
  • THE PLAIN OF BULL - Howard Whitehouse explores the real history of this Irish “touchstone battle” and presents a scenario for gaming the action for his new set of rules, Clash of Iron.
  • HOW TO MAKE AN EARLY IRISH CHURCH - The Irish monastic buildings from our theme period had a unique look and will add a lot of character to your tabletop.
  • VIKING PAINTING GUIDE - This article gives several ideas and guides to painting different aspects of Viking and Irish figures.
  • THE COVENANTERS - An introduction to the Covenanters of the English Civil War and a scenario for a clash with the forces of Prince Rupert.
  • FIRESTORM MARKET GARDEN - The Operation Market Garden campaign played by the Battlefronty staffers.
  • 1588 AND ALL THAT - Part Two of three articles exploring the gaming opportunities offered by Elizabethan England.
  • GUERRILLA TRAIN RAIDS - Following on from last month’s Kaukopartiojoukot 1942-1944 article - more information on the Finnish long-range reconnaissance troops.
  • THE ETRUSCANS - A complete gamer’s guide to one of Rome’s early enemies.
  • WILKINSON’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE SLAVERS - Wargaming stalwart Gary Chalk makes a welcome return to the pages ofWI and leads us on a trip into the dark heart of Africa with a set of scenarios for colonial warfare in (and around) the jungle.
  • Plus a review of the Crusade and PAW shows in the UK, and a roundup of other News.
The Wargames Illustrated webpage has also been revamped and includes a load of additional web content to support and expand on the material published.

Monday 22 March 2010

Breakfast Game

I like to start the day with a game... I just didn't expect it would be Dominoes!

My 5 year old daughter is starting to get to grips with maths at school and part of this early learning is taking every opportunity to play with numbers and number games. The idea is that by making number play fun they will learn better. Fine by me, I remember how boring maths was at school.

Her game of choice this morning was Dominoes... and she was good at it. Too good in fact. I'm not a sore looser normally but 4-0 is just humiliating. Maybe I'm missing some secret dynamic of the game or maybe I'm just over analysing. Or maybe its just that my gaming heritage means that I just can't understand any game that doesn't include dice and hit rolls!

Sunday 21 March 2010

Big Picture : Rorke's Drift

This weeks Big Picture is another 2 for 1 offer. This was a recreation of the famous battle at Rorke's Drift on the 22nd & 23rd January 1879. The engagement took place during the Anglo-Zulu War and followed the destruction of a large British Force at Isandlwana earlier in the day. This game was recreated by the Southend on Sea Wargames Group for Salute 2006.
From The Big Picture

Another view of the same game...
From The Big Picture

Saturday 20 March 2010

Worldwide Game Day

Today is Worldwide Game Day organised by Wizards of the Coast. This is a recurring event aimed at "Celebrating the Dungeons & Dragons Game". What this actually means is it's a worldwide promotion of the release of the Players Handbook 3 which was released last tuesday (March 16th).

The PHB 3 introduces Phsionic Powers into 4th Edition and includes six new classes including; Ardent (psionic leader); Battlemind (psionic defender); Monk (psionic striker); Psion (psionic controller); Runepriest (divine leader); and Seeker (primal controller). There are also four new races; Wilden; Minotaur; Shardminds; and Githzerai. There is an excellent review of the PHB 3 on the site
For more details about events in your area contact your local game storeor use the WoTC Store/event locator.

Friday 19 March 2010

Did you win tonight?

This is the stock phrase I get from most of my family after a night playing D&D with my mates. I've spent years trying to explain what roleplaying is and yet they still ask this question when I get home. I used to get irritated by their stubborn inability to understand that RPG's are different from other games. However I have come to understand they are trying to take an interest in their own way and based on their own experience of what a game is or should be.

D&D is traditionally described as a collaborative storytelling game that by its very nature defies normal notions of 'winning' or 'losing'. There can be no victor and looser in a game like this and no easy definition of who the best roleplayer's was at the end of an evenings play. And there are no trophies handed out for victory in battle. But as players we all have our own definition of success based on our own in-game objectives.

Many roleplayer's would consider the accumulation of a new skill or ability increasing magical item a 'win'. Similarly the general accumulation of gold and other items is treated as a marker of success. Mere survival or thwarting of a trap can be seen as a victory marker and of course completing a quest is a clear moment of significance. However the ultimate sign of success for any D&D player will be the accumulation of XP leading to that sublime moment when you 'level up'.

So now, when one of my family ask me "Did you win tonight?" I now answer "hell yes!"

Thursday 18 March 2010

Invisibility Cloak

I've just read this article on the BBC website that says scientists have made a breakthrough that brings the Invisibility Cloak one step closer to reality. How kewl is that! Once again science fiction becomes science fact before our very eyes.... I still haven't got a personal jet pack or a flying car though, so I'm not letting the scientists off the hook just yet.

Playing with my New Camera

Only recently I wrote about my Frugal Year and how I was trying to save money for a new Camera and a Weekend at Bovington in June. The unextravagant lifestyle still remains but due to an unexpected windfall I have been able to buy the Camera earlier than planned. Last year I reported on the passing of my Grandmother and, unbeknown to me, she left my family and I a small sum of money.

Some of this modest legacy was used to get the camera I wanted. I'd already saved some money towards this purchase but I wouldn't have been able to get it until later in the year, after the best of the conventions and reenactments had been and gone. My Canon powershot compact is a good camera, but nothing near the 15 mega pixel awesomeness of the Canon EOS 500D.

I'm hoping - with some justification if my research is correct - that this new camera will help me take much better pictures of my painted miniatures. It has a much wider range of functionality than my old compact camera which means it'll be well suited to convention photography (where the light is poor and tripods are impractical), to reenactments (where fast shutter speeds are vital) and for photographing painted miniatures (where the superior Macro abilities of this camera will shine).

Over the next few weeks I intend on getting in some serious 'play' with this camera to familiarise myself will all its functions before Salute in April.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

The Meaning of Fantastic

Roleplaying games are often set in Fantastic world of one kind or another, but as GM's maybe sometimes we forget to take inspiration from the word that defines the genre. The word Fantastic came into use in the 14th Century but it has undergone many changes in meaning since then.

Fantastic used to mean something that was unrestrained by imagination. Something that was so remarkable, bizarre or grotesque as to defy normal understanding. Sometimes the word was used to describe things that were Imaginary and not based on reality. Other times it meant something - or someone - that was extravagant, foolish or irrational. But in the 20th Century the use and meaning of the word changed and now it merely means 'very good'.

(Source: Fantasy Art 3D Wallpapers)

But look at those earlier descriptive words and you see the outline of the whole fantasy genre laid out before you. They are the building blocks of all the best science fiction and fantasy stories you have ever read and played. So next time you write an encounter or even a campaign setting, lay those words out in front of you and use them as your inspiration.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

The Rust Monster

The Rust Monster is an iconic D&D beast from the earliest days of the game that has remained in every edition since it was first introduced. The creature itself is not particularly dangerous but it's diet leaves many a hero quaking in his shiny metal armour. The Rust Monsters ability to smell, and its hunger for, anything made of metal has made this a formidable opponent in D&D games for decades.

The origin of this creature is simple and typically creative. According to Gary Gygax himself... "When I picked up a bag of plastic monsters made in Hong Kong at the local dime store ... there was the figurine that looked rather like a lobster with a propeller on its tail ... nothing very fearsome came to mind ... Then inspiration struck me. It was a "rust monster."
(Source: "Ecology of the Rust Monster". Dragon Magazine #88, 1984)

The thing that makes the Rust Monster an Icon for me is that its more than just a combat encounter, its a trap and a puzzle at the same time. How do you deal with a creature that will eat your precious +2 Sword or your shiny new Plate Armour? And unlike other monsters, an encounter with a Rust Monster will impact on future encounters because its will materially weaken the adventuring party in a way that no other encounter does.

D&D is largely a game of acquisition; the accumulation of XP, of Gold and of Magical Equipment are central to the players progression. So when a Rust Monster ambles around the corner of a dungeon it instantly threatens the players in a very personal way. It taps into the Psyche of the game and the players in a way that no other creature does and turns a simple scavenger into a classic monster.

Monday 15 March 2010

My Dice Lost their Mojo

Have you ever had one of those games when you can't roll for toffee? I had one of them Friday. The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers gathered for our regular bi-weekly D&D game and as usual we quickly found ourselves in trouble.

Our party of adventurers were given a new mission by our benefactor Minister Aldriac. We left the city, crossing a large lake on a ferry barge. We were on our guard crossing the lake but the attack came when we landed at the isolated jetty on the far side. That's when the dice started to misbehave. We were attacked by several Snaketounge Cultists and two Cockatrice in a prepared and concerted attempt to assassinate us. The jetty was sabotaged and in my first dice roll of the evening I failed to maintain my balance and my Dragonborn Warlord, Uthek, ended up in the lake.

As the battle raged on land (the rest of the party forced their way off the jetty) Uthek got to his feet, shook off his embarrassment and tried to fight his way out of the shallows. One failed roll after another followed. I used all my daily powers to no effect, I failed several saving throws and eventually I used up my encounter powers in an equally ineffectual manner. In fact I only had one successful roll during the whole evening.

After everyone had gone home for the evening I picked up my d20 and gave it a couple of test rolls... 2, 4, 1.... grrrrr. I was tired and angry at this point so I throw the dice across the room in disgust. With a deep sigh I decided I was being silly and went to retrieve my discarded dice. I found it sitting in the corner of the room and guess what? I'd rolled a 1!!

D20 V's Hammer = Hammer Wins.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Big Picture : Arena

Today's Big Picture is an arena game that was at the 2003 Dragonmeet Convention. It was basically a D&D (3.5 at the time) combat game with pre-made gladiator's and some basic scenarios. The arena itself was made from styrene and plasticard and added plenty of atmosphere to what was a simple game idea.
From The Big Picture

EM4 Miniatures also did an arena game with a set of pre painted gladiators and a fold out arena sheet. I'll try and dig out the rules for a quick game session in the next week or so and write up a review.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Leonardo's Tank

Earlier in the week I was giving some thought to writing an article about Leonardo Da Vinci's design for a Tank. Then yesterday, as if reading my thoughts, this thread started on The Miniatures Page... beating me to the story! Dammit I won't be thwarted!!

The great inventor, painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci seems to have spent his life dreaming up machines that would not be built for many hundreds of years. One such design was his idea for an armoured gun carriage (da Vinci referred to it as "a tortoise"), propelled by two to 4 men inside. This has since become known as Leonardo's tank. The design was rudimentary and was clearly just a prototype as, if built as drawn, its two sets of hand cranked wheels would have revolved in opposite directions. A BBC team built the design (changing one gear to correct this flaw) and found it difficult to work... but work it did.

One of the things I admire about this design is that Leonardo understood the practicality of sloped armour way before the Russian T34 or the German Panther came into existence. How effective it would have been on anything other than a prepared battlefield (clear of obstructions) is another matter.

This excellent model was part of a display army at the Redoubt wargames show in 2008.

Friday 12 March 2010

Shanks' Pony

A long way back I wrote a post about the importance of The Journey as a staple plot element in most D&D campaigns. That journey can be metaphorical, spiritual, personal or, more commonly, physical. IN other words the player characters go somewhere and - hopefully- come back again. But how do they get to their destination and is it actually important?

Transport is something we take for granted these days. If you live in a western/rich nation private vehicle ownership is something most of us take for granted. But there was a time when private transport meant owning a horse, or of you were very well off a horse and carriage. D&D campaigns tend to be set in a roughly medieval setting and that definitely puts such modes of transport into the hands of the privileged few... including the PC's. For most people personal transport meant walking.

Of course D&D being an inherently magical setting means that transport does not have to be limited to historically accurate vehicles like Horses, Carriages, Ships etc. In my last campaign I provided the players with a way of crossing the vast deserts of the abyss which was inspired by the famous Sailing Stones of Death Valley. I scaled up the concept into gigantic boulders that could be navigated across the desert by thought alone.

Other fantastical transport ideas include things like Portals, magically powered airships and flying beasts such as the Eagles from the Lord of the Rings. Sometimes making a journey by foot can be a necessary part of the story, but other times its important to keep the story moving along swiftly. The long walk may be accompanied by encounters and adventure but now and again it may just be worth giving your players another way to get where they are going.

Thursday 11 March 2010

RiP GenCon UK

I've just read that the UK GenCon franchise has been official dropped. There's a discussion about it on the UK Roleplayers Forum. I don't know any more at the moment but if I hear anything I'll let you know.


This is a sad day for roleplaying in the UK.

Additional news......

The website Altern8 posted an article about Gen Con UK last month. Late Last year the blog The Kingdoms also speculated that Gen Con UK might be dead. Last week RPG.Net also reported the announcement and there is an interesting thread on the subject. Noticeably the forum page for Gen Con UK on the Gen Con LLC Community website has been closed.

Rare Earth Magnets

I've just bought some small but very strong Rare Earth Magnets for use on my model tanks. For those that don't know they are excellent for holding the turrets in place while still allowing rotation. I recently used a pair of these magnets on my Panther model and they work very well despite their diminutive size.

I was going to write a full article about these but I have since found some excellent articles on other sites and decided to link to them from here instead.

There is a great article all about using these magnets on the Flames of War Website. The piece discusses how to use them in your modeling projects and provides an excellent guide to Rare Earth Magnets for those of us that have forgotten most of our school physics lessons.

The Blog Adventures in Miniature Gaming also had an interesting article showing how the author used these small magnets to excellent effect on his plastic Tyranid models.

I bought my first pack of 100 magnets from the EBay Seller Power Magnet Store. The type I bought are small disc magnets just 1/16th Inch thick and 1/8th inch diameter. This sounds small (they are tiny) but they are more than strong enough to hold on a turret on a model tank. At just £4.99 for 100 they are excellent value for money. Other Sellers do similar deals and there are a wide variety of shapes and sizes available.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Bill Mauldin - Wartime Cartoonist

I've just discovered for myself the work of Bill Mauldin. Mauldin served with the US 45th Infantry Division and saw action in Sicily and throughout the Italian Campaign. His cartoons - and in particular his characters Willie & Joe - first appeared in the units newspaper and later in Stars & Stripes.
"Able Fox Five to Able Fox. I got a target but ya gotta be patient."

Mauldin's cartoons often irritated his senior commanders, including General Pattern who accused him of "spreading dissent". But his work was universally popular amongst the fighting men of the US army and after the war his work was recognised with a Pulitzer Prize.

What I like about the Willie & Joe cartoons is the gritty realism that shows through the often black humour. Mauldin was a combat soldier himself - he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received at Anzio - and his experiences show clearly in his work.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Brass Monkeys

I had planned on getting a load of painting done over the weekend. I did get some done, just not as much as planned. The weather in the UK had been pretty crappy for months (more than normal for winter - or at least that's how it feels) but this weekend the sun was shining and the wild was calling. Which basically means we were bored of being couped up and needed to get some exercise and a bit of fresh air. What fools we are.

We took the kids to Watt Tyler Country Park in Basildon. There's plenty of adventure playground equipment for the kids to wear themselves out on and some nice walks down to the river. But boy was it cold. There was what can only be described as a lazy east wind that didn't bother blowing around you, it just went right through instead. We were only out for a couple of hours but by the time we got home I couldn't feel my fingers, let alone contemplate picking up a brush.

The day wasn't a complete waste of time though. I've been to this park many times and knew about its proximity to to the birthplace of Watt Tyler (leader of the Peasants Revolt in 1381). What I didn't know was that the site of the Park was once owned by the British Explosives Syndicate who established a factory there for the manufacture of Nitro Glycerine. Later the site was bought by the Nobel Explosives Company (the founder Alfred Bernhard Nobel invented Dynamite and later Established the Nobel Prize). There is a new visitor centre on the site and includes a very interesting exhibition about the parks explosive past.

During the Second World War the area was owned by the Ministry of defence and the important GHQ line of static defenses began in the park and stretched north through Basildon and Chelmsford. This was a vital line of defence in the event of invasion and several examples of pillboxes can be seen in the park and surrounding countryside.

Monday 8 March 2010

German Panzer Markings

My Brother-in-law picked me up a great book last week; German Panzer Markings : From Wartime Photographs by Ian Baxter. Many of the pictures in this book have never been published before and they help illustrate the wide range and variety of markings on the vehicles of the Wermacht.

The book is divided into nine chapters, each dealing with a different type of marking. Accompanied by several photo's each section shows the variety and changes that took place throughout the war.

  • National Insignia (The Balkan Cross)
  • Tactical Numbers
  • Formation & Unit Insignia
  • Tactical Symbols
  • Tiger Tank Units
  • Assualt Gun Units
  • Camouflage and Zimmerit
  • Licence Plates
  • Pennants, Signal Flags & Victory Markings

One of the best examples of the evolution of a vehicle marking is the first chapter looking at the National Marking, the Balkenkreuz. This went through several variations as the war progressed and, where stencils were not available, was sometimes applied by hand. It started the war as a solid white cross but after the Polish Campaign it was deemed too clear an aiming target for enemy gunners and was changed.

The overriding feeling one gets from this book is that despite official attempts to impose uniformity on vehicle markings, this was rarely the case. Individual units and even individual crews often maintained old insignia despite orders from higher up. As the war progressed vehicles were rushed into service more and more urgently and ensuring correct and complete markings was less important than getting the vehicle into service quickly.

This is a very useful reference book for the gamer and modeller and presents the range and variety of vehicle markings in a clear and interesting way.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Big Picture : War of the Worlds

Today's Big Picture is a classic show game from the 2004 convention season. The War or the Worlds was a participation game run by the North London Wargames Group and was at Loughton and at Salute where it won the award for Best Created Game.
From The Big Picture

Saturday 6 March 2010

Remember the Alamo

Today is the anniversary of the famous Battle of the Alamo. I was first aware of this important event in Texan history from the 1960 John Wayne epic The Alamo. What I didn't realise was they built a three quarter scale replica of the famous mission building for the film. On a slightly more practical scale for us wargamers is an excellent 25mm model of the Alamo complex by Hudson & Allen. If you want to replay the battle on a very tight budget (like me) then try the FREE downloadable game Charge at the Alamo by Richard Trevino.

Friday 5 March 2010

New Project - Take 2

I've started a new Flames of War painting project, the US M10 3"GMC Tank Destroyer Platoon. Actually this is the second time I've 'started' this project because I had this ready to go way back in October last year. I got as far as cleaning the models of minor flash and other casting defects when I realised that I was missing a part. I immediately contacted customer services to request a replacement part and then waited....and waited....

Unfortunately after several attempts I still don't have a replacement part and my confidence in the much praised customer service of Battlefront Miniatures has been severely dented. I hope this was just a blip and hope that any future problems are resolved more efficiently.

The part I was missing was the Turret Counterweight (the metal bit on the back of the turrets in the above pictures). I had one counterweight and decided to make a replacement for the other model. I ended up making a part using some waste metal (to give the part strength) and milliput putty for the detail. The finished counterweight should look fine when painted, especially as I covered its imperfections with some pre cast stowage items that came in the box.

Everything is now assembled and ready to be undercoated, which is my job for tonight. I'm hoping to get these painted in short order as I now have enough models for a few practice games with my Brother in law. Once we've had a chance to get to grips with the rules we can settle on a scenario for some future game and work towards that. As I'll be doing most, if not all, the painting/modeling the sooner we decide what we want to refight the better.

Thursday 4 March 2010

Happy GM's Day 2010

You read it right, today is GM's Day. This is the annual celebration of those people who put their creativity on the line to run a game. Often undervalued and overlooked, today is the day when we say Thank You.

"He regularly stabs, mangles, perforates, burns, and otherwise damages your precious character. He delights in torturing your PC's emotions, thwarting their every plan, denying every desire. And you love your GM for just these things and more!" (Source: EnWorld)

As a bit of fun I suggest you check out You Know your GM's Evil When on the excellent blog GeekNative. It compiles nearly 4 years worth of suggestions from the popular poll of the same name from the GameWyrd website (the predecessor to GeekNative). I'm pretty sure you can find something from that list that makes you think of your GM. Bless em.

To celebrate the day, many publishers and online retailers are offering discounts. For details check out the ENWorld news page.

Mr Evil GM sir, I Salute You.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

My frugal year

I'm trying to save a bit of money this year and that means being a bit restrained with my gaming purchases for a while. I'm taking my inspiration from the excellent blog A Year of Frugal Gaming. The problem is the more I try to reduce my list of wants the longer it gets. So I'm going back to basics and trying to adopt a wartime attitude of make-do-and-mend.

1) Paint the models I already have. Like most gamers I have loads of unpainted lead. If I'm honest there's little I really need to buy that I haven't already got. If I do decide to buy something new It must have a specific purpose (rather than "Ooooo Must Have!!!").

2) Sort out my modeling box to see what I have. I thought I'd run out of Superglue the other day and was about to pop out and get some more when I found five (!) unopened tubes in the bottom of my toolbox. This does raise the question - why did I buy them in the first place... what can anyone want with five tubes of superglue at one time? (Please keep your answers clean).

3) Borrow other gamers stuff. Why buy a new game when you can borrow a mates copy, scuff the corners of the box, crease the spine of the rulebook and then give it back? Seriously though, when you are part of a group of gamers it makes sense to buy widely and share rather then purchase multiple copies of games that will get played only once.

4) Dig out some old games. Some of the best nights gaming my group has had in the last 12 months have been when we got an old game out and revisited our roots. As well as being a cheep night in its also a chance to remind yourself why you started gaming in the first place.

5) Buy smart. I always go to conventions and trade shows with a shopping list. The problem is that list often includes items that are purely 'treat items' and will probably never get played with. I'm all in favor of the occasional impulse buy but if your trying to save money you have to reign it in. Make a shopping list before you go to a show but keep focused on what you need, not what you want.

6) Buy Second Hand. You can get some great bargains on bring-and-buy stalls at conventions. The downside is it can be a bit of a scrum trying to get to the front, but now and again you can find some excellent stuff on sale. Obviously your limited to what is on sale and its hard to plan ahead for the B&B but be prepared to pounce on that bargain when you see it. Its also worth revisiting the Bring & Buy several times as stock is constantly replenished at the larger shows.

7) Sell some stuff. Another excellent place to buy second hand stuff is Ebay. So long as you don't let yourself get carried away and get into a bidding war with someone else you can pick stuff up very cheep. However the real beauty of Ebay is the ease with which you can sell old books, games and models. Any money you raise can refill the piggy bank for that special purchase.

8) Shop Around. I'm a big fan of the Friendly Local gaming Store (FLGS) but sometimes you just can't beat the Internet on price. These days there are so many retailers, large and small, out there that your bound to save some money by looking around. The thing to watch is Postage costs, as this is usually the deal breaker if your looking for the best price available.

9) Do commissions. This might not be to everyones taste or ability but if you can, try getting someone to pay you to paint. Try to agree a price before you start so everyone knows what to expect. This might end up being a nice little earner, or it might just be a little sideline that adds a few quid to the pot.

10) Play more. Next time you feel the urge to go online and buy something to cheer yourself up, STOP! Go get a game out and play instead. Make it your mission to get your moneys worth out of every game your own.

I'm sure they are loads more ideas out there for saving money and still enjoying your hobby. Me, I'm saving money for my trip to Tankfest in June and a new camera latter in the year. I can have both if focus my spending instead of frittering away my meagre resources.

Tuesday 2 March 2010


Just came across this picture and it made me chuckle. This is one of those images that has a whole backstory built into it. The more detail you see the more story you discover.
I always knew Velma was the tough one.

Monday 1 March 2010

Lost Symbols

No this isn't a Dan Brown book review, I'm thinking about dungeon mapping symbols. Following on from my post about maps on Saturday I started to think about what a typical dungeon map needs in order to succeed - and by succeed I mean convey its information in a clear and readable way. The answer is an old one, dating to the first ever maps: symbols and a key to understand them.

Map symbols reduce a complex piece of information to a single and instantly understood marker on a sheet of paper or parchment. The classic symbol for a church on most maps is a small circle or square surmounted by a cross. The symbol is universal in its simplicity and economical in its size and is therefore ideal for use on a map that may contain lots of information. This was recognised very early on in D&D and I recently re-discovered an excellent example from the D&D Red Box set (the 1983 edition).
I haven't seen this key to map symbols in years yet amazingly I still use many of the visual short cuts listed here. More interestingly were those that I had forgotten such as the Rotating Door and the One Way Secret Door. For an old D&D player like me seeing this key brought back a lot of good memories of simple maps and great adventures. But it also got me excited about map making again.