Let me begin by wishing you all the very best for the New Year. It’s been such a long time since I last updated this blog, that it’s hard to remember precisely what I’ve been doing, but I’ll certainly give it a try.
As far as the magazine is concerned, it’s hard for me to believe that it has now reached issue 20. I think there are quite a few people out there who never imagined that it would reach this milestone — and neither did I! It would be foolish of me to pretend that the journey has been easy, but I hope that you would agree with me that it has been worthwhile.
Some of the things that I have become involved with outside the magazine have taken on a life of their own, particularly my involvement with Neil Shuck and his Meeples and Miniatures podcast. Our View from the Veranda chats now seem to attract more than 1000 listeners each time, and plenty of feedback on Neil’s blog. I have to confess that it is also great fun to do, and as you can imagine, it’s not hard for someone like me to sit and talk for two hours!
As far as my own wargaming is concerned, it’s been a mixed year. Many of you may throw up your hands in horror to learn that the most recent gaming I have been doing has been with Games Workshop Lord of the Rings miniatures. Just before Christmas, my godson Edward’s mother, a fan of the Lord of the Rings books and films herself, introduced him and his elder sister to the Peter Jackson movies. Unsurprisingly, this had a powerful effect on young Edward’s imagination. Shortly thereafter, he was taken to Wargames Heaven in Brighton, where he spotted the Games Workshop Mines of Moria boxed set, and of course fell in love with it. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that his Christmas present was assured!
My most recent project therefore involved assembling and painting the miniatures and scenery in the Mines of Moria set, as you can see in the photos below (which were taken in the middle of the night after just finishing the task, so I’m afraid they’re not quite as crisp as I would have liked). This actually made a very pleasant change, and suited me as a finite project that I could complete in a relatively short time frame. I have to admit that I did work three or four very late nights to make sure that Edward could receive his gift on time, but I feel that the results were very pleasing and the sight of the eight-year-old’s beaming face made it all worthwhile.
I used what has become my standard technique to complete this project, starting with a black undercoat, followed by a base colour, mid tone, a highlight, and finally, where necessary, a wash using the new Citadel washes. (Devlan Mud, Gryphonne Sepia and Badab Black seem to be the ones most frequently in need of replenishment.) After varnishing the figures, the bases were coated with PVA, then dipped into some coarse sand, the precise mixture of which has evolved over several years as different grades of sand and small stones have been added. Normally, given sufficient time, I would have applied a wash of dark brown followed by highlights to this groundwork, but time was pressing and the results seemed fine without this extra labour. The base texturing was completed with the addition of some Games Workshop grass flock in small patches. Finally, I painted the outer rim of the bases Scorched Brown.
Annie and I spent a very pleasant day on 29th of December with my godson and his family. Between those times when the dining table was required for the normal domestic purpose of eating, Edward and I battled for several happy hours in the mines of Moria, with his fellowship hacking my goblins and cave troll to pieces! The rules were somewhat familiar to me, as they form the basis of Warhammer Historical’s Legends of the old West and Legends of the High Seas rules. Some of you may balk at their simplistic mechanisms, but they play very effectively and are great fun. My one complaint is the “in the way” rule, which simply seems out of sequence. The rules say that you roll to hit your target, and only then roll again to find out whether your missile has in fact struck an intervening obstacle. I prefer to reverse her this, so that the “in the way” dice roll is made first — only if this is made successfully do I then proceed to carry out the hit calculation.
I’ve just added a couple of Dark Riders to this collection (these are metal, of course, as opposed to the plastic miniatures in the Mines of Moria boxed set). It was a challenge to convey effective and subtle highlighting on what are effectively just black figures!
Other recent highlights have included a trip to Nottingham, where I was able to conduct interviews with Rick Priestley and John Stallard of Warlord Games together, and then with the Perry Twins. We also managed, of course, to fit in some socializing, and also a game of Black Powder at Alan Perry’s house. This took the form of an American War of Independence game, based on one of the Table Top Teasers which has appeared in the magazine: “plunder and pillage”. The game was great fun, and featured hundreds of beautiful Perry miniatures on a beautiful scenic table which measured approximately 12′ x 6′. John, Rick and I played the part of the rampaging British; Michael, together with Stephen May played the defending Americans. The game swung back and forth for about three hours, until we British had to admit defeat! You can hear my views of the Black Powder rules on the View from the Veranda podcast.
Another frisson of excitement has been caused by the arrival of the brand-new edition of Blitzkrieg Commander this Christmas. Sporting a very smart grey cover, it looks as though Pete Jones has done another exemplary job at creating a set of rules that are clearly laid out, attractive, and easy to follow. I haven’t yet had a chance to read them in great detail, but given their heritage, I am quite certain that they will provide a terrific game. I have nearly finished painting my GHQ 1/300 scale British, Italian and German forces, so I hope to be able to bring you a first battle report soon.
You may recall that some time ago, I started work on some 6mm Greek and Persian armies for Warmaster Ancients games. Well, now I’m going right back to that rules system’s roots, because one of the guys who works at Wargames Heaven is a keen Warmaster fantasy player, and he’s persuaded me to meet with him for occasional games. We had a fun game a few weeks ago using his Orc and Empire armies, but I see this as the ideal opportunity to rekindle my interest in one of the daftest armies from the Warhammer world: the Skaven. So, as a little Christmas present to myself, I invested in a few packs of figures from Games Workshop’s Specialist Games division, which can only be ordered via their website. Their Warmaster figures are approximately 10mm size, which makes for some very weenie rats indeed! I am particularly impressed by the tiny Doomwheel, which I can’t wait to see rumbling into action! (As an aside, Guy will be stocking 10mm historical miniatures at the shop, so expect to see an explosion of Warmaster Historical gaming in the neighbourhood.)
But perhaps the most exciting development of all is the rekindling of my Wars of the Faltenian Succession. This conflict, dormant for so long, is being brought back to life with the help of some new friends. Will Townshend, Paul Brook and Brian Glazebrook are now in the process of discovering the extent of my madness! Instead of being a combatant in the new campaign, I am in fact umpiring it. Following the conclusion of hostilities between Faltenland and Prunkland, the focus of attention now shifts to the west, where the Kingdom of Grenouisse has fixed its gaze upon the small but wealthy coastal state of Granprix. Faltenland is much bigger and potentially more powerful than either of them, but is still licking its wounds. Will Queen Ingrid deem it necessary to instruct her new Field Marshal, Erich von Bachwinkl, to intervene? Will the rapacious King Raoul of Grenouisse succeed in annexing tiny Granprix? Or will feisty Duke Zigor give him the surprise of his life — with such deep pockets, he can afford to hire the very finest mercenaries the continent has to offer.
That’s as much detail as I’m going to give you now, but rest assured that ‘The Grenouissian Intermezzo’ will feature in future issues of the magazine as well as here on the blog.
During the autumn, I hit something of a painting block. As happens to many of us, I simply felt rather stale and couldn’t muster any energy to paint the large battalions of marching musketeers that will, for example, be required for some of the games that are bound to arise in the new campaign. With that old adage that a change is as good as a rest ringing in my ears, I decided to take a detour into some of those items which will add character and (quite literally) background to our games. As you can see below, this involved the recruitment of some flora and fauna, as well as a shepherd, to the cause! it just so happened that Foundry had sent me one of their periodic special offers, so I took the opportunity to invest in a flock of sheep and some woodland animals, including bears, boars, deer and foxes. Habitat would be provided by some new wooded areas, based on old CDs in a similar fashion to the jungle pieces created by Diane Sutherland in a previous issue of Battlegames. I had a bag of Heller fir trees of various sizes which, once mounted four to a disc and terrained, look rather effective.
For the new year, I have plenty to work on. Of course, issue 21 is now beginning its production phase and will be with the printers later this month; but I also have the not inconsiderable task of finishing the book I have been commissioned to write by Pen & Sword! I’m due to hand over the manuscript at the end of April, so please forgive me if I seek seclusion from time to time so that I can meet this monumental deadline.
Anyhow, until next time, I wish you all good health, peace and prosperity for 2010.