Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Happy Cheesemas !

We finished the Christmas shopping last Saturday morning, fortunately this was relatively uneventful and we escaped long before the scenes of idiocy that befell others as they tried to leave shopping centers in their cars. However I was banned from buying a new mixing palette I 'just happened' to see in passing so I have a suspicion I know what the Mk3 daughter has got me this year. All that is left is to collect some milk, fresh bread and minor last minute requests from the Mk1 daughter.

I opened the fridge this evening to be confronted with a large amount of cheese. The quantity is almost obscene except for the fact that one can never have enough good cheese ! We had been to a Food Show a few weeks ago with friends and had returned with a few truckles of more unusual varieties that don't need to be stuffed with apricots, cranberries or kiwi fruit to hold your attention. That and a visit to the supermarket had resulted in more Cheddar, Brie, Camembert, Stilton and a heap of pickles but unfortunately no 'Stinking Bishop' blue.

Therefore, 'Cheesemas' officially starts tomorrow as we have to wade through all of this before it goes off. Still, at least it is guaranteed to be flavoursome. That is regretfully more than can be said for the forthcoming visit to 'The outlaws' this weekend where, if normal service is to be expected, they will already have started boiling the Christmas lunch vegetables to death.

Merry Cheesemas everyone.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Not quite the end of the 'painting' year?

I don't make New Years resolutions as they always seem to end in failure. When I stopped smoking some 25 odd years ago I deliberately waited until March to avoid that fate.  Aside from a couple of short and very temporary relapses (predominantly alcohol related) I have kept off the evil weed. I became convinced I had definitely  kicked the habit after a rather heavy gentleman's 'stag' weekend  6 years ago where the greatest difficulty I experienced was in maintaining a vertical stance  rather than turning down a cigarette. We may have been mature in years, but for a fleeting moment, those of us that still had some,  let our hair down. (and we showed those youngsters how to do it!)

As far too many New Years Eve's have been 'ruined' through work, I am coming round to the view that my 'year' is inextricably linked to the Financial rather than the Calendar year. This is typified by my view of the Annual Balance of Lead surplus/deficit. I usually make my largest annual purchases at Salute in April. These are then topped up throughout the year as and when I see something I really like. As a consequence the success or failure  of a painting year can be expressed in terms of whether I have painted 'all the stuff' I bought at Salute.

Two years ago was a disaster. A SYW Pendraken Austrian army lies part under coated in a Tupperware box as do 36 Foundry Russian Crimean infantry in Shell Jackets. On the up side I now have 40 odd WW2 and interwar figures finished that can be used for a variety of roles from the  30's onwards. Oh yes, did I mention my Saga figures? Perhaps this era was called the Dark Ages as those figures have still not seen the light of day!

Last year I restrained myself to 28mm WW2 purchases. The Bolt Action Italian paratroops are all painted and based with the exception of a Breda MMG Unit. I have even converted a couple of 'secret weapons' that have not been used as yet and though I would love to post images, I can't.

The Perry DAK Zug just has one section to complete and the Zundapp Solo is now happily pinned to its desert base. I have even built and based my Nissan hut for the air base game due next year. This is all on top of scratch building some Arabian market stalls and painting a few flavour figures such as my Jazz Band and the Christopher Lee miniature in desert uniform. I have even started on some ECW Highlanders although I am rapidly deciding that perhaps I only need one unit of tartan figures.

December is, therefore, the month in which I reassess what needs to be completed in the remaining time prior to the end of March in order that I can then justify another spending spree..

At the moment the outlook is positive, if I finish  the DAK Then I am as good as done. The concern is that having done that There is a real risk of being carried away by ''The Next Big Thing' in April. Does this mean I should start something new beforehand?

Monday, 14 December 2015

How not to start a new gaming period

The Daughter MkI is currently at University and is now almost half way through her Primary Education degree.

I had a Skype call from her during the summer term whilst she was on a placement. 'Dad' she said 'Er, yes' I replied, fully expecting her to plead poverty or say she had been eating only lentils for the previous two weeks. But not so. 'Have you got any Romans?' Was the rather unexpected question.

To cut a long story short she was required to produce a mixed curriculum lesson and she decided to run a Science and History lesson that related to 'The Romans' which was that terms topic. The pedant in me did suggest that actually she should include Geology in there somewhere but  I didn't want  to give her an opportunity to practice 'The look'. This has been passed from my mother to my sister (who is also a Primary teacher) a single glance of which causes the recipient to stand with their hands clasped behind their back looking at the floor mumbling something about not doing that again. But I digress....

She had built Mt Vesuvius  and had also prepared a town beneath the volcano (see below).

 She just needed some suitable 'occupants'. 'What for?' I said, somehow already knowing the answer. ' All the children get a figure, the put them in Pompeii, I make the volcano erupt, then we see who survives,'.  'OK, I said, I'll have a look'.  I do have some Romans (15mm, none are painted though) I also have some pigs in legionary armour, made by a friend (30mm). I don't know whether my Pigs were pre or post Marian reform but in the scheme of things I didn't  think it really mattered to the majority of 10 year olds.

'OK, says I, how many do you want?' '28 plus 2 for the TA's plus can you do one in a toga for the Head and another for the caretaker who has helped me build this, he wants to be a slave' is the reply. 'Oh and can you do it by Monday'. In the end she had to compromise and used Jelly babies ! For any budding child therapists out there you might be interested to know that all the 'naughty' children put their Jelly baby on the mountain slopes with inevitable consequences !

I can't show you the results as there are children's faces in the video and I don't want to drop my eldest in it. If you want to replicate the experiment. Put white vinegar washing up liquid and yellow and red food dye in a bottle. Then add bicarbonate of soda. The red and yellow dye makes the lava look like lava and the kids loved it.  Do this outdoors, it gets very messy!

As it was so successful I've a feeling she will do it again. If I start anything Ancient related they are likely to be 'liberated' for said project ! Safer to stick to other gaming periods I think

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Jazz Band

Here are some 'in progress' photos of my Black Cat Jazz Band. They did take a very long time to arrive though. I thought for a while that I had lost them, but I am glad I waited as they are nice and 'different'. The only thing stopping me ordering more figures from Black Cat is the time it takes for delivery, if only they traded at Salute....... Hey ho.

More pictures of them and  the rest of the completed figures to follow but these are all now packed away in their transport case ready for the game on Sunday where they are appearing at Dick's place. Tickets are, I believe,  still available at a very reasonable rate and Dick with throw in a bottle of almost drinkable Aussie Chateau Chunder Red for every 4 seat table you fill.

The leader of the Jazz Quartet,  Mr Henri Mankini. He is the middle of the three Mankini brothers, the eldest being an archaeologist and the youngest a playboy wastrel.

 Mr Jock Scoplin is tinkering with the Ivory Keys. The person who is physically on the piano on is the guest artiste Miss Sophia Watapairona. I am not sure whether the patrons really care whether she can sing or not (Sophia is blue tacked to the piano by the way)

The inventor of the newfangled 'scuffle' music, Lennie Donegan

Keith Starkey on drums. Starkey is as mad as a bucket of frogs and just as temperamental.  He turned up for his audition wearing a black suit and brown shoes whilst drinking a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Can you believe that ? Brown shoes after 7pm - disgraceful

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Return to the fold

They say that bloggers hit a brick wall after a while, there are of course notable exceptions.

I hope that I can scale the wall with a little help.

Since I last posted

'The boys' plus Teds Korean War vet father (also called Ted just to make things simpler) spent an excellent weekend in Normandy
We have had a few games
We cancelled more than a few due to work commitments
We started yet another period having sworn we wouldn't
We moved from the beaches of England to the snow of Norway and as of this weekend we finally arrive in the Western Desert
Figures from Black Cat arrived 10 months after I ordered them

This weekend we have engineered a day of gaming. Our Weird War 2 has moved  to the Western Desert. The encounter is a combination of role play and Bolt Action set in the market town of Khazi, a center of trade full of figs, dates, flying carpets, dodgy venues, famous personalities and names ripe for puerile  juvenile puns -  can't wait.

After that we plan a game centered on a cowardly attack on a glorious Italian Air base/ R&R  area, by Craig's SAS cowards who seem to be  intent on pilfering our finest Chianti and making off with our delicious ice cream.  That is, of course, assuming the SAS painted in time.

Expect to see some 'real life' characters make an appearance although perhaps not as you may expect to see them.

By way of a teaser here are a couple of early photos

An early photo of the village of Khazi. I scratch built a few market stalls  for this and that seemed to set Red off on a building spree. The building at the back is the local Police Station. By the way  if anyone wants any juniper berries that also double as  28mm water melons I have  a spice jar full of the things!

This is Dick's cafe. It is designated as a 'Late Night Refreshment House'  which means he can sell booze as long as he provides entertainment alongside it. Some dubious bands and acts have performed here. It is rumored that Madame 'Ping Pong' might be booked for a short time early next year. This place even has a flushing toilet ! 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Of John Hill and Boardgames

I was skimming through the latest edition of Miniature Wargames (March 2015) when I saw a photo of a set of boxed games on one of the pages. Squad Leader no less ! I then read the article that announced that John Hill noted Boardgsame designer and in particular the designer of Squad Leader had died earlier this year. Why this post you may ask.

As a spotty adolescent I had already been introduced to RPG gaming through Dungeons and Dragons that was released in around 1977. At that time although we had unpainted Citadel and Ral Partha figures representing characters we used chess pieces for the baddies. Goblins were pawns Werebears were knights and a Rubiks cube doubled as one of the gelatinous variety. Lots of imagination and most importantly good honest fun.

At the same time a friend who was a boarder at my school started talking about a board game  game called Squad Leader that he played in the evenings with one of the older boys. I was intrigued and after I had stayed behind one evening entranced.

Pocket money was saved and a postal order was despatched. Soon after I had my very own copy. This was my very first true wargame.  Gareth and myself learnt tactics through playing the game and trial and error rather than reading books. The first series of scenarios surrounding The Tractor Works were simple elegant and infinitely replayable. One winning tactic immediately invited a counter. I remember him basing his chances of winning one scenario on making his Russians go ' beserk'!

The names on the counters of Cpl Uhl, Cpl Jones and Cpl Rosenberger (the infamous 6 +1 leader), remain ingrained in my memory. We played numerous campaign games trying to get a 7-0 leader to the almost mythical 10-3 status. One evening saw four geomorphic boards stretched end to end along a corridor as we played the final SL scenario. God knows how normal people ever managed to play this on a table as it must have been 8 -10 feet long. Along came Cross of Iron with its bright orange Russians followed by the unglamorous Brits in Crescendo of Doom. Panzerblitz,  Arab Israeli Wars (I always played the Arabs) Festung Europa, Road to the Rhine and Caesar at Alesia  followed.

As started Sixth form 4 of us played lengthy sessions of Kingmaker whilst under the influence of Heinekin Lager and Double Diamond Bitter. For some reason Lord Scrope always seemed to be the sacrificial lamb in battles......

Finally a mutual friend invited me to his house where I saw hordes of 15mm French and British Minifigs facing each other across a large table for the very first time. Rules were by Bruce Quarrie. The rest is history.

My point is that all of us had a catalyst that started our engagement with the hobby and John Hills Squad Leader was mine.

Thanks John, you have no idea how many happy memories you were responsible for

Friday, 6 February 2015

Hidden Movement -The Beauty of Whatsapp and the start of the Thule Game

Most people now have access to Smartphones, even if we don't always know how to use all their functionality. Whenever I have been involved in games involving off table of map movement it has involved copious use of paper and pens which is not always what you want in a game.

For this game we decided to use the Whatsapp 'app' as a way of sending instant messages on troop movements to the umpire rather than pen and paper. Not only are the messages timed and dated but it is then easy to keep a log of who moved where and when for the post game debrief.

At 99p for a years use for the app and using normal Wifi connection it was well worth the  small investment. The Allies created one talk group and the Axis another. The Umpire obviously had access to both. It also meant there was no inadvertent spying on the opposition..

It seemed to go really well and more importantly it was quite quick. I think we ran through ten map turns as well as some on table encounters in the evening.

The Background to the Game is

Ice Station Thule is located at the northern end of Spitzbergan Island. It is partially buried in the ice face of the Vulkan Glacier. It has been developed from the pre existing Norwegian scientific research station Vulkan.

The Norwegians were exploring the now extinct volcano and were experimenting with geo thermal energy. There is a large magnetic anomaly at this site which often disrupts radio communication. It is believed that this anomaly also generates the unusual and intense Northern lights which appear randomly at this location.

The Axis are conducting experiments at the location, presumably the Allies will try to impede them.

Both sides were given the map below


The crevasses are marked in blue. The two part Hungsforden Massive is impassable but other crevasses can be crossed assuming you have the right equipment............ and pass the appropriate tests.

The solid blocks are ice walls, these are impassable.

Each unit, tracked, animal or on foot can move one square per turn. Visibility is affected by the wind direction so you may be able to see downwind but not up.

Each side messages the Umpire with the callsign for the unit and the map reference they are moving to and from. The Umpire has a master map on which he plots movement and additionally he has already marked squares where there may be 'encounters' These include wolves, dire wolves large polar bears, zombie penguins ( yes, there are rules for these) and a potential for a Yeti.

The Ice station is in row 20 at the top of the map, I think around row J and K but the map will not quite show this.

The game starts with the Axis moving their resupply vehicle 'Thor' towards the  Ice Station from any point on Row 1. As far as I know the Allies have a 3 turn advance onto the table also from Row 1.

Tests are made for breakdowns, events, soft snow and breakdowns (which impedes vehicles but not animals or troops on foot) and cold weather (which affects those exposed to the elements but not in vehicles).

Just got to update Picasea and I will be able to provide a Day 1 report

Thule scenery

Here are a series of photos of the scenery. the first few are 'finished' whilst the later photos were taken as it was built. A bit special really. Lots of polystyrene and use of cathode ray tube tv packaging. it shows how long the polystyrene had been in the 'useful' box as CRT TV's went out of service ages ago. 

Ted also muted the lighting in the games shed. There was white everywhere

This is a game night view of the base from the far end of the table. The lights flash red and when the magnetic field is in flux the backdrop has a green hue to it

This shows the VRIL tanks behind the 'saucer' pad. The turbojet is to the left, you can just see the nose

The main entrance to the underground complex. The lights flash on top of the buildings

The Polish labourers hut, sentry post and guard house

This is a pre game view showing the other side of the table.
Close up of the main entrance to the compound

Thursday, 5 February 2015

More pre game photos

Here is Thor the 18 Tonne Armoured Supply Delivery Vehicle. My immediate thoughts included ' I hope that has wide tracks' and 'Does it come with Crevasse Extraction Equipment' Something like an Anti Grav Device might be useful. The decal on the side indicates that the driver has a side line making deliveries for Ocado.

 Some photos of The SAS Mountain Warfare Cadre. Plastic Commandos with Infantry side pouches added to the backpacks so they look like Bergans. Brilliant work from The MaestroGame update to follow tomorrow