Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Keeping The Hobby On The Q.T...

One of the quietest re-launches I've seen for some time, of classic and groundbreaking figures, has been that of the former Amazon Miniatures range, which included iconic ranges including Dixon and Q.T models.

Amazon which operated out of a hardware and tools place somewhere over in Mordor (or as those who don't hail from Yorkshire call it, Lancashire) basically disappeared up it's own arse. I'd even dropped them a line about buying the Q.T ranges but they never responded (probably seeking euphoric solace  in a backstreet black pudding den in Burnley), so it looked as if the range was dead.

Then, by chance, I came across an advert on Facebook for a company called Wargames Design Workshop (when will people stop trying to use 'games' and 'workshop' in business names)and checking the link out, it proved to be the new home of all the old Amazon Miniatures ranges, and thus a return of some of the iconic ranges of my youth.

Now, I love the old 'balloon head' Dixons Landsknecht range and their rather nice fantasy range, but the Q.T ranges held a generation of lads in a state of almost reverential ecstasy in the very early 80s.

It was not unknown for either myself or Roger Smith (he of the Cult Of Gilder) to purchase a couple of hundred models on a whim either by mail order of even better, by visiting Dave Hoyles' 'Q.T Models' shop in the middle of Bridlington where, we could pick the heads, weapons and bodies which we preferred and the ever patient and always genial Dave would cast up anything we needed whilst we went of for lunch or a general East coast mooch for the local skirt if it was the summer holidays.

The thing with Dave, was that he was so enthusiastic about his hobby and didn't treat kids as if they were a plague, even if perhaps he thought  or in fact we actually were. Tis meant that he got a lot of our pocket money and in turn we got to meet people in the trade as we got older and joined in conversations at conventions as we got older.

The beauty of the Q.T range, was the fact that they were multi-part castings in a similar style to the Lamming ranges and once you'd seen a Q.T pike block armed with steel upholstery pins A La Dave Hoyles, it was hard to accept the cast-on offerings of other manufacturers. This was before the current  'norm' of steel pins being commonly available. No sir, you could get the pins from Dave by the box full and many a Connoisseur pike block was similarly retro-fitted.

Many a fucked up finger was caused by clumsy allies or opponents, and in one memorable game, an opponent of mine put is hand down fast and without looking, ending up with a pike block in his palm. You are thinking 'But the pike would have snapped off...' but you'd be wrong because Q.T figures were not 'open handed' so there was nowhere for the pike to separate from the model.

The Q.T fantasy range was a bit of fun, and the 15mm 'Street Football' range was ahead of the pack when it was released.

Those of you who remember the Heroes Miniatures range of 25mm gridiron players will also recall that these were sculpted by Dave Hoyles.

Dave's style and posing were unique and like 'Marmite', but, when you got a unit positioned on the bases, very few manufacturers could hold a torch to the Q.T figures because they had real character. Not that 'snide' use of the term, but real 100% character because you could have ten figures which were all made up from the same components, but all looking in different directions.

The Greek range was by far the best on the market. More fool you if you looked into one of Dave's display cabinets with a pocketful of money, because odds on you were going home with more Hoplites and one arm longer than the other.

Roger and I must have painted hundreds of the renaissance range over the years and more than our share of the Greeks.

Dave of course moved into 15mm with his Museum Miniatures ranges, but whilst they are very much in the style of the older 25mm ranges, they don't have that nostalgic whiff about them.

WDW are selling the figures in packs of 8 for a reasonable and trend-bucking £8 . I hope this continues and that they are getting orders in volumes that will keep the prices low, because  it would be a shame to see the models vanish from the scene due to pricing themselves out of the market.

You can see what WDW have to offer by following this link:

http://www.wargamesdesignworkshop.co.uk

These are proper old school models at very reasonable prices, so drop your snobbish attitude if you have one, and buy some eternal classics.

Go on... Do it now!


TTFN


PS: Roger Smith 'suggested' I blog about Q.T, but to be honest I'd have done so anyway, sooner or later...

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Ringworld & It's Place In My Life

Back in 1984, I was sat in my Dad's car on a warm Friday evening, around 6PM, opening the latest White Dwarf  - which was still a great magazine then and not the nightmarish monstrosity it is today - when out fell issue 2 of The Black Sun fanzine - Why they named a fanzine after a Nazi order is beyond me. OK, I know it's a take on the White Dwarf bit, but... - which was the news organ of the GW mail order department and a splendid little read on par with Flying Buffalo News.

It was this 'zine which brought you 'Battle Chairs' the rather tasteless - by today's weak chinned, liberal standards - expansion for the Battle Cars game which allowed injured drivers to get back on the highways in armed wheelchairs - don't knock 'em.

As I write my copy of the 'zine is at the side of me, but here's an intergoogweb pic of the cover:






There were some great articles in issue 2, but I was drawn to the centre spread which told of a forthcoming, nay, imminent game from Chaosium by the name of 'Ringworld' based on the books by Larry Niven.

Now, I read it, re-read it and I was hooked despite the eye watering £25 price tag which was I can tell you, bloody steep. Call of Cthulhu had been £19.99 and nearly wiped me out, so an 8 week saving plan of every penny I had spare was going to be like a lifetime in purgatory.

But, by use of my already burgeoning brush skills, I painted a few figures from the Grenadier Call Of Cthulhu monsters set - thereby rendering the set incomplete - and in a week had the funds as well as the cost of the promised Ringworld Companion.

Now came the inevitable round of daily - sometimes THRICE daily - visits to Games Workshop where I was a resident pain in the arse as outlined elsewhere and in fact ingrained into the psyche of former staff forever. I don't care who you were back than, there is no way, no way at all that you were in that store as much as me without receiving a salary for doing so, so don't even try to claim otherwise.

Anyway, for a change the release date came around pretty much as promised and I shelled out the funds for what was one of the densest sets of rules ever. Not only was the box filled with rule books and charts, but the books themselves were absolutely crammed to the point of bursting forth in a shower of 8 point type all over the place. And the artwork, oh the artwork. This was up there if not better than the 'Masks Of Nyarlathotep' or 'Horror On The Orient Express'. No it was definitely better as this was just 'something else' when compared to other sci-fi RPGs on offer.

Now, I had spent £3.99 on a copy of the Ringworld novel from Sheffield Space Centre and had read it twice by the time I got the game. I was a voracious reader and I can clearly recall being stretched out in my bedroom on the Dangermouse quilt cover with my 5 foot high pile of rule sets at the side of the bed, reading both game and novel as I listened simultaneously to 'Fugazi' by Marillion which was itself a fresh album and probably the most played album of that year for me. I remember as if I was there, that as 'Incubus' played, I daydreamed of observing the Ringworld from space, feeling myself tumble in the ink black sky, an infinitesimal speck against this monstrous artificial world.

Yes, I was hooked...

We played the game at Sheffield Wargames Society a few times, but this was a game which needed you to concentrate and put the time into it, so it faded as a favourite of our group in favour of Twilight 2000, but not before Darren Ashmore had his character's pet hamster, dropped into the food processing unit of his flycycle by Mark Bamford's Kzinti - 9 foot high feline warriors - character who then forced the resulting food brick down the stunned Darren's throat with the command 'EAT!'

Eventually the game went the way of all my games back then and was sold. Over the years I have picked up a few replacements but never got around to playing again, and as the game has become recognised as a classic, the prices have become staggering. In 1996 I paid £50 for the game and £30 for the companion - of which there were far more produced than there were rule sets - and felt I had got a good deal. On average I've paid £100 for a full set , so you my imagine that when I searched last week on a whim, I was amazed to find one for £49, which yes, I bought on the spot.



The morning after the purchase, I casually searched for the companion, with no real plan to buy on. But £10 ? £10 and MINT?

Too bloody right...


And so, as I cannot work without music or spoken word, I purchased the first 3 Ringworld audiobooks and rattled through the first one in two working days and started the second volume on Friday.

I cannot express just how much this game and the books impacted upon me. They got me interested in Larry Niven as a writer which led me to Robert Silverberg and a love for well crafted sci-fi writing of the space opera variety. I'd been introduced to Silverberg again, through the pages of White Dwarf and the excellent 'Critical Mass' column by Dave Langford - I think many of my generation can thank Mr Langford for broadening their reading tastes - and ever since that fateful evening in '84, I've retreated into a Niven or Silverberg fuelled reverie and thence into the 80s in my mind's theatre when I have felt down or stressed out.

This next week is going to be absolute hell as I try to finish orders in order to be able to close for three weeks on Friday the 15th, so I will keep myself on track by listening to the audiobooks. Once I get my studio broken down and cleaned on Saturday, I am going to pour myself a drink, stretch out on the bed, pop Fugzi on the iPod and read those rules once again. Perhaps I will bring memories both bitter and sweet to the fore, and I am certain I'll take more than a few moments to remember those friends who I, who we lost in the last 12 months. Hell, I know I'll end up crying and well and trully depressed, but I think it's time that I let the 'black dog' out for a run, to allow me to focus for what will hopefully be my 50th birthday year.

We shall see. We shall see...


TTFN

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

WAAAARGH! For The Blood God...

Recon at Pudsey last weekend was a pleasant little show as always. It's not about massive display games, it's more parochial with a H.O.T.T tournament. a selection of fun participation games and a nice little selection of traders which, would benefit perhaps from some more manufacturers rather than quite so many re-sellers, but how many shows do you know where you can get 3 tickets, 3 good bacon sandwiches and 3 hot drinks with change from £20?

The bring and buy was doing brisk trade with usual slime ball dealers trying to snap up fast re-sale items. That aside, there were some nice bargains to be had but not many complete armies.

I picked up a rather nice metal Treeman for the memsahib's Sylvaneth army and a couple of other little bits, so it was a fun day out. 

As an aside we took the memsahib's mother with us as she has never really understood what it is I get up to, and she loved it and, was made welcome when she looked at displays and asked questions. 

WAY TO GO, RECON!

When I got home, I did a bit of online shopping and acquired two nicely painted models for a very reasonable £35 for the Neferata and £10 for a Balrog:




On Sunday, I was laid in bed, listening to the Sunday Service on Radio 4, sipping coffee and surfing the web, when I came across a rather nice Age Of Sigmar Khorne Bloodbound army at £500.00. I wasn't actually looking for an army, but I offered £400 and the offer was accepted as long as I paid that day.



Mighty lord of khorne
4 Khorgoraths
5 Wrathmongers
40 Blood Warrors
75 Reavers3 Exalted death bringers
5 slaughter priests 
2 blood secraters 
1 skull grinder
1 skaar blood wrath
1 aspiring death bringer 
3 blood stokers 
Champion of chaos (silver tower) 
Battle tome 
Index reference card set





Then yesterday, I bagged an absolute bargain in the shape of a superbly painted Ork Megaboss on Maw Beast, which I paid bare plastic price for:





I also bagged a few more items, but I'll leave those for a future and more specialised post. Until then...


TTFN

Friday, 1 December 2017

Ranthammer

The Fall Of The Oldhammer Empire?

It seems to me, that the whole 'Oldhammer' craze or perhaps a better definition in the broader sense would be a 'movement' (I'll leave the interpretation of that term, to you, dear reader) is getting rather silly.

Of course, to many the hole concept of grown men playing with lead dollies is silly, but I don't mean it in that way.

Let me explain a few thoughts that I have been ruminating over...

The prices of the models being offered on eBay are frankly 'a fucking rip off'. These are models which are 3 decades old, not antique, nor are they 'rare' as many claim. I would use that term with a great deal of caution little ones, because to the generation who are championing  the 'cause' anything older than their current girlfriend is seen as vintage.

Nay, nay... These models were mass produced in the days before 'artisan' this and 'small batch' that and increasingly post 1982 or thereabouts sold for an average of 30p to CHILDREN. I was one of those children but already a veteran by then. WHFB was a new kid on the block, a snotty nosed upstart of a game, slotta bases were a nightmare waiting to visit us all, Games Workshop really was!

Now, if we apply some logic here, you don't set out to produce small numbers of miniatures for a potentially massive market, for a game which, is advertised as a game of massed battles... No, really, you don't. It's bad business sense to do so.

Now, I accept that many models will have gone under the knife, epoxy or (and I shudder to consider this) been melted down into Prince August moulds, but that is still a fraction of the models produced.

My own group probably all bought every 'Citadel Specialty Set' and most if not all of the 'Regiments Of Renown' as they were released... Not collectively you you understand, but EACH. We descended like locusts on every new release, and we were but a small speck in the customer base of GW Sheffield (albeit a force multiplier when it came to causing premature ageing in the staff) and by Harry those shelves were re-filled and re-filled. I could go in on Saturday, clean out every FT series Orc on the racks and behind the 'Figure Bar' - (look that up, the terminology is accurate) and by Monday when I went in again, they were replenished. When I sold my Orcs there were two CARIER BAGS filled to the brim.

I know a friend who filled the entire basement of the family manse with miniatures in piles on every flat surface... Like me, just a school kid.

So, my Oldhammer Hipsters, think on this before you try to chisel somebody for £20 for a 'rare' model. You're talking bollocks of the first order, sirs!

If you don't have the knowledge you'd be better off going back to the plastic, modern tat-filled gaming world folks... Really.

When you list a figure, don't describe it as rare just because you don't know what it is, or it does not have a slotta base. Admit that you don't know because you are not equipped with the information. If indeed you do have a desirable gem, the buyers will set the value with their bids.

Also, this here term, 'pre-slotta' is bandied around way too freely, even on figures that are current and which never had nor never will have those terrible plastic prosthetics rather than good, honest and decent metal bases. Take yourselves into the broader gaming world and look at how many manufacturers have not fallen prey to that disease... A metal base is no guarantee of vintage. Again, DO THE RESEARCH!

Similar comments might be made about rule sets and supplements... you don't really think that 2nd or 3rd ed are rare do you? Chumps! They were vehicles for selling lead... lots and lots of lead.

Elitist arrogance appears to be another problem with the new kids on the block. 'I have this model so I am more Oldhammer than you!' or 'if you are not using the very slotta bases that were used on those models, you are not worthy of consideration as a devotee.' are both things I have witnessed... Jesus, kids, I have disposed of more figures than you will ever own... But I am just a gamer. I have owned some really famous pieces from the golden age, from the celebrities (ie: gamers who made money from the hobby back in the day- nothing more) of the hobby, but at the end of the day they are just curios, lead dollies and ephemera not some kind of holy icon.

They were meant to be played with, not stuck in a cupboard and treated as an investment... If you want to show respect for a model or book you own which passed through the hands of one of the 'old sweats' - USE THE FUCKING THING!

Be certain, that those old metal models you have, probably will crumble in your lifetime, so enjoy them and then unless you have a market for lead dust, move them on, keep the story flowing, make the models do what they were sculpted to do.

I have noted of late that the Oldhammer 'movement' is starting to fragment, as internal squabbling breaks out. This is not unique - I have seen members of a defunct roleplaying group argue over who had more credibility by where they were on the original membership roster, as if this somehow bestowed upon them illuminated wisdom. Remember the decadence is the precursor to the fall of every empire in the history of mankind, and in this case the decadence seems to be pretty advanced.

These attitudes will simply kill the history of the hobby rather than preserve it. As you prevent or discourage others from taking part in your world, you merely enact your own extinction. If that is what you want to be remembered for, knock yourselves out boys.

Stop being so confident in the value of your collection, because for us all, the only certainty is a pine box and a few flowers, and your family wondering what to do with that room full of little models and cardboard boxes, once the ashes cool.

TTFN


PS: Here's a thought; go out and buy some of the models which were advertised in early White Dwarf magazines and which, are still made by the same people for £1 - £1.50 per model, such as Essex and Denizen.

 Do them the honour of being rewarded for being one of the real torch bearers of this fine hobby.

Oh, and if you are going to claim on social media that you have had 'X' or 'Y' from the day of release, best make sure that you are not 'outed' by your date of birth being 10 years later than the release date - This I have seen...

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Do You Remember...

No, not 'chalk hearts melting on a playground wall.'

Rather, those of a certain age will be able to remember just how bloody good the hobby was back in at the start of the 80s. True things were less polished, sometimes a bit risqué; but it did nobody any harm and there was a genuine love of the hobby amongst players and purveyors alike.

I was listening to the Grognard Files interview with the legendary Tim Olsen the other day and he hit the nail right on the head and without hyperbole, when he stated the case for Games Workshop stores being like a family.

they really were. OK, you had to run a gauntlet of abuse until you you got accepted in the Sheffield branch, but once you were accepted as a 13 or 14 year old the opportunities for social experiences and some damn good times were laid out for you in a banquet of geek indulgence, a bacchanalian feast of fantasy if you will.

My wife, did not meet me until 1988, by which time I was a Grognard myself at that heady age of 19, having served my time. Over the years she's met a lot of my friends from 'The Time Before', but is still meeting a good few more. She remembers GW just after it tried to get too big for it's boots, but had no experience of what the average store in the original 'Big Five' branches was like, until last night when I sat down with her to watch a You Tube upload of the 1983/4 TV magazine show 'South Of Watford' which as well as having some really good guest presenters including Michael Moorcock, investigating the 80s Punk revival, saw a young Ben Elton looking at the roleplaying phenomenon.

I'll not spoil it for you, but for those of you who want half an hour of time travel, take a look at the following three segments which make up the show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ItRW9uXfIQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6GVntOTY9g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awrXjGKcth8


I cringed and squealed with pleasure in equal measure.

It also contains the first media reference to 'Frothers', but in Sheffield there were rumours that there was an even more hardcore variant, known as 'Limpets' - I could not comment of course.

TTFN


PS: Look out for a very young Jervis Johnson.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Are You Going To Recon At Pudsey? Do You Have Armies To Sell?

If anyone is going to Pudsey this Saturday for the RECON show, and has fully painted historical or fantasy armies for sale, please leave a message below...

I am buying!


RECON 2017

Pudsey Civic Hall
Dawson's Corner
Pudsey
Leeds
LS28 5TA



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Uh Oh... The Space Cadet Returns.

It was a pretty uneventful week... Until I did a deal with a friend for some figures and as a 'sweetener' he included a copy of Snapshot by GDW, which was on my hit list, and which he knew I wanted and which I didn't know he had.

It's a stand alone game which can be integrated with the Traveller RPG and which is getting harder and harder to find in complete condition.

It's a pretty straightforward gunfight through the corridors of starships (or building complexes) and is a very pleasant evening's diversion.

Needless to say, I am very happy:


I returned this morning at 6AM from walking the pack of assorted Aberdeen and West Highland terriers which we employ for perimeter security here at Fackham Hall, absolutely exhausted after a mere 6 hours of sleep.



Before I crawled back to bed for a bit of a lie in ahead of breakfast, I got the random urge to search eBay for any of the FASA starship plan sets for Traveller and found that the chap who sold me the Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes had a set of Merchant Class Ships for sale and with less than three hours on the clock. The price was ridiculously low, as these sets sell at upwards of £50 on a regular basis. So, reckoning on the fact the other bidders either worked nights or lived outside of normal civilised time zones by looking at the bid history, I stuck a large sum on the lot and went to bed, emerging 19 minutes before the auction ended.

Well, whaddya know? I won at the paltry, almost embarrassing sum of £22.00 including postage.

RESULT!


As you can see, everything is unpunched and this gives me another 6 larger ships for some close up and dirty boarding actions.

Now all I need to do is place an order with RAFM for the old Citadel Traveller figures and it's a dead cert I'll be in uncontrolled free fall on an 80s temporal trajectory.

It looks like the fat las in the disco, won't let go, and has one of her friends helping her like a white miniskirted tag team, blotchy legs and all.

I've also been mulling over the way that being a 'nerd' has become fashionable. I am pretty certain that it now means that if it's cool to be a nerd, gamers will not feel quite as 'special' as we did back in the day. It's not helping with all this Oldhammer and Middlehammer bullshit which sees people (who in at least one case were not even alive when the figures they claim to have had since they were released - YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOU 'WALT') trying to relive the golden era, pushing up the prices of toys - for that is what they are - which were made to be played with, and then stashing them away.

Now, I know I have played my part in that in the last 36 years, but no more. The last time I got eaten up like this I literally destroyed the world market at the time for the Sheffield Samurai, which was the opening day (and least inspiring of all of the opening models) figure at GW Sheffield (and yes, I was there - read my book) and of which I obtained well over 50 from the estate of the former assistant manager of the Sheffield store, a charming and somewhat fearsome man who in my youth threw me out a few times - quite literally, onto the pavement.

Here is that pavement:


Anyway, a U.S dealer (and an asshole in my opinion) tried to tell me these were 'recasts'. Now, I don't like that kind of talk, and had Mr Sphincter done his homework, he'd have realised that I have a particularly venomous hatred for recasts which borders on the psychotically irrational, and as you may imagine he rubbed me up the wrong way and so I had one of those moments which generally follow one of my 'little episodes' and I sold them all at £2 each all over the world and wrecked his own plans to hike them out at a lot more (I actually sold a lot of them to people who were on his list). I know, I am petty, but hey that's the way I roll...

And so I have decided to play a little game. I am tempting these Hiphammer types with assorted wares and then when they are drooling I am (as the whim takes me)

A. Selling them cheaply but not to them, rather to gamers who will use them.

B. Removing them form the face of the earth entirely, if I am in a particularly acid frame of mind.

And, it's rather satisfying, because when we were kids these toy soldier were used and abused and we paid no thought to them becoming a new form of currency to a generation who are quite often antagonistic to my own for whatever reason is en vogue at the time.

By the way people, Warhammer was not the Christ child of fantasy games. There were other systems which were played before 1982... Word.

Anyway, time passes and as it's Sunday I will be selecting a 1980s film to enjoy with a Chinese takeaway shortly, so I'll leave you with some pictures of the icy little blast we endured here yesterday as we made our way firstly over the the Bakewell Christmas market and thence to Il Lupo at Baslow where they serve the finest liver in red wine that you will ever taste in truly relaxing surroundings.






We were glad to see that the restaurant had the open fire blazing...





And the chef was up to his normal standards. My own selections comprised:

Pate

Liver in the Venetiam style
Carrots with caraway seeds
Butter glazed carrots
Double cooked potatoes

Tiramisu

On the way home I chanced upon what I think may be the smallest bespoke tailor's shop I have ever seen:



And yes, I will be going back there after Christmas for another bespoke three-piece in I think a mid weight grey Donegal.


TTFN

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The 80s Keep Dragging Me Back, Like A Fat Lass At The School Xmas Disco...

Busy though I am, I am still keeping an eye open for the odd 80s gem.

I was listening to the 13th episode of The Grognard Files and was reminded of the classic Mercenaries Spies & Private Eyes, published to this day by Flying Buffalo.

Given that I was an employee of Chris Harvey Games, and by extension FBUK, you'd have thought I'd have been on top of this one, but no sir, I just gave it a miss, being of the opinion that it was too low brow for my refined tastes. Yes, at times I can be a twat, and this was one of those times.

In the 80s we poo-poo'd Tunnels & Trolls and the offshoot system MSPE as being 'silly' and over simplistic, but in reality these games were ahead of their time and actually stand up pretty well 35 years on.

Anyway, you can find an excellent podcast on the game (and many more classics) here:


So, after a really bad night last night caused by drinking a large Marks & Spencer 'espresso martini' after 9PM after a 4AM start to the day, I awoke to find that my negotiations with a seller, had bagged me the majority of what was available for the game, for a very reasonable price tag of £40.



I just need to fins a copy of 'Raid On Rajallapor', so if you have one, please drop me a line...





TTFN

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Why Is It Always About How Big It Is?

I am writing this as I listen to the latest 'Grognard Files' podcast. If you don't already listen to it - DO SO!

Last Sunday, I steeled myself and went to my desk (yes the same desk I spend Monday to Friday painting for a living at) and painted the horses for 16 Blue Moon Manufacturing ECW generals, which are exquisite. The plan being that I might sit there again this weekend and paint a few of the riders. Alas, that was not to be because frankly and honestly - I just could not be arsed.

EDIT: As I typed the above, I looked with some guilt at the undercoated riders,stopped and spent half an hour wth some buff and brown paint on a couple of them. So much for refusal to bend to the call of the painting table. It's an odd thing that although I have I-Macs all over the house, I still retreat to my studio to write these posts.

So getting back to the blogging; I instead spent my day cleaning a month's worth of palettes (finding after scrubbing 18 of them in boiling water and Dettol floor cleaner, that I had stashed 2 somewhere in my studio, leading to a lively game of hunt the plastic discs) catching up with the latest issue of 'The Chap' and then slinking off to bed for an hour of disturbed sleep.

As I sat in the warm embrace of hot bath water, scented with 'Mont Source' hibiscus and pomegranate  body wash it occurred to me that when you are young, everything is small; as you hit your teens and maybe early twenties, everything is big and constantly flashed at everyone, but then as you turn to middle age it seems that it gets smaller and ends prematurely.

I am of course speaking of figures...

I was speaking with some friends recently about the origins of our gaming (I'll specify historical gaming here, because I'll always defend the position that for fantasy, only 25mm  - 28mm for you Millennials - will do. No, don't argue; IT'S THE LAW!). In Sheffield, we mostly fell in to two camps - role players and war gamers (a few of us were in both camps right from the outset, because I think we were the equivalent of the drug addict, constantly seeking harder and heavier kicks, wandering the dark streets of the Steel City, gaunt-faced lost souls with dice bags). The war gamers, all had a common root in 15mm, despite being dispersed all across the city and coming from various backgrounds.

Because we had a good number of shops in the city, we were able to buy pretty much everything we needed, in any scale and any period. In the early 80s, 15mm was only just starting to really find it's feet, but those of us who had around £3 per week in spending money could buy around 10 25mm figures (yes, even Citadel Miniatures, stick that in your pipes you youngsters!) or 30-40 15mm figures (Peter Laing figures weighed in at about 50 to the weekly stipend, but even then we were looking for detail - Not that I don't love P.L figures). Therefore, as we were all into Colonial, ECW  - Hell, everything - and worked at the WRG 1:20 standard, we tended to go with 15mm for new projects that our constantly burgeoning 'young firm' undertook. This meant that we each bought around 1 unit per week, which was pained an based  by the time we received our next dole from the family coffers. We were collectively producing the numerical equivalent of a WRG competition army each week and getting together to play large games as often as possible.

Some of us who were canny entrepreneurs, had a sideline in painting figures (I started off at 7p per 15mm figure) and I think we all possessed the ability to get a sustaining school dinner for about 75p from dinner money of £1.50 per day which, allowing for 2p per bus ride (thank you South Yorkshire and your Socialist ideals which gave us ridiculously subsidised bus fares) to and from our clubs, friends homes (unless a parent could be coaxed into filling a car with long haired - but very polite - patchouli drenched youths in +3 denims and driving to some dark side street to deliver them usually to a dodgy boozer wherein games could be played) and the numerous post-school trips to the numerous stores (filled with delights where, we indulged in an almost tantric self-denial until Saturday came) meant that we could probably rely on an income of £10-£15* which in 1982 was a considerable sum without resort to a Saturday job or a paper round.

So, we would hit the streets on Saturday morning  and do the rounds of the stores, with the exception of Dodo Games, which was what is these days termed a pop-up shop that appeared on Monday evening from about 5PM in a local lawnmower repair shop, with a healthy stock of Gallia 15mm models and Dixon 25mm figures.

It was here, Games Workshop (yes, G.W back in the day) and the New Model Soldier where we indulged in the buying of 15mm ECW and Colonials. It was rumoured, there were older gamers who worked at the NMS who built their armies by the 'repatriation' of stock and many year later I saw a carrier bag containing a Mikes Model Han Chinese army in the original baggies  which was reputed to have been collected via this form of tithing.

As we became more involved in the local club scene and started to take the monthly magazines with the awesome collections of the likes of Peter Gilder, S.O.D.S and the like, we all wanted to build massive historical armies in 25mm. One of my most enduring memories is meeting Roger Smith (may the gods favour his brushes and dice forever) who, in a tiny box room, had shelf after shelf of Connoisseur Napoleonic Russians, Citadel Medievals and QT Greeks. Roger, Simon B and Myself were arguably the worst offenders when it came to spending every penny on models, but Roger was by far and away the fastest painter, and constantly spoke with awe of the legendary painting prowess of Peter Gilder when it came to oil painting horses.

Anyway, we moved to 28mm and then came the era of the chequebook wargamer, the golden age of gaming, where companies blossomed and figures were aplenty, a time before Front Rank and Old Glory; a time before plastic 28mm models identikit companies. And we took to it like a Yuppies to lines of coke.

But, as the diehards amongst us found a acceptance in with the 'Big Boys' where looks where appearance was all, I think we lost that sense of community that we had a few years earlier and vied with each other to have the biggest and best and play the latest rules, at the cost of losing the sense of collective fun we had nurtured.

Then came responsibility and the commercialism of the 90s scene. We settled down, raised families, still strutted around like gaming cockerels ( although I think one or two were just Cocks) but actually gamed less and less.

And so to the present. I am not a rich man in the modern sense, but I am 'comfortable' and generally have a disposable monthly income which would not restrict my buying choices. I have a reasonable amount of space in our home, my daughter having grown up and moved out (Crom! Where did those 4 decades go?) but I don't have the time or inclination to spend time painting or waiting for the painting of, 25mm armies. I don't want to fill the Dark Tower with toys, I don't even want that much gaming nostalgia cluttering the place (No thank you, I curate a museum of the hobby in my mind these days - It's very exclusive) because I also want to fill my home with artwork, aquariums, Scottish Terriers and the like.

So, I am looking at those scales and armies which gave me the greatest pleasures, which were the basis of enduring - if paused - friendships and which have the most poignant memory triggers for me. I sense that even my most die-hard 25mm friends also feel that same imperative, and we collectively recognise that there is no need to 'prove' ourselves anymore.

And so, 15mm which a well known industry luminary described as 'a dying scale' in the late 90s, is making a comeback for many of us, and we are now discussing how many models we need, and what size element basing (we were element basing way back before it was the norm because we had such massive armies). Roger had a bit of a hang up regarding the size of ECW units, last year, whilst I am (forgive me, Roger) working on units which are nominally 1:33 ratio whilst not actually giving a fig about rules concepts which are based on head count or single figure removal (I think we both agree on that).

At 49, I feel that drag of the grave and the long sleep upon me, and so I want to get more games in, I would love to get the 'Young Firm' back together for one more weekend of self concious-less gaming. Perhaps a nice big 15mm ECW battle. We have no need to brag about how big our men are. I am pretty certain that if we really wanted to we could quickly dust up armies that would be large, 28mm and frankly stunning, but we did it a long time ago. We bathed in the glory, we took the applause of our peers and envy of others, and that can never be taken from us.

Now, for me it's about the friendship and gentle rivalry of pushing little lead men around a table top in the company of genuine friends.

As an aside, I was looking at a wargaming group on social media, where someone was selling someone was looking to sell a dozen very pretty 28mm Napoleonic lancers, whence apropos of nothing a 'Cock End' as my mate Dave would say, posted a nice big picture of their collection of over 100 lancers - the wargaming equivalent of hitting puberty and strutting through the post-gymn showers singing 'My Ding-A-Ling'.

I almost dropped Roger and Dave emails with the message - 'Let's show this smart arse how it's done.' Then, I calmed down and remembered the old adage, 'I'ts not how big it is. It's what you do with it!'


TTFN


*Girlfriends, whilst increasingly important, could seriously get in the way of game spending and had to be handled with care and the keen eye of a Dickensian miser.


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

I am mulling over an idea which occurred to me a couple of years ago, when I'd been looking at the Copplestone and Tekumel Club figures. I'd had an idea to put together a collection of Amazonian tribal types, with the idea of a mini campaign involving two tribes knocking the shit out of each other with low tech weapons, poisons and magic (because those people BELIEVE in magic and so it has to be factored in).

Then I considered an idea of adding a few pulp type Europeans after coming across the tales of Roosevelt in Brazil. Small bands with bearers etc, armed with superior weaponry and immune to magic unless a local bearer.

About 20 years (REALLY? EEEK!) ago had an idea for a race up an African river between three expeditions for a participation game, with the aim of reaching and discovering a temple. The twist being that the first group to reach it and sack it remove the wardings which release a Spawn of Cthulhu or similar - Then it becomes a race back to the boats, so the slowest on the up route would have the advantage on the return leg.

And then I found the Tekumel Project with a rather nice little race, the Hlutrgu one of the so-called Inimical Races in the Tekumel story. Oh my, do they seem to be the perfect non-human opposition for the Amazonian Indians, being a similar size, equally tribal and with the hint of the Lovecraftian which could make for an interesting range of campaign possibilities.

Little tribal bands with their own Shamans in each group, using nasty little spells, but the rub being that each spell which succeeds also has a knock on effect... Any harmful spell raises negative energy which will summon nasty creatures which will attack anything mortal. Any positive spell, such as healing or a protective charm will reduce the possibility of a summoning of something evil, or perhaps may summon a Feathered Serpent etc.

Anyway, it's just an idea which is starting to gain momentum as I look for something a little different. The other bonus is that such a project could be painted very quickly by using the right combination of base colours and washes, and so it is one of the more appealing projects I could tackle myself.

We shall see...

TTFN

Check out the figures (and maybe by some here:

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Brace Yourselves...

Well, I have an hour or so on my hands before my compulsory Sunday evening spent watching an 80s film of often questionable quality - It's my hobby - and so, I thought I might just vent some spleen about a situation which really, REALLY irks me.

As a full time painter who makes his - admittedly comfortable - living painting figures 5 days per week, I get through a LOT of figures every year. Now, I probably do more trade with many companies and have a higher turnover on their products than some bricks and mortar establishments.

But, because I am not a reseller in the traditional sense - whoops I feel a rant brewing - I do not get trade discounts with the majority of manufacturers. In fact I often go to a friendly bricks and mortar store or a trade show stockist and get a discount there, with said stockist being more than happy to take cold, hard cash from my hands.

You will note, that I emphasise that I pay in advance for my stock, and don't ask or expect credit of any kind, and that if a stockist rather than a manufacturer can cut a deal with me which is agreeable to I and they, and moreover know that I will be back again with a similar order shortly thereafter, a manufacturer would see that there is money to be made from bona fide full time, professional painting outfits who seek to offer an 'all in' client package.

In fact, I can say with all sincerity that there are some truly awful figure ranges out there, which have sold more figures than one might expect, due to the paint work. The By Fire & Sword range are often truly awful castings which belong in another decade in terms of sculpt and production values, but I have been obliged to paint a few thousand of them because I paint them very nicely. I no longer accept commissions for those models because I think my clients are paying a premium for sub standard figures, and I am having to put in way more effort than is reasonable to make these white metal mutants look fit for purpose.

Another very well known manufacturer has been in the past, only too happy to use images from my website - WITHOUT CREDITING MY WORK - and has, I know sold a lot of figures as a result, but refuses to this day to offer a trade discount other than the bulk discounts that anyone else can get. That is frankly despicable and rubs me the wrong way.

One company who attended a now defunct Northern show used to make their money to cover their outlay in attending, just on my purchases. Then they cut their reasonable discount to an insulting level, and so, I took my business elsewhere and they lost a large envelope of £20 notes every time they went to that show, and shortly afterwards stopped attending.

The worst types are those who almost sneer when you approach them and explain that you are a full time figure painter - I won't name two of them who are serial sneerers, but if the mood takes me in future, I may tell a rather amusing anecdote about one of them and a tale of supply of the most dire castings ever, of the other - as if you are unworthy of recognition as a part of the wargames industry.

Mind you, there are some people I've met who think that an 8-10 hour day bent double under a high powered lamp creating what are in reality individual works of artistry are not even worth the national minimum wage, so it's not just the trade.

In my own armies, the number of models can be staggering, and if I do paint say 1-2000 15mm Renaissance for example, you can be damn sure that the company who made them, will get some knock on business on the back of my toil. Like it or not you lead pushers out there, I am good advertising for you and if you don't treat me with respect, your models don't get any space on my website, instead going straight to the always appreciative client, who comes back time and time again, admittedly resulting in more business for you, but considerably less than might otherwise have been generated by a few pictures and a credit.

There are also some very notable exceptions, almost all companies who showed a bit of kindness and cut me a penny or two off the cost of a unit when I was a kid 35 years ago, or whom drove me to a the railway station when I spent 5 hours getting to their open day and had only 35 minutes before the last train home. These were in my opinion as a member of the public, the true ladies & gentlemen of the hobby who could see that by genuinely nurturing a client - even a 13 year old boy with deep pockets - would ensure a lifetime of loyalty.

To this day, when I can do business with these people, I do so. I get slightly less than what might be considered 'trade', but at the same time the cost of the figures is already reasonable compared to some of the others who apply eye watering mark ups for poorer castings. In return, I have an understanding that I pay cash with order and would never be so presumptuous to expect a line of credit. For my part, I give them large orders and we are happy on both sides. In turn I can pass a small saving on to my clients and save them the time of having to source their models, then have them forwarded to me for beautification.

I know this may seem like a pointless rant, but it's not. Painters as I have already said, move a LOT of lead in a year, and can often be instrumental in locating problems with a mould based on the castings they see, or even glaring historical inaccuracies, the correction of which can make a difference to future sales - the location of the magazine on a sten gun on the wrong side of a model for instance.

There are a few 'two bit' painters out there, but the majority of us are hard working professionals who take a real pride in what we do and who also have a vast amount of information in our heads, sometimes with more knowledge of a period in history than the manufacturer who is producing little lead dollies for it.

If there are two ranges of models which are equally good, you can be sure that a client will choose the one on which the painter can offer some incentive. Its a win/win scenario in this case with happy client, happy trade customer and happy manufacturer, who have all benefitted to some degree.

Right, with that little rant off my chest, I will bd you a very sincere 'good night' and join the memsahib for our weekly dose of 80s visual gratification.


TTFN

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Busy, Busy Busy...

Greetings,

As you may expect, I am as busy as ever with my 'day job' of painting figures, and I've been clocking up some long, long days in the last week or so. But, it pays the bills and for the decadent lifestyle which I demand in my middle years.

I've been mostly working on new releases for Heroics & Ros who, under the leadership and vision of Andy Kirk are simply going to new heights and standards of production.

In total I have 4 entirely new ranges on my work schedule this month alone. I can only reveal two of them to you here, but I know of several other ranges which are also under development, as I write.

First of all, I can show you the smallest of the new ranges in the form of a range of WW1 British troops for the Middle East and Mediterranean theatres which I love:


Then, there's a monster release of West German troops for the Cold War Era, which are something I have a particular penchant for:


As you can see, these are models which will give any other company a real run for their money. I love how the LMG gunners assistants have their G3 rifles on the ground at the side of them... PERFECT!

On the personal side of things I have purchased a few packs of ECW generals by Blue Moon in 15mm and I am actually looking forward to painting them to provide the command for my armies being painted by Lancashire Games. They are exquisite castings indeed, and I am hoping that a certain relative takes the hint and sends me the ECW camp scene for Christmas.

I also continued with my Age Of Sigmar acquisitions with this rather nicely painted Skaven Vermin Lord, which caught my eye:



And that's about it for this week. No long winded rants, moans or hypotheses to share. Of course I do have a few things I am mulling and formulating, but I am too busy to take the time to write them down at present. And besides, I have a fortnight's washing up to do:




TTFN