David Bickley's Wargames Blog

The occasional ramblings of an average gamer, journeyman painter, indifferent modeller, games designer, sometime writer for Wargames Illustrated and host of games in GHQ.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

All Quiet in GHQ

As I was on holiday for half the month, its only fair to say that its been relatively quiet here in GHQ in the main.
My painting total for May is a paltry 32 figures, all 28mm of course, and for a variety of established projects. The major part of this small output has been Foundry Indian Hill Tribesmen, the Bhurpas of course! I got them for £10 at the recent Open Day in the form of two Bargain Blisters. They have enabled me to add seven bases worth of figures to the Indian Mutiny forces and the long needed Sniper for the Mutineers ~ see earlier Blog entry.
Bhurpa warriors rushing to attack.

Bhurpa Firing Line.

Detail of the Bhurpa warriors.

They are amongst the nicest sculpts for the old Foundry Indian Mutiny range, a range which itself is one of the better examples of the Perry brothers work for them, as remarkable for its completeness as for its quality. On the subject of figures from the Nottingham giants I've also finished a final SYW base to bulk out the 3rd Foot Guards I was working on.
From Bicorne, a firm I have n't bought much from besides my ECW artillery, I've painted another ECW General. Strangely I can't recall who is was/is, but he is one of my Parliamentary Generals of Foote now.

Not my best effort, but he will do!

Other bits and bobs make up my total for May: Cromwell by Warlord Games for the ECW and three Rorkes Drift Defenders from Empress ~ all featured in earlier Blog entries.
I've only managed three games this month, although I can say, with some surprise, that I won them all! Over at Jon's we played two parallel War at Sea games: a strategic level 'Hunt the Fleet' game and an 'Island Hopping US assault'. Moving between two tables in different rooms is certainly taxing on the old brain, but great fun never-the-less. One of Jon's masterpiece games I think. Back in GHQ Phil and I played a small trial game of A Crowning Mercy, my prototype rules for the ECW, which resulted in a very satisfying and close win for Obadiah Bykleigh's small army. The rules seemed promising but much needs to be done still.
Finally last Friday, as I reported in the previous Blog entry, Dan from Wargames Illustrated came over to GHQ to take pictures of our 1940 Operation Zeelowe game, "Lord Emsworth's Last Stand". As Jon had to leave just before the climax of the game I got to be the winning Germans in the last turn! So, three out of three I will claim for this month!
Of course, for those of us in the Midlands area of the UK the end of May is synonymous with the first Partizan show of the year. I always look forward to these two versions of the show as the highlights of the year in some respects. Perhaps I endow them with too much expectation as I'm often of late left somewhat let down by the experience. This year I set out with not even a List to guide my shopping, let alone an idea of the games. Perhaps as a result of this ambivalent approach I enjoyed the show more than usual. For me the standout games were from: The League of Augsburg, showcasing Beneath the Lily Banners and the accompanying figure range from Barry Hilton; a Turkish medieval game from Derby Wargames Society; the Bunker's Viking and Skraeling game; and, finally, the Perry Brothers Wars of the Roses game, the latter despite the plastic figures! I even managed some retail therapy in the end: another ECW Regiment of Foote in the form of Perry Miniatures from Dave Thomas' stand; the Pike & Shotte rules from Warlord Games;a pack of Perry Ninjas; and finally, a pack of pikes from Coritani. All in all a good show I thought, especially as so many chums from Scotland had made it down to the show ~ Hello Kevin, David, Barry, David and Colin!!
Of course, the weather in the second half of the month might have infused me with more optimism and satisfaction than May has deserved in GHQ, but it would be churlish to complain after April's blast!

Friday 25 May 2012

300 not out!

Last October I received an email from Dan at Wargames Illustrated outlining their plans for a 'Special' heavyweight edition to mark the 300th issue of the magazine in September 2012 and asking if I would like to contribute an article for inclusion on their chosen theme of Last Stands. An intriguing offer which it seemed a might churlish to turn down, so I accepted, even though at that point I had no idea what I might choose for my contribution to the theme!
Move forward several months and you find, much painting and play testing later, that I've arrived at the finished product: a 1940's Operation Zeelowe game from our ongoing 'Pig Who-o-o-o-ey!' themed campaigns. At this point, for those of you not familiar with the wonderful world of P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle, with Clarence, Lord Emsworth, his prize fat pig, the Empress of Blandings and a whole host of improbable characters I can only refer you to a local library or bookshop and hope you too will be captivated by their charm...
So, yesterday I was up bright and early to finish preparation here in GHQ for the playing of the final version of the game ~ Lord Emsworth's Last Stand, no less. Phil and Jon duly arrived in good time to take on their roles as the gallant British defenders of freedom and all we hold dear and the vile Hun respectively, while Dan unpacked his photographic paraphernalia and tested lighting exposures and camera angles and all that technical stuff!
Dan closes in on a shot of the Fallschirmjaegers skulking in the woods around Blandings.

There was a lot of fighting in Market Blandings itself, where Phil's LDV put up gallant resistance to the Wehrmacht forces pressing them on two fronts.

The armed Blandings Castle staff, nobly lead by Clarence himself, stoutly defended the castle ~ and the pig ~ from Jon's Falschrimjaegers, against enormous odds it must be said!

Of course I can't reveal who was bringing home the bacon at the conclusion of the game, that would rather spoil things for the September issue. Now, all I need to do is decipher all those scribbled notes I made yesterday and the article can be finished off for Dan PDQ. Toodle Pip!

Thursday 24 May 2012

Pleasing some of the people...

...some of the time, as the saying has it. I've recently had the pleasure of reading reviews of some of my published rule sets in the wargames press, together with following several other threads in  the blogosphere from those folk who have played out the rules across their tabletop battlefields. I've had some experience in writing reviews myself, mainly in the former incarnation of Wargames Illustrated, so I have a grasp of the constraints reviewers contribute under, but its still interesting I find to read what folk think of my work. On the other hand, a tiny minority of comments in the blogosphere can reveal a rather more unwelcome side to the hobby: namely the view that a product is falling short of perfection in some way or another. Its almost as if this small minority again feel that we are entitled to a perfect, effort-free hobby experience now we have spent a few pounds on a product.
Some of the things which many folk have commented on have been very encouraging I've found, reinforcing my view that there is a strong market for straightforward rules ~ some call it an Old School approach, but I prefer straightforward as a description myself. {I've often thought that my approach to things like rule writing is a result of thirty years spent teaching youngsters, where the main trick always seemed to me to be rendering the complex down to the simple, so that the children could build a firm foundation in their learning which could then be appled to other more complex issues.}
Now, with a wider perspective, just pause for a minute and reflect on how ridiculously well served we are for such a small hobby ~ if not in girth anyway ~ by such an army of talented folk who provide everything we need from figures, through uniform guides, potted histories and rulesets, to buildings and terrain pieces. We can even get our figures painted for us if we want, no need to do anything for ourselves at all. So I think its a concern for our hobby in general when I read that a person found that any product was not what they were looking for expressed in a negative tone as if to apportion blame. We could always do our own research, make our own figures, build our own terrain and write our own rules ~ as indeed many still do ~ like the founding fathers of our hobby. But of course the dismal johnnies, as I like to think of them,  won't do any of those things, prefering to moan on when someone does anything for them, never satisfied with anything really. Of course, you see this particularly in respect to releases of new figure ranges, when they can be minutely discected for faults and failings, without any thought to the fact that they will be viewed from several feet away during a game.
I've come to think of this as a Holy Grail Syndrome in our hobby! Its a view I've arrived at over forty years of wargaming and exposure to all sorts of gamers both here at home and in the USA. I'd like to think that I'm a positive person, at least in hobby terms, who always enjoys looking over new things which might enrich my gaming experiences but perhaps I am out of step with everyone else here. So, if I like something I'll say so loudly and enthusiastically; if I don't, I'll keep my counsel to myself and let others make up their own mind.Now, this is not a rant, nor is it a diatribe against free speech; but rather a plea for a little perspective in our response to new releases of any kind.

The encouraging feedback I've recieved on my rulesets has lead me to embark on another project, this time for the English Civil War and provisionally entitled A Crowning Mercy. I've been toying with ideas for about a year on and off, so I finally took the plunge and got my ideas down on paper in outline during my recent holidays. Back home, I translated my scribblings into a prototype Play Sheet so Phil and I could give the rules a table top run through. We felt they worked really well in the main, but I've made a few refinements based on our thoughts and they'll have another run through next month. If any other groups of gamers would like to try a play test they can email me and I'll send them a copy. They'll have to earn their corn, of course, by making suggestions for developments {as well as promising faithfully not to 'borrow' my work!} More news, as they say, as and when there are any developments. Now, back to painting Indian Hill Tribesmen for the Mutiny!

Sunday 20 May 2012

Back {-ish} in the groove

You know, its ruddy cold and damp in this country! At least it is after the sun and warmth of Cyprus. I feel that I need a holiday, even though the sun has just burst through the grey lowering clouds...
Enough of that maudlin talk anyway. I have managed a little painting since we got home. I've started on the Hill Tribesmen for the Indian Mutiny project {and perhaps for some NW Frontier action sometime too}. I picked up two Bargain Blisters at the last Foundry Open Day, and have enough figures for a unit and the addition of a Marksman to my Mutineers' force too. So far I've done one base of three warriors and the Marksman base. I think they will have to be the Burphas, after Carry on up the Khyber...

Before we went away to Cyprus, I had finished three more figures for the Anglo-Zulu War project. They are from the character additions of Rorke's Drift defenders from Empress Miniatures. I'd like a few more British infantry in 'shirt sleeve order' if anyone from Empress reads this...

I'm also adding to my ECW collection of generals. In this case the Warlord version of Oliver Cromwell. Not the best of their figures in my opinion, but, "He'll Do!" as Phil might say...

I've also embarked on a new writing project: rules for the English Civil War, provisionally entitled "A Crowning Mercy". They'll be in the style of all my previously published efforts and may be ready by the turn of the year. I did quite a lot of work on them on holiday, sitting by our pool and sipping the odd G & T in the cool of the late afternoon. It certainly beats work I'd have to say! Toodle Pip!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Wettest April for 100 years!

Well, the weather just about goes with much of my month I think! I've only managed five games: not many by our recent standards here in GHQ. More than many will have managed I realise, but disappointing never-the-less. Even more so when I reveal that I lost three of those and drew the other two. A whole month without a win, oh deary me! The games comprised: a 1st Boer War game; an Anglo-Zulu War game; two ECW games; and finally, an ACW game. There have been photo reports of all of these earlier on the Blog, so I won't dwell on my performance now...

...in fact the photo from the opening of the Anglo-Zulu War game probably represents the high spot of my gaming performances for the month!
Painting has proceeded steadily, with 54 figures moving from the 'lead pimple' to finished state. They have all been for my ongoing projects of course: AZW stuff from Empress; mortars and crew for 1940 from Artizan; FIW figures from Redoubt Enterprises; SYW British Grenadiers from Foundry; and finally some odd bits from Perry Miniatures. A really mixed bag, but it has kept me motivated in what has proved to be a difficult month in some respects.
I've been out and about on two visits this month: to Salute of course and latterly to the latest Foundry Open Day. Firstly Salute: don't like the venue ~ its soulless, making it truly difficult to appreciate some wonderful work in the many games; miles from anywhere interesting; indifferent catering; expensive parking, I could go on! Despite these drawbacks I enjoyed the show. I bought lots of goodies for next year's Samurai bash and for my AZW games, but the highlight was the Shark Class VSF submersible vessel.

There were some really nice games on show, although its invidious to mention just some I think. I spent time on the Mars game put on my Nick of Boot Hill Miniatures and the Samurai game by James of Oshiro mostly, as I know the chaps and admire their work. The Corunna game was striking, but I'm left wondering if it was a game or a diorama really. Still, no denying that it was impressive. The show also seemed much busier into the afternoon than in previous years, so perhaps our hobby is a good indicator of economic recovery? Or not?
Obviously, I've mentioned what I bought at Salute, but what about Foundry's Open Day. I wanted paint, so it was easy to pick the single pots up there rather than order them. I enjoy rummaging through the many Bargain Blisters on offer of course, as well as looking at what's been made but not yet released. I got three BB's for my Indian Mutiny games, mostly Indian Hill Tribesmen, but also a war elephant for the Raja of Rhanli's growing army.

That's about it for now. I'm off back to my painting desk to finish the Warlord Oliver Cromwell and some more SYW Foundry British Grenadiers before I'm off to Cyprus for a few weeks. See you all later in May!