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 31 December 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Well, you will all know what Burns had to say about them! In terms of the second half of 2014, especially the latter months, he might even be said to have had my hobby in mind! Things have rather tailed off towards the fag end of the year and if I'm brutally honest with myself, they don't show much signs of improvement. Too much real life has raised its head recently: family and personal illness has been rife; wargames chums have had to deal with difficult family issues; the conversion of the garage has ground to a halt due to a bereavement in the builder's family;so, as a consequence, my muse has gone, like my left eye, AWOL for long periods of time. But, 'Glass Half Full' is the only way forward into 2015 if I'm to rediscover the joy and friendship the hobby has always bought me in past years.
I've only managed 27 games in the second half of the year, a very poor total compared to our usual number here in GHQ. The latter two months have been especially sparse as real life raised its ugly head with a vengeance! In truth, the number has been inflated really by a number of short, small games recently, like Monday morning's Ancient game using Neil Thomas' Two Hour Rules and a Wings of War WWI bash after lunch! Of the 27 games I managed to win 15 and draw 2, so only 10 defeats to mull over!
Final moments for Baldinus' forces at Thingswill Pass

Painting has also trailed off in the latter months of 2014 due to a combination of illness, eyesight issues and loss of the muse. I've managed 298 pieces in the six months to today, all of them 28mm and mostly for my Wars of the French Revolution project, interspersed with odd figures for Pulp games and some new figures for the Rhanzlistan Field Force project.
Black Pyramid pieces for The Great Detective game

 The latter collection should grace the pages of Wargames Illustrated sometime in 2015 to illustrate an article I've written for them about imagineering in the Raj. I spent a tiring but enjoyable day with Dan when he came over from their Nottingham HQ to take the photos for the piece, as I mentioned in an earlier post. As a magazine for our hobby WI really does knock spots off the opposition, not just in overall quality, but in sheer number of sales, outselling the other two main magazines put together. For my money wargaming is spectacle, or it is nothing! WI shows that off in abundance every month, so it gets my vote for Hobby Contribution of 2014.
Despite all the outside interuptions to our hobby time, Phil and I have still managed to visit a few shows: Partizan II, Derby Worlds and Wargamer. Sue and I went up to Edinburgh for a long weekend break and I visited Claymore while we were there. Always a grand show; get there, or indeed Carronade in Falkirk, if you've not been! As a bonus I get to meet all of my Scottish chums ~ and I have to add, I'm still really glad that they will be British chums too! I also managed to visit the new Foundry location again in the grounds of Brian Ansell's home, while Sue was in the Lake District with her sister, and top up on paints for the winter, oh and a few new figures too! We also went down to Evesham and popped into Gripping Beast for a mooch about. So, adjusting my perspective, not all doom and gloom in 2014!
So, forward into 2015 it must inevitably be. Who can say what the new year will bring us all? Not me that is certain, given my lack of ability to predict Lottery numbers! I can however say what I hope for hobby wise in the new year. I would like to finish the French for my Wars of the French Revolution project before Sue and I go off on holiday in late February, to New Zealand if anyone is interested. That's two infantry battalions and a unit of Hussars, a really stiff ask given my recent output ~ 22 figures in December, about half to a third of the usual number! That will lead me on then after April to the Austrians I bought from Trent at Partizan and for which I lack many painting references at this point! The 'Lead Pimple' also includes three new units for my Late Romans, another infantry unit for my 1914 BEF collection, more Pulp and Rhanzlistan figures and more besides! I have resolved to buy fewer new figures in 2015; let's just hope I can keep to that and whittle down the backlog as the year unfolds!
I'd like to close by wishing everyone who visits this Blog, even if they never leave a comment on anything, a

Sunday 28 December 2014

A Queen, an Empress and an Emperor in waiting...

Well, Christmas is over for another year here in GHQ and we are getting ready for the last game of 2014 tomorrow, when Phil will be here for one of our occasional all day games. Not sure yet what it will be, but I'm hoping to be able to post about it before the end of the year. Back to Christmas though, just for a minute if you don't mind. I was really lucky in hobby related items in this year's Christmas stocking as I hope you'll agree.
From Phil I got two wonderful gifts. First up was the Pulp Miniatures' Jungle Queen special charity figure, who I've named 'Queen Leftitia' and who will figure in upcoming Pulp games in 2015 I'm sure ~

Secondly, a rather spiffing centre piece for our Great Detective/1940/Blandings townscape, a statue of the Queen Empress herself. I believe its the Sergeants Mess figure with an added plinth to make it more suitable for our 28mm games ~

From my son Matt and his family I got a painted Foundry special figure of Napoleon crossing the Alps after Davide, which will fit right in with my Wars of the French Revolution project as it develops over 2015 ~

And lastly, from my wife Sue, I got a rather splendid tome covering the Great War with loads of photographs and documents to illustrate the history of the war. I'm sure that will be a real find as we develop our various Great War themed games in 2015 ~

We've had a really good Christmas here with Ruth, Craig and William staying for the holiday, which enabled me to be in full time Grandad mode! The only fly in the ointment came on Boxing Day when we were stuffed at home by Swindon in a game played out in a blizzard! Oh well, what can I expect after all these years as a Walsall fan really?

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Sick Parade

Apologies for my absence from the Blog and the lack of news, but I have been confined to quarters for a couple of weeks with Hand, Foot and Mouth, which I apparently contracted via one of our grandsons. Was quite poorly for a while, and had a bellyful of DEFRA jokes when I was on the mend. The only plus out of it all was that I lost 9lbs, which I am attempting to keep off over the Christmas period!!! As a result of all this there's been no gaming of course here in GHQ and no painting. All I have to show for the month is one unit of British Dragoon Guards for my Wars of the French Revolution project. They are from Front Rank this time and were a very protracted paint job but the end result is OK I think. Judge for yourselves anyway ~

A couple of shots of the whole Regiment to show how they will look on the tabletop battlefield. This is my second Heavy Dragoon unit for the British. I'll probably add a second Light Dragoon unit sometime later in 2015.

A closer view, to reassure any of you who think my painting might have been improving! In fact I've had quite a few problems with my left eye loosing focus while I've been painting these. It slowed me down quite a bit, as did the illness of course, but I'm trying to paint a little now each day, although only some odds for The Great Detective game which I picked up from Black Pyramid Games at Wargamer last month.
Just time left now to wish all who visit the site from time to time

Saturday 6 December 2014

The Camera doesn't Lie...

...well, at least that's what the old saying would have us believe. As to the reality of the situation, folk will be able to judge for themselves in the New Year when my next article for Wargames Illustrated rolls of the presses. Dan Falconbridge, the WI Editor here in the UK, was here in GHQ yesterday taking photos to accompany a piece I've written about 'Imagineering' on the North West Frontier; well, about our Rhanzlistan Field Force project specifically. If you have ever wondered about the process involved from tabletop to finished magazine photo as you've scanned your monthly copy of the hobby's pre-eminent magazine I can throw some light on the process after this latest day spent posing and photographing our figures, terrain and game set up. In all Dan was busy for about four and a half hours and took 78 photos in that time! I suppose about 6 will be used in the final piece next year!{Perhaps the February or March issue, as January's is already printed now.} More may make the digital format of the magazine for those of you who subscribe that way and three have appeared in their 'raw' form on the Facebook WI site already!
Between moving stuff around, finding bits and pieces, holding the backdrops Dan carries around with him on photoshoots, and trying not to fall over the lighting supports or trip over the power cables I managed to take a few illustrative photos ~

Three shots of the same thing really: Dan the cameraman in action under the strong lighting he brings to the sessions; Phil acting as 'Atlas' holding up the world, or at least the backdrops {which are interesting in themselves, one being painted and the other photoshopped}; and the third showing the scene captured in that one shot. Although the two backdrops are alarmingly different where they meet, judicious editing and photoshopping of the final pictures will render that invisible in the end product I'm told.

The photoshopped background is downloaded from the web and then blurred slightly to create the illusion of depth in the distance. Where the board meets the table edge can be blurred away too to give an even greater feel of the scene stretching away into the 'distance'. In some shots the background is used upside down to provide a gentle blue backdrop too. These are my Mutineer Miniatures resin buildings with the two scratchbuilt shrines I made. The trees and vegetation are a mixture of The Last Valley, plastic palms of various sizes from Tiger Miniatures, and the ubiquitous aquarium plants from a local Garden Centre or Pet Store! It really does look much better in this photo than I thought it would before we started!

Several scenes are set up at the same time, to make the photographer's job easier, as this is not a battle report article but a guide to how we set about the project, illustrated by photographs of the finished collection. {Finished? What am I saying?} So in the picture we have: a cavalry charge; aerial combat above the table; a Bhurpa ambush; and an encounter with two Yetis! The 'mountain range' in the back right was a £4.00 buy at the Garden Centre, reduced because it was cracked. Phil washed it with Sepia ink to tone down the in your face orange colour and dry brushed it with creamy white so that it almost matches the buildings' colour scheme.

So many photographs are taken in a session, far more that you might imagine, and all posed specially for the effect Dan wants to create to accompany a piece. The main camera has two different lenses; for table shots and for close ups; but I was also surprised to see Dan using his mobile phone to take even closes shots of figure groups than the one in the picture above. By the time the session was deemed to be over Dan had taken 78 photos as I said at the start and I was really tired! Anyway, I hope this is of general interest to some of my visitors at any rate. As I said, keep an eye out for the finished piece and the pictures from yesterday in the New Year. Now, back to painting Dragoon Guards for the Wars of the French Revolution project...

Monday 1 December 2014

Wargamer 2014

Phil and I went down to Halesowen yesterday to pay a visit to the Wargamer 2014 show, our last event of the year! In previous years the event has been held in Great Barr school's sports hall, and it suffered from those awful yellow lights which really do spoil the visual spectacle of many games on show! This year it had transferred to Leasowes High School, to their Leisure Centre actually. I'm pleased to report that it has white lights, which meant the games and trade stands could be properly appreciated, even by the elderly in attendance!
Wargamer is not a large show. It attracts perhaps 15-20 traders and perhaps 12-15 games in general. It is a local show though, so we feel it has to be supported. The new venue was not difficult to find following the map provided by the organiser and the venue seemed to have ample parking for the numbers it attracts. The admission is £4.00 and £2.00 for concessions, perhaps on the high side for a local show? A matter of an individual's perception I think. As a 'Concession' I don't think I can complain!!!! There is an onsite cafe servicing tea, coffee and bacon sandwiches ~ at least while we were there in the morning! Its a friendly event and there are lots of games on show which you don't see on the wider circuit. The show also has a Bring and Buy, although this year for the first time I did n't snaffle a bargain! {That was from Col Bill's actually this year!}
The programme provided is a little out of the ordinary in that it has no plan of the layout, not a problem on the day as its all in one sports hall and you can just mooch about and find everything! Bit of a problem now though, as I can't label some of the games I took pictures of, not having made any notes on the day either; so apologies to any whose sterling efforts I render anonymous! Some I have no problem with, as I've known the chaps {and chapesses}involved man and boy, but others I don't see on the display circuit elsewhere. I know, I really should have taken notes.... So, the games I did manage to snap on my iPhone's camera in no paricular order ~
First up a 20mm game by my old chum Dave Page from Kinver, assisted by his wife Erica and other folk from their group! Dave's games are always unusual and full of detail. Russians v Hungarians I think?

Next up, Alumwell Wargames Society's Napoleonic game. Still some folk there from my time in the 1970's and early 1980's, although much greyer now I have to say.

For the eagle eyed, a 6mm Franco-Prussian War battle! While its not my scale or period you have to agree it really does look like a battle scene! Guys from Stafford I think putting this game on.

I know this chap! "Hi Jon!"

My personal favourite of the games on show, the siege of Malta. Some really lovely small details caught the eye each time I came back to the game. This game was put on by the Wyrley Retinue. {I wonder if I taught any of these chaps during my stint there?}

The smoke signals really made me smile in this Plains War game. The fire below had a twinkling LED light in it which really set off the vignette! Again, I can't say who put this splendid game together.

A very visually attractive Flames of War game, proof that all those who play the game are not afflicted by the tank park syndrome!

The Battle of Northampton, by the Society of Ancients I think.

Another Napoleonic game set in Russia I think. TSS tiles much in evidence making up the terrain. Still the terrain of choice for many folk I find.

The American Civil War gets a look in here. Basic terrain layout might disappoint the purist, but this is how many folks' games look at the club or in the home and its less daunting for the newcomer to see this than some of the outstandingly sculpted and detailed terrain at the peak of the hobby display circuit! Plus, it was being vigorously played by the folk involved, another plus over some you see!

The Guards Wargames Club's Ardennes 1944 game, one of the few with a display explaining the game for passing geriatric photographers! Well Done Chaps!

The Border Warlords' Ancient set to! Another with a helpful display board! Well done to them too!

Another Ancient game on display by the Cobridge group from Stoke on Trent. A Punic Wars game using Armarti rules I think.  Again, the chaps involved were intent on playing the game and not just looking at it!

There were other games on show, but I think this gives a good flavour of the show's offerings. We stayed about three hours, which should show that there's plenty to see and enough traders for most folk to find something the really do need! Me? I got the 2014 Wargamers' Annual Summer Special and the 2015 Wargamers' Annual from Caliver Books. From Col Bill's I got some nice Victorian madness in the form of Mad Lord Snapchase, on his steam powered penny farthing, his man carrying enough shotguns to put paid to anyone or anything he encounters, together with his mechanical dog! From Black Pyramid Gaming I got a resin water pump and a resin Victorian post box for our Great Detective games. £3.00 each seemed a fair price, as I'd walked a few feet from their stand to Col Bill's and saved £1.50 on the figures I mentioned! "Well Found, Phil!"
Wargamer 2015 is scheduled for December 6th at the same venue. We shall be there again {DV} and hope many more of you will make the trip to support a local event! Hard to say how many were there this year, but I'd guesstimate about 250 myself, so a decent enough crowd!
{As a postscript, I've been out 'enjoying' Christmas Shopping today at an Outlet and amongst all the cut price Designer Clothing and the Christmas avalanche of tatt I got a Diecast Gloucester Gladiator in 1940 camo and markings for Europe. Just right for our Operation Zeelowe/ Blandings/ VBCW games and a steal at £6.00 I think!}

Saturday 29 November 2014

Move along the bus!

I've been successful in a couple of eBay auctions in the last week! Rather unusual for me as I don't like over paying for things on the whole. Amongst my successful bids have been, not one, but two 1/48th Corgi horse drawn omnibuses! Given that some were priced from £79 on the site I was really chuffed to get mine for a total outlay of £39 including postage and packing! That works out at about £15 each for the models. See what you think anyway ~

That brings my vehicle collection for the game to five now: the two omnibuses mentioned here; two prepainted carriages drawn by two and four horses respectively, which I got at a local Toy Emporium a while back, and which are shown in the two pictures below; and the Warbases Hansom Cab which I'm working on occasionally.
The omnibus is photographed straight out of the box in front of a run of Terraced Houses by Oshira Models. While the prepainted folk are a tad larger than the wargames figures for the game, they will do for me. As its a game we'll play occasionally over a year I'll not waste time and effort repainting them, they will do! Though I may base them just to protect the more vulnerable small pieces like the brakes.

"Reach me the Bradshaw, Watson!"

Friday 21 November 2014

Raid on New Cheltenham

One of the joys which wargaming has bought into my life has been the many good friends I've made along the way. While regular readers will know that my most frequent opponents here in GHQ are Phil and Jon, there are many others who figure from time to time when they can make the trip here. One such part time regular, John Aston, joined Phil and I yesterday for a three handed F&IW game. John took command of the British and the citizens of New Cheltenham, Phil the French and yours truely the Indians, The table layout ~

At the outset of the game Fort Aston has a small garrison of British Regulars commanded by Major Joroas. ( As an aside, the blockhouse was a £14 buy on a Bring and Buy a few years back. Probably one of my best buys as it was ready painted) ~

Each of the settlement buildings then had a number of citizens who were prepared to do or die in defence of their homes. The folk from Paddock Hall, the 'big house' thereabouts ~

The Rawnsley family and the Rev Jeremiah Bykleigh ~

The poor folk from the pig farm ~

The British had the possibility of being reinforced as the game went on. As it happened, John's dice throwing seemed to become infected by my usual lack of success, although when they did arrive eventually they helped to turn the day in the British favour! In addition, the British have their own 'hero', Owleye and his faithful Indian follower ~

The French enter from the point where the road enters the far side of the table from New Cheltenham, while the Indians will enter randomly to simulate the cunning woodland ways! {For the look of things though, their riverside camp is represented on the far end of the French side of the table} ~

As the game developed the French Regulars rushed the bridge over the creek and were soon drawing the British out of Fort Aston to defend the Hall ~

The good folk of New Cheltenham gave a good account of themselves against the French woodsmen and their Indian allies in fierce fighting on the pig farm, although Chief Biccachook's "braves" did carry off two of their womenfolk into captivity ~

The failure of that part of the French force was more than compensated for when the other group of irregulars managed to set Paddock Hall ablaze ~

Sadly though, for Phil and I at least, the British gained the upper hand and the French found themselves penned in at the end of the main street being assailed on all sides by Regulars, Light Infantry and Rangers ~

At that point it became clear that the French could not win. The Indians had rather let the side down, taking more care to carry off the women than to get involved in the fight until it was too late! The Regulars for the french fought well, but were simply overwhelmed in the end and lacked the support of their irregular allies who were bogged down in a vicious fight with the folk of New Cheltenham. Never the less, we all enjoyed the game immensely and, for me at least, that is what matters most now a days!
For those of you who like to know these things the rules were our home version of Astounding Tales by Howard Whitehouse; the figures are all from Redoubt Enterprises; the Hall is from Architectural Heritage; the houses, barn, out buildings and closet were scratch built many moons since; the trees are from The Last Valley and the bridge is from Ian Weekley's old Battleground range; the wickups are from Grand Manner and the canoes from Redoubt.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Latest Recruits for the Revolutionary French

I bought some of the Trent Miniatures French Heavy Cavalry at Derby Worlds earlier in the year and they have rather quickly, for me at any rate, made it to the front of the painting queue! At present there are no Command figures for these, although Duncan thinks he may get them done next year. I had a few spare Foundry mounted officers [new sculpts] left over so I was able to fit them into each unit for now. The result is two bases for the 4th Cavalry and four bases for the 27th Cavalry. These will add to the 7th Cavalry and the Dragoons I've already completed to make a decent sized Heavy formation for our table size I feel. I've also been painting a few Elite Company Skirmishers as I had four figures left over from my 24 figure battalions and did n't want them to go to waste!

The 27th Cavalry, chosen merely because I fancied the orange facings! Cavalry Regiments in our games are eight figures on four bases. I used the figures whose poses I liked most for this full Regiment of Heavy Cavalry, adding two mounted officers from Foundry. For the 4th Cavalry I used those with what I thought was an unsatisfactory pose and added an officer from Foundry to make them up to four figures on two bases.

The 4th Cavalry: the mounted officer is from Foundry as I said, the four troopers from Trent Miniatures. Whoever sculpted these, the figures are not really up to the standard of the infantry Matt sculpted, as I've said before, but they are redeemed in my view by the decent horses, sculpted by Mark Copplestone I believe. Their main fault is the stiffness of the pose and the lack of more pronounced detail, especially on the clothing. The separate heads do help to mitigate the stiff poses though on the positive side. They are not so poor though that I would n't use them, so don't think I would n't want you to add them to your Revolutionary French!

The four spare Trent Miniatures Elite Company figures, two firing and two loading, which I've based separately to use as skirmish figures. I've enough Battalions for the french to enable me to group the Elite Companies together into a composite battalion to boost the French options in a game. Next up in the painting queue will be some Front Rank early British Dragoons, which I think I will paint up as the Life Guards. I hope to get to these later in November as I'm trying to finish some stuff for Rhanzlistan as Wargames Illustrated  are coming to GHQ at the end of the month to photograph our collections to accompany an article I've written for them about our project.