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.

Friday 25 July 2014

A Magical Mystery Tour

I was born in the middle of the last century {I know, it sounds pretentious!} and growing up as a lad in the 1950's when car ownership was not so widespread a 'Day Out' was always a special treat! Our local coach company in the village I grew up in would organise every summer a number of Saturday trips to local, and not so local, points of interest, but every now and again would throw in a special, a 'Mystery Tour' where the destination would only be revealed once you were underway! Sounds so naive when you read that now, does n't it? How times have changed in the last sixty odd years. Earlier this week Phil and Di took Sue and I out for the day on our own homage to the 'Mystery Tour' of my youth.
Dianne & Phil


Of course it was not a genuine 'Mystery Tour' as I knew where we were going! Can you guess? Well obviously it had to have a hobby related theme, for at least a part of the day. We went to East Stoke in Nottinghamshire, to visit the new home of Wargames Foundry.

We were all looking forward to our day out and, in rather untypically British style, the weather did not let us down, in fact we were blessed with a really wonderful warm and sunny day. When we drew up outside Foundry's new home we could n't help but admire the view and the location. Not a bad place to have to go to work we all agreed! The welcome was very warm and genuine, someone popping out from the gateway to usher us in and direct us to the new reception area and shop. Coffee and cake were immediately rustled up and Shaun, erstwhile of The Bunker fame, gave us a tour and an insight into the developments planned for the site. Sue and Di settled down for a chat on a bench in the sun drenched courtyard while Phil and I did some serious browsing!
Having reorganised my Late Roman armies onto Impetus sized bases, even though we are currently using Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargames Rules, I knew I needed some extra cavalry figures to balance the sides up. Sue very kindly said she'd treat me to to some figures to cheer me up, as I'm waiting for a full spine MRI scan to help sort out a long standing back problem and view the state of my hip joints! As there are several 'Special Offers' currently available I decided to expand the Late Roman armies ~

Two heavy infantry units, one armoured and one unarmoured. Were my first purchases, along with the extra cavalry figures I needed to round out an extra unit. These were easily picked from the multitude of racks in the extensive shop area. However, some packs were sold out. No problem, the elves in the casting area would scurry about and cast them up while I waited, said Shaun!

Barry, Ronnie and Steve hard at work!

Of course the 'Elves' are really three stalwart chaps, two of whom I've known for a long time. Steve, on the right, has worked for Foundry for over 21 years and must have cast up enough figures to satisfy the cravings of even the most demanding gamer's Lead Mountain! Ronnie, in the background, is busy casting up my additional Late Romans! Barry, who I met for the first time, is new to Foundry but well known in the Lead Belt wargames scene as organiser of the Cannon wargames show at Retford.

My extra command pack for the two new Late Roman infantry units and the Horse Archers. No need to blister them up as I'm there to take them away, still warm from the casting machine! (NB H&S means I took the photo of the casting area from the courtyard door ~ it would n't do to cross the line and risk splattering with molten metal after all!}

As with all orders from the Foundry, a few extra freebies are thrown in to tempt the returning customer! This is one of mine ~
Something for the Bhurpas in Rhanzlistan I felt! Its from an unreleased range I'm told {more of that in a mo.}

After a good night's sleep I've organised the stash into a more viewer friendly picture ~

From the top of the picture:-
Armoured Infantry
Mounted General & Bhurpa set
Unarmoured Infantry
Heavy cavalry {left}
Horse Archers{right}

I also got some much needed paint supplies ~ several of my shade pots in the range were as good as empty! I also took the time to get the 'Expert Fleash' set. Now I know that's pushing my painting prowess beyond the credibility of most viewers, but I thought it would be interesting to have the option to vary the effect of flesh tones more easily.
Returning for a moment to the theme I mentioned of unreleased ranges, I was genuinely surprised to see how much there was on the shop racks and of such a good standard too. I was especially struck by two ranges: 'Dark Age Germans and Franks' and 'Han Chinese'. Both ranges had some super figures. Phil bought a few of the Germans to supplement the Goth army he's building to fight the 3rd Century Romans he's well on with {I also gave him the extra pack of 'German Characters' I was given} I really do hope that all these so far unreleased ranges will make it onto the new and improved website in due course and get a wider audience than the visitors to the new location will provide.
Foundry have attracted their fair share of criticism in the last few years, but they remain a major player in our hobby and will for many years ahead I feel. If I have one small quibble myself, its with their current apparent obsession with 'Back to the Future' branding. I think that the hobby profile is changing as its demographic changes also. Newer gamers are drawn in by all sorts of new systems on offer which provide an avenue into the hobby for a reasonable cost. My generation was drawn in by the progression from vast armies of plastic toy soldiers or Airfix figures and model kits, today's gamer perhaps ventures into the Historical side of the hobby more likely from Fantasy gaming perhaps. So, no real impulse at first to acquire vast new armies, just a small Saga warband perhaps or a small force for Sharp Practice or Bolt Action. With smaller numbers of figures to be processed before a game can be enjoyed, perhaps gamers appreciate figures with more character which repay a little extra attention on the painting table? Just a personal view of course, but without the need to process yet another 24 or 36 man regiment there is more time and incentive to spend extra effort of a really excellent finish for Olaf, Sharpe or Tommy Adkins. That's not to say that they won't, like the rest of us oldies, be drawn to acquire vast collections to refight large battles from their chosen period of interest in due course, so there's always a place for the other style of figure, but times do change and people have to change with them or risk being left behind. Many more new kids on the block in the form of new firms and the advent of plastic figure sprues must mean that the established giants of our hobby will have to look to their front rather more intently than might be comfortable at times. No? Well, just my two penneth, please yourself.
The rest of our day? Well, lunch in Southwell, a visit to the Minster, some good shopping for the ladies, and for me ~ a book on Anglo Saxon England I've been after for a while for £3, result! ~ a quiet pint in the Minster Restaurant, a slow ride back to Phil's for a very welcome Fish & Chip supper and home in time to see some of Day One from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. As Wallace might have said to Grommit, 'A Grand Day Out'!


  1. Indeed a grand day out, the new location of Foundry may be a little out of the way but is a hell of a lot more salubrious than the St. Marks address.
    Have to echo a lot of your sentiments on the current state of the hobby too.

    1. Thanks, Phil! I do agree with you about the new location too compared to the old one.

  2. Sounds like a gret trip indeed, and quite agree with you with regards to the direction that future Foundry releases should take.

    One only need to look at their own "skirmish" oriented ranges to see how it could be done... (e.g. Swashbucklers, Pirates, or old West)

    1. As you say, they have many ranges ideally suited to the new type of gamer, but do they see it that way themselves? Time will tell I think.

  3. Great day out. I've made a recent note to self that this is one place I want to visit soon, so this post is quite fortuitous. I agree Foundry make some great ranges so no reason why they could not repackage some of their products to cash in on the surge of skirmish style games.

  4. Its in a lovely location, on a nice day such as we enjoyed of course. The question is really how they see their future in the new wargaming world.

  5. I didn't know that the new Foundry shop was at East Stoke, We parked outside the church last week and had a stroll around the 1487 battlefield.

    I think, especially during these lean times, more people are drawn to the skirmish style of games as it is obviously cheaper to start and quicker to play.


    1. They moved out of Nottingham a while ago now Matt. I think the long recession must have had an impact on people's plans and habits, although I'm told folk generally put off cuts in hobby spending until they are unavoidable.