Television is rather a frightening business. But I get all the relaxation I want from my collection of model soldiers.
Peter Cushing

Sunday 25 September 2016

The Adventures of Blind Percy

this is the customary "I ain't dead!" Post that everyone who works in education posts around this time of year. Settling in to the new school year - along with settling the Eldest into his first year of Primary School - means there's not been a lot of time for hobby shenanigans.

All I've managed to set brush to in the last couple of weeks is some base coat work on a troll and another ship of the line which I'm hoping to get finished this week.

In terms of gaming, this week we got to crack out Merchants and Marauders, the finest board game available that gives you the chance to live out your Captain Jack Sparrow fantasies.

The strength of the game is that you can play it how you like; you can tool around the Caribbean and win by taking tobacco, spices or wood - and just like playing Catan, you get all the usual jokes about who's got wood; you can chase down rumours of hidden gold, sunken ships or shady jobs; you can perform jobs for the great and good of the colonial powers; or you can hoist the Jolly Roger and cut a swathe through the merchants of the Caribbean - or other players. Each of these is an equally valid and effective way to win, making the game one my favourite sandboxes.

In terms of components, as you can see, it puts a lot of toys on the table so it's visually quite impressive.

The biggest problem, from my point of view, is that it requires dice rolls. At this point, I'd like you to meet my captain, Percival W. During the course of this game he:

Spent two turns looking for merchantmen and proved to be totally unable to find them. It's difficult to be a pirate if you insist on looking the other way.
Spent two turns looking for a new species of plant to compete a mission for a botanist. To put that into perspective, in that same space of time, another player made fortune hauling run to Trinidad.
Tried to attack another captain to stop her winning; she was sailing a bloody huge galleon. Again, he couldn't find her.

He therefore became known as Blind Percy. In the same game we discovered that G - a business studies teacher - was awful at making money. We named his ship the Saga as he appeared to be taking old folks on a very, very slow cruise, forgetting to pick up cargo in the ports that he visited. 

J, another new player, spent the whole game complaining she didn't understand the game while amassing a huge fund of gold and glory points. And finally my good lady wife set out avariciously making as much money as humanly possible. It was her I tried to sink in the last turn of the game, fact fans.

A good night was had by all; the game is quite overwhelming for people who've not played it before or who aren't used to modern board games, simply because of the amount of freedom it offers and the sheer number of moving parts but it flows well and has been requested for the next game night. I really do recommend M&M. It's probably the most played game in the collection and I know I'll have a good time playing it every time. 

Just so long as I'm not stuck with being Blind Percy again.

Saturday 10 September 2016

A Day At The Races

Having enjoyed thoroughly the rules for Faustus Furius, it was obvious that I would need some chariots. I had a scab around a few places - the Essex chariots looked quite nice, but the price was a little steep. Thankfully, some chaps on the Lead Adventure Forum recommended Outpost Wargames Services.

These fine chaps set me up with 4 chariots for £9.

That four lots of a chariot, a driver and four horses. For £9!

As you can see the sculpts are really nice for 15mm and certainly belie the price.

The only modelling that needed to be done was to create a yoke for the chariot shaft; I did this with some brass rod left over from the masts on the 1/1200 ships.

Once a simple base coat and shade was done...

...the only painting was a quick highlight. And then the finishing touch: using what I've learnt from rigging the 1/1200 ships, I made reins for each if the chariots out of cotton thread.

True story; the classical historian Mary Beard helped me choose the shades of colours for the four teams to match the red, white, green and blue of Caligula's time; as any I, Claudius fan knows, Caligula supported green. So I would like to thank her for taking time out of her Sunday to talk to some random bloke on Twitter about chariot colours. 

I imagine that things will slow down a bit here as the new school year gets in to full swing but do stay tuned; quite a few naval goodies to come next. 

Thanks for reading.  

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Avast! Splice the mainbrace and so forth

I ran into a slight problem with the naval games; I didn't have a suitable playing surface. I asked on the fighting sail Facebook group and they suggested a lot of excellent products but they were all a little expensive. Even the cheapest option - a Sails of Glory playing mat - was £35.

I was all for going to the local Boyes fabric department to buy some blue felt when a Google image search suggested something else.


For those of you unfamiliar with this it was more or less the first of Games Workshops most recent attempts at standalone games. It was a limited release and had no expansions. Being a game of naval warfare in the Old World it came with the usual GW quality components - one of which was a mat. I could find someone selling these mats on eBay for about £30 so it was already cheaper than most other options.

More digging led to the discovery that although the going price for a Dreadfleet box is around £60-70 some could be snapped up for lower prices if you box clever. I found a likely looking couple of listings and started the process of haggling using the Best Offer mechanism. After back and forth that would have done the Souk proud, we settled on £35 and a few quid postage. So I more or less got the mat and the rest of the game for a fiver. At that price I don't care if the game or components are shoddy, frankly. It's second hand but all that's been done is a few of the bits have been stuck together and one ship has been under coated. 

Today, it arrived.

I opened it up and oh, my Lord, it's gorgeous. The rule book is a work of art:

I'm used to the quality of GW plastic engineering but this is fabulous. The playing pieces are fabulously designed and sculpted but u hadn't realised how much impact they have on the tabletop. Here's a few of the pieces so you can get a sense of the sheer amount of character some of the ships and scenery have:

Even the simple game components are beautifully designed:

What I hadn't quite got to grips with was how BIG they were. Talk about impact on the table. Here's a few shots with a Gandalf for scale:

So regardless of everything else, I'm going to have enormous fun painting these; this is going to be a lovely little project to do. 

But what about the mat, I hear you cry? After all, that's my I bought it. The mat was still in the original bag; it's thin material but oh so pretty:

And here it is with the ships I painted:

I think that will do very nicely indeed, don't you?

I have no idea about the game; but if you like the idea of painting some fantasy ships and you see a copy of this cheap, snap it up. 

Monday 5 September 2016

End of the Summer

The new school year is about to start and this year it is rather special as my eldest son will start primary school.

This summer has been quite nice as, for the first time, he's shown an interest in the things I've been doing. I've even had the chance to do a simple dungeon bash with him which taught him the basic of dice rolling and practiced counting out squares. I thought I came up with the rules but I'm fairly sure my subconscious has kicked up a version of Rab's Knight's Quest work.

In any case, we've had a great time. So to commemorate it, and because this blog is as close to a permanent record as I have, here's a collection of pictures of my son geeking out with his old man. 

It's been a fun summer and bodes well for the future. Thanks for reading as always. 

Saturday 3 September 2016

The Glass Cabinet

Many moon ago, I was a member of the Warhammer Forum. There was one subforum in which I spent all my time, The Glass Cabinet. It was by hanging about in there that I more or less learned to paint again after I quit smoking. Although I was never the most prolific poster - I kept losing my login details and re-registering was a real pain - I often spent a long time browsing to learn new techniques and get inspiration.

I was saddened to hear  last month that TWF was dying, but gladdened that the Glass Cabinet was going to live on as a Facebook group which I joined immediately.

One of the first things that was organised was a group paintalong of the free miniature given away with the new White Dwarf; although I'm not a massive fan of GW's current fantasy aesthetic, I decided to join in.

Having decided to use him as single figure unit in my undead Dragon Rampant force, the first thing to do was to remove the obvious chaos markings. I filled in the symbol on the forehead with putty and covered the Khorne symbol on his belly with the skull. This immediately made him look like the Punisher and so suggsted a fairly muted, almost monochrome palette.

With this in mind, I used the same pre-shading as on the Batmobile and the Great Goblin and set out to colour him with washes and glazes.

This was basically a quick, fun project to do while I was waiting for glue to dry on something else so I didn't spend a long time; I did use a couple of Tamiya paints - transparent red for the skirt and smoke for the metal. The sword was done with ink over white.

Overall, quite happy with this for an evening's work. Will base him when I'm basing the chariots which are the next in the queue.