Never Break the Chain

One of the problems with being a wargamer is that you can be influenced by other gamers, be it in person  – at your FLGS or local club – or online – in a forum or on a blog such as this.

Whilst the majority of the time, this can be a positive experience, where you gain insight into a new painting style or have a manufacturer brought to your attention that you weren’t aware of, who stocks items that fulfill a specific need in your current project, there are times when something catches your eye or imagination and you suddenly find yourself having shelled out for a new game or figures from a new genre or scale, which are sufficiently different from your normal wargaming fare that you either put them to one side and promise you’ll look at them “later” or you stutter to a halt, as the overwhelming nature of the new project causes your brain to spasm

In other words, you broke the chain.

In my experience, in order to be successful and productive in our wonderful hobby, you do need to maintain momentum, as a two-week “break” from the hobby can easily slip in to a month or even a year if you’re not careful. This hobby momentum I refer to as the chain, so I can cheekily use lyrics from the Fleetwood Mac track of the same name for the post’s title, but also because is IS a chain – if you use it correctly.

Now, this is just MY theory on how to maintain momentum in your hobby pursuits, so feel free to disagree, but it works for me, so I’d thought I’d share it with you.

If you concentrate on a single genre or project for an extended period of time, unless it is something you are committed to or are extremely passionate about, you will experience burn-out. This can lead to a loss of momentum or, in the worse-case scenario, a loss of “love” for that particular project or genre.

Which is not good.

I find that having a small handful of different projects, which share a similar scale, means that I can easily transition from one to another when I start to become jaded with one particular project. It does help that the majority of my projects have an element of the macabre, so whilst I game Victorian Fantasy/Horror, Japanese Medieval Fantasy, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters and the current Alternate Star Wars project, some of the figures I use will turn up in multiple genres. And as Superhero gaming covers every possible permutation of genres and this was my first ‘love’ when I returned to gaming from the wilderness, it has kind of influenced the way I look at every other genre – so most of the projects I do are a blend of more than one thing.

Because there is this transition, this ‘sharing’ of resources and figures, I can easily slide from one project to another if I feel myself becoming “bored” with a particular project, so I don’t fall out of love with it, lose hobby momentum and break the chain, which, according to Fleetwood Mac, you should NEVER do.

Now, this transitioning can also be used in writing posts for your blogs. Sometimes, I’ll read a post which covers so many different projects or genres that it as though the author has just opened his head and spilled the contents on to the screen, without any concern or forethought as to how all these disparate parts come together. It can be somewhat jarring and reduces my enjoyment of reading that particular post. But, if there is some underlying theme or link between everything you’ve included in your post, then you can cover multiple genres or projects in one post without anyone even realising.

I’ll show you what I mean and you can judge for yourself how successful I’ve been…

So, way back in April of this year, I trotted off to the Excel Centre for the annual Salute wargaming convention and, being one of the first 5,000 through the doors, got my goodie bag with various freebies.

As a gamer with a limited budget, I am a fan of free wargaming stuff, although I sometimes can’t think of a particular use for the item when I first receive it. This happened with last year’s freebies, which ended up being sent to Stevie, as he’d missed on on Salute that year and was drooling over the free figures – and I had no use for them.

We’re gamers – that’s what we do.

Anyway, one of this year’s freebies was this;

This was a promo figure for Archon Studios new planned game Starcide, a sci-fi skirmish game, namely a Necromancer from the Legion of the Black Sun faction.

At the time, I had no real use for him. However, as I considered the various factions within my Star Wars-inspired project, I speculated on what would happen if a member of the Order of the Sentinels fell completely and started using their powers to siphon off the life-force of others to prolong their own life. I think they’d end up looking like a Legion of the Black Sun Necromancer…

Now, Archon Studios also had some promo examples and leaflets for their next project to be launched on Kickstarter at Salute, a hard plastic modular scenery system called ‘Dungeons & Lasers’, which allowed you to build either dungeons or sci-fi complexes out of set of interlocking components. Looked pretty cool and exactly the kind of thing I’d be interested in, so I grabbed a couple of leaflets to read up on it.

After the show, I visited their website and signed up for their email newsletter, so I could be kept in the loop. Prior to the launch of the Kickstarter for this new project, anyone who’d signed up for the newsletter received an email asking if they’d like a free sample of the new kit…

As I’ve stated before, I LIKE free wargaming stuff… so said yes.

This is what I got;

So, this sprue/frame contains enough components to create a small corridor with two walls… and an animal companion. It’s a fairly substantial bit of kit, as each floor section approximately 3mm thick and each wall section about 5mm thick. Floor sections are single-sided, with tabs that the rectangular connectors on the sprue clip on to, to ensure they don’t shift about. The wall sections are double-sided and in the production version will have different styles of either the fantasy or sci-fi decor on, so you can chooses which side you want showing. The way the bits clip together is really straightforward and the product is pretty robust.

The Kickstarter launched on 13th August 2019 and has now been successfully funded, but late pledges can still be made here. Lowest scenery pledge is $99, for which you get one base set of your preferred genre choice AND three extra rooms of your choice.

I know that I’ve previously stated that I’m not a fan of Kickstarters, but on this occasion, having seen the stuff in the…er…plastic AND if I had the cash, I would definitely buy in to this. Have a look yourself, as it might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

I also received another unexpected email recently, from Keith aka the Angry Piper from Dead Dick’s Tavern & Temporary Lodging. He’d sent me a photo of an item he thought I might like and asked if I wanted it.

Free wargaming stuff? Oooh, yes please…

Anyway, this is the item, which arrived yesterday morning.

Yeah Baby… you know who to call..

28mm Outrider figure for scale purposes, as my Ghostbusters are currently packed away… somewhere. (There was something else in the box, but the less said about the better, right Keith?) A very generous gift, especially when taking into account the shipping costs, and one that I am extremely grateful for.

Just need to find a way to pay him back somehow…

Right that’s all for this post, which not only had tied into my current project, but also a once and future project and was all linked together with a single theme.

It’s almost like I planned this…

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Sa-Loot 2018

I usually attend two gaming conventions each year – Warfare in my home town of Reading, as it’s right on my doorstep, and Salute in London, as it’s the biggest wargaming event on the UK calendar.

Gaming conventions give you the opportunity, if you’re fortunate, of picking up those rulebooks, miniatures and terrain that you’ve been drooling over on the Internet for the previous couple of months, but without having to budget in the shipping and handling costs, which can sometimes be greater than the items you’re ordering.

Being somewhat anal, I do meticulously plan what I intend on buying prior to the event and always set myself a budget which, so far, I’ve not exceeded. My willpower is Legendary

Purchases at events fall into four categories; Definite, Potential, Gift and Impulse. Definite purchases are those things I know I’m going to buy, as long as the vendor has it in stock. Potential purchases are things I quite like the look of, but want to see close up before I decide if I do actually want it. Gifts are those things that would either make ideal presents for my gaming friends or stuff they’ve asked me to pick up because they can’t attend themselves. Finally, Impulse buys are things that I wasn’t aware of before attending, that fulfill a specific gaming need or are just too cool not to buy.

So, this year’s Salute budget was set at a very modest £40, which may not sound like a lot, but to a canny buyer such as myself, was more than sufficient for my needs. Knowing that I only had about an hour and a half to make my purchases, I did a swift sweep of the hall to locate the purveyors of my Definite list. I then returned to my targeted vendors and bought the items I was after.

Next came the Gift category, for which I had to collar one of the organisers, as I knew who had the item I was after, but couldn’t find their stand. Better signage needed next time, chaps…

As time was rapidly slipping through my fingers, I then visited the vendors who stocked my Potential purchases. However, whilst they all had the items in stock, I decided that the items in question were A) not as nice as they looked online, B) not worth the asking price or C) not really necessary at this point of the project.

As for Impulse buys, I did try and make one near the end of the show, but as this was from Wargames Terrain Workshop and was a small terrain item (rather than a big-ass dragon), Sarah decided to give it to me as a thank you for all my help.

So, having sat through my explanation of my buying philosophy, you’re probably wondering what exactly I spent my pennies on, so I shall show you. And, more importantly, explain the reason behind each one.

First up, Constanzi, Katerina and Elena – Vampire Sisters of the Moon from the Belt Ged Gaming range carried by Colonel Bill’s.

Three very nicely sculpted Victorian female vampires for £8.50. I’d seen the pre-release ‘greys’ for these on Roy’s Never Mind the Jankers blog and knew they had to be mine. Ideal for both my Tales of the Black Museum project (can’t really do Gothic Horror without vampires, can you?), as well as a new project that is looming on the horizon.

Next, some Wolves from Warbases.

£4.00 for four different sculpts. Whilst I do own a fair few figures of both people and monsters, my collection is quite light when it comes to animals. I own a couple of foxes and some pigeons, but that’s about it. As the new project will see me venturing into the wilds of Colonial Maine, I needed some wolves. Of course, I now need a bear too. And possibly the terror of the Maine woods, the whiskey drinking fiend known as…Razor-Shins.

Next, a Steampunk Female from the Kaosball range carried by Tritex Games.

On their website, this 30mm plastic figure retails for £1.99, but they sell the individual figures at Salute for a £1.00 each. I’d previously bought this figure as a Harley Quinn proxy for Tarot as a gift and had decided I wanted one too. Whether she ends up actually AS Harley Quinn in a supers game or as a Victorian version in Blackwell remains to be seen, but it’s a nicely detailed figure and you can’t argue with the price. Especially if you compare it with the licensed figure from Knight Models…

My final item is the Dragon Bell from Wargames Terrain Workshop.

I’d recently taken delivery of a new figure case from Tabletop Tyrant, as my figures had stsrted to spill out of the cupboard. This resulted in me sorting all my miniatures by genre, including all those I’d gathered for Oriental Fantasy gaming. I thought the addition of this well-detailed terrain piece would enhance my games, so decided to add it to my collection. It normally retails for a very reasonable £1.00, but as mentioned before, mine was a gift.

Not a huge haul, but every item was purchased with a use in mind, so all will see play sooner or later. And surely that’s the point of buying them, isn’t it?

Until next time…

Post-Salute Thoughts 2018

As this year I was helping out on the Wargames Terrain Workshop stall, rather than wandering the aisles, this year’s report will hopefully give a view ‘behind the scenes’. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to take many photos, being on call or occupied for most of the day, which also meant I missed the annual blogger’s meet. However, as the time for this had changed to 12.30 and no-one had mentioned this…I probably would have missed this anyway.

So, my Salute experience started around midday on the Friday, as I packed up my stuff at work and made my way to the station. With trundle-bag in tow, I had a reasonably swift and pleasant journey into London having wisely decided to get some hot food to eat on the journey.

Having arrived at Paddington and checking the time, I realised that my cunning plan to visit The Porterhouse in Covent Garden was still a possibility, so jumped on the tube and made my way there. I’d visited the one in Dublin last October, and when I found there was one in London too, I had promised myself a visit the next opportunity I got.

After a very pleasant pint of their Plain Porter, I did what I usually do when in a part of London I’m unfamiliar with, which is to set off in roughly the right direction for my final destination and hope to hit a tube station. After wanderng past Somerset House on the Embankment, I ended up at Temple, then tubed to Tower Gateway and on to the DLR for the Excel.

As it was slightly later than I’d anticipated, I headed directly to the hotel to book in – to find that they couldn’t find my booking. Slightly annoying, but luckily they did have a room available and it was actually £20 cheaper than when I’d initially booked.

I dumped my stuff, used the facilities and then went to meet Dave.

Slipping in through the Contractors Entrance, I got my first look at the hall from an insider’s perspective. All three rear shutters were open, allowing the afternoon sunlight in and my first thought was…that’s a lot of vans.

From a logical point of view, I should have expected it, but seeing the shutters closed and all the stands set up as an attendee, you don’t immediately connect the two and realise that getting all the stuff in would require more than a few sack trucks and trolleys. They open the shutters, the traders drive their vans in and unload. And you thought the width of the aisles was for your comfort…

Traders are allowed in from approximately half two on the Friday to set up and are kicked out at around five. Depending on how much you’ve got to set up and when you arrive limits what you can get done on the Friday. The traders are allowed back in at 7.30 on the Saturday to finish off and have to be in the hall by 9.00am at the latest, prior to the doors opening at 10. In these two and half hours, there is an air of franticness palpable, as those traders with large complicated stalls or those who have arrived later than the others try to get everything ready by ten.

This pre-opening period is also the opportunity for those ‘inside’ to network and make purchases prior to the crowds filtering in, but not ever trader is in a position to take your money, so a certain degree of persuasion IS needed. Luckily, being a charming chap, everyone I spoke to was prepared to help me out. I even had two of the staff on Caliver Books stall searching their entire stock for a particular miniature I was after, for which I was extremely grateful. I made a few modest purchases, more of which later.

Bearing in mind that Salute officially opens at 10.00am, I was surprised to discover from one of the Salute staff that some attendees had been queuing since 6.30 that morning! Standing in a queue for three and a half hours, just to be one of the first through the doors. That’s dedication…or possibly some kind of mental aberration.

From a traders point of view, the day goes in pulses. You get the initial filtering in of the crowd – some will rush straight in to their targeted supplier, desperate to get their stuff before it sells out, others take their time and browse as they go.

As Dave and I were manning the demonstration table, there was a certain degree of waiting until such time as people had made their initial purchases and felt inclined to sit down and play a game. I think this is typical of all these sorts of events.

As the crowds filtered past, I saw Imperial Stormtroopers, Scouts and officers, a Jawa, a rather nice Cylon Centurion and Deadpool wandering about. Simon Moore (aka Blaxkleric) of Fantorical dropped in to say hello and later in the day, so did Andy Nash of da Gobbo’s Grotto, although I was running a demo game of Death Match at the time and wasn’t able to chat as much as I would have liked.

Whilst Dave ran the lion’s share of the demo games, as he’s more familiar with the rules than me, I did run at least three or four games, including one for the writer of the rules and his son, which was slightly nerve-wracking as he obviously knew them better than me! The final game finished just as they were kicking people out the hall at five and I realised that the day had actually gone a lot quicker than I’d thought.

After all the attendees have left, the traders have two hours to pack up and leave. It’s pretty remarkable that they do manage it in this time, as by the time we’d packed up at 6.30pm, the majority of the traders were already done. Years of practice obviously.

So, it was an interesting experience to see if from the other side. It’s an early start for the traders, with breaks taken as and when possible, and ideally getting a good night’s sleep the previous evening is recommended. Unless, like me, you had a raucous party occurring on the rear deck of the Sunborn yacht hotel going on into the wee hours of the morning within high-pitched squealing laughter of your room…

However, the illuminated London skyline IS quite pretty…

As this is a longer post than I anticipated, my Salute purchases will have to wait for another, later post.

Whilst I will be attending Salute next year, I think I may go back to being a patron. However, I would like to thank Dave for the opportunity and also to the rest of the WTW crew for making me feel very welcome.