Where Be Monsters?

When I start a new project, especially one based on a specific genre, historical period or location, I always try to base the mythology of the world I’m building on relevant myths, legends and folklore.

For example, my Tales of the Black Museum is my version of Victorian London, viewed through the lens of Gothic literature, but sprinkled with appropriate creatures sourced from British folklore.

It’s sufficiently familiar for people to feel that these adventures might come from the lost notebooks of Doyle, Stoker or Wells, but also different enough to exist in its own right. I like to subvert expectations, but always strive to ensure that whatever world I create has its own internal logic and that any thing that does appear is appropriate to the setting.

I am approaching the Age of Unreason project in the same vein. I could be lazy, as some of the ‘Weird West’ games that are currently popular have done, and just ‘re-skin’ the standard horror tropes – the vampire, the werewolf and the zombie – in suitable attire for the setting, but given that the mythology of the Native American tribes has a vast panoply of strange creatures and entities that could be used, where’s the fun in that?

Of course, the problem with straying off the beaten path is that it can be slightly tricky to find a suitable model to represent the particular creature you want to include in your game. Plenty of options for depicting creatures from Greek mythology, but Mythic India…not so much.

Luckily for me, there is a company that specialises in producing a range of tribal warriors and ‘spirit beasts’ from the Americas and Pacific Islands…and that company is Paymaster Games.

Their range of figures is for their own set of wargames rules – Going Tribal: Warpath – which pits various pre-contact indigenous tribes against one another, and includes rules for 82 ‘spirit beasts’ with which to bedevil your tribal warriors. Both the rules and associated miniature range can be viewed and bought from their eBay store, which can be found here.

Now, as my fellow blogger Harry of the War Across the Ages blog, wanted to express his gratitude for the support, encouragement and inspiration that my own blog had given him, by sending me a small gift, this was an ideal opportunity to get a couple of figures from their range.

However, whilst I may crave Uktena, the Great Horned Serpent or Mishibizhiw, the Underwater Panther, you don’t take the piss when offered an unsolicited gift, so I went with smaller models, namely the Deer Woman and the Basket Woman.

The Deer Woman or Deer Lady is an entity primarily associated with fertility and love, but whilst mostly benign, it does have a reputation for luring promiscuous men into the woods to kill them. Ideal for my nefarious purposes. Whilst not specifically associated with the tribes located in Maine, the Iroquois have stories of this creature and that’s close enough for me.

The model is a one piece metal casting, supplied with a lipped plastic base. Naked from the waist up, but modesty preserved by her long hair, her voluminous skirt swirls away from her deer legs beneath. Available for $7.00 (about £5.22) from the store.

The Basket Woman or Basket Ogress is a bogeyman figure of the Northwest Coastal tribes, a hairy marauder that preys on naughty or careless children, scooping them up in her claws and carrying them off in a back-mounted basket to be devoured at her leisure. The tribes of Maine have a similar creature called a Kukwes, which seems to be the male equivalent, but that’s also close enough for me!

Available from the store for $8.00 (about £5.97), the figure comes in three parts and is cast in flexible resin, like that used by Black Scorpion Miniatures. The Ogress comes in two parts – main body and right arm, with the left arm holding a snatched child as a separate part. The third part of the set is a fleeing Indian child, which can be based separately or used to create a vignette.

A couple of interesting, well-sculpted and, above all, different figures to add to my menagerie of horrors of the North Maine Woods. A generous and appreciated gift from Harry, for which I thank him.

So, if you’re planning on venturing into the mythic vistas of either North or South America, or paddling your canoe to one of the Pacific Islands, and want suitable creaturs to menace your adventurers, look no further. However, bear in mind that as Paymaster Games is based in Seattle, you will have to factor in shipping costs on any order.

Paymaster have just closed their fourth Kickstarter and I’m already eyeing up some figures from this expansion – including Maui, the Polynesian Hercules, recently made more well-known by appearing in Disney’s Moana, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. I mean, who doesn’t want the Rock on their tabletop?

Until next time…”You’re welcome”*

(*Moana gag, for those who’ve seen the movie.)

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In a Dark, Dark Wood…

After a flurry of emails back and forth between myself and my co-collaborator Steve on our Age of Unreason project, we discovered a slight flaw in our plans…

My initial idea was to use the time-frame of the French Indian Wars (1754 – 1763) as the overall setting for this project, as my Dark Haven thread required an isolated location in what would become Northern Maine and I thought this period offered the best options for the type of thing I was looking for. However, Steve had a slightly different period in mind, approximately 30-40 years further on…

Now, whilst both periods share a similar level of technology, you couldn’t really say they were the same campaign/project and it would mean that the shared location of St. Gilbert’s couldn’t really be shared – unless it exists in some strange pocket universe, time warp or a geographically shifted Bermuda triangle. Although, as Varian from The Fantastic Journey WAS initially disguised as an Arawak native, that could be a possibility…

So, we could have split the two threads into two separate and semi-related campaigns, but what would be the point in that?

As Steve possessed the lion’s share of the existing figures and mine were currently ‘on sprue’, it seemed more sensible to shift my time-frame forward, as my thread was not really event or time-specific.

So, we have decided that the Age of Unreason will be set in the 1790’s. America has fought and won its independence and the new government of the United States has decided that it doesn’t need a standing army, so the Continental army has been disbanded and replaced with individual state militias. But whilst revolution is no longer on the agenda of the American people, this doesn’t mean that other nations are immune to its effects, as the French monarchy are soon to find out.

The latter aspect of this will be where Steve will be concentrating his efforts, dealing with the French Revolution and those conflicts that arose from it. He will no doubt provide a bit more information on what exactly he will be doing, so I’ll leave that up to him to explain.

For me, as Dark Haven now actually exists IN the State of Maine, rather than one of the other innumerable names it laboured under as its borders shifted back and forth, I don’t have to worry about what the actual name of the province/colony/etc. was where the town is situated or who owns it.

《Edit: As rightly pointed out by Bob in the comments below, Maine didn’t actually become a state in its own right until 1820. During the time selected for this campaign, it was still part of Massachusetts and was known as the District of Maine. I must check my sources a bit more thoroughly in future.》

Whilst my plans and themes have not altered – if you’re thinking a cross between Sleepy Hollow and Twin Peaks, you’re pretty much there – the make-up of my small group of hardy soldiers sent to Dark Haven has. As the area is now part of the United States, I can’t be really sending British redcoats into the woods – it will have to be Maine Massachusetts state militia, wearing a mix of hand-me-down Continental army uniforms and buckskins. As I had not yet assembled my troops, this doesn’t represent an issue for me.

So, no redcoats will be showing up in the Dark Haven thread.

Well, not living ones anyway…

But before I can send anyone into the woods, I do actually need to have some woods to send them into. Having already secured my remarkably cheap trees from China, I decided it was time to dip and base them.

I mixed up a jug of very thinned down PVA, to seal the flock on the trees and prevent any more shedding. The consistency needs to be slightly slimy to the touch, which means that it will seal, but not end up in big gloopy lumps all over your trees. The slight problem with this is that as the clump foliage/flock is absorbent, it will take a bit longer to dry. And it’s a bit messy.

I decided to do this outside on Saturday, thinking that I could peg the trees up in the sun and they would dry nice and quickly. Of course, the weather decided to take a turn for the inclement and it began to rain. Not being one to let the weather dictate what I can and can’t do, I did this:

That’s right – twenty dipped trees, suspended under my patio table, out of the rain. Where they stayed for the rest of Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and a bit of Sunday morning.

Sunday, being a day of Sun, hence the name, was a bit nicer. After dispensing with the outside jobs that required Man (as all the gardening tools are stored in a place where the spiders live – which is a no-go zone for my wife), I commenced basing my trees.

Selecting one, two and three hex Heroscape tiles and the relevant diameter drill bit that matched the trunks of my trees, I drilled twenty holes in the centre of each hex. I then pushed the trees through the holes, adjusted the rotation of the trees to get them to sit nicely together, then flipped each tile over and hot-glued the protruding trunk underneath. Unfortunately, some of the holes were slightly bigger that the trunks – whether this was the drill moving or different sized trunks, I’m uncertain – but it meant that not every tree is perpendicular to the ‘ground’. Plus some of the protruding trunks are a little too long to enable them to sit flush on top of other Heroscape hexes, so will have to be trimmed down a smidge.

But, this is what the entire ‘forest’ looked like once they’d been based, all crammed together:

And a low-level shot, showing what they look like from a miniature’s point of view, which also shows the wonky trees and bases that need trimming.

So, once they’d based in this fashion, you can then move them around to your heart’s content, combining them with other Heroscape hexes, to create a modular, robust and reasonably convincing landscape or battlefield, like so:

Now, I appreciate that these may not be particular ‘Dark’, but I think you’ll agree that I’ve covered the the ‘Woods’ part pretty well.

Whilst I shall be gaming in 28mm, imagine what these 10cm tall trees would look like with 15mm figures! Heroscape hexes are 1 3/4 inches across, for those of you unfamiliar with them, so the clearance between each trunk is just under this distance, so a fair bit of space to manoeuvre your figures about in or fill with shrubs and low-lying vegetation. Or Jackalopes…

Until next time…

Spirits of Vengeance

“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise…” – Isaiah 26:19

As we’re within a transition period here at the Buffet, with my Tales of the Black Museum being temporarily shelved as the focus shifts to the new Age of Unreason campaign, I find my hobby-time is split between finishing off a few odds and ends for TOBM and preparing the miniatures, terrain and fauna for the new project. And, for some reason, an urge to paint Daleks…

However, whilst there are no Daleks on show in this post, it does highlight the juxtaposition between the previous project and the new, with figures from both, which do happen to have a rather coincidental link…

First up, the most recent recruit to the forces of the Black Museum, the Penny Farthing-riding Constable Jack O’Lantern.

Constructed from various odds and ends from my bits box, including a plastic GW skeleton, who was then clothed in a Milliput uniform, when we first saw him, he looked like this:

As my intention was to have him as a Victorian version of the Marvel character Ghost Rider, he would not only require painting, but the addition of mystical flames boiling forth from his skull and a trail of fire behind him…which is why his base was made that long.

The painting wasn’t an issue, other than the wash I’d applied to his hands, feet and skull leaking on to his uniform, requiring a bit of touching up.

The flame effects were a bit trickier. Having previously used transparent silicone bathroom sealant to create a ring of mystical fire around an Oriental vampire model, mainly to hide the fact that he was a bit shorter than the other models he was going to be used with, I knew that it was possible. But it proved a little troublesome, as teasing the blobs of sealant into suitable flame shapes takes a steady hand and a medium that behaves itself – both of which were slightly lacking on the day.

However, I persevered and finally got what I wanted. Once dry, it was just a case of dry-brushing the ‘flames’ with a light blue, followed by a coat of blue ink, as the type of flames I was going for were similar to gas flames.

And this is the tinal result:

I’m pretty pleased with how the completed figure came out, bearing in mind that, other than the skeleton, it’s completely scratch-built.

Next up…imagine you’re a member of his Majesty’s armed forces, dispatched across the Atlantic to the New World, to protect the hardy colonists who have chosen to make a new life in a new land. You and your colleagues are thrust into a completely different environment, required to fight against natives whose tactics seem alien to the ordered warfare you are used to.

Imagine that due to being far from home, some of your colleagues resort to behaviour that goes against your very nature and values and, when you rebel, your supposed friends and companions turn on you, murdering you and leaving your body in a hastily dug shallow grave…

Would you rest easy? Or would your soul be consumed with vengeance against those who betrayed you?

If the latter, you may become a Revenant, dispensing your own form of justice from beyond the grave. You may become…a Deadcoat.

I appreciate that is a tertible pun, but it suited the figure that I’ve been working on;

This is a figure from Black Cat Bases, part of their Pirates of the Skeleton Seas range. However, as this particular figure was bought many moons ago, whilst they still do a similar figure, this particular sculpt is no longer available – which is a shame, because it is rather nice.

I believe it’s supposed to be a member of the Royal Navy, resurrected to serve an undead master, but I decided to paint it in a uniform similar to that of the British Regular Infantry, as worn during the French Indian War. I’ve not got very far, as yet, but I think you get the idea.

Until next time…

The Road to Forgotten Heroes 2018

As we’re nearing the first third of May, the means that the creative madness that is Forgotten Heroes is sliding inexorably closer.

For those of you not familiar with this ‘community art project’, this now annual event is where a group of like=minded gamers create one or more gaming miniatures of characters who have yet to have an official or unofficial figure made of them. In essence, they have been “forgotten.”

Or at least that’s what it started out as…

However, as with most of these types of challenges, these things do have a tendency to evolve over time. As one of the questions we regularly get asked is “I know it’s a little outside the rules, but can I do this character?” I think it’s time to redefine the rules somewhat…

Don’t worry though = whilst the rules have now evolved, they’re actually broadening the scope, so should make deciding which character(s) you’re going to create a bit easier.

1. The character or characters you create must have a definitive look or image. In other words, we should be able to recognise the character from the original source material.

2. The base figure used for your creation must not be an official or unofficial sculpt of the character. Repainting a DC Heroclix Blue Beetle as the obscure Marvel villain Goldbug is acceptable, painting the Copplestone Castings ‘Kentucky Davis’ as Indiana Jones is not.

3. The figure must be in the 28mms to 32mm range. This takes into account those manufacturers whose scale is slightly larger, so if you want to create a hero or villain to fit in with your existing Knight Models or Warlord Doctor Who collection, you can.

4. The figure must be completed during the month of June 2018.

5. In your first post, you should provide a bit of background detail in the character you’ve chosen, ideally with an illustration, so we know what you’re aiming for.

Other than that, the choice of character is entirely up to you. In previous years we’ve had Masters of the Universe, Transformers, costumed heroes and villains from comic books, and characters from both the small and big screens. 

For details of previous year’s entries, please take a look at the official Forgotten Heroes site, which can be found here.

Let’s make this year even better than the last!

Jez

Île des Mortes

The Island of St. Gilbert, St. Gilbert’s Isle or, more commonly, just St. Gilbert’s is a small volcanic Caribbean island, situated approximately halfway between the territories of the British Virgin Islands and the island of Anguilla. As such, it belongs to both the Lesser Antilles and Leeward Islands.

Unlike the other islands in this chain, whilst both the Arawak and Carib indians were aware of the island, neither settled it, as the lack of natural harbour and sheer rocky coastline made it difficult to access. As those native explorers that did ascend the black cliffs never returned, the island was considered taboo by both peoples.

When Columbus ventured forth on his voyage of exploration, he felt that the inaccessible nature of the island made it more trouble than it was worth to explore, and merely recorded the island on his charts as Roccia nera, for that was all it appeared to be.

The first actual settlers were members of the Order of St. Gilbert, a Roman Catholic order founded in Britain in 1130. Whilst it was believed that the order came to an end in the 16th century, at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it had survived in splinter form and the remaining adherents took ship and sailed for the West Indies in the early 17th century.

Whilst the other islands of the Lesser Antilles offered greater scope for settlement, the inaccessibility of Roccia nera, and the fact that no nation seemed to want to claim it made it an ideal refuge for the order.

Over the next couple of decades, work began on construction of both the convent and monastery, as the Order of St. GIilbert was fairly unique at the time in allowing both male and female lay members to worship and live together in harmony.

Utilising the natural basalt that made up the majority of the island’s composition , the order constructed their compound high above sea level. The quarrying of the stone for these buildings had the added benefit of creating an artificial cove, that made the island more accessible for supply ships from the neighbouring islands.

Whilst life was fairly harsh on the newly renamed Island of St. Gilbert, the order appeared to flourish, subsisting on locally cultivated crops and regular supply drops from British owned Anguilla.

This came to an end in 1666. The French had occupied Anguilla and sought to extend their holdings in the Caribbean, so sent a warship to St. Gilbert’s with the intention of securing it for the King. However, the marines sent to occupy the island were met with a scene of carnage. The monastery grounds were littered with slaughtered bodies of the lay brothers and canons regular. Of the lay sisters there was no trace, other than a few blood-stained and torn habits.

Whilst they had not formally occupied St. Gilbert’s, the French insisted that it be ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Breda in 1667. All record of their discoveries the previous year were suppressed, other than veiled references to St. Gilbet’s as Île des Mortes.

The island has remained a British territory ever since.

Into The Woods

Regular visitors to the Buffet will have noted a distinct lack of content relating to the stalwart members of the Black Museum.

Whilst I still have tales to tell (and games to play) of their adventures, we have reached a plateau and other projects have been singing their siren songs, encouraging me down other avenues.

So rather than ‘force’ my hand and produce additional content that might not be up to the standard I’ve already set for this project, I thought it best to take a respite and move on to something a bit…different.

My simple mass combat rules – Feast of Crows – are complete and have been passed on to a third party, in order for them to be tested and (hopefully) not broken. The results of this will probably be published here, with a review and AAR done by someone other than me, with the rules available as a download, so you can try them for yourself.

And as June is fast approaching, this will see the return of spandex-clad shenanigans, as Forgotten Heroes returns for the third year running. Once again we offer you the chance to exercise your creative muscles and create a 28mm miniature of a costumed hero or villain who has yet to be produced, or has, but the figure was a bit rubbish. Details of the previous two years outputs can be found on the ‘official’ Forgotten Heroes website, set up and run by my glamorous assistant, the lovely Roger Webb. Come join us – it’s a lot of fun!

So, what other things can you expect to see on the Buffet for the remainder of the year?

Well, the main project will not only be something new, but also a new era for me, as we travel back to the 18th century, a time of horse and musket, drums and shakos and Sean Bean shouting “Bastard!”…

And for this I blame Steve Gilbert. However, he has redeemed himself regarding this, as I shall explain.

We’d been discussing various topics and Steve had expressed a desire to do some kind of joint project, where we shared a ‘world’, to which we could both contribute, adventure and play within. I’d said I was quite keen on doing something involving pirates and highwaymen, flintlocks and powdered wigs, where if your hat had less than two corners, you weren’t taken seriously. Steve like this idea, as it was an era he was interested in and had a fair few existing models which he could use.

However, I didn’t. Steve then kindly offered to send me a few sprues of suitable figures from Warlord Games‘ AWI range, so I’d have the necessary core figures to do this.

Now that obstacle was removed, ideas began to flow and the world began to take shape…

So, this joint sandbox project will have three threads. Each of us will have a dedicated personal setting or campaign, with the third part being a shared location we both utilise.

The project as a whole will fall under the umbrella title of “Age of Unreason”.

Steve will be following the exploits of a group of ‘chosen men’, as they take to the field in various conflicts and will follow their globe-trotting career. This may feature here or may end up on a new blog of Steve’s. This will be entitled “Sharpe’s Progress.”

The shared location will be the small Caribbean island of St. Gilbert, located in the Lesser Antilles. Whilst entirely fictional, it was originally colonised by the very real Order of St. Gilbert, hence the name. For more details on this unique order, follow this link. This part will be entitled “Île des Mortes.”

As for my setting, I will be concentrating on a small British Colonial township located in the deep woods of what will become the state of Maine. And this part will be named after the town itself – “Dark Haven.”

Understandably, given who’s involved, you can expect a wealth of historical detail and a big dollop of the macabre. This is an era where the major powers of the World are expanding past their borders into regions filled with unfamiliar cultures and belief systems. Whilst the majority of what they encounter can be dismissed as mere myth and superstition, not every tall tale is untrue…and some things are best left undisturbed.

Now, as with every ‘new’ project I start, the first thing I do is to work out what I’ve already got that can be used/re-purposed for the nascent project, before deciding whether I CAN do and what else I will need.

As Steve had provided me with troops and my collection of HeroScape hexes would provide the terrain I needed, it was time to decide what else I needed.

Short list consisted of; North American fauna, suitable settler’s dwellings and trees…lots and LOTS of trees.

I’d already picked up some wolves from Warbases at Salute (see my post ‘Sa-Loot 2018’ for details) and Roger very kindly offered me a toy bear he had, that he felt was the right scale. When this arrived, it was not only the right scale, but also a better sculpt than the metal figures I’d been looking at, as you can see from the picture below;

Rather cool, ain’t he? Big thanks to Roger for this (as well as the other figures, you bad man).

Due to miscalculating exactly how much of my Salute budget I had left (it was more than I thought I had), I failed to pick up the Renedhra Noeth American Farmhouse, which was on offer at Salute, so don’t yet have any buildings. However, as I do have a crapload of coffee stirrers, some wooden cabins are on the horizon.

This left the trees…

Now, gaming trees are not the cheapest item you can buy. True, they do look rather nice and usually come pre-based, but you’re looking at roughly £15.00 for three, which if you’re trying to plant a forest, is a substantial outlay.

Having dismissed this idea, I watched various online videos on how to make your own, which whilst is a cheaper option, does require a fair outlay of time to do.

And then I had a brainwave and went to eBay. I remembered that Andy had picked up some inexpensive trees for his ATZ terrain and thought I’d see if they did something similar for my needs.

After a browse, I came across a listing for “10 pieces 10cm plastic model trees”…for £1.80 including shipping! The pictures looked pretty good and 10cm tall was a good size – tall enough so they didn’t look too small, but small enougb that stiorage wouldn’t be an option. So, I took a gamble and ordered two packs.

Six days later (yes, it only took six days for them to ship them from China) they arrived, and this is what they look like;

Each tree IS actually 10cm tall and consists of an injection molded plastic tree, to which has been attached ‘blobs’ of flock to represent the foliage. The coverage is a little uneven, with a few bare branches, but this means that whilst each tree is effectively identical, there is a bit of variation. As the soft plastic of the ‘frame’ is easily cut, if you want to trim a few branches here and there, I can’t imagine this would be a problem. There was also a bit of shedding of the flock, but a quick dip in a solution of thinnned down PVA will solve this issue.

All well and good, you say, but how do they compare to a standard 28mm figure?

Like this;

Not had a chance to base them properly yet, so I just used a temporary solution to get them upright.

So, twenty trees for £3.80 – which is less than a pint of beer! Bargain!

Whilst mine were £1.80 for a pack of 10, this has now gone up to £1.95 for a pack of 10…but that’s still less than 20p per tree. And they can be found here.

A fair bit of assembly and basing to be done, but soon I shall be able to send some Redcoats into the woods. What will they encounter? Native tribes? Indigenous fauna? A French raiding party? Or something far more inexplicable? Hopefully you’ll have as much fun as me finding out.

Until next time…

Breaking the Silence

A slightly different voice for this post, as I hand over to someone who has been missing for a while..

Hi,

It’s been a while since I wrote anything for a website, and even longer since I contributed to a blog.

Since handing the reigns of The Game Cupboard to Dave Stone, owner of Wargames Terrain Workshop, I found myself heavily caught up in a lot of real life non hobby activity…pretty much since November 2017 up until, well…pretty much now.

Hils had a serious knee operation in January, which involved her having a whole new metal knee cap and socket replacement: combine this with her artificial metal and plastic hip, which she had replaced two years ago, and I will soon be able to do an American accent and start saying things like “We have the technology to rebuild her.” with Bionic Woman music playing in the background. But yeah she’s doing well: recovering nicely, but slowly.

On top of all this the past months have been hectic with me playing nurse and looking after her, doing the house up to put on the market, travelling loads to look at potential new houses and bungalows (with an eye to buying when ours was purchased by a new owner), and in general, lots of things which all conspired keep us away from our more normal gaming activities. We gave up the game club, wrapped up our long standing (home run) D&D campaign, filled the moat and pulled up the family drawbridge for a while.

Now, as the first half of 2018 rapidly approaches the half-way point, I find myself once again able to look at my hobby and start to drool with excitement and anticipation over future and forthcoming plans and anticipated gaming delights.

A funny thing happens when you take a long break from your hobby. When you return to it, you find you and even the hobby itself may have changed and moved on a bit from when you left it; and most assuredly, but subtly…you may have aged a bit a well: perhaps you are not quite as spry on your feet, or your eyesight has slightly diminished (noticeable when you go to paint the faces on your tiny little models), or maybe your health has declined slightly. This latter most certainly has affected me, and I feel my condition more poignantly than ever before…after a long cold winter and climbing up and down endless stairs (one of the reasons we first considered moving to a smaller house) and feeling every jolt in my weary old bones.

One of the symptoms about having emphysema is that your lungs don’t get enough oxygen, so effectively your muscles have to work extra hard and never to full efficiency, which feels a bit like having permanent flu…aching bones, headaches, and listless lack of energy (like having a cold, but without the runny nose and other cold like symptoms). This is permanent to some extent for me, with some days better than others…verging on feeling normal and good even, to full out uuug!!…and miserable stress of pain lol. Anyone with a permanent back injury or crippling arthritis will know all about this and understand what it’s like to carry an injury that will never fully go away: as for the fit lot out there, well, you’ll just have to take my word for it and imagine how it is, and be thankful you don’t have it yourself.

Point is, after winter and the shivering cold and damp of an Irish cold patch, I am usually at an all time physical low, and this makes warming up a little bit like waking up from a long carbonite freeze… i.e. slow and groggy for a while.

So where am I going with this, ah yes…

Returning to the hobby this time round has induced a few profound changes. Anyone who knows me well will know by now, I have been slowly culling my lifelong collection of figures and games for a few years now, either giving stuff away or simply chucking it out (or handing to the charity shop). Well, waking from the dark of winter this time round has seen me fine tune and tick off my hobby needs even more… and I find I need even less nowadays than ever.

And I find my true interests are a lot more focussed than they used to be. I find myself not wanting to play this, and that, and everything under the sun, not any more: but instead I find I enjoy devoting the majority of my time to just a couple of projects at a time.

For years I have been an eclectic gamer, adding games to my growing collection like a woman collects shoes or a Punk Rocker collecting badges.

Before you know it, you are surrounded by things you don`t want and can never fully use and enjoy in any case. I had become an addicted hoarder and it didn’t make me a happy gamer at all.

Anyway, nowadays, with my spending and my addiction well under control.. I find myself entrenched in my (let’s just say) ‘horse and musket’ era skirmish scale table top games, which covers a diverse range of related topics, from the French and Indian War (Last of the Mohicans) all the way up to Napoleonics (I love the “Sharpe” TV series and the Bernard Cornwell books).

I also enjoy a bit of space opera…but not all of it. Have fine tuned this and cut out most the comic book and film options and now have focussed in on just a few indulgences: Star Wars (Imperial Assault) and Doctor Who (which allows me to add in bits of anything I want really.. Aliens and Terminators and weird WWI and II, all sorts of stuff, pretty much at will).

A third passion is my lifelong love affair with all things Dungeons and Dragons. But more of that another time. Likewise with my Zombicide.

That’s a major culling of hobby interests and gaming endeavours, when compared to my former pursuits which must have run into at least a couple of dozen different types of games is pretty darn conservative, for me haha.

But I forced myself to give games to people I knew would enjoy them, rather than sit on them like a hoarder, even knowing I would never get to use them. So now I come back to the hobby with clear passion for the things that interest me, and the rest.. I let go.

My Dungeons and Dragons and my Star Wars are my solo indulgences, which I will be writing about in my new blog, when I finally decide to open it publically. I’m already sitting on tons of material, I just haven’t got it all neat and tidy yet, and it mostly sits in files here, there and everywhere, waiting to see the light of day and share with the world – yeeey, lucky you huh lol.

Zombicide (in all its many guises) I mostly just play with the family, or solo when the mood takes me. I may write about this game one day, but honestly, I have enough on my plate right now, without this added weight.

But it is my Horse and Musket “Age of Reason” (or Un-Reason, depends which side of the coin you want to look at) that has really caught my imagination this last while.

Talking back and forth with Jez, I realised we shared a similar passion, similar warped sense of humour, have a similar enjoyment in making stories come to life on the gaming table, and we both have an interest in collecting and painting appropriate, nice miniatures. So we decided to make this happen, and to share a game world in which to play in and write about. But I’ll leave Jez to talk more about all that.

Suffice to say, Lord Henry Arthur Bingly, the good Lady Chase Bingly, and of course, the voracious Lady Scarlett Blightingdale…will all be making regular appearances. As too will our good man Richard Sharpe and his merry gang of cutthroats ooops, I mean “Chosen Men.” as well as cameos from the likes of Muldrew and The Skull, and Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill.

Oh, what fun times ahead.

Steve

Kicking and Screaming

Certain things irritate me. Car owners who seem incapable of considering others when parking, people who say “Excuse me” when there’s plenty of room for them to get past and you’re not actually in their way and the inability of baristas to serve you unless you use the specific term they have decided means “a large coffee”…

However, today I have a new hobby-horse and as I intend to take on a substantial canter around the Buffet, those of a delicate sensibility or those easily offended should probably go and read something else.

And that hobby-horse is Kickstarter.

Now, I fully appreciate the purpose of Kickstarter. It allows people to realise their projects that probably wouldn’t see the light of day without external funding from a group of interested people and, generally speaking, I think this is a good thing.

However, when utilised by bigger companies, who have no real need to call upon the support of us ordinary folk to fund their latest project, this is where things get a bit…off.

When Mantic Games announced that they had secured the licence to produce a miniatures board game based on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, I pricked up my ears. I’d been a fan since the original four-issue Seeds of Destruction series way back in 1994.

They announced it was going to be funded via Kickstarter, that the intial ‘pledge level’ would be quite tempting for fans and as ‘Hellboy Week’ progressed on the Mantic Blog, the articles from both Mantic and the actual designer of the game, James M. Hewitt (designer of Dreadball, Bloodbowl 2016 and Necromunda: Underhive) seemed to suggest that this was a game I’d be seriously interested in AND potentially my FIRST Kickstarter.

Then the Kickstarter dropped…

Their goal was £100,000 and although the Kickstarter has only been live for a couple of days, they have already reached a total amount pledged of £753,000. So, quite popular, then…

Now, the actual RRP of the basic game will be £69.99, which is pretty typical of boxed games these days. So, you would expect the lowest pledge level would enable you to get the game at a reduced amount and I was kind of hoping that this might fall into the range of £40-£50, which would be just about within my budget.

But No! The lowest pledge level, whereby you actually get something, is £95.00! True, you do get approximately £200 worth of ‘stuff’, including Kickstarter ‘exclusives’, but there’s no option to just get the basic game.

Now, this may be mere pocket change to others, but to me, £95.00 represents a substantial investment in a game that might not be as good as it sounds and I won’t see hide nor hair of until February 2019.

To add insult to (potential financial) injury, Mantic do offer you the chance to pledge a lower amount, for which you get…nothing. Why!? If this was a small company or individual, whose project may only be realised through the generosity of strangers, I could understand it. But this is Mantic Games, who I can’t imagine are short of a few pennies, so why do they want us to, effectively, give them our hard-earned cash gratis? They don’t need it, do they?

So, having been quite excited by this game initially, I now have a nasty taste in my mouth and definitely WON’T be contributing.

If I want to field the agents of the B.P.R.D. on the tabletop, I can pick up the Heroclix boxed set for £30.00, which includes seven agents, including Hellboy, Abe, Liz, Johann and Roger AND they’re already painted.

Now, I appreciate that this is purely my opinion on this matter and people may not agree with my views, but surely these bigger companies should cater to ALL gamers, not just those with the biggest bank balances?

Look at Warlord, their licenced Doctor Who game starter game Exterminate (which didn’t require a Kickstarter to fund) retails for £40.00.

Now, I appreciate that this is purely my opinion and am not expecting everyone to agree with my point of view, but just before you click that button that says ‘Fund This Project’ on Kickstarter, whatever it may be, think what else you could use that money for. How much other hobby stuff, for projects you’re currently indulging in, could that pledged amount be used to buy? With the added advantage of being able to use it NOW, rather than ten months down the line. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Right, ride over and hobby-horse stabled.

Join me next time, when regular programming will resume.

Jez

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.