Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Oathmark Goblin

I picked up some of the new plastic Oathmark Goblins from Osprey/Northstar over Christmas. The kits is excellent.

It's been thoroughly reviewed elsewhere but one thing I knew I wanted to do something about was the integral basing. Each mini stands on a little lozenge of plastic, which presents a modelling problem if you use the thin little Renedra bases included in the box, so I used some recessed 25mm square bases. This allows the model to beglued in place without trimming the plastic, and the base is then easily filled to foot level with sand.

I gave the model a bit more of a modern paintjob than usual, and enjoyed it very much. The shield is a brass drawing pin- I like the included shields, but wanted a smooth surface for the freehand insignia.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Battle 2nd edition

I've just taken delivery of a little eBay bargain- a copy of the second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle from 1984. I didn't know much about it before now. I have the 3rd edition from 1988 already and that's the one that the Oldhammer lads usually rave about. First impressions are that is a more slight production than 3rd (that book really is visual and lore feast), and the Old World is less crystallised than in future editions, but several things have already piqued my interest. It has a more laissez-faire approach to army building and a formula for costing just about troops or monsters you might have minis for. The army lists are very vague. Later on the Ravening Hordes supplement brought the army lists closer to what we'd recognise, but I quite like the fuzziness of the lore at this stage in Warhammer history. I'm going to have a closer look and see if it's something I'll look at playing, or whether it's just a nostalgic curio for the shelf. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

RTB01 Sternguard

A squad of Sternguard Veterans made using the original 1987 RTB01 space marine plastic kit. Such a pleasure to build and paint.

Monday, 27 November 2017

scouts and devastators

More for my marines- a squad of scouts and some Devastators with Lascannon and Plasma cannon, made from the old '90s Grenadier plastic Space Rangers, still available at a bargain price from EM4!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Toybashed Retro Dreadnought

I wanted to add a Dreadnought to my old fashioned Space Marine army, and I wanted it to be vaguely reminiscent of the old Rogue Trader ones sculpted back in the 80s by Bob Naismith- or at least to look as through they might conceivably have been designed in the same solar system, within the same millennium!

I started keeping an eye out for bits, and found an old broken toy that I liked the look of, and worked out was one of these (on the right)

The size was good, the face looked suitably robotic and '80s-looking and it had overtones of M.A.S.K., which was no bad thing.

I nicked the legs from one of these (in the middle) that I'd found on eBay very cheaply from Singapore.

I stuck them together with a pelvis made from two 25mm hex bases, and added two Assault Cannon barrels left over from when I converted my Space Crusade marines to Lascannons.

After the usual quick paint job and varnish, I'm pretty pleased!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Some new bits for my old-fashioned Space Marines

I've added some bits to my 40k army. An original Rhino:

A squad of Devastators made from old Space Crusade minis. Two were armed with assault cannons, which I don't think are game legal, so I converted them into lascannons.

And a Vindicator. Based on an old GZG APC, now available from Daemonscape (under the name Snow Cat) for a very reasonable £8.99. I added a marker pen cap for the demolisher cannon.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A plastic Middlehammer warband for AoS Skirmish

Continuing my current enthusiasm for chunky GW monopose plastic from the early to mid '90s, here's a small 'Free Peoples' warband ready for a little Age of Sigmar Skirmish campaign. A mix of Battlemasters, Warhammer, Talisman and Advanenced Heroquest. All lovely to paint, and all looking good on those rounded bases, particularly the knight I think- really shows off a cavalry figure well.

As ever, bright and shiny is the order of the day! I used a different varnish this time though: Ronseal Ultra Tough Hardglaze Clear Varnish. Cheaper per 100ml than Humbrol Glosscote by a huge margin, and gives a subtle shading/warming effect to the colours, without staining or muddying like Quickshade.

Colours used (for my reference really!):
White spray
Averland Sunset spray
AP Daemonic yellow spray
AP Black
Mournfang Brown
Zandri Dust
Pallid Wych Flesh
AP Plate Mail Metal
AP Flesh
Reikland Fleshshade
Warboss Green
Averland Sunset
Celestra Grey
Dryad Bark
AP Ultramarine Blue

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Old School Space Marines for 40K

I've really been enjoying the new edition of Warhammer 40k, and my Tyranid army are doing very much better than in the last two editions! This past fortnight or so though I've been working on a new army- one that ticks the following boxes:
  • inexpensive (these are all bits I had in my miniature pile so far, and I'll be making use of proxies further down the line too)
  • robust (bulletproof gloss finish, very few pointy bits to snap off)
  • easy to transport (compact minis, and a more elite army than 'nids, so will be less numerous and bulky
  • nostalgic (this is a big reason for why I play 40k, so I'm painting these figures from my childhood exactly as I did when I was 12: no shading, no highlighting, simple basing- no fuss, just fun!)

The Terminator squad at top left are actually quite new figures from Revell's Build and Paint range, but they are made from the sculpts that were made for the mid-90s re-release of Space Hulk. I remember when they were absolutely cutting edge in terms of plastic figures!

The Tactical squad are the ones that came with the 2nd edition 40k starter set in the early '90s. Probably the first figures thousands of gamers of my vintage first put brush to. Possibly still my favourite Space Marines.

The other Terminator Squad are older minis from the previous incarnation of Space Hulk from the late '80s. I had to convert the main chap slightly to give him the right wargear- his power sword and half of his left hand is from a modern Ork Boy, with a bit of recarving and reshaping of the blade, and the banner is a stout bit of brass rod and an old plastic skull. The artwork is my own.

The Captain is probably my favourite one from back in the day. Timeless sculpt.

The plastic Librarian in Terminator armour I think is from the Tyranid Attack boxed game from the late '80s.

The chapter is one I invented. I had some blue spray, I decided I could just about freehand a thunderbolt shape, and I chose some contrasting colours to compliment the blue. I'm calling these lads The Stormwatch, after the Jethro Tull album. My Chaptermaster will be Bartin Marre. Look out for other Tull nods as I continue the project!

Next on the list- some of the original Rogue Trader RTB-01 plastic marines!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More additions to my old-school Middle Earth stuff

My local Kings of War group has been doing an escalation league, and I've been using it to bulk out my Middle Earth stuff. I can use the army as an allied Kingdoms of Men and Elf force. The movement trays give me the right unit footprints for the game.

 The whole army so far.

 A mounted hero and standard bearer from Gondor, amongst Rohan allies.

 a unit of Gondorian spearmen, and a large Beorning in bear-form. All the Gondor stuff came from Warrior Miniatures, and the bear is from Irregular Miniatures' 54mm range.

These charmingly lumpy chaps are of unknown provenance. They'll serve as man-mode Beornings, or possibly good Dunlendings.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

a small gathering of Khornishmen for AoS Skirmish

a little departure from the realms of the old-fashioned and the glossy to paint up some more current miniatures, ready to play GW's Age of Sigmar: Skirmish tomorrow. I finished these off very quickly with Army Painter Quickshade which, if used carefully with the right model and the right colour scheme, is incredible stuff.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Hill Helpers™

Having made a set of nice flat hills exactly 25mm tall with flat tops, to minimise the risk of miniatures falling out of a sloping movement tray, or having the tray itself skiing downhill, I still had to deal with the problem of deploying a unit half on and half off a hill.

The answer is Hill Helpers™! Needless to say, that's not really a trademark, and I'm not selling them- they're just wooden blocks: little blocks of wood the right size to support the dangling edge of a precariously deployed unit. 

I started off with 25mm cubes of pine, bought fairly cheaply on eBay. I bought them here.

With PVA I glued three together, and another pair, and along with a single cube, I sanded them all down to give smooth rounded edges and corners that were comfortable to hold, and then oiled them very lightly with olive oil.

The three Hill Helpers together fit very nicely into a spare compartment of the box I use for dice and counters etc. for Kings of War.

I could have made them look more like terrain, but I chose to keep them looking like this because I worry that I'll absent midedly leave them on the battlefield and treat them like terrain if they look like hills. Also, they should last years and years like this with very little upkeep, and I rather like the way they look, and they're pleasing to hold.

Hill Helpers in action:

Sunday, 30 April 2017

simple hills

I've long been wanting a set of simple, clean, versatile wargaming hills that I can use for lots of different games and which will tick various boxes. I want them to look a bit old school, but not totally out of place with newer figures. I want them to be unambiguous as to footprint and height for games like Kings of War. I want them to be flat topped so no minis need be placed on an incline, and so they can be stacked.

So, to this end I got hold of a cheap tabletop hot wire scroll cutter and some blue styrofoam. The cutter is this one. Having used it only once, I hesitate to give it a full review, but it did what I expected and needed it to do!

After some sanding, I took two of the hills to use as a test and applied some Homebase emulsion (shade: "Village Green"), a layer of PVA and a generous scatter of Gaugemaster GM170 static grass. I'll apply some spray varnish when I'm certain everything is totally dry. I think I'm pretty happy with the result, and will finish the set.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


a trio of Eagles for Kow and Dragon Rampant, from Mithril Miniatures' Gwaihir models.

“Farewell," they cried, "Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey's end!" That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks," answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.”

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Gandalf Stormcrow

Here's a mounted Gandalf to assist my Rohan force for KoW and Dragon Rampant. He's converted, in an extremely minor way, from a Hinchliffe miniature from 1979; I just added a hat brim with Green Stuff.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review - Travel Battle from Perry Miniatures

Today I went to Salute (more of which in subsequent posts), and among the various faces I recognised were that of Mr. Neil Shuck of the excellent Meeples and Miniatures podcast and co-host Dave Luff. After I said hello and told them how much I enjoyed the podcast, they asked me about Travel Battle, which I was holding in my hand having just bought it from the Perry Miniatures stand. They were interested to know my thoughts once I'd had a chance to scrutinise the contents.

Gentlemen, your wish is my command!

Firstly, the game cost £50. I know wargamers who have balked slightly at that price-tag, and I know boardgamers who have been surprised it isn't higher. To be honest, the news of this release excited me greatly, as I've been very interested in grid-based wargames recently, and I was very happy to pay £50. In advance of the release, I would probably have said I was prepared to pay as much as £65 (grudgingly) but no higher. After purchase and play, I still feel £50 was a fair price.

The box art and graphic design is of excellent quality, and the box is sturdy. It has a plastic handle, and a lid that is hinged at one edge, with little flaps that fold away and keep the box reasonably securely shut. It's of the same type as some laptops ship in, and does indeed look like something that could stand up to the rigours of travel a little better than the average game box. I was a little surprised that it wasn't poly-wrapped. Perhaps there wasn't time to do so before the game's release today. or perhaps that plastic handle makes it problematic.

A pleasant surprise- the box is fitted with a good quality, firm foam insert to minimise stuff moving about inside and being damaged. Brilliant. They're certainly serious about this being a portable game.

The two halves of the plastic game board are 10 inches square, and between them are stowed the rules and the sprues of soldiers, buildings, trees and bases. All the plastic is made by Renedra, and the sculpting, tooling and casting are as good as you'd expect. This is where the pricetag of the game must justify itself, and the quality here is hard to deny.

The scale is described as 8mm, and this fact in particular has surprised many, and actively displeased a few, falling as it does between the industry standards of 6 and 10mm. For myself, this news didn't particularly trouble me. I do not have a collection of Napoleonics (of any scale) that I would want this box to compliment or integrate with, and having played it,  I think the game is so clearly designed to be self-contained that this shouldn't really be an issue for many. A few may wish to expand Travel Battle beyond the supplied armies, and there the scale could be an issue.

The rulebook (or rules pamphlet) doesn't quite scream 'quality' in the same way as the other components. It is A5 in size, and made from two sheets of folded A4, giving a total of 8 pages. One page is the cover, one and a half are given over to pictures identifying the models (and instructions on their assembly) and another page and a half to tips on painting the miniatures and the terrain. This leaves just four pages for the entire ruleset of a Napoleonic wargame. I admit to a little initial apprehension! The rules were the one thing that we had seen or heard nothing of before release.

I spent a happy 45 minutes snipping and glueing (which went as smoothly as one expects from a Perry/Renedra kit), and stopped to admire the result.

The game boards are fixed in terms of layout, clearly as a concession to portability, manufacture and ease of stowage, but they are cleverly designed so that any combination of orientations gives a continuous battlefields with roads that continue smoothly over the join. This means (if my arithmetic is correct) that the two boards offer 16 different possible configurations. Extra sets would happily compliment it for a larger game and would increase the possibilities exponentially.

The miniatures are cast in blue and red, and each army consists of 3 Brigadiers, 2 stands of Guard Infantry, 6 of Infantry, 2 of Heavy Cavalry, 2 of Light Cavalry and 2 cannon. Identifying each on the tabletop is a little tricky at this scale, especially unpainted. Most at fault is the Guard Infantry, which differs from other infantry only by the addition of a little furled standard which protudes from its front rank by perhaps two millimetres. I would recommend some sort of paintjob if only for the purposes of identification. It is also necessary to keep track of which Brigadier belongs to which units- again, a challenge without some sort of visual distinction.

So, the game...

My opponent was my wife- most emphatically NOT a wargamer (she still has stress memories of the time I made her play Kings of War, and will now reject any game outright if she thinks she may have to roll more than two dice). I managed to convince her that this was really a boardgame, not a wargame at all, and closer to chess than Warhammer, and happily she agreed to play with my new toy.

I skipped the layout and deployment phases, and instead set out board and armies exactly as in the rulebook example. This was mostly for reasons of speed, but also because I was unconfident about how to build my army. I have practically no knowledge of Napoleonic army composition, and the rulebook's invitation to each player to 'divide their troops into 3 Brigades how they like' was diconcertingly vague, so I simply followed their example rather than look up how such armies ought to be organised. This was the first of many occasions where I felt an additional sentence or two of direction or clarification would have been welcome, without compromising the spirit of brevity.

The rules for board orientation are cleverly randomised by dice roll, and deployment is alternate, one brigade at a time; a brigade being a collection of elements in a continuous string of contact (orthogonal or diagonal) with a lone mounted brigadier. Each player has three brigades to control with three brigadiers. These 'strings' of contact must be maintained throughout the game, and 'orphaned' units separated from their command can do nothing but fight if attacked (or shoot in the case of artillery). This concept turned out to be key to the concept and appeal of the game, but I had to read the sentences which explained it many times, because they were not very clearly phrased, at least for my poor Salute-jangled brain!

 the depleted Blue army is rounded on by the remaining Red battalions

In addition to problems of phrasing, there are a few common questions which the four pages of rules do not cover or adequately clarify.  Can friendly units interpenetrate when moving? (We decided they could.) Do the ploughed fields count as 'open ground'? (We decided they did.) Do squares with walls but no building count as 'built up area'? (We decided they did.) When a unit is 'pushed back' by an enemy in diagonal contact, which way should it go? (We let the defending player decide, but always favouring an unoccupied square over having to push back another friendly unit.) When 1 unit beats 2 in a fight by a margin sufficent to kill, which of the defeated 2 should be removed? (We allowed the attacker to decide).

As you can see, we had no problem house-ruling where needed, and some of these errors, I'm sure, are probably down to our first-time misreading of the rules, but I do feel that the rulebook would benefit from just a little more text to expand and clarify here and there. An extra A4 sheet in the rulebook would mean 4 more pages of space for this and some historical context, which is also lacking.

However, these criticisms are small and they are the only ones I have. because I have to say,  I LOVE this game! It's deceptively simple, and elegant in execution. It offers command decisions that reflect something of the period without any unnecessary complexity. You must preserve the cohesion of your battalions while keeping them mobile. Bunching them up keeps them easier to command, but less useful in battle. Massing two units into a single square will make them better in combat, but will also make them a juicier target for a well-placed cannon shot. Simple solutions are used to represent certain things efficiently. For instance, 'Forming square' is as simple as placing an element diagonally in its square- so doing, the unit foregoes movement and receives a bonus die to its defence against cavalry, but if attacked by infantry, it is they who will receive the bonus. A cannon can target any unit up to 6 squares away. To hit a unit at maximum distance it must roll a 6. At five squares, a 5+, at four squares distance, a 4+, etc. This is intuitive, efficient and easily memorised. Combat is resolved by simple opposed rolls with rerolls and bonus dice to reflect advantage to one side, and the margin of difference between the opposing rolls dictating severity of result.

I'll admit I'm no expert on Napoleonic warfare, but to me Travel Battle felt like a perfect compromise between a game and a simulation. The game was abstracted, but never in such a way that felt in direct contradiction to logic or expectation. The game was quick but not too quick, simple but not simplistic, fun but not lightweight. Even the non-wargamer enjoyed it! I'll be playing it again soon, and I consider my £50 very well spent.

Do I think the scale or the set nature of the terrain tiles is a problem? Not for me. This is a self-contained game. The pleasure of the play lies partly, like chess, in the fact that the playing field is equal- the armies are identical in size and makeup, and the topography won't drastically benefit or punish either player however they are arranged. It's not a system for refighting Waterloo, and doesn't aim or claim to be. Although it's difficult to know how I'll feel after a few more games,  I don't think this is a game which will benefit from adding stuff to in the form of other miniatures or new rules. It makes a virtue of being stripped down to the bone and entirely self-contained, and there are other rules that will better handle that sort of expanded remit.

Not completely flawless in execution but very good quality, fundamentally sound and heartily recommended.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A Retro Warband for Dragon Rampant

As I pressed on with the KoW 'Middle Earth Good Guys' army I realised I would soon have enough painted stuff to put together a full 24 point warband for Osprey's brilliant Dragon Rampant game.

I already had plenty of Beornings. I chose six of the unarmed ones to represent two units of 'lesser warbeasts'. Dragon Rampant does include rules to make a unit into 'werebeasts', which I will probably do in the future, if I make some 'man-mode' Beornings to compliment these figures.

I added a unit of Rohan warriors with mail, sword and shield. I use 12 to represent a full regiment in Kings of War, and that's also the recommended number for a foot unit in Dragon Rampant. The Leader with the plumed helmet can lead the warband.

Next I added some Riders of Rohan- lightly armoured with bows. I'll use 5 for a troop in KoW, but adding just one more gives me the recommended strength for a cavalry unit in DR.

Lastly I wanted an Ent. I don't have an original Minifigs Ent, and anyway, they're really a bit too small, so I made this chap from Milliput very quickly ast night. With the right paint job I think he fits in quite well. He counts as a Greater Warbeast in DR, and will be part of an elf ally contingent in my KoW army I think.

The finished Warband! Now for some baddies...

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Old School Middle Earth

In a few weeks' time, my gaming group will be starting its second escalation league for Kings of War- building an army a little at a time, in 500 point increments, and comparing progress. It really helps with motivation, and gets you a playable army in no time. Here's the dwarf army I built during the last one.

A little while ago I acquired a few hundred very old fantasy miniatures from a friend, and I intend to use these as the main source for a 'Middle Earth Good Guys' army, possibly using an allied Herd and Kingdoms of Men list. Many of the figures  were homecast, either using Prince August casting kits or by recasting (mostly Minifigs Mythical Earth range) existing miniatures. Recasting isn't something I take lightly, but it's hard to object in this case- it's been done with more enthusiasm than accuracy, and purely for personal use, many decades ago. It's also given many of the miniatures a pleasingly indistinct look that reminds me of Spencer Smith miniatures. I've repainted a few already in a 'shiny toy soldier' style that I really like- it suits the figures and is very quick to achieve. Here are some Beornings, Wargs, a Winged Nazgul and some assorted knights.

The Beornings I'll be able to use for the 'Good Guys', and I'll supplement them first with some Riders of Rohan. Here's a test miniature which I painted as a banner bearer, following Tolkien's description of the horse colour, hair, shield device and banner.

And here's the miniature before I started. Under the dust of years, it's got a very nice solid colour scheme, and a great banner painted in washes over a dot matrix printed pattern which has a sort of  'Persian Rug' feel to it.