Thursday, 18 February 2021

Mutiny on the Spanish Main by Angus Konstam

Nothing helps me through the anxious times quite like a good book! For awhile I can put all the worries aside and travel to another world, whether that be fantasy, science-fiction, philosophy, or history. A couple of days ago, I picked up Mutiny on the Spanish Main by Angus Konstam and read through it in a fury of excitement.

Straight up – this is a great book.

It tells the story of the HMS Hermione, a Royal Navy frigate whose crew mutinied in 1797 and turned the ship over to the Spanish. It is a dramatic and bloody tale, full of intriguing characters. In fact, there is so much more to the story than the mutiny itself. There is the Royal Navy’s pursuit of the mutineers, the politics between Britain and Spain, the numerous trials of captured mutineers, and the legal wrangling between Britain and the United States. To top it off, there is the incredible cutting-out operation launched by the British to recapture the ship. I know it’s all history, but really, I don’t want to give too much away!

What is perhaps most incredible is that this tale can be told so coherently and so completely. Many of the central characters don’t survive, and the stories of those that do are scattered about both geographically and chronologically. Angus Konstam has obviously done his research (the notes and bibliography are extensive), but I just read it as a story and thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you are fan of Nelsonian naval history, military history, or bloody tales of the sea, you will want to add this one to the bookshelf.  Highly Recommended.

[Disclaimer – Until recently I worked for the publisher, Osprey Publishing, though it’s been a long time since I had anything to do with the military history side. I have met Angus Konstam on several occasions and many years ago would send Osprey books as prize support to his local wargaming convention!]

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

The libraries in England are still closed, but, at least here in Kent, you can still get books. You have to request them online and then wait for a scheduled pick-up time – but hey, it’s better than nothing. This is important to me as there are a lot of books that I would like to read but know that I’m unlikely to want to keep. Such was the case with Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger.

Robert Iger has been the CEO of Disney since 2005 and is responsible for the acquisition of Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Films, Fox and the creation of Disney+. Although this book is billed as ‘Lessons in Creative Leadership’ as it says in the subtitle, I read it more as Iger’s ‘business autobiography’.

The book is well-written, well-paced, and overall it’s a fascinating read. The first third of the book is about his work at ABC and his rise to the top of that company. Then, when Disney buys out ABC, he slowly rises within Disney. There is a long section on how he became CEO after the forced departure of the former CEO Michael Isner. Finally, the book goes through each of the acquisitions mentioned above, one-by-one. I admit, this was my favourite part of the book as these are companies I’m interested in to a greater (Marvel / Lucas Films) or lesser (Fox) extent. Its fascinating to hear how each of those deals went down and how different each of the former owners of those companies approached the negotiations. Each one of them is a true ‘character’.

Probably the most interesting for me, though it only takes up a short part of the book, was the sale of Lucas Films. In this case, its really is one ‘creative’, George Lucas, selling the products of his creation. Something that echoes greatly with me.

Obviously, such a book offers a severely biased view of these events, but what first-hand account is without bias? That’s not to say that Iger claims to be perfect or faultless, and he does admit to several mistakes, but he certainly paints himself in a good light. (I otherwise know nothing about the man so I offer no opinion on his character).  

It’s a fast read and worth picking up if you are interested in such things.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Random Musings On My Games

 

Some random musings about my games - accompanied by an even more random photo of the stuff on one half of the top of my office bookcase!

Stargrave - I meant to write a blog this week about the different backgrounds you could give to your captain and first-mate, but I didn't get around to it. Here's the list that appears in the rulebook: Biomorph, Cyborg, Mystic, Robotics Expert, Rogue, Psionicist, Tekker, and Veteran. Each one of these comes with specific stat boosts and a list of 'core powers'.  Captains and first-mates can, but are not required, to have the same backgrounds. I'm planning on creating new backgrounds in the supplements.

Rangers of Shadow Deep - I finished my first draft of Dungeons Dark this week. Despite only having 4.5 scenarios, it's the longest supplement I've written because each of the scenarios is broken down into numerous rooms and there are loads of notes! Still a long way to go, but it's getting there. North Star showed off a picture of their forthcoming humpback miniature. Gonna need a couple of those guys in Dungeons Dark!

Frostgrave, 2nd Ed. - I'm really annoyed that I didn't change the rules for 'Badly Wounded' when I had the chance. This is the last instance where a warband can play a 'man down' because of the rules. If I were writing it now, I would allow the player to either play with the wounded figure, but start them at -6 Health, or replace the figure for the game with a free thug or thief. 

Also, I just noticed the game is sporting a 5-star average on Amazon with over 250 ratings! That's pretty cool.

Ghost Archipelago - If I had to pick one of my games to play with someone else right now, it would be this one. Partly because I've got my new crew that has never been used against an opponent, partly because I miss it's colourful setting. There is a cool solo scenario coming for it in the next volume of Blaster - basically the crews end up in Innsmouth...

Oathmark - I wish I had included 'Expendable' as an attribute. When a unit with this attribute breaks, it would only cause Cascading Panic among other units with the Expendable attribute. It would make sense for units like goblins slaves, warhounds, wolves, etc.

That's all for today!

Thursday, 11 February 2021

The Skaven of My Youth

I guess it was 1989, when my family drove up to Gaithersburg, Maryland to visit my mother’s parents. The journey must have been a long one, crammed in the back of a 5-seater with my sisters, in a car with no air-conditioning. But I knew it was going to be worth it. We planned to explore Washington, D.C., including a trip to the National Air & Space Museum. Even better, I had  discovered that there was a Games Workshop store in a mall nearby, and my parents had agreed to take me.

I had never been to a Games Workshop store before. These were the days when they first came to the USA, and there weren’t many of them about. But I bought White Dwarf sometimes, and I guess I found the address in there.

I must admit, I don’t actually remember going to the store – but I remember what I brought home (or at least back to my grandparent’s place!). I had the Skaven army book and a box of the original Skaven plastics. For the rest of the trip, I poured over that book. I read it cover-to-cover, planned my armies, and noted specific miniatures I wanted to buy. For a while, I dreamed rat-filled dreams.

As it turned out, I was too young to build a miniature army. I didn’t have the attention span, the finances, or the painting ability required. I gave up on the project before I had ever really started, but I never completely forgot this early, fantasy army love. I made another attempt, some fifteen-to-twenty years later, but again, never got past paint the first unit.

Well, times have changed. (Boy, have they changed). My finances have improved. My painting skill has vastly improved, and my attention span… we’ll, I'm still working on that one. Perhaps more importantly, I now have a mass battle fantasy game I actually play – my own Oathmark rules. So, I have decided it is time to once again try and create my chittering hordes!

In aid of this, I ordered a copy of that original Skaven army book off ebay. Meanwhile, a friend sent me a pile of assembled, but unpainted, Skaven plastics to get me started.

After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided I’ll base all of my skaven on standard GW 25mm round bases. These can be put into movement trays to use for Oathmark, will be based appropriately should I ever want to play Age of Sigmar, and will look good if I use them in skirmish games. Oddly, the only game they won’t officially work in is Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the game for which they were originally created – as technically they should be on 20mm squares. Still, should it ever come up, I think I can make it work.

Now, some might be asking – does this mean there will be ratmen rules for Oathmark? No, not officially. Ratmen don’t really belong in the Marches. That said, I’ve decided to take a two-pronged approach to the army. Whenever I paint a unit, I’m going to select a unit in Oathmark that they can map to (so clanrats can just be golbins), so that I can play the game straight. I’m also going to come up with my own rules, just for fun, should anyone want to play me with those.

Those following my blog might note that this makes the 3rd!!! army I’m working on at the moment (along with my Imagi-Nation and my Lost and the Damned). It’s a pretty big ask to work on three armies at the same time, but really, I’m not in any huge rush on any of them – it’s not like I’ve got any games scheduled! More importantly, I’m having fun building all these different armies, and since that is the only reason I’m doing any of it, I don’t think any other reason is necessary!

I’ll let you all know how I get on!

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Lost Churches of Kent, Eastbridge

Last week, it was all getting to me. So, on a dreary, drizzly Thursday morning, I eschewed work and set off on my bike instead.

In England at the moment, we aren’t allowed to leave our ‘Local Area’. I don’t think there are any specific guidelines on this, which is probably as it should be. For me, I’ve taken it as the distance I can cycle and still get home. Thankfully, there is plenty of interesting stuff in my local area.

On this day, I rode out into the Romney Marsh, which is an oddly lonely area of land that sits between the south-eastern coast and a high ridgeline. It’s a peaceful place to cycle with many more sheep than cars or people.

Peddling my way through a few small villages, and then past a few isolated houses, I finally reached an open area of flat fields and drainage ditches. A little further and I came upon a strange ‘island’. While everything was flat and mostly featureless, here was a lone house with a small area of thick, bramble-filled woods next to it. These woods contained only one ‘entrance’, a tunnel that had been purposely cut through the greenery. I pushed my bike through, and I admit, it was a bit like entering the fairy realm.

On the other side of the tunnel was circle of cleared land, completely enclosed by the walls of trees and brambles. In the middle stood two, jagged projections, the crumbling remains of the tower of Eastbridge church. The tower was apparently built in the 13th century, but by the 15th century the church had been abandoned for reasons unknown… although judging by the number of houses in the local vicinity, a lack of patrons is perhaps a good guess.

It’s incredible to think that after 500 years left mainly on its own that anything survives. Obviously, someone is maintaining the land, though there is no evidence that any work has been done on the ruins themselves.

On another day, it would be the perfect little spot for a picnic. On this wet morning, it was a tranquil place, if not one that invited lengthy stays. I soaked in the quiet, the calm, and the drizzly rain, took a few photos, and quietly thanked the unknown caretaker. I hope the place manages to remain for another 500 years.



Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Aliens!

 

Gale Force 9 recently released a new board game based on the Aliens franchise. Of more interest to me, they made the aliens figures for the game available separately. I picked up a box of Alien warriors (12) and a Queen, figuring they would be perfect for  Operation: Last Train and Stargrave. Especially for the first Stargrave supplement: Quarantine 37.

The figures are made of hard plastic and take modelling glue well. Assembly was relatively easy – except for the tails, which were a serious pain. The tail join is poorly designed, but I eventually got around the problem through the employment of ‘lots of glue’. The Queen went together with no problems. (Side note – board gamers must have gotten a lot better at assembling figures over the years if this is really marketed at them…)

Considering aliens are supposed to be gloss black - and the figures are cast in gloss black plastic - I couldn’t see much point in really painting them. Instead, I picked out the teeth and claws, painted some grey on the bases, and called them done. I didn’t bother to prime them, and I’m not going to bother to varnish them. The sculpting/casting is great though, so they look fantastic.

On the one hand, this all means I added a good little force of aliens for very minimal effort. On the other hand, it means that I got no real enjoyment out of assembling or painting these figures. So, I need to make sure they get some more table-time to earn their keep.

Still, some nice ones to have in the collection.

 


Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Warhammer 40,000, 4th Edition, Deluxe

I have recently been reading through the Warhammer 40,000, 4th Edition Rules. Partly this is because I’m currently building a ‘Lost and the Damned’ army, using the 4th Edition as a rough guide, but mainly because I happen to own a really pretty copy of these rules!

Warhammer 40,000 released its forth edition in 2004. I was in 27 or 28 at the time and working weekends at the legendary Dream Wizards gaming store in Rockville, Maryland. I wasn’t a big 40K player, even then, but I enjoyed painting the figures and reading White Dwarf, and knowledge of the game was important for maintaining a good rapport with many of the customers.

When 4th Edition came out – it was a big deal! The store had ordered a huge number of copies, and I figured I would pick one up. Then Doug, who was my manager at the time, showed me the deluxe limited-edition copy of the rulebook. It was beautiful – faux leather with a matching slipcase highlighted with silver leaf. The book itself had sliver edging on the pages.

It was expensive – even with my employee discount, but Doug told me ‘You are going to want one of these.’ He was right. I mean, even then I was a bibliophile, and this was the prettiest gaming book I had ever seen.

Well, nearly twenty years later, I’ve still got the book. It even made the trip over the ocean with me.

I’m not saying that 4th Edition is an especially good or bad version of 40K, though you can certainly have a fun game using the rules. I’m reading the book for nostalgia, because it is well-written, because it has fantastic artwork, and as an encouragement to keep working on my Lost and the Damned army. I’m reading it because I like the way the faux leather feels on my fingers.

Laid into the back of the book is a little certificate noting that my copy of the book is number 9151. I wonder how many were printed?

Another amazing thing about this book. At the time I bought it, I had no idea I would ever live in the UK, and Games Workshop itself seemed a kind of mystical, faraway place. Now, as I look over the list of contributors to this book, I’m astounded by the number of people who worked on this book that I have since met in a professional capacity, mostly through my work at Osprey.

On one level, buying a ‘Deluxe Edition’ of a rulebook is kind of silly, as they are likely to be replaced or outdated at some point. For example, this book has been supplanted by 5 later editions, but, at least in this case, I’m sure glad Doug talked me into it.



Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Joe - The Miniature

Last week I received the most incredible (little) gift. It’s me, in 28mm, which actually means the figure is closer to 26mm!

This incredible piece was a gift from my long-time friend, colleague, and collaborator, Phil Smith to mark my departure from Osprey Publishing. Phil and I go back some 14 years. He joined about 6 months after I did, and we were immediately put together to work on reprints – him for editorial, me for production. I soon left production for marketing, but we continued to work together, especially as we both worked to grow wargaming within the company. Later, when I created the Osprey Adventures line, Phil helped me at every step as I essentially took on the work of an editor. We even wrote two Osprey Adventures books together: Steam Punk Soldiers and Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier. After that, I would officially rejoin Phil when I became the Marketing Manager for Osprey Games, working under Phil. I left the Osprey office over three years ago, but Phil and I have remained in constant communication, helping one another with whatever we were working on – and constantly emailing back and forth about miniatures! He was the first friend I made in Oxford and has been a source of constant support in the second (or British) half of my life.

Despite that, sneaky Phil managed to get this figure made without me having the first clue. The figure is sculpted by Bobby Jackson, who has done all of the Rangers of Shadow Deep figures and most of the recent Frostgrave ones. And, at Phil’s direction, he included some wonderful little details. Most noticeably, the big d20 in my hand. (Hey, I have written games that use d10s!). I’m wearing the One Ring around my neck. I’ve got a book by my side that has ‘Rules’ written in runes on the cover. And my bag is held shut by one of the Leaves of Lorien!

I fear he also captured the true state of my hair and the general bagginess of my trousers!

From Bobby, the files were sent to Nick Eyre over at North Star who handled turning it into a figure and having the mold made. The first casts were then sent to Kev Dallimore, who painted the figure that was sent to me (as well as taking the photos seen here). I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – if you haven’t seen a Kev figure live, then it’s hard to fully appreciate his artistry. But, if you are looking for a ‘wow’, check out the close-up on the die! Yup, he put the numbers on the die. When looking at the actual figure, I can’t even make out specific numbers – with my reading glasses on! That’s how small they are!

So – thanks to Bobby, Kev, and Nick. And especially thanks to Phil Smith. This is such an incredible little gift that I will treasure always. I feel like I need to buy a display case just for it. 

No, I don’t know when, or even if, this figure will ever be available. I mean, I’m not sure how much appeal it has beyond myself.

What a treasure.


Friday, 29 January 2021

Chaos Sorcerer or Storm Warden?

 

I was going through one of my figure cases the other day, when I discovered this figure that I had completely forgotten about. It is one of my all-time favourite Citadel miniatures. One of the old Chaos sorcerers. I can’t remember where I got it, or how long ago I painted it, but I think I did a pretty good job on it.

It just goes to show how much character you could get into the ‘simple’ more two-dimensional sculpts of wargaming’s yesteryear.

Anyway, I decided that I’ve got to get this guy into some games sometime – so, I’ve brought him into my Ghost Archipelago crew as my new Warden. In truth, I’ve never been completely happy with the figures I’ve had filling that position. 

Considering his appearance, I’m thinking he’ll be a Storm Warden.



Thursday, 28 January 2021

The Possessed

 

I am continuing my work on the Tox Troopers from Edinburgh Miniatures, and have just finished up these three. I believe the middle guy is ‘possessed’ of some sort of malignant spirit, while the two little guys with him are his ‘handlers’. I don’t know if that’s actually what the little guys are supposed to be, but that’s how I’ll be using them most of the time.

I don’t generally paint nude figures. I don’t often enjoy the process, and, I admit, I generally feel a little weird having them on a table. However, this guy is just strange enough that it doesn’t bother me too much, and I like how he’s got a couple bits of armour and some really heavy cables.

I also decided he’d be the one guy in the force that had no mud on him, since he floats above it all!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Solo Frostgrave & Ghost Archipelago Adventure

I’ve just received the new issue of Wargames Illustrated (398), which is always a treat. This issues also happens to include 'The Sunless River' a solo scenario I wrote for Ghost Archipelago, but which can also be used for Frostgrave! (I included conversion notes.)

As the title suggests, the scenario is mostly set on a river, with the crew in a few small boats. They have to make their way down an underground river that features several small islands with strange pylons… and there are also a lot of ‘river-skimmers’, basically giant spiders that can walk on water!

So, if you are looking for a little more solo Frostgrave or Ghost Archipelago action, you might want to check it out! (And they did a great photo shoot for the scenario as well!)

The issue also comes with a free sprue of Warlord Games Greek Hoplites. If you have no other use for them, they make pretty good Dricheans for Ghost Archipelago.

You can grab a copy from NorthStar or direct form Wargames Illustrated.

Stargrave: Species and Robots!

It’s now three months until the official release date for Stargrave, which means the book is probably printing somewhere. I honestly don’t know where, as Bloomsbury, the parent company for Osprey Games, uses printers all over the world. Normally, I would be expecting to get an advance copy in the next month or so, but due to Covid, I will likely only see the book a month or so before release.

I know a lot of people are excited to get started on their crews, so I thought I would share a little more information to get people thinking about figures. Specifically, I thought I’d discuss species and robots!

The game divides species into two-broad groups: humanoid and non-humanoid. All crew are assumed to be humanoid, but beyond that, the rules don’t care at all what they look like. They can be tall or short, hairy or scaly, have ten eyes or one. So really, 90% of the ‘aliens’ that have appeared in various science-fiction movies and television over the years!

Non-humanoid aliens are usually treated as ‘uncontrolled creatures’ and most often used as neutral monsters in scenarios. That said, creative players shouldn’t let this stop them. If you really want a crewmember that looks like a floating jellyfish or man-sized centipede, then there is nothing wrong with that. As-long-as you can make the figures distinct from one another, and make it clear to your opponent which figures represent your captain, first-mate, or specific soldier type, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Robots, on the other hand, are treated slightly different in the rules. Essentially, whenever you recruit a new soldier into your crew, you can simply declare it is a robot. This comes with a few specific strengths and weaknesses (such as not needing to breath!), and changes their interactions with some of the powers and gear available to crew. You can’t have a robot for a captain or first-mate, although you can have a cyborg who is mostly machine. So, you can include a robot or two in your crew without it changing the structure of your crew much. You could even have all your soldiers be robots, though this is probably only likely if your captain happens to be a robot expert…

Anyway, hope that gives you a bit more idea about the freedom you have when buying figures and building your crew!

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For those wondering, the 'robot' above is a mech from the new Battletech game while the human is from Anvil Industries.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Dear Joe (Age 14)

Hey me! You would not believe how much it costs to send a letter back to 1990! You are probably also wondering about the British stamps – I’ll get to that.

I wanted to write because I’ve got some good news and some bad news. I’ll start with the bad news first, because I know we always like to end on a good note!

You know that anxiety you feel a lot of the time? Well, unfortunately, that’s going to be a frequent companion for the next thirty years, at least. Oh, it’ll come and go. You’ll have periods where you barely notice it, and other times where it is the only thing you can think about. It’ll take different forms as you get older, find your weak points, and kick you when you are down. The irony, of course, is almost none of the things you are worried about will actually come to pass, and the few that do, you’ll get through. That knowledge doesn’t really help, of course. I know, the worry is rarely about what is actually likely to happen, it’s just all the imagined possibilities...

But that leads right into the good news. That imagination that often causes you so many problems is also one of your greatest strengths. See that dungeon map over there? That was part of the work you did yesterday. That’s right, 
work. You are going to create fantasy worlds, and with the help of numerous talented people, you are going to share them with like-minded geeks all over the planet. Thousands of people are going to want to play in your worlds. Some will even write and tell you how your games helped with their own anxieties.

But you know, that’s not even the best part. You are going to wander and explore. You are going to have wonder-filled adventures – many of them with a beautiful woman with an incredible accent! She’ll become your wife and your best friend.

Truthfully, your life will be filled with fantastic friends and family. Some will only be around for a short time, others will remain close wherever you roam. They will support you, and if you ever need them, they’ll come running when you call. Make sure you do the same for them.

I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises – and there will be many! I just really wanted to say – it’s going to be a bumpy ride, but gosh is it going to be worth it.

                                                 Sincerely,

                                                             You. Age 44.

P.S. They will make a live-action film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, and it is going to rock.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Tox Trooper Scouts and Psyker

 

I have been powering on my Tox Troopers. Here is my first 'fire team' along with a Psyker. I really started this project just to have some bad guys to use for Stargrave, but I have been having so much fun painting these figures that I am planning to expand it to a full 'Lost and the Damned' army. I've got all of the figures in the Tox Trooper collection and am planning to add a few things from other places down the line.

I apologize for the lower quality photo. With homeschooling continuing in the dinning room, I don't have access to my normal photo set-up, so I'm having to make do with what I can do quickly in my office. 

Here's a photo I took of some of them with the old set-up.



Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Stargrave Plastic Figure Reveal!

 

Osprey Games and North Star have released the first photograph of some of the plastic Stargrave figures that should be available in April along with the book!

I believe these guys were built from the 'Crew' box, which is just one of three boxes that are planned for the launch! The Mercenaries and Troopers boxes are also in the works.

As you can see, each box is going to have plenty of different options for both human and non-human figures, not to mention loads of different weapons and gear. 

All of the figures have been sculpted by Bobby Jackson and the paint jobs here are by Kev Dallimore.

And what is that I notice about their feet?

Monday, 18 January 2021

Classic Osprey Advert from Battlegames

Over the last couple of months I have bought some old issues of Battlegames magazine and have been reading through them as part of my Imagi-Nations project. This magazine, which ran for 30 (?) or so issues about ten years ago, served as my main introduction to the concept, and it remained a constant theme throughout its run. The editor, Henry Hyde, continues to share his enthusiasm for wargaming at his Patreon and through his writing. I'm looking forward to his upcoming book on Wargaming Campaigns. You can still get most issues of the magazine digitally at the link above.

Anyway, I was flipping through one issue, when I came across this advert. It not only made me smile, but it brought some memories crashing back. I was the junior member of the Osprey marketing team at the time - mostly handling review copies, customer enquires, and the like. This advert was the brain-child of Mike R., and I can still remember him sitting with the designer, Julian K., as they carefully cut the shako off a Napoleonic soldier and stuck it onto the Vietnam War soldier (digitally, of course!). It took a lot of time to get it to fit that well! 

Some years later, I would also use the artwork of the Vietnam soldier as part of a gigantic poster we made for our stand at a big Family History show. The soldier was part of a timeline showing how far back in your family tree you would probably have to go to get to soldiers from different eras. I remember that we used this particular piece of artwork because there was a big debate in the office over whether or not we should edit out the cigarette! I'm not sure why this became a 'hot topic', but somehow it did. Personally, I had no problem with it as the cigarette was being presented in its 'historical context', but I didn't feel strongly about the issue. I think, in the end, we took the cigarette out. The show turned out to be a complete bust anyway. I think we spent more money printing the posters than we made at the show...

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Note 1 - Osprey had a complete set of Battlegames in their purpose printed folders. I miss that set!

Friday, 15 January 2021

3rd Trans-Luthean Artillery


I've added a second unit to my Napoleonic Imagi-Nation. I should really come up with a name for the kingdom so I can stop writing 'Napoleonic Imagi-Nation'.

Introducing the 3rd Trans-Luthean Artillery. I figure 'The Luthean' is a sparsely populated, semi-arid region. Due to having lots of room, but not many people, it concentrates on training artillerymen as its contribution to the kingdom's defence.

The figures are Spanish artillery crew from Front Rank. The gun is also from Front Rank, though I forget which nation. I painted them in red jackets to match my infantry, but gave them yellow cuffs to set them apart. 

Having painted A LOT of white belts and straps in the last month, I'm now going to take a break for a bit on the Napoleonics and paint some space-dudes! 


Thursday, 14 January 2021

Science-Fiction Corridors!

 Like many science-fiction gamers, I am obsessed with ‘corridors’. So many of my favourite sci-fi shows feature them. The Doctor (Who) probably holds the record for running down the most corridors, but they are also a common feature of Aliens, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. So, it’s pretty natural that I would want to recreate some of those exciting passageways on the tabletop – and I have, several times. In the past, I have made 2D corridors, sometimes with 3D edges. My mostsuccessful attempt can be seen in this old post.

But I’ve always wanted to take it further and go full 3D with my corridors. I tried once before. I bought a big MDF set with numerous different sections. However, I got so dispirited with the time it took me to put one little piece together that I ended up getting rid of it all. Well, I’ve decided it is time to try again.

This time, I ordered a single piece from TTCombat. It’s actually part of their ‘Bunker’ line but works pretty well for generic corridors – especially since I left some of the exterior detailing off. It took me about 2 hours to put this piece together. It had a couple of tricky bits, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with a bit of patience. Next up, I’m going to paint it, which I suspect will be little more than a coat of grey primer and a wash. When I’m done, I’ll order another piece.

This may not seem the most monetarily efficient way to assemble a corridor set, but I suspect it is. Doing it this way, I have a far better chance of completing the project. More importantly, I believe I will enjoy the entire process much more. So, if examined from a money vs. enjoyment point-of-view, I suspect this by far the most efficient way.

I actually have a lot of game design thoughts on corridors - as they are something that need to be handled very carefully in wargaming, but I'll save that for another day.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Farewell, Osprey Publishing

Some people, places, and institutions have so much meaning that capturing them with words seems almost impossible. Such is Osprey Publishing to me. For over a decade, and excepting only my wife, Osprey stood as the most important constant in my life. At a time when I had left my country, my family, and my friends behind, Osprey provided employment, purpose, and community. For many years, it felt like a second home, a place where I was completely comfortable and accepted. It provided opportunities I never could have imagined and helped usher me into my next phase of life.

As 2020 came to a close, I bid goodbye to this incredible publisher.

Now, before I go further, let me be clear – I still plan to have a close relationship with Osprey Games. There is more Frostgrave and Oathmark still to come. Later this year, they will publish Stargrave and The Silver Bayonet. I hope and expect for them to publish these games for a long time to come and am in constant conversation about how to make these games better.

But, after over 14 years, my time as a salaried employee has come to an end. This was completely my decision and was not the result of any ill will toward the company. I just felt it was time for me to move on and take on some new challenges. I wanted more creative freedom, a chance to completely map my own road as a writer and game designer.

Knowing it is time though, hasn’t made it easy. During this period of heightened stress, I have had days (and sleepless nights) where I have questioned the sanity of leaving a steady job. I have also struggled with letting go of something that has been so much a part of my life. I have so many incredible memories of my time with the company, and I suspect I’ll write a lot more about it over the coming years. For now, here are a few memories that lept to mind:

         -       Having lunch with a pair of ex-SAS soldiers, both of whom played important roles in the Iranian Embassy Siege.

-       Snowball fights on the lawn in front of the office.

-       Digging through the mess in the ‘Marketing Cupboard,’ which was like digging through the history of the company.

-       Walking alone through the back rooms of the National Army Museum.

-       Seeing Phil Smith laugh so hard he turned purple.

-       Watching Peter Dennis paint on our stand at Salute.

-       Getting to play Black Powder with Rick Priestly in John Stallard’s game room before the game was released!

-       Leading the Osprey Games office in a spontaneous rendition of ‘Lord of the Dance’.

-       Filming a zombie video…

-       Old West wargaming with Henry Hyde in the Gettysburg meeting room.

-       GenCon with Christian, Phil, Duncan, and Brent.

-       Shouting matches amongst the Marketing Department in the middle of the office.

-       The ‘Coca-Cola Time’ dance.

    Sitting in a hotel room, during Adepticon, signing 500 copies of Frostgrave, eating a burger, getting high on marker fumes, watching UNC play in the Final Four.

-       Watching Phil get stopped by German police… (for jay-walking!)

-       The announcement that Osprey’s best-selling book of the year was Frostgrave.

-       Every Christmas party.

These were all moments, but really, my biggest memory is a general feeling of warmth, camaraderie, laughter, and a love of the books.

I hope that those I leave behind carry on Osprey’s traditions of great books, but also its tradition of being a wonderful place to work.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Tox Troopers


Taking a short break from Napoleonics, I started work on some ‘Tox Troopers’ from Edinburgh Miniature Company*.

I love these metal figures. They are simple but full of character, with nice, easy-to-paint detail.

I acquired a complete range of them, and my plan is to have them perform multiple functions. First-and-foremost, I have always wanted to a do a 'Lost and the Damned' army for Warhammer 40K 5th edition. This is a characterful army list is found in the classic Eye of Terror campaign book. I plan to use these tox troopers as the standard foot-troops for the army. They should make a perfect counterpoint to my Demon Hunters.

I also plan to use them as the pirates in my games of Stargrave.

I painted these two guys first to make sure I was happy with the paint scheme. I decided to make them followers of Nurgle, mainly because I thought I could paint an appropriate symbol on their shoulder pads without it looking terrible! I also imagined that they have verses from the ‘Litany of Corruption’ painted on their armour – that’s all of the little white dots – an effect that works much better when seen live at 28mm instead of blown up for a photo! Still, it adds a nice bit of contrast to the figures.

I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this force, and will show off more figures as I painted them!

* The company is currently closed for the holidays, but should be back in the next few weeks.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Stargrave: Preparing the Pirates

Is it really less than four months until the release of Stargrave? I guess I should really start talking about it a bit! For today, let’s talk about ‘pirates’.

Stargrave is set in the aftermath of an apocalyptic war between two great empires that resulted in mutual destruction. Into this power vacuum came the pirate fleets. With no organization big enough to challenge their power, these fleets of ruthless cutthroats roam through the Ravaged Galaxy, taking what they want and crushing anyone that dares to challenge their power. How, exactly, the Independent Crews run by the heroes feel about this situation is up to them, but, regardless, they must move quietly if they want to survive.

These pirates not only form an important part of the background of the game, but also contribute to the mechanics. When I created the rules, I wanted to put some kind of ‘clock’ on the games, something that would drive the players to complete their tasks as quick as possible. Eventually, this became the ‘Unwanted Attention’ rule that generally replaces the Random Encounter table for many scenarios, especially those set in a more urban environment.

Essentially, the longer a scenario goes on, the greater chance all of that gunfire is going to attract attention. At first, this might be low-level law-enforcement, or gangs, or the like, but eventually, its going to be the pirates. And once the pirates are committed, they won’t stop coming…

So, players are going to want to have some miniatures available for this unwanted attention. Here’s the different types you’ll need.

Ruffians (low level grunts in light armour carrying pistols)

Pirate Troopers (Standard baddies in heavy armour with carbines)

Pirate Shock Troopers (Elite baddies in combat armour with carbines)

Bounty Hunters (Bad News in combat armour with carbines)

You’ll want a good handful of ruffians and pirate troopers, a couple of shock troopers, and maybe a bounty hunter or two. Generally, they only show up in small numbers, but potentially they can keep coming forever…

What all of these guys look like is up to you, so feel free to fit them to your favourite science-fiction setting. Alternatively, I happen to know that Osprey Games & North Star are working on a couple of plastic box sets for the game that are going to give some amazing options for constructing these guys… and so much more.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The High Vault Guards – Completed!

The Christmas period proved a great time for me to paint a bunch of miniatures all wearing the same uniform. It meant, after the first one, I could really switch off my brain and just apply colours to the right spot. And so I did, until I completed all 16 figures in the High Vault Guard, the first unit in my Not-poleonics army. Okay, a little thought had to be applied when painting the officer and the drummer, who wears reverse colours, but generally, it was painting by numbers.

I suppose most people would batch paint a unit like this, but I have never been one for batch painting. So, except for the flesh, which for some reason I did in batches, I painted each figure, one at a time, completing one before moving onto the next. It’s a less efficient way to paint, but I have always found it more enjoyable.

I have also been continuing my education in the period and have just finished reading the first volume of The Campaigns of Napoleon by David Chandler. It is easy to see why this book came so heartily recommended. He not only tells the history of the battles in an entertaining way, but also explains Napoleon's method of warfare, and what he was trying to accomplish on a tactical level. I’m looking forward to getting into Volume II.

I’m also looking at a couple of rule sets that I might use the figures for – namely Muskets & Tomahawks and Rebels and Patriots, but I haven’t gotten deep enough into either to say much at present.

Next up, I hope to get these guys some artillery support!

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Covid Christmas

 

I had plans to do a lot of blogging over the Christmas holidays, but unfortunately 2020 had one more surprise in store. You have perhaps heard of the ‘new variant’ of covid that is sweeping through southern England. Well, that’s where I live…

Three weeks ago, my wife got covid, as did her mother, father, sister, grandmother, aunt and uncle. This represents four different households, that briefly became connected through the need to help grandma. Thankfully, I can report that everyone seems to be recovering, even 91-year-old grandma, though she remains in respite care.

The one bright spot in all of this was that I appear to have escaped – either because I had the virus and never expressed any symptoms or potentially because I had it earlier in the year. (Knock on wood. It’s possible, of course, that I’ve just been lucky so far). This meant that I was able to look after the kids while my wife was completely out of action.

So, it was a muted Christmas, spent in isolation, my wife unable to even taste her Christmas dinner. Still, the kids had a great time, and maybe a calmer Christmas day was not such a bad thing for them.

Strangely, this all meant that I got more painting done than I expected. Since I completely abandoned any attempts to work, I kept my paints set-up on my desk for three straight weeks, and grabbing little breaks here and there to add a colour or shade was one of the things that kept me sane. I’ll be showing off some of that work in the days to come. For now, you’ll have to settle for this dwarf. It’s Reaper miniature. I bought it because I thought it looked like a ‘heroic scale’ version of the Khazad Guard from the Middle-earth Strategy Battlegame. I’m not actually sure why that was an important consideration to me, but it was. Anyway, it’s a very nice figure, and I really enjoyed painting it. There are several variations of this figure available, so if you want to construct a small army of them you could.

Hopefully, with my wife 75% recovered, I can get back to work, including doing some more blogging, but with England going into another lockdown, it means home-schooling and all the difficulty, disruption, and challenge that comes with it. It’s going to be an interesting year!