Friday 26 February 2021

The Boys in Blue


I have always been a 'Miniatures First' wargamer. By which I mean, I tend to buy miniatures that I think are cool, and then I worry about what I'm going to do with them. Maybe I'll find (or write) a game to use them for, but maybe I won't. 

I recently pulled this cop car out of my son's somewhat neglected car collection. Then I remembered the line of 20mm figures that North Star has been creating for Gaslands, and bought the 'Highway Patrol' pack. Now, of course, Gaslands doesn't actually have any rules for figures on foot (and I'm assured that it never will!). 

So, what are these guys for? Well, just for fun really. I had fun painting them. They look cool standing next to their car. One day I might use them for some Car Wars style game, or I might not.

The figure pack actually came with 5 figures, including a plain-clothes detective type. I had a lot of trouble painting him and realized the problem was that I didn't really care about him. He didn't fit with my little team. So I dropped him.

Sometimes it's nice to paint a few miniatures just for the heck of it.

Thursday 25 February 2021

Zombie Herdsmen

I once wrote a book about weapons and tactics to use when fighting zombies, but what if you are fighting on the same side as the zombies?

Continuing my work on my Tox Troopers, I recently finished up these to guys. I'm not 100% sure what they are supposed to be, but I'm going to use them as 'Zombie Herdsmen'. 

In truth, I don't suppose fire would be much use in herding zombies, but it could be an extremely effective weapon used in conjunction with them. Think about it. You advance behind your shield of undead, then, when you get close to the enemy, you open up with a flamethrower. You can fire straight through your own troops. I mean, if the flames don't destroy them, you've just turned them into 'flaming zombies' which is even better - in the short term anyway.  

So, that's what these guys are for.  Fun models to paint.

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



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.