Thursday, 19 September 2019

New books

Last week some new books arrived from the History of Wargaming project.

Good reads, and definitely useful to get further insights into the development of our hobby.

The total tally of books I've ordered from these reprints now has reached more than 20 different titles ...


Saturday, 17 August 2019

Citadel contrast paint

I decided to see what all the fuss was about and bought a couple of Citadel contrast paints. The idea is that you give the model a beige or grey undercoat, then apply the contrast paint (possibly in multiple layers). The technique is advertised and discussed on various forums as if it's a revolutionary new way of painting, but I think that's a slight exaggeration. I have known about this style of painting (light undercoat, then using washes) for years, although I never tried it myself. The basic effect is that the most of the pigment acts as the color of a wash, while the translucent layer together with the undercoat produces a highlight.

I decided to use a figure from the Bones kickstarter some years ago, a classic wizard. So below you see the results.

The coat (red), hat (brown/yellow), the face ad hands (flesh) and the beard (grey) were done using contrast paints, and smaller details with normal paints. It is best seen on the back of the coat, since that whole area is only done with contrast paint - all the other areas have details being added or some other colours. It sort of works, but since the paints are not very opaque, any errors cannot be painted over. You need to apply the basecolor again on the spot you want to correct, then apply contrast paint again. So that's a bit of a nuisance and takes a different way of thinking about painting your miniature. I am pretty old school in that respect (paint from the inside out, base color, wash and drybrush), but with contrast paint, you need to think carefully in which order to apply the different colours.

I will need to do some more experimenting before I can come to final judgements though ...






Friday, 9 August 2019

There's a time to say goodbye ...

I've been (war)gaming for over 30 years. That means I have bought a lot of games, books, ... over the years.

Yesterday I went to the local gaming store to put a number of games up for sale. They have a system in which you put your games for sale on a shelf, and if they get sold, you get store credit. The store takes care of the logistics. Much easier than trying to find buyers online or hauling your stuff to a con to sell it there. Of course, the trick is to set the right price. I usually put a low price on items because it's more important for me to get rid of them rather than to fetch a "market-conform" price - whatever that means. So far, all of my stuff I've brought to the store has been sold.

In my early years I was an avid buyer of roleplaying materials. The local store-owner once called me a "very good customer". But in 1998 I moved continents, and I sold of a huge part of my gaming collection. That's when I mentally made the decision not being a collector of everything, but rather be more selective in the games I keep.

During 19998-2001 I lived in the US, and this was the start of the "German board games" craze. So I acquired a lot of those. I also bought a lot of old boardgame titles (mostly Avalon Hill) through eBay, which was also in its infancy at the time. But when I moved back to Europe, I again sold a large part of my collection. Nothing makes you clean up your junk more heavily than moving continents ...

At regular intervals since then I have sanitized the gaming closet. I still have a lot of stuff, but I don't keep everything. Some things I keep because they have emotional value, e.g. the Starfall game my late father brought from a business trip when I was a teenager - being a space addict it was the perfect present at the time. Other things I keep because of good gaming memories, e.g. the entire The Enemy Within campaign I ran during the early nineties. Other are true collectibles, such as my original copies of Little Wars and Floor Games. And of course I still have a large amount of toy soldiers.

Some games I have kept because they symbolize (for me) a golden age of gaming. One of these in my Avalon Hill copy of Diplomacy. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, when I still had a lot of time as a Ph.D. student, I loved this game, and so did many in my gaming group. At one point I even set up a large 30+ player game, based on a variant I found on the proto-internet. But at one point we realized that Diplomacy as a game showed it age, and did not fit our views on gaming anymore. The built-in assumptions of treachery and back-stabbing, no matter how fun, was not for everyone's tastes. And we simply didn't have the time anymore. The last game I played was 20 years ago. I played Russia and lost badly. I remember that much.


Nevertheless, I always kept my copy of the game, in the hope one day we would play it again. But yesterday it struck me. We will not play this game again, ever. Not this year, not in 10 years, not when we're retired. It's only taking up space, and after all, it's simply a box including a map, a rulebook and plastic(!) playing pieces. If I want to have a nostalgic look at it, I'll surf to Boardgamegeek.

So I was ready to part with my physical copy of Diplomacy. Along with some other more recent games, I handed them over to the friendly storekeeper. "How much you want for this one?" "10 euro" "Ok!". I'm pretty sure the next time I visit the store, the game will be gone. Perhaps sold to an Avalon Hill collector. Perhaps to a youngster who has 10 euro to spend and wants to try something new. Perhaps it will end up in someone's trash bin. All fine by me.

Keep the memories, not the games!

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

How do people keep up?

One of the recurring questions on many wargaming forums is whether there is too much on offer these days. Too much rules, too many figures, too many of everything? Invariably, people then refer to the golden age (the "golden age" is always personal to the individual, of course), in which everything was much simpler, we only had two different figure manufacturers, we had to carve our own dice from a piece of wood, and the only rules available fitted on the back of a postcard.

That last nostalgic sentiment is pure nonsense, of course. I think the wargaming community is blessed to have such a rich offering of different figure ranges, rulesets, etc. available these days. What does happen though is that trends come and go, and what was once seen as mainstream wargaming (e.g. big battalions on a large table using Grant rules), might no longer be a dominant mode. Often this is what long-time wargamers lament. The preferences of their youth - the personal golden age - have somehow been superceded by another style of play.

Nevertheless, it seems we have become part of a maelstrom that is constantly gaining speed. When I take a look at the announcements of new products in the wargaming magazines, it seems rulesets are already out of fashion again before they had a chance to solidify. New ranges and rules are hailed as "the next big thing", but are already forgotten 6 months later when there's another "next big thing". I wonder where the wargamers are who do have the time and energy to follow up on all these new products? Or is it because as a 52-year old I am no longer part the target audience?

The latter may be part of the answer. When I was much younger, I was involved quite heavily in roleplaying games. I bought many different systems, many different source books, ... all with the plan of starting up grandiose campaigns. Of course many of these plans never materialized - although many of the books were read for inspiration, but never used for actual games. I guess the same is true for wargaming these days. I cannot imagine people actually play all these different releases, although wargamers might read them and look in them for inspiration.

I do of course realize this is partly - if not mostly - all driven by commercial factors. If you want to sell lots of rules in a limited niche market, you either need to relaunch that set of rules in newer editions, or feed the beast by publishing supplements. And the same goes for figures. I understand that dynamic, but it makes me feel "wanting to catch up" sometimes.

Just to give one example (but I could give more ...): I bought the Frostgrave basic rulebook when it was first published (2016). Since then, there have been a number of supplements, even some spin-off games. That's all good, and the system looks interesting, but I still have to play my first Frostgrave game. This is of course completely my own fault. My gaming frequency has decreased over the years, due to professional activities (which only have increased), and personal life (which goes in up and downs :-)). So perhaps I should simply play more. But even then, it seems one does not have the time to really "get into" a system such that it becomes second nature. Judging by the number of products that are being released, fed by the cycle of forums, blogs and podcasts, the thoughtful wargamer ever seems to be in a mode of trying to catch up ...

One of the more curious trends I have seen is the search for more obscure and weird settings and periods. One that I noticed recently is "Wild West Exodus", that I have seen through various advertisements in the magazines. At first I thought it was a new Wild West game with a twist, but every new advert makes it look weirder and weirder ... It looks like a convoluted invented world without much coherency (I have no opinion about the rules, which might be good or bad, since I didn't read them). Who buys this stuff? Apparantly some people must do so, otherwise the product wouldn't exist ... But again, I'm probably not part of the target audience (anymore) :-)

One of the "solutions" I was contemplating is restricting myself to fewer wargaming interests. Play only a few chosen periods, stick to proven (self-written) rulesets, and only scout the market when you really, really, really, need something new. The maelstrom of the market will not slow down, but at least my wargaming mind will find some more rest. Perhaps, one day :-)

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A conversion project (3)

I finished my little conversion - an 80s space marine mountd on an alien-like creature (see here and here).

I'm quite pleased with how the figure turned out. I am not the greatest painter, but I like painting in a somewhat simple style (base, wash, drybrush). This figure will be the commander of our Starmarine forces in our Antares scifi campaign. When he will see the table remains to be seen ...

In case you wonder, the rune on his right shoulder pad is the symbol we use for our Starmarine force. I know it is the Wolfsangel rune that was used by a.o. the Das Reich SS Waffen division in WW2, but I often choose runes to use on vehicles or units because there are easy to paint. I think of them als older heraldic signs, or Dwarven runes (I'm also a big Tolkien fan), and certainly do not support any other meaning people might give them.








Gedemco "Versterkte Toren" (4)

I painted in some more details, added some cardboard windows and doors (always useful to have a collection of those lying around), and some heraldry (again, cardboard). Instead of choosing classic medieval heraldry, I went for a heraldic sun motif. Looks more fun, and somewhat mysterious. I did add an heraldic blue lion though.

I dug out some of my old fantasy miniatures (80 skaven and an old Ral Partha wizard) to show off the relative size of this tower - rather huge!

Perhaps with the Keep, I can setup a game in which 2 wizards are duelling each other from their respective towers ... not only hurling fireballs at each others, but summoning minions, creating chasms and fog, etc ... could be an idea for a future convention game!









Friday, 26 July 2019

6000 entries in the index!

I've been working on a backlog the past couple of days, and the index has now reached 6000 entries!

Breakdown per issue:
  • Miniature Wargames 2554
  • Wargames Illustrated 1747
  • Wargames Soldiers Strategy 474
  • Practical Wargamer 398
  • Battlegames 232
  • Wargamers Annual 187
  • Secrets of Wargames Design 103
  • ... all others have less then 100 entries
Donations for completing missing issues are still welcome!

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Gedemco "Versterkte Toren" (2)

In my last post, I was wondering where the inspiration for the Gedemco model came from, since I also noticed a slightly similar tower on the cover of Fantasy Wargaming by Martin Hackett.

It seems the model can be traced back to a modeling project by Ian Weekley. Many of the modeling projects were punlished in the book "Buildings for the Military Modeler" (1989), which contained articles previously published in wargaming and modeling magazines. So I suspect the Gedemco model was probably inspired by one of Ian Weekley's modeling articles.

The same tower can also be seen on George R R Martin's page, which makes an explicit reference to Ian Weekley.

The pages from Ian Weekley's book are shown below.




Thursday, 18 July 2019

Gedemco "Versterkte Toren"

My next Gedemco kit is the "Versterkte Toren", which translates as "Reinforced Tower" or "Strong Tower".

Box cover of the "Versterkte Toren"
As I mentioned before, putting together a resin kit from the 80s is quite a challenge compared to modern MDF kits. Pieces don't fit very well, some sanding is necessary, and cracks and holes need to be filled up with Pollyfilla or something similar. Nevertheless, I love such old kits, since they have a character of their own and feel more unique compared to the modern mass-produced wargaming items.

But anyway, after the use of roughly 5 liters of glue, adding internal struts, as well as using rubber bands to keep pieces together during the glue-drying process, I finally managed to put together the structure as you can see on the images below. There is also a small building that is meant to go on the tower platform, but then no figures can be placed on the tower, so I'll not use it.






Next thing to do is to paint the tower, and add some sort of access to the doorway. The doorway is visible in the last image, above the stag warrior. My idea is to add an intermediate platform (more glue!), and use 2 ladders to reach the door. An alternative could be to build up a rock or hill around the tower, and make some sort of winding path or stairway, but I always try to keep the footprint of scenery items as close to the building as possible. The larger the base, the more difficult it becomes to place the building on the wargaming table, especially when using hills.

The box cover shows the tower using a ladder, but an image on Rudi Geudens' site (the original owner of Gedemco, and a nice site to visit if you're interested in some Belgian wargaming history), shows a different setup, using a hill with a stairway.

Image on Rudi Geudens' site. Note the small structure on the tower plaform.
When I was putting together the tower, I was constantly thinking I had seen this building somewhere before. And suddenly I remembered, on the cover of "Fantasy Wargaming", by Martin Hackett. I have fond memories of this book, since it was the fist wargaming book I read many many years ago outside of the Games Workshop bubble. I even took part in a tournament run by Martin Hackett using these rules, at European Gencon in 1993, held in Camber Sands.


However, on closer inspection, the tower in the back seems to be a different building compared to the Gedemco kit, but the two are very, very similar. Which triggers the questions who is the manufacturer of the tower on the cover of Fantasy Wargaming (no credits in the book), and whether the Gedemco kit was inspired by this original model, or the other way around?

Sunday, 14 July 2019

A conversion project (2)

I did some more work on my conversion of mounting a space marine onto an alien mount, to be used in our ongoing scifi campaign. This figure will depict "Bacchus Mahoney", commander of SpecOps.

I mounted the figure on the lizardlike alien, and added some bits and bobs. I opted for an arm with a powerfist, rather than the one holding a pistol, since I felt that gave the figure a more believable pose. It also allowed me to attach a pistol on his left leg.

I might still attach some reins, to be decided later.

The photos were taken with flash setting on, but anyway, they give a good impression of the composition of the figure.




Friday, 12 July 2019

Gedemco "The Keep" (2)

As reported previously, I put together an old modeling kit from Gedemco. I painted it during the past couple of days. Spray-paint a black undercout, drybrush in stone grey, paint in some details, and attach a cardboard door and trapdoor. Then apply a coat of matt varnish.

The finished model is shown below, along with some 80s Citadel miniatures.





Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Nurgle Chaos Warriors

A finished unit of Nurgle Chaos Warriors:



The figures are the Chaos Warriors from the old Battlemasters game. The figures are a bit blocky and simple, so I used a rather simple block painting style as well.

The banner was photographed from my copy of Realm of Chaos: Lost and the Damned book, printed, and attached to the miniature. This reminded me of something I also did many years ago: carefully making a color copy of coloured pages in the Warhammer Armies rulebook (color copies were hugely expensive back then, so slecting one or two pages to copy was crucial), cutting the banners out, and using them for my own units. These days, this is all so much easier and cheaper to do.


That same banner can also be seen here.

Another new book

Last week a new book arrived in the post. Not really new, it's an old book, but it's new to me.


The book, "Heroes for Wargames" is well-known in circles of Oldhammer and Citadel/Games Workshop afficionados. It was pubished in 1986, and highlights miniatures, artwork, painting, modeling, ... at the GW studio during the golden 80s.

I first saw this book in a bookshop in Vienna, when I was spending a few weeks there during an internship in 1987. Of course, being a student meant you couldn't afford a book such as this one (it meant not eating for 3 days or so ...), and it sort of slipped my mind. But I saw it being commented on on various Oldhammer blogs over the years, and decided I needed a copy as well. To my surprise, it wasn't difficult at all to find a 2nd hand copy at a very modest price, so after 30 years, I finally have this book in my collection ...

A conversion project

The academic year at my university has finally ended, so I have some time to relax, work in the garden, but also do some wargaming stuff. Or at least, that's what I hope for!

One of the little projects I want to complete is a conversion for our Antares 2401 campaign. The campaign has been dormant for a while, but I think we should start it up again. The campaign puts each player in control of a squad of StarMarines, with the GM controlling the opposition. The general commander of the StarMarines is Bacchus Mahoney, who has only been mentioned in the campaign reports so far, but does not have a figure representing him.

The overall tone of the campaign is more Rogue Trooper/Strontium Dog/original Rogue Trader 40K, rather than the gothic version 40K has become today. So I don't feel constrained at all to use figures as I see fit, and to make up some fun but perhaps weird combinations.

Anyway, this is the project:


Bacchus Mahoney will be represented on the battlefield riding an alien-like mount, which fits in with some of the characters that already saw some action (K'z'r'x, a drafted mercenary, represented by an original Tyranid/ Hunter Slayer miniature).
  • The mount is a Raptor from Harlequin miniatures, and was originally intended as a steed for Shadow Elves.
  • The rider will be an old 40K chaplain on a jetbike. I already removed his right arm, and will replace it with a plastic original Mk 6 Space Marine arm, most likely the pistol, since that will give him a more dynamic pose.
  • I already filed away some of the skulls on the figure, but still want to work on the banner a bit, probably replacing the skull on the banner with the imperial eagle from another plastic banner. The skulls on the kneecap also will be removed.
  • Some smaller items (also from the original Mk 6 Space Marine box) will be used to embellish the model here and there. 
I think it will turn out to be a very cool figure, and it might turn our attention back to our dormant SciFi campaign.

Wehrschach

Last weekend there was a militaria fair/show/gathering in my home village, which took place at Fort Liezele, one of the forts that was built at the start of the 20th century as part of a belt of forts around Antwerp. The fort since long does not have a military function anymore, but is used to host all sorts of events, and is open to the public.

Such a fair is always a curious affair. Traders try to sell all sort of militaria, ranging from rusty old equipment, all sorts of insignia, uniform items, books on military history, to boxes full of what one can only describe as "assorted junk". Being in Belgium, there's an abundance of WW1 and WW2 items, and within the latter category a sometimes unhealthy fascination with all things German, if you get what I'm hinting at.

But such an event is always an opportunity to look for some new decorations for the wargaming room. Preferably nothing too big or bulky. I am definitely not a collector of militaria, but I do have an interest in toy soldiers and the history of wargaming. That's a very niche aspect of militaria (if it even belongs to that category), but you never know what you will find.

So what did I get? An original edition of Wehrschach (German wikipedia link, Boardgamegeek link), a game published in Germany in 1938, and which is basically a chess variant. I have no immediate intention of playing it, but I thought it would be a nice addition for my "history of wargaming" collection. The board is somewhat damaged, but the game is otherwise complete.

Here's my own not-so-good photo, but you'll find other photos through the links above.