Monday, 11 November 2019

Crisis 2019: Impressions

For pictures, see here
For my loot, see here

Another Crisis went by, and as usual, it provides an opportunity to write down a few observations on the hobby and my own opinion about the state of affairs. These are of course entirely subjective. It's also interesting to reread my impressions from last year, most of them which still hold ;-)
  • As has been the case for many years, the show is very well organized. An event of this size takes a good team and Tin Soldiers Antwerp again have done an excellent job.
  • It seemed there were fewer visitors compared to last year. I have no idea what the actual numbers say, but there simply seemed less of a crowd. Other visitors I talked to had the same impression as well. But perhaps this is due to the fact that visitors tend to spend less time at the con, and hence, everyone is more spread out over the entire day.
  • There is a definite "Crisis reek": the catering-service provides a fatty-hamburger-smell in Hall 1, while in Hall 2 the smell is dominated by MDF buildings. It was the first year I felt the MDF smell was very pronounced.
  • As I observed last year, it becomes more and more difficult to engage visitors at the gaming tables. Many visitors simply want to take pictures and move on, and most quickly pass by. The trend of CRISIS becoming a shopping mall is reinforced, but again this is a subjective impression.
  • As for the games themselves, there is a certain "sameness" setting in. All games look very similar, and none of the games struck me with a big "WOW" experience. Perhaps we are getting spoiled, but I think it might have to do with the continuing evolution of wargaming becoming more a consumer rather than a DIY-hobby. With DIY-games, there's always a level of being unique, but with more and more games being in scripted formats, it's harder to see the wargamer who presents his own never-before-seen-game and his own unique take on the hobby. We did a WW2 game this year, and one conversation I had illustrates this trend: one visitor was surprised we mixed and matched figures, vehicles and buildings from all sorts of different manufacturers, and that we sort of winged it when it came down to rules. That was not really a proper wargame, in his opinion. He felt we should strictly adhere to a given ruleset, and only use figures designed for that ruleset. Remember we are talking about a generic period such as WW2!
  • Perhaps it's just me getting old, but there are more and more "systems" and "settings" I am totally unfamiliar with. I am subscribed to Miniature Wargames and Wargames Soldiers & Strategy, but even then, there are games being sold (and being played) that I had never seen before. Now, you might say this is a good thing, but these games are set in settings and worlds that don't appeal to me at all. Weird fantasy settings, strange scifi universes, ... invented only to serve as a gaming universe. I do like fantasy and scifi wargaming, but I always felt the settings should be grounded in literature, movies, or common fandom. Now the games are becoming more and more self-referential.
  • Strolling through the 2nd hand market, but also browsing some of the trade stalls, also made me a little sad seeing all those miniatures from yesteryear piled up, without anyone still showing an interest. Sometimes these are even the "shiny and new ranges" from only 5 or 10 years ago. Many in worn blisters, bearing the title of a range or game no one still remembers. I even saw a trader with big container boxes full of plastic sprues, all thrown together in a big pile of plastic. That is a big contrast to the "oohs" and "aahs" heard around the trade stalls looking at the new figures just released this year. 5 years from now, they all will end up in big piles in the 2nd hand market, many of them bought but never used or played with.
  • One last thing: wargaming seems to become more and more expensive every year. I was really astonished by some of the prices that were charged for rulebooks (old or new), or figures (old or new). I do have a comfortable budget hobby-wise, but I simply will not pay 12 euro for a single 28mm figure, or 40 euro for 50 page soft-cover rulebook, no matter how hip and trendy the rules are.
But anyway, did I have a good time? Of course I did! Having a chat with many wargamer friends is still the best part of any convention. So I'm definitely looking forward towards CRISIS 2020! We already agreed we will run a game using my 42mm imagination figures!

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Crisis 2019: The Loot

For Crisis 2019 pictures: see
For my Crisis 2019 Impressions: see

So, what did I buy? Not too much this year. I already have so many wargaming items lying around, that I've become rather selective in what I do and don't buy. But this is what I got this year:
  • From the 2nd hand market: some old scifi figures; Dark Future (only 8 euro), and it also has the White Fever expansion; and 3 old Kryomek blisters. I'm a sucker for old scifi and fantasy blisters, so I always try to pick some up;
  • The Wargamers Annual 2019 - I have all the previous volumes, so hard to stop now;
  • Refighting History Volume 7 - same. Both from Caliver books;
  • From Warlord games, the fantasy rules Erehwon. I'm a big Rick Priestley fan!
  • An old Genadier modeling kit from the Colossal Lords range. Did I mention yet I love old fantasy miniatures? 
  • 4 dice trays for 10 euro total from Deep Cut Studio. They had a big heap of these things, and you could grab the ones you want;
  • The convention freebie figure;
  • Some old Minifigs fantasy figures I traded with a wargaming pal for an old fantasy boardgame.

I also invested in a new lamp with magnifying glass. I tried several with a figure in hand - my eyesight is not what it used to be - and this one was a good deal for 45 euro.

And last but not least, a bunch of old magazines I received from Rich Clarke from Too Fat Lardies, to support the wargaming magazine project.

Some good haul, and thankfully we have an extended weekend here in Belgium, so I have some time to sort it all out and store it in proper locations.

Crisis 2019: Pictures

See this blogpost for my Crisis 2019 loot.
See this blogpost for my Crisis 2019 Impressions

This weekend the largest (miniature) wargaming convention on mainland Europe took place once again in Antwerp. This was my 20th Crisis, and with our gaming group we staged our 23rd consecutive game.

Since the show is so large, I only took pictures from a few games when wandering around.

Main overview of Hall 2:

Our own game, WW2 based on the Arnhem campaign is shown in the following photographs. Our intention was to use the Chain of Command rules, but this of course quickly transformed in freeform Kriegsspiel as usual ;-) Some of our vehicles and buildings (the Hartenstein hotel) are 3D printed.

Some of the other games:

Friday, 18 October 2019

K9 Gun Dogs

Another quickie: K9 Gun Dogs for the Wild West Exodus game. I have zero interest in this game (I simply don't get these type of settings and 'game worlds' ... ), but the miniatures were provided as a free giveaway with Miniature Wargames. We can probably use them as robodogs in our Antares Scifi campaign.

Friday, 11 October 2019

More Citadel Contrast experiments

To continue my experiment with Citadel Contrast paint, here are 3 police men (Foundry's Police Constables on Penny Farthings). Their blue uniforms are painted with contrast paint, a single layer.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Grenadier 51016 Undead Troll

An old figure from the 90s - the Grenadier Undead Troll.

I tried Citadel contrast paints again on this model. The body, loincloth and hair are all done with a single coat of contrast paint. Details were later added with normal paints. I must say I really start to like contrast paints.

Photographs below without and with flash, and taken with my smartphone.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Skaven Cavalry

Back when I was just starting in miniature wargaming - mid eighties - we invented all sorts of troop types irrespective of what the "official" army lists said. WFB 3rd edition had formulas for computing how many points troops were worth, so there was no reason to let your creativity run wild. This all changed in later editions of Warhammer, of course.

My skaven army had skaven mounted on wolves. Very uncharacteristic troop types, but I always felt skaven should have cavalry. For some reason, I always imagined skaven riding wolves.

Below some old converted figures dating back more than 25 years, but which never got painted, so I quickly gave them a basic paint coat. The wolves and bodies are goblin cavalry form the old Battlemasters game. The goblin heads were removed an replaced by skaven heads from the old Warhammer Regiments box. The weapons also got replaced by skaven blades from the boxed set. One goblin spear was left as is, to attach a banner.

Monday, 23 September 2019

A non-wargaming paint job

Something non-wargaming related (but still about games!).

I painted up the riders for the excellent Flamme Rouge racing game. Colours were inspired by vintage cycling jerseys, and the dominant jersey colour is also the team colour (players play with a team of 2 riders in this game).

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.