Wednesday 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas and Sesaon's Greetings

It is Christmas Eve.  Gosh, it has come round quickly, again!

I hope everyone reading this, following the blog and looking at the various tweets I'm posting (as Roundwood's World) has a wonderful Christmas.

And at this time of year I think of friends who may have had a tough old year, or who are far from home.  My heart-felt good wishes for the season go out to all of you.

And also, in particular, I think of friends in the blogosphere who will not be with us this year, and of their families who will find this a difficut time of year.  This Christmas, I particularly remember two greatly respected and much loved personalities from our hobby who passed this year - blogger Captain Richard, and wargamer (and grumpy old chap) Allen E. Curtis.  Their kind words and grace blessed me many times, and I shall never forget them.

To Richard and Allen's families, I wish you all the blessings of Christmas.  I shall be thinking of both Richard and Allen tomorrow, with great fondness.

Friday 19 December 2014

Dragonmeet 2014

As mentioned in my last post, I made the trip to Dragonmeet 2014 in London a couple of weekends ago. This was my third Dragonmeet in a row, and the first in the convention’s new location of the Ibis Hotel, Earl’s Court. 

I had a great time. The convention seemed bigger and busier than ever before. In addition to roleplaying and boardgames, the show has grown to encompass miniature gaming as well. There were demos of “Dead Man’s Hand” a couple of zombie-themed games, as well as trade stands from a decent number of miniature manufacturers and retailers (North Star Miniatures, Hawk Wargames, Warlord Games).

The gaming halls were packed with every roleplaying/ boardgamining variety and combination of games you could think of. “Zombie/Nazi/Occult/Godzilla mash-up, Sir? – you got it. Table 48 on the right”. “Old-school Village of Hommlet – ah yes, upstairs by the bar”. All gaming life seemed here, and a pleasure it was to behold.

For me, though, pride of place should go to Ashley Pollard’s fantastic Ogre/ G.E.V. game, which I was pleased to see was placed right in the centre of the gaming hall. Ogre for me is a game which always conjures up 1981. It was one of the games I discovered at my school wargames club, and I’ve never forgotten. There was something about the combination of strange alien planets, monstrous armoured leviathans, hordes of space-suited infantry rushing over the battlefield on hover tanks, and accessible and fun rules which caught my eye then. And still does. 

Ashley’s games have always captured that for me, and it was great to catch up. Her collection of Ogres, armour, grunts, mobile command centres and recon vehicles was enough to hypnotise any gamer. She umpires a great game as well – always good to see. Awesom stuff!

In addition to the games and gamers, the other thing I love about Dragonmeet is the lectures. Paco Garcia Jaen had done a wonderful job this year of arranging some terrific presentations but a luminous cast of speakers. The great and the good of roleplaying were definitely in evidence, but it was great to see speakers who were less well known, and who contributed their own take on the roleplaying world. I was desperately disappointed to miss Johnny Hodgson’s talk on art direction for roleplaying and boardgaming game publishing – I was cheering my son’s football team on a cold, rainy north London pitch at the time. I did catch up with the afternoon panels though, including a live version of the podcast “Ken and Robin talk about stuff”. The stuff talked about was as witty, erudite and funny as ever. If I could talk about anything as well for 5 minutes, I’d be a happy man!

All in all, this was a wonderful Dragonmeet.  I'd like to say a huge thank you here to all the organisers of the event, the speakers and the staff in the Ibis hotel who were a model of courtesy throughout. If you get the chance to attend next year, I would thoroughly recommend it.  

The day’s loot consisted, for me, of a pre-ordered copy of “Dreamhounds of Paris” and the "Livre de Fourmis”, by Pelegrane Press, and both chiefly authored by Robin Laws. Both Robin and co-author Ken Hite graciously signed “Dreamhounds”, very sportingly answering my questions and shooting the breeze for a couple of minutes.   

I always feel tongue-tied when asking authors to sign a book.  I end up saying something pretty lame like "I really enjoyed your last book", or "I'm really looking forward to reading this one".  As a default mechanism, I normally just go into "polite mode", but I feel this desn't really go anywhere towards showing appreciation for authors who make a long trip to a show or convention and take the time to meet their readers and patiently answer questions.

I tried harder this time, and actually came with something to say in advance!  I mentioned to Robin about how much i was looking forward to his books, and talked about my first trip to Paris in 1981 when I was 14 (with my French Exchange family) to see an exhibition of paintings by French surrealist Yves Tanguy.   That trip, and Paris, has always stayed in my mind.  So Robin, if you read this, thank you so much for listening patiently, and for the lovely ants you drew in my book!

I’m in the process of reading the PDF copy of Dreamhounds (which Pelegrane Press send you for free when you purchase the hard copy book) on my daily commute. Even if you’re not a keen, or practising, roleplayer, there is much in Dreamhounds of Paris to love if you even have a passing interest in any of the following: Paris, the 1920s, Surrealism, the Cthulhu Mythos, French Occultism, beautiful books, fantastic art design, or wonderful writing. Very highly recommended.

One final postscript to picking up my copies of "Dreamhounds of Paris" and the "Livre de Fourmis" at Dragonmeet.  I'd pre-ordered these from Pelgrane, really becuase I wanted to show my support for the project (which I'm very excited by).  Yesterday, Cat from Pelgrane (out of the blue) went to the trouble of refunding my pre-paid postage on my debit card, and emailed me telling me she'd done it.  Exemplary customer service, very thoughtful and deeply cool.  Many thanks indeed, Cat and Simon! 

Finally, for those of you wondering where on earth all my painted figures are for the start of Curt’s 5th Annual Painting Challenge, I have to confess that I’ve been delayed somewhat through being busy at work. December is always a frantic month for me work-wise, and this year it’s been doubly so. Long nights and busy weekends with the family have kept me away from the brushes, although I’ll hopefully be catching up fast by the end of this week. Fingers crossed for getting off the mark!

Friday 5 December 2014

Ladies and gentleman, start your (painting) engines...

Yes, it is that time of year again. By my watch, it should be about midnight in Regina, Canada on the 5th December just around ..... now. Which means that the Fifth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challlenge should be well and truly under way in the home of one Mr Curt Campbell Esq., and indeed throughout the world and known universe.

I'm able to record this fact becuase I am already up, dressed and ready. Sadly, not for ready painting duties... Today is the first day of my daughter's new swimming schedule at her local swimming club, which means that I'm required to get up at just before 5am and take her to the pool, then wait around with other similarly bleary-eyed parents for an hour or so. Hertfordshire, England at 5am is as bleak as just about any other place at 5am - at least in my book.

Anyway... on to happier thoughts. When I eventually get to my painting table tonight, I'll know that I'm joining a great many friends in the Painting Challenge for three months of fun and mayhem as we each strive to reach our personal painting targets. So this seems like a great time to say "good luck" and "bonne chance" to everyone taking part, and indeed everyone who stumble across this post - and especially anyone doing so at 5am in the morning, wherever you are.

As an introduction, here's some painting I (almost, bar the final groundwork) finished in November. There's a couple of 28mm snipers from First Corps' Great war range, and a ruined battery of French 75s comprising Old Glory French casualties and Scarab guns.

I really struggled to find information about French snipers of the Great War. There seems to be little reference to them in the English language books I have on First World War sniping, but I doubt that's the end of the story. There's also no 28mm figures which I've found of a French sniper, which is a great shame. There's a vacancy there in some figure ranges for anyone interested!

The damaged battery of 75mm field guns was something I'd thought about for a while. I've yet to finish off the groundwork, but the figures came together quite well with the artillery - although, for the purist, I am sure the figures are noticeable as infantrymen and not artillerists. It's no surprise that there seems to be no figure manufacturer making artillery casualties, so I had to make do with the terrific Old Glory French casualty models for the wounded and fallen crew. The models of the artillery guns are from Scarab, albeit damaged and broken by me. I can promise you that, intact and painted, the Scarab models do liik very nice indeed, and fit very well with the purpose designed Scarab artillery crews.

On a final note, this Saturday is Dragonmeet in London, held this year at the Ibis Hotel Earls Court & ILEC Convention Centre.

For anyone with a few hours to spare on Saturday, I can very strongly recommend Dragonmeet as a roleplaying convention which any wargamer would enjoy. The quality of traders and speakers is very high indeed, and I've enjoyed it greatly whenever I've attended.

I shall be heading there in the afternon to collect my copies of Pelegrane Press' new "Dreamhounds of Paris" and "Le Livre de Fourmis", and hopefully getting them signed by their well known author (and all round gentleman) Robin D Laws. Hopefully more on the Dragonmeet show in the next blog post.

And, until next time, I need to find some coffee and recover, slowly!

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Remembrance 2014: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Photographed by millions, but still breathtaking at first sight.  My memory of Remembrance Day 2014. 

We will remember them.

Monday 10 November 2014

Wargame Bloggers Quarterly Issue Two is OUT!

One of the greatest things about blogging is the way in which it strengthens the wargaming community across the globe. There are hundreds of ways this happens, but one of the very best and most attractive is Wargame Bloggers Quarterly, of which Issue 2 is now online and available.

Prepared by the super-talented Michael “Millsy” Mills, and edited on this occassion by Dave “Brushes” Docherty, WBQ Issue 2 builds on the wonderful work of the first issue earlier this summer.

There’s wargames set in places as varied as the Sudan and New Zealand, featuring action from Durin’s Middle Earth Causeway to the cricket fields of 1930s England and the bootlegging ganglands of Serenity City. Painting, modelling, book reviews and cooking are covered in detail. The standard of photography, the quality of writing and the efforts made by each of the contributing bloggers worldwide to produce the magazine are really remarkable.

In fact, I’d so far to say that the contents are guaranteed to be of interest to any discerning wargamer, wherever you are, whatever you paint and whatever period or game you play. It’s a great way of paying tribute to great bloggers and our hobby, at the same time as sharing their work and ensuring that its preserved in a single handy resource which you can turn to at any time.

And, its FREE !

Anyway, don’t listen to me waffling on about how great it is … download it for yourself HERE.

The hobby really doesn’t get better than this. Great job Millsy, Dave and all the authors!

Thursday 6 November 2014

The Fifth Annual Painting Challenge

Visitors to the small corner of the blogosphere populated by wargaming and painting blogs may already have noticed that Blogging Supremo, Impressario and all round Grand Chap, Mr Curt Campbell, has announced the arrival shortly of the Fifth Annual Worldwide Painting Challenge.

This year's focus seems to be on anti-heroes, which gives a wonderfully dark and dramatic tone to the Challenge, with some great scope for modelling and ... who knows ... perhaps a little "alternative history" (cue evil laughter).

Announced yesterday, and impressively entitled “V” (with the panache of a Soho marketing executive, announcing on the 5th November), the Challenge is something I’ve been looking forward to since the last one ended.  Sometimes its difficult to keep motivated painting wargames figures. It can feel like a solitary pastime. Far better, therefore, to have the camaraderie of painters throughout the world over the winter months, complete with all the banter, encouragement and general mayhem which goes with each of the Challenges.

Curt has put together a detailed post on his blog, complete with scheduled “themed entries” which were a huge hit in last year’s competition. I’m already planning my contribution to these, along with thinking about what I need to ensure that the preparation work is finished on the various miniatures I want to enter for the challenge.

First up will be trying to paint the Tirailleurs Sénégalais, which (perhaps fortunately) are still in Head Swap-ville. When I last looked, I had about 30 converted. Luckily (for me), Curt lets Challenge participants undertake their conversion work before the Challenge commences, allowing me a window to finish the conversions before the fun starts on December 5th.

I should probably, therefore, expect more scratched and worn fingers with pre-Challenge conversion work before my fingers get really worn painting like a demon for three months. But the rewards are worth it, and there’s nothing quite like the Challenge as a group activity and for bringing the Blogging community together.   I've pitched for a (for me) difficult 750 points, but I'm really focused on trying to improve my score last year, which was in the low 500s.   Anything over 600 points would feel like a great result.

So, all I need to do is to do some more head swaps and I'm ready.  I wonder where I left that hack-saw....

Crisis 2014 - the Annual Pilgrimage

This weekend just past was the annual trip of the St Albans Wargames Club (now perhaps better known for being the home of TooFatLardies) to the Crisis wargames show in Antwerp. Each year this is one of the highlights of my wargaming year. A combination of the chance to get away for a couple of evenings with friends, the excellence of the Crisis show and the wonderfully cosmopolitan city of Antwerp always make it a weekend to look forward to.

This year was no exception. Six of us went from St Albans – Rich, Nick, Elton, Biffo, Noddy and myself. We had a great time both running our participation game of “Big Chain of Command”, and looking around the show. 

 Many of the photos below I tweeted on the day on the @RoundwoodsWorld twitter account, until my iPhone battery died. Others come from Rich and Nick’s camera – and you can probably tell those because they’re the good and finely framed ones!

Rich and Nick justly won the Best participation Game award for their Normandy 1944 game, and it was great to see James and Scrivs win the Most Innovative Game award for their stunning game of Keren 1941, which also featured the “Chain of Command” rules.

As for the other games at the show, its hard to know where to start. There were numerous excellent Great War games, many of them (suitably enough) featuring Belgian resistance to German invasion, including this wonderful game from the Maidstone Wargames Club, entitled "Brave Little Belgium".

There was also an extremely finely crafted participation game in 10mm, set in the Battle of the Frontiers in August 1914, which certainly made me think of brushing up my remaining 10mm figures.

The League of Augsburg put on a stunning display of the wintry field at Fraustadt 1706…

... and Dortmund Amateur Wargames staged an equally impressive game on the Russian steppes as part of Operation Bagration in 1944.

The Freebooter crew put on an excellent game featuring sunken galleons and buried treasure ...

…with more than a couple of games featuring the new “The Crescent and the Cross” rules from Gripping Beast ....

I was also struck by the number of really innovative games being put on at the show. The Tin Soldiers of Antwerp offered a couple of really excellent themed and abstract games of the Great War...

… and another group offered a really lovely game of the Balkan Wars of the early 20th Century. All of these were interesting and unusual, and very welcome for being at a show where the more traditional wargames are much in evidence.

Part of the “Crisis Experience” is the chance to visit Antwerp’s old town. For those who have never been, I can recommend it strongly. It’s cosmopolitan, beautifully restored and welcoming. We ended up at the excellent De Pederstaal restaurant on the Saturday evening, to a man enjoying fine steaks and ribs with a couple of fine wines. I haven’t yet found a better way to round off a full day of wargaming!

All I can say is, I hope to see you all there next year!
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