Monday, 27 February 2012

New wargames shop in Maidstone

One of my club members, good old Andy King, told me that a new wargames shop had opened in Maidstone. It is in the parade of shops that runs down the side of the Haslett theatre (16 Market Buildings, ME14 1HP) and is called, 'No Mans Land', 01622-753231. There is no email that I know of but I am told the website is underway.

I took a wander down that way on Friday during a shopping trip and can report that good things seem to be happening there. The large miniatures stock does tend towards the sci-fi and fantasy, which gives a rather grown up and mature 'Games Workshopy' feel to the place, but they do have Flames of War and a good range of paints and accessories, plenty of Army Painter sprays and dips! Will they begin to stock more historical ranges? Only time will tell of course but I am impressed with their drive and what they are doing and have every confidence that the shop will grow and evolve over time. Things are much easier these day when it comes to stocking figures, there are more regiment style boxes than ever before and plastic figures are so much more accessible. The guy I was talking to, sadly never asked his name, said he played Hail Caesar so there is an opening there I am sure. I would like to see some of the Warlord Games ranges there....although I doubt the wife or Mr Bank Manager would.

In stock at the moment are Firestorm Armada, Dystopian Wars, Flames of war, Dust Tactics, Games Workshop (10% off!), Mantic Games, Army Painter (sprays are £10), Coat d’Arms paint, brushes, terrain, War-Machine, Malifaux.....they even have games tables (that can be hired I believe) and painting stations. I can see me adding to my as yet upstarted Dystopian wars Prussian fleet if I ma not careful! Beautiful models.

As with all such businesses, if they are well supported and enough of their customers ask for things they will no doubt begin to stock them but, they do need our support. I for one will do my best to make regular visits and get my supplies there. What with this and the Rochester shop it seems that our part of Kent is starting to get some decent wargame resources. Take the time for a vist and chat to the guys down there, your time will be well spent.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Are you a 'dip in' or 'splash on' kind of guy?

Ok, I know. Slightly smutty post title, settle down; it wasn't that bad.

As wargamer though, it is a reasonably pertinent question. As you are now aware, I do have issues with seeing certain colours and therefore the quite basic job of highlighting figures can be a real pain, particularly reds; I can never see where I have already been for one. So, I started using the Army Painter dip to provide the depth of colour and tones I needed. Yes, I did have to force my self to immerse my first figure into that jar of dark brown gloop and had a bit of a disaster when it came to the spray varnish bit afterwards but, once I got past all of that, I ended up with some great results. The trick was, I gradually learnt, to be vigorous when shaking the dip off, to turn the figure through ninety degrees and shake some more until the figure had been turned completely around. This made the dip cover far more evenly whilst still leaving enough to create shadows and depth here and there. Each figure needed to be shaken in a swift downward arc some twenty odd times in all....not the two or three the Army Painter video suggested! This does kill your arm and shoulder when you have a twenty four figure battalion to get through but the reseults were worth it....even if you do need to have a lie down until the strange purple blobs in front of your eyes have gone away and you cannot hear that whistle in your ears anymore. Oh, and another thing you learn doing this, be prepared to lose a figure or two. I have had one monted general figure snap off at the horses ankles, whiz off down the garden at a terrific rate of knotts and crash into a concrete fence support. Another slipped out of the grip of the pliers I was using to hold onto the base and rocketed into the air, only to come down into the neighbours ornamental pond with a loud splash. Luckily, she thought it was a frog jumping in! Others suddenly showed themselves to have weak ankles and ended up bent at an odd angle. All very difficult. So, given these issues, I decided to try the splash on method, liberally painting the gloop on with a brush and lifting off the excess etc. This did work although I think I preffered the dip in results for overall effect. The spray varnish is the key to the army painter dip, it leaves a brilliantly flat matt finish and makes the whole dip effect work perfectly....just be careful, not too much and to used from a good half an arms length away at least three days after the dip has dried....DO NOT BELIEVE THE VIDEO ON YOU TUBE!!!!!!!!!! I followed the instructions and the varnish blistered off the dip leaving a serious mess. I had to strip the figures back and start again. take a look at the club website gallery under 'Alan's Figures'. It made me want to cry but I did carry on to great the end.

Anyway, the whole issue became mute as the dip is oil based and has a strong odour. Both my wife and daughter suffer with Fibromyalgia, which makes them very sensitive to smells, and so I was not allowed to use the stuff in the house or to even let the dipped figures dry there....and what with the onset of winter my painting slowed to a stop. Then I came across the new acrylic dips by Vallejo! These are, in essence, bloody big jars of wash although they do contain some carrier ingredient too. They are designed to let you dip your figures but can be equally used for splash on work. two colours are available, brown and black and so far I have had some good results but I do need to play around with them some more to get used to them. The first point is that the need to be shaken or stirred quite regularly during use if being painted on. I have found that after every five or so figures was about right. That can be a bit annoying but is not so bad once you get going. The effects were good, especially around areas like faces where the dip could add definition, although I noticed that it did not darken other areas as much as I would have liked; or was at least expecting compared to the oily stuff.

I also used it on the guns. It covered the wood areas as I expected it to but left the barrels looking dull and coated with what looked like smudges of dirty water. That was a real disapointment because they actually looked great when wet. I tried rubbing the barrels to see if I could remove the patches and discovered that a judicious rub down with and old (but clean) sock buffed them up a treat. It left them with a great colour with some good depth and shading. Given the weather I could not use the spray so was forced into a jar of humbrol matt cote, sadly it left the figures with a slight sheen as you can see. I have yet to find a good matt varnish in a jar.

The vallejo dip also worked well on the basees. I glued down some light buff grit (all I had at the time) but darkened it with a liberal coat of the dip. This left a good effect but also helped seal down the material. In all I was very pleased wit the new acrylic dip. Yes, I do need to practice with it some more but I have high hopes. I can use it indoors, it dries quickly and for 200ml it is about a third of the price of the Army painter tins.

Will I use it as a dip like I did with the oil gloop? I think I will have to, at least once. But, I cannot give up on the gloop, I have already started using it on my Marlburians and I hate changing something as major as that in mid project. The gloop for my Marlburians then and the acrylic stuff for my Greek hoplites.....lets see what happens.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Saint Valentine, me and Brixia 45mm light mortars...

Appologies. This was to have been written and posted last night (15th) but there was some terrible things going on in Italy that were distracting me and causing severe depresion...not to mention some a$&! of a Millwall fan that kept texting me with comments about those terrible things.


I do not have the same kind of relationship with Saint Valentine as I do with Santa. Whereas Santa is good enough to call me, albeit whilst I was out so Maria takes his call for me and passes on messages, Saint Valentine simply ignores me. Not once have I ever been bothered by his presence, or even received one of his rather tacky and over-priced slices of rain forest corpse. This is somewhat helped by having a wife endowed with all the depth of emotional feeling of a saucer and my being, I am reliably informed, an annoying fat git with a face that looks like somebody had tried to put out a forest fire with a screwdriver. So, when by chance our club meeting was set to fall on Valentines day I was not too concerned. However, it seems that others were. One member after another got in touch to say they couldn't make it as they were doing something that night, candle lit dinners and trips to cinema or restaurants....I know! Appalling way to behave. Who would turn down wargames for a mushy, commercially driven and highly implausible day of romance? Quite a few as it turns out.

I did try pointing out that, like Christmas, Easter and any other Abrahamic based religious festival, it was all made best the stolen and sanitised version of earlier pagan rites they couldn't stop people celebrating despite them being silly and ineffectual anyway. That it was no more than a commercial ploy to empty their wallets should have settled it and that once they explained all this to their partners, who would understand and see the error of their girlie ways, everyone would be happy. One wife actually emailed me to say that her husband was no longer allowed to come out and play as I was a bad influence! I dont give them the vote...............waste of good racehorses.....

So, on February 14th just four of us were allowed out to play but that was fine. I had arranged an 'Operation Squad' game between my German Fallschirmjager and new Italian paras and as two members had not played before the small forces at hand would work out well. I set out an encounter battle, a fairly wooded area bisected by a road along which stood five ruined houses. The squad that controlled the most buildings at the end of play would be deemed the winner. Andy and Alex took the Fallschirmjager whilst Phil and I ran out the Italian Folgore squad, and great fun we had too! Well, me and Phil anyway.

Phil tool half the squad, those sub-machine gun armed troops, to assault through a large wood to a building at its far edge. I took a Breda light machine-gun and the Brixia 45mm mortar, along with a spotter. We kept the mortar behind a building but put the spotter and the Breda into the building to control it and the ground in front of it; a very successful deployment. Andy advance his section of the Fallschirmjager squad through a narrow wood to cover their approach opposite my building. They were spotted and the order to fire the mortar then got messy. The Brixia fires two rounds a turn and the first landed in the lap of Andy's command figure killing him outright; ok, the dice were on my side this day. the other round helped sew confusion. During the game I was able to drop plenty of rounds into this small wood and given that Andy's figures were bunched quite closely chaos ensued. I managed to kill a couple of figures would another and pin yet another all for no loss.

Phil had a trickier task through the wood, Alex was going to be waiting at the other end for a start. Here the fight was more evenly matched, both took pins but slowly Phil managed to get the upper hand. Judicious use of grenades, dogged approach play and shooting wounded two of Alex's figures whilst a nippy little run and grenade lob killed another for very little in reply. All in all things were looking bad for the Fallschirmjager however, time was running out (the hall heating was broken and we were all freezing to death) and so the game was ended. Each side had control of two buildings so, despite the Italians very strong position, the game was called a draw. If it carried on for another couple of moves I am confident that the Italians would have carved out a brilliant and decisive victory. The Germans had three dead, three wounded and a pinned figure whilst the Italians had but a single wound and one pinned figure.

In all it was a great game and the Brixia 45mm mortar worked out brilliantly. Ok, it might not work again next time, dice being what they are, but this first outing showed some promise. There are still a couple of rule points I need to check out but I still remain a firm advocate of Operation Squad. We are to look into running a large WW1 game with the rules with three or more players a side, each with their own individual squads; essentially, a platoon a side. The idea so far is that the Germans will be assaulting a Belgian village. Each attacking player and squad will be given a fixed task/section of the village to deal with and paired with a Belgian defender. Each pairing, despite all pairs being on the same table, will fight their games at their own speed, which should make things interesting! I shall tell you all about it when it happens!!!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Organising wargame shows is fun...?

As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, the organisation of a wargame show is a complicated affair. You have to chase traders and clubs, organise venues, insurance, advertising, equipment hire...even organise the parking. Not the parking of the visitors of course, but the traders, clubs, tournament players admin staff and so on. Believe it or not, this is one of the most tricksie of all the show features; at least it is for Broadside.

Sittingbourne is not exactly a bustling and busy metropolis, rather a small provincial town with a sadly limited range of shops and attractions 95% of which are closed on a Sunday. This, you would think, would mean that car parking would be free on a Sunday. Nothing to come and see or do, beyond the leisure centre of course, so no visitors; would save you paying the patrol staff too. Except no. The car parks are all live on Sundays and, to add insult to injury, they are all run with a maximum stay order of just four hours! So, how do we then organise a large wargame show where we have some eighty to ninety vehicles to park up between 8am and 6pm?

For our first show I went to visit the council parking office and speak to the parking manager personally. I used to be a parking enforcement officer myself so understand the issues and protocols. The manager was pleasant enough and helpful to a point. To solve my problem she was willing to sell me some special parking vouchers to issue to the various traders etc. These would only cost £2.00 each and would allow the vehicles to park all day but, and there is always a but, I was only allowed to buy sixty vouchers; about two thirds of what I would actually want. The vouchers were also car park specific too so I had to divide the cars between the two halls of Broadside and the car parks. Worse still, this was at a time when we could not know how many vehicles we would actually need to park. The size of Broadside 2011 was going to be determined by the parking allocation! As it turned out, I managed to negotiate with a community centre and make use of the 28 places there too and eased the problem, we were still forced to close our doors to new traders and clubs though. Bottom line, we got by....just.

Given this experience we set out to organise Broadside 2012. I went back to the parking office only to be told that the whole car park system was being restructured, I would not be able to organise the parking until late January and nobody there was able to agree anything or even confirm that the old system would be available again! This made things very complicated, I had to take a risk and base everything on the last event. The letters and booking forms went out and we had to hope for the best. I managed to arrange some new parking at a local school and again at the community centre but the rest I just had to hope would resolve themselves. After two weeks of trying to contact the new parking manager I was finally told that we would not be issued with the vouchers and my heart sank. However, they were prepared to allow me to park everyone all day if they bought a maximum stay ticket from the matter how many I had to park up....a complete turn around from the previous year! Each space would cost £3.00 rather than the £2.00 of the old vouchers but I could cope with that! Interestingly, nobody apart from me, had seen the issues this raised for the enforcement officers. This system meant that nobody with a maximum stay ticket could be booked at all and this time the parking managers face dropped! I suggested that I would issue all official vehicle with a special badge to identify them and suddenly he was happy again. Its not exactly rocket science is it?

So now we are settled. Broadside vehicles will be issued with the special badge and will have to buy their own tickets from the machine...all will be well. We will not be restricted to numbers or locations and can actually not worry about posting parking marshals again. Happy days!

Hands up all those that can see it all going wrong when the manager forgets to inform all the enforcement officers of these arrangements...or they change their minds....or, or, or...?

Next time you go to a wargame show, spare a thought for the poor bugger that had to organise the damned thing. No doubt he will be the white haired nervous wreck with a twitch and a box of dried frog pills at the ready.....come and say hi, I will be very pleased to meet you.