Sunday 23 June 2013

More Omphalic Inspection...

While I'm in a reflective mood I thought I'd pinch another idea from Warlord Paul's fine blog, The Black Hole, and have a bash at the 20 questions that he in turn pinched from another fellow Oldhammerer, James, over at Exiles Wargames Painter. Thanks also to Fran and Ray, who I gather started it all some time back!

So to kick off - Here's me and one of my little burdens of joy! Face set to the usual grimace brought about by the presence of cameras being pointed in my direction...

Q1. Favourite wargaming period and why?

 I'd have to go by the Imperial Calendar and say somewhere around the mid 2400's. Yes I'm talking Warhammer Fantasy Battle! Mind you I'm quite taken with the 41st Millennium of Rogue Trader too.

 In terms of Historical gaming, Napoleonic era naval gaming is quite tempting, as I can vaguely follow in my Great, great (insert correct number of greats!) Grandfather's footsteps. Captain Mansfield commanded HMS Minotaur at the Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar as well as many other engagements of the time.

World War 2 has always been of interest too and I'm slowly amassing Russian and German forces - which may just as likely turn up in a game of Dr Who as on the Eastern Front!

Q2. Next period, money no object?

 Well I have just invested in the All Quiet on the Martian Front kickstarter so December will see me plunged into an alternate reality World War 1 era America.

If money (and time and space) was no object I'd love to  do WW2 properly on a large scale in 28mm, with tanks, vehicles, artillery and the like.

 Q3. Favourite 5 films?

Dr Strangelove
Withnail and I
Apocalypse Now
2001 Space Odyssey
Laputa, Castle in the Sky/Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

 Q4. Favourite 5 TV series?

Tricky as I don't really watch a lot of telly...
 Dr Who (Classic series but not the 6th Doctor)
 Knightmare - being shown again on Challenge!
 Look Around You - Open University inspired comedy
 MST3K - does that count if I watch old episodes on the interwebz?
 Ulysses 31 - a newly remembered childhood favourite

Q5. Favourite book and author?

 Another tricky one because I read lots! I'm a big fan of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Joseph Heller and Catch 22 would be up there too, as would Cormac McCarthy and The Road. Tolkien deserves a mention too, as does HG Wells, John Christopher, John Wyndham, Arthur C. Clarke, Malcolm Lowry...
Agh, then there's all the Fantasy stuff like Rober E Howard's Conan Novels, Fighting Fantasy - The Trolltooth Wars...

I'll stick with Conrad I think!

 Q6. Greatest general? Excluding oneself!

Hmm - based on achievement I might have to say Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Probably Genghis as Alexander is taken.

 Q7. Favourite wargames rules?

 I've been very taken with Brent Spivey's (Bombshell Games) rules for Havoc and Mayhem. I'd also have to predictably mention WFB 2nd and 3rd editions and Rogue Trader.

Q8. Favourite sport and team?

 Don't follow Sport really. Mind you the Olympics and Paralympics utterly captivated me and if Hockey was shown more on TV I'd probably watch that, as I used to play it at school and still have a soft spot for it.

Q9. If you had a one use only time machine, when and where would you go?

 I've always liked the vision of the future in Arthur C. Clarke's novels so probably some time in when space travel is the norm. I'd love to see things like Space Elevators, Colony ships and all the other cool stuff Tomorrow's World promised us and never delivered!

 Q10. Last meal on Death Row?

 Depressing question! 3 week old rib of beef (rare) with the works and a good claret I think.

Q11. Fantasy relationship and why?

Hmm, can't come up with anything deep and meaningful here and I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, so I'll go with good old Kelly Brook - purely because she likes Fighting Fantasy of course...

Q12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?

Richard E Grant - because of his brilliant performance in Withnail and I. And I like him as an actor.

Q13. Favourite comic superhero?

 Never been that into Super heroes. I'd have to say Danger Mouse if that counts?

Q14. Favourite military quote?

Not a quote as such but I had a brilliant A level History teacher who really brought European history alive. In particular, I remember him constantly lampooning Lord Raglan and the fact he thought he was still fighting the French when he was allied with them in the Crimean War.

Actual quotes - Depending what mood I'm in -

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Albert Einstein

The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.
 George Patton

Q15. Historical destination to visit?

I've been on several battlefield tours of Northern France when I was in the Cadets at school - played the Last Post at a few of the monuments out there too. Japan fascinates me and is definitely on the list of places to go when the kids are older.

Q16. Biggest wargaming regret?

Not being around for the big GW sell off all the old 80's Citadel goodies!

Q17. Favourite fantasy job?

Sitting in a Land Rover in a National Park somewhere - preferably the Lake District or North Yorkshire Moors - and getting paid lots for it!

Q18. Favourite 5 songs?

Changes all the time and can be quite obscure!

Road to Nowhere - Talking Heads
Run to the Hills - Iron Maiden
The Booksellers story - Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts
Roscoe - Midlake
Soldier - Groundhogs

Q.19 Favourite wargaming moment?

Finally playing Orc's Drift in its entirety over a weekend. Now I need to do it again with some died in the wool Oldhammerers!

Q20. The miserable git question, what upsets you?

Being a completely miserable git - lots of things!
I'll try and be brief...
Rudeness, mendacity, laziness, politics, selfish agendas, self aggrandisement, rudeness, ignorance, crass stupidity, inconsiderateness, etc...

What a piece of work a Wargamer is...

... how noble in reason; how infinite in faculties, in form and moving; how express and admirable in action; how like an angel in apprehension; how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.

To misquote Hamlet, is this the picture that springs to mind when you think of the average wargamer?

It would seem not if you are familiar with the hollow, charmless gaming experiences Warlord Paul describes in his excellent Mission Statement.. In fact, and you could probably do to have seen the video Paul has posted up on the Taxonomy of Warhammer Gamers, it would seem that many are far from being infinite in faculties and admirable in action. Quite the opposite in fact in you find yourself at the far end of the "Need to prove to the world you are a winner" spectrum!

In brief, Once Bitten - the author of the video - breaks down wargaming into the following categories and discusses which would be important to a range of gaming styles. Check out Laughing Ferret's analysis.

  • Immersion - You really get into the fluff/universe/world/history of the game you play. 
  • Social - relationships are what's important. You look forward as much to the dinner/drink afterwards as you do to the gaming itself.
  • Showcasing/Modelling - You really like to show your work and see the work of others. Modelling and painting are what give you the most energy.
  • Strategy - You like to read forums, listen to podcasts, work on lists, etc to improve your game. You like the mechanics of how a game works.
  • Competition - you like testing your play style and abilities against others to come out on top. Or, to test your strategies against the best.

  • Now before I go on I must admit I will have to stick to describing my own habits as the last time I gamed regularly and came into contact with gamers who have a different agenda to me was back when I was 13/14/15. Back then we had a little Warhammer Club our teacher let us run after school in our classroom. I will try not to make too many assumptions about other people's motivations - Oldhammerers or otherwise.

    Back to the early 90's and our little Warhammer club. Desks pushed together for a table, books for hills - enduring image isn't it. Those were some good times when we clubbed together to get a copy of Rogue Trader, split boxes of Space Wombles and pitted our badly painted hordes of plastic minis against each other. We also chipped in and bought a copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd ed. and my Ruglud's Armoured Orcs would often face off against Dwarves and other Orc tribes.
    We weren't really aware of the idea of narrative gaming but we had fun. Interestingly though we did experience the arms race effect that is often bemoaned these days with ever more powerful Army lists coming out to enable ever more awesome troop types to be sold because the old stuff is now obsolete. It happened with RT - the appearance of Terminators with Cyclone Missile racks meant the quick demise of my Imperial Guard Regiment so next time I equipped a couple of squads of Forlorn Hopers with Haywire grenades to put the Termies power armour out of action. When my opponent wised up to that one he equipped all his squads with virus bombs and my Guard were annihilated with biological weapons.

    Watch out lads - I think they've got WMD...

    The next week I'd equip my forces with respirators and the 41st millennium equivalent of NBC suits (not modelled on the minis!) and pack a few more melta bombs as their lasguns had little chance of penetrating Terminator armour. This was all quite good fun and came with healthy doses of banter and good humour and we certainly didn't think too deeply about how the lack of a narrative thread meant that each of these "stand 'em and knock 'em down" type games were really only a slightly more sophisticated version of how I used to play with my old green plastic army men.

    However, when WFB 4th ed. came out two things changed in our Fantasy games. Flyers and artillery. Oh and Chaos Dwarves with daft hats and big blunderbusses!

    Suddenly the good old boys from Ruglud's mob were getting creamed each week by Empire volley guns, the aforesaid Chaos Dwarf blunderbusses, High Elves on Dragons and so on. I wasn't too keen on this so I bought a rock lobber. And three Doom Divers! Things were good again.

    Its all a bit OTT isn't it? Masters of the Universe anyone!?

    Then there was a White Dwarf article about using your flyers to take out artillery - now it was a case of whoever went first usually won because there flying monster killed the enemy artillery and could either charge the enemy infantry formations in the rear or fly back to safety while the artillery pounded them from afar.

    That's more like it - still got a big monster but it doesn't seem quite so overblown...
    Despite the proliferation of new Army books at this time (still got my Orc and Goblin one - never did like it much though!) I'm not sure many of my mates were too concerned about having tournament legal armies - just the most powerful, awesome armies their parents could afford to buy them. Hence the volleygun, steam tank, Reiksguard heavy armies with no militia, halberdiers or other regular troop types that were regularly lined up do battle each week. Hell, I'm not even sure why some of the lads even bothered with cavalry as they sometimes never moved - all the dirty work being done by the cannon and monsters!

    Armed to tha' teef  and still outgunned!

    Anyhow, as I say, my 15 year old self didn't think too deeply about these things at the time other than - man, I'm bored of playing the same game over and over.

    Introduce girls, beer, going down the pub, university, job, real life, marriage, kids and fast forward to the present day. Having got back into the hobby in a major way, what I want from it has changed massively. I originally set the blog up to post pictures of the Dr Who minis I was painting at the time - the only forum I could find back then that was concerned with the old Invasion Earht game was a very quiet place. So was my blog for quite some time!

    Then I came across the boxes of my old Orcs and fell in love with Warhammer again. Ebay soon became a source for the miniatures of the 80's that I held so dear - I was none too impressed perusing GW's site and seeing all the changes. I decided my Orcs needed an opponent so Wood Elves were added to the shopping list, although I had no clear idea of who I was going to play against.

    It was more about the showcasing and painting of the miniatures back then, and this is still a large part of what I enjoy about wargaming. Getting nice comments about paint jobs is great, and thanks for all your kind words over the years, but I really enjoy trying to develop my skills, try new techniques and generally improve my level of painting. This is true in  terms of scenery building too and I find this leads into the other big category for me - immersion.

    The big reason for striving for a good paint job on my figs and having a nicely laid out table full of good looking scenery is so that when I do play, or more often take photographs for the blog, it is easier to immerse yourself in that world and the experience is richer and more rewarding for it. We all know how unsatisfying it is or would be to play with unpainted miniatures and no scenery.

    Immersion in terms of narrative and back story is also an important factor to me.
    There's a big reason why I've been so drawn to the old scenario packs like Orc's Drift and the Magnificent Sven - I don't particularly want to go back to the rather empty, one off, no reason for it, stand 'em up and knock 'em down type games that I used to play and that I gather can end up being played a lot at Clubs if players' wants aren't communicated well enough. For me its all about story these days - being the victor is always fun, but I do like seizing the moral victory or achieving some small objective as part of a last stand which could have greater consequences for the rest of the campaign or scenario.

    The social side of gaming is something I'd really like to develop more. Solo gaming can be fun and its a good way of getting to know the rules better but nothing beats a live opponent. So far I've had a very pleasurable couple of games of Blood Bowl with Warlord Paul, discovered my old mate Ollie was also a closet Warhammer fan and played a few games of 40K and Blood Bowl with him, met up with various other Oldhammerers (Padre and Hetz) at Vapnartak and found myself chatting with more folk each time I take myself off to a wargames show. I'm keen to continue widening my circle of wargaming friends and as soon as work/time/kids/etc permit I'll off to one of York Wargames Society's game nights having had a warm reception on their forum. It seems as though there's some interest in a bit of Oldhammer Fantasy Battle too so I'm all set to get evangelising on that topic!

    Now for the competitive and strategy side. By Once Bitten's definitions I don't really fit in here. My idea of strategy is not spending hours finding the optimum list with which to beat my opponent. What I would find stimulating would be working out a way to use the limited (by scenario or miniature collection) troops I had at hand to achieve my objective within a narrative game, or how best to husband my reserves over a series of games to ensure I had a chance of being the victor in the final showdown. Tournament gaming doesn't really appeal to me and I don't really feel the need to prove anything to the world either!

    Warlord Paul asked in his original post how Oldhammer fits in with all this and modern gaming in general. Unfortunately, the immersive category is dismissed in the video as I suppose it doesn't fit in with much of the modern Warhammer gaming that goes on? I think I'd be pretty safe in assuming that most of us Oldhammerers would sit towards the immersive end of the spectrum. As we're all from different gaming backgrounds I'm sure we all bring other aspects of gaming with us too - for me that would be the painting and modelling with a side order of strategy as well as the immersive nature of narrative gaming and a burgeoning enthusiasm for the social aspect of it all.

    What about the wider gaming world? Various members have received positive receptions from their Wargaming clubs for the Oldhammer games they've laid on - Warlord Paul and Orlygg in particular. As I mentioned earlier I've had an interested party mention the Dolgan Raiders scenario and I'd love to run Orc's Drift in its entirety on one of the clubs longer Saturday meets.

    I think Paul's idea of a social contract is the essence of enjoying wargaming. It may seem like stating the obvious but ensuring both parties know what the other wants from the game is the way for the whole experience to be a positive one. I'll finish with a little look at an article I found in WD221 entitled Spirit of the Game. Playing styles are discussed and in particular "beardy" gaming is frowned upon. Whether that takes the form of beardy army lists designed to win with no attention paid to the character of background of the army, or Beardy play, which includes rule bending, picky rules questions and generally carrying on in an unsporting fashion.

    Rick Priestley's definition, according to the article, is,

    Someone who is more interested in playing the rules than the game.

    A lot of the article is gobbledigook to me - mentioning combinations of certain characters and certain magic items that have become well worn ways to victory - Book of Ashur, Crown of Command, Black Amulet, etc - obviously stuff that came after 4th ed. or stuff I've just forgotten. Mind you I do remember the Crown of Command being good at stopping Goblins running away...

    Going back to the social contract bit though, there is one voice of dissent in the form of  Graham Davey, who writes,

    I learnt to play with a group of gamers who always picked their armies specifically to win their next game.
    it was part of the challenge to try and get the drop on your opponent by coming up with an army he wasn't expecting and that would work well against the troops you thought he would have. This wasn't sneaky - it was fun! And yes, we liked to win, but nobody got upset if they lost.

    What heresy is this you may wonder - power gaming in its ugliest form?! Graham however goes on to say,

    Of course this only works because everyone in the group knew what  to expect. To be considered a fair player the important thing is to find out what your opponent expects from the game, and make an effort not to disappoint him.

    So there you go - I hope not to be disappointed down at the Oldhammer weekend this August!


    Sunday 16 June 2013

    Shrine of Rigg - Ground Floor

    Its been a while since I had any updates on my Shrine of Rigg build. I must admit that the LPL certainly slowed construction down, although I have now completed the outer wall for half of the ground floor and begun work on the second half of the ground floor - if you remember I split the model in half in an attempt to reduce the weight of each piece.

    One thing the LPL did do to spur me on was get what I had built of the shrine painted to use as a back drop for the Amazon Sisterhood minis I planned to enter for Round 8.

    Of course I also needed to make a raised dais, some pillars to break up the space a little and a plinth to mount the gold statue of Rigg on!

    Here you can see the girls getting a bit too excited over their latest offering to the Goddess.

    What you can see here is the basic shell of the ground floor - the pillars, dais and altar aren't fixed in and will actually be used in the floor above. Once I have finished the other hand of the Ground Floor I'll be looking at putting the interior walls in, as well as the stairs that lead up to a side entrance in the shrine.

    The Sisterhood has a firm grip of the political, religious and technical power and makes up the ruling class in Amazon society. This excerpt from the Second Citadel Compendium goes into a little more detail:

    The Sisterhood originates from the High Age of Southern Lustria, a golden age of science and technology. Even then, Amazonia was a wild and fiercely independent land. The technocratic and wise old Slann accepted this and respected Amazon territory. While other humans were regarded as inferior, enslaved and treated little better than cattle, the Amazons retained their freedom.

    Old Slann and Amazon were able to exist, almost entirely peacefully side by side. There was even a measure of trade and cooperation between the two races. Amazons were particularly valued as Acolytes and as Thralls by the High Age Magii.

    These Amazon emigres were the ancestors of the present day Sisterhood. They were to gain, through their work and their studies, a close familiarity with the High Age sciences.

    Eventually the Old Slann fell,  their civilisation was destroyed and their knowledge lost even to their descendants. Modern day Slann regard any trace of the old days with suspicion and fear: the Old Sciences have been lost to them. Not so to the Sisterhood, who retained and preserved much of their knowledge. Whilst they could not hope to recreate the products of the High Age they could still use and maintain many of the artefacts which they had salvaged from its fall. 

    This knowledge became the basis of the Sisterhood's power and authority within Amazon society. The careful organisation, fanatic devotion and above all, the secrecy of the Sisterhood ensure a continuing hegemony in the religious, political and scientific spheres of Amazon life.

    The Sisterhood Mage is one of the high ranks within the Sisterhood - those who rise to such greatness are formidable magic users and are able to call forth the living embodiment of the Goddess Rigg.

    Mother Samantha is one of the only named Amazon characters, apart from the rebellious Kara Lakota.

    Samantha's birth place lies somewhere in Eastern Amazonia. Born into a Nomadic tribe, she eventually became a member of the Kalim and from here joined the Devout.

    She rose with remarkable speed from the Devout to the Sisterhood and then upwards through the ranks of the Sisterhood. She is now a High Priestess, the Head of the Holy Shrine of Rigg.

    Samantha is still surprisingly young. Because of her Nomadic Amazon background she is an agile and able fighter as well as a powerful magician.

    The Goddess herself!

    Rigg, Goddess of War,  is the leading figure in the Amazon pantheon - the result of the mythic union between her and the Sea Elf God of wealth and happiness, Amex, was said to be Kalith, Mother of all Amazons.

    Although she is of neutral alignment,  her spheres of influence lie in warfare, blood, Koka and violent death!

    Should the Great Hall of the temple be violated, Mother Samantha or any other Sisterhood Mage can summon the Goddess herself with a summon demons spell. The Goddess will manifest herself, standing on the altar and obeying the wishes of the summoner for 2D4 turns. She appears as a 9 foot tall giant with red eyes and hair and is armed with a knife and four throwing knives - all magical.

    Huge thanks to Zhu and his excellent forays into Amazonia, both for his great posts on the subject but also for inspiring the colour scheme I chose for the Sisterhood. I was so taken with the costume design for none other than Diana Rigg herself, in her role as Klytemestra in the BBC adaptation of The Serpent Son, that I had to pinch it!

    You may recognise the face paint design I've used on most of the Sisterhood.

    The design on this dress also shows up on the backs of the cloaks of Rigg and the Sisterhood Mage.

    The next models aren't from the Amazon range but make nice Sisterhood Acolytes or Novices.

    The evil Priestess from the Fantasy Adventurers range. I had a go at making her robe seem a little on the sheer side by adding faint flesh highlights where the cloth was drawn tight. I figured red hair would be pretty in vogue too if it was good enough for Rigg herself!

    I figured that a Goddess like Rigg would probably be wanting some kind of blood sacrifice so the Houri with dagger, also from the Fantasy Adventurers range, would also fit nicely.

    And finally another Samantha - this time Samantha Phox from the later range of Wizards. She's obviously had a little too much Koka or gotten a bit carried away with the rituals...

    So to finish off I thought I'd mock up a few shots of what a game might actually look like once the Shrine is done!

    Not too far off the Cover art on the Second Citadel Compendium?!

    Goblinaid - Update

    Not just an opportunity for me to post new and improved pics of my Little Kev and his Snorklings...

    ... but also to let you know that the Goblinaid greens are soon off to Ral Partha Europe for casting! Hope you've saved a few pennies up as not only is it a great cause but there's some seriously tasty Gobbo's in there.