Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Pevensey Castle

Pevensey Castle - Wednesday 12th April 2017

As it was the school holidays I decided to take some of the kids to an English Heritage site for a day out. As I am a member the entry fee is not charged and it is therefore a reasonably cheap day out (we took our own picnic lunch to save a few quid too). As I had not been there for at least 25 years and the fortification had been mentioned on a couple of TV programmes recently I decided it might be a good bet.

As we have been talking a lot about the Roman and 1066 Norman invasions at home recently, I thought that a trip to this particular castle was rather apt. The kids have been to Bayeux, Battle Abbey on several occasions (even watching the annual re-enactment a few times), and Hastings, but the only major place left for them to visit on William's tour of duty was Pevensey.

It was a rather bleak morning but the sun did pop out from behind the clouds on occasion to brighten things up a little bit. It is a rather small site still, but there is a very small museum on site now which wasn't there the last time I visited. It took us about an hour and a half to wander round and see all the sights, just long enough that something could be learned without the little ones getting too bored.

Other than one "modernised" walkway, none of the walls or towers can be climbed any more. The last time I was there I was able to get into some of the towers and sit in the arrow slits to enjoy some of the views that many a Norman soldier must have done. It didn't really detract from my enjoyment but it may do for some who are more adventurous (read: without worrying about kids taking a tumble).

The castle has seen quite a bit of action throughout its life as a Roman fortress, Saxon fortified village and Norman castle. There are four recorded sieges and it was also modified with gun emplacements to help fight against the Spanish and the French several centuries later, as well as a pill-box looking emplacement for World War Two use. The bay in which the castle stands has been drained over the years for land reclamation, so rather than seeing green fields, the Roman and Norman forces would have seen the sea and lots of coastal marshland.

In all, it was a good morning out. The kids enjoyed themselves and hopefully learned a few things. I recommend the castle for a morning or afternoon visit if you are ever in the area, perhaps alongside a trip to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle? It was also useful for thinking about castle usage from a gaming perspective. I bought the guide book whilst there, but have not got around to giving it a good read yet, but I daresay I can glean lots of great information from it.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gondor progress

I have made some more progress on my Gondor troops over the last few days now that I seem to have a little more spare time on my hands. I have almost completed a unit of archers with accompanying captain and banner bearer. I have gone for a battle-worn vibe, so they are quite dull looking. I need to complete the bases, dirty up (down?) the captain, and then varnish them all. Unfortunately, the varnish I have will dull the paintjobs even further so I am loath to use that spray on them. Can anyone suggest a decent matt varnish that will not dull the miniatures any more than they already are but will still protect the figures from everyday gaming use?

Anyway, here are some shots of the almost completed figures, beginning with a few of the archers...

There are three of each of the standard poses in this unit - they will represent just one of the many archer units at Gondor's command throughout the realm.

And here are a couple of the comand group, the banner bearer and a captain...

I have decided to have each unit number twelve troops headed up by an additional captain (sergeant?) and a banner bearer bringing a squad total to fourteen. I toyed with champions also being included but after a lot of umming and aahing I decided that it would be one step too far.

I have enough miniatures to make up seven or eight units; six will be standard build (two units each of the archers, swordsmen and spearmen) and the eBay odds and ends I have will be used for conversions to try to make up a veteran unit and a unit of axemen. These won't be ready for quite a while as I want to complete the original six units first so I can try to get them onto the table for a game or two.

Just out of interest, the backdrop I used was this...

I know it has been designated as a Rohan landscape by the artist, but I think it can be used for any of the mannish realms. I especially like the watch tower in the background and can imagine all sorts of skirmishes based around out-of-the-way spots like this one.

Next update will hopefully be the completed archer unit.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Games Workshop's Texture Paints

On my travels to various comic shops last week I also snuck into Games Workshop, or Warhammer as the store on Tottenham Court Road, London is now known. I only popped in to grab a new pot of black and white paint but came out with a couple of pots more.

The staff were very friendly and helpful and they talked me through the new range of textured paints that GW have recently (a year or two back?) introduced.

Apologies for the poor quality photo, but hopefully you can get the gist of what these paints can do. I was especially struck by the qualities of the Realm of Life and Realm of Death paints. These effects are what I have been looking for for quite a while for my Gondor and Rohan troops' bases. I usually just coat the base in PVA glue, apply sand to the base, liberally apply a dark brown wash to it, add a highlight or two and finish it with some flock and a tuft or two of plants or rough grass. These seem to do that in spades, as well as give a few other effects like the "crazy paving" dried earth look which I especially like.

I talked myself into buying one each of the texture paints as well as an applicator tool - yeah, I know GW's own tooling stuff is expensive and cheaper alternatives can be found but I got caught up in the moment.

Hopefully I will get round to using these soon. I will post some details as and when.

Monday, 13 February 2017

40 Years of Thrill Power

2000AD's 40th Anniversary celebrations

Saturday saw me attending the 2000AD festivities at the Novotel Hotel in Hammersmith, London. I bought the ticket several months back whilst I was still earning and boy am I glad I did.

I had a great day at the festival, I met many of my favourite artists and creators, as well as those involved in starting up the comic (and many of my other favourite reads when I was a kid), and saw a couple of films. After doing all the usual fanboy stuff (getting books signed etc.), I attended a few seminars where I learned many of the reasons why certain characters developed the way they did and why certain stories went in the directions they did. It was great seeing behind the scenes so to speak.

The two films were a surprise package; a fan produced film and a documentary...

The latter was a re-run of the Thrill Power Overload documentary for the 30th anniversary, but apparently this cut (according to the director who gave a brief introduction speech before it was shown) had a few extra bits put in for this showing only - the extra scenes will be on the new DVD to be released soon but as extras rather than as part of the actual documentary.

The former was a Strontium Dog tribute. It was produced by a group of fans and took them a great deal of effort to produce. It is a straight up hunt 'em down Strontium Dog yarn but it was done reasonably well considering the financial and technical contsraints involved. A few of the more professional outfits could actually learn from this group of fans.

It was a long day but it was thoroughly enjoyable - the 14 or so hours I was there seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and I did not have time to even think about getting bored. Here's to the 50th anniversary.

On the gaming front, I have managed to get a little work done on my Gondorian army but nothing worthwhile showing just yet. Hopefully things will pick up a little soon once I get my life back into gear after losing my mum to cancer only a few weeks back. Losing two parents within a year has been harsh and left me quite numb if I am honest. I have enjoyed attending events (like the one mentioned above) and meeting with friends as they take my mind off of my personal life but my gaming hobby has not been able to give me that escape yet as my mind keeps wandering back to my sadness. I am trying as much as possible to get out of the house and do things to keep myself active and my mind occupied but my lack of work (again) is making things difficult due to lack of money and then the worry that involves. I am not in a good place at the moment, but hopefully things will pick up soon.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

New Glasses - New Vision

A couple of weeks ago I popped into my local opticians for my regular two-yearly eye test. It was good news all round as my eyesight has not deteriorated over the last two years, so my prescription is still the same and I did not need to purchase any new reading glasses thus saving me a bit of money this month. This meant that I could spend some of it on doing something hobby related with. I decided to pick up a pair of close-work reading glasses with a focal length of about 25cms. These would take a week or so to make for me.

I picked up my new glasses at the beginning of this week and I have been trying them out. They certainly make up-close stuff more easy to focus on and I can now see my miniatures reasonably well. I have been busy working these last two days on my Gondorian army again; cutting minis from the sprues, glueing them together and generally re-thinking what I want to do with this army. I can also now focus quite well on the small details on my LotR minis when they are bare metal, undercoated black and when painted - a vast improvement on my normal vision and indeed over my reading glasses (which allow me to see the figures well at arms length but, alas, not close enough to see the detail well enough to paint). Proof is in the pudding as they say, so I will attempt to get some painting done later this week when I have finished with the modelling side of things.

First up though, I thought I would show off a few of the miniatures I cut off the sprues and cleaned up in readiness for undercoating (which may have to wait until the spring and the better weather it brings).

Here are some Warlord Games Pike & Shotte plastic horses that work well for putting metal mounted minis on without the usual leg breakage that occurs with the official Minas Tirith mounts. I got this idea from joe5mc's blog here at The Renaissance Troll.

I have a couple of broken painted horses in my collection due to the undue stress that a metal miniature puts onto just one point of contact with the base, so I will need to try to salvage them if I can. Plastic horses can work fine in this scenario but they need a minimum of two points of contact to spread the weight of the metal bearing down on it, especially when being handled during games sessions. Plastic figures on plastic horses present no problem at all due to their lack of mass.

The second problem I have come across (noticed this today) is the lack of variety of the horses in the new Knights of Minas Tirith set. It is wonderful that you get six unique left sides with the heads attached but only two right sides are available.

I have two sets of these to make up and slot in with the set I already glued and undercoated last year, so variety would be most useful. I will try some swapping around of parts, but I fear that some "silly" poses will come of this and as a result I would rather have duplicate poses than unrealistic ones. I will see what I can do later on today when I get onto them.

This is my first post back in rather a long time. The sudden death of my father really put the kibosh on my hobby and pretty much a lot of other things too for a while. Add to this a very busy contract up until the Christmas break and I have had little time for much more than the occasional trip to the pub with a few friends. I have, however, been posting on my other blog, The Taplow Horn, which logs my forays into pubs and ales of distinction.

I am hoping to get my hobby mojo back by actually doing something other than reading rule books and other peoples' blogs (good though they are). I am currently out of contract and looking for a new role, so in between looking for a new job and sorting out the kids for school I am hoping to get an hour or two per day to indulge in my hobby. So far I have de-sprued and glued up a stack of Gondorian troops in readiness for a Spring attack. Once these are all cleaned up, I will get back to the archers I left mid-painting last year. These will have a simple paint job so that they are tabletop ready and thus available as soon as possible to get a few games in.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Valkyries - choosers of the slain

It seems like real life has got in the way of my hobbies yet again. Just as I started to get on a roll with my painting life comes along and kicks me in the teeth.

My father passed away suddenly on 16th May 2016. He was not very well following a heart bypass operation a few years before but seemed to be making a great recovery recently. Then, unbeknownst to me, he was taken to hospital the week before he died as he suffered from shortage of breath.

In the early hours of the morning following his return home a week later, he was found outside his house by one of his neighbours surrounded by crows. The neighbour shooed them away and called the authorities to take care of my father's body. Now, although I am not at all religious, I would like to see this as the Valkyries (myth suggests that the Vikings saw crows and ravens, constant attendees at the aftermath of battles, as Odin's handmaidens) coming to choose an old warrior (my father was in the Royal Engineers) to party away eternity in the halls of Valhalla. It is a comforting thought for me.

The Ride of the Valkyries by William T. Maud

Following this bad news and the subsequent funeral preparations, house clearing, legal matters etc., I got some good news in the form of a new contract role. It took a good while to get started and go through the onboarding process, but at least I am now back in work, albeit only for a few months again (one of the pitfalls of being a contractor). To add to this, our family holiday arrived to take my mind off of all the goings on.

All of this has had an impact on my pastimes, but now that I am settling back into everyday life I am hoping that I can find the time again for my hobbies. I will have to dig out all of the painting paraphernalia and miniatures that are half-done and set out a plan to get some units completed in short time so I can maybe get some playing done by the close of the year. I also want to get back to (re-)reading my old comics (I still have the last 14 years worth of 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine to get through! as well as several dozen of the latest Dark Horse Conan run) and putting my efforts into training to improve my running times again.

Anyway, until next time...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Gondor update

I haven't updated in a while but things have been moving along nicely with my Gondor army. I have been painting or modelling for about half-an-hour to an hour almost every day since I began the project, but it seems that I am trying to do too much at once and not actually getting anything completed. I am flitting between painting warriors that are almost finished, tidying up newly bought miniatures (removing flash, sticking figures to their slotta bases and so forth), and undercoating those that have been prepped.

Here is a picture of some of my EBay metals haul, prepped and ready for a coat of paint. There is still a big stack to go, but I am progressing through them at a steady rate. The nice weather today has certainly helped as the garden is available for spraying again.

Next up are some of the original Gondor knights' horses. These are the ones that only have one point of contact with the base and thus constantly break (the horror stories I have heard on other blogs are too numerous to count on this point). As I have some metal knights to be mounted, I was going to use the newer style horses (with more than one contact point with the base, and thus much sturdier to take the extra weight of metal riders) for them and use the older horses that came with the metal knights for one half of the pastic unit.

The newer horses are much sturdier so will not get broken so easily - hopefully. The newer horses are pretty much the same poses that can be gained from the older metal set, but with a couple of extra halves for a bit more variety.

Finally here is a view of my first unit of archers with their banner bearer (captain and champion still to come). These have not seen much paint recently due to the other prep work I have been doing, but soon they will be my main focus again.

They need to have their faces looked at but my eyesight just cannot see the details, even with my glasses, so most of the fine detail will be guess and dab with the paint brush. They also need their scabbards and quivers painted to finish them off before some shading and highlighting is attempted.