Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Points and thoughts

Closing in on 1000 points for the year. Another unit of 24 done yesterday, looking at doing another or maybe 2 today. I have some Union dismounted staring at me on the painting table too but cant get round to them at the minute.

The early war Russian army arrived from ebay. As well as lots of troops there are 4 T34's and a couple of SPG's though I will have to check what they are (I have never been much of a tanky!) the painting on the figures is ok but I cant find any reference that says they wore dark green overcoats so I have resprayed them white and will be repainting them This would have been a mammoth task a couple of years ago but not now! I have already put Vallejo 'Khaki Grey' all over them. I have put this on slightly thinned. Detailing next and I may expeiment with Army Painter Strong tone. They are all going to have snowy bases too. Should be done by next week. I reckon there is over a 100 points just in the figures. The tanks will follow.

Back to my Bloody Barons project, I miscalculated how many packs I have. I am 15 packs short (all retinue types). Not sure when to get these. I think I may paint everything I have which amounts to 5 more units prepped and ready to go, plus markers and a couple of general bases and then pick up the balance when I go down to the STAB PBI day on 16th May. I am looking at completing then by the end of May. Of course I may change my mind and order the extra bits later today but I miss out on the 10% discount then.

Having finished 'Azincourt' I have dug out 'Rebel', the first Starbuck novel by Cornwell set in the American Civil War. I read this when it first came out in 1993 when I was in the early stages of my love for the period. Blimey thats 16 years ago. I am fairly certain it was around this time that I bought my first Peter Pig figures too. Tempus fugit or something, my Latin teacher would have said.

I am always interested in peoples wargaming history, as in how they got into playing with toy soldiers in the first place what attracts them to certain periods or methods of playing. My story is probably typical in that I collected Airfix plastics by the box load as a child, but never did much more than line them up and knock them down. I never painted them (didn't see the point) and none of my friends saw the fascination. I remember my dad taking me into a little toy and model shop in Burslem (one of the five towns that make up Stoke on Trent) and seeing a glass cabinet with rows and rows of exquisitely painted Romans and Greeks. They were Hinchcliffe models and my dad bought my 3 or 4 of each. I took them home in a little blue box and marvelled at them, as my dad tried to tell me about Hannibal, elephants and the Alps. I just wanted to line them up and knock them over of course.

It was around this time that my dad bought me a little book called 'Know the Game - Wargaming'. This was a series of books generally on sporting subjects but also pastimes like chess and bridge. I gazed at the black and white pictures of wargaming figures in various scales and actual battles being fought with them using proper rules and dice. How exciting! That book held fond memories for me and was chuffed to pick it up again at Alumwell back in March. Of course my memories of it were some what rose tinted as it really isn't that good but back then it was my bible.

Trips to the library in later years led to the discovery of Donald Featherstone titles such as 'Battles with Model Soldiers' and 'Advanced Wargaming'. Charles Grants 'Wargames Tactics' was (and still is) a favourite. But the wargaming they described was a distant dream for me as I didn't know of any clubs local to me and had no idea of where to get the rules and figures from described in the books.

Around about the time I moved to high school I discovered role playing with Dungeons and Dragons and Runequest. Throughout high school and college this took over my life. I became a bit of a nerd, reading DC comics, drawing and writing about fantasy worlds and DMing for a group of mates numbering between 4 and 12 at any one time. I always DM'd the games and this has carried over into adult life as I like nothing better than setting up a game and running it for others to play. We played AD&D, DC Heroes, Gangbusters, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, James Bond, Traveller, Judge Dredd, Star Trek, Boot Hill, in fact anything we could get our hands on. Strangely when I moved away to university my role playing dried up for one reason or another. I still had an interes in it, reading mostly fantasy novels but by then (late 1980's) I was picking up the various wargames magazines and even sending off for a few figures here and there to start painting. Obviousley I use enamels and had no idea about undercoats or highlighting but I enjoyed having a go.

In 1990 I remember looking through the local newspaper and reading that the local wargames club in Stoke on Trent were having an open day at the town hall. Up until then I had no idea there was a club in Stoke. Intrigued I went along and suspect the moment I walked through the door I was hooked. For the first time in my life I saw real wargames with hundreds of figures in action. And the figures were painted! I remember two games in particular. One was by the Burton Wargames club, a large 15mm Napoleonic 'Albuera' with British, Spanish, Portugese and French swarming over a table with hills, trees and buildings on it. It looked fantastic back then and I am sure would still hold up today to the standard of demo game at modern shows.

The other was a 25mm ACW game recreating 'Chickamauga'. This had lots of Dixon figures painting to a stunning standard on sculpted scenary and played using a set of computer rules running on a Spectrum 128K. The lads running this game were from Stoke and all remain friends to this day. I spent most of the day chatting to them about the game and the period and can trace my interest in the ACW back to this moment. From there I went to a trader selling books and bought Bruce Cattons 'Penguin History of the American Civil War' and read it cover to cover several times. I then started to attend the Stoke Club (Friday nights from 7pm).

Stoke Wargames club has been around for nearly 40 years and have their own premises above a row of shops just of Longton (another of the 5 towns) town centre. The club is divided up into rooms that each have their own period of interest with fantasy having a strong hold at the present time but back in 1990 there were more historical games being played alongside some rolw playing. I joined in the room with the lads I had met at the show who at that time played exclusively ACW. Usually there was between 8 and 12 of us playing out historical battles that would last several weeks. We had great fun. Most of the kit was owned by Jeff Davis, a real civil war nut to this day like me. He painted the figures, scratch built the scenary and umpired the games, setting up campaigns and generally ensuring everyone had a good time. I have fond memories of these games and even began collecting a few Dixon figures myself.

I also wanted to game at home and decided on 15mm figures buying a mix of Essex, Warrior and Peter Pig. I gamed mainly with Martyn but also Barry, Mark White and the Barlows, John and Tom. All are still active gamers and whom I see and game with as often as I can. I built up collections of figures but around this time i discovered bring and buys. Martyn and I began to travel to wargames shows up and down the country (mid 1990's now). We went as far as York and Leeds in the North and down to London for Salute at the Kensington town hall. Martyn had at the time the largest collection of figures i knew of, in numerous periods. On getting to a show he would disappear off with a list in his hands only to reappear with a carrier bag full of lead. Within a week he would have most of it painted! We had great fun at the shows, getting lost on the way to them, talking about things most wargamers talk about like the next big project or the facing colours of some regiment or other. Occasionally this chat led to wrong roads being taken like when driving back from Salute we found ourselves instead of heading north back to Stoke, after an hour or so we approaching Reading.!

We games at Martyns house quite alot back then playing ACW, AWI, Napoleonics, Ancients and WW2. In the summer it was in his garage, in the winter in his dining room. The games could last all day sometimes with a break for a chip shop run. Martyn is now a grandad and his gaming has tailed off. He no longer comes to the club but we games occasionally at my house. Most of his figures have been sold off too and he collects plastics. At shows Martyn would often sell off figures on the bring and buys to fund other projects and this is a habit I got into which has now led to ebay trading. I have over the years collected 1)15 ACW 2) 25mm ACW 3) 25mm Naps 4)15mm Naps 5) 15mm Ancients 6)15mm WW2. All have been collected, painted, played with and sold off. I think I have collected 15mm ACW 3 or 4 times now. Currently I am contemplating selling most of my fantasy and scfi stuff.

Along with Keith, Ade and the others at the club, I have a wide circle of friends locally and look back on those first days with great fondness. Wargaming is a sociable hobby that stimulates creativity and thinking unlike most other hobbies (such as playing computer games for instance).
Long may it continue.

More soon.

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