Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So long 2013, Fuck You!

Apologies for the F-Drop in the title, I know not everyone will appreciate it, but that's the only way to sum up how this year has gone.

2013 started pretty poorly and steadily got worse, levelling off at pretty crap in November. Frankly I'm glad to see the back of this year, but I'm tentatively looking forward to next year, hopefully get some better news in the first few months.

Also a quick thanks to my friends and family, the guys at the club and all my internet friends for helping me out over the last twelve months!

Have a great new year everyone.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Kindle Purchases

Ok, it turn's out that Sunday evening wasn't a good night for some painting; rather it was for sleeping a few hours on the couch!  Still, off for a few days now, so I'm bound to get something done.

One thing I've discovered about the Kindle: not only is it great for reading books and wargames rules, it's also really easy to spend money on!  I've picked up a couple books this weekend, notably:

I would have probably picked up the whole Osprey Legends series at some point, but these two were 99p and 49p respectively, bargain.  Admittedly, I'm still getting accustomed to not having the physical book, but reading is surprisingly comfortable.  The Thor book in particular has thrown up a number of things I wasn't familiar with.  Great artwork throughout too!

The Arthur book less so, but I did study Arthurian literature (mainly Thomas Malory and Sir Gwain and the Green Night) for a semester at university, so am a bit more familiar with those legends than the Norse.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Xmas Update

Well I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas (or at least the day off work!)  I was certainly glad of the day off, my first in a wee while, and managed to lounge around in the sack until eleven or so.  Stirred into motion by the smell of bacon, it was soon time to exchange gifts.

The old man really pulled a surprise by picking me up a Kindle.  I've been wanting to replace the tablet pc (which the ex has, I got the laptop) since the summer and this is a fits the bill perfectly.  Aside from ebooks, which I'm not particularly sold on anyway, it's great for surfing the net whilst chilling in bed or on the couch.  It plays my music and audiobooks too, which I'm getting used to, and is fantastic for reading wargame rules and pdfs.

Other than that, I was given a new Osprey book, Jackson's Valley Campaign and the latest Scott Lynch book, Republic of Thieves.

On a whim, I ordered a Christmas Crazy Box 2013 from Mantic Games.  It's essentially a lucky dip box with a random assortment of miniatures from their various ranges.  My box included two Dreadball MVP players, including the only giant figure I don't own, some elves, three ogres, ten human spearmen, five space Dwarves with heavy weapons, two space Orx with heavy weapons, two wonderfully weird Deadzone figures and a random playing piece figures (no idea what it actually is.)

I'm happy enough with the purchase, in terms of RRP, it's great value.  Of most immediate use, are the Dreadball giant and the Ogres.  The elves and spearmen should also see some use, probably in a skirmish game or an RPG.  The rest are all nice enough, the Dwarves (Forgefathers?) in particular are much nicer than the website photos suggest, and should see some paint on them at some point.  The Crazy Box is still on sale, so it's a nice purchase if you fancy some random fantasy/sci-fi miniatures.

Earlier in the year, I joined the Blogger Secret Santa that was going around.  Sadly, my present hasn't turned up yet (boo-hoo I know,) but that wasn't solely why I joined.  I'll keep faith in the blogging community, and the Royal Mail, that something will turn up in the next few days!

In terms of the Painting Challenge, the last week or so was a bit of a bust!  Just far too busy with work and the occasional social functions i.e. nights in the pub, to get time to pick up the brush.  Today though, I managed to prep the next few entries and, after days of terrible weather, get some spray priming done. Sunday night feels like a good time to get some painting in, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.  I hope everyone is getting what and to do what the want today!

I've just finished a nine day run of busy days at work, so, at 9:30 in the morning, I'm still lounging in bed.  Can't see myself getting up soon either!  Until next time, enjoy the obligatory Sophie Howard & friends boob pic!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

10mm Roman Command stand

Here's my first entry into the Analogue Painting Challenge; a 10mm Republican Rome command stand.  Figures are from the Pendraken cavalry pack, nice enough sculpts, but the rest of the pack are all one pose figures - one of my pet hates!

I want to avoid the whole sea-of-red look for my Romans, so tried using green as the main colour and will probably keep it as the main colour for the legionnaires.  These guys have sat glued to the base since the last year, so it was somewhat apt that I started this year's challenge with them.  4 points done!  Chuffed with that.

Sadly after day two, I'm already a bit behind schedule!  My scheduled day off on Monday went a bit pear-shaped and I ended up working a long shift.  Work and the club on Tuesday meant no activity at all. I managed to get some brushwork in this morning, but am going to have to push Thursday and Friday nights to get the theme weekend entry completed on time. Still, there's plenty of time left, isn't there?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

One down, many, MANY more to go!

Well, that's me off the mark, one base of figures painted.  Having written that, it sounds more impressive than it actually is!  I'll have to wait for daylight tomorrow to take pictures, but otherwise I'm happy enough with the days work.  In some fortunate timing, it was my first day off in over a week today, coinciding nicely with the start of the Analogue Painting Challenge.  As a result, I was able to take a few hours to set up my desk how I like, look out some favourite pots of paint and generally gear myself up for the next few weeks.

Like many other participants, I haven't painted anything in the last few weeks, so today was a chance to brush off the cobwebs.  A few thought occurred to me while painting away:

  • More light!  After lunch, the natural light on my desk dropped off dramatically.  I'll need to dig out a couple lamps for afternoon/evening painting, maybe swap out to using daylight bulbs too.
  • Painting itself is reassuringly satisfying.
  • My home-made wet palette is a godsend, particularly useful for correcting mistakes, by keeping original paints usable hours after a first coat.
  • Listening material is essential to keeping your brain occupied during the more mundane tasks. Football earlier in the day and the latest D6 Generation episode in the afternoon.
  • My points target suddenly seems a long way away!
Another day off tomorrow, so the plan is to finish up another group of figures by the evening. If I manage that I won't feel too guilty about not painting Tuesday while I go to the final club night of the year.

Everyone finished prepping yet?

Only a few hour now until the Analogue Painting Challenge 2014 kicks in.  As plenty of other Bloggers have documented, December has been busy with modelling figures, prepping bases and arguing about exactly what constitutes priming a miniature!

Dreadball figures aplenty!

Although not as much as I'd have liked, I've prepared a few weeks worth of figures; some Dreadball teams, the remainder of my Saga vikings, some 15mm sci-fi reinforcements and a few figures for the lucrative bonus theme weekends.

My Viking army.  Doesn't look like that much work, does it?

It'll be interesting, keeping an eye out to see how everyone starts off the challenge.  I work in retail so this is the busiest time of our year, but I have some painting time scheduled, including tomorrow as a day off.  first goal; to get off the mark.  Best of luck to everyone participating and for those not, I hope it'll be interesting to read about!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

November Gaming: A House Divided

Not a huge amount of gaming happened in November; real life and whatnot.  I did manage a couple of games in at the club though, the first of which was A House Divided, a board game by Frank Chadwick.  I can't remember the current publisher, but this is apparently the fourth edition of the game.

AHD is a strategic wargame, re-fighting the American Civil War in it's entirety (and beyond if you prefer.) The game board consists of a network of strategic locations, either cities, towns or forts, with a web of roads, rivers and railway lines connecting them.  The game plays out in month long spring summer turns and two month autumn winter turns.

April 1862, look at all those blue tokens, must be going well for the Union.

Each turn, a player has a specific amount of activations he can make, moving or entrenching units, initiating battles and so on.  The movement mechanics are nice and simple, reflecting the importance of rail and river travel (particularly for the Union player in the latter case.)  The fact you can't move a whole lot of units in one turn, unless they are all stacked together as an army, means you can't redeploy strategically very quickly; you have to plan what you're going to do and build towards that carefully.

Combat is an extremely straightforward affair, purely dice based, with two hits needed to eliminate a token. There are still a number of tactical options for each side, with options to reinforce or retreat from the combat or to entrench a position.  After each successful combat, the victor can promote one of his units to a higher quality, from militia to veteran or from veteran to crack.  A slight niggle here is that for each battle, you pick all the involved units off the board and line them up separately, this kind of grated on me for a while, but I can't think of a better way it could be implemented.

The sideboard, tokens and battle area.  Exciting stuff!

The token count has been very specifically balanced to reflect the disparity in manpower between the two sides.  As a result the Confederate player has to be aggressive to promote his units to a higher quality, thereby making the lower quality token available for recruitment. On the other hand, the Union player automatically drafts new militia units every April, in addition to those he can recruit during the year.

Play alternates between the two players for the five years of the war until one side emerges victorious.  The Union win by either capturing Richmond or enough other bases to force a win (actually I think I'm forgetting one here.)  The Confederacy win by either capturing Washington or by simply avoiding defeat until May 1865.

We chose to play one of the year scenarios, as time was a bit limited, opting for 1862. Deployment was fixed with heavy concentrations around Washington and Richmond, the Union holding Kentucky and with a small force entrenched in Fort Monroe.  Victory and defeat for this scenario is calculated in the difference between the maximum possible army sizes for each side, calculated by the number of large cities each side controls - essentially this means "how much ground can the confederates take?"  Alternatively, if either side lost their capital, the game would be over too.

For some reason, I took a picture of the rulebook too.

I took the role as the Union commander, keeping my capital swarming with troops while simultaneously building up forces for a naval expedition down the coast (Will it worked for McClellan, didn't it?)  For the hell of it, we also had a push down from Kentucky against what looked like weak opposition.

Adam had the Confederate command and played a much more cagey game in the early turns. All the Confederate militia tokens were on the map, so the only way they could recruit new troops was to promote some milita to veterans, freeing up the militia tokens for the recruitment phase.  Adam did this by harrassing some of my isolated units and forming up to resist my Western push.

My push soon turned into a rout.  With no choice to retreat in the face of much better troops than my own, I launched the naval expedition, taking a couple towns, but not doing nearly enough to avoid the complete defeat I suffered.  This continued the fine tradition I have at the club of introducing new games and then losing heavily at them.

March 1863.  Errr, how did that happen?  And where the fuck have all my guys gone!?!

The box comes with two sets of rules, basic and advanced rules.  The former, beyond learning the basic mechanics really have no depth to them.  The advanced set are a little more meaty, but not complex at all (particularly by the standards of a GMT game.)  The second half of the advanced rules section cover the optional rules players can choose to use (in part or all of them, there are about twenty five or so to select.)  I'm not a big fan of this kind of choice in a game, it makes me think the designers couldn't decide what to include, so put everything in and make the players decide.

As AHD is in it's fourth edition, I think this is a nice nod to the previous incarnations of the game and, with a handy chart to help you, picking what rules you want is pretty straightforward.  There is a huge amount to choose from; I won't go into them all, but some of my favourites are the draft riots 1863,naval assaults and the Grant/Lee rules.  Additionally, there are rules for hypothetical situations like a Confederate navy or European recognition of the Confederacy and subsequent military aid.

I have to say I think A House Divided is an outstanding game.  Well balanced and atmospheric, it was also really fun, despite my horrendous loss.  The year we played took about ninety minutes, although with some fannying about going on;  we're both keen to arrange an afternoon or evening where we can play the whole war through to a finish.  A final point, this game cost me a tenner, from IGUK earlier this year.  The price was heavily reduced, but this is easily the best value purchase I've made all year.  Recommended.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

G3 Games Day

Last weekend, a friend and I had a trip down to Glasgow to attend a Glasgow Games Group gaming event; the Spencer Warner Memorial Gaming Day.  The G3 event commemorates a founder member of the group and lets those who knew him (and those, like me, who didn't) get together for some gaming, for some laughs and to raise some cash for charity.

There was a fair turnout with around ten tables on the go, as well as a huge bring and buy section (I later learned that this was mostly Spencer's collection they are selling off for charity - Man he had a lot of stuff!)  I took some pictures, apologies to all the participants, I didn't get names:

The view from the door.

A well balanced looking Flames of War table.

One of two Apocalypse Warhammer 40K games.  These tables were packed with figures.

A huge Battletech game using Hawk Wargames' terrain set.  I think this was the quick play version of the rules (Alpha Strike?) as it seemed to be playing very quickly for BT.
Our first game, Blood Bowl Team Manager.  A much better game with three people rather than two.  Four players would be better still.

The second 40K game.  Someone came over to us from this table for a blether - Apparently his army had been reduced to just three figures!

In addition to these, there were games of Saga, Chain of Command, Dystopian Wars and a couple miscellaneous games I couldn't see properly.  My loot from the day was pretty satisfying:

Cold War Commander - because I don't have enough projects and scales going on.
Imperium supplement for Crusader - for completness, the only one I don't have.
Gear Krieg - a complete impulse buy.
Khador paint set from PP - great price
Thragosh the Messiah for Horders - again, a bargain.

We'd also stopped earlier at Static Games in the city centre where I picked up the latest booster for Android Netrunner and an adventure pack for the Lord of the Rings card game.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Two Minute Review - The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote

The Civil War: A Narrative - Part One Fort Sumter to Perryville

Two minutes hardly seems like enough time to get started on this one.  For a change, I picked this up as an audiobook.  Very slowly, I'm becoming accustomed to the format, remembering to make an effort to listen along to the recording and to avoid letting my attention wandering.  It's taken a lot of getting used to, particularly with this book; it clocks in at just over thirty seven hours.

Shelby Foote, apart from his literary works, is probably best known for his appearances on Ken Burn's Civil War documentary series.  He had a wonderful voice and a unique way of thinking about the Civil War, particularly his habit of speaking as if it was still ongoing.  This first volume of three, covers the build up to and the first two years of the war.

I'm at a bit of a loss as to describe the work.  Foote certainly gives you an account, mainly chronological, of the conflict, but it's a meandering, seamless narrative where events flow into one another.  Although a chapter might start on the western front, about whatever problems Bragg is facing, the chapter could wander off to talk about the Southern press or Lincoln's personal life or the naval blockade.  Yet the narrative always, in hindsight, has a logic and structure that keeps you hooked in.  Throughout, I was never metaphorically lost wherever the author went.

The way the battles, particularly Antietam, unfold are inspired; there are no big announcements that one of the war's set pieces is coming up.  Instead, we follow the two armies as they march along, choose their positions and skirmish.  Soon you're being told about the fierce fighting and you can't quite exactly recall when battle started.  Somehow, this seems very fitting for the subject matter.

What struck me was how well characterised the main personalities are. Partly this comes from the author's own opinion on certain figures, but also from the frequent quotations from letters and diaries etc.  A case in point is McClellan, whose letters are quoted extensively. Reading (or listening) along, you feel frustrated at his inability to do anything, then feel his excitement as battle draws near and, ultimately, you feel sorry for him as he is quietly removed from command.  Perhaps it is due to the fact I was being read to, but I haven't had that reaction to any other book on the American Civil War.

At this point in any review, you're supposed to point out any criticisms you have of a work. After racking my brain for a while, I can honestly say I have none.  Pushed hard, I'd say that TCW wouldn't be suitable as an introduction to the conflict.  Due to the authors sojourns and detours, without at least an existing idea of the structure of the war, a new reader could get a little lost along the way.  Access to a selection of suitable maps is a huge help.

Sadly, the recording I listened to was not narrated by the author himself.  The style of writing and the turn of phrase used (particularly the quotations from dispatches and letters) would have been wonderful to hear in the author's particular southern accent.  The narrator used does a satisfactory enough job, but he's a touch too fifties newsreader in tone for my tastes.

Quite frankly I can't recommend this book highly enough.  From Grant's preferred expletives to the Beauregard's choice of dress uniform, if you like your history with plenty of character you won't be disappointed.  A bit of a pause will be required before listening to volume two, looking ahead, it clocks in at over forty seven hours!

Monday, 18 November 2013


Along with another forty nine, slightly barmy bloggers, I've signed up for The Fourth Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge  Curt very kindly offered previous entrants the chance to sign up for the challenge last week and I'm stoked that I had managed to get a place on board.

Curt has introduced two big changes this year; by allowing non-historical figures in the challenge for the first time and by introducing themed bonus rounds.  The diversity and quality of last years challenge was immense, widening the field can only be a good thing!  I've already picked out some figures for the first bonus round; non-combatants.

The entrance fee this year is to provide Curt with "a single 28mm figure that is inspired by a Sam Peckinpah film."  I use the term "fee" loosely as Curt actually donates cash to a local charity for each figure he receives. For the third painting challenge, we were asked to paint up a 28mm Samurai figure for him, my entry was this guy:

There are definitely no cowboy or similar figures in my lead pile, so looks like I'll have to hit the 'Bay to find something appropriate.  Of course, that sounds like the perfect excuse opportunity to pick up the Dead Man's Hand rulebook while I'm there, maybe some extra figures too...

The challenge is points based, awarded for each painted figure based mainly on scale and how generous Curt is feeling!  Although he puts up a league table, the only competition is with yourself.  In fact, the most enjoyable aspect from last year was how supportive the participants were.  I'm going to aim for the same points tally I set for last year, 1000 points. It's ambitious, very ambitious, but it's probably what I need to kick my painting mojo into action again.

Although the challenge last year started well enough for me, my progress never recovered from a string of bad news that began last new year (enough about that though, I've adopted a no-whining policy from now on!)  This year, I think I'll be able to plan a lot more and learn some lessons from last year.

The first big task for the next few weeks is to prep everything that might possibly be entered. Last year, I totally misjudged this and was still sanding, filing and basing long after I should have picked up the paintbrush.

Next up is some sort of schedule of what to paint and by when.  Having a list and some deadlines written down should help me stay on track and keep the motivation levels up.

Lastly, I need to find an easy(ish) and effective way of taking pictures of figures.  At the moment, the pics I take are either washed out from too much light or are tinged from the coloured lightbulbs in the house.  Add into the fact I hate taking pictures, something set up, ready to use will save a lot of headaches in the coming months.

Best of luck to everyone entering.  Best get preppin'

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Just a quick thank you to all the readers of Too Much Free Time.  I just noticed that the blog has accumulated it's 100th follower!  So thanks to everyone who stops by to read my bletherings and bigger thanks to everyone who makes the effort to comment and share.  I haven't done anything the last few months to encourage and attract new readers, so it's very rewarding to see that people still take an interest.

On a related note, Loki has just picked up his 200th follower and is marking the occasion by giving away a nice looking Saga figure.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Two Minute Review - The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

This weekend, I finally finished reading The Plantagenets by Dan Jones.  Man, this one was a struggle.

First off, it should be hard to write a bad book about this period of English history, populated as it is by so many famour figures; The Lionheart, King John, Edward Longshanks, Henry III, Simon de Monteforte, Richard II. Indeed, the author manages to write a competent enough history of the period; this happened, that happened, this is why they happened, nothing spectacular, but simple enough to read through.

The unfortunate problem with The Plantagenets is all to do with the structure and editing used.  Jones has chosen to write a narrative history, so it's very easy to read, no long sentences, next to no dates or direct quotes from sources are used.  Indeed, you are left with a rough picture of what happened rather than a explicit sequence of events.  Nothing wrong with that, but the structure chosen for the books disrupts all efforts to forge a coherent and stable narrative.

In medias res, is a narrative technique as old as literature itself (a story starts in the middle of events, summarises how we arrived there and they plays out the rest of the tale.)  In The Plantagenets, Jones uses this technique to such an extent that it borders on the ridiculous. I would suggest (allowing for my critical viewpoint) that two thirds of the chapters in the book begin this way.  You barely get caught up with events before jumping forward ten or fifteen years.  Now this wouldn't be such a critical problem if there were any length to the chapters, but the book flies by. Some of the chapters here are barely 1200 words in length (that's three and a half pages!)

The Plantagenets struck me as a book simply in need of a good edit.  The author does thank his editor in the preface, but I honestly don't know what she did to earn her pay on this one. First up, the a decent editor would have picked up on the problematic structure before a first draft was completed.  Secondly, some elementary errors really bothered me.  If you're going to abandon dates and simply use years to track events, at least get the years right.  I'm not an expert on Medieval England,  but if you state an event happens in two different years, then I'm going to know something's up! Lastly, and from my point of view, the most frustrating; if you don't know how to use a word properly, just don't use it! Worst example; bode. Just don't.

There might be a decent enough narrative history here, but the author has does all he can to keep it from you.

Incidentally, The Plantagenets fails at my wargamer-history rule, in that, it doesn't even tempt me into wargaming the time period in general or any of the notable battles in particular. Poor.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A to Z Blogger Book Survey

This has been floating around a few different blogs lately, saw it on Lead Warrior, who saw it over at Glue in the Carpet who saw it. . . and so on and on.  I quite enjoy these wee quizzes and I enjoy reading other peoples lists even more.  No real logic behind that, but this one is for the avid readers out there.

Just fyi, I mainly read history, fantasy and sci-fi nowadays; years of reading serious literature has left me feeling entitled enough now to only read stuff I genuinely enjoy!

Author you've read the most books from:
A rather boring answer.  Both in terms of words and books, it would have to be Dickens.

Best sequel ever:
Not sure about best sequel ever, but Raymond E Feist's Silverthorn is one of the best second books I've ever read.

Currently reading:
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote

Drink of choice whilst reading:
Reading in the bath?  A crisp, cold beer, something European preferably.
Around the house? A cup of tea, steeped for two minutes and a sploosh of milk.

E-reader or physical book:
Physical books still.  You can't scribble on an E-reader, fold the pages over, fall asleep and drool on them.  Plus there's no proper smell.  I managed recently to finish an audiobook for the first time, so, that barrier crossed, in time I may succumb to an e-reader too.

Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:
Err, as a teen Tess Durbeyfield, later Anna Karenina and most recently, Fire (from the eponymous Kristin Cashore book)

Glad you gave this book a chance:
The first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.  I was a very late convert to Pratchett, he seemed a bit too twee for my tastes.  Also, lots of people told my I just HAD to read them, so, obviously, I avoided them for years.  However, once I'd read the first one, I kind of understood what people saw in Pratchett; British wit and humour, irreverence, farce, biting-BITING dialogue.  Glad to have given it a go, although I'm reading them very slowly in case of burnout!

Hidden book gem:
The Painted Man by Peter V Brett.  When I started reading, I thought it was a shallow, teen fantasy novel. However, it turned out to be one of the best modern fantasy novels I've read in recent years.  The fact it is easy to read disguises how skilfully the characters, world and plot have been put together.  The series is onto the third book now, the second was excellent, but I'm delaying reading the third until I'm ready (I've a funny feeling about one of my favourite characters in the next book.)

Important moment in your book life:
Reading The History of the World by J M Roberts as a teenager.  We had next to no history taught at my school.  In summary, we were told: the Romans were in Britain, Anne Frank complained a lot, people in London during the Blitz somehow won the second world war.  J M Robert's books single handedly changed that.

Just finished:
Ice Forged by Gail Z Martin.  God this one was drivel.

Kind of book you won't read:
Biographies and any self-help, pop-psychology based nonsense.  Also, anything by Dan Brown.

Longest book you've read:
Couldn't really say specifically.  Three of the longest are surely War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F Hamilton.

Major book hangover because of  disappointing endings:
First off, an ending should never ruin a book for you.  If the last few pages leave you feeling unsatisfied, think instead of how you enjoyed the days and weeks of reading to get there instead.

So the ending to the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks didn't ruin the series, but it wasn't really that satisfying.  Minor spoiler alert:  there's an essentially immortal character (well two actually) who tells the reader what happens to the rest of the cast after the last book ends. It was so Hollywood, it was horrible. However, until then, the series was outstanding, I can still quote bits from it!

Number of bookcases you own:
I left all my furniture behind with my ex when I moved back home this year, so technically, none. Most of my books are boxed up in the loft.  At the last count (in 2005,) I was sitting at a nudge over two and a half thousand books.

One book you've read multiple times:
Agatha Christie (allegedly) said "Reading a book once is like taking a dog to the theatre." I try to read the majority of my books at least twice.  A notable read?  Dune, must had read it through a dozen times or more.

Preferred place to read:
My sadly departed comfy leather chair (still traumatized by its loss,) the Duthie Park in Aberdeen (on a very sunny day of course) or the bath.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:
I was going to go all serious and take the literary high ground with my teenager book, The Great Gatsby "here was a new generation. . . grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken."  But instead, I'll have to go with "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

Reading regret:
I can't think of anything serious or trivial for this one.  Can't say I've ever regretted reading or not reading a book.  Gun to the head, I'd have preferred to avoid any of the Song of Ice and Fire sequels.  The first book was immense though.

Series you started and need to finish:
The Godless World trilogy by Brian Ruckley.  Read the first two, but need to get to the third. Not because it's a struggle to read or they're poorly read though; it's an outstanding series of books.  So good in fact, that I'm holding off reading it until I'm in the mood for a really good book.  This is something I do a lot, so many mediocre series out there, when I find one I like, I try and prolong the satisfaction as much as possible.

Three of your all-time favourite books:
Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Player of Games by Iain M Banks
Damn, can't commit to a third, I'll just say War of the Worlds by HG Wells (poor ending though, see above.)

Unapologetic fanboy for:
Hmmm, wouldn'y say I'm a fanboy for anything other than Star Wars and Star Trek.  That said, I've read some rubbish Star Wars books and thought they were great.

Very excited for this release:
Again, nothing I'm really looking forward to.  I'd have to say the Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, mainly because it's been so long in coming out.  More cautious than excited though, the second book in the Locke Lamora series was entertaining, but had some serious flaws. This one had better be better.

Worst bookish habit:
Not lending books out.  I'm a bit of a hoarder, but I do try and give out books when I can.

X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:
No bookshelves at the moment, but I have a few arranged in stacks on the floor.  Starting at the top left and working down: The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf.

Your latest book purchase:
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.  It's been a while since I finished his last book, so time for the next one.  It's got a lot to live up to, so it had better be good.  If not, I'll be writing smack about him on the internet.

Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waaay too late:)
One of my bad habits, I stay up far too late reading.  The last notable book to keep me up properly was In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland, good, but not great.

So that was my A-Z.  I'd love to see more bloggers put up their lists and link back to whose they have seen.  For ease, here are the 26 questions all together:

Author you've read the most books from:
Best sequel ever:
Currently reading:
Drink of choice whilst reading:
E-reader or physical book:
Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:
Glad you gave this book a chance:
Hidden book gem:
Important moment in your book life:
Just finished:
Kind of book you won't read:
Longest book you've read:
Major book hangover because of  disappointing endings:
Number of bookcases you own:
One book you've read multiple times:
Preferred place to read:
Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:
Reading regret:
Series you started and need to finish:
Three of your all-time favourite books:
Unapologetic fanboy for:
Very excited for this release:
Worst bookish habit:
X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:
Your latest book purchase:
Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waaay too late:)

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Another New X-Wing Ship - The Moldy Crow

A bit of good fortune crossed my path a couple weeks ago, I had a nice little lottery win. Nothing in the quit-work-and-get-some-hookers-and-blow category, but a nice wee three figures.  It was sensible hat time though, so a good chunk went to paying some stuff off and another hefty piece went into my saving account. There was enough leftover to be a little self-indulgent.  I took a mate out for dinner, bought some new togs and, of course, picked up some miniatures for the pile!

I'll keep the first purchase quiet for now, but I'm quite happy with them.  The second was another ship for X-Wing, the HWK-290 Light Freighter.  Similar to the YT-1300/Millennium Falcon and the Firespray-31/Slave-1, the HWK-290 is better know to fans as the Moldy Crow, and for it's pilot Kyle Katarn. Actually, many people won't recognize the HWK at all, as it's the first ship in the X-Wing range not to have been in the movies.  Those of you who played the Dark Forces series on the pc "Do you fear me Jedi?" should be happy at it's release.

Now I think it's fair to say this ship was the least popular of the Wave 3 releases for X-Wing. A lot of people didn't like the model (it's brown after all) and it's stats are hardly that impressive. Still, I thought, it can't be that bad, can it?

Well, no, it's not bad at all, but it's not great either.  Not terribly manoeuvrable, not that resilient,  not even dishing out that much damage.  The HWK-290 is really the first support ship available for the rebel fleet; it's not going to do much on it's own, but with the right options and in with the right mix of ships. . .

The most obvious build is using Kyle Katarn, The Moldy Crow itself, a blaster turret and a recon specialist crew member.  This will pump out Focus tokens for the whole game, two per turn, allow you to give one to nearby ships each turn and also make proper use out of the blaster turret.  If you have a couple ships with Advanced Photon Torpedoes along side, then they can really dish out some damage in one or two turns.

A similar, but less obvious, way to use the HWK is by just using the cheapest pilot, the blaster turret and recon specialist.  This doesn't give any fancy benefits to your other ships, but it makes an excellent finishing ship.   As the turret can fire in any direction, swing this ship safely round the sides or behind several enemy ships, wait to see what survives the attacks from your better pilots, then use the HWK to finish them off. Best of all, this build is fairly cheap at 23 points so you could squeeze in three other ships in a 100 point game.

I'm quite happy with my purchase, despite the fact I actually wanted a B-Wing (they didn't have any left.)  It's not a ship I'd want two of, unlike the awesome Tie Bomber, but I'll certainly try it out the next time we manage to get a game in.

Incidentally, for any X-Wing players out there who don't know about it already, the Unofficial X-Wing Squadron Builder is a great tool for messing around with lists (and avoiding uncomfortable mental arithmetic.)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Some Shout-Outs and Some Thanks!

First things first, where the hell did the first half of October go?  I'd swear it should only be the fifth or sixth today, not the sixteenth.

Anyway, I wanted to promote a couple bloggers who are running prize draws  Carl over at Hitting on a Double 1 has a bunch of WW2 books up for grabs to celebrate 25K hits on his blog.  By the same token, Jonathan at Palouse Wargaming Journal is marking his blog's anniversary by giving away a variety bundle of earlier books.  Make sure you head over and check out each blog.

Next up I'd like to thank Ian (or more accurately, Ian's wife) at The Blog With No Name for running a Blogger's secret santa this year.  I now know who I'm getting a gift for, although I've no idea what to get them yet!  I'm looking forward to seeing who gets what later on in the year.

Lastly, big thanks to Jody over at Frontline Gamer for hooking me up with the a couple new games; Dwarf Kings Hold and Green Menace by Mantic Games.  Jody is moving shorty to another country and, in an extremely generous move, is offering a lot of games to "good homes" rather than put them into storage.  Jody and I started blogging at roughly the same time as each other and his blog has been a constant inspiration to me.  Best of luck on the move fella.

I love dungeon crawl games, but most of those I own are pretty meaty affairs taking quite a while to set up and play (Descent 2nd and the D&D adventure games in particular.) These Mantic games are a real scoop to pick up, nice and light rules and, best of all, the miniatures have already been assembled and the cards have already been punched out.  Result.

Thanks to all these bloggers, keep up the good work everyone!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Look! I Actually Picked Up A Brush

After what seems like weeks of procrastinating (ok it was after weeks of procrastinating) I managed to pick up a paint brush again today.  Originally, the plan was to do some prep work on a couple different projects and get a lot of priming done.  There's some rather wet weather on the way, so I'd like enough figures primed to do me over the winter.  The rain arrived early so forced me to change my mind and out came the paints.

First things first,  I had to spend a good wee while shaking and stirring the neglected tubs and bottles to even the paint out.  Fortunately, my right arm has developed considerable stamina in that motion, so it wasn't a problem.  Without getting all emo-whiny on you, I normally only paint when I'm happy and relaxed;  I haven't been either in a while, so it was quite a surprise how enjoyable the couple hours with the brush were this afternoon.

These are the first eight warriors for a Saga Viking warband that have been kicking around for a few months. Just the base colours so far, I'll add some decoration before the shading and highlighting begins.  As Odin is my witness, I will get this warband painted this year, before this:

Just fyi, for anyone who hasn't finished season one, there's a big spoiler in the trailer.

Monday, 7 October 2013

New X-Wing Ship - The Tie Bomber

So what's better than buying yourself a little geeky something (or Mr Visa buying you something?)  Well it's getting something bought for you!

Cheers then for my mate Adam for picking me up a Tie Bomber for X-Wing! Nice.

Fantasy Flight obviously know their audience; the TIE Bomber is easily the least cool ship from the original films, so they've compensated by making the rules for it terrific.  Cheap and loaded with ordnance seems to be the way to go with it.

The usual FFG bundle of cards and cardboard features.

A nice enough pre-painted model, but, like the rest of the X-Wing range, would benefit from some touch ups or insignia markings. It'll get to the table in a couple of weeks hopefully, up against another new model, the B-Wing.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Dropzone Commander Starter Set

Mr Visa has kindly provided another new shiny wargame project, the Dropzone Commander Starter set. Now I already have two of the starter faction boxes, so this was a bit of an extravagance, but as it's such a great deal, it was hard to refuse.  Besides, I might try and rope someone from the club to help paint these up.  Btw, Mr Visa is great for this kind of purchase, coming just before payday, but he does have an annoying habit of demanding to be paid on time!  Come on, lighten up...

Dropzone Commander has been out for about a year now and, judging from various forums and the blogosphere, has gained a fair player base.  Despite a lot of positive reviews, DZC initially drew attention to itself by simply being very expensive, in terms of cash, to get into. The resin starter sets were a touch on the pricey side, but the big issue was the range of resin buildings (no need to go over old ground, but they were phenomenally expensive.)

One of three identical UCM Sprues.  Lots of small, plastic parts!

Hawk Wargames, the publishers, have obviously taken this to heart and, over the course of the last few months, taken steps to mitigate these criticisms.  Firstly, they reduced the price of the resin buildings; still expensive but a welcome decision.  Secondly, they released templates for gamers to print out their own card buildings and table at home, for free, great stuff.  Thirdly, they released a card building and terrain box for those who couldn't or wouldn't print their own.  This new starter box caps this off this process by producing two of the four starter factions in plastic.

To illustrate the saving, the RRP of this starter set and any of the original faction boxes are the same, but this new box gives you double the number of miniatures as well as all the extras.  As I understand it, Hawk Wargames are, or were, originally something of a one man band, so I can only commend them on producing a fantastic game.

An excellent rulebook; concise, clear, filled with great pics and background material.

So, what do you get in the box?  Well, first off there are the two sets of miniatures, the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM) and the Scourge.  Each force consists of three dropships, six tanks, two APCs and six bases of infantry.  The miniatures are identical in design to the original resin models, but the detail to my eyes is slightly shallower on the plastic.  In particular, the infantry seem to suffer from this more than the vehicles. Bear in mind that DZC is a 10mm scale game, so on the tabletop, you won't see any different between the two materials.

In addition to the figures is the rulebook.  It's an updated 1.1 rulebook, so those of you who own the original rulebook will notice some changes.  Just so you know, all the rule and unit stat changes in the new rulebook are and have been available on the DZC website, so you're not missing any crucial information here.  The rulebook itself is pretty lush (do the kids still say lush?)  156 pages long, 53 of those being introduction, rules and scenarios.  The remainder covers the game background, the individual factions and their army lists. Plenty of gamer porn is on display; some of the displays are gorgeous.  Topping things off, the rulebook has a brief contents and a comprehensive index.  Nice.

The Scourge sprue, only the dropship needs any real assembly.

The two paper maps are placed next to each other to create a 4x3' urban table, on which the ten card buildings can be arranged to suit. The buildings are all from a fairly hard cardstock and, although they stand up on their own, will need glued together for an actual game.  DZC has a distinctive, almost art-deco style for the buildings; I personally think they look great, but I can see how they wouldn't be to everyone's taste. The buildings are a fair old size too, not like the old card Epic 40K buildings, the skyscraper is a good 9" tall. As this size of a building has an impact in game with the different flying units, it's good to see this this in the starter box.

In addition to the rulebook and terrain, are there three reference sheets, an assembly guide and a sheet of cardboard tokens and templates.  The reference sheets haven't appeared as is before and are very clear and well laid out.  The reference sheets cover the turn sequence, the main combat tables and all profiles and rules for the forces in the box.  Although there are several scenarios in the main rulebook, the reverse of the main reference sheet has a scenario specifically balanced for the starter armies, again, great attention to detail.

The UCM Bear APC.  Although it's in six parts, I put this together in a couple minutes.

The tokens are a handy addition.  Although many gamers will have a fair collection of tokens and blast markers (GW?) their inclusion here makes that a moot point.  I'd have preferred a thicker cardstock here, but that really is splitting hairs.  There are plenty of tokens, more than you'd likely need for even a large game.

Rounding off the box is a bag of ten D6s and, charmingly, a miniature Hawk-branded tape measure.  A lovely touch.

10mm scale.  Small, but an impressive level of detail.

In my opinion, this is easily the single best starter box available for any wargame, ever.  The Warmachine/Hordes are pretty close, but the fact that everything you need to start playing is here, terrain included, coupled with the price, means this is a real winner.  Actually, not only does the box have everything you need to play a small game, but there has been enough attention to detail for you to easily play a small game; tokens, reference sheets, scenario, even a tape measure.  Great stuff.

Obviously I haven't yet touched on the background or the rules mechanics; I'll have another post at some point covering these.  Until next time...