Thursday, 2 March 2017

1986 advert for Fine Art Castings Doctor Who range

Flicking through old issues of Miniature Wargames, my eyes were drawn to this advert in Issue 33, from Feb 1986.

How curious, thinks I. Now, like all Oldhammerers, I was aware of the Citadel Doctor Who range, but here was something I hadn't come across before. So, after a bit of google searching, a bit of a Doctor Who wargames miniature history.

According to the Lost Minis Wiki, Fine Art Castings produced possibly the first licensed range of Doctor Who minis, first advertised in 1984. As can be seen in the advert, most of their minis seem to have been at a larger scale, but they did produce a small range of 25mm minis, mostly focussed on the enemies: Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans. Pictures of painted examples of these can be found on the aforementioned Lost Minis Wiki website. While are there plenty of examples of Fine Arts Castings Doctor Who minis kicking around the net, including on ebay, they all seem to be at the larger scales (esp 40mm). Here's an example of their packaging:

And here's a 25mm Earthshock Cyberman from their range, painted by Mark Dixon and taken from the Lost Minis Wiki just as an example of the range

though I won't nick any more than the one pic from there as it seems a bit cheeky, if you want more examples, click the link.

It's a couple years after Fine Art Castings - in 1986, to be precise, to support the FASA Doctor Who Game - that Citadel started releasing their Doctor Who minis. More information and pictures can be found on the Stuff of Legends site.

Steve Casey has done an excellent job photographing Doctor Who minis from Bryan Ansell's collection, many of which can still be seen on display at the Wargames Foundry.

And then after that... well, we're onto Harlequin Miniatures' extensive range for the Doctor Who: Invasion Earth wargame, produced from 1997 onwards. Many of these are still available from Black Tree Designs, from whom I obtained the bulk of my own collection of daleks.

Bringing us through more or less to the present day - Heresy Miniatures produced an excellent range of 'stand ins' for Doctor Who, in their "scientists and civilians" range, unlicensed but certainly filling a need. And to be honest, I wish I'd bought some of them while they were available because almost all of that range has now disappeared, I presume so as not to step on the feet of the new license holders, Warlord Games, who now have the important job of taking Doctor Who miniatures wargaming into the "New Who" era.

But if, like Thansants, LittleLeadPerson, and myself, you're still very much grounded in the Old Who era, and looking for a game to bring your Doctor Who minis out of retirement, watch this space, as we're organising an event at the Foundry - at the moment, looking very likely to be at the start of July. And if, by any chance, you have some 25mm Fine Art Castings Doctor Who minis, do bring them along and give them a game, we'd love to see them!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Night of the Living Lead Battle Report: Breakshit means Breakshit

(Being a battle report on the Halloween action at the Wargames Foundry. With the latest of Warlord Paul's Albion adventures coming up at the weekend, I realised that if I didn't post about the last one now, I never would. Problem is, a lot of my recollections of a most enjoyable day are a bit hazy. So this is an extremely partial reconstruction based mostly on the least blurry photos of my toy soldiers as they plod around the battlefield.)

What lurks under Albion's skin? Peel back Albion's flesh, cut through its muscle and sinew, and what horrors do you reveal? The embittered hatred of many centuries. The tarry black heart of greed. Swollen spleen of malice. Infected kidneys of evil. Cirrhotic Liver of... well, you get the picture. Lots of not nice stuff.

Lifetimes ago, a demon was vanquished. Or at least, so the people thought. In fact, it was merely buried. Or, more accurately, as the scribes tell us, "imprisoned beneath a henge of enchanted stones wrapped about with sealing spells and wards."

But now a new dawn approaches. The demon threatens to break free, from the bowels of the earth comes the insistent rumblings of the demon's desire to leave.

And today, the cultists gather around, an unholy alliance, calling the demon forth, urging him out. And so the prophecy has come to pass: "All must take sides for there can be no middle path, all must stand for or against the daemon called, BREAKSHIT!"

From the highlands come the clansmen, determined to bring sober reason to the proceedings and to stop Breakshit in its tracks. In their midst are the zombies of the Highland cult of Indyref, risen from their graves.

They take their place in the alliance moving toward the henge, determined to stop, or at least amend, the invocation of the ritual summoning Breakshit.

Yet the ancients, the walking dead of Albion, seek a return to the glory days of past ages and will fight to ensure the ritual is performed, believing that Breakshit will allow them to take back control.

Attempts to toss the caber into their number fail miserably.

And as the forces clash, even liquid courage is not enough to withstand the horror.

The cultists succeed in opening the protective seals and a roar swells from the ground: "BREAKSHIT MEANS BREAKSHIT!"

The surviving allies who had hoped that the power would remain captive make their way to the graveyard and enter the catacombs in the hope that if they can at least mount an appeal to stop a Hard Breakshit.

The highlanders bust their way past the venomous serpents who serve Breakshit...

And join a coalition who manage to make a few amendments...

This is fantasy, remember?

Monday, 26 December 2016

Happy Christmas, and may your stamina never fail!

Been very busy with work-writing once again and so games with teeny tiny toy soldiers have had to take a back seat. But nice to have a break for Christmas, and especially nice to receive a couple of gaming-related prezzies

Dragon Rampant rules and a Wood Elf Glade Guard box from my parents. Always difficult to "guess" what kind of toy soldiers someone might want for a present, but it can be rewarding too to get something you hadn't specifically had in mind... Now I'll be honest, the plastic wood elves were never really on my radar, and left to my own devices I'd never have bought them. But some of the pieces in this box set are fantasic converion fodder - it even includes little woodland sprites on the sprue! Love it! The banner poles and cloaks and leafy bits are brilliant and very useful, and the heads are just what I need for headswaps. One of the things that's held me back from doing more conversions has been lack of bitz, so a plastic set like this is a godsend.

And that leaves the third prezzie... what's the pile of papers? Well, now that's something REALLY special. The missus and my son have been plotting and scheming for the past month or so working on a top secret project and they've written me a whole new Fighting Fantasy Fleeing Fantasy adventure Town of Terror (or, Forest of Pies). I've been going through some of the Fighting Fantasy books with my son - Forest of Doom, City of Thieves, Island of the Lizard King (I skipped Deathtrap Dungeon because it's a bit too... errr... Deathtrappy for him at his age). He's clearly taken them to heart, and his long-suffering mother has clearly internalised enough of it from hearing us go through them over and over again until we reach those magical words "Turn to 400.." because the adventure they've designed for me is pitch-perfect. It's about 280 entries in total, though I couldn't help but notice that the final entry (in true FF style!) is numbered 400. Here are some of the first few pages...

Surely this is the best Christmas present an oldhammerer has ever received???

...that's the first few pages, I won't scan them all because I want to get back to playing it. I don't deserve them really, do I? Happy Christmas, and may your stamina never fail!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween!

Here's a citadel familiar next to his enormous dad, an Asgard FM71 "Jack-o-Bear" Bugbear, which I've painted for halloween. I thought painting this old figure would be a doddle. Boy, was I wrong. Just couldn't find a way to bring out the magic. Oh well.

Spent a fantastic day at the Foundry on Saturday celebrating the "Night of the Living Lead". I painted a handful of undead highlanders for the occasion - more on that soon. But I had been planning to bring these pumpkinheads too, largely because Matthew Dunn had said he was bringing his gnomes again, and last year they ran the sweet little familiar down in a hit-and-run incident.

This year I wanted the familiar to come back with his dad for revenge. But Matthew was celebrating his birthday (what kind of an excuse is that?) and so his gnomes stayed at home. Revenge will have to come on another halloween.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

A scene from Miniature Wargames magazine in 1986

Here's a bit of a curiosity. I posted this on facebook a few weeks back but figured I should share it here as well. This is the back cover of Miniature Wargames No. 36, from May 1986. This is about the closest they got to fantasy content at this period. No information is given about painter or collectors here; all it says is "Back cover: Life's dilemmas in microcosm. Beset by beggars & booze, priests & prostitutes. Go on, lad! Take the King's shilling. Figures & buildings: Citadel miniatures. Perplexed peasant: Essex miniatures."

I've been trying to figure out who the painters for these miniatures were, whether they come from the Citadel studios or someone at Miniature Wargames magazine or what. Certainly the railway gravel approach to the floor of the diorama doesn't look like citadel style. I know you guys like a challenge, see if you can identify who's responsible for this little lot!

I did a bit more digging and Miniature Miniature Wargames no. 16 has this Citadel Wars of the Roses Bombard and crew "from the editor's [i.e. Duncan Macfarlane's] collection" (Steve Jones on facebook had a recollection that the backdrop might have been painted by Tony Ackland)...

...while Miniature Wargames no. 19 includes these Citadel Samurai again from the editor's collection, and here it says "The samurai were picked up ready-painted at Bill Brewer's 'Rye Stamp and Hobby Shop', Rye Lane, Peckham - always worth a visit". Later in that issue there are essex miniatures which were also purchased read-painted at the same shop. Soooo, I suppose it's not a wild guess to say that the minis in the first pic were also from the editor's collection and could have been bought from the same place? However, on facebook Andrew Mersh said that he used to buy figures from Bill Brewer's shop and they the ones at the front of the scene don't like his style of painting; though the pikeman at the back do. So the mystery is not entirely solved...

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Idea for a collaborative sandbox type adventure, feedback wanted

So I have an idea for a game. It's based on the games of 3rd ed I've most enjoyed, where each player is only bringing a handful of figures. My idea is sort of a collaborative sandbox type game, but I'm trying to figure how you'd work it so it wouldn't be a total mess. I thought I'd put the idea out here and see what people think...

The setting would be your standard fantasy adventure village, you know, something like this (from John Higgins' Grailquest gamebook The Den of Dragons):

Or if we were thinkingmore exotic, something like this (from Titan):

Each player would be tasked with bringing two things to the game:

1) A character and a retinue. Probably no more than a level 10 character (just to give him the extra wound for stickaroundability) and a couple of henchmen. Standard issue adventurers looking for a job. Or blackguards running from a fight. Or pilgrims on their way somewhere and requiring shelter and rest. Or whatever.

2) An NPC encounter. A market trader with something to hide. A comely barmaid who asks the adventurer to do them just a teeny tiny favour and they'd be forever grateful. A shack that looks abandoned, but in fact... Well you get the idea.

So in effect, the village that we set up on the table is divided up so that each of the people playing has designed something interesting that will happen at a particular location in the village (and maybe the encounter in one place will lead to the characters having to head off somewhere else, thus stumbling into the path of the other PCs). The characters all converge on the village, and based on the motivations, explore - perhaps a pious pilgrim will want to visit the chapel first to give thanks. Some may be in need of supplies and head to the shop. The thirsty will head to the tavern. When the characters get to the location of a particular NPC encounter, the person who designed it takes the role of GMing that particular interaction - bringing out the guarddogs if the shopkeeper feels threatened, for example... or controlling the barmaid's jealous half-orc boyfriend... or, hang on, I'm wasting too many good ideas already.

Does that make any sense? Would it work?

None of us would know what the other players had planned in terms of NPC encounters, so ALMOST all of the village would be a total mystery for each player, except of course for the one encounter they had designed (and one would presume they'd have the grace not to take their PCs to the NPC encounter they themselves had designed. Unless they had a serious case of split personality disorder.). What would be interesting is to see what stories (if any...) would organically develop as the characters explored the mysterious village and the different NPC encounters were 'triggered'. My primary concern is the mechanics of turn taking with all of these different things going on, for which reason there's probably a perfect number of players which is large enough to make for an village filled with intrigue and curiosity, but small enough not to be unwieldy and lead to people waiting around scratching their arse while other people resolve an encounter that they're not part of.

This is sort of inspired by the spooky Shadows of Rensburg game Bane GMed at Bring Out Your Lead 2014 and which I greatly enjoyed:

And by jointly GMing Gnomophobia with Steve Beales:

But comes from a desire for wanting to try something a bit more collaborative and experimental where we all have a stake in the mystery and no single person knows quite how the story might develop. Is the idea workable? Thoughts? Refinements?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

After the Blood Bath

Well what a bloody fantastic day! Many thanks to Warlord Paul for GMing, to Thantsants for bringing all his terrain and minis (and letting me interlope with mine), to Nik for hosting, and to Steve Casey and Ashley for losing being such wonderful gentleman gamers.

In order to get through the whole campaign in a day, Paul made a few crucial tweaks to the classic boxed scenario.

1) The numbers were slimmed down, so generals had the following at their disposal (and remember, for the alliance side, the majority of these would only figure in the final scenario, together with survivors from the earlier action):

Alliance Player A: 2 wood elf characters, 15 wood elf archers and 1 injured elf.
Alliance Player B: 3 human characters (2 of which are wizards, a druid and a crazy old hermit), 10 spearmen, 3 longbowmen, 10 poorly-armed civilians and 1 injured human.
Alliance Player C: 3 dwarf characters, 11 dwarf warriors, and 1 injured dwarf.

Orc Player 1: The Kwae Karr orc tribe (Magyar Ironfist, Bagrash the Shaman, 15 orc warriors and 5 orc archers).
Orc Player 2: King F'yar, 3 F'yar Guards, Silas the half-orc spy, The Severed Hand orc tribe (Hagar Sheal, Grashak Kra and 5 Hobhounds, 15 orc warriors, 5 orc archers).
Orc Player 3: The Vile Rune orc tribe (Fangor Gripe, Guthrum Mane the rock giant, 20 orc warriors).

2) Rather than 2nd edition, we used the 6th edition skirmish/ Mordheim rules, with models moving independently rather than as units.

3) The first three scenarios - Kachas Pass, Ashak Rise, and Linden Way - were all played at the same time; with 6 of us playing we were able to pair off and do these simultaneously, before combining for the final big battle.

How did we fare? Well, Thantsants will be writing up a report in due course, but just to give some highlights from the perspective of the dwarves under my command (illustrated with pictures I've nicked from Thantsants - thanks!):

At Ashak Rise, a rearguard of dwarves bravely bought time to allow Snorinn Fimbul to load gold onto a pack mule and lead the gold (and mule) away to safety.

The orcs, characteristically getting hold of the wrong end of the stick, thought the gold was with the mules, and attacked them (suffering fatalities in the process), while Snorrin's dad Borinn ran off with another bag of gold.

At Orc's Drift itself, my engineers undermined the bridge they had been building, so that when the orcs came thundering over, several died and more were washed away as the bridge collapsed underfoot. Alas, all gave their lives for this vallant (and sneaky) action, although not in vain, as the casualties were a major contributor to this side of the Orc attack losing its morale and fleeing.

(The other major contributor was the Drunken Druid Snart casting "Plague of squirrels", which Paul swears is a real spell in Mordheim.)

In the farm compound, casualties were also high.

In the end, King F'yar himself was slaughtered along with his Wyvern mount - here's Borinn posing for a photo, smoking his pipe while perched on the body of his monstrous foe.

A victory for the grand alliance as the remaining attackers fled. Not many survivors were left to toast the victory, however. Though the paychest never left the surviving Dwarves sight...

I'm led to believe that alliance victories are rare, so I'm very pleased by the outcome - I think the changes made for a campaign that was very much in the balance throughout. For most of the final scenario we really thought we had no chance whatsoever - until the Orcs turned tail.

From Orc's Drift to Glazer's Creek
I've always had a weakness for last stand scenarios - perhaps my most treasured memory from teenage gaming is a campaign where my High Elves petulantly occupied a dwarfish brewery and held it against all the odds just to stop the dwarves getting a drink. And of course, Rorke's Drift - or more precisely, the depiction of Rorke's Drift in the film Zulu is the holy grail for wargamers looking for a heroic last stand. Bloodbath at Orc's Drift is a wonderful campaign that captures the backs-to-the-wall guts and glory. I loved the buildup scenarios and the little subplots, and the final battle really had a feel of desperation to the defence.

Fast forwarding to the late 90s, games workshop had another shot at adapting "Rorke's Drift" in the scenario and battle report "Last Stand at Glazer's Creek" (WD222) - one of the major highlights of what I consider a golden age of White Dwarf. Here's the scenario itself, written by Jervis Johnson.

I never played 40k, but I always thought this was a brilliantly designed scenario, and thought long and hard about adapting it for fantasy battle (though never got round to it in my youth - perhaps I will now?). It really works out as a series of battles, simulating wave after wave of attacks from a randomly determined feral Ork force who back off when they drop below a certain number, only to attack again later. The Ork general secretly chooses between 3 and 5 assaults - fewer attacks means that he can roll up a bigger attacking force each time. More attacks, the smaller the force, but the more opportunities they have to grind the defenders down. Each time, the attackers roll up a fresh force, while the defenders only get the survivors from the previous game, so the number is whittled down more and more. There are special rules for casualties winding up in the hospital, and crawling out of their beds as a last ditch defence, adding to the fun. Victory conditions are simple: by the end of the last assault, the defenders are either dead, or some still living. If some are still living, they've won.

What I love about the way this scenario is designed is the way it simulates the attrition of the siege, as the defending forces become more and more stretched. It's a different approach to the final scenario of Orc's Drift, but I think its a fantastic 'take' on Zulu in its own right, and if I can work out a way to port it over to Warhammer fantasy battle (still no interest in 40k!), I'd love to try it out, perhaps for 6th edition to keep it at a reasonable pace? (3rd edition might grind too much to play over multiple assaults).

Lessons from history
I'm unlikely to get into historical gaming of the Colonial Wars (although given my interest in Space 1889, stranger things have happened), but those who are may be interested to note Warlord Games are now selling a Rorke's Drift Battle set featuring suitable terrain and both forces:

And all gamers interested in wargames inspired by Rorke's Drift should have a read of the Osprey Campaign book on Rorke's Drift, 'Pinned like rats in a hole', by Ian Knight.

With illustrations by the Perry's there's obvious oldhammer interest there, but of most use are the pages of notes for wargamers at the back which highlight important considerations for anybody trying to simulate the campaign - such as ammunition constraints in dealing with a numerically superior opposition, and also the "apparent contempt with which the British regarded their opponents", leading to terrible decision making in the early engagements of the Zulu War (given the roleplaying approach oldhammer gamers take, such arrogance is well worth incoporating into the game design). More generally, Knight points out that it's well worth thinking about these encounters from the Zulu point of view rather than getting all hung up on the plucky last-ditch defenders and their stiff upper lips. I agree.