Tuesday, 30 November 2021

A tribute to the creators of White Dwarf

Continuing on the theme of "catch up" blogposts, I realised there was a neat little project that I never got around to putting on here.

As you may recall, I'd been taking part in the White Dwarf Monthly Painting Challenge initiated by Jamie Loft - each month, a classic issue of White Dwarf was selected, and our challenge was to paint something contained within, or inspired by, its pages. Alas, Jamie's become the victim of his own success, with the growth of Old School Miniatures over lockdown leaving him with not enough time, so the challenge seems to have died. However, I feel like this was a suitable note to end on!

White Dwarf 90 contained a celebratory retrospective by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, looking back on the origins of the magazine and of Games Workshop. Well, what better theme for a White Dwarf painting challenge than to paint up the founding editors of White Dwarf?

Pirate Steve Jackson (aka "the Ruffler" from the C04 thieves - although this casting is from Foundry's re-release) was a sculpt apparently inspired by Steve turning up to the 1984 Citadel Open Day on crutches due to a broken ankle.

Ian Livingstone is apparently a big fan of baseball and so his likeness for the White Dwarf Personalities box set ("Livingstone, the 'ed hitter") is wielding a baseball bat - but the pose itself is inspired by his cameo appearance in the artwork for his Fighting Fantasy classic Deathtrap Dungeon; wonderful artwork by Iain McCaig with a figure based on Livingstone chained up and recoiling in horror.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Summer 2021 - a retrospective

Though the time has already flown, I wanted to take a moment to record the strange summer of this year that is very nearly over. A summer when we finally got to see one another for the first time in too long.

My 2021 gaming finally began on a beautiful early summer's day in a woodland outside Nailsworth. I had arrived at The Woods in the Woods - a chance to finally play a campaign of Geoff Solomon-Sims' fine diceless skirmish game The Woods.

I brought with me my Myeri warband - over the course of the day we scouted out the edges of our realm. Unwanted Huldraugur guests sought to seize a monument on our borders and had to be repelled.

We tried to avoid being seen by Bucca spies - having to finally kill their leader before he took back the secret of our location.

And we found ourselves shot at by Gnawlocks erecting their own totems in contested territory.

The day finally ended with a grand battle involving all of the forces trying to seize fae to obtain their secrets.

The setting was beautiful, the terrain flowing seamlessly into the woods beyond. I even saw a stinkhorn mushroom!

I returned home rested and refreshed. We'd been looking after my mother ever since my father died last winter. She'd been suffering from long COVID, and I wanted to get back to meet with the occupational therapist who was coming to the house to advise on how we could support her recovery. The signs were encouraging and my mother, though still very tired, was making good progress. June passed and I was full of optimism. Little did I know that within weeks, my mother too would be dead.

My next gathering for gaming, then, was in the shadow of her funeral. Bring Out Your Lead had been postponed, but resourceful gamers still hatch plans to use the accomodation they had already booked in Newark. The result was three games in three days in three counties.

First, to Nottingham and Warhammer World (my first ever visit there, in fact), to play a mini-campaign of Realms of Chaos with the insanely creative Curtis Fell.

Then on Saturday to Derbyshire for the 'main event' at Bonsall Village Hall, organised by John Ratcliffe. This was the latest installment of our Adventures in Little Albion campaign, Ye Olde High Speed 2
John wrote up the background as follows:

Baron De Pfeffel (the corrupt and narcissistic ruler of southern Little Albion) and his evil Tilean advisor ‘Dominico the Rat’ have a plan to build a new high speed cart track through the ancient woodlands of central Little Albion. De Pfeffel is selling the cart track on the basis that it will cut 5 minutes off the four day journey from the fetid, southern swamplands of Hacked-Knee Marshes to the frigid, northern moors of Mankburgh.

Why anyone would want to make this journey, in either direction, is a complete mystery.

All the foulmouthed, unwashed, cruel and spiteful creatures of Little Albion adore De Pfeffel and have flocked to his banner... As the Goblin Warlord Snagsnaffl put it: "Ee shayrz ahr valyoos, innit."

I gathered together the treehuggers in my collection - elves and halflings - and placed them under the command of the inestimable Professor Tiggywingle.

You can read more about the sacrifice the creatures of the woodland and their allies made to stop Ye Olde High Speed 2 over at Fimm McCool's (i.e. Geoff's) blog... But as you can see, the battle - and especially Curtis' Tree Crushing Machine - were quite a sight to behold!

And finally on Sunday to Lincolnshire and to Foston Village Hall (many thanks to Tom Reynolds for organising!) for another game of "The Woods" - a 3 way skirmish, struggling to desecrate tombs while Geoff's Fae attempted to consecrate the land themselves, and goblins under the command of Jerome Franklin-Ryan simply tried (successfully) to trip us all up.

After all of which I needed to go back to Liverpool, to the family home, to try and reckon with the loss of my mother. As Matthew Street and myself wait in Grantham station (which contains, it should be said, a very fine micropub) ready to go our separate ways, we find the trains massively delayed. Someone had thrown themselves on the line somewhere to the south. We sat and waited and drank and spoke with the lad behind the bar about life and death and the things you wish you'd had a chance to say to people now gone.

Why do I mix up all this chat about gaming with the pain of grief? Not to try and spoil the pleasure of the games - that was very real. Nor to trivialise the loss, which still cuts deep. But that is just how life is. Darkness and light whisper sweet nothings to one another, and neither seem in any hurry to let us in on their secrets.

Well, mostly, I just wanted to write something like this: people sometimes say that playing games is all about escapism, and there's obviously truth in that. But I don't think that's all there is to it. The creativity, the laughter, the absolute joy of spending time with friends - that's not escapism. Escapism implies trying to get away from 'real life' for a brief spell; but that creativity, friendship, and joy brings you back to what real life is like, or at least what it can be like. These moments are not some mere escape, they are life at its brightest. And I am thankful to you all for making them happen.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Blogging and the Facebook monster

Another few months of silence on this blog. Partly that's just general laziness, partly it's just the fact that life has been coming pretty thick and fast.

Of course, one of the things that makes blogging a bit more of a chore is that the energy in Oldhammer has moved away from the blogosphere and towards other forms of social media. I honestly think that's a bit of a shame. True, blogging is pretty newfangled itself compared to the lead we push around - the most appropriate medium for what we do would probably be something like a mimeographed newsletter. But still, blogging gives the time and space to record your projects, share ideas, and then for people to be able to find and look back on them in the future. Compare and contrast with facebook with its deluge of pictures and endlessly looping chatter, where anything more than a couple of days old becomes hard to find.

The thing is, Oldhammer kind of revels in being SLOW: pottering around, beer in hand, admiring things, chatting, and occasionally pushing some toy soldiers across a table. It's about time spent enjoying life with friends, far removed from the "get a couple of games in quick" mentality that modern worklife forces our leisure into. For this reason, social media like facebook doesn't seem like a very good fit. That kind of social media is about instant gratification and short attention spans. And all too often about the kind of bad tempered reflex that comes from not taking time to reflect. Given that it's taken some of our models 40 years to see paint, you'd think we could take a little bit longer to think before we speak!

Ironically, the key reason I'm on facebook these days IS Oldhammer. It's how we plan for the next Little Albion games, think about what we'll do at BOYL, etc. And even though I much prefer the old-style Oldhammer Forum I do like looking at the pretty pictures. But I'm not very good on social media - it's led to some of the bigger fuck ups in my life in recent years. Even in Oldhammer my time as a moderator was a clusterfuck, and I've fallen out with some people there's been no need to fall out with.

Things change. The centre of gravity moves. But I hope there's life in blogging yet, in people being able to share ideas and not just pictures, in things that can be read years later and not lost the second you scroll past them. Let's hope there's more to Oldhammer than just feeding the facebook monster.

And did I write this just so I could show off the Scibor Facebook Monster I finally painted - the one they released when they reached 10,000 likes, and which I got free years when I was buying some shields from them? Of course I did!