Tuesday 30 April 2013

Dancing Jax by Robin Jarvis and Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss

There is no obvious link between these two books other than I have just finished reading one and earlier today I picked up the second.

Dancing Jax by Robin Jarvis is a very strange tale of evil, in particular an evil book written by a turn of the century  occultist. Marketed as a childrens book, it gave me 'the willies' and even now I find some of the story lines are very un-fairytale like. I will disclose that this is the first of a planned trilogy and as I am still to read books two and three, I will keep my brief review to just book one.

A group of miss-fits find an old, creepy house and intend ransacking the contents for some quick cash, but the house has a life of its own and soon the characters are being pulled along and entangled in a very dark and sometimes quite gruesome tale.

I found it an easy read if a little disconcerting. Maybe I was reading too much into a sinister story plot, but I would not recommend this for younger readers or those of a sensitive disposition.

I am still looking forward to seeing how book two develops and will be looking out for a second-hand copy over the next couple of months.

More details can be found here.

The second book - Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss (he of League of Gentlemen, Sherlock and Dr Who fame) was picked up this morning for just £1.00 in the Cheltenham Spa Poundland store. I am intrigued to see how this bargain buy turns out.

The back cover talks of an elderly secret agent called Lucifer Box, taking on one last assignment - why are pillars of the Establishment dying in bizarrely reckless accidents? Who are the deadly pay-masters of enigmatic assassin Kingdom Kum? And who or what is the mysterious Black Butterfly?

More details can be found here.

I just realised that there is a connection between the two books/stories. They both feature playing cards!

I thought it worth highlighting both books in this quick post and pointing out the availability of the Mark Gatiss book in Poundland.


Saturday 27 April 2013

Dr Who fans are the best.....

I was recently directed to this great post and thought it was worth sharing. 26 Reasons why Doctor Who Fans are The Best.

For full details click on this link.


Being There - a re-post

It is rare for me to re-post on my Blog, however this post over on The Miniatures Page (TMP) by Sidney Roundhouse grabbed my attention and after reading (and re-reading) the main article, I feel it deserves to be re-posted here.

You can go direct to the actual post via this link.

Seventeen easy steps that I feel will enhance any game and turn an OK experience into a memorable one.

I hope you agree.


Thursday 25 April 2013

Olive Press - part seven

It's taken a little longer than usual, but the On-Line Build for April 2013 is now complete. An Olive Press resin casting from Grand Manner. See this link for full details.

These images show the finished model with both dyed sawdust (railway modelling scatter) and some ground foam foliage. It is not immediately apparent from these images but the central area of the main stone bowl has been painted Olive Green (well what other colour would you have expected?)

There are some static grass and static grass clumps glued down in small batches and then some Gale Force 9 ground foam to replicate the pressed olives. The ground foam has been added over some Gel-type superglue.

This final close-up shows how I have placed the ground foam in the central stone grinding or pressing bowl.

The model was originally made by me as part of a set of Ancient or Classical Greek terrain pieces, however it would be equally at home in a Napoleonic Spain/Portugal setting or even a Spanish Civil War setting.


Wednesday 24 April 2013

The BenchVent

Back in December 2012, I posted that I had been a very lucky guy and won a competition to win a BenchVent air filter or spray booth. For details see this post.

I had intended writing a full review, but to be honest I've not done any airbrushing or spray painting for some time - 'the cold weather don't you know'.

However during the January break my Son wanted to build a new housing for his super-quick, all bells and whistles computer and using Plexiglass acrylic sheets and some shop-bought bits this is exactly what we did.

We used a number of cutting tools to both cut and shape the acrylic sheets and then sand and polish the edges before gluing the box together. It was during these processes that the BenchVent was running at full power and so here is a partial review of how the BenchVent BV555-R performed.

Firstly this a very quiet machine, when running flat-out there is very little motor noise and I would say that my computer is noisier! The swarf from the acrylic sheet was initially messy but the workbench was kept clean. The sanding and polishing caused more mess but once again the BenchVent was more that adequate for the job.

I would therefore say a job-very-well-done.

We tended to use the machine in the standard position (see above) for all of the work and it had no issues with either noise, cleaning the air or removing dust. It performed well.

I have still to use it with either my airbrush or spray can paints (acrylic and spirit based paints) and once I do I will update this short review.

My only criticism is the size of the unit. It is huge and I have already commented to BenchVent that in my opinion a smaller more compact model might find a larger market with model makers. I know that space in my small shed-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden is always at a premium and a smaller model might have been better for me.

It was my intention to build the whole unit into one wall of the shed with the plastic-coated air filter/extractor exiting through the wall. This may still happen, but for now it is housed in the garage and moved to the shed when needed.

I cannot find anything bad to say about the machine, with the one exception of the sheer bulk, it performs superbly and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

For full details go to this link.


Tuesday 23 April 2013

Building Wargame Terrain Book - an update

Earlier this evening I had an e-mail and PDF attachment from my daughter in Thailand. Holly has been helping with the formatting of the book and checking the content prior to having a 'proof' book produced (I find it easier to check layout and text on an actual book rather than a computer screen).

Current layout is 102 full colour pages laid out in twelve chapters with a gloss card cover, although this may change.

There is no doubt that the layout and finishing of the book have taken/is taking much longer than I had anticipated  however now that I am at a stage where a physical book will soon be produced (even though it is just a 'proof') I am feeling much more positive.

There are still discussion as to whether the book will be produced as an actual paper book, an E-Publication or both but at least the content is now decided upon.

As a New Years Resolution, I set myself the target of having the book produced this year. So far (and I am touching wood as I type), this is still looking achievable.

I was asked in an earlier post if I could supply some images. I have so far rejected this idea as I want the images in the book to be NEW and not something that can been gleaned from the Internet. I know that this will have to change, but for now, I am trying to keep both images and content hidden until the official launch. I hope that you understand.

Once I have more information, I will post again.


Sunday 21 April 2013

Miniature Wargames May 2013 - Issue 361

I have already written about how I have been looking forward with much anticipation to the launch of the new look Miniature Wargames with Battlegames and not just because there is an article written by me! Over the last couple of months, I have read that with issue 361, Miniature Wargames is to be re-vamped with a new Editor, a new visual style and the inclusion of Battlegames. On Saturday morning, I popped down to WHSmiths and scanned the shelves for the magazine, initially disappointed as I could not find it among the usual gaming publications, I soon spotted it and using my WHSmiths voucher (a birthday present from Mum - thanks Mum) I eagerly picked up a copy.

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames has a new fresh and clear front cover, reminiscent of the original Duncan Macfarlane cover style with massed ranks of beautifully painted miniatures advancing over an equally impressive gaming table.

The contents are just as impressive, although I will state now that on first browsing the pages I was not immediately 'grabbed' by any one of the articles - OK I lie, there was one.....

However upon settling down to properly read the magazine, it was obvious that there was quite a lot of articles and content that both caught my attention and made me think, "I could use that idea in my own games." It is very apparent that the new Editor is on an evangelical crusade to make Wargaming more fun and the interchanging of different ideas and gaming mechanics a regular occurrence.

I have still to read every article, but so far have been pleasantly surprised by the writing and the exchange of ideas. It is also great to see Mike Siggins once again pontificating on gaming with 'Thoughts from an Armchair' being required reading for all gamers.

The article on photographing miniatures - 'Digital Photography for Wargamers' by the Editor was full of useful tips and advice, while the look-back at 'Little Wars, for little money in little space' was a real eye-opener, this may become a little side project for the rest of the year. Similarly 'Send Three and Fourpence' made me both smile and think of my own Lead Mountain!

My own contribution to this newly formatted magazine was a short piece of modelling called 'A Saladin for UNIT'. The original article was both conceived and written after a couple of e-mails with Andrew (the previous editor) who was looking for suitable content for a planned launch issue of Darker Horizons. The magazine never materialised, but the Dr Who themed article has found its way into this land-mark issue.

These images show the finished model on a custom-built display base with 40mm Graven Images Commandos. It is somewhat fitting that in the month when Jim Bowen has passed away, there is an article in the re-launched Miniature Wargames featuring some of his figure sculpts.

Finally, I think the new look Miniature Wargames with Battlegames has succeeded in moving the thirty year old title forward, while maintaining the core themes, the new look is easier to read, full of cross-over ideas and definitely new. I look forward to more of the same.


Thursday 18 April 2013

Olive Press - part six

The Olive Press - painting.

Photos One, Two and Three - A simple Dark Brown/Black basecoat applied in two light layers with a large brush and watered-down paint.

Photos Four and Five - The main stone areas were painted in a light cream over a base of Snakebite Leather and Skull White. The colour has been stippled on and drybrushed to pick out the sculpting and texture. At this stage the painting is still very rough and ready.

Photos Six, Seven and Eight - The groundwork has been painted in my usual Snakebite Leather/Skull White mix. I tend to build up the layers with two or three light coats and then roughly drybrush with more White added. It is obvious from the images that I am yet to start any detail painting.

Photos Nine, Ten and Eleven - Show some of the more detailed painting, especially the wooden parts. I have also added pure Skull White highlights to the stone areas, particularly on the higher points to exaggerate the detail and add some texture.

Photo Twelve - More detail painting. The wooden parts have been highlighted with different Browns and Greys. The rope areas have been painted Black/Brown and highlighted with Snakebite and Grey and the pots have been touched in, to add some much needed colour.

I still have some touching-up to do and the base needs to be finished off with scatter and ground foam which I will describe in my next installment.


Tuesday 16 April 2013

Olive Press - part five

These images show the raw resin casting which is available from Grand Manner. The actual model is detailed here.

Photos One and Two - Show the model as purchased, complete with moulding sprues.


Photos Three and Four - The model cleaned up with a scalpel blade and some sanding sticks.

This is quite a heavy casting and did not need to be based, something I normally do to all my gaming terrain.

Yesterday I had my Son to both check out my new computer and add some more RAM. This seems to have sorted out the image retrieval issues I was experiencing. In addition I took the precaution of moving all images and files to an external hard drive. Better safe, than sorry.


Friday 12 April 2013

Jim Bowen figure painter and sculptor has died

This afternoon after reading this post I learnt that Jim Bowen, figure painter and sculptor has passed away. I had never met Jim, but had corresponded with him concerning my collection of 40mm Graven Images/Cliffhanger miniatures, particularly the 40mm Flash Gordon figures. 

In this earlier post I have written of my love for these 'chunky' models. Models I feel are beautifully sculpted and just full of character. In homage to Jim, I have included these images of my painted Flash Gordon models, each one sculpted by Jim. My thoughts are with his family, may he rest in peace.

This final image is taken from the Graven Images site, showing Sharpe and Harper, a pair of 40mm metal figures I have owned for some time but never gotten around to painting.

I will miss his individual style of sculpting and painting.


Thursday 11 April 2013

Olive Press - part four

With this image I have jumped along quite a bit further than I had planned as I am still having difficulty in retrieving images of the early part of painting this model. However, here is a photo of the finished piece, with a promise that notes and images of the step-by-step painting stages will follow.

The model is available to purchase from Grand Manner, details can be found here. Dave Bodley offers three levels of finish;
  • Raw resin at £9.01
  • Painted to Wargames Standard + £9.01
  • Painted to Collectors Standard +£18.02
In addition I found this painted example of the same Olive Press over on Matakishi's Tea House. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the image).

Once I regain access to my image files I will post photos of the painting and basing. Finally, if you are looking to buy one of these models at Salute, I suggest that you send an e-mail to Grand Manner as I know Dave is planning on taking limited stock with him.


Wednesday 10 April 2013

Conquering the Lead Mountain

I have tried, no I mean I have really tried to either cut back on my miniature purchases or attempt to paint the figures I already have. But recently I was searching through my boxes of unpainted models for a couple of RifleOrcs and it is very apparent that I have to do something.....

The Pledge was my attempt at trying to reduce the huge mount of unpainted lead that I have stacked away in boxes and trays. I think it has worked, well in part anyway, but I still get tempted and at the WMMS, Alumwell earlier this year I picked up a whole load of second-hand Flintloque figures from the bring-and-buy table. 

I will have a sort-out as there are hundreds of miniatures that are never going to be painted and are just taking up space.

I am sure that I am not alone, but these devilish manufacturers keep tempting as with new models which we just have to buy.

My resolution is to continue to paint up groups or regiments - The Pledge, but I will also need to look at selling some minis on E-Bay.

At least that is the plan - until I see something new and shiny.


Tuesday 9 April 2013

Salute 2013

Salute 2013, held at The ExCell Centre, London on Saturday, 20th April is without doubt the largest wargaming show in the UK (possibly Europe) it is organised by the South London Warlords, for full details go to this link.

Last year I attended as a guest of Gavin at Alternative Armies (TE14), and this year I was invited to help out on the Grand Manner stand (TD20). However due to other commitments I am not able to attend and the famous Dampfpanzerwagon T-Shirt will remain locked away in the wardrobe for another year!

I have browsed with envy the list of games and traders published in Miniature Wargames 360, but will just have to sit-tight and read the after action reports on LAF and TMP.

I have however booked Saturday 25th May as a holiday (I normally work on weekends) to attend Games Expo 2013, which this year will be held at the new venue - the NEC Hilton Metropole, for full details go to this link.

I look forward to seeing you there.


Sunday 7 April 2013

Olive Press part three

Prior to the master model being sent to Dave Bodley at Grand Manner for mould making and casting in resin I have added some more details. 

The base has been further textured with sieved stones and fine sand sprinkled over dilute uPVA glue. I have added three small resin pots, these were resin models from Grand Manner. The upright central pole and the main spar have had some cotton superglued in place to represent string or rope binding.

The whole modelling project took less than three days from start to finish - and this while working on other models. I am pleased with the outcome and am now waiting to see it cast in resin and painted as part of my Flintloque and/or my Ancient Greek Project.

The above  image has been used by a Finnish 'Start-Up' company called Cyclotec to illustrate their Web page, for details go to this link.


Friday 5 April 2013

Olive Press - part two

Following on from my original post - The Pledge for April 2013 here are some images of the initial construction of the Olive Press.

Photo One - Using a couple of off-cuts of Pink Foam, I built the main stone base by cutting a one inch thick layer of Pink Foam into a circle. The hollowed-out area was first carved with a snap-off bladed knife and then further shaped by using coarse sandpaper to produce the hollow.

The grinding stone was cut from another piece of Pink Foam and again trimmed and sanded to shape.

The larger base or hollowed-out stone is 60mm across by 20mm tall while the grinding stone is 34mm tall and 16mm wide.

Photo Two - Both pieces have been added to by smoothing over with some DAS modelling clay. I have also spread some 'Gloop' over the Pink Foam to fill any small holes and remove the obvious foam texture. The Gloop is a mix of ready-mixed filler (Spackle), some uPVA glue and some white tube acrylic paint, diluted-down with water and applied with a medium sized brush.

Photo Three - The wooden parts are pieces of Balsawood, cut, scored and textured before being glued together with Superglue. The central pole has a paper clip support through its base and a cut-down cocktail stick thought the main spindle joint.

Photo Four - I mounted the whole model onto a piece of 3mm thick MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) with uPVA glue and built up the groundwork with DAS.

In this view you can see how I have used sisal string to bind the main cross-bar to the central spindle. This was just wrapped around the main pole and held in place with superglue.

Photo Five - On one side of the main base I added a small step - an off-cut of Pink Foam which was 'blended' into the main base with DAS.

Photo Six - The model completed.

I have added small strips of Balsawood to the base. These were to help gain purchase on the base or soil and are just small strips of Balsa trimmed and glued in place.

I have placed some larger stones on the base - to add interest and bedded the main structures into the base groundwork with more DAS.

This photo shows how I refine the shape of my bases. First I cut out a rough oval or circle of MDF (or plastic card), then I trim the edges with a large snap-off bladed knife, finally I sand the edges smooth.

The base is 120mm x 120mm and the central pole 65mm tall.

The model was originally built three years ago and was intended to be a cross-over piece of decorative terrain for use in both my Flintloque games and my Ancient Greek or Greek Mythology games.

Pink Foam; Is used in the UK as insulation material. It is stronger than the more common White Polystyrene Foam, but is not as firm as Blue Foam. I found my off-cuts in a skip.

I will apologise in advance for the fact that further updates on this project may be a little delayed as issues with my computer are effecting how the more recent images are stored and retrieved.