Forward Observer 4

The trouble with having a regular column, as opposed to being able to switch off and skip a month or three, is that sometimes one literally has nothing to write about. Since I am always honest, as this is the best basis for my conversational style of writing, that is exactly where I find myself right now. Not blocked, not unenthused, not procrastinating, not even lacking motivation, but still bereft of a subject that will fill the requisite 900 words. So I shall improvise (or waffle, as mean spirited people term it), and hope that kindly Mr. Hyde still allows me to use a page of his valuable magazine space.

The Home Front

I have reached a state of hobby nirvana. Almost. Nirvana International Airport, perhaps. I now have a huge workbench, excellent natural light, my paints to hand, and all brushes and tools neatly in pots. I have a hobby only bookcase. I have a Games Workshop paint station that I just lift off if I want to work outside, or if I need more space to make up a kit or terrain piece. Under the bench I have a cupboard where I can find the Spares Box, a box full of bases, another of decals, etches and sponge, my polymer clay stuff, plywood, plastikard, less used paints and various base making materials. For avid followers of the Siggins lifestyle, and surely that Hello! shoot can only be days away now, this setup replaces the Terrain Trolley. That classic piece of IKEA design now houses my hi-fi.

Next to that, my indispensable North West Short Line Chopper Mk II (I also had a Raleigh Mk II, oddly), filter mask, rubber gloves, soldering iron, compressor, airbrush and my Dremel are in place, along with the hair dryer, no longer needed for my once flowing locks, which sees service as a drying aid, or occasionally as a plastic melter. There is also a small bucket full of brass rod, wood sections and plastic microstrip, a tool box with spare blades, big files, hacksaws and that digital micrometer which I never use. Over in the loft space I have a 12” scroll saw for cutting bases, but I am rather embarrassed about that. Overkill.

I can ask no more. I am replete. Except that I would really like a spray booth.

The next key step is to clear the PC, scanner and printer off of my gaming table, which also happens to be my dining table, and try really hard to keep this clear for social events and, tadaaa, games. It has been a long long while since I had space for my own gaming table as I have usually played ‘away’. So even this 5’ x 3’ titch – barely a coffee table compared to some layouts in the hobby – is pure luxury. My plan is to use the table as is to start with, perhaps with a Woodland Scenics grass mat for speed, and then to build up to Phase 2. This will involve getting some overlay boards and possibly trestles to make the table 8’ x 4’, and to finally get round to building the terrain I have so long wanted to make.

I want to cover four environments: water, space, desert and temperate, with the latter being by far the most common requirement. I already have a load of trees and hedges, enough flock and grass-like substances to open a model shop, some walling, and various matting solutions. I also have a huge clear plastic roll with a hex grid, which I can use for naval, space or air games; this gives you a clue how the overlay boards will be painted. Plastic crates in the storeroom hold about twenty resin buildings.

But I will still need basic terrain – grass, hills, swamps, rivers, roads etc – and for this I am going the GHQ Terrain Maker route. These are 4” polystyrene hexes which can be mixed and matched each time you set up a board. I have some spin-off ideas, the excellent GHQ guide, and several photos of inspirational set-ups. So, there’s my project for the coming month. Or perhaps the winter. This project will enable me to run games of 30mm Peninsula Napoleonics, 1/600th Ironclads, Lord of the Rings, low key WWII 20mm, and, soon, plastic ancients. Later on, as projects complete, there will be space combat, Samurai, Trojan and Mediaeval skirmish, Pirates and Old West. After that I hit the big projects, and rapidly head for retirement…

That would all be great if I actually felt like gaming. I don’t. Couldn’t care less at the moment. Dead keen on terrain and painting – spoilt for choice there, and super keen on boardgaming, rules reading and designing, but just zero, zip, doodah interest in playing a miniatures game. I am a little worried by this, as one might be given the abovementioned investment in kit, time and space, not to mention figures, but I take comfort from having been here before. Twice. Once in 1982 when the Falklands War was raging – that took me down for two years, and almost out of the hobby for good, and once in 1992/3/4 when I had so much work and stress that gaming seemed about as likely as skiing to the South Pole. I bounce back, but at the moment I will content myself with terrain making, painting, and improving my tank weathering techniques. In the gaps, I will think of a subject for the next column.