Forward Observer 8


There have been some regrettable incidents in the hobby this year so far that have left me somewhat deflated – a stupid mistake when the hobby should, and does, offer so much value and so many people on the positive team. So I thought I might dodge commenting on them all, keep things upbeat, and revert to form by mentioning some of the products that have been whizzing past my eyes. At least that way I avoid annoying anyone in a major fashion.

Traditionally the Spring draws out a surge of new figures, enthusiastic, blinking gamers, and games that have been worked on over the winter months. On my limited diet of shows (down to about six or seven a year now) it is fast becoming pot luck whether I get to see the better games. My chances, and enjoyment, are always greatly improved by trekking to Partizan in Newark.

It was not the best ever Partizan, but as I have stated to the point of pain for many readers, even an average Partizan is better than most other shows. This year produced several games of outstanding quality, just headed, in my humble opinion, by Perry Miniatures’ samurai game and Bill Gaskin’s remarkable Peninsula diorama. The former was almost a game that one could walk past unnoticed, and it seems that many photographers at the show did just that. It was a siege, which rang no bells for me, and it looked a bit sprawly.

That was the verdict from five feet, eight inches. When I bent down to take a closer look, a remarkable transformation took place: the buildings (by TM Terrain and Adolfo Ramos – watch out for these resin beauties from Spain) resolved into little masterpieces, and the figures showed their true, exquisite quality. It reminded me of a fractal – the closer I looked, the more I saw. It was, as I said to anyone that would listen that morning, enough to make me give up the hobby in despair, there and then.

Bill Gaskin set up one of his ‘specials’, with the French once again having to attack a Spanish village. You’d think they’d have learned their lesson by now. Still, this time it was mainly Spanish defending while the French had the advantage of 72 man battalions. Very impressive, these. As ever, the 30mm custom figures were surrounded by huge numbers of set pieces, vignettes and sub plots. My favourite grouping was of some Gendarmes escorting prisoners. But there was a rumbling in the woodpile. Rumour has it (okay, Bill told me) that he has succumbed to 40mm and ‘small quantities’ of Perry and Front Rank figures have tunnelled their way into Gaskin Towers. Mark my words, that is a significant development because there are not many more dyed-in-the-wool than Bill. Look out for a spectacular 40mm game by the General’s Review at The Other Partizan in September.

The show was also notable for meeting Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith in the flesh, who combined represented about 60 years of hobby exposure for me. I actually never thought this would happen, as both seemed to have faded into retirement many years ago. It was a real pleasure to see them actively playing Mollwitz with The Wargamers, to enjoy a brief chat and admire the legendary figures and buildings. It wasn’t until I was half way down the A1, nodding off, that I realised that it really had all happened. Slightly unreal sensation, to be honest. I half expected Terry Wise, Bruce Quarrie and Peter Gilder to pop up from the back seat, and discuss terrain and figures all the way home. Whether this historic event will be repeated is uncertain, but it was important to me that I was there, and that it was done. And done so well.

What is certain is this. If you said to me five years ago that I would be hanging around the Old Glory stand at the end of the Partizan show, mulling over a range of possible purchases, I would have laughed. Foundry, Rackham, Perries, Gripping Beast, Artizan – yes, all possibles back then (and still, now). But Old Glory? No way. Yet that is where I found myself, discussing 40mms and 10mms Naps with Andy Copestake. I departed with Austrian Napoleonics, ECW command, and a few Riflemen in 40mm. Just to test them out. You know how it is. I can see myself having to buy a fair few more just to keep the bloke happy.

Lead Neutral?

Artizan are pain in the bum at the moment. Single handedly they are making my Lead Neutral pledge unsustainable. Not content with pirates, cowboys and those excellent pulp figures, they follow up with a new range of Spartans, by Steve Saleh (good to see him back), more pulp excellence, and Romano-Brits. If they do many Arthurians I am in so much trouble. Evil, evil men.

Elsewhere, the pledge came under some more pressure. I picked up a couple of boxes of the latest 20mm plastics (which don’t count against Lead Totals!), the 1/72nd Semovente from Italeri (a Sahariana is also promised this year), and the two new packs of Italian and German Paras from Bolt Action. Anglian Miniatures did most damage to the environment: I wilted at their excellent selection of SCW militia, crying out for Pulp cross training, and their charming little T26 was a must buy. I managed to stay my credit card on the new Wings of War 1/144th planes, but may crack in time, and Brooks Miniatures kindly gave me samples of their lovely new 40mm War of the Roses line.

Lead Balance 2007

Figures Purchased: 86

Figures Painted: 31

Figures Sold: 24

Net Lead: negative 31 (damn!)

I should rectify this over the summer, with no shows planned and some more free time thanks to changes at work. Plus I need to get those sale lists done.

If I could bottle the enthusiasm I have on the evening of a major show, and somehow carry that forward over the following weeks, I would be a storm force in the hobby. But inevitably, by the second or third day, as work, other projects and my butterfly nature take their toll, I am once again unfocussed. But sometimes, I surprise myself. The award for most unpredictable purchase of the month goes to Peter Pig. I have long admired this company’s rulesets and know that there is a fervent following behind AK47. I can see the clarity of the mechanisms and the appealing army selection routines, but the subject leaves me cold. That was until a lunch at a friend’s where I got all enthused about the potential. Quite how I am to explain a purchased and NEXT DAY painted T55 (very dusty and rusty), a Unimog (ditto), a Puma helicopter, a unit of Foreign Legion and some scruffy militia, is anyone’s guess. Do I have no control? Me, doing Moderns? It could be WWI next. I am scared.


I am still having trouble with primers. I always use Humbrol White Enamel, and have laid in enough pots to see me through the next Ice Age. But it can still lift on extremities and offers not the slightest protection in the event of an ‘accident at work’, when an almost finished figure inexplicably leaps off the workbench. However, all things considered, it is the best there is and it actually feels part of my routine now to clean the figures, and sit there, gradually covering myself with white spots, brush undercoating in Humbrol.

This has not stopped me looking for alternatives. The first one is just silly, and expensive, but may well work. It is called Mr Hobby Metal Primer and costs £3 to £4 for a small bottle (Hannants have it, inter alios). It is a clear liquid that you brush on. It seems to then sink into the metal. I don’t know how far it goes in, or whether it works, or indeed which bits are covered. Being colourless doesn’t help matters. There are two sides to my analysis: it should work because it is from a company that makes some excellent modelling gear, but I also hear the Shake ‘n’ Vac tune in my head because there can be no better way of wasting money than that. Sprinkle, then hoover it up, as if it was never there.

Next up is Testors ModelMaster Acryl (sic) Primer. This is reassuringly white, and dries with a slight satin sheen. This latter is actually a plus as it is smooth and hard and takes paint and washes well. Which is roughly where we want to be. I like it, and feel that I have a fall back if Humbrol ever disappear again. Or perhaps, in time, a new leader. Huzzah! The downside is that I have only ever found it for sale in one shop, in Ipswich, and you only get 1/2 oz for £1. Being a metric boy, I think that is slightly more than a perch, but definitely less than a virgate.

Occasionally, I retry the acrylic gesso solution. I am very pleased with this approach in all respects (I love the painting surface – it has real teeth) except the thickness and patchiness of the coat which can, and often does, cover detail. I have tried thinning it slightly but it then seems to lose the surface. Nevertheless, I can see situations where my bottle of Liquitex will be depleted.

Mr McBride

I will sign off with a salute to Angus McBride. I know there is a lot more content elsewhere this issue, so I will keep my tribute brief. Simply put, he was one of three or four military artists that would sell me a title purely because he had illustrated it. Many of the Ospreys and Middle Earth books I own, for instance, are there just for the inspirational artwork. On the other hand there are the ‘classic’ works where my recollection, and often a fair few sculpts in the hobby, bring history to life. Inevitably, on hearing the sad news, I browsed through the books on the shelf and only then realised how prolific he was. One of the very best, he will be missed.