Wargamer’s Notebook 37

I can’t be the only one who has trouble making static grass stand dutifully on end. It doesn’t seem to matter if I sprinkle or puff or plant, or what glue is used to attach the pesky little fibres; they still end up horizontal. But fear not, I have found the solution. Well, two actually. The first is Paint Pads, which you will find in your local DIY superstore – you can buy the refills rather than the full product. For £3 you get a respectable sheet of corn coloured grass, attached firmly and vertically to a piece of sponge. Dead simple to trim bits off and stick onto a base or terrain piece. However, painting is not so easy (unless you want sunburned grass) and I ended up using an airbrush loaded with Sap Green. That was until I found Silflor’s Magic Carpet, imported by International Models (01843 848101). What you get here is pre-coloured static grass attached vertically to a thin wiry mesh. It cuts with scissors, clumps nicely, can be pushed around, and once toned down with dry brushed yellow ochre, it is close to perfect. It is available in small sheets in four shades, and four heights of grass, from lawn length to ‘badly in need of a scythe’. And once you have decided on your colour, you can buy a huge roll of the stuff that will last a lifetime. I love it, and the bases I have used it on really look good. I have no idea how they do it though, visions of home workers sticking on individual blades…

There was a massive response (quadrupling my usual letter load!) to my comments about Foundry last time. Many of you were asking if I could do anything about the new pricing. Touching faith, but sadly misplaced. I can only say pick up a pen, write to Bryan Ansell, and explain your views politely. I don’t know if he will do anything, but he might just be moved by the strength of feeling that I know is out there. The trouble is, he is running a company, and companies can almost always charge what they wish in the short term. It is a fixer, I know, because of all the lovely figures coming (Mountain Men soon, and can you imagine the Perry’s AWI range? Cor!!!) but if the people I hear from are true to their word, a number of loyal Foundry buyers are buyers no longer. Some will desist permanently; others swear they will crack only when discounts are offered. All seem to be mightily cheesed off at their treatment.

Arguably, the situation has deteriorated even since I last wrote. The gladiators appeared, very nice too, but I don’t think they are up to Perry Patent Standard. And there were six figures to a pack. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is £1.42 per moulding. Sure, considerably cheaper than the excellent Games Workshop Empire Greatswords I just bought, but definitely wince inducing. And if there are eight packs of six figures, isn’t that the same (roughly) as seven packs of seven, or six packs of eight? Maths is a wonderful thing, and usually comes up with a clever answer, so how come I feel this one doesn’t add up? “Show your workings Siggins!” as my old maths teacher used to shout.

Elsewhere at Foundry, we see the first orcs off the production line. A complete surprise for me, very nice figures, but definitely not appearing on my purchase list. But future models might – orcs, like gladiators, are just not my thing. Without appearing snobby about fantasy (I love the figures, but rarely bother with non-roleplay games), the news is that Foundry Fantasy looks as if it is being floated off as a separate division, hopefully taking the ‘yawn, how Seventies’ Sirens with it. That is a bright move, and those ranges that didn’t fit the historical image will sit better in the ‘adventure’ slot – very Disney. Because otherwise, as an Augsburg Leaguer wittily observed, we have seen a new slant on Willy Figures in the Foundry line-up. Viking and German todgers swinging freely in the wind, dominatrixes, and Miss Whiplash and now the grossly caricatured Vikings. Call me a prude by all means, but this is not very edifying stuff for the colour pages of our favourite magazine and it would be interesting to get a feel for how this advances the hobby in the eyes of those who matter – non- gamers, and especially women. Goodness knows we’ve struggled long and hard to validate what we do, but this is tantamount to hobby suicide. Perhaps if and when a Foundry magazine appears, it will be top shelf material, or at best in Loaded territory.

But enough of worries, onwards with a range of figures that Foundry would do well to keep an eye on. In my humble view, the new fantasy figures from the French firm Rackham are the best I’ve ever seen. Lovely sculpting, amazing detail, and that unmistakeable je ne sais quoi that trumpets style, originality and, yes, desirability. The underlying game, Confrontation, is apparently good as well. Even more exciting are the rumours and images building around the forthcoming Rackham SF range, which has a distinctly Bilal-esque look, for fellow fans of that talented artist. I forecast big things for this company, once their teething problems are over. The drawback is that they are a pain to get hold of in the UK and US, and even in France, so I have sent a mail order to Switzerland! They ain’t cheap, but then French quality products never are, so take advantage of the exchange rate while you can. Check out the pictures at http://rackscan.free.fr/

So, what of 2000? A good year, if not one that showed much noticeable progress within the hobby. What puzzles me is the stagnation of rule sets. A few years ago it seemed there was a new set or two at every show. Now, hardly anything new, and virtually nothing original. Yet I don’t detect any standards having emerged, and I still haven’t got a decent set for Napoleonics. With DBA/M/R as a stand alone industry, I suppose one can point to WHAB as the most successful development – even if the mechanics do little for me, I admire the marketing, and the enthusiasm it engenders. But standing head and shoulders above the 1960’s rehashes is Peter Pig and his Rules for the Common Man. I don’t rate all of them, but the spirit is right, the innovation is there, and I really like the cut of his (gridded) jib. Other decisions are very easy, and the nod for best figures goes to Gripping Beast‘s exquisite Sassanids. I have huge hopes for this company and they seem to get better with each new range. Honorary runners up include Foundry’s Home Guard, and First Corps’ Greeks.

Best game was a split decision, and almost impossible to separate such different genres. So decide between Necromunda Rex, by Mike Blake and his talented team, Tunbridge Wells’ 1:300 desert game at Salute, Bruno Allanson’s Darkest Africa come Netherlands creation, and Dave Andrew’s excellent WWII skirmish. The winner though, largely because of the skill and scary amount of work it represents, is the League of Augsburg‘s incredible Crimea. All of which will give you the nod as to which were my favourite shows. Yes, Partizan again, all three editions were outstanding in different ways. And having won so many times, they get to keep the cup. Best new products are Magic Sculp; the beautiful buildings produced by Temporal Echoes; FAA and SHQ’s tanks; and the combat ready range of resin tanks from Cromwell, available through Chiltern Miniatures. Quite how Cromwell manage to get such detailed castings out in one piece is a mystery, but it neatly kills of the chore of tank and track construction – the pleasure of painting is immediate, and a great little model results. Best boardgame is a dead heat between Charles Vasey’s excellent Chariot Lords (Clash of Arms), a vastly improved Britannia system focussing on the Fertile Crescent of antiquity, and the recently released Lord of the Rings (Hasbro) by the talented Reiner Knizia, a game that not only pays suitable homage to the books and delivers first class narrative and atmosphere, but successfully breaks a few game design rules at the same time. And my favourite books? Never easy. Harry Potter of course, The Art of Robert Griffing wins the ‘looking at the pictures’ category, and I have bought all the Kingfisher ‘Best Ever’ books because they are examples of just how history should be done. But Peter Ackroyd’s London is simply stunning, and wins by a head.