Wargamer’s Notebook 52

I suppose it had to happen eventually. I had a bad day at Partizan in September. Never thought I would say that! It started badly because someone put a copy of Miniature Wargames in my goodie bag. Pausing only to giggle at the dreadful ‘perspective’ collages that make me wonder if I am in the same hobby, and it was straight into the bin. Next I dug out the free figure, which I usually find useful, but it was a circus strongman holding aloft an anvil. I can already think of several of my armies that won’t fit into. But as some charitable soul commented, the anvil is very nice indeed. And, par for the course, it was uncomfortably hot and, if such a thing is possible, even darker than usual in Kelham Hall.

So the omens were not good. The rest of the day was a bit flat. Although I found cheaply a book I that been looking for (Gillingham’s Wars of the Roses), I didn’t buy much else. Long chats with various people ensued, which perked me up a bit. Then, I had some sort of moment mid-afternoon that saw the bottom fall out of my hobby, which I shall have to consider, analyse and return to next time. Plus, most of the stalwarts of game presentation were not there or, in the case of the League of Augsburg, just taking a break. This meant the games were, though often creditable, all rather alike and underwhelming. Best effort probably wasn’t a game at all – Bruno Allanson’s 15mm WWII display.

The balancing item was Phil Hendry’s painting demo, which was long overdue and filled one of the empty tables admirably. I had a good chat, came away with three good tips and more expense in the shape of Foundry Flesh and Liquitex Matt Medium, so how bad can that be? Where Partizan also scored, as ever, was in letting me see new or newish figures in the flesh, and usually painted by a top painter. The web is great, but there is nothing like seeing them close up and three dimensional.

On display this time were a number of the beautiful Perry 42mm Napoleonics, which pretty much resolved me to buy the lot, a unit of Artizan Moors painted by the massively talented Tom Weiss (a black undercoat adept who could easily eclipse his master Dallimore, if he hasn’t already), and all the so far available figures in the excellent Graven Images range from Monolith. Steve Mussared has a great painting technique but it works especially well on this selection of the weird and wonderful, displaying subtle colour transitions and tones that really look the part. To see them all standing there, even in the Stygian gloom of that part of Kelham Hall, was a treat. At the moment the Graven Images subject matter is, umm, wide ranging but Jim Bowen is sculpting like there is no tomorrow, the gaps will fill, and in time all will become clear. If you haven’t already seen them, take a look. I challenge anyone who remembers Saturday Morning Pictures to resist the Flash Gordon figures, and there are many other recognizable, and unrecognizable, figures to tempt you.

The Games Workshop mumakil has appeared in a flurry of publicity. I eagerly went to my local shop to see the pachydermic giant, credit card wincing in anticipation. When I got there, the enormous beasts were a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it is a masterpiece of mould making and detail, and really captures the shape and look of the film originals. It is just, well, a bit small. At £50 I easily managed to defer purchase and bought some of the very nice Haradrim instead. After all, fifty quid is a lot of Perries.

After a break of a couple of years, I was lucky enough to get across to Paris recently. These trips now take on a familiar form: Eurostar convenience, lots of walking and shopping, a visit to the EOL model shops, a few ticked boxes on the culture list, more meals than seem strictly right for three days, and as many wines as I can sample. This year I also took in the final stage of the Tour de France. But the highlight in many ways is the visit to perhaps the best bookshop in the known universe, A&C at 19 Avenue de la République. This is always a mixed experience: sheer joy at the number of fantastic books and magazines on offer; sheer dread at the forthcoming credit card statement. After a two year gap, and what seemed like even more enticing stock crammed into the hot little shop, it was even worse. I could realistically spend thousands of pounds in this temple of temptation. The only way to prevent this is to say, right, I won’t even look at the Franco Prussian to WWII sections, that entire wall of heraldry and uniforms is out of bounds, definitely no Heimdals, and if there is a new Tranie & Carmigniani, I won’t buy it until next visit. I also alternate, say, tank books and model books. This helps to a point. It also has to work because of carrying them home, not a trivial task when Paris is sweltering.

This year, the selection criteria were in place, but the willpower cracked. I did well on the first visit. Half a dozen volumes and some magazines. The mistake was in going back for a second visit, unladen. Another four big books with another three ‘must haves’ somehow left on the shelves. I refused to look into the cabinet full of 1/48th tanks, the 1/12th Dragon Soldiers or the new books on Samurai. I came away with two of the formerly Spanish modelling books, two books on uniforms, some BD’s, several SteelMasters magazines and a cracking little book on enamel signs (another interest of mine). I also picked up my own copy of the Char B1bis volume from H&C, which is simply gorgeous. A dangerous shop, but get there if you can.

I know the name Christophe Coquet very well. He is one of the better staff painters for Vae Victis magazine and, I humbly suggest, he does some of the best bases in the hobby. He is now making 30mm multipose figures under the Capitulation brand. I like them. Tall, willowy and well detailed, they fit my ideal nicely and the multipose aspect (separate arms and swords) makes for subtle variety even in a marching unit. Others have been less than complimentary. I would argue that this is a matter of taste, and they also fit my perception of the period – the Wars of Louis XV, 1743-1748. We inevitably get the French first, in entirety, to be followed swiftly by the Dutch, Sardinians and perhaps German States, and hopefully British eventually (wait till he sees the market size and they will appear, sure enough). A promising start and I can see the glimmerings of a new period for me. More details at http://capitulationfigs.free.fr/

Last time I mentioned King Arthur as a film I was looking forward to. I am deeply sorry about that, and hope no one took me at my mistaken word and wasted a fiver. It is a bad movie, and Keira Knightley is awful. It manages to just about kill off any interest left in the Arthur myth, and even though it locates all the action in the right time period, the story is just lame in so many areas. Avoid, and go and watch the Boorman version to clean your palate for the as yet unmade movie that will do it right. Balancing this turkey, I finally got to see a screening of Pontecorvo’s legendary The Battle of Algiers. I have to say it is as good as its reputation. Powerful stuff, cleverly put together and accordingly a must see.  I understand we can expect a DVD of this one later in the year.

Finally, two boardgames you may wish to hear about. Firstly, the War of the Ring (Nexus) is a two or four player boardgame that covers both the military aspects and the sneaky Fellowship stuff of Tolkien’s now extremely well known books. To say this is a luxury production is an understatement. A truly massive playing board, action cards, special dice and hundreds of 20mm hard plastic figures. Yes, hard plastic and they take paint pretty well, though varnishing is strongly recommended. One house point to the first gamer who paints the whole lot, and it will be very interesting to see if they are compatible with the forthcoming GW mass battle game. I have played WotR just once so far, but it is an interesting and original design and promises much from repeated play – there is depth on offer here. An ideal Christmas present if it can’t be justified beforehand. Also ideal is Shakespeare: The Bard Game (Sophisticated Games), a family game for two to five players who try to put on plays in 17th century London. One of the designers is Mike Siggins, which almost certainly makes this a shameless plug! Available in all reputable game outlets, The Globe Theatre, Border’s and Waterstone’s. £24.95. Much obliged, sir.