Wargamer’s Notebook Issue 59

Many, many years ago when I was young and impressionable, I wrote a letter. It outlined the state of the hobby as I saw it from the unrivalled vantage point of my little cupboard under the stairs. It was also a very long letter, because I felt I had much to say. Some things never change!

I was writing to Terry Wise, hobby and personal hero, who at the time edited Observation Post in Military Modelling. I was surprised, to say the least, to see my entire letter published in lieu of Terrys writings a month or so later. Brief notoriety ensued at my club, I felt pretty damned pleased with myself, Terry and the hobby, and that was that. Until last week, when I received a sizeable email from John Crawford. John talks a lot more sense than I ever have, so I thought it might be interesting to hand over to him in a sort of Terry Wise tribute-retro-interactive forum type thing. And to give you a chance to listen to someone else for a change. So, here are about 6,500 words on a subject close to our hearts: the miniatures gaming hobby.

John: I read with interest your columns on a regular basis and have done since you started writing them in Wargames Illustrated. It is a shame Duncan seems to have dropped them completely now. Perhaps this is all part of the change for WI since issue 201, changes which seem to have alienated many of his longer term readers. I have stopped buying the magazine on a regular basis, acquiring the odd issue for something that may be of interest. This is not a result of the style changes (which I dont like anyway), but more because the magazine seems to have edged permanently away from mainstream games and become a large advertising hoarding.

MS: I cant respond to this because I honestly dont know what is going on (and I can only guess at what mainstream games are!). After ten years and 60 columns, I would have hoped for a scribbled note or a phone call. As I am still hoping to resolve whatever has caused the halt, and get the column revived, I will make two points and leave it at that. Firstly, I only ever hear two comments on my columns, first or second hand; either, I hate Siggins and all he stands for or It is the first thing I read in WI. I don’t always agree with all of it, but the magazine needs it. Duncan has always told me there are more of the latter than the former. In respect of the changes, almost everyone I know has put the magazine onto selective purchase, or stopped altogether. This is sad. Apparently circulation is still going up though, so we may simply have fallen into that hard business sense vs. customer preference divide. Duncan has been here before, taking advertising revenue and content from companies offering it while the going is good. I have to say I would do the same, but I would also look to keeping all existing parties at least happy. Anyway, we shall see. I remain hopeful of seeing a positive outcome.

John: You wrote in your recent notebook that you do not receive much in the way of correspondence. I know it is difficult to write in a vacuum (been there, done that) but I didn’t realise that you had so little. Surely this is better than all the hate mail that you had to endure in past months?

MS: It has been variable over the years. At one point the hate mail was outnumbering the discursive or complimentary letters! Fortunately the nastiness now appears to be a thing of the past, apart from a certain internet forum. I suppose I get 30 or so letters and emails per year, plus a much greater number of internet mentions and similar. This is not great, given that the columns are exposed to thousands of people four times a year on web and paper, but I have to factor in the large group that consider me Spawn of Beelzebub, that people have better things to do and busy lives, and the fact that letter writing is a dying art. There is also an element, understandably, who don’t care about writing or discussion around and about the hobby, they just want to do it. Fair enough. But those letters that do arrive are hugely appreciated, I can tell you.

John: Like you I have stopped buying books (and figures) with a view to reducing the pile of unbuilt, unpainted, unfinished projects and unread books. I started at Lent and have only had two relapses. At Partizan buying some WWII German figures and vehicles to finish off a couple of units. Also, succumbed to one or two new books. Still, comparing the little I have bought, against all the must have models, figures and books released, I’m not doing too badly.

MS: I think that a major reduction is always a good outcome for me. I feel great if I go a month spending nothing, but I also feel okay if I buy something I really want. If I spend £30 or £50 at a show these days, it is an awful lot better than what I might have dropped two years ago. I am simply more selective, and buying plastic figures and kits helps. I have two people to thank for this adjustment, who know who they are, but the simple measure of seeing books, figures, rules and magazines piling up foot by foot over time leaves even me in no doubt that, ultimately, it is unsustainable. What I have found is that one doesn’t need as much as one thinks, that must haves left on a possible buys list often lose their appeal (or, usefully, increase it), and the hobby can easily be self funding if I put my mind to it. Nevertheless, those must haves definitely do exist, so I have set up a simple effort/reward system by which if I do enough grotty jobs in the month, I get to buy something nice on payday.

John: Books remain a serious temptation and with so many bookshops around in London, its murder sticking to my resolve. However no matter how sumptuous the book, do I really need another to tell me the Paras wore camo smocks, British tanks were painted green and the French army wore blue? Is it me or are the new improved super Osprey Men at Arms called Elite and Warrior simply re-hashes of previous titles? No, I shall continue to resist and think the unthinkable about selling off the unused MAAs on my book shelves. But I sympathise with your temptation and applaud your resolve.

MS: Books have two roles for me. Reference and inspiration. No, I dont need H&Cs book on Allied Armour in Normandy, because I probably have much of it elsewhere, but the new artwork, the previously unknown photos, and the luxury of single volume ogling is just too much to resist a browse through can fire my interest in the same way a good demo game or a new model can. Will I even try to resist Hourtoulles 1814 in a few months time? Or their next Waterloo book? Or Digby Smiths Napoleonic Uniform Encylopaedia? No, because you just know that some of the plates will be priceless and at £20, or perhaps less from Amazon, they are steals. Ospreys have long been in my love/hate category and as publishing frequency has increased, I cant help feeling there has been a drop off in quality here and there. Certainly some of the colour plates have been so bad that the book has been left unpurchased. Balancing that are the occasional must haves, such as the recent volumes on ironclads, Mycenaeans, Sassanians, the newer modelling titles, and some of the added value Elites, Vanguards and Warriors. There is core information here that most find useful, and sufficient for hobby purposes, but I find value in the specialised books that concentrate on, say, samurai commanders only. Of course (yes, yes, Ill admit it) the plates often sell themselves, even though Angus McBride seems to have installed an odd mirror in his studio making everyone squat and fat. The test is that it is surprising how much I enjoy looking at my old MAAs, remembering why I bought them in the first place. As I have said before: Playboy for hobbyists, with articles as optional reading.

John: I find your column to be both thought provoking and wide ranging. Like you I have eclectic tastes in wargames and reading. Although I have avoided the curse of board games. Well almost, I love Star Fleet Battles, and although I rarely play these days, I still collect the new modules and am building up a large stock of the miniatures to go with the game, before they disappear off the market again. I guess Im just an old Trekker at heart. I try and tell myself that its not a board game but a miniatures game, just as soon as I assemble and paint the four hundred or so starships currently lurking boxes.

MS: You see, just for a moment there you had me thinking you were in control. Then you mention those odd four hundred ships (were there that many in Star Trek?) and it all looks a bit feeble on the restraint front! I think boardgames are probably avoidable for lots of minis people. Even I tend to regard the two as distinct hobbies. Lets face it; they usually lack the key ingredient of miniatures games the spectacle of figures and terrain. I know there is a loyal following though, with a number of gamers using them to generate scenarios or run campaigns. The linking theme for many is the history. They also represent a strong social diversion and, obviously, have very little preparation time by comparison with planning, buying and painting a miniatures army (let alone two).

John: On a side note the other board game I have, and enjoyed, is Space 1889 which is currently enjoying a revival in a number of guises, spin-offs, copy-cats and versions claiming to be originals. Your website led me to the Cloudships of Mars website, and the Warlords game at Salute. I had just persuaded myself not to build any aerial gunboats when I saw their pictures and models and decided thats exactly how I wanted my game to look. So time to dust off the 150 Martians from RAFM and London War Room and start to think about whose 28mm 19th Century Colonial figures I want to buy. Thanks a heap, I hold you directly responsible for this piece of madness on my part. I had promised myself that the collection would grow no further for the time being.

MS: Bwahahaha! Soon all will fall under the Spell of Sig! Er, sorry. You see, inspiration again. I was quite hurt recently by a detractor (I have a few but then again, too few to mention) who said he wasn’t interested in being told what to buy by Siggins, and found my attitude extremely pompous. Well, oddly, I am not saying go and buy these because I say so, I am saying I like these a lot, and you might find them of interest. I suppose that might be considered pompous, but it is not intentional. Perhaps the ‘setting myself up as an authority’ thing riles them. Well, they can do it as well. The cloudships were indeed wonderful. Full of imagination and very much looking the part.

John: I will not be sucked into the next big thing as dictated by some figure manufacturer finding another picturesque but obscure period. However, as ever, I find myself tempted by those new Wild West figures and no doubt the GW Wild West rules are about to make the period popular again. But I shall resist and dust off my Airfix, Revell and Atlantic Cowboys (well the ones not serving in my ACW armies anyway). Of course this project will go nowhere as I get a grip on myself.

MS: If I had to generalise, I would say that manufacturers are simply looking to spark the next big thing (take Darkest Africa or Back of Beyond as examples) because they need to feel more secure. They do this partly by coming up with more and more obscure periods, partly because they love whetever figures they are doing, and partly because they have little real knowledge of what is going to fly. Some do what they are good at, some use a scattergun, and some don’t take any risks at all really because they know what their customers want. So we have moves into odd periods but at the other end of the scale, look at Front Rank, Elite and Calpe. We don’t need to be sucked in, but if the period is the one I want them I am there off the top of my head example, AB doing 1940 French, Italians or 8th Army in 20mm. Sale, Mr Barton! Who would think making 1815 Dutch Belgians is viable for the Perries? But they do it, and do it superbly well. Look at some of the plastic figure subject matter, and you just thank your lucky stars. I think the Legends of the Old West ruleset has met with a fair bit of negative critical response, but has still sold by the crate load. The fact that it uses a variant of the LotR system and was written and tested in-house may have not helped in the eyes of some gamers perhaps a bit too close to the GW development and pricing model for comfort? But like WAB, it seems to be a commercial success, with a supplement already out. Certainly its presence is instrumental in shifting more western figures, to me as well. The sensible question here is, how many cowboys do you need? I have a fair few plastics, but probably have 100 or more in 28mm, another dozen just arrived from Artizan, and only a third of these are painted. Then I have at least another dozen in 1/48th from HLBSC and Monolith. Slight overkill for half a dozen guys riding into town for a bank job. The period is one that definitely appeals, and even lets me get over my skirmish resistance. I still think Steve Curtiss Old West rules are the most evocative set I have ever seen, which tied in with pleasant memories of Derby’s excellent cowboy town, and I credit them and the many fine Western movies with my interest in the subject.

John: Your piece on plastic figures is what has really sparked me to write. I am a confirmed 20mm plastic man. Have been for the last 30 years or so. The collection runs now to some 30,000 figures and my passion is North West Europe 1944 1945. Like you I started with (and still own) Terry Wises Battles with Model Soldiers and Donald Featherstones Wargames. Two books I still look through for inspiration in the photographs, together with many other out of print titles which I treasure. Unlike you, I had no trouble resisting a change to metal figures or larger or smaller scale. I have avoided wargames clubs. This is for three real reasons, I dont like club mentalities by and large, (yes I know all clubs are not the same), and I believe that people should earn the right to complain, so I end putting myself forward to run the club. At which point I wonder why I am making such an effort for others who complain without doing any of the work. Also, I dont see why I should have to prove myself, by throwing out my 20mm plastics for armies of 6mm microdots, 15mm leprechauns or 40mm land of the giant figures. So I soldier on like an old dinosaur refusing to become extinct and finding a second lease of life with the new 20mm plastic and metal figures flooding onto the market.

MS: Would somebody restrain Peter Baccus 6mm Berry… thanks. Quiet at the back there, Mr Mussared… I think in my defence, it was a time and place thing. I can see that in a different environment, probably outside of club pressures, I (and my regular opponents) would have built nothing but plastic armies to this day. Please don’t think we went down without a fight. We converted and painted and sought Robin Hood sets with the best of them. Never did find any Banana Oil though. The rearguard defence lasted a couple of years. We even tried to convince the club of the merits of 15mm, to no avail. But there was something enormously powerful about 40 Minifig Imperial Guard, or even just their Line Lancers, deployed across the table that made us yearn for the heavy metal. Don’t ask me why because I still cant provide a firm answer, but a lapse in aesthetics must have been instrumental! I am on record saying I have never been much of a club man. Sure, there are things that work better at a club (e.g. communal armies and terrain, facilities, ladders, campaigns, pub chats) but there is also an overriding Groucho Marx factor. I simply dont like them, and much prefer gaming with friends. I consider myself extremely lucky to have always had that opportunity; many dont. Just to disprove this theory I have found a boardgame club locally where I do feel completely at home, and even with twenty or more people, there are no twonks a twonk being someone who makes going to a club pure misery either because you have to avoid them, or because you fail to avoid them.

John: From time to time, wargamers complain that Its not like the old days. No more converting or trying to find obscure figures for that rare unit. We live in days of plenty for the metal figures (in all scales), and now its the time of the plastic figure and 20mm models to do the same. As you say, more and more becomes available each passing week, in a bewildering variety of easy build or complex assembly models. I for one am very pleased, and have no complaints at all. If yesteryear was a Golden Age, you can keep it. I like this Metal and Resin Age better. However, recently I was involved in a large scale game based on the crossing of the Rhine in 1945. I had thought to throw away all my old lorries made of cardboard and other scratch built vehicles and figure conversions. All based on Airfix fire engines and ambulances, scratch built from John Sandar’s articles in Airfix Magazine (bought from new, you understand, not second hand). However, the younger gamers in our informal group prevailed upon me to keep them as most of the models had been made before they were born and using Airfix figures 30+ years old excited them more than the latest releases from AB figures or SHQ. Needless to say the lorries soldier on, and I did not replace them with those lovely lorry models from the Trux or Ready-to-Roll ranges.

MS: John Sandars. Another hobby hero. I was at Hatfield House (home of a decent BMSS collection) recently where they have an obituary (he died tragically young) and quite a few of Johns famous conversions and vehicles. Amazing stuff. And who can forget those inspirational articles in Airfix Magazine I am sure it was these that gave me a taste for obscure radio vehicles and softskins. Airfix Magazine was just the best for me. I liked MilMod, and Battle, and loved Campaigns (I recently completed my set) but I have always been a modeller as well as a gamer, and Airfix Magazine was the best mix.

Of course with this burgeoning of new plastic figures I have an increasing number of 20mm plastic personalities. Aside from my Airfix policeman converted to Napoleon, I have several other Napoleons from new packets of Napoleonic staff. Pegasus have included a Hitler figure in their new Battle for Berlin box, now that has to be a first, but I do seem to remember Atlantic including a Hitler figure in their box Rise of the Fascists but that might have been Mussolini. The release of the superb film Downfall will no doubt provide inspiration to a few games in the coming months.

MS: I haven’t seen Downfall, as I was on holiday when it appeared, but you are the third person this weekend to tell me how good it is; one friend was quite effusive! As I am wallowing in a run of duff films this year, I will certainly hunt it down on DVD. I am also assured that Alexander isnt as bad as I first thought! I am going to get the Directors Cut on DVD and see whether that is an improvement. I did enjoy Kingdom of Heaven and am looking forward to the DVD release next week.

John: In addition to your comments on the rise of metal figures over plastics I might mention the quality and availability issue in the early 70s. Who would continue to use the poorer Airfix ranges with limited packets of figures and incomplete ranges? I used Robin Hood archers as Cretan Archers, but why not buy the metal Cretan Archers? Metal figure ranges for many years (well the 34 years Ive been gaming) have always been more complete, disappointingly plastic ranges have always had gaps that require conversions and modelling to fill. Metal figures were often better modelled and had a greater variety. Time moves on and who now uses their old Minifigs when Perry Twins are available? But that has brought the new problem, of a few figures well painted or a lot of figures block painted. Ill take the plastics block painted, their time has come again. Although I am being seduced by the Victoriana figures and the Three Musketeers (see elsewhere), but this is the first time in 34 years, and only because these are new fun periods for me and the figures are excellent. I will not be disposing of my 10,000+ plastic Napoleonics in favour of Elite, Connoisseur or Perry Twins no matter how good they get.

MS: No, understandably. With that level of time and effort invested, it would be heartbreaking to start again. And frankly, there is no reason to. Perhaps you answer your own question here? If there is no real merit in upgrading your plastics to metals, then why upgrade your Minifigs to Perries? If you are happy gaming with them, and admiring them on the shelf, then why feel pressure to upgrade? I am reminded of one the well known 7YW aficionadoes who, having virtually completed his huge armies over many years (using Front Rank I think) then saw Foundry’s new range. You could imagine his mental torture!

John: I dont attend too many shows, confining myself to Partizan I & II, so perhaps lack your sense of too many scales or periods. I’m not easily seduced into a new period, contenting myself to two or three periods done to a large scale. Perhaps not well, but certainly with enthusiasm. I have enjoyed the most recent two or three Partizans. The show seemed in the doldrums for a couple of years. However, recent shows have featured some really inspirational games. Interestingly, you picked out all the games I noticed as well.

MS: Yes, I think the organisers sensed that as well, but as I always say, A weak Partizan is better than good show almost anywhere else. I have to say almost or they”ll ban me from SELWG and Tunbridge!

John: You mentioned that you play fewer games, and paint more. I suspect that this is common for a lot of us older wargamers. Peoples lives are very full, and employers expect more intensive work from their employees. The result is that we have less and less time to ourselves, and when we get home, there are things to do, or we are too emotionally worn down to motivate ourselves. This seems to affect other hobbies as well, voluntary societies are finding themselves under pressure as there are fewer and fewer volunteers to take a hand organising and running events.

MS: The main problem I have, outside of space, is just trying to arrange a game. Pinning down opponents, and finding a mutually clear diary date and a suitable venue, is increasingly hard. This is common sense, and relates directly to your comments. I will say, grudgingly, that a club does at least solve this problem, and that one reason I went over to boardgames initially was that they can be learned, played and finished in much less time makes for much easier arrangements.

John: I tend to paint listening to wireless plays, now available on the BBC CDs and cassettes (another outlet for my cash). I am not a great experimenter with paint, it took a long time to try Humbrol acrylics, and once I did I was hooked, although I still use their enamels. I also use some Citadel and Tamiya colours. I was introduced to Vallejo through your column and use their range a great deal. One problem for the more exotic ranges is availability; local shops carry Humbrol so I can nip out and buy another when I run out half way through a unit. Some exotic Australian brand has to be ordered off the internet or via mail order. Too long when you want to finish that unit of ACW infantry tomorrow afternoon.

MS: Yes, I know the problem. I have an excellent old style model shop locally, but he only sells Humbrol and Revell enamels and Tamiya. I go to London once or twice a month to see friends and family, so I usually call in at Modelzone or Hannants to pick up the more obscure stuff – Harrow Model Shop is sorely missed here. I suppose I may as well blow my own trumpet and say that I am really pleased to have introduced Vallejos to the hobby, all those years ago. To see the now famous racks in Modelzone or shows, and to hear all the satisfied fans, is a good boost. Sure, they would have made it here anyway, especially once they attached to the airbrush and Games Workshop markets, but Dave Thomas took the initial risk and here we are.

John: What brushes do you use? I have the ones from GW as they were recommended to me by a friend, who used to be a figure painter. I also have some cheap brushes for rough work, applying glue for basing material and so forth. I like the GW brushes.

MS: This has very much changed over the years, largely because of acrylic paints which, in my experience, absolutely muller decent brushes. Enamels weren’t good, but at least they permitted a reasonable life for your poor hard-working points. The main problem I have experienced is hooking, where the tip of the brush curls over to one side, right at the end. Odd. I have no idea why, but I never experienced it with enamels or oils, and it is most pronounced in synthetic brushes. Anyway, back to your question. For years I used two makes of brushes: A.S.Handover (available from Historex Agents) and Winsor & Newton Series 16, rather than the more usually recommended Series 7 which I never wanted to pay for even when I could! Both of these makes are still around, but increasingly difficult to find in pristine condition and not exactly cheap when you do. So, one looks for alternatives. For dry brushing (a dying art!) and undercoating, I have found nothing better than the Tamiya white hair range. Tough, seemingly everlasting brushes. For day to day painting I too have been using Games Workshop, Vallejo and Da Vinci brushes (roughly in that order of quality). Workshop brushes are not badly priced, hold their point, and are good for blocking in. They last a good while and eventually become rough/dry brushes. So yes, I too like them. Vallejo are similar but much finer, so these get used for shading and layering, and where fine lines are needed. Any detail work is Da Vinci sables, usually in 000 or 00 sizes, which I buy in packs of five very reasonably from Cornelissen in London. If I can get them with a point, and for oil work, I still love Series 16s, and Raphaels which I sometimes find in Paris.

John: Games Workshop and its WAB rules are quiet interesting. I agree with you that they are using 70s rules systems. However, like DBA they are gripping the wargamers mind. Perhaps they fit the current mindset referred to above, quick games with easy to collect armies. Your comments about small armies in an earlier notebook reflect this perfectly. One elephant, a dozen cavalry and 60 infantry an army do not make, but for an evenings wargame the fast, no brain, bang youre dead rules make for more games per month than perhaps battles involving hundreds or thousands of figures. In truth are they any worse (or simply more expensive) than the rules provided by Featherstone and Wise? The re-launch (sorry the new and improved) Rapid Fire seem to me to be a full colour version of Featherstones rules. Call me cynical. But aren’t those colour pictures of 20mm WWII good to look at and have given me a few ideas for models. History should be at the forefront, and why cannot straightforward rules not be based on history, surely there would be a market? Or do gamers just want to be spoon fed on pretty pictures and a game of toy soldiers, rather than facing historical challenges. Do people even write their own, or adapt commercial sets? Its been along time since I saw any articles in the mainstream wargames press to this effect.

MS: This is all being discussed over on the Old School Wargaming newsgroup, both politely and intelligently a rare combination. The web reaction to my Warhammer article was quite deflating. Ignoring those that misunderstood the piece, not only did people like the rules as a gaming set (this I understand, even if saving rolls are anathema) but they were happy that the rules were providing accurate history. Or perhaps sufficiently accurate history. Or at the very least history as we perceive it! Anyway, they are sure that the WAB is here to stay, as am I.

John: Additionally the rules have the colour pictures which are inspiration to many. A bit like films, they inspire gamers to start new periods or projects. I have succumbed to the ECW rules (thought about using them for Space 1889 games on Mars where Martian Armies are smaller and are mixed edged weapons and firearms). Also, I have bought a couple of the ancient supplements, but like you have found them rather shallow. Perhaps as background inspiration for my increasing collection of HAT and Zvezda ancients. Persians, Sumerians and Sea Peoples. Oh, my!

MS: Yes, this is where the plastics are going to score highly. I now have real hope of doing all those biblical battles I have long cherished and which never looked right in DBA format. I also want to do Marathon.

John: I also purchased a second hand copy of the rules book for the GW Lord of the Rings game. I intend to use them as skirmish rules for the Three Musketeer figures purchased from Redoubt and Museum Miniatures. Impulse buys both, but I love all the Musketeer books and have done since I was a child. Now I see someone is doing them in 20mm plastics, curses if only I had waited.

MS: The latest, tidied up, version of the LOTR set has just landed on my desk it comes in a boxed introductory set that is clearly a relaunch vehicle, but can also be bought separately. They have streamlined the rules, and an already decent set now looks that much better. I will need to test them before I can be sure, but the changes feel right.

John: I’m not a fan of The Lord of the Rings (heresy! Yes I know, but I wouldn’t pretend just to please the masses). I was forced (read bullied) into reading The Hobbit by my mother and have never progressed further than 70 pages into the first Rings novel.

MS: If you haven’t finished The Hobbit, you don’t get any pudding!

The girlfriend dragged me to the first LOTR film and I was fully asleep by the end of it. She went to parts two and three without me. I went to see The Girl in the Pearl Earring and was captivated.

MS: Agreed 100% on Vermeer, despite Firths uninspired performance. Wonderful visuals almost matched by Kingdom of Heaven. And no I don’t mean Scarlett Johansson and Eva Green, though they are also most welcome!

But that said the GW LotR figures have been sumptuous and I have nearly bought those chaps in the black capes who hunt the heroes through out the first film.

MS: Those would be the Black Striders, or Nazgulls. Look out for the Ballcock, The Westerlings, The Munchkins, Rangers of Ibrox, Riders of Lohan, and the big plastic War Rhino. My favourite figure is the Wicked Witch of the West.

It was seeing them beautifully painted by Kevin Dallimore in Wargames Illustrated that was the final straw. I have some of the elves to use as Martians, and Orcs to use as Troglodytes (suggested by Howard Whitehouse in Wargames Illustrated) for Victoriana games. I’m also using Copplestone, HLBSC and Revisco who make such nice large scale figures. Another un-started project. MS: Howard Whitehouse is the best thing in Wargames Illustrated at the moment. Additionally, I thought the rules might be used for the Arabian Nights games (just finished re-reading the Arabian Nights books) but have no figures for this so I know this will wear off in the fullness of time.

MS: Noooo! Now you are talking. There are lots of figures around if you look. Even if you just went Perry you could pull it off with a bit of converting. Eureka, Gripping Beast and Artizan have some great stuff. As do Reaper and WestWind, but these two are very pricey. Old Glory even have a ready made mob in a bag! More civilians needed though. Needless to say, this is one of my big projects. At the moment I am basing it on Legends of Araby rules, but I have to say I am not yet sure what the final rules or format will be. But it will definitely need lots of baggy trousered figures and veiled guards.

But more compelling is a Jason and the Argonauts Campaign. Originally I had thought to use the super Greek and Trojan figures from Redoubt and Steve Barbers specially made Greek myth figures. But again I am using my existing 20mm Greek figures and thinking about buying the more specialist monsters in metal. And this has a more realistic chance of getting off the starting blocks than the Arabian Nights, and cheaper than buying the 28mm metal figures.

MS: When Foundry were having one of their reasonable sales a few years back, I grabbed all the Steve Saleh Argonauts (I see Steve is now with Citadel, where his talent will shine) and about 100 miscellaneous Greeks. I really like these, especially the Cretans. I don’t think I have bought anything from Foundry since. Anyway, these await work.

John: Interestingly you mention liking 1/48 scale models but not the 28mm figures that seem so popular to accompany them. I can see no benefit to this larger scale effort, fine for skirmishes, but like you I have a skirmish aversion. I cannot get too excited about a set of rules which concentrate of someone twisting their ankle at a crucial moment.

MS: It is not so much the level of detail in the rules, though that can irritate me, but the fact I over-identify with individual figures at this scale and the fact that they represent someone who may be about to die horribly. That is bad enough. If they have a name, I just don’t want to play at all.

No matter how good Skirmish Wargames make their stuff look, and it is good isnt it? [Yes! Brilliant.] I just cant get into that type of game. But I was seriously tempted to do the AWI in 54mm, but then its just another un-started project, and I would have to build scenery and terrain, more space and money. And anyway Esci are releasing 20mm AWI figures, to go with the Revell and Airfix Mmmm, steady John. 20mm WWII is in a real boom at the moment, I love the AB Figures even if their prices rival Foundry and Workshop, you get what you pay for. I dont go much on ready painted tanks and vehicles. Its just not cricket if you dont have to assemble, paint and glue the things together. No I will not make comments here about, ‘it was better in the old days’ and bemoaning how gamers are spoon fed today. But I know Im old fashioned wanting to build the model myself. Even buying the marvellous one piece resins from Cromwell and Ready to Roll seems like cheating.

MS: I love to paint, customise and weather tanks, not necessarily to build them. So Cromwell, Milicast and now Dragon are a boon. Not a cheap boon, but top quality. I don’t think I can add anything more to my continued and effusive praise for AB.

John: Try the Flames of War website for painting tips of vehicles in general and StuG IVs in particular. You might find something useful there as a guide for painting your own StuGs. I must admit myself that I find the StuGs mixed with sdkfz 250 & sdkfz 251 halftracks to be really appealing.

MS: Now there is another rule set with an impressive following. And why? Because they do the GW Approach, and do it well.

John: I also have been seduced over many years by the 1946 panzers and am pleased they are making a comeback again now. I didnt realise there was a moral objection, but is it any less objectionable to the Project X zombie figures? I dont like them, but not on moral grounds. I see them as Sci-Fi only. I have thought of using them with a mixed British or American force using late war tanks against the Russians in central Europe. Unlikely I know, the Germans would probably have used off the shelf US kit. But its a thought for a future game sometime, and its different from 1946 panzers fighting against the Allies. I visited Phil Olleys website from your link and was suitably impressed, but most interesting of all to me was his Charge wargames project. So much so, that I dusted off my own copy of Charge for an hour or twos nostalgia. Great stuff. Peter Young was a real character.

MS: You are not alone. I have had about six letters saying much the same thing, which while not too impressive a figure, is I believe indicative of much wider Old School activity. I have been thinking about this a lot recently, partly because of the WAB discussions, partly because of Charge!, and because of rediscovering Spencer Smith, Willie and Stadden, and of course the inaugural meeting of Old School Wargamers at Partizan. I think I am trying to pin down what it was about those early Napoleonic games that were so exciting something I have tried to recapture for my whole hobby life, and have mainly failed.

Thanks John, great comments on a wide range of topics. If anyone else would like to clear their chest and offer their extended, or concise, views about the hobby, I would be happy to receive and respond accordingly.

Mike Siggins