Monday, July 30, 2012

Dux Britanniarum Day

I received my pdf copy of the new Dux Britanniarum rules from Too Fat Lardies today, ahead of the official hard copy release tomorrow. I must say I think their preorder deals were great - a hard copy, pdf copy, A3 map, pack of cards and a free figure for GBP25. I'm very excited by these rules. I've long been fascinated by the post-Roman period in western Europe, ever since I spent a good year writing my Honours Thesis on Armorica in the fifth century, back in 1997. I printed off the rules and bound them at work today. First impressions, after a quick read on the bus, are very favourable. The book looks fantastic, and the sections I've read so far are well written and clear. I particularly enjoyed reading the section on character generation for your warlord and two other 'big men'. Amongst other things, you have to roll to establish your leaders' reputations at the start of the game, which are expressed by a cognomen to add to their name. Many of these extra names are just for flavour - you might end up being called 'the Flatulent', for example. Other names reflect a reputation that has a bearing on the game, eg if you end up being 'The Generous' or 'The Bad' or such it will have an impact. Sadly, this may mean I need to buy more figures. Don't tell the Duchess.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

4 Point Breton Warband

I've finished my four point Breton starter warband, and I'm pretty pleased with them. All the figures are Gripping Beast, apart from the banner bearer from Conquest Games. All the shields and the banner are hand painted, and I added extra javelins made from broom bristles.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This week in the Duchy

Term started back this week so I've been completely knackered, especially since I didn't really get much of a holiday. Had brilliant day yesterday though out at the Hall of Heroes playing in their second Saga tournament. I was fortunate enough to win the first one, but balance was restored yesterday as I received a comprehensive drubbing.Fortunately I forgot to take my camera with me, so a revisionist school of history will shortly deny categorically that the Scots were even present, let alone abjectly defeated. The tournament consisted of three 6 point games, using the Clash of Warlords, Sacred Ground and Escort scenarios. I brought along my Scots, using them for the first time, with Kenneth MacAlpin as the warlord. MacAlpin has the ability to target an enemy unit before the game, which may result at best in the unit actually switching sides. Sadly I was unlucky with this all day, and effectively fought each battle with a point less of troops for no real advantage. In the first game I was up against Vikings, with MacAlpin simply making one of the units of Vikings enraged, so that they had to charge me. Sadly, I think they were planning on doing that anyway. Despite the great ability of the Scots to pile on defence dice, the Vikings overwhelmed my men. MacAlpin survived, but I lost on points. The second game saw the Scots up against Anglo Saxons, who fielded three very large units of warriors. This game was close, with my men breaking two of the Saxon units, but the third finished off my hearthguard and warlord, leaving the Saxons in control of the Sacred Ground objectives. In the third game, Scots fought Scots. I had the thankless task of trying to escort my baggage off the board, and never really looked like I was going to succeed. My opponent was an experienced Scots player, and successfully hemmed in my men so that I couldn't either maneuver through a gap or bludgen my way through. So three defeats, but another excellent day of Saga games with a great group of opponents. Congratulations to Steve (the Viking player) for victory on the day. It was particularly great to see so many beautifully painted warbands, and I'm only sorry I couldn't hang around to enjoy the stew made by Matt from Hall of Heroes while watching The Thirteenth Warrior. I am going to decimate my dice later in the week as soon as I can find an angle grinder and blowtorch. The other big thing on my radar this week has been the imminent release of Dux Britanniarum from Too Fat Lardies. Reading about the game developing on Lard Island News and hearing Richard Clarke interviewed about it on Meeples has certainly captured my interest, and I went ahead an pre-ordered a copy of the rules. Check out the pre-release deals from Too Fat Lardies here. They look like excellent value for a great set of rules. Once Dux Bellorum is out as well Arthurian Gamers are going to be in hog heaven, and it will be great to compare the games, that look to me like they might actually complement each other nicely. It is indeed a Golden Age for the Dark Ages.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hallowing the Dice

Next Saturday the Scots go to war for the first time in the Hall of Heroes Saga Tournament.

As is their custom, the Homunculi prepared for battle today with a simple but impressive ceremony to beseech the blessings of the dice gods. I was lucky enough to get a photo of the climax of the ritual.

Cry Havoc!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Full Nerdy Experience with Meeples and Miniatures

I'm sure many of you out there are already familiar with Meeples and Miniatures, but if not allow me to sing its praises.

Meeples and Miniatures is a podcast and blog run by the very amiable Neil Shuck, in which he discusses miniature gaming (mainly historical) and boardgames. Neil also has an associated occasional podcast called View from the Verandah, in which he has long leisurely chats about wargamey topics with Henry Hyde, editor of the excellent Battlegames magazine.

I've been enjoying listening to the archives of both podcasts. Neil often reviews new games and figures on Meeples and Miniatures, and I've learned about all sorts of interesting sounding things that I could spend money on. At times Neil's game reviews reach an insane level of detail. I was listening to one where Neil was explaining all the dice modifiers in some game, and the Duchess wandered into the room to hear something along the lines of 'if you roll a one, you add three, if you roll a two, add seven...' and so on. To be honest it did sound a bit like I was listening to the shipping news. Such was her look of pity and derision that I now listen with headphones.

Probably my favourite episodes of Meeples is when Neil interviews interesting people like Richard Clarke from Too Fat Lardies, or the brains behind such figure manufactures as Westwind, the Plastic Soldier Company and so on. It is fascinating getting an insight into how people organise their businesses and think about how to design their rules. Listening certainly made me really appreciate the design philosophy of Too Fat Lardies, for example, and listening to discussions with Alex Buchel, the author of SAGA and Muskets and Tomahawks was brilliant. He sounds like exactly the sort of chap you might want to drink a bottle of wine and eat a chicken with. Listen to the interview and tell me I'm wrong.

Anyway, I strongly recommend Meeples, and thanks to Neil for making such a great show. To enhance your enjoyment, here is the Dux Homunculorum guide to the perfect Nerdy Hobby Evening:

Step 1. Get the kids to sleep (skip this step if you don't have kids).

Step 2. Breathe a sigh of relief, get yourself a large glass/bottle of whatever you fancy and settle down at the hobby table.

Step 3. Start playing an episode of Meeples and Miniatures while you paint. It is suggested that you listen on headphones unless you have a particularly thick skin to the inevitable satirical remarks from spouses, partners, kids etc (see above).

Step 4. Take a sip of your beverage every time Neil reiterates a point forcefully by saying 'I really, really do'.

Step 5. Take a sip every time he says 'it has to be said'.

Step 6. Take a hefty swig when Neil sums up a topic by saying 'watch this space.'

Step 7. Rapidly finish your drink to help you block out the mental picture when Neil discusses wargaming while cross dressing with Richard Clarke from Too Fat Lardies.

Step 8. Continue until tiredness intervenes or your painting becomes too erratic and head for bed, as I am going to do right now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Breton Warband starts to take shape

As you may recall, I was lucky enough to win a Breton warband at a SAGA tournament a couple of months back. Thanks again to Hall of Heroes and War and Peace Games for the ace prize!

So far I've finished the warlord and two points worth of hearthguard, adding a standard bearer from Conquest Games to the warlord's base.

I've tried to make the figures look a bit more Breton (rather than Norman) by adding lots of javelins made from broom bristles, and going for more Celtic designs on the shields. All the shields and the banner are hand painted. I haven't painted horses for a little while, so I'm enjoying these chaps.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Dark Ages 'Civilians'

Despite the sad week I've been making some good hobby progress. Nothing like doing some painting while listening to Meeples and Miniatures to keep your mind off things.

Here are a few more 'civilians' for Saga games. The three women at the front are Gripping Beast, the one carrying the firewood is from Black Tree Design. I particularly like the mother with the limpet-like little girl.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Noble Order of British Spitfires

Thanks so much to everyone for their condolences about my father. It meant a lot to me, and I know dad would have loved the thought that some fine men from the four corners of the world had raised a glass to his memory.

This is something I have been getting around to putting up on the blog for ages, and now seems particularly opportune. A few years back dad had this poster framed for me - apologies for all the reflection in the photo. It is a screen printed poster that his father picked up in Shanghai. The Noble Order of British Spitfires (or NOBS - nice) was a fundraising campaign aimed at the expat British community in Shanghai, where my father was born, at the start of WWII. It must have been produced after August 20 1940, when Churchill made the speech quoted on the poster, and before the end of 1941, when the Japanese took over the International Settlement. Donations were recognised by a rather spiffy lapel badge of the same design as the central logo on the poster. We have one of these at my parents' house, embedded in a table with some other badges.

I'd be chuffed if anyone can shed any further light on NOBS. Was this particular to Shanghai? Has anyone heard of it before? As far as I know, this may be the only poster still in existence, but I'd love to know if anyone has seen one before.

According to dad, the posters were made by a German-Jewish refugee printer in Shanghai, which makes the image of the HE-111 with prominent swastika going down in flames extra poignant.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Arthur Dearn 1929-2012

It has been a sad week here in the Duchy, with my dad dying suddenly on Monday morning. Dad was born in Shanghai, living a privileged British colonial experience until 1942, when he and his family were interned by the Japanese as enemy citizens. That experience gave him a lifelong deep insecurity, as well as poor health, but he managed to cope with moving to a strange country (Australia) after the war and raising a family without ever losing his basic kindness and sense of humour.

Among many other things, I owe to him my hobby. I was very lucky to grow up in a house where games of one sort or another were being played all the time, and everyone had some sort of crafty-arty hobby. Between us my brother and I made most of the Airfix catalogue, and I have many happy memories of blazing away at 1/32 Airfix Napoleonic figures on the dining room floor, firing nails from Britains cannons. When he used to smoke a pipe he would also enliven our games by blowing smoke into model buildings - I remember storming some wooden building with my Airfix paras as smoke curled out of the windows. Probably dad's finest hour was coming up with a naval game, for which he painted a couple of massive boards as oceans on which we maneuvered miniature warships. As I have grown older I've become better at painting, my games are more sophisticated, but I have never lost the basic 'joy and forgetfulness' in games(thanks Conrad!) that I learned from my dad. Dad was never a prolific painter, being too much of a perfectionist, and it was something of a running joke between us that he has been tinkering with the one box of Airfix 1/32 Napoleonic Highlanders for literally about 35 years. This must be some kind of record. I shall have to finish them for him one day.

So for you dads out there, keep playing games with your kids, and if anyone feels so inclined, lift a glass, preferably of single malt, to the memory of Arthur.