Wednesday 31 August 2011

Dinosaur Skeletons

I had an hour to kill in the town center today and ended up milling around various shops, one of which was poundland, and I came out with two tubes containg plastic dinosaur skeletons.  One is marked as a Triceratops and one as a Tyranosaurus.

Obviously they cost a quid each,  which isn't bad I think, and my plan is to turn them into terrain pices for use in warhammer (now renamed as carnosaur and stegadon skeletons) and 40K (there's some dangerous stuff on those death worlds).

The Dinosaurs assembled and put next to a mantic revenant for scale

Now they're not fantastic, but what do you expect for a pound, and I do think a few monstrous skeletons will add to a battlefeild.  Also it will simply be nice to have a couple of new pieces of terrain, I rarely spend any money (or time) on terrain as I prefer to do the models, something I keep meaning to change but never quite getting there.

The plan, something like this on a flaocked base, possibly given a wash.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

The Eighth Wave

The latest additions to my WW2 British fleet for Victory at Sea today.  As always all models are in 1:3000 scale from Navwar.  My fleet has grown at quite an astounding rate since I started buying these ships back in the late spring, my British fleet alone now has all 20 capital ships in service with the Royal Navy during the war, plus numerous cruisers and destroyers, in fact the total number of vessels in my fleet is now 94 (thats for the Royal Navy only, since the Spring I've also painted 12 convoy ships, 33 Free French and 18 American), which is far more than I could ever use in a single battle, but I don't regret it at all, in fact its been a really refreshing change in both painting and gaming.  The only question is where to go next, I could go for more cruisers or go for the battleships/carriers that where designed but cancelled, a sort of fantasy fleet for a war continuing into 1946 against my friends Japanese, or I could expand my US fleet, or even start another new fleet, I haven't decided yet, but I'm leaning towards expanding the Americans, but only time will tell.

The large fleet carrier HMS Indefatigatable (Implacable class) and the light carrier HMS Colossus (Colossus class), I've always found it really odd that HMS Colossuss isn't that colossal at all and is very much a mid-sized carrier.

Here we have the last 4 WW2 battleships for my fleet, on the left you have the King George V class ships HMS Anson and HMS Howe, and on the right the old Revenge class battleships HMS Revenge and HMS Resolution, the revenge class were outdated by WW2 and don't match upto other British battleships in the Victory at Sea game, but I still try and use them occasionally.  I recently saw one of the 15" guns off of HMS Resolution on my trip to the Imperial War Museum.

On the left is the county class heavy cruiser HMS London, the moving across we havd the anti-aircraft cruisers HMS Delhi and HMS Curacoa.

These are all light cruisers, on the left and in the middle are the swiftsure class cruisers HMS Swiftsure and HMS Minotaur, and on the right is the crown colony class (ceylon group) cruiser HMS Uganda.

And finally a flotilla of destroyers, the front four are S-Z class, the back four Battle class with two hunt class escort destroyers on the right.

Sunday 28 August 2011

A Churchill Platoon for Flames of War

I was looking at my bookshelf a couple of weeks ago and realised I'd now been buying wargames illustrated for over a year now and as I plan on keeping to buy it every month I decided I really should take out a subscription and get a box of free toys.  The box of free toys I got was a platoon of 3 Churchill tanks for flames of war.  These are my first flames of war miniatures and they were a bit of a suprise, the first suprise was the sheer weight of the little box.  The main body of the tanks are made of resin, but the tracks, guns and little add ons are all metal.  I wasn't overly keen on this way of making models (I think plastic multipart kits is the best medium for this sort of thing), but they've turned out pretty well and I'm pleased with them.

So does this mean I'm going to be starting Flames of War?  Well possibly (ok probaly), but I plan to take it slowly (this stuff is expensive) and make full use of alternative manufacturers (the plastic soldier company in particular look promising), as a next step I've picked up the 'Open Fire' starter set cheap on ebay which has given me a second tank platoon (shermans this time), the rulebook and a couple of German tanks for just over a tenner.  After that I need to do some research, Flames of War is has a complicated army selection process, its not just a case of going out and buying a bunch of British tanks and men, first off you need to divide between early, mid and late war (quite sensible system by the way.) and even then each formation has different amounts and types of each platoon allowed.  With my churchill and sherman platoons I've narrowed it down to late war British, but haven't yet got any further.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace - A Review

Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace, the second dungeon skirmish game from Mantic Games, has finally arrived, not sure if it was Mantic or Maelstroms fault that its a couple of weeks late, but never mind, now its here what do I think.

The first thing to note is that this isn't an expansion, but a second starter game (apparently the third release will expand both this and Dead Rising).  But it doesn't just rehash the last game it has two new races and 6 new scenarios based on the same core mechanics.  I like this approach we've got two solid fun games with lots of opportunities for fiddling with.  I will also state here at the beginning that I liked DKH: Dead Rising a lot so I was expecting to like this.

The box is the same size as before, and made to the same standard, but is thinner, I was worried at first that this might mean I'd struggle to get all the pieces back in (something I hate with games), but I'm happy to report this isn't the case, it all fits snuggly back in even with the small Mantic case I've put in to hold the models (I still think a small case would be a nice inclusion to the game).  What I really like about the box though is the great old school cover art, really takes me back to when I was just starting in the hobby.
The contents where very much what I expected and follow the same principles as the first set (which is good as they match completely).

The contents snuggly returned to the box after assembly.

The dungeon is made up of 29 sections that are placed next to each other in a modular way.  There is no 'jigging' and you just place the sections next to each other, this trades stability for flexibility, which is fine in my view.  The artwork is good, although the artwork on the smaller pieces seems to have been reclyled from dead rising. 

The game contains numerous tokens made from the same card as the board sections, again the artwork is quite nice, I think the treasure tokens could do with being two sided really as they spend most of the game face down and you just see their backs, there should be a nice sealed chest on the back.

The box contains 9 dice with 4 blue and 5 green ones, its nice that this time we have different coloured dice for the two races.

The book is a small 21 page black and white rulebook, it contains the full core rules for dwarf kings hold and the special rules and scenarios for using the orcs and elves in Green Menace.

The box also contained 2 mantic points intro to mantic games leaflet.

You get 29 miniatures in the game, 10 elf spearmen, 10 elf archers, a sabre-toothed pussy cat, 6 orcs and 2 orc greatax (orcs with big double handed weapons).  The models are a mixed bunch.  the elves are a bit meh, they were mantic's first race and they've come a long way since then, they're not awful, and I think they're better in person than in the pictures, but they're not going to set your world alight.  The improvement in the range is something that is encapsulated with the orcs which are their latest range and are really good, the best plastic orcs I think I've seen in fact.  One thing to note is that these are the minis from mantics normal range so require assembly and are not aimed at board gamers, this isn't a criticism (I actually think its a positive and personally I like the flexibility) but is something to be aware of.  I would have different colours for the 2 races as well, but as I'm planning on painting my models it's not a big deal to me.  Like last time square bases aren't provided so if you plan on using these for either kings of war or warhammer as well you'll need to get seperate bases.  There is also a lot of spare bits on the sprues including 2 dead elves and a bunch of cool little orclings, useful little bits for modellers and poeple who try their hand at designing new scenarios (those orclings are beging to get used for something).

A few of the Orcs including the 2 greatax on the right

A few of the Elves

All the bits I had left over.

The core gameplay is the same as in dead rising, it uses a deck of tokens for each side which allow you to activate models, this introduces a limited deck management as well as you having to work out the order of actions.  The game is scenario based and the game includes 6 scenarios, but as playing with the different races is very different that's 12 ways to play.  The scenarios start off simply and get more complicated as you go along, adding speical rules along the way that each add a new twist and tactical challenge to the game.  The scenarios really are the heart of this game, without the thought that has gone into them the game would only be ok, but the different games and balanced challenges they introduce keep you wanting more.  One difference between this and Dead Rising is that most of the scenarios here are won by getting treasure off the board (giving the reason why the orcs and elves are in the dwarven hold in the first place) which adds a nice twist as you have to weaken your forces to take the treasure off.  The races play very differently, the orcs are tough and actually get tougher as you hurt them (something I really like, a wounded orc is a very dangerous beast), whilst the elves are fast and dodgy whilst still being capable in a fight, the elves get less follow on actions as well making them feel less indivivual and more like regimented soldiers rather than (anti) heroic personalities.

The extra races, shooting, treasure and cave ins are really adding to the 'tool-kit' whilst still keeping a good self contained game, its an appraoch that I really like.

So the conclusion: This is a great light-hearted game, with suprising tactical depth and great replay value.  There is a couple of production value issuses, but the extra stuff I would have liked would ineviably raise the cost, and as it stands this game is very reasonably priced.  Highly recomended.

See my thoughts on Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising - contents - gameplay

Wednesday 24 August 2011

The Science Museum London

On my recent trip to london after visiting HMS Belfast and the Imperial War Museum I then headed to South Kensington and spent around an hour each in the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Science Museum.  Whilst the Natural History and V&A museums are full of interesting things they don't really have anything to do with this blog, I found some stuff in the Science Museum however that did.  At the back of the second floor is a large gallery about shipping, which is absolutly full of large scale model ships, most of them are civilian, which a lot of linners and steamers, at the back though is a collection of warships.  The highlight was a 1:64 scale model of HMS Vanguard, but there were also models of HMS Warrior, HMS Lord Nelson, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and many many more, it gives a really good look at battleship development from the first armoured ship HMS Warrior all the way upto the worlds last battleship HMS Vanguard.

The fantastic HMS Vanguard model

HMS Warrior

A cabinet with a selection of smaller vessels

HMS Monarch

The other gallery with a tenous link to this blog was the flight gallery which included a lot of models of planes from the beginning of flight to the present and a selection of aircraft hanging from the ceiling including a hurricane and a spitfire.

Again the science museum is free and worth a visit and its next door to the natural history museum (also free) and lets be honest dinosaurs and life sized whale models are cool no matter how old you are.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Free French Naval Forces - Part 4

The last few additions to my Free French fleet today, all leased from the British.  They're not in the French fleet list but come from the Royal Navy list, so I will need my opponenets permission to use them, but they're all minor ships so I can't see it being an issuse.

First up the Avenger class escort carrier Dixmude (ex-HMS Biter) and the Hunt class escort destroyer La Combattante.

Next up 3 flower class corvettes, the Free French fielded 9 of these ships, origanally I planned to get seperate ones for the Free French and RN, but in the end I've decided that they can be multi-use, as at this scale they're so tiny so as not to be really distingusihable.

And finally 3 ships that aren't part of my Free French fleet, but are French vessels that came in packs with ships that I needed for the Free French.  We have the two Duguay Trouin class cruisers La Motte-Picquet and Primauguet along with a Bourrasque class destroyer.  I've painted them up in case we do a battle set before the fall of france where they could be used with my other french ships.

Monday 22 August 2011

Imperial War Museum

After I finished at HMS Belfast the other day I then headed over to the Imperial War Museum, probaly the only big museum in London that I've not been to before.  So does a museum on British warefare from 1914 to the present have anything of interest to the wargamer/painter/history enthusiast?  Yes of course its full of interesting & relevent (to this blog) things.  The entrance itself is impressive with its two 15" guns (taken from the battleships HMS Ramillies and HMS Resolution), having just come from HMS Belfast and being impressed with its 6" guns the sheer scale of this was quite awe inspiring.

Going inside you walk into the large exhibits hall which is full of tanks, feild guns, rockets and planes.  This is the best bit of the museum, I'll be honest I went to see the tanks really.  For me the highlights of this main hall were:

A British WWI Mark V tank

A Grant tank used by Monty as a command tank in north Africa.

A Sopwith Camel (see my airfix version here)

A Polaris Missile, for years the source of the UK's nuclear deterrent.

The basement has the galleries on British warefare from 1914 to the present, understandably focusing on the two world wars, but it does cover all the conflicts upto gulf war one.  The history itself is a very general overview and to be honest I didn't learn that much, but the galleries are stuffed full of artifacts, loads of uniforms, models and weapons amongst over things.  It was all very dark though so made photography a pain.  It's an interesting place to mill around though and there are some impressive large scale ship models.

A model of HMS Warspite.

The other thing that impressed me was the Lord Ashcroft gallery at the top of the museum housing 210 Victoria Crosses.  Each medal is presented with the story of why it was award, I didn't read all of them, but there were some truly astounding acts of bravery.  I got all the way to the end of the gallery (the Chard VC awarded for Rorkes Drift actually) before realising I'd not actually looked at a single medal yet and had been captivated by the stories.

Like most big state run museums in the UK the Imperial War museum is free to visit, if your near London you really should go pay a visit, I'm not sure why its taken me this long to go.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Salute 2009 Zulu War Collectors Model

I've never actually been to salute (or any large convention for that matter, something I hope to remedy next year), but the other day I picked up a bargin on ebay, two salute collectors models.  The '09 Zulu War one featured below and the '06 Arthur vs Mordred (only assembled and undercoated so far).  The Zulu War one in particular is a fantastic little model.  I've painted the British soldier with the green facings of the 2/24th and imagine that the action is from Rorkes Drift, even though it doesn't specifically say so.

Saturday 20 August 2011

A Visit to HMS Belfast

As part of my week off not going away but still doing things I spent a day in the big scary capital (I live in a small village and even living in manchester for 7 years I never got the hang of cities), first stop was HMS Belfast on the thames by the Tower of London.  I've been wanting to visit ever since my current naval obsession that started with my trip to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard earlier in the year.  This interest has been expanded with our recent constant playing of victory at sea.

HMS Belfast is a large light cruiser (it kept saying on the info boards that she was the RN's most powerful cruiser of WW2) that saw service in WW2 and the Korean war, its most notable action was probaly the battle of the north cape which saw the sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnost.  You can wander around the ship at leisure although there is a suggested route.  Its mostly set up to try and show what life aboard was like in WW2 (very cramped by all accounts, 27 men in one of those turrets for example) but there is also a couple of museum galleries aboard.  One the galleries had a bunch of model ships including this one of the monitor HMS Erebus.

I really like monitors a lot, i think its the ginat out of proportion turret on what is essentially a small ship.

Several parts on the tour had to do with firing and aiming the guns, and with all the complications the main guns could still fire at a rate of 8 shells per minute.

This is a mechanical computer hidden deep in the ship that worked out evevation and direction so as to hit the enemy.

A&B turrets from the deck 

At the end of the visit I had the impression of a powerful and technically complicated ship (the engine room was a massive tangle of pipes and gauges which would have been increadily cramped and hot to work in).  I only we had had the foresight to save one of our battleships for the nation, not just this cruiser.

It cost me £13.50 for enterance and I spent a good couple of hours looking round.  The price also includes free use of an audio guide.  I enjoyed it and  was well worth it I reckon.

Thursday 18 August 2011

A Few Camels for the Sudan

Some more 1:72 scale colonials today this time from HaT's colonial range.  Most of the figures are from the Egyptian Camel Corps boxed set with a British handler that I had spare from the Zulu war British Mounted Infantry set

Tuesday 16 August 2011

The Second Batch of Italeri French Foriegn Legion

Well the title says it all really today I've finished of a few more French Foriegn Legion in 1:72 scale from Italeri (you can see the first batch here).

Monday 15 August 2011

St Albans - The Roman City of Verulamium

I've got a week off, but I'm not going away, but rather than sit around all week I've decided that a couple of day trips are in order, the first of these was to the city of St. Albans a quick 30mins train ride away for me, theres a lot there for a small city and I crammed quite a lot in to my day out.

First stop was the famous St. Albans Cathedral containing the shrine of St. Alban himself.  I'm not a religious man but the art and architecture in English cathedrals never ceases to amaze me.  It was a lot bigger than expected and started life as the Abbey church for St. Albans Abbey (which for 300 years was the most important abbey in the kingdom), only achieving its cathedral status much later.

One of the highlights of the cathedral were these flags which are the colours of the local Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment.  It also had a small museum section with the history of the cathedral, with some artifacts and silver from the cathedrals treasury.

Just outside the cathedral is this building which was once the gateway to the abbey grounds and is now part of St. Albans school.

Next I headed to Verulamium park which is a big green space where the Roman city once stood, most of it is gone now (the stone was robbed by the saxons and normans), but does contain a small section of Roman wall and a big long one (which is now lined by trees and is a nice walk).
I'm always impressed by the sheer thickness of Roman walls.  I also noticed the same layered construction techniques that I saw in the Roman walls at Porchester castle earlier in the year.  Verulamium park also contains a mosiac/hypercaust now covered by a small building.  It's a really rather wonderful civic space actually, it has history, sports facilities and a duck pond.  After all the troubles across England last week it was really nice to see a comunity enjoying itself on a sunny day.

In the corner of the park is the Verulamium museaum which houses finds from around the old city.  Its mainly about how the Romano-British lived their lives, and there's a lot of pots.  The highlights of the museum are the spectacular mosaics.
There were also some Roman dice (which were basically the same as our dice), and bronzes of various gods that would have been used in peoples private shrines, but I'll be honest to me they looked a lot like miniatures (it's an obsession I know).
The Hermes 'miniature'

Next up was the ruins of a house built on the site of the Sopwell Nunnery
It's just a ruined house in a green space, and unfortunately theres no information there at all, not one information board, there was some information in the museum of st. albans about the man who built it though.

The final destination of the day was the museum of St. Albans which tells the history of the city after the Romans up to the 20th century.  Its a typical local museum really, very similar to my local Bedford museum (although smaller) to me all the most interesting stuff was in this one cabinet.
The jacket in the centre is from the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, on the left there is a chinese sword with an ornate ivory handle and a gurhka's knife, and hidden away at the bottom where these toy soilders made in Germany in the late 19th century.

The conclusion then, if you have an interest in history you could do a lot worse than a day out in St. Albans.  It was cheap too, of the places I visited only the Verulamium museum had an entry fee, which was only £3.80 for an adult.
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