Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Blog That Time Forgot...

OK, so I know I promised a few more posts to hurriedly fill out the blog before December and 2014 ends, but turns out (as is so often the case) I rather over-estimated my productivity in that department. I optimistically thought I might have time to write up a couple of posts that have been waiting for some time, but I work in retail and Christmas is always a nightmare - to say it's been manic is a massive understatement! (As an aside - Christmas is the *same day every year*, and yet there are always those people who don't seem to realise until Christmas Eve...)


Instead of rushing through the posts I'd planned to make, they'll show up as the first few posts of 2015 (which will give me time to actually write them!)

It's been a funny old year for me, and one that has seen life take quite a few twists and turns, especially in the last six months - some bad but mostly very positive, which is nice. 2014 started out well and only got better over the first few months - I got a new airbrush and compressor in February, I started ploughing through my unpainted Wood Elf figures in March/April with the Tale of Duelling Gamers hobby project, I got a new (and long-awaited) Wood Elf army book in May and I got plenty of shiny new Wood Elf models to go with it.

June was when things started to go downhill on the hobby front - the World Cup was a real spectacle, but distracted me from painting up the then-new Wildwood Rangers figures I'd bought. A bit of a disaster with spray undercoat meant the Wildwood Rangers have not been seen on the blog or the painting table since, and it was then that real life stuck its oar in to halt my painting progress (and participation in the Tale of Duelling Gamers). July went by in a bit of a blur until August arrived and we went on holiday for just under three weeks. During said holiday, my girlfriend and I got engaged, and wedding plans started immediately (although I have been a mostly innocent bystander in that regard - I just nod when needed and open the wallet when asked...). I got a promotion at work in September, and work has pretty much taken over for the past three months as the so-called "golden quarter" leading up to Christmas kicked in. What spare time I've had for the hobby has been spent on the biggest of my intended projects for the year - building our 'Malta' gaming boards.

So overall, a pretty good year to be honest, even though the blog has suffered somewhat. Things will quiet down again in January though, and I've got plenty of hobby projects to be getting on with. The primary aim for next year is to play regular games - we keep coming up with ideas, and buying figures, and building terrain, and then we always end up playing less and less games each year. I think in the whole of 2014 I've played a grand total of maybe four games, and two of those were demo games at shows (WMMS in March and Wargamer at the end of November). In fact, prior to Wargamer I haven't played a game since April!

Of course, if we're aiming to play more games it's always nice to play with painted figures, so the two should work hand in hand - the more games I play the more incentive I'll have to paint, and the more I paint the more games I can play (well, in theory at least!) On that note, there's already been talk of a SAGA campaign in the New Year which has got us all frantically building Viking warbands.

The single most motivating factor recently though, for me at least, has been the release of The End Times from GW. Warhammer Fantasy has always been my favourite game, as much for the background as for the game itself (possibly more so, in fact) and the End Times books are the single biggest fluff "supplement" for the Warhammer World since...well, I don't know. I won't spoil anything for those who haven't read any of the books so far, but the series is a huge advancement of the Warhammer timeline and a massive step for Games Workshop itself - never before has the Warhammer World experienced such dramatic change. There are people who have declared themselves "GW Fanboys for Life" in admiration of everything, claiming the End Times is the single best thing GW have ever produced, and there are people who have rage-quit over GW "destroying the hobby". I'm in neither of those camps, although I daresay I'm closer to the fanboys than the rage-quitters - I don't always like what GW write, make or do but I still stick around, collect the figures and have an interest in their game worlds and background. Anyway, I digress...

It's too early for me to declare a final verdict on the End Times as a whole (I'm only two parts through - the third book, Khaine, is waiting in Santa's sack for me to open tomorrow morning...) but what I can say is that it most definitely is dramatic. There is a lot going on. Truth be told, the overriding emotion I have from reading the first two books is shock. There is a lot that hasn't truly sunk in yet, simply because of how shocking everything is. Major characters are dead, nations have been destroyed, the whole world is aflame and chaos is everywhere (quite literally, in some cases). There have been points where I've simply had to put the books down and stop reading to absorb what I've just read. Despite the fact that a world that has stayed largely stationary for at least the 15 years I've been playing Warhammer is suddenly being turned on its head and torn apart in the most violent fashion, it has got me really exciting about Warhammer again - I don't think I've felt this excited about GW's new releases since the last Wood Elf book was released back in 2005. Even though I am scared and worried that GW *are* destroying a world/background I love, I'm also really excited to see how it all ends (and what's left of the Warhammer world when it does).

So far, I've only spared cash for the three books that have been released so far - Nagash was incredible, but I don't play Undead; the Glottkin didn't really interest me (Nurgle's always been my least favourite Chaos god) but I had to get the book to continue the story; Khaine *does* interest me but didn't have any figure releases to accompany it - but the next book could see some significant expenditure. It's been rumoured for a long time that the fourth End Times book would feature the nefarious schemes of the Skaven and today it's been confirmed, with early sightings of next week's White Dwarf proclaiming new Skaven releases - including a plastic Verminlord that rivals Nagash himself for size!

Supposedly, this new kit makes five different variants of Verminlord - a real treat for Skaven players. Naturally, I need one. Let's just hope Santa brings me this week's winning lottery ticket. And on that note...

See you in 2015!

Monday, 15 December 2014

"Mayhem in the Med" - The Aftermath

So, the game itself was a success, with plenty of people taking an interest and stopping to tell us how impressed they were with the boards, the figures and the game as a whole (head over to Tales From GHQ for a brief review of the show, and some favourable comments on our game!) Naturally, we've already come up with a list of things we want to change and improve ready for our next outing, but that's why we always use Wargamer as our first test run, so that we can address any issues in time for 2015!

So what else went on at Wargamer? Well, best game was ultimately won by this excellent Plains War game, which got our vote for best game as well. Unfortunately, I don't know who was putting this game on, but congratulations to whoever it was!

And finally, of course there were some purchases to be made. I happened across a couple of Citadel Fortress towers, unassembled and going cheap, and as I only currently have a single tower that we're using for the Malta game I figured I'd buy three more so that I now have the complete Fortress set. 

Special mention also needs to go to Andy Lyon of Ainsty Castings. We were positioned quite close to the Ainsty stand, and he came over to the game a few times to have a chat and a gander. Of course, it helped that we were using several of his ships in the game (and also that we bought a few more of them at the show) but he very kindly provided a few bits and bobs that were missing from our game - namely, ships wheels and deck cannons for the ships, which weren't available when we first bought our ships from him, free of charge. A very kind gesture and so Andy, in the unlikely event that you're reading this - thanks very much!

So, that's Wargamer over for another year, but it won't be the last outing for Malta. In the meantime, there are other things to update you on and with Christmas fast approaching, there's not much time left in 2014 to post about it! 

"Mayhem in the Med" - The Great Siege of Malta: Part 2

On to part two of our Malta game! 

The Turks were making their way slowly up the street towards the town walls, although the Christians were putting up a tough fight in the streets. The Turkish galley was still waiting outside the boom chain, but the Turks had finally begun their assaults on both towers. 

From the walls, the Christians in the town could only watch as the Turks and
their North African allies began their assaults on the boom towers.

Overkill? Not with how ineffective the Turks were proving in combat...

Having cleared the elite Janissaries from the streets, the Christians now had to tackle
 the fanatical zealots dedicated to the Ottoman cause.

The siege tower trundles along as the fanatics attempt to overrun the defences

The slow progress of the Turkish advance as the Christian ships rake the shoreline with grapeshot...

Slowly but surely, the fanatics make their way up the street as the Christians fall back before them

The towers finally fall and the assaulting units rush to rejoin the main attack

The defenders wait patiently behind the walls

The Turks cram into the narrow street behind the siege tower

The galley finally makes it into the harbour!

The boom chain falls and the galley brings its prow cannon
 to bear as the siege tower finally makes it to the walls!

The Ottoman elite assault the walls... the fanatics swamp the defenders at the gates.

The defenders muster to sally forth...

...and the Knights of St. John lead the way, throwing back the Turkish fanatics.

Ultimately, the game ended with Jean de la Valette throwing back the initial tower party as well as the reinforcing unit who had previously been pushing the tower. Somehow he managed to defend the walls all on his own! Meanwhile, in the gateway, the Knights of St John defeated the fanatics and pushed them back. The town had held, although there were still plenty of Turks around. Victory to the Christians, but only just...

"Mayhem in the Med" - The Great Siege of Malta: Part 1

November 30th saw the 'Wyrley Retinue' take our usual trip to the local Wargamer show. This year was a little different, as the show has changed venue and moved to Leasowes High School rather than Great Barr High School - the other side of Birmingham and a bit of a longer journey, but ultimately a much better venue overall. More on that later though. First, we had a game to present - our "Mayhem in the Med!", based on the Great Siege of Malta 1565. 

The premise was simple - the Christians were outnumbered more than two-to-one defending the town, and simply had to survive the day and prevent the Turks crossing the walls. Controlling the Christians were Paul and Dad; controlling the Turks were Gary, Ben and myself. The Christians had the advantage of a ship-full of cannons waiting in the harbour, while the Turks could turn the tide if they could claim both boom towers and allow their own galley into the harbour. 

The horde of Turks flood the board!
Gary's galley waits in the bay for the boom chain to drop

The view of the board from the Turks' entry point

The harbour entrance, with the galley waiting outside

The town, with Christians atop the walls.

The Christians rush to defend the outlying buildings from the encroaching horde

The Turkish continue to advance slowly...

The view down the street, towards the advancing Turks

Jean de la Valette stands atop the walls!

Getting there slowly...

The Janissaries lead the advance, attempting to clear the Christians from the street

Where did those Janissaries go? The Christians put up quite a fight...

The Christian reinforcements arrive...

North Africans in their sights...

Stay tuned for part two!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The 2015 Game - Building Malta

Way back in January, I set out the projects I wanted to complete over the course of the year. Well, things didn't quite go as well as planned, but by far the biggest task was our plan for the Wyrley Retinue's 2015 game. As has become habit now, we went with a theme that would have some sort of anniversary in 2015. Rather than the obvious choices like Agincourt or Waterloo, we went with the slightly more obscure (i.e. the sort of thing only Gary would know the date of...) Great Siege of Malta as 2015 marks the 450th anniversary of the Ottoman invasion of the island. 

Of course, Malta looks nothing like our existing set of boards and so a whole new bunch of terrain boards were called for. While Gary took on the task of getting all the figures painted, I tackled the building of all the terrain (with intermittent help from Paul...). The deadline, as usual, was the local Wargamer show on November 30th. Nine months to build a completely new set of boards to make an 8'x6' gaming table, with all the accoutrements necessary to go with it. No problem, right?

The initial MDF boards laid out in the intended arrangement.

Each board was edged with wooden batons to ensure a flush fit next to each other. At least, that was the plan...

The three non-water boards lined up next to each other.

With the wooden batons added, the frames were filled up with dense polystyrene and raised to the height of the batons. All the gaps were plastered over and once everything was dry, the boards were textured with two layers of sharp sand.

The harbour boards took  a bit more trial and error to get right...

The initial placement of the boom towers.

The boom begins to take shape!

The simple yet elegant boom mechanism - wooden clothes pegs!
With the flat boards constructed, I set about building the add-ons. First up was the "castle board" - the raised hill area that would represent the town. The base was built with foamboard and more 50mm polystyrene, with plenty of carving to get the "right" slope (although you'd still need some muscle to push a siege tower up there...)

The town laid out next to the early dock board.

Foamboard buildings inside Citadel Fortress walls - the buildings would ultimately end up outside the walls...

The view from the bottom of the slope

The pictures stop at this point, but there's still plenty of construction to do. Copious amounts of cork bark slivers were used to add cliffs to both tower boards, and the dock board was built up to a slope before the frame of the docks themselves were added. At this stage, the painting began with each board receiving a thorough coat of a mid-brown (roughly GW Graveyard Earth) before getting a heavy overbrushing of the appropriately named "Sand" (pretty much GW Bleached Bone). With all the earth/rock painted, it was time for the trickiest task - the water. The majority was simple enough, but the water needed some careful blending where the deep water met the shallows around the shoreline. Despite having been painting figures for years, blending is something that still scares me and it would show up even more on such a large surface as terrain boards. In the end, I think I got away with it...

The boards with water painted - not as bad as I expected!

With everything painted, it was time to add the water. If I hadn't left it quite so late in the day, I'd have taken much more time to get the water effects just right. In the end, I resorted to simply pouring a layer of PVA onto each of the boards. You can see the results in the next couple of posts!