Friday, 30 July 2021

Where is the new Duncan Macfarlane?


I think any wargamer who was active in the late 1970's and early 1980's can remember just how difficult wargaming as a hobby was due to a lack of information, a dearth of knowledge re their respective interests and basically how the hobby was struggling to build on its earlier successes following the release of several classic books by the likes of Charles Grant, Donald Featherstone, Charles Wesencraft and others. To be honest wargaming was stuck big style and effectively going nowhere.Yes we had several shows, yes we had magazines from the Society of Ancients, the Pike and Shot Society and Lone Warrior that promoted the hobby but their audience was a very small number who most likely subscribed to all three societies.Then out of the blue along came Miniatures Wargames the magazine that probably did more for the hobby than many other earlier attempts to advance wargaming from a niche hobby hiding in the shadows into a wider audience of would be generals. 

I was reading this months Wargames Illustrated that rightly had several pages dedicated to the late and wonderful Duncan Macfarlane. The article contained a very telling quote from Bryan Ansell who stated that 'Duncan was the man who saved wargaming.' And to be very honest he was. Simply because he produced a magazine that not only inspired wargamers by its wonderful content and images but also spread the word regarding our hobby to a much wider public as the magazine grew in popularity. Who could not be inspired by the photographs of the Peter Gilder collection and dream of owning such armies on such beautiful terrain. Yes to many it was unobtainable but I would argue a lot of wargamers took up the challenge and started producing equally beautiful units and battles that captured the imagination of many. Whenever I received my copy I would paw feverishly over each photograph trying to understand how the figures had been painted and how I could replicate them. I can honestly say my painting did improve and at one stage I thought I was the dogs bollocks until I attended wargames shows across the country which quickly made me realise there were better painters and clearly more prolific ones. I wasnt despondent I just understood I could never match the likes of Gilder, Allen, Robinson, Smith and so many others. I tried but never broke through.

But Miniature Wargames was the moment that wargaming was acknowledged as more than a niche hobby for retired generals, students and history lecturers and was in fact a fun thing to do especially if one could find an opponent.

And now? Having thought long, too long probably, regarding Covid and its effect on our hobby I believe there is a real need to have another Duncan moment.I dont think the hobby is in decline, I just think after this is all over we will be a leaner hobby with far fewer younger wargamers ready to take up the challenge to move the hobby into a bright and busy future. Instead it will be a hobby of gamers heavily influenced by their Games Workshop ethos of ever changing rule books, new super units and small oh so small so called battles.  

 After reading [looking at the pages] of all three wargames magazines its very obvious that they cater for a different audience than the one Duncan had to deal with. Gone are the history buffs desperate for additional information regarding their armies. Gone are the wargaming megalomaniacs with many hundreds if not thousands of figures in their armies and gone are the wargamers who spend hours over each figure, turning them into a work of beauty. Im not talking about the professional painters that exhibit in the current magazines, Im talking about the many hundreds who were determined to create copies of Gilderesque units by the score.

 In their place is the product placement articles [if one can call them that] of two pages of little information backed up by the inevitable professionally painted figure from the latest release from Warlord, Perry, North Star et all.

 What we have are gamers who for whatever reason use several dozen figures, usually on a 4x4 table or slightly bigger based around company or smaller level games, and nothing wrong with this if you feel thats what you want, but wargaming surely was about refighting the battles in history, re enacting the heroism, the blunders and what if's of a campaign. Basically wargaming. I appreciate I am showing my age by this observation but using a few figures on a small table is like eating a few crisps while dreaming of a big juicy steak.

 I appreciate that people of a certain age rarely read a magazine and inevitably resort to the internet for everything but the hobby needs a new stimulus to kick start our hobby as we lurch towards near normality whether in a printed format or by a decently produced social media product, but most importantly based around the ethos of wargaming for would be generals not sergeants. 

This week I secured my second victory in succession. I say this not in a crowing way but with a sense of mystification. How can me, a wargamer renowned for throwing crap dice with boring regularity actually win two battles in a row?
Perhaps its because both wins were using the most excellent Sword and Spear rules, but I doubt it given my previous abject record using these rules. Its certainly not because of superior generalship. But two wins? Being a Sunderland follower I fully expect this will result in immediate relegation to the outer limits of wargaming over the next few weeks as fate bites me in the skinny backside.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Visions of the Four Riders.


Lying awake last night recovering from the inevitable trauma of another penalty f@@k up I got thinking about wargaming post freedom??? day on the 18th July. I suppose it was a subconscious attempt to blot out my disappointment.  Anyway;

Will everything revert to how things were pre lockdown?

Will wargames shows initiate limited numbers to allay any fears from the clientele?

Or will things slowly return to normality?

With freedom day beckoning we again have division, rage and anger amongst the ill informed, deluded and downright dangerous. When is it ever safe to say 'go about ones business?' 

For some, perhaps never.

For others who deny the very existence of Covid it cant come soon enough, but of course they will still contend it was all part of a world conspiracy instigated by Bill Gates, the Jews, the Illuminati or whichever bollocks they believe in. 

Me? I would like to think I walk a middle way and recognise that we will have to live with Covid, just like we live with numerous other deadly illnesses and diseases. It will probably mean a yearly vaccination which is fine with me if it means some sort of acceptable normality. It will possibly mean a record of the said vaccination's on my passport which is again fine by me if it means I can have the option to travel again in the future. I refuse however to hide away when science has provided us with the means to live fairly freely. I refuse to run when someone wants to hug me [ all offers welcomed] and I certainly wont be dictated to by some social harridan who claims Im being irresponsible by not wearing a mask in the park.

But what has this to do with wargaming? I truly worry about my hobby. If I am able to attend a show this year I will be surprised. I hope, but somehow know its going to be a very slim chance of happening. Wargames clubs? Well not being a member of any said club I still think there will be additional issues especially if they contain a mix of Covid deniers and Covid zealots who demand various protections be set in place. Of course that wont be just wargames clubs, but  I do predict some issues re safety etc.

So the best of luck to all wargames show organisers and wargames clubs but I ask that common-sense be used at all times, if only in an attempt to introduce some normality in our hobby.

 Oh and well done Italy, my second favourite national team. 


In the latest edition of Miniature Wargames the editor, John Treadway wrote an interesting editorial titled 'sheep.' I mention it simply because he echoes my views re wargames shows and in particular the willingness for organisers to cancel shows instead of actually considering the risks and whether they can be managed instead of simply cancelling everything to the detriment of our hobby. Somehow I feel slightly vindicated regarding the risk averse attitude of certain section of the wargaming firmament.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

What now?

I have pretty large ECW armies but no Scots. They played a big part in the civil wars. One can always rely on the Scots to add to England's pain, God bless them. I really wanted to use old Scots figures but its very rare that they come up for sale on E Bay and when they do they are in such small quantities that its no use to me. So I bit the proverbial bullet and went modern?
John advised me to look at the Perry range, and yet again he was correct. I didn't want to use such well sculpted figures but they are just too nice not to paint. My intention is to paint enough to represent the Scots contingent at Marston Moor. They fought well at the battle and who doesn't love a big battle to command. 
I used to own a lot of Military Modelling magazines when wargames magazines didnt exist. The MM ran a brilliant series of battles of the Civil wars written by Start Asquith, unfortunately like a lot of things, I gave the magazines away many years ago. Of course I realised I wanted the series to base some ECW battles around and had to find the issues on E Bay. Talk about regretting my own generosity, but I now have the series again and will be using Asquith's article as the basis of Marston Moor.
So only a few more Jocks to buy and paint, but its probably best not to think too much about that. So 'Scots awa' as they say over the wall.


Friday, 25 June 2021

Weak willed wargamer, caves in again.

Wargamers are a strange breed at times and sadly Im no different. In my last post I solemnly announced that I had completed my small Wars of the Roses army and as looking for something else to paint. Well this unit of WOR archers was the result. I like to buy old and poorly painted figures to repaint as long as they are a cheap/fair price. These chaps were. I had bought this old knight a few weeks ago and wanted to place him in a new unit so thats my excuse which was a pretty poor one I admit. 

John had been keeping a new painting project secret during this lockdown and sprang them on me at our Sword and Spear battle a couple of weeks ago. Carthaginians. I quickly pointed up an early Republican army to face Hannibal and his conglomerate army.  
The battle was a cracker. Sword and Spear are a very clever set of rules that require some thinking and a bit of luck. My Romans contained a fair few poorly trained legionaries which caused them issues when they wanted to move but I would argue it reflected the Roman state at the time of Hannibal, lots of legions but most not to well trained up against a better led group of nations each fighting in a different style. 

Those damned elephants. I attempted to use my velites to weaken the pachyderm's progress but failed badly. They do pack a punch and look great on a battlefield. 
My general wisely hiding behind his best legionaries. Unfortunately his co consul was killed in combat on the right wing. My long history of getting my generals killed continues.

One doesnt have to be a genius to know a large angry beast hitting you in the flank wasnt going to end well. But what a game and lovely to see elephants on my table. So another close but enjoyable defeat.                             

I was bitterly disappointed last week when it was announced that Hammerhead which was due to be staged on the 31st July had been cancelled. Henry Hyde provided a valid excuse/explanation of the cancellation but whilst understanding the reason I disagreed.

 It was inevitable as we stagger towards national immunity that it would be very difficult to finally be released from lockdown and given how the governments fingers were burned during the Christmas debacle they are now overly cautious. 

My view is that given the average age of people who would be attending Hammerhead I would hazard an educated guess that a minimum of 90% would have received their 2 doses of vaccine by the 31st July. A cursory check by the people taking the cash at the entrance would have given a decent level of reassurance to even the most fainthearted of wargamers that all was safe. But no.

 Unfortunately the concept of risk aversion has inveigled its way into all aspects of our lives. Now before anyone jumps in and thinks Im one of those headcases who believes Covid is just a bad case of flu and created by the 'controllers' ie poor Bill Gates Im not. In fact I have a very healthy respect for the insidious disease having contracted it when the crisis first struck. But what I will say is that we have to make the last stuttering steps towards something like normality and cancelling events which could have gone a long way to showing us things were okay would have been a good thing.

  I will admit my judgement is a tad clouded by simply wanting to enjoy the interaction of being with other wargamers but by the same token we seem to have now entered a period of being transfixed by an unknown fear that is potentially manageable with a bit of common-sense and understanding the risk.

 I never thought I would admit that I miss the smell of unwashed bodies and barely washed tee shirts.   

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

The final Wars of the Roses units done.

So as we finally drag ourselves out of lockdown I thought I should complete and I mean that's it, my Wars of the Roses army. I picked up some decently priced old Citadel WOR figures which are still good quality figures and set to.
I 'needed' these extra figures because Pete of Pete's flags had released a new Yorkist set of standards that I had to buy. Most wargamers understand these two words, 'want' and 'need.' They are important words often used in the wargamers world, when in reality we dont really need them, its just we have to feed the addiction. 
These chaps belong to the ward of John de Pole and are in my favourite livery colours.
 So hopefully as the weeks progress we will finally end up playing regular wargames and attending wargame shows. I appreciate there is the fear of the consequences of the Indian variant, but looking on the brightside I'm expecting things to slowly relax back into something like normality.


Thursday, 6 May 2021

Yes I am still here!!!

Well here we are, a new [ish] month and finally a new post. It finally occurred to me that I was simply posting for postings sake during lockdown and since I didnt have much to report since my last post I should simply wait until I had something to say, albeit not much.
I thought that the months leading up to the end of any sort of lockdown would be very slow moving and I must admit I am right. Waiting to resume some sort of life has moved at a snails pace, not helped by the unseasonable crap weather which doesnt encourage much physical activity. Well thats my excuse. I have found things difficult. 
Anyway I have done a little bit of painting to keep my hand in whilst I ponder, what next? Im still pottering around with various units of Wars of the Roses figures even though I definitely have enough for a Never Mind the Billhooks game. These archers are from Claymore Castings and represent a levy archer unit. Yes they are figures from their Scots War range but they are beautiful figures and look quite leviish? to me. Wargamers are so lucky honestly. Yes I know we all go on about it but we truly are.

 Having done a bit of reading about the world of 3d printing, I can see another shift in the wargaming firmament happening over the next couple of years as prices drop and the technology improves. Already there are some amazing items being created which can be obtained pretty easily but expensively. But how long before we put in an order for a unit of infantry and watch as they are printed an hour later. Im not certain if it will be a good thing for the many figure producers but I can definitely see changes occurring. In the 1930's to possess round figures was looked down upon by true collectors who owned beautiful collections of flats. At the moment plastic is sneered at to a certain extent, but with 3D, that will probably blow some peoples minds. Still it might help our numbers.    

The vast majority of wargamers are generous souls and Iain Macmillan very kindly sent me some Old School figures to paint. These Celts are Willie, and are quality figures with a lot of character and life. I've added plastic shields and accoutrements. They will hopefully lead some warbands.
The two chaps heading this page are Marcus Hinton figures and are full of life. They were a pleasure to paint and will stand about my table shouting advice to the poor units fighting
I felt incredibly old the other night as I watched Gogglebox and saw two of the participants? laughing at Dominic Cummings possessing a blog? Its seems its a dying facility and ignored by the young ie. under 40 years old. Here was I thinking I was cutting edge and down with the bloody kids,[not]
To be very honest I really dont care because writing a blog and sharing our thoughts, information etc with each other is a great comfort and has proved invaluable and anyway being of a certain age being invisible to the young is inevitable. So sod them.


Sunday, 14 March 2021

War Dogs for WOR.

Well these are the Never Mind the Billhooks light cavalry finally done. In theory that should mean I have completed what I envisaged for my three wards for the period. Needless to say and once again enforcing the law that wargamers are never satisfied I have a new unit of levy archers to add to this collection. I had been trawling the net as one does and fixed upon David Imrie's wonderful range of archers from his lovely Claymore Castings range. They reminded me of the Brettonians I once possessed and so another purchase was made. I've no reason to have them, they will probably never see the games table, but once again a wargamer has succumbed to that toy soldier thing.
To add a bit of a narrative to them I included a couple of spare war hounds from my Celtic warbands. I just thought why not. The units aren't my best by a country mile but then I've managed to put my back out again while clambering over a barbed wire fence in pursuit of one of my itinerant cats. When did decrepitude set in? So my hand isn't as steady as it should be. 
Talking of Celts? I was re boxing my ancients and saw that a couple of my Warlord Celtic cavalry had snapped spears. This shouldn't be much of a surprise given the figures are prominently carrying spears except I've noticed that Warlords resin which they use for all their new ranges seems very susceptible to breaking. They seem to go brittle very quickly and lose their slight bendiness far quicker than plastic.
Unlike other veteran wargamers I am quite happy to switch between plastic and metal toy soldiers, especially the well sculpted Victrix ranges but a few companies have opted for some magical resin stuff and it certainly seems that Warlords stuff isn't as good as it maybe it should be. 
The old Spencer Smith plastics and Airfix figures take decades to succumb to the brittleness malaise, but Warlord's resin? Maybe I got a bad batch. 
To show balance I've had a similar complaint about Foundry's Persian heavy cavalry but that is more to do with the weight of their metal horses balancing on two very thing legs. So more of a design fault than pants materials.


My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating