Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History

This morning I finished reading Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History, by John Julius Cooper (Viscount Norwich, thus known as John Julius Norwich).  This book attempts to cover all of Sicily's history from antiquity to modernity, and generally does so. The book really begins in the Greek era, when Sicily was central to the imperial ambitions of Athens, and in common with other the rest of the Greek world, minor city states struggled and battled against one another. In some ways this never changes, as one power after another takes over the island, from Carthage, all the way to Piedmont in the Italian unification.

Norwich clearly knows certain periods of history well, and enjoys discussing them in greater detail than others. As might be deduced from his CV, Normans and the Norman kingdom of Sicily figure heavily, but he also apparently is quite taken with Nelson and the Hamiltons, and spends an inordinate amount of time discussing their various permutations and interactions with the court of Naples.  This section was a hard slog, and it took me several days to get though. In this book at least Norwich is clearly writing a "popular" history, rather than a scholarly one, and opinions, anecdotes and partisanship run throughout. [short, non-comprehensive list of things Norwich does not like: Napoleon, peasants, Spain, Monty, Mussolini]

I will say that I knew very little about Sicily prior to reading this book, and I certainly enjoyed most of it, but the Bourbon period is a hard slog, and the post unification era (150 years) is breezed through in just a few chapters which was very disappointing (the book effectively ends with the occupation of Sicily in 1943 [Operation Husky, which my Grandfather participated in as an ordinance officer]), giving little feel for contemporary people, and no idea what to expect for the future. So, I would recommend the first portion of this book unreservedly, but if you have little interest in court machinations of the Bourbons during the Napoleonic era, you are probably better off skipping that section.

Now as for wargaming, Sicily was a battleground for the Peloponnesian war, Punic wars, and Second World War, so there are plenty of opportunities to have a battle or two set there. Operation Husky in particular seems to be pretty interesting, with its "midwar" setting, and mix of forces present.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Specialist Games Returns?

Apparently the above came from the Facebook page of a shop in Australia, and the major rumor mongers suggest that it is true... and that the Betrayal at Calth boxed set was the first product of this group.  If this pans out, boxed sets of Epic, Necromunda, Manowar, and Battlefleet Gothic will have to make their way into my hobby room.  And dare I say Warhammer Quest?  Oof, that would be a must buy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hobby Weekend

This weekend past, my wife and kids were out of town, so I had a bit of a hobby weekend (when not working on painting a bathroom, laying brick, or other household chores that seem to accumulate).

Previous years when faced with such weekends, I have built and painted a Tau platoon, and built an IG platoon twice the size of the Tau one (and which consequently I am still laboriously painting).

This year I worked mostly on a project which is still under wraps, and few other odds and ends.  I do not seem to have completed anything, and certainly not all the projects I wished to, so it seems a bit frustrating.

I did get a little bit of work done on an idea which has been percolating around in my brain for a while.

At work, we have a Keurig coffee machine (actually right outside my door) and the pods come in these boxes.
A couple times a week, I see these boxes in the trash, and it got me thinking about reusing them as terrain. As it turns out they are about 4.25 inches wide, and 6 deep, and about 7.75 tall.  To my mind's eye, these started to look like row houses for a futuristic city... however, at 4.25 inches wide, they are too big to fit two houses on the 8" squares I have planned for my city terrain.

Further, the boxes are made from fairly flimsy cardboard, and so not very suitable for a finished building.  I plan to use just the shape of this box, but replace all vertical surfaces with foam-core cut to be slightly narrower than the boxes.  So much for workplace recycling!

I used our Silhouette Cameo, a computer controlled cutter, to make some bitz and templates for the building, which was very interesting, and certainly more exact than anything I could cut with a knife. (as proven earlier that same day when I mangled some foamcore).

The picture above shows a couple of templates I made, window frames for two buildings, and a bunch of vents.  I stacked up the window frames and vents, and with super glue, effectively made them into stiffer hard pieces, suitable for construction.  The hex spray templates are for a set of rooftop solar cells, which I had made out of a magnetic hotel door key and some sort of toy packaging.

Anyway, that is what I did this weekend, what about you?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Horus Heresy II

Not a second Heresy, just a second post about it. Went to the FLGS this afternoon while running errands, and inquired about the Hours Heresy game, Betrayal at Calth. The guy working the counter had no idea what it was... So much for GW's assurances that there would be a demo copy in store... it will probably show up next week.

They did have the White Dwarf though, which was surprising as usual WDs accompanied by free gifts sell out.  Once I pointed it out to the guy at the counter he bought the last one himself.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Horus Heresy - Betrayal at Calth

By now I am sure that those of you who are interested in this sort of thing have heard about it, but in November, Games Workshop is releasing a Horus Heresy boxed game.  The box will have 30 multi part mark IV marines, 5 terminators, 2 heroes, and a Contemptor dreadnought, for $150/£95 (plus some sort of board game that 99% of people will never play).  Previously, you could get all of the above from Forge World in various sets for the princely sum of £300+, so multipart plastic at 1/3 the price is quite nice.

This set almost looks good enough to tempt me into buying it, but I really do not need to start a whole new sub game of 40k, when I do not even play that...  although I do quite like the pre-heresy World Eaters...

Monday, October 26, 2015


A while back, the fine chaps at Canister & Grape had a 7th anniversary contest, and against some sort of cosmic rule, I won a prize.  I was delighted this Friday past to receive the above in the mail.  The picture is a bit hard to make out due to glare, but what you see there is a quartet of press fit Warhammer 40k Orks, and a "Finecast" version of the Ork Warboss Gazghkull.  I have painted a few Orks before, but with these fellows I have enough to make a little skirmish band, and I have never worked with Finecast before, so I am looking forward to investigating that as well.  (the box was so light that it almost seemed to be empty!)  As it happens I also have a spare of Gazghkull's mortal enemy Commissar Yarrick  [not, as it would appear, shoelaces].

Now if someone would like to send me some zombies for Zomtober, a Tank for Tanktober, and a dreadnought for Dreadtober... well, that would be quite alright, but you had better get on it, the month ends soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Basing Basics

Yesterday I was home from work with the kids, due to a change in my wife's work schedule.  While child #2 slept, #1 and I had a quick lesson in basing.  The 20 handgunners acquired in my Ebay score last year were quickly claimed, and I made a couple of conversions to them as requested (added a banner bearer, and mounted one on a horse to be a "leader".

As shown here, figures had diluted glue applied to their base with a brush, and were then dipped in sand. [although I believe technically it is decomposed granite]

As I said, pretty basic! There was some discussion of getting the figures primed in preparation for painting, but we shifted focus to LEGO and that took up the remainder of the "free" time.  At this rate, we will be able to have a game in a few years...

Friday, October 16, 2015

10/16/2015 Paint table

Finished the last little touch ups on these guys, so now they are ready to have their bases finished, get their inks done etc. This puts me at 1 command squad, 2 rifle squads, 1 heavy bolter support squad, 1 stomrtrooper squad painted, and two more rifle squads to go. Unfortunately I keep get getting distracted by new ideas for conversions (e.g. a guy shooting a MANPAD), and by thoughts that I would like to have two platoons instead of just one. [I should of course finish painting the first platoon before worrying about the second!]

In the background is a bounty hunter for Necromunda, which I first started painting about 8 years ago...

I have also put together SGII stats for these guys, and the Tau I painted, so I should be able to put a game together if needed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

North Star 1864 Sample figure

A little over a week ago, I was perusing some pictures of forthcoming Frostgrave figures on the North Star Facebook page.  I noticed that there was a picture of a mid-1800's figure, with text indicating that North Star would mail out a sample figure of this forthcoming range of 1864 Danes if requested.  Like a shot, I put in my request, and on Friday I got the figure.

This is for the North Star 1864 range, which is aimed at the Second Schleswig War, which besides being an interesting war fought between Denmark and Prussia/Austria during a time of political and technological change, is also the subject of a recent TV series.

Map of Denmark and the duchies in question
Below are a series of pictures comparing the figure I revived (one of the pack NSD003 - Danish Infantry at the Ready. 1864) with some of the various figures I had in the lead mountain.

1864 Dane right side

1864 Dane left side

L to R: Forgotten Glorious French Officer, 1864 Dane, Pulp gangster, Copplestone Soviet

L to R: Perry Plastic Dragoon, 1864 Dane, GW Steel Legion, GW Valhallan

A look at the face
As you can see from the above picture, the figure falls nicely into the "28mm" size, although it is a bit smaller than some figures in my collection.  To the eye, I would estimate that this casting is only 27mm, and it is substantially more slender than the GW figures. This may be in part due to this figure being a younger man, as you can tell from the face.  The casting seems to be fairly good over all, with no obvious mold lines, and just a bit of flash and a bit of extra metal on the bayonet which needs to be trimmed away.  Being unfamiliar with the equipment of this army, I can not comment on the uniform or the pack, but it seems to fit with the few pictures I have seen.  All in all, I think this figure would be great en mass, and would probably work out ok for single mounted skirmish type gaming.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Axis of Villains

This weekend past, I was staying at the home of my wife's cousins, and had the opportunity for some board game action.  Aside from the now obligatory 7 Wonders game, we also played a session of Axis of Villains, a game I got for my birthday last year.

Board late in the game
In this game, you play one of four super heroes from the Justice League, defending the Tower of Justice from waves of villains who advance relentlessly to the tower to destroy it. Each player rolls a d8 and a specially marked d6, which moves or adds villains to the board. In our particular game, the Justice League lost, partly though some bad batches of die rolls (I think I added about 10 villains to the board), and partly though not understanding that we should team up against pretty much every villain, regardless of apparent strength. Late in the game, as shown in the picture, we had three villains stacked on one sector and we were unable to defeat them before they reached the tower and destroyed it.  Even though we lost, the game was pretty fun, and its difficulty level was perfect for the late night.

This is one we need to try again some time, and it also has a fair amount of solo play value, as there is no reason that one player could not play the various heroes together, and the villains are already played automatically.  I also need to get three more d8s for next time, as the game only comes with one and it is much more satisfying to roll a whole handful than it is to roll the same die multiple times.