Thursday 23 August 2012

Better Living Through Chemistry

It had to happen sometime.

Admittedly, it took a convenient confluence of circumstances - rain that stopped me doing work in the garden, a cancelled meeting at work so that I unexpectedly finished 90 minutes earlier than I expected - but here we are.

Not only have I started painting something, I'm blogging about it too!

Right. So, errr (clears throat). How do these things go again? Oh yes, targets.

I've always liked the American army in WW2. I suspect this comes from movies and video games that tend to feature the yanks heavily (often in fact to the exclusion of everyone else involved), but in Flames of War there's an obvious attraction - the US Army seems to have an unlimited supply of equipment (especially bazookas...) so playing as the Americans gives you access to a lot of fun toys.

When I first started playing FoW I got myself a US Airborne force, which I've had a fair amount of success with - big, Fearless units can be very effective when they're flung with reckless abandon at enemy armour, especially when they also have gammon bombs. Eventually I added some armoured support of my own, and now I have a full (fairly large in fact) armoured company that I'd like to play some games with. However, it's not painted.

We're planning a mid-war campaign at the club over the winter, and I'll be playing as the Americans. So my goal is to get a mid-war version of a US Tank Company ready for that, to allow me to alternate between the Airborne and the Armored guys.

I've also got some late-war tanks to paint, but I'll put those on the back burner for now.

There's not much of August left and I don't expect I'll get a lot of free time for painting (my wife is eight months pregnant, so there's a lovely list of DIY I need to do) so I'll start small and try to get three Shermans painted. That will give me eight painted Shermans, so I could field that as two command and two platoons of three.

Here they are as they stand at the moment - base coated with some highlights, but the tracks and stowage still need to be done.

I also started a couple of M18s, just because they were undercoated and sat on my desk...


I'd also like to sing the praises of some new technology I've acquired. First off, "Zip Kicker". I picked this up in Modelzone, it's an accelerator for superglue.
Really works, too! It makes it much, much easier to put fiddly things together, especially stuff like Battlefront tanks which have resin and metal components. The superglue bonds and sets immediately, so you aren't trying to hold things in place as it slowly dries.

Next, I thought I'd try some of Games Workshop's (boo! hiss! etc!) Liquid Green Stuff.
I'm not quite as big a fan of this as I am the Zip Kicker, but it does work, and I was able to fill some gaping holes in the hulls of these plastic Shermans pretty easily.

Using Liquid Green Stuff is a bit like painting with toothpaste - it's thick and dries quickly, so you have to move fast and use layers to build up any big areas. It is certainly easier than solid Green Stuff for things like this though.

Monday 20 August 2012

Building a Better Future

Ah, irony. I finally break my blog silence (with a post so apparently well-written that people queued up to insist I hadn't written it), apologise for not posting, and then circumstances conspire to prevent me from posting again for another fortnight. Well, that's a better explanation than "I couldn't be arsed", so I'm sticking with it. Here we go, another post. Isn't about painting and doesn't even have any pictures in it, but it's all you're getting.

Anyway, to wrestle myself back on topic. The Wargamers FC clubhouse is currently abuzz (is that a word?) with talk of Mantic Games' not-in-any-way-similar-to-Warhammer-oh-no-siree fantasy game, Kings of War. I played my first game of this last night, and it's pretty good - in particular, I like the fact that you don't take off models as casualties, so it's much tidier. Also, the way damage works in Kings of War is nice - it's worth peppering units with fire before you engage them in close combat, as the damage you inflict with shooting makes breaking the unit in combat easier. As a final bonus, since you don't remove individual casualties and units have a set formation based on their size, you could use scenic bases and fewer models than for the equivalent Warhammer unit.

So that's all good, and I'm sure I'll play it some more. In particular I think coming up with different armies would be easier as there's a lot less scope for variety in army selection than in Warhammer, so I'll be looking at different races and so on that I can make with my Games Workshop models. Got to use them for something!

Perhaps more interestingly though, I've played a couple of games of Warpath v2 with Pete and Kieron. Warpath is a sci-fi skirmish game in which a totalitarian human faction attempts to dominate other races based on standard fantasy races such as orcs and dwarves. Any resemblance to other sci-fi skirmish games in which a totalitarian human faction attempts to dominate other races based on standard fantasy races is, I'm sure, entirely coincidental.

Warpath is perhaps more similar to 40k than Kings of War is to Fantasy, since you do remove individual models as casualties. What's interesting though is the unit activation system. You are never entirely sure what order your opponent will choose to do things, which means there are lots of tactical decisions to make each turn.

As we've been playing the beta v2 rules there are some things that I think need to be changed. The Mantic forums suggest that some of these will be altered, and we're likely to get more interesting army lists at that point. I even suggested a couple myself (probably too late to affect anything), so I now consider myself to have co-authored whatever version of the rules is eventually pulished.

I think both Mantic games are much simpler to get into than the Games Workshop equivalents, and to my mind are much better suited for games on a club night. It is probably also fair to say that they lack some of the GW depth though - there aren't as many silly or completely fantastical things available to you as there are from Warhammer army lists, but then all the lists are in the basic rulebook which is nice.

In my mind at least I am still setting these games in the Fantasy and 40k universes. Not that it really matters, but I've never had a problem with Games Workshop's background - it's just the games that get a bit over complicated for me...

There you are then. Couple of interesting new games, and if nothing else I can use my existing models for more things than before, which can only be a good thing. I'm going to have a look through the army lists and see what other variations I can come up with.

Wednesday 8 August 2012


There are certain traditions that you have to obey in whatever you're doing. In friendly competitions, it's customary to shake hands after playing to show that there are no hard feelings, or at least to give you the chance to try to crush your opponent's hand if you were beaten especially badly. At Christmas, it's traditional to struggle to compose your face into something approximating gratitude when opening a package which contains some "hilarious" socks that are in fact too small for you to wear anyway. When decorating, the tradition is that you only notice that you've missed a spot once you've packed away all your brushes and when leaving a job it's traditional to pretend that you actually like the deadbeats you've been saddled with every day for the last few years and you aren't utterly thrilled at the prospect of moving on (and inevitably saddling yourself with a remarkably similar set of deadbeats).

Blog writing is no exception and has its own tradition - the "I'm sorry I haven't posted in ages" post.

The "I'm sorry I haven't posted in ages" post, or ISIHPIAP as it's known by literally no one at all, serves three important functions. The first is to assure the blogger's hordes of loyal readers (in most cases, the same people that refer to these posts as ISIHPIAPs) that the blogger hasn't been abducted by aliens, shut down by the FBI/CIA/MI5/RAC/YMCA for telling THE TRUTH, infected with a horrific tropical disease, or found by the authorities, having been partially eaten by their own cats, after neighbours started to complain that the smell was even worse than usual. The ISIHPIAP is proof of life, of a sort, and allays any fears that may exist in the blogosphere about the blogger's wellbeing.

The second function of the ISIHPIAP is to ease the blogger back into things. As with any task, blogging is easier with practice, and  as he or she spends more time in the real world (scavenging from bins, avoiding eye contact with other humans, hissing at sunlight, that sort of thing) the blogger will find that the mental muscles to create the scathing yet somehow subtly beautiful prose that is their medium begin to atrophy. The ISIHPIAP allows the blogger to discuss (at length if they are especially vain) something that affects them deeply and which they are intimately familiar with, namely themselves and whatever pointless waste of time they've been indulging in instead of the crucial work of typing barely literate hogwash into a browser window.

The third function of the ISIHPIAP is perhaps the most important - it helps to soothe the blogger's ego. Like all areas of human activity, blogging has a series of numbers associated with it, which an insecure person (for example, the sort of person that feels the need to keep a blog) can easily be tempted to use as a score card. If their "friends" have more followers, more views, and indeed more posts on their own blogs, the blogger is bound to feel that they are losing at blogging, much in the same way that they used to come last in school sports days. The sting of this realisation can be harsh, and so the blogger feels it necessary to get something, anything onto their blog to redress the balance a little, and make at least one of the little numbers on the dashboard go up.The ISIHPIAP reminds the blogger of the thrill of making the little numbers go up, and asuages some of his guilt at letting his loyal followers (see: people that call them ISIHPIAPs) go without the benefit of his boundless wisdom.

In the end though, the ISIHPIAP is a tradition, and that's why it's done - they are written because it's the done thing and always has been. Wherever there are deeply lazy and untalented people with blogs, these posts will have a place.

I'm sorry I haven't posted in ages.