Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Saying goodbye

Tonight, I watched the culmination of an incredible motion picture franchise with my oldest friend. I'm not sorry to say that I was more an a little choked up by the end of it all. 

My friend moved to Qatar at the end of the summer for work and had come back for Christmas. It was great to catch up with him and seemed only fitting that we see the final instalment of the Hobbit. Together, we've spent hundreds of hours in Middle Earth, in books, games, art and films. 

WARNING: THERE MAY BE SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD. 

Some of my earliest memories are of Middle Earth. I still vividly remember my father reading the Hobbit to me, doing different voices for each of the three trolls. Later, I read Tolkien's works for myself (we need not explore the full extent of my obsession here), before eventually queuing up to see the great work on screen. The year was 2001 and I was a simple teenager; I saw the Fellowship three times. Over the next few years, after many repeated viewings and cinema trips, extend cuts and special features, I finished watching The Lord of the Rings. 

More than any other trilogy, Peter Jackson's films provided a backdrop to my adolescence. I loved Star Wars, of course, and was captivated by the Matrix; likewise, Indiana Jones will forever hold a special place in my heart. However, The Lord of the Rings was everything I could ever have asked for. 

This is not to say that I am completely satisfied; I have my gripes. I'm still known to grumble about the wavering honour of Faramir and the refusal to grant Saruman his true villainy at the close of the Return of the King. And don't get me started on Tom Bombadil. As for the Hobbit films, the less said about Elven romance the better. 

Which brings me to the final instalment, the Battle of Five Armies. I'd enjoyed the first and all but despaired at the second. I had then been given extremely mixed reviews of the most recent offering. Apparently, the CGI wobbled in places, while in others there was too much talking. The battle sequences were breathtaking. Billy Connolly was there and so was that blasted elf maiden. Martin Freeman was superb throughout but there were war pigs and battle goats. I was understandably concerned. 

Ultimately though, Peter Jackson provided a truly fitting end to both the hobbit and our time in Middle Earth. The film moved along well, and had both great performances and set pieces (Freeman really is the highlight). Even better, just like Fellowship, it stayed close to the book, but took just enough dramatic licence to lift it from the page. I shall simply say that I was incredibly satisfied with the end of the film. 

My feelings are perhaps best summed up in the (paraphrased) words of Bilbo, who said that he had lost a good friend. These films have been with me for almost half my life and now I know that there will never be another. Regardless of my feelings about anything else in the series, I can stay, with confidence, that Peter Jackson carefully shepherded me right to the end and left me with a curious mix of intense sadness and complete comfort. 

Of course, it probably doesn't help that I was watching the film knowing that I wouldn't see my friend again for six months. And maybe it rang a little close to home when certain characters were saying goodbye to certain others. Perhaps this even came out in a frozen empty car park when I shouted "I love you," after saying goodbye myself. I don't care. 

After all, I really did enjoy my evening and my final visit to Jackson's version of Tolkien's world. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Tales from Arcology BH-81

Dust fell in the aftermath of the hive quake and the plates still rumbled. Sleeping Snake picked himself up from beneath the coolant vent and surveyed the space below him. Far below, just above the chemical overflow of an old treatment works, he could see a new break in old scar tissue. With some effort, he might just be able to climb down and take a look. 

It's been a long time since I posted on this blog; I've been remiss and I'm sorry. I could quote a lot of excuses, but the main one is that I've just bought a house. I moved in a month ago and have spent a lot of time painting, unpacking and sorting. However, the new house has one major advantage over the old: gaming space. 

The house comes with a detached double garage. This means games away from the other half without fear of disturbance. Better yet, there is a full room over the top. Massive games space! Mrs Nazgob has given approval, so all is well. 

The details are simple.  Build a modular table that can be used for a variety of skirmish and small army scale games. It will be sci-fi (with Necromunda in mind), and fill a space 4 foot by 4 foot. It should also come with all terrain necessary. 

The plan is as follows. I will create nine 16" square boards, each with their own terrain and features. They will slot together to form a full, modular board. The terrain will be fixed to each board, of varying heights. I'll get some loose smaller items (barrels, etc) to add further detail, and a wide variety of gantries and bridges. 

Now if only I had materials to build my terrain. Maybe all that polystyrene packaging could come in handy...

Watch this place for further updates. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

NAFC 2014 - One Month On

So, there has been a bit of a delay, but after about a month, I figure my reminiscences should have developed a reasonable gravitas with a soup├žon of nostalgia. Which is to say that I have been lazy and I wanted a posh excuse for failing to type faster.

Quite some time ago, I stated my intention to launch into the unknown with a Halfling team. That team, the now famous Marienburg Fireflies, was painted purely with the NAF Championships in mind. Bertrand Hairfoot, head coach and star player, was to take the field in the most glorious tournament of them all.

Game 1:
For their first game, the Fireflies drew a vampire team coached by Pete W. With breakfast still settling in their bellies, the plucky halflings assumed that this would be an easy game; stand behind the trees and let the Mighty Blow do its work. 

Receiving, the little guys collected the ball, but were quickly unmanned. The appearance of a dog on the pitch upset Stronglimb Silverbark, who promptly fell over (I hate Wilhelm Chaney) and Puggy was knocked out. Two halflings were badly injured and another failed to land as the team was forced to attempt an early throw team mate.

The vampires would score four times, and the halfling star refused to return to the pitch. In his absence,  Mickey Oden-Foot attempted to hold the team together, but the weight of three vampires and a werewolf was simply too much for him. 

Game 2:
After a tough loss, the poor little Fireflies were hoping for an easier game; maybe something of the stunty variety. Instead they drew the Greenwood Fury, coached by The Doc. Wood Elves; something every Halfling coach longs to face.

I thought it time to bring out the big guns. For his atrocious performance, Puggy was sacked and Bertrand was brought in to replace him. Bertrand, the famed gentleman explorer. Bertrand, the head coach and star player of the Marienburg Fireflies. Bertrand would steer me to victory. 

I was right. 

Receiving again, the Halflings had a field day, and, in short order, removed both Wardancers, a thrower, catcher and lineman from the pitch. Although the elves did come back in the second half to score, the recovered Wardancers were once more directed to the apothecary as the Halfling feet did their thing. With no Wood Elves to stop them, Bertrand scored the winning touchdown. 

Game 3:
One win and one loss? Now it was time for a stunty match. Marching on to the blue pitch of the Firelfies were not 10 but 20 Halfings, lead by Tempest. Our two teams were all but identical, but whereas hers seemed to enjoy the fighty fouling game, mine proved rather more cowardly.

The team from Marienburg scored first, but were then bogged down as Flingtastic carried the ball into a scrum. Their trees were outmatched and fell to the ground, struggling to rise due to the sheer weight of Halfling bodies that covered them. Even when Greenleaf did climb to his feet, an opposing tree clubbed him straight back down with all the force of two treemen. 

Fortunately, the referee began to take notice and one by one, the Halflings of Flingtastic began to leave the pitch under the auspices of fair play. Nuffle appeared to disapprove of their foul play, despite Tempest's persistence. Largely thanks to the assistance of the zebras, the Firelfies were able to claim their second win of the day. Bertrand was beside himself with excitement.  

Game 4:
As punishment for defeating a good friend in the previous round, my plucky team of stunties were drawn against another Wood Elf coach. Still, buoyed by Bertrand and his fine performance the day before, the Fireflies remained hopeful. 

The Halflings received, and proceeded to gather the ball behind their immobile fence. Deep behind the playing line, Chinny Trucklehop was convinced he was safe. Out of nowhere, a Wardancer smashed him from his feet and another elf scampered between trees and halflings alike, scooping the ball from their feet before passing it to his comrade. 

This sudden reversal was certain to result in a quick touchdown, but the Fireflies were eager to punish the Fierce Foresters for their arrogance. One Wardancer met an unfortunate end at a Halfling foot while Maurice St Claire encouraged the other to meet the Autograph Hunters of Nuln. Neither would return, and this unprecedented show of violence encouraged the elves to score quickly. 

With still half of the first period remaining, the Halflings hoped to be able to recover before the buzzer. Outnumbering the opposition, they stood to receive the kick, and watched in horror as it landed in the branches of Stronglimb Silverbark. Shrugging, the hulking tree set off at a saunter. The elves backed away in horror as the star treeman left pointy eared bodies in his wake as he scored his first touchdown for the club. 

Bereft of their own stars and most of their positionals, the Forestes could do little to prevent the plucky little team from Marienburg as they cruised to their third win of the tournament. 

Game 5:
Playing against a coach with the nickname of Food was surely a good omen. The Fireflies would need all the assistance that they could muster against Kfoged's undead team, the Grave City Gunslingers. 

Despite some early casualties on both sides, the Halflings soon came to realise that they were to struggle; it's hard to beat an opponent who repeatedly comes back from the grave. The final score line may have been an unfair 3 nil, but the Marienburg Fireflies had mounted a desperate, and largely successful, defence. 

For much of the first half, they were able to hold the rotting corpses of the opposing team to the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, the heart went out of the team upon seeing Bertrand pummelled to the earth by a savage mummy. 

Game 6:
The team still had a winning record and was on track to win both the stunty cup and Bertrand was sure to be crowned "King of the Flings". Only one game stood between the plucky Halflings and eternal glory. They would face a Skaven team coached by a mysterious man known only as Neil. 

The Harbingers kicked and once more, the violent tendencies of the Silverbark twins were overshadowed by the juggernaut that is Deeproot Strongbranch. Nevertheless, the Halflings were unable to break through and the score stood level at half time. 

The rats scored quickly in the second half and the Fireflies looked to redress the score line. Once more, the Harbingers mounted a strong defence and in the dying seconds of the game, Deeproot was forced to throw Bertrand. The throw was good, but the conniving rats had greased the pitch; Hairfoot could not maintain his balance. As he slipped to the floor, the game, and the tournament, were over. 






Excerpt from the Marienburg Gazetter:
The triumphant parade thrown in honour of Bertrand Hairfoot's successes at the NAF Championship was thrown into disarray by the arrival of several members of Blood Bowl's enforcement arm, the Professional Investigative Knights of the NAF, who halted the celebration with an arrest warrant for the esteemed coach. 

Bertrand Hairfoot, recently crowned "King of the Flings" for his services to the reputation of all Halfling coaches and teams, stood accused of match fixing, as It was suggested that a Tilian Syndicate had placed large bets upon the outcome of the Championships, specifically that the Fireflies would come home with exactly three wins and three losses. 

Although the truth of these accusations have yet to be verified, Hairfoot was no where to be found during the confusion at the parade and is, at present at large and no comment has been forthcoming from either him, or the club. 

In other news, the Marienburg Fireflies have announced that they are in the market for new talent, given a recent injection of liquid capital from an unnamed benefactor....

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Speed Painting

So, Glowworm says to me, he says, he wants to give away a painted team at Crumb Bowl and I says to him, I says, I can do that. So he says he liked the Orcs I painted for my NAF article, he says they work. So I says send me some more Orcs so I can paint him a team. And so he says, he says, yes and send me a human team. 

Which was nice. 

With limited time and work pressures, I thought I'd give myself a challenge and time myself. The colour scheme, a yellow and black combo, offered ample opportunity for speedy completion.* the aim was to complete a fifteen man team in under twelve hours. 

Stage 1: The black. A dark grey undercoat for all, followed by a wash and a dry brush. 
Time: 53 minutes, 44 seconds. 


Stage 2: The contrast. A quick coat of yellow foundation paint and a few dabs of silver, followed by further washes. 
Time: 4 hours, 46 minutes, 11 seconds. 


Stage 3: The detail.
Time to do some spot colours. With the black and yellow so dominant, I needed to do the flesh and then pick out the details. I chose white for the details, because it is a truly neutral colour; it does nothing it interfere with the overall scheme. Each section got a base, a wash and a highlight. 
Time: 6 hours, 49 minutes, 23 seconds. 


Stage 4: Completion. Just the simple addition of the basing material and some matte varnish. 
Time: 7 hours, 53 minutes, 8 seconds. 

Thrower

Catcher
Lineman

Blitzer

Blitzer alternate


The team

It's a simple colour scheme to be sure, but effective. The painting took me less time than expected too, as I managed to come in just over four hours ahead of schedule. With judicious application of washes and dry brushing, the team looked pretty good, boosted by a couple of extras. 

Every team needs a ball, but even more so, every team needs a focal point. The ogre is a central part of the human team and so I spent some extra time on him, working in some extra detail and relying more on highlights than dry brushing. 

Overall, I am very pleased with the end result and remain amazed that I completed everything that quickly. 




* It must be said that these timescales were only possible with the help of a hair dryer and did not count construction time. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Liebster Award

So, some kind souls put me forward for the Liebster award. For those who are unaware, it is an award given to and given by bloggers. I must thank the kind folk at Merry Mayhem News and Fern from ball gowns and Battleskirt for my nomination. 



The rules are simple. Answer the questions set by you referrers (see below) and pass on more nominations yourself. 

Even if I wasn't going to say thank you to those that had nominated me, I would still have pointed you towards the first two. 

Merry Mayhem News is a true fanboy's blog. The team posts on all manner of topics relate to Blood Bowl with huge enthusiasm at every step. They are a great source of news and excitement for our hobby. And in no way am I biased because I have written for them. 

Ballgowns and Battleskirts is a young blog written by a good friend of mine, Fern (also known as Tempest). She writes heavily on her gaming group's Pathfinder campaign, with a fair smattering of blood bowl and general gaming thrown in. 

For purest Blood Bowl joy, take a look at Roze El's Hall of Fame. Although it hasn't been updated in a little while, the author has created a huge repository of painted fantasy football miniatures. These have been gleaned from blogs, forums and Facebook, always with the source and painter listed. 

Unite All Action is a brilliant blog, full of fantastic modelling and painting. What I like about this one is the variety. In one entry, he posts about his new ark army for 40k and in the next, building a pit for gladiatorial combat out of a Quality Street tin. 

Finally, I would recommend that everyone visit the fantastic James Wappel. This man is a huge inspiration to me in the quality of his painting. He paints under commission, so produce works of art for a variety of games and genres but really, he's worth checking out purely for his level of skill. 


And now, on with the show. 


1. Why did you start blogging? 
I started blogging as a form of release. The written word is huge part of my life; I am a voracious reader and have been a fairly enthusiastic writer at various times. However, the majority of my contribution has been academic (try doing a PhD without a hundred thousand words). The trouble that I found was with the academic style. It is very restrictive from a creative point of view, limited by both evidence and established expectations. The blog was intended to be a place where I could write what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. 

2. If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?
The outward perception. I see no difference between the peculiarities of golfers, gamers or sports nuts. If a person spent his weekends tuning up his car, no one blinks. If you were to take part in a 5-a-side football (soccer) tournament, people would understand. But when I go to a Blood Bowl tournament my colleagues think I'm weird. I am weird, but I would argue that I am no more peculiar than the guy that knows the words to every Gilbert and Sullivan musical or that co-worker who assumes tha everyone is interested in his favourite sport. 

3. What is best in life?
Happiness. My own, my friends', my family's and everyone else's. Still, if you want specifics, a good beer, the Chicago Black Hawks, painting and games. 

4. Do you want to live forever? 
In short, no. I would like to experience everything that I can, while it can, but I am too deadline driven to live forever. If I knew I had all eternity to go somewhere or achieve something, I would never do it. Knowing that I will only be able to meet my goals for a few short years guarantees that I will actually do something. 

5. Fame or fortune?
Fame or, at a push, infamy. After all, with either of ose, fortune tends to be a given, right?

6. What miniature are you most proud of having painted?
There are many that I am proud of, but they usually belong to a completed team; they come as part of a set. Still, the most technically impressive model that I've finished was Glart Smashrip (you can find him on the blog somewhere). 

7. How do you deal with burn out? 
I go for a run. I find it clears my head and gets rid of the frustrations. Unfortunately, I don't do  this very often any more, so it also hurts quite a bit. 

8. Why is a raven like a writing desk? 
Well, looking at my study, they're both covered in paint.


9. Star Wars or Star Trek?  
I was always a Star Wars man, except for DS9. I loved that show. Now though, Battlestar Galactica has overtaken both as my favourite sci-fi. 

10. If you could only buy from one miniature company from now on, which one would it be? 
Now, that is a hard choice. There are a large number of incredibly skilled independent sculptors out there. To be honest, I think that Willy Miniatures make many of the best models out the, but a lot don't really match my style. I think I prefer both the Gaspez and Neomics models more from a stylistic point of view, but unfortunately, they lack the variety of the bigger companies.

Privateer Press have beautiful minis, truly amazing, but ultimately, i fear I must fall upon the side of the behemoth; Games Workshop. For both variety and execution, they are so hard to beat, but the versatility of their incredible plastic kits is second to none. 

11. What is your favorite take out? 
You know the worst thing about where I live? I have a stunning view, no street lights and incredible nature, right on my doorstep. But not one takeaway that delivers this far out in the wilderness. I'd settle for anything, but I think I visit Indian takeaways more than any other. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My duel entry

Someone in their wisdom decided a new painting contest was in order for the 2014 NAF C. In the aftermath of last year's tournament, the organisers approached the community asking for comments and critique, specifically related to the painting contest. 

My contribution, echoing that of others, was to request clear specifications for the contest, be it a requirement for theme, painting, conversion, or something else entirely. True to their word, this year the organisers had taken that on board and delivered fantastically (I believe that this year's painting contest was brilliantly run), but they also gave us someone new. The duel. 

It was specified to be a duel between two well matched opponents in a dynamic Blood Bowl pose. To give some idea, some of the entries went for the violent (snotling being stomped by a treeman) to the skillful (goblin escaping a tackle to score). 

Click to embiggen

From the moment I saw the challenge, I knew what I wanted to do. Skaven vs Halfling. 90k Gutter Runner vs 30k hobbit. Str 2 vs Str 2. More importantly, the Halfling needed to win. I mean, what's life without the double one?

The basic plan for this duel went unchanged from start to finish.  I wanted a solidly placed hobbit yanking the rat backwards by his tail and the ball falling from his outstretched hand.  

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen
Some of the sharp eyed may recognise the Halfling model used, but I would be surprised. He's suffered extreme conversion. Many years ago, when GW still had a sense of humour, the mighty Empire of the Warhammer World could field the Halfling hotpot. The model was comprised of the Hotpot itself, a famous chef (often used in Blood Bowl), and two helpers pulling the pot back on a giant slingshot with ropes. These provided the basis for the model. 

I greenstuffed over the rope to create the tail and drilled it out for pinning purposes. Still, the biggest difficulty was the chef's hat and apron. This had covered a large part of the front of the model, forcing further greenstuffing. 

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen
Now, where once I had painted a hotpot, I have never owned any Skaven models at all. This guy necessitated the purchase of a secondhand grab bag from my FLGS. He is entirely plastic and with all at entails - easy posing, GW multipart kits and, above all, lightweight. This last was essential given the fact that he is in midair. 

The middle finger of the right hand is, in fact, a paper clip. The ball is metal and for it to remain fixed appropriately, required significant pinning. I'll be honest - it looked rather iffy until it was painted. Now however, I'm quite pleased. 

Click to embiggen

Overall, I was extremely happy. Rarely have I completed anything that ever turned out so close to my original intention. Only one thing made it better. 

The loot!

I was over the moon with this incredibly awesome trophy. I will post soon about the rest of the NAF Championships, but rest assured, this was (possibly) the highlight of the weekend. And that sentence probably gives you an idea of just how much I enjoyed the whole event. 

Coming soon: a report on the Marienburg Fireflies.  

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

From the histories of the Marienburg Fireflies

FORM 113-12b-9-c OFFICIAL COMPLAINT REGARDING GROSS MISSCONDUCT AT A NAF SANCTIONED EVENT


Team Name: Marienburg Fireflies

Head Coach: Bertrand Hairfoot

Competition: Crumb Bowl III

Nature of Complaint: In game one of three, the Fireflies handily defeated Coach Darkson's team, nicknamed '2 Bribes'. Aside from displaying their racial superiority, the halfling team demonstrated panache, skill and strength. By the end of the second half only one goblin was left upon the pitch.

It was at this time that the goblin's heinous crime was committed. During the post match celebratory pie-eating contest, a snotling slipped laxative into the filling. In games two and three, the halflings of the Marienburg Fireflies suffered most strenuously in unfortunate circumstances.

In their second match, the team faced the N.Y. Ladies. Bertrand Hairfoot, that proud scholar and excellent sportsman, was caught short. Taking advantage of his distress in a most unladylike way, the amazons scored quickly. Despite an excellent showing by the three trees, removing the vast majority of the opposition from the pitch, the halflings were simply in no fit state to collect the ball.

In the final game of the tournament, the Fireflies faced an elf team. Despite another vigorous display by the trees, the team from Marienburg lost again.

Mr Hairfoot therefore submits this declaration and requests the NAF consider appropriate sanctions.