Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A little bookshop, just around the corner

I like writing. In fact, I have spent a large proportion of my life writing in one form or another (I'm pretty sure that there is a 23 year old Doctor Who fanfic somewhere at my parents). The majority of my writing is factual, either here on my blog, or reports for work. It is extremely rare that I attempt to write a piece of original fiction and I have never shown that work to a wide audience. 

I wrote a little something a couple of weeks ago that I was really rather pleased with. For some reason, this (very) short story is something I love writing and wanted to share. I paused for a while, looking for sanity, but as the days ticked slowly by, my mind went unchanged. Therefore, though still not sure it's a good idea, I present to you a little tale of a bookshop, just around the corner. 

"There's a forest in the cellar, a wizard on the stair; but be careful where you step, for this bookshop has a bear"

Except this one didn't. All it had was a lingering smell of mould and a geriatric cat with only three legs. In the book on his lap, Horace had been removed, carried into a literary world of manuscript and storytelling. To his left, there was a stack of seventies pornography slumping against yellowing reams of feminist prose. 

The shop had never been a busy place. It had a market that couldn't even be called niche; three regular customers, of whom one had been dead for twelve years. Irregular customers simply didn't enter the building, put off by its cracked window and peeling paintwork.

On the edge of awareness a phone rang, cutting a quiet that was normally tempered only by noises from the outside. He had become used to listening to a world through dulled by twenty five year old double glazing. Car horns were distanced and the quickstep of commuters faded to nothing. 

Shifting slightly, Horace slowly straightened his legs and reached for the telephone. He cursed quietly at the stab of pins and needles, but grabbed for it anyway. Somewhere, in an office, a suited man spoke words for Horace to hear. They were tinny, obsequious words, filled with officious phrases of calamity and finality. Horace's answers were short, the conversation brief. 

He replaced the handset on its cradle, shrugging. The cat, roused by the noise, ceased its feline snore and demanded attention. When none was forthcoming, it stretched and went to sulk amongst the Hardy. 

Horace pulled a fresh paperback from the pile to his right. All things were improved with a good book. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fencing and Batman

To my great pleasure, I recently discovered that the man responsible for my addiction to the cardboard crack lives in my village, no more than 200m from my house. We met last week and had a good time talking about music, films, hobbying and board games. And then, Batman. 

For those who are not aware, there is a game by Knight Miniatures called Batman. Strangely, it seems this is a game in which you can fight 35mm battles with all of the notables of Gotham City. We had a quick game and I can only say that it is well worth a look. I might write something with some more details another time, but it suffices to say that it is a lot of fun. 

I am currently hunting down some models to use as the GCPD. 

It seems that my modular board, first designed for Necromunda, might actually get a game.  Albeit, it might not fulfill the original concept, but I am sure that Batman will be right at home regardless.

In the meantime, I was in Poundland (for those Americans, a 99 cent store). They had these grill trays, Teflon mesh on which you are supposed to fry things. For the cost of one shiny pound I had an A4 sheet of mesh. 

With some snipping (easy to cut with scissors) and some playing, I discovered that I couple make some quick and easy fencing. Lollipop sticks formed the base and cocktails sticks the verticle supports. The bases had pilot holes drilled into them and the cocktail sticks were first woven into the mesh and then inserted. 

Actual wire mesh would be better, as this can not be bent or moulded into shape. That said, it was easy to manipulate and really cheap. It takes paint well, and I have already base coated it. Silvery paint will be next and then I will think about hanging some warning signs.  

And now, Batman Begins. Because, I can. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Home Improvements

Things that I hate. Blood Bowl Dwarves. Wasps. Spray painting in the rain. 

For most of these things, the is little that I can do. For the last one, however, I have a glorious solution. I give you the Deluxe Spray Painting Station (tm). 

Undercoating models with spray paint has never been my favourite occupation. That may be to do with one to many bad experiences (silver paint for varnish) but also has a lot to do with the rain. It's hard to get a good coverage when you rely on the natural weather systems of Somerset. 

Luckily I now have a garage. 

With some spare wood I knocked the station together. It has a very simple contraption, with three sides made of 6mm MDF, braced with some timber off cuts. The back is a single board of 2mm hardboard, as is the top (contrary to my earlier assumptions, a top is definitely necessary if you want to prevent the escape of poorly aimed bursts). The entire construction was then screwed to the wall. 

The centrepiece is an Ikea cheeseboard. It cost £5, spins on a central point and sits around a foot in diameter.

It works like a charm, but I should really learn to open the door and get some more ventilation into the place. 

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. 


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. 




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.