Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 10th, 2017 - Unexpected Treasures

Photo of the box label

My usual FLGS has a big sale about this time of the year, basically to do inventory reduction, and they tend to offer pretty deep discounts on merchandise that has not been - shall we say? - 'a hot seller'. Normally, I stay away from the big shopping sprees because I don't like big and noisy crowds, but Fifth Daughter wanted to stop in and puck up her weekly ration of comic books. I browsed the back corners and the darker areas of the shelves, and came across two old boxes of plastic figures.

These are Wargames Factory 'Numidians', and are (I presume) no longer in production due to the excessively troubled history of the company. I tend to shy away from their products, firstly because I din't have any use for the vast majority of their product line, and secondly because the quality of their figures varies pretty wildly. I'd already gotten the very nice Victrix 'Numidians', so I wasn't all that willing to take a chance on these - unless the holiday sale discount could weaken my resolve, I wasn't going to get these.

I asked one of the store's people if I could neak a peek at what was in the box, and I would up grabbing both boxes on the spot. (Something like 56 figures, across both boxes.) Two things sold me on these: the castings actually looked pretty good - unlike the 'Republican Romans' from the same company, these had nice and crisp details - and the figures are a guy in a tunic. With a choice of arms, all with open hands.

Let me repeat that. A guy in a tunic, with open hands.

All of the weapons and accessories included in the box - and you get a heap of them, too! - are on separate sprues. So, these figures can be used for literally anything that I need for my games. Artillery crews, light infantry, palanquin bearers, townspeople, merchants, servants, family retainers, and that guy who pushes a broom around the hallways of the temple complex.

Here are some reviews, if you like:

I should also mention that there aer enough spare arms in this set to fix the Republcan Romans set that the store was nice enough to sell me after we found out that none of the right arm sprues had been packed in that set; so, these sets are even more useful, as far as I'm concerned. (The WF Romans are still 'mushy', in terms of their detail, but this is going to be better then just tossing them in the trash.)

Back in the day, both Phil and I used to go through piles and piles of John McEwan's very handy generic male and female figures; we were using them for all sorts of things like galley rowers, moving crews, and the like. (I went through fifty of them doing the rowers for the little dispatch galley I made for Phil out of a Heller kit, back in about 1982.) I love to get figures like this; most miniatures companies tend to shy away from them, as these kinds of figures don't have any real use in 'classically serious' wargames - you usually don't need a dozen Ancient Egyptian trumpet-blowers and fan-bearers on the game table, unless (like me) tou like doing parties at the palace or the triumphal entry of the player-characters after their latest victory. (See also Verdi's "Aida".)

As I've noted in these pages, you can get these sorts of figures from Mike Burns at Dark Fable, and Howard Fielding's Tekumel Project also has figures that do very nicely for my kind of games - priests and priestesses, for starters. You can also find useful figures in the Crocodile Games ranges; Foundry also used to have a lot of miniatures like this in their historical ranges, but I don't know if any of them are still available. I have a batch of treasured 'Macedonian Characters', which are guys in tunics with straw hats:

These lads have been in a great many games, mostly as those much-put-upon-fishermen who are always being 'persuaded' by the players to take them someplace in their boats. Foundry figures are hard - if not impossible - to get locally, so mail-order is probably the only way to go if you're in the US. Ral Partha also used to have a lot of these sorts of figures in their historical lines; I have a batch of trumpeters and fan-bearer for those 'sword and sandal' epics I love to put on. And, they are still available, too:

Miniatures like all of these are inspirations for adventures; both Phil and I used to come up with scenarios for wargames and adventures for RPGs based on some miniature we'd found in some obscure corner of the hobby - and I still find that kind of inspiration, as with these unexpected treasures from the back of the shelf...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Weekly Update - Wednesday, December 6th, 2017 - Five Years On, And Where We Are

before The Incident

after The Incident

I happened to discover, entirely by accident, that Photobucket has cut the links to this blog, so that my posts of a certain age have been deleted from their original messages. I can replace some of them from the Google albums, and I'll see if I can't do that. With over five years of posts being affected, it may take a while.

Speaking of five years having gone by, it's been five years since The Incident. I was so busy moving jobs that I clean forgot to note the occasion, back in September. As you might guess, I am still alive, and in the human normal range, largely because of a number of pretty severe changes I made in my life. A lot of people who gave me a lot of stress and annoyance are now gone, likewise a lot of activities that cause me the same kind of annoyance have been left behind.

I find that I have little to no interest in playing games, any more. I think a lot of this is because I don't have the patience to sit quietly and listen to the other folks at the table talk over the situation in the game endlessly, over-thinking the most basic actions. I certainly don't mind them doing it for themselves, it's when I'm sitting there for literally hours waiting to do something that's the issue. I still enjoy running games for people; I had a great time at The Source's 'Free RPG Day', for example, and I'm enjoying introducing people to Tekumel in the current D&D 5e campaign at the same venue. For as long as somebody wants have me in to run games for them, I'll be happy to do it. People seem to enjoy what I do, and I enjoy doing it - so, I think, we have something going.

I am still enjoying building things ; we play-tested the floor plans of my palace, this past weekend, and it went well; the building 'works' as both a palace and as a model, so we'll get to gluing and cutting over the holidays. The 2' x 2' modular format worked very well, and the modules with fit through doors - which, as you might guess, is A Very Big Deal. The Missus is sourcing carpeting, TRE Games is doing the furniture, and I am a pretty happy camper over this project.

Along the way, I have been reducing my time spent on Internet forums, especially the ones that describe themselves as 'standard-bearers of the OSR'. I'm find that the discussions have very little to do with the kind of gaming that we did back in the late '70s and early '80s, and are usually so far away from what I know about and what I do that I have very little in common with most of the posters, and they have very little in common with me. So, I have wound down most of my on-line writing, and have put that time and energy into "To Serve The Petal Throne".

A lot of my model-building is also finding inspiration and grounding in the book and our adventures with Phil in his world. The palace project is a good example of that, as is the current painting projects that I'm doing. I'm happier and more productive, so I think we're on to a good thing.

So, life is good.

Oh, yeah; it's my birthday today; I am 61. :)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Weekly Update - Sunday, November 26th, 2017 - The Missus, The Macedonians, And The Money

The Missus's new mercenaries

I'm hoping that people are having a good holiday weekend; we visited family Thursday, I went to The Source on Friday, and yesterday and today I'm in the game room getting the old place cleaned up. I'm expecting visitors next Sunday, after the game session, and I thought it would be nice if we could actually get into the game room. The new video rack has, after lots of sweat and straining, been moved into the video alcove to replace the old systems and all I have to do now is clean up after myself.

The 'short trip' to The Source turned into a seven hour jaunt, which was just heaps of fun; I got to talk to gamers about gaming, without any of the 'Serious Gamer' attitude that I've run into recently. Just a lot of folks talking to me about my time in gaming and how I game; I also got to talk to Tim Erickson of TRE Games for quite a while, which is always fun and informative.

Besides picking up stuff (comics and some board games) for The Daughter-In-Residence, I was picking up some more Romans for the 'Cleopatra Braunstein' that I'm building - I really must come up with a better name for that game! - and in the budget discussions with She Who Must Be Obeyed I was informed that I could have my Romans if she could have some Macedonians.

Huh? Run that one past me again?

Yep; the Missus hasn't played games in years - due to her health issues, really - but she does maintain a lovely interest in the goings-on in the game room. So, in a move that caught me by surprise, she's funding some 80 more Macedonians (A box of 40 as seen above, and a box of 40 Warlord Spartans so we can say we've got some Greek mercenaries in the game) for the various Egyptian players to plot against, bribe, suborn, coerce, and generally carry on in the usual Braunstein manner. Gold coins courtesy of a party shop; look in their 'pirate party' section for bags o' loot.

So, I'll paint these up fo her, and I think I'll have fun doing so. The Macedonians are all rank-and-file figures, so I'll have to dig around in the parts boxes for arms to make the command figures; same for the Spartans - what I think is interesting about this box is that it is the 'generic Greek hoplite' sprues with additional 'Spartan Upgrade Sprues' with the different heads and some cast metal accessories. The three boxes of Romans are the 'Legionaries' and 'Veterans' we've reported on before, and a box of the 'Caesarian' Romans.

I got the latter not because they are the 'historically correct' figures - they are, of course - but because Dark Fable's 'Legend of Cleopatra' included some actual historical figures; at this period, with the expansion of Rome in progress, everybody and their treasuries had copied the Roman 'guy-in-a-mail-shirt-and-bronze-helmet-with-an-oval-shield' look, which to my jaundiced cinematic eyes makes for pretty boring-looking battles on the table top. Hence the mob in lorica, but I know full well that with two units of 'guy-in-a-mail-shirt-and-bronze-helmet-with-an-oval-shield' figures on the table, mayhem will ensue; the players will not be able to keep them straight, and once again we'll see what makes the Braunstein game what it is. Personality figures I got; I raided the trays of Tekumel figures, and pulled out all the odds and sods of Romans who have been masquerading as Tsolyani marines and officers. I also have three 'testudo' stands someplace, so we'll add those so you can do this scene:

I first saw this movie decades ago, and I've always wanted to put the attack on the Moon Gate on the table. I'm still dithering over what to do with the Roman archers I got a long time ago to use as Salarvyani; I have plenty of archers for them, thanks to the Celtos line and various historicals, so I think I'll transfer those Foundry 'Eastern Archers' back to the legions - and finally finish painting them, too!

And I will say that as Howard Fielding, he of The Tekumel Project, goes from strength to strength, I'm getting less and less inclined to be satisfied using all sorts of odds and ends of historical figures in my Tekumelyani forces. I'll keep the ones that I bought specifically for them and have painted up where they've serves so well for some forty years, but all the unpainted and half-painted figures that I've bought 'on spec' are going to get a new posting and get into action.

I am having heaps of fun, like I had back in the day, and really enjoying my new lease on gaming.

Much more to come! :)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Weekly Update - Sunday, November 19th, 2017 - The News And Letters From The Complaints Department

'Blue' Section, Display Two

It has been a very busy couple of weeks here at the Workbench! I have not one, but two daughters in the honors society at their college; they were inducted into Phi Theta Kappa - the two-year college branch of the organization - this past week and I am very proud of both of them. Their sister continues her medical degree program back home in Zurich; no informaion of late from her, but I'll pass along anything I can get as soon as I get it.

Pickings in the surplus market have been superb over the past two weeks; I was able to find a complete Skyline 'Mosaic' display unit for a very good price that really fills out our range of displays and gives us pretty much unlimited options for the kinds of events that I want to run. 'Blue' Section is a pair of Skyline 'Mirage' table-mounted space frames with matching-but-different fabric sets that I've used for Free RPG Day at the local FLGS; these will be the core displays for both the "Chirine's Workbench" and "To Serve The Petal Throne" displays when I do events. 'Green' Section is the really 'heavy artillery', with both the new 'Mosaic' display and the massive 'Mirage' 8' high and 10' wide wall. There are also workstations for interactive displays as well as the usual acrylic literature and graphics displays. I am, I think, now set up for any kind of event regardless of size or venue. I'm pretty please with it all, I have to say, and the ultimate 'trade show booth' - the Tsolyani tent and furniture - waits in the wings for those really special events.

All of this is part of my 'marketing plan' for how I want to move forward into the future. I am, more and more, finding that going back to my roots in the hobby is both finding a larger audience and give me a lot more fun then what's been going on in my gaming life of late; which is a segue to why I'm going back to my roots - some of the complaints that I've been getting from various people...

Letters from Over The Transom - Samples From The Complaints Department

"Why are you buying Pathfinder and D & D figures? You don't play either game, so why spend the money on them?" - sales clerk at the FLGS

Because I like them, and I can use them in my games. Since you were very worked up about this, I asked your dad, the store's owner, if it was all right to buy miniatures from him and he told me that I could spend as much money in your store as I wanted to. I hope that's all right with you; I can get a note from him, if you'd be happier.

"Why are you painting miniatures? You're not a serious gamer, because you don't play serious games with serious people in a serious gaming group." - local miniatures gamer

Once again, because I like them. As for the 'serious gamer' complaint, guilty as charged. I've played with the people in your 'serious gaming group' in the past, and I wouldn't do it again. No laughter at the table, and the way some of you folks picked up my pikemen by the dozen by their pikes kinda turned me off. I'll keep my Macedonians at home, thank you. As for my using 'serious historical miniatures' in my 'non-historical and non-serious games' like the Cleopatra Braunstein, all I can say is that both the manufacturers and retailers of these figures seem very happy at the idea of taking my money. Can't imagine why, really; maybe it's 'cause you nearly lost the FLGS a $120 sale this past week.

"Your figures are obscene! If you bring them to the FLGS, I'll have you run out of the store!!!" - both the same local miniatures gamer and a miniatures manufacturer

Any figures that I buy are approved in advance by The Missus and my daughters. There are some lines of figures that we will not purchase, due to their subject content and lack of taste, but we do buy figures that are historically dressed (Ancient Egyptian, or Barsoomian, for example) and are useful to us in our games. You don't have to play with them , or with us; we do not want to offend your sensibilities. As for bad-mouthing one's own products, I'd like to suggest that may be not the best way to encourage sales of your products. Luckily for you and your company, The Missus was able to look beyond your comments at your figures.

"You shouldn't be playing in this (D&D 5th Edition) campaign because you don't know all the ins and out of the rules like I do!"

Sounds good to me; I don't like 'rules layers', and I don't play with them. I handed in my PC sheet to the GM, so I don't play in that campaign any more. Instead, the GM and players invited me back as an associate GM, and I'm now running their visit to the world of the Petal Throne for them. You're welcome to come and play, if you like; I don't insist that you memorize all of the rules ahead of time.

And with that, it's off to the grocery store for the holiday shopping. More later!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Arresting The Loading Cycle: The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 5th, 2017

The Indiegogo is funded!!! Woo Hoo!!!

More of Lord Chirine's baggage, courtesy of The Missus

First off, the big news around here is that Mike Burns and Dark Fable miniatures has had the newest Indiegogo campaign fully fund, and we still have three weeks left to run! Five sets of Anubis warriors, one set of the Scorpion Lord's minions, and a two-stage genie that has all of the ladies in the family chortling - she's got a look on her face that tells her summoners to be very, very careful about what they might wish for...

We'll be getting in on this campaign at the 7th level, as we can use all of the figures in our games. (should I do an 'Ancient Egyptian' label to help find things here?) If you haven't looked in on the Dark Fable campaign, may I suggest:

My alter-ego's baggage train also has gotten an addition, courtesy of The Missus and an end-of-season sale; there's a bit in "To Serve The Petal Throne" where the newly-ennobled Lord Chirine's bearers are loading his baggage into the cart for the trip from Meku to Fasiltum, when they find out that their new employer has a chest with a set of cast iron cookware. It's always been a part of our Tekumel gaming to have props around - Phil started it, it's not my fault! :) - and I'd been on the lookout for a sort of camping set for a while; we found this set, 'Fancy Flames' FF240, with all of the cookware needed for comfortable adventuring and a nice chest to load it all into. Coupled with the hand-forged iron fire tripod we got from a blacksmith up on the Iron Range (at the Tower-Soudan Iron Mine, to be precise) we now have all of the campaign / outdoor / camping cooking set for we've always wanted both for ourselves and our player-characters to use.

The Missus is threatening to do a Tsolyani cook-out, next summer. Watch this space.

I still have to replace the little cast-iron grill I used to own, which saw a lot of use on the balconies of the fannish apartment building where I lived and gamed in the late 1970s. It got lost in a move, decades ago, and I do miss the thing. The Missus, Queen of the Internet, says I can get a replacement so that will be something for the future. I have charcoal; she has food; I think we're in business.

One of our dreams, back in the day, was to have a 'trade show booth' where it looked like a Tsolyani merchant or noble had arrived for a visit, and not like the usual 'two-chairs-behind-a-folding-table' routine that we normally had at conventions and shows. We have been collectiong all of the stuff for this over the pat ten years or so, and we can now do this - just for the fun of it, really. When I get some warmer weather, next year, I'll set it all up and post photos of it for everyone. For a 'real' trade show or exhibition, we have the three Skyline displays as seen in these pages; I use these for gaming events and such, as they are quick, easy, and eye-catching.

In other news, the new chests are swallowing up stuff at a truly amazing rate; I have lots of now-spare milk-carton crates and plastic tubs to go back into the household fleet, and I am starting to be able to actually find everything I own. (There's a cordless drill that's been missing for over a year, but I'll find it. Eventually.) The spaces in the game room are getting a lot more empty, which I like as you can see all the good stuff that's down there. Also going into storage will be Castle Tilketl, in it's crate, and some of the large ships in the collection - ever tried storing a 25mm Hlyss nest ship?

So, lots of fun stuff going on; I'm very pleased with the developments, and looking forward to be able to do my own 'call in show' from my game room / studio! :)