Tag Archives: Wargaming

Princes of the Universe by Cold War Miniatures

Or how Betamax changed my life.

Back in the heady days of the mid-eighties my Dad made a decision.  A decision that would resonate for the rest of my childhood.  A decision that would fundamentally change my outlook on life.  A decision that would be looked back on as one of the most important of the late 20th Century. He decided to buy a video recorder.

Not just any video recorder, but a Betamax video recorder.

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At least it was a front loader (‘stock footage’ – not a photo of the actual VCR, which was finally skipped a few years ago)

Those of you that know your history will recall that back in these times of big hair and constant fear of nuclear Armageddon there were a number of competing formats for home video.  Betamax (arguably technically superior) backed by Sony and VHS by JVC appeared as the top runners and therein entered into a brief period of competition from which one only would emerge triumphant (spoiler – it was VHS).  (Older readers may also remember other formats, including the curious Video 2000 with it’s curious two sided cassettes – something that remained in use in my school anyway well into the nineties, often wheeled into classrooms on giant wheeled trolleys also holding very flammable looking wooden framed TVs).

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The classic L-750

So the fateful decision having being made we were then the proud owner of a technically great machine, but within a few months without the ability to rent or buy any tapes.  What this did mean was that as a youngster I was limited to those films we taped off the telly and the increasingly rare (and often ex-rental) tapes we could still buy.  Accordingly I had a relatively small pool of things to watch, and watch them I did, repeatedly.  Some of my all-time favorite films were discovered during this period, including the 1978 animated version of the Lord of the Rings, the second 60’s Peter Cushing Doctor Who movie (Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD) and of course the camp, cult classic Flash Gordon.

 

I must have watched the 1980 Flash Gordon film hundreds of times over the past few decades, and I’ve often thought about how I might bring Flash to the tabletop.  A successful Kickstarter was recently run to publish a Flash Gordon setting for the Savage Worlds roleplaying system.  I’m more of a miniatures person though, and although the Kickstarter produced a limited set of miniatures they weren’t quick what I was looking for.

 

Fast forward to last year and a random Facebook post pointed me in the direction of Cold War Miniatures.  This is a small Scottish based miniatures produced (who interestingly despite their name do not have any Cold War ranges), but do have a number of interesting lines, including a wonderful range called Princes of the Universe (retro sci fi minis with a Flash Gordon flavour in 28mm scale miniatures in both resin and metal).  I ordered a couple late last year to check them out and they are very well sculpted, clean and crisp with no flash at all.

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Princes of the Universe by Cold War Miniatures

The style is very much based on the classic Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond from the 30’s and 40’s, with a significant nod to the Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe movie serials of the same time.  (The black and white serials were often shown daily during school summer holidays on TV in the UK and I remember watching  and loving these way before I got a view of the Technicolor delights of the 1980 Mike Hodges film.)

 

As regular readers of my blog may know, my go-to miniatures game is 7TV as it allows me to game pretty much what I want and allows me to field all those random cool toys that catch my eye.  So it is that my ‘Flash Gordon’ cast is beginning to take shape.  I’ve decided to concentrate on the good guys to start with, so an additional order to Cold War Miniatures has resulted in the fleshing out of the team to include not only the dashing hero, his muse and their mad scientist companion, but also a couple of alien princes (one at home in the forest kingdoms, the other a winged behemoth with a passion for shouting!)

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These guys are currently work in progress.  I am due to attend a couple of 7TV gaming days this year.  The one at Board in Brum in January might be a bit too soon to get these guys finished, however I’ve also recently signed up for the Wargames Illustrated 7TV day at Wargames Foundry in the summer (at which conveniently the new Pulp version of the rules will be being used).  (You can read about last year’s event elsewhere on the site).

 

I’d highly recommend checking Princes of the Universe and Cold War Miniatures in general.  Not only lovely miniatures but great service and very quick postage within the UK.  In addition to the miniatures I also bought from them a couple of the 3D print files for a rocket ship and some giant trees to go have a go at with my newly acquired toy (but that is a story for another time….)

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New toy

Twenty Eight Years Later – Warhammer 40k revisited

Last week I made another trip down to Warhammer World in Nottingham.  Following on from my October visit last year to play Kill Team, I made the short drive down the M1 with an old friend and his super keen young lad, but this time to give 40k a go.

Now the last time I played a game of Warhammer 40k was way back in the midst of time when I was about 12 years old – funnily enough the same age as my opponent for this game.  Back then of course we were still on first edition, i.e. Rogue Trader, and when I say ‘played’ I mean roughly moved some figures around on the floor and make some dice rolls.  (I distinctly remember that we played purely with the contents of one of the classic plastic Imperial Guard boxed sets.)

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Rogue Trader era Imperial Guard – participants in my only prvious game of 40k

So why come back to it now?  Well, this is partly down to the recent release of the aforementioned Kill Team (which I have been really enjoying) which itself is symptomatic of a significant change in direction for Games Workshop in the last few years.

When I first got back into gaming (after the obligatory break that most people of a certain age refer to), Games Workshop had just released Space Hulk Third Edition.  In fact it was seeing this that prompted me to fall in love with the hobby again.  However I soon discovered that the release of Space Hulk was the exception rather than the rule.  GW were very much in the mode of concentrating on their core games of 40k and Warhammer while seemingly continuing to minimise their engagement with the community and customer base.  Perhaps stung by the post Lord of the Rings crash this decision resulted in a set of products and supporting release schedule that became quite opaque and difficult to engage with as someone getting back into the hobby.  Multiple editions of Warhammer and Warhammer 40k came and went in the following years, each of which seemed to the casual outsider such as myself to become more bloated and impenetrable each time.

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Space Hulk Third Edition – my gateway back into the hobby

However something changed in recent years and the approach has been to engage more with the community, release more games (providing multiple jump on points for new gamers) and make their core games and IP more accessible and easier to get into.  For example the continued release and ongoing support of what used to be referred to as Specialist Games (for example Necromunda), the change in approach to both Warhammer (with Age of Sigmar) and 40k into an almost ‘living ruleset’ supporting and encouraging narrative gaming (as well as continuing to support the tournament scene) all aided in accessibility.  In addition the move into more public domain gateway products (such as the Conquest part work and a change in focus in White Dwarf) has meant for me personally I am much more interested and engaged in their offerings than I think I ever have been.

So to that end I’ve found myself actually being interested in expanding on what I have been doing recently with Kill Team and giving the main 40k game a go.  To be honest part of this is that I am loving painting tanks at the moment and I just want to get a lot of toys on the table at once!

As you can probably guess this means I have gone Imperial Guard (now known more commonly as Astra Millitarum) for my first army.  In a ode to my original games back in the late eighties/early nineties I have based their colour scheme on the classic Necromunda regiment embodied in the original Rogue Trader plastic box set.

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I’ve managed to pick up a few old school Rogue Trader minis and hope to field a Kill Team of these guys soon

Having pulled together a rough force (and again this is where I really like the new 40k with it giving you the flexibility to within reason just field what you want without having to worry too much about points and lists) I was challenged by my friend’s son to a game.

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I bolstered my Astra Millitarum with some Space Marine allies (Cobra’s Baroness not included!)

So how did it go?

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It didn’t go entirely to plan

Well, unsurprisingly not well for me.  My opponent had played a few times recently with his Dad (who was umpiring / supporting us on the day), is young (so can remember things like stats, special rules and tactics) and basically took it a whole lot more seriously than me (I was just making lots of ‘pew pew’ noises in my head as I pushed my troops around).  But you know what, it was a lot of fun.  It is always great playing at Warhammer World, the game was fun and although my Guard were utterly devoured by their Tyranid foes and the game retains an old fashioned and kind of clunky core mechanic (rolling to hit, to wound, to save) I’m definitely looking to expand my forces and play again.  Age of Sigmar might even be whispering in my ear (come on, I mean steampunk airship dwarves are a no brainer).

Any how, presented below are a few shots of the battle in progress, hopefully the first of many games this year.

Action Force Motor Pool – work in progress

I’ve been doing this Action Force in 28mm thing for a few years now.  I keep getting distracted, but always get pulled back in.  I blogged recently about the ultimate goal of getting a Roboskull to the table, but this reminded me I have a number of part finished other vehicles to add to the motor pool.  So with a concerted effort I have gone back and revisited these.

Most of the vehicles I have previously started have been for the ‘Enemy’.  I’ve kind of handled this in a couple of different ways – both accurate replicas of the toys/comics and an ‘inspired by’  approach.

The latter has basically involved me finding models and toys (in the right scale) that kind of fit the setting.  For Action Force themselves this could be standard military type kit such as land rovers or tanks (concentrating on the eighties period), but for the Red Shadows I’ve thought a bit wider.  So this has led to some interesting choices and conversions.  Presented below are a couple of the more wild ideas I have completed, including a flying saucer and a ‘Dust 1947’ plane.

I’ve also recently gone down the ‘walker’/’mech’ route as well, utilising a Konflikt 47 resin/metal model kit from Warlord Games.  A head swap for the pilot and voila – the Red Spider!

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Going further back to the German World War II inspiration for the Enemy, many years ago I picked up a Tamiya 1:48 scale Sdkfz.69. I’ve recently gone back and finished this, with the idea that this could represent the ubiquitous Shadowtrak.

And this brings me back to the other of the two top level options – accurate replicas of the toys in 28mm scale.  The obvious route to go down here is 3D printing – more about this later.  However there is at least one off the shelf option that is (relatively) widely available.

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This is a novelty gift pack / toy by Running Press – the sort of thing you normally see for sale in stands next to checkouts in bookshops alongside Harry Potter wands or small TARDIS or Dalek models.  This particular item represents a Cobra HISS tank, better known to Action Force aficionados as the Enemy (and later Cobra) Hyena.  The scale is pretty much spot on for 28mm scale.

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3D printed Hyena from Shapeways in the foreground, unpainted gift toy version at the back.  28mm scale Red Shadow for scale.

This is also sometimes available from third party sellers on Amazon, and that is where a few years ago I picked up half a dozen of these bad boys.  Out of the box it is coloured black and comes with a set of Cobra stickers to apply as well as an information booklet.  It also has sound!  Press a button on the turret and you get a slightly cartoony laser gun sound – totally unnecessary, but totally amazing.

I’ve painted these in a slightly different way than usually.  As the base model is black, I wanted the main body to be red, but also wanted to leave a lot of the detail untouched (including the clear canopy in case I ever wanted to add a driver); I’ve gone down the Gundam marker route…..

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Gundam markers are named for and used almost exclusively in the Gunpla (Gundam kit building) community.  They come in various types ranging from large nibbed pens that apply enamel paint on application of pressure to fine tipped markers which are used for panel lining.  I’ve found these to be an interesting addition to my hobby toolkit.

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For the Hyena I used a thick nibbed paint pen to apply a base coat of red (leaving some of the recesses black where appropriate).  Once dry (which takes a while longer for enamels) I drybrushed a light red acrylic over this to apply both a highlight and to dull down the shininess of the enamel base coat.  The markings were applied with a thinner nibbed marker.

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So, the elephant in the room then?  Yes 3D printing.  I still covet a printer of my own, but in the meantime and for those like me bereft of the hardware there are still plenty of options.  There are a surprising number of 3D models of GI Joe vehicles out there (just search on Shapeways or Thingiverse).  I have in the past both ordered a printed model from the former, but more recently have been able to get some files printed out by a friend.

Currently on my workbench are these two beauties – a Red Shadows Laser Exterminator (aka a GI Joe HAL) and an SAS Panther jeep (aka a Cobra Stinger).  I’m going to do a detailed prep, build and painting guide on these in a future blog.

Where things are a little lacking in availability of 3D models on line is in those Action Force vehicles that weren’t based on existing GI Joe toys back in the day.  What that does mean is that there is in particular a big Shadowtrak and Roboskull shaped hole in the Baron’s armoury.

Talking of the Roboskull…..

Revisiting Star Wars Legion

Earlier in the year I got really invested in Legion, the tabletop miniatures game in the Star Wars universe, published by Fantasy Flight Games. Having spent some time assembling and painting minis, I immediately got distracted (as all good hobby butterflys do) by terrain and re-utilising old toys for the tabletop.  A couple of vintage Kenner / Palitory AT-ATs were purchased from eBay (and then resold as I say sense), as were some Rebel Transports, a U-Wing and various other bits and pieces.

Then as often happens I just didn’t get to play the game.  I had a learning game with my good friend and gaming compadre, Mr.Hawkins, back in the Spring and then nothing.  This was partly due to the distraction of other shiny things, and partly because my best chance of getting a game was at my local club.  Due to other commitments I wasn’t able to get down and I missed most of the monthly meetings over the summer.

However this last Sunday I was finally able to Legion to the tabletop for a couple of games at Matlock and Dales WRG (at the request of another member who similarly had sat on the game for quite a while without actually playing).

I’m no good at reviews, but will say this (and have said so before); it’s a good game.  A very good game.  Bearing striking similarities to other Star Wars games in the Fantasy Flight catalogue (lots of tokens and cards, custom dice, the ‘surge’ mechanic), it seems to have ironed out some of the inconsistencies and clunkiness of games like Armada and Imperial Assault.  Adding to the mix an alternative unit activation mechanic and innovative and intuitive command and control element, this puts it above many similar games I have had experience of in the past. My opponent and I did get quite a few things wrong in the early rounds, but this wasn’t really noticed and didn’t interupt the cinematic flow of the game (I was making a lot of ‘pew pew’ sound effects in my head).

In getting ready for the game I wanted to just share a couple of hints and tips, both on the painting and army construction side of things.

While I had got at least a basecoat down on most of my miniatures (the contents of two core boxes and a handful of expansions), there were a few I had not yet touched.  It wouldn’t be realistic to get everthing done in time for the game (real life is quite hectic at the moment), but I at least wanted to be avoid playing with any completely unpainted models.

Therefore I concentrated on detailing up all the Imperial Stormtroopers I had previously undercoated white, adding in some basic detail and making them tabletop ready (with the intention of going back and finishing them off to a higher standard later).  Here, the humble toothpick was my friend.  Rather than rely on a brush and a steady hand to pick out the black details on helmets and armour and to minimise the chances of despoling that trademark white with any overbrushing I found toothpicks gave me the control and steadyness I needed (but maybe not the patience!).  This was particularly useful when doing helmet eye lenses and something I will try out for painting eyes in general moving forward.

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Small detail on the Stormtroopers applied using a toothpick. Note Revell TIE Fighter model kit as scenery (yes I know wrong era, but it does have working sound!)

My next job was to paint up the only fully unpainted squad I had not yet tackled, the Rebel Fleet Troopers.  These are the guys who valiantly get slaughtered by Darth Vader at the begining of the very first Star Wars film (and of course we now know this fight continued on from the end of Rogue One).  As figures go, I think these are some of the nicest that have been released so far.  Very characterful sculpts and true to the films.  I’d picked these guys up at UK Games Expo back in June, assembled them and then, well, got distracted…

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While they didn’t do too well on screen, they were pretty rock solid on the tabletop!

Taking a very methodical approach I blocked out each colour (having applied a grey undercoat).  Following a production line approach of doing all of one colour across the squad before returning to the first and adding the next hue I was able to get these guys done in only a couple of hours.  I left the dark grey undercoat showing through for the mainly black coloured vests and let Army Painter washes do the rest.

The squad leader is based on Captain Antilles from the film and follows a different scheme.  The intention with these is that I will go back and do some proper basing and highlighting at a later date.

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“If this is a consular ship, where is the ambassador?”

I have to say I’m not a huge fan of painting armies or even squads (I much prefer to do more individual character models): however the fact I was actually going to able to field these in a game was a real motivator.

The Rebel Fleet Troopers proved to be a really solid choice in play (and are my new favourites), having almost taken down Vader in the first game.  Some form of sweet revenge for their on screen performance perhaps?

Using Tabletop Admiral
Preparation and list building using Tabletop Admiral

I also just wanted to give a quick mention to the Tabletop Admiral online army building application for Legion.  I used this to quickly knock up the forces the night before the game allowing me to sort out cards, tokens and minis quickly beforehand and enabling us to setup quickly on the day.  If you are a player of Imperial Assault or Runewars this also might be of interest to you.

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My next distraction – Star Wars style buildings in MDF. Please note that no Play Doh was required for construction!

 

 

Road Warriors and Freeway Fighters

Post Apocalypse (PA) is all the rage nowadays. However the overarching theme and context no longer tends to be the aftermath of global conflict or nuclear armageddon, but the encroachment of the walking dead or the dystopian future nightmares of settings first originated by the likes of Orwell and entrenched in popular culture by the likes of The Handmaids Tale.

This kind of speculative fiction tends to be reflective of current social and geo-political conditions. From a tabletop gaming perspective while many of these themes and settings are future based, you can easily identify the time period in which they originated and were written. However trends have a way of coming back.

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Recently we have seen an upturn in the emergence of the traditional post-nuclear PA settings, particularly that wasteland populated by road warriors and freeway fighters inspired by a certain style of movies from the early eighties and starting of course with Mad Max. Part of this can be explained by the cycle of nostalgia that appears to work on 30 year intervals. Recent games and rulesets like Gaslands, Devils Run Route 666 and the upcoming 7TV Apocalypse capture this feel. If you want to roll back to the steps leading up to armageddon there is a renewed interest in Cold War Gone Hot and World War III with the likes of Team Yankee and the upcoming Battlegroup NORTHAG.

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My current favourite set of rules are 7TV by Crooked Dice Game Design Studio. A great and most importantly fun game that effectively allows your to recreate TV shows (and films) on your tabletop with tongue usually firmly in cheek. In fact the game is effectively a game about making a TV series. You dont have armies or warbands, you put together a cast containing stars, co-stars and extras. You spend ‘plot points’ to take actions, the card driven event mechanic allows things such as continuity mistakes, special effects mistakes and issues with difficult stars to affect gameplay. Now in its second edition the game is primarily focussed on the spy-fy genre (think Bond, Gerry Anderson, the ITC action series of the 60s), is figure agnostic but is supported by a great range of 28mm scale miniatures available directly from Crooked Dice.

7TV is branching out soon into the Post Apocalypse, with a standalone game that takes the core mechanics of second edition and tweaks the flavour and setting. Most notably the existing vehicle rules have been expanded to accomodate those Road Warrior type scenarios. The full game is due to hit Kickstarter this Autumn, but I had the opportunity back in July to attend a play test / campaign day to try out these rules.

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One of the coolest things about this sort of thing from a hobbyists point of view is the creativity that it allows for things like conversions and sourcing figures. For the play test day I had to put together a cast and include a suitably post-apocalypsed up vehicle. I went for a ‘big rig’ approach and with a nod to 7TVs cult tv background a cast based around Garth Knight and his Goliath truck from Knightrider (imaging after the fall of society Garthe would be a magnet for scavengers and marauders).

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Since then I’ve been bitten hard by the bug and have spent more time sourcing vehicles, bits, conversion parts and miniatures. This blog series will cover this project in detail as I prepare, strap on my survivalist gear, rev up the V8, scavenge the gasoline and face the white line nightmare of the wastelands.

7TV Apocalypse Campaign Day – Part 1

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd annual 7TV Campaign Day organised by Wargames Illustrated and held in the wonderful surroundings of Foundry Miniatures at Stoke Hall near Newark.

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7TV is a game system very close to my heart.  As a fan of cult TV and a gamer when Crooked Dice first began releasing figures a few years ago I lapped them up.  It’s only recently since I closed my wargaming business and joining a club that I have got to play wargames regularly and 7TV has been a go-to game.

I’m not going to do a full review of the game here, only to say it’s fun.  A lot of fun.  And very flexible.  If like me you just like collecting models and miniatures because they look cool then this is the game for you.  After all 7TV is a game about making a TV programme and you can just about make a TV programme about anything (as is all too apparent if you switch it on nowadays – I’m looking at you Channel 5).

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So in addition to the usual Spy-Fi tropes that the game tends to be focussed on there is also the possibility of doing sci-fi (half a dozen or so rebels against an evil Federation perhaps), historicals (maybe that one series where Sean Bean doesn’t die) and of course the big screen across multiple genres.

Coming up later this year (and due to be funded via Kickstarter) is 7TV Apocalypse.  This will be a complete game system based on 7TV 2nd Edition focused on recreating and gaming in post apocalyptic (PA) settings.  Nowadays PA settings tend to mean Zombies (and indeed there was a variant of 1st Edition 7TV that covered this).  However the new game is wider than that, think: Mad Max, Day of the Triffids, Survivors, Threads (*shudder*), 28 Days Later, Children of Men and so on.  (Zombies will be in there too!)

Taking the first example of Mad Max, one of the key additions to the rules is a more comprehensive way of dealing with vehicles and vehicular combat in order to replicate the ‘white line fever’ of ‘a few years from now’.  In addition to this there will be an associated set of new archetypes and a tweak to the Heroes/Villains approach of the Spy-Fi version (no one is a good guy in the wastelands).

The game is due to go to Kickstarter in Autumn and will hoping fund both a box set and a whole pile of lead and resin.  Karl at Crooked Dice has begun to release a number of miniatures and vehicles already and you can check some of them out here.

The campaign day would be an opportunity for a group of 7TV enthusiasts to get together to try out these new rules and feedback on them, while having a relaxed day of gaming with like minded individuals.

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Having been provided a copy of the beta rules a few weeks beforehand, attendess were asked to put together a ‘cast’ for the day, including a suitably modelled post apolaypse style vehicle.  I was originally going to go down the Action Force route and put together a Red Shadows faction with some support.  Then I remembered the 1:48 scale toy truck I had bought a few months ago when the ‘not’ Michael Knight figure was released by Crooked Dice.  My original intention was to model up Goliath and the evil Garthe King for use in a standard game of 7TV; so why not apocalypse it up a bit?

I needed to flesh out the rest of my cast and found a set of miniatures I got years ago for ‘Across the Dead Earth’, and so Garthe and the Red Claw gang were born.

Next time I’ll cover the day in detail and go into some detail as to how the games went, as well as waxing lyrical about the venue.

So in true TV style – End of Part One (we’ll be back after these messages)!

Using Toys and Scale Models for Star Wars Legion

I resisted for a long time….

The lure of the dark side was too much though and a few weeks ago I dived into Star Wars Legion, purchasing the core set, the AT-ST and the Airspeeder expansions.

I’ve not had a chance to play the game yet, but I’m aiming to get one in at our next club meeting in Matlock in May.

Then I got distracted…..

By toys….. (actual toys).

More specifically toys and model kits that I could use on the table top to enhance my games of Legion. Inspired in part by the excellent coverage and similar ideas raised on Beasts of War I started scouring the popular auction site.

First off, let’s cover model kits…

So the elephant in the room then: scale. Legion figures are chunky (controversially so, but that is a discussion for another time). At best guess I’d go for 32 to 35mm or in model kit speak about 1:48. The two best sources for scale model kits at present are Bandai and Revell.

Bandai kits are high quality, usually pre-coloured, snap-fit and relatively inexpensive. However they are not that easy to get hold of. Bandai hold the Star Wars license in the far east only, so even via eBay you are looking at potential a long wait and customs charges if you are unlucky.

 

Scale wise they vary – most star fighter kits are 1:72 (too small), but they do one or two kits in 1:48 which are pretty spot on (ironically the two vehicles that are available anyway for Legion – the AT-ST and the Airspeeder).

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Bandai 1/48 (left) FFG Legion (right)

Revell on the other hand are much easier to get hold of (even on the ever more sparse high streets of the UK). However here’s the catch, the scales are really all over the place! 1:106, 1:44, 1:50, 1:78 to name but a few.  That said there are a few gems in the current range that fit really nicely on a Legion tabletop.

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Revell 1/44 A-Wings

The A-wings above are 1:44 scale, easy assemble and pre-coloured (they also come with added light and sound effects).

 

Also pretty spot on in terms of scale is the First Order Special Forces TIE fighter.

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Revell 1/50 Build and Play Special Forces TIE Fighter

A word of warning on this one though. Revell do two different versions, this is the 1:50 scale ‘build and play’ kit; there is also a larger 1:35 kit.  Obvious problem with these?  They aren’t classic trilogy era; but you know for a bit of flavour on the tabletop I can over look that!

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So that’s model kits.  Next up toys…….