Saturday 27 November 2010

Beautiful Great Britain

Arctic air is flowing over Southern England bringing frost and even a light dusting of snow.

This picture was taken by Anthony Spencer (note it is copyright), one of the finest landscape photographers in the world. It is of Corfe Castle in the Westcountry, the rural part of S. England. I used to take my girlfriend there when I was working in Bournemouth. She was a student at London University and used to visit me for the weekend. The pictgure has won the landscape photo of the year award.

See more of Spencer's amazing work here:

Friday 26 November 2010

Pulp Sci Fi - Heros and Heroines

English Heroines

What would pulp be without heroes and heroines. Now admittedly, heroines once existed largely to swoon and be rescued from a-fate-worse-than-death. That always puzzled me when I was a small boy. I first came across the term in a Saint novel. The heroine was delighted to be buried alive rather than suffer a fate worse than death. What was a fate worse than death? Could it be double maths followed by physics?

But I digress. Modern heroines are more in the Laura Croft variety, having only large breasts in common with heroines of old. So in that spirit, I introduce Lady Jane Wellesly (on the left), her obnoxious brat of a younger sister, the Honourable Harriet "Harri" Wellesly, and their Butler Jeeves. The ladies have ray guns, large breasts and skin tight clothes. Any villian trying to shoot them must first pass an evil test in order to concentrate and ignore their charms. I assume all villains are heterosexual, even the green ones with tentacles. Heroines are never killed. They are always captured instead for a fate worse than death until rescued by a hero.

Note also that the lady's ray guns double as portable hair dryers to deal with those complex hair dos. Great care must be taken with ray gun settings as a mistake could lead to a bad hair day, which is almost as bad as a fate worse than death.

Jeeves has adopted his No 5 body with alien and villain handling arms - snip, snip - also emploed to deal with over enthusiastic heroes who attempt to rescue heroines before they are captured. Jeeves does not die either; he is just deactivated until the next episode.

All American Heroes

Definitely heroine rescuing hero types. Note the square jaws and the pecks. I give you Captain Savage and the Lone Ranger. Heroes are also never killed. They are always captured for a fate worse than death. This does not involve homosexual villains but incarceration until the villain can devise a suitably evil and painful death, preferably involving carnivorous fish and laser beams. However, heros may, at any moment escape with a single bound. Careful observers will note that the good captain has already escaped once - he still has the manacles on from where he burst his chains - and his shirt.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Monday 22 November 2010

Life is a funny business. My most successful scientific project came to fruition after I retired.
See Nerc News


Friday 19 November 2010

Rules for Pulp Sci-Fi

Dan Dare

Back in the '50s and early 60s, small boys such as myself read the Eagle. Its lead comic strip was Dan Dare, pilot of the future, set in the late 1990s. Dan Dare was chief pilot for Space Fleet and lived in a wonderful high tech England with monoball cars and, my favourite, the atomic hand grenade. Even London Transport had monorails.

The Mekon - sworn enemy of Dan Dare

OK, enough of nostalgia. I have been think about designing a set of 50s sci-fi rules for Dan Dare, or Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Fireball XLF or whatever.

The trick to designing a game is to decide the subject matter, and to stick to it, removing or simplifying all else. A wargame cannot be all things to all men. For example, Hammers Slammers is a platoon level modern battle cavalry combat game set in colonial warfare. All else is subsumed. You want detailed infantry combat, semi-rpg in a tank, operational warfare, high intensity armoured warfare, guerrilla warfare... - then look elsewhere.

The more you try to lever into a game, the more unplayable, and unrealistic, it becomes. Detail kills realism as well as playability. The first step, therefore, in designing a game is tot to dive into detail but to take a step back and ask - what is it about?

OK so what is a pulp sci-fi game about?

Here are a few ideas: heroes & villains, femme fatales and heroines, sidekicks, monsters and aliens, unnamed people in red shirts who dies easily, wacky technology and transport, psi-powers, alien worlds, and traditional plots.

Unimportant: plots that make sense, weapon details (all rayguns have much the same effect, range etc), and realistic military combat.

What I would like to know is – How would YOU amend my list? What would you look for in a 50s Sci-Fi game. What are the key features that MUST be included? What can be dumped for ease of play?


Thursday 18 November 2010

Witch of Endor

I participated in a playtest of the draft of a new set of Pulp Sci-Fi rules from Eureka Miniatures, which were rather good incidentally.

It has rekindled my urge to finish my pulp figures. Here is the finished Witch of Endor team. The witch is a psychic telekinetic. Her bodyguard conists of the Masked Assassins, led by the Thespian Assassin Simone. She can morph her face with the aid of a death mask, to resemble anybody. The assassins have energised swords that can deflect small arms fire.

Monday 15 November 2010

Pulp Sci Fi

Prussian Marines

Prussian Aeronef


Dropped around to my friend Shaun's last night to cadge a beer. He had his new pulp figures from Ironclad Miniatures out - see above. I like them.

He also showed me something else - see below. Apparently, we lurk around the same toyshops looking for bargains.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Riverine 40K

Repainted and modelled children's toy

Old Crow 28mm Resin Hovercraft Models

Nearly every game of 40K I see is played on something resembling Hyde Park, or Stalingrad, and that's a shame as a novel terrain situation can bring a whole new spice for the jaded palette.

Estuarine warfare brings in a whole new raft of problems. This is where the land and the sea merge. An example would be the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The US armed forces had to devise whole new vehicles, the riverine force, to fight in this region. The Mekong is tropical but a riverine battleground could just as easily be temperate or icy. Think of the landscape of eastern England and the Thames and Medway Estuaries in Roman times or the Dark Ages, before the land was drained, the waterways canalised and sea walls erected. Beowulf describes such a landscape.

The main terrain types include open 'deep' water, gooey mud banks. and islands of solid ground. Vegetation grows along the waterways and on the islands.

Skimmers come into their own but heavy ground vehicles are restricted to the mainland and islands connected by military quality bridges - which may mean they are absent from the game. Amphibious vehicles, i.e.ground vehicles that float, are useful as are boats.

Vehicle restrictions are as follows:_
Skimmers: no restrictions (but sink if they come down in water).
Light Tracks: dry land, mud (dangerous) and water if amphibious.
Wheels: Dry land, water if amphibious.
Heavy tracks: dry land only.
Hovercraft: Any flat surface.
Boats: Open water only

Amphibious Ground Vehicles
The IG codex describes an amphibious vehicle as one that treats water as clear terrain, such as the Chimera. This is fine for a normal game of 40K but inadequate for a specialist riverine game. An amphibious AFV, like a Chimera, has to have certain restrictions in water: (i) Speed is reduced to six inches a turn; (2) Only the turret gun can fire as the bow and hull ports are sealed to stop water getting in.

Hovercraft: These are 'fast' but cannot cross 'broken' ground or obstacles, such as walls or tree stumps.

You can pick up some nice and inexpensive 28 mm hovercraft hulled vehicles from Old Crow. However, they are a little too streamlined and high tech for the Guard (or renegade humans).

Children's toys are worth watching out for. I picked up a couple of toy boats for a song. I removed the boat hull and repainted it - see above. It is a Chimera, in games turns, including points value, except that it is a hovercraft (see above). It has a twin-linked heavy bolter on top (no bow gun) and four hunter killer missile launchers that are used mainly as bunker busters and boat killers.

Boats are the sort of thing that can be scratch built from plastic sheets and various odds and sods. I have put up some pics of US Riverine boats below. These can be simply open troop transports or fire support boats.

One type not shown is the 'lighter'. This is basically a low, flat pontoon hull with an engine at the back and a conning tower for a pilot, which will probably be armoured. Various guns, vehicles, luggage or turrets are placed on top. In WWII, the German used to use lighters with 88mm Flak guns to protect coastal convoys.

US Riverine Forces.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget.

This photo is copyright Richard Pittam -

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Scrathch built skaven doomwheel

Dropped in on my friend Shaun to scrounge a glass of Badgers Golden Ale. He was painting his 121st skaven. I photo'd a scratchbuilt skaven doomwheel that he made before the kit was released.

I likes the model.

Beer was good too.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Riding through the Glen

When I was a little boy, I used to come home from school and watched TV - black and white, 405 lines. Down in Cornwall we only had one channel - BBC1.

If I was lucky, Robin Hood was on. I also collected the Airfix toy soldiers. I popped in to Model Zone at Bluewater and, may the angels sing out loud, I discovered that whoever now owns Airfix has released their original Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham (and hs posse). If you look carefully you can see Friar Tuck and Maid Marion in amongst the Merry Men.

It's great to be in a second childhood. Now back to the Greenwood.


Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men
Feared by the bad, loved by the good
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood

He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green
They vowed to help the people of the King
They handled all the trouble on the English country scene
And still found plenty of time to sing


He came to Sherwood Forest with a feather in his cap
A fighter never looking for a fight
His bow was always ready and he kept his arrows sharp
He used them to fight for what was right


Friday 5 November 2010

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Tonight in England is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, where we build bonfires and set off fireworks. It celebrates the defeat of the Catholic plot to blow up parliament. Traditionally an effigy of Guy Fawkes or Pope Paul the V is burnt - 'burning the guy.

The above picture shows a fireworks night at a local school near me in Medway where we used to take the children. The surbuban housing estate where I live being not entirely suitable for firework displays.

In the neighbouring county of Sussex they still have bonfire societies that mount parades and so on. These days the English have rather lost interest in religion so effigies other than the guy are often burnt. Recent 'guys' have included Osama bin Laden, George Bush, a gypsy caravan, Condoleeza Rice, Jordon (Katie Price), Jonathon Ross, Saddam Hussein, Russell Brand and Cherie Blair. This year, the Edenbridge Bonfire Society is burning Man U striker, Wayne Rooney.

As you can see, a great politically incorrect time is had by all. Desperate attempts to ban the events by health and safety committees and outraged politicians are usually ignored - although these days you will see car bumper stickers with the legend "Come back Guy Fawkes - all is forgiven".

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

Blowing the Cobwebs Out

I have been busy on the novel this autumn so have had little time for wargaing. I have a deadline of Xmas from the publisher. I knew retirement would be leisurely. Took a ride along the coast yesterday to blow the cobwebs out, having not emerged from the house for three days. We are in the grip of a real Atlantic storm. The temperature is a pleasant 17C but the wind gusts are dramatic. The English Channel is choppy and grey.

The yachts are under wraps for the winter. The wind howls earily through the aluminium masts and the rigging gives off a continuous metal rattle like a million charity collectors.

The tourist shops on the flood barriers are closed for the season. The coast is hunched down and hibernating like a hedgehog waiting for spring.

Blowing the Cobwebs