Sunday, 30 December 2012

Spectrum Is Green

To be a child in the sixties  was to have your imagination given wings by Gerry Anderson: Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet rolled out like a drumbeat from 1961 to 1968.

As a tribute, I painted Capt Scarlet, Lt Green and Lt Yellow. Models from Crooked Dice.

Gerry Anderson died on 26th December, 2012.

Friday, 28 December 2012


This is Schrawynghop, the Marsh of Daemons, Oare Marshes in modern English, on Swale Creek off the Medway. Nearby are the Shining Cliffs, the white chalk cliffs of Kent. In the Anglo-Saxon story Beowulf, the oldest in the English language, the monster Grendal lived here.

The Kent marshes are largely drained now but the heavy rain this year has saturated the soil, returning this last remnant to something resembling its original state.

Looking out on the Isle of Harty from the site of Harty Ferry. Harty is now part of the Isle of Sheppy. This is the probable site of Heorot in the poem. In the Dark Ages Harty would have been a hill in a marsh open to the sea to the east at Warden Point. The Swale has been heavily canalised like most English waterways.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Dark Angel Deathwing

Finished my Dark Vengeance Dark Angel termies. Only the biks to go and then for the cultists.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Bolt Action: Japanese Field Gun

A closer look at my Imperial Japanese Light Field Gun.

This is a new model from Warlord Games.

Personally, I think the sword is probably more dangerous. That gun is positively rubbish. The British equivalent was the 25pdr, a much more serious weapon that could take out a panzer with a smidgeon of luck.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Painting Spearmen

A couple of weeks ago  had an interesting chat with John Treadaway, whose views on many wargame issue are Sympatico with my own, about painting 'spearmen'.

In most wargame armies the bulk of the troops are the ordinary spearmen, the guys trailing a pike or carrying a musket. That is a lot of models to paint in similar colours. A block of soldiers are best given a coherent paint theme, even if they lacked it in real life, because it looks better on the wargame table and is useful for identifying units in games where the individual soldiers spread out a bit.

I confess, I am not a fan of the 'White Dwarf' paint techniques for wargaming models, as opposed to display models. You know the sort of thing, models painted by commercial artists in intricate detail to look good in close up photography. Please don't misunderstand me. I admire the skill of these artists immensely but their techniques are damn all use to wargamers for three reasons.

1. Most of us lack the artistic talent to recreate the techniques no matter how hard we try.

I can kick a ball but all the training in the world won't turn me into David Beckham.

2. Even if you could paint like a commercial artist, the results don't look particularly good on the wargame table.

The styles are too fussy, with too much detail. An army of display models look like a legoland house when viewed from a couple of metres away: all those colours and shades.

3. You don't have time.

And this is the final killer. How long would it take to paint the cannon-fodder, the major constituent of your army?

For example, I picked up a couple of packs of Westwind WWII British Army metal rifleman to populate my Bolt Action British force. That's them above.

I needed to paint them in a couple of evenings so this is the technique I have evolved over forty years of wargaming. Please, please, I am not setting  up as some sort of artistic guru - I have all the artistic skills of a hagfish - but I am an experienced wargamer.

So this is how I paint 'spearmen'.

1. Clean, assemble, stick everything together.
2. Spray white: Vallejo white undercoat is good but there are plenty of others.
3. Cover the whole  model with a sloppy diluted colour of the primary cover - Khaki in this instance - so it forms natural shading.
4. Paint in the additional colours: in this case flesh, mid-green (helmets), silver (bayonets) and dark brown (rifles, boots and base).
5. When properly dry, cover with a diluted dark brown wash.
6. White glue static grass to the base (or whatever) and give a light coating of Vallejo acrylic matt varnish.

Quick, simple, and minimal talent required but the models look OK en masse on the wargames table.

And then you go wargaming, which is the point of the exercise. Yes?

Happy Xmas

Happy Xmas everyone.

(Pic from Battlefront)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Bolt Action Japanese Force

Finished my small skirmish army for the Imperial Japanese Army.

Consists of:
1. Commander with bannerman and radioman.
2. Three sections of infantry.
3. Light mortar.
4. Medium Machine Gun.
5. Light Field Gun
6. Medium Tank

The medium tank is really a light tank by anyone else's definition. The Chi Ha had trouble dealing with M3 Stuarts, let along Grants or Shermans.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Dark Angels Tactical Squad

Still plugging my way through the Dark vengeance miniatures. And here we have a tactical squad in sombre tones. The only splash of bright colours are on the plasma gun coils and the helmet vision prisms.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Dreams of London: Abandoned

London has been the greatest city in Europe, arguably the greatest in the world, for five hundred years. Here gathered from the net are some dreams of an abandoned London.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Dark Angel HQ's

I have started painting my Dark Vengeance Dark Angels.

I wanted them to look sombre, as befits the unforgiven. These two are about as flashy as it will get.

I like the chaplain but not the commander model. He just doesn't look right.

Next up the tactical marines.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dark Angel Codex Leaked

Go here for some pics from inside of the new gear.

There's some natty new landspeeders for the Ravenwing.

Cultists! Cleanse!

Cleansing cultists at the the Temple of Mannon, otherwise known as the Bluewater Regional Shopping Centre in Kent.

Birdspotting at Bluewater

The giant Bluewater shopping centre isn't the first place I would think of for bird spotting but this Heron was patrolling the 'pirate lake' outside Harry Ramsden's Fish and chip shop. May not be a coincidence.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Space Marines and the Slavers

Oh dear, the creatively challenged suits and corporate lawyers at Games Workshop are making themselves look foolish again.

Apparently, they have forced a book off Amazon for infringing their trademark "Space Marine". The book in question is Spots the Space Marine by MCA Hogarth. Do they own the words space and marine when put together? It depends. They own the right to produce miniatures under that name and other related specific uses.

But it is ridiculous to suggest that no one can use those words for a story title. Observe above. This was published in 1936, and it is a sequel to Captain Brinks and the Space Marines, published in 1932.  There are later uses of the words by other authors.

The term "Space Marine" has also been used in: books by Robert Heinlein, who invented the armoured space soldier: Star Troopers, and John Ringo; Games like Doom, Quake, Timesplitters, Eat Lead, Alien Storm, and Freefall Tournament; and the film Starblazers.

Dr Who had Marine Space Corps back in '73: Death of the Daleks.

Using their economic muscle to bully some poor little web author like this makes GW look not only stupid but also bullying.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Beyond the Gates of Antares

Beyond the Gates of Antares lies a dangerous new universe by Rick Priestley.

Some notes on gun crime and private ownership

Global statistics for private gun ownership and gun killings
This is a repeat I put up on my Baen's Bar writing blog: I love Lucy.
 I thought readers of this blog might find it interesting to look at some actual data. I am a career number cruncher, data analyst, and so have professional experience in numbers: numbers are real, political slogans are just bullshit.

Please remember, I am English and live in England so I have no personal axe to grind over American gun laws/ gun culture.

OK here's the data:

Who owns private guns?
Broadly speaking the first world. Gun ownership is highest in Anglic America and European countries such as France, Germany, Norway Sweden. The USA has the highest private gun ownership of any nation at 0.9 per head. In comparison, France has 0.3 per head, Sweden 0.3 and England & Wales 0.1. Brazil has only 0.1 guns per head, Mexico 0.1, Egypt 0.0
1. Rich country's citizens can afford guns (see also cars, tablets and other consumer items). Mostly gun ownership correlates loosely with wealth.
2. America's gun problems will not be solved by more gun ownership. The country is saturated with private guns. People who imagine machine guns in every school will stop school killings are talking nonsense.
3. Gun ownership has nothing to do with 'freedom', however it is defined. Liberal democracies with high levels of personal rights/ freedoms vary in private ownership of firearms from 0.1 (England) to 0.9 (USA).

Where do gun killings happen?
Brazil has gun deaths of 18.1 /10p-5, Columbia 27.1, Venezuela 37.0. It drops rapidly at the fringes. For example, Argentina 3.1, Chile 2.2 (cf Spain 0.2.). In North America, Mexico is 10.0, the USA, 3.0,  Canada 0.5. Figures for Europe are England & Wales 0.1, France 0.1, Sweden 0.5. 

1. Private gun ownership is not connected directly with gun crime.
2. New World culture uses guns against fellow citizens way more than the Old World. There are exceptions, eg Canada has European levels gun crime, South Africa has Americas levels.
3. One disturbing conclusion is that ex modern- world slave-economies (Brazil to USA geographically) have high gun crime. South Africa has many characteristics of an ex slave-economy.
4. More religious ceremonies won't help. Peoples of the Americas already attend far more religious ceremonies than the peoples of Europe.

My personal conclusions?
The problem the USA faces is not so much private gun ownership as such but cultural attitudes to guns. Private guns in Europe are culturally largely sports devices not weapons. England has such a low private ownership because guns are restricted to expensive sports (clay pigeon and grouse shooting) or vermin control by our tiny rural population. We have nothing to hunt and a strong anti animal-cruelty culture. French and German citizens have more to hunt and also hunt things the English wouldn't  like garden birds. Sweden has even more big game.

In the USA, many guns are man-killers bought not for sport/ vermin control but for use against fellow citizens under certain circumstances  defending myself/ my family. And that is the problem. Man-killers are easy to hand when people lose control and there is a pre-cultural attitude to see them as weapons. What is a punch up or improvised weapon fight in England leading to injuries becomes gun-deaths in the USA. You can kill people with your bare hands or a kitchen knife but you probably won't. A nutter certainly can't carry out a mass public killing with an improvised weapon. Other men take him out.

The second problem is that the words 'self-defence' means different things to different people. It's not the reasonable man that is the problem but the nutter. 

A Texan wargaming friend of mind is a gun collector and avid hunter. He's no more dangerous than the average Swede. An English wargaming friend of mine is also a gun collector. Under English law they are deactivated (military weapons). That doesn't bother him because we have nothing to hunt.

But slaughtering children from the society that 'oppresses' them is self-defence to a psycho.

No idea. Suspect there isn't one. Not a quick fix anyway.
England's gun laws enacted by our democratic parliament are a product of English cultural attitude to guns, not the other way around.

Americans can't have gun control unless ordinary Americans change their attitude to guns and become Old Word rather than New World, but in that case gun control isn't an issue anyway. In a democracy the law reflects public opinion. It doesn't create it.

Black Ork Down

I am making a real effort to finish my Orky Airborne, Da Green Devils now that we have flying rules in 40K.

This is the infamous Black Ork warcopta, two supablastas, twin-linked rocket launcher and two grot turrets with big blastas. It also carries ten boyz. Use as a fast 'closed' skimmer.

Sorry about the rubbish photos. We are deep in the North European winter light and so I have to use flash.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Hydra Galacteers

More 28 mil models from Hydra. These are a pack of Galacteers and a Galacteer heavy weapon trooper.

I decided to paint them in bright 'comic' colours as befits pulp star troopers.

I really like these models. They are pricey in the UK as imports but, I think, worth it. I will probably get some more in the new year.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Da Green Devils

Da Mek has decided to upgrade da Squadron to a full blown airborne mob.

So some new heavy stuff is coming off the old producshun line, to whit, a Flying Fortress bomba, a Tyfoon strike plane, and a Blackork skimmer.

Dey need a lick 'o paint to make 'em go fasta but then it'll be chocs away for the wild blue yonda.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Giant Killer Robot

I am a sucker for Flash Gordon/ Dan Dare pulp SF stuff so I was instantly drawn to the Retro-Rayguns range from Hydra Miniatures available in the Uk from Wargames Emporium.

I tried a new technique with the base of my Giant Killer Robot. I covered it in Tamiya textured paint, pavement effect, and sparingly sprinkled synthetic snow and chalk chips on to give a moon surface effect.

The robotwas sprayed with Humbrol metallic brass which is exactly the same tone as the old Citadel Shining Gold. Very useful for touching up after washing with Citadel brown.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


The sun rose slowly on another long day. Crystal showers of frozen air fell gently, sublimed upwards under the sun's rays, only to refreeze and fall again. Fine snow littered the surface like baking sugar, lending the splintered landscape a surreal beauty. This was a place of dialectical extremes, of hot and cold, of light and dark and of stone and dust.
The only splash of colour came from Sarah's multiple reflections in the viewing port. Convention decreed that her long dress and tailored jacket be Royal Navy blue, her blouse cream, but she was allowed to express some individuality in a neck tie and the band around her straw hat. She elected to wear a defiant red.
Sarah was too keyed up to enjoy the bleak landscape. She gazed out of the porthole, lost in her thoughts, disinterested in the view.
"Ma'am?" a piping voice sounded behind her.
She turned, moving carefully so that her skirt would not fly up.
A boy in a midshipman's uniform half made a salute then thought better of it.
"Is that your sea trunk, ma'am?"
She nodded in assent and he clicked his fingers at the porters. Two Selenites scuttled forward, sharp claws tapping on the stone floor. Like all lunar natives, they were six limbed but their exoskeleton was without the tripartite division that characterised the insect body. The size of a large dog, they stood mostly on four legs so that their front claws could be used as hands. The Queen Below bred them for Port Bedford's use as part of the Co-operation Pact with the British Empire. A not unpleasant wet-straw smell drifted off the creatures as they grappled with her luggage.
"The captain presents his compliments, ma'am, and asks you to accompany me to the ship."
"Thank you," she said. "Lead on."
They made a strange crocodile through the narrow corridors, the midshipman in front, her behind, and the Selenites bringing up the rear. Convention decreed that they should walk in single file on the right. This necessitated one of the Selenites walking backwards, something that seemed to discommode him not at all. She thought of the Selenite as "him," though "it" was probably a more accurate pronoun for a sterile worker.

Storming Hell by John Lambshead (opening paragraphs)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bolt Action: 6pdr

By Normandy, the British six pdr was the standard gun for infantry division anti-tank units. The Royal Artillery had shifted to the fearsome 17pdr. This gun was also the standard AT weapon for American infantry.

It had a similar performance to a German long-barreled 50mm gun, being a compromise between power and weight. The heavier anti-tank guns like the 17pdr or Pak 88mm were clumsy oversized weapons.

Bolt Action rules use a 3-man crew so I model the crew and weapon on one base for convenience.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Drop Zone Commander 'Clearance Sale'

Total Wargamer have a clearance sale running offering what looks like pretty much the full range Drop Zone Commander at 30% off RRP. That's £20 off the cost of a starter army. Even the rulebook is 20% off.

Very strange for such a new line to be discounted so heavily so quickly. Does this mean it is selling incredibly badly so TW are dumping or that it has sold so well that economy of scale is kicking in? Or maybe it means nothing at all!

But I have noticed some customer resistance here and here.

Another Bloody Tank!

The quote is from my long suffering wife.

A Warlord Games Bolt Action soft resin Matilda II. This was the best British tank of the early war, causing havoc at Arras in France in 1940, and against the Italians in Africa. Drawbacks were the small two-man turret and very slow speed. Advantages included a decent 2pdr AT gun capable of defeating all opposing armour in 1940 and heavy (for the time) armour that was effective against anything but an 88mm Flak gun. The Matilda was shipped to Russia as lend lease in '41.

A great kit that comes with a metal commander. I painted it in two tone green north European camo with Citadel wash to dirt it up and Tamiya mud paste around the tracks.

For those who care about such things, the photo was taken with a Nikon D60 using a standard 18-55 DX telephoto lens equipped with VR antishake.

We are in the north European winter so  took the pick indoors using a camera-mounted TTL flash equipped with a disperser. The gun was aimed up at a white matt ceiling which spreads the light avoiding harsh shadows.

Background is an A4 manilla envelope. the matt brown surface is nicely neutral allowing me to use auto-settings, which cannot be done with a white background.

The photo was shrunk  and the light balance tweaked using Paint Shop Pro. PSP always wants to increase the focussing, which I find should be avoided as it does strange things to the colour blending on a model.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Bolt Action Skoda 38 (t)

It is sometimes forgotten how important Czech equipment was to the 3rd Reich's war effort, especially in the 'Blitzkrieg years'. If Hitler had only been stopped earlier...

This is the Bolt Action 28 mil Pz 38(t), the t meaning tschechisch or Czech.

In northern Russia in 1941, the crews of these light tanks went up against T34s and KVs, an unattractive proposition. But then, Russian tank design made everyone else's AFVs obsolete so the Pz 38 (t)s and 35(t)s were in good company.

Another nice kit in light 'soft' GW-type resin.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Bolt Action: Russian AFVs

The T34 and SU76 were the two most abundant Soviet AFVs of WWII: over 150,000in the case of the T34.

The T34 was arguably the world's first main battle tank, a paragon of mobility, sloped armour and a dual purpose HE and AT gun that could defeat all extant enemy AFVs. The only drawback was a two man turret: only the Germans had woken up to the need for a three man turret for a commander free of other jobs. This was rectified with the uparmoured T34/85 fitted with the ZiS 85mm gun.

The SU76 was a SP artillery piece with the same ZiS 3 76.2mm gun that origially armed the T34. It was not entirely liked by its crews, who nicknamed it 'the little bitch' or the 'bare-arsed Ferdinand', but it was undeniably effective. The AFV was based on the T70 light tank chassis. The T70 was an obsolete death trap used to fill out the Soviet tank brigades in '43.

These two AFVs did more than any other to win WWII.

The models are both Bolt Action soft resin models and are superbly detailed. They come with crew - look at the cynical posture of the tanker leaning on his vehicle hatch.  They should add some much needed punch to my Soviet battlegroup.

Alien Invaders

Have been stricken by the wretched 'flu virus this week. I have had the jab but it only protects against last year's bug.

Oh well, onward and upward.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

A Big Tank

This is a HobbyBoss 1:48 KV1. The 45mm antitank is 28ml by Plastic Soldier to give a feel for scale. I have added some Tamiya 'tank decoration'.

The KV was the king of tanks in 1941. A single example held up an entire panzer division for days. Had they been properly fueled and supplied they would have stopped the panzers dead. Most were abandoned by their crews when out of fuel and shells.

HobbyBoss make a number of KV, T34 and Sherman tanks in 1:48. They are cheap, around £10, and stunningly well detailed.

Highly Recomended.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Biggles Prangs His Kite

But it's OK, he landed in a giant meringue which broke his fall.

Bolt Action RAF Pilot

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Wolf In Shadow

This my next novel published by Baen and distributed world-wide by Simon & Schuster in July 2013.

The superb artwork was by Dave Seeley and the layout was by the talented Jennie Faries who also laid out Into The Hinterlands.

The blurb is below:



Contemporary fantasy adventure. An ordinary young woman finds a haunting and dangerous world of demons and shapeshifters on the streets of modern day London.

Urban fantasy in one of the world’s greatest cities.

Rhian, a girl from the Welsh valleys on the run from tragedy and herself, finds a new home in the modern East End of London, where the world’s largest financial center spins a web of money and power from glistening towers of chrome and glass. Beneath the digital fa├žade lurks the old East End where the layers of two thousand years of dramatic and violent history slide over one another like glaciers, spilling out in avalanches that warp the real world.

As bodies begin to litter the East End streets, The Commission dispatches its best enforcers to deal with the situation: Karla is not human, and Jameson left his humanity behind in pieces in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. Rhian makes new friends, dangerous friends; and where Rhian goes, the wolf is always in her shadow, just a heartbeat away.

Among the bankers and traders of the East End walk demons in human form and who is to say which are the monsters? London is a magical bomb waiting to explode and somewhere a fuse is hissing.

About John Lambhead’s Lucy’s Blade:
“Swashbuckling heroines and romantic subplots.”—Publishers Weekly

About John Lambshead and David Drake’s Into the Hinterlands:
“Drake and Lambshead combine politics, military expeditions, and deep-space exploration into an intriguing tale…Recommended for all SF collections.” –Booklist

Bolt Action: BEF

Just what you need to stop a tank, an overgrown rifle called Boyes.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

3D Printing

The Telegraph ran one of their 'all this modern stuff is rubbish' articles by one of their 'angry old white men in ties' about 3D printers that specifically mentions wargaming. You wouldn't think 3D printing was a political issue but apparently in the strange world of the Telegraph, it is:

"handful of Lefty academics thrilled by the idea of abolishing property"

At this point he presumably stopped to swallow some tranquilisers. Not sure what Lefty academics have to do with 3D printers, other than conceiving them but still....

I came across this model offered on eBay UK which apparently comes from the Shapeways printing service.

At the moment, the technology is not quite there: see above. Either the model is grainy or expensive and the cheapest printers are about £2K. Now my first laserprinter cost £2.5K of 1980s money. My latest one cost two hundred quid and is better: wireless for one thing.

3D printers are in their infancy.

The article burbles about piracy and offers the opinion that 3D printer piracy will never be a threat to toy soldier companies because it will always be cheaper to manufacture using traditional methods. Now that may be true but it completely misses the point.

It's not the cost of mass production of models using traditional methods versus 3D printers that is the issue BUT the cost to the private individual of buying a model retail versus knocking it out on their home printer. And that may be a very different kettle of aquatic vertebrates.

When a private individual can run some photos through basic cheap CAD/CAM software and 3D print out his own models to whatever scale is desired then model-makers like GW are in the doggy do and no 'stop the world I want to get off' articles from the foaming at the mouth brigade will stop it.

Decorating a tank

A bit o' cosmetic can improve appearance no end, as any starlet will tell you. I have added a couple of packs to my Stuart from the Tamiya 1/48 accessory pack.

Real tanks were absolutely festooned with junk: very little room in the boot. Combat pictures seem to show them cleaner, presumably because of the fire risk.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Bolt Action: Burma Tanks

I have built a couple of Bolt Action 28 mm tanks for my Burmese armies. Above is a Type 97 Chi Ha tank. This piece of junk is what the Imperial Japanese Army seriously considered to be a medium tank suitable for 1944.

It was characterised by tin can armour, a low velocity small howitzer as a main weapon and a two man turret. It was a 1938 production tank which made it a contemporary of a PzII and T26.

These Warlord Games tanks are made from a light resin very like the GW material. It cuts easily with a sharp blade has no bubbles but superb detail. I think I prefer them to plastic kit models as they are more robust.

This is a British Army comtemporary vehicle: a Stuart M5 light tank. Considered obsolete in Europe, it was more than a match for the Chi Ha with better armour and a better gun.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Fight for Le Twittierre: Bolt Action

Sitrep: It's Normandy 1944, a few days after D-Day, Oeration Overlord. A small battle-group of the Wessex Division, the Westcountry infantry probes into the French village of Le Twittierre up the main road to Caen. It consists of a two section depleted platoon supported by a Sherman '75 and a PIAT Team in a bren gun carrier. On hearing from the locals that German troops are in the noth end of the village, the infantry debuss from their lorries and the battle-group takes up a combat formation.

Kampfgruppe Murphy takes up position straddling the road using the rubble created by a naval bombardment for cover. They include a depleted infantry platoon supported by a Hanomag for the platoon HQ and a STUG III assault gun.

The Sherman advances up the road covered by fire from a Vickers gun to keep back panzerfaust men. The STUG crests the hill and opens fire. The Sherman halts and a tank duel starts. Neither vehicle can land a killer punch for shot after shot.

To break the deadlock, the British throw forward an infantry section and the PIAT team moves forward to stalk the STUG. The other British section supported by the Carrier and the Vickers pin down the bulk of the German infantry on the German left flank.

Crisis: The British infantry start taking losses. The PIAT team rush the STUG and open fire but miss. The STUG doesn't, its Spandeau cutting down the tommies. Spandeau fire from the German left takes out the Vickers.

Victory: The STUG blows a track of the Sherman but return fire sets the STUG on fire and its crew bail out. The German position is now hopeless as the Sherman dominates the road splitting the German platoon into two groups and the British infantry can roll up the German right flank.

Kampfgruppe Murphy retreats but it has bought time and inflicted irreplacable losses on the British infantry for the loss of a STUG.

Afterthoughts: (i) Spandeaus are bloody vicious and a terrible threat to allied infantry. (ii) In a small game (about 700 pts) the tank duel decides the game.