Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Devil Train

The Iron Daemon presented me with a few issues.

I picked it up from the Forge World stand at Salute 2012. As with most things Forge World, its essentially a very  nice piece of design that still doesn't justify its price and was nowhere near as well cast as the pictures would imply. It took a considerable amount of filing, scraping and bending to get it into a half way decent state. One of the Chaos Dwarf crew had an absolutely terrible lump of resin cast into his arm pit that was all but impossible to remove and had to be almost entirely filed down.

Getting the components together was hardly a joy given how many of them there were and the not well poorly printed instructions. It didn't help that many of the pieces were essentially just cylinders so spotting where the piece ended and the flash/sprue began was quite tricky. One or two of the smaller bits almost got swept away with the rubbish.

Once the assembly was done I faced another dilemma, whether or not to use Quick shade. Given the size and significance of the model, I thought I should try painting it the old fashioned way. What put me off was the sheer number of smooth metal surfaces. I've never had an easy time painting metal or smooth surfaces. For a long time, I stuck to dry brushing armour, but that approach wasn't going to work here. I got on okay with my Chaos Warriors, but the metal plates on these were relatively small.

In the end I wimped out and used Quickshade. After all, if it didn't work I could always pay another fifty quid and go through the whole laborious process again.

In the end I was quite pleased with the results. I stuck to the standard army colour scheme, undercoating with Plate Mail Metal before covering the decorative areas with copper and Sanguine base. I painted separately before gluing them to the finished war machine.

I still haven't decided whether to base it. It would make it easier to use in game as it would be easier to tell with what it's in base to base contact. The only thing putting me off is that might get in the way of coupling it to another war machine; I still have my eyes on a Magma cannon. I may try flocking and painting a base, but not actually gluing the Iron Daemon to it. If it has been appropriately flocked, friction should keep it attached.

Next up: Hobgoblins and Bull Centaurs

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Chaos Dwarfs march

I promised pictures of my recently painted Chaos Dwarfs some time back, time to deliver on the promise.

The army as it stands was the result of a concerted effort, since Christmas, to fully complete a painting project before moving on to the next. It has paid off pretty well for these guys who have been my fastest painted Warhammer army, which is bizarre given the age of most of the models.

The army started out in 1996 at the very end of what was known as the 'great lead sale' when Games Workshop switched to lead-free white metal. The process of switching over was quite drawn out, but for the last weekend prior to the removal of all lead from the shelves, there was a sale the like of which we haven't seen before or since as all lead models were half price.

Guildford Games Workshop tried to clear some more stock by bundling up related packs into 'army deals'. After much arm twisting my Dad forked out the £65 necessary to get me the beginning of my army. It was a bit of an odd selection, with both a Great Taurus and Llamasu, as well as plenty of war machines, but only a handful of Chaos Dwarf infantry supported, unreliably, by hobgoblins, but it was a good base on which to build.

Over the next couple of years I bulked up the army with more warriors and bull centaurs. After Warhammer 6th edition came in, the Chaos Dwarfs were neglected and eventually taken off the main page of the Games Workshop web store. For a while, a number of them were still available if you entered "chaos+dwarf" into the search engine. Seeing the writing on the wall I scooped up the blunderbusses I needed, thinking more that it would probably be my last chance to do so rather than with any specific plan in mind.

The army lay essentially retired until the very end of 2011, when the release of the Tamurkhan book prompted me to dig them out. I had no intention of building a whole army from scratch at Forge World prices, but was more than happy to add some new elements and, at Salute 2012, I acquired an Iron Daemon and three K'Daai Fire born.

Despite having had many of them for 16 years or more, I had never painted a single one of them. When I first started wargaming I hardly painted anything, not being at all happy with the results. As I got older my painting rate increased, but less than the rate at which I accumulated models. Thanks to their years of retirement, the Chaos Dwarfs never made it to the top of the pile until now.

First up I needed to decide on a colour scheme. I like my armies to have a uniform look, using the same basic palette of colours. I also planned to use Army Painter quick shade dip to speed things a long. I wanted to steer well clear of the bright red look of the official Games Workshop army from the mid 1990s, but I did want to stick with sombre reds as well as metal colours and black hair and beards.

Fortunately, I had a box of old plastic Chaos Dwarfs that I didn't plan to include in the army. They are too big to rank up properly and are somewhat lacking in detail. But they were ideal for trying out colour schemes.

In the end I didn't exactly follow any of these, but used a mix of the most promising elements.

I started with the Chaos Dwarf Warriors, who count as Infernal Guard under the Tamurkhan rules. The first fifteen, including the command group, came from my original army bundle, but they were quickly bulked up to 21 (they were sold in blisters of three). Careful hunting at different games shows got them up to 28, which meant a unit of 30 with the Castellan and Daemon-smith. I added one of the old plastic Chaos Dwarfs, because I wanted to be able to field a unit of 30 without the Daemon-smith. He ranks up okay on his own and doesn't stand out too much from the crowd.

They Infernal Guard are very much the exemplars of my army colour scheme. They were given a spray undercoat of Army Painter Plate Male Metal spray. I used Vallejo copper for the metal details, their leather brown for the boots and axe handles and black grey for the hair and beards. Privateer Press Sanguine base was used for the shields, gloves and other dark red areas, with their Menoth base handling bone and teeth. Games Workshop new range was represented on the skin, which was painted in Bugman's glow.

I painted them in flat colours with no shading and highlighting. I used army painter quick shade dip, though I didn't literally dip, instead using a cheap brush I got from Model Zone. I had tried dipping before and hadn't been entirely happy with the results. Finally I gave them a coat of anti-shine varnish.

The Daemon-smith and Castellan were given a bit more attention. I added a couple of layers of highlighting, as well as painting in some detail around the eyes. The models both came with back banners, but I haven't decided whether to use them or not yet, so for the moment they stay detached. I also have to decide what to do about the standard bearers empty banner pole.

The Blunderbusses were painted in much the same way as the Warriors. In both cases, I painted them in batches of six at a time. This sort of 'industrial' approach helps to keep things moving, but stops me getting too bored painting the same colours over and over.

That's enough for today, coming soon, the Iron Daemon.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Mantic as the new, old Games Workshop

I'm feeling quite excited by the Mars Attacks game. It's not so much the game itself, though the idea of 80 foot robots and giant insects is quite appealing, but more what it says about Mantic as a company.

It feels significant that at the moment Games Workshop is killing off Specialist games, Mantic are expanding. GW have reached a point where if they ever release another game it will be a short-run limited edition thing like Dread Fleet. Their core business is servicing Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and LOTR/the Hobbit. And by servicing I mostly mean new versions of the same thing.

When Games Workshop first started out it was a decidedly chaotic company. Initially a games shop, it rapidly became a distributor (kind of by default as no-one else in the UK was selling Dungeons & Dragons), then a publisher first, then a miniature manufacturer. It dabbled in roleplaying games, wargames even computer games (back in the days when they were released on cassettes) it even went through a mad phase of being a music publisher. There didn't seem to be any limit to what they company would try.

When I first encountered Games Workshop in 1990, there was still evidence of that approach. It didn't sell any other companies products and its RPG coverage had shrunk to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but it still had a wide and eclectic range of products. As well as Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, which were then sold as rulebooks, it produced miniature-based board games, like Space Hulk and Advanced Hero Quest, more traditional stand-alone wargames like Talisman and Dungeon Quest and odd eccentricities like the Troll Games marketed to children and Top trumps copy Combat Cards. Then there were left overs from previous licensed products, they still sold a handful of Lord of the Rings models as well as the plastic Daleks and Cybermen box left over from the days when the company held the Doctor Who licence.

Over time, this range has reduced. New games, and even whole divisions, have come and gone, but ultimately the trend has been downwards until only the current big three remain.

Of course you could argue that they simply outsourced this stuff top Fantasy Flight games who have produced a pretty good range of RPGs, board games and card games based on GW IP (though I still have their version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay).

Mantic aren't Games Workshop at their height, but they do show a likable willingness to try out different things. Their core business is Kings of War and Warpath, but they have also dabbled in board games, Project Pandora and Dwarf Kings Hold, and board game/wargame hybrids like Dreadball and Dead Zone. Now we have a licensed game with a very different aesthetic and, possibly, a different scale. It's still very early days, but I'm encouraged that if Specialist Games has been killed off, that another company is willing to experiment with different types of game.

Friday, 17 May 2013

That didn't take long

Just a quick one today.

So who's noticed this? They're reminiscent of the very early GW Epic sprues, all infantry are the same, but vehicles are also included. Not sure about having both sides in one box and the price is quite high, though that gets addressed if they hit their stretch goals.

What interests me is that Games Workshop's departure from this market has left a gap and while they can be accused if treading on GW's IP somewhat, it's in an area that GW have actively chosen to abandon (on a related note, how do the people who accused Mantic of ripping off Blood Bowl with Dreadball feel now?).

I suspect this won't be the last we see of this sort of thing.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Events conspire against us

"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy," if you believe Von Moltke, and there's certainly nothing like the real world to get in the way of your plans. At the start of the year I decided that from now on I wanted start a new painting project until I had finished the last. That discipline was enough to get my Chaos Dwarf army painted, but it seems to be collapsing or at least compromised in the face of events.

By now I should have finished Aiko and Gorilla for Bushido. Getting my temple models up to date was my next goal, after some time spent focusing on individual models I was going to go back to units, possibly with Kings of War or Clash of Empires (I still have a lot of plastic Normans and Saxons to paint).

It's not my fault that Games Workshop chose now to wind up Specialist games, prompting a last desperate rush of orders so that I got as many models as I could while they were still gettable. It's hardly surprising in the face of all this Epic stuff that my mind has been wandering and I have been using up valuable painting time in a frantic sessions of gluing and sorting. My armies were in disarray, I needed to know what I had so that I knew what to glue. It's not entirely my fault.

I am justifying this on the grounds that gluing isn't painting and so I haven't, technically, broken my rule. I can will get back to Aiko soon and my project will not have been interrupted. Unfortunately, soon is proving to be an increasingly elastic concept. Just Ork fighter-bombers and a Warlock Titan to go, I promise. All rogue thoughts of scratch building a Lord of Battle for a Daemon World army will be put aside, at least until Bushido is done. Definitely. I'm almost certain of it.

Events conspire in other ways to mess with our plans. Okay, I knew that having Salute at the end of one month and the UK Games Expo at the end of the next was going to be financially punishing, but I didn't know Mantic would launch its most interesting Kickstarter and that Games Workshop would try to do away with Specialist games in the same month. I can't put these expenses off, its now or never on all of them.

It helps to remind myself that these things are transitory. After a couple of years of barely thinking about Epic, I have suddenly gone obsessive, a bit like Inquisitor a few months back. Before long something else will distract me. This is why I set goals for myself in the first place, so that I might actually get something finished in the face of increasing lethargy. I will get back to Bushido soon, almost definitely.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

License to Game

Since Mantic's open day news has got out that their first line of licensed miniatures is going to be Mars Attacks. Certainly an unexpected development. My initial reaction was to wonder 'why?' It doesn't strike you as the most obvious license to pursue. Apologies to devoted fans, but it isn't exactly the biggest name franchise around. But it does have a very distinctive look and it's retro sci-fi looks seems reasonably popular at the moment.

Thinking about it some more, it occurred to me that the most obvious licenses don't necessarily make the best wargames. Take Lord of the Rings for example, thanks to Tolkein's obsessive attention to detail we know about pretty much all the major battles in Middle Earth's history as well as the personal history of most of its heroes. We also know that a lot of major characters we're only involved in very specific conflicts. The Army of the Dead and the Mumakils were only seen at one battle. The Fellowship was only together a group for a brief period and fought as a group on only one or two occasions. This limits the value of your shiny new 'Fellowship of the Ring' boxed set if you think about it.

Lord of the Rings players are essentially stuck either replaying the same scenarios, trying to find plausible encounters that fit into Tolkein sanctioned history, playing 'what if' or alternate universe scenarios (what if Gandalf had been evil instead of Saruman, what if Boromir had survived the Orc ambush, what if Sauron had attacked Helms Deep etc) or just ignoring the background entirely and just playing it as a game. I know plenty of people are happy with the last option, but I always felt that if you were going to ignore the background, why bother playing a Lord of the Rings game at all?

So the popularity of a particular license doesn't mean that it makes a suitable game. Which brings me to a license that has been on my 'most wanted' list of games for a while: Avatar - The Last Airbender. To clarify, I am not talking about James Cameron's smurfs in space mega-epic or the dismal M Night Shyamalan travesty of a film. I am talking about the original Nickolodeon, strongly anime influenced cartoon series.

Picture by Allagea on

For the unfamiliar, Avatar (as I insist on calling it, it got here before James Cameron) is set in a world somewhat influenced by medieval China in which  individuals are able to manipulate or 'bend' the four elements, Water, Earth, Fire and Air, by performing sequences of martial arts inspired manoeuvres. The titular Avatar is the one individual capable of bending all four elements and who is reincarnated throughout history. When the series begins the Fire nation has been engaged in a 100 year war against the other nations (Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes and Air Nomads) Avatar is a 12 year old Air-bender, the last of his people whom the Fire Nation wiped out in a failed bid to get rid of him. The story focuses on the Avatar and his friends attempts to end the war.

So we have four distinctive factions each with their own signature powers and looks. The world is on the cusp of an industrial revolution, so the series introduces us to steam-powered ships, tanks and airships, as well as stone vehicles controlled by earth-benders. The series also has a nice line in animals that are a combination of two real world animals, but usually a different size. So we have a cross between a komodo dragon and a stag beetle that is the size of an elephant and ridden into battle by soldiers who can throw fire balls. The Avatar gets about on a six legged flying buffalo.

The series is open ended enough that there's plenty of scope for 'further adventures' involving the main characters or, alternatively, there's one hundred years of war to play with. As well as opportunities for some very distinctive and colourful armies, I can also envisage some interesting game mechanics based on the way element-bending works.

Then there's the spin-off series Legend of Korra that ups the technology level bringing in planes and robot suits.

Of course the fact that its owned by a Children's TV channel means a wargame is very unlikely to happen Games companies would likely ignore it as being too far removed from the major demographic and Nickelodeon would probably not be interested in a game based on full-scale warfare. That said, there was a CCG a while back and if the Kickstarter ever happens, I'll be first in the door with a pledge.

But it does make you question whether the licenses that end up as games are necessarily the ones that should.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Printing the Future

So someone has successfully 3D printed a gun and it's only a matter of time before we're all shooting each other over the last seat on the bus. In the world were guns are tiny and less likely to fire successfully, 3D printing looks set to make a significant, if hopefully much less traumatic, impact (the day of printing a 3D Space Marine Legion and taking over the planet are probably a good couple of decades away yet).

At the moment 3D printing is still too expensive to be a viable alternative to most companies miniatures, but prices are falling and Games Workshop are trying there very best to overtake them in the opposite direction. This has, understandably, panicked a number of people. If recasting is a problem now, imagine what it will be like if you can simply 3D scan a miniature and produce as many copies as you like.

If 3D printing really does become common place, then I foresee it completely changing the way we go about buying models. If we can make endless copies, then the value in a model lies in the pattern, not the physical object. We are almost there already, very little of the cost of a plastic model is in the material used to make it, most of it is in the design, sculpting and tooling. Eliminate the tooling and that's a major cost saving. Imagine a future where miniature companies sell 3D designs which can be downloaded and printed freely.

Of course such a step would not be wholly without precedent. Some of us having been buying scenery from companies like Fat Dragon Games and World Works for years now. These companies provide PDF files that you print and assemble at home. Once you have the PDF you can print as many copies as you like. The fact that these companies have been around as long as they have shows that this can be a viable business model.

Market Square photo Market01.jpg
3D Printed, sort of

Of course, anyone who has bought PDF scenery knows that the major cost isn't the PDF, which is usually very cheap, but in the card, glue and printer ink. The cost of a 3D printed future will depend on the cost of plastic suitable for 3D printers. And lets face it, if they ever embrace the technology you can guarantee that Games Workshop will start producing its own range of 'high quality' 3D printer plastic that is 'highly suitable for printing miniature' for some reason or another. But until someone invents matter replication, the cost of an army is still likely to increase with its size.

One major advantage of 3D printing is the opportunity for customisation. If a company supplies you with a basic printer pattern, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to modify it, changing pose or iconography. One pattern could be good for dozens of different variants.

There are already companies like MaxMini and Kromlech whose business if largely in creating custom parts for existing miniatures. Imagine if you could build your own parts or buy custom parts you could print yourself, say a collection of Space Marine shoulder pads. This might be the first step for the wargaming industry. I can't see the big name companies being early adopters, but a small, lean operation might start out by producing custom parts for use with other models downloadable through their own website. And based on past experience, this company would pretty much have to have a Kickstarter campaign.

We could on the brink of a major change in how this hobby is marketed and sold.

Friday, 10 May 2013

An Epic farewell

Games Workshop's decision to finally kill off Specialist games has prompted me to pick up the last few Epic models I really wanted before they are gone forever. I say forever, that isn't quite true as I'm sure there will be plenty of models traded around Ebay and at convention bring and buy sales for years to come.

I didn't need a lot, I have pretty extensive armies for Orks, Eldar and Space Marines with a few quirky extras including old Chaos models and Imperial Knights, but it was a nice opportunity to fill in a few gaps. Though it has had the disturbing tendency to drag me back for more. I've put in three separate orders so far. I have told myself that that is definitely it, but then I said that about the last two orders as well.

This sudden focus on Epic has reminded me that it is, more or less, the game that got me into wargaming in the first place. Hero Quest and Warhammer 40,000 are entitled to a considerable amount of the credit, but Epic was the first game I really built and army and the first Games Workshop only game (Hero Quest was a co-production with MB games) I owned. My first Games Workshop models was a box of Epic Orks. I ordered them because of the promise of hundreds of models, not realising how small they were.

Actually, in the early 1990s, Epic was a pretty good starting point for a new player. For a start, almost all the infantry, as well as some of the light vehicles, were available entirely in plastic and the early Epic boxes did contain a few hundred individual models. One or two boxes would easily cover all your infantry needs. In contrast to Warhammer or 40K, where you would often need four or five blisters to form a whole unit, Epic vehicle formations could be had in one or two (Games Workshop had a frustrating tendency to sell tanks in packs of two and require them to be used in groups of three). It was cheap to start an army, and it could be easily expanded in bits.

The drawback was the rules. In 1990, to get the full rules you needed two boxed sets, Space Marine and Adeptus Titanicus, the supplement book Codex Titanicus and about half a dozen White Dwarfs. But then I started out buying models I liked the look of and not worrying about rules. And the rules problem was fixed when second editon was released in 1991.

But the real draw for a ten year old was that Epic allowed you to build up armies that really looked like armies with hundreds of infantry, battalions of tanks and building sized giant robots. In contrast, Warhammer 40,000 armies of the time looked like little more than a couple of gangs.

Of course current Games Workshop marketing encourages players to build huge armies in 28mm scale and the range of tanks and huge things has certainly expanded. But Epic was the game that made massive battle seem affordable to at least one 10 year old.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Eternal Battle

I spent a lot of money at Salute this year. I usually do. My general pattern of spending, when it comes to wargames, is to do most of it at conventions. I then buy only a few bits and bobs through the rest of the year. The problem is that this is becoming a habit. When I first went to Salute, I spent a lot because it was an opportunity to get my hands on models and games that I couldn't easily get for most of the year. But it's now becoming something of a tradition. I'm spending a lot of money because I always do.

I've built up quite a haul over the past few years and still haven't assembled, let alone painted, a lot of it. Oliver Cromwell is done, but I have a couple of hundred Warlord English Civil War figures still on their frames. At the Salute just gone, my attention focused on slightly more expensive figures. Most of my money went on figures for Bushido and 7TV. This at least left me with a manageable amount of stuff to build and paint.

I'm concerned that I am acquiring far more than I can possibly do anything with. I know this is the perennial wargamers problem. but I think it's becoming particularly acute in my case. It comes to something when you are casting around for things to spend money on at an event because you don't want to go and not spend anything.

Taking a step back, I have plenty of models for most of the games I actually want to play and would rather focus on getting them painted and playing with them. And yet, the conventions loom and I end up persuading myself that I just need one or two more things for each army, and before you know it I have another bag full of metal and plastic.

I'm planning to attend the UK Games Expo for the first time ever this year (no particular issue with it I just never seemed to get organised before) and I'm hoping to make it an experience about playing games and not just buying them. It can be the test, can I go and enjoy a gaming weekend without having to take half of it home with me? I have plenty to be getting on with from Salute, this event does not have to be about spending money.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Paint and Prejudice

In the spirit of my news resolution to not start any new painting projects until my current one was complete, I spent most of my painting time in the first third of the year on Chaos Dwarfs. This meant a lot of 'industrial' painting, repeating the same processes over and over again on very similar models, then 'dipping' in Army Painter quick shade before varnishing. The results were reasonably impressive* but the process gets pretty tedious pretty quickly.

After all that a change is good as a rest and I have been focusing all my attention on a single model. In this case Warlord Games Oliver Cromwell, acquired for my Dad, who is something of a Civil war buff, by my little brother. He's proven too lazy to paint (Dad not brother) and so the task has been palmed off on me. It's unusual, because for the first time in a long time, I've been painting a model not intended for use as a gaming piece.

I have occasionally acquired models solely because I like the look of them, but the motivation has rarely been there to get them painted. I suppose this is partly because, until relatively recently, I didn't consider my painting skills worth displaying. I'm under no illusions that I'm up to competition winning standards now, but I will put my models in a glass fronted cabinet without feeling embarrassed. In spite of this, I still favour models that can, in theory, be used for gaming even if I only rarely play the game.

This is a bit odd, because when it comes to choosing armies/factions/crews/gangs for games, I invariably choose the models I like the look of without recourse to the rules (which sometimes leads to some decidedly uncompetitive armies). So at one level I pick models because I like the look of them and at another require them to be of use in a game.

It's just one of a number of minor prejudices on irrational preferences that, I'm sure, everyone has. For example, I've had no problem with pre-painted models when they're supplied randomly, but shun them when I know what is in the box. So I have a small horde of Heroclix, Horrorclix and Star Wars miniatures, but always avoided AT43, even when it was popular. No real reason for this, I just instinctively avoided it. Similarly, I would never include a model in my army that someone else had painted, even if they did a far better job than I could.

Returning to the business of painting models not for use in games, I did use to try and produce a Golden Daemon entry on an annual basis. I had no expectation of winning, or even placing, but I liked having a goal to focus on and having the 'excuse' to work on a model that wasn't part of an army. So maybe I was sub-consciously rebelling against my own self-imposed rules?

I can't really offer a justification for my preferences or make any profound statements about it. I suppose a great deal of human behaviour is essentially arbitrary and capricious. Or maybe I am slowly going bonkers?

*Yes there will be pictures. I can write these things during my lunch break, but my arms don't stretch far enough to reach my camera, unfortunately.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Copyright Contentiousness

So there has been another case of Games Workshop issuing a cease and desist order to a small company over a claim of IP infringement. This time Blighty Wheel Miniatures have put out a 'Mutant Komodo' that looks somewhat like a concept in one of their books. As per usual the debate has centered around the extent to which the miniature looks like the book, whether you can copyright that idea at all, how much of a bunch of bastards GW are and what a bunch of chancers small companies that copy their IP are etc, etc. Numerous amateur lawyers have been engaged to no great effect.

It got me thinking about the whole are of copyright, ip, trademarks and patents though. There's a  bit of a tendency in the gaming community to treat the law as absolute and forget that laws can be contentious and the whole are of copyright is decidedly odd in a number of ways.

Copyright exists, essentially, to correct a problem with free market capitalism. The problem is that you can buy and sell goods and services, but not ideas. With goods and services something is supplied that is unique and unrepeatable (you can make many copies of a product, but you can't give the same copy to two people), with ideas once they get out they 'belong' to everyone in that anyone can, theoretically, here and understand them.

This is, unfortunately, very bad for innovation. Why spend money developing an idea if, once the product is released, anyone can copy it? It becomes even trickier in the digital age when many digital 'products' are effectively just ideas, being collections of data that can be transferred and copied at no cost. So copyright exists to allow innovators to financially benefit from their ideas and so encourage innovation.

So far so good. But as with many attempts to solve a problem inherent in a system, it introduces new problems of its own and rewards some decidedly dodgy behaviour.

Few people begrudge creators the ability to financially benefit from their created works, whether they be miniatures, games, books, plays, works of art etc. Similarly, it doesn't seem outrageous that the estate of creators should be allowed to hold copyright for a time after their death. This ensures that families of creators who may have died suddenly or prematurely and where relying on their income can still benefit from the created work. The problem comes when you start being able to sell 'rights' to a concept and we get into the bizarre situation where people really are buying and selling ideas. And this leads to some odd effects.

Most people who have bought a licensed product relating to the Lord of the Rings will have come across the Tolkein Enterprises logo. What they may not know is that this organisation has little to do with Tolkein and his family, but is actually owned by Saul Zaentz whose acquisition of the film rights to the Lord of the Rings has been translated into the ability to charge people for the right to use the concepts and characters in the books. Is this okay? I think it's questionable. He had nothing to do with the creation of the characters, but then he did pay for the rights and, arguably, took a financial risk that might not have paid off. Tolkein was able to realise the immediate value of his idea years before it was possible to produce a film based on them. But should the investment be paying off more than a quarter of a century later and should it allow an effective veto on anyone who wants to use these ideas but cannot stump up whatever fee is demanded?

Where creators work for companies they usually sign over the rights to their ideas over to the company. Again they get the immediate financial benefit but forgo the long term benefits. It's worth remembering that 'Games Workshop' never created a single thing, because it's a legal entity not a person. The company paid for ideas, but is in a position to benefit far more than their creators ever did. Surely the research and development costs of Space Marines as a concept have been paid off by now? Why shouldn't any company be allowed to produce its own Space Marine model and allow consumers to decide which is the best?

I'm not sure about any of this and I'm not offering any real answers just trying to raise a few questions.

Just a final thought, if Games Workshops behaviour often seems like bullying you should try reading Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre and take a look at the behaviour of some drug companies. A significant part of their business consists of trying to find ways to extent patents on existing drugs to increase profits but also maintain the high cost of some life-saving drugs. Games Workshops behaviour can be bad, but it is unlikely to cost anyone their life.