Sunday 23 November 2014

Works in Progress - Gargants

A few pictures here of my latest project. When Games Workshop finally killed off Epic and the other specialist games, I took the opportunity to buy up a last few bits and bobs. But, nevertheless, there were still a few bits and bobs I didn't pick up. One of which was the Super Stompa, the second smallest of the Ork Titans/walker-based war engines.

I've thought for a while that it would be possible to build Gargants and/or Stompas using the current Warhammer 40,000 Killer-kans boxed set. And last weekend, at Warfare Reading, I finally picked up a box.

This was my first attempt at a Super Stompa

This is pretty much all Killer-Kan bits. The legs were cut down shorter and the head comes from the top of a Black Ork banner pole. The shoulder mounted buzz-saw was inspired by the old Mekboy Gargant model.

The shoulder mount came from my bits box, I honestly have no idea where it came from.

Unfortunately, this model turned out to be slightly bigger than a standard Gargant.

So I promoted him to a full scale Gargant, with two Soopa-guns and a Mega-choppa. He doesn't have the standard Gargant belly gun, but he was made by Orks so there's no requirement for consistency.

Having used up one Killer-Kan body, two guns and one close combat arm, I decided to take a different approach. Even cut down the legs were too long and the guns were too big. But I still thought I could use the bodies and the feet. So I improvised with other pieces from my bits box.

The heads are left over boss heads from fantasy Orks. The arms are made from parts of Killer-Kan legs. The guns were improvised from Killer-Kan bits, a plastic battle wagon and the gun from an old Mega-Gargant. The Axe from the right Super Stompa also comes from the Black Ork boxed set, which has been pretty useful.

My final plan was to upgrade my old Mega Gargant. I never liked the Mega Gargant model. The body and head were fine, but I thought the arms and additional weapons were too spindly.

I had long since cannibalised my Mega Gargant for parts, but I managed to dig out the frame of one of them.

I added two Killer-Kan close combat arms and shoulder mounted two of the Killer-Kan weapons.

The ram is from an old Imperial Guard tank accessory sprue.

I added two of the exhaust boxes from the Killer-Kans to the back in order to bulk it up. I couldn't find all of the original guns from the stomach, so I will either have to find them or replace them some how.

No I just have to paint them along with the several hundred other Epic Orks I have lying around.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Fleeting Pleasures

My birthday has come and gone for another year and I seem to have been caught up in a wave, or maybe just a puddle of nostalgia.

With the Amazon Voucher generously provided by my sister I acquired this.

A history of the Fighting Fantasy game books. And, shortly after my birthday I went along to see Knightmare Live, a comedy stage show based on the old children's series Knightmare.

 It was more exciting on TV

For anyone unfamiliar with either of those, the Fighting Fantasy game books were created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the founders of Games Workshop. They were essentially a variant of the 'choose your own adventure' genre of books in which the book is divided into numbered sections. The reader reads the first section, they are then given a choice and continue reading from the numbered section corresponding to the choice. In that sense, they control the flow of the story.

The Fighting Fantasy books added a basic role-playing element. The reader or player first randomly generates a simple character using 6 sided dice and periodically, throughout the book, they encounter monsters they must fight using a simple combat system. This adds a game element to the books, hence the name game book. The books were originally published from 1982 to 1995 and the re-published from 2002.

Knightmare, was a TV series broadcast by ITV as part of it's Children's ITV strand between 1987 and 1994. It was essentially a hybrid game show in which a team of four, usually children or teenagers, would attempt to beat the 'dungeon'. One member of the team would don the 'Helmet of Justice' which would almost entirely obscure their vision (because Justice is blind, see what they did there?). They would then be pushed into a green screen environment, with the remaining three acting as advisers, watching on a monitor and telling them what to do.

Both of these had a big impact on my childhood and early teenage years and the audience for Knightmare Live was made up almost entirely of people my age.

Both arose at around the time that Roleplaying in the UK peaked, but their development also parallelled the rise of home computer games in the UK, with them dying out as the Playstation era began (Fighting Fantasy returned in 2002, but was never as successful and the audience for the 20th anniversary book 'Blood of the Zombie' was made up of nostalgic adults more than children).

Looking at the Fighting Fantasy books with their, often, multiple pages of background, illustrated maps and elaborate fantasy illustrations (one of the key draws of the series was it use of serious fantasy artwork) I'm reminded of the manuals for 8 bit Spectrum computer games. These often compensated for the limitations of the on-screen visuals with elaborate art work and full colour printed maps. Story information that would now be conveyed in a video sequence was then packed into near novel length text (or in some cases actual novels).

 The map from the Spectrum game Tir Na Nog could have come straight from a Fighting Fantasy book

...and looks a bit more impressive the screen shots

The point is that the computer game players of this era were used to doing some imaginative work. They were used to somewhat abstract visuals and that games wouldn't exactly represent reality. Translating these ideas to book form was not much of a stretch.

Knightmare, in contrast, revelled in the fact that, with a television budget, it could offer what computer games could only aspire to provide, an interactive fantasy world. It's early computer graphics and green-screen effects, though primitive by modern standards, were well beyond anything that computers could provide.

It's hardly surprising that as computer and video games developed the appeal of both declined. By the Playstation era, games could create interactive 3D environments, albeit ones that look crude compared to the capabilities of current consoles. The effect was still to create a game world far more immersive than anything that had gone before.

The window of opportunity for both Fighting Fantasy and Knightmare to be successful was really quite narrow. Both were raised up and brought low by video gaming technology. They were dependent on a world where video games expanded the idea of what a game could be, but became redundant as video games truly achieved their potential.

I was fortunate in that that window fell straight across my childhood, a little younger or a little older and I might have missed them entirely. And yet they were hugely important to me, and, I suspect to my generation of gamers, influencing my taste in wargaming and video gaming years later.

And so I feel enormously privileged to have been born at exactly the right time for both of them.

Sunday 5 October 2014

In the strangest places

I have recently been reading Mary Beard's rather brilliant book Pompeii and, in chapter 8, entitled 'Fun and Games' came cross the following:

"Roman board games, like our own, came in many different varieties, with different titles, 'Little Robbers' or, perhaps, 'Little Soldiers' (latrunculi) was one of the favourites, and was certainly played at Pompeii; for one election poster offers a candidate the support - unwanted maybe - of the 'latrunculi players'. Another which is often mentioned in Roman literature was called 'Twelve Writings' (duodecim scripta). No rulebook survives for any of these games, and there have been all kinds of scholarly attempts to reconstruct the play from casual references. Latrunculi, for example, may have involved trying to blockade or hem in your opponent's pieces in a way somewhat reminiscent of modern draughts. But most of them, as now, followed the same basic principle: a dice throw allowed the player to move his counter or counters on the board, or towards the winning goal; the sheer chance of the fall of the dice was the crucial element in success, but varying amounts of skill could no doubt be deployed in the movement of the pieces. There was certainly enough skill involved for the emperor Claudius to write a book (sadly lost) on the art of alea, a generic term for such dice games."
Am I the only one who thinks the emperor Claudius may have written a book about wargaming?

Sunday 10 August 2014

Presenting the Games Workshop official product name generator

I can exclusively reveal the current system that Games Workshop uses to generate names for it's products. In a nod to the classic games of yore, it's all done through a simple table. Roll a D100 and consult table A to generate the first part of name and then another D100 and consult table B to generate part 2.

01 – 05 Dark 01 – 05 Blade
06 – 10 Death 06 – 07 Blaster
11 – 14 Fire 08 – 15 Brute
15 – 17 Forge 16 – 19 Claw
18 – 26 Hell 20 – 24 Crusher
27 – 30 Inferno 25 – 28 Engine
31 – 35 Iron 29 – 35 Fang
36 – 40 Mauler 36 – 40 Fiend
41 – 47 Murder 41 – 43 Flayer
48 – 53 Night 44 – 47 Forge
54 – 56 Raven 48 – 50 Furnace
57 – 61 Razor 51 – 55 Grinder
62 – 63 Rot 56 – 62 Guard
64 – 69 Skull 63 – 68 Mauler
70 – 75 Slaughter 69 – 73 Pod
76 – 80 Soul 74 – 76 Raven
81 – 83 Stone 77 – 82 Skull
84 – 89 Storm 83 – 88 Storm
90 – 95 Thunder 89 – 94 Talon
95 – 00 Venom 95 – 00 Wing

If you roll the same word twice, you can re-roll or just go with it. You can never have too much of a good word.

Depending on the success of the random table, the current plan is to restructure the design studio as a single man operation consisting of Jervis Johnson and a huge book of random name, rule and fluff generators.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Bushido - Battle in the Swamp, with pictures

Here are a few pictures from my latest game of Bushido the first since I finished my project to paint all my Bushido models and the first in which I got to use all painted models and scenery.

I don't have the notes or patience for a full battle report, but I'll provide a quick summary.

The battle was between the Temple of Ro-Kan (mostly monks plus a handful of primates) and the Savage Wave (an alliance of Oni, big red demons, and Bakemono, small green ones). The scenario objective was to rotate the stone idols to face their starting line. The faction with the mostly idols at the end of turns 2, 4 and 6 would get 1 victory point. To complicate matters, one of the idols belonging to the scoring side would disappear after scoring.

The temple advanced rapidly and took control of two idols, despite taking fire from Bakemono archers hiding in the woods and the snares of Bakemono scout, Tra-Peng.
The Savage Wave advance was slowed by the powers of Master Monk Ekusa (riding on a tortoise) who left the Oni contemplating existence and not moving very much.
Water manipulating Monk Rikku called up a wall of water to shield the Monks from the Bakemono archers, while diminutive Monk Koji's pack of macaques confront a Bakemono bushi on the bridge.
The macaques were killed or scattered, but their place was quickly taken by their Gorilla-sized cousin and the Bakemono Bushi defeated. With a bedazzled Oni still blocking the bridge, a Bakemono spearman made his way through the swamp.
Meanwhile, Bakemono drummers Okina and Oto moved the central Buddha statue back to a neutral position and Tra-Peng moved it to face the Savage Wave's side and snatched a victory point
Koji and his remaining macaque made short work of the of the Bakemono spearmen, but Wakka the Oni hurled his massive stone Buddha head at Master Ekusa. Yumi pushed the master out of the way and took the hit herself, but a combination of Master Ekusa's healing powers and her own (courtesy of an upgrade card) brought her back to full strength.

Having finally finished contemplating his existence, the Oni Ushiused his dominate power to take control of Yumi. Master Ekusa responded by calling an aura of tranquillity that stopped her from attacking her own side, so Ushi drove her away from the bridge at top speed. Meanwhile, Gori-san took care of the Bakemono archers.
With Yumi recovered, Ushi used his power on Master Ekusa, driving him away. But it was too late, with Koji distracting Ushi and Yumi taking care of Tra-Peng, Rikki and the tiny Aiko rotated the central statue back to the Temple's line taking a victory point and winning the game.

Monday 16 June 2014

Restricted Visions

It occurred to me that I never did follow up on my Warhammer Visions experiment.

WHSmiths managed to shift one copy in that month and, since then, have been getting in six or seven copies a month, almost all of which are still there at the end.

This is not a very scientific survey, for all I know Warhammer Visions is wildly popular. That said, most of the newsagents near me that stock it always seem to have plenty of copies. Which suggests that it isn't selling well, but also that they keep stocking it in large numbers.

I don't have any axe to grind regarding Warhammer Visions. I haven't been a regular White Dwarf reader in years and the White Dwarf weekly/Warhammer Visions split took place over a year after I last bought a copy. There behaviour isn't irritating so much as baffling.

Warhammer Visions appears to be a very confused publication. It's supposed to be about pictures, but its pages are half the size of the old White Dwarf. It is the only publication they sell through mainstream newsagents, but it is an expensive premium product that is likely to be baffling to anyone not already familiar with Games Workshop and its products. And its sealed in plastic, so that you can't browse and have to spend £8 to find out what it contains. Not to mention that if you want nice pictures of painted miniatures, Google Images will supply enough to last a life time.

On the other hand, we have the weekly White Dwarf. It's more expensive the the old White Dwarf on a monthly basis, but each issue is comparatively cheap. It's published frequently and has plenty of news and up to date information. But if you want it you have to go to Games Workshop or a games shop. So it's only available to existing gamers and hobbyists.

What is the thinking here? The odd thing about Games Workshop is that, because it tries to control all aspects of its business itself, from development through to retail, it's not necessary for every part of the business to make money. White Dwarf or Warhammer Visions don't have to be independently profitable as long as they serve the purpose of marketing Games Workshop's core business. For that matter, even rule books don't have to make money if they help to shift more models. But Games Workshop acts like everything they do has to make money. Or that everything do is inherently worth paying for.

So we end up with the odd spectacle of Games Workshop trying to increase its output of printed publications at a time when more and more content is going online and expecting its existing customers to pay extra to cover the cost.

Now I have no idea of this is working or not. But either way it's astonishing that this is where Games Workshop has ended up.

Monday 9 June 2014

An Epic Scale Development

Oddly, since Games Workshop finally killing off Epic Armageddon, activity surrounding the games has, if anything increased. Troublemaker games are on their third Indiegogo campaign for miniatures that comfortably fill the niche abandoned by GW and Onslaught Miniatures are hard at work producing 6mm versions of every 40K army GW never bothered to touch.

Stranger than this is the fact that rule development is still continuing apace, over at the Epic Armageddon section of Tactical Command with new versions of army lists still being released.

Part of the reason for this is the legacy of Epic Armageddon's development, in which alpha versions of army lists would be released to the community for play testing, with changes incorporated into the official versions released in the rule books. When Games Workshop largely gave up on the game after only two books, there were still dozens of 40K armies without an army list and so development continued, initially on the Specialist Games website before moving when the site was killed off.

But with no more rulebooks being released, there can never be an official version of any army list. So the development continues without end in sight. More than that, with Games Workshop having abandoned the game there is no longer any final authority on what constitutes an official rule. So, instead of these representing new versions of the same list progressing towards a final version, what we actually have is an endless stream of army list variants. After all, if you prefer, say, version 2.0 of the Knight World army list over version 2.1, who is to say that 2.1 is more valid?

For Games Workshop's core games, Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the cycle of rules releases exists to justify new miniature releases and drive interest in the games. There is no requirement for each new version to be an improvement over the previous one, because that isn't the purpose of the new rules, or at least it hasn't been for a while. In contrast, the Epic army lists are being released because each new army list is supposed to represent an improvement over what went before.

The problem with this is it assumes that rules can continue to improve until they reach a definitive ideal form; the perfect army list, if you like. But this isn't achievable. While there are some rules that almost everyone can agree are just bad (imagine an army list with models immune to all attacks, that could move the length of the board had multiple auto-hit, auto-kill weapons and who cost 1 point each), as they get better it gets more subjective. Spend any time reading through rules discussions about any game on any forum and you will find that one players favourite rule is the one that ruins the whole army for everyone else.

When a company publishes an official army list, it halts the development process, at least for a while. It isn't saying that this army list is perfect, but it does say that this is as good as any and this is the version that will be used. Games Workshop abandoning Epic Armageddon has removed that part of the process and so development can continue, endlessly, with no end point and no final form.

So by finally abandoning Epic Armageddon, Games Workshop have actually extended the development process indefinitely.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Exponential Growth

The UK Games Expo was one of those events I always seemed to miss because I thought it was later in the year than in actually was. By the time I got round to looking at tickets it turned out to be the following weekend, or worse, the weekend just gone. But last year I finally got my act together and booked tickets for Saturday and Sunday.

The Expo is a very different event from Salute. While Salute is, essentially, a shopping experience focused on wargaming, the Expo is a multi-day event which is as much about roleplaying, board games and card games as wargames, if not more so. It also a broader event, taking in tournaments, roleplaying events, seminars, family rooms and even some weird new electronic games.

 You can tell this isn't a wargames convention because the Forge World stand isn't buried under the bodies of the dead and dying.

It also takes place in a hotel, which lends it a very different atmosphere to Salute, which is to say it has one. That isn't entirely fair to Salute, which does have atmosphere, but one that is entirely imported, the location itself being essentially a huge sterile box. The Expo has spent the last two years in the NEC Metropole hotel in Birmingham, which gives it more the feel of a convention or conference.

 Raising funds for world conquest through begging in a hotel lobby. How the mighty have fallen.

I had a great time last year, playing and buying a bunch of different games. Having a room in the hotel meant you could retire from the bustle for a rest, or drop off your purchases so you didn't have to drag them around and there was plenty of space set aside to simply sit down and game. The organisers even offered a game library, which was a nice touch.

Given how much I enjoyed last year, I made sure to get myself organised this year, booking time off work so I could take in the whole event from Friday to Sunday and booking in for a tournament and a roleplaying session as well as making a point of attending some of the seminars, as I had ignored them last year.

 Some strange new game that runs on electricity. I doubt it will have much appeal.

This years Expo was even better attended than last you could see it was a big success. Though not everyone seems to think so - take a look at this blog post and then come back.

To be fair, Saturday was by far the busiest day and things did ease off considerably by Sunday. The bring and buy sale was accessible and the trade halls much easier to navigate. That said, I wouldn't have wanted to try negotiating the Games Lore stand mid-morning on a Saturday with a child in tow.

 Annoyingly, I forgot to take any photos until Sunday, so these make the event look positively sedate.

The organisers had taken into account the increased numbers and booked more space in the hotel. This meant there was a third trader hall, many of the tournaments were moved into a separate area and the amount of space for roleplaying events increased. But some parts of the convention couldn't be or simply weren't expanded. The seminars were still held in the same room as last year. This space had little ventilation and the air-conditioning struggled to cope with the mass of bodies. The trader hall increased in size, but so did the number of traders so there wasn't any more room to move. And, weirdly, the breakfast buffet, which had been a relaxed affair last year, was left with queues to get in and then again to get food. Again, to their credit, the hotel had recognised the problem by Sunday morning and opened up a second area.

All of this illustrates the paradox of these kind of events. The more successful and popular an event, the more attendees it attracts, but the more this increases crowding and reduces the enjoyment for those same attendees. Eventually, the event has to move to a bigger venue, which costs more and so demands even more attendees. And so the cycle continues.

The organisers of the Expo seem quite relaxed about this at the moment. In an interview in the show guide they talked casually about attracting as many as 10,000 attendees. However, the organisers of other shows have adopted a very different attitude.

The Salute guide included a half page advert from Newbury and Reading Wargames society announcing that their annual show, Colours, would not be taking place in  2014. Apart from the weirdness of advertising the non-existence of a show, the advert neatly illustrates the paradox of success. The advert is quite blunt, the event had simply gotten too big for the society to run comfortably and they would rather take a year off to plan than face a potential disaster.

 Colours 2014

Nor is this a problem unique to wargaming. Hyper-Japan is a Japanese cultural festival taking in elements of fashion, food, manga, anime and any other bit of Japanese culture it can find, including Yakult. It has always taken place from Friday to Sunday, but this year the Saturday event will be further divided into two seperate events divided by a one hour gap between 14:15 and 15:15. This was, apparently, to avoid the huge queueing problems created because the show had more attendees than insurance would allow into the venue at any one time. I've booked a ticket for Friday and it will be interesting to see how many others make the same decision.

Similarly, I have skipped the MCM London Comic Con (Formally the London Expo) for the past two years, because what was once a reasonably relaxed event had grown to the extent that you could expect to queue for over an hour for entry, even with pre-booked tickets, and could expect the same level of gridlock experience at the UK Games Expo Games Lore stand on Saturday, at the whole event.

Is there a solution to this? I think there is, of a sort, though it's a fairly brutal one. Either a show reaches the point Colours has, where its organisers decide its all gone too far and decide to kill it or rest if for a while or it grows so big that the experience stops being fun and the show dies on its own. I'm not sure that has happened to any show I know of yet, but it remains a possibility.

 Well-attended or over-crowded?

But doesn't that mean the show is dead? Well, yes, after a fashion. But if the demand is there someone, somewhere will step in and set up a new show, starting from scratch and the business of watching it slowly grow begins again. And so we retain a kind of equilibrium in which shows come and go, but the experience of them remains constant. Where is the Expo in this cycle of growth and decay? Who knows, ask me again next year.

Sunday 4 May 2014

A gesture or other action used to display respect

So Salute, probably the UK's biggest wargaming convention not run by Games Workshop, has been and gone a few weeks now, which gives me enough time to reflect on it (or alternatively I've been too lazy and disorganised to write this until now). It's a strange beast of a convention, larger than almost any other and yet oddly specialised and lacking elements of the others.

Let us take a look at the venue since 2006, the Excel centre in the heart of London's regeneration zone, spitting distance from Canary Wharf, where high finance feasted on the corpse of the old working class. It is essentially a huge empty space in which things happen. It has no character of its own, but imports it through the events it hosts. So while other conventions occupy schools, hotels and leisure centres and somehow take on some of the character of the locations into themselves, Salute takes place in a characterless void. Which is not to say it has no character of its own, simply that what it has it has to bring with it, giving us the purest vision of the character of a wargames event, uninfluenced by anything around it.

 The queue is now big enough that it gets its own convention space, creating a kind of pre-convention, convention. Albeit a rather dull one.

Excel is also staggeringly vast. On the day of Salute it was simultaneously playing host to registration for the London Marathon, an event for property investors,* and some kind of baking convention. Given the overwhelming male bias towards wargaming and the lesser, but still existent, female bias in baking, I like to imagine the possibility of a husband and wife combination attending the same location on the same day for different conventions, meeting up at the end of the day and possibly for lunch. That the largest wargaming show can occupy only a small part of its venue says something about the nature of wargaming as a minority pursuit.

The Excel centre also provides convention attendees with a range of refreshments through booths arranged between conventions which, this year, included a pop-up restaurant. An apt inclusion given that Salute is, in essence, a pop-up wargaming superstore that trades for only one day each year. This is why it amused me to see a Salute guide posted on the Miniature Page that suggested arriving late to avoid the queues and to go to the gaming table while everyone else is buying. As if gaming is the primary purpose of Salute.

Lord of the Rings played with large scale figures. Achievable for most gamers in a smaller scale

Which isn't to say that the gaming isn't important. It is. But it's role is similar to that of the open tables in Games Workshop stores, to make the hobby manifest. Wargaming is a hobby that offers much more than it initially supplies, relying on its enthusiasts to add much of the value to the component parts supplied. The games show us what the hobby can be. The simpler games show us what we can do, the more complex, something to aspire to. Without them, we are simply buying lumps of metal and plastic (and the odd nicely decorated rulebook). There are no tournaments at Salute, so all games are a form of demonstration, even if its a demonstration you can interact with.

 Most gamers probable couldn't or wouldn't do this

So what is the appeal of Salute if it is, essentially, a huge shop with highly restrictive opening hours and a charge to step through the door? In the Internet age there is nothing at Salute that can't be had with a few minutes web-searching and a few days or weeks wait by the letter box. What's lost in postage, is regained in not paying for tickets or train fairs. And yet, even as I cut down on the amount I spend at other shows, I still strain my budget to take us much as I can to Salute and come home with a bag bulging at the seems with new metal and plastic bits. Why is this?

 Jugula, Gripping Beast and Tomahawks new Gladiator game. Demo-games are already part advertising

Wargaming is fundamentally tactile. Its minority enthusiasts a hold out who still insist that their gaming experience must be actual and not simply digital. Given the hobby's origins, how could a virtual shopping experience satisfy? Of course we use online stores, the opportunity is too good, but at heart we will always want a physical experience of shopping, one that excites with the physical possibilities of our hobby before we have paid any money. And that is what Salute offers, for one day of the year

*There's a glorious juxtaposition here between an event for people who expend a considerable physical effort for the benefit of others and a sense of personal satisfaction and one for people who intend to make money off the back of a necessity without contributing any real value to it.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

White Dwarf 193

It has been far too long since I wrote one of these (actually it's been even longer than that, given that I started this post and then abandoned it in order to start again). To be honest, the principle reason I have been avoiding them is that I have to go and scan a bunch of pages for pictures which drags out the publishing time of the posts.

But with White Dwarf monthly now officially dead as a concept, it feels like the right time to pursue this with an increased sense of vigour. While my collection doesn't extend to the end of the monthly magazine, I have dipped in and out frequently enough that I can pull together a representative sample of most eras of the magazine, even if I have to abandon the strictly once a year rule. And with the magazine at an end, so to do these entries.

The cover comes from Codex Angels of Death, which covered the Dark Angels and Blood Angels, neither of whom are featured prominently in this issue

To business and White Dwarf 193. We have reached a turning point in that this issue represents the first, and nearly the last, time that the magazine has consciously been re-designed.  White Dwarf has absolutely changed over time, 181 looked nothing like 121, but this is the first time someone has consciously said "That thing we used to do? We're not doing it anymore, we're doing something else." This happened with White Dwarf 191, the second issue to be edited by Jake Thornton.

On the surface the really big changes amount to an increased page count and the introduction of two pages of card pull outs. The latter felt hugely valuable at the time, given how much of Games Workshops games were delivered in the form of cards of one sort or another, from board sections, to magic item cards, to vehicle datafaxes, to army cards, to counters, to wargear cards and on and on. So including a card section was adding a lot of value to the magazine. Of which more later.

Beyond the immediate, not much else appears to have changed. Visually, the magazine is much the same as White Dwarf 181 but turned up to 11. This is exemplified by the replacement of the venerable old White Dwarf logo with a bigger, more angry and cartoony version by Wayne England. Inside, the "red period" is still in full swing with everything painted in bright bold colours. Articles have huge, colour headings, expansive box outs and side bars (one article, on Warhammer 40,000 missions is more side-boxes than article) and huge coloured borders either side of the page into which content occasionally intrudes.

 How much of this is article and how much is sidebar?

So not so much a reinvention or redesign as the same thing further emphasised? Not quite, because if you take an even closer look, there is something else going on below the surface here. But to understand what that is, we have to go back to the start of our journey.

I have written about this before, but back when White Dwarf 121 was published, Games Workshop was chronically inept at the business of producing and distributing rules. They weren't necessarily bad at writing them but there was very little sense of what they were for or how to deliver them to customers. This is why Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 were published as books and everything else as boxed games; why Warhammer had a single slim volume of army lists and Warhammer 40,000 was divided into an odd mix of articles of White Dwarf compendiums; why the Space Marines shared a book with the Imperial Guard and Squats while Chaos and Orks got two thick hard back volumes each. It was a glorious mess and one from which White Dwarf benefited hugely.

White Dwarf 121 contained preview material from Realms of Chaos months before its release, alongside articles for Space Hulk and Advanced Hero Quest that had no planned home in any supplement at all. Add to that a painting guide and showcase that essentially looks at whatever the 'Eavy Metal team felt like working on without any reference to the rest of the magazine content. What's left is an Ork preview, that looks like news, but acts as an introduction to over a years worth of Ork material that would eventually, after much re-editing, find its way into the huge Ork rule books. Its probable that the books only got that big because the designers kept churning out more content.

So what we had was a design studio that seemingly did whatever it felt like, without any sense of how it would be published, and a White Dwarf magazine that simply helped itself to whatever it liked, because there wasn't anywhere better to put it. We end up with magazine articles that look like rule book extracts and rule books full of magazine articles because no-one is clear on what anything is for. Meanwhile, only a small part of White Dwarf actually consists of the sort of content you might find in a conventional magazine.

By White Dwarf 193 this has changed. Games Workshop finally has a definitive model for publishing rules, albeit one with a few rough edges. Release a large boxed game, then a supplement that covers all the bits you couldn't fit in the main game plus some cards. Some lucky games get more than one. For most games, this is enough. For Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, each army gets its own book which includes all the rules needed to play that army plus an army list. This model makes it far easier to get what you need to actually play the game, albeit at a cost, so that you can focus on actually building an army.

The downside of this for White Dwarf is much of its content dries up. Even then, it takes some time before this is accepted. Consequently the rules articles continue, although now they're re-printing content from recently or soon to be released supplements. The process is gradual, so White Dwarf 157 can still fill up half its pages with a preview army list for the Space Wolves, even while re-printing the Grand Theogonist rules for Warhammer. And the studio occasionally throw them a bone, such as the Chaos Dwarf rules, as no-one is planning to give them a proper book at this point.

Along the way, they also figure out tactics articles and battle reports are a good way of generating content that doesn't belong in a rule book most of the time. But the effects are still patchy.

What we start to see from White Dwarf 191 onwards, is a conscious attempt to restructure White Dwarf as an entity in its own right, and not just a dumping ground for leftover studio material. As a consequence, we start to see material that feels more consciously "magaziney" for want of a better term. The first big thing is the introduction of interviews, some with key members of the GW studio, such as Andy Chambers in this issue, others with "celebrity" gamers or people who have produced nicely painted models or armies. None of these are particularly in depth, but they do provide the kind of behind-the-scenes information that a magazine for GW fans, as opposed to a rules dump, should provide.

 Now we do interviews

Other subtler changes take place. There is a visible shift towards trying to provide genuinely useful content. The 'Eavy Metal article in this issue takes the form of a response to questions, there is a new modelling workshop article on game boards and we get semi-regular rules FAQ article. The article on the newly-released Imperial Guard Hellhound becomes part rules re-print and part tactics article, giving the magazine some added value. This issue battle report is a follow on from an article in the previous issue, which presented a linked campaign of Warhammer scenarios setting Orcs against Dark Elves, with instructions on how to build Orc huts. The battle report puts the final scenario to the test. The end result is a neat thematic link that demonstrates that article ideas can be put to practical use.

 The battle report shows off Orc huts made from Pringles tubes

The other way way in which White Dwarf tries to carve out an identity for itself is by creating a distinction between the White Dwarf team and the studio team. The WD team are introduced in photographs on the opening page for the first time. These photos are repeated by each article to reinforce a sense of authorship. Members of the team interview studio staff, which has the effect of placing the WD team slightly outside the GW structure and bringing them closer to the reader. Prominent GW staff, Andy Chambers, Jervis Johnson and Nigel Stillman are given semi-regular columns with names that highlight their "guest" status.

 The editorial and meet the team page. Some look happier to be here than others.

The overall effect of this is to give White Dwarf a clear identity of its own, one that is at least in part distinct from Games Workshop and the studio. It is also making a clear attempt to justify itself on its own terms, which means providing useful content to its readers, albeit with varying degrees of success. Say what you like about the aesthetic choices of the era, and they are certainly out of keeping with Games Workshop of today, but there is a sense that the team behind this issue were really trying to produce a good gaming magazine.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

A Defined Role

I've been thinking about Roleplaying games a lot lately. Possibly the recent fortieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons and the associated articles have put in my head. Ther';s a pleasing circularity to the relationship between wargaming and role-playing. Role-playing was originally a development of historical wargaming, that went on to inspire fantasy and science fiction wargaming, which in turn have influenced historical wargaming. There's probably a blog post in that. But this isn't it.

One thing that is striking, and easily forgotten, about role-playing games, is that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they were a huge craze. In many ways this was very unlikely. Consider what a roleplaying game actually requires. You need a group of at least two, but preferably three or four, ideally willing to regularly give up a good two or three hours of time together. On top of that, the game places a hugely disproportionate burden on one player, namely the games-master, dungeon-master, referee or whatever else you want to call him or her.

As well as controlling all non-player characters, describing the setting and keeping track of everything that's going on. This player either has to read through adventure books, in detail, possibly adapting them to suit the group, write fresh adventures from scratch on a weekly basis or have the improvisational skills to make it all up as they go along. Often, this player is the only one that fully understands the rules. This a hugely demanding role, requiring a combination of actor, accountant, writer, editor, rules master and referee. Frankly, given the requirements of the job (and it pretty much is a job), its amazing that any role-playing groups were able to get off the ground. Let alone that it became a craze.

There is another oddity about role-playing games. The genre sells itself on the idea of complete freedom. The players can be anything or go anywhere. And yet, so many of them are built around the same basic template. The players roles are a band of highly specialised and dedicated killers committing acts of small-scale genocide against a variety of semi-humanoid opponents in exchange for money that is mostly spent on equipment and training to make them even more effective killers, set in the backdrop of a world whose disaster management is so poor that in times of crisis they have no choice but to recruit a band of freelance troubleshooters. This is the essential template of most role-playing games. The settings vary, fantasy of one sort or another is standard, but the same basic template has been exported to science fiction, the wild west, pulp adventure serials and even various periods in history, albeit with a few liberties taken.

Of course this doesn't represent all role-playing. There have been a number of games that have emphasised other aspects of human experience and have reduced the emphasis on violence. But the interesting thing about these games is that they are taken as being reactions against the norm. And, weirdly, there has recently been a sort of reaction against the reaction in the form of the “old school renaissance” in which a number of games have appeared that actively try to be more like “traditional” role-playing games.

Part of the reason for this emphasis on combat is the fact the RPGs grew out of wargaming. Obviously a game genre that developed from wargaming is going to have an emphasis on combat. But beyond this, it also develops out of a tradition of confrontational gaming in which two, ostensibly, evenly-matched players, attempt to defeat each other on the field of battle. RPGs transfer that conflict to a similar, but slightly different context, in which the group takes on the games-master. It's significant that many early RPGs treat the player/game-master relationship as strictly confrontational.

But, when you think about it, why should that be the case? The concept of RPG's, a collection of players taken through a scenario by a games-master, could have developed from board games, experimental theatre, book groups or any number of places. Why did it develop out of wargaming in the first place?

I think part of the reason is the demands placed on the games-master. Given the amount of work required to be a good games-master, any reduction in the workload is going to be helpful. The advantage of the simple confrontational setup, is that it significantly reduces the amount of work that has to be put into the scenario. Writing, adapting or improvising a complex plot that can go in any direction is a lot more complicated than filling a dungeon, cavern or evil Wizard's tower with monsters is a much simpler task. And the players know what to expect and don't react against the template. At least not in groups that actually work.

If seen from that point of view, Role-playing games could only have grown out of wargaming. It's the only setup that makes it practical.

And yet, by placing such an emphasis on clearing monsters out of dungeons (or variations on that idea), RPGs place an inherent limit on their central concept that leaves them fatally exposed to their competition. I'm talking about computer and video games. The kind of “do anything, go anywhere” that RPG's could theoretically offer isn't anything that video games could duplicate, even today and certainly not in the early 1980s. On the other hand, populating a dungeon full of monsters is simple.

So the very limitation that allowed RPGs to develop in the first place is the very thing that ensured they would be overtaken by something that could do the same thing just as well, but with less effort. Of course pen and paper RPGs have continued to influence the development of computer RPGs to the point where MMORPGS even replicate the need for groups of people to set aside time to play together. But, by taking over the role of games-master, they replace the most difficult part of the experience.

Monday 17 March 2014

Experiment update

There are now only seven copies of Warhammer Visions, which means one has been sold or stolen which, to be fair, is one more than I expected.

Monday 10 March 2014

The experiment continues

As of this morning, there were still eight copies of Warhammer Visions at the railway station Smiths. If there is a market for this, it hasn't mobilised yet.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

A small experiment

There were eight copies of Warhammer Visions in the branch of WH Smith at the station this morning. Let's see how many are left at the end of the month.

I suspect a reasonable number of people will have bought the first issue simply to find out what it was about. The second issue is more indicative of whether there is actually an audience for it. Personally, it has no appeal to me whatsoever, but I concede that others may not share this view.

Friday 28 February 2014


Recently, I've been doing my best to cut back on the amount of miniatures I've been buying. For the first time in about five years I skipped the "Call to Arms" show in Theale, on the grounds that I would just bring back more stuff that I didn't have time to assemble or paint. Of course, I blew it slightly by taking a trip into London and buying two more models for Bushido instead.

Bushido has acted as something of an exception to my "no new models" rule, largely because I want to keep up to date with the Temple of Ro-kan faction. But the fact that I have allowed this exception, says something about the effectiveness of GCT's marketing.

Games Workshop games are all but armies for me. I pick an army and buy models until it feels big enough. And then GW try to encourage me to start a new army. I don't expect to collect every model or unit available for the army and I may even restrict my choices to make it more thematic. While I wouldn't describe any of my armies as "finished" exactly, they are all of a size were I don't feel any great pressure to add any more models to any of them.

Oddly, Games Workshop's release pattern helps reinforces this behaviour. Every five years or so they release a new army book, I buy it and maybe one or two units or characters and that's it. My army is up to date. I don't feel the need to replace my existing models. Take the new dwarf book, I will probably grab it, King Duregar and a Gyrobomber and leave it at that. I won't replace my carefully painted metal hammerers with the new plastics any more than I replace my beloved metal miners when the plastic miners came along.

Bushido is different. For some reason, Bushido doesn't feel bounded in the same way as my Warhammer armies, so every time a new release comes along for the Temple of Ro-Kan, I buy it. Due to a combination of the small number of models required to play the game and the relatively low cost of each, I have started thinking of my Bushido models as a "collection" and not an army. Which means I need to buy the lot. Because new models are released every two months or so, there is never a natural pause and so I keep buying.

Bushido isn't the only game to do this. Warmachine/Hordes, Infinity, Malifaux, Helldorado, even Anima Tactics if it was more organised, all depend on a model of steady and constant releases, which keeps you army/gang/warband/crew in a permanently incomplete state.

It reminds me of when I was seriously into Magic the Gathering. Every time a new expansion appeared I had to buy a few boosters or feel like the game was leaving me behind. Consequently, the collection was never complete only constantly expanding. This is great for the company, as they get a steady income. The drawback is that players have to be pretty devoted to the game to keep up. Part of the reason I never really got into Warmachine was because I couldn't get the old models assembled painted and on the table before the next expansion came out, not when there was so many other games out there. As a marketing strategy, it encourages the fanatic at the expense of the casual gamer.

Of course much of the pressure is self-imposed. I have more than enough Bushido models to game with and I really don't need any more. And yet the pull is still there and, for the moment at least, I can keep up with the new releases without it totally monopolising my time.

In the last few months I have found myself drawn back to games that have effectively "died." Games Workshop's Epic and Mordheim and Confrontation. It's the lack of new releases that is the draw in these cases. With no more support coming, the games are "finite" and I can concentrate on painting and gaming with the models I have without feeling a compulsion to buy any more. Except, of course, for those last one or two Mordheim models I might get from Ebay...

Monday 17 February 2014

And so it begins?

News is in that Hasbro have formed a partnership with a 3D printing company.

Of course the news report is all about 3D printed Transformers and "My Little Pony", but Hasbro owns Wizards of the Coast. Could we be seeing 3D printed Dungeons & Dragons miniatures in the not too distant future?

Thursday 13 February 2014

Wrong Impressions

It's funny how seeing a small part of something can you the wrong impression of the whole.

The thing that first attracted me to Malifaux was the slightly gothic, slightly cartoony concept art, combined with who well it had been translated to the first metal models. I still love those early designs. They put me in mind of some of Tim Burton's best work, think Edward Scissorhands or Sleep Hollow, or, perhaps more accurately, the Nightmare before Christmas or the Corpse Bride. It was a look that also snuck into the Series of Unfortunate Events. A kind of caricature of gothic turned up to 11.

Take a look at the early Rasputina, with top hat, stripy stockings and pure white skin. Or Nicodem, with his ridiculously high collar, super-sized top hat, dark glasses obliterating his eyes and Judge Dredd chin. It was a look I wanted to recreate as perfectly as possible in 3D when I painted the model.

Early Nicodem...

...and my early Nicodem model

This is pretty typical for me. I have bought games, warbands, gangs, whole armies on the strength of a single illustration or a model that appealed and for whom I had to find a home. It's a tendency I have tried to reign in in recent years as it has left me with more than a few attractive but unplayed games.

In the case of Malifaux, I am reaching the conclusion that the creators idea of the game world was quite different than the one I assembled in my head from the art work. The first clue came in the rule back, which laid out a background story far darker and grimmer than the slightly playful, dark humour I had expected. But it has become increasingly apparent with the release of Malifaux second edition and the redesigned plastic models.

Gone is Rasputina's hat and stockings in favour of what could only be called practical cold weather gear. While her spindly Ice Golem, has been replaced with a hulking brute, and the previously playful Ice Gamlins have become far more sinister This is a world that, for all its fantasy elements, is far more grounded in reality than the one I thought I was entering.

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with this approach, it just doesn't appeal to me in the same way. My Malifaux models are now lying somewhat neglected as a consequence. It all goes to show the danger of over committing to a game based on a partial understanding of what it's supposed to be.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Just no

In my last post I wrote about the disconnect between what Games Workshop and its customers.

I think this proves my point.

I can just about accept that there might be a market for a big book of Games Workshop photos, though it is a bit redundant in a world where the Internet exists, but every month? For £7.50?

Friday 24 January 2014

A crisis of their own making?

I have written quite a bit about Games Workshop, but I would actually prefer not to. Partly because it's a bit obvious and partly because I don't actually buy a lot of their models or play a lot of their games any more. Not because of any particular hostility, but simply because I have bought so many over the years that I am past the point where I want any more.

But there are some events that a bit too big to not comment on. Events like this. After some pretty terrible financial results which have seen Games Workshop's turnover and, more importantly, profit fall, 25% of the value of GW shares was wiped out.

The reaction to this news has been interesting, consisting partly of schadenfreude, partly smugness from those who expected this to happen sooner or later and a more moderated reaction from people who think this may be bad for wargaming in general or feel sorry for people who actually work for Games Workshop. There has been very little in the way of vigorous defence of Games Workshop, even though they are still making money at the moment and the supportive comments have been muted.

This feels like part of a trend. There has always been plenty of hostility to Games Workshop on the Internet, but in the early days it was matched by some equally aggressive support. But over time this support has transitioned from passionate, to realistic, to faintly desperate to what feels more like resignation.

Games Workshop has always been hostile to the Internet gamer community. As well you might if your attempts to run a message board turned into a deluge of criticism and complaint. But the official line, from both GW and its more aggressive supporters (now few and far between) is that the Internet complainers represent a vocal minority and can't be taken as representative. If you took the Doctor Who "fan community" as representative you would think Doctor Who was the worst and least popular program on British television and the only debate was over which era was the worst of all.

Nevertheless it is funny how the anti-Games Workshop are so passionate and vocal, while the die-hard fans are so quiet and introverted. And, as the positive voices have grown quieter, the hostile voices become slowly more representative. It seems that the gamer community's perception of Games Workshop is that it is:

1. Expensive;
2. Making products of declining quality;
3. Contemptuous of its customers.

Masterminis has published an interesting series of blogs on Games Workshop, its declining fortunes and Games Day events which include their thoughts on the recent downturn. They're all worth a read, if only because they're written by someone who has some understanding of how to run a business and isn't just spewing his ill-informed opinions across the blogosphere, but two comments in part seven really caught my attention. Both of them relate to UK Games Day 2013, the games day where Games Workshop didn't see fit to have any games. The first is from a nameless GW spokesperson and reads:

"Our Games Days are designed to allow our fans to do what the love most: Buying Games Workshop products."
"Our Games Days are designed to allow our fans to do what the love most: Buying Games Workshop products." - See more at:
"Our Games Days are designed to allow our fans to do what the love most: Buying Games Workshop products." - See more at:

I think this phrase may be an official corporate response, because it was also used by Alan Merrett, in court, at the GW versus Chapter House lawsuit (the latter was accused of ripping of GW's IP).

The second comment is from Masterminis and reads:

"...I enjoyed the show, because I could meet up with many new and long-time friends at our traditional Pre-GD-Dinner and during the show."

I think in those two phrases we have the perfect encapsulation of Games Workshop's problem. I think that Games Workshop has a fundamentally different perception of itself than its customers.

As far as Games Workshop is concerned they make the best games and models in the world. They can afford to charge premium prices because they make a premium product and their customers know and appreciate this.

However, I think what really shifts Games Workshop's products, and the reason why they are still profitable even in decline, is because of the community of Games Workshop players. And I don't mean that in a "we couldn't do this without the fans", gushing, Oscar acceptance speech kind of way, I mean it purely pragmatically. Games Workshop produce products for games, the majority of their customers are gamers and they play a game that generally requires two or more players and that benefits from having a large player base. The easier it is to find players and the more of them there are the better.

As the largest war games company and the producer of the most-played games, Games Workshop has an automatic advantage. It is easier to find opponents if you play Warhammer 40,000 than for any other games, perhaps not as easy as it used to be, but still easier than the competition. Spend any amount of time on the Miniature Page and you will find discussions about find new players for a game or trying to persuade friends to try a new game. This rarely happens with Games Workshop. The player-base is established.

However, this advantage is an historical legacy, not a result of current policy. Games Workshop is essentially living off the legacy of decisions made in the 1980s and 1990s. Warhammer 40,000 is effectively the wargame equivalent of Windows; people use it because they feel they have to, not because they think it's the best. It also means that buying Games Workshops models is not necessarily and endorsement of them.

Most game companies recognise the importance of their community, which is why message boards are so common. You risk negative feedback from disgruntled players, but this a price worth playing to encourage a player-base to grow. And without a decent core of players a game is worthless, no matter how sublime the rules or beautiful the models.

Games Workshop's community largely grew before the advent of the Internet, so for GW it has always been a hostile force, giving voice to their critics. They shut down their own message board because it was so hostile, don't allow comments on their blogs and treat communication as a one way channel, which makes them seem distant and out of touch. They have chosen to treat online criticism as unrepresentative and have refused to learn any lessons. This isn't to say that everyone who complains about Games Workshop has a point, but when the same complaint is made over and over again, ignoring it is perverse.

For a long time Games Workshop has been coasting on their past success, assuming that the community would always be there because of the quality of their products. This down-turn may indicate the point at which their negative behaviour overtakes their positive past. If that is the case they are in a very dangerous position, because if the community contracts too far their advantage is lost. Games Workshops fall could be more rapid than its rise.

Friday 17 January 2014

But is it art?

Keith Stuart has a crack at the ongoing question of whether video games count as art or not in this piece for the Guardian. It's a good read, so feel free to take a break and have a look, I'll still be here when you get back.

Anyway, the debate got me thinking about whether, regardless of the status of video games, can a traditional board or wargame be considered art?

Certainly elements of them can be. A miniature is, fundamentally, a small painted sculpture and the construction of many game components can be considered artistic. In some cases, say a particularly finely-crafted chess set, all the physical elements of a game may be considered a piece of art in their own right.

But what I am wondering is whether the totality of the game, from components through to rules can be considered a collective work of art?

Keith, quite sensibly, avoids trying to define art in his article, that way madness and the bodies of more than a few philosophers lie. But, I'm going to have to touch on it at least if I am to engage with this particular question. Certainly there seem to be some common elements to almost everything we think of as art. They are creative endeavours, that express some idea of the artist. They may reproduce things seen in the world, but not exactly, in some way this representation is filtered through the perception of the artist, even if unconsciously. Even a child's crayon drawing reflects the way they view the world.

Based on this definition, then games are certainly art. But somehow, this definition isn't entirely satisfying. To my mind, truly great art has to be saying or doing something beyond representation. What that is may be quite vague, and sometimes the difference between art and not may simply be a question of setting (think of Tracey Emin's bed for example) and I certainly don't want to get into the business of trying to draw the line between art and non-art. But are there any examples of wargames or boardgames that do this. I think there are.

Monopoly, oddly, began life as a piece of satire, attempting to attack the concept of monopolies, a fact largely forgotten today. But, more recently, Terrorbull games have produced a number of games, available both physically and as print outs from their website, that use the concept of a game to make a satirical point. Sometimes these points are quite crudely made, but art isn't necessarily subtle.

Political and social satire seems largely absent from wargaming, but their is no reason why this should be the case. A well constructed wargame may teach us a great deal about the strategic and tactical decisions made by real-life generals (by the same token, a badly constructed wargame may give us completely the wrong idea). But it would be interesting to see if a wargame could be used to raise moral or ethical questions about warfare. I don't think such a game has been made, but that doesn't mean it one couldn't be made.

Of course some games are abstract, intellectual exercises that don't bear any relationship to anything outside of the game. I'm thinking of abstract dice games like Yahtzee or something like Carcasonne, Settlers of Catan or Alhambra which use their setting as simply a visual theme and don't pretend to realistically depict the activity they theoretically simulate. Can these be considered art, perhaps they can if the intellectual process makes us consider the world or ourselves in a different way.

Part of the reason the question of whether video-games count as art has been raised is because they borrow from so many disciplines that are considered art, film-making, painting, sculpture, literature, acting, while adding an interactive element. But while they may be less technologically sophisticated, traditional board and tabletop games still combine many of those elements. So if video-games can be art, then why not any other kind of game?

Wednesday 1 January 2014

New Directions?

Although, fundamentally, an arbitrary mark of time, the new year is as good a day as any to reflect on every thing that has passed in the last 12 months. This being a wargaming blog, I suppose I should reflect on the last 12 months in wargaming, but, I'm afraid I'm going to drift away from that somewhat. There are plenty of better blogs to reflect on wargaming in general.

It's quite clear that my blogging has slipped over the last year and particularly in the last 6 months or so. At the start of the year I imposed a new rule on myself that I was allowed only one project at a time and that I had to finish one before I started another. With one or two small exceptions (one Father's day and one birthday present), I stuck to it. The end result was that I managed to finish my Chaos Dwarf army and get most of my Bushido Temple of Ro-Kan models finished. I also managed to finish a small Java project which stopped me painting for something like four months.

While I stuck to my self-imposed project rules, otherwise the year started out pretty much like 2012. Which is to say, I spent excessive amounts of money at a couple of wargame shows and pledged an excessive amount of money to Mantic's Deadzone Kickstarter.

The problem and advantage of sticking to one project a time was that all of this extra stuff accumulated and I wasn't able to do anything with it. Previously, I picked up and dropped projects all the time, painting a few models here, a unit there and I was able to fool myself into thinking I was making progress. By only allowing myself to start a new project when an existing one was finished, I proved to myself that I was accumulating models faster than I could assemble, paint or use them. Of course, I had known this for a while, deep down, but this proved it absolutely. What was more, I couldn't do anything with my new models until I finished what I was doing with the old, which meant, by the time I got to any of them, they had lost the appeal of the new.

This meant that I spent the latter half of the year dramatically cutting down on the models I bought. The last two shows of the year were more focused and a lot less expensive. Of course the arrival of the Deadzone stuff I pledged for six months earlier hasn't helped, but I am now painting faster than I am accumulating for the first time in, probably, ever.

Now, the question of what I want to do with the blog.

I first started this blog because I hadn't done one and because I felt like it was something at which I should have a go. Initially, I posted pictures of models because it pushed me to get on and paint them and because, I had been painting better than I had before and, frankly, felt a proud enough to want to show off.

Initially the blog was just for me, because it gave some focus to my hobby projects. All blogs are slightly narcissistic endeavours, we talk to ourselves and hope someone is interested in listening. After a while I decided I wanted a few more people to listen so I started posting more, advertising a bit more on the Miniature Page and Tabletop Gaming news. I took my inspiration from blogs like Quirkworthy, Grognardia and Fighting Fantasist, throwing out my opinions about wargaming, with a few retrospectives on old games and magazines, with a few pictures thrown in here and there.

The problem is that I have been running out of ideas. For a while I thought it was because I was working on my Java project instead of a gaming project. There may be some truth in that because while I am painting again, most of my gaming is limited to boardgames these days.

Unfortunately, I haven't reached a proper conclusion yet. The drawback of the arbitrary start of year review of events is that ideas, revelations and new directions don't fit the same time line. I'm not planning to give up the blog, I'm just not sure exactly what to do with it. I will still be painting and should be putting up a few pictures soon, I also have the odd opinion I would like to share and there's my White Dwarf reviews, which have been sadly neglected.

So, I'm afraid I don't have a bold new direction for the blog right now. I'm still figuring that out. But in the meantime, I will try to post a bit more and hopefully, what I post will be of interest to some people.