Thursday, 30 June 2011


Posted because otherwise you would never believe it (unless you were there of course). Back in WD95 (November '87 - the WFB3 launch issue) this was the official, "Chapter Approved" way of making Space Marine vehicles.

On the subject of which, here's a spy shot from deep within the midden of Coop Towers II.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Rick Priestley Talks Wisely On The Subject Of The OSR Without Even Knowing He Is Doing It

There's a really good interview here (WARNING PDF LINK!!!!) with Rick Priestley and John Stallard that was published in Battlegames in 2009. It's from when Rick was still working at GW. A lot of it is just three old wargamers reminiscing about the 1970s but there are some interesting bits in there about GW's approach to wargaming.

There's a fascinating passage here that I think, coming from the mouth of a pro games designer, is very illuminating about the rise of the OSR even though it's actually about wargaming and GW's approach to this:

"Wargaming really took off in the 1970s with people of our generation, so as 11 or 12-year-olds, we were growing up with wargaming, and then we were maturing. As teenagers mature, they go through various psychological stages. One of the things about kids in their mid-teens is their fantastic ability to absorb and to learn, but their utter inability to make generalizations or compromises. It’s something you only learn in later life. If you talk to mid-teenagers about rights or wrongs, their attitudes are very black and white. They really have no facility to make judgments. They don’t like judgments, especially boys. They simply don’t have the ability to develop those soft skills."

I was quite relieved to read this to be honest as I always thought my information retention skills had atrophied since puberty but apparently that's the same for everybody. It's why I hate long, complex rulebooks now in my 30s even though I was a sponge for such in my early teens. It would also explain the amazing popularity of some games that require the player to juggle many pieces of knowledge in his skull at any one time, such as exceptions to the main rules and "special abilities" and the like.

...for a certain section of teenagers, the fact that you had wargames rules was part of your social life, because you’ve got no ability to have any other kind of social life. You don’t have the soft skills. So when mid teenage boys interact with one another, the fact that they can do it with a set of rules, enables them to have a conversation, and do something together. It gives some common ground. But the rules become really important. For a more mature kind of individual, and, ironically, for a much younger individual, the rules can be quite soft. Because when you’re very young, you know how to play, and when you’re much older, you feel faintly embarrassed that you might have taken this or that much too seriously.

I think Rick hits the nail on the head here even though he isn't talking about D&D.

OK what he is actually talking about in the interview is a masterpiece of diplomacy. The subject of Warhammer being quite unsophisticated is obliquely not-quite mentioned, and Rick therefore doesn't quite justify, explain and apologise for it. What Rick sorts of hints at is that Warhammer was quite deliberately written in the style of wargaming Godfather Don Featherstone and aimed at the same sort of teenage boys who got into wargaming via his works (such as Priestley and Stallard) and was a deliberate move against the complex and allegedly sophisticated rules of the late 70s/early 80s but everybody is being just too nice to mention all that.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Warhammer Armies

If you play Orcs and Goblins in Warhammer you will need the Codex Army Book which I just checked out on the GW site (don't worry I was behind seven proxies) and it costs £25.

For an army list.

Yeah, there is background info about the faction but nobody gives a shit about that.

Yeah, it has lots of pretty pictures but that's because GW live in a Nottinghamshire dream world wherein Sir Tim Berners-Lee never had a bright idea over Christmas 1990 and in that dream world people actually pay money to look at hardbacks of figure pr0n rather than just look it at for free on tinterwebs at CMON, Frothers, Warseer and the like.

So effectively, in order to play Orcs and Goblins you need to splash out £25 on the only functional part of the book which is the army list. I'm sorry but that's the only way of looking at it. The rest of it is hardcovered bloatware full of glossy pics (Internet) and fluff (bollocks) to give them an excuse to charge £25 for the whole shebang.

And of course, modern Warhammer being what it is, you'll probably have to go out and buy your regular opponent's Codecii Army Books as well in order to know what you are up against and plan accordingly (modern Warhammer being a game of combo'ing and list building after all). Keep adding the price of new army books to the cost of your army.

Now, there's a generation of gamers who have grown up under this one-faction-one-book regime and think it's normal. If this sound likes you pay attention to yer Grandpa Coop because he's going to share a tale of the olden days with you.

This is Warhammer Armies. Published in 1988 and I believe the RRP was £9.99 compared to £14.99 for the 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle hardback. Direct price comparisons with the past are always tricky but a scan through online RPI calculators suggests that it's £17.78 in modern money. (My gut feeling is that it's closer to £20 but either way it's comes off slightly better in a head-to-head price comparison to the Orcs and Goblins book).

Now, this is what Warhammer Armies contained.

A collection of rules for all the new races introduced since WFB3 was published (including two, the Ki-Rin and Temple Dog which I swear were never released in miniature form). A collection of rules for the new Warengines published in White Dwarf.

And then full army lists for the following;

Dark Elves
Wood Elves
High Elves (Sea Elves vanished after WFB2)
The Empire
Bretonnia (this was a brand new split for the general "Old Worlder" human factions. Bretonnia is more historical French than the modern version, Empire less of a gunpowder and puffed-and-slashed army)
Chaos (undivided)
Orcs and Goblins
Slann (proper Slann, not Lizardmen)
Undead (in modern terms the Vampire Counts and "Iron Maiden Powerslave" Tomb Kings combined with chariots, Mummys and Vampires in the same army)

In other words all of the WFB3 races in one book. But that's not all. It then went on to add Ally lists from which you could pick to bulk out your forces (to avoid this being used to make all armies contain pretty much the same forces, the Ally lists you could pick from were mandated by your main list and furthermore unless they Hated your enemy, they were all at -1 to their Ld)

Chaos (different to above list, includes Chaos Goblins and pre-hat Chaos Dwarves)
Dark Elf
High Elf
Wood Elf
Fimir (ask your Dad)
Old Worlder
Orcs and Goblins
Pygmy (Tintin in the Congo style - just don't ask. Citadel are more likely to produce new Fishmen or Squats then they are to return Pygmies to WFB)
Zoat (ask your Dad)

And also Mercenary lists which can be better than regular troops (they never have to Pursue for example) but might turn sides unless you spend extra points on bribing them to stay honest).

Hobgoblins (Asian Orcs)
Old Worlder

There's a bunch of photographs of the GW Studio figure collection, doublepage spreads on sample forces from the collections of Kev "Goblinmaster" Adams (Orcs and Goblins), SODOFFBRYANANSELL (Chaos) and Dave "Superstar" Andrews (Bretonnia, although looking suspiciously like a historical Wars of the Roses army with a wizard tacked on), and colour plates of troops and shield/banner designs.

160 pages. Modern £17-£18. Every list you needed, current throughout the entire lifetime of 3rd edition. A later full Norse list was published in White Dwarf.

£25 for for one army list is fucking greed and you, I and they all know it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Blanchitsu - The Warlock (1986)

Yep, been very quiet for a bit. Sorry about that. Living out of cardboard boxes is not really conducive to gluing and painting and gaming.

By way of recompense have this cover scan and article from Warlock 10 (Jun/July 1986) which is pure 80s Blanchitsu so will delight everyone except for the heretical Darth Phil who will just grumble at me instead and tell me to develop some good taste.

Monday, 6 June 2011

UK Games Expo 2011

When it comes to UK Games Expo I take the attitude that it's a pleasantly diverting day out that is only 20 minutes drive away and a social meet with gamer mates. It doesn't really satisfy me as a shopping trip (not really being into non-confrontational Eurogames with wooden blocks and the thinnest of themes pasted on afterwards such as being a carrot farmer in Amish Pennsylvania or a town planner in 17th century Lille or similar nonsense) nor as a gaming trip - I get annoyed when stallholders try and button hole me to try their pre-production game and if I am going to sit down to a miniatures skirmish game I'd rather play a full one rather than a 15 minute sample. But it's on the doorstep and we all meet up and have a pint.

This year was no different. The overhead of moving house meant I could only spare the Sunday to attend.

Being reknown as a Brit OSR blogger you'd have expected me to feel morally obliged to buy Advanced Fighting Fantasy when I saw it on sale and so of course I didn't. I did get collared by somebody selling it (and a reprint of Alexander Scott's Maelstrom which sweetly reproduces the original Penguin cover, "FF Zigzags" and all) but didn't like to say that while I fancy Titan (my original copy is long lost) and Out of the Pit (my original copy is v. tatty) I'm wasn't that interested in AFF back then and am even less interested these days. I like the simplicity of "Orange Book" FF and never felt the need to further elaborate upon Steve J's original rules. And, what I was trying to avoid telling the chap concerned, I can get the books through Waylands Forge and thereby support my local FLGS.

Which I actually found to be a bit of a theme with attractive purchases on Sunday - Mantic Games, Mongoose, M:tG, AFF et al are all readily available to me anyway at the end of a short train ride on a Saturday so aren't likely to appear on a shopping list when other, less attainable items, might be.

Just spoilt, that's my problem. No doubt somebody who lives nowhere near a decent FLGS would have been delighted with the goods on offer at Expo.

Still, I did keep up the Brit Old Skool credentials by snagging a second-hand copy of Derek Carver's Warrior Knights - original GW printing, not the modern FFG one. I remember reading about this game in Games Review magazine back in about 1990 and thinking it sounded interesting but I think it had disappeared from GW shelves at that time. I also have a GW printing of Blood Royale, Carver's other GW-published game that I picked up at a wargames show about six years ago. I don't know when we'll get to put Warrior Knights down on the table for a game (it's apparently a looooonnngggg game as was the fashion in the 1980s) but I'll shift through the components and rulebook and report back soon.

Of lesser Brit Old School interest (i.e. none) was my other long-desired find, a copy of Speed Circuit (Avalon Hill printing with the Formula 2 cover - clearly cheaper reproduction rights than Formula 1 or the Indy 500!). The pair of old games together came to £35 which is pretty reasonable when the combined man-years of "I want these OOP games" must total about 30+.

I did see copies of Raggi's Weird Fantasy Roleplaying (sorry mate, but I can't bring myself to refer to it by your favoured acronym - the Brit Old Skool was there first) and Zak's Vornheim in the wild, although it did appear that Vornheim had fallen to the clutches of the bloke behind OSR's favourite producer of little mans, Otherworld Miniatures. Otherwise I think I would have snapped that up as well.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Leads Dead Baby, Leads Dead

So no more metal from Citadel Miniatures. Of course it hasn't been white metal in the traditional lead/tin alloy sense since the early 90s and the abortive legal move in New York State to ban lead to protect people from lead - that is to say the stuff that wasn't flying at subsonic speed and tumbling in the air because that's a Goddamn American right or something similar and otherwise socialists will take over and the Nazis will be able to send heterosexual WASPs to the Gulags and ban Christ and introduce health care plans. Or so I'm told.

The current batch of Citadel resin looks mightily less than impressive but apparently I haven't drunk the Kool Aid so must be a hater...

Anyway I couldn't really let this pass without a brief mention.

When I discovered gaming and GW, the idea of metal figures was somewhat bizarrely exotic. That's an odd word to use but there was a cachet to the idea that these little 25mm models (and they were 25mm back then before the scale creep) were made from metal. We laboured under the impression that they were entirely lead (imagine the weight that would have made your army - little 1970s and 1980s cars like the Datsun Cherry and the Allegro wouldn't have had the grunt to shift you and your army to the wargames club) but knew the real name was White Metal which sounded like unobtanium or something - metal that was white. How does that work? Why did nobody point out that in the hands of Ansell, white metal was actually any colour from silver to black with the darker the model, the worse the alloy and the more likely to was to be pitted and rotting away with five years. No, I don't miss Citadel Pig Lead one bit.

These models were mysterious because they were dangerous. You mustn't swallow them. You mustn't give them to infants under 36 months. You mustn't chew them. You must wash your hands after modelling. Heady stuff. Dangerous-sounding stuff, implying that this was Real Grownups Stuff. Citadel had a little logo of a devil clutching two leaking tubes of glue to warn you that this was a multi-part casting, probably wouldn't go together well and was For Skilled Modellers Only. The hardcore of the hardcore. SERIOUS BUSINESS kids.

And then on the racks in Games Workshop and those more enlightened toy shops that stocked a tiny subset of what GW could provide them wholesale the packaging was itself indicative that something serious awaited within(*). Star Wars figures were standing upright rattling around in blister packaging and that was probably the only time they would stand upright in their entire working lives. White metal figures had to be nestled in with their own snug backing of foam rubber to protect them. This was no sturdy toy that could smashed over a siblings head. They were made from soft metal - how could these be toys?

Another thing I remember is that the blister packages always seemed to be full of white metal dust. And that in extremis you could use an old figure as an improvised pencil for updating your character sheet. (Guilty as charged.)

Metal used to an aspirational thing like white goods, timeshares and CD players were for our parents. It was bloody expensive en masse and decent-sized collections were beyond nearly all of us so, like the Tamiya radio control buggies that kept appearing in Beatties, we kept a flame burning for it because we couldn't have it in the quantities we wanted. Even the non-gamers at school had the odd couple of figures in a box somewhere without any idea of what they were going to do with them.

I can't imagine being one of modern GW's favourite spoilt bastards whose parent's bankroll anything and everything.

This isn't a plastic-is-shit, resin-is-shit screed, the Terminators in Space Hulk are absolutely stunning, I imagine when they finally crack the process even their Finecast resin might be halfway acceptable.

Just a little shout out to the days where the mere fact that they were made from metal in an increasingly plastic age meant they were something special. And that's gone now.

(*) Not old enough to have seen the figures sold loose in filing trays with the C-number on the front of the tray.