Sunday 31 December 2023

Janus Horribilis?

And so we come to that point in the year where a look back on resolutions I'd completely forgotten about and make some more empty promises for the coming year.

Let's see how I did with last year's resolutions...


1. Decrease The Lead Mountain - FAILED

To be fair, this one isn't really my fault. I began the year with around 570 miniatures of varying sizes in my personal Lead Mountain, and I've made pretty decent progress through it, painting 323 miniatures during the year and not actually acquiring that many more.

That was until the motherload hit. An old friend of mine returned a huge pile of minis I'd left with him when I moved out of London 23 years ago, along with his own collection that he wanted me to sell for him.

On top of what I've already told you about (Gorkamorka, Necromunda, Empire/Bretonnia and Skaven) there was also:

155 Fantasy miniatures of varying types, ranging from swarms to Warhammer Quest characters to ancient Oldhammer sculpts from my initial collecting.

113 second edition Bloodbowl miniatures, both plastic and metal. A chunk of these will be heading to trade forums in time.

28 Space Hulk miniatures. Annoyingly I'm missing two Terminators and they're fro the reprint of the initial game do they are the weird mid sized ones with the twisty torsos.

Oh, and I spent a Christmas voucher on 5 Warg Riders for Lord of the Rings.

Anyway, all of this leaves my totals at:

Acquired: 602
Painted: 323
Lead Mountain: 890

This is the most spectacular failure of a resolution in the history of this blog, but the wave of nostalgia I'm riding means I really don't mind.

2. Finish Things Off - SUCCESS

I feel like I've done quite well on this. Although amongst the projects I named last year, I still have two Masters of the Universe miniatures to paint and my Blood Angels still haven't reached 3000 points for Horus Heresy, I have managed to finish of quite a few projects over the year.

I've managed to finish off all of my remaining miniatures for: Terminator: Genesis, Carnevale, Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, Operation Sea Lion, Freedom Force, Lurkers of the Deep, Warhammer 40k (Daemons, Orks & Necrons), Judge Dredd, Thundercats, Pulp City, and The Walking Dead: All Out War. I may buy more for these in time, but for no, they're done.

I've also made significant progress on: Masters of the Universe, Vlad's Army, Dropzone Commander, Descent, The Horus Heresy (Blood Angels) and Lord of the Rings.

Finally, my campaigns for War in Rohan, Quest of the Ringbearer and Lurkers of the Deep have made significant headway.

I'm calling this one a win.

3. Stay Cheap - SUCCESS

I think I've managed to achieve this one too.

By focusing on what I already had I've not really bought into anything too big this year.

Yes, there have been those two Warhammer 40k armies I started, but even then Orks have been bought as discount bundles from eBay topped up with some vintage Cheaphammering and I've only actually got about a dozen Necrons so far.

Now that I have so many nostalgic miniatures in my backlog, I'm hoping I will continue to work with what I've got.

The only slight cloud on the horizon is the release of Warhammer: The Old World. It's very, very tempting to me and has the potential to be a bit expensive.

Anyway, that's next year's problem.

And so, overall it's been a successful year, and the Lead Mountain may be bigger, but this year it really has become a pile of opportunity, rather than a pile of shame.

And so on to the new resolutions...


1. Decrease The Lead Mountain

Just like Sisyphus, I'm going to keep pushing that big ball of metal and plastic up this slope for eternity.

I shall paint more than I acquire.

2. Play More Narrative Games

Long time readers of this blog will know I love a campaign or a narrative scenario. I much prefer these sorts of games to knock-down drag them out competitive types of games. I have couple of 7TV feature packs I've not started to pick up after Lurkers of the Deep is done, a massive ongoing Lord of the Rings linked campaign, and I've even injected a narrative element to my games of Horus Heresy with Pete.

On top of this I've recently bought 5 Leagues from the Borderlands, used our Secret Santa event to goad Pete into playing Gondor At War scenarios, there's a Necromunda campaign in the offing, and I'm aiming to bring an narrative element to my games of Warhammer: The Old World (Fantasy Battle) by breaking out some of the old campaign supplements.

Basically, expect more narrative, less competitive.

3. The Tale of Four Armies

This is a weird one.

I've been swept up in the hype for the release of Warhammer: The Old World and even though I've no idea if I'll get to play it (there is a significant lack of enthusiasm in my regular gaming group, who are more focused on 6th edition) it's giving me a reason to engage in a four pronged attack on the Old World.

  • Get my Bretonnians to a points where I can play each of the scenarios from the Circle of Blood campaign.
  • Tidy up, add to and improve my Vampire Counts army, so that they can contest the Circle of Blood campaign without being embarrassing in the photos.
  • Tidy up and rebase (back from Kings of War) my Wood Elves and be able to field at least 2000 points.
  • Paint up my Skaven (yes, Skaven) to at least 1000 points.
Not all of those bullet points contain an equal level of challenge.

This may end up being quite a lonely furrow that I plough, but I really have got the Warhammer Fantasy bug again and I want to get my armies back on the table.

Anyhow, that's all for 2023. See you next year...which is technically in three hours time.

Saturday 30 December 2023

The Elephant In The Room

I finished last year with a post featuring elephants too. 

Then, it was due to event that had happened leading to me gaining some frankly massive armies for the Punic Wars.

This year it's because our big Christmas game actually used those those armies in a massive clash using the rather excellent (especially if you only play a certain period very infrequently) Kings of War Historical rules.

I split the forces available into two roughly 3300 point armies. Unfortunately, Wes was unable to join us this year, so I took control of the Carthaginians and their Numidian and Iberian Mercenaries, whilst Matt and Pete became the bickering Consuls leading the Republican Roman legions and their Italian and Gallic Auxiliaries.

I'm not going to go into the exact forces, but broadly the Roman force had bigger and better blocks of infantry, whilst the Carthaginians enjoyed a significant advantage in cavalry and had the aforementioned elephants.

The Roman deployment was fairly conventional, with the legions in the centre and their cavalry and auxiliaries out on the flanks.

The Carthaginians also concentrated their infantry in the middle, but massed their cavalry on their left flank, and left the right flank to the elephants supported by light infantry.

Opening moves saw both lines advance. The Carthaginians took up an oblique line as the elephants pushed forwards on one flank and only the Numidian Cavalry sallied forwards on the other.

The Romans issued a more general advance as the legions moved up at the double, keen to bring their weight to bear. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Gallic Light Cavalry charged into the elephants, which went about as well as you might expect.

This appeared to happen because one of the two Consuls (obviously they both blamed each other) couldn't tell the difference between his allied units - which felt fairly historically accurate.

This began an ongoing process of the Romans throwing Gauls at the elephants in an attempt to slow their advance, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't have to pay their auxiliaries the following day.

Over on the other flank, Numidians harried the Italian Auxiliaries, driving off cavalry and peppering the infantry with javelins.

More Gauls were hurled at the elephants and to their doom. However this strategy was keeping the elephants penned in and starting to whittle down their nerve.

All the while, the legions advanced.

The lines finally clashed as Roman Legionaries fought Iberian Scutarii at the base of the hill, whilst the last of the Italian Cavalry was destroyed by the Numidians.

After Light Cavalry, Noble Cavalry and Fanatics had all failed, it was the turn of the massed horde of Gaulish Warriors to take a crack at the elephants.

These two would end up trampled beneath the feet of fate, but by the time they were gone, the elephants would be in a much worse condition.

Another legion crashed into the Iberians in the centre of the Carthaginian line. The Romans had weight of numbers, but the Scutarii were bolstered by the reassuring presence of the Army Standard and the Sacred Band.

The Roman Commander could only watch in horror as his flank seemed to collapse under the feet of the elephants.

Triarii were hastily brought forward to hold the line.

With most of the Numidians finally driven off, the Carthaginian Cavalry crashed into the Italian Auxiliaries inflicting significant damage.

However, Gauls roared in to drive off the last of the Numidians, whilst Roman Cavalry launch a daring attempt to assassinate the enemy general by taking their horses through the trees to assault him.

The attack failed but did create issues in the Carthaginian lines 

Huge bodies of men pushed and shoved along the line, but no breakthrough was achieved by either side...

...until the Carthaginian Cavalry finally broke the Italian Auxiliaries whilst the Iberian Cavalry that had been held in reserve were brought forward to stem the tide of Gauls and Roman Cavalry that were threatening to break through.

Only a lone regiment of Triarii remained to hold back the Carthaginian Cavalry. Fortunately, holding back cavalry is what the spear-armed elites do best.

Meanwhile, on the other flank, the final Roman Legion rushed forwards hoping to reach the action before the last of the Gauls were destroyed by the Numidian infantry.

They managed to make it into the Africans' flank before they could sweep the Gauls away, just as the long spears of the Triarii finally drove off the rampaging elephants, securing the Roman left flank.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the battlefield, the charge of the Iberian Cavalry had failed to have the desired impact and the Gauls now began to look like they might turn the Carthaginian flank.

However, in the centre, one of the Roman Legions finally broke, but the Scutarii were in no stat to pursue and were surprised to find themselves charged by the Roman Signifier, who somehow held them in place.

This gave the Triarii the freedom to concentrate on the cavalry and a full on collapse of the Carthaginian flank was underway.

A similar collapse was underway on the other flank. Although the last of the Gauls had fallen, so had the African infantry, and only a solitary Iberian regiment and some Balearic Slingers stood in the way of an entire legion.

The fight finally came down to the centre, where following the rout of one of the Scutarii units, the Sacred Band faced a very tired Roman Legion.

Both sides took heavy casualties, but both sides held thanks to the presence of their Army Standards strengthening their resolve.

At the final count, the Romans came away with a victory which would have been overturned had the battered legion in the centre not stood their ground. 

The battle had initially seemed to be going massively in the Carthaginians favour, but the stalwart nature of the Legions, combined with some nick-of-time action from the Triarii and some frankly ridiculous behaviours from the Roman Signifier blocking the Carthaginian advance won the day.

Overall it was a lot of fun to play and proved that Kings of War is a versatile system that's really easy to use and excellent for people who play certain eras extremely infrequently. I'm sure experts could find fault with the historical accuracy, but given that we're unlikely to play ancients again any time soon, it felt right.

In other news, I was 'kindly' given the Battletech Beginner Box by Pete as a Secret Santa present. He's been on at me to get into this for some time and now I've got no excuse.

It has two models and the quick start rules but he knows me well enough to know I'll by at least a couple more mechs to be able to play the smaller scale version of the game.

In return I gave him some Morannon Orcs so we can play the Gondor At War campaign for Lord of the Rings, which I've been on at him about (,you get a sense of how we use Secret Santa here), and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man I received recently as he's a big Ghostbusters fan.

So that's it for gaming this year. I'll be back tomorrow with my review of last year's resolutions and you find out just how badly I've done.

Yes, I have counted up how many miniatures I've gained.

No. I'm not telling you until tomorrow.

Yes. It's bad...very very bad.

Acquired: 291
Painted: 323
Lead Mountain: 589

Wednesday 27 December 2023

"Advance the OLD Guard!"

I hope you all had a nice Christmas.

I had a fairly quiet one and so in the days around it I've been able to find some time for painting some very old miniatures indeed.

I've had most of these Men-at-Arms done the release of Advanced Heroquest in 1989, and I've been intending to add them to an army for much of that time.

At one point they were to be included in an Empire army built with the contents of two reinforcements boxes for Battle Masters, but ultimately they ended up in the pile of shame and we're given to my friends when I moved overseas for a year.

Fast forward twenty years and they've come back into my possession (along with some that belonged to a friend), and with me being caught up in the hype for Warhammer: the Old World, they presented me with the opportunity to paint a unit for 'the game of fantasy battles' for the first time in over a decade.

They are surprisingly good models despite their age, although there were a good number of mould lines to clean (I'm sure I didn't get them all) and there's a circular injection point at the base of the tunics at the rear.

A couple of the weapons had broken off and so I replaced them with sections from the twelve billion spare halberds I have from the 6th edition plastic Men-at-Arms sprues - an example is on the left.

In terms of painting it was almost exactly the same compilation of base coats and washes as I used ten years ago, although I did get all advanced and use Gulliman Flesh contrast paint for the faces.

The shield transfers are from the Reikland Reavers Bloodbowl team that came in the 3rd edition box for that game.

Obviously, monopose models lack the command team that poor quality troops like Bretonnian Men-at-Arms need. Therefore I used one of the of the models with a broken weapon to fashion a standard bearer with bits taken from my metric ton of Bretonnian spares.

Similarly, adding a horn to the belt of another turned him into a much needed musician. It's still WYSIWYG even if you can't see it from the front.

The unit champion is an even older model and is from the Talisman boardgame (actually from the Talisman Adventure expansion) and is from 1986. Clearly a veteran.

The helmet and perpetual Gallic shrug make him blend into a Bretonnian army really well.

I have a number of other Talisman miniatures which I intend to sneak into all sorts of different projects.

Even with the command group, I only had 16 Men-at-Arms, which is not really enough for a melee unit. Therefore I fell back on a tried and tested Cheaphammer practice of using a unit filler.

I had intended to put together a cart full of gear, but I stumbled on some geese I'd inherited from my dad and had an idea 

Using one of the last two archer bodies I still had, I put together a model who could conceivably be ineffectually trying to shoo away some geese that were intent on disrupting the formation.

When put with the rest of the unit it adds a element of comedy, which I think is always important, but often missing, in Warhammer Fantasy, as the unit is essentially being flanked, or, for want of a better term: goosed in the rear.

Recent marketing information has shown that the Bretonnian Men-at-Arms have had a little bit of a glow up in their rules, making them potentially more useful than they were.

Most notably is the addition of the Grail Monk, carrying a blessed tryptich, allowing the unit to hold ground in the face of any enemy for at least a round.

Again, using my last Man-at-Arms body, I cobbled together a Grail Monk to go with my larger (and more likely to get used) unit of Men-at-Arms.

Here he is with his unit, ready to stand against the Hordes of whatever is sent against them...for a short while, at least.

This represents the last of what I have available to paint my Bretonnian army, although I do have one thing that I want to work on, but I need to get my hand on a knight first.

Here's the current army in all its glory.

Yes, I'm aware that I need more knights.

Pleasingly, I now have more than the equivalent of the Bretonnian army box for the release of Warhammer: the Old World, and the rulebook is going to be available separately, meaning that I don't need to buy the box.

The only thing I would be missing out on is the new Royal Pegasus kit, but they will pop up on eBay, I've no doubt. Also, the thing I'm trying to work on might address that issue too.

So that's a sizeable chunk of miniatures painted: 21 if you count the geese as individuals (which I do) but accept that the Grail Monk was in the bits box...bits.

However, astute readers will possibly be asking themselves, "if he has the Men-at-Arms from Advanced Heroquest, does that mean...?

Yes, yes it does.

I have 31 Advanced Heroquest Skaven, along with 16 plastic Clanrats from different generations, 22 Giant Rats, 2 Rat Ogres, a Beastmaster and Grey Seer Thanquol.

On the up side, that's the beginnings of a new army and a potential project for next year.

On the other hand, that's 73 miniatures that are worth about 500 points, and most of that is Thanquol, who can't be used in small games anyway.

And I've still not finished counting all the additions to the Lead Mountain.

However, Christmas was quiet on the gaming front, and the only hobby-related gifts I got were a Horus Heresy character model, and 3 Gondoliers, a Gondola and some more cardboard terrain for Carnevale.

Which, with only a couple of days to go and yet more to count, leaves the current totals as:

Acquired: 290
Painted: 323
Lead Mountain: 589


Sunday 24 December 2023

The Knight Before Christmas

Well, it's happened again.

I once thought I had become immune to the siren song of Games Workshop's marketing department, but the growing swell of the rising tide of Warhammer: The Old World and threatens to dash me on the rocks of financial oblivion as I drown in nostalgia.

There is but one defence left to me: faith. Faith in the tenets of the Church of Cheaphammer.

"Bring me my bits box!"

Loooong time readers of this blog might dimly remember that twelve and a half years ago, the very first posts on this blog featured my waxing lyrical about avoiding giving money to Games Workshop whilst building a Bretonnian army four our club's 'Tale of X Gamers' challenge.

Due to Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th edition being rubbish and the world blowing up, I never finished that army (I got to about 1500 points) and so when the hype trawler for the upcoming release of Warhammer: The Old World steamed into port with a focus on Bretonnia and Tomb Kings, I was ensnared in the nets of nostalgia.

Unfortunately, being me and having not played Warhammer Fantasy Battle in over a decade, I had sold my Bretonnian backlog to fund other projects at some point in the distant past, leaving very little in my bits box to scratch the nostalgic itch before I was compelled to spend money on impulse.

A couple of horses, a single 5th edition knight, a few spare torsos and a mountain of heads and weapons stared back at me as I searched for inspiration.

And then my eyes fixed on a motley-esque head from the Men-at-Arms sprue, some legs from the Empire Militia kit and an idea was born...

Jules le Jongleur, the jester companion of Tristan le Troubadour, special characters from the 5th edition Bretonnian book.

Once the idea was born, things came together quickly. Most of the bits are from the Men-at-Arms kit (I think), but the head of the hobby horse was carefully cut from a knight's helm.

Tristan and Jules were not included in the 6th edition (and last) army book, and there is zero chance of them turning up in the new game, unless I play 5th edition specifically, Jules is sans rules. 

However, he's a characterful chap who can caper away in in the back ranks of any infantry unit making up the numbers without too much fuss.

Obviously, if I was making Jules, I'd need a Tristan, and that seemed an ideal use to put my one remaining knight body to.

A little bit of carving was required to get the older body to fit on a newer horse (to match the rest of the army, and I needed to use a mismatch lance arm and cover the hole in his back (which is how the 5th edition knight helms were attached with a peg on the material).

Fortunately, Tristan is technically a Questing Knight (from the days before they had to use great weapons) and so I covered any unsightly section with his travelling gear and explained away the mismatch arm as a consequence of one of his adventures.

The old kits were swimming in useful bits, so I was able to give Tristan a pack, a keg of ale, a silver horn and a helm (the original model was bareheaded too). The lute is the only non-GW bit on there, but it was kind of essential for this character concept.

You might notice that the heraldic icon he bears looks a little familiar. I was forced to improvise after not planning around what decals I had available when I started painting him.

The Ultramarines symbols were pretty much the only blue transfers I have, and so I made the decision to turn them into lures, which is appropriate. I'm not 100% happy with this and so I might change this when I eventually get more Bretonnian decals.

As he's not equipped in the right way to be a Questing Knight, Tristan with serve as a Paladin in my army, probably leading the Knights Errant who are likely to be inspired by his heroic songs.

The final special character I've made is the Holy Knight, a Grail Knight on foot from the Circle of Blood campaign box released in 5th edition.

I'm not sure where the legs come from (possibly an Empire kit) but pretty much everything else is Bretonnian knight. He's supposed to be armed with a hammer, but I've  cobbled together a mace for him, which will work fine.

If you're wondering about the odd colour choice, I made the decision when building the army that all the servants of the Lady of the Lake (Damsels, Battle Pilgrims, Grail Knights, etc.) would wear pale blue, and so I've kept to that for the Holy Knight. The shield design is also space marine transfer; this time from Blood Angels, who have a similar, and very convenient) chalice fetish to the Grail Knights (his crest is also from a Blood Angels backpack).

Warhammer: The Old World seems to have restored the concept of knights on foot to the Bretonnian army, so his chances of seeing action are quite high. Additionally, I've never played through the Circle of Blood campaign, and as I have both the armies necessary, that might be an option too.

I've still got a couple of things that can be repurposed into my Bretonnian army before I inevitably need to spend money if I'm going to give Warhammer: The Old World a go (I definitely need more knights), but this is at least keeping me clear of the feeding frenzy for Bretonnians over on eBay right now.

Acquired: 212*
Painted: 302
Lead Mountain: 532**

* I promise that I'll calculate the full damage inflicted on my numbers by the recent treasure trove that was unearthed before the end of the year.

** Sadly, these three do nothing to the Lead Mountain as I never counted what was in my bits box in the first place.

Finally, I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to both of my readers for tomorrow. I hope it's a good one. I've no idea what Santa's bringing me, but I have been a good boy, so hopefully there might be some toys under the tree for me.

Finally, I'm case you were stuck for something to watch, there is a Netflix film called The Knight Before Christmas, which I discovered whilst looking for suitably seasonal images in a Bretonnian theme to finish off with.

It has a rating of 5.6 out of 10 on IMDb.

Make of that what you will.

Happy Christmas!