Max at Salute 2015

•April 29, 2015 • 4 Comments

So Salute has come and gone for another year and yet again it was a good show on a massive scale – surely one of the biggest wargame-focused shows in the world. I think it had grown slightly this year and they’d extended the hall a bit to accommodate. It did mean that there felt like a bit more space between stands and, although there were still gaggles around popular exhibitors, it didn’t seem quite the crush this year.

I’d decided not to enter anything in the painting competition this year as I fancied the break and also hadn’t really painted anything to showcase standard.

I was hoping to have a good low stress browse through the cabinets and enjoy the competition as a spectator this year but sadly that didn’t really work out for a number of reasons. Firstly, when I decided to look through the cabinets of entries they were in the midst of judging and had carted loads off to the inspection tables. Then the cabinet lighting and ropes cordoning them off meant that I couldn’t get a decent enough look to make it worthwhile so gave up. Secondly, later in the day at the time I assumed the results were to be announced, I strolled over to discover them all packing away. I hadn’t heard the PA announcements and had missed the whole ceremony! Apparently I wasn’t the only one and a number of winners didn’t even realise it was happening. Poor show there, organisers!

Painting Competition Judging at Salute 2015

Other than that I had a good show, though, with plenty of socialising, browsing, shopping and marvelling at the wonderful display tables.

I was pleased to get to meet Jeremie Bonamant-Teboul and get him to sign the Figopedia painting book I helped crowdfund on Indiegogo last year. (review of that to follow in a later post). As a bonus, JBT had brought a massive array of his stunningly painted miniatures – most of the ones from the book it seemed – and you could get close and personal with them to see the artistry.

Figone at Salute 2015

It’s always a pleasure to spot a commission mini I’ve painted appear in one of the cabinets so I was delighted to see my two Bushido temple minis at the GCT stand. I guess I’m conflicted on the commission painting thing – on the one hand I get a thrill seeing them promoting products online and in person at shows, but then on the other hand I’d rather spend my hobby time painting my own stuff for tabletop or display.

Bushido Minis at Salute 2015

My own personal favourite game being Infinity I have to say that it felt a bit under-represented with no official presence other than a couple of small independent demo tables and, now that I come to think of it, a few of the big boys were conspicuous by their absence – ie Privateer Press, Corvus Belli, Wyrd, GW obviously (ignoring the usual massive queues at Forge World). Infinity seems to be really on the rise in popularity with Operation Icestorm and 3rd Edition coming out late last year, so it seems like a bit of a miss not to strike while the iron is hot and really push it at the UK’s biggest show. Seems like the CB boys are pretty busy though and I’m sure they’ve got their sights set on the huge Stateside market.

Infinity Demos at Salute 2015

Last year I was not buying minis or games when Salute came around so this year I was quite happy to pick up things that caught my eye – culminating in an impulse purchase of a Guild Ball starter and rulebook. I’d heard some good things about the skirmish game of fantasy football so decided to take a punt(!). I’ll let you know how I get on with that, but first impressions are that the game seems good (Imagine Malifaux and Warmachine got together to make a soccer baby) although the miniatures from my Morticians Guild starter box have some of the worst mold lines I’ve ever seen.

I guess one trend that I’ve become aware of is toward pre-painted terrain. A few years back lasercut MDF kits exploded onto the scene and you’d get wafts of that burnt wood aroma as you walked about the show, and now I notice that some demo tables have taken to using pre-painted MDF, with one company – Plastcraft – showing their rather nice looking sci-fi printed terrain pieces. As a painter I’d rather do it myself in exactly the style I wanted but if you’re looking to fill up a table quickly at a reasonable standard then the pre-paint stuff seems like it could be a great development.

PlastCraft Terrain at Salute 2015

Anyway, another good show overall, despite the painting competition organisation and a general feeling that there wasn’t a whole lot of new stuff going on.

So I’ll close out this post with a small gallery of my favourite demo tables from around the show. It’s always a highlight for me to see the demo tables large and small, especially those that look like a real world setting rather than a flat board with some boxes or trees on it. As ever there were some lovely layouts at Salute this year.

Here, feast your eyes on a hand-picked few.

Pegasus Bridge Table at Salute 2015
A Pegasus Bridge style assault or defence would make for a very cool objective-based game I reckon.

Across the Dead Earth Table at Salute 2015
I’m a sucker for urban decay, post-apocalyptic reclamation of nature sort of stuff so this table for Across the Dead Earth tickled my fancy bone.

Winter WW2 Table at Salute 2015
One of the nicest WW2 tables I’ve seen, and I don’t often see winter layouts

SAGA Table at Salute 2015
This SAGA table wasn’t spectacular but there was something nice about its compactness and realism

WW2 Table at Salute 2015
I was particularly impressed by the scale and quality of this one, which features aforementioned pre-painted MDF terrain by 4Ground I think.

Afterlife Table at Salute 2015
Practical? No. Awesome? Heck yeah, a lovely dam layout by Anvil Industries. You can’t see from this angle that there’s actually water effect the other side of the dam and a rusted car crashed over the edge. Very cool stuff.

Critical Mass Games Table at Salute 2015
I like layouts that tell a story and this one by Critical Mass games does that. I guess some sort of oribital or artillery barrage has taken down the walls preceding a mech base assault.

Feudal Japanese Table at Salute 2015
There’s usually a nice Feudal Japanese layout on show and this year was no exception. A nice touch is that the far table edge is actually a castle wall beyond a moat.

Salute Just Around the Corner

•April 17, 2015 • 5 Comments

It’s amazing how fast Salute comes around each year, particularly if you’re worried about getting your entries finished in time for the painting competition.

Actually this year I’ve decided to take a break from the painting competition so I’ll just be going along as a spectator without the weird nervous anticipation of “those minis are way better than mine!”, “has my mini made it onto the final table?”, “have the judges been through my cabinet yet?”, “is it first or second place?”, etc.

My painting this year has been kind of sporadic and I’ve been mostly focused on getting Infinity minis playable for tabletop, rather than doing anything showcase-y.

Hopefully next year I’ll be back to take the contest by storm, but for now I’m looking forward to ogling the beautiful minis in the painting comp, chatting to the painters, marvelling at the awesome demo tables and browsing the shiny models at the vendor stalls (while trying not to buy too many).

The event is next weekend (Saturday April 25th) at Excel Centre in Docklands, London. Maybe see some of you there!

Let’s Play Dress Up, Wargaming Meets Cosplay

•April 16, 2015 • 3 Comments

Geek culture has really come out of the closet in the past decade and many aspects of sci-f/fantasy related hobbies have lost the stigma they may once have had. I regularly play boardgames with work colleagues and I openly discuss the fact that I paint little toy soldiers, something I’d have probably kept quiet five or ten years ago.

I wonder how many readers would happily declare that they’ve played Dungeons & Dragons, for example.

Another aspect of geek culture that is gaining mainstream acceptance and that I’ve had my eye on for some time is cosplay. I love the fact that people are passionate enough about their favourite games or movies that they would invest countless hours in making costumes and wearing them with fellow enthusiasts at conventions.

My first proper exposure to it was at DragonCon in Atlanta back in 2010 where Mrs Von D and I were blown away by just how great and inventive a lot of the costumes were. Spending an afternoon in one of the convention hotel lobbies, watching the menagerie of cosplayers milling about is something we’ll not forget in a hurry. It’s a creative aspect of the hobby that I felt I’d love to do but would only want to get involved if I could invest enough effort that my chosen outfit was totally awesome, and with so many projects on the bench it seemed like that would never happen.

Borderlands at Dragon*Con 2010

Roll forward to 2015 and I’ve seen an interesting recent development as more cosplayers are mining the tabletop wargames hobby for outfits.

It’s not entirely new of course. 40K has been popular and rich enough of theme to inspire amazing Space Marine and Sister of Battle outfits for years, but now my favourite game Infinity is starting to get a look in. Last year, in an official conjoining of hobbies, Corvus Belli commissioned costume creators Artyfakes and Tabitha Lyons to put together an outfit of a Neoterra Bolt for promotional purposes.

I happened to bump into the Artyfakes team at a recent comic convention in London and had a good long chat with Tabitha’s dad about prop-making and wargaming while she was off being photographed (there was a lot of that going on) and I was especially delighted to pick up from them the limited edition miniature sculpt that CB made to honour the cosplay. I’m a sucker for those limited editions.

Neoterra Bolt, Cosplay Edition miniature

Anyway, what a strange and wonderful world we live in!

Five years on from DragonCon and I have finally gotten around to taking that tentative step into cosplay, well the prop-making side anyway, as I have started on a replica Carnifex handgun from the Mass Effect video game series.

Mass Effect Carnifex WIP

I reckon it’s just like how my grandad used to make me rifles out of a plank of wood, only this time I have access to Youtube tutorials, an airbrush, foamed PVC and a Cricut cutting machine.

Feels like a slippery slope though. What’s next, an Aleph Spitfire? A full set of N7 armour?

Project Assemble

•April 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

With my magpie-like attraction to all the new shinies that Corvus Belli put out each month, coupled with my faction-promiscuity in the game (five and counting!), I’m really amassing quite the grey pile of unassembled minis it seems. I figured some sort of intervention was in order, or at least a kick up the backside to get making and painting them.

So with that in mind I’ve launched my own little Project Assemble initiative, where I at least get them put together and spray undercoated so that I could use them in game, in a pinch and accepting the shame of playing with unpainted minis.

Here’s phase one assembly completed, a whopping 14 minis (including a TAG):

Assembled Infinity Minis

In choosing what to put together I looked at how I could improve my under-performing Haqqislam faction that are currently a bit of an unfocused hodge podge and thought I might try some fireteam-heavy Qapu Khalki sectorial action with Ghulams and Odalisques. On top of that we’ve got the remainder of the Operation: Icestorm Nomads, plus the Iguana TAG (and operator) for good measure because it looks so damn cool.

The full inventory of who you can see in the pic above, working left to right, is:

  • Nomad Spektr
  • Nomad Grenzer
  • Nomad Reverend Healer
  • Nomad Mobile Brigada
  • Nomad Iguana Operator
  • Nomad Iguana TAG
  • Mercenary Yuan Yuan
  • Haqqislam Ghulam Hacker
  • Haqqislam Ghulam w/ Rifle
  • Mercenary Kaplan Technical Services w/ Adhesive Launcher
  • Haqqislam Ghulam w/ Rifle
  • Haqqislam Odaliaque w/ SMG
  • Haqqislam Odalisque w/ Contender
  • Haqqislam Djanbazan w/ HMG
  • Come to think of it, I really should have put together the Corporate Security pre-order bonus mini from Operation Icestorm as part of this initiative so that I had all minis from that box set done. Oh well. She’ll have to be first up in the next batch.

    Oh and before I sign off on this post, I’ve decided to enter the Summer Painting challenge over on the Data Sphere forums.

    The theme for this second of their online painting thingies is Heavy Infantry so I’ll be painting Ajax, the big hammer-wielding Aleph dude. Here he is, all undercoated and with a date stamp for good measure!

    Ajax Miniature Undercoated

    I’ve got a load of part-painted Aleph minis just waiting to be finished off so this is a nice bit of motivation.

    Service Interruption Due to Dragons on the Line

    •March 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

    Apologies for the interruption in service. This unavoidable delay has been due to my soul being stolen for 170 odd hours of Dragon Age Inquisition!

    I am the biggest fan of Bioware’s CRPG series, and class the Mass Effect trilogy as my favourite game of all time. So I was delighted to discover that Dragon Age Inquisition is such a fantastic return to form after the relative disappointment of Dragon Age 2, and it would be hands down favourite if it was set in the Mass Effect sci-fi setting.

    Certainly bodes well for Mass Effect 4.

    Anyway, now that those dragons have been dealt with, all side quests completed, all character dialogue savoured, etc, I can get back to the business of painting toy soldiers.

    Coming out of Hibernation with more PanO

    •February 17, 2015 • 2 Comments

    No sooner did I start crowing on about how prolific I intended to be here on the blog this year than I went and caught a cold again that knocked me out of the painting habit. This winter, despite being milder than recent years, has seen me struggling with motivation for some reason. I think next year I might just find a cave to crawl into for hibernation!

    Anyway, the cold has gone, the sun is out, and I picked up the brushes again to finish off a couple more of the Operation: Icestorm PanOceania minis.

    First up is the ORC Heavy Infantry,

    Panoceania ORC Heavy Infantry

    Panoceania ORC Heavy Infantry

    Seems like a fairly standard dude with heavy exo-suit armour, reasonably costed and he comes with a fairly versatile multi rife. I decided to stick the urban camo on his shoulder plates to add a bit of uniformity to the squad, and also because I enjoy painting it!

    Then there’s the Akali Sikh Commando,

    PanOceania Akali

    PanOceania Akali

    Those ski things on his back signify him as a drop trooper, capable of airborne deployment. This can cause a serious tactical headache for your opponent in Infinity when you drop him in their backlines, or he can be really useful for advanced deployment to grab objectives or provide precision fire support.

    Five Year Review

    •January 21, 2015 • 2 Comments

    Was it Mark twain who coined the phrase about Lies and Statistics? Well whoever it was, they were on the button in pointing out just how powerful statistics could be at indentifying or obfuscating truth in data.

    I’m particularly interested in the topic, particularly of data visualisation and it forms a large part of my non brush-wielding day job, so when I was looking at the WordPress admin site for this blog and was started browsing through the various charts and stats that they collate for me, I figured it would be nice to share a couple of charts with you.

    First off, I’m pleased to say how happy I am that I’ve been running this blog for five years now and over that time have published a total of 257 posts, it’s been viewed over 89,000 times and I have accrued 50+ followers. That last number may seem small but I am humbled that people would want to subscribe to the blog, particularly given that I don’t go out of my way to publicise it. Thanks all!

    Anyway, those charts. First up is a look at the number of views I’ve gotten over the years,

    MVD Views Per Year

    As more content was published and more people followed I suppose it was unsurprising to see the rise up til my peak year of 2013 where I had over 23,000 views. 2014 saw a drop in activity and this is unsurprising to me as I felt that I had a particularly quiet year on the blog.

    This next chart bears that out,

    MVD Posts Per Year

    My expectation of the lifecycle of a blog would be that it would have an initial flurry of excitement followed by a steady decline in interest. I sort of had that if posts published is anything to go by but you can see that I was most committed back in 2011 – year two. As I supposed, 2014 was a fallow year for me with a paltry 28 posts.

    It’s really interesting to see this crystalised in the data and I have to say that it has galvanised me toward more activity on the blog. I’m already three posts into the year, well four counting this one, and if I keep up the pace then I could be back on for a 50+ poster!

    Regarding content, the WP admin also gives me a peek into the popularity of individual posts as well as where my traffic comes from and goes to, which is handy to get a sense of what people are drawn to on a hobby blog like mine.

    Winningest posts seem to be the few battle reports I did in the early years, then some of the tutorial stuff I switched to in recent years. People seem to like battle reports with pictures in so I should really get back to doing that and also continue with those tutorials – I’m even toying with the idea of recording some video! Another post that gets regular views is the one about wargame demo tables at Salute. I like that as it was a positive celebration of the awesome work people put into their gaming tables.

    Well there you have it, the blog is five years old and counting. I’m looking forward to picking up the pace again in 2015, painting more minis and posting more regularly, and it’s probably time for a new lick of paint round here.

    Cheers!

    MVD