Friday, March 26, 2010

New class concept: the Picaro

The Picaro class is designed to emulate characters like the Grey Mouser who are formidable in combat, but unlike D&D fighters tend to spurn armour and other such accoutrements. These type of characters also tend to have some magical aptitude as well which can be tricky to fit in with the D&D style of niche protection with fighters, magic users and clerics, though the cleric class does allow a mixture of melee ability and spell casting.

I'll not try and stat out the class for any particular system yet, but in Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord or any of the other D&D style games out there it will be broadly similar. Weapons somewhat limited to the more characteristic ones for this sort of character of swords, daggers, ranged weapons. Armour limited to lighter types such as leather or chain shirts rather than full suits of armour. Magic use would need to be fairly gradually introduced as these types of characters are primarily melee fighters rather than spell casters.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

100th anniversary of Akira Kurosawa's birth

A small celebration of a film maker whose work I have enjoyed greatly and who inspired a large number of film makers in Hollywood and Italy. So today I raise a glass to Akira Kurosawa. Unlike many people my introduction to his work was largely with the later works Kagemusha and Ran in the 1980s only getting to see some of the older films on a big screen in the 1990s with a season sponsored by the BFI.

His influence was pronounced particularly on western films many of which took themes or elements from the many samurai films that he made in the 1950s and 60s. Among the notable remakes or inspirations from Kurosawa's films are:
- Seven Samurai inspired The Magnificent Seven
- The Hidden Fortress inspired Star Wars: A New Hope
- Yojimbo inspired A Fistful of Dollars

Of course Kurosawa took a lot from earlier artists with Ran including elements from Shakespear's King Lear and Yojimbo having echoes of Dashiel Hammett's Red Harvest.

My personal favourites from Kurosawa's films are Ran, Seven Samurai and Rashomon.

Miniatures Review 5: 25mm Dixon Samurai

Dixon Miniatures28mm Samurai of the Age of War

Next miniatures review is more historical figures with Dixon Miniatures Samurai. Dixon's figures tend to be chunkily built with pretty clean moulding with minimal flash and come out as 25mm foot to eye, so about 28mm foot to top of head. The samurai range show good modelling of the characteristic Japanese lacquered armour with a lot of detail that can be picked out when painted. My figures at the moment are only undercoated, but I think that makes the detail more apparent than if they still in the natural metal.

From my references, mainly Osprey's Samurai books, but also viewing actual Japanese suits of armour and weapons at the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum they appear to be very accurate in depicting the weapons, armour and dress of Japanese Samurai and Ashigaru in the Momoyama Period.

The cannon is cast in 3 parts with a crew of a samurai commander and 2 ashigaru. Most of the figures are cast with separate weapons such as yari (spears), arquebuses or naginata (ahlberd) with a hole in the back of the waistband to accommodate a separate sashimono (back banner) though this is easy to fill if you do not want that particular figure to wear one.

Samurai figures - 25-152a, FS01, 25-138, 25-134b, 25-131a, FS05,25-130a

These represent fairly typical samurai warriors with a variety of weapons, including the asymmetric Japanese bow and the uncommon musket. Most of these figures have a hole moulded in the back to fit a Sashimono banner which Dixon sell separately.

Bandit and Ronin figures -BA1, 25-86,25-139a. The first ronin figure matches one of the plates in the Osprey Samurai Armies 1550-1615 book.

Front view of cannon and crew SEG1. The samurai commander with war fan and ashigaru with rammer have holes moulded for a sashimono back banner to be added if desired, these are shown attached, but as the figures have not been glued to the base their posture is a little off place.

Side view of cannon and crew

Ashigaru -25-83a (yari not attached), 25-147, 25-143, 25-140a.

These figures wear the jingasa hat characteristic of Ashigaru troops and partial armour, I need to add quite a few of these to my collection to reflect the actual composition of armies in this period. The only one of these without a hole to attach a sashimono is the figure marching with yari whose jingasa is on his back.

 References used:

Samurai Armies 1550-1615 (Men-at-Arms)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Miniatures Review: 4 15mm Peter Pig Pirates

Peter Pig range 10 15mm Pirates

These figures are suitable for sailors in working (and fighting) dress for pretty much the entire age of sail from the late 17th century up till the Napoleonic era. The officers are more tied to the pirate era, but could still do for naval officers, particularly on privateers for a similar period. They are in the usual chunky Peter Pig style with stylized anatomy that I think tends to paint up well for use on the gaming table. These figures measure 15mm base to eye level, so stand about 18mm to the top of the head.

I have a mixture of packs including medium guns and gun crew, pirates with melee weapons, pirate musketeers and pirate officers. Looking at the pictures on the website I think some have been remodelled, but they are still very similar to the pictures here.

The casting has the usual cleanliness that I associate with Peter Pig with little flash or moulding lines visible on the figures. They are reasonably priced for 15mm figures at £2.40 for 8 figures.

Pirate Officers

Pirate medium cannon and crew

Pirates with cutlasses and pistols

Pirate Musketeers

Some painted versions are here

I've used Angus Konstam's Osprey books on pirates and privateers as the primary reference source for the appearance of the figures with some reference to Military Modelling for naval crew appearance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Formula 1 Season approaches

The first race of the new Formula 1 season is on Sunday 14 March and I'm looking forward to it as the changes to the rules and shake up of the teams could make it very interesting.

The funny thing is seeing two teams that virtually line up as national ones with the British McLaren and German Mercedes, the team having both their drivers from their home nation. But of course things are not that simple as McLaren use Mercedes engines and Mercedes team is based in the UK. It looks pretty open with 4 former champions driving - Button, Hamilton, Schumaker and Alonso and plenty of budding competitors in other teams.

Personally I'd like to see Williams do better this season and I suspect that Red Bull will go well with Sebastian Vettel their most likely contender for individual honours.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Battlegames interviews Rick Priestly and John Stallard

A long interview with Rick Priestly and John Stallard by Henry Hyde of Battlegames magazine is very interesting on the development of Games Workshop as a company over the years. More recently Priestly and Stallard have been involved in publishing Black Powder Battles - a set of historical wargames rules for the "musket era".

I think the most interesting part of the interview for me was Rick Priestly's reflections on the nature of rules that wargamers favour. The dislike of adolescent gamers for grey areas and ability to grasp detail as a design factor with Warhammer was interesting.

It has made me wonder if the reason that I now prefer games with a fairly high level of judgement and less exhaustively comprehensive rules such as They couldn't hit an elephant from the Too Fat Lardies or Rules for the Common Man from Peter Pig is that I have been gaming for a long period and don't feel that every possibility has to be covered.

This is something that I'll return to as I clarify my thoughts about this topic and actually get to play some of these games.

Reviews: work in progress

Currently I'm working on reviews of:
  1. Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit 2 - to publish at and Board Game Geek
  2. Peter Pig 15mm Pirates - to publish here
  3. The Road of Kings - Conan RPG sourcebook - to publish at and ENWorld
  4. Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle - to publish here

After that I'll probably try and get in a few games of Song of Blades and Heroes and Flying Lead so that I can do decent reviews of them.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Some more minis from my collection.

Some 25mm fantasy figures with a mixture of Citadel and Ral Partha.

L to R: Citadel Robin Hood, Citadel Magic User, Ral Partha magician holding a skull, Ral Partha Runequest spellcaster with familiar, Ral Partha female fighter.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Miniatures Review: 3 Peter Pig 15mm Fantasy Arabs

The Peter Pig range 19 "War in the Age of Magic" includes Arabian Knights fantasy with a Vizier and giant swordsman bodyguards, horsemen, clerics, thieves/assassins, archers, magic carpet riders and hordes of infantry swordsmen. I have bought all of these as a Hordes of the Things army which is illustrated in the pictures.

The clerics, assassins and swordsmen.

The Vizier and bodyguard with magic carpet riders behind

The cavalry

As a fantasy range I can't comment on historical accuracy, but the figures that I bought were cleanly moulded with minimal flash or mould lines to remove. The figures were pretty well posed though a little static and are anatomically consistent in the normal chunky Peter Pig style.

From the pictures on the Peter Pig website it appears that the range has been remodelled since I bought mine, but the general comments still apply. The newer designs appear to be more active than the ones that I have.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Miniatures work in progress - goblins and lizardmen

Some 25mm miniatures that I'm currently painting.

Games Workshop Moria Goblins

Old GW Lizardmen Skinks with bows

Alternative Armies Goblins and Asguard Bard