31 July 2013

Holiday snaps 1

We're on a week's jaunt to the edge of the New Forest, and stopped off under lowering skies for a quick circuit of this beauty:

As Life Members of English Heritage (gold card, don'cha know!?) we often stop for a brisk shufti at wonderful things, knowing that the limited attention span of our three year old isn't going to waste our entry fee... and we can pop in next time we're passing :)

My five year old spent the next quarter of an hour in the car thinking up multiple ways of making a scale model of the henge. Good lad.

27 July 2013

Gladiator arena (54mm) - WIP 2

First blood in the arena! The populace and the manes will be well pleased!

Ok, so I slipped with a stanley knife and tried to take my index finger off at the first knuckle. One of those really neat cuts that doesn't bleed to begin with, you carry on thinking you've had a lucky escape, and then realise you're dripping claret onto your workpiece. What a clumsy lanista I am!

At least the plastic I was cutting was red, and none went onto the carpet...

I've also removed the unwanted entrance from another section, leaving me with two entrances and two sections needing filling. Hopefully I'll get a bit more done before we go on holiday.

I hope you're enjoying the summer so far,

25 July 2013

Gladiator arena (54mm) - WIP 1

Aaaaaaaand made it - summer holidays!!!

With great thoughtfulness, Mrs Rab took the Rablings away last night so that my first evening and morning after a crushingly long and busy term was utterly my own. I was going to start on this last night but had a couple of ales more than usual while having a very pleasant chat in my local with a good colleague and his wife - any geeking would have been a total bodge job. So this morning, with a slightly muzzy head, I got out my Stuff to put together a suitable arena for my newly arrived and very lovely (and accurate, hurrah!) Alpha Forge gladiators. They're BIG - 54mm, and by far the largest figures I've attempted. I'm hoping to get results at least a fraction as good as these fabulous examples from Carmen's Painty Fun Time:

It's because of this picture, and the others on his blog that I went for the Alpha Forge figures - lovely!
I'm still waiting on a pack of lipped bases of a suitable size to drop through my letterbox, so the arena comes first.

That chap I was drinking with? I made this on his machine. 52mm hexes with a 2mm gap between them.

After sealing the whole board with watered down pva to stop the mdf drinking all the paint, I treated each hex like a miniature's base and covered it in pva...

... then sand

Once dry, I painted the whole thing apart from where the stands will go in a mix of a "sand" craft paint and a "velvet truffle 3" tester pot from Homebase

A heavy drybrush of Foundry Base Sand (10A)

The Rablings arrived back at this stage and helped (no, really - little boys are great at random drybrushing for terrain!) with further highlights. Mini-Rab #1 even neatened up around the outermost hexes.

... then wotked up through the 10B and 10C shades, topped off with that "sand" craft paint which is almost white, and the lines between each hex redone with the background colour

Finally, a mock up of the whole thing. The stands will be painted and the box will be replaced with a scratchbuilt Editor's box. I'll also seal off the entrances of the two outermost stands and make portcullis-style gates for the other two.

And now it is late, so good night and happy geeking,

16 July 2013

Plastic pieces of potential

Evenin' all.

Some of you may have seen my thread over on LAF asking for opinions on the Marx arena for 54mm plastic gladiators and suchlike - it was part of  a larger Ben Hur related play set from quite a few years back. The whole set is likely to set you back at least £60, and will almost certainly have received more than a spot of heavy play from small children if the current ebay auctions are anything to go by...

Anyway, I found it an eight eighths set (i.e. enough for a full circle) on clearance for £12 from Plasticsoldiers.co.uk and it arrived today!

The plastic is fairly typical for children's toys - fairly flexible, so I'll need to fix it to a board before even thinking of making finishing touches.

Maybe now is as good a time as any to show you the box-file thing I've started and you can see in the top left of the photo above. We ended up with a bag of box files and I thought there had to be some geeky use for them, other than pure storage. My shoddy, wonky light-box effort got squashed when we moved house, so this is its replacement.

First step, assemble the tools - box file, cutting and sticking stuff, and some thick card.

Next, cut the card to the same width as the lid and base, respectively, firmly taping them alongside to give "wings". I've already cut some of a standard paper-backed grass mat to fit the lid and its wings in the picture below. Oh, i should also mention I removed the catch on the lid and the flappy bit that holds the papers you'd normally find in such a box in place.

Wings flapping

Box wings folded

Lid wings folded

The whole thingamajig closed up. Neat, eh?

I haven't got the back image sorted yet. I'm after a fairly soft-focus, impressionistic countryside image which will serve for my chivalric project.

Anyway, back to the gladiators' arena. Each piece comes with a gate way which can take a portcullis. As I only want a half oval to serve as a backdrop for my games (opinion seems pretty strong that a full arena is a pain to lean into to move figures around in), I'll be able to practise with impunity - I plan to cut back two of the gates from the four sections I will use to leave them plain. They also don't quite stand square so will need pinning together in some way:

You can see where the background image will sit quite nicely in this shot. 28mm Foundry peasant for scale.

Peasant again, in the ruins of a Roman arena. See what I mean about the stands not being square?

The stands are also open backed which means they can "stack", but I'll seal them over to give greater rigidity and for aesthetics.

Conga line coliseum!
All in all, I'm pleased with my purchases but it will be a bit more of a project to get them to gaming-table standard than I hoped. With luck, I'll only need four of them and then I'll be looking to offload the others.

Phew, it's hot here and that was a long post for me, image-wise!

Stay in the shade, drink plenty (you choose the beverage!), and happy geeking,

15 July 2013

Welcome to my underground lair

In between cursing my internet connection for not coping with streaming the first Ashes test (a win, hurrah, but they do need to sort the third umpire stuff out), I cleared out our cellar. Now, we've only been in since the start of April and the first thing I did when we moved in was to lay some laminate flooring over the newly installed waterproof floor treatment... and then promptly filled it with boxes, a sawhorse and tins of paint. Upstairs is now officially done so it was time to tackle the pit. My reward was to claim a corner for my geeking :)

Um, it's our cellar, but part of it is ALL MINE!!!!

Look - paints, partly painted miniatures, and not one but TWO lamps. The old coal shute that the window 'looks out' into will be getting a transparent lid at some point soon giving me more natural light - these photos were taken at about 11pm

Polystyrene packaging repurposed as a display shelf
My new lovely buildings from pmc games - don't fret, the staining on the wall is residue from the damproofing, not imminent destruction of my books and stuff from water coming in. I hope.

When I was clearing up I found we've ended up with loads of boxfiles, so I was inspired to make something - a backdrop thing for taking photos of miniatures and scenery from a box file, some card and an offcut from a GW grass mat.

Stay tuned, fellow geekers,


9 July 2013

British Museum - gladiators

I took a school trip to the British Museum today for a very successful and enjoyable visit to the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. I was a little surprised to find that one group had obviously found this blog (via an older brother's friend who I've gamed with in the past) and referred to their small group as "Team Goblinquest".  

Anyway, quite apart from the glories of a fallen civilisation and the various other wonders of the Museum, there were some great gladiator pieces in the general Roman collection.

Murmillo's helmet - look at the detachable grille as well as the catch holding the two halves together

Description label of the helm above. Golden sheen and feathers, eh? Snazzy!

A detachable visor... detached

Solid bronze shield for a hoplomachus

thraex versus hoplomachus - note that the hoplomachus has lost his spear and is closing in with a pugio

Gladiator decorations! Notice the thraex begging for mission by dropping his shield and raising his index finger.

7 July 2013


Turns out that it is NOT all; huzzah, huzzah, huzzah :)

Well played, Mr Murray!


Well done chaps! That is all.

2 July 2013

aleae iactae fuerunt

The dice were cast - lots of them!

This afternoon I ran a playtest of Furt's new gladiator game Blood on the Sands with my sixth formers who were reduce in number to three because of university visits. We've just come to the end of the module on Roman Entertainment, and they'd helped out on our maths/classics morning for the year 8 students from one of our local feeder schools; they deserved some entertainment themselves!

Casting more recent gender stereotypes to one side, the three girls proved to be rather bloodthirsty and keen to fight, maim and kill for the amusement of the editor (i.e. me).

Our pairing was between an Hispanic thraex called Lorenzo and an African murmillo by the name of Ubuntu. Slightly hardier than your average gladiator (both began with Stamina 4), these two were otherwise unremarkable and as good for worm food as any other.

We used the mat and figures from the em4 Ludus gladiatorus prepainted set, ignoring the columns

Despite his more cumbersome shield, Ubuntu siezed the initiative and charged straight towards his foe, intent on finishing things quickly. Lorenzo waited for the charge then picked his moment and dived towards the murmillo bringing his sica swinging down to clang harmlessly off the large scutum carried by the African.

mano a mano, so close they can smell each other's breath...
This had all been a ploy to get the thraex to commit and now Ubuntu wound back his arm to deliver a heavy blow to the chest of his opponent. Lorenzo was already on the move and the gladius caught him flat, barely winding him, glancing aside. Continuing his move, he stepped round Ubuntu going for his flank and catching him on the right leg, again to no real effect apart from pushing the murmillo back a step. The crowd were cheering by now, delighted by the spectacle of two such keen gladiators before them.

Having seen the speed of the nimble thraex, Ubuntu was more determined than ever to see him off before the weight of his shield tired him out. Gathering himself behind the screen of his shield, the African burst forward like a bolt from a ballista, driving the point of his gladius with every ounce of his strength towards the heart of the Spaniard for a killing blow. The crowd gasped as it seemed certain that the murmillo must be victorious..... but at the last moment Lorenzo once more twirled around his leaden-footed foe and viciously raked his blade down the unarmoured right leg of Ubuntu, cutting to the bone and leaving a bright spray of blood across the arena sand. The crowd roared with such ferocity and delight that the editor feared it was an uprising and had the trumpets blown for the amphitheatre to be cleared (okay, so the bell went for the end of the lesson).

Once order had been restored, there was little doubt in anyone's mind who had been the victor: Lorenzo of Hispania, thraex!

Lorenzo, barely touched by his opponent's blade and not even out of breath...

Ubuntu, exhausted, bleeding and his right leg disabled and nearly useless


Having only played through a couple of full turns I don't think I can yet offer any deep and meaningful comments on the game, other than it is a whole lot of fun! I want to get a game in with me playing, rather than umpiring. It was a satisfyingly narrative way of representing man-to-man combat, "crunchy" without ever becoming so over-detailed or focused upon following the mechanics that the flow of the game was lost.... even with a pair of (slow!) first-time-gamers in the arena.

If you're not part of the playtest but you like the idea of gaming gladiatorial combat, you've got a treat coming when this is released. First impressions? Brilliant!

Happy geeking,