Sunday, 27 January 2013

Beasts of War!

Last September, I took three of my redundant Warhammer Lord of the Rings beasts to our local book shop in Retford to form part of a display to encourage young gamers to get involved in the hobby. Having had them returned this weekend, I thought I would post some pictures of them on here. I'd forgotten just how much I enjoyed constructing and painting these models and, how much I used to enjoy our regular visits to Warhammer World in Nottingham to fight battles using the War of the Ring rules on Games Workshop's excellent gaming tables. Fighting large scale battles on brilliant terrain was part of the day, but retiring to Bugman's Bar for lunch was an equally important part of the day. If you've never spent a day at Warhammer World, I would definitely recommend it, but make sure you take your plastic with you, as it is very difficult to resist a visit to the shop and there are plenty of knowledgeable staff there to help you ease your wallet out of your pocket!

My three beasts are the Witch King, my army commander, mounted on a Fell Beast, a Troll drummer and a very menacing looking armoured Troll...

This version of the Witch King is the one I had before I re-attached the massive mace that he carries and wields to such devastating effect in the movies.

This is he, as he is now, with the weapon re-attached.

The main problem with this model was attaching it securely to its base. I believe the current version that you can buy from Games Workshop has a plastic stand to do the securing. I attached my beast by drilling up into the tail and feeding a piece of wire through the base and gluing it underneath. The tail of the beast also rests on a piece of stone. The Morannon Orc was attached to add a little extra drama to the base.
The other side of the base boasts three victims of the Witch King's wrath... a warrior of Gondor, a Rider of Rohan and a poor unfortunate horse. The wire securing device feeds through these figures before going through the base.

 A slightly wider angle, showing the fallen and the Morannon Orc.

This is one of my favourite figures of all time. A great many expletives were shed during the building stage, but it was all worth it in the end. The kit came with several alternative arrangements in weaponry and accessories, and I added the spear points to the back of his armoured gloves just to make him look a little more ferocious. The lump of masonry adorning the base is from a bag of Greek rubble I acquired from a trader at Partizan many years ago. According the War of the Ring rules, Trolls can lob stuff like that at their enemies!

Two more views of the armoured Troll.
As an alternative to the great armoured beast above, Games Workshop produce a much lighter plastic version which can be put together as a Troll drummer.

This is another of my all time favourite monsters! The kit fits together reasonably well, but requires a copious amount of green stuff to fill in gaps where the bits don't quite fit together properly. Having said that, it is an absolute delight to build and paint. Just look at the expression on his face... He is a drummer in the same mould as Keith Moon!

Happy Days! I really quite miss the days when my boys were into Lord of the Rings. Having been a strictly historical gamer for over twenty years, I never thought I would end up painting figures like these, but they are probably some of the most rewarding projects I have ever been engaged in. Perhaps if I wait long enough, my grandchildren will get into Lord of the Rings and I will be able to dust these off and get them stomping across the battlefield once more!!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Logical Bedtime Reading!

These days, the only chance I get to do any serious reading is just before I go to bed! Usually, when I need to buy a new book, I sit and think about events in history that I know little or nothing about and then I search Amazon to find an appropriate read to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

Before Christmas I was scratching around trying to find a new subject when I saw something on T.V. about the Falkland Islands. Although I’d lived through the Falklands War, as a twenty-two year old political animal and, as a fervent anti-Thatcherite, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know anything at all about the war, apart from what I’d seen and read in the media at the time. For anyone living anywhere else in the world in the Spring of 1982, you cannot believe just how the media in this country swung around, from bashing Thatcher’s government and its policies, mainly because of the unprecedented levels of unemployment, to flying the flag and raising the ‘Iron Lady’ up to goddess status from the first moment that Argentinian soldiers set foot on ‘sovereign territory’! Newspaper headlines switched from the doom and gloom of unemployment to racist, war-mongering propaganda virtually overnight. As you can imagine, the diet we were fed was probably not one of un-biased, fair and balanced reporting.

With this in mind, I did my usual Amazon search and came across an account of the war written by Martin Middlebrook. Middlebrook is one of my absolute favourite authors and his histories of the major battles of the First World War are some of my all-time favourite reads. Middlebrook ‘s telling of events is done in his usual gripping and authoritative style and has the advantage of looking at events from well after the dust had settled. At times, both sides conducted affairs with such incompetence, that you can’t believe that either of them achieved anything at all. So many of the events that were reported in the nightly news at the time were the result of an extraordinary series of happenings that would seem preposterous if you had read them in a work of fiction. But then again, there were extraordinary feats of heroism, sacrifice and endurance, that enabled the British to overcome the Argentinian occupying forces, that you can’t but respect and admire those who took part. By the time I’d got to the end of the book, I had changed my view considerably and now believe that events were reported to us in an accurate and balanced way as it is possible to do under such conditions as prevailed at the time. I still believe that Margaret Thatcher was never going to allow the United Nations or the Americans to de-rail her plans to go to war with the Argentinians over the Falkland Islands, because she saw it as an opportunity to change the way our nation viewed her and was ultimately a turning point in her career, which ensured that she would secure her place in Downing Street at the next election.

If you are looking for an informed and authoritative account of the events leading to the Falklands War and the subsequent campaign to re-take them, then I would highly recommend Martin Middlebrook’s work. Furthermore, and this is the actual point of this post, having decided to read the book, I then found myself looking for something to read once I’d finished it. This time, rather than turn to Amazon, I knew exactly what I was going to read and that was a little book that has been sat on my bookshelf for a good many years.
My next read was Barrie Pitt’s account of the two naval battles that took place in the same part of the world nearly seventy years earlier, during the opening phase of the First World War. Again, the battles of Coronel and the Falklands are stories of immense human suffering and endurance which are lost in the vastness of that grim conflict, but they deserve to be known to a wider audience. Coronel was the Royal Navy’s first major naval encounter since Trafalgar and they were soundly defeated by a German admiral who commanded technologically superior war ships, crewed by men with greater skill and experience. Britain’s response to that defeat lead to an epic naval battle, where the tables were turned and the German East Asiatic Squadron was decimated by faster and more powerful ships. This little book is an enthralling read, brilliantly written and painstakingly researched. If you can get your hands on a copy, then I would definitely recommend that you do. Was the completion of this little masterpiece followed by a trip to Amazon? No! It was back to the bookshelf for my current bedtime reading, with another volume that has been sitting patiently since it was last read… Jutland by V.E. Tarrant! Another brilliantly scholarly work on one of my favourite subjects. I wonder where the trail will lead after this…