Friday, 16 February 2018

The Gaul of It...

It's been longer than I had intended, since my last post. In the meantime I have been working on a science fiction short story, which is nearing completion, and getting some freelance work done. I haven't managed to blog much, but I have posted a couple of episodes of the On Minis Games podcast, so that's something.

It was in editing one of these episodes, in which we were talking about some painting goals for 2018, that I started to get the painting bug again. For various reasons it has been over 12 months since I last put brush to model, but finally, that streak of inactivity has ended...

I wanted to paint, but what? I have an army for Kings of War, Sharp Practice, Infinity, Sword and Spear, Chronicles of Anyaral, and more, all of which sit naked, all of which I hope to get back to the table. In the end I went with an old favourite, a scale that has always appealed to me: 15mm, and that meant Sword and Spear.

I can't remember when we last played this game, but I do know I enjoyed it a lot, and that my friend and I swore in blood to paint our armies before playing again. At the rate I was going, this was never going to happen, and oaths in blood are all good and well if you plan on following them up.

After we trialed Sword and Spear I bought a 15mm Gallic force from Forged In Battle, and very nice the miniatures are too. I love small scales, and 15mm is probably my favourite. I have been looking forward to having a painted 15mm army for some time, just not perhaps putting in the work required to create it.

Interestingly, these miniatures do require some assembly. This is not something I have experienced with the 15mm models I have used in the past. Some of the spears need to be clipped from their bases and glued into place, but the models are good quality with a nice level of detail. In the picture above I have sorted out the miniatures that will form the bases of warriors in my Sword and Spear force. It will be 8 figures to a base for these, and ultimately I want around 10 bases to give me some flexibility in force creation. So far I have painted 4 bases worth...

Undercoated and ready to paint. I decided to try multibasing the models on icy-pole sticks for the painting process. I don't think I like it very much, and may revert back to single models on stands to paint in the future, I find I have more control that way as I like resting my painting hand on the hand I use to hold the model for steadiness.

The first two lots done, 1 base of warriors. As per usual, I couldn't leave it at a base coat and wash, I had to go back and highlight. It took a few hours more, but overall I am happy with the results.

The other sets finished, ready to be sprayed with a matt varnish. I will be getting some shield transfers to finish them off I think, so they are not quite ready. 

These add up to 3 bases of warriors. They aren't the best, but I am happy with the end results. I base coated over a white undercoat. Washed with a dark brown (Army Painter Strong Wash) wash, and then highlighted in the same colours used in the base coat, I then added a second highlight in some lighter tones. I am pretty happy with how they came out, and am looking forward to getting both the shields finished with transfers, and the basing done. I'll post more pictures when that finally happens.

I also undercoated (with the intention of painting), the figures I have for Twilight: Chronicles of Anyaral. I used a Dunkelgelb brown for the undercoat, which should suit the intended paint scheme nicely. The models are great, full of life and character, and I'm looking forward to painting them with my son.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A new blog?

I'm considering starting a new blog. That's not to say this one will be abandoned, I owe it to my two loyal readers to keep the home-fires burning at the castle! But I am considering running a blog in addition to this one. Those who do read my posts here are probably wondering why I'd bother, given I update this one only a couple of times a month. So let me run through some of my thinking, and, if you have the time I'd value any additional thoughts in the comments!

The new blog would be specifically about writing. It would cover the things I have been working on, thoughts about the process, struggles I am having and resources I find or have found useful. Who knows, I might even post the occasional story or excerpt. My thought at this stage is that I would aim to update it every week, and posts may be short or long, but they would be specific to that topic.

Top of the list of reasons I am considering this is because the subject of the blog would be specific, whereas here they would be mixed in among a range of other subjects, primarily games and gaming. The other key reason is inspirational: I must be doing something in order to write about it. Having to write a post a week will hopefully give me a reason to keep pushing forward with the projects I am working on, and will serve as a way of charting my progress, even if only for myself.

I know from the statistic page that my posts on writing tend to get less attention than posts on games and gaming, so breaking that aspect out both helps me to concentrate my thinking on that subject in one place, and people who would like to read content related to that can more easily do so.

But then again, maybe I won't. Writing a blog post is a neat way for me to trick myself into believing I have written something, and while words are on a page, none of them are pushing a project forward. A part of me thinks the exercise would be little more than procrastination. I'm see-sawing between the yes and the no. If you are still reading this, and have an opinion on the matter, I'd appreciate reading it!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Hobby Goals for 2018

With my writing goals outlined, it is time to turn to my hobby...

Last year I had a variety of hobby goals, some of them I achieved, others I did not. This year I'm going to try and push a few things (like the podcast), and be a little more circumspect about others (game designs).

100 Unique Games

This is a goal I have had for the past couple of years, and have managed to accomplish. I'm not listing this one because I think it will be an easy victory, but because sometimes it makes me pause when I'm picking a game to play, and ask myself whether I wouldn't rather trying something I haven't played for a while. Usually the results are good - with new games arriving on a too regular basis it's good to try and get some of the older ones off the shelf as well. For those of you on, I am tracking the games I play throughout the year in a geeklist which can be found here.

Role Playing

Last year we managed to play with relative regularity, and this is something I'd love to continue into 2018. I have plans to continue the Symbaroum campaign we're currently playing. When that comes to a close (in a couple of adventures hence), I might shift to a different game system and setting for a while, and come back later in the year. Currently I'm looking Heavy Gear, Mythic Battles RPG, Feng Shui, and a couple of others. I have loved getting my role playing hat back on the last few years, and really hope this is something we can keep consistent with throughout 2018.

Miniature Painting

I had lofty goals last year, and managed to get nothing done. This year I hope to... well, to do something. I would ideally like to paint my Chronicles of Anyaral figures, Heavy Gear force, Yu Jing Infinity Force and my 15mm Gauls for Sword and Spear... but I know I won't be that productive. I would settle for just one of those. I think I am going to try first for the Chronicles of Anyaral. I love the look of the minis, and it's something my son and I could do together. Beyond that... who can say.

Minis Playing

The last miniatures game I played was Infinity, some months ago. [aghast intake of breath]. Yes, shame. There are a couple of games I'd really love to get to the table with some regularity this year: Sharp Practice, because it is one of my all time favourites, Dux Britanniarum, for the same reason. Sword and Spear, Kings of War, Chronicles of Anyaral (with my son), Infinity, and Kings of War Vanguard - which should be arrived from the Kickstarter later this year. Fingers crossed we manage some consistency with this. We shall see...

Gaming with the Family

Kids games...

Some classics my wife and I love...

Playing regular games (by which I mean almost every night) with my kids, and playing regular games with my wife. One: It's great bonding time, something nice to do as a family. Two: My wife and I used to play games all the time, and life got in the way. I would love to get games back to the table with the ones I love, it's social, enjoyable, and a great activity to slot into an evening before bed-time (or after the kids are in bed, for my wife and I).


Last year was the inaugural year for our local game convention. I am part of the committee, though what my role is remains a mystery to all involved, myself included. Nonetheless, and thanks mainly to the leadership of our fearless commander-in-chief Karl, as well as those on the committee who did things (Nath, Matt, Will et al), it was a resounding success. This year we hope to increase numbers and generally improve on the whole event. If you're an Aussie - come along and have a great time. You can find the website with information here.


Well, I'll be honest. 2017 was a bit of a let down. Quinton and I had intended to get On Minis Games rolling, and life interceded. We didn't manage it. This year we're hoping to do what we hoped for last year - 2 episodes a month. We already have two recorded, the first of which will hopefully be soon. You can find information about our podcast (including the RSS link) here. We'll be covering mainly miniature games, with a sprinkling of RPGs and Boardgames as well...

Well, that about rounds out my hobby related goals for 2018. Looking back, I think it is more than enough to keep me occupied. Fingers crossed I managed to tick a few more of these goals off than last year!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Writing Goals for 2018

It has taken me a little time to come back to the blog with some clear thoughts on what to write next. Logically speaking, given the last few posts centered around looking back at 2017, and that the new year is underway, the thing to do would be to add a few posts detailing my goals for the coming year. Fairly straightforward really. A few things have held me back. First and foremost of course is the need to solidify in my own mind what the goals for the coming year should be. Should they be a repeat of last years, flow from them, seek to improve on them, focus on those things I struggled with... But there were other thoughts too, as you will read below.

So, this post details my writing goals for 2018, some of them are a continuation from last year, some wholly new.

Freelance Writing

Readers of my blog may know that I have, for the past few years, worked as a freelance writer for Spartan Games and Modiphius Entertainment. The last half of 2017 was devoted to working on the Infinity Role Playing Game line, writing background material for upcoming sourcebooks, adventures and the like. I have work still to do, and am very much looking forward to continuing my efforts with Modiphius.

Since I have a better handle on my rhythms as a writer, and I have a bit more experience in regards to both what I need to do and how to go about doing it, I am hoping this work continues throughout the year. I have loved working on the Infinity line, I have also done a little for the Star Trek RPG, and hopefully will have the opportunity to write for various of their other product lines.

My key goal here is to keep at it. Keep writing, keep working, and keep enjoying the process. I have loved every minute of the work I have done so far, and have been lucky enough to work with some absolutely wonderful, helpful and inspiring people. Here's to 2018 being bigger and better than an already enjoyable 2017! Many thanks too to the boffins at Modiphius, it has been a pleasure!


For the last two years I have had the goal of blogging at least twice a month. Ideally I'd like to increase that to once a week. But in all honesty I think that when work gets busy I will find myself struggling with the time to do so. So, here's to a carefully constructed escape clause: my ideal goal for 2018 is to blog four times a month, and my realistic goal is that I will blog twice a month. A bit wishy-washy, but there you have it. My journal will include four tick boxes instead of two next to my monthly goals, but if I don't manage to tick them all I'll be content with two.

A Novel

My hesitation in writing this post stems mainly from this goal. I felt a level of reservation. By articulating that something is a goal I am placing an expectation on myself; that I will endeavor to follow it up; to do something about it. This goal is particularly personal, and since I place an emotional value on it, any failure to achieve it would be disappointing. Better perhaps to not vocalise it, to keep it hidden, to toil in silence... In this way there is no chance of failure, no chance of falling short, and any inability to achieve it can be safely directed away from any real emotional consequence because it was never really a goal, was it?

In the end though, if it is truly something I want to achieve some action must be taken. If I want to do a thing then I must begin.

This year my aim is to write a novel manuscript.

There. I said it.

I have a whole collection of short stories, novellas and even two novel manuscripts, one only about 20,000 words, the other close to completion, sitting on my hard drive. But none are finished. None are at a point where I would be happy to send them off for an editor, publisher or agent to look at. Some of them are dated from when I was doing my writing course back at the turn of the century, and that was a younger me, with less experience. My goal this year is to write the manuscript for a novel. To have it finished. To have it between 80,000 and 120,000 words. To edit it, and otherwise have it in a state where it is 'ready' (well, ready to be cut apart by an editor).

I have started. I am reading books on structure and writing again. I am listening to writing podcasts. I have a collection of ideas I like (too many). I have written short descriptions and outlines for each. I have the stories mulling and stewing in the back of my mind, refining and being refined. I have even pitched them to a few people to see what ideas seemed to resonate and what didn't (thank you to those people, really). My next steps in this endeavor center around cutting this list of ideas down to one. To outline, plan, plot, characterise and all the other necessary things, and then lastly, to write it.

It has been stated; at least; at last. We shall see...

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Looking Back - Favourite Books Read in 2017

I used to read voraciously, but life, work and hobbies have all conspired to make it easy for me to devote time to other things the last few years, and I haven't been reading as much as I would like. I made a conscious decision in 2016 to try and read more books again, and while the number read in total hasn't been anywhere near what I used to get through, it has been better than the few years before I made that commitment.

This year I have a range of different books, for myself, to my kids at night, and out loud to my class. I have tried to make sure I review many of the books I have read over the course of the year, and you can find those either on Good Reads, or by clicking on the 'books' tag at the bottom of this post.

So, without wasting too many more words, what are the best books I have read in 2017?

First and foremost, the book I most often think about since finishing is Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. You can read my review here if you're interested in more details.

Children of Time is something I keep coming back to because of the juxtaposition of the two stories that unfold. It reads like a real and thoughtful examination of the human condition, and represents both the best and worst our species is capable of. The story is different, one set of characters are alien and strange, and yet it works. The rise of civilisation charted throughout this book is measured equally against the slow disintegration of a microcosm of our own. All the characters are interesting and engaging, the story dramatic and full of highs and lows. All in all it is a book I enjoyed a lot. I thoroughly recommend looking it up, and have been very glad to note that the author, Adrian Tchaikovsky, has stated on Twitter that he is working on a sequel.

My absolute favourite book read this year has been Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling. 

I actually read this twice, once to my class and once to my son. My class enjoyed it, which was nice, but my son went from not being interested in reading this 'strange' book, to absolutely adoring it. We're currently reading Chamber of Secrets, and he is loving the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle card game (recommended).

The moment where Harry faced down Quirell would have to be one my favourite parts of year, not just reading. My son, rapt, was sitting in his bed disbelieving. Genuinely upset at the betrayal and twist. This book changed his attitude to reading, and it was an absolute joy to be a part of that.

Harry Potter is a wonderful story, and never seems to fail in drawing readers in and capturing their imagination and their hearts - it certainly did mine, and my son was no different. It was an absolute pleasure to read this to him.

The most interesting book I read this year was Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I read this book to my class on recommendation from another teacher (thanks Tara). I was skeptical, I'll be honest. But wow. I am a convert. This book was a revelation, to myself and the kids in class both. I am not sure if I have read a book that genuinely revolted, amused, and fascinated a class more than this. Killing and butchering an animal, making cheese, playing with a corn-cob doll; all the simple every day things that consumed the lives of the Wilder family in their time in that log house was an eye-opening adventure back in time. What a wonderful book and window into another era this book is.

The most influential book I read this year was Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.

A classic tale of survival, where a boy is pitted against nature itself in an epic quest just to survive. This book contains everything one would expect of a survival story, and is brutal in its exposition. The kids in my class were equally delighted and horrified by it. Why was it most influential? I read it out loud. The rhythm and cadence of the book is sublime. The repetition pounds the message home. The short sentences combined with long sentences and repeating phrases call to be read aloud and make the book a fascinating experience. The story is good, but the writing is fascinating. I loved it.

So, in short order there are some of my favourite books read of 2017. Not all new and shiny, some old and dusty, in fact, but all good books and thoroughly recommended. 

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Looking Back - Hobby Goals

At the beginning of each year I set myself various goals, for some areas - like my writing goals, the idea is to challenge myself to achieve various things. For some areas - like my hobby goals, it's to vary things as much as it is to challenge myself. At the start of 2017 I wrote up some hobby goals, they focused on playing a variety of board games, getting some role playing done, painting and modeling, podcasting and game design. The results were a mixed bag...

Board Games Played...

Like 2016, in 2017 I set the goal of playing 100 different board games. Half way through the year this seemed an easy goal to crack, but for whatever reason, I only managed to cross the line in December. It's been an interesting year, my gamer group has moved from playing miniatures games almost exclusively to playing mostly board games, and for the first time in years I feel like I am moving back into the sort of awareness and familiarity with the industry I had when I was more heavily involved in it. I have certainly played more recently published games this year than in the previous few years, and most of this has to do with two factors - my kids becoming old enough to play more games, and my gamer group choosing to play more board games.

For anyone particularly interested, the Geeklist on Boardgamegeek where I maintained the list of the unique games I have been playing can be found here.

It's no surprise that the games I have played the most over the course of the year are games my kids have enjoyed. So far this year the most played games with the family have been...

Zitternix is a dexterity game, much like pick up sticks. You roll the dice and remove the stick matching the colour you rolled. The blue, red and yellow sticks are worth 3, 2 and 1 point respectively. It's a fun game that plays very easily. My daughter, 2, could play this with little trouble, and often requested it. Well worth looking up if you're after a quick and enjoyable game for the family.

Spooky Stairs is a roll and move game with some serious differences. If you roll a ghost, one of the Ghost pieces is placed over the top of a player piece, meaning you must remember which one is yours. Add to this the rule that if you roll a ghost you may switch the positions of two ghosts, and the game is a surprising and enjoyable memory game. Some arguments and tears were shed over being 'ghosted' and 'swapped' - but for all the pain at the time, these little moments are where we learn to be good losers and gracious winners. Again, a really enjoyable game.

Slamwich is essentially snap with a few twists. My kids love it mainly for the food aspect. My daughter always like to repeat the name of every, single, piece of food represented on every, single, card played. But is rather cute and amusing. Another solid game.

My youngest took the 'Muncher' card a little too literally it seems.

Machi Koro is a fun little dice rolling game. You build up a little town, roll the dice and activate and use the powers on any buildings matching the number you rolled. It plays quickly and my son absolutely adored this game, which meant it hit the table with fair frequency. Well worth looking up as a slightly more complex family game to those above.

One of my greatest pleasures this year has been reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to my son. It started with whining about how much he was sure he'd hate the book, and by the time the Dursleys were hiding out in a hut on a rock and Hagrid was banging on the door, he was well and truly hooked. He loved the book, and we're currently reading Chamber of Secrets, which is great. For Christmas one of the newest games to be added to our shelves was this: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. A deck building game with the Harry Potter theme.

I'm usually wary of games that have such a big licence, they tend to be fairly ordinary. But this one is absolute gold. The deck building aspect is neat, and the 'game' includes 7 games - each adding in aspects from the books as they move through the series. The game starts simply, but becomes more challenging, complex and interesting as the different 'games' and their suite of additional cards, pieces and rules are added in. A very solid game we have already played quite a lot over the last few days.

The best new-to-me games I have played are all quite different from one another. A real-time game, an epic story laden miniatures board game and a tight euro game with a theme I adore.

Eye for an Eye is a game that is planned to hit Kickstarter next year I believe. I was lucky enough to get the chance to play it with the designers Ben and Shae, at Shepparcon - a local gaming convention. I had an absolute blast. If someone had asked me whether a real time miniatures game was likely to be any good, I would have flat out said 'no'. This game, however, proves me wrong. Each player has warrior, and rolls dice to place on their warrior cards which may then be spent to move, change facing, attack, defend and use special powers. It is frantic, with everyone rolling, placing and spending dice as break-neck speed, and, most impressively, it works. I had a lot of fun with this, and I thoroughly recommend keeping an eye out for the Kickstarter when it comes.

Mythic Battles: Pantheon. My friend Quinton kickstarted this, and wow, what a lot of boxes, cardboard, card stock and plastic. Having played now the intro scenario, a story scenario, a co-op scenario, and a drafting battle between three players all I can say is that the game is easy to play, and a lot of fun. The choices are many, and the game is tense. But the rules are easy enough to handle that it all just works and works smoothly. I really enjoyed playing this, and I am looking forward to playing more!

I could have gone multiple ways with the last of the three, X-Com, Rex: Final Days of Empire, Red 7 and others were all contenders for the last of the three. In the end I have run with Terraforming Mars. This is a dyed in the wool euro game, with multiple paths to victory and a very solid game engine. I really love the theme, but the game play itself lives up to the hype that has surrounded this game since release. It is highly enjoyable, tense and engaging. So, Terraforming Mars rounds out my top three new-to-me board games of 2017.

Miniatures games are long and involved enough that I won't attempt to do a top three for the year. What I will do is my pick of the games I have played this year, and a couple of honourable mentions.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best miniature game I have played this year, and quite possibly one my my favourite miniatures games of all time, is Sharp Practice, from TooFatLardies.

This game breathes the theme, it is such an enjoyable and story laden experience that every game has been an absolute joy to play. I never thought I would be interested in gaming the Napoleonic Period, or any other black powder era, but here I am. This game, quite simply, is phenomenal. The staccato beat to each player's turn perfectly echoes the theme of the period, the leadership and activation rules are tense and thought provoking. All in all this is a wonderful game, and I thoroughly recommend checking it out.

Honourable mentions:

I have a box of 15mm Gauls I have been meaning to paint and base... perhaps 2018. I bought them specifically for Sword and Spear. This game is very good, with simple, tight game mechanisms and a really interesting activation system it is well worth looking at if you are after an Ancients game!

My son picked this game for the lovely miniatures. I am hoping to get some paint on them in the coming year. The aesthetic is wonderfully charming and the game rules are simple and story laden. Highly enjoyable all together!

On the miniature related goal front, one of my goals for the year was to assemble a bunch of terrain and get things painted. I did manage to assemble some terrain, and a collection of models for Kings of War, but the painting was an abject failure. I don't think I painted a single thing. Perhaps next year will offer better prospects on this front!

The last game playing related goal for 2017 was about role playing. Over the year we've played a few different systems on and off, but without a doubt the best and longest running in 2017 has been our Symbaroum campaign. I really enjoy this game, and if you're keen you can check out my review here. The art is amazing, and the system is easy enough that it doesn't get in the way of the story at all. Thoroughly enjoyable! I am looking forward to continuing the campaign into 2018!

The last two goals I had for 2017 revolved around the podcast On Minis Games and getting some games designed of my own. On both fronts I have done far less than I wanted to, and must count these goals as failed. Hopefully I'll come back to both in 2018, more on that in another post perhaps. The key reason I didn't get to them is because of the freelance work I have been doing, so I need to look at how I structure my time to see what else I can fit in. Hopefully both these missed goals are something I'll come back to.

Overall I have been very happy with the year, sure I didn't paint, design or podcast as much as I had hoped. But I have been playing and enjoying more board games, I've been role playing more, and hey - you can't do everything!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Looking Back - Writing Goals

At the start of the year I set myself some writing goals for 2017, these focused on four things: writing for Spartan Games, writing for Modiphius Entertainment, writing for my blog, and writing some things for myself.

Well, what a year 2017 has turned out to be. At the start of the year everything seemed to be bursting with action as far as Spartan Games was concerned. Things started going a little wayward, and then suddenly, Spartan went out of business. This was a big shock for all involved, and I was none the wiser when it happened than everyone else. I'm sad to see Spartan go, I got along well with the owner, Neil, and liked the company and the games they made a lot. Shortly afterwards we got the news that Wayland Games, under their Warcradle banner, picked up the various Spartan IPs. I haven't had anything to do with the new rules that are coming down the pipe, but of course, I wish them all the best in their endeavors!

Needless to say this change in landscape for Spartan put paid to any of the goals I had had concerning them, so not much happened on that front. One goal down.

Onto my second goal... Modiphius Entertainment. On this front I have been kept extremely busy. I have spent most of the second half of the year writing for the Infinity Role Playing Game, and have also managed a few things for the Star Trek Role Playing Game as well. A vast majority of the things I have been working on are still in approvals, and I have a few things that will consume my attention throughout January, but it has been busy.

Through my work with Modiphius I learned that if I push myself I can manage upward of 50,000 words in a month, at one point pushing to 20,000 in a week. So far this year, for both Infinity and Star Trek I have penned around 110,000 words, for about 9 different books/products. I say this with a pinch of salt, as much of what I have done is sitting in the approvals lines with either CBS or Corvus Belli, but in terms of what I have produced (not necessarily what will hit print) - those are the numbers.

Overall I am reasonably proud of this achievement. It has taught me a lot about getting words on the page, and the sum total of that experience has taught me one key lesson: sit down and write.

On the blog front I have managed (just, at times) to hit my goal of two blog posts per month. Though I really feel I need to up my game to blog at least once a week. Goal achieved, but room for thought on next year...

On the personal writing front things have been of mixed success. With my freelance work I have been kept busy enough to keep me away from other, more personal stuff. I have managed a few things though:

  • I have started the plans for several novel ideas.
  • I have been listening to range of podcasts on writing which has been an excellent source of inspiration and information (I will blog about these at a later date).
  • I have bought a few books that should help me moving forward (I will blog about these at a later date).
  • I have solidified a plan for how I should proceed with my personal writing projects.
  • And, I have a more clear idea for how to get there.

So while I haven't written as much as I would have liked, not all is lost!

That gives a rough summary of how I have fared against the goals I set at the start of the year. Overall I have to say I have learned a lot about myself as a writer, and this should provide me with a better structure come 2018. At a later date I'll go through and lay out some of my goals for the upcoming year, but suffice to say for now: I am very happy with my writing achievements for 2017. I am hoping 2018 is even more successful. We shall see!