Painting the Ion Age with Sam Croes



Retained Squires - Front

Some of you might have seen the beautifully painted and brand new Ion Age 28mm white metal miniatures from Alternative Armies released in late March 2012.  But I bet a lot of you did not know who painted them or how he did it.  Well know you will know who and how!

Sam Croes a man of many talents has posted on his blog an account of his painting and basing method for the four miniatures.  So go along and have a read and a drool!

You can find these miniatures (unpainted…sorry, I am keeping the ones in the photos!) on the Alternative Armies website.


Assembled for the Avengers!

I had promised my eldest that I would take him to the Avengers movie when it came out.  I made this promise several years ago after a brief trailer at the end of his first Iron Man movie experience..he remembered and now it was time to collect!  He even wore his Avengers t-shirt!

So off we went to the local cinema in Ayr.  Not to be a ‘moaning mini’ or anything but by the gods going to the movies in the UK is no longer a cheap experience.  I will not list numbers but if the movie had been on DVD on new release we could have bought three copies for the price of seeing it in ‘kinda 3D but not really’.   But enough of that..what was the film actually like?

Excited to see the film dad!

Honestly it was very good.  It had a decent plot which moved at a good speed with a few twists in it.  Every hero was given development and screen time.  It retained a sense of humour which is sadly lacking in a lot of hollywood films now (it reminded me of the banter between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker at times) and unlike previous efforts the Hulk character was very good indeed.  I will not spoil surprises but it was a shame that the alien army for the big fight scene at the end was the same dumb cookie cutter foe that was almost identical to those in ‘Battleship’ and ‘Skyline’ and ‘Battle Los Angeles’ with a change of hair cut only in some places.

So we gave it an 8/10 or for me…worth the effort of going!


p.s.  This post is a bit late, we actually went on opening night this week but its taken me until now to get this up!

Opps! Not enough Bandwidth!

Not quite what I found this morning but not far off!

Maybe its down to the pre and post Salute boost in the viewing numbers on the Alternative Armies and websites but we have used too much bandwidth!  Despite increasing it and a combined total of more than 24,000 views per month it ain’t enough.  So both websites have for the moment vanished but worry not we are still here!

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.  Please comment here if you have a question.


The Free Scenario for USE ME Eldritch Horror

With life now returning gradually to normal after the mad weekend of Salute 2012 I was putting the final touches to the free scenario mentioned on page four of UM013 USE ME An Eldritch Horror.  This free scenario will begin mailing out to those who requested it from tomorrow.   Almost all of the titles in the series have a free folder of files or just a scenario but I will admit that my workload has meant that I have to write and test these scenarios in my own time at the weekends.  Below is an extract from this two page scenario…enjoy!


An Eldritch Plant indeed!

An Evil at the Buresmouth Tavern

Captain Standish stood back from the blurred glass panes of the ‘Fisherman’s Ankle’ tavern and considered the grotty little town that was Buresmouth. He was not local to the area and it showed. For a start he has the right number of fingers and toes which, he was beginning to feel, was not the case for many of the local people. Standish and his fellow investigators had been brought to the tavern following a rumour of a cult that had begun to worship a growing plant that was most certainly a creation of the elder gods.

This plant was in the remotest part of the tavern’s plot of land and the main room of the tavern was serving as a gathering point for those who sought to undo the evil of the unknown. Standish had been among the last to arrive and the small army detachment (former rank had it privileges after all) he had recruited for the night had already invested the tavern. They would begin shortly. Standish knew that he would be outnumbered, but dealing with cultists was one thing…if anything from beyond this realm was here then that would be a different and rum deal for all of them.

The Voodoo Orc Salute Video Interview

I have to hand it to Rob Alderman.  As well as being a really nice guy he is a talented miniature sculptor and also it seems a guru of the video chat too.  To this end he had asked me a couple of weeks before Salute 2012 if I would be willing to do a short interview with him about what I had been up to.  I will admit I had forgotten this..but when he reminded me I was more than happy to do it.

It is always strange watching and listening to yourself but I hope you all enjoy this short film.  The sound quality is rather low (though that could be me, it was a very long day, in a very large room) and in case anyone is wondering who the strange fellow is that appears behind me and pulls a face about three minutes in…its Edward Jackson…artist for the World of Valon and the Ion Age.

If anyone has any questions about what I said just comment on this post and I will be happy to expand on points.

Thanks Rob!


Salute 2012 – My take on the day

Driving into London is a hairy experience at the best of times.  I know, I have asked those who live and work there.  But for me and the rest of the team it is a once a year event and sometimes getting to Excel is an adventure in itself.  Luckily this time the trip inside the M25 and then through many, many streets passing such sights as the Angel Islington, the Spittalfields Market and the Moorfields Eye Hospital (plus many streets that feature on the Monopoly Board!) went well and when the doors opened the Alternative Armies / trade stand was set up and ready.  It did not take long for the crowds to build as you can see below.

What do you mean you can't see me, I am near a white wall!

I am always awed by the sheer scale of a hall at Excel (and Salute only occupies half of the possible space!) and if you have not been you can see above what I mean.  I took this standing next to our trade stand which was no where near the opposite wall so this is not the whole length of the hall.   At this point I have no idea of the attendance but I think it topped five thousand and felt just as busy as last year.  I did manage to walk round the whole hall once and said hello to many traders whom I know and also a good number of the Warlords themselves who are customers of ours.

I did not work on the stand this year instead I went back to my 90’s roots and took on the challenge of the ‘Sharkes Gingerbread’ demo scenario for Flintloque.  You can read all about the scenario over on Barking Irons and I managed to entertain a good two dozen with it who all went away happy.  I played as the Gingerbread Men and lost and lost and lost.  The most memorable event on table was watching Sharke being killed by a Trolka armed with a Skandavian Kannonderbuss (basically a musket that is a 6lb cannon!) at short range; even his legendary status did not save him.  A big thanks to Tony Harwood for giving me the actual Gingerbread House from his article; it was photographed a good thirty times across the day and I have seen it on three other blogs so far!  Below is a picture of one of the games in progress; it was excellent fun and really entertaining.  Being my first public demo in…humm…maybe three years.

Can I play mister?...I love Flintloque!

The trade stand itself was right next to the demo game table and it was busy for the whole day.  As yet I cannot say what the highest selling codes of the day were but I am fairly certain of some.  We ran out of the packs used in the demo game (including the Gingerbread Men) and handed over a good deal of Sharke’s Chosen box sets which was the big release for April for Flintloque.  HOF Fire-Team was greeting with big grins and open hands (only being released this week no one had seen it before!) and the print edition of MOTH went down well.  But!  I only put half the number of USE ME books we brought back on the van with there being virtually none of some of the books left out of the now Twelve titles in the series.  I am told that the article in Miniature Wargames reviewing USE ME was quoted by many (I will review that current issue given to me by MW Editor Andrew Hubback himself real soon) and also the poster showing the series brought gamers over.  I took a photo of part of the ‘books table’ so you can see this.

Can I speak to Omer Golan, is he here? If I take all twelve can I get one free?

It would not be Salute without meeting my good friends both old and new.  I apologise in advance if I miss anyone out but I must have spoken to a hundred plus people and my throat still hurts!  First off the Warlords themselves including musical and sculpting talent Steve Young (he of Burrovian fame for those in the know).  Thanks Steve for the novel too…all good Joccian fodder!  And then a new talent by the name of Sam Croes (he of the Ion Age art and tiles already on the blog) who is a super guy and a real pleasure to speak to (I will not go into what we spoke of…but great things will happen later this year!).  The feature writer for Starburst magazine whose card I got.  I also got to meet Darker Horizon’s column writer Gary Mitchell and thank him for his full page review of mine and the company’s work.  I also later on got to meet the editor of MW Andrew Hubback who impressed me with a huge knowledge of the hobby and views similar to mine that diversity in wargaming is the key to its continual thriving.  I am sure I am missing people…   Edward Jackson, artist extraordinary of Valon (he draws all the art for Flintloque and other ranges too) with his good lady spent some time and made me smile…he is a really talented fellow and brimming with ideas.  Watching ‘Jacksorc’ talking with Rob Alderman (sculptor of a good number of current Flintloque miniatures) and Tony could almost see the lightening of ideas in the very air!  Below is a picture taken of that chat (sorry I am not in these pictures, but hey I need to press the button!).  Again there were many more people….

Feel the talent! Yes...I was lurking next to the Flintloque racks!

I got myself some swag too.  I will not reveal who make ‘swops’ with me for our stock in return for theirs (more this year than last) but it will keep me in reading for a few months.  I got a copy of the Aeronef rules by Wessex Games,  a title I had been lacking that was recommended to me.  I look forward to digging in this pile when time allows.  We also ended up with a good number of Salute promo materials that were handed in at the stand, mugs, badges, the salute miniature, magazine and bundles of business cards and flyers.

Rob Alderman asked me to do a video interview (good thing I brushed my hair!) so in return I got a snap of him holding his favourite reading material…

Don't hurt me...I will hold the books!

All in all this years 40th Anniversary Salute show was a roaring success for both me and the company too.  It never ceases to amaze me what talent exists not only in the world but also in connection with me.  Wargaming is home to some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Thanks to all of you dear customers…I ate prime steak on Saturday night!


Journey’s End

Another Salute wargame show is over and another one thousand mile round trip is now complete.  I am back home!

I intend to publish a few posts in the next couple of days, one about the show and my excellent experiences there and another reviewing the latest Miniature Wargames magazine in which I featured!

So look out for these posts and if I feature anywhere else on the web in regards to the show, and failed to say hello, I apologise…it was a heck of a busy day!

Early night tonight I think….zzzzzzzzzzzz  🙂    Normal service resumes upon the morrow.


Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Audio book on the move

I have a tradition with myself and that is that each time I attend a wargame show (which normally means at least one night away from home) I listen to an audio book to pass the time in the journey.  This time its Salute 2012 and my pick is The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams.  This is a very famous book which I will not bother going into here as I am sure most of you have not only heard of it but have read it, see it as a TV or Movie version or listened to it as I am going to already. A fantastic story which I have read several times and it gets better each time as I get older and get more out of it.

While I enjoy every moment of attending a wargame show I do miss my children and my good lady while I am away and the traditional audio book (which has moved from Tape to CD to MP3 and is now on my phone!  Technology eh!) makes the separation pass more quickly.  How soppy of me!

Yes…I will be taking my own towel!


Pick and Choose – Just what does a Miniature Company take to a Gaming Convention?

What way to go and what to take...

So it is convention time, or show time if in the UK and the boss says to you ‘Right which of all of our mighty ranges and books are we taking this time?‘.  Now this conversation happened weeks ago for Salute 2012 but it is the same each time and for every event.  Unless you load up five large vans, get three twenty four foot stands, turn over a ton (no not joking) of white metal alloy into miniatures you simply cannot take everything with you.  So you must choose what to take and know that whatever you choose you will be the saviour of some and the cause of damnation for others.

A lot of wargamers seem to think that asking at a trade stand for a single miniature from a pack that you once carried in 1994 for a range out of production and you not having it to hand is tantamount to treason.  Well, I try and keep everyone happy but it is just not possible.  Not everything there has ever been can be to hand.  That is the reason for ‘collect on the day’ orders to avoid dissapointment.  That is before you get to the fact that we have both Alternative Armies (Flintloque, Slaughterloo, MOTH, Firefight 2.0, Erin, Typhon, DarkeStorme) and also (HOT,HOF,SHM,ASQL2.0,HOF Fire-Team, USE ME, Isarus, Medus, Altuos, 6mm sci-fi etc).  So choices must be made…but what?

I am sure that every miniature wargame company has to make these choices and not everyone does it by throwing a D6 dice and chancing to fate (I did that only once!).  So how do you choose?  What are the parameters?  Due you take the new, the old, the best seller, the remainder stock, the traded in, the stuff at the back of the warehouse, those items you inported that are too heavy to send in the mail, stock that came back from stores and is already packed and priced..the list goes on.   While I cannot tell you how others make their choices I can tell you my own system which I feel is close to how others do it.

15mm fantasy and science fiction wargamers seem to like having an entire range to choose from as they tend to buy an entire ‘army’ in one go while at a show.  This means I ensure the whole HOF and HOT ranges are there with their rule systems.  Then I watch with amazement as whole stacks of packs are lifted off the racks by one customer!  On the other hand 28mm Fantasy, Science Fiction and Flintloque players seem more to like the idea of the new and the small force.  That is they pick a few packs or even just one as a painting project; often adding to an existing force.  It is not odd for a new limited code (this season it is VLE12 Villiam Bedsforc the Bombardier) to run through so much of its number to have it out of stock by the end of the year.  Those interested in rule books and there are many tend to pick a system and then purchase every title in it.  The best example of this I can give you is the USE ME series of titles with wargamers buying a half dozen booklet at a time covering sci-fi, fantasy, WW2, ACW and more.

I always take every code we have released in the last year, since the last Salute, that way those customers we tend to see only once a year have something new to see and to purchase.  I avoid taking anything left laying about in the warehouse as it is often there because it does not sell well and space as I have said is at a premium.  The same goes for stock from retail stores.  This is often in need of re-packing, re-pricing and can be codes that did not sell through too.

As for traded in I run a unique service at Alternative Armies called ‘The Swop Drawer’ where we will accept at retail value limited codes from the Flintloque range (LE’s, VLE’s and LEU’s) in exchange for other codes from the range limited or not.  The gamer pays the freight to us, we pay it back to him. The codes swopped must be sold out though not ones that are still in stock.  This is a slow process but twice a year, once at Salute and once in the run up to Christmas I put out a list or a rack and its first come, first served for the sold out packs again at face value.  This will be the fourth year of the swop drawer at Salute.

After this the space that is left is given over to two main areas, for all the pins on all the racks are now full, the areas of painted miniatures and new range titles.  Alternative Armies employees a team of painters and supplies thousands of high quality pro-painted miniatures (from our ranges, all by hand, all in Scotland) covering all of our game systems.  These are sold as singles and units and are out to see, to be examined and handled too.  Customers love to see what they buy.  The new range titles, well I have to pick three, and this year it is HOF Fire-Team (released at Salute first!), Flintloque the Skirmish (the game we are known for all over the world) and USE ME which has gone from six to twelve titles in just over a year and has made me very proud.

So that is what I take, what I chose this time.  The choices are rational and cover as many bases as it is possible to but they will not please all.  They do not please me but only because I ‘know’ that I will be asked at least one hundred times across the day for something we did not bring.  But space is limited and the demands for it come by the dozen.  We take the new, the limited, the traded in, all our books and rule systems, two entire 15mm ranges, a spattering of the massive Ion Age and Flintloque ranges plus a focus on painted miniatures and three of the array of titles we publish.  I pick and choose and I smile!

See you all in London…


One week until Salute 2012 – ‘chucking in pick up orders’

It is now exactly one week until the biggest wargame show in the UK takes place.  I refer of course to Salute 2012 at Excel in London’s docklands.  Saturday 21st April is the day and I will be there on the Alternative Armies / trade stand plus I will be doing the ‘Sharkes Gingerbread’ Flintloque scenario participation game across the day too.  You can read the scenario on Barking Irons Online.  But that is not what I am aiming at with this post…oh no…

Every year the company makes a Salute promotion and part of this is an option for customers to pick up their orders on that day from the trade stand.  This is dandy as it saves them the postage and ensures they get what they want (some codes, especially the sold out limited ones in the ‘swop drawer’, sell out at 9am when the doors open!) but…

Please for the sake of my sanity and worker relations with the rest of the crew get your pick up on the day orders in NOW, not just before the show.  London is four hundred plus miles from Girvan and to get to Salute I have to leave early on Friday morning.  The last packing and casting shift is that Thursday morning.  Every year, without fail, we get a few pick up orders placed late on Friday or even on the Saturday morning!

I live to please (ask my kids and my good lady) but I cannot do the impossible.  If you want to pick up on the day..please order before Thursday 19th!

Thank you for reading my annual one week to go to the show vent!

Details here for Salute during this week.