Leonardo Da Vinci a life in drawing exhibition March 2020 Edinburgh

I have not updated this blog in long, long time.  Various reasons for this.  The prime ones being a lack of spare time, teenage offspring and a lack of things to say of good interest outside of work and private.  Well last weekend I finally made it to Edinburgh (third attempt as the last two times were snowed off..Scotland in winter eh!) to see in its final days the fantastic Da Vinci exhibition at the Queens Gallery.  As described in its own words:

“Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition brings together 80 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection, forming the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.

Drawing served as Leonardo’s laboratory, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and search for the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation. The drawings by Leonardo in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist’s death in 1519. Acquired during the reign of Charles II, they provide an unparalleled insight into the workings of Leonardo’s mind and reflect the full range of his interests, including painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.”

It was well worth the trip and to see the works of this great man in person once again including several sketches I had only seen in books up to this point.  I am something of a fan of Leonardo you might say.  Here are some pictures I took on my phone.

Sketches of artillery and multiple shot cannons. A couple of examples were built but all failed to work properly without modern technology and manufacturing.

In Utero. One of his most famous and rarer still for being in colour, the womb and child. Amazing up close and of course he was well ahead of his time.

Cats and a Dragon..can you spot the Dragon? Took me ages to find it. Da Vinci really liked cats as it turns out.

The end of the world. Towards the end of his life the artist became obsessed with the apocalypse. By hell fire, by flood and by disease. Powerful rendering…

Excuse the poor quality of these selected images the glass in front, the bright lights and the elbows of many around made it tough but each of these can be seen online larger with a wee search.

My only purchase at the exhibit was an eraser, a rubber, which was not only the cheapest thing there but also half price since the event was ending.  I picked up four.  One for me plus one for my three sons. When I was a student I picked up the three volumes, from the late 1950’s, of Da Vinci’s drawings with notes.  Very comprehensive.  In fact we used it to create our own vision of the ‘turtle car‘ his ‘tank’ in 15mm scale along with the man himself.

I recently finished listening to Walter Isaacson’s life of Leonardo.  A really good book and well worth reading or picking up on Audible as I did since I can type and listen at the same time.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to comment if you want to ask me something.  Perhaps another post in less time, next time.


Kingdom of Heaven – Movie Making Book Review


Get yer books only a Pound, only a Pound!

Taking a stroll through a local pound shop a couple of months back with a good friend I stopped in front of the ‘all books £1.00’ display and among the tacky crap (who wants a PJ and Duncan 1993 fan sticker book honestly!) I spotted a pile of thick glossy movie tie in books.  Ah ha, I thought and had a dig through.  While most were for chick flicks and kids movies there was one that caught my eye.  The Kingdom of Heaven story behind the film and the making of the movie introduced by Ridley Scott.


Costumes used in the film

In its pages there are three main parts.  The Introduction, the Kingdoms of the Holy Lands (Part 1) and Swords and Stones (Part 2).  The introduction by Ridley Scott discusses the notion for the movie while part one has sections firstly on the history of the actual Crusades then their leaders followed by how you dramatise such stories and then lastly choosing the cast for the film.  It is the second part that most interests me with sections on computer graphics, scene setting, costumes (see above), weapons, artillery, heraldry and more with plenty of images to go along with the descriptions.

For one pound I just snapped it up!

Books like this are always useful.  I might get something out of it for historical wargaming or even ideas for science fiction or fantasy too.  As for the movie to go with it…it left me cold I seem to remember.


USEME Prohibition Gangsters – WIP


Top of the World Ma!

There are some more USEME Titles in the planning stage over at 15mm.co.uk and while I have posted about my own title in the next three (Alien Safari , delayed I know!) I have said nothing about the others; so here it goes!  Provisionally titled UM015 USEME Prohibition Gangsters this booklet presents rules for two scales (15mm and 28mm) in wargaming the period in American history when booze was illegal and tommy guns the norm.  That is the 1920’s and 1930’s.

This is not a period I know much about really so I was delighted when Bob McAlister over in the USA told me he was keen to write just such a title.  With some assistance from his good lady and playtesters UM015 has shaped up as a solid and themed set of rules.  Its the first set of wargame rules Bob has written that has made it to published stage and he is rightly proud of this achievement.

Skirmishing is the name of the game and the idea is that small groups of Cops, G-Men, Molls, Gangsters, Hooch Runners and others fight it out over objectives such as hidden stashes, nightclubs and speak easies, warehouses, the open street, flop houses and more.  As with most USEME titles its ten or so characters a side but you can use more plus the solo rules engine is attached.  In fact Bob handed in a manuscript that was too long when his two scenarios were included so these will be given away free on the website and also included in the paid for PDF version.

As USEME’s are budget titles for gaming fun I opted for public domain photographs and so on for the internal pages of the book and the cover is a clever bit of dress up fun on a sunny day from the creative commons licence on Flickr.

I feel that in terms of the way it plays this vision of USEME is most like UM003 USEME WW2  written by Omer Golan but without the armoured vehicles and aircraft of course and a lot more car chases.  This title will be published later this summer.


A Day of Photography…painful on the eyes!

Its not often that I spend an entire day on one central task but today was such a day.  Today, with the assistance of my good lady, I photographed all of the professionally painted releases for the next three months for 15mm.co.uk.  This came to more than three hundred images of roughly seventy unreleased miniatures from the HOF, HOT, SHM ranges crafted by six different designers.  We take photographs very seriously with the aim of showing the actual miniature in the best light and with no software trickery involved.  So many hours of thousands of watts of light and positioning figures resulted in some great shots but left me with eyes like a Blood Hound!

The vast majority of the new miniatures are in the HOF 15mm Science Fiction range and all but a handful were painted over several weeks by Eve Hallow.  He is an excellent miniature painter with an eye for colour.  Its also his birthday this weekend so I will be standing him a Lady Juniper or two at the local hostelry and giving him a wee gift but for the moment I will tell you of his first gift.  He is not only a miniature painter but an aspiring sculptor too and his first miniature will be hitting the SHM range this week… coincidence or what…on his birthday weekend.

I am not allowed to show you all the images I took (don’t even ask…you would burst with the thrill of it!) but I will sneak out a few in the coming weeks and for now I give you what is coming out this week.  The Jelly Cube by Eve Hallow, the Criat Mercenary by Will Grundy (another first!) and the icky Biomorph by the excellent Eli Arndt.  Enjoy!


The Jelly Cube

Jellies Cubed!

Jellies Cubed!


For Scale. He’s Jellified!


Criat Mercenary…gurr!


For Scale with Human Cultist


Eli’s Biomorph from the front


And the Rear…urgh!


Richard III found!

Is this a Skull I see before me…

Aside from a liar of a politician finally being exposed today the big news is that historians have proved beyond reasonable doubt that a skeleton found under a car park in Leicester is indeed that of King Richard III who died in 1485.  This is excellent news for me as I love the War of the Roses period of English history and this really brings it up to date and may mean some revision of books held up to this point to be correct. You can read the detail on the Guardian’s Blog but this does solve one of the big mysteries of English history and its also amazing that they found the body at all.  Really long odds against it.   Hunchback and Murderer or a victim of Elizabethan spin doctoring?  You decide.  Got to love Olivier!


Noble Knight Games now carrying 15mm.co.uk ranges

Something I had been working on for several weeks a wee while ago has now become public knowledge so I can mention it on the blog!  Below I have lifted the text from 15mm.co.uk as it saves me a bit of typing:

We are proud and pleased to announce that Noble Knight Games, one of America’s foremost suppliers of wargame miniatures, roleplay games, out of print titles and much more, is now stocking 15mm.co.uk and Alternative Armies products. NKG aim to provide a top notch service and with that in mind if you are in North America please go along to their website on the links below and have a look. You can order HOF,HOT, Laserburn, HOTT Armies, Altuos and all Alternative Armies starter sets and rulebooks like HOF Fire-Team and the USE ME Series. All prices in USD and provided locally to American gamers. If you are a fan of Noble Knight Games and of us as too you can now combine both interests in one order!

Additionally if you can’t see one of our products on the NKG website that you would like to order please email them and let them know!

I am very pleased with this new arrangement with Aaron Leeder over at NKG’s as I have watched his work with admiration from afar for years.  Noble Knight often causes referrals to Alternative Armies. When they, NKG, pick up small amounts of stock (Firefight 1.0, Flintloque 1.0, 2.0, Erin and other miniatures) from their sources and sell it on using their webstore.  Their customers then coming to us directly for more.  Back in the 1990’s Alternative Armies product was in most of the thousands of gaming stores in the USA before the big distributors went belly up.  This results in little amounts of treasure popping up all the time.

Once more the peoples of the USA can access the goodness of the Alternative!

You can read more and follow the links by going to 15mm.co.uk now.


Advertising in Miniature Wargames Issue 352 – Results!

Following up on last months look at the result of 15mm.co.uk advertising in Miniature Wargames Issue 351 it’s time for a round up on the advert placed in Miniature Wargames Issue 352.  You can follow the link backs to previous posts to see those results and the advert in question but it was an advert for the Altuos 15mm Renaissance range of white metal historical miniatures.

Last month’s look at the results of magazine advertising were positive in fact 15mm.co.uk has continued to receive orders citing the USE ME advert right up to this week.  So quite happy there. However the response to the Altous advert have been quite frankly a disaster.  Enquiries and orders citing the advert were virtually non existent and the level of sales for the Altuos range actually fell 25% overall during the calendar month of the advert.  How the advert actually reduced sales is beyond my ability to understand but I expect (and hope) they were not connected.  Web views on those pages relevant ran about 10% down on the month before but total visits remained the same.  Based on the results of last months questionnaire on the Notables Yahoo Group it seemed that outside of the UK few read MW magazine and many prefer to get content online too.  But there was a solid core of players who read it each month.

The 15mm Renaissance range is fairly popular for 15mm.co.uk.  Not on the same level as HOF 15mm Science Fiction and Laserburn but it more than holds its own for players of FOG and DBM and so on in the historical gaming clubs and societies across the world.

Frankly this has left me rather glum and puzzled.  Comments and thoughts welcome on this by reply or by email.

So what is the link between advertising and figure / rules choice for wargamers?


A look at Miniature Wargames magazine No 352

I got my advertisers copy of this months new Miniature Wargames magazine in the mail on Monday so I have it fairly close to those who line up at WHSmith newsagents at the weekend.  Now that the carnage of the The Thinker’s tenth birthday is over I can do a wee look at this issue.  So without further ado….

Miniature Wargames No 352

Cupola: Andrew Hubback does his editorial commentary as normal and this time he announces or hints at a refreshed design for the layout of MW coming next issue.  I look forward to seeing the rests of his feedback from the readers.  Feedback is vital in all industries and I often feel as if I operate in silence because if the customers who buy my titles and miniatures do not tell me what they think of them or what they would like to see it is really tough to improve!

Letters Page:  Good letters in this month especially one from John Treadaway (ah..fond memories of Full Thrust!) concerning the lack of non-historical materials in the magazine (not just MW but focused on it).  While this can mean Fantasy and Science Fiction it also means ‘what if’ scenarios from history too.  This is an important point to take up.  MW own survey last issue showed how much non-historical gaming there was at Salute 2012 and I commented then about its importance to the future of the industry especially among younger wargamers.

Boxing Clever at Fisticuffs:  Nigel Pell and Gary Mitchell report from the Fisticuffs show in Weymouth (south coast of England).  A good read this and its always good to hear of the joy and suffering that wargamers go through getting to shows.  I have not been to Fisticuffs (it would be a thousand mile round trip from Girvan!) but it looked like a fine event with a lot going on including a large game of GrUnTz put on by the Wessex Wyverns local club plus of course Gary’s own excellent Space Vixens from Mars was there; love that range!

The Attack on Raedykes Camp:  The third article in the series by Peter Hall on re-fighting Mons Graupius with the Hail Caesar wargame rules.  This time a Roman Marching Camp hobby article and run through of two games centred around it.  I studied this campaign at university and Peter does an excellent job in turning it to wargaming.

Apocalypse Vow:  It is going to be the end of the world on December 21st this year if you believe the long vanished Mayans.  This article by Gary Mitchell looks the this prediction along with Mayan warfare and ways to use it on the tabletop.  As to the end of the world…no way…I still got rules to write!

The Osaka Campaign:  Part two, and sadly the final, of Kevin Jones look at the rise of the Tokugawa family and the Japanese feudal wars.  One of my favourite nations and a period I know a lot about and in fact I own almost of the books the author quotes as sources.  An excellent summary with some wargaming notes and ideas too.

Scuffle at Shevardino:  Napoleon’s 1812 campaign and the smaller battle that came just before Borodino written by Chris Hahn.  This is a fine article with a lot of history, maps and wargaming material in it but it did not grab me much.  Perhaps I am not in a mood for Napoleonics just now (I am busy with my preparations for a ‘Martian’  terrain set for 28mm scale but that is another matter) so I read it and passed on.

15mm.co.uk’s advert for Renaissance miniatures..gosh it almost looks like a professional did it!

Don’t Forget Your Tomahawk:  I always look forward to Steve Eardley’s pages in MW because he ranges wide and far for material and always delivers a good read.  This time its an approach to wargaming the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years War if you come from the civilised side of the pond!) followed by a delve into the miniatures that can be had for the conflict.  Four excellent pages!

Wargaming Gettyburg Part Two:  Jon Sutherland offers up the second part of his series on wargaming the biggest battle of the American Civil War.  It is a well delivered and sharp article which is just as well as I am fairly tired of ACW as a period and of that battle in particular.  Good for fans of the period.

France 1940:  World War Two booty for fans of the most recent worldwide conflict.   Mark Freeth presents a report on a battle that recently took place at his Wargames Holiday Centre.  It reads like a plug for the place but hey its a good plug and I for one would love a weekend of Mark’s hospitality!

A Spreading Insurgency:  Mike Haran presents a system for wargaming the action when the recent Arab Spring turns to a cold, cold Arab Winter of war and terrorism.  For me this near future article is the best one in this issue. Presenting a squared grid of the Middle East and surrounding regions along with outcomes allows for massive variety and unknowns in play.  Added to this is a system of unit deployment, spies, situations.  Excellent all around and could be adapted to a sci-fi setting with ease.

Darker Horizons: This time headed up ‘Redundancy’ Gary Mitchell begins my favourite part of the magazine by outlining his potential woes of facing the loss of his teaching post and having to do the ‘trolley shuffle’ so loved by the middle aged all across Britain’s thousands of supermarkets.  I wish him luck and while its not the purpose of this posting or this blog to get political it does make you wonder if teaching children is about experience or being cheap…ah but lets carry on.  Gary crams and I mean crams information into the pages listing all the current happenings of two dozen companies and fifty or more releases.  Black Cat Bases get a feature of their new ‘between scales’ Grey Aliens and Sheep while some other person gets a mention about his ‘amazing sci-fant empire.  I wonder where he finds the time?’…what can I say, not much sleep, fast typing, a strong work ethic and a loving wife.

MOTH and Me get a mention! 

Book Reviews: A collection of reviewers look at Twilight of the Hellanistic World (Pen & Sword), The Fall of English France (Osprey), Austrian Seven Years War Cavalry and Artillery (Ken Trotman Publishing), Napoleons Swiss Troops (Osprey), Forts of the War of 1812 (Osprey), The Eastern Front 1914-20 (Amber Books) and a biography of Georgy Zhukov (Osprey).  Good reviews but all I can say is thank heaven for Osprey eh, otherwise what would the review pages do!  I often think that a wargames magazine should review wargame rules as well as military history books in its pages; after all it is aimed at the wargaming hobby.

All in all a good read and recommended for those of you who can get it.   But then I would say that…I am in it!


New Blister Backer

A ‘rough’ of the new Alternative Armies and 15mm.co.uk blister backer card

Some of you might have noticed I have been in a ‘hobbit hole’ for the last two days and have not answered my usual three dozen or more personal mails a day. Well I had been handed a new and urgent task; to replace the current now almost extinct blister backer used by Alternative Armies and 15mm.co.uk.  I had expected to be doing this but due to the placing of a large trade order into the USA last week it was moved up the job list to ‘do it right now!’ status.

Those who purchase their miniatures from stores or at conventions will know what a blister backer is.  A piece of card with all the needed information about the company and about the product which goes inside a blister of miniatures allowing the customer to know what he is looking it along with how much it costs.  These used to form the back of a blister but those were ‘heat sealed’ use once blisters which we have not used for a decade or more.  We use a ‘clam shell’ plastic blister which is more secure but also is reusable and many wargamers use them to transport finished figures too!  So they full fill the same purpose but are no longer the ‘back’ but the name remains much like ‘watching a video’ does despite it being a DVD!

If you click on the image above you can see a low rez rough of the new design. Size wise it is 105mm by 75mm in dimension. It is simple and effective and tells you all you need to know over an attractive mottled blue with the famous Alternative Armies ‘arrowhead’ embedded in it.  The blue is used as it is the best colour behind white metal miniatures to be able to see them properly and the blank white area on the front is for the placement of the ‘product label’ which tells the customer what code he is holding.  This is different for each pack of course.

I will be catching up with the backlog of email soon as I can but this is turning into one hectic week!


An Advert for MW352 Magazine

It is that time again.  A wee bit of graphic design to create an advert for the August 2012 Issue of Miniatures Wargames magazine.   I used the same basic shape and template that I did the Issue 351 or July issue but the subject matter is rather different.  This time the whole Altuos range of 15mm Renaissance Historicals gets the glossy treatment that it has so long deserved.  Expect to see this one in the shops in a few weeks time at most.  Click on it to see it larger.

Some people have told me that magazine advertising in the wargaming industry is as dead as a dodo since everyone now only wants to look at blogs and online groups for their news and ideas.  Perhaps this is so but we will find out.  Some of those same people have said that one of the worst ideas is to advertise something as unfashionable as 15th to 17th century historicals but lets just say that I not only have faith in this superb range brought back from dusty ruin but also that I like a challenge.  I have done my best so it will be up to MW and Andrew Hubback to see if 15mm.co.uk will see a return on this advert.

But its not all about money, far from it.  These are super miniatures and they were for the most part VERY popular in the 1980’s.  While part of the range has been re-released for some time I have not gotten around to the rest of it but knowing this advert is steaming towards the presses will make me hurry up!  To that end expect a posting on this very blog about inky hands and a load of photos of 17th century figures and artillery real soon.