Dark Elf Plan

(Originally posted to A Year of Frugal Gaming)

If I’m going to get anywhere with my resolution to have all my Dark Elves painted by the end of the year, I’ll have to have a plan ready before I lose too much time.

Having ransacked the shelves and boxes that house my collection, I’ve taken stock of the unfinished models. When I say ‘ancient’ below, I’m referring to the (mostly, if not exclusively) Marauder miniatures that Games Workshop sold in the mid-1990’s. I expect most of those models are also made of lead, and were carved by hand using flint tools.

Paint needs removing   painttostrip

  • 1 Dark Pegasus, without rider
  • 1 Manticore with partial rider
  • 1 badly damaged Hydra that has been glued, puttied, pinned, and soldered and still won’t stay together. I really don’t know what to do with this one, except corrosively strip the various layers of adhesive and paint off, and maybe try something new (like magnets). It’d be nice to get it back together, but I have a bad feeling I’ve ruined it.

These models will need some extensive work on them. I got the Dark Pegasus and Manticore in an eBay sale, and they don’t have (complete) riders. I’m planning to put a Crone Hellebron conversion on the Manticore eventually, but I’ve not started looking at parts to complete that yet. I don’t want to rush them just to fit within the year’s resolution, so I may treat these models as ‘bonuses’, if I have the time to do them.

  • 19 ancient plastic swordsmen
  • 1 ancient Corsair that needs some repairs (weapons missing!)
  • 4 ancient Corsairs

Unassembled / modelling required 

  • 2 modern Cold One Knights
  • 4 modern Black Ark Corsairs
  • 3 ancient plastic swordsmen that need a weapon swap.
  • 2 Gamezone harpies

Undercoating requiredleadpieces

  • 1 modern Hydra needs a nice base added (bits of enemies, etc) before undercoating.
  • 20 ancient Corsairs
  • 2 ancient bolt throwers and 1 modern one, all with their matching crew. I may delay the ancient bolt throwers to try and give them a bit more sex appeal, since they are rather… blocky.
  • 7 ancient Cold One Knights
  • 10 Dark Riders to undercoat (horses already undercoated).
  • 12 ancient Witch Elves
  • 6 ancient Crossbowmen
  • 12 ancient Black Guard
  • 1 ancient command group
  • 2 ancient assassins
  • An ancient male sorcerer
  • An ancient Morathi model (with clothes on!)
  • 1 Chariot crew
  • 1 modern Hydra Beastmaster team
  • 1 modern Sorceress on foot and 1 mounted on Cold One
  • 1 modern Master on foot and 1 mounted on Cold One
  • 1 modern Assassin
  • 3 modern Cold One Knights
  • 1 Malekith on Black Dragon
  • 1 Lokhir Fellheart

I do have an additional Cold One knight, left over as I got four ancient Cold Ones without riders as an eBay win and inherited a rider without a steed from a friend of a friend’s old bits box. But I’m unsure yet whether or not to make a Black Chariot with four Cold Ones pulling it, or two regular chariots, or have a Black Chariot with three creatures and use the spare to bolster the Cold One Knights. Having three chariots would be fairly nice… Although I often face cannons (boo).

Unpainted

  • 10 Dark Steeds
  • 12 modern Crossbowmen
  • 4 modern Witch Elves
  • 1 ‘middle-child’ Beastmaster team for the (damaged) Hydra
  • 6 Mengil Manhide’s Manflayers

So my first task will be to assemble the remaining Cold One Knights and Black Ark Corsairs, and perform any repairs on the existing models. Then I can devote a bit of time to painting each week before the good weather comes and I can undercoat the bulk of the models, which will give me a lot more to work on! I figure I can probably get about 2 hours a week, spread across evenings and the weekend, to chip away at this mound of metal. I’d rather hoped that there would be more models ready to paint, so if I got the time before undercoating weather came along I’d be able to get ahead on things. No matter, I like a challenge!

Blog Power Up!

I just upgraded the blog to version 1.6 of BlogEngine.NET, using the incredibly useful guide from David Wynne.

Two things he missed though: Remember to change your CSS file as described in the ‘official’ instructions (change #widgetzone to .widgetzone, and #widgetselector to .widgetselector) and to be sure that any changes you made to your web.config file are copied across with the rest of your site (default blog provider, database connection settings, and the like).

If you did change to the database provider for your blog, there are scripts to manage the upgrade (especially since Blogroll is now stored there!) in the setup folder.

Since you can see this, I made it work! Hooray!

Now to mess around and see what’s changed… and finally get that BlogRoll working!

A Night To Remember

[originally posted on A Year of Frugal Gaming]

As I mentioned before, I plan to hold more Games Nights this year than I have previously. Here’s what I’ve found that works for me, but I’m refining my process continually and if anyone else has any advice I’d be happy to try it out next time.

Know Your Audience – “What Do I Do Again?”

Not everyone games like a wargamer games. Wargamers are a little scary, they can assimilate any rules system almost on contact, and be playing the game without the rulebook in under ten minutes. However, not everyone has this ability. They need a little more time to pick something up, and maybe a couple of practice runs.

Knowing what sort of people have come to your games night is important, unless you want to be a speaking rulebook all evening!

Know Your Audience – “Has Someone Won Yet?”

Some games take a long time. Everyone’s been part of a 30-hour Monopoly marathon, where four players are gripping onto their last mortgaged properties in the face of the last two players, who’ve neatly divided the board between them. Being one of those destitute four is not fun. Games with clear end goals are best – ones that state that ‘the winner is the first to grab the McGuffin’ are better than ‘the last one standing’.

Cheat Sheets

If you know what games you’re playing in advance, get an A3 pad and some marker pens and make some quick bullet-point notes to remind people of key rules. Good things to put on these reminder sheets are the win conditions, the order of actions in a turn, or the options available to a player. As noted above (“What do I do again?”) if you need to use too many bits of paper, you might have picked a complicated game!

Bit of Fun

One thing we ask people to do is to bring along a token or pawn for themselves to use in the games. Wargaming friends are likely to bring a painted model, whereas normal people usually bring more interesting or unusual things (a bolt, small crystal, box of staples, etc). I recommend limiting to things that generally balance themselves and are no more than an inch square at the base. I reserve some goblins for people who neglect to bring their own.

Survival Considerations

This is less specific games advice and more basic party etiquette – you should have a selection of sweet and savoury snacks, and drinks around. We normally ask people to bring their own beer, and stock up on cheap colas ourselves. Popcorn will go a long way. Another good practice is to appoint someone as Pizza Prefect. It is their job to memorise a takeaway pizza menu, calculate available offers, sort out what each individual wants and then make the order. If you happen to be ordering a lot of pizza, you may get an additional discount.

First Steps

So, it’s February and I think I can say I’ve made an acceptable start to my New Year’s resolutions. In order, then!

  1. Filing.
    My aim is to scan and shred fifty documents each week. I have done 392 so far, compared to an expected 250. This is pretty impressive, though it helps that the first week (my calibration week) I spent a lot of time shredding, and got over 100 documents sorted. And each week, I’ve been over my target by a little bit ‘while I’m in the groove’, as it were. So that one’s going well.
  2. Dark Elves.
    I’ve prepared a rough plan of what lays ahead with this task, and even wrote up a nice long blog post for sometime later to put up. But as far as actual work towards it goes, none yet.
  3. Driving Licence.
    I’ve been a bit preoccupied looking for a job to organise driving lessons. I believe that when I have changed job, I might be able to have a lesson straight from work to home again – this will make a big difference to the range of instructors I can pick, since many do not work weekends.
  4. German.
    Still not in a position to fit this one into the schedule, at present.
  5. Star Trek cards.
    All the cards are alphabetised, and I’m nearly halfway through cataloguing them. From there, it’s only a short evening on eBay, and then it’s all over!
  6. Family Tree.
    The weekends have been a bit hectic for the past few weeks, but luckily this is one where a small investment of time, even over 12 months, can provide a wealth of knowledge. I’m planning to arrange at least one fact-finding mission by the end of February, which should take the majority of a day. One day every eight weeks would have the bulk of this work finished by July, so that seems like a good target.
  7. Wargame Tools.
    This is another project that has suffered with the employment search. Still, have been able to spend some time reviewing it recently, and am a short length of time away from making the first half of the program available for testing. This is probably useless without the second part, of course, but that shouldn’t take nearly as long as the first part!

So that’s where I stand now. On reflection, I’ve made little or no progress on five of these projects – the ones with the least definite plan of action! There’s a lesson in that, I’m sure. Still, two of the projects have a minimal time investment in total / remaining, and I’m firming up plans on the rest. So that’s definitely a good sign that I should be on top of everything soon!

Man of Resolve

I know these are probably supposed to be announced at the New Year, but I’ve been a busy bunny. I also couldn’t think of any good ones till after the deadline (when I realised that these goals I set myself were proper resolutions, with full action plan and everything!)

What I like about these resolutions is that most of them are ones that are totally finished – they can’t (easily) be undone, and have a definite, visible result. Plus, unlike the nebulous ‘lose weight’ or ‘get fit’ that are probably in the top 10 resolutions, the only way to fail at most of these is to not try. Much easier to motivate yourself when that’s your only barrier.

First of all, I plan to do something about my filing cabinet. It currently has every phone bill, bank statement, hospital letter, and so on and so forth that I’ve received over the years. I plan to scan all these into the computer (I’m a hoarder at heart) and then shred anything more than two years. That’ll clear a lot of space, and make the important bits (for example, recent stuff) easier to find. The plan for this one (after a feverish weekend of shredding) is to try and scan at least 50 documents a week. That ought to be something I can easily do on a weekend without cutting into other stuff too much.

I’m also going to paint all my Dark Elf models. Some of these are unpainted, some are unassembled, some even need some remodelling to make them usable! I don’t have a definite timeframe, but I plan to focus on assembling and getting models ready to paint first. This way, as soon as Spring comes around, I can spray the models and have them ready to paint at the earliest possible opportunity. Some of these models have been unpainted for 10 years! This might be one of the hardest to keep, because there are so many other things that are important to do when I’ve got a spare five minutes, it’ll keep getting pushed aside.

I don’t have a driving licence at the moment. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve not had a lesson for over a month, and that was after a dry spell following my practical test and a house move. I’m going to try with a new instructor, although I am restricted (pretty much) to weekends or late evenings. I figure a lesson every two weeks to get me feeling happy about driving again, then a lesson every week between booking the test and taking it. I should be taking the test before June. And if I fail, to rebook immediately. I must be a driver by December. This one will be the hardest to keep, because I hate driving.

I want to learn a language, and I’ve picked German. My wife is half-German, which makes my son a quarter-German, and she doesn’t speak a word of it. Neither does Freddy, but he doesn’t speak a word at all at the moment. It would be nice to learn a language, and I have one of those CD course things to tap at when I get the time. Unfortunately, I feel this is something that needs a bit of regular time and dedication, so it will have to wait till at least one of the other resolutions is done and dusted before I can squeeze it in, or I’ll see how the time-management goes and whether there is a place for it. I will have to see how things transpire.

Sell all my Star Trek cards. This is a fairly simple one, don’t think it needs that much explaining.

My Dad and I have been working on a family tree for a few years now. My involvement has been… less than involved, to be honest. But I’ve always taken an interest. I decided just before Christmas that it’d be nice to get Dad’s information (which mostly covers my Grandmother’s family) and put it into a new family tree, for Freddy. It’ll be nice for him to have a lot of the hard work done if he, or his children, ever decide to do some research into it. And as amazing as our earliest date of 1812 is, think how incredible that would be in 30-50 years time! To that end, I’m arranging to meet up with my mother’s parents, and my in-law’s parents, and glean as much information as possible. This should be easily completed by June. Apparently, my wife’s aunt has already done some research into her family, so that might be the best place to start – to save duplicating effort.

Finally, I want to get the first version of my Wargame Tools on this website to test. Given the amount of progress I’ve made since September, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to believe that it could be being tested around places by this September. I’m only aiming at a rough, unpolished version, however. The final one, with lights, colours, bells, whistles and knobs on could take a while longer. But we’ll see how it goes. I already know there’s a couple of limitations with the data structure I’ve designed as it relates to a perfect representation of the Warhammer system, specifically the Bretonnian army, but I’d want to wait and see what changes come with the 7th edition version of that army book before I start making massive modifications.

In summary, then:

  • Organise the filing cabinet
  • Paint all my Dark Elves
  • Get a driving licence
  • Learn German
  • Sell all my Star Trek cards
  • Work on the family tree
  • Get Wargame Tools released as an alpha test

2009

A whole bunch of my friends do this meme every year, and I admit I usually wait till they’ve all done it before I do mine. I don’t have a specific day I try to post it on, but I think now I have my own official ‘blog’ (with advance publish options) I’ll see if I can get it at least the same day two years in a row!

Did you enjoy this year?
Overall, yes. It’s had it’s ups and downs.

What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
I dialled 999, I rode in an ambulance, I spoke to a solicitor, I raised £200 for charity, I failed a driving test, I bought property, I put up a shelf.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Nope. I don’t think I went swimming once. As of this writing, I’ve not decided on any new resolutions.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
A few friends did! Willow, Sophie and Lily were all born this year.

Did anyone close to you die?
Nope! Another year safely passed.

What countries did you visit?
England? I don’t think I even got as far as Wales this year. I’ve been pretty immobile this year.

What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
My savings back! A driving licence would be nice, too.

What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
There are two dates for me – my birthday, when I was told we’d gotten the house and August 28th when we moved in.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Buying the house at an awesome price! Slightly smaller, I completed Super Mario Galaxy and got all stars as both Mario and Luigi (that’s 242 stars, in total).

What was your biggest failure?
Failing my driving test. Not that big a failure, but it’s the biggest one I have. It even has ‘fail’ right there in the description.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
LOTS of illness. Too much illness. Even the suspected swine flu. Freddy had more than me though, and that was terrifying.

Did you have to go to the hospital?
Only for Freddy. People talked about drips, and he had oxygen overnight. Things were a little scary.

What was the best thing you bought?
A three bedroom house. Oh yeah.

It’d better be the best thing I bought, it’s certainly the most expensive thing!

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mine! I’m terrific!

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
No-one really, pretty much everyone around me has behaved themselves this year. Go team!

Where did most of your money go?
See several points above – the house. The deposit alone is more than I’ve spent on anything else, but it means I own just over 10% of a real, actual brick house. This is still a little shocking to me.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Freddy standing, singing, dancing, babbling, smiling, eating and learning to unwrap presents. Freddy coming out of hospital.

What song will always remind you of 2009?
I’m not sure there is a single song that reminds me of 2009 – all the songs I get stuck in my head at the moment are those that are played by plastic toys. Possibly Rage Against The Machine, for the Christmas controversy? I don’t know.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder?

Much, much happier.
ii. richer or poorer?
Much, much poorer. Although property prices are on the rise, so my house is worth more than I spent on it! Hooray!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I want to say driving, but it wouldn’t be truthful. I hate driving.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I’m not sure. I think I did everything about right this year.

How did you spend Christmas?
At my parent’s house, with them, my Grandma and my sister, with Freddy opening presents. It was a lot of fun.

Where did you ring in 2009?
Well, I think we probably crashed into bed and were woken up throughout the night by Freddy. That was in the early ‘he has reflux’ stage, before we discovered it was caused by a milk intolerance.

What was your favourite TV programme?
We’ve been watching Babylon 5 on DVD, and as a new discovery Life on the BBC iPlayer.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope. I’m fairly content with the other humans on this planet.

What was the best book you read?
I didn’t read many new books this year. Possibly ‘All Quiet On the Western Front’ would get it, that was a very moving book.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Being a media hermit as I am – no radio, no TV – I am quite isolated when it comes to new music. I don’t shop, so I can’t just pick something up to try it (and that’d be quite expensive anyway). I heard quite a bit of Mamas and Papas and ELO this year though, but neither I’d describe as ‘greatest musical discovery’.

What did you want and get?
All together now boys and girls – a house. And Freddy is well, we found the cause of his reflux.

What did you want and not get?
A driving licence. I’m very single minded.

How did you earn your keep?
I’m still a programmer. I’ve also sold off some of my old Warhammer 40,000 bits (Imperial Guard and Space Marines). Next year, maybe some of the fantasy models – Orcs and Goblins.

What was your favourite film of this year?
The only new films that I recall seeing are Star Trek and Surrogates – so Star Trek is the best one I saw in the cinema, certainly! Nothing else made an impact enough to remember.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was (looks at fingers) 25, and I had a Wetherspoons pub meal. Before the meal, I called an estate agent and put in a silly, low, let’s-open-negotiations offer on a house. During the meal, I was told that it was accepted. Then we went and got aniseed balls. For my birthday, I got a house and a bag of aniseed balls.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting more aniseed balls. And perhaps that driving licence. A slightly less offensive pay review would have been nice, too.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
’You’re lucky I’m not naked.’

What kept you sane?
That’s a pretty big assumption to make. Sleepless nights spent comforting a screaming child, lasting months on end? Sleepless nights listening to an asthmatic child struggling to breathe, despite the hospital keep discharging us? Not seeing my friends as much as I’d like? Feeling quite unappreciated at work, and working long hours to counterbalance time off looking after a sick child? Yeah, I think we’ll skip this question this year and try again next time.

What political issue stirred you the most?
The BNP being on Question Time stirred me enough to make a post on here about it. The Christmas number one stirred me enough to buy RATM.

Who was the best new person you met?
I’ve met lots of new people in work, and they’re all pretty cool.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
You can argue with doctors if they try and send you out of the hospital. As long as you argue politely.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
”Our house… in the middle of our street.”

Apple Bites

Just a quick update today: Apple has gone up one point in my mind. One of my big problems with them has always been that iTunes, the ambassador to the Windows world, has only offered English (United States) as a language. Not just ‘English’ with a silent ‘whoops we thought this was English’ but ‘English (United States)’ as in ‘this is a specific language, and yours ain’t supported’.

Today, I installed iTunes just to get my iPod recognised (it comes off straight after, no fear!) and I realised that they finally had English (United Kingdom) offered on the installation.

Well done Apple, better late than never.

On a side note, I still dare some company to put English (England) on their languages list.

EDIT: That didn’t work. Now I have to uninstall all the additional junk Apple fills a computer with just for an MP3 player and software. MediaMonkey doesn’t do this. Nor does WinAmp. Still no solution.

I never realised this would become a political blog…

So, the British Nationalist Party managed to get on Question Time and almost the entire audience was wanting to ask questions about Nick Griffin’s nasty policies.

I have to say that I think to anyone who sees the BNP as just another political party (whether or not they would actually vote for them), Griffin presented himself calmly (more so than the frustrated panellists disgusted at having to be near him) and said all the right things. Send back immigrants who commit crimes, etc etc. When the discussion moved onto someone else to talk about current immigration policy, they totally dropped the ball.

To people who shiver any time they hear about the BNP, they were exposed as frauds, liars and snakes who haven’t abandoned their wicked ways. But that requires that you already believe Griffin and the BNP to be inferior creatures – people who don’t are more likely to see them as an underdog after this, being almost the sole subject of scorn and derision.

My criticism of Question Time is that the show was not nearly long enough to really get to the bone of any of Griffin’s claims and lay them out in simple enough terms that he could not claim he was misquoted. Although that would have made it more of an inquisition, rather than a “meet the politicians” sort of thing. Since he managed to wriggle long enough on each specific accusation, they had to keep moving onto the next question and he wasn’t forced to actually say “Yes, when we talk about Ice Age Britons we know full well we’re ignoring the dozen different major cultural eras that took us from barely sentient cave-beings to the almost entirely sentient McDonald’s employee, we just use that as an excuse to hide our racist views.”

The thing I took away from the show about the BNP is that if they have changed (and I don’t believe that for an instant, just talking hypothetically) then they are still taking us as a culture backward. Ignoring the immigration issue, they want Christianity placed above other religions in this country. Although technically it is the state religion, we have moved far in that everyone gets a level ground, and everyone’s religion is equal. In the same vein, anyone not ‘obviously’ British would have to start proving it, even if their family has been here for more generations than most. And their view on homosexuality not being taught or talked about is just plain wrong. People are homosexual, bisexual, or whatever they are, and just because they’re not told about it when they’re young won’t change that fact. It’ll just cause more problems for them in their own personal life, and act as a stepping stone backwards to situations like Alan Turing, and the way he was treated by the government for being homosexual – despite inventing a code-breaking computer that contributed immensely to our efforts in the Second World War.

Basically, I think it shows that our culture has moved on to ignoring differences between people, and focussing on people themselves. The BNP would be taking us back to an “Us and Them” culture, where anyone like the party-in-power is Us and any minority is Them.

(disclaimer: this does not constitute my entire feeling on the BNP, which can easily be simulated yourself by ramming a fork into your eyes, but merely a few things I had to get off of my chest this week. Thank you.)