Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Dilemma, Of Some Weight!

Some of Phil's Mu'ugalavyani, from our photo inventory of his miniatures;
The crossbow unit is in the yellow tunics, on the right.

Bob Charette's "Chaos" figures, Ral Partha circa 1995; left to right,
 02-104a "Warrior", 02-107 "Pikeman", 02-105a "Bowman"

Legion I of the First Palace, "Victorious in Vimuhla";
twenty years' worth of production runs seen here;
pikes from North Star in the UK, and very, very sharp!!!
This is a dilemma some thirty years in the making; it goes back to 1982, when Phil asked me to paint up some of his stock of Mu'ugalavyani heavy infantry pikemen for him, but as a conversion to a crossbow unit. The unit is one of the ones from the Second Palace - I'm sorry, I don't recall which one at the moment, and I'll have to look it up for you - and Phil wanted them for the "Fortress Chalukolumel" mini-campaign he wanted to run as a part of our game sessions with him in the original Thursday Night Group.

He provided the figures, weapons, and color scheme, and I provided the time, paint, and skill. The top photo shows the figures in their original box - Phil used cigar boxes he got from the shop where he got his Swisher Sweets to store his miniatures.

I have the First of the First in my collection, built up to full strength over the years, with fifty figures or pikemen; they are seen in the bottom picture, armed with the deadly North Star wire pikes. These pikes are real weapons - they have lovely leaf points with needle-sharp tips, and will draw blood if one is not respectful when handling the troops.

I also have over fifty of Bob Charette's sculpts for Ral Partha, the 02-107 "Chaos Pikemen"; these were inspired by the many drawings that Tekumel artist Craig Smith - who did the drawings for the first three of the "Armies of Tekumel" books - provided to Ral Partha at the request of renowned sculptor Tom Meier. (Note 1) I also have some of the matching 02-104a heavy infanty axemen from the "Chaos Warriors" set, and also some of the matching 02-105a archers from the "Chaos Bowmen" set. The former is relatively easy to find, but the latter set is very rare and hard to get! (Note 2)

So, here's my dilemma:

Part the First: I received some 75 more of the Mu'ugalavayni heavy pike from a old friend, and I am not sure who I should paint them up as. I have First of the First already done, and my initial thought was to paint them up as the crossbow unit so the Red Hats would have a few more missile troops in my little army; I'd like to fight out the "Chalukolumel" mini campaign at some point, as Phil spent so much time setting it all up for us. However, I'd also like to have my own legion, the non-Imperial - we're Bednjallan, actually - Legion of the All-Consuming Flame, so we can fight out my own adventures; we're a heavy infantry pike unit, with some attached small units.


Part the Second: Seeing as I also have the "Chaos" figures, with a lot of them already in Vimuhla color schemes - taken from Phil's own paint schemes - it occurred to me to leave the Red Hats alone, and use these troopers as my legion; heck, a lot of them are already painted!


Part the Third: My original thought, from decades ago, had been to use the "Chaos" figures for Ghatoni, as they look the part with their beaked helmets. I had used some spare Mu'ugalavyani to make a few back in the day, but now that The Tekumel Project has Ghatoni armored Serudla, this issue has come back to the fore. Howard, bless him, mentioned that he wants to do real Ghatoni at some point, as part of his wonderful miniatures line...


My thought is to paint up the heavy pikemen as the crossbow unit, as per Phil's command; paint up the "Chaos" figures as my legion, per Phil; and wait patiently for the Ghatoni from Howard, so I have the best possible figures for my games.

Comments? Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

(Note 1: As a historical side note,  a Tekumel fan claimed some time back on the Tekumel Yahoo group that these figures were part of 'a secret line of Tekumel figures' made by Ral Partha in order to avoid paying Prof. Barker any royalties. He claimed that most of the Ral Partha figures of elves and some twenty other figures had been sculpted from Prof. Barker's designs, and in effect were 'stolen designs'. This person also made these same claims in a communication directly to Prof. Barker, which led to a thorough investigation of the claims; they were proved false, and both the ex-Ral Partha and current Iron Wind staff was not amused. Oddly enough, this same person was more then willing to sell these supposely 'illegal' and/or 'pirated' figures to Tekumel fans, which Prof. Barker was very - and I mean very - unhappy with.)

(Note 2: Catalog numbers are from my internal database of both my and the Professor's figures; I use the original manufacturers' catalog numbers as the basis for these, with notations as needed. The figures marked with additional letters were originally sold as multi-figure packs.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - The Perfect Player-character Movie?

You have to see it to believe it. Trust me, on this.

It has not been all that happy a month, here at The Workbench. There's been the news from Ottawa, one of my good friends in the UK passing away, another struck down with a severe stroke, and the sad news that one of my former gamers here at The Workbench passed away recently after a long illness.

Mind you, there has been good news: The Missus has finished her first two weeks of hard radiation treatments, and I am still alive - my blood pressure is always an issue. To help with this latter, I have closed several Internet accounts, including my Facebook account - I never use it, and it generated a lot of messages to my e-mail in-box that I have to delete.

I have also finally finished digging out the back corners of the game room, and cleaned out all of the ancient oddities that had accumulated in there over the past decade and a half of gaming. Things are now much more organized - and accessible!!!

I had a good game day, yesterday; the gamers came by, and we had our long-delayed Saturday Matinee Double Feature. On the bill was the immortal "Alexander Nevsky" - always a great time - and the very odd, very rare, and very unusual "The Adventures Of Hajji Baba". If you want to know what the pace and game play was like with Phil and Dave, this movie is it. You'll have to really work to find it, though; it's very hard to find!!!

With your indulgence, that'll be it for this update. I do have a lot of really cool projects going, which are cooking along nicely, but it's time to get on Skype and talk to the girls in Zurich...

More later on this week! Thanks again for your time and patience!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Help Needed With A Dilemma!

We have all of the FASA sets,
as well as the GW plastic Daleks and cybermen

We have all six boxes of these figures;
we also have the two Superior figures

Gentle Readers, we have a dilemma of some concern brewing here at The Workbench, and The Missus and I could use your advice and help!

A long time ago, and far, far away...

The Missus is a very big Doctor Who fan from waaay back - she was a friend of Anthony Ainley - and so as a gift many years ago I got her the entire set of FASA Dr. Who figures in their little TARDIS boxes. These still live in their boxes; they have never been painted, and were opened once when she looked at them when I gave them to her.

She is also a very big "Elfquest" fan, too; if she hasn't got it from the various publications and such, it ain't worth getting. Because I am a sentimental old softie, and was friends with the folks at Ral Partha back in their heyday, I got her a complete set of of all six boxes of these figures. These are still with their original boxes, leaflets, and packing material; the only thing that The Missus got done with these before her health went in the bucket was to give the figures a coat of Heritage flat white acrylic brush-on primer. Otherwise, they are in perfect condition, as are the FASA figures.

So, here's our issue: What do we do with these? She would like to keep them, as she has a lot of very fond and happy memories attached to them, but we're a little unhappy with the idea that they are languishing in their boxes - and have been for the better part of twenty-five years!

Should I strip off the primer and simply store the figures?

Should I paint the figures for her - they'll wind up in a display case, mostly - and see about getting them out for a spin occasionally?

The Missus will never be able to paint them - she's just not able to do that kind of thing any more - and I don't know if my late 1970s painting style will do them justice. We can't afford a professional painter, so that option seems to be a non-starter.

Suggestions? Comments? Ideas? Anything? :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - Hard Radiation, Hello Kitty, and Halloween Shopping

Do a Google search. You'll laugh your head off.

You get them at the 'after-halloween' sales.
I'm both cheap and lazy.

The Missus has had her first two doses of hard radiation, and has 19 sessions with the radiation therapy people left. No ill effects noted, for which I am grateful. We will beat this thing.


'Hello Kitty' turns forty, this week. I find this hugely amusing!


One of my 'big projects' that I am finally getting back to, after much too long, is my large set of Sakbe road sections. I actually have two Sakbe roads (which may say something about me right there!), and this is the fourteen-foot-long version; the smaller, which you can see in the photos of the Battle of Anch'ke on my Photobucket page, is only about ten feel long and is far less grand. I built it specifically for the game scenario, and it's in storage for now.

The 'long' set is made up of six 'road' sections, with a large tower section; there are ramps to get on and off the thing, as well as two of the smaller 'interval' towers. The biggest part of this project is the cutting of the merlons and embrasures on the walls - there are a lot of them! Since I normally work in extruded polystyrene foam for things like this - the usually-encountred white expanded poly styrene 'beadboard' is just not structurally sound for things this big - it cuts very easily. I am lazy, though, so instead of marking out all those little battlements I simply cut a wooden template to the size and shape I wanted the foam to wind up as, and then went out with The Missus to do a little shopping.

The net result is found in the 'seasonal' sections of crafts stores and other places that have 'Halloween merchandise sections'; a very handy battery-powered reciprocating saw that cuts through the foam like it was soft butter. So, all I have to do is slide the template up to the foam wall, switch on the little saw, and the thing does all the work. And makes nice clean cuts, too!

Now, I should mention that timing is very important, here. Shopping for seasonal merchandise before the holiday will get you what you want, but cost more; after the holiday, you have to move fast to take advantage of the sale prices, but you have to move before the store pulls the unsold inventory off the shelves.


Along the same lines, I have been able over the past five years to build up quite a nice forest of really good-looking trees by haunting the 'after holiday sales' at the turn of the year. There are several lines of 'Christmas village' buildings and accessories, and you can get some of the most amazing stuff after the holidays are over. I've gotten trees, rivers, stone wall sets, ponds, and entire hills from these lines, and all at very good prices; one just has to look, and know what one wants for one's games. Admittedly, you do get some 'snow' on the items; but, this can either be rinsed off - in the case of 'hard' objects - or concealed with a spritz of tempera paint from a spray bottle in the case of trees and the like.

It's all about your imagination, and thinking 'outside the box'... :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Twenty-Five Month Update - Two Years And A Month After 'The Incident'

It still itches, especially when it's cold outside...

The Missus is off to get her first run at her radiation therapy today; she has her new aiming point tattoos, and is getting ready for the 'sunburn' she's expected to get. In the meantime, she pointed out that I missed the two-year 'anniversary' of The Incident -

- and all I could say was that we've been a trifle busy hereabouts. "Get thee to the keyboard," she replied sternly...

So, here we are; twenty-five months later, and I have been in the 'human normal' range for about a year now. I am moving a little more slowly, and I have a lot less energy and stamina, but I am still here; we are not complaining, you understand!

And where are we? Well, let's have a little look behind the scenes, shall we?

I am steaming away on my book about our adventures with Phil on all those Thursday Nights; we are looking at six volumes, at this point, each with what's looking to be about 50,000 words per volume. Some have complained about the size and length of the thing - all I can say is that we played every Thursday night out at Phil's for four to six hours for over a dozen years. That's fifty-two weeks a year, times four hours a night, times fourteen years. I took notes or made recording of the game sessions, and I have - at a minimum! - 2,912 hours of 'face time' with Phil in his world. There is a lot of ground - and ocean! - to cover, so the word count is going to be kinda long.

Mind you, I will be providing a very detailed index, as well as a section numbering system to make it easy for Tekumel fans to look things up. I will not be doing footnotes, because they'll interfere with the flow and pacing of the stories of our adventures, but you will get notes at the end of the volumes keyed to the adventures so you can use them for your games. What you will be getting is a sort of 'time machine' that I hope will take you back in time to when we first explored the world of the Petal Throne, and we hope you'll enjoy the ride.

And no, there will be no 'rules' or 'stats' in the book, either. I assume, Gentle Readers, that you are both smart enough and skilled enough to do this kind of thing for yourselves and for your favorite set of rules. I am simply telling you what happened to us in Phil's world, and how he viewed his creation.

We're still working out how we'll get all this to you; more about this when I know more, myself!

The size and shape of this project are having an effect - a good one, I hope! - on my other activities. I am painting like a madman, when I have the time, and having a lot of fun doing pretty much the same thing as when I was painting for Phil. I am having a lot of fun painting up the people you'll meet in the book, as I now have the figures for them. I am also looking at building a lot of the 'sets' from our adventures - many of the places and things we saw are very good for models, because that's the way Phil saw things - and sharing those with you as I get them built. I enjoy taking photos of our adventures, and I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do.

Games sessions, here at The Workbench,  will feature our adventures as scenarios, and I am hoping that people will enjoy our adventures - the "Storming Hekellu" game went over a treat, for example. I don't think I will be doing many big games in 'public venue', anymore; I simply get too tired out moving everything to the site and setting it up to be able to run the game, and unless I can get help with the logistics I am not going to be able to handle the stress and strain of doing things like I used to - I simply have to be realistic, these days!

As part of telling you our stories, we're getting the Skype / Google+ hardware working in the game room, as The Missus's health allows. I'll keep you posted on that, as well, and we're hoping to get back in the swing of doing You Tube shows for you. So, lots and lots happening - watch this space! :)

Thanks again for visiting us!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - Post #250: The Lost Library Of Firu ba Yeker

Great fun - heroes, heroines, comic sidekicks, and really evil villians;
what's not to like?

If you ever needed to know what your player-character is carrying and what it looks like,
it's in this catalog. Someplace.

Not much to report, this week; painting continues, but the big news is that The Missus starts her radiation treatments on Wednesday. That's what I'm focusing on, right now...


It's hard to imagine, but back in the early days of the RPG hobby the Internet hadn't been invented; neither, for that matter, had the personal computer. One didn't click on Google and Wiki for information; one had to look around, and use other forms of information media to get information and ideas for games. It was all quite primitive, really, but we did the best we could with what we had.

Motion pictures, which we had to see in theaters or on the three (!) commercial television networks, were a really fun and useful way to collect information. One of our favorites, back in the day, was the Soviet propaganda film "Alexander Nevski"; it's based on the historical Prince of Russia, who spent a lot of his time clobbering people who invaded the place.

The movie sent us into shivers of excitement, back in the day; yes, it's very heavy-handed propaganda, but all of the armor worn by the heroic Russians is the real thing - this film was made with the full backing of Stalin, and the historical collections of the Kremlin Armoury were ransacked to supply armour and weapons for the film. So, one gets to see an entire amy of guys - and girls, who wield a mean sword! - in mail going at it.

Great fun, and well worth a look!

Our other source of information was the library - a place full of fascinating books, full of equally fascinating information. One of the oddest, and most fascinating, was the "Bannerman Catalog of Military Goods" - the mail order catalog of one of the first 'army-navy surplus' stores in the United States, and quite possibly one of the oddest. Francis Bannerman VI bought and sold literally everything you could imagine, and was quite capable of arming a small country - just send him a telegram, and he'd get you everything you needed withing a week of your check clearing the bank.

And we're not just talking weapons, either; yes, Bannerman's could sell you everything from modern pistols to medieval bombards (no warranty, sorry; everything sold 'as is'), but could also outfit you with uniforms, tents, cooking gear, field desks, medical supplies, wagons, and even a ship or two. We used to sit around at Phil's and loom through this catalog before our adventures, and we'd specify what we'd take along as we marched off to Sunraya or some equally miserable place; we'd be careful to fully equip ourselves, otherwise we'd be out of luck - and food! - someplace in the Desert of Sighs or the Dry Bay Of S'sum.

A check os the Internet this morning reveals that the catalog is still in print, along with both earlier and later editions. I'd suggest having a look - you might get some ideas from your 'window shopping'!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Weekly Update For October 5th, 2014; Bookshelf Memories

One of the forgotten books of the early days of RPGs

It's been a very busy week, here at The Workbench; the warm weather has finally left us, and the cold winds of fall and winter have arrived. I've pulled the long-suffering window air conditioning units out of their summer homes, and done the annual work to get the furnace up and running - filters and what have you. The nice warm electric radiator is in place in my painting area, and I'm spraying primer on figures whenever the outside temperature allows. In short, it's 'painting season', the time when I get the most done.


We're a month out from the next campaign by Dr. Burns of Dark Fable Miniatures (link to the left), and I'm getting my Litko order for bases in now - I use their pre-cut 'slotta' bases for Mike's figures, as they save me a lot of time and match all of the other figures in the game room. I'll have more on this, as it develops, and some photos as well as we move along in the process.


I've been spending a lot of time in the basement of late, restocking the shelves and getting things set up for the winter campaign season. I had a very nice moment, thinking of Phil, when I reshelved my copy of "The Crossbow", by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallway; this used to be one of the 'standard works' that we all read, back in the day as new RPG gamers. Phil introduced us to this particular book; he used it as his standard reference for missile weapons in his Tekumel. The Tekumel 'long bow', for example, is actually the Turkish composite version of the long bow, and not the classic Welsh single-stave long bow so familiar to gamers. Sir Ralph gives the details of this fearsome weapon, from first-hand experiments at the Topkapi Palace, and you can get some really useful information from the rest of the book as well. What Payne-Gallway doesn't cover, you don't need to worry about.

I have a suspicion that this book has been largely forgotten, over the years. A miniatures gamer took me to task - quite severely, I might add - for screwing up in my miniatures rules on the range, rate-of-fire, and effect of the Tekumelyani longbow. He assumed, like many gamers, that I had been using the Welsh version, and I'd gotten it all wrong. I demurred, and pointed out that the Tekumelyani weapon is a composite one, and based on the Turkish examples; he told me that I was full of crap, and that there was no such thing. I cited Sir Ralph's book, and he stopped talking to me.

Shrug. So it goes. I do suggest looking at a copy; the book is still in print, and very, very useful!