Thursday 22 September 2016

Amtix magazine and Games Day '86

Growing up, I was allowed one magazine a month on top of my regular pocket money. In my early years I opted for the Beano, and later The Punisher, before moving on to proper mags like Zzap64. My trusty Commodore and it's slightly ropey tape deck saw me through the 1980s in style and by the end of the decade, 8-Bit computer games were my main hobby.

That was until I bought my first copy of White Dwarf.

Despite my love for '80s GW, I still have a very soft spot for the 8-Bit era, and the journalism produced in support of it. The glorious painted front covers the Newsfield Publication magazines used (Zzap64 and CRASH being sister titles), the zany, irreverent humour within and the whiff of anarchy that seemed to hang heavy around the authors of these mags. Much the same qualities that would later attract me to White Dwarf.

One magazine I do not recall reading (or even seeing) was Amtix. A rather short lived title devoted to the third best home computer of the '80s - the Amstrad! Luckily for me, Matthew Bloomer (a fan of this blog) clearly was and had been hunting online for classic issues relating to old school software. Flicking idly through December '86's issue of Amtix something distinctly Oldhammery caught his eye.

A short show report about Games Day '86. Let's have a look!

Oh, the days of grainy black and white photography! How we are spoilt in these digital days.  On this first page the legendary Nottingham Player's Guild scenery catches your eye almost immediately, as does the astonishing Mega-City below it. Any glimpse of these ancient scenery pieces is inspiring and I just wish they had been in colour.

Of greater interest perhaps, is the short interview (and it is very short) with Gary Chalk

There are a few more GW related references on the second page. I will leave you to hunt them down yourselves. But of particular interest to me are some of the closing words in the article. When speaking on the gaming phenomenon (and fantasy role-playing really was a phenomenon back then, lest we forget) the author felt that the hobby was beginning to feel stagnant. That something fresh was required to breath new life into the scene.

Little did he know that a game called Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader was just around the corner. A game that would breathe new life into tabletop gaming and go on to conquer the world, long after the last Amstrad slid off the production line.

To close with one of Matthew Bloom's thoughts then. If we can find a tiny slice of Games Workshop history in an old Amstrad computing magazine - what else is out there?

Get looking!


Wednesday 14 September 2016

Bolt Thrower or Bust! Games Workshop's 'Lost Game' Lives Again!

Just over two years ago I blogged about a rather obscure find called Bolt Thrower or Bust! If you want to check out what I had to say back then just follow the link here. For those of you who never saw my original post, or cannot be bothered to click the link, I will provide further details.

A lovely chap called John attends Oldhammer events from time to time. He is a wonderful gentleman who really enjoys the hobby and is very generous with his collection. He once gave me a near mint 1980s ambull as I have mentioned that I lacked the figure, just like that! He didn't expect anything in return, save to see a fellow enthusiast's joy upon receiving a long yearned for model. At that time, he also passed me a rather battered looking photocopy of a bizarre looking game called 'Bolt Thrower or Bust!'

Though the resolution of the photocopy wasn't great, I could see enough to know that I was looking at a previously unknown mini-game from Games Workshop's 'Golden Age' - namely, when Bryan Ansell owned the company and ran things. I scoured the internet and various dark and dingy forums (I even frequented Warseer!!) in search of more information.

There was nothing.

Intrigued, I set about trying to source the original 1980s publication in which it appeared, a late December 1989 issue of Sounds - one of those highbrow, poncey music newspapers that took themselves too serious, but are now sadly defunct thanks to internet hackery. Amongst articles on The Grid, Henry Rollins and Simple Minds lurked a rather out of place 'game' that must have left many of the self-obsessed readership totally baffled.

It was essentially a rip-off Talisman City with some gags thrown in and looked like it had been jumbled together on a Friday afternoon after a liquid lunch - which is probably was! But it was fun, zany and irreverent - just like Games Workshop used to be. I knew then and there that I would like to play the game. Trouble was, it was black and white and printed on newspaper that was more akin to that scratchy Izal toilet 'paper' we children of the '70s and '80s had to endure on those youthful trips to the lavatory.

So I suggested to the community that someone, somewhere might have the technical ability to take my measly discovery and shoddy scans, and with a flick of a techno-wizard's wrist, transform them into something Oldhammer and Talisman fans could play again. Hopefully, over a few cans of ale and a kebab.

Enter Jon New. A stay-at-home dad from the Somerset Levels. A big time Talisman fan, he contacted me over the summer to share with me some of the work he had been doing with Bolt Thrower or Bust! To say I was stunned was an understatement, as I had long given up the hope of anyone wanting (or having the ability and resources) to jazz up the materials printed in Sounds.

Our discussions were hampered by my house move and the general faff of getting settled into a new home. I wasn't the most proactive of enthusiasts, but I finally managed to send him some decent photographs from my issue of Sounds yesterday. Jon messaged me this afternoon to say that he had finished the project.

Let's take a look!

First up we have the delightfully named player characters, crafted into some Talismanesque gaming pieces by Jon. Loota, Shoota, Elmit and Fiddla are our heroes and are suitably amusing in a way Games Workshop will sadly never be again. To misquote Bilbo Baggins when I speak of Fiddla 'what has he got in his pockets?'

Probably dice.

Paul Bonner's art is as masterful as ever. No-one else captured the brutally comical world of the goblinoids (calling them greenskins is dumbing down, no mistake) as well as he. His pictures are still fascinating and rewarding to explore nearly thirty years later. The generic tosh GW produces now when illustrating orks or goblins is utter rubbish in comparison, and struggles to justify it's distinction as art, if you ask me.

Instead of just regurgitating the brief rules as a set of text, Jon decided to create playing cards detailing the finer parts of the game, with the white spaces are a mere placeholder for later images. Again, keeping the style of the cards very much in the Talisman vein, these resources are certainly more tactile and useful that a grotty block of writing.

Even if it is printed in that much missed font Citadel used so often in the 1980s.

Jon continued to stick to his guns here, and produced additional cards for the Gig, Ruck, and Street rules. His adapted playing cards follow for your viewing pleasure.

Then there is that iconic Talisman toad. Jon whipped up cards in the same style as the other Bolt Thrower or Bust pieces. No-one likes being the toad, do they? Perhaps being a toad drawn by Paul Bonner may feel different?

Oh, Jon even went as far as producing a few tikkits for the Bolt Thrower gig. Though you may struggle to find a venue south of Altdorf which will accept them!

We really do owe Jon a debt of gratitude with this little project. I intend to print out these resources on Friday and get them laminated. My wife loves a good game of Talisman, though she has told me in no uncertain terms 'not to play Bolt Thrower's World Eater' in her presence again! Hopefully, I can get a game in over the weekend and really appreciate Jon's endeavours.

I have shamelessly nicked all of his excellent visuals and you will find much better resolution images from his article on Talisman Island. Just follow the link to reap the reward of Jon's hard labour!

Right, where did I put that Slaves to Darkness album?


Tuesday 13 September 2016


It's over!

After nearly a year of problems, my old set up of paint station and computer is finally restored. The Sky Man has been and installed Sky Q (whatever that is) and now a series of fancy looking remote controls decorate the Palour and Sitting Room of my house.

My wife had even gone to the trouble of moving my computer (that was serving as a makeshift TV for my children) back into 'my part' of the house. Having come home early today, I just had to switch on and get typing. Bliss!

Some gorgeous evening light was streaming in through the windows, as it has done for four centuries, and while the computer loaded itself back up I took a few snaps of my reorganised painted collection. Having juggled things around a bit I have managed to create space on the final shelf. During my recent unpacking , I came across a few 'Beforehammer' gems I worked on before the birth of this blog and the Old School Warhammer scene kicked off, and I have decided to add them to my final shelf.

Let me show you what survived from the dark days of the years 2004-2010.

My converted Typhus model. That scythe looks ridiculously oversized, doesn't it!? And, the 25th anniversary Harry the Hammer model, proving once and for all that I could once paint gold (I cannot now!)

Pretty sure these old wraiths would be considered Oldhammer by some, but I am still a diehard purist that these models will never grace my gaming table. Still, I was very pleased with the spectral finish I achieved way back in 2009 when I painted them. Nice bases too.

A brace of older models - including the champion from the Nightmare Legion. An Empire veteran and a Sartosa vampire. Again proving that my painting seems to be getting worse!!!

Or could it be that I just don't have the time to lavish on painting models anymore? Back in the day these were finished, I would spend an entire week (probably 20+ hours) painting a single figure in a bizarre attempt to paint like the 'Eavy Metal team. With a wife and two kids, such an attitude would result in about a handful of figures a year!

I like the idea of Snickit's challenge in getting miniatures painted. A looser, more fluid style may not look as sharp as these models, but it produces reasonable figures that look good on the wargames table. After all, I paint my models to actually use them in games, the display part of the hobby is just a by-product of my collecting.

Still, it's nice to be reminded of how I used to paint!

Sunday 11 September 2016

Greenskin Wars!

If you are a fan of Crooked Claw miniatures and are sadly mourning their recent loss from the fantasy wargaming scene, I can bring a swift smile to your face. Diego Serrate has snapped up the rights to the models and is using all the previous sculpts as a basis to a supplement for Dragon Rampant - only with Goblins.

Here's what he had to say to me:

DS: It's a project called Greenskin Wars. I've taken on the (now dead) Crooked Claw Miniatures range  and have reorganised all those incredible models into different goblin factions.  I have also sketched a lot of new models and a whole new faction together with Kev Adams - the Goblinmaster himself!

I must say that Kevin is doing an amazing job here and we have developed a good friendship. He knows exactly what I want from him with just a few instructions or a simple sketch. With the help of another "Kevin" (who's also a big fan of the other Kevin lol ) we are creating a supplement or "army book" to use with the with the Dragon Rampant game system. That will let you create very specific goblin armies for the four main factions we have by now - Hill Goblins , Doom goblins , Feral goblins and Black Goblins.

As with Diego's other Kickstarters - this project funded itself within the first few hours of launch, so there is no risk here of the project stalling. If you are after getting your hands on any of these goblins (and there are a number of other interesting pieces too!) just follow the link below.

I will leave you with a nice gallery of images from the project to whet your goblinoid appetite!