Friday, 30 April 2010

Kay Nielsen

The utterly stunning art of Kay Neilsen. Wiki here.

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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Filming for the BBC

I have blogged about the wonderful talk I went to by Mervyn Peake's son about his late father. After the lecture Viktor (one half of the esteemed Last Tuesday Society) kindly invited me to take part in a small party which was to be filmed for broadcast on the BBC. It happened on Wednesday and involved far more gin than I would have suspected.

Having rocked-up at 7pm as requested it wasn't until we were half way through filming that I fully comprehended what the thing was about. Viktor was holding one of his "Crying Parties" and acting as host to the British comedienne Jo Brand. She and her crew was filming the party for inclusion in a one-off programme she is presenting on the vulgarity of crying in today's climate of reality TV. The Crying Parties are intimate gatherings where folk chop onions, talk about lost loves and everything morose and drink gin. Lots of gin. There is also a "laughter box" into which you must drop £1 coins if you crack a smile.

The filming was surprisingly sprightly and we weren't required to repeat things endlessly, as can sometimes be the case. Jo Brand was wonderful and "just like she is on the telly". She was very good about having to make repeated donations to the laughter box. The event was held in the amazing kunstkammer basement of Wynd's Little Shop of Horrors. This is a stunning location filled with all manner of curiosities. I managed to get some snaps of it and my fellow party-goers before the shoot began.

Me in my party gear. I had to get on the bus wearing that makeup.

Remember - this is a crying party so smiling is forbidden. David TG is walking that fine line between being po-faced and making a donation to the Laughter Box.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Salute 2010 - Part III - swag!

In my last post about Salute 2010 I am going to show off my swag. Two of the great things about the event are the stalls stocking second-hand games, and the bring & buy. With the rise of ebay it's unusual to get bargains anymore as it is easy for folk to look up the going price for any item. I was gobsmacked, then, when I saw the slimmer boxes shown below going for £2 each (they normally go for a lot more).

"Hmm", I thought to myself. "If I take them all, with Rogue Trooper, it amounts to £24, so I'll ask for a discount and offer £20."
"I'll do you the lot for £20" proffered the man as he saw me piling the things up.
"Done", I said, wondering if he could also read my thoughts about needing to visit the bathroom.

The GW stuff dates from the late 80s. This was the start of one of the company's periods of unbridled creativity which saw them publish innovative, high-quality products. They raised the bar for the board, tabletop and roleplaying games in terms of production and secured Workshop's position as a leader in the field. The boxes I bought are great examples of this - the Ian Miller and John Blanche covers of Terror of the Lichemaster and The Tragedy of McDeath respectively are wonderful. Rogue Trooper was a Workshop title using the 2000AD IP and it looks pretty awesome. Dracula was an impulse purchase from the bring & buy stand. It was £5, still shrink wrapped and I have always loved the publicity design for the movie so it was a bargain. It's an interactive post-dinner-party game which comes with blood capsules and fangs!

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Monday, 26 April 2010

Salute 2010 - Part II

One of the really great things about game conventions is being able to see things in the flesh. This is particularly true of those glorious gaming tables we see in promo images. Salute 2010 was not short on these, with some of the smaller skirmish boards showing exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. The games' smaller nature encourages modellers to concentrate all their skill on a finite area, rather than be concerned with churning out vast quantities of terrain to satisfy a more epic game.

I also like the way skirmish tables are less concerned about terrain being reconfigurable. Modellers making skirmish tables tend to make the terrain features fixed and this encourages them to think carefully about the balance and harmony of a table. The Twilight table (of which I sadly did not get any decent shots) was a stunning example of this, featuring a bare expanse of snow with a wonderful dead tree as a centrepiece.

Below are some of my favourite skirmish tables, along with a few other snaps from the day.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Salute 2010 - Part I

Salute is Britain's largest tabletop games show. It hosts participation games, manufacturers' promo stands and vendors' stalls. I missed it last year and so was keen to go along to the 2010 show.

Of late it has been hosted at the ExCel centre which is in the slightly disjointed and surreal region that is London's Docklands. The venue looms over the regenerated quays and wharfs like some vast shipping container that was beached in a cataclysmic storm. Though full of apartments, the region is dead at weekends as most City workers (or "wankers") exercise their entirely understandable desire to get out of the place.

All the UK and many international manufacturers were present and correct, and I will blog more about them in my next post. I was overjoyed to see a demo game of Incursion being run, hosted by West Wind. It was also an unexpected surprise to meet Grégory Privat who oversaw the title's translation into French. Grégory (whose blog is here) had scratch built the most amazing 3D board for the game with LED lighting. He professed that it had taken him two days, and he worked on the principle that the addition of a number of "wow" features would distract onlookers from any shortcomings. I was certainly wowed and below are some snaps from my iPhone.

Grégory and I with a copy of Incursion.
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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Mensur or German "Academic" fencing

The Germans know how to do things properly. This includes fencing. No bendy blades with caps that look like cute little squirrel noses for them. Back in the day they'd suit up, strap on some Steampunk goggles and lash at each other's heads until one, or both, had scars. Awesome.

This type of fencing was called "Academic" or Mensur fencing. It's goal was not to teach the combatants fighting skills, but to instill robust character in the face of certain injury. The protagonists were expected to bear the slashes like men and thus the German aristocracy would be comprised of fellows who could endure hardship with a stern demeanour. With scars. The Wiki does a much better job than I can of explaining these matters. The scars are, apparently, important.

I came across Mensur fencing via the excellent film Royal Flash (sadly not available on Region 1 DVD) which uses it as part of its plot. The reason I mention it here is that I have begun a performance piece of sorts with my friend LaLa and we may incorporate Academic fencing into our antics.

Watch this space. Vintage images of Mensur fencing below.

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Saturday, 17 April 2010

Pioneer Vs Giger

When I was a child my father, who is quite a science fiction fan, made the mistake of telling me about the film Alien. I don't know if it was the baby xenomorph bursting from someone's stomach, or the bleak horror of the thing's lifecycle, but either way I became obsessed with the movie. Being good middle-class folk, my mother and father forbade me to see the film. This only fostered my fascination and I would pick up any odd snippets I could - a magazine article here and a photo there. It was only a matter of time until I found out about Giger (who, I am assuming, needs no introduction). Things then went even further downhill. My parents were now faced with a child who wanted to buy books full of biomechanical-pornographic-death-art. By the time I was about ten I had worn them down about the film and they decided to let me see it. They probably hoped that a viewing would quench my enthusiasm and they could return to the business of raising a normal kid.

Anyone who knows me will realise how wrong they were.

Anyway, the relationship between Pioneer Corporation and their advertising agency was obviously akin to the dynamic in my childhood home. The agency, I would imagine, griped and whinged as I had. At length, the Pioneer execs figured that letting the kids have their way would get them to shut-the-fuck up and so the ad campaign below was the result.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot people?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Mastodon album covers

The bat-shit mental covers of Mastodon's albums. Official site here, wiki here.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Dune Express gets tested in the field

Last night I ran the first in what I hope will be a series of board game nights at a local gallery. Sheriff Vanderhorne at Resistance Gallery in East London was kind enough to let me invite some friends to his haunt to overdose on tabletop games. Amongst the titles played were two sessions of Dune Express using my custom-made board, tokens and dice.

I am pleased to report that the graphics held up well under extreme playing conditions. The most noticeable deficiency was the design of my location dice. The patterns on this die are not distinct enough. Thus players have to read the text to see what location they have rolled, and this is tricky because the text is very small. Also, the designs on the die bear no resemblance to the regions on the board, which themselves lack any character.

The game played quite well, but we felt the need to add a few house rules on the second play to liven things up a bit. A few hours beforehand I discovered that boardgamegeek user jmgregory had uploaded a more comprehensive rules-set which I look forward to trying in due course. His rules require a few more components so I must modify my graphics package.

Once updated for use with the jmgregory rules I will upload the package to boardgamegeek for everyone to use.

Below are shots of the leaders of the warring houses of the Landsraad as they battle of the fate of Arrakis from their top-secret hide-out in Bethnal Green.

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

WIP no more! Dune Express is finished

The first phase of my Dune project is finished, just 24 hours shy of my board games night! I have been doing a graphic treatment for Dune Express (boardgamegeek link here). This is a portfolio piece.

The original Dune game was released by Avalon Hill in 1979. Dune Express is a streamlined version of the game that has been developed by fans of the original. The game relies of custom dice, which I have created as papercraft boxes. Part of my reason for choosing to do a treatment of this game was that I was very inspired by Mike Doyle's re-imagining of the Avalon Hill version, which you can see on his blog here.

At some point soon I will write about my methodology for my graphic treatment and show some of the images I used as inspiration. Meanwhile, I leave you with my Steampunk-inspired layouts for the board, dice and tokens.

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Friday, 9 April 2010


Here is the third installment of my WIP on the Dune project. Sorry about the terrible anti-aliasing on the enlargement of this. InDesign, for all its strengths, seems unable to chuck out a decent JPEG using the File>Export command.

The text you see is a section of the script from Lynch's film. As a child of the 80s his movie is the prime reference I have for the story, and it was only later, when I was a teenager, that I read Herbert's books. The scene here is when the Navigator meets the Emperor to ask him about his plans for Arrakis. This provides information-feed for the audience and so outlines the feudal struggle at the centre of the plot.

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