In related news, I managed to persuade Jonesy and the others of the gaming group to miss the first couple of hours of our planned RPG day today and instead go to Phalanx 2011 in St Helens. I won't give you a full review of the show, but it was very well attended for a regional UK show, with a great variety of trade stands and demo games. The stand-out for me (and the closest thing to VSF) was a spectacular "Very British Civil War" game done in 20mm featuring a table that represented the city streets of Liverpool using model railway buildings. I suspect VBCW is in many ways a period for gamers who would play VSF if it weren't for the fictional steam contraptions. Traderwise I was able to give a large slab of money to the nice people from Ironclad Miniatures for some 28mm Grenadier Guards in busbies, and an order for three steam tanks (which they didn't have in stock but offered to send postage free on Monday. I also stopped off at the Design 28 Miniatures stand, where they had their very modest "Steam and Steel" range of VSF miniatures. I picked up enough of their Iron Men figures for a G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. unit, with the idea of using them for an "evil genius" force, to go with the Parroom Station "Masked Minions" and some other steam robots I have kicking around. I also picked up the "Lancashire Tigers" British Infantry. The troops will be difficult to use, since they are wearing WW1/2 style "tin hats" rather than pith helments or Home Service pickelhaubes, but their leader is a gloriously stout monocled chap who will definitely find use as a British Officer. Funnily enough they also had to take my address, as they hadn't brought their giveaway "Chinese Gordon" figure to the show.
I looked at rivers, roads and buildings at the S&A Scenics stand. But while it was all very nice, making terrain was always something I enjoyed doing, and I'm confident I can produce something just as good as theirs for a fraction of the price.
Rounding out the purchases was an absolute bargain find. Two packs of Heroscape hex terrain on the Bring N Buy for £10 each. I first discovered the gaming possibilities of modular hex terrain from Bob Cordery's "Wargaming Miscellany" blog, where he's used it in the development of his Portable Wargame rules. I think Heroscape and Portable Wargame are going to offer me an excellent way to play full-size battles on my modestly sized coffee table. When we arrived back at my flat for the planned RPG session, the tiles certainly proved a hit with the other players, as after pulling a few out and snapping them together we all decided to use the hexes as the battlemap for the rest of the day. Much fun was had by all, assembling the little plastic hexes into the required layout for the planned encounter. Almost, I'm afraid to say, to the detriment of the actual roleplaying, but luckily Jonesy (The GM) seemed to be having as much fun with the tiles as the rest of us.
While it was a mega bargain and I have easily enough tiles to cover the whole of my coffee table and then some, I did feel I need a few more tiles to offer enough flexibility, particularly with the water tiles. These are thinner than the other hexes, making a river or stream cut realistically into the surrounding terrain. I don't quite have enough to do a 2-hex wide river running the whole length of the table. So I have bid on.... and in fact just this minute won an eBay auction for another boxed set, paying more for the one set than the two I've already bought.
Maybe just one more set will be enough...