Saturday, 13 August 2011

My Tank, My Tank is Fight!

As a brief interlude before I start playing the tutorial game, today I've been mostly attending Britcon, with Jonesy (Mi Hermano del Conductor), Marvin and Tony (another gaming friend). Despite being based in my home city, I've never attended it before, for the simple reason that it's primarily a competitive wargaming tournament with a small trade-show element tacked on. I don't get competitive wargaming, it just goes against everything I find fun in the hobby and has so much potential to lead to unpleasantness.

Nevertheless, Marvin was back in town again and mentioned wanting to go. Jonesy was initially against, but when he mentioned how most of the attendees would be wrapped up in their competitions, so that even the Bring and Buy would be mostly deserted, I leapt at the chance.

The bring and buy didn't disappoint, as for the first time in many years of attending wargames conventions I found myself able to reach the table without fighting through a scrum of unwashed wargamers. I was easily able to find my bargain of the day - two GW Leman Russ tanks ripe for steampunk conversion, for only £5 each. One has been extensively modified with extra "bitz" and a hideous arctic camo scheme, but I'm afraid both are going to be hacked mercilessly and Victorianised for GASLIGHT. I also picked up a copy of Buck's and Chris's "Look Sarge, No Charts - WW2" as a gift for Jonesy (who is coming down off a major Flames Of War addiction) as thank-you for driving.

Apart from the tournament games, the trade section was indeed very small, less than half the number of traders than, say Phalanx from earlier in the year (and positively tiny compared to US cons). I picked up a few Wargames Foundry blisters from their new Victoriana range. But best of all I did get a chance to chat with the chaps from Black Pyramid games, who produce a small but growing range of VSF figures under the "Tea Wars" brand. They had pre-production samples of their upcoming steam-tank range.

Phil from Black Pyramid explained to me the range is going to be rather modular, so you can buy a basic vehicle and then buy expansions and modifications for it. The samples they had were basically upgraded with every add-on part they had to showcase the full extent of the possibilities. This wheeled tractor, for example, has been designed with a reversible main hull. You can turn it upside down, fit tracks or wheels to the long flat bottom edge and you've got a vehicle with a completely different look.

These are large beasties, I'd say about half again or maybe even double the size of the Ironclad steam tanks. Another of the Black Pyramiders (whose name I've forgotten but I think may have been Dave) told me this was a deliberate design choice, in order to make them distinctive. They didn't have confirmed prices yet, but were looking at around the £18-20 mark, which seems entirely reasonable for the weight of resin you're getting - comparable to the Scheltrum landships for example.

We talked a bit more about how useful the expansion packs are going to be to scratchbuilders - I know I'm already mentally ordering a half dozen of those gun sponsons. They're hoping the first of the tanks and expansions will be available sometime in September in time for the Stoke Challenge wargaming show which they're co-sponsoring.

They also produce a range of VSF British in colonial pith-helmets, and a very useful selection of loose weapons and heads. While picking up a few packs of Martini-Henrys I asked again about the obvious gap in their heads offering - while they do pith helmets with or without goggles and Home Service helmets with gasmasks, they don't yet do Home Service helmets with normal heads (without gasmasks). This, they told me, was definitely near the top of their to-do list.

All in all, Black Pyramid were a fine bunch of chaps (and one fetching chapette) who seemed genuinely interested in what potential customers were looking for, and were very kind in allowing me to disrupt their display in order to get these photos. I'm really looking forward to when these steam tanks become available, and if they get the Home Service Helmets sculpted I could definitely see myself picking up a few to convert various figures for the defence of fair Albion.

(Although as I typed this an idea popped into my head. Tea Wars automatic riflemen + Home Service Gasmask heads = Victorian-era Special Airship Service shock-troops.)

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