TSM Geek – Mar/Apr 2023

It hasn’t been the most productive couple of months, I must say. Yasmin has been prepping for mock exams, which will count to her UCAS point grades for her university applications, so she’s been hard at work there. I’ve lent her a helping hand and have been typing her notes up for her, which were then printed out on flash cards – it’s how she revises. All this didn’t leave much time for games, as you can imagine, some things are, amazingly, more important!

I’ve also been experiencing some stomach issues. I’ve a history of stomach problems spanning the last 15-years or so but three months ago it flared up worse than usual. Try as I might, I couldn’t get to see a doctor, the best I could get was a chat on the phone. This was a month after it all started. I had to take a few tests, both of which I had to wait another four weeks for, one for them to ‘fit’ me in, and the other because I had to be off my usual medication for so long before I could take it. I’ve now done the tests but am still awaiting the results of one – three weeks so far!

All-in-all, there’s been times because of this when I just haven’t been in the mood to play games, paint, or write posts, so things have fallen behind somewhat. Still, there’s plenty to look forward to, such as the UK Games Expo at the start of June. Yasmin is coming with me again this year. We missed the last one and so she’s only ever experienced it when COVID restrictions were in place, which meant there wasn’t as much to do or look at. I’m sure she’ll really enjoy this years.

We’re going on the Friday. I always think it’s the best day to go. Saturday sees the biggest attendance and it’s too much of a crush in places. No, get there early on the Friday, have a leisurely walk around, and then spend lots of dosh – sounds good!

Oh! And I’ve been working on the garden again. The raised beds had another level of sleepers adding and were finally filled with soil and compost. We’ve planted some seeds in the mini-greenhouse and a few into the actual beds. The shed has been ordered – should turn up next week – and a general spring tidy carried out. As with all gardens, it’s a work in progress.

Anyway, with not much else to talk about – we haven’t even adventured out anywhere to speak of as a family, unless you count some new garden centres that is – it’s straight to painting this month, missing out the family fun and games…


Okay, I lied about missing out this section!

As an afterthought, I decided to add here what we’ve been doing over the last week, and that’s watching game reviews together.

With the Expo looming, I wanted to get some idea of what would appeal to Yasmin. I started trawling through BGGs game chart and writing down games that I thought might interest her. We then sat down and watched some reviews and made a shortlist (longlist would be a better descriptive!).

It’s a work in progress. Eventually we’ll have a list of things to look out for when we’re there, and if we come away with anything off the list then we’ll both be happy… at least that’s the plan.

Here’s what we have so far.

Expansions for some of the games we have – Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror TCG, Summoner Wars, Marvel: Crisis Protocol, Cthulhu: Death May Die.

Games include: Star Wars Imperial Assault, Cthulhu Wars (Expensive, so would have to be a good deal), Mage Wars Arena (Maybe too much like Magic and Summoner Wars to warrant adding but it’s probably top of Yasmin’s list), Lost Ruins of Arnak, Dinosaur Island (Bottom of my list but near the top of Yasmin’s), Sagrada, Abomination: Heir of Frankenstein, Nemesis (Both really want this!), Star Wars Armada (near the top of my list but Yasmin is a little non-plussed), War of the Ring (I’ve always wanted to play this game and I think I’ve convinced Yasmin that she does too!), Marvel United (Something cheap and quick to play), Thunderstone Quest, and Star Wars Rebellion.

As you can see, it’s already an extensive list and it will only get longer. We’ll cut it down before we go, and it’ll give us some idea of what to look out for. If we come back with one or two off the list, we should be happy gamers.

If anyone has any thoughts the above listed games, I’d be interested to hear to hear them, after all, we’ve based the list primarily on reviews, other people’s recommendations, so a few more people shouting out for a game might push it up (or down) our list, thanks.


I made an error in judgement. With the weather forecast promising warmer temperatures, I dusted off my painting desk in the garage and set it up ready. I put out all my paints on the racks, placed everything I need back into the drawers and prepared to make some major advances into converting my grey plastic into something more palatable.

Alas, the forecast was a sham and it never reached above 12 degrees C in there. That is, until the last week. And so, there has been very little from me in the way of painting over the last two months other than what I’ve achieved in the last few days.

Let’s start, though, with my latest purchase, Vallejo’s new Xpress range.

Xpress is Vallejo’s version of GW’s Contrast, or Amy Painter’s Speed Paint. It’s a paint that, when applied to a white basecoat provides shade and highlight all in one coat.

I bought the set, 23 colours and a bottle of Xpress Medium. So far, I’ve only used them to paint up some of The Walking Dead scenery, and I’m happy to say that they speeded up the process tenfold.

The Walking Dead Scenery

I used the slapchop method: prime black, heavy drybrush of Grey, lighter drybrush of white to pick out the highlights, and then Xpress colours over the top. As you can see above, it hasn’t come out too bad but, as is often the criticism with the slapchop method, the colours are toned down and can be a bit dull looking. I did use some Contrast paint on there too, with the same result.

How does Xpress compare to Contrast? Well, though it’s early days and I only have a few Contrast paints to compare them to, I can say they’re quite different to use. The Contrast paints I have aren’t consistent with one-another. Some are quite thin, with the consistency of a wash, whilst others are thicker, more highly pigmented. Xpress, though, all appear to be the same consistency, similar to a normal Vallejo paint. Interestingly, they have the feel when painting, of an oil-based paint, they also smell like one! There is a warning on the bottle that they may cause an allergic reaction, so I’ve avoided licking my brush!

I’ve found I can control Xpress better than Contrast and be more precise when applying it. I’ve not quite got used to how thick to apply them, though. I’ve found I don’t need to be as liberal with them as with Contrast. I’ve also found it more difficult to judge how they will look over other colours. With Contrast, I often apply them over different basecoat colours and it’s easy to guess what will work and how it will look. But with Xpress, I’m struggling, maybe because they can be quite different when applied to how they appear in the bottle, but this is probably my inexperience with the paint.

Xpress does make better glazes than Contrast, whilst the Contrast paints I have are better as a wash when thinned with water, so both paints have their use in a collection. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the Xpress range once I’ve explored their full potential.

Along with the paint, I ordered some transparent bases big enough to base my Mansion of Madness’ Star Spawns.

Mansions of Madness - Star Spawn

And this weekend, with the weather finally playing ball, I managed to get my backlog of finished minis all varnished and a load more primed. This means I can get some painting posts knocked out.

I’ve been working on a miniature of a giant, from Blacklist miniatures, part of a kickstarter that I backed some time ago. It isn’t the most detailed of figures, but I wanted to push myself on a few techniques, namely painting flesh, and she has plenty of that, on account of her being big, not scantily dressed before you jump to conclusions!

Here she is so far. The flesh is almost complete and everything else is basecoated.

Lastly, I’ve started putting together Dr Strange and Wong for Marvel: Crisis Protocol. We’re hoping to get a game played next weekend, though I doubt any of these will be ready for then (I doubt? I know!).

I really want to start getting a push on with my painting, as I’ve got such a backlog. I have the first batch of Soviets awaiting basing because I can’t make my mind up how I’m going to do it, and I have the next lot, including a few tanks, ready to be primed. I have countless games that have miniatures awaiting paint – why do I keep buying games with miniatures? – and because I’m so slow it takes the game out of play for so long, I wonder why I started painting them at all.

This needs to stop. I need to take myself away and give me a good talking to, ‘Crack on, or else!’. Maybe I threaten myself, ‘No more games until you’re done!’. Would that work? I doubt it…

Screen Shot

Over Easter we managed to get a few movies in. First up, Top Gun Maverick.

One of Sue’s favourite films ever, and a popular movie all round, Top Gun also holds a few happy memories for me.

Whilst out on Ops in the early 2000s, the Squadron groundcrew were quartered in tents, rows of tents. These weren’t your average tents. Each was divided up with wooden walls into five bedrooms and a kitchen/living area and they had air con, a must have, as the temperatures in there reached sweltering conditions very quickly – we know this, as we’d often come back from the bar of an evening (think early morning), switching off the other tents air-con as we went!

One day we weren’t required for work (the call would often come just before we were due in on shift) and so we decided to rent a film. That was Top Gun. We did it as a laugh, as everyone had seen it before and, of course, groundcrew watching Top Gun was something everyone chided you over. We cranked up the volume of the TV, so that everyone could her the iconic soundtrack blasting out, ‘Welcome to the Danger Zone…’ and settled down to our pizza.

The next day, of course, we took a massive ribbing from everyone else, both due to the volume we played it at and the fact that we were watching Top Gun. But then it happened. One lad approached us and asked to borrow the DVD. That evening we heard it blasting out from the next tent. The following day, another tent, then another and another. We had the whole Squadron falling over one another to watch it next, and for the rest of the detachment you’d often hear us saying to one another, ‘You are still dangerous… but you can be my wingman any time!’

Back to Maverick, and it had a lot to live up to. On the whole, it managed it. The flight scenes were superb, mainly because they were all live filmed, no special effects, and it was down to Cruise that this was so. He insisted that the actors fly, learn to cope with the ‘g’, and do all their takes live in the cockpit during flight.

The story is a little weak, and, minimal spoilers, there was a part in the film that I though let it all down, like it was just to make sure Maverick got to fly a Tomcat. It’s a bit of the film that breaks away from reality, and I thought they could have gone in a different direction. On the whole, whilst it lacked the iconic moments that made Top Gun so memorable, like Maverick and Gooses’ rendition of ‘You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling,’ Gooses’ death, and the superb soundtrack, the movie was enjoyable and a worthy successor to the original.

Managed to catch up a bit on the MCU movies, as I’d fallen behind somewhat and Yasmin was getting fed up waiting for me.

Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was up first. Pretty good, loaded with special effects, lots of humour, and plenty of action, what more could you want? Well, that’s what I just couldn’t, and still can’t, put my finger on. I thought the movie was, yep, pretty good, but why it fell short I just can’t quite say. If anything, too many effects made it hard to follow at times, and the story was a bit shallow. It finished and left me thinking, ‘Pretty good!’, there it is again, but it seems to be the way with the latter movies and the next one, Thor Love and Thunder was no exception, though I have to say I’d watch Dr Strange again, Thor… well!

Yes, Thor Love and Thunder was, well, just good, reasonably okay, maybe a little average. I felt the plot was strangled and slow, with little action until the end, but the worst thing for me was the cringy humour. I just can’t get on with the way they present Thor as a character. One minute he’s great, and I’m just beginning to like him, next he’s coming out with stupid one liners that make me grind my teeth, and there were too many of those moments. It was, overall, an enjoyable experience. It made me laugh at times but on the whole, I thought it was forgettable, I can barely remember anything about the film now, just a few weeks after watching, and I have to say I won’t be watching it again!

Between The Sheets

After reading four books in the first two months of the year, things have slowed right down. Mainly because I’m reading this…


It isn’t just that it’s a lengthy tome, more the subject matter that’s slowing me down. Barbarossa is, was, something I knew very little about, but this book has set that straight, almost, as I haven’t quite finished it yet.

Despite the author trying his best to use one, very long and complicated word (think suzerainty, chtuzpah, and internecine), where a few short and simple ones would have done, the book flows along quite nicely and once into Dimbleby’s style I enjoyed reading it. The subject matter, though, is heavy going. It includes a fair amount of politics mixed with the grim realities of war; it wasn’t easy to take in and process big chunks at a time and I found it a tiring read, hence how long it has taken.

It’s been a very interesting read, the political side of things especially. The wrangling between Stalin and Churchill in particular. The thoughts of the German high command and how they were often too worried about their own future to tell the Fuhrer the truth about the situation on the ground. The obvious thing that springs out, is that Hitler could only blame himself for the failure to take Moscow and then possibly defeat the Soviets. If it wasn’t for his continual interference with the overall strategy, then things could have been very different.

If you’re interested in this theatre of the war, then I can highly recommend ‘Barbarossa, How Hitler Lost the War,’ just have a little patience with it, as the first chapter or two aren’t the easiest to get in to, it seemed as though it took him a little while to get into his stride.

18 thoughts on “TSM Geek – Mar/Apr 2023

  1. Hope Yasmin’s revision and mocks go well, and that your test results come back soon and they can start to treat the flare up properly.
    Sometimes life throws you a few curve balls, but then when that big hit comes in, it feels all the sweeter, and I’m sure the expo will have you both bursting with enthusiasm again.
    My favourite thing about Thor, was the soundtrack, and not sure what the love affair with his weapons was supposed to represent ! LOL
    Top Gun Maverick was fun, if a bit silly in places (the Tomcat you mentioned) shame the soundtrack was mostly ripped off from the original, and nothing new to make you go wow (get the feeling I like a good soundtrack ! LOL)
    Look forward to seeing all the painted bits you have to show.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cheers Dave.
      Yasmin’s mocks went okay, she thinks. She didn’t finish a couple of the papers but as she’s dyslexic we’re hoping she’ll get extra time when it comes to the actual exams.
      My test results came back yesterday, all normal, which isn’t good. I now have to see a doc about the next step, unfortunately, I’ve been told there are no appointments available for the foreseeable future – end of May – unless I’m lucky enough to get one when the few are released daily!
      Yeah, the soundtrack to Thor was great and really fitted the cinematic moments.
      Nothing like a good soundtrack to enhance a movie. I remember watching Lord of the Rings for the first time. It was on an old laptop with really poor sound. I then watched it again in full surround sound and it totally changed my enjoyment of the film – great!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. That’s a coincidence, I read Barbarossa a few months ago. It’s a history book for grown-ups, nothing lightweight there!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a great way of describing it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic blends/highlights on the calfs!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks mate.
      I started from a zenithal prime of black, grey, and white, then used two different contrast paints one over the other. I then glazed over with Bonewhite where I wanted the highlights.
      I’m waiting until I’ve finished the rest to decide whether I need to push the highlights further.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ah, I thought you had usual glazed regular paints at first. I completely forgot that you get a pretty good skin tone with contrast and a bit of highlights. I had done this when I first got hold of them but then went back to my regular method. Maybe time to revisit!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I use the contrast paints thinly, rather than filling the brush and applying a liberal coat, more like a glaze really. Here I used Darkoath Flesh followed by several coats of skeleton horde, just applying it where I wanted. I then built up the highlights with a Bonewhite Glaze.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, zenithal prime is a great way, to get good values. But I loath airbrush/primer-bottle and otherwise I don’t like having a too thick primer-coat it’s so annoying haha.
        I’ll definetly try to steal the rest of your methods for myself though. ]:->

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As I write this you’re no doubt on your way back from the UK Games Expo with less money but more shiny things! Hope you enjoyed it! Nice work with the new paints!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol! I wish… getting ahead of yourself there, John, the Expo is at the start of June! I have to admit to a moment of panic, as to what I’d actually written😬
      I am sure, though, that your words will prove prophetic🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have no idea why I thought it was this weekend, unless it’s because you wrote that you were going on the Friday and it’s Friday today! Doh! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I really hope that your stomach is feeling better, mate. I’ve had a few minor health annoyances this week and while it hasn’t affected my painting much, it has been frustrating to deal with.

    I’ll certainly be curious to see what games you get. I know you went on to discuss how much stuff you have to paint and it is definitely food for thought when it comes to buying new games with miniatures. Honestly, in my experience, trying to paint and play MCP and Bolt Action is ambitious, especially if you’re adding terrain into the mix. When you add to that the other games you play like MoM, I think you might struggle to add much more on top of that unless you can be really productive.

    One of the worst and hardest parts of our hobby is that there is always more to do out there than we have time for. Temptation surrounds us and staying focused is tough. I have three different miniature gaming projects: Fallout, Hellboy, and Prehistoric wargaming. I’m struggling to make satisfactory progress on those and I’m trying to work on display painting too. I’ve surpassed my current limit and could even see myself getting rid of Hellboy one day in the future. Not because I don’t like it, but because it will take me forever to paint it all and still get where I want to be with Fallout and the Prehistoric side of things. Its sobering, if not depressing, to say this but I thought I’d share with you since we have somewhat similar goals in the hobby. Having said that, if you stay away from display painting, like I haven’t, then it might not be so bad for you. Gaming stuff even at a high standard is quicker overall. I know I could put a better dent in what I have if I wasn’t determined to become a great display painter.

    With that said, I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on Vallejo’s version of Contrast. I’ve only dipped my toe into Contrast a bit since I generally prefer to use traditional paints but I will certainly keep them in mind in the future.

    And finally, I like the flesh tones you’re working on. They’re definitely different than traditional Caucasian tones and I’ll be curious to see the final product. I hope the weather gets better to make painting easier as well!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks mate. I have the stomach issue under control at the moment but getting to see a doctor is proving difficult.

      I can’t help myself, I want to play them all but this means having to paint them. There’s nothing worse than a skirmish or wargame where the minis are grey!
      I don’t mind a ‘grey’ boardgame, as the focus is more on the gameplay than how it looks.

      Contrast/Xpress/Speedpaints, whatever, are all worth a look. They have a lot of uses other than using them as a one coat does all kind of paint. I tend to use them as tints and glazes, though I’m starting to use Xpress as a basecoat to work from. They’re just another tool to be used, abused, and experimented with!

      Yeah, I was looking for a more unusual, darker skintone, one that looked as if it would be rock hard like a bowling ball.
      Things have warmed up a little and I’ve begun working through the last of my MoM minis – I’ve just finished Silas, Agatha, and Minh – so things are looking up😃

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad to hear things are better and I hope you can see someone soon as well.

        There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you don’t mind something being unpainted in a game! Many people do not worry too much about painting their minis and just want to play the game which is fair. I think you and I are more on the opposite end because we really put time and care into our painting.

        I agree on paints and I’m trying to experiment more with them in general so I might just give Xpress a go sometime soon. Really glad to hear about the MoM minis. Its time to knock them out, I’d say! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks mate.

        Yes, too much time and care into the painting and not enough into the playing… there’s a balance out there somewhere but I doubt I’ll ever find it🤔

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You’re welcome and don’t look to me for any advice. I can’t seem to balance the two and spend WAAAY more time painting than gaming 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, big big post! Games – I’ve been interested in Imperial Assault for awhile. It’s one I might have to check out eventually. The other on your list “Cthulhu Wars”, I used to own. I backed their first two Kickstarters. The game is decent, though everyone ends up comparing it to “Risk with Big Monsters”. No, not entirely true, but when you spend over $300 on a game, that’s the last thing you want to hear from your gaming buddies! The good: the minis are big and super cool. That moment when you get to summon your Great Old One to the map, everyone Ooohs and Ahhhhs! The different expansion maps are fun to play on, most of the expansions were pretty fun though some were too complex. The asymmetrical game play is great. Most people can learn the game pretty easy. Painting the minis could be a lot of fun. Not so good: Not a good game for conflict-averse players. Most factions need to be confronted or they will run away with the game. Conflict is a must. The Yellow Sign is a weird one. If I remember correctly, they are gathering tokens around the map and thus don’t actually need to fight. Once again though, if people don’t keep an eye on them, they will steal a win. The game is BIG. Add in the expansions, and it’s going to fill a good chunk of someone’s closet. This was ultimately made me sell the game. I wasn’t getting it to the table often enough to justify the space everything took up. On the plus side, the resell value was really good!

    Xpress vs Contrast – interested in hearing how your experiments progress with these. I haven’t bought any of the Xpress paints, as the GSW Dipping Inks seem to be my fave of speed paints. They dry more matte, which is more similar to acrylic paints. Also I’ve found some of the Contrast paints are tricky to paint over. Plus the inconsistency that you mentioned.

    Again for using Contrast paints on the Giant’s flesh, it turned out really nice with a lot less time than it would have taken otherwise!

    I liked all three movies you mentioned. Marvel is pushing the humor too far in their movies at this point. It used to be right at the sweet spot, but now it’s not. I do think I need to have another watch of Dr Strange. It wasn’t what I thought the second movie would be, but still pretty good. Hope they do at least one more.

    Liked by 1 person

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