Monday 3 April 2023

Book Review: Airfix Model World Basic Guide to Modelling by Stu Fone

I have been building model kits for around 50 years, and have worked as a professional model-maker (scratch-building, not kits) for at least 30 years. So I didn't expect to get much for myself out of this book. I was just interested to see how useful the book was for novice model-kit builders.

 I picked up Airfix Model World Basic Guide to Modelling by Stu Fone expecting a fairly simple book with tips for the absolute beginner. However, as well as the beginner's information there are plenty of tips and tricks for the more experienced modeller.

The book is a collection of articles reprinted from the Airfix Model World magazine. However, it is put together so that each article takes the modeller one step further through the model-building process.

From Tools, through basic assembly, clean up and filling and on to painting, applying water side transfers (decals), varnishing and aftermarket accessories. There is also a chapter on scratch-building replacement parts, either for lost parts or to improve the original kit.

Each chapter is simple enough for beginners to find useful but also features tips from the author's years of experience that even as a veteran model maker often proved useful.

As a professional model-maker, I don't build that many plastic model kits these days. So some of the tips in the book, which clearly come from years of kit building, were very interesting and I will certainly refer back to the book when putting plastic kits together in the future.

Seeing how others paint models is always useful, so discovering the author's painting processes was good and very interesting, especially his weathering techniques.

As for applying decals, I have used a softener a few times and found it certainly helps disguise the transfer and avoid creases. However, I will be trying some of the products mentioned in the book, to see if I prefer them.

As I mentioned above, the book features a chapter on scratch-building parts for kit models. Now, this is an area that I really enjoy, as a lot of my models are entirely scratch-built. It is good to see that this is being promoted to beginner model-makers, as it can be the most satisfying part of the process, and shouldn't be too difficult if approached with an open mind.

One of the aspects of this book that caught me somewhat by surprise is the fact that not all of the model kits and other modelling products in the book are manufactured by Airfix (or Humbrol). There is an open attitude to discussing other manufacturers' kits etc. 

An excellent book that I may well keep in my collection (or possibly pass on to a more inexperienced modeller).

Pick up the book HERE.

Tuesday 31 January 2023

Book Review: Sci-Fi Skirmish Scenarios by John Lambshead

Sci-Fi Skirmish Scenarios by John Lambshead is an excellent selection of wargames scenarios that offer a great supplement for any rules set and, despite the Sci-Fi title, they could be used with any skirmish rules, certainly from say Steampunk through Modern and on into any variety of Sci-Fi.

The book starts off by laying out a few different terrain types from city centres through sub-urban settings via industrial and finally ending up in wastelands. So covering most terrain types that would suite the setting.

Most of the book is made up of page after page of different scenario ideas. Each scenario taking up between two and six pages to flesh out. Now reading the book straight through does get a little dry and repetitive, however, that is not really how this book is designed to be used ( although it is a handy way to find some of the more interesting scenarios). The book is best used by simply dipping in and picking random scenarios when you are stuck for ideas for your evenings game.

After the scenarios, the book looks at ways to use run a campaign and then also how to use it for solo play.

All this is extremely useful for the modern slim, miniature agnostic rulebooks that are out there and it gives a vast resource of scenario ideas that can easily be adapted to any game. I will probably even end up adapting scenario ideas from the book for my historical or fantasy skirmish games. I can see this book being reached for every time I am planning a game in future.

An excellent addition to any wargamers collection.

Get the book HERE!

Thursday 12 January 2023

Book Review: Secrets of the Cold War by Andrew Long

Having had a long-term interest in the history of espionage, and in particular the Cold War period I was intrigued to read this book. I have a fair knowledge of the Cambridge Spies and I know a little about the Berlin Wall and the animosity that occurred during the partition of German. However, I had never really tied it all together and achieved an understanding of the whole history of the spying that occurred during that time.

This book, Secrets of the Cold War by Andrew Long, has given me an excellent overview of the whole period, with fairly in-depth coverage of the main historical events of the secret war.

The first chapter mainly concentrates on the Atomic Spies, starting during the Second World War and leading right into the Cold War. I was aware of some of these,  but again the book gives an excellent overview and shows how the different spies and spy rings interacted and complimented each other.

Chapter two looks at Berlin and the American tunnel that was dug under the Berlin Wall to tap into East German phone lines. A huge espionage success for the West, which had, even before it was completed, been betrayed to the Soviets... 
Next up, the book moves to the South Coast of England and the Portland Spies, followed by Oleg Penkovsky, the Russian Colonel who became an important source of information for the West, before he was ultimately caught.

Of course, overshadowing all of the different soviet spies featured in the book were the Cambridge Spies, Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt and Cairncross. 

The final chapter of the book looks at an aspect of Cold War espionage that I had not heard of before. The Military Liason Missions that ran throughout East (and West) Germany. 

The Liason missions were an integral part of the partition agreement that divided Germany after World War Two. Basically, Britain, the US and France were allowed to send regular missions (typically three military personnel in a car) into East Germany to travel around and observe/liaise with the East Germans. There were restricted areas that the missions were not allowed to enter, and there was often tension between the East German / Soviet forces and the missions (which led to at least two deaths of mission personnel). However, the missions often went above and beyond their stated objectives and acquired a lot of intelligence about the opposing forces' dispositions and equipment. I must also add that the East Germans also ran liaison missions in West Germany, although these are only really mentioned in passing.

 I found the book to be an excellent resource and overview of the Cold War (at least in terms of East/West espionage). I especially enjoyed discovering the history of the Military Liasion missions. I am surprised that there have not been any movies made depicting the exploits of some of these missions, as I am sure there is plenty there to work with!

If you are interested in spies, the Cold War or the modern history of Germany you can't really go wrong in picking up this book.

Highly Recommended!

Get it HERE!
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