Tuesday, 25 August 2015

8:15 From Manchester - A Bearded Quail Travelouge

Actually it was the 9:07 from Glasgow, but the title is for kids of a certain generation
I may nickname my long term girlfriend, fellow nerd and generally fabulous partner Sister Superior but I ain't going to lie to you guys - I think her inclinations lie more with the Ruinous Powers than the loyalist Imperial inclinations of the usual Adeptus Sororitas.

These inclinations took us to Manchester at the weekend because she wanted to attend Sexhibition - essentially a giant expo to alternative, burlesque, erotic and other such affairs.   If you've ever been to a nerdy convention with speakers, performers, sellers stalls and the like then this was the same idea..... just for a slightly different audience.

They called it "Lady Godiva stool".  I called it "a tripedal Slaaneshi combat walker, just add your own guns"

I say slightly different audience because there were a lot of geeky men wandering around in Teefury T-Shirts, accompanying their more exotically attired girlfriends.  There's traditionally a lot of overlap between the three Gs - Gays, Geeks and Goths - so it's no wonder that plenty of people in attendence were ticking more than one of those boxes.

These included bumping into an English gentleman who I got chatting to because I spotted his Warhammer tattoo - a large Space Wolf logo was on his right arm.  Sister Superior and I ended up chatting to this chap and his missus a fair bit - turns out he's an Oldhammer type who used to work for GW many moons ago and also was a former member of the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment my Dad was in back in his army days.  Add a dash of having some shared friends in Glasgow and Sister Superior ended up with a lot of nerdy chat washing over her while she angled to get back to looking at the fashion stalls.

But come on, what Warhammer nerd wouldn't want to give this guy a high five?

Anyway, I shall not go further into the vent because the details of Sexhibition are not of interest to you, dear reader. 

....OK, that's a lie, they probably are of interest to you because of the whole "three Gs" thing and the fact that nerds go for a certain sort. However, the Bearded Quail is not subtitled "A Guide To A Glasweigan Gamer's Slightly Weird Deviances", is it?  Pictures and comments of the event, the people we met there and the items we bought there are not within the narrow remit of this blog so we'll skip over it unless people are specifically requesting it.

You don't want to know anything about Morgana, who as in attendance at the  event as a model, thought admittedly here she looks like a Pendragon NPC.
Instead, let's focus as we should on Nerdity and to the three nerdy stores I visited while in Manchester - what I thought of them and what I bought therein.  I didn't wander far from the city centre but found some great shops.

Lots of scaffolding up when we visited, so it didn't look quite this orange

First on the list was Travelling Man, a general issue nerd shop with a focus on comics but also a solid RPG/board/card game collection.  This was the store I'd read about in advance and the one I was the most keen on visiting.  Apparently a local brand with a few stores in the north of England, the store in Leeds was spoken of very highly by a few people I know.

Travelling Man was a really nice place to shop inside.  The store is well lit, with large spacious windows and a very airy feel.  The whole place was clean and well presented, the antithesis of the stereotypical smelly nerd shop.

The RPG selection hits mostly the key stuff - D&D, Pathfinder, Warhammer 40K RPGs etc.  There's no huge surprises here on the shelves and people who only play indie games might struggle to find anything.  That said the atmosphere makes it one of the nicest nerd shops I've ever visited and I could definitely see myself making this my comic shop of choice in the area.

Sister Superior and I kinda did a double-take at the name and date.

We were actually quite lucky in that we were in town on the weekend that Travelling Man were doing a signing.  British comic book artist Fraser Irving was in town that Saturday to sign his latest work.  Frazer Iriving is an arist we both like - especially Sister Superior, who rated him one of her top five comic book artists of all time back on her old blog - sot his was fortuitous. 

Add in the fact that  the book was written by Grant Morrison, probably my favourite comic book writer, and I made a point of popping in that afternoon and getting a signed copy for Sister Superior.  Scheduling that around the expo was awkward but, as luck would have it, I had some time to kill around 15:00 when we were back at the hotel and the lovely lady wanted some time to amend her make-up and outfit before we headed out to the evening events. 

Only five minutes walk form our hotel
 The second visit is just a few minutes away from Travelling Man - FanBoy3, a shop named after a band formed by the guys that left The Specials.  This music nerd joke hides a hardcore gaming shop whose walls are crammed with card games, board games, miniatures games and other such parapahanlia.  

On the one hand, FanBoy3 hits a few of the more stereotypical elements of nerd shops - it feels a bit more dingy inside for one thing.  That said, it's collection was very broad for RPG and miniature games including fairly obscure things.  I don't think I've ever seen a good selection of Knight Model's Batman Miniatures in the flesh but here they had half a wall taken up with them. 

They didn't have Batwoman.  If the had, I would have bought it on principle.
The store also had a large play space, basically the same size as the main store itself.  Here they offered organized play events between 7pm - 11pm, Tuesday to Friday.  This is a fantastic service and one Glasgow didn't really have until Geek Retreat came along - Static lost it's play space when it and A1 Comics needed more warehousing/mail-order processing room.

Bear with me here.
 The final stop was Games Workshop in the Arndale Centre, the city centre shopping centre.  Some of you will almost certainly be rolling your eyes - I mean, aren't all Games Workshop stores the same?  An identikit, overpriced experience for child gamers who haven't found cheaper online suppliers or superior alternative wargames? 

Its location, buried in a corner off the main ring of the centre next to a Boots and a Bridal shop, doesn't exactly promise much.  At a casual observation, all that's interesting about this store is that it still has the old signage rather than the modern black Warhammer branding.

But let's look at that right hand window a little closer....

Where I Step, The World Shakes
 Yes, standing in the window is a Warhammer 40,000 scale Emperor Titan.  Those tanks scurrying around the bottom are normal 40K size - this scratchbuilt monstrosity is the size of a man, with Warhammer 40,000 buildings used to make the legs and the forecastle.

 This was just one of many amazing models within this store.  I've been to a lot of GWs in my time - especially as a teenager, any family holiday in the UK would involve finding the GW in any large town / small city we were staying in.  Even now, I have burned into my head that the Games Workshop store in the Newcastle Metrocentre was in the area the store map called Upper Red 13 because I visited it so often.  (Apparently it moved a year or two ago - it's now in the village between Green and Blue.)  But this must be the best store I've ever seen.

What follows are a string of pictures of some of their models because no matter how much I liked seeing sexy alternative ladies this weekend, the real breathtaking sight for me was some of these ace models.

The diorama on the other side of the entranceway shows a castle under attack, with dragons and spiders battling on the walls.

There's a great sense of movement in this diorama, it very much feels like an frozen instant of a battle

This Slaaneshi Knight rather blows my plans out of the water.  The beastly head, the tentacled arm, the carapace mounted support gun, the banner pole.....

Even their "normal" games tables were something to behold.  Here, the central tower of the Fortress of Redemption has been used several times as the pillars for a complicated bridge system.

So complex, in fact, that extra pieces not currently being used were piled up in the corner of the shop.  I repeat - they have so much of this cool stuff they can't have it all on the tables at one time.

One for the Lord of the Rings fans!

This frozen Warhammer table saw blue lights used across the towers for a lovely effect.

Electronics seem to feature heavilly, in fact.  Yes, these models are cool and the multiple statues make an awesome space to fight around.... but check out the screen at the top right, which was plugged into a computer somewhere and displaying videos.

Sister Superior liked this stained glass effect.  I'm guessing it was achieved by printing onto clear Overhead Projector style sheets?

This is the kind of store were an £85 super-heavy tank can be filled with lights and turned into a smouldering terrain piece.

The centrepiece of an Ork vehicle army - a looted Thunderhawk Gunship.

The Ork army was full of weird and wonderful tanks, most of which seemed heavilly converted.

A squadron of fliers hang over the gaming tables

This was Sister Superior's favourite model - she loved the glistening blood effect and the fact the blood was dripping off the edge of the rock and splashing on the base.  Apparently the trail of blood was achieved using a length of human hair.
Anyway, now you've all drooled at those figures, it's time for me to mention my Manchester purchases.  I couldn't visit all these lovely shops and not buy something to show some solidarity, after all!

OK, so maybe one thing was bought at Sexhibition and not a nerd shop.

From Travelling Man I got the aforementioned signed comic book but also Tools of Hero Kind, a supplement for Boss Monster.  This small Game Boy-styled box adds another deck of cards, Item Cards, to the game.  This allows heroes to be slightly harder - they have Stars of Invulnerability, Holy Hand Grenades or Cheat Codes to help them out.  If they are beaten, however, those same items can be used to your advantage.

From FanBoy3, I got some Antenocitis Workshop bases.  Their "Lazareto" bases have a starship interior effect to them and came in several sizes - I got the 25mm ones.  If I ever get around to painting up a Breacher Squad for my Emperor's Children, I know what bases I want to use.

From the Games Workshop, I got two of the recent "Technical" paints.  "Blood for the Blood God" is designed to do glistening blood splatters - it was used so well on the Dwarf model I showed above that I couldn't really pass it up in front of Sister Superior.  Martian Ironearth is an orangey brown that cracks when it dries, creating a broken ground effect like a dry desert.

And the cup.... the cup was from Madam's Pin-ups and not even remotely nerdy, but I really like their stuff.  But that's the last piece of Sexhibition tat in this post.  Because we don't care about it.  Because we're nerds, not perverts.

You still don't want to know anything about Morgana, who as in attendance at the  event as a model, thought admittedly here she looks like yet another Pendragon NPC.

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