Thursday, June 27, 2013

On the Importance of Fluff

I'm re-reading the Adeptus Titanicus rulebook and old Epic battle reports from White Dwarf and, in so doing, I'm being reminded of the value of "fluff" (ugh, sorry to use that term) in miniatures gaming. Lining up armies and having a bash is all well and good, but the games take on a much deeper meaning if there's some sort of background to the conflict and the forces involved. An extra dimension is added. It's why I'm not just painting up generic "Normandy" miniatures for my WWII project, but instead choosing a time and place (the fighting around Tilly-sur-Seulles during the first week after D-Day) and modeling units accordingly. Thus, it's not just "British", it's men of the 6th Durham Light Infantry; it's not just "Germans", it's panzergrenadiers of the Panzer Lehr Division. All of this adds an extra level of immersion to the game, even if the battles themselves are not based on any actual engagement.

Something that's long been missing from my fantasy wargaming (first with Fantasy Warriors and now with Armies of Arcana) has been this sense of background immersion. I was going back through old posts and noticed that in my very first FW battle report (which was also the very first post on this blog), I wrote a bit of game fiction in the style of those old White Dwarf battle reports. I'd like to get back to doing that once I start gaming and posting battle reports again in earnest, but without a clear idea of a game world that the battles are taking place in, it's tough to do that.

Part of the problem has been getting a fix on what this fantasy world might look like based on the miniatures in our collection so far. A few weeks ago I posted that, in the wake of Ray Harryhausen's death, I was coming to realize that our Undead and Amazon armies convey a pretty strong vibe of pulp fantasy. That vision has only grown stronger in the time since, growing to the point that I'm now envisioning a sort of Appendix N-style fantasy world of amazons, necromancers, cavemen, and dinosaurs, all with a healthy dose of post-apocalyptic fantasy thrown into the mix. I've got visions of making some terrain pieces of "futuristic"-style ruins, maybe a half-buried spaceship, and of tracking down some vintage fantasy miniatures armed with sci-fi blasters and such.

To illustrate the value of even a bit of fluff: as soon as I'd figured out even a background as vaguely-sketched as this, I immediately came up with an idea for a third fantasy army, a project I've been wanting to put together for some years now. I've toyed with various ideas: crusading knights, "regular" dwarves, "feral" dwarves, "Roman" gorillas, Wargods of Aegyptus, and so forth, but they all felt too much like bog standard fantasy or, at best, a thinly-veiled derivative. With my pulp fantasy idea, though, I instantly thought of a perfect third project: cavemen and prehistoric animals! I haven't decided if I'm gonna go with "early" hominids and dinosaurs (as in the style of the Frazetta painting above) or "later" hominids and Ice Age mammals (certainly, a woolly mammoth or two on the caveman side would form a suitable counterpart to my Undead Mammoth). But whatever the case, it certainly feels right. I love the idea of there being this degenerate race of savage cave dwellers as a counterpoint to the bronze-clad Amazons, and I really like the various caveman miniatures I've looked at so far. I don't know why I never thought of doing a Frazetta-esque fantasy army before, particularly in light of the Amazons and their curvy general, but it's on now!

Or rather it will be once I clear a project or two off my table--hoping to get started on this one maybe by fall or winter. In the meantime, I'm hoping to fill in some of the details of this Appendix N fantasy world that's brewing in my head.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Current Projects Update

Here's the most recent shot of my work area. Two of my current projects are easily discernible; the third might be a bit harder to pick out, still being largely in bags, but it is, ironically, my current obsession.

  • The Normandy project is moving along nicely. Shortly after posting those pictures of painted Highlanders, I decided that consistency of scale was more important to me than I had realized and I resolved to limit myself to a single manufacturer as much as possible. I plumped for Artizan, and all the figures have since arrived, been based, and primered. (And as a change of pace, I'm taking the advice of several other bloggers and doing the base texture before I paint the figures. Should be interesting to see how that pans out.)

    As an old fan of Necromunda and Mordheim, I couldn't be more pleased that the figures currently occupying space on my table constitute the entirety of what I need to play Operation Squad. Of course I plan on expanding by adding other squads and eventually moving into the game's vehicular supplement (see the primered Panther over on the left?) as well as playing larger, platoon-scale games of NUTS! once my collection gets big enough, but I'm loving the small scale that the basic OS game offers. Next up: ordering a few buildings from Paper Terrain, finishing up a couple other terrain-related odds and ends, and then playing some games! Hoping to realize the latter goal by the end of summer at the latest.
  • Up on top of the plastic drawers sits another skirmish-level project, my 28mm samurai. I'm looking forward to Osprey's Ronin rules, but if those aren't quite what I'm looking for, I've always got Taiko. In fact, I'm planning on basing my samurai with magnets so that I can mount them in scenic movement trays in the style of Impetus to do larger-scale Taiko battles even if I end up using Ronin for my skirmish games. I plan on working on these guys slowly but surely, mostly as a colorful relief from the earth tones of my Normandy project.
  • Lastly, there's the surprise project: my return to Epic-scale 40K. I posted back when I made an impulse purchase of a heap of classic Titans on the subject of my abiding love for Epic gaming and the many good times that Space Marine provided. Well, my old adversary Alex and I have been furiously exchanging emails, planning out our return to the fold. Amazingly, I just last week landed a complete boxed set of Adeptus Titanicus (styrene buildings and all!) for less than half of what I paid for it 20 years ago. And I've been slowly acquiring other pieces for my quickly-expanding collection, all the while trawling NetEPIC and ginning up armies. The plan in place right now is to build a Titan Legion/Space Marine army and paint up a few traitor titans as well - I've already picked out legions and paint schemes and can't wait to get started on that. The long-term goal is to build up an Ork army with my three old Gargant models as centerpieces. Alex is putting together a Knight-based Adeptus Mechanicus army with his long-term goal being the fielding of an Eldar army similar to the one he had in days of yore.

    This way we can play both the original Adeptus Titanicus rules with a handful of titans per side or have nice big bashes with NetEPIC armies. We only manage to get together about once a year at best (living 1,000 miles apart tends to put a crimp in social plans), but we're already planning to bring our tiny little armies along for whenever it is we see each other.
Oh, and I've also got plans for a third Armies of Arcana project, but that's projected to be a ways down the road and will warrant a post of its own, coming up shortly.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twenty Questions

Who am I to turn down an opportunity for solipsistic introspection? Actually, I've never really done a proper introductory post for this blog, and this seems to fit the bill nicely. Thanks to Thantsants for posting his answers and inspiring me to do the same!

Yours truly, plus dog.
1. Favorite wargaming period and why?

I think based simply on the number of years I've doggedly attempted to game the period, World War II. All sorts of figure scales, engagement scales, rules, etc., have been attempted with varying degrees of success, but in the end I've thoroughly enjoyed the ride thus far. And it wasn't even my idea! A friend suggested we look into the genre shortly after we decided to ditch Games Workshop and go historical. I knew very little about the period outside the cod-Hollywood version everyone grows up with. Over 15 years later and there's still tons to learn from both a historiographical and wargaming perspective!

2. Next period, money no object?

Oh, don't tempt me! Seriously, though - I'd probably want to throw together another couple armies for my fantasy collection. I feel pretty satisfied (for now) in terms of historical miniatures.
ETA: I got bit, dammit! Great Northern War, 6mm. The "money no object" bit would simply have to do with the size of the collection.

3. Favorite 5 films?

Hmmm. These sorts of lists are always "of the moment" as far as I'm concerned. And so, in no pertikler order:

  • Excalibur
  • Return of the Living Dead
  • Porco Rosso
  • Evil Dead 2
  • Tombstone

4. Favorite 5 TV series?

Same rules apply as the movie selections (although The Simpsons will always be on the list, I think):

  • The Simpsons
  • Arrested Development
  • The Twilight Zone
  • Venture Bros.
  • The IT Crowd

5. Favorite book and author?

John Bellairs is an under-appreciated prose stylist, both in juvenile fiction and his one adult book.

And it may sound silly, but I could read The Sword of Samurai Cat by Mark E. Rodgers over and over again. (And indeed I have.)

6. Greatest general? Excluding oneself!

That's a thinker. I don't usually engage in those sorts of Great Man all-star competitions. Based on personality alone, I'm gonna have to go with Julius Caesar, magnificent bastard that he was.

7. Favorite wargames rules?

Whatever's currently caught my fancy!

Seriously, though: in terms of number of awesome games delivered, the 2nd edition Space Marine rules never disappoint, although they can be a bit clunky. In terms of elegant, flexible design, my money's on Armies of Arcana.

8. Favorite sport and team?

I don't follow sports, like, at all. But I have to admit I was quite captivated by the Ladies' Water Polo matches during the last Summer Olympics...

9. If you had a one use only time machine, when and where would you go?

Okay, seriously, this is just cruel. I'd be so paralyzed by all the "big" choices, I'd probably just end up going back to 1870s New York to have lunch at Delmonico's. I get to come back, or is it a one-way trip? If it's the latter, then I'm quite happy where I am now, thanks.

10. Last meal on Death Row?

For old time's sake (long story) I'd go for two Choco-Tacos and a bag of Gummy Worms.

11. Fantasy relationship and why?

I'm going to steal the answer provided by another blogger and say my maternal grandfather. He died of lung cancer while I was still an infant, so I never got to know him, but all indications are that a big part of my personality and temperament, to say nothing of my interests, map very closely to his. Don't smoke, kids.

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?

My wife has reliably informed me that any role modeled on my life could be ably handed to Colin Firth for an eerily accurate rendition.

13. Favorite comic superhero?

Much to my chagrin, I've never been able to get into mainstream superhero comics. On the other hand, anything by the Hernandez brothers is likely to catch my interest.

14. Favorite military quote?

While I was recuperating after a surgical mishap last year, I re-read John Keegan's The Face of Battle (getting cut open made me want to read about other people getting blown up, I guess) and I jotted down this quote, which pretty much sums up why I game primarily at skirmish level:
'Battle', for the ordinary soldier, is a very small-scale situation which will throw up its own leaders and will be fought by its own rules...
For a long time, though, my favorite "military" quote has been one provided by H. G. Wells, commenting on why he (like me), could claim himself a pacifist and still enjoy playing wargames:
Lead soldiers leave neither lead widows nor lead orphans.
15. Historical destination to visit?

Does the entire continent of Europe count? Because I'd like to spend a few years doing that.

16. Biggest wargaming regret?

Don't think I haven't thought about this! On a practical level, it's the fact that my years of Games Workshop fandom coincided almost perfectly with their greatest nadir of creativity and quality (a.k.a. the mid-90s) and that I ditched the GW hobby right before they started getting good again!

On a more conceptual level, my greatest regret is that for far too long I haven't had more time to devote to this particular hobby.

17. Favorite fantasy job?

Brilliantly successful hermit/novelist.

18. Favorite 5 songs?

I'm going to cheat on this one and just go to my Last.FM profile and see what the numbers have to say, then pick from among the top tracks. These aren't necessarily my favorite-favorite songs, but they're certainly songs I've seen fit to listen to a lot!

19. Favorite wargaming moment?

I'm 14 years old. I'm playing Warhammer with my friend Alex. He's got his High Elves, I've got my Empire army. Both armies are maybe 1,000 points and we've got probably three or four games under our belts. He's recently acquired the Silver Helms boxed set and they're the centerpiece of his growing army. I use my Knights Panther to draw the Silver Helms into a charge...that takes them right across the field of fire of my own recently-acquired Volley Gun. Three rolls of the artillery die later and the Silver Helms were no more than a delicately-floating crimson mist. I was hooked on miniatures wargaming forever.

20. The miserable git question, what upsets you?

Like everyone else, I've got a whole passel of petty hang-ups and irritations. But in the end, what really upsets me is when we, as a species, keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again, often, it seems, at greater and greater cost. Thinking about that too much, though, just makes me want to go off and paint some miniatures.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

I won! I won!

Holy crap, I totally won that prize draw I posted about in a previous entry! This is an especially soothing balm since just yesterday I got effing sniped on an eBay auction I thought I was going to win, a set of Citadel giaks from their "Giak Attack" boxed set, part of the limited Lone Wolf range put out in conjunction with the game books. I've been after those figures for a couple years now, and for once the rate on the auction was reasonable enough that I could put in a bid without having to take out a personal loan from my bank first. And then some jackass came in at literally the last second (damn you, eSnipe!) and stole my precious giaks out from under me.

Ah, but now I have an even bigger pile of vintage Citadel goodness coming my way! And I'll get those giaks one day. One day...

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