Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In search of a spiritual moment

I've been looking for a missionary. I thought it would be a great addition and add a lot of character to my colonial games. Missionaries can contribute a lot to the morale of the troops, but they seem particularly suitable to spring interesting situations: you need to escort them to long-lost missions around the world -- clearly in enemy's territory; you need to keep them supplied; you need to keep open the communication routes to their missions. And, last but not least, you need to protect them from hostile actions.
Thus, the question is: where do I recruit suitable missionaries/monks/friars/priests?
My first stop was Peter Pig's Wild West range, which offers at #69 a "priest with donkey." To tell the truth, I was not much impressed in the first place, and the bag ended up lost in my closet (I suspect the cats have something to do with the mysterious disappearance, but so far they have not confessed yet.)
Fortunately, there are a few other options to explore.
In the Mexican-American range, Minifigs includes "priests and padres. Alas, no pic available.
Essex provides "assorted praying monks" in its Crusade/Medieval range. You get even better luck if you are looking for Warrior Monks, whom Essex offers both in stationary and advancing poses.
Old Glory 15mm has a bag of monks under the "Pilgrim" category in the Crusades range. According to comments posted on TMP, "one is carrying a cross but others are armed with clubs or rocks."
Museum Miniatures gives you the choice between two "religious pack": praying monks and praying nuns, presumably also from the Medieval range. Caveat emptor: the website is a nightmare to navigate. Nevertheless, if you prefer your nuns, well, not praying, but fighting, you can go back to Peter Pig and pick their feisty ones from the WW2 range -- too bad the pic seems to have been dropped by the site, because these club-swinging nuns were something, I tell you - almost like the nuns in charge of my kindergarten back in the days.
I have not searched further, maybe going upscale looking for a pope or at least a cardinal, who would look great in my Risorgimento games.
Further recommendations would be very welcome. Ite in pace.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wargaming cycles

A recent post by Jeff made me reflect about the cyclicality that is a major feature in my wargaming interests. By now, you must have realized that my interest in wargaming projects comes in bouts. I usually have five or six major periods that I juggle. In average, for a couple of months I get very excited about a project, then my enthusiasm seems to peter out. Do not get me wrong - I am still very much interested in what I am doing: only, it seems that I suffer from a short attention span, and keeping projects in a rotation help me to enjoy the hobby at its best -- and to relax along the way, which should be primary goal of any hobby. For the past couple of months I was fired up about my War of Spanish Succession armies, but I now feel the need to move my focus to something else, at least for a little while. Don't worry: WSS will be back -- apparently, my rotation seems to bring projects back at least once every six months, so I expect to be back at work on my marlburian miniatures by the summer. In the meanwhile, I have been looking around my boxes to see where the next flame may be: more WWI naval? More Napoleonic? Some progress in Lopongo? WWI Gallipoli? Right now, I am inclined to pick up again my colonial armies. I did excellent progresses a few months ago, so I should be able to field a few armies and have some fun on the battlefield within a relative short time frame. Italian, Abyssinians, and Zulus are all in advanced stage of preparations, and so are British, Pathans, and Boers. It seems a reasonable direction to concentrate my efforts over the next couple of months.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What this is all about...

Think about: we spend countless hours to search the most arcane historical episodes, to paint the most accurate uniforms, to discuss and playtest the most convoluted rules, to create the most striking and fanciful terrain... and then somebody like Bob Cordery shows up with something like this, and he reminds us what wargaming is all about: the joy of having fun with toy soldiers, a few wooden cubes, and an old railtrack we received as a present when we were, shall we say, seven year-old?

I am looking at Bob's game in sincere awe, because he has been able to capture all the magic of the hobby which thrilled me even before I became a teenager. Simple miniatures (he actually deploys FPW figures as 1930s troops!), simple terrain and scenery, and tons of fun! This is all what wargaming should be about! Oh, I wish I could wash years of conditioning and self-conditioning off my mind, and just go back to play toy soldiers with the creativity, ingenuity and naivete I had when I was playing with my plastics Airfix miniatures 30 years ago!

THANKS TO: Bob Cordery, for graciously authorizing the reproduction of his pictures in my blog!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A wargaming mistery is solved - plus a few ideas about making terrain

There has been some investigative reporting going on by veteran wargamer Bob Cordery, both on his blog and TMP. In an old newsletter he found the following picture, and he did some work to identify the wargamer so concentrated on the developing game.

It turned out that this fine gentleman was a Canadian professor of sociology, Gerard De Gre, who apparently was a significant contributor to the hobby in the '60s and the '70s. Later, Prof. De Gre fell into oblivion -- until Bob started asking questions about him a few weeks ago. I want to thank Bob for the fantastic job in rediscovering the forgotten ideas of a pioneer in wargaming!

A close inspection of the picture posted above, though, spurred a few thoughts on my own. Look at his tabletop. In my games, I tend to have an emphasis on the "vertical" elements -- typically, houses, trees, and hills, plus, of course, miniatures. The only "horizontal" elements I depict are roads and rivers. Yet it seems to me that De Gre had used the horizontal surface to depict, in a two-dimensional space, some "vertical" elements -- look, in particular, to the banks of the river. Hence the idea: maybe I could integrate 3-D elements with 2-D drawings of terrain features. I am thinking, in particular, to all those details that would make a table look good, but whose physical presence in 3-D would slow down the actual game -- or adding to the cost of terrain. Elements like bushes, river banks, sunken roads, small walls, fences.

I did some research, and I found out that the practice of using miniatures over 2-D surfaces with 3-D effects is very popular among RPG players. (That's "Role-Playing Games", just in case...) There are actually special software programs that help RPG players in drawing their maps, dungeons and the like: Dundjinni, Campaign Cartographer, Fractal Mapper.

Here's an example, from the Dudjinni website:

My idea would be to use printouts like the one shown here to add character to the flat ground, and then add, on top, the "regular" wargaming elements in 3-D -- hills, houses, trees. I would expect the final look to be close to what appears on Prof. De Gre's table.

I confess: the idea is intriguing. I am not sure how much money and time I want to invest into this side project, but I definitely want to explore this possibility more.

Back in Chicago

These were, to say the least, a rough couple of weeks. Ten days ago my grandmother passed away. We were blessed to have her in amazing spirit and wonderful health until the very morning she felt sick. This has been very sad. I was lucky enough to be able to arrange a trip back to Italy for the funeral, and the opportunity gave great peace. Unfortunately, the return turned into an Odyssey, as bad weather and technical failures marred each segment of the itinerary. Flying with the worst air company in the planet, Alitalia, didn't help. I got stranded in Rome, in a hotel without heating, for one night. I got stranded several hours in Toronto. My luggage was lost.
I finally made it back to Chicago, just to face a huge pile of work in my backlog, and two major media presentations. And now I am sick - probably a mix of fatigue, stress, changes in temperatures and weather, and a good ole winter cold.
Enough whining; from today on, I should be back on a relatively normal schedule.