Monday, July 30, 2012

Mission to Pingelap: 28mm Colonial Adventure in the Pacific

The last variation of "Ponape" came in the form of "Mission to Pingelap".  The only negative thing about Ponape was the cargo room needed to transport the game to gaming sites, as my own table was no longer big enough to field the entire terrain set.  This resulted in my adapting some of the Ponape terrain to another island, i.e., a more flexible gameboard requiring less cargo room.  After searching around on the maps of Micronesia, I settled on naming my new island after Pingelap.  In reality, Pingelap is a very small island, an atoll with a central lagoon, and population a little above 200.

For my game, Pingelap was the site of a Christian mission, a native population, and a small trading post/village.  The island map featured coast on opposing ends with the mission on one side, the village on the other, and the natives in the middle.  The interior of the island was quite bumpy (unlike the real island) filled with rocky formations providing plenty of hiding places for pirates, castaways, giant mythical birds, and whatever else might be needed for adventure.


Here is a  photo of part of the island under construction:

The finished sections are from Ponape, losing the fortress and ramp up to it  resulted in a huge space savings during transport. Here is the the above terrain completed:

I believe the complete footprint was 11'x6', about seven feet of the eleven is pictured above.

The new native village...

...the castaway's shack....

...and the Christian mission.

The original Mission to Pingelap scenario centered partially around around a newspaper article by a creative reporter, proclaiming "Vegetarians Eaten by Cannibals", "All lives lost at Pingelap Mission".  This resulted in British and Spanish naval forces responding, who would run into the quite healthy missionaries, an explorer looking for the source of the native giant bird myth, pirates looking to kidnap some natives and to extinguish the mission, etc.

The game looked like this:


The trading post/village side of the island above.


The mission side of the island.

The island interior with many channels created by the rocky formations.  the native village is to the right, and was located near the mission.

Various parties in search of adventure in the distance.

The native tribe investigating all of the recent activity on the island.


Most of the parties found themselves at this site by the end of the game, several meeting their end here.  The mythical bird wasn't a myth, and was discovered by the explorer's party.  The explorer was then discovered by the pirates.  That ended badly for the explorer.   In turn, many pirates died at the sharp end of a beak, but in the end, the bird was no match for so many rifles.  The remaining pirates were no match for the natives, who were no match for the British Navy.  The Spanish must have gotten lost in the jungle, but lived to tell about it.


Though it started with the movie Nate and Hayes, when I realized that the figs were available to create the game, I had no idea how much research I would do for such a whimsical game.  Starting with an investigation of just who this Bully Hayes was, lead to a general history of exploration (and exploitation) of the Pacific peoples and islands,  further leading to study of 19th century China, East Asia, and Australia.  When done I had collected maybe three dozen volumes ranging back to the 1870s, many maps, post cards, and other bits (even an old cigarette card depicting Bully Hayes) offering windows into a fascinating history, otherwise hidden from from me for so many years.  This part of the colonial Victorian era offers a rich, endless source of adventure for the miniatures or role-playing gamer, and from what I can tell is almost completely untapped by the gaming community.

The Ponape games that I ran in the early 2000s remain some of the best gaming experiences that I have shared in.  The best thing about Ponape were the players, and I must thank them all, particularly the guys from Wayne's Legion Historical gamers, and the Colby Street Irregulars.  Truly the best.

A number of factors resulted in temporarily shelving Ponape. Unfortunately, the temporary shelving has stretched into around seven years now.  At one point I considered selling off the figs and getting rid of the terrain, and I did sell some of the extra figs that were never used.  I also considered making some modules that would interface with the colonial terrain, and allow me to use some of it in a post apocalypse setting, or a sci-fi version of Ponape, but don't know  if either will ever materialize.  I am sure that Ponape will rise from the sea once again, as there are simply too many adventures left undone.
Thanks for looking.

1 comment:

  1. Your terrain table is awesome and I remember seeing Ponape at my first Origins in the early 2000's. Alas I didn't get to play in it as I had other committments. Very glad to see a version of it come back to life.

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