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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ponape: A Pacific Island for Colonial Gaming

Like the Gunboats in my previous post, my island setting of Ponape is a caricature of features ranging from Australia to China through Melanesia to Micronesia.  Some of it is pure fiction, some things out of place, but all things in the spirit of the game.

The island started as a list; a port, a coast, a fortress, a town, some rough terrain, a native village.  Quickly it evolved into a map designed to fit on a large game table.  At a minimum, the table would need to be 10'x5', preferably 12'x6'.  The features of the terrain dictated a modular design, though less flexible than my typical game terrain.  In its initial form, Ponape featured a Spanish fortress at the "west" end of the island, overlooking a bay with a dock and small town.  As you moved "east" from the town, you would encounter the jungle.   The island was cut in half by rocky jungle covered hills and a river.  Beyond the river were the natives, sometimes friendly, sometimes head-hunters, sometimes in need of a sacrifice for a festival.  To the north was the coastline, and to south, room for new adventure.

Here is the early version of Ponape:

The Spanish governor usually tried to impose his will (whether it be the Spanish will or not) from the fortress in the distance.  The native village can be seen in the foreground.

A view of the town and bay, better showing the fortress.  The town featured Madam Ophelia's, a trading company, and a black-birder auction.  Local business was overseen by "The Boss" with help from his henchmen and working girls.  Foreign navies would sometimes visit.  Sometimes they could be burdensome, as above, where he bay is blocked by the French ship, the Dunois.

The natives above are preparing for one of their many celebrations.  A festive people, in this case it appears that the antiquarian explorer may have lost his daughter, as she is being assisted in preparation for the native celebration.  Converting the Foundry Africans into Micronesians was only partially successful, as the natives all looked like they had a steady diet of steroids.

Strange alliances often formed.  Here German troops are assisted in leaving the jungle by the natives with Austrians in hot pursuit.

Above, natives invite an English explorer to dinner.  The natives were very friendly that way.

 After the first couple of games, the island suffered some geological activity, which made transit on the island  a little tougher. 

Phase two of Ponape featured more dramatic rocky cliffs cutting the island in half, and the addition of a swamp (not depicted above)  in the jungle.  The natives got a more secluded, less accessible village, and proper place for the their rituals.

A view looking from the fortress toward the new cliffs separating the island natives from the Spanish side of the island.

A view of the dock.

A couple of views showing the northern coast and the river.

Spanish troops looking for ...trouble.  The dramatic height of the new cliffs is demonstrated

Views of the "native" side of the island

Eventually the fortress got a minor face lift.  A lot of additional plans were made for the island including detailing existing structure, adding a docking station for the airship, and a small railroad between the mine (yes, there would be a mine) and the dock area.  Only the face lift and some of the minor detail items got completed before Ponape's last game.

The fortress received some battle damage, weathering, and various other details, most of which are not visible in any of the photos that I have. This is how the game looked at its last convention presentation.

Ponape proved to be a success, with players contacting me prior to conventions and arranging to bring their own colonial factions that would be worked into the storyline.  The games flowed more like a "B" movie than the typical wargame with homebrew rules that catered to the light-hearted flow of the games.

Ponape also proved to be a bear to transport, requiring about 90 cubic feet of cargo room with very careful planning and packing.   The cargo room problem was the primary reason for developing the next stage of Ponape, Mission to Pingalap, which used many of the components of  the original island, but reduced cargo volume.

Mission to pingalap is up next.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Ships of Ponape: 28mm Colonial Gunboats

Some years ago, probably sometime in 1999, I began working on a 28mm colonial adventure game set in the South Pacific.  The idea was born roughly 17 years earlier, while watching the the movie Nate and Hayes.  The game was conceived as a Victorian adventure with miniatures, incorporating roleplaying, set generally in Micronesia.   The game, a sort of Darkest Pacifica,  included military contingents from various navies, shippers, traders, natives (both cannibals and not), antiquarian explorers, black-birders, gun-runners, pirates, jungle critters, mad scientists, dinosaurs, and anything else I could think to through in.

Players would run a faction (could be pirates, military contingents or various civilian groups) with around 12-25 figures, with a unique objective, and cooperate/trade/cheat/kill each other as required in an effort to achieve their objective.   Games would be loosely set in the 1880-1900 time frame, and most took place on a Spanish controlled island in the South Pacific.  I called the game "Ponape" after the island identified in the movie by the character, Ben Pease.

Anyway, while trying to reduce the number of old CDs and DVDs stacked around my computer, I recently came across a bunch of photos of the Ponape games and of the ships that I built for the various factions in the game.  Since I'm not really working on anything blog-worthy at the moment, I've broken the photos up by subject, and will post them in three or four blog entries over the next few days.  Here is the first, my 28mm colonial gunboats, ships,  and floaty things for getting around the Pacific.

The ship models are all caricatures of real ships.  Most are scratch-built from styrene sheet and/or bass wood.  I tried to make most spaces above the main deck, the bridge, and fighting areas of the ships accessible to players and figs.  The first ship was the Spanish gunboat, the General Concha.

The main gun was scratch-built from styrene sheet, strips, and tubing from Evergreen Plastic.

My version of the General Concha had a single 4,7 inch gun forward,  quick firing 3 pounders each broadside, and machinegun aft.  This is a picture of her in the first convention run of Ponape at Drums Along the Maumee 2000 in Toledo, Ohio.  I had forgotten my "water" drop cloth, so the bay featured a lovely wood grain  pattern. 

Possibly my favorite ship was the Euterpe, an Italian  torpedo boat, that I built for one of the guys.

The Euterpe is shown next the the General Concha.  She was so small that she  is actually just about a full size model in 28mm.  Besides the two torpedoes (made by Jack Shaw), she had a twin barrelled 25mm Nordenfelt, which I added after the initial delivery of the model. 

Shortly after building the Spanish boat, I added an American gunboat, and a French torpedo boat destroyer.  Unfortunately, I don't have too many photos of them.

This is the French torpedo boat destroyer, the Dunois, under construction.  My version would feature four 9-pounders.  She was heavily damaged while in my trunk, when my car was rear ended several years ago.  She has silently set on my workbench awaiting repair for at least six years.

Here are a couple more pics of the Dunois and the American gunboat, whose namesake I cannot remember at the moment.

Though they don't show up in the photos, the American ship (black hull with white superstructure in the foreground) has two guns forward in sponsons in the hull.  The entire main deck lifts off to expose the compartments below. 

The sailing ship was a quickie model slapped together from bass wood, and loosely based on a ship from Nate and Hayes.

Last is the German airship.  She never received proper detailing and was the first step into VSF for the Ponape game.

That is my daughter proudly presenting the airship many years ago.  The ship could be armed with two guns, either machineguns or 1 pounders.  The gondola was designed to be detached and could be affixed to a winged flying affair that converted it into the world's first seaplane.  The winged structure sets in a box, somewhere in my basement, never completed.

That's it for the ships.  Next up will be the island of Ponape.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Turn at Painting 15mm ACUs

Well, here is my first squad of 15mm US Army figs (Rebel Minis) in ACUs.  I went to the local surplus store and looked at used and new uniforms and gear,  made notes and took some pics, but it didn't help.  I picked the colors closest to the most common colors (there was variation, even in new product), painted a couple of figs, and it didn't look right at all, did that a couple more times before giving up on doing it right.  So here they are, right or wrong, good or bad ( mostly bad).

I ended up using Vallejo 987 Medium Grey for the base coat, and Vallejo 886 Green Grey and 830 German WWII Green for the grey/green camo, applying with a stipple method using a beat up brush.  They appear slightly darker in person, though it doesn't help much.  I may just finish the platoon in ACU, rather than the whole company, and give a try to multicam for the next platoon.  I don't know.  Right now I'm just frustrated.  Digial camo is just killing me.