Sunday, May 31, 2020

It's About Playing Army Men

I don't know why, but I've always liked "playing army men", as my Mom called it.  I started by the time I was four years old, with Marx plastic soldiers.  Warfare and soldiering always seemed to have a presence in my life with family members and friends talking about having served in WWII, and I was always fascinated by the pictures of tanks from my Dad's time at Fort Knox and in the Korean War, and then there was Vietnam on the news every evening around dinner time.

Playing army men initially involved Marx plastic army men/knights and Vikings/Cowboys and Indians , which lead to the old 12 inch GI Joes, Marx Brave Knights, armies built of Legos, 1/72 scale models, etc.  There was also live action army playing with toy guns.  As I got older, the realism, scope, and detail increased.  Then at some point, I wanted "rules" to play army, something that would impose more "realism", retaining randomness with respect to the results, but removing the impossible and utterly arbitrary.

The transition from free play to rules took a few years, and I eventually discovered that I was not the only person that didn't want to give up playing with army men.  My first experience with published rules was with Heritage's Panzertroops, which were both wonderful and terrible.  WWII of course, played on terrain created by arranging paperback books to create the terrain, with a couple model railroad trees, and played with 1/72 scale models as they were more accessible than the game's 15mm models.

Later this year, I plan to play some 15mm World War II games using Panzertroops for the first time in 38 years.

Now, the rules are home-brew, the ongoing product of a few decades of observation, study, and research, on relatively detailed modular scale terrain, and with soldiers ranging from 6mm to 28mm in height.  The battles are fought on the table top, rather than the ground, but the play, or manner in which I play, is much the same as it was, when I was a child.

After considering it, that last sentence is the thing that maybe makes much of my hobby a little different than the mainstream of "wargaming, or at least different than "classic wargaming".  I find that what most people appear to do, or appear to look for in their games, feels different than what I am looking for in my games.  Then again, maybe we are all, more or less, this way, or feel this way.  I've never discussed that consideration before.

In my case, I've come to realize that I still just want to play army men.  I have always needed to be able to "believe" in the playing process, thus I have always tried to make my games "realistic".  And, as I've become more educated, and my understanding of the world around me has grown, adding detail to my playing process, allows me to continue to believe the "story" that plays out during my play.

Basically, I want to move toy soldiers and equipment around, have them imitate the actions of real world counterparts to some degree (as I believe them to be), and have them defeat their enemy in the process.  I want to "operate" the individual soldiers, officers, vehicles, aircraft, etc., of each army. I want to "experience" their actions on an individual level.  I also want to experience the actions of their formations to the limits of size that can be represented on my table top (ranging from fire teams to regiments).   I expect to operate an "army" of tens, hundreds, or thousands, by operating every individual soldier and weapon as a piece of the larger element, and resolving both individual and formation issues at their respective levels, but never losing either at the expense of the other.

I've repeatedly been told that this cannot be done, is too complex to do, is too tedious to be fun, and that it is not the proper way to play with toy soldiers. Okay.

Every feature on "my" battlefield  represents exactly what it appears to be, more or less,  in scale size and shape, offering cover, blocking line of site, and otherwise representing every individual aspect required of what it models in or near the scale of the models around it.

As a child, I played with individual toy soldiers in a miniature world, it was all very believable to me then.  As a much older child, I look for the same experience, while playing with my army men.  The only change, is that in order maintain the "believability", I need some sort of rules to affix realistic parameters to the soldiers, their weapons, and their formations.

These rules need to limit the playing pieces in a manner similar to their real world counterparts as individual elements bound by time, space, physics, physiology, training, psychology, etc.  The rules need not take away any elements of the "play".

Most important, and a huge part of the fun in play, is to experience the adventure.  I find that many aspects of traditional rules for wargames violate this most important thing, abstracting away too many elements of the adventure. 

Thus, I do not want abstractions removing and/or over-simplifying movement, fire resolution, orders, or reducing of the "individual-ness" of the toy soldiers and equipment.  I don't want to focus only on the experience of command at a division or corps level, nor solely on the experiences of the individual soldier or squad leader.  Multiple toy soldiers cannot be mounted to a single base, nor can terrain features and constructs on the battlefield represent other than their actual size and shape.  For me, the rules must not change how I play, they simply maintain and magnify the believability experienced during play.

Curiously, though I do play some periods and scales completely in scale with the toys, I have always been okay with range/distance compression relative to the scale of the toys.  This might seem hypocritical, but don't worry, I assure you that it is not.

Also, in 6mm, I'm okay with mounting up to three figures on one base, this may seem to contradict my comment above about individually mounting the toys, but trust me,  it doesn't.

It took me a surprisingly long time to recognize all of this.  This shouldn't surprise you.  Afterall, I still play with toy soldiers.

Also, sometime ago I came realize that the game has always really been about experiencing the adventure; winning or losing doesn't really matter that much.  Well, except maybe to the winners and losers, but I do it for the adventure.

I simply play army men, as I always have, in the way I most enjoy.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Does Anybody Actually Like The "New Blogger" ?

I hate it.  They have deleted a couple things that I use, given me a lot more junk that I don't, and make it take up more space on my screen (Meaning that I have to take more time scrolling around).  Replacing buttons having actual words, that tells you what the button does, with buttons like the big plus sign to post new posts strikes me as just plain goofy.  Why be clear, when you can make it tedious and confusing?

Oh, and I don't use a phone to blog.  That would be like eating dinner out of a thimble.  If was starving to death, I might do it out of desperation, but I'm not starving.

Sorry for all of the negative, and no gaming content, but this sort of improvement and progress drives me nuts.  If you don't like it, let Google know, because in two months we're stuck with this goofy thing.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Crawling Out of the Rubble

I guess it is somehow appropriate that my "return" to working on the hobby after my debacle last week, was to complete some debris and junk for the post apocalypse.  Not much of an accomplishment really.  But still, I got my mess in the basement sorted out, and managed to paint a few bits.

I'm continuing on more post-apoc junk today, figuring the more that I paint, the more that I can put away.  And, the sooner I put away figures and whatnot spread across my table, the sooner I can get to repairing my flood-damaged terrain.

The final toll from the water damage by the way, is that I need to do some repair work to about 150 square feet of terrain, and probably discard or completely rebuild about 80 square feet, which is much less than it looked initially.  More than a third of what was drowned, dried without any permanent damage.

The biggest loss is to my 20mm Vietnam and Victorian/colonial adventure (Pacific Island/Ponape) terrain.  So those figs will set on the shelf for awhile, but there wasn't much going on right now with those periods anyway.  So I'm painting again; things aren't in too much disarray, and I'm enjoying the Holiday.

Stay well out there.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Kind of a Rough Week

Major changes at work (not virus related), and a little flooding in the basement (with loss of much of my terrain) has me considering joining the Foreign Legion.  Do they take middle aged recruits?

I need to regroup and try to find my mojo, as right now, I'm running on empty.  I also need to decide which gaming periods to drop, as I won't live long enough to replace everything that has been lost.

Still, I turn on the TV, and see what others are dealing with right now, and it helps me keep it all in perspective.

Stay well out there.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Stepping Back (or Forward) Into the Post Apocalypse

After spending several days gathering all (or most) of the stuff that I have collected for my post-apocalypse, near future, and (old) fantasy projects, I have decided to start working primarily on my post-apoc project, with some work on near future stuff that may overlap into my PA games. 

By this time, I expected to be a lot farther along in developing my post apocalypse campaign.  I've got notes, sketches and information filling a bookcase shelf for dozens of factions and all of the buildings, vehicles, and assorted bits for each of them.  

My goal in the short term is to paint remaining figures to existing factions, and to reduce the unused clutter around the basement where possible, by completing various general items, like tabletop clutter such as utility poles, fire hydrants, crates and barrels, junk heaps, etc.

Once I make some headway with that, I'll move on to bigger items like buildings, villages, and new factions.  

For now, I've started to gather and work on some of these "clutter" items.  Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'll have a bunch of these knocked out.

Most of it is just hydrants, tires, stacks of ammo boxes, and barrels. But there are a few oddball items.

The odd looking things in the lower left are individual track links that I cast, when making a 1/10th scale model of a tracked hole drilling some years ago.  I figure they will make nice junk at an industrial site, The big gear was a drive sprocket from the same model with a road wheel above it.

Top left are three different sized scratch built-dumpsters that I was originally going to cast, but I think it will cost more than it is worth to cast them, so I may just build a few more or maybe cast one of them, still not sure yet.

The transformer, top right, is an HO scale model railroad kit.  A very nice model really; it will make a nice chunk of junk.

In front of the transformer are a couple of 1/60 scale scratch-built commercial air-handlers, and resin cast some wood piles from Wizkids.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Switching Gears (or Projects)

Well, due to businesses not currently trading because of Covid-19, I can't get the miniatures that I need to finish my Cold War project, so I need to put it on hold for a little bit, and find something else to work on.

I've still got all kinds of hobby mojo going, and am thirsting to continue work on my hobby.  While finishing up the last batch of 6mm vehicles this week, I've been trying to pick a project to move on too. But to be honest, I'm completely psyched about the Cold War, and nothing else is really grabbing me.  WWII would be okay, but it is in the same boat as my Cold War stuff;  I need figs that I can't currently get.

Given that my 6mm and 15mm projects are all, more or less, dead in the water, my remaining options are 28mm  projects that have been ignored for some time; post apocalypse, fantasy, or near-future sci-fi/adventure.

Despite the lack of activity on these, I've continuously picked up a lot of stuff for these over the years, much of it tossed into boxes on shelves for that day when I finally get around to working on it.  

In recent days, while waiting for Cold War miniatures to dry, I've been pulling stuff from shelves, sorting through boxes, and discovering a few long lost treasures.  Here is the heap as it stands at the moment:

Men, monsters and machines for the three projects 
(among other things) pulled from the their hiding places

28mm Post apocalypse - This is the only one of the three that has been on the table top in recent years.  Right now, the main thing that I need is a ton of buildings, both ruined, and reclaimed,  and a number of very specific figures.  This project will involve a lot of very detailed, and quite tedious model-building to move forward.  It will be quite a change of pace from the type of stuff I've been working on in recent months.

28mm Post-apoc stuff  (mostly) with hundreds of painted figs 
in the red boxes.  Vehicles mostly are at the other end of the
table in the cardboard boxes, visible in the first photo above.

28mm Fantasy - This has been an itch over the last couple of years that just won't go away.  I have dwarf and orc armies consisting of old GW figs (though not actually Warhammer armies), an unpainted elf army, and a mix of other odds and ends from days past.  This project will need a ton of work, starting with building most of the terrain, and figuring out what figures to buy.  The goal is to have an adventure game, more than just fantasy battles, so a large portion of my painted figs will likely be of little use.  Of the three projects, this would involve the most work, and be somewhat dependent on current figure availability.

Fantasy figures, mostly older GW, a bunch of Tom Meier Elves, 
and a small mix of others.  My 40 year old Grenadier dragon got 
clipped out of the pic.  Painted orcs are in the bins mostly 
clipped out at the top. 

28mm Near future sci-fi.  This is envisioned as a mixed setting, blending a contemporary landscape with that of the not too distant future, and accommodating a wide range of subjects/adventures, including cops and robbers, espionage, gang fights, alien invasions, zombies, etc.  I have a lot of figs, many painted, and bunches of partially completed terrain, buildings, and clutter for this project.

Most of the figs are painted for this in the little drawers, 
and in some of the red bins.  There is a lot of terrain and 
buildings to be finished for this though.

I intend to sort miniatures, vehicles, war-machines, and other bits into their various armies, factions, and groups, and hope that one of these projects just takes off in the coming days.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Reclaiming Old Battle Casualties

I'm in a little bit of a holding pattern, as I've done all that I can on my 6mm infantry, until H&R reopens their  shop, and I can order the missing figs that I need.  So, I decided to clean up some of the odd 6mm models that I have setting around.

Over the past few decades, I have acquired and accumulated a number of damaged and incomplete 6mm models from various sources, occasionally receiving a pack missing a part or models damaged more often in transit than during an actual game.

This weekend, I repaired, matched up parts, and fabricated missing parts for a about 40 models.  A few were just old models that needed repainting, but that I had kept out of nostalgia, but I finally decided to repaint to match my current models.

Several tanks had lost barrels, which I replaced with brass rod, making the fume extractors with thin wall brass tube.  A bunch of old BRDMs had lost roof/covers which I remade with styrene strip, and nearly a battery of BM-21s needed mounts for the rocket launcher to be fabricated.  They were received without the part, and a friend just built up a blob of super-glue on the chassis, and then glued the launcher onto the blob.  They looked a little wonky, so I finally fixed them.

Anyway, hers a few pics of the them as they await painting/repainting:

Brass gun tubes on a T62, T64, and two T80s

BM-21s and BRDM/AT3 with styrene parts.