Thursday, 19 October 2017

A Colonial Affair

A Quasi-Historical 19th Century Colonial Imagi-Nation World 

(using my own homemade rules)

An alternative title for this thread could easily have been "Barsoom or Not to Barsoom... that is the question?" 

Effectively, I hummed and hawed whether to include the Edgar Rice Burroughs world into my game; but in the end, I found a happy compromise... which you`ll get to see later on (once the actual campaign game gets underway).

.... anyway, onto the thread. Lets go back for a moment to a few years ago.
October 6th 2013 (the day I started this project)

Well, I finally went and and did it!

I know I shouldn`t have, but it`s too late:  
the urge was upon me and the Irregular Miniatures on-line catalog (full of yummy pictures) was simply too delicious to ignore... I guess you could say the guys over at Irregular Minaitures made me an offer I couldn`t refuse *damn you, damn you all*

Elsewhere in these pages, I`m sure I have 
mentioned my ongoing romance with all things Victorian (including Steampunk)... especially the Colonial aspect. Well to recap briefly (so as not to bore anyone too much... I could enthuse for hours about things I am passionate about, as anyone who knows me well can testify) I think pretty much ever since I saw the film "Zulu"* as a kid, I have been love struck by the entire notion of Zulu-ism, Red Jacketed Brits, and the vast expanse of the African veldt. 

The spirit of `old school` painting and modelling

* My parents were both poor and unable to comprehend the massive importance of things such as `going to the movies`  when I was a kid; and so I had to wait until this masterpiece came on telly until I got to see it... naturally, they only had an old black and white TV back then. Gosh, can many people alive today even remember the old days before colour televisions were invented?

But my imagination was fueled by much more 
than just the Zulus, Redcoats, and the heroic fighting aspect of it all. No, I was equally interested in the romanticism of the colonial era. The married soldiers wives and camp mistresses; upper class ladies in all their finery, sipping tea on the smooth  green  lawn back at the barracks, sitting together and planning their next grand ball  (to relieve the tedium  of  endless drudgery. while being waited on hand and foot by servants);   White missionaries preaching the word of God to the indigenous heathen masses (haha), all of it sparked my interest passionately.

 Later on in life, I added to these romantic notions in my head, by dreaming of the great explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Archaeologists, Adventurers, Great White Hunters and their decimating  African Safari`s... even King Solomen`s Mines and Tarzan got into my mind`s eye of this intensely amazing, romantically beautiful genre... just right for the gaming table. I  think the Spielberg series "The Young Indiana Jones" sealed my fate and forced me to think about finally doing something about all this.

Couple all this with my love of Pulp and pre   
WWII   especially Weird World War gaming (a sort of "what if" history and fantasy combined),  and I have my ideal combination of imagi-nation gaming pleasures to pursue. But not content to stop there, I have added post modern Zombie Apocalypse to the mix; thrown in a mature and slightly macabre version of Dr. Who... time travel (to link all the genres together) and I have my perfect balance. The big question (for me) will one day inevitably be whether to add Martian Barsoom (aka Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter of Mars") and maybe even a bit of a Space 1889 to this campaign... or not?

Bear with me, I know this strange mix sounds absolutely frightful as described so far. But trust me, I will deal with it in subtle ways which I think will surprise and delight even the most sceptical gamer (assuming the above mentioned genres are of interest, of course).

Naturally, to  capture everything on the table in miniature, was going to take some considerable planning . Only, I never really had the chance back in the early days of my hobby. There simply wasn`t anything to purchase for this period back then. Sadly, even Airfix didn`t cover the range that I wanted at all; and so, as the years went by, I became more and more committed to other periods of interest, and so my love of all this was closely confined to books and the occasional film viewing on TV... sadly these were too few and far between.

I guess, into my first graying locks of hair, settled domestic felicity with a wonderful partner, family, and home... it slowly dawned on me that it was now or never...

... and so I chose now! (well, back in 2013 anyway).

With two complete armies, plus a myriad of additional sundries winging their way to me in the post; I was finally set to realize this dream come true... after half a life time of just imagining it all in my head. I have finally decided to indulge myself and enjoy e-v-e-r-y moment of the weeks, months, and years ahead; and so I found myself lost in happy 
cognation... everything from deciding the scale I would collect in, carefully planning the purchases with  meticulous  precision (tailoring the new collection to indulge all my romantic whims): and of course drawing my Imagi-Nation maps of a quasi-colonial  type world: to deciding the rules I would use and the back story narrative for... what would effectively be... my new long term miniatures rpg and wargame campaign.

I also planed to play this whole thing out in two  separate scales. 28mm, which will allow me to use my exquisite Bob Murch "Pulp", "Artizan Designs" and "Pax Limpopo" Eureka Miniatures for close up and personal skirmishes and some decent photography to help make my stories come alive. A campaign journal of everything I do for this venture would be one of the main parts of the attraction I think, as much for my own amusement as for anyone else to enjoy. Collecting and gaming in 15mm as well would of course allow me to have hours of fun with much larger table top endeavours, and so I hope to be able to wield my games between scales as smoothly as Napoleon manoeuvred his cannon.... that was the idea anyway.

 But back to the main event. The miniatures are absolutely stunning. I`m so glad I chose "Irregular Miniatures" for starting my collection of 15mm Colonial. It might have been tempting to have gone with one of the newer companies out there, assuming that the quality of the  sculptures might be of a higher standard than these old veterans. But I decided to go with Irregular Miniatures for three reasons (was never really a serious consideration to look elsewhere in any case). A) I have dealt with them many times before, having purchased pretty much my entire 6mm collection from them in the past when I was a wee nipper... I find them to be polite, courteous, friendly, helpful and prompt. B) I like the sturdy and solid poses of their miniatures... nothing flimsy of fragile about them; and C) their range is huge, so I will be able to add and add and add to my collection without having to look elsewhere to other companies for future purchases when it comes to `fleshing out` my magnum opus. Having said that, some of Rebel Minis are an absolute must to add to my 15mm collection. 

This is my first 15mm buy from Irregular Miniatures (my first 15mm purchase anywhere for that matter) and so I had a little trepidation going on in my mind "what would they be like: would I be disappointed: would I find the scale too small... once I saw them close up?"  I needn`t have worried. The miniatures are sublimely wonderful, and I am utterly delighted with every last one of my choices. 

Actually, I cannot begin to tell you how worried I was (as I paced, waiting for them to arrive in the post). You have to remember, living in the wilds of Ireland, I don`t have easy access to game stores.. and those there are tend to be a long drive away, and are more like Games Workshop stores than real wargame shops. Effectively, I was buying blind! I had absolutely no idea whether I would find 15mm too small for me to enjoy. I was familiar with 10mm miniatures, and I knew that (despite my love of 10mm fantasy dungeon crawls) inside I never quite fell in love with my little guys in the same way I did with their much larger 28mm cousins, and I was praying and praying the difference between 10mm and 15mm was as pronounced as I believed it to be. 10mm was too small, and 28mm  was too big.... I had a lot riding on my hope that this new scale would be the one for me.

It was.... I was delighted, and overjoyed.

It all goes to prove the old saying, its not the young man who finishes last. Irregular Miniatures have been at this game for a very long time, and the quality of my new purchase has just proven that point most poignantly. The pieces are delightful to the eye, well proportioned to the scale, and most importantly they LOOK right.

10 out of 10 to Irregular Miniatures yeeey!!!   I`m a happy chappie :-) Okay, this (for me) was fast becoming the biggest project of 2013.

To start with, the rules I would ultimately be using for my 15mm games were obviously  going to matter a lot. I knew already (as is usual for me) the main thrust of my gaming in this project was going to be campaign driven as opposed to one off games; so the style of rules I finally decided to stick with were going to have to reflect all this in their versatility and staying power. In the end I chose to go my own route.... and create my own rules as opposed to adopting someone else`s ideas. How I came to this decision was very much by stumbling from chance to chance. 

Earlier that year I discovered Richard Borg`s American Civil War Battlecry miniatures boardgame and was immediately blow away by it`s sheer visual appeal, and I soon spotted its potential and decided to `keep it in my pocket` for a rainy day... knowing I would not have time (any month soon) to paint the minis and get my hands dirty playing the game enough to do it justice. The initial test game (Bull Run) I did play, taught me enough to know I was absolutely going to love this game; but I was good, and forced myself to store it away for later perusal.

About the same time I got madly into HBO`s "Game of Thrones" and subsequently, I purchased the novels, the DVD`s, and then the boardgames plus all the supplements to go with it. I bought the game based on the fact that Fantasy Flight Games seems to have done a deal with Richard Borg for total rights to all his material... Battlelore, Battles for Westeros, Battlecry, etc etc. Soooo, at first I took Battlecry (my favourite of all his games, mostly because of its elegant simplicity), combined it with an online resource I had discovered called "Afriboria" and made up my own hybrid set of rules much in the flavour of Battlecry, but I really needed to inject a deeply quasi-historical Colonial and Pulp Imagi-nation feel to it all (a sort of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" versus "Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow"... with scope for modern horror zombie flicks thrown in). The bulk of the work was already done for me in an adaptation of "Command and Colours" so it wasn`t hard for me to sink my teeth into my very own unique version of the rules.... converting them so they worked perfectly for my needs. So it was all a matter of stumbling from A to B to C, and in the end I had a set of rules I was really happy with. I needed to be sure, as I plan to be playing with my 15mm Colonial stuff for a long long long time to come. 

However, as time passed, I slowly came to realize there was still something missing. I was pining for the `old school` element I so badly wanted to include in my games; and so I ended up doing a complete U-turn on myself and set about writing an entirely new file of rules for myself... from scratch.

The next part was the labour intensive bit... painting everything and making the terrain. The painting is the easiest part (relatively speaking). It just takes tenacious spirit not to give up half way, but to keep slogging away... a figure... a unit... at a time until every last miniature is painted and ready for play. No the hard part was going to be making the terrain come alive so that ultimately the game would feel right. Nothing is more sure to kill the best planned out wargame or rpg project than bad terrain... it absolutely cripples enjoyment, slaughters atmospheric suspension of disbelief, and makes the whole experience seem flat and uninspiring; unless that little extra effort it put into getting this aspect right from the very beginning. 

Initially, for me (when I was planning to use the Afriboria idea) the choice of how to go about this was easy. I would use the terrain tile overlays that come with Battlecry and Wattles of Westeros, and build up on them (using DAS modelling clay)  to create 3 dimensional hills,  woods, buildings, rivers, roads, etc . For the battle boards themselves I would be using the hex terrain boards from the Battles of Westeros sets.  A plus to these is the way they can be combined side by side to create an even bigger playing area if  I want them to. They are also aesthetically pleasing to the eye... and best of all, they don`t have the Fantasy Flight Games company logo splattered all over them, effectively making them nice and generic.

All this was just for my 15 mm project.... didn`t even touch the rest of the work space and other (simultaneous) projects I were doing at the time hehe.

All these 15mm minis were "Irregular Miniatures" (except the bits I made myself). I`ve stuck with them for years now, and their 6mm stuff, and saw no reason to change.

Using the 2D terrain overlays from the Battles of Westeros game... as a base for my own home made 3D tile overlays... was one omy better ideas I think. Dunno if I`ll ever use them as I have taken an entirely different direction with my rules lately; but the tiles still look kinda cool... even if they are now  academic.

Let The Game Begin: 

So,.... move on a few years to 2017 (when everything was long painted, completed, and played with endlessly), and I thought it might be nice to show you the sort of games I normally play when enjoying the hobby with these 15mm beauties. You see, I`m not actually foremost a fantasy gamer (I never was). I`m more of a historical and imagi-nation gamer... to the core in fact. Making up bits of "what if" history within the framework of real life history is my number one pleasure, and has been since I was a kid.

the following report is just a sample of the types of game I usually like to play, and play often. I roped a few of the young lads in, while I umpired the event myself (and prepared to play any random situations which might or might not occur during battle itself).

I hope you enjoy.

The story so far...

In January 1827, disturbing news was beginning to filter out of the Cango Basin... desperate accounts from the settled Witts concerning the recent disappearance of livestock, vast areas of the jungle suddenly emptied of all wildlife, as though some mad exodus was forcing the indigenous inhabitants to flee the (normally teeming) region. The situation was becoming increasingly critical, due to the unexplained disappearance of several Witt families from along the upper shores of the Northern Reaches.

Eventually, Governor Rhodes was no longer able to ignore the growing reports of unrest, and dispatched four companies of the newly formed 11th Afribo Light Foot (under Lieutenant General James Clarkson*) to investigate the situation. These were to march `lively` up the south bank of the Cango,  eventually joining up with the "Margareta" and a company of Naval Marines (under the command of Captain Thomas Cookson) at the Can-Can Mission Station just south of the central Cango basin.

{this character was played by my daughter`s boyfriend and my good friend and role playing buddy... Jack}

In addition to the crew and the Marine detachment, the Small Britannic Gunship also carried a number of specialists... scientists and explorers, specially chosen to investigate the troubled region for information concerning the nature of the recent troubles bothering the settled Witts.

The situation was somewhat exacerbated by the fact the Sydanese Muhdi (Mohammed  Ahumm) was currently active in the Upper Cango and in a particularly militant frame of mind**

** {The Witt`s obsession with Gold was of especial interest to the Muhdi, who was for ever scheming of new means to maintain and finance his large growing army.

Typical Witt Homestead

Finally uniting at the Can-Can, the 11th Afribo and the crew of the Margareta are disturbed to find the mission is totally deserted. The animals left behind in the fields look pallid, sickly, and agitated.

2nd Lieutenant George Arthur Pethergwy (a nod of respect there)  leads a detachment of Gordon Highlanders along the north (left) road; while lieutenant General James Clarkson rides at the head of his redcoats on an intersect road.
Artillery slowly brings up the rear
Jack (Clarkson) checks, and ponders his orders.
The advance through the jungle terrain is slow and extremely laborious; and Clarkson is beginning to  get very worried just how strung out his men have become... as they march in column along the narrow road.
Jack (Clarkson) and Ryan (Pethergwy) sit opposite the table, discussing tactics.... meanwhile the game God (me) silently watches their progress onto the board with keen interest.
Clarkson nervously puts out a few feelers (skirmishers) left and right along the road to cover the advancing column... just in case.

Pethergwy  covers the rear of the column with a platoon of his khaki clad veterans.

Suddenly! a large raiding party from the Muhdi`s Cango army rushes from the jungle undergrowth... attacking the Britannic forces from the rear. Simultaneously, brave (untried) young warriors charge the thin red lines of Clarkson`s infantry from the flank. Clarkson is beginning to curse his lack of cavalry presence {it had been decided the terrain was not suitable for this excursion}. 

More Muhdi forces flow onto the board from  the other flank... a mass cavalry threat... just south of the northern most Witt homestead.

The Brits rapidly find themselves beleaguered and massively outnumbered.

inside this seemingly deserted homestead... a Witt family stands ready to defend their home. Every window and every entrance hides a deadly firearm, a blade, or makeshift kitchen implement. Men, women and children understand all too clearly the price of defeat in this terribly harsh climate, and stand ready to defend their home with their lives.

Muhdi cavalry prepare to attack the Britannic forces advancing up the road. But when 2nd Lieutenant Pethergwy forms squares with his lead most companies {right between the Muhdi horses and the columns on the road led by Lieutenant General Clarkson} the rebel cavalry decide to go for easier pickings, and instead concentrate their wrath on the Witt farmstead.

There ensued  a short but savage fire fight from the homestead while the cavalry surrounded it and throw fire brands at the roof in the hope of smoking the inhabitants out... but the intense and accurate rifle fire from the homesteaders (coupled with the arrival of the jungle horrors) soon resulted in the Muhdi cavalry melting away.

A gun battery opens fire on a unit of exposed Muhdi camel riders, causing heavy casualties; but instead of panicking the rebels, it seems to incense them with new jihad zeal. The camel riders charge a Britannic unit {situated in front of the guns}... smashing into the platoon and causing them to rout soundly.
Lieutenant General Clarkson stands firm beside a platoon of redcoats, and prepares to face the young Muhdi warriors appearing from the jungle on their flank.

A lone naval machine gun (Maxim) pours fire into the mass ranks of Muhdi infantry clambering over the bridge to the rear of the Britannic column.

A pathetically small detachment of navel marines {led by Captain Thomas Cookson} stands resolutely upon the bridge... hoping to stem the tide of rebels pouring across from the rear.

Heroes... the stuff of legends {Captain T Cookson}

... and then... 

....... everything turned to horror!

Out of the jungle canopy.... out of the mud dried holes along the river bank... giant swarming insect hives belched forth hundreds of monstrosities, which began attacking the humans with cold impunity.

Instantly, the scientists understood the signs they have been reading all along. The earth quakes, the unusual volcanic activity in the region, the strange blight in the indigenous  vegetation; and the unusual growth in the local fauna and flora.... and the huge monsters now attacking them from every quarter. It was all being caused by the forces of nature within the volcanoes deep within the jungle. Somehow, it was causing the insects to grow to immeasurable size, and increasing their aggression along with it. Spiders the size of ponies, and ants the size of large dogs were literally tearing soldiers apart and devouring them.

Almost overrun! Thoughts turned to saving both the King`s*** and the Regimental colours.

*** {King George... called "The Mad King" by most... has been deposed and placed in an asylum - during a period of troubled time (the news papers had liked to call "the gentle coup"). This  coup d'état saw the young ten year old Germana Princess Victoria Angelica Constance of the House Tumultuous the next in line for the throne.... but she was considered too young to take on the full mantle of power and office; and so it was jointly agreed in both the house of Lords and the house of Commons that the young Princesses empire would be governed by her Prime Minister and Parliament until she `came of proper age`. 

Regiments in the Britannic Colonial Forces still (for the time being) carried the Kings colours into war... not those of the young Victoria.

A small section of marines from the Margareta rushed bravely forward to plug the gap where it was most vulnerable... this bought the redcoat soldiers valuable time to reinforce their shaky line with elements from the reserve column.

Somehow, the line was holding.

Petty Officer Norris was swamped by spiders... and after a resilient struggle, he vanished under their weight of numbers... was pulled to the ground and savagely devoured.

..but, amazingly, the Britannic line withheld the might of the giant insect attack.

Wave after wave of insects rushed the line of soldiers under the command of  Lieutenant General Clarkson; and every time... somehow... by the skin of their teeth, the soldiers managed to break the monstrosities with bayonet and bullet, and the hive like waves were pushed back time and time again.

The ants died first. They were the smallest and easiest to kill. But the spiders took some considerable skill and bravery to dispatch. Yet eventually the soldiers prevailed and the field was won... over a mass grave of  arachnid carapaces, hairy black clawed legs, sharp mandibles and green gore.

In the confusion and horror, the Muhdi`s forces had melted away into the jungle... and were gone.

Surviving scientists and solders stand about, shaken and stunned in the aftermath of the bloody fight.

When all was over, nearly  19% of Lieutenant General Clarkson`s relief column lay wounded, dying or dead upon the field. 3 scientists had also, most regrettably, been torn to pieces.

History would  one day name the fight "The Battle of Can-Can"



Article by Steve