Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Hilary`s Musings: Imagi-Nations & Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Hilary`s Musings: Imagi-Nations
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
It all began, I suppose, as a small girl, going to see “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in the cinema. It can`t quite have been when it first hit the big screen, because I would only have been a couple of years old at the time. But back in those days, it was common for films to `come round` again at the local cinemas, and so it must have been at one of these later viewings that I was first introduced to the film. I think I would have been about eight when I first saw it.
The evil Baron and Baroness Bomblast
I believe I knew even then, that this was something a little different.. a little special even. Yes, we had Mary Pippins, and we had Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but these were just lovely stories, set firmly within a Victorian and Edwardian time frame. Whereas Chitty Chitty was unusual. It started in pre world war one England, and quickly moved on a pace to an undefined barony ruled by Baron and Baroness Bomblast, and then this in turn was set within the fictitious country/kingdom of Vulgaria. So straight away we can see that England is in place, with early style motor cars, and zeppelins, and steamboats, and... well we know a time frame {circa 1910`s}, because Caractacus` Father “Bungie Potts” wears a khaki Colonial uniform (could be Fuzy-Wuzzy, could be Boar War) and talks of travelling:  “off to India” when he enters his portable outdoor toilet. To this we have what can only be described as German looking spies... actually, Vulgarian in the film, of course.
But all this helps us define where Vulgaria might possibly be located in a real world (in the book, Ian Flemming never tells the reader precisely where). When we enter Vulgaria itself, it becomes even more interesting, for here we have infantry wearing Napoleonic shako type hats, but also tricorn and what looks remarkably like dragoon uniformed attire, and best of all.. mounted knights in armour, very reminiscent of Crusader knights hehe. So wow, this is amazing: we have it all – racing cars, flying balloon ships, Germanic looking pre 1914 Great War spies, French Revolution looking soldiers, Napoleonic looking soldiers,  Knights in Armour, and at one stage early in the film, Caractacus Potts is trying to make a one man rocket back pack, so the mind boggles and the gaming options become rather large.
This really is an undefined imaginary make belief world, set within the real world (hence England is in it), but undefined in the sense that Vulgaria`s where-abouts is never mentioned. However the castle used for much of the film is the real life Neuschwanstein Castle (one time owned by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria), so again this gives us another clue as to Ian Flemming`s thinking process. Another clue is that Vulgaria has a coast line... is it an island, or is it attached to an existing continent: Perhaps it is a land fictitiously placed between Romania and Bulgaria and the coast is the water of the Black Sea? The point I think here is, Vugaria can be anywhere you want it to be.. within logical reason of course.

Even the griffin on the side of the flying ship looks remarkably like an Iron cross, don`t you think?

In any case, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had a big effect on me; and might in all possibility, be the reason why I found myself a minority woman at a young age, a female gamer interested in `boys` things, uniforms, role playing, and warfare. Unlike most boys however, I do find myself interested in the pageants, all the little stuff normally left out of games (servants carrying silver trays, chimney sweeps with their black faces, kitchen staff sweating away in the cook houses.. lining the soldiers up on the parade ground and taking lovely photos of them all marching up and down, with backdrops of hand drawn or card built castles and sundry buildings .. all that stuff). I find all this `little stuff` helps me bring a game, and bring an era or genre to life on the table, and through some nice trick photography, can really help that suspension of disbelief which all gamers need to get the most out of their hobby.
For a long time, I have wondered how much fun it might be to work on building up a wargame, a campaign and a role playing romp, in the colourful Vulgarian imaginary lands of Ian Flemming`s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
I never really thought I would ever see this idea in my head reach fruition, but then recently, something strange happened.
Stevie started to collect his 28mm tricorn wearing  “Lace Wars” type soldiers. Not only this, but carriages.. coaches and horses, and lots of civilians (I especially like his French citizen woman from the Revolution, bearing one breast, musket in one hand, a French flag in the other hand, no doubt shouting “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”).
In other words, I spotted that he was not just collecting the soldiery, he was really going for the `every-day life` scenic’s as well. I knew he was doing this for his American Rebellion project, and so I never said a word, but inside I found all this was making my thoughts of Vulgaria spring to life all over again. A think a wistful part of me was becoming interested in this notion, especially as Stevie asked me to and set me to task creating all his terrain (both assembling 4Ground buildings, and hand crafting some projects for him, like a large wood fort, timber log cabins, snake fencing, picket fencing, roads, river sections, and so on). In bits and pieces, then later in flourishing enthusiasm, I realised the dream of making an Imagi-nation to game in, actually could happen if the decision were ever taken to do so. But I stayed quiet. This was his project and I did not want to sink that boat for him.
But then he amazed me. One day he came to me and told me how he had studied so much, dozens of hours of documentaries, viewed book after book read (plus the entire Osprey series of books on the subject and uniform guides, devoured with a keen eye), in effect he had studied the subject to death: there was little remaining for him to learn on the subject. This is, remember, not a new subject to him. This was all merely brushing up on a topic he was already fairly familiar with. But he came to me and told me that although he loved the subject, although he would be more than happy playing French, Indians, Patriot and Loyalist Americans and Red Coated British forever more: a big part of him just wanted to take all he had in his collection, and play it all out using the sum of his historical knowledge but in a fantasy/imaginary setting, free from the confines of actual history and real uniforms and such like. At this my heart leapt, and in a quiet voice I said to him: “What about setting it all in Vulgaria?”  I knew he would know what I was talking about, as we had spoken before, long ago, about the idea of playing an imaginary game set within the wonderful world of that book and film. In fact the idea of painting all those made up imaginary uniforms is what really appealed to him, as much as to me.
Even the women of Baroness Bomblast`s Pageant Ballroom Parties wear the most strikingly gorgeous themed dresses and hair styles of Pink, Mauve, and Purple hue, the whole idea is simply marvelous. A sort of lace war gothic bonanza of colour.

A Few Vulgarian Uniforms
Stevie was silent for a while, sipping his mug of tea, tucking into a piece of Battenberg cake. After a while he replied that the idea was not altogether un-appealing to him.
And so, over the course of a morning, I spoke more and more of the idea, and by the end of it all, I must have instilled quite a positive image in his head, because he started to become rather obsessively enthused by the idea of it (that sharp flash of intellect behind the eyes, and the gleam of pearly white teeth as his smile becomes more and more pronounced). “yesssssss” he would say: “And my woodland Indians would be perfect too, this land is undefined so we can add a sort of `Peter Pan` lost boy theme into the thing.. only darker, more macabre, and with a bit of zombie theme going on as well hehe”  He was in full stride by now and continued: “And I can still paint my Blue Coats and Redcoats. These Vulgarians would need a few neighboring enemies to fight against, after all.. right?”
 And so it went on. By the end of about a five hour conversation, Stevie decided he wanted to tailor his project slightly, no longer just make it all colonial American, but would devote his energies towards steering the whole thing to becoming an imaginary world, where he can put anything into it. Zombies and knights in shining armour, alongside Napoleonic Ruritanian type soldiers, and Nelson style navies and sails of silver.. flying balloons, steam ships and steam trains.  What an eclectic theme, huh?
Baron Bomblast and his ever simpering cronies.
Knights in Armour are as common place here, as Shakos, Tricorns and Cannon Balls.
Tarot even piped up and suggested some Oriental themed Yakuza, Tongs, Priesthoods and Monks. Effectively, anything we care to include can be added into the pot and allowed to mature into a fine brew.
An iconic character from the film: “The Child Catcher.” This fictitious NPC still sends shivers down my spine, just from looking at the photo. Stevie has just made and painted a one off unique miniature of this person, and it pretty much wowed me how accurately he made him.

Baroness Bomblast singing: "You`re my little Chu chi-face"
Baroness Bomblast`s personal bodyguard and assassin: Hu`sin Heisyang {invented character of myself... now just have to find an appropriate miniature and paint}.
Tarot *smilingly.. knowingly* says she has already thought of just the mini to use, and will convert and paint her for me. So yaaaay!!! I`m going to have my very own `me` model soon *beams happily*
So it looks like “Liberty or Death” will now develop into an imagi-nation project, eclectically combining all the new figures Stevie has been collecting, alongside many others we already possess in our joint collection(s). This will create a somewhat farcical, whimsical, sometimes terrifying and macabre, and fun new world to play in.. and utilizes so much of our hobby into one huge great conglomerate of miniatures. And end of the day, he still gets to collect his AWI Liberty or Death.. that’s the beauty of it all. It will pretty much double up for either game.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a game world just waiting to happen.
Tarot just pointed out something rather interesting as well. “7TV {the rules system} is designed to recreate 60`s and 70`s tv and movies of that era right? And Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was made in 1968, which is slap bang in the middle of that time.. could you not use 7TVe2 rules to play this out, once you are ready to start?”
Hmmmm she has got me wondering now. Bryan.. anyone.. any thoughts on that?
Article by Hilary


Saturday, 24 September 2016

My Imaginary World + Zombicide Black Plague: The Kick Starter

September 24th 2016

My Imaginary World:
{Game Year: 4706 AR - or circa 1750/83 Tanikan calendar}

Using Warlord Games 28mm Minis... and other stuff.
The Adventures of Lord & Lady Bingly
(and a Host of Other Entertainments)
Guest Appearances by Lady Scarlet Blightingdale
and Count Milo De Winter

From the novelette by Stephen A Gilbert
"A Golorion Overboard"
or..... "oh crikey - Splash!"

Being in part... a`Gallic-Golorion & Wendigo War` colonial setting; but based firmly in the time of `The Armorkan & Tanikan Uprising` yet in truth... Ain`t it a part of both the above, with deep smatterings of `Imagi-fiction` besides!
It is...
"Armorka: A Nation Born"
~ A New Campaign in the Making ~

The success of an Imaginary world lies in all those little details... especially knowing when to leave them out.

The Campaign is Born:
   the glint in a parent`s eye

Tarot was meant to be writing this week`s article, but things have recently taken an unexpected turn (as so often happens in life), and she finds herself extremely busy... probably for some time ahead.. both with work and in her academic studies. It is unlikely she will be able to write for us any more for the foreseeable future, as sadly, she simply will not be able to fit us in here at “The Cupboard” to her incredibly hectic schedule. However, you may have lost Tarot as a major contributor here. But thankfully we here in Ireland have not. She is still an attentive and wonderful part of our gaming group, and will continue to contribute to our endeavours at the club(s) and at our private (home) gaming group.

Before I launch full steam with my new `baby`, and romp my way (solitaire) through the fantastical whimsies of my quasi historically inclined, daydreaming... farcical mind: I would like to roll the title screen and give credit where due to the cast of my warped (and satirically jaded) wargaming and role playing extravaganza and pantomime show.

I had originally intended to start my new venture in the colonies, in 54mm, using the superb range of  "All the King`s Men" toy soldiers - made by Ken Cliffe. I not only find his range of French & Indian War and American Revolution miniatures very exciting and complete, but the guy is a very friendly fellow, and really helpful to deal with on line.

Alas, the great divide of the Atlantic Sea, crippling postage prices from America to Ireland (these figures are heavy), and my inherent abhorrence of using the automated PayPal purchasing system, meant that in the end I was forced to continue the search for my ideal collection a little closer to home.

In the end I found the perfect solution to my problem, and the ultimate answer to my dreams; strange really that my search for a miniatures company to collect from, should end up being a company so similar to the one I loathe with a vengeance (in fact, I am still not fully convinced they are not one and the same, with a different name. GW and WG... Coincidence or what? Reverse the letters and it becomes teasingly clear... interesting huh)?
Warlord Games (WG) make the most splendid 28mm `old school` multi pose soldiers, in both plastic and in metal. Hmmmm yeah, I personally like plastic, and as WG produce a vast range of these, I really am in my gaming element with this company; and I could quite realistically `flesh out` my chosen collection using miniatures just from this company`s ranges alone (without needing to look elsewhere for those `special` pieces).  Warlord Games are quick, efficient, and very friendly (just like Games Workshop used to be twenty years and more ago). Effectively meaning you can place an order online and know there will be no complication, quick delivery, and amazingly friendly, knowledgeable staff (post is cheap... usually £2.50p, £5:00 for BIG heavy orders, and free post for orders over £50:00 in value).

I spent many a pleasurable hour browsing their site and creating wish lists for myself, which I invariably pick off a bit at a time as time and money allows. I never buy more though, until I have painted what I already have. Literally making a purchase at a time, a box of soldiers, a blister pack of a much needed general, the over worked working surgeon (complete with nurse and patient), a colonial log cabin, an outdoors water shed, etc etc. An exception to this rule of never buying too much at one time, would be pieces I suspect will sell out if I don’t pick up at the time I spot them as available... such as some of the more unusual terrain pieces I perceive are only made in limited numbers and which will probably be retired (“Sold Out”) once current stocks have dwindled.  

That's another beauty of the Warlord Games range of minis... the sculpts (being multi pose) have been well thought out to provide maximum usefulness to wargamers to utilise in their games (especially the "Seven Year War" ones, which are superb and come with interchangeable tricorn, fusilier, or grenadier heads. Not only useful poses on the pieces themselves, but many of the plastic sprue `extras` can be used to represent different soldiers and nationalities. Absolutely ideal for the starved and hungry Imagi-Nation gamers out there.... like me!

For example, I am planning to play my own Imaginary World games set within an undefined but pre-supposed 18th century civilisation...  s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y resembling the `real life` French and Indian Wars, plus bits of the American Revolutionary Wars, welded together into one.... sort of: but then this is where it starts to get interesting, because thrust firmly into the mix is a kind of low fantasy style Dungeons and Dragons/Pathfinder world of indigenous native American and Canadian Indian folk lore and a rich bestiary of macabre things to add. By choosing my pieces very carefully, I have ensured that I can use all of the figures to double up as appropriate quasi-historical facsimiles, which effectively allows me to `multi purpose` everything... i.e. a French infantryman of 1756 serves as a standard infantryman, or a grenadier of 1776; and not only for the French. But I can use a French Infantryman (aka Armorkan) to represent a British soldier (aka Tanikan) of the same era, or I can skip forward a few years and suddenly I have an American Militiaman or Patriot soldier (The Golarion Colonies) of 1783, even a German Hessian (Gothic Principality States)... or even more importantly to me, a French Revolutionary - 1792. Another sculpt might serve as a French, American, British, or German light infantryman.... and even as a Loyalist "Queens Ranger" infantryman. Or I can simply use it as a soldier in part of the army of any imaginary wars of my devising. The tricorn and the bicorn era of history is, indeed, very flexible like that.

Painted correctly, you can turn any sculpt into a host of different things for the happy wargamer to enjoy.

One of the best parts about planning a new Imagi-Nation (or imaginary world if you prefer) is the initial stage of planning.

So often overlooked at the start: all the focus usually tends to be placed firmly on the miniatures... undercoating, deciding which wargame rules system to use (then basing the figures according to the dictates of those favoured rules), painting, and varnishing/purity seal; all this before even working on the `story` beyond a vague notion, perhaps, of the period to be envisaged and enjoyed.

No, a good imaginary world lives and breathes in those quiet moments of cogitation, the daydream contemplations of the mind. The inspiration we hold so dear. Precious and quintessential to the suspension of disbelief, which breathes soul and purpose into our make believe lands of never-where.

Even as I sit and paint... and paint... and.. oh boy.... paint yet more (yes I have a lot to paint... about 500 figures all told)... even thus, I plan, and scheme, and write (often just little notes to remind myself of important snippets of insight and facets of campaign infrastructure). I like to get started long before the bulk of my toy soldiers are painted and ready. Cameos of everyday life, the serious, the humourous, the macabre and the fantastical. Satellites of the shape of things to come.

Welcome to my world. Haha, yes maybe there is a mark of insanity there somewhere, that I spend so much time making plans and preparing to immerse in a world that doesn’t really exist *whispers* but in my mind`s eye - is does.

Indeed, I plan to continue this new imaginary world for many years to come, so it will develop and thrive at my own happy pace. My passion for historical type games, is, and always has been, the main hobby focus for me... and probably, all told, takes up a good 70% of my hobby time (leaving only about 30% for ALL the other things I do: I am simply that focussed on this more `in depth` side of my gaming endeavours). I just thought I would share some of it with you, so you can see how I do things. I dunno, I guess I hope you may find some of it interesting, and sparks something within you to want to immerse into your favourite gaming tipple. I know Bryan has just embarked upon a new venture into a long term Judge Dredd campaign, and I believe that will soon become, for him, every bit as deep as my imagi-nation quasi American colonial world is for me. Andy has his Bushido, and man oh man, his immersion into that subject is a perfect example of how dedicated focus in the hobby should be, if you wish to reap the true rewards it has to offer: because then you get results like.... well, like he achieves, which are a wonder to behold, and a banner for us all to follow by his example there-of.

           So Where Did I Make My Start?

The first place, for me, was with my Tanikan Army Commander in Chief, Colonel Bingly. As my Liberty or Death collectors boxed set of Seven Year War miniatures get assembled and painted from my precious collection of sprues, I shall paint the Platoons, Companies and Battalions one at a time until the whole Regiment is ready and fit for on table action. Will my commander be a Scarlet Pimpernel type (Lord Percy Blakeney), or another Harry Flashman? Hmmm, we shall see.
I do know that, although I am preferring to play big skirmish games using material like The League of Ausburg`s “Donnybrook”  rules system... which suggests between 12 and 50 figures per side, I WILL be fleshing out an entire Tanikan (British) Regiment (comprising three Battalions) simply because I will enjoy the process. I have enough miniatures to do it, and end of the day, and I need this if I want to create many gaming options for myself.. with its proposed narrative/soap style continuing `satellite` colonial campaign. For smaller, more involved skirmish games, I will be using Ganesha Games “Song of Drums and Tomahawk.” I may even use the latter full stop, to the exclusion of Donnybrook.... which is a pure visual feast of interior artwork and beautiful book-man-ship. But if Song of Drums and Tomahawks can handle larger scale games when I need them to, I may just stick with this modest little handbook; because quite frankly, the rules do exactly what I want them to, they are easy to remember, and play dreamily well on the table. They are not a pretty set of rules, type set is a bit wonky, a few pages are faded ink, and the paper quality is.. meh! But the rules are good and solid, and the whole deal has that `old school` feel to it... a bit like the old Wargames Research Group rules of yester-year (does anyone even remember those classic rule books of the 70s and 80s)? They were functional, ugly, and presented the reader with a wall of type, endless pages of rules.... but the rules were GOOD, very good. So good, that for nearly two decades, they were the pinnacle by which most serious wargamers measured their gaming endeavours.
Meanwhile, I want to bring my new forthcoming campaign alive by `breathing life into the beast` while I prepare all the other elements for the game. This can come in a number of guises, such as fleshing out and personalising my commanders and their families. Creating my own made up imagi-nation Regimental flags and banners: I already have my Britanikan or Britanish flags {nowadays, fashionably shortened to Tanika, Tanikan or Tanish... or B`Tanika by scholars of history} worked out on paper... a little like the Union Jack, but not quite. Dull, you may say, very under inspiring you might add? Balls! I reply: I`m having fun with my imaginary world so let me be ^^  haha. But naaa, I want my Ruling Nation to have a very unmistakable British feel to it all.
I wish to Muster my troops for some snazzy photography as well, so I can add each new magnum opus to my growing collection and show them off in all their painted glory, bit at a time, within the blog after action write ups (battle reports). I personally don’t go in for showing off my figures with “Look what I can do”  blog articles. I know it is popular to do so, and most people do this.. and fair play to them all. I would not take away that pleasure for one moment. But for me personally.... I refuse to do it. Mostly I think because I can’t stand to see pages and pages of comments all saying: That’s good Stephen, That’s excellent Stephen, Very nice Stephen, Wow how do you do it Stephen, oh if only I had your skill Stephen, and so on and so on. You would think by reading the comments on the average blog painting response, that no one ever painted a bad figure in their lives, the praise is always the same... one sided and obvious. In fact, if you ever dare rock the boat and say “I don’t like that much” okay they won’t say it openly (how could they after all), and will swear blind they don’t mind, and say that they actually respect the comments, but truthfully, inside, they feel slighted by any criticism and can end up taking it very personally, and so this endless merry-go-round of praise endures (you scratch my back and I`ll scratch yours), and, in truth, it all just makes me go yeeeesh! Painting, to me, should be a means to an end to get your pieces on the table with all due expediency, thus to enjoy in all their splendour. If you enjoy the painting process along the way, as you get your guys ready to play with... then great. But endlessly needing everyone to praise you for what you do... is mind bogglingly boring to me haha. Imagine I were painting our house and every few days I went to all the neighbours showing them photos of my work so far and what I`d done (hoping, and needing them all to tell me how clever I was) expecting endless praise in this way is not healthy.... and I observe it all too often promotes a `thing` I am seeing more and more over the last few years, where the people painting the stuff are doing it MORE for the blogs and the praise it generates, than painting for the actual games table itself. Just a personal observation. Just saying.
But back to the topic.... yeah, in the early stages of a new campaign, I also like to indulge in something I enjoy immensely - something I like best... namely, writing up short cameos... stories to bring my characters into existence.

Lately, I have been borrowing heavily from Henry Hyde`s "The Wargaming Compendium". This book has fast become a `gaming bible` to me of late, and is a book I would heartily recommend to any serious gamer - especially the soloist.

Hardback copy - pages 309 to 311.... a really useful section called: "Adding Personality".

I know already that I want my Lord Bingly... good old "Bingo" to be married, and just coming up to middle age. So I will place him at 38 years old at the start of this existence in my game.

Using my trusty percentage dice (%) to determine my new Colonel`s starting character stats I thus proceed to the following table. I never cheat when I am using dice in my solo role playing or wargames, and always abide by the results no matter what. I have a saying "there are no such things as bad dice rolls... just interesting ones".
Lord Henry Arthur Bingly                                                
Intelligence    Initiative     Courage     Charisma     Strength     Health
   33           76        92      37 (95)     87       19

Intelligence 33: okay, Bingo isn`t exactly the brightest cherry on the bush, which fits my mind’s eye perception of this fellow perfectly. A true blood aristocrat, a bit dim, but as charming as a rather annoying but helplessly dependent puppy. "I sssay.... jolly good show.. wot!"

Initiative 76: A bit ` thick` Bingo may be, but professionally, as a soldier, he is sharp as a blade, and totally on the ball. Probably a card shark, a gambler, and a bit of an amiable rogue, especially with the ladies. He is the type who, if a woman even talks nicely to him, sees this as an `amber light` and a deluded personal invitation into her boudoir. He charges at things head on, with an intuitive zest for life... but never stops to consider the consequences of his actions.

Courage 92: unbelievably courageous, fool heartedly brave, a total madman. A very fine blade and no doubt a champion duellist (slow to anger; due to his low intelligence, he rarely even notices when someone is mocking him to his face or, heaven forbid, insulting his good lady wife). Once roused, he is a nightmare and hard to calm down again. The graveyards are doubtless littered with gentlemen who have come up against his deadly duelling blade or pistols.

Charisma 37 (95): I give this character two separate stats for Charisma, one in his private life, another as a professional soldier. As a private man... a Lord (actually an Earl) he is a bit of an amiable buffoon, a dim witted devilishly annoying fop.

As a Colonel of his own Regiment... i.e. in his professional status... he is capable, respected and trusted by his fellow officers, and instils unswerving loyalty in the men under him.

His ravishingly beautiful wife, the Lady Chase Bingly (maiden name Lady Chase Bunting) is equally flirtatious, sexually veracious, and as wanton as her over-zealous husband. She travels everywhere with her husband, and loves to inspect the troops... sometimes several times a day *grins*

Strength 87: Built like an ox. Anytime he is in danger of receiving a wound, throw the percentage dice, and if the roll is equal to or below his Strength, Lord Bingly can pretty much shrug off the wound with impunity.
"meh! a mere flesh wound.... wot!"

Health 19: Sickly as a child, the family doctors predicted he would not live to adulthood. He suffered from endless colds, bronchial congestion (asthma), various allergies and a veritable legion of unhealthy and uncomfortable inflictions. To this day, he can often be found with his head buried in a bowl of steaming hot water, breathing in pungent aromas of eucalyptus and other equally strange and foul smelling medicinal unguents.
A Fox Hunt on the Bingly Estate... back in B`Tanika`s perpetual Green and Pleasant land.
While Lord Bingly`s Health is not always the best, his high Strength easily compensates for this defect, and ensures he is a formidable individual to be reckoned with in most things. God bless him, he just needs to stay out of the cold, the damp and the rain *achu!*

.... and avoid feather beds, household dust, animal hair, bird feathers, and.... well, everything really.
My trusty percentile dice (D100):
This pair are the first ever (hobby) dice I got - when I was about 13 years old. I can remember my Dad getting them for me... via mail order; which was still a foreign (almost alien) concept back then... the idea of hobby things being purchased by post, and not from a shop was quite snazzy and cool.

I  t-h-i-n-k  the dice were for a Western Skirmish game called "Once Upon a Time in the West" which may even have pre-dated the first ever Dungeons and Dragons game available for purchase outside the USA.
Anyway, back to the game:
So why do I like Colonial Gothic so much? I`m not entirely sure, certainly there are things about it that bother me; like the shamelessly pro American slant on the entire package, with the British being portrayed as nothing more than callous dogs... blatantly intended to be considered as the enemy, and even the monsters of the whole game. In fact, the entire make up of the huge rules book and its many supplement manuals (and yes I have them all) assumes the players will be characters on the American side of the Revolution, and even the vast pre-made campaign "Flames of Freedom" pre-supposes everything from only the Patriots point of view. One would presume, if you read American literature or listened to the standard American patriotic (school brain-washing) view point, that `the right side` won the war! It`s rare nowadays that, after over two hundred years of buried truth and patriotic zealousness, the other side of the story is ever told at all. My desire in creating my games will be to tell a lot of that British story. But it will be a lot easier to do this under the satirical parable of a quasi imaginary, semi historical setting.
This twisting of facts surrounding the Rebellion grates with me quite a bit, and is all just plain... wrong! On so many levels. Telling the story from reverse face of that proverbial double sided coin, will be rather refreshing.

But get past this flaw (and let’s face it, it is a pretty major frickin defect) and what you have here is one of the most amazingly atmospheric, historical role playing and wargame set of conditions and supporting supplement material ever written for the hobby. The campaign material is also top notch and extremely well put together. The history is fairly well researched, if not a little too biased at times... but I cannot fault its historical accuracy on pretty much all counts; despite the slant, and the bits on loyalist non patriotism, so obviously left out. Then throw in the game`s main `ace` card, and you have a whole new layer of make belief added to the cauldron - macabre gothic horror, and true monsters... a sort of "what if" history thrown in, but rather tastefully done.

To quote the rules book for a second:


Colonial Gothic is a world deeply mired in mysteries, secrets, and plots. The sense of darkness and horror your group will want to experience in your game sessions will rely heavily upon both the Gamemaster’s creativity and the players’ imaginations—and this book provides plenty of ideas and resources to stimulate both. Together, the Gamemaster and the players will craft a story in which the characters will face increasing wickedness and villainy in the world, discovering that while some enemies are all too human, others have never been human at all.

Whether your character is a soldier, grimly facing the brutality of war in the campaigns of the American Revolution, or a witch hunter relentlessly searching out and battling evil, is entirely up to you.

Colonial Gothic is designed with a simple premise: the occult and supernatural are real and extant within the world. Drawing upon history, Colonial Gothic’s perspective is that of the American Colonists: witches are real, devils and monsters run rampant in the world, and Magic can be worked—usually with terrible effect on all involved. Most Colonists have either chosen to deny the supernatural or rationalize it away, while others have been irreversibly damaged by their experiences with it. But some know and accept it for what it is and act accordingly, willingly choosing to place their reputations, faith, and sanity on the line to fight back. Seeing themselves as the last line of defence against the onslaught of evil, these characters war with the terrifying forces that lurk in the shadows.

Yep! pretty gripping stuff alright.

But so too is Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder or a host of other rpg games out there. So why this game in particular?

No! Colonial Gothic is different. First of all, it operates within the precepts of real life history, and simply adds to it all in a way that is quite delightful, and which I can only describe as `fitting nicely into the Imagi-Nation sensibilities`... which, of course, is exactly what I am looking for here. Secondly, it has an intense military feel to it all, with deep overtures of warfare running through its very core, yet nice and discrete in the background. But thirdly, and perhaps paramount to it all... the premise is sound and fully rounded as a conceptual whole.

Here is real history, real events, and real people, set in the time of a real French & Indian, and the American War of Independence, with all the tensions and atmosphere of, perhaps, the French Revolution, The Scarlet Pimpernel, the essence of Ruritania, The Son of Monte Cristo and the Prisoner of Zenda.... all rolled into one, yet totally separate from the European theatre, set in a mostly still unexplored New World, away from prying eyes... which allows me to play about with things, alter history, invent new stuff, and generally indulge in an `Imaginary` world of my very own.

I also like the way Colonial Gothic is written. I really enjoy regularly leafing through the many hundreds of pages of material I have accumulated for this package, and it has become like a favourite book I like to read in my study, or take to bed with me to read on those cold winter evenings.
Ordinarily, I would only ever really consider using my own rules (and only my own rules) and I might be inclined to make up my imaginary world from scratch (especially with a new campaign world): but in this case, I am perfectly happy to allow myself to be inspired by this material even as it is written. Maybe this is because it is real history, uses real old 18th century maps, is clear and concise in its presentation, and yet leaves the reader feeling totally in control, and fully able to extrapolate his or her own ideas into the mix to create a perfect world in which to `play about` in.

So would I use the Colonial Gothic rules to play a full campaign. No... oh gosh, never! I really do like the D12 system Colonial Gothic promotes.... or rather, I want to like it, I really do! But the rules are just too clunky, too messy for me ever to pay them any serious consideration. But so as not to `throw the baby out with the bath water` I have used much of the `tone` Colonial Gothic evokes, allowed it to sink into my psyche and to inspire my imagination to kick-start in its own unique directions. I suppose at the end of the day, I am saying that I really like Colonial Gothic for the way it makes me feel, but it does this without giving me any desire to play the game. Its good reading material and a great source of neat ideas: no more.
I have created the rpg rules I will be using for my games and I have called them: “A Colonial Affair.”
The main table top aspect of my forthcoming campaign will, however, be played using the rules I have already mentioned: Donnybrook and Song of Drums and Tomahawks. I Shall be using the card random events deck from “Maurice” to add some spice, and anything else I can throw into the pot to help make the thing more interesting. The direct campaign area I am going to zoom in on and satellite for my initial sandbox, will be all the excellent  maps, NPC characters and so on from Flying Frogs “A Touch of Evil.” To this I will pour all the other elements into the mould, and then sit back and watch the jelly set.
By a cool stroke of good luck, I have found the ideal solution to a small problem I have, of late, been pondering over: namely, trying to decide what I was going to do about adding non military type miniatures to my table top games. Playing in 28mm is all well and good, but it`s devilish hard at times always to find those essential bits and pieces of `everyday life` which turns a game into a living breathing thing... maids a milking their cows, market store holders selling their wares to ladies and gentlemen in their morning finery, as they stroll casually through the Friday market. Priests saying Mass (or a fantasy equivalent) to their enthralled congregation, children playing in the street, urchins hanging about darkened doorways, dogs roaming wild through the commons; watchmen vigilantly patrolling their lonely `beats`.... carriages and wagons wending their way hither and thither through the maze of cobblestone lanes etc, etc.

Then it struck me one day as I was browsing through my Pathfinder RPG material... Pawns!

These are thick card, stand up tokens... characters, villains and monsters, used by gamers to stand in for role playing game miniatures (at a nice price tag). Actually, they are very attractive, and because they are flat, thick card tokens, they go rather nicely alongside my Warlord Games soldiers.... if only they were the same size as my  28`s.

... but wait!

I suddenly had an idea, and with excited... almost feverish hands, I snatched up one of these pawns (a gentleman merchant in very 18th century looking garb), and rushing into the hall where my glass cabinets full of my latest creations reside, and I placed my pawn beside a painted 28mm flag bearer, resplendent in his  B`Tanikan red tunic.

Oh my goodness!

Because of the slight height adjustments... possible due to the plastic slot base the card miniature slides into; my pawn stood, near as damn it, shoulder to shoulder with my drummer. A perfect scale match!! By now I was very excited, and returning to my hobby room, I started to forage about in my Pathfinder pawns box for other pieces I might be able to use. By the end of a very pleasant half an hour of sorting things out, I realised I had just found myself a good couple of hundred nice new pieces to add to my games.

I was utterly delighted.

I then went on line and checked out for additional Pathfinder Pawns, and lo and behold, there were a number of complete rpg sets which might prove ideal for my forthcoming imagi-nation games. I guess we all know what`s now sitting in my Amazon` wish list` ^^
Meanwhile, my new project progresses apace... slowly but surely.
Article by Steve
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“Musings of a Lady Gamer”
Zombicide Black Plague: The Kick Starter!
A year ago now, Stevie was seized with a impetuous desire to pledge a 150 euro for a cool new kick starter campaign from `Cool Mini or Not.` This was their brand new re-take on an already highly successful zombie style boardgame franchise. However, this second time round, they would do it all over again, but this time firmly set within a medieval fantasy setting. Actually, you could almost forget the word `fantasy` from the thing, and just call it a medieval setting... with a few dwarves and elves thrown in for good measure! The tone and style has a strong medieval flavour, and it is for this reason above all others that I am so drawn to it. The fantasy bit could quite comfortably have been left out and the game would not have suffered for it. To my mind, the inclusion of a few Dwarves and Elves and what not, has made the game a bit too much like any other game out there *yawn* and they missed an opportunity to make a bold premise with a more unusual stance - i.e. a medieval world torn apart by zombies. As it is, by opting for fantasy, they have simply gone the route of making a generic quasi medieval world with zombies in it.... just like every other fantasy setting, right?
The original Zombicide was very cool. Works perfectly at what it set out to do, and was probably (subjectively) the best zombie table top miniatures boardgame of this genre out there.
I t-h-i-n-k Zombicide Black Plague may just top its big sister, and take the golden crown! Though, ultimately,  I do not expect it will do as well in sales.
Put plain and simply: it is the better of the two games. The rules are smoother, there are more play options available, and it is supported by a staggering array of expansion and support material: and thankfully, we have most of it all, as we pledged quite highly on the kick starter campaign - Knights Level, if I recall correctly. The only thing that may make the original Zombicide game setting more popular in the long run, is the fact that most people like the modern day zombie genre better than the idea of zombies in the age of pitchforks, swords, armour, shields, bows, axes and spears. For me, the medieval idea is unusual and even more attractive than the idea of a modern day themed setting. More so because I tire of every single modern day zombie story being set in America: with American language jargon, American place names, American terminology and an obviously American character theme. Living in Ireland (though, like Stevie, I am actually British), thousands of miles divorced from the strange culture of the USA, I find it hard to relate to.. exacerbated by the fact that I don’t really like trash American movies and loud obvious plot lines... where the height of the budget seems to be to make lots of impressive looking gun fights and explosions, and loud mouthed heroes (are we meant to like these?) being obnoxious all the time in a way that would, in real life, probably end up causing Stevie to `bop them` on the nose in tired agitation. Cool Mini`s new medieval game is generic... it’s NOT American based (indeed, the Americans never actually had a medieval era of their own) so it easily fits into the mind`s eye as being English, or anywhere in Europe you like it to be.. or a fantasy world if you prefer. But the bottom line here is, just for once, we have a game that is not restrictively based in the USA.
This is one stretch goal expansion hero I am literally gasping to sink my teeth into playing. My lifelong hero Bowie.
Now.. our set, has been played lots, and we all love it. I am of course, talking about the base game. The one everyone can now buy in the shops. The sheer bulk of the expansion stretch goal add on`s (which aren’t even yet available for the public to buy) still sits in the huge box it came in the day the courier dropped it off at the bottom of our drive. Its vast, and its staggering, almost too much to get our heads round right now, and so we packed it all up and placed it safely in a corner of a spare room, to be picked up and enjoyed at a later date when we have more time to savour it and use it to its full potential.

But I can see something I don’t think Stevie has seen yet! I can see just how MUCH amazing play potential this Black Plague game will one day present for us. Complete, as our game is... especially including the second add on boxed game that comes with the pledge... I can see that this is an entire hobby project in its own right. It’s not just a quick fix game. It’s not just another purchase game soon to be forgotten and moved on from when something new comes along and catches the eye. this game is HUGE. We simply haven’t gotten to grips with it all yet: which is probably just as well. Because it could swallow you, and you`d be swamped, even under enthused, the thing left unfinished, and eventually unloved, and un-played.  This game deserves time and respect. And so I am grateful we had other projects to complete first, before getting to grips with this caged beast of a game. We haven’t even opened the dozens of free pledge stretch goal packets yet. They remain sealed in their cellophane, so whenever we do get round to opening it all up, it will still feel new.. like Christmas Morning present opening time. It may not even be until next summer that we get round to Black Plague, but when we do, I think we are going to have a wonderful time.
I know it’s hard. There are days when Stevie and I both want to just tear open all the packets of goodies and bask in the beauty of this game. But we stay strong and ensure than when we do get round to it, it will all feel like the day it arrived at our house. Exciting and new.
*smiles happily*
Just quickly. I would like to finish by thanking Tarot for all the help she has given to this site over the last months (she never seeks praise or attention for herself, yet her presence in the site could always be felt: with her jovial, happy words, and her cool (often subtle) sense of humour.. also that sharp tongue hehe, never slow to speak the truth when ever she sees it. I will miss that most of all here I think.  Her stoic and steadfast loyalty and dedication to us all and to the blog in general has been a godsend and I don't know quite how we will manage without her from now on. I do know I will miss her here :( 
I am only glad that at least we still have you joining us at the club(s) and as one of our regular game group. The site may have lost out, but Stevie and I are still lucky to have you. You make our days brighter by your presence xxx

Article by Hilary