Thursday, 8 December 2016

Musings On Doing Gotham

Final Musings On Doing Gotham 
{Before All That Real Yummy Fun Begins}
Like so many wargamers, table top skirmish gamers: rpg boardgame, and pen & paper RPG people out there, there comes a stage in your hobby passion when you want to immerse into something a little deeper... you want to find that all consuming `thing` with which to fill a greater portion of that hobby passion you spend so much time dabbling about with. Trouble is, where to begin, isn`t it? Half the time we get these great ideas, and we make half hearted stabs at them, but never really see that wonderful magnum opus reach table top fruition.

Often this is simply because we run out of steam part way through the painting of the miniatures, or something else... something new and shiny comes along and distracts us from the original idea. But often it is because, when all is said and done, a great idea very often just stays a great idea... in our head! Never actually gets worked out, formulated, and constructively engineered into a practical format for eventually rendering onto the tabletop - as an actual game!

Even if you overcome the hurdle of all the above, there is still the final evil big boss to overcome. The fact that most of us have, over the years, accumulated so much stuff for our hobby, we don’t even know where to begin. How CAN we plan that super-duper World War Two campaign, spanning the entire siege of Stalingrad: when we also have four other entire armies waiting in line to finish... sitting in four huge heaps of unpainted lead?  “Why did I even buy that Roman Army, and what about that huge pile of  Napoleonic French, or those Pulp Fiction Wild West Cowboys... and this doesn’t even address the issue of that huge pile of zombies I still need to assemble, let alone paint.” And so it goes on. How CAN we start that magnum opus game, when we feel so guilty all the time. Concentrate on just one aspect of the hobby, and the rest will all sit unused, unloved, and basically... just wasted! And so we run about like headless chickens, trying to do it all, telling ourselves we are `eclectic` gamers and can do it... “I can do it, I can do it!”
For me, I have this problem a little bit, although I have stopped the situation getting any worse for myself, by being pretty good and sticking to the literally VAST collection(s) I already own, and not exacerbating the problem for myself by building an even bigger pile of unused stuff, I will simply never ever in a million years get round to playing with. I`m fifty four.... keep buying more and I will never even get to see half of what I own unwrapped and the box lids opened, let alone played with in any amount of devotion that justifies the money spent on it.
No, I have my Zulus (bloody vast collection and I love them to bits). I have my Liberty or Death (America War of Independence.... such a complete collection, I will never ever need to expand it any further, during the entire rest of my life): and finally, I have my prize and treasured Heroclix/Horrorclix collection.
Of course I have tons of other stuff: the list of which would be as long as my arm if I named it all: Zombicide, Black Plague, Arkham Horror, Super Dungeon Explore, Memoir 44, The Great War, and so on and so on and so on and SO ON. But although I love all the things I have, these others simply fall into the category of `side show diversions` for me. Tit bits to enjoy every now and again, when I want (and need) a nice break from the `serious three` subjects I ordinarily play. I guess it would be fair to say that my main three subjects (Zulus, AWI, and Clix) take up a good 85% of my passion, and all the rest probably fills in no more than 15% of my remaining hobby time. Doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE the rest of my stuff... my small fry stuff. It just means I prioritize well, to ensure I manage to play the big campaign projects, and don’t just end up talking about it, and yet never actually getting any of it done.
Right now, I am painting two of my main `serious three` like crazy...  my Zulus and my Liberty or Death American Revolution! But it is with the third main passion that I am currently concentrating the vast majority of my table top efforts. Why clix, you may ask? Well, three reasons really... in the following order of importance. (a) They are all pre-painted. We simply have to `lob` them off their stands, `plop` them onto cool new bases, more in keeping with the more usual 28/30mm models, and away you go.... instant gaming gratification: while I carry on the endless slog of assembling and painting the hundreds upon hundreds of other figures I need to get done for my other two main subjects. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a game ready to go, while you work away at the rest, and avoids boredom and a lack of continued enthusiasm. (b) it is December, and from experience, I know that December and January are difficult months of the year to knuckle down to intense creativity. Too many guests, too many things to plan for the approaching festive season, and far too many sundry distractions, even to concentrate constructively on the more serious matter of gaming. And (c) well, I have three main subjects to cover, as already mentioned: and I have to start somewhere, so it’s really a case of eenie-meenie-miney-mo!  Clix are already painted so is the most viable option right now: so yeah, this has become the logical starting point for all my current gaming endeavours.
So how do you go about creating a big campaign... What is a campaign game anyway?
Well, a miniatures campaign might mean different things to different folks. To some it may (at its most rudimentary) be a series of semi-linked one off games. A to B to C to D and so on. With a very basic “if she lives through game one she will appear in game two” sort of thing. Nothing really solid or written out, but fun never the less. Then there are the linked campaign systems pre-written into many boxed narrative type table top miniatures games nowadays. Games like the latest Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Boardgame “Temple of Elemental Evil” or the Zombicide Compendium scenario book. These usually offer a very basic linked system of games, with knock on effects between adventures as the campaign runs through its paces. The above styles of play are a little too simplistic and basic for me, and leave me always wanting more. No, I prefer the third way of campaigning...  DIY, good old do it yourself.

It takes a lot of effort but the rewards will pay dividends.  Of course, the first thing you need is for all the proud `troops` in your collection to be painted.  There is no coincidence why I chose my main hero (me) in my historical games to be “Quartermaster Gilbert.”  The minutia of supply is a major consideration to any full blown campaign. How do you feed the army, how exactly do you steer 600 head of cattle across 200 miles of African veldt. How many men do you then pull away from other duties to make the fencing necessary to contain that many animals... how many native contingent shepherds do you assign to looking after them? How many soldiers do you pull off other duties to guard those shepherds?
What if the wrong calibre of ammunition arrives on the newly arrived supply wagons.
Um, General, Sir?”
“Yes Perkins, what is it?”
“The, erm, supplies have just been unpacked from the wagons Sir, only we seem to have run into a slight problem.”
“Yes..? Well spit it out man?”
“Yes, Sir. It seems the 7.2 calibre rounds needed for our riflemen never arrived with the current shipment. Instead they have issued us with crates of 8.1 calibre naval rounds, only usable with the Lewis Guns, Sir.”
“Blast it Perkins!”
This can all be triggered by a series of random tables (ideal if playing solo too). And a series of self asked questions: Has the wagon train carrying the wrong ammunition already departed for the port? How many days ride is the port? When they get there, will they find that the much needed ammunition has in fact been wrongly assigned to the 17th Regiment of Horse eighty miles in the opposite direction, leaving them in the same boat as you... with your ammunition, which is utterly useless to them? And so it goes on, as you raise new issues on the random tables, you resolve these problems by firing a series of questions with “Yes” or “No” calculations written into the list of possible answers. The generic solo RPG and wargame system “Mythic” admirably deals with all these things. I personally have written my own system for dealing with these types of conditions, but the bottom line is, it all becomes amazingly addictive the more you get into and involved with the tiny minutia of running an army on battle manoeuvres.  And if you are not into wargaming, everything can still be applied to skirmish level games, from Dungeons and Dragons to a full on Zombie apocalypse.
Did the last foraging trip bring in enough seeds to plant a harvest for the following spring? Did any of the seed crop get damp and spoiled during that last forest fire? Two of your people are suffering from chest infections, do you have enough antibiotics to see them through, or do you need to make another accursed run to the city hospital on the outskirts of New Metropolis, in the hope of finding more... do you even have enough gas left to make it that far? Perhaps you will first need to make a trip to the local town to raid the gas station for the third time this month... and man, those Z`s are getting cagy and wise to you at that place. You very nearly lost a man there last time!
 Yeah, logistics is the fundamental key to a successful and enjoyable campaign, and it takes time to set all this up, just like a D&D Dungeon Master has to do before-hand when he/she creates his or her amazing game world.
I imagine this is exactly the approach Bryan will take with his Judge Dredd Cursed Earth adventures. With the size of his collection and the sheer rich wealth of background knowledge and material there is for this highly defined science fiction world, it must be a game designer`s dream to work within the parameters of such an open ended data base. Much the same way that the happy Warhammer 40K gamer has oodles and oodles of material to work from when he digs into his dark future sci-fi Tyranids, Eldar, and.... god knows what else at his finger tips.
Gotham has all this for me too. First up, there are the four amazing films made in the late 80`s/early 90`s... Tim Burton at his best I always say. Four amazing films covering a diverse range of characters from The Joker (Jack Nickelson) , Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Penguin (Danny DeVito) , The Riddler (Jim Carrey), Dr Chase Meridian (Nocole Kidman), Harvey Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and so on and so on. Then some years later we had the highly cool, almost macabre Dark Night trilogy: various off shoot movies from Catwoman (Halle Berry), and Electra (Jennifer Garner)... and now we have the extraordinary HBO classic series “Gotham” currently hitting our TV screens, with season 3 due to be aired in the very near future.
Of course, if we want to bring other elements into our games and do some cool crossovers, we have all three Captain America movies, all three Iron Man, The Avengers movies, The Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor one and two, Batman Versus Superman, Suicide Squad, and cool series like Agent Carter, and three series of Agents of Shield. The cinematic world has never been kinder to the aspiring fantasy sci-fi superhero table top gamer.
You may note that I mention the films/movies a lot. This is because I will be using these as the main basis of my Dark Knight stories... my version of Gotham. I have no interest in slavishly following the 40 odd years of comic books which cover these tales in contradictory and often conflicting minutia (and often childishly rendered), and for me, the cinema graphic versions will (for the most part) do me fine. In the same way that, let’s say.. someone wanting to get into Middle Earth gaming, might not want to wade through thousands of pages of Tolkien`s literature just to get to the point where the gamer feels he/she is student enough to host a decent game. Peter Jackson did the gaming world a big favour in one sense, because now it is quite possible for the fledgling hobbyist to base an entire campaign on the 3 hobbit and the 3 lord of the rings epics, without any need to study further. Many would consider 20 hours of movie information (plus 60 hours of extended DVD added documentary footage) as plenty haha. This is how I feel about the Batman, quadrilogy, the Dark Knight trilogy, and three (to date) series of Gotham... which gives me about 50 hours of viewing information to play with for my games.
For me, the logistic of running a `living world` adventure campaign is immense, and awe inspiringly cool. Just keeping track of all the divergent plot, threads, storylines, side plots, dead ends, traps, cover ups, double agents, infiltrators, emergent powers, organisations... aliens.... monsters,....  ghosts and ghoulish entities, vampires, werewolves, killer clowns, and a partridge in a pear tree, makes the idea of running a `supers` game, a phenomenally desirable opportunity of sheer delight and a gamer`s paradise to paddle and play about in.
For me, I plan not only to delve deeply into the various existing comic book factions, kingpins, and mafia crime lords: but I also plan to make up a lot of my own unique super people (never written about in any comic book), and create superheroes of my own imagination. I plan to check out and invest in some cool applications to allow me to create realistic looking comic book text and odd shaped script windows. Lots of Pow! Zap! And Ka-Blams! Haha. And perhaps most importantly, I intend to have an absolute blast doing it all.
I might not always know the exact chronology of events of such and such a character, or the order of events of major story arcs, but I DO have people like Tarot (who is a veritable walking library, and is an absolute font of knowledge), and I have Hils, and the guys to point out when I`ve made a mistake.  But most important of all, a lot of the time I will be aware of divergent options I will take, and follow my own paths to the exclusion of true events.  For example I may well ignore the entire of “The Killing Joke” (where the Joker leaves Barbara Gordon terribly injured and confined to a wheelchair)  and  “Death in the Family” (where Jason/Robin gets killed), or I may only take bits of this and put my own spin on things. Such things will be deliberate, so where I take divergent options, it will not be lack of comic lore that makes me do it thus... but choices to `go my own way` regarding some of the larger overall story arcs.
And so, this will probably be the last time I talk about my Gotham campaign in this way. After this post, it will be the real thing. As my campaign is all but ready to get underway. Up until Christmas at the very least, pretty much all the upcoming posts at The Game Cupboard will be devoted to this single and very focussed theme.
I do hope you all enjoy it. I have lots of delights planned for your smoothly strict delectation *said in best Joker voice*

Article By Steve





  1. This is MY kind of game.. mmmmmm, can hardly wait to begin. WiIl you start it all new, or will you tie in things that have gone before, like my unfinished Jim and Barbara Gordon storyline?

    Its got me all worked up and excited to play, and you have bought a thousand splinted vivid images into my head now. I love it.

    1. Will be a new start with a big bang start. But your Jim and Barb` Gordon story, actually, will be pivotal to one of the main story arcs I`m currently running with. Just wait, sooooooo much planned, and I can`t wait to make a start.... next article it BEGINS wooohhahahahaa <-- evil laugh.

    2. wait until you see my take on turtles tarot sweetie: puts a whole new spin on the meaning of mutants. You`ll never sleep with the light off again hehe.

  2. Film Noir meets Blade Runner on steroids, with just a sprinkling of Sky Captain, Dick Tracy, and Fu-Manchu added in for good measure. And don't forget just a hint of Tintin.

    I`m liking this already :)

    1. Old fashioned 40s and 50s suits, alongside old style gangster saloons and trams, corner street diners and old fashioned wirelesses blasting away on retro speakers from the corner. High rise monorails and the smog of a million fires, flickering neon and badly lit alleyways, and GCPD patrolling the parklands in full body armour and mounting trepidation and fear as dimpsy light turns to full on blanket night. Sliding past burned out cars and peering through caged windshields as they pass the signs to "Cheapside." mmmmmm my crazed mind sees images upon images here.

  3. I'm liking this as well, Steve. It all sounds great and I just know you're going to come up with a campaign that will keep us fans intrigued and enthralled and begging for more.

    1. Thank you Bryan, I will try very hard to make it exciting for you. I figure with your love of Cursed Earth and Mega City One, Gotham is close enough that you will always find something of interest in my mad ramblings... hey we can even do some cross over games and adventures between us, as characters migrate between campaigns hehe.

      Similarly I am absolutely BURSTING to see you start your JD campaign :-)))

    2. Oooh, crossover games! Yes, a distinct possibility. We should discuss this further once we are both up and running with our respective campaigns. Speaking of which, my JDMG campaign will start in early January 2017. There are exciting developments happening here behind the scenes, which I'd love to share with you, but I'm sworn to secrecy on some of them. Warlord Games and Mongoose Publishing may have lost their licences for selling 28mm scale Judge Dredd figures but he ain't dead yet. For me, 2017 could go down as the year of Dredd. Watch this space!

    3. Oh GOD that's so cool. I cant WAIT. January 2017 that's just fantastic. I will wait impatiently for you to reveal all to us :)))

      I`m actually really excited about all this.

    4. Steve, I'm in gaming heaven right now. As you mentioned in this post, there is a lot of prep work to do to get a long running campaign ready. I'm laying the foundations to my JD campaign with lots of figure reviews on my blog but there is loads of other stuff going on behind the scenes. Trust me, it'll all be worth the wait!

  4. **eases himself into the armchair and gets the popcorn** game on young man, game on!

    1. mmmmm butter, salted or toffee?

      I`m a toffee popcorn guy myself. mmmm yum yum.

  5. Another very cool project that i'm looking forward to immensely. I'd considered doing something similar,but set in Britain, sort of "V fir Vendetta/Brazil" mash=up, where Edward refused to abdicate and had Oswald Moseley set up a fascist government. I think it was going to be called 'Dominion'. The only character who has made it into physical form so far is Vanguard, a fascist version of Superman, who has the BUF emblem on his chest instead of the 'S'.

  6. Hi Jez, and I`m so glad this little project interests you... actually quite a big project and one I (not to mention the others) have found ourselves totally wrapped up and immersed in, from the concept, style (especially the concept art and décor), the framework planning, the `era` in regards to the overall tone and the ultimate feel we want to try to reflect (i.e. do we want snazzy neon and high tech futuristic with zip rails and flying cars everywhere, or do we want noir, stark black and whites, grey scape, shoeshines, newspaper boys "read all about it, Joker burns down Gotham City Public Library"... wide brim hats, turned up collars and lovely vintage looking vehicles monorails and corner street diners - or a bit of both even. Choices, choices, choices! and each one as important as the next. And you know what Jez, its the most exciting bit of it all... the initial PLANNNG, mmmmmmm.

    But you know what, your own world 'Dominion' DO IT man? Go on go on, you know you should. What is it Sam Gamgree says in Fellowship of the Ring: "Its the job never gets started is the one takes longest to finish."