Thursday, November 11, 2010

In which our hero fatefully embarks upon a new project

Don't get me wrong, I certainly love my Blood Bowl miniatures, but even as they are ever present, they are rarely the only thing I am painting.

And so it is that I am presently beginning to begin a new miniatures project.


Truth be told, I am rarely not actively attempting to begin or carry on some secondary or tertiary period or setting, yet I admittedly rarely get any sufficiently progressed even to play a game. I would never say that these false starts are wasted efforts, as every miniature painted and enjoyed is time well spent, but there is certainly some lost opportunity time and some funds unwisely spent in each of them.

In the last couple of years, for example, I have invested time, and in most cases money in at least five different projects which are presently out of favor - abandoned is such a harsh term, after all.

The first period I seriously explored in recent history (which I here mean to be since I moved into my present house, roughly three years ago, which serves well as a milestone given that the move sent most of my previous missteps into the attic and thus separated these notions in time and space) was Back of Beyond.

I've always liked Mark Copplestone's work. His figures are wonderful and so many of his lines resonate with my love of pulp adventure. The Darkest Africa range was irresistible and when the Back of Beyond line came out it immediately lept to the top of my project list. I read Peter Hopkirk's books and plotted time and again to just pull the trigger on those Bolsheviks and Chinese.

But I just never did.

Probably something about 28mm. The extra time and extra expense of 28's has been scaring me off for years. A Blood Bowl team is only a handful of figures, and yet is a tremendous investment in time. Buying and painting two armies, even at the skirmish level in this scale just feels so daunting. Rationally I know that projects I do in smaller scales will ultimately wind up costing as much and taking as long through the inevitable lure of creep (a period I would game with 30 minis in 28mm will be one I will game with 300 minis in 15mm and 3000 miniatures in 6mm) but I have cognitive dissonance on this point, and most points in general.

Still, BoB was the first project in the time frame being discussed, by way of Darkest Africa. I happened to have a few packs of Baluchis laying around from my earlier DA misadventures and as these tribesmen hailed from the fringes of the region BoB happens to be set in, this would not be an altogether improbable force to use in this setting as well, and at any rate, I'd already bought the minis.

It didn't take. Within a few days my enthusiasm waned, my brushes were stilled, and I was off playing some video game or whatever.

It was not long after that, though, that I decided to give Flames of War a turn at bat.

I've always loved the aesthetics of WWII armor. Something is just striking about those tanks. It's a period I inevitably want to paint, but one I have typically avoided completely. There's a lot of baggage there. Personally, it's too close to home, and generally, anytime you hang around a WWII game at a con you meet some really creepy people - eventually you learn, especially here in the south, to stay away from people who are into WWII and the Civil War, that's where the freaks are.

And yet, I love the tanks.

Flames of War seemed a point of divergence though. The game has do much popularity that it seemed as though it would certainly be first an excellent game, and second a game whose broad appeal would dilute the crazy in the period's participants. Still it was an unsavory thing, despite the tanks, and taking on the project was difficult.

Ultimately, the tanks won, at least briefly. I decided to give it a go, but on my own terms. I was going to play solo, and I was going to do 1/285.

Solo meant no freaks, 1/285 meant cheaper armies, painted faster, and smaller tables.

I got pretty far, all things considered. Concentrating on the Africa campaign I got an Italian army painted and made a fair run at a British force before stalling. In the end, it was a combination of two factors that killed the project, first, I hated the FoW rules, and second, I just didn't like the scale. 1/285 is just too small. There's not much joy in the painting process, not enough to admire when you're done, and not much to appreciate on the table. I might have been more interested in the game if I'd stuck to the 15mm original scale or even gone at 6mm instead. That said, the price of playing at 15mm was just too scary and the 6mm lines just didn't seem complete enough, nor the prices so amazing.

In time, I just gave up, disappointed.

The next venture was 6mm Napoleonics.

I have tried Napoleonics again and again, there's a certain feeling of venerability to Napoleonics, it is like the most pure form of miniatures gaming, the foundation and fountainhead of the hobby, noble in a way. There is pageantry, there is prestige, there is no shortage of reading material, research, and mini lines.

My first forays into Napoleonics were in 15mm, but the task was always overwhelming. I had hoped that going to a smaller scale would help, but as usual, I was just cramming more figures on the same bases, so it was a wash. The units look great, the reading was interesting, but I just never found the groove and my enthusiasm petered out.

Daunted, but not defeated, I moved on.

Showing that I meet the classic definition of insanity, I tried to paint the Baluchis for BoB again, this time with an eye toward a broader pulp setting. See above.

Most recently I was feeling a bit nostalgic and thoughts wandered to my long-lost first wargaming love, Battletech.

I have really great memories of playing Battletech, but I don't have any actual Battletech stuff anymore. Somewhere after buying some long-admired Heavy Gear mechs and finding a reasonable map set on eBay, something shiny in the corner caught my eye.

So, here I am today. I want to paint something different, but what? Some ideas immediately come to mind, the ever present Back of Beyond, which I delay for the usual reasons, but what about 15mm BoB? Can that be done yet? A search of the intertubes shows that there is still enough Russian Civil War stuff in that scale to cover that corner of the theme, and still plenty in the way of British colonial troops, but the Chinese warlords and general 30's pulp is still a no show outside of 28's. As much as I would like to do 28mm pulp, I am still scared off of it for no rational reason. Looking at either side of the pulp time frame, Victorian SciFi and Weird WWII are intriguing, but the best of both periods are in 28mm as well.

What about more mainstream historicals? DBA has the advantages of small armies, contained playspace, and quick games. There's a huge sweep of time and so many hundreds of armies to collect. Yet, I never seem enjoy DBA as a game, too arcane, too fiddly. Plus, I am just not in the mood for ancients.

One theme that I have repeatedly checked on as a potential next project over the years has been 15mm SciFi. I like the idea of this period in that scale. Forces can be played from squad to company level, systems can range from silly to simulationist, and there's tanks, which I am always looking for a reason to collect. Inevitably, though, when I have checked on the available figures, 15mm has been a scale with few SciFi options, uninteresting figures, and my enthusiasm has waned quickly.

But something is different now. There are half a dozen or more relative newcomers to 15mm SciFi, and they are making infantry and vehicles which are finally compelling. Even some of the old lines are being refreshed with new and interesting models. It seems as though there is something of a 15mm SciFi renaissance happening right now, and perhaps I am just in time to latch onto it.

Yes, it would seem that this is the time to give it a go, so here I go.

Wow, did you read that whole thing? I should give you a prize, or call the cops, but definitely one of the two.

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