Thursday, November 22, 2012

Taking stock after dying (part the second)

I had a great day, yesterday! Kokigami, a good friend, dropped by for a visit; we had a great time, and I got to show off some of the wonderful new miniatures from Howard Fielding. I have to admit that I got tired out pretty quickly, as I still have very little stamina, but it was a wonderful afternoon. Thanks!

I have been feeling tremendously better since the middle of last week. No more nose bleeds, no more severe headaches, no more ringing in the ears, and no more high blood pressure. Getting rid of the major source of stress in my life (for the past 18 months, anyway) has been really good for me, and I'm very happy to have been able to lose it. Hurrah!!!

Part of taking stock of where we are and where we're going is a look at how and why I've been doing things, in this case with the miniatures collection. Back in Ye Olden Dayes, what many gamers now thing of as scenery and terrain just didn't exist. In those far-off days of Yesteryear, we used colored masking tape on the bare laminate game tables to represent things like roads, rivers, hills, and forests. Tables were literally flat as the proverbial board, and we all thought it An Amazing Thing when somebody finally spent some money and cut plywood squares out to make 'real' elevations on the game table for hills and such. It made things a lot easier for determining issues of Line-of-Sight, for example, and gave a bit more realism to the game table.

Down in the basement at Phil's, we had one each hill that Phil had made from florists' (open-cell, and very fragile) foam, and three of trees that Phil had made from a Woodland Scenics kit designed for model railroads. The three trees had metal trunks and branches, and were coated in glued-on bits of dyed foam rubber that came off with any handling and got into everything.

When I started building the current game room, back in 2002, I made the decision to build up the kind of gaming infrastructure that Phil and I had never been able to have back in Ye Olden Dayes; it hadn't been invented yet, for the most part! I made the decision to retain the policy that I had first articulated in 1980, or so; build the forces for both sides of any scenario, as well as the scenery and terrain, because the guy who was supposed to bring the French army to refight the battle of Waterloo today just called and said he'll be about four hours late because he has to walk the dog or something. (Actual incident.)

So, back a decade ago, I started out by making giant versions of the maps that Phil had done for his two published accounts of battles: Chanis, and Ru. I used what was then pretty advanced technology in gaming; I copied the two maps onto clear transparencies, and projected them onto the 6' by 9' drop cloths I used for the maps with an overhead projector. (Note to modern readers: this was top of the line technology, back then, and you'll need to use Google to find out what ancient devices I'm talking about.) I drew the outlines of the terrain onto the cloth maps, and then painted in all the colored details with one of my five airbrushes. (Note: this is a modeler's tool , and not one normally found in gaming circles. Invented around 1876 and used for decades by artists, photo retouchers, and Stalin's secret police it's a very handy way to paint models. I have five, including several vintage Thayer and Chandler models from the 1950's.)

Anyway, the idea behind having two of these giant maps and using them as the basis for game tables led to what I've been calling the "Two Table Standard". In short, the idea is that for events such as demo games or games at conventions, I could have one fully-equipped game table with a game running at the same time that I was setting up the scenery and miniatures for a second game table. That way, players could switch games and tables with no delay, as player time at events is very limited.

Over time, we started to do more events in the local game shops, I evolved a second 'system' for game tables. This is based on sheets of Masonite or MDF that have a layer of expanded polystyrene bead board / insulation glued to them. The stuff I use is 1/4" thick, and because of the little styrene spheres, it has a more natural texture to it. I have two sets of the 23" x 40" panels I mentioned in the last post I made before The Incident, a 'dry' terrain set and a 'temperate' terrain set. Taken in conjunction with the sets of scenery I have, made up of model trees on scenic bases, I can cover pretty much any of the terrain types that Phil described in his works about Tekumel. I have 'dry', 'temperate', 'forest', and 'jungle' terrain sets; taken in conjunction with the large collection of buildings I have either made or out-sourced I can model any possible game scenario that Phil described to me or that I encountered while gaming with Phil from 1976 to 1988. (And which I talk about in my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne".)

I should also mention that I have a number of 'dedicated' terrain sets. There are the two sets of Sakbe road sections, one a 'generic' set and the other the one for the Battle of Anch'ke, and the model of Castle Tilketl from the battle of the same name we fought out at Phil's. There are also the dozen or so boats and ship for naval actions, as well as about 100 small-scale ship miniatures for use in larger naval actions.

All of the above means that I'm now equipped to a Four Table Standard, meaning that if asked by an event organizer I can set up two tables for immediate use by the gamers and then set up two more fully-equipped tables while the first two games are underway. I might also mention that I tested this system, albeit for two tables last year at our game event at Fantasy Flight Games, it it worked very well. While the system was originally set up for use with our 30" x 60" folding tables (usually used as three together as a 60" x 90" table) and the huge 63" x 103" table at The Source, as I mentoined in my old post I'm cutting down the 23" x 40" panels in to a more flexible and universal size. I've been thinking 9" x 9" 'tiles', as that would work well with our stock tables and still leave a border around the actual playing surface for dice, rulers, rules, and drinks.

And we're expanding this system to include 'Battlemat'-style sheets for game tables, specifically for RPG encounters and other 'small unit' games. We've found a cheap printing source for anything up to 4' x 4', which size is much more then we'll ever need.

Comments and thoughts welcome, as always!!!

yours, chirine

1 comment:

  1. It was nice to see you, and the Lovely better half. Very interesting discussions. Hope to make visits less uncommon in the future, now that I have a kid to visit in the cities.