Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Very Personal Note - Why Ral Partha Is So Much A Part Of My Life...

My leaden alter ego and his deck chair...

If I may, I'd like to take a few moments this fine morning to tell you why the return of Ral Partha s a miniatures company is so very important to me. I'll try not to be too boring...

When I first came to the Twin Cities in 1975, 'the miniatures hobby', let alone 'the miniatures industry' hardly existed in this country. What little gaming I had done had been with - gasp! - Tamiya and Monogram 1/35 and 1/32 models, played out on gym floors with Charles Grant's rules. Shortly after I finished high school, I discovered 1/72 ROCO Minitanks and Arfix packs of figures. My games were never the same, again; we could play on a real table, instead of the floor!!! Amazing!!!

And then I found out about The Little Tin Soldier Shoppe, located on Lake Street in Minneapolis. I discovered what there was of 20mm and 25mm metal figures specifically intended for use in war games; I didn't really like much of what was available, as I wasn't much into 'classic' Tolkein-esque fantasy and the games that were based on it. I did like 'historicals', and I enjoyed painting them - I did a set of all of the people I knew in the then-beginning SCA at the time, in all their heraldic glory. And then, one day, I saw some bright - lurid, really! - orange and green card headers on some poly bags with the first Tekumel figures from Old Guard in them. I bought some, then bought all of the available publications so that I could get the paint job done as accurately as possible; in short, I discovered Tekumel. I've been there ever since.

I was invited out to Prof. Barker's shortly after that, to help him paint his figures. I stayed, for quite a while; in some ways I haven't left.

The 'custom of the house' in our games out at Phil's, was that everyone playing was represented by their own 'personality figure', a term of art inherited from our wargaming. We needed figures on a weekly basis, and I had my hands full trying to keep pace with our adventures.

And then I saw some small boxes, printed with 'Ral Partha' on them; inside were figures like we'd never, ever, seen before. Finely detailed, nicely cast, and of all sorts of 'fantasy' subjects that fit in perfectly with our adventures in Phil's Tekumel. These figures very quickly became the standard for our game play, and I used literally hundreds of them for our tabletop game sessions. We didn't care much if the box was labelled "Trill"; for us, it was a fearsome Hra, the life-sucking undead of the Temple of Sarku; a "Hill Troll" was a Dzor, and as such to be avoided.

Some of these figures were immortalized in Phil's novels - there's a scene in "Man of Gold" where the hero and heroine are being chased along  a narrow ledge high above the floor in the Temple of Sarku by Vorodla, the flying Undead; Phil used as his models my painted "Goblin War Party"; three flying goblins with Indo-Persian weapons, helmets, and a buckler that was a perfect match to the one Phil had hanging in his dining room. I still have them; much loved, much played with, and much feared by my players. I found them some reinforcements, a few year back, and I'm getting them all up on clear acrylic 'flight stands' for our games.

We played, we imagined, we dreamed; and the little leaden figures from Ral Partha made our dreams come true as we ran our games.

I grew up, both as a gamer and a person with Ral Partha; those figures gave us some wonderful times and memories. When I heard that the company had shut their doors, I felt like I had lost both an old friend and a portion of my life.

Hearing that Ral Partha is back has energized my gaming and my painting. While that's great news for me, my players may not be so thrilled - back in the day, I used to study the new Ral Partha catalogs to see what Phil might be throwing at us next. He liked to see the looks on our faces as some new fanged horror showed up on the table, and I must confess I did love it as well; we had a lot of fun, seeing what he'd come up with next.

Ral Partha is back, and I think a lot of the old style of gaming that we so enjoyed 'back in the day' is coming back with all these little lead people...