Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mr. Wells And Mr. Pratt Meet Mr. Burroughs - Thoughts On Radium Cannon, And Their Use In Games

'Keri'. off the slipway...

Well, it's been a lovely day, and I'd like to move on from all the doom and gloom. Let's introduce some people to each other, and go from there...

As has been mentioned on this blog in the past, I happen to like Barsoom and have been in the throes of building a pair of skyships based on those in "John Carter". I was looking at the film, and re-reading the books, and something struck me - air warfare, as depicted in the source materials, looks a lot like pre-dreadnought naval warfare, where one pulls up to the foe, and blasts away with one's batteries of quick-firing guns. Well, all right, I said, but how do we do this as a miniature?

Originally, I had planned to simply buy some Victorian deck guns, and get on with it. However, this has proved (for various reasons) to be not happening, so I am going to have to build a half-dozen radium cannon. Okay, no big deal; get some tubing, and build them. Enter one Mr. H. G. Wells, author of "Little Wars", and his associate Mr. Fletcher Pratt. The latter wrote and played a very good naval wargame, which like "Little Wars", is a floor game. (I keep a 100' tape measure in the game supplies for this kind of thing.)

In the spirit of these games, it occurred to me that small laser pointers are cheap, and with a little tubing added along with magnets and some hardware would do nicely as radium cannon. The idea is that if one is tired of tapes and tables, one aims the radium cannon at the intended target, locks up the mounting, and then - on the shooting phase - pushes the button to see if a hit is made. I can even get various lenses to make individual patterns for each separate beam, so one can determine ' fall of shot' more easily.

Is this all silly? And not 'serious gaming'? Yes, I think so; and I think I like it that way. It does add a little whimsey to the game - one can always fall back on tapes and tables, of course - and I like going back to the roots of our hobby. And people seem to enjoy it, so why not?

Photos of the arsenal, as soon as I get the guns painted...


  1. What a neat idea! I can't wait to hear how this worked.

    1. I shall keep you posted; the lasers all work, I have extra batteries, and I've designed the mountings. Time to hit the milling machine... :)

  2. I wonder if you are familiar with Frank Chadwick's "Space 1889". http://www.heliograph.com/space1889/
    "Role-Playing In A More Civilized Time. Everything Jules Verne should have written. Everything H. G. Wells could have written. Everything A. Conan Doyle thought of, but never published because it was too fantastic. Everything you need for adventures of the century! The Space 1889 role-playing game covers the exciting background of Victorian science fiction: ether flyers and Martian cloudships, the canals and ancient civilizations of the red planet, Venus' swamps and dinosaurs, the honeycombed interior of Luna, and the thrills of inventions and inventors: the driving force behind Victoria's multiworld empire!"

    1. Great point!!! (Yes, as a matter of fact, I am, being of A Certain Age.) :)

      I'm trying to avoid the now-conventional steampunk look to the skyships; actual Victorian technology has a lot less extra bits and bobs on it, being usually designed by pretty pragmatic engineers.

      The RPG, however, is a whee of a good time!!! :)

  3. The laser pointers sound to me like a great way to test line of sight!

    1. They are! We've been using them in games for quite a while, and I have a pretty good selection of them in the game room - some even have LED flashlights in them which make them even more useful in games.

      I'm also a big fan of the inverted periscopes from the wonderful gaming website now at: http://web.archive.org/web/20060614041903/http://zeitcom.com:80/majgen/index.html
      We use the 'scopes to see what our figures can and can not see, and it makes for really fun games.