My apologies one and all, the end of any academic year is always a challenging time, but this year was even more frenetic. Virtual assemblies and farewells, reports and administrative tasks, there was even some time for teaching! Suffice to say, time was a precious commodity and it was inevitable that something had to be sacrificed and, sadly, it was this most humble of weblogs.
That's not to say that I haven't been tinkering around in the shadows, but things are about to go a little off piste. The Battle for Schloss Itter was, and still is, a massive undertaking and one that James and I are committed to bringing to the conclusion it deserves. Just before the end of term we managed to reunite the castle structure with its base board in a hope to finish off the last details before photographing the completed boards over the summer. The plan was to work on it in the evenings of the final week at school, but I just didn't have the time and now, having returned to the Sunshine Coast and the sanctuary of Awdry Towers, the project remains unfinished. If I am honest, I simply needed a break and that's what I have decided to do.
I have resolved to catch up with some long overdue posts of miniatures started over a year ago as well as indulge in a diversion that has been bubbling under the surface for a while now. Expect, of the summer months, a hugely eclectic mix of periods, ideas and projects as I look to tidy up some loose ends. As will become abundantly clear there is no scheduled plan, no themed months, just fun as I flit like a hobby butterfly from one idea to the next.
Now to start things off, I need your help, but here too lies a tale. I have always enjoyed the escapism of the motion picture, the wonder of being transported to galaxy far, far away or the opportunity to capture a bridge too far. Being a child of the video age this escapism had a seemingly never ending mine of material, provided you were prepared to peer through the stygian gloom, suffer the inaudible dialogue and run the risk of debilitating migraines brought on by flickering tracking; how we miss those halcyon days of the 1980s video rentals!
When young Master Awdry wasn't being terrified witless by the latest celluloid slasher he was plunged into the jungles of the far east, rescuing forgotten P.O.W.s or stemming the tide of Communist incursion, winning the day against all odds. Vietnam became synonymous with action and adventure, a place where camaraderie overcame bigotry and bravery was issued with frag grenades. With the onset of age, if not wisdom, I am aware that these cinematic exploits couldn't have been further from the truth and that the Vietnam, or second Indochina War, was a complex, brutal and seemingly endless conflict that cost the lives of countless soldiers and civilians.
The fascination with the period is difficult to pin down, but undoubtedly had something to do with films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. These undeniable masterpieces would portray a struggle that would often go beyond the conflict on the ground and, being a sensitive sort of chap, would strike a chord with my awkward sensibilities. Add to this an intoxicating blend of rock 'n' roll and high explosive ordnance, all stirred together with the rotor blades of the ubiquitous 'Huey' and you had a cocktail that may a teenage boy found difficult to resist.
So why has these bubbled to the surface now? Again it's difficult to say with any degree of certainty, but one catalyst might be the release of several ranges of finely sculpted miniatures. These have certainly caught my eye and a rather serendipitous series of posts by Martin Thornton on his wonderfully entertaining blog, 'The Life and Times of Mad Lord Snapcase' has seen me slowly build a fledging collection, nominally around the aforementioned films.
Finally, then, to the somewhat circuitous point of the post, to what end? How do I get to play with my toys? I have in mind a rather bespoke, intimate affair and relatively small scale. A handful of miniatures, a narrative or mission framed by the conflict in Vietnam, but not beholden to it. I would like to roll dice or draw cards, feel the apprehension build as we edge through the steaming jungles or witness the firepower of a barrage directed by troops on the ground. Does this already exist or is there perhaps something that can be adapted to my needs?
I imagine this to be very much an ongoing project, the scale of which allowing it to be delved into at any given time without too much trouble. I already have some jungle, built for the Congo games, but could see several scenarios framed around locations that might include the P.O.W. camp, the Temple, the Delta, the City, the Firebase, the abandoned Plantation and the Village, all of which will prick a memory of a film or historic battle. The concept is very much to draw on the conflict, but not to be restricted by it historically, in doing so avoiding the grim reality of the war itself. I am only too aware that the Vietnam War, is to many, a recent conflict and would certainly not want to belittle the sacrifices made. This somewhat bubblegum approach is a bid to put some creative distance between the realities of war and tabletop entrainment; it should also allow me to sidestep the button counters and history police, keeping fun at the fore.
So your ideas please, what can I use as a starting point, or for that matter is there already a game system that incorporates these ideas? As always your thoughts and suggestions would be gratefully received.