Strange how life can lead one full circle. As a child I was entranced by the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for reasons both numerous and varied but one of my favorite scenes is at the very end with the two old fathers crawling around on the floor, toy soldiers lined up beautifully on both sides, throwing pots and pans at each others’ forces. Oh, but I wanted to play that and would set up my plastic army men to experiment with various missiles from marbles and rubberbands to cylinders fired from a Lego cannon (there is always room for Lego) but nothing really seemed to satisfy. Once I began painting metal and plastic figures even the idea of dice bouncing off them brought shudders and my old dreams quietly crept back to my subconsciousness.
A couple years ago my friend Tom had an idea for a game, called Wooden Wars, he wanted to play with his kids. Now, like a fair number of my friends, Tom (http://skullandcrown.blogspot.com/) is a game designer, both computer and actual, so this is nothing out of the ordinary for him. I hope he forgives me for showing the earliest test pieces. Its all part of the process after all.
Add the fact that he is also an amazing artist and one gets games that are as beautiful to play as they are to look at. What he described, rubber balls bouncing across the floor to strike lines of flat, wooden Napoleonic soldiers, instantly brought back my dreams and had my inner five year old itching to go.
That it was the very same movie scene that partially inspired him (OK, H.G. Wells was the major inspiration-for so many things) convinced me to paint my forces as the Army of the Free Republic of Vulgaria. Obviously my troops would have to be proud volunteers of the post-Bomburst revolution, clad in the emerald and violet of their homeland.
Being a long time war gamer it should be of no surprise that a fair number of my friends are into Napoleonic miniatures of various scales. While I had studied the general history of the era (birth of Nationalism and all that), had a great appreciation for the amazing spectacle a full minis battlefield can be, I had no interest in painting any of my own, let alone doing further research into the particulars.
Once Tom had handed me the first “sprue” of cannon and crew that all changed and I couldn’t get enough details of the uniforms, units, flags and stories of individuals. That Tom’s excitement for anything can be highly infectious is not to be denied (anyone play Pirates!?) and he kept steering me toward new resources.
All my ravenous interest is ironic, really, as my army is that of an imaginary country but it really crystalized my theories of lifelong learning being fueled by play and pushed me to start blogging, or pontificating as some would have.
That is a brief look at the early days of one of my favorite games. Soon I’ll be showing newer units, convention games and even exploring other planets with Queen Victoria’s Robot Wars. Until then, I leave you with a couple of convention shots in order to convey a hint of the enthusiasm this game seems to generate.