Sunday, March 31, 2013

Life in Miniature

It's been awhile since my last update, mostly because I've run into an existential crisis. Which mostly involves me sitting around my apartment gorging myself on chocolate chip cookies. So, in order to get myself moving again, I'm going to turn to the one constant in my life -- writing. Today, I'm going to share my other passion when it comes to gaming. Miniatures.

Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved miniatures. For example, when I went on the obligatory class trip to the Museum of Natural History (and it's really great to grow up in NYC, by the way), all the other kids were oohing and aahing over the giant dinosaur skeletons, but I was over by the dioramas. This became a pattern throughout my childhood. Historical battlefield? I'm over at the dioramas (often making "pew-pew" noises under my breath). The Ben Franklin Museum in Philly? Dioramas. I went to Ford's theater to the Lincoln museum; I thought it would've been better with a diorama of the assassination... I made my dad take me to Traintown USA outside of Lancaster, PA (the largest model train display in the country). Five times. 

So I'm walking down Main Street in Stroudsburg, PA, where I spent part of my misspent youth, one sunny afternoon and I pass by a window display filled with dioramas. There was a dude killing a dragon. A sorcerer conjuring a demon. A squad of serpentmen attacking. These were obviously dioramas, but not the kind that I'd ever seen before. These were dioramas of my psyche. I was 12. I went into the store to see what was up. It was a game store. The Encounter. 

The store owner, Mark Kielpinski, told me the dioramas in the window were for a game called D&D. And you could have your own figure for your character. He showed me the wall of miniatures. I was hooked. I left with my first miniature. It was a knight from Citadel Miniatures (back when they actually produced stuff for other games, before the Warhammer madness. Yes, I'm that old). I was to come back a few days later to give the game a try. This is how I made my best friend in High School, John Higgins (Hi, John!). But to make my point, I got into gaming because of the miniatures. 

It wasn't long before I was painting and converting my own miniatures. It drove my mother crazy. First of all, because I wasn't outside playing. This was before videogame consoles, when this was actually the expected norm for kids. Second, because I'd come bouncing downstairs with a newly finished miniature to show her, and she couldn't see them. She needed a magnifying glass. She never understood how I could work so small. (Then, the Chinese discovered that children were great at painting small details, and an industry was born). 

Hello. Were you talking to me? 

The pack is scratch-built. From four different kits.
I consider this a mediocre paint job....
When I discovered miniature wargaming, I was hooked. I have four armies for Warhammer 40K. Space Marine, Tau, Dark Eldar, and Necron. It was awesome that you could build your own armies -- just like the dioramas in museums -- and then play with them! It's that diorama quality that continues to haunt me. Whenever you see a gaming table, it's always half-painted terrain that's just plopped on the table. Because it's modular, and meant to be moved around, it tends to be, well, modular. Unbased. No rubble. It's not in situ. That's what I've always chased after. 

You can ask my friends and compatriots from LUG. I would bring in a terrain piece for our game night, and it was museum quality. I'd easily spend a month on a building. Constructed from cardboard. With details. Like the factory that had catwalks, ladders, machinery on the floor, and surrounded by industrial cast offs and whatnot. I can make credible-looking palm trees using wire, and bandages soaked in a plaster solution... In fact, all of my terrain ended up at Zombie Planet, where it's been slowly destroyed through use. 

I don't understand the point of building an urban ruin without sticking a dumpster in the alley, or maybe some trashcans. Where are the streetlamps? How about the crushed cars? It's my dream to actually make a museum-quality battlefield that you could fight on. Like maybe a miniature version of Rummel from Saving Private Ryan....

So it was a natural fit when Alyssa Faden asked me to get involved with Torn Armor. As usual when these things happen, she basically said something along the lines of "too bad you don't like miniature games," to which I replied "are you nuts?!" This is also how I got the job at LUG. Ask me about it some time. 

What I liked about Alyssa and Jack's original concept is that the game was designed to play fast. Pick your unit cards based on a gold point value, go get the miniatures associated with the card, throw down. It uses boardgame-style movement to keep things, well, moving. The miniatures themselves are stunning, and often stuff you just can't find elsewhere. And as you can see from the picture, adding terrain to this bad boy isn't that hard at all. 

The glass of wine comes extra
I urge you to give the Kickstarter for this game a look. There are only three days left before it closes out. And, at the $150 pledge level, you get a mountain of cool miniatures, like the minotaur brothers, plus a Clockwork Dragon from Reaper, plus a terrain set. And a bunch of other free stuff like maps and terrain hexes. 

I'm currently planning on fielding a Maychia Comal army, because hoplites are boring. But don't tell Alyssa this... I've been making notes for an elven army that's insane. That's one of the perks of being a game designer. You get to bring your insane ideas to life. 


Did you like this blog? Then how about doing me a favor and clicking on the link of the pretty girl on the top right of the screen and making a donation to her IndieGogo fundraiser. It's for a good cause. In fact, if you click on the link, the pretty girl will tell you what it's all about and why you should donate. 

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