Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

Professor Wilhelm von Pugh, crazed Tyrolean inventor that he was, believed passionately that the future of military vehicular transport was not wheels, tracks or even jointed legs, but his revolutionary Sprung Pneumatics (Pat Pending).

His first attempt at using them as the drive train for a walking vehicle came to a disastrous end when his prototype, dubbed "Das Tiger", suffered a malfunction and sprung uncontrollably off a nearby cliff. The Professor and his loyal manservant Ferkel managed to leap to safety in time, but the prototype ended in a fiery explosion several hundred feet below.

His Mark II prototype incorporated many safety features and showed great promise. He immediately offered it to the Imperial German high command as a sure-fire winner for the upcoming Invasion of England. Reichchancellor Bismark was unimpressed, having already invested a good deal in conventional walkers and tracked landships, but he did allow von Pugh to bring the creation along with the invasion for field trials. Unfortunately, a short-sighted logistics clerk misread the name of the vehicle, and so it was officially entered into Imperial German service as the Tigger Mk II Springenpanzer.
Along with two forward-facing Gatling guns, the Springenpanzer was fitted with a steam-powered dynamite projecting cannon, capable of hurling an explosive package over great distances. Since the Imperial German Army does not allow civilians to command armed vehicles in battle, Lieutenant Kristoph Rotkehlchen was assigned as nominal commander. In practice however, von Pugh usually winds up giving all the orders, even insisting on firing the main gun himself. Lt Rotkehlchen no longer believes this assignment to be the plum posting he once thought and disparages von Pugh as "an inventor of very little brain."

This is about as far as I've gone on the "GASLIGHT Whimsy" scale. There's a story behind this unusual vehicle. In 2003 when I went to the US for the launch of "Adventures and Expeditions by GASLIGHT", Chris Palmer, one of the two authors of GASLIGHT was kind enough to invite me to come visit him and his family for the July 4th celebrations. Well the details of that trip are documented on a blog I did to keep in touch with friends and family back home (which miraculously is still in existence despite having only been updated for three weeks some eight years ago or so).

While I was there, Chris took me around all the dollar stores and Toys R US's in his area, looking for suitable material for GASLIGHT vehicles. In one of them, I can't remember which one, I saw these bizarre "pogo stick" toys. They were basically built like the sort of pogo stick a person could ride and bounce up and down on, if they were so inclined, but scaled to about six inches. I have no idea how you would actually play with such a thing - they're a bit too small for standard doll sizes and I don't know what play value there is in just bouncing them up and down with your fingers. And to be honest, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to use them, I just felt sure that if GASLIGHT could support unicycling lancers, there ought to be some way I could use these bizarre things.

Looking over my purchases, Chris saw the pogo sticks and uttered the immortal words... "I don't have any idea how you're going to use those things."

Challenge Accepted!

Although it's taken 8 years for this to see the light of day, it's another one of those things that's sat half-completed for most of that time. The basic idea of the quad walker using the Atlantis toy part for the body and the pogo-sticks for the legs came quite quickly, as did the guns, before being put in a box and forgotten. When I took it out this year with a view to using it for 28mm, the rest all just fell into place, the Kinder egg boiler, the crew figures and even the name and colourful backstory (with apologies to A.A. Milne). It maybe looks a bit more Dieselpunk than Steampunk, but it's done now, and unless I happen to come across another set of bizarre pogo-stick toys, is likely to remain a one-off.

The most wonderful thing about the Tigger Mk II isn't just that it's the only one, but that it's actually inspired by real life. Years ago I saw footage of some research into self balancing, bouncing robots, which used pneumatic jacks to take springing steps, in the same way that I imagine the Tigger springing along.

I haven't worked out the stats for GASLIGHT yet, but I'm thinking it should be able to bounce over linear obstacles without penalty, and be able to see over cover, based on its towering form. It won't be able to train its weapons on targets closer than... eight inches maybe? The steam-dynamite gun ought to have a fairly low SRM, as it fires sticks of dynamite rather than armour-piercing shells.

More photos from the vehicle park soon.