Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years...

<tap> <tap> <tap> Hello, is this thing on?

Urm... Hi there.  I'm back, sorta.

I've had a couple of people asking about updates to the blog.  The other day Mi Hermano Recordatorio Jonesy pointed out that it was a full month since I'd posted anything.  Then a few minutes ago I realised that he'd said that to me a month ago.

So what's happened since then?

Well I can't really explain it.  We had a great game at the Big Birthday Bash, with Jonesy, CrazyEddy, OtherChris (Not to be confused with OtherOtherChris) and the chaps from MAWS who joined us.  I have a small selection of photos on my tablet which I must get around to posting sometime.  Really it was a cracking day, and thanks to everyone involved for playing.

But then, after that... for some reason something snapped and I lost all enthusiasm for gaming.  I honestly can't say what happened exactly or why - just the figures on the painting desk and the wargames rules on the shelf.. none of them seemed to hold any appeal.  It could have been related to personal circumstances at the time - I've mentioned before about my father's ill health and how I've moved in to take care of him.  That process has escalated over the last couple of months, to the point where I'm now settled in his... now our house.. with no room presently to put up the full-size folding tables anywhere.  Dad's health has also, just this last week, taken a turn for the worse to the point where for the forseeable future I can't really leave him on his own for any significant period of time, which precludes Sunday visits to MAWS even if I wanted to.

I've just checked my Google Reader blog list, which is dominated by wargames & RPG blogs.  Only 350 unread posts.  Oops.  This may take some time to catch up on what's been happening in the wargaming blogosphere!  I haven't even visited The Miniatures Page, the Lead Adventure Forums or checked up on the state of the Very British Civil War.  I just... really can't explain why not.

So what have I been doing instead of gaming?  Well a few weeks ago I was able to get away to the Asylum Steampunk Weekend at Lincoln, which was of course quite splendid.  Lots of parading around in pseudo-Victorian gear, doing not much in particular and having far too much tea and cake.

On top of that, I have recently discovered a new passion in Flight Simulation.  It's a fascinating meta-hobby, which just like wargaming can cover a multitude of different aspects, disciplines and sub-genres.  Both are, at the end of the day, forms of Advanced Let's Pretend.  In wargaming we research our armies, model, paint, convert them, make terrain and even once in a blue moon actually play a game.  In flight-simming, we can research, aircraft, airline schedules, destinations, tinker excessively with PC software and hardware configurations, build physical simulated cockpits if budget and space allow, and even occasionally actually sim a flight.  In wargaming we can play ancients, horse and musket, modern, sci-fi, fantasy (and all the refined sub-periods and genres of these).  In flight-simming we can fly low-and-slow general aviation hopping from one grass strip to another, fly the big tubeliners to sunnier climes following checklists and procedures, fly reckless aerobatics violating as many FAA/ICAO regulations as we possibly can, or wax nostalgic in a historic bird like the DC3 or Spitfire.  You can also choose between flying in exotic, faraway places, or get a different thrill flying in your local area (with the inevitable "I can see our house from here!" moments).

I've been approaching the flight-simming with much the same spirit as I do wargaming - not deathly serious but with the aim of getting the most positive experience out of it.  As I say, the two hobbies have a lot in common - they're both dominated by the same demographic - middle aged to older males, with a few young whippersnappers.  They're both plagued by periodic discussions about whether the hobby is "dying" or not.  But I have to say after frequenting the major flight sim online forums as a newbie for the past couple of months, they are nowhere near as friendly and welcoming as wargamers.  Jonesy pointed out that it may be down to the fact that flight-simming is fundamentally a solitaire activity (though not exclusively so, in this internet enabled age), whereas wargaming is, by it's nature, fundamentally a social activity.

Anyway, after gabbing incessantly for two long paragraphs on the subject, I won't be talking about flight-simming on this blog any more (unless there is some sort of significant flightsim/wargame crossover) but if you're interested you can follow my flight-simming activities on my new blog The Couch Aviator, which I've been writing mainly as a way of sorting through my own thoughts on the subject.  I highly recommend it as another string to the "Advanced Let's Pretend" bow.  Although I have spent a lot more than I could afford a little more than perhaps I should have a certain undisclosed sum on getting my flight-sim setup up to par, I've since learned that I could quite possibly have put together a very respectable setup using my old computer and a combination of older software (MS Flight Sim 2004) and freeware add-ons for less than £40 (and that includes a £30 joystick!)

So back on the wargaming side... what's next?

Honestly I'm not sure.

I need some sort of kick up the behind to inspire me to get things moving again.  Circumstances dictate that any wargames I can manage will once again be limited to the coffee table (possibly augmented with the old 4ft square board on top)  I've got piles of unpainted lead and plastic, plus a modest selection of painted stuff (VSF/Steampunk, Street Violence and the old 25mm fantasy stuff, mainly) and I'm committed to not spending any more money in the short term.  After the Asylum weekend I resurrected the idea of organising a Little Wars-esque game for next year, using 54mm plastic figures and a set of fast-play rules like Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame, scaled up.  But I can't afford to bankroll the whole thing and would need to get other people on-board and enthused enough to put the required time and money into the project.

One idea that is kinda giving me a slight flicker of interest.  My good friend MarvinTheARVN (not his real name) is currently serving at Her Majesty's Pleasure.... no let me rephrase that... he's currently posted to foreign climes In The Service of Her Majesty.  Before he left we had a conversation about the sort of wargame he'd like to play - an ultra-modern army/operation level game using hexed terrain to avoid the need for fussy measuring.   We'd been playing a lot of Wargame: European Escalation online - the closest I've seen a computer game get to ultra-modern micro-armour wargaming - and although it went some way to scratching that itch it was still far more a game than recreation with any degree of accuracy.

I must admit I find the idea rather appealing, and with a modest collection of 1/300 micro-armour combined with the Heroscape hexed terrain tiles, I feel I should be 2/3 of the way there.  But although I'm quite familiar with the methods and equipment of modern warfighting at the small-unit level, I don't have a clue how to scale things up to the operational level in way that would be satisfactory for someone who does it in real life.  Any recommendations, thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated - it would be nice to welcome a friend home from "forn parts" with a prototype of his ideal game waiting on the tabletop.

Till next time, which I hope will be a lot sooner than the last update...

Yr Humble Correspondant

Dr Vesuvius
(Though there are some who call me.... "Chris")

(PS one of the side effects of my little "post titles from song lyrics" gag is that I often find myself hitting YouTube to refresh my memory of the song a post title came from.  Now I most recently heard this post's lyric as part of "Chap Hop History" from Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, when he totally rocked the Empire Ball at the Asylum (bizarrely he wasn't headlining, I kinda felt sorry for the band who followed him when three quarters of the audience left after his set).  But of course the lyric originally came from "Mama said knock you out" by LL Cool J.  Watching the original music video to that song, my tiny brain broke trying to connect 1991's skinny, gold chained rap-puppy with the walking brick wall playing a Navy SEAL in NCIS Los Angeles in 2012.  Funny what the years can do.)