Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dick Giordano: A Belated Tribute

Able to work with photos again since building the new computer last week, I was looking through all my old photos. I came across the photos I shot last year at Mini-MegaCon here in Orlando. It was a smaller (and quieter) version of the enormous MegaCon comic and game convention. Mini-MegaCon was also the first comic con Jeremy and I have attended.

I came across this photo of Dick Giordano of DC Comics autographing Jeremy's copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Dick passed away on March 27 this year. He is survived by his wife, Marie, who is sitting next to him in the photo.

Because the con was so small and attendance was much lighter than hoped for, media guests had a lot of time on their hands to sign autographs and chit chat with us folks. (You know you're getting old when conversations with media guests quickly shift from comics to discussing medical problems!) Anyway, Dick and Jeremy had a nice chat. Dick and his wife are just gracious people. Jeremy loves Crisis, and Dick was surprised and pleased to see a young kid excited to get an autograph on an older comic, one of Dick's favorite series he told Jeremy.

It was a real pleasure to meet Dick Giordano before he passed away. We could tell he was having a hard time that day, but he kept smiling and laughing and gladly signing autographs all afternoon. And telling stories about the good old days to a kid who likes comics from those good old days. Yeah, he was a really nice guy. A real gentleman that day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Adventures In Windows 7: Talonsoft Games

The past week in my spare time the I have been loading my game collection onto my new computer, which runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7. It has been a real treat, I say sarcastically. Before installing a game, I have gotten into the habit of searching the web for info on it and Windows 7 64-bit. That has saved me some headaches, learning how to avoid problems and learn tricks to get older 32-bit games to install and work. Or just plain give up before I try because no one can get the game to install (Beyond God & Evil for example).

Sadly, my rather large collection of old Talonsoft wargames from the 1990's will not install under the 64-bit version. The startup.exe file is not compatible, regardless of compatibility mode. This is becoming a problem with nearly all my 1990s games, such as those from Lucas Arts and others.

While these Talonsoft games are old, I always enjoyed them because they are based on miniature gaming principles and became foundational for my current gaming interests. I played Shiloh to death, obsessed on Prairie Grove for some odd reason. I also enjoyed scouring thrift stores for them, usually paying only $1 each. Only a few months before my old system died last November, I bought a large stack of "new" Talonsoft titles off a fellow on TMP for only $1 each. I finally got Antietam and Gettysburg, which I always wanted. Plus Napoleonic, WWII, and modern warfare titles. None of them install. Quite depressing. (Ok, I lost only several dollars but that is not the point! :-)

The solution? I could have installed the 32-bit version of Win7 to avoid all these problems, but that wouldn't have been very forward thinking just to play some of my favorite old games. I'm assuming here that it would work on 32-bit.

The other solution is to rig together a cheaper box using less powerful (and cheaper) components, like less memory, slower processor, and weaker graphics card since older games don't need bleeding edge components. Then install Windows XP. So create an "XP box." I am considering this. Not just because my Talonsoft games don't work, but my favorite game of all time--SimCity 4--will not work with my GTS250 graphics card. You can't even begin to understand my obsession with that game! But that is another article for another day...

So bottom line is farewell to Talonsoft games for now. On a brighter note, I can still access all the OOB data on the disks. That always comes in handy for miniature games. Right? Ah nuts. Even that glimmer of optimism doesn't cut it. Dang, I loved those games!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Does Wargaming Trivialize Conflicts and Perpetuate Stereotypes?

Reading an article on IcV2 concerning Native Americans criticizing a new board game about King Philip's War between settlers and Native Americans, I began wondering if their criticism that the game "trivializes the conflict and perpetuates Indian stereotypes" can be said for wargaming and miniature gaming in general? Learning that wargaming is my hobby, my college students have voiced similar views toward me, and said my hobby is too geeky for them.

Below is the main bulk of the IcV2 press release about MultiMan Publishing's King Philip's War. (You can read the entire release here.)

"A military board game based on the 17th Century conflict between New England settlers and Native Americans known as King Philip’s War has been criticized by some Native American groups who say that the game trivializes the conflict and perpetuates Indian stereotypes."

"According to the Associated Press, the King Philip’s War board game has still not been released.  MultiMan Publishing, which specializes in war games, plans to distribute the game once it gets enough orders to justify production.  The game was designed by Maryland social studies teacher John Poniske, who has already removed a reference in the game’s promotional materials to 'our Puritan ancestors.'"

"In the two-player game one participant wins by capturing and killing the Indian leaders King Philip (Metacom) and Canonchet, while the other can triumph by capturing Boston and the Plymouth colony.  A special die produces different combat outcomes such as ambush or massacre."

I haven't played the game. Then again, I don't think I have to play it to realize that once again a minority group is forcing others to abide by their politically correct views. Still, the issue remains. Do we trivialize warfare and perpetuate sterotypes?

Stereotypes? We Don't Need No Stinking Stereotypes!
Take Western skirmish games, for example. Currently, I am working on a Mexican bandito outfit. How many gamers portray all Mexicans as the "bad guys" in their Western games? Are they fat and lazy while the good white guys are led by John Wayne figures? Replace banditio with Indian. If gaming the Colonial period, substitute Zulu. Or sub in Afgans or Insurgents if playing a modern game, like Ambush Alley. While playing these games, do we trivialize and sterotype these people for the sake of our cheap entertainment?

My gut tells me that some gamers do. I know our hobby, like the rest of society, has its fair share of racists. I've seen and heard them. But they are a minuscule minority. The reality is that the vast majority of wargamers are decent men and women. Yes, our banditios may be a stereotype. Then again, we can say the same thing about our "John Wayne" characters. To me, that is part of the fun of pulp skirmish gaming, to have larger than life stock characters running around the table. Then again, I am the guy working on my all-girl Slaughter Sister gang, named after the twin sisters Mary and Margret (Maggie) Slaughter. Or my Kung Fu School Girl gang. (Am I sensing a disturbing trend in my choice of gangs???)

So we may have banditios or "Injuns" (there is a word for you!) in our games, but we do it all in good fun. After all, in pulp skirmish gaming, what characters are not stock stereotypes?

Trivializing Pursuits
When it comes to all out wargames, such as large-scale WWII or modern armor or even Napoleonic gaming, wargamers do not trivialize warfare. Just the opposite. Of all civilians, we wargamers appreciate the struggles and sacrifices our men and women have made over the decades and centuries so that we may be free today. Gaming keeps their memories alive. When done right, our games actually honor and memorialize their achievements, paying back in our own way the debt we own them. We are not warmongers. We are "peace-mongers." We understand the pain of warfare, admitting that if our tin soldiers were alive we would never "play" such games. We are historians. We argue over historical details so no one can rewrite our history like so many special interest groups and even nations try to do.

In reality, special interest groups trivialize conflicts. By rewriting history in order to cast shame on the brave men and women who fought for our countries, they perpetuate their own stereotypes. For example, some groups paint early settlers as "evil white men stealing land from innocent Native Americans." Is that true? Or is that simply human nature? Didn't Native Americans also war with other tribes to steal land? Well, we'll just follow the lead of special interest groups and ignore that last point, shan't we? We'll forget that power is power, regardless who wields it.

We need to cut through the political correctness if we are to survive as a society and culture. Special interest groups need to sit down with some miniature gamers. They might learn about accurately representing history instead of rewriting it. And who knows. Maybe they even might have some fun as their bandito gang kicks my Slaughter Sister gang's butt across the table? It could happen!

Your Thoughts?
What do you think out this Native American Protest over the game, King Philip's War, and the subject of wargaming promoting stereotypes and trivializing conflicts? Let me know.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Western Figures Teaser

As promised, as few quick photos of the Western figures I finished last week. I used the Cajon Pass crushed rock I mentioned in an earlier post, which you can read here. No dry brushing--just the rock and talus as-is. I think it worked well and looks much better in person than in these quick photos. I'll take more detailed photos at the first chance. The figures are all West Wind from Old Glory. Two of the figures are from Old Glory's OK Corral set, the kid in the green shirt and the fellow in the light tan hat and chaps. I think people underrate the West Wind figures. As I said, this is just a quick teaser. Better shots and how I made the bases coming soon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gettysburg: McPherson's Ridge Photos

Below are some photos from out Christmas 2008 day trip to Gettysburg. It was in the low 40's, cold for us Floridians, and extremely windy, making the observation towers like a thrill ride. Visiting in the winter and after Christmas was great--few tourists with their cars clogging the roads and bare trees allowing us really good views.

Jeremy and I had a great time. The last time we had been to the battlefield was Summer 1994, when we took Jeremy's great grandmother (my grandmother) for her first visit of the battlefield. It was an emotional trip for her, like it is for so many. She died later that year on Thanksgiving day.

These photos will probably be a bit random. I shot things so I would remember how the lay of the land looked, so I could try to capture its feel on a game table or train layout. I ignored shooting some of the famous landmarks because I knew I could get tons of such photos online. I also took detailed photos of things like various fences and rock walls so I could better model them. (I'm the same guy who takes photos of drainage ditches along railroad rights of way.) I am not a Gettysburg expert by any means, so this won't be one of those history lesson series. Just some photos I enjoy.

The Railroad Cut
This is the railroad cut running along McPherson Ridge. Being an old railroader, my first impression was that they had just laid new ballast on the tracks. This was unfinished during the battle.

McPherson's Barn
Looking west toward the famous farm. I was struck by the gently rolling hills all along McPherson's Ridge and the vast expanse of open land. I've played this scenario a dozen times, playing both Hill and Reynold's. I always have seen close-ups of the barn, but never really see long-shots of how the barn and from fit into the landscape.

How Do People Live Up Here!
I think Jeremy said that line way too many times to way too many relatives in PA. He was commenting on the cold weather and the hills. He is a real Floridian and hates anything other than flat land. This is one of my favorite shots from the day, him standing on the observation deck near McPherson's barn. The wind was really whipping, with 40mph gusts. A few months later, his braces came off.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cold Wars: A Blessing For Us

Cold Wars was a blessing for Jeremy and me. We had planned to visit PA during our Spring Break so we could visit my father, who has been given until July to live if he doesn't get a transplant. Cold Wars just happened to be the same weekend we were visiting.

As one can imagine, the trip was emotionally draining. We grew up in Eastern PA until my wife, son, and I moved to central Florida in 1997. Seeing our old home town, our old house, the places we liked to eat, the places we used to shop, the playgrounds where Jeremy played, and so on was difficult enough. Then we had to deal with the strong probability of my father's impending death.

So Cold Wars being scheduled the same week we had off from college and were visiting PA was a true blessing. We were able escape for a little while, drive from Reading to Lancaster, and take our minds off our troubles and our relatives. Play a game or two and meet some great guys in the hobby.

I had a blast meeting folks like Rob Walter from Eureka USA. Rob is a truly great guy. My wife now loves him to death, saying he's such a 'sweet man.' Talking about conventions and 15mm gaming with Rebel Mike from Rebel Minis was great fun. Same with Dave McBride from Splintered Light. Steve (nycjadie) was also a great fellow to meet face to face. I could go on and on.

I really owe such a huge thanks to John McBride. His Pride of Lions was fun in chaotic way. So many minis on one table! (Photos coming.) More importantly, he took the time on Saturday to have a great spiritual talk with me and Jeremy about my dad and our situation. It really made the entire weekend worth it. His words are still with me, helping me get through these difficult days. The other fellows above also helped me get through the weekend as well. I still can't really write a lot about it because of all the emotions swirling about inside me, but I owe everyone such a huge thanks. Who would have thought a game con would be so therapeutic?

Well, anyway here are some random photos I shot on Thursday. Don't ask why I shot what I shot! I have more photos to post later on, especially lots of Splintered Light minis.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Scenic Express Southwest Scenery

Checking the Scenic Express website for some static grass and Silfor grass tufts for my Western games, I discovered that they have an entire new section devoted to O scale (1:48) scenery perfect for those gaming the desert Southwest in 25mm.

Excited, I thought I would post it here so others might find it useful and so I would remember it. Click on the photo to go to the web page.

Being a fan of narrow gauge railroading, I have always envisioned my Western games set in northern New Mexico (Chama area on the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad) and southern Colorado. If you watch many Western movies, they often shoot their films using the Cumbres & Toltec or the Durango & Silverton.

Little known fact: during my teenage and young adult years, I used to volunteer on a tourist railroad that used steam engines. I began as a maintenance kid, cleaning train coaches and working on the track gangs. Then I progressed to the loco maintenance crew, oiling and cleaning and servicing the steam locomotives as well as cleaning the coaches. Then I spent the last two summers on the train crew as a fireman, the guy who got to shovel a ton (literally) of coal in the engine every day and take care of the locomotives at the end of the day. It would get so hot in the engine cab that one day it melted our Coke bottles we placed next to the boiler!

So my Western gaming tends to be tied closely to railroading. I'll be getting some Bachmann On30 locos and equipment for the game and my model railroading. Sorry if I rambled!