Saturday, 22 April 2017

Does It Matter If You`re Black Or White

Does It Matter If You`re Black Or White

As Stevie is away and it being a busy week all round, and what with Salute taking place this week end. The reins were handed to me to write a quick article `filler` for the blog in his absence. Yet I sat down to write with no idea at all what I was going to write about, and so I did what I have been told is sometimes the best way to start: open a blank page and just see what wants to come out of your head once you relax, sip your coffee and allow thoughts to surface. And so I did.. and yes they did. And this is what I got to thinking about.
I`m not going anywhere with this, certainly not an antagonistic post. And I assure you I am not one of those kill joys who wants to make the hobby `politically correct` or anything. But I did make an interesting personal observation a while ago which I would like to share with you. This observation was made after watching “Glory” on DVD (I cried my eyes out because it was so sad). “Glory” is a war film, and a true story about an all Negro regiment which was raised and fought during the terrible blood bath that was The American Civil War. Watching this film got me to thinking about `black people`  (in general) with regards to how we represent them in miniature, on the wargame table.
So first I did a tiny bit of research. Wasn’t hard, there is a wealth of material for free on the internet about this stuff. But even so, after only a shallow dig into some archives I discovered a few shocking facts.
Starting with the American Civil War: 179,000 black men (10% of the entire Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of that war – and 30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in the artillery and infantry.. and many more performed non-combat support functions that sustained the army as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters all contributed to the war cause. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless thousands served as nurses, spies, and scouts.
Interestingly, similar statistics of numbers can be found a hundred years earlier in the times of the American War of Independence, but with the spread being more evenly distributed, as Negro soldiers fought both for and against the Loyalist cause. Some for Britain, some for the American Patriots.
Moving on to World War Two I didn’t dig too deeply, as the wealth of information on this was staggering, but suffice to say... without even needing to dig beyond surface level, I discovered that on D-Day alone, the First Army on Omaha and Utah Beaches included just over 2,700 African American troops. Extrapolate how many actually took part in the entire War, and I would imagine the numbers are staggering.
Finally I looked at Vietnam, where a stunning 35,000 American Negro`s actually VOLUNTEERED to sign up and fight for their county. Sickeningly the exact number of African Americans who fought in that war was (can you believe this) never actually considered important enough at the time to be recorded in the war annals. So we will never know how many there really were; though statistics would seem to imply that one in three American soldiers who fought during that conflict were actually African Americans. This is men signing up to fight for their country even though back home they were not allowed into a white man`s bar if they wanted a drink, and were expected to `give up` their seats on a public bus (without being asked) to any white person who needed it.
I stopped researching at this stage; and instead (over the next week) I started to look around the wargame tables at our two local clubs.
I saw the most amazing wargames set up on the most lavish, awe inspiring terrain tables. American Civil War, I even saw a Texan Wargame being fought, the Alamo I think it was. I sat in on a couple of incredibly beautiful American Revolution games with the most amazing forested surroundings and superbly rendered mud flats of 18th century Boston City. I took note in especial of the World War Two games.. and so it went on. And do you know what I found?  Not one Black man miniature was in sight!!!
So I turned to Zombicide. Interesting, except for miniatures of females (and even then only a couple, and I suspect even that was only because they were attractive looking with split skirts and high heels etc) again, nothing.... not a black person in sight. Oh except when it came to the Zombies, I saw a few black guy miniatures, grotesquely portrayed as evil members of the un-living monster fraternity. Actually I tell a lie, I saw one black Negro grease monkey convict hero (from the Prison Outbreak expansion) with a tyre iron and an oozy. But that was it.
WOW, I think it was the American Civil War games that shocked me the most. So much so that when I got home I started to check out all the dozens and dozens of on line wargame blogs specialising in this era.
I think out of 18 blogs specialising in American Civil War Wargaming that I looked at, before giving up in despair, I counted 8 miniatures of Negros depicted on the tables. And I`m talking 8 miniatures in total out of what I estimate was wayyyyy over 3000 beautifully rendered miniatures all told that I looked at in photographs.
I did the same for other genres of game and each time I came up with the same undeniable conclusion. Is wargaming primarily a white boys hobby?
Finally I checked out Fantasy and sci-fi. Okay not quite as bad a discrepancy ratio, but yeah.. pretty much 100 Caucasian looking miniatures, to every 1 dark skinned miniature.. and remember  I was looking mostly for hero and heroine types, not just fantasy monsters. Again like with the zombie genre, I was finding the Negro style painted miniatures were almost always black females, scantily clad and highly beautiful.
So I started looking at my own collection of miniatures. And wow, pretty much the same, conspicuous by their noticeable absence, was the lack of Negro style minis we have in our overall collection of just over 5,000* models.
{Used to be nearly 25,000 miniatures, but we culled the collection right down to a manageable size over the last five years or so}.
Okay yes, I did paint an entire brigade (I think he said it was a brigade) of Negro soldiers for Stevie`s ACW Gettysburg Union Troops. And I do notice that he has quite a few dark skinned African Colonists in his American Revolution collection.. absolutely NONE in Stevie`s World War Two Bolt Action, though: and yep, there they are again repeated, lots and lots of black guy zombies for the Zombicide game.
I`m not counting Stevie`s Zulus, `cos hes got hundreds of these, and that is meant to be Redcoats facing down zillions of semi naked African warriors - armed with spears hehe.
Last of all I started counting up all the Heroclix and Horrorclix miniatures. I found a total of 18 black guys, 7 black women, and the other 900 odd, yep, all painted as caucasian white.
So what does this all mean for me?
I like to look at myself sometimes and take note of things that matter to me. And I believe this is one such issue I most certainly am glad I am now aware of, so I can change my habit and rectify (what I see as) the shockingly huge imbalance.
For me, this means that from now on, I really, really, really will be more aware of this, and will from now on make sure I redress this thing in my painting habits, and try to represent a more realistic divide between black and white, on the games table.
I`m not sure this even needs to be addressed in our miniatures painting. Not for fantasy gaming anyway. But for those who like to play historical games (which are about representing realism, to varying degrees.. depending on the complexity of the game, the rules, and the individual gamer input) then the black to white ratio, surely, is an importantly overlooked factor for most gamers?
Quite a eye opener though isn’t it. It certainly made me sit up and think.

Article By Hils


Friday, 14 April 2017

Jurassic Dredd - unofficial prog 3

Happy Easter...Creeps!

A while ago Jez over at Carrion Crow`s Buffet {carried along on the crest of a wave for all things Dredd) made some pretty nifty Dino-Judges.... yep, you heard right: as only his mad head could invent, he come up with some 28mm Dinosaur Judge men. Course, you can’t just buy these in the shops, oh no. He had to make them himself. You can read the actual article where he modelled them by clicking on the link below.
Now, not only did he invent them for a weird alternative reality,  an alternate dimension version of the Cursed Earth, but he then proceeded to paint them, cos.... let`s face it, how do you paint a dino-judge anyway? Well the crazy inventor, himself, would be the best one to answer that little conundrum . And that`s what he did. He painted this unusual (and unique) alien species himself, with his own fair hand.
But it doesn’t stop there. Knowing we had just embarked on a strange crossover campaign involving a warped post apocalyptic version of DC comic`s Batman, intermixed with Rebellion`s sometimes disturbingly dystopian 2000AD Judge Dredd.... plus a whole bunch of other stuff as well, such as Dark Horse`s Hellboy, IDW Publishing`s Underworld, and James Cameron`s Terminator franchise (interjected with bits of Brimstone, Zombies, and a lot of Frostgrave, just for good measure), Jez then decided he would send his Justice Department Aliens to us in the post, to add a bit of fertiliser (Dino-Poo-Doo) to our newly created fledgling  miniatures rpg campaign.
What a surprise to open the lovely box and discover a whole bunch of goodies. Some cool stuff I won`t mention here {letter(s) coming Jez}, except to say wow THANKS bud *thumb up* and Hils and Tarot are grinning from ear to ear.
Originally I had intended to do a pure strain Judge Dredd campaign, but somewhere along the way this idea got axed. I say the JD world is a dystopia, and I maintain this to the last: yet disturbingly I find this does not always appear to be in a fully wholesome way. Any comic book for example which has a (supposed) law enforcement in operation which uses armed cops who use a type of round called “a double whammy” doesn’t strike me as a society which could come from anything other than the two dimensional mind of a fourteen year old. The whole thing is a little juvenile and dysfunctional on an intellectual level... a bit like Ken St. Andre`s original Tunnels and Trolls rpg rules using spells with names as diverse as “Slush Yuck,”  “Poor Baby” and Yessa Massa.” Designed for young teens, I see a disturbing similarity between this and Dredd I am afraid. But intrinsically I LOVE the whole idea of a screwed up futuristic sci-fi romp (just not the militarian dictatorship thing, or gamers all enjoying the whole “hey time for target practise” thing every time their Judge miniatures take to the streets on the gaming table. We had that in reality... it was called Apartheid.  I can`t play a game where civilians are all potential `perps` for the Judges to mow down with their arsenal of `cool boy` guns.. and look slick doing it. No, I WANT to play this type of game, but I just want to do it in a more mature and balanced way; not with the incorrect gutter school playground humour of a minor.
THIS is where Jez really tickled me pink. Alien Dino-Judges (in Dredd such a thing wouldn’t happen ever, in their racially prejudicial military dictatorship). The whole idea just works for me. So a big BIG thank you to the forth musketeer, from the other three Emerald Isle musketeers. Your gift is most aptly and appreciatively welcome.
Check out the really cool box the Dino-guys came in... looks like “Crowhouse Miniatures”have been busy indeed.

the shot, to give an idea of scale. What a lovely extra special touch this box is.

Oooh this is exciting.... I can see the heads

OOoooh these are LOVELY. I simply adore the way his style of painting so readily matches our preferred own. Uncluttered, vibrant use of colour (like the old Timpo toys of old, which we here in Ireland try to emulate in much that we do nowadays). I`d normally redo the bases to match the rest of our grey stone base collection, but you know what. Hmmm, we`re going to keep them exactly as they arrived in that cool box: they are a lovely gift and they shall remain as is. To show how much we appreciate them.
“Hey! you two, wha`d yer want... Perps?”
“We hear there`s some new boys in town, and we wanted to see them for ourselves, isn’t that right Mr J?”
"Absolutely so, my dear."
“hey what about us, we want to meet them too.”

But Quinny, my love - my dove: these new guys just aren`t FUNNY, like I am.
“Well I hear they got style, Joker man.”
Oh pooh, what would you know about style Ms Hershey?”

“Hey, WE`RE the funny guys round here!”

“Pssst! Hey, Anderson... Moon, have you heard the rumour about the new guys arriving in town?”

{2 minutes later} “But Love, I am funny.”
Tired of Mr J`s whining,
Harley Quinn heads off alone to find pen and paper so she can get Jez`s autograph.

Meanwhile - across the vast and unexplored Chult Jungle they quested. All the time, fighting monsters and terrible cultists left and right. Now... finally, their journey neared its end.

“The Gate was in sight”
Judge Brown took a tentative step forward. What was on the other side?
They all held their breaths, checking their universal translators one last time... to make sure their AA alkaline batteries were fully charged.

Judges Pink and Green look on nervously.


Blue has an idea!

“Wait a minute, dino-men”, he calls out.

Judge Blue wanders a little way into the jungle, lifts his head and emits a high pitched sound from his throat... like a chainmail glove scrapping over a disc of sheet metal (yes, an unashamed Pink Panther movie reference).  

Several Raptohounds hear, and come running.
They arrive *gulp*
“Okay, lets DO this.”
On the other side...... a lone figure stands looking at the shimmering light.
See links below to tie this in to an earlier story.
Father and Daughter Part 1 {scroll down the page a bit}
Father and Daughter Part 2
Also, Father and Daughter {scroll down the page for part 3 }
No Reptiles were harmed in the making
of this program.





Friday, 7 April 2017

Gotham: City of the Bat: A City at War - Prog 2

Gotham: City of the Bat: A City at War
Program 2: "The Shape of Things to Come"
Kane Reese landed with a jolt, almost losing his footing for a few moments.
... if landed is even the correct word? Moments before he had been the other side of the dimensional rift, and when you `go through` to the other side, sometimes the displacement would land you up to half an inch or so higher upon arrival, causing a traveller to lurch slightly to maintain balance.
Kane Instinctively  took a crouch position on one knee, and instantly turned his head left and right while he surveyed his position, taking in as much detail as he could register in the dimpsy, fading twilight before night.
He was on a street! The hard tarmac underfoot was proof of that alone, but the cold grey plascrete of the city buildings,  only confirmed his immediate senses.  Looking over his head at a wall ahead, he made out: “5th Corner Borris Bocker Block.” 
Good, he was on target.
Rising to a low stoop, he shivered in his nakedness. But he ignored the sensation. Something wasn`t right.
Where was everyone? Where were the cars, the bibbing horns, the incessant traffic and thunderous footfalls of a multitude of people in the city that never truly sleeps?
“Shit” he muttered to himself. He`d been well briefed and trained to react to a multitude of possible worst case scenarios, including fall back contingencies, should the crap hit the fan. He tilted his head to listen for distant sounds, sounds of a city under siege with itself as eight million people struggled to live within the confines (and environs) of the forty kilometre uber expanse.. called Gotham.
“Shit” he cursed, louder this time. They must have put a sound dampener on this entire block. The machines were clever like that. But if they`d done that, that meant they....... “shit they know we`re here!” Kane verbally finished his own thought.
Senses now screamed in overdrive. Silence within the block: the streets deserted (and no doubt the buildings too)... you could bet the machines had rigged some sort of false public threat. An electrical twister, a gangland bomb scare, or an underground gas leak. Didn’t matter, the point was the machines must have known the two of them were coming through, and prepared a reception committee, free from prying eyes and undue attention. But why go to such trouble?
But Kane already figured he knew the answer to that.
`They think I`m important,` He smiled to himself: `Good! They`ve taken the bait... I`m the bait. They think I`m important to John, but it’s her they really need to worry about. The fool, Skynet`s fellen for it.”
Kane started to move, sprinting for cover of a nearby wall and concealed himself behind the shadows of a dumpster container.. resting like a behemoth on the dark gritty sidewalk. His eyes searched desperately for his companion. `come on, come on where was she?` The delay was set for one minute apart, so she should be here any second. But the displacement was sometimes a little inaccurate.
Something caught his attention, and turning his head he saw a pyrotechnic light display of neon from behind the window of a nearby building, across the street from where he now crouched. Looking above the building he managed to discern “The Mercy Discount Clothing Warehouse.”  Okay, she had landed the other side of the wall, inside the building.
 Kane rose like a bullet and sprinted to the warehouse, in just moments he had stooped to pick up a ring pull from a discarded can, and had picked the simple lock. Then he was inside and calling her name: “Lambert.... Ashling Lambert?” The sound of rummaging fabric caught his ear. When he reached her, Ash was already buttoning up a bright green coat over an `off the peg` outfit she had hurriedly found and put on.

“We need to get moving.” Kane whispered to his companion, instinctively fitting himself for a pair of pants and a matching jacket.  Ash instantly started to move towards the exit.
“One moment.” Through the gloom, Kane could make out a staff partition of the warehouse, a large counter separated the main floor from more area and doors beyond. checking behind the cash register, Kane found what he was after.
“Bingooo... let`s go.”  
Kane came up with a shotgun and a box of shells. Almost as a last second thought, he reached for a rail and slipped into a long coat, placing the shotgun out of sight under the folds of his newly acquired wind-wrapper.

Kane knew where to go, he just needed to gather his bearings. He trusted John, and if his friend said the Police Station was just up the street from their landing point, it would be there. Once inside there would be no help from Captain James Gordon (the contact John Connor had instructed Kane to meet up with). The machines had seen to that by making sure the block was now deserted.  But at least inside, he would be able to access the phone lines or maybe even the deep-net, and call for `cell` backup. John had been careful to set up rebel cells in this time stream, in case of unexpected emergencies such as this.
The game
This small skirmish is actually a respectful nod to Jez (owner of the Carrion Crows Buffet blog) and his excellent small scale skirmish rules “Way of the Crow.” Jez wrote these rules late last year, and we have play tested them quite a few times on the table top at this point; and so I figured for this week`s program, we`d run out the rules once again, and put them through their paces a bit and see how they handle a sci-fi adventure based in our frightening near future post apocalypse world-verse  version of Gotham.
We used two players for this, Hils running Ashling Lambert, and our good friend Connor running Kane Reese (a made up brother of the famous Kyle Reese from the Terminator movies). I would be the game host and run the machines: in this case the dreaded T 800 model Terminator(s),  and yes I did say Terminators... plural hehe.

The game ran smoothly with no hiccups at all. Kane and Ashling worked their way through the spaghetti of road systems, looking for Precinct 21`s Police Security Station, located on a corner of Borris Bocker Block 5th Street.
Unfortunately, a Circuit of Terminators had also jumped through the dimensional rift, intent on finding Kane Reese and eliminating him as a potential future threat. John Connor had banked on Skynet having no idea yet, about the bio wiz Com-Hack.. Ms Lambert. And so by using Kane as the obvious bait, the plan was to hand the hacker over to a local rebel cell, via Police Captain James Gordon.. stationed at the rough end of the city, at BBB precinct D. From there, Gordon was to lead Ms Lambert down through the station`s undercrofts, to a paid `tosher` and guide, and from there, led safely underground to the safety of Cell17. What exactly John Connor knew about this woman, and her possible importance to the future, only he knew.
Kane and Ashling make their way through the deserted streets. Slowly wending their way towards the scruffy, semi dilapidated Police Station, located on a corner of 5th Street.
Kane surveys the road ahead, all clear?
But a lone Terminator has keyed in on the pair.
Suddenly kane and Ashling are running.. running for their lives. The Terminator jumps from the balcony with a heavy thud, and levels his weapon after the pair, rapidly vanishing into the gloom. A hail of bullets from the Terminator`s terrible mini-gun obliterates the pavement and the plascrete walls... inches behind them.
Kane pauses, pulls out the shotgun secreted under his coat, and blasts a few cartridge rounds in the direction of the steadily advancing machine.
Suddenly, there it is, the Police Station. “Quickly, get inside.” Kane screams urgently to his terrified companion.
That thing can be only moments behind.

{{We don’t worry about gaps in the terrain floor levels.. as we don’t tend to lock it down when actually playing our games. Makes it easier to lift off the various levels and get to the cool detail inside.}}

Like the rest of the streets, the Station is deserted. The pair rush to a terminal, no good, the power seems to be down throughout the entire building.

Suddenly the T800 is behind them. The whine of bullets sounds like a hum of locusts.

“Quick, up the stairs” Kane shouts to Ashling over the noise. Is this a bad move? They need to be heading down - not up? But maybe.. just maybe the roof will offer better escape for them both right now.. if they can find a fire escape ladder, they can use it to descend the outside of the building.

Kane fires another shot at the dreadful cyborg machine. Tearing chunks of flesh from its frame.

Next floor up, same old story. The area was dark and deserted. An old storage room by the looks of it.

Up.... up onto the roof.


Suddenly a second Terminator is standing there on the roof behind them. This one`s metal skeletal frame.. fully exposed.
Kane pumps round after round into the thing.
A lucky shot, there is an explosion and the Terminator comes apart in a gout of flame and sparks.
The pair barely move, rooted to the spot in sheer panic.. now turning rapidly to relief.
From the smoke, the upper torso of the Terminator crawls forward and grabs for Ashling`s leg, she screams, and Kane smashes the blunt end of his shotgun down onto the back of the thing`s head. There is a fizz, and the light of awareness leaves the machine`s eyes.
Now is their chance. Kane points to the fire escape ladder and tells his companion to head down there, then circle round and enter the building again. “Find the basement and move on down into the lower levels. Once down there, you should meet with our contact.. somewhere..”
“What about you.... Kane?”
Dont worry about me, you get down there and get to safety, I`ll lead the others off. Now Ashling, GO!”
With that, Kane vanishes out of sight, and back down the stairs leaving her staring blankly after him for a moment. The last thing Ashling hears is the crack of his shotgun coming from the depth of the building below. This spurs her into motion, and in a flurry of movement, she vaults down the fire escape ladder, two steps at a time.......
Article by Steve