Friday, 11 January 2008

Building Kitschberg and Angstlust

Supplies have begun accumulating in the Williams household. And I'm not just talking about the mad rush to get everything we need in time for the imminent arrival of baby.

On the spare bed I have piled five red and five blue folders, a mixture of ring-binder and arch-lever. Red is for the Principality of Angstlust under Prince Ferdinand, and Blue will contain the Grand Duchy of Kitschberg under Grand Duke Siegfried. These will hold the army stats, personality details, messages sent, and the overall campaign notes. Although I aim to make this a narrative-heavy solo campaign, I do acknowledge that the stat-kid part of me loves to record data and chart the statistics of things.

Next to these folders is a big black box file, where my rules will live. Big enough to house commercial rulesets plus any house rules I may write, the box file is handy in that it can store dice, rubber bands, ruler, etc. BAR (Batailles de l'Ancien Regime) arrived in the post the other day, and I had a quick skim through over a cup of tea when I got in from work, before I had to sit down with a few dozen papers to mark. I have also put a copy of En Garde! in this box file, plus some of my own notes on duelling in Kitschberg.

Also on the spare bed is a plastic crate, which is starting to fill up with wargaming books and materials. As we are building, books are liable to get moved, separated, and perhaps even stored safely away in a box that unfortunately won't get opened for months if not years. To avoid all my wargaming stuff going walkabout, and to keep it handy and mobile in case I get a chance to do an hour's work here or there on my campaign, it's all going to live in the crate. Books by Asquith, Featherstone, Bath, Grant etc., along with flat cereal box cardboard ready to turn into buildings.

Next to the crate, ready to be stored in it, are several boxes of Ultra-Pro Card Protectors, the heavier kind used to protect cards that will see plenty of use. I have enough here to protect my deck of playing cards and a couple of hundred 'special' cards that I might create over time.

The thing I consider to be the masterstroke however, is enlisting the aid of the head of Art at the school I teach at. In my break and before and after work I now have a place to sneak off to, where I can build (and most importantly, store) my home-built terrain and buildings. Huzzah! As soon as I have anything worth showing, I'll post up some pictures.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

BAR has arrived!

BAR came in the post today (incredibly swift international service from Bill Protz! Thanks!) and was waiting for me when I arrived home from work. Grand Duchess Judith was hovering about when I opened it, and made me a cup of tea to drink while I read through it and discussed various construction issues regarding the extension to our castle. A remarkable lady, to be just a few weeks away from the birth of our firstborn and yet still be so calm and accepting of my crazy hobby.

I have several dozen papers to mark so I didn't spend too long with BAR, but my initial impressions are very positive. The author's writing style is very inclusive, and soon had me persuaded that pretty much whatever I did with his rules was a good idea. I particularly liked the way he persuaded me to start small for now and aim to grow bigger later - on p.7 those pairings of small battalions painted with both regimental and colonel's colours struck me as a neat solution for flexibility. I had no idea that the idea of sitting down to design these uniforms was going to appeal to me so much!

Overall I get the impresion that BAR is very flexible (good news to me, who does not yet really know what he wants to achieve), and also is a very interesting set of rules. I find this very welcome, as there is nothing quite like being interested and motivated to really read and get into a rulebook. I also like the fact that the rules constantly remind me to alter anything about them according to my own personal preferences and/or available equipment. As a previously cardboard-only wargamer who predominantly played monolithic rules such as Advanced Squad Leader, I am experiencing a great feeling of liberation with BAR!

I have had some great advice from lots of you out there too, which I thank you for. I think that at some point I shall probably buy and paint some Spencer Smith miniatures, but I'll hold fire for now and spend a while thinking about my beloved nations and their histories, then designing their uniforms and unit regalia, before I finally take the plunge and put the brush to the metal.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Duelling in Kitschberg

As the late King Alberich often said, "You insult me sir, and I demand satisfaction." During his lifetime, Alberich fought some thirty-seven documented duels, and is rumoured to have fought many more impromptu ones. His favour for duelling ensured that the most fashionable Kitschbergers took up their weapons and settled their disputes in this way. The result? Duelling is now endemic in Kitschberg culture. The highest profile duels attract large spectator crowds at dawn and during the daytime, and in the dark of night countless accusations of adultery and dishonour are quietly settled in a flurry of blades and the drawing of blood. Only a silent scar survives to mark that something was once amiss.

The pfennig cheapsheets eagerly scandalise the lives of duellists, and have taken to recording each duel and tallying the counts* of Kitschberg's most successful. Current top ranking duellist Otto von Mundtot has fought and won twenty-eight duels to date. Of those, twenty-six have been fought to first blood. The other two were infamously to the death, a practice which has since flourished despite an outcry for it to be outlawed. Although such duels are rumoured to take place in secret from time to time, it is currently very fashionable to challenge one's wife's lover 'to the death' in public.

Karl Kampfbegriff, von Mundtot's nearest duelling rival, has been overheard lamenting the cost to Kitschberg's officer classes of this fatal trend, but so far at least, his voice is in a minority.

*What will be the consequences for my gaming? Well, once in a while I shall indulge in a 'sidebar' game where a plot thread will be progressed or resolved by playing out a duel. I am toying with a solitaire version of the En Garde! duelling rules which would involve writing orders in advance. Alternatively, I recall once owning a copy of The Duel, a set of fantasy duelling rules but ones I seem to remember having a lot of fun with 10 or 15 years ago. Using these rules the duelling would be much more dynamic and exciting. Next time I visit my storage unit, I'll root through a few boxes to see if I can find them for a try out. The main thing though, will be to track duellists' honour, due causes, and won/lost record.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Annus Horribilis

In the annals of the Kingdom of Himmelbad, the late King Alberich III was acknowledged to be the grand unifier who finally brought together the warring bloodlines and regions. Indeed, Alberich's greatness came mainly from the battles that he fought and won in order to unify his kingdom.

When Alberich died (some say he died of a broken heart due to the strain of keeping the kingdom together), he subdivided his kingdom between each of his children. Why he did this has been the subject of endless debate.

Some have said that Alberich wanted his successor to unify the kingdom just like he had, and so splintered it so that any potential heir would be forced to prove their worth. Certainly it appears that his eldest son Ferdinand believed this to be true. Others whisper that Alberich was fearful of giving too much power to Ferdinand, and so diluted the inheritance by creating each of the brothers and sisters as ruler of their own portion, as a counter-balance to Ferdinand's ambition.

Ferdinand, for his part, was furious at this subinfeudalisation, and could not contain his ire. And so it was that, in an audacious bid for power, Ferdinand declared 'Year Zero' in his first 'Royal' decree, and set in motion events to have himself crowned Ferdinand I, King of Himmelbad.

The Process

I've not done anything like this just for my own pleasure since I was a kid, when I used to (have more time!) make up imaginary worlds and stories, draw up forces and fight battles, and write the histories of the characters and cultures. OK, so I have since roleplayed; but that was with others and for others (I was GM 99.99% of the time). OK, so this is a public blog interacting with others through EvE; but that's just icing on the cake - I'm doing this because it looks like a lot of fun!

The bottom line is - I don't really know what I am doing, and I am having a great time working it all out! The best part? I don't have anything yet. I don't have anything except this blog and the inspiration of all the other blogging folk who have made what they are doing look so interesting and such fun that I simply had to do it too.

I don't have anywhere to set up a game yet. I live with my partner and two dogs in a tiny cramped cottage, with nowhere to set up a wargame. I marvel at the photos I see of (mainly online) friends who have massive amounts of space, even whole rooms dedicated to their hobby. This is quite a big deal, but I have found a way to deal with it, at least for the moment, because.....

I don't have any miniatures yet, and I don't have any terrain or scenery. So naturally I can have fun doing all sorts of virtual and on-paper planning and design until I do acquire some.

I don't really know what rules to use yet. I have seen plenty of titles mentioned, so I will have to try a few and see. I can always make up my own.

So at this point I am so excited as everything is bursting with potential. What am I doing about it? Well...

I'm building a games workshop. More like a glorified shed actually. My partner and I joke about it and call it 'the studio'. The shed won't get started on just yet though, as it has to wait until after...

I'm building an extension to the cottage. A couple more rooms and crucially, a hallway where one side will be lined with bookshelves. Huzzah!

I'm scouting for miniatures within my budget, and terrain that I can build. I don't have much money and I need to get a pair of flexible armies together, plus paints, brushes etc. I'm sure I will buy some terrain, trees, scale houses etc. eventually, but for now I think I'll make my own. I saw a great 6' by 4' European Fields playmat by Eric Hotz, but maybe I'll try and make one of those too.

I have some rules on order. My main criteria were fun and ease of use for a novice like me, so I looked around at lots of rules before plumping for BAR (Batailles de l'Ancien Regime) by Bill Protz at Old Regime Rules. From what I have read, these rules will suit me straight away and they will grow with me as I get more experience. When they arrive I'll comment here regarding how well they suit my purposes.

So that's my current situation report. I'm off now to have a cup of tea, read a few entertaining blogs (and by gosh there are many!), and see if I can work out what miniatures I want and can afford!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Blood and Water

In the eye of my mind they are all still there though all these years have since passed, and many are dead, and I too am on my deathbed just like great Alberich was that day. There I see Ferdinand turning away from his father’s weak body, with its head raised on the royal pillow of golden threaded silks, too weak to sip the water being offered by the physician. In mid-turn, Ferdinand’s mouth is already half smiling, as if even then he knew that he would soon be dead himself and his father’s kingdoms torn apart by the children at war, even though his last words to his dying father were those giving on his honour a promise that they would all live in peace with one another. There too with her head bowed is Alberich's only daughter, Ferdinand’s sister, Isabella, grieving her great loss. Does she also weep because she knows how she and her brothers will make war upon one another and destroy the unity their father created? There also is the blank face of Gustav, who never thought his father who was so great in life could be so incapable in death, and actually die. He was destined to rule his part of his father’s kingdom in the same way as he looked then, it was never in his heart that he could live up to his father, and he was lost without him. Look, there is Siegfried, much beloved of his father Alberich, but what good will it do him now, with nothing to shield him from Ferdinand’s hatred? And yes I see too the eager grin of Ruprecht the bastard, who because of his ill-birth had abandoned all hope of inheritance or recognition. I am sorry Ruprecht, I did think then that you were the cuckoo in the nest and the cause of all the troubles that soon came upon us all. I now know that it was Ferdinand’s hand that did all this. And there is King Alberich III the Great, his lips wet and reddened with his own blood, still barely breathing and wondering which breath will be the last, with his earthly eyes on his wayward children, and his thoughts already at the gates of Heaven. Why did the Lord take you from us so soon Alberich? Life became so terrible for us after your passing.


Everybody knows, and any decent history book shows, that the Grand Duchy of Kitschberg was situated somewhere between East Prussia and Russia sometime between 1719 and 1787.

Although historians ceaselessly debate its relevance to and influence on the military and political landscape before it was reabsorbed into the fatherland, all agree that this brief flowering of independence under Grand Duke Siegfried was one of the most dramatic and exciting episodes in 18th Century history.

This humble chronicle charts the many historical twists and turns of the wonderful homeland described by eminent historians as variously 'picturesque', 'bohemian', 'institutionally duellist', 'polite' and 'the most violent'. Readers are invited to explore this little-known part of the world, and we sincerely hope that what they discover will bring them great delight.

The Grand Duchy of Kitschberg is of course an ImagiNation on the continent of Urope. Provided that you don't let on to your children, we'll keep sending the presents each year, OK?