Sunday, 19 June 2016

Game-related historical snippets

I'm reading a lot of history resources at the moment (slowly, as I need to keep a notebook on hand) and in my typical fashion this is a bit all over the place although mainly focussed on the dark ages early medieval period.

I've also at the strength of this intro at Ex Urbe started watching Borgia: Faith and Fear. That intro is fascinating in its own right (a couple of highlights: pink was for poor people, Vikings loved clown trousers), if anything after that the TV series itself is a bit of a disappointment although still worth watching. The main problem with the series is that the writing seems really clunky - characters spend an awful lot of time describing recent events to one another - but when I can overlook that it's very worthwhile for the scenery and mood.

The scenery because it's a good reminder how much more modern the Renaissance was, and hence WFRP is, than the vanilla pseudo-medieval RPG setting. Think palaces not castles - on which note, having also just watched Sam Willis' The Silk Road series, it's worth adding that the Doge's Palace in Venice is also in-period as far as WFRP is concerned.

The mood because it's great to see the cardinals being incredibly corrupt and self-serving while at the same time being devout and god-fearing (this is also a lesson I'm hoping to take on board from the Robert Low I've been reading recently, of having characters be properly influenced by their religious beliefs). Borgia is at times teaching me things I was just as happy not knowing - I'd dimly heard of the Breaking wheel in the past, I now have a much more gut-level appreciation of it thanks to the beginning of the second episode. I don't think there's anything gameable in that, but it always good to be reminded of other sorts of grim for the grim-dark.

On the early medieval side of things I'm struggling slightly to get my bearings. Thanks to Monty Python we know that in many ways the Romans were quite sophisticated, then you had the Dark Ages and then 1066 and all that. The general sweep of the period is quite easy to pick up but the day-to-day, which seems to me essential in a game setting sense, much less so.

A couple of interesting (to me, at least), and related snippets so far concern the development of agriculture. At the start of the period the two-field system was used for agriculture, but was relatively fragile leading to lower surpluses and more frequent famines. The three field system, which apparently was first used in the Loire region in the 8th century, seems to have spread slowly and erratically (both systems were in use in England in the 14th century). But the greater yields from and robustness of the latter not only reduced the likelihood of famine but in addition produced surpluses which in turn made horses more "affordable". Also the horse collar doesn't make its way to Europe until after 900AD so prior to that yoked oxen were the main source of power for ploughing and so on. Over the next few hundred years horses (being more powerful, faster, and having greater endurance) made agriculture still more efficient and made day-to-day existence less precarious.

So, oxen and famines it is!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

I covet minotaurs

A very banal piece of self-discovery, but you have to start somewhere...

When I first heard about the Diehard Kickstarter it was the undead minotaur that convinced me I had to back it. And he arrived in the post on Friday!

Diehard undead minotaur and Citadel minotaur lord
He's extremely crouched over and so a lot more imposing in person than he may seem from that picture. The detailing is lovely and I'm sure he'll be a delight to paint - I probably won't get to him this decade though... The one down side, which is purely a personal thing, is that his axe head is ridiculously large - I think I'm going to have to substitute something more in line with that held by my two minotaur lords. And I've no idea how I'm going to base him!
Citadel minotaur and minotaur lord
Speaking of minotaur lords, the original C34 lord is the figure I most coveted in my mate Ed's collection back in the day. I eventually traded with him, I don't remember on what terms, but since I got back into the hobby all I've managed to do is strip the gloopy enamel I'd started to paint over Ed's original paint job. Real life is rather interfering with hobby time at the moment, and I'm extremely behind on my Viking SAGA force, never mind getting onto anything else. One day I will get to these chaps though, and the remainder of their Marauder brethren!
All four together
The big minotaur lord on the right is another minotaur that I coveted - if in the last year I'd been putting together an eBay wish list he'd have been towards the top. Then a few months ago while sorting through a box of university-era clutter I found the Eldar scouts that I knew I had somewhere, and him (which up to that point I had no recollection of buying).
Son of Slomm with minotaur for scale
Son of Slomm was another key attraction from the Kickstarter and a properly interesting chaos something. Hints of dog and bear in there and who knows what else? And big, as you can see. The weapons again are a bit over the top for me, but I'll not be hacking this chap around.
My final non-familiar is the Eru-kin mage. I had no good reason for buying this chap, but it's an interesting figure and I've a feeling I'll end up getting some sort of sci-fi forces painted up at some point. My justification was that it's always good to have something a bit different to act as a focal point, scenario feature, contingent leader or so on. I can also see myself being tempted into putting together an Eru-kin Frostgrave warband or some such. Again, on the big side, shown above against about the biggest non-terminator marine I own (excuse the old and rather average paint job). As I don't have any other Eru-kin the scale isn't really an issue, and it's fair enough to have an alien race not be human-sized. But I'm left wondering whether it's scale creep from the last 20 years or intentional.