Have you ever come across a line of figures that, really, you’d love to game with because they’re just fantastic, but there’s no real *game* associated with them? This happens to me frequently. There they sit, on the shelf, trying to send you a message and getting under your skin. Like wearing too-tight underwear, it gets annoying, but not in that bad way.
Some TEN years ago I found the perfect Flashman figures. (if the Flashman reference is vague to you, read here, then go and read the books and thank me). They were made by Chiltern miniatures, which appears to have ceased being an independent concern back in 2012. They were beautiful and huge. Not really 28mm, more like 33mm, and not matching anything I currently had in my collection, which was on the upper side of 25mm and lower side of 28mm. They were posed exactly like the old illustrations of the novels. Go to Amazon.com to see the comparison, and check against published pictures here, here and here. It’s impressive sculpting. I loved them and if you read the 2005 blog post, I bought every one of them, admired them, then put them in a drawer.
Why? It’s a favorite character of mine, isn’t it? Sure it is. The problem is how they are cast. I could overcome the “they are huge” factor by fudging here and there, that’s not the real issue. It’s just.. what KIND of game would they ever be used in? A small skirmish? Really? Sure, Flashman is bellicose, but he’s really sculpted for a tableau here– I doubt there are many shoot-em-up war games that require a figure dressed in cricket togs or as the Crown Prince of Denmark. I’m sure I could jam a figure into a full up skirmish game but he’s really sculpted to accompany figures from a pre-defined narrative.. the books. So we’re back to where we started.. what kind of game could I make from these? A roleplaying game set in the 19th Century British Empire? Now that’s possible. Sadly that might require a much bigger supporting cast of figures, and since most of the Chiltern figures didn’t match anything else of mine, into a drawer they went. Maybe I’ll flea market them some day. The problem was I just couldn’t make a game out them.. and not being a rare figure collector, what’s the point?
The pre-written narrative is the challenge. If it’s too restrictive, you can only do so much with it. Another example.. I found a bunch of figures that were designed for Army of Darkness. These were from Leading Edge, a company that specialized in reproducing miniatures directly from science fiction and horror films. I think they are out of business, as well.
Well, there’s the rub.. I could definitely make a game out of it. And that game would have to be something pretty close to “A bunch of undead critters storm a medieval castle in search of an unholy book to steal”. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind that premise, I LOVE Army of Darkness’ final battle sequence. I just can’t see making any OTHER game than the scenario these figures were cast specifically for. I can easily find dozens of skellies, zombies and such in roughly the right scale, and paint them up. I even have a Warhammer Mighty Fortress that might do the trick for the castle. But, but.. is there any OTHER kind of game I could make here? Probably a few smaller scale ideas like skirmish games and such. Ash at the Windmill.. Ash in the desert.. etc. But it would always be what it is, a game about the movie Army of Darkness.. not a bad objective, but it isn’t flexible.
When I was at Fall-IN! 2015, I finally bought a few packs of figures I’ve been passing by for a couple years now. These are in the pulp range in 28mm:
In case you haven’t figure it out, these are figures of: Orthodox priests, Monty Python’s “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition” figures, More modern priests and altar boy figures, Middle Eastern Women with Burkhas, and Orthodox Jews. All with guns.
I’ve loved this line for a long time, and I knew someday I’d buy them (and others like them), it’s just the age old problem.. “Sure these are great figures, but what kind of game can you make with them?” And after having a palaver with Otto Schmidt last weekend, we hit upon a great idea for a game that could every one of these figures and more like them:
What if the Apocalypse had happened? Just not the one you were expecting? What if.. everyone in this figure line was a character in Heaven? Yes, that heaven. Fluffy clouds, Doric Columns, Harp playing (if you want). I love this idea.. the figures are sculpted as if ready for a big gunfight. They all are playing into perceptions of Intolerance.. as if the player is getting a message that ‘to WIN, I must start shooting the nearest THEM group”. What if that wasn’t “winning” at all? What would they do? After all, they are in heaven. God wouldn’t want them to kill each other. It’s heaven! They made the grade! They are here, they made it!
“But, but but… what about that group of people over there? Aren’t I supposed to, you know, hate them?” The ensuing game could be a lot of fun, but I could see where people might resent it. Still, I like the idea and I’m going forward with it. I just need to buy some suicide bombers and virgins now.