Sunday, 23 November 2014

Works in Progress - Gargants

A few pictures here of my latest project. When Games Workshop finally killed off Epic and the other specialist games, I took the opportunity to buy up a last few bits and bobs. But, nevertheless, there were still a few bits and bobs I didn't pick up. One of which was the Super Stompa, the second smallest of the Ork Titans/walker-based war engines.

I've thought for a while that it would be possible to build Gargants and/or Stompas using the current Warhammer 40,000 Killer-kans boxed set. And last weekend, at Warfare Reading, I finally picked up a box.

This was my first attempt at a Super Stompa

This is pretty much all Killer-Kan bits. The legs were cut down shorter and the head comes from the top of a Black Ork banner pole. The shoulder mounted buzz-saw was inspired by the old Mekboy Gargant model.

The shoulder mount came from my bits box, I honestly have no idea where it came from.

Unfortunately, this model turned out to be slightly bigger than a standard Gargant.

So I promoted him to a full scale Gargant, with two Soopa-guns and a Mega-choppa. He doesn't have the standard Gargant belly gun, but he was made by Orks so there's no requirement for consistency.

Having used up one Killer-Kan body, two guns and one close combat arm, I decided to take a different approach. Even cut down the legs were too long and the guns were too big. But I still thought I could use the bodies and the feet. So I improvised with other pieces from my bits box.

The heads are left over boss heads from fantasy Orks. The arms are made from parts of Killer-Kan legs. The guns were improvised from Killer-Kan bits, a plastic battle wagon and the gun from an old Mega-Gargant. The Axe from the right Super Stompa also comes from the Black Ork boxed set, which has been pretty useful.

My final plan was to upgrade my old Mega Gargant. I never liked the Mega Gargant model. The body and head were fine, but I thought the arms and additional weapons were too spindly.

I had long since cannibalised my Mega Gargant for parts, but I managed to dig out the frame of one of them.

I added two Killer-Kan close combat arms and shoulder mounted two of the Killer-Kan weapons.

The ram is from an old Imperial Guard tank accessory sprue.

I added two of the exhaust boxes from the Killer-Kans to the back in order to bulk it up. I couldn't find all of the original guns from the stomach, so I will either have to find them or replace them some how.

No I just have to paint them along with the several hundred other Epic Orks I have lying around.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fleeting Pleasures

My birthday has come and gone for another year and I seem to have been caught up in a wave, or maybe just a puddle of nostalgia.

With the Amazon Voucher generously provided by my sister I acquired this.

A history of the Fighting Fantasy game books. And, shortly after my birthday I went along to see Knightmare Live, a comedy stage show based on the old children's series Knightmare.

 It was more exciting on TV

For anyone unfamiliar with either of those, the Fighting Fantasy game books were created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the founders of Games Workshop. They were essentially a variant of the 'choose your own adventure' genre of books in which the book is divided into numbered sections. The reader reads the first section, they are then given a choice and continue reading from the numbered section corresponding to the choice. In that sense, they control the flow of the story.

The Fighting Fantasy books added a basic role-playing element. The reader or player first randomly generates a simple character using 6 sided dice and periodically, throughout the book, they encounter monsters they must fight using a simple combat system. This adds a game element to the books, hence the name game book. The books were originally published from 1982 to 1995 and the re-published from 2002.

Knightmare, was a TV series broadcast by ITV as part of it's Children's ITV strand between 1987 and 1994. It was essentially a hybrid game show in which a team of four, usually children or teenagers, would attempt to beat the 'dungeon'. One member of the team would don the 'Helmet of Justice' which would almost entirely obscure their vision (because Justice is blind, see what they did there?). They would then be pushed into a green screen environment, with the remaining three acting as advisers, watching on a monitor and telling them what to do.

Both of these had a big impact on my childhood and early teenage years and the audience for Knightmare Live was made up almost entirely of people my age.

Both arose at around the time that Roleplaying in the UK peaked, but their development also parallelled the rise of home computer games in the UK, with them dying out as the Playstation era began (Fighting Fantasy returned in 2002, but was never as successful and the audience for the 20th anniversary book 'Blood of the Zombie' was made up of nostalgic adults more than children).

Looking at the Fighting Fantasy books with their, often, multiple pages of background, illustrated maps and elaborate fantasy illustrations (one of the key draws of the series was it use of serious fantasy artwork) I'm reminded of the manuals for 8 bit Spectrum computer games. These often compensated for the limitations of the on-screen visuals with elaborate art work and full colour printed maps. Story information that would now be conveyed in a video sequence was then packed into near novel length text (or in some cases actual novels).

 The map from the Spectrum game Tir Na Nog could have come straight from a Fighting Fantasy book

...and looks a bit more impressive the screen shots

The point is that the computer game players of this era were used to doing some imaginative work. They were used to somewhat abstract visuals and that games wouldn't exactly represent reality. Translating these ideas to book form was not much of a stretch.

Knightmare, in contrast, revelled in the fact that, with a television budget, it could offer what computer games could only aspire to provide, an interactive fantasy world. It's early computer graphics and green-screen effects, though primitive by modern standards, were well beyond anything that computers could provide.

It's hardly surprising that as computer and video games developed the appeal of both declined. By the Playstation era, games could create interactive 3D environments, albeit ones that look crude compared to the capabilities of current consoles. The effect was still to create a game world far more immersive than anything that had gone before.

The window of opportunity for both Fighting Fantasy and Knightmare to be successful was really quite narrow. Both were raised up and brought low by video gaming technology. They were dependent on a world where video games expanded the idea of what a game could be, but became redundant as video games truly achieved their potential.

I was fortunate in that that window fell straight across my childhood, a little younger or a little older and I might have missed them entirely. And yet they were hugely important to me, and, I suspect to my generation of gamers, influencing my taste in wargaming and video gaming years later.

And so I feel enormously privileged to have been born at exactly the right time for both of them.