Porky’s Wild Bore – The name’s Grimdark, Arnold J Grimdark?
Double-dutch Porky here, on a mission from L and with licence to riff, off the House blogrolls.
Let’s start with some battleships on review. Gus at EPIC ADDICTION has been posting about a bastion fleet for Battlefleet Gothic, and this week covered the hybrid Vengeance class and the huge Apocalypse class.
That wasn’t all the BFG either, with Gemana posting a battle report a couple of days ago, with the imperial navy versus the grey knights. Maybe there’s more I missed.
Great blogs, popular game; another one kept alive by the fans. For now though let’s take a closer look at those miniatures.
They represent ships that operate in a vacuum. Freed from the constraints of aerodynamics and directionality in terms of gravity, they could have been drawn and sculpted by their artists to pretty much any form allowed by the imaginary world.
So how is it that so many of the better-known starship designs turn out looking essentially so similar, and often rigid; possibly curvilinear but often elongated and maybe tapering, and many with defined or pronounced heads. Are they perhaps ever so slightly phallic?
Maybe. It might be argued though that many fantastical starships, these days at least, seem based less on the male organs than on ranged weapons. Aliens has a classic of course, and maybe a wellspring given how seminal the film has been as a whole. If so, this is at least consistent, because in plenty of fantastical fictions the starship actually is a ranged weapon. It may be a means of projecting life, by sustaining or delivering a community, but it’s often also projecting death.
But then fantastical ranged weapons themselves might also seem quite phallic. Even where they’re based on real-world designs, those real-world designs can and do function as symbols not only of death, but of the ability to impose the will of the wielder, or the wielder’s sponsor, in pursuit of this or that set of claims; as symbols of competition, and control over the spread of memes and genes.
Interestingly, variation in the design of fantastical ranged weaponry often manifests in muzzle or nozzle shape, and lateral elements like the position and form of the magazine, feed or power pack, and any cranks or grips. Think about the abstract form the male hardware tends to take when it’s scrawled as simple graffiti, whether on walls or textbooks, and superimpose that on your choice of sculpted fantastical weapon, or starship for that matter.
This is going somewhere, but for the moment let’s take a step back to a presumably simpler age, however fantastical or far off in time and space.
How about that for giving an older game a new lease of life?
HeroQuest seems to have been a key factor in getting a lot of players into the hobby. Not so much because it was inexpensive – which is a major argument for an entry-level product these days – but because it was more mainstream: like Space Crusade and the later Battle Masters it was available at big high street outlets and advertised on TV. In the days of just a handful of terrestrial channels, in the UK at least, that was a big deal. Board games can be fun for the whole family as well, and useful for the British rainy day. Plus it was classic pulp, a generally accepted kind of fictional troublemaking, with monsters to best or slay and wealth to be won.
But why would so many players who did start with HeroQuest not just stop at the board game? The same question could be asked of the players who started by flicking through a games mag or peering through the window of the local store. Why did so many of us actually get involved in the more demanding tiers of gaming, and go on to buy, build and paint dozens or hundreds of models and the terrain to play them over, and learn rules and supplementary rules, then spend more hours, maybe whole weekends, actually using them? That’s a massive investment.
More generally, why even play at tomb-raiding, or bloody clashes on imagined fields of battle, or interstellar conquest? Why spend so much time representing these things in miniature, and in the abstract, and mastering that miniaturised and abstracted version?
Instead of, say, becoming a real-life cadet, developing more fully real-world physical attributes, building genuine devices and structures and developing truly new technologies, getting out into our nature, meeting the actual other lifeforms that live on our world and engaging with them, and properly adventuring with real characters of diverse authentic backgrounds and genders, maybe even chopping firewood etc.
Of course, we can do these things as well as game them, in theory. What’s the correlation like in your gaming group?
Delving back into the fiction, maybe the Duane Dibbley isn’t so far from the Cat, or the Ace Rimmer from the Arnold?
Before we get to whatever the main thrust of this post might be, a post at The Hobby Ambit this past week demonstrates how other interests can easily overlap with gaming, with TheAmbit showing something of the process of building a man cave.
There might be some crossover too with what frozenreflection posted this week at Calth Burns, some real-life thinking applied to a supposed fantastical apocalypse – what to have ready in case the SPECTRE of disaster coalesces.
Still, there isn’t a lot of this kind of crossover posting, and collectively we do seem to spend a fair bit more time than the average on doing more imaginary things.
Things like pretending to defend the honour of made-up legions, or painting pseudo-historical colour schemes, mocking up alien landscapes and perfecting approximations of the tactics of the units contesting them, and all according to more or less detailed rules intended to reflect another world or a variant on our own. A world that’s possibly also dark, even grim. But a world that might be very much our own in its influences and its physics.
Could tabletop gaming be understood almost as a kind of cargo cult?
In the case of a cargo cult people with a more limited knowledge of a supposedly more advanced world might mimic the structures of that world in the hope of attracting certain of its features, perhaps actual goods, or benefits, or social relations. Could we too at some level, perhaps subconsciously, be thinking that if we arrange our toy soldiers right, they will come?