Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Wargaming Triage

Greetings once again fellow wargamers, and welcome. Leave the cold outside, your boots by the door and park yourselves in front of the fire.

Today, I would like to talk about something that I am sure we have all had experience of to some degree or other, and that my friends is what I like to call 'Wargaming Triage', also known as 'The Art of Repairing Stuff that was Broken'.

I quite like my term, because the models we are attempting to fix without gluing our fingers to each other or leaving the top layer of skin from our fingertips attached to inappropriate parts of a Slaanesh Keeper of Secrets body, are almost all soldiers and warriors of one form or another. It is fitting therefore to imagine them being stretchered away from the front lines to be patched up before being thrown once more into the fiery crucible of unending tabletop conflict.

Now, you are probably thinking about your own experiences of miniature surgery, which (like mine) may be many. A model can require repair for all sorts of reasons, but I have highlighted some of the most common I have come across below:

1. Damaged in Transit

This is the moment you arrive at the local games store/club/prestigious tournament and open the carry case or box that contains your army, only to find that when you lift away the carefully packed foam, parts of your models are dangling from the underside of it like weird costume earings. This then leads to a mix of embarrassment and questions buzzing around your head like 'Why me?' and 'What the hell did this bit drop off?', whilst as the same time scrambling for the glue and trying to look like you're in control and not panicking inside like a meat buyer for a large frozen ready meal manufacturer at a Sunday Horse Racing event.

2. 'Oafing'

Oafing is my word for when I or my opponent (or worse, an onlooker who isn't even involved in the game) reach for a mini/some dice/a tape measure etc, and inadvertently knock over a model. This will always be an old and rare metal miniature (held together by good will and successively built up layers of super glue from three decades), which then topples to the ground like the statue of some dictator, limbs, weapons and other assorted and now bent parts scattering all over the place.

If it's your model and you knocked it over, you will be angry with yourself, and may even shed a tear when you consider having to repair said miniature, after accepting that you will spend the rest of the game pushing around a base loaded with a pile of metal and plastic bits. It might help to keep with your gaming kit a tiny plastic wheel barrow for just this purpose.

If either you or your opponent oafed the other persons (prized and irreplaceable) model over, then you just stepped into what might be a shrug and getting on with the game, or it might be a whacking great grey area of gaming etiquette. Does the oaf offer to stop and repair the smashed miniature? Will there be screaming and shouting and accusations of attempted assassination? Will the owner of the broken mini respond in kind by back handing their opponents general across the room? Who can tell. Just remember, you're an adult. If you're going to throw a tantrum, do it in a dignified and controlled manner. Release tension with muttering under your breath if necessary. And if anyone says 'it's only a model', leave the room, fast, before you lose it and it becomes their arms and legs that need gluing back on.

3. Godzilla

Quite simply, this is when your pet (Ours is a cat. Why anyone thinks cats are agile and lithe is beyond me. Ours floats like a rhinocerous and stings like a papercut) decides for some unfathomable reason that crossing a room by walking on the floor is overrated, and elects to take the elevated route over shelves and display units.

It ends up oafing your finely converted and painted models into a graceless plummet from a great height onto the unforgiving laminate floor. Then, to compound your dismay, your partner tries to tell you that 'it's not their fault, they don't know what they're doing', as you kneel on the floor trying to go back over the footage of the impact in your mind to figure out where all the pieces went. All the time, the cat sits there grinning like an evil genius at you as your partner rubs it's ears. Damn you feline fiend...

4. Payback nudge

Second to worst way for models to get broken, because the weight the act carries with it can be a worry. The payback nudge is what happens when you find a model broken, perhaps on the floor, perhaps under some furniture, perhaps just sitting on a shelf with a stupid expression on it's face as if it doesn't realise it's arms are on the floor in front of it. Now this has got me thinking about my models like the Romans, Cowboys and Indians from the Night at the Museum films, running around waving plastic power swords and threatening each other with plastic melta guns. I need a holiday...

How it got like that may never truly be known, but when you just can't explain how the model got the way it was, have a long hard think about something you may have done that upset your partner. Did you forget a birthday or anniversary, or something more mundane, like forgetting it was your turn to cook dinner or empty the bins and just sat there reading White Dwarf while your partner did it, an evil glint in her/his eye and cruel revenge on their mind. When you stand near them, be sure to listen for gears turning...

5. Avalanche!

An avalanche is by far the worst way that models can get damaged, for several reasons. The obvious one is that an avalanche typically involves a vast number of models in a box or case ending up falling from a shelf, table, rickety folding stool or heaven forbid, top step, and crashing to the floor with with the savageness of a herd of charging teens at a Justin Bieber concert. It's like the aftermath of tornado, bits laying randomly all over the place. The most painful bit is when you gingerly open the carry case, and hear the teeny tiny broken pieces of your army tinkling their way to oblivion in the darkness between the glued in foam layers, never to be seen again.

Another reason that an avalanche is the worst way for models to get damage is when you realise that it will take hours, nay days, just to find all the bits and work out what goes where, and that's before you even start putting stuff back together. If you're like me, with a collection that spans the decades, some of your models will be new plastic ones and can sometimes survive falls that would obliterate another model, but others are either part plastic and part metal or even all metal, and these require major attention.

The last reason I would like to add explaining why an avalanche is the worst thing that can happen, is that it always seems to happen to me in the middle of the night, probably as part of an escalated 'Godzilla' situation, and I am not one of those people that can sleep knowing that I have a pile of models sitting there on the floor and not knowing at least how bad the damage is and where all the pieces are.

I will end with my worst and most enduring memory of a model being broken. It was a couple of years ago now. I had recently completed work on what, at that time, was my masterpiece: my converted Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. It used the Gulavhar model from The Lord Of The Rings game as it's base, with a head from a Chaos Spawn that was filed and greenstuffed into position, the crab claw hand from a very old Keeper of Secrets model, and a really big sword made of about four pieces from various other swords to make it suitably large and choppy. The base was made from a piece of MDF cut to size and layered around the rock that the model stands on with filler, and decorated with heads, arrows and broken shields.

It was complete, it was painted and I had spent weeks putting it all together. The cat did it. It was oafed from the edge of a bureau and fell about four and a half feet onto a hard laminate floor, where it smashed to pieces like Wesley Snipes head at the end of Demolition Man, bits scattering in every direction.

I really wanted to cry, and in my mind I was already shoving the screeching cat out of the first floor window, heedless of the scratching and biting.

My wife was watching all of this. I swallowed my rage and fear and the grief that only a collector of wargaming miniatures can understand, and spent an extended period of time on my hands and knees looking for the bits. The last one, a piece of the sword, wasn't found for several days.

The moral of the post is this: Be careful with your and other peoples models. Store them very carefully, expect the unexpected threat to their safety and your sanity, and never leave the house without a set of small files and a bottle of superglue.

Thank you for reading.