Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mars Needs Steam Pictures From Celesticon

I attended Celesticon out the San Francisco area last Labor Day and ran a big Mars Needs Steam game. Rick Schutz provided the terrain and soldiers while I shipped out an assortment of special stuff -- unique units and steampunk vehicles -- to flesh out the game. You've seen lots of pictures of the game with our terrain, mostly built by Glenn Kidd. Here's a look at what you can do with terrain originally intended for historical games. I envisioned this as a ground near a "broken canal," the sort where the channel itself has shattered and the water has spread out to make a shallow lake and swamp. Beyond it is arrid ground.

Heres another view. I'm explaining the rules and Rick sits to my right. These photos were all taken by Kyle Talbert, who did a great job. It's definitely a different look from most of our games, but a very nice one. The important thing, in my view, is that the table be well broken up into discrete areas so it remains possible to move and maneuver. Otherwise games (this one or most others involving a fair number of long-ranged weapons) are likely to degenerate into long-range sniping contests.

One of the great things about the show is that Dave Nilsen, an old friend from GDW days and maybe the best game designer/developer I ever worked with, showed up at the show. He pitched in and helped run the game as well as push some troops. Here's Rick seated and Dave standing, with the French contingent in front of them.

Here the French aerothopter is about to strafe the British Colonial contingent from behind. Tres ignoble, n'est pas? Rick's Indian infantry in the lead are supported by Tom Harris's dismounted female hussars representing Canadian "Amazonians."

Here's a different view of the British Colonial contingent from the other direction. You can see the Indian infantry in the background and the Amazonians, while in the foreground Bengal lancers cross a wadi supported by a light scouting landship. 

All in all, we had a great time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Visions of Futures Past

Beginning in 1899 the French issued a series of postcards (no, not the naughty ones!) which featured impressions by artist Jean-Marc Cole and others of what life in France would look like in the year 2000 (En L'An 2000): transportation, industry, liesure, and war.

What is striking to me about this collection of images is how prominently flight figures in their view of the future. Most of the images feature people or machines in flight: winged firemen pouring water on a fire in the uppers story of a building, winged policemen chasing a thief fleeing in a flying machine, winged duck hunters rising up to shoot their prey, winged tennis players enjoying "air tennis." Flight would become as everyday an event as walking or taking a bicycle ride, they thought, and the abundance of personalized flying machines in the collection makes it clear this fascination with flight was deeply personal, not simply dispassionate technological projection. We have always longed to soar among the birds -- still do, although now our imaginations have been tamed by the thoroughly unromantic realites of cost, safety, and the inherent engineering difficulties of personalized flight. That does not keep us from sky diving, though, does it?

Conflict also figures in these images. There is no belief that war would be a thing of the past by 2000, a distant memory of more barbaric times. Instead it would be waged by men and machines which sometimes bear a striking resemblance to the contrivances of the 1920s and 1930s. It's hard to see a century ahead, but perhaps not so hard to see three or four decades.

These images were originally presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 and additions to the collection were made over the course of the next ten years. Almost 90 images were created and distributed. Here is a link to a collection of 47 of them. It's well worth a look.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mars Needs Legos!

A Martian screw galley built from . . . Legos? Yes friends, that's right. This beautiful Martian cloudship, perhaps based on a Hullcutter design, was built by the talented Ingo Siekmann. I really like this!

Here is a link to a whole gallery of pictures of this wonderful toy ship.


CORRECTION! December 4, 2012

I misunderstood the original posting. Ingo Siekmann did not build the ship, he found the website with it and re-posted it. He sent me the following:

"Mr. Chadwick, there seems to be a misunderstanding. I did not build this model, I just stumbled upon the picture in another blog. The ship - and many other models - were build by a Portugese hobbyist
called Paulo Castanho, who mantains a great gallery."

And here's the link to Paulo Castanho's gallery. Terrific job, Paulo!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cover Art For Mars Needs Steam

You may recall I mentioned earlier that we'd contracted for a cover for Mars Needs Steam from Talon Dunning. The first version wasn't really to any of our liking (including Talon's) and so we went back to the drawing board and I'm glad we did. This time Talon nailed it! This really captures the feel of the game and will be a great cover. Now all I have to do is finish the final rewrite of the rules and we're on the way to publication.

I just returned from running a big game up in the Illinois-Wisconsin border area for Anderson's Irregulars, a great bunch of gamers honchoed by Mark Anderson and which includes my old pal Duke Seifried. Duke's approach to "adventure games" informs a lot of the encounter rules in the Mars Needs Steam game as well as generally moving it past a simple soldier game, so seeing him have a good time was fun. His Germans were all but destroyed by the French and Americans, but not before gutting both of those contingents so thoroughly that when the Japanese switched sides they were able to forge on to victory.

I'm very happy with how the game plays now, after dozens of playings with who knows how many players -- most of them first-timers. The rewrite I'm working on is just to smooth out any remaining rule ambiguities and add a few more exotic weapons to the design system.