I have been gaming for most of my conscious life, mostly board games, roleplaying games, and, more recently, I have taken up the peculiar hobby of collecting and painting toy soldiers. I started three years ago by borrowing acrylic paints from my wife’s craft materials to provide a bit of color to the little plastic figures and tokens in my boxed set of BattleLore. Then I bought into a new game called Arcane Legions which bridged a gap between a board game like those in the Commands & Colors series and collectible miniature tabletop games like Warhammer. I began to lurk about online forums and pick up painting techniques, and soon enough I began buying my own figures to paint, starting with a range of fantasy ships in a line called The Uncharted Seas from Spartan Games; these model ships were relatively inexpensive and fun to paint, compared to the more distinquished historical model ships, and the tabletop game was fun to play. I soon had a Usual Opponent, and we enjoyed many late night games on a piece of fiber board I had spray painted blue and kept stored behind a bedroom door when not propped on the living room table for nautical adventures. I started a blog to post pictures taken from those games along with written battle reports. I began planning and running regular tournament events, first for The Uncharted Seas and then for a newer version by the same company called Dystopian Wars.
In the summer of 2012 I attended my first wargaming convention, the prestigious Historicon which, for the first time, was located only 35 miles from where I now live in Virginia (with my wife and two cats). Boyhood fantasies were realized during that single day I attended the convention. I remember how I had attempted to paint plastic green army men to look more like soldiers from the Civil War, painting gray or blue uniforms with a cheap set of watercolor paints, and I even tried to model a bit by flattening the helmets with a craft knife to resemble kepis. I became enamored of my limited notions of the French & Indian War, setting up battles in the woods behind the house where I lived, using my collection of plastic Indians, some plastic cowboys, and green plastic army men modified to look like musket-armed soldiers. Now, more than two decades later, I witnessed an assortment of old and middle-aged men, leavened with some younger adults and even children, moving beautifully painted toy soldiers about on tables which were covered with fake trees and little buildings similar to what I had only thought in terms of model railroads before. With some dice and rules, I saw historical battles brought to a certain vivid presentation beyond textual descriptions and some black & white illustrations. This was something which brought together my boyhood fantasies and my more adult interest in military history.
After Historicon I bought a copy of Muskets & Tomahawks, my first proper ruleset of historical gaming. I had played conflict simulations in my young adult years, starting with the classic Axis & Allies and moving onto some games from Avalon Hill and then GMT. But this was my first endeavor to play some actual historical wargames on the tabletop with painted miniatures. A visit to a local hobby shop provided a resource for a collection of 1/72 scale figures, each man standing a mere 1-inch tall, of Indians, Revolutionary soldiers, and British Redcoats, all in molded plastic and quite inexpensive.
The more I painted figures the more I investigated the history and uniforms of the 18th century, all while listening to wargaming podcasts, and I came across a show titled Meeples & Miniatures in particular, and some lively conversations with Henry Hyde and his descriptions of Imagi-Nations which are basically alternative historical settings for wargaming–the best part about this concept is I could paint my figures any way I like without regard to historical accuracy, and I began inventing my own little version of the French & Indian War within which I intended to set up and play my own campaign using the M&T rules and my expanding collection of toy soldiers, buildings, trees and terrain all in 1/72 scale.
|A company of colonial militia defend a homestead in the Iohi River Valley from a Lintyan raiding party; unfortunately, most of the arrows fired from the nearby tree line find their marks and the militia soon break and run in my first game of M&T.
Like so many moments of sudden invention, I realized the name of my alternative setting to the FIW while in the shower, shampooing my hair. Rather than “French” I would call my respective faction “FANCY” and it was only a matter of playing little games with nomenclature to invent the rest, a little world of wooden forts in the forest, soldiers with muskets and natives with tomahawks, village raids and wilderness excusions, all under the heading of the Fancy & Lintyan Wars.