Within the last year, I have become properly aquainted with a certain Mr Joe Harrison Esq., aka 'The Colonel O'Truth', here on the Kapiti Coast.
It was some months ago that I was invited to partake in a cowboy skirmish game, and having been presented with Joe's 'Leadwood' - I have to say it inspired me to do likewise, although with a differing genre that I had a previous interest in: Pirates! So that was the source of inspiration for all my recent piratical goings on.
Joe also has an infectious enthusiasm for all things of a VSF nature, or to give it it's full title, Victorian Science Fiction. For those of the uninitated, this is a period which draws heavily on the ideas and works of Jules Verne and HG Wells to name a couple.
It is a period that the GASLIGHT rules have been designed for use with, and these rules appear to nicely cover all the troops, heroes, machines and beasties admirably well.
Well I have to say, it's happened to me again - inspiration!
And so, after a bit of chatting things through, 3 locals have decided to give the whole VSF thing a bash; Joe, myself and Roly Hermans.
Now being a Brit myself, I would have been the first to jump at the chance of fielding some colonial British in their iconic pith helms and red jackets. I first saw these troops as a kid, watching that classic movie; Zulu. Stirring stuff, and what red blooded British male wouldn't find this movie inspiring and invigorating!?
However I have obviously already been pipped to the post by Joe, with his previously commenced project; HMSW Gargantua - his incarnation of a British steam powered quadruped walker, crewed by such stalwarts as Seargent Boddington et al.
And so with the British already in the field, a suitable colonial adversary would be required, and what better than the dastardly Hun!? Thinking on Germanic imigery of the proposed period (1880-90s-ish), I remembered another somewhat iconic image, that of Karl Gerhart Fröbe, better known as Gert Fröbe, from the movie; 'Those Magnificent men in the flying machines', wearing that characteristic pickelhaube helmet.
With this image in mind I set about searching the web. I found that the Germans of the period had been involved in the Franco-Prussian war, and a quick look at more images confirmed the sort of figures I was after.
More web browsing found a range of models I was happy with, available from Brigadegames, from their Paroom range.
Some great figures available there. I am sure an order will be placed forthwith!
Now one thing that characterizes the VSF period are its machines. So my troops were going to need some kind of 'tank' for the battlefield, especially after viewing at long range the looming form of HMSW Gargantua!
Obviously tanks didn't come into service until late WWI, some years after our proposed period of time. Plus these early machines would have been powered by the internal combustion engine and not steam power, which is one of the hallmarks of VSF fun!
I did find the wonderful looking german A7V tank. The temptation was to build one of these and stick a large chimney / funnel on the back, but that seemed too easy, and 'cheating', and not especially tailored to our period.
One of the things I have found with researching this project is that lots of folks have come up with a great many ideas for vehicles, but a great many are 'seriously fictional', if I can put it that way? What I want from a vehicle is the idea it could actually work. So I did a fair bit of web search reading up on steam power, hydraulic power, steam tractors or tractor engines, and caterpillar tracks, and importantly their inception dates and rough abilities.
Consequently, what I am thinking, and propose here, is to make a fighting vehicle based on the steam tractor engine. However, rather than the large heavy wheels, which by all accounts made the vehicle unuseable over difficult boggy ground, due to its weight, I would swap these out for caterpiller tracks.
To armour the vehicle, I decided to build an enclosed cab at rear of machine and, using a later german idea; adding schurzen plates to the sides and also to the front, but in a large 'cow-catcher' shape.
|Stugs, with schurzen side armour plates|
I also need to arm this vehicle and propose mounting a gatling-gun team or cannon artillery team, in an armoured enclosure upon the tractors roof.
The only thing to do would then be to route the funnel, down and backwards, so as not to interfere with the Gun teams line of sight.
Another touch I need to think about is a fuel supply. Now I have seen these machines trundling around the place back in Britain at summer farm festivals and the like, but what I am unsure about is how long could one run for, before it needed more coal to refuel it? So I am therefore considering having the machine drag a similar looking coal tender behind it, either wheeled or tracked and with side schurzen plates again.
So thats where all my thinking with this has got me so far!
Roly, our third player in the group, currently seems to be pondering between a French themed army perhaps using French Foreign Legion figures, or perhaps Austro-Hungarians of the period... we shall wait and see what he comes up with.