Hard to believe that a full year has passed since I began sketching the outline for what has become the Grand Duchy of Stollen project. But the calendar on my desk says it's so.
Now maybe it's a bit odd (ok, maybe a lot) that a 40 year old "adult" would derive such pleasure from writing about an imaginary place like Stollen. But then this is similar to what legitimate authors do everyday -- create imaginary characters, places, and situations that we love (or hate) to read about. And sometimes we enjoy our literary adventures so much that we revisit the people and places within these books again and again. It's the same whether we are talking about current writers like Dean Koontz, Sara Paretsky, and Jonathan Kellerman or canonical writers like Tolstoy, Emily Dickenson, or Hemingway.
When thought of that way, Stollen and its contentious neighbor, the Electorate of Zichenau, don't seem quite so bizarre after all. They're sort of my own private Wonderland -- albeit without characters as memorable as the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, or the Dormouse! The Grand Duchy of Stollen project has enabled me to combine a life-long fascination with model soldiers and military history (my wife would say "herstory") with a love of creating fictitious characters and territories, an interest that, until 2006, had been dormant since my Dungeons & Dragons days 20+ years ago! Whatever our precise reasons for wargaming are, I'm certain it's a love of (or need for) this kind of creativity and escape that many of us within the hobby share. But I digress.
2006 has been a good year here in the Grand Duchy. In the last 12 months or so, I've had a great deal of fun dreaming up ideas, places, and personalities. I've also learned a little more about painting, modeling, and collecting military miniatures. On that note, tracking down and reading work by noted wargaming personalities like Charles Grant, C.S. Grant, and Peter Young has also added to my enjoyment of the hobby. Best of all, I've made some nice new friends via the Old School Wargaming discussion group and this weblog. Thanks to everyone -- Jeff, Murdock, Paul, Donald, Greg, Jerry, Mike, Allan, Henry, and many others -- for your help, kind words, and encouragement along the way.
There have been a few challenges to overcome along the way too. First, I've managed to find and purchase the out-of-production 1/72 plastic SYW figure sets by Revell that will form the core of my imaginary armies. Not always an easy task, but the thrill is in the chase. Then, there was the challenge of painting really BIG units of model soldiers -- 60+ in the case of the 2nd (Von Laurenz) Musketeers. The largest group of figures I had ever painted prior to last summer was 20. But I worked out a way to do it without losing my patience or interest in the meantime.
Next, I've managed to work out how to do a few minor conversions on plastic figures, to fill the "cuirassier gap" in Revell's SYW line (without chopping off any fingers in the process). Hopefully, I'll have some decent photos of these conversions to share soon. And finally, I've managed to conceive, build, and paint to completion not one -- but nine model buildings to a reasonably acceptable wargaming standard -- in just two weeks. It's amazing what one can do with a little time, focus, and cast-off materials. So here's to more imaginary saber rattling in the coming twelve months.
In the meantime, the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and Grand Duchess Sonja wish all of you a peaceful, joyous, and prosperous 2007. Happy New Year gentlemen!