08 July 2012

Breaking the Fourth Wall. . .

Painting and playing with toy soldiers.  Nothing wrong with it, right?  So, why did I feel so hesitant, and even bashful, about explaining my set-up to a bunch of guests who followed me down her to Zum Stollekeller yesterday evening?  Am I really a much more shy person than I thought?  Or did it have to do with feeling embarrassed about admitting that I'm a 45-year-old man who still plays with toy soldiers?  Let me give you some background.

The Grand Duchess and I had our annual Abba Fest yesterday evening with about 20 friends, something we usually do at the summer solstice in June, but other commitments delayed things by a few weeks this year.  Anyway, fairly early in the evening, my wife was apparently talking to one of our Art faculty colleagues and casually mentioned my Neu Sittangbad set-up here in the basement.  Well, in two shakes, I became the focus of attention as word spread, and many guests began asking if they could come down here to have a look-see.

So, we trooped down en masse, where people seemed genuinely surprised and pleased by what they saw.  A 15- or 20-minute Q&A session followed on wargaming, painting miniatures, and how I've constructed much of my tabletop scenery before I thanked everyone for being kind enough to listen and suggested that we return upstairs.  As people left much later in the evening, most of our guests thanked me profusely for sharing my hobby.

Now, I've never been embarrassed about collecting, painting, and playing with soldiers, and my oldest and closest friends have certainly been aware of my interest for many years (since high school in the mid-80s).  A few even gently kid me about it from time to time.  I'm also proud to be a member of the online wargaming community with which I share my hobby and enjoy writing the odd article, which the editors of a few hobby publications past and present have been good enough to feature.  So, why did I feel so uncomfortable as the focus of attention during those few minutes last night?  Strange.

On a very different note, as of this morning, the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog has 150 followers!  Brianne L. has the honor of being follower #150.  Be sure to check out her wargaming and imagi-nation blog Brianne's Jeu de Guerre blog, which I have added to the Interesting Links section on the right-hand side of this page.  More generally, welcome to a spate of recent new followers in the last few months, and welcome back to those of longer standing.  I'm very pleased to have each of you along for the ride.

In addition, the GD of S blog is just three entries away from its 1000th post, so surely there must be some celebration here.  If nothing else, I might very well add a couple of new 4-pdr. Valliere cannon from the new Fife and Drum Miniatures, which is the brainchild of Jim " Der Alte Fritz" Purky.  The range of 1/56th scale figures, sculpted by Richard Ansell (the same craftsman who has sculpted for Frank Hammond of Minden Miniatures), covers the American Revolution/War of Indepedence.  As Jim has pointed out on his blogs and on other web fora, however, many of these figures could work just as well painted as mid-18th century European troops for the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War among others.  I'm looking forward to/hoping for the eventual addition of Hessians to the line, which will easily fit into my Grand Duchy of Stollen campaign.

Even better, figures from the Fife and Drum Miniatures range, because the greens have been sculpted by Mr. Ansell, fit in exactly with figures from the Minden and RSM95 ranges in terms of height, proportion, and heft.  For my money, these are the three ranges to have in your collections.  All three are nominally 30mm with slender, realistic physiques that are not subject to the odd shapes and sizes too frequently exhibited by many of their "heroic" 28mm contemporaries.   The older Tradition, Willie, Spencer Smith, and Holger Eriksson ranges, while very nice figures for the most part, sometimes suffer from quality control issues, i.e., old, worn out molds that yield poor castings.  Hence, my hearty endorsement of Fife and Drum, Minden, and RSM95 miniatures, which will give you considerable bang for your buck.

All of that said, and as you'll see if you click on the links to Fife and Drum Miniatures, Jim's newly available artillery castings are exquisite little models.  So, if you are casting about for some new guns and artillery crews to add to you own 18th century wargaming projects, you could do no better than to drop Jim a line with your order, and be sure to keep an eye on the range as he expands it.  Ok, let's get back to the game.  I think General von Tschatschke is about to grace his pal General de Latte with his new orders for Turn Six.


Fitz-Badger said...

I don't usually share my gaming/miniatures stuff with people unless they ask first (as in, asking about hobbies or what I do in my spare time) or show some interest in gaming and/or miniatures in general. I guess I don't want to bore people. But I have found more people show some interest than not (or are too polite to show boredom! ha ha), so my fears are probably unfounded.

Peter Douglas said...


I have similar issues at times. However, I am less shy these days. I look at it based on the limit theory of oddness. Let's face it I am
1) an actuary
2) an academic
3) a 50 year old male
4) I play with toy soldiers and ships

I figure that once I add up the oddity factors from 1-3, #4 doesn't add much at all. Of course it doesn't hurt that I got "outted" on a University webpage listing various social media connections on campus.

Of course the other question is - are people who come to a mid-summer Abba fest in 2012 likely to question anything you do?



Ulrich von Boffke said...

Fitz -- As soon as Jim Purky makes dancing girls in feather boas available as part of his Fife and Drum Miniatures range, I'm there!

Peter -- Good point! The whole notion of an annual summer solstice party known as Abba Fest is weird enough already. Waterloo, Waterloo. . .

Best Regards,


DC said...


As has already been suggested - if you're listening to Abba then being a wargamer is the least of your worries....8-)


A J said...

Nothing wrong with appreciating ABBA's music! I'm more than partial myself. As for wargaming, I don't mind talking about it if someone asks politely. There are many stranger hobbies out there in the world.

Peter Douglas said...


For the record I've got nothing against Abba and the concept of a Midsommer Abba fest seems enjoyably goofy. I just figure that anyone who attends such an event is goofy enough to appreciate your "secret" hobby?



Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

A familiar enough feeling. Do you think you would have been less self conscious if you had had a refight of Gettysburg or Waterloo laid out rather than a battle between imaginary armies?

I have found to my surprise that some people seem to find the latter almost more fascinating & engaging.


Sir William the Aged said...


Not sure if these fall within your realm of interest, but to complete the Ansell triad of bespoke ranges, are you aware of Graham Cummings range of Scots for the '45, which he markets under the name "Crann Tara"?

These are typical Ansell sculpts, constant in scale with both Frank and Jim's ranges, and are marvelous looking Highlanders with separate weapons. While all of the figures so far are Clansmen in typical kilt, with and without jacket, there are also command figures, Lowlanders and Royal Ecossais in the planning.

In addition to the '45, I could see these as Highland emigre both in North America (perhaps mixed with some militia?) or as a possible group of emigre in far-off lands such the Grand Duchy. Worth considering, if only for the quality of the sculpts and castings.


All the best - Bill


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