Friday, October 19, 2007

Return of the Thunderboats

My post-Enfilade post included a picture and some information about some hydroplane racing we did at the convention. Though it didn't attract a huge crowd, the races were full, and we had actual miniatures to work with. I also mentioned that Shawn McEvoy was going to send me six miniatures and the big hydro party would begin.

Let me just take a big step backward here, and explain my bizarre interest in this project. I grew up just outside of Seattle in the 1960's. We really didn't have any major league sports until the late 60's when the Sonics and then the Pilots arrived. Our AAA baseball team, the Angels, wasn't very good; the Huskies had moved beyond their '60's Rose Bowl teams and had settled into the mediocrity of the later Owens years. What we did have every summer was hydroplane racing. As a 10 year old in the summer of 1965, I knew the boats, what they looked like, who their drivers were, and how they were doing. The neighborhood was fairly divided between Ron Musson's Miss Bardahl, and Bill Brow's Miss Exide, with all the cornucopia of other boats mixed in for fun. Though hydro racing had moved out of the province of the underfunded amateur owners, and into the hands of commercial sponsors, it still was small enough that on any given day anyone could win. One of the lasting sports memories of my childhood was the dreadful 1966 President's Cup race on the Potomac when Musson and two other drivers were killed. Despite the lack of ESPN or a 24 hour news cycle, the disaster was big news in Seattle, and we young fans were all plunged into a state of mini-mourning.

When I was a kidlet, all those of my age on my block built our hydros out of scrap plywood, painted them the best we could, and tied them on to the backs of our bikes. We'd race them up and down the street to emulate our heroes. Summer was the race season.

Shawn's inexpensive resin-cast miniatures, together with Dave Schueler's very fun rules offered me this opportunity to recapture a bit of my youth. I'm working on my first three boats. I've finished 1955's Slo-mo-shun V. It was damaged in a flip during the same week in which I was born. Driver, Lou Fageol was in the same hospital where I was born at the same time. I'm also done with Musson's Green Dragon. It's different than the earlier Bardahl's classic lines and bronze green and orange finish. Musson's Bardahl was a national points winner from 1963-5. I'm also working on a 1965 version of the Exide. The brilliant red boat with its lightning bolts and checkered tail offer a bit of a challenge for me, but I'm hoping it will be done in the next week or so.

Yes, I know it's another weird project, a bit divorced from the medley of little men that usually constitute our hobby. I see it as simply another outlet for me to express my historical interests in miniature outside the usual shoot up, stab 'em, or blast 'em with high explosives. I really like my connection to racing games, both the air racing and hydroplanes. I fully expect a large panoply of racing games at Enfilade 2008.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Museum of Flight and Gigtoberfest

I've managed to squeeze in a couple of game days between schoolwork and family tragedy. On September 29th NHMGS held its annual day at the Museum of Flight. This is my second year organizing the event, and it is often fraught with frustration. In the past the museum hasn't been very cooperative, and our membership hasn't turned out to support the event, despite offering free admission.

This year was different. The MoF had has set up in our customary place under the SR-71 Blackbird. All the tables were ready for us, and we had plenty of space. We also had plenty of representative games filled with players for the day. I could not have been more pleased. I ran an air racing event, and that was a lot of fun for me and the participants. It also happened to be a Seattle "free museum" day, so there were lots of passersby and inquiries about our strange and wonderful hobby.

Yesterday, October 13th, we gathered at Bruce Meyer's house for Gigtoberfest. This was a day Bruce arranged as a general miniature gaming opportunity at his magnificent Gig Harbor game room. Bruce suggested we drag out our AWI figures and run a game of Guilford Courthouse. We agreed that it was a big enough game to keep plenty of folks involved, while proving an interesting experience. We'd run the game a couple of times before, but a few years ago, with a home grown set of rules. Bruce ran the game, I played Greene, and the game was a lot of fun.

The Brits made the fatal mistake of not being aggressive enough, taking a few initial casualties to chase away the nasty militia with the bayonet. My guys were under strict orders to retire to the flanks to support the 3rd line of Continentals, and too many of the Brits obligingly got drawn into a fox chase into the wooded far flanks, and were unable to aid their outgunned friends in the center of the battlefield. It was a nasty business, and Cornwallis would have had a difficult time making sufficient excuses to Parliament.

It was a great time. I saw lots of friends involved, including folks I don't always see. John McEwan of Reviresco was up from Olympia with his latest multi-media design, the Water Witch in 25mm. Clyde Carpenter made his first appearance since moving west of the mountains. I think everybody had a good time. I only stayed for the morning gaming session, due to the death of Lorri's dad this week. There was lots to do at home. Gaming continued in the afternoon with three smaller games hosted by Michael Koznarsky, Tim McNulty, and Chris Bauermeister. Everyone agreed after the event that we would try to do this again in the spring.