As I may not be able to attend this year’s Origins Gaming Expo in Columbus Ohio I thought I’d take a look back over last year’s diceapalooza… a year I had only a phone camera…
Kevin Schreur, a professional architect and all around crafty friend of mine, started creating Battletech miniatures out of the non-sculpted table scraps from other miniature kits. Eventually his work began to include house hold items like buttons, zippers, and X-acto blades along with ready-made arms and legs from other miniatures. Some of his pieces, like the Minikari and the Saltine are reminiscent if not directly inspired by existing designs (The Masakari and perhaps the Catapult). Others like the Parrot-mech come from a more playful, if not twisted, place.
Kitbashing – using scavenged parts for the creation or detailing of existing models – has a long history among both hobbyist and professionals, particularly in the film industry. This process can transform the mundane into the exotic and (depending on the end goal/topic material) allows for the the quick prototyping of look and feel.
Battletech has two qualities that are relevant here. While the game doesn’t require miniatures, part of its appeal is the age-old play of moving toy soldiers around a battlefield. Another is its meta-play supporting customization mechanics. These rules allow players to modify existing units in game-legal terms or create completely new designs. In a universe spanning countless worlds the amount of variation in military technology would be staggering. These machines were – at least at one point in the narrative – dwindling resources, the ones left existing had survived for generations. Small changes to their initial designs would be far from unexpected. Allowing for players to “fill in the gaps” is a great way (intentionally or no) of accommodating the narrative component in mechanic terms.
Unfortunately this dovetailing of narrative and mechanics isn’t accommodated aesthetically. Ironwind Metals (responsible for the miniature side of Battletech’s production) does include additional parts in a number of blisters for building specific variants, but aside from a little player ingenuity in the figure building process – like magnetic pinning – there’s no real “designed” method of supporting this kind of player-created content. Here you have two essential but separate game qualities. Trying to unify them – perhaps by taking a page from Stikfas and their configurable army men or better yet their sister toy/game Xevoz – would make a great exercise.
On the fringe edge of the Battletech’s meta-game context Kevin has created works not only are pleasing in of themselves, his non-kit materials compare delightfully to the clunck of Battletech’s western style mecha. Battletech games – at least in their original incarnation – are crunchy grinds between jury-rigged machines passed down through generations. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these machines didn’t have zippers, coins, and other mementos hand crafted into them.