I know, I know, I’ve been really quiet lately. For people who have been following me a while, you may have seen this happen before, and it’s a good sign there’s some sort of big announcement on the horizon…Today is no different.
I’ve been writing For Whom The Gear Turns for over three years and I have loved every minute. I’ve got over 500 posts under my stylish Steampunk utility belt, and in recognition of my hard work, I was recently approached by Matt Grayson of the Steampunk Journal. He was looking for a co-editor to help him run the world’s most popular Steampunk website, and when he made the offer to merge our sites into one super site I knew I had to accept.
You heard right folks, I’m moving on over to the Steampunk Journal!
Starting in February, you’ll be able to find my new articles posted at the Journal alongside updated versions of old reviews and articles you may have missed. For Whom The Gear Turns will stay up for a few months during the transition, but eventually I will move completely into my new digs at the Journal.
And I hope you’ll join me!
You didn’t think I’d leave you out in the cold now, did you? There are more ways than ever to hang with me on the interwebs and share in the growing Steampunk community. Pick your favorite or do all three; each has a different focus.
- Follow the Steampunk Journal – It’s a WordPress site just like this one, so it is easy to subscribe via email or your WordPress reader. This site began within a few months of my own, but Matt and I cover very different topics. I love history, books, and movies, and Matt does interviews, music and game reviews, and photography, so we have a really complementary balance of all things Steampunk to offer! So if you are in it purely for the Steampunk, follow me at the Journal.
- Check out my new author page and subscribe to my newsletter. I’m still setting up this site and editing excerpts to share, but if you are interested in hearing about what is going on with my fiction writing and appearances at conventions, this is the best way to follow along. I won’t inundate you with emails, either. The plan is to create a monthly newsletter that includes excerpts and news about my book-length projects like No Rest For The Wicked, Riftmaker, and my blog-to-book project, The Steampunk Handbook.
- Join the United We Steampunk, Divided We Fall group on Facebook! There are weekly threads devoted to fun topics and tips, plus opportunities to post links to items for sale. The goal is to act as means to get makers and writers in contact with the fans and bloggers they need to succeed, but there’s plenty of fun and silliness there, too! If your goals involve connecting with the greater Steampunk community, then I highly recommend getting in on the ground floor of this new group.
Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, I couldn’t have done it without you!
I’ve loved running my little corner of the internet, and I appreciate your ongoing support of my projects and writing. I spent weeks struggling with this decision, but ultimately I believe this is the best way to ensure the future of the content I’ve already created, and to reach the largest possible audience moving forward.
Was there an article I wrote or something I recommended that has really stuck with you? Do you have concerns about the transition or not sure how to keep getting the type of content you want? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
I have started work on the sequel to Riftmaker, and I am planning to include a super cool Steampunk submarine. I have been collecting images for inspiration so I thought I’d share the fruits of my labors with you. When possible, I have credited the artist but most of these images came via Pinterest so if you see something miss-credited or you know who was the brains behind a certain sub please let me know.
1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.
11. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
12. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
13. True friends stab you in the front.
14. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
15. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
16. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
17. Genius is born—not paid.
18. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
19. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?
21. My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.
22. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
23. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.
24. There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.
25. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.
Warring Worlds and Grinding Gears – a Beginners Guide to Steampunk Wargames (Andrew Knighton Guest Post #3)
Despite their destructive theme, tabletop wargames are full of creativity, from the professionals writing rules and sculpting miniatures through to the enthusiasts building terrain and painting figures. Whether you want to play at steam powered warfare, or just collect wild and fascinating toys, then there’s a steampunk wargame option for you.
Pop Sculpture – the Miniatures
Like pop music and self-publishing, wargames miniatures are the sort of art that has often been sneered at by high-brow culture. But the existence of the Beatles and Hugh Howie show just how misguided that sneering can be. As Patrick Stuart has argued on HiLoBrow, wargames miniatures are a form of pop sculpture, and one that allows more engagement by the audience than traditional sculpture. These tiny statues are designed to be modified, for you to change them through painting or conversion, to feel them in your hand, to play with them. The best are things of incredible artistry, especially in their tiny details, and they invite you to join in the creation, not just to stand and stare.
Boy is there a lot to stand and stare at. Infamy Miniatures have a growing range of steampunk figures, punking up everyone from Nikola Tesla to a monstrous Mr Hyde, with a gun-toting Oscar Wylde on the way. Demented Games have a wheeled version of Dickens’s Dodger. Artizan Designs have masked and sinister policemen. Games Workshop have several steampunk figures in their fantasy range, including the dwarf gyrocopter and the spectacular Empire Steam Tank.
If you want to collect tiny steampunk statues, then miniatures manufacturers have you covered. Just follow a few links, pick something you like, and start collecting.
Bring on the Battles
What about the games themselves?
The most popular steampunk wargame is Privateer Press’s Warmachine. Set in the steampunk fantasy world of the Iron Kingdoms, its armies centre around massive steampowered war robots guided by magical warcasters. You can play as a Soviet-style empire, religious fanatics, or even piratical freebooters, each with their own distinct steampunky aesthetic. For someone new to wargaming, Warmachine has two big advantages. It scales well, letting you start out small, and there are lots of players so you can find someone to learn with – just ask at your local gaming shop or on Privateer Press’s online forums.
The downside of Warmachine is that its rules are built around a particular brand of miniatures. If you want to collect a wide range of steampunk soldiers then there are plenty of other options. Military history publishers Osprey have a set of steampunk rules designed for small scale skirmishes – again ideal for a beginner.
The Joy of Making
“But I already have plenty of steampunk in my life,” I hear you cry. “Why bother with wargames?”
I’ll give you three answers.
The first is that you might not want to bother. After all, you could be working on your costume. But you were interested enough to read this far, so hopefully that answer isn’t the one you’re after.
The second reason is the one that applies to anything steampunky – because you can never have too much steampunk. And with wargames miniatures taking up so little space, why not fit a few into your life?
But the real reason is the third one – because wargames, like all the best steampunk activities, let you be creative. They let you take things that are already in the world and turn them into cooler things. Maybe you’ll buy an awesome miniature and make it even more awesome by painting it in your favourite colour scheme. Maybe you’ll buy an OK figure and make it amazing by adding extra bits, converting it into a model of you in your steampunk costume. Maybe you’ll gather up a bunch of old gears and bits of wood to build a miniature steampunk factory to fight over. Wargaming opens up all these creative possibilities, and then gives you a way to play with your newly made toys.
Because it might look destructive, but wargaming is an incredibly creative hobby, and another great way to get your steampunk on.
Andrew Knighton is a steampunk author and freelance writer. The first book in his Epiphany Club series is available for free on Amazon Kindle. He blogs about board games for Boardgameprices.com, and about all things steampunk, science fiction and fantasy at Andrew Knighton Writes
Steampunk and board games have a lot in common. They’ve both taken off enormously as subcultures in the past twenty years. They’re both slightly outside mainstream awareness in English-speaking countries. They both have dedicated fan bases, people who will travel hundreds of miles or even to different countries to indulge in whole days dedicated to their hobbies.
And of course there are the steampunk board games.
Let’s Stick Some Gears On It!
It’s fairly easy to give a board game a little bit of steampunk flavour. Forbidden Desert by designer Matt Leacock is a great cooperative game in which you dodge sandstorms and try not to die of dehydration while you rebuild your ruined airship. It’s only a little steampunk – that airship could as easily have been a helicopter like the one used in its predecessor Forbidden Island. Yet that eccentric looking airship, that touch of gears and steam, does make the game more satisfying, as you slot together the parts of this tiny plastic toy on your way to victory or defeat.
Or look at Mission: Red Planet by Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti. A game about mining Mars could as easily have had a science fiction setting as a steampunk one, but the eccentricity of that steampunk setting makes it more interesting and evocative. I’d rather play an eccentric Victorian industrialist digging up the red planet than a game that tries for the realism of Andy Weir’s The Martian – wouldn’t you?
A touch of steampunk can help a board game to stand out in a crowded market. But there’s also a deeper connection at work here.
Hands Up Who Wants To Be Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Pause for a moment and think about what’s similar between steampunk and board games. Now you’ve probably guessed what I’m about to say – that both steampunk and board games are great ways of letting us be creative, while taking control of a corner of our lives.
Nigel Pyne’s Oddball Aeronauts, a simple fantasy card game with more than a little steampunk flavour, illustrates this beautifully – not least through its beautiful illustrations. A handful of cards lets you take control of an airship in a desperate dogfight. Will you try to board the enemy, or attempt to outfly them before loading your guns? Will you use your Cannoneers, your Marksmen or your explosive Fuse Bots? And what’s with those bulbous bits on the bottom of the pirate airship – the view from their must be fantastic!
Like steampunk, most board games encourage you to imagine yourself in another world, one full of strange sights and amazing characters. As well as evoking something entertaining they give us control of parts of our lives, whether through costume making, story writing or plotting a strategy for the board. We’re free to find excitement and make important choices without risking real consequences. That’s wonderful and liberating.
Of course, the same could be said about a game like Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art that, fantastic as it is, is firmly anchored in the real world. But the best steampunk games connect theme and mechanics, evoking a core aspect of steampunk in a way few others things can.
The Gears Turn
Many of the most popular board games are those known as Eurogames. Influenced by Germany’s huge gaming culture, designers like Reiner Knizia and Klaus Teuber use ingenious rules that encourage players to construct systems within the game. Whether you’re creating a kingdom, running a factory or establishing a trade network, success in these games comes from taking different game elements and connecting neatly together. In effect, you’re building a machine.
And again, if you know anything about steampunk, you can probably predict where I’m going with this.
Great games connect their theme and mechanics, so that the rules evoke the atmosphere. The tense, careful building of poker hands in weird western card game Doomtown: Reloaded (which also features its share of steampunk mad scientists) evokes a Wild West shootout in a way that rolling dice never could. In the same way, the building up of moving parts in a Eurogame perfectly evokes the inventiveness and machinery that are central to steampunk.
This is what a game like Alex Churchill’s upcoming Steam Works does. Not only are you playing the role of steampunk inventors, but you’re doing it by connecting together the game’s components as you put together the components of your machines. Can you think of a more perfect way of evoking mad science and oddball invention, short of building your own tesla coils?
There are also options if you’d prefer to play with a pre-built machine. The World of Smog: On Her Majesty’s Service, by Yohan Lemonnier, has dials and gears on the board that turn as part of the game. It’s a game whose very board evokes a machine in motion.
Where to Start?
If you’re not already a gamer but you want to start – and I heartily recommend that you do – then your best bet is to pick something simple and straightforward. Oddball Aeronauts has a reputation as being accessible as well as fun. Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 is only 1/4 steampunk, but it’s a lot of fun, and if you like it then you can mix it in with the original game and its other variants. Forbidden Desert is straightforward and an interesting challenge, and has the advantage of being cooperative, making it easier to work out how to play as a group.
And if none of those appeal, or you just want to look for more options, then check out the steampunk game list on Board Game Geek, the internet’s single best repository of board games information and discussions.
Because what could be more perfect than a bit of steampunk where the gears really do turn?
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Andrew Knighton is a steampunk author and freelance writer. The first book in his Epiphany Club series is available for free on Amazon Kindle. He blogs about board games for Boardgameprices.com, and about all things steampunk, science fiction and fantasy at Andrew Knighton Writes.
This little film tells an interesting story without using any words. It was made to promote a live action role-playing game called Magmanite in 2011.
You gotta love any song with a typewriter as part of the percussion section! It is a melancholy subject but a very good song.