Wargaming manages to take much of the evil out of war. As the saying goes, there are no lead widows. Men don't die - figures are capped, removed from the table, or turned over. We usually put casualty markers in the same vein as limbers - oft thought of, rarely included. We don't have to wait for the next class of conscripts to grow up, nor do we have to pay our lead armies veteran's pensions. Many a gamer will paint up armies of evil - both human forces that did evil things to actual Armies of Evil like the forces of Chaos in Warhammer or the Orcs of Mordor. I, of course, have Prussians - I shall leave it to you to decide whether they are numbered amongst the forces of Good or Evil.
Even so, many a war evokes clear partisan feelings about whom are evil, and whom are not. For the most recent ones, these are pretty clear cut: the Nazis, the Imperial Japanese, the Taliban. As we get further into history, each side has their partisans - those of Napoleon slug it out with the Coalition, while those of Louis XIV face down Marlborough, the Grand Alliance, and the League of Augsburg. The further back we go, we know even less about who did what to whom, let alone who should be doing what to whom.
Colonials, especially Africa, are in many ways classic wargaming milieu. But they pose even more of a moral dilemna when trying to decide who is a "villain" and who is a "hero." Who was nastier, the Imperialist British or the Pathans of the Northwest Frontier? The loving embrace of the Congo Slavers, or the wanton barbarism of the Force Publique? Who is the hero, Custer or Sitting Bull? Who the villain, the Americans for herding the Sioux onto reservations, or the Sioux, who's entire society was organized around perpetual warfare, and who's Plains "homeland" was one they took by force from the people who lived there before in, at the earliest, the 1770s?
Having started watching The Wild Bunch over the weekend, Peckinpah captures this moral ambiguity perfectly, and provide a segue into both how I determined my "Villains" and my "Heroes," as well as address my entry fee. Pike and the Bunch claim to live by a code: "When you side with a man, you stay with him, and if you can't do that you're like some animal." But they also abandon members of the gang when it suits them and use violence as it suits them. The movie opens with the Bunch using a Temperance March as cover to escape the ambush laid by Deke Thornton. Now, while the Temperance ladies may well be unwitting villains who brought lots of violence to 1920s America, it's not exactly "hero" material to take cover behind women. Again, I leave it to you to decide whether they be heroes or villains.
As mentioned previously, the fee to participate in the challenge is as follows:
As previous years, I ask for a small memento from each Challenger. Last year's entrance fee was a 28mm painted figure of a Ronin and so in keeping with this year's 'Wild Bunch' theme, the entrance fee' for this year's Challenge will be a single 28mm figure that is inspired by a Sam Peckinpah film. The figure will be supplied and painted by the entrant. This miniature can be submitted any time up until the end of the Challenge. Again, same as last year, for each figure I receive I will donate $5 to the Saskatchewan branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
Now, I went rooting through the lead pile, and came across this figure:
So here's Freddie Sykes, all glued up, primed, and ready to the painted: