Vir's Archive

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some Context

So, lets talk about Gabon and Africa...

A scene from the beach next to our house.

I figure most of you loyal readers (all three of you) have not been to Gabon or Africa... so in order to understand where I am going, a little discussion on where I am coming from seems appropriate.

Gabon is home to some stunning scenery buried in the jungle...

Gabon is a republic in central Africa. Its not the Central African Republic -- thats a different country altogether. Gabon is a former French colony and is still very French. If you like French culture and the French outlook on life, Gabon would be a nice change for you. There is a way to life here that is very different than the United States or Canada. I've lived in a bunch of countries and had the fortune of being part of a bunch of different cultures - and Gabon is different.

Gabon is hot and muggy. I grew up in Dallas and lived for a number of years in Bangladesh... and even I find the height of the wet season (in February) miserable at times. That said, this time of year (July/Aug) is dry season and often quite enjoyable. The problem with dry season is a series of long days with grey skies and no sun. Push comes to shove, give me a hot and muggy day if the sun is out over a more comfortable temperature if the sun is hidden for weeks-on-end.

The Gabonese like the finer things in life. Fine cheese, good bread, leisurely meals, weekends on the beach... they love all these things. The Gabonese love to laugh with their friends and can be surprisingly forward at times.

A taste of Africa.

Its a country of 1.6 million people, with a lot of oil and timber money floating around. Thats not to say everyone is rich... in fact, just the opposite. Most people live a very rustic life. However, the upper crust here are fabulously wealthy -- like crazy wealthy. Its not uncommon to see Land Rovers, Ferraris and Hummers on the road, all of which double in price to import (making an already expensive luxury almost obscene). Long lunches are the norm. 3 hour lunch meetings are pretty common, and dinners can run just as long. If you are part of the elite in Gabon, dropping $200+ per head on a meal is nothing. For someone who, because of work, has to deal with the elite of Gabonese society often, it can be frustrating to see the ridiculous amounts of money floating around but not making it to the rest of society.

Squeaks? How did you sneak into the photos? Bad kitty!

There are a lot of foreigners in Gabon. French, Chinese, Lebanese and lots of west Africans call Libreville home. The Gabonese dont always welcome foreigners with open arms, but its not like they are hostile either. "Meh" probably sums up the Gabonese attitude on foreigners (though they are very pro-American when they discover I am not French -- thanks Obama). Gabon is predominantly a Catholic country - and thats "catholic" with a capital "C." Three hour masses are the norm. Gabonese people have an outlook on life that would mesh well with conservative family values in the States. People value family and faith. Besides Catholics, there are a small number of Muslims and a larger number of Protestants in the country -- and despite what you may think, they all get along nicely. The Gabonese are very tolerant of other religions.

Friends in the area.

Gabon is a safe and quiet country. The tribalism, ethnic violence and religious hatred that plague many other countries in the region dont get any traction in Gabon. Good on the Gabonese.

A pic of Libreville from the Estuary (l'Estuaire)

Libreville, the capital, has a lot in common with an island. Surrounded on three sides by dense rainforest and on the other side by an estuary, its not easy to get out of the city - but when you do you find yourself in near primeval jungle. Forest elephants, surfing hippos, lowland gorillas, pangolins, green mambas and other things from Rudyard Kipling call Gabon home.

I just want to give you all a quick snapshot of Gabon and the Gabonese. I like it here, even when I am stuck in seemingly endless traffic because the police lock down the road to allow some nameless government official to drive around. The people are nice once they get to know you and the country can be beautiful. When the baby comes, Gabon is going to be its second home (after Canada) -- its not a bad place to have a family.

That said, Gabon doesnt have Tracie, GenCon, the Texas Rangers or the baby. Its time for a vacation.

Fenris! I love Fenris - but he seems to die in my armies. A lot. Its like my buddies are scared of him or something.

This is a gaming blog - I should talk about gaming at least a bit.

I like Gabon, but its not an easy place to be a gamer. I am probably the only wargamer and roleplayer in hundreds of miles. The closest ready group of gamers are in S. Africa - and thats an expensive airline ticket. So, I turn to the internet a lot to get my gaming in. I currently play via skype/google wave in a Song of Ice and Fire game run by my buddy Andy (who I will see at GenCon). We play once a week on Saturdays, 2pm my time is 9am central time in the States. Jason and Jacob also play in the game and will be at GenCon... I really look forward to seeing all of them.

I've lived overseas for the last 8 years of my life and become quite adept at introducing people to gaming - both roleplaying and wargaming. I've played Memoir '44 in Gabon, Exalted in Tokyo, and AT-43 in Dhaka... dont ever let some lazy gamer tell you there local meta isn't vibrant enough. If there is no gaming in your area - make the meta. There are always people interested in games no matter where you go - you just have to find them and take the time to teach them.

VASSAL, the open-source boardgame engine

Wargames were pretty much a non-factor until Vassal. I could get boardgames in, but the extra time required to build an army that is part-in-parcel with Wargaming made it difficult to create a group. Vassal was the answer. Vassal is an online-ready program that allows players to push little icons around on a pretend table. Its not a prefect substitute for playing an opponent in real life, but its better than nothing. Vassal is the only way I can reliably get games of Warmachine in. To be honest, I am a little pensive about playing people in real life. Its an odd feeling - I am normally an outgoing guy, but I place a high premium on being a good and conscientious player - the tactics and ethics that are appropriate on Vassal arent the same as in real life. I hate to admit it, but I am shying away from tourneys and formal events of Warmachine specifically because I need to give myself a day or two to re-figure out the etiqutte of playing with a person across the table (rather than in front of my laptop).

Dont put me into the bag! NooooOOOO!

I proposed a number of months ago to do a series of games and linked scenarios with my buddies who are going. My dirty little secret is I proposed this to help ease me back into the wargaming water. Playing with my buddies I can screw up, or forget a move and ask to take an action back - playing in pickup games - thats often not an option. I've played Warmachine under Mk1 rules since its inception (I actually wrote for Iron Kingdoms back in the day), but I still think its best to give myself a day or two of concentrating on playing with my buddies before I'm ready to get schooled by total strangers.

So, that was the genesis of our home-made Skorne vs Western Immoren campaign. We'll play it during GenCon and use the games as part of the Iron Arena process. I'll preview the campaign later this week -- Apollo, one of my buddies that will be at GenCon, has made some sweet scenery to help bring the game alive.

Fenris says "suck it!" err... "bye!"