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I found myself asking an odd question while in hospital. If I were to lose my collection of models and books suddenly say, in a house fire, what would I start again with? Because, though I have lived and breathed the Thirty Years War for a long time, I don’t know that I’d want to paint all the same figures again.

World War Two is becoming a core period for me, and this is probably because now that my father and everyone in his battalion are dead it does not feel like morbid warmongering. It’s just a game.

There are drawers and boxes full of painted and unpainted models covering all sorts of periods. Skirmish gaming lets me have the freedom to indulge most of these but even so, there are a lot that will never be used. They are a weight to me, as if they demand attention before I can move on.

The start of any clean up is to let go. Spying some 15mm colonial that have not been used in a decade or more I passed them on to Andrew, who had expressed an interest. In a surprise move that undermined my goal of simplifying my collection, he gave me some 28mm British and Zulu.

Strangely, this turned out to be a great weight off my mind. Even though I had decided that it would be stupid to start a new period (because the house had definitely not burnt down), clearly my subconscious was still processing the question. The choice had been bouncing around tricorne (Age of Reason – the Baron Munchausen adventure), shako (Revolution or Napoleonics – the Richard Sharp adventure), or kepi and pith helmet (the Victorian period, and even Victorian Science Fiction. VSF). When Andrew handed me the figures, it was decided.

On top of this I have had a bizarre fascination with the Atacama desert (now) in Chile. The driest place in the world, jammed up against the mighty Andes, it was the object of a war of possession between Chile and the allied powers of Bolivia and Peru. Why? Bird shit. Piles of it: perfect for extracting nitrates for the international munitions industry. Running from 1879 to 1884 it is perfect for the wargamer. Beautiful uniforms inspired by the French (and therefore ACW models can be used, but in a far more attractive range of colours), small numbers of combatants, and plenty of naval action and amphibious landings. Breach loading rifles, but still linear tactics guided by European advisors. Moreover, I recall one of my father’s last pieces of advice about war: that it was better fought in a desert, where there are fewer children to suffer.

While it is relatively unknown to most people outside of South America, it appears I am not alone in seeing the wargaming possibilities. See Andean Tragedy. Partizan Press have now in English translation a book covering the uniforms.

It seems to me that South America is every bit as ripe for Victorian Science Fiction as is Africa. You have the tallest mountains, the biggest rivers, the mightiest jungles. You have head hunting tribes, terrible monsters and ancient civilisations. The have (just) post colonial nations intent on flexing their nationalistic muscle against each other. Finally, you have the rich natural resources that the European world (including rapacious America) wants to get their hands on.

It’s ripe for games, campaigns and great stories, baby.

That’s where I’m going next. Next purchase: Perry plastic ACW. Next decision: set of rules. I’m vacillating between Space 1889 Soldier’s Companion (comprehensive, simple resolution, but boring turn structure), The Sword And The Flame (TSATF – it has pedigree, I admit, but does it capture this atmosphere?), and Ganesha Games 6165. I like the Ganesha three dice activation – in fact I love it and have difficulty playing anything else. But 6165 squads seem too small, and I’d have to graft all the VSF stuff on myself.

There are other rules out there such as GASLIGHT and I will need to investigate them as well. I know I can depend on Greg to provide a dozen alternate resolution mechanisms – and then ignore them all on the night.

The final piece of this puzzle is to find a worthy home to get rid of an awful lot of miscellaneous figures.

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