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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly … of Gunslinger

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly … of Gunslinger

Avalon Hill has long been a company known for its war gaming roots, though it has also dabbled in roleplaying games. Then there are other games. Like Gunslinger. Gunslinger is a bit different. It’s not a war game. It’s not a roleplaying game. It’s sort of both. And neither. I suppose Gunslinger could be called an Old West gunfight simulation game. So, while not exactly a war game, it is a combat game, and while not really a rpg, it does have rpg elements and something of a rpg feel to it.

Designed by Richard Hamblen and released by Avalon Hill in 1982, Gunslinger is a board game (sort of) for up to seven players, with each acting as a character in a gunfight. The game includes stiff cardboard maps, tons of cardboard cutouts, cards upon cards for character actions and results, charts and charts and more charts, and more rules than names in a telephone book (they still make those, right?). It’s already starting to sound like a tabletop rpg. Except there are no dice.

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Old School Steampunk: Reading The Steam Man of the Plains (1883)

Old School Steampunk: Reading The Steam Man of the Plains (1883)

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In the days before television, movies, or even pulp magazines, readers who wanted exciting fantastic fare read dime novels. This style of popular literature lasted from about 1860 to 1930, before the pulps finally killed them off. In those 70 years, countless series and titles were published — mysteries, Westerns, historical dramas, romances, and even steampunk.

Yes, steampunk goes right back to the age of steam. I recently read one of the most popular titles, the 1883 edition of The Steam Man of the Plains, published by the Five Cent Wide-Awake Library, a series directed specifically at adolescent boys. You can read it online at Northern Illinois University’s excellent online collection of dime novels.

Warning: spoilers follow!

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Results of a Writing Retreat in Tangier, Morocco

Results of a Writing Retreat in Tangier, Morocco

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My local produce seller, a farmer from one of the villages in the Rif

 

When the writing gets tough, the tough writers go to Tangier…

One of the advantages of living in Europe is that you have North Africa right at your doorstep. Sadly that region, with all its diverse cultures and beautiful landscape and ancient sites, has largely become a no-go area. Algeria and Libya are war zones and Tunisia and Egypt are highly unstable as well. That leaves Morocco, a safe and stable country that’s drawn me back several times to use as a writing retreat.

As I mentioned in a previous post about Living in a Moroccan Medina, I regularly go to the northern port of Tangier to get away from email and editors and take some time to do some serious writing. Not only does the city resonate with literary giants of the past like Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, and Mohamed Chukri, it also provides inspiration in the form of a large traditional medina, fine views over the Strait of Gibraltar, and a growing arts scene.

So what does a Canadian writer living in Madrid work on when he’s in Morocco? Read on. . .

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Parenting Advice from the Wild West

Parenting Advice from the Wild West

Geronimo (right) and some of his warriors at their final surrender in 1886.
Geronimo (right) and some of his warriors at their final surrender in 1886. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As a historian, I spend a lot of time researching the Wild West. As a parent, I’m always looking for good advice. So the natural question arises–what can we learn about raising children from America’s frontier?

The truth is, not much. In the early days of the Wild West, there weren’t many kids about, and when settlers came with their families, the little tykes were usually put to work on farms and ranches like they were miniature adults. Yet there are a few nuggets of wisdom handed down from that era.

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Wild West Outlaws of the Silent Screen: When Hollywood Hired Real Bandits

Wild West Outlaws of the Silent Screen: When Hollywood Hired Real Bandits

Jesse James Jr. (left) in a promotional still from Jesse James Under the Black Flag.
Jesse James Jr. (left) in a promotional still from Jesse James Under the Black Flag.

When movies first became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, the world was already captivated with tales of the Wild West. Dime novels, plays, and traveling shows entertained millions in the U.S. and abroad. Movie directors were quick to pick up on this and Westerns were a popular film genre right from the start.

The first years of film overlapped with the last years of the Wild West. The last corners of the frontier were being settled, and some towns still had the shoot-em-up reputation movie viewers craved. Directors often went on location and hired real cowboys to do their stuff in front of the camera. One of them, Tom Mix, became one of the genre’s enduring stars.

But movie directors wanted bad men too, and they didn’t have to look far. Several real Western outlaws reenacted their crimes on camera.

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