Welcome to Throw Back Thursday where I examine things from painting days long past.
This week, I'm spending some time musing about one of my favorite pieces--a Broadsword Legion Atlas and reflecting on how this miniature came to be. Sometimes, the plans we have for our lives aren't the paths we take.
Painting the Bad Guys of the Battletech Universe
Wade into any forum or stand at the side of a table for long enough and you'll find someone shouting "The Blakists only have all of man's best interests in mind," claims that "Katherine was the rightful heir and superior statesman!" or still think that the Smoke Jags were really only trying to reestablish the Star League to make everything better. It's easy enough to claim that roles of "good guy" and "bad guy" are all relative to which side of the map you're throwing dice from or based on what faction swag you're wearing. There are, however, woven carefully into the fiction clear "good guys" and "bad guys," beginning with Amaris and the fall of the Star League to the Combine and Confederation throughout much of the Succession Wars. There are even two entire era's of play that explicitly name the bad guys. Neither the "Clan Invasion" nor the "Word of Blake Jihad" give much room for explaining away who the villain is in this space opera we all love.
But sometimes, it can be fun to paint and play the bad guys.
Having a force of villains is just as much about--if not much more than--having an Op For to play. There is something liberating about playing the antagonist. Sometimes, it is the feeling of being the underdog and riles a fight in the spirit. Other times, it's the freedom that comes from being able to move and operate outside the constricting and contradictory conventions of "fair play" and "civilized war." Exactly like every kid loves Darth Vader, being the bad guy gives players a sense of freedom of self and domination over others.
How did we get to that point, however? Like this Atlas, the stories aren't often quite as black and white as the print in our fiction. This Boradsword Legion piece actually began as an integral part of a DCMS mini-diorama. Initially built and assembled to serve The Dragon, this mini never received those colors. But, like they always do, things changed. As new minis came and went, it sat in a case, cleaned and assembled waiting to be put to the field.
When the chance finally came, this Atlas took on the shiny metal of the Broadsword legion with ease. No longer did the stifling and constricting colors of DCMS regiments tell it what color to be, how to stand, what it could and couldn't have for nose art. It had all the space to display properly and proudly all the large sized insignia and art it could handle. No longer was it reaching down to help a fallen comrade--now, it towered above its victims with contempt-full eyes. It became an unstoppable wall of steel.
Despite all of that, I still see what was planned for it once. I see what no one else would. In my head, I still see how the pieces fit together--the Atlas with his outstretched hand to save his fellow 'Mechwarrior. The steadfast resolve to hold the line for his lance mates still flashes, from time to time, as I remember what could have been but never was.
And maybe that is another part of why we like to paint bad guys. Sometimes, we too feel misunderstood. We sympathize with their plight of lost potential. Maybe, if we play these pieces, we can help tell their side of the story and, in doing so, come to better understand ourselves.
Or, maybe we just want to watch the world burn.
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