Downloading: Wargame Blogging With 35 Million Images

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I’ve written previously about my longtime career in the photo and film licensing industry, starting out in the mid-1990s as a historic photo researcher. One of my former employers, Getty Images, made a surprise announcement this week that it was making available for free some 35 million images for non-commercial use in social media and blogging. The press release stated Getty Images’ acknowledgement of the widespread use of images without proper licensing, and the new system will allow for data-gathering and one would think some form of monetization long-term.

Using the new functionality is easy with a quick image search and copy/paste of the embed code into a website like Facebook or blog platform like WordPress. Images are importantly displayed with the proper photographer and collection attribution. The Getty Images logo is also prominently shown along with buttons to share the image via Twitter or Tumblr. Clicking on the image itself returns the user to the Getty Images website for full caption information. Because the image is never actually uploaded to the blog’s hosting site, there’s an additional cost savings in storage space. It’s all fast, neat and, again — free.

For wargame bloggers, there’s an enormous amount of iconic and more obscure photographs, maps, posters and illustrations available. The black and white and color historical offering is deep. Contemporary photos of equipment, re-enactments, memorials and sites relevant to military history should also be useful for reference for wargame bloggers like myself. Not every image Getty Images represents is available for free through the embed code, and users should be careful not to grab an image requiring a license fee.

Check out the below for just a glimpse of the breadth and depth in the Getty Images offering which may very well be popping up on some of your favorite blogs very soon.

Ancient & Medieval Warfare

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American War of Independence

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Seven Years War

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Napoleonic Wars

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American Civil War

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African Colonial Wars

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World War I

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World War II

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Cuban Revolution

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War Concepts

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Downloading: Blogging War In Pictures

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I’ve made my living for the past 17 years in the pictures business. In 1996, I arrived in New York City and landed a job with a photo-licensing company doing historic photo research. My days were spent fulfilling client requests for photos, illustrations and artwork to be used in advertising, corporate marketing, book publishing, magazines and newspapers,  documentaries, motion pictures and TV programming. Since then, I’ve gone on to work with several of the largest stock photo and film licensing companies in the world.

In my time, I’ve participated in the rapid changes in the business as it evolved from a world of photo prints kept in dusty file cabinets to the digital marketplace of images today. The proliferation of online search and digital photography databases has granted professionals and non-professionals alike enormous access to visuals illustrating  the arc of world history from the dawn of time to the latest celebrity gossip.

With this has come the significant challenges of copyright management. Companies like those that have employed me license images for a fee ranging from a couple bucks to tens-of-thousands of dollars each, depending on the use and value of the image (often based on murky concepts of scarcity and quality). With these licensing fees, photographers, archives recieve payment and people like me are able to pay the rent and feed my kids.

With images easily available online there is a lot of misinformation on in what instances a photo which may be used without paying someone a fee. Bloggers and other online outlets (and even traditional print-based users) regularly use photos under misunderstood concepts like “fair use.” In short, unless someone is granting you permission to use their works you could very well be in some sort of copyright violation and subject to significant legal and financial penalties. This is a conversation we in the licensing business have countless times a day with new and old customers alike.

For a blogger like me, I try to take as many photos myself and stick to others that are either out of copyright or used in the context of reviewing a game, book or film. Looking for great historical reference images for use online or off still remains a challenge at times, but it keeps getting easier all the time.

This past week, the British Library announced the release of nearly one million images for free use via Flickr Commons. The BL becomes the latest insitutional archive to make available enormous selections of images. For bloggers, gamers and armchair historians, these resources are incredible and hours can be spent paging through them. Other existing collections of interest for wargamers include:

For now, below is just a taste of what’s new to be found in the British Library’s new online Flickr collection. The emphasis is on 18th-19th century history with tons of maps, engravings, diagrams and photographs. The Napoleonic Wars is documented in a ton of gorgeous color plates of uniformed soldiers, making them a perfect reference for your miniatures painting projects. The American Civil War is represented in scores of maps, portraits of various military and political leaders and lots of reference drawings of equipment and fortifications. The centuries of Britain’s colonialism is captured with a lot of material on Egypt, South Africa and the Middle East. Finally, there is a fair amount of naval and land imagery from the Spanish-American War.

Have a look for yourself and I’m sure you’ll find some obscure visual historic treasure of your own.

Napoleonic Wars

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American Civil War

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African Colonial Wars

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Spanish-American War

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santiago

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Zulu War: British 24th of Foot Regiment in 28mm

One of the big goals I set for myself this year was to have at my Anglo-Zulu War era project in 28mm. Most of my gaming interest has a US tie-in — American Civil War and WWII — but I am just fascinated by the dynamics of the in late 19th-century British campaigns of invasion fought in Sub-Saharan Africa . Now, after a few months of on-again-off-again toil, my British forces are looking pretty sharp and battle-ready.

I first picked up a couple boxes of plastic Anglo-Zulu War era British from Wargames Factory at a convention flea market for just $8 each (quite a deal from the $20 retail price). At 25 figures per box, these run under a buck per soldier at full cost. The sprues come with head and arm options for firing, loading, advancing and at-the-ready pose variations. The casting is a bit chunky, all figures are standing fully upright and no command figures are available, so there are some trade-offs for the relative value of these figures. Wargames Factory’s Anglo-Zulu War line is also very limited in that they only offer this one box of British and another of Zulus. Still, they’re a great bang-for-your-buck option, especially for an era that requires fielding a lot of soldiers on the table.

For variety and comparison’s sake I next bought a box of British infantry from Empress Miniatures and Warlord Games. Their expanding “Anglo-Zulu War 1879” line offers a nice mix of plastic and metal British, Zulu and allied forces along with terrain, artillery, cavalry and other nice models. Their British infantry box runs about $32 for 24 figures making their cost-per-figure a bit pricier than the offering from Wargames Factory at over a dollar each. However, their figure sculpting is a fair amount finer and the pose options allow for more variety. The boxed set also includes crouching figures, making double-ranked firing lines a possibility. Along with twenty plastic infantry armed with rifles, the box comes with four metal command stands which fill a basic need for most Anglo-Zulu War gaming. I’ve rounded-out my force with an additional 16 metal figures in various crouching poses and four more metal officers from Empress Miniatures in poses that vary from those in the box set. The metal figures run more than $2 each, but by spreading them among the less expensive plastics I’ve achieved what I think is a nice variety.

In sum, my first round of modelling the 24th of Foot will net me 76 infantry stands commanded by 8 officers. This will give me a nice Company-sized British force broken out into two Platoons of two Squads each of 20 figures (including command).

Here’s a couple work-in-progress photos:

       

My challenge now is to tackle my Zulus which are typically fielded in a ratio of (at least) 3:1 to British figures in many gaming systems. I have a few Zulus already painted shown along with some of my new British below, but it looks like I’ve got many hours of painting still to go in the coming months.

Downloading: Zulus On The Ramparts

Living in Brooklyn and commuting back and forth to Manhattan on the subway for work each day, I wind up with a fair amount of time on my hands. I read a lot and the New York Times crossword puzzle is a daily necessity, but sometimes I like to just unwind with a game on my iPhone. I’m not a big electronic player in general, so I was glad to happen across Zulus On The Ramparts! by Victory Point games in the iTunes Store.

Over the past six years or so, Victory Point Games has cranked out dozens of board and card games covering all kinds of scenarios, eras and genres. More recently, they’ve begun releasing a few apps, and Zulus On The Ramparts! just debuted a couple months ago. The game is based on their popular boardgame of the same name from their historical “States of Siege” solitaire games line, and it is available now for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

As with the boardgame, the app inserts the player into the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. In the January of 1879 battle, a small group of maybe 150 British soldiers from the 24th Regiment of Foot successfully defended a small outpost against a massive army of thousands of Zulus. The battle was popularly dramatized in the 1964 movie “Zulu,” and I was first introduced to it in John Keegan’s “A History of Warfare.” My interest in the battle and the Anglo-Zulu War period has only grown over time, and I’m currently working toward getting a large 28mm scale wargame up and running.

The game progresses through a series of turn phases. First, a random action is chosen for a Zulu impi to move, attack, retreat, stand their ground or perform some other specific action. Each Zulu force appears on the field and then moves over the course of the game through a series of predefined oval spaces which progressively close in on the walls and barricades of the British hospital outpost. Some Zulu actions may cause extra moves or the entire Zulu force to move en masse. Since close range combat is key to a Zulu victory, the first portion of the game is spent quickly organizing and supplying the British before the inevitable attack.

A lot of information is crammed into the game map screen. The position of the Zulus is shown at their various ranges from the fortifications. At the top, the game phase is indicated. On the left side of the screen, various historic officers or more generic soldier characters stand at the ready to use their various bonuses in combat and other special actions. On the right side a running status of supplies such as water and ammo, along with other factors which will effect the outcome. The bottom of the screen displays a clock as the turns click by toward darkness as well as a link that takes you to the “barracks” screen.

On the barracks screen you manage your officers and troops, viewing their heroic abilities on virtual “cards.” Abilities range from calling up reserves, ordering the construction of barricades or distributing supplies to the troops. The barracks also contain combat actions allowing you to fire volleys from your Martini-Henry rifles with various effectiveness of range

Once actions are selected, combat is resolved through a nifty slot machine-like spinning wheel. Depending on range, the type of weapons being fired and any modifiers from heroic actions on activated officer and troop “cards,” combat outcomes are determined. After combat, new cards are randomly placed in your barracks and the next round begins with additional Zulu actions.

Like the historic battle at Rorke’s Drift, time is of the essence in Zulus At The Ramparts! and hours run by quickly on the game clock as the Zulus swarm in on the British and supplies run low. This is a really tough game in a small digital package with lots of variables to manage from turn to turn. Playing on the tiny iPhone screen makes things even harder, and there is probably significant playability to be gained in playing the game on an iPad or Android tablet.

With a few games (and losses) behind me, the game can seem frustrating at times. With that said, the difficulty of Zulus At The Ramparts! does a pretty decent job in simulating the bloody tough spot the British found themselves in on the plains of Africa on that famous 1879 day where retreat simply wasn’t an option.