Guest Post: Plastic Bastards Saved My Life

Posted on April 22, 2024 in Actual Play, Reviews and recommendations

Full disclosure: the headline is an exaggeration. The author’s life wasn’t in danger at any point. But it’s more exciting than “area man gets incredibly invested in free miniatures wargame,” isn’t it?

Findlay got in touch with me over Instagram and said that he’d gone all out on playing Plastic Bastards, my well-intentioned stab at a minis game, and I was very taken with his story and asked him to write it up in full for us. So here it is! Text and pictures by Findlay, annotations by me.

– Grant

So it has been a rough start to the year for my friend Chris and I for various reasons, and we are both feeling pretty worn out and run down.  Neither of us has the energy to sit down and commit to one of the many games we have taking up room on our shelves, to deal with the complexities of list building and balancing, and then painstakingly building and painting the corresponding models.  It’s all just too much to be honest, and feels more like work than we want our very limited free time to be.

Findlay here using the absolutely choice crashed Aquila Lander terrain from the early 2000’s

And then Facebook puts an article in front of me about this vindictive little game called Plastic Bastards, and talks about how the focus is on building what you want and then figuring out what it does, to be as mean and petty as possible, and that the rules are only three pages long.  So I follow the links, and read the rules, and it seems simple enough that maybe we have the energy to give this a go.  So Friday night rolls around, and we have our hang out planned for Saturday, and I sit down to build out a gang. 

Now I’ve always built and painted FOR game systems, so added specific pieces of equipment, and followed rules.  I’ve very rarely just created what felt cool, so this is almost a new world for me…  I start by pulling out the embarrassingly large number of boxes of unbuilt models and see what I can find.  An hour of searching later and I have robed cultist bodies (shoutout to Curtis Fell at Ramshackle Games!), a gigantic mutant, a stack of weird gubbins, and no plan whatsoever.  This was 7 pm at this point, and the nice delivery man had brought vodka, so I settled into cutting, and then I think I got possessed by the Glue Daemons…  At 1 am there was a complete painted gang of robed cultists, with chem throwers, strange weapons and rusty swords, banding around the giant monster they worshipped.

Here they are! I too can heartily recommend getting not completely but definitely slightly fucked up and then trying to make toy soldiers

Saturday morning rolls around, and, somewhat bleary from the possession and/or vodka, I create the character sheets for the cultists and the other gang that got pulled out of a box – an Inquisitor and retinue – print everything off, and set up a table.  We started by rolling for objectives, and pulled out a treasure token, a gun emplacement and vehicle.  Bits box raiding starts again, and we find a resin pork pie, a motorbike, and Rogue Trader lead Tarantula emplacement, set them out, and make up some ludicrous story about the inquisitors raiding to get the pork pie because maybe it’s a people pie…  At this point I could throw out some sentences as a review of the rules, and comment on how they felt streamlined and light, and how quickly we picked them up, but that would miss the main point… 

For the first time in probably two years we sat down together and actually ENJOYED a game.  We had an absolute blast.  We made up rules when we didn’t know what to do.  When a model was tall enough, we ruled it could attack people on the level above.  We decided that the motorbike could have a pillion rider, who ended up being a cultist holding a spear, riding around with it like a lance impaling people.  The game, ultimately was ruled a draw, the inquisitors didn’t manage to take the pie for testing, but they did destroy it by blowing up the motorbike, after having a discussion about where it was being carried by the rider.  And when we blew it up, it was a drumroll followed by yells as the card result was the minimum to trigger the explosion.

They even made little gang sheets for their gangs!

For the first time in a very long time we finished the game amped and excited, and babbling about what we could do next, and when we could next get together to move our horrible little people around on the board.  After Chris left I started going through the boxes again to find other things I could use for the objectives; I found random tokens, a broken bomb, crates, bits of people, and after channeling the glue daemons again, created a full set of pieces for the game. 

Then I found an old wooden box that had been decorated years ago as an inquisitor’s shipping container, so now there was somewhere to stash everything.  Poking around online I found files for little cartridges that double as D6, that would work as ammo counters, and printed them for maybe $0.40 cents of materials.  The box didn’t quite fit the printed rules, so I organized them into a pamphlet and printed copies, and Chris has cut us measuring templates so we don’t need tape measures.  The only thing that was actually purchased was a set of creepy playing cards, as the bright and colourful Munchkin deck we were using for our first games didn’t quite fit the aesthetic…  A few days later, looking at everything, I realized that between us we had created our own boxed set of Plastic Bastards.  We had our own tokens, starting gangs, rulebook, templates and fancy storage box.

A boxed game, Ma! Just like in the Games Workshops! I TOLD you I’d make it one day

But what made this really special wasn’t the cool stuff we made, it was that for the first time in a very, very long time, Chris and I were actually fired up by a game.  We didn’t end the day exhausted, preparing for the next meetup didn’t feel like a chore, and we actually had fun.  I couldn’t honestly tell you the last time we had fun playing a game.  Instead of spending hours searching through a rulebook to find sub-paragraph 47b to define what would happen when a 7ft character fought a 3 foot character in the dark on a Tuesday during the full moon with a light drizzle and spear with the blessing of Bob, we just…  made it up.  We told our own story.  We didn’t care which of us won or lost, because it just didn’t matter.  What mattered was that we created something together, and the act of creation wasn’t invested with a need for it to be, or mean, anything beyond just something that we made. 

Since then, the glue daemons have taken regular possession, turning ancient Greek warriors into gas mask wearing wasteland scavengers, and kilted fighters into gothic trench warriors.  And I would be remiss if I did not point out that with the exception of the new playing cards, everything that we made and used was things we already had, but had no reason or excuse to take out and build and paint. 

I like the colour scheme on the bases of this lot. All too often just paint them a kind of lumpy beige

Plastic Bastards was something we didn’t realise we needed, it gave us an outlet to have unrestricted creative fun, and it did that at a time that we were both feeling really really down.  The creativity that it unleashed was twofold, both in the making and painting, but also in the narrative creation while we were playing.  The rules being deliberately light, and as Grant says, essentially unfinished, mean that you have to work with your (I almost said opponent, but that isn’t the right word for who you play this game with) co-creator to decide how situations evolve, which directly encourages you to not compete, but create together.

Good stuff eh? If you enjoyed Findlay’s stuff you can check out his honestly slightly humbling page Barbarian Painting here. And if you want to take your own turn at mangling together some fucked up little guys, you can download Plastic Bastards (for free!) here.


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