The Wonderful, Fantastical, Whimsical World of Pax Limpopo.
The wonderful world of... what?!
Pax Limpopo is a magical place which could but never quite got to exist in the real world. Part Flashman novel, part Monty Python, part Penny Opera, it is a pseudo Victorian comedy of errors and dark stage pantomime.
But what's it all about?
To borrow from Greg Hallam's (Eureka Miniatures) own words:
"Queen Victoria has married Shaka Zulu and the age of the mighty Anglo-African Empire has begun. The science of steam and the clock spring have revolutionised the world. Great wealth and opportunities abound. This is a brave new era where a man of good deportment can carve out a kingdom for himself, and where a woman can ride a bicycle. Yet these great social advances have come at a cost. Some still yearn for the strict social order of past times, while the weak, the poor, and the socially inept burn with indignation at not being allowed their share in the benefits of this golden age. And beyond the far flung boundaries of the Empire, envious foreign eyes greedily search Victoria's realm for signs of weakness. Cads and Bounders are everywhere. Rumours are rife concerning Lucifer Hardlove's latest diabolical invention; the anarchist nannies have been causing more unrest; the Prussians are plotting and the French are pressing on with their animal experimentation. This world needs heroes. Heroes of questionable breeding in a well cut, tightly fitting uniform. Heroes with a nose for a good brandy and an eye for a fine lady's calf while she peddles a bicycle. Heroes like Wellyn Shaftesbury of the 8th Hussars (now there's a hero)...."
Pax Limpopo follows a whimsical and sometimes farcical approach to the (so called) Gaslight and Steam-Punk genre, but I think it probably owes as much to modern themes... e.g. The League Extraordinary Gentlemen and Anime movies such as Steam Boy and Howl's Moving Castle as it does to the classics: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs... and the rest.
Eureka Miniatures are grizzled veterans of their trade, and have been sculpting and selling their beautiful precision scale models since 1991. Their Pax Limpopo range is somewhat younger, and first took the gaming world by storm in 1998. Though I have heard it said that the world of Pax didn't exactly take anything by storm... rather it latched onto the throats of the gaming world and simply refused to let go, borne from tenacious and stubborn pride - knowing it had regal blood coursing through its supple fibre.
But what types of miniature are you likely to find amongst the Pax Limpopo range of main characters, side-kicks, minions, and weirdlings? Quite frankly, the answer is almost too scary to contemplate.
Opening the tent flaps to Eureka's crazy macabre circus (yes, they have killer clowns too) is a bit like opening a Cadburys Chocolate Orange; only once you've crack the tough outer shell can you get to the succulent and delicious aroma explosive centre.
Now, if you like dark humour, with the slightest twist of the cynical and mentally warped (I was weaned on Monty Python's Flying Circus, so I'm okay) then you're in for an extra treat. The names of the main characters alone will probably have you in euphoric stitches of laughter: Professor Niagara and his Ocular Viagra, Heironomous Pratt and his Audio Hat, Professor McHoots and his Circular Boots, Ophelia Phondlewell (in hip bath and Hardlove Rubber Interloper)... then we've got Lunar shape shifting aliens, cartoon like bomb wielding anarchist nannies (called Nanarchists), French and Prussian spies, French biogenically altered animal soldiers, Prussian Storm-troopers and Gyrocopter pilots, there's even a Hungarian ambassador. And if this isn't enough to send you completely over the top, you've got Pigmies of the Lost World (or is it the New World?), Dinosaurs: from dangerous Raptor packs to pantomime T-Rex.
But the best is still to come. The British cavalry don't ride horses, oh no, far too smelly and uncouth! They ride Unicycles and Penny Farthings... there's even a weird oriental fellow on a rocket powered bicycle.
But it doesn't stop there: if you like your Steampunkian vehicular contraptions, Eureka support their Pax range with a weird, whacky, and diverse collection of mechanical steam driven and clockwork tanks, cars, and... flying things.
There's more, but the list would go on and on.
All in all, it's no wonder Pax Limpopo is slowly gathering quite a cult following among some of the more esoteric gamers out there (the more mature ones who don't mind looking silly and prime straight jacket material), and the more mainstream hobbyist is just starting to cotton on to what they've been missing all this time.
I mean, who wouldn't want to field a squadron or two of Hardlove Heavy Steam Chargers on the wargames table, or sweep the enemy away with flashing displays of synchronised bicycle manoeuvres?
And if it all gets simply too embarrassing for words, you can always dress up as British Gorilla impersonators.......erm..... Eureka Miniatures make those as well I'm afraid.
An extract from Pax Limpopo....
Lord Mayweather meticulously brushed the bread crumbs off his waxed moustache, placed his tea cup carefully on the table, and picked up the morning newspaper.
"Nanarchists on Wild Rampage!" he read aloud.
"Yesterday anarchist nannies ran amok through Hyde Park, defacing and vandalising monuments, most notably that of His Highness King Shaka Zulu. It is reported that Her Majesty Queen Victoria is not amused by this grave insult to her beloved husband. Sir Wellyn Shaftesbury has been recalled from Egypt to take charge of the investigations." Mayweather growled.
No doubt the Prussians were behind it all. Or the French! Or those damn creatures that were brought back from the moon... what were they called?... shape-changers? Too many enemies all jealous of the vast strides that the Empire was making under the wise and noble reign of Victoria and Shaka.
Thank God there were still people like Sir Wellyn Shaftesbury, the Queen's own hero. Mayweather first met Shaftesbury at a rally, where the great man spent six or seven hours modestly recounting his adventures, including the famous story of how he had rescued the Queen after her airship crashed over Africa. Britain (and Africa, of course), needed more men like him, thought Mayweather. He barely noticed the maid placing a large covered dish on the table until a pungent odour filled his nostrils and he looked up.
"What's this?" he snapped.
The maid curtseyed. "Please sir, it's crap."
"Crap, sir. Corned raptor, straight from Colonel Sanders'raptor farms. It's very good, I'm told. Much tastier than chicken."
"Oh... Yes." said Mayweather. "Enterprising chap that Sanders. Bringing dinosaurs all the way from Africa to farm here. Bit hard on the sheep dogs though, I understand."
"If that is all you require sir, may I please be excused? My fiance is calling for me this morning to take me to the penny-farthing races."
"Yes of course" replied Mayweather, still staring suspiciously at the brown meat in front of him.
"Your fiance, he's a cavalry officer isn't he? In the Scots Dragoons?"
"The Black Tires? Yes sir, the best penny-farthing unit in the whole army" she replied proudly, "Robert, that's my fiance's name sir, says that a penny-farthing can outmanoeuvre a unicycle any day."
Mayweather smiled. "Well don't tell that to the light cavalry! They're very attached to their unicycles, ever since they won the Charge of the Light Brigade. Off you go."
The maid curtseyed again and scampered out. Mayweather sighed. He sometimes wished he was a young man again in the army. Of course, it was all quite different now from when he was young - now the army had all sorts of modern inventions and weaponry, like the Hardlove Steam-Driven Impervious Suit, and the Electro- Galvanic Lightening Discharge Gun. Not to mention landships, submersibles and gyrocopters. All invented by the indefatigable genius Eden Hardlove.
Too bad his Siamese-twin brother defected to Prussia. A knocking at the front door disturbed his reverie. Damn, where was the maid? Dressing no doubt. And it was his butler's day off. He shuffled down the hallway and opened the door.
A figure dressed in a British cavalry uniform leapt smartly to attention.
"Begging your pardon sir, I've come to collect Maude."
"You must be Robert." said Mayweather.
White teeth gleamed in a coal-black face as the soldier smiled. "She's mentioned me then, sir?"
Fine looking officer, thought Mayweather. These are the sort of men that will take the Pax Limpopo Empire to the ends of the earth. And the stars as well....
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert