Francesco Berni, DevOps Engineer on Sci-Fi Models and Board Games

Hi, I am Francesco Berni, and I work in the DevOps space for Large Scale Automation. I moved to Dublin in 2017, but I lived in my hometown in the north of Italy for most of my life, with a small interlude in the US. I moved here searching for more interesting (and better paying) work. DevOps is something I have studied and loved since I was a teenager, and I could not think about doing anything else honestly.

Besides my time at work, I create sci-fi models and am interested in board games. I try to put some work in creating models every week, depending on how much I am into that specific kit and step I am at, even 3 or 4 evenings every week. My passion for it started a couple of years ago while I was at some friend’s place and they were building some Gundam models. Later that evening I bought three for myself.

I love the source material for the models, and I find the whole process extremely satisfying. In Italy, mecha culture started in the late 70s, and it’s a lot more common than one would imagine, so it was easy to start. It is extremely fun and gratifying, and while it does not change my rhythms too much, I have got a lot of space dedicated to supplies and my workshop, and I have always been extremely serious about my hobbies.

I’m passionate about my job, like I am at most of the things I choose to do, and as such I put a lot of energy into it. So at times, taking a day for myself, my brushes and a couple of model kits is a great way to cool down and recharge, for both social and mental batteries. While I can’t use the skills directly for my job, I would probably be a lot more stressed out at my job without this outlet.

I tend to always set new challenges for myself for every new model that I build. I recently finished repainting and modifying a Funko pop build as a birthday present for a friend of mine, and modifying non-mechanical things was difficult. Do not even get me started on painting skin tones. Just before that, I built a millennium falcon as close as possible to the version you see in the movies, and replicating existing paint jobs and weathering took a lot of time, but was a lot of fun. Right now I am trying some detailing techniques and tools on a very small and simple Mecha (a Zaku I), and I’ll probably try some different weathering techniques at the end, some rust, some heavy chipping, so we’ll see how it goes.

I try to learn at least one new technique every model, so not to get stale. That way my skills are always fresh, and I continue to learn and get better. If I continue to improve as I’m doing now, any models I’ve built 6 months ago will look horrible to me, and I would like to redo them completely. However, there’s always the next piece of plastic to work on.

I also play all kinds of board games, from the 20 minute filler games, to the “we keep the table as it is and continue next week” kind of games. I tend to like games that are hard to master, so that every game is a challenge.

I probably have a different idea of the classic board game than the usual person. For example, a classic for me is the 1980 Civilization or Japanese Mahjong, while I think that Monopoly is a dysfunctional aberration. As a general rule, I don’t decide if I like a game by its age, instead I read the rules and decide. New designs are always interesting though, and I love the GMT Coin Series right now. One of my favourite recent board game designers is Phil Eklund, who is extremely well researched and has created some very hard games.

Because of problems with time and distance, I don’t play table top RPGs as much as I did as a teen, but I still play once or twice a month. I have recently moved to the indie side of RPG, which has a lot more variety of games, styles, themes, and designs. Right now I am playing a campaign of Urban Shadow in WWII Paris during the German occupation, just with factions of monsters and magic added into the mix for good fun (spoiler: it does not make the setting lighter). My character is an ex French soldier who becomes a monster hunter after the German military start to send rabid vampires into the trenches. I don’t normally have a “role” that I usually play, as by playing a lot of different games I tend to vary. I don’t find the fun in playing the same thing all the time.

Board games are in a Golden Age right now. During the Essen Spiel, a board game trade fair, more than a thousand different games will arrive into the market. Most of them are mediocre yes, but there are more good games getting out every year than I’m able to play. We are more and more in an age where anyone can find a game they like.

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