Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Terrain archeology

Just off the painting and flocking table:

This is the venerable Grendel Ruined Acropolis, a set which probably every wargamer of a certain vintage has lying around. This particular set has sat in its box since the early Lonely Mountain days of Schild en Vriend and has seen at least four house moves with me. So I decided it was high time it got painted :).

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Latest additions to the index

Some quick updates:
  • All issues of Miniature Wargames which are in my collection have been entered. Many are still missing ...
  • Through an unexpected windfall, I came into the possession of Wargames Illustrated 51 and Wargames World 5. This makes the index for all "black cover" issues of Wargames Illustrated COMPLETE!
  • The first issue of the digital Wargamer's Notes has also been added.
  • I keep adding Miniature Wargames and Wargames Soldier Strategy issues through my subscriptions as they come in.
  • I plan to add the series "Secrets of Wargame Design" as well. I do have the first 6 volumes, so it's only a matter of finding the time to enter them.
Access the index here.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Dragon Rampant: Elves vs Chaos

Yesterday we played a fairly large Dragon Rampant game. The setup of the forces was discussed before, and if we would use the point values, it came down to something between 65 and 70 points for each side.

We used our hexified version of the game (as discussed here), but we adapted some more things: units could be in adjacent hexes (one unit = one hex, so no confusion possible), and we used dials to track strength points. We didn't use the idea of group orders, as discussed in this blogpost.

Moreover, since I found the original troop rosters too unwieldy, I quickly made some troop cards for easy reference during the game (and as could be expected, there were some wrong statistics on them due to copy-paste mistakes). The biggest change in statistics lines was to simply list modifiers for activation rolls, relative to a baseline of 6+. So all troops activate on a 6+ for all actions, but some have a +1 (activate on 5+) or a -1 (activate on 7+). I think this provides a better perception on the advantages and disadvantages of each troop type.

I also made some cards to draw a random leader characteristic, and to draw some random spells for each wizard. I think that assigning 3 random spells to each wizard provides more fun and thinking, rather than allowing each wizard to use all possible spells - which would quickly degenerate in throwing fireballs back and forth.

Chaos Army cards
Elven army cards
Random Leader trait
Random spells
 Some observations from our game:
  • When using large numbers of units, the activation system starts to break down. So group activation would be a nice thing to have.
  • The differences in activation rolls barely influence player's decisions. So either we should change all activation rolls to 6+, or provide +2 or -2 modifiers to change this characteristic into something that actually does influence the decisions made by players.  Personally, I am not a big fan of varying troop characteristics simply to add flabour - they should also have meaning and influence decisions in gameplay.
  • The combat resolution system is a bit tedious. Rolling 12 dice for each combat, counting hits, then dividing by Armour value ... both players said it takes the "punch" out of rolling the dice. You should be able to see at a glance how much damage you did. The Armour mechanic makes this difficult.
  • Battered units with a -5, -6 modifier have it difficult to recover, but they still are not routing. They keep "hanging around" untill at last they Courage rollf alls below 0.  When units are written off - for all practical considerations - they should get removed more quickly.
Anyway, the pictures of  the game. Bart was playing the Elves, Koen was playing Chaos, and I was taking pictures.

Bart and Koen pondering their strategy
Initial moves.
Reinforcements waiting on the sidelines.
Elven army rushing towards the statues. Marauder Giant (nicknamed Freddy) leading from the front.
Chaos army deploying
Elven spearmen taking the first statue.
Freddy occupying another statue.
More Elven spearmen
A Tree horror and some Minotaurs running over the hills.
Gygax the Dragon fighting the Chaotic Evil forces.
The battle in full swing.
Another view.
And yet another view. Since my wargaming room is not that big a room, it is difficult to get good wide perspective shots.
A look from the Chaos battle lines.
Giant Spider with Venomous attacks.
And yet another overview.
And another random picture.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Then and now II - 17 years of painting redux

I'm currently setting up an Ancients game on my wargame table using one of my oldest collections of figures - Post-Roman Britons and Saxons. IIRC, Post-Roman Britons and Arthur were my second army, just after building a Gallic DBA army.

Setting up these figures, I inevitably come across many of the Arthur figures in my collection, including the one I posted about earlier. This figure was painted in the same colours as one I painted way back in '97 (which got a silver medal at the Crisis painting convention of that year, IIRC). It's interesting to show the more recent Arthur (painted in 2013) and that first Arthur together in the same photo, much as I did for some 20mm British paras earlier:

In the photo above, the figure on the left is the more recently painted one, the one on the right is the one from '97. One thing that is different from the first '17 years comparison' photo is that both figures in this comparison have been painted to the full extent of my painting ability.

Looking at the figures side by side, I was actually surprised at the higher contrast on the more recent figure. It is probably logical, given that the figure on the left was painted up from a black base coat, while the one on the right used a grey base coat. Still, I had the idea in my mind that these two figures were much more similar in painting technique than they actually are.

So, what do you think of these figures? Which one do you think is the best?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Upcoming Dragon Rampant game

I took some pictures of our upcoming Dragon Rampant game. I am not a big fan of "construct your own warband for 24 points" games, so I usually set up a scenario, and plop down a number of units that hopefully will provide an interesting scenario.

For this specific game, I decided to field an Elven army against a Chaos army. Most figures are rather old, going back the early nineties.

The Elves are as follows:

Elven Army
  • Elven Prince: Elite Foot + Invisibility (Advanced Heroquest figure)
  • 3 Archer units: Light Missiles + Sharpshooters (Warhammer 4th edition figures)
  • 3 Spearmen units: Heavy Foot (Warhammer 4th edition figures)
  • Wizard: Light Foot + Spellcaster (Advanced Heroquest figures and an old Citadel familiar)
  • Giant: Elite Foot (Marauder Miniatures giant)
  • Dragon: Greater Warbeast + Flame Attack, Flying, Ranger (Ral Partha)
  • Eagle: Greater Warbeast + Flying, Ranger, Wild Charge (Citadel Eagle)
The forces of Chaos:

Chaos Army
  • Champion: Elite Foot + Ranger, Invisibility, Enchanted Weapon (Old 3rd edition Slaanesh Champion)
  • Wizard: Light Foot + Spellcaster (Citadel Wizard and a Chaos familiar)
  • 4 Beastmen units: Heavy Foot + offensive (Old Citadel Beastmen, 3rd edition)
  • 2 Minotaur units: Elite Foot + Ranger (Citadel Minotaurs, 3rd edition)
  • 2 Tree Spirits: Greater Warbeast + Ranger 9Reaper Bones figure and a Horrorclix figure)
  • Spider: Greater Warbeast + Ranger , Wild Charge, Venom (Ral Partha)
We use an hexified version of the rules (see earlier blogpost), and draw 3 random spells for wizards to use throughout the game. That adds some more fun and unexpected tactics.

The scenario focuses on 5 sacred statues situated along the river. The side who controls the most statues at the end of the wargaming day wins the game. The Elven army is closest to the status initially, and they have archers, but the Chaos forces have some more melee power, so it should be an interesting scenario.

Overview of the table. Chaos starts in upperleft corner, Elves in lowerright corner.

Statues along the river. Note also the "enchented forest". Forests are always enchanted ;-)

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Wargaming Mechanics

As an experiment, I started another blog that has longer analysis pieces about specific wargaming mechanisms.

I posted a first entry, on opposed die rolling.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Wet paint: some Cossacks

These were painted many months ago but were not featured on here yet (they did get varnished recently, so it still qualifies as 'wet paint' :)):

They are good old Foundry Cossacks (Seven Years War types nominally, but a Cossack is a Cossack regardless of period) and will be used in my Great Northern Wars games.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

"The figure is only a token!"

"The figure is only a token!" is a statement one hears now and then when discussing the use of figures in miniature wargaming. The context often is when the rules of a game are discussed, and  what scale is best used for the figures to represent the troops on the table. The size of the figures is proclaimed to be irrelevant, since what really counts is the footprint of a unit on the table. And whether you "fill up" that footprint with figures that are 6mm or 15mm or 25mm doesn't matter that much. Actually, you could as well use a counter or a simple piece of cardboard to represent the unit, and move that thing around. In that sense, the figure is indeed is only a token.

This view is reinforced by many current rulesets that define units as occupying a certain area on the table - whether expressed in base widths or a similar measure. A unit might be defined as defined as having a frontage of 10cm, and you can fill that up with whatever figures you please. Back in the days of Featherstone and Grant, the footprint of units was often a secondary result. Units were defined as consisting of a specific number of figures, often derived from a chosen men-to-figure ratio (e.g. 33 men to 1 figure). The frontage of the unit on the gaming table was then the result of physically placing these figures next to each other, which in turn led to other measurements such as the ground scale. Depending on whether you take the men-to-figure ratio as your primary starting point, as opposed to the frontage of a unit, indeed leads to a different view on the role of the wargaming figure. If the role of toy soldiers is limited to filling up a pre-defined footprint, one might indeed come to the conclusion that the figure is only a token. (I guess since that early hobby wargaming after WW2 was entrenched in toy soldier modeling and collecting, it's no surprise the actual toy soldier was used as the focal point for developing rules.)

However, I think this is a very distorted - even simplistic - view on the role of wargaming figures in miniature wargaming.

I fully agree that if you isolate the rules, it does not matter how you represent your troops. A piece of cardboard matching the footprint of a unit does the job as well if not better. Taken to its logical conclusion, you don't even need figures to play miniature wargaming. Actually, you don't even need terrain pieces, since these can also be represented by pieces of cardboard. The game might look dull, but from a strict rules point-of-view, it's the same game. But this argument is only valid if you consider the game to be nothing more than the rules. And I want to argue it is not. Miniature wargaming *needs* miniatures to function properly. The rules by themselves are not enough.

Most miniature wargaming rulesets result in games that are not very "deep". The decisions one has to make as a player are in many cases very straightforward. After the troops are set up, the gaming engine propels the troop forwards, they clash in battle, and that's it. Granted, the player can make some decisions to steer the game in one direction or the other, but often, the decisions are pretty much obvious. Most miniature wargames do not have game trees as deep as Chess or GO, that allow you to explore various equivalent alternatives, and also allow you to plan a significant number of moves ahead. This does not mean a miniature wargame cannot be complex - but the complexity is often present in the game mechanics. Combat resolution is often a complex procedure, involving various dice rolls, looking up modifiers, etc. This gives the impression the game is complex, but the complexity is often the result of elaborate procedures that mask the inconvenient truth that once you take away those convoluted mechanics, nothing much is left decision-making-wise.

But that does not imply the game cannot be fun. The fun part in miniature wargaming is often watching the battle unfold. The role of the players (besides making a few simple decisions), is to execute the gaming engine: move the figures, determine combat, remove casualties, etc. Through the use of randomizers, the outcome is often uncertain and unexpected. In other words, we see the drama and the story of the battle develop before our eyes. We give a little input, but we don't control it.

Every story needs characters. And the characters in our story are our miniatures, whether they are units or single commanders. And this is exactly the reason why a miniature wargame cannot function without splendid-looking figures. We need the figures as emotional anchorpoints to construct the story of the battle. It's very hard to draw up a story about two pieces of cardboard shooting at each other. But when the units are represented by figures, it does add a whole different dimension to the gaming experience. We do need the figures, such that through position identification the player can relate to them and relive the story. Otherwise it's only a dull semi-automatic game propelled forward by rolling dice.

So, are the figures only tokens? No, of course not. Saying otherwise is denying the core of what miniature wargaming is all about: telling stories inspired by military history, with the figures taking up the role of our dramatis personae. A play needs actors. Our games need figures.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Wet Paint: some more Wurttembergers

These were actually painted a week ago, but only posted now - some more Wurttemberg Napoleonic chaps:

These are Wurttemberg grenadiers (one out of the two battalions per regiment had a company of grenadiers in the 1809 Wurttemberg OOB). They are painted up as belonging to the 1st Regiment (Von Phull). I have a source (well, uniform plates found on the net) which has only their cuffs and turnbacks in the regimental colors (yellow in this case), with the facings in the standard Wurttemberg dark blue. So that's how I painted them up.

The figures are Front Rank Miniatures.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Vintage Fantasy Figures (3)

I managed to identify some more figures from the batch I acquired some time ago (see also previous blogposts).

Some more Citadel, but rather from the historical ranges than the fantasy ranges:

  • 2 figures from the Medievals range: M& Infantry in Aketon with Hand Weapons
  • Dar Ages range: DA21 Crossbowmen
  • Dark Ages range: DA23 Staff Slinger
  • Might be a DA78 figure, but not sure
Some more Ral Partha:

  •  E311, Dwarf of the Anvil
  • 3 copies of E111 Halfling Esquirw
  • ... both from the Wizards, Warriors and Warlocks range
And finally  3 Ninja Warriors from Dixon Miniatures:

  • SN1 Ninja throwing Shuriken Star
  • SN1 Ninja shooting short bow
  • SN3 Ninja charging with sword