Monday, 11 February 2019

There ain't but one true scale

Co-author (well, main author these days) Phil was interviewed by Henry Hyde for his Battlechat series the other day, and the byline at the top of this page here was mentioned -- There ain't but one true scale.

The idea behind the byline is of course that, for me, there is only 'one true scale' for gaming, and that is 28mm. Except for planes, where it is 1:144. Oh, and WWII, where it is 20mm. Or 6mm. Bah - whatever :).

The very concept of there only being 'one true scale' to game in is of course ridiculous. Any scale of miniatures you have an enjoyable game with is the correct and one true scale, and there's nothing more to it than that.

That said, I came up with the byline because for my hobby, 28mm is the sweet spot. One of my main interests in this hobby is the visual aspect of it, and more particularly the (more or less) nicely painted toy soldiers we use.

In very broad terms, the things that attract people to miniature wargaming are in the name itself: miniatures, war (or rather, the history thereof) and gaming. Of those three, the 'miniatures' part is the main attraction for me -- I'd be playing historical board wargames otherwise. Painting miniatures (and terrain) is an essential part of the hobby for me. And I find that for the sort of painting I do, 28mm is the best. Hence the 'one true scale' bit.

As to the actual phrasing of the byline -- 'There ain't but one ...' -- that's a blatant rip off of a wonderful sketch by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, which forms a perfect (and topical these days in Belgium) note to end this post on:

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Warcon 2019

This weekend I attended Warcon 2019. Warcon is a nice convention, with approximately 25 traders and the usual mix of clubs staging a game.

We should have been there too with a Chain of Command WW2 game, but a last-minute unforeseen situation forced Bart to stay at home, and since he was the one who had all the gaming stuff, we had to cancel our game.

I spend a few hours at the con, mostly chatting with friends and old acquaintances, and browsing the trading stalls. It was a nice and relaxed experience exactly what a con should be.

One thing that still confuses met at cons though, are the traders that are selling what I would call "assorted junk". These are not the established rules or miniatures or scenery manufacturers, but rather the traders who sell a mix of all sorts of wares (could be a shop). We need them, of course.

But what I am confused about, is that they haul the same boxes of old junk from con to con, sometimes year after year: large boxes full of old rulebooks, old blisters from long-forgotten gaming systems, repackaged miniatures in plastic bags that have been jumbled around so much they stopped being transparant, a weird assortment of half-painted miniatures, etc. I guess they show up at every con.

Now, this is still all good and well, except for the prices they are asking (this is what confuses me)! I simply cannot understand why someone would ask "new" prices for old junk, especially if you have seen that same junk for several years, con after con. What's the motivation here? The vague (and vain) hope that the right collector will show up? I always try to haggle for a lower price, but usually get a negative reply. But seriously, I am not going to pay 5 euros per figure, for a bag of unidentified old figures. And I'm not going to pay 20 euros for an old stapled-together rulebook from the 80s. Old does not always mean vintage does not always mean collectible does not always mean high prices! I simply do not understand. So rather than selling non-movable stock at a lower price, they prefer to haul that stuff around for years?

But anyway, enough ranting, here are some pictures (don't ask me about games or clubs, I didn't make notes):

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Everyone should have their own Cthulhu

I applied a quick paint job to this  rather large Cthulhu model. I got it through one of the Reaper Bones kickstarters I participated in (page listing this particular Cthulhu model). It was lurking around my painting desk for quite some time.

The paintjob is rather simple and quick: basecoat black, darkgreen wash, then successive layer of highlights, with some fine detail added (but not too much). I always feel Cthulhu should be as raw as possible, and that should reflect in the paintjob as well.

Fellow co-blogger (we post on this same blog) Bart also did finish his Cthulhu some time ago (as usual, his paintjob is a bit more sophisticated), so now we can have a battle of the Cthulhus (or is that Cthulhi?).

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Public Order of Battles ...

A few weeks ago I visited an exhibition on the House of Arenberg, a well-known noble family in the history of the Southern Netherlands. Moreover, one of my offices at the university is housed in the Arenberg Castle in Heverlee, which makes the history of the House of Arenberg also a bit more personal.

At the exhibition, I did see something that struck me as surprising: a sheet, which was available for sale to the general public (for the price of 3 stuivers), of all military units in a military camp in Cisoin, on August 8th 1744, at the time of the War of the Austrian Succession. The sheet lists the armies of the English, Dutch, Austrians and Hanoverians in the camp of Cisoin near Lille (Rijsel). One year later, this army was defeated in the battle of Fontenoy (1745).

So, apparantly, army composition was not a terribly well-kept secret at the time ...

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Wet Paint: Württemberg infantry regiment Von Phull, 1st battalion

It's been a while since I posted to our blog, which has mostly been due to a distinct slump in hobby enthusiasm. We've all been through these phases where the hobby flame, for various reasons, is burning low.

That said, things seem to be picking up and I have started painting figures again. Here's the finished (not yet based) 1st battalion of Wurttemberg regiment Von Phull, as they would have appeared in 1809:

When going through my notes, I noticed that the first of the figures in this battalion were painted late 2016, so the entire battalion took over 2 years to paint. Some slump indeed :)

This also means that these figures are subject to my switch back to Vallejo paint. Two of the stands (which correspond to companies, BTW) have been painted with Foundry exclusively, one is mixed and the fourth (which I finished today) was painted with Vallejo only. Can you tell which is which (don't cheat by looking for the previous 'Wet Paint' posts :) ).

One final remark on flags. The figures are Front Rank, bought as a battalion pack. The pack comes with two ensigns, so I had to improvise for the second flag (Wurttemberg regiments carried only one flag in 1809). I chose to use the ducal (and, in 1809, royal) colours of yellow over black for the second flag. That flag is home made on wine bottle cork wrapper foil (how's that for compounding words), the battalion flag is from Maverick Models.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Battlegames podcast

I just had a very lively interview with Henry Hyde for his Battlegames podcast. We discussed all sort of things: wargaming in general, wargaming in Belgium, convention games, various rulesets etc.

Stay tuned - the podcast should become available in the near future.

Addendum (14 January): The podcast is now available to everyone.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Review for Floor Games

I felt the section for "Floor Games" on Boardgamegeek was a bit empty, so I decided to read the book (again) and post a little review.

The review is given here as well.

This review is based on the 1912 edition of Floor Games, published by Small, Maynard and Company, but there’s no reason to assume the 1911 edition was anything different.

The title Floor Games is somewhat misleading. The book does not describe games with a proper set of rules, but rather a number of playful activities for children and adults alike. I guess the main reason this little book is known in the gaming community is due to its famous author, as well as it being the older sibling of a more famous book, “Little Wars”, which is often seen as the first published hobby wargame to be played with toy soldiers.

Nevertheless, Floor Games is an enjoyable read. The book, using a large font size and narrative style is obviously aimed at children. The book is written from the point of view of H.G.Wells playing these games with his sons George Philip (1901) and Frank Richard (1903), only referred to as G.P.W. and F.R.W. in the book. The book is also not that long, it can easily be read in less than an hour.

The first chapter, “The Toys to Have”, describes all the toys needed to set up the games described in later chapters: wooden blocks, an electric train, (metal) toy soldiers and animals, but also what Wells calls “boards and planks”. The latter serve as the playing surface, and holes should be drilled into them as to place twigs and such to form woods and forests. As for the toy soldiers, it is interesting to read that there seems to be a lack of “civilian types”, and there’s a call to toy manufacturers to take note and please produce all sorts of non-military figures as well.

The second chapter is titled “The Game of the Wonderful Islands”. Various boards should be arranged on the floor (which serves as the sea) such that an archipelago is formed. Each island is then dressed up with trees, temples, buildings, minerals (silver paper!), tribesmen and animals, waiting to be discovered by explorers arriving by ship. The parties land and alter things, build and rearrange, hoist paper flags, subjugate populations and “confer all the blessings of civilization upon these lands” (this is still the time of European colonial expansion). The game lasts as long as all the players want them to last, after which everything is put away and a new game can be started.

Chapter 3, “Of the Building of Cities” describes a very similar game, but now the playing field is taken up by a large city area, divided in two. The city is conveniently a twin city (London and Westminster, or Buda and Pesth (sic)), and it is agreed that railway tracks are shared such that trains can run between both parts of the city without negotiations or administration. All sorts of things happen on the cities, such as an election for mayor(only citizens with two legs and at least one arm and capable of standing up can vote – but not children, boy scouts or women!) The chapter vividly describes the entire city lay-out: farms, museums, shops (with paper billboards), the zoological gardens, train stations, duck ponds, parades, etc.

The last chapter has the longest title “Funiculars, marble Towers, Castles and War Games, but Very Little of War Games”, but is actually the shortest. It describes a few additional games, such as building a funicular (a mountain railway track sloping downhill, with the purpose of letting a loaded car roll from top to bottom), or building a marble tower, which is really the same idea but using marbles instead of a railway track. The last page in the book is about building a castle and war games, but of the latter “… I must either write volumes or nothing. Let it be nothing. Some day, perhaps, I will write a great book about the war game and tell of battles and campaigns and strategy and tactics. But this time I set out merely to tell of the ordinary joys of playing with the floor, and to gird improvingly and usefully at toymakers.” Quite a statement to end, knowing that “Little Wars” was published only 2 years later.

So does Floor Games still have relevance today? It is of course firmly linked to the history of toy soldier games, and subsequently hobby wargaming and everything that came after that (so pretty much the entire gaming hobby as we know it today), and as such, it is of interest to anyone interested in the history of the gaming hobby.
But I was especially struck by the notion that Floor Games is not an outdated book. Indeed, it describes activities that children must have played since then (and probably before). When I look back on my own childhood during the 1970s, me and my siblings were very lucky to have our own play-room (which later turned into my bedroom when me and my brother were too old to share a bedroom, but that’s a different story). In that play-room, we had a large table on which we laid out an electric train, houses were made with Lego bricks, we added plastic toy animals in the landscape, and our Matchbox cars were driving around on the streets made from grey cardboard and masking tape. Very Wells-like, now that I think of it, and as Wells writes as well, “the setting out of the city is half the game”. Perhaps the activities describes on Floor Games were not at all uncommon in those days as well, although I suspect that in 1911 these were the privilege of children belonging to a certain social class whose parents could afford all the toys described in the book.

Obviously, modern toys have changed since Wells’ days. Kids these days no longer have metal toy soldiers or wooden bricks, but they do have Lego and Playmobil, and I see them building cities, connecting them by electric trains, populating the city with toy people and animals, and inventing all sorts of adventures for their imaginary worlds.

I guess Floor Games could as well have been published today!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Wargames Magazine Index has now over 5000 entries

Several years ago I started an index of articles of all (miniature) wargaming magazines in my collection. It now has reached 5000 articles, but I still have a stack of magazines that were donated and I still have to enter. So the index will keep growing during the coming weeks and months.

My main motivation for compiling this index is for my own use. The wargaming literature has published so many scenarios, rules, campaigns ... over the years, I refer to them regularly for setting up my own wargames. Having a good index certainly helps in locating a specific article.

But I also think keeping an extensive library of wargaming magazines is worthwhile in itself. The history of our hobby needs to be documented, and this little project is a small contribution to that goal. Perhaps this view is coloured by my occupation as a research professor, but I honestly do think that building up a literature collection is an integral part of understanding where a specific field (in this case, wargaming) originated from and how it developed.

Granted, many wargaming magazines cannot be compared to academic publications, but even so,  they deserve to be archived, if not for the future gaming historian who wants to know where the dreaded "saving roll" came from, or when the first scenario on the battle of such-and-so was first published. Magazines are not the only source for this type of information (there are plenty of books and other types of publications as well), but they might help to establish timelines and give contextual information.

But anyway, back to the index. In case you are wondering what sort of information one can look up, you should go to the link above and experiment for yourself. But just to give a few examples ...

Here's a list of articles I wrote myself (filtering on the name of an author) ...

... and here are the articles that deal with the Waterloo campaign and have a scenario (filtering on both period and scenario) ...

... or the articles dealing with Frostgrave ...

... and here are the articles that have the random word "Faltenian" in the title (filtering on the occurance of a specific word in the title) ...

... and here are the 10 most popular periods (take with a grain of salt, since there are many subclassifications ...) ...

   ... and the 20 most prolific authors (also take with a grain of salt, since some periodicals favour some names) ...

... and a breakdown per magazine.

Hope this helps!

Friday, 28 December 2018

Frostgrave setup

I am planning of running a Frostgrave game in the near future. I started with the fun bit and tried to create a proper snowy and icy setting with lots of cover.

The hard part I still have to do - creating some warbands. Does anyone know of a good site with pregenerated warbands?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

An old boardgame ... Armada.

The local 2nd hand shop is right across the local bakery, so every time I stop to buy fresh bread or pastries, I always pop in to check if there's anything useful for my wargaming habits.

So this is the latest acquisition (price: 2.5 Euro). A naval boardgame published in the late sixties called Armada. This is the Dutch version, hence the reference to the Zilvervloot (aka the Spanish Treasure Fleet).

The game itself is rather simple: each player has a number of ships, and you have to move them along the grid (the grid looks triangular, but since you move on vertices, it really is a hexagonal grid) to reach a destination port as soon as possible. Since players move ships in opposing directions across the board, you can also shoot at each other, taking out the enemy ships. As can be expected, the game has nothing to do with the actual history of the Spanish treasure fleet ... the theme is simply pasted on. Nothing new there, as we see this in many modern boardgames as well :-)

I doubt that I will ever the play game (the plastic model ships are nice though ... I can repaint them and use them in a proper naval game), but I was surprised to see a very nice mechanic for determining speeds of the ships relative to the wind direction.

In the middle of the game board there is a large plastic island containing a "compass" marker. There are 6 wind directions (determined by a die roll each turn). The nice bit is that the movement distances are indicated on the rotating compass marker, such that you can immediately read off the movement distances relative to the wind direction. When the wind direction changes and the compass is rotated, these indicated movement distance rotate along as well, and so you never have to "compute" your relative bearing to the wind direction.

The picture below illustrates the idea. The wind direction is direction 3, and you can immediately see that when your ship moves on the grid in direction 5, you get to move a distance of 3 or 1 (2 distances, since merchants and warships move at different rates). Direction 6 does not allow movement at all (0 and 0).

There is a blue and a yellow compass as well, for different wind strengths. The numbers are slightly different, but I didn't check them out whether they all make "sense".

The entire mechanic looks very nice. You can of course do all this using tables and modifiers as well (as you would expect in a proper naval wargame), but having 3 different dials for wind strength, and having movement speeds on the dials such that they are always relative to the wind, struck me as a very clever idea.