Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Gridded games

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames (issue 385) has a nice column on gridded miniature games. Various wargamers make extensive use of gridded games. Just one example is the blog Battle Game of the Month. Another is the renowned Wargaming Miscellany. Both have excellent visuals as well.

Now, I have proclaimed my love for gridded miniature wargaming before (on this forums and others), and it remains a mystery to me why not more wargamers are taking up this trend.

AquaZone - our Crisis 2009 game, and a prime example of hex-based rules.
 My thinking on gridded wargaming also has evolved over the years, and I will not delve into an extensive explanation of how and why my thinking evolved (I do a lot of thinking!). But I can state my current opinions about gridded wargaming.
  1. Speed of play. Ranges for both movement and firing are measured in hexes or squares. No fiddling with tape measures. When using a high enough resolution (e.g. Kallistra terrain), spatial resolution on the battlefield is good enough for most types of games. This is the most significant advantage.
  2. Footprint of a unit. Many rulesets have guidelines w.r.t. the basing of troops. When playing on a continuous gaming field, this is understandable, since the base of a unit determines it footprint and its front arc. When using grids, the footprint of a unit is determined by the gridcell, and basing becomes irrelevant. This allows troops based in different manners to be used in the same game without any problems.
  3. Line of sight: A common misconception when using grids is that LOS also has to be aligned with the grid. This stems from boardgames, in which LOS is usually measured hex-centre to hex-centre. But this does not need to be so. E.g. in a skirmish game, LOS can still be influenced by terrain pieces at a finer resolution than an individual hex, and LOS can still be measured figure-to-figure, altough movement and ranges are measured in hexes. It is perfectly acceptable to use sub-gridcell resolution when placing individual figures.
  4. Orientation: In unit-based games (e.g. Horse and Musket period), orientation of units (front, sides, rear) might be of importance. One can imagine that orientation is decoupled from the grid, just as LOS could be, but this poses problems in practice. Best solution is to allow for 8 (squares) or 12 (hexes) degrees of orientation. In case of hexes, this means a unit can face the sides or a corner of a hex, with slightly different definitions of what it means to be in front or in the flank. We have used rules in which half-hexes in the fire-arc can be shot at at half fire-power, to compensate for the fact that fire-arcs might be larger in one orientation scheme or the other.
  5. Terrain alignement. This is something I still struggle with. Human constructions such as buildings, roads etc. tend to be in rectangular grids. When using hexes, a rectangular area such as a field cannot be delineated that easily with walls or hedges. Two solutions: either make all your areas parallellograms, or allow half-hexes to be used. It is more of an esthetic issue than a game-playing issue, but it still irritates me now and then.
    Another terrain alignment problem is the placement of linear obstacles (rivers, obstacles). Do you place them along the grid lines, or across the grid cells? When placed along lines, it makes it easier to place "defending troops" behind the obstacle. When placing inside the cells, actual placement of troops inside the cell matters. In practice, I usually go for what works best with a given ruleset.
Overall, I still like gridded (and in particular hexagons) for playing miniature wargames - although I am less dogmatic as I used to be.

Papierslag - our Crisis 2011 gamae using Kallistra-hexes.

Wargames Soldiers & Strategy 78

The new issue of WSS arrived in my mail this morning. Always a good read, but this issue is special. An irregular column, written by yours truly, is published in this issue. It always feels good to make a little contribution to the world-wide world of wargaming.

With our little gaming group, we started writing articles for the glossies (Wargames Illustrated, Battlegames, Miniature Wargames, and now WSS) a few years ago (although our first publication in Wargames Illustrated goes back to 2005). So far, we published roughly 10 articles, written by Bart Vetters, Eddy Sterckx, or myself. This is not nearly the number that some more prolific authors publish, but variety in the magazines is a good thing. I always considered articles in the magazines a nice way to get a peek into how others approach the hobby.

Recently, I started to reread some of the older issues of Battlegames, and I was surprised I found good stuff in there that escaped my attention before. So, even after many years, it pays off to reread your stack of magazines. A specific article, or rules idea, or scenario, might not seem useful the particular week the magazine arrives in the post - and you might not make a mental note of it as a result - but perhaps after many years it migh come in very handy. That crazy idea that some wargamer wrote about, might just hit the right chord many years later.

And that's what a hobby should be all about: sharing ideas and experiences! 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A few finished miniatures

I have to admit wargaming activity has been on the slow side lately. I barely managed to do any painting, and due to a variety of reasons, actual number of games also has suffered.

Anyway, here are some finished miniatures.

First, some old Runequest miniatures which I identified earlier in this blogpost. From left to right: Smitten Broo, Broo with Mace and Orlanth Adventurer. The Broo with Mace required a small repair, since the mace was broken off.

Second, a large siege engine from Games Workshop, published several years ago as part of their Lord of the Rings range. I originally bought this set in 2005 or 2006, for the Lowenheim game, but I only got around painting it now.

Third, not really a paintjob, but a hangman stand put together. This set is produced by 4Ground. The figure is one I had lying around, and was (is?) part of Foundry's Old West range. Time to play some more Shootist games!

First playtest of fantasy skirmish rules

Yesterday we had a first playtest of our, yet unnamed, fantasy skirmish rules. The idea is that we will start some sort of warband-like campaign set in our fantasy world of Dor (dating back over 25 years), developing our own rules as we progress through various games. Such a scheme has worked well for our scifi Antares campaign. Instead of trying to foresee every possible feature needed in the rules, we just adapt the rules as we progress from game to game. Less stress, more fun!

Why not use commercially published rules? The only answer I can give is that developing rules is something I enjoy. But there's also a philosophical argument. I have always seen the wargaming hobby as building and designing your own game, and that includes writing your own rules. The  commercial side of the wargaming hobby, in which you buy into a set of rules with associated army lists and figures is something I consider as a less fullfilling experience.

Anyway, here are some pictures of our game from last night. The pictures are not of terribily good quality, for which I apologize. I really need to learn how to make better pictures ...

Some scribbled notes for the first playtest.
Lay-out of the table, based on the tabletop teaser published in Battlegames #13.
The table from the other corner of the room.
Stronghold of the Barbarians. Old GW Townscape cardboard buildings.
More Barbarians.
Even more Barbarians.
Facing the Orcs, commanded by a giant.
Now as seen from the giant's side.
Bart is contemplating his next move.
Still contemplating ...
State of the table when we quit the game.

Friday, 10 April 2015

SciFi Dreadnoughts

It has been silent on the blogging front. As usual, blame real life ...

Anyway, to break the silence, here's a quick picture of a recent acquisition. I bought (online) some 2nd hand Warhammer 40K Imperial Dreadnoughts, released during the late eighties. See also the pages from the 1988 Citadel catalogue, and 1991 Citadel catalogue.

They will feature in the ongoing Antares 2401 campaign, but I am not sure yet whether they will act as reinforcements for StarMarines SpecOps, or rather as the enemy ...