Thursday, 4 August 2022

The state of my wargaming room

I am lucky to have a dedicated wargaming room to play games in. I also have a garage in which I store my excess stuff and do my painting.

However ...

Back in february we ordered a new garagedoor. Delivery and installment was planned for May. So back in April, I started to clean out the garage and put all my wargaming stuff in my wargaming room.

Current state of affairs in my wargaming room.

Then the news came that due to shortages of steel and other materials, it was postponed to June.

Then it got postponed to September ...

That has left me without any significant space for my wargaming activities. So I'm currently confined to reading, hoping that friends will host a game at their home, or playing Wingspan with the missus.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Crisis 2022 cancelled

Earlier this week, there was a somewhat depressing announcement by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp:

A more detailled explanation will follow later but we sadly have to announce that we are unable to organise Crisis 2022 in the current format.
We were still in the process of writing the communication but as it is out, we quickly have to address the news now.
Rising costs, lesser availability of volunteers and the announcement of restrictions already on the table for pandemic measures later in ’22 have made it a far too big financial risk for us to carry trough with the known format,hence the cancellation as organizing this can’t have us risk our club finances.

That would be the 3rd year in a row there will be no CRISIS show, arguably the biggest wargaming convention on the European mainland.

It's a real pity, since I was hoping to rejuvenate my wargaming mojo at CRISIS after the pandemic. Let's hope this cancellation is not the final nail in the coffin for a show such as CRISIS. Otherwise it will be back to smallish club events ...

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Creating fantasy maps

A few weeks ago Henry Hyde's new book "Wargaming Campaigns" was published. I haven't read all of it yet, but it's definitely worth its weight. The book outlines various ideas on how to run wargaming campaigns and how to make them work in practice.

I've long toyed with the idea of starting some sort of fantasy campaign, and the book contains some useful pointers on how to build your own maps using software. One of the tools mentioned is Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator, a free mapping tool that runs in your browser. Sounds good, so I wanted to give it a try.

Last week I toyed around with the tool and trying out various options and what one could do. Then, it was time for some real work, and I started to create the World of Do, a fantasy world me and a few friends invented back in the 80s for a roleplaying game we published (more details about that game here).

I started out with an original hand-drawn map of our fantasy world (this map is over 30 years old).

Original map of Dor, drawn in 1990.
 

I then used Photoshop to make a quick (manual) mask to distinguish between land masses and water:


This was imported into Azgaar, and with some manual tweaking a height map was the result:


Then I started to define the various states and give them names. Here are some screenshots of my efforts so far. Some of the content such as city names, heraldry, etc. are still randomly generated, but I was very satisfied with the results so far.

Map with the various states.

Zoom of the region of Atumbar. All city names (except Atumbar) are randomly generated.


Same regions, but with some layers made visible.


3D view of the map

Map projected on the globe, which also allows for defining climate zones etc.

Heraldry layer made visible. I experimented with a few emblems myself, but almost all of them are randomly generated.

Monday, 25 April 2022

What to do with all those old Airfix figures?

Due to some construction in the garage where I keep a lot of my wargaming hoard, I had to clean up the garage ad move many of the stash to a different place. I took the opportunity to do some culling, but one thing remains on my mind: what to do with old Airfix figures?

I still have a fair amount of them (not only Airfix, but ESCI, Revell etc as well), some of which still on sprues, which we used in our old wargaming days. They haven't seen action for at least 15 years or so, all replace by fancier models.

The classic answer would be to donate them, bring them to the local charity shop, etc. But then again, who would be interested in that old stuff? Chances are they simply will be transferred from wargamer to wargamer over the years, always forgotten and never used. So, wouldn't it be better to throw them into the garbage bin right away?

Monday, 18 April 2022

Age of Sigmar start-up scenery box

One of my teenage nephews took part in a "Warhammer camp" during the Easter break, run by a (for him) local gameshop. Apparently, the camp lasted a few days (no sleeping overs), in which they learned how to assemble figures, paint them, and play games. As part of the event, they all got an Age of Sigmar starter box

Although I was a GW fanboy during the 80s and 90s, I for long don't consider myself as part of their target audience anymore, but I do recognize their potential and power for attracting new wargamers. And I do realize the focus teenage boys can have on using the "official" figures and rules. I was there, once. So I am not going to lure my nephew away from Warhammer and bombard him with sermons about why rulesystem X or figure range Y is more superior. I'm letting him and his friends grow into the hobby, at their own pace. The last thing they need is an uncle who tells them what to do or what to enjoy.

Nevertheless, when I saw my family during our Easter family get-together yesterday, I brought a box with "scenery items" for him. I have huge amounts of scenery, so a few items less is not going to make a practical difference. I put together generic scenery items I knew are going to usable in their games.

So, what did I give away?

  • a large green scenery mat;
  • A couple of Kallistra hills;
  • a home-made fort, which I called an "Orruk Fort", to give it credibility to those Warhammer youngsters;
  • A bunch of river sections, walls, hedges, trees, ... ;
  • An "official" GW rules I had still lying around ;-)

 The response was enthusiastic ;-) 


Friday, 21 January 2022

Card-driven Narrative Wargaming (4)

Since the table is still "up" from last week's game, I decided to take a few more pictures, with all the clutter removed.

Most toy soldiers are 42mm from irregular Miniatures, but there are a few old Schneider flat figures, and even some older ones from unknown manufacturers (so far).


Very old (yet unidentified) toy soldiers - still untouched in their original paintjobs.








Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Card-driven Narrative Wargaming (3)

As I explained in my previous post, for my narrative wargame I also needed a quick set of tactical rules to govern movement, combat etc. for a unit.

The rules are below were quickly written - it always helps to have a bag of gaming mechanics ready ;-) The rules are inspired by the Battlecry/Memoir44 (Command and Colours) games.

Movement and combat should be self-explanatory, but perhaps the damage resolution system needs some explanation. I've become a fan of NOT removing toy soldiers from the gaming table to indicate unit status. I like the visual spectacle of having full units - after all - the visual spectacle of the game is what we're doing this for, right?

So, I need some other system of indicating "damage". I have a bag of coloured wooden chips (the actual chips are from a 80 year old boardgame, so they fit in nicely with the classic toy soldier look). Depending on the colour of the chip drawn, the unit loses some of its capabilities. So there is a gradual decline in movement, firing, or rallying. The bag has 10 tokens of each colour.

As a core, these rules worked really well. They are of course simple, but in my narrative game, they also weren't the focus, the narrative deck was the main mechanism to drive the game forwards, and I didn't want players to lose too much time pondering about all sorts of tactical options for each and every unit.

Note: there's still an error on the sheet - the Rally action is as stipulated by the Artillery for all troop types.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Card-driven Narrative Wargaming (2)

Following up on my previous post, in this post I explain a bit more the design of my card-driven narrative wargame, and what the core ideas are. Write-ups such as these also help me to structure my own thoughts (I'm an academic, after all).

Overall goal

The goal is to create a narrative for a battle, not as an after-the-game fact, but actually through gaming mechanics while the game is being played. I drew inspiration from some story-based games which use similar mechanics.

All players play both sides

The game does not assign a player to play a single side. The default "position identification" for a player in a wargame is to be the commander-in-chief for one army. But I have always been interested in experimenting with that model, and give the player different roles. E.g. the player can be a commander of one particular unit, or be a war chronicler following the army, or even be a civilian bystander observing the battle. This also puts no restriction on the number of players that can participate in the game.

To nudge the players in this variety of position, each player draws a number of "mission cards", which essentially are little micro-events that might happen during the battle. When such an event will take place, the player scores some points. There are 1, 2 and 3-point mission cards. The 1 point mission cards are rather trivial events, but the 3 point cards outline major goals.

The mission cards for each player can specify objectives both for Red and Blue, hence the player is also forced to detach himself from one particular side.

Let's illustrate this with each of 4 possible "draws", and thereby showing all of the mission cards I had prepared for the game. Each hand has 6 mission cards (three 1 point cards, two 2 point cards, and one 3 point card), so a player can score 10 points total).

 

By providing each player with a set of mission cards, the player should try to achieve these micro-events, rather than try to "win" the battle. The battle is a mere backdrop during which all sort of events take place.

Scenario Deck

A second component of the game is the "scenario deck". This is a series of subdecks, each governing different phases of the battle. In the river crossing scenario I ran, there were 3 subdecks, each with increasing intensity.

The idea is that a player - during his turn - draws a card from the scenario deck and does whatever the card says. This could be introducing a narrative element in the battle, e.g. naming a unit or a terrain feature. Some cards also encourage a dialogue between players. The idea is to create a common narrative. Sometimes small post-its were added to units or terrain features as a result of some of the names given to them.



Each subdeck also comes with its own restrictions about where units can move, whether combat is allowed, etc., thereby controlling the "build up" of the battle as a whole. Each subdeck also has a fixed start and end card, but the remaining cards should be shuffled. I opted to have 13 cards per subdeck, because that leaves open the possibility of using ordinary playing cards and reading the card text from an indexed table.

Let's give an example: in my river crossing scenario, I had 3 subdecks: the "deployment" deck (in which the focus lies on deploying the troops an setting the narrative), the "opening manoeuvres" deck, in which units could move up to the river, but fighting was not yet allowed, and the "battle" deck, in which there were no restrictions.

The cards for the "deployment deck" are as follows:


The "opening manoeuvres" deck:


The "battle" deck:


You can see that the focus changes from having a lot of narrative elements in the first subdeck, towards more battle oriented actions in the last deck.

Player Action

After a player has finished the card, he can take a player action. A player action  - depending on the subdeck - involves activating 1, 2 or 3 units from either side. The underlying idea is that the player can take control of units to achieve his goals as stated in the mission cards.This requires a set of "tactical" rules that are based on individual unit activation, which in principle can be orthogonal to the scenario deck.

By increasing the number of units a player can activate, the "intensity" of the battle also increases as the game progresses.

Thus, a player's turn consists of 2 elements: a card drawn from the scenario deck, and a player action. This provides a nice balance between deck-generated questions and free choice by the player. 

Playtest

We had a first playtest of this design, with 3 exerienced wargamers: Eddy, Jean-Pierre, and myself. Bart had to cancel at the last moment.

As can be expected from wargamers, there were some remarks about the tactical rules used (these were "toy soldier" style, nothing too complicated) and the balance of the scenario, but I was much more interested in the design framework of the subdecks and how the narrative elements were experienced.

Some comments made by Eddy and Jean-Pierre:

  • "The restrictions on the cards about where to move and whether or not too fight felt somewhat artificial."
  • "The narrative elements worked fine, but perhaps are not for everyone. Only for experienced wargamers who like to think out-of-the-box."
  • "There was not a good mix of mission cards in my hand."
  • "The narrative questions on the cards forces players to engage - which is a good thing in a multi-player game."
  • "Some mission cards forced me to do things I would not have done in a more classic game."

So, we agreed we should certainly try it again. Whether it will be the same scenario or a different one is still to be decided.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Card-driven Narrative Wargaming (1)

Yesterday, Eddy, Jean-Pierre and myself tried out my experimental "card-driven narrative wargame". It is a further evolvement of some experimental games I ran a couple of years ago (see our page on narrative wargaming on this blog), but is completely card-driven.

The game was as follows:

- every player (we had 3 players in our game) gets 6 mission cards, which can state goals for both Red and Blue;
- in a turn, a player turns over a card from the scenario deck, an does whatever is on the card. The idea is to encourage inserting narrative elements in the game;
- additionally, a player can then do a player action (activate 1, 2 or 3 units from either side).
- combat is resolved by the "tactical rules", but these are somewhat orthogonal to the deck-driven nature of the narrative game.

I'll write a future, more detailed, post about the design of the game, but for now, simply some photographs (using my old Samsung phone, so quality could be better). We played the game using my collection of 42mm toy soldiers.

Initial lay-out of the table. Red (this side of the river) has to establish a bridgehead in Blue territory (opposite side of the river)

Some initial deployment, and as usual in wargaming photographs, we only see the upper legs of a participant ;-)

One cavalry unit dashes forwards.

The scenario cards emphasize narrative elements to be inserted. Jean-Pierre drew a card instructing him to name the river, and he came up with the "Bratwurst flood". The idea is that "named" elements or units are marked with a a small token - or in this case a small post-it label.

Full deployment. Deployment is also card-driven, and all players can add to the deployment of both sides.

View from Blue's side.

A named unit - the Goldsiebers, are dashing forward towards the bridge.

Another infantry unit is attacked in the woods by wild animals - another narrative element governed by the scenario deck.

Action around the bridge - the Teutoburger Zouaves (named unit) approaches the bridge.

Overal view of the battlefield. In fron you see the scenario deck, that guides the narrative elements in the game.

Jean-Pierre is looking for ... what exactly?

He's happy, so he found it!

A view from Blue's side.

Another view of the battle.

Eddy and Jean-Pierre pondering ... I was the third player, but obviously, not in the photographs.

Some more action as seen from Red's side.

Eddy gesticulating about one of his clever moves :-)

Another view of the table.

Desperate last turn actions, Red trying to cross the river (and succeeding!).

The final action in the game, Red's cavalry is taking a ot of damage tokens!