Monday, 30 January 2006

Miniature Gaming or Miniature Wargaming?

I've always been fascinated with miniatures - not only military ones. When I was about 10 years old, I had a model train table with a simple track layout, model houses and trees (some of which are still being used on my wargaming table), and later on ventured into model building (mostly planes), before properly settling down on toy soldiers and wargames.

Recently, I cleaned out some old closets in the elderly house (my mom never throws anything out, so there are still toys to find from 30+ years ago), and found a box of plastic miniature animals. These are the cheap kind, 1 euro for a bag of multi-scaled, badly painted, barely recognizable animals. However, I did re-use them before, because some of them were missing heads and legs, which now appear on some of my chaos beastman units -- careful converted models when I was a GW-junkie.

Anyway, always looking for weird and unusual games, I was wondering whether miniature animals could be used in a proper miniature game. I'm not talking about putting the occasional pig, goat or horse on the battlefield as a scenery element, but a game about the animals themselves.

Several things are spiking my curiousity: There are of course plenty of cheap toy animals available, making a game with zillions of miniatures possible. But also, there are some very high quality ranges (e.g. Schleich), various 25mm manufacturers make animals as well, there are collectors (e.g. The Zooman), and even flats (e.g. at Berliner Zinnfiguren). And I'm a big fan of Zoo Tycoon, an excellent computer game about managing your own zoo.

So, the question is not, whether an interesting game can be built around miniature toy animals in a zoo (I already have some cunning ideas ;-)), but whether this would still be considered part of the hobby we love?

After all, it would still be miniature gaming, although not wargaming. But is playing with miniatures not the main thing in our hobby? And does it matter whether these miniatures are soldiers, animals or matchbox cars?

Friday, 27 January 2006

How I currently base my figures

Fellow Schild & Vriend member and TTM author BD once mentioned to me that it would be a good idea to do a basing tutorial on this here blog. There are a lot of painting tutorials out there (including some of our own), but tips on basing your well painted figures are apparently somewhat underrepresented. Hence this entry. BD, see - I do listen to you :)

Over the years, I've used several different ways of basing my miniatures, but lately I've been settling on a way I'm quite happy with. For as long as that will last, at least :).

For the bases themselves, [I use standard slottabases]( (hey, that was the _very first entry_ on TTM. Ah, nostalgia :) ), augmented by [some rare earth magnets](, though I am now eyeing [Galeforce Nine]( bases, because they come with 'rubber steel' inserts to put in your movement trays or transport boxes, saving you an extra order elsewhere. I also like the GF9 bases because they are not slotted.

The disadvantage of slotted bases is of course that when you put a flat based figure (i.e. without the tab to fit in the base's slot) on the base, you will need a way to cover up the slot in the base. The classic recipe of white glue and sand does not work here, ending up with at best a local depression in the base, and at worst a clear hole. You need something that covers the slot well - some kind of wall filler like Polyfilla is the usual solution. I used that for some time, but have now found something which I think is ideal: P�o sand mortar from [Brico](

Pebeo sand mortar

The Pebeo range of mortars and textured gels is meant to create interesting textures for painters and interior decorators. As miniature wargamers are the world's foremost scroungers, we can of course use these things as well. In the case of the sand mortar, it makes an ideal basing material. It scoops easily, not being runny; it is fairly sticky so it sticks to the bases easily but not sticky enough so that you cannot easily wipe off any overspill on the figure itself; and its texture is just right to recreate a kind of rough terrain for the figure to stand on. The result when the stuff has been applied looks like this:

Base with mortar

The mortar is dry after around 24 hours (though you can cut this short in a pinch if you don't mind risking your brush when you paint the not completely dried mortar) after which it can be painted and drybrushed just like normal:

Celtic Chariot 4

The base above was finished with a few patches of [Woodlands Scenics](] Blended Turf flock (I get mine from [EC Scenics](, glued on with gel form super glue.

All of my recently finished figures have been based in this way, and you can see the results on [my Flickr account](

It's a fast and simple way of producing good looking bases. A future 'improvement' is that I will use lighter colors, more tans than browns, to paint the bases, as these look a bit dark when viewed en masse. But as most of my armies have had their bases painted with my current colors, I'll use the new colors for new armies (Carolingians to start with).

TT tags:

Commands and Colors: Ancients

The new "Command and Colors" game is available. It is the third game in the series, now dealing with Ancients, the previous two being Battlecry (ACW) and Memoir44 (WW2).

I'm a big fan of this system, it has inspired me to develop my own fantasy version for 25mm miniatures on hex-based terrain. So I'm looking forward to acquiring a copy.





_Update_ (Robartes): linkified links

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Why buy new figures? Use what you have available!

One of the public secrets of the "wargaming industry" (at least in my opinion) is that gamers buy stuff they'll never use. Wargaming manufacturers sell their products, which 2 years later end up in the Bring-and-Buy section (unused), are being bought by another gamer , who still doesn't use them, until they get bought by a 2nd hand store that sells it on eBay as a highly priced collectible, is then bought by a collector who still is not using the items, until after several iterations the items end up on an attic to be forgotten. Now, this is all understandable, because wargaming is also partly about "dreams that never come through". Just as you are dreaming about that Ferrrari you'll never have, or in my case, a big private library stocked with 16th century books, including one of the only three surviving copies of the Necronomicon... hmmm, the tapping of long-forgotten dark knowledge ... Anyway, back to reality ...

A typical scenario goes like this:
- Gamer goes to convention or website or browses through magazine
- Gamer sees a very cool figure or item and wants to buy it
- Vision about grand game or campaign starts to form based on this single cool figure
- Gamer (now completely in an unrational mode) decides that the entire range of figures is needed, just in case the range is not available anymore within 6 months. Anof course, this is EXACTLY the range, scale, and type of figures I've been waiting for.
- The big game never materialises (surprise), the several hundred unpainted figures end up in storage.
- Next year: repeat!

Well, no more! It has been a few years since I bought huge amounts of wargaming figures, I've resisted the urge of falling in the trap of buying things for games that never materialise. Instead, my new approach is to design games around the stuff I already have. It sounds logical and non-revolutionary, but in my mind, it is truly a revolutionary idea.

Let me give an example: I'm currently designing a multiplayer game around a siege of city set in medieval/fantasy setting. I need different factions of troops, representing various armed forces that are present in the city. I went through my quite large figure collection (I count my figures not in the hundreds, but in the thousands), and decided that I needed more figures! I didn't have the figures needed for this game! So I started looking around for extra figures. At that point I suddenly realized I was crazy. I have plenty of painted figures! I have plenty of unpainted figures, some of them became collectibles in their own right by just sitting in my attic, unused! Why am I shopping for more stuff?

So I took a step back and rethought the game I originally had in mind. Instead of using all human/medieval types, and since this is fantasy, can't I make the forces a bit more exotic? I have quite a number of Boxer Rebellion Chinese warriors armed with swords. Why not use them as a Foreign Bodyguard present in the city? Maybe some Redoubt Musketeers as well? Wouldn't that fit in with a renaissance-fantasy-style seen in some French comics, rather than the GW-monotone-fantasy-view we've all come to accept? I had them painted by a world-class painter, so why not put them on the table and use them? So I started to rethink the scenario, I also went creative with my quite huge collection of scenery, and after some experiments (visual appeal on the gaming table is big thing for me), I arrived at a quite satisfactory result. I won't tell you anything more about the game, because it still has to be played, and some players are listening in ...

Anyway, to make a long story short: design your games around your large collection of figures and scenery, not the other way around. The extent of my colelction is such that I can probably organize a dozen games without having to re-use a single item once (and that goes for the dice and lichen too!). So why buy more stuff? Resist the urge! It saves money! Money I can spend on extending my book collection. Wait, there's a problem with that too ....

Saturday, 14 January 2006

Enough is enough

Right, that's it.

The last few days we've been flooded with a whole raft of comment spam. Nothing really new there, but this particular variant is both ubiquitous and unblockable. For some reason, the spam blocking software on TTM does not recognise the URL's in the comments, so it cannot block them either.

Time to pull out my leet Perl hackerish skills and do something about it, I say. Over the next few hours (or days), comments on this blog might behave a bit ... _erratically_ ... while I work behind the scenes to change some things. I'll update this entry when the work is done.

For those interested, I'm going to replace the comment script with a differently named one. As most of the spam comments are the result from an automated posted to the well known comment script of Movable Type, that should take care of most spam. I hope. Of course, I might well destroy the setup completely :)

__Update__: well, that was surprisingly easy. No leet hackerish skills necessary whatsoever. If anybody finds anything wrong with comments, please [let me know]( Now let's hope the comment spammers rely on the default name of the comment script and won't parse the content of this blog to find the new name.

__Update 2__: Well, it seems to be working, to say the least. Since I changed the name of the comment script, the spam filter did not have to block _a single comment_, and the webserver access logs show lots of scripts butting their heads against the missing mt-comments.cgi . So Robartes 1 - Spammers 0 so far.

Friday, 13 January 2006

I'm on Ebay!

Those of you who don't like commercials, please duck now.

In a meagre effort to supplement my hobby budget, I've decided to sell the occasional painted figure on Ebay. I've got tons of lead lying around from my wild student days, most of which I'll never use in a game, so that stock will be the source of these occasional offers.

Anyway, I've currently got an auction up for two Old West figures: [General Custer and his standard bearer]( :

General Custer

I've put the figures up on Ebay UK, as most of the figure buying public is located over there and Ebay Belgium doesn't even have a wargames category, but that does not preclude Belgian bidders of course.

So, [make me rich]( You know you want to.

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Wargames Soldiers & Strategy

During the Christmas shopping frenzy I happened to pass by the
[International Magazine Store]( in Leuven (which caters for a very diverse range of magazines) and as usual I couldn�t resist the urge of having a quick look (it was cold outside). I tend to glance at the recent
[Wargames Illustrated]( issue but I rarely find the content within appealing enough to actually spend a reasonable amount of cash on it and if I do, the chances of becoming a tad disappointed afterwards are fairly large. So over time I have trained myself to resist the urge of the impulse buy. The huge source of information available on the internet these days (such as on Wargames Journal) helps in this respect. This time however I spotted a mag I hadn�t seen before called Wargames Soldiers & Strategy (nr 12) so I succumbed to the �little wargame devil�* and opened up my wallet.

I was not disappointed. The overall layout is tidy, the pictures are appealing and the content turned out to be interesting and useful. When first glancing through the pages you get this strange feeling that something is odd, until you realise that the thing isn�t swamped with advertisements! There is actual content inside! Not all of it applying to my specific gaming interests but still, content!

Apart from the general gaming content they also feature one core theme (or dossier as they call it). This issue had Trafalgar as the central theme and featured an interview with Rod Langton, an article on the history of and the events leading to the battle (pretty general introduction, but then again going in too much detail would require a book, not a magazine) and an article on painting and rigging ships from the age of sail. Having already read a few articles on the rigging subject, this one was by far the clearest. This is a considerable achievement since it is very hard not to get bogged down into an incomprehensible mess of nautical jargon which would give an admiral a headache, let alone be any way near comprehensible to your average land lugger.

The magazine turns out to be made by a bunch of Spaniards but this only shows to a small degree in their book reviews which feature Spanish publications next to the more international ones, in a schematic/map left and right and in the abbreviations used in the Trafalgar board game that came with the magazine; Nothing too disturbing. All in all this is a serious contender in the published wargames magazine market.

*The same one that insists that you �need� Gallic allies to go with the recently acquired Roman army (which is on number 358 of your painting list to start with). You probably know him all too well.

_Update_ (Robartes): fixed two links which exhibited very weird behaviour

Two zero zero six

As is usual around these times (best wishes to all readers and their
miniatures, BTW) one gets slapped around the ears with a bewildering variety
of reviews of the just departed year. Not being one to miss a chance of
boring you all to tears, I will jump on said bandwagon as well.

2005 has been a fairly good year for me in the toy soldier department. First
off, two statistics:

* There have been 91 TTM posts in 2005
* I painted 32 figures (is that all?)

TTM has been going strong throughout the year, although there have been a
few periods where there was more than a week between posts (as, for example,
has been the case in the previous weeks). This is not for want of material,
I think, as I have several post ideas and unfinished series lying around,
and I'm just one of the authors on TTM. This is simply a case of competing
interests for what little free time we have available. As the major factor
driving traffic to this site is the updates to it, and as we all (well, at
least I do) like increased traffic, one new year's resolution is to post

Next is the painting. I had a good feeling about my painting this year, but
it seems that on examining my records (well, the pictures I posted on my
[Flickr Account](, plus two painting
competition entries
[featured]( on
[TMP]( ) I only painted 32, with a big gap
between January and May. That gap is easily explained, as that was the
period where the house was being (not) finished and we moved into what was
more or less a construction site, but I had thought I picked up that
painting pretty well after that. So, new year's resolution number two is to
paint more figures. This will need to be done by lowering the time I spend
per figure (as more free time will remain a distant dream), or in other
words, by (finally) dropping standards for wargaming figures so I can paint
one in less than an hour. It will be interesting to see whether I:

1. actually do this
2. stick to my layering technique, and figure out a way to speed it up
(reduce to two layers, probably, but which ones?)
3. go for a different technique

Time will tell...

For the rest of the year, I played quite a number of games (now that I have
a wargame room -- although that is currently in a state of flux, having served as
guest room over the holidays and having to serve as bedroom for child number
two which is on the way), the majority of which were Blitzkrieg Commander or

I'm quite proud of the [WEC
campaign]( which really took off this
year, but the other 'big' project I launched, a WWII virtual game has died
an ignominous death for want of attention.

And then there's also the big Arnhem game we put on at Crisis, which was a
marvel of cooperation, with Alan doing the figures (millions of the little
buggers), Phil providing the game system (netting us a 'Best Participation
Game' award) and myself doing the terrain. The game was well received, so
that was good.

That's about it for my year in wargaming - pretty positive, I find. How was
everyone else's year?

TT tags: