Friday, 30 December 2016

What is a "collectible" anyway?

The other day we had a small discussion about "collectibles" in the gaming hobby. "Collectible" can have many different meanings:
  • Something that has widely accepted iconic value in the gaming hobby. E.g. an original D&D 1st print from 1974. Or an original copy of Little Wars. Or an Alpha Black Lotus. Such items often have real value associated to them, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of Euro/Dollars. If you buy them, you can be pretty sure you can resell them at a similar or higher price in the future.
  • Too often a collectible is only collectible in the eye of the beholder. A game we played in our youth, have fond memories about, and we absolutely want to keep that specific copy (or a re-acquired copy) in our collection. Mostly emotional value, not so much monetary. I have a few games and books like that, but in most cases, I am happy to look at images on to satisfy a bout of nostalgia coming up.
  • Perceived collectibles are things that are rare, but are not widely searched for, except by a very small niche within a niche of the gaming community. Owners often wrongly think these are worth huge amounts of money, but unless you find the right person at the right time and is willing to spend the cash, they are mostly worth nothing. As an owner, it is good practice to ask yourself: "What would *I* pay for this particular item?" The answer is a much better estimate of what you might get for your prized possession, rather than the amount of money you might get from an hypothetical collector and who is willing to take an additional mortgage on his house just to acquire the last missing piece in his collection.
Some of my own "collectibles".
One might wonder why people collect gaming stuff, or cling to perceived collectibles? Why would you keep a copy of an old 70s boardgame, knowing 100% sure  you will never ever play that game again, and also knowing it's not really worth anything? Games are mostly paper, cardboard, and plastic, so there's not even inherent value. And unlike books or paintings, the objects are often not beautiful or craftly made. A game will simply sit on your shelf for many years, gathering dust. To what purpose?

Collecting can be a goal in itself, and then the hunt is where the joy is. I can see the idea of someone wanting to collect all items ever published for a specific game system, or miniatures by a certain maker. For others, some of the joy is in simply possessing the object in question. Knowing that you are the owner of an original copy of a specific game might give people some satisfaction, although others might simply shrug when they see that particular item.

Anyway, some of these thoughts crossed my mind when I was re-assaembling some old (Dutch language) Heroquest expansions I had lying around. Last year I gave one of my nephews an original copy of Heroquest I bought for 5 Euro in a 2nd hand shop, in an attempt to lure them to gaming. And it worked! Last week, he and his brother complained they didn't have enough miniatures and quests, and wanted more.

I still have all the original expansions I bought (and played) back in the early nineties. So I decided to repackage them. I don't have the original boxes anymore, but still all the miniatures, cardboard counters, etc. So they will be getting those, and hopefully, they will use them! After all, they were collecting dust in my gaming closets, untouched for over 20 years. And aren't games meant to be played with after all?

The Dungeon Design Kit, Keller's Keep, Return of the Witch Lord, and Wizards of Morcar, all original Dutch versions.
Re-assembled and repackaged in transparant sleeves ...
A huge quest from the "Heroquest New Edition box", early nineties.
"But, you can get easily 100 Euro per expansion!" I hear some shout. Perhaps. A quick check on boardgamegeek indeed indicates that some people are asking that price. Which is still different from actually receiving that amount of money. And my copies weren't mint to begin with ...

I feel pretty ok about this. I freed up some space, hopefully my nephews will use these expansions, and so what about the perceived collectibility? It is only a game after all ...

Update: I got a few replies from people who said I was crazy giving away 500 Euro worth of stuff to a bunch of 10-12 year olds. And perhaps they are right. So maybe I should reconsider and try to sell them after all ...  And I'll give my nephews some miniatures from my Reaper Bones Kickstarters. Those things have been so mass-produced they'll never be worth much ... :-)

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Playtest of The Men Who Would Be Kings

Yesterday we gathered at JP's house and played a short Indian Mutiny game, using The Men Who Would Be Kings colonial rules. It was the first time we used these rules, and a few glitches came up. These have not so much to do with the rules themselves, but more with the scenario we used and the specific setup of terrain. After all, any ruleset implicitly assumes (often unwritten) some aspects about the scenarios: troop and terrain density, quality of opposing forces, etc. We felt that we still have to tune our scenario setups a bit to accommodate for these rules. Or to put it differently: troops that shoot the farthest prefer more open terrain, troops that rely on close combat prefer dense terrain ...
Phil (left) commanding the mutineers (Indians and Pathans) vs David (right) commanding the British regulars.
The battle in full swing. The ruined building in the middle left had to be held by the mutineers as long as possible.
More action! A bunch of Pathans suddenly popped out from behind the rocks at the bottom middle.

The mutineers held the village for 9 turns, but then got swiped away by the advancing British forces. Let's call it a draw! :-)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Xmas table setup

During the Christmas season, it's almost a certainty relatives are coming over for the traditional turkey Christmas dinner. Invariably, after a few glasses of wine, there's always a request to see my man cave.

Instead of having to explain that "normally, we play with toy soldiers here, but now, it's full of junk as you can see ... ", I always try to clean up and set out a visual attractive battlefield. It doesn't have to conform to any plausible plausible game setup. After all, they don't have a notion of rules, so better go for visual appeal rather than game appeal.

So, this year, I decided on an ACW setup. And yes, it got the "oohs" and "aahs" going, especially amongst the younger male crowd.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Old minis still in bag

As part of a bunch of vintage figures, I also got a few minis still in their original packing. Always nice, but also always a dilemma. Should we remove them from the bag, or keep them in the original packaging as is?

Anyway, here they are:

First , a Citadel Samurai SAM2 from their old historical Samurai range.

Next, a Ral Partha Galactic Grenadier - goes well with the figures I reported on before.

And last but not least, two bags simple labeled Citadel, but which contain a cart with two horses. It took a while before I realized these might be historicals instead of fantasy, and I identified them as part of the Romans range (ARE2 - Cart with two Horses).


At Crisis last November I picked up a painted set of Heirosaurs from the Battlezone booth. They were used as display models, so I removed them from their bases and rebased them to match my own fantasy armies.

Nice critters to flesh out the Reptilian/Lizardmen armies.

Vintage fantasy figures

A wargaming friend of a wargaming friend was lucky enough to pick up a large number of vintage wargaming figures from the late seventies at a flea market. Since I'm always interested in acquiring "old stuff", I bought a number of fantasy and science fiction figures in bulk from him for a friendly price. I wasn't really aware of what was in the boxes, but that's part of the fun: trying to identity all those old figures, browsing through old catalogues and collector's websites.

A batch of SF figures was already identified in a previous post, so now it's time to take a closer look at some of the fantasy figures. Below are the (easier) ones I could identify so far.

Here's a batch of "Lesser Orcs of the Red Eye" from Custom Cast, dated 1975. The base actually says Custom Cast 1975 - so they are probably not later recasts by Heritage.

Next, there's a group of pre-slotta Citadel Goblins. More precisely, from the Fiend Factory range, and these are models FF20, FF22 and FF23. Various variants were made of these figures, but the Collecting Citadel Miniatures site was a great help in identifying these. These were later also part of the C13 Night Goblins range.

Last but not least, there's a group of Minifigs. These are:
  • First 3 figures are Goblins from the Minifigs D&D range (GOB1, GOB2, GOB5).
  • 4 "True Orc Archers" (Mythical Earth range, ME23)
  • Hobgoblin marching with banner (HBG 11)
  • 2 Hobgoblin Sergeatnt with military fork (damaged, HBG 1)
  • Gnoll Chieftain w Broadaxe (GNL1)
  • Knight of the Silver Rose (w Halberd, but damaged)
  • Dark Ages (marking on base DA 44) - Viking Bondi

Some Belgian wargaming history ...

Recently, I acquired a nice piece of Belgian wargaming history.

Two hobbit houses in 20/25mm scale, originally made by Gedemco (late seventies?). The history of Gedemco can be read here, on the pages of veteran wargamer Rudi Geudens.

An original image from the above site:

A nice addition for my fantasy collection!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

More vintage science fiction figures (2)

I managed to identify most of the figures mentioned in the last post. As suspected, most are Star Trek Citadel figures from the 70s, and a few Galactic Grenadiers from Ral Partha, also from the 70s.

All figure codes (ST for Star Trek, GG for Galactic Grenadiers) are shown in the image above.

One figure remains unidentified (bottom row), but he could as well be a modern soldier, not a science fiction figure.
Update: identified as Citadel Spacefarers S4 figure (see comments).

Thursday, 8 December 2016

More vintage science fiction figures

I recently acquired a batch of old SF miniatures, shown below.

I haven't managed to identify them all, but I've tracked some of them down to the Ral Partha Galactic Grenadier range, and some others to Citadel's Star Trek range. So that makes these late 70s figures.

In any case an interesting addition to my growing collection of vintage scifi figures (see here and here and here).

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Quick photo report: GNW reinforcements game

Last night we played a GNW Black Powder game. I'll post a more detailed report later, but here's the photos from that game:

The evening ended after five turns of the game, with lots of action in each one. The result was not quite clear enough to call the game, but the Russians had a slight advantage which might still be overturned.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Wet Paint: Thirty Years War musketeers

These are a stand of Thirty Years War musketeers:

They are Warlord Games plastic figures and have been painted up as belonging to Gustavus' Yellow Regiment. I know these probably did not, in fact, look remotely yellow in real life, but I'm calling wargamer's license on this. The Yellow Regiment needs to be painted yellow. 

This brings by painted figures for TYW to 5 stands - one of musketeers and four of pikemen. The idea is to have two small playable forces by next summer. To start with, I'm doing the Yellow Regiment for the Swedes and a Bavarian regiment for the Imperialists / Catholic League. A regiment in this collection will consist of a number of pike and musketeer units, with about 1 pike unit to two musketeer units for both sides.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Book review: Tabletop Wargames - A designers' and writers' handbook

When I entered miniature wargaming in 1984, it was through a newly published ruleset called Warhammer. I had been mostly a (historical) boardgamer till then, but having discovered Tolkien that year, my interest had swayed to fantasy games. So it happened that during one of the trips to the only wargaming shop we knew in Belgium, we stumbled upon a box with the drawing of a fantasy warrior smashing a skeleton. That image immediately captured our imagination, so our combined pocket money went to this game, instead of yet another Avalon Hill boardgame.

I read the 3 original Warhammer booklets front to back, back to front, studying every little detail and drawing. This was also my first discovery of roleplaying games, so it really was a treasure chest of ideas opening up to me. I still didn't have any miniatures, so we used plastic 1/72 Romans (from this kit - still in my possession) to serve as Orcs and Dwarves. Later on I upgraded to Warhammer 3rd edition (skipped 2nd), and again, a Walhalla of gaming ideas was presented in that book. I slavishly followed White Dwarf, and the GW design team were like demigods to me - unreachable, in a country far away (sort of :-)), and full of wargaming wisdom (or so I thought :-)).

Although I stopped playing Warhammer when 4th edition came out, whenever I see the name of Rick Priestley (one of the original Warhammer authors) on a new publication, my mind always rushes back to those early days. So it was with some anticipation that I started reading the book "Tabletop Wargames - A designers' and writers' handbook" (published by Pen and Sword), written by that very same Rick Priestley, together with John Lambshead.

I own quite a collection of books on wargames and wargames design. Most such books focus on historical wargames, and how to transfer historical reality to the gaming table. What always bugs me a little bit in that approach, is that the game itself seems to be a side effect. It's as if the historical foundation of the wargame should be good enough to entertain the players, irrespective of the gaming mechanics. I always felt that a miniature wargame is foremost a game, and should work as a game. The game might be inspired by military history, and should bear some resemblance to it, but if it doesn't work properly as a game, then why bother?

"Tabletop Wargames - A designers' and writers' handbook" is firmly taking the point-of-view of the game as a game, rather than as a simulation of military (fictional) history, which I find to be a refreshing and more down-to-earth approach, closely resembling my own design philosophy w.r.t. miniature wargames.

This is nicely illustrated in Chapter 2, in the section on "Fire and Movement Scales". The authors start the classic exercise of turning ground scale into movement rates given the time scale for a turn, but then come to the conclusion this gives weird results combined with scaled-down firing ranges - either producing ranges which are ridiculously long or short. In the end, movement and firing are decided on ranges which "work" on the gaming the table. To quote from the book: "[...] works so well because the game feels right, not because it conforms to some mathematical formula."

Chapter 3 gives a nice explanation on "tight games design" - having rules which cause minimal interference with each other. A good example is given by the movement rules. These can be designed such that they work well during the movement phase, but do you also want to use them (and hence, do they also work properly?) during other phases of the turn when troops move, e.g. during routs or combat results? Keeping a tight design means 'no', but that then infringes on the realistic feel of the game. Thus, some level of cross-domain rules will probably always be necessary.

When writing my own rules, I have always been trying to get very tight and clean designs. But after reading this book, I might change my thinking a bit. One specific section that opened my eyes was the section on "grit" - inserting tension and interest in the game by introducing a gaming mechanic that is  alien to the core system. As an example, the book gives the blunder table in Black Powder, which is an additional roll to a failed command roll, but does provide tension and drama to the game. Another example might be a specific procedure to resolve cannon fire using a burst template or some other device.

I will not summarize all other chapters in length, but to be complete:
  • Chapter 4 deals with dice mechanics - nothing really new there.
  • Chapter 5 describes the presentation of rules, something that is mostly of importance when you want to publish your rules for a wider audience. Some good tips and tricks here! Chapter 7 follows up on that by how language should be used to describe the various sections of the rules.
  • Chapter 6 and 9  handle skirmish games and campaign games respectively, and how these require some special attention.
  • Chapter 8 was also rather interesting, with a section on points and point values, taking a very common sense approach towards the "point values in wargaming" debate.
All in all a good book, although if you're a regular reader of various game design forums online, not so much new material. But it's good to see a lot of practical information all contained in a single volume.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Back to painting

After a year of almost no painting output (it happens), here's the latest bits off (technically, still on) my painting desk:

These are Front Rank Napoleonic Wurttemberg figures, painted up as the 1st Regiment. The idea is to replace my Victrix French brigade with a Wurttemberg one to supplement the Bavarian brigade I already have.

Some more figures to go to reach that goal :).

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Wargames Soldiers & Strategy

Just a small note to say that all issues of WSS which are in my magazine collection have noew been entered in the index.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Wargames Illustrated 111 added to the index

WI 111 was one of the issues that was still missing in my collection, and hence, in the index. During CRISIS last week, Jim Duncan generously donated the missing issue, along with a batch of issues of Miniature Wargames, which will be entered soon.

Crisis 2016 (2)

Some more pictures from our Crisis 2016 game.