Sunday, 31 July 2016


And here are some more old-school aliens I finished over the weekend.

These are 5 figures from the "Zarquin" range, produced by Minifigs (see list on lostminiswiki, and they are still available here). I acquired these particular figures from a wargaming buddy who did away with some of his old minifigs figures. Since there were only 5, they probably must have come in a single pack.

I always feel old-school figures need an old-school painting job, so I went for a brighter colour palette than usual. It's always hard to pick good colours for aliens due to a lack of reference material, so I always try to imagine what sort of planet they would live on, and then try to come up with colours that match that theme. In case of the Zarquins, I imagined they would live on a very hot lava-like planet, and so their colour schemes would be mostly red/orange/yellow. So that's what I did.

Large Green Aliens

I finished a batch of "Large Green Aliens" from Peter Pig this weekend. I've had these miniatures for over 15 years, but only now did I finish them. I painted up the infantry figures 15 years ago, but only came around doing the cavalry now. They have a certain old-school charm to them. I even had to provide my own spears (simply steel wire), so that's definitely old-school!

They are intended as 15mm, but since they are "large" aliens, they can as well serve for 25mm. They'll probably appear in our Antares campaign.

These aliens have 4 arms each, ride 6-legged steeds, and are modeled after the Tharks from the John Carter novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I am usually not concerned about canon colour schemes for aliens, but I kept them green anyway. I have no idea what the "official" colour for their steeds would be.

The base is kept simple (some texture applied), and painted a reddish-orange as is appropriate for Mars.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Lego flight stands (from the archives!)

Another one from the digital archives: flight stands using round Lego bricks.

Quite some years ago (around 2009? 2010?) we played a series of games with the Check Your Six rules. Tracking altitude in air wargames is always a bit of hassle. Most of us prefer something visual (changing the height of the model), but that's not always easy to achieve. The result is too often an ugly contraption obscuring the model itself.

Frank came up with this idea. If I remember correctly, he custom-ordered round transparent Lego bricks, mounted a magnet on the top one such that the model could bank, and presto! Inserting additional bricks for altitude changes is trivial. Let the pictures speak for themselves ...

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower painted miniatures (3)

Earlier this week I tried the new Warhammer Quest with my boardgame/roleplaying crowd.

I must admit we embarked on this game more out of nostalgic feelings than anything else. After all, most of us were GW junkies during the early nineties (the good days! :-)).

As reported before, I made a small effort of mono-chrome-painting the various figures in the box.

The actual gameplay was a bit underwhelming: lots of die rolling, saving them, another save, ... to end up with no hits in most cases. Our feeling was (albeit after only one game), it's more a skill-puzzle game rather than dungeon-combat, let alone dungeon exploration.

None of us really felt immersed in the dungeon setting, a rather important issue when playing this type of game.

Anyway, we'll play it again (after all, it is an expensive game), so our opinions might still change. We'll probably have one player manage the monsters and skip the behaviour tables (let the GM decide what the monsters do), such that there's some more challenge to it.

Friday, 29 July 2016

A few scenery items

I finished 2 scenery items today. Small, but useful to decorate the battlefield. The Oldhammer figure is only shown for size comparisons.

That should be enough

This was delivered on my driveway this morning.

That should be enough pebbles to decorate my wargaming bases for the rest of my life.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Another one from the digital archives ...

Another image from the digital archives, dated November 2006, and titled "Frank's average dice rolling."

Nostalgia: Heroclix

When cleaning up some digital archives, I came across some old pictures of one of my Heroclix games. This particular game took place in 2005, in my previous house, and when looking at the pictures, it seems as if it took place in a completely different era.

The pictures are not that good (I guess taken with a smartphone at the time), but show more or less the setup we had. I built a couple of buildings out of styrofoam blocks, and placed them on top of the map sheets that came with the Heroclix game.

The players are not my regular miniature wargaming gang, but the boardgame/roleplaying group I still play with regularly. Actually, we are in the process of redesigning our (Dutch-language) roleplaying game Schimmen & Schaduwen. More info about that on this blog.

I always liked Heroclix as a gaming system. The idea of having all the stats on a clickable base was novel at the time. I still have a huge box full of figures, but haven't played the game for years.

Dirk and Wout pondering about their next move.
I guess this movie was playing in 2005.
Wout moving a figure in Smallville.
Wout, Kurt, and Wim.
A little inside joke.

Monday, 25 July 2016

More wooden blocks

In Belgium there are shops called "Kringwinkels". You donate your stuff you no longer have a use for, and they sell it again at relatively cheap prices, possibly after some repairs or cleaning up. I guess the concept does exist in many other countries as well.

There are two such stores relatively close-by, so I regularly pop in to see whether they have anything that can be useful for gaming. Last week I bought a wooden block set, priced at 3 euro. Could be a handy additional set for my vintage wooden block set I described earlier.

The brand is VERO, and apparantly was a toy company from former East Germany.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Imaginations in 42mm (6)

It was a hot summer day today, so I took the opportunity (in between some time for real work :-)) to finish the 2nd side for my Imaginations in 42mm project. Figures are from the Balkan range from Irregular miniatures.

As with the 1st side (earlier blog and blog), I haven't decided on names for countries, let alone names for regiments and such. The only thing I needed for painting was a dominant colour for each army (Blue and Green), a colour for each regiment, and a flag design. This still leaves me plenty of imaginative room. After all, historic armies have lots of examples where the "1st Regiment" was officially the "3rd Royal Battalion", but was known as "The Jabberwockies", has a blue standard, but wore red on the cuffs, except after 4 o'clock, when they wore yellow.

General overview of the "Green Army"
1st Infantry regiment, regimental colour black. General commander of the army shown in front.
2nd Infantry regiment, regimental colour red.
3rd Infantry regiment, regimental colour blue.
Artillery, battery colour brown.
1st Cavalry - green.

Visual Appeal is Everything!

Back in the day (late nineties), we adopted our motto "Visual Appeal is Everything". What we meant by that is no matter the rules, tactics, or the history; the visual appeal of the miniature battlefield is what really sets miniature wargaming apart from other wargaming genres. Even if your rules are simplistic, or the scenario not well thought-out, if you have a visual attractive gaming table, the game still can be entertaining.

In our gaming group, we always have put emphasis on good-looking gaming tables. This doesn't mean you have to spend lots of money, but you must have an eye for things that go together: type of figures, buildings, even the colours of the lichen :-). Things should fit together to provide that coherent visual look.

Apart from the props such as figures, buildings, hills, etc., there are a few other things that bother me now and then, and which I consider sins against the visual appeal of a well-laid out miniature wargaming table.
  1. Place your soldiers in a plausible manner.
    This is often sinned against in skirmish games. Players just grab individual figures, and plop them down wherever they need to be. I remember one instance in one of my hex-based games, in which a player just scooped up a handful of figures in one hex, and placed them (although straight-up!), in whatever clump he had them in hand in the target hex.
    I believe that - even though it is irrelevant to the rules - figures should be placed in a believable manner. Kneeling figures in front and the standing ones in the back, the officer in the middle or towards the rear, one guy is hiding behind the tree, ... At least make them fire or face in the right direction, that's the least you can do for those poor little soldiers!
  2. Use dice of the same colour.
    Over the years, many players have amassed lots of dice: different colours, different sizes, even different types of pips. Especially if you throw your dice across the table (but also when you use a dice tray), it is much more pleasing to the eye if you use all dice of the same size and the same colour. E.g. in our Black Powder games we have sets of D6's in a specific colour for each army. In our skirmish games that use polyhedral dice, all D10's are orange, D8's are yellow etc. Again, this is irrelevant to the rules, but more pleasing to the eye. "But it will cost me a fortune!" No, it will not. Besides, that's always a funny line to hear from guys who spend fortunes on their unpainted lead mountain.
  3. Use fences of the same type.
    I have many types of fences, acquired over the years. When setting up a game some time ago, I instructed a friend to place the fences as instructed by the scenario. Guess what? All sections of fences of all types got mixed up. And there was no need for that - there were enough fences to make it look coherent and good.
    The same goes for trees. Put trees together in a believable manner: no conifers next to deciduous trees (unless the climate allows for that! :-)).
  4. Use smallish scenery items.
    Next to the big scenery items, such as woods, hills, rivers, etc., which have a role in the game, it also helps the visual appeal of the game if you place a lot of little rocks, lichen, foliage, scrubs, civilians, animals,  ... I have a whole drawers full of such little thingies, sorted by period or theme: the "farm" drawer, the "city" drawer, the "fantasy" drawer. Such little things, which have no influence on the game, do make the battlefield come to life. I always feel very sorry for the game that is played on the proverbial billiard table with exactly one hill and one wood. Why bother painting your figures if you use the most simplistic terrain lay-out?
    We adopted the practice at the start of each game to define the game-affecting features, and then conclude with "And everything else is scenery" - meaning you can ignore it as far as the rules are concerned, and move it out of the way when troops need the space.
  5. No cluttering of the table!
    Not always easy, but you should make an effort: no cheat sheets, drinks, etc. on the gaming table. Otherwise, why bother laying out an attractive battlefield?
I know that many will consider such efforts a waste of time or money. However, for me, they do help making a game much more attractive.

Wild West in 54mm

Chances are we will run a 54mm  Wild West shootist game during Crisis 2016, together with our friends from PMCD.

To "test the visuals", I brought out all relevant 54mm stuff, and made a little diorama. The wooden fort has been in my collection for over 40 years, dating back to my childhood days (update: apparantly from a DDR company Oehme & Sohne). All figures are Britains from the 70s (and 80s?), except for the wagon. The shootists in front of the shiriff building have been repainted several years ago.

Cigar bands in the wargaming room

When I was a kid, I collected cigar bands. That's to say, my grandfather smoked cigars, and I received a bunch of cigar bands whenever we visited. I don't remember ever having another source for my cigar bands.

In those days (perhaps this is still the case?), the cigar bands in a box of cigars came decorated according to a specific theme: birds, flowers, city views, that sort of thing. One box usually had one theme, and since a box had 24 cigars, each theme had 24 little different pictures. As a kid, I considered myself lucky each set I owned was complete. Now I understand why this was so.

Anyway, I glued the bands in an album, each page showing a different set. As happens with kid-like hobbies, once you grow up, you forget all about it. That is, until some time ago, when my mom showed me my old album full of cigar bands (I have the type of mum who never throws away stuff like that). Suddenly I recognized all the different series, memories stored deep away, suddenly brought back to active attention.

One of the themes was "Cavalry through the ages".  I framed the page, and hung it in my wargaming room. A nice addition to the set of decarotions!

Our Crisis 2015 game in MWBG 400

Issue 400 of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames will feature our Marche ou Crève game we ran during Crisis 2015. I haven't seen the issue yet, but should contain all info to replicate gameplay (apart from the scenery and figures, of course!).

Friday, 15 July 2016

Cataloguing the Collection (12)

A very easy count in the next 3 drawers. All ACW figures, most of them Perry, a few Foundry IIRC.

The basing is not very important, since we are using these with our hex-based ACW house rules.

396 figures total, all painted by wargaming buddy Frank (who has given up on miniature wargaming some years ago, and sold of his entire collection).

Union and Conf Artillery and Cavalry, and Generals.
Confederate Infantry
Union Infantry

Cataloguing the Collection (11)

This time 2 drawers with assorted 25/28mm scifi miniatures.

Since these figures have mostly been used for skirmish games (our ongoing Antares campaign), it's a ragtag collection of all sorts of manufacturers, ranging from classic GW to cheap plastic toys. Some of them I bought in the nineties, but some others only very recently. I do remember the origin of most of them (or can recognize them), but some of the obscure ones are hard to trace several years or even a decade after acquiring them.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Monday, 11 July 2016

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower painted miniatures

Yes, I was seduced by the Dark Force! I acquired a boxed set of GW's latest game, Warhammer Quest Silver Tower.

To be more correct, I bought the game together with my long-term gaming pal Dirk, with the intention of playing it in our regular gaming group. We never pass on the opportunity to play some good old-fashioned dungeon crawls!

The plan was that I did most of the prep-work. Assembling the miniatures did take quite some time. Next, I had to decide whether to paint them, and how. The original plastics all come in the same grey colour, so they don't look very attractive. But, the miniatures are very detailed, so they beg to be painted.

I decided to go for a typical boardgame look-and-feel, with one dominant colour for different types of figures, and no detail painted in. Hence, I spray-painted all the miniatures, and applied a wash, or a dry-brush, or sometimes both, but nothing else. I think the result is quite ok.

It's all fantasy!!!

On various internet forums, there's with regular intervals a discussion about the nature of fantasy wargaming. Usually the discussion starts with someone asking "What's fantasy wargaming exactly?". Then, invariably, the discussion veers off towards the following statements, also usually in this order:
  • Fantasy is D&D!
  • Fantasy has dragons and wizards!
  • Fantasy is ancients with magic!
  • Fantasy is ancients as the ancients themselves believed the world to be!
  • Romans vs Aztecs is fantasy as well! (I blame DBA :-) )
  • Actually, any non-historical army list is fantasy!
  • If you invent your own orders of battle, it's fantasy!
  • Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!
  • Operation Sea Lion is fantasy!
  • Any battle that did not take place in history is fantasy!
  • Since we are playing with toy soldiers, it's all fantasy!
  • We are all playing fantasy!
  • "I'm not!"
I always get very tired of this type of discussion, and I say that as a wargamer who does both like historical and fantasy wargaming. The latest reiteration of these arguments came in one of the columns of my favourite wargaming magazine (Miniature Wargames with Battlegames #399), and I was a bit taken aback. Not because of the particular author or column in question, but because it always seems as if fantasy wargamers still have to defend themselves against the idea of not being "real wargamers".

Let me explain:
  1. Although I do understand people could be confused about the nature of fantasy wargaming when it gained popularity several decades ago, should we not all know by know that the "fantasy" in wargaming has the same meaning as the "fantasy" in "fantasy literature". To quote from Wikipedia:
    Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common.
    Yet, many wargamers bend the discussion about fantasy often in the direction of a different meaning of fantasy, indicating anything that has not actually happened (see bullet list above). This is always weird - as if people do not know fantasy wargaming is based on an established literary genre. It's difficult for me to believe wargamers do not know that difference. Actually, I do think they do know, but enjoy bending the meaning to make some sort of point and cause confusion. Sci-fi wargaming, btw, does not suffer from this.
  2. Fantasy wargaming has been a genre in wargaming since at least the 70s with rules and figures based on Tolkien's Middle Earth - although Tony Bath fought his games back in the 50s in the imaginary continent of Hyboria, based on the Conan universe. Perhaps Bath's wargaming was not fantasy as we know it today (we would call it imaginations these days), but anyway, it's not as if fantasy wargaming is the new kid on the block. Why does fantasy wargaming still evoke such emotions? Isn't it an established genre by now?
  3. Fantasy wargaming became big in the 80s (Warhammer!), and many wargamers of my generation (I'm turning 50 later this year) have enjoyed fantasy wargaming tremendously as youngsters. Actually, I still like playing fantasy games, although I heve evolved beyond Warhammer. Fantasy wargaming is part of the DNA of many, by now "older" wargamers, and the Oldhammer phenomenon clearly illustrates this. I am therefore still surprised there is a faction of gamers that still want to question the validity of fantasy wargaming as being "real" wargaming.
  4.  Usually, the sentiment is raised by historical gamers whose games are firmly rooted in historical research, and base their games on a methodological approach about the period in question. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that - I have done this myself for some of my favourite periods - but it is by itself not the "one and only true" approach to wargaming as many want others to believe. This particular brand of wargaming also only came to the foreground in the 70s. If you read the wargaming literature of the 60s, you see quite some liberal interpretation of history as well. Look at the writings by Grant and Featherstone. Although their wargaming is inspired by history, it does not try to replicate history. Grant is famous for his 18th century imaginations, and Featherstone was the one who condemned the "Staff and Command Boys" in War Game Digest in 1962, arguing against an "aura of pseudo-science of what is a pastime" (look it up - you can find info about this debate online!).
  5. Although one's motivation might be different to play with toy soldiers (historical research vs exploring an imaginary universe), the end result is surprisingly the same: same props, same rules, same army lists, ... This is of course not surprising since much of fantasy literature is based on (often medieval) history. But - and this is not unimportant - the enjoyment or fun one gets out of it might be different. One wargamer enjoys seeing an historical plausible military encounter developing on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in militory history), while the other enjoys seeing a military encounter in an imaginary world coming to live on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in the fictional universe). Hmmm, perhaps not so different after all?
  6. Many wargamers do not limit themselves to pure historical or pure fantasy. Almost every wargamer I know plays - or has played - various genres next to each other, and this even extrapolates to other gaming hobbies such as roleplaying games or card games or computer games ... So, if people switch with ease between different spectra of gaming, why insist on hard divides?
My take? In essence, I don't think there is much difference between various wargaming genres, since they have much more in common than they are different. I see gamers playing with toy soldiers rolling dice. And although the motivation to play a game might be different, that doesn't make it a different hobby.

Me playing a game of Warhammer - one of my earliest wargaming photos, probably late eighties. As a historical gamer, fantasy wargaming is a significant part of my gaming DNA.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Demo game? Participation game? Hybrid game?

In issue 399 of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames (which, BTW, has been added to the growing index of all wargaming articles ever published ;-)), there's an article by Nick Hughes discussing the type of games we see at conventions.

Roughly speaking, at the European convention scene, there are two types of games:
  • Demo games: a gaming group demonstrates a specific game setup, a period, a ruleset, ... The intention is not participation by convention visitors, but the game is rather a starting point for explaining visitors what the game, rules, etc. are all about.
  • Participation games: the game is set up with the purpose of visitors participating, and might vary in length between let's say 15 minutes of fast fun and a few hours.
When games are run well, no matter the type, there are distinct advantages, and are a good addition to any convention. But there are also disadvantages. Demo games take up space, and interaction with the public is not always a success due to various reasons. Participation games might take too long and hence fail to attract participants. The times when visitors would spend an entire day at a convention - and hence could devote several hours playing a single game - are long gone.

So, the article proposes a hybrid: the visual spectacle of a demo game, but with the intention of letting visitors taking control of the game for a few turns.

This reminded me very much of the type of games we have run with our gaming group Schild & Vriend during various conventions - mostly CRISIS in Antwerp - over the past 10 years. We have designed our games around the idea of micro-participation - i.e. allow visitors to take part in the game for only a few minutes. The game would run all day, and the flow of the game is the result of a sequence of turns taken by many players over the course of an entire day.

Arnhem 2005

The first game of this type we ran was our Arnhem game in 2005. The design was based on Free Kriegsspiel. A gamesmaster would run the game all day long, and when a visitor passed by, he would be offered a decision to make: "These platoons have been hiding in these woods. Do you think they should shoot at the enemy, or move forwards?" Once the player hade made a choice, a few dice were rolled (e.g. determining movement distance, or outcome of the fight, ...). The player could stick around for a few more moves, or could move on.

Attack on Fort Stanley 2008

In 2008, we tried a different approach. Set in Darkest Africa, a fort was under siege. The besiegers were controlled by the umpire, but the besieged were under control of whatever visitor was present at the table. The system was run using cards. A5-size cards - displayed prominently - outlined the actions a player could take, including requested dice rolls and chances for success. The only thing a player had to do was pick a card, move the figures, throw a dice. When the action was complete, a new card was drawn. Again, this allowed for a few minutes of quick fun.

Red vs Blue 2013

Our largest experiment in this style was Red vs Blue, in 2013. We had printed over 1500 custom playing cards, which we dealt out in the entire convention hall: at stands, at the entrance, at the bar, ... At the gaming table, there was a real-time clock, indicating what side (red or blue) was "on". When you came to the table with one of the cards, you could participate immediately, following the actions on the card. The cards came in many different variations: movement actions, artillery bombardments, reinforcements, etc. At then end of the day, we logged over 250 participants.

So, yes, it is possible to design games around the idea of micro-participation. It takes some thinking and some preparation. But, it also is very exhausting, especially of you want to run the game all day long. Red vs Blue ran for 6 hours, in real time, non-stop.

Will we repeat such mass-participation wargames again? Perhaps, although I do not have plans for the immediate future. I feel that with Red vs Blue we reached the limit of what this genre could do - unless a lot more people get involved in the running and participation. After all, we usually did this with 2 or 3 people on the organizing team ;-)