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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Crisis 2016

Pictures of our 54mm Wild West game we staged at CRISIS in cooperation with fellow wargaming club PMCD, can be seen here:


Rules etc. can be found here.