How to start? Or where to begin? It sure is a big hobby!

As a gamer, I often find my self as an Army of One. Out of all my co-workers (50+ in my office) I am the only miniatures gamer, and one of very few that play any board games at all. I deal with the usual jokes and silliness. My Hasbro Black Series figs are referred to as “dolls” by one guy. I play with kid’s toys. My fellow gamers are “those” guys. You know the ones; the unwashed, uncouth, basement dwellers. All the same stuff I am sure many of you have dealt with at some time.

My two brothers are the same. Neither really has a hobby, and they think it is funny to make jokes about my “shiny” as they refer to my unpainted models. Since they are not gamer, they were blown away by my total models owned. Especially by the number in the Lead Mountain, or The Boxes of Despair, as I refer to them.

It’s mostly in good humor, but still, it gets old. I’ve had decent conversations explaining war games in general, and the games I play in particular, with my direct unit. Because we spend 8-10 hours a day together in very close quarters and we’ve pretty much covered everything. None have really showed any interest. One guy asked about board games a few years back. Games with a military/war theme that would be suitable for a ten-yar-old. I gave him a couple options, and every time I followed up, he replied with “he hadn’t gotten any yet”.

My “gaming buddies” are all of you. The guys and gals that read my blog, post on the forums I frequent, or right blogs of your own. You are the ones who get it. Collecting your own stuff. The ones who buy more models than they paint, and collect rules like somewhere out there is the perfect set. My peeps.

We have a collective vocabulary and a shared knowledge base. Unless you play a single game, or ruleset, you all know that there are literally thousands of rule sets floating around. Starting with eponymous Little Wars, to whatever ruleset is being published the week I publish this, to whatever week you read this into infinity, rules abound. Those in the hobby know and understand it. Those outside the hobby have no idea.

It comes as a surprise, I am sure, when they ask a simple question like “what rules should I use if I wanted to start wargaming?” Three weeks later, when you finish discussing the various eras of warfare and how to divide them, they have lost interest completely…

Honestly, where do we start?

I’ve briefly alluded to some of the eras in warfare that have rules or army lists in this post (the eras I game post link), so I won’t delve into it again. It does create issues though, when someone asks about wargaming. I had this problem today when the guy who asked about board games asked for a set of rules he called “Wargaming 101” and specifically mentioned battles from Thermopylae to Gettysburg.

Well. Hmmm. How do I break it down that no one set of rules is capable of doing that? 2300+ years of history, innovation, tactical changes, and weapons development means that a pike-armed phalanx and a skirmish line armed with repeating rifles are very, very different. While I supposed you could have some very basic rules to cover that wide of a span, it is the differences in units that makes war gaming so great. Otherwise, play checkers.

I answered my friend. He is recently retired, and has way more free time than I do. I suppose he is looking for a hobby, and the world needs more wargamers, not less, so I did my best to help. I gave some options and opinions of the same. My real knowledge is limited to the ten or so rulesets I play most. I am familiar with about probably ten times that number. And have heard of double that. Reading his question, my brain started sorting through what I know.

Plenty of gamers will yell out “you told him about DBA, right?” Which technically, I did. By telling him that Triumph! is the playable successor. We all have our opinions; I don’t care for DBA. Sue me.

I mentioned the Osprey Wargaming Series to start, specifically Lion Rampant.  I like the small rulebooks and narrow focus of this series. Handing someone a book the size of the 9th Ed Warhammer 40K book is almost a surefire way to get them to NOT play wargames. There is literally a 300-page difference between 9th Ed 40K and any rules in the Osprey series.  And the former still needs a pair of army books to really play the game.

Granted, one is sci-fi and the other is medieval, but you understand the dilemma. How to we get a totally newbie over the initial hump and on the slide into wargaming madness?

My recommendations to him were Field of Glory, several from the Osprey Series, Triumph!, the Fire & Fury rules (both Brigade and Regimental) and Black Powder. The real problem is the timespan. None of these will work for that entire timeline. I think a minimum would be four rules. One for Ancients, one for Dark Ages, one for Medieval, and a last for the American Civil War. Unless he is interested in Napoleonics battles, too, then, well, he needs more rules.

What about all of you? If someone asked you the same question, what would your answer be, and what are your favorite rules for these various eras?

For me, these are my current rules:

Ancients: Triumph! I like the vast array of army lists, the simplicity of play, and the guys that play it. I’ve had great fun recreating battles from the Battle of Marathon, to the battle of Hastings.

Dark Ages: Saga I like the warband feel, and the unique traits off the battle boards. Plus, cool dice. Everyone loves cool dice.

Medieval: Lion/Dragon Rampant Easy to read and learn, fast-paced, and really open to include any units you want, I can use my Warhammer Fantasy models with these rules without tossing a monstrosity of a rulebook at my opponent.

Black powder era: Muskets & Tomahawks for skirmish battles. Fire & Fury for ACW. M&T is so cinematic and cool. This evocative set uses cool scenarios and side plots to create really interesting games. The F&F rules allow regimental to brigade level gaming in the ACW.

Anyone of you who has read before know I also game fantasy, WW2 and various sci-fi. He didn’t ask about those, but I’ll list my current favs just for completion’s sake:

Fantasy: Warhammer Fantasy Battles AND Dragon Rampant. I’m still torn between the two. It is the unique units in WFB that makes the game both cool, and overburdened with special rules. DR really streamlines the unit and weapon choices. I need to bust out a couple armies and give DR a go.

WW2: Bolt Action (plus our house rules) and Chain of Command. I’ve written before about how I WANT to love CoC, but there are certain aspects I just don’t care for. I think I will end up with a hybrid of the two, picking parts I like from both.

Sci-Fi: 40K will always be my first gaming love, but I haven’t played it in years. Kill Team has piqued my interest, though, and I might get into it. Mostly I play Star Wars using X-Wing and Armada. Ground combat in the galaxy far, far away isn’t my thing, but space combat is so much fun.

My friend hasn’t taken me up my lunch offer yet. I think he knows lunch would turn into dinner, and the sun would set before I even got to the Black Powder era in rules discussions. He wants to dip his toe, not leap into the fire. I can’t say I blame him for caution, since this path can lead to madness.

A quick peek at what I’ve been up to on the terrain front. A couple sign posts/ message boards, and a ruined tower for fantasy gaming. The signs are from basswood and balsa, with mdf bases I scavenged from the last mdf kit I built. I forgot to take any in progress pics of the tower. It was built stone by stone from XPS bricks/blocks I cut on my Proxxon hotwire cutter. I used Alene’s Tacky glue instead of hot glue (hate the strings) so this took a while. I could only get two rows on at a time before they would slip out of position if I tried to add more layers.

I finally finished this kit from 4Ground. Harper’s Dry goods. I have another copy of this kit already, so i modified the front face, cutting a different profile on the top and hiding the cuts with profile boards. My western town is coming along nicely. Mostly I need to finalize signs and get them printed and installed.

Not sure why the door looks broken. I wonder if I messed it up finishing the tarp?

That’s it for this update. There are few models painted, but no pics yet. With end-of-the year stuff of my daughter, my free time has been limited. June is gonna be worse. If I can finish even one small project, it will be a miracle.

See ya next time!

BG

2018: The Results

The year in review

As December flew by I looked back and wondered where all the time went.  It seems like a week or three ago it was January and I was looking forward to a year of painting, modeling and gaming. I had an ok 2017, and knew to have a great 2018 I needed planning and motivation. Mostly because I am a lazy git.

So I set a goal for painting in 2018.  A few years back I entered a painting challenge over at Heresy-online.net. In it you had to paint one unit or vehicle for a war game each month. There was a guy in charge, and there was a set of rules to abide by. Everyone posted plans at the beginning of the year. One change in armies per year. One mulligan. Miss 2 months and you were out. The prize?  The honor of completion. And a cool graphic for your signature line. The honor was mine. I made it through the most of the year, and painted about 10-12 units. Most were for my Warhammer Fantasy Battles Empire army. A Middenheim army to be exact.  But looking back I see that some were from my sons High Elf army.  How the memory fails me…

Taking inspiration from that challenge, I set a goal to paint 2 units per month from any army, in any scale. That way I could switch around what I was painting to keep my interest and drive up. No way was I getting burned out again. I started out the year painting 28mm World War Two minis for Bolt Action and Chain of Command. German and U.S infantry and a few armored vehicles. I moved into 15mm Ancients after a few months. Then I ended the year painting 28mm again, Dark Age Vikings and Anglo-Saxons for SAGA. Here is a complete list:

Jan: 10 G.I.s and 8 Grenadiers

Feb: 10 G.I.s and 8 Grenadiers

Mar: 6 Waywatchers and 5 Pulp bad guys

Apr: 8 Grenadiers and 5 Pulp Good Guys, a Wood Elf Lord and a High Elf Mage

May: 8 Grenadiers and 10 G.I.s

June: 7 Swarm bases for WFB Lizardmen and 8 French civilians

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July: 15 bases of Romans and 17 bases of Germans

Aug: Nothing…

Sept: Nothing…

Oct: Nothing…

Nov: 4 Berserkers and 12 AS Levy troops plus 3 SdKfz 251 half tracks

Dec: 4 AS Hearth guard and 12 Viking Archer levy troops plus 2 M4 Shermans and a Panzer IV H

As you can see, I wasn’t entirely successful. But, I do feel that I painted more than I would have without a self-imposed challenge. I also built and painted at least one scenery element each month. Those were houses and stores, my first crack at acrylic caulk roads, a fenced garden and a Wood Elf altar.

I already have a lineup of minis to paint for 2019, and I am hoping to better my painting rate while I paint Dark Age and Fantasy models by trying some colored primers for the first time. If I keep up this rate, and don’t buy too many models, Ill finish painting all my models sometime around 2035. Hahaha!

Painting and modeling was only part of what I accomplished in 2018. In my ongoing search for great games, I explored several new board games and a few new rule sets for miniatures gaming. I’m still waiting on those GMT games I ordered through their P500 pre-order system. So I am short one FIW game and my first sailing game. I have no idea when those will show up, but I am anxious to give them a try. I did play 2 new games in 2018.

One was from Worthington Publishing and is an adaptation of the Richard Borg Command and Colors rules set in the American War of Independence. This game is somewhat similar to Battle Cry! in setup and play. It uses the familiar 3 section map board and hex terrain, as well as similar command cards. The British have troops representing regulars, lights and elites, as well as cavalry and artillery units. The American player has regulars and elites, as well as militia troops that have some unique rules. I believe there are a couple of upgrade packs, adding in Hessians and a set of pieces to move the game back into the FIW.  I definitely need those to add to the playability and longevity of the game. It played well, and like Battle Cry!, I think it represents linear warfare very well.

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The second game I finally played was GMT’s Wilderness War. It is a grand tactical game representing the entirety of the French and Indian War if you care to play the long campaign. We haven’t yet, but will soon.  One of the more novel things, in my opinion, was supply. Like many games, you must trace supply from forward units through controlled areas back to the coast, or a city or fortress to allow troops to maintain supply. Additionally, forts and villages on the frontier could only support so many troops in the winter layup. Too many troops and you took casualties from “disease” and “starvation”. I believe we lost more troops to those sources than actual combat. The siege rules really worked and demonstrated the difficulties of sieges at the time.  Many forts were raided and burned by the British, and I ran a holding action and concentrated pushes, but in the end came up short. It was a great game, and added in the differences in troop quality that is not present in our favorite FIW game, a Few Acres of Snow.

I looked at many other games in a variety of genres throughout the year. I continued my hunt for GDW’s The Third World War and bid on several offerings on eBay. And I got sniped every time. I’ve decided until I am willing to spend at least $150, I am probably NOT winning an auction for that game. So I settled for Victory Games’ The Next World War, another WWIII strategy game. It was un-punched when I got it, and I am still trying to decide if that is a bad sign!  Have read the rules once, and need to read them again before my son comes home for Christmas break. That is one of our must-play games for his time home from university. One rule I did remember was if nukes get used. If they do, there is a 50/50 chance the player that deployed them loses the game. That is a big risk!

In the hunt for a WWIII game and reading blogs and websites and reviews, I kept coming back to Team Yankee by Battlefront. I have a long association with Battlefront, playing their flagship WWII rules since the playtest days. I have watched the rollout of Team Yankee with great interest, and even read Harold Coyle’s Team Yankee book this summer. Heavy main battle tanks? Yes please! A-10 tank busters? I’ll take a pair. Cool anti-air assets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and modern war have a bit of a draw for me. I even picked up the main rule book to give them a look. But, then I stalled. While I love the size and detail of 15mm models, the scale is just too big for the space I have to do justice to modern combat. In modern war it is the weapon ranges. I wrote about this previously for mortars in WWII. Missile ranges in moderns are even worse. So I am still on the fence for the era and scale. There aren’t any modern tanks or APCs hiding in my lead mountain. Yet.

For most of the year I only bought models I needed for the current emphasis projects I have going. The TY rules were one of only two rule sets added to my bookshelf. Then I went to Fall In!…

As reported in my Fall In! post, I picked up the Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant rules. I am still looking at them as a replacement for WFB. But the more I work on variant rules, the more I think I’ll just stick with WFB for gaming with all the GW models I have. If I was just starting out and looking for a fantasy set of rules, I’d be all over Dragon Rampant. But, I have largish WFB armies and the skirmish nature of the DR rules makes them unsuitable for mass combat.

The other “rules” I decided to add to everything I have, is Wings of Glory. After playing Peter’s fantastic Balloon Buster’s game at Fall In!, I had to get this game. I ordered the duel pack with the Albatros D.Va and the SPAD XIII from Miniature Market and the No Man’s Land game mat from Noble Knight Games. I’ve already introduced my daughter to the game, and she is a fan. She prefers it to X-Wing as it is simpler to play than X-Wing, and she liked the 3 phase planning. I have been going over a long list of models to buy to play this on a larger scale, with more scenarios, and to ensure that I can play through the 4 years of the war. There are cool campaign rules from the fan base and the increasing capabilities and lethality of the planes begs for campaign play. It is the second must-play for the break.

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The last game we will fit in is Triumph! rules from the Washington Grand Company. I am looking forward to teaching both of my kids to play this one, and really looking forward to expanding my armies so all four of us can play together. Romans and Visigoth allies along with Germans and Dacians threatening the Empire should make a great game and campaign.

So what do I have enough painted stuff for at this point? I lack terrain for everything, but do have enough buildings for 15mm and 28mm WWII. I have a couple Dark Age buildings close to being finished, but not enough for a village, yet.  What I really lack are roads. They are so expensive to purchase ready-made, and a bit time-consuming to make. So I don’t have enough. I’m going to have to suck it up and build enough dirt and asphalt roads this coming year, and buy some cobblestone streets. I need a solid week of nothing else on my plate to knock out the bocage and fences and roads and tree stands I need. Then I need another week to build the jungle terrain (thanks Mel… Your Burma board has me super jealous) and Lizardmen temples and spawning pools I need for a half-planned WFB campaign involving an island that reappeared off the coast of the Old World and is shrouded in mist and jungle.

What I do have is enough Germans and Americans in 15mm to play any number of scenarios of WWII combat. I have enough Germans and Americans in 28mm now to play almost anything I want in that scale as well. I have two armies for Triumph! all painted up, plus some felt terrain. That needs to be upgraded at some point, but for now we can play. There are four 1,000+ point fantasy armies painted, and a bit of terrain. Before my son went off the college he played WFB with a friend or friends quite regularly. I have 2 points each for Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Not quite enough to play a game of SAGA. But, 2019 will definitely see more minis gaming along with the board games.

2018 also saw me start blogging. And not do a great job all summer. No excuses. I’ll try to do better. I am amazed at the people that can put out great content month after month. And I understand why some slow their posting. Good ideas are hard to come by! Winter is here, so I have a bit more time to write and post, and hopefully some good short story ideas crawl out of the shadows of my brain.

I was able to attend two Cons through the year. One Comic-Con and one gaming con. I am hoping to fit in at least 2 more gaming cons in 2019 (FlintCon and Historicon) and possibly another Comic-Con. Oh, and I am going to the Star Wars celebration in Chicago in April. I’ll be attending with my friends from over at The Credible Nerds podcast, Justin and Marc. That should be all kinds of awesome.

2019 should be a heck of a year.

Stone, rock, gravel and sand

Building linear terrain takes lots of two things. Time. And materials. In my quest to actual build terrain, I have started stone walls or fences.  I am going for a rubble look, the random 1st one fences built by farmers over the centuries as they clear their fields.

My effort involves vinyl floor tiles, foamcore board, little stones, and lots of hot glue.

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I cut the tiles into strips and corners of various sizes. Something like 10 feet of straights, several corners, a destroyed wall section, and a couple gates.

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After hot gluing a foamcore board core, I went at the sections with stones hot glued in place. One. Stone. At. A. Time.

I was at the table for hours and only completed a couple sections. And I blew through hot glue sticks and two bags of Woodland Scenics Talus in no time.

The talus is nicely sorted and a uniform color, and not too expensive at $4.99 a bag.

20180516_234727 But I will need ten bags?  More? So I needed more rocks, of the right size at a better price.

How’s free?  At my church a guy recently moved in who manages a sand production facility. He saw my Facebook post on building the walls and asked about the stones/rocks I used.  I described the rocks and size and he asked if I could use a 5 gallon bucket of them. Could I? Uh, yes, please!

And he delivered. On Sunday he brought me a bucket. Mixed diameter rocks, but I am a gamer and could figure that out.

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Some cheap buckets, a couple drill bits, and some time led to enough stones to fill two or three of the WS bags, plus, the rest of the bucket to go. Stones forever.

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I’m chuffed as my friends across the pond say.  A little more time sifting and I will have enough rocks to build ALL the fences I will ever need.

So, thanks Shane! You rock!  Hehe.

I have lots more work to do to finish these walls, but I have enough stones to move forward as time allows. Off to pick up more glue sticks!

If you want more info about how I have constructed these walls (or fences), just let me know in the comments.

BG out