Category Archives: Editorial

The Ideal Wargame

Over recent weeks I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a few games against a range of opponents. Each game has provided plenty of challenges and more than a little inspiration. These games have ranged in size from relatively small encounters to some with a couple of thousand figures. Over the same period I have been mulling over various comments on the internet on the merits of large games with thousands of 28mm figures. I’ve also admired games using the smaller miniatures often played on small tables. I’ve also read of players considering their return to competition wargaming after experiencing a pandemic enforced break.

As is to be expected clearly everyone has different views on the features of their ideal game. So with such a vast array of options what makes an ideal game for me?

Firstly, I need to feel the game replicates, to some extent, an actual historic battle. With all such goals compromises must be made. I tend to prefer simple rules yet the rules should create a feasible historical narrative that I at least can identify with. I want my games to comparable to the battles I read of in the history books. Therefore my brigade of miniatures advancing or retreating on the table top should replicate those actions on the historical battlefield or, if it is a fictional engagement, provide features discernible in accounts from historic battles.

I am fascinated by different periods of history and therefore my gaming interests are diverse. Yet within these periods my preference is to deploy armies that historically fought each other.

For instance I have a preference to see battles between Alexander’s Successors or against Rome, as I have outlined in these two reports. Equally, I prefer the Yorkists and Lancastrians to deploy opposite rather than campaigning against Biblical Egypt. In some periods this desire for pitting historical opponents against each other is particularly narrow, limited to a particular year or campaign. To enable this I make choices in figure and ground scale to fit my interests, without breaking the bank. These decisions flow into the table dimensions I use.

I prefer my tables to be visually attractive. Of course improving terrain and miniatures is something of an ongoing process I’m certainly not drawn to battlefields with overly stylised terrain such as square hills. Yet, from a storage perspective I accept that compromises with terrain must be made.

I accept that I have a limited time to play games. Typically I can allocate a few hours in an evening to a game. This time element in part influences the rules I use as I need a plausible result within the gaming window. Sometimes I have a little more time allowing larger games, but these are exceptions.

Skirmish wargaming is increasingly popular with some truely inspirational photos of such games on the internet. I can see the appeal of smaller forces with the ability to create some great terrain to support the battles. Yet I am not drawn to skirmish games which, for me, lack the command challenges of larger battles. I clearly prefer the great commanders of history and their battles and campaigns, rather than Richard Sharpe’s exploits. I wonder if I will always resist the lure?

Finally, my games need to be a rewarding social experience. I am not interested in games where the aspect of winning is paramount. This increasingly means I find myself avoiding competitions, despite having enjoyed them in the past.

Well, enough of me, what defines your ideal game?

Operation Nostalgia

A couple of months ago one of my opponents turned up at our regular gaming evening with a newspaper clipping from the 1970s. The article was of course about our gaming in our younger days, we both were wargaming together in that decade and still do. The article formed part of our drive to recruit new members our fledgling local wargaming club. Clearly we convinced a local reporter to do a small article, possibly not to hard as I recall the reporter was himself interested in military history and modelling. Anyway, many years later the article proved both entertaining and kicked of some reminiscing of wargaming from the past.

Like many readers my interest in military history and wargaming started many years ago when I was at school. Now in small town New Zealand wargaming books were not to be found in local bookstores. However, the local library proved to be a wonderful source of inspiration. Almost on continual loan were the books by Featherstone and Grant, and as you can imagine they proved indispensable.

In those days Airfix plastics were a major part of my gaming. Plastic Churchill and Sherman tanks, supported by infantry of course, advancing across battlefields were engaged by Tigers and Panthers. These Germans were tricky opponents, but a Matchbox Sherman Firefly could even the battle. As to rules, well we used “Battle! Practical Wargaming” by Charles Grant for a number of years.

The book seemed to cover everything that was needed. There were the critical play aides like the “cones of fire” so important to the game, as well as the deflection protractors needed to determine the angle of fire. Then of course there were the battle reports. Outlining the concept of a scenario, which was all new to me at the time, they also provided that much need instruction on the rules in action. Lastly, and certainly not least, were the inspirational photos. Stirring stuff indeed.

In time our World War II games were supplemented by battles from the Ancient period. Now, our Airfix Ancient Britons complete with chariots, with solid wheels of course, engaged Romans in dramatic games. Next, at least for me, was the American Civil War. I recall having painted many ACW figures in my younger days, though in reality I suspect the number was far fewer than I now recollect. Such are the tricks time plays on us.

Soon my plastic warriors began to be supplemented by metal. Initially World War II naval in 1/4800th. This was expanded with orders to the United Kingdom for World War II and Cold War forces in 1/300th. Though I recall being sidetracked by Ancient naval at one point.

The 70’s were clearly vibrant times and today carry a degree of nostalgia, even if some of the detail is lost. I wonder how many readers can recall similar experiences in their early days of wargaming?

More recently, and clearly inspired by the newspaper article, I decided to keep an eye on the local secondhand book market. So began what I will call “Operation Nostalgia”. In an occasional series on Twitter I will explore a few of these books, as well as other aspects of my early wargaming. If you are interested keep an eye out for these posts. You can find them under “Odd Ramblings & Short Game Summaries” on the right, or alternatively follow me Twitter @Thewargamesroom

I hope the series brings back some memories for you and perhaps encourages you to share some of your own.

Reflections & the Year Ahead

Here we are at the beginning of another year. As always it’s a time to look back at the past year and for many of us to ponder what this year may hold. For some readers 2019 will have had a number of challenges and several hardships. I can only hope that your friends and family have been able to rally around and your gaming has provided some enjoyment.

For me the past year has certainly been busy, on both a personal and professional front. Yet, from a wargames perspective it has been rewarding with much painting, organising and gaming.

Game wise I again have again been fortunate with a number of regular opponents and regular games across most of the periods I’m interested in. These have ranged from small games such as the Wings of War game shown above, my last game of 2019, to larger multiplayer events. I find myself pondering what form the larger games could take during the year. It will be interesting to see if what eventuates in this space.

My painting projects have burst into life this year and some are almost complete. I have for example made significant progress expanding no less than three 6mm armies for use with the WWII Spearhead rules. Of the three Spearhead projects the Soviets were certainly the largest and while not complete, the back has certainly been broken.

In addition I’ve  painted some long overdue 15mm DBA armies which have languished unpainted for far too long. In particular the Gauls who have been campaigning against all manner of historical opponents. Further, additional options have been completed allowing the expansion of a couple of Macedonian Successor armies.

Finally I started my latest project an Austrian Seven Years War army in 6mm, for use with Volley Bayonet. The figures, like the other painting projects for 2019 have drawn mostly on existing figures in the existing lead mountain, providing something of a positive feeling of progress.

I’m rather hoping that 2020 will be equally rewarding on the painting front though of course, only time will tell how much further progress is achieved in further reducing the backlog.

I trust that 2020 is kind to you and your family and that you have many hours of enjoyable reading, painting and socialising around your gaming table.

Rolling off the Painting Table

Over July and early August my painting table has had a degree of focus as two DBA armies have progressed from the lead pile to the gaming table. It has been a satisfying experience watching the figures progress. Unlike some wargamers, who produced masses of figures the output of my painting table is limited. I am easily distracted by new projects in the periods I am interested in, so will not too freely admit how long some of the figures have been waiting, though I will admit to several years.

The first project was the Gauls. These figures are all Corvus Belli and stockpiled a few years back. Admittedly the army isn’t complete, as some additional mounted options are still needed to make the army fully complete. However, sufficient have been finished for their first games.

Above, a portion of the Gauls deployed for their first battle while below they can be seen engaged against Carthaginians in their second.

Next to move across the table were the Seleucids. I already have sufficient miniatures for several Successor armies and regular readers will have seen them on my site before. However, some of the speciality units for the Seleucids had not been completed.

These new elements finally allowed the Later Seleucids to finally be fielded. The figures are mostly Tin Soldier but some stands have utilised Xyston, particularly Xyston levy archers and Galatians. Generally they have mixed well. Above the Seleucid II/19c army arrayed while below, two of the recently completed Tin Soldier Seleucid heavy cavalry.

In addition I have been rebasing my Renaissance Sumatrans. Based for DBR the majority of the foot were based three per base, while in DBA they should be four per base. Given the number of stands required this was a significant project, but once completed the army can be used for DBR, DBA and BBDBA.

Above a portion of the army while below an extra artillery stand, more suitable for the late 15th Century. These figures are all from Eureka Miniatures range.

Having three months ago moved house, and with the games room out of action, my painting table has also doubled as the wargames table, overplayed with a 60cm square DBA table. This has certainly been useful and despite a lack of space our games have been stirring affairs. I have posted some brief reports of the last couple of DBA games on my Ancients site. Specifically Rise of the Celts, Seleucid Adventures and Malaccan Mayhem.

The next painting project is now being prepared and will soon take its position on the painting table. Before it gets underway however I will turn my attention to finally sorting out my wargames room. But that can wait for another post…

The Year That Was

Here we are in the middle of January and I am acutely aware how long it has been since my last post. Certainly 2018 has been a hectic year for me and there have been aspects that have caused plenty of challenges. Yet I am fortunate that I have had a good group of friends with which I have spent many hours rolling dice and moving toy soldiers around the table. A tonic and sometimes an escape from the day to day challenges we all face.

During 2018 I managed to play most of the game systems I enjoy. Spearhead and particularly Modern Spearhead featured heavily during the early part of 2018. Unfortunately they have been absent most recently due to those players interested in these rules being distracted by work. Hopefully regular Spearhead games will soon appear on my calendar.

Volley & Bayonet has been a solid Friday evening game system during the course of the year. Always an excellent multiplayer rules system I can’t for the life of me see why they are not more popular.

They provide excellent fictional games such the American Civil War Game illustrated above and below.

However, they are also ideal for refighting historical battles. Last year I was even fortunate enough to enjoy a few Napoleonic refights as well as an outstanding multiplayer Volley & Bayonet game in Tennessee, a refight of Stones River. It will be a game that I will remember for many years.

In addition to all of the above DBA has also provided much enjoyment, most frequently on Tuesday evenings. For those interested in such things you can find various reports on my Ancient Wargaming Blog. During the year some games were of particular noteworthy and were recorded, one was Flaminius’ Legions. This report documents the first battle with my reconditioned Polybian Romans which have been languishing on the “to be painted pile” for a long time. More recently my son and I made good use of his holiday in Christchurch for several DBA games. A few of these games are recorded in The Revenge of Peucestas and Epeirot Adventures.

I’m rather looking forward to 2019. It promises to be busy of course, but there will be some interesting games to play while sharing a few tales with friends. I may even post here a little more regularly…