Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday, 17 September 2023

Minimalist Gaming...or, "If I had know then what I know now..."

I think that Peter Young's advice in Charge! to stick to one wargames period and make up imagi-nation armies for it is one of the most under-rated pieces of advice to a wargamer...although unhappily for me, I didn't read it when I was starting, or re-starting, in wargaming! But as advice for a busy person with a very full life outside of wargaming, it has lots to commend it.   And it is perhaps still the most common way of wargaming, which I guess is to play Warhammer 40K and have done with it, for all one's hobby needs.  
But for the more historically-inclined of us, my advice to myself might have been:
Always remember you are playing a game on a tabletop with models (or counters, or whatever); don't take it too seriously, don't overthink it, playing the game is the thing.
One period, many scenarios.
Build two armies, imagi-nations, which can be slowly added to as needed to play as many scenarios as you need to.
Make the scenario fit the models/toys.
Either build a 2mm/6mm version of the army for big battles and a 28mm (or above) force for skirmishes; or a single 15mm/20mm army for both. If blessed with a really big table, maybe consider 28mm (or above) for everything too.  If cursed with a very small one, make the skirmish force in 15mm/20mm too.
Where you can, use 'generic' troops and vehicles that can then be given identities by use of appropriate command stands, separate flag bearers, that kind of thing.

If the one period has to be WW2 or later, one is faced with the issue of iconic equipment. In earlier periods, generally iconic equipment can be avoided but a Sherman and a Panther are signifiers different from each other in a way that a Marlburian Cuirassier and a Napoleonic Cuirassier are to my mind, not.  In that case, pick Germans and a single Allied army, probably Soviets; or US or British/Commonwealth and Japanese, and maybe Germans too.  I think there is a little less to be gained from making armies imagi-nations here although certainly not saying you couldn't do it.  The issue with picking France, Italy, Poland and so on is of perhaps limiting your options a bit more than necessary - what are you going to use to recreate Kursk scenarios if your basic armies are Italians and Indians? Again, not saying you couldn't do it, just saying it makes more demands of your imagination. If the period is post WW2, pick one army with Communist Bloc equipment and one with NATO-Bloc equipment.  Make these imagi-nations.

For all periods, include irregular forces alongside the regular troops: this really usefully expands the number of scenarios available.
If you absolutely must have more than one period, then three should suffice: an 'ancient' army (anything from 4000BC/BCE - 1600AD/CE; a 'horse-and-musket' army  (anything from 1600AD/CE to 1880AD/CE); and one 'modern' army. There should definitely not be more than 5 (Ancient, Medieval, Pike & Shot, Horse & Musket, Modern)!! Fantasy and Science Fiction armies are perfectly adequate substitutes, just take out the magical elements when using historical scenarios.  Really, the 'look' & 'fluff' of an army/period, whether historical or not, should be the most important guide here: buy what you enjoy painting the most.
Always consider expanding the dimensions of a force (e.g. sea and air, but also counter-insurgency, smuggling, policing etc. if that makes contextual sense) and the medical/engingeering/logistic/intelligence elements rather than expanding the number of forces. But expanding the number of forces for the same period is better than adding new periods (e.g. if you have French and British Napoleonic forces, add 1830 Algerians or Maharrata Indians rather than Zulu War).

Be reluctant to sell models, especially painted models. You bought them for a reason. That said, if you need the space back, either mentally or physically - or you need the money generally - then just do it - you can easily buy more figures when/if the time is right. Obviously none of this applies if you are deliberately painting and selling models as a financial sideline.

Other things to consider: the early wargamers used far fewer sets of rules and were more inclined to tinker with existing rules than buy more.  There is probably something to this, since learning new rules does come with quite a time and intellectual overhead.  So I would advise sticking to a set you like, especially for 'home' games and being quite reluctant to change - but if you must, then don't be afraid to do it.  But don't just buy more and more rules.

Having a couple of how to make terrain books is useful, as are a couple of generic scenario books. Shop around for both to find the ones you like.  The former may be less useful in the C21, although I still like having a reference book around as well as finding things on Youtube and blogs and so on.  Specific period scenario books are great too, buy good ones when you see them.  Have enough terrain, but not too much: consider having a make/buy as you need approach. This is reason enough to limit the number of scales/sizes of models you use.

Writing your own scenarios is great but can take a bit more time than you think to write good ones, so don't be afraid to go to your pool of generic scenarios. They still tend to be better than 'points-buy' scenarios or 'line the troops up' games.

Give thought on the practicalities of getting a game to the table: the board, the figures, the terrain, the rules, the scenario, dice, space, note-taking, transportation etc.  This will reward you with many more, and better, games.

Campaigns are great but can be quite hard work. Lots of the 'greats' of wargames campaigning really aren't that amazing for actually getting a campaign on the table and played, they are more inspirational and thought-provoking. Campaigns based on existing boardgames tend to work much better, IMHO. If you do homebrew them, then simplicity and structure are your friends - the interesting situations and character of the campaign can emergence nicely from quite simple campain rules, whereas detail and administration will definitely make it harder work with little guarantee of a richer strategic experience.
If you are using wargames for serious research, I would ignore the figures and terrain and make DIY boardgames etc. The overhead is much smaller and you can concentrate on the design rather than the aesthetic and fun aspects.

Wargames magazines are generally pretty good but there is only so much brilliance to go around. One subscription at a time is more than enough for interest and inspiration, so unless you are playing an awful lot, I would keep it to that. On the other hand, wargames magazines considered in totality can satisfy the terrain, campaign and scenario needs. I would consider this as an either/or.  There are some great blogs out there too which can satisy some, but probably not all, of these things. Taken as a strategic whole, they are great for modelling and painting advice, not bad for thinking about design, okay for free rules, not great for scenarios, and very poor for campaigns.

Anyway, I think this is how I would advise my beginning self - how about you?

Not Much Happening Game-Wise...

I haven't been up to much modelling or figure gaming-wise recently due to work/family life pressures. As ever, when things get tight I feel much more inclined to play RPGs, computer games or board games than miniatures wargames; even the painting has suffered somewhat. I have painted some Zulus and British for my youngest and am starting to build some Mahdists and some Agincourt-era knights for him (it has been his birthday this month) but that has been about it, with the exception of some 6mm Dutch WSS infantry (pictures soon); with the result that I have actually managed to build up a little bit of a lead pile: most of my purchases from this year's shows have remained unpainted thus far. Still, hope springs eternal!  And it isn't like I have lost any general interest, just the specific decisions I am making about any spare time have defaulted in the direction of RPGs.

I did get one game of 40K Rogue Trader in with my youngest, which he seemed to enjoy. 

 The good thing about 40K is that the basic system is so intuitive, you can get playing with it very quickly.  In this game, a small force of Space Marines is clearing a slightly larger group of Ork raiders from a ruin and an industrial facility on the outskirts of the jungle.

The hill is scratchbuilt from polystyrene, intended for a new refight of White Mountain (!)

Painting has been painfully slow recently, although I seem to have done a fair bit of constructing and preparing plastic figures. Anyway...

Some Heroics & Ros WW2 French Armour - some reinforcements, so I can field full-strength platoons for all of the major types for 1940

Some of the newer Baccus 6mm US Sherman tank variants

and more, along with some M-10s

Beginning to re-fresh some WW2 German trucks - Opel Blitzes and Protzes? - from two or three different manufacturers

A platoon of A9 Cruisers; this is probably in the 'wrong' paint scheme for 1940 (FoW guidance has this limited to light tanks and infantry tanks, whereas the cruisers were in a more medium green - however, I much prefer this more subtle camouflage scheme).

Some Zulu War era 28mm Perry British Infantry (and very nice figures they are too)

And ditto for their Zulu opponents

Another shot

I am not really sure what to use for playing with these; Neil Thomas has some Colonial-period skirmish rules in his Wargaming: An Introduction I could give a go, although they look at first glance as a fairly crude attempt. Still, worth a try I guess.

Plus some space fighters from Brigade Models - some Neo-Soviet type, I think. They are nice models although I don't have much idea of what to do with them! Perhaps I have an old copy of Delta Vee knocking around somewhere...

and some 'British' opponents from the same range.

Apart from that, it has mainly been RPGs for me (my other blog gives some idea of which games have featured) and boardgames.  For the latter, the two I have been giving most attention to are Europe in Agony, which I find just fascinating, and Over the Reich, as I continue to try and refine my own much simpler WW2 air warfare rules.

Monday, 3 July 2023

Joy of Six 2023

I went along to Joy of Six 2023 yesterday, since it isn't that far away from where I live and it is normally a really nice, friendly show.

The first game I saw was a new (to me, at any rate) WW2 air game based on the 'Undaunted' series which I haven't played yet, but seen at various stores. It looked nice, and seemed simple enough - simple enough to allow genuinely fast play, which is nice.  I am not sure I am that tempted to get it, although I am an  sucker for air warfare games, since the concepts looked reasonably similar to those I am working on myself in my adaptation of the Portable Wargame air rules. But definitely worth a look.


As ever Commission Figurines put on a display using their stuff, to show that at the much discussed 3' viewing distance, you can put together a very nice looking 6mm game for really not much money at all. I thought some of the cavalry was by Adler, although a passer-by told me that they were all Commission's wooden figures. Not 100% convinced, but what would I know?!?! In any case, very nice looking (good mat I thought).

These are the cavalry I (mis?)-identified as Adler

I didn't get shots of the next two games (I don't like to disturb people if they are actually playing with show visitors), so I missed 'Tank-Hunting for Veterans' and 'The Great Emu Wars' - both looked great, so tht was a shame, good games on small boards, just my thing.

Next up was a big Battletech game on perhaps a combination of a gridded mat with GHQ hexes, maybe? Anyway, it looked like a big Battletech game, so if this is the kind of thing you like, you would have liked this kind of thing. Looked 'big, quite pretty but doable' if you know what I mean!

And then we moved onto even bigger, even prettier, but a little but harder to pull off! Siege of Khartoum on Hexon. It was huge! As ever from this guy (Dan Hodgson I think) there were lots of little pretty details amongst the epic-ness too. And it was clearly a viable game, it looked like everyone was getting quite into it.

Khartoum looked amazing. Interesting bit of trivia: Khartoum literally means "elephant's trunk" in Arabic.

Okay, next up was the invasion of Leros. It looked really good, but I missed out on having a chat with these guys which is a shame, because I really wanted to delve into how this game actually worked in practice.

This next one was the Peterborough club's Chef du Pont game (US Airborne on D-Day) using IABSM. Looked great, seemed to rattle on quite quickly for a big game.

Charles Rowntree has put on consistently great-looking games for a few years now and this one was no exception. This is the battle from the end of the Rogue One Star Wars film and it looked great.  Still seemed to be based on the 'All Hell Breaks Loose' WW2 rules as far as I could make out, although I didn't get a chance to ask to confirm this! Anyway, in its way, perfect.

Next up was another D-Day game, this one a stylized version of the entirety of Sword, Juno and Gold in the 'Race for Caen'.  Looked great, always nice to see some operation-level games in addition to the majority tactical offerings. And many thanks for their patience in answering my son's many questions on the various landing craft!

Bayeux in miniature

And Caen, too.

I missed another small board participation game unfortunately, called 'A Moonless Night'. It looked quite simple but quite fun, judging by the engaged players around it!

After that the next one was an absolutely mammoth Gallipoli game. I tried but I don't think any given shot really did it justice unfortunately.

This next one was Pony Wars re-skinned for Starship Troopers. It looked great and actually made a great deal of sense as a conversion - really liked this.

Cold War Commanders often come to Joy of Six and put on a big game or two. This was another of their 'same scenario, different decades' efforts I think, with a Czech breakaway being brought back into the Warpac fold, once in the late 1940s, once in the 1980s (I think, but could have been earlier).  The photos here give a rough indication of what it looked like, but I don't think I really captured either version properly.

Something a bit smaller, although still grand enough: Qaddissiya with Big Battle DBA. Simple but effective and a subject you don't necessarily see that often. This was the only big DBx game I noticed since the Milton Keynes' gents didn't seem to be there this year, which was a bit of a shame!
'Storm of Steel' Alex put on another WW2 aerial game, with Bag the Hun. It looked great but perhaps the photos don't quite do it justice because through a lens, everything blends a bit too much! Hopefully the thin hex lines are just visible.

Next up was a small Napoleonic game: Vyazma 1812, played with Blucher.  This was one of the two games I was most likely to do myself, with lots of Napoleonic action on a relatively small board.  Looked great too.

I didn't get a usable shot of the next game: a refight of the Battle of Raab put on by James Mitchell, since it was just too busy around the table. It looked lots of fun though, pity I didn't get to spend more time on it.

Then there was this WW2 game, with German tanks counter-attackin the Soviets. Functional but nice terrain, some really good painting on the tanks.


I have seen this one a couple of times before, but no bad thing since it never disappoints: Fraustadt 1706 from Per Broden and associates.  The snowy terrain and the great GNW figures always look great.  Again, another 'perfect in its way' game.

This next was a Strength & Honour (I think) game: 2mm figures on a squared board of Verneuil 1424. Looked good, with a neat castle and camp, although perhaps a bit strange to me - not a comment on the game, more on how other wargames have made me 'imagine' the 100YW whereas the look here is closer in wargames terms to a Roman game or something. Hopefully any readers of this comment will get what I mean!!!!

The MAD Gamers put on another one of their mad-but-great SF games: Dr.Who-themed craziness as Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans & UNIT get stuck in!  A lot of the terrain is based on old Epic stuff, but improved, modified and added to with all kinds of wild and wonderul stuff. I like the roughly-tessellating Sarissa bases for some of the terrain too.

Small table but intense Crusader battling here, recreating Montgisard. Looked great fun, would have liked the opportunity to find out more about this one.

 Hopefully the above gives a decent flavour of the day. There were lots of traders and most seemed busy enough. I seemed to spend a bit more than normal, that is for sure!  I managed to get:

A PzIV company, a US Para company, a Volksturm company and a few buildings from 2d6 miniatures.

Some more WW2 - mainly French, with a smattering of British and German stuff - from Heroics and Ros.

Some more WSS infantry, some German WW2 halftracks and vehicles and some of the US tanks from Baccus.

Some ACW figures from Commission.

A few more Napoleonic Prussians from Grumbler, plus some of their SF stuff (for the 6-year old)

Some more castle walls, towers and earthworks from Irregular.

A copy of 'Black Ops' from the book store.

Some SF infantry, vehicles and fighters from Brigade (to share between me and the 6-year old).

And then we went back to Baccus because I was informed that the difference between happiness and unhappiness was a pack of Greek Hoplites...

I could easily have spent more time at the show but the little one was getting a bit tired and overwhelmed by about half-one, so we left then. I think this is the first time I have left JoS early, since with the talks and demo games and every trader there being of genuine interest, I always run out of time. It was nice to share the little one's enthusiams but it is quite a different experience.

The long list of bought stuff was a little bit worrying for me though - I think I need to re-focus a bit, my attention seems a bit too spread out at the moment. Show-buying isn't so great for me now anyway, compared to when I was a bairn, or even perhaps up to the early 2000s: then, having loads of figures to see and buy in one place was much better than mail order through a magazine or an occasional visit to a shop or latterly dealing with a quite clunky website; but now, 'little and often' is probably a better way to go for efficient wargames project management...