Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What rules to use?

So you've decided to start the rewarding hobby of miniatures wargames. Now that you have the figures, the natural question is what do I do with them? Obviously the intent is to game battles, but what rules should one use?

Depending on the period you focus on, there are a plethora of rules available currently. In many ways wargaming is in the "Silver Age" (to borrow a comics reference), with a resurgence in rulesets, quality figures and interest (as opposed to the "Golden Age" of the '60s to the '80s, when the industry was dominated by rules from Featherstone and Bath, with figures from Minifigs, Scruby and others).

I use a variety of rulesets, depending on the era I wish to play:

For Ancients (and here we'll use the "wargamer" definition and limit Ancients to the periods between 3000bc to 1500ad), I am currently enamored with (in 15mm) Might of Arms and Fields of Glory. Both use "element" basing (that is, multipe figures on a single base or element), and try not to simulate combat from a loss basis but from an effects basis (it is top-down rather than bottom-up). While I vastly prefer MoA for its "psychological" approach to armies, FoG is currently very well supported, with its own line of army books and a very slick website. Other rules that exist include De Bellis Magister Militum, De Bellis Multitudinous, De Bellis Antiqitas, and others.

For 25mm Ancients I vastly prefer Warhammer Ancient Battles. The advantages of this ruleset is that the Warhammer rules are well known outside the historicals arena (making recruitment a bit easier), the rulebooks are very well published with lots of good photos of minis, and the army books tend to be very informative besides being a simple list. In this way, the game very much is inspired by its fantasy counterpart. For someone that does not know anything about the history involved, the books can be a very good introduction to the period.

On the downside, Games Workshop recently dropped the Warhammer Historicals imprint and will be devolving game support to Forgeworld. How this will pan out no one really knows. The hope that with the new edition of the game, it will continue. However, if the game collapses due to Forgeworld's mismanagement, the game that almost single-handedly created the 25mm figure rennaisance in historicals will be a sad loss...

Finally, in the historicals arena, I tolerate Flames of War. Again, basing itself on the commercial model of the Warhammer game, Flames of War tends to be very pretty, and the rules easy to pick up. The downsides are that the game sometimes plays a-historically, and of course there is always the occasional German player with maxed out King Tigers.

On the Fantasy/SF front, I also enjoy the well known games Warhammer Fantasy Battle as well as Warhammer 40,000.

Finally, no blog of mine is complete without a plug for Battletech. A game that has been going for 25 years, and has arisen from its supposed death more popular than before, Battletech is a game that has stood the test of time. While not strictly a miniatures game, it is very well supported with a minis line, and so I include it here for that reason.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Old School Minis Rennaisance

With a plethora of minis manufacturers, both current and in the past, a D&D gamer would presumably be well served with minis to use in the game. Unfortunately, with the plastic collectable minis game still in-market, there is no official unpainted metal minis for the D&D game.

While over the years several companies have held the license (Minifigs first, then Grenadier, then Citadel, then TSR directly, then Ral Partha, and finally WotC directly) and a lot of minis have been made in that time, some are hopelessly obsolete (Minifigs), very hard to find (Citadel), or out of scale (Grenadier, first TSR line, and Ral partha) with the current ranges of figures on the market. And while the DDM collectible pre-painted miniatures are good for either casual gamers (or those that do not want to paint), they lack detail, the paint is sometimes overly thick, and cannot be stripped easily.

Otherworld miniatures burst on the scene a few years ago. Using a loophole in the OGL contract from D&D 3e era, they have been producing miniatures using the old artwork from first edition AD&D. I have a few, and in general really like them. Not only are they very well sculpted, but are dead ringers for the old AD&D artwork.

Recently, I was excited to see new releases of the venerable Hook Horror and the Owlbear (set to release on 30 September 2009). Both of these minis are very welcome; there has not been a Hook Horror on the market for decades, and the closest substitute from 3d party manufacturers is less than stellar, while the Owlbear is always welcome (again, with all 3rd party substitutes being sub-standard). While I already have the old Chainmail metal Owlbear (which is fantastic), a current and in-production version is very welcome!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hundred Years War: A Conundrum

Of all historical periods, perhaps my favorite is the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). This conflict between England and France was never a simple war of succession, indeed never really ending (the Kings of England only struck the French blazon from their heraldry in the 19th C). It was also characterized by tremendous changes in equipment (this was the transitional period, where knights changed from being equipped primarily with mail armor, supplemented with plates, to wholly plate armor), social change, as well as changes in recruitment and the status of the army (in England, a system of indenture -- or contract service -- while with the French Ordonnance of the mid 15th C saw the establishment of a permanent army of a sorts).

One would think there would be a lot of lines of miniatures for this period in 15mm, and you would be right. The problem is that many of them are just not that good. My two "go-to" manufacturers (Old Glory 15s and Essex Miniatures) are both problematic: Old Glory's range is of questionable accuracy, is all over the place in armor styles (remember this was a conflict that lasted over 100 years!) and generally are poorly sculpted. This is a real shame as I like OG15s a lot for other ranges (though any range can have its duds). Essex has a different problem: while sculpting is adequate, the range is all over the place, and difficult to zero into. They sell by packs in a generic "Medieval" range, and it is up to the consumer to select the figures they need. This is problematic as the figures often do not have good descriptions, and worse the website is neither fully illustrated, or often the picture link is broken.

There are a few other ranges, such as venerable Minifigs, Lancashire Games, Black Hat (ex-Gladiator), and a host of others The problems with these ranges are usually either very old (i.e. Minifigs), or just poorly sculpted (Black Hat ex-Gladiator, some of the worst figures I've ever had the displeasure to see). So the situation is that there are no really good Hundred Years War ranges on the market.

Enter Corvus Belli.

Now, I have to admit I am a huge fan of the Infinity range: anime inspired and some of the finest cast miniatures I've ever seen. For multi-part metal figures, fit was as good as a plastic kit! Amazing!

I'm less enthusiastic about their HYW figures. I had originally bought some of their 25mm figures (Bowmen specifically, now sold by Crusader), and while cleanly cast, they were not very well detailed, with little variety or interesting equipment, and had a disturbing resemblance to Gerard Depardeu. Their 15mm figures are somewhat better, however, but suffer from a bit of hypercephalism.

Here the figures pictured are the from packs Billmen Standing and Billmen Attacking. These represent the best figures of this era on the market right now, in my opinion. I find this dissappointing, especially considering all the high quality 25mm figures there are (chiefly Front Rank, Perry Miniatures, and Foundry). I bought a few packs of these, and have been laying around for some time. I'm going to go ahead and paint them, but should there ever be a good, high quality range for this period, I'll buy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starting Another Army...

One of the things about historical wargaming is that you can never truly be done with it. With games like Warhammer and other fantasy/sci-fi systems where the figures are very closely tied to the rules, there is only a finite number of armies you can build before you have built them all. With historicals, however, it is impossible to ever complete every army, so diverse is the field. Alone in Ancients typical rulesets span between 3000bc to 1500. Even a game like Might of Arms boast 200 unique armies.

I've been selling old toys on Ebay, and made quite a tidy sum. My financial situation right now is stable, but doesn't encourage reckless spending. Nonetheless, I just had to buy a few packs (especially since that paypal account has been burning a hole in my pocket).

One of my long-term objectives has been to build the entire Roman army through history. Roughly this translates into Early Republic (army of the Tarquinian Reforms, i.e. the classic Roman Hoplite Army approx 509bc to 280bc), Middle Republic (that of the Camillan Reforms, i.e. the 4 classes or approx 280bc to 100bc), Late Republican (i.e that of the Marian reforms or approx 100bc to 27ad), Early Imperial (approx 27ad to 200ad), Middle Imperial (200ad to 300ad) and finally Late Imperial (300ad to 476ad). Certainly a lot of work to be done...

So it was that I was recently inspired to pick up a few packs to further this goal. From Old Glory 15 I decided to pick up RR03 and RR07. After the Camillan Reforms, in which the Roman army was reorganized into the triple lines (i.e. Hastatii, Principes, and Triarii), the Hastatii were made up of the younger inductees to the legion. Equipped with a large shield called a Scutum, and armed with a sword and two throwing spears called Pila. They formed the first main line of the legion.

Nice thing about Romans is that they're nice and easy to paint. Tunic white, shield red, and bronze parts, well, bronze, and that's it. Hopefully I can get these guys into action shortly...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A beginning...

If you're a wargamer, and anything like me, then you probably have a lot of projects underway. Burnout, changing interests, and perhaps The Family can derail a project faster than a sarissa in a Persian. And thus the proverbial "lead pile" continues to grow, insuring immortality for thousands of wargamers worldwide (because you can't possibly die before all your lead is painted!).

The purpose of this blog, just like my book blog, is to catalog my minis related projects. However, this isn't a simple review. Instead it will serve as a project log, tracking progress on various projects. It is also my intention to use pictures of my projects to further track progress, and provide a painting record as well.

Most of my interest in wargaming lies with historicals; however, I do have an interest in fantasy/Sci-Fi as well, so that should feature here as well. Specifically, on the SF side, I'm a big fan of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 game and setting. I'm also a huge fan of FASA/Fanpro/Catalyst Games Battletech game and setting. Hopefully I'll be able to feature projects from these game systems. To start things off, I've already mail ordered a bunch of knights and spearmen from both QRF/Feudal Castings, as well as a few from Black Hat (ex-Gladiator). Also I intend to pick up from the FLGS another Chaos Space Marines Bike to finish off a 1500pts World Eaters army, so watch this space!