Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Wayback Machine: Aug 2, 2002

If you haven't used the Wayback Machine, you're in for a treat. If you're looking for an old defunct website, try out this option. Many years ago, before the advent of blogs, I hosted my own website ( that included AARs, many, many photos, and what would these days be called blog posts.

I found this old gem today... from Aug 2, 2002

My Historical Miniature Wargaming World

What exactly is My Historical Miniature Wargaming World?  What are my gaming philosophies?  I'm not sure I like to think of my gaming views as philosophical, rather I prefer to see them merely as my likes and dislikes.  Probably the best way to describe my views on my hobby is to reiterate something I have had hanging on the wall of my gaming room(s) for many years.  These are a set of rules (with added notes) for conduct when gaming at my home.  Now, obviously, I cannot expect to have these enforced to the letter (after all, some of them are written and displayed with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, at least partially).  Nor do I imagine, even in my wildest gaming dreams, that they will hold true at all times or when I am gaming elsewhere.  What I do hope is that they give gamers invited to my home pause for thought.

Wargaming Rules for Conduct

No Whining or Complaining 

If you want a fair game, play chess!

Note:  I often hear gamers complain that a particular game or scenario is not fair, or that it is impossible to win.  While winning the game is, of course, central to any competition, in my world it is not the only focus.  Attempting the difficult or impossible, to me, is an entertaining change of pace from a standard points battle or the "you have guard cavalry so I should get more artillery to compensate" type of scenario (don't get me wrong, I like the simplicity of a balanced points game as well).  It is no reflection on a person's character if they lose a winnable game or they win a game which by all rights should have been lost.  It is, however, a reflection of character how one loses or wins (and how one treats an opponent in both instances).

No Unnecessary Paraphernalia on the Table

Keep your drinks, food and other assorted debris off the playing surface.  The aesthetic value of the game & terrain is not enhanced by your garbage.

Note:  This is a big one for me.  I spend many hours painting figures and constructing playable yet interesting terrain features and the last thing I want to see is garbage strewn about the table to spoil the aesthetic value of the game.  Granted, some gaming items are necessary on the table for ease of play such as dice and rulers.  The rest, however, has no place on the table, in my opinion.  When I was designing my present gaming table, I incorporated large separated pockets at the ends to hold all the various things gamers seem to collect during a game.  Obviously, this arrangement is not going to be available at all gaming venues, but judicious and inventive use of space is far from impossible.  Related to this is my issue with gamers who spend hours painting and collecting a miniature army (and no little expense) to merely throw the figures down on a piece of felt and go at it.  Probably the biggest part of the hobby for me is the aesthetic value it provides me.  Good terrain and well-painted and based troops are like eye-candy for a starving youth (and I've long ago come to a realization that a surprising number of gamers have not and may never come to:  we are playing games with toys!).  Now, I'd be lying if I said that I never game with merely a felt mat.  I play point-based ancients games too, but I'm trying to address this seeming contradiction.  By adding some interesting terrain pieces that, while not necessarily affecting game play directly, I am hoping to at the very least break up the monotony of the felt and help to highlight the gaming pieces themselves.

No Rules Arguments

Resolve mid-game disputes by the throw of a die.  Discuss it later.

Note:  Rules lawyers...hmmm...what to say about these clowns that hasn't been said before?  Well, in a proverbial nutshell, these gamers I avoid like the plague and they are rarely invited back to game.  Interestingly, many of these gamers are quite personable and friendly away from the game table, but put dice in their hands and they transform into something...well, difficult for me to handle. And what I find amazing is that many of these rules lawyers seem not to know how they are perceived by others and when confronted with this type of testimony, reciprocate with a blank stare, or worse, studied indifference.  Even among friendly, non-lawyering gamers disagreements are inevitable.  This is where gamemasters (gods by any other name) come into their own, enabling the gamers to game and not argue.  Of course, gamemasters are more often than not unavailable.  When this is the case, rules disputes only slow down a game (except, of course, when the prime intent of the get-together is not necessarily finishing the game, but perhaps merely enjoying each other's company...heavens forbid!).

Don't Be a Critic

Unless you are willing to put the work into painting figures, building terrain and organizing the game, criticisms of any sort are unwarranted.  If you are willing to do these things (or actually do them), criticism remains unwelcome.

Note:  This one is pretty much self-explanatory.  Of course, suggestions or advice are quite a different animal from criticism.  How can we learn and grow in our chosen hobby without some sort of information exchange.  I certainly welcome, and even expect, my fellow gamers to help me improve my games by inviting suggestions in a helpful and friendly manner (something which I aspire to return in kind).

Remember It's a Game

No miniature wargame can be truly "historical".  No miniature wargame can truly simulate warfare.  Deal with it!

Note:  As soon as we all deal with the fact that we are playing games with toy soldiers the better off we'll be.  This is not to say that historical accuracy in uniforms and organizations and the like are unnecessary or out of place in miniature wargaming.  Historical research is for me one of the constantly alluring facets of this hobby.  Taking it all too seriously, however, I have at times in the past lost the fun of the game and deadened my hobby soul.  On a related note, I and many other gamers have some sort of "block" about gaming or trying to "simulate" particular historical periods, specifically those in the not so distant past.  The Vietnam War springs immediately to mind for me but others go as far back as World Wars I & II.  I've never been quite able to explain it to myself satisfactorily; I'm comfortable with gaming WWII but not Vietnam.  Why?  I don't honestly know why the horrors of Vietnam are any more bothersome to my gaming mentality than World War II, save the proximity in time.

Show Some Respect

To your fellow gamers:  they are supposed to be friends.  To the game:  handle figures and terrain with care and respect.  Would you want someone else to break your toys?

Now, the gods as my witness, I don't always follow these rules to the letter, but I strive to, above all, show my fellow gamers and friends the respect I hope they would reciprocate.

Onto simpler matters.  I've found my gaming tastes of late running to the simple; in this I refer to rules systems.  Perhaps it's age, perhaps wisdom (I'd prefer to hope it's the latter) that pushes me away from those rules systems which bog down the game and subsequently petrify my mind with endless charts, mind-numbingly huge numbers of modifiers and mechanisms which seem only to serve as a reminder to the author how mathematically knowledgeable he or she is.  When I host games and act as gamemaster I often omit rules or conveniently forget them in the interest of maintaining a smooth flow to the proceedings.  More often than not I actually forget a rule, or a modifier.  This I put down to the vagaries of war for  the participants...the odds are that what I forget in one instance, to the apparent detriment of a particular gamer, will be visited upon his opponent in like fashion at some point in the game as well.  It all balances out in the end.  And even if it doesn't, what could make anyone believe that commanders in the field were never visited by events for which they had no reasonable explanation or response. 

This, incidentally, touches upon a favourite topic of mine, control.  Gamers of all ilk are indoctrinated in this hobby from the beginning with a sense of almost complete control over events in a game.  This is not to say that rules systems don't provide for random events and mechanisms that, at first glance, seem to inhibit a gamer's control.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of rule sets are far too predictable in their mechanisms.  This is especially true in the matter of time management.  Most rules sets utilize a fixed turn sequence that, with continued usage, become all too familiar to the gamer and events subsequently fall under his or her control.  To illustrate this I will use a set of rules with which I am quite familiar, Warfare in the Age of Reason (note:  I am not disparaging these rules, they have, and still do on occasion, given me hours of fun gaming).  The turn sequence in these rules is set and inviolable.  Any gamer familiar with the turn sequence knows that charges are followed by general movement , followed by small arms  fire followed get the picture.  Can you imagine a commander in the field riding in front of an infantry battalion and shouting "Hold up Lads!  That enemy cavalry unit wants to charge before we move any closer" or "Damn it Captain!  I told you to hold your fire until that artillery battery was finished firing on us." This sequence never changes, and thus gamers, rightly or wrongly, are able to predict when and how to avoid or create certain tactical situations on the tabletop.  All the modifiers are constant and combat outcomes are easily predicted to a fairly close degree.  Yes, the die rolls  and carded movement sequence provide a randomness or luck factor but if a gamer is careful and stacks the odds in his or her favour, he or she is able to control events to an unreasonable degree.  Predictability breeds boredom, at least for me. 

What then to do?  The Sword and the Flame colonial rules was one of the first to address this problem.  It made use of a card movement system which randomized the actions of the various units in the game.  No longer was there a set sequence of events.  WAOR uses a similar system in  that each unit has a card in the deck and activates upon its appearance.  More recently, Piquet has expanded on this theme.  Here cards are used not to activate specific units or formations, rather they activate particular actions which units or formations may perform.  And to mess with the predictability even further, random impetus points indicate the number of action that may be performed on any one card.  A tight, structured time sequence has been thrown out the window.  A gamer  does not lose all control, but instead is faced with the challenge of deciding where the majority of his or her control in the battle should be focused.  No longer is the gamer allowed to control the entire field of battle with impunity.  With Piquet the gamer is presented with situations such as:  "Should I form square?  That cavalry is at least three moves away.  I should be safe."  Unfortunately, an unlucky (or lucky, depending on your viewpoint) swing of impetus may allow that cavalry to indeed catch its opponent unawares.  The gamer is faced with a different set of decisions than is normal in gaming:  to spread one's impetus across the battlefront and exercise only a modicum of control over everything or focus one's attention where it is needed most and control events in a more tightly focused manner.  Can you tell I'm high on this rule set?  The problem seems to be, and I doubt I'm alone in this, is convincing would-be Piquet gamers that they aren't merely pawns in the hands of fate when they use these rules.

As for painting, well this is, quite frankly, a love-hate relationship with which I'm sure many gamers can relate.  It's satisfying to create something but sometimes the process can be little more than drudgery.  At other times, sitting at my painting desk with soothing music in the background can be a very comfortable experience.  Painting figures has, for me, always been a necessary evil.  If I had the resources I would, without hesitation, have all my figure painting contracted out to professionals.  Terrain and buildings are another story, however.  Creating terrain features is something I enjoy unreservedly, but with certain provisions.  This sounds like an oxymoron, you might say but while I enjoy the process and the result of terrain-making this only remains true if the projects are unique.  Repetition is the bane of creative enjoyment.

It seems that I have touched upon most of what makes my wargaming world tick.  In a nutshell I suppose my hobby is defined by Simplicity, Respect and Aesthetic Value.  And why am I blathering on like this?  Good question...perhaps it's my innate desire to have people listen to me but I think it has as much to do with letting fellow gamers compare their views to mine and let them know who it is their dealing with when they game with me or simply peruse my website.  And if you don't like my with it!

Now, if I could only aspire to the standards I've set for myself...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

ImagiNations: the unknown regiments

People of a certain vintage will remember the unknown comic...

I just need to find a 28mm figure, preferably mounted, to represent the ruler of another state in our ImagiNation world...

And with no segue at all... two unknown cavalry regiments and an unknown commander ride out from the depots of the unknown ImagiNation state!

I painted these two units for my lovely daughter-in-law as a beginning for her unknown ImagiNation army. The unknown commander was a Xmas gift to her from Captain Dan and gave me the incentive to dig around in the various boxes of lead in the Trenton Gaming Emporium (and at home) to see what was available as a start to her unknown army. 

Cuirassiers from Crusader Miniatures (Russian perhaps?).
Orange coats were requested and delivered.

Dragoons from Crusader Miniatures (Austrian?).
Keeping with the orange theme but only in the facing colours for this unit, these are a plainer uniform as befits their lesser status (compared to the cuirassiers) and thus grey coats. The combination of blue and orange is quite striking.

Both regiments galloping to glory!
A nice start to the army and a solid addition to the cavalry contingents in the ImagiNation collection (looking eventually for massed waves of cavalry sweeping across the table... one can dream).

The commander vignette from the talented hands of Captain Dan. I have no idea of the provenance of these figures but it is an outstanding piece of work!

Sharp Practice 2: Young Guard

As the French force is nearing completion, I've decided to add some support options in the form of Young Guard infantry. I was browsing the Wargames Foundry site a few weeks ago and came across some voltigeurs/grenadiers in greatcoats but with full plumes on the shakos. I realize this may have been a rare occurrence (infantry in campaign dress but with the plumes clearly uncovered and on display), but I thought it would make a nice contrast to the regular French infantry. An order was duly processed and arrived without incident. Thus, two groups of Young Guard Tirailleurs march out of the depot... another single group of Young Guard Voltigeurs in skirmish order is on the painting desk, along with a couple of Big Men).

The Foundry figures were a joy to paint, despite some odd chunks of metal left over from ageing figure molds. I'm not sure how often these will be used in a game or how I will point them up... but that's a problem for another day :)

The French force as it stands now...

dark coloured shapes = completed units
shaded shapes = figures acquired but unpainted
stars = Big Men
circles = supernumeraries

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sharp Practice: 95th Rifles

Marching onto the roster are two 6-figure groups of 95th Rifles, headed by an officer and bugler. These are lovely figures from Warlord Games. As I recently opined elsewhere, I had an odd wish while working on these. As I said, gorgeous figures with much animation but sometimes just a little less detail would be nice. Well-sculpted figures require every little thing to be picked out. And I thought green uniforms with black belting would be dead-simple... once again, reality was far from presumption...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Xmas & Birthday Pressies for Offspring #1

Michael's birthday falls perilously close to Xmas and I was determined this year not to have  it subsumed into Xmas or worse... miss it! Thus, while I was preparing his pressies I wanted to be sure his birthday gift was the most prominent. This year, he's been collecting 28mm WWII Soviets to face his PanzerGrenadiers and I thought we might need some terrain to fight over.

First up, some 4Ground Russian cottages with new roofs...

And a resin barn from Old Glory...

And the coup de grace Birthday present (33 years old, if anyone's counting)...

The basic building is a resin cottage from Old Glory onto which I've scratch-built a steeple from card and balsa. I topped it off with a wooden drawer knob from Home Depot.

The shed extension is also a resin piece from Old Glory, meant to be a separate outbuilding.
A small shrine made from balsa and card.

The steeple was topped with a Russian cross made from balsa.

The whole collection!
Tucked in there are four small Pegasus Hobbies 1/72 plastic kits picked up off of Amazon for mere pennies. Although nominally 1/72 scale, they fit quite nicely as small workers' cottages.

Xmas Pressies for Offspring #2

Lucky I am to have two sons who are full-bore wargamers (albeit one plays with funny spaceships but, oh well, one must accept life's strangeness). Not only has this given me immense satisfaction over the years (two wargaming sons, not the spaceships) but it also makes choosing Xmas gifts infinitely simpler. As they both traditionally give me gaming presents, I try to find something for each of them to add to their existing collections (spaceships aside). This year, I was in the mood for buildings. And the itch to build was a bit strong this time...

On the Oromocto gaming table in the New Brunswick hinterland, Captain Dan plunked out his embryonic War of American Inconsideration collection to show off the new buildings. 

The top-left building is Captain Dan's birthday pressie (see previous post here). The church at the bottom left of the village is from Renedra and the small cabin (top-right) is from Perry Miniatures. These were fairly straightforward builds and painting was quick.  

The large plantation house was anything but straightforward or quick. This started as a seemingly easy conversion of a Warbases WWII mdf shell...

...into (hopefully) something like this beauty from Charlie Foxtrot:

Oh my, but was I mistaken about the level of commitment and perseverance it would take to pull this off! 

The first step was to clad the mdf shell in scribed card to represent  white clapboard. Along the foundation I added some plastic stone sheeting and constructed a small rear door and steps from card and balsa. Easy peasy! 

The next thing on the agenda was the front porch... how hard could it be? Let's just say that although I've scratch-built many things in this hobby over the years... this little piece was probably the most vexatious.

For the roof, I decided to use my extensive in-house stock of Warbases laser-cut shingle sheets. This process is quite easy but time-consuming. I try to treat it as a sort of meditative process (with variable levels of success). Before I even start, I try to accept that it's going to take a long time and that seems to make it easier. You can see the result in the last picture below.

Next up were the windows. My first thought was to scratch-build all of these from card and balsa but I soon was disabused of this idea. While the process of creating a window is quite simple, the thought of creating seventeen large and three small windows with all those panes was... well a pain! I don't mind scratch-building but I decided this would be too much. Onto the Warbases site I went and ordered up some of these:


The parts were painted separately (frames and shutters) for ease of access then glued onto card stock and balsa sills added. The whole combination was then glued onto the outer wall. I discovered many years ago that I don't need to actually cut the windows into the walls (which is a particularly onerous process). Mounting the entire window structure onto a card base provides the same effect (granted, you can't see figures when they're inside but that's a non-issue for me).

The finished product!

And some gratuitous shots of Captain Dan's budding AWI collection...