Thinking about Wargames 2014

December 26, 2013

December is a very busy time of the year for me. First as a college/university professor I have a lot of grading in the first couple of weeks of December (final exams and senior seminar papers and the like). As my wife is also a college/university professor, we are swamped and pretty much spend the first 24 days of December grading, keeping our children fed, and preparing for Christmas. About the only time off I have until the summer is the week between Christmas and New Years’ Day. Which means the only wargame things I get to do this time of year are some occasional painting late at night and pondering rules during my 40 minute commute to work (which thankfully I don’t have to do every weekday).

I had hoped to play the Volley & Bayonet American Civil War campaign game, at least the first year or two as a trial. I planned on using Adler 6mm (really 8mm) figures. I got pretty far into that, but after a few trial games with 1.25″ bases (5/12ths scale), I realized the bases were really too small to be aesthetically pleasing. Also I have a much bigger table space in my new house (I could do a 6′ x 10′ table if I really wanted to, but I don’t), so too small was not good. I tried out half scale bases (1.5″) and I liked them a lot more. So I’ve rebased most of my Union figures (something like 40 infantry massed bases, 10 cavalry massed bases, 10 cavalry dismounted bases, and 18 artillery bases), but I still have to rebase the Confederates. What has slowed down that process is that I found I really didn’t like painting Adler 6mm figures anymore. They were great when I was a poor student and didn’t have a lot of room for a big table, but these days I just find them fiddly. I will complete the ACW figures for the campaign, but I’m not sure what I’ll do with my Adler Napoleonic figures.

What has always interested me as a period is the American Revolution. I like the period as both sides are interesting (and not politically vile humans like in some other periods). Also there is a nice variety in terms of types of troops and uniforms. Finally, it is something I study professionally (maybe the subject of my next research project/book). I have a fair amount of 15mm figures (about 500 painted and another 500 waiting to be painted) for the period as well. But what rules to use?

I’ve tried a lot of rules for this period and read many more. Maybe someday I’ll post a review of the various rules, but really the key requirements for me were that I could play all of the battles, which meant a variable scale for units, and the rules had to be both interesting to play and fun to play. I just don’t have the interest anymore to play rules I find boring. Boring is a subjective thing, so I fully realize that what I find boring might be your favorite rules, so be it. I also wanted to get away from gamey rules that had silly things like triple moves or were really about playing a game while playing a game (to quote my friend Arturo Lorioli). A lot of rules work very well for one scale, usually a game where units equal a battalion/regiment and there are a decent number of units per side. However, few of those rules allow you to play all of the big battles like Monmouth, Brandywine, or Long Island. Also most rules don’t do a decent job of allowing you to play smaller battles (like I found with my tries at playing Cowpens).

The only set of rules that seemed to allow me to play all level of battles and was also fun at the same time was Volley & Bayonet. I’ll admit that these are very bottom up rules that model units well but are pretty slim in terms of command friction sort of rules (but then most command friction oriented rules don’t really model command friction that well). They are also simple, but at the same time not simplistic (to quote my now departed friend Les Reese). That means they are fun to play as you are playing the battle and not the rules (see Seven Balagan’s blog post about that: http://balagan.info/volley-and-bayonet-is-easy-fun-and-challenging). So that is what I will be concentrating on for 2014 (along with finishing my Adler figures for VnB/ACW). I plan to start out with scenarios first, especially the big battle ones that I want to play, such as Monmouth (which I have played before) and those I have yet to play such as Brandywine and Long Island. I do have a pretty complete campaign base for Morgan’s 1781 Campaign, but that will be a later effort as I need to paint more militia to do that as it is very militia heavy.

I’ve opted to use 15mm figures on 2/3rds scale bases as much of this will be solo games due to my lack of free time to game on Saturdays these days (I tend to have to work on Sundays due to some additional online university teaching). My son is 13, and will be off to college in four and a half years so he deserves more of my attention now; I will have time to play more games once he is off to college. As I plan on playing a lot of solo games, table size is a big deal. I can do a 6′ x 10′ table, but that isn’t the most convenient size for 1 or 2 player games. So I have opted for the 2/3rds scale as that allows me to play any battle on a 4′ x 6′ table, and it also allows me to play big battles (such as Monmouth) at the battalion scale (rather than the regiment scale) once I get enough stands done (I think Monmouth at the battalion scale has 50 Continental infantry stands alone).
So look for a lot of American Revolution general information as well as Volley & Bayonet specific information on this blog in the future.

US General

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Time for a Wargame Reformatio

September 9, 2012

I’ve finally got a house with a real wargame room (see my last post). Almost all of the furniture has been moved it and most of the boxes have been unpacked. The useable space (excluding the space taken up by furniture) is 14′ x 16′. Given that I’d like to have 3-4′ on the sides of the table for players to sit, stand, and move around, that leaves a space for a table that is 6′ x 8-10′. In terms of a table there are a few requirements. First it has to be able to fold up and stored as the room will be used for other things as well (ping-pong, my daughter’s sleep overs, a giant guest room, etc.). I also want to be able to have different table sizes, anything from around 4′ x 6′ to as big as 6′ x 10′. The best option at this point seems to be folding tables like those Greg Novak used (see http://home.comcast.net/~greg_novak_670/site/?/page/Extra_Space_for_Game_Clutter/). I like the six foot long tables as two of them will make a 6′ x 5′ table, which is great for a smaller game like Nuts! or a 2/3rds sized based Volley and Bayonet game. Four of them will make a great 6′ x 10′ table. I can fold them up and store them in the game room or if they need to really be stored away, they can go down to our garage, which is a three car garage and we only have two cars so there is lots of space (plus an additional storage room off the garage. I need to start looking at the local office supply and department stores to see which tables have them.

And now for the Reformatio part. Reformatio means change and improvement. For so long I had been limited by space and finances in terms of wargaming. That tended to limit my wargaming to smaller figures that needed a smaller table as that is all I had access to. Those factors are no longer an issue and I’d like to go bigger within some limits. For any period before the 20th Century, the smallest figures I would like to use are 15mm, but I’d like to get more into 25/28mm figures for some periods. I’ve played some games with Mark’s 25mm figures as well as some 25mm colonial and War of Spanish Succession games at Ian Croxall’s house (see http://www.warflag.com/blenheim2004/ and http://www.warflag.com/shadow/index.html). I really liked how Mark’s 25mm skirmish and Ian’s games looked. Also my eyes are getting older and painting 6mm figures just isn’t that enjoyable any more. With the advent of cheaper 25mm plastic figures, assembling a decent sized army for rules like Piquet Field of Battle isn’t that expensive or hard to paint. I tried some of the Perry Miniatures 25mm American Civil War figures and I really enjoyed painting them.

Also I tended to play the rules that local wargamers were playing, especially when I lived in Arizona. Honestly, I hated some of these rules, most notably Napoleon’s Battles (which turned me off of Napoleonics for about a decade). Now I can play the rules I like, which works well as Mark and I seem to enjoy a fair number of common rule sets: the Two Hour Wargame rules, Volley and Bayonet, Piquet Field of Battle, and Field of Glory ancients. I expect these and a few other rule sets to be my core rules for the near future. I’d also like to play the Sword and the Flame for colonial actions larger than true skirmish rules as I enjoyed Ian’s games with these rules. I played a lot of Command Decision games between 1989 and 1996, but I’m not sure if these are still the rules for me. I plan on trying them again, but if I go back to them, I plan on restarting in 10mm as Pendraken makes a great line of figures and the vehicles are fairly reasonably priced. What I don’t want to do is to go back to playing the “flavor of the month” rules like so many of the people I played with in the past seemed to want to do. There is nothing worse than the endless rebasing of figures.

What to do first? I have realized the painting some of this and some of that leaves me without enough for anything, so I’m going to pick two or three periods for which I have a fair amount of figures painted and expand from there. There are several periods and rule sets I have been thinking about doing first. I really like Volley and Bayonet for larger scale battles. Before I moved I started rebasing my 15mm American Civil War figures for Volley and Bayonet and I think that will clearly be one of the top projects. I plan on sticking with 15mm figures as I already have a lot of them and I can’t imagine painting enough 25mm figures, especially cannnons, for the VnB American Civil War Campaign developed by Greg Novak (see http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mcnelly/vb/campaigns/acw_campaign.htm). Mark has already played some of the campaign with his weekly group and has expressed an interest in playing this campaign or at least a shorter version (like a year or two of the campaign). I also have a lot of 6mm GHQ and H&R figures painted and even more unpainted. I used to play Command Decision with these figures, but I think I’d rather play Piquet Field of Battle WWII with them. Right now the figures are based on 1.25″ wide bases with 1 vehicle or 4 infantry per base. If I go with this, I plan on using 2″ wide bases and putting 2 tanks, 1 gun with crew and transport vehicle , or 6 or so infantry per base. I still need to figure out how to play a campaign game with the PK FOB WWII rules, but it is clearly a possibility for the future, probably starting with North Africa. My favorite period is the American Revolution and I have a fair number of 15mm figures painted and more unpainted. I am torn on which rules to use. Volley and Bayonet is a great set of rules and excellent for historical battles and campaigns. Through the various VnB supplements, there is a complete set of campaign rules I can use, and best of all it would a literal campaign rather than an impressionistic compaign (like Piquet’s Theatre of War). On the other hand, I think Piquet Field of Battle is a great game; it’s only drawbacks are that I have to work out rules for a historical campaign and it has a hard time representing small units, like all those 50 man cavalry units that dominated the 1781 Campaign in the South.  Another clear go for something to expand is Two Hour Wargames Nuts! rules. I’ve played a fair number of games and I really like these rules. They also have a campaign framework that can be modified to my tastes. I’ve got a number of 15mm figuress for the rules and I plan to continue with them as I have a fair number of them painted and even the more expensive Flames of War vehicles won’t break my bank. Once I get a couple of these periods really going, I plan on expanding into some new periods.

As far as new periods go, I’d love to do the Sword and the Flame in either 15mm or 25mm (lots of people make great figures for this era). I like the later Sudan campaign, but the Northwest Frontier in India might also be a lot of fun. Another idea is a mythical campaign such as Greg Novak’s Isle de de dos Amazons campaign (see  http://home.comcast.net/~greg_novak_670/site/?/blog/category/2/). Another planned expansion is into more of the Two Hour Wargame periods. I have their gladiator rules and I plan on trying them out (they come with counters to do this). If that works I think I’ll use Old Glory’s 25mm gladiator figures (see http://oldglory25s.com/index.php?page=1&cat_id=571) as they include a variety of figures, including animals. I already have a number of the Blue Moon 15/18mm Old West figures and I liked painting them. Also 15mm Old West Buildings are a lot cheaper than their 25mm counterparts. I like the Seven Years’ War and a great entry point into this period would be Two Hour Wargames’ Long Rifle rules (see http://www.twohourwargames.com/longrifle.html). Mark and I have used these rules for the French and Indian War and enjoyed them. My goal is to set up a campaign with a platoon or smaller sized element of jaegers or frei korps troops and the little war focus. I’m still looking at 25/28mm figures. As I would not need a ton of figures, 25mm would work well. Another possibility for the Seven Years’ War would be Volley and Bayonet. Mark alreadys has a large collection of Hanoverian and French figures (15mm on full size bases) so maybe Prussians and Austrians would be my focus. Mark and I haven’t played SYW with VnB for sometime so I’ll have to see if he is still interested in this period and rules (I’m still hoping he will run his Minden game!). And then there are ancients, maybe 15mm or 25mm and for rules Field of Glory or the new Piquet Field of Battle ancient rules.  Finally, my first real interest in wargaming was the Napoleonic era and I plan to do the Waterloo campaign with either Volley and Bayonet or Sam Mustafa’s Grande Armee in 15mm.

Of course there are still the things that get in the way of wargaming, like work and family and mowing the lawn, but my new wargaming room has really inspired me to get back into wargaming in a major way. As things develop, I’ll post more on what I’m doing on this blog. Now I just need a new painting desk so I can get going, but that will have to wait until I get back from my professional trip to an academic History conference in Las Vegas (maybe I’ll win enough money to pay to have all the figures I dream of having painted!). So the rest of September will be taken up with finishing unpacking and thinking about rules. Come October, I’ll have the furniture I need and I’ll be painting again.


Maybe a major wargame room success?

July 14, 2012

THIS WAS A GO AND NOW I OWN THE HOUSE WITH THE GREAT WARGAME ROOM!

Our offer on a new house has been accepted. It only took two months of hell to find the perfect home for us. Once we get past the home inspection and VA loan approval (95%+ chance that all will go our way), we will own a home with a major wargame man cave, really a cavern as it is so big. This will be a dedicated wargame room, with figure and terrain storage and a table that can be left up as long as I’d like. As I wait for all the inspection boxes to be checked so I can own the home, I’ve started to ponder what size table I’d like to use and if that would allow me to change figure size (to 25mm). I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but as we foresee no problems in getting the house, I’ve started to ponder all this, which is a much more optimistic way to spend the next two weeks than worrying about something going wrong.

If all goes well, I’ll have this room (see pictures below – I know the green carpet sucks, but that would eventually be replaced by a durable hardwood floor), which has about a 16-18′ x 12-14′ useable area for a wargame table (I forgot to take a tape measure, but I did a rough pace off of the pace). The slanted roof reduces some of the space for a table, but the other areas can still be used for shorter storage units and half height book shelves. In the past, I’ve only had room for a 4′ x 6′ table and that had to be put away after the game. So I’m sort of at a loss as to what size table I’d like. That has made me start thinking about what size games I’d like to play, and what size figures I’d like to use. If I go for 25mm, would I sell my 15mm and 6mm figures? So I’ve got a lot to dream about until I take possesion of the house. Still dreams at this time as lots of things can go wrong with a home purchase, but at least we have an accepted offer at this point and the contract will be valid as of Monday. The best part is that the wargame cavern is only one of the excellent features that this house offers my family, so we are buying the house for lots of reasons, not just the wargame cavern.

I’ll post more when I know about the approval, but for now I’ll start dreaming about what I can do with this space. I feel like a kid with a big pile of cash standing outside of the candy store, just waiting for them to open up.

Here’s some pictures of my soon to be (wish me the best on this) wargame cavern: