Miniature games

Wargames Illustrated

The worlds premier tabletop gaming magazine is the tagline, I’ll be the judge of that. Not to be confused with the Women’s Institute, Wargames Illustrated is £4.95 ($8.95, €6.95) for 106 pages with 27 pages of adverts including one for a military history degree course from the university of Wolverhampton.

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After that i probably don’t need to mention that this is a heavy going historical wargaming magazine but the weird thing about it is that it only occasionally loses my interest, the only time in fact was when one of the writers started frothing about the exact equipment in use by German paratroopers during World War Two. Most of the time it is happy to use history as a great big story book with which to add flavour to wargames and explain enough if the story to the satisfaction of the reader while inviting them if interested to pursue greater knowledge elsewhere.
Much like Wargames Soldiers and Strategy it has a theme to stitch everything together, this months was military blunders in whichever shape and form they took.
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Further to the impression of the magazine as more of a history book than a miniature gamers mag there is an 8 page article on the historical use and equipment of German airborne troops as envisioned by the Warlord Games plastic set. It’s all very nice and acts as a supplement to the models rather than a review of the plastic kit.
The production quality continues to impress as the writers begins to try and feature historical blunders into their articles with contents that are half history book and half suggestion for extra rules to add into the games, every page has pictures of nicely painted and displayed miniatures to illustrated the multiple historical examples and and as the article on the 1896 battle between the Italians and Abyssinians points out you can take the suggested rules and layout and apply them to any period.
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There are wargames show reports which again have a lot of very nicely taken photos and do a pretty good job at summing up the events and capturing the best displays which are quite spectacular, it reminds me of going to a Games Day and seeing the giant Horus Heresy diagrama or The Siege of Antioch display with Brettonians vs Lizardmen.
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There is even an unusual article about how John Lambshead published a rulebooks about classical war galleys which is interesting if you ever fantasise about publishing your own set of Wargames rules published by Osprey (the premier historical rulebooks publisher).
All in all I quite liked it, I never felt it was a chore reading this for review and even though historical and sci if gamers typical turn their noses up at each other i would pick this up again for a long journey or holiday reading.
This is for someone who:
Likes history
Is a sucker for detail
Isn’t that bothered about hard and fast guidelines for gaming
Likes the idea of historical gaming
This is not for someone who:
Enjoys sci if or fantasy settings
Likely to turn their nose up reading about the lengths someone will got to ensure their model church has historically accurate gargoyles



Wargames Soldiers & Strategy

Continuing my magazine binge I picked up Wargames Soldiers & Strategy, from hereon known as WSAS, from my local WH Smiths for £4.50 it’s 82 pages of which only around 7 of which are adverts which is a refreshing change from the Games Workshop publications, not that third party miniature companies adverts are a particular eyesore.
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The unique selling point of this magazine is that each month it tries to base itself around a different theme, this month was creatures like aliens, zombies and other horror tropes. The general content of the magazine is based around miniatures reviews mixed in with various scenarios either historical settings or harnessing the overarching theme of horror. The review segments are mostly just statements of facts like prices and scales next to unpainted miniatures which is fair enough to avoid any painting bias, sadly the critical natural of them is lacking to avoid the hard job of stepping on the toes of a company who might be a future sponsor.
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The scenarios are a fine mix of various different periods all well illustrated with a few double page spreads of essays from people including Rick Prestley break up the content, added to this are half a dozen game reviews and a couple of historical non fiction reviews. The standout feature is the zombie viking scenario that shows how the player actually created the unique force used.
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Everything is competently done, but nothing stands out as excellent and after reading it once I felt like I didn’t need to go back and read again unless I was playing one of the scenarios mentioned. The theme while quite interesting to hold the magazine together, fails to mention the elephant in the room in that there are several very competently done board games that explore horror mechanics in a way that a simply porting a miniature skirmish game to a survival setting can’t. It also sadly tries to occupy the same space as the other historical wargames magazines, Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames with Battlegames but doesn’t have enough of the historical perspective or some truly inspiring content to compete with either.
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This is for someone who wants:
  • Historical scenarios
  • A thorough review of the different historical miniature releases that month
  • The theme picked that month
This is not suitable for someone who wants:
  • Any of the more popular wargames
  • A more critical review of releases
  • A really hard look at the historical elements involved in the battles.



A selection of (mostly) human sized models, from least expensive to most

This is an experimental picture post meant to capture a quick look at human sized 28mm miniatures, I know I have left a few companies out and sorry to all Saga, Deadzone and Lord of the Rings fans but the purpose here is to show that miniatures companies can charge what they like for very similar products.
Ex Illis – Paper proxy
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Few Acres of Snow or Invasion of Canada – Wooden token
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Games Workshop – Freeguild Archers £15.50 for 10
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Warmachine – Kossite Woodsmen £35 for 10
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Dropzone Commander – Ares Battle Walkers £5.25 for 1
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Infinity – Hassassin Govads £27 for 5
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Bushido – Cult of Yurei starter £30 for 5
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Hive expansion piece £5 for 1
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Warmachine – Forward Kommander Sorscha Kratikoff £7 for 1
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Infinity – Tariqa, High Rank Councelor £8.66
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Games Workshop – Freeguild General £9 for 1
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Initiative Magazine

When I heard about a new wargaming magazine 112 pages long for £1.30 ($1.71 or €1.54) in full colour I jumped on it. It’s from the same guys who already publish Figure Painter Magazine so they have a pedigree, the catch is that it’s online only and you have to download it from a link you get emailed to you after you order. Ultimately I can live with this as it means the magazine can be 3 to 4 times cheaper than a version that had to be printed out. We live in the computer age damnit, fire my toy soldier magazines to me via the intertubes.
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This issue is rammed with content, 4 unboxings, 3 painting tutorials, 3 game previews, interviews, event reports, terrain building and even a battle report to cap it off, it’s so jammed in you don’t even notice the almost complete absence of adverts. I don’t mind adverts in gaming magazines, except the ones in the historical magazine for their stairlifts and denture glue.
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Obviously adverts can take many forms and the previews are non critical although puff pieces on Kickstarters are a dangerous game to get into given the current fulfillment problems a lot of them get into.
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The weakest part is sadly the Bolt Action battle report at the end with unfinished scenery and unpainted miniatures taking up some of the shots, hopefully this gets improved on in later issues as it’s clear the writers are trying the same format as the old volume 1 White Dwarfs that a certain website reviews.
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Overall this a spectacular effort for a first issue, if they can keep up this level of content and polish off some of the rough edges I will be very happy, thought I would ask for it to be priced higher as I have no idea how they intend to pay their writers at this rate.
You can pick it up here.
This is for someone who:
  • Is on a budget
  • Likes their magazines instantly available
  • Wants a variety of content
This is not for someone who:
  • Demands the highest production quality
  • Likes the tactile feel of a magazine
  • Wants another historical wargames magazine



How I would fix BloodBowl 3rd edition

If you’ve ever hear people talk about BloodBowl at any time between its third edition in 1993 and now 2016 (before its forthcoming re-release by Games Workshop) you’d think they were discussing the second coming of Christ In 28mm scale. If you haven’t heard of BloodBowl it’s fair to say it’s possibly the most popular out of print game at the moment, people love it. The US tournament in 2015 had 78 players 11 years after its last release, the Official UK tournament would draw around 200 players before GW canned it, in 2007 they held the record for most attendees of a GW event ever with 272 players.
Naturally I think I could do it better.


The teams vary in power. A quick look at the tournament rankings puts a half dozen teams at the top all the time, you’d think this would be a negative point but in fact this is advertised as a game were certain teams like Goblins and Halflings are much harder to win with and people still play them. I would personally let this continue and wait for the momentous time when a 3rd tier team wins a major tournament.

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The models are all metal and have to be placed on their side, face up or face down after they suffer a block or fall over. This is going to be less of a problem once they all get re-released in plastic but it always ended up in chipped noses and chest plates if you weren’t careful. The problem I always have is that the model has to be positioned so that it’s clearly face up or down, sometimes with small models or models in more interesting poses they will roll around over the pitch. Unfortunately, Games Workshop has decided to “solve” this problem but positioning all their human linesmen with their arms outstretched as if they are pretending to be group of goalkeepers.

 

Here’s good joke, how do you kill all interest in playing BloodBowl in your local club. The answer is to form a league. Ok, you caught me that isn’t a joke it’s more of a terrible waste of potential, a bit like the standard rules on how to form a BloodBowl league. The problem is that once teams start injuring other players and scoring touchdowns they will start acquiring skills that allow them to injure even more players and score even more touchdowns. Meanwhile once other teams start to lose players to injury they will continue to lose players and struggle to acquire the same skills. The bottom half of the league will lose interest in spending 1-2 hours playing a game against the top teams and almost certainly will resort to flinging their own faeces at the other players until you take the electric cattle prods to them.

 

This issue has been “fixed” by allowing teams that perform badly to use special star players extra re rolls and coaches for one off matches but this rarely seems to work. As the introduction of a player of fixed skill into a match rarely is exactly what a lower ranked team needs to compete with a fully fleshed out veteran team. The answer is simple but unpopular, automatically replace anyone who is killed or injured with a standard version of that player if the injury or death occurs to a player who is on 0-5 SPP so that injuries only concern the high ranked teams, make an apothecary require an upkeep cost so that these teams can risk games without one for a saving of gold but doing so can come back to punish them.

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The final and most controversial change I would enforce is to only allow teams to have 3 players who can have extra skills and stat increases. This allows them to actually cultivate actual star players rather than farm an entire team of them and will cut down on the amount of explaining of individual extra skills like that painful process of working out which players in your lineup has “Guard” in a Dwarf team or the exciting realisation you have just declared a Blitz action against a player with extra Strength and are likely to lose your Blitz and cause a Turnover.

 



Everything Wrong With Miniature Gaming part 3 of 3

If you want to catch up on the previous articles on the models or the marketing click here and here or you could just continue reading, the articles can be viewed in any order. This is the third of three articles on everything I don’t like…

About the games themselves:

Key rules point. X Wing has a hidden manoeuvre dial system (taken from Wings of War), Gates of Antares has a random order dice activation system (taken from Bolt Action), Warmachine has a focus point boosting system to allocate power around your force, if you fail a critical roll on BloodBowl your turn ends immediately, if your system is just a bland series of rolls to hit and damage like Dark Age you’ve lost.

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Small numbers on the stat line and smaller dice results. I understand that working out percentage chances with a D10 makes more sense than a D8 but 6 and 9 look remarkably similar and that little line under the number to see which way it is viewed from does not help. Dark Age is again a culprit here with a D20 system that really doesn’t need to be that complicated.

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No excessive marking of wounds for each model. If you have to put sleeves around cards and then mark off the boxes with a dry wipe marker it means your combat damage system is too complicated, I don’t mind a few large models needing many wounds or health points but rank and file humans or goblins don’t need this.

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2′ by 2′ or 3′ by 3′ game areas. I live in the UK, the UK has tiny, tiny houses which have equally tiny tables and I don’t have room to stick a stick a 4′ by 4′ or 4′ by 6′ piece of MDF down and play on that. I understand that FLGS (or Friendly Local Game Stores if you’re not in the know) have tables that size but squeezing the established gamers off of them is a hard prospect.

Living Rulebook. Rather than publishing a large FAQ for each problem that is found in the rulebook why not keep a cut down digital living rulebook online for an instant lookup. Then set one or two dates in the year to review the rules to cut out the ones that don’t work and / or make new rules official for organised play.

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Balance your models. I understand games might be unbalanced, that’s fine, no company can playtest the games more than their fans will put it through, however the idea that the rules need to be changed or FAQ’d because they have made mistakes in balancing the models themselves is literally insane. Again I’m looking directly at GW while I type this but they are not the only ones by a long shot. As a 40k gamer for a long time there have been several eras where individual models dominate the game whist others get left unused, there was an ten year gap in updating the Dark Eldar and Necron codexes the first time round meanwhile Necron flyers, Wraithlords and Grey Knight Paladins have enjoyed spells of domination that only stopped when the rules or codex cycled out or when you dropped £600 on a new army to counter them.

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Quickstart rules video. This leads me to a point I have been meaning to make about tactical miniature games for a long time. Why is it so hard to record a video showing off how to play the game online? Typing “Lets Play Deadzone” into YouTube results in a number of videos about the previous edition of the game, however it does have two playthroughs, one from Mantic and one from Beasts of War both of which are extremely bloated and look like they have been done in one take. The Mantic guys make a rules mistake in the first 2 minutes by forgetting to roll the command dice. When I was being taught the basics it took less than 10 minutes including set up. It’s a shame as the quick nature of the rules of this game are one of its strongest points.

Call to action. I want a reason to buy and get involved now. I’ve often looked at various miniature sites and wondered if I should buy their models or games systems and most of the time I think “no, I’ll come back and look at that after I’ve finished project X, Y and / or Z”. Kickstarter gives you an impetus to buy as soon as possible, this is great as the company gets all the cash in one go and can start producing content and the players all start playing at one time once the rules and share their feedback. However if you want to give an added incentive I would recommend what FFG did with X Wing and offer competitive play events with limited edition tokens and cards.

While we are on that subject Fantasy Fight Games has the market nailed down for competitive play, just offer a box of goodies that tournament organisers can buy with limited edition kit in and let them host their own tournaments. Job done. FFG does this 4 times a year but your mileage may vary.

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All done, you can go back to what you were doing now.