23 February 2009

More thoughts on historicals and perhaps a messy breakup with Wargames Foundry. Also a tiny bit on Space Marine Scouts.

This is another long post; the last paragraph is a summary so those who don't want to read the whole thing can get the main ideas. Apparently my return to the land of college has revived my ability to churn out large amounts of text.

I find that titling my posts is a difficult thing. I have the same problem with giving titles to my school papers. It would be nice to come up with a witty phrase at the drop of a hat, but that only seems to happen when I'm at work, where I am fairly well known for coming up with a good zinger from time to time. Anyway, I've been mulling a few things over today while working on my homework.

I did manage to spend about ten minutes slapping paint on a Space Marine Scout. I had planned to do Assault Marines first but after I reworked the army list to swap out the Predator for a Razorback I found that I needed to assemble some more Assault Marines. I've already got a squad of Scouts primed and ready to go, so I've decided to work on them. At the moment I am painting the Scout Sergeant as a template for the rest of the Scouts. I've been trying to decide whether to paint any company markings on the Scouts. According to the Codex the Scout company doesn't have a color. But also according to the fluff Scouts who prove themselves in battle are promoted to fill openings among the ranks of the Space Marines. It makes some sense that certain Scout Squads would be assigned to certain Marine Companies so that they could gain a working relationship with the organization they aspire to be a part of. I have just thought of a problem with that line of thinking, though. I wonder if Scouts get promoted to the reserve companies first and then are transferred laterally to the battle companies. If that were the case then the Scouts wouldn't necessarily wind up in a certain battle company later in their careers. I guess I'll have to think about it some more. I may give them company colors just to break up the green and brown a little.

And now I'll move along to historical games. For quite a while I have been fairly set on building a force of Vikings from Wargames Foundry. They've got some army "deals" for Warhammer Ancient Battles. The downside is that the figures are grossly overpriced, especially for customers outside the UK. They come out to be nearly $3 a figure. Every year they have a sale or two and I am sorely tempted to buy an army or a collection, but every year the cost even at the sale price drives me away. Today I finally went looking at other manufacturers. Gripping Beast sells what is essentially the same army of similar-quality sculpts for a dollar less per figure. A dollar less per figure over the span of a hundred figures is quite a savings that could be applied to buying over half of an opposing force for my Vikings. I may still use Foundry figures to fill out the ranks of my pirates, though. I do like the Foundry pirates and I don't need a whole lot more of them to play my games. I do have some DBA armies for Vikings and Anglo-Danes, but I really like they way Vikings look in the larger scales.

Brian from the Repple Depple blog posted a comment referencing his group's scenario-based Flames of War games. I have never been a min/max sort of player, which is why I was so bad at Heroclix tournaments. My lists would always be based on actual comic book team-ups or themes rather than the latest internet power combo, so my models would get summarily slaughtered by the hyper-competitive guys who all played variations of the same list each week. It's not the wrong way to play, but it's different enough that I was not satisfied with the games or my opponents' play style.

The same thing happened when I played my Skaven against a Dwarf player who stuck his army (a couple of bare metal models and a whole lot of empty bases that represented various units) in the corner behind as many terrain pieces as he could find. His army sat in the corner so that by the time my army got around all the terrain and made contact the game was over. He had a couple of war machines on a hill that killed a few rats so he won the game, but there really seemed to be no point. I found out later that he was well-known for this tactic and that people were generally reluctant to play him because of it. The only way to break him of it was to play an objective-based scenario so he would be forced to move around the table at least a little bit or face a sure loss. Which brings me to my point.

It seems like in points-based systems naturally lend themselves to that sort of game. I guess that's all right for Fantasy or Sci-fi, but it seems unrealistic to have entire companies of elite troops and equipment charging across the table in a historical game if it is generally well-known that such things were highly unlikely during the conflict in question. I think one good thing about having a points system in a game like Flames of War is that it may be easier for a novice scenario-builder to balance the forces to the game in question. Not necessarily to equalize them, but to give appropriate ratios for attacker/defender or whatever the case may be. One thing I like about the Skirmish Campaigns book is that they have variable force lists. Each scenario has a base force for each side, but you also roll a d20 and get a random element added to your force. One game you may get a sniper team, the next game you could get a Forward Observer and a certain number of artillery strikes, and then maybe you'll get an armored car or an extra squad of infantry. What I'm getting at is that points-based systems are only as rigid as the players want them to be, as the folks on the Repple Depple blog point out. I've noticed a trend in White Dwarf magazine lately in the same direction. In the battle reports for all of the games they seem to be leaning toward more scenarios that are objective-based rather than simply playing meeting engagements and pitched battles. I think it's a good trend. Others may disagree. Everyone has their own version of how the hobby should run.

What does this all mean for me? I guess it means that I am looking at Viking and Anglo-Danes in 28mm from non-Foundry sources, I am still looking to add to my collection of Foundry pirates, I am almost certainly going to do ACW in 6mm from Baccus at some point, I have a whole boatload of Warhammer and 40k stuff to get through and I am unsure about how to paint my Space Marine Scouts, and Flames of War can be played in scenarios rather than points-based min/max battles that many point-based games trend toward.


  1. Check out Crusader Miniatures for Vikings very nice & fit well with Foundry. I got my Foundry Vikings off ebay not painted yet though!

  2. Your comments regarding min/max and scenarios remind me of my own approach to playing "First Person Shooter" games online. I know I'm never going to be the top of the heap guy with the uber-reflexes, so I avoid kill-score based matches. I always look for scenario-based, team-based maps to play on, even if it's as simple as a capture-the-flag game, because the focus on an objective and the fact of working in teams rather than free-for-all means I can be less than the greatest shooter and still contribute and even sometimes be the primary reason for victory.

  3. I have similar feelings when it comes to computer games. That's why I played on PvE servers rather than PvP servers in World of Warcraft.