Saturday, March 08, 2014

"A New Period - Really, Man?"

I dunno, Rhetorical Self, I'm thinking about it. I'm just throwing some thoughts up here, gonna see what sticks.

I'm currently recovering from a minor, outpatient surgical procedure. This has given me time to catch up on some back issues of Wargames Illustrated that have been sitting next to my bed for too long. Today's issue was from January 2013, and was dedicated to the theme of World War One.

Here's the thing: when I was a wee lad, I was fascinated by World War One. The rhomboidal tanks, the gas masks (on both man and horse!), the churned earth of no-man's land, the colorful biplanes. Loved the whole thing.

In high school, along with my gaming buddies, I was pretty much a Games Workshop guy when it came to miniatures gaming. Eventually, we got burned out, as often happens. Too many price hikes, too much corporate BS. Historical miniatures had always appealed to me (I was just getting started on my eventual BA in History), and I pushed my friends to start exploring that end of the hobby. Since I had made the initial push, I left it up to them to pick a period that appealed.

They picked World War Two, and the rest, for me, was history. The irony, of course, is that WWII was never really my thing. In fact, I remember being somewhat taken aback when my friends suggested that as a period (this being many years before Flames of War) - I thought to myself, "Do people even play that period?" The historical minis I'd seen on display at the local game store had all been Greek phalanxes and Napoleonic divisions and Civil War regiments, that sort of thing. Twentieth-century wargaming? Really? But I went along with it and educated myself on the period and the different scales of engagement.

After many years, I've settled on skirmish as my ideal for 20th-century wargaming. Larger engagements seem better served by boardgames or computer games, and I like injecting a level of humanity into the giant mill of industrialized warfare. And I've immersed myself pretty deeply in World War Two miniatures gaming over the past, gosh, 18 years!?

Another amazing Lonely Gamers table.
But as I perused that Wargames Illustrated issue, I started to cogitate. One of the articles quite reasonably pointed out that the war wasn't just about static trench warfare, that the opening and closing phases of the Western Front were actually quite mobile and open, and that other theaters never got bogged down at all. I was also reminded that there are a handful of skirmish-scale WWI rules out there, including a set of rules from one of my favorite publishers, Iron Ivan Games. I'd been aware that people gamed WWI, but I'd always assumed it was large-scale games featuring regiments and battalions and divisions. The idea of gaming WWI at skirmish scale just like my WWII games sort of hit me like a brick upside the head.

Nowadays I pretty much carry the WWII torch for myself. The people who initially suggested the period long ago grew disinterested in historical wargaming in general and, besides, they now live 1,000 miles away. My local minis gaming community (such as I'm plugged into it) is more focused on WarmaHordes and 40K. So, as far as 20th-century skirmish-scale wargaming is concerned, why not switch to a period that is a little more authentic to my interests anyway, I says to myself? The Great War still holds the sort of morbid fascination that drew me in so many years ago, and I'm excited by the prospect of being able to game it at an engagement scale I'm comfortable with.

And, to be perfectly honest, the fact that this is the centenary year of the opening of the war just adds a certain appealing synergy to the whole thing. In fact, I've been mulling the idea of starting my collection with early war, 1914-era troops. Uniforms were still colorful and old-fashioned, and it's the clash of the old and the new that's long been part of my fascination with the period. Visions of French cuirassiers, Scottish highlanders in kilts, cavalry lancers, and Germans in pickelhaube helmets are now dancing in my head. (And, as those links attest, I'm also finding that there are tons of great figure options available.) If I end up having fun with the period, I could see adding more units from later in the war as the years go by, perhaps branching out to cover the mid-war years in Palestine and Arabia, and finally adding Stosstruppen and A7V tanks in time for the 100th anniversary of the March Offensives in 2018.

I dunno, it's fun little gimmick, I guess.

So what are the cons?

1) I've already got 2-3 other ideas in the offing for projects in the coming months and years: an 18th-century Imagi-Nations project, a third army for my Armies of Arcana collection, a new fantasy collection based on Joe Dever's World of Magnamund... So it's not like I'm starving for projects or inspiration.

(On the other hand, those are all big projects that I've resolved to put on the back burner until we can get moved into a slightly larger living space that will allow for proper display of the painted minis. The appeal of skirmish scale is that you can get a game-able, displayable collection together pretty quickly and easily.)

2) This would probably be my farewell to WWII for the foreseeable future (unless I get suckered into joining a Flames of War club or something, god forbid). And that's kind of sad to me. I've got a good nucleus of a collection going now, I'm happy with the chosen period, the manufacturers, everything. But I have to wonder how much of this is just inertia? I like the period well enough, but I didn't really get into it until someone else suggested it.

(I suppose I should explicate that I'd sell my WWII collection to purchase my WWI collection. I guess I could hold on to my WWII collection and put them ice, but that would slow down the new project quite a bit and...really, I'm not enough of a hardcore hobbyist to keep a collection that I only intend to play once in a blue moon.)

3) Speaking of my WWII collection, I've got enough painted at this point to have small games of Operation Squad and such. So starting over from scratch would mean no "modern" wargaming for a bit. (My goal would be to have something ready to go by the August centennial.) On the other hand, I've got my Epic 40K, Malifaux, Armies of Arcana, and samurai skirmish forces to occupy my paintbrush and tabletop time, so again, it's not like I'm desperately lacking.

I'm going to ponder this for a few more days before making a final decision, but it should be pretty clear which direction I'm leaning towards, here.


  1. I've played WHH's The Great War many times, but the next time I play WW1, I'm going to use Bolt Action (adapted, of course). I've played on my buddy's awesome Trench board, but I rather play more mobile, open terrain. Best, Dean

  2. Don't forget the Skorne. I'll get you into WarmaHordes yet.

    1. Oh, they're on my wish list. As promised in the post, I've been cogitating, and have come up with a pretty good plan. In the end, I decided not to transition to WWI skirmish. Despite its many appeals, it would just be more hermit-like gaming. And how could I abandon my Normandy project in this, the 70th anniversary year of D-Day? I mean, really!

      But I'm going to be changing the approach of my WW2 collection (which I'll post about soon), and that's going to generate some revenue through sales of minis that I'll funnel back into Skorne. It's beautiful in the way it all fits together, really.

    2. Did I say I'd post again soon? I meant right away, apparently...


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