Saturday, April 29, 2017

Card based system for wargames deployment

One of the features I like about the various strains of card driven board wargames, is the decision involved in playing a card for activation.  Clearly this does not apply to all card driven systems, but the ones I am thinking of have cards with multiple options on them, that the player must choose from when playing a card.  Does the player use the card for bringing on reinforcements, or to activate an event, or for a special ability/modifier, or simply to activate units/leaders already in the game?

This seems like a useful thing to try and bring into a miniatures wargame, to put a little spin on that old standby scenario - the meeting engagement.  So what I am considering here is a system of cards, each with two different pieces of information on it. Each player would, in turn, place one of these cards, from a small handful they have to choose from, on the table, in one of three different sectors.eventually, each player will play two cards in each sector.  Each sector would have one card, for that player's forces, that corresponds to one of the two categories of information on he cards (so, one card for forces, and one card for deployment).

The first piece of information is a partial basic order of battle. It would list a number of units that would belong to one of three sectors on the battlefield (left, center, right).  Depending on the period and the number of units a player owns, this could be tailored so that a personal collection could provide the figures needed. This could easily be three or four units, or as many as a dozen, depending on period, scale, and rules used.

The second piece of information would control the deployment of forces in that sector.  Are the forces arrayed in a single line? Some units off board? In column on a road?  Dug in with scouts deployed?  Again lots of possibilities, depending on period, scale, and rules.

An example might be this, for Blue Army's Left Flank... (Fictional situation, of course)

Forces Card: Infantry Division, 6 units of line infantry, 1 medium gun battery. 
Deployment Card: Probing Line, All units in a battle line, 12" in from base edge.  Up to two subunits (converged flank companies, or detached squadrons) can be deployed up to 24" in from base line.  

I can see this used in several ways. The easiest, and maybe most interesting, is to deal out six cards to each player, and they need to use all six.  The second way, is to deal three cards each, and as a player places a card, they draw a new one.  Other possibilities exist, but in all cases, the players roll initiative, and high roller places one card, and then the players alternate until all six cards for each side are played.

I am looking forward to trying a set of these, maybe for Napoleonics first. Loads and loads of possibilities exist, including special event cards, special decks for special scenarios, and ancillary effects of cards, like logistical conditions, weather, or affects to limit or increase command.

A neat project to ponder.

More on Arthur

I have found a nice blog, by Guy Halsall, on his wargaming activities. Dr. Halsall is an academic that makes a fine study of sixth century history, and starting back in the late 1990s he combined his history pursuits with his wargaming and published a series on King Arthur.  Much of the series found its way into Wargames Illustrated, all of it is on his blog.

Halsall goes on to complete a lengthy, and excellent (once he moves away from the touchy subject of Morris) series on both Arthur and the wargaming of Arthur inspired scenarios.  He has a nice introduction to campaigning, here giving a set of simple mapless rules (but with excellent scenario generator guidelines), and also a set of map based campaign (more detailed, naturally) rules. He discusses lists and rules (as I had done earlier here  but while I chose to compare lists against each other, he is comparing them to what he projects to be proper warfare for the period, based on his scholarly research).  In his discussion of rules, he gives kudos to Dan Mersey (Glutter of Ravens) and to Simon McDowall (Goths, Huns and Romans), both of which I highly regard.

In short, a great article series. Halsall's historical work is top drawer, and even his criticism of Morris is well placed (he takes down one of my favorites, John Morris, for writing history that is more of the "enjoyable narrative" rather than the "rigorous scholarship" type of work).  I am forced to agree with his criticism, even if I have a strong fondness for The Age of Arthur

For me, as a wargamer, I am perfectly fine with a strong narrative version of a potential historical Arthur.  It was not an especially literate time, so the lack of much literary evidence doesn't bother me - and an actual King Arthur is not necessary to me as much as a potential Arthur that is consistent with what we do know about the history. 

I find very appealing the notion of an Arthur-like figure in the sixth century keeping alive the spark of Romano-civilization against the inevitable sweep back into Germanic paganism.  And so it follows that I would want my wargaming to be based on that idea. It is my world view, and my sense of myth and legend of the West.

So, I will stick with Morris, and Arthur, warts and all.  And still enjoy the great work of Guy Halsall, as well.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 6 - 19th Century

Wargaming topics and possible theaters of battle in the 19th century are extremely varied and provide for a lot of exciting gaming possibilities.  One of the most popular is of course the American Civil War.  But not for me, I have tended to avoid that conflict ( I had a collection in 25mm, but I only used them for imagi-nations gaming).

This period, from the perspective of military operations and wargaming potential, is fantastic.  It is the century that sees musketry evolve from a weapon of mass application (with little precision), into the dominant force on the battlefield (as we evolve from the age of muskets, to the age of rifles).  The introduction of the railroad and mass production also mean that armies and logistics are evolving, so that operational campaigns are very different.  Naval capability changes from being wind and muscle driven, to being steam driven - which means that imperial and global colonialism is not only possible, but commonplace (with the colonial wars that go along with it).

I will include in this listing a few armies from the very early (pre-WW1) 20th Century.

Mexican-American War
This is a big enough collection to put on a 6-8 player game. Maybe a thousand Mexican figures, and maybe eight hundred Americans and Texans.  All painted, recently rebased.

Mahdi Rebellion
This is a larger scale (in terms of larger scale battles) and more serious study of the two parts of the River War (as Churchill called it) than my 28mm TSATF collection ( which is, appropriately, for small scale skirmish engagements).  I have British (painted), Egyptians (unpainted, but also suitable for the Arabi Revolt), and Mahdists (hundreds painted, but hundreds not painted).

Zulu War
Probably not worth mentioning except for an impressive stash of very nice, but unpainted, Zulus. Hundreds of 'em.

American Indian Wars
This is a recent acquisition for me, a set of very nice (but individually mounted, so suitable for skirmish gaming) figures including US cavalry forces (mounted and dismounted), and a large selection of American Indian figures.  There are leaders and a variety of figures for both sides.  I have not gamed with these yet, but I am planning on trying The Tomahawk and the Flame, Pony Wars, and/or Hey You in the Jail (one of my favorites, now available as a PDF download).

Spanish American War
A few years back, Patrick Wilson re-released the Richard Houston Lyzard's Grin collection. I bought in. I have a few hundred figures, all painted nicely by John Callahan. Both sides, and big enough for a modest game. No Philippines or Moro figures.

Boxer Rebellion
Very nice Old Glory 15s, this is at heart a nice, large collection of unpainted Boxers, and some Europeans. Started this collection to take advantage of Americans (from above), and Russians and Japanese (both from below).

Russo-Japanese War
Another nice OG15s set, painted (by me) and large enough for a meaningful game. Maybe a dozen infantry units per side, with 2 or 3 cavalry and artillery units for each side. Many more troops for Russians. In addition, maybe another dozen units each side, of infantry.

Part 6 - 19th Century (this article)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Medieval Periods - Middle Dark Ages (6th and 7th centuries)

Following on my first article about wargaming in the various sub periods of the Medieval Age, I would like to address what I am here referring to as the middle Dark Ages.  For me, this is roughly the 6th and 7th centuries, so definitely in a Post (Western) Roman setting, but one where the rise of new entities and the rise of Byzantium provide rich war gaming possibilities. As with the first article, I remain focused on Europe.
As far as I know, there is no common reference to this period, at least as a period distinct from either the earlier dark ages, or the later dark ages.  If anything, the earlier dark ages, and this period (I am thinking of approximately the 6th and 7th centuries) are part of what is usually referred to as Late Antiquity, although that really stretches back further than I wanted to (Late Antiquity is usually 300-700 AD).

But here I am talking about the 6th and 7th centuries.  In the early period (5th century, into the Age of Arthur.  To me that is the interesting activity going on in that period (from a European perspective) for wargaming.  In this period, there are really three things going on that provide for good wargaming.  As I see them these are:
beginning of the 6th), I covered the
  1. Consolidation of the Barbarian/Germanic Kingdoms
  2. Muslim Conquest (starting in the 7th century, but lasting into the 8th)
  3. Byzantium Ascendency, starting with Justinian in the 6th century 
As with the other Medieval periods, although infantry is still a very common component of armies of this period, the strength of cavalry is one of the hallmarks of many Medieval military systems (at least for me). That was the reason why I thought of the Romano-British as an example of a very early Medieval army (even though, it is extremely Roman, and infantry heavy, in flavor).

So, from a wargaming perspective (although just the history of this period, leaving aside gaming for an instant, is itself completely fascinating) here is what I see for the three periods.  I think I might list things like miniatures rules, board games, and army lists for each in separate posts.

Barbarian Kingdoms
These are large groups of (mostly) Germanic people's, or confederacies of people's, that were occupying lands in or on the border of the (former) Western Roman territories. They either had been invited to settle and become feoderates by the Romans, or else migrated in on their own, or (as in the case of Theoderic) would be contracted to come in by the Eastern Emperors. Because there are lots of clashes, both with remnants of the Western empire, and with other barbarian kingdoms, there is a lot of wargaming potential here.  Some of the people's I am thinking of (although there are many, many others):
  • Ostrogoths - the Eastern Goths, mostly in and around Italy
  • Visigoths - the Western (or Bright) Goths, mostly in and around the Iberian lands, filling the space previously occupied by Vandals and Suevi
  • Franks - Extremely successful on both sides of the Danube, and against other tribes/confederacies, this period includes the Merovingians.
  • Saxons - As in the earlier period, this may also include related peoples such as the Jutes and Angles, both in Britain (which is now becoming, finally, Angle-land, or England) and back in Europe.  On the British Isles, the series of struggling Kingdoms form the Heptarchy, although rarely is it exactly seven kingdoms.
  • And non-Germanics from the East - Alans, Avars, Huns, etc. 
There are a lot of miniature wargaming possibilities here, but also some board gaming titles as well.  Right away, I am reminded of Barbarian, Kingdom and Empire, as well as Catan: Struggle for Rome (a great game, but maybe not a wargame?).  Possibly Rise and Fall  but possibly not (and it is very similar to the already mentioned BKE).  A game I used to play quite a bit is the area control game, Attila.

Muslim Conquest
Starting in the early part of the seventh century, the armies of the Prophet and his successors provide a history that is ripe with opportunities for Wargamers who want to recreate the battles of this period.  This is divided up into an early expansion period, starting with the battle of Bedr, in 624 (two years after the flight of the Prophet to Medina) and ending in 661 when Muawiya Uthman had the Prophet's son in law (Ali) killed in the civil war for succession.  Muawiya then formed the first Caliphate.  

The armies of Islam, with roots in a popular religious undertaking, necessarily had a lot of simple (but effective) foot elements, but also (and increasingly as time went on) both a professional infantry core and large amounts of mounted troops developed.  The Arab cavalry favored the Lance, although there are some Persian elements that use the bow.  This is, tactically, a very interesting army.

It clashed, of course, with many of the other armies described in this article, so a Wargamer seeking to develop a collection for this period, would have a lot of scenario possibilities if he were to include the elements that make up this army. A very useful collection of essential troops, that would serve for representing this army over many centuries, would be a decent sized collection of Arab spear, Arab archers, and Lance armed Arab horse. As the conquest settles into an imperial mode in the later part of this period (starting with the establishment of the caliphate) other troops can be added in, representing absorbed people's. This includes horse archers among other things, and even extends to elephants.

One of the more interesting enemies of the Arab Conquest, of course, is the Sassanid Persians.  This fantastic army will be described in a later article on the Arab Conquest.

Board wargames about this period are rare, and I am only aware of a few. There was a Canadian Papercut games.  More recently, there was, in Freng from Griffon Games, a good looking design called Au Nom d'ALLAH that covers the expansion period from 632-732 AD.  Finally, and this is the one most accessible I think (from the preview material), is the title Apocalypse in the East  from Against the Odds magazine, to be published in 2017. It is about the ten year struggle between the first Caliphate and the Byzantines. Victory Point Games is working up an excellent solitaire, called The First Jihad which should be published soon.
Simulations game back in the early 1980s called Jihad, but I don't think it has a following any longer. More recently, three titles come to mind. There was a game in 2007 called Caliphate, that was never quite finished, but is available as a free print and play download from 

As the surviving successor to Rome, the empire in the east begins this period with an army very much in the tradition of the old Legion system of the Western army.  However, starting under Justinian, and coming full circle under Maurice, the army transforms into something different - the Byzantine army, which is very much more reliant on cavalry.  This will last throughout the period covered by this article, but will eventually give way to the feudal Thematic system (still cavalry dominant, but structured and supplied very differently).

A nice overview and description of the army under Maurice (the Maurikian Byzantine Army) is provided on this DBA page - it talks about DBA army elements for this army, but also gives a nice short history about the various components.  Some very interesting fighting by the Byzantines, in this period, takes place in the Balkan peninsula, as well as else where, and against some of the other armies described in this article.  Other enemies for the Byzantines exist as well.

Options for boardgame Wargamers might include a number of titles, such as Justinian from GMT or Byzantium from Martin Wallace. There are some other traditional wargames that touch on Byzantine warfare, but I'll mention them in a later article, as they cover later Byzantine history.  In addition to board wargames, there are even a number of other strategy games in this theme, that may or may not warrant the name "wargame".  Some examples might be Justinian from Mayfair (a Byzantine politics game) or Constantinopolis (Trade in Byzantium in the 7th century).

That is my start for this topic, but I think I will develop some information about army lists, and tactics, and possible scenarios/campaigns for each of these separately.  Each of these three focus areas has lots of great personalities, will have strong links to the previous and the succeeding historical periods (and armies), and present loads of interesting wargaming possibilities.

Note: Since writing this article, I started on a series of articles talking about wargaming the Barbarian Kingdoms.  Here they are, so far:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Rebellion in the Colonies

My recent cataloging efforts revealed to me that it would be nice to know a little about what I have in each collection, in terms of numbers and composition.  And since my 15mm AWI collection is strewn across my work area, in a variety of trays and boxes, due to the recent rebasing operation, I thought it would be a nice place to start.  So here are the totals (below).  


All infantry are based on 40mm wide bases, with three figures per frontage. 
Cavalry are on 30mm wide bases, with two figures each.  
Artillery are on 40mm square stands, with 4 crew each (fewer crew for my two grasshopper gun models).  
Generals are on 40mm squares with three mounted officers.
Brigadiers are on 30mm squares with two mounted officers each.
Division Officers are on 25mm squares with one mounted officer.

American (Rebellion) Forces
Infantry 1092 figures
Cavalry 34 figures
Guns 12 guns and crew
Officers 38 officer figures

French Battalions
Infantry 132 figures

Natives (Indians) 
Infantry 78 figures

British Forces
Infantry 627 figures
Cavalry 30 figures
Guns 8 guns and crew
Officers 27 officer figures

Infantry 249 figures

These, of course, are all divided into units, with unit command figures, including officers, colors, and musicians.  

Americans include Continental Army, Colonial Militia, and Minutemen.
British include regulars and Tories (Loyalists).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 5 - Napoleonic

My first Napoleonic figures, from many years ago, were TTG 15mm Prussians, which were quickly rounded out by innumerable Minifigs.  Alas those figures are long gone, the product of a good many army trades, swaps, re-trades, failed repatriation, exile, and political captivity. But these days I have a fairly decent sized accumulation of Napoleonic figures.  If ever there was a collection in need of a good figure by figure survey, this is it. I have grown this period by leaps and bounds over the years, and have not done a good inventory of it all together.

I will add in comments after a good visual inspection, but for now, this is basically a good high level inventory.

Napoleonic Figures
Peninsular War British
Later Prussian

I don't think I'd like to add to this collection, much, as I don't ever see myself modeling a Turkish or Austrian force.  But maybe I might fill in some gaps, especially in the French order of battle.

This series includes
Part 5 - Napoleonics (this article)
Part 6 - 19th Century

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 4 - Eighteenth Century

With the recent completion of my AWI collection, that brings my current stable of 18th century sets to exactly two - as below. I at one time had some Seven Years War figures, and recently parted with a large collection of painted Marlburian figures, but these days it is only the two below.

Eighteenth Century
French and Indian War
Size: Not too large, maybe 250-300 figures, total. But this is for a skirmish game.
Condition: Painted and individually based.
Notes:  These were acquired from someone who organized them for The Sword and the Flame, so twenty man units. There are regulars for both sides, as well as some irregular infantry (coureur de bois, and rangers) as well as some Indian units

American War for Independence 
Size:  Nice collection, probably around two thousand figures or so. Almost all factions represented, except some odd Spanish (really only present in some far southern engagements). But the main actors are here - British, Tories, Continentals, States Militia, Patriots/Minutemen, Hessians, French, Indians.  Infantry, cavalry, guns, officers.
Condition:  All painted, recently undergone mass rebasing (two month project). Bases in many cases not flocked.
Notes:  Played with these under Black Powder at a Thanksgiving Day game in 2015, have only done some small solo Neil Thomas scaled stuff since then.  Eager to play Konigskrieg, British Grenadier, or more Black Powder.

Some details on the AWI collection can be found here.

What else would I like to do for this period in 15mm?  The Jacobite Rising of 1745?   French Revolution (1789-1799)?  Vendee Revolt (1793-1796)?  Not sure.

This series includes
Part 4 - 18th Century (this article)

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 3 - Renaissance

This is part three of my 15mm cataloging effort. This time, my Renaissance armies, to cover the late 15th through the mid 17th centuries.

Renaissance 15th - 17th centuries
Italian City States
Size: Enough to do two large armies.
Condition: Painted, based and recently played.
Notes: I can cover any two of the Italian states from the wars of the 1490s through the mid sixteenth century. This includes the armies needed to run a campaign based on the old Avalon Hill game Machiavelli.

Imperialist or French
Size: Plenty for an HRE or French Catholic army.
Condition: Painted, based, ready for subjugating small Italian republics and Heugenots.
Notes: I could use some more lighter cavalry and a few more artillery pieces, but a very nice large army as it is. Lots of Landsknechts. Enough options to cover either an Imperial or a French army.

Size: Lots of pike and halberd. Big enough to take on any of the other 15th or 16th century armies. A few Knights, some shot units.
Condition: Painted, based. Looking for employers.
Notes: Brutally effective in most rules, but not a lot of diversity in the army.

Size: Big army. Might be a match for two other armies, certainly big enough for a large multiplayer game.
Condition: painted, based, ready to play, mostly. Some stands need flocking, some cavalry needs rebasing.
Notes: Ready for Italy or the Low Countries. Could use some more lighter troops.

Dutch or Huegenots
Size: Big enough to fight a scaled back Spanish or French army. Ritters, gendarmes, pike, shot, and could borrow landsknechts.
Condition: Painted and ready to earn either religious liberty or a sack full of guilders.
Notes: A nice 80 Years War campaign is beckoning.  This set could cover either army, either Dutch Protestants or French Protestants.

Size: These are 16th and 17th century Poles. Not a large set, but several units of lovely winged hussars, cossacks and haiduk infantry.  With German mercenaries, could fight an Imperialist (16th century) or Swedish (17th century) army.
Condition: Painted, needs rebasing.
Notes: This set makes me want to consider Muscovites. An early campaign against Gustavus Adolphus might be fun, also.

English Civil War
Size: Two armies, with some generic, and some specific troops present. Moderate size, as is, but with either more painting, or judicious borrowing from the TYW set, could put on a large battle.
Condition: Most is painted and based. See TYW section for those troops. Artillery needs work, and some infantry needs painting, but plenty playable as is.
Notes: one of my favorite periods, some of my troops go back to the 1980s.

Thirty Years War
Size: very large collection with several battalia each for all the main participants (Imperial, Swedes, Bohemians, Bavarians, Saxons, French, Dutch, Spaniards) plus cavalry, guns, commanders, etc.
Condition: All painted nicely.  Ready to play as is, but would like to do a complete rebasing to MDFstands.
Notes: Again, this begs a multiplayer campaign.

Size: Two large armies. All elements including monks, foreigners, etc.
Condition: All painted. Rebasing is desired, but could be played.
Notes: Many different factions and clans are represented, could easily become a campaign.

Joseon Korean
Size: Large army, intended as a foe for the Japanese.
Condition: Painted, needs organization and basing.
Notes: I would like to build some turtle ships...

Ming Chinese
Size: Large army. Collection may also include separate Mongol horde, but needs to be sorted.
Condition: Unsorted, unpainted. 
Notes: if I ever pursue this project, I may get the Mings professionally painted.

This series includes
Part 3 - Renaissance (this article)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 2 - Medievals

This list covers my medieval armies, and a number of early medieval, or dark ages armies.

Size: Large collection, enough for two large armies, with some borrowed figures maybe from the Vikings. I have options and leaders to do early Pagan Saxons, and later Christian Anglo-Saxons.
Condition: painted and ready to play. My only regret is my Saxon fyrd are mounted 3 to a stand.
Notes: A nice large collection. Makes me wish I had later Imperial Romans (or Byzantines, or Post-Roman British), to use these guys as fifth and sixth century threats against the remainders of the Empire.  Still, plenty of foes in my collection.

Size: I have two distinct medieval Irish collections. One is a medium/large early Dark Ages focus, even including hound handlers and some chariots for those who believed the Irish still used them for leaders.  The other is later, but a smaller collection, and could be a foe for Normans in Ireland.
Condition: Painted, based, ready to play.
Notes: Personally, I like the Chariots. Also, stands with Druids, and some with Christian priests. 

Size: Again, two sets. Dark ages Welsh in a sizable collection (enough for a large army), and later Welsh as 13th/14th century foes for England.
Condition: Painted and ready to play. The later army, if it goes for a longbow heavy variant, has to borrow archers from my Hundred Years War English, but plenty to go around.
Notes: Two nice foes for my other English based armies. I'd like to add some flavorful command stands with Dragon banners.

Size: plenty of figures and options for a large army. 
Condition: Painted, based, very playable.
Notes: Cavalry have the distinctive Norman shield, as do some infantry. Plenty of other infantry to use in a Frankish option.

Size: A vast collection of sea wolves. Easily enough for two large armies.
Condition: Painted, based, bloodied in battle.
Notes: Lots of options here, included mounted Viking infantry. I have some unpainted Long Ships, but I wish I had more.

Size: A large collection,me ought for a big army, although cavalry has to be borrowed from other Early Medieval forces (such as the Norman army).
Condition: Painted, based, and ready o play. I'd like to get and paint some actual continental cavalry from the 8th century. 
Notes: This makes a nice replacement for the Normans, to have a more balanced army against other early medieval infantry armies.  Can fight a Moslem army judicially selected from the units of my Crusades collection.

Size: Two large armies with many options, one is Christian and one is Moslem. Can definitely cover first and third crusades, as well as other battles of the same period.
Condition:  Painted (beautifully) and based, ready to go. 
Notes: My largest regret here is that I don't have more Moslem figures, and that I don't have more theater specific terrain.

Baron's Wars
Size: Enough units to do two moderate/large armies.
Condition: All painted, all based. Ready to go.
Notes: These are "generic" medieval figures for battles in the 12th and 13th century. Some overlap with HYW collection. Could use some more lighter troops.

Size: A moderate sized army, if the keils are all halberd armed. Could be quite large if pike blocks are borrowed from my Renaissance Swiss.
Condition:  All painted and ready to play. Some infantry could stand to be rebased.
Notes: A solid foe for other medieval armies here, or could represent mercenary units.

Hundred Years War
Size: Two very large armies, one French and one English. 
Condition: All painted, 90% based properly, ready for St Crispin's Day.
Notes: There are some elements I would like to add, especially like lighter cavalry (sergeants, hobilars, jinetes) and maybe some more foot such as peasants/villeins and crossbow.  I probably have too many knights if such a thing is feasible.

Size: A moderate sized collection of specifically Scottish units (schiltrons mostly, and some Scottish knights) but could be padded with other figures.  Easily could field a large army.
Condition:  All painted, about half need rebasing.
Notes: The long spear units look good, but need some organizing. Otherwise, another nice group to provide mercenaries/allies for other armies, or could be padded to stand on its own.

Size: Moderate size, but could easily be padded out with other similar Dark Ages figures.
Condition: All painted, all based, ready to take on a variety of enemies.
Notes: Another in my assortment of dark age armies, these are a precursor to the above Scottish army, from a few hundred years earlier. Not a lot to distinguish it from say the early Welsh or Irish - spearman, light horse, heavier infantry, slingers and archers.

This series includes
Part 2 - Medievals  (this article)
Part 5 - Napoleonics
Part 6 - 19th Century

Friday, April 7, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 1 - Ancients

I have several articles and themes in progress these days here at Gaming with Chuck - more reviews of older rule sets, more on dark age wargaming, finishing up Lord of the Manor, converting LotM to Lion Rampant, etc. However, I have decided that starting this summer, I want to start (or, return to) hosting war games.  I have been out of the practice of doing that since moving away from ODMS back in 2012.  However,  that is about to change. There has been talk of a revised ODMS, even if it means games at members' houses, and maybe not on a weekly schedule.  So, as I always like putting on a war game for my friends, I thought I would take stock of what armies I have these days, and what shape they are in.

Starting with my 15mm ancients collections.

Size: Plenty of figures and options for at least two large armies (Might of Arms sized, for example).
Condition: All painted, all playable. I'd like to standardize the basing (MDF, balsa, matte board, etc)
Notes: Covers all armies from Phillip II to the end of the successor states.

Size: Plenty of figures for a large army.
Condition: All painted. Needs basing and reorganization.
Notes: Designed to fight the Macedonians, could be used for later Eastern foes of Romans, etc, maybe with some extra units.

Romans - Republic through Middle Imperial
Size: This is really at least two different periods/armies but each has at least enough for two armies. Lots of Romans.
Condition: All painted, mostly playable. Some rebasing might help in some instances, especially to standardize bases.
Notes: These have seen lots of action over the years, still good, especially with occasional reinforcements added in.

Barbarians - Galatians, Gauls, Britons, Germans, etc
Size: Easily enough for two large armies. Could do a double army matchup against Romans or Macedonians.
Condition: Germans need more painting.  Some basing and organization, and touch up of some shield designs on older shields wouldn't hurt.
Notes: With some additional units could expand to Illyrians and others. Some of my oldest figures. Split between dense infantry (4 figure bases) and loose density (3 figure bases) as well as equipment difference is chief split of Germans.  Need more specific German units to be painted.

Carthaginians - Early and Late
Size: Enough for a large army, either way.  Some allied figures, i.e. Spanish, could be the basis for their own army.
Condition: Painted.  Need organization and basing.
Notes: Could be a really nice multiplayer matchup v. Romans, as intended.

New Kingdom Egyptians
Size: Older WRG 1200 point army. A moderate sized Men At Arms army.
Condition: Unpainted. Asgard figures from Viking Forge.
Notes: I always wanted to do Biblical period, but never got this project off the ground.

Size: Mostly smaller DBA sized dabbling a in a variety of armies not covered above.
Condition: Most painted and playable. Some unpainted. Everything in between.
Notes: bits and bobs collected over the years, plus the leftovers from equipping multiple DBA tournaments.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Space Gaming - 2d vs 3d maps

A discussion group on Facebook that talks about Traveller related items has been talking about 3d mapping vs 2d mapping.  I am a big fan of Classic Traveller (1977) and its derivative games.  Those include MegaTraveller, T4, T20, T5 and Mongoose Traveller.  One of the things about them, however, is that going back to the original, they render star maps in a 2d fashion, typically on a hex grid.  Let me say, that I am a big fan of the 2d representation, because it is not true (form a Physics sense) but it does represent a presentation of game/setting information in an intuitive and extremely useful format. What could be better?

On a Traveller map, the first thing you will notice is hexagons, some with "world systems" marked in it.  Each hexagon represents a parsec (roughly 3.26 light years), and any parsec that has a solar system in it that is potentially of interest, has a marker on it showing such.  This is a nice reality on the space involved, for each hexagon might be home to several solar systems (if a denser region of the galaxy, this might be a higher number), or it might be void.  But regardless, only "interesting" systems are marked.  That means, systems that either might have a civilization/colony on them, or might represent the possibility for such.

Regina Subsector - from the Traveller Wiki

But the maps are in 2 dimensions.  Originally they were in simple black and white, and these days it is common to find them in color, with the various regions and system colors indicating some details.  But the maps are still on a 2d hex grid.  So on the example above, the planetary system Forboldn is 1 hexagon away from Knorbes, which means an approximate 1 parsec difference between them.  This is great for the game, because the interstellar capabilities of the ships are measured in the ability to 'jump' between points of normal space, that are limited in (because of the technology involved) distances of roughly 1 parsec.  So a jump-1 ship could travel from 1 hexagon to another (a vast distance) in the space of a week - but that makes this rendering of the starmap very useful for game navigation.

But what about a 3d version of space - you know since space is basically a 3 dimensional construct, and all that...  Well, there have been some game maps that have done a good job on this.  I would like to talk about three, briefly, but in the light of a tabletop gaming constraint.  That constraint is that the map should be able to be printed out and passed around at the table, as an artifact to be consulted during game play.  A very nice 3d map on a computer that can be rotated, zoomed in and out of, is fabulous, but of more limited use during tabletop gaming.  In computer gaming, however- but that is a different story.  On to the examples I have.

Space Opera
In the game Space Opera, the materials that were released by Fantasy Games Unlimited (the publisher of the game) were often placed on planets in their published Sectors.  These were regions of space, published as game setting modules, that featured a number of planetary systems in a cube of space.  The examples below are from The Mercantile League (which, if I recall, is Star Sector Atlas #2).

The maps were published in their 8.5x11 Star Sector Atlas books, and the scale (which required the use of a ruler on the page to determine distances) was typically 1mm to 1 light year.  So you get out your ruler, determine that two worlds are 36mm apart from each other on the page, and you say "They are 36 light years apart".   Without having to use X and Y coordinates, and without having to do the Pythagorean Theorem calculation -- square root of ((x1 - x2)^2 + (y1 - y2)^2).

But, the 3d portion comes in with the fact that each world had a positive or negative measure (in light years, or LY) above or below the plane of the map.  So, taking the difference of these two gives you a second measure, the difference in the Z coordinate between the two points.  So now, with the X/Y measure in hand (the distance on the page), and the Z measure (calculated from +/- height differences) you can get the absolute 3d difference by again applying pythagoras as above.

The game publications gave you, in each Star Sector Atlas, a basic travel distance table that listed the distances (and some game economic factors) for the pairings of the more interesting/important worlds within the sector, so the distances were already calculated.
Finally, the last thing that was provided, in terms of a mapping assistant, for the FGU Space Opera Star Sector Atlas products, was the map showing the common space lanes (i.e. - the ones described in the "Fares and Cargo Rates" table).  This was simply the sector map with star lanes drawn on it.

Pros/Cons of the FGU method - these are easy enough to understand, and having the Z coordinate on the map makes for an easy transition to 3d.  As always, with a 2d depiction of 3d space, the map can be illusionary in some instances, where there is a sharp Z difference between two points that are otherwise (X/Y) close on the map.  These maps are nice because there is no real grid (they would come, later, with an Index, matricing a number vs. a letter axis, to make finding planets a little easier), but the obverse of that coin is that you need a ruler graduated in millimeters (or would have to convert inches, each to 25.4 mm), in order to find distances that are not on the quick look up table.

The SPI effort to enter the roleplaying game market was with the game Universe.  Universe had three very nice things going for it.

  1. The character generation sequence had a great way to compare physical stats for characters from different geophysical planetary backgrounds (i.e. - difference in physical parameters based on the planetary environment you were born/raised in). 
  2. The starship construction/combat rules were very nice (describing a setting with generally common ship hulls, perhaps as in the Niven Ringworld universe, but with different modular components), as you might expect from an experience board game publisher that had devised printed several sets of starship combat rules by the time the RPG arrived.  In this case it is the DeltaVee game.
  3. The 3d space map of the area roughly in a sphere of about +/- 25 light years around Earth.

This article is interested in discussing the space map.  It worked, in concept, very similar to the map from FGU but with some important differences.  It incorporated iconography and color (as do the more modern Traveller maps) to indicate something about the stellar systems mapped.  In the case of Universe the colors correspond to the stellar sequence.  Different from the FGU Space Opera maps, it used a graph/grid to show the location of the worlds, so you did not need to use a ruler to find the difference of planets. But it did mean you had to apply Pythagoras.  One of the nicest things about the Universe map is the fact that it included the X,Y and Z coordinates for each system.  Also, Earth/Sol is at (0,0,0) so measure to other worlds from Earth is pretty easy to do.

Finally, the third method of showing a 3d space on a 2d map is from the old Metagaming science fiction empire building game, Godsfire.  This game represented three dimensional space on a hex map.  The measurements for space were abstracted (slightly) and objects pressed on to a hex map, to make counting and measuring movement and disances between star systems to be quite easy (just count the hexes).  The Z component was brought in by making sure that each hexagon only represented the space at the plane of the map.

Within the hexagon, there was a series of 11 spaces, 5 representing levels below the map, 1 representing the planar level of the map, and five representing levels above the map.  As this was a map for a multiplayer wargame, moving objects on the map was necessary, and could be accommodated by moving the object (ship, fleet, etc) by moving it "up" or "down" within a single hex, or from hex to hex (arriving at the same level in the new hex, as the level that you departed the old hex from.

Pros/Cons - It is abstracted (as mentioned), and not as precise as the other methods, but it is certainly quick to navigate and move pieces around in.  Very simple and straightforward for campaigning and wargaming.
As you can see from the image, each "hexagon" is actually represented as a square, but using offset rows, means each is spatially related to the six around it (essentially a hexagon).  And the spiral showing the levels (from +5 down to -5) within the hex.  Very convenient.

This map was used by a group I played in years ago, as the campaign map for a Leviathan wargaming campaign.  It was an elegant way to do three dimensions, and it was very interesting to see players get surprised by a fleet that appeared similar, only to realize that it was at +4, and they were -3, adding (effectively) 7 more spaces of difference between the two fleets.

So, there.  Three different methods of doing 3d mapping, on a 2d space, with different pros and cons for each.

If interested in this topic, I can (not strongly enough) recommend Winchell Chung's page on 3-D Starmaps over at his Project Rho website.  Winch is a wargamer and artist and generally interested in the intersection between science and sci-fi and gaming, and his web pages are chock full of the most excellent information.