Category Archives: Wargaming

Wargaming Mindfulness

What is Wargaming Mindfulness you may ask? Surely new age hippy nonsense like meditation, mindfulness and zen have no place in the wargaming hobby?

Well whatever your inclinations to such things and whatever you call it, I think talking about how we approach the wargaming hobby is relevant. I’m not going to suggest a meditation programme for wargaming, that would be a bit weird. But I do want to write about how to approach this hobby in a way that is positive and doesn’t lead to frustration.

What is Mindfulness?

Firstly it’s a good idea to just say what mindfulness is. Mindfulness in its simplest terms is being present in the moment. You can use meditation to help you be mindful, but it’s not essential. If you’re mindful you appreciate the time and place you are in without constantly dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can be beneficial to mental health and help reduce stress and anxiety. And remember mental health doesn’t cover only serious disorders. Everyone goes through times of low moods at some point or another at the very least. Mental health issues are at least as prevalent as physical health issues.

Causes of Wargaming Anxiety

So if mindfulness might help with anxiety and stress, what are the potential causes of those in the Wargaming hobby. Could you be suffering from any of these:

  • Too much lead! The size of your lead or plastic mountain of figures to paint seems never ending. That could be a good thing perhaps, but if it leaves you with despair about ever finishing it then it’s not!
  • Switching between projects. Again that could be good if it helps keep you motivated by bringing variety. But if it’s not intentional then it might mean you’re distracted easily and can’t settle on anything. The result is you get frustrated when you don’t actually finish anything.
  • The new shiny. You see a new product advertised, read an article or listen to a podcast that discusses a certain game or wargaming period  and think “I want to get into that. It sounds great!” So you end up buying it … and then it sits on the shelf for a long time. As well as costing you money it also contributes to the size of the painting mountain never to be finished.

There could well be other causes of wargaming hobby stress – maybe the stress caused by a new Warhammer edition that renders your carefully collected army useless, or concern about what others think about your painting skills. But I guess you probably get the idea.

How to approach the Wargaming Hobby Mindfully

So how might you go about being more mindful in terms of your wargame hobby?

It’s hard to be honest. I often switch between projects – not just because I fancy variety, but because my mental attention gets sparked by something new, and I end up not finishing what I should have been doing. Then several months later I think why didn’t I finish that project, I could be gaming with it by now!

Well actually approaching other parts of your life mindfully can help. I would recommend meditation as a good way of coping with stress.

I think it does help to have a plan as well. Not a plan of how to paint everything you have, but at least a plan of what you are going to paint over the next few months. You can work some variety into that plan as well, so you don’t end up painting 100 of the same figure!

I also keep a Painting Diary to see what I painted each month. When I look back at it I can see what I achieved and perhaps see where I started a project I never finished and then plan to get back on track.

You could avoid news of new products etc to avoid temptation.

But perhaps the main thing is just to take pleasure in the thing you are doing at the moment – don’t be thinking too much about what you want to do after you have finished this project, but enjoy getting done what you are doing. If the hobbying is a bit dull and you start dreaming of a new figure to paint then maybe listen to an audio book at the same time to distract you from planning the next project in your head!

I hope this article has helped. Let me know if you have any other ideas for how to avoid wargaming hobby frustration!

Good Habits for Wargamers (and Writers)

Atomic Habits coverI’m writing about good habits for wargamers today. And also related to that good habits in other areas of life as well.

I think of habits as being something that is fairly unconscious – something you don’t have to write down and plan for. You just do them. A bit like brushing your teeth every morning and evening. That type of thing. I came across the book Atomic Habits by James Clear recently (after listening to an episode of Henry Hyde’s excellent podcast. I’m only part way through the book so far, but it’s certainly resonating with me.

Habits not Motivation

James Clear says that if you want to get things done, motivation isn’t enough. You can aspire to write a novel, or paint a wargames army, get fit, lose weight, etc etc. But unless you have good habits you will never get there. You have to be able to do the work even when you don’t feel like it.

I certainly feel like that about writing and wargame hobbying. I am really bad at getting into a habit of writing every day. Having read the book I’ve realised it’s because I have an aspiration to write lots of books and be a “writer”, but in practical terms I’m not sitting down and doing it enough. I don’t currently have a real habit of writing on a daily basis. I’m trying to correct that at the moment by setting aside time in my daily schedule, but it’s still a bit stop start.

My Wargames Hobby Habits

My habits are now pretty ingrained when it comes to working on my wargames hobby, and in particular painting miniatures. I paint for about an hour every morning, before anyone else gets up. What helps I think is that I set-up the environment to make sure its easy to do it. I don’t have a dedicated painting area – instead using the kitchen table. What I do is bring down all my painting stuff the night before, just before going to bed. I leave my painting box and miniatures case on the table (unpacked though), and then I set it up in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil for my tea.

As well as making it easy and having the environment right – nice and quiet, and I can listen to an audiobook or podcast at the same time. I think I’m also putting this habit next to another habit I really like – having a cup of tea in the morning. James Clear in Atomic Habits calls this habit stacking. It works really well.

Now I just have to figure out how to get the same good habit for writing everyday as well …

Solo Wargaming: Some Useful Books

If you’re contemplating solo wargaming then there is a wealth of information online – some good and interesting. But if  like me you’d rather get to grips with a subject by reading a good book then there’s also some available too. There are rules books that contain some options for solo wargaming – and indeed some games have been specifically designed for solo or cooperative games in mind – I’ll cover those in another post. But if you want some rules-agnostic ideas, then here’s some good books to have a look at.

Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargamingdonald-featherstone-solo-wargaming

This the granddaddy of books on solo wargaming – a classic by a well-known legend of Wargaming. I have bought the kindle republishing of this by John Curry and found it an interesting read. I have started exploring some of the ideas in the book, which are inspiring, fun and relatively simple. However, this book won’t provide a concise system for solo wargaming – it’s written in a rather meandering conversational style, which is very charming, but also a bit frustrating if you’re wanting to use it as a resource. Also some of the ideas are a bit tricky to apply nowadays – who has loads of matchboxes kicking around for instance!

But I would heartily recommend reading it – and it’s fairly cheaply available.

Donald Featherstone’s Battle Notes for Wargamers Solo Wargaming Editiondonald-featherstone-battle-notes-for-wargamers-solo-wargaming-edition

Another one from the Don – I’ve not read this one – it’s only available in Paperback and I have only just come across it – it’s been reissued by John Curry as well – so perhaps there will be a kindle version at some point as well? From what I can tell it provides 15 historical battle scenarios of actual battles, together with notes on how to play solo. That sounds like a great resource to me.

Has anyone else read it?

The Solo Wargaming Guide by William SylvesterSolo-Wargaming-Guide-william-sylvester.

This is a more modern book – I think by an American author. From what I have read it seems to be a good resource of different solo methods:

Features methodologies for campaigns (mobilization, weather, logistics, morale, alliances, revolts, sieges, and mutinies), sea campaigns, integrating fantasy, tactical actions (terrain, weather, commander’s competency, concealment, ambushes, and minefields), and air warfare.

It’s in Paperback only though and I haven’t got it – again it would be great to see something as an eBook. I simply don’t have the space to collect loads of printed books!

The Partizan Press Guide to Solo Wargaming by Stuart AsquithThe-Partizan-Press-Guide-to-Solo-Wargaming-by-Stuart-Asquith

Previously published as the Military Modelling Guide to Solo Wargaming, this has been taken on by Partizan. Unfortunately, this is also only available as a printed book, but again it does look really useful. I have read on various forums that it is a useful resource. Certainly one for my wish-list!

Well I hope that was useful to somebody. If you know of any other books, or have comments about these, please add in the comments section below.

 

How to Paint Shields for Wargames Miniatures – a great tip

I have recently been painting some freehand designs on miniatures. This post isn’t about how to paint designs like those, but how to make a fairly standard design look more realistic. I have an Orc archer with a simple quartered design on shield, but I was concerned that it looked a bit flat – it’s quite hard to add highlights to a flat image – well for me anyway!

So I did a bit of Googling and found this great tutorial on how to add realism to shields on  the Pinman Miniature Painter blog. The idea is that you can add marks where the shield has suffered damage from people hitting it with swords. It’s quite a simple technique but really adds to the look of it I think.

Here’s what I managed to do as a first attempt on my Orc archer.

Orc Archer with damaged shield

It’s pretty simple to do – you add some brown and off-white lines, but looks quite good I think! For how to do it see Pinman’s tutorial!

Solo Wargaming: Battle Report Hundred Years War using Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules

This is a battle report of a small Hundred Years War skirmish I played with the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. I also tried out one of the simplest of solo wargaming techniques to add a bit of AI to the game.

Solo Wargaming method: Random Deployment

In Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming book he recommends a number of different techniques to create a more interesting challenge for the solo wargaming. I’m going to call this a solo wargaming AI method as shorthand in this and other articles (until I come up with something better!)

One of the simplest methods he recommends is to randomise deployment of each force. You roll a d6 for each unit and that determines where they deploy. The battlefield is split into 5 sections:

  1. Right flank
  2. Right Centre
  3. Centre
  4. Left Centre
  5. Left Flank

Each has a number (1-5). If you roll a 6 then that unit is in reserve. The theory with this method is that a lot of the tactics employed by an army will be determined by it’s deployment. For instance if a lot of units are on a flank or flanks then an envelopment will be a good strategy.

I tried this out with the game I played – and will describe how that worked below.

Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games for Historical Medieval games

I used the fan made Age of Trebuchet rules supplement to enable me to play an historical game using the Middle Earth SBG rules. I know the rules well and I think they are great for skirmish level games – nice and simple but with a lot of tactical decisions to make. I found the Age of Trebuchet supplement easy to use and it gave some flavour of a medieval battle.

Battle Report: Hundred Years War skirmish

I didn’t give the game any historical or fictional background. The forces were roughly equal, but I didn’t work out points. The aim was to use the figures I had available. So from the pictures you may notice that many of them are Wars of the Roses or Feudal era – I wasn’t so worried about that. And as it was a quick game to test out some rules and a solo wargame AI method I wasn’t too fussed about terrain – a simple green baize cloth, some trees, bushes and paper buildings sufficed. You will also notice that this is an oval kitchen table – 5 foot by 3 – but some of the flanks are minimal, but it works for a skirmish level game at 28mm.

Forces:

English

  • Sir Gilbert – hero on foot
  • 8 men-at-arms
  • 8 longbowmen
  • 4 billmen

French

  • Sir Guillaume – hero on horse
  • 3 mounted men-at-arms
  • 4 foot men-at-arms
  • 10 crossbowmen
  • 7 heavy infantry – mixed weapons

Deployment – how did the method work?

Random deployment worked out in an interesting and lopsided way in this skirmish game – there were only 4 units on one side and 3 on the other. The English men-at-arms deployed as a reserve and the other two units were widely spaced as you can see below.

In contrast the French deployed mostly on one flank – with the crossbows in the middle. As hoped this lead to influencing the subsequent strategy quite a bit. Without this random deployment I would have probably deployed most of the forces in the centre and the flanks might well have been ignored.

The French started off by sending their men-at-arms around the flank to see off the longbowmen. There was an exchange of fire – with one longbowman dying. The small unit of English billmen started their march towards the hamlet. The French infantry marched behind the crossbows towards the small wood behind the hamlet.

The French men-at-arms started getting closer to the longbows – who used their half move each turn to retreat and then fire. They only got one of the French cavalry though. The English men-at-arms could now enter the battle as there had been an exchange of fire.

Here you can see the English moving through the hamlet.

Moments before contact. The French men-at-arms are about to charge the longbows. The French infantry are on the other side of the wood from the English.

Sir Gilbert and his men-at-arms decide that the protection of the bushes and hedges might be a good idea when faced with sustained crossbow fire and the French knights!

After a couple of rounds of combat the longbows were seen off by the French knights. Sir Gilbert and some of his men went to attack the French foot men-at-arms and the others went to support the billmen who had engaged the French infantry in the woods. The loss of most of the longbows and some of the billmen meant that the English were now broken (needing to make courage tests as over half had died). Unfortunately Sir Gilbert and many of his men decided to flee the field, leaving only four brave men of St George left to face the massed French. At this point I decided the battle was over! Here’s the ending positions – even the crossbows decided to up sticks and move to get a better position to fire from.

Conclusion

I thought that the Middle Earth rules worked well for a medieval skirmish game – probably with some more miniatures on the field it could have been a better game perhaps. I also felt that I had let down the longbowmen by leaving them exposed to the French knights – they should have found the cover of the hedges next to the hamlet.

Random deployment worked well as a simple method of creating solo wargame AI – I would definitely use it again. It would be interesting to use it for a game with more units.

I will try to look at a different solo wargame AI methods next time!

Solo Wargames: A Guide

There is no better time to think about how to play solo wargames. Unfortunately due to the Covid 19 crisis many people who used to meet up to game – whether RPGs, boardgames or wargames – can no longer do so. There’s a few different alternatives, such as playing computer/console games instead, or trying out various online solutions – for instance Tabletop Simulator, Roll20, Zoom etc. But just because those options are there doesn’t make them easy to use or a replacement for getting a physical game out. In particular tabletop wargaming with miniatures is much harder to do remotely.

So I expect a lot of wargamers are instead having a think about how to play solo. I actually do this anyway, as under normal circumstances I only venture out to a wargames club once a month anyway. I really enjoy playing solo. It’s a great way to try out new rules for instance, but is also great if you want to run your own scenarios and campaigns without constraint from the whims and desires of others. Solo wargaming is ideally suited to creating your own imaginations and narrative games. So far that’s not something I have done a lot of, but I think now would be a great place to start. I am hoping to post some ideas and experiences here on a regular basis – partly battle reports of trying out different rules, but also some tips and advice on how to run a solo game. For instance how do you make things “fair” – and is that important at all or not.

Some subjects to cover will be:

  • Different “rules” for solo
  • Reviews of books/articles on solo wargaming
  • Games designed for solo play
  • Benefits of solo wargaming
  • Battle reports of solo wargames
  • How to stay motivated (avoiding distractions!)
  • And plenty more …

I usually play one solo game a week – usually early Sunday morning on the dining room table before it is in use by the family. Last Sunday I played Rangers of Shadow Deep for the first time and had a lot of fun with it. Once I have played it a bit more I will post an article about it. This weekend I would like to try a Medieval skirmish using the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. There are some fan versions available that convert it for use for Medieval games, so I am going to try those out. Hopefully I will post some pictures and a battle report here next week.

English Civil War and Thirty Years War in 6mm Project – Prologue

A Bit of History

In the late 80s, as a teenager, I was heavily into Warhammer but also started reading Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames and decided it might be cool to play some historical wargames. I settled on the idea of 6mm as being a cheap way to build a big enough army to play with. I collected some WW2 tanks and infantry – which I did finish painting and played a few games with using the old Firefly rules. But I also bought quite a few Heroics & Ros ECW and Irregular Miniatures TYW figures as well. I started painting and basing these, but never really finished enough to have a proper game. At the time the only ruleset I had was the WRG Renaissance one, which required casualty removal of single figures. Needless to way working out a way of doing that with 6mm drove me to distraction and I never really carried it through.

Now thirty years later, I’m back into Wargames again, and looking again at all those historical figures I had. I kept hold of the 6mm stuff and realised that with new rulesets the problem of casualty removal was no longer going to be there. Also a lot of rules nowadays seem a lot less complicated than the old WRG ones. Perhaps I could try this again – refight Naseby (which I did a school project), other ECW battles and the Thirty Years War?!

So I’m back at the start of the process now, thinking about how this project is going to pan out. I thought it would be cool to have a kind of project diary on this blog. I’ll be covering some areas thematically about what I have decided to do, such as which figures I’m going to use (there are some gaps to fill in my old collection), rules, basing, battles to play etc. I’d also like to play a campaign as well.

Or, and did I say, this is intended to be a solo wargames project – I have friends into gaming, but more on the Age of Sigmar and RPG end, so this is my own obsession for the most part!

What I will Cover in the Project

These are the areas that I intend to write about first just to get me up and running again gaming in this area. I think it’s likely I will blog on the following (in no particular order):

  • Basing
  • Figures
  • Rules
  • Armies
  • Scenery
  • First battles to play