I’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 …
I took the decision last week to get Alt Hist back on the road. I paused publication back in 2017 because it was just stopping me doing anything else.
Alt Hist is a short story magazine I set-up to publish historical fiction, historical fantasy and alternate history fiction. I really enjoyed publishing it and had the pleasure of putting out some great stories over the 10 issues of its initial life.
But at the time I found that I just didn’t have the time to focus on my own writing. Reading and making decisions on submissions took a lot of time, as did actually editing the stories for publication, I ended up doing little else in my spare time!
Now however, I have had another think. I am pretty sure I can be more efficient about the submission process and also editing.
So if you’re interested in historical fiction and alternate history I encourage you to take a look!
I’m a big fan of WFRP, but not sure yet if I will dip my toe into the world of Age of Sigmar roleplaying with Soulbound. I enjoy the Age of Sigmar miniatures game and the figures are great, but I’m not sure if I can get into the lore and setting as much as with the Old World of WFRP. However, Cubicle 7 have just put out a free adventure. So I may well take a read of that and then decide!
Download Crash and Burn for free from their webstore here or from DrivethruRPG here.
Following the cataclysmic events of the Necroquake, the newly reclaimed city of Brightspear is in desperate need of supplies and support. A huge Kharadron fleet has been assembled to bring provisions, would-be settlers, and enterprising merchants to the new city. Joining the expedition are a group of unlikely heroes — Soulbound, mortal beings chosen by the gods to defend the Mortal Realms. But even they may be no match for the trials that are to come…
Crash and Burn is an exciting introductory adventure that takes a party of Soulbound on an arduous journey across Aqshy — the Realm of Fire. The party set out from the bustling metropolis of Hammerhal Aqsha as part of a massive fleet of Kharadron airships tasked with delivering vital supplies to the newly reclaimed city of Brightspear. But the forces of Chaos will not let them pass so easily, and the party will have to contend with Tzeentchian horrors and other vile creatures if they hope to reach Brightspear alive.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
My new short story Mars Incorporated is out now and will be free on Amazon until Saturday!!
Mars Incorporated by Mark Lord
Earth’s colonization of the red planet, Mars, was supposed to be the crowning glory of human civilization. Instead the small colony on Mars is in trouble. After the death of one of the colonists CJ Douglas, hero of the Moon and founder of Lunar Alpha Base is sent to investigate.
Mars incorporated is a 4,000-word science fiction short story.
In the fourth volume of Stonehearted, For a Heart Made of Stone, the action shifts to the chateau of Saint-Pol. The Count of Saint-Pol is one of the villains of the story and is holding a tournament, which provides the backdrop for the action.
When I looked into Saint-Pol, I found that it was difficult to get much detail about the castle (it’s now just a ruin) but eventually I came across some good websites that gave me enough to form an impression of the place – and gave me some ideas that contributed to the narrative.
An article on the Flags of the World website about Saint-Pol is perhaps the best historical description of the town and castle. If you read you will see that the castle is divided into an old and new castle – and its the old castle bailey that I use in For a Heart Made of Stone to locate the tournament put on by the Count. The new castle is the location for much of the action. In particular the Wiki Pas-de-Calais site describes the layout in detail (in French – but you can translate using Google!). In particular notice the large round tower used as dungeons – they play a prominent part in the book! Below you can see a great plan of the castle and also an artist’s impression of the new castle. Only a few ruins remain now.
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:
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.
Sir Gilbert – hero on foot
Sir Guillaume – hero on horse
3 mounted men-at-arms
4 foot men-at-arms
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.
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!