The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
Snorri is unhappy about your bar tab - VERY unhappy...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Basing - Results of Evaluation, preparation, etc

Ah yes, "the eternal question of BASING" one's figures...

Been working with the "One-Hour Wargames" rules for a couple years now, including the positive effects those rules have on basing. My exploration of this popular topic began in OCT 2015. If you'd like to review those four posts, and see the pics and diagrams, they are HERE.

Now, after extensive thought, planning, and actual playing and experimenting, I've some definite thoughts on Basing:

  1. Basing and Rules must be directly related, and to the physicality of playing the rules.
  2. Basing in larger groups looks great!
  3. Basing in large groups is more practical - better for durability, handling, safety, everything.
  4. The only thing one loses is the ability to "change formation" shape with the bases.

Point 1: Rules and Basing. 
  1. The base itself should make game play easier, not harder. Mine have a 2-1 ratio Front to Side, and that Base Width v. Base Depth ratio is used for my rules, for all measurements. 
  2. This has the pleasant side effect of making the rules more universal - regardless of the scale or present basing of someone's collection, they can use my RAW as long as they have a sabot to put their little bases on.
  3. The Purpose of the Rules can be better served. If you want a faster playing set of rules, then fewer bases is definitely the way to go. It gives players a lot less fiddling time and keeps things moving, something more and more important in younger people - they like a quicker pace of entertainment!

Point 2: Large-Group Basing looks great! 
With a larger base you can create little dioramas on every base, or on certain special bases [perhaps with commanders, etc]. With a little thought, the larger grouping of the army's bases can have a net large-diorama effect, also. This increases the "gee-whiz" factor of the army, an important part of miniatures gaming, anyway. If you aren't into this, why not just use a boardgame or big counters with nice graphics??

Point 3: Group Basing is more practical.
  1. Small bases result in figs banging into each other, with spears, horse tails, etc, getting damaged especially with metal figs. Single-rank 25mm figs on WRG / DBx size bases fall over especially when interacting with terrain pieces like Hills.
  2. A single larger base has the same appearance but all figs are completely within the base edges, protecting the figs. 
  3. If the base is 3-5mm / 1/4" high or so, people can just handle the base itself. With most plastic figs, and with the softer metal figs, this is important for durability! I will say that many of the expensive pewter-mix "white metal" figs are much stronger than the Old Glory type figs.
  4. A big base is easy to pick up, and prevents big fat fingers from squashing your figs, or at least reduces handling.
  5. Reduced handling is also safer, depending on what you make spears out of and how pointy they are! You can put a flag on the base which increases depth perception ability of players, also, reducing chance of a stabbing incident.
Point 4: You only lose "formation changes"
  1. First of all, very few ancient armies used formations, anyway. Granted, these are some of the more popular ones [mostly b/c they are both better documented and b/c gamers usually are seeking an advantage over other players by using them - bleh!] but smart rule-writing can abstract these "formations" anyway.
  2. Also, during a battle, there would rarely be "formation changes" anyway. Heck, changing formation in the face of the enemy [what a game battle is, right??] wasn't popular in the Seven Year's War, so they sure as heck aren't doing it in ancient times!
  3. Rules that feature small-base movement have a strong tendency towards a-historical actions by players, and waste a lot of time as players try to fiddle about with their little bases. Sometimes, they even do that on purpose [avoid those players!] but many gamers are just overwhelmed by the fiddliness of the rules and the options available.
With all this in mind, I've been working on some re-basing:

First up, an experiment to figure out how vulnerable these bases are to wet - whether sitting in spilled beverage or as a result of rain / flooding damage in storage. Below, I soaked a trimmed piece of the basing material in water for a day:
Note some curvature and curling at the edges - not the end of the world, but still...
Another view, different lighting.
I'm hopeful that if allowed to thoroughly dry, these bases would be OK on their edges. However, I think it is best to seal the bases I've already made, and flip over the ones on which I'm working now.

Sprayed the bases on cardboard outside, put them in the furnace room [very warm and dry] overnight, then let sit in my cool office for another 24 hours before storing them away:
Note that I'm now flipping over the bases, so this spray-painted side is now the bottom.

Project overview: heavy scissors to cut the corrugated cardboard, cheap white glue / PVA, and Elmer's Wood Filler to shape the ground on which the figs will stand.

Flipped bases. The "Make it Suade!" spray paint will now be on the bottom, thoroughly protecting the base. The white floor covering will be covered in Wood Fill anyway, so it will also be sealed. You can see how the cardboard shapes the ground of the base, giving it more depth and realism.

Below, 3-step process [right to left]. Prepared Base, figs glued on with PVA glue, base sculpted with Wood Fill.

Below, the old WRG/DBx basing system. This is a Unit of Gothic archers in loose order [I actually used them for Terry Gore's "Medieval Warfare"]. They aren't bad - I tried to give them some dynamics, but it puts them near the base edges.
Next to left is the new base, then with some Foundry cross-bows on it, then sculpted with Elmer's Wood Fill at the left.

Below three pics show the greater depth on the big bases:

They're also a mm or so taller, easier to grab.

I hope this is useful in helping your thinking about basing your armies, whether you agree / use my suggestions or not!

More figs and basing will be posted soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Medieval Book Resources, Reviews, P.1

It's always great to get another look at a big picture, yet one that has a focus on warfare. It helps us to keep our games from being just "games" and bringing the mechanics, and scenarios into the larger context of history for a touch more realism. In a gaming genre that tends to be marked by sweeping generalizations, e.g. A Knight is a Knight is a Knight, articles that helps us discern what makes Italian warfare in the 1200s different from NW France and its war and battles is great stuff. So when we WANT to make those distinctions, we are able to do so. I think this is especially important in the area of scenario generation, and of course critical to historical campaigns.

So I was pleased to stumble across "Medieval Warfare: A History" ed. Maurice Keen,  in a bibliography elsewhere, and discover it in my local public library. 
Thought: DO use your public library to sample books before you spend $$ on them at Amazon - it never hurts to figure out if a book is genuinely worth having or not and the gaming budget can be saved or spent elsewhere!

This book is pretty recent, from 1999, and has a series of articles brought together by scholars across the field. I read through a couple of the articles that were in periods or on topics with which I'm familiar and have read other authors, and these seem like very reasonable overviews. In other words, the generalizations and conclusions seem to be well-informed, neither the work of a young author who is just trying to cause a stir, nor a jaded old geezer who is careless or dated in his scholarship.

The "phases" are more like "eras and areas" of medieval warfare. As both geography and culture impact warfare, I found it useful to have the book organized thus.

The "further reading" section is excellent - organized by topics such as naval warfare and military orders or by geographic areas. Worth take a pic of and keeping for future use! The Chronology also helps give a big picture and a grasp of sequential developments.

I hope you're able to find this, but if not it seems pretty available at Amazon for about $6 + $4 shipping, so $10. I think I can recommend it heartily for anyone interested in gaming this period, either a newbie or a veteran.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Contact? That's the question...

Yep, the Welsh Teulu's been contacted alright...
"Contact" feudal style...flank & rear on the Teulu, frontal on the Serjeants
from my Dark Ages blog, HERE

Interesting post query in the AMW yahoogroup: 
"How does one make contact in the NT rules - conform in full edge to edge contact, or stop at initial point of contact?"  NOTE: This would be a corner unless one started exactly parallel to the Charge Target Unit.

There are actually a number of interesting game design questions that orient around this issue.
1. What does melee represent in the game? in the earlier periods, it means actually getting up close and stabbing people - in the later periods, it means firing muskets up close and then charging a wavering opponent who promptly scampers off.
2. Do the mechanics have unintended consequences? as in does conforming result in a change of direction for a retreat from the melee, perhaps to the advantage of one side? Should they get this advantage?
3. How complex should this be to reflect reality as we understand it? as in do we need two pages of rules and 7 diagrams to explain it??
4. Can I explain this to a newbie / does it makes sense to a normal person?

It should be noted that none of NT's rules I have - and the only set I don't have is Napoleonic Wargaming - explain it or say anything besides "contact the enemy unit". It seems to me that it sometimes matters, and sometimes doesn’t, and the NT thing is probably to let players wing it! So what are some issues around it?
First, is the period Ancients through Pike and Shot where NT has melee being one of the primary means of resolving combat? Or is it a period where firepower is more dominant? In the former, I think one can make a good argument that it is more realistic looking to have them be in full contact, and that generally the attacker will conform to the defender as their object is to get fully into contact.
For the latter periods, “melee” is really more “getting threateningly close until the one side or the other blinks and scampers off”. In that case, I don’t conform them as I think they’re not really in physical hand-to-hand combat. However, if the defender was in a fixed position like a town or breastwork, then I’d conform them since I imagine the attacker having to get very very close to have any encroaching effect on the defender.
For One-Hour Wargames, the cavalry in Horse & Musket / Rifle and Saber charge and bounce if they fail to destroy their target. For that case, I think you can argue that the attacker can just choose as it’s up to the cavalry commander to decide to where he wants his squadron to rally back.  Also, it’s sorta realistic to give cavalry that extra movement and option to be very mobile. So there I’d let the player decide if he wanted to conform or not, and therefore set up a possible bounce to take him where he wants to go. It shouldn't get abused much as it's only 6" back, which is half shooting range, so using this as a move option for a unit that has a 12" move anyway doesn't seem tempting.
Presently, I’m playing a lot of the “Wargaming: An Introduction” ACW rules. There, I do NOT conform them as the detailed mechanics of charging just have it make a lot more sense to resolve the whole thing as more of a morale clash. Again, if they were attacking a fortification or breastworks, I’d probably force the attacker to conform.

My next venture will be Simplicity in Practice, his set of "generic" horse & musket rules, which I will most likely pursue as a “first corner or point of contact” and not conform them.