Sunday, 12 June 2011

Those who can, do. Those who can't, blog about it.

I used to love pushing little toy soldiers around a table. Not just as a kid, though I was a precocious little brat with Charles Grant's "Battle! Practical Wargaming" on near permanent loan from the library. I was the club president of a major wargames society with over a hundred members. I was an active member of the Two Hour Wargames and G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. online communities, publishing material for both.

But a lot of things happened all around the same time. I moved to a one bedroom flat with absolutely no room for a wargames table (or much in the way of figure & terrain storage). I got a new job, which cut into my free time a lot more than the previous one. I had big changes in my social life, which had the same effect. Most significantly, I had a run of bad experiences of "gamesmanship" from other players, sulking when they were losing, becoming aggressive or argumentative, which came to a head one day when a very good friend completely lost it over a stupid little Redcoats vs Werewolves game of Savage Worlds Showdown, and I had to walk away. From that day on I swore never to play a wargame with an opponent again, even a "friendly" game. But somehow the switch to solo gaming didn't quite happen and the little lead men were put away never to see the light of day again. Until now.

While I'm still in the same crappy one-bedroom flat, with no room for a proper wargames table, I do have an unfeasibly large coffee table. Combined with a number of excellent rules designed to cater to games in a small play area, like the Song Of Blade And Heroes series of games, or the latest from 2-Hour Wargames, and with a bit of a renaissance in 15mm miniatures, I decided in January to restart the hobby. Dr V's Christmas present to himself was a $100 order to Rebel Miniatures. Progress on the endeavour has been painfully slow, so I've decided to start this blog to help document the process.

Over the years I've played many different periods and scales. I tend to shy away from the glossy "product" games, from companies like GW or Mongoose. I like games where I can use the figures I want, in the setting I want. I got into the hobby inspired by the old-school wargamers... Donald Featherstone, Charles Grant, Tony Bath to name but three. While I won't be fielding 60-man battalions in the Grand Manner, I'd like to think I'm carrying on their tradition of being a wargamer as an independant enthusiast, rather than the modern standard of the wargamer as a consumer (as typified by the GW hobby).

Here are the scales and periods I'm expecting to be engaged in.

  • 1:2400 and 1:3000 Ironclad & Pre-Dreadnought Naval
  • 6mm Modern
  • 15mm Colonial and VSF
  • 15mm Modern
  • 15mm Sci-Fi
  • 20mm Roadwar
  • 28mm 16-17th Century (Elizabethans and Reivers)
  • 28mm Victoriana & Western
  • 25-28mm Near Future & Sci-Fi

These cluster into three main areas/periods of interest, with one outlier.

The modern gaming (6mm and 15mm) is going to be centred around not one but three modern day "Imagi-Nations" which will make up the "Axis of Naughtiness" which gives this blog its name. Why three? Well I want to play a range of terrains and operational types, from urban law enforcement to counter-insurgency to armoured warfare. So I've created a Caribbean island nation, an "AK-47 Republic" style African nation and a middle east theater which blurs Iraq and Afghanistan with other potential Arabic hotspots. More on them in a later post. 15mm will handle small-scale skirmishing or police/civilian clashes, 6mm will be for larger scale operations.

The nineteenth century stuff is similarly spread across three theatres of operation. For 15mm colonial gaming I'll be resurrecting my old Olistan fictional narrative campaign, which was heavily inspired by Major General Tremorden Rederrings battles in Ouargistan. Despite being another Imagi-Nation, Olistan was a strictly historical if slightly mashed up setting, with no Victorian Science Fiction elements. The VSF battles I used to fight were all against the backdrop of an Invasion of England in 188x. In this setting, an unholy alliance between Russia and Germany had launched a two-pronged attack on Great Britain. In this setting pretty much anything goes.. steam walkers, tanks, dirigibles and aeronefs, and I can play different scales of game in 15mm and 28mm. Finally I have a whole slew of 28mm cowboys, plus a large number of townsfolk who serve double duty in both the Old West and the Old Kent Road. With a few of Eric Hotz's Whitewash City buildings made up, I have the makings of a fine western gunfight.

Finally I have the Sci-Fi end of things... 15mm Laserburn was my very first wargame and figure collection, and I've been building up the collection in dribs and drabs over the years. While I've got more than enough of them, and of the 6mm Sci-Fi figs, to put on a sizeable game, for now these are going on the back-burner. What I do want to do is sort out my 25mm + 28mm sci-fi, post apocalyptic and "street violence" figures and get them onto broadly compatible bases (with hidden shims for the 25s) and maybe even give them an outing to the local wargames club, hopefully to drum up some interest in Two Hour Wargames and reconnect with the local wargaming scene. Larger figures make for a more engaging spectacle, as does the 20mm roadwar genre, using Hot Wheels sized die-cast cars. I'd like to revamp my old Road Rage V8 rules, or maybe give one of the other published auto-combat games a try.

The odd-man out in the figure collection is the 28mm 16th-17th century. In the early noughties I traced my ancestry to the borders between Scotland and England, where people known as Border Reivers used to raid both countries with equal abandon. I then started running a roleplaying campaign set around the ascension of King James I to the English throne, during which I planned to have the players involved in the pacification of the borders. I bought a ton of 28mm swashbucklers, Reivers and Sea-Dogs from various manufacturers, but sadly the campaign fizzled before many of them saw much use. I'd love to get some of that minor lead mountain painted up and in use at some point, possibly against the backdrop of another Imagi-Nation.

So my mission statement is as follows

  1. No New Scales or Periods. Get something going with what I've already got
  2. Make a push to paint some of the mountain of unpainted miniatures I have stashed away.
  3. Try to buy as little new stuff as possible. Only buy new figures to fill in necessary gaps (e.g. I have no 28mm Victoriana cavalry, and in the intervening years have somehow lost 80% of my 15mm British Lancers, which will need to be replaced).
  4. Aim to have enough figures and scenery ready by the beginning of August so I can have a significant wargame on my birthday (maybe even with other players)
  5. Aim to have even more stuff ready for an even more significant solo-game on 11-11-11, which is being dubbed by many as International Solitaire Gaming Day.
I'm going to focus initially on the 15mm modern collection and the urban unrest on the not-so-idyllic island nation of Paradiso, the first point of the Axis of Naughtiness. More on that later.


  1. Your three-prong plan seems very good -- I'll be quite interested to see how it unfolds. Good luck!

  2. Thanks Bard. As you'll see from later posts, the original plan has already suffered a slight.. rearrangement, with the focus shifting to the 19th Century stuff for now.