Miniature Wargaming Free Demo Day

I finally got around to organizing and running a free demo game day to showcase a variety of miniature games with some of my gaming friends at my friendly local gaming store.  I’ve participated in several of these sort of events, organized by Shades in the greater D.C. area at different stores  ( http://minimayhem-theblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Demo%20Day ), but this is the first time I took on the mantle of leadership and rallied the troops, so to speak, to show off some games in my home town.

FreeI started with a mission statement:  my goal was to create an event open to the public and invite anyone to step up and try a game.  Then I presented the store owners with a proposal, which was accepted, arranged for a date, and recruited some gamers to present their favorite games.  Finally, with several players agreeing to bring in their own painted miniatures and allow members of the public to handle those figures and ask questions about the respective games, I created a poster and started promotion.

astoreWe had game masters to set up and run demo games for 6 different miniature games including Dystopian Wars, Warhammer 40K, Hell Dorado, X-Wing, Flames of War, and Relic Knights.

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Setting up a table near the front of the store with a variety of examples of miniature wargaming, I included a basic setup for a game of BattleLore which served as a good introductory game to introduce basic concepts of wargaming to interested but inexperienced gamers.

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One of the veteran gamers in my local wargaming community brought in his scratchbuilt table to demonstrate a game of Hell Dorado with 2 sets of beautiful miniatures he has painted over the course of the past year.

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I had time to run a basic naval game of Dystopian Wars using 2 painted fleets of ship models.

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As expected, X-Wing was the most popular game, and we set it up in the back corner so players would pass the other games on display.  Some of the local Flames of War players brought in their tank models to show off.

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We had plenty of walk-in costumers coming in to pick up comic books I invited to try a game, but most passed on the opportunity.  All the same, having the games set up in the store at least triggered some interest and prompted some costumers to at least check out some of the painted miniatures.

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Special thanks to our volunteers–we couldn’t have run so many different miniature games without our experienced game masters.

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Gaming, what’s it good for anyway?

Back in November a new game store opened in town. For years now, almost since my wife and I moved to this small, mostly rural county in central Virginia, I’ve joked about a gaming store opening up down the street from where we lived. The town had a bookstore when we first moved here, but then it closed. We have the usual assortment of retail stores, but nothing like a B&N and certainly nothing like a FLGS.

Until November. Since the store opened I have spent almost as much time there as I spend at work. I’ve started two regular weekly RPG campaigns, play X-Wing once a week, other miniature games when I can find a willing opponent, a card game my wife enjoys, and a variety of board games in between. Up until November I spent most of my hobby time thinking about gaming, writing and reading about games, maybe even painting some miniatures, but I rarely actually played a game more than once a month, and I was lucky if I managed to play a miniatures wargame even that often, mostly because the closest FLGS was almost an hour away, and making that sort of trip on a weekday after work just wasn’t practical. Fortunately, this new place in town is so close that my engine isn’t even warmed to operating temperature by the time I drive down there, and looking at a map of the town I realize that if I cut across the high school sports field and hopped a creek I could walk to the store in under ten minutes.

So, all this means my gaming tempo has increased exponentially. Instead of posting blog reports or pictures, I’ve just been simply playing one game after another, taking regular breaks to do mundane things like got to work and get a bit of sleep. Part of the reason I’ve spent so much time at the store in the past two months has been to run demo games and draw new players into the space, getting others excited about playing some awesome games. In a phrase, I have been trying to help build a gaming community. And it’s starting to pay off in real terms.

In the second part of this post I’ll go into more detail about what has been happening in my FLGS and why I think gaming has been good for something in my life and community.

To be continued….

Sunday Game of Hell Dorado

Met my Usual Opponent for a game of Hell Dorado on Sunday, my Immortals versus his Saracens:  230 points each.

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The book holding my unit stat cards was created by my Usual Opponent and fits the Asian theme of my preferred wargaming factions. The green dice track the number of current Command Points, and the yellow dice are all I need for the game. The Sphinx is just an extra piece of terrain we didn’t use.

We rolled up a CONQUEST scenario and TERRAFORMED the table; my Usual Opponent seized Dominance with his larger force, and I was forced to deploy first.  Of course, my fast melee independents moved quickly across the table and took out his musketeers before they could do any damage with their jezails.  But his scimitar-weilding warriors charged into my unit of poorly armed peasants on my left flank, and by the end of the 3rd turn I no longer had a left flank….

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Immortals on the left, Saracens on the right, clashing around the giant skull in the center of an ancient battlefield. The table is divided into 9 different section, each section with special properties which affect the movement and tactical options of the pieces in the section. My figures have yellow circles around their bases while my Opponent’s figures have black circles.

In the end, after 4 turns, my opponent clearly controlled more of the battlefield than my Immortals, although we were not so mismatched in casualties and figures remaining on the table.

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A key point in the first turn when the war panther ran up to engage my contingent of peasants, and then the Saracen alchemist threw a fire grenade which weakened the remaining peasants enough that they couldn’t put up a fight against the scimitar-wielding warriors during the 2nd turn.

So, after 4 turns, and a break to unlock a family member’s vehicle with keys locked inside, I conceded victory to my Usual Opponent.

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My final dice roll, and I still have 2 figures on the table, but I’ve clearly lost control of the battlefield with Saracens in my starting deployment zone.

Williamsburg Muster

I reserved a hotel room for Friday night and spent a good deal of time the first weekend of February at the Williamsburg Muster gaming convention.  This was my second gaming convention; I had a great time at my first ever experience at Historicon 2012, and although this wasn’t so big, I enjoyed playing some new (to me) games, meeting some gamers, and taking lots of pictures of some great tabletops.

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Choosing a Scale

I have a new set of historical wargaming rules, enthusiasm for the period–paints and brushes stand at the ready on my desk.  Now I need some figures!  My local games store carries a variety of board games and miniatures for roleplaying, fantasy and science-fiction games.  The closest figure I could find to 18th century French & Indian War is a Reaper miniature in fringed leather jacket and coonskin cap with a long rifle cradled in his elbow.

I remembered seeing some plastic figure packs at a local hobby store, and I went to buy several packs of Indians and Revolutionary War figures in plastic 1/72 scale produced by IMEX (and I bought several packs of wire pine trees on severe discount from the previous Christmas season).  The plastic figures are single pieces, easy to paint, and mounted on pennies (thanks to the federal government for subsidizing my hobby–there is no way I could purchase metal bases at a single cent per base, not even with cheap metal washers); they look good and stand ready to serve on the tabletop, and I’ve played several games with them already.

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Wargaming Podcasts

I’ve been listening to The D6 Generation gaming podcast for a few years now, basically since I started tabletop wargaming, and then I started listening to Meeples & Miniatures.  I’ve listened to some other podcasts along the way, but those two are the ones I make a habit of downloading and listening to new episodes when they are released.  Now I have another show to add to my “must listen” list.

Wargaming Recon is a show which has been around for several years, but I just discovered it while making a purchase of some paper terrain PDF items on Wargame Vault; it was one of those items mentioned at one side–“you may like this”–and it was free, so I added it to my purchases.  Turned out, it was episode 84, “Wargaming on the Cheap” and host Jonathan J. Reinhart provided a good introduction to getting into wargaming without spending a lot of cash.  Since then, I’ve gone back and listened to some past episodes, and a conversation with Henry Hyde got me finally interested to take a look at Battlegames magazine of which I’ve started buying PDF copies of the issues starting with the first.  So far I like what I’ve seen, but why shouldn’t I?  I’ve enjoyed listening to Henry in conversation with Neil on the View From the Veranda podcast (I consider it related to Meeples & Miniatures, especially since it doesn’t come out as frequently), and I like the conversational tone with an emphasis on fun and good gamesmanship when it comes to historical tabletop wargaming.

Introduction

I have been gaming for most of my conscious life, mostly board games, roleplaying games, and, more recently, I have taken up the peculiar hobby of collecting and painting toy soldiers.  I started three years ago by borrowing acrylic paints from my wife’s craft materials to provide a bit of color to the little plastic figures and tokens in my boxed set of BattleLore.  Then I bought into a new game called Arcane Legions which bridged a gap between a board game like those in the Commands & Colors series and collectible miniature tabletop games like Warhammer.  I began to lurk about online forums and pick up painting techniques, and soon enough I began buying my own figures to paint, starting with a range of fantasy ships in a line called The Uncharted Seas from Spartan Games; these model ships were relatively inexpensive and fun to paint, compared to the more distinquished historical model ships, and the tabletop game was fun to play.  I soon had a Usual Opponent, and we enjoyed many late night games on a piece of fiber board I had spray painted blue and kept stored behind a bedroom door when not propped on the living room table for nautical adventures.  I started a blog to post pictures taken from those games along with written battle reports.  I began planning and running regular tournament events, first for The Uncharted Seas and then for a newer version by the same company called Dystopian Wars.

In the summer of 2012 I attended my first wargaming convention, the prestigious Historicon which, for the first time, was located only 35 miles from where I now live in Virginia (with my wife and two cats).  Boyhood fantasies were realized during that single day I attended the convention.  I remember how I had attempted to paint plastic green army men to look more like soldiers from the Civil War, painting gray or blue uniforms with a cheap set of watercolor paints, and I even tried to model a bit by flattening the helmets with a craft knife to resemble kepis.  I became enamored of my limited notions of the French & Indian War, setting up battles in the woods behind the house where I lived, using my collection of plastic Indians, some plastic cowboys, and green plastic army men modified to look like musket-armed soldiers.  Now, more than two decades later, I witnessed an assortment of old and middle-aged men, leavened with some younger adults and even children, moving beautifully painted toy soldiers about on tables which were covered with fake trees and little buildings similar to what I had only thought in terms of model railroads before.  With some dice and rules, I saw historical battles brought to a certain vivid presentation beyond textual descriptions and some black & white illustrations.  This was something which brought together my boyhood fantasies and my more adult interest in military history.

After Historicon I bought a copy of Muskets & Tomahawks, my first proper ruleset of historical gaming.  I had played conflict simulations in my young adult years, starting with the classic Axis & Allies and moving onto some games from Avalon Hill and then GMT.  But this was my first endeavor to play some actual historical wargames on the tabletop with painted miniatures.  A visit to a local hobby shop provided a resource for a collection of 1/72 scale figures, each man standing a mere 1-inch tall, of Indians, Revolutionary soldiers, and British Redcoats, all in molded plastic and quite inexpensive.

The more I painted figures the more I investigated the history and uniforms of the 18th century, all while listening to wargaming podcasts, and I came across a show titled Meeples & Miniatures in particular, and some lively conversations with Henry Hyde and his descriptions of Imagi-Nations which are basically alternative historical settings for wargaming–the best part about this concept is I could paint my figures any way I like without regard to historical accuracy, and I began inventing my own little version of the French & Indian War within which I intended to set up and play my own campaign using the M&T rules and my expanding collection of toy soldiers, buildings, trees and terrain all in 1/72 scale.

A company of colonial militia defend a homestead in the Iohi River Valley from a Lintyan raiding party; unfortunately, most of the arrows fired from the nearby tree line find their marks and the militia soon break and run in my first game of M&T.

Like so many moments of sudden invention, I realized the name of my alternative setting to the FIW while in the shower, shampooing my hair.  Rather than “French” I would call my respective faction “FANCY” and it was only a matter of playing little games with nomenclature to invent the rest, a little world of wooden forts in the forest, soldiers with muskets and natives with tomahawks, village raids and wilderness excusions, all under the heading of the Fancy & Lintyan Wars.