The Crossover: Editor of Tabletop Gaming Magazine writes the Last Word in Miniature Wargames Magazine

06 September 2022
Chris offers his thoughts on the journey back to wargaming

“ I used to play Warhammer, but…” is how nearly everyone explains their entry into the hobby to me, whether it’s an interview with a board game or RPG designer for Tabletop Gaming magazine, a friend, or simply someone who has got wind of what I do for a living at the pub. That entry usually starts with a goblin, or a tyranid.

As a kid I would very inexpertly make Space Marines with my grandfather (who probably accepted this was as close as we’d get to doing Airfix models together), paint them badly – or not at all – then set up a battle with a friend and then, probably, not play it properly. Or not at all. Thinking about Warhammer 40,000, and reading the fiction around it through the various rulebooks and codices, was almost more fun than making, painting and playing the game. The Third Edition book was filled to the gills with little snatches of lore, stories, and hints at the wider machinations of the Imperium. This core rulebook was written from the point of view of the Imperium itself, which obviously allows for a lot of dark humour and bathos amongst the buzzing of chainswords. I enjoyed the odd, and sometimes unloved, Mordheim, for a while too. But that all eventually faded away.

I love war-based board games, wareuros (war-eurogames) are some of my favourites. For example, Rurik: Dawn of Kiev offers action programming and area control in the wars of the 10th century Kevian-Rus; Undaunted gives us deckbuilding-and-dice in what is nearly a token game; and 300: Earth & Water is a card driven cube-shuffler about that war. They’re great, but it certainly triggered something in me looking for something purer: I just needed the excuse.

And that excuse stems from my love of roleplaying games, in particular the death metal OSR game MÖRK BORG. While I’ve yet to play the game with miniatures, the community around the game churns out a massive number of modules, hacks and add-ons. It feels a little bit like what I imagine getting a first edition of Dungeons & Dragons and the organic community that sprung from that.

From this roleplaying game has sprung a wargame, Forbidden Psalm, which contains many of the mechanics of the roleplaying game, but simplified down even further to focus on hitting stuff. Most importantly, the rise of solo wargaming as something the hobby is focusing on (in the sense that it’s become more accessible and better produced) means every scenario offers co-op and solitaire play. This, and the potential enticement of games like The Silver Bayonet, drove me toward finally gathering together what I considered to be my all-purpose-fantasy-warband.

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And it’s been great. I’ve painted all of the 15mm (isn’t it exceedingly cheap?) metal models (let’s skip the glue) to an entirely acceptable amateur standard, and now can whip through an evening of solo wargaming with whatever rules I find online or even on these pages. The return to this part of the hobby is one that is mostly about dismissing the fog of war: tabletop wargaming is still seen as the more complex and more serious end of gaming by the masses who have entered the hobby, not through Terminators on a space hulk, but through asking if you’ve got wood for sheep in Catan. But the truth is... it’s not: it can be as dumb as you need it to be to have fun.

Which is to say that I’ve enjoyed the obviousness of miniature wargaming and I now feel that direct connection it has to roleplaying games. The clarity of choices comes through the measuring and actions you take – your range is your range... maybe the terrain has got in the way of your archer’s shot, or you’ve got to take the long way round to engage in combat. It feels like an almost abstract puzzle on this level. The questions of whether it’s best to charge in, or try and flank creates a lot of fun moments. As does getting things wrong, or indeed, letting the dice do their jobs. This is the second part is the injection of chaos that I associate mostly with roleplaying games. The way a monster AI can surprise you, or simply amusingly bad rolls can leave you scrambling for a new plan.

I no longer see wargaming as a separate part of the hobby, and instead have merged what was already a blurrily designated line between the board and a battlefield. My only fear at this point is that I keep checking out different kinds of armies and scales to play at. I guess that’s how it gets you… 


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One Day, One Whole Army... 

A feature from Miniature Wargames Magazine, entitled How to Paint an Entire Army in a Single Day

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