Hey everyone. You may have noticed a drop in the frequency of reviews and articles across the Let’s Talk About Wargames blog over the past few weeks, and I want to apologize for that. The past few weeks have been a bit of a mess with work and thesis writing taking up a lot more time than I had budgeted for.
Thankfully, the storm seems to have calmed somewhat and to prevent something like that happening again, LTAW’s blog posts will be coming at a fixed interval of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings (EST). We’ve got some great content planned including reviews of the latest from Slitherine/Matrix, a continuation of my personal attempt to review and decide whether or not to keep games in my board wargame collection, and some new pieces like unboxings, after action reports, and classic wargame analyses.
The strict schedule will help maintain some semblance of regularity in publications. Long time readers will remember some weeks with a new post a day, and others with only one or two. We’re hoping to make the blog a good spot for regular stops in one’s online weekly wargaming journey.
Come join us if you like!
Also want to take this time to again highlight the other things we do:
A little while ago my wife and I actually managed to get our new miniatures from MT Miniatures onto the tabletop for a little skirmish. We haven’t really had the time to do any proper research into any historical engagements during the Imjin War, so we stuck with the tried and true method of dividing our forces and going in for the kill.
At the Height of Battle is a relatively simple rule set covering naval actions in East Asian waters in the middle ages. The starter kit that we purchased (unboxing here, painting here) had ships for the Imjin War, Japan’s fateful attempt to invade China through the Korean Peninsula.
I love simple, easy to play rulesets. I find that I have more fun when I have to worry less about granular details, especially given how busy I am these days. So bear in mind that I have that bias going into the explanation.
At the beginning of each turn both players work out the command phase, which handles morale, sinking ships, and other housekeeping. Then its on to the activations. At the Height of Battle uses a set of three cards per side that act as an initiative deck.
When your side’s card is drawn, you are free to move and fire with each unit under your control. Units are divided into squadrons with a flagship. There are rules to keep squadrons together, which help keep games looking fairly accurate, and highlight the chaos when a flagship is taken out of the action. Movement is either done by sail or oar, (or in some special cases by paddle) and is a simple system of pivoting by degrees and moving in inches. The wind must be taken into account when using sail movement, but we found that it was often more economical to use oars.
When it comes to shooting, ships have both heavy artillery, representing major armaments like catapults and cannons, and light artillery representing small arms. Each ship can fire its heavy artillery only once a turn, but can fire small arms each activation. Both have different bonuses to the opposed die that makes up combat, and successes will deal different amounts of damage, with heavy artillery more likely to deal significant damage.
It’s a good system, but we ran into one snag during our test games. Ships took “crew casualties” far too often. After the first “crew casualties” result, which halves boarding ability, further “crew casualties” results don’t do anything. So we found that almost every ship took this initial hit and then slapped at each other with boarding actions until one side took the win at the opposed die roll. Our proposed house rule is to continue halving boarding ability, rounding down, until it hits zero, for each subsequent “crew casualties” result.
When a fleet has taken half casualties, they roll for morale, given the rating of their commander, and might be forced to flee. There are plenty of other rules for ground batteries, shallow waters, capturing enemy vessels, etc. Everything you’d like to see in a quick play naval rule set.
Overall we had fun, and with the minor adjustment to crew casualties, we think we’ll be playing this one again in the future. Now I just need to do some research, and go back for more ships!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Good, clean ruleset that offers a fun and light wargaming experience, with some minor tweeks to make it work better for us. As a complete package, At the Height of Battle is a great buy to dip your toes in miniature naval wargaming.
Putting together and painting everything in the “At the Height of Battle” set took a little longer than we had expected, but my wife and I had a great time giving life to these excellent figures. We can’t wait to get them on the table for a little skirmish, but I wanted to walk through our building and painting process.
Building these guys took a little extra effort. For the most part, the white metal casting was done well, with only a few ships having a noticeable difference in definition on the port versus the starboard side. For the most part, the detail was there and distinct, and where it wasn’t a line or a cannon could be fudged with the correct application of paint.
Some of the ships required a little drilling to make room for the masts. This also led to a temporary tragedy when my drill bit went through the side of the hole on the OAtakebune’s second mast. A little ‘greenstuff’ was all it took to right the issue, and with the primer applied it was almost invisible.
For basing, we followed the directions of the rulebook and mounted everyone on 40mm x 30mm card taken from comic book baggies. Not sure why we had them, we don’t read comics, but there they were, so there they went. To stiffen everything up before we tried painting the bases, we coated them in liquid craft glue. In the end it looks a little funny with the giant OAtakebune and the tiny Sekibune sharing the same base, but I like the uniformity.
We hand primed the miniatures with a brush and black primer. This was the first time we noticed that the primer occasionally slid away from parts of the miniatures, like there was some kind of repellent on the metal. Perhaps we should have washed the minis before painting, but in the end we managed to cover everything adequately. The primer stayed put so I guess it was a non-issue, but it had me worried for a moment!
We wanted to be a little stylish with the different sides, giving the Korean and Japanese ships different base hull colours to help create uniformity among the sides. We kept the deck colour the same for both though. No idea of they’re historically accurate wood colours. Tabletop visibility and actually getting them done trumped that, unfortunately. One thing that I loved when looking at pictures in the rulebook and online was that there seems to have been a lot of decoration on Korean ships. Perhaps if I pick up some more I’ll do some experimenting.
At the end of the day, Sacha and I had painted and based every ship. They were a blast to paint, but I especially enjoyed the Panokseon. They had some nice lines that really pulled the ship together visually from a distance. Now, on to gaming!
A while ago I tried Long Face Game’s Russo-Japanese War naval miniature rules White Bear Red Sun (A campaign setting for Broadside and Salvo) and had a good time soloing some scenarios using paper miniatures. You can check out my report of the Battle of Chemulpo Bay. When I heard that they were teaming up with MT Miniatures to do a quick play game covering the Imjin Wars, the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 1590s, I was immediately sold. There is so little coverage of this important conflict, and to be able to game it out on the table with 1/1200 miniature ships was just too tempting. I immediately preordered a copy and, lo and behold, it just arrived!
The Box was a little munched during its journey from the UK to the chilly shores of Canada, but I’m happy to report that there was no damage to the contents. Opening the box reveals each of the different ships types included in the core box. For the Japanese, there are O-Atakabune, Atakabune, and Sekibune. For the Koreans, we get Geobuksen (the famed turtle ships) and Panokseon. There are seven ships a side, so an equal distribution, but it will take a closer reading of the rules and some historical accounts to see what kind of engagements I can knock together with this set alone. So far I love the look of the minis and I can’t wait to paint them up. The rulebook recommends using card bases so I’ll be cutting up so comic book board to mount everyone up.
Looking at the rest of the package, there are a lot of included game aids in laminated sheets that need to be cut out. I have no problem doing that, and I’m glad to see everything important is included. At first glance I’m wondering if I’m going to need some opaque backed card sleeves for the activation cards, as you can kind of see through their backs. As far as I can gather they need to be drawn to determine activation, so covering their backs will be important. The rest are great and include movement and fire aids, wind direction aids, and my absolute favourite, laminated sheets to record ship information. I like a clean table generally so marking things down is perfect for me, though there are included markers as well.
The rules are well written so far, (I only noticed one minor typo!) and the game looks to be the kind of light-mid game that I enjoy. I’m very happy to see that a good bit of history has been included too, not just in describing the ships but in going over the Japanese Invasions of Korea in general.
Overall I’m super impressed with this as a quick start package. My wife and I are going to be sitting down to paint up the minis and cut out all the tokens tomorrow evening, so check back for a little painting guide, a review, and an AAR of our first couple games over the weekend!
I’ve been wanting to dip my toes into the proverbial waters of tabletop naval wargaming for quite some time, but other commitments, cost, and a lack of experience has really hampered my ability to really dedicate any time to the subject.
I thought it might kick start things to go the cheapest possible route and download some paper warship counters, find a simple ruleset, and give naval wargaming a test to see if it was something I wanted to put money into. Here is the first results of that little experiment
Getting Started with Naval Tabletop Gaming the Cheap Way
I knew I wanted to do game the Russo-Japanese War. It’s an important part of my thesis so I know more about it than most other comparable naval campaigns. I think the ships on both sides are very pretty, having a thing for pre-dreadnaught battleships (See below!) And finally, it seems a short enough campaign that eventually gathering and painting miniatures for each ship would be an accomplishable task.
The first thing I did was sit down and take a peek at wargamevault.com with the intent of finding the cheapest components that I could that still seemed pretty enough to plop on a table. I know they’ll never compare to proper miniatures, but it’s a step in the right direction for me
The booklet comes with a brief overview of the Russo-Japanese War, a full campaign ruleset that is meant to be completable in a day or so, and the full Broadside & Salvo ruleset.
Broadside & Salvo is a fun, fast playing, simple ruleset designed to get fairly sized battles out on the table and done in a couple of hours. I’m generally more in favour of that kind of game these days, though I do wish I had the time to sit down and chart maneuvers and calculate gunnery, it’s just not the reality I live. Broadside and Salvo does tick all my ‘gamer’ boxes though. There’s a struggle for initiative, a simple combat resolution that has each side rolling dice, the odd chance of something catastrophic happening, and enough rules in place to keep ships moving about how they should. I’ll need to get more games in, but at the moment, I’m pretty happy with my purchase and will keep playing with this until someone leads me astray.
The Battle of Chemulpo Bay, 9 Feb 1904
This was the smallest action that I thought I could get away with. It’s honestly not much of a battle, but rather the second part of Japan’s surprise attack. Rear Admiral Uryū Sotokichi with six cruisers and some torpedo boats (8 by White Bear, Red Sun’s reckoning) gave an ultimatum to Vsevolod Rudnev of the Russian Cruiser Varyag and the gunboat Korietz to vacate the port or be attacked there. The two Russian ships opted to attempt a breakout. They were unsuccessful in the face of Uryū’s ships and were forced to return to Chemulpo.
In my refight I opted to give the Russians a few paths to victory. If they could manage to get any two Japanese cruisers to silenced or better (heavy damage in Broadside & Salvo) or escape off of the Japanese table edge, I would call it a Russian victory. Anything else would be a Japanese victory.
The Battle took very little time, but the Russians managed to put up a decent fight. Varyag put up some impressive fire on Uryū’s flagship Asama. It wasn’t enough to slow the volume of fire poured on by the two Japanese cruiser squadrons, and eventually she sunk. The Korietz, surrounded by the end of the game, opted to strike colours.
The fire resolution is simple, with a single opposed role, modified on both sides, being the entirety of it. Rather than fire for every ship in a squadron, if the target is the same the supporting ships merely add a +1 modifier to the outcome of the combat. I quite like how it handled the engagement.
Initiative and maneuver are key in Broadside & Salvo. Gaining the initiative, and then having the command points available to enact every desired action in a turn is key to overcoming the odds. There is a single modifier for ‘crossing the T’ in Broadside & Salvo, and white it may be simplistic, it does promote trying to outmauever the enemy.
A Long Voyage Ahead
I enjoyed this little engagement almost as much as I did reading up on the battle beforehand. I think I’ll stick with Broadside & Salvo for now, mostly because I plan on putting together enough of a force of miniatures to refight Tsushima with a club at some point, and I think everyone would appreciate it finishing in an evening. The main thing now is to track down some affordable miniatures and get painting.
Tabletop wargaming is such a fun and satisfying hobby. Whether its for historical settings or fantasy and sci-fi, the hobby is rich, full of wonderful artistic people, and an excellent way to spend an evening in good company. From working out a particular force or battle to hobby towards, gathering the necessary miniatures, painting them up, and then seeing them in action on a table, there’s enjoyment to be had at every stage of the journey.
Unfortunately, miniatures are expensive, painting is time consuming, and the required space is generally quite extreme. From the relatively doable 4′ by 4′ up through the standard 6′ by 4′ to whatever Black Powder tries to get you to play on (I don’t have a 12′ by 8′ table Warlord, be kind!), Setting up a home gaming space can be daunting.
Alternatives to Buying Miniatures at Retail
There have been some excellent innovations in 3D printing, allowing for relatively inexpensive options for many of the most popular settings, but even that can be out of reach for many.
So I’m here to write about another alternative that I don’t believe gets the same attention as pewter, plastic, and resin do. Paper! There is really no less expensive way to get a fully functioning army on a table than paper miniatures. Now I know that paper miniatures might conjure images of crudely drawn stick figures or a rectangle with the word “Rhino” written on it, but with the right tools, the work of excellent artists, and some spare time, you can have a full tabletop ready to game in an evening or two of listening to your favourite podcast (Ahem! Episode 6: No One Seems To Know What Professional Wargames Are).
Paper Miniatures You Say? Surely You Jest?
When done correctly, paper miniatures can be absolutely stunning, as I hope some of the better done images in this article suggest. The requirements are also dirt cheap. A pair of decent scissors from your local scissor dispensary, some cheap glue, and a colour printer.
My Favourite Historical Paper Miniatures
For historicals, I love the work of Hellion & Company’s Paper Soldiers Line. Most are illustrated by legendary artist Peter Dennis. If you’ve read any Osprey books, there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a convention early in 2020. He had brought his paper ancients and they were simply stunning. Stunning to the point that I immediately went to the Hellion & Co. booth and bought one of the books myself.
The miniatures can be scanned and printed or, in the case of the book I purchased, cut directly from the pages. I’d recommend going the printing route so there’s always the potential for backups. Although if you’re a little more forward thinking than I was, there are purchasable PDFs on their site which are obviously easier to print.
My Favourite Fantasy Paper Miniatures
In terms of fantasy miniatures, I’m mostly be exposed to the art of One Page Rule’s Patreon miniatures, but I love them. (Again, full disclosure, I’ve done some comission work for OPR). The art style is fun and cartoony and the optional black border makes for easier cut jobs. The campaign I wrote, Darkness Within, pits humans against vampires and their undead minions. I don’t have any miniatures for either army and so I decided to go the 2D route. It’s been incredibly easy to print off two of each sheet and go to town, creating enough for a small skirmish within a day.
There are plenty of other artists out there and a quick troll through wargamesvault reveals dozens of free and paid paper miniatures. Finding an artist or company whose work you enjoy and want to support is another fun part of this avenue of the hobby.
Last time on the blog I announced my intention to fix my old Warhammer Fantasy High Elves and get them ready for Age of Fantasy: Regiments. I’ve finally sat down and given the whole set a good once over, sorting out exactly what I have that fits with the ruleset and what kind of work lies before me.
Full Disclosure: I have been commissioned to write narrative work for One Page Rules. I don’t receive anything from people using the site or downloading anything, nor have I been asked to write this. I just honestly love the system and wish more people would find it!
From Warhammer 7th Ed. to One Page Rules
When I put this army together and partially painted it as a bright eyed and easily distracted youngster, the name of everyone’s game was Warhammer Fantasy Battles, 7th Edition. As we go through each until, you’ll see what kind of havoc that set wreaked on unit composition loadouts.
Thankfully some years back I was given the opportunity to review the excellent One Page Rules, which started life as a way to play Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k without the massive and unnecessary rules bloat. I absolutely fell in the love with the system, and thankfully so did my regular wargaming group. Rules wise, we’ve since switched wholesale away from old man Warhammer and into One Page Rules.
As a first step to this daunting task, I went looking through the OPR High Elves Army list (itself only one page, thankfully) and tried to sort out exactly what I have that fits with the army. I’m specifically gearing this army towards the Age of Fantasy: Regiments game so that I can keep the feeling of the old games alive. I’ve always been more of a fan of squared off regiments than free moving units. All the point values and unit rules I’m using are freely available here under ‘Army Books.’
Princes & Mages: High Elf Royalty
The Leadership of any army is a good place to start. At some point, too distant to remember, I acquired the High Elves from the Island of Blood starter set. No doubt I had hoped to put this project in motion much earlier, but time makes fools of us all. No matter. The second best time is now, right?
First off I’ve got a pristine and unpainted Elf Prince on Griffon with Lance. That comes out to 175 points and should be a formidable force on the battlefield. Since he’s going to end up a centerpiece, I’m going to leave the painting to my much more talented wife (Detailed look at her amazing Nurgle Chaos Army coming soon!)
Beside that is a High Elf Prince on Horse, also with a lance. The discerning can see my young self’s attempt a freehanding an owl on the shield. I believe I’ll keep that exactly as is after regluing. the plastic has held up quite well so very few touchups are needed.
Next is the Island of Blood Mage, a beautiful sculpt and again untouched. He comes to 60 points with Level 2 Magic. Will be shoving him towards my wife’s paintbrush too!
Lastly, and the most funny, is my attempt at pulling one over on Games Workshop. The kit that came with the Prince on Horse could either create a mounted or foot version, but not both. Butchering a Dark Elf Spearman got me this abomination. I’m going to run him as a Phoenix Prince, with no upgrades for 70 points.
Infantry and Elite Forces
The core of any force is the infantry. In Warhammer 7th Ed. that means bringing out literally the least amount of basic soldiers you could get away with. My Spearmen were organized in a unit of 15 which allowed every spearman to fight to the front, striking first.
In Age of Fantasy Spearmen are classed as Warriors and come in groups of 10. I’d love to be able to run 20, which means fixing up a few of the unpainted models in the back. A block of 20 with spears will hold their own and only come in at 285 points. If I manage to find a pile more Spearmen somewhere, I’d love to put together a second unit, but I’m not counting on it.
Archers work best as small units that add activations and long range, in my experience. So I’ve broken down my Archers into units of 5 without any command. These come in at 195 points total.
Also from Island of Blood, Sword Masters become Elites, with a full command come in at 185 points. The Seaguard are now simply Guardians, and they thankfully max out at 10 per unit, so they’re going to become the core of my ranged force. They come in at 185 points as well. Bows are expensive.
Elites with Lion Cloaks (My weirdly untouched White Lions) operate the same way as Sword Masters with Lion Cloaks adding stealth for some protection from ranged attacks. These lovely models seriously need some paint. They’ll be in a unit of 10 unless I can find 5 more somewhere. They come in at 205 points.
Cavalry, Artillery, & Chariots
The Island of Blood Light Cavalry are in as good shape as the rest of the set, so there’s nothing to do but paint them. They’ll cost 135 points for all the goodies like bows and lances. My SIlver Helms, on the other hand, suffered from Warhammer 7th Ed. It was easy enough to throw a character in alongside 6 horsemen and call it a day. Thankfully Age of Fantasy keeps everything to the same frontage, so Heavy Cavalry units will come in 5 or 10 strong. As I have 6 painted and only needing minor repair out of 8 total, they’re going to function as a unit of 5 until I can find some extras. At 5 strong they cost 155 points. At 10 they’re 260.
Chariots are good fun, and Having 3 running around the battlefield rarely gets old. As you can see, they’re in quite different states of disrepair. They might be one of the first projects I work on, as long as I can find a proper chariot base for the second Lion Chariot. They come to 170 each for the Lions, and 150 for the Horse Chariot.
Finally we get to the artillery. I have 2 Bolt Throwers, one of which is modeled with extra shots and the other without. Taking one of each costs 85 and 55 points. They’re definitely useful and small enough, so they might find the painting table after the chariots are fixed.
Conclusion: I’ve Got My Work Cut Out For Me
That was a lot to cover, but I’m glad I went through the effort of sorting them out. With every unit on the table filled out, I’ve got myself over 3,000 points for Age of Fantasy: Regiments. Now I’ve got a goal to hopefully have everything done and painted by the time restrictions are lifted and everyone is vaccinated. Time to get to work!
We haven’t really talked very much about tabletop miniature content on Let’s Talk About Wargames, but we really should be. I started my wargaming career as a bright eyed youngster along two paths. One was dreamily watching Shogun: Total War‘s armies march about at 20FPS on the family Windows 98. The other was staring into the display cabinets at the local Games Workshop.
Tabletop wargaming is every bit as integral to the wider hobby as the other avenues of play, but the amount of time, effort, space, and money requried to make good on it might put some interested players off of the whole thing.
Getting Started with Tabletop Wargames?
Luckily there are some individuals and groups putting in the effort to make tabletop gaming more accessible. I’d particularly like to shout out the following:
Little Wars TV have been working to make historical tabletop wargaming easy to dive into with tutorial builds, a free ‘Dark Ages’ skirmish ruleset, and a series of excellent battle reports with historical commentary.
One Page Rules offers a myriad of fantasy and science fiction rulesets that fit on a single page, are easy to play, and remain model-agnostic. (Full Disclosure- I have been previously commissioned to write Narrative campaigns for OPR. Something I was eager to do because I love the system so much)
A Horror Unearthed: Unpainted Minis!
My wife and I recently helped my parents clean up their storage space and made a troubling discovery. Our Warhammer miniatures, which we had put away at the end of Undergrad and were believed lost to time and space, were just hanging out this whole time down in the basement.
Sacha’s army of Nurgle Chaos Warriors was almost perfectly intact and as beautifully painted as I remembered. My Orcs and Goblins were in a similar state, though less well done and less complete (there are always more goblins to paint).
Beneath them both, however, were the remnants of my high school High Elf army. Realizing that we don’t already have enough projects on the go (we do) Sacha and I decided that we were going to work on building, repairing, and painting this army to conform to One Page Rules’ Age of Fantasy: Regiments, which for my money is the best fantasy miniature game modeled after the classic Warhammer Fantasy.
High Elves Always Have a Plan
So how to go about doing it? Well first things first, we need to figure out exactly what we have as it lines up with Age of Fantasy: Regiments. From there we’ll need to know what models we need to acquire or remove to create properly sized units.
Then we need to get building and fixing. A lot of damage happened to these poor guys as they languished in boxes. I’m primarily the builder here, and Sacha is the excellent painter. Once we know what is what, it’s time to go through and glue, pin, greens tuff, and magnetize everybody. I’ll probably post some mini tutorials on these topics as I tackle them, with pictures.
The last step, once everyone is put together, is painting them up. Sacha has taken on the task of painting the monsters, heroes, and other big flashy stuff, and I’m going to be handling the rank and file.
More to Come: Historical and Fantasy Tabletop Game Coverage
As we work through this project, I’ll be posting regular updates and starting to trickle out more content related to tabletop miniature wargames, both historical, fantasy, and sci-fi. There’s a lot to cover but I’m a big fan (and more importantly a glutton for punishment.)