I Played a Mobile “Wargame” for a Full Month.

So a while ago I purchased a White Dwarf magazine from my local hobby shop. I used to read White Dwarf quite a bit, but fell off the wagon years ago as the magazine degraded into a flashy catalogue and I got busy with other things. This issue caught my eye because it included a dozen Warhammer PC game codes. I’ve got a few of the more prominent ones, but I thought it would be interesting to see what the good and bad of digital Warhammer games are these days and maybe squeeze a few reviews out of the deal.

One that immediately tripped me up as I went to redeem it was Warhammer: Chaos and Conquest. This was a mobile wargame in the tradition of Clash of Clans. Something I vowed, as someone who respects video games, to never willingly engage in. But here it was, a code for some free stuff to get you off the ground. A morbid curiosity grew in me, followed by a crafty rationalization to convince myself this would be a good idea. Why don’t I play using what this code gives me and see how long I can last?

The experiment opened my eyes to a sad reality. But I’ll get to that.

How Does Warhammer: Chaos and Conquest Play?

So there isn’t really much game here. The general gameplay loop revolves around timers. You want a high power score. In order to get a high power score, you’re going to need soldiers and defences for your fortress. This is accomplished by acquiring resources, constructing buildings, researching new skills, and training soldiers. It sounds pretty typical for a strategy game, but in Warhammer: Chaos and Conquest, as in most other mobile wargames, there is no real strategy involved. Each building linearly increases in value and power as it levels up. Some allow you to gain more resources, some to recruit more troops, some to let you scout farther or faster. None of these things require choice as there is room for it all in your base.

The true enemy is time. Every build requires resources and time. Some of the early timers are easy. 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there. But by the time I finally hit my limit, I was waiting a full week to finish researching tier three units. Of course, you can always pay real money to reduce timers.

Combat is another simple numbers game. There are plenty of AI ‘armies’ dotted around the world map that you can attack, but combat consists of selecting an army, a general to lead it that hopefully makes good use of your troops, and sending them on their way. Units do damage to each other, you earn some items for your trouble, and the army marches back.

PVP is where these games flourish, but the tragic part is that it will always come down to the player with higher power winning. There is no tactical choice to be made. I never lost a fight against a human player, mostly because I never engaged unless I had far superior power, but really, my safety came down to the true meat of these mobile wargames, clans.

The Social Trap of Mobile Wargames

Warhammer: Chaos and Conquest, like most similar games, heavily encourages players to join a clan. This helps reduce timers, allows players to share some resources, and creates a sense of community. The community aspect is frightening in its ability to quickly ground down players on the fence about spending. Each server wide event shows exactly how much help each member is contributing to a victory, and is quick to show relative power levels. Those who spend some money to help out and top off a win for their clan are greeted with praise by their fellows. Those who do not are, in my experience, just kind of ignored.

PVP being a clan versus clan thing also helps to inflame players and goad them towards spending money. Several times in my month I saw enemies from different clans swear across the open chat to out buy each other in an effort to win personal or clan glory. I also saw players spending in order to act as protectors for their weaker clan mates. It was almost baffling until I realized just how important these games could be to certain people.

The Vicious Necessity of Mobile Games

I tried to chat a lot with my clanmates while I played. Mostly about the limited strategies we could employ to improve our lot, but also about their lives. More of them than I expected were playing this because they couldn’t really do anything else. Several spoke openly about disabilities preventing them from playing other games or engaging in other hobbies. Others spoke of this game as their escape from a difficult world, using the easy mechanics and linear progression for a sense of satisfaction and fun, and even other seemed to have little else besides the game to spend their time and money on.

It made me more than a little sad, but also, I think, helped me understand why these games are they way they are. Yes they exist to bilk money out of their players at an absurd rate, but I also see that this connection of real money to in game prowess helps those who cannot find that power elsewhere to feel good about themselves. Is it an actual solution to real life problems? I don’t really think so. But I understand it now. For some, spending money on these kinds of games and participating in a community is an important part of their lives that fulfills them in a way they can’t or aren’t getting elsewhere. I’m willing to bet that if the real money component wasn’t part of the equation, there wouldn’t be the same sense of real impact.

For the record, almost everyone I spoke to while playing the game said they had a budget they were keeping to, though I suspect some were pushing it. I know these games do everything they can to get players to fork over cash, and I really do wish there were some better ways for people to get at that same sense of community. But for some, this seems like all they can do, and I can’t fault them for that.

I took all images from Steam. Don’t spend money on this game if you can avoid it.

Let’s Talk About Wargames Weekly Roundup 2021/08/06

Hey folks! This will be a special, weekly column where we review what we reviewed, talk about what games we’re playing (for review or otherwise), drop some facts about new podcast content, and other news of that nature!

Jack: This week, my AC continued to be broken (and has been since the beginning of July. I crave death.), so I snuck downstairs late at night to my PC when it’s cooler, as the PC room is obviously the hottest area in the house. I got a bit of time in on the latest Panzer Corps 2 DLC, which is an interesting pivot for the DLC series that I appreciate, more on this to come as I get more playtime in, of course. Similarly, I played a little bit of Highfleet, which reminds me of some of those old flash games you’d find online years ago, but in a good way. Certainly very unique! Full thoughts on the way there as well.

In my time stuck in my room with my work laptop, I haven’t been able to do much wargaming besides, but I did watch an 80’s classic and prepare to play the associated board game, which is baffling that it exists. Expect a review soon of a game that makes light of a certain “danger zone.”

We’re also recording a new episode over the weekend with a guest, in which we’ll be talking about the gaming community and how it treats certain members, both as players and as developers. Expect that episode out towards the end of the month!

Pictured: An online game

Joe: I’m struggling! Work is still eating up 90% of my time and trying to get some gaming in for reviews in that final 10% is a bit of a challenge. But I am happy to say that I’m enjoying what I am getting my hands on.

I’m getting closer to completing Warhammer 40k Battlesector, and I’m happy to report in the meantime that my initial opinions have not changed very much. We’ll have to see what the end game content does for me.

I’m also chipping away at another more traditional wargame that should delight those of you who are interested in some classic JTS action. Hopefully that will come out as soon as I finish another couple scenarios.

Finally, and happily, the latest drops from Microprose are looking to be something special. With Jack’s take on Highfleet forthcoming, and my own look at Carrier Command 2, fans of outlandish and stylish wargaming have a lot to look forward to.

Some Official Updates from Publishers:

Slitherine is happy to report on the progress of Masters of Magic with this neat update about in-game events:

“There are several different types of events in Master of Magic, and they will all make a comeback in the remake: The map of Master of Magic is filled with various locations that can be explored by the player.  These include things like fallen temples, ruins or mysterious caves where both treasure and challenge may await. There are also three power nodes, Sorcery, Nature and Chaos, and the magic towers that serve as portals between Arcanus and Myrror. All of those locations have an event attached to them, so that the appropriate path will trigger – combat if there are defenders, or loot if it is abandoned. Those events are fairly straight forward and apart from some extra fluff here or there, they will remain unchanged.

“The land is scattered with the ruins of some past civilizations. Who were they, where are they now? No one knows. Beware, this place may be guarded.”

All of the random events from the original MoM are returning, but they are slightly modified. In the remake, we want to give the wizard a chance to react to some of those events, instead of them being a simple notification of what occurred. You will always have the option to simply accept the default result, but in some cases, you will be able to either alter or even avoid the consequences. This will typically be achieved by offering a payment via mana/gold or other means that an event may respond to.”

Slitherine also released a new dev blog about Distant Worlds 2: You can read it here.

Age of Empires IV’s closed BETA is underway having started on August 5, and while personally we haven’t managed to get in on that, I’m cautiously optimistic about how AOE4 is shaping up. Let us know (if it won’t break a NDA) how much fun you’re having if you’re one of the lucky thousands who got in on it.

We hope everyone has a happy and safe weekend.

Home of Wargames Live NEW GAMES!

Slitherine just finished with their Home of Wargames Live Event and there was quite a bit of new stuff to take in. From interviews to game previews, the talk was very professional and very interesting. The future of digital wargames looks bright. Here are our favourite announcements!

Warhammer 40k Battlesector

I’ve personally had a lot of fun with both previews of 40k Battlesector, but the trailer showed some stuff off that I haven’t had a chance to interact with yet. The army building and upgrading gives it a bit of a tabletop vibe, but the gameplay is still very computer wargame feeling, which isn’t a bad thing. Dealing with proper Line of Sight, optimal weapon ranges, and the relentlessly attacking AI is definitely fun, but feels more like a PC wargame than the tabletop. There is a cool photo mode to get some great screenshots to show off. It’s been a lot of fun to play the previews, and our full preview will be coming soon!

Combat Mission Cold War

Bil Hardenberger from Battlefront emphasized the sandbox nature of Cold War, with several years and therefore different styles of warfare to implement in scenarios. They’ve also included a wide variety of equipment for the different factions and terrain types. Also, cluster munitions for the first time (oh my!) I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Distant Worlds 2

The supposed Stellaris Killer! No release date yet, but apparently it’s coming along. It was great to see the game in action for the first time. The graphics are looking great and it’s nice to see the full zoom from galaxy to home world and back. The ship design screen looks expansive. Like I could get lost building ships for hours. Same for the research and technology tree. There is just so much there. Clone troopers? Yes please. The preview dealt with some pirate problems, and it sounds like the diplomacy and military systems are pretty involved. When the devs talked through an invasion of an independent world, I thought it might really do what I want a game like this to do. I really hope Distant Worlds 2 lives up, because I’m hankering for a new deep space game. Also, giant space spiders!

Starship Troopers Live Gameplay

We finally get to know more! Mostly Single Player focused RTS game controlling the Terran Army and attempting to not get your guys ruined by tons of bugs. This is a game based on the movie license, but looks like its trying to keep the film’s tongue in cheek anti-militarism and over the top violence. Check out my first preview/rant about the different versions of Starship Troopers. There is some emphasis on pushing outwards to capture radio towers, which give you resources .It’s looking like a fun defensive focused RTS, but it’s also clear that the game is far from finished at this point.

Valor & Victory

This is my favourite tabletop squad level game, and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on a proper digital version. It’s a great system and it looks like there is a lot of scenarios and the possibility to make new scenarios after launch. From the talk given by Lance Craner, V&V is almost ready with just some AI tweaks and writing to handle.

WEGO World War II: Stalingrad

A Wego hex based wargame covering the battles around Stalingrad. This looks really interesting to me. Orders are given by both sides and then executed at the same time. I can’t wait to see how this works out with multiplayer. If it does what I think it should, I can see this really taking off as a new way of playing hex wargames.

Campaign Series Vietnam

Oh I’ve been waiting for this for so long. It looks like the wait has been worth it. The Campaign Series has a lot of depth to it, and it looks like they aren’t skipping on the amount of content that is going to be present in this one. The inclusion of the French-Indochina war period is especially welcome.

-Rapid Fire New Games!-

Master of Magic

Master of Magic is a reboot of a classic 4x fantasy game helmed by the developers of Thea the Awakening, Muha Games. Master of Magic has its own well developed fantasy world to draw from. Players take on the roll of a wizard battling to become the best wizard of them all. The development team has some experience doing this kind of game, so I’m glad it’s in their hands. There is city management, army composition, and most importantly, massive world altering spells. There are five schools of magic, and depending on how many books a wizard has in a school, more or less spells are available. There should be some fun spell manipulation. It’s currently in early alpha, but looks like a promising reboot of an old classic!

Scramble: Battle of Britain

Scramble is a WEGO dogfighting wargame that pits squadrons of WWII aircraft against each other in an innovative system. Players issue orders, then play out in real time, and at the very end they get to see the entire dogfight play back in its entirety. That sounds like a great feature to me, and the 3D art and design is beautiful. Players get a set amount of time per aircraft to individually deal with its flight path, its pitch, roll, and all that while planning for future combat. With a multiplayer feature allowing for split control of different squadrons, I’m looking forward to this as a great multiplayer game. There are also campaigns, and squadron management, aircraft customization, and a lot of other upcoming features like gamepad support. But the focus is on match play with other humans. Really one to keep an eye on.

Broken Arrow

Wow this looks good. From a new team headed by a veteran of Eugen of Wargame/Steel Division fame, this looks like an interesting new bit of competition in the real time modern war wargame space. They say they’re trying to find the sweet spot between action and realism, and I really hope they get there. The visuals are amazing at this point. This is a combined arms game with a lot of detail, including unit customization. There are shore landings, air insertion of men and vehicles, and even tactical nukes.

Stargate Time Keepers!

-Joe Fonseca

Warplan: Pacific Review

Often when I talk about digital wargames I think about how can I classify them to help give readers a quick sense of what to expect. Sometimes trying to pinpoint the right word or phrase is difficult, sometimes I have no trouble at all. Warplan: Pacific falls into the latter camp. This is a digital board wargame. Think of everything you like and don’t like about pulling out your favourite larger than average board wargame and Warplan: Pacific has it. All of it.

Ok, It’s A Boardgame, But Really What Is It?

Warplan: Pacific is an operational level wargame covering the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War. This includes every major nation involved from December 1941 to September 1945. There is also a good Second Sino-Japanese War scenario that ends where the Pacific War begins. The map is large, with 80km per hex, and units generally at the division level. The object of the game is as grand as its scale. The Allies must force Japan to surrender, and Japan must hold on until the clock runs out.

With a game of this scale players are covering pretty much everything, from island hopping, to trade interdiction, to jungle fighting in Burma, and the massive slog across China. There are a number of generic units for each land, sea, and air, with the ability to customize some as the game goes on, giving units engineering or dedicated anti-tank attachments, for example.

On each turn, players will be spending their unit’s operation points to move and fight, track trade routes and logistics, and manage resources to build new units for later in the war. Battles can happen on land, in the air, or at sea and the factors that influence combat are fairly straight forward, and an odds calculator helps keep things in perspective.

Warplan: Pacific has pretty much everything I expect a game like this to have, but for some reason, it just didn’t really click with me. When playing for this review, I found myself doing a few turns and then saving and quitting. There was nothing overtly wrong or uncomfortable with the game. In fact I like most of its systems. But for some reason the spark was just never really there. I’ll try to get into it below. But be assured that I spent a long time thinking about why that might be for me personally, and it may not apply to you.

Warplan: Pacific Is Good, But Maybe Not Great?

First and probably most importantly for something reading this and considering picking Warplan: Pacific up. It is a good game, and an understandable one, but it requires work.

There is no proper tutorial in Warplan: Pacific, instead the Second Sino-Japanese War scenario doubles as an intro scenario. But the truth is, this is a game for which the manual is required reading. No reasonable amount of play will allow you to divine that attacks under 4:1 odds are risky, that DD units placed on convoy routes have a 12 hex radius for protection, or the tricky system for committing and supporting naval landings. I know I’m not a genius tactician by any stretch, but it took me three restarts at the Second Sino-Japanese War scenario, reading the manual to figure things out as I went, before I was comfortable with jumping into the main scenario. I don’t really think that is a good intro to any game.

Now that isn’t to say that Warplan: Pacific is needlessly obtuse. Once you learn what everything means and how it interacts (again, a lot of front-loaded reading) almost everything is there in game for your consideration. The information on each token is digestible. There are a variety of settings for what information is displayed on counters. The Build, Convoy, Report, and Combat Log tabs have pretty much everything you’ll need to understand what’s happening on a given turn. The map is readable, and moving units and attacking is a piece of cake. I even think that Warplan: Pacific has one of the nicer systems for visually displaying enemy movement and combats in the previous turn, supplemented by the very handy Combat Log.

The AI is competent, at least on the defensive. The game recommends playing the full campaign as the allies because the AI struggles to manage all the Allies’ units late in the war. While I have encountered the AI make some overly aggressive plays, like throwing tons of units into my entrenched and supported units along the Irrawaddy or getting their subs sunk in well protected convoys, for the most part they are a worthy adversary. They try to make encirclements and cut supply lines on land at least, and know when to push against tiring or weakening units along the line. I’m perfectly content playing against it, at any rate.

The boardgame qualities shine through with the simplicity of the overall system and what players can do on a turn. There is no counter stacking, HQ units automatically give a bonus to friendly units. Naval counters are just organized by their lead ship type (so a CV counter instead of counters for each ship that would normally accompany a carrier) and aircraft can be on either Mission mode or Support mode. Supply and Logisitics are just as important, but they function like boardgame supply, with units tracing a line that is reduced over rough terrain back to a supply zone. This means a turn is completeable in a decent amount of time. No three hour turn one here. Things are abstracted yes, but not in a way that I feel hurts the game.

So…What’s my problem? Why doesn’t it click for me? I love the setting, I have several actual boardgames that cover this period. It just… doesn’t do it for me. It’s good. It does everything I want a game like it to do. I was nonplussed that I had to read the entire manual cover to cover to feel like I could make the most of the game, but that generally ends up happening for most wargames these days still. (Still don’t think it should!)

I think Warplan: Pacific is exactly the right game for some. Perhaps I need to give it another shot after some time away, but for now I’ll be taking a break from Warplan: Pacific. I think it’s good. I really do. Maybe you’ll think it’s great?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Warplan: Pacific is a solid operational wargame with a good boardgame-like feel. There is a lot of required reading, but afterwards the game flows well and players have a lot to work with. It’s definitely a good game.

-Joe Fonseca

Slitherine provided a review copy of Warplan: Pacific. You can find the game here: Warplan: Pacific. LTAW earns nothing if you buy Warplan: Pacific from this link.

Combat Mission Then and Now: Checking Out 2000’s Beyond Overlord

Recently, Jack and I both have been playing the latest Combat Mission games in order to review them for the blog. Check out Jack’s review of Shock Force 2, if you haven’t, and keep an eye out for my take on Black Sea Friday! But all this playing of excellent tactical simulation games got me thinking. It may have been 20 odd years, but I have memories of playing a Combat Mission game way back in the day. Digging around I stumbled across Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord, the first of Battlefront’s Combat Mission games and a fond memory of bygone times. It turns out that GOG.com has the first three Combat Mission games for very reasonable prices, so I jumped back in to see how far the series has come.

They look like painted miniature soldiers, but they die like men.

It’s a bit clunky going back, I’ll admit. The UI has certainly seen some growth between classic Combat Mission and the more modern titles. Rather than a nice compact list of possible actions along the bottom UI, things are done with a right-click menu. Still functional, but there’s definitely an upgrade going forward. The basic mechanics of maneuvering and positioning teams is still familiar and after a few minutes of getting used to it I was back to splitting teams, order scouts forward, covering with bases of fire, and all the fun stuff you get up to in a CM game.

I decided to try my hand at the Canadian Armageddon campaign out of a sense of patriotic duty. Getting stuck in with a brigade of the South Saskatchewan Regiment it was time to clear houses and secure a small French town without armour support, of course. Why would I need that?

Just like the modern games, creating a base of fire and scouting are essential tactics.

I’m happy to report that it was just as much fun as the later CM games are. It’s decidedly messier, with map positioning and overall management less intuitive, but it’s still just as entertaining to see orders carried out, see units trying to adapt to changing situations, and cringing when a poor order leads to more casualties than you were willing to accept.

Graphically, it’s obviously much simpler, but the oversized infantry models, the fact that each figure represents a few men, and the distinctly differentiated terrain makes classic CM feel more like a tabletop wargame than the modern games. There is a bit more rigidity to every action and order, but it just reinforces the boardgame feeling.

Another Urban Environment, another delicate maneuver. From France to Ukraine

I was honestly expecting to be underwhelmed. Rose tinted glasses can only go so far and 21 years is a long time in terms of videogame development. The recent Combat Missions have really hit me with just how good they are, so I figured there must be a lot separating them from the classic models. An there is, truth be told, but the classics are still absolutely playable and do a great job of conveying the overall feel of CM, albeit with a simpler tabletop aesthetic, than I was expecting.

It helps that Beyond Overlord, Afrika Korps, and Barbarossa to Berlin are all on GOG for under $10 CAD each. They get cheaper during sales too. As an exercise in feeling old, or if the modern Combat Missions are out of your price range and you’ve already played the free demos, I’d recommend picking up one of the classics to dip your toes. There’s a lot of content and I’m absolutely floored by how well they stand the test of time.

-Joe

Massive Slitherine Sale on Steam

This one caught me by surprise a bit, but there is a massive sale on slitherine/Matrix titles happening right now on Steam, and there are some great deals on great wargames that everyone should be checking out!

Discount Highlights

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock 80% off

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius 76% off

Fantasy General II 51% off

Combat Mission Shock Force 2 and Black Sea  30% off

Gary Grisby’s War in the East 70% off

Special bundles include:

Hardcore Wargames 66% off

Grand Strategy & 4X 69% off

Warhammer Strategy Bundle 78% off

Strategy Legacy 65% off

Some of my Personal Recommendations

Check out Fantasy General II. The latest DLC Evolution just dropped and I reviewed it a couple days ago. It’s fantastic, and so is the base game. If anyone needs to see what a modernized wargame can look like, look no further than Fantasy General II.

Shadow Empire is an excellent 4x game with deep RPG elements and an amazing world generation. Games are dramatically different depending on the type of world you build, but there is a consistent focus on logistics, tactics, and empire building that I adore. Definite one more turn vibes.

Strategic Command WWI is one of my favourite comfort games. The tactical gameplay is deep enough to keep you thinking, but the overall mechanical load is light enough that it’s very playable after a long day of hard work.

Warhammer 40k: Gladius managed to get away with something I didn’t think was possible. What if you got rid of diplomacy in Civilization? Guess what, it works. Each faction plays very differently, and the emphasis on combat highlights one of the best bits of the Civilization series with AI that can put up a competent defense.

The Sale lasts until Monday, so check it out before it’s too late!

-Joe

Fantasy General II: Evolution Review

You know it’s going to get good when one of the first things you do in a campaign is eat your siblings for getting uppity. Fantasy General II: Evolution is the latest expansion for the already excellent Fantasy General II released in 2019. The third official DLC, Evolution places you in control of the Lizardfolk Szzlag as he attempts to devour his way to prominence across the Broken Isles.

I had the pleasure of reviewing Fantasy General II on its release, and I was very surprised with just how good a job the developers, Owned by Gravity, managed to do conveying the spirit of the classic 1996 game while modernizing a whole heap of systems. If nothing else, go check out the base game when you get a chance. It’s a good game and worthy of a playthrough. Now, to the swamps!

Szzlag and his warriors creep through the kelp towards a Hooman settlement. Tonight we feast on Hooman Egg!

Fantasy General II has generally done a good job of creating a fascinating fantasy world and backed it up with good game narratives in the base game. The story of Falirson and the Empire was entertaining and I’m glad to see that Szzlag’s story is as well. The writing, possible decisions, and outcomes all reinforce the fact that Lizardfolk are not human and do not share a lot of human sensibilities. Theirs is an eat or be eaten world of hunting and raiding where weakness means a swift death. Don’t let Szzlag be weak. Don’t let Szzlag be human, it may save you later!

Evolution goes that extra mile and demonstrates the nature of this harsh world through gameplay. The game does an excellent job out of the gate of introducing you to a totally different playstyle. Lizardfolk are not the strongest fighters out there, but they are excellent ambushers and full of crafty light infantry. Since Lizardfolk can maneuver quickly through water tiles, and can even hide in deep water and kelp forests, setting up ambushes and luring enemies into traps is the name of the game. Just watch out for the carnivorous fauna! Setting up an ambush and seeing it go off without a hitch is second only to massive encirclements for giddy wargaming highs. There is nothing quite as fun as watching the enemy’s giant crab trigger 3 different ambush moves and defensive fires as they move to attack an exposed gaggle of newts.

Dragon Rider versus Giant Enemy Crab. Guess what? We’re going to eat it too.

Eventually, you’ll encouter Hoomans, with their fantastical trinkets, floating hovels, and distinct lack of swimming ability. The dichotomy between fighting humans on the coast and fighting humans in land is amazing, and requires a very different approach. Pelting humans with javelins and stones from the water while luring ships to underwater ambushes is great fun. Hiding in the jungle, sacrificing newts to lure humans out of position so your weaker units can scrape some advantage, is equally so.

On the campaign layer Lizardfolk play very differently as well. Szzlag and some high tier units require evolution points to upgrade. These are generally acquired by eating notable Lizardfolk, which quickly becomes tied to the central narrative of the campaign. In addition to evolution points, liquid mana is a key resource. This is acquired by raiding certain settlements or, more reliably, whenever a friendly unit dies. Now the cost of hiring a new unit of newts can be weighed against the value of their death. If these units can be killed in a manner that serves an ambush, well then, everything turns up Szzlag!

That battles take place on land and in the marshes and deeps of the Broken Isles keeps things interesting.

I was generally enthralled with this expansion. Lizardfolk make you think and play very differently from most wargames, not just from the base Fantasy General II experience. The campaign can be made more difficult though a few settings, but I felt the difficulty was good, punishing foolish mistakes and rewarding careful plays. I rarely sit down for several hour gaming sessions anymore, but I found myself making time in the evening to get through a mission or two. I really had fun.

Fantasy General II was already a great wargame and this expansion does about everything I’d hope an expansion would do. Gameplay is significantly different, the narrative is interesting, and the campaign is engaging throughout. Definitely check out Fantasy General II: Evolution if you have any interest at all.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

-Joe Fonseca

2D Miniatures for Tabletop Wargaming

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.

Wargame the Spanish Armada by Andy Callan & Peter Dennis

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).

Scissors, Glue, a Printer, and time: all you need to get started with 2D tabletop wargaming.

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.

Maybe not the prettiest scissor job, but the first step towards a full army. Now to base her and cut out her hordes of undead.
  • Joe Fonseca

Warhammer Rising Part 2: Mustering, Planning, & Points Counting

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.

I seriously recommend checking OPR out if you’re interested in a tactically interesting but rules-light version of the Warhammer classics.

High Elves: How Many Points Do I Have?

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!

Warhammer Rising Part 1: A Classic High Elf Build for One Page Rules

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.)

See you along the way!

Joe