Monday, March 2, 2009

First book arrives

In my last post, I mentioned that I ordered a bunch of books. I got the first one today, and it wasn't even one that I mentioned.

The book is Featherstone's Complete Wargaming, by the redoubtable Donald Featherstone. Published in 1988, the book appears to be a treasure trove of information about the hobby. Now that I've got your attention, I'm not going to talk about it. (Hey, I'm at work, and I only just got it, and I haven't had a chance to even read it yet!)

My gaming, you see, tends mostly toward roleplaying, and that tends mostly to D&D. But I originally wanted to be a wargamer.

The first "adventure game" (to use the broad term) I ever bought was Ogre, by Steve Jackson (yes, that Steve Jackson), published by Metagaming. This would have been in 1979 or so; I'm guessing here because I don't specifically remember.

It would be three or four years before I found someone to play it against. In the meantime, I read what I could in the library about wargames and wargaming. There was a sharp division in print (although I later learned it wasn't that sharp in practice) between the miniatures guys and the board wargamers. I fell into the board wargamer camp because one whole game, complete and ready to play, was available for $20 or less (sometimes much less; Ogre had cost me $2.99).

Whereas with miniatures, you had to go out and

* buy the damned things,
* assemble them,
* paint them,
* base them, and
* find some way of protecting them.

Then you had to do the same for their opponents.

Then you had to beg, borrow or build the terrain for the battle.

And you had to do research so that everything listed above was accurate. (This really would have come first, but I really didn't know what I was doing in those days...)

And then you had to find a place to store all this crap. Yowza.

Well, times have changed. After many, many, many years of "adventure gaming", I'm no longer a footloose wanderer. I have a permanent home, with a basement for my gaming activities, and plenty of places to store stuff. I can even buy or build shelves, should I need them. And because my sweetie is an absolute genius with money, I can actually afford to buy things now and then, like miniatures.

I bought some this weekend. I got a game called Napoleon in Europe at Half Price Books, for $50. It's out of print, so I don't know (or care) what it would have cost new. But it has hordes of plastic figures, around about the 1/72 scale or so.

I can work with this.

I'm finished assembling (but not yet painting) my first complete army. The French Napoleonic army from the book Wargaming: An Introduction by Neil Thomas. Neil presents simple rules for a few different periods and provides army lists to accompany them. The book is readily available (again, at Half Price Books) and seems like a winner.

The only problem was, he uses the "standard" basing conventions for these armies. Close order infantry, for instance, would be four figures on a 40mm by 20mm base, assuming 15mm figures. For 25mm figures, the base frontage would be 60mm.

Well, I just don't have enough troopies to do that. So I tinkered, as wargamers do. I took 3 figures per base, with a frontage of 50mm. They fit, they look okay, and they'll work better on my smallish table.

Plus, I can make two complete armies this way.

I'm going to try some solo wargaming with them, and I'll let you know how that comes out.

And I'll probably review Featherstone's book. Once, y'know, I've actually read it.


kesher said...

My friend, we're on a strangely similar wavelength. I just finished reading the excellent Floor Games and Little Wars by H.G. Wells. This lead to more online perusal, where I came across Featherstone's lulu-reprinted War Games as well as this intriguing text:

I was the exact opposite of you: I never had any desire to wargame until just now. :)

I'm not sure I'm so interested in re-fighting historic battles, per se; I'm more interested in Wells's generic battles, pretty much using whatever figures are available (though his rules do depend on using spring-loaded cannons.)

Will Douglas said...

I've looked at Little Wars before, and it was the spring-loaded cannon (likely impossible to obtain these days) that prevented me from going further with it.

On the other hand, I have two armies of Napoleonic troops on hand (not painted and most likely in the totally wrong uniforms, but who cares?) should you ever wish to give it a try.

And I'm also planning on getting the Civil War game from the same company, so I can do up some American Civil War armies as well.

kesher said...

Thanks for the offer! I imagine I could schedule it in (though probably not until April...) At this point I'd just like to try something...

As for cannons, my older son has a couple of projectile-firers fom playsets that, while large, could work, and I keep finding things like this:

online, and I'm watching a few auctions of vintage cannons, too. So, who knows---if I can build up a small collection (say, 10 guns?), I might end up with the makings of a decent skirmish game... :)

I do hope you review the Featherstone book after you get a chance to look at it.

Oh, and which Half-Price Books do you usually haunt? Miracle Mile?

kesher said...

OH YES... I'd forgotten that Max has one of these, too:

That might well be the way to go!

Will Douglas said...

Okay, here's me, smacking my forehead.

I have a few Lego Castle sets, including projectile throwers. I completely forgot about them.

But how cool would that be? Floor games, with Lego cannon, firing at Lego troops!

You're making me wish I had discussed this with people before I spent my tax refund...there's a Lego store down at the Mall of America where I could have gotten anything I wanted...

Will Douglas said...

Oh, and yeah, Miracle Mile.

Although there's a new one up in Crystal, near where we do much of our shopping. That one's okay, but we like Miracle Mile better.