Saturday, April 7, 2012

These are a few of my favourite things...

Well it has been a truly dismal few weeks. I managed to catch the flu, which turned into bronchitis and then laryngitis, capped off with a hilarious allergic reaction to some antibiotics. The high point was when the Duchess saw me delirious in bed waving my arms about. When she asked if I was ok I apparently started raving about fighting zombies, so at least my delirium is consistent with my regular psyche.

Needless to say the figure production lines at Homunculorum Towers have slowed down somewhat during this period, although I did find myself reflecting on my favourite games of all time. Here they are (not in any particular order).

1. Saga – Gripping Beast

I’ve said it elsewhere on the blog, but Saga is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played. Easy to get into, loads of period flavour and tactical depth. Also the most successful game I’ve ever tried running in a high school club, which has to tell you something.

2. Basic Impetus – Dadi e Piombo
If Saga is my favourite warband game, Basic Impetus is my favourite game for big battles. I own the full Impetus rules but still haven’t had a chance to play them. Basic Impetus though delivers pretty much what I want in a game. It’s fast, fun, unpredictable and rewards historical tactics.

3. Basic Baroque – Dadi e Piombo
Basic Impetus with caracole tactics, pike and musket and good cavalry rules.

4. DBA – Wargames Research Group
Ok, I don’t love DBA. The rules are about as transparent and accessible as the Delphic Oracle and I find some aspects of the level of abstraction irritating. However, for a quick game where you are likely to find an opponent at a club it can be lots of fun.

5. Song of Blades and Heroes – Ganesha Games
For big battles – Impetus, for large warbands – Saga, but for small skirmishes the Ganesha games system is terrific. As well as Song of Blades I include the other related games in the system, particularly Fear and Faith, as the ‘chrome’ from one game can usually be used in another. I plan to play lots more games of this, trying out various ideas for pulp adventures, zombie encounters and such. Another one that catches on well at school

6. Kiss Me, Hardy – Too Fat Lardies
I am a fairly recent convert to Too Fat Lardies games, particularly as a result of hearing Richard Clarke interviewed on Meeples and Miniatures and really liking his approach to gaming. I’ve done a review of Kiss Me, Hardy elsewhere on the blog, but it is my favourite age of sail game. Very simple elegant mechanics that give a fun game allowing you to think you’re Jack Aubrey. Well, that’s how I play, anyway.

7. Canvas Eagles
WWI dogfights using 1/72 aircraft on stands made from converted car aerials. And the rules are free! Totally brilliant game.

8. Knights Cross
Canvas Eagles for WWII. I play Battle of Britain scenarios of this in 1/144 scale.

9. Fortress Europa – Avalon Hill
This makes it onto my list for nostalgia reasons. I haven’t played this in over 20 years, but it was my favourite game from the period of my life when it was possible to spend whole days playing strategic wargames, meticulously planning major counterattacks on the west front in WWII. Maybe one for my retirement.

10. Irregular Wars
I've been honoured to be involved with playtesting some aspects of this game from Harry Hotspur, and thoroughly enjoyed every game. The second edition will be out shortly with a whole new set of scenarios. I still have some Aztecs needing paint for this one...

11. Zombies!! - Twilight Creations
A no brainer. Fun game of betraying your friends and family while escaping from zombies. Even better with beer, although that could be said for any game, I suppose.

12. Wings of War
Like a simpler version of Canvas Eagles. Not as good, but fun and fast to play.

13. Chess
Well duh. I’m not very good at chess, and I don’t get great pleasure from playing games against people who start telling me that I’m trying to play the Latvian variation of the Sicilian defence and then slaughter me, but chess…. It’s art, it’s poetry, it’s war, it’s architecture. I used to enjoy playing against my dad after he had spent a long day at work, staring intensely at the board and waiting for him to make a move until I realised he was snoring.

14. Magic the Gathering
Best played with a friend, and probably using pre-made tournament decks. To my mind less fun when you spend lots of time and money customising an uber deck, or when playing against someone who has done so. Still, a very clever game.

15. The Advancing Game
This is probably the game that started it all for me. My father, brother and I would clear the dining room floor, and line up our collections of 1/32 Airfix Napoleonic figures on one end. Each turn they would all advance one hand span, then your opponent fired a number of nails at them using those old spring-loaded cannon from Britains. Whoever moved the most figures across the gun line won. My brother and I experimented making chain shot by linking nails with paperclips etc. Totally brilliant fun that I would happily play again.

16. Heads Up, By God! – Dux Homunculorum
These are a set of Napoleonic Rules I wrote. Very far from being brilliant, but they allowed me to get some Napoleonic games happening in a reasonable time at a high school club, and we had fun playing them.

17. Diplomacy – Avalon Hill
Another game that is much easier to play when you are 20 than when you are 40. The chances of gathering together six friends to play a day long game now are zero. Still, one of the many good things about being a history teacher is that Diplomacy can often be justified within the syllabus, or at least played in occasional lunchtimes over the course of a year.

So there we are – the Dux Homunculorum round up of my favourite games of the moment. No doubt these will change! Now here are the top ten games I’d like to play, but never have:

1. Duel in the Dark
2. Black Powder
3. Lasalle
4. I Ain’t Been Shot mum
5. Dux Britanniarum
6. Blood Bowl
7. Tinker Fox
8. Hail Caesar
9. Incursion
10. A Very British Civil War

Happy gaming everyone!


  1. Glad to hear you are now on the mend!

  2. Glad to hear you're feeling better. Nice list of games.

  3. Glad you feel better...
    I share your opinion on DBA, for good and bad sides, I am (was?) a big fan of "Fortress Europa", one of the best wargames in my opinion ... and I spent many hours on Diplomacy...and chess, of course!

  4. Hmm, zombie fighting in your dreams, god to read you are up and about. Of you 'want to play' games, go for Blood Bowl, its easy quick and a great deal of fun.

  5. Sorry to hear you were ill, but glad it is done now.
    I wanted to make a suggestion about diplomacy. As you mention, it isn't really a game for live play at a certain age. But it does play very well as an online game (basically like the old play by mail version). I play at and it really does capture the spirit of the game. You can set turn lengths to be a couple of days, and then you only need to find 20 minutes per day to participate.