Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

The Duchess took the kids over to my mum's today to try to make sure that we all get a bit of rest and hopefully get over this foul virus, so I've largely been sleeping with a few bursts of hobby mooching throughout the day.

During the day I was taking stock of some of the great developments going on in the parts of the hobby I'm most interested in. As is often remarked, we are truly living through a Golden Age, and before going to bed I thought I might list some of the things I'm looking forward to, along with a couple of predictions.

This has obviously been a fantastic year for wargaming the 'dark ages'. There have been great figures around for a while, but usually early medieval games are not that exciting, and for many great rule sets (eg Impetus) what we might call the 'shieldwall period' is a bit peripheral to the core mechanics of what makes those games good. All this has changed though with SAGA, Dux Britanniarum and Dux Bellorum, three terrific games that tackle the core issues of warfare in the early medieval period in different ways, and do it really well. Within a couple of weeks the second SAGA expansion ('The Raven's Shadow') will be upon us, and I'm particularly looking forward to checking out the new Strathclyde Welsh faction on their shaggy little ponies. Here's the image of th new starter army from the Gripping Beast site.

And if that doesn't get you excited about the Strathclyde Welsh, try this:

Along with the Raven's Shadow there is also the new Byzantine faction coming out for SAGA in Wargames Illustrated 301, and then two new expansions next year. So here's my prediciton, and let's see how right I am next year. This prediction is based on listening to Alex Buchel on the Historical Wargames Podcast, where he said that the next expansion will contain 6 new factions and be about 64-68 pages long. I predict it will be devoted to the Crusades (including Northern) and will include rules for big battle SAGA. Then I reckon they will shift back to the 'Arthurian' period for the second release of the year.

Meanwhile, the Lardies will be coming out with an expansion for Dux Britanniarum, bringing in the Picts and Irish. Nice.

Next month we can also expect Deus Vult!, the new medieval rules from Fireforge Games to support their beautiful range of 13th century knights and sergeants. Bolt Action is out and gaining rapid popularity, and Plastic Soldier Company has just released their Battlegroup Kursk rules. PSC have done an amazing job of muscling into the space occupied by Flames of War, and judging by the quality of plastic figures in the latest FOW box set are causing them to lift their game. If the PSC rules offer something more inspiring than FOW they might just tempt me to get my 20mm WWII out of the cupboard. The demise of Warhammer Historical has created fertile ground for all sorts of games dealing with the big battles (Hail Caesar, War and Conquest, Clash of Empires etc). I haven't played any of them yet, but only for lack of opportunity.

Another great development is the sudden surge in 'games in a box'. This was a discussion had by Neil Shuck, Richard Clarke and Henry Hyde on the 'View from the Verandah' podcast a couple of months back, where they were discussing the importance of newbies being able to access the hobby easily (ie by picking up a starter box set). Since then, we have a box set for Pike and Shotte out from Warlord Games, a Bolt Action starter box and the new Flames of War box (and probably others I've missed). This is a good thing. It has struck me (and surprised me somewhat) how much more comfortable new players in the school club have been to buy the official SAGA starter sets, for example, rather than sourcing their own (often cheaper) figures. I think at times I underestimate the learning curve of getting into historical gaming, so starter sets that hopefully find their way into more mainstream toy shops can only be a good thing.

Thinking about how new technology is altering the hobby is also interesting. We have seen in the past 12 months the rise of the 'kickstarter' concept of funding new games from their potential fan base, with Dreadball and Kings of War being two that spring to mind. The plastic revolution of course continues apace, as does the impact of computer aided design in miniatures. This is perhaps not a completely unmixed blessing. Vehicles look fine, but the CAD figures produced by Wargames Factory leave me a bit cold.

Which brings me to my second prediction. What do you think the impact of 3D Printing will be on our hobby? Part of me fears that as 3D printers become increasingly affordable there will be a whole lot of pirating of figures going on. However, for companies who get on the cutting edge of the technology and adjust their business models, I forsee great opportunities. I would not be surprised if within ten years I might be able to check out a range of figures online, download their specs as a file and print them out at home on my 3D Printer. Wouldn't that be interesting?

Probably lot more I could ramble about, but feeling tired and crappy. Goodnight.


  1. A good read. I enjoyed that.
    I agree that there are so many great games and figures available at the moment. It makes it hard to decide what to buy next.

  2. It has been a very interesting year for new rule sets and the various Kickstarter projects that I've seen kicking off. It is definitely a good time to be in the gaming hobby with so much going on.

    I think starter sets are a great idea for getting young people interested. It's not a new concept after all - GW have been doing it for years I understand.

    On the 3D printing, whilst you can get home printers for about GBP 1500 now, I'm not sure what resolution they give nor the costs of the materials used in the printing. I don't think piracy of figures will be an issue for a while either as you would need access to a high resolution 3D scanner to create the print files - scanners capable of doing this at the required resolution aren't cheap.

    When the prices of scanners and printers come down, and the printers have a high enough resolution then it may become a problem. The industry would need to adapt their business model to cope with it, but as I say this is probably quite a long way off. It will probably be more of a problem for the big names like GW than for the historicals market.

    Hope you're feeling better soon! :)

  3. I certainly agree with you on CAD designed figures - they just don't have the same standard that a 'properly' scupted model does.
    A potential problem with home 3D printing getting more and more common is that, as Tamsin says, the industry is going to have to adapt their business model - but that could lead to the sort of DRM fiasco that the music industry went through
    I think the thing is that with starter boxes, you get a kind of transitional GW experience - When I was an avid Warhammer collecter, it never even occured to me to try and source any other model, because GW don't even acknowledge that kind of thing exists, so going from that mindset to one with huge possibilities is somewhat intimidating - box sets ease the way, as it were
    That video made my day, thankyou! and get better soon!

  4. Agree absolutely about the golden age. This has been an on-going discussion at the club for the last few days; it's nice to see another perspective.

    Out of curiosity, could you expand on your comments re: shield wall era and Impetus? I love the game, but have used it exclusively for ancients. What issues do you think the mechanics don't fully engage?

    1. To be honest, these comments really apply to Basic Impetus - I don't have the Extra Impetus volume on the Year 1000, and they might deal with things differently there. In BI shieldwalls are purely defensive formations - you lose shieldwall formation once the unit moves, and only fresh units can form or maintain shieldwall. What we found was that shieldwalls therefore broke too quickly (ie once they suffer any losses), so there was no sense of a gruelling shoving match, and also that there was little incentive to be the one to charge the enemy when two shieldwalls faced each other. THese are the sort of issues that games like DBrit and DBell handle well, because they are the core issues the games designers are focussed on. For ancient and renaissance battles Impetus and BI are my favourite systems.

  5. The starte boxes are great ideas, at last historical figures being sold like the dreaded GW, that helps bring in the kids and older gamers into new periods. As for the £D printers, I never knew they existed???? They're do seem a bit pricey at the moment but I'm sure we'll all have one in our homes in a couple of years. The troops look excellent btw!

  6. About 3D printing, I recently have read an article telling of a company whose business plan is to print out meat within 10 to 15 years. Meat! Like steaks or T-bones! They believe it could resolve the problem of methane gas released by intensive breeding. The process was not really clear to me, but it involves the culture of genes that are then printed in series. I thought of a joke at first, but the source is serious enough to be trusted.

    Now I am asking, if this is something the industry could master within 15 years, why wouldn't we get at some point, soldiers printed out of flesh and bones, and not anymore miniatures made of lead or plastic ?

    We would have to keep them in the fridge, but at the same time this would spare us the cost of the varnish. That would open a vast field of philosophical questioning to this hobby, don't you think?

    Thank you for the great note! And the Crusade... I see it coming!

    1. That is truly strange - I will have to look that up. Presumably the meat soldiers wouldn't come with uniforms, so our hobby would transform into sewing little uniforms rather than painting. Yup, I think I would have taken up lawn bowls before we got to that point.

  7. A great read. One of the first armies I got was an Essex 15mm NMA, not quite the same as all you need in a box but it was some time before I had the know how to build an army from a list. I have noticed FoG figure sets are now available


  8. Some interesting perspectives there that I hadn't pondered before - I think the improvements in plastic (and resin) figs have enabled the proliferation of starter sets. I am whole heartedly agree that he shift to more Historicals is great! I really want to go for some War of the Roses but will have to wait a bit for that at the moment.


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