Friday, September 7, 2012

The Charge of the Hefty Brigade

Many years ago a younger, less cynical Dux took himself along to a wargaming club. Entering the hall I rapidly realised this was a Local Club for Local People. A few grizzled old grognards glanced briefly at me before focusing back on the game of Fire and Fury they had been playing since 1875. A dog barked in the distance.

Eventually someone took pity and spoke to me. He asked me what I played, and I showed him some of the 1/72 ancient armies for DBA I had brought along. A look of disgust crossed his face, as he told me the club didn't touch 1/72 plastics as they had no 'heft'. I naturally assumed he was mad, edged away to the door, ran for the car and considered myself lucky to escape.

Fast forward twenty or so years, and an older, wiser Dux has learned that it is by no means uncommon for some wargamers to go on about 'heft'. We live in a golden age of cheap, highly detailed plastic figures in 1/72 scale, 28mm and increasingly 15mm. The majority of these figures are well sculpted, anatomically accurate, and carry weapons that are truer to scale than many of their metal cousins. And yet for some in the hobby the sticking point is that they have no 'heft'. Some people remain perfectly happy to deploy lumpen little figures that bear a passing resemblance to human beings carrying telegraph poles on the tabletop so long as they feel heavy. This is of course completely fine, but it irritating when this is presented as the norm, or the way the hobby should be.

A case in point. In Issue 61 of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy (brilliant magazine, btw), someone reviewed a couple of new tank releases from Plastic Soldier Company. The review includes the comment 'The finished models do feel a little light, so we recommend adding some ballast internally to give the model more "heft"'. What madness is this?? A little light for what?? Are people buying wargames figures in the hope that they are heavy enough to batter their opponents to death with if things turn ugly? Are people commonly playing games in strong gales? Or perhaps, given the common 'wargamer physique' that our hobby seems to attract, there is a psychological explanation, perhaps a tendency to look down on those who are lighter to validate the heaviness of oneself? I can't help thinking that these are the same people who went on and on about how CDs were rubbish because vinyl records had a 'warmer' sound.

Despite the Dux's strong views on this, he does magnanimously acknowledge that the hobby is a broad church, and that we must offer solutions for those who require 'heft'. To that end, I suggest the simple and elegant basing suggestion above.


  1. I'm wondering if perhaps it has something to do with "doctor's orders"? In order to reduce their weight, the doc has suggested they need more exercise and what better exercise is there than lugging heavy boxes full of hefty figures to the wargames club?

    That being said, I could see cases where "heft" could be helpful, as individually based plastics are somewhat easier to knock over than their metal cousins.

  2. I am a heft monger. Thanks for giving me another view. I must say that I do base my plastics with metal bases, to give them "heft". I just like the feel of heavier pieces on the game table.

  3. Love it! I find that judicious use of a dead blow hammer solves most rules arguments. Or any argument for that matter. I am basing my 1/72 on metal washers for "heft". I don't normally game in gale force winds so it shouldn't be a problem. Why people want to stick with horrible sculpts just because they're metal is beyond me. The only thing I object to about 28mm plastics is it seems to me that they should be cheaper than what they are (read GW is too expensive). But I have been tempted by some of the newer stuff. (Other companies)

  4. I also tend to want a bit of 'heft' in my figs, but only because my gaming terrain isn't stepped and a lower centre of gravity helps them stay upright when they are on a slope. Heft for its own sake is a bit weird really!

  5. Thinking on about the good old days... what's this new-fangled foam 'man bag' style army carrier stuff all about? Real wargamers carry their *metal* figures around in an ordinary *metal* toolbox... even if a few limp-wristed types like to have magnetic bases to ensure their men don't move around, instead of having the more manly tube of emergency super glue in the box.

    The 'heft' of carrying 70 lbs of tool box and figures each club night, really puts you in the same frame of mind as your typical 20th Century Tommy, who carried an equivalent load. Admittedly it also puts you into the hands of the local Osteopath, but no pain, no gain!

    Seriously though, I would use coins/washers to base plastic figures, for the reasons mentioned by Paul above. I think the future is clearly with plastic though and like decimalisation, the switch to unleaded petrol and other world-ending events, it will turn out not to be so bad.

    Who knows, maybe the wargamer of the future will begin to resemble the slimmer and more anatomically correct plastic figures, as opposed to the lumpen misshapen and poorly formed average metal one, as seems to be the case at most shows I go to.


  6. Great post. It made me laugh. I don't pick up others tanks/figures etc once they are on the table so I wouldnt even know if they had heft or not. Nor do I care.
    My only request would be...PAINT YA DAM MINIATURES! or find someone who can. I am not fussed on how good a standad either. Just get some colour on them and at least attempt basing! :)
    But I am not a snob I tell you.

  7. This has made my day :) Looking forward to the rules rant...

  8. I use plastic figures on card bases, no heft required. I've always had lighter figures and so no problem in them.

  9. If I had a dollar for everytime I've heard a similar story about a wargames club.

  10. Well put. I know exactly how you feel.

  11. I hear Neil from Meeples and Minatures going on about heft and I assumed it was a joke...

  12. Beautiful basing technique. I'll need a hauler to carry about the army but oh a small sacrifice for heft! LOL! Well said.

  13. This tutorial is indeed useful. I have just downloaded it. Thanks again

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  14. I wasn't at all convinced by the merits of heft until an incident at a new club.

    One of the opposing commanders - a fellow of considerable personal heft - stretched and slid his chair back along the wooden floor.
    Our table shook as though struck by an earthquake, and all the little figures danced about (the PBIs on hillsides suffering considerable disorder).

    I now think that the heft of the figures should match the maximum heft of any player.


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