Kum GarageOne thing every gamer needs is lots of good terrain. Nice looking terrain enhances the play experience and plentiful, well placed terrain increases tactical options. This is especially the case for skirmish and small scale games. Games like Mercs, Deadzone, Infinity and others all come alive with good board layouts. Luckily producing good terrain, specifically buildings, is easier than ever.

Buildings
There are four primary types of materials used to make model buildings: resin, hardfoam (a form of resin), laser cut wood (or plastic) and injection molded plastic. Each material has its advantageous and disadvantages.

  • Resin – Probably the most common resin buildings are those produced by Gale Force 9 in their Battlefield in a Box line. These have the advantage of being highly detailed, pre-painted and ready to go right out of the box. They are moderate in weight and slightly fragile. Depending on the scale and environment you are trying to represent the Gothic line or even the historical Flames of War line are useful.
  • Hardfoam – The most numerous options for hardfoam buildings and terrain come from Micro Art Studio. Hardfoam is quite detailed and easy to paint. It is also light but somewhat fragile. Its biggest disadvantage is that it is solid so hardfoam buildings almost never have an interior and models cannot be placed under them either. This of course limits their use in certain situations.
  • Armored ContainerLaser cut – Laser cut wood (plywood, MDF, etc) as well as newer PVC products are perhaps where the gamers’ options have recently really started to increase. Manufacturers have gotten better and better with designs and choice has grown considerably. Laser cut buildings have the advantage of variety in design, detailed accessible interiors and complex layouts. They are also generally quite durable. Their big disadvantages are that they need to be painted well to really look good and often lack sufficient surface detail. The process itself also limits designs to a certain degree. 4Ground really set things on fire with their pre-painted line of buildings. They only have historical buildings at the moment but have announced a sci-fi line is coming soon. Crescent Root Studio has perhaps done even better but so far has no sci-fi options. Manufacturers we particularly like are Warsenal, Underground Lasers, Micro Art Studio, Systema Gaming and Spartan Scenics.
  • Injection Molded Plastic – The nirvana of gaming building material is perhaps injection molded plastic. It is relatively cheap, has high detail, is easy to work with and easy paint. It is also light and reasonably durable. Its main disadvantage is basically choice. Until recently Games Workshop had the only really useful line of plastic buildings available, but of course you were stuck with the Gothic look. With the arrival of Mantic’s Deadzone a whole new line of Battlezones were also created. The Battlezone line is comprised of a variety of pieces based on a 3 inch square. Gamers can assemble them in almost infinite ways to create buildings and environments that suit their needs. Certainly future options will help break away from the cube to create even better variety.

Gaming Surface
Of course even great buildings need to sit on something. Thanks to recent technologies the old grass mat is no longer needed. Certainly gamers can use foam board and other materials to create detailed urban battlefields but far easier, cheaper and more portable options (and more practical for actual gaming) are the new gaming tiles and mats. This was perhaps started in concept by Games Workshop with their Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboards but they never took the line anywhere to its full potential. It took Secret Weapon Miniatures to produce its upcoming Tablescapes line to start to unlock the varied options of plastic molded gaming boards. Tablescapes are one foot square injection molded plastic tiles in a variety of designs. What is great about them is that because they are plastic it is very easy for gamers to glue them together and use regular modeling techniques to create custom sizes that fit their needs. Or one can simply leave them as individual tiles for maximum flexibility.

District 5 MatOf course plastic tiles still have to be painted and stored. An even easier and quicker solution is the new gaming mats produced on the rubberized ‘mouse pad’ material. Probably the first to produce a variety of both 4’x4′ and 4’x6′ mats was Frontline Gaming with their FAT Mat Mega Mats. These give a great looking surface on which to place buildings and terrain but are also flat and smooth for easy gaming. Mantic produces a similar Deadzone mat and now Micro Art Studio probably has the ultimate urban mat with its new District 5 mat. What is unique about District 5 is that it has a geomorphic design so multiple mats can be placed together to create varied urban layouts.

Lastly we should also mention Hawk Wargames’ Cityscape and Ruinscape line of urban tiles. They are designed for 10mm gaming but easily used for 15mm or even in 28mm as sidewalks. The ‘scapes are full-color cardboard tiles you can layout to create varied cityscapes. Keep them loose for variety and flexibility or glue them to board and enhance as needed for an even better look.

There has never been a better time to fight in the city. So go grab some buildings and storm the gates!

Stage 1We finally got some paint on our Plague Deadzone miniatures. They are made of the restic material that is never fun to work with and is horrible to file and sand. There is often a seam in an annoying spot. Many of the models need quite a bit of cleanup but some are not too bad. But once completed they all look quite nice and generally reward the effort.

As you can see they take paint quite well and are very detailed. Drybrushing and/or dipping will make quick work of most of them. In this case we used a wash and layer technique but we think we’ll try a dip on the Stage 1 next time around. In the photos the Plague are based on the Secret Weapon Miniatures Flight Deck bases.

The Plague Stage 1 and 2 are both quite large. In the photo below we put it next to a Space Marine Terminator and you quickly realize how brutal the Stage 1 really is!

The Deadzone scenery is very nice stuff. The buildings go together easily and it’s fun coming up with different configurations. The idea that they can remain snapped together is probably not realistic in most cases but you can certainly make sub-assembly sections that you can reconfigure easily enough. We’ll have more shots of some buildings soon.

If you like sci-fi tactical games give Deadzone a look. It has a unique mix of elements that creates something quite new. Also don’t miss the Deadzone playing tiles coming soon from Secret Weapon Miniatures.


[Updated: 1AUG14]

Dust BattlefieldWhile the state of Dust Warfare vs Dust Tactics is still somewhat confusing [Battlefront released a somewhat confusing set of posts (one and two) regarding Dust Warfare], what is clear now is that Dust Tactics v2.0 is out along with the new Battlefield rules.

If you have not seen them the new Dust Warfare cards are very nice. The new Dust Tactics Kickstarter is also showing probably the next year of model releases for both Tactics and Warfare.

But it was the new Dust Tactics Battlefield rules that got us to update this list. Will this essentially be the new Dust Warfare? Only time will tell but a quick look at the rules shows they are pretty good. Maybe not as good as Warfare but if support wanes for Warfare more and more gamers may simply convert to Battlefield. Only time will tell.

[Note: This post supersedes our November 2013 set of links to Dust Warfare resources.]

Imperator 15mmWith some of the new mech games out like Titanfall we’ve gotten into the mech mood. Obviously the tabletop gaming environment gives far greater variety of engagements limited only by your imagination and, well, miniatures.

To help set some background The Art of Titanfall is a great place to start even if you never plan on playing the game. Likewise the Titanfall: Prima Official Game Guide is also flled with nice art (a lot from the Art book but not all) and looks at the battlefields. If you like graphic novels Hawken Genesis is an interesting story but lacks in mech action. Speaking of Hawken, a nice filler game is the Hawken Real-Time Card Game. It is a fun card game that plays in about 15min. There are two sets out so far that can be combined.

Certainly 6mm with Battletech may be the first thing some think of for mech gaming. But the computer games offer a more personal look so we wanted something with a bit more presence so went looking for 15mm options. The most obvious choice is Critical Mass Games. They have a number of 15mm mech options now and even a new ‘mecha workshop‘ that lets you buy bits to customize your mechs to your own tastes.

Below we have pictures of some of the Critical Mass Games’ mechs. From left to right is the Imperator, Arc Fleet Support Combat Walker, Blackguard, Ravager and Predator Assault Suit. [Note: We used alternate weapon options on the Blackguard and Ravager] They have a number of other models as well within those lines. The Imperator is the big boy of the bunch. We easily magnetized the waist and arms on the Imperator and the torsos on the others. As you can see the various mechs scale well with each other giving you large, medium and battlesuit options along with gun and jumping close assault mechs. Add in the mecha workshop and you can really create a force to your specifications.

Warfighter EpochBut if you are wanting that Titanfall aesthetic have no fear, the new Flytrap mechs fit the bill.  The Warfighter Epoch line currently offers three different mech designs along with pilot/troop figs. Unlike CMG these are all metal models. The metal is quite soft as are the details. They are very fiddly to put together and need to be pinned but once complete are nice. The arms and legs are the same on all three models with only the torso unique. Size wise they are sort of in between the Blackguard/Ravager and the Assault Suit.

For rules we are going to try Gruntz and Strike Legion (and if you haven’t seen it yet the new Strike Legion v1.5 Compilation is great) but there are other mech specific rules coming out soon as well that will be worth a try.


[Updated: 13JUN14]

Chain of CommandWe finally had  a chance to get in some games of Chain of Command from TooFatLardies. Because we are still painting up our 28mm forces — and because we have tons of 15mm Flames of War forces — we decided to try it in 15mm. It not only worked just fine but looked great at that scale. Two issues came up using FoW-based figures: First, tracking casualties was a bit cumbersome. We later came up with the idea of using colored bases under the FoW bases that would denote the number of casualties off the stand. This would probably work just fine. The second issue was a positive one; because Chain of Command is very team focused using the standard two FoW infantry stands per squad works out just fine and makes movement and placement generally clear. You of course do lose a bit of placement flexibility but this is generally not a big problem but visually can be odd at times (such as when moving down a road or along a hedgerow).

But we liked how that worked so much we went ahead and based up some 15mm figures individually. We used custom plywood bases from Litko. General troops went on 15mm round bases, heavy weapon and crew got 15mm square bases and we put junior leaders on 15mm hexagon bases. Senior leaders, with two figures per base, went on 20mm hexagon bases and 20mm square fit well for weapon teams such as Bazookas, snipers and observers. Mortars and MG’s we placed on 1″x1.5″ bases (standard FoW small base). Not shown in the photos below are the colored bands applied to the back of each base to denote squad affiliation. This all worked out very well. The different base shapes makes it easier to pick out different troops with the smaller figures. Another idea could be to base troops on 20mm bases and use some of the excess space to add color for easier identification and spotting. You could also use the different base shapes for different squads as well.

With individually based figures casualties are easy to remove as is moving troops between teams and breaking off troops. You can also place the figures exactly where you want them. The only real downside to the individually based figures is that they are a bit fiddly to move around and on a nice table can actually be hard to see. But with the low unit count in CoC this really was not an issue.

While we have not tried it yet I think a combination of the above two approaches could be ideal. Start out with the regular FoW-based figures and as casualties are taken or units broken off convert them to the individually based figures. One could easily make unit trays as well for the individually based figures.

In the photos below you’ll see some of the American Late War Armored Rifle platoon figures (all Battlefront miniatures in this case). The fields with walls terrain piece is from Crescent Root. Buildings are from Crescent Root, JR and Landmark.

Overall we really enjoyed Chain of Command. If you like WW2 skirmish games give it a shot and don’t worry too much about scale and basing. Basing really doesn’t matter that much so just go with what you have or your preference.

Polyversal CoverThe latest Meeples & Miniatures podcast, Episode #124, has a very interesting discussion with Ken Whitehurst about his upcoming 6mm scifi ruleset Polyversal. The game is being published by Collins Epic Wargames of Spearpoint 1943 fame.

The game was announced months ago but with very little information. Ken’s interview is the best information we’ve had on Polyversal to date. The game will be a 6mm scifi miniatures game covering company to battalion level battles. It sounds very interesting but listen to the show and judge for yourself.

Collins Epic Wargames will be launching the game via Kickstarter sometime later in 2014. They will hopefully be partnering with a number of 6mm mini manufacturers so you won’t be locked into any one miniature line. Even better, the folks they are talking to are the major 6mm manufacturers so if you play any 6mm now you probably already have some of the forces you will need for the game.

Microworld TEF MLRSWe looked at a number of 6mm miniatures awhile back. Unfortunately since then Old Crow ceased production. Aintsy Castings picked up their line but so far have only produced the 15mm models not the 6mm. This is a shame as the Hammer’s Slammers 6mm minis were superb.

But there are plenty of other choices out there and Plasmablast, as we noted, is outstanding as well. We recently ordered some Microworld figures so we’ll report on those later. Oddly missing from the Polyversal list is Ground Zero Games’ Dirtside and Future Wars miniatures. These are also quite good but some of the models are slightly on the small side compared to the other manufactures.

We look forward to hearing more about Polyversal and seeing it hit Kickstarter.

Battle Academy: Fortress Metz screenshotThere have been a great many computer wargames and expansions released over the past few weeks and months. Matrix Games especially seems to be on a roll and there is more still to come. It’s a good time to be a computer wargamer! Here are some of our favorites:

Battle Academy: Fortress Metz — A campaign add-on for Battle Academy. It covers the US 3rd Army in WW2 as it tries to encircle Metz in France. The iPad version of Battle Academy and all its campaigns also works great.

Combat Mission Battle for Normandy: Market GardenThe excellent CM: Battle for Normandy game expanded for Operation Market-Garden. One of our favorite games and favorite battles.

Command: MANOCommand: Modern Air Naval Operations — The spiritual successor to the classic Harpoon series of games. We’ve had a tough time getting imto this one because there is so much there but it will probably reward the gamer who puts in the time. “Surface fleets, submarine squadrons, air wings, land-based batteries and even satellite constellations are yours to direct as you see fit – from the lowliest pirate skiff to the mightiest aircraft carrier, from propeller biplanes to supersonic stealth fighters. Every sensor and weapon system is modeled in meticulous detail. You are given the hardware; but you have to use it well.”

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of SteelConflict of Heroes is a great boardgame with a great computer version. “Storms of Steel is a stand-alone expansion to the critically acclaimed tactical computer wargame Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear, the official adaptation of the award-winning board game from Academy Games.  Storms of Steel is set in the Battle of Kursk and brings an impressive new campaign, created in part by legendary wargame designer John Hill, to Conflict of HeroesStorms of Steel adds rules for airplanes, snipers, and over fifty new units.Drive on Moscow

Drive on Moscow — Follow up to the excellent Battle of the Bulge for your iPad, Drive on Moscow brings you Operation Barbarossa. The AI struggles in this adaptation far more than in Bulge but recent updates have improved it. Still well worth your time.

FC: Red Alert boxFlashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm — A complete remake of the original Flashpoint: Germany. This is one of the best Cold War/Modern era wargames available.FC Red Alert screenshot

Lock ‘n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad — Five years in the making, this is Mark H. Walker’s boardgame brought to the computer. It is a very literal conversion and plays almost identically to the boardgame.

Panzer Korps – iPad — The classic Panzer General game redone and brought to the iPad. Works great. Still has the original problem of being too puzzle like but still a fun simple wargame.

Piercing Fortress EuropaPiercing Fortress Europa — A new operational level game about WW2 battles in Italy. It has a huge emphasis on supply. Looks very good.

Unity of Command – Black Turn — A great expansion for another of our favorite wargames. Allows players to play Operation Barbarossa. Also on Steam.

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