Miniature Wargames

Sci-Fi Terrain — Buildings

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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!

Deadzone – Painting

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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 Warfare/Battlefield Resources — June 2014

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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.]

[Updated: 10JUN15]

15mm Mechs from Critical Mass Games

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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 Command in 15mm

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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 — New 6mm SciFi Game

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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.

Star Trek: Furuta Ships

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Furuta NCC1701Following up on our recent look at various Star Trek ship miniatures, we stumbled upon the Furuta line of Star Trek ship miniatures. These are plastic, pre-painted display miniatures. They are sold blind but are easy to find from retailers as specific ships.

First the bad news: Some of these are now essentially collectables and are extremely expensive.

The good news though is many are still very reasonably priced especially considering their strengths. As you can see from the photos below the quality of the miniatures is outstanding. They are as good or better than anything out there. They come in just a few pieces and snap together — We used a bit of plastic cement on ours — in just a few minutes. The paint jobs range from very good to outstanding and also include decals. They are easily equal to or better than what many modelers will be able to do themselves and they are ready to go in literally minutes.

The other good news, as you can see in the photos, is that they also scale very well with other miniatures for gaming. In the photos we put in a Starline 2500 ship miniature for comparison. The new generation Star Trek ships are supposed to be twice the size, or more, of the original ships. The problem with this from a gameplay standpoint is it just looks odd. The Furuta ships are 25% or so larger (depending on the model) than the Starline 2500 ships and that gives them a nice sense of size without being ridiculous. They mount easily on stands for gaming (we use the CorSec Engineering stands) and are perfect for Star Trek: Attack Wing or Federation Commander.

The last bit of bad news is that the Furuta line basically consists of mostly Federation ships. There are a few Klingon, Jem’Hdar, Romulan and Borg ships but the choices are very limited and often now expensive. Also if we see one more large Klingon Bird of Prey we’re gonna beam ourselves into space. But there is always hope Furuta will expand the line in the future. On the plus side, because the scale works well you can use Starline 2500 and AMT Klingon models with these just fine.

If you have any interest in Star Trek and especially if you play Attack Wing or Federation Commander you can’t get any better than the Furuta line.

Note: Here is a nice guide to actual Star Trek ship sizes. As you can see for gaming, keeping miniatures true to scale would get strange especially as you mix in the alien races that have some truly huge ships.

[Updated: 7FEB14]

Now Playing

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Film CountWe have added a new section to the site, Now Playing.

Our Articles page long ago lost most of its usefulness as the site grew in content. The Category folders and site search are generally more helpful for finding what you need. Our Top Picks section is dedicated to the top classic games in various genres. The site itself lists what’s new and what we are doing, but we decided that a permanent spot that highlighted the games we are currently playing would be useful. This serves two purposes: First it shows what currently has our interest and also acts as a central location for resources on those games.

We will only list titles we like of course but some games may appear and then drop off if they prove less exciting in the long run. But if we are currently playing them or they still hold our interest we’ll keep them listed here. We have only posted a few initial titles but will fill it out over the coming weeks.

You can always access the page via the site’s top navigation link.

Dust Warfare Resources — November 2013

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Dust Warfare[Note: This post is now superseded by Dust Warfare/Battlefield Resources — June 2014] Battlefront released a somewhat confusing set of posts (one and two) regarding Dust Warfare. It seems that FFG still has the rights to all current models (at least until stock runs out) as well as the rules for Dust Warfare. Battlefront will be releasing all new models (with the new DW cards) and campaign PDFs. But it seems that Dust Warfare itself is still in the hands of FFG. I guess we’ll have to see how this goes in 2014.

  • TheWorldofDust.net (Dust Tactics.Com) — This is the new official home for all things Dust.
  • Official Forums — The new official Dust Warfare forums are on TheWorldofDust.net.
  • Dust Warfare Force Cards – The cards that come with the miniatures are actually for Dust Tactics. While one could modify those cards easily enough it seems a shame not to keep them for games of Dust Tactics. Plus there are some unique DW attributes that are difficult to add. Well Rodney Smith and others to the rescue. Rodney has created a great set of Dust Warfare specific cards you can print out and use. So far there are two sets: The Core Set and the SSU Set. Also see post 449. There will be official DW cards in 2014. They will ship with all new Dust boxes as well as be available as sets.
  • Dust Warfare Force Builder — So far there is no official Army Builder app or anything for Dust Warfare. Luckily C. Jackobson decided to just build his own. It is a website that gets the job done and produces basic text output for your army.
  • Paolo Parente’s Dust Site — The man who started it all. Here you can see the Premium Models as well as the unique Dust 48 line. There is also Dust Terrain and of course Dust publications. If you can’t find these things at your local retailers or favorite online store you can order from Paolo and he will ship out quickly.
  • Dust Warfare PDF Rulebooks — You can get the PDF versions of the rules from Wargame Vault along with the expansion/campaign books.
  • Dust Chronicles — A fanzine devoted to Dust Warfare and Dust Tactics. Very well done.
  • Fantasy Flight Games’ Dust Warfare Forum — While TheWorldofDust.net has the official forums FFG’s Dust Warfare forum still seems available.
  • BattleTactics TV — BTTV has some excellent videos that cover the Premium Models as well as other aspects of the game.
  • Beasts of War Dust Warfare Coverage — The blokes over at The Beasts of War occasionally have some good DW bits including video unboxings of new units. Also see their YouTube Channel.
  • BoLS Dust Warfare Coverage — The Bell of Lost Souls occasionally pulls itself away from 40K and covers Dust Warfare.
  • Unit Forward — Unit Forward is a Dust Warfare site with excellent coverage. Great photos and lots of AARs and game resources. Also home of Zero Station a Dust Warfare podcast.
  • Dust-War — Another fan site with solid Dust Warfare coverage.
  • Watch It Played — A series of videos on how to play Dust Warfare.
  • Esoteric Order of GamersDust Warfare play sheets

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

[Updated: 15DEC13]

Flames of War – Fate of a Nation

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Fate of NationsBattlefront released its first Middle East module for Flames of War. Fate of a Nation comes as a free supplement with Wargames Illustrated Issue 312

Fate Of A Nation:
Arab-Israeli Wars, Six-Day War, 1967
On 5 June, 1967, Israel surprised the Arab forces massing on its borders with a pre-emptive strike. By the end of the day a hundred thousand soldiers and several thousand tanks were locked in battle — a struggle that would decide the fate of Israel.

Both sides had spent a decade preparing for this titanic struggle. Both sides acquired every modern tank they could, and upgraded those they retained from earlier wars. The opening battles saw more tanks in combat than the famous Battle of Prokhorovka between the Germans and Soviets near Kursk in 1943. The clash was swift and brutal. Within days a thousand wrecked tanks littered the battlefields and Israel was victorious..

There a number of supporting release for Fate of a Nation with certainly many more on the way. Here are some of the highlights:Isherman

Of course Battlefront is not the only option for Middle East miniatures. Most notably Khurasan Miniatures have a very nice range of both vehicles and infantry with more on the way. We’ll have a comparison between Battlefront and Khurasan soon.
FoW FoN