Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Was Over Before We Even Started Talking

It was late one evening when the local dispatch got a phone call. On the other end was a panicked young lady who started screaming, "Oh my god! You've got to help me, my car's on fire!"

"Calm down, Ma'am," the dispatcher said. "We'll send the fire department right out to you."

"Okay. Thanks," she said and started to hang up.

"Wait!" the dispatcher cried, "We don't know your address. How are we going to get to you?"

"Duh, big red truck!"
I was listening to B.B. King and looking up at the heavens above when it occurred to me that none of my friends have ever played a war game. Not a single one of us have even picked up a ruler and used it to measure out our movements on imaginary terrain.


In a lot of ways I think that it comes down to the fact that most of the people that I've played with over the years have been under the age of 30 and none of us had any of the older gamers around us to bring war gaming to the fore. I don't think  that I like that answer though. No, I really don't.

So how am I going to fix that?

Duh, big red truck . . . 


  1. You could use the halfway house of RP and wargaming, that which is Savage Worlds....just play it with minis, a ruler and the templates and walla, role playing war game experience engaged!

    1. I've played Savage Worlds before and never thought about using it like that. Brilliant solution Nicholas!

  2. Take a look at Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Or more simple take a wargame/boardgame and give it a try, you can start from Axis & Allies. ;)

  3. I just looked over my book shelves, and only three games popped out at me as really making full potential use of positional crunch and maneuvering. Then again, it's 4 in the morning here and I may not be thinking straight.

    One of those was, of course, 4e D&D. No, seriously, don't ban me bro, I even nicknamed it "SPI's Revenge" for the way it all but required a map to show the relative positions of combatants for maneuvers and combat modifiers. The only reason you're not using a ruler for that is because it's already being played on a 1" grid.

    The other two are the ones I tend to talk up whenever the discussion gets around to games with peculiar features: Hero System (1 inch = 2 meters, and no grid needed—an unusually adaptable miniatures game whether running Champions, Star Hero, or Fantasy Hero) and GURPS (it started out as a natural growth from various hex-grid war-games, and is still largely compatible with that experience).

    Other games can mix in minis-and-map as an afterthought, but those three have the movement and position rules baked right in, so working in the map should be most effortless.

    1. "One of those was, of course, 4e D&D. No, seriously, don't ban me bro, I even nicknamed it "SPI's Revenge" for the way it all but required a map to show the relative positions of combatants for maneuvers and combat modifiers."

      I would never ban you for liking 4e. :P

      As for Hero I've never played it but GURPS is pretty awesome. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Over at there are masses of free paper miniatures and pre-made scenarios with very simple rules. Just print, fold, and play.

  5. Steve Jackson Game's Ogre. Seriously. They recently re-released the original for the original price of $2.95. Available as a PDF even! I got my re-release at my local game store, but you can get the PDF at

  6. Heritage's 1980 Knights and Magick got reprinted by some folks called The Gaming Gang and it is a fine set of large skirmish wargame rules at the margin of D&D. If you have enough D&D figs around to do units of 6 or more of the same general type, 30 - 200 on a side, it's an easy transition. Also take a look at after action reports on the web of Song of Blades and Heroes, In Her Majesty's Name, Empire of the Dead, and Saga to see if one or another seems appealing enough to get into. Skirmish gaming is the easier transition, since it is basically like doing a big RPG combat at low detail resolution, and the figure investment is small.

    Or just take your favorite D&D edition as the rules, hit the fabric store for a green cloth to cover some books on the table, get some model railroad trees and some lichens for bushes, and stat out a couple of sides for a skirmish fight with maybe 12-20 1-2 HD troops of whatever sort you have and a leader or two per player that is somewhere around 4th level. If you have fewer troops, use lower level leaders, or avoid using mages to prevent insta-win by fireball & sleep. Use the morale rules or add some in if they aren't there. If you simplify and track damage by hit dice instead of rolling damage, so a Fighter 4 or an ogre takes four hits, and a basic orc or skeleton or soldier takes one hit you're in classic skirmish game resolution.

    The other easy way to find out if you like it is to just sign up (maybe as a group) to play in some non-tournament minis games at conventions. If it isn't a tournament, the GM will be providing the whole set up.

  7. What a fool, and think that I have them on the shelf, there are also all the manuals TSR/WotC on the battles with miniatures!

  8. I can't believe I didn't remember this yesterday: Brikwars!

    It's a set of wargaming rules you can download for free that uses Lego minifigs as the playing pieces.


GM Toolbox: Things to Do from January 24, 2005

Shortly before I was going to run my first game back in the early months of 2005 I was sitting in the Den working on a list of things that...