I thought I would write a quick blog post about last year and my table-top warfare gaming experiences, and what I thought of them...
Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game
This game has easily been one of the most popular games of late. At local gaming clubs there seems to be always at least one table devoted to it, and sometimes many if a league or tournament is being played. For those who know nothing of the game, firstly, where have you been? Secondly, here is a brief explanation. It's basically a game of aerial dogfighting in the Star Wars universe. There are now 3 factions; Rebels, Imperials and Scum & Villainy. I would say I have spent about 60% of my gaming time playing this over the last year. This is a slight decrease from the previous year, mainly due to being a bit 'X-Winged out'. The game is still very good, and with a glut of released ships available for all factions and a very hectic release schedule planned for this year, I cannot see this game's popularity decreasing anytime soon. I have heard many Armada players (bigger ships set in the Star Wars universe) complain they have seen less attention on the release schedule side of things.
My thoughts on the game? Basically, it's still a top dog contender. I am a little overwhelmed by the releases - I have some ships I have only flown once, as I cannot seem to keep up. I currently have two small ships I purchased from Creation Nation Store that I am yet to even unwrap! (The solo packs of the Force Awakens Tie and X-Wing). My favourite build is still a 3-times Y-Wing list as those who know me can attest to. Which, seeing as it was one of the early waves releases, is proof that the new ships are not too overpowered by comparison. Although I have upgraded some of the weapons and gear, you can equip them with using weapons from the newer expansion packs. The two best things about X-Wing are that the models are pre-painted up to a fairly decent standard, something that seems to be improving with every release. Secondly, it's very easy to pick up the basics so it is a great entry-level game for those who are new to wargaming. It's popular at both the clubs I attend and there are regular competitive events for those seeking a real challenge. To add another point (yes I am aware this is now more than two) it has great scope and you can write your own scenario’s. Simply put, the game offers quite a lot of options. £25 is the average price for the starter set which is all you need to get into it. But beware; the glut of cool ships and the regular releases do add up.
Bolt Action by Warlord Games
This is a truly excellent company. This is a world war two skirmish level game. By 'skirmish' I mean one to two platoons, ideally with a few support units and a tank or two. All the various nations are slowly being expanded, The British, American, German, Russian all having a huge range with the other nations following behind. I collect Japanese. The reason being; no-one else really seemed to be collecting this collection, plus the models looked great. The Japanese have a special rule where no matter how pinned they are (meaning how much fire they are coming under) they can always charge the enemy. This is good as, when you are pinned, you have to roll under a leadership like value to perform your chosen action. This means the Japanese can always advance. They do, however, possess very poor quality tanks. I would say only about 15% of my time last year was spent playing this. Several reason are behind this. As a game its much slower than the likes of X-Wing. The clubs I attend are only open for about three hours making it difficult to play a full game as, by the time everyone arrives, talks a bit, sets up and gets started, time is running out. I did take part in the online campaign where results were fed into a website set up, I believe, by Warlord and you could see the battlefronts shift on how your faction performed. I won all but two games if memory serves, with one being a tie and the other with the odds set way against me was a loss. It’s an enjoyable game and very thematic. While its not as hard as some rulesets it is far more complicated than the likes of X-Wing. So best for someone with some gaming experience.
I dare say, with more play and adding some better reference sheets for the forces I own we could get quicker at playing this. Indeed, we have spoken about trying to run some smaller squad-based level games to get back into the swing of the game. This game is aimed more at the proper hobbyists amongst us. Those interested in collecting, building and painting a force over time and watching it gradually grow, and then using it on the battlefield. I still have a tank to paint and another twenty men and support squads. Pluses of this game are; it is very popular. I would say it is Warlord's most popular game to date, and you can find opponents. It is not so newbie-friendly however and takes more money to get started in than some games. However, it is massively cheaper than some rival companies' miniature-based combat games such as Games Workshop. You can probably pick up a platoon of men (enough to get started with) for around £25-£30, you would also need the rulebook for about £25, and order dice (they are special dice) for £10 so you're looking at a total spend of £65 to start off. Seems a lot, but you would probably pay double the £25 for as many figures that are Warhammer and their rulebooks are not cheap either. For example, at one point I considered getting back into GW stuff but the Lord of The Rings rulebook was a ridiculous price, like £50 for a book!!! With no models! No thanks!
Judge Dredd by Warlord Games
Another game stocked by Warlord, but made by Mongoose publishing. I have played this quite a bit, seeing as I got into it later in the year as it's easy enough to get into. The rulebook cost around £25, but now, as the physical copy is no longer available (probably getting re-edited, more on that later) it's now FREE to download. You only need a handful of models, even less to start if you use a gang that has a high-point cost. For example, my starting gang was only three models, so, easy to paint and get your first battle under your belt. If you have played games like Necromunda and liked it this would be up your street. It has more streamlined mechanics for shooting, dodging, etc... It would also have the familiar gaining territories with your gangs that generates income mechanics as well as rolling for downed men to see if they are injured, how they are injured or if they are plain dead. If Judges are about, there are even arrest rules that are quite cinematic. Now onto the rulebook; whereas the rules are excellent, the layout of the book is clumsy as hell. Frankly, I’d arrest the editor and have them thrown in the cells. I had to put many a post-it note in the book to allow me to flip from relevant part to relevant part. This shouldn't harm the fun of the game too much, it's just initially very confusing. I easily spent 15% of my time playing this. Opponents can be hard to find, but most people are willing to give it a go though as, with the free rulebook, they only need a gang. Gangs can be picked up for as little as £25 and then all you need is some dice and some city-like terrain.
Sails of Glory by Ares Games
I have spent most of the last part of the year playing this game. So what is it? It's Galleon-warfare during the Napoleonic era. Its possibly the best ruleset for this type of fighting I have played. Indeed, it won Game of the Year in 2015, and after playing a few games and adding in the standard rules, it's easy to see why as it's a game of great skill. Like Star Wars X-Wing, you have to plan your manoeuvres, unlike X-Wing however, you have to plan two at a time, so you are always reacting that bit later/slower as these ships could be hard to get into position. Also, when planning the manoeuvre, you have to take into account wind direction, as well as the amount of sail you are flying! Misjudging this can be disastrous. Ideally you want to be firing your broadside down the length of the enemy ship, especially the aft-end where you do even more damage. Throw in the advanced rules where wind direction can change and you can find yourself accidentally sailing into the wind, this can take your ship back, blow you off course or straight towards an island with disastrous results. All the mechanics of the game represent realistic warfare and it has proved that I and my gaming buddies are not natural sailors! In one game I failed to fire a shot and sailed off the board after several turns, in another two ships ran aground. I have now got the hang of it and my HMS Defence has captured 4 French vessels and sent another burning to the bottom of the sea. I have also purchased the HMS Victory expansion. The game has great scope as well for reenacting battles and there are many ships out for the French and British. They have also released two American ships as well as two Spanish at the time of writing this. The starter set is a must. All ships come pre-painted. You get two British and two French and everything else you need to start playing. It is an expensive starter, or so it seems. But I think it is not. With the starter set, I have played twelve games now and it's still not becoming dull and is still challenging. Taking into account to play Bolt Action, you would need to spend as much to get a decent game I think this is a bargain. I have enjoyed this game so much it has easily taken up the last 15% of my gaming time.
So what do I have planned for this year?
Well, I have already ordered a terrain pack for Sails of Glory, so I have more obstacles to crash into, and will probably get another British and French ship.
New games-wise; I have purchased the rules and models for Frostgrave - a small skirmish game where you play the part of a wizard. I have started painting these, pushing back my Bolt Action Japanese.
Lastly, I have purchased Hail Caesar and some Romans from Warlord Games. I have wanted the Romans for ages and took the plunge as they were part of a special deal with Warlord Games (at the time of writing, figures came for free with the rulebook). This is a huge painting project and will be a labour of love for me so will take some time. There are also very few Hail Caesar players in my area at present.
If you're reading this and are local to the Essex area and fancy killing some Romans, message me or leave a comment!