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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tabletop Gaming: Part 12

Historical wargaming is a big part of the community because it is the cornerstone of all gaming systems. It was through tin toys and early skirmish rules, decided over a pint at a local pub, than an entire industry was born. For this everyone must take a moment and appreciate the history and tradition. There would be no Warhammer, no Warcraft, no Command and Conquer, no RTS genre had it not been for historical wargaming.

With that said how do the systems go?

Well, actually this is the most humble part of the industry as well. Most historical wargaming systems have gone relatively unchanged in many years. Some of the systems are thin, published in black and white, with no fancy graphics and spiral-bound, as if copied at a local Kinkos. Some of the systems never even made it to a publisher, there are plenty of systems that are written and burned to CD that you can pick up from vendors like Old Glory. These are the polar opposite of the hardcovers with beautiful paintings and full-color photographs that mark the most popular fantasy and sci fi systems. With historical wargaming once the rules have been hammered out there is very little do do other than collect miniatures and paint them.

One of the better magazines covering the whole scene, Wargames Illustrated, covers most of the systems features reviews and rules. There are tons of systems out there, these include chariot races from over 4000 years ago all the way up to the current war in Iraq. Oddly enough the biggest company was also the slowest to transition into the historical bandwagon but when they did the world took notice. This would be Games Workshop and their Warhammer Historical series. Just look at their massive collection of games set on ancient warfare. GW introduced a standard for neophytes and created a series of books that appeals to fans of history rather than fantasy.

Let me highlight some of the best manufacturers for both miniatures and systems, I'll go alphabetically.

A&A Miniatures these people are a goldmine of ancient figures. Be sure to look through their gallery and be awed by the sheer numbers of the armies they produce.
Artizan Designs will be mentioned again in future blogs. They make a few ancient figures, but it is their World War II miniatures that really sets them apart. Speaking of World War II, Fire and Fury Games makes a WWII skirmish system called Battlefront .
Brigade Games is a store that carries a variety of systems, their vehicles and tanks from WWII are pretty solid.
Black Scorpion makes superbly detailed minis and some contemporary figures for the war in Iraq. Take a look at their Marines and even their Iraqi Militia. It's almost kind of sad to know that these figures are part of a skirmish game, but that is history repeating.
Blue Max / Canvas Eagles is a system set during the golden era of aerial combat, World War I. I really dig this part of history and am glad that somebody had finally decided to show it some love.
Speaking of World War I, Brigade Games has some award-winning minis dedicated to that period. Not to mention several rulebooks for WWI and WWII.
Chiltern Miniatures creates miniatures for ancient systems but also for most of the 20th century battles, including the Vietnam War.

Cold War Miniatures makes a good PT Boat model for Vietnam scenarios.
Copplestone Casting is a good miniatures company (c'mon, I'm not going to nominate any crappy companies here) that creates figures in a variety of genres. Their First World War figures are solid and their skirmish rules are no-nonsense classics.

Clash of Arms publishes a number of historical systems, fans of naval combat from WWI, WWII and even the modern world should check them out.
Crusader Miniatures makes a series of minis for ancient battles, the dark ages and even WWII. Their website organization is a little weak but their minis are good.
Dixon Miniatures covers the line of classic miniatures, including Napoleon, the American Revolution, the Civil War, Samurai and Vikings as well.
Flashpoint Miniatures focuses on a system and 15mm miniatures set entirely during the Vietnam War. If you are a history buff concerning that era then you should check this company out.
The Wargames Foundry, or Foundry for short has been in business for a long time. They do not publish gaming systems but rather focus on making miniatures, scores of miniatures, tons of miniatures on every era in world history, fantasy and sci-fi. They lack the style of the modelers at Rackham or Privateer Press but make minis very friendly to the Games Workshop universes. I suggest bookmarking their page and going over it a few times.

Flagship Games publishes a series of rules in various genres including ancient Samurai Warfare rules. I'll talk about their pirate system tomorrow.
Gripping Beast makes very good ancient armies that can stand up to anyone else's lineup. Their shield transfers have been seen on models from other manufacturers, which goes to show that they know what they are doing.
Mongoose Publishing has rules for WWII naval combat, titled Victory at Sea. They also publish modern (semi-future) warfare rules and pre-painted miniatures under the Battlefield Evolution series. These pre-painted sets come with instructions to get you up and gaming in no time at all.
Perry Miniatures is possibly the best of the best as far as historical miniatures go. The studio is small but absolutely serious about getting details right. This includes the eras for the samurai, crusaders, American and British revolution and Napoleonic wars. Be sure to check out their catalog.

Redoubt Enterprises covers the basics in history and has some very animated characters. Be sure to check out their Early Italian figures. Some of their best work, the pirates, will be talked about more next week.
Renegade Miniatures has just about cornered the market on ancient China. Their models are comparable to the fine sculpts at Artizan Designs. They also make minis for the often overlooked WWI era.
Roman Seas is a naval combat system based on cardstock models, making it inexpensive to pick up and learn.
Steve Barber Models is all over the map, that's a good thing for historical fans. He creates minis in a variety of ranges, from 10mm to 42mm. His 25/28mm scale includes warriors of the often-overlooked Mongolian invaders as well as mythological Greek characters.
Tiger Miniatures focuses their efforts mostly on turn-of-the-century USA, Spain and Cuba. Think Teddy Rosevelt and the Rough Riders.
Thunderbolt Mountain makes some truly great sculpts of fantasy figures. It is their Age of Arthur minis that you should consider if you decide to pursue that era of history.
Victory Force makes a variety of minis in sci-fi but their WWII sculpts are very good as well.

So there you have it, a super list of the major systems and manufacturers of historical wargames. Is there a genre I skipped? Oh yeah, nothing could be more fun that 28mm pirates and high adventure! Plus what if you want a system set in an alternate history, something with crazy inventions and steampunk science? Come back next week to find out!

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