Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A world in miniature

I made the bold claim several months ago that I wanted to get back into painting for, and playing, miniatures games.  Back in the dim recesses of my personal gaming autobiography one might find a dust laden chapter or two concerning my earlier dabblings in games like Warhammer, De Bellus Antiquitatus and so forth.

As life went on I moved away from miniatures games and into roleplaying, and from roleplaying to boardgaming.  As time wears implacably onward I find myself yearning for those games of old.  And so the wheel turns... as Robert Jordan was wont to note.

One of the things that I really quite enjoyed about playing miniatures games was the hobby aspect of painting the models.  And so it is now, with me wanting to get back to spending some time painting and basing the figures, it is a cathartic experience after all.

I’ve spent some time and energy trying to find a game or three that balances all those things I want.  It needs first and foremost to be an enjoyable game (always the toughest the measure without playing it), it needs to have a short-ish playing time, not be overly complex (I’d rather a game with a light and easy rules-set over one laden with rules, exceptions and special situations), and it should use a small-ish number of figures per side.  The number of figures per side is important, as I want to retain my sanity as I ease back into this hobby, and I want the experience to be cathartic - in other words: I don’t want to fall into a mental death spiral as I gaze over the half-a-billion pike bearers I still have to paint for my one-to-one scale Sassanid Persian army.

Having looked at a variety of games over the last 2-4 months I’ve setting on a handful that strike me as interesting.  The first of those is Song of Blades and Heroes.  I’ve played several games of Song of Blades and Heroes now, using my Battlelore minis as proxies, and I have to say I quite enjoy the game.  It hits all of the marks I’m interested in - it will provide me the opportunity to collect and paint a small-ish number of figures.  The rules are simple and work well, and additionally allow for quite a abundance of variation.  As a game it doesn’t outstay its welcome.  Most importantly it has been a fun game to play.

Of course the interesting thing with most miniatures games is that they are produced quite separately to miniatures.  So if one finds a miniatures game one likes the look of, one often must also, separately, find the miniatures one would like to use.  After looking over a bunch of miniature producers with Song of Blades and Heroes in mind, I finally settled on a scale of 15-20mm.  It’s a scale I enjoyed painting when I was collecting stuff for my DBA and DBM armies many moons ago, and has the added advantages of being relatively easy to store and being cheap to buy.  I wanted to be able to buy a couple of warbands after all.

In the end I have chosen Splintered Light Miniatures - I bought a couple of their anthropomorphic animal warriors packs, mostly because they looked like a lot of fun.  Now I have them in my hot little hands I can add that Splintered Light make some beautiful 15mm scale miniatures.  They are well detailed and each has a great personality seen through the poses, animals and costumes.  

I apologise for the photo quality - the Splintered Light website has better examples.

I’ll post another blog in a couple of days about getting ready to paint them - for now it will suffice to say that for my first minis game in some years I have chosen Song of Blades and Heroes, and have bought some wonderful little miniatures from Splintered Light to paint up and play with.

I also have my eye on several other minis games:

Saga is one, with its dark age theme it certainly hits the mark in terms of interest.  It also seems to have a fascinating dice system, reminiscent of some board games.  I’m tossing up whether to collect this game in 6mm - using figures from Baccus... first I will see how I travel with my 15mm animals!

DinoMight and Tooth and Claw are two others that have piqued my interest.  With my lad’s growing obsession with dinosaurs I am increasingly finding myself drawn to these mesozoic beasts as well...

Lastly, my brother and I have loosely talked about getting some stuff for Dystopian Wars, which has a wonderfully Jules Verne-esque steam-punk style and theme.  Spartan (the publisher) also produce their own line of minis...

Before leaping feet first into a world filled by shelves overstocked with unpainted metal figures, I shall have to exert some small measure of willpower and wait to see how I travel with Song of Blades and Heroes.  No use buying too many miniatures and games if I never get around to painting them!



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