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"Review of Miniature Wargames (with Battlegames) #369" Topic

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ubercommando14 Jan 2014 5:26 p.m. PST

I'm still catching up with my Christmas holiday reading: Here goes…

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: A spectacular WSS cavalry charge photo on the cover…has nothing to do with what's inside.

EDITORIAL: Henry talks about the Royal Mail paint pot prohibition problem (how's that for alliteration?) but as there's an article about that issue later on, I won't dwell on it here.

FORWARD OBSERVER: Neil Shuck mentions Jugular, a gladiatorial manager strategy game, some ancients in various scales, Steampunk Dwarves, and the update on Kickstarter campaigns.

TUBULAR TEMPTATION: The wargaming widow finds a use for those large cardboard plumbing tubes to make round huts and towers with. DIY jargon term of the day: Anaglypta wallpaper.

FANTASY FACTS: Since its relaunch, I've felt that FF has mainly been about hard sci-fi military figures, suitable for Hammers Slammers, Striker, Stargrunt or Tomorrow's War. John Treadaway has anticipated my thoughts and kindly explains that hard sci-fi is enjoying a boom time, especially in 15mm. So lots of nice things reviewed here if you're into that kind of thing.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKING ON HEAVENFIELD'S DOOR: Dark age wargaming scenario about a battle between various Anglo-Saxons and Cadwallon, a Welsh warlord. You get a mix of history and scenario info; no maps but OOBs for Dux Bellorum (which can be adapted for other rules) and a special pre-battle mini game.

COMMAND CHALLENGE: Few wargame scenarios are suitable for either Napoleonics or Warhammer 40K but this one is. A 3 way skirmish with a supernatural twist. Rules used were the RPG Savage Worlds (not a favourite of mine; damn new fangled simplistic RPG games!).

SEND THREE AND FOURPENCE: Conrad "The Kinch" Kinch makes a nice appeal for more thankfulness and kindness when dealing with people who show an interest in the hobby or show you kindness and patience when you're new to a club. Feel the love.

WRITING RULES FOR WW2: Written by the guy who wrote the Battlegroup Panzergrenadier game. These rules have been around a while and have their fans and detractors. I've seen it played at a number of shows and clubs and I've heard varying opinions about the game. Here, he goes into how he designed the game and the concepts used, which is normally cool but…

I don't like the tone, however. He makes reference to a number of other WW2 rules but never mentions them by name. You will recognise which ones he's talking about because he mentions very specific rules or concepts that those of you familiar with them (to hit based on the quality of your opposition, a card driven activation system, ranges based on the manufacturer's description) are sure to recognise. So it comes across as passive-aggressive, without mentioning names but criticising them at the same time. What puts me off here is that BGP isn't defined by what it does, but rather what it doesn't do that other games do which is a negative way of describing why the game works. I've played a number of WW2 rules over the years and I think most of them are alright; some I enjoy better than others but this article is too harsh on them. I wish it came from a more positive perspective.

FOUR BATTLES TO KIMBERLY: A Boer War scenario. Actually it's mainly history with a small wargaming bit tacked onto the end. You get OOBs for one of the battles mentioned in the text and the maps are all contemporary prints rather than bespoke wargames ones so I'm disappointed it didn't have more space devoted to turning the history into a tabletop action.

BATTLE OF THE CAUCASUS M0UNTAINS 1221: Part two of the Mongol 2 year reconnaissance mission that featured in the previous edition. Like the last one, good mix of history and scenario, you get a map and OOBs.

HITTING GROUND ZERO: John Treadaway interviews Jon Tuffley from Ground Zero Games, a well established manufacturer of sci-fi miniatures. There are some nice photos of the products as well.

POST OUR PAINT: An article about the Royal Mail's decision to restrict mail order acrylic paint deliveries. There are links to petitions and other ways how you can help.

THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH: A useful article about the use of varnish on figures. It doesn't sound appealing put that way but there's some good information and hints and tips there.

THE BATTLE FOR THE GREAT WAR: Short article about how wargaming can dispel the lazy myths about WW1 but I wish it had been a longer piece because just when it gets really interesting it….

RECCE: An interesting batch for review. From Valiant Miniatures a Rapid Fire introductory bundle set, Battlegroup Fall of the Reich, weathering varnishes, France and the Allies book for Bolt Action…OK, I'm going to pause here to address something Neil Shuck, the reviewer, has an issue with. He can't understand why this book has a small bit devoted to allowing early war French to fight late war forces in the game because it's unhistoric. Well, it's not something I would do but this is something gamers have done since WRG ancients so you'll always get the what if crowd doing their own thing. Live and let live, baby….then there's more reviews on PSC/4Ground MDF 1/72nd buildings.

OVERVIEW: A solid issue, not a classic one this time. Some good stuff and a variety of periods covered but a little preachy and sniffy in places. Some articles very good, some falling into the "do things my way" or history with a small wargame bit tacked onto the end problems. But it covers a lot of ground so more good than bad.

Who asked this joker14 Jan 2014 6:20 p.m. PST

OVERVIEW: A solid issue, not a classic one this time. Some good stuff and a variety of periods covered but a little preachy and sniffy in places. Some articles very good, some falling into the "do things my way" or history with a small wargame bit tacked onto the end problems. But it covers a lot of ground so more good than bad.

I agree. It could be a little preachy at times. Mostly, a larger amount of the articles did not interest me. Not saying they were bad. Just not in my realm of interest.

MajorB15 Jan 2014 2:56 a.m. PST

FOUR BATTLES TO KIMBERLY: A Boer War scenario. Actually it's mainly history with a small wargaming bit tacked onto the end. You get OOBs for one of the battles mentioned in the text and the maps are all contemporary prints rather than bespoke wargames ones so I'm disappointed it didn't have more space devoted to turning the history into a tabletop action.

I must admit that one surprised me. Just the sort of article that Henry said he did NOT want to print when he took over as Editor of MWBG?

cpt shandy15 Jan 2014 3:42 a.m. PST

I enjoyed the issue. Especially the command challenge and the article on varnishing- nice inspirational scenario with a twist and information I didn't even know I lacked. Such articles are the reason why I read the magazine! (together with Diane S.'s DIY pieces, the Fantasy Facts and stuff like the interview with GZG).

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2014 5:15 a.m. PST

I'm going to make myself unpopular by saying I thought the terrain article was the weakest one for some time. I've actually quite liked the recent ones pontoon bridges and carts (although to be honest I've never had such a huge supply train that I didn't just buy carts !). However, I've made scenery out of cardboard tubing before and usually it ends up looking like cardboard tubing with Artex on it, and because of that Diane Sutherland's towers looked….familiar. grin

Overall though I thought this was a pretty good issue although I haven't had time to read the reviews and opinion columns in depth. I still feel that MWBG has found it's groove again, and that the groove leans towards BG, so I'm a happy bunny. wink

Marc the plastics fan15 Jan 2014 10:17 a.m. PST

Varnish article was good.

Boer war was interesting but not enough gaming

Cover would love to see more of that game

Reviews I guess it is just me, but Shuck and Treadaway and Recce are all reviews some dressed up as opinion or "previews", but it does 'narf feel to me that the reviews are taking over. Maybe the FF could have more towrads actually gaming, and Shuck could give more opinion, so reducing the "pure" review aspects of both of those columns.

Otherwise, nice read but agreed, not a classic. But I am patient, and know the next one will be along soon enoughto satiate even me grin


Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2014 10:59 a.m. PST

Shuck & Treadway do seem to overlap a bit on SF/Fantasy as well, which struck me as quite odd.

ubercommando15 Jan 2014 11:18 a.m. PST

I think their patches need more demarking. Shuck giving more opinion? I think he's already at DefCon 2 in giving them! Maybe Recce should be a look into what's on the workbenches of various companies, works in progress, what's in the pipeline as well as the Kickstarters.

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2014 5:13 a.m. PST

You wanted more of the Great War article?

Oh my. In that case you have to read this:


And then:


ubercommando16 Jan 2014 6:26 a.m. PST

Blimey! At any stage was the name "John Terraine" mentioned? That should really get Professor Guy Halsall's blood boiling.

I particularly liked your second blog post on the 14th January. I feel it's the culmination of what you began with the article.

As an aside, Michael Gove is my local MP. He's very personable if you meet him and he's very intelligent: Debate with him at your peril! He'll probably win.

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2014 11:37 a.m. PST

JT was not discussed at all. He is an odd fellow. Never permanently employed in a University history department, but tremendously well informed and difficult to argue with, I'd suggest. The sheer volume of work he did makes it hard for others to compete.

Whether he makes Prof Halsall's blood boil or not is his problem. Do you know him?

Gove is a clever fellow, but accusing "lefties" of distorting the war is wide of the mark for all the reasons I put in the blogs. He put in a good performance on "Start the Week", discussing the history curriculum with Sharma, Holland and Mitchell (podcast still probably available on BBC iPlayer), but he has the capacity to both say and do the most stupid things.

I'm always gratified if people enjoy a blog posting but the point of the MWBG article was to be a short, punchy, polemic. I don't want to tell you what to think. I want to galvanise wargamers who have read the history to open their mouths from time to time. MWBG isn't the place for a detailed discussion of the issues around the Great War. If I was going to cover War Guilt and Futility in greater depth it would mean a long piece not about wargaming. I don't know if Henry has the appetite for that or even if MWBG is the right place for it.

battleeditor16 Jan 2014 12:06 p.m. PST

The clue is in the title of the magazine. Miniature WarGAMES with BattleGAMES.

I liked your short piece and thought it hit the nail on the head nicely. That it should have proved remotely controversial is bemusing. (And I have a history degree and my dissertation was on the WWI settlements).

As for the other comments here and elsewhere, yet again it neatly demonstrates that if a magazine editor constantly paid attention to what people say he should or shouldn't publish, he'd never publish anything and just hide in a corner instead.

And @Major Bumsore, like in all aspects of life, with a deadline thundering towards him in the middle of the night, even this editor will break his own rules in an emergency.



Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2014 12:55 p.m. PST


I don't know if you looked at the blog entries & comments at all. I got one negative reaction (GH), one sort of neutral and the rest favourable.

Everyone I've discussed this with is likewise bemused. After seeing the GH comments those that went off and sought the article out were a little bit disappointed.

Keep up the good work

PS – I know I promised to write a few more articles, but I've just started work again and the 90 minute drive each way is rather eating into my spare time.

ubercommando17 Jan 2014 9:31 a.m. PST

What I got from Trebian's article is that we can use wargaming as a way of illustrating history to people who otherwise would get their ideas from comedy shows or journalists masquerading as historians.

Terraine was one of the two chief writers for the landmark series "The Great War" and his biography of Haig is very impressive. I don't know Guy Halsall at all btw.

When doing these reviews, and I strive to get the right balance between airing my opinions and being fair, I tend not to criticise the editors because I know they can only work with the material that's submitted. I don't know how much time Henry, Guy and Dan have to send back suggestions to the article writers before the magazine has to go to print but I'll wager it's quite short. What I'm setting out to do with these reviews is to let people who haven't bought the issue yet know what's inside and whether it's (in my opinion) worth it, to promote a discussion about the articles and also to give the editors feedback, seeing that the old letters columns in all magazines have gone. Overall, I think all three magazines are broadly worth reading (and buying) and in the last 12 months I can only think of one issue that really wasn't worth buying (the FPW issue of WI).

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Jan 2014 1:15 p.m. PST

Ubercommando, – The point was that wargamers should be better informed than people who just watch Blackadder or read Birdsong because they should have read some history book at least.

JT's biography of Haig is impressive, and all of his stuff has masses of work behind it.

Stick with the reviews. They're worthwhile. I'm sure the editors like the feedback.

Ben Avery18 Jan 2014 3:38 a.m. PST

Keep up with the reviews Ubercommando, I've found them very useful, thanks. A shame about the BPG tone from Dave Brown I've been debating getting 3rd edition when it comes out as I like the rules and have versions 1 and 2.


MajorB18 Jan 2014 9:03 a.m. PST

And @Major Bumsore, like in all aspects of life, with a deadline thundering towards him in the middle of the night, even this editor will break his own rules in an emergency.

Ah, I wondered if that might be the case. Absolutely understand about deadlines. It was a good article, just not what I was expecting. Thanks for the explanation!

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2014 10:34 a.m. PST

I don't know Guy Halsall at all btw.

He normally writes about the C4 – C10 period. I thought his book on Arthur was a cracker. link

He has written a lot for Wargames magazines in the past, in particular a series about 'Saxon' battles in early Miniature Wargames (IIRC) and then a long series on the Meringovian Franks in Wargames Illustrated.


Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2014 11:00 a.m. PST

Regarding Dave Brown's article, since I read a similar article in an earlier Battlegames by him about his 'General de Brigade' Napoleonic rules, I've got to quite like his style (whilst heartily disagreeing with much of what he writes). In the end, what does it matter if he criticizes unnamed other rules?


ubercommando28 Jan 2014 1:57 p.m. PST

" In the end, what does it matter if he criticizes unnamed other rules?"

Well, I have two basic issues with it, as I've mentioned previously. First is the old maxim "if you can't say something nice about someone or something, don't say anything" because I happen to like and enjoy some of those unnamed games he criticises so I feel like, as a reader, I'm being criticised for my taste with no chance of a riposte.

The second issue I have with it is that his explanation of how Battlegroup Panzergrenadier works in that article is almost entirely based on what its reacting against, rather than being what it's for. It seems to be the game exists purely as a reaction against all other WW2 games. That's not reason enough for me to become interested in buying a copy.

battleeditor28 Jan 2014 2:19 p.m. PST


Why not write a response article and send it in to me?


Grand Dragon29 Jan 2014 1:04 a.m. PST

I used to post in Guy Halsall's After Rome group and I think he can be a bit odd at times. We had several very unpleasant clashes and in the end I gave up posting there.
I'm surprised he has even commented on this issue as his subject is the Merovingian Franks and not World War 1.

Architectus Militaria29 Jan 2014 4:10 a.m. PST

When I review products, I try to follow some basic 'rules'.

Emphasise that any review is ultimately just the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Be scrupulously honest because readers' may base their purchasing decision on what you have written.

A product, game or rules review is NOT the place to repeatedly air personal grudges whether justified or not, against a manufacturer, a game or rule set. Its both boring and unprofessional, and in my opinion, devalues what might otherwise have been a good review.

If you don't have enough knowledge of the subject or the product to do other than simply rework the manufacturers' own literature or website please don't waste your time. The reader deserves better than that lazy approach.

Always try to be constructive and 'think outside the box'. If you sincerely believe that you can see a way in which a product can be improved, then say so. If its a genuine point, the manufacturer may incorporate your suggestions to make a better product, and so everyone wins.

Finally, as a reviewer, I have a responsibility to the readers, so if I am given a product for review which I truly think is absolute rubbish, I'll still review it because I would not want anyone to buy the product without at least being aware that it may not 'do what it says on the box', but I keep the review totally factual.

There are ways of saying things without saying them if you see what I mean. For example, when I was in a position of having to write references for employees, if I was asked to write one for someone who was absolutely useless, I would use phrases such as… "probably has potential which unfortunately was not realised in this particular position".

It didn't damn the ex-employee to a future of unemployment, but it did make it clear that significant effort might be required in order to bring them 'up to scratch'.

So if you see any reviews that suggest unrealised potential, perhaps think twice before you buy…?

ubercommando29 Jan 2014 4:31 a.m. PST

Henry, thank you for the offer to submit a response. I think I've covered my misgivings with the BGP article already here but I was thinking of perhaps an article where I and some colleagues road test the current commercial WW2 rules sets as a comparative study to see which are the entertaining ones, which ones are realistic, which do both and which fail on both. Not a series of AARs but short reports.

battleeditor29 Jan 2014 5:33 a.m. PST


Perfect. Please do! It sounds very much like the kind of thing that Bob Barnetson used to do for me at BG that regularly drew favourable comments although sadly the unfavourable comments are what led Bob to stop doing them! :(


Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jan 2014 5:40 a.m. PST

Grand Dragon,

Thanks for the comment. It is always reassuring it isn't just "you" with a problem.

Ditto your remarks about Merovingians and WW1.


ubercommando30 Jan 2014 3:49 a.m. PST

Trebian…loving the Shedquarters article in the latest issue. I don't want to give away too many spoilers but the latest MW w/ BG issue is very entertaining so far.

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