Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Why We Game - Redux

In May 2016, the guys over at WWPD (What Would Patton Do?) wrote an article entitled "Why We Game" where they discussed the state of things at WWPD, a loss of interest in Flames of War, which had served as one of the foundations of the blog and podcast, and other challenges. They also brought in a few new guest authors (including me) to provide content for the site - especially for gaming systems they had less interest in at that point. Over the last year and a half I've written several articles for WWPD, though not as many as I would have liked, and over the past several weeks many of these have been making their way to the pages of this blog.

The reason for that can be found in today's post on the WWPD blog.  There's a final podcast as well. This represents the end of the line for WWPD - no new content or podcasts, and one of the staples of what many consider to be the golden age of Flames of War will be gone. Other blogs, such as Breakthrough Assault have already been filling the role as previewer and release partner for Battlefront so in some ways this represents the passing of the torch, but more than that I think it represents the end of an era marking a fundamental shift in what could be collectively referred to as the "Battlefront Community." I for one will greatly miss the guys over at WWPD as their contributions over the years have nothing short of awesome, and I wish them the absolute best in any future pursuits!

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

In retrospect and purely from my own personal perspective, 2017 has been simultaneously a good year and a terrible year when it comes to miniatures gaming. We finally moved into our new home and I was able to not only have my own studio for model building and miniature painting but set up a proper gaming room as well. This means I can run miniatures wargames with terrain in the comfort of my own home, which I actually managed to do during the recent Firestorm campaign - and my son was able to get in on the fun!

As with any new space, I'm still working out the bugs and planning next steps. I really need to set up a proper spray booth area, but right now our "mud room" is doing fine. I'm hoping to pick up an airbrush spray booth after the first of the year, and I'll post the details once I have them! I also want to build a game table along the lines of what you used to be able to get from the now defunct Geek Chic. I have a carpenter friend who is willing to help out on the project too. Again, more photos when available!

Speaking of Team Yankee, this year I really managed to get into the game in a major way with the Red Thunder campaign. Advanced modeler's syndrome took over a bit with my T-72 tanks, but these should be ready and painted for the upcoming Stripes campaign. It was also a lot of fun serving as a liaison for Battlefront for the campaign and the teamwork in the Warsaw Pact forum was excellent. I've also started learning more about formations fielded during the Cold War and getting the technical details of NATO and Warsaw Pact equipment down so I can go that extra mile on my own miniatures (i.e. "like normal").

I've also been toying with a couple of other systems, but haven't has quite as much time to devote to them as I'd like. With the winter monsoon setting in here in Oregon, and de-committing from some other obligations, I should have more time to devote to getting projects that I actually want to do... done...

"When it stops being fun..."

That being said, World War II remains my favorite period to game or wargame, and sadly I am currently without what has been my "go to" system for gaming, research, model building, and miniature painting for roughly the last nine years - Flames of War. Through Version 3, Flames of War had managed to do what I didn't think possible. They took historical TO&E - real forces that fought real battles through that terrible conflict - and accurately represented them in a game that utilized very simple and approachable mechanics.

When I first saw the Flames of War 21. Panzer Division boxed set, I knew I'd found the game for me. A miniatures game that not only included, but actively encouraged my particular fascination with oddball German vehicles and formations went from a curiosity to an absolute must have. The beauty of Flames of War was that you didn't have to be an expert on World War II history to appreciate the game, but if you were you'd find plenty to like. Yes, the grognards and hardcore wargarmers derided the system as "World Warhammer II," but the game was never meant to be a simulation or appeal to that demographic. It was meant for people interested in a good game, but was generally absent the gimmicks and oversimplifications common in that genre. That is until Version 4.

Version 4 of Flames of War has gone a totally different direction, and in its newest Mid-War "reboot" incarnation is clearly marketed directly to the casual gamer with little of the regard for history seen in previous versions. Despite protestations that some sub-categories are actually more accurate than previous incarnations of the lists, a substantial number of options available to real formations that actually saw combat have been deleted. Other formations have been relegated to "optional" Command Cards. Multiple formations and spam are now the rule, not the exception. When your favorite game and hobby in a loud voice declares, "you are no longer our target audience," I'm forced to respond, "I guess not."

I truly hope that Battlefront brings back the richness and depth to the lists that is sadly lacking in the current MW incarnation. I'm not selling off my painted miniatures. I may clear out a few unpainted miniatures, but the game, quite frankly, isn't fun for me anymore. So rather than spending time on a hobby that isn't making me happy, I move on for now. If Battlefront manages to successfully bring back the depth that was such a part of previous editions and demonstrates that is the direction of the future, I'll be back.

"The future's so bright... I gotta wear shades..."

So where's this blog going? The short answer is nowhere! Miniature Ordnance Review has always been a vehicle to share my love of miniatures, wargaming, and model building with the wider community, and as I plan on continuing in those hobbies going forward, expect to see a semi-regular dose of miniatures wargaming, modeling, and other articles right here. I expect that Team Yankee will still figure prominently, and some old favorites like Warhammer 40K will start making an appearance as well.

I'll likely be branching out into some new games as well. I have several Frostgrave miniatures I need to get painted. I also backed the Kickstarter for the Fallout miniatures game, which my son is already clamoring to start playing. So watch this space for Vault Dwellers, Super Mutants, and of course, the Brotherhood of Steel as well.

Coming full circle...

So I come back to where this post started, why we (or in this case, I) game. At this point in my life I quite frankly don't have as much time to devote to my hobbies as when I was younger, so I work very hard to find creative ways to combine my gaming, model building, and miniature painting hobbies into one. Therefore miniatures games generally must sit at the convergence of multiple interests including history and the desire to build and paint the miniatures used for the system. For the sake of discussion, let's simplify it to the game itself (it's play mechanics, lists, etc.), model building aspects, and the back-story (be it historical or fictional).

Flames of War through much of V3 sat squarely in that sweet spot of the Venn diagram representing what was for me a nearly ideal combination of mechanics, miniatures, and historical back story. Late in V3, the mechanics and back story began to suffer a little (inclusion of the German IR equipment as a part of Panzerdivision Clausewitz which likely didn't use IR rather than saving it for a unit like Panzerdivision Müncheberg which likely did and the almost universally derided Romulan cloaking Rail Cars in the Nachtjäger expansion as well as the massive proliferation of special rules), so for me it slips a bit on the "mechanics" side of the equation. V4, well, I've already discussed it in enough length.

There are several other systems I could include such as Battlegroup, Frostgrave, Bolt Action, but I honestly haven't played these enough to get a feel for where they land yet (though I'm looking forward to it!). I included Warhammer 40K because it is a fairly familiar system to most people and while I enjoy its fictional universe, it's backstory isn't nearly as compelling to me as World War II.  Team Yankee at least has a historical element, so it remains in that sweet spot overlapping all three, but it still doesn't hit the bullseye like Flames of War used to. Of course, there's one major element missing from the diagram above that factors in to any decision on whether to support a game, and that's the player base.

Gaming is a social activity at its core, and for me it is therefore not worth spending precious and starkly limited free-time building and preparing miniatures for a game no one plays. Team Yankee and Warhammer 40K have decent local player bases that I can tap into, but it is less clear whether Frostgrave, Bolt Action, or Battlegroup will.

In short, for me, and I imagine for most of you gaming has to be "fun." Hopefully through this fairly meandering entry I've given you an idea of what "fun" means to me, and why my focus and interests have shifted somewhat over the past year. Expect further information and announcement over the next few weeks as the dust settles from the WWPD announcement and various transitions, and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!


  1. Best of luck with your future gaming pursuits.

  2. I'm still playing v3.

    ...but I like Team Yankee.

    1. Same here... honestly it's not so much the V4 ruleset I have major issues with, it's the neutered MW lists.

    2. To be fair, mid-war Africa and Eastern Front hasn't been updated since V2. In one way BF actually did some of their fans a favor.
      On the other hand I did not like any aspect of Desert Rats & Afrika Korps release. They were trying to milk people with books and released their upgrade cards way too late.
      The whole release schedule was also a mess: the intertwined V4/TY releases got both sides angry (How do I get into LW in FOW?/When is Stripes coming out?) and confused (V4 has gotten how many erratas since its release?). Had they chose to do V4 only for the first six to eight months (V4 release & upgrade cards for both British and German, armies of late war, Fighting First) and then TY for the other four to six (Red Thunder-Stripes) it might have been a lot smoother. Surely one side would have to wait for a bit but at least they would have half a year worth of releases to support them.
      Just my 2 yennies over BF for the past year.

    3. Agreed on MW, which is why I think a lot of people were so excited, but the fundamental structure of the lists in MW was just fine. There were scads of options and you could field just about any historically viable force. You can't do that now. A year on we still don't even have a comprehensive North Africa campaign - much less a Sicily/Italy campaign... and we haven't even touched the Eastern Front.

      I think a major portion of this issue is that Battlefront decided to "reboot" Flames of War, rather than simply moving to a new edition. That gave them two immature game systems (TY *and* FoW) to juggle rather than one established game system, and one that is being built up.