For Love of Little Wars

I've been following Jaded Gamercast for a few years.  I'd dropped off of the miniature hobby map for a while and hadn't tuned in a while so I thought I'd check it out.  It remains the only wargaming podcast I can listen to.  They continue to serve up a slice of gaming culture delivered with a blend of cynicism, irreverence and bathroom humour; A perfect combination. The August 24th podcast, "Skirmish in my Pants" featured a discussion concerning the criteria and qualities of skirmish wargames.  I was late to the show so it was pointless to comment but it got me thinking about why I prefer skirmish level games to their big brothers and what qualities they possess that make them so attractive.  To quantify my distinction I observe the "Blood Bowl Rule"; Sixteen or less a side is a skirmish to me.

Time/ Attention Deficit: I like the idea of playing games but really want to call it done inside of an hour.  When games become more protracted I lose interest and get itchy feet.  I can pretend out of courtesy to my opponent but if a single engagement goes much longer than sixty minutes I'd really rather pack it in and go for a coffee.  Skirmish games tend to play faster which suits my preferences.
Painting and Model Customization:  Machine paint 60+ models or Paint and convert 10 models one at a time and be foolish enough to give the little lemmings names and character concepts?  I'm a modeller and painter more than a gamer so it's a pretty easy choice.  Preparing models for skirmishes caters to my arts and crafts bias, and fuels creativity;  This is my favorite part of the hobby.  Methodically painting groups of models to expedite the process spoils my fun and makes it seem like stamping out licence plates.

Gameplay Setting/ Intimacy?:  I'm one of those sad people who typically builds warbands and armies around themes and regularly gets punked like a whack-a-mole if I stick my head into a pick up game at a shop.  I avoid tournaments.  This turned out to be an area on the discussion I realized that I'm pretty much the polar opposite of Lange from Gamercast.  For me enjoyable games come from playing with like minded opponents.  My favorite games are casual affairs where I can run a collection of models that I think look cool together and play against someone with a similar disposition.  What is happening on the table isn't so much a competition for me but a shared story like an action movie in miniature with highlights that might be remembered or subjected to revisionist history which is usually what I end up doing.  Skirmish games feel more personal than larger games I've played.   

Character driven:  I like stories and the best stories have memorable and interesting characters.  I like to see characters evolve over a series of games.  In larger games units often supersede individual models and in more competitive environments are regulated to parts in a machine designed specifically for victory.  Parting components in and out of lists to optimize their performance;  I'm playing a game with toy soldiers not building a super computer.  Skirmish campaigns are my favorite because of the emphasis on single models and organic progression of said units that entails.  I was honestly disappointed when I learned that everyone in a Frostgrave warband apart from the Wizard is less a man and more a number. 

I've been looking into a few skirmish games recently so this topic seemed relevant to where I was relating to the hobby and blog.  I am currently working on projects for Frostgrave, This is Not a Test and most recently Strange Aeons.  I'd consider them all skirmish level games and for the most part they all provide what I'm looking for.  As a collection of projects to juggle I'm especially happy because there is such variety in the game's genres.  I hope that by cycling the content/ projects I can stay interested long enough to actually get something worthwhile done in each.  To make matters worse I'm waiting on Osprey's Black Ops title and hoping I can twist it a bit to make it work within the 40k universe.  I'd like to try it out as an Inquisitor style game. 

Goblyn in her new hat.  Cat pics save boring blog posts.


  1. The local gaming group has been fiddling with bolt actions "random" activation and it's application towards 40k. Still in development, but it adds for some very interesting battles back and forth when you have to think really strategically about the firing order of units.

    1. How is it working out Greg? I'm not really familiar with Bolt Action mechanics but anyone who throws out U go-I go is doing something right. The uncertainty adds a welcome level of tension and excitement to something that has become predictable and formulaic. I really like This is Not a Test's mettle based activation and would steal it to graft into any Inquisitor game I tried to play..


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