“Controversial statement imminent. Set deflector shields to receive maximum abuse. Open hailing frequencies.”
A thought occurred to me last night in the bath – what is the purpose of wargaming miniatures?
Miniature wargaming is defined as a form of wargaming in which players enact battles between opposing military forces that are represented by miniature physical models. If we accept this, then the multi-based miniatures in Kings of War should represent units on the battlefield and a number of things are probably required.
- The size of the unit should be consistent with the unit being represented.
- The models should look like the unit being represented.
- The unit should be positioned accurately on the battlefield, clearly facing the appropriate direction.
This all seems reasonable but there seems to be an increasing trend to disregard these basics.
Looking at the size of units. KoW defines a clear requirement for unit footprint sizes and this seems to be one of the requirements that is widely met. Height is another issue however. KoW does not define specific unit heights but defines them relative to each other and to the terrain. KoW does suggest terrain heights as being Height 1 plus the actual height of the terrain piece and this might be used to give a rough rule of thumb for how tall units should be. However, height is increasingly an issue during games.
It would seem reasonable that units in an army should reflect their relative sizes. However, multi-basing can, in some cases, cause confusion. While infantry figures are described as Height 2, multi-basing with large terrain pieces, such as walls, can boost their height. In some cases, a multi-based infantry unit can conceal a Height 3 cavalry unit or, in extreme cases, a Height 5 monster. I don’t have a unit multi-based like this but the pictures below demonstrate the problem.
… Now you see the infantry (on their scenic multi-base)
… And as the infantry sidestep, the Gor Riders are exposed to view behind them
Further complications can be caused by the use of models from different manufacturers, with different scales, in the same army and in size creep in monsters and titans. It may be reasonable for the largest titans to grow as they are the largest models on the board, but incorrect relative heights elsewhere can cause confusion and misunderstandings in battles, particularly for beginners. “Can that Height 3 cavalry figure see over those Height 2 Gargoyles, even though they are taller than it?” “Why can’t that Height 6 titan that towers over the Height 6 forest see over it?”
Models should look like the units they represent. I say that as the only person I know that was barred from taking an army to a Mantic-run tournament as they considered that my opponents might not understand what units my models represented. This was a bit surprising as Mantic did not produce any models for my army, that came from Uncharted Empires, and the units were very distinct. However, I digress. There are several issues here. Firstly, several armies have a number of units that are very similar: Ratkin with Warriors, Shock Troops, Scurriers; Order of the Green Lady with Order of the Brotherhood, Order of Redemption. With different statistics, it is important to understand which unit is being represented by the models and too easy to confuse them in the heat of battle.
Secondly, potential confusion over which of several similar units has which magic artefact - “The warriors with the staying stone are the ones wearing the red nail polish.”
Thirdly, further confusion caused by the height of the models being different to that suggested by the relative sizes proposed in the KoW rules.
The unit should be positioned accurately on the battlefield, clearly facing the appropriate direction. This is surely critical in a wargame but is not always achieved. One of the main issues is the size and positioning of a model’s extremities. The dragon’s neck that projects forward over the base or its wings that preclude units ranking up alongside it.
… My Mammoth can not make contact with the enemy Golems …
… so I’ll reverse it in instead
It is possible sometimes with clever modelling to reduce this problem but how often during games do you end up with models charging into an enemy having to be placed backwards to enable contact to be made and thus facing the wrong direction, or with the model having to be replaced by an empty base.
… Re-positioning of the head of the mammoth …
… allows it to enter combat satisfactorily
… Re-positioning the wings on a dragon and mounting in a flying position, may allow it to rank up with other units
… Another option is to use a smaller figure - more effective on the battlefield during the game but much less impressive visually
Further difficulties are caused when a large model will not stand on a hill without over-balancing.
*… Oh no, defeated by a gentle slope
I may have more thoughts on terrain in a later article, if I survive the response to this one. I am increasingly a fan of 2D terrain.
One major driver contributing to the increase in these problems is the wish to field an army that is competitive in the judging for best army. A large centre-piece model is often seen as an advantage, as is lots of scenic multi-basing. Some models we see nowadays display fantastic paint jobs but seem to be almost abstract designs that bear little relation to the units they represent.
I like to see nicely painted and based miniatures across the table and I am not suggesting that we create a sterile game with map symbols on counters. But I also like the game to flow well with units correctly positioned and aligned and no nasty surprises lurking hidden behind the advancing multi-based infantry.
Is there any way of countering these problems? Possibly, although it may not be to everyone’s liking. Perhaps the best solution would be to base judging for best army on the 3 basic requirements of a wargame unit that I outlined at the start of the article. Before assessing the painting or conversions in the army, check if these 3 requirements are met. If not, the army should be considered to be not fully fit for purpose and there should be deductions from the overall painting score. If any of the models have to be represented on the battlefield by an empty base at any time, then that base should be included in the army for judging rather than the model itself. Of course, some players manage to win best army awards with units that meet the 3 basic requirements of a wargame unit - perhaps a separate competition could be run alongside for those whose models do not meet these requirements?
“Message ends. Fit steel helmets and body armour.”