What is the purpose of wargaming miniatures?

“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.

  1. The size of the unit should be consistent with the unit being represented.
  2. The models should look like the unit being represented.
  3. 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.”

“Incoming”.

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interesting discussion, and one I’ve had before in the past, not on KoW but on wargaming in general.

The short answer is that you’re entirely correct, we don’t need miniatures. Wargames as a hobby grew out of wargames as a military teaching tool, that form of game used the rectangular blocks with the symbols for type of unit that many are familiar with.
Those blocks ended up with representations of the troop type on them and eventually became figures and after a while recreational gaming evolved.

From a gaming point of view we don’t need anything more than the foot prints or even blocks of wood, so the short answer to your question (not that short) is that they are purely an aesthetic choice.

It would be easier if all the miniatures fit comfortably within the footprint of the unit and so on, but then there will always be something that people will look at and want in their army that won’t fit within such narrow parameters and the cost for allowing those is sometimes allowances must be made in gameplay.

As to making replacement bases be included in armies for tournament scores that’s up to the organisers I don’t see a need for it but don’t mind either way. Units looking similar is always going to happen, they are armies after all, as long as they are easily distinguishable for your opponent and yourself without identical models with identical paint jobs being used as two different units I don’t see an issue with that.

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This is actually a great topic.

I am personally a big fan of multibasing but not of diaroma style bases where infantry units take whole buildings/ruins and other big stuff around the battlefield. It obviously looks stunning but it somehow takes away immersion.
So reducing this to its basics would reduce LoS problems. But this is a completely personal opinion :slight_smile:

I had a few games where I printed pictures of units on paper and cut it in their respective footprints to do some test games with a friend of mine and it worked perfectly. Though this obviously also takes immersion away :wink:
But for test purposes, it’s a great way to open up the game to newcomers who just want to try it out without investing hundreds of euro/dollar/gbp…

So it’s great that KoW gives us this numerous possibilities to play.
You want big dioramas moving across the battlefield? Go for it.
You want to keep the units simple, do it.
You just want to play without building/painting dozens and dozens of miniatures? Just use paper :slight_smile:

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have you seen Peter’s Paperboys? historical flat standees that you can buy for £1 for the download of a regiment and then print at home as much as you want.

Great value for wargaming on a budget

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Immersion is a big deal for me. It’s also a creative outlet for many of us. There’s also something to be said for being able to tell a unit’s rough capabilities by just glancing at it. Let’s you focus more on solving the tactical puzzle than having to remember which rectangle is cavalry and which are archers.

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I don’t like multi-basing for quite a lot of personal reasons, but this one is definitely my biggest dislike!

I think any units that have big terrain pieces might make great dioramas and be fantastic works of art too - but I think they look awful as gaming pieces personally, and I’d not even considered the extra confusion in play and height factors that you point out too.

Even just looking at batreps I find it confusing. “Why are those trees moving… oh… it’s actually unit X”.

Good post imo!

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That example picture sure is an exteme, and seems solvable by standing up and looking at an angle. I do agree that wall is too big, and I suppose this is just for dramatic effect… but still.

My dragon do tend to hang a bit over the 75x75, it just can’t be helped. Making the base size bigger makes the model more powerful due to Inspiring, and clipping its wings isn’t really an option, so its always a compromise. I think communicating about it and having a stand-in base solves the issue tho.

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I would never count unit fillers, multibase eyecatchers or such as an “actual” part of the unit. A unit has the listed height as in the unit entry and therefore can’t see above nor can be seen behind terrain and/or units of equal or greater height. As @VigoTheButch said, the models are an integral part of the immersion and creative aspects of the hobby, taking the scenic bases into gameplay account IMHO unnecessarily limits at least one of not both of these. But yes, of course the game CAN be played with cardboard tiles with the units stats on them. Could even be fun, trying out new units and such. There’s also the consideration of time and money, not everyone has the means to dedicate to an army of painted miniatures. I remember (this was 15 years or so ago though) a very talented lady on another forum made very nice looking printable “models” for High Elf units, that could be a compromise in such situations as well

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I like that KoW gets rid nearly completely of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). One of the most poisonous “rules” in wargaming.

I think the whole height issue is probably related to another stupid nasty rule - true line of sight.

KoW is a block game. There would be little problem playing it with pieces of wood to the correct base sizes marked with the unit type. Hence it doesn’t really matter what is on a base or what height a diorama on a base is.

As for ranking up and units not standing up on hills? Unsolvable issues since the dawn of miniature gaming. :rofl:

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Saying that WYSIWYG is one of the most poisonous rules in wargaming seems a bit much. Why do you think that?

I can agree, although I do have trees on my werewolf horde. BUT, they are detacheable. I think there is a certain point, were aesthetics go against playability (my zombie horde won’t fit if charged e.g.). It’s a matter of taste. I prefer good looking multibase units without too much ‘diorama’ over ‘total playability’. I’m no tournament player btw.

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I view it as a pay to win.

It leads to arguments over what is actually represented. You have to squint and lean over the board to see detailed load-outs anyway.

It heavily restricts army building and tactical choices. Limited to player budget or modelling skill. You can’t try that - you don’t have the correct miniature.

It means a system needs an official miniatures line. It is not miniatures agnostic. A massive downside for me personally.

One of the reasons I find it so repulsive is that it is so unnecessary. A marketing idea gone mad.

Rant over. Crazy proxy players are probably equally annoying. You are half way through a game and you can’t remember what faction you are fighting - let alone track unit type.

There is a Goldilocks zone like everything I suppose. Where it lies rests with each player individually.

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There is certainly a happy medium to most things, this included I believe. There also tends to be more restrictions for an organized event to keep things moving smoothly. I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect spearmen to have long pointy weapons, cavalry be mounted on some sort of steed, and archers to have some sort of of bowlike thing. It is list dependent though. If you have two hordes of bowmen, two hordes of crossbowmen, and a horde of riflemen but all five are modeled with bows, then that seems disengenious to me as the opponent that paid money to play in a clean event. However, I don’t care if your knight cavalry are riding lions, dinosaurs, or horses as long as they aren’t on foot. They should also be modeled with heavy armor or something if they have good Def instead of t-shirts if they are included in a list with other cavalry that has poor Def.

However, during casual games or practice, it is up to the players to decide how they wish to proceed and anything goes as long as your opponent agrees to it.

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I am increasingly a fan of 2d terrain, in particular for hills.

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Well that would at least solve the wobbly miniature syndrome :wink:

This must be a meta-related issue, I have never had any issues with proxying in or accepting proxies of approximate miniatures (Balog as Bloodthirster, a unit of elven archers not ranked up as Shadow Warriors, a random collection of three orcs as a Varangur Conclave…). As long as it is cleared at the latest during deployment and infantry is infantry etc., I’m ok with it. If there are IDENTICAL units, that might be a bit different, but how many identical units do you have that would need to be remembered simultaneously?

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I don’t think it much matters about the non-figure elements in a unit. All of the units in my current armies, for example, are height tree (not cod Irish English for three, but tree!), as they all have scenic multibases with trees on them!

I accept that some high solid wall and building type stuff on multibases can conceal what is behind. I have a regiment of Mummies / Revenants that is a serial offender in this regard, but I don’t think that is a big deal. Units can be hidden from opposing players behind monsters and titans as well, which is not an intended part of the game. The players are supposed to know exactly what is on the table and where and whether it is in range for any purpose at all times. A bit of common sense and sportsmanship, and getting up off your backside, Jon, to look at the table from more than one angle, should prevent this being a problem.

Where there can be real confusion about models, in my experience, is:

(a) When you have no idea what different units in the opposing army are and do. This is mainly a problem with Nightstalkers, who are just too original to the Mantic universe for anyone to have much of a handle on what they should look like. For me at least, that is beginning to change now that Mantic have a range.

(b) When the figures on a multi-base seem wrong for the unit. It bugs me a little, for example, when cavalry units are not quadrupeds of some kind. I don’t care whether the mount is the right type according to the description, or even whether there is a rider, but I do prefer a four-legged figure (well OK, six- or eight-legged is fine too, for goblins) for cavalry. That is also a problem when model ranges are in very different scales. Mantic’s Enslaved Guardians look more like Heavy than Large infantry to my eye.

When it comes to scenery, the ideal is to have a 2d template under each piece so that you can lift off your hill, wall, etc., and still see exactly where it is. I don’t like 2D terrain instead of 3D - it does detract from the visual spectacle of the game.

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So ostrichs, t-rexes, and sharks are all frowned upon by you if used for mounts? Don’t care what anyone thinks, dino riders are baller.

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Fair point. Let’s say rideable creatures of some kind. Squigs would also qualify, before anyone points that out!

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What examples do you have of non-rideable mounts? I’m very curious now…

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