Friday, 14 April 2017

Games to try over the next few (many?) months

Have not had a chance to play to many games with the boy recently (what with taking him to cricket nets, and football and gymnastics for the girl etc etc). I have however plotted which games I am going to try on him on the coming months. These are, in not particular order but broken down by period.


Am going to try him very soon with the airfix WW2 game as it seems ideally suited to my purpose, simple game, easy to set up, quick to play. Then thought I would try Rapid Fire. This is the most developed of the 'old fashioned' WW2 games. No 3C complexity, the figures / models act as toy soldiers / model tanks rather than as a representation of a simulated unit with lots of abstractions, seems ideal for a child's thought processes. Then I thought I might try him on Blitzkrieg Commander - mainly as it is a game that I enjoy. Also, it introduces complexity in command - but not to much. Its throw dice below a certain number to get to do stuff, with the number getting smaller each time is fairly intuitive. The combat resolution is fairly straight forward as well.


Building on the success of the One Hour Wargames games DBA seems the obvious next step. Twice the amount of maneuver units, with simple command and control rules and some added complexity in combat resolution. A step forward from OHW and worth digging out my old V2 set. Who knows, may inspire me to by the V3 set. If he can deal with DBA I can then try Art de la Guerre rules. My  ancient rules of choice at the moment and very firmly a DB inspired set. These may be a step to far at the moment but lets see how he gets on with DBA and then have another look.

Dark Ages

Am going to give him a go at SAGA at some point. This could go either way, the battle board may just overwhelm him and leave him confused. Or he may get drawn into trying to figure it out in that slightly obsessive fashion that children can summon up for a topic and end up kicking my arse all around the 11th century - a suck it and see thing I think.

Air Combat

Wings of Glory just seems like it works for children so has to be tried. Am also going to try X wing as well. This is because, well, Star Wars and he is a child so that obviously works. Will also be interesting to compare it to WoG - which so obviously inspired it and see which set works better.

Horse and Musket 

Was going to try playing Charge! as the basic game seems like an excellent starting point for the era and I really do feel that I should play the Blasthof Bridge Scenario at least once in my lifetime as an homage to the giants whose shoulders we all stand on. If that works well, then there are the advanced rules to naturally advance onto. Am considering expanding this out into developing an Imaginations campaign together with the boy - might be a nice project for the years. I was thinking of using the HaT SYW figures as the basis for the armies but can't seem to find them for sale - can anyone confirm if they are out of production or not?

Naval Games

As I play em thought I might as well try em with the boy. For the ironclads will probably use the set written by a club member - these are a little more crunchy than may be advisable for an introductory set. Can anyone recommend a 'starter' set of rules for ironclads? Must cover more than just the ACW mind. For WW2 was thinking of giving GQ3 a go - as they are my set of choice. They can be a little complex but the game is designed well so for shooting all you have to do is look at one table, so it might be doable. Again, any recommendations for a good 'intro' set?


The boy is into Lord of the Rings so fantasy is probably in order. Have got a copy of the LoTR Strategy Tactical Skirmish FIghty Battle Game or whatever they call it. I do remember hearing very good things about it as a set of rules though - which is probably why I got a copy, never got around to playing them mind, now is my chance it seems. Have also acquired a Dungeon Saga from Mantic games - it seems a well thought out relativly simple dungeon crawl game so seems in order to play with the boy. If Warhammer was still Warhammer I might have tried him on that but what with the new Age of Sigmar, not sure I can be bothered to learn new names for Elves and Dwarves and such. Mind you, free rules are a good price pointto try out I suppose. Are there any other rules worth trying out?

Sci Fi

This is easy to sum up with 'Space Hulk'. I brought a set a few years ago when GW did their 'one off, never to be repeated, last chance to buy, limited edition, you will not see its like again' release. This was done on a whim powered by happy memories of playing Space Hulk for many an hour a long time ago. I was in no way disappointed, a well produced high quality game that retained the original simplicity. Have not played it that much mind - maybe time to crack it out. If the boy enjoys it I may then summon up the energy to give 40k a go, or I may not........


Do not own any figures, or know anything about rules, but well, Gladiators are cool and the boy has already read books about them. Any recommendations for rules and figures? Figure wise am looking more for cheap and sturdy rather than exquisite and expensive as well, young hands......


Again, do not own any rules or figures at the moment. However, seems like a fun period for a child. I did consider the fact that cowboys are just not a thing for children anymore - at least round my neck of the woods. However, this just means that I get to watch some cool cowboy films with my children and then play the games - whats not to love about that? I hear good things about Dead Mans Hand as a simple and fast set of rules - would they be suitable? Any other recommendations?


Still most definitely a thing for children (and adults come to that). Again, no idea on rules or figures - any recommendations?

The above list seems like enough to keep us going for a year (or two). But I am still open to recommendations. Am especially interested in recommendations for simple boardgames like the airfix one mentioned for WW2. Something simple, cheap(ish) and good to go right out of the box is what i am looking for at the moment. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Transporting Ironclad Models

First thing to say is if you are looking at this post expecting it to be about playing wargames with children my apologies - this post comes under the bit in my intro where I claimed I will be posting about 'wargames related blah' that pops into my head. It was called forth by a  discussion on a chat page about transporting ironclad model ships. Someone asked if  pictures could be posted to illustrate what was being talked about - which i have taken upon myself to do.

If you are here because of that, welcome. If you are not here because of that, well welcome as well, although I do warn you that the following might strike you as a bit boring and nerdy (in out hobby, who woulda thunk it?).

As was said in the discussion, magna basing ironclad ship models is usually good enough to keep them safe in transport. The factors involved is the amount of model in contact with the metal surface, the weight of the model and the centre of gravity (the lower, the less likely the model is to topple). What follows is a few pictures of different size of ships, manufactures, and material that the model is made from. They are taken whilst the models are stuck on an metal sheet that is held at an angle to show them as they would be in transport rather than as lovely looking action shots.

First picture is of three ships from the (ex) Skytrex 'transitional' steam range, from left to right the Napoleon, Ville de Paris (converted from a sailing SOL) and Ardente (frigate). They are all long and wide enough to give enough contact between the magnabase on the bottom of the ship and the carrying surface to hold them securely. As the masts do not carry sail and the hulls are relativity solid, it gives them a low centre of gravity which means they are unlikely to topple over.

The Solferino and Gloire from the same range, same comments as above but even more so - wider, more hull to mast wight makes them even more secure. 

Moving on the the more 'funky' designs that make the period so interesting, we have the Tonnere, Rochambeau and Onodaga. Little top wieght and wide hulls make them very secure.

 Moving into the 1880s we have the Admiral Duperre and Formidable, the models get bigger and heavier but this is compensated by the wider hulls, so again very solid and safe for transport.

A few Russian ships to illustrate some different style of ship. The Novgorod is just about all surface and super secure. The Admiral Greig is another low freeboard ship and although fairly small it still has a low centre of gravity that keeps it secure. The Knaiz Pojarski and Perventetz are a bit different as they are made from resin (from Northstar?) which makes them very light so are very secure in trasit. The only problem with them is that they are so light that I have to be careful that I pick them up from the metal by the very bottom of the base as if I was careless I might cause damage as the magnabase bond is so strong.

Last couple of models - the Rurik is the heaviest ironclad model that I own (for a cruiser she was massive) and again no problems with a secure bond.

Lastly is an illustration of what 'AC London'  meant by a balk. For some smaller cruiser or gun boats, who do not have much surface in contact with the metal carrying case and / or has a high centre of gravity, it is handy to magnabase some firm foam and put a trip either side of the ship to hold it in place, like so.

So, whilst I am not saying bases are a bad thing (although I prefer the look of the game without) I can say they are not needed to keep the models safe.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

One Hour Wargames Ancients Final Review

     So, would I recommend playing these rules with a child? Are they child friendly? Easy to learn? Will they hold both adult and child's attention? Ok, to go back to my original criteria that I said I was going to judge these rules by. What were the criteria again?

1. Does the boy enjoy playing?
2.  Is enough thought required to make the game worth playing on a (semi) regular basis?
3.Does the game give an impression of being a representation of a battle of the period it is claiming to represent rather than just a generic game (however interesting that game might be)?
4.  Does the game meet my arbitrary, whimsical, undefined and changing ideas of what I want from a game at this moment if time?

     Well, the first question is easy to answer - as outlined in the boys review, he loved it. The second question is a longer answer. As previously discussed in my comments in the boys review, it seems that only after a few games he was picking up the tactics and how to play so I am not sure how long they would retain his attention. This may be that I need to try some more of the 'interesting' scenarios, as these may present ongoing challenges. When he was the attacker in the unbalanced defender scenario however he seemed to crack that one pretty quick.

     The question about does it gave an impression of a representation of a battle, I would still give this largely a thumbs up. OK, all wargames take alot of willing suspension of disbelief, as does this one. But it does deliver sweeping flanking attacks, grinding melees between heavy infantry, nip and tuck between lighter forces. The narrative in every game I played seemed to fit more or less into an idea of a battle. This started to break down when it was 'take a turn for a charge to sweep away an enemy unit' but overall it all seemed to hang together remarkably well for such a simple to learn game. 

     As for the final question about does it meet my demands from a game - which is about teaching a child to play and spending time with my children. The answer would be yes it has but would probably run into diminishing returns. 

    Which leads us into (after many posts and a surprising large amount of months) the big question

   Would I recommend this set of rules for playing with children?

     Yes, absolutely I would, with a few caveats.

     It is an excellent set of rules to start off playing with a child - as I say my boy is seven and he had no dificulties picking up the rules and they gave fun games. So, if you are looking for a first game to play with a child, I would recommend One Hour Wargames - Ancient Rules. Simple rules concepts and does not require much kit so easy to set up. The set up I used took almost no effort and the boy loved it. I could have played with 15mm figures on a one base equals one unit on a table less than half the size and he would have also enjoyed it. Me and the boy had alot of fun playing  the games - what more do you want?

     The caveat is this - you will probably want to look to move on fairly quickly to maintain interest. This could be in a few ways. One way to develop the game with your kid would be to start discussing adding additions rules to make the basic set your own. This has the advantage of requiring critical thought from your child - which if you are a concerned parent looking to develop your child's mental faculties would be great. You could also push this into developing  a campaign as well. As a set of rules they would work well for developing an imagination campaign - requiring imagination and reasoning from your child. This could form the basis of years of toy soldier playing with your child, an idea that I have considered. However, that would be a quite different blog - as this blog is about reviewing different rules for playing with children I will instead look to move on in a different manner. Namely, trying different rules and different periods. Will be posting soon what rules I will be looking at next. 

      Final recommendation - perfect first set of 'big battle' rules for children that have never played any wargames before. Can be used to introduce the hobby in general before moving onto other rulesets or as a basis to develop your own ideas or a campaign.  

Sunday, 5 March 2017

One Hour Wargames - A Seven Year Old's Review

Time flies, been over a month and I meant to finish the review of one hour wargames weeks ago. Life and work eh?

Anyhow, before I wade in with my definitive view, here as promised is the boys considered opinion. It is not to long but more or less to the point. There are a couple of things that surprised me but I have left my comments to the end.

One Hour Wargames - A Seven Year Old's Review

The one hour wargame ancients includes the following troops: skirmishers, cavalry and heavy foot. In the later games we had skirmishers, archers, heavy foot and cavalry. I think this game is a lot of fun and can really help you learn history.

The part that I enjoyed most is when the first fight breaks because the troop that won gave their sides the upper hand for most of the game.

I enjoyed everything and I understood everything but I think if you were allowed more troops it would take longer so there would be less chance of winning so it would be a closer game.

I enjoyed the first game more than the last because it was the first time I had played so I didn’t know how to do stuff and I also enjoyed it because I won.

I would recommend this game to other children and parents because it is extremely fun and you can learn about important periods of history.

So, bits I would pull out of this.

1. He really enjoyed it - so big thumbs up.

2. Where he says that he enjoyed the first fight the most, this seems to be a implicit recognition that if you get a break through this probably gives you flanks and you can roll up the enemy. The fact that he is thinking along these lines seems to show the game design is very much weighted to a quick decision. On the down side, a game design that means if you start winning then you will probably go on to win just raises the question why bother playing the rest of the game? From a point of view of a child playing it out with his dad the answer would be 'because we both enjoyed the  process of playing it out'. As a game with another grown up though it does not seem to be a good thing.

3. This is linked to his comment about if you had more troops it would take longer so it would be a closer game. I think what he means is that there is more chance of turning around the initial loss if you had more units to play with  - which seems fair enough. It would push game time up mind. 

4. The fact that he states he understood everything is a big plus for playing this game with children. The reason that he gives for enjoying the first game the most - because he didn't know how to do 'stuff' is interesting. To lapse into jargon, it seems that the rules fell into his zone of proximal development (basically something he could learn to do with support) and was therefore interesting and challenging for him. This is the perfect sweet spot that we should be looking for with complexity - so all good. My only question would be is if if there is nothing left that he needs to stretch himself to learn by the fifth game how long would it hold his attention? This could be overcome by developing the rules together as we go along in the future, and people have volunteered many ideas already. It would also be an enjoyable experience in itself and probably a valuable learning experience as well. But I do want to stick to the rules that have been created by their designers. Mind you - how much can you expect from a set of rules in only a few pages? There can not be to much room for growth of complexity built in.

Overall though, he ends recommending the game to children and parents, so it can't be bad. As I say, I will shortly be writing my considered views. Mind you, it is fairly obvious what they are already if you have read what I have wrote in this and previous blogs - and you should probably pay more attention to what the boy has to say anyhow.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

One Hour Wargames Ancients - The final game of the campaign!

The final game in the campaign, lets go for an interesting scenario - Surprise attack, Scenario Eleven in the book. One army starts with only a couple of units in a decent defensive position and faces the full might of the enemy whilst waiting for the rest of the army to show up. My army is rolled for and again I get three heavy foot, one skirmishers and two mounted. I choose to start with two of the heavy foot on the table between a wood and lake.

 The boys army storms on - three heavy foot making a beeline for my defending troops, the light foot heading for the wood, with a chariot unit supported by a heavy foot unit pushing around the lake. Text book really showing that he is learning how to do this.

I get a choice of either pulling my troops back towards the other flank or staying with firm flanks and toughing it out and hope for the support to come up and save me. Standing firm it is, the opposition continue to sweep into position.

And in they smash frontally with scary things looking like they are happening to the front and rear. Game over before the rest of my army have even turned up surely?

But no! In the nick of time the first wave of reinforcements turn up! I chose to bring on a light foot and chariot unit for their speed to get into position to support.

Which mean the forces threatening the flank and rear of my main line are diverted instead into equal odds fights. Could we pull this out of the bag yet?

Oh yes, I had forgotten about you. I wonder what it is you are about to do?

Ah yes, this is not to much of a surprise - and what pray tell will be the outcome of this devastating flank charge?

Ah, not a surprise there then. On top of that one of my heavy foot have manage to lose  there straight up frontal fights against the bad guys. The two light foot are managing to have their traditional low damage ongoing fight without effecting the rest of the battle that much.

Forward his chariot sweep into the rear of my other foot unit. Anyone want to guess what happens next?

Boom! His free heavy foot units look to from a line against the rest of my army that is soon expected.

Alright guys! We are here! Time to get the party started. Oh, where is everyone? Ah well, we need to do the best we can. I target his most beat up heavy foot unit to take it out.

Which is duly done. However the rest of his troops swing round.....

And in a few turns.....

The inevitable happens......

And I get chomped unit by unit.

My war donkey chariots score a brief victory!

Until they to are gone.

And that is game and campaign over.  3 - 1 to the bright seven year old against his handsome and debonair father.

Comments on this game?

Well, it seems that the side that was being played by the boy, all they had to do was reach a level of basic competence and they would force a win. Have to say the boy made all the correct decisions and got his due rewards. The scenario may seem a bit unbalanced though. Anything I could have done better? Well, instead of standing and fighting on the deployment line if I had pulled my line back, pivoting a flank on the woods to delay contact and protecting a flank against his heavier troops, this could have brought time for the help to arrive. I also notice in rereading the scenario, his army should have all come on at the road and moved their first turn from there, which would have slowed down the fight by a turn or two, giving me more of a chance. So, if we had set up correctly and I had played better then I may have had a chance of winning. Seems fair to me.

Don't want to take anything away from the boy though, he played a good game and got the win his tactics in the situation he was given deserved.

That is the five games that I set myself to play before writing a fully considered review of  the game. That full review is to follow shortly.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Is playing wargames a positive thing for children?

In the course of thinking about writing this blog, I assumed that playing wargames for children is a positive thing for children to do - and as most people reading this blog will probably be wargamers I assume that most of my audience would agree with me. However, I am aware that not all people may share this assumption, because lets face it, even the term 'wargame', sounds, well, not good. It is possible that someone may come across this blog with a negative view of wargames - and thinks playing them would be a bad thing for children to do.  Because of this I thought I would spend some time considering exactly why I thought playing such games were positive and then laying out my thoughts on the subject. As well as being a parent, I am also a primary school teacher, so thinking about children's development is a professional concern for me, and I run a games club in my school - so thinking about what games children should be playing is something I do as well.

First, a definition of terms - what I actually mean by a 'wargame', as this is a term that has a somewhat precise meaning to those that use it to define their own hobby and a different more mobile meaning to the public in general. I am using the term wargame to mean primarily games played using toy soldiers on a modeled surface to recreate conflicts from history in a competitive but friendly social setting - or 'playing with toy soldiers'. I will also stretch the term to use those games that use cardboard counters on maps to recreate militarily conflicts as well (although there are some that would argue that these are boardgames and therefore different, for the purposes of my arguments they are similar enough). I also include those toy soldier games that represent conflicts from fantasy or sci fi settings. What I am not including are computer games that represent conflict, 'paintball' type games where people run around and actually fire things at each other, or younger children pretending to be soldiers and 'playing war'. I am not excluding these types of 'wargames' because I think they are automatically harmful or because I think my hobby is superior, but because I think they are different enough from 'toy soldier' based games to need to be considered separately.

What are my reasons for saying playing wargames are a positive thing for children?

Wargames are a social activity

With this point I am thinking of comparing tabletop wargames to computer based games. Now, I do not automatically think computer games are bad, they are a popular type of game and I feel that any assumption that computer games are bad is slightly odd - why would playing a digital game be automatically worse than playing a game with pen and paper? They are just different technologies. One particular problem that computer games have though is they tend to encourage solitary play. Itself not a harmful thing within reason, but overall I think it is preferable for children to spend most of their playtime in social activities as it helps them develop social skills. Wargames are very useful at this - as you spend your time with at least one other person sat on the other side of the table. It is also fairly common to have a game with more than one person aside, requiring discussion and agreement of plans. Any activity that requires children to discuss, negotiate and agree joint action  is highly beneficial to a child's social development.

Wargames develop critical thinking skills

This is a big claim but I think a fair one. When playing a wargame it becomes a natural process to analyse a situation systematically and work through possible outcomes before committing to a course of action. At its simplest is the thought process 'if I do x, then y will most probably be the outcome, therefore my opponent may do a, or b, if they do, what may then happen?'. Wargames teach systematic habits of thought because it is effective way to win, so children do it naturally, not because they are told to. This process also requires a child to consider what their opponent may do, to put themselves in their opponents shoes and consider things from their point of view. Anything that can help a child develop empathy can only be a good thing.

It is great for developing maths

Playing wargames is a constant exercise in arithmetic. Wargames rules call for regular use of arithmetic to solve outcomes of combat and movement. Probability is also a constant theme, dice are a near constant in such games and having to work out probability is a standard skill. At its simplest, knowing how likely it is to get say a 5 or 6 on a 6 sided dice. The complexity quickly ramps up with the use if differing dice, calculating the outcomes of an opposed dice throw (my opponent and I both throw a D6, I add a two and he adds a four but he needs to double my score where as a simple win would be useful for me, is this a good risk?). You want your child to use maths not because they have to do homework but because it is useful and fun? Get them playing wargames.

It makes them want to read

Anyone that plays wargames ends up reading more or less voraciously. When playing battles in an era, reading about them is more or less a given. Ah you may say, but it is only reading about battles and war and stuff, which is something I don't want my child to be focused on. Which up to a point is fair enough. However, I would respond with two thoughts. The first is that reading is a habit, so get children reading (almost anything) and reading then becomes something they do and their range of reading will naturally expand. Secondly, although an interest in military history is quite narrow, it leads almost by osmosis to an interest in and learning about political, social and diplomatic history. For example -  if a person was interested in the English Civil War and therefore starting reading about it. This reading could almost not fail to include learning about the causes of the war, the issues involved and the outcomes. So anyone interested in the ECW is going to have a far better knowledge of the development and functioning of the British constitution than the general population. The same could be said in the U.S. with reading about the American Civil War and Revolution. World War 2 is a popular period to wargame - and I think everyone could do with knowing about the lessons, whys and wherefores of that conflict. Not only does wargaming encourage reading but there is a need with wargaming to find out about how units were organised (so as to know what and how many toy soldiers to buy) and what uniforms were worn (so as to know how to paint what you have brought). This is the start and development of research skills - which a child will learn because it is what they are choosing to do with their free time. Do you want to hear your child say things like 'the books I would like for my birthday are.....' or 'can we go to the library this weekend?' Encourage them to play with toy soldiers.

But wargames glorify war!

This I think is the main reason (spoken or unspoken) about being worried about wargames, that it teaches war is a 'good thing'. This is a fear which is one that I can understand. I think it is a bit of a red herring though as it is just not born out by reality. People that play wargames have wildly varying political and world views. Some have a background in the military, most don't. The only common threads is an interest in military history and an enjoyment of playing cerebral competitive games. Without these two factors you would not play games based in military history. As I said in the preceding paragraph this leads to reading about war and the history of war. The thing is, the more you learn about war, the more it is obvious that it is a bad idea. OK, we may all agree that some wars needed to be fought - WW2 being a good example but people that play wargames would not think WW2 was a 'good thing', most would have it down as a necessary evil. Another example, the second Gulf War (the Bush and Blair one), everyone I knew at the time who played wargames, and therefore had a bit of knowledge about warfare and the history of conflict in the middle east, was of the opinion that it was a bad idea that would probably end badly. Knowing how wars tend to play out I think does not on the whole lead to an idealization of war - but a recognition of what war truly is.

OK, so there is probably far to much text on why I think playing wargames can be a positive thing for children. Do you agree with me and think this article is fab? Let me know. Do you disagree with me and think wargaming is a negative past time - I am even more keen to hear your comments.