Wednesday 28 May 2014

Getting Real and Scaling Down

Our gaming group has lately become a victim of geography, and the pressure of PhDs and other work. With our face-to-face fantasy roleplay gaming having dwindled for a spell, I need a new project (no, I don’t, but anyway…). C, one of the players in our group, and I have been talking about getting real and scaling down our miniature gaming.

As in playing a bit of 15mm historical. 

The attractions of 15mm historical are; economy - a small army can be bought in a job lot for a reasonable price. The restrictions placed on the quality of painting by the scale – non-one expects ham-fisted painters (i.e. me) from achieving anything spectacular at 15mm, so a workmanlike, gaming orientated paint job will be perfectly acceptable. The fact that there is more space on a table – which produces greater possibilities for the exercise of ‘generalship’. And I might actually learn something from historical gaming.

But I need this to be a gaming project. Too many of my miniature projects run out of steam because there is no definite ‘game’ at the end. They become about painting, modelling, and collecting, and those are all secondary to the fact that you actually play games with the little men. 

At the moment I’m thinking about Dark Ages gaming, primarily because I have been reading Bernard Cornwell’s Arthur and Uhtred books, but also because, on a practical level, historically realistic battles can run from everything from a skirmish to a clash of shieldwalls, and I’ll be able to use the miniatures in fantasy gaming too. But feel free to suggest other eras/conflicts/battles too.

So, I am here to pick your brains. 

Someone reading this must have experience of historical miniature gaming in 15mm. I would like to know:

1) Which rulesets would people recommend? I’d like something that plays fast and is fairly straightforward to learn, while still being ‘representational’, rather than an abstracted strategy game with historical/military flavour. 

2) Which miniatures (and suppliers) would people recommend? I’d prefer hard plastic, as, after all, I am after economy and gaming first here, but happy for metal recommendations (and to mix and match).

3) Which (sources of) scenarios would people recommend? What particular game/s should I buy and paint towards?

And, for each of those, what should I avoid if I were you?


  1. I really like DBA, the free wargame rules. As I understand Osprey has a really nice wargame ruleset out now.

  2. I'll second DBA and if you can get it, there is a fantasy variant called Hordes of the Things. However, I prefer the simpler older editions of DBA to the newer, halfway- complex ones (oh brother ... but it's true ...)

  3. While I like DBA and HotT they are somewhat abstract and require a grokking as to what they are trying to achieve.

    While it's a fantasy set, Song of Blades and Heroes has the closest "feel" to Dark Ages warfare of any skirmish set I've ever played and that was with Oldhammer-style Chaos Warbands. A couple of my gaming friends rate this - - but I haven't had chance to try it yet. One of Osprey's recent range of quite cheap wargames rules that seem to be getting good reviews. Figure wise I have a soft spot for Peter Pig -

    The only 15mm hard plastic figures that I am aware of (that's a cavaet obviously) are WW2 - Toy Soldier Company do a 15mm scale down sets of their 20mm boxes.

  4. Cheers everyone so far. Coop, it was your posts a while back on 15mm 40K that got me thinking.

    DBA was something that has been lurking at the back of my imagination, but I worried that the abstract nature would put me off. But, while I might want a simulationist game, in my real gaming life I could do with a game that can be played, perhaps more than once, after the kids have gone to bed - without having to see the clock tick over to the early hours. And, checking out the starter armies, £15-£30 for a DBA set looks a lot more reasonable than the £60+ that you'd pay for an army for Fields of Glory. And a do-able painting task, with a fully painted game possible within a short period of time.

    I bought Songs of Blades and Heroes a while back from Lulu (I should have got it in pdf given that my tablet has become my new gaming archive), but haven't yet had the chance to put it through its paces properly.

  5. DBA is probably right on the fence for me in terms of abstraction. I definitely appreciate the low buy-in and quick gameplay it offers. If you want to take it for a spin and see how it feels, you can set up solo games on (also a great way to learn the rules!).

    I'm not very familiar with this period wargaming-wise, but I do believe Dux Britanniarum might fit your goals nicely, and it is playable in 15mm in a variety of basing schemes:

  6. Correction on the DBA Online link: it should be

  7. Warhammer Ancient Battles was popular for years, it is essentially 4th/5th ed. Warhammer so you probably know the basic rules already or have easy access to them. Saga is a laugh and worth a mention, even if it doesn't meet your criteria. I know of no company making 15mm DA stuff in plastic, sorry. Try this web page for ideas.

  8. Saga is relatively low figure counts and one of our gamers quite likes. It's fairly "bloody" so lots of figs are removed. One of our other gamers finds it hard to wrap his head around creating combos from the dice to effect good results. Could be hit and miss as to whether you like that type of game.

    We've had some challenges with the too fat lardies rules before, there always seems to be rule questions that come up that simply aren't explained in the book and need some house ruling.

    15mm (as noted) is mostly metal figs, but they are quite reasonable. Khurasan miniatures has some great figs (fantasy, historical and sci fi). Splintered light has good fantasy stuff.