Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Top Five Wargames Articles

We all have favorite pieces of writing that we can enjoy over and over again. Sometimes these are books, sometimes short stories, and sometimes they are magazine articles.

Over my 30-plus year wargames career, I have read plenty of hobby magazines. It all started with board games and Avalon Hill’s The General. Then during college I was first exposed to miniature wargames by a history professor using George Nafziger’s Pas de Charge rules and exquisite 25mm Napoleonic figures, which lead to finding The Courier and Miniature Wargames. I look back at those figures and magazines with a mixture of nostalgia and gratitude for today’s higher quality productions. Not to mention the treasure trove of the Internet!

Narrowing down the field to just miniature gaming, I find plenty of magazines that I acquired over the years: The Courier and Miniature Wargames have been joined on my shelf by (in no particular order) MWAN, Historical Miniature Gamer, Wargames Illustrated, White Dwarf, Battlegames, First Empire, Age of Napoleon, The Journal of the Seven Years War Association, Empire, Eagles, & Lions in various editions, Wargames, Soldiers, & Strategy, Napoleon, and I’m sure there were others. Throw in a subscription to Magweb.com and you can see my opportunities for reading have been legion.

Only a few of these numerous issues have produced articles that draw me back time and again. Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of excellent articles in my collection. But there are just a few that I purposely go back and read again.

What makes these articles so popular with me? There are a number of reasons. They are all well-written. Most of them are from a gamer’s point of view and describe a project about which the writer was passionate. And they conveyed that passion to me.

So here is the list. If you have not read these, I can obviously recommend them. Perhaps you could suggest your favorites in turn?

Number Five

Jack Gill, “Vermin, Scorpions, and Mosquitos: The Rheinbund in the Peninsula,” The Age of Napoleon #17, 1995.

This is a great overview of some of my favorite Napoleonic units, giving a short history and brief orders of battle. Ever since that first Napoleonic miniatures game in 1982 I have had a fondness for the small German states caught up in the inferno of Napoleon’s Empire. Gill’s work is an excellent companion to his outstanding book With Eagles To Glory, which details the German units in the 1809 campaign.

Number Four

Steve Dake, “Napoleonics: Black Hole of Wargaming”, MWAN #94, 1998.

Steve wrote of his introduction to gaming Napoleonics in a very big way. Having bumped into Herr Alte Fritz in his previous incarnation as a purveyor of big Napoleonic gaming (which role he is now reprising!), Steve dove into a project that dwarfs what most people attempt to do. Along the way, he has plenty of interesting lessons and opportunities. Steve amasses the troops, paints them, concocts his own rules, and presents them at a convention. And that’s just the start!

Number Three

Hal Thinglum, “Hal's 25MM Seven Years War Project Continued or ‘Is There No End To This Madness?’", MWAN #87, 1997.

Hal’s Seven Years War Project was legendary to the readers of MWAN. The project just went on and on and on. As far as I know, this was the only time that Hal sat down and described it completely in print. Or rather, as far as it had got at that point! There was a separate article containing the rules he wrote to go with his collection. I find Hal’s almost breathless narration to be both compelling and soothing since it describes my own wargaming collecting so well! “Highly recommended!”

Number Two

N. H. Hyde, “Fictitious Wars”, Miniature Wargames #47, 1987.

Once upon a time, I was a dyed-in-the-wool historical gamer. The idea of fictitious nations left me cold, much less fictitious uniforms! But over the years I have come to see just how much fun a fictitious campaign can be. Henry, who of course is now editor of Battlegames magazine, published this wonderful article long before I was even aware of these concepts except in the realm of fantasy role-playing. I can only hope to reach this level of chronicled detail in my own projects.

Number One

Brian Carroll, “Birth of a Notion, or ‘You want to put how many figures in a battalion?!’”, MWAN #86, 1997.

I really can’t enthuse too much about this article: it is the single influence that I can point to and say, “This got me started on 25mm ‘Big Battalion’ gaming.” Similar in vein to both Steve’s and Hal’s listed above (in fact, Hal writes that this piece encouraged him to write his own article), Brian chronicles the conception, expansion, and exploration of his own “Big Battalions” wargame project. I happened to get this issue of MWAN given to me by a local club member who was cleaning out his stack of magazines. The combination of studying the period, planning and building big battalions, how he put the project together, in fact the whole article just fascinated me. It still does; whenever I want to rekindle the gaming flame, I reread it again.

9 comments:

Fitz-Badger said...

I have to say I don't go back and reread articles much, but there are a few that stick in my mind after all these years. I think the main thing they had in common was similar to what you said, they were gamers writing about something they enjoyed and it showed. The articles also made me want to follow in the gamers' footsteps.
These include:
A series in The Courier about a medieval campaign on the Island of Marnon
Another Courier series about a Colonial campaign played out using maps of San Juan Islands, Washinton state, as the territory
The original Tale of Four Gamers (if I remember correctly), in White Dwarf, where they described building 4 WH fantasy armies on a fixed budget over the course of a few months and then played a battle

Stokes Schwartz said...

Hi Ed,

Good choices! I know your #1 and #2 articles. The rest sound like interesting and inspiring reads too. Must track them down.

Best Regards,

Stokes

Martin said...

Hi Ed,

Of your top five, I was only familiar with Mr. Hyde's article in Miniature Wargames, but the picture of Gefriter Shultz trying to save his unit's standard, is forever etched in my mind. I'll have to keep an eye out for the others that you have recommended.

Yours,

Martin

Hal Thinglum said...

Hi Ed - This is very kind of you; I appreciate it very much! I can recall having a lot of fun writing the SYW article. Having sold my second 25mm SYW collection around the time I gave up MWAN, I immediately started another SYW Project using Foundry, Crusader and Front Rank figures. I have since added a few Hinchliffe. Prussians, Austrians and Russians. The Russians are left over from my last 25mm SYW Project but I had to repaint all of the foot and artillery crew as I had painted them up as a ficticious army. I also have a 15mm SYW Project which I have not paid any attention to in years - Prussians and Austrians. Again, thank you for remembering me. I have enjoyed your blog; it tempts to do my own. My kindest regards - Hal Thinglum

Ed Youngstrom said...

Hello, and thanks to all for your comments.

Hal, thanks for your kind words, and for stopping by. MWAN continues to be a great source of fun and inspiration for me.

And go for the blog. It can be as simple and short as you like, but brings all kinds of people with similar tastes to your attention. In fact, blogging is "Highly recommended!"

:>

Ed

Der Alte Fritz said...

I would love to see Hal do a blog. That would allow him to do what he did best in MWAN, talk about the hobby, without all of the work and fuss of doing a magazine.

Ed Youngstrom said...

Hear! Hear!

That's two votes, Hal. Time to fire up a blog!

Ed

Brian said...

Hi Ed:
I was browsing the Web with my son, and saw that you picked my old MWAN article as a favorite. Thanks so much for the nice review. It was very nice for my son to see someone writing nice things about me :)
Gosh I miss MWAN terribly these days. Nothing has filled the void. Hal threw his heart and soul into that publication and we all loved him for it! I hope he realizes how much joy and fun he brought to the wargaming world.
Again, thanks for the kind words.
Brian

Ed said...

Brian,

Thanks for posting. It just goes to show how small our hobby really is.

I'm pretty sure Hal knows how much MWAN is missed, and how much joy it gave. Still, I wonder how well it would stand up to today's insatiable demand for "new" and "up to date" as served up by the Internet?

What I really miss is MagWeb with its archive of MWANs from before I subscribed!

Cheers,
Ed