Armies Vs Skirmish


I’d like to thank Servitob for his last post as I believe it feeds nicely into what I want to discuss today. Being on the same kind of wavelength like this is why we are not generally allowed to form a team against our wives when they insist on playing boardgames of the non miniatures/wargaming variety. Although the link may be tenuous to others, it makes perfect sense in my head and follows on nicely. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, then we shall begin.

I first picked up tabletop gaming in the 80’s, although I’d put Space Crusade more in the board games category than true tabletop wargaming I did pick up 2nd Ed 40K when it released. Being a spotty teenager at the time things like sci fi universes filled with marauding aliens and fantasy stereotypes of half naked Elves were vastly appealing, hence the fact that I was aware of things like historical wargaming, but then, who wants to play an Imperialist French homunculus when there is the possibility of the aforementioned Elven ladies?

I have grown up alongside Games Workshop products and spent around 12 years loyally following their games, 40K, Warhammer, Man-o-War, Necromunda and I even bought Mordheim although I never got to play it. Although there have been alternate ways to play both of Games Workshop’s flagship products over the years things mainly revolve around the fact that ideally you play 40k with 1500pts of dudes and Fantasy with 2000pts of dudes. These are both army games and play as such with units designed for various roles and you play very much on a reasonable scale. Now, Necromunda is interesting because of what I want to compare in this post, it was a game that reduced the number of models and the scale of the battles you fought. The hives of Necromunda being a microcosm in the larger 40k universe and therefore, even though the core ruleset followed 40k conventions, there was a lot more depth to those rules. This was in the day when you had to have an A4 card on the table to list all the weapons and their individual rules and now you added Ammo rolls and reloads. Now I happen to believe that Necromunda was the greatest game that GW ever put out. I have an Escher gang at home (unpainted in the box) and the terrain from the first edition box set that I got off eBay.

Now, as I’ve gotten older and especially over the past 5 years there has been an explosion of serious competitors to the GW crown. As I mentioned that I was aware of other historical wargames, I did know of some other miniature games but nothing that was a really serious contender (in my mind at least) to the big daddy of the day. While I went through my gaming drought as I left school and went into the world of work I saw the odd piece here and there from other companies but still stuck with Warhammer as a main focus of my buying and painting. Once I found the start of my current gaming circle things started to change. I can’t remember how it happened but I came across a game called Warmachine and I was so impressed with the models that I bought a starter set for myself and my regular gaming buddy. We played some games and were very impressed and I’m looking forward to the finalised rules for Mk 2 when they hit the shelves next year. I also got into Confrontation with the release of Version 3 of the rules, although shortly after they went to 3.5 and within another short period they changed to pre-painted and effectively killed off an amazingly unique game with incredible models. Following on from that I’ve bought various pieces, I have a Pan Oceania force for Infinity that have never seen battle and the most recent additions are my Imperial and Bone Griffins fleets for the excellent Uncharted Seas, then yesterday my rulebook for Malifaux arrived and once stock is replenished I’ll be getting a Crew box.

So, what has changed? Well, when I first started out everything was to do with large armies fighting across vast landscapes, yet now, things have tended to come down to more of a skirmish style. There are still those games whereby you can collect huge forces to play but a lot of the newer games we are seeing require fewer models and correspondingly have a greater depth to their rules. Although with Warmachine/Hordes you can run forces that equal the size of a 40K force it’s not necessary in order to play and enjoy the game, Infinity requires a small number of figures similar to the starting size of Gangs in Necormunda (around 10). Uncharted Seas can very easily be played with the starter box you get and Malifaux is playable with 5 figures and again, this is what you get in a Crew starter box.

For me, I prefer these smaller scale skirmish games. The rules tend to be tighter and have more to them, not overly complicated in any instance (except for perhaps Confrontation, that had more special rules than a Tax manual) but meaty and interesting enough for me to be interested in the game. Although I do enjoy the grand scale of games like Warhammer and 40K I can attest that I would be happy playing the skirmish games more than the larger ones. This is a question that we asked as a gaming group to each other, we still need to formalise our schedule as we’ve been slipping on our trying to maintain at least 1 day a month given over to our hobby.

I think that I can also speak for the majority of gamers here that we tend to have more models than you can shake a stick at. Last year I sold a lot of what I had in order to consolidate what I owned. Not playing Confrontation anymore I sold all of my stuff there, I got rid of excess 40k and Warhammer armies to leave me with only that which I really wanted to play and vowed to keep these down. I got rid of my Khador for Warmachine to stick with Cryx and I have some Skorne models for Hordes (which I prefer to Warmachine in all honesty). I now have my Orks which are (for the most part) nicely packed away in a storage case, my Daemons which can be used for either 40k or Warhammer, mainly Warhammer at the moment as I prefer my Orks in 40K). I also have a Warriors of Chaos army for Warhammer that is most definitely NOT in any case and is spread around the house with no actual storage area dedicated to them. My Uncharted Seas stuff is new and has therefore not found a home either so even though I sold a lot of stuff and did make a saving in terms of the space taken up by my hobby, I still feel like I have too much.

Personally I would rather have 10 games needing 10 models each than having 1 game that took 100 models and in this arena we are now almost spoilt for choice. Spartan, the company behind Uncharted Seas are going to be releasing a sci-fi version and Malifaux, the new game from Wyrd has hit the shelves and sold out quickly and no-one was expecting a game from them, they just seemed to produce some excellent looking models.

Games Workshop originally set the gold standard but there are many lamentation across the Interwebs about how the company and their business has changed over the years and I don’t plan on going into those here. I am just offering my opinion that I am happier with skirmish games and the lower model count they require than the huge armies that are the GW forte. With such a market now, Games Workshop still dominates as it owns its own stores and they can be found in almost every high street, yet there are other companies now that are producing really good stuff that I find a lot more interesting than these larger battles and I know other people that feel the same.

While I can’t see me giving up my 40K and Warhammer gaming, it may be time to once more have a clean out of the cupboards and come up with a better plan of what we all play and what we want to play. Rather than spending a day fighting two games of a GW game, we might be able to fit in 4 or 5 of the smaller skirmish games. That big battle will still come up every now and again but I will get more satisfaction off variety and depth that these smaller games can bring.

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