In July I happened to be in Smiths Falls, Ontario and dropped by Monolith Architectural Models to visit my nephew, Noel White. For as long as I can remember, Noel has been entranced by historical miniature war gaming. It was a quiet day at Monlith and Noel was busy working on some of his models. I took one look and decided that he should guest author a blog article. So I now turn you over to Noel:
Miniature War Gaming
I was invited by Don White to write a short article for Between Keyboard and Chair on one of my hobbies - historical miniature war gaming. It's something I've enjoyed for at least 20 years, and I've found it a rewarding and relaxing hobby. Though my father had a small collection of miniature soldiers, it didn't really begin until a good friend and neighbour gave me a sci-fi figure and encouraged me to paint it. My first paint job was sloppy and crude, but I enjoyed it enough to purchase some of my own. I then discovered the various games that one could play with enough miniatures and a willing opponent. As a young teenager I was drawn to the fantasy and sci-fi variety but over the years I lost interest in fiction and moved on to historical games and miniatures. After all, anyone could invent fiction. I felt using my own imagination and doing my own research was far more rewarding than memorizing fantasy.
Just What Is It?
So what is historical miniature war gaming? Its usually 2 players, each with a collection of miniatures representing an army from a particular period in history. They are placed on a large table that is often decorated with simulated ground features (what we call “terrain”) and moved with the use of rulers or other templates. Dice are rolled to simulate the unpredictable factors of combat, and ultimately determine who wins and who loses. Often you'll receive advantages to your dice rolls if you can catch the enemy in unfavourable circumstances. For example, pikemen may enjoy an advantage versus cavalry, or the enemy may suffer if you attack him from behind. A complete game (or “battle”) can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days based on the set of rules you have agreed to use. My current favourite set of rules for ancient/medieval warfare simulation is Field of Glory, published in the UK, and it sits somewhere in the middle in terms of complexity and provides a reasonable degree of historical accuracy. A Field of Glory battle is usually over in 3-4 hours. Those who are interested can compete in tournaments at some of the larger gaming conventions.
Model Making and Research
Gaming aside, my favourite part of the hobby is the model-making and research. Within the restrictions of your chosen set of rules, you build an army of little soldiers that resemble its historical counterpart. There is lots of variety in scale and new manufacturers are emerging every year. The pewter or lead figurines are usually mail-ordered from a web-store, since few conventional retailers exist in Canada. You assemble and paint them yourself, after having researched the appropriate colours and battle formations in the translations of various ancient texts and excellent modern accounts. You can easily spend as much time reading as painting! You can also find tips and painting techniques that really bring the figures to life and make the tiny details much easier to handle. It can take many, many hours to put together an army of 100-200 figures and a great deal of time and patience is involved. You are also encouraged to make the terrain your army will fight across (such as villages, hills, forests, rivers and so on) as well as a suitably decorated game-table.
From Hobby To Career
This unusual hobby of mine has lead to other things including my unusual career! I operate my own a scale model-making business near Ottawa called Monolith Architectural Models. The majority of my clients are architects and real estate developers who need high quality scale models for sales offices and presentations. In a way, I turned my hobby into my business. I'm also considering a second business fabricating components and terrain for various war games, and possibly developing my own game.
I'm also involved in a play-testing group for Field of Glory version 2. We are all volunteers from all over the world testing the latest suggestions to improve the game. We record our battles and submit the results to the design team who make adjustments accordingly. There is lots of debate and research involved too!
I encourage any who are interested to seek out their local hobby club and ask some questions. It's a very rewarding pastime with plenty of opportunity for socializing, learning and fun.
Monolith Architectural Models