The Great War in Pewter - A tabletop compendium04 Jul 2018 2
As the 100th anniversary of World War I arrives, so does our series of compendium articles listing what would-be Foch’s and Hindenburg’s can requisition on the conflict for wargaming. This edition looks at that most tactical of wargaming genres: tabletop miniatures, both rules and figures.
World War I miniature wargaming has always been a niche period in a niche hobby, never as popular as, say, Napoleonics or the American Civil War. And within that niche, while biplanes and dreadnaughts of all types have been popular, ground combat tends to be geared towards the Western Europe 1917-18. The 1914 Guns of August period is not well known, as it is rarely portrayed in film, while 1915 through 1916 is a "die in place" (DIP) bloodbath. This leaves 1917-18, and this means the first tanks arrive on the scene to make tabletop victory not only possible but a bit more camouflage colorful as well. As for the Balkans, the Russians, Gallipoli and Caporetto... wait, you mean the Turks and Italians fought in World War I? When did this happen?
Perhaps this explains the shortage of mainstream, commercially-published miniatures rules on the subject. Yet when it comes to figures, the selection is vast, far more than can ever be discussed here, thanks in part to the cottage nature of the industry supporting the hobby. With that in mind, here is what I see at conventions and discussed online.
Flames of War, the Great War – The rules cover only 1918 in a full color, glossy hardbound book 72 pages long. Cost is $ 20.00, for what is really an expansion on a booklet included in Wargames Illustrated 324. Play is obviously similar to the original publication, and as with other Flames of War products, there is also an extensive product line supporting the rules. Models include infantry, artillery, tanks and a very nice assortment of battlefield terrain such as barbed wire and craters. Pricing is similar to the game’s World War II cousins and scale is 1:100.
Through the Mud and the Blood – Published by Two Fat Lardies (and no, haven’t got a clue) this game is designed to recreate things like ambushes and trench raids at the low tactical level. Thus, the scale is 1:1, or one figure equals one actual soldier. Cost is £10.00 for digital download or £16.00 for paper, and there are two expansion modules, Stout Hearts & Iron Troopers along with From Empire to Revolution.
1914, World War I – A relatively new entry by Great Escape Games and covering only the Guns of August portion of the war, this is an extremely simple game where each unit is a battalion. All needed combat charts are on both sides of one sheet of paper. Also unique to the game is its own line of supporting miniatures in the seldom seen 12 mm scale. The game itself costs £15.00, 17 infantry for £5.00 and 25 horse for £10.00.
Before the Leaves Fall – A digital-only expansion module for Age of Eagles (Napoleonic Fire & Fury or AOE), this brigade level game covers only the 1914 Guns of August period of the war. Units are regiments or brigades and scale is 30 minutes per turn, 120 yards per inch with infantry stands representing 360 troops. Part of the Age of Valor series, the module sells for $ 4.00 US direct, but the AOE base rules is an additional cost. [Disclosure: the author of this article is also the designer of Before the Leaves Fall.]
Admiralty Trilogy, Fear God and Dread Nought – The Admiralty Trilogy Group is now republishing the third and final part of Larry Bond’s naval trifecta. Previously produced as a World War I naval boardgame you could play with miniatures by Clash of Arms, the new, revised version will be published direct by The Wargames Vault as a true set of 1 to 1 naval miniature wargaming rules. Being playtested now, the game is due for release soon and should cost around $14 US for the digital version and $18.51 for the print version. A $4.00 Data Annex must also be purchased to play the game, which is quite detailed, down to the center turret firing between the conning tower and captain’s potted palms level.
General Quarters, Fleet Action Imminent – Another highly detailed, traditional 1 to 1 scale naval miniature game, Fleet Action Imminent is the Great War version of General Quarters III, now published by Old Dominion Game Works. By detailed one means (quote from the product Website), "national armament characteristics, a 'no odds' gunnery system, specific damage, separate secondary and tertiary batteries, variable number of hull boxes to better reflect differences in hull size." The game comes in either a .pdf or three-ring binder format, but there seems no difference in the price of $31.95. Tokens are also available, as is a World War I Navies Supplement for $9.95 and North Sea Campaign for the same price.
Wings of Glory WWI (aka Wings of War) – Now published by Ares Games in Europe, the rules and starter set includes the 40-page rules book, 144 cards, four plane consoles, two rulers and 163 tokens. The item is also on sale right now from Miniature Market in the Colonies for $20.99 US, reduced from $29.90. The game is played one on one scale with branded, pre-painted aircraft (and painted quite well I might add) mounted on a plane specific, clear flight stand and comes with stats and cards appropriate for the aircraft in question. Cost per starts at $14.90 US, but is now on sale for $10.90, with the Zeppelin Staaken R VI running nearly $56.00 on sale.
Aerodrome 1.1 – A favorite at conventions, this game is very easy to play and uses wooden control panels to control maneuvers with telescoping poles that mount the aircraft models above a color hex map for altitude. The rules cost but $ 15.00 US and can use any plastic, well painted World War I models (as in Revell, etc), or any of the planes in the Wings of Glory product line. Scale is one to one.
Miniature Figurines Ltd (Minifigs) – 15 mm, a little on the small side, but likely the most extensive and complete range of 15 mm figures out there, to include, infantry, cavalry, artillery, machineguns and command, both early (German in Pickelhaube) and late war (German in Stahlhelm). There are in all 159 sets available covering the French, British, Germans, Austrians, Russians (finally!), Turks, Anzacs, Indians, Sikhs, Yeomanry (in Sun Helmets no less), limbers and a separate line of 11 tanks. Traditional smooth sculpting style, a package of 8 infantry figures is £3.75 as are 4 mounted figures.
Blue Moon Manufacturing – 15/18 mm figures covering the later stages of the war, with lines for the Americans, British, French and Germans. Figures are animated and feature a rough, deeply etched sculpting style. Using the French as an example, there are 11 products including infantry (50 figures for $26.00 US), mortars (two plus crew for $9.00), field artillery (one plus crew for $11.00) and tanks (one for $11.00).
GHQ Micronaughts World War I – 1/2400 scale, very fine detail, covering the navies of all the great powers to include the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France and Italy. Each pack contains one unpainted ship and depending upon size, will cost between $10.95 to $16.95 US. Larger navies also have packs of four destroyers and the like for $10.95.
Eureka Miniatures – 15 mm figures covering the more esoteric theaters of the war, to include Palestine, Gallipoli, the Italian Front and the Balkans. The figures have a deep, rough sculpting style. Countries covered include Britain, Australia, Ottoman Empire, Italy, Austria, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. The line includes infantry, cavalry, command and artillery crew, but no guns are listed. Cost is $0.59 US for each infantry figure and $1.18 US per cavalry horse and rider. There is a shorter 28 mm product line.
Minuteman Miniatures 3D Printing – 15 mm Great War line includes not less than 40 different tank models to include such oddities as Beutepanzer (Allied tanks in German service) and lots of variants, six for the French St Chamond alone. Tanks are resin made to order, so 28 mm vehicles theoretically can be ordered in high (vice standard) resolutions. Vehicles are devoid of layer lines. Contact vendor for latest pricing.
North Star Great War Miniatures – 28 mm, there are 123 different sets in this product list. The designer uses a semi-smooth sculpting style, and the range is quite extensive, including typical, infantry, artillery and horse, but also rarely seen figures such as the Belgian Army, snipers and casualties. Cost seems to be an almost universal £7.50 for two mounted or six infantry figures, and many come with separate limbs for different poses. Brigade Games in the US carries this line alongside their own, similar brand.
Obviously, not every rule set or figure line could be covered, so apologies if your favorite was not mentioned. Indeed, there are lots of privately-published sets and it's noteworthy that the slick-looking World War I games at recent HMGS conventions were played with an inhouse variant of Regimental Fire & Fury, an American Civil War ruleset. Nevertheless, it is nice to know that despite the relatively small number of pewter pushers who game this period of history, your quartermaster has you very well supplied.