Tuesday 06th October 2015,
Comic Booked

Unpainted Lead: The Miniature Art of War

Richard Wilcox 02/14/2012 ZDONOTUSE

I never have referred to myself as a wargame tactician. Can I come up with some good maneuvers? Yep. Have I won a few battles? Sure. Do I get good die rolls on last ditch efforts to berserk an opponent’s army? Not really. There is more to a battle than just a few lucky shots and an expensive army. Trust me; I’ve been defeated by more little girls than I would dare admit.

Every game as with every army within it carries a different tactic. Some require a straight forward attack while others lean towards smaller skirmishes that end almost as quickly as they begin. Terrain will affect the battle as well as time limits, army size, weapon range, area attacks, movement speeds, game balance, and opponent experience, just to name a few. A knowledgeable gamer most likely will keep to the tactic that relies upon their forces strengths, but may need to upset the balance when an opponent presents an new obstacle, whether it be a strange new fighting style or a game piece never before experienced. Where does one draw upon for inspiration when the expected terms of engagement are suddenly turned upon their proverbial head?
Improvising an attack is risky, especially during tournaments. Has it been done successfully? Yes. But what should be done to prepare for the unexpected? Can one prepare for this? That sounds as possible as predicting the outcome of an Infinite Improbability Drive upon a couple of nuclear missiles. There is no one right answer within the game itself as too many variables can and will change once players face off in miniature mortal combat.

As I said before, I am by no means a master tactician in wargames. No answer I give will bring about success to anyone who goes only by what I say, therefore I took the time to talk to a few people from various groups (within and outside the tabletop game community) to find out what works for them and to figure out how this can be applied to the miniature battlefield.

The first person I spoke to is a sparing partner (Not mine of course…I’m just not that masculine) as well as an aspiring MMA fighter. How a geek like me would ever know, let alone be on a talking basis with a MMA fighter, I’ll leave to your imagination. Nevertheless I asked him two questions regarding competition combat:
Destroyer Extreme from Warmachines
Question 1: Before a battle, what aspects of your opponent do you focus on?
None, he focuses on his own strategies and strengths avoiding any psych out by his competition. Actual fist fighting varies greatly from tabletop wargaming as competitors are classed by nothing more than their weight as opposed to games being balanced (if done right) by points in most games. Realistically, that seven pound figure the other player just put down is equal in points to your fifty infantry men that seem like ants in comparison.

Question 2: Once the battle has begun, what do you focus on the most?
He says that this is when he pays attention to his opponent in a fight. Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, they never look each other in the eye. Instead he explained to me that he focuses on the other fighter’s shoulders and chest explaining that those are the areas that hint at the fighter’s stance, balance, and future actions. Disclaimer: I did not just tell you to stare at the chest of other players. This may lead to uncomfortable conversations and possible slaps from female wargamers. What his answer is actually saying, is to pay attention to the way your opponent maneuvers their pieces on the board. Each attack and retreat can tell what they’re planning long before it happens.

The second person I spoke to would be considered by many as a redneck. As a gentleman in his late forties, he has been in more drunken impromptu fights than Wolverine. The man classifies himself as a regular bar-room brawler since the age of eleven.
H:TTBS at Phoenix Comicon 2011
Question 1: Before a battle, what aspects of your opponent do you focus on?
He admits to finding the one thing in his opponent’s stance that indicates the slightest hint of weakness. Just like in gaming there are people with great armies, but have a few weak links that can be cross haired early in battle.

Question 2: Once the battle has begun, what do you focus on the most?
Considering he is not in the best of shape or endurance, his best method is to go powerful and strong on any and all weaknesses his opponent may have before he’s too tired to defend himself from any future attacks. I would refer this to the Ender’s Game method: Do the greatest of devastating blows to ones opponent that they dare not come after you again. Yes it’s a berserker type attack, but if well planned and coordinated correctly upon the right target it could change the tied of the whole battle.

The third person I spoke to is a gamer as well as a business partner, who has in fact played games for longer than I have been alive as well has designed and made so many games that I have yet to see all of them in the years I’ve known him.
It was epic
Question 1: Before a battle, what aspects of your opponent do you focus on?
Numbers and statistics, was his answer. He explained to me that in most games, individual units can be broken down into a simple mathematic equation and when compared to the opposing side without taking into consideration things such as luck or ability of the players involved one could predict most outcomes.

Question 2: Once the battle has begun, what do you focus on the most?
The second answer tied into the first, as he figures the odds of winning as well as the statistics of each unit on the battlefield, he could systematically take them out utilizing his strengths versus his opponent’s weaknesses.

Parents, that’s the reason you should buy your child an Abacus.

Ultimately, these methods might not bring about a victory, but they may round out your skills. First: develop a strategy based upon the armies you utilize. Second: plan upon you opponent’s army as to what they are, but not upon their size. And finally: as the battle begins focus on action and reaction of their attacks and defenses utilizing your strengths without getting emotionally involved in the outcome of small skirmishes, instead sight towards the ultimate end game win.

And for those wanting more I recommend reading up on ancient and modern warfare strategies to see what could be adopted for the tabletop.

What strategies do you use? Have you had similar experiences?

Richard is a tabletop enthusiast with a penchant for epic battles, join him in Unpainted Lead every Tuesday for a weekly look into the art of tiny war. Also, players, store owners and game developers spread the word: Wednesday, August 8th 2012 is now Skirmish in Public Day

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About The Author

I like to play games, write about them and sometimes make them. Sometimes I make films too.

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