About Me

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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gaming without terrain

Two years ago I came to the conclusion that I just didn't have enough room for 28mm, 15mm, AND 6mm gaming, and since 28mm was my least-used scale, it drew the short straw. Warhammer Fantasy armies, 40K armies, two Infinity armies, even a gorgeously painted all-female cowgirl posse got sold off. I sold my entire collection of fantastic handmade trees, forests, foamcore buildings, and all my scatter terrain. I was richer, and sadder, but I had something that had been in short supply for some time:

S P A C E.

Yea, while I felt like a part of me was walking out the door (I started gaming in 28mm, if you don't count Battletech 20 years before), I just didn't have the room for all my stuff. I blame Infinity - that game is a terrain whore! It was because of Infinity that I LIVED over at http://www.terragenesis.co.uk/, always reading, and came up with some really cool stuff. I bought playsets at ToysRUs to use as scatter terrain, but in the end, I just ran out of room.

So now, my son is 7 and he loves watching me play my games (what little I get in these days). I wanted to include him in some small-scale gaming, so I pulled out my Reaper figs that I've had for decades, and I went through the different rulesets I had. I settled on the newest one, Iron & Honor (discussed somewhat here). It was a decent, quick little "build your own" ruleset, but....

Terrain? Aww crap.

"Hey son, go get your Legos". Yea. It was sad, but he was happy :)  And honestly, it did the trick.

But there had to be something better. I was NOT going to start over again. I have a pretty addictive personality (heck, most gamers do, since we take the crap that the hobby throws our way and keep coming back for more...don't believe me? Look over at your paint table :P ) so I refuse to start building terrain for 28mm again. No way...

A ha! I found something that might work! Heroic Maps over on Wargames Vault has some pretty cool printable PDFs/jpegs that might work, so I bought the Wilderness and a few others. NOTE: many of the titles aren't gridless, so much of the $25 purchase I made isn't feasible yet, but they are supposedly fixing this soon. [EDIT - the following day, all maps that I owned with grids were updated - Heroic Maps had some heroic customer service!]

Anyway, yea, I got me some nice cardstock 11"x17" paper, and with the office printer, got some cool stuff printed out. Now I had a whole bunch of 10"x10" tiles, trimmed them with my wife's paper cutter (see, I KNEW her scrapbooking addiction would come in handy), and came up with this:

Now, Iron & Honor was decent, but it is in the infantile stages of development. I looked into Skulldred, but I reacted to quite a lot of what I read, and he has been insanely stale getting his next revision out. I actually began merging the two into what I considered a decent ruleset, but as with most of my projects that I do alone in a vacuum, it petered out, and anyway, I realized I was writing what I wanted, and not what would work for my son.

So now I need to make a quick apology. Back in 2008 when Ganesha Games came out with Song of Blades and Heroes, I bought it and a few expansions, but was quickly bored with how overly simplistic it was. For the past, what, six years, I have not exactly badmouthed it on forums or public gatherings, but really just expressed my derision that people (adults?!) would take it seriously and actually play it.

Well, it dawned on the other day that this might be exactly what my son could get into, so I started lurking on the TMP SoBaH forums to see what the current status was. One comment I read in the thread "Measuring sticks....why" stuck with me. A posted named Inner Sanctum said,

"Two things about Ganesha Games:
We have never had a "bad" or boring game
No plan survives contact with the dice."

Isn't having a good game what gaming is all about? Another friend once said to me that he didn't care what game he was playing as long as he was with friends and having fun. Now, I have very little patience as it is, so I cannot completely buy into such a patient attitude, but I get it. I don't game at my FLGS because I'd rather be with friends in the comfort of a non-loud, non-smelly home, drinking wine, playing with the dog, etc...so that comment about having good games stuck...

I'm sorry, Ganesha Games. I gave you too little credit. I take back what I said all those years!

So, that being said, the game is still DAMN SIMPLISTIC and I cannot see me taking it too seriously and suddenly having it become my favorite game, but I put together some forces for my son and I, and yea, we had fun!

Remember back when I mentioned getting into minis again? I realized my Reaper collection was decent, but was somewhat lacking, so I spent DAYS on Reaper's website looking for two new warbands. I came up with barbarians for me, and my son (who gravitates towards the bad guys, believe it or not) got what will eventually be a Blood Elf band (aka World of Warcraft) using the drow/dark elf line at Reaper. I found what I needed at Miniature Giant, which is AWESOME at locating old Out of Print models, and so some of these hit the table today. Unpainted. Unassembled. Ugh. Really? I'm out of patience, too ADD to do this...but that's a battle for another day :P

We used Frog Tape, which is like a painter's tape, to connect the boards. I would have preferred a draftman's tape, but this worked fine and was pretty easy to remove afterwards.

Jadon ended up wanting to play the good guys once he saw the giant and werewolf I had...so I played the elves. He smooshed me, but I didn't care. I was actually impressed with the board, and yea, the ruleset was quick. I will definitely play it again...

So how can I wrap this travesty of personal apology up? Be careful what you buy, as they aren't all gridless yes, but the Heroic Maps make a cool table, SANS TERRAIN! Song of Blades and Heroes is indeed simplistic, and probably overly so, but it's going to work fine for my son and I. Now to wrangle someone to pin, assemble, and paint my minis for me... :P HAH!


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and picture regarding those maps. I do like the idea of using maps like those instead of building, storing, etc. all the terrain.

    Having said that, I've got some basic terrain completed and plan to make more. However, I may reconsider.

  2. Heroic Maps saw that I had commented on one of their items on Wargames Vault, and by the NEXT DAY had uploaded gridless versions of the 4 other map titles I had purchased. Amazing. Swift responses like this is why the cottage gaming industry is so awesome!

  3. Glad you saw the light in the end :-D Just joking, but you may find SoBH less simplistic with the optional racial-themed books coming out (Dwarves this year, Elves and Undead next year, and soon a stand-alone version with spells and a reaction system called Band of Gnomes.