Make It Pretty: Part of the Plan To Enjoy Wargaming Again

I mentioned last post that my shoddy and incredibly generic gaming set up (risk figures and coloured pieces of paper to mark the hills, woods and buildings) is making me disinterested in tabletop gaming.

I look at the beautiful games of various people on the web, especially TooFatLardies and The Edinburgh Wargames Journal, and they inspire me to go play a game, until I look at my own games, and realise how far short they fall.

I don’t want to start a type of psychological arms race where pretty is never good enough and I’m never satisfied. And the reality is that as a single gamer, who is not a particularly gifted craftsman or painter, I will never be able to match the splendour of an entire wargaming club where individuals have spent years focussing on a single period, where I have had less time and focus on many periods.

But I can do better. I can build Saxon huts and Napoleonic built up areas. I’ve done such “craft” activities before, it was kinda fun and it turned out quite nicely. I already know I can paint up plastic figures if not up to the beautifully inked and drybrushed 28mm figures I see on the interwebs, then good enough to look decent at two feet away- which, let’s face it, is how we usually see our tabletop heroes.

I’ve already bought a Hotz gaming mat (6’x8’- yeah it’s a big one) with painted fields. At first I thought the fields were out of scale to my games, but they actually provide a very pleasing backdrop, and definitely looks better than a plastic table or a thin green bedsheet.

I’ve even bought model trees on ebay (a bargain at 50c a tree!) but I haven’t figured out how to base them yet. They’re very top heavy. If I can sort that out, then I have 3-dimensional forests.

Rivers have always scared me off because of the craft materials you need, but I should just get over it, and set aside a weekend to create a river segment. I’d research how I was going to do it a week or two ahead, buy the materials, and then spend the Saturday figuring it out.

The same can be said for roads, which also add a lot of colour to a tabletop.

There are quite a few paper buildings you can download or buy off the internet, print out and glue together. Not quite as impressive as a foamcore or cardboard house, but fast, cheap and above all, better than cutting out a 2 sq. inch piece of grey paper, blu-tacking it to the table and calling it a chateau.

I’ve started basing the few figures I do have onto actual wood bases, using the excellent and cheap bases from justbasixs and basing materials (basically sand, glue and browny-yellow paint) from the Bacchus basing set. They look so much better than irregular rectangles of thin balsa wood doused in lime-green kindagarten paint.

None of this is a lot of work. What it is are projects which take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and a bit of planning beforehand. They also take time. I won’t have enough scenery for a game in a single day. That will take several afternoons or evenings after dinner of scenery-ing to achieve, just like painting up figures will need regular painting sessions. They don’t even have to be long sessions: I just have to be able to identify gaps in my schedule, and suitable wargaming projects to fill the gap. I can paint a base’s worth of figures in a 15 minute break, or do basing for half an hour before bed.

All of that that is much better than playing a computer game.


About Joshua Letchford

I'm a 23-year old Christian from far north Western Australia. I'm interested in philosophy, logic, politics, history, military history, strategy, board games, wargaming and reading. I recently completed a Bachelor of Arts in politics and ancient history through Macquarie University, which I studied externally so I could stay connected with my family and my small town community.
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