Three years ago, I gave into the wargaming bug. In hindsight, I have a few comments for those starting out.
Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your alter ego as to what attracts you to the hobby. Like most of us, you're interested in military history and like the idea of being able to table thousands of tiny men to do your bidding. But take it down a level: Are you attracted to the mechanics of gaming, the look of the game, historical authenticity, thrashing an opponent, or having an excuse to hang out with a group of friends? If you can narrow it to one or two key reasons, you will save yourself a lot of time, grief, and money.
Here's my tale....
I looked over the ranges of figures available. I wanted to be practical and opted for Old Glory 15mm's. They seemed to be the 'healthiest' (as in financial) manufacturer around, and 15mm had become somewhat standard in the U.S. So I bought about a thousand.
Rules. Based on recommendations, I purchased "Empire" and "To the Sound of the Guns III". My requirement was that a set accurately "simulate" the historical period.
Empire certainly did. But I was reminded of a line by the comedian, Lenny Bruce, on weight loss ads. "The only people who'd read all this crap (copy) are in prison". It wasn't appealing. Not having an engineering degree, the pleasure level dropped. I found out that "Sound of the Guns" required prior experience with another rules set and was totally uncipherable. .
Several of the fellows on the Napoleon Series Forum kindly recommended William Keyser's "Valmy to Waterloo". I immediately recognized Keyser had done his homework. I also recognized that it too, wasn't for me.... I was developing a sense of what gave me satisfaction.
The deeper level questions? My attraction was visual. I wanted a movie. Having some pro photography experience in my background, I knew that lighting could greatly enhance the gaming experience. The game itself was secondary. "Sounds of the Guns" used a 1:20 figure ratio that looked great. Keyser's game, as Empire, used a 1:60 ratio. The battalions looked like foraging parties. It didn't look right, FOR ME. Back to the drawing board.
I was introduced to Eureka Miniatures along the way. This outfit was a godsend. They carried AB's, had the molds, didn't stiff you on postage, and had excellent turnaround time (ten days to Salt Lake City from Melbourne.) I made a U-turn and began ordering these fine figures.
The trail of dollars was leading me to the essence of what I wanted from a game, but what wastage!
END OF SAGA - CONCLUSIONS (FOR ME):
I WANT --- A 1:20 figure ratio
I determined to go with a 1:30 fig ratio that is an excellent compromise between an unacceptable 1:60, and 1:20, which is nice but might take eons to complete. Keyser will have a 1:20 rules set out in 2001. I'm going to take a look at Chef de Brigade as well.
I WANT --- 20m figures
If I ruled the wargaming universe, I would set 20mm as the standard. As much as I think of AB's, the fact is all the wonderful detail is lost on a board. What looks great under a magnifying glass becomes murky. An additional 5mm's is would do the trick. The plastic lines? Checked 'em. Too inaccurate. They know not what they sculpt.
I WANT --- Battalion basing
I realized along the way that rules are entirely arbitrary -- one cannon equals two, three, four, and so on. All the measurements, sightlines, etc., are thoughtful improvisation. Much of it doesn't LOOK as accurate as it might.
I'm now re-basing my figs by battalion rather than company. And they look great. The frontage works out to just about the same as stipulated in VTW. The infantry's elbows touch; there are appropriate intervals between companies, etc. (the same logic for cavalry, boot-to-boot for closed order, artillery) etc. I will develop a system to indicate a change in formation. Additionally, I have my lines two figs deep vs. one. While the frontage will be truncated, it looks more realistic, and again a system of markers will be used to show it's true frontage. (And my markers will be things like rocks or tiny bushes.) If I can adopt William's new rules, great. If not, I may write my own.
You can't always have what you want. But let me wind up by saying that good decisions made early -- i.e., assessing what gives you enjoyment -- will save you a considerable sum of money and even more time. Ask any of us who have gone through the rebasing nightmare. I'm a three-time veteran!
Good gaming all,