Every wargamer has a Dark Side.
Mind you, I don’t mean a “this will get you arrested” dark side. Nothing that rises to the Senatorial level of latex suits and ball-gags in the basement. I’m thinking something more along the lines of “I play Dungeons and Dragons” or “I have every counter nub I’ve ever trimmed collected in a big box in the closet” or “I get all of my history from Osprey books.”
I am a wargaming old fart, so I’ve had lots of time to work on this. I have more than one dark side. In fact, if wargaming dark sides counted for anything I could easily out-dark Darth Vader’s darkest dark-side day.
One of my little dark-side quirks is that I read many, many more sets of rules than I’ll ever get around to playing. I am particularly fond of inexpensive rules sets for miniatures games. I am also fond of not-so-inexpensive rules sets, but that quirk is indulged much less frequently.
Most miniatures rules sets (regardless of cost) were once rare objets d’art out here in the swamp – primarily owing to the great difficulty in finding stores that stocked them. But over the past few years some horrible little web sites have sprung into existence that serve as vile little enablers of my dark-siding ways. Digital-download e-commerce sites like Drivthrurpg.com and Wargamevault.com now bring an endless variety of under-$20 PDF rulebooks straight into the (usually) humid comfort of my swamp bunker. Some of the ‘normal’ online game shops have also started to expand their rules offerings beyond the big-market standards.
In a way, experimenting with different rules sets brings out my ‘inner explorer’. Price is an indicator of neither rules quality nor production values, so it’s usually an adventure in discovery when a new set lands on the doorstep. Some of the inexpensive rules are really quite good. Some of the pricier rules have a lot of ‘been there, done that’ to them.
Of course, whether rules are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a very opinion-charged topic amongst miniatures wargamers. Some Napoleonic wargamers, for example, would sooner be staked out on top of a fire ant mound than play with the “Piquet” rules. I LIKE Piquet. Lots of gamers enjoy “Flames of War”. My opinion of them is “meh” – they strike me mostly as “Warhammer 1944″ and I’ve been there, done that. (Besides, Pinnacle’s “Fields of Honor WWII” is more open-source and a LOT cheaper – although not very well supported as of late.)
I am not a big fan of game systems that ‘require’ a certain brand of miniatures. I dipped into that universe with GW’s stuff some years ago, and that was enough of an investment for me. Fortunately, there are many “Future War” systems out there that can be played with almost any style of minis – so all of the GW figures see plenty of additional work in games like StarGrunt, Dirtside, Future War Commander, Starmada X and even the venerable Mercenary.
My tastes are a bit eclectic, although I generally tend towards either naval games, or science-future themed rules. I’ve sampled a few Napoleonic systems, but I’m too lazy and too cheap to seriously tackle that topic. Other one-off experiments are shot-gunned around the genre map; games like “AK47 Republic”, “Cold War Commander”, “Budget Battles”. And no Dark Side is complete without at least a couple of Zombie-themed games like “All Things Zombie” and “Secrets of the Third Reich 1949″.
Playing with little figures on a big tabletop. Yesssss. Feel the power of the Dark Side.