That’s right, it’s time for more gift listing so you know what to buy the nerd in your life (or ask your friendly non-nerd associates for). This time we’re tackling the extremely broad remit of “other wargames” – that’s everything in the world of wargames not produced by Games Workshop.
The current starter for Flames of War is a decent introduction to that game, with counters, dice, a mini rulebook and so on. But the real gem of this set is how little it costs (less than the cost of a single infantry box from Games Workshop) and the sheer quantity of minis you’ll get in it. You have enough here to have a platoon of German infantry and a platoon of Americans, plus plenty of armoured support. That’s wonderful because as ever you can pair it with any ruleset you like for the period – Chain of Command or I Ain’t Been Shot Mum work well, but Bolt Action at 15mm works absolutely great as is. Just throw away the bases that come with it, mount the minis on some small individual bases, and you’ve got the full experience in an incredibly low cost package.
One of the stranger additions to this list, Travel Battle is the Perry’s attempts to give you a full wargaming experience on the move. It’s a clever little pack where the carrying case unfolds to become a battlefield, and little sculpted forests and hills give you lots of cool terrain to play with. The minis are really only intended for us with this game so it’s not going to be a flexible purchase by historical standards, but this might be a marvellous choice for a parent or grandparent who likes the idea of historical wargaming but is overwhelmed by the hobby requirements. A few minutes prep and you’re ready to play.
Perry Afrikakorps and Desert Rats plus Chain of Command
This is a great way to start playing one of the Historicals’ team’s favourite games – Chain of Command. Platoon-level action that simulates the flow and ebb of war perfectly, throwing you into the role of a commander who can direct events but never quite has total control. The DAK and desert rats boxes from Perry are a perfect accompaniment since they’re each a one box build for a full platoon with a couple of supports meaning if you get them built you can play a full game right away.
The new starter set for Kings of War is an amazing bargain for the sheer amount of cool plastic on offer inside. You get rules and accessories to play the game as well as units of new hard plastic goblins and ratkin, commands and some bigger supports too. It’s enough troops to play a small game of KoW, and the minis can be immediately used in other fantasy games.
If you’re Infinity-curious there are few places that will let you hit the ground running faster than the Operation Kaldstrom box set. Intended as a Code One starter (the slimmed down, faster version of the core N4 ruleset), you’ll find that everything in here is more than usable in Infinity proper. You’ll also find that Code One is a great way of learning the full game, and this set in particular walks you through the basics in a series of carefully designed scenarios that slowly introduce you to key concepts and let you learn by doing.
The official starter set from Warlord for their Bolt Action platoon-level WW2 game, this is a decent way to get into historical wargaming, especially if you’re coming from Warhammer 40k. It has a small-form rulebook, counters, templates, measuring sticks, dice, and small forces to play with. You won’t get a full platoon each in the box here, let alone reinforcements, so you’ll need to buy a few more bits to really get stuck in properly, but it’s a decent way to learn the game.
SAGA is a fantastic wargame that focuses on a clever battleboard mechanic giving each flavour a unique feel. This bundle is a great way to buy in as a player – and a second force is a single box buy away (either the Gripping Beast plastic Viking starter, or the excellent Vikings from Victrix will do it). It gives you the full rules, dice, measure sticks, tokens and enough units to play a good sized game. Highly recommended.
So you want to buy in to something in the black powder era, and the American Civil War catches your eye. But you don’t just want to buy in… you want everything. You want a whole damn battle in a box. Well, this is the product for you. 145 infantry! 12 cavalry! 4 guns! A farmhouse! Fences! Generals! It’s all here and it comes with bases for everything and even some quick play rules too.
So it’s no secret that Lupe liked Carnevale when he reviewed it, and this starter set is just the best possible way to get into the game. You can read his whole rundown in his review, but suffice to say this is an amazing entry point to a wonderful game. Heartily recommended.
You didn’t think we’d get through this without recommending some small scale miniatures did you? Baccus 6mm are a great supplier, and they do some cracking bundle sets. The two boxed starters are both great value, so it’s just a matter of picking the one you’d prefer. The pedemos rules you’ll find inside are… fine? But the glory of historicals is you can play it with whatever you like, and you’ll have two great armies ready for the rules you prefer with one of these bundles.
For the person on your list who likes miniatures games but prefers a different sort of Galactic Empire, there’s Star Wars Legion. Legion debuted a few years back with the Galactic Civil War (Original Trilogy) set and last year moved into covering the Clone Wars. The Clone War Core Set includes, well, Clone Troopers, Clones in a battle speeder (with or without sidecar), and General Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Republic side and good old B-1 Battle droids, droidekas, and General Grievous for the Separatists. The minis are very nice quality although assembling the Battle Droids is a bit of a headache. The box also contains the tokens, dice, and measurement tools you’ll need, and a handful of barricades for very rudimentary terrain. The sides are well balanced for a starter game – clones are more costly elite units while droids are dirt cheap and you get what you pay for – and the Commanders for each side are absolute monsters in combat.
Other than some strange true line of sight quirks the rules for Legion are very intuitive and the game really captures the feeling of the mass battles shown in the Prequels and the Clone Wars animated series. There’s a great system for generating the mission objectives/deployment zones/battle conditions that keeps games from getting stale and predictable. A new revision of the core rules was just released last week (including some changes to Clone Troopers’ core abilities) so be sure to download it after you read through the Getting Started rules.
The core box doesn’t contain enough points worth of models for a full game of Legion but the good thing about capitalism is they’re happy to sell you more…if you can find them. Legion has been plagued with shortages and delays from the start. The B-2 Super Destroyer Droid and Phase II Clone Troopers were released right at the start of the lockdowns and are nearly impossible to come by. They always sort things out eventually but it may take a while. In the meantime you can build and paint Anakin, Amidala, Darth Maul, Cad Bane, and some really awesome tanks on both sides so you won’t be short on options.
Call to Arms is a strange beast – an extremely faithful reproduction of the video games into tabletop form, it’s a skirmish game and that’s probably a good thing given its dizzying number of options. But the rules are exceptionally well written, and the resin miniatures are breathtakingly beautiful. We’ll have a full review soon enough, but until now it’s a recommendation for your gift list from us.
If there’s someone on your list who just watches all 50 hours of Marvel movies on a loop repeatedly, maybe stage an intervention. But also consider getting them the core set for the Marvel Crisis Protocol miniatures game. The core set focuses heavily on popular Avengers Avengers characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Black Widow), although the villains are kind of a ragtag assortment of Marvel baddies (Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Doctor Octopus, Crossbones, Ultron). You get 5 heroes and 5 villains, which is perfect for a full game (not even a smaller point level “starter” game, a full on real big person pants game!). The minis are fantastic looking although Atomic Mass has a tendency to make everything in tiny little pieces that can be a real bear to assemble – Baron Zemo’s separate elbow pad pieces, I’m looking directly at you. The box also contains all the cards, measurement tools, and special dice you’ll need and a bunch of terrain. Really, other than a three foot by three foot play space everything you need is in this box. And for the MSRP it’s a staggeringly good value. I would recommend also picking up an extra set of dice and measurement tools so each player has enough but that is literally all you need to get going.
Once your giftee has been hooked there are bunches of character packs to pick up as well – Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos and his Black Order, Wakandans, Asgardians, and the X-Men even have started coming out very recently (grab them up if you see them, they’re going fast as like all Asmodee games there are distribution chain issues that mean you may not see them on the shelves again for a while).
The rules are fairly easy and robust, a lot of the complexity lives in the powers and abilities on each character’s card. Atomic Mass uses a “living rules” model so download the latest PDF of the full rules from their website after you’ve played a game or two with the starter rules included in the core box.