Meet Goonhammer: Historicals

Goonhammer isn’t just about delivering a deluge of hot 40K takes and suspiciously well-photographed miniatures. We’ve aggressively expanded our coverage over the last year and now include a broad range of tabletop games. Even video game reviews have made an appearance of late. Still, our hearts truly lie with pushing around plastic game pieces and doing manual mathematics for ‘entertainment’.

We’re all a bit strange like that.

I’m supposed to use this spot to promote our Patreon and fundraise. Instead, I’ll talk about the wonder of historical wargames and Goonhammer’s contribution to that sphere.

Just like the rest of the site, our historicals coverage is top-notch and setting-agnostic. If it’s ‘historical’ and crosses our desktops, it has a place on the site. This runs counter to the wargaming zeitgeist as we enter the 21st Century. In decades past, ‘historical’ wargames weren’t known as such. They were the default wargame. Interest has shifted over time and major fictional properties under Disney, Fantasy Flight Games, and Games Workshop now hold the majority market share and ‘historicals’ have lost their vaunted default status.

In my mind, that’s exactly what makes the Goonhammer Historicals team so remarkable. It’s a collection of enthusiastic people bound by their love for historical gaming in an age ruled by boltguns and wizardry. Few sites cover historicals kits in as much detail as us, and you’ll seldom find specialist coverage of historicals topics like this anywhere else.

In fact, I find this colourful, musket-wielding bunch so interesting I caught up with two Goonhammer’s major players.

Credit: Jackie Daytona

Meet the Mega Brains

Aaron ‘Lenoon’ Bowen and Michael O “Mugginns” lead the historicals brain trust from their concrete redoubt. They eat a great deal of hardtack and drink an archaic form of ‘coffee’ that is just burnt bread boiled in water. It’s a hard life, but it keeps them in the zone, so to speak.

Aaron ‘Lenoon’ Bowen

Lenoon bills himself as Aaron when wearing his flesh suit. He had this to say of himself:

I’m Aaron. If you’ve run into my stuff on the site before you’ll know I write a LOT about Napoleon to a completely unwarranted degree, occasionally do a deep dive into the miniatures industry and come up with information on annual statements, and mainly waffle on about science fiction novels. That’s because those are also my personal interests, which is nice, isn’t it?

I play historicals, 30k, very very occasional games of 40k and whatever crosses my path at my gaming club. I’m one of the Historicals Editors, making sure we get the best, most accessible and least intimidatingly button-counter-y historicals content anywhere on the internet for you every Monday and Thursday.

1. How did you get involved in historical wargaming?

There was a point shortly after the Old World blew up when I wanted to play a rank and flank game that had facings, tactics, strategy, all that stuff that suddenly wasn’t really available in the GW ecosystem that I’d been trapped in since I was eight. I ended up playing a bit of various historical games over the next few years – things like DBA, some of the earlier warlord games historicals, kind of bumping around playing and painting a little bit here and there. It’s such a massive and infinitely varied space to play in with thousands of rule sets that explore every element of wargaming, so it took me a while to find things that I really liked, but the hunt for the perfect game (it’s Sharp Practice, by the way) was a long and fun one. After all that I ended up getting in touch with the crew here and now (with encouragement from the awesome goonhammer community on the discord) I play more than ever, which is really nice

2. What is your upper limit of the definition of ‘historical wargaming’?

I’m not a massive fan of ultramodern games, too contemporary for me, so that’s probably my top limit.

But I don’t think historicals really has a limit, because increasingly I think they’re not really about the history, they’re about how we understand and explore history, and that’s really exciting. Historicals can be fantasy – not just weird war or napoleonic soldiers hunting vampires, but the fantasy of frictionless control of your units (40k is a frictionless system – all your units do what you want them to do regardless, the only friction is deaths), or the fantasy of “points values”. But then they can also be realistic or simulate reality – for a given value of real. The variety is huge, so I think if a game is trying to get us to think about history, whatever history it is, it’s historicals.

30K is not historical though. (Summer: why I oughta…)

3. Hit me with a highlight of your Goonhammer experience.

First one is being able to contribute to the Flower Wars project with goonhammer writers and patrons. That’s really exciting and interesting, I think we’ve got a great game in development and it’s only getting better.

The other highlight is a bit more personal really – working with everyone involved in investigating what happened to the Starship Troopers game and Gorkamorka. Not just getting to chat to childhood gaming heroes, but also fans, sales reps, ex and current GW staff and poring through financial reports and old forum posts with Corrode. I’m really glad people enjoyed those articles, even though they ended up being pretty dense. The feedback from those is something I go back to occasionally when the “oh god do I really write for go on hammer dot com” imposter syndrome kicks in.

4. Say you’ve got someone interested in historicals. Let’s call her Summer or something. Where would you recommend she start?

Getting started with historicals is now really really easy. If you wanted to get into it, have a think about a period you’d like to play with – we’re thinking a lot about Medieval and WW2 games on the team at the moment. Find a period, grab some models (probably from Perry or Victrix) and just go for it. If you enjoy painting them, there’re a lot of small scale rule sets you can play. You can always get in contact with us in the historicals team if you’d like to chat about it!

If that person was called Summer of course I’d strongly recommend putting away the Star Wars ships and buying some much cooler tall sail ships because Trafalgar is more interesting than Endor. (Summer: okay, listen here you li’l shit.)

5. Quick. The editors aren’t looking. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to say on Goonhammer but couldn’t find a place for it?

I’m going to write What Happened to Warhammer Fantasy? and I bet it ends up a million words long.

Michael O “Mugginns”

Mugginns says that, “I’m a forty year old dad of two in Michigan. I love history, NFL and NBA, video games, and comics, especially The Walking Dead. I write for GH historicals and AOS and help as assistant producer for Historicals.

1. How did you get involved in historical wargaming?

I was around 10 years old when Ken Burns’ Civil War series on PBS came out. Right around that time there were a number of other TV mini-series – The Blue and the Gray, North & South, and Glory and Gettysburg came out on the big screen (I saw the entire Gettysburg film in the theater – it had an intermission). My mom was watching all this stuff so I watched some of it as well. I got super huge into it – I remember I did a project on the ACW in 4th grade.

After that, my family got into going to American Civil War reenactments and eventually joined a unit doing it – I was a reenactor for almost 20 years. I started as a drummer and eventually I was elected Captain of our regiment.

With all of that, we saw gaming stuff around at reenactments and stuff and eventually went to a hobby shop and picked up 1/72 scale IMEX civil war plastic minis, then picked up the starter box (it was just rules and of course tables) for Johnny Reb II. Johnny Reb was extremely complicated and we had no business playing it as ~10 year olds, lol. We made all the felt terrain and had some HO scale houses to go with them.

After that, in middle school, I got into Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd? Edition? and played Orcs and Goblins. However, we had no rulebooks and it was a huge mess. During college I kinda fell off of wargaming as a lot of people do. After I graduated college I started doing WH40k because there was a shop nearby that did that. I did that for a while and I love GW games, I do, but historical stuff is really what I want to do. I found Bolt Action and really helped build a large community here in Michigan. We ran lots of tourneys, including stuff at Michigan GT and helped at AdeptiCon. From there I got into SAGA and then discovered Too Fat Lardies. This was a real epiphany for me because I discovered Sharp Practice – a great way to play Black Powder stuff (like American Civil War) with smaller numbers of models. This really took off for me and I helped create the Lard America online club where we run events at HMGS and AdeptiCon.

Confederates move down the board. Mugginns’ Sharp Practice game at FlintCon.

2 .What is your upper limit of the definition of ‘historical wargaming’?

I’ve kinda softened on this lately. In the past, even a few months ago, I’d look at a game like weird west or weird WW2 and think “why not just play wild west or ww2?”. However, I do have a little bit of interest in things like Dracula’s America or Silver Bayonet, especially because they’re very historically based first.

3. Hit me with a highlight of your Goonhammer experience.

I think my biggest highlight would be just helping create Goonhammer Historicals in the first place. If that’s basic then it is but I think we’re the premiere place for historical wargaming info and collaboration on the internets. (Summer: Yes we are.)

4. Say you’ve got someone interested in historicals. Let’s call her Summer or something. Where would you recommend she start?

I would recommend Bolt Action. It’s super easy to get into and probably played at the most shops around the world. You can find events at local conventions and everything. It’s also very easy to step into Bolt Action from GW games. (Summer: Is it because GW games and Bolt Action are both fixated on tape measures? You can say they’re both fixated on tape measures.)

5. Quick. The editors aren’t looking. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to say on Goonhammer but couldn’t find a place for it?

Historicals should be under the Core Games category on the site, not Other Games. For reals though, I would say more people should consider doing Historical games. Don’t be afraid. There are not more assholes in historical games than there are any other type of game. People can be just as critical of paint and color choices in 40k as they can in Napoleonics. It’s also a ton cheaper and you aren’t beholden to one company to update your stuff or make your hugely expensive models good. (I still play 40k, Necromunda, Underworlds, and AOS so I’m not tossing rocks).

Look at them go!

Those are some of the big names in Goonhammer historicals. If you want to meet the rest of the team, they can be found here. That is, with the exception of Jackie Daytona who loves to write on historical and indie games. Give ’em all a read!

Now, for the sales pitch.

I’m inclined to agree with Mugginns’ assessment that we’re one of the best historical gaming resources online at this point. We cover a breadth of topics and games with no strong leaning toward a particular period or playstyle. All we care about is being kind (note: does not apply to people who bring Votann to Crusade).

How do we do this? The limitless energy of youth, I’d say. I think Goonhammer authors have an average age of like age 39. I singlehandedly dragged the average age and quality of authorship down when I joined. But there’s one thing even spry youths like Mugginns and Lenoon appreciate and that’s being paid for their work.

If you think the work that they do is phenomenal (it is. Don’t argue.), then hock a few dollars into our Patreon to keep it going. Goonhammer generally runs at a loss because we’re committed to not being a garbage site for the clicks. Just as we’re reliant on our authors’ passion and drives to keep going, we’re reliant on the passionate users to fund us.

Please. Lenoon needs his next box of line infantry.

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