Friday 6 April 2012

Miniatures, Wargaming and 'Storytelling'

I've never really been one for paper and pencil RPG's but I've really enjoyed both computer RPG's and - back in the day - GW's Inquisitor Skirmish/RPG. I have personally always found that to me miniatures and storytelling are synonymous; without a story behind a faction, character, or ship I find that my interest wanes, very quickly. Knowing why what is occurring on the tabletop is occurring - and why it is potentially important - adds an entirely new dimension to the game and makes it significantly more compelling. I think this is probably one of the reasons why historical gaming, done right, can be very rewarding - it inherently contains a deep, rich backstory and allows players to become as involved, or not, in the 'story' of what happened as they wish. 

Science Fiction and Fantasy are more difficult. A pre-existent setting e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek, LOTR provides a rich backdrop for those who wish to access the information (much as with historical gaming). However, this material is much more limited when compared to historical settings, even when, as in the Star Wars and LOTR case, it is extensive. Ultimately, Sci-fi and fantasy gamers/storytellers need to use their imaginations and get creative. This can be a problem both for the solo player and the group player but especially the casual player. This post was greatly inspired by Spacejackers post Solo RPG?! in which he related his quest for a simple randomised idea generator to feed his imagination and get a narrative going. I think his result was excellant and encourage you to follow the link and see for yourselves, personally, I really want to know what happens next! He succeeded in generating a narrative which will fuel his enthusiasm for getting the miniatures on the tabletop - which as a solo gamer can be a struggle - and will increase his enjoyment. Often in gaming groups, especially casual ones, games are played with more of an interest in beating the opposition than in creating a narrative  There's nothing wrong with the solely competitive approach and some people thrive on the competitiveness. However, I'm just not one of those people, I'd rather have a story to invest in and build upon (although, this is not to say that these two objectives are mutually exclusive). Overall there is more of an onus on the Sci-fi or Fantasy player to tell their own 'stories', to invent their own settings and characters and to to create momentum and plot. For me miniature gaming is a means of telling or recreating 'storie's but with game mechanics to add structure, challenges and a measure of uncertainty.

What does this rant mean? Well this is my way of saying that I'm considering expanding my horizons to include RPG elements into my miniature collecting/gaming. I've already found myself inventing factions and backstories for my own 15mm sci-fi universe and think I will fully embrace this. When I have some forces finished and have a solid ruleset chosen/devised I will be looking for narrative games, perhaps adapting some of the ideas from Spacejacker's post and adapting them for use with opposing factions rather than individuals. Furthermore, inspired by blogs such as Diary of an Infrequent Wargamer and Carman's Fun Painty Time, I'm interested in expanding into a less 'army' focused genre/style. I haven't decided exactly what yet but Pulp seems like a possibility as does SAGA, although 15 or 28mm sci-fi is a strong possibility (given I already have some of the miniatures).  

I thought I'd throw this open. How do you see your gaming/collecting? Is it a mechanism/inspiration for 'storytelling'? Do you just enjoy throwing dice around with some friends? Do you love demonstrating your tactical/strategic ability? 

I suspect the answer for many will be a little bit of everything and I find this true also. However, I also feel that for me at least the 'storytelling' aspect is set to expand and grow. 


  1. Hey, thanks for the mention! I was certainly a very competitive GW player in the 90's, when I saw it more like a duel than a collaborative experience, as we played "regular" tabletop RPGS for that. I think collaborative minis gaming is in it's infancy but is growing fast.

  2. I fall more into the competitive camp; I don't insist on a backstory for most of my games or, indeed, the games running together into a narrative. But I don't object to them doing so and, for historical gaming at least, I do like scenario-based games, especially refights of actual battles, where the narrative is already established for you.

  3. I have to play solo here in Costa Rica. What I do is pick out a series of historical battles, and then do the reading about the actual history and commanders thru Wikipedia and other sites. Last year I invaded Russia as Napoleon. Plenty of story there!

    I play solo using pc wargames that give good feedback on combat results (not RTS)and have decent AI. For more detail, see my website:


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