The Great Wargames Survey 2021

Every year Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy Magazine runs the great Wargames Survey.
This excellent work covers the entire hobby and provides useful analysis for players, designers, creators, retailers, and wargames companies.

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Thud & Blunder Announcement!

Note that North Star have discounted the price of T&B for a few days. It is now £21 for the hardback instead of £27. This discount shall only last a couple of days

. Got to:

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From Russia with love…

Last year I ordered a couple of card building kits and one ship kit from a company called Rubrand in Russia. They were really cheap and looked excellent from the photographs on their website. I had seen some of them being used by people online and received some recommendations, including one regarding the company’s good customer service.

So, I placed my order, winced a little at the shipping costs, and almost immediately received confirmation from the company, then a shipping tracking number. They clearly warned that shipping from Russia to the UK took 6-8 weeks.

Well six weeks later, to the day, they arrived, well-packed and in good order.  I opened the packaging and found that the accompanying sheets were all in Russian – oh dear I thought. However, they had obviously employed an IKEA flat-pack furniture designer, for the build instructions were well-drawn and quite clear. All the parts are numbered and referenced on the instructions.

The buildings each came in two A4, 1.5mm thick, card sheets. They are printed both sides in full colour. The scale is 25mm, but honestly, I use 28mm figures with them all the time and do not notice. Pressing out the parts was very easy, and they even provided a toothpick to push out the smaller parts such as the tab holes.

It took me a couple of hours to construct the two buildings. They are a fold, tab & slot design that, once you get the hang of it is quite intuitive. The first time I pushed a tab into a slot I was terrified of bending or breaking it, but the card is quite robust. There are one or two places where you have to try and manoeuver three-tab insertions at the same time, which  can be challenging. It is worth noting that every fold line has been pre-pressed and folds easily.

A watchtower and house with figures to scale

The one real tip I can give other assemblers is examine each instruction diagram very carefully. Do not assume that this tab goes in that slot, because that’s the way it worked in the last diagram. Also build it in the order on the diagram. They have coloured arrows that instruct you on what order to assemble individual pieces.

At the end of the build, I was left with two colourful buildings. Each has a fully detailed interior that can be accessed through walls and roofs that fold open. All windows are open, and the exterior main doors are hinged. They really are quite strong, and I intend to affix them to detailed mounting board bases just to finish them and prevent any future warping. I am toying with having pairs of tabs rising from the card base to grip the walls so that the base can be detached for ease of storage.

There was also a small sheet of 25mm card figures (standees) with each set. These make great ‘civilians’ and I am building up a collection of them to use in RPGs and skirmish games. One building, the Smithy, came with a separate blacksmith, anvil and a horse. The other, a Marketplace, came with a few stalls and a cart. All useful scatter terrain.

The ship was a little more challenging, and I am glad I left it to last. The skills I picked up constructing the buildings paid off though and an hour later I had a medieval cog. Lining up multiple tabs and slots as I constructed the hull did have me sweating and swearing a bit. I then spent another hour figuring out the rigging, but that is always the case with model sailing vessels. Note that the ships are waterline models.

Anyway, fast forward to June 2021. I see someone recommending the Rubrand buildings on Facebook, and then realize that they have bought these through Amazon. They are being marketed as Keranova Clever Paper and are still as cheap as chips.

Long story short, I ordered a further four buildings, including a stone tower, and these arrived just three days later. I have already built all of them, which took just a couple of hours. I did note that several designs had low stock warnings so check this before ordering.

Several come with town walls attached which can be joined together.

Each building costs £11-15 and comes fully coloured. They require no cutting, no glue or other preparation. They also pass the arm’s length test, i.e. if it looks great at arm’s length it is perfect for tabletop gaming. Honestly, because the tabs are coloured to match the walls they push through, you often do not notice them at all, unless you are looking for them.

At the moment the majority of the usable (i.e. 25-28mm) buildings in the range are for Medieval Europe, but since many such buildings have survived right up to the present day, they could be used in any intervening period. They also do some Western buildings as well, and several other ships.

If there is something the range lacks it is roads, streams, low walls and fences. They would be a welcome addition.

Now, although I love making my own terrain, I shall certainly continue collecting these until I have at least one of each from the range. That will give me enough buildings to quickly construct a small town on a 3ft/1m square board and populate it with civilians and scatter terrain.

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New Houses – first layer of paint

So, I have begun to paint the new house.

First a simple base coat of watered down white acrylic. I let that dry for 24 hours. I use artists acrylics for most of my painting. They are hard wearing, adhere to most surfaces well and, most importantly are cheap.

Then I began painting the plaster on the outside of the walls. A mix of Yellow Ochre and white produces a nice creamy plaster finish. I always leave such combinations only half-mixed, so then I can make lighter and darker variations on the fly. This is a medieval house so no need for consistency here. This is the first coat but it takes well. I will be doing some weathering later.

Following that I paint the beams. For this I use watered down Raw Umber. Most woods used in this sort of building have been allowed to age and harden, so more obvious browns are unlikely, as it a fresh pine look. The ‘distressing’ I did on the beams during their constructions shows up nicely as the dark paint fills in the cracks and leaves natural highlights on the surface.

Finally I do the stone plinths. A simple dark grey wash works well here. I shall highlight it properly one this coat dries.

Next I’ll be giving the inside walls a base and first coat, and once that is doen I can move onto some detailing.

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Character Spotlight 1 – Lady Felicity

This is the first of what are going to be a series of short articles on iconic characters in IHMN that have significantly changed between the first and second editions.

One of the iconic figures that North Star produced for the first release of In Her Majesty’s Name was Lady Felicity. I wrote her specifically to include an interesting female character into what otherwise was an entirely male company.

The good Lady Felicity admonishing Sairah on bringing her knives to a gun fight.

Let’s start by looking at Lady Felicity in the first edition:

Lady Felicity, sometimes known as ‘Two-Gun Tess’, is Lord Curr’s constant companion and almost as much of a maverick as he is. She wears normal-looking clothes with the equivalent of a Magneto-static waistcoat built into her bodice. She carries two expensive Italian custom-made pearl-handled pistols, with which she is an expert shot – particularly when firing one in each hand. She is a Socialite and has the Gunslinger Talent.”

PluckFVSVSpeedCostTalentsBasic Equipment
5++0+4+024Gunslinger2 pistols, Magneto-static waistcoat (in bodice)

That Gunslinger talent was supposed to make her a fearsome adversary. She could split her SV and get two shots per shooting phase, each one at +3 to hit. However, it never really gave her the real edge I had hoped for the character.

Moving onto the second edition.

“Lady Felicity Marchbanke, sometimes known as ‘Two-Gun Tess’, is Lord Curr’s constant companion and almost as much of a maverick as he is. She wears the most fashionable outfits from the finest dressmakers but with a Magneto-Static Repulsor built into her bodice.

“She carries two Webley-Fosberry .38s, presented to her by Fosberry himself, with which she is an expert shot – particularly when firing with one in each hand. Lord Curr calls her his ‘delightful surprise’.”

FigurePluckFVSVSpeedArmour RatingCost
Lady Felicity4++0+4+1Shooting 9,  Fighting 1077
Talents / PowersEquipment
Gunslinger, Hero [2 Hero Points], Lightning Shot, Marksman, Snapshooter, Speedshooter, Weapon Master [pistol]Magneto-Static Repulsor, steam dynamo, two pistols

You will immediately notice that she has trebled in cost, and that she has a bevy of extra talents. She can react immediately to anyone drawing a bead on her, she can shoot every single figure in a group at full effect with her two pistols, she ignores cover when shooting, she can choose her targets when firing into a fight, she can split her shots as before, and is now a master of the pistol.

She is now a whole different kettle of fish to the old Felicity. Get her close and people are going to die quickly.

She also had an improvement to her Pluck and Speed to reflect her experience in such a rough and tough company as The Incorrigibles.

This is my Lady Felicity, a match for any man in her company and beloved of them all.

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New Houses

In preparation for the next round of shows, I have been experimenting with unfamiliar materials to build houses from.

In the past I have mostly used mounting card and 5mm foam board for this. They are sturdy, especially when based, and have served me well.

However, I recently bought a stack of dense grey foam in A3 sheets. The reason for this is that with my previous materials I had to spend a lot of time adding extra materials to do the detailing I wanted. Online I had watched other terrain crafters using this grey foam sheet and noted that they could put the detail directly onto the sheet.

Below is the first full house I have built using this new (to me anyway) material. All the detailing you can see on the foam was done with an old (ink gone dry) ball point pen, and rubber end of a pencil. I took inspiration from photos of old wood framed houses, so it will look moderately realistic.

All the cut details, such as the door and window holes, and the drain were done with a chisel tipped scalpel. Then I have added 3D-printed windows and door.
Inside I have also added more detailing showing the wood frame and plaster. This needs less work as most people will not see it.

The house design includes showing the wood framed house sitting on a stone plinth. This is because I am using a sheet of grey foam as the ground floor inside. I have detailed that with a flagstone roller (Green Stuff World).

One of the advantages of using both this grey foam and standard foam board is that you can improve the strength of the joint between walls and floors with cocktail sticks or cut match sticks, as well as the adhesive.

I intend to add an upper floor, probably made from coffee stirrers, which shall lift out for access to the ground floor, and a set of stairs.
Externally there will be a lift off roof, fully tiled with card.

I shall paint each wall individually, inside and out, before assembly, this makes it easier to reach those fiddly corners. The windows and doors will also be painted separately before being fitted.

Finally, the whole assembly shall be adhered to a mounting board base to give it extra strength.

As I progress I shall post updates and photos on this blog

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Hobby time!

As some of you may know I am a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to craft materials. This means I shop a lot in Pound stores and The Works (UK discount stores).

I had two lovely finds today in The Works:

They are selling 110 x 1mm thick wooden discs for £2. It is a mix of 40mm, 30mm and 20mm diameter discs which will make great bases.

They are also selling a simple plastic paint brush stand with room for 40 brushes for £3.

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A small competition…

Ladies and Gentlemen, and you at the back.

One of our members on the IHMN Facebook page has asked for stat’s for the North Star jack the Ripper figure shown below.

The notorious Jack the Ripper

We invite you all to submit your own version of the infamous Jack the Ripper, with full stat’s, costing, and narrative. Submit them to the Files section of the IHMN Facebook page, and don’t forget to include your name.

Charles and I shall review the entries, and the one we find most apposite, and amusing will be featured on the Ministry Blog, and placed in the new company downloads section of the Blog’s IHMN page. You have one week.

How say you?

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Charting your own course – using book companies as templates

A player sent me a PM the other day asking if they had to “play the companies as written“. Of course, I said ‘no, you don’t’ and directed them to the section on creating your own companies.

However, I had missed the point completely (not unusual as Charles can attest).

It appears that she was not yet confident enough with the rules to begin from scratch, but instead wanted to use an existing company as a template to play with and adjust to her ideas.

This made me wonder if we had introduced the Companies chapter correctly and this led to the following.

Unlike some rules-systems, especially those that are inextricably linked to miniatures ranges, we in the Ministry don’t expect our players to hold to what we have written as sacred text.

We regard what we have provided in the Companies chapter as a series of themed examples, for you to use as templates from which to develop your own.

First thematic example, the Brick Lane Commune

This band of revolutionaries and anarchists is based on the sort that were common across Europe from the Paris Commune in 1871 to the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916.  Often led by well-educated men who had read Marx and Engels, and who preached violent revolution to the poor as a path to freedom.

An anarchist or socialist company is typified by its poorly equipped but fanatical troops. They are usually more numerous than their foes and have a desperate courage and willingness to lay down their lives for the cause. It is a company where you need to manage your resources carefully, use mobbing and volley fire to take down your often more professional and better-equipped opponents. Their martyr-delivered bombs and their  Incendiaries’ flame grenades are a great leveller that your enemy shall come to fear.

Depending on what you want to achieve, you could modify the BLC template to include army deserters, home-made armoured vehicles, and modified mechanized walkers without affecting the theme overmuch.

Second thematic example, Lord Curr’s Incorrigibles

Lord Curr is both a rogue and a patriot, not an unusual combination in the Victorian era. A former soldier who has created a loyal band of brigands to back him in his various adventures.

This is an elite company that depends mostly on its firepower to achieve its aims. It has access to a high level of technology and has a group of very competent characters at its core. It is not well-armoured so tends to advance making best use of cover.

The Incorrigibles can be used as template for any firepower-focused company led by an Imperial ‘hero’.

Third thematic example, The Servants of Ra

The theme of this company could be summed up with the phrase “it’s all about me“. As far as Prince Akhenaten is concerned every single member of his company is expendable, even the lesser characters.

This is not only a magic-themed company but could be considered a superhero company as well. One extremely competent and well-equipped leader with a bunch of mobile meat shields.

It can be a difficult company to manage though, because if the enemy can down the Prince, then you don’t have a lot left to play with.

As you can easily see, every listed company has a theme and a collection of advantages and opportunities, which we positively encourage you all to play around with. The one thing we advise is that you let your gaming buddies know what you have created, before you play.

We are looking forward, just as we did with the first edition, to seeing what you create, whether it be a modified theme or something completely original.

If you go to the IHMN page on the blog, and scroll down past the IHMN2 section, you shall come across examples of some of the best companies that players created for the original IHMN.

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The Ministry of Works!

As some of you may realize from seeing our participation games at various shows, terrain making is part of my wargaming hobby.

It began back when we were going to launch Daisho at Salute. I had dabbled for years making terrain for Warhammer (Fantasy & 40K), but this was the first time I would show my work in public.

I look back on the Samurai village I made then and cringe, The houses were not awful, but they were certainly amateurish. Cardboard from Whiskas boxes and fences from coffee stirrers. The house were roofed with brush bristles to represent thatch.

Next to my board was one by our friend Billy. He had wisely bought 4Ground houses and fencing, added a buddha shrine and created an autumn-themed board. It was beautiful.

A couple of years later and it was the Blood Eagle launch. This time I made a board showing a small Norse village by a fjord. So, I purchased some 4Ground buildings and a plastic longship.

The board was plywood, 30″ (60cms) square, with a sheet of 5mm foam board, that had previously been an advertising board with a glossy dark blue finish, which represented the waters of the fjord. Note: the size of the board matches the width of standard event tables.

I covered about two thirds of the blue board with another layer of foam board which I painted and flocked.

I also built all the fencing (from match sticks and brush bristles), detailed the board with flock and rocks, added some barrels and trees.

For the first time I actually felt proud of my work, and it was the first board where event go’ers actually took pictures of it.

A year later we were launching IHMN Gothic, so I decided to create a Transylvanian village.  Between the two events I had discovered Dave Graffam and his marvellous print and build card designs. So, I built a dozen or so of his houses, created a heap of scatter terrain and constructed a new 30″ (60cms) plywood board.

Again, I used 5mm foam board to cover the plywood, and removed the top layer of paper where I wanted roads and paths. I wanted these to be cobbled, so hunted around for an easy way to do rough cobbling. Most methods seemed quite complex, so I created my own.

Standard, plastic ball point pens have a pen cap with a 2.5mm hole in the top to prevent suffocation if swallowed. Hold the pen like a dagger and rapidly stab the exposed foam in the areas you want cobbled. I painted the cobles black then dry-brushed with grey, green and a little white. In under an hour, I had all the board’s roads and paths done.

I was pleased with my board, and then I saw Billy’s effort. A board based upon High Gate cemetery in London, and guess which one all the photographers were drawn to… ho-hum, back to the drawing board.

So, two years pass and we’re back at Salute launching Thud & Blunder. I had spent the intervening time making medieval houses from mounting card, coffee stirrers, matchsticks, and filler. The roofs were individually tiled, and they lifted off to give figures access to the inside. I built a marketplace and bought tons of scatter terrain.

I had given up on boards as these were a pain to transport and had acquired one of Deep Cut’s lovely neoprene cobbled mats.

Of course, Billy turned up with a 4’x2′ (120x60cms) rocky ravine, with one side nearly 30″ (60cms) high. In the ravine were numerous small buildings and former bridge supports, criss-crossed with wooden walkways. I love Billy, but there are times I could pinch him 🙂

It should be said that over these years I have honed my craft. From cat food containers to bespoke and original pieces. Nowhere near the Terrain Tutor’s standard, but good enough for gaming.

Since then, I have received a 3D Printer as a birthday gift. It is a remarkable tool, and I have trial printed a couple of buildings from the Ulvheim range (free designs from Thingiverse). They are really quite beautiful, but when I did, I felt a pang of hobby guilt. Was this the end of my terrain building hobby?

No, it isn’t. I’m mostly using the printer to print off scatter terrain, doors, and windows. The latter are always fiddly to do, so I am glad I have this tool.

Anyway, this year we have launched IHMN 2nd edition, but Salute and Partizan, our favourite shows, have been pushed back to the Autumn, so what am I planning?

Well, over the next few weeks I am going to document how I intend to represent the Barony of Grand Fenwick, where two desperate companies shall compete to capture the Q-bomb.

I will create a brand-new layout, with buildings and other terrain pieces to represent this quaint little corner of old Europe (or Shepperton Studios).

So, keep your eyes peeled for there shall be articles on the blog, and pictures on Instagram.

I wonder what Billy’s doing…?

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