I got an assignment in a graphic design class this semester which I was sure I wouldn’t like. We were supposed to create a board game. Granted, there are a lot of board games I enjoy, but at first it seemed as though it would be a waste of time.
Then I remembered. I love wargaming. But I’ve never gotten into making miniatures. Instead I’ve always relied on already built games like Axis and Allies or Battle Cry, and over the years I’ve used paper cut outs which I researched and drew by hand meticulously. By the thousands.
So I felt I wanted to create a naval wargame so I started researching the history of naval wargaming and open source rulesets online. The best free rulesets I found are here:
Missiles at Sea by Scott Elaurant: http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/uploads/7/0/8/1/7081303/vas_modern.pdf
Red Star White Star by David Child-Dennis: http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/uploads/7/0/8/1/7081303/modnaval.pdf
Angels & Bears by David Child-Dennis: http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/uploads/7/0/8/1/7081303/ab_rules.pdf
Snap Shot by Robert Nott which you can find along with awesome photos of his huge models on his website here: http://snapshotmodernsub.webs.com
I’ve also been really inspired by this blogger: http://ofdiceandtinymen.wordpress.com/
I should also note that reading The Hunt for Red October was immensely helpful in understanding technical concepts like cavitation, thermal layers, active vs. passive sonar, sprint and drift, and things like that even if they didn’t make it into my rules as they bogged down play too much. But many of the concepts did make it in.
Then I needed ships. I wanted to do a modern naval wargame with a Soviet and American fleet so I looked around websites which sell miniature fighting ships. I quickly discovered despite the devotion wargaming nerds have for making beautiful miniatures, the websites for these things are pretty much beyond awful to the point where I had to search hard for what I wanted.
I found a nicer site for a company called Navwar in the United Kingdom which had exactly what I was looking for: small (but not too small) miniature modern warships of every class for both the Soviet and American navies at a reasonable price (some places will charge $30+ for a single ship, provided they come already painted and are better constructed).
So I ordered an American and a Soviet battle pack (about 20 vessels each) and an extra American aircraft carrier for $58 plus shipping, which is very affordable compared to all the other options. Navwar also had the best selection and variety of ships. They have EVERYTHING from ancient triremes to modern DDGs.
The only downside of Navwar for me is that I had to either fax or mail in my order, they don’t have an email or online order form. If you’re going to order from them internationally I recommend doing so at least a month in advance, as that’s how long it took from when I mailed the order form to when I received the ships here in Minnesota.
Suffice to say I was ecstatic when they arrived! They were so cute and small yet so detailed. It was like Christmas. In March.
They even came with data sheets, which proved to be extremely helpful.
I almost immediately started play testing them with the rules I had developed while waiting for the package to arrive. A few weeks later I finally had some free time to paint them, which was quite fun and very relaxing. I went out and bought seven colors of enamel paints, as my Dad had recommended those over the acrylics I was going to use (which the internet recommended). This was a good move as I didn’t have to mix paints and they will likely last a lot longer.
So I pulled out some books I had lying around (
Modern Naval Warships Modern Fighting Ships and Soviet Military Power 1989) and using Wikipedia and Google image searches to find different angles of certain ships to confirm how they should be painted.
The rather intense smell of enamel paints and paint thinner brought back memories of when my Dad helped me build a model of the U.S.S. Iowa and some other models years ago. It also gave me a little bit of a headache despite being in a fairly well-ventilated area, which was probably not the best thing ever for my brain tissue.
The deck markings on the aircraft carriers were particularly tricky on the 4 inch and smaller carrier decks, but they add a lot of character and are fun to look at. I think it took my eight to ten hours overall to paint the 41 vessels, but it felt like less.
Next I needed to make bases to mount them on. The bases identify the name of the ship, the flag under which it sails, and keep players from touching the ships every time they have to move one. For these I found .svg files of the American and Soviet flags on the Wikimedia commons. Then I popped over to Adobe Illustrator, confirmed the sizes I measured for the ship bases as well as the names of the vessels, and laid out the bases on two pages and converted them to PDF files which I then had printed at a local print shop on some heavy paper.
I cut these out and realized I should’ve asked for cardstock, so instead I cut mat board and glued them to that, which worked quite well. I then went in search of some refrigerator magnets I could cut up and use to affix the ships to the bases so I would be gluing the two directly together.
While the magnets were strong enough to work well on ships where I could use a large amount of magnet, the smaller ships just didn’t have enough surface area and their magnets tend to fall off easily, but it works well enough for my purposes.
Now I’m play testing some more and trying to find time to make the data cards for all 41 vessels which record the number of missiles they’ve fired, hits they’ve taken, and so on. Right now I just use notecards I’ve scribbled on, but I will design some better ones as soon as I have time. Oh, and I have to layout and print a rulebook too. I’ve never done real magazine layouts and have never used Adobe InDesign so I’m not sure how that’s all coming together at this point. I may just make a pretty multipage PDF, print it out and call it good. I will make some cheat sheets for how weapons and things work too for quick reference.