Recycling Armies and Gaming for Free
It’s been a few years since I last placed miniatures on a table and rolled some dice in the pursuit of glory. For one reason or another, I’ve not had the time or money required to finish an army to the point where I would be comfortable playing.
As a way of easing myself back in to the hobby, I’ve been weighing my options and looking for the easiest solution. At first, I thought it would be through Warmachine/Hordes. I’ve got a good selection of models, almost enough for a couple of armies. On the downside, I have not assembled most of the models. I also need to purchase a few models to fill holes in lists. I had resigned myself to this fact and was pricing up how much it would cost… then Kings of War became popular at my local club.
If you’ve never heard of the game, Kings of War is Mantic Games’ fantasy army-scale wargame. It borrows from Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy, but with its own spin on traditional fantasy. The basic rules are available free online, as are most of the army lists.
Long story short, Kings of War is set in the world of Mantica. A land inhabited by many of the usual fantasy stereotypes – Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins. I haven’t come across any halflings yet, but there are gnomes in the Forces of Nature list. Unlike other games, not everything is strictly defined and dictated by the game’s rules and setting. For example, Orc characters can ride a monster called a slasher. Slasher isn’t a specific creature, but a generic term for big monster. There’s also a winged slasher that will make your character more mobile and deadly.
Mantic leaves it up to the players to fill in these blank spots with their own imagination. This is best seen in the Kingdoms of Men list. This is the only list that does not have a range of Mantic-produced miniatures (yet). They reason for this is that humans are well represented by other miniature companies. Why create a new army when gamers can use their existing kits. All they need to do is figure out which of the multitude of unit types best represents each of their models.
Initially, I had my opted for an Imperial Roman-themed army. Blocks of armoured troops, supported by fast-moving cavalry and scorpion bolt-throwers. Add to this one or two units of lightly armoured Celts as a missile screen and you’d have a pretty formidable army. The only downside, I’d have to buy everything. I’ve liked the Warlord historical range for some time, but never enough to put down money for them. What I needed was a cheaper option.
A few days later, I was unpacking a box of old gaming bits when I came across an old Games Workshop mail order box. Written on the lid was “MIDDENHEIM ARMY BITZ BOX.” It was a box I hadn’t seen in years. From what I remembered, it held a few bits and pieces from when I was trying to make an Empire army for Warhammer Fantasy. One that was heavily influenced by the plastic miniatures from the Mordheim stand-alone game.
I lifted the lid and, to my surprise, it turned out I had many more models than I had suspected stashed away in the box. I set about sorting them into rough units, or at least placing similar models together. A half hour or so later, I had the makings of a sizable Kings of War army arrayed before me. Buoyed by my unexpected find, I investigated a couple of other boxes that I suspected held similar treasures. A short while later, my potential army had doubled, if not tripled, in size.
Most of the models were unpainted, and some were missing arms or heads, but that didn’t matter. I planned to use these at my local club, not a store, so things like that would be less of a requirement. For now, at least. One thing I did need to do was find movement trays. While they’re not required, the fixed unit size aspect of Kings of War means they’re a real benefit. You also don’t remove models as units sustain damage. This means you can glue the bases to a sheet of plasticard and be done with it.
In one box, I found three old Games Workshop movement trays, perfectly sized for 20-model units. While not enough to provide bases for every unit in an average army, I was able to make up the shortfall with pieces cut from cardboard boxes. A little tape provided just enough grip to keep my models in place as I moved them around the tabletop.
Eager to try out my long-lost forces on the battlefield, I worked out two army lists. A small 500pt list, and an average 1000pt list and bought them along to the next club meeting. It was my first time playing the game – though I’d seen others play and watched the Beasts of War demo game on YouTube. I think it’s fair to say that my first game went surprisingly well. I faced a friend’s elf list – a mix of Mantic’s on Elf warriors and GW’s Lord of the Rings characters. After several turns of bloody conflict, I emerged the victor.
Following the game, we switched to our 1000pt lists and played again. This time around, the result was very different. The elf army added bolt-throwers and fast-moving eagles (counts-as dragon riders), and my forces did not stand a chance. By the end of the sixth round, only my general and wizard remained to face the bulk of the elf army.
At the end of the second battle I had learned a couple of important lessons. First, not all units are created equal, even if there are only small differences in their stats and special rules. My ogres may look impressive on paper, but sustained shooting will whittle them down before they can engage the enemy. Second, it might be better to focus my unit selection a little more. I took a one-of-everything approach with my lists, but then I was trying things out for the first time. There are units I’ll be taking more of in the future, and ones that may not return for a while.