Exploring Osprey’s Wargames

Osprey Publishing have long been known for their range of military history books. If you need to know about the uniforms worn and weapons wielded by Napoleon’s armies, they are your guys, son! They’ve actually got a pretty funny origin story, having started out as a tea company who put illustrated cards featuring military aircraft into their packages.

Now owned by Bloomsbury, Osprey have recently branched out into wargames rules. I say recently. I first noticed them in 2013 with the release of In her Majesty’s Name, but the first title in the series, A World Aflame, was published in 2012.

The sheer number of rulesets put out by osprey has been impressive, and we’re now getting to the point where several successful games are getting second editions. The games I’m aware of which have received this treatment are Frostragrave and Gaslands, with In Her Majesty’s Name also getting a new edition, but with Northstar rather than with Osprey.

What appeals to me about these games is that they are miniature range-agnostic, meaning that there’s not a set range of miniatures that you need to or “should” use, and that they don’t generally require a lot of miniatures. You can get by with a handful per side and have a satisfying skirmish experience. With that in mind, there are a handful of osprey games that I am very keen to explore. Let’s take a look, shall we? I’m not looking at everything that osprey has put out, but rather just some of the ones that have caught my attention, and which are skirmish level games.

Frostgrave

There had been some buzz for Osprey’s games before Frostgrave, but it was this fantasy wargame of skirmishes between wizards and soldiers in the frozen city that was Osprey’s first major hit. Well, major for our already pretty niche hobby, but you know what I mean.

What appeals to me is how much this feels like Mordheim. Settingwise, it’s not quite the same, but it could be. The ruleset can be easily used to represent that setting. I also like the idea of every gang having a wizard, possibly with an apprentice, and a crew of soldiers. My desire to run some urban fantasy wizard battles is a big part of what led me to pick up a 3D printer last year. I’ve got some cool terrain printed up, but really need to clean up the machine and get it running again to get some more pieces out of it.

In terms of progress towards actually playing the game, this is the one that I’ve already invested in. Although the game can use miniatures from anywhere, I liked the line of minis released by Northstar. I ended up grabbing a box of plastic wizards. I made up some wizards and then grabbed a box soldiers and a box of cultists to go with them. That’s two gangs, then.

Two gangs. That’s the thing with these obscure, little games, isn’t it? It’s not enough to build a single army, a single gang, or whatever. You need at least two. You need enough that you can run an introductory game to allow someone else to try it with you. This is especially true in remote locations, like where I am. The player pool is limited, but people will give things a go if you’re able to show them how it works, why they should like it. These are not at the top of my list for painting, but I expect them to be quick contrast-jobs when I do get to them. I’ve been playing around a little bit and putting some pigment to plastic between other bits and pieces.

(The OutpostElement GamesAmazonDriveThruRPG)

Gaslands

Another big hit from osprey, Gaslands has such a cool concept. Mad Max-style car battles in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. For miniatures, die-cast cars like those sold by Hot Wheels, Matchbox and others. We’ve all got some of these lying around from childhood, or can find a few at a relatively low price point, at least by the pricing standard of tabletop miniatures.

There’s been some interest in Gaslands locally, with a few games being played a couple of years ago. As with Frostgrave, I’m keen to put together a couple of forces and seeing where it all takes me. I picked up some old diecast cars from eBay a couple of years ago, but haven’t realyl done anything with them. I also 3D-printed some weapons to attach to the cars, but they didn’t look great. They really should have been printed in resin, rather than the PLA I used. More recently I ordered the Implements of Carnage sprue so give me a nice little stock of bits for this project that I will never actually get around to:

I think that this is actually one of the more likely games for me to finish miniature for, mainly because he bulk of the miniatures are already there in the form of the toy cars. I have the book as well, both the first edition one and the newer Reloaded hardback.

(DriveThruRPGAmazon)

Zona Alfa

This is one that’s only recently caught my attention, so I don’t know a huge amount yet, but like all of the Osprey Wargames, the fact that it lets you pick up different miniatures and just have fun with them, then also have an actual use for them… that’s the ticket.

In this case, the game is set in an irradiated, post-apocalyptic Eastern Europe. So… like, just Eastern Europe, then? Oh! Oh, zing! I went there, son!

Sorry. Like, genuinely. I’m sorry.

I’ve really enjoyed watching some videos of this game being played, and it’s got me pretty enthused. There’s also a ton of miniatures out there, between all the post-apocalyptic miniatures and even some modern warfare or WW2 minis. There’s also loads of cool terrain, like this beautiful compound set from Ainsty Castings:

The pictures in the book help to set a clear tone for the game, and there’s lots of opportunities to put together a cool wasteland board. I’d actually love to do a ruined urban board, either in an underground station or just a ruined town. Options are fizzing in m’brain, pals!

(Amazon)

Rogue Stars

When I started writing this post, Stargrave had not yet come out. It might go on to take this spot over Rogue Stars, as they do seem to be thematically very similar. That said, I like the Rogue Stars book and have yet to read the Stargrave one.

The game is really flexible in what you can build, and gives you a whole toolbox that you can use to build characters around pretty much any sci-fi miniatures that you have to hand. I’ve seen people’s crews/gangs/whatever and there are lots that are incredibly unique and creative due to conversions, or using more obscure miniatures from smaller companies. In my case, my first crew will be based on the Inspectors from Heresy miniatures. I picked them up a good while ago and really like the sculpts:

Another reason to get my sci-fi terrain painted up? Well, yes, but there are plenty of reasons for this already and I still haven’t done it. When I do get the miniatures done, I’ll need to find some suitable outlaws or aliens to pit against them…

(DriveThruRPGAmazon)

A Billion Suns

Tiny spaceships! So, I actually do really like the idea of naval games. Other than a couple of demo games of Battlefleet Gothic and Full Thrust, I’ve not played any space ones, but I have played some water-bound ones. Namely, Uncharted Seas and a little bit of Dystopian Wars. Hey, let’s share some tiny boats:

Can… can you tell they’re meant to be Italian? I’m not known for my subtlety.

So, yeah, I’m keen to have a go at some tiny SPACE boats, too. And A Billion Suns seems interesting. At the moment, I’m living pretty vicariously through other bloggers who are exploring the game, such as the wonderful Steinberg Shed Space. Again, the change of pace, and the idea of cool, different miniatures really appeals.

As usual for an Osprey book, the rules are clearly laid out and easy to read. I really like how the game works in terms of bringing forces to the table. You essentially summon in force, paying to deploy your ships. The more you deploy, the more firepower you bring to the table, but the less profit the mission will generate. I like the balance there, and the decisions that maintaining such a balance will necessitate.

The game is also by the same chap who wrote Gaslands, which is a big plus. Definitely one I’m keen to try, and I don’t think it would cost too much to give it a go.

(DriveThruRPGAmazon)

Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse

Ash Barker is the fantastic chap behind Guerrilla Miniature Games, my favourite channel for watching actual plays of miniature games. He’s just a genuinely nice guy putting out fantastic content. That his little operation is better than much, much bigger and more established channel is testament to his talent. A few years ago he turned his attention to writing the first of two miniature games that he’s published through Osprey.

Last Days is all about zombies and survivors. The game is appealing, but what I’m really tempted by is the amount of cool zombie and survivors miniatures that are available, and I love the idea of picking up some of them to paint. Studio Miniatures is one example of the company producing some lovely miniatures. here’s a handful of their zombies:

As with the zombies pictured above, Studio’s survivors range is also delightfully referential, with many a nod t popular culture. Here are a few highlights from that range, including the Wizard of Oz-themed survivors that first drew my attention to the company:

That’s not to say that Studio Miniatures are the only guys putting out beautiful survivors zombie miniatures. Hasselfree have this really cool (and currently out of stock) set of post-apocalyptic Scooby Doo characters:

I’ve seen these painted up and they are really cool. It can’t be that hard to find them a suitable van, surely? I think you’re seeing a trend here, in that what I really love about the Osprey Games is that they let me buy and use such different miniatures.

(DriveThruRPGAmazon)

Dracula’s America

oh, this is really interesting, and really specific. This isn’t “wizards and soldiers”, “zombies and survivors”, “space dudes”, or “diecast cars with guns glued on”. This is the Wild West in an alternative history where Dracula is the president of the United States. The combination of an old west aesthetic with some horror-themed miniatures is a powerful pairing. This is one of the pictures that really grabbed my attention early on:

Isn’t that just cool? Isn’t it weird? Brilliant. This combination works.

In terms of miniatures, I’ve got a large tub of old Foundry miniatures that would be perfect for this game. Just a big pile of Old West miniatures that I picked up at either Claymore or Carronade several years back. Some of the miniatures can be seen in this pic from Foundry:

I’ve even got suitable terrain for this from a stack of MDF buildings that I grabbed for Malifaux…

You know, it’s funny, but I actually came into this post thinking that Dracula’s America would be one of the last of these games that I would touch, given just how specific it is, but I’m actually realising that in terms of having what I need, I’m more than halfway there…

(DriveThruRPGAmazon)

Reality’s Edge

Like Zona Alfa, this is a very recent game for me. I’ve only just really noticed it. I’ve been on a bit of a cyberpunk kick, so this was a natural hook for me and, sure enough, I’ve really enjoyed reading through the book. I particularly like the ‘Building Your Crew’ section as I like how the author has addressed each of the cyberpunk archetypes that you can use as the basis for your characters.

The book is really good and there’s some nice art in there (I’d have liked to see a little more illustration) but what it really lacks is photography of miniatures. The other books above are full of lovely photos of beautiful miniatures and terrain. This is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, the images and the credits associated with them give you a good idea of where to find suitable miniatures for a given game. This is especially important for more niche games like this one. Even more important, however, is that these pictures also inform the reader as to the visual tone of the game. What should this game look like? I found this really useful in Dracula’s America and, more recently and not discussed in this post, in Gamma Wolves. Miniature photography would really help me know where I’m going with this game…

That said, the internet provides. Blessed is the internet. There are blogs out there where people are trying the game, painting miniatures, building boards and the like. A really good example of this is Bloodbeard’s Garage. This sort of content helps to inspire the potential player in a visual way, which is really lacking in the book itself.

The book is exciting, though! It’s really cool but, apart from an appropriate gaming mat, I don’t really own anything that really fits the Cyberpunk feel. If and when I were to turn my attention to this game, I would be very much starting from scratch.

(DriveThruRPGAmazon)

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