If you are anything like me, your wargaming eyes are bigger than your wallet. There are so many fun and interesting rulesets, miniatures, board lay-outs, and genres that you want to try but you can only have so many models! What’s a great way to playtest a set of rules without spending a ton of money on miniatures? Well, there are a few ways to do it:
1. Generic Miniatures- If your minis are generic enough, they can cross over into multiple roles. A fantasy mini is a fantasy mini no matter what fantasy game you are playing. I use the same models for Dragon Rampant as I do Frostgrave.
2. Proxies- using miniatures of one type to stand in for another. You pretend that a GW Space Marine is actually a battle golem for a fantasy system. I also like to use green army men and other similar toys for cheap 3d proxies.
3. Templates- The last way, and one of my favorite ways; is by using simple paper templates to represent the unit or mini.
For paper templates, there are a few methods to go about it. You can do it the easy way, or the hard way. Here are some examples:
1. Counters- Counters are flat 2d cut-outs that you move around the board. They always remind me of the old Hex and Chit games of the Avalon Hill/Boardgame era of wargaming. They aren’t much to look at, but they do the job as intended. This is the easiest way.
I plan on using this method for playtesting Horizon Wars from Osprey games prior to writing my review. I also use this method for games of AquanauticaImperialis and Castles in the Sky.
2. Stand-ups- Stand-ups harken back to my early days in wargaming. The old, venerable Rogue Trader booklet for Warhammer 40K had a scenario in the back. It was the Crimson Fists vs. Ork Raiders for the “Battle at the Farm”. The back of the book had a number of counters you would copy, past to thin card, cut out, and then use tabs to make them stand-up. I frequently make and use stand-ups when playtesting skirmish rules.
|Battle at the farm Counters|
I started by using Gladiator stand-ups to test The Games: Blood and Spectacle prior to purchasing Gladiator’s from Crusader. In fact, you can find Stand-ups for Men of Bronze and Turf War. I will be using these to test these rules before buying any models as well. I also found some cool stand-up templates for triremes and galleys to use with Poseidon’s Warriors.
3. The third way is by far the most difficult way to use paper templates, and only a mad man would attempt it. However, some insane individuals will go so far as to build scale paper mock-ups of the models in order to use them in game.
Making such paper mock-ups is a skill and hobby in its own right, and not one that should be attempted by the faint of heart.
If you are looking for good paper templates to use as stand-ups or counters, I can heartily recommend the Junior General site. It is filled with good, fun content for any period from ancients to sci-fi.
I typically just image search some cool minis or historical images, copy them, resize them in MS Paint, and paste them into a PowerPoint document. Then I print them, cut them out, paste them together to stand-up, and I am ready to go. I can get entire armies put together for playtesting in a matter of hours, instead of days.
I never really let a lack of miniatures get in the way of getting a good game in, and you shouldn’t have to either. With a bit of creativity and fun you can make whatever you need to play for very little cost. Then, if you like the game enough you can decide to invest in those precious, precious models and accessories to go with them.