Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lopsided Battles - Mismatched Forces in Wargaming

After seeing Avatar, I find myself wanting to wargame with mismatched forces again. Not that I get a lot of chances to push lead much these days anyhow, but it brings to mind my long-standing love of matching up forces of dissimilar tech levels and/or army composition. In fantasy gaming this is a bit difficult to do but I suppose you could still pull it off it's just hard to come by as huge a disparity in tech. With science fiction its easier to accomplish as you have a wider margin of tech.

Before the Green Eyed Minis Tolero (Ewok) minis went OOP, I had plans to order a butt load of them and do a serious fuzzy indigenous populace vs. hi-tech force battle but that won't happen now. So, now I must find another low-tech force or convert one. I have considered doing so using some sort of Earthly tribals painted an odd skin color or maybe using some fantasy races though they are usually far too "medieval" looking to work effectively for alien indigs.

The recent painted version of Khurassan's Chichimec Indians (pictured above) got me thinking that perhaps some of the odder ball Native American tribes might work. Does anyone know if anybody does Masai in 20mm? All it takes is some changes to skin color and you can call them aliens easy. Add a few new features like wild hair, spines, ridges, or any other shortcut costuming ala Star Trek and you can disguise their true origins even more. Heck, playing around in MS Paint (I am poor like that) I simply inverted the colors on the above pic (see below) and ended up with near instant Navi from Avatar. By no means a masterpiece of course, but it illustrates the point well enough.

But beyond what figures to use, the question comes up of what makes for a good match-up. Obviously you cannot simply put a low-tech force toe to toe with the unlimited resources of a hi-tech power. Scenarios, background and some good story writing are key in these scenarios. Picking a scenario that captures the flavor of the conflict and places fair objectives and restriction on the forces at hand in important. This allows the low-techs to win without having to slaughter their enemies outright and keeps the hi-tech force from being able to stomp the indigs into pulp.

Good scenarios are raids, ambushes, recon engagements or battles that take place close to sensitive assets that cannot be compromised by unrestricted warfare. Maybe a convoy is engaged while it moves through a restrictive terrain? Can the hi-tech forces risk their incurring even greater unrest by bombarding that local temple? Maybe the battle hits too close to the hi-tech force's base to allow for effective use of large-scale artillery? Any of these can offset the difference in tech base.

Other than the basics of terrain you can have other environmental concerns play a part in these scenarios as well. Home field advantage can be expressed by giving your indigs less restrictive movement modifiers throug hthe prevailing terrain or some sort of defensive bonus to express their native field craft. Weather conditions can also play a part. Heavy rains might hamper tracked vehicles or aerial assets while the natives, used to such conditions take advantage and choose to fight in the wet. You could even work in psychology - the riteous indignation of the locals or the arrogance of the hi-tech forces being examples.

All in all, I think there is a lot of fun to be had in these sorts of scenarios and the miniatures you would use for such aliens. Nobody really makes any alien primitives so you are pretty much stuck making your own.

Good gaming,



  1. This is the very essence of colonial wargaming. Numbers and ferocity versus technology and discipline.

    Come to the dark side... we have cookies!

  2. I totally getthat about colonial era gaming, just ready dive into that. VSF or sci fi versions are where I'm leaning.

  3. This is one of the things I'm looking at doing in the Iron Cow universe albeit set on Earth. The image of a "zulu" warrior ambushing a HALO trooper in a jungle has somehow ingrained itself in my mind.

    Another consideration is to give your low tech forces some tech - black powder weapons for example. Indeed, adopting this idea, any historical militia could be drafted into an SF game...

  4. Sand People from Star Wars are another example. From what I understand, they used prjectile weapons and melee weapons.

  5. Sounds like the perfect time to use some Iroquois!

  6. Don't want to over-use the Native Americans.

  7. Why not Eli? Avatar did a fantastic job using them. Also I've seen some interesting blogs with conversions using Indians as various Martians/Venusians with a repaint of blue or red skin.

  8. ly because I've already used them for other things too like post-apoc savages.

  9. Yeah, but they are really very versatile. You could use other native types - Maori, or Masai, maybe - that are a little less iconic.

    VSF is, to me, basically colonial gaming with a lot of handwaving at physics. Flying ships? Sure! Steam-powered vehicles the size of a city block? Go for it! Steam-powered interplanetary travel? Naturally!

    Plus, you can decide to keep the sharp looking uniforms in your very own little alternate universe. Khaki is very practical, but BORING! Give me a thin red line any day.

    IN another real life low- versus high tech, don't forget what happened to the Italians when they tried to conquer Ethipia the first time. Spear armed natives took out Italian armored vehicles. Yeah, they were crappy-ass Italian microtanks, but still...

  10. They are indeed versatile. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for using Earth low-techs is that they often have instantly recognizable equipment.

    I can letmost common helmets and blades go, but shields seem to always just screem at me. Removing a shield is a pain in the butt too.


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