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Slitherine Adapts Miniature Rule Set for PC

June 28th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 11 Comments · Ancients, Slitherine

Slitherine Studios was born as a computer game company formed by two miniature wargamers (they played miniature wargames, I mean. They aren’t especially small.) A couple of years ago they took a break from computer game development to co-publish a new rule set for ancients miniatures. The Field of Glory: Ancient and Medieval Wargaming Rules
rules were designed to be an alternative to the simpler DBA rules, and were in many ways a step towards complexity in a hobby that had moved more toward the abstract.

Now they are doing a computer version of Fields of Glory. Zama, the final battle of the Punic War, is taken as the starting point and there are 11 other battles ranging up to the war against the British rebel Boudicca. There will be a scenario builder and, in later releases, other armies and an army builder. Which is great because as it stands there are no Greek armies, so Pydna and Cynocephalae are out.

Judging from the screenshots, it’s looking pretty rough, but there’s a chance this could be the EoW: Ancient Battles spiritual successor that I’ve been waiting for. DBA never made the jump to the PC world except for DBAOnline, a multiplayer only experience that, at least, has a comprehensive army list.

In spite of the enduring appeal of miniatures for a small wargaming (and Warhammer) community, few computer game developers have really tried to tap into that submarket. The Tin Soldiers series copied the look, if not purely the play, of miniatures gaming and the Dawn of War RTSes are probably more thrilling than most WH40K tabletop experiences.

This is a very marginal product by any definition. But I am looking forward to it. I, too, am a marginal product.


11 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    I’ve always felt the reason you don’t see the genre being tapped is because miniature gaming is 80% tactile and 20% about the game itself. The thrill of miniature gaming comes from painting the miniatures, basing them, creating the terrain, et cetera. It makes for a much better spectator sport than board gaming, that’s for sure, because of all those reasons. Nothing like seeing a 10’x10′ table covered in a miniature representation of Stalingrad down to the children’s fountain as opposed to a flat hex map with a bunch of counters.

    With a PC game you lose everything that makes mini gaming what it is. In the end it’s just another isometric turn based game but this time with a point based army system.

  • Troy

    Yeah, that’s certainly the big difference. Arguably, though, the tactile “look at that board setup” thing is also a big part of the tabletop wargame experience and it had a golden age of computer gaming before it got wrapped up in the same problems that plagued the boardgame experience – size, lack of innovation, shifting audience tastes.

    I think that a good computer version of the rules has the potential to bring people into the miniature space. I have no way of knowing how successful DBA Online is, though. Does it help act as an outlet for people only curious about the hobby or is it mostly a way for friends to play the game since they live too far apart for regular tabletop play.

  • cheeba

    It should be interesting to see how the just-released PC version of Blood Bowl fares, one of its main draws being a near-direct translation of the board game’s rules. It’s not a wargame by any stretch, but definitely occupies a similar kind of space in the miniature gaming field.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Blood Bowl is unique though in the fact that like most good Games Workshop titles they killed it off a long time ago and so that has created a much greater lust for it than probably if it was still in print. There are actually a couple of other fantasy football miniature based systems out there but none have had the impact as Blood Bowl had.

    @Troy: Another possibility with DBAO’s usage could also be folks wanting to practice with new armies before making the investment in the actual metal.

  • Michael A.

    As another miniature gamer (complete with 100s of DBM miniatures and home-composed rules), I rather agree with Scott – a lot of the fun in miniatures is the tactile stuff. That especially goes for the ancient/medieval period which, IMO, isn’t amazingly tactically exciting once you get past the initial deployment maneuvers.

    Slitherine has plenty of experience in this field, though, so I’m sure they’ll make something worth playing.

    Blood Bowl has the advantage, I think, of being really just a boardgame that happens to use miniatures. It also has the RPG and campaign system (league matches) which help to give the game an extra dimension compared to many other miniature games.

  • Primemover

    Troy, if you are marginal, then we as your loyal followers are “off the paper”!

  • Dave

    I’m interested in this.

    But you know what would REALLY interest me?

    A straight-up computer simulation of turn-based Battletech.

    I love the Mechwarrior games, enjoyed (despite its flaws) the Mech Commander series, have teh Xbox games, but I’ve always wanted someone to put out a professional-grade representation of turn-based Battletech. Heck, make it a WEGO system ala Combat Mission (with customizable graphics, of course), and you’ll make many gamers cry with glee, I figure.

  • spelk

    I’m interested in this too, mainly because I’d like to see the miniature game (especially one such as this time period) be opened up to PC strategy gamers. I realise its often the collectable and tactile pleasures that keep miniature gamers happy, but I think widening the appeal of the gaming system by bringing it to the PC gaming sphere will benefit its visibility.

    With the right interface and the ability to play online it could become very moorish. I mean who has the house space to store miniatures and environment models, when you’ve a family to husband? :)

  • spelk

    @Dave, I may be telling you something you already know, but have you tried Titans of Steel (its available free now from Matrixgames), its a turn based Mech “tweak em up”. Admittedly its old as the hills, and isn’t anything you requested, but it might satiate your appetite, until someone pulls out a proper Battletech/Mechwarrior strategy title.

  • Dave

    Huh. I’m surprised that one slipped by me, seeing as I’ve bought plenty of Matrix-marketed games before. . . I’ll have to check it out, thanks spelk!

  • jin choung

    i agree that a big component of minis is the “tactility” of being able to manipulate toy soldiers… but from a gaming perspective, what i LOOoooove about it is that it is LIMITED IN SCOPE. in terms of # of units, # of turns and the size of the playing field. you don’t have to pan around infinity to simply UNDERSTAND the tactical situation and you don’t have so many units that you can’t possibly conceive of a tactic greater than “tank rush”.

    i for one am completely new to minis and just started reading up on rules and i’ve realized that these are the games i’ve always wanted to play!

    and i think that there is a very real way in which some of the tactility and joys of the hobby CAN be replicated inside the pc (just check out some of the cg sculpts at a place like zbrushcentral.com ) but they really really need to get a 3d engine.

    there are plenty of cg guys (including me) that can make awesome cg models and those can then be released for modding and paint customizing by the gamers.

    and all it would be is about modeling. no animating. no mocap. none of the things that are difficult and costly parts of production for other pc games. just simple static but great looking models, an intuitive camera that lets you zoom as far in or back as you want, a tasteful and customizable sound track, clear interface with helpful and charming sound fx… and this could really gain a solid foothold in pc gaming.