Prioritizing Your Backlog

There is an inescapable truth about hobby gaming: buying a miniature is always faster than painting one. This can be a real problem especially when companies are more and more moving to cheaper high quality plastics that look great and don't cost a ton - unless you're Games Workshop, then you just make them cost more.


I have a whole stack of Reaper Bones miniatures from my wife for my birthday that I have barely made a dent into so far plus a handful I picked up on my own. I also have five new Lance Packs (20 mechs!) for BattleTech to paint up for my Sword and Dragon campaign. Not to mention making enough terrain to fill a battlefield around these nice minis. For that, I have a set of hills to finish flocking on top of a big bag of trees to base and a whole smorgasbord of card stock buildings to assemble.

The question of course is how to tackle all this without feeling overwhelmed and getting demotivated by seeing a pile of grey unpainted miniatures, like this one:

The easiest way I have found to think of it is to focus only on exactly what I'm going to need for my next gaming sessions. There are some models that have a really cool look or that I bought more recently than an older model that I would love to jump to the front of the line, but for me it makes more sense to save those models for when I will be needing them.

I've got a lot of gaming coming up with friends and family over the holidays so I'm focusing on what is going to maximize the amount of fun we're going to be having.

First, I know we'll be playing some 4 player, 2vs2, Song of Blades and Heroes. So that is going to be a 4'x4' table that needs to be covered in a reasonable amount of terrain. Plus having whatever miniatures finished to include in the war bands we'll be using. Luckily, most of my Reaper minis are painted and some war bands will use pre-painted miniatures from the official Dungeons and Dragons lines.

Second, I need to finish preperation for the first two missions of Sword and Dragon. My opponent and I will both be taking the recon mission track first which means I have around 2 lances worth of mechs to paint. But I also know we won't be having time to start this until probably a week or so after Song of Blades and Heroes, so I'm tabling this for now until I finish my terrain.

Prioritizing my backlog this way has let me feel like I'm constantly making progress. For a game like Warhammer 40k or any system where you're trying to paint a huge army, you can still make use of this by building out a few points value lists. Instead of viewing your 2000 points of Chaos Marines as a solid block you need to finish, break it down into four 500 point combat patrol lists you could play before you finish the whole thing. For me, thinking like this lets the hobbying motivate the playing and the playing motivate the hobbying and I have more fun with both.


In the image below, the yellow Vindicator on the left is the first mech I painted out of the 'BattleTech Introductory Box'. The Cyclops on the right is the 24th and final one. I painted the yellow mech without thinning the paint at all and uh, it shows. I plan to strip down and repaint it, but I had to snap a picture for the archive.

What a difference practice makes. I saved this image to help myself remember that practice does actually help; it's just hard to notice improvement while it's happening. Hopefully after 24 more minis I'll be even better. Even with the difference in results, I had as much fun painting the first one as I did the 24th. That's what I love about this hobby: you can always improve but it's still fun and satisfying no matter what your skill level.

Miniatures Rules in Classic BattleTech

This past Saturday I experienced the joy of playing a huge 'company on company' (12 mechs vs 12 mechs) game of Classic BattleTech down at my FLGS. It was my first time playing on 3D terrain since my 6th edition Warhammer 40k days. I had a blast, but it reminded me why I was so happy when I learned BattleTech usually plays with hex maps instead of modeled terrain.

In my experience I have found that using measuring tape and eyeballing line of sight and cover allows a certain fudge factor to enter into the game. Hobbyist gamers tend towards the competitive side of the spectrum and I have seen plenty of arguments erupt over whether a base was just a hair out of range or not. Thankfully this past Saturday we didn't have any problems of this nature at our table and I got my first taste of combat using the non-hex miniatures rules.

In standard miniatures play each mech has its movement points (MP) converted to inches by doubling its value. If a mech has walking speed of 5MP it will be allowed to walk 10 inches on the table.

The GM running the game determined that we would be using a house rule where 1MP = 1 inch. This made our mechs less maneuverable than they would typically be in this kind of game. I suspect this restriction was put in place to compensate for the table size we had compared to the number of mechs in play. In a game with 24 mechs on a 6'x4' table managing combat between 6 players is hard enough without everyone zipping all over the map. As a frequent GM myself I respect that choice.

I point out this house rules change because my conclusions about tabletop vs hex rules might be biased based on how this house rule impacted the game.

There is a higher level of density and variety to the terrain on hex maps produced by Catalyst Game Labs for BattleTech that I don't believe can be produced easily with 3D terrain. The amount of tactical choices to be made for a unit moving on a hex map is greater than the choices presented to the same mech playing with the miniatures rules. This is simply a matter of how map design works between the two 'engines'.

3D terrain is limited by the real world physical properties of what you're using to build it. Light woods and heavy woods need to be a certain thickness to block line of sight or provide cover. Buildings must have a realistic footprint in relation to the roads, trees, etc. To a certain extent scale must be preserved across your terrain.

The scale of the hex maps doesn't have this constraint and as a result terrain feels more "gamey". River hexes can wind tightly around building hexes placed next to deep canyons, all within a few movement points of each other. Replicating the same setup in 3D terrain could be a month long project that may not in the end provide the same level of tactics as the hexes.

I'm not 100% sure on this hypothesis but it is my gut reaction after playing a game with admittedly weird house rules. In the future I plan on comparing 3D terrain pieces to their equivelant hex map setups and seeing the difference to actual play in the future.


Welcome to Dice or Death.

My name is Ray.

I found myself annoying friends and family with frequent talk of obscure game systems and how exciting it was to paint a dwarf's beard. Instead of driving them all away, I created this website.

The blog is where I'll be posting my thoughts about industry news, strategy, tactics, miniature painting, terrain building, and anything else about the tabletop gaming hobby that comes to mind.

The focus at the start will be on games that have been absorbing all my free tabletop time these days: BattleTech, Dungeons & Dragons, and Song of Blades and Heroes. But heck, why limit ourselves? Any and all tabletop games and related topics will be up for grabs.

In the near future I'll be writing about my thoughts on preparing for a Classic BattleTech "Sword and Dragon" campaign I'll be running.  Once that begins you'll see action reports for this campaign. 

I've got a ton of minis to paint, terrain to build, and a whole lot of games to play and discuss.

Thanks for coming and enjoy your stay!