Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Junior General Is A Wargaming Toybox

The Junior General website offers a veritable toybox of rules, scenarios, and paper figures for those, particularly kids, exploring history through miniature wargames. Primarily intended for children and the classroom, the site provides some good resources for both the casual and hard-core miniatures wargamer.

Paper miniatures and historical scenarios stand as the pillars of the website’s two core resources. The simulations come listed by period: Ancients, Medieval, Renaissance, 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries. Although the scenario format varies by author, most contain some historical background as an introduction, a listing of forces along with a battlefield map, basic rules for gaming the battle, and some additional resources for supplemental reading or research. Most land battles featuring infantry (some with cavalry and artillery) employ basic rules created by teacher and website administrator Matt Fritz; the rules remain fairly simple while teaching the basics of unit formation and movement, attack, and morale. Other battle formats offer a variety of rules, all oriented for use in the classroom or with wargaming beginners. Each scenario contains links to the paper soldiers and any other accessories needed to play; apparently the site rearranged its paper soldier database, so some of these links don’t directly pull up the required files, but one can find them by perusing the site’s “Paper soldiers” section.

The site’s other core feature is the exhaustive list of paper soldiers arranged by period and conflict. Numerous contributors have created cardstock miniatures of all kinds of units, from infantry and cavalry to armored vehicles, warships, and terrain accessories. Although serious gamers might find the artistic quality of the cardstock soldiers less sophisticated than other available offerings (specifically Patrick Crusiau’s fine cardstock warriors and, of course, actual painted miniatures), the figures cover many military forces from ancient to modern times; often one can choose among similar units drafted by different artists.

Junior General provides a solid framework for enthusiasts to move beyond the scenarios and paper soldiers presented here. Don’t see a battle simulation you like? Find one appropriate to your period, adapt the rules, and provide the units and battlefield based on historical research. Chance are you’ll find appropriate cardstock forces in the expansive “Paper Soldiers” section. “Help File” resources include a host of tutorials on creating, modifying, printing and basing paper soldiers; a guide to keeping paint on plastic figures; useful tips for incorporating wargames, or “historical simulations,” in the classroom; and a “Historical Gaming 101” overview of basic miniature wargame concepts. The obligatory links section contains a listing of other useful websites for paper soldiers and wargames.

Local History

I enjoy exploring local history where I happen to live and like to combine it with my gaming hobby; Junior General offers some solid resources I can use to pursue these interests.

For some time I’ve wanted to create a miniatures wargaming scenario based on a Revolutionary War battle in the town where I grew up; I have several resources covering the battle, including a fairly accurate listing of the forces involved. The Junior General pages for Revolutionary War scenarios and paper soldiers offer solid resources for my casual pursuits.

I’ve recently become interested in creating some kind of miniature wargaming scenario based on a Civil War skirmish that occurred in the town where I currently live. I’ve never really cared much for American Civil War history; sure, I’m familiar with it from school, Ken Burns’ documentary, and having visited a few battlefields in my youth, but it’s never really captivated me like other historical periods and conflicts (like World War II, ancient Egypt, and the Victorian British in Egypt and the Sudan). Junior General’s Battle of First Bull Run provides a basic framework for gaming my local skirmish, though I need to do a bit more research on the units involved and the sequence of events surrounding the battle.

The wealth of free basic rules, historical scenarios to game or reference, and downloadable paper soldiers to print and mount makes Junior General a good place to explore history through miniature wargames.