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  1. #1

    War Cards and Miniatures: Pimping out your Birthright battles

    I think that miniatures can actually improve a Birthright War Cards battles in a couple of ways, both aesthetically and by providing useful components for play.

    One problem with war cards is that they don't always make it easy to identify which army is which. This is no problem if the Anuirean armies of Avanil are fighting Manslayer's elves, or if the dwarves are battling goblins and orogs, but just as often, you have situations in which two Anuirean armies fight each other, and, of course, their troops tend to look exactly the same.

    What's a gamer to do? I have used three solutions in the past:

    1. Miniatures as "Heraldry"

    A few miniatures can greatly ease the identification problem, by providing "heraldry" for the opposing rulers.

    To do this, just find two different miniatures that are repetitive in your collection, and place one on each stack of cards that represents your army. When stacks of cards combine or split into new stacks, just add or subtract miniatures as needed, to keep the one mini per stack ratio. What the minis are doesn't really matter. Ancients wargamers might use Roman legionaries to mark one side's armies, and Gaulish warriors to mark the others. Fantasy gamers might use elf and orc figures to the same purpose.

    An even better method can be to find more symbolic creatures to provide actual heraldry. Wolves, bears, dragons (small ones), griffons, cockatrice, gargoyles, minotaurs, etc., if you have enough of the same figure, can be assigned as heraldric devices to one side and the other, and appropriate figures placed on stacks of war cards to show who the ruler is. Players could even be encouraged to buy a few inexpensive minis of the same type, and paint them as "heraldry" for their own armies.

    Remember that, as such miniatures are symbolic only, they do not have to be in the same scale. Thus, a 15mm scale dragon on one side would pair quite nicely against a 25mm orc on the other, as the minis represent the army's flags only, and not actual fighting troops.

    Different colored cocktail sabers, painted fantasy flags, plastic gems or even pennies for one side and nickels for the other are possible easy sbstitutes. Such solutions are just as utilitarian, but, of course, lose more or less from the aesthetic bonus that painted miniatures would provide. A compromise solution can be to use miniatures from board games like Conquest of the Empire or Risk Lord of the Rings, possibly even giving them simple, abstract paint jobs that would increase their appearance without causing too much difficulty to the painter.

    Note that providing "flags" for the troops can become even more important when multiple rulers join in the same battle as allies on one of two opposing sides. It will be quite important, when the battle ends, for the victors to know just who's unit of elite Anuirean infantry survived on the left flank, and who's didn't. When forces belonging to different rulers occupy the same space, place the cards all in the same stack, but offset the cards belonging to each of the different rulers a bit, so that the heraldric miniatures can be placed on the edges of the cards that serve in each particular army that is a part of the same stack.

    2. Replacing War Cards with Miniatures

    Another way to do this, for those with sufficiently large miniatures collections, is to use use actual miniatures in place of the war cards on the battlefield. This has its plusses and minuses.

    The plusses are that painted miniatures on the battle mat look quite nice, even nicer than the war cards themselves. Also, they don't have to be stacked, so that all of the units in a particular area are obvious just by looking at the battle mat. In addition, you can use different minis on different sides of the same battle to represent the same type of troop, and yet still distinguish different rulers.

    For example: let's say that Tuornen and Alamie are fighting it out. Both of these powers employ Anuirean knights. If you have a reasonably sized ancients/historical collection, you could represent the knights of Alamie with Roman cavalry and those of Tuornen with Visigothic cavalry. Those Warhammer Fantasy gamers out there could use Bretonian knights and Imperial reiters to the same purpose, etc. This also replaces the need for "heraldric" pieces to define the different armies, as each army will be defined by its own troop types.

    Another advantage of using miniatures in this manner, for those with large miniature collections, is that your army is not limited by the number of war cards in the box. One war card for each troop type in each army will be sufficient for even the largest battles(see below).

    The minuses are that you can't readily tell the stats of a particular company just by looking at the miniature, and you also can't tell whether the miniature has taken hits in battle. The solutions for this are relatively simple.

    For each troop type in your army, place a single war card of that type behind your edge of the battle mat. Then place a miniature on it of the same type that will represent those troops on the battlefield. Thus, if you are using Roman cavalry to represent Anuirean knights in Alamie's army, just place a single Roman cavalryman on an Anuirean knights card, and it will be quickly obvious to all players who's forces and what types exist in each area, without having to shuffle through stacks of war cards

    To show hits taken, place a 5mm d6 on the base of each damaged figure, showing the number of hits it has taken. Undamaged units have no dice placed on them. To determine the stats of a damaged unit, simply refer to the appropriate edge of the appropriate war card with the same number of hits taken.

    3. Using other game systems to resolve battles.

    Or, you can do away with the war card system altogether, at least for some battles, and simply fight miniatures battles in their stead. Rules for this already exist in the Battlesystem, 2nd ed., miniatures rules, as expanded on by the Cry Havoc article in Dragon Magazine Annual #2. Other systems have been created over the years to fight out D&D battles using tabletop miniatures or boardgames, such as Chainmail, Swords and Spells, the D&D Miniatures Handbook, Fiellds of Blood: the Book of War (Eden Odyssey, for 3rd ed) or the old Judges Guild City State Warfare rules.

    The upside to miniatures battles is that they are very aesthetic. The downside is a considerable investment of time and money beyond War Card battles.
    Last edited by gloriousbattle; 12-26-2013 at 03:14 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member arpig2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Ottawa, Ontario
    A cheap option is using paper miniatures. This website has a huge collection of them:
    Call me Bob.
    My Zaidan-Tai site:
    My Zaidan-Tai PBEM:
    My Tollanar blog:

  3. #3
    Senior Member Delazar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Paper mini seems the way to go. Then you can print them in different colors, representing the banners of each house.

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