The Collection

The Lake 2017-180What does the Game use for miniatures and terrain?

The Game began the same as most campaigns in the early 1980s: with a group of kids playing around a kitchen table whenever possible. We had only a few rule books, a handful of dice, pencil and paper, and our imaginations.

Within a year or so, we began to use a few miniatures from Ral Partha and Grenadier to show position on the table. We began to paint them and looked for ways to make money to buy more. By the time the first phase of the campaign ended in 1985 and I set off for university, we had three matchbox car cases of miniatures.

The miniature collection expanded slowly over the next five years. As university students, money was always short and usually had to go for groceries rather than miniatures! I purchased my first tool box to store and transport figurines. We now used a hex map on the table to aid with movement.

When I moved to Winnipeg in 1990 and began my doctoral studies, the miniature collection began to expand. We repainted all the figs to bring the quality up to a certain standard. When I was finally able to move from an apartment to a house of my own in 1995 (and have a dedicated room for gaming), we began to use terrain. Additional tool boxes were added to the collection.

By the late 1990s, we were playing in a dedicated playing space with limited storage. Several painters in the group were showing skills that could now almost match the best out there.

It was after 2003 and my move to London, Ontario to take up a tenure-track position at a university, that the collection was able to expand substantially. I was able to purchase a larger house in which the entire basement would be my playing area. With more income, I was able to purchase more miniatures and terrain.

It was also at this time that I began tracking the finances for the gaming club. I began asking each player to contribute $60 a year to The Game. Attempting to organize a group of guys and request that they throw in money is never an easy task. The inevitable questions arose: `why am I paying money for your game? The collection stays at your place and is really yours. Why should I have to pay to play? Do you not have enough figs and terrain? When is enough?’ I explained that while I expected to pay much more money than everyone else (and the paltry $60 a year fee), I did not consider it only my game. I certainly could not play it by myself. I promised that as long as I was alive, The Game would continue, and they could play. It was an investment in fun. I tried to argue that it was the growth of the collection that helped maintain my interest and longevity, and therefore expansion was essential. Regardless, raising funds for the collection remains an awkward and difficult issue.

The growth of the collection since 2003 has been impressive. Because my world is an alternative fantasy version of historical Earth, and due to the national war gaming component, I want to be able to put on the table any and every possible army imaginable. I can now do this. Norman, Arab, Japanese, Aztec, Indigenous, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Bablyonian, Orc, Skaven, Giant…you name it, I can produce it. In addition, we have developed our own naval war system and I can now put out matching fleets.

With the emergence of pre-painted plastic miniatures from companies such as Wizards of the Coast, the numbers of certain monster types have increased dramatically. While they often require some painting to bring them up to our quality standard, they are cheaper and more durable. Our collection presently has 80 tool boxes, each with approximately 250 figs for a total of roughly 20,000 miniatures.

While these numbers are impressive, our terrain and building collections have also expanded dramatically. Our fig collection is painted to what would be considered “professional standards” but we “paint to play” not “paint to show”. We don’t spend hours and hours on each miniature because we simply have too many to paint. When I moved to London, however, a “master crafter” joined The Game. Roland Caron quickly demonstrated an impressive ability not to paint, bur rather to build whatever terrain I could imagine. From massive towers to entire fortresses, from temples to colosseums to warships, Roland can make it all. He is even able to carve his own pieces, produce a cast, and then mould multiple pieces.

Our gaming boards inevitably expanded to match the growth of the collection. We use two long banquet tables. My boards are 6’x 6’. I place two boards on top of each other and they are stuccoed on both sides with each being a certain terrain colour (earth brown/green; winter white; desert tan; and water blue). This way, I can flip the boards to correspond to season and terrain. And then I seek to have a large variety of hills, rocks, and vegetation pieces to match each. The boards are placed on a wooden frame to elevate them slightly and the frame is equipped with additional lighting as well as electrical outlets. The room is equipped with lighting to modulate dark/light, a large monitor for viewing maps and for online gamers, and surround sound for sound effects.

Over the past few years, I have made heavy use of Ebay to purchase terrain and figs from vendors around the world. The collection continues to grow and is likely unmatched anywhere!