Wargaming in the 21st Century

For my 200th post regular readers must cast their minds back to Christmas last year and the post I wrote about the Galaxy Tab I was given by Santa Wife. I prattled on about the practical applications of such a device for the average wargamer.

Well, last night I put it properly to the test whilst playing a 750 point game of Warhammer 40,000 with Jeremy of The Chaps. Jeremy is still relatively new to 40k so it was as much about helping him understand the options available to him in the Codex and how that was reflected in-game as it was getting to grips with the rules.

I also took the opportunity to try an army builder app. Although I have Quartermaster on my iPhone I wanted to try Battlescribe because the basic version is free to download.

Seeing as these apps are supposed to make it easier to write an army list they fall at the first hurdle because, due to copyright laws the developers are not allowed to produce army lists. This means it falls to the community to write them this presents two problems.
1. You’ve got to find the damn things.
2. They’re prone to mistakes. The file I downloaded containing Codex Space Marines stated that Whirlwinds have armour of 22, 22, 20… I can’t be too harsh as this isn’t the fault of the developers but it’s worth keeping in mind especially before you pay for an app.

In truth, building an army list in Battlescribe was very quick. I had a 750 point list together in just a couple of minutes. The interface is reasonably intuitive although a little clunky when wanting to add units of the same type. The other nice thing is that by setting a  points limit you can’t exceed it which puts a stop to all those cheeky gits who go over by 5 points and hope you’ll let them off.

All the weapons and upgrades are evident as are special characters and when you generate the list once everything is added is nicely presented with unit choices at the top complete with additions and special rules. Again, it’s a slightly clunky to generate and each template is quite slow to load.

Stats are all at the bottom in one tidy place. But the one thing it doesn’t have is what the model or unit has as standard which is a bit pointless because you’re then forced, if you don’t know the book fluently, to refer back to the Codex. Obviously, I’m not expecting explanations of what things do, but I did expect to see under my entries the basic equipment – bolter, frag & krak grenades etc.

To be honest, I’m not sold on an army builder app on a tablet unless the rule sets you’re using are also on the tablet as having to go into the tablet each time you want to look something up is a bit of  faff. Not prohibitively so, but flicking through a Codex or Army Book is almost certainly quicker but then you’re in to the realms of why you bothered in a detailed army list in the first place.
I can see the benefits of having army builders on your phone as you’ll never, in theory, be without your army list which saves you time in the long-term, but it’s far more time-consuming than just typing it out or writing it down. But once it’s done it’s done, and, as I say, the convenience of never having to worry about doing a list prior to a game is a real benefit.

But it all boils down to how much you have to refer back to the book after you’ve gone to such lengths with a phone or tablet, and whether or not it’s as clear or easy to use as a nicely typed and printed piece of paper. I’m the kind of person who types out army lists on Word or Excel (other packages are available) and so include all stats, special rules, equipment and a break down of points cost because I like to know exactly what’s what, but equally I like to be transparent with my opponent so they can never doubt I’m being above-board. I’m not yet convinced that Battlescribe matches my Mk1 army lists, but it is trying. It certainly looks nicer than my lists.

There’s clearly work to be done surrounding army builder apps but both Battlescribe and Quartermaster are making reasonable headway. Having used them and see the speed in which I can build an army I’ll probably continue to do so but, if I’m honest, I’ll always make sure I have a reserve list folded up in the middle of my Codex.

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