Tomás Stisi likes to go to war. Miniature war.
Stisi, a senior history major, battles troops in what he describes as “miniature wargaming.”
Stisi is the president of the Tabletop Club on campus. He compares this type of gaming to dioramas, but says that gamers interact with them, using the pieces to play, instead of simply displaying them
as one piece.
“If you’ve ever been to a hobby store and you’ve ever seen those big table historical dioramas and they’re fighting like it’s World War II, it’s sort of like that, except you actually use the models to play a game with it,” says Stisi.
His introduction to wargaming came from a friend on campus. He knew about the game but had never played it before.
“The company that makes [the game] also makes a lot of other things like comics and video games, so I’ve kind of always known about it, but I never really got into it until one of my friends said, ‘we should try playing this,’” he says.
Since then, Stisi has found miniature wargaming a fascinating hobby.
He says that it depends on the type of game played, but for games like “Warhammer,” one of the most popular games and the one he finds himself playing the most often, “will essentially have you try to wipe out the other person’s army.”
Stisi finds miniature wargaming a relaxing hobby. He says miniature wargamers paint and assemble their own models, which can take “a very long time,” but that this allows him to be extremely creative. The game models themselves come in a kit with directions, which can be tedious to put together.
“It will come on a plastic sprue. Then you have to cut them out of the sprue and glue it together.”
For “Warhammer,” Stisi only purchased the game models, so he had a chance to build his own platform to use as part of the setup in the game.
“I built [the base to put the models on] out of plywood and I put some insulation foam and some spray foam on that and then some glue and paint,” says Stisi. “So, I made this for myself.”
He says likes the ability to be creative when gaming and the different ways he can set up his models to play “Warhammer.”
“Normally, you would need way more than I have here and one player goes on one side of the table and the other goes on the other side, and you would have [the models] set up around. Then you take turns rolling the dice then you would shoot at them, fight and charge,” says Stisi.
Rolling dice and telling characters which action to choose is reminiscent of the popular tabletop game, “Dungeons and Dragons,” but Stisi says that’s where the comparison stops.
“‘Dungeons and Dragons’ is a cooperative game, where you have the gamemaster and all the players and they all play together,” he says. “This is competitive- players are against each other. There’s no gamemaster, and the models have rules, and they’ll tell you what the dice do.”
Stisi has some advice for students who are interested in beginning miniature wargaming: “don’t do what I did and start off buying the biggest, coolest things because they’re pricey. If you want to start off with this, I’d say start small,” he says. “There are games where [the player] is just a single squad of guys. That would be called “Kill Team,” instead of the full “Warhammer.” I would suggest starting with that and seeing if you actually like the game before investing in everything else.”
Stisi mentions that for interested beginner players, there are historical games that are even less expensive.
“When you’re buying stuff like [“Warhammer,”] you’re paying for the intellectual property. It’s because of that you can’t get it anywhere else,” he says. “The historical games are a lot cheaper because you don’t have to pay for that.”
Stisi says “Star Wars” games are also popular and are on the less expensive side as well as the historical games and are played in similar ways.
He says that if beginning players are looking for a cheaper game to start with, “Warhammer” is probably not the one for them, but he doesn’t want to discourage players from picking up the game.
Stisi says that the Tabletop Club has begun to include miniature wargaming
in its meetings.
During regular meetings, the club plays other games like, “Dungeons and Dragons” and card games. Stisi says during the fall semester, the club saw an increase in members who all seem interested and active.
Ryan Kirkpatrick, a sophomore mathematics/education major, is another student who enjoys miniature wargaming.
Kirkpatrick, the secretary of the Tabletop Club, says he began playing when he joined the club, but had no prior introduction to the game.
“I went into [the Tabletop Club] and everyone there was talking about this game. I felt left out, so I wanted to look into it, and here I am,” says Kirkpatrick.
Like Stisi, Kirkpatrick explains that “Warhammer,” the game he has been recently getting into, is the biggest franchise of “minis,” the characters players use, and battling, “other than ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’” Although he had never even heard of “Warhammer,” Kirkpatrick says that it was his friends in the Tabletop Club that hooked him on the game.
Currently, Kirkpatrick only plays with other Southern students, and due to the pandemic, has not had a chance to play with anyone outside of campus.
“I know there are clubs in places out in the world, one of them is right near campus, but I haven’t a chance to do that yet,” he says.
Kirkpatrick says he likes playing “Warhammer,” because the whole aspect of the game is collaboration.
He says that “Warhammer” actually began as an “arts and crafts thing, where [the company] made minis. Then, in 1986, Rick Priestley, [the creator of “Warhammer,”] said ‘we’re making all these things, why don’t we do anything with them and thus began Games Workshop, the company that does all of this,” says Kirkpatrick.
Warhammer is unique in the sense that it was one of the first miniature war games that created the minis before they created the game.
Kirkpatrick says his favorite thing about “Warhammer” is building his minis. “I don’t build anything without my mother because I don’t get to see her often and she’s very artsy-craftsy. Whenever she comes in, we spend the entire time talking about what’s going on in our lives and building all this. It’s a lot of fun,” Kirkpatrick says.
Kirkpatrick says that when he finishes building his models, he starts painting them. He begins with a base coat, then when it dries, he adds a layer of shiny paint to make it pop. To finish off his model, he adds a clear coat of nail polish to preserve the paint.
Although Kirkpatrick enjoys playing “Warhammer,” like Stisi, he suggests that beginner players should start with something simple.
“If you want something cheap that you can just enjoy, try ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’” says Kirkpatrick. “You have invest in ‘Warhammer;’ it’s a lifestyle.”
Kirkpatrick says that “Dungeons and Dragons” is a mainstream game that will help players get into “Warhammer.’”
“In D&D combat, usually there’s about five people that fight against monsters. They get their own dice, and the DM, the dungeon master, gets their own dice,” says Kirkpatrick. “In ‘Warhammer,’ you need dice per unit. Because this is an army game, you need a lot of dice.”
Kirkpatrick compares this to “Dungeons and Dragons,” saying that for “Warhammer,” the standard, minimum amount of six-sided dice is 36.
Although these games contain lots of rules and strategies, Stisi says it looks more complex than it actually is.
“It’s a little hard to get into it as far as the sheer amount of rules go, but once you actually start to play it, it becomes very simple,” he says. “It’s a matter of learning the language of the rules. Once you do that, you can decipher pretty much anything.”
Ryan Kirkpatrick, a sophomore, stands outside Buley Library on campus. Photo | Elizabeth Mercado Kirkpatrick sets up his “Warhammer” minis in the Reading Room in Buley Library. Photo | Elizabeth Mercado Kirkpatrick’s unpainted minis for another miniature war game. Kirkpatrick’s finished “Warhammer” minis. The tape measure ensures his minis are positioned in the correct distance apart during the game. Photo | Elizabeth Mercado The first step of building minis- breaking them out of the plastic bases. Kirkpatrick shows how intricate his minis are.
Kirkpatrick says that “Warhammer,” is so popular, there is even a ‘Warhammer” league, where players can compete against each other. The winners of the games get to dictate where the lore of “Warhammer,” goes.
“The lore is very player driven,” says Kirkpatrick. “But players don’t need to know the lore to play the game.”
Although Kirkpatrick says he believes beginning gamers should avoid “Warhammer,” until they’re ready to commit to it, he does think that “Warhammer” is a good game, “if you’re comfortable with it.”
Because of COVID-19, the Tabletop Club meets and plays its games virtually. Stisi says the club uses the group server Discord, and they send anyone who joins on OwlConnect the link to join. Stisi and other club members use this server to send out information about the club, meeting times and activities. Stisi says they have been using the same club meeting times for the past few semesters.
“On Tuesdays, we meet [virtually] from 7 to 10 p.m. and on Thursdays, we meet from 7:30 to 10 p.m.,” he says.
Stisi says he hopes that in the future, more interested students will be inspired to take up miniature wargaming as a hobby and broaden their gaming horizons.
By Elizabeth Mercado