Battlefront’s Empire Grows

As you may have seen on TMP today, the boys at Battlefront have been busy snapping up companies.  Just today they announced buying both Gale Force 9 and, somewhat more surprisingly, Wargames Illustrated.   As pointed out on the TMP fora, the acquisition of GF9 makes sense with the popularity of the specialty dice, templates, counters etc.   That looks to me to be a tactical move to bring some expertise in-house and possibly increase their distribution channels/footprint in the USA.   Hopefully it will mean improved customer service for the US, since I gather that in general it’s been fair to horseshit in the past.

Battlefront’s purchase of Wargames Illustrated is a more interesting move IMO.   A longtime stalwart of the historical miniatures scene, WI has global reach, a dominant brand name in the (albeit small) wargames press, and decades of expertise.  I haven’t bought the magazine much in the past decade mostly due to lack of interest and continually rising prices.  A single copy at the Source now runs $9.00, which is too much for me to drop on an issue that may not personally interest me much.  It will be interesting to see how the new ownership changes the content.  The grognards on TMP are already bitching about dumbing down the content and WI morphing into Battlefront’s version of White Dwarf… i.e. a glossy catalog of new figures and rules for FOW with some other filler.   We’ll see if that happens or not.

One interesting comment I saw was on how the acquisition of WI is a logical first step for Battlefront before they roll out their next historical game period, which is rumored to be Napoleonics.   This makes sense to me… a long time ago I was involved in a beta-testing for a game called “The World in Flames,” which was essentially a Napoleonic bolt-on for FOW.    I still have some of the docs for the game, including a rough 9-page rules addenda and a few army lists for Napoleonics and SYW.    There’s also a forum out there supporting Napoleonic FOW variants that isn’t very active, but has been visited by several Battlefront staff members.

I’m sure Napoleonic button-counters would decry the watering down of their period by having a company like Battlefront come in.  I for one would welcome it.  Whether you like FOW or not, it has brought a lot of people into historical miniatures, and those folks are researching and painting up excellent armies, and not just of paratroopers and SS.   There’s some lovely Romanians, Italians, Hungarians, and other minor nationalities represented.   The rules would not suit everyone (hell, NO set of Napoleonic rules suits everyone;  look at the TMP Napoleonics forum for proof of that), but if they provided a nice, quick game that was fun, represented the period fairly well, and brought new people into the period, why would you not want that?  

I just worked out a deal with a friend where I’ll be painting up some 15mm ACW figures for him in exchange for the FOW 2nd edition rules and several army books.  I also made contact with one of the local FOW players in town and hope to see a game in action fairly soon.   I’ve reached the point where I care more about nice-looking figures and fun games than painstaking accuracy.  Life’s too short and those games are usually too long.   Endorsing a Napoleonic version of FOW may get my recently-returned gamer card pulled again, but so be it.  If Battlefront can get 15-20 new gamers in the Twin Cities into Napoleonic, then bring ’em on.  I’d even start a new 15mm army or two if it would help jump-start that.

Battlefront is making some big moves to try and become a larger (if not the dominant) player in the historical miniatures market.  Bravo to them for taking some risks… it will be interesting to see how it pans out.


5 Responses to “Battlefront’s Empire Grows”

  1. 1 Ed Youngstrom February 15, 2009 at 7:52 pm


    I’ve been unable to surf the ‘net for the last week or so, and have been totally amazed at the storm caused by the purchase of WI by Battlefront.

    Your blog is one I watch (through Google Reader), and I appreciate your post. Balanced and thought through, you obviously didn’t just knee-jerk like some of the posters at other locations.

    Personally, I don’t care for FoW. But that doesn’t mean that I trash-talk it; it just isn’t fun for me. And that’s after a considerable investment in figures and books, too. (Now sold.)

    But if a Nappy-FoW comes out, good. If it gets figures sold, books written, and games played, good! I’ll try it, at least.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post,


  2. 2 Bart February 15, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Hi Ed,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you find something of merit in what I write.

    We’ll see how I like FOW. I have the books coming and have options to watch or play games in the next month. WWII isn’t a ‘core’ period for me, so I may be more willing to put up with some of the idiosyncrasies of the rules more than other gamers.

    I have Napoleonic figures in several scales, so adding an army or two for FOW Napoleonics wouldn’t be much of a strain. If nothing else it would be a good opportunity to bring some GW gamers in, show them horse & musket games and then open the curtain… “you like FOW Napoleonics? Here’s a little something called ‘BAR’…” 🙂

    Thanks again for your kind words…

  3. 3 Ed Youngstrom February 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    LOL! Just tell them that BAR is like “Horse and Musket Apocalypse…”

    Have you seen the League of Augsburg’s latest off-the-deep-end project? 5:1 Napoleonics with 28mm figures!

    WW2 has always been a favorite era for me to read about. I also board-gamed it with all of the Avalon Hill and SPI games back in the day. I never got into it with miniatures, though.

    I have a few dozen 28mm US and Japanese, but couldn’t find rules that anyone here would play.

    FoW seemed like such a good idea: right scale, no hub-to-hub tanks like in other games. But for some reason I just don’t like playing it. Perhaps it just depends on the opponent.


    • 4 Bart February 16, 2009 at 11:30 am

      I have seen Dave Imrie’s work.. and yes those 100-figure units are very, very impressive. I myself have been toying with the idea of using single-figure-based 28mm Napoleonics to be useful for a number of different rules sets including the Napoleonic variant of BAR that Jim Purky is working on. 60-70 figure units of Napoleonics would look grand, wouldn’t it? You’d have to play the games on huge tables, but the spectacle would be worth it… now I just need to get painting or find some willing cohorts.

      I used to play WWII micro armor back in the 1980s multiple times per month. Then I worked at GHQ for a few years and that more or less killed off my desire to play that period & scale combination again. I would look at 6mm for horse & musket or pre-gunpowder, but not for anything in the 20th century or beyond.

      FOW’s rules aren’t for everyone, and a lot of how much you enjoy or don’t enjoy the rules will depend on the people you play with. FOW has it’s cheese weasels just like 40k or tournament ancients players. I personally would avoid playing with those type of people if possible, for those gamers are the ones that can suck the life out of a game for me.

  4. 5 Ed Youngstrom February 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

    All true.

    My 28mm Napoleonics are indeed singly-mounted for just that reason. At the moment, I can play either Wellington Rules (the original set we used) or General de Brigade (although at 30:1 and not the game’s intended 20:1).

    My BAR collection used to be on multiple figure stands. When I got BAR and collected the first couple units specifically in the 10:1 scale, I got the wild hair and rebased the rest. THAT took some time.

    I can’t really see ever going back to multiple figure stands for 28mm. I have one LPE French army that is still based that way, but they are HCH figures and don’t match anything else I own, so no big loss. I might, someday, collect a specifically HCH army to oppose them, but my next game outing is to put on LPE demos at the local convention and my plan is to just use movement trays.


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