Like you might know, I’ve been prevented from my wargaming miniatures due to the fact that my imagined playing room (my base) is still not ready to get started. It is also looking like it will be at least April before I can unpack my figures and use them to play.
Being a Wargaming Addict (sigh) there is no way I’m going to stay away from my passion that so long. So I took to using virtual tabletop application to get my wargaming fix.
Now I have tried lots of different software in my quest for something great to wargame on. Hey, if I have to do without figures,then at the very least I want to game on some great virtual tabletop. I also want it to feel like I am wargaming on an actual tabletop. Yes, I could fire up Combat Mission 2 and play that, but I want to play the many wargames I have rules for. I also want to feel like I am playing a tabletop wargame, and not a computer game.
And so I went on a quest…
Experiments With Roll20
Now I have already detailed my use of Roll20 and Battle Chronicler. Both virtual tabletops are great for wargaming in their own way. Roll20 is simple to use and has a number of powerful features. However, large maps are difficult to navigate around, and screenshots are a royal pain in the ass as you often have to take several and stitch them together.
If there is one feature I would want added to Roll20, it would be the ability to dump a capture of your playing area. That would be awesome. Instead, it takes me some 15 minutes per screenshot to scroll, snap, and then stitch everything together in Adobe Fireworks.
Also, the best features of Roll20 lie buried in its premium subscription. The thought of paying a monthly fee puts me off when I am looking for a long term solution. I want to make a single payment and wargame on a virtual tabletop to my heart’s content.
Why? Setting up games takes time. Creating maps and minis is labour intensive. So if I am going to go through the process, I want to get use out of it. I have wargaming friends who live around the world, and a virtual tabletop is great to game with them. However, none of us wants to be paying a fee forever to do it. Give us a one time fee so we know the costs and be done.
Battle Chronicler – Free Awesomesauce
Battle Chronicler is free, and has the additional advantage of tracking troop movements. It is not as flexible as Roll20, but does make exporting screenshots a breeze. However, it lacks the ability to handle card decks and roll dice. And that is pretty annoying.
In fact Battle Chronicler is not really designed to actually wargame in. It is designed to write up your battle reports. It is reporting software, not gaming software. In that respect it is brilliant. However, as I am an inveterate tinkerer, I had to see if I could play a game with it.
I did, playing a game of a Song of Blades and Heroes, which the software handled fine. I did need an external dice roller, but there are loads of those on the web. Even better, the software dumps screenshots with a click of the mouse. It is AWESOME and FREE and I think – for what it does – it is great. Certainly, if you are a WH40k or WHFB fan, you should have this software.
Battlegrounds Gaming Engine – The Holy Grail
As I trawled the Internet in search of some good wargaming software, I stumbled upon Battlegrounds Gaming Engine. This delicious piece of wargaming software handles cards, makes screenshots a breeze, has a massive array of functions, and costs just $15.
OK it is not all bunnies and light. BGE comes with a steep learning curve and has a manual that is around 150 pages. You don’t need to know it all to use the software, but you will find yourself using it as a reference document.
However, the effort you put in to this virtual wargaming tabletop software will reap you some amazing rewards. Maps are a breeze to import and you can make them any size you choose. You can set up holding areas for figures, charts and tables, and any other paraphernalia. Even better you can define views that function like game table bookmarks.
Wargaming with BGE
So View #1 can be an overview of your game table, while view two is your play sheet. A click of a mouse button and you flip seamlessly between them. No scrolling, no hassle, just a great playing experience.
The image shows how I have laid out a game of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum in BGE. The map is there, I have set up playsheets, and the counters and tokens for the British are laid out in their drawer (I set that drawer up because I am a sad, sad, man). The Germans are off screen, but with a click of the mouse I can zoom from German counters to game map and back again.
It gets better as all the cards can be set up in the game, with their own little card table screen. Also, the dice roller inside Battlegrounds Gaming Engine is impressive, allowing you to set up dice macros with a few clicks of a mouse. That is super powerful in comparison to others which often require you to know a little coding.
Even support is readily available. I had an issue with My operating system and the program. I posted on the forum and it was resolved in a couple if hours.
BGE has now earned itself a spot on my quick launch toolbar. I have a feeling it will be there for a while.