Building a Game-Agnostic Army for Miniatures-Agnostic Games?

  • From my observation, there's been a lot of rhetoric about "miniatures agnostic" games lately. I'm interested in them, and I'm interested in building armies that can fill in for as many games as possible. This is part of why I gravitated toward WGA - in addition to developing games and settings for the future, WGA minis are highly adaptable.

    It bears stating that I'm not just new to the concept of "miniatures agnostic", I'm new to the entire concept of wargaming - so I have no idea where to even start for building an army even for a single game.

    I've got everything I need for my "sci-fi games" army - a Grognards Command/Heavy Support box, as well as what is effectively a Grognards box on its own (three prebuilt figures and the rest of a Grognards box won from an ebay auction in the form of loose sprues, along with several Raumjäger sprues). But given my lack of experience in the hobby, I have no idea where to start. I'm afraid that I'm going to make a bunch of soldiers that look nice but aren't really compatible in the games.

    I'm not even sure if this is an advisable idea. Should I just build an army for a specific game and then adapt it as needed? Most armies are like this - built for a specific game and then used as proxies or for games, miniatures-agnostic or otherwise, post-building and painting. But the line of thinking I'm going through right now goes beyond "I want to proxy my Grognards as Imperial Guard" (though I do see them fulfilling that purpose sometime down the line).

    Either way, I want to entertain the thoughts that I've had below to determine whether it's possible to do it the other way - building the army first, and then adapting it to various games. I want to make an army that is highly compatible with a variety of games without fear of clashing with various rulesets as I explore them. So most importantly, the considerations for an army's game functions need to be generalized. Which is to say:

    What are the functional considerations that I should have for my army? Should I be envisioning how my army fights, and then try to apply to the army to a game with that understanding? For example, something more general like "My Grognards are long-range specialists who utilize the mortar heavy support to clear out big units and squads, then move into good cover to take out the remnants"? Or should I do this by the unit, like "This Grognard is a comms specialist who also uses a laser pistol as a sidearm"?

    How many of my soldiers should be commanders or specialists? Are specialists their own squad, or should I include something like a medic or a comms specialist in each squad? What parts do commanders need the most to apply to the most games? I've seen a lot of games that require commanders to have a banner or other some such indicator. Are commanders unarmed by design, with the banner taking their arms slot? Do they use sidearms?

    Furthermore, as far as specialists, how should I expect their functions to work in the game? Should I keep comms specialists with my heavy support? Should I have some comms footsoldiers?

    What is an ideal army size for adapting to many miniatures-agnostic games? I think the 24 Grognards + the amount the heavy support box provides should cover a lot of games, but I imagine for something like 40K I'm going to need a lot. I feel more comfortable on the skirmish side of things (at least at this point in the hobby), so I don't want to overwhelm myself at first. I can always build more units for a larger game.

    And most importantly...Am I massively overcomplicating things and should just build pretty figures, scoring them however I want, as long as I keep things consistent within the rules of each game (i.e. making sure all soldiers with a certain loadout are the same kind of unit in game)?

    If anyone has any real-life military considerations that might factor into the organization of an in-game army (such as rank and file, how an army is trained, how squads are organized, and especially the specific sizes of different military divisions - squad vs. platoon vs. army, etc.), it would be greatly appreciated. I am a "civvie" who also hasn't done a lot of studying about war, so any thoughts in this regard/recommended reading would be greatly appreciated.

    Another question I want to ask: what's a good way to whet my whistle on wargames and get some experience, virtually? My partner more prefers the tabletop RPG side of things, and he isn't too interested in wargames. And both of us have reasons to be very careful about the pandemic, so I still want to wait a while longer before going to local events. What are the methods that get the most play, among things like Vassal/various tabletop simulators/dedicated online wargames? If anyone has any recommendations, let me know.

    Thank you all so much for your help! Happy planning!

  • I am interested to see where this goes, also, like your signature

  • @lauregami I am in the hobby mostly for the building/converting part, so I won't offer much on the wargaming part, but if you want to make a generic that can be used in different games, then I think you should follow a few things to keep the force growing naturally into something you enjoy:

    • First and foremost, pick the army you want to build without caring much about what game they will be used on. Defining the background of your force can help shape the actual models, by giving a backstory to the units or the preferred fighting style (weapons used, gear...);
    • Build more than you would typically need and have several of the same type of soldier, weapon or specialist, so that you can use more or less depending on the game you want to play (if game allows more radio operators you can use more, otherwise those models are kept in storage to avoid confusion);
    • Each weapon/model should represent the same thing in a given context (a flamer is always a flamer weapon, don't use a flamer as toxin projector in one unit and another flamer as a flamer in another unit*);
    • Don't try to do something like one solution fits all, because if you try to build a force that works for every known game system, you will certainly go mad;
    • If having lots of bodies to carry around for all the possibilities is seen as an issue, you could attempt to magnetize some of the arms to provide unarmed vs armed officers for example (assuming that would be required for some game systems). Magnetization is useful because you typically have a lot more sets of arms than bodies (similar situation for heavy weapons and such), but it is something that might be difficult to achieve, especially for beginners;


    * If the physical weapon is the same but for example you add effects for toxin vs flame effects, you could forget about that point, as an example, because the important thing is that everything is recognizable for what it is.


    To give you an example of how I typically address variability to allow versatility of units, I will use my own grognards as reference. For my "green" section of grognards shown here I have 24 soldiers, including 9 armed with rifles, 5 sergeants/officers (3 with guns, 2 with chainswords), 3 plasma guns, 3 grenade launchers (I think those are grenade launchers at least), 2 melta guns and 2 flamers.
    If I wanted to build a squad for Imperial Guard I could make a simple squad with 9 rifles and a sergeant, for a specialist squad I could use X weapons of one type and so on, based on the available 24 painted with the same scheme. Obviosly, how many soldiers I could use in a given game system would depend on the rules, but I have some flexibility.

    I hope any of that can be useful 🙂

  • @lauregami One Page Rules is a popular rules agnostic game, they offers their rules and army lists for free on their site. Their Human Defence Force from their Grimdark setting follows the lines of a fairly genaric sci-fi army and would work for most games I think.

    Stargrave can be made fairly narrative with co-op rules and campaigns you and your partner can play together. There are a few others out there as well.

  • Great post and great topic.

    The last part first, you can use Tabletop Simulator for online gaming, they have modules for every wargame I can think of.

    Now for the interesting part.

    I build my armies (all of them) so that they can be used for a multitude of miniature agnostic games.

    For Saga (various historical periods), Hail Caesar, and Lion Rampant, I have my Late Romans, my Vikings, my Saracens, and my Saxons. Also my Imperial Romans and my Celts.

    For Saga Age of Magic, Oathmark, Dragon Rampant, and other fantasy wargames, I use all of the above, plus my dwarves, my elfs, my halflings and my goblins.

    I have enough to mix them and have very versatile forces, depending on the type of game me and my friends want to play. 

    A practical example, my Late Romans. In my Oathmark campaingn, they are one of the kingdoms. They have some archers from the saxons, and shieldbreakers from the vikings. One command unit with general and flagbearer, one captain for each unit tipe.  Sometimes, I reenforce them with celtic cavalry and saracen cavalry.

    I painted them as cohesive units, but on the table, I mix and match according to my needs.

    I never assemble and paint an army to be a perfectly balanced winning machine (nothing wrong with that, mind you), I prefer to do it as I like it, and according to the backgroung I envision for it.
    Just more fun that way.

  • My usual approach is to build 40 man (HQ 4 + 3, 12 man squads) platoons and specialist squads of twelve (snipers, recon, medics, engineers, heavy weapon teams etc). I sometimes vary this by building four 9 man squads (+ HQ). Mostly though I'm mainly skirmish gaming, so I really don't 'need' platoons....never mind the full companies I've assembled.


  • Mostly depends on the size of the game. Figure out what is consistent, make that, make the rest for specific systems.

  • For sci-fi, I would just build the majority of them as the common weapon option(s) in the box and proxy that as the common weapon option in the game if we are talking platoon sized games(40+ minis aside), if its just skirmish games (10 minis groups) do what you want build wise. I actually have an unfinished (as in boxes unpainted) never ending "minis from everywhere" space pirate army with the idea small 10 man groups for smaller games and uniting them together for bigger games.

    For fantasy though, its actually easier since practically every army (including the fantasy race armies) are basically  historical human armies in structure and standard unites choice wise (archers, spearmen, armored, unarmored, etc.) with magic and some sort of fantastic element thrown in (ie dragons, spellcasters, etc.).  In this case I would actually just look over what list or options appeal to me since the weapons over all are the same.

    For example you may have oh, historical Celtic warriors and  the normal "goody two shoes" human armies lists in KoW don't do it for you, well there is the Dark elf list, or you have ton of horse mounted archer hobgoblins and orcs just don't seem right to you for them, well there is the wood and high elf lists with the option of going heavy on the horse archers. 

    Likewise you can pretty much do this sort of proxying  with any fantasy rule set (I read a hobbyist blog post once about a feudal Japanese army proxying as chaos demons in an unofficial Warhammer tournament and that in same tourney there was Koreans proxying as dark elves, and I have seen all sorts of armies in the Dragon's Rampant Facebook group).

  • Fantasy/Medieval is a lot easier to build agnostic collections for than science fiction, especially if they're human based. 

    The trouble with SF is that the tech assumptions tend to be varied, unless it's just cloning GW or something. Aliens usually have very specific looks, too, while fantasy pretty much sticks to the standard Tolkien types.

    Some rules sets do not much care, though - Stargrave is very much in this category, treating one guy with a gun pretty much the same as another guy with a gun.

  • @Mark Dewis Yeah, that is appeal of Stargrave, I think Stargrunt II is like that as well but with a greater focus on tanks,etc.

  • My thoughts and suggestions would echo those of@GreenScorpion  and I think his post applies from a wargaming as well as kitbuilding perspective. I do not really have a lot to add but would say from a veteran’s point of view, gaming armies (especially sci-fi) do not always follow real world military examples.

  • @Grumpy Gnome  To be honest when I started to write it down it seemed more focused on building the soldiers, but the wargaming aspects followed despite my inexperience with them.

  • I'm pretty much a strictly minis-agnostic player at this point, and like you, I'm trying to make some "generic" fighting forces that can be used multiple different ways.

    I'm playing the games "Five Parsecs from Home" for Sci-fi and "Five Leagues from the Borderlands" for fantasy. Both are solo/co-op and highly narrative-driven (think "wargame/RPG" hybrid), but can be played competitively if you want.

    Both games have the player create teams of their own characters, and then have a metric TON of enemy types - way too many to realistically have minis for each!

    So, my approach is to scan through all the different enemy types and find the similarities; which types are similar enough that they could be represented by the same miniatures? For Five Parsecs, gangers, bandits, angry rabble/mob can all use raggedy post-apocalypse/Necromunda style minis; Mercs, bounty hunters, maybe slavers might have better gear than desperate bandits, so they can all come from the Stargrave Mercenaries kit; corporate security, rank-and-file military, etc. have gear and tech a step above the Mercs, so they'll all be the Stargrave Troopers set; then there are the elite soldiers, and they're all WGA Stormtroopers/Panzerjaeger. Five Parsecs/Leagues are low model count games, so I'll only need maybe 8-10 minis for each category; I can also make a few "filler" minis in case I need more on the table, or I can simply use minis from a group I'm not fighting during this mission.

    After the generic soldiers, there are things like wandering enemies that might enter the fight mid-battle (animals, monsters, etc.), unique enemies (leaders or boss-types), mutants, aliens, what have you. I'll make a set for each, and just use them any time I run into a monster-type, alien-type, mutant-type, etc.


    Next, let's say you need something like light, medium, and heavy soldier types all in the field at the same time. This might sound obvious, but one easy way to tackle this is to simply add accessories, even to identical minis. For example, what I'm doing is taking soldiers from the Deus Vult Templars box, and using them as "The Curse of War" enemies in Five Leagues. The minis in gambesons are my "light" soldiers and archers. The guys with chainmail sleeves are my "mediums," and anyone wearing full chain and face-covering full helms are my "heavies." You can even add shoulder pads/pauldrons to do things like up-armor a mini to make it "read heavy" visually, or I even use pauldrons to denote rank; when all your minis look the same, a simple pauldron on one tells you who the leader is.

    Oof. I hope some of this rambling post is helpful to you…


  • Won't let me edit for some reason...anyhoo, capes are another simple way to denote rank, too, as is a simple raised weapon; little things that are also low-profile enought that they can be ignored if no leaders are present.  A super-ornate, or dramatically different "leader" mini is much harder to pass off visually as a generic soldier if you have to, but they're perfect for high-ranking officers, tough bosses, etc., so that's pretty much all I'll use those types for.

  • Another traditional way of marking a leader or character is to model them without helmet. Just watch out for Norman arrows ;)

  • I agree with @Estoc deciding the size of force that you want is the firt step. making a miniatures agnostic army for a small skirmish game and for a mass battle game are two different experiences. 


    I would say that it would honestly be a good idea to generally focus your force organization around warhammer fantasy, and 40k systems. as much as it may pain many of us to say it, most games out there have been deeply influenced by these rulesets and their legacies run deep. having a unit leader, banner, and musician like in WHFB for each unit is a pretty safe bet in most other fantasy or historical games. Likewise 40k army compisition with special weapons limitations to a squad and the like are usually pretty reliable fallbacks in sci fi games. 


    I personally like making a historical army and then adding a few bits that make it work in fantasy games if needed. For example you could make a viking army and then grab a few giant wolves or frost trolls and giants and BAM its a fantasy army. It's always best to start with your core, grab a box of your desired infantry but only after doing research to see if acceptable boxes, STL files, or models exist for the other stuff youll need (leaders, cav, armor, ETC)

  • @Big Boi Hmm, I actually would not bother with WFB as a model since it is still dead and KOW pretty much replaced it as the go to mass combat ruleset, and thats a better ruleset from what I can see. Even with a WFB revival planned in 2 years, you don't know what they will do to it rule wise so planning around whats in 8th is likely a noob move.

    The only reason to consider using WFB as model is if you like the older editions (1st-5th) and really want to play oldhammer at the club.

    It might be worth bothering with Wh40k since that is all some people play, on the other hand something like one page with 40k as an after thought might be a better option for most folks. I think the SF game you like and play the most  is the one you should build around if your planning things out, not whatever GW is putting out.

  • @lauregami I am going to put this in a larger informed post letter but for now here's a very short story. Many years ago, as all gaming groups, we amassed loads of different figures, time periods, etc.  Based always, and presented in individual and formations. We`d talked about, as we wargamed, and RPG`d. it would be nice if all our figures could be used in any game. Shadowrun had not long come out and that comprehensive range of variety in species, and people set using Cowboy conversions Indians all sorts We stopped worrying how things were based, ranges, etc, and used the rules as real life. These became some of the best games of our lives, and as we played Dredd, Stargate, Starwars, Twilight 2000 we went transparent  based figures and very loose Unit formations. It led to even more strange games with "Toon"  shows being put into scenerios so toy figures Scuby Doo, Batman, "Sealed Knot", American Civil Waar Societies, Films, could be used in games. There is a scenerio out there to link any figure range together, even if the Civil War limbers are parked up on low loaders they are still cover for the game,  If a banner tied to trees reads Re -enactment Show this week end, you don`t need the cavalry if there`s continuity.  Make the rules work realistic but for you that's why we're D20 most of the time now.  

  • @Brian Van De Walker There are enough major revivals (9th age, Warhammer armies project) that are popular enough that you could find a community in most cities for it. all that aside even with KoW making a unit leader, banner, and musician doesnt hurt your army at all and if you make your force geared to more complex games you can then simplify it down for simpler games 

  • @lauregami Your post is full of the joy of begining, I don`t want to tie you down. Allways go with what you fancy to build and to paint, that way with shows being undiscided yet, the pleasure will still be around even if you don`t play there. My choice of D 20, allows Fantasy, Si/Fi the lot. You probably Know I`ve greatly thinned down my collection, but that decision means "One Size Fits All" for scenery, and can be used in all games. A horse drawn DD cart, is a survivalist wagon in future games. Hours spent on roads and "Trees" modelling in particular doesn`t mater, as you`ll get multiple games with them. I think that as Wargame Atlantic brings out more Modern, near Modern, and Si/Fi, we will see and hear a lot more from you.  Enjoy your hobby, and remember, every thing can be built in to play, if you want. your minds the limit, and I think all gamers have great minds. 

  • After re-reading your OP, in my opinion you should veer away from trying to make your armies/squads "game agnostic."

    Instead, figure out what kind of gamer you are, because that's going to determine what you do with your minis.

    Are you a solo/co-op or competitive player?

    • If you're solo/co-op, it's easier to play the minis you want just because they look cool.  These types of games are more focused on narrative than hardcore strategy and tactics; they ride somewhere between pen-and-paper RPGs where the only limit on what you can do is your imagination, and wargames where you are governed in your actions by a stricter set of rules.  While this type of wargame is on the rise, it's still a smaller crowd than competitive wargaming; there may not be a group willing to play this style game in your area, but they are easy to play solo, and in fact, many are designed from the ground up to be played that way.  Since you already play D&D, you might ask some in your group, or your partner, if they might try it out with you.  Being narritve gamers already, they may just be open to the idea!

    Are you a competitive player, and if so, which kind: serious or casual?

    • If you're a serious competitive player who's really into finding winning strategies and competing in tourneys, bear in mind you will likely have to play to the game's "meta" in your area.  The "meta" is the idea of "gaming the game;" players figure out which combination of minis is the most powerful according to the rules set that's used (which game, which edition, etc.) and play those, not because it's their favorite army, but because it's the most powerful at the moment.  Usually you'll see copycat armies of whoever's won the latest national tournament, same as how people start using the same deck that won the Magic: the Gathering national championship.  The reason for this is that these armies/combinations are pretty much objectively the most powerful because the current rules make them that way; once an army becomes the meta, however, it's not long before the game company tries to rebalance the game by releasing errata that buffs/nerfs certain models, or releasing a new edition of the game altogether that attempts to rebalance everything in one go.  I'm not sure that perfect game balance can ever be achieved, because new models are constantly released, and no amount of play testing can compare to releasing the game to thousands of gamers who will inevitably figure out how to "break" the game, and so the "Dance of the Meta" continues eternally. Now, not everyone is going to play to the meta, but in my experience there are usually one or a couple people in the group who do and they will have rules-supported advantages and that's just they way it is.  They usually have unpainted armies, because once that army isn't the "meta," anymore, it's going on eBay and they're buying the new "meta." If you're into playing in tournaments, it's also a good idea to check with the tourney's rules to see what models are "legal." Some tournaments only want official models period, no exceptions.  Others offer a little more leeway for conversions, third-party models, etc.  Just check first. Now, that's not to say this is the wrong way to play; if the objective is to win, people are naturally going to figure out what the best strategies/combos/armies are, and that's just they way it is.  Just be aware that if you're looking to play seriously competitively, you'll be playing to the meta and likely cycling your armies in and out as the meta shifts and changes.
    • If you're casually competitive, it's easier to play run-what-you-brung.  Here's where you can play what you think looks cool, let your conversions run wild(er), play with third-party minis to your hearts content, all that jazz.  The only question here is "What game are we playing?" Minis-agnostic doesn't always mean "anything goes;" you'll need to make your armies fit with the setting, too.  Wild stuff like time-traveling, laser-wielding, pterodactyl-riding adventurers galavanting around in the days of King Arthur are usually limited to the solo/co-op/RPG "narrative" games; competitive games, even casual ones, are more uniform.

    Some general advice that's good for all play styles is that it's always a good idea to play as close to "What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG)" as possible.  If a soldier is supposed to be armed with a light machine gun, make sure the mini looks like it's carrying something that looks like a light machine gun, and not a bastard sword or a rocket launcher.  That way, you and your opponent/teammates know what's what on the table; it minimizes confusion and keeps the game moving if you can see what a mini us carrying at-a-glance, rather than constantly checking the stat card.  Proxies are fine, but WYSIWYG is king.

  • @Brian Van De Walker I think Big Boi is talking more about the specialists/command models and force orgs (multiples of 5 per unit, single model characters, etc.), which are shared by many other systems, including OPR.

  • @Big Boi @Estoc

    Fair enough argument about command, but unpopular opinion as it maybe, I still think you shouldn't build squat around living or dead GW games unless you really, really want to play them (you masochists, you 😘🤣) since it can affect your build and paint job of individual minis as well, which kind of defeats the point of an agnostic army, likewise some specialists unites often change from ruleset to ruleset (while flamers and rocket luncher are across the board in Sci-fi gaming, Psychicers and inquisitors are not, nor should they be).  I know its hard to understand but GW is not the "Alpha and Omega" of wargaming.

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