My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, December 23, 2013

It does not bode well for Sergeants Miniatures Game

First, let me start by saying that I did not label this post as a "review". I did not get deep enough into the game to actually review it. But I did get deep enough to get an impression, and you probably have a pretty good hint with the title.

So, Sergeants Miniatures Game (SMG) has been out there for a couple of years. I am not really sure of what the first iteration was but I first became aware of it about a year or so ago when reading about Day of Days, which featured the US Paratroopers in Normandy. Now to be honest, I was sort of tired of this particular theme, having several games and scenario books about this very thing, so I was not immediately sucked in. Secondly, the expansions were expensive, way too expensive for something that was just a set of painted miniatures (20mm, at that!). So I read reviews, downloaded teaser rules, and generally bided my time. I had too many other good WWII games to worry about adding yet another.

Then I heard that a British Paratroopers in Normandy version (Red Devils) was coming out. As I have never collected the British, in any theater of WWII, I thought that this might be justification enough to try it. So I invested in their Kickstarter project and waited.

Having received it a couple of weeks ago, I decided to give it a try and report back on what I thought. The reality is that I have little to report. I started to set the game up and stalled on certain aspects of the game. I went back several times and each time I could not come to grips with starting the game.

The first problem is that the game is tedious to setup. If you have ever complained about setting up a board game like Arkham Horror, which has a lot of different components, all of which need to be separated and shuffled, you probably won't like SMG. What makes SMG unique, and those pre-painted miniatures expensive, is that the soldiers represented by the miniatures and cards are intended to be unique. Your set of miniatures and cards in your boxed set will not match the miniatures and cards in my boxed set. If you buy expansion X, the cards and miniatures you get will not be the same as mine. I am not saying that the game is collectible – if you order another set of something the random element built into the manufacturing process will generate another unique set of stats for the cards and a random miniature will be placed in the box. You can't "collect them all" because there is no finite set; there are literally random elements to the production of the game.

What that means is that you take these cards, presenting the soldiers, scenarios, terrain pieces in place, etc. and build decks in order to play the game. Each player (not side, player) has an action deck and each game has a Story deck. Different factors determine which cards are in play and which are excluded. As there is a point building system for the sides, that means that pre-game play requires you price out your forces, build your decks based on who you selected, the terrain (primarily landmarks) used in the scenario, and so on. So there is really no way to pre-build all of this unless one player simply decides to play what he is given.

Then there is the factor that the cards represents the soldiers at different points (ranks) in their careers, along with rules about how many soldiers you can have of any given rank in your force. So a soldier may have one set of cards when a Lance Corporal, but another set when they are a Sergeant. In addition, so cards are purchased with points, adding further to the variability.

All of which is to say that the game does have a higher replay value, given this variability. But, only if you can muster then wherewithall to play the game in the first place. After having the game sit on my dining room table for two weeks, in various stages of pre-game configuration, I finally tore it down today, much to the rejoicing of my wife who wanted to eat a holiday meal at the formal dinner table again.

If I ever get through this, I will let you know. But I strongly suspect that I will never play this until I get to a convention where the game designer is giving demonstrations of it, everything is preset, and all of the rules questions you have can be instantly ironed out because the game designer is there to help you along. And if it plays well enough, it may motivate me to try it at home. Until then, however, it will sit on the shelf.


  1. It definitely does not bode well for the game. I have a feeling you may be looking at it in 20 years going "why did I not get rid of this years ago?".

    But, at least the Up Front Kickstarter is posting updates regularly. It's alive! If it comes through, I think you will enjoy that kickstarter delivery a LOT more than SMG!

  2. Considering that I played the original Up Front avidly when it came out, I would agree.

  3. SMG actually plays quite well. There have been issues with the rules but most concerns have been addressed in the 2.0 rules that came with Red Devils.

    It does take a bit to set up but I find it much easier to do than setting up a game of say, Avalon Hill's Squad Leader.

    With the early scenarios there really aren't usually that many soldiers on the board to make it that difficult to build a team. On Boardgsmegeek there are Excel sheets that people have developed to help create units for the game.

    I believe that last year they did attend a convention in Arizona. I would suggest going to BGG and looking for other players in your area. It really is a great game.

  4. Your views, while understandable, do not hold water with serious war gamers. First, the set up is very short even for a newbie to the game like me. Second, the play is very fast especially compared to "comparable games" such as Squad Leader or Bolt Action. Third, the random elements are very clearly explained in the rules. Forth, the game tears down rather quickly too. It's not a huge problem. I will encourage you to read my review at :

    1. If you think Bolt Action and Squad Leader are comparable, then I think I would find your review about as useful as you found mine.

  5. dunno - does "comparable" have to do with scale?


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").