I get asked that question a lot. Since I have more or less managed to get my butterfly tendencies under control, getting balanced forces on the tabletop has been fairly straightforward. At the weekend, the conversation cropped up again. We were at a seventeen player event featuring two different types of games using a core rules system - One was a SYW and the other ACW. To tactically mirror the periods it is important to have the right balance of 'arms'. Although we had a blast and the games looking stunning, I noticed that the SYW game lacked the requisite amount of cavalry. This resulted in a very slow, linear firefight the output of which minimized player ability by magnifying the arithmetical probabilities and thus, producing a stalemate and a predictable result. This bounced into a conversation with my friendly opponent who remembered jumping into ECW collection, painting loads of Foot and then realizing (too late) how important cavalry was in the period. By that time, the itch had worn off.
So, her are ten tips to getting your forces fighting quickly and feeling right on the tabletop whilst maintaining your mojo.
1. Pick a period that really grabs your interest.
2. Read about it. Not just uniforms and stats, dig into the structure of the armies, the commanders, the political backdrop and how battles unfolded.
3. Choose an aiming point. Don't just say, I'll have one of them, oh, and one of them, and hmm, that is a nice uniform, must do that too. Select a short phase of the war, an incident, a battle, an orbat and work to completing that.
4. Try and get a few games in using someone else's stuff and see if you like it.
5. Paint you troops in proportion. If the ratio of Foot to Horse is 3:1 in the period, complete a cavalry unit for every three infantry. I recommend not leaving the cavalry to be the fourth unit painted, but rather make it the second, or the third. Avoid too much weird and wonderful and build around a core of commonly used types of units, ships, vehicles etc. Try not to get sucked into the vortex of corps level assets supporting platoons which is very common in WW2+ gaming and gaming systems where manufacturers just ant to flog gear.
6. Don't work to massive orbats, you will run out of puff. Pick a small action and get the troops on the table as early as possible. Experience and fun will definitely spur you to get back to the painting desk and get the next unit done. Soon you'll have a brigade, a division, a corps, a fleet!
7. Play some objective based scenarios and avoid where possible, line 'em up and shoot games. Sometimes these are fun but often require equal forces on each side. Scenarios can be imbalanced and fought with minimal forces which means early immersion in the gaming fun. The only reason I started the 4Play scenario series was to meet this need. It obviously hits the spot as I am up to pack number 65 now with a boatload in the pipe. Gamers like fodder!
9. Team up. Working in little groups provides opponents and allies. Forces can be consolidated for bigger games. Do this even if your cooperation is online only. Just having interaction with others really helps to keep the motivation up.
10. Join a few online groups which are relevant but don't overdo it. I recently saw someone wh owas a member of 300 FB groups. A surefire way to get nothing achieved other than a doctorate in voyeurism.
That's it! Works for me.