Originally created 01/17/04

War gamers clash in miniature battles



Greg Whitaker concentrates as he adds detail to his miniature British soldiers with a thin paintbrush. The Siege of Augusta, a convention of war-gaming enthusiasts, is being held this weekend at the Sheraton.

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From Napoleon Bonaparte to Saddam Hussein, military leaders of the past came to Augusta on Friday, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of troops and a battlefield smell of warmed resin.

Some stood ready to attack on tables inside a Sheraton Augusta Hotel room, while other famous leaders became belittled in more ways than one.

"Is that Blackbeard?" asked Jim Birdseye as Charles Duvall, of New Ellington, S.C., held up a nickel-size shrunken head that peeked up from a hole in the ground.

"Who else came out of a spider hole?" Mr. Duvall asked before revealing his miniature creation - a heavily bearded Saddam Hussein.

It was the 12th annual Siege of Augusta, a convention that continues today and Sunday at Sheraton Augusta Hotel on Perimeter Parkway. It includes about a half-million military miniatures and dozens of tabletop war games and tournaments, including medieval, ancient Roman, Civil War and World War II battles.

"You are your own Napoleon," said Dr. Birdseye, a history professor at Augusta State University and spokesman for the event, which is sponsored by the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society.

Dr. Birdseye explained that, in tabletop war games, certain figures, sized 15 mm to 90 mm, can inflict more damage on others and that the rolling of a die helps determine this. The goal in some games is to inflict as much damage to an opposing army as possible, while in other games a rescue mission could be afoot.

"This is a great hobby for kids," he said, noting how the games teach history and encourage reading, mathematic and artistic skills for those who make their own figures.

The show isn't just for children. Dr. Birdseye said the event, one of about 60 its size each year nationwide, attracts about 200 participants and 400 visitors - many of whom are adults.

"It's like playing with Army men when you were a kid, but only with rules," said Mike Jackson, of Augusta, while heating a batch of resin that he quickly molded into a Napoleonic-era battleship about the size of a couple of bars of soap.

Dr. Birdseye said participants came from as far away as New York. Chris Hughes drove from Raleigh, N.C.

"I started when I was just a kid," Mr. Hughes said. "And I was always interested in history."

SIEGE OF AUGUSTA

WHAT: War-gaming convention, open to the public

WHERE: Sheraton Augusta Hotel

WHEN: 9 a.m. to midnight today and 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday

COST: No cost for visitors; participation costs $12 for members of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society and $15 for nonmembers, with a discounted rate for families and children

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.