Thursday, September 7, 2017

Balau Resurrected

The hallowed halls of the Balau Sector were once a hive of epic wargames activity, where friends gathered once or twice a week (more during tournament season), fielding impressive armies of all persuasions, and gleefully rolling dice till the wee hours of the morning amidst bellows of laughter, whoops and shouts, and capped by the obligatory trip to the local mamak joint for some teh tarek and roti, where the deeds of the preceding wargaming action were recounted, celebrated or mourned.

The history of the Balau Sector as a private wargames nexus began over two decades ago in 1994. My brother and I decided that the large spare basement room would be best utilized as a personal wargames space.

Initially we had an 8'x6' table with lots of 15mm terrain. Our main period at the time was Napoleonic, and we used Napoleon's Battles a lot, though we also used In The Grand Manner and General d'Brigade (and the occassional madness of Chef de Bataillon). We had a cozy group of around 4 regular gamers and we eventually called ourselves the IXth Coalition.

The IXth Coalition expanded to incude WW2 wargaming, using Command Decision at first, then moving to Rapid Fire! using plastic and metal 20mm models. The basement could now fit up to 2 large tables (typically two 8'x6', sometimes split into 3 or 4 smaller tables). The coven of regular gaming friends expanded as well, and the typical wargames night would host around 4-5 wargamers engaged in epic horse & musket or tank & rifle action.

Throughout the second half of the nineties, all the wargames action at the IXth Coalition involved refighting historical battles in those two periods. It was classic ol' skool wargaming in which armies were always WYSIWYG and fully-painted, and stuff like points-based games, "balance" and competitive-play were all alien notions.

Then in early 2000 Warhammer 40k finally arrived. Some of the members had tried to introduce 40k much earlier, but 2nd ed really looked and felt too cartoony and character-based (instead of army-based) to catch on. Warhammer 40k 3rd ed changed everything.

40k took Balau by storm, with the group even changing its name from the Napoleonic-inspired IXth Coalition to the more 41st millennium Imperium-isque Balau Sector. I started with the 3rd ed Eldar Battleforce (all of which are still in my collection today, and in fact the 3 jetbikes from that box are still seeing frontline duty) from a store in Singapore and the rulebook from eBay. I didn't even have a proper HQ and kit-bashed a farseer from a mage model. My brother started with a Dark Eldar army which was as deadly as it was graceful.

Balau Sector grew rapidly. Wargaming nights easily hosted upwards of 6-10 wargamers, and there were typically 3 to 4 tables up and running at any given time. We got into everything 40k. Everything. Hobby, lore, competitive play, mega-battles, campaigns, related games (BFG, Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Fantasy, Mordheim). You name it.

Balau Sector members quickly gained a reputation as players with highly-thematic competitive armies, and for awhile dominated the local competitive scene (we played countless practice games, and Balau Sector even had its own "aggressor" generic Space Marine force built around the day's meta, against which members would test their armies). It was great fun going to a tournament as a group of friends in a loosely-grouped "team" as it were. Our members won many a tournament in Malaysia and Singapore, and regularly placed in the top 3 for overall, generalship, painting and sportsmanship awards.

Campaign play was a very important feature of the Balau Sector. In fact, the best campaign I've ever experienced was run at the Balau Sector by Kai, which ran over an epic 10 weeks! Officially known as The Campaign for K-50490, and best remembered as Kai's Campaign, the GM-run campaign saw 8 armies fight over strategic resources in a far-flung world, complete with resource management, secret strategems, recon and special forces, experience points and strategic moves. Truly memorable.

Before 40k Apocalypse existed, mega-battles were another huge wargames activity which Balau members really deeply enjoyed. So when Apoc first came out 2007, we took to it like Berzerkers to blood.

For a solid 9 months, every single wargame played at the Balau Sector was an Apocalypse battle, typically on 12'x6' tables, with at least a couple on a huge 16'x6' table. The pure spectacle and epic scale of Apoc completely filled our imaginations and wargames appetite. Very quickly, Balau Sector saw scores of Forge World, GW and scratch-built super-heavies, flyers and titans take to the field. We were so much into Apoc that when a tournament came around, and we decided we needed to practice a few "regular-sized" games, the 6'x4' table looked really small.

In 2009, through a combination of real-life work and family factors, activities at the Balau Sector began to wind down. I eventually transferred my own personal wargames flag to Legio Malaysia, which boasted simply the best wargames facilities ever seen in Malaysia, and ran some of the best tournaments, painting competitions and campaigns I've seen.

The guns finally fell silent at the Balau Sector in late 2010, interrupted by the occassional wargame now and then for the next 6 years. As with most places neglected, tables and terrain fell into disrepair and much was lost in those dark years.

In May 2017, I was reminded that the Balau Sector has always been an awesome place to wargame, hobby and hang out. So I moved my wargames table from JB back to Balau. And started acquiring, building and painting terrain.

I reached out to people who enjoyed the Balau Sector over the years - and realized that we have a sizeable alumni. Off the top of my head - Rizal, Kai, Saleem, Faizal Paxter, Vinder, Gary, Faizal, Amin, Dann, Khairul, Jeff, Doc Selvam, Quake, Kadir, Dhany, Nick, Doc Chua, Ainul, Jo, Azim, Mahmud, Eddie, Ang, Syamel, Din, Wolf, Mark, Max ... and I'm sure I've left out a bunch of names here, my apologies if your name is not here.

Today, the resurrection of Balau Sector is well under way. There are now 3 tables permanently set up - urban, grassland/woods and desert - with a fourth table on the way. There is an abundance of 28mm terrain, and I continually acquire more over time. The old (like 20 years old) 15mm and 20mm terrain are still around, and at some point I will start building more 15mm terrain for Napoleonic and Flames of War and perhaps Team Yankee action.

Also, in the next couple of months, there finally (after more than 20 years) will be air-conditioning, which will make day-time gaming more pleasurable. The lighting will also be rewired to replace the spotlights with bright white fluorescent lights. I'm also bringing in some new shelves to replace the old ones, for storage and display of armies and terrain.

I am stoked and totally looking forward to the next couple of decades of wargaming action at Balau!


  1. Replies
    1. Indeed! And once the AC is in, I'll definitely like for you to come roll some dice

  2. At this point in my hobby journey ... the only photos I could see were the ones of the Panzer IVs and T-34s LOL ^_^ I'm never ever going to game but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy your tabletop photos :)

    1. Thanks. I've tons of them ww2 photos. But I can't find any of my Napoleonics ... hmmmm, perhaps a photo shoot is in order