Tabletop Army Managers: One area the Ipad doesn’t excel in (yet)

I’m a miniatures wargamer, and have been most of my adult life.  I like owning an Ipad and find it useful for ALL kinds of endeavors.  It would be logical to get the two pastimes to synch up so the Ipad can help to play wargames.  You’d think it would be a natural.  I already read books and magazines on an Ipad, reading wargame rulebooks would be a no-brainer.  And one feature that I thought would be simple enough has proven to be elusive– Army Managers and Army Creators on the Ipad.  The function I’m describing is the ability to enter tabletop army function into an application, and have it spit out a roster that could read directly on the Ipad, or sent to a printer.  Again, this seems like a natural to me, and not to hard to create using something like Microsoft Access.  Just time consuming.  So I was glad to learn there were some purpose made Army Generator/Manager apps in the App store.  That is, until I started to buy a few:

I looked into a few under “Army Generator” or “Army Manager” in the App Store

Sean Rogers Quartermaster
Sean Rogers Quartermaster

Sean Rogers’ QUARTERMASTER seems to have a tight interface and the necessary one-to-many relationships required to make an Army Manager possible. Yet, Mr. Rogers states up front that this is a Warhammer and Warhammer 40K app only, and frankly I have no use for it. I don’t play Warhammer and the App is hard wired to only run that.

So, we eliminate that one.

I also took a look at Broken Ninja’s ARMY GENERATOR app. It seems more generic than QUARTERMASTER but frankly I got scared away by the very bad reviews on Itunes.

Team Broken Ninja Wargame Army Builder.

It’s supposed to be buggy, but it actually does look like it could generate an actual generic fantasy, non-Games Workshop related army list.. I may have to revisit this.

Sadly, I did get rooked into buying a couple, starting with IRoster Fantasy (See below). I think the wording might have been more generic, or it was simple wish-fulfillment on my part.. I didn’t WANT it to be another GW tabletop army list maker, so I sort of invested the time and effort to give it a shot, which I’ll try to portray here. Before I get started with screenshots, I’ll describe my test case for utilizing an Ipad Army Roster app.

Requirements: Easy to use, customizable, able to define or work with armies that aren’t hardwired for a particular game system. The user SHOULD be able to create his or her own races, their own classes, their own statistics, their own army structures, from whole cloth. There should be a range of flexibility to the design– like many Windows based army generators enjoy.

As my test case, I tried to enter in an “Army” (really a fleet) from UNCHARTED SEAS. You might say, hey, that’s no fair! But they are points-based, divided into factions, and easily definable. It SHOULD be a natural, yes? Erm, no, as it turned out.

iRoster Fantasy
iList Fantasy utility

While I admire the look and feel of this Simon Genest’s iRoster Fantasy app, it became immediately apparent that the Fantasy in iRoster Fantasy is only supporting fantasy as interpreted by the Games Workshop company. The following screenshots are an attempt by me to “cheat” the app into creating a roster for my Uncharted Seas Thaniras Elves fleet. It was a dismal failure.

iRoster: new List
iRoster: creating new list

Already, it’s not living up to my expectations as defined above. I can’t even define the name of the fleet, I have to pick from GW’s list of Fantasy armies.

A different approach, staring with defining unit types
Unit customization

My thought was to create ship types as unit types, sort of swap out Elven Frigates for Elven Spearmen, as it were.

Copying Unit

Once created, maybe I could possibly copy the number of ship types to match number of hulls to the fleet numbers and come up with a fleet.

No such luck.  I couldn’t actually create a container object called “Thaniras Elves for starters.

You can’t create a new race. You have to take these Warhammer Fantasy ones.

So that means, the most “Elfish” I could make my Thaniras Elf example is to name it “Wood Elves” and do the mental juxtaposition. That only works if you’re playing with standard fantasy types, and it’s kind of a lame methodology anyway.

In the end, I gave up on iRoster Fantasy. It’s pretty, but it’s also hardwired for Games Workshop, which I thought you could cheat your way around, but no such luck. It’s too much of a headache to even achieve a half-assed attempt at forcing a square peg into a round hole.

Which brings me to my second attempt, Cory Fong’s Tabletop Army Manager.

Cory Fong’s Tabletop Army Manager … sounds generic enough, yes?

I had MUCH more enthusiasm for Cory Fong’s app than iRoster right from the get-go. There appeared at first glance to be a high level of customization to this application:

Defining …

Wow, defining factors! A good start.

Race Names? Check!!!

If you are familiar with Uncharted Seas, you’ll see “Bone Gryffons” up there. Yeah! It can define races as well! Booyah!

The Entire Uncharted Seas “universe” entered in…

I went to the trouble of creating fleet “containers” for each race…

Then, individual ships per container…

My first stumbling block.. I couldn’t figure out how to create a class of an object, and repeat it in an army (or fleet). In this case, the Thaniras Raven frigate. I just wanted to create it once, and add, say, six of it to an individual instance of a fleet. I ended up thoroughly puzzled about how the designer approached this very basic concept. No biggie, I just created “Raven1, Raven2,..” and cursed it for a clumsy attempt at working around the designer’s intentions.

Evidence that the unit statistics are hardwired for Warhammer Fantasy. Sigh….

Well, here is where we get to the point where this app totally breaks down for me. At the most minute level, you can’t change the unit statistics. They are, simply put, Warhammer Fantasy battle statistics. Nowhere in the description does it say “This is for Warhammer fantasy only, don’t bother if you want to change this”. In the picture above, I’m trying to figure out a way of superimposing a stat line of Uncharted Seas stats as a NOTE to the hardwired Games Workshop stuff, but this is proving to be tedious, slow and frankly, a pain in the ass.

Trying to define a ship in this App.
And trying to define a fleet.

In the end, I gave up on the Cory Fong app, too, which was more disappointing than iRoster because it really LOOKED like it might get me where I wanted to go, and didn’t reveal it’s buried “hardwired GW” state until I had been banging away on it for over an hour to create something pretty simple. If I have to work that hard on creating workarounds for what should be a simple function, than the hell with it. I’m done. I believe Mr. Fong did acknowledge that the stats were hardwired in a followup email, but I can’t find it to quote it, it was a few months ago.

So, in the end, here we are, without the be-all and end-all in Army Roster/Manager apps, still looking. I would have thought the Ipad was a good medium and a great tool for this– less paper, easy access, quick to make changes. It turned out to be more daunting a challenge than I would have suspected. I thought an army list app would follow a sort of one to many relationship with the stats being definable up front, sort of like this:

But again and again I’m seeing anything but this. Which is great, I guess, if you play Warhammer Fantasy or 40K, but it pretty much sucks if you want to play anything else in the gaming universe. I’m hoping someone will be able to create that universal list building application I have in my head someday, because we’re not anywhere near that right now as far as I can see.

Oh, and a last word for App developers.  Call it what it is.. it’s NOT a “fantasy battle list generator”.. it’s a WARHAMMER battle list generator.   That distinction becomes important someone wants to play something other than Warhammer.  Mention it in BOLD TYPE somewhere before said person shells out 7 or 8 bucks, please.


  1. Wow, how disappointing! This seems an area tailor-made for tablets. Thanks for going through the trouble of reviewing. I understand the WH/WH40K market is the one market to server if you’re serving only one, but at the same time it seems like all the effort to produce such an app leaves you just a few short steps from a universal model.

  2. I would love good app for rosters and such as well. But I have given up hoping for such a thing a long time ago when I got into historical wargaming.
    The different unit stat concepts alone would create havoc. Not to forget variable stats or unit based stats for soe games and individual soldier stats for others. If only I knew just a little bit about programming (from what I have heard app programming for iOS based devices is not that hard if you know the basics) I would do it myself.
    So I will follow your quest most eagerly!

  3. Thanks, Greg. I *don’t* have a problem with purpose built roster apps, btw, I just think it’s false advertising for an app building to refer to it in generic terms in the App store.

  4. Hey guys,

    I wrote the Tabletop Army Manager for myself a while back and decided to put it up on the App Store when a few gaming buddies said they would want to have it as well… didn’t really design it for anything outside of my uses back then.

    In the past month, I’ve been working on a complete (and I mean COMPLETE) revamp. I’ve got a much better grasp of Warhammer Fantasy now (relative to when I wrote TAM) and I think this version will blow your socks off.

    Firstly, it will NOT be Adobe AIR based… I’ve got it completely in HTML5 and am currently scaffolding the app.

    Misternizz, thanks for your review! I certainly understand your concern regarding a “generic” name; the problem is actually with GW and their legal department… they will sue the pants off you for calling it something more specific. (I’d be happy to share the emails 😉 )
    I’d really like to get you and anyone else who’s posted on board to help with a beta test before I release this version. Are you folks interested in giving some input and helping out for the good of the gaming world?

    Thanks again!

  5. Robotdevil, I actually don’t play Warhammer Fantasy at all, my big gripe in this article was that a “generic tabletop army builder” that has definable statistics for troop types doesn’t appear to exist anywhere. My problem wasn’t really with the Warhammer Fantasy app being a Warhammer Fantasy app, it was the fact that it had a generic name, and I thought I was purchasing something that could accommodate statistics other game rulesets, such as Uncharted Seas. I’d like to have an app that is that flexible. Good luck with the app, I hope it does well.

  6. Sorry, I wasn’t clear with my address to that issue:
    The reason I use the generic tag is due to GW IP issues and referencing their games; if I *do* specify it, then I’ll likely have GW legal on me.
    The new design for the app *will* address your issues (and then some!)
    I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Be sure to update the app once I release the update 🙂

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