Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Commence Hostilities...

I'm not entirely sure at what age I got interested in the idea of wargaming, but whatever it was it was quite young. I wasn't even particularly interested in military history and such a thing wasn't particularly fashionable in education in the early 1980s so I imagine that the opportunity to lead an vast, imaginary army into victory or defeat just appealed to a latent megalomanical streak in the psyche of the infant Boy Coop. I remain more interested in the wargames rules that simulate a proper, large-sized battle or campaign than I do in implausible clashes between two armies of brigade strength with a few infantry battalions, a couple of cannon and a regiment of horse a piece.

(It may sum up my gaming loves in that to my way of thinking the arrival of Epic 40,000 in the early 1990s, which dealt with Warhammer 40,000 big battles in micro scale, made Warhammer 40,000, small battles in heroic 28mm) totally obselete.)

I was quite lucky in that in those days (UK, 1980s) the local libraries all seemed to have copies of Don Featherstone's books so that teaching myself the art of wargaming was relatively easy - go and get out 5 of those books at a time, read and inwardly digest. Early experience to Featherstone shaped my wargaming interests in a manner that hasn't always aligned it with whatever wargaming was going on around me.

This was effectively that we were trying to simulate history, explore what happened once things changed and build a game that rewarded historical tactics with realistic results. And I mean "build a game" - Featherstone's approach seemed to be that you wrote your own rules and kept tweaking them to reflect your reading and bits you'd lifted from other rulesets. What we'd today call "homebrew" or a "hack" of somebody else's ruleset. You refought real battles, you know affairs that had really happened and to be honest usually one side didn't stand much chance but that was just the way of things.

It was a massive shock to the system to (much later in my wargaming "career") rub up against the tournament crowd and be aghast at the whole idea of optimised super-armies and playing the rules and loopholes within those rules rather than the period. The modern Warhammer 40,000 scene is a typical example of the sort of gaming style I loathe.

In fact I didn't even experience the concept of a points value system until Warhammer 2nd edition, a points value system which even the author, Rick Priestley, admits breaks down completely when put under pressure - and he said this even as he introduced the rules, effectively apologising for them as he did so.

(An aside - under a points value game system such as Flames of War or Warhammer 40,000 is it possible to build a truly terrible force that matches in points with an efficient, optimised one? Since it is surely points values are total shit at doing what they are intended to do which is produce two equally matched forces?)

I am wedded to the famous Fletcher Pratt quote - Nothing can be done contrary to what could or would be done in actual war - which should be Rule #1 of every historical wargame.

So, as you might pick up I love the move back towards the Featherstone wargame as exemplified by games such as Black Powder and that attitude is what you'll find on this blog.

If I had to list my likes and aims in wargames I guess it would look like the following;

1 - Huge sized battles, rather than "all we can workably do under these rules" little piddling affairs.
2 - Nobody cares about balance.
3 - Don't make my head hurt with the rules - wargames night is on Friday and I will already have had five working days of thinking out computer stuff to tax the brain before I get here.
4 - I like history and I like science fiction.
5 - I don't go in for games that seem popular because they are currently "fashionable" - I've been bitten too many times by the way that the scene for some of these games vanishes as quickly as it appears.
6 - I don't like buying figures that only fit one set of rules, I generally don't do games that have pre-made "factions".

Other stuff - I also write fightingfantasist.blogspot.com which meanders and rambles but is generally about Games Workshop, D&D and Fighting Fantasy of the years when I was a lad and fuckyeahbritisholdschoolgaming.tumblr.com which just a vast picture blog of similar stuff. I promise that this blog will be slightly less sweary than those two.




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