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Sunday, 12 July 2015

Only a Game.

There seems to be a common theme running through various posts and also in the wargaming press, regarding wargamers who see my hobby as only a game, with very little relevance to war and the study of the whole subject of warfare.
 Now I havent seen any of the various quoted posts regarding the fact that wargaming is only a game and therefore there is no requirement or need to research the period that you are attempting to represent, so I can only speak from a subjective point of view, although if anyone can direct me to where these views are being discussed I would be very grateful.
 So is wargaming ''ONLY A GAME'' and therefore there is absolutely no need to know anything about the subject and period one is playing?
 Well my view is the whole beauty of wargaming is the fact that there is a need to understand the period one is wanting to fight, and without the basic understanding of what the war was about then you can never attempt to refight the period with any hope of representing the correct tactics and different types of army of the period of choice.
 Wargaming and the study of military history are synominous, and without the latter then wargamng is pretty pointless.
 As it is, there is always a risk that a wargamer may attempt to use some anachronistic tactic in an attempt to gain some gaming advantage, I think the most common being the use of a heavy skirmish screen in any historical period before the Revolutionary wars, and the other is the use of a Grand Battery prior to the Napoleonic wars.Both common mistakes.
 The problem that is arising is I think because of a trend towards smaller wargames, where the aim is to achieve a result in a few hours in a game that can be quickly packed away after it is finished, almost like a board game of old.
 There have been attempts in the recent past to provide a wargame, with everything that is needed for a wargamer, painted figures, a small board, and fairly simple rules, nothing wrong with these attempts, if this is viewed as a starting point for a new wargamer.
 The problem comes when the game takes over from the war part of the whole event.
 I am not saying that to be a wargamer one needs a massive table and loads of accurately painted figures, but I think its very easy to slide into the trap of believing that to wargame, all one needs is a few badly painted and researched figures, and a set of rules that 'explain' the background to the game or perhaps provides a 'list' which can then be used to select the players figures without having any knowledge of the history behind the period being fought. Basically a dumbing down of the hobby as a whole.
 Now I am certainly not implying that I am an intellectual giant [plus 4 on the combat dice] and that to take up wargaming one needs to have  a degree in history, but without a knowledge of the period what is the point!
  I know in the past I have banged on about the poor knowledge of would be new wargamers and have attributed this to my old fart's view that the English education system is basically not providing a decent education, history wise, and is letting down our young people.
  Lets be right, New Labour made the teaching of British History almost an anathema in schools, pouring scorn on anyone who attempted to give a opposing view to the opinion that our history had no place in their brave new world.
 Wargaming is what it is. An attempt to represent a battle or event from history, based upon an understanding of the said battle or war, but in the certain knowledge that one can never truly represent the battle, due to several things, ie hindsight, more knowledge than the real persons would have had at the time, and most importantly the ability to see what the other side is doing at any one time.
  But because of a wargamers understanding of the history, and their choice of a set of rules that they feel represents that period of history, then at least a flavour of the problems faced can be represented on a gaming table.
 The worrying thing for me would be if I came around to believing that wargaming was just a game with pretty counters, and  there had been absolutely no need to read copious accounts of battles, uniform guides, witness accounts and it had all been for naught, and in fact all I needed was to read the latest set of army lists and rules associated with the lists. God help us, I think I better lie down in a darkened room.




15 comments:

  1. This is a very interesting and thought provoking post.

    I do agree with what you've written, but in practice do the opposite - mainly due to never getting around to gaming a historical engagement. Also, in my case, jumping from one subject or project every couple of days doesn't allow me to fully absorb myself in a period, there being just too much choice and temptation nowadays that I'm unable to remain true and focused on one project.

    That being said, in the past I have researched and worked towards achieving an understanding for a historic period to aid my gaming efforts, but the game in question was a Play By Mail roleplay game so it doesn't count towards the tabletop gaming hobby.

    Cheers for posting this as this has really given me something to think about.

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    1. Evening Roy,
      There's absolutely nothing wrong with your approach. Basically I just love military history and the more I read on a subject, the more I want to find out about the subject.
      But without some knowledge I cannot see how one can wargame at all. You might as well play Risk, which I do anyway, but that has no semblance to real military events.

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  2. Robbie, Completely agree with your comments. Remember viewing an American War of Independence game in 15mm. Hordes of cavalry, and a melee on a hill with battalions thrown in until it became something out of the film Spartacus. I could not help but feel the period was irrelevant to the game (they always play?). But to try and convince them of the pleasure in raising/researching/owning a period army, with (simple) wargame rules/orders that capture the period, would be a waste of time, theirs is a different hobby for very different people. Michael

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    1. Evening Michael,
      Its funny but John who I warganme with regulary was talking about exactly this. His concerns were to do with Blackpowder rules and how it is very easy to fall into the playing of a game, that bears little or no resemblance to what it is meant to represent. It sounds like the game you were viewing knew very little about the war.

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    2. So true. BP are a mechanism by which we can wargame but it's research and our mind sets that dictates how we chose to do it.

      Agree with all your points completely (although depending upon what you might count as a grand battery I might not. Plenty of examples of a dozen or so guns lined up together in the SYW, but not normal it's true.

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  3. Robbie I agree with the sentiment of your article if not all the detail. Wargaming is, at the end of the day, just a game. However, it has a requirement that the whole be based on our knowledge of historical matters. The whole thing only descends inot being JUST a game once the rules disassociate the history from the game. Black Powder, as you mention in your comments, is just one of those rules where you are tempted to use any innovation rather than the convention of the time. That's why I never liked epoch spanning rule sets. Warfare changes over time and each conflict, more or less, has unique properties that should be reflected on the tabletop (probably why no one wants to play the Prussian army of 1806 I suspect). History should drive the game not the ruleset.

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    1. Evening Paul,
      I wish I'd thought of your synopsis as a title, History definitely should drive the game, and not the opposite.

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  4. Robbie - We've been here before many many times on both our blogs The Its only a game lobby arise from simple intellectual laziness and greed - the actual stupidity is arguable since some of these pillocks are simply cynical abusers of the history for commercial ends- look at all the dross that is published in its various forms .
    Agree with MGB here there these days its a different hobby for different people who not only know nothing but wish to know nothing - look at the idiot who claimed on TMP that reading 2dusty old books" was boring and that knowing stuff was elitistand that it was better to spend 30 quid on a rulebook (even if you were skint) that the same amount on 3 or 4 proper books .
    Of course you can't kick against the pricks but I do anyway becasue its fun to make them show their ignorance.
    Its intresting that no-one here has put out a counter view once again those who like to denigrate what they do and belittle it are probably too insecure to respond cohereantly

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    Replies
    1. Evening Andy,
      I really must start reading TMP in greater detail, as I cant seem to find any counter views.
      Anyway I blame you for my last post,re gaming etc.
      I suppose its each to their own.

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  5. Ps do we use out f period tactics or use the rules in a gamer way much or at all in our games do you think?

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    1. Speaking personally period tactics every time Wargames rules are merely tools to that end to be discarded when crap. Thats why I prefer a good umpire to a bad rulebook any day of the week.

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    2. Umpire led games are great but not always possible sadly...... :o( and I'm not aware of using non period tactics as whats the point even in a head to head game, but just wondered.......

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    3. I would like to think Colin, that between us we can usually find the right balance, I know about the rare times that Fredrick actually did create a grand battery, but it was the exception, not the norm. Anyway, that devious double one rule that was introduced does make this tactic a bit of a risk

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  6. I regret I haven't had time to comment on this as I would wish to. Thought provoking stuff. Keep it up.

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    Replies
    1. Not to worry Conrad, my next post concerns the lack of cross dressers and trans genders who wargame. Please discuss.

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My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
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