Sunday, 26 January 2014

What ... W... wargamers Want. ????

Several years ago Mel Gibson of movie fame  starred in a  rom-com fanstay where after he took a knock on the head could hear the thoughts of women unbeknown to them.
Now given the ongoing rumbling debate on sundry blogs about the content or lack thereof of the glossies one wonders if such a majical  occourance   were to happen to Henry or Guy  and they could magically hear the thoughts of Wargamers what would be the result .


So in order to help these poor benighted souls. I thought in a spirit of pure selfless purity !!!!!!!
 I'd put down - culled from various blog comments on this and other blogs what chaps DON'T want in a wargames mag- surely much much easier to decide than what they DO want.

No History
no battle reports
no reviews
 no articles about personalities
 no articles on modelling or making stuff
 no fantasy or sci-fi
 no articles or pieces about the state of the hobby
 no opinion pieces 
Holmes and Watson looking for a Wargmes mag after the bloggersphere thought police have been  past !

 thie rsult would be a pretty thin mag with a pretty thin readership.
We can't seen to get away from the circular argument
 "I don't like this its rubbish"
 Why is it Rubbish?"
 Becasue I don't like it"

 Perhaps its time to paraphrase


 "You can please some of the Wargamners all of the time and all of the Wargamers some of the time but you CAN'T please all of the Wargamers all of the time."

Now as it happens this debate has somewhat changed my views on the glossy  magazines - so 1 positve effect a least. I'm still not an uncritical fan but I'd say that given the  pure bloody- minded narrowness of some Wargamers within our broad church- and is that a contradiction ? No probably not .

 An old case in point.
 Terry (alas no longer with us)  was a rock musician - he'd played with the Strawbs and the Alex Harvey band amongst others- had his own  recording label and studioand did a lot of session work  when I knew him  but was fascinated by the Zulu war-  I got him some figures and he started diorama building - became a pretty fine painter. So one day there he is in Smiths checking out the magazines - another chap come up and Terry asks for advice- this bloke says he's into Napoleonic so Terry- still a newbie remember says he into the Zulu War- This bloke sniff- looks down his nose and says "Small and uninteresting " and stalks off leaving Terry nonplussed and seething . I appeared at this point  I've cut out Terry's expletives regarding snotty nosed snobbish b***** from the narrative
 Now over the years variants of that have become not-uncommon.and in some areas its getting worse..
 "I only play Wundarules version 6.9 using Exspensicast 32mm figures all others are untermenschen"

So I'm becoming a little less critial as I see the overwhelming tide of  negativity in some of the bloggersphere - of which I've been a part-  I must do better thinks I . After all we are comparativly few in number we bloggers- compared to the chaps who buy - well My stuff - let alone others and just bloody well get on with it...
 The job of magazine editor in todays instant access world is not one I'd relish

Thursday, 23 January 2014

MW370- Nice one Henry

 A couple of copies of MW370 dropped on the mat a couple of hours ago and it has some good stuff in it.
 Larely pre-gunpowder there are articles on the Rise of Macedon- a Campaign game this and a bit of a "what if" - and worth a look  despite is DBA(dead boring ancients)  bias it still has some useful ideas hidden in there. despite the authors remark that if you are not using DBA you'll need to use Army lists appropriate to the rules you ARE using (Idiot books rule OK obviously)
40mm Normans having a bash at some Saxon  Sash and Saber figs .
. The continuing series on the Mongols reaches Khalka- which was a right barney with the Russians coming second- of course I' biased here as OG do a well tasty "Mongols in Europe " range which covers most of these armies- I await the bits on the Battles of Mohi and Liegnitz  with interest.
 Robbie Roddis is in there too-  His and Paul Stevensons interview with Charlie Wesencraft is worth a read. Now I'll not comment further as I know all of the participants here  so read it for yourselves its worth the cover price alone.
 A nice piece on using Spanish Napoleonic armies also appears-  I think perhaps the author is a bit too pro-French - ascribing them manovre abilities which they didn't always posess but its nice to  see   the hugely over maligned  Spanish getting an airing - After all they never stopped fighting from 1808- 1813 they always had armies in the field unlike the Austrians and Prussians who packed it in after Boney beat them up.I even ended up reading that article twice- something I can't remember doing  for years.
 There is also a piece on the Norman invasion of England- which has always been a favoured period of mine. I've had at least 3 Norman armies through my hands over the years and have always liked the period and have several of the early sources- well Translations anyhow in my library
My 40mm Vikings- see any thralls or berserker units... I think not.

 So as you might  realise I read this with  care.  What the article actually was was a set of simple rules and army list (Gawdamighty!!!)  purporting to be for the 1066 campaign. Now the rules might work pretty well- if a bit simplistically  but the Army lists had been culled from other equally inaccurate army lists rather than the sources. Why,I ask, do the Saxons have Guard Housecarles and Housecarles?  The Vikings berserker UNITS !!!and units of "Thralls"- why would they be brought to England even assuming that they would fight? . Why when there is no real evidence are ther "Breton Light Cavalry"- with an abitlity to Skirmish in the Norman lists- also a provision for "Javelin armed skirmish infantry- loads of them on the Tapestry I'm sure.
 This used to be quite common - there was an assumtion that unarmoured "servientes" or sergreants  fought differently from the Knights .
Sash and Saber 40mm Duke William- Doubtless wondering where his mythical Breton Light Cavalry have got to.
 No what we have here is another version of making history fit my rules .
 Mind you thats not the Editors fault and the article was well writtenand I suspect the game as a game would be OK toplay once or twice- the card activation system looked fine  its just that the history was twaddle

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

This Obcession with rules.

 When it comes to this hobby of ours with all its various facets  and myriad little companies producing  oodles of stuff for the supposed cognoscenti you do wonder- when you've been at it as long as me- how much the "mainstream" has changed over the years or perhaps how I have changed as I interact with various wargamers in various parts oft he world. - mostly I suspect its a bit of both.
 Over the years I've played a lot of different rules in different periods. I own some sets I've never yet played- and possibly never will.
 So in part to set my own thoughts in order here are all the sets I can remember owning or playing., Those I have used in the last couple of years or still do play  are in bold those I have never actually played are in italics
 Featherstone Ancient Horse and Musket and WW2  Lionel Tarr WW2  Iszwaco WW2 (spelt wrongly)   Spearhead WW2 Command Decision WW2 versions 2 and 3 London Wargames section Napoleonic  Grand Manner, Empire,  General de Brigade,WRG 1685-1845 Charles Grant 18th cent, Charge,  Age of Reason  ,Age of Discovery, Forlorn Hope , File leader  WRG Rennaissence - 1st and 2nd eds  British Grenadier. Lance, Tercio, WRG ancients 5 th 6 th eds  Tactica Ancients Tactica Medievals Fog, WHAB WhabECW  Fog R Combined Arms , Over the Top  Contemptible Little Armies  Black Powder. Beer and Pretzels Ironclads, Beer and Pretzels Skirmish, Volley and Bayonet, RevengeMedieval Fire and Fury Airfix ACW  Sons of the Desert, Warpaint, Katana Fog Napoleonic . War and Conquest(ancients set)  DBA,DBM,DBR (I don't own sets of the DBs but have played and hated them )

 This list doesn't include rules I've only played the odd time or two such as Rapid Fire(godawful) FOW (more Godawful) or the various Role playing games I tried in the 70s such as Traveller and of course D and D and many of its spin offs. Needless to say there will be some I have forgotten completely .
 This list only represents I should estimate significantly less than 10% of the rules available to us both in and out of print
 The point here is that the above is only as complete as my memory and doesn't include a couple of sets I wrote myself - A Dark Ages Set and ACW set and a set designed for 40mm  company/battalion level games.
 What it indicates to me is the deep level of dissatisfaction I have with many  with rules in general.
 Of course the level of dissatisfaction will depend upon what I'm after in any given set of rules.. There is no such thing as the perfect set of rules but equally any sets have something to teach us- even if its only how not to do stuff.
 Now over the years I've heard many opinions on what makes a decent ruleset  and often the  opinions are to me at least a  little weird- Its that circular conversation again
 "I don't like these they are rubbish"
 "Why are they rubbish"
 "Because I don't like them"
 The number  of variations of this conversation I've had is legion.
 "Why do you like these "
 Cos I  can win using them
 "But they are historical nonsense- for- list reasons"
" I don't care I win with them "
 That conversation is more rare but has happened more than once- most often when a chap is ordering a deeply unhistorical army which conforms to some loophole in an army list.
 This last is a relatively recent phenomenon. probably only coming to the fore in the last 15 years or so outside of the competition arena where it has up to a point always existed but then tended to pertain to army lists rather than the relatively small numbers of rulesets then available..
 There are other criteria I hear more these days than formerly
  These are simple
 These are FUN (there is that word again and  always in bloody capitals)
I can finish a game in under an hour ? 2 hours ? 15minutes  ?(delete as appropriate)

Very rarely indeed do I hear I like these because they are accurate (list reasons).- I can only think of a couple of times when this has happened in the last few years. Once from a FOG player and one from a Pike and Shotte player- both were able to illustrate their reasons so  it wasn't the usual case as illustrated above. .
 Its as if the gap between Wargames Rules and their Historical roots is ever widening. the idea niow seems to be to produce yet another  FUN fantasy game in  vaguely historical trousers Now for myself my criteria for any given set of rules is pretty simple
1/. "Could it have worked that way back then"
2/."Will it look nice on the table"
3/.do they fit the period they are supposed to.
(this is not quite the same as point1/. since I've often found myself using  rules for 1 period that were written for another or sets that were  "ERA" sets for only a small period of that ERA- most obviously WHAB for Feudal games - where they sort of worked but not for Classical games where IMHO they did not
These are the major points in order of importance  other criteria will include
 If I'm using the set for 25mm or larger then I want  casualty removal and unit detail
 this will not be  needed for 15mm or smaller   or for higher levels of command- such as say a Volley and Bayonet  FPW game
15mm Malburians. I don't want figure removal in this small scale- the units would be comparatively anonymous

 I hate "set unit size" rules for  battalion level games. Real battalions were different strengths at different times. All you have to do is read unit and campaign histories to work that out. So those rules which tell you that a unit is 6 "stands"   all infantry units are 12 figures  - well no not for me Especially if the gamesystem relies on those set unit sizes to function (AOR advises set unit sizes BUT(big but)  the system is figure based so any size unit  works AOR is a very flexible system.) One could wish that other systems were as flexible
 As a general rule it always seems to me that the further up the chain  of command   you go- and by implication (but not always)  down the scales the n the more anonymous the   units become. Thus in standard Fire and fury the 69NY are not a unit but are merely part of a numbered brigade with a name label and a few stats scrawled on it.
 Now this is where personal taste come in  as a general rule I'm far more interested in the doings of an individual name model of a historical regiment than those of "the 3rd game counter from the left"
Aforementioned 69th NY volunteers advancing against the 43rd NC (I think) . The picture is several years old but illustrated that in 40mm I want individual regimental detail  rather than mere game counters. 

 By and large if a set of rules fulfils my criteria I don't care if they are fashionable or not , printed in a 30 quid book full of BS or not or have shedloads of colour pics advertising the various Figure Fascists ranges or not.
 Rles after all are merely tools to be used as desired they are not Holy Writ . Exsperience tells me that- in some periods at least I have more knowledge than the rules writers. I don't want a set that puts smarmy games mechanisms before the History and further I'd opine that many many rules are only fit for hanging on that nail in the smallest room.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Transitory Fame!!!!

 Recently Robbie Roddiss on his blog opined that it would be nice if the mags took more notice of "Ordinary" wargamers- point8 in his What do we want from a Wargames Mag post.
 Frankly I couldn't agree more I know a good few chaps and groups  who without a shitpot of cash to throw at the job have produced some cracking games and have fine collections mostly or indeed entirely through their own efforts rather than just ordering it done and then taking the credit or being a commercial outfit and again just ordering it done and taking the credit.
 Now my own postion is between two fires as it were but at various times I've done several of these "interviews"  and to be honest they can be a bit of a 2 edged sword if you are not careful.
 Most recently I did one for an American website who couldn't get it out of his head that I wasn't a "Games Designer" and couldn't really understnad that the soldiers were not solely games markers for some Game I wished to promote... nuff siad.
 I did 2 "Interviews" for MW under the previous Editor both were more commercial in nature- one looked at my casting process the other was a sort of History of OGUK but had a good bit of my personal Wargames vies in it
 Further back in the 90s I did 2 distinct pieces for Military Iluustrated (a Mag that at its best beat the crap out of all the rest) One on "My Favourite Battle- I chose Edgehill- and another again on the Genesis of Old Glory .
 The point here is that you have to be careful- it depends upon the questions. I remember being asked by a Yorkshire TV reporter why all the people at a show (Elvington I think) were male  this at the height of PC  My answer BTW was something about "Women mostly not being that intrested in Military History but  there was no possible objection if they were"-an answer I still stand by incidentally.

 So if any  aspiring article wrier out ther wants to give such a thing a shot- you listening Robbie??
 Here is my personal list of chaps  or clubs who fit the bill.
 In no order and all of these lads are known to me personally all are Friends so this list is entirely personal
 The"Like A stonewall" group based around Mansfield in Notts- a great bunch of chaps I've known for the best part of 20 years. They put on cracking show games in all sorts of periods often with several thousand figures on the table- see their old games on the Articles and "Hot lead Action" buttonsd on the OGUK website.
Dave Huntley- the Northumbrian Wargamer- see his blog. I've known Dacve for years and hes has some cracking gear and plays and runs some good games- see his French Rev. collection on this blog as well as all the multitude of stuff on his own.
My mate Kelvin Pickup  He has a huge  Waterloo set up- best opart of 20,000 28mm figures and raises a lot on money for various charities .
 Peter Bradford and his group - Their Gettysburg game is great to play and thier Jousting game won Best Participation at Donnington.
 and of course Robbie ans the Independent Wargames group. Gawd know how many toys Robbie John and Colin have between them... I think they need to put themselves about a bit more...

All of these chaps nad groups have one thing in common. They do their thing simply  because thet like it. None of themm have a commercial axe to grind or product to push and are not in the habit of brown- nosing either.