Friday, 9 August 2019

Further Contemplations on Gaming

Thinking about my previous off-the-cuff "rant" I realize that what drove it is something that has preoccupied me for a long time.  As a cultural and military historian by profession, I am conscious about the role that popular representations of warfare in the culture play in "militarizing" society.  A book like Chris Hedges War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning or Joanna Bourke's various books on violence should give us pause when we push around our models.  I know that we are normalizing warfare.  This is why I think it is important that we really consider what we are simulating and why and that our "games" should be somehow scholarly and taken somewhat (and I am very guarded here) seriously.

I know that this is raining on the parade.  I love this hobby and the people I share it with.  My friendships of 40+ years built around a table filled with toy soldiers are important to me.  They are thoughtful people of high moral standards.  I also think that they are aware of the moral problem of the hobby.  But when that miniature unit of soldiers flees, the hoots of victory obscure what that is simulating.

Recently I read a book about war representation in modern culture by Philip Beidler aptly titled Beautiful War: Studies in a Dreadful Fascination (2016).  In a chapter on ACW re-enactors and the making of the film Gettysburg, this US army veteran-scholar expressed his disdain at those who play at war and make it "beautiful" while expunging from their re-creation any of the horror of war.

Now, I know many former military personnel that play war-games.  I also know that some scholars see worth in the pursuit (Phil Sabin most notably -- many others keep it quiet and most military historians are professionally disdainful of it).  I suppose I hold onto the worth of the hobby for its many social, scholarly and entertaining attributes.  I also know that, as the conservative historian Martin van Creveld has asserted, war is a deeply engrained part of human activity.  It seems to be something that we do.  So examining it, in its many forms, is important.  But I would be lying if I didn't struggle with the issues noted above, while taking the game seriously enough (but not too seriously to over-blow its worth) to respect what is being represented.

I would love to read what others think......

Monday, 5 August 2019

Rant alert...."easy" rules

I am all for game rules - any type of game rules - to be designed as simply as possible to get across the desired result.  Indeed, it is the mark of a good set of rules to have a clear design focus and not add any extraneous details that detract from efficient, edifying and pleasurable play.  But I do think that the complexities of warfare and the military systems that societies construct to wage war demands some attention in war-games design.  I also think that players should apply some effort to learn those games to make the games we play a little more than a rather dubious entertainment.

This is a delicate balance.  Taken too seriously, I think this hobby disrespects the horrible price people have paid in war.  Taken too lightly, however, we do the same thing and learn nothing from the process.  Wargaming can teach us things while being challenged by the "game."  They are studies in this violent human activity whose systems have been supported by huge effort and resources.  Trying to figure out how these systems worked has occupied military historians and game designers for a very long time and, as Phil Sabin has asserted, war-gaming can be a useful tool to explore these realities.

The effort to represent warfare, or limited aspects of it, on a game table demands some careful consideration.  While war reduced to its most basic purpose on the battlefield has commonalities across time, the military systems that have developed for both practical and socio-cultural reasons are less generic.  Romans did not function like Classical Greeks or Celts.  Zulus operated differently than British.  Germans applied different doctrines in WWI than those of the Canadians.  Representing these differences has some importance.

For these reasons I come to my concern about the popularity of very simple and generic rule systems that seem to rely on simply repackaging the same rules in different clothes and calling it a game set in particular historical context.  Mechanics can and should always be as simple as possible, but rules that really differentiate armies across time need more attention.  I also think they make games more interesting.

Funnily enough, many of these simple and generic games are skirmish games.  I do not like skirmish games because I find that they are either too simple and reduce to absurdity the even greater complexities of warfare down to the personal level (that must still account for the doctrines and systems).  Or they are too complex, trying to represent 'everything' and making it impossible to play.

Now, I have not right to say what others should play.  But I do think that this hobby has much more to offer than 'bang-you're-dead.'  With a bit of effort we can be engaged and learn something.

I'll stop now.  :)

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Rapid Fire Juno Beach

Played a part of the Juno Beach scenario from Rapid Fire.  Here is a quick shot of the set-up.  I can't make many dedicated terrain boards to a particular scenario due to storage limitations, and when I do I usually have to make them stackable.  But this set-up looks OK and respects the key features of the scenario.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Morocco 1910 FFL

Played a game using a buddy's FFL collection.  This is a rare thing, but it proved to be an excellent game.  I borrowed, in spirit, one of the Perry NWF scenarios that they posted on their FB page and adapted it to the FFL collection and BFE.  This meant adding many more units (albeit, smaller ones). The French advanced on the rough ground and village with the Berbers hidden but in LOS.  Ultimately some of the Berbers lost their discipline and became visible; the shooting started that ultimately favoured the French.  The Berber's left due to losses.  Had they maintained their silence, I think the French would have had a far more difficult time.

This raises an important point.  We are sometimes lax applying the LOS rules, but it is clear (by design) that they are important especially for indigenous armies that rely on terrain and firepower, however poor the musketry quality is.  Indeed, any army that wants to get as close as possible without getting nailed by long range Imperial firepower needs to use those rules.

How many of you find this too?

Monday, 13 May 2019

All quiet on the west coast front....

But I will be getting back at it very soon.  I have been working on the text for some revisions of the rules and there are some new ideas about packaging and selling the rules.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, 31 January 2019

More Sudan

We played another of Matt's scenarios and it was a blast.  The Egyptian column failed to get the civilians back to their occupied village and so the game was a Mahdist victory.  They even stormed the docked gunboat and took it!  Just one picture showing one of the defiant Emirs.  Come and get me you imperialist dogs!

The figure is an old WF figure from their Indian Mutiny range.  Buildings are scratch made using the wooden drawer units available from dollar stores.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Happy Christmas and all the best for 2019

I am looking forward to 2019 and the prospect of more BFE gaming along with other game systems.  I hope that you all have a great holiday and all the best for 2019.