Monday, 8 August 2016

"In the Grand Manner"....

When Peter Gilder wrote these words and used them for the title of his Napoleonic rules it wasn't hard to imagine what he meant by them.  Thousands of figures and beautiful terrain decorating a huge table.  Having played a game at the Wargames Holiday Centre back in the 1980s and meeting the man himself (alas, he was already ill, but his passion for the hobby seemed undiminished) I experienced his definition of the game.  It was a definition that I aspired to achieve and I bought lots of figures and modelled them after his rules, both Napoleonic and Colonial (at the time a few sheets of A4 and clarifications from Gilder over dinner).

Well, years have past and I still love his figures and the notion of "in the grand manner gaming", but in my efforts to achieve that end, I have adjusted what I think those words mean.  While I played ITGM Napoleonics for a long time, I never felt that I was playing much more than brigade, perhaps divisional actions.  Historical scenarios were scaled down in much the same way that Gilder scaled down his Holiday centre scenarios.  When I played Austerlitz at the WHC, my Russian Column (corps) was about 10 battalions and supports.  Lots of figures to be sure, but in the end I had relatively few decisions to make over the course of a weekend game.  

Like games that render down Napoleonic armies into Brigade units, something feels missing regardless of the number of figures being pushed around: the complexity of managing and coordinating the actions of large numbers of units.  War-games are decision games.  Hence the reason I have never bought into systems like those by Rick Priestly where the game plays the players.  They a loads of fun and well designed for what they do, but in the end I want to make decisions and those decisions are made complex by the need to coordinate large numbers of units.  If this is difficult in large battles, that is good.  That is where the friction comes into play.  When we play Shako II battles representing Eylau, Austerlitz, Wogram, or Waterloo, and do it with every unit represented at the battalion level, I feel we are achieving "in the grand manner" wargaming.  The number of figures is impressive, but no more (or less) than what Gilder presented at the Holiday Centre.  But the decisions are many times multiplied albeit with a set of rules that can handle all those units easily.

For colonials I feel the same is true.  My collection of colonials is reasonably large, but because the units are a little smaller than what might normally be pushed around "in the grand manner" I get the look while having the decisions be a little more complex.

In the end, "in the grand manner" is what you make it.  I suppose it does mean lots of figures, but how you divide them up and what the game presents in terms of decision making is part of what makes gaming "grand" for me.

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