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.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Some New Colonials

Finally getting back into some painting.  Some time ago I sold off lots of my Sudan collection to generate some extra cash to expand the collection.  My figure choice is usually Connoisseur.  Gilder's style is my favourite and his Sudan range is excellent.  The figures take me back to the Wargames World magazine specials put out by WI that featured Gilder's Sudan campaign.  I played Gilder's Sudan rules.  Based on Pony Wars they were loads of fun and are now available, fleshed out and complete, from a crew in Australia.  Of course, I fell out with the rules as my go to set as they were a novelty.  Everyone on the same side and having the rules play the players was great for the odd game, but I wanted something that allowed for historical scenarios to be recreated.  Hence, BFE.

Anyway, back to the figures.  Connoisseur really suit the dipping method I use on most colonials.  In contrast to my Napoleonics (and Zulu War) that I paint with a black base coat, my Sudan, NWF and Boxer colonials are given a more utilitarian finish.  I still like the effect and think it suits the khaki, linen and earth tones common to many of the uniforms and dress of the period.  

You will notice that I also did up some Perry Bazingers.  These are nice figures, but forgive me if you are Perry fan-boys (or girls) but Perry figures can drive me crazy.  As nicely sculpted as they are, they lack some of the cartoonish character of the Connoisseur line.  Also, in contrast to Bicorne's fantastic casting quality of Gilder's figures, Perry figures, with all those venting 'worms' that I never find prior to painting, can be frustrating. I also find the smoother finish is a little less friendly to dipping.

Alas, these are small gripes and we are lucky to have so many wonderful figure choices.  Now on to finish painting the bases, dry brushing, and flocking them.

Dice Towers

For years we have been using dice towers.  They keep things tidy, consistent and civil.  The latter is not really an issue, but it just heads off at the pass any disagreements.

Some of the guys use natural wood box-shaped dice towers.  I have made my own using carpet cardboard tubes.  I cut slots into them at opposing angles, stick art board card into the slots to create the agitation I then finished them as castle ruins.  These have served me for years.  I would, however, like to make period specific ones that fit into the terrain of each game.  This might be particular ruined buildings or disguising the towers as rocky hills....not sure yet.

Here are some of my towers:
The move is done and I hosted my first game in the new 'bunker'.  Alas, not BFE but rather Armati Renaissance (which is an ongoing project).  I was delighted with how well the game played and am looking forward to having Arty Conliffe give the go-ahead to have other play test groups have a go.  Needless to say, many will object to the rules but having too many chefs in the kitchen can be a disaster for a set of rules.  The revision that we have developed is a good balance between being familiar as Armati, respecting the first version of the Renaissance rules as published in the original book, but having enough differences to make the game feel distinct.

Here are a couple of shots: