Thursday, 14 April 2011
So, as of the end of March I am not a number, I am a free man! (As Patrick McGoohan used to say.) Had my final leaving 'do' on the 31st and it's been surreal since. The hardest thing to get my head round is the lack of a time limit to things. Oh I'm going to turn my toes up one day, but between now and then it doesn't really matter which day I do what job on. If it's raining one day, I can leave it to the next, or the next. It's an odd feeling as the actress said to the bishop.
Right, so what's on the cards? Well, apart from domestic stuff (which never goes away) it's er . . . wargaming and leads, plenty of walking and the like; I fancy learning the banjo; I want to do some archeology (likely as a labourer on a dig or something); lots of reading to catch up on (all those books I ought to have read and those I intended to read and those recommended by others, but I forgot about: the usual stuff); write the Great British Novel; spoil my soon to be grandchild; try a spot of twitching. I'll end it there in case my imagination runs away with me. My wife can't retire for two or three years yet, so it's full steam ahead for a period of absolute selfishness. Well, probably not as it happens, but the idea is nice.
So, wargaming; and here I'm talking essentially Napoleonics - God's true period. A couple of comments came up on the Mongrel today which set me thinking about the mechanisms we use in games to introduce an element of uncertainty or even surprise. I've gone through the "Is is a game or a simulation?" phase a couple of times and the self righteousness of the simulation leaves me cold these days. I've got (and greatly admire) a copy of Valmy to Waterloo (V&W), but It's sooooo slow to play, even when you're practiced at it. It's a hell of a piece of work and worth having just to read through, but it's not for me nowadays. I'm more for KISS style of game because I want to pit my wits, not read through pages of text to find an answer which probably won't affect the outcome of the game.
I'm using Black Powder at the moment, interspersed with some old rules which started out in the 70's at the WRG set, but now, after forty plus years of being buggered about with, bear no resemblance at all to the original concept. Although I say "I", what I really mean is with my mate Gray - who never reads this and I'm pretty sure doesn't even know it exists . However, I've always liked Shako and I like Sam Mustapha's work so I've got the germ of a set of rules which you might think of as Shako with a bit of history included (sorry Arty!).
So, to get back on track, I don't like games that use cards to give that hidden extra. Two good sets (Under the Lilly Banners and TAC) use dice and tables which have the same effect and can be used or not depending on how the players feel. I think cards are an extra encumbrance and the desire to introduce more uncertainty in a game can be achieved by variable move rates/responses to commands or staggered bounds (to avoid the IGOUGO routine). We were using this sort of thing in the 70's and it worked well then, so why not now? I don't think it makes much difference in the the long run whether you introduce card or whatever driven inputs to the game. Good players will win through; gamblers will soon work out the odds of occurrences; poor players will still look mystified when the bleedin' obvious happens. There's also the opportunity for games companies to produce expensive card decks as more money spinning peripherals you can't live without, which brings me onto something else that bewilders me.
I'd better be careful here to avoid court, but, ever since WRG decided, back in the 70's, to renew their Ancients rules with yet another edition every couple of years (yes, I know time has moved on!), several large and not so large companies have recognised this as a great way of prolonging the life of game systems and also generating additional income. Blimey, no game is complete nowadays without gimmick dice and God knows how many codices, some of which claim to support historical games, but which are as fantastic as those dealing with orcs and various space beings. I know there's the cry for standardisation; there has been for years, but what percentage of the wargaming population actually game in tournaments or even outside their own small circle? Does this standardisation have to compete with formal religions to produce dogma?
I suppose the answer to this lies to a large extent with the reason people enter the shady world of wargaming. Those who come via the GW route tend to be gamers first and bring the GW culture with them. Those for whom it is simply an extension of their painting and modelling interests will have another agenda, just as those who come at it from an historical aspect will have yet another. I know not everyone wants or needs to be an historian to be a wargamer and the codices and supplements support this approach, but how can any wargamer enter into a period and spend often hundreds, if not thousands of pounds without at least having done some rudimentary historical research? By this I mean a quick trot through Amazon for a couple of books, not a BA. TMP is peppered with requests along the lines of appeals for uniform information from gamers who've dived into a new project yet haven't a clue what their armies should look like.
In the best traditions of a circular argument, this is where games companies step in to support the ill informed gamer with oodles of glossy publications to save the poor love having to think. Of course, then we get to the point where "If it's not in the army list you can't use it!" becomes the only battle cry heard in the club.
And now, before your very eyes, the full set of my adventurers / explorers. All Foundry from the world's second largest collection of stalled projects:
And some Copplestone commissars to go with'em: