Sunday, 16 November 2014
Birthday last week. I don’t make a fuss about it and it’s taken a campaign of many years’ duration to convince my family that they ought to conform to my way of thinking. So, rather than going with a bang, my birthday celebrations cause a barely discernible change in air pressure. To make things worse for everyone else, I’m not particularly perturbed about presents either, which means I don’t telegraph my cravings for small (or not so small) objects of desire. Ergo, I’m considered to be something of a challenge a couple of times a year (What, only two?).
As a consequence, my immediate family has developed a proficiency in intelligence gathering that would put GCHQ to shame and reactions faster than a cobra. So, this year I’ve bagged two wargames publications, one of which was only published a couple of weeks ago.
First off, a book which hadn’t even made to the dreaded Amazon Wish List (but Chris has eyes and ears like a closet rodent):
Now, although I’m a Napoleonic fan, the Peninsular War has never made it onto my wargaming bucket list. Nevertheless, this is a great book. Twenty engagements covered and some good ideas all for a tenner. Can’t be bad, but its main benefit to me is that it’s made its way into Idle Jack’s scenario library. The maps included are simplified and stylised table layouts and the OOB’s, though pretty good, aren’t so detailed that you can’t see the wood for the trees. If you’re not a Napoleonic gamer, but want to squirrel away the scenarios, it eases the translation into other periods, or if you want to simply transplant the scenarios to other locations, say Germany or France for an 1813/14 game. It’s a useful book even if, like me, you don’t intend to refight your way through the Peninsular War.
While I’m on about scenarios and the pilfering thereof, pretty much all of what I’ve just said applies to Chris Stoesen’s scenatio booklets/PDFs which I reviewed here. While you’re at it, you ought to follow his ‘Wargamer’s Odds and Ends’ blog, which is a worthy read in its own right.
The other birthday book is actually a set of rules for the campaigns against the Mahdi ‘The Sands of Sudan’. I only read about these on Dave Docherty’s ‘One man and his brushes’ blog about a week ago (God knows how I missed them on the original blog) and was instructed to order them. Good oh!
They’re actually a reincarnation of Peter Gilder’s original Sudan rules from the dim and distant past and, as such, are old school, but not as old school as you might think, being a blend of PG’s rules and ideas, subsequent alterations and the mechanisms from an old, but innovative set of rules from the ‘70s/’80’s called ‘Pony Wars’. (Just by way of a small boast, I’ve still got a copy of these!)
I remember these from decades ago with the huge demo games staged by PG and they captured my imagination then and never really let go. I think this is the first titme they’ve been published and they’ve not lost any of their shine as far as I’m concerned. They can be used with any size figures, but I’ll probably go for 15mm which will give me the ability to do one off games or work through a whole campaign using only a 6’x4’ table (you could equally well use the dining table). Of course, I can’t think of any reason why you couldn’t go for games of epic proportions just as easily.
They’re rules to be played and not agonised over. They’re simple, but far from simplistic, so there’s no reason why you can’t fiddle with them or merge them with, say, ‘Black Powder’, but I don’t see the point. Once you’ve had a few games and you feel you want to add a few of your own ideas or you get the bug and want to make this a major period in your repertoire, there’s plenty of scope to do so. You can also benefit from the scope of the rules in that they can accommodate pretty much any style of game from solo to multi-player so they’re as limiting as you want them to be.
Finally, price. They’re not the old £4 Table Top Games stlye rules by any means, but they’re nicely produced and come with a sturdy reference sheet and a set of pre-cut cards for random events. So, even though they have to come all the way from Oz and exchange rates differ, I think they’re decent value. You can get them from here and, while you’re at it, follow Carlo’s ‘With Pyjamas through the Desert’ blog.
I probably come across as a bit cavalier when it comes to rules and scenarios and I wouldn’t disagree with that. However, I think it’s more a case of taking something which is effective and/or innovative and making maximum use of it. Scenarios aside, there are rule mechanisms which lend themselves to a number of periods. There’s a free set of ACW rules called ‘Hell in Miniature’ which includes a handy method for determining whether or not an order will be obeyed buy a sub commander. In this case, it’s primarily concerned with contrariness, but it could equally be used to cover bad communications or poor commanders. There are other ways of coping with this, but it’s a clean and simple method and, from my point of view, it’s useful for ECW and Napoleonics. Napoleonics? Well yes, friction within the Allied armies (Russians were soooo touchy) and even the almost psychic French. Even napoleon couldn’t guarantee all his marshals and general would do as they were told. Ney and Murat are classic examples and I’d have had Bernadotte clapped in irons.
So, even though we’re all from different backgrounds, even if you’ve never had the need or desire to write your own rules for a period, if you spot a rule or mechanism which you like and has the potential to be migrated to other periods, use it or it’s a waste.