Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Primacy of Idiot Books.

 This morning , Gentle Readers, I noticed a piece on TMP advertising some new Idiot Book - or Army list if you like-  for Flames of War-. No problem with that especially as I use Command Decision  for WW2 anyhow. Nevertheless amongst the associated comments were several lamenting the fact that their currently owned idiot books were now "not current" and therefore presumably useless to their owners.
 Now up to a point I get this but only for regular tournament players- after all the Laws of Rugby Football get changed every so often and so therefore presumably do lesser sports., therefore why not competion based wargames rules?
Is this ME110 supporting the panzers or dropping a new copy of the latest Army list to the confused commander??

 However it struck me that as a non tournament player why the hell would you care unless your brain was in fact made of porridge or as one chap once put it to me in some heat
 "I don't need to read about WW2 I play Flames of War" - still trying to work that one out....
 Not that the primacy of the Idiot Book  is confined to FOW or indeed is all that new- Older chaps will remember the occasionally  unsavoury debates in Battle and still more in Slingshot  concerning the relative merits of sundry WRG Army lists however in those days of Yore much of the debate did seem to centre more on historical grounds - at least on the surface-  I wonder if this is still the case?
 Now I haven't seen a copy of Slingshot for years so I've no idea how it is today but it does seem to me that Joe Wargamer is far more willing to have his rules handed down to him from On High (or perhaps Nottingham)  by some latter day Corporate Moses than the lads of the 70s and 80s were.
 For myself I've never been an uncritical  fan of Army lists- not that they don't come in handy from time to time especially for the "pre-regimental" periods  or those in which I have only a passing  or  newly formed interest.
 However I could never imagine myself using such things for say the ECW or the Hundred Years War or Napoleonic or indeed any period where I've actually read more than a passing Osprey. I suppose that once again it comes down to the difference between "playing to period " and  "playing to ruleset"

Ach so! Hans Ve are playing Ze Pike und Shotte rules Ya?
Gott in Himmel !!.I sort Ivas in ze 16th Century !!

Now I do have some army lists- but even here there has been a change over the years.WRG's Rennaissence  set had one slim volume of lists FOGR has a good half a dozen or more.FOW gawd knows how many and these are far from the only ones. It now seems to be the thing to publish as many wallet catchers as you can -perhaps these chaps resent you dear Gamer spending your cash on actual soldiers....  or perhaps the plot is even more sinister- stop 'em reading actual books then once we have them by the parts we can feed 'em any kind of exspensive tripe and they won't know the difference...  but THAT IS just plain SILLY....


  1. Interestingly I find that those of us who like to write about our hobbys seem more inclined to read up about our periods. Great topic to have a discussion about and I for one fall down very much on your side of the fence.
    Long live the history geek gamer
    Peace James

  2. Hi Andy,
    After more than four decades in the hobby (both minis and hex-grid wargames), I have seen it change a lot. The RPGs took their toll, then the computer games, etc., each time leaving a smaller set of those who are interested in both history and wargaming. Now it seems the hobby (and on a larger scale, the species) is dividing itself into two camps: those who read and those who don't. It is amazing that some of these folks can get through a rulebook to be able to play it. OMG, R new rulz in TXT lang? LOL.

    Regarding your conclusion, again after five decades of observation of our species in action, no amount of paranoia is excessive. Considering the rise of technology, the decline in educational standards (at least in the USA) seems particularly suspect. But we have multiple sports teams at every public high school, so at least we have our priorities straight.


  3. Personally, I find the FoW lists quite useful. As I do the Command Decision lists. But I don't play FoW at all (CD is my preference, though I also play Panzer Marsch. Why are they useful? The fact is that the sort of information contained therein is bloody hard to find - especially in this country where the appropriate technical publications are demned thin on the ground, and expensive into the bargain.

    My attitude to Army lists is that they are there to guide, not to enslave. The problem as I see it stems from the peculiar attitude of the old WRG army list designers way back when. Phil Barker used to assert that the WRG army lists were not gospel, even though they were as well researched as could be managed. But then he would allow that a player was justified in finding suspect any departure from the lists. After all, he and his group had probably done more, wider and deeper research into these armies that anyone else.

    Where does that leave you? You read up a battle, go for the army list you think appropriate based upon your own interpretation, but then find other players don't want to play against your army, comp organizers won't approve it, and in effect the WRG lists were treated as gospel. You'd be suspected as trying to pull a fast one, of sharp practice, if not of downright cheating. Small wonder the acrimony that attached to the Army List debates in Battle and Slingshot.

    My own view was that the WRG lists were as good a guide as you would be likely to get, but any reasonable departure ought to have been acceptable, for a given value of 'reasonable.' That given value might, for example, be supplied by a reference to this or that source, preferably including primary source material. But in my view certain types of departure could simply be justified by 'citing' the effects of attrition, or the devolution of an army on campaign.

    I have the same attitude towards all army lists.

  4. Mind you, I don't play competitions. Don't see the point.

  5. John - Was I being ironic ... maybe....
    Ion - I have several volumes of Army lists and do find them useful as quick guides- can't remeber the last time I "pointed out" an army for a game. I always lose the will to live fiddling about with points systems. I havn't seen the "point" of points based games - competitive or not - since the late 80s
    But I suppose my core point nowadays is how much a part army lists are of the "Corporate Wargameing" scene.

  6. Army lists and rule books I believe are there for the ease of the new generation of "wargamers".
    The days are probably long gone when research, whether for uniforms, tactics or TOE's was a necessity; the current ilk is to seem to want point lists and a "pick-up-and-play" game with little effort on the part of the participants.
    If I were of a cynical nature, I'd say Army Lists and rules books are amended and revised regularly purely to make money.

    1. Joe You?? Cynical never....... but that does not make you wrong of course... but as you say convenience is now everything in the mainstream. Wargaming is now far less a holistic hobby than it once was which is a shame.