Sunday, 10 August 2014

Are Wargames tedious ?

Now here is a thought for an idle hour.  Is what we do ultimately pointless and  indeed tedious repetitive drivel fit only for those who need to take their socks off to count past ten???
. Now as I type this I'm not at all sure where it will lead, It is merely "stream of consciousness" writing - a bit like James Joyce's virtually unreadable book "Finnegan's Wake" - which I had to suffer many years ago
 Now having only managed to play three games this year- well play , actually one. Umpired two is more accurate. Perhaps I'm suffering from withdrawal symptoms- its been a very poor year for actual games.
 No ones fault really - other chaps have lives and sometimes getting all the various TWATS in one place simply hasn't been possible.Playing away as it were not often an option as I don't drive. Any how games at the pub are - here's that word again -FUN .
1/100th Hurricane. I fancy a bash at air warfare- different, something I've never done so far .

Having said that I couldn't be one of those blokes who play once a week or more- the repetitive tedium of the dice rolling  alone would drive me to drink . A game a month is plenty either played or umpired.
 Now it's true I do find the actual playing often quite repetitive.   There comes a point in most- if not all- games where experience tells you how it will go - once the tipping point is reached for instance -  yet in the past I've heard chaps drone on about how it should be played out "just for the game " and defying any military logic- well no thanks  dice rolling is neither FUN or even amusing merely causing monstrous ennui  after a while.
 So unless there are  reasons set into the scenario to keep going until chucking out time I won't, as boredom may have set in after 3 or 4 hours  playing or my voice may have given out after the same period of umpiring unless suitably lubricated.- not always by any means  but the possibility is there.
So chaps a question- in all sincerity-  for a change-  whats in the game ? and just the game. I've got a handle on the history part - and I have a handle on the pint and chat with you mates part and I have a handle on the modelling and painting part- the toy soldier bit. I seem to have lost my handle on the actual playing- at least when I'm not doing it-
 I've seen chaps get really intense when actually playing- not nasty- well not much  but just intense as if it matters   yet sometimes- not always but sometimes all I see is the repetitiveness of move 1  orders-move roll dice -  fiddle about- move 2  orders - move- roll dice- fiddle about, move 3  repeat but slower, with more fiddling move 4 repeat but with more fiddling about move 5  drink pint  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ !
 Now when Umpiring its a bit different there is a lot more to do -  Move one- Watch in serene detachment as both sides ignore the scenario notes. Move two gentle reminders sent out  Move 3  - watch them " Fall into the pit that they have digged" giggle whilst supping pint .Move 4 Descend upon the hapless player like the Wrath of God.......
1/100th Fiesler Storch- recon and observation  Same scale as 15mm . Easy meat for a Hurricane ....

Now by no means all games run like that- it depend on the players but as a general rule I find that the more "game orientated" a player or players are the more likely tedium is to set in, Fortunately most of our group are pretty much "period orientated"  so often the mere game mechanics will take second place to the "period feel" -  said mechanics being in theory the way to get the period feel so if the mechanics are out of sync then change 'em forthwith ...
 see my Teeny-weeny tanks post. for an example of changing during the game.
 Of course the attitude will depend upon  what you want form your wargames- what the overall objective is if you like , not of any given game but of your participation in the hobby .This seems to me top be a perennial question which rarely if ever gets answered fully if at all .
If you are "minimalist" - the games the thing , playing is all  rules are Holy Writ  then fine  that is your choice  you must have a way of handling the tedium but most of the chaps I know just are not like that nor am I.
 They are just as interested - if not more so- in "period"   rather than simply the mere gameplay.. So from my perspective are far more "The Complete Wargamer"  that I would try to be.
Now I've just this minute finished reading Robbie Roddis latest post on
"The Independant Wargames Group " blog and -I can see where he is coming from - though his reasons  appear  far more serious than mine.
  For myself  its possibly because I've been at it since 1970 off and on and whilst most changes in the hobby have been really beneficial  the change in the "character" - or lack thereof of some of its more whiney participants has not.(Or perhaps I actually mean the increase in available technology that allows them to whine Hmmmm!! or indeed me to have a small rantette !! )
Some of my 15mm Desert Rats- these haven't been out on the table for a couple of years. Maybe they should

The current trend for overly serious, seeking to take offence, anally retentive Know- nothings has got my goat more than a little of late. Indeed in all walks of life we see the continual Rise and Rise of Po- Face so why not Wargaming.
 But Hey ! I'm a big Lad I'll get over it .And yes I'll stick pins in 'em where I can  so when you are in the Trenches you get shot at ...  but...
 The Resistance Lives On
 Indeed mostly have before I typed this- I've some new toys to paint and a few new ideas I want to try out . So  staying in the hobby  always seeking for alternatives to the samey -gamey rut


  1. You know whatAndy, you could be right. I used to go to the club every week but I don't miss it at all. I can usually hope for at least 2 games a month at home (sometimes 3 or 4) and thats plenty, otherwise it can be a tad tiresome. Trouble is I have the time and the (almost) disposable income to satisfy the buying and painting voices in my head most of the time, leading to far too many toys that while I might not use very often on an army by army basis, the 'collection' is in frequent use. Anyway I think I have strayed off the point a bit; too much gaming is bad (for me) at times and I've only every got stronger in my love for the hobby in times of gaming famine as there's all those other aspects of the hobby to keep me going....ramble over. I have an ivory tower to polish lol!

    1. Colin Yes I see- I'd say the same about my "collection" too - except that the buying is often the "causing to be made" new stuff rather than straight buying but that is simply because I'm in the biz Nevertheless I still have a litlle lead mountain to paint- mostly of older figures.
      I can still get the buzz when I find some new info or a "new" war to look at
      I do really find the obcession with so called "game mechanics" deeply tedious as its all bee done over and over .

  2. Evening Andy,
    Its quite scary sometimes how you manage to verbalize what I have been scratting round to say for weeks.
    Regarding the seeking to take offence group, well you managed to stir up some wargamers with your last article in the Miniature Wargames, but I struggled to understand the reasons for the furore. Must be my age.
    My last post was an attempt to explain the lack of posts, which seems to be a bit daft really.
    But anyway a good post again.
    Thanks Robbie.

    1. Robbie- Its always good to stir 'em up- Get the brain cells moving - its so unaccustomed for some of 'em they get worried and angry poor baa- lambs in case 'finkin' is called for
      Despite the fact that this is a hobby with massive scope and unlimited potential I've seen it narrow drastically in the last 10 years s far as "mainstream" goes the accent now being on ease and simplicity and rich boy worship ABOVE ALL ELSE rather than choice

    2. Robbie I re-read my piece after reading your post and now a sufficiency of time has passed I think most of the critics and some of the supporters actually missed the point.and I really can't see what they got so steamed about- One dweeb even called it Angry for Petes sake....
      The idea was to suggest alternatives to the "points value and army list" type of tedium and armies that are historically based rather than simply made up . but because to many of the voices "the game" is everything (ie dice rolling and counter pushing) then anythibng else is simply outside their ken
      MW 376 has an article which is anti- points values but the authors alternative- whilst well thought out is a bit shallow and simply involves dice rolling against some assorted tables- which in themselves aren't bad but again limited in scope.
      His idea seems to be to reduce the whole of Military history to half a dozen dice rolls so that you can play a game- involving more dice rolling. Now the chap has put the work in no doubt but I'm afraid that it all seems so unintentionally childish and simplistic on the page .. is all we do now supposed to be childish ???

  3. A lot depends on the players and the scenario and attitudes and the rules. The sad conclusion that my experience has led me to is that the closer the rules are to mimicking historical process and recreating actual experience, the more tedious wargames tend to become. Competition style games, been there done that not my thing.

    However well designed miniatures "Games" that have enough history for flavor and which allow genetic principles of war, (concentration, surprise, economy of force, maintenance of the aim etc) to apply which also have mechanics designed to inhibit too much assurance can still keep me excited for a couple of hours, often leaving victory in the balance up to the last roll and willing to talk about them afterwards.

    But the are games not "serious" "simulation" wargames like I wanted to do in younger years. The first example that comes to mind is Lawford and Young's Charge! which still provides entertaining, exciting games that can sometimes have surprising turns of fortune and which meet the stated aim that it looks right, tends to reward appropriate tactical decisions ( eg 18thC infantry are better off relying on linear tactics and using their firepower) while still being a game. Another example are various miniatures adaptations of Richard Borg's games that a freind stages which I'll cheerfully drive an hour to because they are fun, simple rulewise but mentally challenging in a pit wits against your opponent way, although not a great way to recreate an actual historical event.

    1. Ross I agree with your second and third paragraphs but not the opener as my exsperience has bee the opposite but I'd also say that is possibly because I'm more historically inclined than you and don't find historical process boring but do finsd games mechanism so.
      though "excitement " is a bit strong ... amusement perhaps

    2. Andy that might not have been clear, I find the historical stuff interesting, hence the several hundred books on the shelf not to mention hours in libraries. Games that reproduce the historical processes and outcomes (very rare to find both) can be interesting, sometimes even engaging but not often fun or exciting as a game. (I.M.E.)

    3. Ross Ah Right- I appreciate the distinction but don't personally find games - as games -that exciting any how- Chess bores me witless for instance as do most other "popular games" . I'd rarher play darts or shove Ha'penny than say Risk or Go or any of that lot.
      So I guess I'm simply not a games player

  4. Possibly one is inclined to find oneself playing the same game time and time again. Considering that one imagines war games are a whole deal more complex than chess, the board game, despite so much much 'theory' abounding, doesn't become stereotyped, or at least, within the game, you can change things when they do. Sick of Playing the Ruy Lopez? Let's play the English Opening instead. Whole different sort of game.

    For several years during the 1990s, almost the only games I got to play were from the WRG stable, to wit: WRG 7th, and the DB* games. It did get boring: pick-up games; not very successful campaigns. T

    The exception, whilst it lasted was Luke Ueda-Sarson's Condotta campaign, though even that was ruined by one guy's insistence he would command alone. The whole idea was that, apart from City State governments and Army commanders there was a pool of condottiere for hire, was defeated by this one guy's condition for playing at all. It meant one of two things: [a] others had to accept the disadvantage of having a subordinate commander with a mind of his own or [b] no one would hire condottiere. Well, most of entered the spirit of the thing.

    You know, I was about to delete that paragraph as not especially relevant to your posting, but on reflection, I think it does go towards what you are talking about.

    Mind you, to be fair, I admit myself to departing a little from the spirit of the campaign. As a representative of the Florentine City Council I observed our first battle, and watched our army get crushed by the Milanese. Thereafter, I, as the same representative, commanded the army myself. Mind you, we still hired Signiore Asti di Spumante as a subordinate commander for some reason...

    It occurred to me that you might want to have a bit of a glance at this thing: the reports, even after well over ten years, are still extant on-line:

    But aside from that, I simply got bored with stereotyped games, rule sets so prescriptive as to lead to arguments over interpretation, and battlefields so devoid of character as to be positively disengaging. In fact most of the games we played represented battles no good general would have accepted, the outcome being (at the outset) so uncertain.

    What I liked about the teeny-weeny tanks posting was that the scenario was sufficiently credible (leaving aside the fact of a Soviet invasion in the first place, for which, even at the time, I never could see a motivation). The Brits had good reason for accepting battle, and had at least some hope, however slender, of hanging on, or possibly even in defeat inflicting such loss as to prevent enemy exploitation (It was Clausewitz who observed that sometimes a victory comes at such a cost as to compel a retreat). The Soviet invaders, seeing victory, though fading, still in sight have good reason to make one last effort to secure a breach in the NATO line. Good one.

    Perhaps we need these days not so much good rules design, as good scenario design.

  5. This link leads to the Introduction of the Condotta Campaign. I discover it actually came to an end in 1999 - 15 years ago!

    1. Looking back after so many years, I discover it was after the second battle - and our second defeat - that I took over command of the Florentine Armies. At least our fortunes somewhat improved, with some ... vicissitudes ... after that!

  6. Ion - Now the Condottiere thing souds both engaging and fun , One of the reasons I like Umpiring at least as much as playing is that it stops rules arguments
    "The Umpire is ALWAYS right especially when he's wrong"
    is the only rule our group will actually enforce even a little bit so your obstreperous dude would have got short shrift and possibly 2 words - one to do with sex the other travel-so your example leads into my point about "character" perhaps.
    I totally agree with your points regarding scenario design but of course that only speaks to the part of our hiobby that doesn't do the points and army list thing ...

  7. Nothing wrong with not being a game player. Surprised me at 50 to find evidence that I was and most of a decade to accept it.

    1. Ross- true but the differences here probably go a good way to explaining our differences in approach within this hobby .

    2. Certainly goes part way. But there be more, over the last 15 years I have become more results/high level oriented than previously and that is quite apart from the game aspect. I no longer care to focus on getting the details of a battalion level attack if you can't get the brigade/division picture right so as to deliver units to the right place at the right time compared to historical battles. Getting the big picture and the small details both right tends to be very complex and take lots of time, often with little happening. So if one needs to abstract the tactical details to get the General's picture, so be it.

      Of course, this has also led me to focus on smaller campaigns where the army commander is close enough to the action to be directly involved rather than sitting a mile away reading reports from corps commanders.

      I have played in 10-20 player serious wargames that tried to do both, as a grunt brigade commander doing the tactical bits or as gm. The more realistic ones resulted in lots of realistic waiting for orders or enemy action, the others were very social. Interesting but wouldn't want to do it every week.

      Which hopefully brings me back on topic. Not all wargames are tedious but some can be, even good ones that are interesting overall, and they can be lots of work to set up, run and take down. Still worthwhile but not a replacement for a beer at the pub or a quick less serious wargame played for laughs and an adrenaline rush.

    3. Ross Yep agree with that. Its about levels and mood and what you want to achieve in a given game. As I've said elsewhere my ECW is usually pretty scholarly and "serious" but other periods not so - ACW riverine for instance or even WW2 naval
      the Teeny tanks was more about overall tactics than unit deployment. Horsesw for courses.
      I might prefer detailed games/simulations overall but that doesn't mean I'd choose to do only those to the exclusion of all else.