One of the things in "modern" wargaming that really sets my teeth on edge is the use of set and immutable unit sizes. For me an otherwise decent set of rules such as Honours of War or Maurice is totally ruined by the use of the same unit sizes for all nationalities.
Now the two sets I have mentioned are by no means the only ones or even the worst offender(That prize goes as with most things to DBR) indeed any set of rules which enforces a set organisation upon the player will get my back up. Now as it happens I like both Maurice and Honours of war and- certainly with the latter if I can work out how to solve the problem of the set unit sizes the rules will rise further in my estimation.
If you take even a cursory look at any campaign you quickly see that unit strengths in any give army vary widely and that between armies and nationalities the variation is even wider. So why do so many of today's "game designers" cop out and impose a set organisation upon the players?. Equally why do so many players accept it. Well that one is easy because its FunFunFun and please don't ask us to know anything about what we are doing because knowing stuff isn't funfunfun . Of course it may be even more funfunfun if the organisations are completely fictitious and bear no resemblance to reality.(DBR again and of course Pikemans Lament ) Never forgetting for one moment that the funsters only allow their kind of funfunfun to be any fun at all- and who appointed them the Fun Police anyway?
So if knowing your military history- even a little bit- isn't fun then why bother to be a WAR gamer at all. There are plenty of games that do not require any kind of knowledge, that are equally as absorbing (so I'm told).
Without the history and knowledge I couldn't be bothered with the actual gaming. It would have no real point of itself and I'm sure I could find another reason to meet my mates down the pub.
However back to the plot.
Set unit sizes - or rather rules which force set unis sizes are only a gaming convenience. A lazy way of organising rules for the convenience of the game designer and in theory the convenience of the gamer who then- obeying the diktats of the game won't need to sully his mind with anything as difficult as actually knowing about the period he is playing.
Now there are plenty of rule sets which don't force unit sizes upon you.My favourite commercial ECW set -Forlorn Hope- doesn't. WRG didn't. The Classics didn't really- though Grant came close but you could get round his unit sizes easily as the rules were figure driven WHAB didn't or its offshoots. Young didn't- though his suggested units sort of did the rules were not dependent upon the unit sizes to actually function and that is the nub of my distaste for set unit sizes. If the set unit size is and worse- the points system are part of how the combat and morale mechanisms function then - at least to me- it is pretty obvious that the game designer has not read up on his period- or if he has he then decides to chuck all of that out in favour of his favourite(this week) "game mechanism" . Now this may not matter if you are making a fantasy game of a sci-fi game or a game of zombie vampire cowboy nazis or whatever adolescent bandwaggon you are jumping on this afternoon but it should matter if you are writing any set of rules which purports to depict an historical period.
As I write it occurs- not for the first time- that there may be a widening distinction between the "game designer" and the rules writer. Their objectives may be very different. A rules writer may actually want to reflect the historical period in his rules for wargaming the military actions of that period. A game designer may simply want to make what he considers to be a "good game"- whatever that might be. Now if the 2 differing sets of criteria overlap all well and good you may - just may get a good game that reflects its chosen period or part of it. Many "games" these days are significantly more limited in scope than say Forlorn Hope or Tactica or WRG or even Black Powder . But of course to actually mention this to the Fun Police brings down coals of fire upon any who do not want lightweight adolescent amusement ALL the time (instead of just some of the time) and whose idea of fun may be different from another zombie dice rolling contest.
The set unit size is of course only a symptom of limited game disease and convenience wargaming and in themselves there is nothing actually wrong with either but if that is all that is left when the Fun Police have finished..... Fortunately at the moment there are still enough blokes out there who have their own idea of fun.