17 July 2009

A Wargamer's Philosophical Journey

Hello all,
Since I last wrote, I recently got a MP3 player from Sony for my birthday (thanks Mom!) and in between enjoying movie soundtracks, Evanescence, AC/DC and Billy Joel, I have been enjoying the fine Meeples and Miniatures podcasts from Neil Shuck. I really got a lot out of the "View from the Veranda" shows he did with Henry Hyde, editor of Battlegames magazine. The shows were full of erudite discussion that has had me thinking the last two days..Henry's assertions during the second show, which was on ethics and morality in gaming was correct about GW's background being abhorrent, more so than historicals in some cases, and that it's not written from any sort of literary idea, but from a marketing background. The discussion also about the differences in UK and US gaming cultures are also profound. I like the point made that it is extremely difficult to break into the US market, and that most folks are forced to play what's popular because that's what the stores are carrying, and that's what they're playing.

Now before somebody says "Dear god, Panzer's become a pinko!" or something, hear me out. Games where the background is "war for the hell of it" tend to run out of ideas fast, and often require a reset with, you guessed it, a cataclysmic war that does little but cause the game to hemorrhage fans like an arterial bleed. Some of you can guess what games I am referring to, but I won't call them out. I've done that enough.

I understand, companies need to make money, but does it have to be at the expense of a good story? I dunno. But enough of my lamentations. Here's what I am vowing to do about it.

1. I intend to follow my heart when it comes to gaming. I'll play what I enjoy, doing it the way I want and not marrying myself to a single game system like a sycophant.

2. I intend to not let myself get stuck only buying "THE APPROVED LINES". If somebody makes figures for the period better, then by god, I will buy them. I applaud Battleground/Flames of War for bending here. I understand their "no pictures on the website" policy, they are trying to make money, after all, but understanding, it might be cheaper/more feasible to go with QRF or Old Glory, for example (a strength of historicals).

3. I intend to support games that tell you two things, One "Play the game, not the rules" and two "Don't like it, change it!" Among those I can think of doing well right now are Too Fat Lardies, Ambush Alley Games, Ground Zero Games, Specialist Military Publications, to name a few. I think the new outcome driven rules get to a realistic outcome without a lot of hassle. They are adaptable, hell, with Ambush Alley's Force on Force, it's a case of WHAT CAN'T IT DO! It's the Gerber tool of wargaming. Another good rules set is Fistful of Tows II which has SPEED as it's mantra. You really can do a division in contact game in three hours. Name a sci-fi game that can match that lately. The sci-fi market has sadly gone in the other direction, going so crunchy and enamored of the toys the troops are using that they forget that it's still up to the scared kid with the bayonet to take the ground in the end.

4. If I don't like something...out it goes. You all know my issues with certain background fluff with a game I won't mention. Well, when I get the time..I am going to write my own. Already doing that with some like minded friends for Twilight 2000 based on stuff that came out after the Cold War ended. Once you buy that gaming product, it's yours. Use it as you will, if you can't use it, sell it and find something better!

We need to demand excellence from our hobby, especially now with dollars tighter. I am tired of spending $40+ on gaming products and getting little meat on the bones. The above manufacturers deliver more meat than anybody these days, and even with AAG's price rise, I'd stack Ambush Alley or Force on Force up against some of the more popular commercial products...I think AA and FoF would beat them silly.


  1. Agree wholeheartedly.
    I know we wargamers will always tinker with any ruleset; but I love the "it's a toolbox" philosophy Piquet (and the others you've mentioned above) have. Just look at the fan-created rulesets that they've published over the years.

  2. I'm glad to see someone understands why BF/FoW has their policy for "their" website only but are happy to support tournaments without any stricture on what manufacturer's models participants can use.

    As for the comments on playing the game rather than the rules, I'm certainly in your field , using a modified activation system from IABSM with the core FoW rules along with the pregame from PBI. Same goes with my ACW - preferring a pastiche of Johnny Reb 1, 2 and 3 to a strict JR3 interpretation - I'm enjoying playing again.

    As for the Evil Empire - well I colect one army and a couple of variations from 2nd - 3rd editions purely for the fun of it and because those particular minis are sadly no longer in production. No one at the club cares about staying within the latest ed rules outside of the necessary times at tourneys - as long as we're getting people to play and enjoying it, all power to them