Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Sometimes I think if there is any value in the narcissistic process we call blogging, it may be that it gives you an opportunity to vent to the anonymous and amorphous "internet".

Here's the thing - why do we (wargamers) accept and do things that are in "the rules" when they are patently counter to history?

A couple of weeks ago I was playing my second game of Muskets and Tomahawks, this time against a player who plays regularly at another club. M&T is a skirmish game set in the French Indian Wars. They're a fun set of rules with a healthy dose of flavour.

Line of sight and line of fire are blocked by other models unless it is a friend from the same unit in base to base contact pretty standard fare so far. They also have a formation rule for the trained troops that fought in firing lines - basically they are easier to hit but get some morale bonus. Anyway we set up and I was somewhat surprised to see my opponent and his Woodland Indian troops formed into units two ranks deep. When I queried this he said the rules allow it, and its a good formation that maximises firepower while at the same time keeping the unit compact and easy to control - which of course it is.  In fact it exactly replicated the firing line formation of the formed regulars, but with none of the restrictions or disadvantages. It is also not disallowed in "the rules". This is true, but the end result is a game that bears no visual resemblance to the historical record or even the pop culture impression of the war in the woods and forests of North America - in fact it looked much more like a bad 1:60 ratio Napoleonic game. It has been bugging me since.

So whats the solution?

"Its only a game" - sure, but its a game about something real. Not sure what the solution is, probably just need to be less uptight :-)

I think I'm going to have a bit of a tinker with that in our games to discourage Indians and irregulars forming ranks. If it works I'll let you know,


  1. That does sound annoyingly gamey, and is a good argument for national/racial characteristics. There's nothing today that you can't modify rules to prevent things you deem ahistorical, if your opponent agrees. If your opponent disagrees and insists on playing a game that is manifestly wrong, then the problem may be more than just the rules ...

  2. Rule lawyer alert :)

    In those circumstances you need an umpire

  3. I really should say the guy I was playing was a great opponent who until I pointed it out hadn't seen the issue - he was just playing the way everyone in his group did, and when I mentioned it, he saw the point immediately. I think my chagrin is partly due to a growing unease I have with the direction gaming is going, where increasingly you don't need to know anything about the history as long as you can read the "codex", and in fact the ignorance is bliss.

  4. Agree with everything you say. It should be about playing the game, not playing the rules.

  5. At least "historical" rules hold the advantage that you can always pick up a book and "read all about it" and start questioning the rules. And who hasn't done that with even the best of rules (think of all the 'good' conversations Impetus has generated)

  6. At least "historical" rules hold the advantage that you can always pick up a book and "read all about it" and start questioning the rules. And who hasn't done that with even the best of rules (think of all the 'good' conversations Impetus has generated)

  7. That's an interesting point. I have been thinking about rules quite a bit, mainly about the disconnect between the historical action and the game process and the restrictions D6 place on us - basically just about all rules allow that 1 in 6 success when the historical evidence suggests differently. We are happy to model (for instance) WW2 infantry squad organisations and even in some notable cases such as CoC there is an attempt to encourage historical tactics, but this is always within the straight jacket of our D6s. In some ways therefore I think I prefer the sci fi where at least I can state that in my particular background studies have shown laser rifles hit on average 16.6% of the time.....

  8. In general rule systems are very specific with respect mechanical aspects such as "to hit and damage effects" but weak on "following doctrine" i play (or even acknowledging there was a national doctrine and even going as far to try and describe it).

    I have been interested in WWII gaming for thirty years but have been playing it for the same period of time without knowing what I should be trying to do (otherwise I guess I would be a WWII veteran)

  9. That's actually the point - rules are (as far as I can tell) NOT strong on the mechanical "to hit and damage effects", rather they apply conventions we have all come to accept based on the result of a D6 (or some other dice) roll but as far as I can tell, the results are applied arbitrarily based not on historical evidence. Why should 16.6% of shots hit? We sometimes mask the results by adding other dice rolling mechanisms, but what I am trying to get at is, the target numbers we are aiming to achieve are based on gaming convention not historical evidence. I accept your point about "following doctrine" a little, but historical tactics and doctrines are the children of experience, but that experience will anyway be false if the situation that we are modelling \ simulating \ gaming is controlled not by the reasonable balance of historical probabilities but by the fashion and convention of the d6 roll. The problem is we dont always have the information to build an accurate model.