Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm not really playing a game...

The Land of Counterpane by Jessie Wilcox Smith
(from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson)

...I'm running a simulation.

I am always suspicious of players who claim that wargames, particularly toy soldier wargames, are simulations. Maybe I'm overly conscientious but it always seems to me to be trying to add a spurious legitimacy to something that is just shockingly good fun.

Its rather like trying to tell your father that you're not really going to a rock concert to enjoy yourself, but rather to learn something very important for your upcoming music exam. Or convincing yourself that chocolate is a special kind of brain food and that you're eating it out of duty.

That's not to say that you can not simulate aspects of conflict in a wargame and they can certainly help you think about certain areas of interest (logistics, small units tactics, reconnaissance, etc) in new ways, but I don't think that wargaming (except in a few very specific cases) can offer you any answers.

But it can help you think of more interesting questions.

And its fun.

Which is justification enough in my book. Work hard by all means, but do not attempt to make your play work or your work play as neither will benefit by the exchange.

As so often happens on the Internet, the person who sparked this spot of thinking aloud will like as not never read it, but I'm glad that despite the fact that we will never reach an agreement, he forced me to consider and clarify my own position.

I think Paddy Griffith said it best, in his "Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun" (1980)

"One final word is called for, about the spirit in which wargames should be played. They are not mathematical exercises in which the players sit silently confronting each other, with their brains ticking over like miniature computers. Instead, they are social events; rather similar to dinner parties. The guest list should be given a little thought in advance, so that all the players will fit into that particular game and enjoy it. The bill of fare should be designed to suit them; and care should be taken to ensure that no one is left out in the cold. Even the most perfect set of rules (if such a miracle could ever be devised) is useless if it is used on the wrong occasion or with the wrong trimmings; so it is worth while tailoring each game to its social setting. If this is done thoughtfully and well, the result should be amusing, interesting, and successful evening's entertainment for all concerned."

A good wargame is first and foremost a social occasion, done for the pleasure of the thing; to see toy soldiers shining in their glittering rows, to eat and drink and gossip with good friends, to argue about history and rules and why this should and that shouldn't and Lasalle would never have done that you know. To be at play.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back to school.

Listed for the Connaught Rangers by Lady Butler

I am back at College after the work experience phase of my training. It's certainly been an experience that has radically changed my way of looking at things. One of the sadnesses has been how little gaming I've had time for. I enjoy gaming on many levels, but mainly as a means of meeting my friends and there hasn't been enough of that of late.

I got a little gaming in at Gaelcon in October and a single days worth of Memoir '44 over Christmas, but other than that it's been pretty slim. I intend to organise another outing soon.

In my off duty hours, I've managed to accumulate quite a force of Napoleonics mostly due to the painting skills of Mark Bevis of Micromark, whose affordable rates have made it possible to bulk out my Napoleonic forces without breaking the bank. I came to the conclusion that while I had had precious little money, I certainly wasn't going to spend it on figures that I wasn't going to be able to paint or play with. I'm too much of an egomanic to buy figures from Ebay which (quelle horreur!) might be based in a way displeasing to the might Kinch. Mark on the other hand is perfectly willing to accept figures already based and uncoated and has been very quick with emails and photographs to keep me updated.

I hope that the fruits of his labour will be gracing this blog in the not too distant future.