Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wargaming Remotely in the Time of Corona Virus

Remote Wargaming Setup
(Note: the cat is vital to the enterprise and cannot be done without)

A lot of us are cooped up in our homes at the moment - which is a bit of a pain in the neck, but sure beats the alternative. But one of the drawbacks of the lockdown is the fact that a lot of us will not be getting our usual wargaming fix. 

Over the last few years, I have taken to playing games remotely by video conferencing with friends who are far away. There is absolutely no reason we can't try this with our usual opponents or why not try having a go with some our your internet pals. There is no time like the present. 

I have recorded a short podcast on the subject, summarising the lessons I've learned from the last few years of remote wargaming. 

But in brief they are; 

1. Preparation - Get everything ready (board, terrain, dice, counters, etc) before the game. 
2. Think about the camera - Remember that your opponent does not have a clear view of the table. 
3. Dice - Use a dice roller or work on trust. 
4. Start small - Double the amount of time you expect the game to take as a good rule of thumb. 
5. Brief your opponent - Send your opponent a written brief before hand. 
6. Be patient - Your opponent may have difficulty working from a small screen, be patient. 

I expand on each of these points in the Podcast and there are a couple more, but these are the basics. 

Sir Harry Flashman VC striding across the battlefield like a colossus

Backdrops are extremely useful in a play by video game, because they give your opponent a clear indication of where the edges of the table are, which is not always easy on video. I would also pick a plain backdrop if you can, so that your opponent can see your figures silhouetted against it. It can be tricky trying to make out what's happening against the visual clutter of the room. 

The British forces close in on the well

I played a game of The Men who would be Kings with my pal Nick last night. I wrote the scenario especially with remote wargaming in mind, so it had a few extra little wrinkles built in. 

The game was set after the battle of Mudki during the first Sikh War in 1845. Lord Gough's army was short of water and Captain Stern was dispatched to find a well in a nearby village. 

Brutal charge and counter charge between Sikh Akali and Bengal Irregular Horse

The game took about ninety minutes to play through, with some time after for shooting the breeze. The Sikh Akali's made short work of Bengal Native infantry, the sole survivor of their savage charge you can see fleeing to the rear. They were immediately counter attacked by the Bengal Irregular Horse under Risaldar Mir Afsar Ali, which lead to a brutal hand to hand struggle. 

"Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!"

The Akali and the Irregular Cavalry charged and counter charged several times during the game and the officers on both sides were killed. In fact, it was a brutal game for officers all round. You test to see if an leader becomes a casualty by rolling 2d6 and they only fall if you roll snake eyes. 

Both Nick and I rolled a lot of snake eyes this game with a statistically improbably number of officers dropping like flies. 

Official War Artist Nick Stern did this sketch of the battle between the Akali and 
the Bengal Irregular Cavalry

Nick is an artist and sent me this wonderful sketch of the battle between the Akaki and the Irregulars.  It strikes me as something out of Caton Woodville.  I will really cherish this and intend to print it out and frame it once this whole sorry business is over. 

British lancers run the gauntlet of the Sikh musketry to spear the gunners and capture the gun

The game ended after a tightly fought engagement with my Fauj-i-Khas penned in some buildings but undaunted.  They would have proved a hard nut to crack, but unfortunately they couldn't counter attack without being hammered.  Stuck where they were they were unable prevent the British taking the well or our heavy gun, which was being evacuated by a rather splendid elephant from HAT. 

This was a thrilling game that was in the balance right up until the last turn.   It was a pleasure to play against Nick and I will treasure his sketch. 

If you would like to know more about setting up your own remote wargaming games, please tune into the latest episode of Send Three & Fourpence.