Saturday, 13 August 2011
Historical Wargamers Have it Easy
I know that the title of this piece will cause a bit of controversy, but it is made partly in response to Neil Shuck and Henry Hyde's podcasts View from the Veranda, where they assert that Sci-Fi & Fantasy don't have to do research for their armies. I inferred from this comment that they think that having to do research somehow makes historical wargaming a more serious activity requiring dedication to achieve the goal of fielding an army, whereas Sci-Fi & Fantasy just require one to buy an easily digested source book.
Neither of them would appear to be anti Sci-fi & Fantasy, far from it in fact, as there is clearly evidence that Neil is a player an collector of Sci-fi & Fantasy wargame armies, and Henry plays Neil. However, I really want to beg to differ about having to do research makes historical wargaming somehow harder, and or that one has to be more serious about the hobby.
Okay, I will admit that I have a research background, it goes hand-in-hand with my job, and I have to be able to interpret the results of research trials and apply said result in my work. This without doubt gives me more skills when it comes to researching stuff, but given that any person who can read can go to a library, or in this age of the internet search on Google, I can't see that a determined person can't find out all they need to know about any given subject. Whether or not what they find is correct, or not, is of course another matter indeed.
Of course, if a person is not determined to follow their passion then that is another matter. In this case they want the stuff in an easy to digest format, and preferably be able to buy the miniatures and rules to go, which is all well and dandy until you realise that one still has to paint all the stuff you've bought up. And this is the Elephant in the room, which in all fairness to Neil and Henry they do acknowledge and muse upon possible solutions.
The other problem is that miniature wargames can segueway into military modelling. This is epitomised by the fastidiousness over the correct colours for painting uniforms and the details of the uniforms and equipment carried. I always have a wry smile to myself when this topic comes up, because of the old adage that a unit that passes inspection is not ready for combat. and any unit ready for combat will not pass inspection. You only have to look at the field expedient changes and modification to the gear that is worn by serving soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to see that this is as true to day as it ever was. In my opinion this fastidiousness is driven by the scale/size of the figures that are being played with. I'm with Peter from Baccus in that 6mm is the one true wargames scale.
Actually I'm not completely with Peter, because doctrinally 6mm is not a scale, but rather a very loose definition of the size of a figure that varies depending on assumptions made about the height of a man, and how to measure said height, with complications like variable average heights across the ages.
However, in principle, smaller is better and I would consider 3mm to 10mm, where the average is approximately 6mm as being a good size for miniature toy soldiers, if you want to play anything other than small skirmish wargame. For me the figures need to be as close as possible to the ground scale that one is playing over if one is going to make the most of the benefits of using toy soldiers, rather than having all the downsides that toy soldiers bring to a game when the ground scale is grossly out of proportion.
The topic of ground scale deserves a blog entry in its own right, because what I might consider proportionate others might consider foolish. I'll come to this another time.
Anyway, I've meandered off the topic of research and historical wargaming versus Sci-Fi & Fantasy wargaming, and why I think that neither is easier to do than the other. Quite simply if you are modelling a British WW2 regiment, you chose the one you want to represent, a period where they are deployed and with a little bit of faffing you will be able to get an ORBAT (order of battle) and away you go. Painting the uniforms is then just a matter of finding a paint that matches the colour the uniforms were, and Bob's your Uncle and Charly's your Aunt.
On the the other side of the coin if one is making up an army for a Sci-Fi campaign, and I will use my own Mummerset one as an example, I had to decide what colour were the uniforms would be, how the platoons would be organised, how many men, what sort of infantry would they be, how many platoons to a company, how many company's to a battalion, and how many battalions to a regiment? Admittedly I could just pick figures off the top of my head, but I know that this stuff comes from doctrine. So I had to think what sort of doctrines would the armed forces of Mummerset have? And then I had to think what was the main arm of the army?
All of this actually required a lot of historical knowledge into how armies grow and develop wen reacting to past wars fought and the introduction of new technology. Of course one could by a book on Ork armies, but I'm not playing Games Workshop Warhammer 40K, and I think to label all Sci-Fi & Fantasy wargamers as people who play Games Workshop products rather blinds one to all the other wargamers that are getting on and doing there own things, like for example Gruntz and the Society of Science Fiction & Fantasy Wargamers , not to mention BattleTech of course!