Friday, 18 November 2016
Science Fiction Wargaming: The Three Rs
Over on Neil Shucks Meeples & Miniatures podcast Henry talked about his decision to resign as editor of Miniature Wargames, and mentions what he sees as a problem with SF wargaming: namely it's not a unified community in any shape or form, being driven by ranges from manufacturers. An obvious example being Warhammer 40K from Games Workshop. The implication being that SF wargamers tend towards one system and setting, though I would add that most of my friends tend to mix it up and play in more than one manufacturers universe.
So, for example I tend to be thought of as a BattleTech grognard, at one time it would've been Battletech for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a late night snack of BattleTech before going to bed. However, as readers of this blog know I also have an extensive collection of Steve Jackson Games Ogre and GEV game miniatures, which have also graced this blog, and I've been know to wibble on about the game at great length. And then there's Dream Pod 9s Heavy Gear range that I've gotten into over the last few years.
I should also add that I'm also into StarWars: X-Wing from Fantasy Flight Games, and have in the past played the odd game of Star Trek Star Fleet Battles from Amarillo Design Bureau.
However, perhaps I'm not necessarily a typical SF wargamer?
There is an element of truth that SF wargames are compartmentalized by brand/universe setting. In fact one could argue that all the successful SF wargames have a strong brand/universe setting, because without the setting what is one actually playing? And furthermore, without a setting, how does one come to an agreement about how to play a game set in a hypothetical future?
Fantasy gaming also has a similar problem with, for example, Lord of the Rings versus Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but the one thing they do have in common is the extensive mythology from historical cultures. Even if the trolls from Norse mythology are not the same as say the trolls from Runequest, one doesn't have to explain that a troll is a monster, only the nature of the beast.
There again there are the common SF tropes, which I will boil down to the three Rs of science fiction: Rockets, Robots, and Rayguns.
But, once you get past the basics what is actually the common denominator? I'm into robots – BattleTech and Heavy Gear – but my friend John Treadaway is into Hammer's Slammers and Silent Death, and we disagree on the relative realism of walking tanks versus hover tanks. Whereas in Fantasy no one I know is arguing that trolls are less realistic than goblins. The root of this is the difference between science fiction and fantasy: one is rooted in historical based reality the other in mythology and beliefs about forces outside of human understanding.
Is there an answer to this?
Probably not, and does there need to be one because what we're talking about is playing games. However, it does seem to explain Henry's assertion about the lack of a central community for SF wargames. Personally, one of the reasons I play SF games is because I free of community group thinking about what is right or wrong in the games I want to play.