Saturday, 14 January 2012

Playing favourites

As “Too much Lead” put it “We all have them; favourite games, periods, inspirations and so on. The lull in gaming over the festive season gave me pause for thought on a few of mine, and since we are now in "awards" season, so I understand, I thought as a one off to herald the new year I could pass comment on mine.”

And so here are my thoughts:

Wargames Period

I play most periods; I’m a bit of a wargame butterfly. If I had to pick some then it would have to be Napoleonic then WW2 and SYW, but as my blog shows periods have a tendency of spawning into a variations and then into another period, so don’t depend on me sticking on any particular course.

Where it all began

A bit tricky really, I remember being interested in model railways from an early age, yes I wanted to become an engine driver, steam of course. Three influences made me switch, firstly a present of a rocket launcher and exploding wagon for my train set, then the purchase of the Airfix Infantry Combat Group and finally the discovery of “Wargames” by Donald Featherstone in the library.

Scale

Fore me 1/76th has to be the scale, it’s where I started all those years ago and I’ve rarely shifted away from 20mm figures. For me it’s the right compromise between appearance, paintability and footprint on the tabletop.

Rules

Hmm, a difficult one as I’m an inveterate rule writer and tinkerer. I’m still proud of my Zulu and AWI rules but both owe their origins to others in the hobby. The Zulus link back to Pony Wars, which Peter Gilder also used as the basis for his Sudan rules. The main mechanisms of my AWI set are from Charlie Wissencraft a major pioneer, who ran an ACW game at one of the early COWs (Conference of Wargamers)

Current commercial favourites are:

Rapid Fire for WW2, it needs work especially around command and control. I’ve tried Kampfgruppe Normandy, it contains some good ideas, but it contains too many anomalies for me to enjoy.

Black Powder for generic Tricorne/Napoleonic/Colonial, work well for a pick up game at the club and can be tinkered with to get period flavour. I really like the command and control mechanism.

Hail Caesar has had the same effect for ancients that had somewhat stagnated and it has rekindled my interest in gaming the period.

Others that had an influence over the years are WRG 4th/5th/6th DBA and DBM, 1644, Age of Reason, the WRG Napoleonics (remember flinch points!), various WW2 sets.

Boardgame

Yes, I’m a boardgamer or more specifically a Eurogamer, but you won’t find any of it on my blog. Why? Because I’m a willing participant with others who are boardgame enthusiasts and are always buying the latest games. There’s always lots of inventive ideas in the games and many will carry across to wargames with little problem.

Metal/Plastic?

I did start with soft plastic and for years knew no other, but gradually began to add some metal to my Napoleonic collection and some other bits and pieces. I then realised that for armies the size I liked and aspired to the weight and cost of metal would be prohibitive (I was still at school at the time) and Springwood came along with their hard plastic figures, so I had the basic numbers sorted.

Later in life once I had the money but not the time I made a decision to stay with plastic as an easy way of limiting myself to a smaller range of periods.

Figure manufacturer:

Zvezda has to be my favourite for sculpting, but they have suffered scale creep over the years, but their new Art-of-Tactic has returned to 20mm, though the sculpting is no longer as crisp.

Strelets would be my pick for unusual subjects with a quirky originality. Hat still uses the horrible rubbery plastic that loses detail and Italeri does brilliant sculpts, but has suffered from scale creep as well. Caesar was heading in the right direction, but seems to have become fixated by WW2.

Overall very much a pick and mix approach is currently my style

Clubs

My best memories still come from the clubs I first started out with. Bath got me started on AWI, WW2 and Napoleonics, I especially remember vast sprawling Napoleonic games fought over a weekend and back to back WW2 skirmish games.

Lancaster (Jomini) introduced me to a wide range of diverse views on the hobby and I remember the Niersteiner-Domthal campaign organised by Andy Callan and fought with matchstick armies.

After a gap I returned to the hobby setting up the St Albans club, which is still going strong under the leadership of the Two Fat Lardies and I’m glad to say the same sense of fun was still there when I popped by a year ago. So many memorable games in a vast range of scales and genres.

During a difficult period in my working life I was seconded to a job in Aberdeen, and I must admit the welcome and games at the local club really helped to maintain my sanity.

More recently there has been the participation in the annual big games organised by the Society of Gentlemen Gamers and the satisfied feeling of returning after a weekend’s gaming in such a friendly environment.

Of course I can’t ignore my current club the Deeside defenders, who put up with me almost every week and many weekend boardgaming sessions as well.

Opponents

My longest suffering opponent is Steve Ayers the founder member of the Harpenden Wanderers formed of ex-members of the St Albans club who gradually drifted away to other parts of the country and coincidentally like myself lived in Harpenden. Steve was my main AWI opponent and he wrote the first computer version of my rules (and he’s still using them). When he left he had to buy AWI armies and I had to rewrite the rules to run on a PC! Steve is still a regular opponent at the various show games put on by the Lance & Longbow society.

Inspiration

Film

I think this would cover all the old favourites: A bridge too far; The Longest Day; Zulu; The Eagle has landed; Where Eagles Dare; The heroes of Telemark; Spartacus; Gladiator etc. Want I really need to do is spend time watching the various eastern European films about the renaissance period

Book

Over the years I have read an enormous amount and over the years the trend has been to shift from the blow to blow accounts to details of the underlying strategic context.

My favourite historical authors include Christopher Duffy (Campaigns of Napoleon), Rick Atkinson (An Army at Dawn) Martin Van Crefeld (Supplying War) Robert Kershaw (It never snows in September)

But then I’ve still got my treasured possessions, “Charge” and the “The Wargame”, both bought for what seemed an extortionate price when I had little money, but have repaid the expenditure many-fold over the years.

Magazine

Yes I’ve subscribed to a lot of them, but gradually reduced over the years. Currently I subscribe to several societies as they often give more details on battles and their context than the mainstream magazines. Their other benefit is often to throw up something new that if I was just considering buying a magazine would not get a second glance. So stand up and take a bow Society of Ancients, Lance & Longbow, Pike and Shot and SOTCW societies. Yes a bit of a gap in the middle, but no one has yet produced a well balanced journal for the Napoleonic period.

Mainstream I still subscribe to Wargames Illustrated and Battlegames and pick up the occasional issues of Miniature Wargames and Wargames Soldiers Strategy if there is anything to interest me.

Art

To me this is a great inspiration, walking into a museum and seeing the great period pictures for real the battles pictures of Tamai and Abu Klea at the National Army Museum are so striking

The Internet

Has now become my first post of call for research and checking on what is happening in the hobby. It has enabled me to meet a lot of people and gain a lot of new ideas and perspectives.

Other

Some final thoughts, favourite paints, still Humbrol but now acrylics a good robust paint for wargames use. Vallejo has the colour range and higher pigment levels so I use them where needed.

Favourite tank – still the Panther, though the T34 comes a close second

Favourite unit: Napoleonic 3ieme régiment Croate, one of my longest serving units

3 comments:

AKI said...

Interesting as ever to see other people's take on this subject, yours is at least the fifth version I've become aware of. Some great answers and some interesting new topics I didn't think to cover.

Monty said...

Very comprehensive Will, and interesting to read motivations ;)
Regards,
Monty

Ray Rousell said...

Very interesting to read, some great answers!