Sunday, February 14, 2016

Wargamers and Tactics: Everyone Charge! vs. Real World Tactics

About a month or so ago an observation became forefront in my mind and I wanted to post something about it.  After a game I ran for the group, I noticed no one bothered to follow the examples of the tactics I had provided them before the game.  It was a skirmish level WWII game.  Each side had either 3 or 4 squads each plus some support units.  One side was attacking and the other defending. I had told the attacking side that they should work together i.e. covering their approaches, mutual fire support, use SMOKE! and stuff like that.  The defenders were coached on using their machines guns to overlap their fire zones, hold back a squad or fire team to plug a hole and so on.  Neither side really paid attention.  The defenders went about their task of setting up and threw everyone on the firing line, the machine guns had poor lanes of fire mostly being blocked by obstacles.  The attackers, once they started, ran full speed into the waiting fire of the defenders only to get decimated! The one fire team that made it to the defensive line and past the defenders was able to catch an objective but it wasn't enough to win the battle. Had the defenders placed someone in reserve that fire team wouldn't have made it.  I've noticed this same behavior at conventions as well.
This made me think about how wargamers play a game vs. what the real world tactics would be for a given situation, whether that's a skirmish game or Corp level game.

I'm not a strategist and was unable to serve in the military so I am by no means an expert on tactics of any sort but through reading books and studying I've attempted to learn what tactics were used in the periods I game.  I know I've succumb to the idea of, "well I have this unit of heavy cavalry lets charge that totally unmolested guard unit of infantry!" Which usually turns out badly for me.
Is there an underlying thought that these are just little men on bases and they have no real world impact if they all die to the man?  Does it matter to Joe Gamer that he is using the same battle plan whether its ancients or modern regardless of the scenario/battle he has decided to play.
In our games don't we try to emulate the type of warfare that fascinates us? After all of our preparation, we present the scenario and then someone runs the troops right up the middle into close combat and the game becomes unwinnable for that side.  We've all witnessed this and have probably done it ourselves.  I realize that these questions are not new and are multi-layered and the answers will vary widely.

I will start with the my first question "these are just little men on bases."  This is true! They are just little men on bases and the fact that they lose 80% of their unit strength in a given day does not matter in the real world.  Unless we are playing a campaign game then there's some sort of ramification to our actions as players.  Other than that we don't care about them.

The 2nd question about Joe Gamer using the same battle plan regardless of era he/she is playing.  I find this true as well only because I've fallen victim of it.  Some years ago there was a gentleman who ran a lot of Napoleonic games here in Portland.  So I got use to lining my units up shoulder to shoulder, sort of speak, and marching across the battlefield.  Well one day I sat down with a different group of friends to play Advanced Squad Leader and I did the same thing with the counters for my troops. I lined them all up shoulder to shoulder.  My opponent looked at me and said, "Boy you have been playing a lot of Napoleonic games."  That moment brought into focus a mentality of playing that I hadn't realized. Since then I tried to understand how particular armies fought in the time periods that interested me and hopefully bring that about in my playing and my scenario design.

My 3rd thought about the amount of time and effort we devote to our hobby to make the shields, uniforms, study the history, find a descent set of rules and so on.  I know I devote a lot of time to building armies and to studying the history of that particular time period and creating scenarios to allow others to enjoy our work.  Now its game time when you explain to a player that he/she better not charge the cavalry into the  pike wall of infantry on the first move because it will not go well and that they should spend a few turns softening up the infantry with bow fire etc. On the first move they charge and then look at you completely dumbfounded that their cavalry was routed.  The defense they use usually falls on the "rules aren't historical" because of some obscure fact they once read (which is an exception to what normally happens) or that you aren't giving the correct bonuses to their units and so on.  We've all heard these arguments. So who's fault is it? The players for not paying attention to the GM about what not to do and what you should do.

In conclusion as I reread this piece I realize that it is not as comprehensive as I would like but I hope it conveys my thoughts adequately.  I am going to venture a hypothesis that most gamers are playing for the enjoyment and not so much about the realism the game provides.  I say this based on my observations and absolutely no hard evidence.  So I throw it out there to the rest of the internet, what do you think?   

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My daughter's first painted miniature!!!

 My daughter asked me to teach her how to paint miniatures this morning. So I struck while the fire was hot!! Luckily I had some primed figures waiting for some paint. She and I sat down and I walked her through painting a 28mm Pulp figure.  I allowed her to pick the colors she wanted etc...  She listened and did everything I told her.  She is going to do the other two on this popsicle stick as well.  She says she had big plans for the evil scientist.  I can't wait.  This makes me so happy.  She's 9 years old.  I hope she learns to like it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

10mm Italian Renaissance Knights

Just finished up painting some 10mm Italian Knights for my Renaissance army.  They painted up pretty quickly. Lots of detail for the size.  I just have to add the flag for these guys.  Time to prime the next batch of cavalry.