Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Why Do We Fight?

I write this on Historicon weekend, as a substantial number of our wargaming community are off fighting battles in every imaginable period of history. As I looked back on my many trips to Historicon, and the games I held at my house, or observed over 50 years of wargaming, i realized what is a central “problem” with our hobby.

Our battles never have and reasons behind them, they have no consequences to our armies or commanders that affect later battles, in short, they have no history!

Each battle is a little snippet from time, that exists quite apart from any decisions that got the two armies to that point, or any consequences beyond a tactical victory or defeat in the battle itself. True, some scenarios may be very inventive and a fun “puzzle,” or they may be based on an actual battle in history, but the fact remains that the gamers involved had no input or responsibility for getting the forces to the engagement, little choice in terrain, and in all cases no long term consequences to consider. Too many battles are hot house flowers that can only exist in that one moment.

This is the central reason that many wargames leave all parties with a rather unfulfilled sense of completion. Too often the loser and winner are left wanting more. Many a “big” battle is more fun in the planning, than in the doing, simply because the game is too “balanced” and too scripted, and the results in outcome, as well as degree of victory, are meaningless. It’s like a single baseball game without a season, or even a world series, deciding who is the best team.

We lack a history preceding the game and following it. We lack a campaign!

Campaign rules are the great undiscovered country of wargaming, and in all my 50 plus years of wargaming they are the one creative challenge that has not been successfully conquered by wargame designers. We’ve had hundreds of Napoleonic rule sets, mostly tactical in nature; we’ve had a number of game “generators” that have offered formulas for creating a one-off battle, we’ve had point systems of suspect value, we’ve had rule sets, such as Piquet, that offered multi-period wargaming, but the list of successful campaign rules is close to zero-no, it is zero!

So, of course, I’ve got to give it a go! I’m working right now on a set of campaign rules that would have multi-period applicability, and a minimum of rules and record keeping(no one wants to be a bean counter in logistics!). They will allow historical or fantasy pretexts. The system creates its own maps, a simple, but effective, rationale for the reasons for and effects of battles, and allows for the interconnection of a number of wargame engagements over a campaign season-which could be an annual or bi-annual events to be renewed every January or September by a group or club. It will also have a strong web component for support, discussion, and development.

I am now writing the initial draft which will be play tested both in the US and in England-hopefully as early as August of this year. I hope to take it to publication in September. It is very different, but something, I think, that Tony Bath would have greatly enjoyed.

It will be the second publication of the planned Zouave Trilogy. I plan to use the formula I mentioned in my last blog of 2-300 numbered and signed “Limited Edition” copies in print, and a follow-up of ePub editions after that initial release. The game itself will not require any devices beyond paper, dice, and cards. It will be integrated with Zouave, but not dependent on any given rule set for tabletop actions-any system will work.

More information to follow