Wednesday, 10 August 2011

In answer to a question...

My last post attracted a rather interesting comment from Itinerant:

"I've got a question that doesn't have much to do with your entry. But I couldn't find an email for you...and I suppose it's a reflection type of question. Anyway,

I've only played WWII mini gaming and a couple of Future War Commander. The whole fantasy side of things (and Samurai) fascinate me. However, I must say that I don't understand the appeal to the style of gaming. Moving big blocks of troops for optimal position, then moving together for melee (close combat, etc) and then withdraw or take ground. It seems some what stale...

I'm not quite sure and I must be wrong, because fantasy and ancient battles is pretty popular so there must be more to it.

Can you tell me what appeals to you about this style of gaming vs more mobile shooting style of modern/sci fi gaming?"

I hope Itinerant will forgive me, but given that it was off topic and it raises an interesting question I thought I would attempt to give it enough space to tackle properly. The question made me think more about what makes motivates me to play certain types of games, though I'm not sure the answer will be very helpful.

For me wargaming has always been about the miniatures and the concepts first and foremost. I started out as a Games Workshop player and what attracted me to their games and miniatures was a combination of their imagery and the way that was presented in the miniatures. The Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universes were always strikingly visual places with a kind of dark excitement that appealed to a teenage mind.

I started out as a Warhammer 40,000 player, because my friends were. My first armies were for Warhammer 40,000. I came to Warhammer somewhat later, largely because I felt I was missing out by ignoring a whole other range of miniatures. I bought the rulebook without having even tried a game, the notion of whether or not I might like it never really entered my head.

So if asked the question "what appeals to you about this style of gaming?" the answer is nothing. Which is to say, it wasn't this style of gaming that appealed to me, it was a desire to collect, paint and use a certain style of miniature.

This has always been my approach to wargaming - Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Historical. If I see a particular miniature or a particular image that appeals to me I will buy it and build an army around it. My choice of units is based more around finding a particular miniature of concept appealing, rather than any tactical consideration. I can often find myself acquiring a large number of miniatures without thinking about how they might work on the table, because that has always been a secondary concern.

Not that this is necessarily a sensible approach. I have found myself acquiring a large number of miniatures for games I hardly play because, when I finally got round to looking at them, I found I didn't like the rules.

Strangely, I also have very little interest in miniatures that don't belong to a specific game. Although, these days, I am more a collector and painter than player I still prefer to collect armies rather than individual miniatures.

None of this is terribly helpful if you want to know the appeal of formation heavy, mass battle historical and fantasy games. So, with that in mind, I have tried to consider what it is about games like Warhammer that have kept me playing while others have fallen by the way side.

There is a simple visual appeal in seeing rank upon rank of troops lined up. Even if at 28mm scale units of miniatures are far smaller than any historical one, the effect of ranking them together in blocks serves to make them look larger and more imposing. There is a sense in which a ranked up army looks more ready to take on the world. But fundamentally, this is still an aesthetic consideration.

All I can say is that I had never drawn a sharp distinction between ranked up fantasy and ancient wargaming and modern and sci-fi wargaming. All wargaming is fundamentally about maneuvering groups of troops into the most advantageous position, attempting to bring force to bear at your opponent's weak points. Nor is it necessarily the case that modern/sci-fi gaming is more mobile. While individual troops may have more freedom of position, due to the looser formation requirements, games can bogged down in protracted fire fights in which neither side attempts to approach the other.

So I don't have a simple answer to the question. All I can say is that the differences between ancient/fantasy and modern/sci-fi wargaming have never really mattered to me and that is the appeal of miniatures and concepts that bring me to a game more than the rules.

1 comment:

  1. Great answer. Thank you for taking the time to answer it thoughtfully. Frankly, when you stated,"it was a desire to collect, paint and use a certain style of miniature," I got that. The whole reason I'm looking into a different era/style of gaming is because I'm interested in learning more of the Samurai history between 1400-late 1600s.

    I should embrace that and worry about the game second. With my season of life I don't have a lot of time for games. And, I'm not a tournament player, so I don't need to worry about having the ultimate list.

    Good stuff. Thanks.