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"Wargame articles-how do you like your battle refights?" Topic

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06 Aug 2018 3:11 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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1,171 hits since 19 Apr 2013
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2013 6:29 a.m. PST

"Battle/campaign History & how to game" has been a staple article format in wargaming magazines for 30 years or more. Articles, I mean, of the form :

The battle of TMP

1,500 words on the background to the battlem, what happened in the battle (including maps) and the consequences for the great TMP war.

500 words on how to game the battle, what rules, where to get figures.

On a scale of 1 (hate) to 10 (My favourite style) how do you rate such articles in general?

I'm about a 6, I think.

I immensly enjoyed Stuart Asquith's series on ECW battlefields in Battle / Mil' Mod', although these had very little "game content" as I recall. On the other hand I expect a bit more from "Refight the battle of hastings" these days – an innovative rule set included perhaps, or a "how I made the terrain". Although even that can be pretty dull after a while – foam, hot wire cutter, plaster coating, houshold paint, flock and blah blah blah.

Years ago I read something titled (IIRC) "1066 in a day (with DBA)", and that was a good take on three pretty familiar battles. It was in MW I think (might have been WI – maybe it was Slingshot ??). This had a little potted history, and a fair bit of gaming!

I can put up with a fair bit of history if the topic is obscure enough (e.g. the initial Darkest Africa type articles, which spawned a whole new gaming period).

Where do you stand ? Like 'em ? Hate 'em ? Somewhere inbetween ?

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2013 6:38 a.m. PST

I like 'em. Not sure what number to give. Maybe a 6 like you. After all, they aren't all well written.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2013 6:42 a.m. PST

Oh yes – well written helps. When you feel that the history bit is written by a person who knows what he's talking about from a deep knowledge of the subject and the writing is engaging – those are pure gold.

Jeff96519 Apr 2013 6:47 a.m. PST

I remember an article by Gary Chalk, it was a mini campaign set in Darkest Africa. It had about 6 scenarios that could be played individually or as a campaign. It had extra rules and was card driven. It appeared in WI but I cannot remember which issue.
This sort of article was pretty near perfect for me and is a good example of what we need in wargames mags IMHO.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2013 6:50 a.m. PST

Agree with that – Gary Chalk is a great wargaming writer.

But without preceeding "what's this Darkest Africa / Back of Beyond thing then?" articles (was that mainly Chris Peers ?) the mini-campaign probably wouldn't have made as much sense. Maybe.

John the OFM19 Apr 2013 6:51 a.m. PST

I would like to see how many allowances were made to accommodate your table size, figure availability, etc.
Not everybody has exactly the correct regiments painted for Eutaw Springs or Chippewa. If you, do, congratulations! I am always having to say "In this battle, the part of the 2nd Guards Battalion is being played by the 63rd Foot." grin

It will be interesting to see how I fit the retreat from Concord on a 9'x5' table.

MajorB19 Apr 2013 7:17 a.m. PST

It will be interesting to see how I fit the retreat from Concord on a 9'x5' table.

One idea I've come across for that scenario is to split your table into 3 lengthwise (so each section is 9ft long by 20ins wide) and then run the road down the length of each section in a snake-wise fashion so that road runs down the first section up the middle section and down the far section. You end up with a table that is 27ft long and 20ins wide!

John the OFM19 Apr 2013 7:20 a.m. PST

So, THAT'S how you fit a Burmese Python into a suitcase! grin

Jeff96519 Apr 2013 7:35 a.m. PST

I think I prefer large skirmish games to traditional Divisional (?) sized games, I think this is another reason I liked this particular article. From a history point of view it was pretty light but gaming wise it included everything you needed.
I get turned off by articles that give you large chunks of history with a paragraph tacked on the end to suggest how to wargame it, (lazy I guess).
John, if I don't have the figures then like you substitution is the key, I have to admit during the game it matters not to me, that I,m using Zulus instead of pygmies or ngoni.
Another thing I liked about this particular article was that it was easily moved to other periods as well.
20thmaine, getting back to your original question 1500 words on history and 500 words on wargaming scores low, possibly a 3. The other way around and it would get an 8.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Apr 2013 7:59 a.m. PST

I'm a bad person. I generally don't read articles like this. I do my background research by hitting a couple of three books from the mainstream lists and then selecting one or two more based on my interpretation of the mainstream books.

I think part of this is that I like to cast the conflicts as skirmish (20-30 units per side) level operations for games. From my perspective that number of figures tends to match a player's decision space with units 1:1 at the atomic level (about half the time) and allows units to be grouped in reasonable clutches (5 or so) for aggregate decision making. It also allows you to resolve battles in the 1-2 hour frame.

Anyway, to the OP, I don't dislike that type of article, but I don't really use them and rarely read them.

Martin Rapier19 Apr 2013 8:22 a.m. PST

I though the thread title referred to accounts of wargame refights of battles, not articles about battles and how to wargame them.

Refighting historical battles is why I wargame, so a big 10 for such articles (unless they are awful of course:) as long as they have decent maps and OBs.

I would certainly have lots of these over hypothetical battles or yet another article about the 76th SS bottle washer brigade and how they defeated thousands of Russians while wearing ever so pretty uniforms. Hypothetical battles are OK for hypothetical wars (like WW3) if they are militarily plausible.

Wargame accounts are invariably a little dull unless you were one of the people taking part. Pictures help a lot, as does the odd map.

mghFond19 Apr 2013 10:09 a.m. PST

Im one of those people who enjoy reading AARs. Any of Barry Hilton's articles about Napoleonic battles in WI for example.

WI also used to have multipart articles on huge WW2 battles put on my Dominic Fielder which were a blast to read.

Sparker19 Apr 2013 2:22 p.m. PST

It all depends on the outcome you and the publisher want. With my recent account of how our group staged a Borodino 1812-2012 Mega Game last year, published in last months Wargames Illustrated, they asked for information about a) Why we were doing it, and b) What the challenges we faced were and how we overcame them – in terms of scenario and rules and stats etc. So thats what I gave them.

I guess with something like Borodino, for that audience, you don't have to spend 1500 words setting the historical scene. I would hope not, at least! You have to make some assumptions about your audience, after all…

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