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"Being There: some ideas on creating a setting in wargames" Topic

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Sidney Roundwood25 Apr 2013 5:52 a.m. PST

"When my mind drifts back now, it is images rather than a coherent narrative which present themselves to me: mist rising from horse lines in the thin keen wind of a morning by the Danube; long marches, the men ankle-deep in mud behind creaking wagons, as the beech and ash woods of Germany enfold us; a hill-top in Northern Spain, when snow fell below us in the valleys but we lay on dry, iron-hard ground under the stars; grizzled centurions lashing at the transport horses, yelling at the legionaries to put their shoulder to a wheel that was spinning as if in mockery of their efforts; a boy with blood oozing from his mouth as I rested his dying head on my arm and watched his leg kick; my horse flinching from a bush which parted to reveal a painted warrior, himself gibbering with terror; the sigh of the wind coming off a silent sea; the tinkle of the camel bell across desert sands. Army life is a mere collection of moments." (Augustus, Alan Massie)

How do we remember our wargames? Do we remember them as "a mere collection of moments" experienced from the eye's view of a small metal figure? Do we remember them as a game played with friends in a social environment? Or do we remember them as a competition, consulting rules and charts to find the result?


I'd wager that each of us probably remembers all three of those, perhaps at different times or stages of our hobby. I certainly do. But the games I remember best (or, perhaps, the ones I like to remember most clearly) are the first type. These are the games which I'm immersed in the battle, thinking along the same lines as one of the combatants, measuring myself against the challenges on the table and (just possibly) gaining an insight to what it might have been like to be THERE.


I've put some thoughts together on my blog of what we've tried at our club, and in some of the participation games we've run at wargaming shows, to create that feeling of being THERE.

Here's the link to the blogpost:


Hope you enjoy reading it!

Best wishes

Fat Wally25 Apr 2013 6:11 a.m. PST

What a fantastic piece Sid. Thought provoking and inspiring. I have nothing to add but my thanks for a very enjoyable read.


BigLee25 Apr 2013 6:41 a.m. PST

Totally agree, very thought provoking.

As a wargamer who has also been a roleplayer for 30 years I see no reason why some of the theatrical components used in RPG's can't also be used to enhance the player experience with Wargames. Handouts, maps, letters, written orders and other props combined with music are all practical. So long as they aren't overused and don't get in the way of the game then any of these methods can be used to 'transport' the players into the setting IMHO.


OSchmidt25 Apr 2013 9:24 a.m. PST

Dear Sid

Oh to be sure. But I work in Imagi-Nations and have for most of my wargaming life (50years now). I have hundreds and hundreds of pages of stories, correspndence, records, battle reports, and the like, memoirs of the characters, and various tales of the nations involved. But there is a difference. THAT is "inside the game" and so the annals of "Princess Trixie of Saxe-Burlap und Schleswig-Beerstein" as well as "Faustus the Grump" of Bad-Zu-Wurst are a staple in my games, along with the various pecedillios of the people in my Imagination world of the between the Wars and early WWII in "The Shattered Century."

But you have hit on something that I've advocated for a long time which falls cold on most players feelings. That is, setting the mood and the mind of the gamer and "entering" the "fantasy world" you have created. I have to say none of the images you spoke about resonate with me. I am primarily involved and interested in the 18th century and in my 18th century I really don't care to have 40 spies and one cook, my generals wander about in a parody of the 18th century, manevering more than they fight, and carrying along in their baggage trains a battalion of cooks, servants, hair-dressers, and of course mistress' I'm not into the misery of war. I'm more more into all this "Gentlemen of France you may fire First" and the 18th century as Hendrik Van Loon saw it. (See his section on Descarte in Van Loon's Lives."

All of my imagi-nations have "themes" and dramatic tropes and I fully admit the plots for them and for the games are straight out of Grand Opera rather than history. Princess Trixie (nee Caterina, Nee Trina, Nee Trixie) is a parody of Austria-Hungary and Maria Theresa, she comes to the throne of Saxe-Burlap und Schleswig Beerstein by a tontine, and is like Maria Theresa a major babe--and a teenage valley-girl par excellence, interested in boys, shoes, fashion, shoes, boys, boys, and boy-toys." In fact, she was raised in the San Fernando Valley in California and brought back to Europe to rule when her parents succeed to the throne! Totally Awesome! F'r'shure!

Then there's Bad Zu Wurst the domain of the military Genius "Faustus the Grump" A land of soldiers and blue meanies, and like you know who is a bitter, dissonent,dyspeptic always making snide comments about everyone around him, and getting into enormous rows with his brother Humberto. Each battle report from there side is a back and forth conversation where the jibes get more and more pointed, nasty and vitriolic untill they're slanging each other and airing the family dirty laundry for all to see.

Then there's the Kingdom of Flounce with a ruler who is bored and tired of kingship and wants to shirk his duties as much as possible, and doesn't want to do the hard work as king, and just wants to live a quiet ordinary life with his clocks, locks, and mistress (who like his locks he likes to unlock occasionally, and like his clocks he likes to wind up now and then. So what he does is he avoids the duties of kingship by disguising himself in court so his ministers have to track him down to get him to sign anything or drag him bound and gagged to a council meeting. He's gotten quite good at this, and can disguise himself as a courtier, a servant, a valet, a groom, an interesting Eastern Potentate, a chambermaid, or a chamberpot. The ministers in defense have taken to foisting impersonators nd doubles of Ludovico XXV and it has thus become a battle of whose got the best imposter. Ludovico himself doesn mind, but his mistress minds a lot as she now has to service not only him, but all the imposters as well!

Then there's The Grand Duchy of the Grand Duke of Gorgonzola. He's quite mad and rules Venice, Naples, Sicilly, Crete, a host of islands and some continental posession in the Mediterranean, but wishes to collect crowns, coronets, and Titles. He not only wants to be the Doge of Venice, he wants to be The Duke of Athens, the King of the Two Sicillies, the Lion of Judah, Pharoh of Egypt, Eastern AND Western Roman Emperors, The King of Troy, The King of Mycenae and Minoa and-- wait for it-- Emperor of Atlantis.

Finally there is the Emperor of Ikea (think Turkish, you know Ottoman's and Divans, Wet Bars, they sell them all) and this is Shah Na-Na, the Nattering Nabob of Negativism. This morose monarch is so despairing, pessimistic, and depressing that all around of him are drawn down and down into a cycle of clinical depression to where they go looking fo rthe mutes with bowstrings. He forswears his harem (and they him) because he's afraid one of them will sue for divorce and he'll never get loose of the lawyers. Blazoned across the banner of his elite guards "The Bennenjerries" are the world "I tell you,it doesn't pay me to turn the key in the lock of the Porte in the morning, what' the use, you work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and do everything and your rotten kids come along and put you in a cage or a nursing home and forget about you, Life's nothing but suffering and pain without purpose, and if you want to end it all and you went and laid down on the railroad tracks you'd find out they haven't been invented and even if they had the railroad would have gone out of busienss two weeks ago- What's the use, you can't fight City Hall, I tell you all you get is death and taxes and now they're even going to tax death, and you'd probabl get indigestion from your last meal…

Gotta have a theme.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Apr 2013 10:24 a.m. PST

Sidney is not the only gamemaster that I've heard drawing a parallel between wargaming and theater, but he does express it better.

Kev is not the only one who has nothing to add to Sidney's exposition of the theme, but something may occur to me later.

Otto is not the only gamer who prefers melodrama to drama, farce to comedy, but he takes it to whole new level.

10thFoot03 May 2013 11:26 a.m. PST

Isn't the point that we don't want to be there?

OSchmidt03 May 2013 1:31 p.m. PST

Or is it the point that we don't want to be here?

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