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"What do skirmish games represent?" Topic


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Shadowdragon Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 9:49 a.m. PST

I can understand team games where each player controls a handful of miniatures. They represent small missions that aren't suited for entire armies, like sabotage, assassinations, stealing, etc. Or they represent conflict between small factions that don't have entire armies, like street gangs or something.
I also understand mass combat games that represent entire armies marching into battle on behalf of huge kingdoms.
But then there are skirmish games where each player controls a handful of characters and solos, plus some units of troops. What kinds of battles are these games meant to represent? I'm trying to visualize what kinds of conflicts forces of this size would be involved in, but so far I'm drawing a blank. Does anyone have an explanation, maybe some examples?

TheRatGod21 Jun 2013 10:01 a.m. PST

skir·mish
/ˈskərmiSH/
Noun
An episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting, esp. between small or outlying parts of armies or fleets.
Verb
Engage in a skirmish: "reports of skirmishing along the border".
Synonyms
clash – brush – scrimmage – encounter

Shadowdragon Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 10:38 a.m. PST

So skirmish games simply represent outlaying parts of much larger battles? Does that mean skirmish battles don't happen on their own?

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 10:48 a.m. PST

Sure they do.

Your army is besieging a castle.

They get hungry.

10 men and a wagon are sent off to forage.

They get to a nearby village.

It is hostile to them.

A fight breaks out.

This is a skirmish.

Or

A patrol of Natal Native Cavalry are sent off on a reconnaissance across the veldt. There's, oh, 8 men on horses.

They come across part of a Boer commando trying to make their way back to their farms undetected.

The NNC spot them and try to intercept.

Fighting starts – this is a skirmish.

Or

There's a checkpoint somewhere in the middlke east.

There's a squad of, say , 12 infantry deployed.

Vehicles drive up. They get stopped and are searched.

One vehicle doesn't stop – the checkpoint troops fire at them – half a dozen enemy fighters emerge from the vehicle – and also from the next two vehicles in line.

This is a skirmish….

Or, yeah it could just be a small part of a larger battle.

Double W21 Jun 2013 10:58 a.m. PST

Not sure most skirmish games are meant to represent anything in real life. As a guy who plays exclusively skirmish games, I view them as adventures, like in the movies and in literature.

Shadowdragon Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 11:05 a.m. PST

20thmaine – those sound more like team games, a dozen or so independents per side. What about skirmishes where you have a leader, a couple solos, and two or three 5-10 man units?

MajorB21 Jun 2013 11:14 a.m. PST

20thmaine – those sound more like team games, a dozen or so independents per side.

never heard the term "team games" before, at least not in this context.

What about skirmishes where you have a leader, a couple solos, and two or three 5-10 man units?

A "skirmish" game can be regarded as any game in which 1 figure is 1 man.

Personal logo Hazkal Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 11:35 a.m. PST

I'd say that a skirmish game with a mix of units and solos could represent the larger end of the sliding scale between skirmish and battle – taking a village, securing a supply dump, screening forces coming into contact with each other etc. Whether then the number of participants matches what would have been historically accurate is a different point – which I think is less what are these games representing, but what are they emulating – which I would say (and have played) is the feel of Sharpe/Hornblower/war films where you have 20 odd extras on each side to give just enough impression of a military unit, surrounded by the 'cast' of officers, NCOs and 'characterful' ORs.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 11:35 a.m. PST

The standard picket was 20 men, considered to be too many to be taken out quiety. In some cases opposing pickets -- who might be fairly close to each other -- would tacitly agree to leave each other alone, or even (in the ACW) to swap newspapers and tobacco/coffee. but sometimes there WAS a "war of pickets."

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 11:39 a.m. PST

If I am doing an infantry platoon skirmish, I would expect to have me (the CO), platoon Sgt and hq guys plus a few sections of infantrymen and possibly a weapons section.

Is that the sort of thing you mean?

evilcartoonist21 Jun 2013 11:58 a.m. PST

Leader, solos and a few small unit examples:
- Old West battles (such as the many county "wars")
- Ambush or small action in Vietnam (see Martins comment above)
- ACW "picket wars" also already mentioned
- Police raid on a drug factory/drug lord's compound
- Secret Agent and special forces versus evil villain and henchmen (such as in "You Only Live Twice")
- Raid of the 47 Ronin

Maybe the question you're trying to ask is what is the difference between a skirmish and a small battle?
For example, a leader, solos and a few small units, I would still call a skirmish.

evilcartoonist21 Jun 2013 12:02 p.m. PST

… and an unorthodox example to think about:

I finished reading Musashi. In one event, the ronin Miyamoto Musashi single-handedly takes on almost the entire Yoshioka sword school.

One side is just Musashi, but the Yoshioka School is represented by a leader, a few solos and many smaller squads of men armed with lances, swords, bows and guns. Is it a "team game" or is it a skirmish?

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 12:07 p.m. PST

20thmaine – those sound more like team games, a dozen or so independents per side. What about skirmishes where you have a leader, a couple solos, and two or three 5-10 man units?

Umm…you seem to just be describing a bigger skirmish…a captain, and a couple of platoons under sergeants – so a reconnaisance in force. Or, maybe, a larger foraging team for the hungry fellows back at the siege under the overall command of a minor kinght.

Whether it is 10 men or 30 men if the ratio is 1:1 it's a skirmish.

Actually, even with a larger ratio maybe 1:10 and a more formal use of troops (say a couple of Napoleonic battalions encountering each other whilst scouting) it's still a skirmish in the technical sense of a small number of troops fighting another small number of enemy troops.

Skirmishes tended to happen on the fringes of the main army's activities – so the patrolling hostile territory, scouting ahead, foraging, guarding a supply column – that kind of thing.

Shadowdragon Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 12:11 p.m. PST

Sorry, I used team game to distinguish between really small games of a dozen models per side and larger games with characters, solos, and units. Like, the difference between Malifaux and Warmachine. Basically I'm trying to come up with a setting for a fantasy skirmish game. At first I figured I'd do warring kingdoms, but then I thought, when would warring kingdoms ever have skirmishes? Typically they would use small teams, or huge armies. I've been trying to think of a fantasy setting where larger skirmish battles would be the norm, but I'm drawing a total blank.

Shadowdragon Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 12:17 p.m. PST

Skirmishes tended to happen on the fringes of the main army's activities – so the patrolling hostile territory, scouting ahead, foraging, guarding a supply column – that kind of thing.

So again, would skirmishes only ever be done as part of larger engagements, or would skirmishes ever happen on their own? I'm not too find of saying that each time you fight a skirmish there's a larger battle going on "just over there".

Personal logo The Beast Rampant Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 12:29 p.m. PST

I think it's easy to justify a (realistic?) skirmish with a thought-out scenario, whether a small, lone action, or as part of a larger "off board" battle.

Even if lots of skirmish games are played out as pick-up games with "X" amount of points on each side.

CPBelt21 Jun 2013 1:00 p.m. PST

Uruk-hai sent out to capture the hobbits in LotR. The Fellowship fighting them off at Amon Hen.

The Fellowship fighting the goblins and troll in Moria.

Frodo and Sam fighting the orcs in the tower when trying to escape.

And this is just a bit from LotR. Plenty of scenarios. Look at Star Wars, which has many skirmish scenes involving the main characters. Rescuing the princess?

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 1:02 p.m. PST

So again, would skirmishes only ever be done as part of larger engagements, or would skirmishes ever happen on their own? I'm not too find of saying that each time you fight a skirmish there's a larger battle going on "just over there".

Let's posit the situation of two small celtic tribes that are feuding over territory. Each tribe is small – maybe it owes allegiance to a greater chieftan and sends contingents when big wars are fought.

Let's suppose that each tribe has 100 able bodied men of fighting age available.

Now, you could go and attack the other tribe with your full force – risky if he defends his village with say 80% of his force and sends 20% to burn your village.

Instead :

You could ambush his hunting parties.

You could raid his cattle.

You could go and burn his corn.

All these situations could involve two or three warbands a side. A largish skirmish.

Want Fantasy ? There's a dwarf colony in the Iron Hills, an offshoot of a larger dwarf kingdom. The leader argued with the King, and split to start his own dominion. Took 300 followers – some male, some female. Not all the males are warriors, so there's a fighting force of about 100 dwarves.

Unfortunately there is a tribe of Skaven who think the dwarves' lovely new home is actually Skaven territory. A leader has been dispatched with a force of (you guessed it) about 100 skaven warriors. No more could be spared because of the Orc tribes to the south trying to muscle in on the Skaven. Now, the Skaven leader is quite canny – he doesn't know how many dwarves there are – so the first thing he does is send in some reconnaissance parties…..and so a whole campaign of skirmishes can be envisaged. Maybe they'll get reinforcements. Maybe some of the Orcs will help the Skaven (for pay). Maybe…well you can imagine as easily as me.

Personal logo Atomic Floozy Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 1:12 p.m. PST

Skirmishes happen on their own a lot in history. The Plains Indian Wars for example had very few set battles & hundreds of smaller skirmish engagements.

Much of what you are calling "team games" would actually be considered skirmishes.

-Elaine

Shadowdragon Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 1:25 p.m. PST

So, I should be thinking smaller. Rather than conflicts between expansive empires, I should be thinking more tiny border kingdoms. A forest containing a couple elven villages, some brand new frontier towns of mixed humans and dwarves, a local death cult, stuff like that. OK, I can get behind this idea. Thanks for all the help everyone, it really is much appreciated

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 1:26 p.m. PST

Skirmish is like obscenity: I know it when I see it.

Robert66621 Jun 2013 1:53 p.m. PST

One figure equals one man, regardless of quantity, because by its very nature you would have to fight it at the lowest level. Even if you had ten battalions of infantry each of six hundred figures you would have to account for each one. This would of course be impossible to the average wargamer, who would have to make it a manageable about. Still one figure equals one man. Otherwise you you go into the the abstract and it is no longer a skirmish game but rather a small scale game, of one base equals a squad, 24 figures equal a battalion etc.

nazrat21 Jun 2013 2:33 p.m. PST

Flashman for the win!

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 2:55 p.m. PST

Armed robbery is sometimes a skirmish, depending on numbers. a gang of robbers versus armed townspeople makes a great skirmish scenario.

See the Dalton boys last raid on the Coffeyville bank.

Lion in the Stars21 Jun 2013 6:22 p.m. PST

But then there are skirmish games where each player controls a handful of characters and solos, plus some units of troops. What kinds of battles are these games meant to represent? I'm trying to visualize what kinds of conflicts forces of this size would be involved in, but so far I'm drawing a blank. Does anyone have an explanation, maybe some examples?

Zero Dark Thirty? 79 commandos, military working dog, handler, interpreter, …

24 SEALs in the attack force, another 25 in the Chinooks on scene, and 25 more on hot standby in Afghanistan.

Take a look at EValerio's illustrations of Samurai and Ashigaru in battle. You'd have a Samurai in charge of 3-5 teams of ashigaru, each consisting of 5 men. TMP link

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