Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part IV

I have previously given my opinion on “Army Lists”-which is, to say the least, critical of such “shortcuts.” Mostly I disagree with the “Codex” approach to historical gaming, and strongly believe that games should inspire and require some historical reading on the part of gamers. The history is, after all, the primary distinction between fantasy games and the historical wargaming hobby. Historical gamers should be proud of this distinction and reinforce it. After all, their roots in wargaming go back to Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and Verdy du Vernois; not to a bunch of entrepreneurs in Nottingham.

If all a game does is provide handy little recipes, where you just add water, it adds very little to the gamer’s knowledge of a period and makes any judgement about the game strictly one of gamesmanship and little or no understanding as to whether it makes any meaningful statements about warfare in the period. At the most absurd end of the scale you get the “Three Flaming Pigs” gaming lists. Many other rules sets succumb to the temptation to require nothing of a gamer but the ability to count to twelve.

I have always chosen otherwise. Surely, a designer needs to provide suggestions and information on the armies and tactics of a period, and provide links, forums support, and suggested sources where a gamer can build a knowledge of a period. A designer needs to explain his premises, and do what he can to make the mechanics of a game clear, and indicate how they dovetail into the historical reality of a period. I see Army Lists as doing none of that, and, indeed, warp the history, and make it less relevant.

Now, if you play fantasy-great-you need lists, as there is no history. But, if you play historical games, I suggest you need something more.

That is why in Zouave, I wrote the ten page addenda for each of the three wars covered by the rules that provided typical historical constructs for the armies, and descriptions of the weaponry. It discussed the issues of command, suggested some historically realistic alternative history, and even suggested some “Unique Events.” that were rooted in the history of the period. Most of all it suggested a bibliography where a gamer could learn more about the period, which would allow him to create new elements to the game and create scenarios that had some connection to the historical record.

In short, it demands a little effort and work-some investment of intellectual capital by the gamer into the play of the game. It provides him with the skills to be a fisherman, and not just hand him some frozen fish!

So it will be with Die Fighting. Each period covered from 1700-1900 will have a “Template” (a term I actually like better than addenda-it will be changed in Zouave II) and this template will group a pair of wars. The template will provide a period specific Free Dice Table, ratings tables along with a Command Divisor number, a number of period specific rules, or rule changes, and a bibliography of easily accessible resources, mostly books, but including other media, that the gamer can use to further ground himself in a period. In essence, a gamer will receive eight different rule sets in one, with more to come on the Forum site.

The included templates are: Linear Warfare, covering the War of Spanish Succession and the Wars of Frederick (1704-1769); The Wars of Revolution (Covering the American Revolution, and The French Revolution (1775-1800); The Napoleonic Wars-divided into Early Napoleonic (1801-1809) and Late Napoleonic (1810-1815); The Wars of Transition-covering the American Civil War, The Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco Prussian War (1861-1871). An Internet posting covering Colonials will soon follow.

None of them will provide an Army List. You should consider buying books-good books-not derivative lists! Dennis at On Military Matters will be happy to oblige!

Here I stand, I can do no other! Happy