Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Don’t know much about histori(cal miniature wargaming)

I still haven’t got the article referred to in my previous post, but the post got me thinking: what defines ‘historical miniature wargaming’?

I must confess to being rather extreme in my view on this. To me, regardless of the different mechanics and intricacies of the rules, most games are about moving a dozen of so manoeuvre elements on a 6’ x 4’ or so table. Elements move in turn, project damage, or enter combat when they contact other elements.

If you really want to, you can reduce the whole thing into a ‘pure’ game by removing all ‘historical’ references and renaming the elements something neutral, like say Type-B or Class-2. Or even mahjong pieces. Think chess with the pieces not named after historical fighting units.

Instead of thinking: the 88mm gun has a 75% chance of scoring a penetrating hit on the frontal armour of the Sherman at this range, you think: Two-bamboo has 75% chance of removing Spring-flower at 6 inches distance. Not quite martial, but essentially you can play the game without any knowledge of the period involved. Just like you can play chess well without ever wondering why a castle can move, much less why it can jump over the king.

In other words, I believe there is nothing intrinsic in a set of rules that makes it ‘historical’.

The historical aspect comes from the players willing to project the illusion of ‘historicity’ over what is being played out on the tabletop.


Now while most of us will agree that a pistol shouldn’t be able to brew up a Tiger tank, arguments can go on and on about whether Polish Lancers should be able to break an infantry square if they came up to it from dead ground in a light drizzle and the sun behind them. Ultimately, to have a historical wargame, the players must compromise on a shared vision of a historical reality, or simply agree that they are playing a set of rules without regard to the reality it is supposed to represent. This shared vision does not of course always correspond to reality, but is at least based on a set of facts and parameters known or accepted by both players.

Which brings me to the next question: does that make historical wargamers so different from fantasy or sci-fi wargamers who base their game world on a set of widely known or accepted facts and parameters?

Well, have a look at this site while you think about that.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Robartes said...

QUOTE "The historical aspect comes from the players willing to project the illusion of ‘historicity’ over what is being played out on the tabletop." ENDQUOTE

Well put. As you go on to say, this is an important point and one of the reasons the historical side of the hobby (for whatever definition of 'historical' one prefers) remains quite insular. As one's enjoyment of the game more or less depends on the illusion of historicity one projects over the game, it is important that you play with people of a similar bent that project more or less the same illusion. This limits the number of people one is comfortable of playing with.

QUOTE "Which brings me to the next question: does that make historical wargamers so different from fantasy or sci-fi wargamers who base their game world on a set of widely known or accepted facts and parameters?" ENDQUOTE

Yes and no, I would say. Both indeed have to indulge in a shared illusion (how's that for a definition of the hobby: 'I indulge in figurine mediated shared illusions' :) ), but the source of that illusion is different. Historical players use history (again, for whatever version or definition thereof) as their source, SF/F wargamers use literature or the world of their supplier. This last is probably one of the reasons why there are so many more SF/F players: the source, being one companies world or one series of books or one movie, is much more defined than history, so it is a lot easier to find people with the same set of shared illusions.

BTW, congrats on starting this blog. Welcome to the small world of wargame bloggers :)

3:56 pm  
Blogger captain arjun said...

robartes,

Thanks for your comments. They've given me an idea for my next post...

6:35 pm  
Blogger wahj said...

I'll pass you the article when next I see you.

9:47 pm  
Blogger fatgoblin said...

you are thinking about it too much Godfather!

6:56 pm  
Blogger captain arjun said...

That's the whole purpose of this blog...

7:39 pm  

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