EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seeking Contrast

Part of me likes the idea of a basic universal framework for miniatures games. Systems like the Command and Colours series of games. The upside is that it becomes easy to remember how things work and common base sizes and mechanisms allow easy sharing of a tabletop and terrain. especially if you are using a grid and building armies from scratch.

The major downside is that the rules can start to get too vanilla and lacking in flavour if one isn't clever enough and the incentive to do multiple periods declines if all the games are similar in overall feel. There can also be issues with getting old armies to conform.

I'm pondering the question again for all my collections, looking for the best way to differentiate them and give each one a distinct feel and a reason to exist. A toy soldier game, a quick, easy to set up in a small space, play and take down game, an all day game, a wargame to refight historical battles, maybe a low level skirmish game and so on.

Early stages of testing revived rules and scenario.

In the meantime, or perhaps in the spirit, I am spending much time at the moment working on the 16th Century Anglo-French wargame that Rob and I will be co-hosting at Huzzah in May. but that will be covered on my Gathering of Hosts blog.


  1. Hi Ross, that makes sense to me as I've been thinking along similar lines.

    Normally in the past I've got interested in a period and then chosen the rules, figures, style of game etc that I thought would suit, but lately I've started to consider what type of games I want to play and then what existing collections would match.

    So far it feels like an approach that might produce practical results - i.e. games - more efficiently so I think I'll stick with it for a while.

    1. I suppose the epitome of the one system approach is the Brigadier's advice to stick with one collection and one set of ruled to refight all the battles of all time but I do like a bit of variety.

  2. I have always been something of a wargaming butterfly, moving from subject to subject and ruleset to ruleset without much regard for continuity or consistency.

    Being a board gamer as well magnifies the rules problem as there are just so many different games that I play that any pre game preparation has to include a full re-reading of the rules combined with note taking and even then going back into the learning curve of making mistakes and forgetting one line rules.

    I am increasingly reluctant to do that now, I'm sure that age plays its part, but it needs a lot of motivation for me to crack open a newest these days. I have addressed it partly by trying to buy into series type games and also, when I do a game, play it several times over consecutively, to get the benefits of the learning cycle.

    However - I am still minded that these different system are necessary to stop the vanilla syndrome of the universal set. A least with figures, you can have 1 set of rules for ACW and the armies and then play any battle, in the boardgame world, to play any battle gets expensive and would probably have you using multiple systems.

    Currently, my browsing time, research time, rule writing time and painting time is out of balance with actual gaming time is out of balance, I am in need of a more focussed and dare I say simpler approach to my game, though that seems to be an evolving thing.

    Distinguishing you gaming by type is an interesting approach, but I suspect that there will still be a desire to have parts of your collection to serve a dual function and to be mulita tasking, though I can see some fixed opportunities, so for me WWII will always be tactical, so a tank will always be a single vehicle, it will never be asked to represent a platoon or higher, while my ACW units really need to be both regiments and brigades, depending which battle or size of game I want to cover. I could cope with using the same rules for both regimental and brigade actions, but I know there are others who would need two systems to differentiate the different levels of command considerations.

    1. I've always thought that the old TSS Battles of the Civil War series was about as close to miniature gaming as boardgaming could get, 1 set of rules to play multiple battles on a variety of maps.

      I haven't decided yet how to break things down and some of my collections may end up serving for different styles and sizes of games or I may end up with more than 1 collection for a period, perhaps a battle game in one scale and a skirmish in another for example.As long as I don't add anything new! (Yet).

    2. I have a couple of the Terrible Swift Sword SPI ACW battles - Cedar Mountain and Pleasant Hill. I took (stole) the morale ideas from that for my own miniatures rule set, and they seemed to work quite well. However, I have begun to modify them so that no longer will it be a case of low roll good, high roll bad...

  3. An interesting challenge finding rule mechanisms which give a game period flavour while at the same time are enjoyable to play.

    1. Agreed, and hopefully it won't be too frustrating!

  4. It does make sense, although I do enough skirmish gaming that I like to keep open the possibility of staging one with most of my collections, even if there are strong similarities to foraging, for example, across the ages.

    1. At the moment, my NQSyW collection is the only one on single bases. I'm not entirely sure that is ideal.

  5. It's a worthy question, Ross. Like Norm, I am a bit of a butterfly, but I suppose I have different objectives, or itches to scratch, depending on the rules.
    1) Is it playable? Does the pleasure of the game as game reward the time I've put into it?
    2) Is it a lingua franca that I can easily play with those in my circle of gaming friends? Currently the Dan Mersey Rampant rules seem widely known among my gaming circles, so it's easy to find an opponent if I don't want to play solitaire.
    3) Does it help me understand something about the time/era the rules are set in? Is it historical? Does it teach me or feel historically right?
    4) Does it allow me to get some favourite figures on the table?
    Note that these four criteria are not mutually exclusive - several may be in play at any time.

    1. Thanks Mike, Some good thoughts. 1&4 absolutely, 2 used to be more important where I was part of a regular group where multiple people contributed figures to group games but after raising multiple armies to match the current interests of various friends who then moved away..... and after spending a decade with only scarce social games, I am more willing to just show up and play though the urge o bring a contingent still surfaces!
      Lastly, I confess that I am reluctant to learn history from a game, though I do like it when a game matches my intrepretation of history. Probably a matter of hubris.

  6. I call myself a wargames dilettante - but 'butterfly' is an apt description, flitting from this to that and, via something else, back again... But there some two policies I have adopted.

    1. Two armies - historical opponents - for any period I'm interested in. There are exceptions (War of Spanish Succession, Imperialist only) and 18th Century imaginations (at least 4 countries).

    2. Different styles of rule sets for each period. I'll probably play DBM or similar for my Byzantines AND my Wars of the Roses armies, but as they are different scales (15mm vs 20-25mm) and the armies so disparate, that might make enough difference.

    3. Adaptation to small playing surfaces.

    4. Different scales of 'command'. Army level games for some, small 'expeditionary' forces for others, down to skirmish level for my BMC AWI figures.

    5. Playability vs realism - the split coming down on the side of 'playability'. I have some possibly idiosyncratic but strong views on the 'realism' question. I lot of that comes down to detail, but I have long been of the view that attempts at realism in certain matters has tended to yield an equal and opposite unrealism.

    Michael raises an interesting point about the extent to which a rule set permits one to obtain some sort of insight into the military period in question. As I often write my own rule sets (to fulfil what I want out of war games), I have to begin from a different perspective - to try and obtain these insights BEFORE writing (or choosing) a rule set.

    One of the effects of this is that I try and avoid 'second guessing' history. I'd like to come back to this, but perhaps I should make it a posting in my own blog.