Throughout my vast and generally unsuccessful career of winning games I have played many things. Surprisingly however for me it’s only been reasonably recently (say a few years) that I have actually taken fantasy gaming seriously. It’s hard for me to admit to this folks, it is truly a dark secret indeed that I was an ‘Old Man’ gamer for a long time. During my most active gaming years I almost exclusively played historical games. Ok, there, it’s out. Am I proud? Well yes, actually. There’s a lot more to it than pipes, slippers, beards and models that have had enamel paint applied to them with a roller.
Firstly, historical gaming is actually relevant. I actually learned a heck of a lot about the past, about technology, about diplomacy and politics. It inspired in me a desire to learn history, which in turn gives insights into the present. Somehow knowing why the american civil war occured and subsequently how that affected the USA is more useful than say, knowing that elves and dwarfs have always been a bit twitchy since the war of the beard.
Secondly and most importantly, historical games have a basis in fact. For example, we have proof of the maximum range of a K98 rifle. We know that the average Grognard (Old Guard) under Napoleon was one of the fiercest warriors of the day. We also know that the Napoleonic British light infantry NEVER missed a shot, or maybe thats just from watching too much Sharpe. Anyway, the point is that rules can be reasonably accurate. If they are not then they can quickly be discarded. This cannot be done with fantasy rulesets. How powerful is an eldar starcannon? How dangerous is this magic spell? How fast can this non-human infantry move? Who knows? It’s all made up.
This, unfortunately makes the gamer a slave to the person who makes the rules. Whoever makes the rules is essentially a despot. They cannot be reasoned with. You cannot dispute any points which you think unbalance the game. You are essentially forever tied into the rulemakers way of doing things. There is no escape! Hmm slave… despot… fantasy games… no escape… Sounds like a great marketing strategy! Make a bunch of great fantasy games and soon we will rule the world! GW anyone? 😀