So we play games. And more games. And if our wives will let us, will will do it while eating KFC and drinking Dr Pepper. Life can be good like that sometimes, relaxing with the mates, throwing dice and generally ganging up on the tyranid player whenever possible.
But here’s an angle I feel has slowly been sliding out of gaming in the last few years. And it’s actually due to gaming systems becoming better. Back in days of old when your average gamer thought chunky knitwear, beards and smoking pipes were the height of glamour, games were generally an excuse to push your finely painted (albeit with a roller soaked in blue humbrol enamel) model Frenchmen around a table; while your friend pushed around some equally dazzlingly detailed Redcoats that looked like they had been cast by the teletubbies on a gas hob with lead stolen from their grandmother’s bathroom.
Rules weren’t really that important. What was important was the detailed historical ‘debates’ about how the Redcoats were better shots because this happened at this battle, and how the French artillery was better organised because of this event blah blah blah. Overall it was a good excuse to have a lively debate about common interests while the wife was busy curtain twitching.
The games therefore were based somewhat in history… which meant they were nearly always simulations. No battle ever fought in the history of the world ever was balanced, and the sock and sandal wearing gamers of old knew this and incorporated it into their games. Then came the sweeping reformations of decent games (popularised largely by Games Workshop), and slowly games became, well, more game like. Slowly, games becamed balanced, akin to chess. No longer were battles fought and won by daring generals who out-manovered a much larger force.
What we now play then, with the likes of Warhammer 40,000 is the super refined, super condensed ‘arcade’ version of battles. It matters not that your army is highly mobile, or that it excels at long range combat – you are going to end up slugging it out in a meeting engagement on a tiny 6×4 battlefield. There is no opportunity on a table of that size for fast units such as landspeeders to actually use their speed to their full potential and outmanouver slow formations. You know they are gonna get crumped in close combat by about turn two, which to me seems daft. A unit like that would harass slow moving infantry indefinitely, much like horse archers from ancient history. They wouldn’t harass the infantry for a bit, then run out of table, then get crumped by an ork with a power klaw. Similar story for some of the massive artillery available. Having a tank with a massive cannon ending up with melta bombs in its exhaust after turn three seems unreaslistic. What the heck was happening before the armies closed to point blank range and the battle began?
Then there is the issue of balance. Games are now balanced so armies can fairly fight each other. This is also taking into account that the battle will be fought on a miniscule field. Makes sense from a fun perspective, but life is never fair.
I hope you can see the point I am making. Modern wargames are essentially games with fairness, speed and fun in mind, and are not true representations of battles fought. If you want a more realistic experience, then hark back to the days of our chunky knitwearing forbears. Make the playing field as big as you can. Set up one side in defense for a change. Let the defenders set up all the terrain (good real-life generals will pick where to fight). Make sure the armies do not in the slightest bit balance. Make up some kind of scenario (battles always had an objective). Most importantly, enjoy the experience. Let me know how your games fare!
Remember, you will have more excuses when you lose!