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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Historical Wargames

490 BC- Athens vs Persia- Battle of Marathon
Hi all,
425 BC- Athenians at Syracuse

This post is for me to talk about Historical wargames. In this sense, it is purely self-indulgent. For that, I apologise- however, if you don't like reading people's self-indulgent raving, then may I humbly suggest that you stop reading blogs? :)

First of all, a bit of personal history (irony?) I started wargaming at a young age, with Games Workshops Adeptus Titanicus (1st Ed Epic), then Rogue Trader, then Fantasy. I stayed there, happily playing games against my friends, all the way through school. Then, when I was... around 17 I think (it was a while ago, the memories fuzzy) that I discovered a group of gamers working on Warhammer Ancients. For those that remember the Warhammer Players Society- yes I was, and remain, a fan.

331 BC- Macedonians vs Persians- Battle of Gaugamela
I then embarked on a whole new aspect of Wargaming- and it was at this point I started to investigate the wider hobby (card games, board games, as well other wargames! Yes- they really do exist!) Since that day, I have never looked back- I still play, in the majority, Games Workshop games, as will probably become apparent over the next few months on this humble little blog of mine. Fantasy and Sci-fi games are great- they let you play with massive tanks and fantastic beasts, and fire awesome weaponry at aliens and Elves. Historical games provide something else...

207 BC- Rome vs Carthage- Battle of Metaurus
I'll start off talking about Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB). This is now in it's second edition, and is probably the most popular system out there. It was inspired by Warhammer Fantasy 4th Edition- remember that one? Rank bonuses for being 4 models wide? The ability to throw spears? When Skirmishers could, you know, skirmish? Here's the big one- in the vast majority of match-ups, models hit on 4's, wound on 4's and have a 6+ save. That makes statistic differences of 1 higher or lower are massively important. Movement and psychological effects are hugely important. It is, in essence, familiar and strange to gamers whom haven't experienced it yet.

9 AD- Romans vs Germanic Celts- Battle of Teutoberg
I'm going to take the opportunity, now, to rave a little. Historical gaming ticks all of my hobby boxes. Games are tough, look fantastic, movement is more important than lists; it's all there. In fact, one of the things that first sucked me in to WAB was that games happen in three stages- initial deployment, the skirmish battle while the main lines maneuvre for advantage, and then the main battle. All of this in 5-6 turns. If you don't perform well in the initial "picket engagement"- you are at a serious disadvantage for the main fight. That makes cavalry, light infantry and skirmishers key to your plans- all of which takes away from the points available to your main battle units.

451 AD- Rome vs Huns- Battle of Chalons
Games also tend to be decisive- if you achieve a positional advantage over your opponent, it is actually an advantage- unlike many of the "outflanking" moves I see in 40K nowadays. Also, with the advent of Hordes in Warhammer Fantasy 8th Ed, most of the game seems to focus on the main battle- much of the subtlety has been washed away over the last 4 editions. I've only dabbled in PP games, but my experience there is the same- flanking tends to get the unit killed, very quickly, and so most warbands seem to group together and smash into the opponent attempting, by sheer brute force, to get to the enemy General (caster). I could be wrong there though!

Of course, all wargames are visual spectacles. Talking about "movement advantage" is irrelevant if the battlefield does nothing to draw you in. the great thing here, of course, is that I'm a fan of "historical" films as well- inverted commas because I'm referring to films like Braveheart , Gladiator and 300 as well as more accurate movies and series (if anything pumped out by studios is ever accurate, of course.) That visual aspect is definitely in the games I've played, and I use 1:72 soft plastics in the main.

732 AD- Moors vs Franks- Battle of Tours
Oh yes- there is no cost-based barrier to entry with Historicals. Plenty of companies produce kits- HaT, Zvezda, Italieri to name but a few. My Greek army cost me around £50- including bases and paint.That was 3,500 points. For a system where most games are 2000 points. My Celts were a little more- but I wanted lots of Chariots for those, so it's only fair, and both of them are to go into the Carthaginian army I'm planning, because Elephants are cool! So all in, that's 3 armies in 2 years, and I think I've spent £150 so far. To put that into perspective, for £150 of GW figures, I can get around 1500 points of Space Marines, which I'd then have to add on to in order to make them effective- in fact, when the average GW customer starts a new army, they spend £700 in 6 months on models.

1066 AD- Normans vs Saxons- Battle of Hastings
Here's another point. Those three armies I'm collecting; they're good for a massive variety of  games. Here's a few examples:

Warhammer Ancient Battles
Field of Glory
Dux Bellus Multitudinis
Dux Bellus Antiquitatis
Mighty Armies
Clash of Empires
Any of the Ancients rules at Free Wargames Rules

1428 AD- England vs France- Siege of Orleans

Honestly- bang-for-your-buck, I think it's difficult to beat that.

That's why the attitude to Historical wargames at times confuses me. Some gamers really seem to have a poor opinion of what really are a great set of games- especially if you want a bit of a break from your standard 40K/Fantasy/Warmachine gaming. I'm not suggesting that everyone should rush out now, buy a load of HaT figures and never play any other games. I AM suggesting that people should play historical wargames as part of the overall hobby. Historical gaming is not played exclusively by old men getting away from their wives, reliving past glories. You are allowed to play without monocle, moustache and thick British accent.

1588 AD- Spain vs Britain- Defeat of the Spanish Armada
In fact, I've just recieved an e-mail that removes some of my confusion. Before I put this blog public, I sent an e-mail out to all of the companies I might use images from. Universally, they responded positively, with various degrees of "yes, of course." Until today. The British Historical Games Society (BHGS) said no. No, they do not want to be linked to the blog. No, I cannot use images from their website. Clearly, no they do not want any more members. There wasn't an explanation, just "no." Games Workshop when asked the same question, by the way, said yes. So maybe the stand-off attitude to historical wargames is born of the old-guard not liking those of us who are playing now? I don't know.

1704 AD- Holy Roman Empire vs France- Battle of Blenheim
1709 AD- Russia vs Sweden- Battle of Pultava

1777AD- America vs Britain- Battle of Saratoga
What I do know- Historical games are fun! I haven't mentioned any era outside of Ancients (which basically takes you up to Agincourt, 1415 AD) because, to be honest, I'm not that familiar with the rulesets.

I've heard of some good ones which I'm going to be trying out- notably not Flames of War (those models cost way too much in comparison to my lovely 1:72's)- when I get the chance. What I do know, is that there are a lot of Civil War players (American and British), 100 years war players, Napoleonics players and WW I/II players out there (no, Secrets of the Third Reich doesn't count :) ) so I'm going to try to find out a bit more about them- feel free to write to me about them, by the way!

1792 AD- France vs Prussia- Battle of Valmy
Finally- historical gaming is not necessarily re-enactment. Yes, you can re-enact the great battles of humanity. In the same way as you can re-enact the Siege of Terra, or the Battle of Minas Tirith, or even the War of the Beard. You can just turn up with your army and have fun with an opponent.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

1815 AD- France vs Britain- Battle of Waterloo

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