Tuesday, 21 December 2021

"No rules were broken"

Osprey's Undaunted: Normandy
I can give a categorical assurance that no wargame rules were broken during the last twelve months because very few games were attempted. I didn't fancy wargaming in a mask at my local club and I only managed two games at home (apart from computer games).

Although I could have played more games at home, my heart wasn't in it. The ennui that many wargamers reported quite early during the Lockdowns finally got to me.

The games I did play at home were of the Osprey board wargame, Undaunted: Normandy, with my good friend Ian.  The game is simple but subtle. The score was one all.

My 'meta-wargaming' was also modest:

1. I accumulated quite a lot of military books, particularly from Osprey and Helion, but didn't get much time to read them. I try to buy only slim books these days. I don't have time to read or room to store any more fat books.

2. I finished collecting, cleaned/constructed and based the 28mm Russian Civil War figures for The Men Who Would Be Kings, and clarified the minimal adaptions I would be using for extending the rules into the 20th Century.

3. I developed an interest in To the Strongest! and have started to reorganise my 15mm Ancient and Medieval armies. I’ve even bought some extra (painted) figures to fill gaps, but my main activity has been arranging figures into units on sabot bases.

4. Inspired by the simplicity but effectiveness of Undaunted: Normandy I made another attempt at writing my own WW2 fastplay rules but then lost interest in them again.

Overall this has been another depressing year. At this point I should probably say something optimistic but I can't think of anything.

Monday, 6 December 2021

To the Strongest!

Although gaming massed battles with Ancients was once my main wargaming activity, I've done very little of that in recent years.

I enjoy DBA but my circle of players haven't moved on to Third Edition and I don't want to take a backward step. I would never go back to DBM or its derivatives - too much unnecessary detail. I like Impetus basing but didn't take so much to the rules, though I haven‘t yet tried the current edition. ADLG was judged a good game but too demanding for a club evening. I’ve also played and enjoyed Sword and Spear but for one reason or another none of them stuck.

And then, by chance, I recently noticed To the Strongest! by Simon Miller of The BigRedBatCave blog, a set of rules that has been out for some time but which I had previously managed to overlook despite being on Simon’s mailing list at one point. I’ve now bought the rules and army lists and a new gridded mat, gathered some playing aids and have begun to reorganise and even supplement my collection of 15mm Ancients/Medievals.

I haven't yet played this game so I won't go into too much detail but they look very promising. Activation is at the game’s heart, providing the friction that reminds players they are mortal, and this is achieved not with dice but playing cards. Friction is essential in game design but too frustrating for some gamers! In TtS! activation failures are ameliorated by the ability of Generals to replay an activation card once per turn and there is also an amendment introducing group moves which reduces the chance of some units being inappropriately left behind. Players can also intervene by using 'Heroes' to replay missed 'to-hit' cards.

The other big feature is that like Commands and Colors, this is an area movement game played on a 12 x 8 grid. Grids are not to everyone’s taste, but they allow players to concentrate on generalship rather than geometry, eliminate measuring disputes and speed up play. If figures and scenery are good and the grid not too obtrusive, it will look and feel like a miniatures game, not a boardgame.

As a grid game TtS! doesn't demand any particular basing but I believe it's prudent to retain, more-or-less, DBX standards, albeit with the DBX bases combined onto larger sabot bases. As my 15mm Ancients/Medievals already have magnetic bases I can put them on steel sabots which means they will be detachable and still usable for Impetus, Dux Bellorum, ADLG, DBA or anything else my wargaming comrades agree to play.

I decided on 80mm frontages and 100mm (4”) boxes which means that units will be two DBX elements wide and the 4’ x 2’8” playing area will conveniently fit my modest dining-room table.

At the moment I am learning the rules but I hope to try them out in the near future.