The Ideal Wargame

Over recent weeks I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a few games against a range of opponents. Each game has provided plenty of challenges and more than a little inspiration. These games have ranged in size from relatively small encounters to some with a couple of thousand figures. Over the same period I have been mulling over various comments on the internet on the merits of large games with thousands of 28mm figures. I’ve also admired games using the smaller miniatures often played on small tables. I’ve also read of players considering their return to competition wargaming after experiencing a pandemic enforced break.

As is to be expected clearly everyone has different views on the features of their ideal game. So with such a vast array of options what makes an ideal game for me?

Firstly, I need to feel the game replicates, to some extent, an actual historic battle. With all such goals compromises must be made. I tend to prefer simple rules yet the rules should create a feasible historical narrative that I at least can identify with. I want my games to comparable to the battles I read of in the history books. Therefore my brigade of miniatures advancing or retreating on the table top should replicate those actions on the historical battlefield or, if it is a fictional engagement, provide features discernible in accounts from historic battles.

I am fascinated by different periods of history and therefore my gaming interests are diverse. Yet within these periods my preference is to deploy armies that historically fought each other.

For instance I have a preference to see battles between Alexander’s Successors or against Rome, as I have outlined in these two reports. Equally, I prefer the Yorkists and Lancastrians to deploy opposite rather than campaigning against Biblical Egypt. In some periods this desire for pitting historical opponents against each other is particularly narrow, limited to a particular year or campaign. To enable this I make choices in figure and ground scale to fit my interests, without breaking the bank. These decisions flow into the table dimensions I use.

I prefer my tables to be visually attractive. Of course improving terrain and miniatures is something of an ongoing process I’m certainly not drawn to battlefields with overly stylised terrain such as square hills. Yet, from a storage perspective I accept that compromises with terrain must be made.

I accept that I have a limited time to play games. Typically I can allocate a few hours in an evening to a game. This time element in part influences the rules I use as I need a plausible result within the gaming window. Sometimes I have a little more time allowing larger games, but these are exceptions.

Skirmish wargaming is increasingly popular with some truely inspirational photos of such games on the internet. I can see the appeal of smaller forces with the ability to create some great terrain to support the battles. Yet I am not drawn to skirmish games which, for me, lack the command challenges of larger battles. I clearly prefer the great commanders of history and their battles and campaigns, rather than Richard Sharpe’s exploits. I wonder if I will always resist the lure?

Finally, my games need to be a rewarding social experience. I am not interested in games where the aspect of winning is paramount. This increasingly means I find myself avoiding competitions, despite having enjoyed them in the past.

Well, enough of me, what defines your ideal game?

Waterloo & Wavre Anniversary Battles

The anniversary of the Battles of Waterloo & Wavre have come and gone. As planned we managed to mark the anniversary this year with two battles played simultaneously on two separate tables.

Fought over a single evening some 2,600 6mm miniatures sought advantage, attacking with as much determination as their historical counterparts.

For those interested a summary of both battles can be found here.

The Road to Brussels

The other week one of my wargaming friends pointed out that the anniversary of the battles of Waterloo and Wavre would fall this year on a Friday. With Friday evenings being a regular gaming night it seemed fitting to mark the anniversary in some way. The question that perplexed me was how?

My armies for the Waterloo, while well progressed, are currently incomplete as I have insufficient Prussians – just two corps of the required three of Waterloo. In addition my revised terrain for the battle is not ready. Clearly an historical refight of Waterloo was not achievable. Wavre was of course one option and I find this an enjoyable battle to refight. But we have refought it recently. Clearly some additional thought was required on how to mark the anniversary.

In the end I came up with a scenario that assumes the Prussians have fallen back along their line of communication towards Namur, instead of towards Wavre, and Wellington redeploys to the east in an effort to retain some semblance of contact with the Prussians.

Our scenario will see two battles played simultaneously. The main battle will see Wellington facing Napoleon on the northern table. Meanwhile the smaller battle, where the Prussians will be engaged against Grouchy, will be on the southern table. In addition with limited time on a Friday evening a scaled down battle will be required. Having completed the orders of battle, all based on the historical battles, the situation can be described generally as follows, the wording taken from the player briefings:

The twin battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny fought on the 16th of June were extremely bloody affairs. The Prussians suffered particularly heavy casualties and the three Prussian Corps involved at Ligny were split in the chaos following the battle. They have fallen back on their lines of communication towards Namur though becoming more dispersed in the process. Wellington, aware that Napoleon is trying to split the allied armies, has moved his army east in an attempt to remain in communication with Blucher. To do this he has establishing a new line of communication with Brussels via the Brussels to Wavre Road.

Napoleon pursuing east has dispatched a portion of his army, including those troops under Grouchy, to cover parts of the dispersed Prussian forces while protecting his own left and rear from attack from those British forces deployed around Hal. Napoleon has his main army concentrated against the Anglo-Allied army commanded by Wellington. Wellington has drawn up his army to halt the Emperor. Unfortunately his position is not as strong as that around Mont-St Jean where he had planned to fight. On the morning of the 18th of June the Emperor has assembled something in the order of 42,000 foot, 10,000 cavalry & 118 guns in his immediate vicinity. Wellington meanwhile has at his disposal some 38,000 foot, 9,000 cavalry and 100 guns, though the quality of his army is mixed.

Simultaneously a smaller French army, commanded by Marshal Grouchy, is facing those Prussian forces nearer the Anglo-Allied army. Grouchy forces are unfortunately not fully concentrated. Initially they comprise Vandamme’s III Corps of some 16,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and 36 guns. Opposite the Prussians have drawn up Pirch’s II Corps. This comprises 24,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry and 60 guns. Like Grouchy’s French the Prussians are also not fully concentrated with additional forces likely to arrive. When and where these reinforcements arrive is not yet clear.

Currently we should have six players involved. Four on the northern table and two on the southern. I hope this will provide an enough room for confusion and command challenges, while providing some opportunity to model the impact of these twin battles. Only time will tell of course.

Hundred Days Campaign

Readers of my Volley & Bayonet blog will have already read of my 6mm Hundred Days Campaign project. A project that really started a year ago when, during the first COVID-19 lockdown, I decided I needed to make the most of the time at home.

Now previously I have played all four of the major battles that mark the Hundred Days Campaign. However, searching through my lead mountain which had been bolstered by miniatures purchased second hand, it occurred to me that I could field all the French to allow me to refight the battles of Waterloo and Wavre on a single long table.

In February I completed the French, and they along with the project, are outlined in a previous post that can be found here.

Last week, around a year after I started, the next part of the project is all but complete. Specifically the Anglo-Allied army under Wellington. A colourful collection of regiments drawn from various national contingents the army is certainly diverse. For those interested a few photos of the miniatures, along with a short description, can be found here.

Operation Nostalgia

A couple of months ago one of my opponents turned up at our regular gaming evening with a newspaper clipping from the 1970s. The article was of course about our gaming in our younger days, we both were wargaming together in that decade and still do. The article formed part of our drive to recruit new members our fledgling local wargaming club. Clearly we convinced a local reporter to do a small article, possibly not to hard as I recall the reporter was himself interested in military history and modelling. Anyway, many years later the article proved both entertaining and kicked of some reminiscing of wargaming from the past.

Like many readers my interest in military history and wargaming started many years ago when I was at school. Now in small town New Zealand wargaming books were not to be found in local bookstores. However, the local library proved to be a wonderful source of inspiration. Almost on continual loan were the books by Featherstone and Grant, and as you can imagine they proved indispensable.

In those days Airfix plastics were a major part of my gaming. Plastic Churchill and Sherman tanks, supported by infantry of course, advancing across battlefields were engaged by Tigers and Panthers. These Germans were tricky opponents, but a Matchbox Sherman Firefly could even the battle. As to rules, well we used “Battle! Practical Wargaming” by Charles Grant for a number of years.

The book seemed to cover everything that was needed. There were the critical play aides like the “cones of fire” so important to the game, as well as the deflection protractors needed to determine the angle of fire. Then of course there were the battle reports. Outlining the concept of a scenario, which was all new to me at the time, they also provided that much need instruction on the rules in action. Lastly, and certainly not least, were the inspirational photos. Stirring stuff indeed.

In time our World War II games were supplemented by battles from the Ancient period. Now, our Airfix Ancient Britons complete with chariots, with solid wheels of course, engaged Romans in dramatic games. Next, at least for me, was the American Civil War. I recall having painted many ACW figures in my younger days, though in reality I suspect the number was far fewer than I now recollect. Such are the tricks time plays on us.

Soon my plastic warriors began to be supplemented by metal. Initially World War II naval in 1/4800th. This was expanded with orders to the United Kingdom for World War II and Cold War forces in 1/300th. Though I recall being sidetracked by Ancient naval at one point.

The 70’s were clearly vibrant times and today carry a degree of nostalgia, even if some of the detail is lost. I wonder how many readers can recall similar experiences in their early days of wargaming?

More recently, and clearly inspired by the newspaper article, I decided to keep an eye on the local secondhand book market. So began what I will call “Operation Nostalgia”. In an occasional series on Twitter I will explore a few of these books, as well as other aspects of my early wargaming. If you are interested keep an eye out for these posts. You can find them under “Odd Ramblings & Short Game Summaries” on the right, or alternatively follow me Twitter @Thewargamesroom

I hope the series brings back some memories for you and perhaps encourages you to share some of your own.