The Battles and Biscuits family continues to grow – here’s Si with some thoughts about how we should all just get along. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from him before long – if you want to keep up with him in the meantime, why not follow him on Twitter?
“It’s not proper war-gaming, though, is it…”
It’s many a year ago and I’m working in Games Workshop when an older chap comes in with his grandchildren and watches me give a demonstration game. Those are the words he uses to describe seeing Space Marines fighting Tyranids.
I ask what he means and he explains how he plays games based around the Second World War. Here begins a long discussion on rules and the innate abstraction of war-gaming…
“Well let’s pretend these Space Marines are Panzer IV’s and the little Tyranids are Half-Track APC’s… do the models matter if the rules reflect the difference in their capabilities?” I carry on; “I’m not so sure I could play a game based around events where actual people died… I’m not comfortable with that.”
The years roll on and I fall in love with some of the ‘Flames of War’ miniatures as, let’s face it, tanks are cool (although it may be that something in them took me back to my early ‘Airfix’ years).
I pick up a box of Cromwell tanks, the rules and the Villers-Bocage campaign book. This is now a whole new challenge; the paint scheme must be accurate, the markings correct. I need to do a whole lot of research.
Off to the books I go, finding out which units were engaged. I seize upon 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars, an Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment within the 7th Armoured Division, known as the ‘Desert Rats’. Fighting exclusively with Cromwell tanks, they were heavily engaged with the German Panzers.
Looking up markings I find the divisional symbols, unit identifiers, numbers of the individual vehicles, what the crews named the vehicles, the names of the crew, which crews did not survive…
Project shelved, but I’ve not given up.
What I need is a theatre of war to which I will not feel an emotional attachment – The Eastern Front. Better yet I could play either side. I could have Panzers!
First off; absolutely no SS Units, I don’t care that they had the best equipment, I know what the SS units did in Russia (and everywhere else in Europe) and I’m not making a game of that. Another personal objection I have.
I pick a Panzer Company list from the ‘Grey Wolf’ sourcebook and start picking forces… no need to research, let’s just make an army list that could have been anywhere on the Russian front between January 1944 and February 1945. I decide to paint them all in winter camouflage, masking some unit markings, making the job a lot easier.
Then it occurs to me – if my Panther Tanks were Space Marines, and my King Tiger a Dreadnought… Without the in depth research there really is no difference between Fantasy and Historical war-gaming. There seems to be a whole lot of snobbery that goes on between systems but we all need to recognise that anything we put on the table top is an abstraction, the models are meaningless and the game is everything.
I hope that I will move past my other, personal, blocks and be able to enjoy playing ‘Flames of War’ with other units in other theatres of war.
I’ll let you know how that goes…