Friday, 7 August 2009

The Non Figure Wargame


Whilst sorting through my collection (as I periodically do - usually in the search for some items to list on ebay!) I came across some draft rules I was experimenting with a short while ago for a generic Horse and Musket period wargame using wooden blocks rather than figures. Before continuing I should point out that I am an indifferent painter of figures and to be honest, I only really enjoy painting 'machine' type units - hence the interest in ships and sci fi type stuff. If it is organic then I seem to get in a flat spin at the prospect of painting it! It was this in mind that I embarked on a project painting Cuisenaire Rods for use as wargames units. sadly this did not amount to anything usable - the basic problem is that I was trying to use blocks almost in the same way as figures and it just looked plain wrong. I would use a 2 x 1cm block to represent an artillery piece with 2, 3 or 4 1cm cubes as gunners. So after a couple of weeks of effort and frustration I gave it up as a bad job and abandoned the idea. The exercise did give me much food for thought however and so the next evolutionary step will be more in line with how I think blocks should be used i.e. as whole units, rather like the blocks employed on military maps.


I have absolutely no problem with using blocks instead of figures and in fact, given my interest in numerous periods it probably be an advantage to use them rather than model soldiers. For example, a red block could represent a British unit anywhere from Marlborough to the Sudan. A Blue block would be even more versatile - Napoleonic French, ACW Union, Prussian and so on. My problem is with what to use for the blocks and how to make them aesthetically pleasing. I suppose really I am looking at something akin to Kriegspiel type blocks but for a more modern type of game (modern as in using the gaming techniques of today rather than as a description of the period under consideration). Armed with a supply of blocks and some appropriate sticky labels (I would need to draft in help for that as my PC artistic skills are minimal!) for the types represented then I would be well away. Maps would be easy to construct so no worries on the terrain front and the whole thing could be as cheap as you like. Just because there are no figures on the table does not, in my opinion, make it any the less of a wargame - it is just a different slant on the hobby. In point of fact, the Command and Colours Ancients boardgame system by Richard Borg uses blocks with sticky labels on for the units and these could very easily be used for a tabletop game if required. Columbia games also use blocks in their award winning series of strategic level games and certainly, poring over a map and moving blocks of troops around is probably more in line with the generalship experience than using figures.


Before I am hung, drawn and quartered and then burnt at the stake as a heretic I must say that I have absolutely nothing against using figures for wargames - at the moment I am looking at a couple of figure based projects myself - and I will continue to use them myself as the occasion warrants. However, it is my opinion that if the aesthetics can be gotten right then the use of blocks is a perfectly viable supplement to the use of figures. My problem is getting the aesthetic part right!
P.S. If using blocks was good enough for the Prussian General staff amongst others then who am I to snub my nose at history?

11 comments:

CWT said...

I like the counter idea - Most interesting! I hope you'll post more on this and how you progress it.

Regards,

CWT

Tas said...

Indeed its been succesful for many so why not give it a go? The price is pretty good too! I was thinking of doing something simialr to try out WW1 Company level gridded gaming, rather than get a bunch of 15mm figs for another period.

Ogrefencer said...

To be honest, if i could get the blocks right then that would be the way to go - certainly for my own interests, varied as they are. The main issue is sourcing a supply of hardwood blocks of the appropriate size and then drafting some suitable labels on the PC to print and use. I was not able to run the Mapsyms program as my PC is a little on the archaic side! Cost wise is would very cheap and therefore very attractive! Rules would not be a problem especially as many are aleady 'whole base' based in terms of casualties etc.

CWT said...

There is a Hobbycraft store near to me, and I'm fairly sure it sold timber sheets and rods (square & round cross-sections) made out of base-wood (like balsa wood, but not so light and 'fly-away'.) Could be worth a punt?! With a decent sized counter, a small brush and a steady hand, you could draw or paint on any symbols you need.

Hope this helps!
Cheers,

CWT

Ogrefencer said...

There is a Hobbycraft not far from me so next time I am in that neck of the woods I will check it out. Many thanks for the heads up and I will certainly be posting my progess on the blog as and when needed.

CWT said...

No problem - as I'm currently in the middle of a repainting project on my own blog, I'm unable to use my figures for tabletop fights. I may even end up taking my own advice to get things going again!

Ogrefencer said...

That is one of the great advantages/disadvantages of a blog - you often end up looking at things in a way you never considered - usually spawning a another project! I would like to see your blog - can you send me the link please?

CWT said...

Hi there,

I'm currently agonising over setting up a generic wargames blog, in the style of yours, as my current one is 18th-Century only. Anyway, that's irrelevant for now - excuse my wittering!

My blog is called 'Konig und Kaiser' and can be found at:
http://konigundkaiser.blogspot.com/

I hope you enjoy!
Cheers,
Craig

Ogrefencer said...

Hi Craig, many thanks I will check this out today. 18th century is great for the 'imagi-nations' and I have often thought about gaming it a la Grant or Lawford/Young. Sadly too many uniforms that need too much painting for my taste! The Electorate of Kronenbourg and the Grand Duchy of Artois have yet to see the light of day although extensive reasearch into the names of beers and wines (for the regimental names)is ongoing.;-)

Andy said...

Hi, just came across the blog and posts regarding using markers. I have gamed using markers quite a bit (cheaper, quicker, less storage etc). I suggest the following possibilities:
1. Use 'top down' images from Junior General website
2. I have previously used Essex Miniatures pre cut bases. They come in various sizes, are easy to cut to your own shape/size and are relatively cheap. They paint up quickly and look good when complete.
3. I have also photocopied squared paper onto colour card: offers a certain degree of rigidity, easy to produce so can be writtrn on/thrown away after use etc and can be cut to any shape/size.
Andy

Ogrefencer said...

Hi Andy, many thanks for the ideas and this is certainly something I want to explore further. Since the original post I have managed to locate a couple of suppliers for blocks and as I live about 15 minutes from Essex Miniatures obtaining some of their bases would be easy. Any chance of some pictures of your work? many thanks for dropping by.