Thursday, 6 August 2009
A Piece of Gaming History
This post is one of pure, nostalgic self indugence so I offer no apologies if it appears to be a touch 'rose-tinted spectacles' in its content. Back in the very early 70's, when yours truly was a mere slip of a lad and such things as PCs, laptops, mobile phones and Nintendo Wiis were the stuff of science fiction, we amused ourselves with playing football and other outdoor pursuits when the weather permitted, or made airfix kits by the shed load and played boardgames when it was too inclement to venture out. Actually the first kit I ever made solo was a Revell Polikarpov I-16 but I suspect that is being a touch pedantic.......Boardgames were another matter all together and I can remember receiving for my 12th birthday a copy of the Waddingtons Boardgame called Campaign. Boy was I pleased! I can safely say that that game (which I still have incidently) and the surfeit of bagged Airfix kits and boxes of figures around at the time was probably the main catalyst in my lifelong addiction to wargaming. The game is a stylised and abstract strategic level game based loosely on the Napoleonic wars. It features 6 countries - France, Spain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and Italy, each of a capital city (of 9 squares) and 4 major cities. Although there were 6 countries on the map the game was for 2 to 4 players only and Italy was always neutral. Prussia only appeared in the 3 player version. Each Army consisted of 4 cavalry pieces, 4 infantry and a general. Movement was determined by a dice roll and generals could move in any direction, infantry only diagonally and cavalry moved 2 squares orthagonally. Unlike DBA you could move a piece as far as the dice roll would permit. Moving large formations required higher dice rolls so quite often they would sit still if the dice were unkind. Combat did not use the dice (other than for moving into contact with the enemy) and worked on the basis that if either an infantry or cavalry piece was contacted by two enemy pieces then it was removed from play. A General needed to beaten by three enemy pieces in contact. He was not removed from the game but was driven back to his capital city and all his army had to go with him. The General was also the only piece that could capture a city and a capital city. Capitals could only be taken after the nations four other cities had been captured. Tactically a square of 4 pieces was a good formation as each piece was supported (i.e. in contact with) and so had to be neutralised by an enemy piece before another piece could be removed. A further complication was that infantry could only attack diagonally whilst cavalry used orthogonal attacks. Alliances between countries could be made (and broken) and it was almost an unwritten rule in my gaming circle that if anyone player looked to have a potentially winning advantage then he was fair game for the opponents to ally and keep him firmly in his place! I must have played this game hundreds of time over the years and devised all manner of 'refinements' for it - terrain effects, squared maps based on actual battlefields, differing troop types and even artillery grand batteries. I own several copies of this game - the others acquired from boot sales and charity shops - and have often looked at it with the benefit of many years gaming experience and pondered how it could be made into a more adult version. It would not be a hard task to employ DBA type combat mechanisms with the game pieces (coloured red, white, blue and green) to make a hybrid board/wargame. It may not have the appeal of painted figures but it would still be a wargame and would be as cheap as chips - knocking up a gridded map to use with the pieces with the terrain drawn on with coloured felt pens is not beyond even the most hamfisted of artists - self included!
Campaign, Airfix and Charge! - I suspect that many gamers 'of a certain age' have had cause to appreciate (or blame!) some or all of those for their lifelong hobby!