Monday, 24 March 2014

I am Wargamer and I fight Battles with....

I think I know the reason for my recent lethargy.

Over the past couple of years I have fought many games using my block armies and a smattering of terrain to create the look of the 'three dimensional battle map'. I have always supported this by making sure that the action has been photographed and described I have tried to describe the events unfolding as though it were a real action taking place. In truth I have really enjoyed this part of the process as I enjoy writing and although the resultant prose may be purple and sometimes cringe-inducing, I like to think that it has always been enjoyable in a small way. In many ways, the game acts as a support to the story.

I really enjoy this but to do it properly takes time and time is the one commodity I now lack.

My battle accounts have become briefer and long gone is the purple prose and this gives rise to another problem. Using the blocks to illustrate a story - in the same way as a battle map in a book does - is fine if the story is the main resource being used. If it is not then all you are seeing is a collection of blocks being moved around - there is a lack of 'connection' between the two. At least that is how I see it and the number page views on my battle reports would tend to support this - they have been on a gradual decline.

The visual element of our hobby is very important but without a good scenario or back story quickly becomes valueless other than to show off the models. My approach relies heavily on the background story to make the table top action come to life so if this is lacking I do not the consolation of seeing some splendid looking models on the table.

I need to rectify this and there are two ways I can do this. I can revert back to my previous long and occasionally rambling battle reports or I can grasp the nettle and seriously think about painting some models instead. The latter would have the advantage of meaning that my battle reports can be shorter and therefore quicker.

This is not a new thought for me and if I am honest it has always been there. I think I have been guilty of kidding myself if I thought I could satisfy my gaming needs without models - it is just that it has taken me a while to realise it.


Kaptain Kobold said...

I confess that I find the block battles harder to follow without plenty of description precisely because there aren't the visual clues as to what's going on.

Conversely I read a report yesterday with lovely, colourful, units but prose so detailed and florid that I completely lost track of what was going on and which side was which.

Obviously there's a balance to be struck :)

Stu Rat said...

When you first started posting about the blocks, I thought it was a great idea. I figured I would copy it and kept an eye out for knock off 'Jenga' games. But after the first few batreps, I lost interest. They all looked the same. But you seemed happy with it, and I figured rules-tinkering and scenarios was your thing.

I think a part of it, for me, was that you had this nice terrain that just cries out for figs, but was using the blocks. Visually, I think the blocks would work better on more of a gameboard, like CnC, Memoir 44 & Battlecry. To me, there is sort of a discontinuity between the blocks and "realistic" terrain at least.

Archduke Piccolo said...

Striking the balance is the key, I think. The pictures alone don't tell the story, no more (from a blog follower's point of view)does the prose on its own.

But I would still use the blocks, though perhaps in a slightly different way. Occasionally I have resorted to battle maps in my reports as providing the orientation that neither pictures nor prose can quite achieve. I draw mine, but with a quick, though reasonably large, sketch of the ground, the blocks could be placed on it and moved about as the action develops.

At that one such battle map usually suffices for a simple battle, and for complex ones, they can reorient the reader into the changes of scene.

There is a further use for these I can see. If you're into campaigns and wars, a quick map of the theatre of war, or the local campaign theatre serves to place the action within a wider context.

If have a feeling, David, that if you go the figure route, you will suddenly discover some very handy tasks your blocks can fulfil.

David Crook said...

Hi Kaptain,

I think that the balance is the definitely the key - and I have been conscious for a while that it has been slightly awry. This is unusual as being a Libran you would have thought that balance was my thing....;-)

Seriously though, my feeling is that using the blocks (and I am thoroughly enjoying doing so)needs a rather more detailed background than figures to bolster the visual aspect. I would feel less inclined to resort to vast amounts of narrative when using figures as the pictures would tell the story far more readily.

Balance is the key though.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Stu Rat,

Funny you should mention about the terrain/map aspect. For a while I have been considering using 2D terrain tiles - rather like the board game variety - as I believe this would balance the visual aspect rather better. The 3D terrain looks far better when it is placed properly - some of my scenarios have been rather lazily planned in this respect - and I think that disposing of some of the more natural Hexon features (roads, rivers and hills)was a mistake as the games now look more like a 2 1/2D battle map - neither a 3d game or a full map based version.

One to ponder methinks.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Archduke,

I can honestly say that my block collection has been an enormous 'shot in the arm' for me and has developed my wargaming enjoyment immeasurably. I now realise though that perhaps I have allowed myself to be rather dazzled by the ease with which I have been able to throw games together. In truth this has been the problem because I have gotten lazy and so the quantity has replaced the quality. I think that using figures would allow me to focus far more readily and the blocks would then play a valuable role as a support function - probably in the very ways you describe.

All the best,


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


I think that your block armies were an excellent solution when you produced them, but that you have now moved on, and that a move back towards figures is a good choice. It need not require a huge expense or large armies, especially if you stick to rules like C&C, BATTLE CRY, or even MOB.

Good luck with your new project.

All the best,


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Your right, but push comes to shove what's the reason for your blog?? I've always taken the view that my blog would exist whether I had any feedback or not as (like you) I enjoy the creative element, but the primary reason for the blog is that it's my gaming diary/campaign diary/project diary... now if people find that stuff interesting that's all to the good, but it's a dangerous thing to try and start writing stuff to please an imaginary audience.... so yes, I (personally) find the block games a little boring, but I know exactly what/why your using them... in a similar vein I have a series of posts coming up which will document a game using Battle Chronicler as that's a handy way for me and my remote opponent to play a game - dull as ditchwater to look at though, just looks like a computer game screen.. so I'm not expecting massive page views!

Simon Quinton said...

I have to admit. I tend to struggle to follow the block type game reports. I think it takes more effort as the reader to imagine what is taking place before them as they read.

'Lee. said...

Hi David - most interesting reading your post and the comments. I have grown to really like your set up with the hex terrain and the blocks but I can fully understand how you are feeling. I tried going down the same route not so long ago, sold off all the figures and actually thought about trying 2mm blocks, but gradually the desire to push a few model soldiers around got the better of me! I went back to 15mm Napoleonics and so far I'm still enjoying it. Have you ever considered using 2mm?

Whatever you decide I'm enjoying following your blog as it's something a bit unique :-)


Ross Mac said...

Although I have no suggestions to offer this sounds eerily familiar.

In my own case I have not formed any conclusions or action plans yet, but have made several observations.

- outside activies, pressures and health have an indirect effect beyond time,

- I enjoy writing up battles but it not only takes time and energy to write up and interrupts the flow of the game to take pictures, it also seems to exert subtle pressure on how the game is staged and played to the point of increasingly discouraging me occasionally from playing a particular scenario because it would make a good post but some figure or piece of scenery isn't ready (and my standards in that regard are pretty low) or the time or energy to figure out how it fits in, what the back story is or to do the write up etc, so I put it off.

- a quick game is easier to manage though less satisfying and if I put pressure on myself to report every game, sometimes I avoid them so now I don't report some or only mention them in passing

- lastly, this one is personality trait thing and not restricted to wargaming but is very much me, once I have tackled a issue mentally and formed a plan, the fun part is done and execution or repetition provide much less satisfaction so there is a strong temptation to move on.

Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure it'll worth trying and worth reading about,

David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

That sums it up rather nicely methinks!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ross,

You have managed to strike several chords with your comment for which I am grateful. I readily confess to being guilty of posting games that whilst I have found them great fun to fight may not make for the most enthralling read. This has been very much almost posting for the sake of doing something - a trait I should not feel obliged to comply with.

I think that whatever medium I use for my battles - blocks or models - deserves to have the requisite effort put in if I want to involve a wider audience.

You seem to have given me much to ponder around the context of my dilemma for which I am thankful.

All the best,


All the best

David Crook said...

Hi 'Lee,

Many thanks for your kind comments and continuing support. I have considered 2mm on numerous occasions but have never really progressed the idea. I messed around with painting a few units and struggled to get the overall look correct so abandoned the attempt. In fact by doing so the block armies were born!

The figures 'itch' is something that has been troubling me for a while and so it is time to tackle this rather than hiding behind a pile of blocks!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Simon,

That, in a nutshell, has been the problem I have taken a while to identify!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve,

If I am honest the blog has been a great tool for me in terms of my interaction with the wargames world - more so since my club attendances have dwindled down to zero due to work. I enjoy feedback on my wargames 'life' - both good and bad - as it has been a great help in many of my adventures/projects over the years.

I do not write solely to please an imaginary audience per se but when a long running series of a particular aspect (my block battles)has less people looking at it then it means that clearly it has become too commonplace or is uninteresting (as in not catering for a given period of the reader's liking). I have come to the latter conclusion simply because the medium I am choosing to use requires more effort to appeal to the imagination than using models. A battle map in a book loses its value if the supporting text is insufficient to make sense of it - and this is also true when using blocks.

The decline in number of readers for my block-based battles has made me look at myself and my posts and how I do what I do - so it is feedback of a sort in any event - and clearly there is a need for me to change things in order to encourage the former dialogue I used to routinely enjoy.

All the best,


Todd R said...

What a great post an comments. I've dabbled in block like gaming simply to get some games in, but it does lack something.

I was mainly using it to decide if I wanted to get miniatures and commit to the era. Samurai in this case. Ultimately I decided not to buy minis and pursue it any further. However, I wonder if the lack of "miniature appeal" caused me to make a poor decision?

Thank you for a great post and all your followers for their comments.

David Crook said...

Hi Todd,

I have absolutely no regrets about the block path I have trodden and as a concept it is far from being finished. I guess the allure of figures and models is stronger than I gave it credit for - and I agree about the quality of the comments for this post.

All the best,


Michael Peterson said...

Hi David:

It's a happy coincidence to read this post after having just posted a report on my blog on a C&C Naps game using just the blocks that come in the box from GMT. At first I felt a little embarrassed putting the report on my blog because it was just the blocks and the game board, with no scenery, and who would be interested in that? But then I remind myself that blocks, cardboard counters, and model soldiers are all ways of representing and simulating the same thing, just with different rewards for the gamer. As for rewards for the reader, I enjoy those blogs where the owner does more than just post a series of pictures with no commentary. I will forgive a bat rep with painting and scenery that is less than perfect if the writing is thoughtful, funny, and makes me smile. Your blog often does that, so keep it up, mate.

David Crook said...

Hi Michael,

Many thanks for that - it has made a big difference to my day!

All the best,