Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Charging into a Wargame

 
The two books that have had the most lasting impact on my own wargaming odyssey.

 
Covering the same period, using the same large units and the with same use of the imagi-nation for the forces used therein.
 

I am sure I am not alone in having an enormous amount of affection for the above seminal books on wargaming: Charge! by Messrs. Young and Lawford and the Wargame by Charles Grant. In a moment of whimsy on a particularly irritating train journey I went through a mental exercise of thinking about the wargames books I have read and what has stayed with me the most. Furthermore, from those titles what, if anything, would be relevant to my gaming today.   

Taking the two books together the first thing for me is the difference in style. Charge! reads far better in my opinion than the Wargame but the latter is far more, dare I say it, analytical in content. In that way they complement one another rather well. Both titles use the 18th century as their period of choice and also make use of large units of individual figures and fictional armies. Indeed Charge! goes even further and actively encourages the formation of fictional armies rather than historical ones. Finally, both titles include actions fought using the author’s rules.

I think it is safe to say that as far as wargaming is concerned these two books more or less single-handedly instigated a whole plethora of ‘imagi-nations’ – helped by the actual historical patchwork quilt of small states across central Europe at the time.

For a long time the idea of fictional armies was very dear to me until, dare I say it, ‘history and accuracy’ took hold. I have no axe to grind in respect of the purely historical gamer - the person that builds historically accurate armies based on a specific campaign (or part thereof) and that plays their games set solely in that era against armies of the appropriate opposition.
 
I often wonder though, if one is missing a trick by following such a course - I am pretty sure I have over the years.
 
One thing that did occur to me though concerning both of the above books was their use of what are nowadays unfashionably large units. Taking as an example one of their suggested infantry regiments/battalions - the exact nomenclature is not really important - of some 48 rank and file and half a dozen officers and supernumaries, drummers, sergeants and standard bearers etc one has sufficient figures to break the unit into smaller units which would fit in well with alternate rules. Taking Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame as an example a standard infantry unit consists of four pieces. I say pieces intentionally as each piece could have a single figures or a base of figures contained therein. This means the 48 figures could furnish units of 12 x 4, 6 x 8, 8 x 6 or 4 x 12. It matters not as long as the four bases for the unit are manned.
 
What is the point I am trying to make? Well, I have been a huge fan of the above rules for as long as I have been wargaming and whilst I can never see myself whole fielding armies using their suggested organisations I can see no problem raising a single infantry regiment in that fashion. The same would apply to the cavalry and artillery organisation. There is something very atmospheric about having separate command figures, musicians and standard bearers etc for the horse and musket period rather than having such worthies assimilated 'into the brown' on an anonymous base of multiples.
 
The days of massed armies in 30mm are passed for many of us - time, expense and the sheer effort involved of churning out a couple of armies of several hundred figures is prohibitive - but I for one am loath to lose sight of the legacy of Messrs. Grant, Lawford and Young.
 
With this in mind I shall be organising the units for the Western Balkans and the North West Frontier as per those laid down by those worthy gentlemen. My sole concession is with the cavalry as 3 troops of 8 figures for a regiment is a little unwieldy for my taste. I suspect that two troops of the arme blanche would be sufficient for my needs. Any additions to a force would be added using the company/troop/section organisation so preserving the Charge/Wargame effect.
 
I have organised the first two armies for the Western Balkans on that basis and at this stage will be amassing the figures accordingly from Spencer Smith.
 
 




17 comments:

Robbie Rodiss said...

The Wargame has always been the book I would reach for when life in general wasnt going well. Almost like a comfort blanket. Charge I came to later in life and loved the way it was written. Both men had a wonderful way of making the hobby interesting and entertaining. I must admit my other favourite books are Practical Wargaming and Pike and Shot by Charles Wesencraft who again is a brilliant writer. Charlie is still pottering about and its always a privilege to sit and chat with him. He is a cracking raconteur and a devil to wargame against.

David Crook said...

Hi Robbie,

The sheer enthusiasm shines through from Young and Lawford and complements the more detailed approach of Grant. Like you in many ways they have acted almost as comfort blankets over the years.

I am pleased that Charles Wesencraft is still going strong - he is another author I enjoyed especially his Practical Wargaming book.

All the best,

DC

Lee Hadley said...

I've never really done any imgai-nations wargames and my group of wargaming buddies are firmly in the Historical camp. However I see the attraction of semi-historical imagined setting... Many years ago, back when I played a lot of RPG's, I designed a world setting for my games and I found the whole exercise very enjoyable.

chris said...

I am yet to read or get a copy of either of these. Saw Charge! Second hand for well over $50.00 Australian, 20 years ago and went......not today. Alas a mistake was made by all accounts.

David Crook said...

Hi Lee,

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with being a dyed in the wool historical gamer - I am also a historical gamer but I like and am beginning to prefer the imagi-nation route or 'based on' historical approach.

The beauty of our hobby is that we can use historical troops in non-historical settings - whether these are a what if style scenario or a full blown 'imagi-nation'.

Horses for courses.

All the best,

DC

Keith Flint said...

More of a Featherstone man myself (one attraction being his 20 figure units), but those 2 books still remain classics. I'm glad to hear others use these old books as 'comfort blankets' the same as me. I often tote a wargaming tome up to bed for a short, nostalgic read before sleep. The interesting thing is, such reading often prompts ideas for my current projects, particularly rules ideas. It's great to have these books on the shelf and always available to dip into.

The Good Soldier Svjek said...

Was a fan of Featherstone when I started wargaming in 1969 , his smaller units were more doable . Had these two books but the size of the units intimidated me , however now use Charge with 36 figure battalions with Prince August homecasts .

Archduke Piccolo said...

Those two titles are in my view two of the top five war games classics, to stand alongside H,G, Wells's 'Little wars'. and Don Featherstone's 'War Games', and 'War Games Campaigns'.

tradgardmastare said...

I come back again and again to these books. Another l return is Battle Practical Wargaming, it is time machine back to my Airfix tank and toy soldier games of my youth. I am enjoying the planning and preparation of this project and look forward to seeing the resultant gaming.
Alan

David Crook said...

Hi Keith,

That is a coincidence as I often find ideas from revisiting these two books. In fact the Balkans project owes a lot to Charge!

I am going to try and get a hardback version of this classic title as I currently only have two softback versions.

I suspect it will not be cheap if I do though!

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi the good soldier Svjek,

A number of years ago I took part in a number of large scale games using Charge! but with half size units - 24 foot, 12 mounted and a single gun and crew. The carnage was impressive! The rules worked well though despite the slight skewing of the results.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Archduke,

I would probably add Charles Grant's Battle! Practical Wargaming to that list!

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Chris,

I am keen to get a hardback version but suspect the cost will be prohibitive. I have a couple of different softback versions though so all is not lost, at least for me anyway!

If you can get a copy, even of the softback it is well worth the money.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi tradgardmastare (aka Alan),

I forgot to mention this book but funnily enough it remains one of my favourites for much the same reasons as yours. I always liked the way Charles Grant was quite happy to use whatever was to hand in terms of vehicle and such like - Russian infantry with Hanomags as I recall!

All the best,

DC

david in suffolk said...

Heartily agree these are classics - as it happens I have only recently acquired 'Charge' and read it only last week, and loved it, especially for the wit and style of the writing. The Sittangbad chapter is lovely, written as a battle report, not a game, and by authors who knew what they were about. 'The War Game' I bought with my 'holiday money' as a child, having first encountered Grant through 'Battle'; I agree his writing is more formal, but he has a twinkle in his eye, and indeed I like the way he takes us through the thought process behind the rules. Surely every rule-writer can learn from that. I was entranced; but those huge regiments were beyond pocket-money! It's got to be worth trying the rules, even today - I wonder if a pike and shot adaptation would work?
'Battle' was where it all started for me and it has the same appeal, letting you into his mind as he builds the rules. The opening is great - 'so there really was a Mark IV in that ruined house..' And those are imagi-nations too, aren't they? 'RED' and 'BLACK', not specifically Russian and German - so he can get away with the Hanomags. Thanks for getting us all thinking about ( and reading ) these books again!

David Crook said...

Hi David in Suffolk,

I can remember building two unpainted Airfix Highlander regiments using the organisation from Charge! I would have loved to have gone further but it was a challenge getting figures in the right poses. I recall from when I lived on the Isle of Sheppey that there used to be a game shop in Canterbury called Westgate Games. They used to sell loose Airfix figures and I remember going in there during a school trip and using all my spending money on loose figures to round up the poses for some units. Happy days!

The rules stand the test of time in my opinion as do both of Grant’s works.

They really are timeless classics and are books I am always dipping into.

All the best,

DC

Prince Lupus said...

I was lucky enough to find Charge in library as a teenager when i had reluctantly abandoned my childhood toy soldiers. I borrowed it indefinitely and later got to to buy in the library book sale for 10p! And yes still by my bed.