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?