Tuesday 1 November 2011

A Wargaming Irony

I will apologise in advance if this post appears to be a little bit of ramble - my current foray into the world of 'imagi-nations' has made me a little verbosely nostalgic - but I would like to share something that has struck a chord with me and given me much food for thought.

My formative wargaming years back in the 70s kicked off with Charge!, Battle - Practical Wargaming, An Introduction to Battlegaming and eventually into the Airfix Magazine guides and then WRG. I can remember vividly games using Charge! With hordes of unpainted Airfix figures and regiments organised exactly as per the book. I can remember a regiment of Highlanders with 24 figures kneeling at the ready in the front rank and 24 in the standing version in the rear - 48 rank and file. Standards, musicians (pipe and drums), sergeants (I used the loading figure) and a solitary mounted colonel completed the unit. Even unpainted it looked very impressive when deployed in line and was later painted into a pair of Highland units for use with Bruce Quarrie's Napoleonic rules.

I always enjoyed using Charge! rules but baulked at amassing armies to their organisation for a number of reasons. Cost, time to paint and the sheer amount of storage space needed for an army was to me prohibitive. Some people could manage it and nowadays the '1:20 figure scale using brigade' probably come closest in scope to the Charge! (and the War Game) ideal of large numbers of figures on the tabletop deployed in large units. With the advent of the 28mm hard plastic figure such collections are once again feasible - certainly from the cost perspective -  although the issues of painting and storing the said horde still remain. Certainly there are a number of rule sets that cater for the larger size of game such as, for example, Black Powder and Hail Caesar to name but two.

From my own perspective things have evolved along a slightly different path. My unit sizes appear to have gotten smaller over the years - the DBA (and others) effect of a base of figures being deemed as effectively a unit - and so my planned armies now tend to be thought of in terms of multiples of bases. Using DBA as an example then a 12 base army is designed to fight on a square surface either 2ft or 4ft square depending on the figure scale. A logical extension of this would be to increase the width by half - 3ft by 2ft or 6ft by 4ft - and to apply the same formula to the number of figure bases i.e. from 12 to 18. Allow perhaps 6 bases for any special or unique troop types on top means you are left with a 24 base 'army'. In the DBA world a base of regular close order infantry is usually 4 figures and if one allows that a horse and musket era army would usually consist of around, say, 3/4 of its strength in such troops then for our 18 base army you would be looking at around 12 to 13 bases of figures or 48 to 52 individuals - or in effect a Charge! style infantry regiment. Taking 13 bases then, you could reasonably have 12 bases of rank and file types and a base of command figures. If one opted to build a regiment on the mixed company basis as used in the Battle of Sittingbad  - a grenadier company (16 figures on 4 bases), two centre companies (32 figures on 8 bases) and a light company (12 figures on 4 bases and these are based solely on rank and file strength) then the usefulness of adopting the Charge! organisation is even more compelling.

I think you can see where this is going. In effect, a Charge! style infantry regiment would form the nucleus of a 'base' style army simply by splitting the rank and file into  a number of such 'base sized' groups. The same approach would extend to cavalry and artillery (although my planned mounted strength would be smaller than the 24 figure Charge! equivalent - probably squadron (8 figures plus command) sized.

My planned foray into the late 19th century via a pair of 'imagi-nations' then is in real terms making use of a Charge! sized infantry regiment coupled with some cavalry squadrons and an artillery battery. I intend mounting the figures on single bases which will increase their usefulness - perhaps skirmish level encounters might feature at some point. The irony in all this then is the simply the fact that after 35 years in the hobby and umpteen sets of rules and armies I am still thinking in terms of Charge! - both for organisational reasons and individually based figures. Perhaps Messrs. Young and Lawford had the right idea about unit sizes all along as you can break one of their units into lots of bases worth of figures if desired, less so the other way around.

From a psychological perspective to say that one is 'painting up a regiment' rather than 'painting up an army' implies something far less arduous than the usual long, dark hours spent with a brush, file and glue in hand. For me this is a significant viewpoint. I may be kidding myself that I am undertaking a slightly easier quantity of figures than a complete army but if it helps me to get the job done then it is a deception worth maintaining!

In closing then, I little realised until now just how much the influence of Charge! has had on my enjoyment of our hobby over the years and so I will leave the last word to a certain well known fictional villain with a breathing impediment.

"The circle is now complete…." D. Vader, Star Wars Episode 4 - A New Hope.

Sums it up nicely, I feel….;-)


Paul O'G said...

I've still got my treasured (and battered) copy of "Battle - Practical Wargaming"

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

They are like an old and faithful friend and will never let you down! Many is the time I have dipped into them for the sheer joy of reminding myself why I fight battles with model soldiers!

All the best,