Friday 19 October 2012

Favourite Wargames Rules

With the recent 20Q posts about in the blogosphere fairly recently, started by Ray and Fran over on Don't Throw a 1 and The Angry Lurker, and various bloggers about have done their versions of the questions and all these have been very entertaining.

Being fairly late to these kind of things, I haven't got around to doing my own version (but may do at some point) but several of the questions do get the old grey matter going. One question in particular had got me thinking, namely, which was my 'Favourite Wargames Rules?'.

Now there have been many rule sets over the years that I've enjoyed using and many fond memories but once I'd thought about it I came to the conclusion that my favourite rules would have to be the first proper rule set I ever owned and used, namely 'Middle Earth Wargames Rules' written by SELWG back in 1976 and produced by Skytrex Ltd

The these rules were very much old skool and were of their day with lots of tables and factors for combat but even so they were a pretty quick set to play and filled a whole that needed filled in my gaming world at that point in my life. Having just read LotR for the first time a year or so earlier and discovered through my interest in modelling (a copy of Military Modelling, which sad to say I still own) a range of miniatures for Lord of the Rings (Minifigs Mythical Earth range for those of you out there old enough to remember such things) and it all came together when I saw these rules advertised soon after.

I quickly got into the whole wargame thing and haven't looked back since. I still have all the figures up in the attic hat I used and now I've got it in my head, I'm going to look them out and have a reminisce about innocent games of slaughter and mayhem.

I doubt that the rules would stand the test of time now and may be a bit too off piste to be re-usable but it's always good to look back at where you've been before you go forward.

I wonder if anyone out there remembers these rules too?

Sunday 7 October 2012

The Conquest of Majorca

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm recently back from a short break with my wife where we were away for just a week in Majorca for a bit of late sun.

Now, I don't know about the rest of you out there but when ever I'm abroad (or even just down the road a bit) I tend to look about and delve into the local history, partly just out of interest and partly to see if there's any inspiration for further reading or research, or more pertinently gaming potential, scenario's, terrain, new periods etc etc.

The one bit of local history which I quickly picked up on with my interest in the Berbers in Spain was the fairly prominent conquest of the Balearic Isles by Jaume I of Aragon, starting with the conquest of Majorca in 1229. This was prominent largely because we were staying in Santa Ponca which is where the Aragon forces landed to begin the conquest.

Disembartion Point Monument

The campaign to conquer the Balearic Isles lasted several years and the conquest of Majorca lasted several months mainly due to the siege of the Medina (now Palma) but there were at least three engagements including the siege, the largest set piece being near Santa Ponca.

The campaign and it's various goings on are pretty well documented, as indeed are the whole reconquest campaigns of Jaume I along the eastern coast of Spain, and a good bit of reading for this subject is 'The Book of Deeds of James I; A Translation of the Medieval Catalan' (which you can read on Google books).

The whole checking out of this bit of history quickly merged into an idea for a small campaign for my Almohad Berbers pitting themselves and defending their homeland against the infidel invader.

The good thing about this campaign idea is that it is pretty compact and self contained and could be played out over maybe three or four games and involves a reasonably limited number of troops on both sides.

A slightly harder thing to figure out is the 'victory' conditions for both sides, with the end result being if not a foregone conclusion, then at least a likely conclusion of the Aragon forces winning out against the Almohads. The main consideration here is likely to be time, so I think I'll try and base the objectives around a timescale, the Almohads trying to delay the progress of the Aragonese forces and the they trying to win out quickly.

A bit of reading up is still required for this little side project to take off but gives a bit of a direction for me and my on-going Berbers, so I'll do a bit more reading and jot down some ideas and see if this idea has got some legs on it.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Wargaming Magazines - Views and Reviews

Just getting back a couple of days ago from parts-foreign and had a great time, but missing my normal gaming fix, I headed off to my local purveyor of periodicals and picked this months conucopia of Wargaming Journals.

I knew that this month would have some bumper editions to look forward to, and it certainly seemed to be the case with Wargames Illustrated 'Bumper Family Fun Edition' 25th Anniversary Issue bringing back childhood memories of the summer holiday prints of your favourite comic, White Dwarf ringing out the changes (about time too) with their October 2012 issue, Wargames Soldiers and Strategy Issue 62 always something of interest and Miniature Wargames Issue 354 still in with a shout.

The magazines are all very much in their own niche within the hobby and being a bit of a periodical junky I generally pick up them all on a regular basis.

The exception to this recently has been White Dwarf, which I have been reading since Issue 1, but of late say the last year or so I haven't as the level of interest the couple pieces of eye candy that the magazine has had that would interest me did not match the cover price, with nothing else in the contents to interest me. With the announced mash-up of the mag I thought I'd check it out.

With the increase in the cover price of the new look White Dwarf, you certainly get a pretty weighty piece of work at over 150 pages of good quality printing stock with a cover layout I quite like with it's current comic-esque glossy feel. The magazines' content has gone through a pretty rigorous change too and the look and feel to the pagation and type setting reminds me a great deal of an art-house catalogue with lots of type and image blocks and a fair amount of space. A look I quite like all in all, a bit old hat in art circles but a nouveau look for wargames mags, definitely a good move away from the Facebook-esque cluttered feel to the layouts.

The articles included in the mag are a mix of old and new themes with re-hashes of the old favourites including batreps, the very annoying ten pages of stores, Jervis' couple of pages of rote and so on but a couple of new bits have crept in with the one that peaked my interest was a regular slot for John Blanche and his delightfully dark meanderings. A big point in favour of the new regime is the tone of the writing has grown up markedly, a big plus.

The art house feel is of course enforced by the fact that the mag is a closet catalogue for this months new releases but I accept that tacitally but did note that the prices for each of the delights on offer this month were noticeable by their absence. All in all, I see a big improvement here (there was a lot to improve in fairness) and will give the mag another go if only for the improved eye candy count (and John Blanche column) but it does count as a coffee table mag rather than really being 'of use'.

The Bumper issue of Wargames Illustrated again falls into my category of 'I've been getting this since Issue 1' and as it's bound to full of nice piccies, I don't want to miss it.

As it's a pretty weighty tome too with close on 300 pages to it's name, there's bound to be something in here that interests most people but with the idea of a 'Bumper' lot's of games issue, there's not much content that you would come back to once you've looked at all the very nice pictures.

I will admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with the issue, if only because my favourite periods were ill represented (and the trotting out of Agincourt a wee bit unimaginitive, even though nicely done). I know as a celebraterly issue it needs to be all things to all men but there was little in there that after the initial flick through made me want to sit down and read immediately. The possible exception to this was the modelling article, a 'how to' for a Manor House and Palisade Fort being a tribute to Ian Weekley and the Y Gododdin Dark Age game.

Don't get me wrong, all the stuff presented was top notch and well done, it just didn't catch my interest. Again I would put this issue as a coffee table edition which I will no doubt return to over the next couple of weeks to pick at, but a bit deflated over this one.

Not a bumper issue or a a revamp, but I have soft spot for what I feel is the oft overlooked Miniature Wargames.

I have always felt that MW has been the 'Penguin Classic' of the wargames magazine world, full of little gems hidden away under unassuming covers.

I quite liked this issue, not for the fact that it covers the periods I like and usually play but just for the opposite reason that there's a couple of articles on a completely different (and unusual) area of coverage namely Anglo-American conflicts away from AWI. Having read recently about the War of 1812 (which I thought was immensely amusing) the theatre does have some legs and the articles here do get the thought juices going, which is really why you should buy any of these periodicals.

I like the reviews and the columnists in the mag with Darker Horizons always useful and often amusing, and Higher Ground though absent this issue, quite thought provoking.

Another mag in the same sort of stable but with it's recent re-vamp under it's belt is WSS. Again I like it's understated classiness, with a open moderne feel to the layouts and an eye for something different in the way of coverage.

The main thrust to this issue being the pulp fiction market, not one that immediately grabs me but one that I've certainly played in the past and games always tell a story which is what the genre is all about and the theme articles are varied enough to not be staid.

The Medieval plastic conversions article by Richard Lloyd (Captain Blood)  was an added bonus for the issue and something I was looking forward to having been following his posts on Lead Adventure forum and enjoyed the piccies. Not a relavation having been a kit basher for years but a nice, clear article which gets the inspiration (and motivation) going.

The articles I read first when reading WSS are once again the regular columns, this time by hobby worthy's Rick Priestly and Richard Clark, both of who's columns could happily be longer as both have an engaging writing style and generally pitch at the right level.

The foregoing magazines have all something in their favour, and in fairness something against them, but why do I spend a not in-considerable amount of cash on these every month and indeed over the last two or three decades?

I know a few of my fellow gamers who do not buy, or indeed read, any of the wargames magazines. I think I still own every one I've ever bought and use them as a depository of ideas and source information. Opposites.

Probably as i said at the beginning of this post, a quick fix, and indeed a habit from my early days in the hobby where the only place you could find stuff out and what was new was to buy the rags and see the adverts. The magazines general content has changed dramatically with source info really being completely absent now where before it used to be common place,uniform info, flags and modelling all good. The info-web probably has a lot to do with that trend. As mooted recently 'in the press' that wargaming is getting mo0re and more commercialised and the wargaming press is all part of this trend, the coverage you get in the magazines is bound to change and if we as wargamers get a slicker, more professional product this is I think welcome, but comes at a cost and the wargaming press shows this.

This post has turned into a bit of a ramble, but is a topic I think has a lot of legs (and perhaps arms too). Why do some not touch them and think they're a waste of money while others (like myself) buy most issues. What makes a good wargames magazine, and what makes a great one?

From my perspective, all I can say is they are a springboard for all sorts of projects and games in the past and hopefully will continue to be so and, if I'm honest, I just like looking at pictures of nicely painted figures and models.
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