Saturday, 4 February 2012

You are the aggressor, move, now your on your own....

...these are all the rules you need, now go, make war.

Years ago when I was a kid my next door neighbor and I would meet t his house and wargame, his older brother had painted up a number of lead mini's including a large cyclops, the awesome mini crossbow gnome (who everyone wanted to be?), the warrior and a stack of evil enemies, I think they were the old Ral partha draconians and a few buildings. These were all we needed, battles were fought, roles were met and scenarios were conceived all before any one of us had seen a role play book or a rulebook.

Step to now, I have bookshelves full of books of rules, maps, counters, devices to allow adults to meet one other across a table and play out a game using the same figures as what happened to the above old days of just playing it out, making it up?

As we developed from those early days a natural competitiveness built in and we needed to define, among these "games" who was the victor, who the loser, someone had to be the bad guy and as we grew older there had to be a defined state of rules as to who was who, how they can interact, how victory would be defined...and so the rules came about, battles became edged and most sense of imagination was pushed back, those were my first real taste of role playing and wargaming and almost my last.

Years later here I sit, surrounded by books and pamplets from the simple (USE ME) to the complex (ASL) of wargaming and I understand many of my friends and fellow wargamers to do the same, we all orbit our own small worlds pulling in and engulfing the latest rules, defining our standpoints, our goals.

But what if we met and things were different. "You are the aggressor, move, now your on your own" and this was it, the rules. As a group of friends we could begin, knowing what we know, many rulesets, action phases, charts to memory, could we not just start gaming? ok my guys are moving across rough ground so there move is going to be this? what do you think? and then they are going to try and shoot those troops there, I think with their weaponry the range is ok but what do you think I need to roll to hit?

I think it would need a lot of trust between the players, but it could potentially turn up new mechanics. i.e this is not working fairly so lets try.... it could also bring back the role play that many recent rulesets have tried to pull in, if the players are fully in control of the rules and want to play then any scenarios possible. Many of us with experience have knowledge of a number of rulesets etc, so why not apply that democratically within a group? i.e in this situation my troops can see you men on the hill, it a high shot and they are in cover so I think the could hit on a........and so on.

I feel that sometimes by trying to define a "method" of play, of accepting the written rule we deny ourselves the true involvement of goup gaming.

15mm to me is a step towards this abstract, yes there are rules, yes there are miniature manufacturers but the rules are very different here, models can be interchanged between manufactures at a whim and rulesets can be defined without models available, so with a shelf of mini's and a mind to play why not pluck a few onto the table and just "play"?


  1. Sounds like Too Fat Lardies 'I Ain't Been Shot Mum' rules to me. My first experience of something close to the 'free form' gaming you describe. It's truly liberating but does require trust and mutual understanding of what you're trying to achieve between the players. No problem if you play with mates but a bugger if you're stuck with a rules lawyer!

  2. Ha, yep. Although you could have an umpire playing a meta game of psychologically testing the players......
    Too fat lardies....any good?, was looking at Sharp Practice for ACW skirmishes.

  3. I'm a big fan of the TFL ethos. As their tag line says, "Play the period, not the rules.". It really does feel like you are commanding troops and can do real things on the tabletop rather than just follow predetermined procedures set down in stone by the rules. You have to think "What would I do for real if I was behind that hedgerow commanding a section of infantry and needed to advance towards that wood?". You can't hide behind the rules and use them as a comfort blanket. If you've read about the action you're recreating then you realise they produce a realistic result.

    They also produce a version of the original Von Klauswitz (SP?) Kriegspiel rules; now they are true freeform rules and definitely need an umpire! Not for the faint hearted.....