If I had to more specificlaly classify my dabblings with miniature wargaming I suppose I’d have to really call it “skirmish wargaming.” Although I enjoy the spectacle of massive wargames depicting the vast scope of a full battle – or even a small yet turbulent portion of one – as a gamer I don’t have the resources and time to buy, paint, and base such seemingly endless ranks of figures, let alone craft the numerous terrain features to cover such a large battlefield. Skirmish wargaming allows me to explore historical periods of interest without the greater investment in game components.
Fewer Figures: I don’t always have the time or finances
to buy into games, even ones covering historical periods that
interest me or offer innovative rules. These games allow me to draw
on my small, existing collection of figures to more easily assemble
forces appropriate for skirmish games. Fewer soldiers on the field
also means faster set-up and clean-up times.
Smaller Scope: As smaller engagements skirmish wargames
take less space on the tabletop. Having fewer game components also
uses less storage space. The overall play experience takes less game
time, ideal for trying out a variety of rule systems or gaming with
younger players and their more limited attention spans.
Player Engagement: Players have fewer forces to worry about
and hence more investment in their fate. Here the smaller scope lets
them focus on a few units throughout the game rather than spread
their attention across a vast army. They’re more able to understand
and test the rules in the context of the scenario. Players also learn
to value the few units under their command; rather than sacrifice one
part of an army to enable some greater strategy, skirmish wargamers
manage smaller units easily wiped out in diversionary tactics and
more difficult to replace with comparable forces (depending on the
scenario, of course).
Historical Immersion: While huge battles offer great
satisfaction in recreating significant historical events, skirmishes
force gamers to examine more intimate conflicts. Some periods,
particularly the French and Indian War, focus on smaller engagements.
Others can offer inspiration to investigate offshoots of major
battles, such as Colonel Duffie’s attempt to cross Mountain Run in
the face of rag-tag Confederate opposition on his way to the Battle of Brandy Station.
Although this seems like a smaller, simpler cousin of wargaming in
the grand tradition, I can’t call this “lite” wargaming because
in many cases the rules still rely on complexities common to many
wargames. Rulebooks focusing on skirmish wargaming incorporate many
involved system concepts from other games and even create their own
to simulate elements more prevalent in small-scale engagements (such
as rules for scalping and looting by native forces during the French
and Indian War). While the scope of skirmishes might not intimidate
newcomers, rules often can; crafting a set of skirmish wargaming
rules for newcomers to the hobby (including kids) remains one of my
objectives as a game designer.
I have several projects focusing on skirmish wargaming in various
stages. Some are just for my own fun exploring game mechanics and
historical periods, others remain slated for eventual publication:
Armies in Plastic sets) to
seek treasure and try subduing a giant ape. Overall I’d say it’s
fairly successful in introducing kids to wargaming basics; go see for yourself.
Panzer Kids: I’ve been
developing this World War II tank combat game for a few years now.
Essentially it’s a skirmish wargame pitting a handful of tanks
against each other, with occasional objectives, anti-tank guns, and
lorries providing some variation in play. One might not consider it a
skirmish wargame in the more traditional man-to-man sense, but since
each tank represents one vehicle and the engagements remain fairly
small (even with a host of tanks on each side), I’ll argue it falls
under this category. If only I could find the time and focus to pull
it together for publication....
Sergeants Miniatures Game: I bought into this
game several years ago after playing a few games at the Williamsburg
Muster convention. As a World War II game set in Normandy during the
D-Day invasion it doesn’t focus on the massive beach assault but on
the disparate groups of American and British paratroopers dropped
behind enemy lines and the German patrols they encounter. Players
control small squads with individually named soldiers whose
identities help drive some of the game’s strategy elements. I’ve discussed this game before; in hindsight it’s a perfect if
unconventional example of a skirmish wargame.
French & Indian War: This period seems ideal for
skirmish wargaming as proven by the host of recent rules released on
the subject...Song of Drums & Tomahawks, Muskets &
Mohawks (and its cousin Long Rifle), and Muskets &
Tomahawks (which I’ve yet to acquire). Although the war
featured several large actions such as the sieges of Fort Carillon,
Fort William Henry, and the city of Quebec, it included innumerable
smaller encounters between Indians, French scouts, British troops,
militia, and rangers. I’m particularly interested in the period
since I grew up in New England close to the Lake Champlain region and
hold the 1992 film Last of the Mohicans in high regard.
Donald Featherstone’s Skirmish Wargaming: One of
these days I’ll get a copy of this book by one of Britain’s
venerable founders of the modern wargaming hobby. I realize I’m
somewhat set in my ways regarding my preferred systems in miniature
wargaming, but, like many gamers, I enjoy seeing how others interpret
game mechanics to better inform my own perspective.
Schweig’s Skirmish Wargaming: I’m no Donald
Featherstone, but I still have opinions on what makes for a good
wargaming experience. I’m jotting down notes for my own skirmish
system to take advantage of the various forces at my disposal: 25mm
British and Dervishes, and a host of 54mm unpainted British, Zulu,
Dervish, and American War of Independence troops I purchased over the
years from Armies in Plastic...and anything else that interests me in
the coming years. Some of what I’m developing evolved from Valley
of the Ape (including the inspiration to develop this project),
some is informed by my exposure to other rule systems (such as those
fascinating me for the French and Indian War).
I’m thankful I can still partake of grand battles each year at
nearby Historicon and the slightly more distant Williamsburg
conventions where referees host elaborate showcase games with
custom-crafted terrain and carefully painted armies marching across
numerous tabletops. These represent instances where I get to “play
with other people’s toys” – a topic I’ve covered before –
to try my hand at new rules or periods without the required
investment in rules, components, and terrain. But for now my basement
wargaming table seems content to host skirmish games deploying my
modest collection of miniatures in continued explorations of
different game systems and historical engagements.
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