Saturday, July 30, 2011

Contemplating the Great Divide

For the last 15 years, I have done my best to keep my ancient armies "compatible" with hobby standards, which meant, amongst other things, maintaining the ability to field 60mm wide elements regardless of how I based my troops. It hasn't always worked well for me and during that time, my Greeks and Persians have had, that I can recall, 8 opportunities to face some one else's army across the table, 5 of them against large 25mm figures using WHAB which isn't element based, 2 against large 25mm figures using Warmaster which neither of us were based for, and 1 using WHAB against a 1/72 plastic army based for WRG 3rd). The last opposed game was over 2 years ago. I don't see the opportunities increasing in the near future. Most of the large-25mm armies I might face aren't terribly appropriate enemies for my Persians anyway and the option to borrow an opponent always exists for away games. Hardly seems worth  the effort does it?

In amongst this, I have been looking at the old Grant book and looking over what's on hand with an eye to either refurbishing another old unit or starting a new one. My eye was caught on some of my older troops still based on a 15mm frontage and it brought me back to older days. My new units, in a mad attempt to harmonize 24 man  units with the option to go 2 deep or deeper while maintaining 60mm elements, and while accomodating some poorly disciplined spearmen, slid up to a 20mm frontage. Five mm doesn't sound like much but over the frontage of an army, it can mean an extra unit or 2 in the battle line, and now that I've cut my table down, that matters. It also happens to look more like massed troops.

So I am now contemplating heresy, mounting  6 heavy/medium infantry, 4 light infantry or 2 cavalry on a 45mm square base. Skirmishers will simply have their bases spread out. This will allow me to continue to field an average of 4 bases per unit so that they can go 2 deep or 4 deep but with the troops massed a little tighter with hoplites shield to shield.  I do have some heavy/medium infantry, which will remain unnamed, which cannot be squeezed onto a 15mm frontage but luckily, these can be squeezed comfortable into a 15mm depth so can be deployed 2 wide and 3 deep on the same base, so still 6 figures per element. Everyone is accommodated. That 2 of the new bases will fit inside a 4" hex is almost a coincidence that may or may not become important down the road. What ever the terrain is like, this will facilitate pursuing some Morschauser inspired rules and fitting the planned armies on the smaller table.

Not going to rush out and rebase the troops that have been recently rebased but I will try this out on the next units to be raised or refurbished. These questions of  basing, organization and compatibility have been  sticking points ever since I got frustrated with my experiment with singles and movement trays. Hopefully the way is now open to forge ahead again. My rules, my troops, my basing and organization and my not quite historical setting. Armies that only play at home, but guests welcome.


  1. I can empthise with you - I play 60mm frontage games with my regular opponent of many years but now have started to play Impetus at the local club. I cannnot square the circle re basing - movement tray stuff doen't seem the way forward for me...
    We all have to follow the fashion to make sure we can game with others. I admire your idea to use your own organisation,basing and rules- go for it I say. I try to keep a foot in all camps but to no avail at times I feel.
    best wishes

  2. I think it helps that I seem to be the only one still using the old style of 25's. My guys look out of place facing the big new style figures anyway.

  3. Hi Ross,

    I feel your pain and relief. As an old coot that is slowly getting back into miniatures, I realized I didn't care if I played any "published" rules. The gamers I know use a mish-mash of rules for every genre-era-game they play. Some rules get used marginally more often, but not enough that more than one guy at the table really knows them. Variants and houserules are plentiful. As one guy says the games are just social events where we roll dice and move miniatures around. No one really plays the game.

    Like you, I decided I didn't care if I matched basing or unit organization with any known rules. I made my own rules with bits and pieces from others and ideas of my own. Basing is what I want, not someone else's ideas of what's right. Yes, my stuff doesn't work with a lot of other rules, but who cares. I give my rules to the interested players. We play. If they don't like the rules I either make careful changes and try again, or just play solo, which by itself lets me do interesting things I could never do with the competitive bunch I know.

    Do not feel any misgivings about making and using your own rules, basing scheme, and unit organization. Your "visiting fireman" can learn your rules. It is no different from getting the next "new" set that comes out. If they don't want to play your game, it is their loss.

    Historical? Fictional? A mix of the two? You need not please anyone but yourself. That's hard enough. It has taken me almost 50 years of gaming to finally decide what I like to game. (My first wargame was Avalon Hill's D-Day back in 1964. Geez, that's a while ago! Moving on!) So I have limited my gaming palette to three periods for the final gaming run in this world, Late Medieval, Hoplite Greek, and Imperial Colonial. I am slowly building the first, intending it to be a multi-player affair, but it can also be a completely solo . Ah, the benefits of writing one's own rules. If I get to the other two periods, they will be solo from the get-go. Smaller total time and money invested means smaller forces, but still fun for me.

    To sum up this rambling, do what feels right for you! If you aren't happy with the game it doesn't matter who wrote the rules, what the basing scheme is, whether it is historically correct, whether the table surface is open, gridded with square or hexes, or whether any of the previous stuff is used by anyone else at all. Your games should make you happy and provided satisfying entertainment to you. It is a selfish outlook, but if your game can't make you happy, its not worth the effort.

    So what am I working on? Whatever I want. You should too. Life is too short for anything else.

    Life is Good,


    P.S. Bob Cordery, if you read this comment, it applies to you too. The Portable Wargame should be written to fight battles in periods that you enjoy and give results you like. Anything less is wasting your time. Trying to please fellow wargamers is impossible. A wargamer who does not write his own rules does not know what he wants, but is sure he does not like what he has.

  4. Ross,

    You mention the 5mm difference in spacing and you are correct.

    What you didn't mention exactly is the 5mm difference in figure size. Your "old 25mm" figures are also 5mm shorter than the hefty 30mm tall figures (now called 28s for some silly reason).

    It is not only the height (which isn't terribly important), but the BULK that makes the "old" and "new" figures look so incompatible.

    And phalanx-style troops particularly look best when closely packed . . . at least in my opinion.

    -- Jeff

  5. True Jeff, but its not just size, its the wild poses on many of the newer figures that won;t let them slip into a "proper" 15mm frontage. I like shield wall and phalanx types close packed as well.

  6. Thanks Jim, Wise Words indeed.

  7. Ross I have been comparing your edition of your gathering rules on google with the ones I have a hard copy of from earlier in the year. The bow ranges are much less now- is it a typo or change of mind?
    best wishes

  8. Alan, The apparent drop from 12" to "4 lengths" for bows is a change in how distance is expressed. (A not well expressed change.) The idea was to make it easy to adapt to various grids or to adjust to the size of the table or of figure size. So a length could be 4 hexes or 4",8",12" or 16" etc. I think expressing it in yards will work better. In any case that very rough draft was a bad place to leave the rules!

    Unfortunately, I had to put the ancients aside shortly after starting to play with the idea to focus on Historicon and haven't been able to get back to it.

    There are a lot of rough ideas in the latest version that need both testing but development. To do this, I also need not only time and attention and to make some decisions on just what I want the rules to do.
    for example, I expect to play some hex based ancients with a friend this fall but I'm not sure if I'll be trying to push what I am doing or settle on something else in conjunction with him. In the latter case, I'm not sure if I'll use the common rules for my own solo games or use my own.

    One way or the other I'll be getting back to the ancients before long.