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Reign of the Neckbeards (or why do historical re-fights).

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This topic contains 35 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  phaidknott 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #1428219

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    Something that seems to have cropped up over the last few days is the resistance/fear of playing an historical re-right (and if this forms an elite clique in the hobby).

    As I cast my mind back to when I started in the hobby, about the only periodic resource for gaming was a single page in the “Military Modelling” magazine (this was before White Dwarf existed, and for the first few years it was mainly an RPG magazine). This single page featured a battle and a bit of info on the uniforms/equipment used by the armies. Indeed I’d say doing re-fights of battles formed about 50% of gaming at our club (the other being pointed matches using WRG Ancient rules). mainly because it was all we had access to at the time. Sci-fi was VERY niche and fantasy gaming usually was using “historical minis” for the humans/elves.

    But now things have changed, and Sci-fi is probably THE most popular genre, and fantasy gaming has more fantasy mini available than you can shake a stick at (with historical gaming taking a firm backseat). BUT the refights fell away as. well there usually wasn’t an ORBAT (list of armies involved), or a map provided in most of the fiction/movies/tv series that inspired the Sci-fi/Fantasy games. So gamers had to make everything up, and got used to it over the years.

    So today in the hobby, the idea of playing a “fixed” army list with a map and deployment already provided seems “alien” to most wargamers if they haven’t experienced it. Research in various books for historical uniform details is seen as “wasted” hobby time (yet the same players are happy to spend hours reading various codex books and coming up with tourney style army lists).

    Yet I don’t feel as a historical wargamer who enjoys doing historical refights DO form an elite clique. Sure you might meet an individual who rivet counts on the uniforms (but I’ve met just as many who have told me that I’m playing a Leman Russ variant with the wrong turret and can’t use it as WYSIWYG in games of 40K). I play sci-fi and fantasy games as well, and believe me you’ll meet EXACTLY the same set of “wargamer stereotypes” if your playing historicals, sci-fi or fantasy games.

    But playing historical refights IS a sub-genre of the hobby, and just like Warren said he had his eyes opened after playing some historical games after resisting it for years (and now quite enjoys playing historical games). So for the “resistors” of playing a refight, maybe you should try for yourself BEFORE forming the mindset it’s not for you (just like Warren did for years). A lot of re-fights do end up as bigger games I’d admit, and their is an expectation that you’ll use figures of the correct era and correct uniforms (not to the silly extent of it HAS to be the correct Regt, but rather (for example) an ACW Confederate regt can represent ANY confederate regt etc etc). Research is a lot easier these days as you have the internet and even if that proves to take to long there’s some fantastic books featuring/scenarios of re-fights from Partizan Press for many theatres/eras. But re-fights are more of a club/group effort and take perhaps more time to prepare (ie you can’t just bring along a carry case of minis and just plop them on the table like you can with a big game of 40K, usually some-one is building up one side, and another the other side (or it’s split up between various players). It’s also quite fun to try and assign your fellow wargamers to commands and try to “match up” their personalities with the historical commanders of the day (We did certainly have our own version of Marshal Ney, whereas I was definitely more of a Burnside 😀 ).

    But anyhow here’s an interesting re-fight on Little Wars (mainly because it’s 6mm), but as you can see it features briefings, objectives (some that shift) and some elements of Fog of War that would probably put a diehard Tourney player off (if you like being able to access everything before the battle and building a “perfect” army list to achieve the objective).

    #1428220

    torros
    Participant
    13094xp

    Apart from maybe ancients which seems more competition based and point based games as the years go on although gather accurate info about various battles can be difficult .After that there are many opportunities for refights and scenarios based on refights that can be easily found online and made bigger or smaller depending on time and space available. I don’t think I’ve ever played a WW2 game that was points based

    #1428225

    commodorerob
    Participant
    6655xp

    my view is there are different levels of historical wargaming.

    1. Using historical minis creating your own scenario

    2. Refighting a historical battle, using the same forces on the similar battle field

    3. Refighting with historical deployment

    4. Just following turn by turn what happened.

    The last is boring but in my gaming group we do a combination of all the other three depending on the mood or what we fancy doing.

    #1428228

    bigdave
    Participant
    2073xp

    Do enjoy a good re-fight, as much as I enjoy making up scenarios there’s something… measurable? To say that you’re better than Lee or Grant, Alexander or Pyrrhusn is nonsense, but it is fun playing around with what if’s. Hood being allowed to sweep the flank at Gettysburg or the Old Guard hitting Wellington’s centre earlier than in reality to see if you could actually pull it off. They do tend to make for bloody enormous games, usually daunting enough to put people off at times but it is fun. HATE army lists, I don’t really like competitive gaming at all to be honest – I’d much rather put together a ‘fluffy’ or attempt some degree of accuracy in terms of organisation and see how it goes. Real battles aren’t match play, it means I have to really get stuck in to take advantage of terrain, maximise the strengths and minimise the weaknesses of an army in the field as opposed to min/max list building… Totally understand that my approach can be an anathema to some people but it’s how I like to play and I just have to make sure my friends know full well what they are getting into. 40k I’ll concede to list building and points limits I suppose, same with Bolt Action but it’s rare I get games like that tbh as I find I spend quite a lot of time reading and researching, finding odd scenarios, crafting my own, making terrain to suit then having a crack at it.

    #1428231

    blinky465
    Participant
    5567xp

    Dismissing “historicals” out of hand means you could be missing out on some really fascinating stuff.

    A few years ago, I decided I wanted something a little more historically accurate – rather than a hollywood style – in a “wild west” game.  I had some Black Scorpion miniatures and had painted a few up in muted colours and mud-splattered chaps and they looked nice. But I had no idea if they were accurate to the period or not.

    It turns out not – for example, the most popular hat in the “wild west” was the humble bowler – not the ten gallon or the stetson. Very few of my minis had bowler hats on their heads! Further research turned out some surprising discrepencies between Hollywood and the real cowboys (that said, I still think Young Guns is a brilliant film – even if they remade it as Young Guns II after admitting the original was “too Hollywood”!)

    For example, Billy The Kid wasn’t a hardened outlaw and never robbed a bank (his is actually a really tragic story about a teenager struggling to stay on the straight and narrow). Jesse James isn’t the “American Hero” as romaticised in popular lore, but a sociopathic murderer. Wild Bill Hikok was one of the few cowboys to actually shoot from the hip and Buffalo Bill was a down at heel drunk, with little more than a circus act to his name. Very few “famous names” from the period came into contact with each other as their activities were spread across many different US states (and not all lived at the same time).

    Some of the stories I followed up (with visits to an actual library, to read real books and everything) were far more fascinating – and unexpected – than I could have imagined.

    I didn’t actually go on to paint any more western miniatures and those game rules never got started. But going through the process of historical research, learning about real lives of real people, who really lived… that was some of the best hobby time I ever spent!

     

    #1428252

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    @commodorerob “my view is there are different levels of historical wargaming.
    1. Using historical minis creating your own scenario
    2. Refighting a historical battle, using the same forces on the similar battle field
    3. Refighting with historical deployment
    4. Just following turn by turn what happened.
    The last is boring but in my gaming group we do a combination of all the other three depending on the mood or what we fancy doing.”

    I think I’ve only seen the fourth option once as a “demo” at a wargames show many moons ago (I think there club involved were more concerned with going around the show than running a demo and that option needed the least man power at the table…it wasn’t a hit with the general public and left alone).

    2 and 3 were the usual options for us. The “Free Deployment” games were usually for battles where the historical deployment caused problems in doing it as a game, OR partially used to mix things up from the expected (for some battles having re-enforcements coming on from a different direction to stop the other side from having “weird psychic powerz” and knowing what the commanders on the day couldn’t know (and thus refusing the flank the expected relief column was coming from and setting up a defence)). But the 3rd type were the BIG events for us, we usually rented a scout hut (or similar) for a weekend and did some big battles (our biggest was Lutzen with over 5000 15mm figures on the table, not bad as there was only about a dozen of us). Smaller clashes (usually a brigade each side) for club nights, and these were usually a “section” of a bigger battle snipped out to give us the map and ORBAT.

    #1428253

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    @bigdave Do you think it’s the tourney aspect of gaming that’s taken things over of late? It does seem most rules these days are written with this as the main focus and the narrative/re-fight aspect has been driven off the range (so to speak).

    #1428254

    piers
    Participant
    8954xp

    I’ve never seen a historical refight where people moved the same as the real battle.

    I’ve played in loads of historical rights that had troops start in the same positions then allowed players to do what they liked… I once killed Napoleon at Austerlitz when my Russian Guard Cavalry rode through the French lines and over him…

    Virtually all the articles I write for WSS magazine are scenarios based on real life engagements and they seem very popular… maybe it’s just Battlegroup players but they seem to love scenario based games as much as pick up games… perhaps more.

    #1428257

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    @blinky465 Indeed, one of the most fascinating characters I came across was Thomas Meagher who formed the Irish Brigade in the ACW. An Irish Nationalist he was arrested initially sentenced to death in Ireland but was then given a life sentence and transported to Tasmania. He then escaped (after writing to the authorities giving 24 hours notice of his intent to escape) and travelled up through South America over a period of 4 months with the intent of reaching New York. He then went on the form the Irish Brigade (the intent was to form a cadre of hardened veterans who would then sail back to Ireland and “free” the country from English rule). His life reads more like something out of a Biggles novel than anything more mundane (as was true for lots of people during this period, it’s only now we don’t seen to have the “adventurers” in our ranks like we used to). I don’t impinge this history with current events and don’t wish to invoke any debate on his “crusade” and apologise if any take offence at me mentioning him. But his existence wasn’t something I went looking for, more it was found by chance on reading a book on the American Civil War.

    #1428260

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    @piers Yup, one of the main thing you DO NOT DO in most historical games is send your General into combat (Brigadier is still a no no). It’s not like Warhammer where your general is a “hero” and is a close combat monster (well perhaps you do so in Warhammer Ancients). It’s decidedly dodgy and usually ends up with a dead General 😀

    #1428261

    blinky465
    Participant
    5567xp

    One of the most interesting things I discovered (reading up on The Real Wild West) was that Billy The Kid gave himself up to Governor Lew Wallace, who promised him a pardon (in return for turning himself in).

    Billy The Kid went ahead with the deal, gave himself up, and was sent to jail, but Lew Wallace reneged on their agreement (leading to one of the most infamous jail breaks). It’s said that by the time Billy the Kid had given himself up, Lew Wallace was distracted by his passion for writing and had “outsourced” his peacekeeping duties while completing his second novel…. Ben Hur.

    Who knew?

    I never once thought a passion for making and painting tiny little things could be so educational!

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by  blinky465.
    #1428263

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    Also hoping to hear from gamers who wouldn’t play a “re-fight” game (and their reasons for doing so), have you had a bad game to be forever turned away from the idea or just wouldn’t want to go through the extra “bother” needed?

     

    #1428284

    tobymagill
    Participant
    539xp

    Interesting post @phaidknott.

    Having read most of the threads that i am guessing inspired this one, I am not sure the issue is a fear of historical refights (or for that matter an issue with personalities involved),  rather it is a clash of what is more important fidelity of flexibility.

    The first clash I have seen between fidelity and flexibility is what defines a historical game – is being based on a real historical period/conflict enough, or does it have to try and represent the period/conflict in accurate detail?

    The second is should someone be willing to suspend their sense of disbelief/history even slightly too accommodate someone else? E.g. is it ok to refuse to play @warzan‘s Nachtwulf due to it not being properly historical? Is it ok to refuse to play WW2 Finns vs Chindits as they never came up against each other?

    If you’re in the flexible camp then OTT have been putting out loads of historical content – SPQR, FOW, Bolt Action, Sharpe Practice, World War Zero (Blood and Plunder maybe?) and the incredible output @Orisksny has produced.  If you’re in the fidelity camp them maybe many of these don’t seem to be truly historical as most are based on creating cinematic moments  and take too many liberties with history and you may not feel you are being served the historical content you crave.

    Long story short – we seem to be on different pages on what the historical genre is and how it should be approached.   OTT and the wargaming public (including myself) and probably more in the flexibility camp which i think is the cause of a lot of the frustration.

    #1428295

    phaidknott
    Participant
    3147xp

    I see no problem in having a Nachtwulf in a game of Weird War 2 (which is a mix of fantasy and historicals), I do however see a problem if you are doing a refight of say Arnhem because they weren’t there on the day (ie they are not in the ORBAT). The thing with doing a re-fight is that you are restricted to what was there on the day for good or bad (ie you might have some horrible units in your army list). It’s not about individuals being inflexible, it’s because if you start changing thing about from the battle then where do you draw the line. One player might want to use Nachtwulfs, the other might want Tiger IIs at Arnhiem etc etc. In the end your not doing a refight. It’s exactly the same as if someone was playing a 40K game and someone decides they want to bring along a Titan unannounced (it may look cool, but most 40K armies couldn’t scratch it), or a army of Predators from the Alien franchise with rules from another game (would every 40K player at the table be happy with that). Finns vs Chindits is a game you’d quite likely see at a Bolt Action Tourney, but I’d have a hard time finding an historical battle to draw the ORBAT and map for to do a refight. All of the rule systems you quote I’d call historical, there’s also others out there as well. But for a re-fight you need an ORBAT and MAP and then a suitable set of rules (ie it would be impossible to re-fight Kursk with BA as its a skirmish game, and even FoW is too small a scale to cover the amount and area needed (you’d need at more grand tactical ruleset to do that). OR maybe you could do a smaller action from Kursk if you can find the info to do so.

    PS back to the original topic, have you tried a re fight game yourself yet in the past (I’m not here, what’s your personal experience in doing refights or what is it about the concept that puts you off doing so)?

     

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by  phaidknott.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by  phaidknott.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by  phaidknott.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by  phaidknott.
    #1428334

    dogma2097
    Participant
    1563xp

    I’ve found a good thing to do, and I’ve done it often, is to find a battle you want to replay, and modify it for a “pop” game system. I’ve done several (usually Scottish) battles this way and it’s easy enough to get someone into it – they have their Orc/Elf/Alien army and a good grasp of their rules and the scenario objectives – and often they have learned something in the process.
    We did a 40k Watling Street thing with “Boo, Da Ork” riding around on a Squig Chariot years ago for some shows and it stormed.

    The issue with getting people on board historical gaming in general is getting over the “fun” barrier. Pop culture games have surface candy coloured fun for all to see. I’m not saying historicals are not fun, but it’s a different, slightly more academic fun, which is usually less appealing en masse.

    There’s also an obliqueness in historical battles. We can tease LOTR or Game of Thrones or Starship Troopers about the wild and whacky tactical decisions they make, but recreating them on a board has a simple point of reference. “Go watch the film” is much easier and immediately entertaining for most, than “go read about Waterloo”. There’s great sources, yes, but there’s a grimness about real war that pop culture avoids. Heck, pop culture can automatically make real history more accessible – your pirate accent is no doubt modelled on Robert Newton or Johnny Depp depending on your age, I’ll always channel Christopher Lambert in Highlander when shooting Nazis, and I’m always being accused at coming at Tank Commanders with them negative waves, man.

    I think the key is not to be altogether too precious, even with refights – no rules for a game are 100% battle accurate, and there is always room for negotiation. How accurate you want to go is up to you, but I’d encourage everyone to give a historical refight or two a go, even if it’s just a loose representation of the battlefield and involved forces – Stirling Bridge is still entertaining if it’s 50 Space Marines holding off a horde of Tyranids at a bottleneck. If you can pull a few people into a more accurate version later, brilliant, but don’t force them and put them off. Perhaps follow up with a “cinematic” Thermopylae or whatever. Baby steps from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

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