Sunday, 7 February 2010

Wargame Rules for Talavera

The wargame based on the battle of Talavera has reached move nine, and is proving a real joy to play. The allies are holding firm, the Spanish doing particularly well with their artillery, and the French still attacking.

I read the Napoleonic Discussion Forum on TMP most days, and often wonder just how much the views expressed represent the majority of experienced wargamers. The same names come up again and again. They seem to be very forceful and convinced that their point of view is the only one which should be allowed. They write with great conviction. But often they write such rubbish!

If there is anything I have learned from 40 odd years of wargaming, is that my idea of what are "good rules" change time after time. I remember reading in Wargamers Newsletter an editorial by Don Feathestone in which he made the obvious point that our games with toy soldiers bear no resemblance to actual war. And of course that simple statement is so obvious that I have never heard anyone disagree with it. Yet on the forum people will write lengthy articles to convince the world at large that only their favourite rules represent "the real thing".

A good example is one recent exchange about the role of skirmishers in Napoleonic wargaming. Most completely dismissed the idea that you could have a wargame without skirmishers, providing you included the skirmish ability in the rules. I first encountered this idea when I started using Le Feu Sacre rules. At that time I agreed that the table looked very strange without a skirmish screen. But as I used the rules I came to realise that the use of figures on the table simply makes the game longer, involves more dice throwing, and adds little to the outcome of the game. Or at least if the rules are any good, skirmishers should not greatly affect the outcome - certainly not if both sides can field them.

Did I raise this point and argue my corner? Most certainly No! I have tried that approach, and lived to regret it. It takes a very brave, or foolish, man to go against the current favourite rule system on a forum. Its strange that folk who work so hard to recreate Napoleonic tactics should be so forceful and aggressive in their response to anything new.

I find that every year or so I am ready for a new approach to wargaming. Perhaps this is because I wargame so much, and consequently put my current rules to the test so often. But now I am less inclined to replace the rules entirely. I prefer to see if I can incorporate the new concept into my existing rules.

Of course every now and again a new concept comes along, such as Le Feu Sacre a few years ago, which just carries you along with the whole new scope of the rules. Alas, after a few months the flaws begin to show, and "house rules" make their appearance again.

But now I have come to realise that a good set of rules is not one which caters for every possible eventually which might have happened on a Napoleonic battlefield. They only have to provide a good and enjoyable GAME, which rewards the use of correct tactics. I feel myself fortunate that my current rules fill this role very well.

If you wish you can follow the Battle of Talavera here:

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