Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Damn... I'm Old School.

But... but... I'm only a thirty-something! ;)

Thanks to Joseph Bloch for pointing out Steve's Random Musings on Wargaming and other stuff's post  titled "Definition of old School."

It can be summarized as follows:
Old School Wargamers...
1. Enjoy doing their own research on the historical periods they like wargaming in,
2. Understand that the game is just a representation of what happened on the historical battlefield,
3. Are often not tournament players or rules lawyers,
4. Do not mind taking weaker side to see if they can get a different result than what historically happened.
5. Have a "practical, do it yourself, ethos."
6. Behave like gentlemen (or ladies) at the table while enjoying libations and resolving disagreements with a d6.
7. Aren't defined by the games the play or who they've gamed with. It's how they approach the game.

So according to this definition, I am old school as both a wargamer and a roleplayer. Up until now I liked to avoid labeling myself as Old School because I was afraid it'd make me sound... old. But there's a lot of wisdom in Old School, wisdom I've been touting for years since my earliest days as a roleplayer.

My philosophy on gaming is this: Wargaming and Roleplaying aren't really the hobbies themselves, but a product of people enjoying the history and literature that inspired both. Participants will often spend more time in "preparation," doing their research, than actually playing the game--this is especially true in wargaming (all those miniatures to paint!). Thus, they should enjoy these aspects along with playing the games themselves. 

Anything else is gaming in a vacuum.

And when you game in vacuum, without outside inspiration, you start eating through any material you can get your hands on--new modules, rules, supplements...the egos of other players. You become dogmatic because of your percieved sense of scarcity, putting the rules first before the game, before the other players. In other words, you become an annoying bore. 

I believe people should be well-read in literature and history before taking up either wargaming or roleplaying, or at least have an appreciation for it. Sorry, movies, TV, videogames, and stuff on YouTube don't count. These are but distillations of history and literature. Many of the best movies out their have been inspired by books, which often why those who've read the books will say, "The movie was good, but not as good as the book." 

Playing these games can inspire people to read more history and literature. D&D did so for me. I wanted to learn more about the Middle Ages and general history so I could add more versimilitude to my games. The same is true for wargaming. I wanted to read more fantasy and general fiction, and not just the TSR novels (Dragonlance, et al).

But I'm glad my brother waited until I was ten before letting me play D&D. While I hadn't read the "classics" from Appendix N, I was fairly well-read for that age. This gave me a better appreciation for the game itself ("Wait? You mean I get to fight goblins like those in The Hobbit? Awesome!").

I also believe that the relationships you develop at the tabletop are more important than the rules, more important than winning. This is why I've never played in a wargaming tournament. Don't get me wrong, I like to win--but what's the point if my opponent resents me because I quoted a bunch of rules to him? (And someday I will win with the French in HYW!)

If you're reading this, then I'm probably preaching to the choir. Yet I've encounter folks who've describe themselves as "old school" halt games for a half-hour (or more) so they could look up and argue over rules. The d6 method works well in both roleplaying and wargaming (1-3: the argument goes in your favor; 4-6: the argument goes in mine; now let's keep playing).

If, however, I'm not preaching to the choir, then take a look again at the definition of Old School. You might learn something that will make your games a lot less stressful and far more enjoyable, and even young at heart.


  1. I have always associated "Old School Wargamer" as someone who plays games with little cardboard pieces and hexmaps as opposed to miniatures, even though a lot of the greatest games of the former were contemporary with the latter.

    It is next to impossible to find board games similar to the old SPI games these days, much less people to play them with.

    I'd love to have someone to play "Great Medieval Battles" with.

    1. (and yes, I'm aware that Small Wars was a miniatures game :) )

    2. Are you talking about that video game put out by the History Channel? Sorry, I don't play video games anymore. But if you're in the Atlanta area, I'd be willing to play some HYW down at Treefort Games in Fayetteville.

    3. A 4-in-1 1979 game comp using a modified version of the system used in SPI's Lord of the Rings games.

    4. Gotcha. That actually looks fun--and educational! ;)

      I've played Squad Leader a couple of times and that was fun.

      And then there's Third Reich, by Avalon Hill. Played it once with an ex-roommate who kept nudging me to play it until I gave in.

      We set the game up. I played the Germans. Since it was my first time playing, I messed up my initial set up. The allies basically made a D-Day landing behind my forces in France. My ex-roommate said, "Yeah, its going to be pretty difficult for you to win."

      We'd only be playing for a hour or so. He said the game would take the whole weekend to resolve.

      "Um yeah," I said. "I'll just call this an Allied Victory..."

    5. Sounds a little like Fortress Europa. It goes from the Landing all the way to the siege of Berlin. As I recall, it was quite a chunky slog-fest, probing at each others lines, using small units in soak-off distraction assaults to negate zones of control in hopes that one armored division could make a big break through the lines somewhere.

      Still, I don't think I've played a game that took longer to resolve, with more options for the tides to turn, than Civil War. It was a three map monstrosity, with an optional 4th map of Texas where Indians and Texas rangers could fight it out over a few victory points in the margins, burning down villages and ranger forts. While the North needs to win a decisive and crushing victory against the Confederacy, the Confederacy needs to only win enough flashy petty tactical victories while holding onto economic independence to demoralize the Union just enough to ensure that Lincoln loses re-election, at which point McClellan will sue for peace.

    6. I've watched Civil War played before between two of my friends. I guess it was late in the game. The North pretty much had the South on the run. I said, "It looks like game over for the South." And then even the player of the North said, "I'm not certain about that."

      Earlier in the game the Southern player managed to invade the North, twice. Even though the invasions were short-lived, they give him lots of victory points or whatever it takes for the South to win.

      I looked like a lot of fun, with lots of emphasis on trying to capture railroads and key towns, trying to keep your units with lots of support, if I remember.

      (As an aside: I always smirk when somebody tells me that Monopoly takes forever to play).


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