Saturday, 21 January 2012

Some thoughts on the recent play-tests

At the time the two recent play-tests of MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) seemed to go quite well, but in retrospect something has been niggling away in my thoughts. It is nothing to do with the mechanisms or the turn sequence; it is to do with the aesthetics of the tabletop.

We know that the enjoyment of food is enhanced by how it looks. In other words, 'we eat with our eyes'. I think that there is an element of this that also applies to wargames, and that the aesthetic appeal of the tabletop enhances the enjoyment of the battle that is being fought.

I am not suggesting that the only 'good' wargames are those that are fought using beautifully painted figures moving across a diorama-standard terrain; far from it. I have seen such wargames at shows, and have often remarked on how good they looked and how miserable the players seemed to be! Too often they have seemed to be so intent on their 'moving diorama' that they never actually end up fighting a battle but merely acting as figure movers.

What I mean by the aesthetic of the tabletop is more to do with how the battle looks as it progresses ... and in my case this is reflected in how casualties are recorded in MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT). As the rules stand at the moment, figures are removed or counters are used to show the gradual degrading of a Units ability to fight. In the former case this leads to a Unit being reduced to a single figure before it is finally 'destroyed' and in the latter a Unit has to 'drag around with it' a load of counters. Neither of these is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and in my opinion they reduce the players' enjoyment of the battle.

I have mentioned this matter before on my blog, but the two play-tests brought the topic back to mind. For battles where figures are removed, I am going to adopt the concept that I understand Richard Borg has used with his figure version of BATTLE CRY! For example, this involves Infantry Units having six (and not four) figures. Three figures can be removed without detracting from the aesthetic 'look' of the Unit, and when the Unit has a fourth casualty it is removed altogether. For battles where Units are mounted on a common base the situation is even easier to solve; I will just 'borrow' the system of magnetic Strength Markers from MEGABLITZ.

By adopting these two simple solutions I hope to improve the aesthetics of the tabletop in future MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) battles. The proof of the pudding will be if, when 'we eat with our eyes', the whole thing looks better than it previously did.

10 comments:

  1. I've adopted a similar approach with my Napoleonic forces.

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  2. Why not a "roster System" such as used by Morchauser(sp?)? It works well for small numbers of units. A list of the units and how many hits it may take is kept, marking off a hit whenever it occurs. The list can be elaborated with color code for morale check level or "ineffective" level, etc.
    I played in several Napoleonic games with many units (and players) where this was a succesful method. One was a 15mm Waterloo with every BTN. represented on the table top- up to the time the Prussians came in. Ea. Btn had its own roster.
    Dick Bryant

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  3. Conrad Kinch,

    It seems like a sensible idea, and your endorsement of it adds extra weight in its favour.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  4. Hi Bob,

    I have seen many examples of games where the four figures of the Battle Cry infantry unit were represented by four bases of figures and I can see the point of this approach in order to make use of a 'normal' collection of figures. The 6 figure unit approach is a good idea and I am sure that I have seen this used somewhere.

    As I have been using the blocks it is not something I have had to consider just yet in my own games. Perhaps using a roster may be a possible solution.

    Bearing in mind the test was set up very much on the fly so to speak then perhaps running it again on the 'proper' terrain may change your perception slightly.

    At the end the day it is horses for courses and if you can get your head around DBA sized units or armies then anything is possible!

    Look back at Tabletop Battles for some ideas.

    All the best,

    DC

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  5. Dick Bryant,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I never considered a roster because of some bad experiences I have had with them in the past (mainly due to rosters not being kept up to date by some players!) ... but in this instance it would have been a very practical solution.

    I will go with the 6-figure Infantry Units for the moment to see how they look on the tabletop, but I will certainly keep the roster idea in reserve.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. David Crook,

    The six-figure Infantry Unit idea is growing on me, and I think that it is well worth using in a play-test to see how it looks on the tabletop. As you say, other people have used it successfully so I am not going forward down a route that is absolutely new.

    Your blocks do lend themselves to working with a roster system, but at present your use of markers means that you do not have to consider that option with any degree of urgency.

    As to your suggestion that I look back at TABLETOP BATTLES for some ideas … well my copy is close at hand as I am typing this!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. My suggestion would be to have a command group of officer and colour-bearer or musician as separate, individually based figures per unit.

    If the Officer is on the colour-bearer/musian's right (seen from the unit's rear) the unit has suffered no (significant)losses; when the unit suffers its first loss, move the officer to the colour-bearer/musician's left; when the unit takes another loss, remove the colour-bearer/musician; the fourth loss is shown by removing the officer.

    No roster or record-keeping, no counters trailing along behind the unit, and units end the game still looking like bodies of troops rather than individuals. There is the expense of providing the additional figures, but they add to the visual appeal of the troops, rather than detracting from it.

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  8. Hi Bob,

    The markers I have used in the various tests I have carried out have been primarily for photographic purposes for the blog reports. They are a useful reminder during the heat of battle but are not essential when using the roster. I want to fashion some shell bursts for a similar reason although again, they are not desperately urgent.

    My intended organisation for Fezia and Rusland will lend itself to the 6 figure approach quite nicely so I will have to see in due course.

    Much to ponder then!

    All the best,

    DC

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  9. Arthur1815,

    If I were starting again from scratch with my Colonial/19th century figure collection (which I may well do when I have got MOB just as I want it to be) I would certainly consider your idea. As you say, no roster and no markers required.

    For MOMBAT I would have to find an alternative ... but for the moment that is something that I will only need to think about in the future.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. David Crook,

    With a bit of luck I should be able to run the play-test tomorrow or on Monday. After that I can make my decision about sticking with 4-figure Infantry Units or moving to 6-figures ones.

    All the best,

    Bob

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