Friday 22 February 2019

New School Imagi-Nations?

Following my previous post about The Skirmish at Sprengenhof, I received a fair bit of email correspondence and some general interest on a few forums and the like, all of which has prompted me to give a little background into the whole WVS project...

Introducing the Fosseway Indie-Fencibles...
This is a loose alliance of wargamers, dispersed along the ancient route of the Fosse Way in England who meet on an irregular basis, to collaborate on wargaming projects that take our fancy.

Well, ok… in reality, it’s just a couple of middle-aged blokes playing with toy soldiers…
In fact, most of what we’ve been up to so far has simply involved meeting up for a pub lunch and waxing lyrical about the hobby, as I’m sure many do.

We do, however, have a certain vision, an unwritten set of criteria, that is the filter through which we have decided on the projects we wish to embark upon. And this, we hope, will become clear …
Whilst embarking on an “Imagi-Nations” style project, we decided that we wanted to avoid the “old school” label in terms of figure choice, painting style, terrain, unit organisation, and rules, amongst other things.

Imaginary countries don’t have to have Spencer Smith figures, or Staddens, or even Mindens, painted in an older style, with battalions of 60 figures. Not that there is anything wrong with that either. But, it can be done a different way… and that’s what we’ve decided for this project.

Our desire was to have a setting in which we could play a number of “teaser-style” games, starting with modest forces and building from there. And we also decided that although we do have an outline schedule, we would take as long as we wanted to paint the figures – no deadlines or painting pressures. It’s a hobby.
We, therefore, present for your enjoyment (we hope) our take on what we’re terming …
“New-School Imagi-Nations”.


 

 


Some thoughts and criteria for our venture

During one particularly interesting and valuable PTSD session (that’s PTSD: Post-Traumatic Salute Discussion), we began piecing together what we wanted from our gaming.
Salute 2017 had been, in my eyes, absolutely crap! Just a personal point of view... But, it certainly felt like a completely different hobby than the one I wanted for myself. Our discussions revealed that I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t just me who was out of step. For quite some time I mused on this, and started to consider why I felt that, and what I wanted from the hobby.

So...
What did we want our wargaming to be about?
Here are some of the outpourings of our conversation…
  • Skirmish games are ok… as the wargaming equivalent of an amuse-bouche, or an after-dinner entertainment over cigars and brandy. But not as a "main course."
  • Having said that, games don’t have to have 1000+ figures to be enjoyable. In fact, a couple of forces of half a dozen units can give as much fun, if not more, and with carefully crafted scenarios can produce interesting tactical challenges.
  • Units need to be large enough to be representative, but not so large as to be over-cumbersome on the tabletop. The thought of a unit arriving on table in column and almost reaching the opponents deployment area seems just wrong. It stunts the game.
  • Let’s avoid “Biggism”… the trouble with many horse and musket periods is the desire/ requirement to make it huge… so not for us an amorphous mass of 1805 French infantry; 12 battalions of 36 infantry before your orbat allows a squadron of cavalry. No thanks. Partly because, we are realistic enough to know that the days of painting in such numbers are over. 
  • Tables don’t have to be huge either. We decided to limit the number of figures per unit, the units in our orbats, and the table size to create something eminently achievable by anyone… we hope to be emulated, but that’s up to you, dear reader. So, the ability to play on a 6x5 table, expanding in time to 8x6 max seems about right for us. 
  • Terrain: keeping it simple, effective, and attractive, without being cluttered or diorama quality.
  •  Fast-play is a turn off! Yep, there I’ve said it. Getting the game over quickly is not a deciding criteria. We want games to last as long as they need to… and we want to take the time to enjoy it, not wizz-bang, you’re dead, game over, next… draw a card, and off we go again.
  • Painting and building the forces, the scenery, the buildings is to be pressure-free, and as enjoyable a part of the hobby as the gaming.
This is not an exhaustive list of the things we chatted about, by any means. To know that we had the same ideas, the same ethos, was very encouraging, and comforting.

Driving home after this chat, it was as if all was suddenly well with the world. And as I switched on the radio in the car, they were playing an old classic. I hadn’t remembered it from before, but when I arrived home, I downloaded it. “Sebastian” by Steve Harley/ Cockney Rebel. It just so happens that St Sebastian had already been ear-marked as Patron Saint of Vaubaria. A sign?
The sun was shining, and I felt I had a hobby again…

Over the next few posts, I'll talk more about figure choice, choice of period, rules and so on...

34 comments:

  1. Great essay Phil. Imaginations don't have to be old school, especially since the figures produced today are so much better than the nostalgiac days of old.

    12 battalions per side and 4 cavalry regiments is a moderate sized game for me, but then we tend to do things bigger in the States. ­čśä

    Cheers,

    Jim

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  2. A couple of middle aged blokes playing with toy soldiers, sounds ideal. I’m looking forward to how this rolls out, you’re ticking a lot of my boxes.

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  3. Generally agree with all your points, especially the Fast Plat thing. Has it's place but what#s the thing about getting things over as quickly as possible, just not right.

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  4. Haha Jim... yes, you Americans like to go for quantity!

    I'm glad this sort of post is still of interest. I know many people just like to click on pictures, but I wanted to give some of the rationale behind the project too.

    Phil

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  5. Thx for your comment Peter D. I am keen to open up some of the thinking behind this project as I'm sure (I hope) there are others like you and I who want something similar from the hobby...
    Best regards
    Phil

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  6. Hendrid… I'm glad that struck a chord for you. I've often felt uneasy about how "Fast Play" was touted as a 'selling point' for rules and games. in some cases it can be important, but for me, I like a game to take as long as it needs... and a sense of occasion, with maps, proper objectives and a background narrative created.
    Best regards
    Phil

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  7. Pertinent points, all of which I agree with. I never was a fan of 'old school' rules. My Hetzenberg imagination was set up to follow Shako rules, but I'm afraid it's languished on the shelves for years now. Maybe I'll dust them off and try again with smaller ambitions. Anyway, I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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  8. Very interesting piece. I like your approach and can fully empathise where you’re coming from.. look forward to following your progress.

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  9. All good points, Phil! Sometimes, many of us tend to get myopic about the hobby, what it is, and how to go about it "properly". As Henry HYde, or perhaps Jim, once mentioned in a blog post or an article somewhere, wargaming is a broad church with plenty of room for different approaches. Quite a few years ago now, we had a brief exchange about game size via one of our blogs. 'Reinforced brigade' seemed to be the general consensus if memory serves. Say 5-8 units on side. Enough to keep it interesting, yet allow ample room for maneuver and without taking too many hours/days/weeks to finish. I must admit that, while the sharp end of my two imaginary forces is still kind of small after a dozen years, I've added so many vignettes and support troops in the last six to eight years that even a large table does not have enough room to use and/or display everything in a single game. There's some kind of lesson there, though I haven't quite worked it out. In any case, lovely new troops there, and a clear, well-presented rationale. The cavalry will now advance!

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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  10. Thx AJ. Hope you get Hetzenberg back on track. If, in some way, what we're doing here can help others rekindle their own imagi-nations, or start fresh ones, that will be worth it.
    Best regards. Phil

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  11. Paul R... Your fantastic marlburian collection had a significant part to play in the choice of figures for our WVS project. Thank you for that!
    Best regards
    Phil

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  12. Stokes... You've done so well to stay focused on the GDS for all these years. I love the big units, but there comes a point when practicalities need to be taken into account. I get little hobby time, so want to make the most of it. If that means painting smaller units, but completing sufficient numbers of units to have a few games, then so be it. My Classic collection will remain intact. But for this new venture, I'd rather have three 20-figure battalions (a brigade) than one 60-figure battalion. Then again, the forces we used for our recent game were very similar in numbers to those employed at Blasthof in the sacred tome, Charge. Either way, sometimes just getting them on the table for a game creates the motivation to paint more...
    Keep up your good work.
    Best regards
    Phil

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  13. An excellent post Phil, thanks for sharing. Wargaming at it's best, my 18th century infantry units have 24-30 figures but I also try to make two units of each. Thus they can be combined into one large unit. Cavalry units of 16 figures again making 2 of each, multi flexible units.
    I will be attending Keith Flints gaming day in September, putting on a game using my Spencer Smith's imagination units and using Jim Purky's one page 18th century wargame rules.

    Happy gaming,
    Willz Harley.

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    1. Thx Willz. Yes, the Cotswold day will be excellent. I've reserved a table with Keith. He's doing a great job to expand it. Looking forward to seeing your game. Roll on 1st September. Best regards. Phil

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  14. Great to read your current thinking all in one place Phil. I've been down this route for several years now with my Imagi-Nations (24 figure inf and 12 figure cav units)for much the same reasons of time, space and flexibility. I'm not keen on the "pick-up game concept and much prefer games with a map, scenario, back story line and players doing a bit of work in advance (as historic generals and staff mostly had to do. The small commitment required has put off some of my friends who just want to turn up, throw dice and push the toys around. Hmmm.........I live near the Fosse Way , can I be an honorary Indie-Fencible? I do like some Indie music if that helps :-)

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    1. Your massive Napoleonic games are a feast for the eyes Chris. Honorary indie-Fencibles? There's no honour amongst this bunch of desperadoes! Lol!! I'm sure, if the opportunity arises at Northleach in September you would be most welcome to throw a dice or two at our table. Best regards. Phil

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  15. Thanks, Phil. I am nothing if not Johnny One-Note! Or perhaps just easily entertained like dear ol' Mom always maintained. Looking very forward to your next post on all of this.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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  16. This post strikes a cord within myself. I personally really like the approach of mid level gaming which is how this sounds to me of not too big or small. My units are even smaller at 16 each infantry and 8 cavalry. So far my 18th century collections have followed historical armies, but I would like to start up an imaginations WSS type of look using the lovely Front Rank miniatures using the most excellent Maurice rule system which works great for an alternative approach to imaginations or all 18th century wargaming in fact and so will follow your posts with great enthusiasm.
    I wonder when painting an army would it be best to have them uniform in appearance or change it up per unit? Any recommendation?

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher. I've never used Maurice, but it sounds promising. We are working up our own set of rules, and will post some ideas on that soon. As to uniform/ change each unit, I guess by that you mean in their pose (eg. All marching, etc)? I think it really is a matter of personal preference. I like the marching pose as that's what most troops were doing most of the time, but others prefer something very different. Good luck with your project. Best regards. Phil

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    2. Yes I agree the marching pose is the most useful although I like to change it up sometimes, but in regards to uniform I was referring to color of uniforms rather then pose.

      Christopher

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    3. I like uniformed figures for this period... however, for a slightly more "campaign" look, I have a few figures that have slightly off-colour gaiters, or the odd one who has a very slightly paler colour of breeches, or waistcoat, or main coat. It breaks up the monotony of uniform painting to have the odd one here or there who is a little bit different. Best regards. Phil

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    4. If you take a look at the Vaubarian regiment Breitner (in the next post), you'll spot some of the minor differences in uniform. Gaiters slightly different colour on one figure in the front rank. two of the figures in the unit have more grey-ish blue coats too. Enjoy the variety! Best regards. Phil

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    5. Hi Christopher, I like to have a critical mess of infantry in a particular uniform colour as it gives an army an identity and distinguishes the sides on the tabletop but even then there's still plenty of scope for colour variation and of course one of the most famous imagi-nations in wargaming history - the Grant VFS - had regiments in all sorts of different hues. Regards Steve

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    6. Thank you kindly gentlemen for the additional advice.:-)

      Christopher

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  17. Just to add my tuppence...v gone for a semi Imagination approach, using units from the SYW I. Western Germany but paying no attention to brigades or which units fought together, just building the ones that I like.

    Units are 24 foot or 12 cavalry in 28mm. Figures a mix of Front Rank, Perry and Crusader. Aiming to do table top teasers so a dozen units per side, played out in an evening. Waffling between BP2 and HoW for rules right now.

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  18. Coming to this a bit late but a lot of good thoughts.

    My tentative steps to Imaginations - though in 18mm - continually get caught up in unit size vs number of units. I have 10mm SYW for larger battle type games so my 18mm Imaginations (Ludwigsberg and Furst-Zollverein) are going to be reinforced brigade a side. Ludwigsberg will have a Prussian/Hessian/W├╝rttemberg style and Furst-Zollern Austrian/Reichsarmee with potential French (Liegois) auxiliaries. Still deciding over 54 vs 36 figure battalions in 2 ranks.

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    1. Great to hear of your plans Edward. I'm sure that whichever way you go (54 or 36 figure battalions), you'll have fun bringing your countries to life.
      Best regards
      Phil

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  19. My 'imagi-nation' mixes up movies, fiction and real-life. The result is my small state called the Barryat of Lyndonia, which hires regiments from all over Europe (British, French, Prussian etc). So basically it means I can include anything I like in my army!

    I've also gone the route of recreating the inaccuracies from the movie my imagi-nation is based on, 'Barry Lyndon'. Stanley Kubrick wasn't as perfect in his costume detailing as some may make out - and I've tried to faithfully copy his errors!!!

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    1. Ha ha... Love the Barry Lyndon references Roly. And I gather you are visiting Partizan in May. Hope we'll get chance to meet up at the show at some point. Best regards. Phil

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  20. A very belated comment to the original entry, but I only just found it when browsing the site. My imagination is Napoleonic, all uniforms fictional, with units of 16-24 foot, 12 cavalry, using a 6 by 4 table, three main belligerents, with a few exotic types as works in progress, using Old School rules.

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