Monday, June 11, 2012

Story Time!

Dungeons and Dragons was my gateway drug, not to Satanism and real magic, but to miniature wargaming.  We collected a box full of Ral Partha figures for our characters and the monsters they fought, painted them to a low standard, and then never bothered with a protective coating.  Today my brother still has those weathered figures somewhere in his attic.
Unlike the rest of the group, I tinkered around with massing the figures up and fighting big battles among them.  We didn’t really have enough for massed battles, so BattleSystem, Warhammer, and rule sets of that ilk didn’t work for me.  Combine that with a first real miniature wargame experience of watching friends play in an elaborate participation style TSATF game of French Legionnaires against Taureg tribesmen at the local convention, and you’ve got a kid that puts wargaming aside as a hobby akin to speedboat racing; it looks like fun, and I’ll do it whenever the rich people put it together, but forget building all that up myself.
The terrain was simply one of these kits - but
one more Mexican/Texan than medieval.
My one trip to GenCon (1991) was a life-changing experience in a lot of ways.  It introduced me to some fantastic games that I still play to these days, Silent Death and Car Wars among them.  These are the smaller scale games that even broke college students can afford.  But it was also my first introduction to fun and simple wargame rules that fit on the back of a card.  I dropped in on a 15mm Alamo battle where everyone played Mexicans trying to kill more Texans than his rivals.  I didn’t win, but clever use of captured cannons meant that I played king-maker for the eventual winner. Aside from the beauty of the game, I was struck by how easy the rules were, and this was a game with siege ladders and cannons, too.  I still remember half of them more than 20 years later.
Flash forward through 20 years of experience with 240 page rulebooks, games that take 4 hours to play, and games that require a lot of money to play.  Since starting this blog, I’ve tinkered with fast-play rule sets like DBA, Car Wars 5e and AK-47-Republic, and a host of free sets available on the web.  I still have not been able to recapture the fun and speed of that Alamo table; the closest experience to date has been Full Thrust, with its intuitive and simple base mechanics.
After beating my head against the wall trying to find the perfect little rule set, I realized that it was staring me in the face.  If I want a game that feels like that Alamo rule set, why not use that Alamo rule set?  The half I remember was great, and the half I don’t is easily extrapolated.  So that’s what I did.
I’ll show you the rules and talk about design considerations tomorrow.

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