Reasons NOT to refight historical battles

Started by Chris Pringle, 12 October 2021, 08:41:40 AM

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steve_holmes_11

Is it too late to mention:

Most* sets of rules focus their command/unit representation too low to do a whole historic battle.

Unless you're prepared to do the Glasgow University Waterloo thing: https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2019/june/headline_651692_en.html


* Most is in my opinion, and I'm perfectly aware that some rules address far larger scales.

Ithoriel

Quote from: John Cook on 16 October 2021, 11:49:53 AM
I would say that war games played with your WW2 Germans based on historical TO&Es are definitely historical, because they have historical context even if it is just the TO&E.

"Warning! Historical Wargames ahead! MAY CONTAIN HISTORY! .... but probably not" :)

Perhaps we could use Military Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy and Science Fantasy as game descriptors?

Anyway  John, I'll take your advice and broaden my horizons .... to include Jewel Staite in my fantasy affair list. After all she sent me a birthday video message this year*.

Cheers


*Tru dat!

Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

hammurabi70

Quote from: steve_holmes_11 on 16 October 2021, 12:32:03 PM
Is it too late to mention:

Most* sets of rules focus their command/unit representation too low to do a whole historic battle.

Unless you're prepared to do the Glasgow University Waterloo thing: https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2019/june/headline_651692_en.html


* Most is in my opinion, and I'm perfectly aware that some rules address far larger scales.

There is a WWII version of DBA that would allow the whole of the Eastfront to be fought as a single battle: each panzer group is one tank element, each army an infantry element.  Clearly top down ... but I have no idea if it would be any good!  :D  :o

steve_holmes_11

Quote from: hammurabi70 on 16 October 2021, 05:13:15 PM
There is a WWII version of DBA that would allow the whole of the Eastfront to be fought as a single battle: each panzer group is one tank element, each army an infantry element.  Clearly top down ... but I have no idea if it would be any good!  :D  :o

Hasn't DBA suffered enough?

NickinRI

I do both. I happen to like historical battles, and would disagree that they need to exactly replicate what originally happened.

The advantage of historical battles is being able to use things such as actual orders and combat objectives, where they are available, to see how one copes with unclear orders or ridiculous objectives. I also like seeing how making different choices changes the range of possible outcomes.

One example, I have played Froeschwiller (using BBB), and instead of the scenario objectives I provided the players with the original written orders. I have played this a dozen or so times with my students and got a broad range of results: all possible with the forces available to the two sides historically. The most common results are similar to the historical outcome, but I have seen everything from a successful French spoiling attack provide space for a relatively clean withdrawal of the main body, through to a stunningly successful annihilation of the entire body of French troops (a student who thought he was Napoleon but discovered he was not).

I have also done this with my books, wargaming the 1796 and 1799 campaigns (done with Chris Pringle) with my students. We ran the 1796 campaign in Italy nearly 100 times and most often the French win (if they are aggressive); we have also seen all three players succeed. Again, things did not follow exactly what happened historically, but we did find may of the locations that cropped up as key in the histories were fought over regularly. Some of the decision points were very close to those in the books too, which was interesting to me as a historian.

As for non-historical games, I am a fan of those too. They are often easier to set up, less research is required, and one can experiment with what ifs.

I think there is a lot to be said for both styles; although I more typically play historical games, I still run plenty of games that are historical albeit fictional.


Chris Pringle

Thanks for all the great replies! I've responded in an update to the original blog post:
http://bloodybigbattles.blogspot.com/search/label/Reflections%20on%20wargaming

paulr

Thanks for sparking an interesting discussion :)
Lord Lensman of Wellington
2018 Painting Competition - Runner-Up!

ronan

Quote from: paulr on 18 October 2021, 12:29:32 AM
Thanks for sparking an interesting discussion :)

+1
(I don't have time to answer, but liked to read it !)

Ithoriel

It has indeed been an interesting set of threads here and on TWW.

All conducted in gentlemanly fashion too, IMHO.

Even if no minds are changed, it is useful to have one's beliefs challenged, to remind one why one holds them.

And, as has been said, understanding why other people believe as they do helps us to negotiate a world full of shifting and divergent beliefs.

Alas, recent events in UK politics have shown why that is important.

As to a more light-hearted matter.  I do not believe that there is any sequence of life choices that would have seen my putative affair with Claudia Schiffer become reality :)
Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

Heedless Horseman

Historical Battles can be divided into individual Actions, rather than the whole shebang. A battle being fought as a 'mini campaign'.
You can start with historical forces, intention  and timings, maybe with some scope for tactical variation... but the commander actually there 'usually' knew what to do... so outcomes 'probably' similar.
BUT... as a mini campaign... when actions DO produce a result different to Historic... then, at some point, you could start a Big battle from the changed circumstances.

Eg. Waterloo. La Haye Sainte or Hougoumont fall early. Brit Unon Brigade reforms. Ney regonises cav charges futile.

This could be a useful way to try.... especially with several gamers drawing straws for sub commanders, rather than being Napoleon or Wellington! It also means that a Big battle can be fought in a reasonable amount of time, spread over meetings... or, tables! I have not club gamed... but an often heard fora gripe is the time a Big battle takes... setting up table, initial movement, etc. rather that 'Fighting'!
Solo... unless you have a 'games room'... it avoids Cats! lol.

FierceKitty

Quote from: Ithoriel on 18 October 2021, 07:53:41 PM

As to a more light-hearted matter.  I do not believe that there is any sequence of life choices that would have seen my putative affair with Claudia Schiffer become reality :)

Don't worry. I found her rather disappointing anyway.
I have not the pleasure of understanding you. Of what are you talking?

pierre the shy

19 October 2021, 01:11:20 AM #26 Last Edit: 19 October 2021, 01:23:51 AM by pierre the shy
Quote from: Ithoriel on 18 October 2021, 07:53:41 PM
As to a more light-hearted matter.  I do not believe that there is any sequence of life choices that would have seen my putative affair with Claudia Schiffer become reality :)

Have you been watching Love Actually lately?  ;)

Quote from: Heedless Horseman on 18 October 2021, 10:47:41 PM
Historical Battles can be divided into individual Actions, rather than the whole shebang. A battle being fought as a 'mini campaign'.
You can start with historical forces, intention  and timings, maybe with some scope for tactical variation... but the commander actually there 'usually' knew what to do... so outcomes 'probably' similar.
BUT... as a mini campaign... when actions DO produce a result different to Historic... then, at some point, you could start a Big battle from the changed circumstances.

Eg. Waterloo. La Haye Sainte or Hougoumont fall early. Brit Unon Brigade reforms. Ney regonises cav charges futile.

This could be a useful way to try.... especially with several gamers drawing straws for sub commanders, rather than being Napoleon or Wellington! It also means that a Big battle can be fought in a reasonable amount of time, spread over meetings... or, tables! I have not club gamed... but an often heard fora gripe is the time a Big battle takes... setting up table, initial movement, etc. rather that 'Fighting'!
Solo... unless you have a 'games room'... it avoids Cats! lol.

Yes, a great idea HH.

Historical refights often don't end up turning out anything like the actual battle.....as we discovered last Saturday when refighting Inverkeithing......all but one cavalry units on the table became casualties and the last remaining unit of Parliamentary horse decided to pursue their foes off the board. 
"Welcome back to the fight, this time I know our side will win"

Chris Pringle

Quote from: Heedless Horseman on 18 October 2021, 10:47:41 PM
Historical Battles can be divided into individual Actions, rather than the whole shebang. [...] means that a Big battle can be fought in a reasonable amount of time, spread over meetings... or, tables!

A worthwhile exercise, no doubt, but you have the "wood for the trees" problem: fighting that division-sized action on the wing doesn't give you any feel for the big picture, and you are making decisions of a different scale and nature. That's why we wrote "Bloody Big BATTLES!" (BBB), so that you can indeed fight a whole battle on a 6'x4' table on a club night. We famously fought all three days of Gettysburg on a Monday evening club night, started setting up at 6pm, finished and packed away by 10 and in the pub for a celebratory pint.

Quote from: Ithoriel on 18 October 2021, 07:53:41 PM
I do not believe that there is any sequence of life choices that would have seen my putative affair with Claudia Schiffer become reality :)

She might have had to make some different life choices too. And you'd still need to roll lucky.  ;)

Chris

Bloody Big BATTLES!
https://groups.io/g/bloodybigbattles
BBB on FB:
facebook.com/groups/1412549408869331

Heedless Horseman

Chris... good stuff! But, I suppose it depends on the desired persrpective. Refighting a historical batle, unless you make it ahistorical by changing dispositions and objectives... you already know the 'Bigger Picture'...until actions begin to alter history. Then, you can step back... and take an overview.

In very many post medieval battles, Brigade/Corps/Divisional Command unlikely to know Bigger Picture... what with terrain, smoke and communication... and would be very focussed on their own action. Although Aides might inform of successes elsewhere, faiures less likely to be transmitted. Even in the radio age, Commanders would know very little of events elsewhere in a battle... and often have difficulty knowing what was happening in their own sector!

steve_holmes_11

If we're going to recount our "didn't turn out as expected".

Let me describe an early attempt at DBA in 6mm.
Alexander Macedonians attempting to sweep Persian levy scrapings fomr Western Anatolia in the first match of a domino campaign.

We're new with the rules.
Macedonian front is quite narrow, so danger of gettting swamped on the flanks.
Solution, stick spears on one flank, mounted on the other and attack the enemy.

Great man launched his charge, rolls a 1 and gets quick-killed by the opposing light horse levies.
Loss of commander = loss of game.
And in this case end of campaign...


Domino campaign: Like a ladder campaign, but a strong invader begins at one end and attempts to topple the enemy defenders in sequence.