Friday, June 30, 2017

Thoughts, not eye-candy

I don't know how many of you let your minds wander across possible armies and periods for future wargaming ... I'm forever at it. In fact, I can't help myself. Listening to Dan Carin's Hardcore Histories and his discussion of the Assyrian empire is rekindling my interest in a middle Assyrian army which is laying barely suppressed under the surface. I'm suppressing it because I have too many other projects I want to see finished (one day) without diversifying my efforts any further.
When I imagine a future army in a new period I often imagine both sides - I'm very much getting into covering both sides these days. If I start small with the right ratio for an historically balance force, I can bounce from one opponent to the other to get some games up sooner rather than later. Historical civil wars can make this easier for some theatres  more so than others.
Becoming more important for me is how my future armies will look. I have reached a point that perfectly aligned ranks of identically posed figures couldn't appeal less and I try to model my units to look like miniature humans behaving like humans. The more irregular the historical units origins are the more shambolic I want them to look.
I now base all of my dedicated skirmishers on round bases irrespective of period or rules. The more I do this, the more I like it. I'm now thinking that all irregular troops fighting in lose formation will be similarly based.
The mathematics of wargaming has compelled us in the past to worry about frontage, figure contact, depth and count rows of figures even. Figure removal compounds the on-table mathematics and has unwittingly driven us toward regular, rectangular basing with rows of miniatures, clearly segregated and counted.
Even in attempting to randomly pose or break up the uniformity of irregular toy soldiers on rectangular bases, at any observable distance, these irregular units are barely distinguishable from their regular counterparts. My Celts are still 'squaring off' against their Imperial Roman adversaries on my table-top.
Whilst it will require some alternative application of the rules I love and refuse to give up, I believe the time has come to re-base such units as my warbands to less regular bases. I am thinking oblongs - perhaps, on a vertical or horizontal axis (perhaps both) will achieve a more fluid human tide. Consider a sixty figure warband in a series of oblong bases with ten to twelve figures apiece. Clumped together they would provide a visual depiction more representative of an unformed hoard than a series of neatly fitted rectangles making one larger rectangle.
I am a devoted WAB player which relies on ranks and figure calculations for unit strength, melee determinations etc. The rules provide for up to four ranks in terms of their effect. If the centre of the oblong were the equivalent width of a calculable rectangular equivalent (figures x 20mm normally) but of a less measurable depth, figures on an irregular oblong or even less consistent shape could still be calculated by the number of figures times the depth of the base at it's widest part.
For example, an oblong narrow at the front say to a width of one figure has a width toward its centre of three figures. If that base has twelve figures fixed to the one large base, then that element can represent the rectangular equivalent of an element 3 figures wide and four deep. The base still provides the calculation but the remaining dimensions of the bases and the figures on it can be as random as I like.
Massed next to other similar bases or bases as easily calculable (say four figures with sixteen figures = 4x4 for a larger variant or two figures wide with eight figures = 2x4) I can still calculate the strength from the table-top whilst enhancing my visual effect.
Provided one of the base dimensions (either width or depth) allows a comparable rectangular assessment, the bases can be as long, wide and irregular as I like ... I think. I will commence experimenting. The pattern of figure placement will be totally irrelevant.
It also lends itself to a couple of my developing preferences - almost prejudices. I have utterly abandoned the idea of single figure basing of casualty removal for all periods other than WWII. I also personally dislike movement trays on a table-top. I find them extremely unappealing. I think a unit should look like what it is - unformed should look unformed. A warband should look like a warband. I say 'should' - this only applies to my personal preferences for my collection and wouldn't dream of judging the preferences of anyone else. I see that single figure, circular basing inset on a larger base where the figures can form units or skirmish individually is extremely popular at present. It's not to my visual taste. I'm fussy like that. I also don't like my figures too spaced apart - mine look crowded compared to a lot of other people's collections. My troops look like a crowd, crushing and crashing over each other I suppose - but it's what I like.
I've clearly got too much time on my hands to be over-thinking this. Just as well I have a hobby to soak up all this spare time.