by Charles S. Grant
In my capacity as a Sixth Form college lecturer in Creative Writing, I had the pleasure recently to be invited to a writer’s symposium at Bournemouth University. As we discussed the ‘demise of the sovereign text’, a couple of the chaps there revealed they’d received a grant to investigate ‘narrative development via computer games’. I was (rather smugly) able to point out that we wargamers had been ‘developing narrative via gaming’ since back in the 1960’s, and here it is again. And done well too. The veteran Mr Grant has produced an entire campaign for his rival 18th century ‘Imagi Nations’, the Grand Duchy of Lorraine and the Vereinigte Freie Städte (VFS).
Now, this is not the thing for everyone. I know many gamers still mumble under their breath about sci-fant and ‘alternate history’ as if it’s something that should only be permitted behind closed doors between consenting adults, but this is simply FUN. The ‘newspapers’ produced by both sides in the book are most amusing and the background detail given is impeccable. Sufficient, not burdensome. You will, however, need a neutral umpire to get the most out of the campaign, but that should not be an issue for most gamers and their pals.
The book – lavish colour photos and clear maps throughout – is a mini campaign of five ‘stand-alone’ scenarios from small to pitched battles, and develops the story (sorry ‘narrative’) from the previous epic ‘The Siege of La Crenoil’. As befits a skilled and veteran writer like Mr Grant it’s not necessary to have read the previous tomes, and the scenarios – ‘table top teasers’ – present wargamers with ‘tactical problems’ rather than ‘line-up and charge’. They can be played in sequence as each side seeks to liberate of conquer in the milieu of the eternal (real) c.18th wars we all know and love. The laudable idea is to avoid the tedious paperwork often associated with campaigns, and with an involved umpire this should find this easily possible. If players do decide to follow the course of the campaign, casualties are carried forward from one battle to the next, and decisions will need to be made that will impact up on the next battle and beyond. Alternatively one can just fight the battles. Strewth – just use substitute conventional c.18th armies – or even those from other periods and have a ball.
The preferred tactical rules are Mr Grant’s ‘The War Games Rules’, but any could be used, and I especially like the character list of ‘who’s who’ for both sides. My only reservation about the project is that it’s not for the ‘time poor’, but if you and your chums have retired and have the time and space and considerate ladies to take on such a project, this is ‘olde skool’ wargaming par excellance from a by-gone day.
Review by Gary Mitchell