If you are of a certain age and disposition the above title may remind you of a certain leek and daffodil waving Welsh comedian of former times. Not that I, Anne Robinson like, am for a moment suggesting that the Welsh are humorless, after all you have to laugh when you can't pronounce the place you live without the aid of throat lozenges!!!!
No, none of the above is really relevant. It was Max Boyce's catch phrase that started this train of thought, that and the uncertain historical ground upon which many of our gaming brethren base their approach to our hobby.
It seems to me that the MacDonald’s like convenience of such rule sets as the various DBs and their ilk, has, except amongst a few hardy souls, crushed the idea of history in Historical Wargaming almost out of sight. The Power of the Idiot Book.... sorry Army list is now so mighty in the minds of the less discerning- or at least so it appears from the number of DB based pieces in the various journals both glossy and specialist, that one wonders how many actually read books at all. Perhaps I'm out of step here but I've always considered our hobby to be as much an intellectual pursuit as a gaming one, the actual game being only one facet of the whole. Now needless to say it is up to each gamer exactly which road he pursues, but surely more enjoyment must be had from the "FIVE COURSE DINNER" from one end of the spectrum to the awfully convenient but terribly shallow "burger and fries" of the" DBs and an Army list "approach.
One of the more interesting ways to do this is actually one of the simplest, read the words of people who were there. There are buckets of memoirs about for lots of different periods of history. In my own collection I have memoirs from many different wars and conflicts English Civil War, Seven Years War, American War of Independence, Napoleonic, Colonial, WW1and WW2. Some of these are for periods I don't play anymore- I may have sold the armies, but I kept the books.
The reason for this kind of approach is pretty obvious when you think about it. The writing of people who participated in the events we use, as a template for our games must contain more immediacy and atmosphere than any twenty-third hand army list or redundant points system. Of course such accounts are by no means without their pitfalls but that, for me at least, simply adds to the period atmosphere I'm trying for. One of the major problems with today’s rules is a bland sameishness, which pervades all "mainstream" periods to a greater or lesser extent. Rules writers must bear a large proportion of the blame for this but they are not alone, the mind numbing lack of historical knowledge one sees on the display circuit which has resulted, in recent years in a plethora of dinosaurs and white hunters, Victorian Martians etc. etc. to the detriment of "traditional" games also must carry some of the responsibility here. While these excursions into the Bizarre are frequently well done and even interesting the first once or twice, once the "unusual" becomes the norm things get awfully samey.