Part of the joy of keeping a blog I suppose is the ability to pontificate about things as though someone cares and/or is listening.  I just finished reading Ross MacFarlane's "Friction Burns" article in the latest Battlegames magazine (Issue 31).  In it Mr. MacFarlane's central thesis is that the current fad of modeling 'battlefield friction' in historical wargames is not actually new or innovative and has been part of historical wargaming fro the outset.  I am not going to debate that point as I somewhat agree.  My favorite historical wargames all include a level of randomization to reflect the fog of war:

  • Battleground WWII:  Random unit activation w/cards 
  • Johnny Reb III:  Simultaneous movement w/ hidden order tokens at the beginning of each turn
  • Anatomy of Glory (Excellent homebrew Napoleonic Rules written by a friend):  Written turn orders with order changes requiring a % roll.
  • Spearhead:  Written Orders with limited ability to adjust orders.
  • Command and Colors:  Cards to limit tactical choices.

   That said, why the rebirth of the concept of battlefield friction?  I think the heart of it are games like Warhammer 40K.  Listening to various podcasts, especially Meeples and Miniatures, I have identified a certain trend for those of us under the age of 50.  See if this sounds familiar:

Played XX when I was a kid
Dabbled a bit in D&D when I was older
Played Warhammer 40K or Warhammer Fantasy
Switched to Historical Wargames

I have heard this at least six times now and it is the same as my gaming vector.  I started off playing microarmor and then Battletech in elementary and junior high.  Then I played D&D in junior high (always seemed to play martial types...),  in high school I discovered WH40K.   After playing WH40K through college, I switched to Warhammer Fantasy Battle (Empire and Bretonnians...)  Finally my gaming group gave up on GW fandom and switched back to historicals.  For me that was lots of 15mm ACW.

Where am I going with this?  How many players today went through the GW phase (or simply the SciFi/Fantasy phase) where friction isn't really modeled?  In GW games I was able to move every one of my units every turn and they did what I wanted them to do.  Part of the appeal of my return to historicals was that friction existed.  I liked sacrificing my god-like view of the battlefield and control of its inhabitants for the challenge it provided.  

That said, many of my friends did not.  They liked to do what they wanted with all the figures they had on the table.  It was part of what I hated about microarmor games before I found Spearhead. Every tank on the table knew exactly who to target and where to go to get the best advantage.   I could go on for hours about many video games....

Many of the articles I read leave me with the impression that the authors have always been Grognards.  Given the popularity of of companies like GW, FASA and TSR in the 80's and 90's, however, I am hard pressed to believe that they reflect the majority of historical wargamers today? How many of the upcoming generations cut their teeth on Warhammer and actually consider friction to be a new idea?

$.02  back to painting minis....


  1. I started with Gamma World, Moldvey B/X D&D, and Panzer Leader/Blitz almost simultaneously. I'm become more of a roleplayer but always "dabbled" in wargames and I'm coming back to that more as I get older.

    40K always bugged me in that the models are 1:1 and act like a RPG but try to model a wargame.


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