In his outstanding book One Hour Wargames, author Neil Thomas points out an interesting tendency among miniature wargamers: we devote tremendous energy to ensure realism through research into the conflicts we seek to re-enact, through the rule sets we choose, through the figures we purchase and accurately paint, and even the terrain pieces we build. We then proceed to play what is essentially the same battle each time: the set-piece, or pitched, battle, which involves forces equal in strength fighting on terrain that favors neither side.
Historically, these sorts of battles happened frequently in classical times, when open plains were the only suitable terrain for battle and tactical options were far more limited than today. To be accurate, then, wargamers focusing on ancient battles will often need to choose a pitched battle to re-enact a conflict, even for fictitious or hypothetical battles.
For just about everyone else, though, the allure of the pitched battle is contrived equality. If the forces are equal (usually determined through a points system), and the terrain is equal, and both sides start an equal distance from the board edge, then the only variable is the skill of the player, tempered by the influence of the dice. A pitched battle helps to create the impression that the winner is the better general, because nothing else in the game favors either side. Continue reading “[Opinion] A pitched battle = a boring wargame”