Thursday, 17 September 2015
An Epictetian 'return'
"Luck is of little moment to the great general, for it is under the control of his intellect and his judgement." - Livy
I really like the Piquet family of wargames rules. I didn't 'get' them at all when I first came across the Ilkley Lads playing them at a Society of Ancients open day at the Royal Armouries a dozen or so years ago. Some of it - the missile fire resolution/reload action for example - isn't intuitive. It was von Neumann who pointed out that in mathematics one never understands things, one simply gets used to them, and the same could be said to some extent of shooting in Piquet. However, for flexibility, adaptability across multiple time periods and geographical locations, and fine tuning to one's own view of how things should be they are excellent; they provide a toolbox with which one can let one's imagination loose.
I also like the unpredictability when the game hits the tabletop. The same scenario will never play out the same way twice even if the commanders attempt to do the same thing. There are too many random influences at play. I regard this as a good thing. Over time the luck evens out and in the short term it adds a bit of spice. However, as with any spice, a concentrated amount in one place at one time can rather spoil the taste of the meal. And so it rather proved last night.
We were back at James' for some more Seven Years war action. He was the Prussians, Peter and I were the Austrians. One might suspect that this is where my luck started to go wrong; Peter's wargaming karma is so bad that I've always assumed that in a previous life he must have stood on and crushed a whole regiment of H.G. Wells' troops or something similar. However, yesterday I matched him throw for throw in rolling crap dice. One of my first tasks of the evening was to establish the quality of the commander of our right flank. I threw a one on a D20, he was abysmal, and things went downhill from there. Pre-game preparations left us with less morale than the Prussians, a worse card deck and a plethora of poor units and commanders compared to a range of skilled and superior generals and troops facing us; our artillery is notably bad. Insult was added to injury when James then won all the initiative and advanced across the table and started knocking stands off our infantry line before we'd even turned a card.
The night ended with our right flank about to disintegrate. Our one small success, routing some infantry who passed by a village we had garrisoned, was undone when Frederick himself rallied them and sent them forwards again. So, am I downhearted? Well yes, actually I am. Our only hope rests on a spectacular cavalry victory on our left flank and then sweeping along behind the Prussian line. You will recall that I said exactly the same thing about the previous Seven Years War game that we played. It didn't happen then and it won't happen now.
"For this is the mark of a wise and upright man, not to rail against the gods in misfortune." - Aeschylus