Posted by: markfender | September 2, 2015


Many miniature wargames eventually devolve into scrums.

pikemen_vs_swordsmen_warhammer_dogs_of_war_empireAnd that’s totally fine, especially when recreating ancient warfare. It was all about hitting the flanks, wheeling, and all that other stuff, so it makes sense that games based around that era of warfare would eventually have everyone meet in the middle.

But it sort of annoys me in other genres. It doesn’t make realistic sense for everyone in Warmachine to try to charge into the middle of the table and punch each other in the face. Likewise, Warhammer 40,000 prioritizes melee combat over ranged warfare. And so, after the initial rounds of softening the target with blaster fire, everyone runs to the center of the table, where they will spend the rest of the game before being removed as a casualty.

Now, I’m not against some good ol’ fashioned melee combat. Fantasy games let us do things that aren’t realistic and punching a dragon is certainly one of them. What annoys me particularly about this is that – once a scrum (usually near the center of the table) is established, it will be there for the rest of the game. Because, as casualties are removed, other units move in to fill the gaps, refilling the holes and keeping that giant block of models in the middle of the table.

For someone who enjoys the maneuvering part of the miniature game field, it’s always a bit disappointing that we spend two turns maneuvering, and then the remainder of the game in one spot in the middle of the table, moving our held back units into the gaps left by dying models to keep that scrum going in that one spot on the table.

Certain games avoid the scrum. Infinity doesn’t really do scrums, primarily because it treats guns fairly realistically – moving through fire lanes is stupid. Likewise, a fair number of WWII games work better if the tanks stay hull down at a decent distance and unleash fire, not move as close to each other as possible before unleashing guns. Both of these ideas are based around fairly realistic ideas of modern warfare that don’t involve big blocks of infantry and highlight the impact ranged weapons have had on warfare. But sometimes you want that melee emphasis without it just devolving into a morass of infantry in the center of the table.

I’ve never really seen a game that has a strong melee focus that doesn’t have scrums. I wonder if there’s a solution to be found in first-person-shooters? Because one thing FPS games do well is avoid melee combat – primarily by making melee combat instakill. I don’t know why knife technology has advanced so far in the future that it only takes a single hit with a blade to kill someone, but that seems to work at keeping people at a distance. I’d be curious to see a mini wargame that had instakill melee results the way that FPSes do. It would break up the scrums earlier, allowing for additional maneuvering before the next one occurs. Because I’m not against blocks of infantry stabbing other blocks of infantry – I’m just against the boring aspect of never moving that unit again for the rest of the game, except to close up gaps in the scrum. It would help emphasize the manuevery aspect of gaming. And that might be interesting to see.


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