Saturday, 5 November 2016

But That's Heresy 3: Thoughts on the Weird War

I have one simple, but large, problem with Weird War games, and it's this: one side gets all the good stuff.

If you were to make a Weird War game, you'd have to include certain things, or else people would feel cheated, the way every space game has it's not-quite-the-Alien creature. Those would include: gigantic tanks, zombies, vampires, "experimental" aircraft and armoured troops a bit like Space Marines. The problem is that, in the pulp fiction that Weird War stories draw from, most of these are stereotypically things that the Germans have, which our plucky heroes must destroy: Dead Snow, Captain America, Indiana Jones, Iron Sky and even Biggles Defies The Swastika (that classic of modern warfare) work like this.

You know what you're getting with a cover like this.

Now, the Germans did have the technological advantage on the Allies in a lot of areas for a lot of the war (Allied technical advantages tend to be harder to represent in a tabletop game, too). More importantly, the Germans had a lot sort of deranged, silly ideas that could only become "real" if you were to have rules allowing them: the occult nonsense they seem to have lapped up simply wouldn't work in a game that's supposed to simulate real life, like Bolt Action. But ultimately, a wargame has to be balanced, and it has to sell, which means that it has to have a range of forces that people will want to buy. Even Warhammer 40,000, which is essentially Space Marines vs Some Other Stuff, has viable sides that aren't Space Marines.

To an extent, The Lord of the Rings has the same problem. Excluding the Ents, almost all the exciting fun things belong to the villains: orcs, trolls, black orcs, siege weapons, mammoths, flying wyvern-type creatures and so on are all owned by the enemy. Against them, the good guys are basically medieval/dark age people and a few other people with pointy ears.

Fun with mammoths.

The Lord of the Rings and the pulp stories that inspire a lot of Weird War settings get around this by making their heroes extremely powerful. It doesn't matter that you've got a dragon when Eorwyn can chop its head off like someone cutting the end off a Swiss roll. Likewise, World War Two would have ended a lot sooner if Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood had just pointed their big red bus towards Berlin at the end of Where Eagles Dare, fuelled by lager, schnapps and fury.

So, while the German Weird War army list writes itself, you have to work harder to find things for the Allies. Of course, the Russians get something to do with bears, and a big lumbering thing. The Americans - well, the first thought would be superheroes, because they are quintissentially pulp and American. Maybe native shamans? Or heroes of the Old West? The British would presumably have some sort of souped-up SAS. Given their advantage in code-breaking, a primitive computer would make sense. So perhaps robots would work for the British (which seems to be the direction that Konflikt 47 has gone in). But then, doesn't everyone get some kind of robot? How about King Arthur, given that the stories end with him promising to return to protect the country?

This raises another problem: Superman and King Arthur are magical, whereas zombies can just about be explained with "science". But I think that's a matter of personal preference, and if I was making a Weird War game I'd just give the players the option to pick and choose.

Anyway, to conclude this rather rambling missive, I'm on the fence about Weird War games, Konflikt '47 included. If they can fill out the army lists with interesting units, fine. Alternatively, if they can come up with some good characters for the allies - or even better, a good character generation system - I'd be even more impressed. But at the moment, I'll wait and see.

1 comment:

Mr Papafakis said...

I agree, going over the same old ground can get pretty boring, real fast. But unfortunately, there's still quite few punters out there that don't mind lapping up the newest incarnation of the same old game, over and over again....I'm looking at you D&D!