A comment a post or three ago by Mr Foy raised a question to which I gave a probably too short an answer, so I thought I would have another go here. The question was about the ‘edge of the world’ syndrome. In case of point, it was about how Mr Foy’s original Napoleonic Peninsular campaign had focussed on the Army of Portugal, assuming the other fronts were simply ‘busy’, and then finding that this was not sufficient for the needs of the campaign. In short, the edge of the world was not where the conceptual edge of the game was to be found.
This is, on a smaller scale, a problem for wargames as well, not just campaigns. A cavalry unit pursues off the edge of the table. In game terms there are in some sort of ‘nowhere’ limbo. Similarly, a division is engaged in a flank march. It is nowhere until some mechanism permits it to appear suddenly, on a table edge. I suspect (although I am not a wargamer of this ilk, as you are probably well aware by this time) that this gets worse the more modern the wargame. In the World Wars, after all, most of the damage was done by artillery, and you would need a very big table (or a very small scale) to place the heavy gun batteries on along with the front line infantry.
Now, in my response to the issue I noted that most wargames do actually acknowledge some sort of external context. Even a simple ‘capture the crossroads’ sort of game gives a context. The crossroads are important to someone, and that someone is not necessarily part of the game. An even simpler ‘destroy the enemy’ has a context; that context may be simply that the other side is the enemy and is, therefore, to be destroyed, presumably for some larger purpose. Very simple scenarios such as these are, in fact, embedded in some larger wargame ‘reality’.
I recall, in the dim and distant past, one of the naval wargame books observing that while in figure gaming, it was fairly easy to identify an objective and fight over it (such as the strategic crossroads in the middle of the board) in naval wargames this was a fair bit harder, and usually was easier to identify in the context of a campaign game. Thus this set of islands, or the movement of this fleet in that direction is better placed in the context of an overall series of events.
The problem is that it is very hard to decide exactly how wide this context is to be drawn. In the Peninsular war example, we can start with the Anglo-Portuguese forces, then expand to the whole of Spain as the fronts were not independent. But then, of course, this starts to ask questions about, say, naval deployments and blockades, as well as the global assignment of forces between, say, the Spanish Ulcer and the invasion of Russia.
Now we can, of course, arbitrarily cut off the rest of the world. Any troops moving off the edge of the table are lost. In this case, beyond the edge of the table is limbo land, a wargame ‘nowhere’. In a campaign game the effects of other fronts, of grand strategy and a distant high command can be modelled with chance cards or with dice rolls giving reinforcements, demands for troops to be redeployed or removed or whatever. This can require a fair degree of imagination from the wargamer, of course. The fifth time that high command demands a battalion of infantry for another front, when you only started with four anyway might stretch our narrative credibility just a little.
I think, however, that this might give us a hint as to how we might handle this. A wargame, or a wargame campaign, is a narrative. That, after all, is part of the attraction of wargaming. Thus, we can, if we so desire, have an overall narrative of the bit of the world we are actually interested in, and, embedded within that, have a rest of the world narrative as well. This latter could be based on the historical world. Thus a major victory for the Spanish in the Peninsular could require the diversion of an extra corps from the Grand Armee to restore the situation, meaning that they are not available to invade Russia and thus, indirectly, leading to the problems that Napoleon had there. With luck, and a bit of imagination, the narratives can be persuaded to coincide.
Of course, with less historical context, we can make our narratives what we want. My Fuzigore campaign is a case in point. There is no “real” world context, so I can really make it up as I go along to get the next battle. Fuzigore also shows up the reverse side of the problem, however. I did (as recorded somewhere here) spend some time setting up the context of a local campaign, including more detailed maps, map moves, couriers and so on. All that effort and the battle, when it came, was so decisive that that was the end of that. One side triumphed, one side surrendered. And my carefully made campaign aides were stuck back on the shelf.
So I suppose that there is a balance to be struck, here, between the quantity of context required and the time available to the wargamer(s) to develop the game in that context. Fuzigore is, as mentioned, a virtually context free zone. The context that does exist is firmly in a scribbled map and my head. The more historical we go for, the more pointed the local and larger contexts become. Unless the campaign is set up fairly carefully, the players can be dominated by external events. Conversely, the French may triumph in Spain to the extent that Wellington simply remains at sea, looking thoughtfully at what might have been.
I realise that I have not supplied any solutions to the issues here, but I think that identifying such issues is a helpful thing to do. The edge of the world syndrome is something which does affect all wargames. My own solution is to deploy relatively small forces on the table, so the players can never rest a flank on the edge of the world.