When I lived in London I used to wargame with a bloke called Dave. Now, Dave had firm views when it came to tabletop battles. One day we were playing an ECW game at my place using home-made rules (this was way back in the 1990s). Dave’s Royalist musketeers were positioned behind a low wall when I charged them with my Roundhead horsemen.
“My cavalry will be fighting at minus one,” I announced, “on account of the wall”.
“No,” said Dave. “No, that’s not right mate.”
I was perplexed.
“What do you mean? Look, it’s here in the rules – your lot are behind a wall, so my lot are minus one in the melee.”
“No,” he repeated, “that’s definitely not right mate.”
Dave was adamant. His view was that my cavalry would be quite unable to “reach over the wall”, as he put it, so his musketeers were safe as long as they did the natural thing – and adopted a crouching posture. I couldn’t attack them at all. I must have misinterpreted the rules.
“I don’t think so Dave,” I replied. “I wrote them.”
“It’s still not right mate. I’m not having that.”
And so it went on. Dave had very firm views, and generally won out through sheer attrition – in real life as well as on the battlefield.
The Daves of this world are one of the reasons I prefer to play solo. Dave is a bit of a one-off, but you often find pronounced Davidian tendencies in the wargaming community.
Dave lived alone. He’d had a relationship many years before but it hadn’t worked out. “I don’t understand women, mate,” he’d say, as he downed another lager and carefully searched for loopholes in our latest ruleset. “They’re different from us.”
Dave didn’t have a regular job, but he used to referee football matches on Sundays down the park. One day he sent five players off in a single game, and got chased off the pitch by the remaining players. He had to lock himself in the dressing room till the other refs could rescue him. “I’m telling you mate, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all,” he explained plaintively some time after the event. “They didn’t have any respect for the ref.”
After another year of gaming with Dave I was beginning to feel the same way. Eventually our wargaming sessions petered out, doubtless to his relief as much as mine. As for the refereeing, Dave eventually gave that up too. He decided it was, and I quote, “too dangerous”.
Dave and I stumbled across each other again in cyberspace many years later, and eventually I invited him to come and visit me in my new town. We got on well. Better than ever in fact. And we talked a lot about DBA, which Dave had bought when it first came out and which he had tried – unsuccessfully as it happened – to introduce to our little group back in London.
Next time he visited we decided to play a few games. I’d got into DBA in the years since we’d parted company, and Dave had owned a copy of the rules ever since the old days. He still had the figures he’d painted and based for it, and he brought a couple of his DBA armies along with him on his second visit. I had a few DBA armies myself, so we set up our first battle and got stuck in.
Everything was going swimmingly until my wing advanced towards his camp. “Dave,” I reminded him, “you’ve got to protect your camp.” He ignored my advice, so I warned him again. He ignored my advice again. “Fair enough,” I thought, “he must know what he’s doing.”
A few rounds later Dave lost his camp, and consequently – given combat results elsewhere – he lost the game.
“It’s worth two elements,” I explained patiently.
“That’s not right mate.”
“I did warn you.”
“It’s not right.”
“It’s in the rules…”
“It’s still not right mate.”
And that was it. Dave refused ever to touch DBA again. It was not, all in all, a happy weekend. In fact Dave hasn’t exchanged a single word with me since.
By then, in any case, Dave had discovered FoG Online. In the absence of anything else to distract him (friends, partner, social life) it became the epicentre of his existence. By the time a couple of years had passed he’d realised, judging by his FoG forum posts, just how inadequate the PC version of the game was from both the gaming and the historical perspectives (click here for more on FoG). But by then he’d severed most of his links with the outside world. He currently resides in cyberspace. In a keep, presumably. With a moat. With the drawbridge up. I get the impression he doesn’t game much these days, either online or in the real world…
Nowadays I mostly play solo, apart from occasional sessions with my wargaming buddy Jammers. Jammers is affable, good company, and averse to rules lawyers. He doesn’t take his gaming too seriously. In all the time I’ve known him I’ve never once heard him utter the dreaded words “I don’t think that’s right mate”. That’s a big plus in the post-Dave era, believe me.
Another big plus is the ability to play solo. As time goes by more and more creative systems are being produced to facilitate solo play, to turn solo games into a challenge that is constantly fresh and endlessly rewarding. Of course, it’s never going to be cool. People turn their noses up and ask “why on earth would you want to do that?“. I’ve got an easy answer for them. A one word answer – “Dave”!
Footnote: This article is not intended to offend people called Dave. In fact, “Dave” is a pseudonym – using the guy’s real name somehow just felt wrong. Anyway, some of my best friends are called Dave…