Saturday, February 7, 2015

RETROSPECTIVE - The Complete Brigadier

Up until the mid-1980s, my gaming experience had consisted entirely of board games and role-playing games. I was aware of miniature wargames (thanks to Donald Featherstone) but I didn’t know how to play. That would change one day after a trip to my local game store. On the shelves, I discovered an intriguing box.

Box cover (pic from Boardgamegeek)
I was drawn to the cover with its pictures of toy soldiers in rather animated poses on a map. I picked it up, read it over, and was enthralled. Here was the answer I was searching for – how to play miniature wargames!

As I recall, the components were quite nicely done. There were two staple-bound booklets somewhat akin to the Traveler black books. One was an overview of miniature wargaming, which was a great introduction for a newbie like me. The other booklet contained the actual rules. Throughout, they were illustrated by the charming drawings of animated miniatures (it just dawned on me that they were reminiscent of the illustrations in H.G. Wells’s Little Wars). The boxed set also included 2 sets of counters (red and blue) so one could dive into the game without waiting to acquire miniatures.

Components (pic from Boardgamegeek)
I would love to say that Complete Brigadier threw open the doors of miniature wargaming to me, but that would not quite be true. I tried it out but it just didn’t work for me. There were a few factors that prevented me from playing it regularly. Even then I was a solo player and (per Boardgamegeek – I don’t remember any specifics from the rules) Complete Brigadier required writing orders. Order writing just doesn’t work well for solo games, plus it really slows the game down. I also think I wasn’t all that keen on being limited to brigade actions. Finally, the game just required too many miniatures for my glacial painting pace. I remember taking over a year to paint up 2 battalions each of French and British Napoleonic era infantry. To play the rules, I needed a few more battalions in addition to cavalry and artillery. Complete Brigadier ended up being a dead end.

While it did not throw open the doors to me, it opened them a crack and gave me a glimpse inside. I liked what I saw and I was inspired to keep searching for rules that worked for me. The late 80s was a time of many failed attempts as I picked up the latest popular sets only to be disappointed. I remember trying, and rejecting, Tactica, Fire & Fury, and even the venerable The Sword and the Flame. I dabbled with rules sets found in books like the Military Modeling Guide to Wargaming or in magazines like the Courier and MWAN. All to no avail; I just could not find the rules for me. That would change, but that is another story. Nevertheless, that story would never have occurred if I had not picked up that set of the Complete Brigadier.

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