I’ve always admired Bunraku puppets and the skill of the puppeteers (and musicians and voice artists). I can’t say I understand or spend much time seeking it out but encountering it on TV or YouTube I can sit totally enthralled for a substantial period of time.
Before I continue (and actually relate a Bunraku play to a wargame) here is a video that gives a sense of Bunraku if you not familiar with it:
Wargaming is well recognized as a story telling medium. For me, in fact, this is its most engaging aspect. A battle (historic or fantasy) is presented in a stylized (and safe) way by puppets (miniature figures) and props (table top and terrain) that follow a loose script (scenario and rules). The script is so loose (dynamic?) that the details and outcomes can not be fully predicted.
At the high end (the artistic high end) of wargaming, exquisitely detailed figures move and fight over miniature terrain that rivals that of the best static displays found in museums (or model railroads!). Hundreds of hours of work can go into the creation of the battlefield alone. At the other extreme (which is most wargames), figures (on occasion even un-painted) move across a flat surface with only a few important terrain features put in place. These can be set-up (and taken down) quickly allowing more time for actual play. The stories that are produced by either approach are, in my opion at least, equally entertaining.
Another visual aspect of wargaming is the means by which you keep track of ever changing combat values and unit statuses. It is possible to do this with record sheets (which is still the preferred way if you don’t want to give information to an opponent). I find this approach tedious and since I play solo, totally unnecessary. In high end games, markers are placed with each unit to indicate everything you wish to track. The markers are cleverly designed as special figures or battlefield debris which is switched out to indicate a change. This method has the visual advantage of not distracting the casual viewer from story.
The more common, quick and dirty game often uses small dice and/or brightly colored bits of wood or plastic for markers. While these are thought by some to detract from what Steve Morgan calls “the sense of occasion”, they impart a great deal of information quickly. This is where Bunraku come to the fore. Once you are engaged in the story being told you simply don’t notice the black clad puppeteers! I use this same principle for games, I simple don’t notice the markers or the sabots (unless I need information). To emphasize that the sabots are not to be seen I have gone back and painted by bright green sabot dark brown with black rails.
Sabots have now become necessary since now use Impetus:Baroque as by principle rules system. Movement sabots are constructed to standardize unit sizes to the Baroque convention. My hundreds of 1″ x 1″ combat pieces can now be assembled in a variety of ways to create units on the fly that will also conform to Baroque unit types.
The critical base dimension in Baroque is the frontage (width). With the exception of guns (artillery) the frontage is the same for all units. The frontage dimension I chose is a bit of a compromise. The rule book does not give a list for 10mm units but offers that 15mm basing could be used or 25/28mm basing cut in half. The base width is 120mm for 15mm and half 25/28mm is 90mm. Because I already have bunches of 80mm x 40mm bases, I chose 80mm for my critical dimension. Since One inch equals a bit over 25mm, my standard sabot comfortably houses 3 combat pieces:
A Baroque massed unit (an all pike unit is shown below as an example) uses an 80mm x 60mm sabot:
While I have no need for tercio units in the ECW period, I wanted the option of using them at some point. I made up four Later Tercio (LTE) sabots (80mm x 100mm):
And four Early Tercio (ETE) sabots:
The Early Tercio is indicated by the four musketeer bastion sleeves at each corner of the pike block. The early Tercio was formed up in many different ways but the four bastion formation is the most iconic.
It will be interesting to see how changing the color of the sabot affects the overall appearance of a game. If nothing else it will remind me about the Bunraku aspect.