A wargaming ‘Who Do You Think a You Are?’Posted: January 28, 2014
Looking at the rules that I have written over the years I can trace distinct lines of development (or their genealogy). For example my ¡ARRIBA ESPANA! rules combined ideas from Paul Koch’s ON TO RICHMOND American Civil War rules and John Sandar’s SANDSKRIEG World War II rules, and my PORTABLE WARGAME rules owe a great deal to Joseph Morschauser’s FRONTIER rules. Likewise Richard Brooks and Ian Drury have written rules that directly – and indirectly – inspired my REDCOATS AND NATIVES and RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES rules, and Chris Kemp’s NQM (NOT QUITE MECHANISED) rules were a progenitor of Tim Gow’s MEGABLITZ rules. I don’t think that this sort of thing is unique, and a quick perusal of the many sets of wargame rules that are online indicates that it is not.
Is this process simply the development of someone else’s ideas or just plain plagiarism? To put it another way, are rules that are developed by one wargamer from the work of another wargamer a legitimate offspring of the original or is it – to use the Victorian meaning of the word – ‘spurious’?
I know that there are some people who would argue that it is plagiarism … but how many wargamers have not given in to the temptation to ‘play around’ with published rules that they may have bought or downloaded for free? Is publishing modifications of existing wargame rules copying or flattery? After all, Charles Caleb Colton wrote in 1820 that ‘Imitation is the sincerest of flattery‘, and he was only simplifying a phrase used in Jeremy Collier’s and André Dacier’s 1708 biography of Marcus Aurelius. They wrote that ‘You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship, and that the Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble, than Flatter them.’ My personal thinking is that if you develop a set of wargame rules that borrow ideas/concepts and/or mechanisms from someone else’s rules then that should be fully acknowledged. By doing that, the ‘borrowing’ goes some way to being legitimised and acceptable.
The growth of the Internet (and blogging in particular) has led to a faster exchange of ideas, concepts, and draft wargame rules between wargamers … and I see this as a very positive development for the hobby that I hope will continue. I know that there are others who disagree with this, and who regard anything that looks even vaguely like plagiarism as an infringement of their intellectual property rights. To them I pose a simple question. Would the world they live in be as accessible if Sir Tim Berners-Lee had taken that attitude?