WHAT IS SKIRMISH ANYWAY?
"Skirmish" is an increasingly crowded genre. But the term "skirmish" can mean almost anything. Whilst a skirmish just means a smaller battle (with wildly varying definitions of "small")...
Skirmish Wargaming is often defined as a figure for each soldier - i.e. a 1:1 ratio.
But under that we could call Warhammer 40K a skirmish game - and I think it passed beyond that quite a while ago. Heck, under that definition Warhammer Fantasy could be a skirmish game. For me, WFB is a mass battle/regiment style game.
Infinity is skirmish. It has ~10 minis that activate independently.
Mordhiem/Necromunda is about pitched at the 10-15 mini level. It has models which activate separately. It pretty much defined skirmish.
LOTR:SBG is skirmish. It often exceeds 50 minis - which activate simultaneously but can be moved independently or in groups. I'd definitely rate it as skirmish.
In The Sword & the Flame, units are 20-man infantry, 12-man cavalry, but minis are 1:1. I certainly wouldn't call that skirmish though.
I mean, Ambush Alley is supposed to be a platoon-level or what I'd call a "small unit" wargame - minis are grouped together as fireteams or 3-5, or larger squads. But minis are 1:1 so is it a skirmish wargame?
Is skirmish where one figure is a unique unit? I.e. each mini can operate independently (i.e. actions, stats etc are separate) of every other mini and is not part of a fixed "group" or unit.
Why do you care?
Well, I think there are quite a few different types of skirmish, with rather different design requirements. Calling them all "skirmish" games is a bit confusing, especially when they have a different focus. I'm going to make an arbitrary ruling and say...
Skirmish - i.e. 1 mini = 1 soldier, but each model is activated and moved separately
Small Unit - i.e. 1 mini = 1 soldier, but models are activated and moved around in small groups (fireteams, squads)
.... as I noticed games tend to be either designed for activation with groups or individual units. It has implications for reaction systems - does an individual respond to a group move; or a group to an individual move?
I think I'm interested in a hybrid of the two - one that could handle minis moving around independently, but also allows units to be moved in groups. I think the problem here is it is difficult to make a system that does not favour either group or individual activations, but makes them both equally valuable - i.e. advantageous under different circumstances. LOTR blurred the distinctions well - models could be
independently maneuvered but there were advantages to grouping them up
within range of a hero. However the SIDE A MOVE/SIDE B MOVE, SIDE A SHOOT/SIDE B SHOOT style activation is a lot simpler and less dynamic than a lot of current systems.
Heck, you could probably subdivide "skirmish" skirmish into the "semi-RPG" - typically a party of 5-10 with lots of unique stats and skills, and often wound tracking.
So what does a "skirmish" game mean to you?
Anyway, while I typed this some other thoughts pertaining to skirmish games came to mind:
FIXED UNIT SIZE
Another thought it the "fixed unit size" in so many wargames. In Warmachine (admittedly fantasy) it's always 6 or 10. In fantasy RPGs four is the magic number. In games like Bolt Action, platoons always seem to be at full strength. Even in places like modern Afghanistan, where we can airlift people in and out relatively freely, squads and fireteams are not always at full strength. Far less so on the Eastern Front in 1945. I wonder why more rules don't have randomized unit strength?
HEROES & UNIT ATTACHMENTS
Often heroes are simply "attached" to a unit, providing them with bonuses or extra attacks, like a glorified power-up. Other times they charge around soloing dragons by themselves, with so many "wounds" and "attacks" they are basically a one-man unit all on their own. TFL with their "Big Men" - inspiring individuals who affect activation - have more realistic heroes.
HEROIC HEROES, not HUMAN TANKS
Which is another gripe. If someone is "heroic" or a "leader" it does not mean they can take three wounds each of which would fell an ordinary man, or be capable of wrestling a Balrog to the ground despite being a 4' high dwarf. Personally I think this is a good place for the dreaded "Saving Throw" or perhaps a "Re-roll" - to represent the cinematic narrow escapes or lucky hits. Just because they're heroic or a leader does not correlate to superhuman strength, size or endurance.
Although LOTR did do the "three wounds" thing and had more than it's fair share of wackily overpowered heroes, I think they were on the right track - Fate (allowing "saves" from injury), Might (allowing heroic feats and rallying followers) and Will (magic or resistence thereto) were in a finite supply. A hero could push their luck, but only so far.