"Eagles may soar high, but weasels don't get sucked into
In the last post I discussed some rather vague ideas and thoughts on what you could use as the basis for your Imagi-Nation (or historical campaign even). This time out, I am going to cover some basic planning concepts that can be used to allow you to visualise what you will be creating. This will be followed by a more specialised post specifically relating to a far more intense approach to planning, which some of you will be familiar with; SMART planning, but adjusted to suit our needs in terms of Wargames and not its usual applications.
Once again, I am not saying that you really need to go to these exact lengths to produce successful projects, but why not use the right tools for the job if you can? It's your call though, some people get by quite happily with a single 'adjustable wrench', while others prefer to use the 'right spanner' from a set. As long as the 'nut' gets tightened, how you do it is not so important. However there are always fewer slips with the right spanner.
Identify Your Aim, Objectives and Goal
These are often confused terms, which on the surface appear very similar, yet are quite different on examination. Setting these out for yourself in the first place is perhaps the most important part of planning however and even if you don't intend to follow the SMART or SMARTER system that follows next time, at least do this simple task... it will help you focus your project.
Quite simply an Aim is a vague idea of what you are hoping to achieve, i.e. Create an Imagi-Nation/Imagi-War/Wargames Campaign and is a somewhat vague collection of ideas related to what it is you're setting out to do. They don't need to be precise or especially detailed, your objectives will help you reduce these into more real and precise forms.
A typical Aim would include something like; identifying the period you want to play, determining what forces you want to use, figure and ground scales, the rules you are going to use. You will probably already have most if not all of your Aim in mind when you begin planning your project. If you can write a single sentence that covers everything, you're doing it right.
The mistake most commonly seen within industry, is that there is an immediate jump to creating the Goal for the project once the aim has been identified. Imagine an archery contest; would we just grab a bow and let fly at the target and expect to hit the 'bull'? Would we even hit the target? Probably not. The 'Aim' is to win by hitting the bull, so the 'Goal' has been identified as winning the contest by hitting the bull, however the Goal is unlikely to be achieved.
By using the 'Objective' stages of 'choosing a good arrow', 'having the right amount of draw', being 'skilled with the bow' and 'judging the wind', our chances of achieving our perceived 'Goal' is increased. If after all these steps, we still don't hit the 'bull', odds are that we will not be far off it and at least on the target. The Goal is therefore 'To take part in the contest' not 'hitting the bull and winning' which was our Aim.
This is not rocket science and we do 'objective stages' everyday, with little conscious effort. Not many people turn up at a restaurant for a meal with family or friends, with no money, having walked miles because they didn't pre-book a taxi, and to find themselves alone, having forgotten to invite said friends or family, or without telling them where they were meeting. Because setting up a wargaming project is not 'everyday' though, writing down the objective stages is far more helpful than 'doing it in our head'.
There should be a logical progression from one objective to the other. Some objectives will require the completion of other stages, some will not. Some objectives will be entirely separate from the others, while others will be connected. As each project is unique, there is no way that I can give a workable plan for all eventualities and suited to your individual needs. I will say that complex is not necessarily better though, nor should the time devoted to this 'run' the project... it's there to help you, not hinder you. Add, delete, or change your objectives to suit as you go on with your planning too... our first ideas are usually not our best ones.
If it seems like a waste of time, try and imagine the various 'Wargame Show' horror stories you hear from time to time; the guys who run out of petrol on the way, or who just turn up with credit cards, while traders and the bar are only taking cash, or even the display games that fail to turn up on the day, or are missing some key part of the set-up at show time. The military use the 7Ps acronym - Proper Planning and Preparation, Prevent Pretty Poor Performance (or similar words)... ignore it at your peril!
The Goal is simply the end result. While it should appear very similar to the Aims, it is quite possible that there are some differences once the objectives have been identified and assessed. Once you actually begin working through your identified objectives, you may even find that the Goal changes even further. That re-fight of Waterloo may have to be transformed into settling for re-creating Quatre Bras, or even just the fighting in the area of Hougemont.
One of my aims for a project was to 'fight a war' using 15mm and 28mm, for different types of action. I had to alter this when I discovered that there were no usable figures in 28mm to allow this. While it is still an Aim of the project, there is no way that it could still be included in the Goal, once I had begun to progress through the Objectives I had set.
Obviously if your Goal is fundamentally different to your Aim and it is a change that you aren't happy with, you will have to start again, or give up on it. Still better that than to have splashed out on a pile of figures and models, only to find that it isn't going to work as you had originally thought and intended. Trust me, you'll save more money in the long run, have less of a lead pile and end up paying far less in e-bay commissions.