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"My first encounter with 'Barkerese'!" Topic


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I Never Touched It10 Jun 2010 10:23 a.m. PST

My tastes being what they are, I've never really played much DBx, at least not without someone well-versed in the rules helping me. So my first exposure to the writing style of Phil Barker has only just occured.

I was looking through his 'Subs & Sams' modern naval set, and I'm struck by how wierd some of the phrases are. I know it's an early prototypr that has not been developed any further, but for example…

"Ideally, the size of table and models should so correspond that a model ship at the centre of the table subtends the same angle to the players eye as the image in binoculars of the real ship at combat range."

Um… what?

Also,

"Random factors are provided by 12 or so ordinary cubic dice with sides numbered 1 to 6 (D6). Thise with spots are preferable to those with numbers, being easier to read at a distance and angle when subject to reflections caused by artificial light."

I feel like I'm back in GCSE physics class. I understand that these rules are, from one point of view, crystal clear and tightly-defined, but at the same time they seem to be complete nonsense. The rules contain several other instances where I have very little clue what point he's trying to make. The spacer batons are never properly explained, and now my brain hurts from trying to make sense of it all.

AM I alone in this? Has anyone else read these rules and been able to make sense of them?

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Jun 2010 10:28 a.m. PST

I haven't read any of his stuff in a while but you must give credit where credit is due, the use of "subtends the same angle to the players eye etc." is a masterpiece in the art of obfuscation.

Jovian110 Jun 2010 10:48 a.m. PST

Indeed, you can write BOOKS about Barkerese and you should have participated in some of the arguments on how to diagram some of his sentences to try to clarify what was meant in terms of game-play. I am of the opinion that rules should read like the best modern legal codes defining what you can or cannot do, and if it is not specifically allowed, you may not do it in the game. Prevents lots of silly interpretations. However, we are all aware that no plan survives contact with the enemy, that being the rules lawyers and those who break rules for a living. Our group has a bunch of players who are "rules lawyers" in that they know how to break systems (especially point systems) relatively well and in some cases quickly!

As for trying to actually play those rules or try them, no, I have not, we have used other rules which we felt worked better – at least for our group.

I Never Touched It10 Jun 2010 10:52 a.m. PST

When you say you've used other rules, do you mean rules for modern naval warfare? I'm trying to find a set I like. Any suggestions?

adub7410 Jun 2010 10:53 a.m. PST

Alone? Heck no. Tightly-defined nonsense is about right.

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2010 10:54 a.m. PST

"Ideally, the size of table and models should so correspond that a model ship at the centre of the table subtends the same angle to the players eye as the image in binoculars of the real ship at combat range."

What's difficult about that? "The table should be big enough so that a model in its center looks like a real ship, far away."

Who asked this joker10 Jun 2010 11:04 a.m. PST

"Ideally, the size of table and models should so correspond that a model ship at the centre of the table subtends the same angle to the players eye as the image in binoculars of the real ship at combat range."

I think I just pulled a muscle.

What's difficult about that? "The table should be big enough so that a model in its center looks like a real ship, far away."

Why didn't he just say that? grin

Top Gun Ace10 Jun 2010 11:04 a.m. PST

So, we now need binoculars at the game table?

If so, I suggest reversing them, so the miniatures appear to be more distant, in order to add more realism to your games.

Of course those little 1/6000th vessels will disappear, but I'm sure your opponent(s) will appreciate that.

Shipwreck is a decent option for modern naval gaming. Not everyone's cup of tea of course, but it is playable, and written in clear English.

For medieval and early renaissance battles, Maximilian works well, and is similarly clearly written.

Cheriton10 Jun 2010 11:08 a.m. PST

>>>AM I alone in this? Has anyone else read these rules and been able to make sense of them?<<<

No, we couldn't, and ultimately wouldn't, deal with it in the 70s. Then yet the same experience again in the 90s when Barkerese appeared in new guises.

>>>a masterpiece in the art of obfuscation<<<

'nuf said… old fart

vtsaogames10 Jun 2010 11:27 a.m. PST

He thinks up some really good rules (and some not) but writes in an unusual way….

I like DBA but prefer to read the much longer unofficial guide.

lkmjbc310 Jun 2010 11:32 a.m. PST

No problem with Phil's rules….

Though I must admit the break-through rules in 6th edition were difficult.

You folks just don't enjoy the correct things in life.

For proper training on Barkerese… here is a video….

YouTube link

Joe Collins

RavenscraftCybernetics10 Jun 2010 11:38 a.m. PST

I believe Mr Barker is paid by word count and not per project.

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Jun 2010 11:51 a.m. PST

Why didn't he just say that?

And that gets to the real point quite nicely.

Darrell B D Day10 Jun 2010 11:51 a.m. PST

….and I'm struck by how wierd some of the phrases are.

Maybe, but it's very likely he can spell weird correctly grin

DBDD

aecurtis Fezian10 Jun 2010 12:39 p.m. PST

Weird? Buddy, you don't know weird.

It was a warm summer night, and the overnight train to St. Petersburg had pulled out of the station in Moscow.

The military history tour was due to start in St. Petersburg the next day, but three members had flown in to Moscow from London, and were put on the train by the organizers.

Rumors were that sometimes, the train was stopped by gangsters in the wee hours, in the middle of nowhere. The passengers would be robbed, and the gangsters would disappear into the night. Rumors also said that thieves would break into the sleeping compartments and rifle through your luggage as you slept, even lifting you and your mattress to get at the luggage stored underneath.

I was alone in my compartment. The lock on the door to the corridor was broken. I planned on staying awake.

The British couple in the next compartment invited me to come over and stay with them. At least their lock worked. But they weren't planning on much sleep, either.

We chatted for a while. The sleeping car attendant brough tea.

And then Phil pulled out his 6mm DBA armies…

Allen

Lion in the Stars10 Jun 2010 1:06 p.m. PST

Uhhh… So you're saying I need a basketball court for 1/2400 minis.

Combat Range for subs attacking surface ships means about 20,000 yards to this old bubblehead.

Waterloo10 Jun 2010 1:24 p.m. PST

You are not a real wargammer until you have tried to understand "Barkerese".

Tom

Martin Rapier10 Jun 2010 1:29 p.m. PST

"Random factors are provided by 12 or so ordinary cubic dice with sides numbered 1 to 6 (D6). Thise with spots are preferable to those with numbers, being easier to read at a distance and angle when subject to reflections caused by artificial light."

Dear me, leave poor old Phil alone.

You don't recognise a joke when you see one?

Lee Brilleaux Fezian10 Jun 2010 1:29 p.m. PST

I think that it's about time for a WRG enthusiast to pipe in and assure us that the statements in question taken from Phil's writings are, in fact, clear and well written.

He may imply that those of us who have difficulty with them are congenital idiots.

He will certainly suggest that the English of Barker is on a par with that of Shakespeare and Dickens.

vtsaogames10 Jun 2010 1:49 p.m. PST

"the English of Barker is on a par with that of Shakespeare and Dickens"

Now you've done it. I've wet me trews!

Grizwald10 Jun 2010 1:57 p.m. PST

"Ideally, the size of table and models should so correspond that a model ship at the centre of the table subtends the same angle to the players eye as the image in binoculars of the real ship at combat range."

Um … makes perfect sense to me, provided you understand the meaning of the word "subtends".And no, you don't need bins to play the game. Of course he could have said the same thing with far less words … which is perhaps the point.

"Random factors are provided by 12 or so ordinary cubic dice with sides numbered 1 to 6 (D6). Those with spots are preferable to those with numbers, being easier to read at a distance and angle when subject to reflections caused by artificial light."

Which being interpreted obviously means that we use about a dozen six-sided dice to generate random factors and the dice should have pips cause they are easier to see than numbers.

Simple!!

Grizwald10 Jun 2010 1:58 p.m. PST

Psst! Is it true that Barker suffers from verbal diarrhoea?

Cheriton10 Jun 2010 2:13 p.m. PST

>>>He may imply that those of us who have difficulty with them are congenital idiots.<<<

Hmmm, were you perhaps among a very sparsely (e.g. ca. 1 dozen) attended "convention" hosted by Jack Scruby in Visalia, California about 40 years ago?

One did get the above impression during Mr Barker's demonstrations.

10thFoot10 Jun 2010 2:18 p.m. PST

Mr Barker's main problem is that he constantly needs to demonstrate how much cleverer he is than you.

John D Salt10 Jun 2010 2:32 p.m. PST

10thFoot wrote:


Mr Barker's main problem is that he constantly needs to demonstrate how much cleverer he is than you.

Given the number of wargamers who seem to think it stylish to boast of their functional illiteracy, he hasn't got a very difficult task there, has he?

All the best,

John.

lkmjbc310 Jun 2010 2:32 p.m. PST

>>>He may imply that those of us who have difficulty with them are congenital idiots.<<<

Imply…. heck… I'll come right out and say it… You all are congenital idiots…

Of course that observation has nothing to do with being able to read Phil's rules……..

Phil writes exactly what he means…. and means exactly what he writes.

Am I channeling Alice in Wonderland here?

Next you all will till me that Finnegan's Wake is unintelligible.

Joe Collins

nsolomon9910 Jun 2010 2:35 p.m. PST

Umm…yes, you are not alone. I"ve found that not only do his rules set typically read like utter nonsense but they play like … yes, well, some people seem to like them.

ashill10 Jun 2010 3:19 p.m. PST

Re comment about Mr. Barker being paid by the word, if I recall he was one of 3 partners in WRG, so more likely he was paid according to how many copies of the rules were sold. As he is still battling away writing rules, I guess that some people (and I am one) bought them. It is fair enough for people to take issue with his writing style but, for my part, I believe that he is motivated by a desire to write rules that give a reasonable simulation of warfare not to make money by charging per word. Whether or not he his rules are good simulations of real life is another question; but then, I've never come across any set of rules that does that. For me, real conflicts are just too complex to sum up in a set of rules. I am content if someone writes some rules that I can use to allow me to push my 'toys' around a table.

Personal logo gaiusrabirius Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2010 3:31 p.m. PST

It would be amusing to translate other rules into Barkerese.

platypus01au10 Jun 2010 4:00 p.m. PST

Subs & Sams is a free download, and still in draft. If you paid $50 USD for them you'd have a right to complain. Otherwise, you're just sounding churlish.

JohnG

Oh Bugger10 Jun 2010 4:25 p.m. PST

"It would be amusing to translate other rules into Barkerese."

!

Honestly I'm easily amused but it wouldn't be. It won't impress girls stick to etchings. Really.

(Leftee)10 Jun 2010 4:31 p.m. PST

Leave the churls alone – they're the salt of the earth! And I do think Barkerese would be even more enjoyable in Chaucerian English.

Phillipaj10 Jun 2010 5:00 p.m. PST

I think he does it all on purpose as one big private personal joke on all gamers…. still is HE a living legend.

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2010 6:34 p.m. PST

It would be amusing to translate other rules into Barkerese.

I wish I had thought of that as a joke entry for the "Confess Your Wargame Heresy" thread.

I have no difficulty understanding the two examples that started this thread and usually have little trouble with most of Phil Barker's sentences in and of themselves. It's when he strings several together that my eyes start to cross. I think he actually is pretty good at writing precise and concise rules, but he can cram so much information into them that it can be quite daunting to read. I think it's instructive that it takes so many more pages for the Unofficial Guide to DBA to say (in what passes for everyday American English) what Phil says in so few pages. Yet just about everything in the unofficial guide is directly derived from Phil's writing.

Etranger10 Jun 2010 7:32 p.m. PST

Those two examples are perfectly understandable English provided that you have a degree of knowledge of maths &/or physics. The former quote in particular reads just like one of my high school physics books. Like many 'technical descriptions' they will make no sense to those who don't understand the terminology.

As an example what is coryza & have you ever had it? answer without googling it!

I'd like to see Barkerese translated into Chaucerian or Shakespearian English though!

bruntonboy11 Jun 2010 1:34 a.m. PST

I think much of the hard work with Mr Barker's prose is that he still writes as if he has to cram complex meanings into a very limited space. I believe this is the reason for his style developing back when WRG were getting their rules professionally printed back in the 1970's, a time before word processors, cheap printing and the inclusion of diagrams and photographs in rulebooks.

His writing is actually very clear and precise- providing you can figure out what it means and there is the problem- it assumes that
a/ You can work it out, as with the word "subtends" above.
and
b/ You want to know exactly what he means, many players actively look for the complications and lack of clarity in rules in the quest for cheese.

The biggest problem is we have all moved on from these types of rules and we now expect diagrams, photos and examples of play and plain simple language. Phil Barker is still a little behind methinks.

I Never Touched It11 Jun 2010 2:26 a.m. PST

Platypus – I'm not being churlish – far from it. I had high hopes for these rules, and still believe that there's a great game in there somewhere.

However, as bruntonboy points out above, we have become accustomed to a different, clearer style of prose and explanation in rule books. I think that's a good thing, as I prefer to spend less time trying to decipher the rules and more time actually playing. I'm sure that's something we can all agree on.

KatieL11 Jun 2010 2:37 a.m. PST

You know, actually it's really difficult to write rules without holes in.

Look at how many sets of rules say that coherent units need to have every figure being next another figure from the same unit. Which *technically* allows the unit to split into pairs and wander all over the place; the condition remains true for each individual figure.

And when you try and write rules which don't let you do things like that, all of a sudden your rules start looking like Barkerese…

Shardik11 Jun 2010 3:06 a.m. PST

Usually it's not a case of Phil using too many words, but using too few. Where other authors will repeat a clause in a slightly different way for clarity or emphasis, Phil tends to try and say things once and once only, using the minimum number of words in the minimum number of sentences.

platypus01au11 Jun 2010 3:18 a.m. PST

I think you might be cherry-picking though.

Immediately after the quote about the table size, Barker writes "Alternately, it has been suggested (I hope light-heartedly) that 1/6000 models should be painted a fluorescent light green to represent radar images…". Perfectly intelligible. And as Martin said, a joke. He has a dry, and usually non-PC sense of humour.

Have I played the rules? No. I play DBSA, his pre-dreadnought set. Like S&S, an unfinished set. But a great game none the less. Our group just got together and worked out what we didn't understand, and we joined the Yahoo DBSA group and talked to other people about it. So it's Open-Source really. If you joined the DBSA group you'd probably find people who play S&S and you could talk it over with them.

As to his writing style, I'm used to it. And I'm quite happy to work though some of the more esoteric sentences for a great game, rather than play a well written, but ultimately boring one.

In the end, he's a pensioner, the rules are free, cut him some slack.

Cheers,
JohnG

Barks111 Jun 2010 3:23 a.m. PST

I like the goals behind Barkerese- once you have understood what he's trying to say, it is crystal clear and prevents confusion and cheesemongering. I just wish there was a less painful way to do it.

Reading, for example, GWs WotR rules makes you want to teach them something about Barkerese.

Barks1 (no relation)

Shardik11 Jun 2010 3:30 a.m. PST

And I'm quite happy to work though some of the more esoteric sentences for a great game, rather than play a well written, but ultimately boring one.

Me too. IMO, FoG is well written and easy to understand, but gives dull games. DBMM is the opposite

1815Guy11 Jun 2010 3:40 a.m. PST

Actually, INTI, that was all very clear. Phil must be improving in his old age!

Until you have experienced what Phil can do with a few commas you haven't really experienced Barkerese. Buy a copy of 6th or 7th Ed Ancients; you will never be short of a conversation at a convention!

AlanYork11 Jun 2010 4:45 a.m. PST

Me too. IMO, FoG is well written and easy to understand, but gives dull games. DBMM is the opposite

Well written FoG may be but easy to understand? Take a look over on the FoG rule query forum link

Plenty of folks there who don't find the rules easy to understand judging by the sheer volume of questions, some of them mine. Yes some FoG games are dull but some are lots of fun. As a set I think they are good but nothing special and they don't "thrill" me in the way I had hoped. I play them because they are basically sound and as far as ancients is concerned it's the "only game in town" here on a club night.

On the other hand, "despite" rather than "because of" his language in DBX Phil has come up with mechanisms that always give you lots of decisions to make in the game, which for me is half the fun. The difficulty of understanding what he means wouldn't be so bad if he used better illustrations. Say what you like about FoG but they certainly are well illustrated and that's a big selling point.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2010 6:24 a.m. PST

The rules are written to circumvent the machinations of the rules lawyer.

Read, e.g., his Airfix Ancients Wargaming primer and you'll see a totally different style which was and is a joy to read.

vtsaogames11 Jun 2010 9:05 a.m. PST

I think ther main problem I have is with some of his longer sentences. If he would insert more periods…

Perhaps he needs to read Hemingway.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To die. In the rain.

bruntonboy11 Jun 2010 11:44 a.m. PST

How would putting more periods into the same set of rules work?

Mixing rules for the Austro-Prussian war into his ancient sets for example, it would be very confusing methinks… ;)

MWright12 Jun 2010 4:55 p.m. PST

I think we need to remember that historical gamers and those who gamed before GW came into existence, owe Mr Barker a debt of gratitude. We were brought up on his Historical rules and many gamers today would not be in the hobby today if not for Mr Barker. Barkerese aside, look around your group. If there is some guy 40+ that you like to game with, thank Phil Barker. That person would not be in the hobby today if Phil hadn't provided the opportunity.

Whatisitgood4atwork12 Jun 2010 6:03 p.m. PST

<I think we … owe Mr Barker a debt of gratitude.>

HEAR HEAR!

Yeah, I can laugh at his language too, but sincerely, 'Thank you Mr (and Mrs) Barker'.

Oh Bugger13 Jun 2010 3:06 a.m. PST

"owe Mr Barker a debt of gratitude"

True enough and he is still imho the guy with the best ideas.

But maybe I'm just in right (over 50) age group to think that.

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