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"Wargames: Historically Themed Entertainment?" Topic


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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian30 Apr 2012 9:14 a.m. PST

Writing in Slingshot magazine, editor Richard Taylor says…

Most wargames are historically themed entertainment, not too concerned with historical truth (like the BBC's The Tudors) and there's nothing much wrong with that – so long as the distinction between entertainment and reality does not become blurred.

True or false?

Thomas Whitten30 Apr 2012 9:20 a.m. PST

Most wargames are entertainment. Only a fraction are historically themed.

Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 9:24 a.m. PST

I regard it all as fantasy nowadays.

x42

just visiting30 Apr 2012 9:24 a.m. PST

True and false. There is surely a singular history that was true: but does anybody know which version of history is the truth? "Historical truth" is unattainable. All we can do is pursue evidence and facts to come to some fractured picture of the truth. The older the history, the less accurately it can be known. That is why I have more patience with other people's interpretation of "historical truth" than I used to have. A deliberate flouting of known facts will always get my hackles up (e.g. the "seven year pregnancy" asserted in "Braveheart"); but filled-in details where the details are unknown (and unknowable) may not agree with my aesthetics, and I will not make a stink about that….

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 9:27 a.m. PST

True.

Who asked this joker30 Apr 2012 9:27 a.m. PST

Most wargames are entertainment

Change "Most" to "All" and I would fully agree with that statement!

John the OFM30 Apr 2012 9:46 a.m. PST

I keep trying to refine my definition of "wargame".
The latest one is "A series of rules designed to make a conflict's results coincide with the historical prejudices of the game's designer."

MajorB30 Apr 2012 9:57 a.m. PST

The latest one is "A series of rules designed to make a conflict's results coincide with the historical prejudices of the game's designer."

That assumes that a wargame is a conflict?

WarWizard30 Apr 2012 10:10 a.m. PST

Mine are "based on" an historical event. As opposed to recreation or simulation of the actual historical event. Thus I use poetic license in a very liberal sense.

Monstro30 Apr 2012 10:26 a.m. PST

True

epturner Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 10:29 a.m. PST

True. I've never been shot at in a war game. Not even in Philly.

Eric

Dynaman878930 Apr 2012 10:51 a.m. PST

True – but I don't play most wargames, I play the small subset that DO try to give historically plausible results (and methods)

corporalpat30 Apr 2012 10:52 a.m. PST

True, except that all war games, not most war games are recreation. It's right there in the name. They are games! And games are a form of recreation. At best, the most accurate historical battle recreation is still a highly abstracted representation of the actual event. The game is influenced, not only by the presenter's bias, but that of the historical sources used to create the game as well.

lutonjames30 Apr 2012 11:11 a.m. PST

@John OFM
"A series of rules designed to make a conflict's results coincide with the historical prejudices of the game's designer."

Can I include that in my rules intro? Then you will be able to quote in a book and I'm certain from my time at university- that will make it true.

Thomas Whitten30 Apr 2012 11:14 a.m. PST

1> Something can be a game and not be recreation.
2> Something can be a game and not be entertainment.
3> Something can be a wargame and not be historically themed.

I would still answer yes to the question, "most wargames are entertainment"

I have to answer NO to this poll question.

flicking wargamer30 Apr 2012 11:15 a.m. PST

Almost all wargames are historically accurate right up to the first die roll or the first piece is moved. After that it is fiction, no matter how close to the original event the results turn out.

Dynaman878930 Apr 2012 11:16 a.m. PST

> True, except that all war games, not most war games are recreation.

Incorrect, the Armed forces use games – and NOT for recreation.

Grand Duke Natokina30 Apr 2012 11:18 a.m. PST

Some of wargaming is historically based, but what happens after the first move does not necessarily follow what happened on the real battlefield.

MajorB30 Apr 2012 11:18 a.m. PST

Incorrect, the Armed forces use games – and NOT for recreation.

TMP link

richarDISNEY30 Apr 2012 11:45 a.m. PST

Entertainment only for me please.
beer

DeanMoto30 Apr 2012 12:02 p.m. PST

I know my games are. Fun and speed over dull or complicated accuracy, I say.

bruntonboy30 Apr 2012 12:21 p.m. PST

I have played plenty that are historically themed but not entertaining in the slightest.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 12:33 p.m. PST

For the purposes of this website and those on it (and for those reading the afore-linked article), I think it's safe to say that all the wargames being discussed are entertainment, at least to someone. Granted, I've read some rules and seen and played in some games that wound up being the furthest thing from entertaining to me (ranging from "excruciating" to "boring" to "excruciatingly boring"), but I did enter into the situation with the expectation of entertainment, and clearly someone involved found the game entertaining.

Now, as for anyone who thinks their tabletop wargame is presenting anything remotely close to historical truth… BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA… uhm, sorry, couldn't help myself… I would argue that there is a considerable disconnect going on in one's thinking on that point. That's the line that shouldn't be blurred— the assumption that one is actually "doing" history. Yes, the research and the work can be educational and enjoyable (presumably, again, one is doing it for entertainment value to oneself), but one should not make the mistake of thinking one is otherwise pursuing a serious study of history on anything like a true scholarly level (where the goal is indeed to discover new information or analysis previously unknown or unconsidered), least of all when one begins to place little metal models on a table! The moment "game" enters into it, "actual history" goes out the window.

That doesn't mean one can't strive to stay reasonably close to an expectation of what actually occurred (or might have occurred or might could have occurred). But to assume one has done anything remotely like "the real thing" is to succumb to utter hogwash. You can know the history (to a limited extent), you can try to mimic the history, but the truth is you can't play the history at all. History is not a game, and never can be; it is what happened, not what could have happened. Even if a game manages to exactly duplicate a series of events, it is really only duplicating the series of events as the designer understands them. And even if the designer understands the current known history perfectly, the game is still not reproducing the actual events— only the inherently limited elements that are known (and many of which are probably just assumed). So, no game, even a "moving diorama," can duplicate what really happened— and assuming that such an attempted simulation teaches you anything about the actual history of what occurred is a flawed assumption indeed.

OSchmidt30 Apr 2012 12:50 p.m. PST

War games is playing with toy soldiers in an adult way.

As it is "play" regardless of what rules you use or if you call them military minatures or toy soldiers, all play is therefore entertainment. As to historically based or not, I don't think you can make that part stick.

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 1:36 p.m. PST

its the "most" that counts here..

Sparker30 Apr 2012 1:54 p.m. PST

I doubt many wargames have contributed to historical understanding or knowledge, in the same way that reenactors have, for example. But certainly they can help with understanding a period or action.

Not least, they put individuals in the position of having to make a decision, and win or lose by that decision, sometimes based on false or insufficient information. Not to the extent that you fear the wrath of the Emperor or Parliament, and of course without the blood snot and cannonballs flying about.

But nevertheless its an insight, which some of our more academically minded historians, without the benefit of Service experience, might benefit from a little…

Certainly some of the great Royal Military Academy Sandhurst historians, Christopher Duffy, Paddy Griffith, Brigadier Peter Young and David Chandler were, to a greater or lesser extent, wargamers.

picture

Interestingly, the Society of Ancients awarded the late Great Paddy Griffith with the Westwood prize for contributions to both history AND game design…

picture

Yesthatphil30 Apr 2012 2:32 p.m. PST

Good point, Sparker … (nice pics, too grin)

Brigadier Peter Young, in the introduction to Charge! (where it all started, for me) made a distinction between the professional wargame (which Staff College Kriegspiels would be) and amateur wargames which was what Charge! explained and popularised.

As a wargamer, military historian and Staff College teacher, Paddy did both and sought to cross fertilise both.

In the quote, Richard is, of course, talking about the amateur – or perhaps, better, 'leisure' – wargame.

As a historical wargamer, the game's ability to entertain is vital to me as I believe the game can also inform. But its ability to inform is almost completely dependent on its ability to entertain.

A boring game is a boring game. An entertaining game can open a whole new world to the players. It might not, but it _can.

Phil

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 3:44 p.m. PST

Most wargames are historically themed entertainment,

Neither True nor False. Spurious.

I really need a source for the denominator for "most". How do you count? Number of games played? Are two consecutive scenarios on different weekends two games or one? Number of players? Does a 16 man Waterloo count the same as two kids playing 40K for a couple hourse? Total manhours played? Published rule sets? Gross sales? Net Profits? All the ones currently being played or all the ones ever played throughout out time? How about bouts of SCA people beating each other up? If I set up a scenario in the forest and no one plays, does it make a sound?

Got a little silly toward the end, but I am not a fan of applying numerical analysis to things you don't bother to define.

John the OFM30 Apr 2012 4:22 p.m. PST

@ lutonjames

@John OFM
"A series of rules designed to make a conflict's results coincide with the historical prejudices of the game's designer."

Can I include that in my rules intro? Then you will be able to quote in a book and I'm certain from my time at university- that will make it true.


Of course.
You may also add a codicil to that pithy definition. "A REALISTIC wargame is one in which the prejudices of the player coincide with those of the designer."

Dynaman878930 Apr 2012 5:25 p.m. PST

> You may also add a codicil to that pithy definition. "A REALISTIC wargame is one in which the prejudices of the player coincide with those of the designer."

and don't forget to make sure that every attack has to be preceeded with "boom boom" sounds… I also need to remind you to stay away from books to, lotso prejudices in those too…

Agesilaus30 Apr 2012 6:28 p.m. PST

True in most cases. False by my definition of Historical Wargaming.
I've been gaming since 1973 and the hobby has definitely gone from the real to the surreal.
Some very popular gaming systems have revived the hobby, but have taken the emphasis away from strategy and tactics and placed it on painting and terrain. Many miniatures games these days are more like dioramas or tableau than games. Large scale miniatures have more detail and are fun to paint, but are often absurd for grand scale gaming.
It only makes sense that gamers who are trying to recreate the massive battles with a hand full of miniatures representing 1to60 figures and a grossly distorted ground scale would try to defend their version of the hobby by saying "All wargaming is just entertainment", or "It is just a way for old men to play with toy soldiers".
I get tired of the cynicism. If That is the way you like to game that's great. Anything to keep the hobby going.
I have set up miniatures and board gaming for the Army Reserve and the ROTC. I know one gamer who was hired by the U.S. Department of Defense because of his ability to recreate real life events in game form. I have a relative who games and who designed part of the U.S. Strategic Missile system. So some people blur the line and take it more seriously than others.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 9:40 p.m. PST

Most wargames are historically themed entertainment

That's generally true of all wargames.

They can be more historical, or less; they can also be more entertaining, or less ("more historical" not corresponding directly to "less entertaining" as far as I'm concerned), and that's where the waters become muddy. Once matters of taste or interpretation enter into it, generalization becomes impossible.

For example, a rather large number of wargamers find a game less entertaining when the mechanics of the game or the depth of the historical background demand more of them than they are willing to give. In my view, a wargame becomes less entertaining when it departs too radically, or even flies in the face of the historical record (as a number of purportedly "historical" wargames do). This particular aspect bothers many gamers less than it does me.

Adding to the confusion is the considerable proportion of gamers laboring under the simplistic and unsupportable conviction that complexity is a prerequisite for accuracy, or that simplicity is a prerequisite for fun.

Without some kind of consensus on what constitutes "historical", (or even, for that matter, on what constitutes "entertaining") any closer examination of the question quickly becomes meaningless. In short, while I understand what Mr. Taylor was trying to say, I don't believe it is possible to say whether it is true or false.

Jeff

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 9:44 p.m. PST

A REALISTIC wargame is one in which the prejudices of the player coincide with those of the designer.

Not much different than saying that "a good book/song/meal is one in which the prejudices of the reader/listener/diner coincide with those of the author/songwriter/chef", and about as meaningful.

Jeff

corporalpat01 May 2012 10:26 a.m. PST

Incorrect, the Armed forces use games – and NOT for recreation.

The Armed Forces euphemistically named "games" are actually military exercises not the type of game being discussed here at all. Armed Forces style "Wargames" can be, while serious and generally miserable affairs a bit of a rush.

Dynaman878901 May 2012 11:00 a.m. PST

> The Armed Forces euphemistically named "games" are actually military exercises not the type of game being discussed here at all.

One word, Kriegsspiel

For other examples, there are a couple of military games that were modified into commercial games. I do not remember the titles. The reverse is also true (the computer wargames from John Tiller Software and a couple other computer wargames come to mind there)

corporalpat01 May 2012 12:09 p.m. PST

For other examples, there are a couple of military games that were modified into commercial games.

Key word: modified. I agree that the history of modern Wargaming comes directly from military exercises, and many ideas for historical rules sets come from military sources. However, just as Wargames are not the real thing, neither are Military training exercises. Close, some very close, but still an abstraction of the real thing. This is an important distinction to keep in mind.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP01 May 2012 1:41 p.m. PST

The Armed Forces euphemistically named "games" are actually military exercises

Not euphemistically, historically. The use of the word "wargames" in English (and several other languages) for recreational activities derives from the military usage. Not the other way around.

Sparker01 May 2012 2:22 p.m. PST

Well in the UK forces, until recently (retired in 09) there were 2 distinct official training activities which mightjust be akin to wargaming, 'table topping', and Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTS).

These are of course as well as the use of miniatures and model terrain to enhance briefing models for orders groups…

A table top exercise typically involved the use of small scale minis on a map, and was just a round table discussion of what participants, representing their commands or roles, would do in a given situation, what info they would want, the relevant Rules of Engagement, and what PPI's relaxations they might request from Northwood. (Cant remember what PPI stands for now, but its what ROE's fall out of, something like Political something Indicator – basically how embarrassed the MOD would get if something happened in a given situation)

So for example, taking a scenario way before my time to protect the innocent, during the Icelandic Cod War, a tabletop exercise might involve a chart of the disputed sea areas, models of RN vessels and a/c, Brit fishermen, Icelandic Fishermen, and the Icelandic gunboats. The Director would then say, Ok, this is the situation, your ship is here and you have this MPA as a playmate with a further 12 hours on station. You see this gunboat start to harass this fisherman, but with out limiting his navigation. What the legal posish? What can you do? What is your ROE? The tabletop situation would then be developed and escalated to cover all contingencies, and each step would be discussed etc. Not so much as a wargame, just using the material of a wargame to facilitate discussion and test procedural and legal knowledge.

(To be perfectly honest, at a junior level, this training was not highly regarded, because we all knew that the hard bit was not represented, the precise navigation, the station keeping in a gale, actually maintaining a workable communications net with both other air and sea assets and hostiles, launching and recovering boats and helos in rough weather, interpreting the situation via radar and other sensors. Getting a clear picture of what is going on, and recording it as evidence, is 99% of the effort involved, and can't be taught in a classroom…)

A TEWT on the other hand is nothing to do with models or tabletops, its actually conducted looking out over a potential battlespace, and referring to maps and charts, and requires participants to come up with a plan and set of written or verbal orders to implement that plan. These are then assessed against peers, and then finally the official 'Directing Staff Solution' gives the 'right' way to approach that particular mission. Pretty far from a wargame!

Now its entirely possible that at far higher echelons computers are used in actual wargames with random chance and so on, but I have never come across references to anything like that in all the doctrinal and training magazines and reviews that are regularly published, and I'm sorry to say I did tend to devour those!

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