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"Rules Critics - 'History', or 'Wargaming History'? " Topic

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Sparker09 Jul 2012 2:16 p.m. PST

In the various Napoleonic Wargaming circles in which I move, I have often engaged in constructive and passionate debate about Napoleonic wargaming rules, and their pros and cons. Most are constructive and polite, but a significant minority very soon degenerate into bluster, scorn, and invective…

And after my latest stoush I begin to see a pattern forming about who falls into the later camp older, very experienced gamers who perhaps see themselves as some sort of 'gaming aristocracy', owed a certain amount of respect, not because of what they have organised or contributed, but simply because they have been around to pontificate for a long time….

the sort of chap who can name every long defunct wargaming shop in town, list every iteration of WRG ancients rules, and how he could or, would of, shud of written ones that were so much better…Do you have an image of the bloke I mean?

Well if so, here's the blining flash of the bloody obvious that hit me this morning….wait for it:

This sort of gent always falls back on history to explain why the new ruleset you are using is not as good as his armfulls of tables and charts and slide rules 'its not good history' but heres my question Is he referring to 'History' history, or 'Wargaming History'?

Does that make sense? Let me give you an example. In a recently published ruleset, a succession of battalions from the same Bde can launch assaults on the same target, i.e. the second or third Bn in a column of Battalions. At the Brigade level, effectively a passage of the lines effected over the period of, at a guess, an hour or so. A Bde or Div level manouevre regularly seen in the Napoleonic Wars.

But absolute anathema to my protagonist! 'Can you hear the cries of 'Excusez moi Monsewer' as the shoulder each other out of the way' he mocks! He cannot conceptualise the holistic, Bde level view of what is going on, because he has been steeped in a worms eye view of gaming, where perhaps each move reflects the actions possible in a few minutes, rather than an hour or so…

Such people, often self read, also have an exagerated respect for the written word…Because cavalry turning to face an unexpected flank attack has never been written about in an Osprey, it never, ever happened, anywere, ever. So there!

I wonder if when these types cry 'It just ain't history', they really mean 'This is outside the scope of my wargaming experience'?

Just a thought!

Seroga Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 2:35 p.m. PST

I really like history. I have even been known to look at archival documents. My gaming group is also history intensive.

That said, anybody who "falls back on history to explain why the new ruleset you are using is not as good as his armfulls of tables and charts and slide rules" anybody like this just drives me crazy.

If you come to play then play. There are lots of other venues to discuss history.

There is research both amateur and truely academic.
There is re-enacting both high-fidelity and folkloric.
There is gaming both miniatures and board wargames.

These can be related, and someone may try more than one of them but they are not the same thing as far as I know.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 2:40 p.m. PST

In spite of your dangerously high level of intoxication, I think you've nailed it exactly.

It's the wargaming history that makes people believe that a game with percentile dice and lots of modifiers is "historically accurate," but a game with d6s and saving throws is "just a game." I've never heard any of them explain why their particular way of arranging figures, dice rolls, and calculations is historically accurate, but some other guy's isn't.

When you force them to break it down, step by step, it all falls apart. Do they really believe that a historical battle had "turns" and a "sequence of play," or "movement allowances," or that every unit on one side was able to move, simultaneously, and then every unit was able to fire, simultaneously, before the army moved on to the "close combat phase…" ?

That's why these guys are much, much more likely to criticize somebody else's game, rather than to hold up their own favorite game as an example of how to do it right. The quickest way to shut them down, is to ask them to name the games that are "historically correct." (Because they know that as soon as they name some game, it'll be subject to the exact same dissection and critical analysis that they've just meted out, and it won't fare any better.) So, after avoiding the question for a while, if they're pressed repeatedly, they'll dissemble and claim that they've "…never yet found the perfect game, blah blah blah…"

Somehow, though, they claim to be playing wargames. So one of three things is apparently happening:

1) They don't actually play anything, and just rant on the internet all day instead, or

2) They do in fact play Game X with their buddies, but don't want to admit it, because for some reason they want to criticize others without having to face that criticism, themselves, or

3) They have some home-brewed game that they want an excuse to flog in front of an online audience.

* * *

I just don't get it.

There are a lot of games that I don't like. My likes and dislikes are entirely dictated by whether or not I found the games fun and challenging. I've never decided whether or not I liked or disliked a game, based upon my impression of whether or not it's "historically accurate."

Because it isn't. None of them are. They're games.

Midpoint09 Jul 2012 2:48 p.m. PST

Hear, hear.

kevanG Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 2:55 p.m. PST

Personally, I am always amazed listening to people defending turkeys.

Sundance Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 3:53 p.m. PST

Yes, I agree!

21eRegt09 Jul 2012 3:56 p.m. PST

My blessedly limited experience with the type Sparker describes leads me to believe that it isn't the wargaming experience, but the reading level and understanding or misunderstand of what actually happened. Some of the worst offenders were never gamers, just theorists.

Ashenduke Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 4:03 p.m. PST

I've never decided whether or not I liked or disliked a game, based upon my impression of whether or not it's "historically accurate." Because it isn't. None of them are. They're games.

Well said. Its funny how we can lose sight of that and think that our own particular favored method of pushing around figures and rolling dice are a better representation of how things were.
Sometimes you have to agree to disagree and move on with those argumentative types. I blame the internet and this incessant need to argue whats best or worst. Happens on all chat forums and has spilled over into the real world.

Personal logo The Tin Dictator Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 4:08 p.m. PST

There is probably a bit of Wargaming History mixed in with those opinions. But there is also a "feel" to any given game system that will either seem like its re-creating something from the period, or it won't.

If it doesn't have that feel, it might be a decent "game" but its a suck "wargame". There may be different opinions between players about whether or not that FEEL is sufficiently represented. And, that's where these discussions come from. Not just a simplistic hatred of all the things that you like.

If you don't understand that concept, you're a gamer, not a wargamer.

Personal logo Ed the Two Hour Wargames guy Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 4:20 p.m. PST

But there is also a "feel" to any given game system that will either seem like its re-creating something from the period, or it won't.

Exactly. That's the final test for me. After the game does it "feel" right for the period that was played. It's about the final result not how you got there.

If you don't understand that concept, you're a gamer, not a wargamer.

True but good luck trying to explain that one when you get flak for it.

Space Monkey Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 4:38 p.m. PST

If it doesn't have that feel, it might be a decent "game" but its a suck "wargame".
I'm not sure if it's the same sort of thing but there are some games that feel 'gamey' or 'gamier' compared to others. With any game you're going to be playing to the rules to some extent but some I've played feel very abstracted from any sort of 'real' battle tactics in favor of cool whatnots.
They might be good games… but apart from the miniatures/graphics they could be about almost anything.

Esquire Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 4:51 p.m. PST

Its been said very well above, but I second these primary thoughts:
Game must have right feel;
Too much emphasis on the history makes the rules awful; and
These are games that have to be fun -- so have it be fun and feel like your are replicating history.

As one of the older types, my only defense of some of our generation: we have seen it all. There really is nothing new under the Sun. Just different ways of combining older concepts. So, fun to see and try new rules, but I have yet to see anything to make me exclaim, "My God, what an amazing set of rules!" Column Line and Square has its faults, but still works. Perhaps jaded at this point, but it is how I feel.

platypus01au09 Jul 2012 7:36 p.m. PST

Yes, I agree it is "Wargaming History".

Wargaming rules are more like novels. The writer has to have a clear idea of what should happen, and direct the rules (plot) to make it happen.

History is different as it is a set of probablilities. So a historian never has to say "this actually happened", but can say it might have, or could have, or is the best explaination, or even throw his/her hands up and say "we don't know". A Historian can sit on the fence. A wargamer can't.

So for rules, like novels, you have to choose the story you like. This is the Dictator's, Ed's and Esquite's "feel".


Personal logo vtsaogames Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 7:42 p.m. PST

And then… one man's meat is another man's poison.

You like charts, I like simple. You say tomato…

Agesilaus Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 8:54 p.m. PST

Interesting topic. I agree with almost everything said. I do feel that Historical games should be Historical. I believe that the connotation above is that if you raise the cry, "That's not Historical!" that an old guy, like me, is going to produce charts and percentage dice and insist that the game turns be reduced so that each 3 degrees of a right wheel can be examined, making the game protracted and boring. Not necessarily so. I feel that the people I play with determine the Historical accuracy of a game more than the rules.
Example: At our club we tried to play naval miniatures rather unsuccessfully for a year or so. My son and his college friends had a week understanding of WWI naval tactics and weapons. They tried to work through it by being Rules Lawyers. It was a disaster. We went to Navcon and played with the same rules. My son and his friends . were joined by some old wargaming buddies of mine from the '70s. These guys have been studying naval warfare their entire lives. The first time the ships closed and opened fire, their were numerous discussions with people saying things like. "No, your right, those torpedoes were highly unreliable", or "At this range I'll just roll one die, next sequence I'll fire for effect". It's a gentleman's game and when people have knowledge and behave like gentlemen the rules become quite simple and the game has the right feel. The boys said it was the best gaming experience they ever had and they've been to 3 Navcons now.

Cyclops Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 9:24 p.m. PST

I get a bit sick of hearing 'it's a game, relax'. I know it's a game but it should represent reality/history. This doesn't mean complicated though. For example, I think the rules that give the best results for company level WW2 games are IABSM. They're hardly complex but give a very good feel for the period that matches what I've read from veterans.
I do find it amusing when people delude themselves that their game is 'realistic' because they have 32 modifiers for morale checks etc. Realism, or an approximation of it, comes from an historically plausible result. Add in some elegant mechanics and you're there.
That's not to say a hugely complex set of rules won't get the same result, it's just no fun getting there IMHO.

Personal logo Ed the Two Hour Wargames guy Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jul 2012 10:58 p.m. PST

That's not to say a hugely complex set of rules won't get the same result, it's just no fun getting there IMHO.

Very well put.

Keraunos Inactive Member09 Jul 2012 11:00 p.m. PST

its somewhre in the middle.

if the rules are stupid, if they have no basic conception of the actual period, if they are just about some orgnaised dice rollign with pretty figures, then why defend it because its fun.

equally, if youonly get two turns in becuase of looking things up, if the mechanics stop you playing the game – where is the fun in that.

for every guy who is too much about hte history, i can show you a 'oh, its just toy soldiers' muppet who will tollerate any crap

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 2:32 a.m. PST

I am an older retired guy and have always done a lot of reading on historical and war. I also shoot, have worked in charge of large groups of peole, and have worked outdoors a lot.

There is very little new under the sun with wargame rules using die, cards, IGOUG, simultaneous, or random movement. There are only so many ways to arrange the sequences. Every game design becomes a comprise between boggy details and fast results. Maybe in the near future, we might be able to instill individual unit behavior into voice-reading computers and get real-time flowing reaction and results.

Basically, what I look for with any new set of rule, is how successful they are in allowing me to "do what was the right thing historically" and get something like the expected result. If you have your calvary pop up unexpected on the flank of a line, it should hurt.

A second thing is whether the game plays like the era. For example, if the square formation and forming it is in play and feels right, or is it just an abstract modifier that is thrown in as a sop to the era. Accordingly, I favor smaller scale rules, so these differences in era, become necessary, observable and enjoyable.

I try to play doing what I belive the officers of the time would do, and stifle myself (a bit) when a quirk or inaccuracy of the rules overules my efforts in play. For example, there was an unnamed Napoleonic game, where two enemy division units were defending a ridgeline. My left-hand ally attacked his directly opposite opponent directly, while my right hand unit moved around the right side of the second enemy unit to outflank them and the ridge and get behind. But the enemy in front of me was able to musket fire effectively at my left hand attacking ally. The range? about the same as 3 division in-line length. About 36 times the length of a battalion in line (I think the range of the smoothbore musket might be a half to two times the width of a battalion in line). So they were clobbering him at a range of 3 miles.

My point is that, to me, can I play this set of rules by trying to do what I feel was done in history, or do I have to play rules lawyer?

AONeill10 Jul 2012 2:37 a.m. PST

Personally I want rulesets with elegant mechanics which produce a game which works a bit like whichever period ought to work.
It is my opinion which decides if mechanics are elegant and how a period ought to work.

Other people's opinions will differ.
Obviously, they are buffoons and I am very clever.

I have some other observations which might also be relevent.

1) People don't like change. There is no better change. At least in the short term, new is bad.
2) Many people aren't very good at expressing themselves.
3) A reviewer who mis-states rules mechanics in a review is doing a bad job.
4) Maurice seems to be a perfectly excellent set of rules.
5) You can only stretch reality so far before it becomes "stoopid". Rather bizarrely, that extent seems to differ from player to player. I don't get that.

Field Marshal10 Jul 2012 2:58 a.m. PST

And thus the crux of the matter is that we will never have "universal" rules for historical gaming because everyone's feel for the period is different.
Just this weekend I played in a large 1813 game using the ubiquitous WRG rules which the group has been using since time began. A few occurrences in the game and the lack of a satisfactory outcome because of the limited time and i once again query using those rules. For me they don't "do it". But my group are rusted on to the rules and i consider many of them very good friends so i guess i have to continue on with rules that really are on the nose for me…..just to enjoy the social aspect of my hobby….more important by far!


Trajanus10 Jul 2012 3:03 a.m. PST


Good Evening and Welcome to Stereotype Central!

Personally, I blame Rules Authors, many, many Rules Authors!

OK I'll cut Sam some slack because he tells people what he's doing and "None of them are. They're games." is his mantra. So there is, or should not be, too much confusion where his output is concerned.

Regrettably, a lot of people haven't done this over the years, which has led players with a mind to do so to attribute far too much to what they read in thinking there is a strong link with reality and on the other side of the coin, authors who pretend that this is so!

Its undeniable rules in the past few years have become more of a game with a historical context than attempts to join all the dots we have seen in the past.

From this the 'wizened old fogey' element will have more to chew on as the more streamlined approach moves to 'black boxes' inside other 'black boxes' to the point where rules become so vanilla that only the figures on the table denote what period the game is supposed to be set in. One or two are already at that point in my view.

I liken this to Chess and the fancy playing pieces you can buy. The pieces may be Wellington v Napoleon but you could swap out one of those for Star Wars and the game would still play the same.

The 'History' bit is simple as far as I'm concerned. I've long since given up on having it all but I do ask that what was possible in the period is possible on the table and vice versa.

I wonder if when these types cry 'It just ain't history', they really mean 'This is outside the scope of my wargaming experience'?

Some may well do Sparker, Old Son, the problem is that games are played by people and people have an annoying habit of not explaining things in a definitive manner, even when they do sometimes know what they mean!

Its also a question of degree. If someone sells me rules where the units represented are battalions and the 'time frame' is 5 minute turn and then I find there's evolutions these 'battalions' could not do or are allowed to do in the game that don't fit this 'time frame', I call that unhistorical.

My view is I'm allowed to do that as I didn't read it in an Osprey and have spent a bloody long time finding out what was likely to have been achievable in this mythical 5 minutes.

However, I don't wear that statement round my neck when I wargame, maybe I should?

If the smallest unit is a brigade the same thing applies but I don't care what the individual battalions are supposed to be doing as long as the brigade/divisional deployments take appropriate amounts of game 'time'.

Of course you can, as now seems popular, say To hell with it there is no game time! Things are far too complex and variable to give an average time per turn or manoeuvre.

Fine, then its just a game set in a period, as far as I'm concerned. Just don't try and sell me it as 'Historical' Rules and we will all be happy.

Trajanus10 Jul 2012 3:16 a.m. PST

And what 1968billsfan said!

Bottom Dollar10 Jul 2012 3:21 a.m. PST

Wargaming history or a social event with a military historical theme? I prefer historical war gaming, meaning the game is trying to accurately represent the decision-making dynamics of combat given the echelon and the understanding of the chosen time period. That is not necessarily complicated, but usually requires some kind of immersion into the rules. I'm probably in the minority but I think a wargame which requires concentration can be a lot of fun and social as well. For all people's talk about wanting to "feel" in command, some forget the level of concentration every commander had to exercise if he was even a little worth his salt, and often many designers then proceeed to try and make it simple, as if it actually were, which it wasn't. But they are really designing a social game, with a military historical theme, not a wargame. On the other hand, you have the war gaming history guys, who are, according to my impression, the literalists. These are the guys who are going to tell you what to do, how to do it and how the game is going to be played because they know and you don't.

Costanzo110 Jul 2012 4:36 a.m. PST

Is here the difference between an adult hobby or a child hobby? Wargame as historical passion in searching facts (primary sources, secondary,..), customs, dresses, musics,places, weapons,architectures,flora, fauna, deep reading, consulting,assembling pieces following dreams, historical pictures, historical exploits and finally an army list. Game is only the last part and not the more important. Otherwise wargame as historical love, some searches in historical magazines and internet, assembling armies following an army list (no pieces in excess)and the most important part, the game. The first kind of wargamer wants rules very specific for that period because his interests is deep, the second kind of wargamer wants universal rules because he is like a butterfly, now here, tomorrow there.
Too radical?

Dynaman8789 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 4:37 a.m. PST

I just want to state that I've seen just as many "passionate" new (and new school) gamers as I have seen "passionate" old (and old school) gamers.

Keraunos Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 5:13 a.m. PST

which used more soap in the mornings?

Larry R10 Jul 2012 5:25 a.m. PST

Its not the rules its the people. I started out with Empire IV. Had a hard time grasping it and the arguements were horrendous. So much so I left wargaming for almost twenty years. Now that I'm back I play a variety of rules. I don't bash people for liking or disliking the rules they play, to each his own. Find something that fits your personality/historical accuracy requirements/what you want out of a game/level of command and play on. Its a game! I've been in the real thing and nothing you do on a table can be represented accuratly by any set of rules.

le Grande Quartier General10 Jul 2012 7:26 a.m. PST

I suppose one's definition of 'game'or 'simulation' might vary. I want to create a challenge for players- at both the campaign, grand-tactical and tactical level. The challenge is this: Consider (as many as are modeled) the different variables a Napoleonic commander (at whichever level chosen) would have to consider under the circumstances of the military operation presented, and make decisions based on those considerations- to enjoy generating outcomes,reather than 'victories'. For experienced players who enjoy immersing themselves more, an additional experience is to try to think like, and make decisions based on biographical information and the sensibilities of the period, then allow this to influence and colour their decision-making within the rule framework.
Above all, 'winning' is less important than playing, and history is important. A knowledge of actual, not 'wargaming' history should be more important and valuable to success than a knowledge of the rules, as they are written.

OSchmidt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 7:57 a.m. PST

There's two points here. One the overbearingness at times of those who obsess on historical detail. On the whole that's not as objectionable as the loon who can tell you ever hit,run, and error on every baseball game played down to double A ball, and who made it and what their first cousin's favorite color was. They're both obsessions.

The second that it's a game. Which means it has only an extremely tenuous grasp and relevence to reality. If at all. My own belief is that it has none whatsoever.

I find it hard to justify historical minutia though on the idea of "the feel of 18th (17th, 16th,2nd, 1st, -4000bc) century combat." I don't know how one would get that "feel" as we weren't there. All we know is what we learn from books, and mostly the people who wrote them weren't there either.

It's a game, just a game, that's all that it is, nothing more.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 8:29 a.m. PST

The type of personality Sparker describes is a blight on any social activity, not just wargaming. The self-appointed authority is not as interested in the history or in an enjoyable game as he is in dominating the game and the conversation.

It's too easy to lump together the gamers who are all about the infinitesimal degrees of maneuvers, "rule 58.42 says . . . " and 26 different morale modifiers with the gamers who just expect some kind of historical fidelity from the games they play and aren't content with mere dice rolling and pretty toys; they are not the same guys.

The case has been well stated: thank you Keraunos, 1986billsfan, Trajanus and Grand Quartier General, for reminding me that there are still historical wargamers out there who "get it".

Dynaman8789 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 9:46 a.m. PST

> It's a game, just a game, that's all that it is, nothing more.

Tiddlywinks… (the "just a game" crowd has their job, and I have mine)

Murvihill10 Jul 2012 9:59 a.m. PST

I'd like to point out a couple things:
1. Stupid people grow old just like smart people.
2. Don't assume that just because one old person disagrees with you all old people are incapable of matching your level of wisdom in all things historical.

le Grande Quartier General10 Jul 2012 11:13 a.m. PST

Age may make my sight fail, but it is no excuse for myopia. It may make me brittle, but I pray not rigid!

kevanG Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 11:22 a.m. PST

"> It's a game, just a game, that's all that it is, nothing more.

Tiddlywinks… (the "just a game" crowd has their job, and I have mine)"

And some people would argue that all games have the same historical representation.

What I cannot follow is why this viewpoint is used to defend rules which just make no sense even as a game…

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 11:33 a.m. PST

If I opened up a game called The Battle of Midway! and found that it had a Horatio Nelson counter, a Panther tank, some Dr. Who pieces, and the odd tiddlywink or two, then I'd probably say, "Well, that's not very historically accurate, now is it?"

But come on. That's just a straw man. When people argue about historical accuracy in games, it's not because of some massive, obvious flaw like that. It's because of their interpretations of whether one way of moving pieces, looking up numbers, and rolling dice is "correct" or not.

The guys who hate "Flames of War" often complain that it has no opportunity fire, that the artillery shouldn't be on the table, and that weapon ranges make no sense. But everybody who loves FoW can point to perfectly good reasons for why those things are interpreted to their satisfaction: there is no need for the Opp Fire, since the normal assault sequence takes care of it, the artillery represents a rear-echelon area of the battle whose scale is zoomed-in, and the ranges are abstracted to be representative. After all, a German 88 still out-ranges a 2-pounder, quite considerably.

These arguments about the historical "feel" or "accuracy" of games are all arguments about personal taste. Is "Flames of War" historically accurate? No, because an 88 should have a proportionately much longer range than a 2-pdr? Or Yes, because an 88 does have a longer range than a 2-pdr?

If you like the way FoW handles it, in the context of the game's other systems, then its "accuracy" or "feel" is probably perfectly OK for you. And if you don't like the game, then you'll probably couch your arguments about disliking it, within some sort of historical objections, or say that it doesn't have the right "period feel."*

In other words: exactly what Sparker said in the O.P.

I'm content to judge the game purely on the basis of whether it works as a game: is it consistent and easy to learn? is it challenging and does it replay well? and most importantly, is it fun, and do I feel as if those three hours were well-spent?

* PS I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen somebody write about how much they dislike Game X because it's not historically accurate, and then list as examples things like: "It doesn't seem right that Albanian grenadiers could form square… and since when did Armenian light cavalry pursue the enemy??" Then six people will come along and give them plentiful examples of the Albanians forming squares and the Armenians pursuing the enemy. Does it change their opinion? Of course not. The game still sucks! Just… Cuz it does!

Once somebody's opinion is formed, they tend to go looking for "facts" to back it up. A rude encounter with contrary facts rarely changes their opinion, however.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 12:01 p.m. PST

The game still sucks! Just… Cuz it does!

I usually interpret this as an inability of the person to win at said game.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 12:06 p.m. PST

Or to read it.

Omemin Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 12:26 p.m. PST

I have come to some pretty basic observations about how wargamers react to a given set of rules.

(1) Gamers generally gravitate to games that interest them, usually by time period.

(2) Because they have an interest in the time period, I expect that they have read some material on it.

(3) The game that they want is one that works like what they've read. That's the "feel" that we talk about. Do I get the same reaction to the game that I get when I read about the period?
Also, they want a combination of "level" and detail that works much like a book. Yes, I'm commanding 4 destroyers, but I also want to fire the torpedoes much like the torpedo officer would.

There are some other things that matter as well. If your air-to-air game doesn't give an impression of flight, it's a dead letter no matter how good it is otherwise. Same for sail games that don't give an impression of sailing, and so on. Skirmish games need the massive uncertainty and strong consequences that are the basis of command in small unit actions.

I also agree that what happened in reality should be possible on the board and vice versa. Rare indeed is the American Civil War rules set that doesn't have some sort of "infectious rout" rule, because of First Bull Run. My objection to Flames of War is that artillery can't fire at terrain. It has to fire at a target. that's okay as a game, but artillery shoots at terrain, folks. The system on the table needs to reflect the system at the time.

Am I curmudgeon as a result? No, I'm an honest-to-God military historian who likes his games to relate to the history that he knows. Do I argue about it? Sometimes, and then I feel bad afterward. I want folks to have fun, even if the game isn't my cup of tea.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 12:57 p.m. PST

I put on an AWI game recently with our club's house rules for the AWI and at the end of the game I asked one question. Did it feel like an AWI battle? I was meet by a resounding yes, even from the losers of the battle. There is no better compliment for a set of rules.

Don't ask me how to quantify, explain it, demonstrate it or whatever, some rules have it and some don't. Some have the period feel and some don't. If only I could bottle it and sell it.

I would like to add another factor. How a game looks adds to this "period feel." I hear all the time "It doesn't matter how pretty the game is if the rules are bad it doesn't matter." And sometimes that is true.

But the reverse can also be true, if the game looks like crap, I don't care if you have the best rules ever written it will not have a period feel. If nothing else the look of the game enhances the period feel. If the look of the game doesn't matter to you then play board games.

I am not being sarcastic, board games are a real viable alternative if you don't care about painted figures and terrain. More often it is cheaper than miniatures, everything comes in a box ready to go.

I believe it is a combination of the rules and the look of the game that brings about that elusive "period feel."

kevanG Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 1:05 p.m. PST

"But come on. That's just a straw man. When people argue about historical accuracy in games, it's not because of some massive, obvious flaw like that. It's because of their interpretations of whether one way of moving pieces, looking up numbers, and rolling dice is "correct" or not."

Heres two game 'blunders' that just defy logic to me.

variable ground scale and a variable time period for a turn produces fixed movement rates…

The better the command value, the higher the numerical results of blunders in a command sructure.

neither has anything to do with historical accuracy. Just poorly thought out game design

Bottom Dollar10 Jul 2012 1:26 p.m. PST

OSchmidt wrote: "It's a game, just a game, that's all that it is, nothing more."

I don't think so. A historically accurate game can teach you to think tactically for a given period. Here's how you verify historical accuracy in a game. Read several eyewitness accounts of battle (official eyewitnesses are best), then learn to play a "so-called" historically accurate game system, and then go back later to re-read those historical accounts. If you better understand on the re-reading or receive additional insights, then there's some proof that the game designers knew what they were doing.

And excellent summary Omemin.

And to second Rallynow's observations. The only thing I would add to it is that it takes a certain level of study before one can achieve that accuracy of 'feel' for a game and how it plays.

Sparker10 Jul 2012 2:03 p.m. PST

'Stupid people get old too' Quite brilliant! And very true, like me for example…

Thanks gentlemen for allowing me to sound off and responding with eminently sensible collective wisdom. As has been said it is encouraging to see that the majority of wargamers are able to seek a historical 'feel' without throwing a track over a petty fogging detail that is irrelevant to that particular game's mechanics.

I guess if we weren't able to compromise we would all be 'Lone Warriors', and whilst theres absolutely nothing wrong with solo games, it would be a shame if that was all there was in terms of historical gaming…not least in attracting fresh meat into the hobby!

damian Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 2:24 p.m. PST

Any game that attempted to replicate war would be as boring as hell. You see these modern skirmish games that claim to be ultra realistic "roll 6 to open pouch, roll 5 to take mag out of pouch" tedious in the extreme. At the other end of the scale in most Napoleonic games you can take a test to turn a battalion or brigade on a sixpence, as a drill instuctor I can tell you it would take an age, no matter how practiced. What I am trying to say, is that anyone who tries to pretend that it is anything other than a game with a slight historical basis is dreaming.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2012 5:56 p.m. PST

Otto Schmidt said:

The second that it's a game. Which means it has only an extremely tenuous grasp and relevence to reality. If at all. My own belief is that it has none whatsoever.

I find it hard to justify historical minutia though on the idea of "the feel of 18th (17th, 16th,2nd, 1st, -4000bc) century combat." I don't know how one would get that "feel" as we weren't there. All we know is what we learn from books, and mostly the people who wrote them weren't there either.

So…… if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around,,, it fell in silence and made no sound.

Your wargame pieces are all blocks of wood with "A2" or "Z17" printed on them and you announce what era you are wargaming by shouting that out at the beginning of a game.

"….I don't know how one would get that "feel" as we weren't there. All we know is what we learn from books….."

You have a point here. I agree that slightly west of Missouri, there is a 5000 foot canyon in the ground that extends all the way to Los Vegas. I've never been there, and I definately wouldn't trust any book. Even if I saw solid ground there, it might have been a giant stagedrop with a projected film playing on it.

Sorry, not to write more, I have to adjust my tinfoil hat and chance the flying saucers off of my back lawn. They burn the grass in areas and make it hard to mow.

Bottom Dollar10 Jul 2012 6:08 p.m. PST

Yes, and then you're a dead man. Depressing really.

Maxshadow10 Jul 2012 6:21 p.m. PST

The better the command value, the higher the numerical results of blunders in a command sructure

Hi Kevin, your obviously refering to the Black Powder rules.
The blunder rule is optional and the reader is invited to tinker with it directly. Its also such an easy fix. You just associate the blunder with a number above the command rating. IE 4 above.
I've toyed with this idea from the start but up till now I haven't noticed much difference, though mathematically Kevins right, that a higher command rating means more throws so should result in more blunders. Possibly because I allow each general one fail means there is smaller difference between the ratings.

Agesilaus Inactive Member10 Jul 2012 9:00 p.m. PST

When you go to the Dollar Store and buy a checker set, play with a friend and he gets mad and kicks over the board, you can say "Hey, It's only a game".
But, when you research a Historical conflict for over a decade, spend thousands of dollars to import obscure miniatures from other continents, alienate your family and friends and go into seclusion painting figures and shaping terrain, turn your basement into a game cave and invite dozens of odd gamer types to share your obsession and argue about rules for several more years:
When the game finally sees the light of day, I hope no one will challenge your thin grasp on reality by suggesting, "Hey, It's only a game."

Trajanus11 Jul 2012 12:42 a.m. PST

Actually, that's a fair summary of how a lot of people feel.

When I think of the amount of time myself and my regular opponents, who I've played with for over 20 years, have spent on the hobby, not to mention the thousands of Pounds "Only a game" may still be true in a literal sense but in personal investment terms the phrase falls flat as a pancake!

Phil Dutre11 Jul 2012 1:14 a.m. PST

After several decades of wargaming, I still haven't figured out whether it's only about playing with toy soldiers, or whether we're participating in a serious study of military history.

If the latter, then why aren't all military historians doing it (there's always the odd exception)? Where are the scholarly articles published in academic journals that use miniature wargaming as a reference, as proof, as a method of research? Is miniature wargaming (the sort we hobbyists use) used as a valid teaching tool in military academies around the world? Perhaps the person that came closest was Paddy Griffith at Sandhurst. But my impression is he's the proverbial exception to the rule.

The only thing I see are guys saying 'It's historic, because it matches the Osprey I've read'. Or worse: 'It's historic, because it's exactly like that John Wayne movie I saw'.

I'm not disputing wargamers can also be involved in the study of military history that goes beyond the trivial. That's not the point. The point is whether miniature wargaming adds something substantially to the study of military history (i.e. it adds new insights not known before), or is it only a vehicle to transfer *some* knowledge from people who studied history (and developed the game) to people who didn't, just as a book or movie does?
I believe it's much more the latter, and in that sense, indeed, 'it's only a game', just as a book 'is only a book', or a movie 'is only a movie'.

The best we can hope for is that by playing a game, we get a feeling for or an emotion about a particular war or conflict comparable to the emotions you feel when watching a movie, reading a book, listing to music, or watching a tv-series. And just as there are good books and lousy books, or good movies and lousy movies, there are good games and lousy games. And most of time, we are at the mercy of the very personal interpretation/prejudices/beliefs of the author or director. Does one really believe one has a better understanding what it was *really* like to be a commander in a given battle by wathcing a movie about that battle (apart from the love angle ;-))? Then why would it work for a wargame?

I like miniature wargaming. It's my hobby. It's fun to play with toy soldiers and refight Waterloo or Hastings or Kadesh. It's fun to add a layer of historical knowledge. But I am also an academic, and I would never claim playing miniature wargaming (as in the hobby-games we all play) is in any way a serious tool for the study of military history, just as any war-movie also is not a serious tool for the study of military history.

In the end, all that is left are gentlemen pushing toys around fighting a mock battle.
But is it fun?
Hell yeah!

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