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"Points" Topic

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Action Log

26 Sep 2012 5:57 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from WWII Discussion board

1,703 hits since 26 Sep 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Jlundberg Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2012 5:47 p.m. PST

One of the things that fascinates me about game design is the inclusion of points. Yeah, I get that they are needed for tournaments. I get that they are a handy way to allow me to bring my toys and play against your toys and we can put together a scenario.

What I find curious is that historical games have not tumbled to one of the few good ideas from GW. Rarity.

I picked up Bolt Action and we played a trial game. I am not a power gamer and I don't field big armor.

What i read about was a guy planning of fielding the minimum infantry elements and a single Tiger

Points are , so far as I can tell solely derived from percieved combat value. I would think a more logical armored support option would be a STUG III G since they tended to provide support to infantry formations.

Me I am looking at a 75mm IG, sdkfz 222 and other support options that would be more likely to show up.

I would think limits on rarer elements or – pay a premium for things that would be less likely to show up on a battle field

rsutton26 Sep 2012 5:55 p.m. PST

You make a really important point. I play Spearhead, and use the scenario generation system devised by Keith McNelly. The system uses points in order to create game balance (the rules themselves don't come with any points system). However the points system goes hand in hand with a requirement to use historical OOBs. Creates fantastic games in which it really is your tactical skill at using your force on the table top that matters.

Kind regards

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Sep 2012 6:05 p.m. PST

I think the inclusion of the single Tiger has more to do with the fact that people love that tank for some reason. I don't really understand the attraction of some many to it but I can understand an irrational attraction to one tank over another. I like the Grant myself, I think it looks cool.

That being said I think that if I had to field a piece of armour in a 28mm skirmish level WWII game it would probably not be a Tiger in a German force for the reasons you mention.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2012 6:35 p.m. PST

If BF were truly following the GW model, a King Tiger would cost $45. USD

In FoW I quite agree that a Tiger is pointless for fighting infanty. I would take a lot of smaller tanks with oodles of machine guns for the same points. grin

fred12df26 Sep 2012 11:41 p.m. PST

The lists in BKC provide limits and minimums for different units to try to reflect the real world force ratios, as well as having points to cover effectiveness. These work quite well, but are limited by having fairly generic lists, but these do allow you to represent an infantry battalion with a typical level of support.

But In a skirmish level game though you can probably argue for any one off force composition. Especially if you are considering a single tank.

The Combat Mission computer game adjusted its points costs based on rarity factors, which changed over the time period of the war.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member27 Sep 2012 3:21 a.m. PST

First of all, point systems were not invented by GW – although they cleverly refined it to a commercially succesful tool.

Second, anyone who can think for himself doesn't need points for casual play.

Thirdly, if you think points always reflect combat value, give me some points for rock/papers/scissors.

On the positive side, I do see the huge appeal of point systems. But really, it's so easy to ignore them that I hust don;t see why so many people are obsessed by them.

jameshammyhamilton Inactive Member27 Sep 2012 4:25 a.m. PST

The great benefit of points in a game system is that it makes it nice and simple for people to organise games on an ad hoc basis.

I have nothing against scenarios but scenarios take a bit of work either from both players or from a third party.

Points mean that I can arrange a 'fair' game in a couple of lines of e-mail.

It is impossible to create a perfect points system for a wargame simply but it is better than nothing.

Without a points system what is to stop me just bringing all my 15mm Late Romans to play a game? Or even worse all my 15mm Arabs?

MajorB27 Sep 2012 4:52 a.m. PST

Points mean that I can arrange a 'fair' game in a couple of lines of e-mail.

Define "fair"?

Without a points system what is to stop me just bringing all my 15mm Late Romans to play a game? Or even worse all my 15mm Arabs?

Not a thing. But therein is the stuff of a memorable scenario …

Martin Rapier27 Sep 2012 4:57 a.m. PST

Squad leader used the handicapping system by rarity for its points values, worked OK. It is alos present to a degree in the AK47 points system. I'm not convinced it actually adds much to the game as it skews player behaviours in just as odd ways as ordinary points sytsems.

Personally I don't have any great objections to Tigers making appearances in tactical games, even in penny packets in an infantry support role (exactly how they were used both against the 43rd Div bridghead over the Seine and against both Oosterbek and Arnhem bridge).

One would have though in a points based game that a Stug or Panzer IV would be somewhat cheaper and just as useful though. Maybe it isn't someone playing 'power gamer' but just because they like the idea…

To paraphrase Oddball 'It's a beautiful tank Moriarty'.

If you think that soem choices are ahistorial then army lists are probably a better way to go, or historical based scenarios. Takes rather more research and setting up of course. Much as I love researching scenarios, sometimes I really can't be bothered and some sort of force/scenario generator is a life saver.

I really like the system used in KISS Rommel, easily transportable to other rules. (Essentially, various force options on cards, draw some and deal some randomly). It certainly isn't perfectly balanced, but produces some interesting situatiuons.

The Gonk Inactive Member27 Sep 2012 5:40 a.m. PST

Thirdly, if you think points always reflect combat value, give me some points for rock/papers/scissors.

I always used the example of an AA-only unit…worth precisely zero if the opponent has no air. But I like your example-- rock is worth zero if your opponent brings paper, but is worth infinity if your opponent brings scissors!

Still, despite their rather obvious limitations, I like points. I like games without them, too, but it gives you one more way to interact with the game, and it's something that can be done away from the table.

Nor do I have a problem with Tigers in a skirmish game. Wouldn't want to see it every game, but you had the airborne in Sicily fighting them with hand weapons-- I recall an anecdote of one paratrooper with a bazooka striking the lead Tiger, spooking him and driving the entire company "off the table."

Martin Rapier27 Sep 2012 6:40 a.m. PST

If anything you are MORE likely to find a Tiger in a close infantry fight than something lighter, they were designed as breakthrough tanks after all, with all the medium and light tanks cowering soem distance behind.

Same for KVs, SUs, Matildas, Valentines, Churchills etc. For crunching the crunchies, nice big heavy tanks.

jtkimmel27 Sep 2012 7:46 a.m. PST

ASL had rarity factors that could shift month to month in some cases, with 1.6 being the rarest and .9 the most common. So a PzIVH or StuGIIIG would start out at 1.6 when first introduced and be down to 1.0 or .9 after 18-24 months.

The basic point value of the tank or gun was multiplied by that rarity factor to get the final point value for a DYO scenario.

Last Hussar27 Sep 2012 4:01 p.m. PST

Howabout don't call them points. Call them $ – that is accurate and realistic.

Fred, I don't know about BKC, but in CWC the number of T72s you can buy for 1000 points is less than the number you are allowed for every 1000 points – the Max is (ahem) pointless.

Wartopia Inactive Member28 Sep 2012 2:16 a.m. PST

Point System for Rock Paper Scissors

Rock…1 point
Paper…1 point
Scissors…1 point

Army Composition
In any given round you may spend 1 point on the three items listed above. Choose wisely!


Seriously, they're all equal in value in the context of the game rules. Spending your one point is no different from making a choice and giving each player one point makes for perfect play balance as each has the same chance of winning.

Dynaman878928 Sep 2012 4:24 a.m. PST

Wartopia beat me to it. Rock, Paper, Scissors is the one example where a points system is 100% spot on…

ASL had rarity factors in it's points charts, no idea if that or GW type games came first, and ASL is a mostly scenario driven game as well.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member29 Sep 2012 11:33 a.m. PST

Points for rock/paper/scissors :

Giving each of them equal points seems indeed the statistical right thing to do. Everyone has an equal chance of winning in the long run.

But that's not what most point systems/army lists pretend to be doing they pretend to be able to generate forces that have an even chance of winning a single battle foregoing the statistical average over many different battles.

Suppose we both build an army for one point. You choose rock, I choose paper. We put the armies on the table. I immediately can see I have an absolute win, no matter how the game is being played. The fairness is not located in the game itself, but in the statistics of army building over many games.

E.g. suppose you have the following army lists, building an army for 100 points (interpret battle as 100 matchups …)

Min 10, max 80 stones
Min 10, max 80 papers
Min 10, max 80 scissors

How would you build an army? 33% of each? Or 100% of one type? Does it matter? Is there a winning strategy within a single battle? Or is there only a strategy to minimize the own losses as per game theory principles?

Marshal Mark03 Oct 2012 2:46 p.m. PST

What I find curious is that historical games have not tumbled to one of the few good ideas from GW. Rarity.

I'm not sure which historical games you are familiar with, but most army lists for historical games do restrict the numbers of troops you can have, depending on the actual numbers of those troops that were available in real life.

charliemike04 Oct 2012 4:01 a.m. PST

What I find curious is that historical games have not tumbled to one of the few good ideas from GW. Rarity.

Well, it's not exactly a GW invention.
In the "Milgamex Tactical Ancients Armies", published in 1977, troops were divided in "Required", "Standard", "Limited" and "Special" depending on their rarity on the battlefield (in theory at least).

There were also limits in the proportions, e.g. Cavalry no more than xx% of Infantry or Legionaires more than xx% of total, etc..

I liked this approach.

Zelekendel Inactive Member04 Oct 2012 8:21 a.m. PST

Giving each of them equal points seems indeed the statistical right thing to do. Everyone has an equal chance of winning in the long run.

But that's not what most point systems/army lists pretend to be doing they pretend to be able to generate forces that have an even chance of winning a single battle foregoing the statistical average over many different battles.

Err…so by your arguments, points do the job they're supposed to do, bring a semblance of long term fairness to the game?

Well, alright then. Guess that's that settled – both points and pointless scenarios have their places.

Wait, what's that you say about "pretending to bring perfect fairness in single battles"? Who says that (okay, maybe some diehard point based fans?) and who cares? It does the job it's supposed to do as you argued yourself, and that is to provide convenience and a general idea of a long-term balance.

As for those single scenarios, you can (and do) just chalk up differences to having a different kind of scenario, just as if you were making one up with no idea about any points values.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member05 Oct 2012 1:46 a.m. PST

I'm not sure what it is you're saying or what it is you're implying that I said.

Anyway, there's a difference between:

- Having a point system/army lists that gives roughly equal chance to both sides for winning a single game.

- Having a point system/army lists that gives an equal amount of won games for both sides over a long series of games.

These are not the same things, although the 1st type is a subset of the 2nd type.
Any point system for rock/paper/scissors is of the 2nd kind. A good point system for a miniature game should be of the 1st kind.

My personal preference is for scenario-based games anytime. No point system needed for that.

Zelekendel Inactive Member05 Oct 2012 4:30 p.m. PST

There's no real reason for them to be different if they're a points system.

Now, a random force generation mechanic is a definite type 2.

A ruleset may or may not achieve type #1, but for example GW points get a lot closer than people who don't play the game (anymore). The problem is army lists getting older / codex creep, but that's not really something any other rulesets would need to have.

Now, I'm a big fan of scenarios and will play a scenario anytime over a points based game as well, but the reality is that setting up scenarios takes effort, and it's hard to get people to do that. Maybe the world would be a better place with no points systems, maybe not (depends on how much you like tournaments and the like). But I'm with you there.

warhawkwind Inactive Member20 Nov 2012 2:33 p.m. PST

What do you do first: pick out your forces using a points system, OR, lay out the table you'll be playing on?
Better get that straight before you start up a pick-up game, especially with strangers in the back of your local gameshop!
I always lay out the table first, as the terrain will dictate what I choose for forces.
Tight terrain will require many medium and light tanks, as opposed to open terrain which is better for medium to heavy armor.

inrepose Inactive Member20 Mar 2013 10:31 a.m. PST

@Warhawkwind: I always plan the game first and worry about points second. I like to think about how the scenario will play but I might not setup the table first, I just think about the overall objective for the game. That is not as easy for some of the modern big commercial games though, because people plan the game size around the points and it is often the first question "What is the pts size of tonights game".

uglyfatbloke20 Mar 2013 10:42 a.m. PST

Kind of depends on the situations you want to fight out I suppose. Do you want something closer to chess with balanced sides in an encounter action or do you want to fight out more commonplace battlefield situations – company in attack v. platoon in defence for example.

Dynaman878922 Mar 2013 5:08 a.m. PST

Combat Mission Normandy has points and rarity points. So a Tiger is not that much more expensive then a panther but it costs a lot of rarity points.

UshCha22 Mar 2013 12:14 p.m. PST

The Rock, paper, scissers example of poits sytem is actually an example of how useless a poits sytem is. Most of the time there is no usefull game. Only one set (both sides the same) is open to an interesting chllenge of expertise and hence have value and interest. Lining up as eiither a execution squad or the unfurtunate target of said squad has no merrit as it is not in the set of interesting games.

The other issue as always is that points systems work only if terrain is not Variable. In a marsh or a tight built up area a Tiger is a sitting duck. In an open plain the infantry is of little use. Threfore points only work on typically unrealistic terrain compromised to fit the points system not reality.

Wartopia Inactive Member22 Mar 2013 1:12 p.m. PST

I used to be "against" points, or at least ignored them, since I wasn't into tourney play.

But then others pointed out they enable one to play fairly balanced pick-up games with friends and strangers.

For example, while living in DC our group played many sessions of Might of Arms using points. We each showed up with X points worth of medieval troops and fought large, multiplayer battles together. It was great fun being part of a large game without having to paint hundreds, upon hundreds of miniatures. And it was fun to see how others configured their forces for a given session.

While I still prefer scenarios with well developed backgrounds that drive the action in interesting ways I also value point systems for their ability to build a community around a game.

Some of us also enjoy the "meta-game" of building armies. Yes, some folks engage in power-gaming and try to eek out every last advantage. But that's no different from trying to crack a complicated puzzle. As long as the system is well designed and balanced so there's no one "right" answer then who cares?

The meta-game of army building is fun even for those of us who don't try to power-game. Developing a force that fits one's style within the context of a game is even more enjoyable when you know that you'll be sharing that force on the table with friends.

I believe one aspect of points systems that many critics overlook is the nexus of points and victory conditions. Many games include incentives that prevent one troop type from dominating.

For example, we've been tweaking our 15mm dystopian future rules and have always enjoyed how the army list and victory conditions both require and reward a balanced force. The force structure and points severely limit the number of uber-AFVs one can field and you can literally only score points with infantry but AFVs still provide crucial support for controlling fields of fire as long as they're well protected from marauding infantry. Even light vehicles provide mobility needed to rapidly control ground and threaten enemy flanks.

Points alone are not the answer. Force structure limits and victory conditions should also shape the army-building meta game. And just because a game includes a points system isn't a good reason to dismiss it. On the other hand, the lack of a points system can inhibit the development of a string community around a system since it becomes more difficult to engage in pick up games.

Point systems are like umbrellas when rain threatens. You may not need it but it's nice to have if you do.

Wartopia Inactive Member22 Mar 2013 1:14 p.m. PST

The other issue as always is that points systems work only if terrain is not Variable. In a marsh or a tight built up area a Tiger is a sitting duck. In an open plain the infantry is of little use. Threfore points only work on typically unrealistic terrain compromised to fit the points system not reality.

You're playing a game.

It's not reality.

Everybody, including you, makes serious, significant compromises in representing real-world terrain.

And most tables include a variety of terrain to accommodate a variety of forces. It's not like gamers are in the habit of covering the entire table in one vast treeless marsh.

John Thomas822 Mar 2013 5:44 p.m. PST

Points? No points. Run what ya brung and play better.

And please do bring Romans to face the 27th Infantry from 1951. :-)

UshCha24 Mar 2013 2:04 a.m. PST

Must admit not played in treeless marsh but swammpy jungle over entire bord (except for the river running through) ,yes. Done that a few times. Deep in the depths of a city. Lots of times. No simulation is real, simulation is by definition the art of usefull approximation. Tornament terrain in general, not sure I can make any usefull comment save that it has precious little relationship to any terrain I have seen even in the better movies. Some 'B' movies straped for buget maybe ;-). No points system I have ever seen will give you a good game over that, not exssessive range of terrain.

lcannard Inactive Member24 Mar 2013 5:14 a.m. PST

In a points system, the only factor for determining points cost should be combat effectiveness. List restrictions are completely separate.

Wartopia Inactive Member25 Mar 2013 6:29 p.m. PST


I'm not even refering to tourney terrain. In my experience players prefer a mix of terrain with areas and distances based on model size and table size far more than any nominal ground scale.

I too have played a number of games on tables covered entirely in jungle or cityscape. And while interesting I still prefer the variety offered by the usual central village surrounded by a farm or two and some hills and woods.

Besides, the moment you plop your 20mm tank model on those miniature city streets ground scale goes out the window.

UshCha29 Mar 2013 12:25 p.m. PST

While you are corrct that exact liner scale is not possible. Even Maps have the wrong size roads. It is possible at about 1/5 disparity model top ground scale to model the right number of roads, hedges and get built up areas about the right size and still look good and be a good representation of the real world. Most gaming tables have far less terrain hedges, roads, ditches etc than the real world even when compressed. In a tpical built up area you can get proably 10 to 15 houses with good isolation of sight lines which shipfts the balance of power between infantry and vehicals in the way that is should,

OSchmidt Inactive Member29 Mar 2013 1:03 p.m. PST

I will accept for the moment that points systems ensure fairness (we'll come back to that myth in a minute). But the question really is when is war fair? Indeed, when do real life generals or commanders seek to make it fair? Their whole job is to make the encounter as wildly unfair for the other side as possible. It is only because we have created a game out of it that we feel we have to make it fair, that is, that each side has a more or less even chance of winning.

Fairness then implies equality of resources, such resources being a composite of 1) Troops, 2) Terrain, 3) Victory conditions.

But so far we have two versions of fairness. The first assumes that say in a replay of the situation 100 times the result of one side winning over the other hovers around 50%. The other version of "fairness" is that at the start of the game the two sides are "equal" with regard to the three resources named above.

But again the problem remains of fairness because, and here we return to the original myth, because what guarantees that a point which buys X quantity is equivalent to the point that buys Y quality. Granted 1 pt is equivalent to 1 pt, but is the exhange of point for point equivalent. Does (and I am simply making this up) 15 points spent for 15 infantrymen equivalent to 15 points spent for a Tank? Is 15 points spent for a tiger tank equivalent to 15 points spent for a large wooded marsh or 15 point for a victory conditions of whatever configuration you care to make? This point equivalency is consistent if it buys the same thing (for example in my TSC game a stand of infantry is a stand of infantry wether it's in the Army of Fahrvergnuggen, The Newnited States, or the Empire of Terramasu, but it is problematic if the cost of a machine gun stand is equivalent to the four stands of infantry one could buy with the same points. Add to this the effect of terrain, victory conditions, and relativity to opponents and it is easy to see that "fairness" or "equivalency" virtue is highly dubious.

Even if one were to know the formula under which such points were weighted, it would do little good because unless there was a fairly clear equivalent one to the other, the effect of terrain, victory conditions and a host of other matters would conspire to frustrate any mathematical approximation of probabilities.

This brings us back to the main problem which is the dilemma produced by trying to model what is essentially an unfair situation (war) and make it fair. That is, cook a game out of it.

So-- let's go back to our friend with the Tiger Tank and minimum infantry. His decision is probbaly a sound one, in fact a rather clever one. It is quite probably that in the view of most designers the "neatness of the tiger" gives it somewhat extraordinary combat powers, and at the same time it will probably be something of a bargain basement weapon. But more important in the type of game it seems to be dealing with (small scale individual skirmish) the Tiger is not likely to have ANY of its drawbacks highlighted- slow speed, high breakdown factor, mechanically cranky and minimally maneuverable. In short all it really needs to be is a slightly mobile pillbox to blow up its non-tigerite adversaries and then await it's chance to "feed" on the enemy infantry now bereft of its own tanks. The infantry are needed simply to keep enemy infantry away from this pillbox. That is, the player desiring this is NOT gaming the points system, he's ignoring it, relying instead on his estimation and experience of the rules which favor the weapon, and that is that.

Archeopteryx Inactive Member29 Mar 2013 6:56 p.m. PST

Space for the player. If the game is oh so finely balanced points wise, it will become a slugging match of one sort or another. Make the forces less of the issue, and put more heft on the commanders… then the game becomes a test of skill.

basileus66 Inactive Member31 Mar 2013 2:17 a.m. PST

Point systems are useful, because not all the gamers have the luxury to spend their time (or the skills required to) researching in depth the nuances of their armies of choice. So, gamers take a leap of faith and assume that the designers will have made the work for them, and came up with a point system that will allow them to model their army with a certain historical accuracy while, at the same time, the resulting game will have a certain balance that will allow for an interesting match. Of course, that both propositions would be true, would depend on how good would be the research and mathematics skills of the designers.

John Thomas831 Mar 2013 3:30 a.m. PST

Points don't ensure balance. Balance doesn't ensure a good game.

Reasonable victory conditions for the forces in use do far more to make a playable, "balanced" game.

basileus66 Inactive Member31 Mar 2013 5:09 a.m. PST

Indeed, John. I agree with you… but most players won't. What they want is something that gives them the illusion of fair-play and balance. Maybe there are some systems that are so well designed that they actually achieve that goal, but to be honest I haven't came across of any of those yet.

UshCha08 Apr 2013 2:25 a.m. PST

One of the bizzare bits of points systems (apart from a few) is that they create encounter games. Most battles are attack/defence games where one side is not interested in terrain but overcomming the enemy. In other cases the aim is to lose but create time for the defender to deploy a stop line. Few of these are ever covered in "point system" games.

Certainly points systems are not condusive to simulation and simulation is only ever and deliberately so an approximation of reality which though wrong is usefull.

I play to try and understand a bit about how wars as fought and why. Points systems are a definite negative to this aspect of gameing.

Zelekendel Inactive Member08 Apr 2013 8:54 a.m. PST

Even though well-made scenarios make the best games, it's not quick or easy for most people to create a well-made scenario on the spot.

Points serve as a guideline in scenario creation. If you want to quickly guesstimate the fighting values of asymmetric forces and tool the scenario objectives accordingly, having the points around usually help, when it's tempered by your own judgement.

As for pick up games with strangers, they give you a guesstimation of possibly relatively even forces in a standard battlefield situation. Sometimes the points are off on units, sometimes certain units are worth less in a certain kind of battle, but that's all part and parcel of the unfairness of war that happens in set scenarios, too.

Complaining that points are supposed to bring perfect balance, but they can't, is not an argument against points. It's simply confusing what points do and don't do.

John Thomas809 Apr 2013 6:17 p.m. PST

You. Do. Not. Need. Balanced. Forces. To. Play. A. Good. Miniatures. Game.

You need obtainable victory conditions for each side. That's it.

If you're going to go through the cost, time and effort to buy and paint forces, making their time on the table worthwhile by setting an appropriate scene should be worth a little bit of effort, right?

Zelekendel Inactive Member09 Apr 2013 6:43 p.m. PST

I hope you were not spelling that out for my benefit, as that would mean you did not fully read or understand my last post(s) where I lay out that scenarios without points are usually the ones I like best.

For my custom rules, like the Epic WW2 conversion, I leave out the points altogether, as well.

John Thomas809 Apr 2013 6:46 p.m. PST

It was stated in general.

I'd name the poster by name if I thought about responding to a specific poster.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.