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12 Aug 2016 10:39 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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4,135 hits since 16 Feb 2016
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian16 Feb 2016 12:23 p.m. PST

Writing on the Game Design forum at TMP, thehawk said:

The best hope for improving games design is to improve the knowledge of systems modelling and design techniques amongst the games design community.

I'm not saying that they need to design games using professional techniques, but just become more aware of the way warfare works as a system.

There is space for hard (mathematical) and soft (non-mathematical) mechanisms in the same game. It's not a one or the other choice.

Kriegspiel used soft techniques over 100 years ago in the form of umpires using 'seat of the pants' methods to assess situations. One benefit is the uncertainty that a soft model produces in the mind of the player. The player can't assess the odds, but just respond to inputs from the umpire.

The Perfect Captain's WOTR game design immerses the player in an historical environment via it's use of historical terminology and concepts. This is another soft (non-mathematical) technique.

I don't play many commercial products but if anything, I think wargaming is moving more towards toy gaming than an adult hobby. It should be going the other way, for example by looking at warfare using modern design techniques.

Do you agree or disagree?

Yesthatphil16 Feb 2016 12:41 p.m. PST

That's a pretty generalised series of points but I presume it is the last paragraph you are particularly looking at ..

I think wargaming is moving more towards toy gaming than an adult hobby. It should be going the other way, for example by looking at warfare using modern design techniques.

So … yes, some trends within the more commercial game sector are moving towards the toy game, perhaps, but there is probably more looking at warfare using modern design techniques than ever before in the historical/innovative/WD and related sector.

As usual, it very much depends who you wargame with, which events you attend and which publications you read.

Phil

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 12:41 p.m. PST

The real problems with that approach are the complexity of the model that you would be likely to produce and, for earlier eras, the need to use imperfect 'rules' assumed from limited information.

I'm not sure that wargaming is " .. moving more towards toy gaming than an adult hobby." but it is definitely broadening out into areas that would, in the psst, not really have been thought of as wargaming per se.

For me there has to be an historical anchor to whatever I'm playing. I'm happy to shift and modify the actual history (emphasis sometimes on Story – e.g. VBCW) but not cut the anchor chain.

The wider spread of skirmish gaming (defined for me as one figure represents one warrior) into fictional arenas beyond the 'traditional' fantasy and 'hard' SciFi is very noticeable even though it has no interest for me.

wminsing16 Feb 2016 12:49 p.m. PST

I guess you'd need to explain toy gaming vs. adult hobby to me before I could pass judgement.

-Will

PiersBrand16 Feb 2016 12:49 p.m. PST

Toy gaming?

Well they are toy soldiers…

McKinstry Fezian16 Feb 2016 1:13 p.m. PST

I suspect the core issue not being identified except obliquely is the game versus simulation, fun trumps detail, "historical accuracy" sacrificed for simplicity and speed that we periodically debate.

Sharpe5216 Feb 2016 1:17 p.m. PST

If you look at the old rules such as Donald Feathersone's ones you notice that there was a lot of historical research but the mechanism of rules were quite simple.
In my opinion commercial rules are going where customers ask i.e. simple rules, easy to play, fast enough for an evening game and above all: fun!
Marco

PJ ONeill16 Feb 2016 1:33 p.m. PST

I agree with the OP, but I think a major influence on the more streamlined, abstract and simple rules of today is a reaction against the detailed, maybe more accurate but definitely tedious rules of the '70s and '80s

BuckeyeBob16 Feb 2016 1:41 p.m. PST

>>>>I don't play many commercial products….

then how do you know what the commercial rule sets are moving towards? I don't even bother with responding to Opinions like his when he has no basis for saying what he does.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 1:47 p.m. PST

Using systems design principles does not necessarily lead to a game with more details. Games with lots of details were not necessarily designed from a systems point of view.

All a systems design and modeling approach requires is that when you tell the players to do something, you first think through how that interacts with everything else you have already told the players to do.

As the quoted portion says, mathematical modeling techniques are not necessary for this approach. The more moving parts (mathematical or non-mathematical) you have in the game, the more mathematical modeling techniques will help you design the game.

Per wminsing, until I know what an "adult hobby" is as opposed to "toy gaming", I really can't comment on the rest.

Who asked this joker16 Feb 2016 1:50 p.m. PST

Disagree.

Doug MSC Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 2:30 p.m. PST

Some people like simple rules and some like a more intricate
rule system. As my grandpa used to say, "to each his own." As long as you enjoy the "GAME".

Who asked this joker16 Feb 2016 3:05 p.m. PST

I agree with Doug MSC. I am in the hobby to play with toy soldiers using simple wargame rules. The strategy and tactics are far, far more important than actual "modeling" of warfare.

Capture the salient points? Yes. Grind it all down to casualty rates and "realistic" move sequences? No thanks.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 3:18 p.m. PST

I don't play many commercial products but if anything, I think wargaming is moving more towards toy gaming than an adult hobby. It should be going the other way, for example by looking at warfare using modern design techniques.

I've always wondered about the wargaming hobby, if only because it seems to ignore or remain unaware of some of the basic organizing of most other hobbies.

For instance. The RC airplane hobby includes those folks who buy an out-of-the-box plane and fly on the odd weekend as will as those hard-core modelers who count and reproduce every rivet and dial on the instrument panel in their model P-51.

The one thing you don't see with RC modelers is a debate of 'where the hobby is going' between those two points on the hobby continuum. Both are part of the same hobby and always have been.

So, where would you find most RC modelers, particularly when it is obvious where ALL RC enthusiasts will start in the hobby.

There is an influx of new wargamers at the moment. They want 'introductory games.' All the experienced gamers see many of the 'simple games' as childish compared to what they play. Often, wargamers themselves don't help. I saw one old wargamer at a convention speak to a teenager who had been involved in a Warhammer game with *gasp* unpainted figures. The old wargamer's table was gorgeous, terrain and figures superb. He said to the teenager, "Why don't you come over and play a real wargame?" The teenager left and didn't return. I can imagine he was overwhelmed thinking of trying to collect and paint and lay out 'the real wargame.'

Hobbies have obvious introduction points of entry into the hobby that ours doesn't. It makes it relatively inaccessible in comparison. We need those simple games.

Those wargamers enamored of "Blucher" now may stay with such simple wargames for the rest of their hobby tenure. Others won't, but move on to deeper wargaming experiences.

Both are part of the same hobby and the groups playing the simpler games will always outnumber the grognards. That's the way it is in every hobby.

Tony S16 Feb 2016 3:33 p.m. PST

Don't forget that simple does not necessarily mean simplistic. Blucher is indeed simple, yet I would argue is much "deeper" than any other ruleset that purports to be of the same level. Depends how you define "deeper". If deeper is pages and pages of rules attempting to simulate warfare, then it is not. if "deeper" makes you feel like you are commanding a multi-corps Napoleonic army, then yes, it is deeper.

Chain of Command is simple, yet real world tactics are rewarded. Bolt Action is simple, yet it is "toy soldiers". Fun yes, but really does not give anyone an idea about WW2 tactical platoon warfare.

The designer of Chain of Command has stated that he quite deliberately kept the rules simple, so as not to get in the way of tactics. That philosophy, to me, is a mark of a "deeper" game.

But damn, it is indeed hard to write a simple set of rules that accurately reflect a period.

Garth in the Park16 Feb 2016 3:46 p.m. PST

In my opinion commercial rules are going where customers ask i.e. simple rules, easy to play, fast enough for an evening game and above all: fun!

Definitely. It is a free marketplace, after all. The people speak with their wallets.

Those wargamers enamored of "Blucher" now may stay with such simple wargames

My copy is about 180 pages long. Did you buy the "simple" version?

Anybody who thinks that a game of that length is "simple" is probably not in a good position to wax philosophical about trends in the hobby.

"I guess you'd need to explain toy gaming vs. adult hobby to me before I could pass judgement."

Indeed. If bass fishing is an adult hobby, but tabletop gaming isn't, then I'd like to know why.

It's crazy to hear people in a small aging hobby like tabletop historical games coming up with reasons to make it even smaller and more exclusive by moving away from the very people we should be trying to recruit: new, young people.

Personal logo Private Matter Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 3:57 p.m. PST

+1 McLaddie

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 4:03 p.m. PST

Honestly, I feel as if his argument is a bit off. Modern designers are certainly using modern professional game design techniques to appeal to wider audiences. Therein lies the rub as modern designers work very hard to create game systems that audiences will buy. What makes a successful set of game mechanics doesn't necessarily mesh with what would make a great warfare simulation. It doesn't have to be that way, but it's certainly a complex task.

Since he goes on about making a professional and modern design of warfare as a system, then I have to assume that his beef is directed at those designers who are very successful at getting people to buy and enjoy their games but who prefer systems that are well crafted games first and deep warfare systems second.

"I don't play many commercial products…"

And there is the reason why a game designer who realizes that this is a business should probably not listen to your arguments. Let's say there were literally dozens of systems out there that do what you ask- would you buy them?

The customer votes with their wallet. The original poster is hoping that his own preferences are the norm. He probably believes that there is a vastly undeserved audience just like him. That's the beauty of a free market- if you are right, it's a business opportunity. If you are wrong, or unwilling to give it a go, then like the eternal question of 'How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop?' the world may never know.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2016 4:36 p.m. PST

Don't forget that simple does not necessarily mean simplistic. Blucher is indeed simple, yet I would argue is much "deeper" than any other ruleset that purports to be of the same level. Depends how you define "deeper". If deeper is pages and pages of rules attempting to simulate warfare, then it is not. if "deeper" makes you feel like you are commanding a multi-corps Napoleonic army, then yes, it is deeper.

Tony:
I agree IF and only IF we have some technical definition of what makes a 'deeper' ruleset… and it can't be determined by someone's 'feelings', not if we are talking wargame design. For instance, you make the distinction:

Chain of Command is simple, yet real world tactics are rewarded. Bolt Action is simple, yet it is "toy soldiers". Fun yes, but really does not give anyone an idea about WW2 tactical platoon warfare.

Would the designers and players of BA agree with you? If CoC is 'deeper' than BA, but both are simple, what is the distinction? Can anyone see it, or is it just a matter of personal preference?

The designer of Chain of Command has stated that he quite deliberately kept the rules simple, so as not to get in the way of tactics. That philosophy, to me, is a mark of a "deeper" game.

Wait. Why can't BA's designers say that? Or have the same philosophy? Is ability to use historical tactics what makes the game 'deeper' or the KISS philosophy?

In saying that, I do agree that CnC is by far the better simulation of small unit warfare. One of the ways I know that rather than just have a feeling, is that Rich C. detailed historical combat tactics for WWII and his design in several blogs. When the BA folks do it, they always use vague similes.

But damn, it is indeed hard to write a simple set of rules that accurately reflect a period.

It sure is, which is why so few designers attempt it and many wargame designers don't really try. Even identifying that effort is confusing. For instance, the designer of Blucher has stated in a number of places, including TMP that there is nothing historical about wargames and we aren't simulating anything but "pushing little lead figures around on a table." [And now cards.]

So if that is his philosophy, how deep can Blucher possibly be? Why would I even look for 'depth' if it 'feels' like Napoleonic command regardless? [Which is one of the designer's arguments against trying.] The same is true of BA.

I continue to think that one major step in improving game design for the hobby is to get on some of the same technical pages when talking about game design like the greater game design community.

Part of that would to recognize the difference between 'introductory' wargames and deeper design efforts. They both have a place in the hobby.

Ottoathome16 Feb 2016 4:44 p.m. PST

Improving game design is simple. It's called a red pen.

Whatever you period, time or frame of reference, your task is simple. Determine the entry point of the gamer in the game, and make up the rules and the game to present to him the real-life choices he will be faced with at that entry point. If he's a platoon leader, realize that Sgt. Rock will not be required to order troops three miles away what to do and no one is going to come to him to ask him if he should move up the reserves.

If you are the commander of a wing of the army (left, right, or center) no one is going to inspect his backpack and see if he has extra ammo in there instead of silk stockings and chocolate for the Mademoiselles and Frauleins. At that level individual unit formations are completely irrelevant.

Chop out anything not pertinent to the supposed role of the player as commander. Any old five pages of rules will do for that.

But that's not something you can charge someone $100 USD plus to snooker them into thinking they're Napoleon. If a gamer really was a Napoleon, he wouldn't need rules like "All French are +3 in everything.

So do you REALLY believe that biology has determined that a Frenchman is 50% better as a human being in war than anyone else?

PiersBrand16 Feb 2016 6:19 p.m. PST

I like pushing figures round tables… its fun.

Fun… I like fun.

I like it far more than an 'adult hobby' with 'modern design', whatever that is… Sounds best indulged between consenting adults.

I always think its best, in a hobby with such personal taste as this one, to extoll the virtues of your preferred means of persuing the hobby without demeaning the other ways people like to persue it. Your taste may not always be right for everyone else… and vice versa.

Who asked this joker16 Feb 2016 6:19 p.m. PST

If you have a 180 page rule book and 90 of them are actual rules, you may not have a simple wargame.

If you have a series of ten 15 minute videos explaining how the game works, you may not have a simple wargame.

If it takes more than 10 minutes at a convention to explain to your group how to play, you may not have a simple wargame.

Credits to Jeff Foxworthy for the format. grin

Tony S16 Feb 2016 8:32 p.m. PST

Excellent points McLaddie. The sticking point is indeed the definition of "deeper". For the lack of anything more concrete, I'm defaulting to "feel". An entirely subjective, completely personal definition to be sure.

If I feel immersed in the game, and it "felt" (sorry, more subjectiveness!) accurate based on my own personal biases and research and opinions, then it is deeper to me. Length of rules make no difference; in fact I'll argue the more rules the more dirt and minutiae contained therein, and the less likely I'll get an historically accurate feel. More probably I'll just get a headache and frustration from constantly looking up rules instead of playing.

Would the designers and players of BA agree with you? If CoC is 'deeper' than BA, but both are simple, what is the distinction? Can anyone see it, or is it just a matter of personal preference?

Sure, I'll admit a modicum of personal preference, but given both games have the same ground scale, how can one explain that in BA rifles have a scale range of 40 yards? In CoC, rifles can cover the entire table (~ scale 200 yards). Or that in WW2 platoons would – by and large – break into two teams, one of fire and one of maneuver. Can't do that in BA, so historical tactics are impossible.

I think anyone can easily see that, as both sets of rules are extremely clear in stating such things. Do such things mean a game is "deeper"? To me, yes.

Wait. Why can't BA's designers say that? Or have the same philosophy? Is ability to use historical tactics what makes the game 'deeper' or the KISS philosophy?

I did not state that simple is the only definition of deeper. I just stated that it is a mark of it. I don't think deeper is a simple binary yes/no question. A checklist might be more appropriate. So, yup – in my example both CoC and BA get the tick for simple. But in my estimation CoC also gets a tick for accuracy.

Then again, are you saying that "deeper" is a mark of replay value, of infinite strategies, with no single unbeatable game breaking rules tactic?

I have great respect for Sam Mustafa, the designer of Blucher, and I've heard his comments about "toy soldiers". Naturally, since that is ultimately what we are doing, it is difficult to refute that. At the end of the day, we are not seeking scholarly insight in the Frederickian method of warfare, nor kriegspieling a potential attack on Midway to hone our battle plans. We are merely seeking a good time with good friends in a enjoyable mental contest.

There have been other designers in the past that have bragged about the historical accuracy of their designs, and their detailed and painstaking research to create army lists. (Mustafa's comments in Aurelian about the Palmyrans are quite revealing with respect to that). I'm thinking he does not want to fall into that arrogant trap.

And yet, Blucher went through many, many revisions before it saw the light of day. I'm sure many of those games were quite good…but in Prof Mustafa's opinion they did not feel like the subject matter he was trying to emulate.

Another important hallmark to me, of that elusive historical "feel" is comparing my tabletop battles to first person accounts of that period or battle. If it happened in real life, any ruleset where that could happen gets positive marks in my book. Conversely, if an action in real life could NOT ever happen on the table, it gets a black mark. (Like a WW2 rifle round travelling only forty yards).

I've read many accounts of Napoleon's brilliance, not on the battlefield, but rather his ability to outmarch and outmaneuver his opponents in the days and weeks before the day of battle. Which Blucher somewhat uniquely covers the little campaign map game. Or the Napoleonic timing – at just the right time the reserves are released for the masse de rupture, which I think Blucher handles beautifully.

Or perhaps his "Maurice" set of rules. I've heard a lot of people complain about the "magic marsh" card. If they've ever read an account of a SYW battle, I think they'd find terrain was a constant surprise to the generals in charge. "That's not on the map" is a great card!

I'd also argue that a simple wargame might not necessarily be a good introductory wargame. Having gamed for forty years, and played and read a huge variety of rules, what I regard as "simple" for a grognard might not be easy to grasp for a new player, simply because there is little that is new under the wargaming sun, and I've encountered a lot of different mechanisms over the years. I think CoC is simple as BA, but I have evidence to the contrary.

In our little group, a couple of younger players tried both CoC and Bolt Action, and have ended up playing BA exclusively. The only other wargame experience they've really had has been GW and its close cousin, Flames of War. To them, BA is nigh on revolutionary with its activation system. The CoC activation system, the jump off points, the tank hunters…too far from the pale and they found it confusing. They also lack the rest of our group's historical knowledge about WW2. (I've refrained from mentioning some of their more egregious uniform painting errors, although I do admit I balked a bit when one of them showed up with a Churchill AVRE for a 1940 game in France).

But they are having fun! So I bite my lip and don't demean their choice of rules.

I continue to think that one major step in improving game design for the hobby is to get on some of the same technical pages

Laudable, but that might be difficult. I certainly cannot definitely classify "deeper" or "feel" clearly enough to put it down on paper, and I suspect you might also be struggling to define such terms as well?

The best I can do is say that I know it when I see it, on an individual case by case basis. Even worse, I have found that my tastes have changed over the years. Upon occasion I've dusted off old rules I used to like…and discovered that they are – to the current me – dreadful.

So I absolutely agree with PiersBrand. I try not to ever demean someone without my exquisite taste in wargame rules. grin

(Phil Dutre)17 Feb 2016 12:43 a.m. PST

In the end, it depends on what the goal is of miniature wargaming.

*miniature* wargaming as a medium has its limits and constraints. I think there are better means available today to train military officers or to simulate or study military decision-making. It's not as if military academies or academic departments still have heaps of toy soldiers lying around to study military operations.

Hobby wargaming is what we do. Hobby wargaming originated 100 years ago, and although we are a cousin of the kriegsspiels of the 19th century, we should not claim that still is the case today.

So, accept that we are playing a game to have fun. Rules should be designed towards that goal, having a good game. Whether that game is a close mimicry of an actual battle is of lesser importance. Our games are inspired by military history, but they are not military history. Our games with toy soldiers stopped being training tools over 100 years ago. Let's not pretend they still are.

Perhaps some day someone will succeed in making a game that perfectly reflects historical tactics and decision making, that gives players insights in how a military staff works, that is visually appealing, that plays fast and is fun, that is a challenge both as a game and as a study in military history.
For now, I am happy if a game hits the right buttons for one of these things.

But I do agree that in order to design better wargames, one is far better off by study games design rather than military history. The avant-garde in games design is not to be found in miniature wargaming these days, that status was lost in the 70s when roleplaying split off. There's nothing wrong with that, but we have to accept that clever games design ideas are now to be found in other gaming niches.

Wolfhag17 Feb 2016 6:48 a.m. PST

I think Bolt Action gets the nod from many new players is because the command dice give a good "feel" to the game and is intuitive. It also gives them a chance to make a decision. It uses the D6 dice in a way for players to understand shooting and defending. However, the more real military experience you have and read up on military history you see where the game is lacking. It's a good entry into gaming and a reason that many game shops like carrying it.

Much of the "feel" for any game is at what level of command you allow the player to control. It appears to me for most new players they like the lower level games where you can control single vehicles and troops. It's something they can more easily identify with. These are the games that are most popular at conventions and the 28mm scales give the best visual effects and attracts the most players at a convention.

A game that tells a player he's a Company Commander but allows the player to have each figure fire individually at enemy targets may not be "realistic" as a Company Commander would not control that action. However, it is something that players like and contributes to the "fun". That's something you have to keep in mind when designing the game.

I think one of the challenges for designers is where to balance that realism with what players want and what is fun for them. It seems like some of the new activation methods are interesting and fun for players and generates some randomness and fog of war. However, for me using dice and cards to tell me what I can and can't do takes away a lot of the feel of the game. I totally agree a unit is not going to perform exactly how the player wants but randomness plays only a small part. I'm sure some people will disagree, that's OK.

I went back to the drawing board to develop a game that gives the players a chance to control a tank crew engaging and firing at targets or an infantry platoon maneuvering and firing. That's the sweet spot for me. Rather than a traditional turn sequence or unit activation a player can issue an order but battlefield friction, suppression and weapon platform limitations determine how successful it will be by how long it will take to engage and shoot at a target.

At conventions I take 10 minutes to explain the game concepts and how to play the game. It takes about 30-45 minutes for players to adapt to the game system, especially veteran players. You can't sit around waiting for your turn to do something. You need to watch what the enemy is doing. As soon as enemy units come into LOS of each other they both make a "Situational Awareness Check" to engage. The "Time & Action" will determine who gets the first shot off. If you are hitting his flanks it will take him longer to respond. Over watching the area the enemy enters will decrease reaction time. There are no special over watch or opportunity fire rules needed.

Using the concept of "Situational Awareness" for how effective you can detect and act upon enemy threats and "Time & Action" to determine how effectively and quickly you respond can be used for almost any low level skirmish, man-man or vehicle-vehicle combat in any time period.

Wolfhag

McKinstry Fezian17 Feb 2016 7:28 a.m. PST

+1 Phil. I think the term hobby war games is quite descriptive. After all is said and done, it will never be more than toy soldiers.

As has been said, it is a big tent hobby covering a wide expanse of rules preferences and from the most minutiae laden rules set to the old classic 3x5 card, something for everyone and far be it for me or anyone else to denegrate how someone else chooses to have fun or how any set creates a 'feel' for them.

That said I do think we delude ourselves if we ever think we can leave the game concept entirely and approach true simulation. Approximation to match plausible outcomes and processes is and has been many times, achieved within the realm of a fun game. It may be just me but I do not believe true simulation can even be achieved as a game but that may be just my scars from playing modern naval games in the 1980's with turns measured in seconds, ships that moved barely their own length and multiple die rolls for each and every EW interaction. It may have been a decent simulation with plausible outcomes, it was not in any way, shape or form fun.

RudyNelson17 Feb 2016 7:57 a.m. PST

A system needs to be reflective of the era and command level being covered even if there may be perceived flaws.

As designers and even rule player lawyers who like to check all systems tend to overlook a key element of the design system.

Not all input factors can be controlled by the designer. A player may alter how a system reacts when played by making poor command decisions. This may happen in a number of ways. Sometimes it may be the lack of using era style tactics due to not knowing them or just not wanting to use them.

So how complicated and restrictive does the designer make certain guidelines to force a player to do or react in certain ays?

MajorB17 Feb 2016 7:58 a.m. PST

Perhaps some day someone will succeed in making a game that perfectly reflects historical tactics and decision making, that gives players insights in how a military staff works, that is visually appealing, that plays fast and is fun, that is a challenge both as a game and as a study in military history.

Seems the military have started using Matrix Games (originally designed as a "hobby wargame") for training purposes:
link

McKinstry Fezian17 Feb 2016 11:31 a.m. PST

I don't think that is the same Matrix Games known as a fairly popular wargames provider?

matrixgames.com

Weasel17 Feb 2016 12:47 p.m. PST

A good game, in my view, is one that picks out one or two factors to really nail down, while the rest is functional enough.

Crossfire has a fantastic turn sequence, while the combat is functional and the tank rules are a common course of discontent, for example.

But when people talk about why Crossfire is good, they aren't talking about tanks, they're talking about how it emphasizes intiative and risk taking. Thats Crossfire's "thing" so to speak.

Some games have a "thing" that isn't what you want in a game, while others will match it perfectly.

Sometimes the "thing" is just putting a lot of toys on the table :)

Lee Brilleaux Fezian17 Feb 2016 12:55 p.m. PST

I note that McLaddie continues his tedious campaign against 'the designer of Blucher'. The designer in question, Sam Mustafa, left TMP some while ago, and is not at all interested in McLaddie's views.

I suggest we might follow his lead in the matter.

Yesthatphil17 Feb 2016 5:06 p.m. PST

+1 Phil. I think the term hobby war games is quite descriptive. After all is said and done, it will never be more than toy soldiers.

… or as Brig Peter Young put it in the excellent introduction to Charge! the amateur wargame (which he contrasts with the professional wargame which is what soldiers – including those Prussian generals – do) ..

I prefer amateur because for me wargaming is too tightly meshed to my work as a military historian and battlefield trustee to be entirely a hobby. But, by and large, we mean the same thing wink

+1 to MajorB's comment about matrix games … the professional game has long inspired the amateur game but it is clear that there is two way traffic.

Phil

Bob the Temple Builder18 Feb 2016 4:43 a.m. PST

The matrix games used by the military are a development of an idea first put forward by Chris Engle. The concept was then taken forward in the UK by Tom Mouat and other members of Wargame Developments, and have now been adopted as a useful tool by military wargame designers.

Matrix Games are a commercial enterprise that came along after Chris Engle came up with his initial idea, and have no connection with the game mechanism used by the military wargame designers.

daler240D18 Feb 2016 5:32 a.m. PST

disagree. It is a fallacious(and pretentious) false dichotomy. The thesis is also completely lacking in defining any of it's terms: "systems modelling and design techniques"
and "the way warfare works as a system". This sounds like typical social scientist jargon and is further evidence of the disconnect certain people have with telling the difference between the quantifiable and the sliding scale towards the ineffable.

Ottoathome18 Feb 2016 7:11 a.m. PST

dear daler240D

Agree with your disagreement. "Wargame Design" for private gaming for pleasure is like "dialectical materialism" of he Socialists, or "Deconstructionism" of the post modernists, or "simulation" to the game designers. Once you've mastered the patois you know it all, the rest is rubbish. All entities seek to create an "insider" jargon so as to convince the uninitiated there is something scientific, arcane and holy about what they are doing.

You daler, are correct. They DARE not define these items in any but even more arcane and obscuritanist language, for if they do it will be seen there is nothing but the patois and the rest is all rubbish they've filched from Wells, Featherstone, Young, Grant, et all.

Weasel18 Feb 2016 8:34 a.m. PST

But the toying of soldiers is very important :)

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Feb 2016 11:20 a.m. PST

"True simulation" and the training of military personnel were never reasonable goals for a hobby wargame design. A historical wargame design can (and should) be informed by scholarship, but they are not scholarly works. They are, and will always remain, more art than science. Still, they can inform and enlighten; I have seen it happen, and I completely disregard the arguments of those who claim that it is impossible.

Attempting to impose objective standards and parameters on wargame design makes no more sense than doing so for a historical novel, a historical painting, or a historical movie. While there are certainly aspects of these things that can be subjected to objective analysis (like execution, or presentation, or how far the creator departs from what we know of history in telling his story), in the end all that matters is how their effectiveness is judged by their intended audience. (Note the very deliberate use of the work "intended"; how a work is received by those for whom it was not intended is beyond irrelevant.)

The call for "professionalism" embodied in the OP's quote can't really be extended beyond the designer's honesty; that is, how closely his work conforms to his purpose, whether explicitly stated or merely implied. End users should be wary of the work of any designer who, for example, claims that it is "simple" or "fast play" but runs to 100+ pages; or one who chooses a historical subject, but then includes elements which are blatantly incorrect.

Garth in the Park18 Feb 2016 11:30 a.m. PST

"one who chooses a historical subject, but then includes elements which are blatantly incorrect."

But how often does that really happen? I mean, it's not as if people have games about Caesar with Panther tanks and helicopters.

Most of the time this is splitting-hair stuff, like somebody who is mad that the game doesn't differentiate between the 3.2" (1854 model) Snodgrass cannon and the 3.4" (1858 model) Rifled Snodgrass. For one gamer, neglecting that sort of detail is "blatantly incorrect." For another (and obviously for the designer), it doesn't matter at all.

Who is right? What's the "objective" correct or "historical" way to do it? These are matters of taste and preference, not hard science.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Feb 2016 12:45 p.m. PST

No, Garth, it's not all a matter of taste.

I wasn't referring to nit-picky differences of opinion about the performance of roughly equivalent weapons, or varying preferences of gamers about what a design should or should not include. These are, indeed, matters of opinion.

Without going through a pile of rulebooks and compiling a list of examples, I can think of a couple recent Age of Sail rulesets that included such things as sailing ships being able to move directly into the wind, and being able to make physically impossible moves in order to avoid collisions, and first rate ships being given damage capabilities only three times that of ships with one fifth the number of guns and only one tenth the broadside weight. Such things are not a matter of preference, but an indication of an embarrassing lack of familiarity with the subject matter.

If a game designer wanted to include such features in his game, he would be perfectly justified if his game was set in a fictional world in which such things were possible, but to include them in a game which is touted as representing historical events is at best sloppy, and at worst dishonest.

Garth in the Park18 Feb 2016 2:00 p.m. PST

" first rate ships being given damage capabilities only three times that of ships with one fifth the number of guns and only one tenth the broadside weight. Such things are not a matter of preference, but an indication of an embarrassing lack of familiarity with the subject matter."

Or perhaps he's using "damage capabilities" in a way that's different from what you're used to. Historical sailing ships didn't have a single numerical rating for "damage." Actual damage was a complex thing that involved many factors, chance, the types of weapons hitting the ship, the locations of those hits, and so on. Giving a "damage rating" is itself a total fiction.

They probably arrived at the numbers they used due to a lot of playtesting and experimenting with what worked and what didn't. I've seen a lot of people scoff at games after a quick look at some of their charts or numbers, and judge them without playing them.

A lot of guys were mad at Flames of War for their "sliding scale" weapon ranges. If you take them literally, then a 105mm Howitzer has a bombardment range that is about five times the range of an infantryman's rifle, which is absurd. But for the tens of thousands of people who played and loved that game, that didn't matter.

These are indeed matters of taste and opinion. I played a lot of FoW when it came out, and Yes, I know what the range of an artillery piece is. But… So what. The game works for me, and for a lot of people. I didn't need it to be some scale-true literal representation.

"to include them in a game which is touted as representing historical events is at best sloppy, and at worst dishonest."

Do you really think that the FoW artillery ranges were created either due to ignorance of actual weapon ranges, or due to deliberate dishonesty?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2016 6:03 p.m. PST

Tony:

Thank you for your responses. There is a lot you write that I agree with. For instance, Sam Mustafa has done any number of things worthy of respect, and I have said so any number of times in different venues. I certainly wasn't criticizing Blucher.

I haven't played Blucher so I have no 'feelings' about it one way or the other. Certainly, there are those who enjoy the rules set for the same reasons that you gave. I have friends in that group. No criticism of any of that.

I reiterated Sam's philosophy of game design, which you are aware of, not to criticize it, but for one reason and one reason only-- to point out:

You ascribed qualities to Blucher in regards to depth and portraying historical tactics [or grand tactics] that Sam has been quite forthright in insisting aren't possible with wargame design. Both you and Sam are welcome to your opinions, but if we are discussing how to design wargames, you have to admit there is a serious disconnect here.

Other gamers on TMP have stated similar kinds of things. For instance, some see Blucher as a better simulation than some other wargame when the designer himself states categorically--wargames can't be simulations. It is sort of like praising a car for being a better than average self-driving vehicle, when the designer himself insists that creating such a car is not possible and certainly not desirable. Again, it isn't about whether the car is possible, but why such a disconnect exists.

Certainly, this kind of player vs designer design disconnect isn't unique to Blucher. That was one example you provided of simple and deep. Your description/experience of CoC is far more in sync with what the designer intended and believes is possible, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.

The reverse of this disconnect is just as common. The designer states that his rule set is historical accurate and simulates battles, where the players say it isn't possible even when it ‘feels right.'

We all play wargames for fun. "duh!" And from even a cursory look at the TMP threads, gamers seek different kinds of fun from the same wargame experience. All to the good and self-evident, I would think.

Which means that wargames can be and are designed for different reasons and target different kinds of fun. I play wargames that I enjoy and avoid those that I don't like. I would imagine that is how most wargamers choose what to play.

But we are talking wargame design. In other words, asking how to create wargames that gamers--myself and others--enjoy. How does a game system and mechanics create the immersion you've experienced and what makes a game succeed in modeling something of war?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2016 6:47 p.m. PST

I note that McLaddie continues his tedious campaign against 'the designer of Blucher'. The designer in question, Sam Mustafa, left TMP some while ago, and is not at all interested in McLaddie's views.

Howard:

In this thread I have:

1. Basically quoted Sam in his views on game design without any critique. How is that 'continuing a campaign against him?'

2. Said that Blucher is simple and is a great game for introducing players to wargaming. Sam has said the same thing. How is that 'continuing a campaign against him?'

3. Noted that Tony had attributed qualities in playing Blucher that Sam as stated in a number of places--including the rules--aren't possible with a game. How is that continuing a campaign against him?'

4. Not introduced Blucher to the discussion… Tony did, so I used his design example.

If simply repeating what Sam has publically stated enumerable times--in a design context--is continuing some campaign against him and his games, then you might want to rethink how such a campaign could possibly work.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Feb 2016 4:43 a.m. PST

Or perhaps he's using "damage capabilities" in a way that's different from what you're used to. Historical sailing ships didn't have a single numerical rating for "damage."

Actually, they did. The professionals that spent their careers in sailing men-of-war universally accepted the weight of a ship's broadside as a meaningful measure of its ability to damage an opponent. A designer who ignores this is creating a game, but it is not a historical wargame.

I'm not sure what your point was in asserting the broad acceptance of Flames of War among people to whom its anti-historical absurdities don't matter. A game's popularity has nothing to do with its conformity to the historical record. In any case, Flames of War is not a good example of the type of game to which I was referring (i.e., one whose purpose is to represent historical events) since its designers purposefully distorted history in order to produce a playable game that happens to use historical miniatures as playing pieces. That is neither ignorant nor dishonest, but it is, in my opinion, rather frivolous and disrespectful. Unlike those "tens of thousands", the history matters to me, and designers who disrespect the history will get no respect from me.

Ultimately, whether a game is enjoyable is indeed a matter of opinion. Whether a sailing ship can move directly into the wind is not a matter of opinion, and I cannot enjoy a game which allows it.

daler240D19 Feb 2016 10:40 a.m. PST

Mcladdie, respectfully, saying things like this:

"Those wargamers enamored of "Blucher" now may stay with such simple wargames for the rest of their hobby tenure. Others won't, but move on to deeper wargaming experiences."

comes across as quite condescending.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2016 11:57 a.m. PST

Mcladdie, respectfully, saying things like this:

"Those wargamers enamored of "Blucher" now may stay with such simple wargames for the rest of their hobby tenure. Others won't, but move on to deeper wargaming experiences." comes across as quite condescending.

daler240D:
Thank you for pointing it out. I wasn't thinking in those terms. As I said, I have gaming friends who enjoy Blucher and they'd never let me get away with such behavior. grin Insert 'like' or 'enjoy' for 'enamored'.

I was simply pointing out that like RC Modelers, some staying with out-of-the-box RC planes their entire hobby career and others going to more complex modeling, so will
wargamers. Neither choice is 'better' than another and all are still part of the same hobby.

From all that I hear, "Blucher" is in a number of ways an "out-of-the-box" set of rules and simpler in general. Saying so isn't a criticism, and if it was, it would be a stupid comment, because that is what Blucher was designed to be.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2016 1:04 p.m. PST

In the end, it depends on what the goal is of miniature wargaming.

Phil:

I meant to respond earlier. I agree, although I don't think you can say miniature wargaming as a hobby has a single goal anymore than you can say there is only one kind of 'fun' for every gamer.

*miniature* wargaming as a medium has its limits and constraints.

As do all wargaming mediums, including board and computer games. The trick is to know the strengths and weaknesses of each medium and your design goals.

I think there are better means available today to train military officers or to simulate or study military decision-making. It's not as if military academies or academic departments still have heaps of toy soldiers lying around to study military operations.

Actually, the military is still using 'toy soldiers' to wargame with a number of venues. The sand tables and miniatures are still in use. In fact the Rand Corporation just noted the upsurge in manual wargame use and its utility and benefits compared to computers.

Hobby wargaming is what we do. Hobby wargaming originated 100 years ago, and although we are a cousin of the kriegsspiels of the 19th century, we should not claim that still is the case today.

Uh, wouldn't that depend on the goals of wargaming, or better yet, the goals of particular designers? The amount of cross-fertilization that has occurred in the past decade has increased today between hobby wargaming and the military. Wargames, designers and design concepts are shared between the military had the commercial side. For example, Phil Sabin trains officers in the British army… and has his training designs published as commercial games.

Starting with Kriegsspiel, designed specifically to train officers, the designer was surprised to find those officers found it 'entertaining.' i.e. fun. Even so, von Muffling later insisted it was a training exercise and not a game.

The points being:
1.There is a an existing relationship between the wargaming hobby in all its facets and the military.

2. Enough wargamers, in both board and miniatures, find military-purposed wargames fun. The military on the other hand, have found fun, commercial games militarily useful enough to continue the relationship.

There is no 'should' to this. It just is because of what both groups want.

So, accept that we are playing a game to have fun. Rules should be designed towards that goal, having a good game.

Absolutely. Why would we play otherwise? Is there another reason??? The issue is that there is no one definition of 'a good game' in the hobby, let alone what makes it fun. Different strokes for different folks and all 'goals' and fun are equally good and part of the hobby. Right?

Whether that game is a close mimicry of an actual battle is of lesser importance.

To whom? Certainly there are any number of gamers that feel that way. No problem. But I know there are any number that wouldn't agree with you for a variety of reasons. It is very important to some people, and of no importance to others with every opinion in between. I don't think you can say that either as a general view or game design conclusion for the hobby.

Our games are inspired by military history, but they are not military history.

Many game designers claim to have presented military history accurately. In that, they are presenting a historical narrative; that history is being modeled. So, there are hobby games whose goal is to model that history in some way. That is more than simply being 'inspired', whatever that means in game design terms, regardless of how important or possible that goal is.

Our games with toy soldiers stopped being training tools over 100 years ago. Let's not pretend they still are.

Miniatures [toy soldiers] with rules are still being used by the military today…even sand tables. Certainly not as much as board games, but still in use because miniatures can do some things that board and computer games can't.

Perhaps some day someone will succeed in making a game that perfectly reflects historical tactics and decision making, that gives players insights in how a military staff works, that is visually appealing, that plays fast and is fun, that is a challenge both as a game and as a study in military history.

No one is ever going to make a game that *perfectly* reflects anything, let alone historical tactics and decision making. The question will always be what parts history and military tactics the designer picked to represent and how well did he succeed?

That is IF it is even a goal at all. There are popular wargames that don't reflect much of anything historical or military. And that is perfectly okay by me. Battle Cry is one such game. Borg calls it "stylized history" and I enjoy it. There is your 'inspired' by history.

However, if the designer states that players will face the same challenges and decisions as the historical commanders, that's different and beyond simple inspiration.

For now, I am happy if a game hits the right buttons for one of these things.

I agree wholeheartedly. That has always been what makes me happy.

Game design in-and-of-itself is important. The question for game designers is how to hit those 'right buttons.' IF the gamers' buttons include representing history and military tactics, that certainly complicates things.

But I do agree that in order to design better wargames, one is far better off by study games design rather than military history.

I agree…unless the designer also wants to use the game system to mimic some aspect of military history. That is the designer's choice.

The avant-garde in games design is not to be found in miniature wargaming these days, that status was lost in the 70s when roleplaying split off. There's nothing wrong with that, but we have to accept that clever games design ideas are now to be found in other gaming niches.

There are a lot of sources of clever game designs out there. There are clever design ideas in our miniature hobby too, but certainly we are that much better off expanding our horizons if improving game design is a goal.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2016 8:12 p.m. PST

Tony:
You spoke of deeper games.

I follow Lewis' blog and mentions his notion of 'deeper' games. Just FYI as an interesting view of current wargaming. He's just retired.

link

Lewis Pulsipher Lewis Pulsipher
Commercial game designer, author, game design instructor (Pulsiphergames.com)

The Future of (Tabletop) Wargames? Getting out of the wargame ghetto . . .

Fewer Significant Decisions [One part of blog]

The fundamental experiences people want in games have changed, too. People are much more interested in variety than in gameplay depth. They like lots of choices but they don't like many difficult/significant choices. They tend to rely more on intuition than logic, a reliance that's often encouraged in the schools and society ("use the Force, Luke", don't depend on the computer to aim that torpedo). So a game with lots of choices but few decisions that make a significant difference tends to be preferred to the older kind of game, where there is not only lots of choices but lots of decisions, and decisions within decisions. (I'm sorry if that's not entirely clear but my spiel about gameplay depth and other kinds of depth in games is something like 10,000 words. This will have to do.)

This trend is already enormously clear in video games. Players want to be rewarded for participation, they don't want to have to earn their rewards by making good decisions.

Hobby wargaming often involves studying the games. People don't study games much anymore, especially casual gamers. Between cheap or free video games and the proliferation of many hundreds of new tabletop games each year, people are accustomed to playing a game only a few times before they move on to the next one in a kind of "Cult of the New". I know people who have played Britannia more than 500 times, but nowadays you're going to find few newly published games that anyone will ever play 500 times, especially not one as long as Britannia.

I think wargames are still going to be a haven for people who want old-fashioned gameplay depth as opposed to simple variety, but if you want to reach a larger market you need to recognize that the number of significant decisions has to be reduced. I'm put in mind of a young lady who used to attend our university game club. At age 18 she was exceptionally intelligent and focused, and when she played games she really put her brain to work (more than most), but because she was playing games to relax she did not want to play anything like a standard wargame where you have bunches of pieces to move in each of your turns. That was far too many decisions to make. She liked tactical video games, where you have just a few characters to control. That's the kind of person who can be attracted to strategic multiplayer games that involve war, but only if they are designed to be broadly appealing.

Be sure your wargame doesn't have a player moving dozens of units every turn!

Ottoathome20 Feb 2016 3:26 a.m. PST

So what Pulsipher is saying is that war gamers are infantile, stupid, lazy, and have an huge sense of entitlement, and the attention span of hamsters.

I don't know any miniature war gamers like that. Maybe he means the people who buy his games, which are of the "Euro-game" variety.

Remember what is popular is by definition inferior.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2016 8:20 a.m. PST

So what Pulsipher is saying is that war gamers are infantile, stupid, lazy, and have an huge sense of entitlement, and the attention span of hamsters.


Really? THAT is the take away from his descriptions? This is what he wrote:

People don't study games much anymore, especially casual gamers…I think wargames are still going to be a haven for people who want old-fashioned gameplay depth as opposed to simple variety, but if you want to reach a larger market you need to recognize that the number of significant decisions has to be reduced…because she was playing games to relax she did not want to play anything like a standard wargame.

A personal preference.

Remember what is popular is by definition inferior.

I didn't know that. It does make it so much easier to evaluate games.

When the only evaluation of game design is some 'feeling', a subjective, personal preference, any description of particular game designs or a particular gaming bias is going to be seen as a *personal* attack by somebody.

That also means that any discussion about improving game design is the suggestion that someone's personal preferences 'aren't good enough' or wrong.

It means that folks expect someone to be insulted any time improving game design, doing it better, is the topic. It makes it tough to talk about game design at all.

Garth in the Park20 Feb 2016 2:53 p.m. PST

Really? THAT is the take away from his descriptions?

Yeah, basically. If I had a Loonie for every time I read some crusty old wargamer gnashing his teeth about the "kids today" and how they don't have any attention span and need instant gratification, and it's all the fault of schools and video games and probably Britney Spears or at the very least J-Lo, and how nobody appreciates the good stuff anymore like we did when we were young….. Please.

I'm old enough to remember when the cutting edge of game design was a typo-ridden 200-page monstrosity full of flowcharts and tables and uber-serious injunctions from the designer about how we're not doing this to have fun, but rather "Playing History!" so you've got a moral obligation to do it the right way!

Count me among those who think that games are a lot better now than they used to be. The writing is better, with better editing, more illustrated examples to make things clearer, and designers have forced themselves to make cleaner, simpler designs that don't require a week and a slide rule to work out.

I don't want to go back to the Good Old Days. My eyesight, patience, and leisure time aren't up to it.

"people are accustomed to playing a game only a few times before they move on to the next one in a kind of "Cult of the New". I know people who have played Britannia more than 500 times, but nowadays you're going to find few newly published games that anyone will ever play 500 times,"

That is supposed to be some sort of virtue that we've lost? That you stubbornly play the same thing over and over and never try anything new?

To each his own, but I think life is too short not to sample all the interesting new things.

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