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(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member11 Jul 2016 7:17 a.m. PST

(Copy-paste from my blog link )

On various internet forums, there's with regular intervals a discussion about the nature of fantasy wargaming. Usually the discussion starts with someone asking "What's fantasy wargaming exactly?". Then, invariably, the discussion veers off towards the following statements, also usually in this order:

- Fantasy is D&D!
- Fantasy has dragons and wizards!
- Fantasy is ancients with magic!
- Fantasy is ancients as the ancients themselves believed the world to be!
- Romans vs Aztecs is fantasy as well! (I blame DBA :-) )
- Actually, any non-historical army list is fantasy!
- If you invent your own orders of battle, it's fantasy!
- Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!
- Operation Sea Lion is fantasy!
- Any battle that did not take place in history is fantasy!
- Since we are playing with toy soldiers, it's all fantasy!
- We are all playing fantasy!
- "I'm not!"

I always get very tired of this type of discussion, and I say that as a wargamer who does both like historical and fantasy wargaming. The latest reiteration of these arguments came in one of the columns of my favourite wargaming magazine (Miniature Wargames with Battlegames #399), and I was a bit taken aback. Not because of the particular author or column in question, but because it always seems as if fantasy wargamers still have to defend themselves against the idea of not being "real wargamers".

Let me explain:

* Although I do understand people could be confused about the nature of fantasy wargaming when it gained popularity several decades ago, should we not all know by know that the "fantasy" in wargaming has the same meaning as the "fantasy" in "fantasy literature". To quote from Wikipedia:

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common.

Yet, many wargamers bend the discussion about fantasy often in the direction of a different meaning of fantasy, indicating anything that has not actually happened (see bullet list above). This is always weird – as if people do not know fantasy wargaming is based on an established literary genre. It's difficult for me to believe wargamers do not know that difference. Actually, I do think they do know, but enjoy bending the meaning to make some sort of point and cause confusion. Sci-fi wargaming, btw, does not suffer from this.

* Fantasy wargaming has been a genre in wargaming since at least the 70s with rules and figures based on Tolkien's Middle Earth – although Tony Bath fought his games back in the 50s in the imaginary continent of Hyboria, based on the Conan universe. Perhaps Bath's wargaming was not fantasy as we know it today (we would call it imaginations these days), but anyway, it's not as if fantasy wargaming is the new kid on the block. Why does fantasy wargaming still evoke such emotions? Isn't it an established genre by now?

* Fantasy wargaming became big in the 80s (Warhammer!), and many wargamers of my generation (I'm turning 50 later this year) have enjoyed fantasy wargaming tremendously as youngsters. Actually, I still like playing fantasy games, although I heve evolved beyond Warhammer. Fantasy wargaming is part of the DNA of many, by now "older" wargamers, and the Oldhammer phenomenon clearly illustrates this. I am therefore still surprised there is a faction of gamers that still want to question the validity of fantasy wargaming as being "real" wargaming.

* Usually, the sentiment is raised by historical gamers whose games are firmly rooted in historical research, and base their games on a methodological approach about the period in question. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that – I have done this myself for some of my favourite periods – but it is by itself not the "one and only true" approach to wargaming as many want others to believe. This particular brand of wargaming also only came to the foreground in the 70s. If you read the wargaming literature of the 60s, you see quite some liberal interpretation of history as well. Look at the writings by Grant and Featherstone. Although their wargaming is inspired by history, it does not try to replicate history. Grant is famous for his 18th century imaginations, and Featherstone was the one who condemned the "Staff and Command Boys" in War Game Digest in 1962, arguing against an "aura of pseudo-science of what is a pastime" (look it up – you can find info about this debate online!).

* Although one's motivation might be different to play with toy soldiers (historical research vs exploring an imaginary universe), the end result is surprisingly the same: same props, same rules, same army lists, … This is of course not surprising since much of fantasy literature is based on (often medieval) history. But – and this is not unimportant – the enjoyment or fun one gets out of it might be different. One wargamer enjoys seeing an historical plausible military encounter developing on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in militory history), while the other enjoys seeing a military encounter in an imaginary world coming to live on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in the fictional universe). Hmmm, perhaps not so different after all?

* Many wargamers do not limit themselves to pure historical or pure fantasy. Almost every wargamer I know plays – or has played – various genres next to each other, and this even extrapolates to other gaming hobbies such as roleplaying games or card games or computer games … So, if people switch with ease between different spectra of gaming, why insist on hard divides?

My take? In essence, I don't think there is much difference between various wargaming genres, since they have much more in common than they are different. I see gamers playing with toy soldiers rolling dice. And although the motivation to play a game might be different, that doesn't make it a different hobby.

Lee Brilleaux Fezian11 Jul 2016 7:40 a.m. PST

Good piece, Phil.

It's been a while since I heard much grumbling about fantasy wargaming, probably because we've moved past the point where historical gaming seemed like an endangered species. If you hear it today, it's from some tedious old fart who doubles as a rivet-counter and pointer-out of incorrect camo designs (1943-44, Eastern front).

This isn't just a wargamer's thing. Many years ago I presided over a long established model soldier society – I had been told the job just involved making a few jokes and calling the meeting to order. It turned out the 'military miniatures' people looked down on the 'shiny toy soldiers' collectors, and both though the badge collectors were a dubious element.

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2016 8:08 a.m. PST

It occurs to me that many of the arguments you listed at the top could be applied to film-- and literature. Someone once told me he didn't read fiction because it was all "false",i.e.,didn't "really" happen. This was a view held by many throughout the 19th Century,with the corollary that such reading caused a physical weakening of the brain.

Sometimes an odd notion. . .

Zyphyr11 Jul 2016 8:42 a.m. PST

Most of the more absurd definitions of Fantasy are brought out as responses to some gormless twit who thinks that restricting himself to historical makes him somehow superior. Get rid of that nonsense and the silly definitions will fade – the people using them rarely believe it, it is just more polite than "pull your head out of your rectal cavity you brainless twit". Unfortunately, the historical is better attitude was sufficiently common for long enough that the rather broad responses are frequently reflexive.

Lt Col Pedant11 Jul 2016 10:48 a.m. PST

Some wargame mag columnists tend to set up Aunt Sallys and/or argue with themselves just to fill the space. I only wish they'd spend the time working out an interesting scenario to play. …And that goes for the potted history columnists, too.

Jim Selzer11 Jul 2016 10:53 a.m. PST

Fantasy gaming is the "hey you kids get off my lawn" for the real old timers

ChrisBrantley11 Jul 2016 12:24 p.m. PST

I agree with the premise that "historical" and "fantasy" wargaming are equally valid sides of the same coin, with more similarities than significant differences. I'm one of those players who are open to gaming in both genres.

As you allude, however, I do think there are some interesting differences in player motivation (especially for adult wargamers) that could be explored. Fantasy players are less constrained by a desire to simulate (or at least emulate) particular bits of history as a basis for their gaming. More over, by using fantasy subjects, Fantasy gamers tend to insulate themselves from the morale/ethical implications of gaming human death and destruction in periods and settings that occasionally flummox historical gamers. I know several historical gamers, for example, that have cut off points (e.g. WWII, Vietnam war, etc.) after which they feel "uncomfortable" gaming because it's "too real."

Codsticker11 Jul 2016 12:58 p.m. PST

Romans vs Aztecs is fantasy as well! (I blame DBA :-) )
- Actually, any non-historical army list is fantasy!
- If you invent your own orders of battle, it's fantasy!
- Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!

This is historical fiction, not fantasy…

… although Romans vs. Aztecs is stretching it rather thin….

Ottoathome11 Jul 2016 1:52 p.m. PST

Dear Phil

When I was a wee lad and first opened Joe oreschauser's "How to Play War Games in Miniature" it was all fantasy. Shortly later with Don Featherstone's War Games, it continued.

"Fantasy" got a bad name NOT from historical gamers but from parents, peers and elders who sneered at us growing young men of age 14 and up "playing kids games with toy soldiers" and it was all fantasy and that we should be playing something to make money on.

In defense we cooked up all sorts of fig-leaf justifications about studying history, or testing out theories of war, education etc., all of which was mean't to explain the hobby as a serious, adult, and non-fantasy way to others so they would get off our backs and leave us alone. Research, learning, study, all nose-to-the-grindstone "serious" stuff was touted out as an excuse and cover story. But we REALLY knew it WAS Fantasy and fun.

Some came to believe the cover stories and developed the "You are there" myth, which meant that if you could win a game of Afrika Korps you were a nascent undiscovered military genius. I too fell for that for a short time.

But always underneath was the knowledge that believing I was a nascent Napoleon was a lie. After a while, as I grew up and in my mid twenties I gave up telling people "I use highly detailed and organized military miniature to examine the battles and strategies of history to grean a greater understanding of the complex geopolitics of history and understand the influence of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah- and so forth and so on and all the rest of the jibber-jabber I had been spounting.

I simply told people I played with toy soldiers.

I gave them the abbreviated description when they asked for more details like "Oh I like to collect and paint toy soldiers, it's like a craft hobby like model railroading, but I also like to play games with them using a rule book like Monopoly or Chess etc.

It was at that point that I realized that when I put it that way other people began to show real interest, and I also realized that they saw me as a person, now fully an adult.

I also realized that when I used to say "I use highly detailed and organized military miniature to examine the battles and strategies of history to grean a greater understanding of the complex geopolitics of history and" so on I sounded like a perfect psyco and so utterly boring and sententions that people started looking for the exit door.

It's all fantasy. Even the most highly detailed and allegedly accurate and historical simulation is fantasy, and if you believe that it is not and that it has real meaning and any real relation to history then--my friend-- you are playing the biggest Fantasy game at all.

The truth is… Fantasy is fun. Reality is not.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2016 4:48 p.m. PST

I always get very tired of this type of discussion, and I say that as a wargamer who does both like historical and fantasy wargaming.

Phil:

I have said the same thing, for some of the same reasons, but also for some different ones.

There is and always has been a wide variation in the reasons folks play wargame with miniatures, what they believe or don't believe they are doing when they game, as well as what they thing is possible with games. This is true of game designs for the hobby.

All to the good. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of of hype, Bleeped text and ignorance passed off as history, game design concepts over the years that has only muddled the waters.

Although one's motivation might be different to play with toy soldiers (historical research vs exploring an imaginary universe), the end result is surprisingly the same: same props, same rules, same army lists, … This is of course not surprising since much of fantasy literature is based on (often medieval) history. But – and this is not unimportant – the enjoyment or fun one gets out of it might be different. One wargamer enjoys seeing an historical plausible military encounter developing on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in military history), while the other enjoys seeing a military encounter in an imaginary world coming to live on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in the fictional universe). Hmmm, perhaps not so different after all?

It's only different if what the player sees and experiences on the table IS somehow plausible, connected to reality or history, regardless of what rules and mechanics are similar.

IF the belief is that it can't be plausible, then of course there is no difference. If that is the case, Phil, you aren't playing both historical and fantasy games.

And yet…

*Fantasy has to have an element of 'plausibility', reality, to work, to create that 'magic circle' of fantasy. Those 'real' details are what make SF/F work, whether literature, movies or games.

*Fantasy depends far more on existing history and culture than the other way around… Actually, historical wargaming means just that, it depends on history to make it plausible, not fantasy.

*Most all alleged 'simulations' produced by the hobby are crap and rarely contain many of the elements that make a simulations work, which means that they don't work as simulations. It isn't surprising that many wargamers would think such things are a joke. They are.

It continues to amaze me that this isn't resolved, that the issue continues to come up. On the other hand it wouldn't continue to come up if everyone 'knew' that historical wargaming was nothing but fantasy.

Otto:
Sometimes I think you say things for effect rather than believing them.

The truth is… Fantasy is fun. Reality is not.

If you really never have had fun in reality, the truth is that I'm sorry for you. grin

Yellow Admiral11 Jul 2016 4:58 p.m. PST

- Romans vs Aztecs is fantasy as well! (I blame DBA :-) )
- Actually, any non-historical army list is fantasy!
- If you invent your own orders of battle, it's fantasy!
- Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!
This is historical fiction, not fantasy…

Bingo. I think that nicely sums up the common attitude about the difference in wargaming circles, and mine as well. Historical fiction has a separate audience with separate concerns and very low tolerance for impossibilities. I count myself among them.

As a kid I had a lot of interest in sci fi and fantasy, but these days I just don't care about stuff made up without reference to reality. I'm on board with some pretty unlikely, obscure, never-happened wars (e.g. the US invading Mexico to kick out the French in 1866), but as soon as somebody says "what if we give them RAY GUNS?!?!" I'm out.

I see a vast gulf of distinction between even the most unlikely historical "what if" and a sprung-fully-formed-from-the-head "fantasy". I want to be able to look up the relevant facts in a history book referencing actual documented research. For that matter, even my "fantasy" gaming needs a strong element of historical weight behind it – i.e., those better be the actual Greek gods in the Iliad game, or I'm not playing. And I'm not playing anyway if there's a historical game scheduled for the same time slot, even if it's wildly implausible. I'd rather play a fight between a Montana-class squadron and the Z-plan battlefleet than something that looks like the movie 300.

- Ix

Capt Flash11 Jul 2016 7:28 p.m. PST

Sounds like fantasy to me. How much of history gets discounted as we learn more? Whoops, there goes that theory and everything connected to it..

Ottoathome12 Jul 2016 4:54 a.m. PST

McLaddie

Fantasy is fun. Fantasy as in the completely artificial construct of a game, which all games are. Reality is not fun, reality in the every day world we live in. In games (fantasy) good is rewarded, hard work and intelligence gets one ahead, and there can be a sense of achievement. This is not true in the real world where the things we do are not fun and no amount of hard work or intelligence, or good tactics will guarantee success, happiness or renown, but cronyism, nepotism and simple cruelty will.

In a word, in a game, cheating is reprehensible. In the real world, it is rewarded, and that's what makes games Fantasy.

langobard Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2016 5:39 a.m. PST

At it simplest, like many others here, I enjoy both 'fantasy' and 'historical' gaming. From my perspective though, what puzzled me was the idea that you couldn't research 'fantasy' and it was therefore less 'real' than historical gaming.

Yet, as someone that love Lord of the Rings, I was drawn to the Hobbit and the (much harder to read when you are a teenager) Silmarillion. Later I would collect 10 volumes of Christopher Tolkiens 'Road to Middle Earth', 'Unfinished Tales' and others. Then there were the commentators: Verlyn Flieger, TA Shippey and more, Humphrey Carpenter weighted in with a biography and a selection of Tolkiens letters Now granted, Tolkien was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon and he knew his stuff (which incidently also lead me to Beowulf) this mass of resources is all available (now) for anyone to read who cares to.

Even allowing that Tolkien is insanely successful, the simple fact is that the ancient mythologies (eg, Egyptian, Greek and Roman) all have masses of both origin stories as well as commenatators.

The idea that you cannot research fantasy, is itself a fantasy (or, more precisely, a delusional denial) and I've never really had much time for people that try to hide behind it. After all, in my experience, they are the ones that try to use Panther tanks in the North African desert (talk about your historical fiction…)

I guess the point is that if we are wise, we enjoy the things that we like, and let others get on with what they like. There is no need for acrimony or elitism.

Just my 2 cents….

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2016 8:47 a.m. PST

Phil:

The answers to two questions might suggest some issues with the position that all wargames are nothing but fantasy.

1. Kriegspiel was the wargame that started all this, which first used many of the mainstay methods today such as dice, combat charts, measuring sticks, time increments etc. etc. von Riesswitz created it to be a training device, something that connected the game experience to real life issues on the battlefield concerning maneuver and formations. He had no intention of creating a 'fun' game. Yet, he admits he was surprised to find that players found the wargame "entertaining." The German officers of the time found it "useful" for many years.

So the question is: was von Riesswitz and the German military simply lost in fantasy?

If the answer is yes, then the next question:
If there is no difference between crocheting and sewing, between U-control and RC models, what is the point of having separate crocheting and sewing clubs or RC and U-control organizations?

If there is no difference in what wargamers are doing between historical and fantasy games, what is the point of having a distinct Historical miniatures organization? That is the subtext of Phil's observation.

If there is a difference, then making that distinction isn't elitism or some statement that one is better than the other. If there is a difference, that conclusion is not some mandate about how gamers are *supposed* to have fun.

The issue is very clearly what historical wargames are and capable of providing, not what gamers like or want to do with the games.

Some are insisting that it is delusion to see any differences between fantasy and historical gaming, while others say there are differences, but so far strike me as pretty vague other than different subject matter, if that.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2016 10:49 a.m. PST

I started wargaming when I was about 14. Always played historical. For a long time I didn't know fantasy gaming existed. I have never played 40K, Battle Tech or any of their ilk.

I still maintain that they are different hobbies. Despite the similarities, that they both use dice and figures. But that is where the similarities end.

What makes historical gaming different is all the research which happens before you roll any dice. For me it is not so much the actual gaming as immersing yourself in the period you have chosen. It's another tool in the Historian's tool box.

When I start a new period I read general histories about the period and then books on specific battles. Go over various OBs. Picking out a set of rules or writing your own. Writing a scenario is as close to writing a book as I have encountered. Then there is the uniform and flag research.

There are reasons why History Teachers use historical wargaming to teach the AWI, ACW, WWII etc. I doubt the same can be said for fantasy gaming. Historical wargaming is used at war colleges and military academies to teach tactics. The National Museum of WWII host wargaming nights to teach WWII.

You learn how units were formed and the capabilities of weapons etc. Historical Wargaming inspired me to major in history and has indeed provided insights into military history. That's what they were originally designed for. To learn tactics and gain some insight.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with fantasy gaming. I am saying they are related but different hobbies.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2016 1:40 p.m. PST

Some of these are miniatures and some are boardgames but it is the same idea.

US Naval War College

link

US Army War College

link

link

link

National Museum of WWII

link

Historical Wargaming in the classroom.

TMP link

link

link

I have seem photos of wargaming at Annapolis from the turn of the centaury through the 1930s of Naval Miniature games being played on the floor.

Yellow Admiral12 Jul 2016 2:34 p.m. PST

Some are insisting that it is delusion to see any differences between fantasy and historical gaming, while others say there are differences, but so far strike me as pretty vague other than different subject matter, if that.
Not just different subject matter; also different philosophy, approach, and appeal.

Look, there's obviously a spectrum of individual games which borrow elements from the poles of "fantasy" and "historical", but just because the middle ground is a confusing combinatorial mess doesn't mean the poles don't exist. Lots of gamers enjoy both, and play games that borrow from each category. But lots of gamers enjoy only one, and want nothing to do with the other. The audiences created the distinction, and it exists, regardless how wide the no-man's land in the middle may be.

I see the statement that "all games are fantasy" as exasperatingly inept as "all wargames are role-playing games". By strict dictionary definition that may be true – wargamers are usually taking on a "role" to play a game – but within the very large and long-established community of gamers, the term "role-playing game" identifies a distinct class of games and "wargame" identifies another. Regardless how many elements a game in one category may borrow from the other, they remain distinct. Non-gamers may consider this distinction to be reductio ad absurdum, but it is still very real and significant. The gaming conventions here in the SF Bay Area starkly demonstrate this: they are generic gaming conventions full of both kinds of games, yet the role-players and wargamers are almost completely separate crowds that mix very little. I'm not even sure I could find the role-playing games at Kublacon or Pacificon – they're in totally different parts of the hotels!

Similarly, there are "fantasy miniatures games" and "historical miniatures games", and while play of either type requires a player to fantasize, that does not mean historical miniatures games are "fantasy games", because the terms "fantasy game" and "fantasy miniatures game" have long since been co-opted to have distinct meanings that differentiate them from the other category, "historical miniatures games". Using the term "fantasy game" to describe historical miniatures games is only true by strict dictionary definition of the individual words, but is a clear violation of colloquial jargon within the gaming community.

- Ix

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2016 8:04 a.m. PST

Well said. I think the model is published books. You have your non-fiction and you have your fiction. They are both books but with different appeals, different readers. While some read both.

Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!
Operation Sea Lion is fantasy!
Any battle that did not take place in history is fantasy!

I hear this a lot. It is based on a false premise. Because you play a hypothetical scenario, your are playing fantasy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If the hypothetical scenario is in the context of the period. If you stick to the rules and the scenario is historically plausible, then it is not fantasy. Being in the historical context is the key. You can use hypotheticals to study the many "what if" situations. Which might include:

What if George McClellan committed the 5th Corps at Sharpsburg?

What if the Germans actually invaded Britain in 1940?

What if the Graf Spee had fought the three RN cruisers to the finish?

Even a throw down game at the local game store is still in the context of a historical period . Throw some dragons in and then you're not in any historical context.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2016 8:31 a.m. PST

To borrow from our boardgame friends. If I am playing the old AH game "France 1940" and I choose the optional non-historical set-up for the French. I am still playing a historical boardgame. I am just exploring if the French could have done better. "What ifs" are talked about in High School and college history classes all the time.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2016 9:39 a.m. PST

Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!
Operation Sea Lion is fantasy!
Any battle that did not take place in history is fantasy!

Operation Sea Lion isn't a fantasy. The Germans had plans for it, [why anyone can name it] designated units for the invasion and landing craft constructed. The British organized to defend against it. Any 'What If" historical scenario would have very rigorous parameters compared to a strictly fantasy wargame, say Nazi zombies or a completely airborne invasion of Britain with Zeppelins.

Or how about an analogy:

picture

compared to:

picture

Both are fake tanks make out of plastic. Only one is a fantasy. The T-34 representation requires very particular measurements and shapes to be recognizable as a model of that particular tank… and we can establish how well the model compares to the real thing, even though it is a 12 oz plastic miniature and not *real.*

For the GW Rhino tank there certainly similarities to real combat tanks in general, there is no particular way the model has to be constructed to be a 'Rhino" tank except in the minds of GW modelers. No such tank has existed or will in the future. It is a fantasy.

But then again, if people get deeply invested in fantasy, they can make the make-believe a reality of sorts:

picture

It still is a fantasy tank built over a real one.

Yellow Admiral13 Jul 2016 10:13 a.m. PST

That T-34/85 model is fantastic! <ducks under desk>

- Ix

Visceral Impact Studios Inactive Member13 Jul 2016 10:25 a.m. PST

I believe that this confusion or "conflict" arises from semantics.

We're using the term "fantasy" to describe both a specific genre of fiction defined by elves and orcs as applied to wargames AND the fact that a gamer is engaging in "fantasy" when pretending to lead Napoleon's armies into battle on a miniature tabletop.

I agree that pitting Romans against Aztecs is "fantasy" in that they two never came close to fighting one another. There are even "fantasy" novels that include such unhistorical matches.

But while I'm engaging in "fantasy" when playing a WWIII game of WarPac vs NATO it's not quite the same thing since that nearly happened in the real world.

There's fantasy, there's speculative fiction, and then there's non-fiction.

Reading a book about WWII France is non-fiction, it's not fantasy, but it doesn't mean you're actually there in WWII France (no matter how good the writing).

Playing a WWII game is not fantasy (in that it actually happened), it's non-fiction, but it doesn't mean you're actually fighting in WWII France (no matter how detailed the simulation).

Maybe instead of fantasy, sci-fi, and "historical" gaming maybe we should just call it fiction and non-fiction gaming.

:-D

Or just get over it since we sort of know what these terms mean anyway and they do serve as a useful shorthand. If I sign up for a "historical" game I don't expect orcs or Space Orks. If I sign up for a "fantasy" game then I do expect elves and goblins. As the Red Baron said, anything else is rubbish. :-)

Just think of a Barnes and Noble as a wargame convention. If you want to play fantasy and sci-fi, you know where to go. If you want to play history, you know where to go. Where's so difficult??? :-D

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2016 11:34 a.m. PST

I think there is this perception out there, that historical gaming is all about reenactment. That it is more modeling than gaming. More diorama than game table. That the goal is to have the same result as an actual battle in history. The logic would lead you to believe if the Union won the first day of Gettysburg then the game was all "fantasy" or non-fiction.

This is of course non-sense. Historical gamers are trying to recreate the conditions, terrain, weather, position and units that were at a particular battle.

All you are doing is setting up the actual situation as much as miniatures and store bought or custom made terrain will allow. But the outcome can absolutely be different, otherwise why bother. It is still historical gaming.

Hypothetical scenarios are not limited to actual battles but they, as I have stated before, are still historical gaming.

By the way that is one good looking T-34/85.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2016 11:39 a.m. PST

I do agree and have always felt that Ancients rules which allow Aztecs to fight Saxons is utterly ridiculous. Which is the reason I have avoided the period. Its a result of tournament play. Don't get me on my anti-tournament rant.

ScottS13 Jul 2016 6:03 p.m. PST

What about US vs. Soviets in 1945?

Garth in the Park14 Jul 2016 3:29 a.m. PST

"was von Riesswitz and the German military simply lost in fantasy?

Didn't von Reiswitz get a lot of flak for exactly that reason? Didn't many Prussians argue that it was silly to play war like that and that it didn't actually teach anything? That was one of the reasons he had to call it "Map Maneuvers" instead of "War Play" (Kriegsspiel.)

Actually I think it's a great parallel with commercial wargaming today. If you call a game mechanic "Saving Throws" then you'll get dozens of guys bitching on TMP about how it's total crap and just fantasy, there are no "saving throws" in history, and so on. But if you call them "Penetration Effect Rolls" or whatever, or have the other player roll them, then those same guys will be perfectly fine with it and suddenly it's all "History."

arthur181514 Jul 2016 4:26 a.m. PST

IMHO. Visceral Impact Studios summed the issue up perfectly.

The typical, hypothetical tabletop wargame between historical opponents is the gaming equivalent of, say, a 'Hornblower' or 'Jack Aubrey' novel: based upon, and reflecting real history, but using fictitious characters and engagements for the narrative.

Playing such games is, perhaps, an interactive version of reading an historical novel.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2016 8:44 a.m. PST

Didn't von Reiswitz get a lot of flak for exactly that reason? Didn't many Prussians argue that it was silly to play war like that and that it didn't actually teach anything? That was one of the reasons he had to call it "Map Maneuvers" instead of "War Play" (Kriegsspiel.)

Garth:
Actually, that complaint came later when too many officers were having 'fun' playing it. An issue or view that 'teaching' wargames have always had: the belief that fun never equates with learning. Von Moltke thought its use was important. He supported and increased its use and suggested it was one reason the Prussian Army did well in 1866 and 1870. That is why the French, English and Americans created and used them extensively after 1870. That has been another issue with wargames. You have to have a war to validate the efficacy of wargame use--in the military.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2016 11:54 a.m. PST

Just think of a Barnes and Noble as a wargame convention. If you want to play fantasy and sci-fi, you know where to go. If you want to play history, you know where to go. Where's so difficult??? :-D

It's difficult because the Historical ‘novel enthusiasts' aren't sure where to go in the bookstore,[or convention] or what separates the two genres. [Like this and other TMP discussions] It makes it difficult to know what you are buying. Probably one reason gamers buy so many rules sets and design their own. On TMP, gamers debate whether Chain of Command and Bolt Action *should* be in the same section Not even the ‘Barnes and Noble' companies know—or see no monetary advantage to admitting that there are different sections. The designers for both BA and COC claim similar historical qualities for their games.

IMHO. Visceral Impact Studios summed the issue up perfectly. The typical, hypothetical tabletop wargame between historical opponents is the gaming equivalent of, say, a 'Hornblower' or 'Jack Aubrey' novel: based upon, and reflecting real history, but using fictitious characters and engagements for the narrative.

Playing such games is, perhaps, an interactive version of reading an historical novel.

It's a nice analogy, sounds good, but what does it mean in game terms…in design terms, in our ability to separate fantasy from historical fiction? There are multiple levels in approaching ‘history' among novelists.

For instance, Hilary Mantel is known for her novels about Thomas Cromwell, the Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies. Each won the Man Booker Prize. Mantel has often talked about how much research went into them. In more than one interview, she has stated that historical novelists have a moral responsibility to get their facts straight.

Jim Crace is a celebrated British author whose novels are often set in the distant past, yet Crace declines to call his books such as A Gift of Stones(set in prehistoric Britain) and Quarantine about Christ's 40 days in the wilderness) historical novels. He prefers to think of each of them as being set in a sort of alternative, imaginative world. Crace does some research for his books, but he makes up many of the details.

In part, this is because he's not interested in the actual history so much as he is in using a particular historical period as a metaphor for contemporary concerns. The impulse behind A Gift of Stones, for example, was the industrial decline of the British city of Birmingham.

You can see wargames being designed around both inclinations. The differences for our hobby are:

1.The authors are not as forthcoming about the historical content and the goals of their designs, many intentionally mudding the waters, often entertaining ideas, like Dan Brown with his Da Vinci Code, that their fiction actually does relate real history, when they knows better…but knows such illusions sells books.

2.Wargamers [and designers too] seem intent on placing every game in one section in one book store, so games created with the same approaches as Mantel and Crace are under identical labels: all historical wargames or all complete fantasy.

3.How novels work for the audience is known, having been studied for some time…one function, one set of skills for the reader—which is why it is such a comfortable analogy. That is not true for wargames and/or simulation games in our hobby. Multiple uses/types and a fairly recent and rapidly developing methodology actually mixing simulation and game design is occurring outside our small hobby. In comparison to novels, wargame design is newer, less-well studied, with a wider set of constructions and types. In other words, more complex and still developing.


Part of what makes the Fantasy or Historical debate tiring, yet ever recurring is that gamers and designers repeatedly make comparisons such as historical wargames are like historical novels or pure fantasy, but don't take them seriously enough to determine what the comparisons actually mean in terms of wargame design and play experience.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2016 2:56 p.m. PST

"What about US vs. Soviets in 1945?"

Those types of conflicts like the British at Gettysburg, I used to argue how implausible those are. The British would never go to war with the Union. What the South wanted was full recognition and mediation.

The US wouldn't be so stupid as to go to war against a massive size Soviet Army. The American public were war weary. They had all the war they can stand.

The US had a nuclear monopoly. Stalin would not go to war against a nuclear armed United States having just proved they were willing to use it.

I think a Korean War scenario with the Russians putting pressure on NATO in Europe, would be a little more plausible. Because by that time the Russians had the bomb. But the dirty little secret was the Soviets had no practical way to deploy it.

I say go for it. I don't think it is historically plausible, but that's just me. Have fun.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2016 8:52 a.m. PST

Okay, here is an example of taking the novel/wargame analogy seriously, as though the comparison actually means something for historical wargame design:

The Novelist James Hynes wrote the following in his work: Writing Great Fiction. It deals with just one aspect of novel writing, "Show, don't tell," and how to evoke a reader's imagination and emotions. In it, there is a great deal that describes and applies to designing wargames and simulations:

When creative writing teachers say, "Show, don't tell," they mean: Give us more detail, make it dramatic, and put the reader in the scene…In other words, when you tell readers something, you make the witnesses, but when you show them something, you make the participants.

That is certainly a goal of wargame design and play…in fact, unlike novels, gamers have to be participants to play at all.

Writing fiction by showing rather than telling means bypassing the logical, analytical mind and going for the gut, engaging the readers' senses, not just their minds. More important, you're engaging the readers' imaginations and allowing them to fill in the gaps by drawing on their own experience.

That is what game designers try to do, and of course what gamers speak of when a game ‘matches' their understanding of history and their experience of it.

What you are doing, in fact, is evoking the experience for the reader. The idea of evocation is at the heart of all fiction; it's the thing that allows a fictional story and imaginary characters to lodge themselves ineradicably in the minds of the readers.

This evocation is often what players talk about when they say that a game experience ‘feels right' compared to the history they know.

Defining Evocation:

The variants of the word evoke come from the Latin word evocare, which means "to call out" in several different senses: to summon the spirits of the dead, to call forth a deity, or simply to summon another person. In is "tending by artistic imaginative means to re-create…especially in such a manner as to produce a compelling impression of reality."

That is what historical wargames AND simulations are all about: producing a compelling impression of reality. The question is how that is done.

Writers use their skill with words to call forth scenes from their imaginations in enough detail that readers, without really thinking about it, use their own imaginations and memories to fill in the gaps. In the process, memories, emotions and sensory impressions are evoked.

One of the benefits of evocation is that even though readers are doing half the work, they don't realize it, and they actually enjoy the experience. The feeling of being in the scene with the characters and being engaged by the narrative is one of the great pleasures of reading fiction. The novelist and creative writing teacher John Gardner, who once defined fiction as the creation of "a vivid and continuous dream."

That is a great pleasure of wargaming. Game designers call that ‘vivid and continuous dream' the ‘magic circle' or ‘the forth Wall' or ‘the Flow.' It is accomplished by pretending.*** It is the goal of any designer, to produce that experience for the player…or at least make it easy and vivid when players produce it…having them do half the work. When players say they were 'popped out' of the game by some detail or experience that was 'wrong', they are describing that 'magic circle' being broken.

In her book Writing Fiction, another creative writing teacher, Janet Burroway, said that reading fiction allows us to feel strong emotions "without paying for them." This is what evocation is all about… You don't just allow the reader to visualize themselves in certain situations, but you prompt them to engage with the situation emotionally in the same way they would if they were actually experiencing it in real life.

That is nearly the definition of a simulation and certainly the reason for the existence of all simulations: gain experiences without paying for them.

So, how is that done?

Evocative writing provides significant detail, but it doesn't overwhelm the readers, which you can't do if you pour too much in.

Sound familiar? Evocative games require significant detail, but not too much. At this point, there are a number of ways given to create evocative experiences for the reader, some which can and do apply to wargame design. They are easy enough to find on the internet.

When the writer has done his job well, the reader follows him into the world he has imagined.

While there is a lot of discussion about ‘whose book it is' when the someone reads the novel, ‘doing half the work', but the bottom lines are:
1. All that can be reasonable controlled is what the writer does—the how to evoke, and
2. How successful the writer is in drawing the reader into the world he has created.

To draw a player into a ‘historical world', to experience history in some form, the details have to be… historical. They don't have to be in fantasy.

*** Often wargames are called fantasy because players are pretending with fake terrain, soldiers, ‘rules' of war etc. This is also the reason given for why such activities can't be simulations.

However, that simply isn't true. ALL simulations require pretending to work, to ‘act as if' something were true when we know it isn't. What they require, like novel writing, is ‘guiding pretending', taking the gamer into a very particular world, a world that evokes ‘reality' to such an extent that players see and experience the connections to reality. Almost all working simulations are ‘what if' scenarios, unless it is a movie of an actual event, getting the same actions, decisions and results no matter how often you play it.

"Simulation' is a broad term. But simulation is, by definition, pretending. All simulations are "tools that give you ersatz (as opposed to real) experience."

--Marc Prensky, Education and Training Simulator
"Interactive Pretending: An Overview of Simulation"
Digital Game-based Learning 2007

Just like a historical novel or a training simulation game, how the ersatz experience of a historical wargame provides similarities to actual history is one of the main draws/rationales of historical wargaming.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2016 8:23 a.m. PST

My take? In essence, I don't think there is much difference between various wargaming genres, since they have much more in common than they are different. I see gamers playing with toy soldiers rolling dice. And although the motivation to play a game might be different, that doesn't make it a different hobby.

Phil: Let's frame your conclusion in terms of novels:

My take? In essence, I don't think there is much difference between various novel genres, since they have much more in common than they are different. I see readers reading words on pages of books. And although the motivation to read a novel might be different, that doesn't make it a different pastime.

So, if people switch with ease between different spectra of gaming, why insist on hard divides?

So, if people switch with ease between different spectra of novels, why insist on hard divides?


Right, so what's the point of having genres [hard divides] at all?

There are a wide variety of reasons for having Romances in a different section than SF/F or Thrillers or Mysteries. Apart from personal opinions, there are no better or worse genres.

But we can't or shouldn't establish any *hard*, identifiable differences between Fantasy and Historical wargaming because they both use miniatures and dice?

Dave Crowell21 Jul 2016 2:38 p.m. PST

Almost every set of "historical" rules that have more than two beligerants will allow for match-ups that are completely contrary to history to be played. I could play a Napoleonics game with an Anglo-French force taking on the Prusso-Russians. Or WW2 Britis vs Americans.

Similarly many "fantasy" and "science fiction" games have elaborate fictional backgrounds including who is supposed to fight whom.

Aztecs vs Romans is no more or less bizarre than Orcs and Elves uniting against the Lizard-men.

Ancients is particularly prone to "fantasy" type match-ups because most Ancients rules cover several thousand years of history, and much of the globe with the same rules. It is easy to match Romans vs Aztecs because they share a common rule set. Zulus vs Cowboys should be equally possible, both were roughly contemporaneous, but I don't know of a common rule set.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2016 8:10 a.m. PST

I'm an historical gamer. I play games without army lists and points systems. Most of the games I organise and enjoy most are based on historical orders of battle and situations that are suggested by the historical record.

For me these games are in the spirit of the original Prussian General Staff kriegsspiel as tactical or grand tactical exercises for the participants.

For me, as the umpire and organiser though they are exercises in collective storytelling.

nheastvan Inactive Member24 Jul 2016 8:57 a.m. PST

Great series of posts, McLaddie. Doing a google search for "ersatz experience" I found a link to some of Mark Prensky's work.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2016 9:04 a.m. PST

Many Wargame armies are so poorly known, or the sources are so corrupted or dubious that we need to willingly suspend disbelief to accept them as any kind of legitimate representation.

LBZ:

We need to willingly suspend disbelief to accept that tiny lead figures on a tabletop represent anything historically 'legitimate' regardless of the time period or amount of available information.

It is true that you can't represent something you know nothing about. However, you can extrapolate from what you do know… filling in the gaps with more than just WAG or three steps from speculation.

Then again, most all simulation designers suffer from the same problem: Incomplete information. I have heard several simulation designers from different fields complain that they "never have enough information." Happily, because it is such a common problem in the field, they have developed successful techniques for filling in those gaps.

It all depends on the information available and the methodologies applied to it.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2016 9:31 a.m. PST

nheastvan:

Thanks! Prensky is insightful and training simulation games have a lot of application to hobby wargaming, but he is only one of a great many simulation designers saying the same things. That pretending, suspending disbelief and 'acting/feeling as though it was real' is the basis for novels, movies and many types of entertainment, but certainly games and simulations.

I think some of the issues around historical wargaming and fantasy genres and the view that there are no differences etc. etc. etc. are:

1. A desire to avoid or defuse the 'we are better than they are' attitudes surrounding the two genres.

2. A lack of understanding of why genres exist at all and their utility for a hobby.

3. The historical wargame designers' inability to articulate any differences, or unwillingness to provide enough background and objectives to their designs so they can articulate them. For instance, has anyone heard how the designer of Fire and Fury and Regimental F&F made his designs 'historically accurate?' He feels it is a cornerstone of the designs. How is that accomplished exactly? If we knew, that might be a basis for establishing some objective differences…

4. Because Fantasy wargaming grew out of historical wargaming, and because fantasy depends on utilizing history and current reality to work for both novels and wargames[ providing the details to allow players to relate to and pretend with fantasy movies, novels and games.], there can be confusion over the differences.

5. If you don't know how simulations and representation with game mechanics works, it is difficult to look at fantasy and historical wargames and articulate any differences.

6. A lot of historical wargame designs are complete fantasy, made up from *something*, but the designer 'pretends' that it is historically meaningful because it sells games. They did years' of research, but can't tell you where it is represented in the rules. There is no percentage for revealing 'the emperor's new clothes', which has to happen in defining genres.

7. For many, establishing genres [something most all hobbies do, by the way] seems to be a lot of decision-making and thinking for unknown rewards… a lot of work for a hobby that has carried on without them for a long time.

nheastvan Inactive Member25 Jul 2016 8:08 p.m. PST

It seems to me that the more narrow you can define the X that you are attempting to represent on the table top, the more likely you are to succeed. Where X might be anything you want to "get right" be it a particular historical position or the type of things that happen in some fantasy source material.

I'm in the playtesting stages of a gundam (gaint anime robots) game and the first thing I did before putting pen to paper was to watch a season of Gundam Build Fighters and write down scene notes for everything that happened during each fight. I ran a playtesting session at a local gundam plastic model building club and after a charge with a beam sabre (and parry and shift away as a response), one particularly knowledgable anime fan even identified the scene and episode that it was "just like."

I found I could have X and Y and Z and a ton of other things to "get right" in a single set of rules, but having a narrow focus for each element seems to be really important. If I hit enough Xs and Ys and so on with rules that are fast enough and work well together to meet the expectations of my audience, they'll say the game is histo-- sorry, true to the anime-- without me having to spell out what I'm trying to represent.

I know in the past you've said that if a designer doesn't spell out what X is for a given set of rules, there's no way to know if the design has succeeded in terms of being historical. But given that genre is largely about expectation, does a designer really need to define X for the end user except when it deviates from a general baseline of expectations for that period?

For example, I could make a feudal Samurai battle game and have the usual pikemen, arquebusiers, samurai, cavalry and so on, but when the player moves too quickly on a horse, they have to roll on a chart and find the horse has either thrown the rider, got a fractured leg or otherwise gives the cavalry unit a bad day, I might then need to reference some recent work of veterinarians working with physical anthropologists to analyze the remains of small 16th century Japanese horses and what happened when they were forced into a full gallop when overloaded. Even if it's just a single line introducing the mechanic. If I leave it out in this case, a lot of gamers will wonder what I'm thinking as their experience of horses is largely with modern breeds as depicted on television and in movies.

But do I really need to spell out X, Y and Z every time I make a design decision based on them? Like if a bolt action rifle has a rate of fire of 1 but I make an MG42 have an ROF of 2, then do I really need to spell out my bad idea about the relative rate of fire of WW2 weapons in order to be called on it?

Sorry if this is off topic, but I think look at rules as representing elements shows that it's not all the same and that there really is a difference between historical and fantasy in that the target for X and the expectation of genre is obviously different.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2016 8:46 a.m. PST

It seems to me that the more narrow you can define the X that you are attempting to represent on the table top, the more likely you are to succeed. Where X might be anything you want to "get right" be it a particular historical position or the type of things that happen in some fantasy source material.

Yeah. You can represent anything. It is simply picking the thing to be represented [simulated], modeling it, and then checking to see that it does indeed succeed. Certainly, when a player recognizes that a certain mechanic in play is 'just like', you have an indication of success. There are other tests too. Most simulators have a design pass several different kinds to be certain.

I know in the past you've said that if a designer doesn't spell out what X is for a given set of rules, there's no way to know if the design has succeeded in terms of being historical. But given that genre is largely about expectation, does a designer really need to define X for the end user except when it deviates from a general baseline of expectations for that period?

Well, first, genres only have expectations because they have been defined so folks know what to expect. But genres are more than that. For instance, Romance novels have a whole set of expectations and writing techniques associated with them…to deliver on the readers' general expectations for the genre. Thrillers have others, as do Mysteries and Science Fiction.

Second, for historical wargames, the need to 'define' X is more a matter of identifying X. If I am saying that my game is a historical representation, when there is a LOT of history out there, even for a MG42, what exactly is being represented? Notice that the player in your Gundam Build Fighters game identified a specific 'just like', not some generalization. That is the way it works. Specifics.

If a player is to really make a connection between what he is doing and the history being represented, he has to know specifics: This is like that. Certainly if done well, a player will make their own connections, but like your game, they have to be there in the first place.

Wargames are very abstract, regardless of simplicity or complexity. The connections are not all that obvious, even for 'commonly known' things, particularly when a lot of what is commonly known is bad history--old conventions that are based on nothing much at all.

So, do you need to spell out X, Y, and Z every time you make
a design decision based on them? Only if what you are representing with the game mechanic isn't going to be automatically clear to the player. What the hell does '2' represent with your MG42?

I have tried to keep track of all the games where mechanics have been misunderstood or incorrectly identified by gamers and what they represent, but gave up because I'd be spending all my time documenting them. grin When gamers do that, any effort to represent history is lost.

nheastvan Inactive Member26 Jul 2016 9:51 p.m. PST

Second, for historical wargames, the need to 'define' X is more a matter of identifying X. If I am saying that my game is a historical representation, when there is a LOT of history out there, even for a MG42, what exactly is being represented? Notice that the player in your Gundam Build Fighters game identified a specific 'just like', not some generalization. That is the way it works. Specifics.

That makes a lot of sense. Genres include expectations, but are a bundle of things that people expect because of previous exposure to works in that genre.

Perhaps this current muddying of genre lines is a result of people not being exposed to actual works in a particular genre but marketing claims about what genre a given work is in regardless of the content. Like if a thriller novel was missing its key techniques and content but the marketing talked about how it was so scary and suspenseful when it was actually more of a romance and now people are saying "it's all romantic!!!" and denying genre differences.

I'd imagine the issue would be multiplied if you then added in a contingent of readers (and even authors) who denied that writing a thriller was even possible.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Jul 2016 9:02 a.m. PST

Hi nheastvan:

Yes, exactly. Why limit your sales to just one genre? Imply that the game includes everything, and you increase the possible market.

So when a current set of wargame rules have no scale and the designer says that they aren't important to play, you still have players asking what scale to use. Then there is lots of serious discussion about the history represented, which even the designer entertains as a real issue with his game designed to have no scale. Sort of like the author 'saying' his work is a fantasy romance, but when folks ask what about the historical elements, everyone including the author have deep discussions about the history represented in the novel.

If anyone bothered to actually look at how and why genres are created in entertainment and hobby industries, it would be clear why 1. these fantasy vs historical discussions are self-defeating and 2. the advantages that our hobby is missing in not having wargaming genres or categories.

Ranger322 Inactive Member17 Aug 2016 2:21 a.m. PST

Ehhh…The only difference in my mind between the two sects of gaming (emphasis here…notice they're both 'gaming') is how it makes us feel about ourselves and how I imagine the majority of other people see us. In short:

Case A
D&D RPG player/DM

Sees himself as:
Someone who enjoys getting together with friends, snacking a lot, and creating/participating in worlds and events completely impossible but lots of fun! Enjoys being creative and coming up with new material with very few boundaries.

Others see him as:
Nerd. Plays with toys with friends. Should take up a more "manly" hobby.

Case B
Historical Gamer

Sees himself as:
Someone who enjoys history, likely enjoys crafting at some level, likes to spend time with friends and eat snacks. Likes to reenact famous battles or battles that could have happened but didn't. Enjoys research with attention to detail.

Others see him as:
Nerd. Plays with toys with friends. Should get a more "manly" hobby.

Stereotyping? Yep. The truth? I think so.

Ben Avery Inactive Member17 Aug 2016 3:13 p.m. PST

I do think it's all wargaming, but then my definition is pretty broad. I don't think its helpful when people say things like 'It's all fantasy' our 'nothing to do with war', as though their experiences speak for all.

I'd see it as a continuum with far more people in the middle than online discussions might suggest.

nheastvan Inactive Member18 Aug 2016 3:24 a.m. PST

Ranger322, given how model building was far more popular when "men were men" I've found that people recognize that there's something valuable and very adult in both knowing our history and being able to work with your hands. People I encounter have this vague memory of military modelling as being something their dad or grandpa did and they most certainly do not react with "he should get a more manly hobby."

Though part of me does suspect that shame is heaped on those who exude being ashamed of what they are doing while confidence and self assuredness gets a different reaction from people.

Ben Avery, I think you're right about the far more people in the middle of a continuum kind of thing. I think those worried whether or not historical wargamers accept fantasy gamers as being part of the same hobby (or vise versa) have been wasting their energy for no good reason for decades.

The problem with people making this a matter of identity though, is that it poisons the well when it comes to having a meaningful discussion about differences between genres.

My concern with this divide is that I want more games published where designers decide what their game is about and then actually make the game *about that.* That's hard to do when all the lines are muddied and everything is conflated. While I do play a ton of rules I've written myself, I do buy and play a lot of commercially available rules and want to see more of them with a clear focus on what they are representing. I want to see more things like Chain of Command actually being able to play the training missions in actual WW2 field training manuals. The designer(s?) actually defined X and then made a game that was about X and it worked.

If X was Jedi Knights dueling with light sabres and their force powers, I'd want it to actually be about *that.* I want the differences to count in actual published games. Not all get muddled together because all miniature gaming has a lot of similar elements. I will play both the WW2 game and the Jedi game, but I don't want them to be the same game and I want their differences to actually be about what they are representing rather than just the designers happening to prefer different mechanics because, after all, "It's all fantasy."

I do think that Phil's conclusion though is brushing aside differences just because he perceives them as small or less important.

My take? In essence, I don't think there is much difference between various wargaming genres, since they have much more in common than they are different. I see gamers playing with toy soldiers rolling dice.

Humans and chimpanzees have more genetic material in common than not (they share over 95% percent of their DNA). Doesn't make them the same thing except in both being members of the larger category of ape.

I have no problem with "miniature wargaming" being the larger category "ape" in that analogy and make no comment about the analogues of the the other two. Those who are chimpanzees can demonstrate it by flinging poo if they so desire. :D

Ben Avery Inactive Member18 Aug 2016 11:38 a.m. PST

Absolutely Nheastvan – I'll play skirmish games at the club, but they often tend to blur into one, particularly when guns appear. CoC feels different, certainly intent.

For me, I prefer history but enjoy alternate history scenarios (particularly as they often help with an understanding of why things did happen in reality. I suppose I'm less interested in how fantastical things may or may not be in classifications and more what people are trying to represent. If I have a day to play, I'd generally prefer an operational game than half a dozen skirmishes. This often means losing the miniatures, but that's the way it goes. At the same time, I suspect points-based games, whether FOW, GdeB or WH40k, make up a sizeable proportion of games played in any given week around the world.

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