Help support TMP


""The figure is only a token!"" Topic


65 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the History of Wargaming Message Board

Back to the Game Design Message Board



2,205 hits since 13 Jan 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member13 Jan 2017 4:45 p.m. PST

I wrote a small opinion piece on my blog ( link ), copied here:

"The figure is only a token!" is a statement one hears now and then when discussing the use of figures in miniature wargaming. The context often is when the rules of a game are discussed, and what scale is best used for the figures to represent the troops on the table. The size of the figures is proclaimed to be irrelevant, since what really counts is the footprint of a unit on the table. And whether you "fill up" that footprint with figures that are 6mm or 15mm or 25mm doesn't matter that much. Actually, you could as well use a counter or a simple piece of cardboard to represent the unit, and move that thing around. In that sense, the figure is indeed is only a token.

This view is reinforced by many current rulesets that define units as occupying a certain area on the table whether expressed in base widths or a similar measure. A unit might be defined as defined as having a frontage of 10cm, and you can fill that up with whatever figures you please. Back in the days of Featherstone and Grant, the footprint of units was often a secondary result. Units were defined as consisting of a specific number of figures, often derived from a chosen men-to-figure ratio (e.g. 33 men to 1 figure). The frontage of the unit on the gaming table was then the result of physically placing these figures next to each other, which in turn led to other measurements such as the ground scale. Depending on whether you take the men-to-figure ratio as your primary starting point, as opposed to the frontage of a unit, indeed leads to a different view on the role of the wargaming figure. If the role of toy soldiers is limited to filling up a pre-defined footprint, one might indeed come to the conclusion that the figure is only a token. (I guess since that early hobby wargaming after WW2 was entrenched in toy soldier modeling and collecting, it's no surprise the actual toy soldier was used as the focal point for developing rules.)

However, I think this is a very distorted even simplistic view on the role of wargaming figures in miniature wargaming.

I fully agree that if you isolate the rules, it does not matter how you represent your troops. A piece of cardboard matching the footprint of a unit does the job as well if not better. Taken to its logical conclusion, you don't even need figures to play miniature wargaming. Actually, you don't even need terrain pieces, since these can also be represented by pieces of cardboard. The game might look dull, but from a strict rules point-of-view, it's the same game. But this argument is only valid if you consider the game to be nothing more than the rules. And I want to argue it is not. Miniature wargaming *needs* miniatures to function properly. The rules by themselves are not enough.

Most miniature wargaming rulesets result in games that are not very "deep". The decisions one has to make as a player are in many cases very straightforward. After the troops are set up, the gaming engine propels the troop forwards, they clash in battle, and that's it. Granted, the player can make some decisions to steer the game in one direction or the other, but often, the decisions are pretty much obvious. Most miniature wargames do not have game trees as deep as Chess or GO, that allow you to explore various equivalent alternatives, and also allow you to plan a significant number of moves ahead. This does not mean a miniature wargame cannot be complex but the complexity is often present in the game mechanics. Combat resolution is often a complex procedure, involving various dice rolls, looking up modifiers, etc. This gives the impression the game is complex, but the complexity is often the result of elaborate procedures that mask the inconvenient truth that once you take away those convoluted mechanics, nothing much is left decision-making-wise.

But that does not imply the game cannot be fun. The fun part in miniature wargaming is often watching the battle unfold. The role of the players (besides making a few simple decisions), is to execute the gaming engine: move the figures, determine combat, remove casualties, etc. Through the use of randomizers, the outcome is often uncertain and unexpected. In other words, we see the drama and the story of the battle develop before our eyes. We give a little input, but we don't control it.

Every story needs characters. And the characters in our story are our miniatures, whether they are units or single commanders. And this is exactly the reason why a miniature wargame cannot function without splendid-looking figures. We need the figures as emotional anchorpoints to construct the story of the battle. It's very hard to draw up a story about two pieces of cardboard shooting at each other. But when the units are represented by figures, it does add a whole different dimension to the gaming experience. We do need the figures, such that through position identification the player can relate to them and relive the story. Otherwise it's only a dull semi-automatic game propelled forward by rolling dice.

So, are the figures only tokens? No, of course not. Saying otherwise is denying the core of what miniature wargaming is all about: telling stories inspired by military history, with the figures taking up the role of our dramatis personae. A play needs actors. Our games need figures.

Dynaman878913 Jan 2017 4:54 p.m. PST

For me they are only tokens. Nicely painted tokens is a bonus mind you, but just tokens none the less.

Grignotage13 Jan 2017 4:57 p.m. PST

I regularly create virtual tables in powerpoint and move icons around it to try out new rules or playtest my own. I love the look of mini gaming but also enjoy the rules themselves, even without 3d figures and terrain.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2017 5:46 p.m. PST

If they are only tokens, then a dragon can also be a chariot, or even a Tiger tank.

And a British grenadier can be a Confederate infantryman.

If you think they're only tokens, play a boardgame.

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Jan 2017 6:12 p.m. PST

I would not even be involved in Miniature wargaming if it weren't for the miniatures. To me they are everything fun about the game. I need rules and terrain but the figures are what the game is centered around. I love watching them move about, fire, charge and rout. The beautiful miniatures in their colorful uniforms make the game come alive.
I understand those that are in it for the Game rules but, in my case, its the miniatures.

Dynaman878913 Jan 2017 6:17 p.m. PST

> If you think they're only tokens, play a boardgame.

I often do, thanks!

Mark Plant13 Jan 2017 6:23 p.m. PST

After the troops are set up, the gaming engine propels the troop forwards, they clash in battle, and that's it.

You mean like actual generals.

Most people would argue the reverse -- that tabletop generals have far too much control compared to real ones.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2017 6:29 p.m. PST

I think it can work either way.

When I play 1 Hour Wargames, the figures are just tokens, we've played with wooden blocks and had fun just fine.
When I play a skirmish game, I want a painted character that is a unique figure with a backstory.

Of course, I have friends who care not one bit about the gaming pieces and others who like painting more than playing, so hey :)

Winston – Hordes of the Things did pretty much that.
"Shooter" can be an elven archer or a Napoleonic musketeer ;)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2017 8:29 p.m. PST

Saying otherwise is denying the core of what miniature wargaming is all about: telling stories inspired by military history, with the figures taking up the role of our dramatis personae.A play needs actors. Our games need figures.

I agree with Weasel:

TOKEN:
1. A thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of a fact, quality, feeling, etc.

What that token represents would depend on the designer's purposes and subsequent game design. And regardless of what the figures represent, 100 or 1, the miniatures themselves are 'stand-ins'/tokens for what they represent. In a play, there are leads, supporting actors, walk-ons who have one line and 'place-holders' who make up the crowd or background.

The designer playwright can 'make' his players represent anyone or anything he wants, Napoleon or a palm tree. Which is better is just a matter of personal preference.

I imagine that having individual characters with several qualities would be found more in lower level skirmish games. As the scale goes up, most figures become the background crowd and the leaders would more likely be the characters with some game depth.

The little metal or plastic figure is a token, a representation on the game table of *something.* What it represents is up to the designer and the rules he creates, whether it includes fully realized characters in the narrative/story of the game or simply counters for X number of men.

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2017 10:29 p.m. PST

I'm with Winston.

jwebster13 Jan 2017 11:42 p.m. PST

I'm sorry Phil – I find this piece confusing

You start by attacking "figure is only a token", then start talking about wargames not being "deep", then waxing lyrical about how the look of a wargame is important.

Almost everyone I have met has a different opinion about what constitutes "looking good" on the table and how much effort is reasonable to put into this – so I think this is pretty shaky ground. Nobody will refute the idea that miniature games should look good, but some games look better than others …..

The thing that makes games such as go and chess "deep" is the lack of chance factor. When you start rolling dice you can't predict exactly what will happen, so planning more than a few moves ahead is not necessarily of any value. To take the example of DBA (I know, not everyone's favourite game), the pip roll makes you continuously adapt your strategy. I find this more fun than chess.

The token thing. I think you are confusing rules that use base width to define all measurements with substituting miniatures for "pieces of cardboard". Base width as a concept is extremely useful as it allows a set of rules to be used at different scales, and with existing armies with different basing. There is also a rules issue where the table depth and move distance need to be in balance, and the unit frontage needs to be related to this or the length and depth scales would be different. Unit frontages are therefore critical. This gives a logical deduction that it doesn't then matter what is on the base, but that deduction does not mean that the rules author didn't expect the base to "look good".

John

MacrossMartin Inactive Member14 Jan 2017 12:49 a.m. PST

I think it's a little harsh to accuse Phil of 'attacking' the role of a figurine by defining it as a token. And the depth of a wargame as a simulation is not consequentially at odds with its visual appeal.

I think Phil is quite correct in his analysis; no matter how much love, time, research and skill we pour into our toy armies, they are merely tokens that represent the position and 'footprint' of their real-life counterparts on the battlefield.

That fact does not necessarily denigrate or dismiss wargames figures as 'glorified tokens' because our hobby is NOT defined by the act of simulating battles. When you think about it, 'wargame' is a terribly misleading term with which to define our hobby of collecting, reading, researching, painting, modelling, sculpting, casting, throwing dice in the fishpond, etc, etc… Our figures are the source of much enjoyment and pleasure, and some of us even elevate the act of creating or painting them to a fine art.

Phil is correct in arguing that regardless of the style of one's 'tokens' be they masterfully painted 54's or scraps of card with symbols the role is exactly the same in terms of the role they perform within the context of a game's mechanics. This is why it is perfectly acceptable to proxy (say) WW2 armour when you're taking 'Team Yankee' out for a test drive, before committing to buy yet another army of toys.

But if all we did was play games for the sake of the simulation, we'd never put a single soldier upon the tabletop. A massive part of a wargame is its visual appeal.

Hands up those of us who delight in seeing unpainted armies set up on bare chipboard hills? Yes, not too many of us, I see… So in fact, we can probably agree upon what we define as the standard for visual appeal we define it in the effort expended to provide that appeal, based on the group knowledge of what investment of skill / time / money is required.

If someone puts on a convention game of (for example) Agincourt in 54mm, with all the liveries meticulously researched and painted, with bespoke scenery, AND the players dressed in period costumes they made themselves, we are mightily impressed. The same game, fought with unpainted 15's based on roughly cut cornflakes box cardboard and a dozen off-the-shelf Woodlands Scenics trees scattered about is unlikely to attract the same appreciation.

But the thing is its not just the figures that are key to the appeal of wargaming in miniature, as opposed to with maps and counters. In fact, unless you're using larger scale figures on a small battlefield, it is very likely that any wargame you've fought has the vast majority of its surface area unoccupied by toy soldiers. Therefore, the majority of the visual appeal comes from the scenery, not the armies!

Model railway enthusiasts know this is true; as much as they love their engines and rolling stock, the very nature of modelling a transport system is that these centrepieces are often in motion, vanishing behind hills or into tunnels, while the miniature landscape remains frozen in place around them.

As a result, they pour hours of effort into their scenery, fretting over cobblestone roads, hand-casting concrete water towers, making their own sleepers and track (because the commercial stuff is too thick by a hundredth of a millimetre).

Of course, the nature of wargaming means we're reluctant to make 'permanent' layouts of battlefields as our rail-mad brethren do of stations and sidings. But we're always delighted by realistic-looking buildings, pretty fields, copses of trees, and so on. We're all 'miniaturists'. It makes me wonder (sometimes) if we're happier actually playing the games or setting them up?

Our figures are indeed tokens but what lovely tokens they are.

Whirlwind14 Jan 2017 12:53 a.m. PST

I think I disagree with everything in the OP.

thehawk14 Jan 2017 7:53 a.m. PST

In 28+mm the only games I play are where 1 figure = 1 soldier. Even 20mm for WW2.

Don Featherstone covered the concept in his books. But it is also the way computer games and many real-world simulations handle things.

KSmyth14 Jan 2017 9:18 a.m. PST

Also with Winston. If a figure is just a token why bother? Why paint or base them. Why not just use rocks or pieces of twigs?

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

Now I want palm tree based war gaming.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

Also with Winston. If a figure is just a token why bother? Why paint or base them. Why not just use rocks or pieces of twigs?

I understand where you and Winston are coming from. I play wargames with miniatures for several reasons, but a major one is the look and craft of creating a beautiful table.

I think "just a token" assumes a fairly minimalist--even simplistic--view of what a 'token' is and how it can and does function in a game system. We aren't simply talking about meeples or cardboard chits. Anything can function as a 'token' in a game.

I like painting figures and the tabletop'look' is important. I enjoy giving commanders character and the game narrative/story is a significant part of the entertainment and fun.

Saying that the miniatures, trees, buildings etc. are tokens is simply how those things function in a game: a physical representation of something else.

The stand of Napoleon and his staff can be a work of art and the rules can have the characters of Napoleon and his staff play a large part in the game narrative--regardless, that stand of Napoleon and his staff is a game token--a representation of a historical figure and his staff.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 1:50 p.m. PST

Hmm. Well, in a technical sense, of course, they ARE tokens: they represent soldiers, but they are not themselves such.
But even though I began with multiple-casting bases, and still have many troops based that way, I've come to think of the 20mm+ individually-based casting as the most versatile thing in wargaming, adaptable to a very large number of rules sets, able to show damage to the unit without book-keeping, and, at least in horse & musket,instantly identifiable for what it is: no need to find "Unit 19" on some roster or other, because anyone can see they're French Carabiniers or Prussian Musketeers.
I think sometimes we get a little too sophisticated for our own good.

Garth in the Park14 Jan 2017 3:13 p.m. PST

If they are only tokens, then a dragon can also be a chariot, or even a Tiger tank. And a British grenadier can be a Confederate infantryman. If you think they're only tokens, play a boardgame.

First of all, Duh, no… if a boardgame token says "Chariot" and has a picture of a chariot, then your first reaction isn't going to be, "Hm, this might be a dragon." Yeah, it's just a token, but it's a token that shows something.

But more importantly, this is like religion, isn't it? Everybody picks and chooses which sacred commandments must be obeyed, and which can just be ignored. Everybody draws his line in a different place.

So if you're playing a scenario set in Normandy, involving a German unit that had King Tiger tanks with the Porsche turrets, and your friend shows up with King Tiger models with the Henschel turret, do you scorn him and tell him to go play a boardgame instead? After all, it's not just a token! It needs to be historically correct!

Oh, no, don't be silly, we don't get that picky! The wrong turret will do. Close enough!

OK, so you're playing a scenario involving Panzer-IVs but you don't have quite enough, so you proxy-in some Panzer IIIs, right? And nobody in the club has French Middle Guard figures, so here, these Young Guard figures will do. And I never got those F-6 Hellcats painted, but we can use these F-4 Wildcat models instead and just say they're Hellcats…..

I'm firmly in the "it's just a token" camp. I paint figures because I enjoy painting them and looking at them. And I play games because I enjoy playing games. Enjoyment of one doesn't necessarily depend on the other.

Dynaman878914 Jan 2017 4:42 p.m. PST

We should have a poll/graph between those that think a token is important vs those that think "it's just a game" is a good excuse for bad rules.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 5:29 p.m. PST

It seems to me the discussion is centering around the value of a "token" as opposed to the value of a " miniature" and what we are personally attracted to with concerns to war gaming.
Of course the miniature is a representation of whatever we say it represents, making it a token.
Years ago I had an ACW collection in both 25mm and 15mm (don't ask for an explanation, I just love miniatures) -- the figures were mounted on the same base sizes. I used the exact same rules. One rather astute fellow questioned, "how does the 25mm cannons and guns fire and move the same distance as the 15mm guns and cannons?" The answer: neither of them actually fire anything, or move anywhere -- they are tokens.
Now, like some of the posters above, my attraction to the game is 100 percent and fully based on the miniatures and the look of my table with the miniatures on it, This is why I use the same scale buildings as the scale of the figures being used because I think monopoly buildings look silly and ruin the look of the game -- same with using string as roads -- because this is my goal and the pupose of the game. Nonetheless I realize the figures are representative, or tokens.
If a 15mm figure represents 5,10,20,50 men is totally determined by you the gamer, making the miniature a token representation.
if the sole purpose of the game is just the game- then indeed,figurines are not necessary-- they are tokens that move, fire, melee,as I say and represent what I say. That being said, I would never game without my beloved and beautiful figures/tokens.
My personal love of the figurine and what I desire to personally accomplish with my game does not change the fact that the figurine is indeed a token.

Regards
Russ Dunaway

vtsaogames14 Jan 2017 6:49 p.m. PST

They are game tokens, but painted miniatures look so much better than counters. And I try to have them wearing correct period dress. And I have always loved toy soldiers, long before discovering they could be used in games.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2017 7:04 p.m. PST

Vtsaogames, I totally agree. I would never paint a Russian Napoleonic figure as a French soldier or use a dragoon as a Hussar or a Mohawk as a Sioux. However, this is simply my personal preference and does not change the fact that the figurines are representative token.

Regards
Russ Dunaway

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 3:59 a.m. PST

"ALL THE WORLD IS BUT A STAGE AND WE ARE BUT PLAYERS IN IT"

The writings in this post are but tokens, elecrical impulses interpreted by 2 000 000 yeasr old software.

Thus we are talking abot degree of representation. Our own games do not confirorm to the OP's definition they are as complex as chess but are not the same.

I am an engineer by trade but even we somtimes need a physical representation to easier understand complex physical shapes. I can read maps but they are difficult and I cannot easily visulaise complex terrain. All simulations require simplification to be usefull. 3D wargames terrain is a good example. The complexities of even a simple arragement of say Kallitra hex is hard to visulise. Many games builr on such maps show problems rhat can only be easily seen when built. Therefore the token has intrisic value. Painting it the right colours again adds art and additional data which can easily and quickly be assimalated.

Similarly its difficult to visulise arcs of fire to or from buldings and vehicles as they are complex 3D geometry even on much simplified wargames terrain, which by requirement is not as complex as the real world deliberately.

This tolkens need to be easily recognised and again colours and shapes help. I have seen very convinceing simplified carboard "3D" models from just flat surfaces, particularly space creaft and some aircraft, that would to me be adequate as they look solid and take up the volume of a more convetional model. I have certainly seen simplified cardboad models that work convinceingly.

So depending not only on the requirements of art but on the necessity to obtain dara both identification and for the solution of relatievely complex geometric issues quickly and relaibly the "quality" of the required tokens will vary. This was missed completely by the OP.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 4:24 a.m. PST

A miniature is a token … as opposed to what?

As for whether you can substitute a chit and have the same interaction with the game, it depends on the rules. And I am assuming you don't mean what you said. "a simple piece of cardboard". Or, I'll let " simple" include an extensive set of unit type/characteristic markings and heading indicator, at the least. For some rules, that might be enough, for others it is still not.

Last Hussar15 Jan 2017 5:18 a.m. PST

Its a token – its just more aesthetic for the game.

People who actually wargame properly, where it isn't a game, because they are planning for real wars, so have accurate C3, use tokens – nowadays held as bits in a computer.

Dragon/Chariot – gets done all the time. "Look, I don't have this model, so this one will be subbing in. As long as both players know, it doesn't affect the game. I can't tell the difference between a 1:300 T72 and T64 (I think its those two), especially on the table top – so does it matter if my Soviets sometimes represent the other one?

You can play chess with scraps of paper, cheap plastic Staunton, or hand crafted character models. Weather it is a bit of paper that says 'K', a column with a crown on top, or Napoleon, its still the King.

Its just aesthetics.

Here's a further thing. Someone above said they have buildings/terrain the same scale as figure – and I can see that- who wants men marching past hobbit houses?

BUT lots of people use the next size down because of foot print, which distorts the game: If one casting =20 men, then that loving representation of Hougoumont is 20 times too wide, distorting the French advance. Even if you use a single rank of figures, and that figure is 10x2, then the farm is still 10x too big.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member15 Jan 2017 7:47 a.m. PST

You start by attacking "figure is only a token", then start talking about wargames not being "deep", then waxing lyrical about how the look of a wargame is important.

Ok , perhaps I took a few shortcuts in my line of reasoning ;-)

What I wanted to say is:
1. Wargaming rules are not that deep the decision tree of the rules by themselves don't offer a very deep game; (the complexity in most wargames is present in the mechanics and procedures, not the decisions);
2. Hence, to make our games interesting, we *need* the (historical) background, the story;
3. In order for 2. to function properly, we need figures we can give (emotional) meaning to.

Thus, miniature figures are important in the game, they have a well-defined role. The same game with pieces of cardboard as tokens is not that interesting. If you strip miniature wargaming from the history and the visuals, there's not much left.

So, miniatures are much more than simply tokens. Without them (i.e. using something else instead of miniatures), the game has no meaning.

Garth in the Park15 Jan 2017 9:43 a.m. PST

Thus, miniature figures are important in the game, they have a well-defined role. The same game with pieces of cardboard as tokens is not that interesting. If you strip miniature wargaming from the history and the visuals, there's not much left. Without them (i.e. using something else instead of miniatures), the game has no meaning.

I still don't understand the argument. If you take away fishing rods, nets, and bait, then fishing isn't much of a hobby anymore, either, right? Doesn't everybody know that? What's the point of making that assertion? That would be like saying, "Without art on the walls, an art museum isn't quite the same…"

Everybody knows that miniature wargames involve miniatures.

Or are you arguing that unless people think about miniatures the same way that you do, they're not really playing "miniatures" ?

I've got miniatures on my table, but for me they're just tokens. I don't really care that I've got "generic" Confederate infantry, rather than the exact, specific, and correctly-painted units that fought at this battle, carrying the correct flags. So, are you saying that I'm not playing miniatures when I do that? (Cuz wait until you see what we used to represent Soviet helicopters in our recent Able Archer game….)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 9:46 a.m. PST

What I wanted to say is:
1. Wargaming rules are not that deep the decision tree of the rules by themselves don't offer a very deep game; (the complexity in most wargames is present in the mechanics and procedures, not the decisions);
2. Hence, to make our games interesting, we *need* the (historical) background, the story;
3. In order for 2. to function properly, we need figures we can give (emotional) meaning to.

Phil:
I am unclear about your definition of a 'deep' game. Chess offers one decision a turn with numerous consequences. Most wargames offer a wide variety of decisions in just one phase of a turn, all with numerous consequences.

To say we need pretty figures to make miniature wargames 'interesting' or that without them the game has no meaning is really strange. Many board game rules have been made into miniature games and vice-versa, not to mention computer games. Were only uninteresting games so translated?

I think some of the issue here is the 'forth wall' with our game imagination and pretending. We enjoy pretending the battle vista before us is real… just like any good game provides that 'magic circle' of playing, 'acting as if' something was real or important whether it is Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders.

Miniature wargaming has this ability to create illusion in spades… Getting lost in the pageantry and physical representation is something no other game medium provides, even computer simulations--because we have a personal connection to our miniatures.

We lovingly paint up our generals and troops, have a time and care relationship with them…even a history of the many games where they triumphed or failed. To call them 'tokens' breaks that forth wall of imagination,creating a discordant image against our--for the lack of a better word--relationship with our miniatures. And players can get annoyed when you break that forth wall, suggesting that the figures are "just tokens."

Thus, miniature figures are important in the game, they have a well-defined role. The same game with pieces of cardboard as tokens is not that interesting.

Uh, well, it isn't AS interesting as the game is with them, but to suggest the game--any miniature game--itself isn't 'that interesting' is a step away from reality.

If you strip miniature wargaming from the history and the visuals, there's not much left. So, miniatures are much more than simply tokens. Without them (i.e. using something else instead of miniatures), the game has no meaning.

"Not much left?? Really?! Why miniature rules but not other game rules?? I think the idea that the game has 'no meaning' is simply that forth wall being broken. We give the games meaning, the miniatures don't.

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 11:31 a.m. PST

Not even sure what "(emotional) meaning" means. I use models that proivide the relevant data stream to run the game. I have played lots of games and have had fun but winning or having a good game is about when a plan comes together. I do no invest in my models. Thats sadder than the worse sort of anthropomorphism. They are just models to play a game.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 11:44 a.m. PST

I think the OP is confusing his personal goals and enjoyments for war gaming in this thread?
Like I said in my earlier post, like the OP, I myself without the figures and terrain, would never war game, that's the part I love (I suspect this is what he means by "emotional") also?
But, just because my primary love of the hobby is the miniature (that's why we call it "miniature gaming" is it not?) Does not change the fact that the miniature is still a token.
Regards
Russ Dunaway

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

clearly to some the minatures are the end. To others they are mearly a means to an end.

Beter a good wargame with "poor" figures than a bad game with "good" figure.

To me many figures are massively overblown in detail for what is required for a good wargame an worse still overpriced becuase of that. Most of my figures are prone flats on simple bases. Easy to recognise and adequate for the task cheap and easy to paint.

I definitely don't call it Minature Gameing. ;-).

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

I saw a GW tournament game at a con once where they could use "just tokens" as I believe was the "official" rulings in that age.

To make a point how ludicrous this was I saw a guy field an "army" of bottle caps, licorice, and wadded up pieces of different colored paper. The guy across from him had an award winning painted army.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 2:40 p.m. PST

the complexity in most wargames is present in the mechanics and procedures, not the decisions

I don't have a comprehensive list of all games, so I can't say what the characteristic of most games is. However, for the games I write and like to play, the complexity is not in the mechanics and procedures. It is in the scenario.

As you allude in the OP, complex rules don't necessarily greatly increase the decision space. Making one decision, then walking through seven steps to resolve it doesn't make seven decisions. It can make the decisions themselves more complex, if the type, number, or order (including branching) of the steps is dependent on the single decision. But it doesn't have to.

Played an American Zivil War scenario yesterday. Four people, about four hours, about thirty rounds (each player gets one turn in one round). One rules question. One explicit discussion of probability and options. Pretty much the whole game was strategic discussion, thinking three to four rounds ahead.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2017 4:16 p.m. PST

Probably also worth noting that even in board games, some games have more attractive tokens than others :-)

Vidgrip15 Jan 2017 5:55 p.m. PST

Figures are tokens. Years ago I played games with cardboard chits on hex maps. It was fun and every bit as deep as chess. We didn't call it "miniature gaming" of course. It was called "war gaming" and it was fun.

Like most people reading this I do prefer 3D figures to cardboard chits. I will use the best tokens I can afford (and I just spent $300 USD on Mirliton figures this afternoon). But if 3D miniatures become illegal for some reason, I'll just go back to playing with cardboard chits rather than play chess.

I play chess once or twice a year. It isn't nearly as deep (in terms of decision making) as any of the miniatures rules I use, including some with less than ten pages of rules.

But thank you, Phil Dutre, for putting your opinion out there. It's an interesting discussion!

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member16 Jan 2017 2:15 a.m. PST

Figures are of course tokens. But they cannot be just any token. Mechanically, the game will still work, but it will be a lesser game.

In an excellent game, the rules, mechanics, visuals, representations, … all blend into a coherent whole. The visuals of the playing pieces enhence the gaming experience, and the story of the ongoing battle.
Hence, one cannot just use any token one wants. The token has a role to play, not only by its mere presence, but also by its visual esthetics, tactile components, etc.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2017 5:25 a.m. PST

People who actually wargame properly, where it isn't a game, because they are planning for real wars, so have accurate C3, use tokens nowadays held as bits in a computer.

Yeah, but those "tokens" are in many cases very similar to the real thing. In good military training games, you use real C4I systems.

Garth in the Park16 Jan 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

Figures are of course tokens. But they cannot be just any token. Mechanically, the game will still work, but it will be a lesser game.

I'm still not understanding this. How, exactly, do you determine the proper token-ness of a game token, in order for it not to lessen the game?

For example:

We're playing a Pacific WW2 scenario and the game calls for F6 Hellcats, but I'm using models of F4 Wildcats. Have I lessened the game?

Did I lessen the game a couple of weeks ago when I used "generic" Confederate figures in an ACW scenario, rather than correctly-uniformed and flagged units from that historical battle?

What happens if the scenario is fictional? How could the use of an incorrect token lessen the game, when none of the historical units were ever there in the first place? For example, a WW3 game set in the 1980s? Or a "What-If" game speculating European participation in the ACW? Do I really need historically correct tokens to represent units that never fought in a battle that never happened?

What about if the units themselves are fictional? A friend of mine plays alt-WW2 air games with experimental jets that the Germans had on the drawing board but never completed. A great game, by the way. How do we use the correct tokens to represent units that never existed, flying machines that never existed?

wminsing Inactive Member16 Jan 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Yea, they are just tokens. This part is very clear; from a rules perspective I've never seen a rules set that actually cares if the 'model' is a miniature or a tiddlywink. But for many folks the aesthetic quality of wargaming is as or more important than the rules aspect.

What about if the units themselves are fictional? A friend of mine plays alt-WW2 air games with experimental jets that the Germans had on the drawing board but never completed. A great game, by the way. How do we use the correct tokens to represent units that never existed, flying machines that never existed?

Model them yourself, obviously, and then make extras and sell them to me. :)

-Will

Russ Lockwood16 Jan 2017 3:32 p.m. PST

Aesthetically, to me, miniatures are cool. Nothing against boardgame cardboard tokens -- I play a lot of boardgames, and for that matter card games and computer games. It's just miniatures offer a 3-D tangible representation (token) of a unit. Wings of War (WWI air) started with planes as cards, but later expanded into plastic models. The planes just look cooler than a flat card, even though the game plays the same.

Whether it's a great painted figure or my own mediocre-painted figures, it's a 3D 'thing' I can shove around a table without hex or square delineations (although I've played lots of those, too).

Mind you, some of this 360-degree freedom comes at a price of potential arguments over millimeter placement, but we all learn the 'social art' of declaring things before, during, and after movement for tabletop clarity.

We do have to separate the minis from the rules. You can have the greatest looking game, but miserable mechanics. Likewise, you can have a close, exciting game with spray-painted figures on felt. All of us likely have been to both extremes of games. I prefer great looking, close, exciting games -- and I've played in a number of those, too.

Vidgrip16 Jan 2017 6:05 p.m. PST

Ok, Phil. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying your argument … better figures make for a better miniatures game. I can accept that. But it isn't a very useful statement when most gamers do not agree on which figures, scales, painting styles, or basing conventions are actually "better". I believe that the more open minded I am about what looks good on a table, the more interesting and enjoyable people I will get to game with.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 Jan 2017 7:47 p.m. PST

Phil:

Better figures can make a better game. I certainly think so, but…

What do you do with those many folks who enjoy playing with unpainted figures. They seem to find the games interesting without much to them. [Gasp, 3mm?]

I think you're speaking a miniature wargame preference, however widely and strongly shared, than some absolute across the miniature wargaming community.

Ottoathome18 Jan 2017 9:44 p.m. PST

Phil is absolutely correct. All the pieces we use are merely tokens with absolutely no connection to the real entities they represent except the arbitrary objects (values and rules) we attach to them. As I have said other times, you can have an army of the style of Moreschauser where one side is the Mongols and the other is the Russians. The Heavy Cavalry for the Mongol Side can be Mongol Horse archers, and the Heavy Cavalry for the Russians can be T-34 tanks. If the values are identical for "heavy cavalry" across the two armies, those for the Mongol Horse archers are identical to the T34, the game works fine.

Rules are no help at all.

In a set of Fantasy rules we have.

"Bows hit with a 6 on dragons. If you are firing Elves, then you hit with a 5 or a six."

In a set of Medieval Rules we have

Bows hit with a 6 on heavy cavalry. If you have English Longbowmen you hit with a five or a six."

In a set of modern rules we have

Guns firing on a tiger tank hit with a 6. if they use Armor piercing shot they hit with a five or a six."

The rules are as "tokenish" as the miniatures.

Might have as well have a rule that says.

Elvish Bowmen firing armored piercing discharging sabot arrows on dragons hit with a 5 or a six."

Anyone who thinks that the little lump of lead there has some sort of mystical connection to the real life paradigmatic prototype of the soldier are loonies. They are into, as Phil said, a species of wish fulfillment that caters only to the person who seeks through his rules to prove that he is an undiscovered military genius, a nascent Napoleon or the Sergeant Rock, Steiner, Petrov, or whatever from his comic book days who can take out a tiger tank with a cross look.

On the other hand you all have conveniently forgotten Phil's other point made in other posts that the central star in all war games are not the rules, but the soldiers. We are in this hobby, not board games because we like toy soldiers and like to move the lads around and lavish time and effort on them for exactly the same reason model railroaders lavish detail on their railroad, and will drive hundreds of miles to take a picture of an old broken down freight station to model in loving detail.

Phil has always maintained that "It's the toy soldiers that count" This is not for the people who think that the more lovingly they paint their figures for the 443rd SS Mess kit Repair Battalion of the Old, young, middle, over, under, around and through Guard that it makes them a real general or aid in convincing others what a brave soul they are, but that they LOVE their creations and they WANT the representation. You don't NEED excellently painted, historical figures to play a game. You can use unpainted figures just as well if that is your wont. Others of us lovingly go into detail about their armies and love to paint it because they are interested in it. But that is an entirely different thing. I paint Imagi- Nations because I like to use my imagination for the colorful and completely unrealistic uniforms, the punning names, and the back stories of Princess Trixie, Faustus the Grump and so forth. I don't use unpainted figures myself, never would but I don't begrudge those who do. A few years ago I gave to my ersatz grandchildren about 800 figures for fantasy and role playing I was never going to use. I told them to pick out a hundred at a time that they wanted first and I would paint them for them. They never did so, they use them completely unpainted and are extravagantly happy doing so.

It's not that they make a better game or not. It's that you are INTERESTED in making them look like the 443rd blah blah blah, or whatever unit you want.

As far as subbing. I once put on a game where I had to substitute a bunch of Dragon tooth Saurian Behemoths for elephants because I couldn't get the Elephants done in time. The Saurians worked fine. Used them as Elephants.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2017 10:19 p.m. PST

On the other hand you all have conveniently forgotten Phil's other point made in other posts that the central star in all war games are not the rules, but the soldiers.

While I love the miniatures and put a lot of care in painting them and basing them… I also work hard on the terrain.

In the end, making such absolutist statements about "All wargames" and what all of us have forgotten as well as what or who are the 'central stars' in our gaming for all of us is just insisting that a particular personal view, preference or hierarchy of the valued elements in our hobby must The Way, regardless of others' voiced preferences.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member20 Jan 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

Did I lessen the game a couple of weeks ago when I used "generic" Confederate figures in an ACW scenario, rather than correctly-uniformed and flagged units from that historical battle?

No, but that's also not what I am talking about.
What I meant is that if you abstract the representation of the figures too much (change the scale, use a pebble, use a piece of cardboard), you also change the nature of the game. Hence, you cannot just use anything as a token. The token (i.e. the figure) in a well-designed game is part of the game experience.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member20 Jan 2017 6:38 a.m. PST

In the end, making such absolutist statements about "All wargames" and what all of us have forgotten as well as what or who are the 'central stars' in our gaming for all of us is just insisting that a particular personal view, preference or hierarchy of the valued elements in our hobby must The Way, regardless of others' voiced preferences.

Yes, of course, this is a hobby, not a quest for the absolute truth. Any post that expresses a view or opinion expresses just that, a personal view on the hobby.
Sometimes you can extrapolate that personal view to a larger trend or to a majority or gamers, but again, that would also be personal judgement.

I thought that's so trivial it should not be stated in every post ;-)

Aotrs Commander20 Jan 2017 6:56 a.m. PST

Rules are no help at all.

I would say if the sets of rules you use manage to treat such vastly diverse periods of warfare as interchangeable, you probably need better sets of rules…
_______________

I would say that wargames figures are ultimately "just" a marker (and one that often perforce has to be out-of-scale with the ground-scale) as a representation for the position of a rule-modelled unit on the board in the battle.

But the importance of an aethetically pleasing marker (and/or board, for that matter) should not be understated like in computer games, "graphics" are important (though to what degree can vary from person to person). You could play any wargame (and most computer games) with simple blocks, but that just… Doesn't look good. And almost nobody wants to play ANY game (board/wargame/computer game) that looks crap*.

*RPGs are an unusual exception, but because of the more-or-less impossibility of actually modelling, well anythign and everything, so they rely more on the imagination of the DM and players. That said, they also tend to have a lot more supplementary art (or at least reams of descriptive text), which might be argued to be there equivilent of "graphics." Whereas the aforementioned types of games rely more on "what's physically there in view."

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member20 Jan 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

BTW, if people think the visual representation of a token can be abstracted to anything, look up the game Cow-Clicker.

In the end, people were just clicking empty green squares on their screens. No tokens. All meaning lost. Pointless.

"Wait, do people really do that? Click on the spot where a cow used to be?" "Yes."

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2017 12:32 p.m. PST

The token (i.e. the figure) in a well-designed game is part of the game experience.

Phil:
Now, I think that is a solid statement about game design that I can support without reservation. [Dare I say 'absolutely'?] grin

Yes, of course, this is a hobby, not a quest for the absolute truth. Any post that expresses a view or opinion expresses just that, a personal view on the hobby.
Sometimes you can extrapolate that personal view to a larger trend or to a majority or gamers, but again, that would also be personal judgement.

I thought that's so trivial it should not be stated in every post ;-)

And yet, and yet, such absolutist statements about personal preferences are continually made as though they are hobby-wide and universal.

Pages: 1 2