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"Do wargames tend to be caricatures of history? " Topic


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2,602 hits since 11 Feb 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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GreenLeader Inactive Member11 Feb 2017 10:50 p.m. PST

A recent discussion on how to handle rockets got me thinking. Several posters suggested ways to represent the legendary inaccuracy of rockets, most of which would have them flying in all manner of directions and even doubling back on themselves to destroy their own launchers.

I will put my hand up and say I do not know the statistics behind the use of rockets, but I would hazard a guess that the chances of a rocket being launched, then doubling-back and blowing up its own launch team would have to be 1 in a 1000 – and even if it was 1 in 100, is it really worth representing as a possible outcome in our games? If we are going to represent everything that has a 1 in 100 chance of happening, the rules could become pretty lengthy.

On the same post, I used the example of the Gatling gun, and the tendency of many Colonial gamers to want to represent their famed unreliability. On a skirmish level game, this might well be worth doing, but in a game of a larger action (like Ulundi for example) where a model might represent a pair of guns and the time scale might be 30 minutes per turn, can one really say that the guns have both jammed solid for a whole half-hour? It seems unlikely.

We tend to want to include lots of details (‘everyone knows that rifle x was less reliable than rifle y, so let's give it a chance to jam if the player rolls a double 6', or ‘everyone knows the Boers were expert riflemen, so let's give them double the chance to hit', or ‘troops wearing DPM are so much better camouflaged than those in normal khaki') but I feel too much of this means that we end up playing caricatures of history and that, in reality, most of these things – even assuming they are true – would average themselves out over the time scale of a turn / size of a unit.

So is a 'better' approach to abstract these things: to make rockets batteries just somewhat less effective than ‘normal' artillery and simply to make Gatlings rather less effective than Maxim guns – thereby abstracting those rockets which did indeed go astray or mis-fire, and those guns which did indeed jam for a few moments during a turn? Would this be a more ‘accurate' way to represent the way these things would average out over the course of half-an-hour? Or does that diminish the appeal to some, and take away the ‘flavour' that makes our games fun?

forwardmarchstudios11 Feb 2017 11:06 p.m. PST

You are correct both in the general and in the specific.

The flavor thing…. hmm… frankly, it's probably needed. Warfare itself is pretty boring 99% of the time, so there's really no reason not to speed things up and dramatize some things. Generally, the games that are more likely to put that sort of chicanery into the rules are probably less accurate and more gamey anyway. And the games that avoid it are probably rather dry and appeal to the more hardcore. Essentially, everyone gets what they want.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 12:00 a.m. PST

As usual, it depends on what you're looking for in a game. Some wargames emphasize historical correctness and simulation aspects. Other wargames emphasize historical caricatures and toy soldier gaming aspects. Many games are situated somewhere in between, it's a continuum after all.

Neither approach is wrong. They are all right.

You also see this in other media. You can read academic history articles about ww2. You can read well-researched books. You can read more popular books aimed at a large audience. You can read fictionalized narratives. You can (could) even read comics.
All of them convey information, but in a different format and with different conventions (facts, personal impressions, stories, …). As long as you know the comic book is not the most accurate depiction of events, and reading academic journals might not be the most fun (unless you're an academic), you can find the approach that suits you best.

W.r.t. wargaming, my opinion: since we want "to see stuff happen" on the table, the better games and rules do compress events in time and insert a certain degree of caricaturization. Otherwise, our games would be rather dull affairs.

Sobieski12 Feb 2017 1:41 a.m. PST

Good question.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 1:56 a.m. PST

Btw, it's not because an unlikely event – such as a malfunction of a machine gun, or a rocket, or whatever – is named in the rules, that it is present to model a real life event.

One can model the total damage a unit inflicts over the course of a battle in various ways. One way is to divide the total damage over the expected number of turns of turns, with an equal amount inflicted each turn. Or one could built in a chance for misfiring, but slightly increasing the amount in the other turns. On average, it's still the same amount of damage, but it is modeled slightly differently. If the rules designer then decides to give a flavour name to those turns in which the misfire happens, that's ok.
But then players reverse this: they assume the name reflects what the game mechanic is supposed to represent, and start discussing whether there indeed was a misfire every 6 turns.

The real question is not whether the rocket misfires with what probability, but whether you like stochastic variance in your firing results. How you call it is a matter of flavour and fun.

You can extend this to other mechanics, such as variable movement distances, hit locations etc.

Supercilius Maximus12 Feb 2017 2:04 a.m. PST

I think you can blame Sir Henry Newbolt for the jammed Gatling obsession……

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

GreenLeader Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 2:09 a.m. PST

And yet even that, apparently, was a Gardner Gun

4th Cuirassier12 Feb 2017 4:01 a.m. PST

@ GreenLeader

The rocket thing of doubling back on the fire risk is well attested and was commented on by Mercer when he observed them in action. One rocket wiped the entire crew of an enemy horse artillery gun; the one after returned and scattered the rocket crew who nearly shared the enemy's fate.

You are right to note that one can't assume an entire move's worth of fire to be off target when it may be that 50 rockets have been fired. Probably one should fire rockets on the basis that some percentage of the losses they inflict will be on other units. If any of those could be your own you might think twice about using them at all.

I think it's beyond argument that wargames are caricatures. On an Ancients thread a few years ago I asked about how people's rules depicted Romania legions. The answer was that most make no attempt to do so and it's all about the "stands", a tactical formation not found in the literature or the archaeology. Such games are a caricature using Romanesque playing tokens; probably good fun but that's all.

I think any Napoleonic game is a caricature too given that you can fit maybe 500 figures a side onto your typical hame table. These are then taken to equate to 100,000 men…

GreenLeader Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 4:31 a.m. PST

4th Cuirassier

Some great thoughts, and I do not dispute for a moment that such things happened. The point I was making, however, is that by writing it into our rules, are we perhaps inflating that incident (in which no one seems to have been killed, from what you say) into something approaching a regular / semi-regular occurrence? Surely there were incidents of regular artillery pieces blowing up in the faces of their gunners too. We wargamers tend to love anecdotes, oddities and freak occurrences, but I wonder if our enthusiasm for including them into our games can sometimes be a little over-zealous.

The members of my platoon were once jumping out of the back of a 4-tonner and one chap landed badly and shattered his knee – it was an incident I shall never forget, but is the chance of it happening worth including in wargames rules?

Personal logo herkybird Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 4:52 a.m. PST

I think its a logical argument to suggest that if these catastrophic events with rockets were really common, the rockets would not be used?
Its human nature to remember the extraordinary and forget the mundane, I think Mercer et al saw it happen and thought that made rockets a dangerous weapon to use, based on little evidence. Rockets were used successfully during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, without any apparent mishaps to crews (apart from getting killed by the Zulus!).

As to rules, I personally think its bad to try to put rare random events in, or conversely to avoid putting things in for simplicity.
I suggest its best to find a balance, enough rules to give rules flavour, but not to add things just for the sake of it!

Footslogger12 Feb 2017 5:09 a.m. PST

This is a good question. In my favoured Napoleonic rules, where one stand is a brigade, and one artillery unit is three or so batteries massed together, there is less case than ever for allowing the 1 in a 1000 chance events.

It may indeed give a blander game than others, but the only one-off event I could justify would be the chance of a significant leader becoming a casualty.

4th Cuirassier12 Feb 2017 5:20 a.m. PST

@ GreenLeader

As Mercer relates it, the rocket crew basically routed itself. I am sure you are right that it wasn't especially common. The nature of a Napoleonic rocket, though, probably made it more likely than we might think. They were essentially tubes with a propellant inside and a warhead. If the propellant burnt unevenly across the width of the rocket, then it would slew off course, and would only resume course if it then happened that the propellant further up the tube burnt unevenly in the opposite direction. If the missile went off course because the warhead was unbalanced then it would tend to veer one way and keep doing so, in which case you'd see it loop the loop, hit the ground or otherwise circle back whence it came.

The thing about our little tributary of the military history backwater is that military history isn't history, as practised by proper historians. An academic historian is focused on things like how we got from the common view of monarchies in 1550 to the view of 1750 to that of today. It's the history of history in effect. Much military history is simply competitive archives-trawling to prove that that the Prussian won Waterloo, or whatever. It's why Wikipedia doesn't work for history: some twit who's just heard of Siborne or Hofschroer thinks they're the last word and takes the Waterloo article back to a view that's 20 years out of date.

You can follow that same trajectory occurring in rules design. A ruleset of 20 years ago isn't better or worse, it just reflects the neuroses of its day, which is why we got all nervous about national characteristics back in the 80s.

C M DODSON12 Feb 2017 5:21 a.m. PST

The late Charles Grant espoused the term, 'Inherent military probability' in his wargamers rules.

Unless something was a major factor then it is probably best ignored to preserve fluidity of gaming.

However, if you are fighting a historical event then some parameters will be probably required to stop a hindsight driven result.

ie McCellan flattening Lee at Antietam by a properly co ordinated assault.

Iswandalna, unlimited amounts of ammunition.

I feel that IMP was Mr Grants version of common sense.

Happy modelling.

Chris

Blutarski12 Feb 2017 7:58 a.m. PST

Charlie Grant was a smart man.

From my point of view, just as wargaming represents a spectrum of approaches from "game" to "simulation", one could arguably re-title the sprectrum as ranging from "caricature " to "approximation".

FWIW.

B

KPinder12 Feb 2017 9:36 a.m. PST

Read this post. Your perception of it will vary, perhaps considerably, from that of another reader. Your memory of it will be a self adapting characature of what was written. That does not, in and of itself, invalidate your memory, any more than it invalidates that of anyone else.

A game is a characature of an event, just as the figures and equipment are characatures of those that were involved. For that matter history is, even in its most sincerely honest efforts, a characature of what actually transpired. "History is but a lie agreed upon."

And we might not even rate as historians, as was noted above. I was talking to a fairly prickly History Professor in college about our little pastime. He grinned patiently and said "Ah, antiquairianism."

We game because it pleases us. We allow ourselves the fiction that by doing so we can commune with and perhaps learn from the events that we all endeavor to represent as accurately as possible.

Don't sweat it too much. We try as best we can. We have rules lawyers and rivet counters aplenty to do their best to bleed the fun out of what is, after all, a gaming hobby. If you think we're bad, try model railroading.

Paint some figs. Buy some dice. Go over a friend's house and playtest some jazzy looking new rules set. Have a beer and count the days to the next con. Relax, perfection was never for we poor mortals.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 9:54 a.m. PST

The rockets were bad enough that Wellington refused to use them unless noble patronage of a unit forced him.

As far as the topic in general: Sure.
"Detail" makes the game stand out and memorable.

How many games give this or that unit a bonus because they did well or poorly in one battle?
Maybe they just rolled well?
Maybe the commanders just deployed them better?

But that's boring, so we pile on some rules to make it interesting :)


In the end, real life armies didn't fight until reaching 75% casualties for the winner, while our tabletop armies often do, so I think by wargaming to begin with, we've accepted some silliness.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse12 Feb 2017 12:14 p.m. PST

History is a caricature of reality, so wargames cannot escape………….

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 5:59 p.m. PST

I think it's fair to say that wargame rules are inevitably cartoons in the original sense--outlines without detail and possibly without color. But most of them try hard to ensure that the consequences of tactics are as they should be.

The caricatures--exaggerated differences between troop and weapon types, unlikely weapon effects made less unlikely, and problems cropping up which should be at a higher or lower level--are usually an effort to add "period flavor." I can't say they are wrong to do so. This IS a hobby and a game, after all. And going back to our original example, a rocket blowing up in the tube or firing backward might be more rare than is in many rules, but the commander would see a lot more rockets launched than we will make die rolls, and those are two results he'd remember.

I'd also suggest that that sort of thing is one reason we never seem to settle on a single set of rules for a given period and level, any more than we can settle on a single cuisine. One man's period flavor is another's distraction and time-waster.

A few years ago I took part in a rules revision which removed a number of things not appropriate to the ostensible level of the game. The game played much faster and small actions were less quirky. Some players were pleased, but others commented that I had taken out all the fun parts. All a matter of your point of view.

Blutarski12 Feb 2017 6:57 p.m. PST

+1 to piepenbrink.

B

GreenLeader Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 7:36 p.m. PST

robert piepenbrink

A very thoughtful and interesting post, which – I think – covers pretty much all the main points.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 8:38 p.m. PST

The actual question should be:


"Do wargame designers tend to create caricatures of history? "

And the answer would be: it depends on the designer. Wargames are simply the end product and in themselves don't tend to be anything other than what the designer creates.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 11:27 p.m. PST

An interesting discussion.

My own personal take is that such questions of "conceptual approach" to wargaming rules have no objectively right or wrong answer, just individual choices and preferences.

Re: the actual record in action of Gatling guns, as someone very interested in British colonial history and the history of the Second Afghan War in particular, I can tell you that the first ever use of that weapon system by British forces in combat was at the battle of Charasiab, on October 6th, 1879, at which both of the 2 Gatlings present jammed after firing a small number of rounds each, and both could not be unjammed and remained inoperable throughout the engagement.

Months later, during the Afghan attack on the Sherpur Cantonments at Kabul, the Gatling battery of 2 guns contributed to the successful British defense.

Speaking only for myself, as a gamer driven largely by my interest in history, I would feel remiss if I refought Charasiab (a favorite scenario of mine) without including the chance that the Gatlings might jam.

GreenLeader Inactive Member13 Feb 2017 1:15 a.m. PST

Mad Guru

Yes: I agree fully that there are no right / wrong answers and that it all comes down to personal taste. I guess its a little like watching a war film: many tend to prefer the 'Hollywood' take on things, to a more 'accurate' (read: probably boring) portrayal of events.

Your point on the Gatlings is well made. I suppose another way to look at it is that, if one is fighting the Battle of Charasiab and the Gatlings DIDN'T jam, in a way you wouldn't be fighting the Battle of Charasiab?

Maybe this could alternatively be included in such a re-fight by making it certain that the guns do indeed jam and become inoperable on either the first or second time they fire (without informing the British player beforehand, of course). I suppose one could argue that including such a rule / scenario condition for this action is just as important as getting the ORBATs / scenery etc right.

As you say: no right or wrong answers.

PS. But I think it is the case that Gatlings were used to murderous effect by British forces at Ulundi a few months prior to Charasiab?

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2017 2:47 a.m. PST

GreenLeader,

I think you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! I misspoke -- well, miswrote! Ulundi was in July, 1879, so a few months before Charasiab, and the 2 Gatlings in Zululand experienced no mechanical failure, at least that I'm aware of, though I'm no expert on the Zulu War.

It's strange I've seen that reference to Charasiab being the first time British forces ever used Gatlings in action more than once. Maybe it began as a reference to the first time they were used in action by troops from India? Whatever the origin may be, you're right and I was wrong.

Re: how to incorporate the "catastrophic failure" of the Gatlings at Charasiab… though I'm heavy on the history, I don't like to reach beyond the "start lines" of a scenario to control the details as they play out, other than by setting historically accurate objectives for both sides.

If I were conducting a tabletop reenactment of the battle rather than a game, I'd probably do as you suggest and have the Gatlings both jam on the first or second turn they opened fire, and stay jammed until the reenactment ended, but I prefer to let history change this way or that between the start and finish of the game, even though I've spent a ton of time and effort researching what really happened.

Oddly enough, when I took my Charasiab game to the 2015 Colonial Barracks convention, the British commander rolled a one-in-six chance and jammed his sole Gatling (representing the 2 gun battery) on the very first turn it attempted to fire, which kind of blew my mind, in a good way.

I think I come down somewhere in the middle, between "Historical Procedural" and "Hollywood" -- though my Hollywood touches are drawn from the historical record: details like Malalai of Khig rallying the Afghans when their attack nearly faltered during the 1880 battle of Maiwand (she was kind of the Afghan Molly Pitcher).

When I did Maiwand back in 2010, for the 130th anniversary of the battle, I converted a special figure that gave a morale bonus to Afghan troops. I would agree such details have the potential to become a, "tail wagging the dog," but I always limit their potential impact.

I'm in the midst of setting up another scenario with such an element, inspired by the Kipling short story, "The Drums of the Fore and Aft," which involves an inexperienced British regiment facing the Afghan regular army and breaking in the face of a Ghazi charge -- but then being rallied to return to the fight when their two young drummer boys caught in the middle of the battlefield start playing, "The British Grenadier."

On the straight historical side the game will hopefully reflect some of the special challenges of fielding a weak, green regiment (such as the 59th Regt. at Ahmed Khel, where they nearly broke and ran) in place of the usual "A+" veteran line infantry of the Victorian British army… but if the "Fore & Fit Light Infantry" do happen to break and run, they will have an improved chance to rally and return, courtesy of a pair of figures playing the fife and drum which I converted for that purpose. It will not be guaranteed that the Fore & Fit will break and run, thereby earning the mocking monicker "Fore & Aft," and if they do, it won't be guaranteed that the drummer boys will rally them… but they might break and they might be rallied, and that's enough for me.

Though the battle at the end of the story is based on an amalgamation of 2 or 3 historical Second Afghan War battles, it's obvious the very premise of this new scenario of mine involves a literary conceit -- a battle turning on a pair of drummer boys -- which is in no way historical, so I probably shouldn't even have brought it up in this discussion! But I do think it's somewhat connected to your OP, in terms of how significant the Morale boosting effect of something like a pair of drummer boys or a bagpiper droning away under fire, or a local village woman waving a flag and preaching for her menfolk to stay in the fight might be, even in a straight historical context.

GreenLeader Inactive Member13 Feb 2017 3:17 a.m. PST

Mad Guru

I think like most of these 'firsts' there are always exceptions, so I am sure someone will quickly be along to tell us that Ulundi wasn't the first time British troops used them either!

Yes: battles that hinged on a turning-point present an especially difficult challenge to the wargamer / scenario writer. As you rightly point out, there is always a conflict between having the battle play out 'as it should' and giving the player some degree of latitude in his actions / introduce some luck in how things pan out.

If the Zulus don't rally at Isandlwana because an old induna inspires them, are we re-fighting the battle, or a different action? If Piper Findlater doesn't strike up with the pipes at the critical moment, are we really re-fighting the Heights of Dargai? If the British troops manage to shake out of close order before the dawn breaks, are we re-fighting Magersfontein or another action? If the Imperial troops at Tanga don't disturb a bee's nest at exactly the wrong moment, are we fighting an accurate portrayal of that action?

One can put the player in a given position at the start of the game and then hope that the 'right' dice rolls occur to generate these 'freak occurrences', but if they don't occur, it might feel as though something is… missing? Really not sure what the right solution is, but I think you were very lucky that the Gatlings jammed at precisely the right moment in the game you mention!

4th Cuirassier13 Feb 2017 4:57 a.m. PST

Battles turning on a single thing, like your Gatlings packing up, are I think pretty rare. It has not often been the case that commanders would accept battle with winning essentially going by the real world equivalent of a die roll. More usually, epic victories or epic defeats have hinged on a sequence of events that worked together to bring about the outcome, and the battle happened because one side was more aware of this than the other.

If one looks at say Isandhlwana, a great deal had to go wrong for the historical outcome to occur. The British had to split their force into three columns too distant to support one another; then divide one column again and send the stronger part off out of supporting distance of the weaker part; that part then had to fail to take steps to secure the camp effectually; then further fail to react correctly to the approach of 20,000 Zulus; then allow their fire to slacken for whatever reason. Usually the last is cited as the proximate cause of the resulting defeat, but all the other clangers had to be dropped as well and beforehand for that one to have mattered.

Then let's look at Midway. To get defeated there, the Japanese had to have a third of their carriers unavailable and the other four with air groups at only 75% of strength, i.e. they had only half their strength concentrated, needlessly allowing the enemy to outnumber them; they had to disperse their other available carriers out of supporting range; they had to assume their attack would come as a surprise and take no precautions against an ambush; they had to attack Midway with half the air group from all four carriers, instead of all of it from two, a move that would not have congested every carrier's deck or delayed their response to any ambush; they had to fail to notice the presence of an enemy carrier group waiting in ambush; and they had to fanny about changing the load-out back and forth so that they were fully bombed up when they did get hit. Having their codes broken, or failing to spot the US carriers, or having all their aircraft on deck when they were bombed are often cited as the causes of their defeat. But the first two wouldn't have mattered had they not made the other errors, and the last didn't happen. They had to make all the errors to lose.

Waterloo is another case in point. Writers like to point from time to time to this thing or that as the "real reason the French lost". The real reason the French lost was that their campaign went pear-shaped the instant it got going, because they had the B Team executing it. Whole Corps went missing, not one attack was supported properly except at Ligny where they were needlessly outnumbered, and so on. One can point to any incident as the supposedly key one, but when you dig a bit deeper, you find that it was just a question of where the catastrophic failure would manifest.

In all the examples I've given the winners dropped clangers all over the place too. The British were unlikely to run out of bullets before the Zulus ran out of Zulus; unless the line was breached somewhere, that would be it. The US carriers sent nine squadrons of bombers against the Japanese of whom only two attacked as intended; two ditched, two never found the target and three got slaughtered – but two out of nine attacking was enough. Wellington's Waterloo position was basically invincible in the time Napoleon had to force it, so Nosey could leave 17,000 men at Hal, lose all his heavy cavalry plus La Haye Sainte, and it didn't matter.

Of course there are exceptions where it genuinely could have gone either way. But it's actually pretty hard to think of that many. I reckon they are rare, but the exceptions make the best games because they can genuinely go either way. If we gamed in a way such that the likeliest outcome always eventuated because of the accumulation of factors, I think we'd all get very bored.

Who asked this joker13 Feb 2017 5:09 a.m. PST

All wargames are caricatures of history. Some just are light hearted and some are very serious. Therefore, some wargames are better caricatures than others.

ChrisBBB Inactive Member13 Feb 2017 9:02 a.m. PST

A caricature exaggerates or (over-)simplifies distinctive features to make the image of a person more recognizable.

Wargames rules similarly may (over-)emphasize those features of a given conflict that the designer feels are distinctive and important to capture its flavor.

Whether that flavor then works for the player, either from the point of historical rigour or from one of entertaining game-play, drama etc, is then a matter of taste.

(That's my two forint worth. Now I'm signing off for today, to go and enjoy some paprika-laden action in tonight's Hungary 1849 game.)

Chris

Bloody Big BATTLES!
link
bloodybigbattles.blogspot.co.uk

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2017 9:33 a.m. PST

A caricature exaggerates or (over-)simplifies distinctive features to make the image of a person more recognizable.

Wargames rules similarly may (over-)emphasize those features of a given conflict that the designer feels are distinctive and important to capture its flavor.


Exaggerating or simplifying or ignoring parts of history or reality is what ALL written histories do, focus on some things and ignore or abstract others. Novels, movies, just about any and all human endeavour does this. You say you are going to drive to work in twenty minutes… You have ignored a whole lot of activities in that abstraction of 'getting to work.'

But does that make them all 'caricatures?' Caricatures of what?

Caricatures are purposely unrealistic exaggerations of people, usually. Wargames can be caricatures, but it all depends on what the designer wanted to achieve. Ignoring some part of history/reality and focusing on other parts does not automatically make the wargame a caricature of history any more than a historical study does by focusing on commanders and not the grunts in the trenches.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2017 7:46 p.m. PST

About rockets:
[1] If the rocket has some defect that causes it to not fly straight,
[2] and if this defect is steady and doesn't change its affect
[3] what will happen is that it WILL make a circle and come back to its original spot of launch. Depending upon the angle of deflection, it will make a bigger or smaller circle, but it will come back to where it started.

I think (and this is likely correct) that they were launched with some sizable vertical inclineation. If launched with direction close to the horizon, they might sink in trajectory (due to gravity) and hit the ground before returning to the launch point. No problem then.

These were fin-stablized and could be constructed to fly without rotation or with a controlled rotation (which would be difficult, since the rotation would depend upon the speed of the rocket). A slight defect would cause some skewing and maybe a return.

I think the return of a victorian rocket to the launch site is not a silly, rare occurance but a common event. Please remember the WWII submarines that were hit by their own torpedoes- the same physical model was in effect there.

TeodoroReding Inactive Member14 Feb 2017 10:57 a.m. PST

Fascinating. On the wider issue too, I have really enjoyed this thread.Nice to have civilised disagreement too.

ScottS14 Feb 2017 12:41 p.m. PST

On the same post, I used the example of the Gatling gun, and the tendency of many Colonial gamers to want to represent their famed unreliability. On a skirmish level game, this might well be worth doing, but in a game of a larger action (like Ulundi for example) where a model might represent a pair of guns and the time scale might be 30 minutes per turn, can one really say that the guns have both jammed solid for a whole half-hour? It seems unlikely.

I've never fired a Gatling gun.

I was, on the other hand, a USMC armor crewman. Back in the late 80's the USMC still used M-60A1 tanks and AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles.

Both were armed with the M-85 machinegun; it was mounted in the cupola of the M-60 and in a small turret on the AAV.

This weapon was, bluntly, junk. It was completely unreliable. It was designed to be light and have a high rate of fire. It was badly laid out, difficult to maintain, difficult to mount and dismount, and damn near impossible to feed properly. And by the time we got them they were worn out from many years of use.

I would say with absolutely no exaggeration that if you could shoot ten rounds out of one without a jam you were VERY lucky.

In contrast, the reliable old M-2HB was solid. It is a big chunk of metal that throws rounds downrange all day long. If the headspace and timing are set you can shoot as much as you want. I never saw a single one that was set up properly jam or mis-feed in my entire eight years in. Not once.

But I have never seen a wargame that models this. If a game covers things like machineguns jamming they all have roughly the same chance of doing so. Maybe some game somewhere has a special rule about M-85s, but I have never seen it, and I've played more than a few games about modern armor combat.

With that in mind, remember what I said – the M-85 was junk, if you can get it to shoot at all it WILL jam almost immediately. Bang, bang, silence, followed by the sound of the TC cursing. You want to walk rounds onto the target? No way.

And the idea of a pair of those guns staying in service and shooting for a half-an-hour is utterly laughable. No way. It's not happening. I'll bet you won't shoot a single can of ammo in half an hour, and you may well break both guns for good.

Again, there are no exaggerations there. That's hard won experience talking, having been gained from hour after hour for days on end on firing ranges with these things.

How are you going to model that in a game? I would say with, again, no exaggeration that it would be perfectly realistic to give that M-85 a 1-in-6 chance of actually shooting with a chance of inflicting hits each time you try to hit a target. And forget suppressive fire, that's flat-out impossible.

I'll bet the harshest game rules around don't penalize a Gatling gun that much. But I've never seen a modern armor game where the M-85 was penalized in its stats.

And if a game did this – "your M-85 has a 1-in-6 chance of actually working" – would that be a caricature?

The fact is that war, at every level, constantly involves things that go wrong. Weapons break, tanks on routine movements slide into ditches and throw track, soldiers misunderstand orders, ships run aground, helicopters drop supplies in the wrong place or crash, things go wrong. Constantly, all the time, every day.

If anything I think wargames DRASTICALLY downplay this, whereas in reality these things and the decisions surrounding them are the sort of thing that real soldiers and commanders are FAR more preoccupied with than the things wargames cover.

Trajanus14 Feb 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

As I've never been shot, shelled, bayoneted or starved while playing wargames I'd go with caricature.

On the other hand I've never gotten anyone killed, so that balances things out a bit.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2017 6:59 p.m. PST

If anything I think wargames DRASTICALLY downplay this, whereas in reality these things and the decisions surrounding them are the sort of thing that real soldiers and commanders are FAR more preoccupied with than the things wargames cover.

ScottS:
On a low level game, I think you are right about what most wargames do.

This weapon was, bluntly, junk. It was completely unreliable. It was designed to be light and have a high rate of fire. It was badly laid out, difficult to maintain, difficult to mount and dismount, and damn near impossible to feed properly. And by the time we got them they were worn out from many years of use.

I would say with absolutely no exaggeration that if you could shoot ten rounds out of one without a jam you were VERY lucky.

A wargame could portray that issue, right?

As I've never been shot, shelled, bayoneted or starved while playing wargames I'd go with caricature.

On the other hand I've never gotten anyone killed, so that balances things out a bit.

I think you've missed the point of a simulation or wargame…let a lone what a caricature is. I've never played a game that actually wanted those experiences portrayed… oh, wait, I suppose there are a lot of computer first-person that do portray that.

car·i·ca·ture
ˈkerikəCHər,ˈkerikəˌCHo͝or/
noun

a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

synonyms: cartoon, parody, satire, lampoon, burlesque

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2017 7:30 p.m. PST

The pig was junk

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 2:34 a.m. PST

Setting aside the distractive discourses on wayward rockets and jammed automatic weapons (which were obviously intended by the OP to be mere examples and not the focus of the discussion) and ignoring the rather bizarre and irrelevant mention of the absence of the threat of physical harm while playing wargames (which comes up in discussion from time to time in spite of the fact that no tabletop wargame has ever tried to replicate the actual experience of combat, nor could it) and returning to GreenLeader's question:

All wargames are simplifications, to varying degrees, of very complex events; thus, abstractions. Any less-than-perfect abstraction (and that would be all of them) involves distortions of varying degrees. Intentional distortions could be fairly described as caricature; unintentional distortions would be more accurately described as error.

There are differing degrees of caricature and (I think I can say this without pushing the analogy beyond usefulness), depending upon style and intent, and in spite of its generally negative connotation, a caricature (or a wargame) can represent anything from parody of its subject, to homage.

Ramming15 Feb 2017 3:59 a.m. PST

Rocket accuracy depends on the rocket. The Congreve stick rocket was pretty wild but the later Austrian variant of the Hales rocket with rotating fin stabilisation was pretty good.

ChrisBBB Inactive Member15 Feb 2017 4:27 a.m. PST

Well put, War Artisan.
Words of wisdom as always, Bill (McLaddie).

Different designers may emphasize different things. Some may be most interested in technical differences between weapons; others in the minutiae of tactical evolutions; others in higher-level command and control issues; others in characterful and idiosyncratic moments of high drama or low comedy, etc. What one designer sees as vital, another omits as trivial. And in the resulting rulesets and games, what one player sees as a recognizable representation that matches their own view of a given conflict or battle, another sees as a gross distortion.

Chris

GreenLeader Inactive Member15 Feb 2017 4:43 a.m. PST

War Artisan

Yes: the debate does seem to have veered off onto discussing rockets and Gatlings – which were, as you said, just offered as examples as things that wargame rules tend to (in my opinion) over-emphasise.
That said, I think it has been a very interesting discussion so far, and lots of food for thought, so thanks to all.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 9:06 a.m. PST

Now I am going to write "Jammed gatlings and deviating rockets" – the definitive war game about misbehaving 19th century armaments!

Trajanus15 Feb 2017 10:05 a.m. PST

I think you've missed the point of a simulation or wargame…let a lone what a caricature is. I've never played a game that actually wanted those experiences portrayed… oh, wait, I suppose there are a lot of computer first-person that do portray that.

Nah, the only thing I missed is the emoji for sarcasm. :o)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 11:07 a.m. PST

What one designer sees as vital, another omits as trivial.

Chris:
If I chose to omit supply from my game, is that automatically mean I view it as trivial? A designer can be interested in portraying X in his game without viewing Y as unimportant.

And in the resulting rulesets and games, what one player sees as a recognizable representation that matches their own view of a given conflict or battle, another sees as a gross distortion.

And neither probably know what the game design decisions were based on in the first place--that is, what was included and what was not. We aren't talking about what gamers choose to see in the end product, usually based on limited information, but what designers are doing.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 11:18 a.m. PST

All wargames are simplifications, to varying degrees, of very complex events; thus, abstractions. Any less-than-perfect abstraction (and that would be all of them) involves distortions of varying degrees. Intentional distortions could be fairly described as caricature; unintentional distortions would be more accurately described as error.

War Artisan:

I think the term caricature is being misused. Surely you don't mean that intentional distortions are cartoon, parody, satire, lampoon, burlesque

You aren't saying when Ryan wrote his book A Bridge Too Far, he was intentionally distorting history because he left out some history and focused on other events?

You aren't suggesting that all abstractions or simplifications are caricatures, that is "description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

There are differing degrees of caricature and (I think I can say this without pushing the analogy beyond usefulness), depending upon style and intent, and in spite of its generally negative connotation, a caricature (or a wargame) can represent anything from parody of its subject, to homage.

Now we are back to the artist's intent. The general intent of caricature is comic or grotesque. The question would be why an artist would choose caricature to portray a sense of homage for the subject.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 11:22 a.m. PST

Nah, the only thing I missed is the emoji for sarcasm. :o)

Yep, one of the limitations of postings. :-7 Here are some ideas:

;-, smirk :o> too cute ;-/ Ya got to be kidding.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 12:20 p.m. PST

Surely you don't mean that intentional distortions are cartoon, parody, satire, lampoon, burlesque. You aren't saying when Ryan wrote his book A Bridge Too Far, he was intentionally distorting history because he left out some history and focused on other events?

Not at all. "Distortion" would be too strong a word for adopting a particular lens or frame of reference through which to view an event, or series of events.

The question would be why an artist would choose caricature to portray a sense of homage for the subject.

Why indeed, yet I have seen it done. Some caricature uses mild exaggeration that falls far short of "grotesque", and conveys, if not admiration for the subject, at least a lack of animus mixed with a wry sense of humor.

I have also seen wargames that successfully use mild distortion (or "exaggeration", if you prefer) to achieve a certain effect without becoming satire or parody . . . although a couple come close to it, probably unintentionally. (Not naming names, to avoid inflaming those games' fan bases, but I bet you can think of at least one example.)

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 3:13 p.m. PST

The illustrations in Crossfire had a very funny comic-book sort of look to them.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 5:38 p.m. PST

Not at all. "Distortion" would be too strong a word for adopting a particular lens or frame of reference through which to view an event, or series of events.

War Artisan:

Wouldn't that 'lens', where some things are focused on, others not, some abstracted or ignored be a 'distortion?' Isn't that what a 'lens'does: distort?

Intentional distortions could be fairly described as caricature; unintentional distortions would be more accurately described as error.

If I design a game or write a history where I ignore supply and only focus on events and commanders' actions be an 'intentional distortion'? e.g. A caricature?

I don't think terms like caticature or distortion describes what wargame designers are doing [unless they intentionally distort, or want the comic or grotesque] or help much in designing wargames which are representational.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Feb 2017 1:57 a.m. PST

Isn't that what a 'lens'does: distort?

(Trying not to get too tied up in semantics) Not necessarily. A lens, by simply magnifying what is already there, can reveal things which are otherwise not immediately apparent to the casual observer. A good game design can do the same.

I don't think terms like caticature or distortion describes what wargame designers are doing

Generally, no, you're right about that . . . and it's not a technique to which I would resort. I was simply pointing out that some designers have utilized distortions which could fairly be considered "caricature", even if they were not consciously attempting parody (again, not naming names).

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2017 2:28 p.m. PST

I was simply pointing out that some designers have utilized distortions which could fairly be considered "caricature", even if they were not consciously attempting parody (again, not naming names).

Yes, I can agree with that. "Hollywood" wargames often do that. Having unrealistically higher casualties simply to satisfy the dice-lust of the players. Or the intentional distortions in firing ranges that Priestly describes in his book on wargame design:

Weapon ranges in Bolt Action have been twisted to conform to a complicated sigmoid curve that expands weapon ranges at the lower end and increasingly diminishes them at the upper. Some non-linear relationships of this type is commonly employed by designers of modern tabletop wargames to allow for a variety of troop types and equipment.

Intentional distortion, but would that be caricature? I don't think 'cartoonish' was Rick Priestly and John Lambshead's purpose, though they do apply the word 'caricature' in describing John Hill's Squad Leader.

GreenLeader Inactive Member17 Feb 2017 2:35 a.m. PST

Seems we have become a little bogged down in the definition of a caricature, which I suppose is my fault as I was the one who used the word.
Just to be clear, I intended to suggest that some wargames might exaggerate / over emphasise things 'for effect', largely based on historical reality, but a little distorted to make the point.
So we get the whole '+1 for British infantry' / 'cowardly Italians' / 'dashing Highlanders' / 'ever-jamming Gatlings' etc.
Perhaps caricature is not quite the right word, but I think it was fairly clear what I meant?

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