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"Units. Abstract or Exact?" Topic

16 Posts

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775 hits since 20 Apr 2017
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Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 10:23 a.m. PST

Let me clarify the terms:

A game has Exact units when each figure or unit represents a specific, known quantity or size.

Examples include most any skirmish game (one figure is one soldier), Crossfire (1 stand is one squad), Empire (1 figure is 60 men.. if I remember right) and so forth.

Abstract games don't correlate the figures to an exact size or might suggest a size but leaves it up to the players.

Examples include DBA, Lasalle, Blucher, 1 Hour War-games etc.

What are your feelings on these two approaches? Does it make any difference in the end? What do you prefer? Why?

(bonus points for articulating your preference without dumping on someone else)

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 10:34 a.m. PST

Once you get outside of a single figure is a single soldier, it doesn't make any difference to me one way or the other.

Mick the Metalsmith20 Apr 2017 10:35 a.m. PST

I would state that any game that tries to represent anything but 1:1 is abstracting it. Even empire.

acatcalledelvis20 Apr 2017 10:43 a.m. PST

Shoudn't the question be "What do I want from the game I am playing?"
Because your answer tells you whether abstracted units or exact units are the answer.

If I was told I was playing with 21st Pz units with exact numbers from an exact date I would be looking for various differing guns/armour and abilities, and that to be reflected in the game.
If I was told my 21st Pz units had a combat value of 12 and a move of 6 then that would be all I would worry about for the game.

And that applies for any period – Blucher by abstracting brigade units to abstracted numbers removes the issue of 'my regiment is better than your regiment because…' and allows the game to concentrate on being an operational level experience for the player, whereas a skirmish game you can directly reflect the historical interpretation of that unit.

I play both, and am happy to differentiate between the two.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 11:02 a.m. PST

+1 79thPA

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 11:04 a.m. PST

No preference. A good game is a good game, whatever the "units" might be.

Regardless of your preferences, they are just game pieces, nothing more, nothing less.

Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 11:33 a.m. PST

Ditto to Extra Crispy


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 11:56 a.m. PST

I'm always a little suspicious of "abstract unit" and it's twin brother "no set ground scale." Can be a good game, but if you try a historical battle, expect some difficulties in the fit.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member20 Apr 2017 12:00 p.m. PST

The whole notion that a figure must represent an exact number goes back to the days when wargaming was still firmly entrenched in model soldiers. If you start from a single soldier, and the focus of the game is to do something with single soldiers, then naturally the question comes "What does this soldier represent". Hence in older types of games you get all these 1:33 representation scales and so on.

In hindsight, this was a flawed approach, since the size of your table was determined by that scale. If you chose 1:33 as a representation scale, then a batallion must occupy a certain area on the table, and since a game has so many battalions, table size is determined as well. Of course, this doesn't always give feasible results, so a lot of fudging factors are needed.

OTOH, it's far better to start from the desired footprint of a unit, then decide how many figures in what scale you can fit on that footprint, and that's it. This is top-down approach instead of a bottom-up approach, and (in my opinion), is the way a modern design should follow. If you follow this approach, it's not that hard to relax what a footprint represents exactly.

The worst of both worlds are rules that insists on very specific unit footprints, and at the same time insist on figure:men ratios. Quite unworkable.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2017 12:55 p.m. PST

Until a unit is made to give up ground or behave in an uncontrolled manner (loss of cohesion under unit leadership) it remains as a unit. So in reality, numbers do not matter as long as they are performing their ordered task.

I am for depicting a "unit" as a "Unit" as the rules define it. Rate the unit appropriately for the level of play the gamer is playing in the command chain. (Abstracted)

Dave Crowell20 Apr 2017 1:52 p.m. PST

I will happily play both. What I care about is that the game plays smoothly and enjoyably.

I am comfortable with "game" over "simulation". This may explain my comfort with abstraction.

RetroBoom Inactive Member20 Apr 2017 4:34 p.m. PST

For me, the table has to look like a rough approximation of what its trying to represent. As much as possible, I want 1:1. For pre-20th century gaming, once you get to the point where a unit is hundreds or thousands of men, it doesn't matter to me s much as long as the models on the table look like "a lot of dudes in the unit".

This is the main reason I have a tough time with WWII games where a stand = a squad. 3 or 4 guys is "clearly" not 10-12 and it ruins my sense of disbelief. Having 1 tank model represent 3 tanks just isn't fun for me.

having 100 models all bunched up represent 1000 men doesn't ruin the aesthetic for me. Its supposed to be a lot, and while I can tell its not 1000, it still looks like a lot.

For me, this is the difference between miniatures and board games. Miniatures are about the aesthetic. There's little other reason to play them. Board game are generally much more playable and don't have most of the compromises that must be made in miniatures play. As soon as a tank represents 3, the relationship of the things on the table have so little to do with whats happening in the narrative that I wonder why anyone goes through the effort.

I get this is just me though.

basileus66 Inactive Member20 Apr 2017 7:37 p.m. PST

I prefer Exact -per your definition!-. Mind that I am perfectly happy gaming more abstract games, but I rather like the idea of having X number of men represented on the tabletop.

advocate21 Apr 2017 5:41 a.m. PST

I find abstract easier. In 'horse and musket' terms, do I care about the frontage per battalion, which would vary depending upon two or three ranks, is the light company deployed, strength on the day? Generally not. In a game where there was no more than a brigade on the table, maybe. But they are not what I would normally play.

Great War Ace Inactive Member23 Apr 2017 12:47 p.m. PST

A mixture for me. The ground scale is exact in the historical simulation sense, therefore the number of men per base is inflexible. But, being a "one on one" combat system this encourages individual basing. So each figure plays as one man (or horseman). In my mind I switch back and forth all the time, from "that's an individual" to, "that's a company of 64 men".

UshCha24 Apr 2017 4:09 a.m. PST

I do not like total abstract. One, Two, Some, Lots is fine as long as the base covers at least the frontage represented. Thats acceptable for close formation infantry, it may need sabot bases for skirmishers etc. I do dislike unrepresentative bases.

A tank platoon takes up typicaly 200+ yds in battle formation (5 tanks MINIMUm 40 yds spaceing). 1 tank with or without a tank size base representing a platoon to me does not work, as the base is massively out of wack with the groundacale. Personaly for modern warfare 1 to 1 is the limit before it gets to be a board game just because of the dispersed nature of warfare in this period.

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