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"Level of Detail?" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian04 Jan 2018 4:25 p.m. PST

In general, would you say that wargame rules today are too detailed, or not detailed enough?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2018 5:13 p.m. PST

Which are today's rules?

If you write your own, they're just at the level of detail you want. Same if you get one out of a magazine or some such. If you buy a commercial set, they're going to run longer, because no one makes money on a two-page set of rules, and you may have trouble finding enough copies, because commercial rules are mostly out of print. But if you can't find ANY at the right level of detail, you're too fussy.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART04 Jan 2018 5:39 p.m. PST

It depends on your definition. Is a high level of detail dependant on a great deal of granular rules or a few rules that encompass the same thing?

By way of example, a rules set could call for a player to send 'couriers' out to sub commanders. Upon receipt (or not) of orders, calculate the sub-unit's reaction time to implement the commands etc..

…Or just toss the dice and abide by the results, such as the Black powder rules.

To address the question, I'd say newer rules are more streamlined than those written decades ago. Most rule sets are generally re-writes of their predecessors but the few that break new ground seem to fall into the streamlined category, folding several concepts into one mechanic.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2018 11:34 p.m. PST

Where does yesterdays rules leave off and todays rules begin? I find most of them are too detailed and that includes oldies like Empire. Currently I find WWII rules too detailed. But I think the majority of WWII players want them detailed. I don't.

UshCha05 Jan 2018 3:08 a.m. PST

I am not sure that "Detail" is the right definition. Some older rules had very poor detail leveling (some parameters were intensly detailed (gunfire for exampl) where other parameters were very poorly addressed like terrain and command and control). There are numbers of rules that have done little to commend them over the Original Featherstone rule others have showed true innovation. Generally the exsessive badly leveled rules of the 1980 have been relaced by ones that are more even in there treatement of key parameters.

How in depth a given parameter is dealt with is personal preference. Much is about the players. The more sophisticated the rules the more a base undersranding of the tactics of the period is required. Many TMP ers seem to play a wide range of games with very varied player knowledge. This leaves players as Jack of all trades but master of none. If you play only one game then you can get into much more sophistication. It does however limit the number of opponents you have access too.

So by definition games played at conventions will be vastly different to ones played between enthusists of a given period. Can you get what you want, proably. Ther are places like Wargamesvault that cover a massive range of tastes.

doctorphalanx05 Jan 2018 6:06 a.m. PST

I would say that ‘older' rules tended to be too hardware-orientated at the expense of other factors.

Don't ask me for examples – I'm generalising from memory which gets ever dimmer…

doctorphalanx05 Jan 2018 6:07 a.m. PST

I would say that ‘older' rules tended to be too hardware-orientated at the expense of other factors.

Don't ask me fir examples – I'm generalising from memory which gets ever dimmer…

Rick Don Burnette05 Jan 2018 10:41 a.m. PST

for the want of a nail the shoe was losr, for the want of a shoe the horse was lost, for the want of a horse the rider was lost, etc, the battle was lost all because of that nail.
dont sweat the details

a whole series of modifiers and plays
cut the cards
or something inbetween, a compromise

Wolfhag05 Jan 2018 11:19 a.m. PST

I've been around wargaming since the late 1960's. I'd have to say that in the last 10-15 years the most popular miniature games have a lower level of detail than previous games (which seems to have brought new blood into the hobby), especially board games. It seems to me miniatures gamers are striving for more simplicity but board games that are selling still have more detail than most miniature games. At conventions I'll see board gamers looking through rules more than miniatures games and no one is really complaining.

Then there is what UshCha said about the difference between conventions and specific gaming groups. I'm a gunnery nut and former military. My taste will be much different than most people. For me rolling a D6 to see if I "hit" and my penetration 9 beats an armor of 8 is boring in a 1:1 skirmish game but I'm not going to criticize people who like it.

Then there is the level of "detail" for the game scale being represented. Trying to track ammo usage for a 6 man infantry team in a Regimental sized battles is not really appropriate. Fighting the entire battle of Kursk in 1:1 level does not mean a historical simulation.

As far as breaking new ground the only real progress I've seen is going away from structured IGOUGO with various ways of reacting and activating units. But even then I think that's mostly a game design mechanic the designer is using as I see very little that relates to training manuals and military doctrine. That's just the way it is – it's a game.

There seems to be very little agreement on how to activate units with an interactive reaction system that syncs all units on the table and keeps all players involved without waiting for others to move or fire without the use of digital tools.

As far as breaking new ground it appears our group is behind the curve in implementing new technology – it's hard. I'd love to see a way to have hidden units on the table without the manual overhead and 3rd party GM's we need right now. BlueTooth and GPS technology have great potential but I have not seen an effective way to implement them. AR goggles sound great but I doubt if we see them used in miniatures games in my lifetime. Technology has the potential for more detail without compromising playability but that can remove the player from the overall "experience". I like rolling dice, not random number generators.

Capt Beefheart makes a good point about most games being a slightly different version of previous games with the new game reflecting the details and prejudices the designer feels is important to him but there is no way you can please everyone.

For me personally, I've found the level of detail and playability I'm comfortable with by experimenting with a timing system that uses historic weapons platform performance, allows better crews to get inside their opponents decision loop and synchs all unit on the table to the same turn. Making it easily understood and playable has been a different story. I'm a complicated person.

Playtesting at conventions with mostly new players forced me to go the playable route, that's a good thing. Living in Silicon Valley has exposed me to new technology I'm trying out. My son is now helping out and knows the technology and what younger people want to play. With multiple combat tours overseas he brings a perspective to low-level combat games I can't (bar fights don't count). That will be valuable as we develop the infantry rules. I was surprised when he played games with his friends that never played a war game before and got positive feedback.

Bringing a new player quickly and painlessly up to speed to play and enjoy the game is my goal. I have an intro, basic and detailed level of play.

The technology I'm experimenting with will allow a player to use his cell phone to bring up a short 10-15 second video on the main parts of the game (movement, reaction, gunnery, etc) simply by pointing his cell phone camera at an image. I have some remote playtesting groups starting up and I'll be able to monitor the games remotely in real time and interact with the players and answer questions.

Like Ushcha said, "players need a base understanding of the tactics of the period". If not the historical interpretation and reasoning behind the details are lost. Some games require some education to appreciate the game system and rules.

It's that holy grail of balancing detail with playability that many of us are pursuing. My opinion is any level of detail is fine if it is pertinent to the scenario and is playable. Hopefully, technology can bring the two together.


Andy ONeill05 Jan 2018 12:23 p.m. PST

AR goggles sound great but I doubt if we see them used in miniatures games in my lifetime.

You mean AR goggles like HoloLens?
Right now, today, you ( or some development team ) could write a game which allowed you to play on a physical table with everything on top of it virtualised. "miniatures", scenery, effects. Everything.
You could have a double blind game on one table, real time.

There are few teeny tiny catches.
1) This is expensive hardware.
2) It's an expensive development project.
3) Not really tabletop gaming as we know it.
4) A similar real time game just on networked computers would be easier to write and run on cheaper hardware. First person shooters already exist.

Wolfhag05 Jan 2018 3:00 p.m. PST

That's interesting news.

For me, the question is how much do I want to balance a tabletop game with real miniatures with a video game dynamics and special effects?

I like the graphical results of a first-person tank shooter (ability to aim, target weak points, specific hit location and results) but do not want to lose the feel of the physical components of the game.

There are ways to use augmented reality cell phone apps for hidden deployments and recon. As a unit advances you can put your cell phone in front of the model at the table level and scan horizontally across the table in front of the unit at the terrain on the table. This would simulate a vehicle commander scanning the terrain around him. It works but is a little labor intensive. I'll try to explain:

Step 1: Set up your table and all terrain.
Step 2: from the attacker's viewpoint at tabletop level, take pictures of the locations that defenders will "pop up". This will be the "trigger image" that will interact with the camera and app.
Step 3: Put the model in the locations that you just took a picture of. From the same spot as you took the trigger image picture take a picture of the same terrain but with the defender unit in it now. Then remove the unit.
Step 4: In the AR software designate your trigger images and link that to the same image with the picture of the defenders unit in it.
Step 5: Save it to your game "channel" in the AR software.

You can customize a trigger image to recognize only a small part of an image. It could be a street sign, doorway of a building, specific window in a building, specific tree, sandbags, etc.

We did one with a hidden AT Gun but the image the attacker saw when the trigger image displayed it was the gun firing (flame and muzzle blast) so the model was placed on the table and the defender rolled to hit the target that just acquired him.

When the game starts all of the defender units are off the table. As the attackers move forward they can place their cell phone camera (the app must be activated) in front of a vehicle and scan the terrain horizontally in front of them. If the camera recognized a trigger image the app will stream the image of the terrain with the defenders unit "magically" appearing on the screen but not on the table. Once detected the model is now put on the table. This could eliminate spotting rolls.

The locations you had the camera when you took the trigger image are now designated "recon hotspots" that have the ability to detect hidden units but is a fog of war to the attacker. Of course, the defender could open fire at any time by placing the unit on the table.

You could do the same with models in windows of buildings, hidden AT guns, etc. It would be great in an urban environment too. Sometimes the camera does not interact right away with the trigger image so the attacker may not spot on the first try.

Pretty cool but a lot of work. Once you have the images it only takes a minute to drag and drop to create the app for that specific location. You still get the model, terrain and tabletop feel and don't need the additional hardware other than any cell phone or tablet.


Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2018 3:04 p.m. PST

Each soldier has to be divided into 6 parts, head, body, limbs. All soldiers have to be included so a formation of 500 menn you have 3000 parts that can be hit.
Armor must be applied to each part. So if the legs have plate armor but a arms only a gambison. This must be calculated. And given the various can combos of armor with in those 500 men we have tens of thousands of variables.

Alternatively you need to throw a dice for each project projectile. So 720 French Napoleonic soldiers need 720 dice. So what I'm saying is you better bring Stephen Hawking to your games.

UshCha05 Jan 2018 3:24 p.m. PST

Gunfreak, the trick is to use statistics, strange as it may seem with such large numbers, statistics would get you within a few percent making resolution quite simple and accurate.
in the end some players like to gamble, it let's them make excuses if they lose. In my games when you lose, which I frequently do, die rolling is not an excuse I have to conceded I have been beaten by a better player and learn from it.

In the end is it the game, or is it a grand excuse to play with the minis? I have read of folk who would not want to hide their troops, they had spent hours painting them, not having them on board all the time would not be acceptable. The "Detail" argument is just one facet of what we want out of a game and that is PROBABLY more than the number of all the wargamers in the world :-).

Wolfhag05 Jan 2018 5:08 p.m. PST

You are right on about the model makers that want all of their toys on the table. For them, that's why they "play" the game. My gaming partner was one of those guys. He was a master modeller who spent 2-3 hours setting up and then taking pictures and then was a spectator during the game. More power to him. People came to play because of his mini's, not my rules. We put on a great production.

Most (not all of course) people who spend time and money on models are against hidden deployment and movement. It's all about the eye candy. No argument from me.

As far as statistics, someone with good spreadsheet skills could come up with something that would handle almost any situation good enough for a game. I've written routines for games myself and I'm no expert.

We all want detail in a game but not everyone has the same point of diminishing returns for increased detail versus playability. I don't build or paint minis, I like the historical research so I'm on the detail side of the spectrum.


UshCha06 Jan 2018 3:46 a.m. PST

So is the split on "Detail" what is wanted allied to the extent at which its about the models. I d0 paint models but only crudely as I see it, that is more than sufficient to meet my requirements and spending more time I consider would be a waste of valuable spare time. I am one of those to which some form of accuracy in the game is paramount. Is that thge basis for the difference in opinion.

Russ Lockwood07 Jan 2018 4:57 p.m. PST

Tried this with, ahem, mixed results…which means I stopped doing it after 10 turns due to "abuse" (OK, it's good-natured abuse from my tabletop buddies). Worth the try, but not again. :)

>Step 1: Set up your table and all terrain.

Did that. Even made new terrain where stands fit into woods and hills had height. Put LOS blockers (treelines).

>Step 2: from the attacker's viewpoint at tabletop level, take pictures of the locations that defenders will "pop up". This will be the "trigger image" that will interact with the camera and app.

And here is where I ran into a problem. I thought initially of using one photo. Then players wanted to "see" left and right. Sheesh, really? OK, three photos stitched together in photoshop and the background furnace, stairs, cinderblock walls of my basement replaced by blue skies.

However, whereas you on foot can estimate how far some woods is, photo on tabletop is another matter (I placed the camera on the tabletop, so the photo was as close as eye-level view as possible. Depth of field was a problem, but that's only because I could only do so much. That's where most of the abuse came in, because unlike video games, photo images get fuzzy in places depending on your focal point. Maybe a 360-degree video would have been better…

>Step 3: Put the model in the locations that you just took a picture of. From the same spot as you took the trigger image picture take a picture of the same terrain but with the defender unit in it now. Then remove the unit.

I left all the models on the table since I had 10 players running a dozen stands (kinda like a DBx "army"). This was ancients, so not a first-person shoot'emu-p modern game.

>Step 4: In the AR software designate your trigger images and link that to the same image with the picture of the defenders unit in it.
>Step 5: Save it to your game "channel" in the AR software.

Beyond me or what I tried, but I like the concept.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Jan 2018 11:06 a.m. PST

In general, would you say that wargame rules today are too detailed, or not detailed enough?


UshCha09 Jan 2018 1:09 a.m. PST

Not sure what this gains over a detailed map with the hiddem units in place. Its perhaps easier for me as its Modersns and inevitable at our 1/144 cale we use a HEXONII so the map is accurate to milimeters. It does require honesty and attention to noth sides. Not sure wjhat photografps gain untill you get optical recognotion.

Wolfhag09 Jan 2018 9:50 p.m. PST

What would be an acceptable level of detail for armor detail and hit location rules for low level 1:1 tank games?

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer.


UshCha10 Jan 2018 12:54 a.m. PST

to me its Front, Side, Back, for the Hull and turret, then Top and Bottom. This is the minimum to get the tactics right. Front, Back, Side and Hull and Turret so that the player can addapt to addopt the correct formations with the associated risks. Hull and turret so Hull down and Turret Hull armour is correctly modelled. Top and bottom covers Mines and attack from high above the vehicle.

In the same veine buttoned and unbuttoned are required. Mantlet vs say rest of the turret front is to me not so vital, it drives to some extent survival of the vehicle but not tactics.

As from armor is greater anyway. Where you are hit on the front armour just slows the game down without a major gain as a tactical driver.

Less locations would mean optimum game play would nolonger co-inside with reality so to me would be unacceptable.

Legion 410 Jan 2018 7:43 a.m. PST

Complexity & detail + playability … is what I look for. There must be a balance of all three. Which in many cases is easier said than done. I prefer Co./Co TM, Bn/Bn TF on a tactical level so that lends itself to a decent amount of detail.

Dave Crowell11 Jan 2018 4:19 p.m. PST

I can find rules that are too detailed for my taste and I can find rules that are not detailed enough for my taste. The desired level of detail varries with the game, subject, scale, etc.

One of my favourite games is Steve Jackson's Ogre. Tanks have 4 numbers defining their attributes, Defense, Move, Attack Strength and Range. Hardly detailed at all, but great fun. I would not however want to play Kursk with those rules, not detailed enough.

Wolfhag12 Jan 2018 3:15 p.m. PST

Here's the level of hit location and damage detail I've been play testing for the Panther:


1: Roll a D20 for the correct target facing aspect using the blue numbers in the left column.
2: If within Precision Aiming range (500-800 meters) you can adjust the roll by +/-4.

If target is hull down a 8-19 misses through the front and front/flank arcs only. If suspension down a 15-19 misses through all aspects unless the shooter has an elevation advantage.

The result under the correct target facing aspect column will show the location hit. The color of the location denote the system damaged behind the armor if penetrated. Armor thickness in mm. If there is a colored background around the armor value there is a chance of a ricochet from sloped armor or a compound angle of over 60 degrees. An armor value with a red square around it is a shot trap.

If the D20 result with or without the Precision Aim modifier is a 20 roll a D20 again for a Special hit location. This is where weak spots can be hit and partial deflections.

The "^" marker location has a side skirt that effects shaped charges and anti-tank rifles.

Ricochet Chance: If the result on the frontal aspect is a 5 the curved mantlet is hit. The tan background corresponds with the "Ricochet Chance" tan box with an 6 in it. Rolling a D20 the round ricochets off the curved mantlet on a 1-6 (30% chance).

Armor penetration has many variables that I wanted somewhat to reflect in the game. If penetration is > 110% the round automatically penetrates and causes damage. If penetration is 100% to 110% there is a 50% chance of penetration, partial penetration equals spall damage. If penetration is 5mm less than armor there is a 10% chance of penetration.

The color codes on the hit locations are: green = mobility, red = ammo and blue = fuel. A red square around "fuel" means gas powered with a greater chance of a fire or explosion.

It may be a lot but generally only one die roll is needed to determine location, armor thickness and behind armor damage.

I determined the locations by examining a 3D model that showed ammo and fuel storage with engine and transmission locations. Armor values have compound angles figured so no additional calculations.

I've play tested this with about a dozen newbies with no complaints. This takes into account almost anything and weak spots are modeled so even the strongest tank has a chance of being damaged by randomness or a well aimed shot. There is no 100% safe zone for any tank and even the best rounds can fail.

Constructive criticism welcomed.


Legion 412 Jan 2018 5:11 p.m. PST

Looks good to me ! That is very detailed !!!!

Andy ONeill13 Jan 2018 3:58 a.m. PST

I have a professional user interface design viewpoint.

There's way too much data of different types all mixed in there.
Paper is not well suited to representing a complicated decision path or numerous disparate factors.
For that level of detail I would write an app which takes you through the steps.
Another plus being one can add more detail in relatively easily and the user need not even know.
Because resolution requires relatively little user input and there are complex business rules, this is a good candidate for a supporting app. I'd probably go with .net xamarin and target android and win devices. So you could run on a phone or tablet. I think apple charge a Dev fee still and you need an apple device.

As a gamer and game runner myself.
I use a way more abstract approach. No complaints from newbies or old hands. So far.

I think any complaints are more likely when the designer or an experienced player isn't there to explain stuff. The chance of confusion is much higher with complicated stuff. I know from professional experience that crowded ui are much more likely to confuse.

UshCha14 Jan 2018 3:13 a.m. PST

Detail is also for the enthusiast. Ifyou were keen on a particular aspect and were familiar with it then you would want to have rules that caterd for that aspect. If you are an occational gam,er with no detailed interest in a particular period your demands would be different. Similarly gamers vs simulators would change the approach.

Wolfhag14 Jan 2018 8:23 a.m. PST

I've designed UI's for computer applications and converted some rules to computer and spreadsheet use. I agree the form is a little packed with info I want to include. I tried different ways to lay it out, this is the best so far. Of course, it can always be simplified. I'm not satisfied with the colors but they do serve their purpose. I'll do a short video soon.

Regarding cell phones, I like them but cell apps seem to remove me from what's going on. The system I presented uses a single D20 die roll. About 5% to 10% of the time it will involve two D20 die rolls. Compared to many other games it is streamlined as there are no additional die rolls for damage locations. One die roll serves many purposes. I do have a cell phone augmented reality app that by pointing the camera at the image a short video will pop up to explain the details.

What Ushcha said is very pertinent regarding detail. If someone does not know the details, strengths, and weaknesses of vehicles and weapons platforms they won't mind them not being modeled. My son has successfully introduced it to some of his XGen friends with no wargaming and military experience and they're taken to it. However, they probably like more abstracted games too.

I started playing Panzer Blitz 50 years ago and knew nothing about WWII tank and infantry warfare and I played the hell out of it and enjoyed. In the last 50 years, I've spent hundreds of hours reading dozens of books, watching probably hundreds of videos, visiting armor museums and serving in the military my knowledge has increased and I want that reflected in the games I play. However, I'll still play a game like Panzer Blitz in a social setting among friends.

The hit location system for the Panther I posted hits the mark for me. It is not entirely intuitive and takes some time to understand it. For some people that will be a problem or they are not that interested in that level and that's OK.


Legion 414 Jan 2018 8:40 a.m. PST

Plus the detail in the game can be based on game scale. I.e. individual vehicles, Platoons, Companies, etc., etc.

Wolfhag14 Jan 2018 4:52 p.m. PST

Yes, I'm working on 1:1 smaller scale games, not battalion size.

I just posted this today. The quality is not that great as I took the video on my computer screen. Let me know what you think, more to come.

Hit location and armor video: YouTube link


Legion 415 Jan 2018 7:49 a.m. PST

Yes, I know that Wolf. And it looks like it should be a pretty game ! thumbs up

We like to play @ Bn/Bn TF size games with individual vehicles and guns with Fire Tms of 3-6 troops. Organized in Plts and Cos. with Bn + Support, e.g. CAS, Off Board Long Range Heavy FA, etc.

Wolfhag15 Jan 2018 9:36 a.m. PST

I have a group starting up at Camp Pendleton. I can put you on the e-mail distribution list.


Wolfhag15 Jan 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

Here is another hit location system I've been working on that takes the detail to a different level.

Gunnery accuracy is determined by a formula I put into a spreadsheet using mil values of the error budget (muzzle velocity, angle of descent, range estimation error, aiming error, optics quality, etc) and determines the MPI of the round. Accuracy penalties for poor crews, snapshots, etc are by increasing the range the accuracy value to be used. A poor crew will normally use an accuracy value of +200 meters.

Using mil values enables it to give an MPI accuracy value in 100-meter increments. The formula is transparent to the player, no calculations or die roll modifiers.

When shooting, the player lays the aiming circle (printed on a clear transparency) over the desired aim point. The oval in the center is where the center mass aim area is allowed. If close enough you can aim at any location on the image.

Next, the player rolls two D10 on the MPI accuracy chart giving a 1-100 result (no die roll modifiers). This gives the vertical and horizontal (1/3 of the vertical) MPI dispersion in 0.1-meter increments. If the decimal die is odd the round goes low, even high. If the digit die is odd it goes left, even right. Using the vertical and horizontal rulers the player moves the aiming circle to the final hit location.


Any location on the image can be hit and will determine the armor and systems that can be damaged are color coded for ammo, fuel, and mobility. It's the only system I know of that can give a visual feedback of the results of shooting, allow aiming by the player, and uses a fairly accurate representation of the physical characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of a vehicle.

It does take a little longer than other systems. Any increase in detail will almost always impact time and playability. What players seem to like best is the ability to influence the result of the shot with optional aim points and the visual results.

Using a scaled target image eliminates the need for modifiers for size, target aspect, hull down, and additional die rolls hit and damage locations.


Legion 415 Jan 2018 2:45 p.m. PST

I can put you on the e-mail distribution list.
Sure ! Thanks Wolf !

Great looking data card too ! thumbs up

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