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"Learn and Retain" Topic

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508 hits since 13 Jan 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 10:42 a.m. PST

There's discussion over in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy about those wargamers who don't seek out the New! and Innovative! and are generally wet blankets. It got me to thinking. Since no one has a system I know of, let me sort rules by length and complexity:
A. Short and not intended for sale--roughly "Charge for Dummies" through about "Rules by Ral." (Usually a few pages stapled, or just one sheet.)
B. Short commercial--the original DBA, perhaps Sharpe Practice. Maybe Shako or TSATF. (Saddle stitched, usually.)
C. Long one-volume commercial--Test of Battle? Hail Caesar? ("Perfect bound" or hardcover.)
D. Multiple volume--Most GW and Battlefront; maybe Black Powder.
1. How long does it take you to play unaided?
2. How long before you can correctly estimate odds and design your own scenarios?
3. How frequently do you need to play to retain this level of expertise?
(And if you add to (3) how many games you get in during a year, you can calculate how many rules sets you can actually play, and how many are inspiration or decoration. But I have no wish to embarrass myself.)

Me? I find I can read and play A with little difficulty, but B requires several games at perhaps one-week intervals to sink in, and perhaps two a year to retain. C and D I eon't even have groups to experiment with.

How is it for everyone else? And does this have an impact on your affection for exciting! and revolutionary! mechanisms?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 10:49 a.m. PST

Our game club works a bit differently. Generally one player takes it on himself to run a game so he's really the only one who needs to really "know" the game. He can then just guide the rest.

Since there is VERY rarely anything new in gaming, it's more mix and match. Activation like this, combat like that. So our group tends to "get it" pretty quickly. They need help with the nuances, but the basics fall in line.

I will say your grouping by length or volumes is not sound. I know some VERY complex rule sets that are short and saddle stitched ( a lot of WW2 and modenr sets from the 1980s fit this bill), and lots of simple games that are huge books (Lord of the Rings) but fluff and pics fill a lot of it.

Finally, I will say IMHO that rules writers are often *terrible* designers of play aids. The obsession with one page or whatever leads to awful player cards that make the game harder.

Our group actually really likes my 4 page sheets because they are large print, use color nad layout to advantage, and put the main mechanisms on the page along with their relevant unit stats. I'd say my 4 page player sheets are much more efficient than many 1 pagers out there.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 11:28 a.m. PST

No doubt a club would help. If you've got a better quick grouping system for rules, EC, I'd be very interested.

By the way, my understanding was that while most of the multiple volumes stuff had common and simple mechanisms, to become a competent player, you had to be aware of a ton of unique stuff available to your army or your opponents--famous individual soldiers, obscure units and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Maybe that's fun when you're twelve, but for me, it has all the charm of German irregular verbs.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 11:48 a.m. PST

And I let myself be distracted. I'm not partial to the "I'll tell you when you do something wrong" approach to game-mastering, but even if only one person has to learn them and retain the knowledge, someone does, and some rules are easier to learn and retain than others.

How would you group rules for that? And what have you observed about learning and retention?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 12:13 p.m. PST

My approach is different. I'll do a SUPER FAST rules summary. For example, my preview of shooting might be:

"You roll one D6 for every Rate of Fire. Roll high to hit. If you hit compare your penetration to target's armor and roll that many dice to see if you kill. Now on to close combat…"

First, if the rules are new we start a little further apart. That way on Turn 1 we really just go through the turn sequence. No shooting just moving. But it helps with activation rolls or group moves or command pips.

Second, give people forces with few variations. So a company of T34s. Or infantry with 12 rifle squads and two MG squads. That way there are only a few stats to learn.

Third, do a combat example. In the hamlet in the middle of the table have Red squad A fight Blue squad B. But I do all the dice. But then players have "seen it in action."

Last, give general guidance. Like, being out of command is/is not a big deal. Or flank attacks are super powerful (or not). That kind of thing, based on period and scenario.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 12:17 p.m. PST

As for the multi-volume games, in the 40k style universe, yes, knowing the army lists is at least as important as the rules, if not more so. But for Lord of the Rings, for example, the number of special traits is pretty small. Most of the special characters are just higher stats (better attack dice, defense value etc.). And magic is pretty limited to a few spells.

I have run games to middle schoolers completely new to gaming. If you lay out a decent program for teaching the rules they will pick it all up by turn 3.

But knowing how to teach rules is a skill like anything esle, and in my experience many GMs do not have or develop this skill.

One GM I play with, for example, over explains. You ask: does unit X get a +1 for the wall? Instead of "yes, stone walls are +1, but those wooden ones over there are not" you get a recap of every rule on obstacles.

UshCha13 Jan 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

Chess is a simple game that takes years to master and they seem no reason to change the rules. To me a wargame is a simulation. By definition a simulation is a model of a restricted part of the whole of reality. If you have a good model of the bits of reality why would you need to change it? We have been playing our rules almost unchanged for 10 years. We are still learning to use the wisdom in many of the official books on friendly and enemy forces.

Why would we even consider another model unless it was demonstrably much better? Fads on rules is for gamers not simulators.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2018 6:07 a.m. PST

May i suggest a thought. the following is just broad thoughts, rather than anything definitive. Based on gaming in the US, Europe and UK. I accept that these 3 arenas are al very different in their style
Wargamers might be split into two broad camps, not of equal size.Both are of equal status.

Camp A, are players who want to take a full part in terms of organising, planning and commanding . For these players wargaming might be their main hobby. They may be restless if they are not given access to the full rules. Camp A players are often keen to build their own army and bring their own scenery. They would want a part in the scenario design and victory criteria too. camp A not popular with players who like to design the whole day/game in advance at their house.. Camp A will bring new rules and ideas that they fancy trying. They are the movers and shakers.

Camp B are those players who are happy to get along with whatever is presented. They probably enjoy the spectacle and social more than the tactical. They are relaxed. They are probably also happy to have someone to run the game as an umpire and point of knowledge. They may also play a variety of games, so are not that bothered about mastering that ruleset. They will play whatever is presented and make good company because they are flexible.Camp B is not even looking for a new set of rules.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2018 7:49 a.m. PST

Martin, you missed Camp C, at least. An interest in knowing the full rules and designing scenarios doesn't necessarily mean you're looking for new rules. In fact, most of the "movers and shakers" I've known have a very limited number of rules down pat, and aren't looking for others. That's how you get decent scenarios. In my experience the New! (TM) and Innovative! (C) appeal to the adolescent or just barely adult--the ones who are irked because they are NOT the movers and shakers. "Let's play something new!" is also a way of saying "let's play something the Old Guard doesn't know." Nothing illegal or immoral about that, but it has a lot less appeal to the man who spent years learning and understanding something else.

Which brings me to your point, EC. Actually, I frequently run into things I'd learn FASTER if I'd never played a wargame before. As you say, little is truly innovative, but the man who knows one mechanism for enfilade fire, knows it. The many who knows six is less likely to remember the right one for this week. I'm playing semi-regularly with a group playing Napoleon's Battles, and it's driving me nuts--not because of the mechanisms and turn sequence, which are simple enough, but because everything beyond that--interpenetration, attaching commanders or not attaching commanders, touching or not touching adjacent units, measuring or not measuring ahead of movement or fire--is backward to an old CLS player, and not the sort of thing a QRF takes care of. I don't know how many games it would take me to get used to it, but I'm pretty sure I won't play that many. I actually seem to pick up things faster which are further removed from what I know.

Go back to your middle schoolers a week later, EC, break out the same castings and tell them none of the previous rules apply. You might learn something too.

UshCha14 Jan 2018 8:45 a.m. PST

I am Perhaps Camp A+ a subset of camp A and I suspect I am not alone.

A+, Definitely War gaming is a Main Hobby but they are also a keen student of the tactics of the time. War gaming is a just another facet of that interest. The game needs to reflect well the behavior of the troops. Perhaps detrimentally they are not really interested in casual opponents as they do not have enough interest in the period to make interesting opponents. Training up new folk that want to learn is fun,but playing half interested players, there are other better ways to engage with such folk.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2018 5:58 a.m. PST

Here's how I think I learn, which is heavily influenced by the reactions of new players when I teach QILS. The easier it is to relate a mechanism (inputs, dynamics, and outputs) to your tactical decision process, the easier and faster the rules are to pick up and become "proficient". For me, proficient means thinking purely in scenario – the rules have become second nature.

The length and complexity are really a function of preference. Am I really, really interested in this milieu, so I want lots of details and complex interactions? Or do I want something I can ready quickly and play? This pretty much the same with any other leisure activity. I pretty much only play scaffolded casual video games. I appreciate the interest of other players in spending a long learning time to immerse themselves in a video game milieu. I just haven't done that myself in a couple decades. In this regard, the milieu in QILS is in the scenarios, not the rules, so the system will work for casual or in-depth levels of interest.

Rick Don Burnette16 Jan 2018 2:13 p.m. PST

and there is Camp D.
The double blind 1 to 1 skirmish rules I use, Korns Small Unit Tactical Combat 1972 , found in Currys Early Wargame Pioneers, Innovations in Wargame Design, through Amazon, has these New and Innovative features of umpires and uncertainty.
The players are not allowed to roll any dice nor create forces even to the uncertainty of their own forces. I added variable terrain, units, and atrocities. A scenario that I could run, an historical one, would be a dispute between a German Army officer and an SS officer over the use of a train, to carry wounded soldiers or those going to the ovens, or the attemps by Red Army officers to control the Red Army soldiers from raping and looting.
Yet there are some of you who dont think of this as war

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