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"Friction! Some people just don’t get it" Topic


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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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trailape31 Jul 2018 10:11 p.m. PST

Hi Team
I've been reading a lot of rules reviews of late and it occurs to me the concept of ‘Friction' is completely lost or at least not fully understood by many.
One review I was watching even stated (and I'm paraphrasing here) "I expect friction to be generated by the enemy but that's essentially it".
Hmmm,…
Well that's NOT friction.
That's ‘enemy action' and it's often predictable.
Friction is very often totally ‘unpredictable'.
The causes of friction are quite simply innumerable.
Some examples in a simple platoon action are (and no way limited to):
A jammed MG that is being exceptionally difficult to clear,
A dud grenade,
A sudden loss of Comms with the supporting arm despite a rigours comms check only minutes prior,
Misidentification of a non combatant as a combatant,
Misidentification of a combatant as a non combatant,
A door that seems to resist every effort at breaching,
Or
One of your three section commanders simply lossing his nerve.
In short friction is often simply one of those ‘s#%t sandwich' moments.
Friction: often referred to as ‘Murphy's Law'.
If only the enemy was the only thing you had to contend with on a battlefield. Fighting would be so much simpler

PrivateSnafu31 Jul 2018 11:25 p.m. PST

But its still over-rated. If I need a 4 to succeed and I roll a 3 that represents the friction well enough for me, thanks.

advocate31 Jul 2018 11:44 p.m. PST

Private snafu. I'd agree, and often that's the way to represent it. But saying "The gun hit its target last turn so will automatically hit this turn" would be an example of not allowing for friction.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 12:05 a.m. PST

I agree that a die roll is enough.
Without "friction", I would hit everything I aimed at. Every time.

gunnerphil01 Aug 2018 1:47 a.m. PST

Yes that is point of dice roll, also depends on level you are playing. An NCO would know that private Smith has jammed the gun again But the Battalion commander would not know that

David Brown01 Aug 2018 2:02 a.m. PST

P.Snafu,

I suppose it depends what you want from your "game".

If you're more inclined towards the game – then dice rolls simply saying Yes/No will do.

If you wish to explore a little more of the issues presented by combat – or more importantly command – you'll need to overcome both the dice and any added friction the rules throw in.

It's perhaps less about actually firing but more about managing a combat resource pool that varies every turn, from potentially having control of everything in one turn to virtually nothing in the next.

It's interesting that Trailape has present seven friction issues – five of which occurred in just one "exercise" I was involved in!

And doors that won't open – I've seen those really irritating PVC frame doors survive multiple hits from two "enforcers" and still refuse to budge! A perfect case of friction…literally.wink

DB

trailape01 Aug 2018 2:23 a.m. PST

Hi
FWIW,…
The examples I've listed are examples of I've ACTUALLY experienced on operations.

advocate01 Aug 2018 2:31 a.m. PST

The question is at what level you apply the friction. Many of the actions listed in the OP are at a detailed level and most folk are happy to have that abstracted into dice. When it comes to command, opinions divide.
So in Chain of Command you roll (typically) 5 dice, and depending on the results get to activate a team, section, Junior or Senior Leader with each dice. There is more to it than that, but you can imagine that it's quite possible in a phase that, for example, that machine gun with a perfect enfilade might not get to fire. Or in DBA, you get from 1 to 6 groups you can move – not your entire army in complex manoeuvres every turn.
Some people are prepared to have that level of friction, others prefer to be able to create and implement a plan (in Armati, for example, you would be able to calculate that in two moves you could get a flank attack on that enemy unit, and your infantry will be able to hold out until then).

trailape01 Aug 2018 2:36 a.m. PST

But its still over-rated. If I need a 4 to succeed and I roll a 3 that represents the friction well enough for me, thanks.

The dice 🎲 roll for me represents the odds or mathematical odds of hitting the target.
I personally don't think this simulates the ‘friction'. For example:
The Layer of an Anti-tank gun acquiring the actual correct target or the fact there might be a misfire on the gun.
So in short, dice rolls ‘to hit' is dealing with the ‘odds'.
Friction isn't a mathematical equation.
Just my opinion of course.

David Brown01 Aug 2018 2:59 a.m. PST

A,

Some people are prepared to have that level of friction, others prefer to be able to create and implement a plan (in Armati, for example, you would be able to calculate that in two moves you could get a flank attack on that enemy unit, and your infantry will be able to hold out until then).

I agree to a point – indeed I'm not overly-keen on games where all command and control is random, then at the other end the example you give is for me, the same, it presents too much certainty, to be frank its simply too easy…. it's too remote for history/reality.

I would prefer rules where for example, I calculate that in two moves I could possibly get a flank attack on that enemy unit and that my infantry should, hopefully, be able to hold out until then.

DB

Verily01 Aug 2018 2:59 a.m. PST

Without friction, you cannot have a two player game. Chess has friction, even though there is no dice rolling. I think there is a pendulum of sorts in a typical "dice rolling" miniatures game of how far the pendulum swings towards pure randomness.

trailape01 Aug 2018 3:25 a.m. PST

I would argue there is NO friction in chess.

Verily01 Aug 2018 3:29 a.m. PST

Friction in chess: link

advocate01 Aug 2018 3:35 a.m. PST

David Brown
I'm with you. While Chain of Command activation relies on dice, it's not a single roll and you have to be very unlucky not to be able to do something: but often you can't do everything you want. Working out the best you can do with the currently available resources is part of the game and arguably, in a very distorted way, reflects some of the commander's difficulties. CoC isn't a perfect system, but I do find it produces a satisfying game.
Trailape, couldn't agree more. No friction, only enemy action to contend with.

advocate01 Aug 2018 3:42 a.m. PST

Verily, TrailApe's OP proposes that 'enemy action' isn't friction per se. I think that's a reasonable position to take: it's an expected part of the problem. And I don't think "not having a plan" from your link can be considered friction either. That's merely bad play.
Mental pressure on the player? Well, I guess so, but it's not part of the rules of the game, and present in every game you play.

trailape01 Aug 2018 3:48 a.m. PST

Friction in chess: link

Lol
I'm afraid our learned friend hasn't read Clausewitz (I'm referring to the author of the article above)
link

There is no uncertainty in chess other than what's going on inside your opponent's head.
If you want to move a pawn to a certain square as long as you do so within the rules, you can do so.
Your opponent can't ‘hide' his king.
There is no ‘fog of war' on a chess board.
You're not relying on a Junior Officer to move your Bishop and your bishop won't suddenly forget how to move or move to the wrong square.
Your knights don't ever suffer from fatigue and all your pieces are immensely brave!
Sorry, chess is as about as far from a real battlefield as you can ever get.

Verily01 Aug 2018 4:13 a.m. PST

OK. So how is friction represented in a miniatures game. Is it only via a random dice roll?

Decebalus01 Aug 2018 4:20 a.m. PST

The problem is, we already have to much friction and not enough command in our games.

All activation systems (like Black Powder or BKC) have absolutely randomness, if your orders will be followed. That is friction, not command.

War (and so wargaming also) should be a test of the will of the commanders. So we have to model friction that also tests the commanders, but not random things, that decide what to do or not to do.

surdu2005 Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 5:21 a.m. PST

The rules review referred to in the original post was from the LIttleWarsTV guys reviewing Chain of Command and was specifically about one of the reviewers not liking card-driven activation systems. In that sense, cards, drawing dice from a bag, etc. are as much a personal preference and religious argument as anything.

To the point in the original post, I think this largely an issue of level of abstraction. If we are simulating at the individual soldier level, many of the examples in the original post are often handled by die rolls. Friction is NOT about probably of hit (Ph) or probability of kill (Pk) as some have asserted. Rolling a die takes into account random variance in aiming, atmospheric conditions, target movement, etc. Maybe it also takes into account random stoppages, fumbling a magazine exchange, etc. The dice are a means to resolve stochastic events.

In Bear Yourselves Valiantly and the under-development Feudal Patrol, there is a mechanic called reach that is based on weapon type. The weapon with longer reach gets to attack first. (There are nuances, but for purposes of this missive, that's sufficient.) Recently I had a conversation with someone who said, when I have a sword and I attack this person with a spear that I can knock the spear out of the way and get the first attack. I said we don't need a special knock the spear aside mechanic. That is already accounted for in the dice rolling. If the spear-armed figure misses, but the sword armed figure hits, you can think of that encounter being exactly what he described. The sword-armed figure knocked-the-spear-aside (the spear missed) and then attacked with his sword.

The same review also had a comment that one of the reviewers likes deterministic movement, rather than some randomization associated with movement speed. No battlefield terrain is flat. Having spent for than a few nights in the woods doing infantry stuff, I can tell you authoritatively that movement rates are NOT deterministic. In addition to terrain variations, there are wait-a-minute vines, equipment getting caught on trees, unexpected dips and holes, fatigue, stopping to look around (possibly to check the map and compass), etc. At the individual soldier level of simulation, these factors represent friction. Unless you are some kind of glutton for punishment, we don't have every individual soldier rolling to encounter a terrain obstacle and resolve the amount of time to get through it. What advocates of randomized movement often do is say that all those things are examples of friction and are accounted for by randomized movement.

Randomized movement does not have to be completely random. In Santa Anna Rules and Wellington Rules, movement has a fixed and random component, and terrain effects are randomized as well. For better training units more of their movement speed is fixed and less is random. For lesser trained units, the opposite is true. In Combat Patrol, movement is randomized using a discrete approximation of a normal distribution (i.e., so called "bell curve"). The mean of this normal distribution is higher for better trained troops.

Now go up one level of simulation, to the squad. The fact that fire does not have a predictable result, the fact that my subordinate fire teams don't move as fast as I would like or when I would like is friction. For the person who said he wants to know that it will take two turns to reach an enemy flank, I'd say, if that is your preference, good for you. There are plenty of rules like that. I will tell you that is NOTHING LIKE WHAT IS LIKE ON THE GROUND. I could send a squad to a flanking position and think it will take them 15 minutes, but it might take 45. Or maybe it takes 15 minutes. They don't want to get killed any more than you do, so they exercise caution, use the terrain, stop because someone dropped a piece of equipment.

So things that would be stochastic processes at the individual soldier level become friction at the squad and platoon level.

Troop leading on the ground is not nearly as much about coming up with an exquisite plan and executing it. It is about being able to respond faster than the enemy to the unexpected. Sometimes that comes from enemy action, but often it is just friction. Units do move when, how, or as fast as you would like. Fire is not as effective as you would like, so you need to fire longer to suppress the enemy. Artillery doesn't fall when and where you'd like. A mist creeps in over the terrain in the morning which impedes visibility (which can work for or against you depending on the situation).

I think that card-driven activation systems do a pretty good job of representing this kind of friction. Card driven systems have their drawbacks, as do IGO-UGO systems. I have worked hard to mitigate the negatives of card based systems in my designs, resulting in the double-random activation mechanic. You can see how this works on the Combat Patrol web page (http://www.bucksurdu.com/Buck_Surdu/Combat_Patrol.html) where there are demonstration videos.

So back to the original post, I agree that many folks just don't get friction.

Flame on.

Buck Surdu

trailape01 Aug 2018 5:36 a.m. PST

Re: Buck Surdu:
"What he said".

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 5:59 a.m. PST

Trailape, so in rules using a 'misfire' result for
artillery, other results being hits of varying degrees,
the 'misfire' would count as 'friction' ?

Similarly for infantry fire where the dice result may
reflect a reduction in firepower for whatever reason ?

And same for rules using a command response die roll -
unit not responding to movement order OR responding
in a way not ordered – each of those would represent
friction ?

If so, nice to know since rules we developed way back in
the 1960's work that way. BTW, we still use those
rules.

Also, BTW, developed by folks who'd 'been there, done
that'.

roving bandit01 Aug 2018 6:05 a.m. PST

I think the Two Hour Wargames line with all its action/reaction rolls and needing to "pass" an activation roll, all makes for a good level of friction in a game.
But a lot of gamers want to play a game, not really recreate reality.

kevanG01 Aug 2018 6:37 a.m. PST

friction occurs when two surfaces rub together….

now,
dysfunctional chaos in imperfect systems caused by emotional reaction from visual acuity to circumstantial change is something I can understand. It isn't just military. It hits you when you walk to the shops to buy a pint of Milk and come back with a bottle of whiskey in a taxi because you forgot your mates are coming round and you aint got enough beers and can't carry a crate.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 6:56 a.m. PST

For most of this my reaction is frankly, "meh." However I'll add that I have luxury of playing in multi-player games, no real interest in one-on-one. That said, my fellow players provide all the friction I want. I order so and so to take the ridgeline, then swing left and envelope the enemy line. Knowing he is typically an aggressive player I figure X amount of time and make other orders or start my own command rolling. Low and behold, he is either taking forever or just isn't moving because he "saw something." Just one possible example where the players provide the friction without some time consuming additional dice rolling. And it gives us more to laugh about later.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 7:00 a.m. PST

Can you mention a game that DOES include "friction"?
What is the gaming mechanism to bring this about?
If it's random, how do you simulate it without dice?

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 7:07 a.m. PST

Re Buck: "What he said +1"

I don't share his infantry background--I served in cutters with USCG. But I can tell you that everything carries over. Want to patch a damaged pipe? That should take two guys 5 minutes. If they are well-trained, well rested and not scared witless because the water's up to their thighs and rising. And meanwhile the CO on the bridge is wondering why the ship's list is increasing!!

trailape01 Aug 2018 7:20 a.m. PST

Trailape, so in rules using a 'misfire' result for
artillery, other results being hits of varying degrees,
the 'misfire' would count as 'friction' ?

Dice rolls to ‘hit' are essentially taking it into account how many discharges rounds actually ‘hit'.
So no ‘friction' is taken into account here. The weapons were ordered to fire and they fired and now we're determining the result of that fire.
A misfire is that rare occurrence when a single round from one single weapon has been ordered to fire and…… nothing happens.
Misfire!
Now you could have a ‘misfire rule' for each Artillery or Tank Main Gun'
Or
You could have a mechanism built into your rules that simply throws up these occasional ‘flies in the ointment' (so to speak).

Similarly for infantry fire where the dice result may
reflect a reduction in firepower for whatever reason ?

Ummm, no. A stoppage on a single rifle in a rifle team isn't the same. An IA on a rifle is easily remedied.
It's a totally different situation when an Artillery piece has a misfire.

And same for rules using a command response die roll -
unit not responding to movement order OR responding
in a way not ordered – each of those would represent
friction ?

Yes,… if I follow what you're saying.
If I want to move a section for example yet either
A. A rule mechanism prevents me from doing so
Or
B. A rule mechanism permits the Section's movement but not exactly as I wish,..
Then ‘yes' that would be simulated ‘friction' assuming that's the rule authors intent.

If so, nice to know since rules we developed way back in
the 1960's work that way. BTW, we still use those
rules.

Excellent to know!
I guess ‘if it ain't broke, why fix it' is appropriate.

Also, BTW, developed by folks who'd 'been there, done
that'

Well there ya go,….

trailape01 Aug 2018 7:27 a.m. PST

I think the Two Hour Wargames line with all its action/reaction rolls and needing to "pass" an activation roll, all makes for a good level of friction in a game.
But a lot of gamers want to play a game, not really recreate reality.

Ah,… but what if I can have a game that is fun AND reasonably realistic?
If I can have that then that's what I'd rather have.
And it's possible.
There are some excellent systems that have incorporated Friction' and very well.

Legion 401 Aug 2018 7:37 a.m. PST

A die/dice roll with modifiers if needed generally works. For most situations …

28mm Fanatik01 Aug 2018 7:41 a.m. PST

Friction is an element of fog of war that simulates uncertainties and randomness in warfare.

Personal logo SBminisguy Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 7:44 a.m. PST

trailape 01 Aug 2018 7:27 a.m. PST
I think the Two Hour Wargames line with all its action/reaction rolls and needing to "pass" an activation roll, all makes for a good level of friction in a game.
But a lot of gamers want to play a game, not really recreate reality.

Ah,… but what if I can have a game that is fun AND reasonably realistic?
If I can have that then that's what I'd rather have.
And it's possible.
There are some excellent systems that have incorporated Friction' and very well.

That's why I've become a NUTS player (Two Hour Wargames). It presents enough "friction" without bogging down the game or making it no fun to play. The reaction rolls are pretty simple -- when figures see an enemy for the first time, what do they do? And if figures get shot at, what do they do – duck for cover, shoot back, etc.? This removes the players gods-like control over the figures since sometimes the won't so what you want them to do.

Example – in a Battle of the Bulge game I had a US 57mm ATG covering a road coming out of the woods across a field. A Panther came down the road from the woods, and as the player I knew I couldn't punch front armor, I needed to wait until the tank exited the woods and then turned left to follow the road around the field and then shoot at side or rear armor. But the gun crew wouldn't wait and just fired…the shot bounced off front armor, the tank halted, spotted my concealed ATG and blew it away. Doh!

Then there are optional rules you can use or not like some rolls result in Low Ammo or Out of Ammo, some rolls can result in a random event, you can use the rules for limited radio access and use figures as runners to pass messages between players and ask for support, etc. Some are in the NUTS core books, but there's also the NUTS Compendium that covers a lot of different situations -- again, all optional.

Want to play troops that are worn down and tired, use the Privation rules. Want more realistic strafing rules in case aircraft show up -- well, you can roll to see if the pilot attacks the right target, or maybe your own figures…had that happen in a game set in 1944 Italy. A reinforcement roll had the US players all "Yay, we get a strafing run from a Thunderbolt! Ok, pilot targeting roll…oh noes it just decided to strafe the heck out of the US figures…"

After that it was like, no more air power please!!

It's really a tool kit you can use to play the kind of game you want to.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 7:53 a.m. PST

The OP seems to reject any "simulation" of friction that includes a die roll.
So, again I ask, what game simulates "friction" WITHOUT a die roll?
I'm not being snotty. I am genuinely curious how he expects it to be done.

28mm Fanatik01 Aug 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

We can make it an RPG and let the GM decide whether friction occurs or not, but that would raise a whole new set of problems in arbitrariness and impartiality in "competitive" games. In narrative or solo games it could work.

FlyXwire01 Aug 2018 8:18 a.m. PST

Friction can never be quantified – a die roll to activate is no closer to an act of reality than not.

I've seen arguments over the years that it enhances a game's narrative, or that it enhances feel or realness.

My opinion is that it's introduced in rulesets to produce unpredictability. Conversely, my critique of this, is that this should already be coming from your opponent(s)' actions/counter-reactions [and good command decisions], and friction is already occurring as a product of the game's combat and morale resolution systems.

I have wondered why this move to random activation has become prevalent today, and some of this I believe has been spawned from tournament-style gaming, and a desire to introduce variety into match formats that can become staid or routine (as a means to mix up routine encounters, and/or between equal pts.-based "armies" ).

Lastly, under the hood (of certain game engines, or as a designer's understanding) is that many gamers today have little experience in developing a battle plan (other than using the same, well-learned attack/defense strategy they've become [overly] familiar with)……now conceiving and managing a "battle plan" instead has become the challenge of reacting to random friction rolls.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 8:31 a.m. PST

It seems to me that it boils down to the level of abstraction a gamer likes to play. Some people like more or less process driven games as opposed to results driven games.

Sam Mustafa said that he wrote a set of campaign rules for WW2 ship vs aircraft that was more process driven. To speed up the results in order to move the campaign along he made the system more streamlined and thus more results driven. Even though the outcomes were the same in both systems, most of the players preferred the longer, more complicated, process driven game.

An unsuccessful die roll can represent almost anything – ineffective fire due to dirt in the machine gunners eye, some rifles jam, some guys don't shoot when they are supposed to, sorry sarge I didn't hear you. Maybe a unit is having a gold medal day and blows the crap out of the opposition. A plus one means that the unit for whatever reason (veterans, highly trained, better ammo, just got paid) do better.

Card or dice management is a game all by itself. Some like this type of resource management. I find it to be another form of randomization that may or may not be relevant to a particular situation on the table. I like it in Bolt Action and Commands and Colors but not so much in CoC and What A Tanker. There is no particular reason or logic to this since they are all excellent games and the various systems often represent the same thing. Maybe I was dropped on my head as a child.

By the way I usually provide my own brand of friction (please see above about childhood injuries). I may think that the enemy unit will be available for flank attack in two moves but often they have moved, pivoted, routed or just blown through my blocking force, often due to the results of dice rolls. Not to mention when I forget to move or fire an important unit because I get distracted by some other part of the battlefield. Multiply this by however many participants in a multi-player game and things can get messy all by themselves.

Trailape, what games do you feel are fun AND reasonably realistic that also represent friction very well?

Martin Rapier01 Aug 2018 8:42 a.m. PST

Friction is the thing which makes the plans of mice and men go awry, it doesn't just happen in war but in any large human enterprise.

From the perspective of the individual, it may as well be random (where the supply trucks? etc), for the point of view of commanders, it is a systemic failing, and systems can be modified and changed.

In a game you may choose to model this stuff in any number of ways. Just having a team of players is a pretty good start.

As Clausewitz observed, "In war everything is simple, but the simplist thing is difficult", and if we can recreate that in our games, then job done.

kevanG01 Aug 2018 9:31 a.m. PST

"it doesn't just happen in war but in any large human enterprise."

and small ones.

e.g.

going out for 5 minutes, Just driving to the shops for Milk.

10 minutes later, looking at full car park at shops…."Is EVERYONE buying Milk?"

understanding friction is understanding life.

The only people who do not experience the friction being discussed are the comatose and the dead.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 9:42 a.m. PST

I think that The Sword and the Flame does "friction" quite well.
(NEVER would I saddle TSATF with that horrible word "simulate".)

If by "friction" you mean that your best laid plans gang aft a-gley, look to TSATF.
I want to move now. Well no. Your card hasn't come up yet.
Ok. I want to charge that unit. It's only 8 inches away. Well no. You rolled 2, 2, and 1. Sorry. Sand got in the Lieutenant's eye, there was an unexpected dip in the terrain…
I need to shoot NOW! Well no. Your card comes up 4th. In the meantime, you've taken 7 hits from 2 units whose cards came up 1st and 3rd.
TSATF does random quite well.

If that's not "friction", I would be pleased to see what is, and in what game it occurs.
If not, I would be interested to see exactly what your definition is, and how you would apply it.

6mmACW01 Aug 2018 9:53 a.m. PST

Enjoyed reading this thread so far. It's a great illustration of (1) why some concept of friction is important to have in a wargame; and (2) the surprising number of players and rules designers who do not understand "friction" and "randomness" are related, but not the same.

Murphy's Law, the fog of war, friction--whatever you want to call it--didn't prevent commanders from making plans or attempting to implement those plans. It quite often prevented your perfect plan from going as you thought it might, and some rules do a much better job than others at providing mechanics to provide that. If I'm playing a card driven activation mechanic, for example, this removes any ability I have as a player to make a plan. In fact, I'm not really needed for the game to proceed. We can just draw the cards and move the units in that random order in a solo game. This is quite unsatisfying as a player and a very lazy way to introduce the concept of friction.

FlyXwire01 Aug 2018 9:53 a.m. PST

I'm wondering if there's a relation to how many gamers one traditional plays games with that makes a difference here?

Like I know, and many others have mentioned also – friction comes easily in multiplayer games – it's a natural occurrence. With player counts of half a dozen or more, the last thing that helps promote an event, is having players sit around because they haven't had many [or even any] activations during a turn – this can really kill a public or con game's appeal.

Maybe in solo or small game settings, friction mechanics are seen as more needed and/or desired?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 10:00 a.m. PST

Standard infantry movement for "most" line infantry in 25mm games is 6".
They could easily do 12" or even 18".
There's a reason they only do 6".

I think that in most games, "friction" is already built in. We just don't realize it.

6mmACW01 Aug 2018 10:02 a.m. PST

Chadwick and Novak, authors of the old classic "Volley and Bayonet," made that exact point. VnB has no rules for command and control or friction and they said in their designer notes that if you want friction, just play with 3+ people per side and see what happens. A great point, but a moot one in a game with 1-2 players per side.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian01 Aug 2018 10:54 a.m. PST

I had a friend who believed that friction wasn't fun. He wouldn't play any game that annoyed him that way. grin

Personal logo toofatlardies Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 11:16 a.m. PST

I have to say that I often feel that as a game designer I am "weeing into the wind" (for fear of upsetting the morality monitor).

However, Friction, as defined by Clausewitz, means Command Uncertainty. We wargamers have and accept command uncertainty in that we roll dice to see how successful our firing is. Yet there seems to be a rump of gamers who cannot accept that that same degree of unpredictability should be applied to movement.

Let me give you an example. I walked my dog this morning. I throw him a ball and he chases it. Sometimes he can't see where it goes so I have to trek across various forms of terrain to retrieve the ball. In wargaming terms this could be anything from a ploughed field, to a field that has crops in it, to a field that is lying fallow and has long grass and even some saplings coming up. You get the picture. How long does it take me to cover 100 yards in those different types of terrain? Well, the truth is I only find out when I do it. Some terrain types are surprisingly kind, despite being overgrown with all sorts of stuff, others that appear friendly are less so.

Now, imagine I am a platoon commander in Normandy. Can I be sure how long it will take Squad A to cross that 100 yards of ground? The honest answer is that I cannot.

Add to that the fact that the action we game is happening in an environment that is noisy, dusty, there is smoke and, let us not forget it, DANGER everywhere. Why on earth can we not accept that crossing a field of 100 yards width is not going to be predictable.

Anyway, to be brutally honest, this is not an argument about Friction, it is about whether gamers want to have absolute control of what their toy soldiers do, or whether they want to accept the fact that they are not just fighting the enemy, but they are also fighting the environment.

Eighteen years ago a bloke on TMP said that to be into TooFatLardies rules you had to be into free love and mind bending drugs. Now we find that if you look at polls on TMP this week people are naming TooFatLardies rules their "favourite family of rules". When Bill ran polls for the best set of rules for the year we won every year except one. Wargames Illustrated readers voted Chain of Command as their best rule set last year. All of which suggests that many, many gamers are recognising that Friction is not just something that TooFatLardies made up to spoil their day, but that it is something taught in every military academy around the globe.

Does that make our rules better than anyone elses? No, of course not. The best thing about wagaming is that we DON'T have one set of rules like Chess, or Tennis or Snooker, we can call pick the games we want to play and that suit our preference of how much control we have.

That said, I am just glad that people now enjoy the challenge of combatting both the enemy and battlefield friction in a game environment where command decisions are influenced by the uncertainty of the battlefield rather than the certainty of moving 6" every turn and somehow telepathically ensuring that his force acts as automatons in tune with his wishes in every situation.

For me, this is an argument about whether you want a game with military figures, or whether you want a wargame which presents the commander with an approximation of the challenges of command in war. Neither is "right" or "wrong", its all about choice. Vive la difference!

Cheers

Rich

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 11:38 a.m. PST

Winston, you've just described the exact opposite of friction!

Friction means that a lot of the time your line infantry will move 6". But sometimes they will move 12". Sometimes they will not move at all!

Friction means that you don't know for sure how far your line infantry are going to move.

A lot of the examples talked about so far are about individual or squad level stuff. But things happen at all levels. I've read loads of diarys/memoirs/letters etc written by soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars to WW2. They are full of things like 'the battalion moved off late because X happened', 'the ground was very difficult and the battalion was an hour late starting our attack', 'we discovered we had taken the wrong road and the battalion had to retrace its steps'.

Or sometimes you get things like 'our advance went well and we had to stop and wait for the rest of the brigade to catch up'.

See, friction. It's all about UNPREDICTED VARIABLES. Not 6" every turn….

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2018 11:44 a.m. PST

Rich posted a better reply than mine while I was typing!

'Cause, Rich, you could try training your dog to watch the bloody ball better…

PrivateSnafu01 Aug 2018 1:56 p.m. PST

The failure of people to understand friction is not the failure of people to understand friction. It is the failure of people to define friction. Rich explained it well. In a word, uncertainty.

The trick is have the right amount of uncertainty or friction. More friction does not make a better game.

In the movement example Rich provided I am admittedly in the camp of not liking 2d6 to move. It is 2 levels of uncertainty, one more than I prefer. I may not even be able to move that unit in the first place. Layer on level after level of uncertainty and its not enjoyable for me.

My movement may also be affected by what my enemy does. Perhaps burning a CoC dice and interrupting my move by shooting at me. Or perhaps I'm suppressed and can't move at all. Movement is perhaps the action that is more impacted by outcome friction than any other. Shooting has nowhere the uncertainty that movement has. I'm not just talking about CoC here, I'm generally speaking.

There is also plenty of uncertainty with terrain. I mean the type I make or buy to put on the game surface. Granted most of our play surfaces tend to be overly flat but it still introduces adequate uncertainty in my mind. Can I make a cross check? In games where pre-measure is not allowed, can I make it to cover? I meant to go one way only to be blocked by a unit forcing me to go into difficult terrain. Plenty of uncertainty there in my mind, no need for random movement rolls. Perhaps I'm completely out of line of sight of the enemy, I ought to be able to book it, tripping or not.

Lardies rules may be well voted on or liked by their devotees but they are certainly bucking game trends seen in other best selling games. Such as BA (which has outflanking manoeuvres), the Mersey rules (Rampant) which dispatch with all the fussiness of figure placement, Saga v2 with fast reserve provisions and combat participation, & Star Wars Legion (squad leader driven mechanic).

More friction does not make a better game. Lardies rules are popular because they are well done in aggregate. Not because they have friction, of which by the way plenty of other games have too. I get this preception that the Lardies devotees keep beating this drum "friction, friction, friction" all the while buying into the narrative that that is the reason the games are good.

That's why I think its over-rated.

Nobody can call me a hater. I've purchased CoC 4 times in different formats for myself and friends, accessories, Dux and expansions, played and demoed many CoC games. I'm considering WAT, haven't pulled the trigger yet on that.

GreenLeader01 Aug 2018 2:39 p.m. PST

Excellent post by Rich of TooFatLardies.

There is nothing worse (in my opinion) than the old chestnut of 'infantry move 4" and Cavalry move 8"…'

Read any report of an actual battle and you'll see accounts of units getting to their start lines late (or not at all), or units attacking the wrong objective, of friendly fire incidents, of units withdrawing against the wishes of their commander etc etc.

If we don't even attempt to represent these incidents in our games, then it all seems a little pointless to me.

The things that were drummed into my head again and again in the infantry were:
'anything that can go wrong, will go wrong'
'everything takes much, much longer to do than you think it will'
and, most importantly of all:
'KISS: 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'

Few wargames require one to bear these mantras in mind.

FlyXwire01 Aug 2018 2:42 p.m. PST

"Anyway, to be brutally honest, this is not an argument about Friction, it is about whether gamers want to have absolute control of what their toy soldiers do, or whether they want to accept the fact that they are not just fighting the enemy, but they are also fighting the environment."

Don't agree with that at all, because there are other game mechanisms that affect how our toy soldiers adversely react to the fighting environment – that's been in wargames for as far back as I can remember, so no one's reinventing wargaming here either.

TacticalPainter0101 Aug 2018 2:48 p.m. PST

When I game I want the challenge of command and when I game a particular period I want to have to deal with some of the command challenges of the period. I like my games to challenge me, that's a fun game, but the rules don't need to be complex. Overcoming friction is a command challenge, perhaps THE command challenge.

In a gaming sense it is the puzzle to be solved, no two turns/phases/spans of time will be the same or be predictable. What will be predictable is that at every turn I will face challenges, many unexpected, but I must find a way to overcome them, or at least overcome them faster and more effectively than my opponent is overcoming his or hers.

It's a matter of game design how that's handled. Utter randomness does not reflect real life, we are looking for a degree of uncertainty and unpredictability within parameters based on our understanding of what happened based on accounts of real experiences.

I think some people equate friction with randomness which would be to misunderstand what is being aimed for. Others prefer total control. Neither of those match my reading and analysis of historical events.

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