Help support TMP


"Mind Games?" Topic


22 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the Game Design Message Board


Areas of Interest

General

Featured Hobby News Article


Featured Ruleset


619 hits since 21 Feb 2020
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Wolfhag22 Feb 2020 12:18 a.m. PST

I was having an interesting discussion with McLaddie on how realism can be delivered to players using abstracted game rules. I think the article helps explain the role the mind plays to a player using abstracted rules but realistic figures and terrain that generates for him the level of realism and reality by filling in the gaps:

Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered how the brain helps us see and interact with objects by filling in missing information, according to a study published in the June issue of Current Biology.

Because most of what people see is often blocked by other objects, the visual information received by the brain is usually incomplete. "People take perception for granted because it seems so instant and automatic to us," says Allison Sekuler, associate professor of psychology at U of T and one of the study's senior authors. "What many people don't realize is that the objects we see are not necessarily the same as the information that reaches our eyes, so the brain needs to fill in those gaps of missing information."

Article: link

Wolfhag

Slow Oats23 Feb 2020 10:13 a.m. PST

I personally am a big believer in using simple, abstract rules to evoke the feeling of a theme. I like games that make one think thematically simply through how the game itself is played and plays out, rather than by simulating thematic minutiae.

wargamingUSA23 Feb 2020 10:40 a.m. PST

Thanks for the link.

Wolfhag23 Feb 2020 1:03 p.m. PST

I personally am a big believer in using simple, abstract rules to evoke the feeling of a theme. I like games that make one think thematically simply through how the game itself is played and plays out, rather than by simulating thematic minutiae.

There is nothing wrong with that if it is the game designer's intent and it achieves his goals in the game.

For me, the article helps explain the difference in preferences between miniatures and board game players. I have friends that will not play a board game because it doesn't get the picture across to them what is happening with little cardboard counters. I know miniatures players that want the ultimate in figure detail, terrain, and painting and are willing to settle on a simple non-historical abstracted set of rules. The visuals fill in the blanks in their mind most likely being assisted by their knowledge of the battle and tactics portrayed in that battle, unit or era. For them, they don't need the minutia of detailed rules as the "action" recreated on a realistic battlefield paints the picture in their mind. Not everyone processes the information the same way and that can lead to flame wars between believers in different camps.

That's my interpretation and observation.

Wolfhag

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 7:42 a.m. PST

QILS uses abstracted rules specifically to keep the player away from the idea of controlling minutiae and focused on the operational concepts of maneuver and engagement. Of course, any system has to have formal mechanisms, so there will be some focus on those. I consider it a win when players say things like "I have to go slower to aim and shoot, so I only have one good shot and maybe two or three pot shots at you as you run away … let's see how that goes." vice "Your movement is X and has Y/Z modifiers, conditional on Rule A.B.C. My D skill and standard E table lookup with F.G modification leads to … (zzzzzzz)".

The stats are also abstracted from ordinal based distributions to categorical ones that are usually asymmetric. This makes is more difficult to nitnoid (not impossible) the statistics and, I feel (hope?), nudges the player toward an operational view. Rather than "Option A: 84% Ph / 24% Pk – Option B: 36% Ph / 56% Pk. Oh … they're the same." a player might say "This way is accurate, but lower damage, the other way is much less accurate but a lot more damage, so …"

The fact that the model has a holstered pistol and is carrying an AK-47 is part of the bit where the player's mind fills in the gap. The rules and system don't require this specific correlation. Again, it is a victory when the player says, "I took damage. OK. I'm going to lose the pistol and keep the AK." even when this isn't explicitly part of the rules.

I agree that there are a lot of places where players fill in the gaps when using abstracted rules.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 1:00 p.m. PST

The issue with abstract rules is that abstractions are:

1. Harder to understand in general.

2. Representative of un-abstract reality, so the linkages/explanations between abstract representations and what reality is being modeled is critical for player understanding AND meaningful play.

3.The connections [specifics, details] between simulation/representation and reality is what "evoke the feeling of a theme."

This is true of every abstraction, from novel's words to abstract paintings. Author and professor James Hynes wrote this about evocation. Note how it is very much matches what game designers and gamers are talking about: [Bear with me, I think the whole thing is worth it.]

When you tell readers something, you appeal mainly to the rational, analytical mind, not to the senses. But when you show readers something, you draw out something that is already present—memories or imaginings—even if your readers don't know it.

In other words, when you tell readers something, you make them witnesses, but when you show them something, you make them participants.

That is the magic of games in general and wargames/simulatioins specifically.

Evocation is both a subtle and a powerful technique. It entails both the writer and the reader using their imaginations. Writers use their skill with words to call forth scenes from their imaginations in enough detail that readers, without really thinking about it, use their own imaginations and memories sensory impressions are evoked.

The question for the designer is what is their role/responsibility in this partnership. I have been noting that the players have been carrying the evocation role in a designer vaccuum. As Hymes notes:


The readers are doing half the work, they don't realize it, and they actually enjoy the experience. The feeling of being in the scene with the characters and being engaged by the narrative is one of captures this effect comes from the American novelist and writing teacher John Gardner as the creation of "a vivid and continuous dream."

In her book Writing Fiction another creative writing teacher, Jane Burrows-emotions said that reading fiction allows us to feel strong emotions "without paying for them." This is what evocation is all about.

Isn't that what the 'magic circle' game designers talk about, that immersion is that 'vivid and continuous dream?'

How do writers do this, use evocation?

As we've said, evocative writing provides significant detail, but it doesn't overwhelm the reader The point is to draw something out of your readers, which you can't do if you pour too much in.

This is a tricky balance to get right, and beginning writers often have the most difficulty with it. Just as one common error among young writers is not providing enough detail, another common error is to overcompensate by telling too much. Often, inexperienced writers will
By evoking memories we all have of heat and dust, an author can draw us out of our own lives and into the life of a laborer in another time and place.

Sound familiar? Is it any wonder that gamers want details? And why so many games provide too much or too little?

These young writers building Fictional Worlds through Evocation go on for several paragraphs about the appearance of a character or a place when a few well-chosen sentences or words would have done just as well.
What are the right details to include? One way to answer that question is to include too much detail in your early drafts. Write much more than you need, then pare it back later.

This is basically the current designer/developer relationship. I suggest that in many cases, this is a bi-polar approach, like a novelist writing the book and then the editor deciding what the story is about.

What are the right details to include? One way to answer that question is to include too much detail in your early drafts. Write much more than you need, then pare it back later. You can also ask yourself some questions about the details you provide: Does this detail tell something that the reader didn't already know? Does it advance the story? Does it say

That is one appoach to designing wargames.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 1:13 p.m. PST

Let me give a classic example that I have mentioned before:

The original Fire & Fury had a 'Command Radius Rule' where movement rolls got a +1 if in the command radius. There was no minus for being out of 'command.' Those were the terms used.

A number of players over the years felt this was 'unrealistic' because there was no determent to being 'out of command.' They changed the rules, which they certainly could.

However, Richard H. had meant that +1 abstraction to repesent the help an officer could provide outside the command system because the commanders can see more, and are more removed from the front lines.

So, because of the lack of connection between what the designer meant to 'envoke' and player understanding,

1. Richard's hard work and design intentions was lost or misrepresented for that game mechanic. That 50/50 relationship between designer and player in creating that evocation was lost. I would suggest it is the designer's fault in this case.

2. Players changed the rules for the wrong reasons.

3. This vaccuum between designer intent and player understanding is a large portion of the debates we see on historical wargame list like TMP.

Now, that is just one small abstraction in a wargame that is in total an abstraction. How many similar misunderstanding in representation failed to envoke what Richard intended? Who knows, because most of the abstractions have never been explained--linked to reality. e.g. What does the generic artillary actually represent? How?

The new F&F rules have actual types of artillery. Details.

Wolfhag24 Feb 2020 4:53 p.m. PST

Personally, I never liked abstracted Command & Control rules and being "Out of Command". I've always asked why and how I am I out of command? Can't I command myself with immediate action drills or my own initiative? Can I be communicated by flags, bugles, voice or a messenger? Don't I have an objective I should be attempting to accomplish without additional orders?

I've found it not very productive trying to tweak someone else's rules since you don't really know what he included or not, modeld, simulated or abstracted.

Wolfhag

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 5:14 p.m. PST

The in command/out of command and command radius rules started with AH Gettysburg. The issue was having units wander all over without reference to command, particularly creating larger than possible 'fronts' for divisions etc.

It was a 'fix it' that had little to do with actual command. Being 'out of command' has been used in many contexts with radiuses, but the only command radius I've see that might be reasonably be modeling actual command and control is with low level, single figure wargames where LOC and voice were the main means of command.

Wolfhag24 Feb 2020 7:10 p.m. PST

Yes, I understand some of the reasoning behind it. However, I'll bet JEB Stuart spent most of the war out of command control of Lee.

I see it as a timing issue to change standing orders. The further away you are the longer it will take with a chance the message will not arrive.

If a Company of T-34's without radios in 1942 was given attack orders to seize a road junction 5 kilometers away down a road they are not going to stop at some arbitrary point because of being out of command control. They already have a command to follow.

I think there is a better way to reflect what the intent of the "out of command" rule is.

Wolfhag

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2020 10:59 a.m. PST

I'll bet JEB Stuart spent most of the war out of command control of Lee.

Let's not confuse campaign distances with battlefield practices. Stuart was in command control once he showed up at Gettysburg.

The further away you are the longer it will take with a chance the message will not arrive.

On the battlefield, at least for pre-20th radio, that time lag all depended on the level of command. While that was true for a corps commander might or might not be the same for a division commander and certainly wasn't for a brigade commander.

I think there is a better way to reflect what the intent of the "out of command" rule is.

I agree, starting with what we think that means on the battlefield for different eras.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Feb 2020 2:38 p.m. PST

The issue with abstract rules is that abstractions are:

All rules everywhere, all the time.

1. Harder to understand in general.

Too abstract to comment on…

2. Representative of un-abstract reality, so the linkages/explanations between abstract representations and what reality is being modeled is critical for player understanding AND meaningful play.

3.The connections [specifics, details] between simulation/representation and reality is what "evoke the feeling of a theme."

Which connections are made in the mind, as discussed above. And those connections may or may not be functions of the rules. Lots of people here talk about the figures being part of that evocation. Or the scenario.

I find that rules that try to be "realistic" end up encapsulating things that are not part of the actual decision and effect space of the entities being represented.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Feb 2020 9:55 a.m. PST

The issue with abstract rules is that abstractions are:

All rules everywhere, all the time.

etotheipi:

Yes, that is the point, though 1. all abstractions are not equal, and 2. to understand and use abstractions, the reality link must be made.

For instance, it is far more 'abstract't to represent all artillery types with one roll of the fire die or movement with a die roll for distance. [why, what is causing it etc.]

With Wolfhag's tank rules, players know that they are counting seconds between firing and that turrets rotate in the game in seconds that are counted down… the whole process is abstract and die rolling, but players have no illustions about what is being represented, particularly when the designer is their to help explain the basis for the rules. [An important point] When a designer claims his rules are 'Historically Accurate' but offers not explanation of how or why, that is a failure in providing those connection for the player.

Which connections are made in the mind, as discussed above. And those connections may or may not be functions of the rules. Lots of people here talk about the figures being part of that evocation. Or the scenario.

If they are not a function of the rules and what the designer has explained to make those connections, the obviously anything the players made do 'in their minds' may or may not be a function of the rules. That is my point. Simulations are 'guided pretending' because it is representing something historical, based on evidence, simulating *something else* specifically, not just anything the player may think of at the moment.

I find that rules that try to be "realistic" end up encapsulating things that are not part of the actual decision and effect space of the entities being represented.

That is a failure in design, not some inherent condition in the hunt to be realistic, particularly if you see 'realistic' as "the actual decision and effect space of the entities being represented."

Abstractions left uexplained, without linking to the reality they are meant to represent is simply a vaccuum left for players to fill with 'whatever.' That design is unable to representing anything. There is no guiding in that subsequent pretending in game play.

Wolfhag26 Feb 2020 2:35 p.m. PST

McLaddie,

Let's not confuse campaign distances with battlefield practices. Stuart was in command control once he showed up at Gettysburg.

IIRC, Lee could not control Stuart to get him into the battle as evidence before the battle he was too far away. I don't think Lee knew where he was. He was out of communication with Lee for a reason, not because of a distance restriction or a random chance. Why it happened is what I'd be interested in.

Distance, timing and friction are what matters for command control. You can be in the next fighting hole over from your LT and not hear a command because of the battle and friction. You could also be a mile away and get a signal (flag, heliograph, etc). The designer question is at what level of detail do you want to portray it.

Personally, I don't see it as a "chance" or an average as there are too many factors involved.

Regarding,

With Wolfhag's tank rules, players know that they are counting seconds between firing and that turrets rotate in the game in seconds that are counted down the whole process is abstract and die rolling, but players have no illusions about what is being represented, particularly when the designer is their to help explain the basis for the rules. [An important point] When a designer claims his rules are 'Historically Accurate' but offers not explanation of how or why, that is a failure in providing those connection for the player.

There are a couple of different versions. One does abstract a first shot with a die roll that combines the firing units Situational Awareness/Surprised, turret traverse speed, rate of fire and crew efficiency into a die roll that could result in a shot taking from 5-15 seconds, maybe longer if flanked and buttoned up. It is based on the research I've done and about what the average would be but there is a range. By having it the result in a range it creates a Fog of War between players. The abstracted version better for younger players, solo and larger engagements. Follow up shots at the same target simulate the reload, aim and fire times that would result in a historical (depending on the source) rate of fire.

This is the detailed version that does not need much explaining. Factors with a tan background are timing values in seconds, blue is a die roll. Following from left to right you go through the actions of engaging a target. First is the motorized turret traverse time (fast and slow)in degrees per second. Next, is the gunner using his manual elevation and traverse to acquire the target in his narrow gun sight which is somewhat random taking D6+2 seconds (depends on the gunsight optics, the field of view and magnification). Add +4 seconds if the gunner is WIA. Use the buttoned up or unbuttoned rows for the rest of the values (buttoned-up takes longer). Next is the additional time aiming and estimating the range. An Ace crew is 3 seconds, Vet 5 and Poor crew 7 seconds if unbuttoned. Poor lighting (haze, fog, mirage, rain, snow, etc) take longer as does sighting through partial smoke. A Snap Shot is a player Risk-Reward Tactical Decision to trade decreased accuracy for increased speed. However, the maximum range he can Snap Fire is 900m (about 1 second time of flight).

It's easy to see how better crews make the difference. An unbuttoned and prepared (good overwatch = less turret traverse time) Ace crew could get off 2-3 rounds before a buttoned-up Poor crew. There is not much that is left to chance or random.

In the game, the player performs the actions above rather than determining activations, reactions, initiative, command points, opportunity fire, etc. The game clock ticks away second-to-second (the second hand is manually advanced by a player, not played in real-time) with units executing their actions when the time comes and then looping back to Observe and go through his units OODA Loop again. All units are acting within their loop and executing their order (Act) when the clock comes to their Action Turn.

It still comes down to IGYG but parses the actions differently.

Wolfhag

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Feb 2020 3:16 p.m. PST

That is a failure in design, not some inherent condition in the hunt to be realistic, particularly if you see 'realistic' as "the actual decision and effect space of the entities being represented."

Yes. It's a peer comment to your

The issue with abstract rules is that abstractions are:
1. Harder to understand in general.

Except you assert yours as an absolute, and I used "I find".

Simulations are 'guided pretending' because it is representing something historical, based on evidence, simulating *something else* specifically, not just anything the player may think of at the moment.

Actually, education simulations work the other way. They have the participant practice behaviours prompted by a more abstract context so that the patterns of behavior can be transferred to other contexts.

Again, not a universal.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Feb 2020 10:00 p.m. PST

IIRC, Lee could not control Stuart to get him into the battle as evidence before the battle he was too far away. I don't think Lee knew where he was. He was out of communication with Lee for a reason, not because of a distance restriction or a random chance. Why it happened is what I'd be interested in.

Wolfhag: Yes, he was too far away to be involved in the Battle…until he showed up and had that an engagement north of the main battlefield. Stuart met with Lee before Gettysburg was over. Until then he was too far away… and not anywhere near the Battlefield altogether… meaning on the tabletop unless it was a campaign-sized wargame, you wouldn't see Stuart until late if at all.

We were talking about 'out of command' ON the battlefield.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Feb 2020 10:19 p.m. PST

The issue with abstract rules is that abstractions are:
1. Harder to understand in general.

Except you assert yours as an absolute, and I used "I find".

I said in general, which isn't an 'absolute' statement, but the science of learning and the brain is very clear on that trait of abstractions.

Simulations are 'guided pretending' because it is representing something historical, based on evidence, simulating *something else* specifically, not just anything the player may think of at the moment.

Actually, education simulations work the other way. They have the participant practice behaviours prompted by a more abstract context so that the patterns of behavior can be transferred to other contexts.

Again, not a universal.

I'd like to know where you got that idea that educational simulations work differently than 'other' simulations.

That term 'guided pretending' was coined by an educational simulation designer and trainer, Michael Bean. He heads up Forio Business Simulations. You might like his article,"What Makes a Simulation Fun?" which I can send to you or he has a number of articles, one of which is:

"Simulating a Story: Making Simulations Lively, Relevant, and Educational."

link

Remember, he designs simulation for businesses and educating professionals…and those articles are more than a decade old, so there have been that much more improvements in simulation effectiveness and methodologies. And Bean was only one of hundreds of simulation designers in the same or similar fields.

Here is a partial list of just his old articles, all focused on business…yet deal with many of the same issues you read here on the TMP.

link

I designed and sold simulations as a public school teacher and later as a teacher-trainer, lesson designer and business trainer.

That difference you say is there between wargames and educational simulations simply isn't true. All participatory simulations, regardless of purpose, work the same way for the participants--the abstractions and connections are all up to the designer. How simulations work to make those connections between players, abstractions and reality isn't different for different arenas.

You say that educational simulations have the participant practice behaviours prompted by a more abstract context so that the patterns of behavior can be transferred to other contexts.

So do wargames. The behaviors are scripted by the rules which the players practice, with a very abstract context: a entire battle on a table. One goal of that practice is for players to see how their 'patterns of behavior' transfer [that is, match, explain or apply to] an array of historical evidence--those other contexts.

Participatory simulations function the same way regardless of the goals set for the tool, whether training verbal skills to management, researching human reactions to 'stimuli, teaching Algebraic applications, exploring the dynamics of the Westward Movement or playing wargames.

And I'll be gald to defend that as an absolute.

Wolfhag27 Feb 2020 1:56 p.m. PST

We were talking about 'out of command' ON the battlefield.

That's fine. However, Stuart was cavalry/recon and spent most of his time away from the main body. It appears that at Gettysburg Lee had a hard time locating him. Was that an exception or normal operating? If you know why you can create the same conditions, if not you need to come up with some abstraction/chance.

Wolfhag

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2020 8:28 p.m. PST

Was that an exception or normal operating? If you know why you can create the same conditions, if not you need to come up with some abstraction/chance.

Wolfhag:

With Stuart, it was too common a situation. And yes, a designer can work at recreating the conditions. I was just thrown by going from the battlefield issues of out-of-comman to Campaign out-of-command.

Bill

Wolfhag28 Feb 2020 4:59 p.m. PST

These helped me understand it:
YouTube link

The part about Stuart starts at 20:00:
YouTube link

The reasons have the potential for some interesting rules and outcomes to paint a better and more historic picture of the command and control issues rather than random chances.

Wolfhag

Blutarski28 Feb 2020 7:58 p.m. PST

Stuart's full report vis a vis his participation in the Gettysburg campaign can be found here -

link

It is a lengthy (and, in some respects, a defensively written) document. Nevertheless, it does convey the unanticipated complications that frequently seem to arise in the course of large-scale military operations.

FWIW.

B

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Feb 2020 7:47 p.m. PST

The reasons have the potential for some interesting rules and outcomes to paint a better and more historic picture of the command and control issues rather than random chances.

Wolfhag: I agree. I also agree 'random chances' only work if you have some idea of what the 'randomness' proportions amounted to--and generally make for stupid AI.

Stuart lost sight of his primary mission and made decisions that ultimately meant for compounded errors.

First question is "What did Lee have reason to expect?" That is past history, past performance. Basically when you are creating a wargame, that is what you base everything on…because that is what the contemporaries had to work with. Certainly you then include the events you are focused on, but only then can you determine how 'rare' or 'common' that leader's behavior was--in otherwords, that randomness.

Then there is the fact that it wasn't just one decision on the part of Stuart that caused the problems, but decisions, events, more decisions, which were obviously not 100% clear to an experienced cavalryman like Stuart.

That needs to be factored in too. Certainly, personality played a part, but that comes under the heading of past experience.

So, who are the players going to be and what do you want the players to be thinking about while playing [that guided pretending?]

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.