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"WW2 Rules: Ameritrash vs Eurogame?" Topic


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Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 5:38 a.m. PST

For a number of years in the boardgaming scene, there has been this terminology to distinguish between games that follow a certain style popular among American game developers versus a style popular among European game developers. The former is generally called "Ameritrash" (which is not actually an insult, despite all appearances) and the latter is called "Eurogame." Not all boardgames that come out of Europe belong to the latter, just as not all boardgames that come out of America count as the former—just that these are useful terms for identifying certain trends in boardgame rules design.

Could these terms be usefully applied to discussion of WW2 wargaming rules (or wargaming rules more generally)? Before I make the case, let's consider what makes these meta-categories of games distinctive:

Ameritrash games tend to have complex phases and subphases that structure the game turn. They tend to be IGOUGO. They tend to have many different subsystems which do not necessarily share the same mechanics (and as a result, their rulebooks are often a bit longer). They are crunchy, focusing more on "simulation" rather than "theme." They don't often have a central game mechanism that is itself meant to be the source of entertainment—rather the entertainment they provide is from the whole, from simulating the kind of thing the game is about. They are strategic but not in a way that let's you directly interact with strategy; rather, you must interact with all the little subsystems that make up the structure of the game itself. Gameplay is more literal than it is abstract, with attention to things like precise scale and small differences in equipment and technology.

Eurogames are much more abstract, intentionally so. They tend to have a less structured turn sequence. The players' chances to act are interpolated, not IGOUGO, and you can react to opponents moves much more fluidly. Eurogames tend to center around a "cute" or "clever" game mechanic that provides the basis for play and around which the play pivots. That game mechanic is itself the source of entertainment—the friction or reaction or battle mechanic upon which gameplay swings. Eurogames allow you to directly interact with game strategy through these central game systems and often everything else that is happening on the battlefield is put in the background while you focus on the action at hand. Eurogames are abstract, focusing much more strongly on "theme" than "simulation." Each action you take can not always be literally related to some real-world event. These games do not "count rivets" or care about the minor difference between equipment and technology—just what these pieces of equipment and technology are meant to do on the battlefield.

Both game styles are narrative, but they derive narrative in different ways… while Eurogames can be properly described as "cinematic" since they blur the background and focus only on the interesting moments, Ameritrash games allow the full "picture" to "develop" only after the game has been finished, in the photography darkroom of post-game reflections about the entire events of the game.

Now these are Weberian "ideal types." No game exists that is a perfect reflection of either category. Nor is a game from one part of the world necessarily connected to one or even either of these types. Rather, these are loose clusters of descriptions that are broadly applicable for a useful cross-section of games.

Recently, I was listening to (and reading) reviews of various battalion-level WW2 rulesets. I read a review of Battlefront WWII, where the reviewer balked that the game was complex after having only read the rulebook. (It is not.) Then I listened to a review of O-Group, where the reviewer compared the rules to older, more crunchy systems, and it reminded me of the early-2000 era debates on TMP about "complexity vs playability" and the ungenerous references to the "bad old days" of SPI Wargames and Tank Charts and Tractics and ASL.

It struck me that the way this distinction has been construed—between complexity or simulation on the one hand and playability on the other—has not actually been entirely useful in retrospect. A complex and simulation-oriented game can indeed be quite playable: a terrific example of this is Battlefront WWII, which has remarkably few tables and modifiers and conveniently organizes all relevant data needed to play onto a single double-sided reference sheet and unit cards.

Besides, the real difference between a game like O-Group and Battlefront WWII is not a matter of complexity (the rules-section in the latter, ostensibly more "complex" game, is half the size of the former!). Rather, it is that the two games have completely different design philosophies and really stand as the inheritors of distinct traditions. Battlefront WWII inherits at least to some degree the history of Avalon Hill and Advanced Squad Leader. O-Group stands as the inheritor of Kriegsspiel and more recent games like Crossfire and IABSM. Each tradition, comprising a somewhat nebulous and loosely diverse family of games, deserves respect and recognition. Nevertheless, I would argue it may be helpful to "borrow" this terminology or at least the underlying meanings when thinking about the differences between game systems.

John Leahy26 Sep 2021 6:32 a.m. PST

I don't see folks adopting those terms. Like or or not Ameritrash sounds like a slam.

Thanks

John

FABET0126 Sep 2021 6:48 a.m. PST

I've been in the game business professionally for 30 years and
I've never heard the term "Ameritrash" and no matter how you try to justify it, it could only be intended as an insult, just as the term "Eurotrash" was used in the 80's and 90's for music and culture coming out of Europe.

"Eurogames" was a term coined in the late 90s/early 2000's to describe the resource board games coming out of Europe, like "Settlers of Catan". I've never heard it applied to miniature gaming.

Thresher0126 Sep 2021 6:52 a.m. PST

Yea, "Ameritrash" certainly isn't a neutral, or positive term.

I suspect if Eurotrash was the name for a group of Eurogames, it would not be accepted as a neutral, or positive label either.

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 7:16 a.m. PST

I am familiar with both terms and find them meaningless and divisive in the board game community. Why on earth would you want to bring them to miniatures?

There are so many examples that stand out as exceptions to the basic description that make these definitions useless other than to be used to make a judgment on games (and their players) from either source.

No thank you.

stephen m26 Sep 2021 8:12 a.m. PST

Yah Tractics! My first wargame rules.

I now think everyone is put off an concentrating on the term Ameritrash and only one response has addressed what is being discussed. Boo.

Me I see a different split. North American games generally have a die or dice roll which is modified, either by DRMs or to hit modifiers for success. Many times this list of modifiers can amount to handfuls, to dozens of modifiers. Look at poor old Tractics.

Eurovision games reduce the number of DRMs but require rolls be made of many, sometimes insane amounts, of dice. Each success either is enough or now can be countered by "saving throws" of often similar sized buckets of dice being rolled by the other player to reduce or eliminate the combat effects. This would not be a bad idea if only a couple dice are needed but as I have seen in quite a few games the walls of dice being tossed about are too alarming.

Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 8:23 a.m. PST

To everyone mentioning that Ameritrash "sounds like an insult," you've missed the intent of my post (and the indeed the entire context of the word itself). And with respect to "exceptions" to the rule, see my comment about Weberian "ideal types."

What I am trying to say is that there is a (loosely defined) "tradition" from which many American wargames derive that is different in certain key respects from the wargames that come out of Europe and the UK. They are all judged by a certain standard today, and that misses entirely the different aims and objectives at the very heart of American wargame design. Indeed, I think a lot of American games that belong to this tradition have been misconstrued as merely "complex" when indeed they actually have a lot of value that is completely lost in the way that the wargaming community talks about rules nowadays. What I am offering is a reparative view of the classic American wargames and the games that derive from them.

Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 8:41 a.m. PST

@Stephen M, that's a good point: we would have to reconfigure the definitions to better fit wargaming design (instead of boardgaming design, which is the origins of the terms). Your observations are a good start towards that end. I don't particularly think we need to stick to the terminology used by boardgamers (who, I must stress, do not mean either term to be an insult). What I wanted to get across is that I think it is plausible that wargaming can be discussed with a somewhat similar framework. Right now, we call games like Battleground WW2 as being "old" because they in some sense resemble the hoary days of Tank Charts and Tractics, when calculating the angle of impact was the norm. But that is not the only useful way to discuss these things… I think instead of just saying something is "old school" or "new wave", it is useful to think about these games as emerging out of traditions of game design—traditions which quite possibly have entirely distinct aims and objectives in their design. Today, it is the mode to throw certain games under the proverbial bus by a sidelong comment that they are "complex" or "chart-heavy" or "too simulationist." But these games absolutely have value and simply implying that these are "bad" qualities (in contrast to new, allegedly "better" design principles championed by UK game designers), we need to understand why these American games were designed the way they were and why that matters.

Right now, I'm enjoying the hell out of some crunchy, rivet-counting, chart-heavy, simulationist, American-designed games that are a quarter of a century old in their publication date. And right now, I have no way to explain how much enjoyment I am getting from these rules other than the fact that they seem to suit me and what I want a game to handle. I'd rather develop a language within the community that more clearly and analytically represents the value of these games, so that we can talk about those aspects and wrap our heads around what makes these old games tick.

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 8:44 a.m. PST

Maybe it would help if you provided examples of this split in style in various wargames rules. I have seen previous board game examples but I am not convinced that the same type of dichotomy exists based on where rules are developed. Is this the same as the buckets of dice v pages of modifiers schools of rules development? If so, that split has never seemed Europe v non Europe development based.

Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 9:00 a.m. PST

@Paul, sure, although this is very tentative… I've only started to think along these lines and don't have things nailed down quite yet.

I wouldn't consider "buckets of dice vs loads of modifiers" to be a decisive factor. Those are just ways of getting to a game event resolution, not essentially distinct design goals. It's more about what the games are attempting to portray (and what they are thereby leaving out of their representation).

Rather, take for example a game like Rapid Fire or IABSM or O-Group or Crossfire. In each of these games, there are fairly limited distinctions made about equipment and tanks in particular. The gun calibers are fairly fuzzy and broad categories, tank armour values are pretty general as well.

Compare that to Battlefront WWII or Battleground WW2. In the former, there is often very careful distinction between weapons, even tracking subtle adjustments for one single weapon as its ammo was developed throughout the war. In Battleground WW2, weapons are carefully distinguished and armour values as well are tracked.

In the former group of games, technological differences are largely abstracted and the concern seems to be about the overall function of the technology on the battlefield. A tank is a tank is a tank, more or less. In the latter group of games, there seems to be concern over representing technological differences accurately (or at least in detail) for its own sake. That is to say, technology matters.

Another trend in some games is to represent affective differences between different "factions," so-called "national characteristics" (something which likely comes from either Napoleonics or possibly Games Workshop's games). Different nationalities must fight differently because they thought and felt differently. They had different psychology. You can definitely see this in Too Fat Lardies games, for example, but Flames of War also falls under this category.

Compare that to games like Battlefront WWII or ASL (or really almost any "American style" wargame): there is very, very little in the way of "soft" or psychological difference… how an army fights has everything to do with its organization and technology, NOT some unique psychological factor. Battlefront WWII in particularly studiously avoids assigning any "national characteristics" and makes the bold claim that a soldier in any army largely felt and thought the same and that doctrine has more to do with technology and organization than anything else.

Then there are games that "zoom in" on the action and blur out the background. O-Group is like this, as is Crossfire and Blitzkrieg Commander. These are "action economy" game designs, where you cannot do everything you'd like in a turn—often you have a pool of resources or an increasing risk factor that lets you focus on a certain part of the battlefield while the rest of the army sits and waits for your attention. This system is also frequently linked to "fog of war" concepts that explain lack of control in terms of lack of knowledge.

In American-style games, you often have total control over troops in good order… you can move all of your playing pieces and the only thing that interrupts your perfect army control is disorder.

Another one is ground and time scale. What I am thinking of as "Eurogames" often have a flexible or even non-existent ground and timescale, whereas American games tend to have an exact (if not exacting) time and ground scale.

Those are just some initial thoughts, there is I think plenty more that lends itself to generative discussion.

stephen m26 Sep 2021 9:35 a.m. PST

AM

I agree entirely, I was just offering another method of distinguishing between two different mindsets of rules.

I get what you mean the differences between one set of rules which basically state all infantry weapons are functionally similar in game terms and given the board size we are playing on, while the quality (use your own term here) of the troops makes so much more difference in their performance that is what I concentrate on. As opposed to the other approach which compares say a PAK40 to a Soviet 76.2 mm AT gun. Rate of fire, penetration differences at specific ranges quality of optics, etc. would be accounted for in the rules.

I believe that is what you are getting at. Each has it's proponents and detractors. The hard part is finding opponents with the same attitude as you to game with. Myself I was a rivet counter but recently for infantry centric games I have found the trooper makes the difference not the magazine size to be more my style.

BTW In the past I played a lot of modern air combat at the scale where entire phases of the game would revolve around determining how effective radar vs ECM vs ECCM was. Here the end result would not just be a DRM to a "hit" number but would force the losing side to move first and only react to the winning side while the latter would rule the game for those turns they had the advantage. I still like that approach as recently I read a set of sci fi rules where each side assigned points to electronic warfare. The difference would be added to or subtracted from the opponent's every die roll for the turn. A total turn off for me, but for others a simple easy approach I am sure.

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 10:00 a.m. PST

It almost seems like a question of where you want your focus to be. The larger the field of operations you wish to portray the more abstract that portrayal has to become to remain workable. To me then it becomes a question of whether the level that is wargamed is measurably different with those favoring the Euro style of rules v those favoring the American style.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 1:08 p.m. PST

For me, the critical distinctions remain (1) franchise games vs others and (2) record-keeping games vs games where the facts are visible on the table. Third place is games with "light AT gun" vs games listing two dozen slightly different ones. Turn sequence is much less important, and continent of origin doesn't figure in at all.

But it would take a book to sell the term "Ameritrash" and I wouldn't read it.

BobGrognard26 Sep 2021 1:13 p.m. PST

It does seem that there is a divide, but European (British?) designed games from the 1980s were just as focussed on technology as those you describe from the US. What seems to have happened is that euro games took a distinct turn to consider the humans involved in warfare rather than just the technology. That includes reflecting the limitations of commanders by restricting just how much they can influence the action in any period of time. Hence you can't do everything all of the time.

Some would say that the resulting euro games are more modern and a better representation of the realities of command. Others would say that these human focussed model lack technical detail. Ultimately, you pays your money and takes your choice. It's really about personal preference. I doubt if the two approaches would sit comfortably together in one game.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 1:26 p.m. PST

This is a repeat topic.

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 1:46 p.m. PST

The term Ameritrash is very offensive to many of us who are Americans. If someone called meeple games "Eurotrash" or "Eurotards", I would expect Europeans to be offended.

I first heard the term Ameritrash used in reference to Fortress America, which took a lot of inspiration from the movie Red Dawn. Red Dawn, in turn, faced a lot of derision from Europeans for its overtly right-wing themes. By extension, Ameritrash applied to Fortress America evolved to be a derogatory term for US-based games with lots of plastic pieces and fairly simple themes. I find the attitude of people who use that term to be touting the superiority of European games and culture over the "trashy" US culture.

I would ask that people stop using the Ameritrash term. It's unnecessarily hurtful.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 2:12 p.m. PST

What would be wrong with saying "Amerigames" and "Eurogames?"
Nothing at all. So say that instead.

"Ameritrash" is meant as an insult, referring to board games with lots of thematic detail, both in the rules and the components, which some board gaming snobs look down on in favor of generic components (like "meeples") and rules that may bear a theme but whose mechanics have little to do with the theme itself. The term should therefore by avoided, unless you want to start a squabble.

Zephyr126 Sep 2021 2:46 p.m. PST

Or "Ameristyle" & "Eurostyle"
Lots of 'non-offensive' naming options out there…

Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 3:21 p.m. PST

I think this is distracting from the topic, so I'll just say this one more time and leave it at that:

These are well-known and widely used terms in the boardgaming community. They only have negative connotation for people who are ignorant of their definitions and modern-day usages.

I used these terms only because of the utility of referencing those meaning and discussions that are widely known and well-developed in the boardgaming community. I am not concerned here with what terminology the wargaming community may end up developing for its own usage. I used the recognized terms because 1) it helps to communicate the concepts to those who are already familiar with these well-developed ideas in the boardgaming world and 2) to give those who are less familiar an easy reference terminology for those who wish to look up the meanings of these terms in the boardgaming world. Google is your friend.

As Stephen M and others have helpfully contributed: wargaming and boardgaming are not identical and we should use these boardgaming concepts as a springboard from which to develop definitions and meanings more appropriate to wargames and their unique trajectories and histories of design and development. As we do so, we certainly can come up with new names and terms… nobody is married to the phrase "Ameritrash" or "Eurogame."

The reaction to me smacks of past debates about "verbotten" words that were in fact definitionally quite innocent and innocuous to those who were familiar with their actual definitions and etymology. I won't reference those words because in those cases, the masses ultimately won and they in fact did become taboo words, flying in the face of reason and logic. It's particularly surprising to me because if one actually reads my posts here, I am defending these "American style" games to the hilt.

Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 4:18 p.m. PST

Some would say that the resulting euro games are more modern and a better representation of the realities of command. Others would say that these human focussed model lack technical detail. Ultimately, you pays your money and takes your choice. It's really about personal preference. I doubt if the two approaches would sit comfortably together in one game.

Yes I agree, the for-lack-of-better-words Euro style wargame is much more humanistic in its approach and probably more "cinematic" and focused on a narrower scope of decision making (i.e. a game from the perspective of a battalion commander alone). American style games allow much more micromanagement and factor more things through technological details rather than humanistic ones.

stephen m26 Sep 2021 4:32 p.m. PST

Robert

Interesting point of divergence franchise vs not, or generalist vs specific info and game sequence.

As always I believe it is what YOU want from a game. Curious about game sequence. Almost all have quite a few steps (5 to 10) while some (ASL) go on and on. Then there is IGO UGO vs semi simultaneous or I keep going as long as I meet X criteria (keep rolling double 6s every initiative segment).

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 4:54 p.m. PST

+1 Zephyr1

@Achtung Minen: The term has been controversial for years; I've objected to its use on Boardgamegeek and RPG.net for as long as I've known about it. Calling people offended by it "ignorant" is to add insult to injury. You then proceed to insult people who disagree with you by implying they have poor reading comprehension. I guess my Ivy League master's degree and Mensa membership aren't up to your vaunted standards?

And just because a term is widely used or makes for "easy reference" doesn't make it okay. We had certain terms for black people that most people don't use anymore. Using your logic, we should have never stopped using the N-word.

McWong7326 Sep 2021 5:35 p.m. PST

I've never seen these terms used for miniatures wargaming, its been for boardgames from the past twenty years. I always thought it referred to the amount of game pieces?

platypus01au26 Sep 2021 6:50 p.m. PST
26 Sep 2021 6:55 p.m. PST

I am another that finds the term "Ameritrash" insulting.

Which is really ironic in that most "Ameritrash" as stated are heavy rule type games whereas the "Eurogames" are more on the simplier side.

Seems to me who ever coined these terms mixed them up.

Achtung Minen26 Sep 2021 8:19 p.m. PST

Javelin, where exactly do you get off implying that I am a racist or would defend a racist word? Would you care to walk back your statement a little?

BobGrognard26 Sep 2021 8:35 p.m. PST

Achtung Minen,

Gosh, there's a lot of people very sensitive about pretty trivial terms that are in common use!

Anyway, to return to topic, I'd like to defend the eurogame, or eurotrash if you prefer, approach and say that I don't think they are simplistic, they simply focus on a different aspect of warfare. I've talked to several game designers and listened to numerous podcasts on the subject of game design and it seems to me that eurogames are following the shift in academic study of warfare which took a seismic shift when John Keegan wrote his classic Face of Battle.

Since then most modern historians have recognised that the most variable and unpredictable working part in warfare in the human being. It is the way men react and respond to the stresses of combat that determine the outcome. Commanders are not omnipresent, they do not respond in a constant manner at all times. Their subordinates do not simply carry out their orders as automatons, but they too respond in unpredictable ways when bullets start to fly. This approach is now the norm in eurogames whereas US designed games (and this is a HUGE generalisation) tend to follow a more technology focussed approach which mirrors historians such as Trevor N. Dupuy who see, or saw, combat as something which can be modelled by distilling it down to ratios and numerical values.

From a game design perspective, it is much easier to take the Dupuy approach as opposed to the Keegan line as there is a lot of data available relating to the performance of various types of ammunition and types of armour. This is, it is alleged, "wargaming gold". A whole big pot of data that we can crunch into percentage chances. A rule writer's treasure chest. Or so it would appear!

I would suggest that in fact the eurogame model comes closer to that holy grail of realism. Does it matter to the soldier on the ground if he's being shot at with 0.303 or 7.62 ball? Does it REALLY matter to a tank commander what the slope of his armour is when that first shell ricochets off his mantlet? Surely the most important thing is how those men respond to a stressful and challenging situation? That is the question that modern wargames ask, as opposed to the traditional games with a focus on technology.

It possible to extend this argument to say that the level of micromanagement in the more traditional American approach is seductive in that it seems to give more detail and be more ‘realistic'. However, when a player is ostensibly playing the role of, for example, a battalion commander, is it realistic to then ask that player to be making decisions which are pertinent to another level of command? Or to give that player information and intel which they would not have if they were in that historical role? Once again, the style of eurogame you describe is much more comfortable with presenting the player with imperfect command and control capabilities and imperfect data.

Again, the shift in emphasis of eurogames follows fairly precisely the way the study of military history has developed over the last forty odd years. If anything it can be said to be more in tune with modern military thought than the much more system driven, and now largely discredited approach of the likes of Dupuy.

Finally, I think it is untrue to say that American designed games do actually follow the model suggested. You can look at the work of respected US game designers such as Sam Mustafa and see a very modern approach, and there are plenty of others. So maybe the difference is not actually about geographical location but rather about which designers are actually reading contemporary military thought and the latest developments in military history as opposed to those who are still focussing on outdated and outmoded concepts?

pfmodel26 Sep 2021 9:24 p.m. PST

While I think there is a difference between figure-gaming rules from Europe and the US, I don't think it fits in with the board game categories. It also depends on the type of figure gaming rules, so let's focus on just WW2 and Cold War figure-gaming rules. The next category we need to define is scale, squad scale version platoon scale for example.

In the squad scale (one element equals a squad) the most popular set of rules could be Flames of war, which comes from New Zealand, which lets say is the same as the UK. This is an abstract and simple set of rules. On the other hand another set of rules from the UK is BGMR, which is very complex. Actually some of the most complex squad scale sets of rules I have ever played come from the UK, Cambria to Sinai, Challenger, Firefly and of course BGMR. In the US we can see the same range, with Combat Commander being as complex as anything from the UK, but then we see Mein Panzer which is far more playable.

I personally feel the figure gaming market is not large enough to possess the type of categories we see in main stream board games.

I have done an indepth analysis of figure gaming rules, which is in the form of a set of videos, the first one being; youtu.be/VeP5J7wEvSk

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Sep 2021 11:48 p.m. PST

The term needs to change if folk are seeking discussion.
It is insulting.
Wide usage should not confer common currency?
martin

UshCha27 Sep 2021 12:56 a.m. PST

Fundamentally the descriptions are counterproductive as far as I am concerned.

Detail games (American types) can be seriously flawed in that, although detailed only cover some limited areas which make them useless. The technical term is incorrectly levelled, too much detail in one area and too little elsewhere a poor design of model. In addition you have not defoin.302ed what detail/complexity is. I turned the turrets of my tanks as a kid and went Bang! Now I am told that is complex, was it excessive detail to represent a tank whose sole aim was a gun that moves and shoots in any direction, personally that not detail.
On the basis you have presented the definition is useless in evaluating a simulation

As on (admittedly the worst apart from some old Newbury rules was a rule set called FIBA (Fighting in Built UP Areas). It was a modern set that included a huge complexity of weapon and ammunition types running to pages and pages, but contained no work on the essential 3D nature of such fighting, very poor modelling.

So categorising a game by simply its level of detail is pointless, it indicates nothing.

Your European games (Can't UK games as we are not in Europe ;-)) almost describes simple games. It seems to be an expression of a mechanism not an objective. It implies the mechanism is the object of a game not the actual result. I would argue that is not a useful definition, how well it represents the real world is the issue. If it's new, novel and unique great but if it's un-historic it tells me nothing.

Neither definition even attempts to address the fundamental requirements a historical representation.
We have a useful definition of un-historic it's called Fantasy. Your definition can't even define the game as one or other of the extremes defined by the use of Historic or Fantasy.

If you wanted to define games you need a marking scheme.

Counting the pages addressing each aspect of a game would be a start. 18 pages on Weapons and 1 page on Command and Control speaks volumes over whether it's either American, European or of course a UK game.

BobGrognard27 Sep 2021 1:27 a.m. PST

The UK has left the European Union, a political institution. It has not and cannot leave Europe any more than Switzerland or Norway can. They are all geographically part of Europe.

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 4:20 a.m. PST

Javelin, where exactly do you get off implying that I am a racist or would defend a racist word? Would you care to walk back your statement a little?

I'm not saying that you do. I'm saying that the logic you use to defend using the term is the same logic that someone would have used to continue using a racial slur.

Reading comprehension is your friend.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 4:42 a.m. PST

Actually, I think the 'debate' should focus around player-friendly vs. outreach-oppressive systems, or, about the match-institutionalized '6-turn' game limit, and/or a 2-3 hr. session expectation.

Meanwhile, the greater gaming hobby continues to evolve and moves on regardless…….

BobGrognard27 Sep 2021 5:54 a.m. PST

FlyXwire, you make a good point about the hobby continuing to evolve. However, I do wonder if rule sets have a longevity in the US that they don't have in Europe? I've certainly seen rule sets being used at Cons in the US that would never be seen in the UK. Some of them even forty years old. I can't imagine seeing that in the UK.

Maybe US gamers are that bit older on average and so stick with older rule sets?

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 6:33 a.m. PST

BC -

"Maybe US gamers are that bit older on average and so stick with older rule sets?"

I can only relate from my own experiences, or from reading/viewing those views of others, but there does seem to be some different play-style realities between the older guys, who 'came up' playing rulesets that expected a hosting judge (we weren't called Game Masters back then) to prepare a situation from which a scenario was derived, and then the forces for both sides readied and provided for the participants. The expectations were that the players would then immerse themselves with the presented game situation and mission goals, these events often being multiplayer/team games that would compensate for the time invested by the host who put in the prep work to make the high-fidelity effort worth it, by having more than just a couple personalities sitting around the table.

I think the tourney-game formats have done much to make these differences in play-style more apparent. It's also made the hobby less persistent too……once a tourney rule set loses favor, the players leave for the next thing (maybe they weren't really there for the history after all, but for the organized participation).

I had a discussion last week with our young event organizer for the local shop (here in the Midwest USA), as he gets into his new responsibility there – he wanted to know how he could better promote our historical miniatures game days. He had difficulty understanding how our scenario-approach was different from match scenario formats, and why we didn't want/require participants to bring their own "armies". We were talking a different language (from having different points of entry into the hobby).

On game mechanics….ouch!…..some work very well for multiplayer/teams games. Some "narrative/friction" mechanics work great for 2-player matches, or tourney pickup style games.

All this can be debated of course, but maybe what's lost in this debate (which I think has been largely lost in the hobby IMO) – some rules do work better for playing multiplayer and/or prepared-style scenarios. If this form of gaming has no interest to someone, they probably don't see the value of rulesets that cater to this type of wargaming.

Decebalus27 Sep 2021 7:16 a.m. PST

1) I dont think, that the categories are any help for analyzing miniature wargames. They were made to describe boardgames and are not transferable to Miniature wargames. For a discussion of the terms for boardgames see here:

link

2) In addition, the analysis of Achtung Minen IMO has some flaws. For example, Crossfire is used as an example of a "european" style, but Arty Conliffe is AFAIK an american.

3) Looking from a continental european perspective, the biggest differences between US and british miniature wargaming seems to me:
a) The writing style of the rules. American rules are inspired by cosim rules, very exact, legalistic and tournament friendly (Sam Mustafa as a example). British rules are verbose, with fluff text, that carries no rule relevant informations (Black Powder). (And Phil Barker is his own country in writing style.)
b) The inspiration. American rules are inspired by cosims, british rules are nowadays all orientated by Warhammer. Which has something to do with the dominance of GW in the british wargaming scene.
c) Obviously the rules are also inspired by the playing style. And here it seems for me that Americans have more room, so they have bigger armies and as a result prefer the big event. British have less room, prefer faster playing time and smaller battles.

But today new rules have characteristics from different sources: Rommel by Sam Mustafa for example has the american exactness in writing style, is obviously inspired by grids like a board game, but has also a Saga-style board for commands (classic european ressource management).

Cerdic27 Sep 2021 8:51 a.m. PST

Ahhh, Eurotrash!

Very silly but very funny…

link

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 11:02 a.m. PST

A.M. even if it were true that board gamers--American board gamers? Really?--use the term "Ameritrash," why would I pay the slightest attention to terms used by board gamers? We parted company somewhere around the Ford administration. Which is why I'm here on TMP instead of Board Game Geek.

But I missed another serious distinction--tournament vs everything else. There are severe restraints in designing a game which must have a point system--equal points at that--little or no concern for historical opponents or terrain, and play to a conclusion in an hour without an umpire. Such rules can (sometimes) be used for other purposes, but if you want to make "tournament rules," that trumps all other considerations.

The shameful American practice of not always using this year's hot rules or the most recent version of any rules may be related to how relatively few Americans drag 500 point HotRules Fifth Edition armies to a convention for a tournament.

Personally, I always like to pass through the local game shop when the new GW or FoW rule book comes out, to point out to the kids whose armies have been invalidated (again) that there are other ways to wargame.

Andy ONeill27 Sep 2021 1:17 p.m. PST

Eurotrash is taken. It already has a different meaning. There was a tv series.

Think i may have written something like this before somewhere. Deja vu, anyhoo.

I design and build systems for a living. Computer systems.

In systems design there's bottom up and top down design.
The bottom up approach gathers together things the designer can think of and translates these into mechanisms.
This has gone out of favour because each tends to be given the same emphasis and you can find too much effort expended on trivial things, too little on really important things. The result can end up rather inelegant as you bolt each piece on. There's little time spent on the overall shape of the whole. You got the bolts, they're now formed into one thing. Done.

Top down emphasises big picture first. Work out which bits are really important and design that. Care is taken and effort expended on the overall design. Sometimes you find something missed out you thought was unimportant because you didn't gather together all the little things you should model.
In my experience of systems design ( which is extensive ) top down is more likely to give a good result.

An aspect more specific to games rules is how tight the definitions of things are. How little is left to the players interpretation. Loosely written rules expect you to not do illogical unrealistic things without explicitly defining every thing. Tightly written rules strive to define doo s and don't s. Some criticise loose rules because they feel they want rules rather than guidelines. Some criticise tightly written rules because they feel they are cumbersome and you can't define everything so there are inevitable holes or things could be interpreted more than one way.

Steve57527 Sep 2021 2:56 p.m. PST

I think it unnecessary to insult. It separates us (further) and detracts from the topic.
Unfortunately this seems to happen too much.

pfmodel27 Sep 2021 3:45 p.m. PST

Bottom up, or deterministic and top down, or probabilistic are two very different and equally valid methods of designing a game system. Figure gaming tends to be bottom up, in the past, and board gaming tends to be top down, for the most part.
But figure gaming is very fragmented and style vary all over the place these days, so the first commonly used top down Napoleonic figure gaming rules came out in the US, for example.
The size of the playing area is a more valid difference between locations, lots of room in homes in the US, not much room in homes, but lots of room in clubs in the UK. This would affect the type of rules being played, so DBMM gets played a lot in the UK, in clubs and at conventions, while field of glory gets played a lot in the US, in homes.
I remember a FFT3 player in Osaka who basically took over the only large room in his apartment to setup a game for several days. Apartments are not large in Japan, trust me on this. This was only possible because his partner was on holidays at the time, it had to be packed up and put away before she returned – or else.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2021 6:02 p.m. PST

Good point, pfmodel. There's a reason most of my microscale and all my 2mm have to cross the Atlantic. This may also apply to "gridded" systems, which seem to be more economical of table space. Anyone have a way of checking that?

UshCha28 Sep 2021 1:44 a.m. PST

There are some interesting points here. FlyXwire (post 27th Sept) has a good point about tournament vs scenario games and multi-player games.

For many years I played tournament type games but in the end as has been said they become games with miniatures departing further from reality. DBM was such a game and in the end I suspect Barker split with his onetime co-author, as DBM just got worse.

I have no interest generally in multi-player games. Generally there are insufficiency players of experience that can handle the complexities of strategy needed for a multi-player game (that I need to be entertained). Somebody has to sit on their hands while others fight at a strategic level where it's an interesting challenge. Everybody fights games while inclusive have eliminated much of the planning at high level. The two types (single player or multi player) may be tailored to different requirements. Our own rules are not particularly tailored to multi-players games and for the reasons above; do not shine as well in an all fighting situation.

There may also be an issue about the number of games a year played. I am now playing probably 70 to 80 games a year (twice a week) same rules, two to 3 levels of play. This puts a wholly different complexion to the rules, than folk who play only the same period/rules a few times a year. This may not be a Board game/wargame difference I guess ASL players fall into the lots of games category.

To the point the definitions named are not useful.

Pfmodels – top down vs bottom up, lots of consultants make huge amounts of money arguing one way or the other. That is not the problem. The problem is integrating all of the levels to give a coherent model. Many games I see have huge flaws that show clearly, no real attempt has been made to check the integration of the whole system, or that bits of reality have been ignored. This is just bad design. I was stunned as time went on how many rules failed to allow the formations defined in the real world to work effectively, clearly the designer had failed to check such basic facts.

pfmodel28 Sep 2021 4:01 a.m. PST

Many games I see have huge flaws that show clearly, no real attempt has been made to check the integration of the whole system, or that bits of reality have been ignored

This is a valid issue, flaws are either historical in nature or in terms of game play. Historical flaws are easy to identify and are, surprisingly, often not important, but game play flaws are harder to pin down before you learn a set of rules and discover them. They are also more significant. A set of rules which results in players expending large amount of time on unpleasant activities rarely last long. Rules which require you to remember a mass of information in order to play a coherent game will normally fail very early on. If a player is more focused on trying to work out how the rules work than their tactics, we do not have an enjoyable experience. Complexity by itself is not an issue, there just needs to be a way of minimising the negative effects of complexity, or there needs to be a significant pay-off. But finally, the rules have to be well tested. If players come across a situation which is not covered in the rules, then it will quickly be abandoned.
All these issues can be found and corrected if the rules are tested sufficiently, but often this does not occur. Empire 3rd edition, while a beautiful set of rules, was almost unplayable. I expect those who designed them had no issues, because they possess background information lacking in the rules. Designing rules is very hard and while I have issues with WRG, I must admit the rules seem to be very robust, which I expect is the result of a lot of play testing. The effect is they are generally successful. Spearhead is possibly in the same category.

pfmodel28 Sep 2021 4:09 a.m. PST

There's a reason most of my micro scale and all my 2mm have to cross the Atlantic. This may also apply to "gridded" systems, which seem to be more economical of table space.

This is an issue for me as well. I expended a large amount of effort in creating storage solutions to allow me to transport figures and terrain in my luggage. Of course there was no room for undergarments and cleaning products, but as a harden gamers this is only a minor issue. My latest focus is creating a playing area which fits exactly on a standard table, which is about 76 cm deep, using a tiling system. I am also thinking of playing areas made of cloth, but the effect is not as good. The size of the playing area often relied on the rules; DBA requires a 2' square. I also use LWRS which can fit on a 2x3' playing area. I have been experimenting with converting SPI board games into a hex less figure gaming format, which seems to work rather well, but so far require a 3x4' playing area. 3x4' is about the largest playing area I every use these days, but this does restrict me in the type of rules I can use.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Sep 2021 12:58 p.m. PST

I know most of those problems, pfmodel. My target is play on a 3x3 table--pretty much a standard card table--with microscale, and 2mm sets which will travel complete in a laptop carrier and play on 2' square or less. One quick test with tiles is to start with the math: how many spaces in each direction do you need for the game, and, given the table size, how small does that make each space? If the answer is "smaller than I'd care to handle" that system is out. Mind you, not everything which passes the test is an enjoyable game for any number of reasons, but it does sort out a lot of ones which won't work.

UshCha28 Sep 2021 4:01 p.m. PST

Its interesting, for me a miniatures game on a 3 by 3 ft table would be untenable. The figures would be too small to get a reasonable ground scale to miniature scale and the distances would lead to a level of precision that again would be to demanding to be of interest to me. I have played DBM even occasionally HOT but both have insufficiency numbers of pieces to make a good demanding game, they lack the flexibility of deployment. DBM would potentially fit the bill at 6mm, but would most likely be too demanding on placement accuracy for me. However each to their own and if you are happy that is all that matters. It would color what type of rules you would chose.

pfmodel28 Sep 2021 7:14 p.m. PST

I have played DBM even occasionally HOT but both have insufficiency numbers of pieces to make a good demanding game, they lack the flexibility of deployment.

This does raise a good point. DBMM games on a 2x3' playing are is rather common, but the games start at a point where both sides are just about to engage. There is no pre-battle manoeuvring, however I have often found in figure-gaming, players tend not to focus on pre-battle manoeuvring so this may not be an issue.
I often use LWRS (WW2 micro-armour) set of rules on a 3x4' playing area with 6mm figures. This does use a ground scale of 1:10000 with each element representing a company, so may not be typical, but I often find most of the fighting occurs in a 2x3' area and only if a break through occurs does play move to the 2nd half. IN theory you don't need half the playing area and you could have a game on a 2x3' playing area, with appropriate victory conditions. However I tend to like the whole 3x4' playing area as there is the possibility of a break through and a conducting a deep penetration.
I also use a SPI board game converted into a figure gaming format, which uses a ground scale of 1:60000 and with each 6mm element representing a battalion. I tend to only use this for historical battles, but often there is a lot of pre-battle manoeuvring which does add to the interest in the game.
However in all cases the unit count remains at 50 elements per player, any more elements and the game becomes difficult to complete in a single day. This seems to also apply to Napoleonic's, but I am uncertain about ancients.
IN summery, it really depends on the amount of maneuvering you wish to conduct, as well as figure scale and rules of course.

UshCha28 Sep 2021 11:54 p.m. PST

pfmodels again its interesting as to what you view as a miniatures game. In England in the Napoleonic period when the threat of invasion was real the Brits military started the Light battalions as there were few open spaces to deploy a more traditional force and also began detailed mapping of Britain at 1 mile to the inch which is 1/63360 very close to your 1:60000 scsle. This to me makes it a map game irrespective of the use of miniatures or pieces of car with NATO symbols or even marking the area up with dry wipe markers.

These issues are really at the heart of a game description. They transcend mere debates on mechanism style.

Again its personal but to me the setting up of the battle is a big part of the fun.

pfmodel29 Sep 2021 3:42 a.m. PST

Again its personal but to me the setting up of the battle is a big part of the fun.

Trust me I like big battles as well, I have a cork tiles playing area which is 6x8' in size and it looks rather impressive when I set it up, although I normally use it for WW2 or Cold War micro-armour. While I possess a huge number of 15mm Napoleonic's figures it would take me a day to deploy a Napoleonic force to fit on a table of that size. I suspect with 25mm that it would be more practical. My only issue is I would need to keep it setup for weeks and I lack the space to do so. This Video has examples of my larger terrain system.
The 1:60000 scale is only used for WW2 or cold war; it would never work for Napoleonic's. 1:10000 is about the highest scale you can go without getting into issues. This video shows an example game, in this case the battle of Leipzig, which is possibly a battle too large for the playing area I ended up using. I can do the 1st day in about 2-3 hours and all three days in about 8 hours, so while difficult I can play a game in a day.
At 1:60000 you can recreate a WW2 corps level battle on a 3x4' playing area, including manoeuvring. This video shows an example game involving a German corps against a Russian Tank Army.
While all of these games could be played on a map with cardboard counters, the same could be said of any figure gaming set of rules. I like figure gaming because of the bling, as long as I get my bling I am happy and if I could keep my 6x8' playing area setup for weeks – I would certainly do so.

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