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"Does it matter if we don't finish the game?" Topic

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ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2022 11:26 p.m. PST

After some really good recent discussion of the respective merits of long vs short games, I fell to thinking about how much it matters if a game is left unfinished. My thoughts on the topic are here:

UshCha15 Feb 2022 1:11 a.m. PST

Its playing and gaining insight into battles that counts. Do we "finnish" a game never! we play till the time runs out or the game ceases to be of interest. Playing when its a forgone conclusion to me is pointless; sll the interesting dsececions have already been made so its no fun for either side. Some games run out of time but so what, if the scenario was interesting and it was fun to play its a good night.

Who cares who wins, or even what the outcome should have been. Its not a torniment its just fun, playing is what counts not winning. If winning is all yto you, my advice is find another hobby.

pfmodel15 Feb 2022 2:25 a.m. PST

A game should to be complete to the point when a result is obvious. There is no need to play out the final 3 game-turns of a game after your army is demoralized due to casualties. IN this case you can agree on a possible result with your opponent and end the game.

Last weekend I played Wagram and due to some effective attacks by the French 3rd corps the Austrian casualties reached the point the army became demoralized. At that point, as the Austrian, my only course of action was to withdraw. Rather than play this out we calculated the victory points which was most likely and the French won a marginal or possibly a substantive victory.

Playing it out to the end only saved us 30 minutes, but both of us agreed it would be boring 30 minutes.

If it was a competition game I would of fought it out to the last nano-second, but in a friendly game this is a pointless exercise.

But if the game could never be completed due to a lack of time no matter how quickly you played, then why even bother starting. Better to adjust your scenario so its at least possible to complete a game. If you run out of time because someone has drunk too much Bier, then just agree the most sober player has won and end the game.

Gauntlet15 Feb 2022 4:01 a.m. PST

I think it is important to "finish" in the sense that the result is obvious. The train for this is that if you don't reward strategies with late payoffs, in the next game, the players will only think short term about the next few kills.

When I make my own rules it is crucial to me that the battle will have a decisive conclusion by 3 hours, when people start to get antsy and think about cleaning up.

Dragon Gunner15 Feb 2022 4:12 a.m. PST

I don't have a problem with calling a game that is clearly won or lost. There comes a point where it is no longer enjoyable for one side let them concede defeat or surrender.

I am not thrilled when the game is called due to lack of time. If the game takes too long to set up and take down and we cannot leave it up I find it frustrating. It is why I don't game with one of the local clubs that meets at a hobby store (start at 6pm and have to have the game put away by 9pm!) I think epic huge games have their place but might need to be fought over several gaming sessions. Scenario design is critical to having a game that can be completed in the time designated for play… Players that show up on time is another…

Dragon Gunner15 Feb 2022 4:19 a.m. PST

"The train for this is that if you don't reward strategies with late payoffs".

At one club I belonged to the defenders would slow play their turns or need to take prolonged smoke breaks so they could run down the clock. The referee that hosted most of the games at his house would then offer his "expert opinion" with this quaint little phrase, " The attacker failed to press the attack I award the victory to the defender".

advocate15 Feb 2022 4:54 a.m. PST

As others have said, getting to a point where the outcome is clear can be good enough. Not getting to that point is disappointing for all concerned.

Decebalus15 Feb 2022 5:08 a.m. PST

It is usually good, if the rules or the scenario have victory conditions that finish a game before you only play out a foregone conclusion.

doc mcb15 Feb 2022 5:29 a.m. PST

I agree that when the outcome is obvious, it is time to stop. I do remember one WRG ancients tournament, many decades ago, when I was matched with, iirc, my Alexandrian Macedonians against Johnson Hood's samarai with two handed cut and thrust weapons. There was no possibility I was going to win any melee. But the tournament scoring was based on points of the enemy army destroyed, and he was such a jerk, that I spent the two hours running away from him, avoiding contact. He won, of course, but with a relatively low score which affected his tourney standing. He complained to the organizers, who obviously were amused at what I was doing and were unsympathetic. We did not shake hands at the end.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2022 5:42 a.m. PST

We play lots of games when we stop when the outcome was clear – in a couple of recent SYW games the Prussian players said, "well, time to beat a grudging retreat" when it was obvious that there were just too many Russians and Austrians still coming

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Feb 2022 5:51 a.m. PST

If the outcome is obvious, then you did finish the game.

For that, we sometimes have the "you have three shots at my forces leaving the board, two at minus one and one at minus two" situation then we just roll that out instead of executing all the maneuver as well. The condition is there are no decisions left, as in the example run/pursue and shoot.

Even if we stop because "you can't attrite enough of my forces to win", we still did finish the game.

If a game is ended by an external criterion (out of allocated time, time to eat, the house is on fire, etc.), it's up the the "definition of done". If "done" is a yes/no, them you aren't finished because you would have stopped already. If done is a continuous metric, then you have to evaluate whether you have reached sufficiency.

If the game is no/insufficient, then whether or not that is okay is a function of your meta-game objectives.

UshCha15 Feb 2022 6:34 a.m. PST

Intersting the emphasis on some external measure of success for a game. I know how I have done and how well my opponent played. Playing is what its about. If we have been evenly matched and played well and its interesting that is enough.

Being overmatched or overmatching your opponent is no fun, whatever the outcome. To be honest who cares who wins if its been great fun.

A good scenario to me is one that challenges both players from the outset. Why care who might have finally "Win" if you were fighting desparately and the outcome is still well and truely in doubt. Victory conditions imply a polished scenario proably somewhat sterio typical. A bit like terrain generation they generate sterile repetative terrain, ignoring the tremendous variation in real world terrain, therby impoverishing the game overall.

Unique scenarios have no history of who could or could not realisticaly achive the ends with the forces available and have not been pre run to check if the goals were even achievable so any "victory conditions" my be like the Ardens Offensive great in theory but not actually achieveable.

Scenarios should allow the players to expand there vision of the possible, this cannot be achieved by formal victory definition. One can have aspirations but not victory points in a good scenario.

huron72515 Feb 2022 7:26 a.m. PST

+1 UshCha

For me it is the sharing of this hobby, the camaraderie with like minded people which is most important. Winning or even finishing a game is secondary.

Sometimes the post game shoulda/woulda/coulda is more enjoyable (with a cocktail or two).

Marcus Brutus15 Feb 2022 7:49 a.m. PST

Many games let you play to the bitter end. I think good game design helps bring matters to a head so that there is no need to do this. That means an army routs or is demoralized and withdraws long before the games grinds down to nothing. In simple terms, good game design assist players in making it clear when the game is over.

doc mcb15 Feb 2022 8:08 a.m. PST

The exception is a campaign in which results from one battle carry over to the next. Effective pursuit destroys a retreating defeated enemy. Lee's retreat from Gettysburg is held up as an example of outstanding leadership. And of course "last stands" have their attraction; I game the Alamo frequently. A lot depends on how one defines, not victory, but SUCCESS in a game.

Thistlebarrow15 Feb 2022 11:33 a.m. PST

All of our wargames are fought as part of a campaign, and we have found that it really does matter to complete the game.

Each wargame is 12 moves, which equates to 12 hours in the campaign. This is one full campaign day.

We use a 6x6 wargames table consisting of 3x3 2 foot scenic squares. The opposing armies must be at least 2 foot apart at the start of the game.

A game usually consists of 4 moves for the attacker to move into position. Maximum of 4 moves of artillery, skirmish and cavalry melee. The final 4 moves is usually the infantry advance to contact, melee and result.

It is very unusual not to reach a conclusion at the end of 12 moves. We do allow one "night" move to resolve a melee.

We often find that after 10 moves it seems obvious that one side has won the game. However we also often find that in the final two moves the situation can be reversed, or result in a draw.

This may be due to the (house) rules we use, but it means that the tension continues right to the last move. And even if the apparent winner after 10 moves goes on to win, the result in casualties can be much different than expected.

mildbill15 Feb 2022 2:55 p.m. PST

Remember, its not whether you win or lose but who gets the blame.

UshCha15 Feb 2022 5:04 p.m. PST

Marcus Brutus, that may be the case for battles in an early period. Moderen battles don't always end in some definite "leaving the field" they may grind to a halt as men and material run out to maintain pressure.

In addition if you are so precise on finishing time it would appear you have over constrained the scenario so it must be ended in that time, clearly to do so you have constrained novel approaches that could in the real world be acceptable. Fiinishing on a deadline may not be a real world constraint so why should one be generated by a simulation.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2022 6:32 p.m. PST

Hmph. Matters if it's called for time and you can't see how it would have played out. I've been a victim of the Really Slow Move strategy myself. It's one reason I'm partial to turn rather than time limits and clearly defined objectives.

But yes, if we can both see how it's going to play out from here, it's time to start putting the troops away--or spin the table and try again.

Dragon Gunner15 Feb 2022 11:46 p.m. PST


What ruleset do you use?

Dexter Ward16 Feb 2022 1:39 a.m. PST

Used to go to a club years ago where a group would load up a table with Napoleonic figures, play for three hours, and just about reach the point where the lines were in contact. Then they would pack up, just at the point where the game was getting interesting, only to come back and do the same next week. Apparently that was an enjoyable experience for them. Some people are strange.

Martin Rapier16 Feb 2022 3:00 a.m. PST

We generally prefer it if it reaches some sort of conclusion, even in monumentally unbalanced scenarios I like to give the players at least some objectives they can try and achieve. We usually go round at the end and people explain why they think they've 'won'.

Thistlebarrow16 Feb 2022 3:18 a.m. PST

Dragon Gunner

The rules were written for my long running 1813 campaign and posted on a blog when the campaign was PBEM. You can find them here

They are used with campaign rules which you can find here

However I am not sure that they will make much sense without understanding the campaign, which you can find here

They are adapted from LFS, which I had used prior to starting the campaign in 2009

jurgenation Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2022 4:54 a.m. PST

,,Till we have to go to bed.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2022 9:47 p.m. PST

I'm happy to play for as long as the scenario is fun to play.

I try to set up convention games that can be played to completion in the allotted time.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2022 3:13 a.m. PST

This has proved to be one of my most popular "Reflections on Wargaming" to date, generating scores of comments. I am grateful to all of you who took the trouble to respond, whether at thoughtful length (like Steve J in his comment at foot of the blog post itself) or with pithy brevity (OSHIROmodels, "Nope!", on LAF). It seems only right that I should in turn summarise all these responses. I have added this summary to the original blog post here:

skirmishcampaigns20 Feb 2022 2:16 p.m. PST

I am not in the game to "win" so if I learn a lot about the historical context for the game, then I don't need to finish the game to have fun and learn something. Also explains why I never play or have any interest in point based games that never happened. Thanks Chris for the thought provoking discussion.

Nine pound round21 Feb 2022 9:26 a.m. PST

Et comment joue-on Marengo?

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2022 10:57 p.m. PST

Marengo? Comme ša:

pfmodel22 Feb 2022 1:10 a.m. PST

BBNB is a set of rules which allows you to refight Marengo within a reasonable time frame. I love the pictures.

Nine pound round22 Feb 2022 4:18 a.m. PST

My point was that Marengo is a good example of a battle that looks as if it's done before it actually is. A lot of us are in the position of trying to simulate Napoleon- which is to say, producing extraordinary results without extraordinary capabilities. There are a couple of different battles (e.g., Rivoli) where it's easy to believe that Bonaparte was beaten before he actually was. Stop the show too early, and you miss the most interesting part.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2022 8:46 a.m. PST

Thanks, Nine pound round. Yes, I thought that was probably your point. In a way it relates to what Hobgoblin said on LAF about "carrying on after it's 'obvious' who will win".

Refighting historical battles is my preferred type of game. Hindsight necessarily limits the degree of surprise possible: we know what forces were involved, so there's only so much that can be done with randomising/varying arrival times and locations, or by introducing "what-ifs".

Even so, a well-designed scenario can still provide surprise turnarounds and exciting, unexpected finishes.

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