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"Top 4 Reasons Why Wargames Are Better with More Luck" Topic

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Wargame groundcloths as seen at Bayou Wars.

551 hits since 19 Jun 2022
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2022 4:46 p.m. PST

"1) It is more realistic. Like it or not, that is the way the real world works. You want your wargame to be more realistic right? There ya go.

2) More tense, more excitement, more fun. People don't flock to play Chess like they do to the Casinos do they?

3) It makes the wargames more accessible to new players. Yes, you hate it when you play better and some new guy, that made lots of mistakes beats you because of luck. Well, so what? That's life. It happens in real war. So let the new guy enjoy a cheap win. Why not? You still had a fun time playing an interesting, historical strategy game and learning a few things…."

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Stryderg19 Jun 2022 6:03 p.m. PST

While I agree, I also like chess.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2022 9:52 p.m. PST

Me too…


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Jun 2022 2:51 a.m. PST

It isn't more realistic, that is nonsense. Uncertainty and luck are not the same thing.

I'd give a guess that, at least until on-line gamimg, more people played chess than went to casinos. Also bridge was always a more popular game than poker.

I can't see why he thinks 3 is true. A newbie can get unlucky just the same as an experienced player – that is the nature of luck.

Some uncertainty in wargames is necessary and there is wide scope to vary that uncertainty and focus it on activities that are critical.

The objective of a rules designer should be to decide those areas of focus and manage the level of uncertainty appropriately and then present it in the rules mechanics in a way that is easy to use. Not an easy task by any means.

Personal logo Cardinal Ximenez Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2022 5:04 a.m. PST

Global annual estimate
Number of chess players – 605M to 1B
Number of casino visitors- 1.2B

ChrisBrantley20 Jun 2022 6:30 a.m. PST

Good sportsmanship. As a winner, you can graciously attribute the outcome to good or bad dice instead of differences in skill or deficiencies in generalship. There is almost always a "but for" die roll in every game that could lead to an alternative outcome that the loser can recall to feel better about their game play.

Andrew Walters20 Jun 2022 9:48 a.m. PST

It's probably better to think about how luck is used in a game. Unpredictability is good in some places, frustrating in others. Luck that evens out is fun, luck that can't be overcome is just disappointing. There are more important design decisions than just "how much".

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2022 3:37 p.m. PST



Thresher0120 Jun 2022 7:56 p.m. PST

As in real life, luck plays a part in all fights, combats, battles, and wars.

The trick is to try to make your own luck, and/or to try to make up for any bad luck that occurs.

The best example of this I can recall in a game I GM'd was with a few Argentine jets going head to head vs. SHARs with all-angle Aim-9L missiles.

Can't recall if the guys were flying Skyhawks or Mirages (probably the former, IIRC), but I counseled against trying to mix it up with the Brits, and to try to avoid the AAMs from them in order to have a chance at survival.

Of course, the Argentine pilot, in typical bravado, refused my advice, and conducted a cannon attack on the Sea Harrier in a head-to-head pass while trying to get home. He rolled the needed 10% chance to hit on the SHAR, and then a critical hit on it was well. On that chart he rolled the "golden BB", hitting and killing the British pilot, resulting in the only confirmed air-to-air kill by an Argentine pilot during "the war".

As I recall, he was attacked by the other SHAR on his way home after that, and was hit by the Sidewinder, but his aircraft was only damaged.

He returned home safely to base, and to a hero's welcome.

Sometimes the implausible happens, even when there is only a 1% chance of it occurring.

Bolingar21 Jun 2022 1:21 a.m. PST

1) It is more realistic.
No it isn't. The unpredictability in warfare comes from fog of war, not from an enormous variation in troops' willingness to move or fight from one quarter hour to the next.

Unpredictability in combat would feature only in a single hand-to-hand fight. If a veteran Roman legionary faces off against a raw Gallic tribal warrior, the warrior might get lucky – the legionary stumbles on a stone for example. But in most cases the legionary will win.

However if 1000 legionaries face off against 1000 tribal warriors the legionaries will – all else being equal – absolutely win, every time. There are a few factors that would influence the fight enough to allow the warriors to win – terrain, fortification, flanking manoeuvre, etc. – but these can all be represented as modifiers. No need for dice.

Fog of war means that both commanders a) don't know their opponent's battleplan, which is important because their own plan can't be substantially changed once the battle begins (no walkie-talkies in BC or even most of AD), and b) can't see much of the enemy army and don't know where they are. Most wargame rules make fog of war impossible so they cheat and use dice instead. But dice are a very poor substitute.

2) More tense, more excitement, more fun.
Chess isn't exciting, tense and fun?

3) It makes the wargames more accessible to new players.
Chess, checkers and go are inaccessible to new players? You just find a player who is as good as or a little better than you and learn your way up.

4) It teaches you good, real world, command/leadership skills.
There's nothing real world about the effect of dice on a game. A chance-free game makes tactics decisive which enhances the importance of command. Where does leadership come into it? Your little lead men do exactly what you make them do whether you throw dice or not.

Bolingar21 Jun 2022 3:12 a.m. PST

As a BTW, if anyone wants to know more about a diceless Ancients gaming system (my own), see here:

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jun 2022 3:45 a.m. PST

Agree in general Bolingar but a game in which the result of combat between the same two units is always the same isn't realistic either.

Bolingar21 Jun 2022 3:52 a.m. PST

Agree in general Bolingar but a game in which the result of combat between the same two units is always the same isn't realistic either.

That's just it it isn't always the same. Chess, go and checkers have two identical armies for every game, and in the case of checkers and go the armies have only one troop type. But the games are always different. This is even more the case with Ancients diceless gaming, where the armies vary and terrain also variable plays a significant role in the battle. I've played several games with the same armies (and terrain) in my own system and no two are alike.

Bolingar21 Jun 2022 4:02 a.m. PST

Oh, I see missed the point. A combat between two reasonably sized units (several hundred or more men in each unit) will always have the same outcome if one unit is superior to the other and both units have the same terrain and no extraneous advantage over the other. What would vary from one combat to the next would be the number casualties the victor would suffer, but that variability wouldn't be worth modelling, keeping in mind that casualties are pretty low (at least for pre-gunpowder warfare) until one side routs. And for post-gunpowder warfare, especially modern warfare, casualties are pretty deterministic. You hit the enemy with so much artillery and so many of the enemy are dead.

Dave Knight21 Jun 2022 6:12 a.m. PST

One of the most boring games I ever played was Tercio, where it was literally impossible for a low grade unit to defeat a high grade one in simple face to face combat.

There are a multiplicity of factors that are not included in stats for units that could effect its performance on the day. Chance is an abstraction of such factors.

Finally I hear a lot more laughter around a table where chance plays a major part. I am sure the ADLG guys at our club enjoy themselves but I rarely hear them laugh.

gunnerphil21 Jun 2022 8:31 a.m. PST

The truth lies between the two points of view. If you know unit A will always best unit B then a bit dull. But if just each roll a dice does not matter that unit A is some elite bunch wild unit B is a bunch of untrained yobs.

However if there are pluses and minuses on the score due to clever juice of unit, ground and support, then dice roll adds fun and interest. How many times have you heard "Anything but a 1 and you slaughter him" Normally followed by a cheer as the bunch of yobs pull off a miracle.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jun 2022 11:52 a.m. PST

Sorry Bolingar, we part company on that one. Casualties in any direct, face-to-face combat will vary due to many factors that cannot be either predicted or measured – the 'uncertainty factor'. While the range of possible casualties may be estimated by observation and statistical analysis the causes cannot. Determinism is generally taken to mean that the immeasurable 'human factor' is not what causes the outcome.

I can agree that the difference in outcomes may be much more limited than most wargame rules provide but not that a difference is too small to model.

gunnerphil – the untrained mod beats the veterans sometimes but usually by overwhelming them with numbers. In a 1 on 1 scrap the vets should win each time – until they get tired or the numerous small losses wear them down. Attrition is another mechanism that rarely appears in wargames yet is relatively common on battlefields of all periods.

Dave – we have games that are fun (but usually vaguely real, just simple) as well as the more 'thoughtful' games. We enjoy both for different reasons and see nothing wrong with what anyone else wants to do in wargaming – it isn't really about 'best' or 'better', just personal preferences.

Bolingar21 Jun 2022 10:50 p.m. PST

Sorry Bolingar, we part company on that one. Casualties in any direct, face-to-face combat will vary due to many factors that cannot be either predicted or measured the 'uncertainty factor'. While the range of possible casualties may be estimated by observation and statistical analysis the causes cannot. Determinism is generally taken to mean that the immeasurable 'human factor' is not what causes the outcome.

My point is that the larger the number of combatants, the more the variability of casualties evens out, in the same way that the more often you throw a die, the closer to a ratio of 1:6 will be the number of times you throw a 3 compared to throwing the other numbers. Throw a lot of dice and you will have a pretty deterministic overall outcome. So 1000 veteran legionaries fighting 1000 raw tribal warriors will suffer casualties that will vary to a certain extent from one fight to the next, but not enough to affect the final outcome or leave the legionaries' unit substantially different after each fight.

The unpredictability in combat doesn't come from a surprise win by warriors over legionaries in a frontal clash; it comes from the warriors gaining an advantage ambushing the legionaries from the flank or something like that. The legionaries do not have a perfect knowledge of the numbers and position of the warriors and so fight under a pall of uncertainty, but this has nothing to do with chance (if the legionaries know exactly how many warriors there are and where they are, and if the warriors don't have some external advantage, then the battle is lost for them before it even starts). The problem of course is replicating that uncertainty on the gaming table.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jun 2022 2:58 a.m. PST

The throw of any die is a deterministic event – i.e. no human factors involved. The number thrown is irrelevant, the probabilities are fixed – minor variations are present but cannot be quantified.

Disagree with your second point but do agree that modelling uncertainty is not as easy as people think it is. This isn't about 'chance' or 'luck' but about the natural variation in the outcome of any mass event.

Bolingar23 Jun 2022 7:13 a.m. PST

On the topic of whether wargames are better as games with more luck, I would say they're not better or worse, just different. Playing a game heavily dependent on luck (though pretty much every luck-driven game has an element of skill) gives a different thrill to that of a chance-free game. There's no better or worse about it. It seems that roughly half the human race like a luck-free game like chess and half like casino gambling which is heavily dependent on luck (though not entirely dependent unless you're blowing your cash on one-armed bandits).

As regards the "more luck" part, it would appear that the sweet spot for wargames is an approximate 50-50 mix, although I need to point out that few wargamers have ever tried out a luck-free system. IMHO wargamers, especially Ancients wargamers, are stuck in a rut of decades-old rules mechanisms, and many "newer" rulesets just rehash old ingredients.

UshCha23 Jun 2022 3:32 p.m. PST

Bolivar has it but the luck level should be normal distributed. A rare event should be 1 in 10000. Minimum.

Tango 01 I would leave before the end of the game, it would be tedious to waste even a few hours on. Gambling requires no skill so has no interest whatsoever. It would de like tennis players turning up to play only to be told the outcome would be determined by a toss of the coin, utterly pointless.

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