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"What makes a spectacular game?" Topic

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08 Dec 2023 9:19 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "What makes a spectacular game" to "What makes a spectacular game?"Crossposted to TMP Poll Suggestions board

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UshCha08 Dec 2023 9:15 a.m. PST

The answer is probably massively different depending on who you are.

Some basics,

I prefer a board vaguely the colour of the ground it represents.

The terrain must look vaguely representative of the ground it is representing, too many or too few hedges/villages/roads for the ground scale destroys suspension of belief almost instantly for me.

The models should be colored so that they don't look wildly out of place. Pink NATO tanks would definitely crimp my style, I need to "get into the ground" to help planning and execution.

But what really makes it for me is when you look up to scan the battle field to work out what's what, and where; is the Chaos. You look and quite rightly your plan even if it is a good one will be teetering as the chaos of the fight takes its toll on both your own and the enemy's plan.

This to me makes it spectacular, you capture the chaos as you realize your job is to bring more order to the Chaos than the enemy. It looks like the real thing, knocked out hulks noting you progress good or bad, about infantry some making progress others fighting just to stay alive or retreating after being overmastered.

For me the pioneer of making great battlefields was Phil Barkers with DBM the first game to introduce chaos as part of the intrinsic systems, not as recorded by a text label next to an immaculately dressed infantry line.

For me immaculately painted miniatures hold no sway, I look at them from arms length at best, if I am moving them, I am unable to multi task to any great extent so the miniatures are seen only as gaming pieces to be moves as demanded by conditions or plan.

But to be fair I am an unashamed 1/144 fan. I do play bigger 1/72 but to me these are to big, they are either so far out of scale with the ground or the battlefield to small to get the best out of the forces arrayed. and mostly "getting into the Ground" is neither as easy or as all engrossing. 1/144 minis are not really a modellers scale but I have no real interest in modelling, it is a best a means to an end.

So what makes a spectacular game for you, I expect it differs by figure scale but I may be surprised.

Striker08 Dec 2023 9:45 a.m. PST

Spectacular game: One that is fun and we all had lots of laughs.

Spectacular looking game: One that has terrain that is needed, minimum; don't say it's a woods if you don't have a single tree. Since I do mostly 1-1 skirmish gaming I like terrain that makes sense and dresses up the table to be a little scene, but not pieces that always get in the way and prevent minis being put down. Furniture in buildings usually is in the way and prevents figs from standing flat. I just give a flat cover bonus and assume best use of cover would be made. Benches, dumpsters, and other cover in an urban environment make sense.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2023 11:56 a.m. PST

I'd avoid "spectacular" as ambiguous. Are we talking about the quality of the game, or the look of the table?

We've done stuff on what makes a great game. For a great table, I think we're trying to do two things--make a table that looks as though we're seeing a real battlefield from some "captain's hill" or windmill, and make a table which conveys the necessary information for the game. I may or may not be able to tell that that's a Type 2 woods, or that the stream is fordable--that's a function of rules and scenario--but I can't be in any doubt about where one terrain feature ends and another begins. The troops must be both accurate and sufficiently distinctive that I can tell who needs what number to activate and which bases are included in the rout.

Inevitably, it's a compromise, and there is no one perfect superior table. But some of us do it better than others.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2023 1:44 p.m. PST

Good terrain, good rules, good minis but most of all Good Friends!

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2023 2:26 p.m. PST

Echo Frederick – Good friends

If talking about the overall experience

A gracious host
Good friends
Good scenario based on time and complexity needed
Decent rules – with the majority of people having a good working knowledge of them
Everything is not known to every player – avoiding the helicopter generals – or a bit of fog of war
Terrain boards similar to what Duke and Clubs produce for show piece games
Good terrain pieces that also allow for movement of miniatures
Well painted miniatures

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Dec 2023 2:42 p.m. PST

UschCha, you provide a good warpainter description of what you like to see. I agree that they type of fantasy view you describe looks spectacular.

If you wanted to see what a modern commander actually sees, that would be different …


… but you are correct that NATO tanks should not be pink, they should be bright cyan blue (even on the Russian or Chinese side, who both use red for friendly forces and blue for enemies).

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2023 3:01 p.m. PST

Giving serious thought to adding florescent orange recognition panels to the back decks of some of my Shermans, Stuarts and Greyhounds.

BrockLanders08 Dec 2023 4:04 p.m. PST

Maybe it's a lack of imagination on my part but I struggle with tables that are too basic. To me the whole point of miniatures is to immerse yourself in the tiny world you've (or whoever) created. YMMV I guess

Cavcmdr08 Dec 2023 4:52 p.m. PST

Hundreds of pretty figures on good looking terrain, please.
That's a spectacle.

Playing a good game with friends (both new and old) is one of life's great pleasures.

Beer and nibbles is a bonus.

Have fun.

Dave Crowell09 Dec 2023 8:02 a.m. PST

I agree with UshCha that the table should look like the ground it represents. For me that includes a balance between the size/scale of scenic and terrain items, figures, and game ground scale. DBA in 25mm is hard for me, 4 figures on a base do not a legion make. I can accept buildings that are slightly under scale/size for the figures, but not to extremes. 6mm buildings on a table with 15mm figures look dramatically undersized.

I want terrain features to be clearly delineated for game purposes, but still blended into the table top. I am a huge fan of representing woods with a felt template upon which model trees are placed, same for BUAs and model buildings. The area bounded by the terrain is clear, figures can easily be placed, and individual trees or buildings can be moved if needed.

Figures need only be painted to a basic table top standard. The three foot rule definitely applies. In the heat of a game I am not going to notice if you painted the rank badges on a figure's collar. I once played a good forty-five minutes into a French and Indian War skirmish game before I realized that most of the opposition had been primed white and washed with burnt Sienna, but not painted or detailed further than that.

UshCha09 Dec 2023 8:32 a.m. PST

All, I was erring on the side of the Visual appeal rather than say friends, that so commonplace it seemed unnecessary to say, but we all make mistakes.

Dave Cromwell Worrying this for me I seem to be agreeing with you ;-). Interesting the comment about the indian war figures. I was at a show and had to deal with an irate spectator. He was most aggrieved that he had walked past my forrest 3 times before realizing on the fourth pass that the trees were just a very simply painted cruciform types. There were however a lot of them. Unusually for me I was lost for words, to me this was a sign of success, simple but effective scenery; to him it was an outrage I had tricked him. I have had this sort of thing happen at other shows where the spectators have been "tricked" by crude/cheap models. I have never found an explanation that soothes there irritated brow. However in my own games that is my approach.

Interestingly nobody has waxed lyrical about the overall view of say a particular army as it sits in the field. We have terrain and we have figures, Mad Anthony Jones's Polish but not some overall impression of the battlefield "in play".

Arjuna09 Dec 2023 11:59 a.m. PST

Conan, what is spectacular in wargaming?"

"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

In the broadest Austrian accent.
YouTube link

UshCha10 Dec 2023 4:43 a.m. PST

I did not want to be too negative but it may help scope any replys.

Tank parks are a definite put off for me. Better unpainted and spaced sensibly, than painted and track to track. Now perfection is never possible but to me two tanks widths space betweed tanks is the minimum. For 1/72 that's about 60m at ground scale center to center. Thats a bit more than the real recommended spacing of 40m but is not unreasonable both from simulation and visual credibility.
Now we do allow "Tank Parks" in the real world occationally they are unavoidable but like the real world thay have a high price tag in terms of vulnerability.

So a spectacular looking game is to me, also about the plcenment on the field of the minatures.

etotheipi – I never normally go above Company commander and at that level like the Brish army I am in the field. I occationally go higher than that in a limited way but at that level for me it is more about logistical support aspects so its spead sheets and Charts suppoerting say a battalion in the field, most of which at any one time are not fighting but resting, re-arming, refuleing and getting replacements as necessary. Sorting out when and where Atillery support is available and where battlefield engineering support is allocated.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Dec 2023 5:46 a.m. PST

and at that level like the Brish army I am in the field.

I didn't know that they hovered ~100m above the ground 100-200m away from their forces. That's the view you have, well, that I have being 5'7" with a 3' table at 1:144 scale. YMMV.

… or do you wear VR goggles synched to a micro camera attached to your command figure?

I never normally go above Company commander

And that's a GCCS view. It's deployed from tactical units up. I used it (well, a couple versions earlier) as a LT in the Navy in the Adriatic in the 90's. Nowadays they have this dismounted for use by platoons or even fireteams, though that's not common.

UshCha10 Dec 2023 1:34 p.m. PST

etotheipi – Think of it more as a planning map. There is an excellent one in the care of the Imperial war Museum used to plan The St Nazaire Raid raid.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Dec 2023 2:35 p.m. PST

I thought you said you were on the field, not planning in some rear area.

UshCha11 Dec 2023 12:48 a.m. PST

etotheipi The St Nazaire layout is a 1:1200 scale model; of the raids local area detailing individual houses, the Jetty's for loading and unloading and the targeys to be destroyed, so very like planning an enacting a simulation of a real event. I did look at wargaming in this scale but for mee it was too much detail.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2023 1:17 p.m. PST

If you're aiming for a game that will be in the running for 'Best of Show' at a convention, the terrain especially needs to be above average and with a large eye-catching feature.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2023 1:26 p.m. PST

I like hundreds of figures, per side, with plenty of varied terrain. I like different troop types, which require some coordination to make them work, coherently, to achieve an orchestrated (in theory…) attack. In practice, the coordination always seems to fall apart, a little, to a lot! That makes it dynamic, fluctuating, teeth-gnashing, and momentous. I love it when critical die rolls are required, and players cheer on success, and moan and groan on failures. LOL! I like dynamic, emotionally charged games.

I dislike cerebral, chess-like, quiet, un-emotional games. I want dynamism, I want cataclysmic moments of victory, and defeat, preferably for both sides, at various points in the game. I want everyone to talk about the game's events, long after it has passed into our collective gaming history. Cheers!

UshCha12 Dec 2023 3:13 a.m. PST

miniMo – I was really talking about ordinary games which for me is either are at home or the club.
Certanly in my experience, the UK, show games as in the US don't really exist, nobody wants to play for moretham 30min at best and often less. So not really a wargame as I would recognise. There scenary is impotant but you can still get an effect without it needing to be museum standard.

Sgt Slag personally focussing on dire rolling and having wild events to me is a complete turn off.

Our games are nail bighting but we are Brits so wild emotion is not always our thing. However many of our games like yours pass into gaming history.

The good ones look like I read accounts of, organized chaos at best and occationally just falling appart..

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2023 7:19 a.m. PST

LOL! I guess there is truth to the stereotype of the British being more stoic, more reserved. You do you, I'll do me, and we'll both have a grand time of it. Cheers!

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2023 8:00 a.m. PST

UshCha ah, well 'ordinary games' wasn't really specified…

Although in my case, running [American] convention games is quite part of my ordinary. Most all of my games I build up to run at conventions as well as on a somewhat smaller scale at the FLGS.

Even for convention spectacular, the terrain needn't be museum quality (although that certainly helps.

My big push right now is getting a table together for The Warriors (1979) using Mean Street rules. Nearly all of the terrain is 3D printed in PLA with pretty quick paintjobs, but a lot of attention to detail that sets the game firmly in NYC during June 1979. This will be up there for spectacular game due to a unique and identifiably specific location. NYC table are unusual, and this is loosely modelled on the Broadway Junction Station area in Brooklyn where the Turnbull ACs scene was filmed under the elevated. Graffitied trains up on the El will be the big eye-catcher.

I've been working for several years on modifying and painting figures for the gangs from the movie. Mean Streets are fast and fun rules. So the players will just be able to dive into the full immersion of playing in the setting.

Even on smaller regular events at the store, thematic scenery that draws one in to the story telling and game play that lets the story flow is my spectacular. Test of Honour hits a sweet spot for that.

But umm, UshCha, you forgot to put phrase this in the form of a poll question…. Here's my line item for the poll then:

* Thematic scenery that supports the story telling of the game.

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