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©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Gamesman608 Jul 2024 3:02 a.m. PST

In looking for something online I came across the July 1975 copy of Wargames newsletter.

A number of things stood out to highlight the title of this post.

This one, as it sits with a lot of recent discussions.

"Congratulations are in order on your obtaining the excellent article on Firepower by Paddy
Griffith. I agree with his points that artillery caused the major proportion of casualties, that
infantry rarely "crossed bayonets" and that superior morale won battles. I must say thought that I
believe all this would make a very dull set of wargames rules. My point is that a balance must be
struck between historical accuracy and fun. If you like sanguine melees then jolly good luck to you!"
Mike Perkins of Harrow Weald.

Wolfhag08 Jul 2024 6:36 a.m. PST

My point is that a balance must be struck between historical accuracy and fun.

Absolutely. However, any attempts to "balance" are going to be non-historical.

I think you have to look at the scenario. You will not have one where one side undergoes a heavy artillery bombardment for 4+ hours. Artillery will play a small part in an urban or jungle environment because both sides are at close quarters.

Defenders historically fell back to an alternate defensive position if the attackers would get into their position and avoid HTH combat.

In combat, the #1 axiom is "don't fight fair". Which is the opposite of a typical game where it needs to be "fair and balanced".

Like I've said before, "Reality Sucks".

Wolfhag

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2024 9:50 a.m. PST

I'd have said the trick is to pick periods and scenarios which are fun--lost of choices--and in which both sides historically stood a chance. That's not compromising historical accuracy, but choosing wisely.

Obviously this is easier some times and places than others, but that's what makes historical miniatures gaming trickier than fantasy and science fiction. If you want easy, I'm pretty sure someone still sells paint by numbers sets.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2024 2:32 p.m. PST

The best stratagem a real general is to make a battle unfair on his opponent!
Our army lists, rules and points systems are designed to create a battle where both sides have a chance.
We are here to have a fun game, not conquer a country/territory/star system etc.!!!

UshCha08 Jul 2024 11:41 p.m. PST

Griffiths was by all accounts a gamer, little interested on simulation so for me not a good reference. The basic nonsence of equal points is an obvious example. We rarely have equal armmies it in most cases that is about as unrealistic as it gets. Even the great Phil Barker recognised this and at least balances his ganmes to have a sensible attcak defence games.

I have been writing scenarios for at least 20 years and a few fail, but none gest as poor as an "equal points value" game with its serile terrain ststem to make sure that the points sytem at least approcimates the same trerrain every time, too much soft ground and the precious tanks would be an utter failure.

Thre has to be some compromises as we all have limited brain capacity so approximations need to be made, but deliberately bending reality at least to me makes no sence, then the games plays nothing like the real world so to me is worthless and boreing.

Fortunatley the world has moved on and better designers have emerged.

mildbill09 Jul 2024 5:33 a.m. PST

fudging reality for 'better' play is not new and nothing I am interested in. A now dead famous designer in both miniatures and boardgames used to do it, he shall remain nameless out of my respect for him.

Wolfhag09 Jul 2024 7:54 a.m. PST

From my experience artillery can overwhelm a game. Some of the rules I've seen used would turn the game into "Artillery Commander".

Historically, the Americans in W. Europe would call in artillery when they first met resistance. Especially if they had airborne FO and fighter-bombers circling waiting for a target. That wouldn't be much fun unless you were Americans. A single ToT barrage could end the game.

Here is a method I use to simulate defenders recovering from a long heavy artillery bombardment in their bunkers.

The game starts with the attackers 100-200m from the defenders when the attacker's barrage is lifted. The attackers must move quickly before the defenders can recover and man their defensive positions. Every 10th turn the defender rolls for each bunker to see if they recover and man their positions and how many casualties they have. If they don't recover it's because of the concussive effect of the bombardment.

Now the attacker's tanks can roll up on a bunker, crush it, and roll over trenches. The defenders in the trenches can stay out of sight and attack the tanks unless the attacking infantry can get to the trenches. This is where the Russian T-34's riders are dropped off too.

You get the causality and suppressive effects of a heavy barrage without all of the die-rolling and a lot of close combat too.

Wolfhag

Gamesman609 Jul 2024 10:23 a.m. PST

Wolfhag
Sure… its also about where we join the action. Games tend toward the representation of the exciting parts.

Robert
Yes.. or look for ways to make things intersting that aren't made so in the conventional approaches.

Herky bird
See above. We focus on the exciting bit… the battle… but as you say by that point things may already be decided so we look at the action that leads to the battle.

Ushcha
He was a wargamer.. or his time. He also looked at the information. Then quite was from an opinion on the book Griffiths had written.
I'd question whether things "have moved on" given discussions recently on this forum.

Mildbill
Againni think fudging comes about when current methods don't reflect the actuality and rather than look for a new better method fudge the reality.

Wolfhag 2nd post..
🫡👍🏻

Gamesman609 Jul 2024 10:46 a.m. PST

And from Don Featherstones editorial in the same issue.

Im aware that much of it wasn't "new" in 1975. Rather though we still go round the same discussions. Though of course they didn't have computers and all the other things we have to facilitate that.

In his review of my book WARGAMING THROUGH
THE AGES Volume 3 1792-1859 elsewhere in this
issue, Richard Brooks appeared surprised that I
should emphasise the realistic representation of
forces and tactics applicable to particularly
specified times and places in view of my ill-concealed view that table-top wargaming bears but
a coincidental resemblance to reality. In a sense, this oft expressed view is aimed at cutting down to size some of the more pretentious of our fraternity who are all too prone to forget that it is only a game. There IS a lack of reality about wargaming but it is mainly confined to appearance and scales and should in no way bear upon the eternal search for historical and tactical reality. Conscious that I am not alone in this aim, I was pleased to receive a letter from a practicing wargamer (who wishes to be anonymous) which said the following -
"I have noticed that few wargamers attempt to produce the confusion and delay factor in their games. Chap A plays Chap B and both of them can see all of the battlefield and make an instant decision to counter opponent's attacks, etc. It seems to me that a more realistic game would take place if both players were out of sight of the terrain and were forced to rely on hastily drawn maps and the verbal reports of others who merely moved the pieces – either in response to the general's orders or as they saw an attempted attack developing on their own front only. When one considers the tremendous
communications problems that existed even into World War Two which hampered commanders, it does seem
that realism demands some sort of factor to simulate the fact that the overall commander very often had to operate on inspired guesswork. It is this very factor which gave rise to so many lost opportunities for victory. It is fairly easy to mull over the battle in an armchair and say that General Bloggins should have seized the opportunity to hurl in his reserves. 1 suspect that poor Bloggins rarely knew the opportunity had even occurred. As you well know, even when generals were in the habit
of being on the field in person, orders went astray as aides were shot, and the general smoke and confusion hid many things which are too clearly seen in a wargame.
I appreciate that such a system may drift away from the two persons playing a slaughtering match wargame but perhaps it is time that we tried to define what the purpose of wargaming is. Despite all the publicity in one form and another, wargamers too often are presented as "playing battles with toy
soldiers" – perhaps there exists a need for someone to set up a staff college tor wargamers! Paradoxically, I think that the introduction of a confusion/communications factor could lead to a simplification of rules. Perhaps it is worth more than instant dismissal as an idea."
Makes you think doesn't it?
DON

UshCha10 Jul 2024 1:42 a.m. PST

Don was one of my inspirations for staring wargaming but even as a teenagers you soon realised he made no real attempt to get somting credible. I far as I can see he just wanyed LUDO with figures, he is certailny no personal hero of mine. His pathetic "all the stuff on the table" thing is just that pathetic, especially now, We can easily draw maps and hide stuff even in a 2 plaYer game and the 80/20 RULE applies. You do not need all of it to get a reasonable approximation.


Wosse still he never attemped to do better, I guess, lack of real world plausibility for me makes it unplayable, far to
tdedious, I'd rather play Dominoes. A wargame for me has to play like the accounts you read and at least pay some attention to how real world system opprate. The not hiding figures is a non starter as a valid argument. It can be dome easily and cheaply, whether folk want real world realism or fantasy is simply a personal chose, its not can't be done but, I don't want to do it and come up with rediculose arguments so as to not encourahe playes to do what can be domne.

Perhaps I'm wrong, some stuff isrthe same, the bias againt sensible plausible riules over mindless ultra simple rules still remainss. The artillery agument in wargames has also stayed. One ARTILLERY MANUAL NOTES THE ROLE OF ARTILLEY IS TO sUPPRESS AND FIX IN PLACE. In mkany poor ly written wargames you, could destroy entire armies without the need for any troops. That clearly never happened at any time to any extent. Read a few sensible documents and you realise artillery is never widly available in unlimited quantities. Yes ther are WW" accounts of an enemy in a field being obbliterated by 15" navel gunfire but one field does not a battle make, and is a trvial contribution to a war.

In the Ukraine the russiam mecenaries moaned they were not allowed to use the 300 shells they needed to takk out a tank, bear in mind an SP gun carries typicaly less than 50 round (example of a decent SP gun AS 90 48 rounds).

So its not that rules can't be plausible but designers can't be botherd to make the effort. Mecifaly some are not stuck into the nostagia thing so at least in places thisng get better in the hobby, so things are improving but not at my haoped for rate. Pedudice/tradition is the slowest to fade.

Wolfhag10 Jul 2024 2:06 p.m. PST

There IS a lack of reality about wargaming but it is mainly confined to appearance and scales and should in no way bear upon the eternal search for historical and tactical reality.

Most miniature players are into creating the visuals and a simple set of balanced rules to move units around and take pictures will be adequate. That's the hobby for them. To each his own. From my experience, overall board gamers will use a more historically accurate and detailed set of rules.

When you get wildly unrealistic scales, like 28mm tanks a few feet away that equate to medium range, it looks more like kids playing with toys rather than a realistic portrayal of a battlefield. Although it could be realistic in an urban environment.

It seems to me that a more realistic game would take place if both players were out of sight of the terrain and were forced to rely on hastily drawn maps and the verbal reports of others who merely moved the pieces either in response to the general's orders or as they saw an attempted attack developing on their own front only.

Absolutely. However, most/new players will stay and do nothing if they don't know where the enemy is. If you have hidden units you need to have recon by fire and recon units too. However, you'll find players spending most of the game firing at suspected locations. You'd need some type of abstraction to determine the recon by fire.

When one considers the tremendous communications problems that existed even into World War Two which hampered commanders, it does seem that realism demands some sort of factor to simulate the fact that the overall commander very often had to operate on inspired guesswork.

Yes. However, once a unit is issued a mission they will attempt to accomplish it without further orders. Many games have you unrealistically micro-managing units, needlessly issuing orders at every turn.

Company Commanders can come to the front and leave their XO in charge to get a picture of the situation but risk getting killed. How and when to commit his reserves would be the biggest challenge.

In many poorly written wargames you, could destroy entire armies without the need for any troops. That clearly never happened at any time to any extent. Read a few sensible documents and you realise artillery is never widely available in unlimited quantities. Yes, there are WWI accounts of an enemy in a field being obliterated by 15" navel gunfire but one field does not a battle make, and is a trivial contribution to a war.

If the defenders have prepared trenches and overhead cover they can be almost immune to light and medium artillery.

When you fire spotting rounds the defenders will start moving or seeking cover. So when you are landing rounds on target they'll be in cover. ToT is effective because a large number of shells land accurately at about the same time catching the defenders in the open before they can seek cover.

The Russian 152mm and 203mm shells are delay fused to penetrate into the ground to destroy underground bunkers. In Ukraine, they are not very effective because they go far enough into the ground (especially mud) that the shrapnel and blast are degraded or go straight up. They don't have super quick fuses that detonate above ground or on trenches. However, they are very effective against buildings because they penetrate first and explode inside.

Wolfhag

Martin Rapier11 Jul 2024 2:31 a.m. PST

"Griffiths was by all accounts a gamer, little interested on simulation"

I would love to know how you came to that conclusion. Paddy Griffiths endless frustration with figure gaming was that they were just games, and not simulations of anything resembling reality. What he tried to do was generate realistic outcomes within simple mechanisms. The chaps at Sandhurst might disagree that he didn't do simulation.

Wolfhag11 Jul 2024 9:02 a.m. PST

What he tried to do was generate realistic outcomes within simple mechanisms.

Generating realistic outcomes is important. However, if you use abstracted and artificial game mechanics, which may have nothing to do with military or command action, how worthwhile is it in a training simulation for military officers?

Shouldn't the game allow the players to explore different outcomes based on their decisions?

Wolfhag

Gamesman611 Jul 2024 10:30 a.m. PST

Martin…. have you met Ushcha! 🤔😳

Ushcha
You seem to getting something different from both Grittiths and Fewtherstone at least in these quotes than I am… but nkt for the first time.
The same stated goals can produce different approaches.

Wolfhag.
Simple mechanisms don't have to be abstracted or artificial as your rules show. Now we can discuss whether any set of rules achieve that… 😉

"Shouldn't the game allow the players to explore different outcomes based on their decisions?"

Yes. And surely realistic outcomes with simple mechanics is a key part of doing that?

I'm not being provocative, just it seemed quite bit binary.

UshCha12 Jul 2024 2:09 a.m. PST

Gamesman6 – I had both Feathersones books as a kid. The only lasting thing that came out of them for me is the Advanced wargames Sysesm of stepped hexagon terrain and from the War Games books Lional Tarrs buildings. I still love the card builinhs one of the 3 Story buildings I do is an homage to Tarr's Staningrad pictuers. Update for new technologhy yes bot otherwise very similar.

link

His rules lacked definition, and credibility.

Wolfhag has it oversimplification means that tactics go out of the window. If you cant use a machinegun in a similar way to the real world you can't reproduce real world outcomes.

Featherstones stuff had lack of understanding of real world modelling.

Even asa kid his games never reproduced any credible representations of the real accounts I read as a kid. His treatment of armoured vehicles was pathetic, and that recognised by a 14 tyear old, how much more do you need to substantiate my comments?

Gamesman612 Jul 2024 3:38 a.m. PST

And Griffiths?

"Wolfhag has it oversimplification means that tactics go out of the window."

Sure.. though that was about Griffiths idea of having realistic results from simple mechanisms. You've jumped to "oversimplification" which is something thing else altogether.

"If you cant use a machinegun in a similar way to the real world you can't reproduce real world outcomes."

Sure but that's separate from whether the mechanisms are simple or complex.
Tailoring the mechanism to produce the result as skmply as possible is my goal. I don't want to be spending time operating the system.

You're now focusing on featherstones application. Rather than his stated goals which I was pointing to.

As I said before we can debate the execution separately from the goal…
I wouldt want to play featherstones rules. That to me is irrelevant in this case as is whether I'd want to play your rules, though on several aspects my goals align with yours.

The point of posting was that in 50 plus years we're still arguing the same points. 😉 and here we are…. 😄😀

Wolfhag12 Jul 2024 9:14 a.m. PST

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if it is an uninformed opinion.

I think game system critiques should be based on the designer's intent and goal. If he meets them then it's a success even if you disagree.

Any game designer will say everyone else's design is lacking or they have it wrong.

I've attended Connections at the US Army War College three times. This is where the military sends their simulation trainers and developers to showcase their designs and get ideas. The target audience seems to be staff officers and above operational games. I've never seen a low-level tactical game.

Example: PDF link

Their presentations stated that they need simple but intuitive game rules and mechanics that focus on decision-making. The "players" don't have time to read dozens of pages of rules. Simplification is a very broad term.

A designer can design for cause (details on what caused the event) or design for effect (the cause is simplified and built in).

Rather than argue definitions at length, I'll briefly state the difference between designing for cause and designing for effect as I discuss it here. The idea is that when you design for cause, you find the factors that caused something to occur, and design those factors into your game so that it's likely to occur. When you design for effect, you design the game so that the effect, the result, is a recognizable representation of history. Causes may or may not be reflected, but the goal is the effect, what happened, not why it happened.

Some commentators criticize "design for effect" in wargames. My thesis here is that such criticism is undeserved because "design for cause" is possible only at a low tactical level. From my point of view as a person educated to understand military history, virtually all board wargames, certainly all above a very low tactical level, are necessarily designed for Effect, not for Cause. Designing for Cause is a chimera, something that rarely can actually be done, or if it is, the history will appear "skewed" or wrong. Why? Three reasons:

1) reality is too complex,

2) reality is strongly influenced by chance, and

3) game design is subject to the problem of foresight/hindsight.

Source: link

Using the OODA Decision Loop Gaming Engine (Time Competitive) where seconds are used as a timing mechanism to execute an order (orders are not instantaneously executed) I can design for cause in a low-level tactical 1:1 engagement. I can go into detail on why your opponent fired first and what you could have done about it too (lesson learned) so it does not happen again. It can show the nuances of strengths and weaknesses of guns and weapons platforms that you can exploit.

If I were to design a platoon vs platoon game I'd use the Pk (probability of a kill) method. You index the shooter versus the target and range. The result would give you a % chance of a kill. When you don't kill you don't know the cause if it was a miss, ricochet, etc. When you knock out the target you don't know the cause, hit location, armor, penetration, etc. You won't be able to learn any tactical lessons but it would be a good system for a Battalion Commander to get an idea of unit vs unit capabilities and maneuvering.

All combat is Time Competitive. How much you can accomplish within a turn will determine your success or failure. If you are accomplishing more than your opponent you've most likely seized the initiative.

In a high-level Company and above game, minutes or hours count. At division level game days and weeks count. In a low-level 1:1 tactical game, whether it is the Wild West, muskets, AFV combat, seconds count. The greater the turn the more you need to simplify the rules and mechanics and use design for cause.

However, how can anyone learn anything if the simplification is not focused on real decision-making? Ideally, the system lets the player/student make a decision that may be right or wrong. It could be a Risk-Reward Decision with a smaller chance of success but it may gain some game-changing advantage if it succeeds. Taking calculated risks is important.

When you have the dice telling you what you can do, how often, and when it may be good at showing the effect but can the player/student learn anything other than he needs to practice rolling the dice better?

I'm not familiar with Featherstone or Griffith so I can't comment.

At Connections a few weeks ago I met with the Marine who is working on a company commander training simulation. He wants my son (US Marine SigInt and 18-month Ukraine War vet) to take a look and evaluate it. It should be interesting.

Wolfhag

Gamesman612 Jul 2024 10:37 a.m. PST

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if it is an uninformed opinion.

-Thanks 😉🤔🙄😀😄

I think game system critiques should be based on the designer's intent and goal. If he meets them then it's a success even if you disagree.

-Sure

I've no disagreement with what you say we've been in some other discussions her to know that.

I think any point on divergence is on simplification and whether it stop real decision making. I'd agree that if it does then it's "wrong". Keep it simple, but not too simple.
You'll also know I'm no fan of dice espcially numeric dice. And I don't like playing dice games when I want to be playing wargames.

As to Featherstone I'd say that wargaming in the UK owes a debt to him, whether we like his application or not… which arw of their time. Griffiths equally though in a different way, being key to groups like Wargames Develolments coming in to existence and having it be taken more seriously at place like Sandhurst and bridging the gap both ways, of serious historical research and wargaming.

As you'll see some dont like what they did. I'm not advocating their application anymore than I'm into clothes or recipes from 1975… butbi can appreciate what they were trying to do and how the discussions keep coming around. 😀

Gamesman612 Jul 2024 10:47 a.m. PST

A ps on simplicity. An impactful moment was decades ago when I read something from Designer Jim Webster who wanted to keep the game mechanics simple (discussions can ensue as to whether that's came about) to allow players to focus on the war and not implementing the game. He was frustrated by what he felt was uncessrily complexity to calculate various factors but if it came out as ultimately a 50/50 chance of a a final outcome then he'd happily discard all the complexity and replace it with a coin toss, in those circumstances.
I don't make then game systems any more complex than it need to be to produce the results I need.
Like you tank vs tank rules

pfmodel12 Jul 2024 4:09 p.m. PST

allow players to focus on the war and not implementing the game

An issue with many rules is the game system takes over and the actual battle takes a back seat. Even for experienced games, game system complex can result in player forgetting important rules which have a major impact on the game. The game system has to reflect reality in some manner, especially when it comes to the result, but the game system needs to be as simple as possible.

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