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"When did Wargames points systems come in?" Topic

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UshCha10 Jul 2024 5:58 a.m. PST

There is a recent set of topics about what is a wargame.
One issue that springs to mind is when some folk decided that points systems were required to "balance" opposing forces.

When did they arrive on scene? There were no points systems for instance in the very early UK books like Donald Featherstone's War games out in 1962. I assume it came in at the same time the rigid terrain choosing systems came in.

The system was around in the early days of Phil Barkers ancient wargames rules, I think V4 was the earliest I ever owned and it was in them as I recall.

For a bonus point, did any body codify the points based on selected terrain type or Tactical posture.

Barkers WW2 1925 to 1950 rules had additional points allowed for posture such as hasty attack or hasty defense and more for deliberate defense of deliberate attack, these extra points were restricted, for defense for instance they could only be spent on defensive works.

Not sure more modern rules even make it that farm, but that is the reason for my question.

JimDuncanUK10 Jul 2024 6:09 a.m. PST

I started club level wargaming in 1972 and the rules in use for the Ancient Period used a points system for an army value.

Simple stuff like 'unarmoured infantry' 1 point, +1 for javelin armed, +2 if bow armed etc. Armies would be listed at 500 points or 1000 points thereabouts.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2024 6:54 a.m. PST
79thPA Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2024 7:11 a.m. PST

Certainly since the 70's.

Does anyone remember if "Charge!: Or, How to Play a Wargame" by Young and Lawford had a points systems? I seem to recall one, but I am not certain. If so, that is from 1967.

TimePortal10 Jul 2024 7:30 a.m. PST

I had seen point systems as Jimduncan says when I started playing WRG Ancients in the mid 1970s. It was used to balance the forces so General talent was tested. Points was given for training , weapons, armor and morale. I started with Fourth edition, so they had been around.
The next set of rules I played was Empire first and the just introduced second editions. Guys would paint only the highest grade troops, guard and grenadiers.
So to balance the game, we used points.
I do not remember points with ACW , just regiments vs regiments, or WW2, we used TANK CHARTS in about 1981. Modern was often set scenarios. As officers we had access to the Army's Dunn Kamf rules. Next was Challenger was popular. A good set was done in 1984-85 was written by a USMC officer. The rules were very good but the game boards were outstanding. The boards had numerous pockets along tree lines and buildings. So you did a search by fire targeting areas for units. I bought a eight board set for the store and later sold it with the Auburn store.

Steamingdave210 Jul 2024 8:51 a.m. PST


Charge: Page 99, simple system, it ranged from Cavalry regiment 210 points down to Militia battalion 65 points. First wargames I ever played, starting in 1970, but we never used points system. Still have an original 1967 edition on my shelves. Just got to persuade the youngsters to try it!

MajorB10 Jul 2024 10:13 a.m. PST

"Little Wars" H G Wells, 1913.:
"Each player then selected his force from the available soldiers in this way: he counted infantry as 1 each, cavalry as 1-1/2, and a gun as 10, and, taking whatever he liked in whatever position he liked, he made up a total of 150. "

bwanabill Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2024 10:24 a.m. PST

That is a slam dunk MajorB!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2024 10:35 a.m. PST

All honor to Major B.

CLS II was running games on a point system since at least 1967, and there's another simple one in an early Charles S. Grant "Tabletop Teasers." (Battle for Wargamers, February 1975.) Note that to that point, it's either a flat charge for unit for a limited number of unit types or a single-digit charge per figure multiplied by the number of figures.

Somewhere in the late 1970's they became much more complex--from four or five troop types with values in single digits to multiple-page charts, entwined with troop selection criteria which had grown from two or three restrictions into "army lists." I blame WRG for a lot of this, and note that in Charles S. Grant's books there's a tendency to specify units for Moderns and Horse & Musket, but to go to WRG points for Ancients. The first times I ever heard talk of an "X points army" it was always in relation to WRG Ancients.

I snipe at GW, but as is sometimes said of Napoleon, they took a lot of stuff already in circulation and brilliantly made a unified whole out of it. You don't have to approve of something to appreciate the skill involved.

Martin Rapier10 Jul 2024 11:26 a.m. PST

I first came across them in the Skytrex micro armour rules in the early 1970s, which predated the WRG ones.

UshCha10 Jul 2024 1:23 p.m. PST

MajorB – Missed that one. I even have a reprint of Little wars somewhere, well done.

What is interesting is that there is no mention from you guys of the terrain control that is needed to make a points system work. I think terrain control was also in WRG 4th ( may be wrong, I just looked at may copy its 5th edition (1975) this also fixes the terrain.

Cavalry can't be effective in a wood so points system utter failure if all in woods. Punic wars one side kept to difficult going to avoid cavalry. Similarly tanks hopeless in soft going.

So anybody seen a points system that allows for a wider variety of terrain.

Was Barker the only one with stance factors(attack/defense monifiers).

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2024 2:03 p.m. PST

I've been waiting over 30 years for points systems to go away. With a lineage going back to 1913, my wait has obviously been in vain.

khanscom10 Jul 2024 5:01 p.m. PST

WRG Ancients 4th Ed. (1975), Ancient Warfare (Milgamex 1975), and Field Regulations (TSR 1976) all had point systems (if you chose to use them).

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2024 5:27 p.m. PST

Best you can do, Yellow Admiral, is to make them dead to you. It's been decades since I designed a point system game.

UshCha10 Jul 2024 10:45 p.m. PST

Yellow Admiral +1, seems like much of wargaming points systems have not improved over the last 50 years.

Old Contemptible11 Jul 2024 2:08 a.m. PST

Yellow Admiral +2

Martin Rapier11 Jul 2024 2:27 a.m. PST

"Was Barker the only one with stance factors(attack/defense monifiers)."

No, there was a points system modification for Squad Leader in the last 70s which included posture, and very sensibly, additional modifiers for whether the defenders deployed hidden or not. The points systems for Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader generally assumed an encounter battle.

I much prefer historical scenarios to points based battles.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2024 6:27 a.m. PST

I agree, Martin. But there's a much-neglected third choice. Take a look at Grant's Programmed Wargame Scenarios some time. No points, and not a specified troop roster, either. Each side picks from a number of specified rosters in the back of the book. So you know (roughly) the overall strength of your opponent, but you can't be sure you've accounted for all his AT guns, and there might just be a section of scout cars in the woods.

One of the problems of historical scenarios is that we know too much about terrain and opposing OOB. There is no entirely satisfactory solution, but sometimes including unhistorical possibilities to add historical uncertainty is a viable one.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2024 2:09 p.m. PST

+1 robert piepenbrink

Most of the games I run are either "what if" events, or situationally derived from a campaign context. So, not exactly "historical", but still within historical plausibility. I do some amount of balancing, bathtubbing, and rescheduling (of entries, reinforcements, etc.) to keep the games from getting too lopsided, but I rarely play a fully "balanced" game. I actually prefer asymmetrical scenarios because most historical battles were asymmetrical.

It's not unfair to say my "what if" events are constructed from whole cloth (especially when pre-dreadnoughts are involved), but I am still paying attention to what units could plausibly have met, and when, where, under what conditions, etc. The first half of this year I played a series of ironclad battles with ships built in the 1870s and 1880s that never fired a shot in anger; none of those battles was of an actual historical event, but all of them involved match-ups that the respective admiralties designed and deployed the ships for, even down to which ocean they were stationed in.

I think there's a whole shed of catskins available for the gamer who doesn't like points-based scenario design.

- Ix

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2024 11:46 p.m. PST

This isn't the NFL, with all teams having 54 players, a salary cap, and rigged draft picks.
If you play ancients or Bolt Action, it's close.

Old Contemptible12 Jul 2024 2:24 a.m. PST

One of the problems of historical scenarios is that we know too much about terrain and opposing OOB. There is no entirely satisfactory solution, but sometimes including unhistorical possibilities to add historical uncertainty is viable.

I used to believe that as well. However, in my experience, most players are either unaware of the battle details or don't bother to check the scenario book if they have one. I inform my players about the battle we'll be doing, but they don't have access to the scenario specifics.

When I give them their respective orders of battle (OOB) and scenario rules, they are unaware of the other side's OOB or the details of unit arrivals on the board. If they take the time to read up on the battle, they gain an advantage, and rightfully so, but they still won't know the exact OOB. They don't see the actual terrain until they walk into the room.

Old Contemptible12 Jul 2024 2:37 a.m. PST

From an earlier thread. Quoting myself but it bears repeating.

"In the group I belong to, they all love points. I am the only outlier. My games are either based on an actual battle or are period-correct for the conflict. One of the guys asked me; how can you have a balanced game without points? I just stared at him. Then he said oh, right.

Before an actual battle, the two sides don't get together to discuss how to balance their armies with each other. 'I think that heavy cavalry is over the limit allowed. Okay, I will replace it with some light artillery.

Battles are never equal. Historical unequal battles will test a player's skill more than any tournament will."

A historical game does not have to be from a scenario book. Do some research and balance the game by adjusting the victory conditions. The Mexicans are going to take the Alamo but they might not win the game.

And they are fun! Sometimes you need the right attitude to make it fun.

UshCha12 Jul 2024 8:45 a.m. PST

Martin Rapier Interesting that other than barker the only other system is even older and also a classic board game ( I will allow it is a wargame no question).

None of my games in the past 15 years have used a points system, simply because I personally have found them pointless as they are unable to cope with complex terrain and even less with stance and the like.

I don't play "historic battles" but often set scenarios up to reflect some tactical situation and often reflect parts of actions I have read about. The forces are chosen to make the game interesting. My most recent scenario turned out to be an exquisite game stretching to 12 hours riveting play. However most of my scenarios are reasonable to but alas some fall below that, however some far surpass the good but it's not till you actually play them that they prove to be in the exquisite category. Even with hindsight its difficult to determine any easily identified issues that make it so.

Points systems if they worked could be a bit of a shortcut sometimes if time or inspiration is limited.

I had wondered if I was out of touch and that somewhere somebody had cracked it. However seems like any such attempts are decades old and the new least common denominator rules are uninterested in such challenging issues.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2024 8:48 a.m. PST

I'll stand by my earlier conclusion: if I stand at least a one in three chance of winning and my decisions are more important than random die rolls for things like weather, blown bridges and reinforcement arrival times, than the scenario designer has done his bit.

Absolute fairness requires not just identical points, but armies of identical composition and capabilities fighting over symmetrical terrain. Hard to be less historical.

TimePortal12 Jul 2024 9:01 a.m. PST

I agree with Robert. Identical forces and capability. In theory one force may be top heavy in artillery and the enemy top heavy in Cavalry. They can be equal in points but not capability.

Always good to do pen and paper runs for checking the point system. I have seen some in WW2 and modern where the point assignment is not equal. You might say nationality bias is apparent.

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