The hard work of Gaming.....

Wargaming 101 for Designers and Enthusiasts

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MAGNA
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The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby MAGNA » Wed May 20, 2015 12:00 pm

The hard work of gaming.....

Much has been said about game / reality balance. There are a couple of threads on here
on the subject which are well worth a look by the way.

It is an ongoing problem for many people. Although we all want that perfect system where
reality is mirrored down to the last detail we also want a game that we can play in a few
hours at most unless someone is willing to pay us to play.

Rule sets try to give a best of both worlds situation and can go two ways.

1. Very gamey in that the dice rules supreme so things can be attempted which would never have worked. Tactics and careful thought can be pushed to the back with these ones.
2. Lists, lists, and more bloody lists. Options abound with plusses and minuses to be calculated for an eternity just to see if that unit actually moves let alone charges in.

I have posted on this site about a hybrid Napoleonic ruleset being trialled by our game group. It mixes in the battalion level rules as used in the Empire set which are quite complex and base themselves on an hourly round. There is an AAR on here involving French and Austrians. That took one evening a week for a lot of weeks and one hourly round could take a couple of hours or more to get through.

The other part of the mix comes from elements of the Fire and Fury civil war set which is at brigade level. faster to play but more on the gamey side of things.

So far we have got a workable system with the rules being set out on about ten pages (not exactly sure but I didn’t have to take my shoes off to count so there can’t be more than ten).

This covers movement, formations, firing, types of units and all the other stuff required.

I didn’t have a hand in these rules, I just whine loudly when one of my units cops it that the part of the rules we just used isn’t right......... sound familiar ?

The result to this stage is that units have more figures in them to reflect a group of battalions. More figures are placed on each base though so movement is greatly simplified.

Wearing down opposition units is the way to go in the Empire rules as you can then hit them with superior numbers. This new set puts more emphasis on getting in close to do some real damage. The movement is faster as well which means you can get around flanks a lot quicker and cause mayhem. As it stands this gives us a quicker game with more tension on each move as there is scope and reward for aggression - it is war after all.

The other benefit is being able to play on a smaller area.

This brings me to the hard work section of this post.....

There are two options for interesting / fun gaming that I have finally come up with;

1. Tailor your rules to the time you have available.
2. Section down your gaming to the level of competence.

Option one is covered by the hybrid Napoleonic set. It has cut back on playing time without losing the flavour of the period or turning into a glorified ludo game.

Two is the one to use when you have a core of people who play consistently and you want to use a ruleset which is complex due to so many variables. WW2 games suffer this as there may be twenty different vehicle types on the table with air and artillery. On top of that comes concealment and the myriad of infantry options. We use Fire and Fury battlefront rules which have a card system for units. This helps a lot but the rules are by necessity fairly involved. Spotting and opportunity fire must be taken into account even when moving as that’s the way it was.

These two options both require one thing to be fully useful.

Hard work.

That is what gaming really comes down to. Not the work in modelling and painting or scenery. I mean the work gamers need to put into the rules to become competent. Having one or two people out of four or five carrying the burden of knowing the rules does not work.

All players must learn as much as possible to the point where they are able to conduct a game without any assistance.

Why ?

We have all made that move we thought was ok only to find out we can’t do that. It is frustrating and causes ructions at times. This is not proper gaming. Dissing the opposition and making disparaging remarks regarding their hairdressers lack of skill is gaming.
Massive arguments over one rule is not a proper part of gaming.

How do we fix this ?

Fortunately this is easy. Hard work.

Learn and test. Learn and test.

If you have a large and complex ruleset and you know it is going to reward proper tactics to provide a good game then learn and test.

Don’t have a quick game test of a couple of the main elements and then try to wade through a nice big scenario as your first group effort. It can end up with members deciding they simply don’t want to play using that set.

Battlefront is again a good example. Ok, it is complex in the amount of things you can do and the amount of things you must take into account. Simple, reduce these amounts. Play on a smaller game area with particular types of units. These games can be over and done in two hours or so. One scenario we have recently played to help new members learn is a Russian front game involving only tanks. The experienced player has a mix of German tanks with the new player having a large number of T34/76’s. One vehicle type only. Learn the difference in range brackets on the card along with armour and movement. A large amount of complexity gone allowing more concentration on what can be done with the vehicle.

This was played out a couple of times to make sure. Next we will have an all infantry scenario.

After this can be a bit of a mix with extra vehicles followed by the addition of artillery etc.

It is best to monitor progress to ensure everyone is getting a thorough grounding in what they can do and how.

The end result when you get to the large scenario stage which can be epic fun is that you will not be relying on the umpire to be repeatedly giving out options to players or reminding them about what they can do. Players play these things in teams so you have mini games within the overall setup. When players can get on with their own part of a move without interrupting other players or the umpire for basic game info then you start to get a good flow. This is the ultimate aim. Have a command group session to make a plan for the game and away you go.

I don’t know anyone including myself who is not guilty of the above sins. Not bothering to learn rules because someone else will know. Not taking the time to properly introduce a system to a new player (they'll pick it up). Both require hard work.

But, like all the things to do with hard work there is a big payoff at the end. Gaming really is worth this effort as you reinforce your own knowledge at the same time.


There we go. I’ve run out of info on this one but I’m sure there is plenty of group knowledge here to add to this for beginners and veterans alike.


Note: I exclude any big payoff for hard work if it involves getting me to understand anything obvious or useful. Please feel free to offer such gems of wisdom though as there are bound to be others who will get it.
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Re: The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby Lucky Luke » Fri May 22, 2015 4:24 am

Magna, you hit the mark !

I'm with you, the knowledge of rules is a must, without it a game can only crawl pulled by the players who had the time or are willing to study the rules...

When I played a lot (all the Sunday afternoon) we started a game only if all players read the rules, at least but we always played a game with the need for gather together and have a good time. Our gaming way had another peculiarity: we played like a lesson at Academy...if every player find a better way to do the move of another player he explained it to all players; sometimes I helped an "enemy" to beat me !

The "con" part of the "Academy way" is that you "dry out" a game very fast: in a very short time we analized so many situation that we could predict the outcome of an action with a fair chance of success...we played air wargames and surely they are more deterministic in their action flow than a ground level combat....
V6!

Luca



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Re: The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby 50th » Tue May 26, 2015 10:15 pm

Sometimes a scenario, especially a historical one, will not be balanced. In my Memoir 44 scenario Battle of Kursk Overlord, the Soviets outnumber the Germans two to one on infantry and four to one on armor (or something like that, too late to know, too tired to look it up). But the unbalance in troops can be counter balanced in other ways. Ways like special cards that give the underdog something special (like tank ace in TOI, for example). Or like in Memoir, more command cards. I have a friend (I think I mentioned him before) that don't like to play unbalanced scenarios. So if we must, I give him the side with the superior numbers, and usually lose. But since, as he puts it, I have an uncanny luck with dice, sometimes I win. I like historical scenarios, I have written over fifty scenarios for Memoir, and over five for TOI (I just got it last year). I like this discussion.
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Re: The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby MAGNA » Thu May 28, 2015 11:08 am

Luke. Thanks. You made me click on this a bit more.

And you too 50th.

Well done to both of you. The click part will be not just to introduce unit aspects but to tailor scenarios to use particular situations
within the rules. Players will then have to evaluate the possibilities and then follow the rules themselves to work out what happens.
Nice.

Actually, I shouldn't be thanking you blokes at all. I'll be scribbling notes on and off all weekend and it's all your fault!!

Not really. After all, I'm the one advocating the work. 50th, good point re unbalanced scenarios. I love 'em. Makes you think.
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Re: The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby Whiterook » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:20 pm

WOW! This is fabulous stuff! Thank you for the considerable time it must have taken to not only gather the premise, but put it in such great text. I love seeing this stuff here, and I believe this is the stuff that sets us apart from the competition (oh let's face it...there is no competition for MWF! :lol: )

This struck a lot of chords with me thoughout the post. let me highlight just a few of the main ones, but I will definitley re-read and re-process what you posit here!

MAGNA wrote: The hard work of gaming.....


As mentioned, you hit the nailon th head with this! When I tell folks (that are not wargamers) that I am a wargamer, their usual reaction is generally something along the lines of, 'Oh, how cute!' They automatically think I'm talking Stratego or Battleship. It's almost always a waste of time to try and describe what I really do and play....that is until I pull out a game and paint the big picture of what is involved. The reaction that comes with that new education is generally, Oh Hell, that's too much work for me!!!

So yes, though I have heard that so many times, I never slowed down enough in thought to really ponder it; that yes indeed, wargaming is a LOT of work!

MAGNA wrote: ....a ruleset which is complex due to so many variables. WW2 games suffer this as there may be twenty different vehicle types on the table with air and artillery. On top of that comes concealment and the myriad of infantry options.....

....That is what gaming really comes down to. Not the work in modelling and painting or scenery. I mean the work gamers need to put into the rules to become competent. Having one or two people out of four or five carrying the burden of knowing the rules does not work.

All players must learn as much as possible to the point where they are able to conduct a game without any assistance.


This is HUGE!

I have posted here, and elsewhere, something along the lines of the question: 'How many times do you find yourself reading a rukebook?' The answers always surprise me, because the majority of respondents almost always report that they read once and then jump right in! I shake my head. They must be rocket scientists or something, because I generally have to at a minimum, read it through twice to just start to get a rough idea of how the system works! (I'm talking wargames, here!

Take LNL:Band of Heroes, for instance - I've read those blasted rules probably, at the minimum, a half dozen times cover-to-cover (but more likely a dozen!). I can say I now have a good handle on the game. Not having a face-to-face opponent does not help the retention factor, as there is no one to bounce questions off of...but even though it is a proclaimed *easier* game system to learn, a couple dozen pages of questions on BoardGameGeek's BoH area proves it's a confusing game to learn. But to be fair, ALL wargames are confusing games to learn, in my opinion

It takes a lot of re-reads to aptly get a wargame system down. It's hard work. But once you've done that hard work, you are more capable to move onto the following point MAGNA made....


MAGNA wrote: ......Learn and test. Learn and test.

If you have a large and complex ruleset and you know it is going to reward proper tactics to provide a good game then learn and test.


I am for sure guilty of not practicing required patience, but ratther, jumping into a game system prematurely (in the medical community, it is known as Premature Ejacugaming :lol: ). The problem with that is the same as the other more commonly know form of 'Premature' ventures....you got yourself all worked up and went into battle half-cocked!

You are generally going to have a quick game ending in frustration and embarassment. You didn't go in with the full load...errrr...knowledge in your head of how to properly conduct and manage the system mechanics.

On another train of thought, but similar to this mini-topic is: That is what I always loved about the old Avalon Hill, Squad Leader game; the instructional format of learning the system. Take it in chunks, getting that portion down pat by reading, re-reading and testing until you are comfortable (if not proficient) in that small section, before adding more. MAGNA mentions this in the way hios Game Group brings new members to the table. An excellent approach!

That's kinda like what we'll be doing with the Heroes of the Gap and Day of Heroes type games coming up; simplified, basic, and with an eye to entry-level scenarios first.


MAGNA wrote: .....I don’t know anyone including myself who is not guilty of the above sins. Not bothering to learn rules because someone else will know. Not taking the time to properly introduce a system to a new player (they'll pick it up). Both require hard work.

But, like all the things to do with hard work there is a big payoff at the end. Gaming really is worth this effort as you reinforce your own knowledge at the same time.


To me, there is nothing more enjoyable and satisfying than becoming proficient in a game system, and then exploring within that world. It is better, I can say wothout a doubt, when you've put the hard work to master the game and then play....and teach!
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Re: The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby Whiterook » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:51 pm

Another side no discussed, on the subject of learning a rule system is....

I personally suffer from wanting to get into new systems. I'm like a kid in the candy store! I get one dowwn pretty good....like re-reading band of Heroes a dozen times; then play, test, play, test....

But then Bolt Action comes out! Or I get that bug back to learn Advanced Squad Leader. Or I jump back into Panzer grenadier. Or my wofe buys me a GMT game for Chrristmas. Or.....

Well, you get the point!

So then, I go back to Band of Heroes, and it's like, "CRAP!" I read that stuff a dozen times! I try to blame it on age, and work, and the cat....and then I read the rules (thank goodness, faster now) and get back up to speed....

But the point I am making here is, play a system consistantly until you've mastered it, and then dig it out now and then after moving onto the next, so that you don't forget.
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Re: The hard work of Gaming.....

Postby 50th » Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:56 am

I usually keep a few photos from the last con on my phone, so that I can show people what I mean by wargaming. Many are surprised at the different ages playing the games, and that there are some women. My wife played one game of Memoir, and that was enough for her. But she will play games like settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Lords of Waterdeep, and other board and card games. I can even get her into a game of Zombies!!! (3rd edition) every once in a while!
"It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, 'Our Father who art in heaven." Douglas MacArthur <><


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