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01Mar 19

Blog [CS] – Measuring Scales

Wargame scale is something that often doesn’t get enough attention in my view, and I mean that applied to both types of ‘scale’ in gaming.

 

Firstly, there is ‘scale of engagement’. That is, are we playing skirmish, platoon, army scale, etc. And secondly there is ‘scale of representation’, which is what we traditionally think about and refers to how big the models are that we are using. Its very tempting to think of these two concepts of scale as linked, and I think that this is why we often only think about a single concept of scale, but in fact they are entirely independent. Its entirely possible to play a 6mm skirmish game, and likewise similarly possible to play a 28mm army scale game with tanks and aircraft and hundreds of troops. Obviously, its not common, and in most cases it makes most sense to reduce scale of representation as we increase the scale of engagement.

 

When writing rules, its very important to have a very clear idea of where your game fits into both these concepts of scale. Scale of engagement appears obvious, but it has far reaching implications for the level of granularity of a rules set. And army scale game should not deal with whether combatants are armed with a sword in their left or right hand, and this level of detail slows a game down to unplayable. But beyond this, it impacts in any of one hundred different ways. For example, and pertaining to Dark Portents, I wanted to include formation types but at ‘company level’ its important that details like this are relatively streamlined, and only included where they will actually impact the game. Every rules will have a cost/reward associated with it, cost in terms of how much it slows a game down and makes rules more difficult to grasp, and reward in terms of its influence on the table and achieving the goal that you are looking for. In general, at ‘company level’ (around 100 minis on the table per side) there is room to include some character rules but these must not slow the game down and should be streamlined. There are also optioned that are opened up and both ends of the spectrum. Larger scale, as we head towards ‘army level’ games give more scope for larger models on the table, and more variety – fliers, war machines, etc. However, as we head further towards the skirmish end, we get more out of the individual characters in the army, from commanders having more influence and a bigger role in a game, all the way to every model having a specialisation and role.

 

While scale of engagement is usually a personal choice that people naturally gravitate towards, scale of representation is often far more deeply rooted. A lot of gamers will only play a single scale of miniature, and while this can make good sense (“I need trees in how many different scales?”) I feel its a bit of shame that so many gamers never break out of 28mm, not only for their games but even just using different ‘muscles’ when painting at a different scale. I usually think of miniature scale in two different categories – individually based (15mm and larger) and group based (10mm and below). Its possible to create a set of rules that can be applied to one of these two groups, but it becomes more difficult to have a single set of rules that can deal with both categories without increased abstraction. Even when, at the end of the day, the miniatures are really just evolved meeples.

 

See you in 7…. approximately!

CS

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22Feb 19

Blog [CS] – Strategic Elements

Well, that was a longer break from blogging than I was expecting. I think that my posts will become a little less frequent for a while, as life gets busy. I would rather save the post for something that I feel I wanted to talk about, than try to talk about nothing just to fill a post. If you have any ideas or suggestions for this stream of consciousness, please do let me know! This week, I want to start with a question…..

Why do you play tabletop wargames?

It seems a trivial question at first, and the average responses will be all variants of the same reason. ‘Because I like it.’ ‘Because they are fun.’ ‘Because they help me relax.’ But dig a little deeper and the answer become more interesting.

What is it about these games that you enjoy?

Now you will get a variety of reasons. Some people enjoy the social aspect, some want to use the miniatures that they painted, some like the competition, some enjoy the sense of strategy, some love the narrative and story, and some just like the vagaries of the dice. This diversity is great, and means that there is always a new element to a game that you can enjoy, but it can make it difficult when working out how to pitch a game.

Personally, I enjoy the strategy. Many years ago I was trying to choose a set of rules to play ancients games and I came across an article in a magazine that took four systems, and played a historical scenario, and then showcased which set of rules came closest to the actual historical battle in engagement and overall results. I really wish that this kind of experiment happened more often, as I found it fascinating and very useful.

For me, there are three broad levels of strategy within wargaming. At its most basic level, there simply isn’t any. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. A game without strategic advantage is a game that anyone can win. It simply pushes outcomes to dice rolls. Obviously, no games is really totally without strategy but I would put games like 40K into this category. What strategy that is there is really a minor effect on the outcome, and the fun in the game is rolling the dice and the journey that both players go on based on probability. Secondly, there is ‘internal strategy’. To me, this is when a game has strategic elements which are consistent and valid, but only within the limits of the game. Most science fiction games get away with this perfectly fine because there is no real world analogy. This is the most common form of strategy in games, and you can see it in cases where a tactic will work in one game system and totally fail in another. And finally there is ‘grounded strategy’ and this is what I was looking for in the article testing four game systems against a real world, historical battle. This is most hard line in historical and ancient games, and deals with elements such as ‘unit x should be able to charge and cause great damage but also be difficult to reposition for a second attack, because this account of this historical battle shows it happening’. This is actually an incredibly difficult level of strategy to model, because the mechanics of a game make it essential that we deal in an abstraction, and real world outcomes can be based on the smallest factor, factors which are often not even a part of the rules.

Real world applicable strategy within a wargame is an impossible quest. It may be possible given very specific restrictions but really the best you can hope for is a generalised result, where ‘unit x against unit y should result in…..’. I should also note that the enjoyment for strategy and the enjoyment of winning are two, independent perspectives. But, the application of a valid, abstracted strategy within a game environment is a why I play. That might be ‘crossing the T’ in a space game, setting up crossfire in a battalion level game or achieving a coherent combined attack in a skirmish game, it can be wonderfully satisfying.

See you in 7…. approximately!

CS

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PMC 2670 SNEAK PEAK

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