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    So there has been discussion online in other parts where a few people have played a scenario in which pre-game air support pretty much renders one side impotent.
    I am not familiar with the game or scenario, or indeed any historical context.

    But it made me think about no-win scenarios.

    How likely are you to play them, and will you play them more than once trying different things to see if you can win?

    Darkest Star Games

    How likely are you to play them, and will you play them more than once trying different things to see if you can win?

    Yes I would play them, and yes I would experiment.  I could see such a battle being part of a campaign, where maybe the suicide-sides’ job is to inflict as much damage on the other side as possible.  War is not balanced nor fair, and I don’t mind playing games that are the same.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    As long as the fated-to-lose side still gets a chance to act heroic, I have no problem with games like this.

    However, in the example with the pre-game air support (taking that to be a generic example, as I don’t know which specific ruleset the original discussion was in relation to), I could see some rulesets forcing the struck player to spend the whole game just making re-group rolls against stacks of negative modifiers. It would rob that player of a sense of agency as they can’t even “boot up” their force to a state where it can begin taking action. That likely wouldn’t be an enjoyable game.


    I would redefine what constitutes a victory, so that it is not a no-win scenario for one side. This might be as simple as telling the player who is certain to lose that if they lose less badly than their historical counterpart, then they have won (for a given value of winning). I don’t want to play too many games where the final result is a foregone conclusion though.

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.



    Sometimes I find myself in a badly designed scenario where one side clearly has no chance to win. It is often accompanied by “real war isn’t balanced or fair.”


    Sure, but when playing a game, players should feel engaged and have fun.

    As Ruarigh wrote, an asymmetric scenario should still have victory conditions defined for each side to claim a victory in the game, even if none would exist in a real life counterpart.


    Nathaniel Weber

    No win scenarios are often excellent for unusual victory conditions. Win as the Romans during their army scaled ambush at the hands of the Germanic tribes?* Probably not. But a scenario where the Romans have to evacuate the eagles/a senator’s nephew/camp followers out of the battle? Fun!

    However, a game where a clique of players just wanted to tease you or have fun at your expense by opening up the fight with something unbeatable like massed airstrikes would be lame.

    *the name of that battle eludes me


    *the name of that battle eludes me

    Teutoburger Wald?

    But it made me think about no-win scenarios. How likely are you to play them, and will you play them more than once trying different things to see if you can win?

    Sure.  Sometimes I play literal no-win scenarios, like this.  Sometimes the solo rules generate situations which are pretty much unwinnable for one side or the other, like this.  I quite like the challenge of trying to win stuff like Picket’s Charge (there is a great Fire & Fury scenario for it).



    I’ve played impossible games mostly in campaigns. I even played Custer at the Little Big Horn. Yes, I lost my hair but had fun doing it.


    Depends on who you wargame with in my ‘umble opinion. My oldest wargaming crony was wont to say…

    “It don’t make no never mind if I lose, just as long as I get to take a load of your shower with me!”

    Perfect attitude for The Hot Gates, The Alamo, Custer Hill or the Wild Bunch’s last stand!

    "Wot did you do in the war Grandad?"

    "I was with Harry... At The Bridge!"

    Adrian Arnold

    Not here I wouldn’t – for me scenario’s – even “unbalanced ones” should at least be interesting and give an good, fun game for both sides.

    A situation like the op posted doesn’t feel to me like it would give any of those things.

    craig cartmell

    Sounds very much like Warhammer 40K to me. I have seen many games where the initial salvo by the side that goes first wrecks the enemy’s chances of winning. It is one of the reasons I stopped playing, that and the ability to outspend their opponent to victory.

    Asymmetric scenarios can be fun, if people know that they are unbalanced to start with and accept the challenge that offers.

    Kobayashi Maru eh?


    The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare


    Took a participation game of the Alamo on tour years back, very popular as the participants played Mexican army officers who had to balance being in at the end for glory but not getting their commands mauled to upset the Generalissimo…….

    Another bash was Zulu Run, basically the players had to outrun flanking parties of Zulus and get to the end of the table with their party of survivors……..played the same with zombies too.

    It’s all about the victory conditions and enjoying the playing………..

    "Even dry tree bark is not bitter to the hungry squirrel"


    Love to play them.  I’ve had some wonderful games that were hopeless from the start and ended in capture or worse.  I’m sure someone could concoct a scenario that I wouldn’t bother with, but I haven’t encountered that yet.  I don’t generally reply scenarios, as I simply don’t have chance to game often enough to permit it.


    From a scenario design pov, any scenario which has one side largely obliterated pre-game (something which applies to many operations from around 1915 onwards) there needs to be something to let the players make some useful decisions. My usual route for dealing with this sort of thing is:

    1. make the battle big enough to include the intervention of reserves, so the defender actually has something to move. There is a reason modern armies deploy in depth. Your speedbump units get blasted, but who cares, here come the panzer divisions to save the day.

    2. give up and put all the players on the attacking side while the unfortunate defenders are run by an umpire. This actually works really well.

    I have run such unpromising games as the First Day of the Somme, Third Ypres, Battle of Amiens, Cambrai ,the Six Day War and Operation Goodwood (there isn’t much tactical response to hundreds of heavy bombers) using a mix of these two methods, but the WW1 ones were all pretty much option 2.


    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Mike Headden

    I’ve run a “Last Stand At Kummersdorf” game for friends a few times.

    Rules are slightly bodged BKC.

    The German player has a couple of Maus tanks, a Tiger, a Panther or two, some light armour and a platoon or two of infantry of uncertain reliability.

    The Russian players have three T34/85s and a platoon of Tank Desant infantry each.

    There are plenty of buildings and trees to restrict lines of sight.

    German losses are permanent, lost Russian troops reappear at a table edge next turn.

    Play continues until all German units are eliminated or routed.

    Records of who killed what are kept but, to be honest, the winner(s) are those who have the most fun and tell the tallest tales. 🙂

    No one has ever complained about the imbalance.

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    Thorsten Frank

    Depends on the game. I can´t imagine something more frustrating in gaming terms than to prepare a game and waiting for months to play it because you´ve get only thre, four times a year the opportunity to play and then that….
    However, my younger self with plenty of spare-time liked this type of scenario.
    And my today self is even masochistic enough to reguarly put my forces in my Silent Death-, Scavengers- and Burning Sands solo games in impossible can´t-win situations.

    Example: an annoying series of unlucky rolls put my beloved Erland against six lions of which the last one incapitated our poor barbarian, forcing his shattered self to raid a nearby oasis only to be captured, sold as a slave to the foul sorcerer (Al Kishtar) who was happy getting his runaway back, manage to flee only to be captured again by the Bahadur Keshik. That was a really fun afternoon.

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    Mr. Average

    “War isn’t fair” is a common refrain but this isn’t war, it’s a game, and feedback loops that make the winner keep winning lead to a player on the short end feeling railroaded. Campaigns generally have a better chance of making this kind of scenario work in my experience, since there can be some point to sending your little cardboard counters off to die in a hopeless battle if some larger strategic purpose can be served. But stating outright that you’re going to railroad one side because they “can’t” win kind of kills the mood – I recall this happened in one of the old World at War scenario packs, driven by the need to shoehorn the game into the author’s novelistic monologue in which the Soviet “had” to win. If there’s no chance to at least make the game seem to have meaning beyond a planned loss, it starts to feel like an exercise in futility.

    I find more satisfying the scenario in which one side isn’t supposed to win, but still can. When the scales are deliberately set against it, it makes for an irritating experience, and losing streaks, when they happen by design because obviously one side is going to win, well – that’s not what I go down to the club for on Saturdays.

    Chris Pringle

    So there has been discussion online in other parts where a few people have played a scenario in which pre-game air support pretty much renders one side impotent. I am not familiar with the game or scenario, or indeed any historical context. But it made me think about no-win scenarios. How likely are you to play them, and will you play them more than once trying different things to see if you can win?

    I think there are two different kinds of ‘impossible game’ being discussed here, and therefore two different answers.

    Battles that were one-sided historically can still be interesting tactical challenges and fun to play. As Ruarigh and others have mentioned above, if you set the historical result as the ‘par score’, you can have your army crushed in historical terms but still win in game terms if the crushing is less complete or less rapid than in the history. This is a staple of our Bloody Big Battles nineteenth-century games, and in fact players often prefer to take the losing side and try to do better.

    The other type of impossible game is the one that is made impossible either because the scenario itself is badly written and skewed, or because some extreme dice or gotcha tactics or points-based mismatch make the outcome inevitable from turn one. In that case, I think I’d say OK, you win, no need to go through the motions, and find something better to do with the next two or three hours.


    Bloody Big BATTLES!



    Phil Dutré

    Sometimes this happens when I set up a scenario. Due to some oversight or wrong assumptions, the scenario doesn’t work as ‘intended’ and the game is a dud.

    The best you can do is to either adjust the scenario mid-game (and with gentlemen-players this is not a problem, since both sides recognize the problem), or to restart the game with an adjusted set-up.

    If the imbalance is baked into the rules themselves (and not the particular unfortunate choices made by the players), then it’s also a clear indication that those rules will most likely never be used again 🙂

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/


    You know, in thinking about this some more, I think I’d rather play a hopeless situation, than a truly balanced game.  Most of the games that I play are campaign generated or historical, so there is no real consideration towards balance.  But some of the most fantastic games that I have played  have been pretty hopeless situations.  Most of these have been set in WWII, some Cold War,  one in Vietnam, a couple colonial era and ACW.

    The most balanced games that I’ve played have been run at conventions, and I have to say they have provided a disproportionately high number of sleepers.  Games that lacked drama or notable events.  There was no or little adventure to the experience.  I think that maybe such scenarios fail to inspire the players in any given way.  An unbalanced scenario gives the stronger player a comfort or confidence in his plan, while the disadvantaged player starts with the concern or even desperation imposed by the situation.  I think that maybe the players are compelled to be more creative in these situations.

    I think I feel this way, because my approach to gaming is to immerse myself in the game, with the intent of enjoying the adventure of the game, of “feeling” the experience.  I think the drama of the hopeless scenario plays into this approach, where you’re not concerned so much with winning, as just trying to find a way to survive, escaping, etc.

    Whatever the cause, I find the contrast in our views to be interesting.


    The most balanced games that I’ve played have been run at conventions, and I have to say they have provided a disproportionately high number of sleepers. Games that lacked drama or notable events. There was no or little adventure to the experience.

    This. I play wargames for entertainment. I see miniature wargaming as a form of theater. Famous Last Stands like The Three Hundred, The Alamo, Little Big Horn or Isandlwana are always popular with wargamers because they offer spectacle, drama and emotional engagement. Even better if the GM arranges the game so that the disadvantaged side can ‘win on points’ by good play. A puppy getting run over by a truck lacks drama, so is not an engaging scenario.

    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!


    When we played The Alamo the GM never mentioned the Mexican’s extra large cannon that took part in the artillery bombardment. Any Texican player thoughtful enough to sally forth and blow it up gained ‘The Dook’s Medal of Honor’, as big as a soup plate to wear round his neck, for the rest of the game. That’s the trouble with this younger generation of wargamers…

    they don’t take the game seriously enough!

    "Wot did you do in the war Grandad?"

    "I was with Harry... At The Bridge!"

    Devon Start

    ive played the alamo more than once, that is a fun game. ive been the mexicans and the texans and yeah you arent going to “win” the battle as the texans. its impossible, there was no way to win, and there is no way to win.. the battle. that doesnt mean the game doesnt have victory conditions. at least in convention games its about holding out longer than the guy who played last time.


    historicals will have this issue far more than fantasy or sci fi, as you design the scenario and make it up. History however, in many wars, one side was always going to win due to something.. better tatics, better technology, better understanding of war. whatever it is. and yet we still have games for things like custers last stand(very popular too) you know custer isnt beating the indians, it just cant happen. but people play anyway.


    We had a ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ in which the 7th Cavalry player could emerge victorious. Each band of Indians were led by a Big Chief, after each massacre the ‘Custer’ who’d nobble the most Chiefs was the winner. If nothing else, the game was an excuse to use all those Trooper firing from behind his an riddled horse, for a change.

    "Wot did you do in the war Grandad?"

    "I was with Harry... At The Bridge!"


    As long as the victory conditions allow for either side to “win” I’m in but a game that’s part of a campaign and the speedbump force is just to inflict what casualties they can is fun as well.  A small, highly motivated force in good terrain, or some tricks, would be fun to run against a larger less motivated force.  When I first read through Stargrunt II and got to the mission motivation rules I was hooked on the idea.  When I’ve played the speedbump force, especially at a con, we’ve had more fun than the larger force.  We had a freedom of action that fades when forces are equal.  If the other side doesn’t know what the speedbump force is, or how small, there’s plenty of opportunity to “psych-out” the opposition.

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