Home Forums General Game Design What is a narrative wargame?

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  • #19264
    Bandit
    Participant

    This isn’t a term I use. Others use it and I’d like to understand from their point of view what it is and how it is unique.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    • This topic was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by Bandit. Reason: added my sign-off which I'd forgotten
    #19270
    Angel Barracks
    Moderator

    I play something that may be akin to that.

    My games have a story and objective.
    What happens in that game will shape the next game and the development of my sci-fi setting.

    So, in a recent game report one side captured an informant.
    The next game will be acting upon the information obtained from that informant.

    Sometimes I will make new products for my web shop if the next scenario requires it.
    For example in the above mentioned campaign the informant has divulged information about the location of supply caches.
    So I wrote the next scenario which is to find one and I also made a supply dump model and put it on my website.

    I also have an idea mapped out for the entire story-arc/background.
    This will involve certain scenarios which are essential to telling the story of the two main forces.
    Certain scenarios are planned and will happen no matter what; this may mean altering some game outcomes slightly if a rogue die roll throws it off course.

    The background to my sci-fi world is not written yet, it is a work in progress, but it has certain things that will happen, as I want to create the world and the history and not play some unrelated games one after the other.
    The final scenario is already written, the games will determine who is best prepared for that final scenario.

    For me, my KR 16 campaign is about the story, the models and then the die rolling last.

    Does that help or make sense?

    #19290
    kyoteblue
    Participant

    Chris Engle has what he calls Matrix games which are argument narrative games and work very well for some campaign games.

    #19292
    Bandit
    Participant

    Well I’m coming from the perspective that any game one plays can have a narrative attached to it. That is that I can provide explanation, justification, backstory, etc… to the events occurring. Playing a series of linked battles or battles within a campaign then provide their own relative context. What I am inquiring about though is specifically what is meant by the “narrative style or genre” of game design.

    Perhaps it is useful to ask the question this way:

    When reading or playing a set of wargaming rules, how would one determine if they are a “narrative game” vs whatever else there is? What are the characteristics of a narrative game?

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19294
    Just Jack
    Participant

    My understanding of narrative games are much like what Kyote is describing (though I play my games in the way AB describes).

    You set the table and lay the forces out.  Unlike ‘normal’ wargames, there are no real rules, there’s no set turn sequences, no movement rates, no reactions (per se), no firing mechanism, etc…  One side starts, and he gives his narrative, such as “I wish these three units to advance on the enemy here (pointing to spot), while these five units move on the right flank (here), via this route (sweeping).  These three units (pointing) will remain in reserve, with an eye towards enemy activity surfacing in this area on our left flank (pointing).”

    Then his opponent says, “well, you’re advancing on my central position whilst moving on my left flank, so I’d like to thin my central position by three units, leaving three units in place to counter yours, then I want to move those three plus my reserve of three units left to counter your flank march, and I figure they’ll meet you here (pointing).”

    Then the first player will argue, “there’s no way you’d have enough information to allow your commander the option of thinning his central position,” and the second will say, “yeah, you got me, but I still have the three units from my reserve marching to counter your flank attack, meeting you here (pointing).”  Then the first player will say, “I think it’s a bit optimistic of you to think you’re reserve will meet me there on the flank, I think it will be further into your line.”  They’ll argue/debate for a bit, then when it can’t be agreed upon, they’ll either set odds for several scenarios (okay, 10% we meet on you side, 40% we meet in the middle, and 50% we meet on my side) or a straight up opposed roll, high die wins.  Either way, the dice decide the location the two forces meet on the flank.

    Then they come up with battle outcomes, i.e., “my guys will take up covered positions here and ambush your guys still on marching on the road.”  “No, my guys will see yours crest the ridge here, realize the severity of the situation, and so they’ll double time to here, thus beating yours to the covered position.”

    And on and on.  So, there are no real rules, just opposing forces squaring off via the provision of verbal orders, with die rolls to sort out disagreements.  At least that is my understanding, hope it helps.

    V/R,
    Jack

    #19295
    Bandit
    Participant

    Jack,

    So, there are no real rules, just opposing forces squaring off via the provision of verbal orders, with die rolls to sort out disagreements.

    Very interesting. Frankly that sounds entirely like the Variable Length Bound system based on changes of situation.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19297
    Just Jack
    Participant

    “Frankly that sounds entirely like the Variable Length Bound system based on changes of situation.”
    I’d agree with that.  Conceptually, you’re looking for those decision points/changes of situation.

    However, my (limited) understanding of the VLB was that the rules were otherwise ‘conventional,’ whereas the decision points in the narrative game still have no real rules, they are simply times in the game where players introduce a new piece to the narrative.

    So, the decision point in the VLB meant the free-roaming phase ends (for the whole table, or just that unit, depending on how you’re playing) and now you’re back to the ‘conventional’ rules, whereas the narrative is simply a new course of action being introduced, countered, debated, then reconciled, before moving to the next situation, where you go through the process again.

    V/R,
    Jack

    #19300
    kyoteblue
    Participant

    That is my understanding as well.

    #19304
    Paint it Pink
    Participant

    Personally, I use narrative game in a much looser sense than is being described here, because most games can be played in a narrative style.  SO for me narrative means playing with the intent to create a story, which of course can be an AAR for example and where the consequences of one battle (game) lead into the next game.  Therefore games that are played purely for winning and points, while they can be narrative, are IMNSHO not focusing on the story.

    One is good, more is better
    http://panther6actual.blogspot.co.uk/
    http://ashleyrpollard.blogspot.co.uk/

    #19305
    Shandy
    Participant

    Same with me – I’d put narrative games in contrast with ‘gamey’ games. Not only games that are played purely for winning, but also rules that have mechanisms like the SAGA battle boards were knowing the rules and its logics is more important than making decisions that result from the story being played out. Narrative gameplay is when I make a decision that may not be the best tactical one but that makes complete sense for Sir Winkworth, as he is a very aggressive knight etc…. but maybe that is only an excuse as my decisions are seldom tactically sound 🙂

    #19306
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I don’t recall hearing the term “narrative wargame” before, but to me it suggests the sort of game John Bassett has put on many times, at COW and elsewhere, with spectacular success. One might categorsie these as “committee games”, except that the players each reresent a specific person with their own personal objectives (usually listed on a one-page briefing, and with John often in a classical setting — I very much enjoyed playing Socrates in one of his games, typeast, I suspect, because of my fondness for asking annoying questions). These are not quite “free kriegspiels”, in that there are some fairly minimal rules, but the point John makes is that the rules are only there to help move the narrative on. As you might expect, there was some correspondence on this topic in The Nugget some years ago. Obviously, a lot of the success of this sort of thing depends on the skill of the gamesmaster, but a good one, like John, can run a game that gives a maximum of incident and plot development with a minimum of mechanism.

    “Matrix games” I think of as having more formal requirements for players to argue for (or against) a position, and the classical version is the “three-argument” matrix game. The phrase “matrix game” seems more recently to have been applied to much less formalised games — ad what the “matrix” ever was, everybody seems to have forgotten long ago. I have alsways disliked three-argument matrix games, first, because they assume a plasticity to reality that does not exist (argue all you like, throw the best dice in the world, gravity is not going away) and because the basic principles of logic, if not rhetoric, say that one sound argument always beats three dodgy ones — as I put it, Hiroshima is flattened because the A-bomb detonates, you don’t need two other reasons.

    All the best,

    John.

    #19314
    McLaddie
    Participant

    The dictionary definition of ‘Narrative’ is  a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.   In that sense ALL games are a series of connected events created by player decisions–they create the story.

    Calling a game system ‘narrative’ is new to me too.  All the different examples above, Matrix, VLB, dialog without rules, etc.  are all processes for telling the game story, building a narrative through game play.  Yet a simple board game like Axis & Allies or abstract rules like DBA still tell a story of ‘what happened’ through a series of events called turns, combat, movement, victory conditions etc.  Gamers often ‘recount’ the story to each other after the game is over. The designer sets up the structure of the story and the players make decisions within that environment.   Those ‘Decision’ books written for kids many years ago are a very simple example of the game dynamic in story-telling.

    So asking ‘what is a narrative game?’ is like asking ‘what is a narrative story’? as if there are wargames and stories that aren’t inherently ‘narrative’ in their structure and processes.

    That’s my take on it.

    Bill

    #19339
    repiqueone
    Participant

    Since I believe I started this discussion by the use of the term “Narrative” Let me state what I mean by the term.

    I see two different threads of rule development over the years. One is the process directed design family, and the other is the narrative design family.   They roughly correspond to two terms from wargaming history, Rigid Kriegspiel and Free Kriegspiel.

    One, rigid kriegspiel, emphasizes fixed turns, fixed movement, voluminous tables, algorithms that are known and only the inputs vary, many legalistic pages of rules and highly constrained results-often attritional. It is very procedural and “rigid” in its construct.

    The other emphasizes open ended, with varying turns, variable movement, general mechanisms that avoid or minimize tables, fewer algorithms, a higher degree of surprise and unpredictability, and a far greater emphasis on the story of a battle as it unfolds-especially its human rather than mathematical factors.

    Wargaming, other than the very earliest example of Chess, really came into its own in the 19th century.   Most people credit Von Reisswitz with the invention of the true wargame, “Kriegspiel”, with the initial first steps. This was intended as a tool for professional officers in the art of tactical command.   It was, in every way, the progenitor of the “traditional” boardgame design and was predominate in the 19th century. It was a rigid kriegspiel.

    In the late 19th century and earl 20th century it was challenged by a new form of wargame design called Free Kriegspiel, by such people as Verdy du Vernois. This design concept was that rigid kriegspiel was not an accurate portrayal of the way battle occurred, and a new approach was needed. Free Kriegspiel used a knowledgeable officer to guide younger officers through a tactical problem. Turns were open ended and often of varying length, rather than algorithms the outcome of tactical decisions were simply stated by the game master/officer in charge based on his experience. Surprise and unpredictability were emphasized with problem solving being emphasized. Thinking on your feet, quick wits, and dealing with the inherent irrationality of many events in war were the goals. It was more like playing Poker than Chess. These games were used by professionals and were not recreational.

    At about this same time, several well known literary people, most prominently Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells, created plainly recreational wargames for their amusement. These games were much closer to Free than Rigid Kriegspiel. They created a complete narrative around each unit and each officer in the two opposing forces, adjudication of combat was by the means of a thrown cuff link, or a wooden dowel fired from a spring-loaded cannon-no tables or algorithms were used. The rules were very loose, always open to amendment, and the idea was to create a narrative that was fun to experience and exciting to read.

    What they shared was an emphasis on the human aspects, the need for surprise and unpredictability, and that the game had to tell a self-generating story.

    Free Kriegspiel dominated until the WWII era, when computers in their early analog forms , and, later, digital, allowed great amounts of data to be processed in short amounts of time. The military is always interested in the quantifiable “hard” data, and firm conclusions, as well as portraying war as a scientific endeavor, and rigid kriegspiel returned with the “rules” and algorithms being digested by computers and results being crisply delivered.

    This was reflected in recreational wargames as they moved into the 80s and 90 s with a whole slew of rigid kriegspiel miniature games such as Tractics, Empire, Legacy of Glory, and any number of geometrically inspired ancient games. Tables, charts, fixed turns, volumes of rules and a whole roomful of new pedants, rules lawyers, and quasi-historians worrying each quote to death from some scholarly work about how many voltigeurs could balance on the point of a bayonet.

    Board wargames became very challenged by computer based rigid wargames that sucked up many of their customers.

    The narrative, free kriegspiel, game was almost forgotten in this period until new concepts appeared from several quarters. This was a reaction to the rigid, process oriented, dictionary sized rules, and glacial play of many games of the 80s.

    First Fantasy gamers began doing RPGs, which are a direct decendant of Free Kriegspiel-gamemaster and all! Fantasy miniature gamers also began using a lot of new mechanisms in their games. These mechanisms, because fantasy almost always has some novel or story at its base, were often very much directed at the narrative game style. Because it was fantasy, the new mechanisms were often more quickly accepted than historical miniature wargamers were to change from the rigid, process oriented, model.

    Boardgames introduced a number of new design concepts. Most important among them were the Columbia Block Games with their point to point movement, hidden values, and elimination of tables and complexity. Brilliant games. The card driven game also first appeared about that time (1994) with We the People by Mark Herman.

    Miniature games had their first example of a CDG with Piquet in 1995, and several games after that date adopted this design concept, most famously Richard Borg’s Command and Colors in all its manifestations.

    What all these concepts did in varying degrees was give a rebirth to the core characteristics of the narrative wargame- variable turns, variable sequence, surprise and increased unpredictability. It opened up a whole slew of design possibilities that had been dormant for many, many years.

    Cards are an excellent way to portray a narrative. Each card is a part of the story and the story builds as they fall. Turn sequencing becomes variable and eliminates many core inconsistencies of the fixed sequence design.

    Though other games had long used an “events” deck, and Larry Brom had set up individual unit activation with The Sword and the Flame design, these new applications of cards as found in Piquet, Command and Colors, Field of Battle, and more recently, Maurice and Longstreet , and Die Fighting II ,are quite different and really are allowing for rules that are simpler, faster moving, more representative of the human factors, more implicit in their challenges than explicit.

    There is nothing “wrong” with rigid process oriented designs. I prefer narrative “free” designs, but it is just that, a preference. I believe that free designs offer more fun and some very easy ways to simplify rules and minimize tables ( they can carry the information required right on the card!).

     

     

     

     

    For More See:  http://www.repiquerules.com/page2/files/cc0f7389ea006ed3f78d572c92df158e-110.html

    As for McLaddie’s rather selective reading of my original article, I encourage anyone so interested to also read my previously posted article. Link provided below.

    http://www.repiquerules.com/page2/files/576bf9cd544c4f981004ff12270fe6bb-102.html

     

     

     

     

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by repiqueone.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by repiqueone.
    #19342
    Bandit
    Participant

    Bob,

    Thanks for joining into the thread. Your use of the term did lead to me starting this thread.

    One, rigid kriegspiel, emphasizes fixed turns, fixed movement, voluminous tables, algorithms that are known and only the inputs vary, many legalistic pages of rules and highly constrained results-often attritional. It is very procedural and “rigid” in its construct.

    The other emphasizes open ended, with varying turns, variable movement, general mechanisms that avoid or minimize tables, fewer algorithms, a higher degree of surprise and unpredictability, and a far greater emphasis on the story of a battle as it unfolds-especially its human rather than mathematical factors.

    These characteristics are pretty general, most games contain large chucks of both lists if not all of both lists except for perhaps the subjective characterizations. People will have varying opinions of what constitutes “few enough charts” or “lots of charts”. Some will feel a game’s rules are too “legalistic” while others will say those rules are just well outlined. I would posit that: All games have a procedure. I presume this overlap is natural and not in conflict with what you are attempting to describe but it also keeps me from knowing just what you mean and being able to clearly discern between the two types. Maybe we could try working through an example?

    You describe cards as excellent for this purpose of narrative gaming but the characteristics of cards you mention can also be replicated with a list and dice. Two very clear examples I think are:

    1) In college a popular drinking game is to write a bunch of different actions down on a list and label them Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10-2. Someone draws a card, the event that follows is whatever corresponds on the list. That could be made slightly simpler by distributing the list among the cards with a marker.

    2) Many people are aware of “romance dice” where a pair of D6s have their numbers replaced with actions and body parts. Roll the two dice and do what they say.

    I picked these two examples because they are exceptionally simplistic and straight forward. Also because you can easily swap the use of cards and dice between them without changing anything about the game play or outcome so it “neutralizes” the question of if cards or dice really play any roll in the question of “process vs narrative”.

    Would you consider either of these to be process or narrative based games?

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19353
    repiqueone
    Participant

    First of all, we are discussing specifically wargames, not games in general. We are discussing narrative vs. rigid rules, and free vs. rigid aspects in war-games.

    I believe you are  ignoring the differences between the two tools even in simple games as you describe above.

    Every roll of a pair of dice, regardless of what’s engraved upon them, or how many facets they have is a “New” roll with the odds of any singular occurance being the same as the preceding roll. In short, there is no relationship, and the odds are the same each time you roll.  Each roll is “independent” of the preceding roll (Though it’s hard to convince some people that after rolling three 1s in arow you aren’t due for a 6!)

    Cards, once used from a deck change the odds for the remainder of the deck and it continues to change until either the deck is reshuffled, or you reach the end of the deck.

    Dice contain only the singular event on the facet, usually a number , or one of X events.  Cards may contain a good amount of narrative as any persual of a Piquet, FOB, Maurice, Longstreet, or DF card deck will demonstrate.

    The sequential fall of cards and the relationship between them is much higher in information potential than even 20 sided dice. One of the reasons fortune tellers moved from runes, bones, and broken shards, to tarot cards is the added power of narrative in cards.  They use the cards to weave a story because cards are good at that.

    Lists with a die roll key are OK in a design, but they, too, suffer from a lack of narrative connection that cards so easily provide.

    Even standard cards contain an immense amount of information that may be used in a design.  Think about it!  Two color sets, 4 suits, 13 different cards in each suit.  This doesn’t even consider the use of jokers-again, usually of two colors!  Jacks, Kings and Queens are not all identical-some are profile (one-eyed) some carry a weapon, etc.  This doesn’t also consider foreign decks such as Scopa decks with regional differences, or the 78 card Tarot Deck!

    To illustrate the odds range- a poker Royal Flush?  A pair?

    But they are simply tools.  Dominos also offer opportunities that parallel dice ( double 6s are essentially flat dice) but interesting pairing on each domino, and they operate much like a card deck in diminishing choice as the set is used in play.

    The advantage of dice is speed and portability.  That is useful for game resolution of combat.

    Cards strength is narrative flow, added information, and the complex interactions of choice and use, and changing probability.

    Dice deliver resolution, or an immediate trigger of a listed event.  Cards can be used to cleverly add a causality and effect as they relate to each other (watch any poker game) and they may very naturally provide a narrative from card to card.

    Both should be used for the things they are best at providing. They are not the same.  Not at all.

     

     

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by repiqueone.
    #19357
    Bandit
    Participant

    Bob,

    Thanks for the reply.

    First of all, we are discussing specifically wargames, not games in general. We are discussing narrative vs. rigid rules, and free vs. rigid aspects in war-games.

    I agree that we are discussing specifically wargames but I wanted a very straight forward example for us to work with. Instead of the items on the list for Game #1 being results related to drinking they could be just as easily be outcomes related to wargaming events during a scenario.

    Cards, once used from a deck change the odds for the remainder of the deck and it continues to change until either the deck is reshuffled, or you reach the end of the deck.

    True, diminishing returns if you use them that way. This is an implementation question though as you can actually use dice that way, once a result occurs, if that result is rolled again it is rerolled. Cards can be used in other ways where diminishing returns isn’t the case, as you say, after every card is drawn, the card goes back in and the deck is reshuffled. But sure, I follow that diminishing returns is a typical and valid card implementation and is lighter than the corresponding dice method. I don’t follow how diminishing returns is necessarily better or worse than independent likelihood.

    Dice contain only the singular event on the facet, usually a number , or one of X events.  Cards may contain a good amount of narrative as any persual of a Piquet, FOB, Maurice, Longstreet, or DF card deck will demonstrate.

    Can you clarify what you mean by “a good amount of narrative”? Is it simply that there is a lot of information commonly provided on the card? That would be analogous to having the list item corresponding to a die roll simply being longer and more detailed.

    Even standard cards contain an immense amount of information that may be used in a design.  Think about it!  Two color sets, 4 suits, 13 different cards in each suit.  This doesn’t even consider the use of jokers-again, usually of two colors!  Jacks, Kings and Queens are not all identical-some are profile (one-eyed) some carry a weapon, etc.  This doesn’t also consider foreign decks such as Scopa decks with regional differences, or the 78 card Tarot Deck!

    Sure, but I think where I might be failing to see the difference is that what you say is true if I picked up a pair of average dice or a deck of average playing cards, it doesn’t have to be true. Dice could provide a lot more information, just as much as cards do. A playing card can offer so much information because of the size of its surface. While impractical, one could make a huge D6 which also had a lot of information on each facing. As you point out, a deck of cards includes a lot of variation between suits and numbers, etc… but this too can be replicated with dice can’t it? More dice with different information on each facing or different sizes of dice combined? It may be less practical than cards but it is not unavailable.

    I can completely agree if the point is that you find cards more convenient and therefore more practical.

    What I am not yet getting is what you mean when you say:

    the added power of narrative in cards.

    Cards strength is narrative flow

    they may very naturally provide a narrative from card to card.

    what that means?

    Is it as simple as:

    1st card says ABC happens
    2nd card says DEF happens
    3rd card says GHI happens

    allowing that at the end of the game one can look through the cards, read them back in order and have a narrative of the game?

    Because I really am trying to understand what constitutes a narrative game and how I could discern it from a process game, is it possible for you to tell me if Game #1 or Game #2 is either type in your mind? They are so simplistic that I’m hoping we could nail down the core facets without much distraction.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by Bandit. Reason: added "thanks for the reply"
    #19359
    McLaddie
    Participant

    I think cards are great and they can provide a lot of information/narrative.  I enjoy card-driven games.   But cards, in-and-of-themselves, are no more narrative than a die roll and a table.  Fire & Fury has a Maneuver Table providing the same or a better narrative than say Piquet with a ‘Move’ or ‘Dress’ card.  And while the odds do change as the cards are taken from a deck, the odds become more predictable the more cards are drawn. Counting cards works pretty well with poker.  Certainly different than rolling a twenty-sided die or different kinds of dice, but more narrative?  It all depends on the game design, the cards in the game just as it does with the dice and the tables.

    So Narrative games are the ones that use cards?

    And we are speaking about game design in general–specifically your generalizations of ALL wargames into two categories, process and narrative-oriented games.   Your ‘history’ of wargaming is a little wonky and not particularly illuminating regarding ‘process vs narrative games.  For instance, Kingmaker had a card driven system more than a decade before Mark Herman’s board game, and On to Richmond and TSTF both used cards way back in the early 1980s.  Tom and Grant Dalgliesh got the idea for using blocks in hidden movement from another game, Stratego and articles from the Armchair General.

    You write:

    “I see two different threads of rule development over the years. One is the process directed design family, and the other is the narrative design family.   They roughly correspond to two terms from wargaming history, Rigid Kriegspiel and Free Kriegspiel.

    I think this bipolar view of all wargame design misses a great deal.  How the two correspond to ‘Rigid Kriegspiel’ and ‘Free Kriegspiel’ is beyond me.  You have not mentioned umpires being the central mechanism in your descriptions of ‘narrative games.’  ‘Free’ Kriegspiel used the same rules and ‘algorithms’ as ‘Rigid Kriegspiel’, only the umpires got to administer the game and not the players, and of course the umpires got to change the rules when they felt like it instead of the players.

    I don’t see a wargame as less procedural because it has fewer tables with  more cards and variable turns.  I don’t see a game with more chance and unpredictable outcomes as ‘freer’ than any other game.  They simply have more chance and unpredictability…  I certainly don’t see any of those mechanics being more ‘narrative’, more human oriented.  Different stories emphasizing different aspects of the human experience of battle perhaps, but more or better?  One game might do it better than another, but as types of games, the differences you identify appear to gray out and disappear when applied to wargames.

    For instance, how are the Command Rondel Rules for Zouave II  more human, more narrative, less procedural, less rigid than your process-oriented games?

    • Command Marker may be initially placed anywhere on the Rondel.
    • On the first turn only, the players may act on the segment they are on.
    • Subsequently, a player must move one segment forward before any action is taken.
    • Movement is always clockwise around the Rondel.
    • It costs one pip to move the first segment, all following cost two pips.
    • All actions cost one pip, except divisional orders, which cost 2 pips per foot separating the divisional HQ from the CIC, and revised orders which cost 1 pip per  foot      separating both the old and new command HQs from the CIC.
    • Pips expended may be noted by moving a marker on the track below.

    This isn’t about whether Zouave II is a great game or not, it is about what your two types of game design tell us about wargames when those templates are laid over them.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    #19362
    Bandit
    Participant

    I can completely see calling umpire or game master led games, ala D&D, “narrative games”. Essentially there is a guy (or gal) telling a story while the players add in bits of contribution and chance events add in an unpredictable element. Similar to how Bob described “Free Kriegspiel”. That seems like a straight forward and easy to identify characteristic with which to discern “narrative games”.

    Then we’ve got the non-umpire based models where players are hacking over the events with or without event mechanics. Could include VLB based games along with committee games. One or the other of these jives with what Mike, kyoteblue, and Jack talked about.

    What is throwing me though is that the other examples that Bob gave: Longstreet, Maurice, and Die Fighting don’t seem to correlate with either of these. While those include cards and Bob’s descriptions speak heavily of cards, they do not include either umpires or the use of some player vs player debate system akin to “adversarial umpiring”.

    So if some form of an umpire (single unbiased individual or competing biased individuals) playing a game by telling sequential parts of a story defines narrative games then sure, clear enough, not an exclusive trait to these types of games but they focus on it enough that the category title makes sense.

    But if narrative games also include any games where the events tell a story, then I’m missing how that can’t be correctly applied to all games from Napoleon’s Battles to party games to soccer matches.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19443
    McLaddie
    Participant

    All games are narrative.

    The differences are in the “Who, What, When, Where” and especially the “How and Why” of the story they tell.  Some game narratives are related through a game master or umpire, some through dialog, others through the procedures.  The story is told in the art and side-bars in the rule book, in the words used to evoke the narrative in different game mechanics. “Saber and Bayonet” table may be more evocative than “close combat”.  The quality of the story is in how all those things are used together to portray the story.  In that, cards and unpredictability are simply tools in telling some aspects of the story, not intrinsically better tools than a die–any more than a screw driver is a better tool than a hammer.

    ALL gamers want the story, the drama, they just might not want Bob’s story.

    Irregardless of Bob’s inhuman, mathematically-locked, process-oriented trolls he feels wargaming must be saved from, all gamers play for the story of events and the drama of battle.  There are lots of ways games can tell stories just as there are lots of different books telling different stories.  Many designers have been pretty poor at telling the story, leaving a void that the gamers are expected to fill with their imaginations… it is their game after all, right?  Gamers have gotten pretty good at that–lots of training.

    I think that is a major reason many gamers want involved game procedures–more information, more of the five “W”s and How things happen.   Rolling to see if the unit charges, if the fire stops the brigade, if the brigade goes in, if the officer leading the charge is killed, if stone wall makes a difference, if the defending unit stays and fights or runs away, etc. etc.  gives the players the information, the Story.  Often ‘abstract’  rules where a roll of one die or flip of a card and the unit is taken off the table doesn’t give the player anything in the way of ‘What Happened.’  I gave an example of that dynamic with Sam Mustafa’s air combat play-tests.

    Cards can be used well or poorly in telling the story.  For instance, Longstreet has a card labeled “Obsolete Rifles” which an opponent can play against an enemy unit’s fire, reducing its effectiveness.  Now, beyond the surprise, what’s the story, the narrative?  The enemy player didn’t know that one of his regiments in the brigade had obsolete weapons?  That the poor rifles will only be poor for one turn and then revert back to being up-to-date?   Is that a better story than simply having the unit designated as having poor weapons at the start of the scenario where the player has to deal with that condition throughout the game?   Which is better story-telling, a more coherent narrative? Which makes more historical sense?  [We are telling a historical story, right?] In the Longstreet deck, some cards tell a far more coherent tale than others.  The “Local Assistance” and “Old Rivals” cards make far more sense, tell a better story, both in surprise and narrative… a far more evocative narrative than the “Pinkerton” or “Swamp” cards.

    Cards, dice, dialog, umpires, game procedures, the words used to describe game mechanics as well as many other things can be used effectively in telling a great story–or not.  All have their strengths and weaknesses in getting the story across, but it still comes down to the quality of the information/detail they provide the game experience, the playing out of the story.  In that, Bob’s process-oriented games can tell as good a story as any ‘narrative’ game he wants to pick… or they can both fail if done poorly.

    To ignore the story-telling properties of the game processes simply because they don’t use cards or meet some notion of ‘freer’ simply doesn’t add to our understanding of game design or how games tell stories.  The process-oriented vs narrative dichotomy misses the story-telling components in all game processes and the necessarily rigid mechanics and the mathematical necessities inherent in any game that might be labeled a ‘narrative’ game.  To suggest that Empire or Fire & Fury are less focused on telling a story or less ‘humane’ than Longstreet or Die Fighting simply misses the boat.  That does a disservice to all the games and ignores so much they have in common in the way of design issues–and solutions.

    It is like insisting that Rory Muir’s Salamanca is less focused on telling a story than  McDonald’s Flashman at the Charge  or that the former is so much more rigidly a slave to history than the more ‘human’ Flashman.  I read both for the story… I don’t expect the same kind of story.

    Getting down to the five ‘W’s and particularly the “how?” of game design and story-telling is far, far more productive than dividing up the wargame community into us and them.  You want more surprises and unpredictability in your games? You want more story information in your games?  Fine, let’s talk about all the many ways that can be done.  Maybe even describe the kind of stories that can be told.  But please, please don’t layer on a load of crap about how some arbitrary game ‘type’ is inherently more ‘human’, ‘more narrative’, more dramatic than another.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    #19506
    Patrice
    Participant

    I’ve seen this “narrative” word often used recently, but I had the impression it was not about wargame rules in themselves, but about what the players want to do with their game. Some players like to build a narrative around what’s happening on the table, others don’t.

    You can probably build a narrative with any ruleset, but obviously some rules, and some universes, encourage it more than others.

    “My 2nd Battallion attacked the hill, but received heavy artillery fire from the 721st Artillery Battery, and was charged on its left side by the 2503rd Cavalry Rgt” / “I attacked the village with my little troop of pirates, there I found the daughter of the Governor hiding in a house, I brought her back to the beach but some guards were after me and I got a bullet in my head when trying to reach my ship” …are both narrative, but one of these stories sounds more narrative – or more role-playish?  than the other.

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #19507
    Bandit
    Participant

    I’ve seen this “narrative” word often used recently, but I had the impression it was not about wargame rules in themselves, but about what the players want to do with their game. Some players like to build a narrative around what’s happening on the table, others don’t.

    That makes sense to me but that seems a lot different than what Bob (repiqueone) is describing. *I think* he is saying that “narrative” is some innate property of a given rule set. Specifically I think that because of the line he draws between “process” games and “narrative” games. Maybe I am misunderstanding, I still don’t understand the differences between those categories so I might be missing the boat completely on what he’s trying to express.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19526
    McLaddie
    Participant

    I’ve seen this “narrative” word often used recently, but I had the impression it was not about wargame rules in themselves, but about what the players want to do with their game. Some players like to build a narrative around what’s happening on the table, others don’t.

    Patrice:

    That is certainly the view taken by a number of people.  I know I like to have the backstory to a game, from characters to campaigns, the ‘context’ which is part of that narrative.  Others like the story-telling venue of a game master and role-playing.  The stories, both in content and delivery can come in all sorts of ways with wargames.  I can’t say I dislike any of them. There are gamers who hoop and howler throughout the game and others who are far more demure. They can still like the same types of games.

    I read different genre’s of fiction, and within that genre, whether historical or Sci-Fi, I enjoy the serious books and the comedy, the dramatic melee and hyper-detailed world building too.  What I would object to is when my reading preferences lead someone to describe my ‘personality’ by what I read, labeling me as this or that ‘kind’ of reader.  It doesn’t help with either understanding why I read, what I read and especially how to write books.  I object to it just as much for the same reasons when the same divisive stereotypes are laid on wargamers.

    I just had a gaming friend say this just today, which I thought was well put:

    It’s not about detail, ground scale, frontages, drill books, its about saying “Screw it! I’m committing the Guard!” Its about soul, guys!  
    Yes,  history underpins all of it but there has to be passion too, the grand sweep of history, as well as the pace rate used in 1808! 
     All the details are needed to make the story work, but it is still about the story, the passion, fun and soul of the game. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with that premise unless you are a person who insists that the game room is to be divided by the mathematical, passionless detail-counters on one side labeled ‘process-oriented’ and all the passionate, drama-loving gamers with soul on the other, called ‘narrative’ gamers.
    Best,
    McLaddie
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    #19582
    repiqueone
    Participant

    Well, McLaddie, I thought long and hard about my reply, as any reply to you always generates twice as many  postings, each twice as long, and each twice as prolix.  In fact, I find the sheer volume of your postings extraordinary.  At the present time, between you and Bandit, over half of the terminal postings on this game design forum, and well over 70% of the total number of postings ,have been done by one poster that is about to release his first wargame design, and another that has yet to show his “Completed work” on even one set.

    Now, I can understand how a person with money in the game, such as Bandit, would want to offer up postings that plug his ideas and concepts for his soon to be published game.  He lacks subtlety, but his earnestness is fueled by concern about the success of his rules.  That’s simply the angst of the first time publisher.  You, however, seem to have an inordinate need to comment on others ideas and works, for no other reason than personal vanity.  You post in volumes, often even replying to your own reply!  You are like the eunuch advising the prince on the ways of love, or the guy at the cocktail party that just won’t shut up and follows you everywhere.  You seemingly have no sense of self-awareness.

    One might wonder why so few (hardly any) of the established designers and people that have contributed much over the years to this hobby post much on this game design forum. They are here on TWW, many even advertise, but most have given up any idea of posting on the Game design forum, largely because of you.  You may have seen this same pattern on several other forums where you follow the same behavior. (You must be retired, or have the least demanding lifestyle imaginable to have the time for your constant stream of verbiage.) Is that your goal? To be the guy that people cross the street to avoid??

    For the record,  I do not think the hobby is two camps with a wall between them.  I do believe that there are characteristics of game design across a continuum from complex to simple,  legalistic, and rigid processes to more open and variable in processes, and a range from heavily focused on “hard” data to more accent on human foibles and irrationality.   All creative works generally exist in a range of stylistic difference, and most also start from different premises-surely the late 19th century Acadamie Francaise and the Impressionists both believed they were creating art, but the premises, and, more importantly, the results were very different.

    I think one can see in current game design design styles that appeal to process oriented people, and those that are far more interested in creating an impression of the narratives found in any history of battles.   It is not a question of either-or, but one of degree.  All designs are a mix of these factors. Some games like Empire are on one end of the arc, and others such as Featherstone, on the other.  Gamers tend to gravitate to styles that they like, and wargame groups tend to share the same opinion on what is “Good” or “Bad”-the groups are highly self-selective.  My very obvious point ,which you so determinedly missed, was that rules are often accepted and rejected within groups for very subjective reasons of preference and taste that has no direct link to the quality of the game or its success in creating an enjoyable experience.

    I made no judgement as to which qualities are better or “true” in an intrinsic sense, but stated my preference in design as being for more variability, lower levels of process, and an accent on narrative rather than data.  Others may differ, but to argue that there are not discernible differences in style, preferences, and approach, and that gamers do not gravitate to one or the other in a variety of areas is absurd.  To ascribe anything I’ve written as “dividing” gamers, as opposed to just observing the obvious as to gamers’ preferences being different and often fall into discernible groupings, is a substantial misreading.

    Bandit, I have coined the term Narrative for a certain style and type of design that accents results, a narrative flow, and contains wider ranges of variability, which must be managed, as opposed to fixed turn sequences, CRTs, and legalistic, voluminous, rules.   It need not contain a GM ala Von Vernois, or cards, or any other mechanic or tool.  It may use any or all of them, as any design might. I do think cards offer a greater capacity for a consistent narrative, and in a simpler form, than many other tools.  The appearance and frequency of their use in modern designs is a testament to that fact.

    I am NOT talking about cards as used as “Event” cards that appear within play when triggered, nor am I speaking of their use as activators as in Sword and the Flame.  Both of those uses go back many years and are not particularly unusual in games even dating back decades ago.

    I am talking about their use as pioneered initially in Herman’s boardgames, where the card has multiple narartive information on its face and may effect all aspects of gameplay.  Through the use of text, symbols, color, and numbers the cards convey a stream of information that directly effects, and is integrated into, game play.  In many cases, the combining of cards by symbol, text or color can provide other effects on play that are unpredictable and add drama.  Cards may be “one-off” effects that are placed or removed from the deck to provide “Special Effects.”  The initial deck may vary in size, or a smaller number can be drawn from a larger pool to provide even greater ranges of effect.  Look at the card decks for Longstreet, Maurice, FOB, or DFII, they offer a potential for game flow that is full of surprise, never totally predictable, but still controlled and modeled to history.  Martin Wallace’s work in ‘A Few Acres of Snow”, or Ian Brody’s terrifically fun, “Quartermaster General” are boardgame examples of very original work.

    Now there are gamers that hate CDG games!  They do not like the variability and different style of play they invoke.   These gamers may like complex rules or simple games, but they want a more rigid structure, higher degrees of predictability, they prefer to manage “givens” to managing variables.  Great!  Each gamer should have a preference.  He need not explain it.  That does not make all the other games “bad”!

    In any case, no design comes in one “pure” form or the other, but games do differentiate themselves by broad styles and groupings-there is no one true way, and gamers differentiate themselves as well, and may well like a wide range of varying designs.    There’s a design for every gamers, and gamers for most every design.  There are avid supporters of certain designs, and harsh critics, it’s the nature of any marketplace of art, ideas, or Apple watches.

    I say again, Bandit, my use of the term “Narrative Games,” to denote a certain subset of design that share some broad simularities, is an arbitrary selection of a term by me. I did not use the term “CDG” as that would seem to indicate that cards are central to the design premises, which is not true.  What is true, is that cards do lend themselves to certain design premises well.  It’s like using the right tool-be it a saw, brush, or level.  There are certainly other tools that may be used, but perhaps not as well suited.

     

     

     

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by repiqueone.
    #19584
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    ^^^Nailed it. Sort of.

     

    Personally I couldn’t give a flying fu…rry thing if a game is ‘narrative’ or not (WTF ‘narrative’ means) as long as it gives me a few hours of fun with a bunch of people I like gaming with. I suspect that many other gamers feel the same.

    Christ, some people really need to stop over-thinking a rather trivial hobby. We are not going to achieve ‘simulation’ Nirvana with a 25 quid set of rules and a few hundred pounds worth of figures on a table that might vaguely resemble real geography.

     

    It’s a shame that Sam Mustafa seems to have given up on TWW, or at least this board. I’d be interested to read his PoV. God knows, we’ve seen more than enough of other’s. Or not in my case, the ignore function is a boon

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #19596
    Bandit
    Participant

    I’ve never found discouraging people from posting to be a good way to encourage participation on a forum.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19602
    McLaddie
    Participant

     

    Well Bob, I appreciate the thought you gave to your reply.

     In fact, I find the sheer volume of your postings extraordinary.

    Actually, if you delete all the quotes I include from other posters, my volume is pretty close to yours.  And as I said, I type fast.  However,  pithy I can do.

     One might wonder why so few (hardly any) of the established designers and people that have contributed much over the years to this hobby post much on this game design forum. They are here on TWW, many even advertise, but most have given up any idea of posting on the Game design forum, largely because of you. 

    You know Bob, I have heard the very same thing about you from more than one quarter over many years.  I’m sorry, but I cannot believe that I have ever had that much sway with game designers…except one.  As Not Connard observes, the ignore function is a boon.

     For the record,  I do not think the hobby is two camps with a wall between them…. I made no judgement as to which qualities are better or “true” in an intrinsic sense, but stated my preference in design as being for more variability, lower levels of process, and an accent on narrative rather than data.

    Really? No judgement?  Ho-boy. Some of that self-awareness you suggest for me could be used by you in re-reading those two articles you recommended along with all your many comments here so far, pithy and otherwise. The words you use to describe the process-oriented versus narrative games—and gamers are very much in the bad-good categories.  I certainly hated being called a process-oriented gamer.

     I am NOT talking about cards as used as “Event” cards that appear within play when triggered, nor am I speaking of their use as activators as in Sword and the Flame.  Both of those uses go back many years and are not particularly unusual in games even dating back decades ago.

    I am talking about their use as pioneered initially in Herman’s boardgames, where the card has multiple narartive information on its face and may effect all aspects of gameplay.  Through the use of text, symbols, color, and numbers the cards convey a stream of information that directly effects, and is integrated into, game play. 

    I love Herman’s CDG games, particularly For The People. I’ve played it constantly since it was first published. It is a brilliant use of cards– emphasis on how he uses them, not simply because of the cards themselves. Be glad to talk about how those work and why.  However, Herman didn’t pioneer their use combining event and movement information in board games. That combination had been around for awhile, particularly in Sci-Fi board and card games. It was more of an evolution.  It is how he used what was already ‘pioneered’ that was so effective. And you were talking about the use of events cards, because Mark Herman and all CDGs use them as event cards.  Using cards as activators in TSTF or On To Richmond does not contain any more ‘narrative’ information than a chart, dice or turn phase.  You might be able to argue issues of predictability, but that isn’t inherently more informative [particularly the ‘why’ of the event], just different.

     Now there are gamers that hate CDG games!  They do not like the variability and different style of play they invoke. These gamers may like complex rules or simple games, but they want a more rigid structure, higher degrees of predictability, they prefer to manage “givens” to managing variables.  Great!  Each gamer should have a preference.  He need not explain it.  That does not make all the other games “bad”!

    Well, glad to hear they aren’t bad. So this ‘preference’ isn’t something the hobby has to be saved from as you suggest in your blog:  “What History? The Markerdom of Tin Armies.”

     It has been a great loss to the hobby and made for too many largely commercial, determinately simple minded, sterile, and ultimately boring war-games. No wonder so many young people have run off to fantasy and Sc-fi in the delusion that they are more imaginative, though, in truth, they are even more derivative and predictable.

    Good Historical war-games should always tell stories, not be some mathematical equation, and risk-free assessment based on some old Avalon-Hill CRT (3-1 or nothing!). They should entertain on the basis of events and the drama that unfolds, not some sterile all-too-certain calculation. History, at its best, is facts told as instructive stories. History, in itself, is a cracking good story! 

    I agree. I think wargames should always tell good stories too and games can be instructive.  However, can you say that without  equating bad games to process-oriented games and their proponents? If you say there is no connection, then you need to re-read what you’ve written so far in a number of lists and venues.

     In any case, no design comes in one “pure” form or the other, but games do differentiate themselves by broad styles and groupings-there is no one true way, and gamers differentiate themselves as well, and may well like a wide range of varying designs. There’s a design for every gamers, and gamers for most every design. There are avid supporters of certain designs, and harsh critics, it’s the nature of any marketplace of art, ideas, or Apple watches.

    Glad you think so. Then let those gamers differentiate themselves without judgement or stereotyping within that wide range of varying designs.  We then could  move on to discussing actual design techniques for say, telling a story with a game system which employ that wide range of varying designs.  Lots of stories and lots of ways to tell them.

    Best,

    McLaddie

     

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by McLaddie.
    #19609
    repiqueone
    Participant

    McLaddie, I’m willing to make you a deal.  Neither of us post here for the next month and allow all the other voices to have a say and lead the conversation where ever it may go.  Forums are a conversation, so let’s be gentlemen and let others speak. I’m sure the wargame design community can survive without us for a bit.  I’m out of here.  How about you? Can you do it?  See you on April 12th!

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by repiqueone.
    #19611
    Bandit
    Participant

    I don’t see people agreeing to not post as productive for a new forum.

    The Bandit

    #19613
    Just Jack
    Participant

    Gentlemen,

    I was out of town the past few days and not paying attention to the forums.  I apologize for getting in the middle of Bandit, McLaddie, and Repiqueone’s ongoing game design argument 😉

    I mistakenly thought the question was, what is a “Narrative Wargame?” not what is a “narrative wargame?” AKA “the narrative aspect of playing wargames,” to then be debated as to which type of game mechanism(s) can possibly provide/aid said narrative.  There is a “Narrative Wargame” battle report somewhere on the internet, in which three or four players are all British section leaders and they are attacking a German bunker, and the umpire conducts the game and ‘runs’ the German force.

    Bandit – I didn’t respond on the other thread, but I read your response to my question regarding your upcoming rule set.  I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and they look interesting.  Thanks again.

    V/R,
    Jack

    #19626
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Some of us would do well to read Piers Brand’s comments at Another Place. They broadly echo mine, above.

    We’re both right, of course

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #19629
    Angel Barracks
    Moderator

    From my limited time in Napoleonics I think I understand Bobs point, from my perspective as very much a novice.
    On here as on other forums, there are quite often regular voices that participate in every topic.

    When I was playing with Napoleonic models I asked a few questions on TMP and got horribly lost when someone answered and then someone said that was wrong, then someone said something else and then another said; well actually he does have a point and it became a mess and hard to follow as it degenerated into a battle of wills and so on.
    The same regular voices just kept arguing against each other with neither side wanting to back down.
    Even when neither were addressing the original question.
    In fact on TMP my only ever DAWGHOUSING was for interjecting on a Napoleonic thread and saying:

    Why don’t you two just get them out and see who’s is bigger?

    The conduct there and pattern of how conversations went soon put me off from posting at all…

    I think that is Bob’s worry here.

    Bob?

    #19635
    Nick the Lemming
    Participant

    Well, McLaddie, I thought long and hard about my reply, as any reply to you always generates twice as many postings, each twice as long, and each twice as prolix. In fact, I find the sheer volume of your postings extraordinary. At the present time, between you and Bandit, over half of the terminal postings on this game design forum, and well over 70% of the total number of postings ,have been done by one poster that is about to release his first wargame design, and another that has yet to show his “Completed work” on even one set. Now, I can understand how a person with money in the game, such as Bandit, would want to offer up postings that plug his ideas and concepts for his soon to be published game. He lacks subtlety, but his earnestness is fueled by concern about the success of his rules. That’s simply the angst of the first time publisher. You, however, seem to have an inordinate need to comment on others ideas and works, for no other reason than personal vanity. You post in volumes, often even replying to your own reply! You are like the eunuch advising the prince on the ways of love, or the guy at the cocktail party that just won’t shut up and follows you everywhere. You seemingly have no sense of self-awareness. One might wonder why so few (hardly any) of the established designers and people that have contributed much over the years to this hobby post much on this game design forum. They are here on TWW, many even advertise, but most have given up any idea of posting on the Game design forum, largely because of you. You may have seen this same pattern on several other forums where you follow the same behavior. (You must be retired, or have the least demanding lifestyle imaginable to have the time for your constant stream of verbiage.) Is that your goal? To be the guy that people cross the street to avoid??

     

    Well said. Can I suggest you do as several others of us have done and simply put him on ignore? Your posts here are informative and welcome, and I’d hate to lose your input in an (almost certainly unlikely) attempt to get him to quieten down for a month.

    #19636
    Bandit
    Participant

    I apologize for getting in the middle of Bandit, McLaddie, and Repiqueone’s ongoing game design argument

    Oh heck, such “discussions” could use more interruption by others, not less.

    Bandit – I didn’t respond on the other thread, but I read your response to my question regarding your upcoming rule set.  I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and they look interesting.  Thanks again.

    Thanks for the compliment, I hope my post was useful and not too rambling, hard for me to know myself. If you’ve got any more curiosities feel free to ping me offline if you like, always happy to correspond.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #19641
    Buck Surdu
    Participant

    I have most frequently heard the term “narrative” applied not to games but to campaigns.  While campaigns are attractive, my experience has been that few generate a number of interesting battles.  So in a narrative campaign, the GM builds the story and links one scenario to the next through a narrative.  The results on the tabletop impact the narrative, and the narrative sets up the next battle.

    For instance, my Northwest Frontier by GASLIGHT games center around an angry Pathan chieftain asserting his independence from the British.  He has enlisted the aid of the Russians as advisors and suppliers of technology.  Three scenarios ago, a punitive expedition pushed into the chieftain’s territory on a punitive expedition.  Stowing along was Wee Willie Winkie (inspired by Shirley Temple — she is represented by a 15mm highlander in my 28mm games).  In that tabletop battle, she was capture by the chieftain’s forces.  The second scenario involved an expedition sent to liberate her from the chieftain’s fortress, which was successful.  Last weekend, the third scenario in the series saw the British column heading home, only to be ambushed by the chieftain’s forces in a valley.  The British managed to hold onto Winkie, in both the play test and the convention game.  So, I am beginning to scheme about the fourth scenario.

    I have toyed for some time with building a “battle generator,” as opposed to a campaign system that would facilitate this narrative style of campaign.

    Buck Surdu

    #19645
    McLaddie
    Participant

    McLaddie, I’m willing to make you a deal.  Neither of us post here for the next month and allow all the other voices to have a say and lead the conversation where ever it may go.  Forums are a conversation, so let’s be gentlemen and let others speak. I’m sure the wargame design community can survive without us for a bit.  I’m out of here.  How about you? Can you do it?  See you on April 12th!

    Bob:

    Your idea of a conversation between gentlemen may differ from mine. It certainly has since you crashed into the ‘March Rate’ threads telling all the posters that we were wasting our time on a “fool’s errand” discussing such things, lost in the details/process-oriented thinking. I have no doubt that the wargaming community can survive without us for any length of time, and obviously, some in it very happily, but I am unclear how yours or my posts can keep others from posting–let alone ‘leading’ it.  They certainly haven’t here.

    When you come back, I’m willing to make you a deal. If you can actually stick to game design issues and in gentleman-like fashion leave off the personal attacks, wild characterizations and pithy put-downs, so will I.  How about it?  Can you do it?   See you.

     

    #19646
    McLaddie
    Participant

    I have most frequently heard the term “narrative” applied not to games but to campaigns.  While campaigns are attractive, my experience has been that few generate a number of interesting battles.  So in a narrative campaign, the GM builds the story and links one scenario to the next through a narrative.  The results on the tabletop impact the narrative, and the narrative sets up the next battle.

    Buck:

    While I haven’t heard ‘narrative’ applied to campaigns, I can see why.  Lots more story can be generated for a game than the game alone.  The Chain of Command  ‘ladder’ campaign The Sharp End is a simple, but interesting method that guarantees a series of battles.

     

    #20115
    McLaddie
    Participant

    In thinking about narrative games, about game design and where the hobby is today as well as the *discussion* on this thread,  Raph Koster, in his book A Theory of Fun for Game Design  had this to say about the culture of games and is worth quoting at length: [Page 136]

    There are other sorts of problems with games. One of them has proven fatal to many genres of games: The problem of increasing complexity. Most art forms have swung in pendulum fashion from an Apollonian to a Dionysian style—meaning, they have alternated between periods where they were reserved and formal and where they were exuberant and communicative. From Romanesque to Gothic churches, from art rock to punk, from the French Academy to Impressionism, pretty much every medium has had these swings.

    I think it is easy to see where the miniature hobby is in that pendulum swing at the moment.

    Games, however, are always formal. The historical trend in games has shown that when a new genre of game is invented, it follows a trajectory where increasing complexity is added to it, until eventually the games on the market are so complex and advanced that newcomers can’t get into them—the barrier of entry is too high.  You could call this the jargon factor because it is common to all formal systems. Priesthoods develop, terms enter common usage, and soon only the educated few can hack it.

    And here too, one can see this in our hobby, even to introducing terms that remain undefined for the masses.

    In most media, the way out of this has been the development of a new formal principle (as well as a cultural shift). Sometimes it was a development in knowledge of the form. Sometimes it was the development of a competing medium that usurped the place of the old medium, as when photography forced painters to undergo a radical reevaluation of their art form. Games, though, aren’t tending to this all that much. By and large, we have seen an inexorable march towards greater complexity. This has led to a priesthood of those who can speak the language, master the intricacies, and keep up-to-date.

    I think computer games did have that similar impact on board and miniature gaming, a competing medium.

    Every once in a while games come along that appeal to the masses, and thank goodness. Because frankly, priesthoods are a perversion of what games are all about as well. The worst possible fate for games (and by extension,  for our species) would be for games to become niche, something played by only a few elite who have the training to do so. It was bad for sports, it was bad for music, it was bad for writing, and it would be bad for games as well.

    Which means that ideas and games from outside the priesthood are the life-blood the hobby in many ways.  And who is both the designated ‘priesthood’ and the provider of the injection of life-blood?

    All of these are the case where human nature works against the success of games as a medium  and as a teaching tool.  Ironically, these all converge most sharply in the most unlikely of candidates, the person who loves games more than anyone: the game designer.

     

     

    • This reply was modified 6 years ago by McLaddie.
    • This reply was modified 6 years ago by McLaddie.
    #20123
    Bandit
    Participant

    The historical trend in games has shown that when a new genre of game is invented, it follows a trajectory where increasing complexity is added to it, until eventually the games on the market are so complex and advanced that newcomers can’t get into them—the barrier of entry is too high.

    I think it is easy to see where the miniature hobby is in that pendulum swing at the moment.

    The downfall of Empire was that love it or hate it, it indeed created “the priesthood” of those who had studied the rules intently and could play and those who couldn’t navigate the game. As the hobby reacted to that I’ve personally felt that we’ve swung too far away from the game’s connection to history. I don’t think going back to lots of charts, innumerable details, and representation of all command levels makes sense as a solution but I am also critical of designing often highly functional game mechanics that aren’t a corollary of any historical driver.

    The challenge to me is how to bring these two things together, how to unite the low-cost-of-entry that is “beer & pretzel games” with the faithful-represention-history “simulation games” aspired to, and how to do it by capitalizing on the strengths of them rather than suffering from the negatives of each.

    My attempt to bridge this gap is sort of a “design through restriction” approach, by heavily restricting the amount of detail and complexity, I feel my simulation friends will be more disappointed in ESR while the non-simulation crowd will be more open to it. The funny thing is I’m hoping to bring some of the characteristics of simulations to a broader audience in a way the broader audience likes. Which has always been a need if not desire of the simulationist.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #20206
    McLaddie
    Participant

    Whatever gamers want, I think that is only one of the topics for game design. Another is what can be done with games, even as simulation games.  It sounds like you have made the effort to do both.  And I do think Bob J. is right for some gamers. Who they are will dictate what they like regardless of what the game actually does.  For those folks, it will be wait and see.

    It’s tally-ho

    McLaddie

     

    #20347
    Ivan Sorensen
    Participant

    I remember reading about a concept a while back where the opposing players would make a small list of arguments why a particular encounter would be resolved to their advantage, the referee would then evaluate the reasonings and make a decision or a suitable random roll.

    Always wanted to try it out.

    Nordic Weasel Games
    https://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/5701/Nordic-Weasel-Games?src=browse5701

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