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  • Bandit

    You have substantially misunderstood my posts.


    However, I do take exception with McLaddie’s pronouncements over at least two decades, that wargame designers aren’t as historical as they should be, never share their historical premises, and that approcaching wargame design, in any period, is primarily ferreting out startling new discoveries in historical meaning and little noticed fact.  Rather like the search for the Holy Grail, or the Fountain of Youth, and about as real.

    I will not claim to know of all of McLaddie’s posts over 20 years and what they said so I will not speak to them.

    What you just described though, isn’t what has been represented in this thread by him or myself. You have clearly been addressing and arguing against those things, but with them not being in this thread or a part of this thread, you’re arguing against a ghost.

    As for your great portfolio of designs, Please direct me to a source.  I’m sure there must be some corner of academia that will harbor you, but I’d love to hear a title that could be read.  What was your Napoleonic Rule set btw?

    Put up, or….?

    Based on this above, I feel like I didn’t misunderstand your posts at all.


    I might reply to that with a remark that how many Napoleonic pundits have written long threads on Napoleonic theory , but have never shown us a set of rules? Guess they never got ‘a round tuit’.

    I love that. That is the refrain against anyone who questions concepts used in print, “Well let’s see what you’ve published.”

    Did you hear that much when talking to people about your past projects? Do you think Sam did? When Nappy’s Battles was being developed I wonder if it was ‘valid’ to question using the 1:60 ratio and using elements on the tabletop that weren’t battalions? Before Scott released Empire, think he had a moment where he said, “Everyone else is using a 1:33 ratio and using ‘bounce through sticks’ to range artillery fire… my ideas are probably stupid, I mean they aren’t even published yet, how could they be any good?”

    Discent is patriotic and faith requires doubt, just so that before we create new we must question the old.

    “What have you published?” is simply a way to raise one’s self up on a horse so they may show that they stand over others. Elevating their own views while reducing the value of others’ ideas.

    You keep saying in various ways that Bill [McLaddie] and I are trying to go back in time and reuse some old, outmoded mechanic, even though we haven’t even discussed implementing a mechanic. You should consider that since your mechanics are published, known, static, they too are old, and whatever comes next is what’s new. Good or bad, success of failure, new is the next thing, not the last thing.

    So quit calling something that no one has evaluated yet ‘old’. And in the days of exporting to a PDF in one click and selling on Wargamer’s Vault, don’t pretend that ‘being published’ is the end-all-be-all of a standard for validity. Someone could ‘publish’ this afternoon and its value would have nothing to do with the fact that they ‘published’ it.



    Well put.


    For Bob and I suppose Sam from past comments,
    The Academic POV is old and has been abandoned by game designers, now a “useless” and “pointless” exercise
    The Impressionist POV which is “thankfully” dominate and apparently the only practical approach to game design.
    Worse, Bandit and I are relegated to this former category without much thought or understanding.
    Patrice, does that strike you as providing for equally ‘legitimate points of view?’  Can you see why we might not feel it is a meaningful dichotomy or appreciate being labeled?

    That sums up my gripe pretty well. Whatever perspective McLaddie and I are considering is being consistently labeled as “useless” and “pointless”. I don’t think either of us have declared such of the expressed opposing view point. We’ve said we don’t understand it in some cases, we’ve said we question it a lot, we’ve said that it isn’t the methodology we prefer and are seeking alternatives – but we’re not deriding it as useless or pointless.

    Not to mention, we’re only trying to discuss a possible method, we’re not even discussing a specific implementation because way before the discussion got to specifics it was written off based on objections to past implementations that in most cases don’t even clearly relate to what we’re suggesting…


    You hit the nail on the head!  It is, in effect, the Academy vs. the impressionists.  Perfect!  One captures the precise line and one the light!  Exactement.

    Here’s where I disagree though, I don’t think McLaddie and I are purporting to even close to capture the precise line.


    OK guys. Different points of views are legitimate.
    (Um, please don’t misunderstand me I mean no harm) Bandit you say that you are not convinced by some rules (Sam’s and other) because they do not seem logical to you (movements/time/etc);

    and when some people react to this and say that it’s not so important, you feel that:

    My contention is that while I am not convinced that many rules have any real linkage between many of their mechanics and historical events, I don’t deride them as bad games for that. In fact, some of the games I play most often – by choice, commonly host and enjoy – fall into this category. I could talk all day about the various ways that Johnny Reb 2 fails to allow even the remote possibility of events occurring as they did historically because of a plethora of choices that I presume but do not know were made for sake of playability. I don’t throw Johnny Reb away or curse John Hill, Dean West and the other guys who worked on its development, quite the opposite, I regularly host games of it at my home!

    Rather my complaint is, that I am not sure that I’ve ever gone to a thread discussing playability choices and derated it for not being historical but that others commonly do just that.

    I’m OK with Sam and repiqueone (Bob?) implementing a different method. I’ll tell you that I have a lot of admiration for the little franchise that Sam has build frankly, it is something that really stands out and speaks to skills in several areas beyond creating a game or knowing anything about history. But it seems pretty wack to me that I start pondering aloud in a message board thread as to the implications of modeling movement after historical averages and the response from the two of them is that I’m stuck in the mud of historical minutia.

    McLaddie and I are not talking about taking musket fire rates from a testing range and extrapolating them by the number of soldiers per rank and time per turn to determine a strict casualty figure. We’re saying, if it was dependable for a unit to move X distance in Y time, then it seems reasonable to explore doing that in a game. There isn’t an extrapolation in the examples we’ve given but our critics refer to extrapolation happening – I don’t get it.

    I don’t think that the topic is stupid; but the exact meaning of “simulation” can vary. You may look for exact detail, etc, for a true simulation; other people may think that they have a good simulation without detail.

    Sure. I don’t dispute this. In fact I’d emphatically argue that it is necessary to reflect focus.

    I post two pictures of wheat fields. Some people may prefer the first one (with every small detail right), others would prefer the second one (painting by Van Gogh). They are both right, because they choose what gives them a good feeling of the true thing – as wargamers may have different feelings.

    Yes, I agree with this, what I stipulate is that I don’t go and tell you that your method of painting is poor on the basis that “everyone else has moved on to better stuff”.



    Why are you polarizing our views so much. We talk about if a specific thing is fairly knowable and what it might look like in broad generalities and you polarize the conversation by saying that we are attempting to relive 1970s and 1980s wargame design.

    It is akin to me telling you that you and Sam are just making a new revision of Column, Line and Square because you’re still using dice, and dice is so a pre-modern wargaming era tool…

    On the surface what you’ve said, paraphrased as “movement rates are unpredictable” isn’t untrue. But it depends on what you’re attempting to represent. It is like saying that the lights may not come on when I hit the switch – it is completely true, they may not. It is more likely they will than they won’t but both are possible. Note: I’m not saying that flipping the light switch and moving a division 1,400 yards in 20 minutes are equally reliable, but I believe one can get a sense of the reliability of each and you seem to be saying one can’t.

    in reply to: Shooting at lines of troops that you can't see #9723

    Yes, or something like that; same conclusion as before, hey?

    Yeah basically. I obviously didn’t go back and review the thread :-p

    In any case, it does seem like it’d be a nice way to handle it, though I’d say that at range, even if “visible” I’d still be tempted to say it shouldn’t be revealed until it mattered.

    in reply to: Shooting at lines of troops that you can't see #9718

    I’ve been pondering this some more, came across a similar thing while looking at some other related artillery problems and the general notion of not knowing the impact of fire on ranged targets.

    I think that it might work quite well to place some sort of fire marker on the target, say a cotton ball or something, upon a successful artillery roll. Then under given circumstances, those markers are converted to a number of ‘hits’ against the units. It should not be a predictable conversion rate, maybe rolling 1D6 per cotton ball or something. It is very possible you shell an enemy position all damn game and the cotton balls are never converted to hits, and that wouldn’t be weird either since there were plenty of bombardments that the shooter never knew the impact of.

    The problem is I think this is a lot of tracking and impractical for most game systems. I also think defining under what circumstances the markers are converted to hits could be very problematic.

    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9698

    rob shackleton,

    That was a seemingly excellent post.


    A lot to consider.

    PS – Serarmont formed up his artillery group – whatever one would call it – well after the start of the battle as the battle started before Victor’s corps arrived which is what Serarmont was apart of. He requested permission from Napoleon & Victor to pull the guns he did but it was on his initiative based on what I’ve read, that said, his corps commander and army commander were obviously in the loop as resources were requested through them.


    My objection is not that considerations of time and distance are not factors in a good design, but that they are to be considered, in a historical wargame, especially based on events hundreds of years in the past, as a valid scientific measurement, but simply as a comparative judgement with very broad parameters.

    This doesn’t make any sense to me.

    So broad that threads that get down in the weeds about drill rates,  historical movements, etc. and attempt to make them any finer in their resolution than broad proportions and general statements on the level of Cavalry fast, infantry slower, artillery even slower is probably useless.

    1st – No one is talking about drill rates, why do you keep referencing them?

    2nd – Historical movements are data points. You’re polarizing them to the point of being meaningless. In order for someone to represent the proportional difference between the speed of infantry and cavalry – per your fast, slower, even slower comment – the person’s gotta have some notion of what those movement rates were. Otherwise the designer is just fabricating the relationship arbitrarily.

    Consider this:

    At Eylau Augereau’s VII Corps begins to breakup in front of the Russian guns. That happened about 9:30am, approximately 20 minutes after Augereau’s attack had stepped off. Murat’s cavalry charges in to save Augereau at about 9:50am. Just after 10:00am, the Guard Cavalry is sent in to save Murat. By 10:30am a Russian brigade has come forward across this same swath of land and is threatening Napoleon’s HQ, the Guard infantry and parts of Murat’s cavalry which have returned and reformed rebuff the Russian counter-attack.

    So why are these not just inane details?

    Because, as you say, the relationship between cavalry, infantry and artillery is important. So if we are attempting to represent *battles* as you say we are, then take off the timestamps, using whatever representation of time you like: cards, dice, turns, whatever, is the movement system used respectful of the proportions put forward by that chain of events?

    Dice are neat because you can clearly determine likelihoods. It can be easily computed what percentage of the time a given “dice for movement” mechanic is likely to give various outputs. Therefore, you can easily know ahead of time if the dice driven movement outputs are going to be anything similar to the relationships the three arms had in practice.

    I would guess that the overwhelming majority of the time all designers are doing is saying, “Cavalry fast, infantry slower, artillery even slower,” just as you do. But it does make a big difference if cavalry is 50% or 500% faster than infantry.

    Such research can, of course, be rewarding to historians, hobbyists, and disertation writers, and may inform in the broadest possible way game designers, but, generally speaking are not very productive of much more than long threads on Napoleonic forums.

    I think this is another example where both Sam and I, and you and Bandit are talking past each other to some degree.

    I think the reason your last statement here is true is largely because of the preceding one. You seem to say that basically no research should be done beyond, as you say, determining that cavalry, infantry and artillery fall into the three categories of: fast, slow, slowest. But that is kinda ridiculous since that can be determined without any research at all. When you also say that it is important to represent the *battle* holistically – which I think indicates you agree representing a battle is a factor of understanding the relationships between various elements. How the heck does one understand the relationships well enough to represent them if researching them is a fruitless effort that can just be reduced to movement is: fast, slow, slowest?

    In short, I don’t think McLaddie and I are saying anything about what mechanic should be used for movement beyond some vary general expectations:

    1) Soult’s Corps on the tabletop should be able to move from his starting position near Napoleon’s HQ to the Pratzen Heights in similar to the same time he did it historically.

    2) Soult should be able to do it as reliably as historical examples of movement support it happening. Hence the references to Picket at Gettysburg, the Allied 3rd Column at Austerlitz and L’Estocq, Augereau and Murat at Eylau.

    You can measure time however the heck you want, turns that represent variable minutes, turns that represent strict times, cards, events, whatever. But if a bunch of examples can be found to indicate that moving ~1,400 yards in 20 minutes is expected and typical, then it should be expected and typical on the tabletop however you choose to measure distance and time.


    In a very real sense, L’Estoq’s march is a data point of one, by one group, in one battle.  I suppose one could propose a L’Estoq at Eylau rule

    You insinuated that we were attempting to discuss “arcane facts” and claimed that no one ever showed how these arcane facts related to real battles. So I gave an example of one that related to the topic at hand: movement rates, and noted how it did have a material impact on the battle’s course of events and outcome.

    Please don’t short me by indicating there is only one example supporting my statement and refuting yours simply because I only gave one. You didn’t ask for several…

    I’ll touch on this again at the end regarding movement averages.

    but  I think rolling for variable movement, or regulating time in a wargame by card fall, is as accurate as any method, and probably a better game mechanic, and a better representation of history.

    You’ve made that clear but you haven’t provided any specific support for your conclusion. Why is it a better representation of history than… well, there isn’t a than because one hasn’t been specifically proposed, but it would radically strengthen your point to say why such methods are a good representation of history.

    Those mechanisms simply state L’Estoq started his travels at this point of the game, and ended up at his destination at a later point- the time is perhaps measured in gross terms by a typical turn length illustrating a given amount of time

    Actually all movement mechanics do this, it is in no way specific to card-driven or dice driven or variable turn lengths. All movement mechanics state that L’Estocq moved from X location to Y location at some later point.

    It makes the issue moot.  It does illustrate that the gamer’s L’Estoq, and his Eylau, may vary, as well it should.

    This I don’t follow. There is a presumption that the time it took L’Estocq to move from point X to point Y should vary. I’m questioning if it should.

    “Average”  when applied to troops on a variable wargame battlefield, is, in itself, an abstraction, and a strong mix of subjective estimation with a bit of fact.

    Of course it is an abstraction but it is not necessarily a “strong mix of subjective estimation with a bit of fact,” it is not subjective to say that I travel on average X MPH from point A to point B when driving. How accurate an estimate of my future average travel times will be depends on my sample size. You pointed at this as to my example with L’Estocq at Eylau but earlier in this thread each McLaddie and I have noted a couple examples. The question we’ve each posed is: if we find a whole bunch of examples where in T time under C circumstances a division of troops moved from point A to point B, a known distance of D, then it seems pretty fair to presume that units on the tabletop should move something similar to that average under similar conditions. We’re not talking about something exact, though everyone who objects refers to “exact” and “truth”.

    No one has claimed anything about this stuff being an exact science, if I were doing so, I wouldn’t be talking about averages which are by their very nature – as you note – inexact.

    In fact 50% variation would be, in my mind, the most likely result-not a surprise.



    This leads to your initial lament about whether there are rules that accurately capture “true” rates in a game (and whether that makes for a good game or simply a horrid experience).

    First, my initial post started with me comparing what various games claim and lamenting if they were internally consistent which they are not. It ended by me asking if dicing for movement made more sense than I’d previously believed.

    Second, I didn’t say anything about some ultimate truth or even remotely insinuate there was any linkage between this and quality of experience.

    but the pupose of wargaming is NOT to simulate drill

    Has someone proposed otherwise in this thread?

    First someone, somewhere, must actually prove that some of the more arcane facts of battle in a given period actually had any measurable effect on the battle’s outcome.

    You are comparing me looking at how fast large formations of troops moved at battles to “arcane facts” that you conclude don’t have any impact on a battle. That seems kinda absurd, how fast troops got from point A to point B had a huge impact on battles. Like, for instance, how long it took L’Estocq to move and deploy from his arrival point at Althof to the opposite end of the Russian battle line south of Kuschitten during the Battle of Eylau. Making his movement faster or slower would have a radical material impact on the chain-of-events and the outcome of the battle.

    And to attempt to maintain perspective, I’m not talking about his movement varying slightly, I’m talking about variation akin to that provided in many rules which might reduce movement to 10-50% of their historical averages. I’m stressing the word average again because your earlier reference to me “seeking truth” purports a highly inaccurate representation of my posts.

    It a game!

    Really? I had no idea. The proceeding five words were sarcastic. What’s the deal with pointing this out? I mean, 1) it has already been pointed out, 2) I’m unclear why someone said it before either since it is so obvious and ubiquitously accepted.

    Actually, what’s the deal with most of your reply, the whole thing seems to just be disparaging this topic, largely through objecting to things that no one has expressed or suggested.

    If this post seems disproportionately rude or aggressive it is because I have lost patience with people posting just to say they think the topic is stupid while criticizing claims that weren’t made and positions that have not been suggested. If you’re posting just to tell me you think my area of interest is dumb, please go contribute to a different topic that you don’t feel is stupid.

    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9642

    The massing of a Grand Battery must have looked a lot like rush hour in any major city.  Think of the tail on that dog!  Multiple limbers, caissons,wagons ,horses, intervals laterally, and the depth of the support equipment!  Not to be assembled or broken up on a whim!  The traffic control had to require the highest skills and only done on the highest authority.

    Well to put things in perspective, a single Russian battery would have 12 guns, 12 limbers and several caissons right? Plus supporting vehicles carrying supplies and spare parts for the guns, limbers and caissons… So compared to how we normally treat artillery on the wargaming table, I’d say even a single battery would look like rush hour.

    Also I’d say that whatever skills Russian artillery officers possessed, they were famously disenfranchised of authority compared to the other arms and suffered from a distinct lack of unified command. Yet, the Russians had two grand batteries at Eylau, they had them at Borodino too. During one instance I believe the appointed commander was knocked out of action resulting in a lack of rotating the reserve batteries into action so I do concur that proper execution required someone centrally controlling the effort, but even with that loss, the battery wasn’t ineffective.

    Sounds to me that it would be enough of a challenge that it was only considered prior to battle

    Wasn’t the French grand battery at Wagram formed in the face of an Austrian artillery bombardment as a response to Napoleon’s desire to gain fire superiority?


    I’d love to find a copy as I have volume 2.

    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9617

    I suspect that part of the problem is that wargames rules are too lethal.  As with musketry, if you take a practical rate of fire and multiply it by minutes, most batteries are going to run out of ammo far to early.  The answer is that in action the ROF was much lower than you might imagine from watching re enactors on youtube.

    I concur with this. My understanding is that ROF for smoothbore artillery firing a paced bombardment is what most people would consider, “really slow!”

    What artillery should do is attrit the enemy, unsettle them and prep them for an attack by other arms.

    Agreed and that is the big wargaming problem of bombardment. Longstreet wanted Alexander to drive off some of the opposing infantry (as well as the guns) from Cemetery Ridge. Driving off the guns was possible, driving off the infantry was a forgone conclusion. Yet, in wargaming rules you generally can do it.

    Now you are going to ask me how to represent that ona  6X4 tabletop representing Leipzig!


    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9605

    A bn in line is about 8 degrees of arc at 1000 yards, that is a reasonable target.

    Well, to clarify, when I said, “…a single battalion standing in line with the rest of its division.” I was speaking to the orientation of the battalion in its division arrayed for battle, who knows what formation the battalion is in. That said, your point it well taken, sure if there was a battalion in the open at 1,000 yards, artillery could pick it out and hit it. But to your quip about facing colors – part of where I’m going with this is that there isn’t really a way at 1,000 yards for a bunch of guns to identify the boarders of a specific unit when it is lined up roughly flank-to-flank with its peers. As you say, they could likely pick out a brigade and place their fire along its front but a wargamer is going to say, “I want to shoot that battalion right there,” and they will do it until the battalion is removed, then pick the next one over and work their way down the line – if they are allowed to do so. And that of course did not happen with the historically regularity that most wargaming rules would allow the player to perform.


    I had to come back to this statement:  “If so, then you’ve tied yourself down to some sort of fixed relationship between distance and time”  only because it is so obvious a conclusion.

    Yeah, I was confused by its inclusion too. Especially when it was followed by the fudge comment. Essentially it felt like Sam was trying to polarize the conversation into:

    You must abstract nothing or everything!

    And that makes no sense to me. It is all abstracted, the question is what degrees of abstraction are applied in what areas and how those respect the focus of the game’s scope and scale.

    Absolutism generally confuses me.

    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9592

    A simple way to designate a grouping of different batteries that will concentrate their fire on the same objective/target?
    This grouping is occasional, so it doesn’t have a name on its own, and units need a name on the battlefield.

    I agree with this but as it relates to games what I ponder is: “What is a legitimate target?” I know this sounds like an overly simplistic statement, but at 1,000 yards a grand battery was not targeting all the fire of all its guns at a single battalion standing in line with the rest of its division. The men aiming the guns couldn’t differentiate the boundaries of a single battalion anchored against two of its compatriots at that range. Thus, what the wargamer thinks of as fire “concentrated against a targeted” and what the gunners and grand battery commander thought of as fire “concentrated against a target” appear very different.

    If one were to dictate that hits scored must normally be spread across all targets within a battery’s arc (whatever that may be) then I’m thinking the benefit of a grand battery is that the arc is actually smaller, i.e. the hits scored are more clustered and less spread. The question then becomes what is an appropriate smaller arc.

    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9568

    A central control means that targeting for all guns comes from one source, thus the concentrated effect is greater… From a logistics sense ammunition and supplies can be pooled and shared going to the most urgent point of need.

    1st – Awesome name.
    2nd – Well articulated.
    3rd – Now the question becomes what do those things look like in a game…

    Almost all the wargames artillery I have seen is fired under cventral control.  The result can be the focus of a corps worth of artillery focusing on a Bn.  Reality seems to have been different.

    This is exactly my experience as well. Which makes me ask – what is the difference between a grand battery and a bunch of guns that are not a ‘grand battery’. It seems mostly in games the difference is nothing or some random modifiers are added to give the grand battery an advantage.

    Are there situations when large numbers of guns were grouped together and weren’t called a ‘grand battery’?

    I don’t know of examples. I’m just positing that logically a corps reserve could be operating in the same general vicinity as divisional batteries and not be under the central command of anyone. In a wargame there is generally no difference between that and a grand battery but in history there does appear to have been a great difference.

    Would the label make a difference.

    Would the label make a difference is exactly where my question originated from. Obviously it shouldn’t, which led to the questions about defining its characteristics.

    Any large concentration of guns would require central control.

    Begs the question of what constitutes a concentration. I think that you are right, but as I’ve mentioned, a bunch of guns committed across the frontage of a division *seems* like it could be done without organizing a grand battery but if it couldn’t be, what were the conditions that prevented a bunch of guns from operating independently in the same area?

    in reply to: What makes a grand battery so grand? #9555

    Size and central control.

    That was what I came to too, but then I pondered just what that specifically meant and I was less certain.

    If a French corps commander commits his two reserve batteries to a division and that division commits its two batteries, there’s something like 30 guns operating on the frontage of that division.

    That’s enough guns to be considered grand battery, is it one? I supposed that went to the question of ‘control’ right? But what does control mean in this circumstance. If the corps’s artillery chief is overseeing it, what are the benefits of that control:
    • Is the ammunition and pace of fire better managed to prevent depletion?
    • Is the fire more effective at damaging the enemy?

    in reply to: Hessen-Darmstadt Foot Batterie – Peninsular War #9318

    Very sharp looking and thank you for the details on what substitutions you made and why on your blog. A lot of us are looking for those very bits of info from time to time.

    Haven’t started on my Hessians yet but I have em on my list and on my shelf…

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8871

    I’d agree with McLaddie & John that there are real definitions for these things but they are typically incorrectly defined. Take my initial post, I’m describing how I believe these things are seen, not what they actually are. Or Not Connard Sage who says that it is all just empty marketing terms. But none of this is true. If there was no desire to emulate or simulate the history then we’d commonly have mashups of ‘Mechs vs French Old Guard vs Bear Cavalry – and we don’t. Sure, those games exist somewhere but there are tons of games and seek to provide a very narrowly defined notion which exclude such outliers.

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8843

    Or is it a just drum you have to keep on banging?

    Maybe he just thought you looked lonely banging your “drum of constant disparagement”.

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8610

    how about deterministic versus abstract.

    I don’t think that is bad but I’m adverse to the whole “let’s not say simulation because these are toys for fun” thing. Really? “Just a game” and “play for fun” really feel dismissive often times – they are so obvious: I mean, has anyone anywhere ever said that a wargame was not intended to be a game and be fun?

    My problem is that historically wargames seem to have largely fallen into the category of “heavier mechanics but stronger link to history” or “lighter mechanics but zero link to history.” I’ve got gripes with both ends of the spectrum. When I ask how a given mechanic simulates of history, I think there should be a specific valid answer, not just “well, it works OK I think”. I also don’t understand why two pages of charts are necessary to perform a firefight between two battalions.

    As in many things the world of wargaming is bad at seeking the middle.

    in reply to: Where do you start in designing a game? #8560

    Pick the right dice: Use whatever dice you like but use just one kind. If at all possible, use all D10 or all D12 or all D6. I’m working on an Aeronef game that uses all D12 so you can “roll” the hours of the clock for directions. All the other mechanics are oriented toward the D12 as a result.

    I very much concur with this and want to stress: the right dice. Don’t just pick a kind you like (that too is important) but also pick dice that suit the need, as ExtraCrispy points out: a D12 matches the hours of a clock. I suppose you could also use a combination of other dice and have a chart or use math to get the output you want, the suitability of using a D12 will make this mechanic convenient and approachable for players.

    Good Charts: Designing a good chart is an art all its own. A good chart makes the game go faster, not slower. The shooting in Johnny Reb III is a lesson in what not to do. Big chart, lots of modifiers, and some of them are only in the rule book, not on the chart itself.

    This is also a strong point with a good example. Good chart design is hard. Having a uniform layout to the charts really helps with both approachability and players building familiarity with the charts. Uniformly laid out charts are pretty uncommon but otherwise players have to learn how to use each chart because they are all unique…

    An additional criticism of Johnny Reb’s charts that we can all learn from (version 3 charts are radically different from version 1 & 2 but they have some shared problems):

    Modify fewer vectors! Don’t change the number of dice and the to-hit number and casualty outcome and the saving throw target number…

    Minimal Modifiers

    Indeed. And you need a focused criteria for them: What is the application of each? What is the impact of each? If you use something only 15% of the time but it radically changes the outcome… OK. If you use something 90% of the time but it never changes the outcome… why is it there?

    One thing I’d add. After the first game, a new player should really be able to play from the Quick Reference charts.

    And I’d say this is far more dependent on how approachable and how clear the charts are than people presume. Providing the formula players should apply within the chart is important even though most players can “figure it out” if they need to, don’t make them figure it out:

    For each unit in contact with the enemy roll 2D6, apply modifiers, compare score with opponent and apply results.

    Cite the rule # or page # for each mechanic on the appropriate chart. If I’m resolving combat but have a question, I go find the rule book, I look for an index, oh it is one of the 75% that don’t have an index, OK, now I look at the table of contents…etc… If the rule # or page # is noted on the chart, I can pickup the rule book and go straight to it.

    I’d also add Internally Consistent. If you call it a “fallback” in one place a “withdrawal” in another place and perhaps other words in other places… how does the player know what is what? Internal consistency of terminology, methods, presentation & layout, etc… all very important.

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8538

    EVERY set of rules I read has an introduction that says “this is a fun fast game that still gives a flavor of the period” or words to that effect.

    Which really makes those statements completely empty right? I’ve got that same problem…

    Aside from Empire and it’s various iterations, where is the last “simulation?” Grande Armee? Field of Glory?

    And see I wouldn’t consider either of those to be “highly detailed” or “simulation” games. Certainly they don’t fit the stereotype but they also don’t fit my own expectation.

    It’s as if we have PTSD from Empire and Tractics…

    I agree with that.

    …despite the fact no similar games have been published in 30 years or more!

    Well, I don’t know Tractics, but several “simulation games” that either followed Empire or are related to Empire have been released in the last 30 years:

    • Battles for Empire 1990
    • Empire V can’t recall the year…
    • Legacy of Glory 1991
    • General de Brigade 1999

    More on point, roughly in the last ten years…
    • Revolution & Empire came out in 2003
    • Le Feu Sacre version 1 in 2003 and version 3 in 2009…

    I played a new “simulation” (designer’s description not mine) Napoleonics game at Little Wars this year that the designers ran, said they were releasing it at Historicon. I didn’t go to Historicon so I can’t report further but in theory a new one was just launched…

    So this “category” especially needs to go away. Which leaves us with what? Fast play and B&P?

    I know it should be obvious but what dictates that the “category” should go away?

    Because many are “out-of-print” – Lots of people still play out-of-print rules. Heck I think half the rules my Thursday night group plays have been out-of-print for ten years or more. Also, a lot of rules that people *think* are out-of-print, are not. For instance Revolution & Empire is readily available, from the publisher, Military Matters I believe… and for that matter at my local gaming store… and many that are out-of-print aren’t terribly hard to find or very costly.

    Because marketing speak has moved away from “highly detailed” and “simulation” well… that’s a marketing trend, even less precise than the stereotypes I started this thread with right?

    Because the number published is tiny compared to the “fast-play” genre?

    Because the market (players) seem scared of the word “simulation”?

    PLEASE NOTE: I’m not trying to put reasons in your mouth, I’m guessing based on your post.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 9 months ago by Bandit. Reason: added the last line
    in reply to: Where do you start in designing a game? #8483

    would quibble slightly about special cases, but only in that special cases should be rare and specific.

    Agreed. My working presumption is that if you set the goal of none, you’ll still end up with some and that is probably just happy and fine. If you start out saying you’ll use some here and there, they may get away from you and you’ll end up with many.

    Where I’d see it as a problem is where every other thing has its own special rules. That suggests very poor initial structure of the game.

    Indeed. This is the characteristic that most often causes me to feel a game design is broken. I played a game at a convention that had many rules which I would consider “special case” and they were for very, very common situations. The result was that there were very few “general case rules” for players to work from. An example for point of illustration:

    While the frontage of a line on the gaming table is wide enough to allow three or more units in column to make contact with it, only 2v1 contacts are allowed in the game.

    This caused me to inquire as to why. I was instructed that it was because 1) game balance issues, 2) “there really isn’t enough space for 3 columns to hit a line, it just looks that way”.

    I saw this as a consistency failure in that their ground scale and their mechanics which resulted in a complication for players who had to remember that there was a special rule which superseded what appeared to be the case on the tabletop.

    in reply to: Where do you start in designing a game? #8475

    How do you approach rules design?

    My Philosophy:

    • define focus & scope
    • adhere to the focus & scope above all else
    • solve problems within scope
    • avoid special cases at all costs
    • polish
    • revise
    • polish
    • repeat

    Personal Rules for Design:

    • write the rules down
    • play test the rules from the text not from your mind
    • get people who don’t know you to test them
    • listen to the feedback you get but don’t get wrapped up in it
    • don’t pretend the rules are the charts, the rules are the text, the charts are an aid

    That’s just me. May not work for you.

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8473

    but my point stands. The word ‘simulation’ has very negative connotations in the context of miniature wargaming.  And actual game designers are just completely over it.

    I would agree with that and it is actually why I bring it up. ‘Beer & Pretzels game’ as a term also has a very negative connotation. Maybe it is an issue of my own that I see us [wargaming] as a market place where people want to know which bucket a given set of rules falls into, i.e. is it an X type, Y type or Z type of game?

    While Mark (ExtraCrispy) is entirely right in saying that all games are actually various proportions of each of these characteristics, since gamers still do think in these terms and categorize gams in these terms I am of the presumption that it makes sense to speak to these concerns and labels.

    Where I fall into a pitfall is that if you ask players to describe what they want, a lot of what you’ll hear is along the lines of:

    • plays fast
    • easy to learn
    • period flavor
    • reasonable result

    These are various levels of subjective but “period flavor” is perhaps the least useful of any of them. It is akin to saying, “I like games I like,” which is fair and true but not terribly helpful when you want to guide someone as to if ABC Game is one of those. So while speaking to stereotypes is lousy in a lot of ways, it does communicate in a language likely to be understood simply because you’re speaking to clear expectations.

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8463

    Plus a particularly tedious commentator on TMP, who wrote a lot of those articles 15 years ago, and types at enormous length. He’s never actually written a set of wargames rules.  You’ll probably know who I mean.

    How about we don’t do things like this here as all it does is remind me of how catty, rude and disparaging the general environment at TMP commonly was.

    in reply to: Defining Genres of Rule Design #8458

    For example, your definition of “simulation” is not one I share.

    To be clear, it is not my definition of a simulation. I believe a simulation must simulate specific things, i.e. perspective and focus. That by including too much you will blur that focus and infringe on portions of what you seek to simulate.

    However, when I consider what games people call simulations, what comments players make of simulations and what characteristics of a game players identify when saying disparaging things, they are the characteristics I describe above in my original post.

    I don’t think games break down into thee kinds of categories. Nor is it a single continuum. Each game lies somewhere along a variety of continuum.

    To be frank and direct, nothing breaks down into any categories and all things are spread across a mass list of continuums, such is the case with everything from food to books to movies to people. IMDB is useful because all the titles are logged against a huge number of genres so you can find action-comedies by looking up either action or comedy. However, when you go into a local video rental store (in the towns where those still exist) you have to decide if you are going to look for a given title on either the action or comedy shelves. That is still the world of wargaming.

    If you were to ask your average wargamer if he wanted to play a simulation I’m guessing he’d say something like, “no, no, too involved, too complex, too many charts, I’ve played Empire.”

    That is the common refrain. I don’t think that is what a simulation game is, I think, as you do, that it is more complicated, but the impressions of the players and the stereotypes that exist are of real impact on how people consider things.


    I would argue that a significant percentage of gamers are limited to tables around 4×6′ so it is one variable for a game designer to keep in mind. I know a few rule sets that can’t be used (as written) on anything smaller than a 6×9 table. So right away a poriotn of gamers know they’ll need to reowrk charts and base sizes if they want to play that game.

    Sure, I’d agree with all of this.

    EC: From what I understand, one reason for the very long moves in Black Powder is that the designers liked playing on large tables and wanted to get into the action quickly. And of course, scaling down is a solution when gaming on smaller tables.

    And this does provide a limiting factor for designs and markets. If people are going to play a game on a 4×6′ then 1″ = 75 yards isn’t terribly practical, 1″ = 150 or 200 yards would work pretty well but that likely means you’re talking to 2mm, 6mm and 10mm players not 15mm and 20mm players…

    in reply to: Shooting at lines of troops that you can't see #8383

    Johnny Reb II is kinda the same way. If half the players are judges/assistant GMs it flies right along. Assuming they agree with each other. Otherwise it tends to ruuunnnn sssllloooowwww.

    Well, our Thursday night group plays JR2 regularly and of the dozen or so the only judge is generally me… most of the time I just sit around drinking a beer and every so often answer a judgment call like, “from this hill can I shoot over that unit?” I’d say we generally play with multiple brigades per player (which is not optimal) and we typically play for about 2.5-3 hours. Average during that time is to complete 8-10 turns so never real-time though not horribly slow either.

    That said, there are plenty of places in JR2 where people can easily get bogged down in argument and debate over interpretation…

    in reply to: Shooting at lines of troops that you can't see #8377

    from the sound of empire, we were right to conclude that life was too short.

    Well, despite my criticisms I really like Revolution & Empire (we only hurt those we love?). Its core problems lie in not being very approachable and having far too many charts that are far to complicated to use.

    For instance, if you were to show up at a game and someone else ran the charts for you so that you just made decisions and when required rolled dice, you’d probably find it fantastic because 1) it can play rather fast 2) anything you want to do that you’ve read of historically can be done…

    The cost of entry would basically be learning the turn sequence. Problem is, it really doesn’t work to provide every player a chief of staff…

    When I saw the VLB yahoo group I thought it might be the solution, but I suspect only for solo gaming.

    Yeah… unicorns… unicorns…

    I really love the idea of the VLB, I think most everyone does. I don’t know how you implement it in large games though. It seems to me that events on the tabletop would get out of sync fast because over here X time elapsed based on the actions we took but over there Y time elapsed… do we wait for them? That could be a lot of waiting…

    in reply to: Shooting at lines of troops that you can't see #8375

    Now for what effect Napoleonic blind fire might have had, we return to the underailed part of the thread.

    I’d be tempted to say that from the perspective of the gunners practically all of it was blind fire. Long range fire of ~800+ yards, there is lots of dead ground even in open terrain, between distance and smoke, the battery commander likely knows what area the enemy is in and might be able to sight the enemy but the individual guns are likely just targeting the area.

    in reply to: Which battle would be good for newbies? #8365

    For new players I’d stay away from Apsern-Essling, it setup to be so terribly one-sided. Whoever is playing French won’t feel good about their odds…

    That said, if it was a mixed game between veteran players and new players, I’d say it is a great choice. Put the veteran players on the French side and then have all the inexperienced new guys get to attack with the hordes of Austrians. Considering Lannes and Massena split the defense it is a fairly historical way to go about it but mostly I’m thinking it will be a fun game for the new guys.


    Nobody suggested that.

    Actually I also took that away from Sam’s post, that he was inferring there was a relationship between faster movement and complication. McLaddie (Bill) is obviously pointing out that there is a huge logical hole in that.


    It’s just that if a unit does six 4″ movements it’s easier to know when the opponent can shoot (=between these moves) that during a single 24″ move when you probably must add a rule for opportunity fire or something. But between 9″ or 12″ it makes no real difference.

    I think this is what Sam intended and we should just take that and move on so as not to become mired.

    On this point I’ve mentioned a couple times that many rules have for the last 20-30 years, provided for opportunity fire and defensive fire without being terribly complicated.

    The implementation to any solution should obviously be tied to the scope and scale of the game. In a grand tactical game I am not certain it would be bad to conflate all defensive fire (small arms and artillery) down to contact and just make sure the combat resolution modifiers note a modifier for the defender that appropriately represents their fire during the attacker’s approach.

    Using something like that would be nice because of how simple it would keep the process, no new rule is needed, you just have a modifier present on the resolution table. The downside would obviously be that if assaults – in a grand tactical game – should be able to be halted or broken up well before contact, say 300-500 yards out or more, then this sort of solution would obviously fail to represent that possibility.

    Anyways, my point remains that there are options for dealing with this particular problem and they are 1) not new 2) not crazy complicated 3) don’t require slowing movement rates down.

    The table size point that Mark (ExtraCrispy) brought up is a different story. I’m not convinced it is a problem but whether it is or isn’t, I don’t believe it is fixed through game mechanics.

    in reply to: Shooting at lines of troops that you can't see #8329

    but we it sounds as though Empire were letting you be the battery commander and the Corps commander at the same time.

    Indeed. That is perhaps my central complaint about Empire and Revolution & Empire is that they are not perspective games. To be fair it is as their designers wanted them but that particular facet is something that I think both makes the rules more difficult, harms the simulation and well… goes against my philosophy of design. Regardless, the mechanics for artillery in Revolution & Empire are, while impractically complex, the coolest I have encountered. They aren’t elegant but they are otherwise everything one would wish they were.


    It’s interesting that this thread was simply trying to determine an average march rate and it leads to game theory, practical limitations and what is possible on the table.


    Moving back that direction the potential problems with using historical movement rates appear to be:

    1) potentially running out of room due to physical table size limitations.
    2) providing appropriate options for a defender to respond to an attack.

    Those seem like perfectly valid concerns.

    Are there others that haven’t been brought up yet?

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