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Battlefields in Miniature, by Paul Davies.
I’ve become enamoured of the dice bag / chit style BUT me games normall have the same number of units on each side and I was worried how it would work when the sides where very unequal.
That’s indeed something to worry about when using unit-activation mechanisms. You want the amount of units a player can activate to be proportional to the total number of units, otherwise the games comes down to one player having a number of surplus units “in reserve” without being able to commit them.
Often the amount of chips, or required number to activate, or number of cards drawn, … are adjusted such that this works out.
Personally, I strongly prefer turn sequences using unit-activation (and with a fast turn-over rate between sides), since they allow for more focus on “where the action is”. It allows for a faster action-reaction cycle in relevant parts of the battlefield.
Another aspect is that unit-activation also is a solution for things such as overwatch and reactive fire etc. These are very difficult to do with fixed turn sequences, often leading to various reaction subphases within the main turn sequences. When you have unit activation – combined with a fast turn-over rate and flexibility of actions for a unit – such problems resolve themselves (although not always ;-)).
It also depends on the rest of mechanics.
Classic IGO UGO often is implemented with a turn consisting of various phases, in which all units do the same thing in sequence. E.g. First all units move, then they all fire, then they all melee, then they all check morale … Such turn sequences are often difficult to add new actions to. E.g. suppose you want a unit to blow up a bridge. When does that happen exactly? Or suppose you want to fire first and then move? That’s impossible in such a turn sequence.
Unit activation systems are often designed such that units can do all their stuff, then the next unit does all its stuff etc. That’s inherently a more flexible approach, since now a “turn” is a single unit doing actions (and you can easily add actions or switch the order of actions), and not an action being imposed on all units as in classic IGO UGO. Thus, a unit-activation based approach allows for more flexibility, since a unit has to do all the things it might want to do before you activate the next unit. How you implement this unit-activation cycle (drawing chips, hand of cards, action points to spend …) is orthogonal to this.
See also my blogposts about this I wrote some time ago:
Overall, I feel that a classic IGO-UGO is more suited for large-scale games, with both movement and combat being more gradual, almost attrition-like. Unit-based activation is more suited for skirmish actions, in which you want sudden burst of activity on this side of the table, before zooming in on the other side etc.
For one of of my own rulesets, I use the following:
When a unit takes a hit, a chip is drawn from a bag. The color of the chip indicates loss in capabilties. E.g. green chipslimit movement: first green chip halves it, 2nd green chip halts it. Red chips do the same for firing, and yellow chips for rally. Orange chips are resolved immediately and mean a retreat for one move. Chips stay with the unit, but a unit can also take a rally action, trying to remove chips. Whenever a unit has 3 chips of the same color, it is eliminated.
So, a unit gradually declines in capabilities. It is possible that a unit cannot move, cannot fire, and cannot rally, but is still on the field. A CinC always has the power to remove a chip from a unit when nearby, so in theory it is possible for a badly hit unit to fully recover.
I don’t count casualties or remove figures from the table.
No, it doesn’t matter. When time’s up, time’s up. Usually, the conclusion of the game sort of has become clear, and it isn’t that important to actually play it out. And it is always a good topic for the post-game chat 😉
However, I do prefer that a game is well into the “middle” or “beginning of the end” stage. Having games that never make it past deployment and initial manoeuvres is much more frustrating than not being able to finish the game.
Just having players cooperatively name terrain features is rather clever Phil. We used to sometimes play ACW using Black Powder, and I would print out a variety of labels to name ridges, and villages and suchlike, so that players could order “the 7th Texas to advance boldly past Straw Wood and step smartly into line along the McTavish Pike”. But by making players all participate in the scenario building, you create a great immersive social experience. It’s such a simple approach, but so easy to implement. I’ve got a WW1 battle scheduled next week; I think I’m going to suggest that to my opponent. Thanks Phil! I did remember something similar from Nordic Weasel. It’s Warstory, a set of procedural tables that generate a battle. Can’t offer an opinion on it, as I don’t own it, but maybe I’ll pick it up. https://www.wargamevault.com/m/product/167937
Yes, my game was inspired by discussion-like game (either using matrix-arguments, or free kriegsspiel, …), but try to streamline them a bit more into an actual game, with missions for each player etc.
I’m very much interested in any wargame designs that take the player away from the classic position identification of “I command my army and you command your army and the battle is the competition.” Rather, I see the battle as the backdrop against which players try to achieve objectives, from either side. A player is not a CinC, but takes the role of an individual unit commander, a war photographer, a cartographer, etc…
If you want I can send you the latest version of the cards I used. They have been updated and balanced a bit since my last playtest.
With large games like this there are actually 2 games folded in one: the tactical game on each of the tables; and the command game that revolves around the command structure (players being put in different roles with the game mostly being about controlling the flow of information and acting on incomplete feedback). It’s hard to combine them both.
The command structure bit is the fun part in such large games.
Sometimes you see ‘huge’ games played on multiple tables without an overarching command structure, but these are in essence 1-1 parallel independent games with a (weak) connecting narrative.
You might want to take a look at my card-driven narrative wargame experiments: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/2022/01/card-driven-narrative-wargaming-2.html
It’s not exactly what you are aiming at, but I was inspired very much by games such as The Quiet Year. Players don’t play a specific army, but all players together have very specific missions (for both sides). A deck of cards runs the scenario, and dialogue between the players define the course of the battle.
I do touch up and repair bases occasionally, but I never rebase, and certainly not for a specific ruleset.
Rulesets come and go, but your miniatures will likely survive them all. So adapt rules to your collection of miniatures, not the other way around.
I have experimented with the Mythic GM Emulator a bit, but in essence, it’s not much different from the framework provided by matrix games. You state something, attribute a probability, and roll for the outcome. The specifics differ a bit of course. I sort of like the “chaos level” in GM Emulator, shifting associated probabilities with qualitative descriptions.
See also an article I wrote some years ago for Battlegames magazine: https://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/p/narrative-wargaming.html
4 hours is a long game these days 😉
The references to matrix-games or muggergames or umpire-driven kriegsspiel games or discussion games are correct. I have experimented quite a lot with these in the past, and they have influenced my current views on this style of gaming.
However, they usually rely on a capable umpire, and on players setting their own victory conditions (or not). They are sometimes more experiences rather than games.
Hence, some things I find important:
– can the game be run umpire-less?
– does each player have proper victory conditions that can “measure” victory?
– can we break the “position identification” of a player as being aligned with one side only?
– how can these be combined with narrative/story elements?
This harkens back to Chris Engles Matrix games of 35 years ago, but I do like what you’re doing with it.
Absolutely. I’m a big fan of the Engle-matrix games.
I have used a similar mechanic as you described for matrix-games – a player says what will happen next and gives some arguments, then the umpire (with some help from the players) defines some outcomes with associated probabilities.
I like rules that after one play, can mostly be played by just referencing a simple play aid sheet. I don’t want a major rule pre-read each time I sit down to play and I am not keen on rules that rely on you buying army list type supplements booklets.
It’s also one of the goals when I write my own rules: everything has to fit on one page. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge, and writing short and concise rules is often more difficult than writing lengthy complicated rules. Everyone can always invent more procedures, more mechanics, more exceptions, … to deal with some all sorts of situations. But it’s harder to come up with systems that don’t need these additional exceptions at all.
Or as Goethe said: In der Beschränking zeigt sich erst der Meister.
What I like about rules also is evolving our time, but I can say what I like in my *current* rules:
– simple, elegant, and unified mechanics. No “a different system for every procedure” type of rules.
– unit-activation instead of a classic turn structure. Unit-activation rules (and they come in many variations) are much better suited for good rules-design.
More on the meta-level:
– focus on moving and manipulating the figures (that’s where the fun is!). No tedious combat resolution. Players want to pick up and move figures!
– No figure removal to track unit status. I like the visuals of having full units. Keep track of hits or casualties or whatevers in some other way.
– No army lists or point systems. Scenario-based setups are much preferred.
That’s the new emperor, not the original emperor 😉
IIRC he got a serious makeover for wfb4 or wfb5 compared to who he was in the original wfrp, so he could be used as a hero in wfb.
diff’rent strokes – I like figure removal – shows wear on the unit, the state they are in, rather than ‘absolutely fine/suddenly gone.’ Watching an especially bloody game of Infamy! Infamy! last night, (my opponent didn’t turn up) and I thought it looked really good, the thinner and thinner formations hacking at each other.
Except that it’s not what happened, at least until gunpowder weapons got sophisticated, in most cases. At least from the accounts I’ve read. Casualties are fairly light until one side breaks off, in rout or retreat. There is much pushing, shoving, shooting, sparring and, no doubt, many injuries and some deaths and then one side realises it is going to lose and cohesion is lost and the real slaughter begins. No doubt, in the cases where we have the “We only lost 80 men and killed 8,000 of them” type reports, more of the winners troops died of their wounds in the hours, days and weeks after the battle but many others survived. The loser’s casualties die on the battlefield. A unit taking 10% casualties during the actual battle has usually suffered a catastrophic loss. So if your units will be routing of the battlefield once they’ve lost two or three figures is there a need to base individually? I believe most battles turn on loss of cohesion and the draining of morale rather than corpses stacked like cordwood. As ever, if single figures and casualty removal works for you then more power to your elbow.
In most unit-based rules units are also degrading in strength/combat effectiveness/whatevers during the game. It’s just not visualized using figure removal. Figure removal has its own can of worms – shrinking frontages etc ., and needs more rules to deal with that.
But it’s a matter of preference. I prefer the visual look of ‘full’ units, and keeping track of strength/morale using other means.
Don’t forget that the combat resolution engine of WFB 1st edition was presented as a skirmish game for individually based figures. The few combat examples in the first booklet “Tabletop Battles” clearly show this. Only on p27 a mention is made of organizing figures into regiments.
Hence, combat between individual figures are encoded in the DNA of the Warhammer engine, and this has propagated through all further editions as well. Stats are given for individual figures, and regiments are build from individual figures. Regimental combat is “bottom-up”.
This contradicts with rules which use regiments are the basic building block. Combat is between units as a whole, and figures are only there to represent the regiments. Whether a regiment is represented by 1 figure or 100 is immaterial, only the footprint of the regiment counts.
Whether “figure removal” is used as a mechanic for unit status is a different matter. Some older historical rulesets also use units pf e.g. 36 figures, with 5 bases of 6 figures, 2 bases of 2, and 2 bases of 1 figure each. Thus, you can “make change” when figures are removed.
Personally, I don’t like figure removal that much. It’s an old-school mechanic, and takes away carefully painted figures from the table and diminishes the visual appeal. I want to keep my figures on the table throughout the entire game, and keep track of the status of a unit in a different manner.
Terrain density and specific rules also are closely linked. Most rulesets are written with the assumption that there will be a certain terrain density, although this is rarely mentioned explicitly.
Ancients wargaming – apart from the historical context – is/was heavily influenced by DBx, which regulated terrain (at least in the tournament format) very strictly.
2 copies of siege and armies!! And a 40k rogue trader, just missed out on an ebay bid for that..
The doubles are because a longtime wargaming friend gave all his stuff to me. I also had Rogue Trader twice, but gave it yet another wargaming buddy.
There’s no masterplan behind this. I started wargaming in my teens, and kept on buying Warhammer books as they were published. I never got rid of them, as I did with many other games I bought during the 80s and 90s. Some turn out to be collectibles after all those years.
To be frank, I rarely use them anymore, but I still keep them out of pure nostalgia. But one day, I still want to play a Realm of Chaos battle using 10K points Demonic Armies 😉
that doctor who small tardis is cool
I think it was from Ainsty, but my memory is hazy …
1st edition & supplements booklets are hidden in the 2nd edition box. My 1st edition boxes are gone a long time ago …
I bought the 1st edition when it first was published. It was very much my first miniature wargame/roleplaying game combined. I played 3rd edition the most, but gave up when 4th came out. I kept on buying the basic rulebooks though 😉
‘Fantasy Wargaming’ by Martin Hackett was a real eye opener when I read it in the early 90s. It broke me loose from the Warhammer framework – I literally hadn’t played any other miniature wargame up to then.
Here are a few of my shelves in my wargaming room:
Well, that’s the flip side of the coin, Phil. I already had the skill set to build the system and the type of problem I like to solve. So building ‘Muster’ was as much a hobby project as painting figures.
So your real hobby is managing a wargaming collection instead of actual wargaming. 🙂🙂
Sometimes I’ve seen people tracking monetary value as well, but I don’t understand the use of that. The value of a wargaming collection is (apart from some collector’s items) mostly a delusional thing. The real value is the time you’ve put in, and no matter whatbhappens, you’ll never get that back.
I know that some do it for insurance purposes, but I just use a lump sum for everything that’s in the house and pay insurance for that. Country-specific insurance practices might dictate otherwise, of course.
I guess using something more elaborate also depends on how cumbersome it is to access your physical collection.
I have a seperate wargaming room with neatly organized drawers under the gaming table for easy access for all my painted miniatures. If your collection is stored in a pile of oddly-shaped shoeboxes, plastic containers, all stacked multiple layers deep in your garden shed – then yes, I can see you need something so you can plan the digging expedition.
I always felt it is more useful to spend time and money on good and practical physical storage, rather than spend time and money on building a (software) management system on top of an unorganized heap of junk. YMMV. 😉
I only keep track of my painted miniatures, and I use a simple spreadsheet. But in practice, I rarely use it, except when I add new entries. All my painted figures (a few 1000s) are in labeled drawers, and that works fine when I need figures to set up games and putting them back.
The main function of my spreadsheet is to list for most figures who the manufacturer is and/or where I bought them.15/10/2021 at 11:20 in reply to: Fantasy harder than History? (alt title: “Fantasy harder than you think?”) #163287
Fantasy might be ‘harder’ to understand because there is no internal logic or consistency – not because of the depth and breadth of material. Most imaginary gaming worlds are actually very shallow, and gloss over over many things that make a society a society. E.g. in the Warhammer universe, there’s very little information about economy, education, politics, society at large (except at a superficial level). It’s all about caricatures of armies, and even worse – it’s often disparate concepts thrown together in a fantasy world. It’s because there’s no foundation to such a world, no frame of reference, that it makes it harder to understand. In a sense it’s big collection of random factoids.
That doesn’t mean such worlds cannot be fun to be used as a gaming world. Often, they are designed specifically to be used as a gaming worlds (lots of wars and battles!) But such worlds are not complex at all. They are often inconsistent, which make them harder to understand.
I’m a big Tolkien fan, and Tolkien’s legendarium is probably one of the most worked-on literary imaginary worlds available – and Tolkien also reworked many of his concepts and stories throughout his life. But even then, it’s a pretty shallow world if you want to start digging deeper. Where is all the food coming from? Where are the schools (people are writing letters, so they must learn how to read/write)? How many people do live in middle earth? Etc. Etc. It’s often when you try to answer such questions imaginary worlds stop making sense 😉
I agree with that the campaign mechanics should not be complex. Either they become a game on their own, or interest will soon fizzle out, especially if the campaign is run “on-the-side” through email etc.
In my experience, campaigns with a lot of mechanics such as supplies, reinforcements, economy, etc etc don’t last very long, because many of the mechanics are actually rather boring. It’s like managing an excel sheet.
The best campaigns I’ve participated in have no framework at all and were all run in a freeform/kriegsspiel/matrix game style. Every side states their intentions every campaign turn, the umpire decides and reports back to the players. This requires an umpire though, but is a much more satisfying manner of playing a campaign compared to having actual campaign rules. It also provides a much better framework for hidden movement, storied events, keeping an overall balance etc.
Whatever system one uses, it’s a good design principle not to mix possible modifiers to the die rolling procedure.
– use classic die roll modifiers
– add or remove dice (e.g. in bucket of dice methods)
– change the type of die (d4 -> d6 -> d8 …)
Mixing these 3 base systems is a big no no and only adds confusion while playing.
Some links regarding the matchbox-grid-o-rama-device:
John, my suggestion is to stop modifying the die roll (which makes the player calculate what target number is needed) by simply modifying the target number instead. That small calculation is removed from the game, done by the game designer before the game. A small operation, but one removed from every modified die roll in the game. It doesn’t change the odds, just a slight streamlines the calculation. Yes, looking at the same score but why make the player do any extra math? Especially if more than one modifier applies and some of them are more than -1 or +1. I’m a retired programmer and DRM strikes me as having an extra step. Hope that makes sense.
So are you talking about baking in the modifiers in the target numbers?
So, you need a 4+ to hit, -1 when target is in cover; and replace that by 4+ to hit, 5+ when target is in cover?
If so, I’m against it. It’s much more difficult to remember target numbers than remembering DRM’s. DRM’s also convey the idea of a bonus or a penalty, while a list of target number is less clear about that. There is also the danger of having no visible underlying mechanic how much target numbers are changing and under what conditions.
It’s easier to remember “Humans need 4+, Elves get a +1”, compared to “Humans need 4+, Elves need 5+.” Even more difficult when you have multiple races, each with a specific listed target number.
The advantage of having a single target number is that you have an obvious baseline. DRM’s alter that baseline. By giving a list of target numbers the baseline or the ups and and downs are not clear and potentially ambiguous.
As long as I can remember DRM or modifications to the target number are interchangeable, they’re communicating vessels. Players do it in their head in whatever way suits them, and exchange one for the other, especially with low-number arithmetic such as when rolling D6’s. Some players prefer to know “I must roll a 6 to succeed!” before rolling the die. Other players prefer to roll first and add modifiers later. There’s no unique model to what players prefer.
However, there’s something else that designers can do to win time when computing target numbers / DRM’s / whatevers: when using an opposed die roll, only apply DRM’s regarding your own troops to your own roll.
E.g. target being in cover, can be a penalty to the shooter’s die, or can be a bonus to the defender’s die (if the system uses opposed die rolls). By applying things like cover to the defender’s die, and things like weapon type to the shooter’s die, player’s don’t need to cross-reference each other’s troop’s status to determine their die roll.
The matchboxes or the plastic organizers are of course only there to provide an opaque ‘mailbox’ for every gridcell on the map. You could as well use a stack of envelopes marked with coordinates, or anything else that doesn’t allow you to peek inside if you don’t put something in.
The matchbox grid is indeed described in one of Featherstone’s books, although it was mainly proposed for hidden troop movement when playing a campaign with 2 or more sides. When your troops are in a specific gridcell on the map, you put a marker or note or whatever in the corresponding matchbox. If there is a marker present for the enemy’s troops, you know that contact has been made and a battle can be fought.
IIRC some variations have been described over the years, such that you can look into more than one (adjacent) matchbox, simulating lone of sight on the map. E.g. you can ‘see’ 2 matchboxes ahead, but mountains in a gridcell might prevent you from looking in adjacent matchboxes etc.
On a related note:
A good friend of mine has a 1st edition, 1st print, hardback, translation in Dutch of The Lord of the Rings, from the 50s (he got it from a elderly family member who passed away). Dutch was the first language in which LOTR was translated. So such a rare item must be worth a huge amount of money, right? He asked with a dealer in rare books. Something in the range of 400-500 euros was the answer, 600 if lucky. But alas, the dustjackets were missing! So the price was downgraded.
So, what if he sold the book for that amount of money? You have a few hundred euros (ok, I guess, but non-essential money for most people with a decent job), but then you don’t have that unique object anymore. So would you sell it? 😉
And another story:
I know a guy who buys expensive limited Lego sets when they are released, stores them in his attic (he buys 10 boxes of every set or so), and tries to sell them still in the shrinkwrap 5 years later when they have become “collectible”. I told him that this borders on running a business and that according to the laws (in Belgium) he should pay taxes on the amount he earned this way. “But I’m only selling 2nd hand items!” Not so sure the tax service looks at it the same way (but this is a country-dependent matter, of course). In practice, you’re flying below the radar, but still, it might be an issue if you advertise too much and someone starts noticing.
It is true that some things become “collectible” over time, and that you can make a profit on such an item. However, trying to predict what items will become collectible before they actually are collectible is almost impossible in the gaming market. E.g. I once traded away a Beta Black Lotus when MtG was first published. It was a single card, of a not-yet-so-popular game. And one could always buy more boosters and get the card back, right? OTOH, I still have some boardgames and rpgs lying around from the 80s that are worth a few 100 euros each, *if* you can find the right collector who needs that particular item for his collection at the same time you want to sell it.
But anyway, I consider my hobby expenses as a ‘loss’. You buy stuff because you want to play with them, and I have no hopes of ever recovering the amount of money I’ve spend on wargaming. If I can recover 10% of whatever I paid I would be happy 😉
I’ve said it in the other thread as well, but most wargaming collections aren’t worth that much. The main reason is that wargaming is a DIY hobby. Figures are not kept as bought, but are painted, based, conversed, combined with others from different manufacturers in an “army” (which often is a personal project and not always transferable to other rules or playing styles). Throw in some model houses, some scratch-built styrofoam hills, a big jar full of dice, and well-worn rulebooks, and you have a pile of junk rather than a collection that is worth something. The real value lies in the emotional meaning for the owner – so many battles, so much joy, the memories – but that doesn’t translate into money.