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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thakka Thakka BOOM

It's been a crazy week, including my wife having a car crash this morning (no one hurt, thankfully), so no usual post today.

In lieu, I'll post a question that people can respond to or not.

When I play wargames, I see a bunch of little counters and a map and all of the physical components that go into the game. For me, it's a bit like doing math homework, but a lot more fun. For me, the system is what generates interest, although there is definitely some history at work, albeit at a very abstract level. This is true even of very tactical games such as ASL.

What occurred to me recently is that some people may use their imaginations a bit more when playing these games, visualizing the actual combat, or armies sweeping over the vast steppes or whatever the situation is that the game implies.

My question to the public is where do they fall in this spectrum? Are wargames like toy soldiers or an engineering exercise?


  • At 3:14 PM, Blogger Alfred said…

    For me, there's one test--and one test only--for what makes a wargame successful: If, at some point in the game, I'm making sound effect noises, pretending to give orders, and so on.

    So, yeah, I'm in the "imagination" camp. For me--dunno about other imaginative types--one of the side effects is that I like rules that are easily assimilated, so they fade into the background while the story comes into the foreground.

  • At 9:16 AM, Blogger Eric said…

    It is a LOT easier for me to imagine the actual combat when playing a miniatures game, for obvious reasons.

    However, I do catch myself trying to translate the formation on the board into the real thing in my mind.

    That might be partially why I'm more comfortable with pre-19th century conflicts: they're smaller and easier for me to picture.

  • At 11:12 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    Hmm, usually I try to avoid the wargamers who do sound effects...


    I really don't know what happened to give me this epiphany that some people might visualize the action. I stopped playing pbem games on ACTS because I would wake up at 2am thinking about board position, but I have never had so much as a single dream about a combat situation (other than once while I was working on the stealth bomber. Really).

  • At 12:42 PM, Blogger Zap said…

    I have to say that I'm in with Dug. I see a map with values and plans. No little guys fighting the good fight. The games are just tactical exercises for my brain.

  • At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Devin said…

    Most hex and counter games have very generic and anonymous counter labels, where each unit may only be identified by a number. I find it hard to picture any real humans behind this numbered piece of cardboard, more of math exercise of getting the right numbers on the right part of the map.
    The exception I've found lately is Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex. These games have blocks with historical figures names on them, which doesn't seem much but makes a huge difference. I routinely find myself putting on a thick Scottish accent when attacking with William Wallace, or saying "Die Scottish Scum" in the condescending voice of King Edward. The fact that these figures can be hidden until used also adds to the "Aha!" factor. Big plus to these games in my opinion.

  • At 4:38 PM, Blogger dave said…

    Grand Strategic Level: Purely an abstract exercise. Possibly with funny accents (especially if playing USSR in Twilight Struggle). Compared to other types of wargames, I am very comfortable playing with an off-the-cuff style, not overanalyzing things.

    Tactical Level: Tend to be overly rules-heavy loaded with tactical analysis, so it becomes hard to maintain much atmosphere. I fear playing DnD 3.5 would have the same problem.

    Operational Level: This is where I get any type of buzz. They tend to be the least rules-heavy and have the prettier maps. Plus I find a lot more emotional oomph in an associated real-world battlefield than a building or country/continent. I find myself sucked into the thematic setting for operational AmRev and AmCiv games.

    The above is speaking primarily of land-based games. I get much more into the theme for naval and air games, particularly Mustangs. vvvvVVVVVHHHHEEEeeewwww.... chih-chih-chih-chih-chih.

  • At 8:37 PM, Blogger Alfred said…

    "Hmm, usually I try to avoid the wargamers who do sound effects..."

    Most people do. Which might be why I play mostly solitaire!

  • At 6:24 AM, Blogger John Steadman said…

    I'd say in general I'm in the imagination camp, which is why I like to play wargames with molded soldiers instead of the counters. Obviously, I'm not a hard core wargamer, but I really enjoy Memoir '44, Attack! etc. And yes, I do get into the cranky general mode to issue orders and imagine the screams of the fallen, or the bravery of the unit thrust into the brink.

    For me, it's the imagination that makes it fun. As opposed to min/max-ing the rules, terrain etc to create the best tactical move. I still play to win, of course, and try to develop a good tactical strategy, but I don't have to "win" to have had a good time playing.

    Hmm. Starting to think I need to schedule one of these games again soon. It's been too long!


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