Yes, that is the very realization I had. Thematically, as the USA, playing “The Cambridge Spy Ring” against my Soviet opponent is silly, but that’s being too literal. What I’m doing is accepting a setback vs. my opponent there for what I hope are long term gains here. That is the very essence of a war game. And I’ve come to see it as brilliant despite my emotional recoiling at the mechanism. COIN games, which treat these as actual events that the various factions can choose to react to or not, are a natural, and in my view superior, progression of the concept.
Is that, perhaps, why something like Memoir '44 feels less like a war game (because you’re mostly just pressing the attack, trusting in positional tactics and the dice) and I’m almost tempted to argue that Pandemic does feel like a war game (because your decisions are as much about what you’re not doing as they are about what you are doing — allowing those black disease cubes to sit a little longer, risking that outbreak, in exchange for getting one step closer to curing another disease over here…)?
Precisely. I think Pandemic is a war game. It’s just fought against a coterie of non-human enemies. (In many ways, it’s more like XCOM than FFG’s XCOM). Memoir '44 is a fun, war themed game to me. Oddly, it’s more serious cousin, Command & Colors does qualify as a war game due to its more involved rule set. These opinions are entirely subjective on my part, but I think they’re valid.
It sounds to me more like a matter of scale. Memoir '44 is by and large a tactical game; there’s still a tug of war, but you’re usually looking for a return within the next turn or two. Twilight on the other hand is more strategic - you take a disadvantage in return for something which may not pay off for another five or ten turns.
In my view, all games are tactical. The term “Strategy” merely encompasses your goal(s) and your general plan for achieving it/them, but your actual moves or plays are entirely tactical in nature no matter the subject, genre, or scale. While I agree with your assessment of Memoir '44’s scope, I would counter that scale is a poor indicator of what makes a war game or not. ASL or Combat Commander are even tighter in scale, while a game like Panzergruppe Guderian, which has a much wider scope, is still modeling but a single isolated combat action (in that case the fighting around Smolensk). The difference between M '44 and the others isn’t scale; it’s detail. That’s why M '44’s well-heeled cousins in the Command & Colors Series, do fit the bill for me; more detail.
I’m a lawyer! No wait, come back! A big problem that I have in my field is that we have different definitions for terms than the average person does. For most people, “reasonable” is a pretty loose standard, but I’ve literally had a mentoring attorney tell me, “reasonable, in this context, means five days.” The average person wouldn’t know that, but we need that specialized meaning to make very specific judgments that are only of interest to us.
I think the term “war game” has the same problem. To the average person, it’s a game about conflict. To a hard-core gamer, it describes a very specific genre with a very specific history. If the average person relied on that definition, they’d be utterly perplexed by the games they got. If a hardcore gamer said “I want a war game” and got a game that was about conflict but didn’t comply with the standards of the genre, they’d rightfully feel they were misled.
Oh don’t worry, my boss is a lawyer…and my middle name is “Plausible Deniability”.
Yes, I agree. My willingness to be flexible re: War Game definition is strictly limited to…me. Input from others is quite welcome, but just to satisfy my curiosity concerning others’ opinions on the subject. While I agree that clear definition of terms is important, my statement had less to do with the world at large, and more to do with my own personal fascination for conflict simulation in general, and, more specifically, where the line gets drawn between those that are and those that aren’t.
In terms of scale I’m thinking more around the decision space than the representative scale of the game as such. Memoir '44, and for that matter most tabletop miniature games like Warhammer, tend to have a kind of ‘shorter’ space - you make your moves in the first turn, your opponent responds to them in their first turn and so on. While we might both have a vague long term plan it’s not necessarily a huge influence in what we’re doing turn to turn or indeed the game as a whole (in fact I tend to find those games favour the player who’s better able to adapt on the fly more than anything else).
You get kind of the opposite in the card driven games (and in my experience C&C) where you have a more ‘elongated’ decision space. While there is some reactive play the focus tends to be more on working out the long term plan of your opponent and how best to disrupt it while implementing your own. So the back and forth tends to be over the course of multiple turns rather than turn to turn.
I guess it goes back to what you were saying regarding accepting a setback now for a long term gain later. That tends to be the hallmark of games such as COIN, whereas in something like Warhammer it’s more about accepting a setback this turn in order to capitalise on it next turn; it’s pretty rare you ever have a situation where doing something in turn 2 has a foreseeable or predictable payoff in turn 6 for example.
I’m not so sure. All map or terrain based games have to have a start point and that almost never involves opposing units in immediate contact. Maneuver is thus the very first thing one must do, either to advance towards an objective, or to concentrate around a defensible spot. Since player actions in either instance are conducted in turns, it is inevitable that the act-then-respond dynamic you describe will ensue whether you’re pushing little miniatures around a tiny house, or moving a stack of counters across the Elbe on a paper map. A game scaled to company level (like SPI’s Rifle & Saber) does not, in my experience, provide a different decision “space” as compared to a corps or even theater level game. Military units of any size maneuvering in the field will have definite objectives, and all of my hex & counter and block war games, from Army Group level on down, are no different. The rules for each scenario delineate those objectives, and while my units will need to respond to the enemy’s actions, or force them to respond; it means nothing in the end if I don’t also take or defend that hill/town/bridge. As the command authority (player), the manner in which I accomplish the ultimate goal is up to me, but the actual decision-making process that determines the course of action I take will probably be pretty similar whether those counters represent a single soldier, a platoon, or a whole division. Then again, I’m working on about 4 hours sleep today, so I’m probably just misunderstanding you with regards to ‘scale’.
But your post does lead me to a question: Is Warhammer different with regards to objectives? I’ve never played it in any of its forms, so you’ll have to forgive my ignorance there. I’m getting the impression that the object is to march forth and kill the enemy, but surely there has to be more to it than that?
I haven’t really played it since the 90s, so I don’t know if they added objectives to it’s more modern incarnations. Usually the scenario just dictated the size and shape of each player’s deployment area, then you just got on with killing each other. That said it wasn’t entirely about murdering the opposition, there was a point scoring system with points awarded for killing or otherwise routing units (based on the points cost of said unit) and in some scenarios table area (usually halves or quarters) claimed or bonus points if you had an unbroken unit in the opposite deployment zone. There were some specific campaigns GW released which sometimes did offer different objectives (usually narrative based), but they were few or far between.
I’d guess the major difference between it and a more traditional wargame is where the meat of the system lies. Generally (at least in my experience) in your more traditional wargame most of the complexity is in the base system with relatively minor differences in the forces involved as compared to each other (in terms of general use). Warhammer on the other hand has a fairly basic base system but adds most of the meat on the asymmetry between forces. By which I mean while a system can get quite intricate and detailed in modelling the mechanical differences between a Sherman and a Panzer, they’re still tanks, and there’s generally things tanks can do, things they can’t do and things it’s a bad idea for them to do. In Warhammer on the other hand a unit can have completely different rules and abilities (and therefore battlefield use) depending on which army is fielding it, even if it’s ostensibly the same thing (eg Orc & Goblin Trolls are not the same as Chaos Trolls, and while there’s some overlap they tend to cover completely different functions for their respective armies).
The objective in Warhammer (whichever version, and for most other GW games, and indeed most miniatures games) can be whatever you dream up. The rules don’t dictate how you’re supposed to play.
GW’s standard scenarios have typically rewarded destroying an enemy unit or reducing it to half-strength (either based on its value or a simple 1 unit = 1 point score, the choice of which can influence whether it’s better to take many cheap units or few expensive ones), killing key figures (e.g. the enemy general/warlord), capturing banners, controlling table quarters, terrain features or objective counters, moving units off the opponent’s table edge, surviving against a larger force for a certain number of turns, or “capture the flag” type objectives.
In a competition setting, killing stuff and holding table quarters/objective counters are the most common routes to victory.
Outside competition, narrative campaigns, escalation leagues, linked games, and things like that are common. In 40k, you might start with “Dirty Dozen” style Kill-Team games where your objective is to sabotage a generator or assassinate a particular model with only a handful of miniatures, move on to small skirmishes of 500 point armies (3-4 units, maybe 1 vehicle) with Combat Patrol rules, play a few games of “regular” 40k with 1500-2000 point armies, and finish off with a 10,000+ point Apocalypse game in teams spanning multiple tables with 2’ tall Titans stomping about, with the objectives you complete in each game granting specific bonuses in subsequent games. So losing a game may be worthwhile if it allows you to complete a specific objective or deny one to your opponent.
Earlier editions (before the early 90s buyout) focused more on the narrative aspect. Through the 90s and early 2000s the noisy minority of tournament gamers gained undue influence and the stock scenarios were all about killing and capturing. Recently they’ve been trying to appease every group by presenting different ways to play.
Interesting. Thank you for the explanation.
I had to smile at your Sherman vs. Panzer comparison though. The general procedure for tackling a Tiger I, Tiger II, or Panther with non-Firefly/Easy-8 Shermans lacking air cover was to engage at a ratio of at least 4:1 (although the validity of those numbers is debatable).
Thank you for the information. I appreciate it.
Obviously, SUSD is so wrong about Dominant Species. I don’t think it’s “SUSD recommends” material, but it’s a more thematic and heavier El Grande. A lot of rules like any heavy game, but it manages to avoid special cases and exceptions (unlike, say, Brass). It’s not pretty and it’s expensive. It is also pretty mean. So, for me, DS is like the Food Chain Magnate of area-control/area-majority games.
Quinns is also very wrong about IstanBAD. It’s an efficiency game, and it doesn’t work for me that much. It’s just alright. Sold it to a friend who loves it more than I do.
I’m keen on trying Trajan and Voyage of Marco Polo from a friend, so I might have more things to disagree with them.
I feel that Yokohama does what Istanbul was trying to do but in a much more interesting way. Adding some depth of play which means you’re not out of the running if you don’t want to just spend your time optimising efficiency.
Marco Polo is absolutely superb. They say that two years ago they would have recommended it. Maybe it’s just because I don’t get to play hundreds of games a year unlike them, but I still absolutely do recommend it. I think it’s fantastic.
Hmmmm… I have heard about the game. Will it check out!
That is true. The fact that they would stamp it with the Pear badge 2 years ago is enough for me. I love Troyes, so I think this should be an easy one. I’m very pissed that I missed out on Quinn’s games giveaway in Oxfam Greenwich because Marco Polo (and Clans of Caledonia) is included in that batch.
Ha, I saw the pics and wondered whether the have stickered every game the same way - looked like they all were 29.99 and labeled Out of print.