Monday, September 20, 2010

The Wargame as Game: Part 2.

Thanks to Jeff and Tony for their comments, my reply comment got long enough that I figured I'd just make it a post.

Campaigns are definitely a good way to go.

Having thought more about this, scenarios for le petit geurre usually have built in victory conditions so its mostly pitched battles or the typical, if historically rare, encounter wargame that the question applies to because the object is just to beat the enemy unless its part of a campaign or a scenario with set victory conditions (such as control of a road junction or the establishment of a bridgehead).

Running through a mental list of various pitched battles it seems like typically, at the end of the day, either:

a) 1 side has collapsed. In wargame terms some sort of division, corps or army morale failure or a preset limit in figures or units lost. Lacking these the game becomes b) by default.

b) both sides are still capable of fighting at the end and the decision to stand or retreat is a  calculated one by the general based partly on the condition and relative position of the 2 armies and partly on the strategic situation. In wargame terms a draw when time is up unless part of a campaign or having an arbitrary victory condition either in terms of losses or holding key roads etc.

So in game terms, I am ok with leaving win/lose conditions to be part of the scenario design (even if it is just destroy the enemy's ability to fight) but I think there should also be the possibility of "army" collapse built into the rules.

Right now my horse & musket rules have an optional rule forcing an army to give up if 1/2 of units are broken or destroyed but they used to have rules that allowed for a form of army collapse by means of morale tests and penalties as brigades got hammered. Seems to me now that I think about it that the 1/2 rule discourages reserves and I can't remember why it replaced the other. Needs some pondering.  


  1. Ross Mac,

    I happen to think that the best wargames are those that are fought for a reason rather than just as an outlet for my competitive nature. They should be fought either as part of a campaign or in the light of some sort of 'back story' where the events leading up to the battle (and therefore the consequences of its result) are relevant.

    Even my play-test wargames usually have some sort of scenario that puts them into context. After all, why would an army fight to the death if there was no imperative reason for it to do so? Why might a commander order his army to break off from a battle that they might even be winning unless there was some need to retain a viable military force to act as a playing-piece in the negotiations that will eventually follow?

    The total collapse of an army has to be one of the options available to wargamers when the fight a battle, but I think that it should not be one that is easily achieved or is out of context with the background to the battle.

    My two-pennyworth, for what it is worth!

    Bob Cordery

  2. Bob, I tend to agree with you on all these points. The exchange rate on your two-pennyworth remains high as ever!


  3. The context of Campaigning is the ONLY way to go with the simulation concept, even if it is only as a set-piece one-shot tabletop action.

    Otherwise all you end up with is random.

    Really. Random.

    I have seen it more times than I care to count at convention games that I have decided to avoid them once I find out that a 'random' deployment will make it 'enjoyable'.

    If the concept is simulation, then the only random I will accept is for timing or minimal positioning (ie: turns delay or one of a number of roads since they connect to the troops arriving imprecise location information) arrival.

    On more than one occasion I have participated in an arrival game where troops could literally come in anywhere (at least they could not come in 'behind me!') and I watched as what could have been a fun afternoon degenerated into a mess as we kept rolling the same number for arrival (hence running out of deployment room) and the other side got to attack our flanks as they kept rolling low or high (1's & 6's).

    All this from a 17th century rules set.

    Were it Napoleonic I could accept it, but for 7 years war? Random.

    I would love to participate or umpire or judge a HUGE 18th C based hose & musket proper Kreigspeil from the night of strategic planning to the campaign march to the skirmishes to the grand tactical engagement. Were it to be over a weekend or (more likely) a series of electronic meetings / plannings / movements / skirmishes / culminating in weekend tabletop(s) grand battle.