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What makes combat "feel" like combat?

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Rick L
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This is a question we could probably ask about any particular aspect of games, but I'm curious what everyone has to say about this in relation to combat specifically.

So... Combat. What do we use to "pretend" we're having a battle, skirmish, or fight? Cards, dice, tokens, maps, miniatures... feel free to add anything I missed!

Now, if I went to Afghanistan with a deck of combat cards and a pocket full of combat dice, and a rulebook, how long do you think I'd last? The point I want to make here is that game pieces have nothing to do with real combat - you don't shoot someone with a card or inflict damage with a die in real life, right?

Now, I've never been in real combat, but this is just common sense. Why bother to point it out then? Well, there are games that simulate combat as realistically as possible, but they don't use game pieces. I'm talking about things like Paintball and Airsoft - games where you aim (non-lethal) weapons, pull triggers, get physically​ exhausted, and feel pain when you're shot!

Having played a lot of those games in the past, I'll venture to say that those "felt" a lot more like combat than any board or card game I've ever played!

I'm making this point because in table top games, the feeling of combat is just a psychological perception of rules/mechanics. Isn't it? I don't claim to be an expert on anything here, these are just my observations from playing and designing games, so I welcome any similar or contrary observations you might want to post!

So another way to say this is that game mechanics "trick" us into feeling like we're in a combat situation - some do that better than others. I'm intrigued by the way Scythe uses a bid system to simulate combat. I bid this much, you bid that much - where did "combat" happen? What makes it "combat" instead of a bid to occupy a space on the board? Is it the presence of units? What if the units were just wooden cubes instead of "mechs"? Is it only the shape of the units that makes it "feel" like combat? Or is it mainly the brief attempt to out-guess your opponent?

How about the Cities and Knights expansion of Settlers of Catan? When the Barbarian ship reaches the end of it's track, you count all the cities and compare that to the number of active knights, to see if there are enough knights to protect all the cities on the map. If not, one or more cities get downgraded to settlements. Either way, you flip the knights to reset them, then reset the barbarians on their track. Where did "combat" happen?

I think there are a bunch of things that can contribute to the feeling​ of combat in any particular game, and I don't think it's necessary to include all of them in a combat mechanic to create that feeling.

So what does it for you? What are some good and bad examples? Use any type of combat you want as you think about this - small scale or large, soldiers & tanks, or just one character fighting another.

X3M
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For me. It is when the

For me. It is when the projectiles start flying. Each dice roll can be a potential death in the game.
The fact that most attacks require you to sacrifice units. Some of which may be on the board for half a week, so players may be attached to these units by now. They have been nurtured.
They may be trapped and doomed to die.

let-off studios
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Combat Models

X3M wrote:
...Each dice roll can be a potential death in the game. The fact that most attacks require you to sacrifice units. Some of which may be on the board for half a week, so players may be attached to these units by now. They have been nurtured...
I wonder if a tabletop game more accurately models combat when there's a sense of loss when one "fails." When you feel like there's something more at stake, and "stakes is high."

I don't think it's so much about relishing in the "pew-pew" of laser guns as it is in the loser's cry of, "What are we gonna do now?!?!" Both the winner and the loser react to such an outburst: one positive, one negative.

Becoming invested in the abilities of those units, and then clearly losing a contest - where the feedback of the contest is that you now possess fewer units - can generate this sense of loss. Furthermore, the sense of dread for combat contests, unless you have a strong sense that you will win with overwhelming odds, becomes that much deeper when you see how much the loss of these units can negatively affect your position.

TL;DR = Combat can be effective if players tend to avoid it unless they feel they'll win with overwhelming odds, because the disappointment of losing the combat contest is significant.

X3M
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Slightly confused if you

Slightly confused if you agree and reconfirmed, or dissagree, or simply wanted to correct me a little.

This dreaded feel for combat is mirrored in my game by players. Who effective mix up their forces. Creating a healthy buffer in duration by RPS mechanics. Yet also having less of a fire power in general.

Those who are certain, willing, determined and confident. Will start sorting their "behind the lines" units. Which will have much more effective firepower. When the right target is chosen. In this case. Other players immidiately start pondering, who the victim could be. Who is failing their camping strategy? Where will this attacker strike. And furthermore, can someone else interfere or feed on either the attacker or defender.

The main goal is still, "genocide" of one of the players. And the game ends.

What I am missing is some more gameplay that will spark more need for combat. While the game is all about strategy in combat. Right now, it is the HQ(s), or the main hero(player).
Super units that can destroy entire armies are in the game. This is the only semi parallel method of pushing players into combat. They will be confident in winning.

Then again. How is combat experienced in RTS games? My game copies these games. It is almost always about "genocide".

spaff
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Another approach

Dexterity games tackle this in interesting ways. Take Catacombs for example (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/195137/catacombs-third-edition)

Combat is simulated by flicking large wooden disks at each other. You can literally "hit" an opponent, while also maintaining high stakes with the option of missing an attack. Not missing because you rolled an inopportune number, missing because you literally missed when you flicked a disk. There's a tactile satisfaction to this that doesn't exist in other board game combat.

I think the high stakes are important. To me Scythe does not simulate combat well, but instead simulates the threat of combat. A Cold War feeling. I think this is because of two things: you have non-combative units that can just be walked over, AND combat itself is so unpredictable it is better not to participate (in most cases). At least in my experience of the game that first battle- anyone could win, depending on how greatly they are willing to weaken themselves. But then, in any case, the winner is weak and others pounce to get that easy military star. So everyone is reluctant to engage.

To me, the biggest fault in the combat of Scythe is that the Mechs and leader don't have any innate combat ability. It's all determined by how great your power and battle card engine is. If my units are only a vessel by which to channel resources I've collected... that's just too abstract to me to "feel" like combat.

I think theme is very important. Mini's improve theme, art improves theme. Even language used to describe what is happening improves theme. In Scythe I'm bidding "power" and "cards"... meh. bad language if I'm trying to capture combat. I could equally be running a Electric Utility empire. In Blood Rage... well the name itself already elicits a certain feeling. And throughout the game you "pillage" and spend "rage." In Kemet language such as "blood," "strength," "Victory," "blades," "sacrifice," is used... it just gets you in the right head space to suspend disbelief.

let-off studios
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Agreement

X3M wrote:
Slightly confused if you agree and reconfirmed, or dissagree, or simply wanted to correct me a little.
No, I don't think you need to be corrected at all.

I quoted you because I like the words you used to describe the mechanic:

"risk"

"nurture"

I like the way you describe it. There seems to be a certain feeling you want the players to have as they play, and that's a good sign to me.

As far as a combat model is concerned, being able to engage players in taking risks, feeling attached/immersed with the units they control on the board... That's what I feel is important about the combat simulation. It's no matter about what guns you have, it's how well - and when - you use them.

Another aspect of combat models I enjoy is the sense of the unknown or unclear information. If combat is simply a puzzle to be solved, deterministic and with no uncertainty, then it loses some of its attraction and drama for me. I also feel like uncertainty adds to the risk factor, and allows players to (for example) enjoy the thought process of predicting what their opponent/target will do in response to their move.

Even in chess, there can be a certain level of uncertainty and drama. Combat is highly abstracted, but can still engage players on this uncertainty/predictive level - at least for the bulk of non-master players.

Adam Leamey
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An interesting question for

An interesting question for me combat realism does not matter for me I think what make a good combat system is the following.

Simplicity:

What i mean by this is the system is easy to grasp some game have very convoluted systems that are is difficult to learn and takes a while to do as an example i am going to give d&d 3.5

Due to the sheer amount of options players and gm's have available there are a lot of exceptions to the core rules like monsters being immune to certain effects or being able to act out of turn.

Combat can take hours with countless rules queries and so on.

Now in recent years the combat has been streamlined to be quick and simple with out to much rule checking but keeping the tension with the fact you can succeed or fail based on a roll of the dice which leads to the next point tension.

Tension

I think this is an important point to have if your wanting combat to be interesting is to include a degree of success and failure usually this is handled by dice rolls but card based systems are used sometimes to. An example would be fury of Dracula that uses a sort of rock paper scissor style to combat with certain cards beating other cards.

When players feel they are walking a thin line between the two extremes i find it makes the game enjoyable as your at the edge of your seat.

Decisions

Players like to have options each being roughly of equal merit as if a player finds a way to win 60% of the time then that will make the game boring as that kind of option will be used to much.

But if players have different ways to achieve victory that are about equal to one another I think that brings more enjoyment to a wider audience.

Hope this helps.

entwater
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Risk, goal, attachment

It starts with caring and being attached to the game. Then there is a goal that is obstructed by the other player. And the risk of trying to overcome them to attain your goal.

I know that's pretty basic what I just said.

I actually think it might be better and more accurate to call it 'conflict' rather than 'combat'. No matter how detailed or 'realistic', calling it combat in a way only points out how far it is from actual combat.

Calling it conflict opens up the possibilities because conflict is what makes board games fun and interesting. There's conflict over limited resources, over placement on the board, with the game itself (like NPC units you have to beat). Then there's the psychological strategy, like in Sheriff of Nottingham.

I like having the 'combat' rules represented spatially. Having to consult a rulebook kills it. Hoplomachus is a good example. Another good thing is when PLAYERS provide the complexity, rather than the rulebook. Sherriff of Nottingham I mentioned is a good example of the other, the rules of conflict are very simple, but it's the psychological games that make it complicated. Sherriff is a brain-burner for me in a way that Hoplomachus isn't; after 2 games I just stop caring if you have pepper and silk.

It's all an abstraction, but so it actual combat. Two people trying to kill each other have abstracted the idea of an enemy, revenge, or hatred onto this person they've often never met. There are 'rules of engagement', war crimes, and codes of honor. It's much more real in the sense that people get killed, but it is driven by abstract human psychology.

The Odd Fox
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Brain fills in the spaces

I think this is a great topic and one that is important to consider as a designer. When I read a book that has combat I envision the scene as it unfolds. There is tension and evocative imagery in my mind as I read. The only thing that is "actually" going in is I'm reading printed letters that when conjoined represent words, which in turn represent ideas. No combat, no romance, nothing but letters. The thing at play here is the author's ability to direct my brain into connecting the dots and filling in space with my imagination.

I work as a therapist for a living (mental health, not physical) and study the way the brain works. As newborn babies, each of us were unable to connect the spacial dots as it were. Even after learning the faces of our parents, if they were to cover up half of their face they would become unrecognizable to us and for all we knew at the time, mom literally disappeared in front of our eyes! Over time we have learned to see what isn't present, ie: the hidden side of mom/dad's face, when someone leaves the room we learn they aren't gone forever etc. Words and other symbols became meaningful. The reason I mention this is because the people have developed a complex way of connecting the dots that are provided. In Ryan Laukat's Above and Below, we read through scenarios that transport us into another place and time where decisions have outcomes that play out through the gaming experience. As designers, it's our job to provide dots worth connecting. Keeping the players engaged in this process becomes meaningful and fun.

ssm
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Theme

Ultimately I think it is theme. Without the right theme to grab a player, it will be boring for that player. Mechanics play a part too, but need to mesh with the theme to hold a player.

radioactivemouse
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Theming and simulation

I talk about this to my students all the time...how does rolling of a dice interpret as armies fighting over a land territory in a game like Risk?

It doesn't, to be honest.

We use "simulation" in this case (this mechanism represents this other thing).

However, when we put mechanisms that have elements similar to the action we are doing, it makes the mechanism more thematic, however it doesn't fully represent the action.

For example, in Magic, you "tap" a card in order to use it. In terms of a land card, you are (theoretically) "drawing" the magic off the land. While you're not really "drawing" the magic out of the land, the process of turning the card kinda feels like you're turning a switch from on to off, going from active to inactive.

There's no way to accurately represent combat, but by applying mechanisms that simulate certain aspects of the combat, it will feel more thematic to the player.

In another example, with my game, Conquest at Kismet where players represent giant motherships trying to destroy the other ship. During combat, players alternate discarding cards into a central Combat Stack, shuffled, then the attacker pulls a card from the stack to determine the winner of the skirmish. Ultimately it's a lottery system, but by discarding multiple cards into a shared stack, it feels like you're sending a squad of ships instead of using resources to generate 1 or 2 units only to attack with those 1 or 2 units.

I'm not a fan of putting in a mechanism for mechanisms sake (or because I particularly like a mechanism). I've seen way too many games that have mechanics that just don't feel right or have no connection to simulate anything about what it represents.

I'd rather put in a mechanism that can easily simulate an aspect or two of the action I want it to represent.

kilmor81
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Roleplaying

In civil interactions like playing a boardgame, combat is roleplayed instead of enacted. The more combat related details you put into a game the easier it is for players to envision combat.

Many games simulate an armies strength with just one value.
The infantry has 1 Strength, cavalry has 2 Strength (Game of Thrones)

There are games that lets you upgrade those units, like Eclipse and Blood Rage.

IMO, Scythe's combat system is a joke. You are discouraged from combat through the loss of popularity. So its more of an after thought, not a main part of the game. Scythe plays more like an engine building game.

I think any combat game worth its salt would include tactical as well as strategic planning and provides multiple ways to outsmart your opponents through ingenuity and some luck.

I think a these games does this very well (Kemet, Mare Nostrum, Warhammer, Magic TCG, Eclipse)

FrankM
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The goal is a sense of risk & accomplishment

As mentioned, board game combat is not trying to simulate the actual feeling of being in combat.

Seen the real thing, not looking to replicate that experience.

Board game combat is more about a risky venture that gives the player a sense of anticipation before resolution, tension during resolution, and accomplishment afterward. This doesn't require an element of chance, but it does need some kind of unknown.

(For example, two players could each select a hand of cards at the beginning of the game and be free to play any of those cards in any order. There are unknown elements in the opponent's hand and strategy.)

Not familiar with the Catan variant, but if it's just having N knights by turn T to avoid a bad outcome, it doesn't seem like "combat" in the sense I'm using it here. I also would not call an entire wargame "combat" though the individual skirmishes within it would be. The whole wargame has victory conditions with a certain combative theme, but that does not make it "combat" as I'm using the term. Hopefully this make sense.

A game could be designed to maximize the anticipation part of combat with careful planning and an appropriate sense of dread if an opponent strikes just before you're ready... but even if strategy is the focus, the battle itself should not be anti-climatic.

My preference is for a combat system with some exceptions to the normal resolution process (e.g., this unit is immune to fire damage) so that the flavor and theme actually matter, but not so convoluted that it requires multiple lookups in the rulebook. I also like the tactile sense of this-is-the-moment-of-resolution you get from throwing a handful of dice or both players turning over their cards simultaneously. IMHO, action-reaction sequences of indeterminate length just sap the fun out of a fight.

Rick L
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Wonderful responses!

These responses are great, touching on many aspects of the "feel" of combat in games - some of which I had recognized before, and some I hadn't yet defined in my own mind.

For example, feeling attached to your units/troops/assests, and the "trepidation" (let's call it) when you consider if you're ready to risk those assets in battle. I hadn't considered that effect, but as I look at various examples of games I've played, I can see how much that has been part of the feeling of combat. Thanks X3M and Let-off studios!

Odd Fox, I love the thoughts about our adult abilities to create connections in our minds to associate game elements with the concepts that basically redefine the pieces on the table and turn them into a thematic experience (paraphrasing).

Every game is of course going to rely on different mechanics to fit the theme, hopefully in the right way. Some games are flat out war games, but others - mine included - have combat as a way for players to interact and interfere with each other, but is not the focus of the game. In such cases, you've got to keep the combat mechanics appropriate, and not force a "pet" mechanic to fit in where it doesn't really belong.

FrankM, you explained a lot of what I had in mind when I started the thread. For me, having quick back and forth plays gives players opportunities to respond to each other, and depending on the mechanics, there can be room for tactical decisions there. In Risk, there's a little of both elements - at least the defender gets to respond to the attack, and the only tactic they have is to decide if they want to roll 2 dice for hopefully higher numbers, or only one die at a time, to limit their losses (you can only lose 1 unit per die rolled, right?)

That's fine, but I also likr to have a bit more depth to feel like my decisions have a strong role in determining the outcome. In a game like Risk, most of those decisions are made before combat, as you position your forces.

It's important to me that there are unknown elements to create that tension - whether it's dice, cards that the enemy might have, or both, or just making moves that you didn't see coming (like in Chess).

For shorter skirmishes and encounters, there needs to be a good balance between quick gameplay (simplicity) and player choices (strategy and tactics). As mentioned, full tactical and strategic immersion can become quite lengthy and tedious, unless that really is the core of the game. But simplifying too much just eliminates meaningful choices for players, which to me begins to feel less and less like combat.

gxnpt
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combat

The combat system I used in my old 1978 Hyperwars game was intended as a simplification of miniature battles but used combat tables with odds and various damage results.

The revamp went all digital on me (hidden info will do that to a game and going digital let the computer do the paperwork) but the actual combat portion dropped the tables completely.

If there were no computer (still use a calculator - just to convert something like 17/31 to a number you can try to roll with percentage dice) the combat system is a combo of rolling for hits and drawing chits from a bag for damage inflicted.

So, each ship has drive,weapons,etc that can be destroyed by a hit in combat - simplified to 1 hit destroys 1 unit and a drive of 3 is actually 3 drive units.

To hit odds are determined by weapon total with me hitting you as me/(me+you).

Number of shots usually same as weapon total.

Each hit takes out an armor unit until armor is 0 and then a random unit on the ship (weapon and drive both 0 destroys the ship, system unit damage causes the ship to go dark).

Action is simultaneous (all players allocate all shots at known odds then all to hit rolls are made and damage inflicted - then a new combat round uses new numbers if any opponents remain).

--- BUT --- when a combat might involve 30 shots in a single round at one location (and there can be combats going on at more than one location) this method is way too cumbersome for a physical implementation.

With info hidden (only the owner can see actual damage - opponents only know ship type, total damage to the ship, and the shipyard equipment specs for each type of ship) the digital version has you aim all your shots at known odds and the computer processes and gives back reports of target, odds, shots fired, and hits to every player in that combat.

--- STILL ---
A method of odds to hit as a die roll, number of shots at those odds, and random damage inflicted as draw chits from a bag is suited for combats where the scale is fairly small without taking forever to resolve.

Squinshee
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Combat is all about

Combat is all about meaningful and impactful direct player interaction. Realism isn't necessary.

Rick L
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Squinshee wrote:Combat is all

Squinshee wrote:
Combat is all about meaningful and impactful direct player interaction. Realism isn't necessary.

Exactly - and in fact, I'm kind of taking the viewpoint that realism in game combat isn't even possible.

Player interaction can be cooperative, like trading, for example, and it can be competitive. I know we're kind of getting into semantics here, but competition, conflict, and combat all have similar elements, but they aren't quite the same. And what I'm exploring here is what sets "combat" apart from other types of conflicts and competition.

For example, Catan (again lol). Two players are building roads toward the same hex intersection, and have both reached it. Now, it comes down to who can build a settlement in that spot first. One player rolls a "7" and puts the robber on their opponent's forest hex because they think all that person needs to finish a settlement is wood, so hopefully the robber buys a little time, right? Plus that player one just stole a grain from their opponent's hand!

Ok, there's competition for the spot on the board. There's conflict here too, right? Player one stole a resource! But there is definitely no "combat".

Could this be turned into combat by changing what the cards represent? Or by changing something else, like if the robber was a battle mech? Would this conflict then feel like combat? Why? Or why not? What else is missing? What else is needed to make this conflict feel like combat?

Obviously there have been a lot of great answers that could be applied, but the trick is of course finding the right things to use in this situation, as an example. What do you think?

Rick L
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Rhetorical

BTW, you can try answering those questions if you want, or not - I kind of meant them to just be rhetorical, but it would be fun to see where that example can be taken too!

tikey
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Interesting thread and some

Interesting thread and some fantastic responses.
When thinking about this I immediatly though that you can't emulate the visceral feeling of being in a combat situation but you can try to emulate the reflective element* .
The physicality of combat is not possible to replicate but you can generate similar emotions to those that surface in those situations.

Now -fortunately- I haven't been in a firefight so everything I'm talking about is asumptions,

There are many things to consider. For example depending on the scale of the combat the emotional reaction changes, a one on one duel like in a western is not the same as detachedly commanding hundred of men into battle. They're different experiences and the bigger the number the greater the dehumanization.
On a indiviual level you can generate tension, dread. Here's what many of you talked about loss. Combat is dangerous, even if you're better prepared than the opponent. In a larger scale it's more intellectual, it's about expectations, planning and the nervousness of seeing if everything falls into place or falls appart.

How do you generate those emotions? I have no idea :P
I guess it'll depend on the theme and the mechanics you're using. Dice seems like it would be great for a one on one. You might have a mechanics that allows you to skew the odds in your favour but you're still vulnerable to a bad roll. That creates tension.
For a bigger scale I think using a deck of cards to prepare a plan of action might work well. You set your plan beforehand and then when combat happens you can see if your preparations worked and if you were able to take advantage of the terrain, positioning and the intel you gained from your opponent.

*When I talk about visceral and reflective I'm using the terms as described by Donald Norman in his book "Emotional Design"
http://www.jnd.org/books/emotional-design-why-we-love-or-hate-everyday-t...
A fantastic read, easy to follow as it doesn't get into technical jargon. I highly recommend it. Even if you're not into product design there is stuff there that's quite useful for boardgame design.

john smith
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1)Technical Detail! to much

1)Technical Detail! to much abstraction is NOT good.(most scream the opposite but I adamantly disagree)This can turn into a discussion of its own if details are sought.

2) Well thought out Scenarios. A good scenario will be the best and easiest way to achieve "balance." This is an issue primarily, but NOT exclusively for Historical/Hypothetical(like Potential N Korea war.) Don't neuter my 88's for "balance" Bring more Sherman's instead. Remember all's fair in love and war. If I am an Iraqi on Media Ridge my goals may be to stall the Imperialist Dogs for set time. Survive and reform. It is possible for both combat's to achieve their goals. It not al about who kills the most. And yeah you may be outgunned and outnumbered. But how well you do when your handed a S&*% sandwich is a true gauge of your skill.

But to have Iraqi tanks artificially more powerful or American Abrams artificially less for "balance" is not fun to me at all. and certainly not simulating combat or it's feel at all. Nor is screwing my Tiger because of some perceived Mechanical issue. Yes Breakdowns are part of Reality but I paid allot money for that model and had to hand paint it. It's a big turn off to have to roll a die to see if it makes to battle.

3)Simultaneity! Simultaneity! Simultaneity! Repeated for emphasis Short amounts of time represent in turns is the best way to achieve this. I found bounding mechanisms to gamey. They don't generate a realistic feel to me. Plus short time scale with OP fire keeps everybody engaged and at the table as opposed to wondering off while your opponent tinkers with his troops. Setting a time limit to conduct your turn just induced stress but artificially so, I found it frustrating and gamey. I think respectful players will keep the pace going for everybody's benefit without having to race a clock at the table. That kind of Haste caused fumbling of models etc.

5)Double Blind. The ultimate is Refereed double blind. Not knowing where your enemy is great realistic tension. It generates the hesitancy and fear of misstep that you must steel your mind against in real combat.

5)Multiple Players per SIDE. AND Players willing to abide by a chain of command. Having to coordinate properly with a team is very realistic, and truly entertaining way of gaming. It makes play faster, and more sociable as well as creating its own drama and tension like combat. The one drawback is the greater chance of stagnation of play due to social conversation. Short attention spans or uncooperative people can really ruin it. But couple this with a refereed double blind game, and you'll have a gaming experience second to none.

6)Don't use Morale at all. I know that seems way weird and counter intuitive but, give it shot. I have found that if players are left to making their own choice as to when to withdraw their troops that you will have a more realistic depiction of combat after a game or two. Sure a few rounds might see some silliness but if they get invested in your game they will learn and you will see troops behaving more realistically in their reaction to situations without without artificially imposing retreat though die rolls. As before if this is coupled with the other elements above, you will really have something akin to combat as far emotion and proper reaction. And feel.

X3M
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john smith

john smith wrote:
3)Simultaneity! Simultaneity! Simultaneity! Repeated for emphasis Short amounts of time represent in turns is the best way to achieve this. I found bounding mechanisms to gamey.

Just so happens. We decided to get rid of our timers. Actually, the first action sets everything else in motion any way. At least, the player that may start it all, can think about it carefully. Just like in real combat. Let's just say, throwing the first stone will be done with thought. And we got so much more freedom. And the moment before the action can be used as a legit pause.

Or is that not what you meant?

john smith wrote:

5)Multiple Players per SIDE.

I second this. We experimented with different configurations in the player groups. 2 teams is best. You still can have leaders and subordinates. 3 teams leads to troubles. For any one remembering that I tried to design a RPS between 3 races. It leads to bad games, even if you have 3 players.

IF you want a third team or player. This one needs to get an entire different goal than just genocide.

Mercenary players, we played this often. But they are not really cooperative. It always leaded to 2 teams.

john smith wrote:

6)Don't use Morale at all.
I hate morale. It is like a secondary health system. Instead, we often use XP to get attached to certain "hero's". And it is the players morale if he/she wants to put their "hero's" in danger or not.

john smith
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X3M wrote:Or is that not what

X3M wrote:
Or is that not what you meant?

Not exactly. What I meant is largely about how many actions and how much movement is allowed per turn. The less the better, in regards to making a turn based system as close to real time as it can get. It allows the non phasing player to realistically react to his opponent. Also the term opportunity fire or sometimes called overwatch fire is needed. If your not familiar this is a kind of interrupt by the name phasing player. When enemy units move into range of your unis you can shoot at them even though its not your turn. This keeps players engaged at all times as they need to attentively observe their opponents actions at all time.

X3M
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john smith wrote:X3M wrote:Or

john smith wrote:
X3M wrote:
Or is that not what you meant?

Not exactly. What I meant is largely about how many actions and how much movement is allowed per turn. The less the better, in regards to making a turn based system as close to real time as it can get. It allows the non phasing player to realistically react to his opponent. Also the term opportunity fire or sometimes called overwatch fire is needed. If your not familiar this is a kind of interrupt by the name phasing player. When enemy units move into range of your unis you can shoot at them even though its not your turn. This keeps players engaged at all times as they need to attentively observe their opponents actions at all time.

I see. Then perhaps, you like the system that me and my buddies use.

Because that is exactly as how you have described it (lifts eyebrow). Except for the overwatch fire. We use a slightly larger scale themed name: Intercept. But, Lure, is also a similar action that players can use.

We have:
Primary random chosen player.
Secondary re-acting victim(s).
Tertiary (re-)acting bystander(s).

john smith
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Quote:We have: Primary

Quote:
We have:
Primary random chosen player.
Secondary re-acting victim(s).
Tertiary (re-)acting bystander(s).

Yes that is good. Action and Reaction. Another methods that was used I allot of games I used to play was applying all effects of combat at the end of the game turn . I always try to visualize a Real time Video game and how I can achieve that with a non Video system that requires turns. How do you get the effect of being hit by gunfire just as your, say lobbing a grenade. By applying all combat effects at the end of the turn. Now the Soldier has thrown the grenade and also an enemy has shot him. Both attack occur in the same turn if the effects are marked on the board in a sense occurring all at the same time.

pelle
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For a deeper and more

For a deeper and more academic discussion about what wargames are good at simulating or not I can highly recommend the book Simulating War by Phil Sabin. There are some other good books about the history of wargames, but they do not normally touch directly upon this subject.

The book Wargames - From Gladiators to Gigabytes by Martin van Creveld is a bit lighter, but it covers many ways of playing/pretending/simulating wars and battles throughout the ages (including boardgames and paintball of course), and it is an interesting read (and it has many long lists of references for further reading, so it might be a good entry point, but I have not checked out the references much).

I never was in real combat luckily and have no idea what it was like, but from books and articles what I understand is that when the military use simulations to teach fighting in wars they split the experience up into different parts. To teach the soldiers what it is like to be under fire they have simulations where they crawl in the mud and someone fires a real machinegun just over their heads for instance. Then they have simulations where they run around in the woods and play laser tag or paintball. And various boardgames and electronic simulators. Each of those focuses on simulating one particular aspect of battle, rather than trying to squash several of them into one, because if you do that it becomes real combat, and people die a lot, which would not be ideal for training purposes.

Boardgames are great for getting a top-down view of a battle with the tactics involved and sometimes a bit of command-and-control or fog of war. To me that is enough really and I do not think the medium is right for much more.

If a game can make me care about the soldiers that is of course a good thing for its entertainment value. Ambush! is the by far best example I have seen. A soldier that has been with your squad for 10 or 20 missions, increased their skills to really high levels, it gets very tense when they are in trouble and decades after playing a mission I can still remember details about how some soldier was killed. But I do not think that still has anything to do with real combat. While the game does simulate to some extent the effect of different types of waepons etc, and is quite complex by modern standards, it is still more of a simulation of Hollywood-style combat than of real combat (by design).

You can have a very complex simulating game like Advanced Squad Leader to look at many details of combat, but in the end it becomes more like a story-generator and does not have a lot of realistic decisions. It is rather gamey actually ("gamey" in the sense wargamers use it, to describe when players focus more on the rules than on the theme). Many other tactical wargames simulate war in this way, but rarely on anywhere near this detailed level.

From what I have read in various reviews and articles, Up Front is often regarded as the best simulation ever of what ww2 combat was like, and there might be something to that. But there are no bullets flying in the air, just a lot of confusion and chaos (and simulating quite many things as well). It is interesting that the game does away with positioning almost completely, and you do not have a good idea what the terrain looks like until one of your teams stumble upon something. It is very much seeing things from the eye-level of your soldiers, not really being sure what is hiding in front of you.

Fields of Fire (disclosure: I was a playtester) seems to me like a very good look at command and control of an infantry company in combat. It simulates how you need to get orders out to individual squads and teams to make them do what you want to (otherwise they tend to do what they want, like fire at the first enemy they see until you order them to not do that, because as I understand it that is actually what infantry squads tend to do in reality). It even abstracts fire-combat and terrain to a rather high level, but I still think it makes for a very good make-belief of being the company commander.

john smith
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Hi, Pelle, I must learn your

Hi, Pelle, I must learn your extensions.

Yes, the Philosophers talk so much about this.( Ego) Sabin being an example. I don't believe he's ever spent a day in combat. Has he?
I find that "Complex" often tends to be a synonym for "I don't like it." Personal preferences in rules styles are your right. Some find detailed minutia in the technical and others like myself find detailed minutia in these newer concepts. I end to get contentious about it because, I have encountered lots of people that try to de legitimize personal preference's as unrealistic , complex, or the most irritating "not fun". This outcropping of philosophy on wargmaing suffers from that greatly in my experience.
The focus on command and control from what I have seen is a way to make the argument for more luck and more chance somehow appear as a scholarly thesis on a reality very few of the supporters of it have truly experienced. Technical data was often decimated in a dry and unexciting manner. I think many found the “human element” easier to remember and more interesting. But both are key elements to simulation and reality. Any simulation you have to have precise detail on the parameters of your world. What good is a flight simulator without Gravity and wind resistance for example? None. Technical Details do not necessarily mean complexity. It’s all how you present them. Or better yet hide them in the design.
For example ASL was considered complex because the Rules layout looked like Law books or stereo instructions. Once re written it is not bad. It was always considered one for the more complex games and yet has had a strong core of players to this day. But I agree it does suffer from Exploitation and rules lawyering. It also suffers from too much competitive play in tournaments so when People made an attempt at variants they usually get shouted down. I forget the word they used (valor?) but they added a character element to it. Good for the narrative minded especially in a campaign game setting
Another point of confusion I often see is the Black Swan. Many anecdotal historical references are about the Black Swan. They are then applied as the norm and as realistic, using the citation as proof. If you look to find a citation to fit you can likely find one but, it’s not necessarily truly accurate from a research standpoint. Another issue is they are considered without looking at the specific circumstances surrounding them.
In many societies saying a veteran of war is somehow wrong is understandably seen as distasteful. I understand and agree. But it must be understood that while veteran’s experiences have value, it is not a good source for research or validation of a combat model r even portion of it.

Disobedience or dissertation comes at a great a price, a Price as high being a Combat Casualty in most Nations, even America. So while many can pull out the black swan citation of the very rare time somebody refused a direct order, it is not the norm. Discipline works. You are trained and the training sticks or you are not advanced past it. Either you get it right or you get the boot.
Fire Discipline is hard in certain situations but you have comrades and they will set you straight on it, if no other reason other than to keep their hides intact. Murphy’s Laws of Combat: Never draw fire it makes those around you nervous” Random unthinking fire will draw return fire and reveal your position. Never fight or start a battle for no gain as Rommel said. That said in past centuries it was more likely to see such fire when ranges were extremely close and Soldier were often conscripts. As far as a soldier never firing, again, more likely in the past then the Great wars on. There will be consequences, and you will glean negative if not violence from those around you.

Murphy's Laws of combat like the one above are good rule of thumb. They are semi satirical list of things that tend to paint a picture of wartime soldierly life quite well if you apply those to Wargame philosophers you will often see some glaring inconstancies.

X3M
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john smith wrote:I always try

john smith wrote:
I always try to visualize a Real time Video game and how I can achieve that with a non Video system that requires turns. How do you get the effect of being hit by gunfire just as your, say lobbing a grenade. By applying all combat effects at the end of the turn. Now the Soldier has thrown the grenade and also an enemy has shot him. Both attack occur in the same turn if the effects are marked on the board in a sense occurring all at the same time.

Simply let one weapon go first?
Sub turns if you will.

pelle
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Oh, I did not say complex to

Oh, I did not say complex to mean bad. Ambush! is the only game I have ever rated a 10 on bgg. It is fantastic. But complex literally means that something consists of many parts, and Ambush! do. ASL consists of even more parts. That tends to go hand in hand with making the game difficult to learn and time-consuming to play, which is true for both those games. But I still like ASL, even though I had no time to play it enough to not always forget most of the rules, so I sold my collection a few months ago. But I still respect it as a very fine game. None of the ASL players I have talked to however have claimed that it is very realistic. They tend to see it as a fun game with a lot of chrome that can generate interesting stories because of all the little things that can happen, and also they tend to be very competitive and enjoy that part of the game.

Fields of Fire is designed by a US Marine Officer. He was in Iraq a few times. I do not know if he saw battle, but at least I suspect he knows a bit more about combat and leading an infantry company than the average gamer do (like me) and I think the game does a much better job actually than ASL at making me feel like I command a company. If I want a squad in my third platoon to shift their fire from one target to another I need to figure out a way to get my order to them, or they will just keep firing (unless I spend one of my rare general initiative points to get them to act anyway, something that I think is a bit weird really because it let's the player influence their decisions through telepathy or something... but ASL do that with all units every turn). You need to think about how you advance because you need some NCO to stay in touch with the units, maybe laying out telephone wires, trying to keep the artillery spotter in communication with the company hq, knowing when to send you your colored flares (that are encoded before the mission to give different orders to the units) etc etc. There are so many things not considered at all in ASL. In ASL you do not even have to keep your squads together in platoons for instance, any leader can just command any squad, and you can combine any squads you want into a stack. It is a compromise made different ways in the two games what part of the battle to simulate in greater detail. ASL abstracts away calling for artillery into a few card-draws (and dice rolls?) rather than simulating in detail (like FoF) how the company HQ uses their phone, through the cables you have laid, over to the spotter, sending an order to him to call for artillery, and then from his radio to the artillery network. There is no need for as much randomness. But I am not saying the results are more realistic than ASL. It is just a more detailed look at what happens when you try to call for artillery.

In general though, being more abstract does not mean being a worse simulation. You simulate the details of some things, and then you use abstractions to provide the effects of other thing without worrying about the details. That is a perfectly fine way to do it. If I can reduce a very complex thing into a die-roll that can be just as good as a computer-simulation of every molecule involved in that complex thing. That is what physics and all kinds of science is about. When I want to calculate how much force is needed to push a box up a slope I do not run a computer simulation involving every atom's interaction with every other atom, I just do a very simple calculation involving a calculated statistical friction for the box vs plane and a calculation based on the slope and weight of the box. Those things are all abstractions on a very high level, but they work great in practice.

X3M
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If you regard Ambush! so

If you regard Ambush! so high. It is a shame that I do not own that game.

john smith
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Yes sub phases. 1 Minute

Yes sub phases. 1 Minute turns divided into four 15 second sub phases.
I borrowed from two games I played years ago. The original FASA battletech game where the players alternate moving one piece at a time, A then B etc. I have a means of pre programmed movement I am working on. Not yet ready for display.

Over watch is a commonly used wargaming concept. It is like Space Hulk the Board game. Units that are designated as on over watch can fire at units that move into its Fire Arc or at enemy overwatch units. That’s the interrupt.

All units have a unique ID and a square token with that ID on it. That token is placed next to the target to declare a shot. Each phase you can move or stand still and shoot. Some units can do both. When both players end moving for that phase, shots are resolved one a time. What order resolved does not matter because there will be a token such as immobilized, or Gun knocked out, Destroyed etc. Placed on the target. This does not take effect the unit until the end of the Phase. In this way if a unit has declared fire and is destroyed by incoming fire it still conduct fire for that turn. So in game world all shots have occurred at same time.

john smith
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Marines in the US are often

Marines in the US are often teased for their fanaticism but I am sure they are taught to think for themselves as we were in the US Army I was over there as well albeit longer ago in 1991 as well as other places but not that much has changed. If you perceive a threat you will engage without orders. I cannot fulfill my job if I wait for orders not to be killed by enemy activity. LOL.

Its all very dependent on the situation. So much so that it would require an AI to even remotely come close replicating the actions of Non player soldiers. Being just a game I understand that some suspension of reality must occur. Psychology is far too complicated to try to simulate even with a computer. Look at most Military RTS games. Even with Commercial PC AI's the stupidity of units is maddening. Close Combat 3.(which touted troop psychological profiles) I tossed it out my window. I watched tanks turn their rears to the enemy because of some AI glitch way to many times. I've been playing Company of Heroes Mod and its great visually but if you scrutinize the behavior of the Troops on their own. Its down right suicidal and illogical.

But technical things like Weight of Fire was calculated by Artillerymen in Word war two on the Spot without any PC's. So it easy quite easy to calculate that and create a table or other mechanism to represent it on a board. Same with tank Armor penetration. I have that in Excel. The Results can easily be displayed on a chart where the only math needed by the player is to compare one number to other and get a much more accurate result then say PanzerBlitz's heavy abstraction. That game is very popular but it is also often modified heavily to try to get the right "feel" by so many. The original Avalon Hill General has history of those attempts. Right off the bat many spoke of the lacking in detail and gameyness such as the Famed Panzerbush.

One major oversight of these command control ideas, is that You do not go in to a fight without a plan. People cling to the adage of the plan "Never surviving battle". Well to some extent things never play out as planed. But you do have contingencies for the most likely variation. Training and practice do very well to overcome things devolving into complete chaos. We were taught individual initiative because if everybody stayed on the radio waiting to be told what to do you'd be dead while the enemy conducted its business. Radio dicspline is taught so nets don't get jammed up. If one doesn't work, you have a runner. If you are isolated, don't wonder off.(that ones easy, who wants to be a gaggle isolated men on a battlefield?) We set up rally points for such an occurrence. Not to mention if a Platoon Leader cant find a part of his unit he will also send somebody to establish contact too.

The average infantrymen may perceive the massive noise ,speed and fire as chaos, but if your leaders are as unaware as you, you wont be alive to talk about it. you will found allot syndical gallows humor from the average soldier, which is understandable as they have their butts on the line. Anecdotes are fascinating but theya re telling one story in one situation.

It's no cake walk and its not a training exercise but, there is way to much focus on command paralysis in these games especially in World War Two and Beyond. AS I mentioned in earlier posts. The unusual or Black Swan has become the accepted norm.

Being detached at Squad level is not that uncommon. You may want feint or put one of your elements on point to scout or screen. Part of a good battle plan is to negate the need to have to micromanage your troops, such as picking their particular targets. We have set assignments for field of fire, rules for whom and what to engage. Fire plans, and other special orders prior to getting in combat. Sure you can get ambushed. Things can turn ugly fast. But training rams instinct into you and you take action without direction when needed in order to survive and accomplish your task.

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