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Subject: What qualities in a wargame do you look for? rss

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Austin Andersen
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I am curious what makes a good wargame a good wargame. What qualities do you look for when choosing a wargame? What do you consider the best wargame you've played? What is your favorite wargame? Obviously there is the conflict aspect of a wargame that might not necessarily be present in a strategy game, but are there other aspects that are critical? Is it safe to say that most wargamers like having a board to play on instead of just cards? I'm looking for opinions on wargames as a whole, as I am trying to understand them better.
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Nagato Fujibayashi

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Just see what is available and make your decisions on what's your taste and what not with free spirit.

I am very new to boardgaming. I was born in Europe in the 70s when many others in here were already playing wargames in America, so our perspective is much different. So the games that I appreciate, buy and spend time upon have mainly the following characteristics, with some exceptions of course:

-emphasis on the maneuver aspect

-emphasis on strategic thinking over luck. Battle chaos resulting from opponent's decisions clash rather than a third game factor that intervenes in-between us such as dice.

-historic accuracy is much appreciated but I won't go nuts if a game likes to be more free and just keep a more general feeling of the era rather than a fully accurate and strict approach. Anyhow no game I think is 100% accurate, so the red lines for everyone can change freely.

-if a tactic is historically inaccurate yet legal, I use it without any hesitation.

-simulation for me cannot be the main factor in a boardgame trying to be based on and represent a battle. Only the fact that you know where your opponent's forces are is miles away from reality. So I am more loose and I prefer to see it as playing chess with historic theme, which for me is enough.

-my emphasis is on playing a game and so the focus is on my opponent and our strategy and tactics. The more rich a design is on strategy and tactics and the less it interferes between me and my friend's thinking, the better.

-I never play solo just to represent the history. I only play solo to learn a game and from there on, I only care about the mind conflict between my and my opponent and the game provides an interesting environment for it.

-good quality of map and components is a factor for me. I personally prefer mounted maps and wooden pieces. The couple of games that I have with counters, I find moving the pieces very much nerve breaking.

So for this I only play a few wargames, block games being dominant for me. I am a big admirer of two designers mostly, Richard Sivél and Bowen Simmons. I like other things also but generally I prefer a very small collection of deep games that we will like to play again and again with my friends. I'm also in the process now to create cards for the games that I use dice to resolve battles- card play we very much prefer here plus the process to design the decks is fun.

Have fun in your search.
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Pokey 64
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When choosing a wargame the first thing I look for is the subject matter. Is it a campaign or war that I'm interested in studying? I also look for the designer. I'm more interested in designs by well known people (Dunnigan, Butterfield, Roberts, Herman, etc ). With the wealth of information we have today, you can be more discriminating.

Best wargames I've played are probably Ambush! and We the People. These are also my favorites.

All wargames are strategy games. Not all strategy games are wargames. Some critical aspects of a wargame are weapons technology, geography, political climate (ideology).

Some wargames work better with cards. Tactical battles between ships or aircraft can abstract out the distances involved using cards. Obviously, land conflicts seem to work better when played on a map. It's not always the case (Up Front, The Battle for Hill 218) but battles on land are easier to understand when viewed on a map of the area involved. You also get the "theme" that you're a commander conducting operations while studying and moving units around a mapboard.
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Tom Swider
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In no particular order:

1) Gives me a sense that I'm now in the game and evokes an emotional involvement with the game. For me, this is generally quite the opposite of most German boardgames. Any title from the Library of the Napoleonic Battles is a good example,

2) Allows for variety of outcomes that were possible. Game shouldn't be scripted so that only one strategy is feasible. This is a typical problem for many WWI strategic games (Axis and Allies fails, Totaler Krieg succeeds).

3) If cards are used, the game is not especially card driven and players still have 90% of their attention on the board rather than managing their hands. TLNB above works well. In the realm of CDGs, Unhappy King Charles seems the most board-centric to me.

4) Flexible scenarios. Give me a learning scenario, some different situations (pitched battle, maneuver battle) and game duration. I think more wargamers aren't as fussy about a game taking longer than 2-4 hours. I like a 2-4 hr option, a 6-8h option, and a campaign option (probably my upper limit is 2-3 Saturdays).

Not as important is attention to historical detail, though it's nice to get it (against TLNB). It's even better when it teaches me about history or encourages me to seek outside reading. Game balance isn't always that important to me, as you can tweak the conditions, change sides, or just enjoy the game for what it is.


If I had to pick just one game for "most successful wargame", it would be EastFront II. The Library of Napoleonic Battles would be my second choice.

Others beyond second place for me: A House Divided, Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg!, Rommel in the Desert, and Battles of the American Revolution. Although I haven't played much of it yet, I'm expecting the Standard Combat Series to be here as well.
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Enrico Viglino
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I'm a mixed gamer who probably enjoys broader, strategic scoped games
(like Europa Universalis, Here I Stand) more than pure wargames.
I like real, multi-player negotiation, and choices which affect production.

The primary concern I have with ANY historical simulation is that it
presents me with a believable story. If I feel that the game is likely,
or even destined to wander from reality in ways that I find it hard to
rationalize, it's out the window. Beyond that, I often want to see a
fair amount of detail in the story it presents. I usually prefer games
that don't require focusing on the game all the time - downtime when
an opponent is going is a nice feature of older designs (recently, they've
tried very hard to get away from this). Victory conditions should motivate
the player to act historically - preferably for historical reasons.
Within all that, a nice-to-have is if the game is closely balanced,
but that is pretty unnecessary to me; even when I play opposed, I'm
cool with doing it more for the experience than for the underlying game.
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Brett Christensen
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Apparently the type of wargames I look for and enjoy:

1. Are out of print.
2. Are Expensive.
3. Have impenetrable rulebooks.
4. Have reams of errata.
5. Take hours/days to punch and clip.
6. Require more table space than I actually have.
7. Require opponents I can't find.
8. Are impossible to place components back in the box when punched and sorted, especially with printed errata and articles.
9. Look good on the shelf next to their brothers.

ninja

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Leo Zappa
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Here's "Leo's Half Dozen Things to Look for When Buying a Wargame" list!

1. Subject matter first and foremost. I don't care how good a "system" or "engine" the game has, the topic must grab me first.

2. Based on reviews (I always read reviews before I buy), does the game:
...a) allow for the historical outcome to be duplicated, but also
...b) allow for realistic alternatives to be attempted
In other words, does the game produce "historically plausible results".

3. Graphic presentation. This is very subjective ("beauty in the eye of the beholder" and all that), but the game must appeal to me visually, and the quality of components must meet a certain minimum. Note - I'm old school, so I tend to gravitate towards paper maps (or classic Avalon Hill mounted maps) with hexes, and cardboard counters. This, to me, is a beautiful thing:

YMMV!

4. Increasingly, is the game part of a series. Series games cut down on the rules-learning overhead, and at this stage in my life, that's important!

5. Is the rule set "reasonable". Again, subjective. I'm happy to deal with most wargame rulesets (I'm currently playing a game of Rise and Decline of the Third Reich and no one ever accused it of having a simple rule book), but when we start looking at 100+ page long rule books, especially if it's a completely new/unique rule set (i.e. not part of a series that I've already learned), I'm probably not interested.

6. Is the game either supported by the publisher (e.g. GMT) or the designer, or at the least, by the BGG or Consimworld community. When questions come up, it's very helpful if others are playing the game and can help provide answers.
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Kent Reuber
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For me, the importance is an engaging experience. Ideally, I want to be able to concentrate on the game situation without having to constantly refer to the rules which, for me, often break the mood. (I remember being at a saxophone seminar with Ernie Watts, who said about saxophone playing "You have to transcend the machine.", which is what I have in mind here.)

It's also important that the game not be too long. For me, it's about excitement density--if a game is twice as long, is there twice as much excitement? Not usually, I find.

So for me, it's about fast play and straightforward rules. I want to feel that I'm in the boots of the commander. Things that are hard for that commander to coordinate should be hard for me to perform as well. But of course, you still have to have some feeling that the tactics and strategies you're using are valid for the time period you're playing.

Favorite wargames:
Commands & Colors: Ancients is my favorite of the Commands & Colors series, though I like the other games to varying degrees. I like the evade and battle back mechanics of C&CA which allows you to react during your opponent's turn.

Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861 and Clash of Wills: Shiloh 1862 are terrific little ACW games. You really can forget about the rules and just concentrate on the map.
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Bill Lawson
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Topic is number one. I will very seldom buy a game on a topic that doesn't interest me.
Historical plausibility and playability in equal parts.
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Tyrone Newby
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First and for most,the map has to look real,and good and clear to read; rules that are well put together(and stays within 4-8 pages of rules);if its a good system I'd like to see a series of games based on that system,eg: AP's "Great War at Sea" and "Second World War at Sea"(I have all the games of the system);and last but not least,the counters must be appealing.I would like to see more game systems that go from the Strategical to the Operational to the Tactical,something like AP's GWAS and SWWAS.
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Randy Smith
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mothertruckin wrote:
Apparently the type of wargames I look for and enjoy:

1. Are out of print.
2. Are Expensive.
3. Have impenetrable rulebooks.
4. Have reams of errata.
5. Take hours/days to punch and clip.
6. Require more table space than I actually have.
7. Require opponents I can't find.
8. Are impossible to place components back in the box when punched and sorted, especially with printed errata and articles.
9. Look good on the shelf next to their brothers.

ninja



I have some of these games in my collection!
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Jack Stalica
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hpgeek wrote:
mothertruckin wrote:
Apparently the type of wargames I look for and enjoy:

1. Are out of print.
2. Are Expensive.
3. Have impenetrable rulebooks.
4. Have reams of errata.
5. Take hours/days to punch and clip.
6. Require more table space than I actually have.
7. Require opponents I can't find.
8. Are impossible to place components back in the box when punched and sorted, especially with printed errata and articles.
9. Look good on the shelf next to their brothers.

ninja



I have some of these games in my collection!


More than a few...cry
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ROGER DEAL
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mothertruckin wrote:
Apparently the type of wargames I look for and enjoy:

1. Are out of print.
2. Are Expensive.
3. Have impenetrable rulebooks.
4. Have reams of errata.
5. Take hours/days to punch and clip.
6. Require more table space than I actually have.
7. Require opponents I can't find.
8. Are impossible to place components back in the box when punched and sorted, especially with printed errata and articles.
9. Look good on the shelf next to their brothers.

ninja



This made me laugh. I got 9 out of 9.shake
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Tom Swider
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Clarity and Unity - What I Learned from Redmond
As I had mentioned Kevin Zucker's TLNB series in my original response, it occurred to me that you might want to read an article he wrote on Redmond Simonsen's design concepts. RS was the art director at SPI and certainly had a significant impact on wargame design.

http://www.napoleongames.com/pdf/OSG's%20Last%20Success1.pdf

If the above link doesn't work for some reason, just find it using a search engine of your choice.
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Hunga Dunga
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I first look for a balance of historicity and playability. After that, I prefer well-written rules and decent but not overwhelming art.

I'm currently playing Roads to Moscow: Battles of Mozhaysk and Mtsensk, 1941, which gets high scores on all the desirables.

However, I wouldn't recommend this as a first war-game.
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Simon
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lots of stuff others have already said but i'll add; Big map/story - simple quick playing rules that don't compromise believability too much.
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Tony Kerstan
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bbblasterfire wrote:
I am curious what makes a good wargame a good wargame. What qualities do you look for when choosing a wargame? What do you consider the best wargame you've played? What is your favorite wargame? Obviously there is the conflict aspect of a wargame that might not necessarily be present in a strategy game, but are there other aspects that are critical? Is it safe to say that most wargamers like having a board to play on instead of just cards? I'm looking for opinions on wargames as a whole, as I am trying to understand them better.


A good Wargame
A good wargame requires a good game designer, a good developer and playtesters who can work with the designer to polish the game and make it better. Other aspects of a good wargame are:

(1) Solid choices on what unique aspects of the battle or campaign to portray in the game, sometimes called 'chrome'. The more chrome a game has, the higher complexity and rules overhead.

(2) A good rulebook with an index and player aids. A rules index makes a game easier to play. It breaks the fun factor when the players have to spend 10 minutes during the game finding some obscure rule.

(3) A good wargame design has the rules complexity around the 'fun stuff' and everything else is abstracted so that players can get to the fun stuff more quickly. There is no point trying to simulate the difference between the KAR98 and Garand Rifles if the game is primarily about Tank vs Tank combat.

(4) The wargame is fun to play.

Qualities when choosing a good wargame
Low to medium complexity, great looking components, interesting topic, online support (living rules) and fun to play.

Best wargame played
EastFront II

Is a map required for a wargame?
A map is a simple way to regulate movement, time and other functions. Also a wargame with a stunning map like Bitter Woods (fourth edition) screams "play me". However the most important attribute of a map is to provide immersion into and narrative about the topic. Sweeping the Panzers across Russia 1941 in Proud Monster Deluxe only to see them grind to halt in front of Moscow due to Winter and stubborn defence is an evocative sight that cannot be matched by reading a book.
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Lance Runolfsson
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I'm looking at the subject first.
Then ease of play combined with short duration of play.
Some chrome but lack of minutia.
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Philip Thomas
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Replayability...which is a product of many other things!
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Ubergeek
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Quote:
I am curious what makes a good wargame a good wargame. What qualities do you look for when choosing a wargame?


Scantily clad women...

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Kyle Smith
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For me personally, I like my wargames to be games first and simulations second. I appreciate a handful of fully explored, tightly coupled mechanics. And lastly, I appreciate chrome applied sparingly for flavor.

With these factors in mind, my favorite wargames are Twilight Struggle and Commands & Colors: Ancients. Although I will say No Retreat is rapidly moving up the list!

I can play, and enjoy the experience of Combat Commander: Europe. But it's definitely on the outer edge of what I like in a wargame. It's got the core mechanics down. But the chrome is just on the edge of excessive for me personally. Occasionally the excessive exceptions get in the way of making interesting decisions.
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Les Marshall
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Understanding that most wargamers can't even agree on what a wargame is, my favorite "wargame" based solely on number of plays has to be Starfleet Battles. I've invested many hundreds of hours with that system though I haven't played for some years. For nostalgic reasons alone, this will likely never leave my collection (til they pry it from my cold dead fingers).

In general, my first priority is theme or subject. These days I tend to favor historical conflicts. Second priority is a well written rule set that significantly embraces the theme or subject or at least explores some of the tactical considerations of the theme or subject. Third would be replayability. Fourth would be attractive, quality components that are evocative of the subject.

Starfleet Battles now suffers as a dated design as well as being non historic. Today I jones to play Musket & Pike and GBoH. Both systems do well to reflect historical battles and have very interesting models for the difficulty of containing battlefield chaos and the tactical differences between doctrines and units of their time.
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Edward Pundyk
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I look for a game that:

(a) is on a topic/era that interests me;

(b) is historically plausible;

(c) is fun to play with lots of replay value;

(d) has a beautiful map and counters; and,

(e) has a minimum of errata.

Games that I consider meet those criteria are Clash of Monarchs, Unhappy King Charles!, No Peace Without Spain! and Pax Baltica.

I prefer having a map to play on, but I'm willing to make an exception if the game works without one. Fields of Fire is just such a game.


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Peter Hutchinson
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Probably many ways to answer the question(s) but perhaps some of the things that make it a game I would want to own and play again would be:

- the opportunity to make meaningful decisions
- within the framework of a streamlined yet thematically credible combination of game mechanics
- such that I am absorbed by the play journey
- and left with an experience of genuine personal tension over final outcome.


wow
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