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Subject: In how much depth do you care about historical accuracy? rss

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Apex
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I realized after listening to the last Guns, Dice, & Butter podcast that I don't care equally about the depth of historical accuracy across the games I play.

Games where my historical interest is high and on subjects that I've read about or would consider myself a "fan" generally make me MUCH more picky about historical detail than otherwise.

For example, SPQR is just a fun game to me. I couldn't care less if it were totally ahistorical. However, a game like Breaking the Chains drives me nuts because there are fundamental issues with the OOB and generic-platform application.

I realized, more importantly, that MY hangups on things really aren't going to shape how other people feel about a game. I railed against Sails of Glory because I found it played like Wings of Glory of Sails - but honestly - the people playing that game aren't looking for what I was looking for out of it.

So - when do you care about ahistorical content/rules and does it ride on a spectrum? What are the factors that make you care less or more?
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J.L. Robert
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There is an upper limit to how much historical accuracy I want to deal with.

I, for one, do not want to have to keep track of how much peat I'm collecting.
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James
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I like the setting of a game (OOB, map, dates etc.) to be fairly accurate but it can be gamey or un-historical in outcome and still be lots of fun or engaging and tense (or whatever).

Often I've found that a game opens the door to finding out more about a particular historical subject rather than being the main source of information.
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Mike Hoyt

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medlinke wrote:
However, a game like Breaking the Chains drives me nuts because there are fundamental issues with the OOB and generic-platform application.
I railed against Sails of Glory because I found it played like Wings of Glory of Sails - but honestly - the people playing that game aren't looking for what I was looking for out of it.


I want to think about your question a bit, but I will say I've recently looked at both of these games, and passed, and your comments make me feel better about passing. Is your "railing" in the reviews section, or comments, or someplace I could find without derailing (ouch!) this thread?
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olivier R
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Yes knowing too much about a topic definitely tends to make you more picky about it because some flaws becomes more apparent and your critical thinking is more developped. It gets in the way of your enjoyment sometimes but then again, knowing more about the period you are gaming increases the immersion factor. You are not just trying to take hill 621, you are part of the drive on town X in offensive so and so whose overall goal you are familiar with, this unit is not simply lead by a faceless commander, you know his background etc. So it works both ways.
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Roger Brandon
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But couldn't "Historical Accuracy" still be in a very simple game, while a game that is totally inaccurate have massive complexity?

I got into wargaming, as a kid, because of my love of history, so I really do like having some accuracy there. If a game is about Viking raids and it has Viking warriors illustrated on the counters, then it would be nice not to have horns on their helmets. If, however, it's a very light game, perhaps with a touch of humor added to it, then I'd be fine with a "Hagar the Horrible" sort of style, because I wouldn't be expecting any historical accuracy.

It's like, I can enjoy a war movie, even if the equipment, tactics, etc., are clearly not accurate- I'll just look at it as "entertainment", yet I prefer movies that can be as accurate as they can get- I'd never expect total perfection, but I'd like to see a real effort made!

I figure a game designer can make a historically accurate game without bogging it down in details- mainly it's a matter of not adding things that aren't accurate, rather than the idea of adding a ton of tiny details. In fact, I think the more minutiae that is crammed in, the more likely you'll be to get something wrong!
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Enrico Viglino
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I like both rich simulations and games which take a higher level
of abstraction on nearly EVERY subject. In either case though,
I expect that what the game is portraying is largely correct -
at least to the designer's view of what happened and the causes.

So, something like SPQR sticks in my craw, when the skirmishers
seem like nothing more than free points for the Romans to eat up.
It doesn't spoil the game, as there's a lot more story there which
works well enough, but it still stands as a clear negative. More
abstracted games are more troublesome actually - because what little
they do provide insight in, if it's wrong, pretty much spoils everything.
Given that it's far easier to get these abstracted games right (less
to worry about after all), it irks me all the more.
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Andy Beaton
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Given that the whole point of a wargame is to break from history and do it our own way, I'm not super-obsessed about accuracy. Close enough is good enough for me.
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Osprey
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For me, the more historical detail you can include in a simulation type game without taking away from gameplay the better. It is a very fine balance between the two. Many games that go for a major amount of historical accuracy are just no fun for me to play as games. However, they can be very interesting in studying the subject represented. If that's the case, I will attempt to make this go hand in hand with a good book on the subject. In any case, no matter how great or little the historical accuracy or detail, if the game is good it will almost always spur me on to reading one or two books on the subject.

If it comes right down to it, I will chose a better game than more historical accuracy. If I can get both in one package all the better.
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Eric Walters
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Wow, what a tough question. I find myself drawn to some near Euro-type games just as much as some of the ultra-in-depth serious conflict simulations.

For me, I think it depends on two things: (2) the flavor of the period being simulated/gamed somewhat successfully (it's an immersive experience), and (2) nothing is so far out of whack historically that I'd exclaim, "Now, there's NO WAY that would happen...NO WAY!" So, while I can handle gameplay going historically "off the rails" in, say, Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg!, I'm probably not going accept aliens from some far away galaxy providing Robert E. Lee with laser guns so he can win at Gettysburg.

What this means is that there are some games that purport to be the last word in simulation accuracy that I find boring or too much work to be worth playing (The Campaign for North Africa, Bloody April: The Battle of Shiloh, 1862, and War in the Pacific (first edition) come to mind), and there are some games that appear at first glance to be shallow and "gamey" that I can't resist because of the historical/period flavor (Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, Napoleon's Triumph, Friedrich/Maria are perhaps obvious examples).

These are extremes to be sure. But I suppose I am fairly tolerant in this regard.
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Wulf Corbett
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I care about the results, but not how the game gets there. Do I accept and agree that unit A should beat unit B 4 times out of 6? Should unit C be able to move that far in that much time over that terrain? In the end, all wargames are really just collections of numbers, and there is no one accurate number. Yes, I'd like the right names on the counters, but I won't be terribly upset if there are no names. No, I don't want Vikings with horns on their hats, but equally I don't want them represented by NATO symbols... But in the end, if I get realistic results from the gameplay, it'll do. Most elements of Historical Accuracy are, to me, chrome...
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Roger Brandon
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Peso Pete wrote:
Roger, that question is as old as wargaming itself. Is a massive wargame that has explicit rules for every little thing more historically accurate than a game that has a sixteen page rulebook and can be played in a fraction of the time as the complex wargame? I would contend that it probably is not more accurate but, no doubt, other would disagree with me.


Exactly! I think complexity/simplicity is totally unrelated to accuracy/inaccuracy. You can get the historical accuracy right or wrong in either. Sort of like having a "historic novel" that is massive and goes into great detail, yet very little is factual, while a brief short story of the same events could be filled with facts. Either could be boring or fun to read, depending on the skill of the writer, not because they stick to the facts or not.

If a game designer is good, he should be able to make a great, simple, fast playing game that avoids derailing historical fact. But I think we all know that there are some who will design a game without really bothering to do any research. He may have the impression that something didn't matter or wrongly assume something was there, that wasn't. Having Tiger tanks in the 1939 invasion of Poland or totally ignoring the presence of longbows at Agincourt would cause most of us to have some problems with a game- he may be able to make it an enjoyable game, and that's wonderful, but I think it would be even better if he could create an enjoyable game that gets things right, then those who focus on game play AND those who care about historical accuracy would all be happy!
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Daniel Kaufman
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For me it's a function of the complexity of the game. Something with a mountain of chrome better be worth my limited brainpower to master. Card driven games I also expect greater accuracy - I'm looking to see how the event on the card impacted history.

I agree also in how the subjects of interest put a greater weight on accuracy. When I read a lot about a subject, I'm looking to get into the minds of the leaders and their decision-making processes.
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Rex Stites
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calandale wrote:


So, something like SPQR sticks in my craw, when the skirmishers
seem like nothing more than free points for the Romans to eat up.
It doesn't spoil the game, as there's a lot more story there which
works well enough, but it still stands as a clear negative.


Have you ever looked at the SPQR player's guide? I think there is an article in it that talks about how to best use skirmishers. It's available for free online somewhere.

From what I've gleaned from the forums and that article, they can be more useful than a speed-bump. But figuring out how to do that in a game is something that I've still not quite figured out.

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Rex Stites
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aiabx wrote:
Given that the whole point of a wargame is to break from history and do it our own way, I'm not super-obsessed about accuracy. Close enough is good enough for me.


There's a difference between having options available to try a strategy that was not historically tried and what I would consider "historical accuracy." An historical model should generally return historical results for historical strategies. An historical model should also return plausible results for ahistorical strategies. It's when it fails to do either of those two things that it becomes inaccurate.
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Arthur Dougherty
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rstites25 wrote:
aiabx wrote:
Given that the whole point of a wargame is to break from history and do it our own way, I'm not super-obsessed about accuracy. Close enough is good enough for me.


There's a difference between having options available to try a strategy that was not historically tried and what I would consider "historical accuracy." An historical model should generally return historical results for historical strategies. An historical model should also return plausible results for ahistorical strategies. It's when it fails to do either of those two things that it becomes inaccurate.


I think this is where I fall. I think the underlying model should represent what it's trying to represent so if I go off script, I should feel that my non-historical outcome has the right vibe.

You're welcome, game designers, for my floppy meaningless description.
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Kent Reuber
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Any game will have to make abstractions for it to be playable. For me historical a bit like science fiction--I want to be able to suspend disbelief. That's not to say that I want games to be ahistorical, but the ahistorical bits shouldn't leap out at you causing you to say "Hey, wait…"
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Wulf Corbett
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kentreuber wrote:
For me historical a bit like science fiction--I want to be able to suspend disbelief.
Funny enough, I tend to me more critical of SF & 'Alt-Hist' (although, as soon as you roll the first die, every historical wargame becomes alt hist...), because I have my own ideas of what they should be doing...
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Enrico Viglino
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rstites25 wrote:
calandale wrote:


So, something like SPQR sticks in my craw, when the skirmishers
seem like nothing more than free points for the Romans to eat up.
It doesn't spoil the game, as there's a lot more story there which
works well enough, but it still stands as a clear negative.


Have you ever looked at the SPQR player's guide? I think there is an article in it that talks about how to best use skirmishers. It's available for free online somewhere.

From what I've gleaned from the forums and that article, they can be more useful than a speed-bump. But figuring out how to do that in a game is something that I've still not quite figured out.



Thanks for pointing that one out. I don't agree with all that is in there
(for example slowing the line - they are worth more points toward victory
if you avoid doing that). There ARE uses for them, but they don't comport
well with how it seems Hannibal actually used them. They are fantastic
if you keep them behind your army, and use them to pick off routed
units, for example. Perhaps the big problem comes from their affecting
the victory conditions; but as it stands, the first move you should make
with them is to go hide them.
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Michael Sommers
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RogCBrand wrote:
Peso Pete wrote:
Roger, that question is as old as wargaming itself. Is a massive wargame that has explicit rules for every little thing more historically accurate than a game that has a sixteen page rulebook and can be played in a fraction of the time as the complex wargame? I would contend that it probably is not more accurate but, no doubt, other would disagree with me.

Exactly! I think complexity/simplicity is totally unrelated to accuracy/inaccuracy.

Yes. People seem to be confusing accuracy with precision. More details gains precision, but not necessarily accuracy. Saying that pi = 3.14 is accurate but a bit imprecise. Saying pi = 2.71828182 is precise but inaccurate.
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Robb Minneman
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My first take on this was, "How well does the designer fulfill the objective he set out to attain?"

Some designers emphasize playability. Others emphasize detail. Others pick out the details they find most important and emphasize those in their design. And there are tradeoffs all over the place. For instance: some tactical games emphasize maneuver and fire, while others like to include the chaos of command. I think when you sit down to evaluate a design the first thing you should ask is, "What was the designer trying to do here, and how well did he do it?"

But, as alluded to above by some of the commenters, I think the thing I went most in wargames is immersion. I want to feel like I am there, faced with the decisions that the guy in that seat made. (Or, for sci-fi games, or historical what-ifs, what he might have been faced with.) And so I think the most important thing is to be able to easily and simply present the decisions that were important at that point in time and accurately model the consequences either way.
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Enrico Viglino
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robbbbbb wrote:
My first take on this was, "How well does the designer fulfill the objective he set out to attain?"


Meh. I don't care much what the designer intended. Maybe all he
intends is to make money off his name.

I care how well a design meets the needs of an identifiable group.
If I don't know of anyone, and can't imagine someone the design
will appeal to, then it's just shit.
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Dom Dal Bello
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tms2 wrote:

Yes. People seem to be confusing accuracy with precision. More details gains precision, but not necessarily accuracy. Saying that pi = 3.14 is accurate but a bit imprecise. Saying pi = 2.71828182 is precise but inaccurate.



This sounds what I write in my lab manuals for students...
but I use g = 9.81 m/s^2 vs. 4.85235613 m/s^2, or something like that. Even g = 10 m/s^2 would be better.
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Raúl Chouza
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robbbbbb wrote:
But, as alluded to above by some of the commenters, I think the thing I went most in wargames is immersion. I want to feel like I am there, faced with the decisions that the guy in that seat made. (Or, for sci-fi games, or historical what-ifs, what he might have been faced with.) And so I think the most important thing is to be able to easily and simply present the decisions that were important at that point in time and accurately model the consequences either way.

I think this it what does it for me, if I'm playing a wargame (because I'm interested in the period or event) I would like to be "faced with the decisions that the guy in that seat made".

One very important aspect to me is to consider the scale of the conflict and the decisions you can make, both have to go along.

If I'm playing a Strategic game I should not be able to fiddle with tactical encounters.
If I'm playing an Operational game I should not be able to take a lot of political decisions.
If I'm playing a tactical game, Command and Control should not be meaningless.

Of course, I'm happy to play a conflict game just for its game value, as long its not as time consuming and takes 6+ hours to finish.
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Tyrone Newby
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Enough historical input into the game that it makes it feel like you are playing the situation of the historical moment,but not to the point that you cannot change the outcome; to much historical chrome into the game is not good also, it causes the rules to expand to the point of hurting the flow of the game.
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