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Subject: Good examples of designing for effect rss

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Øivind Karlsrud
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I started this thread to discuss wargames that are good at designing for effect (you could also call it 'top-down design'). Typically, games made by designers who do a lot of research, then use that research not to create a monster game with lots of detail (bottom-up design), but to create a streamlined game with a few rules that are designed to model the conflict or battle in question. Bowen (now Rachel) Simmons games, like Napoleon's Triumph, are good examples. The rules in NT seem designed to create a battle with lots of maneuvering and feinting, and are designed specifically for that battle. Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles is another example, I think, although I haven't played it. It seems a lot of research went into designing simple rules that make the players follow realistic infantry tactics (find, fix, flank, finish). The last example I would mention is Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan. The designer found that loyalty was an important factor in the conflict, and designed the rules around that.

All the games I've mentioned have relatively simple rules that are designed for a specific battle or for a specific kind of battle (WWII infantry combat).

In some sense, most wargames are designed for effect, I suppose, but which ones do you think are particularly good at it?
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I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "design for effect", but all war-game designers have to deal with at least three major issues: a) who was at the battle (OB), b) what aspects of the battle best characterize the period/conflict, and c) game mechanisms, created or borrowed, that can as simply as possible model those aspects.

I'm not sure we can characterize design for effect (DfE) as something that shines only in smaller wargames, but is overwhelmed in monster wargames.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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Hungadunga wrote:
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "design for effect", but all war-game designers have to deal with at least three major issues: a) who was at the battle (OB), b) what aspects of the battle best characterize the period/conflict, and c) game mechanisms, created or borrowed, that can as simply as possible model those aspects.

I'm not sure we can characterize design for effect (DfE) as something that shines only in smaller wargames, but is overwhelmed in monster wargames.


I'm thinking of games that have rules which are custom-designed to represent the main aspect of a certain conflict/battle as simple as possible. I don't think all wargame designers have this goal. One way to design a game is to start thinking more generally about rules for movement, combat, command etc., and make a generic system which you can use for many battles. On the other hand, the rules for Sekigahara are made for that particular battle. Band of Brothers is a series, I know, but I thought it was still a good example, since the designer has made the rules specifically to represent WWII infantry combat, not to make a system which can be used for everything.

I think this is something that shines in smaller games, because in monster games you must represent so many aspects, it's probabably better to build the game bottom-up. I'm sure Jim Krohn, the designer of Band of Brothers, would have done things differently, if he had set out to make a game that would work equally well for all kinds of tactical combat, instead of setting out to make a game which would get WWII infantry combat right.
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If I understand the concept (I've never designed anything), "design for effect" means tweaking a basic system to get the results you want--probably the results that seem most historical. Special rules and special modifiers are examples of design for effect.

Let me see if I get it:

Suppose I design a terrific but kind of generic operational system that models WW2 desert warfare beautifully. I create a sequel set in Operation Barbarossa, and it produces pretty good results too. The next game in my series, however, is Normandy, and I realize that while my system is suited to sweeping movements and pocketing enemy groups, it just doesn't get at the grinding attritional warfare of the bocage: movement is too easy, casualties are too low, supply is plentiful but that makes combat too decisive, etc.

The changes and tweaks I make to try to get this system to model Normandy will be examples of design for effect, right? Even if Normandy is the first (or only) game in my system, the special rules I create to produce certain situations in play and to tend towards certain results are design for effect.
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I think most CDG's are design for effect.

No real world commander has a hand of cards and has to choose between an offensive on the Western Front, replacements for the Italians, or sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. However, the cards are a simple way to force limits on players without writing tomes of rules to reflect that actual constraints.

With a CDG you get the effect without having to simulate the mechanics of the cause.

Good examples include:

Combat Commander- in CC limited control over units is "simulated" by not having a fire or move card in your hand. Many a unit in WWII was destroyed because it's commanding officer did not have a rally card available.

Washington's War- in WaW the complexities of maintaining political control over a space are "simulated" by a space's ability to trace to a General, unit, or..... a neutral (not a friendly) space.
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Steven Goodknecht
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Many of the games designed by Jim Dunnigan.

Edit: Sorry, I just noticed you asked for examples. I'll mention one Dunnigan Design for Effect game: World War I.

Dunnigan is considered a master of DfE games.
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I think you have the definition of top-down and bottom-up backwards.

Bottom-up is rules first and find a theme that fits the rules; i.e. Euros.

Top-down is theme first and build rules to match the theme; i.e. Wargames.

Design for effect is top-down.

What you are asking for is a non-monster wargame that realistically simulates the action with elegant rules like euros do?

That is just good game design. There is a reason for the word fiddly.

I believe Band of Brothers is awesome game design and gets a lot of simulation in few rules. Its opposite would be ASL.

However, the more you want to simulate the harder it is to be elegant. It is the holy grail of all game design and much harder to pull off on top-down designs.

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reddavid wrote:
I think you have the definition of top-down and bottom-up backwards.

Bottom-up is rules first and find a theme that fits the rules; i.e. Euros.

Top-down is theme first and build rules to match the theme; i.e. Wargames.

Design for effect is top-down.


I don't think that is right.

Design for effect is more in the realm of Euro's than wargames. Most Euro mechanisms (worker placement, rondels, role selection, etc) tend to be divorced from real world activities but when executed tend to portray the effect of some real world cause.

Wargames on the other hand, tend to design for cause. Calculating supply, tracing LOS, accounting for facing, factoring weapon types, and utilizing terrain effects are all attempts to simulate real world parameters as closely as possible within the context of the game.

So if you look at design for effect on one end of the spectrum and design for cause at the other, I think (in general!) it would look something like: Euros --> CDG's --> traditional hex and counter wargames. Or, for example:
Effect --> Struggle of Empires --> Fire in the Lake --> Barbarossa to Berlin--> Totaler Krieg --> Advanced ETO --> Cause

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I think design-for-effect describes rules or systems that don't directly model anything from history accurately, but when applied causes historically accurate play from the players.

I know A Victory Lost: Crisis in Ukraine 1942-1943 was considered a very good example of design-for-effect.

One of the main features was a much-derided rule that basically allows an entire Russian group of reinforcements to appear behind the Germans if they can trace a rail line free of German units or ZOC.

So, while it's absurd to allow such a deployment, the end effect is it forces the German to keep some back line reserves to cover the rail net. The rule doesn't model history, but it's effect on the game forces the German into more historical force deployments.

The game also manipulated unit move and combat values in a way that gave each side some distinct advantages and disadvantages without needing special rules to define them (such as the German armor ability to move between ZOC's).
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Design for Cause: When a game's design has players follow all of the logical steps and procedures to obtain an outcome; when players experience a methodology and must consider its many facets. This can often lead to systems that are over-engineered. That is, when the players are doing all the work and the designer is having all the fun.

Design for Effect: When a game abstracts complex procedures for simplicity’s sake so that the players can get straight to the "boom." That is, when the designer does all the work so the players can have all the fun.

Definitions from: http://www.alanemrich.com/Class/Class_PGD_glossary.htm

Also see tho short thread...Design for Effect or Cause: the Yin-Yang of Wargame Design?
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Pretty much any well-designed solitaire game would fit.
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Hungadunga wrote:
Design for Cause: When a game's design has players follow all of the logical steps and procedures to obtain an outcome; when players experience a methodology and must consider its many facets. This can often lead to systems that are over-engineered. That is, when the players are doing all the work and the designer is having all the fun.

Design for Effect: When a game abstracts complex procedures for simplicity’s sake so that the players can get straight to the "boom." That is, when the designer does all the work so the players can have all the fun.

Definitions from: http://www.alanemrich.com/Class/Class_PGD_glossary.htm

Also see tho short thread...Design for Effect or Cause: the Yin-Yang of Wargame Design?
See also: http://pulsiphergames.com/Articles/DesigningforCausevsEffect...
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Hungadunga wrote:
Design for Cause: When a game's design has players follow all of the logical steps and procedures to obtain an outcome; when players experience a methodology and must consider its many facets. This can often lead to systems that are over-engineered. That is, when the players are doing all the work and the designer is having all the fun.



I love that sentence: "A game where the players are doing all the work and the designer is having all the fun."

I do have a lot of fun designing complicated games that are a lot of work for the players.

An example of designing for effect is in Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg!. It is a monster game where the naval and air rules are designed for effect. Since the focus of the game is the land war, the designer chose to make the air and naval rules almost totally abstract. There are special rules so that the Germans are dominant in the air against Russia early in the war but by 1944 the allies are dominant.
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Russell King
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No Expectations wrote:
Many of the games designed by Jim Dunnigan.

Edit: Sorry, I just noticed you asked for examples. I'll mention one Dunnigan Design for Effect game: World War I.

Dunnigan is considered a master of DfE games.


When I saw the heading of this strand Dunnigan came immediately to mind, so pleased to see that others are on the same wavelength. Of all his games I've played recently Kampfpanzer is the one which stands out in this regard: the possibilities of coordination between units are so tenuous it really gets over the feel of pre-radio armour in establishing a need for a good game plan.

Of course, he also did impressionistic things to the geography around Smolensk, but that doesn't make Panzergruppe Guderian any less of a magnificent achievement.
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TedW wrote:
I think most CDG's are design for effect.

No real world commander has a hand of cards and has to choose between an offensive on the Western Front, replacements for the Italians, or sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. However, the cards are a simple way to force limits on players without writing tomes of rules to reflect that actual constraints.

But by that kind of reasoning, it seems like every wargame is trivially "design for effect". After all, no real world commander had a hex grid regularizing movement of his troops. No real world commander had specific movement, attack and defense ratings of each of his units. No real world commander rolled dice and consulted a clearly specified CRT to see what happened in an attack. Etc etc. All wargames consist of abstractions which their real-world counterparts did not possess or use.

That said, I agree that there is a difference between CDGs and some other traditional wargame mechanisms - I just think that it's clearly not based on whether or not real world commanders used those mechanisms (because in reality they used none of these wargame mechanisms.)

Quote:
With a CDG you get the effect without having to simulate the mechanics of the cause.

Yes, this seems a more key difference. CDG abstracts away the underlying real-world mechanisms to a much greater degree than, e.g., a hex grid does and more explicitly creates the effect without trying to simulate the factors which create the effect, and indeed sometimes the CDG mechanisms seem in contradiction with reality in certain ways, rather than merely abstracting/simplifying it (e.g. choices of whether to play a card for a random weather event or not).

(Yet it's worth noting that, e.g., traditional movement points on a hex grid also gives you the effect of movement "without having to simulate the mechanics of the cause" - i.e. there are no explicit rules about physics, feet, boots, wheels, etc. And rolling a D6 on the 3:1 column of a CRT also gives you the effect of combat without really simulating bullets flying and so on. So I don't know if the difference between CDGs and other more traditional/common wargame mechanisms is a difference of quality or just a difference of degree.)
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Squad Leader by John Hill is said to be a true classic of the DfE school. hill is renowned for streamlining elements to get the right 'feel' rather than designing a historical simulation...there are many who in the era that SL first appeared seemed to despise his approach, but the game has survived the test of time.

ASL has added more detail, but the basic game engine as designed by Hill is still largely intact.
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I think SL and ASL are actually very good examples of design for effect. Simplicity ... not so much . I know that puts it outside the scope of this and most discussions.
The core concept is small unit tactical level combat to fit the squad level breakdown of the armies in WW2. It can be carried over to Korea because the combat was similar. Before and after the system really does not work well because of the unit structure of the wars. WWI and prior there really was no true squad level system of engagement that can be replicated in gaming. Vietnam has been tried and to my knowledge unsuccessfully because the nature of the firepower and engagements was not really at the level depicted so well by SL.
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Aussie550 wrote:
Squad Leader by John Hill is said to be a true classic of the DfE school. hill is renowned for streamlining elements to get the right 'feel' rather than designing a historical simulation...there are many who in the era that SL first appeared seemed to despise his approach, but the game has survived the test of time.

ASL has added more detail, but the basic game engine as designed by Hill is still largely intact.


SL >> ASL

Design for Effect >>> Design For Cause

-------------

A modern classic case of DFE are the current crop of NLB Games from Zucker.

His underlying combat system gets a bit of old school ridicule at times; but he says he is not focused on modeling a combat system but the effects of combat.

The in game results pretty much show that.

Over all focus is the quasi-operational to operational goals of the games and even strategic in the linked ones, like Four Lost Battles.

He is not beyond tweaking it though - adding the Shock Combat table to the CRT for close results is rather neat.
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I'd throw the recent Unconditional Surrender into this mix.
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Yeah, I'm not so sure about the term "design for effect", as I think everyone designs for some kind of effect, but according to your description I think A Victory Lost: Crisis in Ukraine 1942-1943 has one of the most elegantly simple designs and is a very good game based on the Russian counter offensive during the end of the battle for Stalingrad. Lots of fun to play against an opponent.

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Perhaps the Coin series fits in here? Very abstract 'on-the-ground' modelling but lots of focus on multi-faceted political naughtiness.

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reddavid wrote:
What you are asking for is a non-monster wargame that realistically simulates the action with elegant rules like euros do?

That is just good game design.


Well, I think designing for effect IS good game design. IMO, the best wargame designers are those who manage to keep it simple while still representing the main aspects of a conflict. Band of Brothers is a good example. You want to make the players follow real-life infantry tactics? Just make sure it's relatively easy to suppress and hard to kill from long range and make sure suppressed units are harmful enough to make it possible to approach them. By that simple solution Jim Krohn managed to make a squad level game in which you choose to fire at non-suppressed units, instead of firing at already suppressed units to get a second hit. Or so I'm told, I haven't played it. One thing I'm sure I don't like in BoB, though, is the use of decoys. I think there are better (by which I mean 'less fiddly') ways of representing fog-of-war, like giving generous movement allowances under certain circumstances, like night turns in Red Winter (let night turns represent a longer period of time, and give units double movement allowance on night turns). This is another example of using a simple mechanism to achieve the effect (in this case the effect is that you should never be sure where the enemy might show up).
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moujamou wrote:
Perhaps the Coin series fits in here? Very abstract 'on-the-ground' modelling but lots of focus on multi-faceted political naughtiness.



Yeah, I think that's a good example. They feel very abstract, but the story that unfolds feels plausible. That is, the rules have the desired effect.
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