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Subject: Introducing people to wargaming. rss

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I'd like to know how to do this effectively. My experience has generally been this: it's easy to sell people on the idea of wargaming, but when they sit down at the table, they quickly lose interest.

So, I'd like to ask those of you who have successfully introduced other people to wargaming: how did you do it? What strategies did you employ? I'd really prefer input from people who have actually done this, rather than lots of ideas for what merely sounds good.

Thanks.

 
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Eli Smith
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My method is the "expensive" one. I have a heap of wargames of varying complexity, I start folks out with something light and gradually move up in complexity, this keeps the learning curve rather gradual as many wargames use similar concepts. Memoir '44 is a great starter as many will probably say, and introduces many key concepts in wargames (terrain, unit activation, variable unit capabilities, scenario based set-up, etc...)
 
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Jeff Thompson
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Find a theme the person might enjoy.

If their grandfather, uncle or father fought in WWII, then that might be a good place to start. Perhaps their ancestors are French? Play a Napoleonic game.

Try and tie the game to them personally. If they have personal ownership of the game play, they will not lose interest and eventually see the mechanics as an avenue to play the game instead of a roadblock.

As in all things shared, let them experience it for themselves. Let them decide to like playing war games. If they don't they don't. But if they do... well then you got yourself an partner to play games with.
 
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Trevor Murphy
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I know this is sort of a negative answer, but: wargames just don't appeal to many people's tastes. Most 'real' wargaming involves sitting in a chair for a long time frowning silently over little bits of cardboard. That being said, Twilight Struggle -- for all its flaws -- has a great theme that lots of people can relate to and is a good introduction to games with a wargame-level of rules complexity. It would be a good stepping stone for the small percentage that might like all the sitting and frowning.

Edited to say: this is what I used to get some people into wargaming.
 
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Eli Smith
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IN defense of wargaming, I hardly ever frown. Although I do have to think a lot and do sometimes furl my brow.

Then again I'm one of those crazy folks who enjoy games that make me think really hard.
 
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Peter Bogdasarian
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Jeff has a very valuable suggestion - you want a topic they can relate to and are interested in. That's external to the game itself.

As for what game to use - I prefer to use games I can teach orally in five to ten minutes and which offer an intuitive starting point for strategy.

As an example, I used Victoria Cross (Worthington) a couple years back for this. The movie Zulu provides all the background one needs and the basic strategy is pretty easy to grasp - the Zulu player needs to get his horde of guys inside the compound where they can use their short, stabby things on the guys with the guns.

Mechanically, the choices can be broken down one step at a time over the first few turns (here is how you move, here is how you shoot, here is how you melee), allowing a player to grasp one decision before moving on to the next one.

Not all wargames allow this - in some, you need to understand how combat and zones of control interact before you can move effectively (so you can surround and destroy enemy units) which makes them much harder to teach.

Victoria Cross has one other thing that helps a new player - the Zulus are very resilient. No matter how many are killed, they reenter the next turn to attack again. This means that no single mistake can lose a new player the game. This is valuable as it allows them to acquire experience (such as not advancing against British volley fire) without losing the game or feeling dispirited. Furthermore, since the Zulus always get to roll dice for their rifle fire, the new player is never left without the ability to roll dice and kill things. (another valuable point - is he being offered an active role? - some wargames reqire much more passivity from a side)

Finally, though most people don't play it often enough to explore the possibilities, Victoria Cross offers replayability. A new player will ordinarily want to play one game multiple times so he can get comfortable with the mechanics and explore its depth - rather than moving from one to the next to the next.

I talked specifically about Victoria Cross since I've used it for the very purpose you're interested in, but there are other games that can accomplish the same result - the key is to look for the sort of elements discussed above.
 
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Jeremy Carlson
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Or if they are a fan of movies, such as Braveheart, you could start them on a fairly "euro feel" type wargame like Hammer of the Scots. Rules are fairly easy...if they can handle Caylus, HotS is a snap.

Crusader Rex was my first, and Hammer soon followed. The good thing about these two is that they are very similar. So if they learn one, it is VERY easy to play the other.
 
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Brian Morris
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I agree with using Memoir '44 as a gateway game.

I also think in terms of more complexity it's often good to play 4 player games. That way the new player doesn't feel that he's one on one directly against a more experienced player. In that area one might try Britannia, Struggle of Empires or Sword of Rome.
 
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June Hwang Wah
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Off the top of my head, this is it:

Low Counter Density, low complexity. This is fairly obvious, but in our enthusiasm to induct a new player, we often overlook. Try not to get your opponent overwhelmed by 100+ pages of rules and 1000+ counters. 4 pages and <20 counters per side ala Afrika Korps work nicely.

Forgiving game system, forgiving opponent. Choose a system that is more forgiving of errors. And do gently point out your opponents errors, not to exploit them mercilessly.

Low down time. Impulse-type games are generally better at this, as your opponent gets to participate almost continuously.

Fog of War. I am actually in favour of games without cards for this purpose. Your opponent gets to see what you are doing, and you can (at least for a start) explain why you are doing things in certain ways.

Do a trial run for 2 turns and reset the game. This way, your opponent can get a feel of how the game actually works, and can avoid making bad opening moves.
 
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David
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I think Tompy in the 3rd post hit the most important point.

THEME. Find something they're interested in. If they don't give a crap about that type of warfare/time period/war, they're not going to stay ingaged and interested in the game.

A good theme they enjoy will make them more willing to sit through rules and forgive some stuff about wargames. It will also help them by giving them at least some sort of intuitive grasp of what they should be doing.

After that, find something simple. The C&C system is always a good bet, or another low on the fiddly type game.

So remember, for beginners, keep it simple and find something they already like.
 
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oystein eker
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Half hour idle waiting for a euro game - I often use this tactic to catch a victim - pulling out a nice looking wargame.

First I only talk about movement cost and firing range. And a few words of game sequence.

Then I set up a few counters for myself and maybe double amount for the newbie.

Then I ask him what to do in real life?
Rush the house with infantry -without MG support?
Move in with a flank attack? Cross the swamp or move around?
Rush the hill with cavalry and silence the guns? (Civ war/Nappy)

Let him try a couple of rounds. I keep track of dice roll modifications and tables - no need to involve him too much. Keep focus on real life decisions - what to expect when rushing across open ground to attack. Try it and see how the game reflects real life.

 
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Hilary Hartman
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I introduced wargames to my wife through Battle Cry which worked very well. We then moved up to Memoir '44. An old Avalon Hill title, 1776, was our first foray into hex and counter games together. Then, War of the Ring followed. Finally, it was Squad Leader.

Sometimes months would pass between wargaming sessions, but time and again, it is more often she wants to play a wargame over Carcassonne, Hera and Zeus, or Blue Moon. However, she loves all of the themes of the wargames that we've played, and I think that has a lot to do with it.

Also, by slowly cranking up the complexity it allowed a much better rules absorption rate--for both of us! You may not think so, but going from 1776 to War of the Ring is actually a pretty big leap...which was sort of offset by the beautiful map board and the plastic pieces for the army. You can sometimes "Wow!" someone into playing just because of the way the game looks, believe it of not. I also believe the flip side of this is true: some of the old hex and counter games are rather "blah" looking and lead to non-interest.

Anyhow, there's been a lot of good advice on this thread. Good luck!
 
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Thanks for the replies. I honestly was hoping for more explicit and detailed "how to" information. Most of these replies do confirm my intuitions on the subject already--start with something simple, etc. But I think that I'll start with something a little closer to the games I actually want to play: C&C:A and A Victory Lost. I consider games involving little plastic men to be very, very far removed from the games I think of as "wargames." But that's just me, maybe. I mean, people might dig Memoir '44, but then get turned off by counters. I have to somehow make counters seem appealing to even those who measure a game merely by its components. Let's see what happens.

As an afterthought of sorts--I don't know why I feel this way, but I actually think wargaming is important, and I want to bring more people into the hobby. It is at least very useful as mental exercise and intellectual development.

Oh, and another thought--sorry--I bet that there are lots of potential wargamers out there who aren't GAMERS. Just regular people, who never thought of such a thing. People interested in history or whatever. I think this because I really don't consider myself a "gamer" at all. Wargaming doesn't "feel" like gaming to me. Same with Chess. Is Kasparov all like "I'm a gamer d00d." probably not. He just plays chess.

 
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Trevor Murphy
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Rindu wrote:
Oh, and another thought--sorry--I bet that there are lots of potential wargamers out there who aren't GAMERS. Just regular people, who never thought of such a thing. People interested in history or whatever. I think this because I really don't consider myself a "gamer" at all. Wargaming doesn't "feel" like gaming to me. Same with Chess. Is Kasparov all like "I'm a gamer d00d." probably not. He just plays chess.



That's a good point- I've always thought that the military history departments of colleges are probably full of great potential wargamers.
 
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Robin
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I agree that theme is very important and there have been some great recommendations. To learn any game, the other players need to care about it first.

The biggest problem I had at first with being introduced into wargaming was the explanation. When a game took more than an hour to explain without playing, my eyes would glaze over. This was one reason I am not a fan of Axis and Allies. I found it easier to learn by playing, specifically if the game or strategy can be broken up in steps like Hammer of the Scots or Twilight Stuggle. Being a good teacher is very important.

Like my husband mentioned, looks can really make an impression. Block wargames are extremely beautiful and elegant to me. They remind me of the old war movies where the generals would stand around the table with a map and blocking trying to figuring out war strategy.

As others have mentioned, M'44 is a great start. You may want to look into Columbia Block Wargames which others have also mentioned. The rule books are normally around 5 pages and many have the strategy broken into steps.'

Good Luck and happy gaming!
 
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Robin
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Rindu wrote:
Wargaming doesn't "feel" like gaming to me. Same with Chess. Is Kasparov all like "I'm a gamer d00d." probably not. He just plays chess.



I completely understand where you are coming from here. Even though chess is not a wargame, I would consider it an introduction into wargaming strategy.

As for finding wargames, we have the same problem. As soon as some of our friends here the word wargame, they are turned off.
 
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Tom Hancock
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Start with memoir 44. If the person is already a gamer, but not a wargamer you could probably go with something a tad bit more meaty like C&C ancients. But playing memoir for about a month will get anyone to where they are wanting something more strategic. Next, I would go with a simple hex and counter game or maybe a card driven area movement game. Twilight struggle is pretty light for a CDG and the theme appeals to most americans who grew up during the cold war. I hear that Fire in the Sky by MMP games is a really simple wargame that might be a good "second step" after memoir. Alternatively, you can look for simple magazine games that come in wargame magazines. Those are good intros to the hex and counter hobby.
 
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KTG17
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I don't know if you are including MINIATURE wargaming too, but I would try something fun and easy to relate to like Star Wars Minaitures. I know some people have an aversion to collectable games, but if you already have a ton of stuff (I buy what I want on Ebay), then you should be able to provide new players with everything they need. The reason I suggest the Star Wars game is that I think it does have a great ruleset for what it is, and everyone knows who Han Solo is and what a Storm Trooper is. I have also had people enjoy Pirates of the Spanish Main too.

I am a pretty big collector of miniature wargames, but I have realized that as I get older, it is near impossible to get new people interested in the games I collect. With all the set up, painting, or even $$$. . . Truthfully, I would rather play Texas Hold 'em with a bunch of friends than try and break out a game of Warhammer 40k, so I am sure that doesn't help.

I have met people back in college that put notices up looking for players, which introduced me to games I knew nothing about, like Twilight 2000 or Warhammer Fantasy Battles, so I recommend that.
 
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Make it atmospheric. This year saw the addition of several new people to our wargaming group, half of the female! When we game, we turn it into an experience--period food, costume, music. It also helps that we have a stack of trusty games which rarely let us down:

Civilization
Barbarian, Kingdom, and Empire
Kingmaker
Paz Britannica
Grand Imperialism (our own version)

Now, those are all games with a level of diplomacy. If you're trying to get folks into counter-pushers, well that's an smaller niche. Those simply won't appeal to everyone. You have to find people genuinely interested in the battle/operation being simulated or at least the process.

Still, with the proper dress-up, you can make anything somewhat sexy. Also, if you know the game very well, that cuts down on the whole learning curve problem.
 
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