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Subject: Miniature Games: What Makes Them Fun Or Not? rss

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Ross Gustafson
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Hi I am unsure if this has been posted as a question recently but I will post the question and see what people say. First off, I play all kinds of games from light gateway games to heavy mechanical euros to dicey ameri-thrash conflict games. So I have been exposed to many different mechanics. I have some ideas for a specific fantasy themed miniatures tabletop game. I grew up playing Warhammer and I have enjoyed more determinatstic combat board games like Blood Rage recently. That is where I am coming from.

So here is my question(s): What do you think makes for a fun miniatures game? What do you like and dislike? Cite some examples of good mechanics or features you have found and bad ones. Let's not make this a flame war or bash fest, but a more healthy discussion on what each of us have found in miniatures games that we like and dislike. It can be about more traditional minis games like Warhammer, Warmachine, or Infinity or modern board games like Twilight Imperium III, Blood Rage, or Cry Havoc.

In particular, there are some things I am considering such as:

- Deterministic combat vs. non-deterministic combat (like with dice)
- Types of miniature materials
- Determining movement (ruler vs. tiles/spaces)
- Game setup methods
- Army building vs. determined factions
- Asynchronous armies
- 28mm scale vs. other scales

So anyway, this post is about ideas, so I will zip it for now and let the internets take over.
 
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Lluluien
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One thing I think makes traditional wargames not fun is having people argue about distance measurements where you swear the only way to resolve them is with dial calipers.

I also don't like the Warhammer rule of "Okay, if we can't agree, we take turns getting to be 'right' in these arguments".

Games shouldn't have to have a rule like that to arbitrate bad mechanics. I think this is one reason X-Wing is so popular. Those movement tracks are a brilliant way to try to address this problem. They don't solve all the issues, but motion still feels very fluid while eliminating half of those problems or better.
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J J
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Not sure. But consider this.

I love HeroQuest, and have spent a large amount of money acquiring the expansions.

Descent is often held up as a worthy successor, and in fact many people say it is superior, and fixes the failings of HeroQuest.

And yet I loathe Descent. I won't play it. I've got HQ on my table right now, and expect to play through all the quests in the near future.
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Lluluien
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JasonJ0 wrote:
Not sure. But consider this.

I love HeroQuest, and have spent a large amount of money acquiring the expansions.

Descent is often held up as a worthy successor, and in fact many people say it is superior, and fixes the failings of HeroQuest.

And yet I loathe Descent. I won't play it. I've got HQ on my table right now, and expect to play through all the quests in the near future.


My brother hates Descent because turtling isn't a viable strategy in that game. He hates Netrunner for the same reason.

Maybe this is irrelevant to you, but this is one example reason why it could come to pass that someone likes HQ and hates Descent. Turtling IS a valid strategy in HQ. In fact, when I play it, we have something we call the "door protocol" where we just say that during a time when the board is provably safe and just skip the mechanical nonsense of getting the party lined up properly in front of a closed door. That's a form of turtling for advantage.

If you don't do this so carefully as to be practically impossible in Descent (indeed the game is designed precisely in a way that makes this true), then you will be eaten by a grue.
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jay
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Painting is fun.
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Edmund Proctor
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What make minatures games fun for me.

1) Themes which I am intrested in.
2) Good looking miniatures.
3) Able to play diffrent rules systems with the same miniatures.
4) Hunting down miniatures with the right look for your games.

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Peter Millen
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lluluien wrote:
One thing I think makes traditional wargames not fun is having people argue about distance measurements where you swear the only way to resolve them is with dial calipers.

I also don't like the Warhammer rule of "Okay, if we can't agree, we take turns getting to be 'right' in these arguments".

Games shouldn't have to have a rule like that to arbitrate bad mechanics.


I wouldn't like that sort of argument either. I have often seen it given on BGG as a reason that a poster avoids 'analogue' miniatures games. I have never played Warhammer, but I also agree that the 'rule' you quote seems problematic: if a ruling goes to my opponent I can over-measure wildly knowing that I am entitled to the next ruling?

I do have to say that, outside competitive play, Its not a problem I have encountered. Maybe just lucky?

Quote:
I think this is one reason X-Wing is so popular. Those movement tracks are a brilliant way to try to address this problem. They don't solve all the issues, but motion still feels very fluid while eliminating half of those problems or better.


Other miniatures games where a small number of distances are significant(eg Saga) provide measuring sticks , but these are no more than specialised tape-measures,as are the movement arcs in X-Wing. Of course X-Wing (another game often played competitively between strangers) has the advantage of very limited terrain.

Most analogue rules can be 'hexified' and played on a hex mat.
 
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J J
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NikTheRake wrote:
lluluien wrote:
One thing I think makes traditional wargames not fun is having people argue about distance measurements where you swear the only way to resolve them is with dial calipers.

I also don't like the Warhammer rule of "Okay, if we can't agree, we take turns getting to be 'right' in these arguments".

Games shouldn't have to have a rule like that to arbitrate bad mechanics.


I wouldn't like that sort of argument either. I have often seen it given on BGG as a reason that a poster avoids 'analogue' miniatures games. I have never played Warhammer, but I also agree that the 'rule' you quote seems problematic: if a ruling goes to my opponent I can over-measure wildly knowing that I am entitled to the next ruling?

I do have to say that, outside competitive play, Its not a problem I have encountered. Maybe just lucky?


This sort of thing (the measuring issue) is more a problem with the players than with the game (especially when involving competitive play). I'm willing to go so far as to say that someone who has a problem with having to measure, trusting the opponent, and being relaxed (as opposed to obsessive to the millimetre) about it, just should not play such games.
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Gomeril Gnak
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Tabletop is about terrain and how to use it to your advantage. So avoid rules that make terrain obsolete (looking at you, Warmachine).
Balancing armies is much easier than balancing units. If you want to give players the opportunity to build their own armies, you need a points system which is not a trivial feat. GW screwed up on this every single time they tried, FFG is still patching X-Wing for the umpteenth time.
Taking turns is a poor mechanism to simulate battle, but on the table there is no alternative. The worst is one side taking their turn and the other side suffering paralysed and then being reduced to fight back with what is left. "I go, you go" can lead to boring chess-like exchanges, even when randomized like in Bolt Action.Going by order of rank is only feasible if you have not too many units as in X-Wing. Give the opponent some means to react. He will have less down time (not fun) and play will be more balanced.
Making your tabletop fantasy is a wise move. Nobody can accuse you of historical inaccuracy. (T-34 having a better fighting distance than a Panzer IV? Come on, Flames of War.)
Do what professional publishers mostly don't do: playtest.
If you don't want to do a skirmish game with a handful of combatants, go for 15 mm. This scale allows for maneuvering on a normal sized table and even having units with bigger differences in movement e.g. cavalry or vehicles and is still fun to paint.
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Abraham Quicksilver
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Not quite the answer you are seeking, but it is obvious that a game like Zombicide would not be half as fun if the mini's were all tokens.

Conversely, the old hex and counter wargames would be a real pain if they were all mini's.

As a hex wargamer old school type, I just hate the fiddling around measuring, checking LOS etc., etc - seems to be a distraction from the actual purpose of the game.

I'm very happy to swap free positioning for hex movement, range, LOS any day.
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Ken Lewis
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For me, the number one thing I love about playing miniatures games is the visual aspect of the games followed by being able to recreate specific battles form a wide variety of media, along with team building and battlefield strategy/tactics.

That is why, when I designed Giant Monster Rampage, I tried the make the game's effects mimic a lot of the on screen action you see in many of the kaiju/mecha films/series and is also why I chose to design the game for use with existing toys since many kaiju/mecha figures look as good as, if not better, than the miniatures you can buy for many miniatures games.





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C B
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If it's a minis game, it's gotta be non-deterministic. I guess I wouldn't include Blood Rage as a minis game in the context you seem to be asking. The minis in Blood Rage are just glorified chits for the bling factor, they are not actually interacting with each other. So, the deterministic aspect of Blood Rage does not apply to this discussion, imo. Deterministic combat doesn't work in a tactical game, might as well use rock-paper-scissors if you want deterministic combat resolution.
Having said that, it is easy to take non-deterministic too far. The dice rolling has to have an end point, and preferably sooner than 3 separate opposing rolls for one individual combat.

I like looking at a good mini as much as the next guy, but would honestly be quite happy with 2 sided standees. Standees usually have much better detail than minis and are visually more appealing - and no painting necessary. If more games came with pre-painted minis, that might change my opinion - provided I like the art direction.

I much prefer moving on a grid, square or hex, to moving by ruler. Anything to take unnecessary fiddliness out of the game is a good thing. And free movement is one of those unnecessary elements.
 
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Joe McDaid
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It really depends on many different factors. For one, not all games that uses miniatures are the same.

Deadzone is more like a 3D board game than a Mini's game, but is more of a Mini's game than BloodRage and neither are anything like WarNoun games.

So I think the real question is why do people want miniatures? What about the physical piece is fun.

I'm a painter, so to me, a good model is something I'll enjoy painting.

But if I think about most games that include miniatures, most don't actually need to have miniatures. A flat disk would probably be good enough, Something Diskwars tried. But still, the theme, and artistry and instant recognition and presence on the table is something people like in 3D models.

I've got a Mini's game I'm working on right now, and the original goal for it was just because I want to bring the theme to life, so much of the rules reflect the universe I'm trying to create. And that's the thing with Mini's nothing makes a theme come to life more than them. Even just changing the orange cubes in Agricola to Orange Carrot shaped wooden cubes was an upgrade everyone wanted.

Having said that though, I've played a lot of mini's games and there are a few other things I wanted to make different:

[1]I hate spending 8+ hours on painting a Mini only to have it shot off the table in round one, to be put off to the side or back in the case, I feel that hard work should be on the table from the start of the game to the end, so in my game no models get removed.

[2] Mini's game designers seem to love piling on the stats. Needing reference sheets and cards that you always have to look at until you play it 30 times to remember it all. I wanted to make that simple so that you could physically model the stats on the Mini itself and see on the table top at a glace what it can do.

[3] Points. Most every game uses a points system to determine balance, which works, but I wanted to try to challenge myself to make a game that doesn't use points, just a team size. So a team of 3 models would be just as balanced as a team of 5. So far so Good on that front.

[4] What most people have been saying here, Grid system, I pondered free form measuring, but everything was always much more simple with a Hex grid.

I think where most Mini's games are going now is a tabletop hybrid. A Board game played with Mini's and the like. Even Games Workshop is putting out a table top minis board game every 3 months or so because that's what the market wants to play.
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Gomeril Gnak
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Re: Points
Doing a points system is the challenge, not avoiding it. If you don't have a points system you can't give choices to the players. A points system forces the designer to do the balancing he has to do anyhow systematically and consciously. You skip that at your peril.
 
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Ken Lewis
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Gomeril wrote:
Doing a points system is the challenge, not avoiding it. If you don't have a points system you can't give choices to the players. A points system forces the designer to do the balancing he has to do anyhow systematically and consciously. You skip that at your peril.


There are other ways to provide options beside points.

You can use "type" restrictions, such as your team can have 5 characters. It can only have 1 of this type, this other type counts as 2 characters, this type can only be taken if you take this other type, etc...

You have to thoroughly test the dynamics between those characters just as much as if you were using a point system and it still provides options.
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Gomeril Gnak
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Re: Points System
If you do it without points, the player will have less choices. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as hard choices always make for a good game and a botched points system inevitably leads to uniform forces after enough experience. Even if your game will not use a points system in the end I still would recommend a points system as a designer tool.
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Greg
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CplPunishment wrote:
...
In particular, there are some things I am considering such as:

- Deterministic combat vs. non-deterministic combat (like with dice)
- Types of miniature materials
- Determining movement (ruler vs. tiles/spaces)
- Game setup methods
- Army building vs. determined factions
- Asynchronous armies
- 28mm scale vs. other scales

So anyway, this post is about ideas, so I will zip it for now and let the internets take over.


Things I hate:

- Measuring distances: just too slow, vague and too likely to create arguments between players if they can't agree a model was "in range" or whatever - I prefer grid movement, or templates like in X-Wing.

- Excessive randomness: individual dice rolls shouldn't make or break your strategy; if rolling a few 1s is going to be devastating, I don't think the game is very well-designed.

- Excessive modifiers/exceptions: "Okay, I'm at long range so I have -1 to hit and the enemy is in cover so I have another -1 to hit but I have the special bow that lets me ignore long range and oh wait he's a small target so I actually have -2 to hit in addition to everything else." It's slow, it's dull and it's awkward to track everything. I know most games work this way, but there MUST be a better way. It's especially aggravating if you need to track a dozen different things and most of them have no effect on the game 90% of the time.

- Army building: good grief, I don't want to get out a spreadsheet program before I even play my first game! I let my Mordheim boxed set collect dust for years simply because I hate making "army lists". If choosing units to make up an army roster is an integral part of the game, at least give me a few "sample armies" I can choose from to get started quickly.

- Unbalanced factions: I know it's nice to have different units/factions with different abilities, but if the same side is always winning, there isn't much of a game. Likewise, if you have 30 different kinds of troops to choose from, best make sure that half of them aren't useless (or overpowered).

- No way to play with more than two players: I'm rarely in the mood for a game that's just 1 vs 1, so I'd prefer some sort of options for 3+ players in the same game.


Things I like:

- Dice modifiers/rerolls: such as in X-Wing, the ability to modify a dice roll by spending some other resource, or like in Blood Bowl, the ability to re-roll a few dice per game. This can really help take the sting out of the occasional bad dice roll, and leads into my next point...

- Tactical decisions: "If I move this guy out of cover, he'll be more likely to get hit, but he can add to the other guy's morale if he's nearby". That sort of thing. Give me some interesting decisions to make, with appropriate risks/rewards. The game shouldn't just play itself.

- Efficient use of components: for example, in Kingdom Death Monster, the AI deck contains all the actions the monster can do, but the deck also shrinks and grows to reflect the number of "hit points" the monster has. That's much better than having a separate tally for hit points. It's easy for minis games to become fiddly and cumbersome, so it's best to make the most of each component and only add more stuff if truly necessary.

- Consistent aesthetics: If my guys are hiding behind a tree or a wall, I don't want to have a flat piece of cardboard that says "wall" on it. It should have the same three-dimensional feel that the troops have.
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Ken Lewis
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Gomeril wrote:
If you do it without points, the player will have less choices. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as hard choices always make for a good game and a botched points system inevitably leads to uniform forces after enough experience. Even if your game will not use a points system in the end I still would recommend a points system as a designer tool.


Using points does not inherently increase a player's options, including more options increases options.
 
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Ross Gustafson
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Painting is so much fun. I think I will include that for sure.
 
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James Arias
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Others have already said most of what I was going to post but I'll pile on anyway.

First, I like board games with minis, not necessarily "minis games" (which often is taken to mean some kind of tactical skirmish game or a wargame). E.g. dudes on a map, dungeon crawlers or "games with minis" like Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game or Space Cadets: Away Missions. For these kinds of games, I find minis way more immersive than standees or counters, however good we can now make the art on those printed components. Even in roll and move party games I prefer it when they have minis vs. generic pawns.

I never got into the old hex and counter wargames but if I did play them I would agree that counters work better than minis due to the usually massive number of units, smaller set of stats per unit, and big maps involved.

But for smaller force sizes or less wargamey / skirmish games, minis look cooler. I don't mind having a concise stats card as long as it's not too RPG-esque (after accounting for mobility, offense, defense, "lives" try not to pile on too much more).

I prefer gridded movement (with the Silhouette concept that games like Infinity uyse). I like systems that can account for LOS, cover, range, terrain obstacles, height, etc. (and systems that don't annoy me) but how to do that w/o too many conditional rules, modifiers, etc.

I think a lot of it comes down to how casual vs. hardcore of a game are you looking for.
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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I like minis games. But I also like counters.

Some thoughts.

-The minis should fit the game and not feel like they were added on as a marketing ploy. There are some sorts of games where minis just dont quite work, or arent really feasible due to scale or nature.

The minis should not be jacking the price to absurd levels. This is the biggest reason I pass on many minis heavy games.

The minis should be to scale if they are for diorama style battles. The Death Star should not be smaller than the tie-fighter on the board. Not an issue when the minis are just representing location rather than scale.

The minis shouldnt be so overwrought that they are fragile or just hell to paint or handle. Games Workshop has moved progressively into this problem.

-Keep the minis to the standard scale so they can be used with other dames or as RPG minis. This will increase the likelyhood of someone purchasing.

-Material dictates detail. Detail and material dictate cost. So you need to figure what level of detail you want and use whats appropriate. Privateers Monsterpocalypse minis for example have a good balance for example.

-As for movement. Depends on what style of combat and the nature of the game. This may dictate other factors. For example how extensive is movement? Are there lots of factors to consider? Or is it simple? Sometimes one style will fit a hex grid movement and sometimes not. Or perhaps due to gameplay style abstract is better. Soze of hexes or spaces on the board, if any, then dictate the size of the minis to some degree.

Measured movement gives one type of freedom. But also brings with it some problems as rarely will two units exactly meet. So your rules have to take into account more factors. Ever a trade-off.

-As for roll vs not. Simple fact. Combat is random. But... It is not pure random. You dont want things left totally to a roll. There needs to be some ways to tip balance in your favour or at least reduce the random element. This could be as simple as bonuses from tactics, skill, or facing. Or something as simple as the more units in the fight the more dice you get to throw. Yes, thats a weird way to mitigate random with more random. But it works where all you need are successes to hit rather than levels of success.

Non-Random combat systems I actually find really fascinating. But they can be tricky to work out the mechanics and balance.

-Asynchronous armies needs some sort of balance then. Such as the smaller/weaker force gets more defensive emplacements, or choke points the other side has to negotiate. Or just that while the two sides are not identical, they are both created from the same point allotments. Which is the most common method.

-Setup is to YMMV really. But try not to get too complex. Or make the setup at least fun. HeroScape for example.
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Bojan Prakljacic
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The future is now. There are projectors that can project keyboards on the surface of the table with motion sensors tracking when you press a specific key.
I'm sure someone will apply similar thing to miniature game-play sooner or later, so rulers and counters / tokens will be thing of the past, at least for competitive play on some future tournaments. :]

 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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lifelesspoet wrote:
Painting is fun.


I agree. It is fun.

But I wouldn't like a game that made it mandatory to paint minis before you get an "acceptable" looking product.

It's the reason I liked the old Wizkids Clix games. The minis were already painted. Yes, the paint job was horrible and the sculpts were badly detailed. But at least I'm not required to paint them to make them presentable.

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Sturv Tafvherd
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I'll echo a lot of other comments.

Measuring whether something is in line of sight or in range. If that can be as painless as possible, I'd appreciate it.

Army point sizes. Again, I need to trust people not to cheat. If there's a simple way of validating it, I'd love it.

Figure orientation and all the wonkiness of picking things up and putting them down; and whether or not having the tip of someone's appendage visible and in range counts... argh, it makes me want to just play on a computer.

 
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Kai Scheuer
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One big turnoff in miniature games for me is, if I have to buy miniatures of a certain range to be able to play it.

As in "this miniature is that character with those stats".

Mostly this results in a company selling off miniatures with a mediocre game wrapped around it.

A good miniatures game puts the focus on the game and lets you play with minis from any range!



Kind regards,
Kai
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