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Subject: Game vs Simulation rss

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James Champion
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Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se. So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?
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James
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Hmmm I don't think complexity is at all necessary for a game to be considered a simulation, and realism is a very slippery idea in a game. I would say it is more to do with design intent and the ability of the designer to build a model that recognises the salient points of whatever his or her subject is and then allows the player to take plausible actions with plausible outcomes.
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Michael Dillenbeck
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I don't think simulation has to do with complexity as much as it has to do with agency. The less agency or ability to choose an action of the player's desires and the more scripted/bound to a known reality the decisions are the more it becomes a simulation (ie, the outcomes match what historically happened and not some "alternative history" that players would have chosen).

So when does something not become a game but a simulation? When the reality of what did (or should) happen restrict the decisions of what a player would do to win. Of course, the further you go back in history the more difficult it is to discern the "reality" of an outcome was (level of troops, effectiveness of weapons, etc are more subjectively recorded and the sources become more suspect).

I don't think I'm explaining myself too well. I can't seem to come up with the right words and examples. Sorry.
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T. Dauphin
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So Case Blue (or any other simulation) is not a game?
Should we have it removed from the data base?
Why can't a game be a simulation?

I'm going to quote myself (somewhat) from an earlier thread rather than redo this entirely.
"I’ve always disliked the term simulation to mean “accurate” for a few reasons. The first is that it’s not what I understand the word to mean. In the Oxford Dictionary the second definition listed in my edition is, “a model or set of circumstances imitating real or hypothetical conditions”.

The first definition is the rather circular one that refers to something that is simulated. So the verb (simulate) is defined thusly,
pretend to have or feel; pretend to be; imitate or counterfeit; imitate the conditions of... for training or amusement

A lot of imitating and pretending going on there.
This is how I have always understood simulation. That it is something similar to but not necessarily exact. For training or amusement.

I think people would agree that getting an exact representation is virtually impossible. I honestly don’t see how we faulty humans could possibly, completely accurately reproduce any military action, especially long past events whose details may be hard to come by. And as to this question specifically, to declare that some games are simulations and some are not means we are drawing a line, with simulations on one side and non-simulations on the other, but it seems pretty apparent that we, in this community will never agree on where that line sits.
So what is to be gained by using the term in this way?
I maintain that all wargames are simulations, in the way that Mr. Oxford has defined it. That is that they merely represent a military event (imperfectly to one degree or another, as a matter of course). Clearly some do a better job of that than others, and there can be lots of useful debate about what makes one better than another."

So I would suggest that we should debate which games are accurate simulations and which are not so accurate, that there is a continuum from really poor to really great simulations. It is unfortunate that BGG has chosen to call 'simulation' a mechanic. This is even more confusing. How is an underlying design decision a mechanic??

My 2 cents.
(OK, that might be 3)



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Bill Lawson
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Pertinax wrote:
Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se. So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?


All those times I played Case Blue I was sure that I was playing a game.

Good game = Good simulation
Bad Game = Bad simulation
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Russ Williams
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moujamou wrote:
Hmmm I don't think complexity is at all necessary for a game to be considered a simulation, and realism is a very slippery idea in a game. I would say it is more to do with design intent and the ability of the designer to build a model that recognises the salient points of whatever his or her subject is and then allows the player to take plausible actions with plausible outcomes.

Yep, for some reason it seems a common meme that complicated detail = simulation.

But simple Newtonian equations are a better simulation or model of physics than complicated wheels within wheels and epicycles of middle ages solar system models, for example.

And certainly a simulation can be a playable game.

---

If the point of the OP is at what point does a game become too complicated to be enjoyable as a game, I suppose that's a very subjective personal question, up to the individual player.
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For me

Game -- Is it fun?
Simulation -- How well does it model reality?

Those are two different axes, somewhat orthogonal, so not mutually exclusive.
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marc lecours
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All wargames are games (or almost all).
All wargames are simulations to some extent.
No wargame is a perfect simulation or even close.

BUT I think that some wargames are better simulations than others and some wargames are better games than others. But I don't think that game and simulation are necessarily opposites. A good simulation can also be a fun game. Though a designer usually chooses whether the priority is "fun game" or "simulation". If the designer achieves both, then I will buy their game.




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Paul C
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Only completely abstract games simulate nothing.

Nearly all themed games simulate some aspect of their theme.

Monopoly is a simulation.

A key consideration is how much of the "theme" is modeled by the simulation, and how much is abstractly represented.

Apparently realistic outcomes can be achieved despite extensive abstraction of reality.

Yet the most detailed simulation might still produce unrealistic results.

Realism <> detail <> simulation <> game
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marc lecours
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To me a wargame that is rigidly scripted to play out like the the war or battle it is portraying isn't much of a simulation. It is a story game that retells the war or battle. Retelling a battle is what books do, and books are not simulations.

A simulation has to be able to model the real battle or war. When alternate non historical strategies are tried by the players, the wargame must give results which would likely have happened if the generals in the real war had tried them. I generally want my wargames to be good simulations. I want to have confidence that the alternate realities that the game is predicting , are the ones that would have happened if I had made the decisions in the real war.

Of course you can NEVER test if a game is a good simulation or not. Only one reality ever happened in the real war. The most you can hope for is that the game produces something close to the historical result if you make the historical decisions.

Some games simulates several battles (several scenarios). If the game successfully predicts the results of each battle without the need for special rules then you gain confidence in the game as a simulation.

In physics (as mentioned above) a good theory both predicts the results of many experiments and has as few special rules as possible.

Similarly a game with less special rules and exceptions is generally a better simulation.

In the end, it is difficult to say which wargames are better simulations. There is some subjective judgement involved. In the end each player has to decide for themselves whether the game feels right or not.
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Ed T
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Ok, now I'm curious, can someone please explain to me what is more simulation like for Case Blue (or other games in the series) as opposed to other Operational level wargames?
 
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Tony Doran
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Pertinax wrote:
Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se. So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?


Folks are right. Complexity and simulation value are not necessarily coterminous. I think any game becomes a simulation if it makes it possible to achieve an historical result using historical strategy or tactics. Mind you, I am not suggesting that the historical result should always follow from historical methods, only that it should be a possible result.
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supermaxv wrote:
Ok, now I'm curious, can someone please explain to me what is more simulation like for Case Blue (or other games in the series) as opposed to other Operational level wargames?


Simply said, logistics - and the way they're implemented in the OCS. Simpler operational level game systems only require trace supply to guarantee a unit's availability for a given turn. The player must push trucks, mules, carts and whatever other conveyances to within range of an HQ to guarantee a subordinate unit's movement and/or combat activity for a given turn.

So, okay, the game series (OCS) highlights supply; that is fine and dandy, you might say. Remember the time frame that this series was introduced. It was first released in the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War, when General Schwarzkopf was reminding everyone that amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics.

The Gamers set forth to create this logistics oriented system, but it's not only that. There are concessions made to the tactical acumen of the individual units by way of their Action Ratings (ARs, to devotees of the series). So, this series also highlights the dichotomy between big, well equipped armies with moderate to poor tactical prowess but which have copious amounts of supplies every turn and well-trained but less generously supplied armies. That's all fine, except that are limitations to the system. First, it is ideal for the North African and Sicilian campaigns and it works well in the ETO, but it was really designed for folks who enjoy visiting the vast Russian landscape. It's even worked in the Asiatic Theater (Burma). There are limits to what the system will let you do with a Navy, though. Thusly, you can forget about a PTO game in this series. Besides that, I don't think Dean likes that corner of the war - mainly because PTO games supposedly don't sell.
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Johnny Wilson
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Why do complexity and simulation seem to go together more often than not?

IMHO, in order to model a reality (some simulations model science-fictional or fantasy such that they apply aspects of reality to what is, by definition, not real in our experience), one must model a system, but more likely an aggregate set of systems. In a PC game, those systems can be modeled under the hood as the computer takes care of them. In a board wargame or a miniatures game, those systems may be abstracted into die rolls, chit pulls, charts, or rules, but they have to be somewhat exposed for the gamer to see that they are there.

Some wargames might just offer systems of command, movement, and conflict resolution. Battle Cry does this with its rules for adding an extra die when the commander is with certain units and its use of the card deck and hand for activation (command constraint). And sure, it's simple, but it is a simple simulation--primarily of the command problem in the American Civil War.

The trade-off between realism and playability isn't so much how many systems you are modeling as much as how many layers of structure you are having to add in order to include facets within your model. So, as the great Sid Meier always says, "We put a lot in there, but when we found something that wasn't fun, we took it out." If you are primarily on the game as entertainment part of the spectrum, that's the way it ought to be. However, if you are on the game as exploratory and learning experience part of the spectrum, you may want some of those details just to jog your awareness. So, many games covering one battle don't spend much or any time on logistics. That doesn't mean it isn't simulating other problems on the battlefield, but it may not seem like a simulation because it doesn't model one's interest in seeing that an army travels on its stomach.

Any of that make sense?
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For me a simulation is not about front armor data on a Tiger.
It is about lack of control and unpredictability.

It is impossible to simulate everything.

Strategic games such as World in Flames you have too much control. Navy, politics - everything.

IMO Totaler Krieg is a better simulation. You command only land forces. As a General your initial battle plan is wasted as Bulgaria joins Stalin a month before Barbarossa. Hitler will certainly make some stupid decisions that affect your plans.

Maybe you feel unfair that political dice rolls may ruin your game. But for me this is a simulation. At least you have something to blame when a game is lost.

Tactical games:
3Ci, fog of war, and friction is most important to simulate.

The chaos and friction should increase during play. Your plan should start to fail at first shot.

Most games have constant chaos and friction during the whole game, such as drawing cards.

For me, Fighting Formations is one of the best simulation. You start with every unit in command and planned for. Slowly the command breaks down. Units became stuck and do not response as the game progress.

IMO FF is a better simulation than ASL.
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Rex Stites
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Pertinax wrote:
Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se. So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?


This is somewhat of a false dichotomy. There are no pure simulations in wargaming in the sense that you provide the simulation some inputs and it simply outputs the result. They all require a constant stream of inputs throughout the game, influenced by intermediate outputs, that result in the final output(s) of the game.

Moreover, there is no minimum level of detail to qualify as a "simulation." Extraordinarily simple games can potentially be simulations. At its simplest, in order to be simulation, all that is necessary is that the design attempt to model the underlying reality that the game portrays. That is, an attempt to transform user input into outputs that show what would have happened in real life under the same conditions.

The level of detail in a simulation is only relevant to determine what questions might be answered by using the simulation. Simple models have the advantage of being easier to design and keep accurate. You have less interlocking parts and less combinations of interactions. Therefore its potentially easier to produce the correct results. The disadvantage of such models is obviously the lack of detail. Such models may be good for a very big picture understanding that gets the broad strokes correct. In manual wargames, they allow the designer to focus on one or two aspects of war or battle that they believe is critical to understanding the subject while simplifying and/or abstracting everything else. A game might focus on maneuver while abstracting out supply and logistics.

More complex models have the advantage of additional detail but are much more difficult to design due to all the interlocking systems. Moreover, if one subsystem doesn't mesh well with one of the others, it could throw off the entire model.
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Pertinax wrote:
Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se.

I don't think it can, since it's still necessary for the game to be played for the simulation to be executed. So if it ain't fun for someone, nothing's going to be simulated either. The "someone" is important though since different levels of effort are enjoyed by different people at different times.

Quote:
So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?

There is no fixed border, and there is no requirement for particular complexity. All games that are intended to replicate part of a military conflict fall somewhere on the simulation spectrum. Whether a game is a good simulation is something that must be evaluated at its own level of abstraction. So a detailed game like Case Blue is not automatically a better simulation than a more abstract game, it's just more detailed.

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rstites25 wrote:
Pertinax wrote:
Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se. So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?


This is somewhat of a false dichotomy. There are no pure simulations in wargaming in the sense that you provide the simulation some inputs and it simply outputs the result. They all require a constant stream of inputs throughout the game, influenced by intermediate outputs, that result in the final output(s) of the game.

Moreover, there is no minimum level of detail to qualify as a "simulation." Extraordinarily simple games can potentially be simulations. At its simplest, in order to be simulation, all that is necessary is that the design attempt to model the underlying reality that the game portrays. That is, an attempt to transform user input into outputs that show what would have happened in real life under the same conditions.

The level of detail in a simulation is only relevant to determine what questions might be answered by using the simulation. Simple models have the advantage of being easier to design and keep accurate. You have less interlocking parts and less combinations of interactions. Therefore its potentially easier to produce the correct results. The disadvantage of such models is obviously the lack of detail. Such models may be good for a very big picture understanding that gets the broad strokes correct. In manual wargames, they allow the designer to focus on one or two aspects of war or battle that they believe is critical to understanding the subject while simplifying and/or abstracting everything else. A game might focus on maneuver while abstracting out supply and logistics.

More complex models have the advantage of additional detail but are much more difficult to design due to all the interlocking systems. Moreover, if one subsystem doesn't mesh well with one of the others, it could throw off the entire model.


Agree.
Throwing in 10 000 ASL kits to simulate the whole D-Day does not make it simulation.
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eker wrote:

For me, Fighting Formations is one of the best simulation. You start with every unit in command and planned for. Slowly the command breaks down. Units became stuck and do not response as the game progress.

Except the ways in which the FF players have to work and make decisions to get them to respond have no connection to the way in which historical decisions would be made, which breaks the link. What the FF command markers would be best for simulating is an army whose command system is driven by battery driven megaphones parachuted down on request. As the batteries run out over a couple of turns, command is lost again. Unfortunately this has nothing to do with how actual command hierarchies operate.

Now, the FF action track with the wooden cubes looks very impressive at first glance, but ultimately tends to settle into alternating impulses, so arguably it is more a complex simulation of other game systems that do the same thing in a simpler way. It also contains severely historically false tradeoffs for the sake of game balance. For example, the notion that your unit is expending an enormous amount of effort to call for off-board artillery (and therefore is foregoing other actions!) just makes no sense at all. This would involve the commander and the radio team while all the rest of the unit is busy fighting the battle.

If you're looking for good simulations of command and its limitations at a tactical level, I'd recommend TCS or Tank Leader which actively try to show the decision cycles that units go through. Notably, they both also explicitly deal with the command hierarchy that real units employ to get their orders.
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http://grogheads.com/?p=2362

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Pertinax wrote:
Some games, such as things like Case Blue, could be seen as a simulation rather than a game, per se. So, at what point in complexity, or realism, does a game become a simulation?


We call this "either-or" or "false dilemma" fallacy in logical argumentation.
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bayonetbrant wrote:

That exactly repeats the false dichotomy because it equates abstraction with "less simulation".
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James Champion
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rubberchicken wrote:
A simulation has to be able to model the real battle or war. When alternate non historical strategies are tried by the players, the wargame must give results which would likely have happened if the generals in the real war had tried them. I generally want my wargames to be good simulations. I want to have confidence that the alternate realities that the game is predicting , are the ones that would have happened if I had made the decisions in the real war.


This.

Also, let me clarify something from the OP. In my mind, a game is there primarily as a means for fun. A simulation is there for study and while this can be fun, it isn't necessary; some books are not fun to read, but if you want to learn the info it is needed. Everything we talk about on here are games in that they share common elements that are in things designed for having fun. Some of them may have been designed with other ideas in mind, though. I am not going to assume what a designer is thinking (I am not one), but 'fun' may not have been their primary or even part of their intent. Thank you all for the responses thus far.
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M St wrote:
What the FF command markers would be best for simulating is an army whose command system is driven by battery driven megaphones parachuted down on request. As the batteries run out over a couple of turns, command is lost again.


This is a good example of what I call the inverse simulation test: if the simulation were 100% correct, what would the reality be like? I find it very useful, but I've never seen it in any methodological source.
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