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Subject: Critical hits rss

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Seth Owen
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Probably one of the starkest differences between wargames and any other kind of game I know of is the concept of the "critical hit."

For example, in the Down in Flames series of card games on aerial combat, an otherwise fairly "euro"-friendly light wargame, there's one Action Card that has an "Attack" result reading "Fuel Tank Hit, Aircraft Destroyed."

This, needless to say, an extreme result that can easily turn a game completely around, and it has little to do with a player's skill. Naturally, this sort of thing is an anathema to most game players interested in a contest of skill, even those otherwise comfortable with a certain mount of luck in their games.

Yet it's a pretty common feature of wargames, especially very tactical games, although it's not unheard of even in wargames dealing with higher-level operations.

Wargamers, as a rule, seem resigned to seeing an occasional game end with a spectacular bang, even though it might negate their winning strategy. While it might be rationalized as adding a little bit of excitement to a game, that really can't be the answer for why it's tolerated. After all, euro games like having excitement as well.

No, the answer simply is that real battles often turn on such fluke events. Every so often the HMS Hood has to blow up! Otherwise there's no chance for a historical result for the Battle of Denmark Straits.

Still, the existence of critical hits is a notable, if little-noted, difference between wargames and other games of skill.


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Hunga Dunga
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I'm not sure I agree.

Ratrace delivers serious hits if you roll a 7 once you've climbed to middle or upper class. Russian Roulette gives you a one in six chance of a critical hit, and it's not a wargame. I'm sure others can think of more examples.
 
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Fraser
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Quite a few role-playing games have them too. RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu spring to mind, but there are many others.
 
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Nate Rethorn
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I believe D&D uses critical hits, and I know for a fact that the Star Wars RPG does--as well as Star Wars Miniatures and Star Wars: Trading Card Game. It isn't at all exclusive to wargames.
 
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Fraser
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emperorhand wrote:
I believe D&D uses critical hits
Some of the more recent edition(s) may, the more old school stuff didn't. But it is certainly common in RPGs.
 
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Karlsen wrote:
emperorhand wrote:
I believe D&D uses critical hits
Some of the more recent edition(s) may, the more old school stuff didn't. But it is certainly common in RPGs.


Depends on how "old school" you are talking about.... I remember using a Vorpal Blade to decapitate a foe in a tournament back in '83. IIRC had to roll a natural 20 on the to hit die roll.
 
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Guy Riessen
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TedW wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
emperorhand wrote:
I believe D&D uses critical hits
Some of the more recent edition(s) may, the more old school stuff didn't. But it is certainly common in RPGs.


Depends on how "old school" you are talking about.... I remember using a Vorpal Blade to decapitate a foe in a tournament back in '83. IIRC had to roll a natural 20 on the to hit die roll.


1st edition AD&D had them--natural 20 on a to-hit roll. Caused double damage. Dragon Magazine included some optional rules, during 1st edition, for critical hits which actually had more specificity as to location etc, but that added a problem in that damage was very abstracted in the game in general. you operated at full capacity right up until you were dead (later changed to unconscious until at -10hp), and could rest to heal. That's much more problematic when you've, say lost an arm.

Plain D&D, I can't remember, but IIRC Chainmail had the double damage roll for a crit.
 
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Fraser
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TedW wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
emperorhand wrote:
I believe D&D uses critical hits
Some of the more recent edition(s) may, the more old school stuff didn't. But it is certainly common in RPGs.


Depends on how "old school" you are talking about.... I remember using a Vorpal Blade to decapitate a foe in a tournament back in '83. IIRC had to roll a natural 20 on the to hit die roll.


That's just the Vorpal sword's special abilities. It did not apply to normal weapons.
 
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Isaac Citrom
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The reason is that real life includes critical hits. Wargames, to one degree or another, try to simulate real life. The example of the Hood you mention is iconic. Another example perhaps is Midway.

However, diehard euro fans who abhore even a semblance of luck just plain don't like this. Euros have never been accused of being simulations.
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Russ Williams
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isaacc wrote:

The reason is that real life includes critical hits. Wargames, to one degree or another, try to simulate real life. The example of the Hood you mention is iconic. Another example perhaps is Midway.

However, diehard euro fans who abhore even a semblance of luck just plain don't like this. Euros have never been accused of being simulations.


But there are also Euros (and other non-wargames) with high randomness and luck and "critical hits" (i.e. low-probability high-importance things that can happen). The stereotype of Euro games as having little or no randomness doesn't hold up if you look at a lot of Euros (or read the incessant complaints about the randomness in Catan or Carcassonne, for instance). Or else one defines Euro to have minimal randomness, and then says "Well, Settlers and Carcassonne aren't really Euro games because they have too much luck!"

Simulating real life is one reason to put such rules into a game, but certainly not the only reason. Some players simply enjoy having the chance for a crazy unlikely event to occur in the game. Makes it more exciting, or gives an excuse if you lose, or whatever.

Looking at it in the other direction: is Bonaparte at Marengo not really a wargame because it lacks critical hits (indeed lacks any randomness except in the initial setup)?
 
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Colin Hunter
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Critical hits are the thing I dislike most about tactical wargaming, I find it utterly frustrating personally, but I'm not in it for the simulation really. I just put up with it. I do my best to judge a game by it's whole, but it doesn't always work.
 
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Robert Wilson
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I always feel bad when I lose to a critical hit, then again I feel great when I win by one


In ASLSK3 for example I won a scenario on turn 2 with a CH versus a Tiger tank in my lowly t34 from about 18 hexes away , then I played my father a few weeks later and rolled a critical hit followed by a dud! ( snake-eyes followed by boxcars)

it does seem a little *dicey* as you get the feeling you didnt get beat or win due to skill, just lucky/unlucky dice
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suPUR DUEper
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Karlsen wrote:
TedW wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
emperorhand wrote:
I believe D&D uses critical hits
Some of the more recent edition(s) may, the more old school stuff didn't. But it is certainly common in RPGs.


Depends on how "old school" you are talking about.... I remember using a Vorpal Blade to decapitate a foe in a tournament back in '83. IIRC had to roll a natural 20 on the to hit die roll.


That's just the Vorpal sword's special abilities. It did not apply to normal weapons.


I think the point is, D&D included the concept of critical hits (be it through a special weapon versus a normal ability). Thus, in this case it resembles a wargame. For example, a Battleship's shell (Vorpal Blade) hits the targets magazine (20 on a D20) the target blows up (loses its head).
 
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suPUR DUEper
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dude163 wrote:
I always feel bad when I lose to a critical hit, then again I feel great when I win by one


In ASLSK3 for example I won a scenario on turn 2 with a CH versus a Tiger tank in my lowly t34 from about 18 hexes away , then I played my father a few weeks later and rolled a critical hit followed by a dud! ( snake-eyes followed by boxcars)

it does seem a little *dicey* as you get the feeling you didnt get beat or win due to skill, just lucky/unlucky dice


It's funny, most wargamers conceptually want to have a probability distribution when it comes to resolving combat. It feels "right" and allows for unlikely outcomes to happen.

However, when your Me-262 gets blown out of the air by a P-40 or you lose 4 Carriers because you decided to switch from bombs to torpedoes, one has a hard time appreciating the subtleties of the CRT and instead resorts to statements like, "OMG, I cannot believe how lucky you are. I totally outplayed you only to get completely screwed by the dice. I hate games that are determined by luck. Oh, and by the way, you had, by far, the better card draws during the game too. And another thing..."
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ian morris
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Without critical hits, how could we believe in the dice gods ?



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Fraser
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gamer72 wrote:


Without critical hits, how could we believe in the dice gods ?




By watching Melissa play and consistently lose Chutes and Ladders
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Jason Zavoda
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Battletech 1E (never played any of the other versions so I don't know) a head shot critical roll followed by a location damage roll, pilot kill. So a little 20 ton wasp could kill a 100 ton undamaged atlas with a single shot. I actually liked this rule, kept the game from simply being overpowered by the bigger mechs.

ASL, rolled a long range mortar shot that hit 3 squads defending an escape route. Rolled a crit, then another and wiped them out. Won the game but lost my opponent. (I was too damn lucky with the dice, and we used a rolling tower, but I still won too many times because the dice were with me even if the skill and rules knowledge were not),
 
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Seth Owen
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Karlsen wrote:
Quite a few role-playing games have them too. RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu spring to mind, but there are many others.


RPGs definitely often turn on the equivilent of "critical hits." I don't mean to argue that "critical hits" are only in wargames, but that they're a fairly common characteristic of wargames that are rarely seen in euros or other boardgames. As RPGs are a distinct genre from boardgames and outside the scope of BGG they're not really inlcuded in the discssion.

Related to that, the mere fact that there's a lot of luck in a game doesn't mean there are "critical hits" in it. In any game with a random element there may be cases where the cumulative effect of luck may affect the outcome.

The thing about "critical hits" is that they can determine the entire outcome of the battle with minimal or no relation to the overall course of the game. Some types of wargames are particularly prone to this happening, such as ASL, most tactical naval and air wargames and many other tactical land wargames. Even higher level wargames can be effected. Any Waterloo wargame which includes a provision for leader casualties (and they almost must, because there were so many of them) has to deal with the possibility of Napoleon catching a cannonball. It's hard to make any case that the French have "won" Waterloo if Nappy is lying on the field of battle in a mangled mess.

I don't think it's easy to find many similar examples from euros or family games.
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Mark Luta
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It is simply untrue that wargames as a class include more critical hit rules (situations where one roll of the dice or turn of the card can pretty much decide the outcome). Very few wargames actually have these rules, and as pointed out, many games in other categories have such rules.

In fact, critical hits are probably unique to tactical wargames. There are a few key rolls in operational and strategic wargames, I would give as an example the leader casualty die rolls in many linear warfare games (muskets until machine guns period), and some ancient games include these rules, but even there, while the loss of Napoleon or Frederick or Ptolmey is a large blow against his side, this alone is not generally game-deciding.

And even in tactical wargames, in all but the simplest scenarios one crtical hit/weapons jam on one piece of equipment certainly changes one's overall chances, but there are usually enough other units it is not game-ending. Of course, if it occurs at the very end and does decide the game, well, then it was close anyway!

It looks like some of the responses are lumping in the miniatures-style 'buckets of dice' combat resolution which has replaced the CRT in many modern wargames, but this is really a desire to produce a greater spread of outcomes, not an attempt to simulate 'critical hits' in the same sense. With 1D6, 1D10, all results in a column are equally probable. Use decimal dice, and you can cover wide swaths of highly probably events, while putting unlikely outcomes in which will come up only rarely, and emulate almost any statistical distribution desired. Or use 2D6, and a bell distribution results.

But, switch to throwing many dice, and you have a CRT which can produce any possible outcome, there are probable results but even a side outnumbered 100-1 can theoretically win. This fits well with the modern idea of wishing to simulate the 'chaos' of war. I think this does have some limitations, other than the frustration of really skewed distributions. It perhaps works well for naval combat, where size and firepower of a fleet is only one factor, it is very possible for the smaller fleet to engage only portions of the larger where a numerical advantage does occur, giving them the advantage in a series of smaller battles, even though outnumbered overall. As navies have relatively few high value units, removing just a couple from one side from the battle can radically change the odds. Thus, a wide range of possible outcomes is desirable for this simulation.

For land combat, I am less enamored by this methodology. No matter what it does, a WWII Romanian infantry regiment is never in this world going to defeat a fully equipped Soviet Guards tank division in battle. It might delay them, it might cause disproportionate casualties, but numbers and firepower should be telling, and there is not a situation analagous to the sea combat where killing a couple of tanks in a surprise attack will swing the odds--there are simply too many more tanks.

In any event, part of the idea of most wargames is to see how the armchair commander reacts to various turns of luck, as his historical counterparts had to deal with. It certainly can occur that a good player defeats a great player with a good bit of lucky dice rolling at a key point in the game, something which of course would not occur in chess or an 18XX game. But, to say only wargames play this way is untrue, and in fact, wargames generally have an overall lower luck factor than any but a game which lacks any random element at all, since the randomness is spread around many more events in most wargames than in other games.
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Mark Luta
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wargamer55 wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
Quite a few role-playing games have them too. RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu spring to mind, but there are many others.


...I don't think it's easy to find many similar examples from euros or family games.



There are several similar examples. In many 18XX and euro games, getting the draw as first player can be a huge advantage. In several family card games, holding a certain card is almost always going to ensure defeat that hand. Obviously gambling games rely on 'crtical hit' outcomes to function. In Monopoly or Sorry, key doubles or send player back cards can be game-deciding towards the end.

I am not sure what Napoleon's death has to do with the French winning or losing Waterloo. In terms of the battle, if the French commanders won, then they won. If you want to put the battle into some sort of large context, there are numerous examples where a successor can use a victory where the fallen leader gave his life for the cause to his advantage.

If you are saying some wargames include a rule where unlikely events can happen which drastically change the battle, this is certainly true. But I submit this sort of rule is actually buried in the event outcomes of many other types of games, and it can have a far more drastic effect on those games than on a wargame.
 
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Seth Owen
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markluta wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
Quite a few role-playing games have them too. RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu spring to mind, but there are many others.


...I don't think it's easy to find many similar examples from euros or family games.



There are several similar examples. In many 18XX and euro games, getting the draw as first player can be a huge advantage. In several family card games, holding a certain card is almost always going to ensure defeat that hand. Obviously gambling games rely on 'crtical hit' outcomes to function. In Monopoly or Sorry, key doubles or send player back cards can be game-deciding towards the end.

I am not sure what Napoleon's death has to do with the French winning or losing Waterloo. In terms of the battle, if the French commanders won, then they won. If you want to put the battle into some sort of large context, there are numerous examples where a successor can use a victory where the fallen leader gave his life for the cause to his advantage.

If you are saying some wargames include a rule where unlikely events can happen which drastically change the battle, this is certainly true. But I submit this sort of rule is actually buried in the event outcomes of many other types of games, and it can have a far more drastic effect on those games than on a wargame.


Frankly, it's silly to argue that Napoleon's death is irrelevent to whether the French win at Waterloo. The entire question at issue for the battle was who was to rule France. Saying that "in terms of the battle, if the French commanders won, then they won" divorces the game from history comprehensively. You might as well be playing checkers then, but you're certainly not playing a historical wargame.

I'm still waiting for someone to cite a non-RPG example of a true wargame-style "critical hit" type result in a board game. Some lucky roll near the end of a game of backgammon hardly counts as the same thing because it's only a game winner in the context of a game that's otherwise fairly close. The equivilent to the Hood blowing up in a game of backgammon might be an (impossible) roll that allows you to win the game on the third or fourth die roll. I'll submit that any nonwargame that had such a possible result would be roundly criticized and rarely played.
 
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Russ Williams
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wargamer55 wrote:
I'm still waiting for someone to cite a non-RPG example of a true wargame-style "critical hit" type result in a board game. Some lucky roll near the end of a game of backgammon hardly counts as the same thing because it's only a game winner in the context of a game that's otherwise fairly close. The equivilent to the Hood blowing up in a game of backgammon might be an (impossible) roll that allows you to win the game on the third or fourth die roll. I'll submit that any nonwargame that had such a possible result would be roundly criticized and rarely played.

I'm grokking your point better now, and starting to agree that "critical hit" mechanisms are rare in non-wargame/non-RPG games.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is certain card games that have a few ridiculously imbalanced cards. (I dimly recall there being 3 such cards (Sheriff of Nottingham and 2 others?) in Bleeding Sherwood, for instance, based on my memory of playing it years ago.) (Mercifully I have not played Fluxx or Munchkin enough to know, but it wouldn't surprise me if they have a few such cards...) But you're right that such card games are criticized for those cards. What's more, such cards are not truly like critical hits because cards have a different distribution from dice rolls. The card is guaranteed to come up exactly once each time you go through the deck, but a critical hit is much more uncertain.

So I must admit it's hard for me to think of non-wargame/non-RPG examples that are TRULY like critical hits in this sense (very unlikely special events (as opposed to ordinary events that come at a very convenient time) that won't occur in most sessions, but could theoretically occur several times in a session, and which has the potential to utterly decide the result). Because of the nature of card distributions, I think such an example would have to be determined by dice (or some equivalent) instead of cards. Still, I would bet that there are such non-wargame/non-RPG examples, and I'm hoping someone posts some, just because I'd be interested to see them.
 
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Shawn Riordan
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I know that you wish to keep RPGs out of the conversation. But I had to point out one interesting twist:

There is an RPG ruleset called "RoleMaster" where combat is almost exclusively resolved by critical hits. It is possible for someone to eventually fall due to hit point loss, but it is not very common. This would simulate a person going into shock or just passing out due to blood loss. Most combat encounters end when one person finally gets through the other person's guard and manages to land a significant blow.

The game also tends to have elaborate critical results tables. "Lost an eye", "guts spill out", "skull cracked", etc...
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Seth Owen
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CRasterImage wrote:
I know that you wish to keep RPGs out of the conversation. But I had to point out one interesting twist:

There is an RPG ruleset called "RoleMaster" where combat is almost exclusively resolved by critical hits. It is possible for someone to eventually fall due to hit point loss, but it is not very common. This would simulate a person going into shock or just passing out due to blood loss. Most combat encounters end when one person finally gets through the other person's guard and manages to land a significant blow.

The game also tends to have elaborate critical results tables. "Lost an eye", "guts spill out", "skull cracked", etc...


Arguably much more realistic than "hit points."
 
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Mark Luta
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Parenthetically, I would point out the comment that 'the whole purpose of Waterloo was to decide who ruled France' is simply untrue. The war went on for another 100 days after that, only looked at in hindsight was it the First French Empire's 'last' battle. Personally, I play wargames to win the battle (for that scale), but there would still would surely have been a much stronger diplomatic situation for France, even if Napoleon fell.

However, if 'critical hits' is to be narrowly defined as simply something where disporportionate damage is a possibile outcome, then aside from a few card games, what game which does not include combat is going to use these? I think from a mechanics point of view, the concept occurs more often than the original poster believes.

But even with this definition, there are only a small number of wargames which have these sort of rules. A quick count of my games at hand shows about 8 of 75 use such a rule, 3 are naval/air combat, 2 are scifi, and 3 are possible leader casualties (these last are, to me, not really 'critical hits' as their effects are much less, but have been included by posts above). A couple others include leader elimination when caught alone in a hex. These special hits are typically put in for the simulation aspect to allow historical outcomes where that outcome itself was an extreme outlier, or to provide the realistic potential penalties for exposing something of high value to danger.

For example, it is extremely difficult to create realistic simulations which, using the actual statistical chances, create outcomes like the overwhelming Japanese success at Pearl Harbor, or the Swedes being inspired by the death of King Gustavus Adolphus, or the Hood blowing up after only a few hits. So, rather than try to use a monster set of simulation rules to set these situations up, which could then be 'gamed' by rules lawyers, the solution often is to include these outcomes as 'for effects' random events. The counterbalance is, there are many other units which are not 'critically hit' which is not generally the case outside of wargames. So, the player has other units to fill the sudden breech.

And these results are crucial to realistic battle simulations. The entire reputation of the German Navy of WWII was made when the Bismarck blew up the Hood. Because, they performed abysmally in nearly every other engagement! The Germans ran ships aground in Norway with no opposition, the Graf Spee fled a battle which should have been won easily, the U-Boats were good at picking off coastal traffic but had minimal success against protected convoys, and Bismarck would later incredibly fail to free a jammed rudder and simply steam back to doom. Objectively, the German Navy was the worst of the major navies of the period, their ships were well-designed but their captains seem to have been incompetent--very similar to the Spanish Navy of the Napoleonic era. So, with no critical hits, the German Navy would get less mention than the Italian Navy!
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