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Subject: Is Hellas a wargame? rss

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Seth Owen
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A popular past time on BoardGame Geek is questioning the "wargame" credentials of games like Memoir '44, but I think there are some more questionable one out there, like Hellas.

Hellas sure looks like it might be a wargame, but it isn't marketed as one and doesn't seem generally perceived as one.

Things which make it seem like a light wargame:

Hexes

Two opposing sides

Little soldiers

"Attack" moves

There's an incentive to fight because conquering a city also reduces the opponent's score by one city, for a net swing of 2.

Things which make it NOT seem like a wargame:

It's not listed as a wargame

You don't have to attack the other player. It's possible to win through voyages. As a matter of fact, winning is based on achieving an absolute result (10 cities) so there is no requirement for taking any away from the other player. A 10-9 win is as much a win as a 10-5 win.

There's an incentive NOT to fight because wars are more resource intensive.

I'm generally in favor of an exapnsive and inclusive definiton of wargame, so I'm inclined to consider it one, but I do think it's a marginal case.

Pondering from my game blog http://pawnderings.blogspot.com
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It is if you want it to be!

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Just call me Erik
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I think it is. I made a geeklist a while ago you may want to read:

What, Exactly, is a Wargame?
 
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Russ Williams
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It depends on your definition of "wargame" of course. For me, Hellas doesn't really try to really simulate history or war in any remotely serious/realistic way. For me, it's essentially an abstract Fjords-like game with some additional enjoyable very simple wargame-esque mechanics and a sort of pasted-on theme for me. (Just as Fjords doesn't really seem like any kind of simulation of Norwegian history, Hellas doesn't really seem like it truly has much to do with ancient Greece.)

The wargame part is very simplified and abstract (e.g. the winner loses no pieces in a battle, unless they brought in more than 3). For me, if Hellas is a wargame, so is an abstracted game like Chess. (Yeah, I know some would call Chess a wargame. It all depends on your definition...)

Bonus question: can a serious wargame about ancient Greece really have concrete beneficial supernatural effects from temples and the gods?

OK, point by point response in the spirit of feedback and brainstorming:

Hexes: don't imply wargame. Settlers of Catan, Fjords, Gipf project games, ...

Two opposing sides: Many many nonwargames: Go, Trax, Gipf project games...

Little solders: Uh... that seems like a total red herring to me. If you made the player pawns in Candyland be little plastic soldiers, no one would think Candyland was a wargame.

"Attack" moves: Many many nonwargames: Go, Trax, Gipf project games... depending on what "attack" means, every game that has player interaction has "attacks".

Incentive to fight because conquering a city also reduces the opponent's score by one city, for a net swing of 2: This is true of any game where you can take something from another player.

On the other hand:
Not listed as a wargame: of course that could just be due to oversight or irrational prejudice. There are probably some other games more commonly considered to be wargames which are also not listed as such. (I have no idea of any such examples, though!)

Don't have to attack. True in various "real" wargames. I have seen wargames where one player could win a marginal victory by just pulling back and not fighting. Arguably these were wargames with broken victory conditions, but wargames nonetheless...

There's an incentive NOT to fight because wars are more resource intensive. Also true in many "real" wargames. I have played wargames which seemed broken because whoever attacked first seemed to usually end up losing due to combat favoring the defender, so the first attacker ended up losing more material and thus the game.



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Dan M
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I may get some flack on this, but could one argue that it would fall more in line with AmeriTrash?

I don't think it has enough Euro mechanics which is why a lot of people are questioning if it is a wargame or not, which would be the next logical choice since it deals with a historical period and conflict within that period.

Perhaps the largest argument against it being AT would be the lack of dice and relative lack of randomness to resolve combat, but the way mythology has been worked in as well as it using more abstracted combat (meaning not typical tactics associated with wargames) makes me think it might have a little AT in it.

Whatever the game is though, it is a hard one to pin down but it is an absolute blast.
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Russ Williams
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Interesting... I just noticed that this is somewhat analogous to the debates and discussions about "What is an Abstract (Strategy) Game", where some people say "Duh, that's a compound phrase: an ASG is obviously simply a game that's abstract, and has a lot of strategy" and other people say "No, the expression ASG as a whole has taken on additional specific meaning by convention, and so they are not merely games that are abstract and have strategy, but also are typically 2-player and have no or very little chance, and no or very little hidden information, and alternating turns etc".

So similarly some will say "A Wargame is, duh, obviously simply a game about war", and others will say "No, the term has additional specific connotations, so they are not merely games about war, but also make some attempt at some amount of realistic simulation, and have certain conventional game mechanics (hexes or point to point movement, CRT) etc". E.g. Chess and Stratego are "games about war", but many would say they're not "wargames" per se.

For me, "Wargame" remains a murky term.
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Seth Owen
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russ wrote:
Interesting... I just noticed that this is somewhat analogous to the debates and discussions about "What is an Abstract (Strategy) Game", where some people say "Duh, that's a compound phrase: an ASG is obviously simply a game that's abstract, and has a lot of strategy" and other people say "No, the expression ASG as a whole has taken on additional specific meaning by convention, and so they are not merely games that are abstract and have strategy, but also are typically 2-player and have no or very little chance, and no or very little hidden information, and alternating turns etc".

So similarly some will say "A Wargame is, duh, obviously simply a game about war", and others will say "No, the term has additional specific connotations, so they are not merely games about war, but also make some attempt at some amount of realistic simulation, and have certain conventional game mechanics (hexes or point to point movement, CRT) etc". E.g. Chess and Stratego are "games about war", but many would say they're not "wargames" per se.

For me, "Wargame" remains a murky term.


I think you're generally right about this.

Traditionally the term "war game" as used by scholars on games such as RC Bell referred to any two-player strategy game that involved eliminating enemy pieces and/or controlling territory so that games like Go, Chess, Checkers and Stratego were all generic war games. Once they appeared, miniature wargame such as Little Wars and Fletcher Pratt's naval rules were also placed in this category. Under this kind of definition I think Hellas clearly fits quite comfortably as a war game.

Since the rise of the modern board wargame hobby afteer Charles Roberts' Tactics and the subsequent Avalon Hill and SPI lines, the term "wargame" (by convention one usually one word) has taken on a more specific meaning of a game that attempts to simulate armed conflicts in with some kind of accuracy and explictness, usually with counters, blocks and fingures and usually on a mapboard based on real-life terrain features that may have a hexagonal, square or area-grid. Even here there are exceptions, so the term does remain somewhat murky.

Under this more restrictive definition, murky as it is, the case for Hellas being a wargame is much less clear.
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