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Subject: Enough with the modifiers! rss

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Jeff
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I'm a big fan of strategic-level wargames, but until recently I haven't had much experience on the operational level. I'm mostly interested in medieval and ancient warfare (war was so much more exciting when men ran up and stabbed each other), so I've read the rules for a couple of the Great Battles of History games, and I found myself too overwhelmed by rules to actually play the games.

Thus, I decided to take a step back and try Men of Iron, typically considered a very simple treatment of the subject. Reading the rules wasn't too taxing, but then I tried to actually play the game, and it was an exercise in tedium. Counting up a dozen modifiers every time there was a fight was pretty much the opposite of fun, and I pretty much gave up after a single cavalry charge took upwards of 15 minutes to resolve.

Am I missing something? Are all operational-level wargames this full of minutiae, or is it just a Richard Berg thing? I'm interested in operational-level games in theory, but I want to experience the visceral appeal of swords and slings, not consult half a dozen charts to figure out whether a single unit routs.

Am I just not cut out for this sort of wargaming? Maybe I should just stick to C&C: Ancients.
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L Myrick
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Have u considered ancients miniature gaming? Something like Warhammer Ancient Battles perhaps. Much greater investment in money and time initially, but no boardgame, except for C&C comes close to the visceral feel of ancient minis.
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Jeff
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lmyrick wrote:
Have u considered ancients miniature gaming? Something like Warhammer Ancient Battles perhaps. Much greater investment in money and time initially, but no boardgame, except for C&C comes close to the visceral feel of ancient minis.


It's something I would love to do, but there are no words to describe my lack of skill at miniature painting.

I could probably hire a class of kindergarteners to paint them, and they'd show me up.
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What about the new Athens game from Columbia? I've not played it, but if their WW2 games are any indication, the emphasis is on playing a game, not checking 37 charts.

Athens & Sparta

It's strategic level, though...
 
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Man thinks, the river flows.
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    So many rule sets for wargames. Where do you start?

    Given your location and interests you should consider attending Historicon in Lancaster the end of this month, even if it is just a day trip. All the rule sets you could ever want to look at, and plenty of stuff in the time period you're interested in. Most people there are more than willing to give you an opportunity to sit in on a game, or chat up what they're playing.

    A lot of miniatures there, which may not be your
thing. But plenty of other games too.

       http://www.historicon.org/

             Sag.


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Mike Jones
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ExcitingJeff wrote:
lmyrick wrote:
Have u considered ancients miniature gaming? Something like Warhammer Ancient Battles perhaps. Much greater investment in money and time initially, but no boardgame, except for C&C comes close to the visceral feel of ancient minis.


It's something I would love to do, but there are no words to describe my lack of skill at miniature painting.

I could probably hire a class of kindergarteners to paint them, and they'd show me up.


You don't have to be a good painter to play mini games. Especially historical miniature games. You can play 6mm or 10mm scale and there ins't much detail anyway.

Even a poor painter like me could do some quality work from time to time. With just a little practice some of the techniques are quite simple.

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Alan Richbourg
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To answer your question, it is mostly a Richard Berg thing. He's famous for minutiae, among many other things.
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David Bohnenberger
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I understand what you're saying. I do love battle games, but they often end up feeling more like a chore than a game.

Having said that, I recommend you try GBoH. Although it is a fairly heavy game, a lot of battles are really, genuinely fun. I prefer the "standard" rules, even though the battles take a lot longer than with the "simple" rules. I just think it's more fun. I need my "Die Roll of Doom" every now and then.

Having said THAT, it seems like the series is starting to suffer since Mark Herman's involvement has waned. The recent editions have so many problems it's almost hard to believe. This is not absolute - Dan Fournie's Tyrant module is one of the best things in the whole series, and his new Barbarian module looks good too.

I recommend Great Battles of Alexander and the Tyrant module to anyone who's interested in the series.
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Kent Reuber
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Here are a couple of alternatives for you.

I much prefer Rob Markham's medieval games to Richard Berg's. Many of Rob's games were published by 3W (e.g., Henry V, Crossbows and Cannon) and are now out of print. Still, they show up on eBay relatively frequently--I just picked up a copy of Crossbows and Cannon II for around $15 including shipping.

There is one game that Rob has in print, which is Clash of Arms Barons' War. You might check that one out.

For ancient period, you might consider Avalanche Press's "Rome at War" series: Rome At War I: Hannibal at Bay, Rome at War II: Fading Legions, Rome At War III: Queen of the Celts. Queen of the Celts has the most recent rules in the series, so you might consider getting this one first. AP has a "how to play Rome at War in 5 minutes" on its Web site:

http://www.avalanchepress.com/pdf/RAW5.pdf

I also have a game summary that may help you: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/file/download/23528/Rome_at_War... (it may not include some of the most recent changes from "Queen", but you might check it out.
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Guy Riessen
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I'll second the recommendation for APLs Rome at War series and Queen of the Celts. It's a good, quick-playing system. The Rome At War I: Hannibal at Bay is re-releasing momentarily at a nice low $20 price point.
http://www.avalanchepress.com/gameHannibal.php

One of the things that I find very cool about the system is that movement and exposed flanks, etc. is actually handled by the area-movement "zones." There are times when your legions counters will only fit in an area in a specific orientation, thereby exposing flanks. The zones are created and drawn based on the topography. It's a simple and intuitive way to handle constrained, or constricted, movement without resorting to the usual modifiers or additional rules.
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Jeff
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Good to know that the Rome at War games are well-regarded. I've been looking at them for a long time, as I'm completely enamored with ancient Rome, but I haven't had enough information to pull the trigger.
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Jason Roach
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Jeff,

I think you may have just played the wrong game. Taking 15 minutes to resolve what is probably a fairly common occurrence such as a cavalry charge, is a sign of a clunky system. Also, despite the grey area that defines scale, that game sounds more like “grand tactical” than operational. Operational wargames can be great, but like any scale, you need a good game to have a good experience.

I do not game that ancients time-period very often, so I can’t recommend any game that may suit that scale. However, if you are interested in pre-modern operational warfare (before WWI), I would suggest that you check out something from OSG, and perhaps start with The Seven Days of 1809 which is part of their “Days” series. It is one of the easiest of their operational scaled systems as it fits nicely between grand tactical and their more complex ‘Campaigns of Napoleon’ system. In the ‘Days’ series, due to the scale/time, you are not worrying about attrition, and supply is rather basic. In addition, the combat system is very clean. Also, many of the basic concepts will translate into the heavier systems within the OSG line. So don’t give up on operational level wargames.

-Jason
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Mark Luta
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The modifiers tend to exist in most linear warfare operational and grand tactical games, I find. Designer Kevin Zucker gives his rationale for this design in that in his games, one 'strength point' is always 1000 men, and so qualitatively better units, or units such as cavalry with more striking power, are dealt with through modifiers. In this way, the players can see the numbers arrayed on each side, rather than, as is common in strategic level games, certain types of units being given strength ratings which include both numbers and qualitative factors, and thus the combat strength arrayed on each side is not directly representative of the number of troops involved.

In actuality, though, after a couple of times the resolution becomes quite quick as players learn to quickly run down the tables and recognize which modifiers are going to apply. And they do tend to follow logic, so it is not really necessary to examine all the modifiers before each move--cavalry loses cohesion and is downgraded in non-clear terrain, firing into a flank is beneficial to the attacker, units which are already disordered are not as effective, and so on. The idea is following good tactics of the era will produce the right results, doing unwise things will be punished unless one is extremely lucky with the dice!

There is a spectrum, though, and different players will like different levels. In the Seven Years War, for example, playing a Clash of Arms BAR game is pretty much what the original poster describes, a large cavalry charge will take some time to resolve--playing these games is a proposition of several days, as they represent the battles in twenty minute periods per turn, with each side's movement interlaced throughout the turn based on initiative rolls. A little less detailed is the GMT Prussia's Glory series which can be played in a single session, and uses the more usual alternating turns--but there are still several modifiers!
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Bob Roberts

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Here's my suggestion:

You say you don't want miniatures because you're worried about painting.
I would say the 6mm or 10mm suggestion above is a good one, but more importantly, don't worry so much about your painting ability. You don't have to paint your figs to competition standards, especially when you are starting out. There are many good painting tutorials online, geared towards beginners.

But, if you want to try some miniatures rules without painting figs, or even buying figs...
This website http://www.juniorgeneral.org/TopDowns.htm
has some wonderful top down paper miniatures.

Go get yourself a copy of Basic Impetushere: http://www.dadiepiombo.com/basic2.html

Pick some of those top down images, put em in your graphics program and size them to fit the Impetus base sizes, print em out, make some paper or felt terrain pieces and have at it.

I've been playing ancients rules since WRG 5th edition, and tried many sets since then. I've been a longtime fan of DBA, mostly due to its relatively clean system( the rules are a bit difficult to read though).

Ancients had been on the backburner of late, but Basic Impetus has really gotten me back into it. It's easy to learn, pretty quick playing and captures a lot of "feel" or at least what I think "feel" should be

Oh, and combat in Basic Impetus has 4 modifiers, and two only apply if you have pikes

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Games are basically models which try to simulate real world behaviors.

The more tactical you get, the more you must account for things that can be abtracted at a higher level of gaming. Thus, in a tactical WWII game you have to worry about things like:

Shell size
Shell velocity
Angle of penetration
Thickness of armow
Terrain
Height
Range
Type of ammo
Etc.

In a strategic game, you could say something like, a division 10,000 men and 150 Mark IV tanks has a strength of 7.

A good rule of thumb: the lower in level you go (strategic-->operational-->tactical) the more modifiers and detailed movement, line of sight, and combat become. Within each level, games vary the amount of detail (and thus realism) they require. Many of the other posters have given examples of tactical games that are more/less fiddly than others.
 
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Rob Tyson
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I understand that issue with Berg and modifiers. I was playing the full Second Punic War scenario from the Carthage module in the Ancient World Series (excellent game by the way), and there are a ton of combat modifiers. The funny thing is, almost all the combats ended up having something like a +/-1 DRM after everything was added up.

As for AP's series of game, I am not a fan. Just really don't like the games, and AP tends to have atrocious maps, though their counters are nice. Still though, people still enjoy the game (like choosing between Pepsi and Coke). I play GMT's Great Battle of History series, though I use the Simple GBoH ruleset so I don't need to keep re-reading rules.

Either way, go for the game that feels good to you. I'd vote for GMT's series simply because there are more games to choose from. You've got Alexander through to Samurai armies, and I understand there is soon to be a module representing battles from Biblical times (think Babylonians), and another module for ancient combat in India.

 
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Guy Riessen
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RobTys wrote:
Just really don't like the games, and AP tends to have atrocious maps, though their counters are nice. Still though, people still enjoy the game


Please go take a look at the game pages--Battles of 1866: Frontier Battles, Rome At War I: Hannibal at Bay and Panzer Grenadier: Elsenborn Ridge and and take a look at APL's new maps. I'm the new artist for these maps and I daresay they're aleast 10X better than they use to be. Also coming out very soon is Panzer Grenadier: Cassino '44, Gateway to Rome designed and arted by David Murray, who also did a fantastic map as well.

I had found APLs games to be diamonds hidden in coal, with fun to play mechanics that were hard to look at, and I am setting out to change that "atrocious maps" image. As you can see, by Rob's comments though, it's going to take some time to change opinions!

That said, I don't get royalties from sales, so I'm not trying to sell you the games for any other reason than I think they're great games--I just believe that they should be enjoyed visually, as well as in the play itself.
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I was going to give you a 0.00 GG tip with a +9.00 GG modifier for this post, but... oh, well.
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Murray Fish
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If you are interested in miniatures, but balk at the cost and painting time why not start out with De Bellis Antiquitatis?

It's a quick-play rule set and each army is only 12 bases of between 1 to 8 individual miniatures.

If it doesn't rock your world then there are a lot of DBA players out there so you should be able to recoup your losses on ebay, to a certain extent.

In all honesty, you can do a lot worse.
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