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Subject: How Many Rule Sets Can A Wargamer Master At One Time? rss

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Mark Luta
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Really, any of what I guess you call MASSIVE games are going to require rules lookups from time to time, there is really no reason to remember every precise little detail that rarely comes up, just to know there is a rule about it. And generally, rules in these sort of games are pretty logical, i.e., you know something ought to happen a certain way, it is just a matter of seeing exactly how the mechanics work to make it come out properly.

I actually have more of a problem 'mastering' the lighter rules, becuase they are more arbitrary. It is generally not obvious that anything is being simulated with a particular abstraction, just that it has to be done one way or the other, and the rules of course define which is correct (hopefully, though if the rules are by GMT, I would not be sure to trust those!).

But I never really had it as a goal to 'master' any wargame rules. I play more from the aspect that I know generally how things ought to work in whatever era the wargame takes place in. Then, when I need to remember how something is simulated, I look it up, and after a bit playing that game, of course I remember it. But I feel no need to have everything memorized for the next game, if it is my game I just need to know the rules well enough to explain the key points to others.
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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Binko wrote:
How Many Rule Sets Can A Wargamer Master At One Time?
'Master'? Zero.
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Noel Houben
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I'd advice to take on one game at a time, especially in your MASSIVE and HEAVY categories. Even then I think you'll have to look up rules from time to time, unless you are blessed with a exceptional good memory. Personally I don't think that's a problem. I've accepted it as a fact of life since I've started playing wargames. But that's just my (limited) experience.
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Bill Lawson
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I don't know if this answers your question but right now I have 5 different games going on vassal and I'm also playtesting a game. Of those games 4 only require an occasional glance at the rule book and the 5th one and the game I'm playtesting require frequent rules checks.
I also got 2 new games this week and I'm reading the rules to both of them. I have been doing this (wargaming) for 40+ years so its kind of a way of life.
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Colin Hunter
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Just learn them one at a time, I would think I know how to play dozens of wargames confidently (mastery is another story). I'd also recommend a couple stepping stones in between your heavy and massive category, there is a big step up in complexity from east front to ATS or ASL. My advice is just keep working away, once you get your first few sets down the others become easier and you can learn them more thoroughly, the important thing is to have fun
 
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Hilary Hartman
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I can honestly answer with "none" even though I consider myself an avid wargamer.

Here's why: I never really have the opportunity to play one wargame enough to get the rules down to the point where I'm referencing them less and less each play. As it goes, my ratio for wargames and other types of games played is about 1:3. Likewise, I have so many wargames that I want to try that it seems blasphemous to leave any of the light-medium games untouched, so I put them into the rotation and try and squeeze out a play when I can!

I have several heavy-massive games in my collection, too, but knowing that presently I have limited time and space I have yet to attempt reading/learning the rules to them. It seems like a colossal waste of time to spend learning rules to a game that--most likely--won't get played in the near future.

Thanks for the great question!
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G. Harding Warren
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Great question. My answer would be a qualified "two". The reason I play the old Avalon Hill games is that I think that if you have the rules for, say, The Russian Campaign down, then you are able to move easily to similar games they published--so I can play Anzio, France 1940, Fortress Europa, their Civil War battle games and the various games they called the Classics (Afrika Korps, Waterloo, D-Day, Gettysburg, etc.). All I really need to do is adapt myself to the differences in ZOC and terrain rules and a few chrome/period rules peculiarities.

The other system I devote myself to is Squad Leader.

That's about it. I sort of like having realized this, as it keeps me from acquiring too many games and keeps my focus narrow, so that I can get the most of out the games I do play.
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Dan Stueber
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I usually create a detailed sequence of play for my wargames that I leave out while I am playing. I will note on it the obscure parts of the rules, including page numbers, so I can look the rules up quickly. I will also create cheat sheets for the games that list specific activites (amphibiuos assaults, strategic warfare, etc) that may not happen as often as some of the other systems in the games.
 
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Michael Lucey
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Master... none

Remember enough to either get by or recall the location in the RB, quite a few.

Right now I'm PBEM'ing about a half dozen games and I use the RB for all.

One is ASL, which I think my count as a heavy.

Some are the same like BKN and a couple other area impulse games where the core rules are the same so I only need to remember game specific changes which I have to look up.

PDF's are a must for me since I'm using my computre to play anyway. The find feature makes life so much easier.
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Richard Savage
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It's funny that you asked this question at this particular time. I'm a grognard wargamer of over 35 years, you name the game I've probably played it or attempted to. Right now I'm awaiting the arrival of Panzerblitz II, which should be a relatively easy game for me to get into, seeing that tactical games are my favorite, and I've played Panzerblitz and Panzerleader. The other day however, I received Noville, Bastogne's Outpost from LnL publishing. I've been playing and enjoying this series for a while now, but I didn't want to get the rules out and brush up on them, as I wanted my mind "fresh" for reading the Panzerblitz II rules. Any of the other wargamers out there ever experience the same problem, or am I just getting old?
 
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Wendell
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I have played a lot of World in Flames - a lot. And I still look up rules.

Some lighter wargames I have mastered (at least at the time when I was playing them a lot), things like Britannia or (way back when I played the heck out of it), Rise and Decline of the Third Reich. I could imagine mastering lighter games like Warriors of God. But I don't think you have to MASTER any of them - you need to know the core rules (usually things like movement, combat, supply) and be able to look up other rules as needed, hopefully quickly.
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Jan van der Laan
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That's exactly my experience. Even playing relatively simple games such as Memoir '44 makes looking back in the rulebook necessary from time to time. And before playing a game a few hours of rereading the rules is an absolute precondition. I simply have to admit my memory has its shortcomings. But restudying the rules has never bothered me. It's *part of the game*.
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I haven't found a game yet that I don't keep the rulebook handy. From ASL to BattleLore. I keep it at my side all the time even if I never use it because, there are enough unique situations that can come up where I won't have had experience dealing with it.

That's the beauty of wargames, in particular, is the sheer variety and complexity of the situations that can arise. A good rulebook will have some general concepts that give players ways for handling more fiddly situations and specific rules governing the specific play of the game.

Then there is a feeling that rules lawyering isn't the exclusive way to resolve every dispute.
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Todd Pytel
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Well, like others here I wouldn't use the word "master," but I understand that's not your point. As far as "playing smoothly" goes, I think the number can get pretty high. There are at least a dozen or so games in my collection that I could play smoothly, mostly what you would categorize as "heavy," though I think your categories are off (no way ATS is heavier than EFS). But that has as much to do with similarities between games as it does with the complexity of the game itself. If you can play one of the Great Battles of History games, you can play the others without too much more work, and probably the Musket and Pike series games as well. If you can play OCS, you have most of the big ideas you need to play EFS. If you can play CC:E, you're at least part way to ASL or ATS. And so on. The games that are real killers are the ones that stand alone due to their scale/topic or mechanics being very peculiar. The Rise of the Roman Republic, for example, is both very complex as well as being pretty unique as a strategic level Ancients game (apart from its sister game Carthage: The First Punic War). So you're starting from scratch when you try to learn that one.

In any event, I would suggest, as always, that you wholeheartedly ignore any kind of consideration about complexity, "proper" progressions, etc. If you're interested in a game, buy it and play it. The rules will come.
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Robert Choi
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Your goal seems reasonable. Especially if you are talking about mastering the rules to the point where you are comfortable with them.

The best way is to play as much as possible.


I've got the following somewhat loaded in my brain:

Heavy
ATS (Still need terrain and rule lookups, but games are moving fast)
Burning Blue

Medium
Second Great War at Sea
Russia Besieged

Light
War at sea
Combat Commander
Twilight Struggle
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James Lowry
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tppytel wrote:
And so on. The games that are real killers are the ones that stand alone due to their scale/topic or mechanics being very peculiar. The Rise of the Roman Republic, for example, is both very complex as well as being pretty unique as a strategic level Ancients game (apart from its sister game Carthage: The First Punic War). So you're starting from scratch when you try to learn that one.

Actually, Onward, Christian Soldiers borrowed quite a bit from the Ancient World series, so one will help a lot with the other.

I don't think I've run into any 'walls' for learning new games, but I don't think I've tried to learn several at once. I know I still miss too many things in ASL that I consider 'basic' after a couple years of more-or-less continual playing, and it frustrates me.

On the other hand, SFB flows very well for me. I have to look up things I don't use often, like boarding party combat, but the main parts I know very well. I'm in a vassal game of Successors, that's my second ever, and I've been the rules expert, so I absorbed that one well (though I've found three mistakes from my first playing...).

I could go on, with various games that I've had more or less luck with the rules. Some you'll find easier to internalize, some you won't. The trick is to figure out which games are which.
 
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Jason Henke
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The following quote coupled with Todd Pytel's bringing up the Series concept in games echo my thoughts on it.

Quote:
But I never really had it as a goal to 'master' any wargame rules. I play more from the aspect that I know generally how things ought to work in whatever era the wargame takes place in. Then, when I need to remember how something is simulated, I look it up, and after a bit playing that game, of course I remember it. But I feel no need to have everything memorized for the next game, if it is my game I just need to know the rules well enough to explain the key points to others.


I'd say that I don't have a mastery of any set of rules, but the concepts and general play I get.

I grew up with war games. They've always really appealed to me and I started Squad Leader at 9. I tried Vietnam the next year and it fried my brain. For whatever reason I took a break at the University and when stepping out into the "Real World" afterward, but--for whatever reason now--I'm coming back into them in a big way recently.

Anyway, I've been playing games for much too long now and I have to review rule sets (even for designer/euro games) almost anytime I break them out. There are too many rules to remember between playings.

In the olden days, when I only had a couple of games that my buddies and I played the Hell out of, this wasn't necessary, but as I got older and my collections grew, I found my brain failing and I couldn't hold complete sets in my head. I had too much other crap crowding it out.

So, I had to let the need to know every rule go. It was liberating.

The main reason I was able to do that was the realization that many games use similar concepts and methods. These general ideas you can keep in head: zones of control, supply, force ratios, how the counters are laid out and what the numbers represent...nothing matches up perfectly, but they're close.

Now, a great help in this is series rules. If you find a series you like, awesome--it just helps out so much.

I'm a heavy gamer coming back into my war game roots. I've bought into a lot of them over the last 2 years. I'm having fun in getting them into play. I'm looking to get all the games going in heavier rotation. What helps me is to keep the basics in mind, look for the generalities, keep the rules at hand, and my biggest key:

Review after play (even test runs).

Enjoy the exploration, have fun with the learning, and be OK in blowing rules and not having it all down. What's wrong with that. The key, for me, is if I enjoy a game, I'll be playing it for a very long time. If I enjoy a system...fantastic.

Would I ever expect to have ASL down? No. No more than I would know every nuance to an RPG with many books.

However, I do expect that I'll get the basics of the play down and that I can look up the special cases when they are needed--much as I had done as a DM back in the day.
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My first proper wargame was Panzer Leader and I played the hell out of it for many years. I can still remember most of the rules with little look up but I do have trouble remembering rule systems in general. I am currently playing Conflict of Heroes and the rules are falling into place quite easily.

I, like a few of the posters here have said have problems with the easier games, mainly the ones using plastic figures as these figures cannot hold any information like a chit can. I really struggle with Memoir remembering every defence and attack factor and I only have the basic set.

To answer the original question I reckon I can remember one new set of rules at a time. As I do not play that many games I think I would remember most of the games that I really get into.
 
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Mark Guttag
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Tiger VI wrote:
Age has something to do with it.

Young geeks can absorb new information quickly and retain more of it.

Older geeks might remember the rules to some Avalon Hill game they played back in the good old days but will need to check the rule booklet frequently for a newer title.


Speaking as an older geek (35 years a wargamer and counting), I find it harder to "master" an individual game. However, I've actually found it easier to pick up the rules to many games, both new or games I've previously played, if they are based on common systems. For example, often only I need to do is give a brief read of the sequence of play, the combat, ZOC and supply rules, and I can usually make a decent first try at a game.

I think a lot of this has to do with 35+ years of experience with wargame rules. For example, I can remember when PanzerBlitz first came out in 1970, it was considered a fairly hard game to learn because so many of the systems were new. Now I can pretty much be up to speed on the original PanzerBlitz with a 15 minute scan of the rules, because many of the systems in the game such as: ranged fire, different target types, etc. have been used in other games I've played.

Another example of this was my ability to translate from French a Vae Victis game several years ago. Although my knowledge of French is based on just 3 years of French class in junior high many years ago, I could do a pretty decent translation of the rules, because I knew a lot about how wargame rules are typically written.

I think it is sometime hard for those of us who have been playing for many years to realize how hard it is for a new player confronted with a wargame rulebook to understand how to play many wargames. When I read a rulebook, I read it with 35 years of experience reading rulebooks (and as a result, I often have trouble with rulebooks to simpler games, such as Memoir '44, that are not organized in a similar fashion to most wargame rulebooks).

Mark
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Mark Guttag
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Quote:
I know I still miss too many things in ASL that I consider 'basic' after a couple years of more-or-less continual playing, and it frustrates me.


One thing my regular ASL playing partner and I have found really helps with playing ASL is to have the ASL Starter Kit #3 rules handy and re-read them periodically; we only go to the full ASL Rulebook when the SK rulebook doesn't have an answer. Sure ASL SK doesn't have information about concealment, snipers, etc. but we find it does address about 80% of the most common issues. In fact, as each of the ASL SK's were released, my friend and I were amazed by the fact that we found ASL rules that we didn't know about in the the ASL SK rulebooks.

Mark
 
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Steven Harris
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"Physics" in game rules
I sympathize with the concern behind your inquiry. My test for whether to get involved with a game involves reading the rules over a week or so. If I can't even make it through the rules due to too many errors or ambiguities, I reject it for being immature and lacking craft. Some games make sense immediately. Others are just piles and piles of exceptions to seemingly arbitrary exceptions, such that the parts could never add up to a whole in my mind, as there are just too many parts.

Maybe there's a vocabulary to capture this characteristic of rules, but I don't see it in use here or on CSW. Many of the card-driven games (CDG) appeal to me in subject matter or basic mechanics, but the rules can seem like the designer is trying to beat the sense out of the core with a nail gun. Take Shifting Sands, for instance; every six months, I decide I might try to learn it again, and I read the rules, and just can't believe that anyone would actually try to hold all of that in mind. Neither the counters nor the cards nor the map provide sufficient clues to set the rule book aside. Paths of Glory both entices and repels me in the same way. I trust the reviews here that there's an amazing experience waiting there, but too much study and not enough play allows the fear to preclude the pleasure.

Contrast this with OCS. The rules are long, but they're easy to read and remember. Most of them are orthogonal; they don't contradict one another with exceptions. In OCS, the "problems" of the scenario shine through; the game system itself gets out of the way. There must be other games (and systems) like this.

Attack Vector: Tactical has this property, save for some of the optional rules. It has physics on its side. The rules there are like an introduction to an open machine. It feels logical and real, to the point that if a rule was missing, you could make it up yourself and trust it, because it seems to follow the constraints and consequences of the -- or maybe a -- real world.

In my day job, I work on a software system where the interaction designers like to talk about physics. Our world has physics (mostly mechanics) that we understand intuitively. We know how gravity and friction work. If you set an object on a level surface, it stays there. Once you understand a few core principles, interaction with most things is safe and predictable, as they all obey the same rules. Consistency in adhering to common physics makes the system easier to learn and explore, and makes extending it more natural.

I think it's something similar to this "physics" idea that I look for in game rules. Upon reading each rule, I want to say, "Right, of course," or, "I can buy that, and that will lead to...yes, the next rule, which was already obvious." Even though you started by saying that ATS is high on your list in terms of complexity, I found that it had this "obvious and consistent" property. Some of the indirect fire/mortar/building rule interactions bothered me as of version 3.0.8; I haven't been into it much since then.

Rules can't be judged by length alone. It's internal consistency, rationale for each rule existing, and satisfaction derived from each rule that makes it possible -- or at least deserving of effort -- to hold the game in mind. They're best when each rule makes the world they create larger, adding a new dimension. They're worst when they make the curves and lines discontinuous. Trying to situate a scenario in history, where the idiosyncratic and specific are considered sine qua non, is best done via physical components (placement of counters or map elements) and not via distortion or destruction of the physics, physics that would otherwise govern the game's world.
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Paul O'Connor
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For me it's either ASL, or everything else.

I'm like Homer Simpson ... remember when he said he took a wine making course and then forgot how to drive? Like that.
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Bob Roberts

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Quote:
So far I feel that I've pretty much mastered Conquest of Heroes after maybe five plays




Except for the title...




Sorry, couldn't resist.
 
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Dan Owsen
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I actually think the more games you play, the easier it is to learn new ones. Many games have common rules or similar mechanics, you just need to learn the chrome. Of course this can cause confusion too I suppose, if some detail is slightly different.

I wouldn't say I've mastered any game completely, but I can play ASL and go whole games without looking at anything other than the reference charts.
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Dan Becker
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Connect 4 is "5 minutes to learn, a lifetime to master" so that right there might limit you to one set of rules.
 
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